OK, since I've got excessive amounts of free time on my hands right now, I've written another fic. I've tried my hand at a first person Miho fic, though (like my last) it's really more about Ping.

Well, what can I say? I like Ping.

=====================================

She looks cute in black. Then again, she'd look cute in anything. You could put a bloody knife in one of her hands and a gutted little rabbit in the other and she'd still look cute. I dressed her up in a billowing black dress with frilly lace around the edges. Any normal human being would look stunningly Victorian in it.

She just looks cute.

She's also looking… worried, I guess. The dark music played inside can be heard out here in the street. People with black clothes and pale faces move in and out of the building and of course, the sign above the entrance does say "Cave of Evil".

She's probably calculating the probability of scary and/or unsavoury goings on inside.

"< Something wrong, Ping? >" I ask, in my most innocent voice.


She looks at me, then back at the club, then back at me again. "< Are you sure you want to go in there? >"

"< Any reason why we shouldn't? >" I ask.

She seems a little puzzled by my answer, as I expected.

"< Are you… >" She pauses. "< What's going on inside? >"

"< People dancing, mostly, >" I answer. "< Probably talking and drinking as well. >"

"< What kind of dancing? >"

"< What kind do you think? >"

She looks at me again. She's still puzzled. Probably wondering why I'm not giving her straight answers.

"< I don't think they're playing slow, romantic music. >"

"< Depends on your definition of romance, I suppose. >"

"< I've been programmed with some dancing skills, >" she says. I've got a feeling she's talking to herself more than to me. Entire blocks of code are probably being written or rewritten inside that head of hers. "< I don't think I know any appropriate dances. >"

"< You could always learn some, >" I say.

"< From who? >"

"< Well, me for a start. >"

She looks back at the club. If she were human, I'd say that she wasn't actually seeing it. I'd say that her thoughts were getting in the way of her eyes.

"< OK. You can teach me then, >" she says cheerfully all of a sudden. "< Come on, let's go inside, >"

She grabs my hand and pulls. It hurts. I should probably remind her some time in the future that she's stronger than me. A lot stronger.


The inside of the Cave is dark, as always. Lights in all colours flash about the room, but the only thing they do is adding more shadows. Music thumps out of a hundred speakers, glorifying darkness and death, making us feel alive.

You can't hear the music, not really. Your body beats and pulses too much, drowning out anything your ears may pick up.

There is a bar, off to the side, with a few empty tables and chairs. The dance floor is packed with bodies, none of them hearing the music, all of them feeling it.

"< So what do you want to do first? >" I ask Ping.

She looks at the dance floor for a moment. "< It's very dark in here, >" she says.

I chuckle. I can't help it. "< Yes, it is, >" I say.

"< Why is that? >"

"< It improves the mood. >"

"< I thought people improved the mood with candles. >"

"< That's a different kind of mood, Ping. >"

"< No it's not, >" she says.

The definite tone with which she says that surprises me.

"< Oh? And why is that? >"

"< The basic parameters are the same, >" she says. "< I mean, everyone acts differently here, but when it comes down to it… >" She shrugs. "< Some things are the same. >"

"< You're very observant, Ping, >" I say.

Ping beams at me. She always does when she gets a compliment. Apparently, she still has some bits of her original programming left.

"< So… what do you want to do? >" I ask.

"< You already asked that, >" she points out.

"< You didn't reply. >"

"< Oh no, I didn't. Let's get something to drink then. >"

"< You sure you don't want to dance? >"

Ping shakes her head. "< No, no. Drinks and talk first, then dance, then… >"

She trails off, her eyes going blank again. Seems we've hit another unforeseen snag in her programming. Who knew dancing was so complicated?

"< And then…? >" I prompt.

"< We… kiss? >" she says, uncertainty in her voice.

"< Why would you want to do that? >" I ask.

She blinks quite deliberately. "< Because… that's what people do? >"

"< Only people who are dating. Are we dating, Ping? >"

"< I… I… >"

She falls quiet again. Large amounts of 1's and 0's are being added and altered somewhere in there. She's working out how to deal with this entirely new situation. It's quite interesting to see, actually.

"< Well? >" I say after a while.

"< We're… not dating, >" she says. "< We're friends. >"

"< That's right. And? >"

"< And… >"

110100011…

"< Do friends dance with each other? >" she asks.

Crafty. Letting me have the definite answer because she can't work it out for herself.

"< Sometimes. In the right circumstances. >"

"< Are these the right circumstances? >"

"< What do you think? >"

"< I think they are. Yes, we can dance together, >" she says, all uncertainty firmly gone.

"< Well that's great, >" I say. "< Shall we go then? >"

"< But something to drink first, >" she says. "< Because I'm thirsty. >"

I look at her and don't know what to think for a second.

I'm surprised. I'm actually surprised. She wants to get a drink because her programming says that's what she should be doing first.

But that's not the reason she's given me.

She thinks one thing and says the other.

How very… human… of her.


We walk over to the bar. Or saunter, more like. There's no rush, so why should we hurry? I know I'm going to need to conserve my energy if I'm going dancing later. And as for Ping, I have a feeling she's quietly observing the dance floor, already remembering the right moves that go with the right music.

We reach the bar. With much pointing and gesturing, I manage to order two cokes. When we get our order, we walk away from the bar and sit down on a pair of black chairs on opposite sides of a black table. Ping is still watching the dance floor.

"< Interesting, isn't it? >" I ask.

"< Yes, >" she says.

"< Yes? That's all? >"

"< Yes, it's very interesting. >"

I smile. "< I wanted to know why you thought it interesting. >"

She looks at me. "< It's new. New things are always interesting. >"

And just when I thought she could pass for human, she comes up with this. New things aren't interesting, they're strange. And strange things… well…

"< What's so interesting about it? >"

"< Don't you know? >" she asks. "< You made a statement, then asked if I agreed. If I answered in the negative, then you might want an explanation, right? >"

"< Normally. But you just said it was new, while you said it was familiar earlier. I want to know what made you change your mind. >"

It's a bit of a lie, really. I'm not very interested in the answer, I'm interested in getting Ping to really think for herself.

One of these days I'm really going to have to ask myself why.

"< Dancing is a romantic activity… >" She trails off. "< Or at least, a social one, >" she corrects herself. "< But some people out there are dancing all by themselves. I want to know why that is. >"

"< Maybe they just like to dance, >" I say.

"< Dancing for dancing's sake, >" she says.

"< That's right. >"

She smiles. Another piece of the dancing puzzle solved.

"< Well then. Let's dance, >" I say.

Ping smiles and nods, then gets up from the table.


We're both heading over to the dance floor when the worst voice ever heard in the entire universe reaches my ears.

"Hey, Miho, dollface."

I groan internally. Why him? Why now? Why, all of people, does he have to notice me? I turn around.

"Hello Makoto," I say coldly.

I'm fairly indifferent about people most of the time. Some of them amuse me, and a there's a select few I like. But Makoto… he's probably the only one I outright dislike. He's a couple of years older than me, tall and, I suppose, handsome. I have to admit, he looks good in anything he wears and he knows how to dance.

I still dislike him, though.

"I see you brought some company."

He's showing off his English. Look at me, the great Makoto, fluent in exotic foreign languages. Bow before me and my genius, be awed by my very presence.

"That's right," I say. "Her name's Ping." I put my arm around her shoulder and smile at him. "We're here together."

A bit of colour drains from his face.

"< You're here… together, >" he says, reverting to Japanese.

"< That's right. >"

"< Together? >"

"< Is that so odd? >"

I give him another innocent smile. Ping just stands there looking cute. I know she understands each and every word of our conversation, but she probably has no idea what we're talking about.

I'm almost certain.

"< Well, that's err… that's nice. I err… have to go now. See you later dollface. >"

He makes a hasty retreat. He still calls me dollface, but his heart's not in it any more. It's good to hear.

I remove my arm from Ping's shoulder.

"< Who was that? >" she asks.

"< That was Makoto. >"

"< He likes you, you know. >"

"< I know. I don't like him. >"

"< Oh, >" she says.

Strange comment coming from her. I would've expected a question or a comment. Not just "Oh".


"< Why was he so upset about us being here together? >" she asks.

"< Because he jumped to conclusions, >" I say.

"< What kind of conclusions? >"

"< The wrong kind of conclusion, >" I say. I don't really feel like explaining the concept of "girl love" to her right now.

Her processor might not be able to handle it.

"< People can be very strange, >" Ping says.

"< That's very true. >"


At long last, Ping and I manage to find a little bit of dance floor that's not completely occupied. There's a bit of an awkward moment. If I just started dancing right now, would Ping follow my example?

I decide a roundabout approach is probably best here. It's worked before.

"< Can you hear the music Ping? >"

"< It's hard not to, >" she answers.

I'm not quite sure if she's trying to joke here. Maybe she is. But does she know she is?

"< Can you feel it? >" I ask.

"< What do you mean? >"

"< Can you feel the beat thumping throughout your body, searing through your vei-- your circuitry? >"

"< I can detect the heavy bass tones, if that's what you mean. >"

I sigh, having a little defeated moment.

"< No, I mean… can you feel the rhythm? >" I ask.

"< I don't know. What does it feel like? >"

Good question.

"< Can you… can you filter out the rhythm from all the surrounding music? >"

"< Oh yes, that's easy, >" she says simply.

"< Can you move to it? >"

"< What do you mean? >"

What do I mean? It looks so easy in movies. Just close your eyes and the let your body do the rest, let the music guide you.

But that's just a call on basic human instincts.

"< I've seen you watching the floor. Did you remember some moves, by any chance? >"

"< Oh yes. I thought it'd be helpful. >"

"< Could you show them to me? >"

"< Sure. >"

Ping starts… well technically it's dancing. It's just that she's been looking at different people during different tunes and all that thrown together looks… not very flattering.

"< Ping, can you still discern the rhythm of the music? >"

"< Of course. >"

"< Can you match these moves to that rhythm? >"

She stops. It looks like she's listening, quietly matching two different rhythms to each other.

Then, slowly, she starts moving again.

This time, however, she's dancing.

"< This is nice, >" she comments after a while.

I smile. Nice isn't how I would've described it, but I guess it's still fairly accurate.

"< Aren't you going to dance? >" she asks, not missing a single beat.

I don't respond, but simply start moving with her. Out of the corner of my eye, I spot Makoto glaring at me. At us.

I ignore him, close my eyes and dance.

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