Author's note: Thank you all for bearing with me. I recently moved states this past week and things have been a little hectic. I should be able to get back on schedule now. Forgive me if this chapter seems rushed. Thank you all again for your patience.
The sun rose slowly through the cold, sweeping the dark away lazily until only lingering shadows remained in the grey winter morning. Despite the bitterness Giroro rose and stretched, running a hand across his arm. It was strange to think of how natural a pekoponian body had become to him in just a few days. Even now as he looked out across the snow, hard crusted with diamond ice he realized just how much he missed the benefits awarded to him through the pekoponian body.
With a sigh he sat back down, absently adjusting the belt across his chest. This would be his last day as a pekoponian, his last chance to tell Natsumi how he truly felt about her. "And what then?" The nagging little voice in the back of his head asked. "What happens after if she feels the same way?" He felt the blush that had been only just abated return in force. The invasion, his – their love. Could it be possible? He couldn't see how, not without losing a part of himself so important that it would render him completely hollow were it gone.
Above him, warm beneath her covers Natsumi stirred, the sunlight falling into her eyes and making her groan. Slowly her eyelashes fluttered, then opened, hazel in the mornings light. The cold of the room made her pause and snuggle deeper beneath her blankets, her mind racing. The dance, Giroro, what did she feel for him. Was it real? How could it be, they weren't even the same species, not really and yet. She felt her heart flutter as she remembered the feel of his lips against hers and she furrowed her brow in sadness. They could never be. She knew that, somewhere deep in her heart, despite her longing for him that they were just too different.
With a groan she sat up, pushing her covers away and setting her feet against the cold floor. "No matter what." She said softly to herself. "No matter what, I will enjoy tonight." She crossed to her mirror and looked at herself, tears glistening in the corners of her eyes. "Even if it means I'm just that much closer to losing him." She punched the wall and pushed her emotions away again. Nothing would ruin tonight and that included herself.
. . .
"Wow Tamama we are gunna have such a great day!" Keroro said leading his companion down the street, swinging his arms wide. Tamama trotted alongside Keroro, broad smile pasted across his face.
"Hey Sarge? Do you think the lines'll be bad when we get there?" He asked innocently.
Keroro stopped short and held a hand up to his mouth. "Oh no, I hadn't thought of that. Maybe we should have gone there last night and camped out."
"I'm sure it'll be fine Sarge." Tamama grinned and bounced around his friend.
"You're right Tamama, I'm sure everything will be f…fine?" Keroro stopped short as they walked through the doors, his eyes growing wide. Lines, everywhere lines, stretching around corners and thru doorways. "This… this is too much! I am a Keronian Sear-"
"Sarge! Be quiet." Tamama rushed and covered Keroro's mouth, several of the persons in line turning to look at them for a moment before shrugging and turning away.
"Thanks Private, that would have been a huge disaster." Keroro tilted his head to the side and gave a huge smile making Tamama go weak in the knees.
"Of course Sarge." He managed to stammer out watching as Keroro ran ahead to join the ever growing line.
"Well come on Tamama. Let's go!" Keroro waved his friend over and almost collided with the nearest person. He only managed to stop himself short by less than a hair, turning to laugh as Tamama trotted up quickly to join him.
"Gee Sarge are you okay?" Tamama fretfully checked over his Sargent, feeling the irrational anger growing in his chest. The desire to obliterate the thoughtless pekoponian who had almost caused his friend harm.
"Ya I'm fine. Don't worry about it. Hey – you think we'll get to meet Yoshiyuki Tomoni?" Keroro practically squealed at the thought, prancing in place and lost in happiness.
Tamama too was lost, his feelings for Keroro had only grown more confusing in the time that they had become pekoponian. "I never used to blush like this… did I?" His mind wandered traitorously, taking in every detail of his Sargent. Embarrassed Tamama looked away, it wasn't fair the way the pekopinian clothes fitted to Keroro's body, or how handsome he was. "Or how deep and fascinating his eyes are." His mind spoke up again making Tamama shake his head.
"Tamama?" That voice made his stop in his tracks, heart in his throat, blue eyes raising to meet with green. "Are you okay?" He managed to nod nervously and fell quietly back into line behind Keroro leaving his friend looking at him with furrowed brow.
Ever so slowly the line the line began to move, the shadows of those in it reflected upon the windows as the snow danced outside.
. . .
Kululu sat in his chair in the laboratory, legs crossed and fingers tapping pleasantly together. There was much at stake today, the love between Natsumi and Giroro most importantly but the fledgling affections of Tamama for Keroro were nothing to sneeze at either.
"Love does make people so much more easy to manipulate." Kululu said out loud and laughed.
"Hey Kululu, what are you laughing at?" Aki asked as she finished hauling herself up the ladder to his seat.
"Aki!" Kululu recovered his composure quickly and moved his hand to lower the screens he had been looking at. With a sigh he decided against it, she might be a pekoponian but she was no fool. "Just what's going on between everybody." With her he dropped the act, there was no need to laugh and exaggerate his evil around her.
"Well this looks exciting." Aki moved closer, resting her and on the back of his chair. "Here, I brought you takeaway curry. I wasn't sure you'd eat today with Keroro not here to cook."
Taking the container from her he heartily dug in delighting in the fact that she had picked him up the hottest version that the store down the street sold. "Mm" he shoveled in another bite before looking up at Aki investigating the screens. "Not that I mind but what ARE you doing home?"
"Huh?" Aki turned and looked at him, the light from the screens highlighting her profile in the darkened room. "Natsumi told me she had a date for the dance tonight so I took the day off from work to help her get ready." Aki's shoulders slumped a bit. "I know I'm not there all the time, I just want to be there for her this once." She turned and looked back at the screen. "She didn't tell me who her date was though. Do you know?"
"Kukukukukuku Actually it's Giroro." Kululu reached out just beyond Aki and pressed another button on the console raising another window showing the nervously pacing Giroro.
Silence reigned in the room for a moment, so complete that Kululu found himself realizing just how loud the blinking of his eyes were. "Aki? Are you okay?"
"My little girl's dating a Keronian!? That is just" Kululu winced, waiting. "Perfect!" She gave a short squeak of excitement and danced a little. "This is great." She turned and looked down at Kululu. "The comic's been stagnating. This'll give it just the kind of twist it was lacking before." Quickly she hugged Kululu then raced from the room. "Keep me informed on how it's going okay?" She asked waving merrily as she disappeared through the door.
Kululu stumbled back into his chair, his skin warm on every place Aki had touched and a blush spreading across his cheeks. "One day Hinata Aki your secrets will be mine." He slumped back as though all the energy had drained from his body at once. "One day."
. . .
"Natsumi?" Aki knocked on the door of her daughters room, carefully opening it.
"Mom? What are you doing here?" Natsumi threw the dresses she had been looking at on the bed, embarrassed.
"I came to help you get ready." The older woman smiled and stepped into the room, gingerly stepping directly in front of the camera Kululu had installed in the wall.
Tears in her eyes Natsumi turned back to the bed and grabbed the hangers of the dresses she had placed there. "Which do you think?"
"Hmm… that one." Aki said pointing.
. . .
Back in his lab Kululu folded his arms in defeat. "You've won again Aki." With a swift movement he turned off the recording in Natsumi's room, leaving the screen blank.
"Kululu?" Giroro came into the room swinging his head to look for the yellow frog.
"Up here Giroro. What did you need?" A sinister smile began to creep across Kululu's face hidden by the back lighting of the screens.
"The dance tonight." Giroro looked down at the clothes he held and gave a light tug on the jacket. "I can't go in this." His voice softened "Natsumi deserves better than this."
Kululu stood, finger tips tapping together. "Come with me, I think I may have just the thing."
The pair of them walked down the hall, Giroro's usual caution around Kululu melting away with each step. "How are you finding being Pekoponian Giroro?" Kululu asked with a note of smug satisfaction in his voice.
"It's – it's fine." Giroro blushed and turned his head away.
"Really? Kukukukukukukuku, because I was under the impression that you were getting extremely comfortable in it."
"Wha?" Giroro stopped short and snarled, balling his hands into fists. "How dare you say something like that. I don't like being pekoponian at all, I'm only doing it so Keroro can go to his stupid gundam convention and so we can hopefully learn something that'll make taking over this stupid planet easier."
Kululu held up his hands in defense. "All right, no need to get so defensive about it." He began walking again and opened a side door along the hall. "I guess once this is over I'll use the gun for spare parts. No need to have it hanging around if nobody wants to be pekoponian. Ah here we are." He flicked on the lights, illuminating row after row of pekoponian clothes. "I'm sure you'll find what you're looking for in here."
Giroro started walking forward again, staring dejectedly at the floor. "Fucking Kululu." He whispered under his breath, shoulders slumping. The yellow keronian always knew just how to get to him. His sense of pride for his species and his desire to complete the mission were almost overwhelming, yet there in the back of his mind the nagging thought that if he could somehow become pekoponian he could stay with Natsumi, the object of his desire. The only being in the long years of his life to truly understand him, his equal. It tore at him, piece by piece until the seed of doubt Kululu had planted took root and festered in his breast.
"Just show me the clothes." He grumbled, setting his carefully created mask of disinterest back in place.
"Right this way." Kululu grinned as he walked down the aisles. He knew the turmoil Giroro was feeling. He expected he would feel the same regarding Aki if he weren't so crazy. "How lovely." He said mostly to himself.
"What was that?" Giroro stopped short as Kululu froze.
"Um, this here." A hand shot out and pulled a hanger from one of the racks. "Perfect. Created to stretch to anybody time. It's one of our few cross species pieces, but it sells really well back home." Kululu deposited it into Giroro's arms. "Best you get changed now."
"But – I don't have shoes or anything." Giroro protested as Kululu tried to push him back out of the room.
"Shoes." The voice was deadpan.
"Shoes, you know, the things pekoponians wear on their feet?" Giroro felt the pressure on his back release and he lowered his hands from the door frame.
"Yes you probably should have those. Alright – here." Kululu disappeared under several piles of clothes. "Ah – here they are. Designed in the same manner as the suit. You shouldn't have any trouble with these."
Giroro frowned. There was something unnamable in Kululu's eyes, and it made him less trustworthy than usual. Still uneasy at his inability to name the emotion he heard and saw in Kululu, Giroro nodded his thanks and left, trotting back down the silent hall to begin to get ready.
Kululu stood still as the door closed, waiting for the comforting thump before he ran his hands tenderly across the fabrics. "Now which way will he go?" He asked himself, grabbing a dapper grey waistcoat from its hanger and seeking out the rest of his outfit to go with his blond hair.
. . .
"Sarge. Sarge." Tamama lightly tapped the Seargents head. "Wake up Sarge. The lines moving."
Keroro jerked out of sound sleep, having leaned against the glass an hour again for what he swore was just resting his eyes. "Huh? What?" He held his hands out in front of him ready to attack. "What is it? Oh god don't eat me!"
"Um… Sarge?" Tamama tapped Keroro on the shoulder making the green eyed youth whip around. "The lines moving." He pointed and Keroro's arms dropped to his side.
"HAHAHA! Of course I knew that." Keroro blushed and rubbed the back of his head, practically dancing the few feet forward that the line had moved. "Gundams, gundams, I so love gundams."
"Feh, I bet you don't know the first thing about gundams. I bet you just say you love gundams." The voice cut the air from behind them making Keroro and Tamama turn around slowly to confront the person who had spoken.
The man gave a snorting laugh, his shirt riding up because of the layer of fat that had settled around his stomach. Leaning forward he got directly in Tamama's face, the blue haired boy holding his hands in front of his nose and mouth to try and keep the smell out.
"What did you say?" Keroro's eyes narrowed and he started to move past Tamama only to have the Private grab hold of his arm.
"You heard me. You. Don't. Really. Love. Gundams." The man laughed as Tamama struggled to contain the flailing Sargent.
"Come on Keroro, the lines moving." Tamama practically pleaded as he pushed his superior officer forward, the greasy man behind them laughing at the chaos he had created. It took several moments but finally Keroro stopped struggling.
Standing perfectly still, Keroro stared at the floor. "Consider yourself an enemy made clumsy Pekoponian. I will be the instrument of your destruction." The room around them chilled, several people both forward and backwards in line turning to peer at what they decided was the center of the disturbance. "Know now, that I shall not rest until you are soundly defeated." Keroro lifted his head to meet the man's gaze, shockingly green eyes boring into the sallow brown that tried to hold his gaze and failed.
When the man had looked away the pressure in the room lessened and Keroro turned back around in line.
"Sarge? Are you okay?" Tamama carefully reached out and put his hand on Keroro's shoulder.
"Perfectly fine." The smile Tamama got in return was enough to take his breath away. Seeing his Sargent regain some of the fire he had lost when they left Keron had made Tamama's heart flutter pleasantly and getting that smile directly after nearly sent him into shock. With butterflies in his stomach and an aching blush across his cheeks Tamama settled back in line, more thrilled to be there than anywhere else in the world.
. . .
The day waned on, the sun staying low in the sky though having burnt away the oppressive clouds that had started the day. It was in this freezing twilight that Giroro walked, still keronian and concealed by the cloaking device in his hat. There had to be more than just fancy clothes and dancing to win her heart, after all if Kululu could make a gun that could turn a Keronian into a Pekoponian he must be able to do the reverse.
"Maybe she'd want to become a Keronian…" Even in his mind it sounded foolish. He knew she wouldn't want to become something else, that the thought was just his brain feverishly grasping at any possible straws it could come up with. "I don't want to lose her." He said finally, leaning against a tree and slowly sliding down it. The pain in his heart making him draw his chest close to his knees. "I can't lose her." Tears welled in his eyes and here, alone and far from everyone he felt comfortable letting them flow. Despite his sorrow only a few tears fell, landing on his skin and freezing almost instantly into diamonds in the cold. "There has to be something else I can do for her, to show her just how much I care." He sniffed and stood again, wiping the remaining wetness away from his face. "And I know just the thing." With a determined nod he set off in a sprint towards the stores.
. . .
"Mom, do you really think this looks okay?" Natsumi looked down at her dress, smoothing her hands nervously over the fabric."
"It looks lovely." Aki's eyes welled with tears and she rushed forward to hug her daughter closely. "You're going to have a great time tonight sweety. I'll be waiting to hear all about it, so try and remember every detail!" Aki gave Natsumi's shoulders one last squeeze and let her go.
"Aki?" Kululu's voice from down the stairs made the women look at each other. "It's five, you wanted me to let you know…"
"Oh right!" Aki smiled at Natsumi. "Wait right here." With a flounce she darted from the room, waving and blowing a flirty kiss to Kululu as she passed the stairs. Within moments she was back, her normal work clothes replaced with a smart black cocktail dress and her hair cascading down around her shoulders. "What do you think?"
"Wow mom, you look great! What's the occasion?" Natsumi smiled and walked closer to look her mother over.
"I promised Kululu I'd take us out to dinner. In return he's promised to help me work out a new line of plush toys we're going to sell alongside the manga." She beamed making Natsumi giggle.
"Alright come on. Your dance started a few minutes ago, lets get you there." Aki grinned even wider, a cough from the bottom of the stairs making both of them turn their heads.
"Lady Natsumi?" Giroro's voice came hesitantly from below them. "Are you ready?"
"I'm almost ready Giroro, let me just clip this…" Natsumi's breath caught in her throat as she rounded the corner on the stairs, coming face to face with Giroro.
Feeling more confident than he was Giroro stepped forward and reached his hands behind her neck, taking the clasp of the necklace from her hands and gracefully interlocking them. He could feel the heat of her blush against his chest and could very nearly hear her heartbeat in his ears, though on reflection he realized it was probably his own that he heard. Coughing and stepping back he bowed low at the waist and held out his hand to her.
As she took his hand he felt his pulse jump, the electric signal seeming to affect her as well, making her shiver for just a moment. Giroro felt his eyes drawn to her again, the dark blue dress, a dainty ball gown drew his gaze across the curves of her chest, allowing exposure to her well-toned arms. The gathering of fabric at her hip brought his eyes lower despite his best intentions, below that the dress expanded, falling gracefully to the floor.
Natsumi may have been offended had she not been looking him over in the same way. Despite her best intentions her mind recalled the feel of his muscles moving against her when she stood pressed against his chest. The tuxedo was cut perfectly, outlining each and every one of the angles of his body. When he had bowed she had noticed the belt he always wore still across his chest. That small thing had made her smile, made the night seem not entirely in the realm of fantasy, but rather allowing her to feel comfortable on his arm.
The pair smiled at each other, oblivious to all others even as they pulled on their coats and left, leaving Aki and Kululu standing on the stairs and in the hall grinning broadly at each other as the two disappeared into the black.