I wrote an alarming amount of this. It doesn’t really do anything, though it eventually goes sort of somewhere. Presumably if anyone ever actually read it and liked it I could go back and fiddle with it to actually put some, you know, plot in. But whatever. It was mostly just an excuse to have hugs. Thus.
Things went by almost normally after this, which is to say there were no earth-shattering changes. I wasn’t sure what I expected, really, but waking up the next day everything went pretty much as it always did on any given weekday.
Given that it was a day of early lectures – Nine AM! Such barbarity! – I actually had to wake up, which was bad.I went through the motions of washing and eating breakfast that were so practised they were more automatic gestures and muscle memory than anything else. It was only as I headed towards the front door that something different happened.
Typically though not always Tillie was up and around to say good morning and see me off (somehow she never had any early lectures; damn her) but this morning it did not appear so and her door was closed. I shrugged this off – I couldn’t blame her – but failed to hear it open once I moved past it. The first indication I had was when, suddenly, she slithered up behind me quick as a flash and grabbed me around the waist.
“Morning!” She squeaked, squeezing the air out of me as I waved my arms in surprise. Her grip was such I couldn’t even turn around so I just sort of stood there accepting it for a few seconds until she let go. When I did manage to turn around – trying not to wheeze – I saw her sheepishly clutching her hands in front of her, tail doing the nervous flicking thing again.
“Sorry. Was that okay? Is it too early? Should I ask first?” She asked.
“You worry too much, and it is adorable,” I said, gesturing for her to come in at me again, which she did. This one was a lot less painful and awkward, though I still winced a little as she squeezed in the exact same place as last time and I was beginning to get a little tender. Pleasant enough anyway.
“Have a good day!” She said as I opened the front door.
“You too!” I said in return, and l left for uni actually feeling pretty good about, well, everything really.
Other than the beginning the day was utterly, utterly mundane. It is impossible to overstate just how routine it was, and how everything it contained was completely within the bounds of what I had come to expect. Learning, mostly, with lots of walking around and staring into space mixed in. The only possibly slightly new thing was that my sides hurt through most all of it.
Pausing to have a look at why this might be I was somewhat surprised to find myself the proud owner of two new and quite livid bruises on my sides. Tillie hugged hard, apparently. And naturally now that I’d noticed and seen them they hurt a lot more, but worse things had happened.
After a cup of far too expensive and completely foul coffee to stop me from keeling over on the way back I went home again in time for lunch and also in time to find that Tillie was out. No bad thing, as lovely as she was, a quiet house every now and then was a blessing. I made the most of it by making the house as noisy as possible. Music went on and went on at a volume enough that I could hear it all the way from my room while in the kitchen. I think the house next door is empty. I hope it is. If it isn’t, they’re very patient with us. And especially me, since I am in many ways the exact things you do not want in a student living next to you. Mea culpa.
I should, of course, have been working. I wasn’t though. I was a bad influence on myself. On the walk back I was filled with motivation, thinking to myself about all the things I could – and would – do once I got back and parcelling up all the time nicely in my head. The moment I got in I would eat, and that would last for exactly forty-five minutes (inclusive of preparation), after which I would sit for fifteen, then I would do work for an hour etcetera etcetera.
This all went out the window the moment I stepped through the door and lunch had just sort of blended into an extended period of doing nothing much at all. Which was fine, because all the stuff I told myself I was going to do and all the stuff I needed to do I could probably do tomorrow anyway, when I totally would. So it was fine, it was fine.
Sometime later Tillie returned home.
“Hi!” She shouted on closing the door.
“Hi,” I said as well, leaping up to go and say hello properly. As was now apparently the new standard, we hugged once she had dumped all of her stuff into her room and then we both slumped onto opposite sofas in the tiny lounge to grouse about our days. Or rather, Tillie grouse about hers, and me tell wandering and pointless or short and pointless anecdotes about mine. For example, once we were both settled, Tillie opened up with:
“There’s this girl in my seminar, oh my God,” she said, curling up on the smaller of the sofas “I can’t really do it the way she does but she just has this breathing sound she does all the way through, and she always sits behind me!”
“Most people need to breathe, Tillie,” I pointed out, though I knew exactly what she was talking about. She flapped a hand at my objection.
“Yes yes, but most people can do it quietly! She sounds like a wounded animal! Or if she’s way, way too excited about the lesson. It’s just horrible!”
Whereas mine tended more towards this:
“A fly tried to climb into my ear and I nearly walked into a lamppost and some girls laughed at me.”
This had happened, although there was a chance the girls hadn’t been laughing at me. It made the story better if I said they were though, so I did. Tillie said ‘aww’ to this and lazily reached out towards me but couldn’t really get very far.
“I’m trying to pat you supportively on the knee,” she said. I shuffled off my sofa and a little closer so she could manage it. I felt sufficiently supported.
“Thank you,” I said, sitting back down again.
“Don’t mention it,” she said, pressing herself back into the overlarge pillow behind her.
The conversation continued much like this. I mentioned the officially disgusting coffee I had had, she went over the asinine questions other members of her classes or lectures had been asking. It’s been mentioned before but bears repeating that I am not a talker at the best of times and neither is Tillie, at least by her own admission.
But for some reason simply sinking deeper and deeper into the sofas and blabbering about whatever happened to be on our minds at the time just came supremely easily to us. Maybe it was our superpower. It was only when it started getting dark in the already dim little lounge that the passage of time became obvious, and then my only real response was to get up and turn the light on.
Standing up hurt, which reminded me of something. Once the room was lit I turned to Tillie, still curled up as she was.
“Check this out,” I said, pulling up the side of my t-shirt and pointing to my ribs. There was a large, vaguely-oblong patch of blue and black about halfway up. One of the bruises, and a fairly impressive one; already starting to turn that funny colour at the edges. Tillie gasped. I never, ever got tired of hearing a living-machine gasp. That was a novelty that would never leave me.
“What happened?” She asked, sitting up and leaning in, almost reaching out to touch but pulling back a moment later as she clearly had no idea why she would touch it. Her hand didn’t fall all the way though, at least not until I’d lowered the shirt again.
“That was you, that was. Big Fan of the hugs, you,” I said, twisting and lifting again to show that it was the same on the other side as well. I grinned a bit, though that stopped when her lights turned a powerfully remorseful shade of deep blue.
“I’m so sorry,” she said, regret almost tangible in her voice.
“Oh hush, it’s fine,” I said, but the blue remained, and she at least clearly didn’t think it was fine. I needed something to distract her.
It being a Wednesday this particular day, that meant it was movie night. Since it was now dark, that meant it was night – in my book – so movies were now an acceptable thing to have.
“You, uh, wanna watch something?” I asked, testing the water. It was hard for me to tell, but I think I saw the blue lighten a little.
“It is movie night…” she said quietly, nodding ever so slightly. I grinned.
“You stay right there. Don’t move at all. Don’t! I’ll pick one!” I said, holding up a warning finger in her direction and practically leaping over to the television. It sat on an old and very ugly cabinet thing into which we had both crammed our films. We’d merged our collection maybe a month after I’d moved in and it was now prodigious. Resting down on one knee I gave her a frown, cocking a rakish eyebrow. Because I had eyebrows, and so I could.
“What are you in the mood for?” I asked.
As well as being movie night, it was also apparently one of those nights when Tillie was obviously dead on her feet (well, not ‘feet’, but still). Even having quite literally curled up on the sofa she kept swaying in place, head drooping even as I perused what movies we had on offer. I hadn’t noticed when she’d got back, but apparently it had all come crashing down on her all of a sudden. It happened to the best of us, really.
Tillie didn’t have to sleep, or so she told me. I had learnt this fairly early on, what with the prevalence of all-nighters and the like. I had boasted of the length of time I was able to go without sleep – because that was sort of thing that was worth boasting about – and she had countered with the fact she didn’t have to sleep.
Rather, after a certain period of being active, she merely had to go into standby to process data and allow some of her systems to intelligently update and repair themselves. During this time she would lie still, her lenses would close and she would experience projected simulations of possible experiences based on harvested data. To me, this sounded a lot like sleeping and dreaming, but I was assured in strong terms that it wasn’t.
Adorably enough though, even though she obviously didn’t sleep, she did still get drowsy, as was now obvious. Or what at least she got what she claimed wasn’t drowsy, but this time had no real explanation for. She just got ‘tired’ in a non-specific but very definitely inhuman fashion. Definitely not analogous to human tiredness in the slightest.
How that worked I did not know, and added to the list of things just like that. I accept it though, because it is incredibly cute to watch. She gets all clumsy and actually yawns which – like the gasping – makes no sense at all but does make me oddly happy when I hear it. Always made me want to pat her on the head, even if I knew from experience she didn’t really appreciate that.
“We don’t have to have movie night, you know. You can just go to sleep. I mean, you can just ‘go into standby to process data’,” I said, unable to stop myself smiling. She gave me her best cold stare, which is saying something, because she could give some chillingly stares if she wanted. Not having to blink gave her an advantage in that respect. It was like trying to stare down a cluster of CCTV cameras sometimes. It was undermined by her yawning, during which her lenses all closed and she actually stretched. Amazing. Never got tired of that.
“I’m fine,” she said. Then she yawned again, head swaying. I smiled wider. It was just so cute sounding!
“I just want to put you in a box! You’re so adorable!” I said. This sounded dreadful, but it wasn’t the first time I’d said it and she got my meaning. Clutching her shoulders she sunk down into the sofa.
“Stop calling me that…”
“Never. Now, what do you feel like watching? I, Robot? Automata? Any one of the fine Terminator films?” I asked. I got another very cold look.
“You’re lucky I like you, some people might find that a little offensive.”
“Sorry…” now who was the arsehole? Me. That was who was the arsehole. And she yawned again.
“I’m really not into…concentrating on anything right now. Just put on one of those Attrition films.”
“Ooh, yes, that’ll do,” I said, tracing my finger along the spines of keep-cases and finding the film in question. Brainless pulp par excellence and no mistake. Slipping the disc into the player I swept up the remote and, grunting, pushed back up onto my feet and shambled over to the smaller sofa on which she was lying.
“Shuffle up a bit,” I said, standing in front of her and frowning down. For a moment I thought she might ask why I was telling her to do this, but she didn’t, and just did it instead. This left a bit of a gap towards the end furthest from the television and it was into this gap that I squashed myself down. Twisting a little I patted my chest.
“Lean back,” I said. This was apparently enough to prompt her to question me, glancing back over her shoulder at me.
“Why?” She asked. I rolled my eyes as theatrically as possible.
“Must you bombard me with questions?” I asked in return.
Somehow, this seemed to work, and she actually settled backwards. I watched with some interest as her tail sort of coiled inwards a little more, the end draping over her arm of the sofa and therefore allowing her some more room. Useful, that. Her back came to rest against my front, or rather my side, as I wasn’t turned fully to face her. It worked though, for what I had in mind.
“Happy now?” She asked.
She was nowhere near as heavy as I expected her to be. Must be lightweight alloys and components and such. Or maybe I just don’t know my own strength. Maybe both, who knew. Still holding the remote control I looped my arms up around her middle and pulled her back into me with one, flicking through the plethora of language selection pages and fast-forwarding through a cluster of anti-piracy PSA’s with my free hand.
“What are you doing?” She asked softly. I could feel that gentle little trembling vibration coming from her again. Actually, now I think about it, sort of reminded me of how a cat felt when purring. Much nicer than a compressor or an engine, which is what I might have expected or compared it to. Almost soothing when I thought about it like that.
“This would be a ‘cuddle’. Consider it a step up from a hug and enjoy the film,” I said, dropping the control of the floor and looping my other arm around her as well. She seemed uncertain and stiff for a moment or two before, slowly, by degrees, relaxing into me as the credits started.
“Thank you,” she said very, very quietly. I didn’t really feel the need to reply or at least couldn’t think of anything sufficiently witty or awesome with words in time, so just cuddled her harder, which seemed to work.
We watched the film in companionable, cuddle-filled silence. So silent, in fact, that it was only about halfway through that I actually realized she had fallen asleep in my arms.
Sorry. Gone on ‘standby’ in my arms.
Not that I minded either way.