Title: The Things That Stay With You
Pairing: Buttercup/Ace
Rating: G
Parts: One-shot
Disclaimer: Only the words assembled in this particular order are mine.
Summary: You never forget your first. Buttercup is no exception.
Notes: Dedicated to all the Ace/Buttercup shippers on my flist. Read Kanashimi-chan's Buttercup/Ace ship manifesto for research/reference. Also wanted to play around with 2nd person POV. Unbeta'd.

The Things That Stay With You

-sbj

It happens because the Professor relents and says, "You know what? Sure," when you ask if you can turn on the radio. You grant him a wide smile before punching the button.

He instantly reaches for the dial and twists it. "But not too loud, Buttercup," he warns. "No changing the station once you're on the road, either."

"Yes, Professor." You nod, adopting a serious expression as you locate your favorite station.

You drive the car into town without a hitch, eyes always on the road and wary of your turn signals, your gear shifting, the stoplights, the other cars and pedestrians. With your dad sitting beside you in the front seat, exercising caution is a necessity, no matter how much you may want to floor it. Driving is a privilege at this point—a big one, and one you want to keep. The flimsy paper driver's permit has been burning a hole in your back pocket since the DMV clerk handed it over almost two days ago. For maybe the first time in your life you pray there won't be a call from the Mayor's office. God help the unlucky villain who tries to cut into your driving time.

The Professor directs you—a left turn here, slight right here, watch the pedestrian—until you pull into a space directly in front of his bank's ATM (parallel parking is not your forte, but you manage), place the station wagon in park, and let it idle as he jumps out.

The song on the radio is ending; you hum along until it fades out and the next fades in. You pause, and furrow your brow. You know this song.

The tempo is fast and the bass pounds like a jackhammer. It's the kind of song that is not to be played, but blasted. A title doesn't come to mind. But you know it. What—

A lightness in your chest, suddenly, along with the smell of dust, dust that is caked on old wood, soft with slight rotting. Not disgusting, though—comforting. You like that smell. Liked that smell.

The lights were a dim yellow that made your skin glow, your green dress brighter. He was messing with the stereo, cranking it up. At home you weren't allowed to turn the volume up that high—the Professor and your sisters would yell at you. Watching Ace spin that dial all the way to the right filled you with a reckless sort of excitement—you weren't supposed to do that. You weren't even supposed to be here.

You sensed something at your feet, and you kicked at a skittish roach, your prim Mary Janes upsetting little clouds of dust as you did so. A shadow on the floorboards drew close, and you looked up, your heart quickening and your throat going tight as Ace approached.

"Man, I love this song!" he exclaimed, and you beamed and nodded vigorously. Ace liked a lot of cool stuff. You liked it too.

You liked...

He started dancing, jumping around like a crazy person, and you stifled a giggle.

"Hey kid, don't you wanna dance?"

Your heart skipped a beat every time he talked to you. It was okay when he called you 'kid.' You didn't even mind. It sounded nice, coming from him.

His question didn't register at first. But then he offered you his hand, and you blinked, feeling a sudden heat in your cheeks. You didn't want him to see, so you looked away, out the window.

Before your eyes fell on the glass he twisted you away, turned you back to him, and kissed you.

You remember your heart stopped completely. You remember his dry lips brushing against yours, how his barely-there whiskers tickled your skin.

You remember how very much a little girl you suddenly felt at that moment, how vulnerable and petrified you were, and how very much a grown-up he seemed, or at least a big kid—big enough to date, to drive a car, to kiss girls. You? You had naptime after lunch and played kickball at recess.

The room smelled like dust over slowly rotting wood, and the light was a dim yellow that brightened the green of your dress, his skin.

Really, he'd only brushed his lips against yours, but it was still lips on lips. A first kiss is a first kiss.

You felt numb with shock as he pulled away. He had kissed you. Ace had kissed you.

"Come on, Buttercup," he said, grinning. "Let's dance."

Your happiness, your delirium overwhelmed you. You danced and jumped and didn't care how crazy you looked, because Ace had kissed you and called you 'kid' and said your name and kissed you, he had kissed you, you, you.

You remember your fist connecting with the wall, and then—

"Buttercup!" the Professor shouts, and you jump.

"Y-yeah?" you croak, blinking furiously as the memory fades, yellowing at the edges like the light in that awful room.

"Are you okay?"

You sweep your hair back out of your face, your hand brushing against the cold sweat collecting at your hairline.

"I'm fine," you say, and clear your throat. "Sorry. I was... distracted by the radio." After a moment's thought, you punch the button, and the music dies. "It won't happen again."

The Professor settles back, still looking worried, so you steel your shoulders and expression as you start the car. A tickle ghosts across your upper lip, and you scrape your teeth across it, hoping vindictively that these days he has the sense to shave instead of trying to grow out that pathetic excuse of a mustache.

"It won't happen again," you repeat, resolutely, determinedly, and put the car into drive.

-fin-