Turned On

A Phantasy Star IV Shonen-ai By

Black Waltz 0

(A/N: Okay, if you're reading this here and now chances are that you're going to flame me to high hell for this fic. Chances also are that you're either a Phantasy Star fan, or a shonen-ai fan. Just by looking at the title you can probably tell what this fic is going to be about. It might be deeply disturbing for you. On the other spectrum of things, you might enjoy it very much. If you don't like shonen-ai situations involving an android, you might not want to read this. Only one way to find out, huh?

… Please don't hurt me.)

xxx

Rika was so beautiful, Chaz thought.

She was asleep and curled up in her sleeping bag, beside Rune, Kyra and the empty bag that was reserved for himself. It was incredibly cute in the way that she tried to huddle up into a warm little ball, like a napping cat, trying to tuck her knees up beneath her chin. The sleeping bag prevented her from doing that properly but she was still making a decent effort nonetheless. It was freezing cold in the place that they had decided to camp out at, Chaz hoped that Rika wasn't feeling too chilly. Rune and Kyra seemed to be sleeping like babies, but they were natives to this land and were used to its climate. He and Rika were not.

They had chosen to set up camp in the first room of the Weapons Plant, stationed secretly in the heartland of Dezoris. The doors of the facility had been locked tightly and no biomonsters would be able to force their way in without the entire party knowing about it. It was safe and much warmer in there compared to the outside, and the only real threat came from the off-chance that a hostile machine from deeper inside the Plant would come up to the surface for a breath of fresh air. That chance was a very rare one, but he and his friends had fallen back on a sentry duty all the same.

The group took shifts in waiting out the night, split into four sections of early evening, late evening, early morning and late morning. Each section lasted for about three hours and there was always one lucky person who didn't have to participate. The roster shifted and revolved each night. Tonight Chaz had been placed into the late evening shift, between Wren and Kyra. Rika was the lucky one out for the moment, she didn't have to wake up at all until the sun rose. As for himself, he had three hours lonely hours of absolute boredom to look forward to. He was waiting for Wren to finish his shift so that he could get his over with.

For now, Chaz was kneeling close to Rika's still form, watching the Numan sleep. Her face was relaxed and gentle, framed by her amazingly pink and beautiful hair. He could hear her soft breathing every time her chest rose to take breath, even above the formidable snoring that Kyra seemed to be making from inside her own sleeping bag. He was fortunate, she would be at sentry by the time that Chaz was ready to nod off to sleep. He wouldn't have to put up with her snores. Thank God for small favors.

Hesitantly, almost with fear, Chaz reached his hand down and lightly ran his fingers through Rika's soft hair, the bright strands feeling like something he had never felt before. Silk, maybe. How he had longed to do this to her while she was still awake, aware of the way that he felt and loving him for it. She was so lovely and yet so smart and witty, the best of both worlds. Chaz didn't think that Rika deserved a confused child such as himself as a partner, but still, he wished that things were different. He wished that he had the courage to admit to her how he felt, but he was also terrified of the way she might respond to it. If she laughed at him Chaz would have just died from embarrassment and shame.

Touching her, kissing her, loving her, - it was all just a pipe dream, but one that he desperately hoped would come true. Chaz pulled his fingertips from Rika's hair that he had been unconsciously stroking in thought. Looking at her Chaz couldn't help but be reminded of a cat, graceful, lithe, wise, and above all, potentially deadly. That was Rika down to the smallest detail. He had been stroking Rika's hair in the same way that one would pet a tamed feline, prompting it to purr. Would she purr for him if he did this to her while awake? Chaz bit his lip and pushed the renegade thoughts away. It was only a hopeless tease.

What Chaz needed most of all was confidence, something that he had in short supply since the death of his mentor. He may have been saving Algo from a great, vile darkness, but deep down Chaz Ashley was just a sixteen year old boy, grappling with normal teenage problems. How could he tell the girl he desired that he liked her? Maybe even loved her? It was all so hard

He brushed the back of his hand gently against her cheek. She felt warm, warmer than he. That was good, she wouldn't catch a chill. Smiling in a way that only the foolishly smitten could achieve, Chaz looked up, into the dark corridor that stretched out before his eyes, awaiting the sound of footsteps that would come from the darkness. Slowly the smile drained from his face.

He mustn't have heard Wren approach. The android was standing there in the middle of the corridor, half hidden in the shadows. He had his arms folded across his front and was staring at Chaz in what he thought to be a severely disapproving way. It had always seemed slightly disturbing to Chaz in the way that Wren rarely blinked. Always those cool steely eyes seemed to be watching, calculating, processing. His expression was completely blank.

Had he been watching Chaz as the youth thought of Rika? More than likely. It was no secret that the android had almost a paternal fondness for her, as Wren had been half responsible for her education and upbringing. He and Seed had had been both her parents and her teachers. Chaz stood up from his kneeling position and blushed a little, rubbing the back of his neck. Rika sighed deeply and rolled over as he moved. "Uh, how long have you been standing there?" He asked in a low quaver, remembering to keep his voice down so the others would not wake up.

Fortunately Wren was also mindful of his volume. Without the slightest change passing over his face he replied in a deep soft murmur; "Long enough."

"I'm sorry." Chaz said, not knowing what else to say. He wasn't really sure how much Wren knew about the Palman nature of infatuation, but he had to at least know about a little bit, in order to be able to effectively interact with people. He guessed that if any man arrived to see his daughter-figure being fawned over by an adolescent teen that would be more than enough reason to fly into an angry rage. Back in Aiedo he had seen horrible domestic disputes waged over practically the same things. But all Wren was doing was looking at him, just staring. The silence in the room became uncomfortable. Chaz decided to try and change the subject. "Well, I'll take over sentry now…" He whispered anxiously, stepping over Rika carefully and moving towards him.

He wasn't going to be getting away that easily. Chaz leant over briefly to pick up his sheathed sword that was lying against his open bedroll, the laconia hilt glittering in the low light. When Chaz got to Wren he didn't move aside to allow him to pass, he stood there firmly, like an unmovable obstacle. It didn't feel right to Chaz to just sneak around him, and it looked like Wren had something significant to say. He expected a scolding. It was what Alys would have done. "I think we need to have a serious discussion, Chaz. It is most important that we do."

Wren stepped aside and held his arm out in the direction of the corridor's end, where the sentry was meant to stand guard. He wouldn't lose any sleep by staying awake a little while longer, indeed Wren had no need for sleep, so Chaz had no way to decline the forced invitation. What else could he do? The youth sighed, giving up. At least with Wren around he'd have somebody else to talk to. "Okay." He muttered and belted his scabbard against his hip, beginning to walk away.

He could hear the android walking close behind him, maybe a little too close for comfort. He was kind of afraid of what this discussion would be about, if it would be any worse than the time Alys had educated him on the birds and the bees. He had gone to bed that night goggle-eyed and wondering why the heck people would want to do things like that to each other. Now that he was much older he could figure out why. That was what had landed him in this mess in the first place, and he doubted Wren would be very understanding.

They sat down very close to the entrance of the Weapons Plant, resting their backs against the wall. A few minutes of awkward silence streamed by the both of them, tickling Chaz at the base of his neck until he could take it no more and he shot a sidelong look at Wren. He had his hands laced in his lap and his eyes were closed. It almost looked like he was meditating. He wasn't going to talk until Chaz started up first and the hunter knew quite well who would last the longest. He opened his mouth. "I-" He began.

"You and Rika have gone through much together, haven't you?" Wren said quietly, effectively cutting Chaz off at the same time. "I believe that you are both very good friends. That is how I choose to perceive it. But I wonder about your strange activity lately Chaz, my friend. I have noted it on several occasions. Is there something wrong with you? Are you ill? Is Rika ill, and that is why you fret over her? Not knowing worries me very much."

Whatever excuse Chaz was going to make to the android faded from his tongue. Wren wasn't mad, he was worried, afraid that there was something seriously wrong with Rika or Chaz himself. To a machine lovesickness and real physical sickness mustn't seem too different from one another. Chaz was tempted to admit that he really was sick and he'd be able to explain away his odd behavior in that manner, but when it came down to things he would have felt bad about lying to Wren. He had already experienced a weight falling from his conscience knowing that Wren wasn't angry with him. He felt more at ease now.

"You don't have to be so worried. Rika and I aren't sick. There's nothing wrong with her, and as for me, well, I know the problem is all up in my head. It's nothing, really." Chaz reassured his friend, relieved. The three hours of guard duty didn't seem so horrible anymore. He would be blissfully asleep by midnight and tomorrow there'd be a bran new day to look forward to.

"Psychological illnesses can sometimes be the most deadly." Wren informed the hunter calmly, refusing to drop the subject. "Chaz, you have been the backbone of this party since the very beginning, before Kyra, Rune, Rika or myself became a part of it. I could imagine that you have seen some truly terrible events since then. Just remember that as the backbone of this group you have but one responsibility; to stand strong despite all adversity. If you fall from some variety of psychological illness then we shall all fall as well. It would be a… an unfortunate way to fail."

Now he was jumping to the conclusion that Chaz was suffering from shell shock. Did he have a list of battle-related illnesses in his mind and was he going through them one by one? The youth wouldn't have been surprised. He doubted that the correct one would be on Wren's list, though. "No, that's not it." Chaz argued, shaking his head negatively. Of course he feared some battles, particularly the more difficult ones, but that was only natural. Everybody got afraid at times, even if they didn't let on about it. His thoughts traveled to Rune and Alys, wondering what they had feared. Chaz would never know.

"Then I am afraid I am out of guesses. I am not an expert on Palman behavioral patterns, but I am familiar enough to know that something is very wrong with you. Wouldn't it be simpler if you told me what your illness is rather than letting me guess about it? I am aware that it does pass the time quite well, but it is, as you Palmans call it, quite annoying."

What harm would it do to tell Wren the truth? He knew there was nobody else in his party that he would dare talk to. Speaking to Rika was absolutely out of the question, obviously, while Kyra would probably laugh at him and offer him some joking sisterly advice. He had only known Kyra for a few weeks at the most and it irked him how she already seemed to assume everything about him, as if Chaz's nature had been set in stone. Rune would be worse. Chaz didn't want to even think about what the arrogant esper would have to say regarding Chaz's lack of a love life.

In the end it seemed like Wren was really the only one that Chaz could talk to regarding his problems. Wren only appeared to feel the most basic emotions and his personality was defined by a simple lack of one, so Wren would not judge him, would not laugh at him, would not belittle him, either. It would be like talking to a wall, but a wall that just might answer back. If Wren did answer him it would be to offer him help, because he was built that way. Wren had been designed and programmed to assist.

"I have lovesickness, Wren. That's what my problem is. After all the fighting and wandering about and starving when the food is low, and freezing or sweating to death when we're too far away to sleep in an inn bed, it's lovesickness that's really gotten to me. In the beginning I thought it was transference of the good feelings I got off Alys when she was always there for me, but after awhile I realised that I was wrong. I wasn't noticing Rika just because I was trying to replace the strong female role model in my life, it was because I was honest to goodness attracted to her. I think I really like her, but I just don't know where to go from here that'll be safe for my… my feelings. How do I know she won't make fun of me for it?"

As Chaz spoke it felt like he was steadily emptying a deep heavy pocket inside himself, pouring away all the cumbersome burden. He was looking hopefully at Wren for answers, yet the android was only staring at the wall on the other side of the corridor, giving Chaz the impression that he wasn't listening, yet he was, all too deeply. The hunter knew that he needed to stop in order to get an answer but he couldn't right now, not until he had gotten everything off his chest.

"I'd love it if Rika liked me back, but there's also an equal - no, a greater chance that she'll think I'm just being a stupid kid, or that I'm pulling a practical joke on her, or worse. I guess you don't know how it would feel to admit your deepest feelings and not be taken seriously, but I think I know how it would feel. I don't want to have to experience it, I'd avoid it in any way that I could."

Wren waited patiently until Chaz had stopped talking, then gave him one extra minute just in case something else came to mind. There was no point in talking if he was going to be constantly interrupted. Satisfied at the silence he very soothingly gave Chaz the reply that he sought. He didn't break his gaze away from the wall. "This lovesickness that you experience is a voluntary ailment. You can remove it at any time that you please, you simply choose not to. It is not the emotions that you feel for Rika that is hurting you, rather it is the indecision and the vague notion that you may be missing out on a great happiness. Am I correct?"

The directness in Wren's words was shocking. In all honesty Chaz had expected him not to be able to answer. That was the only reason he had admitted the truth in the first place. "It's…" he spluttered, "it's a lot more than that! I can't live like this, not knowing what I should do, but I know that I can't talk to her! I just can't! The risk of ruining everything would be too great. I might create a rift that'd tear this party apart. The most important thing that we have is each other. That's why I keep on putting up with Rune. We need him, and we need Rika too. Everybody here is invaluable."

"Perhaps I do not understand Palmans as well as others do, but I do not think I would be speaking false if I were to say that I am the individual here best inclined to unbiased reason." Wren did not smile at this, but Chaz got the feeling that if Wren gave his smiles away more freely he would have been treated to one right then. "You can either continue to torture yourself and become overrun by this lovesickness that you talk of, or you can speak to Rika just as you have spoken to me. How do you feel at the moment, now that we have had this discussion?"

He was a good debater, Chaz had to give him that. The youth sighed, deflating and looking at the patch of floor between his crossed legs. "I feel better." He admitted in a breathy tone, deciding to let Wren run the conversation from now on. "Much, much better than I felt before."

"Yet I am only a placebo to your illness. Speaking with Rika is the cure, she will either cure you or kill you. I believe that you judge her too harshly. I have known her all her life. She is a good girl." Wren paused there, thinking, perhaps wondering if there was any more that he should say. The android raised one metal hand slowly, looking at it to reaffirm the fact that he was so fundamentally different to his friend. "…I do not really know what love is. It is my belief that I am meant to never know. I think this allows me to analyze your problem the most effectively. I hope I was able to help you."

A seemingly eternal life-span without any hope for love or closeness. Chaz couldn't even begin to imagine what that would feel like, that kind of empathy was as closed off to him as the notion of lovesickness was closed off to Wren. It must be incredibly lonely. "Yeah, you helped a lot. I still don't really know what I should do about Rika and I, but having everything that I'm going through repeated back to me kind of, I dunno, puts everything back into perspective. At the very least I feel better that I've talked to somebody, so I don't have to go crazy worrying about this while nobody else knows. You're not going to tell anybody, right? Especially Rika?"

"The thought had never crossed my mind."

Chaz relaxed. "Thanks. You know, I thought you had followed me here because you were going to give me a lecture or yell at me or something. I thought you'd be mad at me because Rika was your student and you helped Seed to raise her. I thought you'd be like an angry father." Now that Chaz considered it this way he realised that his earlier assumption had been a silly one. He couldn't imagine Wren being physically angry with anyone, even in the most heated and complicated of battles he was perfectly collected.

"Rika's life belongs to herself now, not to the memory of Seed or I. She can live it in any way that she chooses and I have no say in the matter. If you really do love her, all I can be is pleased for you. When all our journeys have come to an end it would not be fitting for her to wind up all alone. Besides, Chaz…" Wren had been looking towards the sleeping bundle that contained the pink-haired Numan, but then he turned back to the young hunter and actually smiled. It wasn't a big smile, but it was something. "I do not get mad. I get even."

In the few short seconds before Chaz got the subtle joke he half expected Wren to add; 'And if you ever hurt her just the slightest bit, I will rip the flesh from your bones.' He blinked once, feeling a sick shiver run through his body, but then he finally made the mental connection and suddenly grinned. Of course. "Raja's been teaching you proverbs again, hasn't he? God, don't tell me we're going to end up with two jokers in the party! He hasn't been teaching you any bad words too, has he?"

The android considered. "No, he has merely been informing me of local colloquialisms. I find them most interesting. I hope we can expel the source of the Black Energy Wave soon, because it would be a shame for him to die. I still have much to learn and Raja has told me to be more open about new things. Maybe that's why I want to help you now, despite this all being relatively foreign to me."

"Alright then. So, if you were in my position what would you do in my place?" The hunter asked, genuinely curious.

This was a thoroughly difficult question for Wren to answer. He wasn't equipped with that kind of insight to imagine himself in the place of a Palman. It was beyond him, but he tried anyway. The android did have a program that substituted for imagination, but it would only be a pale reflection of a living being's mind. Wren answered carefully and with deliberation, as if his mind was lagged down with the effort.

"I would tell Rika how I felt. Even if she took the information badly there would always be the chance for a reconciliation. Any sort of progress is better than no progress at all. Even if it hurt, organic creatures always have the opportunity to heal. If she took the information positively I would be happy and my lovesickness would be gone. I would give her a kiss and all would be well. That is what I would do if I were Chaz Ashley."

He was imagining the events but not the emotions behind it. Wren would have been incapable of that and Chaz still saw the entire idea as far too daunting. The hunter clasped his hands about his ankles and shook his head again. "I can't do it. I really can't." He knew that he sounded like a broken record but he couldn't help himself. "I've never had to do stuff like that before, I just know I'll get tongue-tied and mess it all up. I've never even kissed anybody before. I don't know how it's done. I should know by now but I don't." The life of a hunter didn't leave much chance for romantic opportunity. Although Chaz was sixteen he still felt like a little kid.

Wren was silent beside him. Chaz could feel his cheeks burning hotly beneath his skin and his hands were squeezing his ankles firmly, venting his embarrassment through the pressure. Was that all that was keeping him back? What a dumb explanation. What bugged him the most was that it was the truth. "Stupid, huh?" Chaz sighed, ashamed of himself.

The other person spoke. "No. It is not stupid."

Something extremely cold lightly touched the side of Chaz's neck. The boy jumped a little at the unexpected sensation and turned towards it on reflex, yet he was unaware that he was being guided by that same coldness. It was Wren's cool metal hand, gently cupping the side of his neck and the curve of his jaw. It was like being splashed by ice water, he tilted Chaz's head towards his own and touched him with his other hand, holding the boy perfectly captive. Chaz was greatly confused, the android had never done anything like this before. He was staring at him again, like he was a complex problem that he urgently needed to solve. "Wren?" The words tried to stick in his throat. "What are you-"

Chaz couldn't talk anymore as the dark-haired machine leant over, sealing the distance between themselves, and pressed his lips against his. Wren had closed his eyes in the middle of the motion but Chaz's eyes were as wide as saucers, unable to pull or even look away. Wren was too strong for him. His body was as tense as a drawn bow string, his arms came up to grapple with Wren's much larger ones but they were unmoving and devilishly cold, unpleasant to touch. The feel of the cold against his fingertips forced Chaz to become aware of something else as well, something even more amazing and terrifying.

Although his hands and arms were astoundingly cold, Wren's lips were warm and soft, just like a living being. Faint breath from his nose gently tickled Chaz's face. How about that, Wren could respire when he wanted to. There was a definite warmth there, one that Chaz could feel seeping into him from the kiss. There was no other explanation. He actually felt alive.

Slowly the android pulled away and lowered his arms from Chaz's body, as soon as he did that Chaz felt like running away, wanted to run away, but his stupid unresponsive body remained glued to the floor, as frozen as a wax figure. Wren placed his hands back into his lap and resumed his previous position, except that this time he had the tiniest trace of a smile just at the corner of his mouth. What had just happened? Wren had kissed him. Wren. The android.

He blinked frantically for a few moments, in the chances that this was all some kind of crazy dream. He had probably just fallen asleep at his post, that was all. He didn't want to think that his very first kiss had been stolen by an android, by an unfeeling machine. It made him feel violated and his lips were tingling after such a contact. He wanted to shout but was afraid that he would wake everybody up. "You… kissed me…" Chaz breathed, pressing a hand to his mouth, his eyes still wide.

"Isn't that what you wanted?" Wren said coolly, speaking as if the task was so common that Chaz requested it to be done every day. He didn't really know what Chaz was so surprised about. In Palman culture kissing was common, that was what his database said. "You wanted to know how it was done, and I have shown you. Aren't you satisfied with that?"

"Well, yeah, I wanted to know that… but not in that way! What the heck, Wren? Guys aren't supposed to kiss other guys, you should know that!" Chaz reasoned deliriously, his head spinning while he heard himself raise his voice a little too loudly. He couldn't help it, just as he couldn't help his deepening blush and the way that he was shaking. He couldn't wrap his mind around what had just happened.

"If you wish to get technical I have no discernable gender to speak of. My structural design was modeled after a Palman male and my thought processes adjusted accordingly, but in the end I am just a simple android. The correct reference to my presence is 'it', though I have grown accustomed to being called a 'he'. I am sorry, Chaz. I did not mean to alarm you." He had sounded like a real automaton as he had recited away those useless facts, but when it came to his apology Wren sounded sincere. When he glanced at Chaz the youth could see the honesty briefly in his usually blank eyes.

Now Chaz felt sort of guilty for yelling at him. Wren was right, he was only an android and probably didn't know any better. Besides, it had been a good kiss, even if it had been a little frightening. He didn't have anything else to compare it to but it had still felt good. "It's alright. But if you wanted me to know how it was done, why didn't you just explain it to me in words, rather than… uh, showing me?" He muttered into his chest, refusing to look up at his companion. Now things would be awkward between them for a very long time.

Wren considered Chaz's question in a torturously slow amount of time. It felt like Wren was trying to tease him, trying to put ants in his pants or perhaps to further draw out this long uncomfortable moment. Forget the birds and the bees, this was the pits. The hunter had a small inkling that the android didn't quite know the answer himself. When Wren spoke, it was in a thoughtful and introspective tone. "I believe," he whispered, "that you were not the only one interested in the subject. I was curious, too. In the nine hundred and ninety eight years of my life span I have never kissed another before. I thought that it was high time that I did."

At last Chaz found feeling in his legs once more. They felt like they were made of limp noodles but he stood up anyway. Wren didn't follow him, he just looked up at the youth pleasantly. It was one of the rare occasions in which he actually felt tall. He wanted to get mad and yell at him until the strange feeling inside of him was gone, but whenever his anger tried to step forward and charge it continued to get tangled up in his fear, dumbstruck and not quite knowing why it was there. Chaz was not in danger but he still felt afraid.

He muttered a pathetic excuse to Wren and fled from his sentry duty, saying something about narcolepsy and that his sword needed polishing. He didn't care how fake the excuse sounded or how obvious it would be to Wren that his apology had meant nothing to Chaz, all he wanted to do was to get away. He moved as quickly and as quietly as he could back to the campsite and dove into his sleeping bag without first removing his armor or his sword, something that he deeply regretted later. Wren didn't pursue him. He quietly and patiently took over Chaz's sentry duty without so much as a word.

Dropping off to sleep was hard with Kyra snoring nearby. Chaz lay there with one hand over his mouth as if it had been infected, unable to get to sleep and just listening to the unbroken silence. Why had Wren kissed him? Because he wanted to. If it had been any other reason Chaz could have accepted that, but want was not a necessity. Wren had done it because he felt like it, and Wren rarely did things that weren't dire or essential. Perhaps, for maybe just a moment Chaz had seen something behind Wren's blank exterior and it had scared him.

He knew it had gone past midnight when he heard Wren's footsteps enter the campsite. There was a pause, then some quiet murmuring made in his deep soft voice. Chaz heard the snores abruptly stop and then listened to Kyra groan, the esper pulling the sleeping bag back over her head, like a turtle retreating into her shell. More words, then Kyra muttered something lowly under his breath and stood up, stretching and yawning.

The hunter's consciousness faded away some moments after that, sleep tenderly taking away his mind and submerging it into a deep thick blackness, a night of no dreams.

Chaz slept, all his problems temporarily silenced.