Title – Four Centimeters
Character(s)/Pairing(s) – Shinra/Celty
Genre – Romance, Humour, Drama
Rating – PG-13
Summary – Their first kiss is when he is eight and she is eight hundred.

Four Centimeters

Shinra was peeking towards the age of nine when he learned that talking was not the only thing the mouth could do.

He wiped his eyes furiously against the sleeve of his uniform, tears smearing the whiteness of his shirt. He honestly did not want his father catching him sobbing loudly, he did not want the intimidating man to loom over him, cracking his rough knuckles before teasing and prodding to cause him much more discomfort. Thankfully, the sound of footsteps echoing up the hallway belonged to that of the headless woman who resided with them. Shinra stared meekly over his trembling shoulder as she stopped at the doorway of his room, pausing to face him, as if she had noticed something was wrong despite the absence of eyes.

"M-my favorite test tube." He waved the two detached cylinders of glass in the air, never minding the thin cut across his palms and the constant trickle of blood tarnishing the furnished floor.

Celty slumped her shoulders in what indicated itself as exasperation, her neck tilting slightly as she observed the test tube rack on the desk behind the weeping child –there were nine other tubes which looked perfectly normal and exactly identical to one another. Like twisted father, like son, she supposed, walking over to Shinra and taking the broken pieces from his hands and leading him out of the room into the kitchen. She urged his hands under the cool water from the tap, twisting the faucet as she weighed the shattered glass in her hands. The female deduced that a bit of super glue and heat would do the trick, so she bade the boy to consume a pacifying apple in the room while she went about her duty.

Not too long after, she rolled the mended test tube back into his bandaged hands, perching her hands proudly on her hips and taking a step back to give the boy room. Shinra gaped in pure ecstasy, giddy with joy as he pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose and spun a tiny circle on the spot. He, very carefully, placed the treasure on the top of the kitchen counter before flinging his arms around her waist and hugging her as tight as his birdlike frame would allow.

"Thank you, Celty!" he sang, rubbing his cheek against her as she startled at the contact. The haze rising from her neck swirled rapidly, for a second, in response. She quickly turned to grab the open notebook and pencil resting on the polished counter. The Dullahan scribbled on the lined paper before showing the young boy, who was still reluctant to release her from his affectionate embrace.

[You're welcome (:]

Shinra flushed faintly as she placed the paper aside. He adjusted his spectacles, letting go of her hips to reach out a hand to tug at the sleeve of her tight black body suit. Celty shifted in his favour, bending down so that her knees scrapped the floor, inching closer to indicate to the boy that she was willing to listen, she weaved a hand through his hazel hair as he casted his gaze downwards. Shinra merely wrapped his hands around her shoulders and pecked her bare neck shyly.

"… Thank you, Celty," he repeated.

The headless woman began to wonder why the young boy became increasingly clumsy with the handling on his test tubes. He shattered at least one per week, but she brushed it off as childish ineptness as he seized the opportunity, it all its ravishing golden, to cling dearly to her waist as she used up the tube of glue.

Shinra was fifteen when his glasses were smashed by the fist of a burly boy with a bronze tongue piercing and a scowl perpetually etched on his rugged face. When he returned home with a bruise ailing his cheek, Celty was a little too entranced with polishing the screen of her PDA to notice, using a modest cloth to shine the wondrous device. Only when the teenager collapsed on the couch, next to her, did she realize his presence. The Dullahan immediately set about running her fingers over the miniscule buttons of the phone, almost eager.

[Welcome home!]

Shinra smiled in spite of the throb, whilst the arm holding the PDA started to falter. She shifted closer to the wounded boy and prodded his red cheek with a tentative finger. The boy hissed, causing her to jolt off the cushioned sofa and hurry to fetch a pack of ice to soothe the injured cheek.

[Bullies again?] She typed with one deft hand once the ice cubes reunited with their most frequent visitor.

"Some other acquaintances who couldn't agree with me," Shinra corrected proudly.

[What about?] Celty pursued.

"They were talking about girls, obviously, and jumping to the outrageous conclusion that pretty, make-up ridden faces were all that mattered in the end." Shinra shook his head, pitying the boys with their completely failed interpretations of bigger pictures and the feminine end of the spectrum.

Celty stiffened, fingers tightening around the pack and pressing it deeper against his cheek. The couch suddenly seemed too small to encompass the heart of a young male and the lack thereof of an ancient woman.

"You don't need a face to be beautiful," Shinra laughed conclusively, the spectacles framing his eyes only served to magnify the glassiness of his hazelnut eyes. She slipped off the broken lenses from the bridge of his nose, with her free hand as he leaned towards her, a shy tongue running over his boyish lips.

She blocked him an agile hand and pushed him back into his solitary seat on the couch.

"You need a big chest, though," he mumbled dejectedly against the calluses of her palm.

He came back with more bruises the following week, and the week after that.

She threaded her hand through the brown sea of his hair as she nursed his punch marks.

A few months before his eighteenth birthday, Shinra decided to go to the school prom, for once. Celty failed to grasp the understanding, nor appreciation for the concept of a prom, except that it was a teenagerish party where everyone was over-dressed and stale punch would be served by the gallons. Couldn't one just go to a night club, places that littered every nook and cranny of Ikebukuro, for an unattractive experience such as that?

"That's a misconception," Shinra explained sagely, "proms are their excuses masquerading quite expertly. All they want to do is to show off their dates and their ironed tuxes or cocktail dresses in a school setting. As for me, I want to attend to merely observe those amusingly crude human mannerisms." He clapped his hands in sheer anticipation, the thrill of an experiment whirring in his crowded mind. "Wouldn't it be so fulfilling to partake in a slice of human behaviour?" He prodded wryly at his companion.

Celty continued to scroll nonchalantly down the webpage of alien sightings in Japan.

Shinra immediately collapsed onto his knees infront of the chair she occupied, and leapt to hug her hips tightly. His previous plan having completely crumbled in unpredicted failure, he addressed the only viable option left – pleading.

"Celtyyyy, please go with me!" he cried out with exasperation, burying his face into her legs. The woman pried his fingers off her body, raised the heel of her pink-slippered foot to his sharp chin, and unclamped him from herself with one resounding kick.

As the student collided noisily with the hard oak of the dinner-table chairs, he produced a sound that crossed between a whine and a groan. Celty typed furiously on the keyboard of the laptop, before shoving its screen in front of his squinting face.

[No! Why should I go? I'm not even human.]

"But you would look stunning in a dress; I could help you get one! And it would be a great chance for you to meet other humans instead of me, right?" Shinra reasoned with what was perceived as every functional brain cell remaining steadfast in his throbbing head.

[I'm sure I know them well enough. Other humans aren't as crazy as you. Shizuo isn't, at least.] She replied, this time using the PDA she extracted from the sleeve of her black-inked bodysuit.

At the mention of the blonde rogue's name, the boy's face darkened.

"I'm asking you to go with me to the prom. Girls are supposed to say yes when a guy does that. Every girl wishes that she'll be asked for – not everyone gets that privilege, though." Shinra collected his bearings and stood straight up, poising a hand to his head. His tone was not as generous as the one from before, rather serious and decisive, in a voice that she found curiously intriguing.

Celty noticed that he had inched by her neck, and was just the slightest bit taller now.

When had that happened?

"Go with me." He clutched her cool, pale hand with his, guided it to his tight-lipped mouth, and kissed her fingers curtly – no questions asked and no hesitation or dillydallying involved. She struggled not to come to terms with the revelation that he seemed more masculine now, edging towards someone who was no longer an abysmal adolescent. Her fingers tingled while her shoulders grew hot and tense in place of where pallid cheeks would come into play.

[… Alright.]

If only to humor him, she told herself in desperate consolation.

They glided across the creaky floorboards of the school hall, a male in the obligatory black tuxedo with a wide smile crafted on his features. The elegant dance partner of him was what caused heads to turn in a tidal wave every moment they side-stepped past a group socializing individuals, until pretty soon, the whole hall was staring quite indiscreetly at them holding hands and drifting along under the escort of the music. While she was clad in a midnight gown and sophisticated black gloves, her helmet was an ugly, striking yellow.

He rested his cheek against the side of her plastic head, and hummed along with the song, completely detached from the rest of the room and submerged in the sensation of waltzing with the woman on the barren dance floor.

She dug her visor into the crook of his neck, and shuddered as she heard the needle-sharp whispers of 'he's always been weird' and 'what the hell', fighting the urge to cover the ears that weren't there.

He would have kissed her neck at their wedding.

Shinra bolted up from his bed, kicking the heavy sheets back, wide awake and brow matted in sweat. The dream was a messy haze of nauseous colours tattooed at the back of his head as he untangled himself from his restraint of the blankets, nearly waking Celty in the process.

His stomach lurched and his throat scorched as he barreled down the lonesome hallway and staggered into the toilet in time to vomit that night's sushi dinner and the fortune cookie slip he had swallowed offhandedly.

He was supposed to be twenty-one this year, a real man, someone dependable, who would be good enough for Celty, no longer a pitiable weakling. But the words stared back at him, and he felt the near urge to throw up developing in his bowels, had the accumulation of scalding tears not overcome him.