"Ember, wake up."

Ember jolted awake, her sleeping thoughts pushed from her mind, her senses alert and ready. Where was she? Right, at Mike's house, sitting in the living room. Ember looked around and saw Mike pacing around the room nervously.

"You alright?" She asked.

"They'll be here within the hour," he replied, "both my parents will be back here in an hour. You can go back to sleep, but you'll have to sleep in my room."

"No," Ember said, "I want to be with you when they get back."

"But we can't let them see you." Mike protested.

"Which is why I'll be invisible." Ember laughed.

Mike nodded distractedly, he was very nervous. Ember stood up and put her arm around his shoulders reassuringly.

"It'll be fine," she assured him, "trust me."

He relaxed considerably, but continued pacing around the room. He knew Ember was right, what could his parents do to her if they couldn't see her? And even if they could see her, what could they do? Yet some part of him felt a sense of overshadowing fear, that Ember would be stolen away from him. Mike couldn't stand to loose her, she was the one thing that made him want to get up everyday. The one thing that made him want to wake up when he fell asleep, and if she went away, there would be nothing. No reason to be happy, to feel loved, or to live. But still his voice of reason persisted in his head, he knew Ember would never leave him. But what if she did? Mike knew very soon that he would loose everything, regardless of whether Ember were here or not. He still remembered that day so many years ago, that one day he wanted to forget. Mike brushed the thoughts away like cobwebs off a lightbulb, and glanced around the room to make sure everything was in order. The shelves were dusted, floors were swept, and the windows were clean. Hopefully his mother wouldn't find anything to yell at him about, but knowing her... she would. They were both startled by the sound of the garage door lifting and a car pulling into the garage.

"Well this is it." Mike breathed.

"It'll be fine." Ember replied.

Mike again nodded, even more nervous than he had been a few minutes ago. Ember marveled at the fear his parents seemed to bring him. In her life she hadn't gotten along well with her parents, but never feared them. Never truly dreaded the thought that they would be coming home. Yet that is what she saw here in her friend's eyes, in his whole body she felt the sickening terror building up like bile in his throat. She wanted to make him feel better, to make it all feel better, yet there was nothing she could do. A door opened down the hall and Mike flinched visibly as a shadow appeared on the wall. Ember quickly turned invisible, even though it was the last thing she wanted to do. She wanted Mike to see her, to know she was there with him, ready for whatever was about to happen. Ember stood next to Mike, and watched the man come around the corner. Mike's father was a big man, imposing like a stone wall, blocking out all light cast by the open door he'd come through. His eyes were the same color of brown as Mike's, but they held something different within them. Not a youthful spark of love and energy, but a stagnant chill of hate and bitterness. His hair was the same color as Mike's, a dark brown that was almost black. He looked at Mike quizzically for a moment and then walked straight past him into the other room. Mike's mother soon came into view, a tall, skinny woman with black hair and blue eyes. She glared at Mike and looked around the room.

"The pillows on the sofa aren't aligned," she said, "you think you would have noticed that. My god Mike don't you have any respect for us? We come home from a long trip and expect to see this place clean, and you can't even keep three pillows straight."

Mike's eyes flashed with a blaze of bitter rage, but he said nothing, just stood there perfectly still, not daring to move.

"What are you stupid now," his mother demanded, "I said the pillows need fixing. Can you even talk now or are you dumb and mute."

"Yes mother." Mike muttered dejectedly and walked over to straighten the pillows.

His mother glared at him for a few more seconds before walking briskly out of the room like someone late for a meeting.

Anger swam through Mike's head like an endless torrent of water, he had done EVERYTHING yet his mother still found flaw in his work. Slowly, quietly he made his way up to his bedroom, shutting and locking the door behind him. He sat down on the bed and looked out the window. The sky seemed somewhat bleak, clouds blocking out what little sun there was. Mike pressed his face against the glass, letting the cold surface fill his body. It was so hot in here! He pushed harder against the glass. Was he going insane? The room felt as if it were on fire! He had to get outside! Mike drew back his hand, preparing to punch straight through the window. But he felt two invisible hands grab him and hold him back. Ember materialized behind Mike and let go of him.

"Calm down," she said soothingly, "it's okay Mike."

"No it's not," he snapped, "it's really freaking not! I try and try as hard as I can, and they still don't care!"

"I can't even fathom how it feels," Ember said calmly, "but I want to help you through all of this, I'm your friend. Come on, lets go outside for a while."

Ember put her arm around Mike's shoulders and phased out through the window. The two of them flew out and away from the house, over the streets of Amity Park. Mike closed his eyes, the cold air washing over him like a wave of peace and comfort.

Ember looked at her friend with genuine concern. She had seen him sad before, but never like this. It appeared as if something deep inside him, something irreparable was broken. Ember knew she could never replace that thing, the love of his parents, which he had never known. Yet she still wanted to be with him and try as hard as she could to help him through.

"So where are we going?" Mike asked.

"Somewhere quiet," Ember responded, "so we can talk."

She continued flying, looking for the building they had been in before. There it was, the bookstore. They descended slowly and went inside, into the warm embrace of the building. It was an unnatural warmth, Ember thought, it seemed to get inside you and warm your heart and mind, not just your body. Mike relaxed visibly once they'd found a place to sit down, he leaned against Ember as she turned invisible and breathed quietly. After a few moments, Ember broke the silence.

"Why?"

"Why what?" Mike asked.

"Why do your parents seem so mean?"

"I don't know," Mike sighed, "they fight a lot lately, it didn't used to be this bad."

Ember remembered the pictures on Mike's living room wall. Mike becoming more and more solitary, shying farther away from his family as the pictures had progressed chronologically.

"Any particular reason they fight?" Ember persisted.

"Well," Mike relented, "I guess there is one."

Mike remembered back to that day, seven years ago. He had been seven years old, and that day had brought him face to face with a decision most people had never been forced to face. He lay on a soft hospital bed, wrapped in warm thick blankets, medicine pumping into his body through a needle stuck in his wrist. A nurse looked at him with a look of pity and then turned to his parents. They sat in chairs at the opposite side of the room, both of them looking like they'd rather be somewhere else than in that sterile unforgiving room.

"Your son," the nurse began, "has a very rare illness, unless his body is regularly supplied with medicine, his nervous system will shut down in weeks. The way I see it you have two options."

"And they are?" Mike's father demanded shortly.

"You could pay for the medicine," the nurse said, "and Mike can give himself the injections weekly. But I must tell you that living like that could be very, unpleasant, you will be very vulnerable to other sicknesses, as well as prone to blackouts. Or you c... pull the plug."

"What!" Mike shouted, his body shaking violently.

"You can die here," the nurse said, "it can be peaceful and quiet if that is what you want."

Mike grabbed the tube running from his arm and ripped it out. I thin trickle of blood ran from his wrist, but it dried out almost instantly. Mike sat up in the bed, and felt a wave of dizziness rush through his head. He grabbed a railing on the side of the bed for support as he lowered his feet to the ground.

"I'm not going to die," he yelled, "none of you can make me, it's my life, that should be my choice. I don't want to die!"

"You do know," the nurse said, "that even with the medicine, you you most likely not live until your eighteenth birthday."

"I don't care," Mike cried, tears welling in his eyes, "that's years from now, I want to live! I want to live!"

"Listen to the doctor," his mother snapped, "she knows what's best for you."

"Wait," Mike's father interrupted, "how much is the medicine?"

Back in the bookstore, Ember's mind reeled with the shock of what she had just heard. Mike was dying, slowly he was dying. Wordlessly, Mike pointed at his right arm. Ember looked to see what he was try to show her and nearly gasped out loud. When she looked closely, she saw small marks in his skin, tiny pinpricks.

"From the needle." Mike explained. "Ember I don't want to die."

"I know," Ember said, "believe me I know."

Overcome by emotion, Ember phased back into her visible form, and embraced Mike tightly. She felt like if she continued to hold him, to not let him go, she could hold back the death that was steadily eating away at him even as they spoke. Mike returned Ember's embrace, feeling the warmth of the flames on her hair. He loved that warmth, he couldn't bare to have it go away.

"How sweet," a voice cut in, "shouldn't you guys rent a room or something."

Ember and Mike both looked up to see Sam frowning down at them. Sam had never really approved of Ember being here, even less of Ember being with a human.

"Go away," Ember growled, "leave us alone."

"No," Sam said, "I want to know what's going on. I know something's up and I want to find out what it is."

"You want to find out!" Mike shouted, his thoughts consumed by a powerful anger. "You want to know what's happening to me! I'm dying! Are you happy now, I'm going to die, and Ember is the only one who cares! Not my parents, not any other people, just Ember. She cares about me, she loves me! And y... none of that matter's to you does it!"

Sam stared at Mike in shock, her mind reeling with what she had just heard. He was dying? How could that be? Sam sat down on one of the chairs and looked at Ember.

"I'm sorry," she said quietly, "I didn't know."

"Neither did I," a much harsher voice said, "and quite frankly, I don't care."

They looked up into the cold eyes of a man wearing a badge that read "Security". Sam almost laughed. A bookstore with security guards.

"You're making a lot of noise," the guy said, "now I don't know what you kids are doing, but you need to find some place else to do it."

Wordlessly the three of them stood up and began filing briskly out of the store, Ember's arm around Mike's shoulders.

"Oh and by the way," the guard added, looking at Ember, "you're hair looks like it's on fire, you should try a different shampoo."

He then shut the door on them as they walked out into the cool windy morning of Amity Park.

Ember's could feel her ghostly heart beating faster in her chest, her body was overcome by fear and worry for her new friend. Mike had lived all his life with the horrible knowledge that he would never grow old, never live a complete life, and never be able to do anything about it. The sheer unfairness of it all caused Ember's hair to blare up in a bright blue flame.

"I've never told anyone," Mike said, "I didn't want anyone to know. I didn't want to have friends, because I know I'd miss them when I died."

"Mike," Ember whispered, tears streaming down her face, "I'm so sorry. I can't believe this is happening..."

She held the boy close in her arms as if she could shield him from death, keep him safe forever. But it wouldn't last, within a few short years Mike would be dead and he knew it.

Mike leaned his head on Ember's shoulder and felt her warm tears fall across his face. He didn't want to die, to leave her and this world forever. Fear gripped his heart like an icy talon of some predatorial monster. Mike could already feel his body becoming weaker, almost every day he found that one of his joints was hurting, or that his heart seemed to beat faster for know reason. Occasionally he would even black out and wake up hours later, alone. The worst part, the one thing that made this even worse was the fact that now Mike had friends, good friends. Danny, Sam, Tucker, and Ember of course, people who cared about him, and he was going to die and leave that all behind. Mike tried to hold back the tears that he felt welling up in his eyes. Crying was weak, and he knew that, he was not weak. But at the same time neither was Ember, and there she stood crying for her friend. Mike finally let the tears flow forth, pouring down onto Ember's shoulder. They both stood there as people walked past all around them, looking at the strange trio of friends. Eventually Ember let Mike go and he stood there staring at her.

"I guess," he stammered, "I guess we should go home now."

"Okay," Ember agreed, "if you want to."

"See you later Sam." Mike said as Ember lifted him into the air and began flying toward his home.

The flight took only a few minutes but to both of them it felt like hours. Mike had always known that he was doomed to an early death, but now that he had a reason to value life, he had a reason to fear death.

When they arrived at Mike's house, Ember changed into her invisible form and followed Mike through the front door. Mike walked a bit farther into the house and this froze; Ember would have run into him if she had been tangible. Both Mike's parents sat in the living room glaring angrily at him.

"Where were you son?" His father demanded.

"I... I was out with a friend." Mike replied hesitantly.

"Which friend," his mom snapped scornfully, "I don't remember you having any friends."

"I do have friends," Mike countered, "and they care more about me than you ever did!"

"Don't you ever speak to one of us that way," Mike's father shouted, rising from his seat, "you're lucky we don't leave you in the hospital to wait out the few years you have left."

Before Ember could react, Mike's father lunged across the room and punched his son squarely in the jaw. Mike reeled backwards, passing through Ember's incorporeal body as he fell. As he passed through her, Ember felt exactly what Mike was feeling, his emotions channeling into her from his heart and mind. He was wracked with pain both physically and mentally. His heart rate had increased dramatically, beating like that of a rabbit or a mouse. Without thinking, Ember returned to her visible solid state of being and crouched protectively in front of Mike's shaking body, holding her guitar as if she were ready to swing it like a club at Mike's father. But the older man simply stared in shock at the fiery-haired apparition before him, dumbfounded by this being's sudden appearance.

"Who... who are you?" He finally managed to say.

"Who am I," Ember repeated, "you really want to know? I'm Mike's friend."

Mike's father stepped back and sat down in his chair, his face turning from an angry read, to a terrified pale. Sensing that she would have no more trouble from him, Ember turned to her fallen friend. He was shaking and gasping for air, and occasionally coughing up small amounts of foamy blood. She had to get him to a hospital before de died right there on the floor.

Author's Note: Ha ha a cliff hanger, more motivation for you people to read on. So to keep you busy, I have an idea. Review my story so I know what you think so far. I'm drawing near the end of the story, and I want to make it worth my time and your time to write it. So just send me a review and you will have your next installment. Until next time people, so long and farewell.