"I don't have time."
"I don't LIKE movies!"
"EVERYBODY likes movies!" whined the blond boy. "Come on, please?"
"FINE," Rick finally huffed. "Just… just make it a short one. Somethin' about space. With like… robots an' fightin' an' stuff."
"EEEheeheehee…" The boy ran off to sift through the pile of DVDs. Rick scowled. This kid – Rick didn't even know his name, he was always in the Aperture Daycare Center, though – he never gave up. And he was ALWAYS talking about space. Apparently his dad was an astronaut. Good for him.
Aperture was starting to make some budget cuts, and the first jobs cut were the daycare workers. There weren't usually many kids, anyway. Most of them had outside babysitters, or family members to take care of them.
Rick SHOULD be testing right now. Or doing something else useful. Instead he had arrived at the testing track only to be sent away. For "mental health time" or some shit. Mandatory time off from testing, to be spent in the facility. Being useful. Thanks, Aperture. So instead of taking a nap, he had been steered towards the daycare center. Whoever thought THAT would be a good idea was an idiot.
The boy turned on the TV and popped in a disc with the practiced ease of one who did this many times a day. Then he ran up and showed Rick the case.
"It's got robots," the boy said eagerly. "In space. And there's some fighting later. You'll like it."
Rick shrugged. It looked safe enough. "Sure."
Small hands grabbed his big one and tugged him towards the big overstuffed couch. "Come on! Watch with me."
"Come on, come see! I'll draw you something."
So Rick let himself be dragged along. He found a spot to sit without too many suspicious stains, and the boy ran over and grabbed a battered old picture book of planets, a stack of paper, and a box of crayons. He climbed up next to Rick and quickly flipped through the previews and warnings.
Rick half paid attention to the movie. It was kind of cute. Pretty funny, for a kids' movie. And he watched the kid draw. Rick wasn't sure how old he was, so he didn't know if he was good for his age, but at least the drawings were recognizable. There were lots of robots and aliens and space ships.
…This was complete bullshit. He shouldn't be babysitting some brat, he should be testing. He needed that rush of a new challenge. And he took plenty of breaks. He sat down between tests, he got enough to eat and drink, and he slept as much as he needed to. It was just insulting to be sent away like this. And to be told he didn't take care of himself… He sure as hell did. He was in great shape. He pushed himself JUST enough. Not like he was gonna risk hurting himself or something. He glared at the TV screen.
And that poor little robot (so ugly that he was cute) finally found a friend. A hot little piece of robot ass. Rick chuckled a little. …For an animated robot, anyway. And he stayed with her. He stayed with her when she went dark. She… she might never wake up… And he was still there with her, staying close, keeping her safe just like he kept the plant and his little pet cockroach safe. And the whole fucking PLANET. GOD, that was a REAL hero. And he wouldn't let go of her, even when she was being taken up into space. Man, what Rick wouldn't give to have somebody to hold onto like that –
Rick jerked up, realizing he had been leaning forward on the edge of his seat, fists clenched. He sniffed hard and turned. "What?" he snapped.
Odd golden eyes stared back at him. "A-are you okay?"
"Wh – 'Course I'm okay! What kinda dumb question's THAT!? What the – I dunno what yer talkin' about!"
The boy regarded him seriously for a long moment. "…Dad says it's okay to like movies, but you gotta remember they're not real," he said quietly.
"Wha- I know! I know that. Anyway, it's just a dumb KIDS' movie. Who'd think it's real?" Rick scoffed quickly. "What're ya drawin' now, anyway?"
"It's me, going to space." The boy held up his paper. There was a rocket ship leaving Earth, with a smiling blond head in the window. The rest of the paper was scattered with stars and planets, with black crayon scribbled in between.
"That's… that's pretty good," Rick said cautiously, careful not to look at the TV again. Good thing those robots couldn't talk.
"Thanks!" The boy grinned toothily. "Now I'm gonna draw you."
"You do that." Rick watched him for a minute, then looked around the rest of the room. It was pretty bare. There were some old books, and toys that were too young for this kid… Rick found himself wondering what his mom did with all his old toys. Probably gave them away. He'd had all kinds of action figures, though. They were his favorites. And a huge collection of cars, he'd loved making tracks for them outside in the yard. His mom was always chasing him out of her garden. He remembered one time when they'd gotten a new refrigerator AND a new stove at the same time, he and his brothers and sisters had kept the boxes until they fell apart (even after being patched with duct tape. They'd been clubhouses, forts, spaceships, secret underground tunnels, ancient catacombs, monster hideouts, and mummies' tombs…
…Wait, now there were humans in the movie. They were supposed to all be gone – no, wait, they'd all been on the space station. Man, no wonder they were all fat, they all sat in those hover-chairs all day. Where were – oh, there was the ugly little guy. Man, he looked out of place. Now, how about his girlfriend…
…Oh. Oh god, they were TORTURING her! They – no, wait, she… she was okay. Good.
Rick completely lost track of time, and of everything else going on in the room. He sat staring at the TV, watching in rapt fascination, gasping and trembling and whispering encouragement.
By the end his breathing was coming in sharp, jagged sobs.
"C-c'mon. Y-y-you can't… Ya gotta remember everything," he stammered, sniffling and wiping his sleeve over his face. "C'mon, wake up! You… You just SAVED all those people, every person left i-in the WORLD! You saved the plant, an' yer little cockroach loves ya, an' yer a hero… An'… An' godDAMN it, Eve LOVES ya, you gotta snap out of it, man!" He sniffled again and wiped his eyes. "Damn, she loves you, yer her hero, all those people need ya… Oh… there ya go… C'mon, pal. That's it. Yeah." A shaky smile trembled its way through the tears. "S-see? Now… now everything's gonna… gonna be fine. Y-you c'n live forever. With Eve. An'… an' all those people. Yer gonna help 'em, cause yer a fuckin' HERO." He sniffed loudly.
"Dad says those are bad words."
"You said bad words. You can't say those words."
"I-I… Uh…" He swallowed and wiped at his nose.
"Even when you're mad, dad says. You have to say good words. Why are you crying?"
"H- I… I'm not cryin'!" Rick wiped furiously at his eyes, but couldn't seem to stop.
"It's not sad," the boy said seriously. "It's a happy movie. See? They're all happy!"
"I KNOW it's a happy movie!" Rick shouted. "Just… mind yer own business, kid!"
"It's okay to be sad," the boy said, and patted Rick sympathetically.
"I'm NOT… Who the – Rrrg… Who… cries at a f- at a stupid kids' movie, anyway?" Rick mumbled, still wiping at his face. "It's dumb. I… I've got allergies. All the… dust in here. That's all!"
Little arms wrapped around Rick. "Dad says it's okay to cry and be sad sometimes," came a soft, calm voice near his ribs. "It's okay."
Rick tried to push the boy away, but not very hard. After a minute he just gave up and hunched over, burying his head in his hands. After a while the boy's hug turned into awkward patting.
"U-um… Are you… okay? Do you want me to get somebody?"
Rick shook his head hopelessly, pushing the boy away again. He wasn't even that sad. Not THIS much, anyway. That movie hadn't been all THAT sad. He didn't even know why he was crying. It was just stupid, it was ALL stupid.
A little hand tapped at him from a different angle, and Rick took a shaky breath and looked up. The boy stood offering a cup uncertainly.
…This was dumb. And completely… just… useless. Especially in front of this kid. He shouldn't be doing this. He took a deep breath, grabbed the cup, and downed the water in two gulps. Then he started choking and coughing. He slowly he got his breathing under control and wiped his face for the last time.
Golden eyes stared at him. "Are you okay?" the boy asked again.
"I… yeah. Yeah, I'm fine. Thanks… fer the water," Rick muttered. He didn't feel fine. He felt strange. He didn't know how to describe it. Kind of sad and scared and empty.
"I made you this. It's me and you." The boy offered him the latest picture, and Rick took it, frowning at how his hands still trembled. It was a picture of two astronauts, one short with yellow hair and one tall with dark brown. Their space suits were connected to a space ship, and they were smiling on a planet. There were asteroids zooming by.
"Th-that's pretty good, kid."
"You can keep it if you want," the boy said generously.
"I can make another." He shrugged matter-of-factly, then looked curiously up at the man. "Do you have to go soon?"
"Oh – uh… I dunno." Rick looked at his watch. "I guess I prob'ly should."
"Will you come back?"
The test subject hesitated. "I dunno. I'm real busy most 'a the time."
The boy deflated a bit. "Too busy to come back and play," he said dejectedly.
Rick frowned slowly. "…Ya know what? They said I gotta take more breaks anyway. So maybe I will."
"Maybe?" asked the boy despondently.
"…No, I'll do it. I'll be back. An' NEXT time, no sittin' around watchin' dumb movies! Next time we're goin' on an adventure, got it?"
"An ADVENTURE?" asked the boy gleefully, all sadness forgotten. "What kind of adventure?"
"Well we c'n go explorin', hunt fer treasure, fight off armies 'a mantis men an' evil robots… There's all kinds 'a sh – stuff we c'n do! Yer here a lot, right?"
"Every day!" the boy said with a desperate eagerness.
"Okay, then I'll make sure to come get ya fer an adventure some time! Maybe next week? I dunno how often I'll get over here. I'll let ya know, though."
"Really?" he was shaking with excitement now. "You really want to!?"
"'Course I do! How many adventures do I get to go on? An' I'll bet yer pretty good in a tight spot!"
"I am! Oh, I will be! I'm SO good!"
"Perfect!" Rick rubbed the blond hair. "It's a deal then." He stuck out his hand. "Adventure buddies?"
"Eeeeee, YEAH!" The boy grabbed his hand and started jumping up and down, shrieking joyfully.
"Whoa, kid, calm down!"
"ADVENTURES, I can't wait, I can't wait, we'll have adventures, you'll come too, I can't wait, and we – Can we go to space?" His yellow eyes shone.
"…Sure, kiddo. We'll go to space."
The boy flew at him, hugging him tightly. Rick smiled, patting his back. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad to take more breaks… Kids weren't that bad, really. Not this one, anyway.