AN: This fic idea came to me randomly a few days ago, and I had to actually play Xillia to refresh my memory on some is not Jude x Leia, they're just children in this story. I always thought Derrick was scary, but I think he means well sometimes…he just goes about it the wrong way. :| I also see Jude as being comfortable in trying new things, and he doesn't see "crossdressing" as being that. He just likes what he likes, and he saw pigtails as a practical means to deal with hair in the way? Maybe I'm wrong. I don't know.
Jude liked Leia's thick, short braids. As she spun in the yard of her parents' inn, they lifted from her shoulders. Jude smiled. Months of physical therapy had paid off, and he could tell. When she finished a pirouette, she landed in the soft grass beside him.
"Did Master Sonia braid your hair?" He reached out to feel one of them.
"No, Daddy did it," said Leia, lifting both hands upward. She smoothed them down, brushing away Jude's fingers. "I wanted it cut, but he can't do that today. Daddy thought this would keep my hair out of the way."
"It's cute," said Jude.
Leia's face lit up. "Thank you, Jude!"
"Can you braid my hair that way?"
Her mirth vanished, and she squinted at his dark hair. "I don't know…"
"Is it too short?"
"We can try it!" Leia hopped to her feet. "C'mon, let's go in the shade." She took his arm before he could stand and dragged him closer to the house. She made him stand in front of a crate as she sat at the top of it.
Jude's hair had become long over the past few months. His parents were often busy with the clinic, and they hadn't noticed it hang almost to his shoulders. Sometimes it itched when it brushed against the nape of his neck. But the most Derrick would say when he scratched during dinnertime was to "be still and eat." Jude didn't mind long hair, but at its particular length, he wished it would either grow out, or that someone would suggest a cut. Maybe braiding it would solve the issue.
"Keep your head still! I'm trying to part your hair."
Jude disobeyed Leia's command and turned as far as his neck would allow. "What's a part?"
"You'll see. It'll be like mine!"
"Oh…" Jude didn't understand quite what she meant, but he turned to face the street. When he felt her fingernail gently slide against the top of his scalp, from his forehead to the back, he shuddered and giggled. "Stop, that tickles!"
"Stop moving!" She knocked a fist into his shoulder, more painfully than she probably meant but enough for him to gasp in pain. She didn't offer him an apology. "I can't braid your hair if you're wiggling!"
As her finger traced a line down his scalp once more, Jude held his breath and tensed his body, though he shivered ever-so-slightly from the touch. She used her fingers to comb through his black hair, separating it into two sections. She kept half clamped firmly in one hand, while the other was released to be retrieved later.
"Turn your head—No, Jude! The other way!"
"You didn't say left or right!"
"Which side am I holding?"
"That way, then."
"You don't know left from right!"
"I do, too!" Leia let out an exasperated groan. "Stop wiggling, Jude!" She rewarded him with another blow, this time to the other shoulder.
He nearly had to hold his breath to please her. When he yawned, she threatened to stop trying to braid his hair at all.
"Oh, I need ties! Hold this, Jude." She gave the half-braided clump a slight tug. He raised his hand up, and she forced it into his palm. "I'll be right back!"
She hopped off the crate, and he heard the front door of the hotel open and close. Within two minutes, his arm felt tired from holding the braid, but he was terrified to let it go. Leia's reaction would be worse than losing any of her progress.
A few minutes later, Leia bounded back outside and went back to work. Jude gratefully lowered his arm.
She finished tying the first braid in place. Leia said, "Turn left."
"You mean right. You just did the left."
"That's what I said."
"No you didn't!"
"Turn right or I'll stop braiding your hair!"
Jude whipped his head around, his loose strands lifting up and batting against her face. She grabbed at them.
"You hit me in the face."
"You punched me, twice!"
The hotel doors swung open, and a booming voice said, "I'm hearing bickering out here, what's going on—Oh, Jude, you look adorable!" Master Sonia had her arms crossed. Both children went wide-eyed at her presence. Jude had turned to the right and had a good view of her when she stomped out, ready to scold them. Sonia stared at them a moment, and then narrowed her eyes. "I have guests staying here. If you're going to shout and roughhouse, do it elsewhere."
Both children were stricken with terror and couldn't reply.
"Do you hear me, Leia? Jude?"
Twin nods, though Jude's hurt—Leia had a tight grip on his hair.
Sonia disappeared inside, and Leia let out a breath, her fingers loosening around his hair.
"I thought we'd be in for it," whispered Leia.
"You started it," mumbled Jude.
"What was that?" An elbow dug into his shoulder blade.
"Thank you for braiding my hair."
Jude would never tell Leia how much she resembled her mother. They could be equally scary.
"There, done!" Leia leapt to her feet and pulled Jude to his. "Let's go in and find a mirror!"
Inside, they were on their best behavior. Both children tiptoed up the staircase and past the guest rooms. They didn't relax until they were both inside Leia's small bedroom. She pushed him toward a mirror and sat him down before it. "What do you think?" Leia sounded proud.
Despite that there were random strands sticking out, and Leia's braid-work was lumpy, Jude flushed pink with pleasure. He stroked the tip of one of the braids. "I like it! Thank you, Leia!"
"You do?" Leia blushed. "Can I do it again?"
"Yes!" Jude leaned in toward the mirror, still giddy about the braids. Maybe with practice, Leia would get much better at parting his hair into two sections and braiding them evenly.
"I'll get even better!" Leia pumped her fist into the air and twirled. "Let's go show my mom!"
"What did you do to your hair?"
Jude felt his father's eyes on him and glanced up. He had just entered the house from playing with Leia most of the day. He was supposed to be home to get cleaned up before dinnertime, but he hadn't made it through the hallways of the hospital before his father stopped him.
Derrick waved a hand, gesturing at Jude's head. "What's all those?"
"Leia braided it."
"When you wash for dinner, take those out."
"Take them out," said Derrick with increased severity.
Jude winced at his father's tone and hurried past him. Once he reached the back of the hallway that separated the living quarters from the clinic, he dove through the door and darted halfway up the stairs. Behind him, in the kitchen, he heard his mother call his name.
He hurried down the stairs and buried his head against Ellen, arms snaking around her middle. "Mom, do you like my hair?"
"I can't see your hair."
"Dad got mad when he saw it," said Jude, pulling his head back to glance up at her.
Ellen covered her mouth as she giggled. "Oh, Jude, that's cute. But you should take those out and wash up." She herded him toward the stairs. "We need to eat soon so your father and I can get back to work."
Jude didn't want to take out his braids. After all the punches he had received while Leia braided them, it seemed a waste to undo her hard work. All he would have would be some new bruises.
In front of the bathroom mirror, Jude reluctantly fingered the ties that held his braids in place. He discovered another reason not to undo them. When he began to tug at the bands that held them in place, he yelped as strands were caught. He gritted his teeth and gave it a yank. Once one was out, he rubbed his tender head and stared in the mirror at the other with despair. But his father had given an order, and Jude was reluctant to disobey his father. He rolled out the remaining band and broke apart the short, fat braids with his fingers. After running a comb through his hair, he washed his hands and face before he returned downstairs.
By the time he made it to the table, Derrick had already seated, and his mother was serving their food. He slipped into his seat across from his parents. The delicious smell of his mother's homemade beef stew made him forget about anything else besides eating.
"Thank you, Mom," he said as she poured a ladleful of stew into his bowl. He snatched up a slice of bread and tore it into chunks, dipping them into his bowl.
But when Derrick said, "Did you see Jude's hair?" in a dark tone, Jude's appetite dropped. This would not be a peaceful, quiet meal after all.
"Yes, I did," said Ellen. She turned to her son. "Did Leia braid it for you?"
"Yes," said Jude.
"He needs his hair cut, if it's so long it can be braided," said Derrick. "I swear we just had it cut a month ago."
"We did," said Ellen. "But short hair seems to grow in fast."
Jude resisted the urge to protectively cover the tips of his hair by pressing them against his neck. "Do you have to cut it?"
"Yes, Jude, it needs a trim." Derrick sighed. "You can't go around having your hair braided or trying on Leia's dresses."
Oh, was that it? It wasn't Jude's hair, but that in combination with what had happened only two weeks ago. (Jude would never tell his father before he was discovered how often he had swapped clothes with Leia. And he certainly wouldn't tell him about all the times afterward.)
"Why not?" asked Jude.
"Because I'm your father and I said so."
Jude heard the line often and always wanted to question it. He didn't ask "why not" to be defiant; he asked so he could be given an explanation.
Ellen broke in. "Derrick…"
"Isn't he always getting bullied? You said that to me just the other day. If he doesn't want bullied, maybe he shouldn't invite it." Derrick gave Jude a severe look.
Jude shifted uncomfortably in his seat, but his father was done.
Jude no longer felt like doing so, but he obeyed, and slowly, his appetite returned as his father and mother conversed about one of the patients currently in the clinic. Sometimes he disliked how much they cared for their work more than him. Other times, it proved a convenient distraction. While Ellen and Derrick chatted away about the patient, Jude finished his dinner. When they were done with their meal, he did the dishes. It was one of his chores, though he had to stand on a chair to accomplish it.
At the age of nine, he was expected to take care of himself. His parents had set a bedtime, and he was to study at least one hour before he went to sleep. Derrick or Ellen often slipped upstairs to check on him. It was futile to ignore their requests, but he knew how to spread his work out on his desk, listen for their footsteps, and read whatever he pleased after he had studied for a little while. When the slightest creak could be heard on the stairwell, he slipped his magazine or other book beneath his work. Derrick quizzed him on his knowledge throughout breakfast the following day. Fortunately, Jude was a fast reader and a quick learner.
That evening, when he sat down to his workbooks, Jude's mind was on his hair. It relieved him to see Ellen his mother enter his bedroom rather than Derrick.
"Yes, Jude?" She approached the desk in his room and glanced down to check his progress. "Are you feeling all right? It doesn't look like you've managed much work today. You know your father won't be impressed…"
"Why was it bad that Leia braided my hair?"
She reached over and stroked his hair. "He doesn't want to see you bullied. Don't you get beaten up enough without doing girly things?"
"It isn't girly," said Jude. "Men braid their hair."
Ellen laughed. "Yes, some of them do, but they don't put it in pigtails."
"But it's possible."
"Yes, as you proved this afternoon. Jude, you need to do your work. Do you want your dad to be angry with you?"
Jude sighed and picked up his pencil. "No."
"We won't cut it very short," she promised. "Don't you want it out of your eyes? And it's harder to take care of when you have a lot." Ellen had never been one for short hair—Jude couldn't remember a time when she had ever let it grow past her shoulders. But no one ever told her it was boyish. Sonia always allowed Leia to choose her hair length and style.
Jude knew it had nothing to do with the length or style. It was the braided pigtails and the dresses that had concerned his father.
"I want to wear pigtails," he said.
"Your father is worried you might be bullied for being…" Ellen hesitated. "Girly."
"It's not girly if boys start doing it." Jude shrugged. "I don't care what Dad thinks."
"You'll have to care, as long as you're still a child. I won't argue with you on this, Jude. Please do your work." Her finger tapped the edge of his textbook. "You want to be ahead in school so you can go to Talim Medical School, right? You can be a great doctor, just like your father."
Jude had trouble seeing what was so great about his father, if he made a big deal out of something harmless as hair styles and clothing.
Leia pounced on Jude as soon as he left his house. He yelped and toppled to the pavement.
"Leia, get off!" He wriggled out from beneath her and got to his feet.
"Hey, Jude! Oh, you got a haircut! Me too!" Leia stood before him, fingertips brushing the short, blunt ends of her chin-length hair.
"It looks nice," said Jude.
"Yours does, too!"
It made him feel a little better to hear a compliment. For as overbearing as Leia could be, she never meant any harm—he'd learned that during the hours he had giving her company and encouragement during her physical therapy. Then there were times she didn't intend to say exactly what he needed to hear, and she did so anyway. After squirming as his mother seemingly butchered his hair with her scissors, Jude needed to know the results didn't look stupid.
"Mom said it wouldn't get in my eyes anymore, but it still does," said Jude, brushing at the guilty strands. "It does more than it did before!"
"I can solve that," said Leia cheerfully.
Leia nodded. "Follow me!"
She led him across the street and down a little ways to the hotel. "You wait out here—Mom's in one of her cleaning moods." Leia made sure to take off her shoes and set them beside the door before she entered. Several minutes later, she returned. "Here, take these." She held out a palm with several pink barrettes in.
"How do I put them in?" asked Jude.
Leia took one from her palm and demonstrated on her own hair. "Like this. Here, let me put them in your hair. They're easier, and they don't hurt like the bands do when you take them out, so long as they don't get caught."
Jude stood still while Leia pushed his hair to the side of his head and pinned it down. They slid in easily, making him believe they wouldn't be as painful as the ties she had used yesterday. She dropped the remaining barrettes into his hand.
"Take these," said Leia. "You can use them as you need!"
"I don't think my dad will let me…" said Jude. "He got really mad about the pigtails, like he did with the dress."
"Oh, well take them out before you go home, and put them in when you leave!"
"What if I forget?"
"I'll help you remember." She winked at him.
Leia smiled, and Jude forgave her for all the punches and kicks he had received the day before. That was until she said, "Let's spar!"