AN: Happy Valentine's Day
You said you couldn't be with someone who didn't believe in you. Well I believed in you. You just didn't believe in me. I love you... always.
~Andrew McCarthy, Paramount Pictures' 'Pretty in Pink'
This is for real, this time I mean it
I'm coming clean, please don't let go
I said from the start, that you could take it or leave it
I'd prefer that you keep it
Don't let go, don't let go
~Motion City Soundtrack, This Is For Real
Cause when I looked into your eyes
And you dared to stare right back
You should have said 'nice to meet you,
I'm your other half'
~Relient k, The Best Thing
Suppose I said
You're my saving grace
~John Mayer, Not Myself
The next few days actually brought a sense of semi-normality. Occasionally XR would think about the conversation he'd overheard between Buzz and Mira and his stomach would churn – he consoled himself by remembering Mira's face, how displeased she'd seemed to be with Buzz that night. It was something, anyway. Mira hadn't quite been herself afterwards; she seemed down all the time and was uncharacteristically subdued. Buzz made a few comments now and then, but as her attitude didn't seem to be affecting her work, he didn't seem all that concerned. Mira had left the whole fake engagement out of her explanation to Buzz and begged XR not to mention it – fine with him, he didn't want to think about it anyway.
And he found to his surprise that the news really hadn't had as much of an impact as he might have guessed. Booster would occasionally throw him warm, happy looks – which got slightly awkward – and Buzz seemed a little cooler towards him. So what. Business went on as usual and no one brought up the ersatz relationship again.
Until Mira caught up to him one night as he was heading for a much-needed charge.
"XR, can I talk to you?"
He shrugged. "Sure."
She glanced around, then lowered her voice. "In private?"
He blinked. "O… kay…"
Without warning, she grabbed him by the arm and started pulling him across the hall. He yelped.\
"Hey! What're you doing?!"
She herded him towards a closet. "In here," she said, pushing him in and locking the door behind her.
It was dark and cramped. He let his eyes light up so a soft golden glow filled the room. "What was that about?"
She blinked. "I- I just wanted to talk to you where we… wouldn't be interrupted."
He raised an eyebrow at her. "Okay…"
He was about to ask what was wrong with the break room, or even the science bay at this hour, with the LGMs gone for the night; but she'd closed her eyes and was massaging her temples and she looked so distressed he decided to wait for her to speak.
Finally she lowered her hands, giving him an apologetic look. An uneasy feeling bloomed in his gut.
"XR… my father wants to see us on a… well, he wants to see us on another date."
The uneasy feeling escalated to sick-feeling. "Does he now." His voice was low and lifeless.
She winced. "Yeah. He, umm… he called me last night. He said – in essence – that he had a few more… um, questions for you."
He blinked, his interested piqued in spite of himself. "Questions?"
"Yeah. Just to, umm… well, just to make sure you're… you know, 'good enough' for his little girl."
He raised an eyebrow at her. "Am I?" he asked tonelessly.
She put her face in her hands, squeezing her eyes shut. "XR, please don't make this harder than it already is."
He sighed heavily. "Okay, okay. I'm sorry. And I promise I won't make any comments like that at dinner." He crossed his heart – well, where his heart would be, anyway – and put on his best solemn face.
She lowered her hands slightly, peeking out at him. She watched him for a second, then shook her head.
"You know what… this- this isn't fair to you. You shouldn't have to… you know, I don't think I feel right about going through with this. I feel like I'm… using you, and I don't want…"
"But you've already told him you'll be there, haven't you?"
She looked away, fiddling with her hair. "Well… well, yes, I- I have, b-but I can always call him back, I can tell him everything, and we don't have to-"
"Hey, we've come this far, why quit now, right?"
Her face took on a pained look. "XR, I don't…"
"I just want to help you, Mira. Really, I do. And hey, obviously I'd rather not watch you get married off-" he was surprised to feel the corners of his mouth twitch into an awkward half-smile, "-so if something as simple as another date with your father'll keep you with us… well, then I'll do it."
She didn't look quite as amused. "XR, really, you don't have to-"
"But I want to." He frowned. "Do you not want my help, is that it?"
She shook her head. "Of course I want your help, it's just… XR, I don't want to hurt you…"
"Don't worry about me. It's all fake, I get it. I understand, Mira, really."
She hesitated. "Well… if you're sure you'll be okay…"
Mira nodded, though she didn't look reassured in the least. "Well, alright then. I'll be here around eight to pick you up, okay?"
She turned to leave, then paused awkwardly in the doorway. "Look, XR, I… I just… I just want you to know…" She trailed off, tugging at her glove. She seemed to be struggling to find the right way to say something. Finally she sighed heavily. "Thanks for… doing this for me," she mumbled.
Something in his chest constricted. "Hey, what are friends for, right?"
Ugh. It physically hurt to use those words; and it must have shown on his face or something, because that pained look she had intensified and she turned away quickly, disappearing down the hall.
At 7:30 he made his way down to the launch bay with a heavy heart and a queasy stomach. Sure, in a strange way he was looking forward to going on another date with Mira, however fake it may be – on the other hand, she was being really awkward about the whole thing – and he reeeeally wasn't looking forward to the inquisition Nova undoubtedly had prepared for him. He shuddered and squirmed and fidgeted with his bow tie.
This time she'd given him a few hours notice, so he'd had time to polish and see the LGMs about a quick fix-up. They seemed to find it odd but thankfully didn't ask too many questions – he got the feeling they would jump at any opportunity to poke and prod him to their little hearts' content.
And this time he'd actually managed to get his hands on a jacket. It made him feel a little better-prepared and it made his bow tie not stand out so much. He thought he looked pretty good in it, actually. The fabric rustled softly around his waist as he paced back and forth in front of 42, his hands behind his back.
How was tonight going to go, exactly? What was he supposed to say to her father? And, more importantly, how was Mira going to handle the situation? Now that his… big secret was totally blown, how was she going to act towards him?
He didn't have long to find out; Mira was early.
His wristwatch told him it was 7:45 when her car pulled into the launch bay and came to a stop in front of 42.
She stepped out of the car and his jaw about hit the floor (…or, at least, the bottom of his helmet). She was wearing a red dress – he'd always thought red was her color… in fact, now that he thought about it, he was sure he'd let that slip to her once and earned a glare and a smack for it – with a long, flowy skirt and halter top with a neckline that dipped a little lower than he might've dared to hope. It complimented her figure quite nicely, he couldn't help but notice… and it rippled around her feet as she walked, giving the slight impression that she was gliding. He wasn't quite sure what the material was, but it had a slight sheen to it. He had to resist a strong impulse to reach out and see if it felt as smooth as it looked.
He felt himself gulp. He never would've guessed Mira had a dress like that…
She approached him slowly. He watched her, unable to look away. She stopped in front of him – her hair was done up, half of it pulled back in a fancy knot. She was wearing silver dangly earrings and a pretty silver necklace with a ruby pendant. He couldn't help but think they looked nice with the ring he'd gotten her. She stared down at him, looking nervous. She opened her mouth… hesitated, seemed to change her mind, closed it again… Then she straightened up, taking a deep breath.
"You, um… you look nice," she mumbled.
He stared at her.
In the car it was awkward and silent. He squirmed in his seat, frantically trying to come up with something to say, something to break the tension…
He glanced over at her. Golly, she looked beautiful… she'd clearly put a conscious effort into her appearance tonight. That thought made him feel strangely uneasy.
He considered her for a moment. A compliment seemed appropriate. He choked down the words 'you look nice' – which at this point would no doubt sound stupid – and cast around for something specific to comment on. His gaze finally landed on the gem at the base of her neck.
"I like your necklace." Oh, yeah, that didn't sound stupid at all.
To his surprise, she actually looked quite pleased that he'd pointed it out. She reached up and touched the pendant fondly. "Thanks. It was my mother's."
His eyes widened. Her mother's? He rarely heard about her mother; the only thing he knew for sure was that she'd passed away when Mira was very young and Mira didn't like to talk about it. That necklace was probably one of the only things she had left of her mother.
"It's beautiful," he whispered. He found that he couldn't take his eyes off of it, knowing now that it was linked to her past, that it was undoubtedly very important to her.
In the dark he could just make out a slight blush creeping into her cheeks. "Thank you," she said softly.
He shifted in his seat. "You… you must miss her a lot."
She bit her lip. "I do."
The next question burst forth before he could register its inappropriateness and stop himself. "What's it like?"
She glanced at him. "What's what like?"
He wrung his hands. What was he doing. "Having a mother."
She spun around to face him and her eyes were wide and startled and he flinched. He shouldn't have brought it up. Should have just let it go, let it stop right there and…
"Well… having a mother is… it's like… you know you'll have someone who will love you and understand you, and care for you always… no matter what."
He was completely still in the silence that followed her answer. He focused very hard on his feet. He felt slightly dizzy, and oddly empty. "That must be nice."
She nodded out the window. "It is."
They went to the same restaurant as before. Mira intoned her surname and the maitre'd led them to the back of the restaurant, where King Nova was waiting, fixing him with such a fiery glare XR wondered how he didn't melt right there on the spot.
They reached the table and XR hastily pulled out a chair for Mira – this time she thanked him and gave him such a sweet smile he was shocked Nova didn't whack him with his cane. He took the chair next to her and King Nova sat across from them, his eyes narrowed.
Heavy silence fell over them and XR squirmed in his seat. Mira was unusually submissive; she sat with her shoulders hunched, her eyes downcast. Nova just glared. Finally XR couldn't stand the silence anymore and cleared his throat. Loudly. "So, uh… good to see you again, sir- uh, Your Majesty."
Nova frowned at him and XR felt his lips curve into an ingratiating grin. Geez, could he do anything right for this guy?
Nova considered him a moment longer, then sniffed, looking away and adjusting one of his rings. "So, I see you're still together."
XR blinked. What was that supposed to mean? He glanced over at Mira; her posture hadn't changed in the slightest, but her gaze had shifted and she was staring at her father with barely-concealed rage. "Father, please…"
"I might have thought you'd grown tired of your charade by this point."
"Our what?" XR asked Mira. She didn't respond. XR glanced across at Nova to see that he was looking back and forth between them, confusion just apparent beneath the anger.
Mira gave her father a long, hard glare – XR got the odd feeling she had just told him something, somehow, because he blinked at her, frowning slightly – then turned to him. "My father still thinks our relationship is fake," she said in a stage-whisper.
"It…" Later he would thank his lucky stars that he'd had the good sense to stop and think about what he was saying, and so check himself before he could blurt out 'it is fake' and give Mira a reason to pound him. He adopted the widest, most innocent-looking eyes he could manage, glancing at Nova for effect before he leaned in towards Mira and said, in a hopefully 'well, that's obvious' sort of tone, "It isn't, though…"
If she knew how close he'd come to slipping up, she didn't show it. "I know that," she muttered, folding her arms and throwing a challenging glance at her father. His eyes narrowed; he glanced at XR, then back to her, then he cleared his throat, making a big deal out of arranging his silverware. XR glanced nervously at Mira, who gave him a 'stay calm' sort of look.
Nova finished with the forks and leaned back, folding his hands on the table and assuming a business-like air. XR had the sudden ridiculous sensation he was sitting in a job interview. He unconsciously straightened up.
Nova stared at him disdainfully. "So, you consider yourself deserving of a princess."
"Daddy!" Mira snapped.
Nova's gaze flicked to her; he cleared his throat and drew himself up again, starting over.
"So, you intend to marry my daughter."
Well, actually… "Yes."
"You intend to support her."
"You intend to care for her children."
He flinched and Mira flinched beside him and underneath the panic was a flash of rage that he'd said her and not your… "Yes."
Nova eyed him disapprovingly. "But you don't have parents."
"No." Obviously not.
"You don't have any kind of family."
He shivered. "No."
"You're a machine."
"You're only a few years old, correct?"
He nodded. He didn't trust himself to talk anymore.
"And yet you feel you understand what it takes to raise a family?"
He could feel tears pricking his eyes and forced them back. No. No, do NOT cry in front of a king, how pathetic do you want to make yourself look, MIRA'S WATCHING YOU, now suck it up and…
"Father, stop it!"
There was a crash and XR jumped. Mira had gotten to her feet and slammed her hands on the table. She was leaning forward and glaring at her father more fiercely than he had ever imagined she could. Which was saying a lot.
"Don't be cruel. XR may not be your idea of the perfect son-in-law, but he's sweet and funny and he cares about me. And he's making every effort to please you – the least you could do in return is spare him the verbal assault!"
Nova was watching her in surprise, awe, and of course, the inevitable anger. There followed a very long silence in which Mira and her father stared each other down. Neither seemed willing to back off. XR began to wonder if he should say something, break the tension – he tried, but his voice didn't seem to be working. Once more he had the strange feeling some sort of mental showdown was taking place between them… which, he realized suddenly, was probably right on the mark. In which case he should probably stay out of it. He occupied himself with trying to make a swan out of his napkin.
It was impossible to know exactly the exchange that had taken place; but if he had to guess, he'd say that Mira won, because her father was the one who finally broke eye contact, looking away with a heavy sigh.
"Forgive me, Mira. Erm… XR…"
XR's head snapped up. King Nova'd never called him by name before…
"I… I apologize."
His eyes widened. For a moment all he could do was stare in open-mouthed shock before stammering "Oh… oh, s'okay, Y-your Majesty."
King Nova looked like he was trying very hard not to appear displeased. He raised an eyebrow at Mira and she nodded. As she sat down, she moved her chair closer to XR's, then put her arm around his shoulders, sliding up close next to him.
He felt himself stiffen, surprised at his own reaction. How many times had he dreamed of this? So why wasn't he absolutely elated?
Nova was looking as if he'd just smelled something very unpleasant. XR gulped and squirmed.
The king started fiddling with his rings again, more in an anxious sort of way this time. XR braced himself for whatever would come next.
"You must understand," Nova began, his voice a bit gentler. "It's just… so hard to watch my only daughter grow up so fast."
Something shuddered inside him and he shifted in his chair. When he thought about it that way, maybe Nova wasn't so jerky after all; he was just looking out for his daughter, how could he really be blamed…
"And certainly it's understandable that I would want nothing but the best for her."
And he shot XR a disapproving look.
Okay, so he wasa jerk sometimes.
"And it's just… so unusual to find a mach- that is, to find one of your kind expressing… actual emotion."
Okay, so he was a jerk a lot of the time. But XR had never honestly imagined he would feel actual loathing for the man.
He drew himself up in his chair, closed his eyes, composed himself… he'd take the high road, he'd show her just how civilized he could be…"Unusual, not impossible," he countered evenly.
Nova's expression flickered slightly, and XR was fairly certain from the lack of resulting argument that Nova actually thought he'd made a valid point. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Mira beam at him. Probably took a lot to leave her father this at a loss for words.
It still didn't take long for Nova to recover, resuming that distinctly haughty air. "Not impossible. Very well, then. So I take it that means you do love my daughter?"
Beside him, Mira stiffened. He himself didn't react. Why should he hide it? Mira knew by this point, there was no reason to cover it up…
King Nova's eyes widened. He stared for quite some time, and XR actually had to choke back a laugh, he'd honestly never seen Nova look so completely stunned. Maybe he was better at this than he thought. He glanced over at Mira – but she just looked sad again.
Nova was having a harder time recovering from that one. He cleared his throat loudly, sitting up and straightening his collar. "Y- you do, then. Well… very well."
There was silence once more as Nova started twirling one of his rings idly. Again with those things. Who was he trying to impress? He already had more money and power than XR could ever dream of. He had his own planet, for crying out loud. He had everything; loyal subjects, a loving daughter…
XR shuddered inwardly, glancing up at Mira again. Her eyes were closed and she looked distressed – he found himself wishing he could do that Tangean mind-link thing, he would've given anything to know what she was thinking right now.
Across the table Nova was struggling for new material.
"So… you two… have you… have you set a date for the wedding?"
XR had the wild idea he was experiencing what organics called a 'panic attack.' Set a… oh, mother of Venus, he'd never even considered… how far were they going to have to take this, anyway? Nova was waiting for an answer, mother of Venus, what was he supposed to say…
Mira saved him yet again. "No, not yet. We… we've both been busy."
XR nodded, more to himself than King Nova. That at least was believable, a job like theirs was pretty demanding, after all…
Nova was back to his disapproving self. "Of course you are."
XR swallowed hard. He couldn't speak anymore, could barely concentrate on what was going on in front of him. Nova's words had shaken him so completely… What if this never ended, what if this kept going until they actually had to get married, just for her father's benefit…
His eyes widened as a horrible thought struck him. What if… what if he became the very thing Mira'd set out to avoid? What if he became her unwanted marriage? She'd be miserable, she'd be furious – mother of Venus, she'd hate him forever…
He felt suddenly cold and very empty again and he started shivering. Mira pulled him closer and started rubbing his arm, as if she was trying to warm him up.
He jumped, staring around at her. The distress was still evident on her face, even as she gave him an anxious little half-smile. He could only stare at her. If it weren't for her father sitting right across from them, he would have begged her to tell him exactly why she was doing all this.
As she watched him, the smile faded. She tilted her head slightly. A thought seemed to occur to her suddenly because she blurted out "Hey, do you need anything?"
Anything, as in… "Wh-what?"
She was looking around at the table. "Do you want something to drink?"
Oh. As in restaurant-stuff anything.
He shook his head. "No, no, that's okay…"
He nodded. In all honesty, he didn't think he'd be able to hold anything down.
She didn't say any more, just nodded slightly and gave his shoulder a gentle squeeze. He chanced a glance at Nova – who was staring, wide-eyed, back and forth between the two of them. Like he couldn't quite believe what had just happened.
He wasn't the only one. XR stared blankly up at Mira, trying to fathom what she was doing. She was being so patient with him, so understanding… since when was she ever this tolerant of him? She stroked his shoulder in a reassuring way and he had to resist the sudden urge to wrap his arms around her and bury his face in her side and just stay that way until all this other stuff disappeared. He had to remind himself that she probably wouldn't appreciate that.
Neither would her father, he added to himself – and he squirmed under the renewed glare Nova was giving him. King Nova seemed determined not to let them go until he absolutely had to and spent the rest of the evening thinking up all kinds of demanding and invasive questions. After a while Mira just took over all the answering, something he'd have to remember to thank her for later. He ended up staring dully at the tablecloth, trying to ignore Nova's thinly-veiled insults and counting the seconds until this nightmare dinner ended and he could finally go home.
King Nova bade them goodbye at the door of the restaurant and rushed off to his little pink cruiser. As he left, XR was sure he heard him mutter something about proper behavior in public and not wanting to see his daughter degrade herself any further. XR heaved a little sigh of relief and started heading across the parking lot. All he wanted at this point was sleep; as far as he was concerned, they couldn't get back to Star Command soon enough. He'd only gone a few feet when Mira caught up to him and slipped her arm around his shoulders, walking close to his side. He went stiff, his eyes wide and staring. Why was she doing this? Her father was gone, who was she trying to fool? Did she just feel that sorry for him? Was he that pathetic in her eyes? He looked down at his feet, biting his quivering lip. He couldn't shake the feeling that she was doing all this out of nothing more than pity, and that thought made him feel sick to his… oil tank. This whole situation had gone from worse to unbearable and all he wanted was to get back in his charger where he wouldn't have to think about any of it for a few hours.
Neither one said anything as they made their way across the parking lot. Mira didn't release him until they finally reached her electric blue ride. He wheeled around the side and hoisted himself into the passenger seat, not looking up when she slid in beside him.
"Well, that went well," he murmured weakly. He felt exhausted.
She sighed heavily. "XR, I'm really sorry."
He winced. It felt like that was all she ever said anymore. He really wished she'd stop it.
"Don't be." He realized with a start that he preferred her angry. At least then she stood up for herself. Now she just seemed… defeated. Like she couldn't fight anymore. He shivered. That was a scary thought...
She sat staring dully at her hands. "I never should have made you do this."
Her voice was completely devoid of emotion. It was unnerving and made him squirm in his seat.
"Hey – listen, you didn't make me do anything…"
"It wasn't fair to you." She squeezed her eyes shut. "Buzz was right, I should have just gone through with the marriage."
Panic jolted his stomach and he twisted around to face her. She looked distressed, defeated… hopeless. It was painful to see her like that.
"No, Mira… it- it's a stupid rule! You shouldn't have to be forced into anything! Least of all something like this, I mean, come on, you'd have to be stuck with some guy you don't even know for the rest of your-"
"I know, I know, XR," she growled through her teeth. For a moment she looked like she was about to yell and he was shocked to feel his heart rise in his chest. Then she sighed heavily and her face went blank again. His stomach churned. Geez, he really didn't like seeing her like this. "Believe me, an arranged marriage is the last thing I want. And I would love it if there were some way around it, I just…" she trailed off, twisting her fingers in an anxious sort of way and looking upset. She was silent for a very long time.
"Just… what?" he prodded.
She took a deep breath. "Just… I've been fighting the traditions of my people all my life. In everything I do, I defy their- our customs. Maybe it's… maybe it's time I just accepted what I am."
He sat back in his seat, blinking at her. "Mira… no one should tell you who you're supposed to be…"
"I've been stupid." She leaned over the wheel, hiding her face in one hand. "How did I ever believe I could be something I'm not? What was I thinking? I can't escape what I am, I can't run away from this… They were right, all of them, I'm just a freak…"
His eyes widened and his head snapped up. "Who said that?"
She looked up suddenly; her eyes were nearly twice their normal size and he had the strange feeling she was looking past him, seeing something he couldn't see. For a moment she looked helpless as a lost little girl. It scared him.
Then she blinked, and it was gone; she leaned back in her seat and resumed staring at her hands, fiddling idly with the car keys. "Nobody," she murmured.
He glanced at her face, glanced down at her hands, then finally looked out the windshield, completely at a loss for words. This was a side of her he never thought he'd see. Mira was troubled? Since when did Mira have trouble with anything?
She sighed heavily, turning away from him. "It's just- XR, you don't know what it feels like to be different."
He went completely and totally still.
Unheeding, Mira continued. "To be- made fun of by the other kids for... not wanting the same things as they do..."
Made fun of… "Oh?" he said, his voice suddenly devoid of emotion.
She nodded slightly, looking down. "Just- y-you don't know how it feels not to have any friends growing up. To want – more than anything – just to find someone who understands you."
He stared off into space. There was an odd sort of heat rising in his chest that made him feel strangely like the sides of the car were closing in on him.
She kept going. "To be... ostracized and... awkward and..."
He ran out of the car. She jumped. "XR?!"
He kept running, even when he heard her door slam and heard her cry out "XR! Wait!"
XR shut his eyes tight. He kept his head down, not sure where he was going, not really caring. There was a dull buzzing in his head, drowning out all other noise – so he didn't hear her running after him, calling his name, and he gasped when there was suddenly a hand on his shoulder, pulling him back. He yelped as the hand pulled him around and suddenly he was face-to-face with Mira. She was on her knees in front of him, her high-heels dangling from one hand. He tried to squirm away from her but she put both hands on his shoulders, holding him in place.
"XR, what is going on?"
His engine was heating up uncomfortably and for one horrifying moment he felt like he'd be sick, right here in front of her. "Nothing, nothing's going on…"
"XR? What… what's wrong?!"
There were tears welling in his eyes, he realized. He put his helmet back and started pawing hastily at his face. "Nothing's wrong. I'm fine, really Mira, I-" his words drowned in a single, dry sob and he clapped his hands over his mouth. He was starting to tremble and he felt weak and shaky and ohhh, mother of Venus, what if he did throw up, all over her nice dress… He tried to calm himself down and tell her he was fine but new tears were building up every second and it was taking every ounce of his strength to force them back and choke down the ensuing, pitiful little sobs.
He was making quite a spectacle of himself, he realized. People making their way across the parking lot were slowing down to stare at him as they passed. Well, he was used to people staring… What he wasn't used to was Mira giving him this kind of undivided attention. She didn't even seem to care that people were staring at him – and consequently her as well – or that they were whispering and casting disapproving looks at the two of them.
"XR… what's wrong?" she asked softly, gently. She started stroking his shoulders in a comforting way and he shuddered. It felt unbelievably good, that simple little touch, and in another instant his resolve had melted away completely.
"It's just… all those things you said… Mira, don't you think I know how that feels?"
She blinked, looking truly puzzled. "Do you?"
He stared back at her. She was honestly surprised?
"Of course I do." He wiped his eyes on the back of his hand, sniffling. "I mean – come on, Mira, how many robots do you know act like me?"
"Well… I- I don't really know a lot of robots at all, and-"
She glanced at the ground. "Not many," she mumbled.
"I'm not normal, Mira, and you know it. Everyone knows it. And everyone makes fun of me for it, even you…"
She winced, and where he thought would be a snappy comeback was a look of shame. He blinked. Something inside his chest tightened.
"Hey – it's not like you hurt me, or…" Well, that wasn't totally true. "I mean, I know you didn't mean anything. You were just pointing out what you saw. An abnormality."
She flinched at that and when she looked back at him, his eyes widened. Her gaze was intense and open and… accepting. Accepting of him. He matched her gaze, for once not bothering to worry about staring and how inappropriate it was. He couldn't look away if he'd wanted to.
"I- I guess you're right…" she was saying softly. "Okay, I know you're right. I guess… I've just gotten so used to you, I just forget sometimes that all robots… well, that all robots aren't meant to… to feel…"
She looked worried she was going to offend him. He nodded in what was hopefully a reassuring way. It was surprisingly easy to keep going, after this. Feelings he'd always had trouble expressing suddenly came rushing forth. "It's not normal for a robot to love an organic… it's not normal for a robot to love at all! They… they say it's wrong. Oh yeah, I hear them talk," he added in response to her stunned stare. "I've heard what they say about me, when they think I'm not listening… how I'm not normal, how I'm strange, how I'm defective…" He choked on the last word and a fresh wave of tears tried to force its way forward. He swallowed hard. "And they're right, you know, I'm not supposed to feel this way… I'm not supposed to care if you show up for work or not, I'm not supposed to hang on every word you say, I'm not supposed to feel happy if for some reason we get even a fraction of a millisecond alone together, I'm not-"
He was cut off by a soft pressure against his mouth and realized that for the second time in less than a week, Mira had kissed him.
And this time was different. This, now… this was a kiss. Not like last time, when he'd been too stunned to absorb any more than the taste of her lips… not that he didn't notice it this time, too, her lips were wonderfully sweet, with a faintly exotic flavor… But this time there was… there was something more… something deeper. He felt crazy for thinking it, but there it was; he swore he was picking up on feelings that were not his, sensations that were coming from somewhere else, thoughts that were… that were hers, somehow, that in that instant she was somehow opening her mind to him, to let him in, let him be a part of her hopes, her dreams… that she wanted – his mind reeled – that she wanted to be close to him.
It was dizzying, that sudden rush of emotion. But not in an unpleasant way; on the contrary, it was one of the greatest things he'd ever felt.
She wasn't pulling away this time. He let his arms slip around her waist (he'd been right, her dress was silky smooth) and she didn't struggle or protest or anything. He pulled her close and felt her arms slip around his shoulders to cross at the back of his neck. He trembled underneath the touch… this felt so good, unbelievingly good… Cautiously he let his hands wander over her back, feeling her shiver slightly as he did. Her hair was smooth and wonderfully soft and he ran his fingers through it.
If people were staring before, he could only imagine what they were doing now. He found he'd never cared less. All that mattered suddenly was Mira, what she thought, what she felt, what she wanted… Everything else faded away.
He couldn't tell how long they stayed that way. He only knew that at long last she pulled away, and her beautiful face was radiant.
She took a deep breath, and the smile she gave him then made him feel weak and shaky all over again.
That was all she said. He blinked at her. "Okay what?"
She was blushing again. Golly, she looked adorable when she did that. "Okay, we can give it a try."
He stared blankly back. What was wrong with him? He couldn't understand… She must think he was an idiot… "Give what a try?"
She glanced away and back quickly, then whispered "Us."
Us? "You mean…" It hit him like a ton of bricks, suddenly, what exactly she did mean by that, and his heart raced and he felt the doofiest grin spread across his face but he didn't care how stupid he might've looked, she'd actually said "You… you mean it?!"
She nodded, looking equally apprehensive and excited.
His grin must have reached idiotic by this point. He found he was having a hard time caring; she meant it, she really meant it. He clung to her, afraid to let her go and lose this wonderful feeling. "Oh, Mira, I-"
She put a finger to his lips (the index – apparently this was his lucky week), fixing him with a serious look. "I'm not promising anything. Okay? The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But…" she grinned, her shoulders rising sheepishly. "It's worth a try."
He nodded slowly. 'Worth a try' was more than he'd ever dared dream. Could this actually be happening? Was Mira really agreeing to go out with him?
Her finger left his lips and trailed gently along the side of his face.
He shivered. It felt like it was happening.
There was silence once more as he let it sink in that Mira was going to be his girlfriend. His engine started humming. Mira was going to be his girlfriend. HIS girlfriend! Mira! He couldn't ever remember feeling so happy.
She never once broke his gaze, watching him throughout his silent revelation, her fingers absentmindedly stroking his face. "Hey – d'you wanna get out of here?"
He felt himself nod again. "Okay." He probably would have said 'yes' if she'd asked if he wanted to go white-water rafting, he was so elated.
She got to her feet, slipping her shoes back on and motioning for him to follow her. Which he did, of course. He glanced up into her face, which suddenly seemed too far away. He wanted to put his arm around her but didn't particularly trust his cable extenders at the moment. Still a little too shaky. He settled for sticking close by her side. He became vaguely aware that 'getting out of here' might entail going back to Star Command and an odd sense of urgency filled him. He didn't want to leave her, just yet… he couldn't leave her now, when things were going like this, if he left her now he wouldn't get any rest.
"So, umm… where are we going?"
She shrugged. "I don't know… where do you feel like going?"
He blinked, trying to remember the last time anyone had asked him what he wanted to do. … He couldn't.
"I… don't know."
She didn't seem at all bothered by his lack of suggestions. "Oh, well… we'll figure something out."
He nodded. Again. "Yeah… yeah, okay, we will."
They were at her car now. It occurred to him that he'd be seeing a lot of this car in weeks to come and his heart pounded out an excited rhythm.
He climbed in and she went around to the driver's side, sliding in and starting the engine. It roared to life and they were off.
He realized as they pulled away from the restaurant they still had no idea where they were headed.
He sighed deeply, sinking into the seat cushions. So hard to care after what had just taken place. He glanced over at her; she met his gaze and smiled, her eyes warm and bright and beautiful. He just stared back in silent wonder.
So what if they didn't know what they were going to do. They'd be together… He and Mira were going to be together, for real this time, no games, no rules, no pretending, and not because she was trying to escape something, but because she wanted this. He couldn't have imagined a more perfect moment.
And she was right, after all. They'd figure something out.
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