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Never Be the Same
by Claire

Disclaimer: I donít own Mainframe and am making no profits from writing this. You know the rest.

Dedication: I have to make a dedication this time. Itís not a nice one unfortunately. This story is dedicated to my stepfather Tommy Shaw who died on Wednesday, 30th Jan 02 after a year-long battle with lung and brain cancer. Iím glad heís at peace.

Setting: This is set in the yet-to-be fifth season after Megabyteís defeat. Basically itís a prologue of sorts to my other fiction ĎA Broken Promiseí although it doesnít follow that story exactly there are slight differences. I know itís a little morbid and Iím sorry.

Itís been four seconds now I think. Iím not sure to tell the truth. Night and day seem to be muddling together at the moment. Still, Iím a lot better now than I was at first. The first second afterwards was a nightmare. People kept coming up to me and saying how sorry they were, how he was a wonderful sprite and how isnít it funny how the good always delete young. All this is usually said with a sympathetic smile, which just makes you crumble.

You pride yourself on how well youíre doing, youíre laughing and joking even, then someone comes along and all your progress goes out the window with one caring look, one concerned glance. Itís maddening. To be honest I wish theyíd all just leave me in peace.

Mouse understands; I knew she would. One vidwindow call and a promise that if I should ever need her she would be there before I could hang up. Thatís all she offered.

Itís all I need.

I hate all this hugging and crying. Itís not me and itís certainly not what he would have wanted for me. Heíd want me to get on with my life. I havenít even been into the Principal Office would you believe? I canít. Thatís where it happened, where all my dreams and plans died, along with my fiancť.

Did I tell you we were engaged? No? I must have forgotten, so much has happened these past few seconds, the smaller details seem to get pushed aside for the moment. Things like sleeping for a start. I donít think Iíve had a proper nightís sleep since then. Itís impossible right now, every time I close my eyes I see his face. It kills me even now to remember the pain and fear in his expression.

The others are worried about me, especially little Enzo. Heís been my anchor these past few seconds. I honestly donít know what I would do without him right now. Heís been wonderful, comforting me when I just canít hold it in any more. I know heís keeping his own grief inside though and that hurts me just as much. He needs to let it out somehow, cry, hit, throw something. But he wonít, he hides it from me behind a large smile and a quirky joke. All I can hope is that heís letting go in private, perhaps with Matrix or AndrAIa. I know he wonít with me.

He needs to let Bob go. We all do.

Matrix was devastated. Iíve never seen such a look in his eyes before. As if he had a deletion wish himself. It was an enemy we couldnít fight, there was nothing we could have done to prevent it. And that fact is eating away at him. At least heís still got AndrAIa. Thatís more than Iíll ever have now.

He went quickly, thatís something at least. It wasnít some long, debilitating illness. One nano weíre standing in the war room just talking. Making plans for the future I think, Iím not sure now. The next Iím holding him in my arms, kneeling on the floor with a medical team on the way.

I donít think he was in pain, which is good too. Listen to me, listing all the good points about it. He died, thatís the long and short of it. And thereís nothing I can do.

I can remember Phong explaining to us what happened. How his code was faulty and the download from Glitch hadnít worked. Apparently heíd been a walking time bomb. The smallest use of his powers and he would have fragmented. Phong said he had warned Bob about using his Glitch abilities. Obviously it didnít help. The damage was already done.

It took nanos for the med team to arrive. Itís funny; during the war I saw so much deletion and none of it bothered me in the least. I think I hardened myself to it. With Bob though it was as if all my past experience went out the window and I was nothing more than the terrified girlfriend. I know I was shaking when they got there. He kind of smiled at me in a reassuring way and they carted him off. He must have been terrified.

It was when they moved him from the medical unit to the hospital that I first realized it was serious. Even then I didnít think it was as bad as it was. I thought heíd get better. I really did. But it wasnít to be.

They moved him to a private room and we sat together for a while. He was in pain then so they gave him some sort of injection and tried to ease it a little. Basically they drugged him up something chronic. One of the doctors pulled me to one side and explained what they were doing. The code merger was unprecedented so there was no way to treat it. All they could do was make him comfortable and hope heíd be able to fight the shutdown by himself.

And I honestly thought he would.

The others came soon after that. I donít know who called them, I didnít. The room was packed full of sprites, Matrix and AndrAIa, little Enzo, Mouse and Ray even. We sat there for a while just talking. Remembering the good times. I held Bobís hand the whole time, just kind of stroking the back of his hand with my thumb. Iím not sure who needed the contact more, me or him. He was scared I know. I could see it in his face, but I was scared too. I needed to reassure myself that he was still there, still with us.

Still fighting.

He was fading in and out all the time. Sometimes he would be practically gone and I would hold my breath with fear. Then some of the solidity would come back and I would breathe again. I never let his hand go, not till the end. And that wasnít my choice.

It was all so sudden in the end. The doctors say he wouldnít have been aware of much, he was so full of sedatives. I know he knew we were there though. And Iím glad we were. We got to say goodbye to him. I remember how it changed, one nano he was breathing comfortably and we were sitting quietly in his room, then something happened, he moaned a little and began to get a little agitated. It was as if he knew he was about to go and he didnít want to. He turned his face towards me and I made the fatal mistake of looking into his eyes. It was then that I knew he was going. His eyes were wide in fear and yet somehow blank. As if his soul had already left and his body just needed to realize it. It was peaceful in the end, he just breathed slower and shallower until it faded away to nothing. Then so did he.

Enzo was there immediately. Just holding me as I cried. Heís been a real rock to me lately, heís growing up so fast. Where does the time go? I remember when he was 0.0 and I had to look after him just after the Twin City. Now itís as if our roles are reversed and heís the caring adult.

Why is it that all the sprites I love leave me? Donít I deserve a little happiness? Itís not too much to ask for.

I didnít sleep at all the first night. Every time I tried I would see his eyes. It scared me. I read somewhere once that the eyes are the window to the soul. They display your feelings and thoughts for the whole net to see. Iíve always believed that. Whenever Iíve looked into his eyes before Iíve seen love, happiness, joy of just living. This time I saw nothing. Iíve never seen eyes that are truly dead before, and I hope I never have to see them again.

I was cleaning the Diner before the night was over. Just something to do anything really to keep my mind busy and keep that damn memory far away. Itís like a double curse. Not only did I lose my fiancť, the sprite I love more than life, but the most vivid memory Iíve got of him now is lying in a hospital bed, in these horrible gown thing, with the most frightening eyes Iíve ever seen. Thatís not the way I want to remember him.

Iím trying to remember the good times we had but itís difficult. We didnít have many. At first we denied our feelings, then there was the whole war thing. After that I lost him the first time to the Web. Then there was Daemon and Megabyte again. Just when we were getting our lives back to normal he has to go and delete on me.

You know what the worst thing is? I havenít cried for two seconds. I mean, this is the sprite I was going to marry. I wanted to co-process a family with him, spend the rest of my life with him. Now heís deleted and all I do is cry for two seconds. Two small seconds.

Right now thereís just nothing. Am I some sort of cold-hearted wretch? I just feel numb. Surely I should be feeling some sort of grief? I just feel empty inside and that scares me more than anything. Itís like I donít even care that heís gone when I know I do. I just canít seem to express it.

I caught myself laughing and joking this morning. Four seconds after my fiancť dies and Iím telling jokes. Does that sound right to you? It frightened the life out of me when I realized what I was doing. I stopped talking mid sentence and everyone just stared at me. Again with the pity and sympathy. Argh I could kill them for that. It drives me crazy. Iíve stopped more conversations this past cycle than Iíve ever done before, even after the explosion, which nullified the sprites in the Twin City. All I have to do is get within earshot and they hush up, then the pitying glances and smiles start again.

I found the ring this morning. I told you we were engaged didnít I? I canít remember right now. Anyway I found the ring. It was in a small box on his bedside cabinet. I had to go and sort out some of his affairs at his apartment. You know, even then I didnít cry. Itís beautiful. I put it on straight away, the others were concerned but I told them, we were engaged, I havenít called it off, neither has he. Weíre still engaged. I hope it always stays that way. I brought one of his shirts home with me, it smells of him and itís wonderful.

They tell me it gets easier. That in time Iíll deal with it and move on. That makes me laugh, after all itís as if Iíve dealt with it already. Iím not grieving thatís for sure. Iím just feeling nothing. Maybe itís what I deserve. Everyone I love leaves. Maybe I caused this to happen in some twisted way. I hope not, but I donít know for sure. I guess Iíll never know.

The memorial service is in three seconds at the Principal Office if you want to come. Weíre making donations to the Guardian Academy in lieu of flowers. Whatís the point of flowers? They only wither and die and then you have to throw them away. I want something lasting as a memorial. Turbo tells me theyíre having a nanoís silence as a mark of respect but Iím not sure if thatís enough. I want something else, something more. Just not sure what right now, perhaps some sort of statue. Iíve got plenty of time to think about it now.

Phong has been wonderful; heís been doing all the planning. Funny isnít it? Iím the planner. I love the thrill of organizing, but this time I just donít think I could do it. Itís hard enough to organise my own time right now. Iím forgetting things, just little things like eating and going to bed.

Thatís where Enzoís been helping me. Heís been wonderful have I told you that? He cooks me meals, shouts at me to go to bed, takes the vid calls for me when I just canít stand answering them any more, basically heís just been there for me. Heís been a marvel.

Not that Matrix hasnít. Iíve had to chase him away at the end of the seconds, practically throwing him out the door. AndrAIa is helping out at the Principal Office for me and I think Mouse is overseeing the Diner. Ray Iím not sure about, I havenít really talked to him much since it happened. Everyoneís been so understanding. It makes me ache inside to think that theyíre being so kind while Iím just being selfish.

I have to clean the apartment soon. Itís a real mess, Iíve vacuumed everywhere but thereís still dust. I even vacuumed Frisket. No joke. He seemed to enjoy it. I think he misses Bob too, he misses having someone to growl at. They were fond of each other really, they just hid it extremely well.

Mouse told me a story about the sprite afterlife the other second. How the sprites continue to live on a different plain to us. Itís as if the body is deleted but the code remains behind. I donít know what to think. I hope thatís the case, it makes it easier thinking about him watching over us all. I can just picture him now laughing at me, telling me what an idiot Iím being. Itís nicer than the alternative. That we just cease to exist. And maybe this way one second Iíll see him again.

If I can just get the next few seconds over with then I can start to get my life back in order. The nights are the worst. During the light I can occupy my mind, clean up my home, scrub the cooker down, vacuum the dog. During the night thereís nothing to distract me and the memories come. I canít sleep. I see his face before he deleted and I hate it. All I want is to remember him as he was before. Happy.

Just get the memorial service over with and Iíll be fine. Phong says the loss will hit me soon but I doubt it. Bob always said I was a survivor. I hope thatís still true. I know one thing though.

Things will never be the same again.


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