1With his half-sister dead and his best friend in a coma-like state; things were going from bad to worse for Damon. Who knew just a few weeks could turn his life around so harshly. At least the first time Destiny had died Alroy and Lucien had been there with him, but now Alroy's life was hanging in the balance and Lucien was in denial.

"Honey," Amy peered into the room where Damon was standing guard over Alroy. She smiled at the sight that met her.

Damon was fast asleep with his head on Alroy's mattress, holding onto his pale hand. For once Alroy's face was not contorted with pain or coughing, looking so much more like the boy that commonly fell asleep on his adoptive family's couch. He seemed to be holding onto Damon's hand like it was his only connection to the world of the living.

"At least he's finally sleeping," Damien whispered, appearing at Damon's side. He smiled sadly and his mother.

Amy nodded and set the basket lunch on the table she had brought for Damon, "Have the doctors said anything?"

Damien shook his head, "Nothing."

"Has his father come in?"

"Not once," Damien replied, his voice going icy, "his son's been in the hospital for a month and he hasn't once come to visit him. It's disgusting."

"I know," Amy replied sadly, "What's worse, Axis is now in Alroy's care, and if he can't take care of it, his father will get control…"

Damien shook his head again, "Alroy will come out of it soon; I'm sure. The doctors are denying it, but it seems like Alroy responds to Damon." He gestured to the death-grip Alroy had on Damon's hand.

Amy smiled, "I'm glad Damon still has something to hold onto. No one expected Destiny to leave us again so soon."

They fell silent for several minutes. Damien finally broke the silence, "Don't you have to meet Lucien and the others at the airport?"

"Yes, I should probably go," Amy smiled at her sons, one in the flesh and blood body she had given him, the other no more than a ghost of an image, a memory with a mind and soul if its own, "I'll bring Lucien by later."

Rossignol was the perfect image of a Kusanagi, with long two-tone, this time blonde and red, hair and bright blue and green eyes. She looked out of place at Lucien's side, standing where Destiny had once stood, nervous and shaky, while Destiny had always been her most relaxed there. Rossignol's friends followed after them, looking equally uneasy.

"Mother," Lucien greeted Amy as warmly as could be expected of him.

Amy smiled and pulled Lucien into a back-breaking hug, grateful that one of her children had come home in one piece. She then turned her attention to Rossignol.

"So you're Ross," Amy said, giving the girl one of her patented heart warming smiles. Rossignol nodded. "Welcome home."

Rossignol was surprised by Amy pulling her into a warm embrace, as though they had been family their entire lives. The boys received the same treatment, and soon they had all climbed into the Axis limo waiting for them.

"Have you seen the new house yet?" Lucien asked Amy.

"No, this will be the first chance I've had to see it," Amy replied, "but you helped to design it, didn't you?"

Lucien nodded, "Its four stories tall, with enough growing room to keep everyone happy for a while. The second floor is a fully stocked library with panorama windows on the east and west sides, the third has the kitchen, living room, dining room, game room, complete with a full arcade for Damon and Damien, and a drawing room, the fourth is, of course, bedrooms, all of which house a set of stairs that lead up to the roof and a twelve foot pool and a large jaccuzzi."

Hiro, Alex, Ryo, and Raven had all gone slack-jawed.

"What about the ground floor?" Lance asked, the corner of his mouth already twitching.

"Every techno-geek's dream," Masaya piped up from Lucien's notebook, "the most advanced computer systems in the world, straight from Axis labs, a security system personally designed by Destiny and Alroy, and Axis's newest experiment."

Lucien's eyebrow arched, "What experiment?"

"You'll see," Masaya chirped delightedly, "It was Destiny's pride and joy. She's been working on it for years. It's still just a prototype, but it should work."

"Masaya!" Ryo shouted angrily.

"You'll see," Masaya repeated, then vanished into the internet.

"I am going to kill Kusanagi for giving her a sense of humor," Lucien grumbled.

The mansion was bigger than even Lucien expected and twice as beautiful. The walls of the mansion held a strange shine to them, seemingly changing color constantly but still retaining the same white hue.

It's amazing," Amy breathed.

"What's with the walls?" Hiro asked, poking at the offending structure.

Lucien shrugged, "This must have something to do with Kusanagi's experiment."

The door opened of its own accord and the troupe entered the mansion. The entryway was large and open, with a gigantic stairway leading up to the second floor. Rossignol and her boys immediately took off to explore all areas of the mansion. Masaya was sitting on the stairs, what looked to be a large ball of fluff in her arms, and a large black German Shepard lying next to her. Something seemed different, almost wrong, about the hologram.

"Welcome home," Masaya greeted, standing up.

It took a moment to realize that the thing in Masaya's arms was alive, another moment to register that a holographic image was affecting a flesh and blood object. That was what seemed wrong, Masaya's image was solid!

Masaya approached Amy and placed the small ball of fur in her arms, "Destiny was going to give her to you for your birthday. Her name's Serenity."

The kitten mewled and cuddled up to Amy's chest. Amy giggled and began cooing over the small animal. Lucien was busy staring at Masaya. There's no way she could be doing that. Holograms can only affect metal objects, not animals…

"Surprise," Masaya whispered softly, striding up to Lucien.

"Is this real?" Lucien asked.

Masaya nodded and held her hand out to Lucien, "It's hard to explain, but this house serves as a sort of…midpoint between the internet and the physical world. As long as I'm on the property, I will retain a physical body, as will any AI that passes through here. This same kind of energy field allowed Forte to appear in our world three years ago."

"So it leaves us more vulnerable," Lucien translated.

"Yes and no. Destiny built a specialized set of firewalls precisely for this purpose. It would take a virus far more powerful than anything we've ever seen to break through them. It recognizes only specific AIs and programs and will let in only the exact coding of those programs. She's put a lot of thought into this Lucien, we're safe."

Lucien sighed and wrapped his hand around Masaya, half-expecting it to go right through. Masaya's hands were surprisingly warm and felt almost frighteningly fragile, like glass that could all-too-easily be broken if he held it too hard, a stark contrast to his rough soldier's hands.

"Welcome home," Masaya repeated, smiling, and released his hand.

Damon was awake when Amy returned to the hospital with Lucien and Rossignol. He jumped up at the sight of his friend and immediately tackled Lucien in a hug.

"I missed you too," Lucien grunted, prying Damon's arms off.

"He stopped bleeding!" Damon whooped, throwing his arms around his mother as well. Just as quickly he released her and caught Rossignol up in his arms as well, receiving a startled squeak of protest.

Lucien smiled and walked over to examine Alroy. Genesis was sitting on the edge of his bed, examining one of the shiny machines that were being used to monitor him.

"Any idea what happened yet?" Lucien asked, looking over her shoulder.

"Nothing," Genesis replied, "The bleeding just suddenly stopped. His temperature seems to finally be settling as well."

"That's good," Lucien sighed tiredly, "I don't think Damon could handle losing someone else he loves."

"Destiny's death hasn't sunk in yet," Damien sighed as his hologram appeared beside Lucien, "once it does it'll hit both of them hard."

Lucien nodded but said nothing. Destiny's pendant felt warm and alien against his skin.

"Rossignol, come here," Lucien said, looking over his should to Ross, who was standing quietly next to the wall while Amy and Damon spoke rapidly to each other.

She tentatively approached Lucien. Strange, she had never been known to be shy before.

"So you're Ross," Damien greeted her with a Damon-ish smile, "I'm glad we finally get to meet you."

"Destiny spoke very highly of you," Genesis added, giving her own smile to the young teen.

"Damien and Genesis are Damon and Alroy's AIs," Lucien explained, "and the all-purpose older siblings of the family. They keep the rest of us out of too much trouble."

"Not that you're very good at listening to us," Damien shot back, though he was still smiling.

Rossignol smiled. Somehow she felt more and more comfortable around Destiny's family and happier as well. What Destiny had said about her brothers was true; their good mood really was contagious.

"Oh, Genesis," Amy suddenly joined them, her smile gone. "I thought I should warn you, Marine showed up at the house today."

Genesis's face did a one-eighty to furious, "What?"

"She was looking for Destiny," Amy replied, "She's trying to take Axis back."

"Of course," Genesis mused bitterly, looking down at the unconscious Alroy, "now that Axis is worth something again she wants it back."

"With Destiny gone Axis is Alroy's responsibility now, isn't it?" Damien asked worriedly.

"But with Al out of commission his father will probably hand it right over to her," Damon interjected.

"Most likely," Genesis agreed, "they dated for several years after Alroy's mother died."

"Somehow I doubt your father will be pleased to be working under that man," Amy mused aloud.

"He didn't exactly like the idea of working for Alroy, either," Damien pointed out, "He hasn't even come home in almost a year."

Somewhere is Axis labs, a very harassed and panicked scientist sneezed while looking for some hint as to how his project escaped.

"Good fathers are so hard to come by," Amy sighed weakly, "but we need to get home. I have ten mouths to feed and get to bed tonight. I suppose you'll be staying here again, sweetie?"

Damon nodded.

"Alright," Amy kissed him on the forehead, "I'll see you in the morning then. You've got money for dinner?"

Damon nodded, "And breakfast."

"Good," Amy smiled and looked up at Lucien and Ross, "Are the two of you coming?"

Ross smiled back at the AIs, "It was good to meet you two," and stood on her toes to give Damon a peck on the cheek, "You too, Damon. Take care of yourself."

"I'll be back to check on things on the morning," Lucien added gruffly, "I get the feeling Alroy's father might decide to make a visit after all."

Damon smiled gratefully and walked them out to the front door where an Axis limo was waiting for them. Amy kissed her son goodbye and got in the limo with her two charges.

"We're going to check on Axis," Genesis announced when Damon returned, "We just got a message from Avatar that Destiny's mother showed up there."

"Don't get into too much trouble while we're gone," Damien joked, giving his brother a quick smile.

"Sure," Damon replied blankly.

Genesis and Damien exchanged odd looks and sighed tiredly, then shut down their holograms and flickered out of sight. Damon sighed and sat down next to Alroy's bed again.

"How ya doin', buddy?" he asked, taking Alroy's pale hand in his own. He sighed, "God, Al, please wake up. Everything's falling apart... They think what happened to Des hasn't sunk in yet..."

He shook his head violently, trying to rid his eyes of the stinging tears. There was someone coming up the hall, and it would look awful to be caught crying again. The footsteps passed by and Damon turned back to his sleeping partner.

"Jeeze, I'm pathetic," he muttered, chuckling hollowly, "you'd be laughing at me if you were awake. You always say I'm pathetic for being so emotional, what would you say if you saw me now? Probably call me a hopeless idiot and a dumb kid like you always do." He glanced at the clock hanging on the wall, "I better go get dinner. The cafeteria'll close soon."

He stood up and smiled sadly, "Sleep well, Aru-chan." He bent down and planted a small kiss on the corner of Alroy's mouth, then turned and slipped out the open door. The holograms of Genesis and Damien reappeared at Alroy's bedside and they looked sadly at each other.

"This must hurt him so much..." Genesis whispered, staring at the door where Damon had left.

Damien nodded sadly, "You have no idea. He's falling back to the Japanese nicknames Destiny taught him." He closed his eyes and reached out to touch Alroy's face, but his hands fell right through. "It always hurt when you can't help the ones you love."

Genesis touched her partner's arm, "What we can do is make sure nothing happens to Axis while Aru-sama is sick. Avatar's waiting for us."

"Des, please," Damon begged, holding his sister's arm tightly.

She didn't struggle, only looked back at him with those gorgeously sorrowful, green-rimmed eyes. Her eyes told him everything she couldn't 'I'm sorry. This is just something I have to do.' Still Damon held on tighter.

"Let her go, Damon," Alroy whispered, placing his hand over his partner's. Damon turned a furious glare on him, only to find tears brimming in the normally cold boy's eyes. Slowly, Damon released his hold on Destiny's arm.

Lucien suddenly put himself between Destiny and the shimmering barrier where the virus waited, "You better come back, Kusanagi." She looked up at him, eyes suddenly cold and steely, the eyes of a soldier, and nodded slowly. Then, for the first time anyone could remember, Lucien knelt down so he and Destiny were almost at eye level and pulled her into a tight hug, "Don't start breaking promises now." He kissed the top of her head and slowly released her, then backed away.

Destiny walked forward and cast one last, gentle smile, at the three boys she had come to love. Her mouth formed three unmistakable words and she turned and walked through the barrier to face Forte.

Damon lurched awake and shoved himself away from Alroy's bed with tears in his eyes. He rubbed his eyes and looked up and gave an undignified squeak. A long black shadow was leaning over Alroy's body. A shadowy tendril reached out and caressed Alroy's cheek and, slowly, it bent down and kissed the sleeping boy's forehead before dissolving into nothingness.

I love you...

I give up!" Lowe shouted, throwing his hands in the air. His laptop lay in the ground in front of him, connected via several dozen cables to the main computer on the first floor of his new home.

"Are you still trying to hack into Destiny's system?" Ross asked, poking her head into the metal-lined room. Lowe grunted from his spot on the floor and shook a fist at one of the gigantic computers. Ross rolled her eyes, "Well, if you're willing to give it a break, I'm going out for lunch. You're welcome to join me."

Lowe looked helplessly from his long-time friend to the computer in front of him, which still resolutely read 'Access Denied' in bold, crimson letters. With a sigh, he closed his laptop and stood up, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose, "How long have we been friends, Ross?"

"Since daycare," Ross replied, giving him a quizzical look, "why?"

Hey studied the girl curiously for a moment and shook his head, "How you have the patience for my antics is beyond me."

Ross opened his mouth to reply, but was cut off by the front doors on the mansion exploding open and Lance and Damien shouting "HE'S AWAKE! HE'S AWAKE!" at the top of their lungs. Ross and Lowe exchanged surprised looks, then spun on their heels and ran back to the entryway. Everyone had gathered at the foot of the stairs around Lucien, Lance, and Damien, the latter of which was talking in a rapid, excited tone that was normally associated with his twin. Amy was sobbing incoherently into a slightly alarmed Lucien's shoulder while Lance calmly translated Damien's excited babble as though he had spent his life with the AI.

"Thank God," Ross whispered, placing her hand on her chest.

Not that he really needed to be translated though; they all knew what it meant. Lucien momentarily closed his eyes and reached for Destiny's pendant hanging around his neck, which went unnoticed by everyone, save for Damien and Ross.