Hope

Francis had not felt that there was something missing in his life. It wasn't until what had been missing was suddenly his that he understood the enormity of what he had gone without, and he could not imagine how he had thought he was anywhere near as happy as he was now.

Of course, he had known objectively that his parents were missing, and that certainly his life and his family were not fully complete without their presence. For the first few years after their deaths, he, his brothers, and his sister had felt adrift, struggling to get by financially, socially, and emotionally, finding it difficult simply to survive, much less to determine their places in the world or with each other. It had been almost impossible for the first few years to feel close to each other as a family, to support and protect each other as much as they knew they should and needed to.

In those years, Francis had keenly felt the emptiness of his life, despairing over what felt to him a gaping hole in the family where his parents should be. How would he get by without his parents, the only people who really understood him, the only people he really felt could love him and keep their family together? How could be grow up and navigate through life with only his brothers and his sister as examples for the sort of person he could become, the models for how he should be? And if he rejected what they chose, who they were, then what did that mean that he would end up as?

But six years had passed now since their parents had died, and Francis was a grown man now, in his early twenties, finally equal in status to his older brothers and his sister. His grief for his parents was resolved now, and he rarely thought of them, beyond occasional bouts of wistfulness or missing their faces or voices during events he knew they would have cherished within the family. When Francis thought of his parents now, or retold Lenny stories about them to keep them alive within his memories as well, he was able to smile, to feel genuine enjoyment and affection towards them in a way he would not have been able to a few years before.

He had worked past his feelings of loneliness and confusion of himself as a person, both within and outside of his family, of his resentment and grief towards the genetic disease he carried and what it meant to the way in which he must live his life. He had no more anger towards his siblings or his genetics, no further wish to be able to cut out the pieces of himself that made him different than most of the others they came into contact with. His difference no longer disturbed or frightened him; he had grown comfortable with himself, even happy to be the way he was, to have the strength, knowledge, and edge to survival that he did. Francis knew himself to be a predator, and over time, he had become okay with this fact, even to enjoy it. It was a heady feeling sometimes, to know how little could truly hurt him, how much it would take to bring him down.

He was close to his siblings now, even the twins, no longer expecting them to be his role models or his superiors, nor allowing them to view themselves in such a way, but instead to see them as his friends, as altered reflections of himself, different, in ways, but essentially the same at core. No one else could appreciate what he was or what he had to do, let alone celebrate it with him. For the first time since his parents' death, Francis was happy, secure, bonded to his family in a way that he felt was more than enough, certainly more than he had asked for or expected. If asked, he would have honestly replied that there was nothing missing in his life, nothing further he needed.

But that was before Riley entered his life, and with her, Francis realized almost immediately that he had been wrong. She was the missing piece of him he had never known to be left incomplete, taking over an absence in his life and heart he had thought long ago filled. She was beautiful and smart, seductive yet sweet, sharply humorous yet harboring a vulnerability that Francis could not resist responding to, a need for him and the help and love he could give her.

He would not have thought it possible to have extensive control around a human, nor that his siblings could, and to love a human would have seemed so impossible as to be ridiculous to even imagine. But Francis loved Riley, and even more incredibly, even knowing about him what she knew, she loved him too.

She gave him love and affection as he had not expected to receive in his life, a renewed purpose to begin each day with. She was his companion and his lover, his best friend and his hope for the future and all it still might hold in its possibilities.

She made his life and his family more complete than he would have thought possibleā€¦and now, it seemed, they only needed to find the same for David, to make it fully whole.