The fallout from the corruption bust was enormous. Nearly every law enforcement officer, criminal attorney and politician in Los Angeles seemed to be impacted by it in one way or another, and once the press got word of the story, the situation rapidly devolved into an all-out circus.
The only person who managed to keep a distance from it all was Michael himself, primarily because of Dr. Lee's firm determination to keep him sequestered from the ensuing chaos. Reporters and officials alike had been clamoring for statements and interviews, but each one was informed that Michael was being treated for exhaustion and therefore unavailable for comment.
It was actually the truth. Michael had been in the medical ward under mild sedation since returning to the hospital, and the only non-staff person permitted access to him was Hannah.
Having her back made Michael feel almost human again. Even though he was frequently groggy and overwhelmed, just knowing that she would be there during his periods of lucidness filled him with a tremendous sense of comfort.
On the third day following Harper's arrest, Dr. Lee paid the two of them a visit with news from Michael's lawyer.
"I've just been told that a motion has been filed to have all the charges against Michael dropped," he announced.
Michael smiled sleepily as Hannah breathed a sigh of relief.
"Thank God. So...when can he come home? Soon?" she asked hopefully.
Dr. Lee made a dubious face.
"Well," he started, "that's something we need to discuss. I personally would prefer to extend Michael's hospitalization until I'm satisfied that he's adequately processed everything that's happened. This experience has been emotionally draining and I think it's best to err on the side of caution."
Hannah looked over at Michael and grasped his arm.
"Michael? Do you understand what Dr. Lee is saying?"
"How do you feel about that?"
"I-I think...yes. Stay," he stammered. As much as he hated to admit it, Dr. Lee was right. Even though he'd been dreaming about being exonerated for Bird's murder for what felt like an eternity, and was certainly no fan of living in mental institution, Michael also knew that he wasn't fully capable of leading a normal life just yet—not when that normal life meant existing without Rex.
"Okay, then," Hannah stated matter-of-factly. "It's decided. You'll stay here until you're ready."
She squeezed Michael's hand and began conversing again with Dr. Lee. He tried to follow along with what they were saying, but before he knew it, their words were washed away by an overpowering waterfall of drowsiness, and for the first time in nearly 9 months, Michael Britten fell asleep feeling at peace.
Michael was officially re-admitted to the psychiatric hospital for the another six weeks, but the experience this time around was drastically different from his first 90 days.
As soon as the murder charge was officially dropped, Dr. Lee moved him into a lower-security ward where patients were allowed to have more privacy and personal freedom. He also adjusted Michael's medications to a lower dosage (which greatly mitigated the negative side-effects he'd been having) and switched the focus of their therapy sessions from paranoid delusions and fantasy worlds to preparation for a real life at home with Hannah, who was now a daily hospital visitor, much to Michael's pleasure.
On one particularly pleasant day in September, she came bursting into the visitation room with a beaming smile so bright that Michael was almost surprised the hospital staff hadn't confiscated it for being too distracting.
"You certainly look happy," he commented as she leaned in to give him a kiss. "What's up?"
"Emma had the baby this morning!" Hannah gushed. She pulled out her cell and thrust it into Michael's hands. "It's a girl; a baby girl. She's so beautiful, Michael. Her name is Roxana Britten Sandoval, or Roxie for short. Emma named her after Rex."
Michael stared bewilderedly at the photograph on Hannah's phone. It was a picture of Emma, exhausted but excited, holding a small bundle with blue eyes, peachy skin and a shock of shiny, black hair that looked exactly like Rex's had the day he'd been born.
"A girl," he whispered as strange feeling of warmth swept over him. "Rex's little girl. She's so...I mean, I don't...it's—"
"It's amazing, isn't it?" Hannah interrupted.
Michael gave a nod as he wiped a trickle of tears from his face.
"Rex's little girl," he said again. It didn't seem real. It didn't seem possible, after all of the trauma and pain, that Rex could have actually left a living, tangible part of him behind. But there she was, perfect and pink and so very much like the lost son Michael had been unable to let go of. Rex's little girl.
Hannah grinned and put her head on Michael's shoulder.
"I can't wait for you to meet her in person. When do you think they'll let you come home?"
He paused. Up until today, he'd been rather anxious about leaving the hospital and rejoining the outside world, but now those feelings of fear and apprehension were slowly melting away.
"Soon," Michael replied. "I think very soon."
He would do everything in his power now to make sure that was true.
Finally, the day came for Michael to be discharged from Vista Psychiatric Hospital. He'd still be coming back three days a week for his therapy with Dr. Lee, of course, but that fact hardly made the transition from institutionalized patient to free man any less important.
"Are you excited?" Hannah asked as she pulled the car into their driveway.
"I'm tired," Michael responded. "I've been sleeping on a mattress thinner than a sheet of paper for the last four months, and now I'm finally going to be able to sleep in my own bed."
"Just sleep, huh?"
"Easy now," Michael laughed. "I'm supposed to be avoiding stress and over-stimulation, remember?"
"All right, fair point," Hannah conceded. She reached out to give his knee a gentle caress and then eagerly hopped out of the car. Michael grabbed his bag from the back seat, and then quickly followed as Hannah bounded up the pathway to open the front door.
Michael felt his heart racing as soon he walked across the threshold and into the front room. He hadn't been inside the house since that last moment with Rex in his sepia-toned dream, and it pained him now to have to remind himself that Rex wouldn't be there this time.
It's okay, he told himself nervously. Dr. Lee prepared you for this. It's okay. You can do it.
"Well," Hannah said with a grin. "Welcome home, Michael."
It's okay. It's okay. It's okay.
"Yeah. Thanks," he mumbled. Hannah shot him a look of concern.
"Do you want to go lie down for a bit? Emma will be here with Roxie soon, but you have some time to rest if you want."
"Okay, yeah; I think I'll do that," he said softly. Without another word, he wandered over to the staircase and slowly began to ascend.
It's okay, he thought to himself again as he reached the second floor. You can do this. It's okay.
With a sense of determination, Michael marched down the hall towards the door of Rex's room. He stared at it for a moment, took a few deep breaths and then very gingerly turned the knob.
A wave of emotion surged through him the instant he walked inside. Everything was exactly as it had been before in his green world dreams, with the one glaring exception of Rex himself. Michael shuddered. This was how it was going to be now; how it had been long before he was mentally capable of understanding or accepting it. He was permanently in a life without Rex and there was nothing he could do to fix that fact.
For twenty minutes, Michael just stood there, unable to do anything else but process and stare. Had Hannah not come up behind him, he might have remained there all night.
"Michael?" she called out. He whirled around and saw her standing in the doorway, looking slightly worried. "Emma's downstairs with Roxie. Are you going to be all right?"
The sound of baby's cry suddenly pierced the air and made the hair on Michael's neck stand on its end.
Roxie. He'd almost forgotten. The little piece of Rex that had been left behind was here, waiting for him.
He glanced around again at all of Rex's belongings. There were so many tokens of Rex's existence around him; so many memories. He thought back to what Rex had told him in his dream.
You won't lose me so long as you remember me.
It was true. Rex might have been gone, but he wasn't lost. He was here, in this room, all around them, and more importantly, within the DNA of the baby girl downstairs.
"Michael, are you going to be all right?" Hannah queried again.
He gazed back at his wife with a broad, glowing smile.
"Yes," Michael whispered as he reached for her hand. "I think I'm going to be just fine."