So- This all started back in… I forget when it was, but it was before Christmas… when Kila sent me this story she was working on. It was Marred, so it caught my attention instantly. I read through it and automatically fell in love with the idea. I told her it was making me excited to write, and that I was already getting ideas as to where it could go. And she graciously offered to let me work on it.
So this is twice now I've taken stubfics of yours, Kila. I'll have to write you a stubfic sometime.
Anyway. So I got really excited about it. In fact, I'm still excited about it. I rarely like a story this much once I finish it. (I should try to come up with chaptered fics on my own.) It's been so much fun writing for this, and I'm so grateful to Kila for giving me the chance. It's been a great experience, and one of my favorite things I've ever written.
Most of Kila's stuff is in the first two chapters; there's some in the last chapter, too. Most of my stuff is in the subsequent chapters, although I did add a bit onto the both the first two chapters, mostly at the end.
And just as a warning. This fic will contain some serious Marred. If you can't stand the couple, I suggest you don't read it. (painful as that is for me to do… ;P)
However, if you do like the couple, then enjoy! I hope you'll read and review, and I'll hope you'll love it as much as I do.
I Should Be So Lucky
If I gave you my hand would you take it
And make me the happiest man in the world
If I told you my heart couldn't beat one more minute
Without you, girl
~Josh Turner, Would You Go With Me
Most love stories are about people who fall in love with each other. But what about the rest of us? What about our stories? Those of us who fall in love alone. We are the victims of the one-sided affair. We are the cursed of the loved ones. We are the unloved ones.
~Kate Winslet, Columbia Pictures' 'The Holiday'
In my imagination
There is no complication
I dream about you all the time
~Kylie Minogue, I Should Be So Lucky
XR had never imagined that Mira Nova would ever ask him out on a date.
He had, of course, imagined that he would ask her out. In his head it all went smoothly- he was suave and cool and didn't start giggling or going too fast- in a nutshell, he didn't do anything stupid, and Mira always said yes and they'd leave together in his car (sure, in the fantasy he could have a car, it was about as likely as the rest of this plot), and he'd be smart and charming and witty, he'd put his arm around her and she'd put her head on his shoulder, and then his imagination usually crapped out because he'd get distracted or fall asleep or get a teammate asking him why he had a doofy look on his face.
But he had never dreamed that things could be the other way around. Ever. And so when Mira cornered him in the break room, alone, and said
"XR, I need you to take me out to dinner-"
he could only stare at her.
Of course, it was not as big of a shock as it might have been. Mira's first bombshell had come a week ago. He'd known something was up from the moment she showed up for work that Monday morning, though he didn't think much of it at the time- he just thought 'daddy issues again' and 'she's cute when she's angry, s'long as it's not at me'. And forgot about it.
But apparently these daddy issues were a little more serious than usual. He'd noticed her giving him funny looks all day, appraising looks, and then...
An obscure Tangean rule. The Tangean princess needed to be engaged by the time she turned 21 or her dad had every right to choose someone for her. Mira was going to be 21 next week and she had no boyfriend.
XR had listened to this, humming affirmatively at places where it seemed appropriate, and sympathized with her in a detached way until she dropped her little bombshell.
"XR... don't take this the wrong way, but..." She trailed off, tugging at her glove.
"But?" he prompted.
"I need someone I won't actually... see, you're like my little brother. It'd feel like... see, I know I wouldn't fall in love with you." He stiffened. "And I need someone I can trust."
"You can't trust Buzz or Booster?" he said, wondering what THIS was about.
"I can, but..." She hunched her shoulders, biting her lip. "Okay. We both know Buzz wouldn't... understand."
She gave him a meaningful look. He tapped his foot.
"Buzz would want me to follow the Tangean rule, no matter how- stupid or stifling it may be-"
"Uh huh." What now was she going to throw at him?
"And Booster... ugh. He's a great guy. But he's... I don't know how good he is with secrets."
"Yes. XR, they can't know. No one but my father can know."
He frowned. "I see..." Know... what?
"But you get it, right? I can't let my father marry me off!" she said with sudden force. "I already dodged one marriage! And- and you helped me get out of it! Maybe you can help me again."
She looked away. He leaned forward, blinking. Help? Mira? She needed him? "By doing what?"
"By... popping the question."
It had taken XR a moment to realize he was suddenly lying face-down on the floor with Mira shaking his shoulder.
"XR? Are- are you okay?!"
"You want me to marry you?" he moaned.
"NO!" she yelped, horrified. "No no no no no no! I just- need you to get me a ring I can show to my dad and then, when I find someone... for real... we can just quietly break it off and I don't wind up married to Fop Doppler, or anyone like him. My dad won't even know you're the one who got me the ring."
"Why can't you get your own ring?"
"He's monitoring my bank account. He'd know." Her voice took on a dry quality. "And besides, I've seen you come back from the casino. I know you're loaded."
"Marrying for money, huh?" he said.
She glared at him. "We're not actually getting married, ever, now get up!" she snapped.
He got to his feet, swayed, propped himself against the wall and said "Ohhh... kaaay... you want me to buy you a ring, huh?"
"I'll pay you back for it," she said. "In small amounts, so my dad won't notice, but I will pay you. And when I give the ring back you can return it, so – think of it this way, you'll get about the price of the ring out of this."
He stared off into space. "Uh huh."
"Look. I really, really need you to do this for me," she said, squeezing her eyes shut. "Please."
And of course, in the end he'd bought her a ring. The one she was wearing right now, in fact. And for six days, that had been the end of it, but now...
"I need you to take me out to dinner," she said again. "With my dad."
He stared at her. Her eyes were closed and her face was strained, but she still looked beautiful. Silky, flaming red hair, perfect heart-shaped face, tiny little nub nose, full, ruby red lips, long, dark eyelashes and baby soft robin's-egg skin... and that was just her face. Which he never saw enough of, way down here...
Oh, right, she'd asked him a question. He swallowed. "Why?"
"Well," she said- forced out, really, "what do you think, XR? He found out you're the one who bought me the ring. You- stupidly- used your Star Command bank account-"
"Hey! That just so happens to be my only current checking account and look, Miss Priss, you never said a thing about-"
"He hates rangers, XR!" she cried. "He looked into it and when he saw it was a Star Command account..." She sighed. "Okay, I'm sorry. The fact is he would've looked into it anyway and I can't imagine you wouldn't have used your real name for your bank account..." No, but that might be a good idea in the future. "Anyway, he did what he did, and he found us out. And last night he called me and, well. He's not happy. And he thinks our relationship is fake, and..."
"It is fake," he said quickly.
"Yes, but... XR, I'm sorry. I told him it's not. And now he wants to see us on a date." She pinched the bridge of her nose.
"He called your bluff," XR said woodenly. So, then, this beautiful creature in front of him wanted-
He was face-down on the floor again, he realized. He became vaguely aware that Mira was shaking his shoulder again, gently, and calling his name. In that beautiful voice of hers. Mm, he could listen to that voice all day…
"XR? Are you okay?"
"XR, I'm sorry, you don't have to, I'll fess up and-"
"Oh no," he heard himself say. "You are a thinking sentient creature and no man has the right to tie you down with an unwanted marriage." He pushed himself to his feet. "Mira, I will go on as many dates with you as you need. I'm here for you."
She bit her lip. "Yeah, b-but XR, you don't really-"
"Oh no. I insist," he said, holding his hands up. "Tonight?"
"Uh, yeah, but- look, this was a bad-"
"Oh, no no. No, I refuse to be anything but a supportive friend to you, Mira."
She folded her arms over her chest. "Wanna bet?"
He frowned at her. "Mira, I'm only trying to help you out."
She raised an eyebrow. "Uh huh. Look. I... I'm willing to go through with the fake date, okay? For tonight. To get my dad off my back. But listen to me, buster." She leaned in, giving him a deadpan look. "If you try anything. At all. I will hurt you so bad, they'll be picking pieces of you out of the ceiling."
XR didn't want anyone to be picking bits of him out of the ceiling. "Why, Mira, what would I try?" And he gave her the most innocent look he could muster.
And now here he was, with his head buried in the toilet.
He stood up, flushed, put his hand over his mouth and watched his lunch get sucked down the drain. Ew. Eww. Oh gag. Oh mother of Venus. He bent over again, retching. He had to meet Mira and her dad in an hour. Oh no. Oh craters. Oh...
He flushed again, his vocoder skipping in a weird metallic chirping noise. Doomed. DOOMED, that's what he was. Tonight was it, tonight was THE END. Doomsday. Him and Mira? Him and Mira! Yeah right! She'd kill him and her dad would kill him or he'd flip out somehow and kill them and himself and-
He started retching again. Oh, sweet mother of Venus.
Finally he staggered out of the stall and looked up at the bathroom mirror. He couldn't even see it without using his cable extenders and he felt too shaky to bother. Oh, he was such toast. He covered his eyes, moaning.
Okay. First things first. He looked down at his arms, gulping. When was the last time he took a bath, for crying out loud? He was covered in grime!
He took out a polishing cloth and started quickly rubbing himself down- all he had time for. Once he looked semi-presentable he threw out the now-filthy cloth and looked back down at himself, this time focusing on all the dents and scratches and chips in his paint. He was coated with them.
He gingerly touched a particularly large depression in his side and swallowed, feeling sure for one terrible moment that he was going to throw up again. But no. Okay.
He didn't have time to get all the dents out, the drive to the place they were having dinner was forty-five minutes away and he only had 55 minutes until he was supposed to be there so he only had ten minutes which was nowhere near long enough to get a new paint job, heck, it wasn't even enough to get properly polished.
He grimaced at a long scrape in the paint on his arm. Not very dateworthy-looking. Could he wear something over it? A dinner jacket, or something? Yes! A dinner jacket!
He rooted around in his storage compartment and found nothing but his aloha shirt. Oh... craters. He couldn't wear that thing. Oh- here was something else, a bow tie. It wouldn't cover the dents, but it was something. He tied it on. There, dashing, huh? No, actually, he probably looked really, really stupid. Oh... mother of Venus...
Suddenly his cell phone rang and he jumped nearly a foot in the air, squawking. He calmed himself down enough to answer the phone.
It was Mira. She didn't look happy. He gulped.
"XR, aren't you coming to pick me up?"
He blinked. "Uhh..." Oh, of course, standard dating etiquette involved the man driving the woman to the specified date location. Only problem, XR didn't have a car. Or a driver's license. He rocked back and forth. "You never said I was supposed to pick you up."
Mira groaned. "Okay, fine, I'll pick you up. I'll be there in about five minutes, okay?"
"Okaaay," he said, and hung up. Then he ran back to the toilet.
The launch bay was empty this time of night, the LGMs had all gone back to... where-ever those guys came from (XR had a dim memory of having been there once but he couldn't remember where 'there' was). The Star Cruisers were arrayed by the wall in a silent line, where XR paced back and forth in front of them, whimpering.
He stopped in front of 42, gigantic and lifeless.
"You never did this to me," he told her. "What is going on here? Tangean mental powers don't extend to creating terror, right? No, I know they don't. Am I just sick or something? What's she doin'?"
42 didn't answer, because her inhabitant had long since been given a new body, and that body had transferred itself out of the quadrant, effectively ending the only actual relationship he'd ever been in. Yeah, what great terms she'd left on. He frowned at his treads. Things had been so good in the beginning- what had made her leave? He still didn't understand it. What could he have done so wrong that she'd felt the need to get so far away from him? Really… he couldn't be that bad at this… could he?
He sighed heavily and sat down with his back against the empty ship, contemplating the evening he had ahead of him. Doomed. There was nothing else to it. Here was the end of any hope that Mira would ever agree to go out with him. Ever. He was just hoping she'd still want to talk to him after the disaster that was sure to be tonight. He moaned, squeezing his eyes shut. Doomed.
The sudden roar of an engine interrupted his thoughts and he popped to his feet, wide-eyed.
Mira's car was small and blue and streamlined. He started heading towards it, slowly and steadily, moving as though entranced. Now, that was some car. Smooth and shiny and clean and...
He threw an apologetic look over his shoulder at 42. Sorry, hon', but you've got nothin' on this.
And then he looked back at the car to see Mira had gotten out of it. She was wearing a sensible black dress that hugged her hips and flared out just under her knees- sadly, all you could really see of her legs was her ankles. Oh, well. He liked her ankles. Hot shoes, too.
"Okay," she sighed. "Let's get this over with."
"Okay!" he all but chirped, coming over and getting in the passenger seat.
In the car he could see her top half a little better (most of his lack of height was in his stumpy legs, when they were both sitting down he came up to Mira's shoulder as opposed to her hip)- she was all made up, with eyeshadow and blush (usually she just wore lipstick and eyeliner). It looked good.
"You look nice," he heard himself say, and was horrified for a moment- but why shouldn't he tell her she looked nice? What right to tell her she looked nice did he not have? She did look nice.
"Watch it," she said anyway, and he looked away, scowling.
"What? You do look nice. If that makes you angry, maybe you should've come with a bag over your head." Granted, her legs would still look fine if she had a bag over her head, and that was all he could really see anyway... Mira would have to go to some lengths not to look nice in some form or another, come to think of it...
She groaned and started the engine. "Look, here's a tip to make the evening easier. Don't talk."
"Let me do the talking."
He nodded again.
They took off and he sank into the cushions, relishing the smell of her perfume. He had forty-five minutes of this. See? There was no reason to be nervous.
"So," she said. "My dad is... I should warn you, he's really mad."
"Mmmhmm. Oh, sorry. Does the no-talking rule apply to a hum of assent? I wasn't-"
"Quiet. Now," she snapped. "Anyway. I just want to warn you that my dad might... insult you."
"And if that happens..." She hesitated. "XR- what would you do if he insulted you?"
"Okay, you can talk!" she cried, rolling her eyes. "For crying out loud! Stop acting like you're two!"
"For your information, I am two." He put his hands behind his head. "Mira, you don't have to worry about me. I'm an adult."
"You just said you were two," she groaned, putting her hand over her face (but peeking through her fingers to keep her eyes on the road).
He hunched his shoulders. "Well... yeah. But that's considered... I'm a robot. It's fine. Besides, since when do I pick fights with royalty? I mean, I'm not stupid, Mira."
She raised an eyebrow at him. "I'm royalty."
She sighed, rolling her eyes. "Never mind. Look. If my dad insulted your profession-"
"I'd just ask him who he'd plan to call if he was ever burgled."
"No. No, see, you can't say that. It's inflammatory."
He rolled his eyes. "Okay then. I would grovel before him, like a good little robot."
She glared over at him. "Just... don't do anything stupid."
"Scout's honor," he said, saluting.
She shot him one last warning look and turned on the radio.
The restaurant was really nice. Probably the kind of place you could onlyget into if you had Nova's kind of influences. It was spacious and warm inside, with candles at every table and crystal glasses and a maitre'd and everything. Said maitre'd ushered them to their table right away- King Nova was already sitting there, looking typically regal.
XR rushed right up to him. He'd show Mira, he wascapable of being polite. "Hi!" he said, holding out his hand. King Nova frowned at him and he backtracked quickly. "Uh- I mean- Your Highness." He bobbed his head in a little half-bow, clasping his hands behind his back and trying to look respectful.
King Nova raised one eyebrow, looking down his nose with more disdain than XR thought he himself could muster in a lifetime. It was the kind of look you only got to have if you were royalty. Well, height helped, but King Nova could probably give a twelve-foot alien that same look and get away with it.
"You don't have a ring," he noted.
"Yeah, well," XR said, thinking it was some royal thing- then he remembered, oh yeah, engaged. "I meeaan- well, sir, that's because- I don't have a ring finger." He chuckled nervously, holding his hand out. "See, I only have four- and also, my hands are kinda fat, so- I've been meaning to lose weight, see, in my... hands..."
Mira kneed him in the back. (There were worse places she could have chosen, he supposed.) "I mean... do you mind if I take a seat? No? Well-" He pulled out a chair.
"And you're seating yourself before the princess, I take it," King Nova said.
XR blinked. "Uh- no, see, you're getting ahead of me, I never said this was my chair. Uh. Mira?"
She sat down and he took the seat next to her. "His ring is in the mail, Dad," she said nervously.
"Yeah!" he said. "It's a... mail-order..."
"Why doesn't Mira have a mail-order ring?" Nova said.
XR drummed his fingers on the table. "Because... I wanted to pick it out by hand. Of course. Nothing but the best for your little girl, sir. Ehehehe." He swallowed.
Nova raised one eyebrow. "I see."
"Good one," Mira whispered in his ear.
"Oh, you," he said, and pinched her cheek. She withdrew, wincing. "She's always whispering stuff to me."
She elbowed him in the side. He winced. Apparently physical abuse was just going to be a part of this evening.
Mira turned back to her father. "It's true," she said with a nervous smile.
King Nova seemed unimpressed. "I suppose you two have already considered what you're going to do about heirs."
XR actually thought he'd said 'air' for a minute and was in the middle of thinking 'I'm a robot, what do I need air for' when he realized what the king had really said. His grip tightened on the tablecloth and his eyes widened.
"Duh- whaa- errr-"
"We'll adopt!" Mira blurted.
King Nova raised one eyebrow. "Mira, do I really need to tell you the throne can only be inherited by a direct descendant of the royal family?"
Mira stood up, putting her hands on her hips. "Well, who says Tangea even has to stay a monarchy?" XR stared at her. "This is the 31st century, Dad! Planets aren't ruled independently anymore! Get with the program!"
"None of this is coming from me," XR said quickly, shrinking in his seat.
Nova shot him a look anyway before rounding on his daughter. "Mira, be reasonable. Tangea is a great planet with a noble history. Our family has been in power since its origin. Our traditions have been in place for centuries – Mira, our laws are not something you simply toss aside on a whim!"
"Who says it's a whim? Who says change is a bad thing? You yourself agreed to join the Galactic Alliance!"
Nova turned away, gesturing vaguely. "That was different, Mira, your Ranger Lightyear – primitive as he may be – actually talked a bit of sense. If we change too much, we'll lose the very essence of who we are."
Mira's entire attitude changed rapidly. Her eyes widened and she went rigid, then she frowned and slumped back into her seat, folding her arms and glowering at the table. "There's nothing wrong with being different," she muttered darkly.
To XR's intense surprise, something in King Nova's expression actually softened. He leaned toward his daughter, and his voice was full of concern when he said gently, "I know that, Dear, I know, but…" he glanced in XR's direction – his face hardened and his tone became self-righteous again, "…be reasonable."
It was a testament to how much XR wanted this to work for her that he didn't jump up on the table and start shouting that hey, Mira could do a lot worse – okay, it was true, she could also do a lot better, sure, but… she could do worse. He was a ranger, he'd seen how worse she could do.
He spent the rest of the evening fiddling with his napkin while Mira picked at her food and King Nova ignored him altogether. Neither of them asked him if he wanted anything, they were too busy bickering. Nova's incessant quips gave him more than enough to stew over until all he could think about was getting out of the restaurant with his sanity intact.
It was late when they finally left. It had gotten much colder outside and he hugged himself as they made their way back to Mira's car. Out of the corner of his eye XR noticed they were right across from a grocery store, which reminded him that he needed to pick up some oil, because-
"XR, look at me when I talk to you."
He did, and so didn't notice Booster coming out of the grocery store.
"I was saying that I don't think we'll be going on any more dates with my dad," she said. He nodded. Well, what had he expected. "I hope so, anyway. Okay. Actually, we might need to do one or two more." She pinched the bridge of her nose.
XR nodded, looking back at the restaurant. "Huh... he's still watching us."
"What?" Mira cried, whipping around to stare wide-eyed at her father, silhouetted in a window.
XR felt himself shrug. He was feeling tired suddenly, kinda out-of-it… "You know, your dad is kind of a jerk. Yeah, okay, so maybe-" He stopped short when she suddenly took his helmet off and picked him up. He froze with shock. "Mira, what are you-"
And then the most unbelievable thing happened. In weeks to come, XR would return to this event in his mind over and over- and every time he'd have to tell himself it couldn't have happened, he must somehow have been mistaken.
Mira kissed him. Kiss-kissed. On the lips. By which, her lips touched his. And they were soft, her lips. And slightly sticky. And he could smell her perfume.
Okay, it wasn't like XR had never been kissed before- not really- he'd been pecked on the helmet, see, but okay, maybe that was a little different- okay, it was a lot different. This was sloppier. And fleshier. And she had a... flavor. A weird, foreign, organic... flavor. And it was so... different, from-
She pulled away suddenly, putting him down with more force than he thought was really necessary. "Eyeaugh! Did you put your tongue in my mouth?!"
She sounded equally nauseous and horrified. "Uhh... me?" He blinked groggily, a little disoriented by the sudden end of that... very interesting experience. "No."
"Ewww! You did!" she said, pawing at her mouth. "Ewww!"
"You started it!" he cried.
"I didn't put my TONGUE IN YOUR MOUTH! EWWW!!"
Well, that went well for a first kiss. "I DIDN'T PICK YOU UP AND KISS YOU!"
"THERE WEREN'T SUPPOSED TO BE TONGUES!!"
"I didn't-" he started to say, waving his arms. She held one finger up. (The index. He'd gotten lucky there.)
"Stop. Just... stop." She looked over her shoulder. "Did my dad see that?"
Ohh, her dad. He looked over at the window- King Nova had disappeared. "So that's why you kissed me."
She glanced down at him, her eyes narrowing. "What other reason would I have to kiss you?" she hissed.
He folded his arms over his chest, scowling. "I didn't ask you to do that, just so ya know! It was aaaall your idea, so if you hated it so much-"
"It was YOUR idea to put your TONGUE IN MY MOUTH!!"
It hadn't been his idea, it had sort of just... happened... yeah. Even in his head, that sounded lame. "Well, sorr-eee!"
She pinched the bridge of her nose. "Get in the car."
He did, scowling down at his feet. He heard her slide in next to him and start the engine.
"Not a word about this to anyone," she hissed dangerously.
His frown deepened. "It wasn't MY idea, need I remind you, you were the one who st-"
"It didn't mean anything, okay?"
He winced. Kick me when I'm down, why don't you…
"So just – please – drop it."
"Fine, I will."
They pulled away from the restaurant in total silence. Neither of them looked to the left... neither of them saw Booster had dropped his grocery bags, and was staring at them so hard he looked like his eyes were going to fall out.
Hope you enjoyed the first chapter!
I'm not sure when exactly I'll post the next one... it's not a long story, so it probably won't be a weekly thing. Stay tuned, and let me know what you think!
(Oh, one more thing; yeah, I got rid of the spaces between the paragraphs. I kinda like how that looks. If it makes it difficult to read, just let me know and I'll cut it out.)