She says her birthday was a few weeks ago.She tells him after the fact, of course, and it irks him and he tells her that—in which she responds by snapping at him that it doesn’t matter. He snaps back and they bicker for a while, and eventually her voice raises and she grabs the vase by her side and she throws it at him with such force that when it slams into his chest the fragility of the china shatters against him and he goes silent before scolding her with a loud voice. He even curses at her and she smiles at that and isn’t screaming anymore because she’s laughing and he stops with his empty reprimanding and picks up the glass with grumbles underneath his breath.
That’s how they spend her sixteenth “birthday.”
The next day comes and he walks into her room with a sour look on his face. He hasn’t forgiven her for her misbehavior and she knows it, giving him a wry smile as she dares to wave sheepishly with the wiggle of her fingers.
“You came back,” She chimes happily, knowing she’s taunting him with her very words. He always came back; he had no choice to come back, “Are you done throwing a hissy fit?”
Her words are always cruel. He knows this but it still bothers him to no end—it still bothers him that even though he’s done so much for her, she’s always cruel. It’s been a year since he’s been by her side every day and every free moment he had away from heaps of paperwork and orders from him Master Rufus, and she’s ungrateful and overbearing and she’s vulgar. She’s even a little scary sometimes and he thinks he should be used to it after a year, but there are still times where he regrets coming back to her.
Still, he sees the vulnerable child he watched crumble to pieces in a mess of tears nearly four years ago, and it forces him to stay.
“It certainly was a well justified hissy fit if anything,” He speaks slowly, holding his tongue and attempting to refrain from snapping at her once more, “Besides that, today is a rather slow day and I haven’t many duties to attend to. I was thinking we could perhaps—“
She cuts him off quickly and his face crinkles up with displeasure and he moves towards her so quickly that even she looks confused as to how he got so close so fast, though her lips twitch into a smirk and she reaches out and brushes her fingertips against the curve of his face. He jerks away from her but only slightly and she lets out a gurgled giggle when he flushes and stares at her for more than a few moments—glasses half way down his face.
“Y—Keep your hands to yourself!” He barks and she giggles louder and shakes her head at him with a grin that he knows can’t be good.
“Mmm, but you touch me every day.”
He loses it then and his face goes red and his composure disappears—voice rising to screechy new heights. He’s flailing about and his words are at first gibberish and nonsense but after a while they begin to make sense and Penelope’s stomach wrenches with amusement as he goes on and on and on.
“You—That’s—What the Hell is wrong with you?! You know very well, Miss Penelope, that it is my duty to make sure your every need is attended to so you stay healthy and taken care of! And you should be grateful that I do this! Who else wants to come near you?! I’m sure you can imagine the answer yourself; so honestly, it is completely and utterly inappropriate and unnecessary to make comments of that nature! I certainly do not tou—“
He stops mid-sentence and pants with exhaustion and finds her eyes that are lit with hilarity and he groans and finally pushes his glasses back up where they belong, the bright red draining from his cheeks after a few moments of steady breathing and collecting himself.
“And yet another hissy fit dies down!”
He breathes out with exhaust and stares at her with worn almond eyes and she waves at him again, speaking once more before he had the chance.
“You were saying something before. What was that?”
“You already declined—“
“But what were you suggesting?”
“You haven’t been out in quite some time,” He remarks rigidly, watching her carefully to ensure he wasn’t going to receive another vase to the chest (though all ‘weapons’ were removed as a cautionary statement) and continued speaking after a stale pause, “So I was thinking I could take you for a small walk through the snow.”
He says walk as though she can do such a thing and her eyes narrow at her and she snaps quickly once again. He’s about to fight back but before he can speak she cuts him off and grants him permission to take her for a ‘walk’ in the snow. He looks a bit stunned by her quick agreement, her willingness smoother than it had been in a long time as he nodded and looked towards her closet to shuffle through and find something suitable for the winter.
It took a long while to dress her as she continued to make wry comments about keeping his hands to himself as he slipped her arms into the warm sleeves of the heavy black and blue sweaters. He pins a bow into her hair and hands her a scarf to wrap around her neck and she does so in the sloppiest way and it takes every bone in his body not to reach over and hang it over her shoulders appropriately but he contains himself and sets her into her wheelchair made cold by the winter’s air and continues on the way out, pushing her along in front of him.
When they’re outside he pushes her about and makes awkward attempts to talk with her. She responds with a few grumbles and eventually he stops trying to talk to her as he pushes her along. The only noise that can be heard within the ever-lasting and flowing silence is the crinkle of snow underneath faltering wheels, and it lasts for a long while—Penelope staring down at the fluffy white substance while Reim stares off into his own world before he finally decides to stop. Sun finds them and he smiles a little up into the blue of the sky and looks at her, the girl with sunshine hair, but she does nothing and simply continues to peer down at her boots.
He wants to ask if she’s alright on a natural impulse, but he knows he’ll be greeted with a rude remark so he holds his tongue. He stands for a good awkward minute before he decides that perhaps it would be better if they turn back and go back inside. He makes the motion to grab at the handles of her wheelchair which he had released a moment ago before she speaks up and surprises him as she always does.
“I want snow.”
“Snow, I want snow. Pick some up and give it to me.”
She’s demanding and oh, how he hates it—so he narrows his eyes and mutters a little at her through his confusion as to what her intentions are and goes to collect snow. It’s a strange bending and stretching process though he does succeed in clumping the frozen droplets together between his warm gloves and looks at her with a glint of wonder. She motions to her lap and he looks oddly at her with the furrowing of his eyebrows and she snaps as she always does with that horridly childish tone of hers and he hesitantly obliges by setting the snow down onto her lap.
He watches with mute fascination as she rolls the snow into a ball between the blue of her warm gloves and looks fairly caught up in her actions, tongue pressed tightly to her lips. She finally makes the perfect ball out of the white and she looks at him with one quick, sharp look, and he knows it’s coming when he sees the look—
She pelts the snowball into his face.
His glasses fall right off of his nose into the snow and he lets out a strangled sort of bird noise and flails and drops to the ground to try and find his glasses, face freezing with the impact. He supposes it’s better than a vase, but her habits of throwing whatever she could get her hands on at him was unnerving. He again supposes its better than her old ways of biting into him and scratching at every part of his body she could get to when she didn’t get her way, and so he decides to suck it up.
When he locates his glasses and sets them back onto his nose, he looks at her and she grins.
“I want a snowball fight.”
He looks even more taken back and he tilts his head like a lost puppy, skeptical. He doesn’t know what she’s playing at and she knows he wants to ask but she growls a bit and points at the snow and then at him.
She can’t be serious.
“Honestly, what are y—“
His eyes linger on her for the briefest of moments but again he obliges and repeats the same motions he did before. He collects snow into his hands once more and he finds that his skin is becoming chilled even with the gloves on and he’s nit-picking at that in his mind but holds his tongue as he usually does. He takes his time for a bit before he hears her grumbling at him to ‘hurry the fuck up’ and he yips back at her to mind her patience for she is a lady, though hurries and fixates a ball of snow into his hands. The shape of it is bothering him for it isn’t perfect and he can’t help but run his fingers over it in attempts to smooth it. He doesn’t quite know what to do with it. Throw it? Toss it? Set it onto her lap?
“Well, throw it!”
He twinges uncomfortably.
“At my face.”
“Y-You can’t be serious!”
There has to be some sort of trick she’s pulling. He knows it and he almost drops it to the ground in response to her words but she’s staring right at him with her creepy little eyes and he gets chills (from the cold or from her—possibly both) and looks at her right back. He finds he doesn’t want to throw it at her, though he probably should want to, considering she’s an insufferable child who does nothing but harasses him and gets on his very last nerves.
He inches a bit closer so the impact will not hurt her, he doesn’t want to hurt her and he knows that well, and she grows impatient again.
He throws it in her face and watches the snow fall down her nose and onto her jacket and lap.
Reim feels as though he’s going to faint when she doesn’t move for a long moment. He knows that she’s going to completely lose it and he’s regretting ever throwing the snow at her—even if it was gentle and nervous and completely awkward, he’s regretting it. He knows she’s going to do something, something evil and disgusting and—
She laughs and she smiles and her face turns bright red and she laughs longer than she ever has.
He stands there and watches her laugh at first with a stunned expression before his lips tilt into a baffled smile.
When they leave there is silence again and she says nothing and neither does she. It wasn’t much of a ‘snowball fight’, Reim thinks, but his mind if aflutter. She is an oddity and a pain, but he remembers more vividly now than ever the girl who slipped in water and cried in her childish vulnerability and clung to his arm and cried more and cursed herself and cursed the world and cried, and cried, and cried.
He doesn’t just remember that girl, but he remembers this one, too. The one who laughed, and laughed, and laughed at snow being tossed into her face.
He forgets that girl the following evening when Penelope tears up his paperwork and spits in his face.