A couple of notes before we start:

This should be obvious, but Chobits belongs to Clamp. I'm simply having fun in their universe.
Also, this story takes place shortly after the anime series. If you've seen the OVA, the first few scenes will sound familiar.

Is there really such a thing as "Happily ever after"?

Chapter One

Chi is Broken

Hideki had finally passed his college entrance exams. Now he was on the train bound for the Tokyo station nearest his apartment. Chi sat beside him, head on his shoulder, hand entwined with his hand, and that special smile that she showed just to him on her face. Hideki was also smiling. It seemed that his life had changed so much, all for the better, ever since Chi had come into his life. He even credited her with his success at getting into college. She had helped him study, cheering him on when he got discouraged, and her love gave him the confidence he so often lacked when under pressure.

Chi watched Hideki smile. He had been so busy between studying for exams and working that they had not been able to spend much time together lately. Chi had started accompanying Hideki to prep school, waiting in the lobby with a book from the library or nearby bookstore, just so she could be nearer to him. Afterwards they would spend what time they could walking around Tokyo together before Chi would go to work and Hideki would head home to study. This train trip to and from the college was the longest time they had spent together in months. Chi found the view from the train window fascinating, and she knew that she had overwhelmed Hideki with questions as they headed to the college. Now that they were headed home she was content just to be near him, spending some quiet time together before the hustle and bustle of their daily lives caught up with them again.

Chi knew that all of their friends would be waiting to greet them at the train station and congratulate Hideki on passing his entrance exams. They would then head to Ms. Hibiya's apartment for dinner. It was supposed to be a big surprise so she had been careful not to tell Hideki. While she knew he would be happy to see everyone, Chi also felt a little sad that this special moment they were spending together would soon be over.

Hideki noticed Chi's smile falter. "Is everything okay, Chi?" he asked quietly.

"Yes," Chi said, banishing the slight hint of melancholy that had been creeping up on her. Time spent with Hideki was special and she would not ruin it. "Are we nearly home?"

"Another ten minutes, I think.," Hideki replied, not entirely convinced by her answer.

"Chi is... I am glad," Chi began. Chi had learned to use pronouns but she still fell back into old speech patterns every now and again, "It will be good to be home," Yes, she decided, it really will be good to be home. The surprise party would make Hideki very happy. Even if she couldn't spend time with him alone, time spent together with friends was just as good.

Chi settled her head back on Hideki's shoulder and closed her eyes. Now that they were so close to home it was time to call Kotoko who would then make sure everyone was waiting when the train arrived. While Chi had learned to use the phone network it still did not feel completely natural to her. She could, by nature of who and what she was, directly connect to any other persocom she wanted, regardless of their wishes. She had learned that doing so was an invasion of privacy, however, so she saved that for true emergencies. Instead she reached out to the nearest cell tower and dialed Ms. Hibiya's phone, knowing that Kotoko was tied into it and waiting for the call. After a short conversation she hung up and opened her eyes again. Everything was ready.

The train entered the station accompanied by the screeching of brakes. The doors opened and everyone pushed and shoved to get off. Hideki and Chi hung back a bit and waited for the knot of people at the door to clear before exiting the train car. Finally the doors were clear and they made their way down onto the platform. It took a moment for Hideki to orient himself since he rarely took the train. After a few seconds he led Chi towards the gates that exited out onto the streets of Tokyo. Once through the gates, Hideki stopped in shock. All of his friends were waiting there to congratulate him. Everyone crowded around and began talking at once. Shinbo exchanged thumbs up with Hideki, Yumi gave him an enormous bouquet of flowers, and Hideki's manager from work pounded him on the back so hard that Hideki was nearly knocked to the ground.

After the confused babble of greetings and congratulations had died down a little Ms. Hibiya spoke up, "Dinner is waiting, everyone. If you will all follow me?" She turned and, after glancing over her shoulder to make sure everyone was indeed following, made her way down the street towards home. Everyone else fell into line, more or less, and followed along after her. Kotoko was on Ms. Hibiya's shoulder, facing backwards, making sure no one strayed off and got lost. Hideki and Shinbo were directly behind Ms. Hibiya, talking excitedly over everything that had happened since they had last seen each other. Sumomo was, temporarily at least, back on Shinbo's shoulder and was busy humming to herself. Chi and Ms. Shimizu were next, Ms. Shimizu talking about her upcoming marriage to Shinbo and Chi asking a dozen questions. Yumi and Mr. Ueda followed them, arm in arm. Mr. Oomura, who was both Hideki's boss and Yumi's father, trailed them by a few steps. Bringing up the rear were Minoru and Yuzuki, also arm in arm. Minoru was quiet and sober looking, though he occasionally looked up at Yuzuki and smiled, and Yuzuki was his direct opposite, smiling and sunny.

Eventually the noisy group arrived at the Gub. Jogasaki and made their way to Ms. Hibiya's apartment. Although Ms. Hibiya's place was larger than Hideki's, she had combined two apartments when she remodeled, twelve people and persocoms made for quite a crowd. Eight places had been arranged around a low table, the four persocoms didn't eat of course, with cushions for people to sit placed nearby. While everyone else settled down around the table, Ms. Hibiya went into the kitchen to check on the food. It had been years since she had last hosted a dinner party, back when both Freya and her husband had both been alive. Having all these people around lightened her heart although she still felt a little awkward and nervous after so long in semi-seclusion.

Once she was certain everything was ready, Ms. Hibiya began bringing everything to the table. Hideki immediately sprang up to help her but Ms. Hibiya motioned him to sit back down. She wasn't going to have the guest of honor wait on the table at his own party, after all. At which point Chi stood up to help. Ms. Hibiya smiled and relented and together they brought all the delicious looking food to the table, as well as all the utensils, plates, condiments and so on.

Dinner was a noisy boisterous affair, everyone talking and laughing at once. Eventually everyone had had enough to eat and Ms. Hibiya and Chi cleared the table. Once the table was cleared and Ms. Hibiya and Chi had sat back down, Mr. Ueda stood and then turned to help Yumi to her feet. Yumi was blushing a fierce shade of red and Mr. Ueda looked fairly embarrassed as well. "I have an announcement," Ueda said with a nervous smile, "Yumi and I... well, yesterday, I proposed..." He was interrupted before finishing when everyone in the room broke out in spontaneous applause and cheering. "She said 'yes'," Ueda continued after the noise level dropped, "We are getting married in July. I, no we, have a request for Hideki and Chi. It is because of you that Yumi and I rediscovered our love. Without you this marriage would not be happening. Yumi and I would be honored if you, Hideki, would be my best man and you, Chi, would be Yumi's maid of honor."

Everyone turned to look at Hideki and Chi. Hideki was speechless. Chi simply looked confused. While Hideki had explained marriage after Shinbo and Ms. Shimizu had announced their betrothal, he hadn't gone into a lot of detail. Ms. Hibiya understood her confusion and started whispering in Chi's ear. Chi's face rapidly changed from one of bewilderment to understanding and then to joy.

"Chi, no I...I would be happy to be Yumi's maid of honor," Chi said.

"I'm not sure what to say. Of course, I accept," Hideki managed to stammer out a few seconds later.

Everyone gathered around Ueda and Yumi to wish them well and to congratulate them both. Ms. Hibiya broght out several bottles of sake to celebrate and soon everyone was toasting the happy couple. Several hours, and several bottles, later the only truly sober people left were the four persocoms. The party was a great success and no one wanted to be the first to leave. It was either very late at night or very early in the morning, depending on how you looked at it, when the last guest made their unsteady way home.

Chi and Hideki offered to stay and help clean up, but Ms. Hibiya insited that she could handle it and gently shooed them out the door. From there Chi and Hideki, carrying Sumomo and Kotoko, climbed wearily up the stairs to their apartment. Sumomo was already fast asleep in Chi's arms with Kotoko looking disdainfully down at her from Hideki's shoulder. The constant noise and stimulation from the party had worn Sumoomo out and drained her batteries.

After reaching their apartment, Hideki placed the deeply sleeping Sumomo in her bed and plugged her into the wall mounted charger. Hideki then straightened and stretched. He didn't have prep school in the morning anymore and college would not start until after the summer break, so he had no reason to wake up early the next day. He decided that he was still wound up from the party and needed time to decompress and clear his head.

"I'm thinking of going for a walk," Hideki announced. "Do you want to come with me, Chi, or are you too..." Before he could finish his sentence Chi landed in his arms and knocked him to the floor. Hideki just shook his head and smiled. "I'll take that as a yes. All right, let me up and I'll grab my coat."

(***)

Hideki and Chi strolled through the moonlit nighttime streets. Hideki didn't have a destination in mind, instead he just wanted to be out in the evening air with Chi. He was constantly amazed how even simple things like taking a walk were transformed by her presence into something special, even magical.

After about an hour, Hideki decided that he had calmed down from the party and his head was clear. "I think it is time to go home," Hideki said, yawning. Arm in arm and hand in hand, they began walking back towards home. After walking for a while they made it to the last crosswalk between them and the apartment complex. After that it was a short two blocks and then home. The crosswalk light had just turned green and so the happy couple stepped down off the curb and began to cross to the other side. The only traffic in either direction was one car that was approaching rapidly.

Unfortunately, the driver of that car had been drinking. He had had a bad day. In short order he had lost his job, then his girlfriend, and finally his apartment. He had decided to drown his sorrows in beer. The more he drank, the angrier he became. He stopped blaming himself for his misfortunes and started looking elsewhere. The answer was obvious and all around him, persocoms. His boss had fired him not because he had made one mistake too many, instead he was fired so he could be replaced by a persocom. After all, you don't have to pay a persocom and persocoms never made mistakes. If he hadn't been fired he would never have gone home early and argued with his girlfriend. If he hadn't argued with his girlfriend she wouldn't have thrown him out of her apartment. It was all the fault of persocoms.

These very black and bitter thoughts chased themselves around and around in his mind as he approached the crosswalk. He noticed Chi and Hideki crossing and recognized them immediately. He had seen them before walking around town in the afternoons, always hand in hand. "Dirty persocom lover and that human stealing hussy," he snarled to himself. He had wanted to lash out at somebody all day and these two would do nicely. He would ignore the light and act like he was going to run them over before swerving out of the way. The sight of them diving to the ground and rolling in the gutter would be a fitting revenge for the way he had been treated.

It took Hideki a few seconds to realize that the car wasn't stopping. Chi, however, had already noticed the danger and made a decision. She let go of Hideki's hand, leaned back a little, and then gave him a push with both arms as hard as she could. Hideki went flying and then rolled to a stop against the opposite curb, unharmed except from a few scrapes from hitting the pavement. Now that Chi was standing alone the driver of the car changed his mind about swerving out of the way. Hitting a human being with a car was murder but who cared if a persocom got "accidently" run over?

Chi was off balance when the car came roaring at her. She began to turn, a blazing white light igniting around her. She just didn't have enough time before the car struck her. She was scooped into the air and the light that had begun to surround her extinguished immediately. Chi flew in a graceless arc before hitting the ground and rolling to stop. The car drifted a little, regained control, and then roared off into the night.

Hideki had managed to sit upright just in time to witness the entire horrific scene. He yelled something inarticulate and struggled to his feet. He wobbled badly, almost unable to walk from the shock and confusion. He shook his head in an attempt to clear it and then made his unsteady way over to Chi. He found her laying with arms and legs splayed, completely unmoving. Chi was badly hurt; arms and legs bent and broken, metal bones, circuitry, and tangled wires forced out of long rents in her synthetic skin, her chest and abdomen crushed and deformed, her right ear shell ripped away and the wires and connectors within exposed. Only her face was unmarred by damage.

Hideki dropped to his knees beside her. He didn't even notice that his right knee had landed squarely on a piece of jagged metal broken off from Chi. "Oh my God. Oh my God. Chi, why? Why did you do that? Please don't be dead, please..." Hideki was nearly incoherent from grief.

"Hi...de...ki?" Chi asked her eyes fluttering open slowly. "Are you unhurt?"

"Yes Chi, I'm...I'm fine," Hideki managed to gasp out.

"Chi is...happy. I...love..." Chi stuttered slowly. Before she could finish there was a bright spark from an open wound in her abdomen. Her entire body arched and then went limp; her eyes remained open but were now lifeless. Chi had gone into complete system shutdown.

Hideki let out a wordless howl of shock and loss. He could not believe Chi was dead. He wouldn't accept it. He could not have lost his person only for him. There had to be something, anything he could do. "Ms. Hibiya. Ms. Hibiya helped create Chi. She can bring Chi back to me." the thought went crashing through Hideki's brain like a thunderbolt.

Without a second thought, Hideki gathered Chi in his arms and stood, ignoring the pain as sharp metal from Chi's wounds ripped through his coat and into the skin beneath. Chi was as heavy now as the day Hideki had found her in the trash pile. Carrying her home then he had barely been able to walk under the weight. Now with panic in his head and grief in his heart, despite his right knee bleeding freely, Hideki found the strength to run.