Author's Note: as stated in the summary, this story is femslash. All characters, settings, and so forth are the property of the creators. This story is based on the Chobits manga, not the anime, in case of any significant differences in plot or characters. I haven't watched the anime for a long time, so I'm not sure how much is different.
Thanks for reading; hope you enjoy the story.
Part 1: How Long Have I Been Sleeping
When Yumi walked home, she took the longer way, because the short way took her past Chiroru, and she couldn't risk seeing Mister Ueda.
Time healed all wounds, her mother told her. Her mother also always used that little tone of disapproval whenever she spoke about such things; Yumi knew why. Her relationship with Mister Ueda, so much older than her, was one her mother never approved of. Yumi's heart clenched as she remembered the look on his face when she told him she had to break up with him. The look her mother wore afterward had been one of sympathy but quiet approval.
Yumi shook her head, and told herself to stop thinking about that. It wouldn't do her any good, and she didn't want to arrive home with tears in her eyes. Her parents would only start asking questions, and the first one would be about Mister Ueda.
So Yumi walked the longer way, past the small apartments and–
Something across the street caught her eye, something bright in the streetlights.
Yumi blinked, wiped a few tears from her eyes, and looked again. Something lay in the garbage, waiting to be picked up, something shaped like a person. Yumi gasped and ran over. What was a person doing in the trash? Could something have happened? She could call the police, she–
No, it wasn't a person, she realized as she drew nearer. It was a persocom.
It looked like a girl about Yumi's age, maybe a year or two younger, with pale skin and long, light blonde hair and devices of white and pink where its ears should be. Its eyes were closed, and something about its face made it look peaceful, not just turned off, like persocoms did when they were in sleep mode. It was all bound up in white cloth, like whoever threw it out didn't want its arms and legs flopping around all over the trash.
But who would throw out a persocom, Yumi wondered. They were too useful, and it seemed like everyone had one. Maybe this was an older model, and someone got rid of it when they upgraded. But it didn't look like any of the ones she saw in school.
She leaned in closer and looked. No signs of damage or anything like that. Yumi reached out, tentative, and poked at it. The persocom didn't move. She made a nervous giggle, then tried to pick it up. The persocom weighed more than she thought, and after a moment, she had to set it back down. But, she thought, she couldn't just leave it here . . . could she? Or maybe . . . should she?
Yumi leaned back and let her breath out slowly, then nodded to herself. She turned and ran for home.
The house where she lived with her parents and stepsister was big enough for all of them, she thought; if there was room for the family persocom and her sister's, there would be room for another one. Not that she'd normally pull something out of the trash. But something about it . . . why would someone just leave it? And why did she feel like she had to know?
Yumi shoved the questions aside as she dashed through the front door, called out, "I'm home!", then hurried for the kitchen. "Mom, are you there?"
"Good evening, Yumi," her mother said, stepping out of the kitchen, drying her hands on a towel. She stood taller than most women, with grey hair coming in around her temples, and carried herself with a kind of quiet dignity, even when she was doing something like washing dishes. "How was – oh, you didn't take your shoes off-"
"Is Dad here?" Yumi asked quickly. "Someone threw a persocom in the trash, and I can't lift it by myself." She looked around, turned to face the stairs. "Dad! I need your help!"
"What's all this about?" Yumi's mother asked, concern making wrinkles on her brow. "We have a persocom, Hanako does quite well for us-"
"Something's the matter, Yumi?" her father asked as he descended the stairs. Much like her mother, he was going grey, and he looked every inch the successful businessman save for his thick beard. Even here at home, he still wore a collared shirt and slacks; it seemed like all he did to relax was take his tie off. He was her step-father, in truth, but after a few years she thought of him as her dad, and his daughter her sister. "Did something happen at work?"
Yumi shook her head. "Nothing like that," she said. "But someone threw away a persocom, a few blocks away, and I don't want to leave it there. Can you help me bring it back here?"
As Yumi watched, her parents exchanged a significant look. They knew how she felt about human-shaped persocoms, just as they knew what happened with Mister Ueda. It sometimes seemed like everyone knew. She waited, holding back words and the urge to hurry, until her parents made a decision.
Her father put a hand to his greying beard. "Why do you want to bring home something that someone threw away?" he asked. "If it's in the trash, there must be a reason for it. It's probably just broken."
"I know," Yumi said, "but . . . ." She sighed. "I kind of . . . feel sorry for it," she admitted, her voice growing quiet. "Most people want to be around their persocoms all the time, but this one, it's just tied up in the trash. I think someone found a new model and wanted to get rid of it." She looked up at her father, forced herself to smile. "Can I just see if it still works? Please? I'll get rid of it if it doesn't."
Yumi's parents looked at each other again, and Yumi waited. It seemed like they could talk without talking sometimes; her mother once said part of why she wanted to marry the man was because he always seemed to know what she was thinking, and vice-versa. So there was no need for Yumi to say anything. They would make up their minds together.
"We'll see if it works," her father said after a long moment. Her mother just sighed, and returned to the kitchen. "Show me where it is."
"Thank you!" Yumi turned and hurried out of the house, her father following at a more sedate pace.
It didn't take long to reach the apartments again, and Yumi let out a small gasp when she saw the persocom still laying atop the bags of trash. "It's still here!" she called to her father, waving for him to hurry up. "I tried to lift it, but it's too heavy for me!"
Her father adjusted his stiff collar as he walked up to the trash, then cleared his throat as he examined the persocom. "It's not any model I've seen before," he said, half to himself. "Must be one of the newer ones." He crouched, then lifted the persocom under its legs and back, grunted as he stood. "Or an older one . . . much heavier than usual. . . ."
Yumi walked close behind him as they returned home. What was it about this one, she thought. What she told her parents was true, of course; she did want to see if it worked, as there was something odd about finding a persocom in the trash. It looked like one of the more expensive models, but new ones came out so quickly these days, she couldn't be sure. Hopefully she'd find out when they got home.
Her father struggled to carry the persocom through the front door, then grunted again when Yumi asked him to take it to her room. She promised to make cookies as a thank-you, which made him smile.
Yumi's bedroom wasn't large, and a desk and western-style bed took up most of two walls. Her rabbit-shaped persocom sat on her desk, pink and shiny, its large eyes dark. A monitor sat next to it, so she could do homework there. A large bookshelf stood at another wall, filled with books from school and for fun, along with a few stuffed animals and framed pictures. Her closet doors stood half-open, showing her school uniforms hanging there as well as a spare outfit for her work at Club Pleasure.
Once in her room, Yumi's father gently set the bound persocom down on the floor, then stood and pulled out a handkerchief to mop the sweat from his brow. "That had better be some persocom," he said, "to be worth all this." He chuckled at his own joke, then looked to Yumi. "Can you handle it from here?"
"Of course!" Yumi said, giving him her most hopeful look. "The switch should be in her ear units, they usually are."
"Be careful," her father said, pointing a finger at her. "Don't tell it anything personal or give it any important information until you've run a full diagnostic on it. Someone could have loaded it full of viruses in hopes someone else would take it home." He gave her a stern look, and Yumi nodded as he left her room.
Yumi shut the door behind him, then turned and looked at the strange persocom once again. Here, in the light of her bedroom, the persocom seemed paler, but more natural than under the streetlight, and she saw its hair was white, not blonde. Its skin looked almost perfect, like it was really human; Yumi touched it and found it felt much the same. If she hadn't known– No, don't think about it that way, Yumi told herself. Persocoms were machines, even if they did most things better than humans.
Time to see if this one still worked.
Yumi fiddled with the ear units until one opened, a motion that reminded her of a clamshell. She frowned. What was this? The connections seemed standard, but she saw no sign of a switch of any kind, not in the usual place. She thought for a moment, then checked the other ear unit.
Nothing. No switch, nothing to indicate how the persocom should be turned on or even a brand name. Was this a custom job? Some of the boys at school talked about how they wanted to build custom persocoms, though most of that was bragging about how each of their 'coms was going to be more powerful and sexier than anything the others could build. She shook her head at the thought.
So if the switch wasn't in the ear units, Yumi thought, was it somewhere on the body? She tugged down the straps around its shoulders, unwound them from its arms. There wasn't a mark on the persocom, nothing to show why someone threw it away. It wasn't even dirty. And there still was no sign of an on switch.
If this was a custom job, Yumi thought again, the maker might have put the switch somewhere . . . Yumi winced. Some guys were like that about their persocoms. Whether or not they loved them–
Don't think about that, she told herself again, and pulled down the cloth winding around the persocom's small breasts. They looked . . . normal, she thought; nothing special about them. She'd seen their family's persocom, Hanako, without any clothes on when she helped her father make some adjustments to her joints, so this sort of thing wasn't new to her. And again, there was nothing to suggest any kind of switch.
Yumi glanced down to the persocom's legs and wondered again.
"No, they wouldn't do that," she murmured, yet still wondered if it could be true. She'd heard rumors about persocoms designed for that sort of thing, or customized for it. And jokes about it, lots of jokes, usually about someone who couldn't get a real girl so he settled for his 'com. But why would someone put the on switch there? Did they not want anyone else . . . turning the persocom on?
There was only one way to find out, she told herself. And if there wasn't a switch there, she'd just say she hadn't looked there, because it didn't seem like anyone would put the switch there. Good enough. Yumi reached down, wondered for a moment if she should apologize, then felt around. Her fingers found something, and she pushed.
The persocom's eyes opened, and a light shined from within them, so much that its entire body seemed to be glowing. It lifted itself halfway up, and Yumi stumbled back, raised one hand to shade her eyes as the glow grew brighter. As the persocom started to move, the cloth wrapped around it came undone, falling to the floor. Yumi stared against the glare. Was she imagining things, or was the persocom's hair lifting up on its own?
And then, all at once, the glow stopped, and the persocom looked at Yumi with wide amber eyes. "Chi?" it said, its voice childlike.
"Chi?" Yumi repeated. "What – what's that mean?"
"Chi?" The persocom blinked at her, as though unsure, then crawled a little closer. "Chi."
There was something about the look in her eyes, Yumi thought, something she'd never seen in a persocom before. "Are you all right?" Yumi asked. Didn't persocoms say something like 'Hello' when you first turned them on? Weren't they supposed to?
"Chi?" The persocom paused, then leaped forward and tackled Yumi to the floor, arms tight around her shoulders. "Chi!"
"What-" Yumi struggled for a moment, but the persocom didn't seem angry or hostile, just . . . affectionate. It nuzzled against Yumi's neck, a smile fixed on its face. "What are you doing?"
"Chi. . . ." was all the persocom said, and did not let go.
Yumi stared at the ceiling, hardly able to believe what was happening. What sort of persocom was this?
Before she could figure anything out, someone knocked on her door. "Yumi?" her father's voice said. "I heard a thump. Are you all right?"
"I – I'm fine!" Yumi called. She started to sit up, felt the persocom's weight on her chest, and pushed at one pale shoulder. The persocom hardly moved. "Get up, please," Yumi said quietly, hoping her dad wouldn't hear.
The persocom pulled back a bit, still leaning on Yumi, and looked down at her. Something like curiosity filled its eyes, as though it had no idea what the problem was. "Chi?"
"Is that all you can say?" Yumi asked, but before the persocom could answer, her father opened the door. "Dad, I think-"
Yumi's father stopped halfway through the door, his eyebrows raised, and stared at the two of them. It was a moment before Yumi realized how strange this must look. Her on the floor, halfway pinned-down by a naked persocom. . . . She managed to laugh.
"She kind of fell over when I turned her on," Yumi said. "I didn't want her to get broken, so I tried to save her, and she fell on me."
"Chi," the persocom said.
"I think there's something wrong with her," Yumi said, trying to change the subject as quickly as she could. "She didn't say 'Hello' or anything like that when I turned her on, all she's said is 'chi'."
The persocom gave her a bright smile. "Chi!"
"Interesting," her father said with a frown. He walked into Yumi's room, and knelt next to the persocom as Yumi wriggled out from under her. "Did you find a serial number, or a brand name?"
"Nothing," Yumi said, shaking her head. "She looks normal, but I don't know who made her, or if she can say anything else. Maybe that's why she got thrown out, if she can't talk like a normal persocom."
Her father popped open the persocom's ear unit, peered inside while the persocom tried to turn and look at him. "Stop that," he said, "I'm trying to inspect you."
"Chi." The persocom started to pull away, stopped when Yumi put a hand on her shoulder.
"It's okay, he just wants to look," Yumi said, then paused when she realized what she was doing. Why . . . why was she trying to comfort a persocom? She'd talked to the persocom like she was a child or something, like she was scared. But then, the persocom leaned closer to her, and seemed to calm down.
"There really isn't anything in here," her father said, then closed the ear unit. "Is it the same on the other side?"
Yumi nodded. "Do you think she's a custom one?"
"That might be it." Her father stood with a strained noise, made a quiet joke about getting older. "I don't have to go to the office tomorrow, so I'll take it into see Mutou down at the service shop. He'll be able to figure out what's wrong with it." He started toward the door, then looked back over his shoulder. "It's not much smaller than you. See if some of your old clothes will fit it."
Yumi nodded, then looked back to the persocom as her father left. "Is 'chi' really all you can say?" she asked.
"Chi?" The persocom looked confused, as though she didn't understand why she should say anything else.
"Looks like it." Yumi sighed, then did her best to smile. "Looks like I'll have to wait until tomorrow to see why you can't talk." She pointed at herself. "Yumi. I'm Yumi. Can you say 'Yumi'?"
"I guess not," Yumi said with a small laugh. "Don't worry. We'll figure you out." And again, she wondered, why did she feel the need to comfort this one. . . .