The face of romance part 5 (the conclusion)

“The resemblance is remarkable.” I continue. “I couldn’t feel any prosthetics or anything while I was having my up-close experience of your face so I figured you must have some super high tech next generation facial modeling kit or something. Can you take it off? I didn’t want to bring it up while you were having memory issues, but it’s pretty weird kissing someone who looks like someone else. I mean if your voice wasn’t the same I would’ve thought you were him.”

We both sit up on the couch. “Uh yeah, I know the guy, his name is Ryan. We work together. He saw me having a little trouble remembering my face so he let me borrow his.” This guy sure was taking this costume thing seriously.

“So does he have your face now? Did you guys swap? And how do you take that thing off. I don’t see any seam or anything.” I looked around his jawline to see if there was some transition from his own skin to the prosthetic mask, but if it was there I couldn’t tell.

“Uh no.” Ryan looks sheepish all of the sudden. “See, I can do… This.” He waved his hand over his face, and when his hand passed by his face suddenly changed from Ryan’s, to mine.

I back peddled off the couch. I had been lying to myself about what was going on, and it all came crashing down. I had been blocking out how weird it was to be talking to somebody wearing his friend’s face. I had been blocking out how abnormal it was to be this attached to somebody this quickly. It had gone completely over my head how irrational, teenage girl, first crush type behavior it was to go after a guy so hard when he clearly just wanted to forget you.

“Wait Jennifer, it’s not that bad. Look, I have a license.” He was reaching for his wallet but I didn’t want to hear it. Weird mental disorders that spontaneously went away when you kissed somebody? What had I been thinking? I stumbled into the kitchen, trying to find my way to the door.

“Jennifer please, I remember now.” Oh now he remembers everything. After he had reeled me in with the ridiculous ‘poor pathetic’ me act, made me do this whole ‘help me remember’ routine. Now he remembered. Florence nightingale syndrome, that’s what this was. Just a sick guy who I happened to fall for, and sick was right. This was sick.

He’s run around in front of me now. He’s blocking the door.

“Out of the way Jason.” I order him.

“No, Jennifer I can’t let you go just yet. You’ve helped me figure something out.” This was rich. Now that he had dropped the ‘hey I’m something cooked up in a lab by a mad scientist’ line, now he had it all figured out. Just what had he done to his face anyway?

“Helped you figure out what? Kissing girls magically heals your fake poorly defined memory disorder? Let me go Jason. I just really need to go.” He started edging away from the door. In a second there would be enough room for me to get by.

“You’ve always wanted to go to Ireland and Cacti don’t need to be water almost at all.” How had he known that?

“How did you know that?” I demand. He’s slipped away from the door enough to let me go through, but I have to hear how he’s discovered this about me.

“Because there’s something else you don’t know, but before you leave I have to tell you what I’ve figured out.” I fold my arms. I have a way of escape now, so if this isn’t really convincing I can run for it.

I don’t say anything, but he takes my silence for permission, and starts to speak.

“It’s not kissing that triggers my memory loss or gain. It’s strong emotion. My face slips when I feel it, and I didn’t realize that my mind did too.” He demonstrates his face ‘slipping’, and my stomach turns. “I know that I got really angry earlier today and somehow that made me forget all about you. Just now on the couch I felt other things really powerfully and it made me remember things.” I’d be curious to hear what these other things are that he felt at a later date. “But I don’t remember everything. I don’t remember what my real face is, and I don’t remember how this happened. I need you to help me unlock those last memories so I can figure out what made me forget you.” I looked to the door.

“If you’re about to suggest I kiss you again.”

“Absolutely not, I wouldn’t dream of it. I perfectly understand why you’re freaking out. Most people are a little unnerved the first time they see a shifter. I thought you wouldn’t because you’ve obviously heard of us.” That catches me off guard.

“Why would I have heard of you?” He was hiding something else. “And why did you say us?”

He purposefully ignores the first question. “Because there are a lot of us. Well, at least a few anyway. We’re sort of a new thing in human development I guess.”

“I don’t believe you.” I say. “Why haven’t I heard of you? A baby gets born with four arms and it makes international news. Why would someone with an ability to change their appearance, and their mind if what you’re telling me is right, not be on the front page of every news outlet everywhere?”

He opens his mouth, but nothing comes out. He opens and closes it again, but again nothing. He scratches his head, looks back at the coffee table in the living room, but still doesn’t say anything.

“Should I go talk to one of these other shifters and they could tell me why something as important as you is being kept a secret?” I ask him.

“Well you could, but I’ve never actually seen one.” Jason says. This is too perfect. If I hadn’t seen his face do the impossible twice, and with my very own eyes, I would’ve already stormed out. I would think I had been drugged, but I hadn’t eaten or drunk anything in the last few hours.

“You’ve never seen one? So really you’re just assuming that they exist.” Jason doesn’t know how to take that. He looks like that thought has never occurred to him.

“They absolutely exist. I’ve talked to plenty of other who have met them.” He says, but he’s starting to look like he doesn’t believe what he’s saying.

“Who?” I ask. Again, he can’t think of a response. It’s amazing how many assumptions this man makes. It’s like his whole world is based on lies, and he doesn’t even seem to know it.

“It’s common knowledge isn’t it?” He finally manages to scrounge up. “Like the diet coke and Mentos thing. Or the JFK assassination, it’s just something you know isn’t it?”

I shake my head. “No Jason, it’s not. Jason, I’ve had about a million conversations with other girls about how to make my face look the best. There wasn’t a single one where somebody else mentioned ‘oh by the way, there are these people who can just change their faces at will’. I work in education. I follow new developments in science because I think they are cool. Trust me, something as important as you, I would know about. Everyone would know about you if they could. Have you not noticed that other people tend to react badly when you show them that?” I point to his face. It’s probably rude, but now is not the time to make an effort to be polite. “Were you not just telling me people tend to react poorly? And while we’re talking about showing people, You’ve shown this to other people before right?”

He nods. He’s starting to look like a man standing on a sinking ship. “Why haven’t any of these other people who you’ve shown this to told other people? Things like that get around. I would call every one of my friends right now if I could, and I guarantee you that all of them would tell all of their friends. Eventually someone in the media would find out. Yet you’ve never once spoken to a reporter, or a radio DJ have you?” He shakes his head. “I bet you haven’t so much as spoken to a high school student who wants to do a piece on your for his school newspaper have you?” He’s got his back to a wall now and he’s slowly sinking to the floor. Now he’s the one whose shell shocked. Now he’s the one whose world has just been shaken up and kicked around.

My voice had slowly gotten louder and louder, and I had picked up more and more steam as I had talked it out. I had poured every bit of my pent up confusion and anger into that tirade, and now that it was out I saw what it had done to him. He was crumpled against the floor, a defeated man who had just had the rug pulled out from under him, and I realized I was looking at myself.

I uncrossed my arms and slumped against the wall next to him. I had my best friend torn from me, and he now knew that someone had been robbing him of his identity, had made him forget who he was and what he did. I had my world shaken by discovering people who could change their appearance on a whim. He had his world shaken by discovering that he was the only one. We were in the same situation, he and I. “You know there’s no one else who’s going to understand what we’re going through.” I tell him. “I don’t know how I feel about all of this, but I know that you’re the only one who can work through it with me.” He looks over at me.

“Yeah I know. Sorry for freaking you out earlier.” I shake my head.

“It wasn’t your fault. You couldn’t have known that was how that was going to go.” I chuckled at the irony. “I guess this means you’re a nice guy after all.”

He chuckles back. “You know what they say about nice guys right?”

“That they’re wonderful and amazing and always get the girl in the end?” I ask. He cocks his head considering this.

“Yup, that is absolutely what they say about nice guys.” I give him a quick peck on the cheek.

“Any new memories?” I joke. His face of defeat comes back and I kick myself. That was not the most appropriate thing to have said just then.

“No, but you did remind me of what I was going to ask before you went on your little speech. I know how to get those last memories back. I know how to figure out who or what is making me forget everything, whose been keeping me a secret all this time.” I pucker up. “I wish, no, it’s going to have to be an even stronger experience. What we have is a fresh affection. It’s new. It’s novel. While it feels strong to us it can’t compare to the bond that two people who have spent years of their lives together can experience, and what it feels like when that bond is broken. That’s why I need your help.” Now he’s lost me. “I’m going to need to tap into an emotional experience of yours.”

“What emotional experience? What are you talking about?” He moves to the wall opposite me and sits back down so we’re facing each other across the hall.

“You asked me to trust you earlier. Now I’m asking you to return the favor. Jennifer, do you trust me?” I consider how absolutely insane the last 24 hours have been. How it’s been serious, silly, world shattering, dynamic bending, craziness, I’ve experienced more firsts, more highs, and more lows with Jason in our brief time together than I’ve experienced in relationships that lasted whole months. It’s mind boggling, surprising, depressing, and thrilling all at the same time.

“I promise this is the last surprise, at least from me.” He says. I look at him. I really take a second to take him in. Is this a man I can trust? Well, one way or the other I was about find out. It was time for one more leap of faith.

“Yes Jason, one more time, I trust you.” He nods, and takes his hand up to his face. When he pulls his hands away, he’s wearing Sarah’s face.

Chapter 5

If I wasn’t sitting down I would’ve collapsed. I clap my hand to my mouth and hear myself breathe in sharply.

“I can’t believe it.” I say. “They told me they found a look-a-like. They had this whole speech about how they found people who looked just like past loved ones, hired professional make-up artists and prosthetic specialists to perfect the resemblance. He even had this demonstration with voice modulators that could replicate anybody’s speech from only a few sound bites.” He’s wearing the same supportive expression as he did that other day. It really was him.

“It was you. I can’t believe it was you.” I bury my face in my hands. I need a moment. Then I remember why he’s doing this. He needs me to access that strong emotion that connected me and Sarah. He needs me to go back to that place where I was yesterday. I need it too. We’re both in this together now, and if we’re going to get out of this I can’t hide from what this is going to make me feel.

I look up, and there Sarah is, just like the day I said goodbye to her before she left for work and never came back.

“You know, I haven’t thought about you since the last meeting. Prince charming here has been sweeping me off my feet so much that I haven’t had time to really think about it.” I feel drained. It’s been a roller coaster of emotions since lunch time. “Which I guess was the point, but I forgot how much I missed you. I would kill to talk to you right now. This is exactly the thing we used to talk about all the time.” Jason is really good at this. His supportive gaze is flawless. There’s no sign of what he’s going through behind that mask he’s wearing.

“Well, not exactly this, we never had some crazy conspiracy theory involving some miraculous new development in human anatomy and medicine. Although there was that one guy who tried to beat the world record for holding your breath underwater on the first date. Thank goodness that lifeguard was paying attention. You know they still won’t let him into that swimming pool?” I really do wish she was here. It’s so difficult doing this without her.

“We laughed so hard about that I skipped my ab workout for the next three days.” I run my hand through my hair. My eyes are starting to sting.

“Yeah, this is exactly the sort of thing I’d like to talk to you about. You know my family doesn’t really help out with this stuff and the two of us always kind of relied on each other to figure out who to trust and who to go to when we needed help. We must’ve bailed each other out of bad dates and shifty situations a dozen times each. You were always the first person on my speed dial.” Now the tears start to come. “You’re still the first person on my speed dial. I don’t know why. I’ve had your number memorized for years, even with contacts and caller ID, I still have your number memorized in case I need to call you.” My voice is cracking, and Sarah, well actually Jason, is still holding that gaze. He’s doing this thing where whenever I say something particularly heavy he reacts a little bit. A softening of the eyes, a twitch of the mouth, a slight inclining of the head, he makes sure I know he’s receiving every word I’m giving.

“There’s still so much of my life that’s tied to you. I think we’re still married on Facebook. I haven’t deleted any of our text messages. I probably never will, I guess because I need that. I don’t want to forget you Sarah. I know this hurts now because you’re gone, but I know that the pain is going to slowly fade with time, and when it heals I’ll still be left with all the good times, the laughs, and the love. I want to still hold onto that Sarah. So I guess for now we’re still going to be married, and I’m going to hold onto as much of you as I can. I know it’s cliché, but I feel like as long as I don’t let you go, you’re still here.” I pause to wipe my face, and get the strands of hair out of my face that have somehow stuck themselves to my nose.

“I said it last time, and I’ll say it again. I’ll remember you Sarah.” I hope that’s all Jason needs, because I don’t have anymore. I’ve reached my emotional limit. I return my face to the sanctuary of my hands and let loose.

Jason comes back over and puts an arm around my shoulder, not saying a word, just pulling me in so that I don’t have to be alone in this. He lets me have my moment, my time to mourn, and doesn’t rush my in anyway.

I’m not sure how much time has passed when I finish, but when I look up the shadows on the walls have lengthened considerably.

“Thank you.” I say, grateful that when I finally look up he’s wearing his own face, the face that I decapitated fruit with. “Not just for right now, but for yesterday too. You let me say goodbye to her, and you knew how rough that was on me. So you prepared the best first date I’ve ever been on to help heal the wounds. Thank you for that.” He kisses me on the forehead and gives me a squeeze.

“You’re welcome Jennifer.” I take a cleansing breath and give myself a shake.

“So do you have something equally as awesome planned for our second date?” He nods his head.

“You gave me what I needed. I remember everything now. I know who did this, and I know what I’m going to do about it. I’m not sure if I’d call it a date, but I’ve found that taking action can be equally as cleansing as laughing your guts out.” He wears a new expression now, a determined expression. “You want to help me bring some scum bags to justice?” I nod my head.

“Good, because we’ve got work to do, I’ve got a list of supplies you need to buy, and I’ve got some research to do. I’ve remembered some things that they really wanted me to forget. You remember how I said I’ve never gotten sick?” I nod. “There was a lot more to that than meets the eyes. I have a…. unique application for shifting.” We’ve got to move quickly. I go to work tomorrow, and it’s going to be a memorable day.”

I’m sitting at my desk, waiting for Marcus to show up for work, when he walks through the door. “Good morning Marcus.” I call to him as he comes through the doors. He waves to me, quickly making his way to his office door.

“Good morning Ryan, I had a late night, so please excuse me while I slip into my office.”

“Like your new coat.” I call to him. He waves again as he slips inside and prepares himself for the day. It looks to be a fairly light day. We don’t have any clients coming in for several hours.

This is a good thing, because a female of interest just popped into view. From the security cam in the elevator I could see Jennifer, the girl who had almost ruined our little operation, pressing the button for our floor.

“Security come to floor 6 immediately.” I call into the radio. “We’ve got Jennifer coming up.” We had sent a team to her apartment last night, but she wasn’t there, and her car was gone. This morning we had sent a team to the school she worked at, but she wasn’t there either, and her supervisors had no idea where she was.

Apparently she needed some resolution from Jason. We would give her some resolution, but not the kind she wanted. I checked the feeds to Marcus’s office to make sure he wasn’t going anywhere. He had a hat pulled down over his face and appeared to be taking a nap. It was unprofessional of him, so it was a good thing this wasn’t a real job.

The bell for the elevator sounded, and our security was right in place. As soon as she stepped out two large men pinned her to the ground, and two more gagged and bound her.

“Interrogation room.” I said. “Make it quick, and get somebody down here to cover for me in case Jason comes out. The interrogation room was right next to Marcus’ room. We put the same soundproofing on it as we did his room. You could set off a hand grenade inside and no one would hear a thing.

They forced her inside and pushed her into a chair. I closed the door tightly to insure nobody who walked in would hear a thing, and rounded on the girl who had almost cost us billions.

“You just had to come back and see him again didn’t you?” I ask, rolling up my sleeves. “You couldn’t let prince charming go. You had to come back one last time to say goodbye.” I un-holster my sidearm and set it down on the table beside her, just inside her peripheral vision. The gun is a small thing that I keep hidden for special occasions.

“Now, here’s how this is going to work. You’re going to tell us everything you know about Marcus. The man you knew as Jason, and then you’re going to tell us everyone else who knows about him. And if you’re really good, we’ll let you live.” Her death wasn’t strictly speaking necessary. The memory serum we had concocted from Marcus’s blood would wipe her memory without killing her. She was an asset we could control, but we needed to know how far things went. I might dispose of her anyway, just because of all the trouble she caused, but I would decide that once this was over. Covering up a disappeared person was difficult, but for the right occasion, it could be arranged.

We were going to have to cut down on Marcus’ social life. This was the second person we had to interrogate this week. The grocery store had been a slip up we could’ve easily avoided too. Perhaps we could tell Marcus that the company now had a plan to provide grocery delivery. Maybe a grateful client could offer this service at a discount. We would think of something, but we had to minimize that kid’s social time.

“What are you guys talking about? Why are you doing this?” She asks, looking around terrified at all the guns in the room. Security had brought out the large assault rifles to make an impression.

“Don’t play innocent, you really expect me to fall for that? You honestly think I would believe Marcus didn’t show you his trick to impress you on your little date?” I for one couldn’t believe that such a useful talent would not be utilized to impress any potential women in his life.

“What special talent? Are you talking about his accents? I know he’s really good at that.” She’s eyeing the pistol sitting next to her head. “Who are you guys? Are you with the government? Why are you doing this to me?” She was good, and if she hadn’t been missing from work completely unannounced I might believe her, but her story had an odor to it.

“Why weren’t you at your house yesterday? Why didn’t you show up to work this morning? Were you trying to contact Marcus?”

“What, whose Marcus?” Now she had slipped up. I had told her earlier in this conversation who Marcus was. She knew something, and she wasn’t letting on.

“Look me in the eye Jennifer.” I lean in close so I can see if her pupil’s dilate. “If you really have nothing to hide than you won’t have any difficulty with what I’m about to do.”

I pick up the gun and point it at her right hand, the little finger of her right hand.

“If I get even the slightest sense that you’re lying to me, you’ll be out of a finger. The people I work for have a lot of money, and something of an expertise in biology. We will have no trouble covering up any spontaneous acts of violence that might be about to ensue.” I chamber a bullet in the gun. “We’ve spent years doing research on Marcus and we have learned quite a bit. Now then, have you ever heard of shifters?” Jennifer’s expression suddenly turns from terror to smug confidence.

“So that’s it.” She says. “You work for some big corporation that’s doing research on Marcus. You’re trying to keep it quiet so nobody else can compete with you.” She had just earned her right to be one of those lucky few worthy of becoming a missing person. I pointed the gun at her head and fired twice.

Her head cocked back backwards over the chair and I started to think about what method of disposal would be the best, when Jennifer’s head tilted forwards again. The two bullets are sticking out of her head like horns. They’ve barely penetrated the skin.

“Haven’t I always told you it’s not the face that matters. It’s what’s underneath that counts.”

“Shoot him!” Ryan called out. All four guards were happy to oblige, opening up with their thirty round magazines and on full auto, and not letting up until every round had been fired. I weathered the hail of bullets without flinching, staring directly at Ryan as he also emptied the remaining six bullets in his clip.

When they were finished, and it didn’t take long, I stood. I grew six inches taller, my hair shortened, and my face morphed into Jason’s.

They couldn’t do anything but watch. None of them had thought to bring spare ammunition. They hadn’t even known they were going to shoot me.

I shook myself and 128 bullets fell to the ground. Most of the bullets don’t even have blood on them.

“You never seemed to be a fast learner Ryan.” I said. One of his henchmen took some initiative. He drew a knife and tried to stab me in the arm. It stuck in less than a centimeter. I looked at his knife, and then at him.

“That’s adorable.” I say, before grabbing his wrist, twisting it ninety degrees to slam him into the table, and then breaking the knife off at the hilt. It’s amazing what a little pressure applied the right way could do.

“You seem to underestimate me a lot too.” He was doing it right now. If the man had any sense he would’ve started running the second he realized I had survived a double tap to the head.

“Rush him!” Ryan shouted, stepping back to let the three remaining guards jump at me. It’s a pathetic attempt. I throw the hilt of the broken off knife at one of the guards, knocking him out, morphing my wrist allows me to put an inhuman amount of spin on the blade. As the second of four guards falls, I apply a chokehold to the third, and stare down the fourth as he tries to dislodge his friend from my grasp.

When the guards slumps unconscious in my arms I just stare at this friend. He tries punching me out a few times, but succeeds only in damaging his fist.

Once he’s hurt his hand to the point where he can’t throw any more punches I point to a chair.

“Sit.” I command, and the guard doesn’t even look to Ryan for confirmation before sitting down.

“Now then.” I say, turning to address Ryan, who has still defied all reason by not fleeing for his life. “Your guards are disabled. This room is soundproof so you can’t call for help. If you try to use your radio I’ll break it, and I’m sure by now you’ve figured out if you try to leave this room I won’t let you. So, what options do you have left?” Ryan checks his radio and glances at the door. I’m somewhat disappointed he doesn’t at least try to see if I can stop him, but I guess he just lacks either the courage or the initiative.

“You know we have a lot of money.” He says.

“Bribery, that’s quaint. I’m honestly insulted that you think a little cash is going to prevent any of this from getting out. Did you forget you tried to shoot me a few seconds ago?”

“I wasn’t trying to shoot you. I was trying to shoot Jennifer.” I almost laugh at how absurd his defense is.

“And you think that makes it better?” I ask.

“How much have I done wrong to you Jason?” Ryan asks. “You’ve started to remember a lot clearly, how far back does it go?” He can’t leave the room so he walks over to the table, and picks up the broken blade of the knife.

“Do you remember what we used to do with these?” He looks at the blade, watching the sunlight glint off of it. “Do you remember how we used to take bets on how much force you could take before we could break your skin? I’m impressed you remembered how to do it.” I don’t have to hold back. I could just take him out right here, right now. I do remember what he’s talking about. It’s a memory that I’d erase if I could.

“I remember when we first discovered that you could harden your skin like that. Of course that was after we learned to modify your memory, or else I wouldn’t have dreamed of disciplining you that hard, but thankfully you didn’t remember. You didn’t even have any scars on your smiling face when you came into work that day.” My anger is boiling again. I can feel myself begin to reflexively imagine those floating spheres. Those spheres he had used to channel my anger into my memory and forget.

“We found that you were not so resilient to fire. Which was unfortunate, we’ve been having such luck manufacturing isolates from your skin as body armor. We had hoped to sell other isolates as fire retardents, but alas, it was not meant to be. I still kept the photos though. The burn patterns were most intriguing.” I can see the spheres now. Like a beaten dog I’m forced into the pattern I’ve been through so many times.

“You’re starting to feel yourself fade aren’t you Jason. And the beauty of it is you can’t help it. You have been our slave for so long that you don’t know how to be free, and it’s your own anger that’s to blame. If you just kept it under lock and key we wouldn’t have been able to do any of this to you.”

“Good thing there are emotions stronger than hate.” Jennifer says. Ryan spins on his heel. He was so focused on me he didn’t notice Jennifer enter the room. His mouth drops open in shock, and Jennifer shoves a gas grenade in it and pulls the trigger. She pins his arms behind his back as the thing goes off, and he faints.

“Coward, didn’t even have enough guts to get knocked out by the gas.” She says through her gas mask. “Don’t go anywhere.” She orders the remaining soldier. “We wouldn’t want to insult you be leaving you conscious.” I give the soldier a nod, and we step out.

“Freeze!” A guard shouted as soon as we stepped out of the room. I threw myself between the six guards who had appeared, and Jennifer. I grabbed her has mask off her head and threw it at the nearest guard. That was enough to provoke them.

Again, I felt the sting of over a hundred rifle rounds striking me, and then falling to the floor. Again I shook myself while the guards checked their weapons to insure they were working. One burned his finger when he touched his barrel to see if it was warm.

“Boo.” I said, and the guards scattered like flies. Some ran upstairs. Some fled down, Some just dashed into whatever room was nearby.

“Anymore coming?” I asked Jennifer. She had run through the security camera feeds before she had stepped inside.

“No, that was the last of them. I already placed a call into 911 as well. The police should be here shortly.” She said.

“So that’s it then.” I surmise, sliding into Ryan’s former seat. Jennifer perched herself on the desk.

“Yeah, looks like. You aren’t worried about the police at all? I’m sure there’s a decent amount of what we’re doing that’s illegal.” I shrug.

“Maybe, but I know I’ve got a pretty clear case of self-defense.” I point to my chest and forehead. “They did shoot me quite a bit.”

“I think I’ve got a good case for self-defense too.” Jennifer says. “When the guy who was sitting at Ryan’s desk got spooked by all the commotion you were causing, he came into your office with a gun. It wasn’t a problem since I had already set off the first knockout gas grenade and was hiding behind your desk so he couldn’t shoot me, but yeah, I think it’s pretty clearly self-defense. I’m slightly worried about what I did to Ryan, but when they review the tapes I think they’ll come down on my side.”

“Did you get a chance to look at the archived tapes?” I ask.

“Yes, I didn’t get a chance to check very thoroughly, but there are records that stretch back for years. These guys weren’t terribly worried about getting caught it seems. And if I could get access to them I’m sure the cops will.”

She kicks her legs absently against the desk while we wait for the police to show up. We had considered trying to purge the record of what we had done here. Maybe steal some kind of evidence and try to take down the corporation from the outside, but we had to be real. Neither of us had any kind of experience in that sort of thing. If we hadn’t used my morphing skills to aerosolize an anesthetic capable of rapidly knocking out grown adults then we would’ve been in real trouble.

Even with my abilities this would probably only work once. There were ways around toughened skin and improvised chemical agents.

No, we had decided it would be best to let the authorities handle this. Besides, neither of us was confident we could erase any record of our involvement, especially with all of the witnesses.

“You mind taking this thing off?” Jennifer asked.

“Right, sorry.” I say, reaching over and touching Jennifer’s leg. When I make contact all of the skin that had disguised her as me slid back onto my body. It was trick we had picked up when I had kissed her good night. With some high heels and bulky clothes I could lend others a cloak of sorts for a time. It wasn’t nearly as good as what I could do to myself, but as long as people didn’t look too close, it would do.

We can now hear sirens. The police are getting close.

“We’re both crazy. You know that right?” Jennifer asks.

I nod. “Undeniably, this was hair brained and poorly executed from the start. We only guessed at my being able to stop bullets because you couldn’t remember if they tested that. We weren’t sure about the videos providing enough evidence to convict these guys of what they’ve done to me, and we definitely didn’t know what they had in store for security. We’re lucky it was just assault rifles and knives. I wasn’t sure if I could take anything stronger.”

“I don’t mean that.” Jennifer said. “Although that’s certainly true, I mean us. There’s no way you should’ve put all that effort into me. It’s amazing how much you could put yourself aside and be there for me.”

“And it’s almost frightening how hard you fought to bring back my memory.” I add. “Some people go their whole lives not knowing if someone would be able to be with them through a time like that, and you did it after only one date.”

“So we’re in agreement. We’re both crazy.” Jennifer says.

“But as long as we’re crazy together. I think we’ll be alright.” I say.

Jennifer laughs. “I don’t think you have to worry about us being separated any time soon. I’m dating a guy who can stare down an assault rifle, and also happens to be the biggest discovery in modern medicine since penicillin.”

“And I’m dating an implausibly loyal girl who stood by me when she literally thought I was crazy.” I stand up and sit next to her on the desk. “By the way, there was something I wanted to show you. You know that face I wore on our first date? The one I’m wearing now?” Jessica nods. “It’s not my real face. I finally remembered what I’m supposed to look like.” I waved my hand in front of my face to transition into my real face.

“Well, what do you think?” I ask. Jennifer is staring open mouthed at me. “Come on now, I don’t know what girls like in terms of faces. Do you like it?” She’s not saying anything. “I can change back if you want. I’m not super emotionally attached to it.” For an answer, Jennifer leans forward, as if hypnotized, and kisses me.

“Don’t change a thing.” She whispers.

We hear boots coming up the stairs. Jennifer snaps out of her trance and hops off the desk. We both lay down on the ground with our hands behind our heads.

“You ready for this?” I ask.

“Please.” Jennifer says. “You’re not getting out of our next date that easy.” Right as the SWAT team bursts down the door, she gives me another peck on the cheek. In the same spot she always does.

Epilogue

It was a rough ride, at least at first. It’s not easy being in a relationship with a medical miracle. He would get called away all the time on every kind of strange operation or mission you could imagine.

Some missions were medical. His cells had remarkable qualities and he could use them to fight some otherwise incurable diseases. The CDC would call him if there was some outbreak of a new and deadly disease they wanted quelled. And periodically he would go to a local children’s hospital and cure everyone in the oncology ward. It wasn’t something he could do very often. He explained to me that an expenditure of that kind of energy needed time to recharge, but he still managed to make it down there at least once a month.

Other missions were political. Various government agencies would consult with him and get him to provide perfect disguises for their operatives on special highly sensitive missions. He would always demand a full debriefing of what was going on and why. There were more than a few missions where he walked because he didn’t agree with what was going on, but he was still a part of bringing to justice six of the world’s top ten criminals.

Lastly, some missions were purely sentimental. After the corporation that tried to hide him was taken down he started up a new one that did exactly what the old one claimed to do. Brought people in who needed to say goodbye, and gave them a chance to make their peace.

He had a lot of demands on his time, but he said he couldn’t do half of it without me. I’ve read through thousands of classified documents while he was off at children’s hospitals, so he could go straight to a black op from work.

I debriefed him on the intricate biochemistry of novel viruses so he could better target his treatments. Not that I knew biochemistry, but I learned.

To this day I still sit up with him and hear all the stories about the people he’s helped heal, both the good and the bad. If you ask him, he will say that it’s his favorite thing that I do for him.

But my favorite thing that he’s done for me, was at our wedding he became Sarah one last time, so she could give an embarrassing speech.

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