42_souls, table 3, theme #28: "what I wanted was a plastic heart."

"You're making a spectacle of yourself."

Marie glanced up from the beautiful teacup in her hands to find Stein staring pointedly at her from across the table.

"Eh? What do you mean?"

Stein reached over, placing two fingers on the rim of the cup and slowly pushing it down to the table.

"You look about ready to propose. The passionate aura is scaring our neighbors." He smiled and waved to the sweatdropping older couples and families around them. Marie shook her head lightly.

"Don't be silly. I was just admiring how pretty the design is. I'd like a set of china some day." She smiled wistfully and took a sip. "Besides, if there was a proposal, I would expect the teacup to man up and ask me itself."

After breakfast they cleared their table and headed back up to their room, where they had a mutual, silent agreement to milk all that they could from their stay until it was noon checkout time. Once in their room Stein pointed out the blueberry jam at the corner of Marie's lip, and she dashed off to the bathroom to wash her face. A mere moment ticked by when she poked her head out and alerted Stein that she would be taking a long, hot shower before their departure. "You should take one, too," Marie said cheerfully and slammed the door.

Stein turned to the desk and sat, counting and recounting the rest of their funds until he had memorized the amount down to the last cent. He leaned back, removing his glasses with one hand to massage his eyelids with the other.

He was, for all intents and purposes, a genius. For certain, he'd caught the look on Marie's face after that china comment. His partner was homesick for desiring the life of a housewife. Obviously she had been putting thoughts of "after" in the back of her mind, perhaps to resurface on a later date, or perhaps to never appear in her mind's eye again. Of course, it wouldn't (couldn't, shouldn't) be that easy. One look at a simple teacup and a happy family had given her that look, and she completely changed. She wanted it. It was essential to her. Marie simply couldn't obtain a plastic heart.

The shower was an audible one- he could hear it from outside the room, even with the air conditioner blasting to raise unneeded gooseflesh. Stein propped his cheek in his hand and gazed unwaveringly at the bathroom door. If he focused, he could feel the warmth of her soul, pulsating her nature in a heartbeat-like fashion through the thick door. Stein closed his eyes.

He sighed.

He was definitely not about to show his resolve to the nearest window and boot it out. Most certainly not. After all, Marie was always warm. Her soul always shone like the sun; like her hair (which had likely darkened a few shades beneath the showerhead, water trailing down her skin, pink from heat). Like her smile (her lips were dry and red, even beneath the torrent of water, because she refused to buy anything but the necessities. "Anything but" included chapstick and vaseline). Like her tone of voice (Marie had always liked showers. On the outskirts of any possible physical relationship, she embraced the caress of hot water on her flushed skin like a man deprived. So under the constant stream, she gave small, appreciative noises to her lover; the shower).

So what did he want? His and Marie's ideas on life, love, and the logic of were completely different, and that had been established long before he'd gone insane. The human contact that she so craved had never been a desire of his. Stein was a practical man, whose needs didn't leave the boundaries of his next experiment. That was not Marie. They were similar in their quests to reach out and touch the hearts of millions... though not in the same sense. So where oh where did that leave them? Two people who were nothing alike, one for the good of man, one for the good of a man. What kind of people were they? Neither could fulfill the other's desire. She was an untouchable for him, but she craved that contact. Contact that he could not provide in the way she so desired.

... Couldn't he?

No, that was absurd. She wanted love, but all he could provide was a scalpel and a few dry words. Sure, he had the practical parts; hands, eyes, lips, and other obvious components globally associated with "love." But he couldn't put on an act for her. As Nygus had put, quite plainly, he had no love in him. He couldn't do such a thing to Marie. And any carnal relationship otherwise couldn't hold her for long. More than likely, she would tire of trysts, and such an invaluable part of her being- the heart, the soul, the fire that made her Marie- would turn cold. People like Marie Mjolnir, they who wanted nothing more than to love and be loved in return, couldn't exist on coitus alone.

One moment. Halt thought process. He was considering such a relationship with Marie? He was considering fulfilling testosterone-stimulated urges with Marie? The same Marie that was currently standing perfectly nude and vulnerable in an unlocked bathroom not ten feet away? Certainly not that Marie.

Stein was having trouble focusing on the back of his eyelids.

The pros and cons of the situation weighed heavily on his mind. The more he thought about it, the more the pros were beginning to seem terribly good to him. Thinking so, he realized with a mad little grin that if he tried hard enough, he could make the cons disappear altogether. In fact... why bother considering "what ifs?" This was the final crossroad. She could make her decision here. He couldn't make it for her, after all. She was a big girl now, capable of making her own choices. Thinking about it, she already had.

'I'm taking a shower. You should, too.'

The curious professor pushed himself to a stand.

Why think? I'm already insane

A huge thank you to all of my reviewers. You're brilliant; every last one of you. The next chapter, as implied, is going to be a little... kinkeh. I may even have to bump the rating up. I hope that in doing so, it won't fritter you good people away. Thank you again!