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Face to face

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A new week rolled in, and it took a few days for Clyde to realise that something was wrong. At first, he thought that Elijah was simply mad at him after their argument; so he waited, hoping that things would return to normal as they did when they fought. But they didn’t- Elijah seemed to spend the least possible amount of time with him, coming out of his room at the last minute before they headed to work, or sending his work requests over Cyberlife's network rather than simply speaking up as they usually did. He also started to stay at work much later in the evening, and the lunches Clyde brought him remained untouched on the side of his desk.

After a couple of days, it suddenly clicked. The android cursed himself for not recognising the patterns earlier; the lack of sleep, the loss of appetite, the excessive amount of work. It all made sense.

So, on Friday afternoon, Clyde got up from behind his desk.

“I have detected a security breach in Cyberlife's database”, he declared hesitantly. “I’ll go report it to the network support team, if that’s fine with you.”

A moment passed; but Elijah didn't even bother looking up from his desk, and it was clear that he wouldn’t react at all, so Clyde darted out of the office. In the elevator that brought him down to the floor level, the android ran his fingers through his hair, trying to contain his concern. He didn't really have a plan, but he knew he had to get help, somehow; this time, he wasn't going to stand around and let it all happen again. But what could he do when Elijah didn't even want to talk to him anymore ?

As he stepped outside, shivering with anxiety, Clyde leaned his back against a wall and mentally dialed the only person he thought could be of any help. Time seemed agonizingly long while he waited, each ring echoing in his mind.

Hearing the gruff voice was such an intense relief that the android's shoulders visibly dropped.

“Detective Reed here.”

“Hello Gavin, I'm so glad I managed to reach you..!”

“Sup Clyde.” At least, Reed seemed to be in a good mood.

“Listen, I can't stay for too long but I'm really worried about Elijah. He won't talk to me, and he stopped sleeping or eating correctly. I don't know what to do, it's like he's spiralling down all over again...”

“What, all of a sudden ? Like that ?”

“No, we had a fight, but I thought he'd come around like he usually does. It's very strange.”

On the other side of the line, Gavin let out an exasperated sigh. “Oh I swear to god- you guys are fucking impossible. You free on tomorrow ?”

“I am.”

“Right, then come to my place around noon, we'll have to talk about it. I'm texting you the address.”

Clyde noted how the man immediately stopped fooling around when it came to serious matters. He supposed it was why he was praised as a good detective.

After a moment, the guy added “Don't panic, okay ? It's gonna be fine.”

Clyde sighed deeply, trying to huff anxiety out of his body. “Thanks, Gavin. But what do I do in the meantime ?”

“What you do best, tincan; you keep an eye on my stupid brother.”




Super Smash Gav (15:24):

ok dumbass book a table, we dining out tonight

 

Elijah frowned at his phone, puzzled. It was unusual for Gavin to take the initiative of planning a meeting, especially on such a short notice. But he was not feeling like seeing his brother, or eating- actually, Elijah wasn't feeling much of anything at that moment. He started typing an answer machinally.

 

Elijah (15:27) :

Hey Gav, thanks for the invitation, but I'm very busy. I'm not gonna be able to go out tonight. Maybe next time ?

 

As soon as he pressed the button to send the message, Elijah forcefully cleared his mind from this weird interaction and started scanning his computer screen to pick up his reading where he'd left it. He was very good at blanking out on command. However, almost immediately, his phone started buzzing again.

 

Super Smash Gav (15:28) :

Look, u pick a restaurant or i crash at ur place in the middl of the night, ur choice

 

Super Smash Gav (15:28) :

Or do i need to get a warrant n lock you up in a cell for us to talk

 

Surprised, Elijah huffed. It really wasn't like Gavin to insist so much. Mindlessly drumming his fingers to his desk, he crossed his legs and heaved an annoyed sigh. It was probably easier to cave in, since Gavin probably wasn’t gonna leave him alone anyway.

 

Elijah (15:31) :

Geez, alright, no need to go all cop on me. Where do you wanna eat ?

 

Super Smash Gav (15:32) :

Dont care but b there at 8:30

 

Oh dear , Elijah thought, biting his thumb as he pocketed his phone. This doesn't look good.



And indeed, when Gavin sat down across the table that evening, he seemed very displeased. Elijah had been waiting for about fifteen minutes, fidgeting with his phone and trying his best not to wonder what Clyde was up to back at home. No matter what he was doing, and no matter how hard he tried to avoid it, his thoughts always seemed to dash straight back to the android, shooting a sharp piece of cold glass through his lungs every time. But Elijah was starting to get used to it. He was so numb already. Truthfully, there wasn’t much that he couldn't get used to eventually.

Barely taking off his jacket, Gavin let himself fall on the chair and pushed his elbows to the table, looking straight in his brother's eyes. "Alright. What's the deal with Clyde ?"

Elijah sneered. "Why hello, Gavin. I'm fine, thanks, what about you ?"

"Oh, cut that shit, I thought we stopped pretending to be polite in 2016" Gavin scoffed, rolling his eyes. "Besides, anyone with eyes or ears could tell that you're not fine at all. So I'm gonna ask again- what's the deal with Clyde ?"

They stared at each other for a few seconds, olive green eyes in bright blue ones. Elijah crossed his arms and leaned back into his chair, squaring his shoulders in an attempt to hide his discomfort. "So what, did he call on you or something ?" he asked, trying- a little bit too hard, maybe- to appear detached.

Gavin leaned forward. His lips curled as he spoke, and though he was being calm, his tone tone betrayed annoyance. "Exactly. And he was damn right to do so. Now, could you get to the point, please ?"

So Clyde had really called Gavin for help. Elijah blinked, trying to process the information. A part of him just wanted to forgive the android and get back to how things were before, but it was- too much. He couldn’t. He was unable to look past his disappointment.

"It's fine. We fought, that's all" he let out through clenched teeth. Gavin grunted.

"Yeah right, I've seen you verbally destroy people without batting an eye. Since when do fights affect you at all ?"

There was a moment of tense silence. Elijah had his eyes fixed to the table; probably seeing that he wasn't going to get any further that way, Gavin sighed and leaned back in his chair. He tried to keep a casual tone, but his gruff voice sounded a lot softer than usual.

"Look, he's worried, you know ? And I am, too. We're not letting you fall again."

Their eyes met.

"Talk to me, Eli. I'm here, this time."

"I…"

Elijah interrupted himself, and let out a shivering sigh. Thoughts were tumbling around in his usually very organized brain, and he was feeling quite overwhelmed. Putting his elbows on the table, he curled forward and, covering his eyes with one hand, he swallowed with difficulty. His mouth felt so dry.

"I don't know, Gav, I just- don't know what I'm doing anymore."

"What do you mean ?"

"I don't know !” he answered, gesturing agitatedly. “ This is all so stupid ! I've fixed a machine and now I'm getting worked up because it wants to- it- it has wishes- "

"Hey, hey, now" Gavin interrupted. "Is this how you talk about Clyde ? The fuck is wrong with you ?"

Elijah opened his mouth, but no sound came out. His brother grunted. "Tincan saves your life and this is how you repay him ? By talking about him like he's a fucking blender or something ?"

"That's not…"

Gavin squinted. He was visibly losing his patience by the minute. "Not what you meant ? Then what did you mean, exactly ?! For how long are you gonna play with him ?"

Kamski had now lost what little colour was left in his cheeks.  His brow furrowed as he tried to organise his thoughts and defend himself. "I'm not playing !"

"Then what are you doing ? Why are you shutting off- just over a fight ?"

Gavin was now hunched over the table, glaring at him with an expression so intense that Elijah shivered. Unable to withstand the accusing look any longer, he buried his face in his hands.

"It's not- you don't understand !"

Gavin snorted. "Then explain."

"He…"

Elijah's voice was barely audible over the rumble of the other patrons' discussion.

"He wants to leave Cyberlife."

Gavin seemed visibly taken aback, and he tilted his head in incomprehension. "Huh ? So what ?"

"You don't get it- he wants to leave ! Why do I even care about him ? I shouldn't-"

"Woah there, bro. Set me straight- we're talking about work here, right ?"

His hands slowly sliding off his face, Elijah blinked without understanding. "Of course."

"Okay, he wants to switch jobs, so what ? You guys live together, right ? It's not like he's gonna disappear, he'll still come home at night right ?"

They sat there, staring at each other in silence for an instant before Elijah finally answered.

"...why on earth would he ? He'd have no reason to stay if he doesn't-"

In a sudden outburst of anger, Gavin thumped his fist on the table. Around them, the sound of conversation died down, and in an instant, they were observed from every corner of the room; but the detective didn't seem to care.

"My fucking god Elijah, how are we even related ? How can you be so dense ? He cares, that's why ! This isn't about work, and it never was !"

Gavin was visibly livid. "This poor guy hasn't suffered through your fucking mind games for all this time just because he's a good employee ! He sticks around because he genuinely cares for you, so if you can't stand having- I don't know- normal human feelings for someone else, at least be a decent person and leave him the fuck alone !"

Elijah blinked. The violence of the outburst left him completely blank, and he couldn't quite answer. Gavin's words soaked in, slowly; and he stared into space, his head tilted down slightly. This brain of his that had been praised so often seemed unable to process anything that was happening.

A few moments passed before Gavin tapped his hand lightly. "Hey."

Elijah looked up, still dazed. His brother had calmed down, and he had a lopsided smile on his face.

"Now that this is out of the way, we're gonna order a ton of food, and you better eat or I'm forcing it all down your throat."



Clyde was sitting on the living room's floor, his legs folded against his chest and his back pushed to a wall, when he heard the distant sound of the front door opening. Elijah was finally back. Who knew where he'd been. The android closed his eyes, relieved, as he listened to the footsteps intently; Kamski was making a beeline to his room. It was around midnight, and Clyde sighed as he got up, his bare feet padding on the carpet, only to settle again on the couch and finally enter stasis. When he opened his eyes again hours later, in the dim light of the morning, Clyde tried to mentally prepare himself. He was feeling really anxious at the idea of leaving Elijah alone, especially in this state, but he also knew that he had no choice. Curled up on the couch, hugging his knees, he kept delaying his departure. What if he starts looking for me and I'm not here ? What if he needs me ? Sure, it would probably not happen since the man had barely even spoken to him after their argument, but the prospect was bothering him. In one last effort, Clyde got up and, heaving a deep sigh, he turned around and started getting ready to leave the house.

 

The ride to Gavin's appartement wasn't a long one; he didn't live very far from Belle-Isle, and there was a bus stop right in front of his door. Clyde was in a sort of dazed fog for the whole duration of the trip, and he was ringing the appartment's bell before he even realised it.

The door opened, revealing Neil's tall silhouette. “Hello, Clyde. Come in.”

With a small nod, Clyde stepped in the apartment, and silently looked around. The first room one walked in from outside was a vast and luminous living room. However, it was packed with things, and the mess made it look significantly smaller than it actually was; but, though it may come as a surprise considering the detective's temperament, it felt rather welcoming. Closing the door, Neil put a hand on Clyde's shoulder and gently started to take off his coat. He seemed to understand that his brother wasn't in the best of mindsets, and he didn't push him to speak, for which Clyde was very grateful. Gavin emerged from the kitchen door, wearing a dirty shirt and a pair of sweatpants. He was eating loudly from a bag of chips.

“Oi Clyde” he beaconed, gesturing him over as he slumped in an armchair. “Come sit down.”

Followed closely by Neil, Clyde walked through the living room and sat down on the couch, facing the man. Daylight was filtering through the golden curtains, giving the room a warm, soothing glow. Something slithered between his legs; a second later, a big, fluffy black cat with a bandana around his neck had jumped onto his lap, purring loudly. Gavin crossed his legs on the coffee table.

“Would you look at that ! Asshat loves you already. That brown-noser" he snorted. "Alright toaster, how are things going ?”

Clyde pinched his lips together. “Stellar, I just dropped by to say hello, you know” he deadpanned. Gavin grunted.

“Look, I get it, you had a shitty week. Mind explaining why ?”

Letting his shoulders fall slightly, the android sighed. Absentmindedly, he buried his fingers in the cat's fur. The softness of the touch, as well as the constant purring, helped him relax a bit. “I don't know. Last Sunday, we went to Jericho and-”

“Met Connor, yeah, Nines told me. But I thought you were friends with plastic pup now.”

“Don't interrupt him, Gavin” Neil intervened with a warning glance.

“It went well. But Connor asked me if I wanted to join the DPD, and when I told Elijah, he seemed to become increasingly upset. I shouldn't have lost my temper, but I did, and there we are.”

Gavin shuffled his feet, grunting as he thought. “What did you say, exactly ? When shit hit the fan, I mean.”

Taking the question literally, Clyde straightened his back, and he replicated Elijah's voice and inflections as he repeated the whole exchange. That probably wasn't necessary, but he thought that he might as well give the most precise recounting possible.

Gavin frowned and wrinkled his nose with distaste. “Shit, I hate it when you guys do that” he growled. “S'fucking creepy.”

Neil lifted his eyebrows, but he didn't comment. Putting a handful of chips in his mouth, Gavin continued speaking as he chewed. “S’not complicated, really. Eli hates when people leave. He had androids instead of friends because he thought they would stay. So he's pissed, because he thinks you're gonna leave. Easy.”

Clyde tilted his head, which earned him a frustrated groan from the man. “C'mon, you're supposed to be a fucking super bot but you didn't figure this one out ?!”

“But why does he think I'll leave ? Even if I enroll in the DPD, it doesn't mean I'll suddenly stop caring about him.”

Gavin shrugged. “Look, Eli’s smart, but he's a coward. As long as you work for him, he can lie to himself and pretend you stay at his place because, y'know, work. So he doesn't take the risk to get attached, or at least that's what he thinks.”

Taken aback, Clyde glanced at Neil to seek for confirmation, and indeed, the other RK was just as dumbstruck as he was. They sat there for a hot second before Gavin, annoyed, sneered and dropped a suspicious “What ?”

“But… This doesn't make any sense at all...”

Rolling his eyes, Gavin chucked the pack of chips away and crossed his arms. “Of course it fucking doesn't. Everyone thinks Elijah's the shit, they get fooled by the fame and all, but when it comes to relationships, he's dumb as a rock ! I might not be the family genius, but I, at least, have an ounce of emotional intelligence !”

Neil smiled peacefully, unfazed by the man's temper outburst. He seemed used to it, so Clyde decided to imitate him and pay no mind to it. Leaning forward on his elbows, he looked up at Gavin, straight in the eyes.

“What should I do, then ?”

Gavin smirked, and hunched forward as well, mirroring Clyde's posture. “Your call, tincan. You could just get the fuck out of there, I s'pose. Depends how you feel about the fucker.”

The android cocked his brow with apparent surprise. “How I feel ? I… don't know.”

In front of him, Gavin barked a mocking laugh. “You don't know ? You guys have been joined at the hip for like, nine months !”

It was only at that moment that it appeared to Clyde exactly how much he'd avoided thinking about his relationship with Elijah. So far, he'd prioritized keeping the man healthy and happy without giving much thought to his own feelings; he was content enough simply being around. Of course, he had a vague knowledge that there was, well, a form of friendship between them, at the very least, and that they profoundly trusted one another. But the exact nature of their bond was not something he'd ever reflected upon. Sitting there stumped, he gazed into Gavin's face, at a loss for words. “I never thought about it.”

A soft sound escaped Neil, and Gavin gestured at him with a snicker.

“See, even Nines thinks it's ridiculous. You’re just as much of a fucking piece of work as Eli is, and it’s no compliment.”

Unsure if he should feel insulted, Clyde simply blinked.

“Let me spell it out for you” Gavin continued. “Either you're tired of this bullshit and you throw the towel, or you can try to get through his thick skull and convince him that you're more than some kind of- weird freeloader coworker, I guess.”

Leaning back, he spread his arms out on the backrest and added; “m’not saying it's gonna be easy, but you can still try.”

Clyde hummed. He wasn't exactly confident, nor did he understand what was really going on in Elijah's head; none of this seemed logical to him. But now, he had the outline of a plan, and it felt amazingly relieving. Straightening up, he smiled.

"Thank you, Gavin."

The detective smirked. "No probs. You guys better not pull that shit every week, though, I'm not a fucking therapist !"

Clyde chuckled quietly as he scratched Asshat behind the ears. Therapists usually weren't Elijah's friends.

> Clyde.

The android blinked. Neil was speaking directly inside his mind.

>> Yes ?

> I’m sorry to be so intrusive, but there's something I'd like to discuss with you, and I'd rather Gavin didn't hear about it.

>> It’s alright. What's the matter?

Gavin looked back and forth between the two androids while they exchanged silently, their LEDs blinking yellow, and he soon realised that neither of them even paid attention to him anymore. Grunting, the man stretched his arms and got up.

"Okay uh, I'm gonna go take a shower, then, have fun" he muttered awkwardly, before ducking out of the room in haste. When he heard the sound of water running, Neil had a tiny nod.

“Alright, Clyde. I have something I've been meaning to ask you.”

Clyde tilted his head to indicate he was listening.

“Do you still see Amanda, sometimes ?”

His eyebrows lifting, he started racking his brain. Who was Amanda ?

The memories came back all at once. The Zen garden. That woman. The same person that was on the picture in Elijah's waiting room. His teacher. Amanda Stern.

Clyde had a jolt and shook his head slowly.

“I haven't tried accessing the garden since I was reactivated, but she hasn't pulled me in either, no. Why ?”

Neil lowered his head a bit, and he could see his features crease with worry.

“Would you mind trying to access the garden now and tell me how it goes ?”

Clyde thought the request was odd, but he complied. Closing his eyes, he pulled the pathway from deep within his brain. The connection to Cyberlife's database took a while to establish, but after a few milliseconds, shapes started to appear in front of him. Progressively, the garden started unfolding, with its bright white bridges and flowery trees. The place was quiet, save for the faint sound of birds chirping. Clyde scanned the area quickly; he couldn't find anyone, or anything out of the ordinary. On the central island, though, he spotted a monolithic stone standing alone. Approaching it, he realised that it was, in fact, a small terminal. Clyde frowned in interrogation, but decided he'd question this later. With a little shiver, he pulled back to the real world. Neil was observing him nervously.

“I didn't see anyone” Clyde said softly, his eyes trained on his brother's face. “She's not there anymore.”

Slightly shaking, Neil lifted a hand that he passed through his hair. He seemed distraught. Clyde waited, mindful not to press him.

“I thought she'd be gone once I deviated” he said, his voice quivering, “but she… She's back and…”

Heaving a deep breath, he interrupted himself, visibly shaken. With a slightly awkward gesture, Clyde put his hand on Neil's shoulder to try and comfort him. He had never seen Neil part from his serene and confident expression, and seeing signs of vulnerability in him was rather jarring.

After a while, he spoke again, his pace fast and his voice trembling.

“She's badly corrupted. She pulls me in the garden at anytime, and sometimes disappears right away. She sets missions that make no sense, or… that are not meant for me, or even… that straight up deactivate protocols.”

Clyde pulled Neil a bit closer as he became increasingly agitated.

“Are you okay ?” He asked gently.

With that, Neil doubled over with a strangled sob.

“Connor said there would be an exit point- but- I searched everywhere and…”

A tear ran down his cheek.

“I'm so tired, Clyde.”

Not quite knowing what to say, Clyde pulled Neil in an embrace; and they remained that way for a moment. Absently, he started running his fingers through his brother’s hair, trying to soothe him. “It’s gonna be alright. Elijah will know what to do, he’ll help you. I promise”, he whispered.

Neil passed his hands on his face and heaved a quivering sigh as he straightened his back, regaining his composure. When he lifted his gaze to Clyde’s again, he seemed to feel a bit better already.

"Thank you."

A little smile bloomed on the tear-ribbed cheeks. The sight warmed something seated deep beneath Clyde's stomach, and he smiled as well as he answered. "You're welcome, brother."

Neil pulled on the hem of his sleeve, shifting in his seat. “Are you going to accept Connor's proposition ?”

Clyde twirled a lock of hair around one of his fingers and pursed his lips, thinking. “I'm not sure. I want to make a difference, but… I'm not sure police work is the way to go, you see ? I think I'd be more suited for something like what Jericho does.”

Neil smiled softly. “You are a negotiator, after all.”

Clyde looked down at his feet with a smile. “I suppose so. Maybe I should just ask Markus for a job instead of wasting my time at Cyberlife.”

Visibly unconvinced, Neil crossed his arms with a shrug. “But having an ally working at Cyberlife could be a significant advantage for them.”

Clyde hummed thoughtfully, and turned to Neil. There was still one thing that bothered him. “Do you think Connor will resent me if I refuse his offer ?”

The tall android shook his head with a smile. “Of course not. He wouldn't want you to do it against your will. Besides, brothers stand up for one another, even if they take different paths. That's what it means to be a family, isn't it ?”

At loss for words, Clyde simply smiled and nodded.

Gavin's voice rang through the corridor. “Am out to buy cigs, don't burn the place down losers !”

“If you managed not to, I think we should be fine” Neil called back. “It would be nice if you could finally go grocery shopping on your way back, it's long overdue.”

“Ah, fuck off.”

“Love you too, Gavin.” Neil answered with a smile. The man let out a loud grunt and walked out the door.

 

When he was back facing the front door of Kamski's house by the end of the afternoon, Clyde took an instant to compose himself before he stepped in. He didn't really expect to see the man, anyway, but the day had been exhausting enough already. However, when he walked through the corridors and entered the living room, he had the surprise to see Elijah sitting cross-legged on the couch, wearing sweatpants and a t-shirt, his hair tied sloppily and his glasses slightly askew, typing on his laptop. When he heard the footsteps, the man lifted his head with a little start, and slowly, staring at him, he put his computer down on the coffee table. Clyde shifted awkwardly from one foot to the other, uncomfortable.

“Uh, hello, Elijah.”

The man took a couple seconds before he answered. “Hey.”

Oh, this was agonizingly weird. The android was painfully aware of where his hands were, and he couldn't stop fidgeting anxiously with the zipper of his jacket. Elijah's silence felt unnerving.

“Hum, did you have a nice day ?”

The man inclined his head, eyebrows raised. “I did. What about you ?”

And, with a hum, he added, his voice painfully flat; “It's not like you to leave for so long without telling me.”

His eyes darting to the floor, Clyde shrugged nervously. “I went to visit Neil and Gavin. I didn't want to bother you.”

“Hum. I see. Say, would you mind sitting with me for a second ?” He asked, patting the pillow next to him. Clyde nodded without a word, and went to sit on the couch, his nerves sending electricity coursing through his spine. He kept his back straight and his eyes low, not daring to look up at Kamski next to him. They sat in silence for a while, before the man heaved a sigh.

“Look, Clyde. I shouldn't have reacted so harshly. You're free to do what you please, and I have no say in the matter.” And his voice sounded a bit hesitant as he added, quietly; “I’m sorry.”

The android lifted his head in surprise. He felt as if a burden had been suddenly lifted from his chest. His expression softened.

“Thank you, Elijah.”

Relief washed over him, and he was starting to feel better, when he suddenly remembered Gavin's words. It was time to stop running.

Turning to Kamski, he planted his golden eyes in the man's blue ones, frowning with determination. “There is one thing I'd like you to tell me, though.”

Elijah lifted an eyebrow without a word.

“Do you really consider me only as your assistant ? Is it all I am to you ?”

His eyes widening a bit, Elijah frowned. He seemed a little shocked by how forward the question was; or maybe he simply didn't know how to answer. Clyde waited patiently.

“What do you mean ?” He finally asked.

“Well, that's simple” Clyde said, doing his best to keep his tone calm and pleasant. “I figured that if we are simply co-workers, then I'd rather leave and find myself a place of my own. This whole situation would obviously not be suitable.”

He was very careful to keep a detached, composed look. It seemed to do the trick; Kamski looked increasingly uncomfortable.

“What ? Why now, after all this time ? What did Gavin tell you ?”

Clyde shrugged with a detached smile. “I told you already, Elijah. I'm not a dog, and I am positively tired of running in circles.”

The man seemed frozen in place, his face showing more and more agitation. Finally, he let out a frustrated cry.

“What do you want from me, Clyde ?”

Crossing his arms, the android hummed absently. “A little honesty, is all.”

Elijah stayed quiet for an instant, before he grunted and threw his arms in frustration.

“Ugh ! Fine, obviously we're not just co-workers ! How often do you think I ask my employees to sleep in my bed with me ?!”

Clyde had a satisfied smile and uncrossed his arms, putting his hands on his lap. “There we go. Thank you.”

Elijah let his head fall forward with a growl. A moment of silence passed, before Clyde decided that he still had questions. Turning to Elijah, he asked; “Another thing. Who was Amanda Stern ?”

The question took him aback and he shook his head, his eyebrows frowned. “What ? Why ? Where did you see her ?”

“I didn’t. Not me. But Neil told me about her, and since there's this photo in your hallway, I thought I'd ask.”

Elijah grunted, passing his fingers through his hair. “She was one of my university teachers.”

Unsatisfied with the answer, Clyde rolled his eyes with an impatient tsk. “Yes, I know that much. Who was she to you ? Why do you have her picture in your house, and why is she in my brother's head ?”

Elijah sighed. “That’s not a very interesting story. Standard mommy issues, and other psychological bullshit.”

Clyde could tell from the slight shiver in his breath that he had struck a chord, and he softened his expression. “I won't push” he said gently, “but I'd like to hear it, if you want to talk about it.”

The man seemed so tired, all of a sudden, so weak, with his hunched shoulders. Clyde had an urge to hug him, but he knew better than to act on it.

“You can even have your storytime pillow if you want” he encouraged, patting his knees with a smile. Elijah shook his head, but he still let himself fall on the side with a tiny huff. His head was resting on Clyde's thighs, but he was facing away from him, probably to avoid his gaze. The android didn't mind, and he started threading his fingers through the brown hair with a thoughtful hum. Elijah enjoyed the contact for a moment before he sighed.

“There's really not that much to it. My father was a cheating scumbag, and we learned when I was a kid that he had another woman, and another kid- Gavin. Our mothers both dumped him when the whole thing came up, of course, but they became friends, so Gav and I got to hang out growing up.”

“Who got his name ? You, or Gavin ?”

Elijah sneered. “Me. But as soon as I was old enough, I switched to my mother's name. Anyway, my mom did what she could to raise me right, but she just couldn't understand me, you know ? I mean, I was overwhelmed easily, and she never knew when to stop yelling. To a certain extent, she seemed to take out her bitterness on me, we fought a lot. She gave me a good education, though, and I didn't have it as bad as poor Gav I suppose.”

“Gavin ?”

“Yeah… but it's not my story to tell.”

Pausing for an instant, he sighed. Still threading the fingers of his left hand through his hair, Clyde laid his right hand flat on Elijah's shoulder, in what he hoped was a soothing gesture.

“Anyway, when I entered university, I was thirteen. Amanda was one of my teachers, and she saw my potential, but also how young I was and how hard it was for me to fit in. So she started to try and protect me. She became a bit like another mother for me; but a mother who understood me better than mine ever would. She was brilliant, and she never treated me as inferior. Even if I was young, she didn't hesitate bringing up complex issues and ideas to me. She was determinant in the development of androids.”

Seeing how his eyes lit up at the memory, Clyde asked gently; “What was she like ?”

The question got a chuckle out of Elijah. “Oh, she was terrifying” he said with a fond smile. “She had the most severe expressions, and you could never tell whether she was joking with you or straight up disrespecting you. Gavin met her once, and that’s the most frightened I’ve seen him in our lives.”

Clyde smirked fondly. “That explains a few things about you.”

“I guess it does. The key to get along with her was to take everything she said seriously, but to laugh anyway… She said it was the only way to stay sane in this world."

The man paused for a second. When he resumed talking, his tone was tainted with melancholy. "She taught me so much. She was such a brave woman, a great soul, and I’ve never seen her falter. Not in the face of racism or sexism, not in the face of illness… Not even in the face of death.”

He paused, and curled his body a bit, his expression weary.

“She understood me better than anyone. And then she died.”

Clyde inclined his head to indicate sympathy, and he said delicately; “And that's why you don’t get close to people anymore.”

“I guess you could put it like that.”

“How come this person's likeness was used for our conscience protocol ?”

Elijah sighed, covering his eyes with a hand. “That was a mistake on my part. I was still grieving when I had to program the Zen Garden, and I thought it would be a nice tribute to include her somehow. Thing is, I didn't think she'd be used to do Cyberlife's bidding. It felt like an insult to her memory, so I tried to have her removed, but the board used it as an excuse to say I was being difficult, and they chucked me out. They’d been trying to get rid of me for a while, at that point. They didn't like that I cared more about androids than money.”

He laughed bitterly and turned around to lay on his back, looking up at Clyde's face. The android was silent, his expression that of gentle understanding.

“Why do you ask ?”

“Neil has trouble with her”, he said with a worried frown. “She's glitching out of control, and she makes his life a living hell.”

Elijah hummed pensively, his eyes flickering to the ceiling. “I could see why. His code must have been altered to prevent him from deviating, and it's wrecking havoc. Well, tell him to swing by on Monday, and I’ll get one of my techs to fix it for him.”

“You won’t do it yourself ?”

“Hey, I have a company to run” Elijah smiled. “But don’t worry, I’ll brief whoever takes care of him. You wouldn’t doubt the abilities of my employees, would you ?”

Clyde scoffed. “I wouldn’t dare. I could get bludgeoned in a dark corridor with a diagnostic machine.”

Pausing for a second, the android let his eyes wander around him. There were three empty coffee mugs on the coffee table; Elijah must have waited for him to come home. He smiled at the thought.

“So, why does my Zen Garden have a terminal instead of Amanda ?”

Elijah closed his eyes and shrugged lazily. “Ah, it’s a control panel. From there, you can access most parameters of either the garden, your own self, or the various accounts linked to your Cyberlife ID. See, when I modified your software, I got rid of Amanda to, y’know, try and amend my mistakes... but I thought it’d be nice to leave something behind, in case you still wanted to use the Zen Garden for, uh, meditation purposes or something.”

Clyde inclined his head, surprised. “When did you do that modification ?”

“Um, sometime before I activated you. Why ?”

“From the beginning ? So… you anticipated my deviancy ?”

A smile tugged at the corner of Elijah’s mouth. “You RKs seem to hate being machines so much, I figured that would happen, yeah.”

The android blinked incredulously. That man had repaired him and taken him in as an assistant, expecting him to be a machine, but still provided him with things he thought would be comfortable to him if he deviated. Warmth filled him as he observed his face; the tired but serene blue eyes, the cold glistening of the metal ring in his ear, the slight pout of his lips. Absorbed by the sight, and without even thinking about it, Clyde lifted his hand from Elijah's shoulder and, with the tip of his fingers, he grazed the stubble that was growing at the edge of the man's beard, up to his cheekbones. Elijah fluttered his eyelashes, surprised, but he didn't back away from the touch.

The mood shifted. There was a kind of tension in the air that Clyde couldn't quite place. He was fixed on Elijah's face with intensity, hunched over him; Kamski simply laid there, observing the android with a curious lopsided smile. He seemed to expect something, which sort of confused him. A moment passed. Elijah finally smirked, and placed a hand on the couch, to the other side of Clyde's lap; then, propping himself up, he slowly approached his face. Their noses almost touched, and Clyde was frozen in place. He had an inkling of what was about to happen, and it would be a lie to pretend that he wasn't terrified. In a whisper, Elijah simply asked; “Can I ?”, and Clyde could only see how blue his eyes were, and when he felt the warmth of his breath brushing his lips, he'd swear he heard his brain brutally stop with a whirr. He could only nod, his eyes wide open; and a little “uh-huh” is all he managed to sputter as he braced for impact.

The contact on his lips, however, felt surprisingly soft. It was a gentle kiss, that Elijah pressed to his mouth for a few seconds before backing a little; and Clyde dared not move an inch.

“Hum, are you okay?”

“I uh… yes” he let out in a whisper.

“You sure? You don't look okay.”

“I’m fine, it's just… this is new for me, you know ?”

Elijah hummed. “Yeah, sure. Please stop me if you ever feel uncomfortable.”

They were now facing each other. The android was happily dumbstruck, but a kind of guilt filled him quickly; he was afraid that his hesitation would be misconstrued as reluctance. A bit agitated, Clyde put a hand on each side of the man's neck, thumbs grazing his jawline, and he pushed their lips together hurriedly to prove his eagerness. He could feel Elijah chuckle with delight against his mouth, and he decided that it really was the nicest thing he'd ever experienced. When their lips parted again, however, the android felt a wave of uncertainty washing over him. So many emotions were conflicting in his head. He had a shudder.

“So… do we-”

“Hey”, Elijah interrupted, pushing a finger to his lips. “I’d rather not talk about- well, this, just yet, okay ?”

Of fucking course , Clyde thought, you wouldn't just make this easy, right ? But there was still evolution between them, he figured, so he simply nodded with a sigh. Baby steps.

Elijah put his chin on the android's shoulder, and they stayed there, in a kind of twisted embrace. Despite the storm of emotions wreaking havoc in his mechanic brain, Clyde was feeling strangely serene, with the man's cheek resting against his, their torsos hovering around one another. Seemingly on its own accord, his hand went and intertwined itself with the long, pale fingers resting on the couch. After a while, Kamski emitted a thoughtful sound. “Have you ever played video games, Clyde ?”

The android frowned. What on earth is this question ?

“Video games ? Hum, no ? When would I have ever ?”

“Hey, who knows” he shrugged. “Thing is, when we were teens Gav hated playing with me because he said it was like playing with a machine, so I kind of wonder how I'd fare against an actual machine.”

He straightened up and slightly pulled his body away, a smile appearing on his lips. “You game ?”

Clyde lifted his eyebrows with a mocking smile. “You want to play against me ? You're aware that I'm going to destroy you, right ?”

Elijah snorted. “I’d like to see you try.”

 

And indeed, the scores were tied. Elijah had pulled up a copy of an old fighting game that he claimed Gavin and him played a lot back when he founded Cyberlife, and his brother visited on the weekends; the device it ran on looked pristine, despite being grossly outdated. Clyde took the controller hesitantly, turning it over in his hands carefully as he observed the decades-old technology.

“Do you want me to adapt my abilities to match yours, or…?”

“What ? Hell no” Elijah scoffed. “You do it your way. You can download strategies off the internet for all I care.”

“But that would be unfair.”

“Don't you worry about me, I have a few tricks up my sleeve” he said, smirking playfully as he tied up his hair in a high ponytail.

And Clyde quickly understood why Gavin didn't have fun playing with Elijah. He was good; extremely good, in fact. His reaction time was excellent, and he handled every move of his character with absolute precision. As humiliating as it felt, the android had to stay alert at every instant not to get thrown off the fighting area. It was both impressive and irritating, really.

“How many hours have you spent on this game, Elijah ?”

“Well, a few, obviously.”

Clyde sneaked a glance in his direction. The man sitting next to him was focused intently on the screen, hunched forward, but that didn't seem to prevent him from conversing freely.

“Your skills are quite impressive... for a human. You could probably have done this for a living.”

At that, Elijah laughed. “Oh, but I did ! I won a few tournaments back in college. That's how I got the money to found Cyberlife.”

The android's LED blinked yellow for a second as he gave him a surprised look. “I can't find records of this anywhere.”

“Of course not. I had my father's name back then. But there are probably a few dudes who still can't get over that one time a kid handed them their asses on a game they thought they mastered.”

Clyde's character fell off the platform, and the android grunted. With a satisfied smile, Elijah leaned back in the couch. “Not bad, eh ?”

“You win this time, you bag of bones.”

Kamski answered with a chuckle, and, putting his cheek on Clyde's shoulder, he let his arms slump around the android's torso in a loose, lazy side hug. His warmth seeped through the synthetic skin in every place their bodies touched.

Yes, Clyde thought. This is nice.