“Markus, I don’t think I can do this.” Simon stared at the Manfred residence in front of him. He’d been there once before after following Markus home. He briefly wondered in the other android remembered that (or even noticed him).
“Yes, you can,” Markus encouraged and squeezed Simon’s hand, “Carl is going to love you, I promise.” Markus had been back a few times since the revolution and had insisted that the next time he visit, Simon should be there.
Simon frowned. He knew Carl was a nice person but meeting his boyfriend’s father didn’t exactly feel like a walk in the park. His mind flickered back to Aubrey and thought about what his reaction would’ve been if she’d brought home a boyfriend/girlfriend. He wondered what role he took in her life. Family, he knew, but what part? He hoped it was something along the lines of being a big brother. Simon’s heart ached wishing that she were still alive.
“You’re thinking about her, aren’t you?” Markus whispered softly.
Simon didn’t answer right away and only mumbled, “I wish you could’ve met her. She would’ve loved you.”
“I wish that too.” Markus pressed a kiss to the side of Simon’s head. “Come on.”
Markus and Simon walked up to the door. The security welcomed Markus like a warm familiar hug. “Alarm disabled. Welcome Home, Markus.”
Simon’s eyes widened at the incredibly spacious house. Paintings were on the walls and warm lights automatically put him at ease. He followed Markus as he excitedly bounced his way into a larger room.
Simon was immediately taken aback by an enormous giraffe standing in the living room.
“Aubrey, slow down!” Simon was doing his best to keep up with her. Because she was small it was easier for her to dunk and weave under the crowded zoo. He heard Francis laugh behind him struggling to keep up with his daughter and Simon.
“You’re just too slow!” Aubrey shouted back and dipped under some’s arm.
Simon pushed his way through, “Sorry, excuse me, sorry!” He apologized squeezing his way through a heavy set man and a YK500.
“Alice, stay close!” He heard the Man call out.
Simon finally caught up with Aubrey trying to take a peek at the giraffe exhibit. “Hey, you can’t just run away like that,” he scolded.
Aubrey feigned a pout, “Sorry, Si. I really wanted to see the giraffes.”
“Holy shit you two are so fast!” Francis appeared doubled over and gasping for air.
“You said a bad word!” Aubrey gasped.
Simon scanned Francis. “I believe if you adjusted your exerci-”
“Are you trying to tell me you think I’m fat?” Francis raised an eyebrow at Simon.
Francis quired a smile, “Don’t answer that. It’s called getting old, Si.”
Aubrey made a move to duck under more people but Simon’s reflexes were fast. He grabbed her under the arms and lifted her up placing her on his shoulders. She laughed and squealed delightedly at now being higher than everyone else.
“Aubrey, what do you say?” Francis encouraged.
“Thank you Simon,” She replied in a perfect sing-song voice.
Simon beamed, “You’re welcome.”
Francis slipped an arm around Simon’s waist, “Yes, thank you, Si.”
Markus pulled Simon out of the memory and gestured for him to follow him into the studio. Simon felt his heart pounding wildly. He tried to shove his anxiety down, but he he couldn’t.
They entered the studio to see Carl Manfred with his back to the door and painting. Another young man was with him with shaggy brown hair.
The young man turned around and his mouth dropped open. Markus grinned and pressed finger to his lips and the young man turned to Carl. “Dad,” he said, “I’ll be a second.” Carl hummed a response without turning around. The young man sped over to Markus and immediately embraced him. “It’s so good to see you, man.”
Markus hugged him back. “Hey, Leo.”
They pulled away and Leo smiled at Simon. “This him?” Markus nodded and Leo stuck out his hand shaking Simon’s. “I’m Leo. Markus’ brother. You’re his boyfriend, the one from the TV, right? And the one he never stops talking about?”
Simon blushed bright blue, “Y-yeah. H-hi.”
Leo slapped a hand on Markus’ shoulder and guided him to Carl. Simon stayed where he was unsure if he should follow.
Markus leaned over Carl’s shoulder and gave a soft, “Hi, Dad.”
Carl jumped at the noise and his face broke out into the biggest grin. “Markus! Don’t you know it’s not nice to sneak up on an old man?”
Markus laughed and hugged Carl tightly then gestured for Simon to approach. “Dad, this is-”
“-Simon, yes.” Carl smiled in a way that put Simon at ease. He worried for nothing. “My son talks about you all the time. It’s nice to finally put a face to the name.”
“I-It’s very nice to meet you, sir.” Simon shook Carl’s hand.
Carl snorted, “Please. It’s Carl. Preferably, Dad, if Markus stops being-”
“DAD!” Markus looked horrified and it made Simon smile.
Carl let out the most soul-warming laugh that Simon had ever heard. Meeting the painter suddenly made him understand the person that Markus was. The sheer joy and life he felt in the Manfred house filled Simon with a feeling he’d never felt before. He liked it.