Short: A Clean Slate

Monday, August 15, 2011

"Owen, what did you do with my socket wrench?"
"You mean the long one you left on the counter? I put it in Mom's funky chest thing with the rest of your tools."

Travis grumbled as he began rummaging around through the clutter that had accumulated in what clearly was not meant for such things. Unfortunately, moving generally lead to taking some creative liberties with what certain furniture items could be used for--and his son seemed to have taken this to heart. His mother might not be as pleased.

Travis' headache began to pound harder and harder the longer he looked, especially as the giggles of his children kept getting louder and louder behind him. "Ugh, I'm not going to find anything in this mess," he groaned as he shoved a few more tools to the side. "Too much random clutter in here."

"I guess it can wait," he sighed as he carefully shut the lid and turned--which nearly forced him to be knocked over as two redheads skirted past him at break-neck speed.

"Kids, stop messing around. Your mother's going to be back any minute with dinner and you guys promised her you'd get those boxes broken down and put in the garage."

"Sorry Dad, we'll do it in just a--uuggh, Gracie, stop it!"

Travis rolled his eyes, realizing he would just be fighting a losing battle if he continued to nag them. "Just make sure it gets done before tomorrow, we're going to need somewhere to put the couches once the moving truck gets here." He dodged out of the way as Owen and Gracie whizzed by again. "Hey, where's Sally?"

"I'm back here, Dad!" a small voice called from what sounded like across the room, but as Travis looked around the corner he couldn't see his daughter anywhere visible.

Travis' face grew puzzled as he tried to discern the source of the voice. "Which is where?"

"Behind the boxes, durh," she said sarcastically, just as Travis poked around and had finally found her. With a roll of her eyes, Sally snapped the book shut she'd had in her hands and put it down on the floor.

"What are you doing back here?"

"Isn't it obvious? I was reading. The boxes are the only protection I've got from those nincompoops." Unfortunately, just as Travis opened his mouth to retort something half-scoldish and half-defensive of her siblings' honor, a massive squeal coming from his other daughter erupted from the kitchen.

Travis' headache wasn't relenting, and all this noise was just making it worse. He was ready to relax--clearly, though, his kids wanted him to be able to do anything but.

"Ugh.... Girls," Travis liftened his fingers to his brow, stiffly trying to massage away some of the throbbing pain there. "You listen to your brother for a while, alright? I need to go for a walk. You alright with that, Owen?"

"Yeah, no problem Dad--see Grace, now you have to listen to me!"

"Nu UH!"

Finally, freedom. Travis could almost taste it! He'd nearly made it out the door, too, when he caught sight of his son trailing a few steps behind him.

"Actually, Dad, before you go... Do you have a minute? I wanna ask you about something."

"Yeah, sure!" As long as it got him away from the majority of the noise. "C'mon, let's sit outside for a few."

As they settled onto the ground outside of the front step, Travis started to get a bit of a sinking feeling in  his stomach. He wasn't sure what he'd expected, when his son had first asked to talk, but once he caught a good look at Owen's face he realized it was serious--and he had a pretty good idea what about.

There was no way he could avoid this forever, though. "So, what's up?" he asked, trying to sound unsuspicious.

"It's just... Argh, I dunno how to put this," Owen groaned. Clearly, this was not as easy as he'd pictured in his mind. "I know it's not really any of my business, and I feel kinda dumb for even asking, but..." He cowered a little, avoiding his father's gaze. "Why... Why didn't you and mom end up getting a divorce?"

Travis took in a deep breath. "Well... It's a bit complicated." He caught a glance from his son; nope, that wasn't going to be enough.

"You see, Owen... I know things were pretty rough between your mom and I for a while. We both said and did a lot of things we shouldn't have, but, in the end, there were things that mattered more to us than our mistakes. Like you three. And, no matter what, we have both always cared about each other deeply. Neither of us were ready to give up on each other. We just... have a lot of things we need to work on. Things we've avoided for a long time, even since before you kids were born, because we were both a bit too stubborn. That's something we're both ready to change now, though. Finally."

"So... is... that why you had an affair?"

This was the question he'd been dreading. He'd known it was only a matter of time after the headlines had announced his transgressions to the world that his kids got wind of it, but he'd never fully imagined how they'd react. Or how he'd handle it. He took another deep breath. "You're old enough, now, to understand that adults make all kinds of mistakes. The only thing that separates us from you kids is experience, and sometimes not even that helps. I... can't explain why I did what I did. But, it was wrong, and there was no excuse for it, and I hurt your mother... more than you'll ever know."

"I guess it's just..." Owen bit his lip a little, and hugged his knees up close to his chest. "Everyone I know with divorced parents had something similar happen, and I... don't really understand why mom was different. I mean--why she forgave you."

Travis opened his mouth--and then shut it again. That was one thing he definitely didn't have an answer for. "That's something you'll have to ask her," Travis finally responded after several moments of silence.

"Look," Travis began as they both stood up. "I need you to understand, I love you all very, very much. You three mean the world to me--I know it's been a while since I've done a good job at showing it, but I'm going to change that. We moved here so that we all could have a fresh start... Not just your mom and I. Alright?"

"Yeah Dad, I know. I mean, I didn't really want to leave Twinbrook, but," he said as he started to slowly smile. "Mom explained to me how much this meant to you. And if she can forgive you... so can I."

For a moment, part of Travis wanted nothing more than to break down into sobs and squeeze his son firmly to his chest. His son was everything he was not, and no words could express the joy and pride this gave him. Barely a teenager, and already the better man.

Instead, though, to spare his son the embarrassment, he simply squeezed Owen's shoulders and nodded, with a twinkle threatening to escape his eye. "Thanks."

If there was one thing people couldn't say about Redcliffs, it's that it isn't a beautiful place to live.

Travis wasn't sure how long he'd been walking, but it had been long enough for the sun to dip lower and lower towards the horizon, painting everything along the shore the brightest hue of gold he'd ever seen. The air was still and warm, but occasionally he could still smell the salt from the ocean's waves. The sights, the sounds the smells--they were all definitely what he needed to relax.

And it's definitely what he needed, in order to change: a clean slate.

It truly was amazing, how different this place was from Twinbrook. You definitely didn't get to see a sunset like that back in gloomy little Simissouri, Travis thought to himself as he looked out across the water and across the shore.

And, you definitely didn't get girls like that back in Twinbrook. For a moment, he hesitated, feeling a sense of dread welling up in his throat. Sure, he was away from all the women that he knew, but he wasn't away from women in general... And he could already tell they were a heck of a lot looser here in Redcliffs than back home. A carefree atmosphere wasn't always a good thing.

"Beautiful, aren't they?!" The voice caused Travis to jump and turn around. He must have been incredibly absorbed in his thoughts, for this woman to sneak up on him so easily.

"Er..." Travis looked a little confused for a moment. "Pardon?"

"The sunsets! We always get the most beautiful sunsets here," she continued in a very animated fashion. "Best piece of coast Florsimda has to offer, I always say."

"Yeah... I suppose you might be right," Travis began, trying to take his eyes off this woman, but there was something about the optimistic, self-assured way she carried herself that stuck his gaze to her. "But I can't say I've seen much of the rest of it, yet."

"Oh, trust me, you will look but you will never find anything to compare. Even the ocean smells sweeter, here!" She took in a long, deep breath, her arms still splayed out to her sides as if she were sailing on the prow of a ship. "So, stranger," she continued with a smile. "What brings you here?"

"That obvious I'm new?" Travis asked, chuckling.

The woman smiled. "Of course. I've lived here my whole life, I know how to spot newcomers a mile away--and you're far too nervous to be a tourist. So? What's your story?"

"Well I--I'm here for work," Travis said with a shrug, his eyes finally drifting out of the field of the woman's charisma. "Just got picked as the new starting pitcher for the Reavers, for the season."

"Mhmmm..." The woman's lips thinned. She clearly didn't buy it.

Travis sighed, both his shoulders sulking to his sides as he finally confessed, "Actually... I guess I just made a lot of bad choices in my life, and I needed somewhere to start over. Somewhere where my family isn't haunted constantly by what I've done. I guess... I guess that's kinda silly, isn't it."

"Not at all," she said with a smile. "In fact, it's a far less selfish reason to move here than most-and I get the feeling you aren't giving yourself enough credit, for that." To this, Travis smiled; he wasn't sure he agreed with her, but her confidence in those words gave him a small sense of hope. Perhaps she was right.

As the sun began dipping lower, Travis and the woman--who still remained nameless--continued talking, walking down the beach's sidewalk together.

At first Travis was nervous, wary of a stranger talking to him in such a way, but there was something about her that assured him she had no hidden agenda. She was merely just being the way she was, and she'd trapped him up in her wake. He literally had to say nothing at all, either; she talked endlessly of things Redcliffs had to offer, of how much it had changed since she was a child, of tall tales of sharks in the waters who'd carried children to safety.

She was... something else, Travis thought to himself.

They reached the end of the sidewalk, and for a moment, Travis wasn't sure what to do. He needed to get home, but he didn't want to seem like he was trying to escape--and, he admitted to himself, he really didn't want to.

She stopped, so he did as well; she turned to him, and in her typical over-bearing manner, moved in closer than he'd ordinarily be comfortable with. Travis knew, she neither needed or wanted anything from him; this was simply who she was. That thought didn't help entirely, though.

"You'll be happier here, you know. Everyone always is."

He let the words simmer in his mind for a moment before he responded. "I... I hope you're right," he sighed.

They stood for a moment, in this tense void with little space between them, before Travis finally felt himself taking a step a back. As intoxicating as this woman's presence was, he finally began to recognize what was happening. Even if she didn't realize it, she was testing him--and, for better or worse, he'd passed. So far.

"Well, it... It was great meeting you, but I really need to get home," he began awkwardly. "My family's probably waiting for me."

"Ah, alright, I won't keep you then," she said with a sweet smile. "You know, though... I can tell."

He frowned. "Tell what?"

"That you love them, very much. And that they care a great deal for you, too." Travis opened his mouth to respond, but before he could, she was already smiling ear to ear, and beginning to move away from him. "I'll be sure to keep an eye out for you on the baseball field! Take care, stranger!"

His legs felt like tree trunks every step home; clumsy, awkward, and heavy. Was everyone here going to be like that? Some sort of philosophical, soul-searching, over-enthusiastic mumbo-jumbo wrapped in hotness? That was, of course, if she'd even been real; the further he got from the beach, the more he started to wonder if she was just a figment of his imagination.

His headache was gone only to be replaced by another--if this is what Redcliffs was like, then he was in for a struggle... but, at the very least: it was worth it.

+ click me for music, "After Afterall"

He had made so many mistakes.

Hurt so many people he loved.

Almost lost everything that mattered.

But, after all that had happened, she couldn't let him go.

The memories weighed so heavily on his mind that he didn't hear the sound of his wife's footsteps coming towards him across the porch.

"Well there you are, I've been looking all over for you!" Travis' eyes finally lifted to the source of Jade's voice. "The kids just finished eating, there's a plate set out for you but it's probably cold by now."


Jade scowled. "Alright, what's wrong?"

"Hmm? Oh, nothing. Sorry, just a lot on my mind. I'll come eat in just a minute."

She didn't look convinced. He looked up at her again, curious why she was still standing there; her expression said it all, though. "Do you... want to talk about it?" she finally asked.

"I don't know, it's kind of... strange," he began as she sat down on the bench beside him. "Ever since we got here I've been doing a lot of thinking about what's happened and how much everything's changed, and... how much it means to me that you all came with me. For a while, I thought it was just going to be me, leaving Twinbrook behind."

Jade bowed her head a little towards her hands. "I know."

"I don't usually try to dwell on it this much, but I ran into this... really odd woman at the beach while I was out walking, and she really got me to thinking."

"Did she," Jade said, skeptically.

"No, no, nothing like that--she was just... very perceptive. Said a lot of things to me I've been reluctant to say to myself, for a while."

"Oh yeah?" Jade's expression fell even further. "Like what?"

"Like... I don't know. Seeing how much I really do care about this being a new start for all of us, not just using it as an excuse to get away from the bad press and my judgemental family. It feels selfish, to me, asking you all to uproot your lives for me, but... in the end, I wouldn't have even bothered, if I didn't care about you all so much."

He looked over, and saw that Jade's eyes had grown wide. She still said nothing, so he continued. "You know, as much as I thought this move was just me running away, really, I think... it's me trying to find my way back to you guys. So we can be a family, again."

"Is that what you want? What you really want?"

Travis nodded. "Yeah. It is."

"I... guess I never thought I'd hear you say that," she said slowly, beginning to smile. In fact, Travis thought she looked genuinely impressed; that was a first.

As time went on, she slowly began to lean closer to him; carefully, he lifted his arm and draped it over her shoulders, pulling her even closer still.

Travis could smell the shampoo in her hair with the sweat of the long day's work. She had always been a strange woman; hard-working and independent, yet so easily broken. He wondered, if she'd given herself more credit, if she would have been fine on her own.

She would have, most likely. But she chose not to be alone--she chose to need him, all this time. And that's what made the difference.

"You know, Travis..." she said softly, brushing the top of her head against his cheek.


"I..." She paused, averting her gaze towards the ground. "I do still love you."

"You--" He looked at her, deep into her eyes as he lifted her chin so she could face him. "You do."


"I... Well, I." Travis smiled. It had been so long, since he'd heard that--but that wait made those words mean more to him than they ever had. "I love you, too, Jade. I love you, too."

This is labeled as a short since technically it has nothing to do with the rest of the story; like I said in the wrap-up, I'm going to do these occasionally for the 'former' main characters of DS so you can get a glimpse on what they're up to. Obviously, Travis is doing his best to right his wrongs--but he's got a LONG ways to go. I just hope it shows that he's at least trying to make those first steps.

Also, I was a bit bored last night so I put this little slideshow together with the song from this chapter, to sort of tell the story of Travis/Jade's relationship from it's beginning til now. It's nothing amazing--I couldn't even crop it right so the music fit better with the images--but hey, whatever. I never really step back to look at these two's relationship, so it felt nice to do so.


Pet Projects

Thursday, August 11, 2011

"How much longer 'til the food is ready, Alesha?"

"Not too long!" Alesha responded in a sing-song voice, looking back over her shoulder at her husband with a smile. "You've got time to show your friends your new toys though, if that's why you're asking."

Still chuckling to herself, Alesha turned back to the hot dogs on the grill and continued flipping. "Boys," she muttered with a smile.

It wasn't often that they had this much company over, so Alesha was relishing in every moment of it. It was more of a work get-together than anything, some colleagues and their spouses and kids, but Brad's birthday had been only a couple of days before so they dubbed the gathering an 'honorary birthday BBQ'--with balloons and leftover cake and the song and everything.

Not that Brad was too pleased about that; he wasn't exactly fond of celebrating the fact he was getting older.

As Alesha continued turning the meat, she tried to mind the conversations of the nearby gals, who were heatedly discussing the recent changes to the school board. They all seemed pretty opinionated, but at least they were talking and getting to know each other. 'Better than nothing,' she thought to herself. 'Rather that then everyone staring at the bottom of their glasses.'

In fact, for the most part, everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves; the men were discussing business as usual...

... the Pesce twins were keeping themselves entertained...

... and the toddlers were having a blast getting dirty in the garden.

It was a success as far as Alesha was concerned, who just wanted everyone to be enjoying themselves, but after a moment she realized that amongst all the hubbub, two were missing: Margo and Ian.

"Jane, do you know where Ian is? I need to round up the kids so they can eat."

"Uuuhh, I'm not sure," Jane responded, scratching her head. "I think I saw him run around front a little while ago."

Olive nodded in agreement. "Yeah, I saw him kicking around a ball or something. He can't have gone too far."

Alesha nodded and started to move towards the house. "Can you guys finish setting up, then? I'll run around and get him after I fetch Margo."

"Wait," July said in shock, looking up at Alesha with a confused smile. "Margo is actually here? I haven't seen her at all, I figured she was spending the night at a friend's house or something!"

"No," Alesha sighed. "She's just... hiding."

"And then Mrs. Stripey said, 'I didn't mean to hurt your feelings, Mr. Piggy, I was just admiring how round you are!' 'It's okay, Miss Tiger, I forgive you! You can come with Pixie, Rex and I if you wa--'"

"There you are!" Alesha tried not to interrupt Margo, but the girl was so distracted by her stuffed animals that she didn't even look up when her mother entered the room. "You ready for some dinner? We've got hot dogs, your favorite!"

When Alesha spoke, Margo finally looked up, but for a moment she just looked like a doe caught in the headlights. She blinked, frozen, and unresponsive.

"Margo, you really should come eat. You can't stay in here all evening, sweetie."

"No thanks," she finally warbled, quietly. "I'm not hungry."

Alesha scowled; she knew Margo hated it when they had visitors over, but she'd never been quite this resistant before. Margo hardly ever turned down food--especially her favorite.

She knew she had to put her foot down. "Margo, you need to eat. You don't have to stay with us, but you need to come say at least say hi and be respectful, okay?"

"B... B... But--" Margo reluctantly slipped off of the bed, but she continued hesitating, her face falling more and more as Alesha's got more and more stern. "But Ian's out there, mummy."

"Sweetie, Ian will leave you alone, you just need to--"

"I can't mummy, I can't!" As if on the flip of a switch, Margo began bawling, burying her tears into her hands out of embarrassment. "All he does is make fun of my braces an' kick dirt in my face an an an an--"

"Ssssshhh." Alesha bent over and carefully hugged her arms around her daughter. "It's okay, sweetheart, you don't have to see him if you don't want to. Why don't you go into the kitchen, mm? I'll go find him--do you know where he is?"

Margo didn't have to answer--over the sound of her sniffles, Alesha heard a commotion just outside of the bedroom window.

Alesha didn't have to go far; she descended the front steps of the house and instantly found him, defiantly kicking over the horrific pink flamingos her mother-in-law had insisted they keep out front.

"Hiya! Take that! Stupid bird, ha!"

"Ian? Could you come here?" Alesha voice was stern, but she tried not to come across as being too upset; it's not like she liked the flamingos that much, either.

Ian still looked caught off guard, though, and he looked thoroughly put-out at having been discovered. With a grumble, he looked away and shoved his hands into his pockets.

"C'mere, come sit with me," Alesha said as she carefully plopped down onto the top step, tapping the space next to her. "I promise, I won't bite."

Ian didn't find this very funny; he just rolled his eyes. But, at the very least, he obeyed--one point for Alesha.

"You don't seem too happy to be here," Alesha said slowly, smirking. "Anything I can do to change that?"

Ian didn't need to say a thing for Alesha to get her answer; he rolled his eyes yet again, this time throwing his hands up in the air, disgusted. "No. This place is stupid and boring. I didn't wanna come, but my Dad made me. All there is is babies to play with."

"What about Marg--"

"I said, only babies."

Alesha took a deep breath. She'd heard quite a bit about Ian from his mother, Jane, and none of it sounded too promising. The Pesce's had been tossing up all sorts of things like 'boarding school' or 'counseling', but Alesha had been hesitant to advise that, despite his wayward behavior. He was too young; he needed a chance. She wasn't exactly sure where to start, but... anywhere was better than no where.

"Did your mom tell you I'm going to be your teacher this year?" Alesha asked, politely.
"Yeah." He toed the bottom step grumpily.
"You know, Ian," she started warily. "Once you start school, I bet you're going to find all sorts of kids you'll like to hang around, maybe even Margo--"
"Ya, right."
"You know, I bet Margo would surprise you, if you gave her a chance. Just like I bet you're going to surprise a lot of people with how smart you are. And I want to help you with that--will you let me?"

Ian glared at her suspiciously, and for a moment she thought she caught the hint of a scrunched nose; but, after  twisting his lips back and forth, he shrugged and gave a rather arrogant "Maybe." Well. It was a start.

"C'mon, let's go get some food--dare you to eat more than your brother!"

Ian ran off ahead of her, which gave Alesha a much needed breather; just being around that boy was like being stuck in a vacuum. But, she swore to herself, that was something she was going to right--even if she died trying.

"This must have cost a fortune," Thomas exclaimed as one by one, the men filed down the stairs. He was the first to reach the bottom, and his jaw nearly dropped to the floor when he saw what laid beyond the glass wall separating them from what possibly could be the cleanest room in all of Twinbrook.

"What's funny," Brad responded with a smirk. "Is that it's probably worth double what you'd imagine."

"And you just happened to have a bunker underneath your house? That's pretty lucky," Moe Pesce remarked skeptically.

"It was built when the Darer's owned the property, actually. We'd just never bothered to do anything with it before--lucky for us, it came in handy."

Handy certainly was the right word; there wasn't a lot of places in town for a lab like this. Not just any kind of lab; it was a very specialized, very high tech lab... and the kind that no one would want to insure on their property. No one except for Bradley Kane, of course.

"And you said it was all paid for by private investors? That's gotta be a fair few, by the looks of it," Moe commented as they begun entering the room.

"All of it, yeah. Not as many as you'd think though--this sort of business attracts all sorts of wealthy go-getters hoping to get their name on the patent. That, and plenty of people who'd kill their own mothers for a cure for HVV... so long as their names aren't made public."

"And here, of course, is why this development costs more than my house."

"Wait, is that... that's not... Tiberium?!"

"That it is," Brad said with a smirk. "Grade A, purified tiberium--nearly 20 kilograms. Impressive, mm?"

"Impressive? By the maker, I don't think I've ever seen more than a teaspoon of this stuff in my entire life," Thomas said as he knelt down to eye-level with the glowing substance. "How did you manage to get your hands on it--let alone, get this much?"

"Various connections through the science foundation--we had to trade some recent tech for it, but once we develop this, we certainly won't need all of that to stay in business."

They begun to leave the side of the tiberium, but Moe looked hesitant. "Bradley... This is an incredibly volatile substance--if you're not careful, the radiation alone could--"

"I know what I'm doing, Moe," Bradley scowled, dismissing Moe's notions with a wave of his hand. "I've taken all the necessary precautions. Besides, you yourself said that tiberium was the only catalyst that could manipulate DNA structures that precisely, didn't you?"

"Yes, but--"

"Then that's what we have to use." For a moment Moe looked like he was going to retort, but Bradley quickly usurped him again with a light glare. "I will not give my sister second best, Pesce. She's getting all that I can give her--and I'm going to make this work, with or without your help."

The two men didn't get a chance to continue their one-sided debate, because there was suddenly a wild gasp from the other side of the room.

"Oh man, you really didn't cut corners, did you?!" Lamont said with an excitable bounce on his heel. "This is one of those miniature particle accelerators from level 8!"

"At this rate, I'm starting to believe there's nothing this place is lacking," Thomas joked.

"Well... that's not entirely true." With a bit of a deep breath, Brad waved his hand towards the workbench and began. "I need help. I didn't ask you guys here just because your my friends or because I thought you'd be interested to see what I've built. I asked because I need partners. Thomas's knowledge in gene therapy, Moe's knowledge in neurology, Lamont's engineering--I need all of it, for this to work. I know it's a lot of work for not a lot of reward off the hop, but... Can I count on you guys?"

"Heck yeah!" Lamont said with a fist pump. "You don't even have to ask, bub."

Thomas snickered, but nodded. "Yeah, but only because your cousin would hang me by my toes if I didn't."

Bradley turned to Moe, biting his lower lip. The man was hesitant, but, there simply was no way he could say no. This was a once in a life time opportunity, and Bradley was indeed his friend--besides, they weren't going to get far fast without him. "I hope I don't regret this, but... I'm in."

For the first time in months, Bradley felt an overwhelming enthusiasm consume him; he wasn't sure why he'd been so worried, but he certainly wasn't any longer. This wasn't going to be easy, but part of the thrill of the mountaintop is the difficulty of the climb... and Brad was up for a challenge.

Clasping his hands together, he smiled at them and nodded. "Well then, I guess we're ready to get to curing some vampires!"

Alesha called loudly from the bottom of the stairs in the garage, "Can I come up?!"
"Sure, go ahead!" a mechanical voice called back.

The room above the garage had always been Lilobot's 'home', but until very recently it'd been a bit of a disaster. But, after Lil had finally adjusted to being a member of the family, they decided to help her redecorate the pad as she saw fit--and well... it gave Alesha's cornea's a nice tingly sensation every time she came up to visit, now. She wasn't sure she'd ever seen anything decorated so pink before--but, it's what Lil wanted, so it's what Lil got.

"I know you said you wanted to spend the weekend by yourself, but everyone would really like to see you, dear," Alesha began sweetly, trying to coax Lil off of her spot on the bed. "I even saved you a spot at the table--it's just not the same without you, Lil."

"I know, I just... really want to get some reading done. Thank you for asking, though."

"Well... I'll keep a spot for you just in case." Alesha smiled, twiddled her fingers in a wave, and slowly descended back down the stairs, as if hoping that Lil would change her mind and follow after.

Lil had had her mind made up from the moment she'd heard about the barbeque, though. It's not that she didn't like people--especially after her ascension to 'hero' in the eyes of Twinbrook's citizens--but it just felt... weird. She was different, and that's all people saw. She was a robot, and that's all they cared about; what about her hopes, he dreams, her loves? None of that mattered. At least, not to anyone outside of the family.

"Different" set you apart.

Yes, Brad's colleagues were understanding and very kind to her, but they were intrigued with her as a machine; they were constantly prying into parts of her existence she really didn't care too much about, or they marveled at her existence and achievements. If they'd just treat her normally, like they would any other person, it would be okay--but being put above everyone else was just as bad as being put lower.

Still... part of her wanted to go down there. In fact, she desperately wanted to--she wanted to be part of their world, she just couldn't be. Not the way she wanted to, anyways.

"Ugh, what's the use," Lilobot sighed with melancholy as she collapsed into her computer chair, swiveling to and fro as she set her chin in her hands and moped. "The only place I'll ever be normal is where I'm invisible."

To that, she looked up at her computer screen. In truth, she'd found a piece of that, online. She'd recently picked up all sorts of hobbies--duking it out on MMORPGs, role-playing on various fantasy sites under the guise of a fair maiden looking for love, and dipping in and out of chatrooms with people of similar interests.

For months, it had been fantastic... but nothing good lasts forever.

He had to ruin it all. Tanner. The man of her dreams, the dark horse riding into the sunset, the tech guru that had given her more attention than Lil had ever gotten from another human being--'that way', at least.

But, there were two problems:

One, Tanner Grey believed that Lil, or rather "Lily", was human.
Two, Tanner Grey had just moved to Twinbrook.

Faced with an impossible dilemma, Lil could do nothing but stare at his picture, hoping for a miracle. There had to be a way to fix this, but she simply couldn't see it. Would he still like her, if he knew the truth?

Lil sighed as she rubbed her shoulder longingly. "Probably not," she whispered. "But, I can dream."


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