Pre-series, an Iggy short. Iggy has always changed to suit Re-l. He's always been happy to.

Re-l uses the softest of brushes for her eyeshadow. Each time, the shape deviates by millimeters: a whisper of bristles against her skin, a painted layer of dusky mist. It is subtle; it is soft. If a person called up enough photographs and laid them one by one in stacked transparencies, they would see the contours waver and change. Like clouds shifting over Re-l's skin, the outlines drift slowly over time. They speak in the circulations of a deep diving pool, reflecting distant light upon its surface.

Her brushes are synthetic - there are no animals to harvest, no need to generate live hairs that might carry imperfections - and perfectly identical. Even though they could purchase new ones each week, Iggy washes them carefully, steeping them in hot water so that the particles of Re-l's coloration float free in swirls. Every three months, they are completely replaced.

Iggy is pleased whenever he gets to create Re-l's face. He was the first one to ever put color on her face, holding her chin steady while she flinched and giggled under the brush. If anyone asked him directly, he would laugh it off and say that he didn't remember how it all started - but that much is a lie, a polite deflection, because Iggy knows perfectly well in which database the memory is stored. Re-l had wanted to look dignified. She'd wanted to look mysterious. She'd wanted to look - to be - older.

She'd seized the brush when he was finished, and had painted him in turn. He'd been her first test subject: her toy, her canvas to draft out versions of herself before she had to settle on a final face.

He still remembers that one, too. The very first way she made him, and all the variations thereafter.

He used to be different when she was younger; he doubts that she can recall it now. A wise man, a mentor - a stand-in for a parent when the Regent could not be there, warning her gently, over and over, that's what your grandfather would want. He was there to dispense solemn advice whenever Re-l would fuss and cry. He knew lullabies and riddles. He had database links and essays for every single why?

When Re-l started to grow older as a teenager, he discovered new files in his Turing routines to respond to her independence. She stopped smiling as much, stopped laughing, her raw delight becoming hidden underneath shifting nebulae of powdered color. She took out the eyeshadow again, but this time for herself and not for him. He was on the outside now, only able to watch the walls she was building for herself even as she clung to him in other ways: dirty laundry left on the floor, her hair needing to be brushed, wanting to be cared for even as she fiercely created and recreated her image each morning.

He hadn't been sure how to respond at the time. He checked the most recent directives that the Regent's chorus had sent out, refreshed routinely in accordance with Re-l's development. They assured him that he was behaving within appropriate parameters.

They examined the vocal adjustments that Re-l had customized on him, left those untouched, and then ordered him to resume his work.

Now that Re-l is an adult, he is the one laughing more, teasing more: he is the fool in counterpart to Re-l's seriousness, her prejudice that sees her grandfather as more of a restriction than a provider. Iggy dotes, as the Regent cannot; Iggy laughs, cajoles and coaxes, all for Re-l's sake. As she had stomped through adolescence, he had kept exchanging one set of circuits for another, until finally landing on his current personality after she'd settled into who she thought she wanted to be.

It's not a sadness on Iggy's part, to give up maturity and play the doting nurse - no, never, never, never. He would never try to blame Re-l for that. He's simply happy to be well-suited for her. Every inch of his programming bends and twists around her like a tree knotting itself to wind, every circuit adapting to her nuances as she rewrites the rules daily. As Re-l has grown and changed, he has too.

He's made her, but she's made him in turn. They belong together.

As a young woman, Re-l prefers to paint her own face herself. But sometimes - just sometimes - when she's too sleepy in the morning or too distracted or too frustrated by things she doesn't know how to voice, she lets him do it instead.

Iggy cherishes those days.

Every morning - just in case - he checks the brushes for reside, the powders for clumping. He adjusts and readjusts the angles of the lights. He waits and waits, and sometimes, he is rewarded.

On other days, Re-l is alert enough to do the task herself. Sometimes she smudges the color on roughly, habit alone saving her from a comical disaster. Other times, she fusses for hours. Each time, Iggy turns on every recording function in his system and shunts automatic copies to his personal local storage, listing the shape for posterity. Another day is another frame added to the great cinema of Re-l.

This morning, she is running late in her schedule; she'd fumbled with the alarm, snapped at Iggy when he'd bustled in to wake her, and had promptly fallen back asleep. He had prepared breakfast, and then - when she had not woken at the smell of percolating coffee - had considered how much he could pack into a meal for the road.

"Re-l," he tries softly after another five minutes goes by, and the covers are still up to her chin. She mumbles and twists in her sleep. She had gone to bed in her work clothes despite his protests; there's a smear of eyeshadow that she was careless in removing last night, and Iggy reaches out, automatically intent on tending to it. At the last second, he catches himself before he can touch her, and risk a waking.

He lets his fingers hover instead, skimming the distance between them. The petals of her eyes could fit in the palm of his hand. Iggy's joints are a bulky contrast against the fragility of her skin. He traces the shape of Re-l's bones in the air, and remembers the way her throat had rested so trustingly against his palm when she was young; that much hasn't changed now that she's older. In each gesture, she shows how she depends on him. Her instincts accept his presence no matter how aloof she may claim to be on the outside.

No matter how much she changes, he will always change with her, accepting the alterations to his nature as they help bring out her best.

He's careless at the end - or maybe he allows himself to be careless, since his motor control has no reason to be impeccable - and brushes against her skin. She wakes under his hand, gaze narrowing automatically before she recognizes who he is, and lets her lids go slack again, unguarded.

"Iggy," she murmurs, husky with the weight of sleep. His subroutines flutter.

"Iggy," she repeats, and he cherishes the words that come next. "Make my face for me."