Title: A Matter of Perception. Or "The Birthday Girl".

Author: Nemesi.

Fandom: Rockman Classic Saga (MM), with references to "Megamix" and to "Wily and Light's Rockboard".

Genre: General. Romance.

Word Count: 1823.

Characters: Protoman, Kalinka.

Rating: PG-13.

Disclaimer: Rockman, its characters, places and themes belong to Capcom, Shogakukan, ShoPro, TV Tokio, etc. No copyright infringement is intended.

Warnings: Unbeated. Set a few years after canon, and as such, it might be AU. :)

Summary: Why couldn't Wily ever kidnap someone else, for a change?

* * * * *

Kalinka Mikhailovna Cossacka wasn't happy.

He dress was ruined, her arms were covered with soot and an array scratches; she was barefoot, and when she pressed her hand to her left ear she discovered, much to her own dismay, that one of her sapphire earrings was missing.

…so maybe saying that she wasn't happy was the understatement of the century.

"Why does he always have to ruin my birthday?!" she snapped, glowering at the robot beside her as though he was the source of all her problems instead than her saviour.

He didn't say anything, but in the privacy of his own mind he couldn't help but sympathize with her. It was the fifth time in a row that a Wily War started right in time for her birthday, wasn't it?

"It's the fifth time in a row!" she volunteered right on cue, rubbing her face with both hands. "What does your father have against December, anyway? Why he can't start one of his wars in summer, for a change?"

"It's got something to do with his arthritis, I think."

Idly, she wondered if he was trying to be funny, or to ease the tension. Then she realized this was Protoman she was dealing with, and that he just didn't do funny.

His honesty did nothing but sour her mood even more.

"Great. Just… just great."

She slumped slowly onto the desert ground, head bowed in dismay.

"Here." The slouched posture hinted that she'd mollified enough for him to approach somewhat safely. "I found it in the rubble."

She looked up at him with tearful eyes, and carefully took the earring from his palm. She turned the jewel around for a moment of two, studying it like it was the oddest thing she'd ever come across, then put it on with a sigh.

"Thanks. These belonged to mom."

"I know." He went down on one knee beside her. She wiped furiously at her cheeks, making a fabulous job of smearing the dirt across the whole of her face.

"Don't look at me. I must look horrible," she said, turning her face away but making sure to look at him from out of the corner of her eye.

He said nothing, instead reaching out to push a curl of dirtied blond hair away from her matted forehead. There were faint dark tracks trailing down her cheeks, and Protoman wondered for a moment if that was her first time wearing make-up.

"Are you hurt anywhere?"

She shook her head, blond curls bouncing against her cheeks.

"No, I'm okay." As if he didn't know. "You got me away in time." Which actually reminded her: "Are you hurt? That last hit got you pretty badly."

Protoman showed her his arm. The spandex of his suit was a little worse for wear, but underneath the ripped fabric his skin looked intact, and none of the hidden circuitries of his mechanical limb had been exposed.

She pressed her fingers to the unyielding flesh, checking around for damage for a few seconds, then gave a satisfied nod.

"Good," she said, dropping his arm. She surveyed the desolation around them, the scattered pieces of metal and rubber that had once been Wily's latest hideout, and sighed again. "Why can't he ever kidnap someone else?"

"The truth?"

"The truth."

"Because for all his madness, he can't lay a finger on Dr Light. Because if he had the means to kidnap Mega, he would've done so long ago, and there would have been no Wily Wars to start with. Because the last time he glanced at Roll the wrong way Bass snapped and turned on him, and he doesn't want a reprise. And other than my immediate family, you're the only person he could target in order to lure me into his schemes."

Kalinka knew she ought to be annoyed, but she couldn't quite contain a flattered grin. She was the Damsel in Distress, targeted by the Evil Scientist because Protoman was her Knight In The Shining Armour, and would rush to save her always, no matter what? Why, but that sounded like something out of a fairytale.

"You always call him by his title," she said, just to change the subject.


"Your father."

He feigned confusion.

"Wily? That's not…"

"Dr Light," she retorted, in a tone of voice that implied she knew what game he was playing, and she wasn't going to go with it. "He's your father too, you know? You should address him as such sometimes."

"That's debatable." He raised a hand to stop her answer. "I'm not saying I'm not his son. But that doesn't make him a father to me."

He noticed that she was still rubbing her cheeks laboriously, and took pity on her unsuccessful endeavours to clean her face.

"Come here," he ordered, picking up his scarf and pushing a relatively clean end to her cheek.

She leaned into his touch with an eagerness that was totally unlike her, and Protoman wondered for a moment if she was back into that phase when she tried to act like Mega, if only because she thought it would bring the two of them closer.

Then she grabbed the scarf in her own hands, rubbing fastidiously at the remains of ash and ruined make-up on her face, and he realized that no, this was no crush-driven child playing pretend, but a girl growing frustrated with her looks.

"Are you quite done?" he asked after a while, a touch of amusement in his voice.

She had no way to know if she had successfully cleaned her face, but reluctantly surrendered the scarf anyway.


He picked up the scarf between thumb and finger, making a long face at the extensive stains, but acknowledged her gratitude with a brisk nod.

She grinned, then rubbed her arms as if trying to ward off a chill. In the distance, she thought she was a flash of light flare as brief and bright as lightening, and wondered if that was Mega coming to their rescue, or Wily running away, or both.

She sighed, and wasn't surprised to see her breath turning into mist – darkness was approaching swiftly from the surrounding mountains, and at night the temperature could very well drop below zero in the badlands.

Protoman obligingly draped his scarf around her shoulders, sitting close to her so that he wouldn't have to take the frayed cloth from around his own neck. She glanced up at him, cheeks flushed pink with something that had nothing to do with the cold.

"Thanks," she said, expecting no answer, at least of the verbal kind.

He nodded again, and turned towards the desert.

"What do we do now?" she asked, discreetly shifting closer. He turned his head minimally in her direction, a thoughtful look on his face.

"Your choice. You are the birthday girl."

She snorted, amused despite herself, and moved around until she was sitting with her legs folded to her side, her shoulder pushing comfortably against Protoman's shoulder.

"Then the birthday girls says you owe her a present," she admonished.


"Yes. It was to get to you that Dr Wily kidnapped me, so take responsibility."

"Very well then," he agreed, and if her words had caused him any guilt, it didn't show. "What kind of present?"

"A big one."

"Define 'big'."

"A diamond tiara with matching earrings. Seven strings of pearls as big and round as quail eggs. A castle with coral turrets and white standards on top of each, and… is there such a thing as a Princess certificate?" she quipped, feeling gratified when his lips quirked at the corners.

"There might be. But there's no suitable store in the vicinity, I'm afraid."

"Pft. And here I thought you could do anything."

"I can," he said, with no false modesty. "Just not in the middle of the desert, at night, and with you about to freeze."

He shifted, leaning his weight on the arm now resting behind her back, and watching as her head sank against the curve of his neck in compensation. He felt hard and warm and entirely too human for Kalinka to resist the temptation, and she leaned gratefully into him.

"That's too bad," she answered with a sigh. "That would have been a dream come true. And only that kind of present could salvage this birthday," she said mournfully, meaning every word.

There was a moment of silence. The wind lashed wildly against her bare arms and legs, and gravel crunched and rolled under its assault. Darkness closed over them, and it wasn't until the first stars had lit up in the sky above that Protoman spoke again, his voice quiet and low, caressing like velvet.

"If a Dream come true is what you want, then there is only one thing I can give you," he said, slowly looking down at her. She turned towards him curiously, not resisting his gentle pull but not understanding his words either.

She'd always worn her dreams on her sleeves, so to speak. She loved jewels, loved to be pretty, asked the shooting-stars for the chance to be called Princess. But he'd admitted that those things were out his reach, if only for the moment.

What could he be referring to, she wondered. He wasn't planning to do something about Skullman, was he? She knew she would like it he allowed Roll to spend the summer in Russia with her. Having Beat back home for the Holidays also sounded good. And now that she thought about it, she might have Protoman ask his brother to …

…and then his lips were pressing against hers, and she was suddenly jolted into awareness, understanding that he wasn't referring to just any dream, but to The Dream, and it was coming true exactly as she'd pictured it, complete with them sharing his scarf under a moonlit sky, and it didn't matter if she was cold, and her dress ruined, and her hair looked a pitiable mess – his chest felt warm and solid under her fingertips, his arms strong and comforting as they cradled her shivering frame.

His lips weren't hard, or cold, as she'd sometimes feared while indulging in this particular fantasy. They were smooth and warm, if a bit dry, chafed with coldness just like any human's, unassuming but firm against her own. Kissing him was like kissing lightening, she though. His mouth tasted sparkly and blue, like copper and ozone and stormy seas, and the flavour alone was enough to send a cascade of shivers running down her back.

"Happy birthday," he said, simply, when he pulled away, a ghost of a smile on his mouth and a warm sliver of emotion in his voice.

As she slid her arms around his neck, pulling him in for their second kiss, Kalinka thought she really ought to find a way to contact Wily.

He needed to be thanked for 'ruining' her birthday, after all.