Broken Heart Syndrome

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The swing's hinge creaked sadly as Margo's rubber boot gently scraped the ground beneath her. She swayed gently, but only with the push of a light wind at her back; her mind was not in the present, so she barely even registered the fact she was still sitting on a swing at all.

Instead, her mind was consumed with the previous day--that moment when the boy of her dreams spent one moment looking into her eyes. Smiling.

Josh not only knew she existed, but he actually paid attention to her, and the things she liked. He had actually come up to her, and spoken directly to her--it was harmless chit-chat, yes, and it probably didn't mean very much, except that he was a nice guy and thought she was a nice girl.

But that's not how she would remember it.

"But, he doesn't like me, and he never will," Margo spoke aloud, echoing Natasha's sentiments from the previous day. "It's hopeless."

With that depressing realization, she snapped back to reality, taking a heavy sigh as she looked out across the empty lake.

Behind her, an approaching Ian listened to Margo's words with an uncomfortable knot in his throat.

He was fairly certain she wasn't talking about him, but that actually made it feel worse. Margo's crush on Josh Seymour was pretty common knowledge--though Margo never really seemed to realize that--and lately, it had really started to bother Ian.

Ian couldn't exactly find fault with Josh, but that didn't matter. He still didn't like him.

For a moment, he considered leaving Margo to her daydreams, but a recent conversation with Mrs. Kane came to mind and brought back the confidence he'd had when he had first started looking for Margo after school.

"The only thing standing in your way is you, Ian. You're the one making the choices to act like you do. Imagine if you did something nice for people--don't you think they'd see you differently?"

"Maybe... but like, what?"

"Well... I know Margo always likes getting presents--why don't you try getting something nice for her? Something thoughtful? I think you underestimate how much she'd like to have a friend like you."

When he spotted Margo standing up from the swings, he knew he had his chance. He quickly hopped up behind her--definitely not sneakily enough, because she noticed him instantly.

She said nothing, though. Instead, she just looked at him, her eyes full of curiousity.

"Um... hi," Ian said after a few moments of intense blinking. "Can I talk to you for a sec?"

Margo winced, taking a half-step back from him when he continued coming closer. Her eyes flickered from Ian to the road, surveying all of her escape routes thoroughly before she finally mustered the courage to respond. "I-I-I guess," she stammered. "Wren's not around, is she?"

"No, it's just me," Ian responded coldly, scrunching his nose in disgust. Wasn't it obvious he was alone?

"A-a-alright," Margo said after another few seconds. "What's up?"

"I've just... been thinking. About Halloween and stuff. I wanted to tell you... I really did mean what I said. I wasn't just spewing stuff to make you stop crying."

"... I don' really understand. Why wouldn't you mean it?"

"Well, 'cause... I dunno, Margo. Sometimes you're just... scared, of like, everything, and everybody's gotta soften things up for you so you aren't such a crybaby all the time. So people lie to you to get you to stop."

"... Oh."

"But that's what I'm trying to tell you--from now on, I'm not gonna do that. I think... I think you're really... you know. Nice. And stuff. I don't wanna lie to you anymore. I... ya know. Like you."

Unfortunately, Ian's attempt to "sugar coat" his feelings with complete honesty did him no favors. The second he waited for her to say something in response, she paused, looked him sourly in the eye, and turned around and started to walk away.

"Wait--Margo... That came out really--ugh. I... I got you something?"

Margo stopped. She twisted her chin over her shoulder, and gave him a rather dark, but inquisitive look. Even Margo didn't like being 'bought off', but the sincerity in his eyes made it difficult to leave him hanging. "You did?"

Margo took a deep breath and turned her rubber boots 180-degrees around to face him. There was pounding in her chest; she'd never been given anything from a boy before, and although Ian wasn't exactly the boy she wanted to receive something from, she couldn't help but feel anxious with anticipation.

"You... really got me somefing?"

"Yeah," Ian said with a shrug as he shoved his hand into his pocket and started trying to remove what laid inside. "It's not much, but it took all my allowance... I hope you like it."

"Meet: Mr. Scabby!" Ian flourished his arms as he withdrew a rather large, fat rat with a quivering nose from his pocket. "I know how much you like fuzzy animals, and how much you like those Jimmy Sprocket stories, so I named him Scabby after his pet rat!"

Before Margo even had time to process what was happening, Ian cupped 'Mr. Scabby' in his hands and offered him out to her. "Here!"

Her reaction was not what he expected. Instead of reaching out her hands to take him, she stumbled several steps backwards, her lip quivering and her breathing panicked.

"What's wrong?" Ian asked when she continued to stare, horrified, at the rodent in his hands. "Don't you like him?"

"R... rat... rat..." Margo muttered, her whole body leaning backwards as her eyes grew wider and wider and wider and a whimper escaped her lungs.

Ian scowled, extending Scabby out to her again with an incredibly impatient growl. "Uh, duh, yeah, it's a rat. C'mon, take him!"

He approached one step, she took another step back.

They repeated this dance, until she suddenly took off running when Mr. Scabby made a rather loud 'squeak' from Ian's hands.

Ian instantly took off after her, but with Scabby in his hands he couldn't afford to run fast enough to catch her. "Margo--wait! Come back!! Where are you going?!"

"Get it... away... from... me...!" Margo wheezed back at him as she ran, her face completely plastered with fear. "Please...!"

"What, why?! It's just a rat! It's harmless! Stop being such a chicken!"


"Yes!" Ian had had enough; with his loudest voice possible, he commanded a rather fierce and hot-tempered: "Dammit, Margo--STOP!"

Margo froze immediately--but at the cost of tears. As her feet landed on the top step of the stairs down to the beach, she felt a warm drop cascade from the corner of her eye. She tried to wipe it away hastily, but it was too late; Ian already saw the look on her face.

"What is your problem?!" he snapped, the corner of his lip twitching angrily. "Is this how you always react when someone tries to do something nice for you?!"

"N-n-no, it's just--" Margo paused, still trying to catch her breath. "Not... what I expected."

Ian's scowl deepened even further. "Not what you expected? What'd you want, a freakin' pony?! Is that what I have to do to get you to like me?!"

"No! No, I mean... I just... I don't know." She was at a loss. That certainly wasn't the case (although, who could say no to a pony?!) but she had no idea what else to say. There was absolutely nothing she could do to take back her overreaction, so she did the only thing she could think to do: say nothing at all.

Enraged even further, Ian turned and stomped several feet away.

"Well, Scabby--I guess nobody likes you," he said with a heavy sigh, cradling the rat in his hands for a few long, painful seconds before kneeling to the ground and letting him wander away from his fingers. "Better go find somewhere where you're wanted."

The rat, clearly never having been free before, paused a few more seconds at the tip of Ian's fingers before scuttling away at lightning speed, disappearing almost instantly.

A few seconds later, Margo peeked her head around the bush. "What... what did you do?!" she asked between sniffles, timidly following Ian as he continued to walk away from her.

"I let him go," he snarked in a 'what-do-you-think?' manner, rolling his eyes.

"But... but--he's not wild, is he? He... he could get hurt! Or-or eaten!"

"Well, that's not my problem anymore," Ian growled as he shoved his hands into his pockets. "I tried to give him to you, you didn't want him. Your fault, not mine." Not even stopping to give her another glance, Ian started jogging up the hill towards the road, where he'd soon disappear out of Margo's sight. "See ya later, Margo," he said in a cold voice before zooming beyond her reach.

The moment he was gone, Margo couldn't contain herself any longer.

Nothing she'd felt before this--not all the bullies, the embarrassment, the rejection--had ever hurt this much. "Why am I so stupid?!" she wailed into her hands, which were now covered with the salt from her tears.

The full effect of her reaction began to settle in. It was quite obvious, now, he was just trying to be nice--and she'd messed it up. And possibly led a harmless, furry little critter to it's doom. Nothing could possibly be worse.

"Scaaaabbbbyy.... SCAABBBYY!!" Margo ran up and down the beach, calling the rat's name with a frail hope that it would come running back to her, tail wagging like a miniature canine. She crawled under bushes,  snuck around confused adults, chased after anything that moved, and dug under rocks, but it was no use; "Mr. Scabby" was no where to be found.

Exhausted and downtrodden, Margo slunk back to the top of the hill and cowered in defeat. "Why do I gotta mess up everyfing?" she sniffled to herself. "Can't I do somefing right just once?"

At that moment, something white darted across the corner of her vision. Hope completely lost, she almost didn't take a second glance--but when it froze, then darted back and forth across the same patch of sand, she knew it was:

"SCABBY!" Margo almost tripped, she flew down the slope of the beach so quickly. Luck was in her favor; she didn't trip or stumble the entire way to the rat's resting place on the sand.

She approached with caution; she still didn't quite trust that it wouldn't turn into a giant murderous monster and bite her fingers off, or at the very least scatter the second she tried to pick it up.

"Here, Scabby Scabby Scabby," she said in a gentle voice as she lowered her hand, which the rat just looked at with a wiggle of his nose. "I'm not gonna hurt ya!"

Bracing herself for the scariness and the grossness of holding a rat, Margo winced her eyes shut and carefully picked the rodent up from the ground.

"Wow," she wheezed as she stared intently at poor Mr. Scabby's wedge-shaped head. "You're... actually kinna cute!" And much tamer than she expected, as well; perhaps he'd been overfed at the pet store, but he seemed much more lethargic and easy-going than she was always told rats would be.

Margo pet his nose; he squeaked. She nearly dropped him and lost him all over again, but her usual horrible luck be damned, Scabby went nowhere but more nestled into her hand.

It was as if everything that had happened minutes ago between her and Ian had been erased. With Mr. Scabby pressed against her cheek, a feeling of warmth spread from the top of her head to the tips of her toes; though it wasn't the pet she had always dreamed of, it was hers.

And it was given from a boy that liked her for her. Maybe he wasn't as dreamy, well-mannered, and popular as Josh, but there was more to him than she had expected. Just like Mr. Scabby: a little revolting and frightening at first glance, but warm and well-intentioned underneath.

Maybe, just maybe, Ian was the Prince she'd been looking for all along.

"Another Oil Guzzler please--heavy on the *brzzp* guzzzzzz, ifyaknowwattaknowattamean."

"Are you sure? You've already had--"

"I'm a machine, machine's can't get drunk. Machine's can't get buzzzzzed. Machine's can't love."

"... Alright, Lilobot... if you say so."

The bartender wasn't going to argue with Lilobot, tonight. Every night previously had just been attempt after futile attempt to get her to stop slugging back alcohol like it was her life and breath, and there was nothing left to say. Lil was stubborn, and the barkeep felt pity for her.

Pity... it was something Lilobot was getting used to. She hated that she was.

When she realized that the time was already well after midnight, she slapped down the simoleans to cover her tab and stood up abruptly--nearly clunking over in the process. Clearly, she'd had so much alcohol tonight that her real oil was running a bit thin. Whoops.

"Excuse me," she muttered to the wary bartender after emitting an enflamed burp from her throat. "I suppose... I'll be going."

"I'm calling you a cab," she got in response.

"Oh. Er... yes, that would be suffic *bzzrrpp* ient. Thank you."

The house was dark when she got home--all but a thin sliver of light coming from the garage. Time meant nothing to an inventor; Bradley was obviously still awake.

And she had a bone to pick with him.

"Please tell me you're finished recalibrating that thing already," came Bradley's angry voice from inside the laboratory. "We need to do another test run before I install the tiberium composite."

Lil couldn't see Lamont, but she heard his peppy response clear as day. "Almost, almost! Just chill for a second Brad, you can't rush art."

Bradley groaned as his eyes rolled back into his head. "If that's art, you may as well be finger painting."

This probably wasn't the best time for this, but she wasn't going to get an opportunity that was any better. "Here goes nuttin'," she said in the mimic voice of a wild-west actor, before shoving the glass door to the lab open.

"Hey, Dad!" she said snappily as she wobbled in. "Whatcha woorrrrrkin' on?"

"The accelerated DNA modifier to make Amelia human again--the same thing I've been working on for the last, oh, year?" Brad said with a smart-aleck roll of his eyes. When Lil continued to approach swaying, Brad scowled. "Lil, are you drunk?"

"I have simply been sampling the finest liquors the Steel Stallion has to offer, pop! I'm just a machine, it's not like I can *bzzzrrpp* become intoxicated!"

"You can still impair your positronic brain's ability to function properly by taking in alcohol, Lilobot. That's incredibly dangerous for your hardware."

"Dangerous, shmangerous--not like you aren't working with toxic, radioactive chemicals down here, anyways!"

Bradley groaned; he was growing tired of this. "Lil, we're very busy. What do you want?"

"Well... you're working soooooo*bzzzrrpp*oooo hard  to make aunt Amelia human again, I just thought--since you've already gone to the trouble to do all this, that you just go ahead and make me human, too!" Lil put her foot down--metaphorically and physically, almost snapping the tile of floor beneath her in half. "I'm tired of being a simbot! Make me human!"

"Lil. Stop being ridiculous. Go upstairs and go to bed."

"No! I'm staying right here! You brought me into this world, it's your responsibility to make sure I'm happy--and I'm not."

"I don't have time for this right now--go."

"Brad, maybe there's something we can--" Lamont began, but was quickly cut off.

"You two are testing my patience--please, come back when we aren't busy to discuss this, Lil."

Unfortunately, that compromise was not what Lil was looking for. Overcome with desperation, she did the only other thing she thought may work: drop to the floor, getting on her knees to beg.

"Please! You do not understand! I need this! I need to be human!"

"Lil... I'm sorry to tell you this, but," Bradley took a long, deep breath. "That's impossible. You can't just... become human. It doesn't work that way."

"Well, isn't there a way to transfer her neural pathways to a human brain? The electric brain's neural activity is almost identical to a humans," Lamont interjected, shrugging when both Brad and Lil turned to look at him.

Brad, though, gave him a very intense you-aren't-helping glare for his input. "Sure, but say that we spend 5 years developing the technology to do it--where the hell are we supposed to get a body? Snatch one off the street? Grow one in a petri dish? I broke enough ethical codes giving Lil A.I. in the first place, I'm not about to risk my career by getting into a scandal over the moral implications of growing a human just to use as a host."

"But... but there has to be something? Anything!" Lilobot's voice broke into cracked wheezes, the closest thing to sobs her mechanical vocal chords could portray. "I beg you... I can't live this way forever--alone!"

"This conversation is finished," Bradley snarled,  waving his arm to point towards the door. "You're leaving, now."



With little other choice, Lilobot quickly got to her feet and bolted out the door, crying as much as a simbot can cry all the way up the stairs to the surface.

"Lil... are you alright?"

Lilobot was startled when she heard Lamont's voice behind her. It was usually hard to sneak up on Lil, but with her senses impaired it would be easy for a bull in a china shop to go unnoticed by her; they were so impaired, she didn't even care that they were.

She wasn't too thrilled about being bothered, though. "I am perfectly fine," she remarked in well-practiced sarcasm. "Never better." She knew she should've gone up to her room to snuggle with Spot, instead.

"C'mon--talk to me," Lamont insisted, taking a few tentative steps closer to her spot on the grass.

"It is just--" she lifted an arm and looked at it, judging it. "I am nothing more than a glorified manufacturing robot. I am hideous--no one can stand the sight of me."

"Lil, that's not true."

"Then you are kidding yourself, sir," she said with a high-pitched sigh. "I was made to be a droid, a functionary component of this household with a task to attend to efficiently--but instead, I... became human, in as much sense as a person can be--except this shell. This... ugly, worthless tin can. No one loves tin cans. They throw them away... just like me."

"Lil--no one's going to throw you away. C'mon. Get up." When she didn't, Lamont leaned down and helped the clumsy, wobbly creature to her feet, where she continued to avert her gaze away from him. "Look at me."

"No, thank you."

"... Fine. Just--look. You are loved by so many people--why do you think they would want to throw you away?"

"Because--it is different, with real love. True love. In that case... I am afraid, I will always be alone."

"Oh." Lamont looked away as well, suddenly becoming incredibly uncomfortable. He knew Lilobot as well as any scientist knows his coworker's inspired creation, but he'd never had a conversation with her that involved something so personal. Unfortunately, there was little he could do now--he'd already jumped in headfirst.

"My father--he is the only hope I had of changing that," she sighed, rolling her shoulders up into a shrug. "I always thought he would listen, and do everything he could for me--but he has... changed."

Lamont cringed. "Yeah, he has."

Lil paused for a moment, thoughtful. "Why?"

"I... don't know, to be perfectly honest. He's sick, and won't admit it to anyone, especially himself. And you know him... he's stubborn, and prideful, and doesn't want to seem weak--at least, that's all I can guess. I really can't say, for sure. We won't know until this is over, and he actually can take a step back from his work."

After several moments of silence, Lamont's eyes slowly made contact with Lil's again. "Well... I've been thinking about your request. Lil--are you sure this is something you really, really want?"

For the first time, Lil finally looked up directly into Lamont's eyes. She slowly nodded her head up and down, and responded, softly, "More than anything."

"Well... It's not exactly perfect, but--" he continued after a long, deep breath. "I think..."


"I think--if you're willing to try... I can give you what you need."


Unrequited Love

Sunday, November 20, 2011

If there's anything about school kids love more than snow days, it's field trips. There's nothing quite like a day of school spent out of school--and even though the bus rides can be long and hellish, it's almost always worth it.

After over an hour of watching the flat swamps of Twinbrook turn into the rolling hills of Appaloosa Plains through the windows of the school bus, two dozen kids escaped to the solid ground with wobbly but thankful legs--and it took everything in Alesha's power to keep them from running off the second they filed onto the sidewalk. Luckily, most of them were too afraid of losing their field trip privileges to do anything stupid.

"Well, class--this is the Lawrence Equestrian Center!" she said brightly as the kids gathered around her, their faces hopeful that she wouldn't waste too much time talking. "This week we're going to be learning about the early domestication of animals, so I decided we'd kick it off by seeing a bit of what it's like in present day."

"Now, we're here a little bit earlier than planned, so Ms. Christina's given us permission to go and meet some of the horses before she talks to us about how they're trained--please behave yourselves. I don't want to have to.... phone... field trip... LEC... can't... allowed..."

Margo didn't pay much attention once her mother said they could wander off on their own. For once in her life, Margo cared very little about the rules were--all she wanted was to escape and explore. She even wandered away from Kenzie and Veronica, who seemed pretty content to stick with the majority of the class--but with so much going on around them, Margo was easily pulled away. Her curiousity got the best of her, for once.

She'd never seen a horse before... at least, not this close. A few people in Twinbrook owned then, but the nearest she'd been to a horse in Twinbrook was knee deep in one of her fantasies. What was a princess without her beautiful steed, right?

But a real one? The bridge between reality and fantasy never felt closer.

All she needed now was for Prince Charming to appear.

"Pretty cool, huh?" Josh asked as he walked up to the fence next to Margo, his lips drawn into a broad, boyish smile.

"Uh huh," Margo mumbled in response, too awe-struck to recognize who had spoken to her.

Josh had never been able to speak to Margo before without her bolting off with her face completely red, so he took the opportunity to try and get more than a few words out of her. "You ever ridden one before? My parents let me try, once--it was amazing."

Margo opened her mouth to respond, but once she caught a glance of who was next to her, her entire face flushed.

Josh?! The most popular and cutest boy in school? Margo couldn't tell if her heart stopped or was just beating too fast to tell; she was far too distracted with what she was seeing and feeling that for a moment, she completely forgot he'd even asked a question.

"I, uh, er," she stuttered as she tried to remember if she had or not. "No... No, I've never ridden one before."

"Aww, that's too bad," he responded with a small shrug, looking over at the horse slowly jumping hurdles in front of them. "Seems like the sorta thing you'd like."

Margo's eyes grew even bigger. How would he have any idea what she would like?! Did he actually pay attention to her?

Thoughts swarmed in her mind, but before she could even think to ask him, he gave a small shrug and sent her a whimsical smile. "Well, I'm gonna go look at the babies with the rest of the class. See ya later, Margo!"

After he was gone, Margo blinked in disbelief. There was no way that just happened... but soon enough, she got her reality check.

"What was that about, pigtails?" said a snobby voice over Margo's shoulder, sending all the good feelings that had ballooned in her chest deflating in an instant.

If Josh was the 'King' of Twinbrook Elementary, then Natasha was his 'Queen'. There was hardly any time when they weren't seen together--but where Josh was pretty oblivious to how cool he was, Natasha flourished off of it. For the most part, she seemed not to care much about Margo's existence--which is what Margo preferred--but occasionally, her territorial instincts got the better of her.

"It--it was nuffing... He was j-just asking me if I'd ever ridden a horse before."

"Uh huh." Natasha looked totally unconvinced. "Well, you just stay away from him, okay? He doesn't like you, and he never will--so just leave him alone."

"But I--"

"I've seen the way you stare at him. It's gross. So just keep to yourself, and we don't have a problem. Alright?"

"I... I... Alright. No talking. I got it."

With her nose scrunched--both at Margo and the horrible smell of the stables--Natasha nodded quickly and turned away. "Good."

Even though Natasha had quickly disappeared and didn't look like she was coming back, Margo wanted out of there as fast as possible. For a moment she considered trying to find Kenzie and Veronica, but the disappearance of the lady riding over the hurdles had sparked Margo's curiosity again. Besides, she didn't want Natasha to think she was chasing after Josh.

She wasn't sure if she was allowed inside the barn, but what she saw once she was in was enough to make up for any possibility she'd get in trouble. Quietly, Margo watched the woman remove her horse's saddle, then stood on her tip-toes to peek inside the stall beside her.

The second she did, a small face appeared between the bars. Margo opened her mouth to gasp, but the animal looked at her so curiously and so sweetly than Margo wasn't overcome with the fear that she expected. In fact, even the small whuffle it made towards her sounded friendly.

Margo approached, slowly; when it didn't back away, she reached out her hands. The foal's nose was soft under her fingertips, but unlike what she would have imagined. She smiled, almost breaking out in giggles with the overwhelming joy she suddenly felt. Her confrontation with Natasha was immediately forgotten.

"I see you've met Dusty," the woman said from behind her, a small smile of satisfaction on her face from watching the way Margo pet the foal's nose. "Or Dusty Dame, to be more precise. I think she likes you," she said added with a chuckle.

"She's pretty," Margo mumbled, not taking her eyes off of Dusty's face. "Where's her mom?"

"Up in Riverview, unfortunately. Dusty's just with us temporarily while she's looking for a new home. She's actually been a bit homesick since she got here--this is the first I've seen her get up to greet anyone."

Margo frowned a little as she looked between the woman and the horse. "I'm sorry, Dusty. I'd miss my mommy, too."

The woman chuckled again. "I'm Christina, by the way," she said as she watched Dusty playfully sniff the tips of Margo's hair.

"Heheh! Stop it!" Margo giggled, but she did manage to turn a small glance up at Christina between nosy nuzzles from the filly. "Oh--I'm Margo."

"Well, Margo--would you like me to take her out for you?"

"You--you would?!" Margo bounced up and down on her toes. "I promise, I promise, I'll be good!"

"I'm sure you will," Christina laughed. "Just step back so I can slide open the door, mmkay?"

You didn't have to tell Margo twice to get out of the way; she stood clear as far as she could, but still get a good view of Dusty timidly, yet curiously walking out of her stall.

She really was the most beautiful thing that Margo had ever seen. Maybe she wasn't the strongest or fastest looking horse, nor the sleekest or the most perfectly marked, but something about the way she looked at Margo made none of that matter.

"Christiiiiinaaaaa!" The sudden voice made all three of them jump and turn in the direction of the other side of the barn. "You in here?!"

"Yeah, I'm here," Christina responded with a small sigh. "What's up, Rachel?"

"Kasmo's escaped from his box--he's running loose with the kids, it's making him practically impossible to catch," Rachel called back, but she didn't seem very upset by it; in fact, she seemed to be struggling to keep herself from laughing.

"Again?!" Christina, however, did not look at all pleased. "That's the third time this week! Eastwind better come and pick him up by Saturday, I'm not sure how much longer I can put up with him... At this rate we're going to have to electrify all the fences," she said with a worried shake of her head. "That colt is more trouble than he's worth."

"So you're--you're leaving?" Margo stuttered, her eyes growing wider once Rachel disappeared around the corner.

"Yes dear, but I'll be right back. You can make sure that Dusty stays here in the barn, can't you?"

"I... I guess."

A few minutes after Christina was gone, things seemed to still be going alright. Dusty seemed about as friendly as could be, despite her nagging desire to eat Margo's hair; Margo was having trouble deciding whether it was  because she was hungry, or just trying to play.

Things never seem to stay peaceful for Margo for long, though--and today just wasn't her lucky day. Not five minutes after both adults had vanished, two blonde haired kids appeared in the open doorway.

"There she is," the girl on the left--whom Margo now knew as Daisy--said in a low hiss. "Just as I expected. Hiding."

The boy next to her, her brother Jackson, smirked as he looked from Margo to Daisy and back again. "Are you sure you wanna do this right now, sis? I really don' wanna get caught."

"It's fine, dimwit. C'mon."

"D-d-d-daisy... Hi..." Margo already knew what was coming. This wasn't the first, second, or even third time that Daisy had approached her, looking to start a fight--but this time, there was no Kenzie, Veronica, or teachers around to protect her. A heavy rock was forming in her stomach... this couldn't be good.

"Don't 'hi' me, Kane." Daisy smiled wickedly. "So, where's your little friends now, huh? They finally realize how no-good you and your family are?"

"N-no, they're just... outside..."

"Uh-huh. Well, let's see how much good they do you, today!"

Margo continued to back up, barely managing to stay on her feet. "W-what do you want?" she sputtered, almost breaking out into tears. She wanted to prolong receiving Daisy's punches as long as possible.

In the doorway, two more children appeared--but these ones weren't nearly as eager to enter.

"What's Daisy's problem," Ian remarked with an eyeroll as he noticed the commotion, though he clearly was trying to avoid looking directly at it.

"Who cares?" Wren asked, giving him a sour look. "It's Margo, do they need a reason?"

When he said nothing, Wren groaned."Oh--come on, you are not still on about that crap over Halloween, are you?" He still didn't respond, so she kicked him in the shin. "Please tell me you don't feel sorry for her."

Ian pointedly looked away. "I don't," he lied.

"Good. C'mon, let's go... I heard Whitney mention something about a hot tub out back--let's get away from all this... stink."

As Ian and Wren slinked away unnoticed, Margo's dilemma was not getting any better. "What do I want?!" Daisy snarled in response to Margo's whimpered question. "Ha! She wants to know what I want, Jackson. Funny, huh?"


"Fine, I'll tell you what I want. How about that lousy aunt of yours to stay in jail where she belongs? Your dad's tryin' to come up with some stupid cure to free her, and I can't let that happen!"

"What do you--" Margo stuttered, but was quickly cut off.

"Oh, you didn't know? Didn't know your precious little aunt Amelia's in jail for killing my dad?! Well I've got news for you, Margo--your family's nothing but a bunch of murderers and liars! And if I can't have him back... Then I better get revenge!"

Today, though, wouldn't be the day for Daisy; the second that her voice began to raise, Dusty started to paw the ground angrily. Jackson had tried tugging at his sister's shirt to try and get her to stop, but it was no use--Dusty already looked like she was ready to exact some revenge of her own.

"What the--stop it, horsey! Stop, stop!" Daisy said nervously, but it only seemed to make matters worse.

Dusty had had enough. As thin and knobby as her little legs were, she still managed to rear back, whinnying loudly and pawing in the direction of the siblings; as small as she was, an angry filly is still more intimidating than either of the de Wynter children were able to handle.

"Let's get outta here," Jackson squeaked as he grabbed at his sister's shirt, and this time, she didn't disagree. This was one fight they definitely were not going to win.

Margo watched the two children run away with her eyes wide with shock.

This entire day seemed surreal; but nothing quite compared to how, as she started to back away and 'flee' from Dusty herself, the filly had already become calm again. In fact, Margo could almost swear she saw something in those warm, dark eyes that was almost human--that knew what Margo must be feeling.

For a moment she was unsure, but she couldn't deny the look in those eyes--so she reached out a hand and carefully placed it on Dusty's muzzle. "Thank you, Dusty," she said softly, with a smile. Again, she could have sworn, Dusty smiled back.

She wasn't sure she would ever get to see Dusty again, but even if she never did... she had made a friend that day she would never forget.

Alesha paced from one side of the kitchen to the other, again and again. There was still no sign of anyone coming up to the house, but she continued to slip glances through the window. She hoped the rest of their guests weren't as antsy as she was.

Finally, ten minutes after she'd sent Lilobot down to the laboratory, the door to the house rattled open and Alesha's anxiety plummeted... only to peak again when she saw that Lil was alone.

"Where's Brad?" she asked hastily before Lil had a chance to open her mouth; she wasn't able to answer that either, because Alesha cut her off again. "He's... he's not coming, is he."

"I... No." Lilobot looked away and uncomfortably rubbed the back of her head. "He said he is too busy. To be honest, I do not think he understood anything I said to him. He is just... so absorbed in his work. I am sorry, Mrs. Kane."

"No, Lil, don't be sorry--it's not your fault."

"Are you going to be okay?" Lil asked, unsure what else to do.

"I'll be fine, just go keep the guests busy for a few more minutes, alright? I just... I just need a minute."

"Of course--just inform me if you need anything else."

A few minutes later, Alesha emerged from the kitchen composed and smiling, a candle-lit cake in her hands.

Everyone--consisting of grandparents and siblings--began singing the traditional 'Happy Birthday' tune, and after the cake was settled Alesha lifted Korva from her chair and prepared her to blow out the candles.

As Alesha watched the flames flicker away and her daughter go one step closer to leaving her an empty nest, a small seed of doubt sprang to life in her mind.

She had seen a doting, if not romantic, husband devolve into a shell of a man over the last few months--and she was not sure how much longer she could make excuses for him. Korey was able to eat her very first slice of birthday cake, and where was her father? So consumed with his goal that he'd forgotten the reason he had had it in the first place: the love for his family.

She knew Korva, bright and blunt, would ask sooner or later where her father had been... And unfortunately, Alesha could only think of one thing she could truthfully answer:

She didn't know.

Lilobot had put this off for far too long. It had been ages since she had logged into any of her online RPGs, and she'd even taken less and less hours at Mr. Norman's auto shop to avoid the inevitable. She could only keep it up for so long, though. She had to reveal the truth to Tanner.

Surprisingly, he had bought all of her excuses of why they couldn't meet previously. She'd conveniently "been out of town" since he'd been transferred to Twinbrook, but there was only so long she could be visiting pretend family. So, they arranged a date to meet.

Tanner was going to get more than he bargained for, though.

Lilobot walked into the bistro's dining area and immediately saw him. She was late, but only by choice; he had to be the one there first. She felt horrible, making him wait, but she felt even worse when she finally arrived and saw him looking forlornly at the empty chair across from him.

"This is such a bad idea," she uttered to herself, but there was no turning back, now.

She approached the table slowly, waiting for Tanner to notice her--which didn't take long.

"Oh--Lilobot, hi," he said with his usual cocky smile. "Fancy seeing you here... Didn't think simbots needed to eat."

"I--well, it is not important. May I sit down?"

"Actually, I'm kind of waiting for someone--it's my girlfriend, you see... she should be here any minute, and... well, I'd prefer if you weren't here, I'm not exactly sure how she feels about. You know. Your... kind."

Luckily for Tanner, a scowl was hard to read on Lilobot's face. Her kind? Hmph.

"Well... that is sort of what I'm here about, actually," she said slowly, picking her words as carefully as she could.

"You're... here about Lily?" Tanner was quite confused.

After a moment, though, he stood quite suddenly from his chair, a look of panic on his face. "Wait, has something happened to her? Oh, plumbob--please... tell me she's okay."

"Oh, she is fine," Lilobot wheezed. Every motor function in her body slowed drastically, painfully, at the way he continued to remain oblivious. "Don't worry."

"Then... what?" The look of confusion in the lines of his face made every moment anguish for Lilobot. She cared for him--deeply--but the calm before the storm was more than she could bear. The thunder, the lightning, the wind... even the wreckage afterwards she could handle--but no, not the waiting torment.

It was time to end it. "Tanner--I'm Lily."

Tanner froze.

 "That... that isn't possible," he said after several moments. "Lily's a human. A... red-haired, pale, blue-eyed woman. I've seen her--I've seen pictures--"

"... Fake."

"No... No. You're lying. This is a joke--and it's not funny, Lilobot."

"I know it is not funny, Tanner--I... I never meant for this to happen. I was just so scared, I did not know what else to do... and once the lies started, I just could not stop. I am... so sorry."

"This... this can't be happening. I'm--I'm in love with--with someone that doesn't exist?"

"No--no, I do exist... most of what I told you was true! And my feelings for you--they're real!"

"Your feelings? Feelings?! You can't have feelings--you're... you're a machine! A computer inside a walking tin can! Computers, calculators, simbots... they don't have feelings, they can't love!"

"But... what is a brain but the electrical circuits inside it?" Lilobot put simply, trying to remain as calm as she could. "They are the same--what they are made of... it does not matter."

"Yes--yes it does, Lilobot! Even if you can feel the same things I do... How are we supposed to show them? I mean... you're a robot! I want children, Lil! Even the... the act of making children is impossible, with you! Don't you get that?"

"But.. but why is that important, if we love each other--"

"You don't get it! This just... this can't work!"

"But I--"

"No. This... this conversation is over. This relationship is over, if there even was one to begin with. Not only are you... what you are... but you lied to me. Countless times. I... just no.

"I am... so... so... sorry, Tanner," Lilobot wheezed into her hand, hiding what little emotion her hardened face could display. Again, her cold shell failed her; even if she could feel what she said she felt, there was no true way for her to show it.

"You know what--I'm not. You could have done me one last favor, and told me one last lie. 'Cause now, I wish you had come here to tell me she died... I can't imagine it would feel worse than this. This... this is..." Lil looked up into his eyes; they were red, as if he too were on the brink of tears he could not shed. "Unforgivable."

He began to turn to leave, but after a moment, he stopped, as if suddenly remembering something incredibly important.

"It seems stupid, now, but... I got a present for Lily--I mean... I guess, for you. You may as well have it, 'cause I sure as hell don't want it, now." He nodded towards the wicker box several feet away. "It's over there, under the flowers and... and the duck."

The pain in his face was something no machine could misread: pursed lips, watering eyes, and eyes that could find no solace in anything they made contact with. It was forced, but with the gaze of a betrayed man, he looked up into Lilobot's golden optical sensors and uttered his last, "Goodbye, Lil."

She felt no desire to watch him go--especially knowing that she would remember it perfectly, til the end of her days--but it wasn't until she saw his car pull away with the speed of a man who no longer cared for his safety that she was able to peel her eyes off him.

Lilobot's gears made a small tired, sad noise; she was wrong. There was a worse feeling than the calm before the storm. This was all, entirely, her fault.

With nothing else left to do, she turned down and looked at the rather large chest Tanner had brought to the bistro. "You shouldn't have," she muttered to an invisible and still-loving counterpart, but her words came out more bitterly than she intended.

Carefully, she moved the duck and the flowers to the ground, and opened the latch to the box with a heavy mixture of curiosity and dread.



Speechless. Of every gift she had ever been given, this overshadowed them all beyond comparison--so much she almost wished for Tanner's return so she could properly thank him. She knew, she would never be able to--but perhaps, somehow, he knew that this was more than she could ever have asked for.

Carefully, she held the small feline up to her head. The name 'Spot' glistened on the heart-shaped tag on his neck. Simple, but effective. Spot and Lilobot. Lilobot and Spot. Lilospot. ... She could get used to this. "Well, Spot--I guess you will be needing a home," she expressed quaintly, cocking her head to the side. He purred; she purred back. Well... whirred. Same difference, really.

It was bittersweet, but as much as holding him in her arms hurt that inside her which you may call a 'soul', it was one of the happiest moments of her life. Knowing, in that moment, she would no longer be alone.

It's been a while since I've written a post this long, eh? o_o So much crammed in, my gosh!

This was a fun episode to write, for many reasons! First: the debut of pets! WOO! Second: the inclusion of the Lawrence Equestrian Center from Equus Sims! Thank you to Christina and Rachel for letting me use it and their sim-selves! (Though I totally forgot to download the 'lease' horses so the horses in this post are just randoms from AP. I'll have to fix that next time. XD) Margo will be visiting the LEC quite a bit when she gets older, which I'm quite excited about. :3 What can I say, I am a crossover junkie.

As a bit of news: our initial plans for the move have changed a bit. My hubby's gone to Winni to start his new job and look for a place to live, and I'm staying back at our house until then. I'll definitely be gone by the 1st of Dec, since our renters move in then (I'll be staying with my mother in law if we don't have a place by then) so, I am gonna probably whip out one or two more posts for you guys since I don't have much else to do. My goal is to have Margo a teen before Christmas, so... Let's see if I can make it!

PS - Yes, Spot's name is a reference to Data's cat from TNG. No teasing!


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