He Needs You
Notes: Normaler featuring the Lorax. Requested by Spazzle.
To Norma's relief it was not an awkward introduction. Once-ler seemed a little reluctant for her to meet the Lorax, but if she was going to be visiting it would have to happen sooner or later. The Lorax was friendly enough that she immediately felt at ease with him. Until he asked to speak to her alone.
Norma had looked to Once-ler, who only shrugged at her with a confused look. Why would he want to speak with her without Once-ler nearby? The young man excused himself, muttering about needing to gather firewood. For a while they stood and looked at each other silently, sizing each other up. Slowly, the Lorax smiled under his whiskers. "So. You an' the beanpole, huh?"
"Huh?" Norma blushed and pulled at a lock of hair over her shoulder. They weren't really together together, she was really just visiting...Was it that obvious that she was interested? The Lorax chuckled in amusement and motioned her over to the bed, where is climbed up and sat down, stroking his mustache as he observed her. Norma was tempted to deny what he was insinuating, but she had a feeling the effort would be a wasted one.
He waved a small hand at her as she joined him on the worn quilt. "Aw, don't look so embarrassed, sweet pea. I've lived through enough mating seasons to know goo-goo eyes when I see 'em." She stared at him, her mouth hanging open a little. The things he was implying! He was right, of course, but she didn't want people thinking that! She didn't quite know what to say to him. He was sitting there looking at her with a knowing sort of amusement. She stared back at him and pressed her lips together to quell a nervous giggle.
"Sorry, guess that's not a good subject. I'm not here to tease ya. Really."
"No?" She shot back at him, finally finding her voice. "Cause it seems like you're enjoying it."
"So, if we're not here so you can tease me, why are we?"
"Oh, right. Well, I am actually here to talk to you about the beanpole." He said it casually, but there was and underlying seriousness in his voice made her sit up attentively. He took a moment to size her up again. "How well do you know him?"
"Um...not as well as I'd like to." She blushed faintly at this. "We only met a couple of weeks ago." The question made her feel a little uneasy. Why would he ask that?
"Oh, that's longer than I was thinkin'! Good. Okay." He got up and paced across the covers, his face drawn and thoughtful. "I know this is a forward thing to ask...and maybe a little early, but..." He stopped, turning to look her in the eye. "How serious are you?"
"...About what?" She knew exactly what he meant.
"You an' the kid. How serious are you about him?"
Again she didn't answer. Didn't know how to answer. He stirred such strong feelings in her and she was really just starting to grasp what they meant...How did you define something you barely understood? Her gaze dropped away from his and she lifted a hand to her mouth, biting at her knuckle as she tried to hide her embarrassment.
It was all the answer he needed. After a moment the Lorax gave a small oh and began pacing again. "I'm not trying to run you off or anything. I'm not being overprotective either. It's just..." He stopped and sighed, his small shoulders sagging a little. "He doesn't tell me anything, but I've figured a lot out. He...he puts on a show. He acts like there's not a thing in the world that bothers him." Norma nodded at this. She was already well familiar with his foolish optimism. The Lorax looked up at her, a pained look on his face. "The thing is...he's really good at pretending."
"What do you mean?"
"He...well, let's just say there are reasons he's trying so hard to sell that thing of his." She opened her mouth to ask what he meant, but he waved her off. "And those reasons...well they're the same reasons that you need to stick around."
This caught her off guard. In the back of her mind she'd been expecting...well she didn't know what. Definitely not that. "Whoa, wait. I don't think I'm following you..."
"Norma." She felt as if she were being addressed by a teacher and instantly sat up a little straighter. "You may not know it, but I do. He's been different these past few weeks. Happier." The guardian's face softened a little and an almost fond expression stole into his eyes. "He's not trying so hard. That's because of you, sweet heart." He scratched his head, suddenly looking quite tired. Norma rubbed at her nose, feeling the heat coming off her face. How was that because of her? "He needs someone who...well, who can accept him and support him. For who he is, not what they can get out of him. He doesn't have that."
He fell silent, letting the implications of what he'd told her set in. Norma's eyes flickered toward the door, her thoughts trailing after the man somewhere on the other side of it. What was that smile of his hiding? Why would he have to pretend?
"He needs you." His voice was quiet, but it broke through her thoughts like a gunshot. She slowly turned to look at him. Hearing something like this would likely have scared most people off. Really, she knew very little about him. He never wanted to talk about things like family or his home. But he needed her...
"Don't worry," she said. A sudden warmth grew in her chest and she smiled at the Lorax. "I don't plan on leaving anytime soon."
They both perked up as a quiet humming drifted through the canvas walls, signaling Once-ler's return. A huge smile broke out on Norma's face. The warm feeling was still there, intensified as she hopped down from the bed and bounded through the door to meet him.
This wasn't as lighthearted as I intended it. Heh.
Headcanon: Even before they came the Lorax had a good idea what Once-ler's family was like. He overheard things because Once-ler talks to himself when he thinks no one is listening. He also talks in his sleep.