First Impressions

She sees him around work occasionally. She always gets a kick out of it when she does; he's always the one bumbling about or carrying on or trying to juggle too many papers in his gangly arms. She doesn't make fun of him behind his back like some, but she doesn't exactly defend him either.

She likes him. He's easily likable, if you can get around the accident-prone curse that seems to follow him and the occasionally (okay, more than occasionally) idiotic statements that fall out of his mouth whenever he opens it. She doesn't care; she likes him, kind of in the way one might like a rather daft bird that can't comprehend the concept of a glass window. Besides, they're in much the same boat: he never stops talking and she never stops asking.

Their colleagues can get annoyed at the both of them for the things that they say. She feels a strange sense of camaraderie with him because of it, which is partly the reason she never stoops to taking cheap shots when he can't hear. Another reason is she'd never think of taking cheap shots, period. It simply would never cross her mind.

They've never actually talked beyond civil exchanges and the occasional awkward observation on the weather from him that she unintentionally and unconsciously shoots down. That never crosses her mind either - a lot of things don't cross her mind, and ironically they tend to be the important things. If told that she should go over and speak to him by his cubicle, she'd stare blankly and ask: Why? 'To be social' is hardly a valid reason. 'Because it's the nice thing to do' isn't either; he's not a charity fund and she respects him enough that she doesn't feel the need to throw him a bone. Unlike most everyone else, she actually listens and about once in a blue moon one of his ideas are genuinely interesting. Then again, near everything interests her.

It's on a slow day that they hold their first real conversation, because no one else she knows is about and he's not overly picky about who lends an ear, so long as someone does, even if it's only half of one. Most of the time he doesn't even get that, so he's pleasantly surprised when she gives him the whole of her attention and actually listens instead of making the idle 'hmm' or 'uh-huh's he's grown accustomed to.

She makes good points too, asking him why he thinks Aperture is secretly hoarding Asian elephants in the basement and to what extent, do you think, they're willing to go to keep their elephant fetish a secret. Where do they get the feed for the elephants? Where do the caretakers stow themselves? How many elephants, anyways? The questions are nearly endless. He would have thought she was having him on if she didn't look so genuinely curious.

By the end of the thirty-minute lunch break he's gesturing animatedly and she's half-leaning across the table, her eyebrows raised because she's delighted that he takes all her questions in stride and actually seems to like them. Her colleagues are looking at her funny because isn't that the moron and why is she talking to him? The one time someone tries to approach her to generously liberate her from his company they get harshly shot down in her unconscious manner, like she doesn't even realize she's doing it, and they decide she doesn't need their help anyways, she's fine.

They're genuinely curious though, and later in the labs she gets more than one thinly veiled inquiry on the topic of that scatterbrained man, which is entirely their choice of words.

For once she sees directly through the well-placed words, and an indigence rises in her on his behalf, although she's never minded or even noticed before how her colleagues disdain him. She does well to conceal it, playing dumb, although she rather enjoys sending their elected messenger away with their metaphorical tail between their legs. They won't think much of it; she has, after all, done this sort of social faux pas before, but little do they know that this time it's purely intentional. She plays her part well and hides her smile behind her clipboard.

The next time she sees him, she's walking at a clipped pace through the cubicles towards the labs on the complete other side of Aperture and there isn't opportunity for chitchat. She does, however, give him a small smile as she recognizes him, and he's too bewildered to return it until her white coat has whipped out of sight.

If he turns around in his chair to watch her go, no one comments.

The author implores the reader to consider the apocalyptic power of the protagonists if they chose to combine their capacities for vocalization. The author does not think the world would be able to withstand the barrage. The author trembles at what she has done.

What has she done.