Life is so Wonderful

Steam Powered Giraffe Fanfiction by Aoikami Sarah

Chapter Four

 

            Rabbit had always been curious. The Spine took a shower and glanced around the curtain every once in a while to see if she had tried to sneak in and peek at him. If she had, he would shout that it was “too soon” and beg her to “please, stop teasing” him. After the first two times, Rabbit felt badly for making him upset and decided to leave him alone, but the habit of checking to see if she was there remained. Maybe after she did finally see him naked he’d be ok with her peeking at him. She said that she thought he was just so handsome, she could hardly stand it. He had to understand that, right? He said he was gangly and too pale, but Rabbit insisted that she thought he was incredible and ignored him.

As she wandered the halls of Walter Manor this morning, having left him to shower in peace, Rabbit was trying to imagine what The Spine did look like naked based on the scores of young men they’d seen in various stages of undress during the last war. A shiver shook her from her head to her toes. She giggled and her voice echoed down the basement hall.

            “That you, Rabbit?” Peter Walter V’s voice called from a nearby lab.

            “Five?” she called back and skipped into the room. “Hi, Five!” she chimed and held out her hand, but he didn’t so much as chuckle. “That was a pun.”

            “Ah,” he said looking up from a yellowed notebook. The pages were full of handwritten notes and figures in Peter A Walter I’s cursive. Peter A Walter V had his own notebook open beside that and held a ball-point pen loosely in his hand. Only a few words were written on the white, college-ruled page: “Robots. Blue Matter. Repairs. Ask Wanda about...”

            Rabbit pouted. “Whatcha doin’?”

            Peter looked up to see the perky young woman leaning over the lab table on her folded arms. The red, boat-neck sweater she wore left little to the imagination as it gaped and he cleared his throat and sat up straight on his stool.

            “I’m trying to learn how to fix The Jon.”

            Rabbit stood back up and gasped. “Is he broken?”

            “Not yet.” Peter closed the decades-old note book and sighed. “But when he does need service beyond what I’m capable of, I’d like to know what I’m doing.”

            “Mmm,” Rabbit nodded as if she understood. “Well, you don’t have to worry about me an’ The Spine, anymore!” she beamed.

            The young man nodded and muttered something like “Yeah, that’s great,” as he stood and rounded the table.

            Proudly, she stuck out her chest. “Barbara says we’re healthy as horses.”

            “It would seem that way,” Peter agreed and looked her up and down. “It’s a shame we don’t have shoes that fit you.”

            Rabbit giggled and slapped her bare feet on the cement floor. “We do, I just don’t like wearing them.” She wriggled her toes happily and Peter Walter V chuckled.

            “You are so cute, I can’t really get over it.”

            “You think?” Rabbit twirled a lock of her hair around her finger.

            “Yeah, I do.” Peter stepped closer to her so that only a few inches separated them. “You look really good. This sweater is cute, your shorts are cute, and your face... I wonder,” he said and put a hand on her shoulder and cupped it, trying to pull her even closer, “what you look like without your clothes on. Would you show me?”

            Rabbit froze in place. She balled her hands into fists and stared into his half-lidded eyes in disbelief before squeezing her own eyes shut and flinching. When her voice came to her it sounded choked and small. “Please, don’t.”

            Peter paused then quickly pulled his hand back. “I-I’m sorry, Rabbit, I...” he stuttered. Without looking at him, Rabbit spun around and darted from the room as he shouted “Rabbit, wait! I’m sorry!”

 

.x.

            When Rabbit saw The Spine standing at the top of the stairs she put on an extra burst of speed, taking the last ten steps two at a time. She collided with him on the landing and wrapped her arms around him, bawling into his chest. Stunned, The Spine stroked her hair and held her close, but begged her to tell him what was wrong.

            “Can w-we go s-someplace where...”

            Privacy, he thought. Right. “Come on,” he said, took her hand and led her across the landing and further up the stairs.

 

The northernmost turret was just about the only place anyone could have total privacy as it was separated from the rest of the house by a tall, narrow stairway. Rabbit knew where he was leading her and relaxed a little as the security the turret provided settled in. It was dirty and dusty but the broken windows allowed for free-moving air, and a small family of chirping birds in the rafters gave it a strangely pleasant ambiance. Dark clouds that had been threatening all day swirled around the manor and a light rain began to fall, ticking against the northern-facing windows.

 The Spine sat down against the wall and pulled her into his lap where she curled up and clutched his t-shirt, rubbing her face against his chest.

            “Shhh...” he rocked her in his arms and kissed the top of her head as she cried. “Rabbit, what happened?”

            “N-n-nothing,” she hiccupped. “Just hold me, Spine.”

            “Nothing, my foot. I’ve never seen you this upset before, even back then,” he argued.

            “Back then,” she said, catching her breath. “I w-wasn’t a girl!”

            “True.” He squeezed her tightly. “Rabbit, come on. You told me I can’t hide how I’m feeling from you. Do you know how much I hurt right now because I can’t make you feel better?”

            She gasped and looked up into his green eyes. “Oh! I’m sorry, Spine, I didn’t want to...” she started but couldn’t finish as another crying jag overtook her. “The Fifth scared me!”

            The Spine’s eyes widened. “What did he do?”

            “He... he s-said he wanted to see me without any c-clothes on.”

            “What?” he cried. “Did he touch you? Did he hurt you, Rabbit!”

            “No! No... he just said it. An’ I said please don’t an’ he said he was sorry but I just couldn’t even look at him an’ I feel so...” Rabbit shook her head. “I don’t know! I feel weak an’ small, Spine. I was so scared!” she cried.

            He took a deep breath and tried to calm himself. “If he hurt you, I’d kill him.”

            Rabbit looked up at him in panic. “Oh, don’t, Spine. He said he was sorry!”

            “I won’t. I won’t. He’s lucky he doesn’t know about us. If he did there would be absolutely no excuse for his actions.”

            “Why’d he do that, The Spine? Why’d he look at me like that?” Rabbit relaxed and leaned against him. She smoothed the wrinkles she’d made in his shirt with her hand.

            “Well,” he made a face. “Now, there’s no excuse for him making such a brazen pass at you when you didn’t want him to, but, now, hear me out, maybe you might have...” he grimaced, looking for the right word. “You might have inspired him, a little.”

            “I did?” Rabbit pouted up at him. Her demure form was curled against him, seated on his splayed-out legs with her legs tucked up so that her bare feet touched his left leg. Her left arm was wrapped around his back and her right lay against him just below his left shoulder. Her hair was, as usual, a little messy and her green-and-blue eyes were large and red-rimmed.

            The Spine smiled sweetly on the girl he loved. “Rabbit, you might not realize it, but you have an incredible power.”

            “I do?”

            “Boy, do you ever. You’re cute, no, gorgeous--sexy even. You shine. Your laugh is infectious and your brightness is practically blinding.” Rabbit blushed and smiled. “Right now, you’re making me want to do everything in my power to make you happy. That’s how strong your power is. However, it can also backfire when someone just wants that brightness to themselves. Do you remember the young soldiers we were stationed with?”

            Her smile fell a little. “Yeah.”

            “Remember when they would talk about ladies? The things they would say?”

            Rabbit fidgeted. “Yeah. Wow. I didn’t really think about it at the time. But now, remembering those... horrible things--disgusting things they’d say...!”

            “Men can be like that.”

            “So Five is like that?” she asked, astounded.

            “Maybe a little? I think a lot of men are, but also, you’re... well, Rabbit, maybe the way you were acting around him might have made him think he could ask you what he did.”

            “The way I was...” she repeated and looked to the dusty floor. “Oh. Oh... did I... Is this my fault?” Tears sprang to her eyes again.

            “No! No, Rabbit, it’s not your fault, you didn’t know any better. This is still something The Fifth did wrong, no matter what.”

            She nodded. “Spine, how do you know all this stuff so well?”

            “You probably know it, too, or maybe you used to, but I think the difference is that I was and am a man and you are now a woman. You’re...” he searched for the right word again. “You’re programmed differently, now. It’s going to take some getting used to.”

            “Ok...” Rabbit looked back up at him. “Will you help me, The Spine?”

            “Of course. I love you, Rabbit.”

            At last, Rabbit smiled and lifted her face up for a kiss. “Oh gosh, I love you too, The Spine.” They sat together and quietly watched the rain until it had passed and the sun emerged from the clouds to the west.

            “Rabbit, I’ve got an idea. Let’s go for a walk in the park.”

            She blinked at him for a second. “We can do that?”

            He grinned wide. “We’re adult humans. We can do whatever we want!”