Your chassis usually isn’t quite this banged up after a fight, you think. As you look at the sparks spitting out of your shoulder and try, hopelessly, to lift the attached arm, you have to accept that you’re going to need some extensive repairs before you’re ready to see any kind of battle in the near future. Ikki’s mom is a little too perceptive for your tastes sometimes and, as much as you don’t usually mind her babying you, the idea of her blindly fiddling with your arm doesn’t make you feel particularly calm. You take advantage of Ikki leaving for school to make a casual exit, parting ways as soon as you hit the first corner. Left side held away from him, you babble an excuse about shopping (with what money?), trade angry quips with the kid when he asks with what money, and part ways in the usual friendly fire that characterizes your relationship.
Once he’s out of sight, though, you have to admit: this fucking smarts. You let yourself grip your arm without the pretense of comfort you were holding up, awkwardly shuffling down the street as you let yourself finally feel just how badly your casing is damaged. Running the auto-repair program was impossible when Ikki fell asleep on his fucking watch, so you guess you’re stuck dragging your arm around until the kid is back from school.
You try not to think about feeling like this for six hours.
Instead, you drag yourself under a familiar bridge, finally letting yourself collapse into the pain when you’re out of sight of the road. You let your vision display go idle, laying uselessly as you try and gather the strength to actually inspect the damage now that you’re out of the house. The strength doesn’t come, though, as the stress from trying to wrestle Ikki’s arm out from under him all night finally starts to collapse onto you, leaves you prone on the pavement.
A bird lands on your foot as you drift into idle mode.
The feeling that wakes you up rockets you to your feet.
Wide stance, favouring your right side, you hold up an arm too damaged to use, point it at your would-be assailant before your display finally locks onto what woke you up.
“…Rokusho?” You ask dumbly, letting your broken arm sag in your grip.
“I…apologize. I didn’t think my method of booting you would be quite this,”
You catch his head as it moves softly up, down your unnecessarily battle-ready stance,
“Exciting is what I’m always set to!” Your broken arm flies up as you gesticulate with the other, hitting you in the side of the head gracelessly. You hope Rokusho decides not to notice.
“I noticed that earlier.” God dammit.
He gestures to your arm. Fuck, “Are you not worried about that level of disrepair? It looks abnormal.”
You look abnormal, you’d usually fire, but his lack of pretense always throws you off those kinds of trains of thought. His impartial look, hand trained under his elbow, legs one in front of the other, put you at ease while he considers you and your injury.
“Uh, yeah,” you confess, “it feels…pretty bad. I don’t think Ikki knows about deep casing and skeletal breaks yet, so I didn’t want to freak him out but, uh. I might not have freaked him out enough ‘cause he only did a basic repair run on me before bed.”
Something flashes across Rokusho’s eye plate, and you wonder what he’s calculating. You feel kind of stupid babbling without input, but that hasn’t necessarily ever stopped you,
“I spent the whole night trying to wrestle the watch off him – that kid was out like a light! And who the hell sleeps with their medawatch on, anyway?”
Another painful bout of silence, but he breaks it quickly, putting one hand under his chin.
“The doctor never slept with his on, I know that. He had a standard nightly routine that didn’t accommodate something so uncomfortable as part of his sleepwear. I suppose it was also a sign that he didn’t worry about me, though.”
“Yeah, man!” You huff, “Must be nice having an actual adult with you. This kid doesn’t even take his socks off before bed half the time!”
Rokusho’s head falls lightly to the side, keeps his eye display locked on you.
“I’m not sure it’s youthful carelessness, Metabee. A medabot is a lot for a child to be the guardian of. I’m sure it’s a sign he’s taking the responsibility seriously. Even if he may not be…” His free hand gestures to your side, at the clunky yellow casing rubbing against your leg,
“Well versed in what actually needs his attention yet.”
You huff a “yeah, yeah”, pretending not to be quite as enraptured by his perspective as you almost always feel.
“Also, I’m sure it’s nice for him to feel like he’s actually in charge at that age, don’t you think?” The flash over his eyes is for you this time. You recant, voice chip cracking out a chirpy laugh, agreeing.
“Okay! You got me – but I’m not gonna pretend it’s not a pain in the ass dealing with the twerp all the time, even if his heart’s in the right spot or whatever.” Your good arm scratches at the back of your head, nerves running down your circuits whenever you admit your reluctant affection for your human guardians. It’s a point of pride to be free and unrestricted, no matter how transparently fake it might be.
“So," Cuts through your mind, the interjection of your nap-time assailant,
"Would you like me to look at that?”
“Hm,” accounts for most of what he’s been saying for the last ten minutes, hands scanning up and down your detached arm. He gingerly runs a finger through some of the deeper breaks, carefully pulling a wire out to study only once before tucking it back in. Your right arm is braced against your naked shoulder, automatically feeling the need to defend it, and you watch the way the top of Rokusho’s head bobs as he studies what used to be attached to you. There is something very cool about another robot studying a part of you instead of the auto-repair program running blindly up your frame, and you lose yourself a few times in the quiet motion of his study.
“This is repairable by program.” He concludes, head finally swiveling up to lock on you, “But you’ll need to keep it off. The run time will likely be nine hours, and having it in constant motion while you move around won’t make the job any easier.”
“NINE?” You feel your hand fly momentarily off your shoulder, agitated hitch starting to kick out of your voice chip, “There’s no way a program can take that long!”
“It can when the internal wires are frayed,” he corrects, standing to move closer to you as he does so,
“And the cracked internal joint would need hardware restoration if it were a complete break. I’m surprised you were able to hide this from Ikki in the first place.” Why were you hoping he’d say ’impressed’?
“Yeah, well, the kid’s not that bright. Plus, all I had to do was stand on one side of him.” Your circuits hum when this elicits a laugh from him.
“…Rokusho.” You are staring down at your legs, processing,
“How do you know all this? Is this stuff you had to repair on yourself?” Your display finally finds him, swinging up with your head in time to see his eye plate duck away.
“It is…necessary, to understand how a medabot functions if one is going to live without a guardian. Many auto-repair programs are difficult, if not impossible, without an external watch and operator to rely on.”
His frame is closed in on itself, cape carried lightly in the soft breeze, and he holds himself in the way a medabot is programmed to when guarding against attack.
“…Man, Rokusho, that sucks.” You punctuate, words hitting awkward, clunky into the code of his worries. You don’t know that he appreciates this brusque approach of yours, though.
“Yes, I suppose you could say that.” He laughs, eyes meeting back with yours, “But it’s a useful skill to have, so I don’t regret having to learn it. Now,”
His hand moves up, fingers brushing the top of your hand, and you suddenly feel like you’re going to overheat.
“Would you mind if I looked at that as well?”
Your voice chip makes a noise you’re not entirely sure is good for it when you squeak out, “sure”.
You arm is sitting on the grass, tucked lightly between the layers of his folded cape a few feet away from you. You are still staring at the two intertwined as Rokusho kneels down on your left and begins to speak.
“Can you feel it?” He asks, both hands hovering lightly above your own. It takes you a second to remember what he’s talking about.
“Oh! Yeah, dude! It sucks over there!” The laugh this elicits is soft, gentle, like all of his are. The hands are still hovering; yours is still clamped down with a vengeance.
“That’s a good sign, at least. Structural damage would shut it down completely.” Another flash over his eye plate, then a pair of eyes returns to study your hand.
“Are you able to remove your hand from the joint? It’s automatic to protect exposed skeletal parts, but you can override that if you need.”
“Yeah, man! You got it!” You proclaim, excited to get your arm back to its pain-free standard.
Your hand doesn’t move.
“Uh – hold on,”
You focus, display locking onto the hand, commands flying into, and back out of, the arm.
“…Shit, come on,” you hiss, override commands bouncing uselessly back from your arm’s stubborn grip. You’re still struggling to communicate with it when Rokusho shifts, moves himself onto your right side, and places a hand on your chest.
“Uh, Rokusho, what–”
The contact on your good shoulder isn’t painful, but it’s forceful, and your arm snaps back up to grab onto his.
“What the hell, man!” His arm sits agreeably in yours as he tilts his head, flashes amusement over his visor.
“I forgot not all models are able to run their own override features. Engaging combat will usually force a new process, thankfully.” What, like he couldn’t have told you that?
“I apologize for the surprise; I wasn’t sure if your body would keep guarding if I warned you. It’s a lot harder to keep trusting me if you don’t know what’s happening, after all,” You feel the soft vibrations down his arm as he softly rubs his fingers together.
“Are you able to move freely now?”
You stare at him, at his arm, then slowly loosen your grip around him, opening and closing your hand in front of your face.
“…Yeah. Looks like it.” You conclude, hand flexing under your jurisdiction once again. You tuck it under yourself just to be safe; the look he gives you in return is reassuring.
“Alright. Please try and relax while I look at your shoulder, I’m not sure that approach will work a second time if your defense protocol re-engages itself.” The way he pre-emptively scolds you like that always makes you want to snap back, but his cadence is so calming you can never find the motivation to bother. You let your protests sink out of your mind as you feel how lightly his fingers run over your shoulder, how slowly he moves his body next to yours. If you weren’t sitting on your hand it would be hard to resist the urge to fiddle with one of the horns on his helmet. It’s kind of a waste to not have any ammunition loaded into them, but it suits him, you think. A small shiver runs up and down your arm when his hand makes contact with a chunk missing from your metal frame.
“This damage is…more extensive than I’d realized.” He says it softly, hands resting lightly over the spot he was just inspecting.
“You’ll need some legitimate repairs on this. I’m not sure you can hide the extent of this damage for much longer.”
You groan, fighting the urge to pull your hand up and try and beat some sense into your own wimpy wiring. Who even services models as old as yours anymore? You don’t like the idea of some highschooler messing around with your structural integrity. An idea appears from behind that one, slowly, as you realize a much better option.
“Rokusho…do you not know how to fix something like this?”
He falters for a moment.
“…I do.” His answer is succinct enough that it leaves you suspicious.
“Then what’s the point in waiting to get someone to fix it? You could fix me up now!” You keep your display locked on him, try and look encouraging,
“Got stage fright about not just doing it on yourself, man? I don’t care if the weld’s a little ugly.”
Still stilted, reluctant, he expands: “This sort of repair should be handled by a trained human. Having to perform it on another medabot is a…sub-optimal condition.”
“Having to wait all day to get fixed up is a freaking sub-optimal condition!” You spit, tiring more and more of your unusable arm by the second, “What’s the big drama?”
“It’s just…not something I should do.” His posture is tense, guarded as he slowly looks away from you.
“Alright, man. Hold on.” He turns back in time to watch your eye plate go blank as you turn your focus inward, running diagnostics and probability estimates until you run out of data to organize. Flashing back on, your eyes swing up to meet his.
“Processor’s not finding anything to freak out about. I don’t think you need to worry, Rokusho. I trust you not to bust up my arm any worse than it already is.” You would hold it up for emphasis if the fucking thing was even vaguely functional.
“It’s not a question of my ability necessarily. It’s,”
The pause is drawn out as he looks at your arm, at you, nervously into his hands,
“…The sensation of being fixed. It’s somewhat intense.”
Head flopping to the side, you squint at him. “Okay? Sitting here with my arm feeling like this isn’t exactly the most relaxing thing I’ve ever done with my day, you know. No pain, no gain, right?”
He is still struggling to look at you as he rubs a hand down his arm, fidgeting more than you’re ever used to seeing. You might be worked up, too, if you could understand the source of it. It’s so unusual to see him struggle like this, you almost start to worry he’s going to end up welding your arm to your head.
“It’s not painful, but it might be unexpected. I’m not,” hand runs up his arm, back down again, “Interested in overwhelming you. I’m not used to performing this kind of thing on another medabot.”
The look you give him is confused, impatient.
“Man, if it gets my arm back up and running before the end of the week, I promise I won’t hold it against you.” You try to keep your tone light despite your diminishing amounts of patience. The patience is necessary, however, as he keeps you waiting for a response once again, nervously fiddling with the joint on his elbow.
“…Alright,” He finally sighs out, giving a small nod before turning to face you.
“But I apologize in advance if it’s a bit hard to process. I promise I’ll be careful.”
You lose sight of him as he stands up, moves behind your shoulder, but you can feel him bend down behind you with a hand placed softly on your back.
“Honestly, Rokusho, I’d be surprised to see you do anything without being careful.”
The laugh he lets out is small, and it’s the last thing you hear before your entire system explodes.
The conversation is pulled out of your mind as all sensory input becomes irrelevant. You’re not sure any of your sense receptors are even operational from the moment he begins, hot spark hitting the bottom of the gash in your shoulder. This is information you piece together later, though, because right now you aren’t identifying subjects like "spark" and "shoulder" and "injury" and "repair", you’re just feeling: hot, pressurized, intense, electric. The heat that runs over your chest is unlike any you’re used to processing, and your display shuts off the moment Rokusho makes contact with the wound. Now all you can see is data, running hot over your mind and spinning into itself in a frenzy of information. You feel your body react to itself, calculate beyond your mind and carry your consciousness along your interlocking segments in a way that fills every part of your frame, your casing, your twisting symphony of wires. You feel the soft pressure running over your hands, your legs, your neck and vibrating, churning urgently inside you as your body runs hot under the feeling. You are aware, vaguely, of your right leg kicking the ground, outside of your control as your entire core is rattled and warmed and invaded. You swear, despite the impossibility, that Rokusho’s hands are reaching into your wiring, running along the exposed strands and curling over the core in your chest as you feel the jolts of electricity running up and down your spine. You feel the kick of your voice as it splits, sharply, out of you: a repeating pattern. The urgent, pitchy notes that run from your voice chip are the same sounds you feel pouring out whenever you’re overwhelmed and you hear, distantly, Rokusho’s reassurance that he’s almost done.
If your mind was still putting ideas together, you’d laugh at the idea of the end of this experience being a positive thing.
Your mind isn’t putting ideas together, though, and feelings flood down your arms and across your chest as you feel Rokusho deeper, hotter, more urgently inside of you as your chest starts to shake, your arm ripping hot and begging to reach out and touch him, bury your hands inside him, too.
You’re vision comes back so suddenly you almost can’t process it.
The remnants of the feeling, hot behind your casing and running small vibrations in and out of your centre, hit you in waves and escape you in startled shakes. You are barely aware you have arms at all anymore, let alone enough cognitive function to check if they actually both work again. You only have the memory of his hands deep inside you, the desire to feel his arms as he rips you apart.
“Jeez, Rokusho – take me out to dinner first!” You shove the command out, shaky but jovial, and shoot him eye contact that you’re sure looks insane. You attempt something more relaxed and almost certainly fail.
He doesn’t laugh, flinching lightly away as he hears your choked attempt at one. After a second of consideration, though, he squares his shoulders and meets your eye.
“We…we certainly could, if that’s what you’re interested in.”
“It’s…an expression, correct? For a date.”
You swear your medal almost shoots out of your back.
“…Yeah.” Is all you can offer, staring up at him as you struggle to regain your processing power. You feel like your data is all lifting slowly out of your body, floating away in the air as you watch his eyes through a daze.
“I’m correct on the expression, or on the intent? I don’t want to be…presumptuous.”
You want to stop yourself from laughing at his rigid formality, the needlessly coordinated conversation, but you fail as the noise lifts up and out of you.
“Yeah.” Is all he receives, again, as confirmation. Your head rests comfortably on your shoulder as you look him up and down, enjoy the subtle motions of his thoughts bewitching his body.
Silently, he turns to your arm in its fabric swath, gingerly tugging the corners of the material until your arm is hung over his wrist in a makeshift sling. The arm he offers you, instead, is his own, and something familiar runs through your body as he pulls you onto your feet.
“Then, if you don’t mind, I have somewhere I’d like to take you.”
“I hope it’s alright for me to force my will like this,” He looks back at you as he walks, your arm waving gently by his side, “I’ve just…wanted someone to share this with for a while.”
The intimacy of the admission drifts over you subtly, warming your circuitry through the fog of your mind. You manage another, “yeah,” as you walk a few paces behind him in a daze. You watch the way his back moves as he walks through your slowly re-calibrating mind, trace his outline against the sky as he looks ahead and keeps his pace. There is some small message bumping under your consciousness that this is beyond your wildest expectations, but the same numbing sense of bliss that carried your voice into action is the force still pushing you forward as you follow his footsteps, content.
As you watch the mountains sigh over the sky beside you, you become vaguely aware of just how far he’s leading you away from your original meeting place. Something small ignites in your core, expectant and light, as the lush green of Rokusho’s ambitions peel into view before you. He slows, deliberate, and turns back to face you.
“Huh. Pretty.” Is your brief assessment as the clearing pulls into view behind him. It’s thick with wood and overgrown with wild flora, wisps of grass hitting the lower shelves of many of its trees, and you watch as bugs weave peacefully in and out of the plant life. Rokusho’s eyes stay on you as you slowly register its details.
“The area itself is lovely, but it is not my only reason for wanting to bring you here. There is something in particular I was hoping to show you.” He holds his hand out, gently, and it only takes a moment to register the intention behind the gesture. Slotting your working hand lightly over his, you let him pull you softly along as he leads the way into the brush. A light heat pulls up from your core and you feel the sudden need to lie down.
You feel the soft rustle of grass as it rubs up against the joints in your chassis, the gaps between your casing and skeleton, the raw nerve of your uncovered arm, and you feel the soft rub of his palm on yours at the height of it all. Your consciousness is slowly filtering back in, you think, as your mind starts to form words and data with more meaning and purpose. You start to connect the co-ordinates rumbling under your feet with the elapsed time in your mind, condition assessment firing through your circuitry as you finally remember how to check. You may be able to form an actual sentence soon at this rate.
“Man, this place is pretty far in here, huh?” You finally manage, feeling layer after layer of grass still sweeping past you.
“Ah, I hope it’s not too far. I believe it will be worth it, though.” He replies. Then,
“It’s nice to hear you’re speaking again.”
“I just didn’t have anything interesting to say,” You insist, bristling under his observation.
“That’s fine. I don’t mind silence.” He says, undermining your anger, drawing the wind out of your sails with a light, warm inhale.
You only grumble in response.
The silence purrs evenly between you, but your newly regained mental chatter makes it hard to maintain for long.
“So…you come up here a lot, huh?”
His head dips in a nod, infinitesimal.
“Fairly often. I find it calms me down.”
“It’s a pretty long way to go all the time, you spend most of your free time just walking?”
His characteristic patience lights the chuckle in his voice as he reassures you, “It’s hard not to find the trip up here just as enjoyable as the destination itself. I find walking very peaceful.”
“Really? Seems like a boring way to spend your time to me.”
“Ah.” He stops, and you almost fail to catch yourself behind him.
“I apologize. I didn’t realize I was taking you through something you found so boring.” The way he scratches at his chassis makes you wish you’d be paying a little less attention, crashed into him with just enough force to line up every seam of your casing with his.
“No way, man!” Your reassurance booms, discordant over the gentle sounds of your surroundings,
“I’m…having fun. I promise.” The second attempt is quieter, almost a whisper, as you feel yourself lean in just a little to drive the point home. He gives you a flash of joy over his visor, a welcome silent communication among the foreign feeling of animals calling and chirping with each other around you. Pulling your hand from his, you place it with its caseless sibling behind your head as you start to walk backwards through the grass in front of him.
“Just tell me the way to walk and I’m there, Rokusho. You have my word!”
“It’s-" Is all he manages to get out before you feel your legs fly over your head, tumbling backwards over something hard at the edge of the parted grass. Your circuits fire in unison as he runs over, expectant with the promise of his worry, but you watch his legs fly past you as he hunches somewhere behind your head. Reluctantly, you hoist yourself up on your own and follow his path in the grass.
“Ah…good.” Is the reassurance that escapes him, curled over his lap, cocoon-like, in the dirt.
He remembers himself – a blink, a falter – and looks up: registers your gaze on his lightly curved hands.
“I’m sorry. I just wanted to make sure they were okay. They sometimes roam fairly close to the grass…”
You bounce onto your feet, tiptoe over to peek at the obfuscated subjects of his nerves.
Unfurling his hand, you see a small black shape against his thumb as he tells you, “This is…what I wanted to show you today,” and lifts the mysterious palm passenger up to greet you.
It’s a beetle. Black, shiny, with two pincers extending from the front of its face. It scuttles aimlessly across Rokusho’s hand, antenna wiggling periodically to investigate its surroundings. You study the curvature of its pincers, tug of familiarity filling out your observations.
“Hey, Rokusho…this little dude looks like you.” You point at the little dude in question for emphasis. A familiar spark ignites inside you as his light splatter of laughter hits you yet again.
“Yes, that’s part of why I wanted to bring you here…I wanted to be able to show you them both, though,” and he trails off, shifts his body to the side, digging through the nearest patch of grass with his free hand. You and the beetle take the opportunity to stare at each other.
You suddenly get the sense that a second pair of eyes is on you. Flicking your focus to the right, you see that your original six legged accomplice has gained a friend: similar in build, but with a large horn shooting out the top of its head.
You like the looks of this guy.
“The reason you think I resemble this one is because it’s a stag beetle. This is what my casing and medal are modeled after.” A pause, delicate, reflective,
“I find it difficult not to have some feelings of kinship towards them.”
You study his face: pensive, soft waver over the LEDs that form the impression of his eyes.
“Do you recognize this one?” The spunky horned fella is suspended on his palm, flat and open.
“Nope.” Head shaking for emphasis, “But I like his style.”
Laughter, a cloud slowly filling up your mind.
“It’s a rhinoceroses beetle. This is the source of your medal’s insignia and typing.”
You feel your display disrupt, static flashes of excitement.
“No way!” Flies excitedly out of you as the bug’s eyes suddenly look purposeful, determined, endearing in an entirely new light.
“I’m like your big brother, dude!” You want to imagine he’s excited at the revelation.
His laughter is filling your face now, warm embrace heating the angles in your casing, your frame, incrementally with every shared moment of joy.
“That one does remind me of you, actually. It’s interesting that it should be the one I find first. I would call it…rambunctious.” The beetle skitters madly over his hand as he says this, as if to prove his point.
“What? Like you can tell them apart?” A sage nod, a subtle note of bliss on his visor as he watches the beetles skuttling over him.
“Aw man, these little dudes are like your buddies! I bet they’re happy to see you.”
The nod becomes a shake of the head, wistful,
“No, I’m quite sure they don’t register information at that level. The enjoyment of their company is entirely one-sided, I believe.”
“No way, these guys totally remember you! No chance they’d be crawling all over you if they didn’t like you that much,”
You put your hand down, testing a theory, and watch as the stag beetle deftly dodges around your attempt at contact.
“See? This guy doesn’t wanna hang out with me at all!” In spite of himself, the laugh returns: the sweet release of tension, like clockwork.
“It’s just because I know how to hold them. Lay your hand open and I’ll show you.”
Obedient, you plop your hand flat onto the ground, palm skyward. Rokusho lowers your patron beetle down, nudging the tips of your fingertips together with his own. After a few rounds of Rokusho’s hand, the bug’s antennae finally glance over your fingertips, feeling you for danger. When it senses none, you feel the prickle of six legs traipsing over your knuckles as you struggle to rotate your hand in time with its incessant scurrying.
“…Whoa,” Comes your review as you watch the dedication with which the beetle moves forward.
You are unaware of the fondness with which Rokusho watches you, the excitement moving over him in soft waves as you sit, enraptured, by simple aspects of the world around you. He loves that about you, and you are too preoccupied to see the way his eyes flicker every time he loses himself in the idea of you.
“If you can keep your hand still enough, there’s one more reason I really wanted you to meet these insects.” Is the information you recieve from him instead, and you look up to see the stag still sitting expectantly on his hand.
Curious, thrilled, you lay your hand down on the dirt again, watching as Rokusho lowers the second bug to meet the first. There is hesitation for only a moment before the stag beetle is hoisted into the air between the other’s horns, wiggling its legs wildly as it attempts to re-gain the upper hand.
“Are these dudes…fighting?” The excitement is transparent in your voice, elated, as you watch the stag grapple its way back into victory once it’s laid back down. Your circuitry thuds inside your casing as you watch the bugs encase each other in carapace, sparring on the arena of your interlocking fingertips.
“They’re grappling. It’s a pastime for many horned species of beetle and it’s–” A hush, voice turned down a decibel or two,
“It would always make me think of you. I wondered if you would actually find them as capitvating as I do, though.
Soft static disrupts the outline of his eyes, robotic flush of embarrassment. You hold your emotions down with a fist, the thrill of Rokusho’s verbal intimacy quashed into your feet.
"It’s awesome,” You reassure instead, eyes lighting up as one beetle swiftly flips the other.
It’s obvious to both of you which one you’re rooting for.
Once your beetle emerges victorious, you fill the space between you with idle conversation and intermittent commentary on your six-legged companions. You remember, silently, that this is a date, and the thrum of excitement hits you like new every time you do so: the intent flush behind Rokusho’s words. You notice, at one point, how carefully he has laid your arm beside him amidst his rush to check on the beetles, an extension of the softness with which he navigates his entire world. The instinct to run your hand softly over his would be the most logical impulse at this junction, but your impulses are rarely bogged down by things like logic, so you barrel forward into something much more characteristic,
His head, momentarily transfixed by the machinations of his beetle, swivels up to meet you.
“What made you so freaked about fixing my shoulder?"
The beetle quickly skitters away as he flinches.
His quiet, pensive and predictable, permeates the air around you as he considers the ground between you both. Flicker, flicker, flicker of his calculating mind disrupts his visor continually as you watch, expectant.
Your patience wears thin before his does – you’re predictable, too. You nudge him lightly with your foot.
“See, this is the kinda freaking I’m talking about! You’re over there overthinking the couple minutes of weirdness it took to get my arm workin’ again,”
A quieting of your voice, an attempt to match his energy:
“I just don’t think you need to be worried about whatever it is, Rokusho. I don’t know why you did in the first place.”
When his answer finally spills out it is belaboured, wound tightly over his nerves.
“The weird time is exactly what I didn’t want to put you through without forewarning. I just…wasn’t sure exactly how to explain it.”
You swear you see the tips of his horns twitch.
“Weird ain’t bad, you know. It was kinda sweet.”
“I suppose that’s true, but that was…part of the problem in itself. The sensation is so different from the one you would get from being fixed by a human, and not only–”
Pause, calculate, agonize.
“…Not only for the one being serviced. It’s – the sensation would have been more intense for you, but to…to enjoy it, when it was something I was doing, in theory, to help you, it felt…inappropriate.”
Embarassment is so hot over his words, electrifying his frame, you’re tempted to delay your reply just to marvel at it.
“So, it was something that helped me out, felt awesome, and had a little bonus feeling for you, and you’re feeling like that wasn’t a winning combo for the both of us?”
“Well, if you put it like that, it does make my approach sound somewhat…unnecessary.”
But part of my reluctance was due to what the process can…represent.“
His eye plate swings back up, intentions laid transparent over the glass. Your circuits fire like a rocket.
"So some of that feeling wasn’t just 'cause I like having you around, huh?”
A small shake of his head, “It is…the nature of the process. Repairing parts on myself is somewhat different, but the closeness you feel with your own circuitry has some level of parallel.” Verbose, formal, reluctant to plunge his way into intimacy with the excited fervor you would opt for in his place.
You take his place anyway.
Rushed, thoughtless, you push your head forward, running the seam of metal that binds the front your helmet with his. The spark that lights between your faces is the intended response, and you feel his hand rush to your shoulder in spite of himself. Head leaning to the left, running sparks down his head to his chin, you let your hand follow the impulse to rest on his horn as his voice croaks softly out of him. This shouldn’t feel so easy, you think: if you ripped through your files and internal programming for confirmation, you doubt this instruction would be anywhere in there. So why, you wonder, as Rokusho’s thumbs find the underside of your helmet, run over the metal at the back of your head, does it feel so obvious? Why does your body suddenly send your head sliding, without question, over the worn metal seam on the front of his face: over, and over, and over?
The sparks pop up and down the meeting places of your joints, your divets, your seams: flashing over your visors and heating the glass just shy of their warping point: so hot it almost hurts. The metal of his fingertips hits the exposed frame on the back of your neck as they curl around you, and you hear the soft hum over his voice box as he loses himself to the sensations. You are similarly transfixed: hand sliding over his back, feeling the cool metal of the hinge on his spine as your thumb runs over it, traces the outlines of every joint on his casing.
You only stop when you hear the tail end of your name, the uneven cadence from his voice chip.
“Whoa! Sorry, man–” Your apology comes out flustered, overwhelmed for once by your own enthusiasm.
“I might have gotten a little…carried away there.”
Your proximity makes his laugh spill over you, run up under your tinpet as his voice box hums barely a foot away from you.
“It was…unexpected, but not unpleasant.” His reply is coherent, formal as always, but you hear a hint of disorientation tugging at the ends of his words, feel the soft pressure of one hand still reluctant to leave the back of your head.
“I just wanted to illustrate, you know, nothin’ to agonize over or whatever.” You make a show of your shrug, hands cupping the air beside your head in an exaggerated display of nonchalance.
“Yes, the intention was…understandable. I appreciate your tendency to act decisively, Metabee.” A glimmer of fondness spits over his eye plate.
“What! You’re decisive as hell, Rokusho. I’ve seen you jump into all kinds of crazy shit.”
A butterfly has perched on his horn at some point during your conversation. If flies away as he shakes his head.
“There are many situations I encounter in which it is impossible to not act. That doesn’t mean I’m never burdened by indecision. Not everything can be solved so simply by a life and death call to action.”
“Aw, man, don’t tell me you’re not into going on this date, then I’m really gonna embarrassed for getting that carried away…”
“Indecision simply means I’m not always privy to act on inclinations, not that they don’t exist in the first place, Metabee.”
“I guess I gotta believe you, 'cause you took that joke about taking me out to dinner pretty serious.” Amused flash of data where he can see it, gentle ribbing over your eye plate.
“Oh, was that not the intended outcome?” A ripple of worry, defiant in the face of your amusement: you slap a hand onto the top of his head.
“Don’t be so sincere about it! It’s embarrassing…” The grumble that follows is transparently insincere.
“It’s called a happy accident, right? Or maybe something like 'fate’ is a little more your speed…a little heavy handed of a concept for me, though.”
Your bemusement finally flashes back at you over the reds of his eyes, peering up at you from under your hand.
“They’re not necessarily unrelated. Perhaps you’re right in thinking I should let them guide me without so much thought, though. Although I’m surprised you would be the one advising me to relinquish control of something.”
Alright, now he’s just making fun of you. You brace yourself to fire back for once, but are interrupted by a scrape of metal on your face, a hand lightly under your chin, over your shoulder.
He is standing behind you, expectant, before you can register the absence of contact.
“…I believe it’s about time to go back, if you’d like to be back in time for Ikki.” Is his succinct explanation, following the organized discipline of a life that isn’t his own.
Your mind offers, conciliatory, the idea that it’s because it’s with his yours he wants his to be intertwined; the thought burbles up, molten, without your authorization. You immediately search your system for a command override.
Your voice chip offers something impatient and vaguely antagonistic as consolation.
Your broken arm slung once again over his, you opt to hook your fingers over the ledge of his hip plate, fiddling idly with the dents in his metal as you walk. So enraptured are you by his minutia, you actually enjoy his company in silence for the first mile back.
Ikki is frantic, belligerent with worry when you finally re-unite, unfurl the shredded casing of your arm from its fabric nest and reveal to him the extent of its injury.
Rokusho stands idly behind you, watching as you settle into the comfortable chaos of worry-borne insult and antagonism with the juvenile iteration of your found family. He only interjects when your conversation spirals beyond all possibility of productivity, a calmly delivered shadow of his earlier repair instructions.
“I’ll see you soon, Metabee.” Is the sophomore of his interjection, and you feel the soft scrape of his hand over yours as he returns your arm, lingers for just a second too long.
When Ikki attributes the heat on your arms to your injured casing, you realize it’s lucky that he understands so goddamn little.