Anya: hi... if you didn't read ch.26 yet, don't read this! This is the second chapter I'm posting ( I posted 2 today) I WARN YOU! Check to see if you read the previous chapter or you will spoil an EXCELLENT ending. PLEASE!

Chapter Twenty-Seven

BlackHood Hideout

August 23

Fabiola told her gang the truth two hours after leaving Sandra's house. They had all been sitting around, not doing much, some of the members were smoking cigarettes and the smoke was filling up the room. It was gray and cold, the curtains were all pulled shut and the white walls were yellowing already. Crash was sitting beside her, his eyes unfriendly when she tried to lock them with hers. Finally, she said: " Crash?"

He looked up, tapping his cigarette on the side of the table. " What?"

" I've been thinking."

" You're always thinkin'." He muttered, flicking some glowing ash onto her sleeve. Fabiola shivered and pushed it off and right down to the floor. It died there, turning into a cold bundle of embers.

" That poor girl – she's been through a lot." Fabiola said.

" What're you talkin' about? She's loaded." Crash smashed his hand down over the tin ashtray and then ground his cigarette into it until it shredded.

Fabiola swallowed hard and then continued: " Money won't help her at this point. I was thinking, though, if she could suffer so much inside over what happened, why can't I be able to just pick myself up again?"

" Damn girl! You know, you just bagged friggin' $50,000 dollars, plus we're on the good side w' the BGM." Crash pointed out. " Ain't that enough for you?" A cloud of smoke escaped from his lips as he blew air into her face.

Fabiola fanned it away and persisted: " I'll leave the money to you guys. I just need $2,000… I want to start a life on my own."

" Are you sayin' you're leavin' us?" Crash's voice rose to a yell.

The entire room fell into a silence. All the individual conversations fell apart and the only voice in the room was Crash's.

" Why?" He exclaimed. " Why do y' feel you need to do better 'n this?"

She shook her head. " Isn't that what everyone dreams about? To get better, rise higher and higher?" Fabiola turned around, facing the other people in the room. " I got you guys money - a lot of money. I think I want to go get myself an apartment and then go to school again."

" You're an orphan. They gonna put you into social services, or whatever." Crash's girlfriend spoke up.

Fabiola shook her head. " I don't care. I'm gonna go. At this point, I… I want to go higher. Maybe someday I might be able to work for Sandra, that would be great." Her eyes were sparkling, a tear had already escaped her left eye and was hanging on her lip. She licked it off and then explained further: " I love you all… a lot. I'll visit all the time, I just… I can't live here with you and still go to school. I'd give away our hideout."

Crash nodded finally. " If you wan' to, you wan' to. Ain't gonna be nothin' that'll stop ya."

Fabiola burst into tears, hugging him. " Thank you so much!"

He pushed her away angrily and motioned at the door. " Well? Get out before I change my mind." Crash was smiling though, perhaps his good-natured side was clawing its way out of him. Fabiola did just that – she took two thousand dollars from the cash box and left right out the door, turning around in the doorway to simply say goodbye, and then she left. She'd regret it sometimes later, waking up at night and thinking about it, but she knew that in the end it was the destination she was heading to and not the journey that mattered to her.

*

Location: ?

August 23 - Late

It smelled wonderful – a delicate fragrance lost between the natural perfumes of the world. There was the unmistakable odor of blood – stilled and old, caked over and already healing. The scent of sweat, the salty and faint fragrance of tears, was also there. Most unmistakable of all though, was the wonderful scent – breakfast, something like sausage or bacon, sizzling over fat, alongside a side of eggs.

The smell was the first thing that reached his mind, awakening other senses. He could feel things – immediately, puzzlement washed over him. He clenched his fist. It didn't respond at first, then clenched slowly, aching terribly. He couldn't squeeze it though, because the shooting, repetitive pain that went right up to his elbow was all too obvious.

His limbs were heavy, tired, lost between thousands of different things going on in them all at once – capillaries shooting blood and precious oxygen to his muscles, nutrients flowing to and from them, everything circulating and coming to life in the form of a never-ending cycle.

He opened his eyes, the drunken giddy purple color flashing alive and catching a steady stream of light from the window just opposite the bed he was lying on. He was in a room, a small one, with only countryside peeking out him through the window to the left. His stomach hurt from hunger. His whole body felt battered.

Looking down, he saw why. He had a large gash across the stomach, and it had probably festered because it was now all wrapped up and still stinging fresh from antiseptic. " Oh…" He murmured, pain flashing through his mind like a red light.

Someone appeared in the doorway. He turned to look at who it was. " Wh – what's going on?" He asked, finally. One of his legs was broken, or maybe both. He couldn't move the left one at all – it was probably broken and in a split, but he couldn't see it since he was covered with a blanket waist down. He was also probably nude, because he could feel the blanket on nude skin. Well, he knew he had underwear on, though. The white elastic edge showed.

The woman that was in the doorway was already elderly– at least seventy, with frail pearl-white hair and small little glasses. " Ah, son." The woman said softly. She was dressed very simply, in just a plain flower-patterned dress.

" Ma'am… why - - why am I here?" He tried sitting up, but his stomach wouldn't allow him to.

She wiped her hands on her apron. " God brought you here, dearest. You needed my help."

" E – excuse me?" He asked, finally. His body reacted to this – he could feel his right leg turn to the side, his toes now pointing to the doorway and not upwards. It hurt terribly, though – there was some pretty painful scrape on his ankle.

" You dragged yourself here. Just like in the Bible, dear. With them beggars dragging through the desert, just because they wanted to find someone who knew Jesus in their heart."

He could feel he was going nowhere. His mind remembered everything now – everything that had laid dormant in it for a while now. Everything that had happened, up to the last tragic moments. He could recall it now – the helicopter ride.

He was sitting gagged and bound, the world outside whirring by so quickly he could barely comprehend the last moments. His mind was going through an ecstatic high – Sandra did love him, he loved her, it felt as if everything had bloomed into something beautiful. Then, the painful dagger-like stabs of other things, darker things. Hansen's jeering face, the taunting laughter of them all, in that helicopter. He had tossed bodies out of the helicopter as it had spiraled upwards – Devin didn't even have to guess who they were, he knew.

Once past the city, out in the middle of nowhere, Devin could feel it, the ticking, magnetic force inside. He tried to read into it, to see if it was true, if there really was a bomb. Hansen would surely never tell him. However, as he tuned in to his magnetic power, he immediately felt something – a feeling from within the helicopter.

Somehow, he had manipulated loose a screw somewhere in the helicopter. He knew it would take a lot of magnetic pull to push it somehow into the engine and lodge it in, especially since he would have to go through a maze that he couldn't even see through the walls of the chopper. It took him at least half an hour, but then, the gears began to backfire. His plan had worked somehow.

Everyone was panicking, Hansen was screaming at the pilot, the pilot was screaming at the hitman, and the hitman was blaming Devin. There was nothing Devin could do but watch as the helicopter spiraled to a fiery doom. He knew that at least if he blew up then and there, only bad people would be taken to the other world with him.

The chopper had hit the ground, rolled, the wings splitting and then splintering into dozens of pieces. Then, the electrical fire must have occurred. The dry summer grass immediately grew aflame, and in the blink of an eye the field seemed to be roaring in flames.

Devin had jumped from the chopper, but it had been an unlucky jump. He could barely feel the legs through the numbing pain in them – his bones must have literally been crushed to bits. He pulled himself along the ground into a ditch, just in time for the huge explosion as the chopper finally detonated, the wires and oils in the gears making a deadly combination. The last thing he could recall was the shards of metal flying towards him, grazing his stomach and legs like shrapnel from a bomb explosion.

Then, here he was. Some simple countryside woman had found him, and probably had taken his arrival as some act of God. The smoldering field, the ashen remains of what she could have mistaken as a heaven-sent craft – what else? Devin smiled, realizing how comical this was in a sense.

" Did you watch the news, perchance? I'm sure if you did, you'd understand that…"

The woman shook her head. " No television will ever be in my house, no… those ungodly things, filled with sin and hate…" She walked towards the bed slowly. " Is this a test? Does the Lord want you to tell him how righteously I've been living? Or have I been wrong? Oh, oh tell me!" She looked delighted.

" I think you're mistaking me for… for someone else." Devin said, and then said: " It'll take a while to explain. Have you read the newspapers recently?"

She nodded finally. " Every year my cousin from over in Morton Grove comes in… such a town boy, really… he brings handfuls of magazines."

" … Oh." Devin shook his head. " Then I have a lot to explain. A lot."

*

Weiss Mansion

August 24 – Morning

Ashton rubbed his hands eagerly. Grace, Debbie's long lost sister, had just left with Debbie and Carla on a "sister to sister" shopping spree, which should have happened twenty years ago but never had the chance to. Now he was left alone with Sandra, and he was hoping to have a father-daughter chat.

Just then, the phone rang – quite unexpectedly, in fact. The entire household seemed to go into a pause, and then Ashton picked up the videophone and opened the hood. When he saw the image of Devin, the X-Lab, he felt faint. He fell to the couch and said: " Hello?"

The black-haired boy looked as if he had died and come back to life – his lips were dry and cut, he had a black eye, and his cheek was scratched badly. There was a pallid color to him, but his cheeks caught a florid coloring right away when he realized he was talking to the father of the girl he would very gladly date.

" Sir - - I… it's a long story, sir… but I'm okay." Devin said, finally.

" How do I know this isn't a trick?" Ashton said, softly. He looked around frantically, hoping Sandra was nowhere near, and then added: " God, I know they found Hansen's ashes for sure, but we couldn't find yours yet…"

" Which would make sense because, uh, I'm alive?" Devin said, not trying to be rude at all, just pointing out something very obvious to him.

" Where are you?" Ashton demanded.

" I'm just outside of Chicago. I need you to come get me. I'm scared someone will recognize me. I … I want to surprise Sandra. I swear I'll tell everything then." Devin told him. Then he told the name of the intersection he was at.

" I know where that is. I'll be right out there." Ashton smiled to himself suddenly. " How'd you get yourself near Chicago, though?"

" Tractor." Devin replied, smiling. " I'm pretty sore, really… especially since I've got one leg in a splint and the other one's pretty beaten up too. Not only that, sitting on a tractor seat is like sitting on the hump of a drunk camel… I'm serious…" His eyes twinkled with joy.

Ashton shook his head. " I'll be right there."

*

Within an hour

Ashton's speed turned at the intersection. His mind raced with thoughts: I'll meet that young man my daughter was going on about. But – how did he survive? There were no bodies found in the area at all. In fact, if there was anything lying about, it was metal. They did find blood – Devin's blood, but I couldn't tell Sandra about that. I couldn't let her know he bled, suffered…

There he sat, just as the speed passed the curve, a tall thin boy with black hair cut unevenly around his face, his body hunched over in an oversized T-shirt, one leg in a splint and the other one throbbing with pain. He sat on the seat of the tractor, writing something with a white-out marker on the black seating. Looking up, Ashton noticed that the boy was handsome, something the phone didn't quite pick up well, for fuzz had been distorting the screen. His eyes caught the light and then flickered, imitating the eyes of a cougar about to pounce.

Ashton stopped the speed in front of the tractor and then looked at Devin, and his vehicle, with raised eyebrows. " Should I ask?"

" I'll tell you in the car." Devin replied, finally. " I'll just say a few things – I made it out of the chopper, and a really old-fashioned lady found me. She had no TV or phone, so I told her my story and she gave me two dollars for the pay phone and … well, a tractor." Devin grinned sheepishly.

Ashton shook his head. " I – I can't believe you're okay. How are you even able to move?"

Devin looked confused, and then looked down. There was blood on his stomach already where the gash was. " I don't really know. I heal quicker. Flesh wounds heal much faster for me, and…"

" Get inside the car. Or… do you want me to help?"

Devin nodded. " That would be a good idea."

Ashton stood up, putting his arm around Devin and helping him hobble towards the passenger side of the speed. He helped sit him down, and then straightened up. Now there was blood on Ashton's shirt as well. Ashton glanced down and said: " Are you sure you're okay?"

" I… I have a cut on my stomach." Devin whispered, lifting the edge of his shirt. There was a bandage wrapped around his waist, and it was saturated with his own life wine. There were dark red streaks running down his stomach, seeping into his pants.

" Can't you feel it?" Ashton exclaimed. " We have to get you to a hospital."

Devin shook his head. " No – I don't think I need to…" The world swayed before his eyes, though, and before he could comment, he passed out. Ashton slapped his cheek, but Devin was out.

Straightening up, Ashton climbed into the driver's seat and decided to get Devin to the hospital. While there, the bomb rumor could be finally investigated, while they were at it. A panic ran through him – how much time did he have? Would he make it in time? Was Devin hanging onto life by just one thread?

*

Resurrection Hospital

August 25

He was connected to wires again. Thousands of wands flickering behind glass panes, counting his blood pressure and his heartbeat and pulse. His lungs were being measured to the last exhale and inhale. A wand scribbled brain activity so feverishly that it was almost a blur at times. There were people moving in and out of the room, like ghosts in white billowing robes, their mouths covered with white masks. Their fingers probed him, massaged him, and rubbed ointments into his painful wounds.

Devin felt helpless, he hated the feeling of being on an examination table again. An anxiety rose and fell within him, his reflexes whittled sharp. Every sound and every breath in the room made him jump. He knew the names of all the staff by the end of the day, he also memorized their ID numbers and the name brand of all the machinery in the room. His mind was eager for learning. He scanned the room to pick up information – any information – to practice memorizing, just to silence his mind from what he didn't want it to think of.

He had stitches, eighteen of them, on his stomach where the metal scrap had torn him apart. The gash wasn't that wide but it was very deep, everyone worried that he might have infected it with his antics the day before. Trying to move was not an option, sitting up could easily snap the stitches. They were made with a new product – they weren't really stitches as much as skin sealant, but everyone liked to call them just that – stitches, like the good old days.

The sealant worked nicely. It stimulated skin growth and repair in an area while artificially mimicking skin cells and forming a little shell over the area. It was fragile and easy to destroy the first 24 hours, but after that it was as good as his real skin. Devin could only think of this procedure as adding more artificiality to him.

He learned more about himself that day. He asked questions and wanted answers. The doctors had found records, thousands of them, about the way the X-Labs were being built. Devin learned that he had no bomb inside him after all. Hansen had made it up, hoping to scare the wits out of the BGM and the police. In fact, Hansen planned to add a bomb into Devin and the other X-Labs, but later, after managing to create another Devin.

Devin had also wanted to know how, exactly, his wings worked. They couldn't have grown with him, for they were fake, and yet, they were with him since infancy. It was a difficult question for the doctors to answer. The wings were folded inside Devin like an accordion, ready to burst out upon any pressure or signal from his mind. In babies, the wings were folded over in half again, or even into quarters, making them much less wide, but thicker. The wings were still made of very thin material. It didn't allow water or air through it, but that was about it. It could easily be damaged by fire or bullet. It was as thin and flimsy as the material of a standard windbreaker jacket, after all. The most difficult thing about the wings were the spine-extensions, the plastic or metal rods that helped keep the wings sturdy when erect. These were the reason why the baby X-Labs had metal parts sticking out of their bodies – it just didn't fit. After hitting three or four, their bodies were long enough to accept it and immediately the skin was cut and treated with sealant to keep the slits in the skin open but not able to be infected.

He was, in turn, able to tell them other things about being an X-Lab. He told about his experiences in the Lab. Interviewers ran in and out of the room, shouting and bickering over each other and who had the privilege to take the first photo, or to be first to speak to Devin. Someone had asked about where the term X-Lab originated.

Devin knew small facts about it – there was a Dr. Ecks that had started the first Lab, in Canada, and his lab was known as Eck's Laboratory. His creations, meanwhile, became Eck's Laboratory Experiments, or EXELEX as the doctors often referred to it by. The media coverage of the humans mixed with animal genes made people sick with anger, and America's obsession with shortened terms for everything resulted with Eck's Labs, and then became X-Labs. Devin had learned about the way the word came about through a book, called "Eck's Labs", which had been Hansen's favorite.

There were more things about Frederick Hansen that Devin learned. He was born in Germany, to American students that were studying in college in Germany at the time. His parents raised him in Idaho and then in North Carolina. He was from a wealthy middle class family, who made it big thanks to a large amount of money passed on from a dead, rich great grandfather.

His real name had been Warren Bowe, he had two children with a girl named Rhyanne at the age of seventeen, while still in high school. He was an honor roll student, but he had found true love and married at sixteen. Yet, he kept pursuing his career. His wife, meanwhile, had left him early on and gone on to live with her parents. As to his children - both of them were born with a disease that killed them within two weeks of birth. Hansen had then sworn to himself to find a way to make children be immune to such things. At first, he had started innocently enough, going through years of pediatric and obstetrician training. Then he grew more and more involved with Eck's ideas, and then he became obsessed with making stronger organs mechanically.

By nineteen, Frederick Hansen/Warren Bowe had disappeared from the face of the medical community, taking along with him millions of dollars worth of equipment. The media soon had forgotten him, but Hansen had not forgotten his past. He had powerful connections in the government. He had his name changed immediately to Frederick Hansen. He paid great sums of money to erase all tracks of Warren Bowe. The police in his North Carolina town had been paid off well to claim they found Warren Bowe's body in a pond. He had "drowned himself", fallen to the underground.

He built his Lab himself, and quickly rose in esteem between other underground doctors. They respected him for his cold, ruthless determination to create the perfect human – avert to disease, able to resist threats that would otherwise destroy mankind. The greatest objective was a human that could survive a biochemical attack. Devin was a huge leap towards that – he was nearly immune to every known disease to mankind. His immune system was so well developed that he would probably be able to combat even new strains of viruses, because they'd bear some similarity to the millions of meticulously designed antibodies inside him.

Frederick Hansen had been quickly corrupted by power and greed, and his own self determination. It destroyed whatever it was inside him that kept him human. He probably had even forgotten his past life, and his past struggles, and the reasons of old that made him want to succeed. All he had left was himself, and he wouldn't let himself forget that.

Devin didn't like to listen to the story of Hansen's life. It didn't matter much to him – Hansen was still an insane, driven-mad doctor in his mind. That was Hansen's final resting place in million's of people's hearts across the world now – as an evil man, and not someone who fought to do something miraculous.

Crying himself to sleep was not something Devin had ever done, but after realizing that Sandra hadn't come to visit him again, nor Ashton, nor anyone else but doctors and reporter, Devin did just that. Tears ran down his face, saturating his pillow. He had known that he'd be forsaken for medical science the second he made it back to humanity, and the second he returned Sandra to a normal lifestyle. Squeezing his eyes shut, Devin's last final wish before he fell asleep that night was to wake up with the pillow dry of tears. It hadn't come true, though – the tears ran down his face the entire night.

*

August 26

Devin felt a warm hand squeeze his, and then hands brushing his hair back from his forehead. There was something motherly and tender about this gesture, and he tried to guess who had woken him from his sleep before he actually got to see the person. Opening his eyes, he saw the face of a woman with curly black hair and an elegant face. A pair of large gold and pearl earrings glistened at the sides of her face, peeking from beneath silky strands of hair. His eyes met hers and immediately she smiled fondly and whispered: " My name's Debbie Weiss, I'm Sandra's mother."

" Oh." Devin said, finally. He hadn't meant to sound upset but his tone of voice hinted at it. His mind flashed angrily: Where's Sandra? Why didn't she come to see me?

Her fingers pushed his hair back again, her face filled with compassion. " I wanted to thank you, personally, for all you've done for my daughter. She… she really was influenced by you."

He nodded slowly, his eyes wandering down to his fingers. His left wrist had been sprained – he hadn't really thought about it until they told him. It was covered in a black cast. There were small cuts all over his fingers, but he knew his legs were worst off. The doctors said that he'd be fine after a few months, though. Meanwhile, they were all fascinated by him. Thousands of people wanted to see him daily – there were constant crowds outside the hospital.

Debbie added: " I bet you're wondering about Sandra."

Devin looked into her eyes, hoping he wasn't as transparent as he suddenly felt.
" The doctors wouldn't let anyone come in. They were too afraid to give the media a chance to sneak in. The entire floor of the hospital is shut down, just to accommodate you." Debbie explained. " Sandra nearly twisted my arm off – she wanted to see you so badly. She'd come here every day, arguing with the policemen."

" Why didn't anyone tell me?" He whispered, his face suddenly florid with embarrassment.

" I guess they didn't want to rile you up." She explained.

" Rile me up?" He exclaimed. " Is … is she here?"

Debbie smiled wanly. " Yes, she's here, waiting in the hallway."

Devin felt nervous suddenly – as if it were the first time he'd see Sandra, and he wasn't sure how to act. If he cried he'd probably come off as too much of a baby, and if he was a real stiff then she'd feel as if he didn't miss her at all.

" What made the doctors want to let people in now?" Devin asked.

" We're the only family you have right now." Debbie replied, plainly.

The word hung in the air – family. Devin had never heard anyone refer to themselves as his family. He could feel himself swelling with pride from the unexpected surprise. Debbie stood up from the chair she was sitting at and then patted his hand. " That's all I had to say. Thank you for watching over Sandra so carefully, and…" She reflected inwardly, checking to see how it would be best to say it. " … well, Sandra will explain it all to you."

Devin watched Debbie leave the room. The white door closed and then he was left in the dreaded silence again, only pierced by the machines in the room working slowly. He knew he looked awful, his hair had been washed the night before by a nurse, but she hadn't combed it out, so it was almost twice its size, and nowhere near as shiny. He hoped that Debbie's hands had somehow slicked the hair into order. He had an IV attached to him, and he knew that he had cuts and a bruise on his face that made him look like an unlucky prison inmate. He was also wearing the dreaded white patient's robe, but at least he was thankful that he had a blanket covering him.

In the doorway stood Sandra. Her eyes were sad, lost in a personal misery that he couldn't understand – she looked absolutely mortified. Was it because of him? Did her heart break and bleed for days because of him? It almost made him wish he could rewind life again, just to be able to fix everything, take away whatever had made her so upset.

Sandra's outfit consisted of a simple, dusty purple dress and black shoes. Her hair was pulled back – she must have tried dyeing it black, it was a murky gray color, and the color made her face look ashen. Or perhaps there really was no color left in her face.

" Devin?" She whispered, looking like a ghost caught between two worlds.

He could only nod, his vision growing unsteady as tears filled his eyes. He blinked them away though and watched her intently. Sandra approached the hospital bed, leaning against the metal chair standing beside it, unsure of what to do. Then, suddenly, she sat down on the bed and took his left hand into hers, cradling it. His hand was very warm while both of her hands were freezing cold.

" I can't believe you're alright!" She said, finally. " It feels like I'm looking at a ghost."

He brought his right hand over to hers and he used his hands to warm Sandra's. " Did -- did they tell you what happened? What I did?" He asked, proudly.

" You sacrificed yourself to stop Hansen. To stop everything." Sandra replied. Her eyes glowed with a glossy, wet shine. " You could have died."

" I just kept thinking about you when I was on that helicopter… your face, just flashing before my eyes." Devin said, bringing her hands to his lips and kissing the fingertips. Even that small movement caused him pain, but it was a blessed pain.

She laid down on the bed beside him, for there was plenty of room. They just lay side by side, her head resting on his chest, carefully avoiding the wound on his stomach, hearing his heart beating quickly and joyfully. Her fingers danced through his hair, twirling it and curling it between her thumb and pinkie. He whispered into her hair: " Who died?"

" Huh?" She looked up at him, her eyes just barely visible to him past his chin.

" You dyed your hair and your clothes black. Or at least tried to." Devin commented.

She began to cry. " I did, I think. I think I did, for a few days." She whimpered, a shiver going through her body. " Because… I thought you were gone forever." The tears that fell on his shirt from her eyes made dark little circles and then quickly grew ice cold against his chest. He kissed her tears away, not knowing what else to do. Her eyelashes tickled his brow.

" I don't even know what to say." Sandra confessed, a smile dawning on her face. " I had this entire speech worked out, I … I had this plan…" She lowered her head to his chest again, just holding herself close against him. It was that warmth that penetrated from him and into her, like an electric current.

" What did you want to say?"

" You're going to live with us. My dad set everything up." Sandra said, her fingers tracing across his chest and up to his neck, slowly moving up and down his collarbones in a sensuous manner. " Until you're eighteen, anyway. We're going to fix up your birth records… we… we found your mother, and what your last name was, and when your birthday is."

" Oh?" He asked, uninterested. I have you, Sandra! His mind screamed. My birthday – my birthday is today, with you lying beside me like this as a present. " So I'm not just number 1503?" Devin grinned.

" You were never just number 1503." She replied hotly. His heartbeat was increasing, she could hear it under her ear, a muted thumping against his rib cage. She brought her wandering hand down to his heart again, holding it there, counting the beats. His heart was racing like hers.

" What about the doctors? Wouldn't they want to keep me here? Observe me? Put me in a hamster's cage and make me run on a treadmill for them?" Devin questioned.

" I won't let them." Sandra's voice was filled with a new passion. " I'll defend you. My father will too. You'll be safe at my house."

" And when I turn eighteen…?"

" You can live someplace on your own. Sadly, the law still applies to you." Sandra grinned. "Don't worry – it's just a couple of weeks – September 22nd."

" What about when you turn eighteen?" He asked, playfully. " Where do you go to live?"

" Hmm." She tapped a rhythmic message on his chest along to her words. " I'll go on to college. Get my education." She smiled. " Get married."

Suddenly, Devin looked distressed. " What about my education?"

" They'll have you take a few of those standardized tests. The ACT's and the SAT's. Just to see if you're at regular level. They think your IQ's through the roof though, all the X-Lab's IQ's are." Sandra said. " You'll probably be excused from school, since at your age you probably would have graduated from high school by now anyway."

" Everything's planned out, then? My future's in stone?" Devin asked.

Sandra laughed. " You wish it would be that easy!" She sat up and then stood beside the bed, digging inside the pocket of her dress. She drew out a piece of paper and said: " There's a lot of stuff that's going to change, though."

" Like?"

" My father's retiring from the BGM." Sandra said, and then added quickly: " We have plenty of money anyway. Plus my mom's job – probably my grandchildren will still be living off this money."

Devin nodded. " Why'd he retire?"

" He wants to spend time with us. All of us, especially you. My parents are both just so excited to have you live with us." Sandra said. Then, after a moment of silence added: "And they're okay with us."

" Us." Devin repeated, loving the word. It caressed his ears, like a precious mental hug.

" You were born human and you still are human, Devin." Sandra said. " They might've added a couple things to you, but… above all, you're real. Everything about you is real and more human than Hansen could ever be."

He could feel his face warming with a blush. She hugged him tightly and added: " I never thought it was possible to find a soul mate. I thought it was just something in books and on TV…"

Devin watched her pull away. He said, finally: " I love you." For the first time, he let the words be said. His mind buzzed: I know, we're still kids but… I know. It's like it was meant to be. It's as if somewhere there's this book with our entire fate already written down in it. That's how natural this all feels.

Sandra squeezed his hand, the air around them growing awkward and slightly embarrassing. She stood, and then said: " I … I should go. I can't wait until you come home…"

" I can't wait to have a family." Devin pointed out. " Goodbye." He said. She left the room, but she didn't leave entirely, because Sandra still danced in the room. Sandra still smiled and he still basked in the smile as if it were made of sunshine. Sandra still laughed and cried and made him feel annoyed and at the same time endeared. Sandra still talked and argued and bickered and whispered sweet words in his mind.

Sandra was a part of him, like the second half to their whole. He would always be the quiet one, the insecure and somewhat introverted boy. She'd always be loud and trusting, brash and eager to laugh out loud, and willing to share her thoughts at all times. And the odd thing was, they could both hear one another in their minds – when they debated, they could almost see Sandra on one shoulder and Devin on the other, and it worked like the perfect team. The median between them was like the perfect path, the perfect being.

It was impossible to manufacture a perfect human, because the only way the truly perfect human could be made was when two imperfect ones form a whole. And for years to come, Devin and Sandra were a whole, best friends before they were in love, and through their entire lives they would balance one another out. Things did happen, too – things unexpected and things that they knew would come eventually. Love, marriage, and a baby carriage, as an old song goes. Not everything in life was in writing, though. Sometimes the being that was in control of the big book of life would suddenly come up with a new way to add twist to their lives. In the end, they worked together though, and they went through everything together.

But Devin didn't know any of this. He just sat, watching the now empty doorway of his hospital room, just as it had all begun with him plugged into machinery, though now the missing part of him was filled. Now there was no misery and no loneliness and despair in the room. He could only think of two things: family and home. When the nurse came later that night to turn the lights off in his room, in the complete and utter darkness, his two violet eyes remained, looking forwards to the uncertain future, never to look back. And the machinery made odd, heavy noises again as the overloaded hard drives processed the forever arriving information.

The Beginning

*

Author's Note: After this I will write a Harry Potter story about Draco Malfoy and him after the fall of Voldemort. It will be incredibly in character, something that is difficult for me. (Gary Skinner, it's basically being written so you could enjoy it… it will have a lot of sweet Harry/Hermione in it, as much as I can). Since you're all such good readers to me, I hope you like any other fiction I write. And if you don't go on to read any other things by me, I'd be more then happy to just hear your comments on this story on its own. :-)

P.s. all my long term readers – those who have reviewed previously and who still have yet to review – please let me know what you think. This took me months of hard work and pain to dish out.