“I can't do this.”
Eddie is insistent you tell Professor Rocket you like him. You've had a crush on him for the longest time, but the idea of telling him so? Absolutely terrifying.
So here you stand, right outside Rocket’s… lab? When you live in some sort of freaky deaky steam-powered computer simulation with ill-defined borders between worlds, it's kind of hard to classify places. But... yeah, you're outside wherever it is Rocket does his horrible math things.
“Sure you can do it, buddy,” Eddie tells you, patting you on the back. “I believe in you!”
“But-- but Rocket is so cool and smart and fun and-”
“-and you're not?” Eddie says with a smirk.
You sigh. Eddie’s unbridled optimism is impossible to argue with. “...Okay. I can, uh, probably do this.”
“You can definitely do this.”
Eddie holds up his fist, and you bump it, flashing him a nervous smile. He beams back at you.
“Now march up to that weird math robot guy and tell him how you feel,” Eddie cheers. Now there’s a rare sentence.
You take a deep breath while you place one hand on the door. You shoot a glance back at Eddie, who gives you a double thumbs-up. You exhale while you push the door open. “Hey, Rocks,” you call, letting the door gently close behind you.
Sure enough, the man himself is currently toying with his Psycho Math computers. The screens are all displaying either raw code or error screens; you have no idea which, but he seems like he's having a pretty good time doing whatever it is he's doing.
He looks up from his work and his face lights up when he sees you -- a big smile on his mouth screen and an eyebrow popped up. “Hey!” he greets. “What brings you here?”
You shrug. “Just wanted to hang out. What are you up to?”
“Psycho Math!! Those equations don't write themselves, you know. It’s all Professor Rocket and his behind-the-scenes magic.”
“Oh, neat! Can I take a peek?”
You somewhat awkwardly walk over to him. And when you see what's going on in his computers, you… still have no idea. He’s programming numbers in, you guess, but it looks like a second language to you. Probably because it is. Maybe that kinda stuff comes naturally to Rocket, being a robot and all. You should stop contemplating this and contemplate something else. Like how you should actually say something. To Rocket. Now.
“Uh, actually, there is a reason I came in here, Rocket,” you begin. No backing out now. You had no backing out in the first place, Eddie would have pushed you right back in had you tried to leave. But now it’s real.
He removes his attention from his coding to look at you. “And what would that be?”
“Uhh…” Your stomach’s doing somersaults and backflips and all sorts of improbable gymnastic moves, and you can hear the frantic thump of your heart in your ears and your throat.
“I… I-I really like you, okay? I just think you're really cute and smart and funny and I like being around you and you're really neat.” That’s probably the messiest way you could have put it out there, but also the most genuine.
You’re frozen in place and your stomach has graduated from gymnastics to acrobatics. You watch Rocket’s face while he processes what's been said to him. It's difficult reading his expressions when all you have to work with is his mouth, eyebrow, and posture, but you see confusion… surprise… realization. He collects himself and looks at you.
“...really…?” It’s the quietest you've ever heard his voice.
“Yeah,” you breathe.
For a moment he just stares at you. It’s almost uncanny to see him paused like this, since he's usually the most hyper guy you know.
“Really?” he repeats, voice stronger this time, with a laugh that almost sounds nervous sneaking into his voice.
“Yeah,” you affirm with your own nervous laughter.
“I had no idea!” He’s very quickly bounced back from quiet and awestruck to his loud and energetic self, but you have a feeling he's covering up some nerves. “I didn't have a clue that you felt that way. And this works out great, because, hey, guess what? I like you too!”
“Wait, what?” you say quickly.
“You heard me,” Rocket replies.
Now you're the one being quiet and awestruck. You barely feel it when Rocket puts his hand in yours -- pencils and protractors against clammy flesh. Once you come back to your senses you realize he's holding your hand and it's everything you imagined it would be. You look at him to see he's grinning at your intertwined fingers, probably just as thrilled as you are.
You've still got one more trick up your sleeve to make him the flustered one here.
You swallow your nerves and press your lips against his screen.
It's a short, sweet kiss, but long enough to give his head time to do the thing. You know, the explodey thing. This highly important work of literature is being produced by a sleepy teenager who sadly does not know every word in the English vocabulary.
When you pull away from the kiss, Rocket looks amazed.
“...you're warmer than usual,” you observe quietly.
“I overheat when I’m nervous,” is his equally soft response.
You fidget with your sleeve for a second, not really sure what to do.
“...so… are we a thing now? Officially?” you ask.
“You wanna be?”
“I -- yes! Do you?”
Rocket shows you a big smile on his screen and squeezes your hand.
Mission successful. You're already mentally writing your victory speech to Eddie.
“...anyway! Professor Rocket can't be that still for that long! I got some problems to program!” Rocket puts one hand to use coding, but the other is still holding yours.
“You free tonight?” he asks you infuriatingly suavely while tapping at his keyboard.
“Yeah,” you say. You don't even think about your schedule; if you had anything planned it's no longer top priority.
“Great!” he says, still amazingly nonchalant. “I’ll be looking for date ideas.”
“I should probably get going,” you realize. “When should I.. be... here?”
“I’ll pick you up,” he says. What a gentleman. “8?”
“Works for me. Bye, babe,” you say while you leave his lab. Only after the words leave your mouth do you realize you called him babe. You stop in your tracks and turn around to ask: “...are you alright with being called babe? Is that weird, or…”
“‘Course not, babe,” he replies, not missing a beat. Damn. He has the cutest virtual smile in the world.
“Okay, then. Bye, babe,” you laugh, leaving for realsies this time.
“...I’m assumin’ that means it either went well or you took a dive off the deep end?” asks a certain zookeeper-in-training, looking at you with a playful glint in his eye.
“It went fantastic, Eddie,” you exclaim.
“I had a hunch it did if you were calling him babe. I want to hear all the details, pal! What happened?”
“Well, I had my first kiss today…”