Author's Note: Having a Dr. Frankenstein moment, are we, Alex fans…? I certainly hope so. ;) It would make things a lot less lonely around here. ^.^ Consider this a welcome for KissingFairies and LetItBeXO, as well as anyone else who wants to write our droogs perfectly in character, and put them into believable romantic situations where true love is something to struggle with, not just handed to them on a silver platter.

Anywho…my buddy PandaLove01 asked me a few questions about some of the characters in this series a moment ago, so mmmaybe I should offer up some explanations. John and Matthew came entirely from the recesses of my imagination, while Greg and Georgina (however briefly) were originally found in the twenty-first chapter of the novel that shares the title of the movie for which I have submitted this story. It's a mouthful, but there you are.

And just in case anyone's wondering why I haven't raised a finger to mention Mr. Narrator…this takes place six months after Georgie's original demise, ergo your Narrator is still in the Staja, so there you are. 'Nuff said, and on with my seventh Pete story, taking place after Don't, Sweet Moloko, Voices of Korova, Surprise Visit, Nachinat, and Mystery Malchick (in that order). Happy reading,

-Weasley-

Lost and Found

Time doesn't stop for you when you're miserable. All it does is slow down for a while, only to speed up again when something happens to make you snap out of that misery. That was how I'd woken up from my own sadness after watching one friend die and the other turn against me; finding my way into a good Doctor's house; and so let him drive me to the nearest hospital the very next morning. I had gone along with four strangers without anything but a mind empty of thought, at least until a moment ago. Now, as I waited to see my Em, all I could think of was this: Why now?

Why did I have to wander around by myself for six months before finding someone to help me? Why had I gone with three other strangers all those years ago, and not asked any questions of those malchicks in white? Why had I trusted them so blindly? Why was I still so blind with these four new people? What did they want from me? Why was that Gigi-girl so interested in following me around? Why couldn't she just leave me alone?

These questions buzzed so loud in my head that I almost didn't hear the three knocks on my hospital room door.

Em.

If I didn't have a home already, and if I didn't remember that I had to get back there, I might have stayed with those four strangers instead. I knew better than to let myself get tied up with them, though, and I missed my Em besides. I missed having her at home on the weekends, when her usual round of double shifts would stop for two days out of each new week, and what we did with that time was entirely up to us. I also missed having someone around that I could trust entirely, and not fear them backstabbing me when I least expected it. For those reasons, I was relieved to find out from the nurse that she'd finally arrived. I'd been struck dumb with my own pain the last time I'd seen her, and so now I wanted to say a whole lot more.

This time, maybe, I could answer her questions better if she still had some to ask of me. This time, I'd talk to her in our special language, and hope for the best.

"Thank you. Please bring her in."

The first thing Em did was come straight to my bed and pull me into a hug. Thank God for that! I was afraid she hated me for running off the way I had done, yet here she was, proving me wrong. That was just the start of our visit, however, for the next thing she did was release me and point at my bruises, a worried look upon her face.

I couldn't be creative and say I ran into a door or fell down a flight of stairs. I had too many sore spots on my face for that, and a lot on my arms and legs besides. There was also no way for me to fake being sick, because I already had a cold coming, and a long fight with malnourishment ahead of me. All I could do now was tell the truth, no matter how bad it sounded.

I was in a fight, I signed, speaking with my hands for the first time in half a year. As much as I'd surprised myself by breaking my own silence, I must have surprised her even more. Instantly, I saw her start to sniffle and rub my fingers, almost as though she could barely believe it. Maybe I couldn't, either, so I repeated myself just to prove I wasn't dreaming.

I was in a fight. There were these two other boys, and they wanted to fight me, and I was too tired to run away, so I just gave them what they wanted. I felt like fighting, too, so…so I did. Maybe I got too tired of wandering around all by myself, I don't—

I felt Em squeeze my hands then; a sign for me to stop signing for a moment. It was her turn to speak, and speak she did.

How do you feel? She signed, looking me straight in the eye.

What do you mean, Em? I signed back.

I mean that I've never bothered to ask you how you're doing.

A sad look crossed her face, then:

I've spent fourteen years in that factory making furniture, and I don't even know what's going on in my own home. Why, Petey? Why did I let you slip away from me?

You think this is your fault? I scoffed, rolling my eyes for her benefit. You didn't tell me to go looking for trouble, now, did you, Em? You definitely didn't make me go sniffing around the streets at night, or wonder if the other boys at school really did what they said they did when their parents weren't looking. That was all my fault, not yours.

She didn't ask any questions about what I meant, but then again, maybe she didn't have to. The pained look on her face now was enough to tell me she might have understood exactly what I had been up to. You didn't get bruises like mine from normal, harmless nights out with friends, and neither could you earn them on dates with some girl, unless she turned out to be a kickboxer with an attitude. I was more than happy to let her do the mental math for herself, of course, because I'd finally started to realize something important. It was an odd thought that had jumped into my head, and I hadn't wanted to believe it at first, but today was teaching me to think otherwise.

What if causing trouble at night only brought someone like me pain, and left everyone else either imprisoned, jaded, or dead?

I had begun to understand this in the morning at Greg's house, and now that Em was here, I could understand it even more. I'd had enough of making her fear for my life every night, never mind forcing her to wonder if I'd be home in the morning. How could I, when she was practically the only family I had left? Would it be right for me to go on putting her through that agony, or else find something less violent and more comforting for us both? Did such a life exist out there for someone like me, and how would I go about finding it?

Then again…was I wishing for too much by thinking these thoughts at all? What if there was no such thing as a life less violent, at least for one who had regularly done just the opposite and thought it would help him fit in? I thought this over for a moment before Em tapped my hands with a finger, signaling that it was her turn to speak again.

How long do you have to stay here? She asked me, putting one hand over my own after she finished to show her concern.

Two weeks, I signed back, remembering all that had happened earlier. I'm just not as healthy as I used to be. They say I have to spend two weeks here to get over a cold, and then get my weight up since I haven't been eating as much as I need to. I'm too weak to do anything else right now.

Is there something from home I should bring to you?

I'm not sure if they'd let me have anything from home, actually. They could get nervous that it might have some deadly germs all over it, or something. We might want to be careful for everyone else's sake, who knows how healthy they are?

More silence came between us, and even though I felt her rubbing my hands again, there was still too much that I hadn't said to her yet. For once, I hated my own shyness, and how it made me act towards my own mother. It was like someone took an invisible needle and thread and sewed my mouth closed so that I wouldn't bother talking again, at least when I felt that I absolutely had to.

I wished I knew a way to make myself not feel so afraid sometimes. Too bad there was no such thing as magic, otherwise I would have drank some cure-all potion or asked some Merlin look-alike to fix me up proper. Maybe then, I wouldn't feel like I had this unseen line of stitches keeping me from talking at all. Em must have thought about this, too, because her next question challenged me to tell her everything that I hadn't bothered to say before:

Petey…what happened to you?