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Shelter Short 1

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                “I don’t know about this,” Ruka said quietly, pulling the other’s hand back to bring her to a stop. “I’m still pretty new here, and I don’t exactly know how everything works? Don’t forget, my first night here, I got in a lot of trouble without you.”

                “It’ll be fun--just trust me!” Pomona chimed, a grin spread ear-to-ear on her face. “I’m not gonna make you, obviously, that’s your choice, but… I really think it’s gonna be fun.”

 

                How could Ruka say no to that face? Especially with her tail wagging behind her so enthusiastically--did Vahana make people take on traits of their assigned avatars?

                He noticed her expression growing just a bit softer, her shoulders slacking and her weight shifting to her other foot. “Ruka? We can totally do something else, if you really don’t want--”

                He stopped her before she could finish, giving her hand a gentle squeeze and smiling sweetly as he responded,  “Alright, alright, you got me. I’ll go with you.”

                She lit up, returning the squeeze and wriggling in place. “Great--okay, let’s keep going!”

 

                It always startled him whenever he could feel the physical contact between them, when he could feel her warmth, or when he could feel exhaustion or pain, or any other sensation, through the game--he could never wrap his head around how the developers had done it--though, a part of him decided that… It didn’t matter.

                What mattered was that he was here, with Pom, in some oddly-realistic MMORPG, she was pulling him along to god knows where , and he was overwhelmingly happy that he could feel her, almost as if she really were holding his hand and pulling him along.

 

                It wasn’t long before the two of them ended up on a rather crowded market street--people were on either side of them, bustling by, chatting, making deals--some shady, some normal, hell, some people were just… Idling. Was that even allowed in Vahana?

 

                It didn’t matter, what mattered was that Pom pulled Ruka farther along, away from the street vendors, and to the entrance of a building at the end of the street.

                “So, you’re still in the clothes you started out in, huh?” She grinned, letting go of his hand (much to his disappointment) and turning around to face him with another big smile curling on her lips.

                Ruka didn’t have a chance to look at the sign when they approached--it was passed by far too quickly--but he had a fair idea of what Pom was implying.

                “Is there something wrong with them?” He looked down, raising his arms a bit to inspect the outfit further--it wasn’t dirty, it wasn’t uncomfortable… So why bring him here ? Why bring him to market street?

                “We’re getting you new clothes!” She paused. “And also some other stuff… Seriously, I don’t want you to run into trouble and not have any sorta actual means of keeping yourself safe here.”

                “I don’t exactly have any money on me?”

                “That’s fine! Really!” She reached out, taking both of his hands in her own as she met his gaze. “Consider it part two of your Christmas gift--I got you Vahana, and now I’m gonna help you get set up here, so that you can have a good time even if I’m not online. Okay?”

                Ruka chuckled anxiously, his tail matching his emotions with a back-and-forth twitch. “S-So, how many… How many parts does your Christmas gift have, exactly?” He already wished she would let him pay her back for the game--it was untelling how much it had cost her, though she would only beat around the bush with it and act like it was no big deal.

                Though, to her, it really wasn’t a big deal--and he knew this. He knew that she wanted to see him as much as she wanted to see her… And this was their best bet for consistently seeing each other.

                Plus, as she had said--it was an escape for him, not always, not a 24/7 sanctuary… But it was something. Even a few hours a night, away from everything, often spent with her? That meant everything and so, so much more to him.

 

                “Stubborn Kitten?” Pom’s low, but gentle voice snapped him back to virtual reality, pushing all of his thoughts back. “Are you okay? You went quiet again.”

                “Oh,” He stammered a bit, his smile coming back as she inched her face just a bit closer to his--of course, standing on her toes to match his height. “I’m fine--seriously, you don’t have to worry.”

                “You know I’m gonna worry, though. I’m seriously killing your uncle whenever I come back to town.” She huffed, slowly pulling her hands away and folding her arms in front of her. “Anyways! Your clothes. They’re not bad, perse… But you could really use an upgrade, and maybe a bit of variety, don’t you think?”

                “I mean, I guess you’re right?”

                “I’m definitely right!” She stuck a finger in his chest, gently prodding him. “Seriously, you look so good in red--and blue. And--okay, so, you look great in any color. But still. You need a new wardrobe. It’s my treat.”

                “Get yourself something, too? Okay? Please?”

                “Psh, naturally! We can have at least one cool matching outfit.” She grinned at him, almost wildly--if he didn’t know her any better, he would say that it was wild. “We’re gonna take over this whole game with our looks alone.”