Ciel never felt so nervous in her life. Even before meeting Master X, before being commissioned to analyze him and make a copy… no, everything thus far paled in comparison to this. It was enough to make her turn and run away, but if she didn't say anything, didn't get it out, she would burst. She had to tell him.
Zero stood in front of her, standing at his full height and staring at her, his head slightly lowered. She couldn't tell if he was actually looking her in the eyes, but the intensity of his own black orbs were enough to make her blush. Zero was a strong, intense warrior-model Reploid, whose very presence both frightened and comforted. Walking power… walking courage and bravery. Ciel admired him.
No, she more than admired him. Her heart fluttered at the mental confession of the fact she loved Zero.
"Was there something you needed, Ciel?"
His deep voice, emotionless and intense, sliced through her thoughts and she felt as if she would start to lose her courage as her thoughts fragmented. "Y-yes," Ciel clasped her hands at her chest, looking at Zero intently.
"What is it?" he asked. Never once did Zero smile at her. Never once did his eyes hold more than simple camaraderie respect.
Was she wrong? Ciel did not want things to become awkward between them. The friendship she finally managed to cultivate with Zero meant so much to her… was the possibility of something more worth the risk of losing that precious friendship? A human and a Reploid… it's not like it never happened before…
Others said they saw it, though. When she wasn't looking, Zero's stoic expression would soften ever so slightly when he watched her work. That when she wasn't around, Zero liked to speak of her, often highly of her. That if something seemed wrong, he was the most worried, the most anxious for her. So something was there.
You only live once, Ciel thought to herself. Well. If you're human…
Ciel's hands gripped each other tighter and she took a step forward. "I… before you leave, Zero, I… I have to tell you something."
He waited for her, and the silence felt thick all around her. If she breathed in too deeply she would suffocate from it, and before she knew it, Ciel was nearly short of breath.
Zero took a small step toward her. "Are you ill?" his voice, it changed a little. He seemed…
"N-not really. It's just… well, I'm nervous," Ciel giggled.
"I mean no offense, Ciel, but if it isn't life threatening…"
"Wait!" she went to him, nearly ran the few feet between them and grasped one of his hands. "Zero, I have to tell you or I'll just… I'll just…"
"What is it?" Zero stared at her hands gripping his. Why was she afraid?
Ciel swallowed as a blush dominated her face. "It might not be appropriate now but…" she looked at the ground, but built up her courage to look at him in the eye. His own eyes seemed to be looking at her mouth instead of hers.
"I love you, Zero," Ciel breathed out, "More than friends, more than comrades, more than family. I… I want to spend my life with you."
There. It was out. The words dispelled the thick, awkward silence and Ciel immensely felt better, as if the world was finally off her shoulders. She smiled, even as it felt shaky to her, and waited, hoped, prayed, for the answer others said he would have for her.
Zero pulled his hand from hers. "No, Ciel."
Ciel was expecting this, and although she felt a stab of pain, she tried to reason through it. "I-I know with you being a Reploid and me being human it'd be hard… but I'm willing to work through it. I won't ask you to do what Andrew did with his human wife, and I'll never resent you, especially after all you've—"
"No, Ciel," Zero repeated, for once cutting her off. Ciel's mouth shut with a snap as Zero half turned away, his eyes still staring at her face but not quite in the eye. "It's not because you're human and I'm a Reploid, although that is a valid enough reason."
"You are young," Zero waved his hand almost dismissively at her. "Humans are known to go through these… phases at young ages, regardless of maturity. It would also do your dwindling race no good if you were to attempt a relationship with a Reploid."
"That's just cold, Zero!"
"It is how I see it," Zero replied. He shook his head at her teary expression, but he showed no remorse for how painful his words were. "And I could not accept your feelings, Ciel, if I do not feel the same."
He doesn't love you. The signs you saw. You read them wrong. Starry-eyed, stupid girl.
"I will be your comrade, Ciel. I will even be your friend. But I will not be more than that." Zero turned away from her, back to her tears that streaked down her cheeks. "Each person I have ever loved has died a horrible, unjust death. Although it seems like a cop-out, I do not want that to happen to you." A flash of memory came to Zero, of long brown hair with red and blue, of a smile that he was unworthy of.
"It won't…" Ciel tried to say.
"Maybe it won't happen to you." Zero actually shrugged. "But although you are willing to chance it, I am not. I am made to fight, and fight I will. Other than that…"
Zero shrugged again and walked away, leaving Ciel in the hallway by herself. She scrubbed at her face with her hands, even as more tears bubbled to the surface and she fell to her knees, sobbing into her palms. She never knew such pain.
Be your friend. That's all you saw. Friendly concern, and you were deluded enough to morph it into more. Stupid Ciel. Look what you've done.