That Thing With
:3c / B|Words:
She just can’t resist.Rating:
F for Fuzzy. Or Fluff. ...Fluzzy?Notes:
Initially intended to be pure fluff, this fic took a bit of a dark turn once certain developments
happened in Luceti. Yikes.
She only intends to brush away a leaf that’s fluttered onto his head as they sit beneath the cherry blossom tree one brisk autumn day. But then temptation strikes and she simply can’t resist.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Hubert asks, flinching away from her in apparent horror.
She blinks at him innocently, one hand still outstretched. “Huh? I was just petting your hair.”
In the two years that she’d known him and the eight months they’d been dating, this is the first time that Pao-Lin has ever touched Hubert’s hair. Outside of the color (t’s even bluer than Blue Rose’s!
), it hadn’t ever really caught her attention. But then the leaf had landed on his head and she’d reached out to get rid of it and one thing led to another...
“Well, don’t do that!” Hubert huffs, his cheeks pink. “It’s embarrassing.”
Headtilt. “It is?”
“Of course.” He crosses his arms. “Think about it — how would you
feel if I did that to you?”
She doesn’t even think twice about her answer. “I wouldn’t mind at all!” she chirps with a grin, sitting down properly on the grass next to a stunned Hubert. “Really! You can pet me too if you want.”
“D-don’t say it like that!” he stammers, eyes darting around nervously. When nothing catches his attention, he takes a deep breath and lays a hand on Pao-Lin’s shoulder. “Listen: you should be more careful about what you say in public. Otherwise you’ll give people the wrong idea about us.”
“What do you mean?”
“They’ll think we’re doing...things...that we’re not actually doing.” His voice sounds a bit strained; is he getting sick?
A deep breath. “...things of a private nature. A very
Pao-Lin understands, then. At least, she understands what Hubert is referring to. “Okay, but...I still don’t get how petting is supposed to make people think that.” It’s what you do with cute fuzzy things, right? She doesn’t see why it’s so bad to do it to another person.
“...it’s complicated.” Hubert pulls away and touches a finger to the bridge of his glasses. “Nathan may be able to explain it better.”
“Oh. Okay.” She hopes so, because so far this entire exchange has been baffling to her. Even if petting someone else is supposed to be embarrassing, it’s not like there’s anyone else around the cherry tree at the moment. Miyabi had been sent home earlier in the summer, so her abode is abandoned.
Thinking of a lost friend dampens Pao-Lin’s good spirits a little. She’s been here for a while now, but it never gets any easier to wake up and discover that a friend has been whisked back to their home world — even when she knows for a fact that they’ll be going back to something better, even when she easily makes new ones and bounces back into buoyant spirits. All friends are precious to someone who never really had any until a few years ago. A shiver runs down Pao-Lin’s spine when she suddenly considers the (very extreme but still barely plausible) scenario of suddenly being left as the only inhabitant of Luceti.
Unsettled, she curls up against Hubert with closed eyes and reaches out to clasp Hubert’s hand.
“Are you all right?” he asks. “You seem upset all of a sudden.”
“No, I’m just...thinking, I guess.”
He hesitates. “About that folder?”
A team of Luceti residents had recently managed to hack into one of the locked doors in the tunnels beneath the village, discovering an old laboratory that stank of death; unsurprising, considering the skeleton in the corner. More devastating than the actual skeleton, however, were the metaphorical ones contained in an old file cabinet. There had been folders upon folders of notes on various test subjects from Luceti’s past — far in Luceti’s past, it seemed, maybe a couple of centuries. And yet...there had been so many familiar faces in those files.
Name: Huang Pao-Lin
Home Designation: 45Y-732-UJ21
Duration: 7 months
*Attempt at regulating subject’s electrokinetic ability - failure; resulted in equipment malfunction and massive data loss from electrical overload. Three researchers were hospitalized.
*Attempt at regulating subject’s electrokinetic ability - failure; resulted in loss of sight and two more researchers being hospitalized.
*Attempt at regulating subject’s electrokinetic ability - success.
*Subject was utilized as a mobile auxiliary power generator for several other experiments for the duration of one month and two weeks. Eventually resulted in death from exhaustion. Penalty: loss of electrokinetic ability.
*Attempt to restore electrokinetic ability - failure; resulted in severe burns along subject’s body.
*Attempt to restore electrokinetic ability - failure; resulted in death. Penalty: loss of speech.
*Attempt to restore electrokinetic ability - failure; resulted in death. Subject returned to home world.
She hadn’t seen it when she rifled through the cabinet at first. It wasn’t until a week and a half later that Hubert presented her with her folder, having taken it from the cabinet with the intent of keeping the information to himself. But, as he explained it, his sense of honesty eventually forced his hand.
“No,” she says. She laughs a little. “Though now I am, since you brought it up.”
“Sorry. I didn’t mean to — ”
It’s not fine, not completely. It’s difficult to be completely fine when you have concrete evidence of being destined for torture sessions in the name of science at some point in your life. And an optimistic attitude like Pao-Lin’s depends on some measure of ignorance in the most denotative sense, on murkiness with regards to future outcomes.
But the more Pao-Lin thinks about her future in the files, the more she finds reasons not to worry about it. She’s not in denial; she’s just legitimately come to the conclusion that it’s not worth her time to think on.
“You don’t have to hide anything,” Hubert insists. “If something’s bothering you, then by all means...”
Another giggle. “I said it’s fine, silly! Yeah, it’s pretty bad, but I don’t think I’ll have to worry about it for a while.” Probably. “And at least we know it won’t last forever, right?”
“I don’t enjoy the thought of you having to endure such torment for even a second,” he mutters darkly.
Why does Hubert sound more upset by this than her? She’s
the one who’s going to be tortured here. Pao-Lin straightens up a little to kiss him on the cheek. “Come on, cheer up. I don’t wanna remember you being all sad when I get brought back for all of that.”
He gives her a weird look. “How do you know you’ll even remember your previous — or rather, future — stay? There were no indications of such a thing happening in the files.”
“I don’t,” she admits, and her enthusiasm wanes slightly. “But...it makes it easier to think about, you know? When I was trapped in Rotwang’s prison with the other Heroes, things didn’t seem so bad when I believed that Tiger and Barnaby would beat H-01, and when I believed that the Heroes wouldn’t betray each other just to save themselves.” A smile. “So...as long as I remember the good things about Luceti...as long as I remember being here with you...I’ll be okay. I’ll definitely be strong enough to face those awful experiments!”
Hubert is silent for a long moment, gazing at the village square in the distance. “I think you are strong enough to face them regardless of whether or not you remember Luceti.”
His words warm her from head to toe like she’s just taken a sip of hot chocolate. Pao-Lin hugs him tightly, more convinced than ever that everything will be all right. Not because she really believes that she’s as strong as Hubert claims she is, but surely she can’t ever forget feeling this happy, right?
And Hubert lightly running his fingers through her hair is a nice touch, too.