A/N: A probably more apt title for this collection would be "Ridiculous Things Lacey Does When she Doesn't Want to Do her Homework", but that is prohibitively long. In any case, enjoy this rag tag bunch of one-to-two pagers. None of them are in continuity with each other unless otherwise stated, and they're all over the place in terms of tone.

.

Fading

.

The miniscule community of Cielo was the only town of its age that could brag about still having its founding father as one of its population. On top of that, it was the only town period for which that founding father was a machine.

When that first ragtag bunch of wanderers had stumbled upon the ruins that served as Cielo's foundation, cold and wet and skinny as bones, Wheatley had been there, tending a small patch of garden, apparently unperturbed by the rain, and he had taken them in, offering shelter and providing a veritable smorgasbord of canned or freeze-dried food.

They were so grateful for his kindness that they didn't stop to think why an inorganic being would bother to create such a stockpile.

That first band of travelers never left, and after a time another had shown up, and a third, and over the last 120 years what had started as a safe haven for the weary became a permanent farming settlement, and even if they were not exactly thriving, they were hardy, and happy.

Had Wheatley been human the townspeople would have worried that he'd work himself to death for their sakes; but his energy seemed boundless. He did everything he could for them, from helping with construction jobs to heavy lifting to simply dropping by for a visit and a (long, rambling) conversation.

He liked doing it. He liked these people, liked watching them go about their lives, liked seeing them happy. But still, more than anything he liked the fact that when he was working or celebrating a wedding or the birth of an infant he didn't have to think.

Because everything reminded him of her. Whenever he saw someone who he had held when they were barely bigger than a potato hobble down the road, bent and grey, he thought of her. Whenever someone baked a cake for any reason, or when it rained, or when the wheat crop came in, he thought of her.

And it still ached, a slow burning hollowness, to think of her.

It wasn't that he wasn't grateful for the time they had had, god was he ever grateful. He had never been quite so happy as he had been with her; the feeling of contentment had been almost fierce, even as it had become obvious that she was changing even as he stayed perpetually the same.

It had been the hair first. The once uniformly dark locks were, very suddenly it seemed, laced with strands of delicate silver. He had liked the effect, at first, before he understood the significance of it. Then it was the skin around her eyes. They had remained as bright as ever, but they were rimmed with small grooves that had only gotten deeper as more and more days past. Even more alarming was how she had grown frail and thin and listless, and it had seemed to happen so fast, even if he knew that the process had really been gradual.

It seemed like their time had slipped quicker and quicker through his fingers, those last months, days, hours, seconds scuttling away, far out of his reach and then it was over.

Her eyes had been the last thing to go, shining with that determined brightness, like stars, like the moon, like something as permanent as she was supposed to be.

He buried her in the yard of the decrepit house they had shared, and turned the surrounding plot into a little flower garden.

None of the citizens of his (and hers, he always added to himself, even if he could never hope to explain her to anyone) town knew the significance of that little flower garden, since expanded into a veritable maze of trees and parkland, the house, which he had abandoned, unable to stay there without her, converted into a university of sorts.

They had their theories, just like they had their theories about the town's name and the strange, unfamiliar tune that Wheatley was known to hum to himself, but few had the gall to ask him about it.

When someone did, and returned back to report to the others who were burning with curiosity, all they could say was that they had never seen someone look so wistful, so far away and sad.