AUTHOR'S NOTE: This was a Christmas fic for lady tecuma; she wanted a Shion-Wilhelm fic on board the Dammerung. I couldn't for the life of me envision anything on board the Dammerung, so I moved it to the Durandal ...
Anyhoo, here it is.
She was nervous.
She stood before the mirror in the cabin she shared with MOMO, contemplating the source of the almost overwhelming anxiety that was steadily rising within her. It was all rather ridiculous, actually. It was just a meeting with her superiors; a progress presentation had to be made, and because of the lull in the activities with the Gnosis, now was obviously the most opportune time to present it. She had nothing to be worried about … Scowling at her reflection, she tugged at the hem of her bi-colored uniform in an attempt to straighten it.
Pulled from her anxious thoughts at the sound of her name, the young scientist half-turned to find the subject of the impending progress report standing before her. Attempting to arrange her face into some semblance of a smile, Shion said, "Yes, KOS-MOS?"
"You have been standing in front of that mirror for ten minutes and thirty four seconds."
Shion's fake smile wilted slightly; in wrestling with her anxiety, she had forgotten KOS-MOS was in the room with her. "I have?"
"Yes. And you have been fidgeting. Are you feeling well?"
"I - I feel fine, KOS-MOS. I'm nervous, that's all." With a resigned sigh, Shion gave up on her uniform, turned from the mirror, and walked to one of the several couches littering the cabin before sinking down onto it. The android remained where she was, but regarded Shion still, head tilted slightly to one side. It was a human characteristic she had adopted somewhere along the way; whenever she was attempting to fathom something, she would tilt her head. It gave her an almost child-like perspective, and it was something that normally gave Shion a great feeling of accomplishment upon seeing it. Tonight, however …
"I do not understand the reason for this nervousness." KOS-MOS stated.
"I don't know if I can explain it to you. It's just … tonight is a big deal. The heads of Vector are coming on board and they want to see you. And I have to give them a progress report – and what if they aren't satisfied? This project is still too new to get definitive results –"
"Shion." The scientist halted her rambling mid-sentence and blinked at the android. KOS-MOS continued, "I do not think you need to worry. I am fully operational, and the percentage of my equipment and logistics failures has decreased considerably in the past month."
"Yes, I know that." Shion stood, and with both hands clasped behind her back she began to pace a path around the android. "It's just that … well, I can't help but be a little insecure about this. If they dislike the progress made so far, they may very well remove me from this project. I really don't want that to happen."
She stopped then, directly before the android. For a long moment she gazed at KOS-MOS, taking in all the intricacies that made her the astounding creation she was. Eyes the color of blood stared expressionlessly back into her own, and she could see herself reflected in their depths: dark hair loose around her shoulders, Vector uniform impeccable despite her doubts, large green eyes luminous now that she no longer wore her lenses –
A sudden hissing jolted her from her reverie; the door to the cabin slid open. Ziggy stood at the entrance, looking even more solemn than he usually did. His mechanical parts had been polished to a fine shine; everyone wanted to look their best tonight for the presentation. He said quietly, "Shion. The Vector shuttle has just docked."
It felt as though her heart skipped a beat, but Shion nodded and flashed the cyborg a quick, if somewhat sickly, smile. "Thank you Ziggy. We'll meet you all in the park." Ziggy returned the nod, and the door slid down again. Shion turned to KOS-MOS.
It had been decided amongst Shion, Junior and Allen that the best place to give the progress report would be in the park. Not only was it incredibly scenic, but it also held a computer system that could link with the one in the lab, therefore enabling Shion to present her reports and charts on one of holoscreens. Shion and KOS-MOS were the last to arrive, as had been arranged; when the two of them stepped through the door to the park, an abrupt hush fell over the assembled crowd. Scientist and android paused for a moment on the threshold for effect; Shion's eyes rapidly scanned those present and she felt her icy anxiousness rise as she realized that there were over two hundred people present. Not all of them were Vector employees; many of them were residents and officers of the Durandal. KOS-MOS had gained a small measure of fame during her stay on board, and this was an opportunity to catch an introspective glance at the solitary android.
Allen stepped out of the crowd, turning to face them all and announcing Shion. On legs that felt wooden, Shion strode to take her place beside Allen, and KOS-MOS followed after. As she halted, Allen flashed her a quick look, one full of support, and Shion felt a sudden rush of gratitude. He handed her a com-screen before stepping back into the crowd. Suddenly, she was acutely aware that she was the main focus of every person in the area, and her throat felt very dry. Swallowing, she raised her head almost defiantly. She could – and would- get through this without a hitch.
"Ladies and Gentlemen," She began, and was pleased to find that her voice was steady, "I would like to take this opportunity to formally introduce you to KOS-MOS – short for KP-X Obey Strategic Multiple Operation Systems. This is the first and most integral of developments in Vector's humanoid anti-Gnosis weapon systems. Please greet our guests, KOS-MOS."
"Greetings, everyone, and welcome to the Durandal." KOS-MOS said, her voice carrying clearly throughout the park.
It was as if a switch had been thrown at the sound of her voice. Abruptly people began to smile and applaud and a great cheer went up throughout the crowd; here was a symbol of salvation, a symbol of hope. KOS-MOS was a very beautiful and intimidating heroine, and because of her past actions she had won her way into people's hearts. Shion, studying her Vector superiors, was both relieved and elated to see impressed looks on their faces. Something pale caught her eye then; crimson eyes locked with her own, and she recognized in that instant Wilhelm, CEO of Vector. He stood apart from main group of Vector associates, clad as always in his impeccable black suit, a rakish lock of white hair falling across his brow. He glanced from KOS-MOS back to Shion, and his gaze held clearly his approval. The noise dropped, and with a great feeling of accomplishment, Shion launched into her progress presentation.
She delivered it flawlessly, and KOS-MOS's accompanying demonstrations, from her large arsenal of weaponry to her defensive mechanisms, earned appreciative noises from the crowd. When it was all finished, Shion couldn't help but beam at the tumultuous applause they received. As it faded, Junior stepped forward as captain of the Durandal to announce a party to be held in the park in several hours. And quite suddenly Shion was swamped with people; fellow Vector workers wanting to congratulate her, civilians wanting to thank her. Smiling, laughing, she spoke with them all gratefully, and managed to work her way to KOS-MOS's side. The android was standing in the middle of a sea of people, answering questions in her monotone. Shion caught hold her arm and spoke to those gathered, apologizing for the fact that they both had to leave. When finally they broke free of the crowd and headed for the door, they found they had one more admirer awaiting them.
Wilhelm watched them approach with a small smile, as they drew nearer he dipped forward in a bow. Straightening, he said, "Quite impressive, Miss Uzuki. Vector is fortunate indeed to have you among its ranks."
Shion, already blushing with success, was annoyed and unnerved to find the blush deepening. "Thank you, sir, but I wasn't the only one-"
Wilhelm raised a hand, cutting her off. "No need to go there, not tonight. This is a time for celebration. And you," he continued, turning to KOS-MOS. "I am most pleased to finally meet you."
"Thank you. I am pleased to make your acquaintance as well." The android replied politely, and the words sounded so rehearsed that Shion inwardly winced. At least she wasn't being rude …
Wilhelm's smile had grown. "Such manners … are those your touch, Miss Uzuki?"
Finding herself again on the receiving end of his intense gaze, Shion stammered, "I – yes, I taught her those." Immediately, she closed her eyes and cursed herself. What was wrong with her?
"You are to be commended, then." Someone from further in the park called his name; with a sigh he said, "Duty calls. I trust I shall be seeing you both at the party later?"
Both scientist and android replied simultaneously, "Yes."
"Excellent. Until then, Miss Uzuki, KOS-MOS," And with an inscrutable glance in Shion's direction, he slid past them to address whoever had called his name.
As they left the park, KOS-MOS asked, "Are you satisfied with the results of your presentation, Shion?"
A smile blossomed again on Shion's face. "Oh yes, very."
"I am glad. I am going to the lab now; I will meet you at the party later."
"Alright, KOS-MOS. You know, you did well today, too."
The android paused in her steps, and tilted her head as she looked at the other, "I only did what you directed me to, Shion."
"Yes, but – oh, nevermind. I'll see you later."
As KOS-MOS walked away, Shion began to slowly make her way back to her cabin. Strangely, her thoughts weren't on her success tonight. Her thoughts were on the CEO of Vector Industries, and she couldn't for the life of her understand why.
He arrived at the party at a time some would call "fashionably late". The event was already in full swing; an orchestra settled on a small dais among the exotic park trees was playing a lively waltz, and couples swirled amongst each other in time to the music. Further into the park tables and chairs had been set up, all made of lacquered black wood to match the mirror like surface of the floor. It was here that those not dancing intermingled with each other, drinking their drinks or perhaps eating from one of the several buffet tables arranged randomly around. Most of his Vector comrades were already present, and as a young woman passed him carrying a tray of drinks he stopped her with a polite word, and lifted from her tray a crystal flute full of red wine. Sipping the drink and finding the taste to be rich and heady, he wove smoothly around the dancing couples, greeting those that spoke to him, and made his way to the other side of the park.
He took up position in the corner between two of the observation windows, leaning against the wall. Slowly savouring his wine, he watched the people around him with mild interest. When he caught sight of Shion Uzuki, his interest suddenly piqued and he straightened, pulling away from the wall. She was clad in a modest, indigo dress that fell to swirl about her calves. Her dark hair, longer than it had been when last he'd seen her, was in a loose mass that draped her shoulders and reached the middle of her back. She was chatting animatedly with Little Master, a drink in one hand. Tasting his own beverage, he watched her then with hooded eyes; their unusual vibrant color gleaming even in the shadows. He observed the way she moved with a quiet, cautious grace, the way her smile always reached her eyes. He watched the way others reacted to her, brightening in her earnest presence, and it was then he reached a startling and unprecedented conclusion.
He was attracted to her.
For a long moment, he was thunderstruck. He wasn't alien to attraction, but this was certainly coming out of nowhere … it would, however, explain why he was so fascinated with her movement, with her voice, with the burnished light shining off her hair …
He shook his head, attempting to make sense of his very abrupt realization. They knew each other remotely; he as the head of the company, she as the brilliant scientist he employed. He'd done profile checks on her, yes, and he'd even spoken to her before, but it was different now, somehow; inexplicably, there was something that had changed about her, and it drew him as inevitably as a moth to flame. It seemed ludicrous; he'd spent all of an hour in her company this night, but he couldn't deny the effect she was having on him.And so, when he saw finally she was standing alone near the observation window, he took the opportunity to approach her.
She didn't see him coming, her eyes were on the distant glittering stars outside the window. She was smiling faintly, holding her flute of wine close, and as he drew nearer he noticed she was humming along with the orchestra. He stopped a short distance behind her, and said by way of greeting, "Miss Uzuki."
A small gasp escaped her, and she whirled around. Seeing him, he noticed with a small amount of pleasure, brought color creeping into her face. She said softly, eyes avoiding his, "H-Hello, sir. I didn't see you here earlier."
"I only just arrived." He moved closer, coming to stand beside her. "Are you enjoying yourself, so far?"
"Yes, very much." She was still concentrating very hard on not meeting his gaze; he found this both slightly amusing and perplexing. "And you?"
"I am now." He replied, and was assuredly delighted to see her flush furiously at his words. Her eyes shot to his, then, and he could see himself perfectly in their emerald depths. On a whim, allured inexplicably by her very presence, he asked, "Would you care to dance?"
Taken aback by his invitation, Shion could only stare at Wilhelm for a long moment. His effect on her was completely befuddling; she couldn't deny that she was attracted to him, very strongly so. The most confusing thing about this was that she had spent very little time in his company; in fact, she hardly knew him. So why was he having such an effect on her?
He was watching her, ruby eyes calm and enigmatic. She made her choice in that instant, deciding to cast aside her usual caution and act on a whim. Perhaps her decision was to be blamed on the wine, or perhaps it was motivated by the loneliness she constantly hid; she said unsteadily, "Yes, I would."
His lips curved in a smile, and like his gaze, it held mystery and promise. "Excellent," he said, and taking her glass from nerveless fingers, he set it down on a nearby table to be followed by his own. He drew closer to her then, and she realized with some apprehension that he meant to dance with her here, in the seclusion offered by shadow and foliage, rather than out among the crowd …
She was both terrified and excited by this.
She didn't move as he placed one of his hands in hers. A small sound left her as he placed another gentle hand at her waist; she could feel the warmth of his skin through the thin fabric of her dress. He pulled her closer; she didn't resist, and of its own volition her free hand crept up to rest on his shoulder. She found she couldn't look at him; as it was, she was afraid her face was going to burst into flame. The music playing now was a slow waltz; quite suddenly he swept her into a turn, and then they were dancing.
They were silent for a long while as they moved about in time to the music, and that silence was charged with the almost tangible tension between them. He moved with inherent grace, his hold firm as he led them both. Part of her wanted to run screaming away; the other part wanted to step in close and rest her head on his chest. So when she felt the hand at her waist moving, going to the small of her back in order to tug her closer, she didn't resist. She was staring directly at the collar of his suit now, noticing with a detached and panicked interest the design on the buttons –
"Shion," He said quietly, and the undertones in his voice sent shivers crawling down her spine. "Look at me."
She was helpless to resist his order, and so she slowly raised her head. Here in the shadows, his eyes were darker, almost black, but she could still read what lay within their depths. And so she was unsurprised when his head dropped ever so slowly towards her own, and as his lips claimed hers she realized that this was something she wanted.
They broke the kiss just as the music ended; their mouths lingered close, sharing a breath. As the music began again in a fast and bawdy number, Wilhelm said softly, "Come with me."
Shion replied in a trembling whisper, "Where?"
"Away from here," he said, and again the mysterious smile crept over his lips. "Away from the others."
Her brain was screaming at her a thousand different commands; he pulled her tight against him abruptly, claiming her mouth in another, almost fierce kiss. When he lifted his head finally, he asked breathlessly, "Will you come with me?"
And Shion said with a slight and timid smile. "I will."