matrixrefugee: the word 'refugee' in electric green with a background of green matrix code (Come Away O Human Child)
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One of two "A.I." fics I've promised for the Lightning Round for the [livejournal.com profile] help_haiti auction. The other has been in the back of my head since someone hinted that one of the "A.I." fics I'd written for the 12 Days of Christmas offered the possibility of a follow-up...

"Remember Me to the Ladies When You Grow Up"

by "Matrix Refugee"

RATING: PG

DISCLAIMER: I do not own “A.I., Artificial Intelligence”, its characters, settings, concepts or other indicia, which are the property of the late, great Stanley Kubrick, of DreamWorks SKG, Steven Spielberg, Warner Brothers, Amblin Entertainment, et al. based on characters and concepts created by Brian Aldiss

NOTES: Based on [livejournal.com profile] ladyneferankh's prompt "what happens (AU) David grows up?", and I've often imagined what David might be like and who he might find when he's grown and just how he "remembers [Joe] to the ladies".

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A crowd of Cybertronics employees and their families, all dressed in their best, packed the ballroom of the Plaza Hotel in Trenton for the annual spring ball and the ceremony for the David Hobby Scholarship, awarded by Dr. Hobby himself. Three would be awarded to the best and brightest young people who applied, allowing them to continue their studies in whatever field they chose, even if that field went beyond machine intelligence design or programming or artificial organs.

"The third and final winner of this year's scholarship is a young man whom many of you already know very well," he began. "A young man who became a second son to me. Our talents are different and thus our paths have diverged, since he chose to develop his skills as a painter and an artist in more than a few media, but it is his passion and drive which continue to inspire me and inspire us all.

"You've heard many stories about David, about who and what he is; most of them are true: he began his life in one form, and by some strange alchemy, some magic, he was transmuted into another form. And yet he retained his heart, pure and innocent, untouched by all that has tried to harm it, and he has seen hardship on either side of his transmutation.

"But somehow, like an oyster taking in a grain of sand that irritates it, he produced a pearl of rare beauty, a source of hope in this cold and cynical world, which he continues to transmute through his art. We embarrassed him when we told him that he was on the short list of potential winners of the scholarship, and there were some who accused me of showing favoritism, but my peers agreed that he had earned his place. I give to you, David Swinton." He stepped back from the podium, leading the roar of applause that rose from the crowd.

David, waiting in the shadows beyond the platform, adjusted the cuffs of his tuxedo jacket and his dress shirt nervously, then drew in a cleansing breath. He thought back to that first big step he had taken into Dr. Hobby's office, so many years ago, confronting the truth and letting it pass through him, transforming him and transforming it. Then he stepped out into the spotlight on the platform.

The applause surged and he heard a few girls and young in the crowd call out, "David, I love you!" He paused, waiting for the cheering to die down, then glanced to Dr. Hobby who, with a smile to him, stepped forward and raised his hands, gesturing to the audience for quiet.

"Wow, I haven't heard a crowd making that much noise for me since that audience at the Flesh Fair yelled for my release," he joked, with a smile. The crowd laughed and giggled, but a few people called back, "David, not funny!"

"Dr. Hobby, members of the scholarship committee, you're too kind in granting me this scholarship. But winning it is a step on the journey which life set me on long ago. Even when I did not know exactly where the lines fall between dreams and reality, I believed in dreams and making them come true, and this scholarship will help me to keep living my dream, a dream of creating art to bring happiness and beauty into a world that needs both.

"But I did not travel that path alone: along the way, I had many people helping me, the wise Cricket and the Pigeon, Candlewick and the Cat and the Fox, even a Strombolli who tested me with fire and tested how much I believed that I would find the Blue Fairy. Dr. Hobby, who showed me the truth, which nearly broke me but made it possible for me to break the limits of what I was and find what I could be. Dr. Janine Sala, you helped me make sense of a world that didn't always make sense to a little wooden-head, and at the same, time, you showed me that it didn;t always have to make sense, at least in my corner of the world. My classmates, Evan Chan and his girlfriend Nancy, you helped me with my homework and put up with the doodles in my notebooks, especially when there were more doodles than class notes; but you also helped me learn about the world I had only just discovered. But most importantly, I had my family behind me all the way: Martin, you might not have welcomed me at first, and you might have been tough with me, but deep down, you really loved me." Martin groaned from somewhere in the crowd; several people laughed knowingly. "Don't deny it, brother." The laughter became applause. "But most of all, Mom and Dad -- Monica and Henry -- you showed me love, even when it came as a form of tough love; Mom, you were the one who set me on the road that lead me here when you first read those bedtime stories to me, and Dad, you may have taken some time to warm to me, but you let me in when you were ready to and that taught me to be patient with people, including myself. I'd go on and on, but that would take all night and like Scheherazade, I wouldn't finish before daybreak and I'd have to take it up tomorrow night, when all we have is tonight to celebrate. Thank you, thank you all." He bowed and stepped out of the spotlight to the laughter and applause of the crowd.

As he stepped offstage, his family met him, Mom throwing her arms around his neck.

"You looked so grown-up," she cried, and held him at arm's length before releasing him, happy tears in her eyes. "My bright baby..."

Dad put an arm around him, man-hugging him. "I knew you could do it, and don't let anyone tell you that you didn't earn that scholarship: I know the work you put into your portfolio."

Martin came up and fist-bumped him. "You did it, bro, now it's time to get some of the free eats and find some pretty girls."

"I think I've seen one already," David said, excusing himself. "She was at the table next to yours."

"Better go look for her before someone better-looking catches her," Martin teased.

He had spotted a small, dark-haired girl in the crowd, listening with a somewhat intent skepticism as he spoke, and he had tried to find her in the crowd after his speech, without much luck. Several friends and acquaintances crossed his path and he paused to chat with them, accepting their handshakes and their words of congratulation. But at length, as he stepped out onto the terrace outside the ballroom to put some distance between himself and the crowd, he found her walking there. The moonlight glowed on her silvery-violet sheath gown and the creamy skin of her face, turning her glossy dark hair to a corona of silk piled on the back of her head. She turned toward him as he approached.

"I thought I was gazing on a fairy princess in the moonlight," he said.

She smiled at him. "You have a way with words, Mr. Swinton," she replied.

He chuckled. "I learned that at a young age from a dear friend."

She turned toward him. "The lover robot? I've heard all the stories, I just thought they were Hobby's idea of a mad publicity stunt of some sort."

"No, not really, and you aren't the first person to find it hard to believe. I was the first who found it hard to believe, since I was the one living it. Mine is one of those rare moments when the fairy tale came true, when Pinocchio woke up to find his stiff man-made limbs had transformed into flesh and blood," he replied with a smile.

"But how can that happen?" she asked.

"Through love and a little magic," David said, "And a little pain as well, but every fairy tale has some of that, no matter what the cynics may think and say."

She turned away. "I guess in my case, the fairy tale has stalled out."

"Or it could just be waiting for another chapter to be written," he said.

Almost as if to answer him, the orchestra struck up a waltz. He bowed to her, like a well-bred gentleman in an old 2-D costume drama. "May I have this dance?" he asked.

His gesture almost took her breath away: it wasn't anything she'd seen any man offer her, ever. "Of course you may, Monsieur," she replied, with a gentle laugh as she put her hand into his and let him lead as they whirled across the terrace in slow circles. She had taken some ballroom dance classes at her mother's insistence, but she had only been passably good at it. The few men she had dated made poor dance partners at best, since few of them had bothered to learn the same skills, but David made up where they had slacked off. She hadn't danced with as agile or as graceful a partner in a long time, aside from one or two lover Mechas. Maybe there was some truth to the stories.

David felt the girl relax in his arms, the stand-offishness that stiffened her body softening. The look of skepticism had left her face and her smile had grown more sincere. By the time the waltz came to its dreamy climax which built up again into a more bombastic coda, she had all but nestled in his arms.

"That was wonderful," she said, her face glowing as they stepped apart.

"Thank you, I don't get to dance often, especially not with a partner who clearly appreciates and enjoys a waltz," he said, bowing to her.

"With your looks, I would think you'd have women hanging on you," she said.

"I have my share of admirers, and I enjoy the company of women, but I only have one heart," he said.

"And you're saving it for that special someone," she said, the cool detachment starting to creep back into her tone, but he thought he saw something in her eyes, a hint of a sad hopefulness.

"I am, but I may have found her," he said, smiling into her eyes.

She laughed. "Who do you mean? Me? I'm an ice queen."

"Maybe, but doesn't the ice queen warm and melt at the approach of the foreign prince?" he asked.

"She does if he's the right one for her," she said, her voice grown gently choked up, but her smile remaining steadfast.

"Well, you have me at a disadvantage: you know my name from the way it's been heralded around, but I'm afraid I don't know yours," he said.

"I'm Kaori Siyatu," she said. "My father specializes in quality control at Cybertronics, but I work with Kate Nei at her studio: she took me on as a student and assistant."

"Ah, are you a designer?" he asked.

"I'm studying intelligent fashion design," she said. "And yes, it's an odd name, since most people don't put the two together."

"I was about to ask if it had anything to do with integrating smart technology with haute couture?" he asked.

She raised her eyebrows. "Well, you're about the first person to understand the term and not ask me if it's some lame attempt to make high fashion gowns that are smarter than the wearer, though there's times when they aren't too far off the mark."

David laughed, the sound still odd and a bit loud, not wholly natural but somehow it fit him.

She looked up at him, her eyes wide but her smile still there.

"I'm sorry, that's my worst habit, laughing too loudly," he said. "One of the few quirks I never really grew out of."

"If that's your worst habit, you're a better man than the men I've dated," she said. "Now it's my turn to apologize," she added.

"Apologize for what?" he asked, tilting his head and looking into her eyes.

"For staring like that, it's just... when you did that, I finally believed you."

"Believed me?"

"Yes, I believed that you are -- you were the David prototype," she said, taking one of his hands in hers and covering it with her free one.

Date: 2010-02-03 03:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ladyneferankh.livejournal.com
This was really lovely--very nice story arc and flowing style, I especially loved the descriptions of the party, and of Kaori's dress.

The banter between David and Kaori was good, and I especially liked the remarks about "intelligent fashion design"! ;)

Date: 2010-02-03 05:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] matrixrefugee.livejournal.com
Thanks for the comments: I wasn't sure if I'd gotten the flow right on this fic, since it kept coming out in fragments which I hoped would come together in the edit.

I'm very fond of Kaori: in some ways she reminds me of Lizzie Bennet in "Pride & Prejudice", only a little sadder and more cynical. I think I actually started writing this fic at around the part where they're bantering about "intelligent fashion design"

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