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puppet girl, let me cut your strings

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Fuyuhiko would have liked to say that he was at Peko's side when she woke - that he had stayed at her bedside morning and night - but he wasn't. He couldn't afford to focus all of his time on Peko when the rest of the survivors - his friends - couldn't be trusted not to make stupid decisions and get themselves hurt in his absence.

So he hadn't been at her side when she woke, and he hadn't been there when Hinata explained everything to her. But he was here now, outside the door to her hospital room.

Now, now he hesitated, and cursed himself for it. He didn't know what he would say - how to express himself, how to properly explain his need for Peko and his need for Peko's freedom, intertwined.

He didn't think he'd ever properly explained, or if he had - that he hadn't explained right, that she hadn't understood. Fuyuhiko had cursed himself for that before, in the simulation, because maybe, if he'd explained properly, Peko wouldn't have...

...But now he had a second chance; Peko was alive and well. Only he didn't know what to do with it.

Fuck it, he thought. He didn't know what to say, but he had to see Peko. He swung open the door, heart pounding, and there, in the bed, was Peko, smiling up at him. "Young master," she said, soft, and that had to stop.

He crossed the room and settled into the seat beside Peko's bed. "None of that shit," he said. "Fuyuhiko, got it?"

"Fuyuhiko," she repeated. Her smile dropped as she got a better look at him. "Your eye," she murmured. "Did I do that here, as well?"

"What? No," he said, reaching up to touch his eyepatch. "That... was me. While I was Despair." He shuddered at the memory of Junko Enoshima's sickening blue eye staring at him in the mirror. Getting that removed had been a relief; Souda and Hinata had said they'd make him a robotic eye at some point, but for now he just had the eyepatch, which was almost comforting in its familiarity.

Peko blinked at him. "I see." He thought he saw some of the tension leave her body.

The full ramifications of her question slammed into him, then, and he rushed to say, "It wasn't your fault in the simulation either, Peko." She looked down, and he continued, "I mean it! Monokuma's a fucking bastard. He's to blame. Besides... at least this way, I got used to having one eye before I woke up." The same was not true for several of the others, including Komaeda, who had Enoshima's hideous hand attached to the end of his arm and who had quickly opted for amputation once he'd woken up. Hinata was working on a robotic hand for him, or so Fuyuhiko had heard.

Peko looked like she found this claim dubious, but didn't say anything.

Fuyuhiko scrubbed a hand across his face. He was already fucking this up, wasn't he? "It's not that important," he said. "What's important is... you."

That got her attention. "Fuyuhiko," she said, sitting up a little.

"You're important to me," he said, feeling his face grow hot. "You mean more to me than... than a fucking tool -" He stopped, frustrated. He tried to approach the topic from a different angle. "I wanted us to pretend not to know each other at Hope's Peak so that you could be free. You deserve to be - to be your own person, Peko, and not my tool, or my shadow..."

"Fuyuhiko." Peko's voice cut through his ramblings, and he looked towards her, hopeful, at least until she continued, "You do not need me anymore."

"No - that's not - " Fuyuhiko swore. The hospital room felt like it was closing around him, and he couldn't help but remember the days he'd spent in a very similar room recovering, first from the eye, then from his self-inflicted gut wound. It was absurd to say he did not need her - he was a mess without her - but at the same time he couldn't give her the impression that he needed her as a servant, a tool.

"I do need you, Peko," he finally said. "Not as a tool. As you. I need you to be you. And I want you... by my side. As equals, as..." The words stuck in his throat. What had he been about to say? Partners? Lovers? He rallied himself enough to finish, "But only if you want to - not because you think you fucking have to, okay?"

He felt Peko's hand touch his, and it was only then that he realized his hands were balled into fists. Slowly, he uncurled his fingers, and felt hyper-aware of the touch of Peko's hand.

"I cannot promise... that I fully understand," Peko admitted. "But I want to be by your side... more than anything."

Relief warred with fear in Fuyuhiko's heart - had he explained properly? Was such a thing possible for him, at this point?

"I want to protect you," Peko said, voice dropping to a whisper. "I want to be with you." She turned Fuyuhiko's hand over in hers and held it.

Heat rushed to Fuyuhiko's face, and he knew he was blushing again, that furious blush that seemed to embarrass him at every turn. "I'm - glad," he stuttered, awkward, unable to look away from Peko's gaze. She didn't turn away either, just looked at him, smiling softly, and he found himself throwing all caution to the winds and leaning in, heart pounding. Oh fuck, what was he doing? Did Peko even understand - did she even feel that way - 

The press of Peko's lips on his should not have been a surprise, but it was, and for the first few moments all Fuyuhiko could think was Is this happening? Oh fuck, this is really happening?  Then he was overwhelmed by joy, and the soft feeling of her lips against his, and when they broke apart, they were both smiling, and blushing, and well. That was enough for him, wasn't it? Peko's blush... Peko's smile.