Aradia comes and goes.
Equius can deduce no pattern within it. Perhaps there isn’t one; perhaps there doesn’t have to be one. As the Maid of Time, Aradia can go to any moment, as well as most places.
She does not keep her visits linear; he is sure that sometimes she comes to him from the beginning of the session and sometimes from the end, or somewhere in-between, within her strange time loops.
Equius doesn’t mind.
The visits are not always strictly pleasant. Sometimes she is enraged; sometimes she is distant; once, she was in a philosophical mood and raised many existential questions he would rather not be answered. This time around, however, she seems amiable.
Equius traces a finger down her forearm - gently, but not quite as gently as possible. It feels so good to be able to touch someone without fear of breaking them. He moves his hand down to her fingers, twiddling them carefully. They seem so delicate, and yet they’re so strong. He remembers crafting every detail of them, and yet they’re alive now in a way they weren’t then. Aradia is the fusion of her own passionate soul and his technical knowledge. (There is also a frog in there somewhere).
She is beautiful.
Equius admits he does not know how to approach her. It is strange: he understands love well enough to program it into a computer chip in a troll girl’s heart, and yet is clueless enough to have believed that was in any way a good idea. Love is counterintuitive: it requires so much give and take; so many variables left uncontrolled.
Love does not allow the use of force.
Force comes naturally to him. His strength is only one aspect of it. The deep desire to give out orders is another one. And the robots are yet another. The systems of a robot draw on the force of a power source and distribute it through the body. It is simple.
Unless you throw a soul into the equation.
Souls make solving for X very difficult.
Though Equius doesn’t really know what to do, he tries to work his way through it, fumbling uncomprehendingly like a fresh wiggler trying to explore the world, before the Tests are upon him. It is sometimes difficult, sometimes pleasant, and always worth it.
Aradia looks him in the eyes. Or perhaps she’s looking at his glasses. Perhaps she wonders why they are broken. He could have fixed them back on Alternia. He can certainly fix them now – or, better yet, replace them. She doesn’t know that he’s grown used to seeing the world like this – darkened and cracked. A world without cracks in it would be quite difficult for him now.
Some time passes, and Aradia stands up. The moment grows short; it is almost time for her to disappear. Equius supposes he also has responsibilities to attend to.
Before she disappears, Equius draws her in. Gently, again. It feels so odd to use body language to ask for something.
All the lessons of delicacy are forgotten now. Steel strains against muscle as they embrace; their lips press into each other with force enough to crush coal into diamond. The passion he feels here is fiercer than anything he's felt before. It burns brighter than his rage; it is more important to him than his blood. It is terrifying and delirious all at once.
He wouldn’t trade it for anything.
And then she is gone. He does not sigh. How could he, after a moment like that?
He will see her again. He feels confident he will keep seeing her, forever and forever.
One moment at a time.