Experiment Log #2
- Animal Ears.Fandom:
Tiny god/linefaced lieutenant.Words:
Let the record show...that Pao-Lin once grew mouse ears and a tail.Rating:
M for Mouse!Notes:
Luceti recently introduced “barrier incompatibilities”
as another option for players to explain character absences if they need to hiatus. Technically, such incompatibilities are limited to what’s listed in that link, but for the sake of this fic I took some liberties, since it would be easier than trying to retrofit this Shift into an experiment.
...no, but seriously, will you look at how fucking precious Mouse-Lin is
? Hubert never stood a chance.
By Luceti standards, Pao-Lin spontaneously sprouting delicate white mouse ears and an equally delicate mouse tail one day was pretty much par for the course when it came to Shift effects (in this case, barrier incompatibilities). Actually, given the weirdness they’d had to endure as of late, this was downright normal in comparison.
So why was the sight of her today almost too much for Hubert to handle?
“Are you okay, Hubert?” Pao-Lin asked, leaning in a little. “You seem kinda upset.”
“It’s nothing!” he insisted, shaking his head. “Nothing at all.”
“Then how come you won’t look at me?”
He dared a glance, then, as if one quick glimpse would make up for the fact that he had been avoiding looking at her as much as possible for the entirety of their current conversation. Pao-Lin, sitting cross-legged at his side, gazed back at him with a concerned (or dejected?) pout on her face, her hands set firmly down in front of her. Her mouse ears were drooping a little.
...her mouse ears
why did he suddenly find it hard to breathe normally.
“Well, it’s...” An incredibly idiotic reason that will sound even more idiotic should I speak it aloud.
“Come on,” she pleaded. “Is it something I did? You have to tell me if it is.” Her tail flicked back and forth as she spoke. Hubert wished his heart would stop jumping into his throat with each flick. “I know I’m dumb sometimes when it comes to that kind of thing, so...”
“You’re not dumb,” Hubert said automatically. “And it isn’t your fault. You can’t help it.”
“So it is
something I did?”
Hubert mentally smacked himself for not thinking through his words better. In his (feeble) defense, he found it hard to think clearly with Pao-Lin looking like that
. “No, it’s not!”
Pao-Lin huffed. “Hubert, you’re not making any sense!”
No...he supposed he wasn’t. Hubert pressed a hand to his face with a sigh as he tried to come up with an acceptable excuse for his distress. But such evasions were getting more difficult to pull off lately, for Pao-Lin was becoming increasingly attuned to Hubert’s emotional wavelengths.
Far from being chagrined, though, he should be relieved, even pleased by this. After all, he’d chided her multiple times to be more mindful of others’ feelings, whether his own or someone else’s. It seemed she was learning. And didn’t Malik say once that honesty was the hallmark of a healthy relationship? Surely then Hubert should be more than willing to admit what had been bothering him today.
Instead, his confession tumbled out of him as graceless as someone slipping on ice:
A stunned silence.
“H-huh?” exclaimed Pao-Lin. And then a few moments later: “...I don’t get it.”
Of course she didn’t, because that would have been the easy way out of this conversation. “You...you just are, all right?” Hubert snapped, crossing his arms and turning around, wishing that he could be mysteriously teleported elsewhere in the next few seconds. Such a phenomenon had occurred at least twice in the village already; it wasn’t a stretch to think it could happen again.
There was more surprised sputtering from Pao-Lin’s end. “W-well...you’re
cute when you’re embarrassed!” she shot back, as though returning an insult.
That was not the response he expected. “I beg your pardon?” he said, giving her an incredulous look.
“Well...” Her indignant frown morphed into a tiny, mischievous smile. “You’re usually so cool all the time, like nothing really gets to you. So it’s cute when you’re flustered.”
Hubert thought that he must be giving Pao-Lin quite the show, then, considering that — try as he might — he could come up with no response to that except fidgeting and disgruntled noises. Is he supposed to be flattered that she found his discomfort personally entertaining (as some of his housemates appeared to)? On the other hand, she did say he was cool, which was...well...cool
. He never got tired of hearing her say that. “I can’t say I understand you,” Hubert finally managed.
“I guess we’re both confused, then.” Pao-Lin reached out and swatted him gently on the arm. “You really had me worried, though. I thought I made you mad again.”
“Sorry,” Hubert mumbled. “I suppose I just...I wasn’t sure how you’d take such a comment.” A half-truth, to be sure, but it was better than a complete lie. And better than admitting that he was simply awful at giving compliments. “It never seemed to be something you considered personally favorable.”
She scratched her cheek. “Well, no, but...” She ducked her head shyly, her tail curling around her and resting on her thigh. “It sounds nice when you
Hubert stared at Pao-Lin for a few moments. When no hint of alarm crossed her face, he concluded that his head had not, in fact, suddenly exploded from such a painfully precious moment, despite his mind insisting on that very reality. “W-would you like me to say it more often, then?” he asked tentatively.
She waved her hands. “No, no, nothing like that! Just...I promise I won’t get mad or anything if you want to tell me that.” She leaned in again. “But I mean it. I don’t get why you think I’m cute.”
That was definitely a throat-clearing noise Hubert just made, and most certainly not a choked-on-saliva sound. “Erm, well...” How to explain something that he found self-evident...should
he even explain it in the first place? Pao-Lin was not as sensitive to this sort of topic as other teenage girls, but that didn’t make this any less of a tricky situation to navigate. Her peeves were simply different from most of her peers. Besides, wasn’t he due to be mysteriously teleported elsewhere in Luceti by now?
“You’re earnest, for one thing,” he settled on saying.
Hubert nodded. “You put yourself into everything that you do, and you’re very honest about your emotions. It’s” — not “childlike,” it was true but he couldn’t say that to her face — “refreshing to see, since many people aren’t like that. Such a rare trait is only enhanced by your petite stature.” And those ears.
Pao-Lin didn’t seem particularly pleased by that last part, and no understanding eased her perplexed expression. “Okay, but...how did that make you not want to look at me? Don’t people usually like looking at cute things?”
“I merely thought it would impolite to stare so much.”
“You weren’t staring at me at all,” she pointed out.
“I meant in theory.” Or something. Hubert wasn’t even sure what he was saying anymore.
Some revelation must have made itself known to Pao-Lin then, however, because after a few seconds she suddenly turned bright pink and buried her face in Hubert’s shoulder, clinging to his arm. He thought about asking what the matter was with her, but in truth he was glad for the lull in the conversation. Maybe now he could regain a few shreds of composure....or maybe not
, he thought as he caught a glimpse of Pao-Lin’s mouse ears flattened against her head in embarrassment. They were close, much too close to him with the way she was resting against his arm. It was making his heart race and his fingers twitch and despite his best efforts to focus on something else his eyes kept getting pulled back to them.
Hubert inhaled deeply. For goodness’ sake, what was wrong with him? One would think he hadn’t learned the art of self-discipline at Strahta’s top military academy. He truly was growing soft here in Luceti, if he could be rendered incapacitated by a mere set of mouse ears. ...well, a mere set of mouse ears attached to a girl he’d grown to love, admittedly. A very adorable girl. Currently clinging to his arm. Who was also wagging her tail behind them, tapping out a slow, syncopated rhythm on the back of the bench when it wasn’t brushing across Hubert’s back.
He lost it.
“May I please touch your ears?” he asked. Asked
, not begged. It would only be begging if there were a note of desperation in his request. Which there absolutely was not.
Pao-Lin glanced up with a startled look, her mouse ears wiggling inquisitively and tail posed at attention. “Hm? What for?”
He pushed up his glasses with a finger. “I’m just...curious about them. That’s all.”
She reached up with a hand to check. “Well, they’re soft,” she announced. “Kinda furry, too.”
That wasn’t helping him quell the urge to touch them himself. Thankfully, Pao-Lin must have sensed that somehow, because she simply smiled at him, picked up his hand, and plopped it onto her head.
Well. He hadn’t been intending such rough handling for fragile-looking appendages. Hubert lifted his hand and strove for a more gentle touch, brushing his fingers along the outer edge of one pale ear. True to Pao-Lin’s word, it was
soft and furry — not that he expected anything else, really. Hubert ran his palm along the ear’s entirety, watching with fascination as it flopped back up again past his fingertips. He repeated the gesture a couple of times before Pao-Lin suddenly giggled.
“Oh...I think now I know why dogs and cats like having their ears scratched,” she said.
Hubert felt himself go red. “Y-you like this?”
“Yeah! It feels nice.” There was that mischievous smile of hers again. “You should’ve asked earlier, silly.”
“How was I supposed to know — ” Hubert stopped himself and shook his head. “Never mind.”
Pao-Lin sidled up closer to him, sliding her arms around his waist in a manner he had by now grown quite accustomed to. Hubert repositioned his arm so he could more comfortably continue to pet her ears from behind. Common sense told him that this was a very silly activity to be engaged in and he should abort said activity this instant, but common sense seemed trivial (or, dare he say it, even silly
) in light of keeping Pao-Lin satisfied and entertained.
Okay, and maybe he was also a little too pleased about having a mouse-eared girlfriend for the day. But details.