-- Tuesday, December 20, 2039 - 11:16 --
>> Okay, this is the right floor. The lab we're interested in is the fifth one Kamski will show you. You won't have a lot of time to gather evidence, so be ready to act fast. I'll be in touch once you get there. Stay alert, and whatever you do, don't blow your cover. Got it?
>> Got it.
>> Good luck.
With a polite, very carefully crafted smile, Clea looked around her. She'd never really been inside the Tower before, but the space that spread out in front of her was definitely very different from what she'd heard- and seen- of it. Connor's lawyer brother, the guy they were investigating for, had shared his memories of the place in order to help her prepare; but said memories were obviously outdated. Instead of the long line of rooms and pods she expected to find, the corridor now circled a vast open space where engineers and androids alike milled around busily, sidling through the forest of machinery like ballet dancers. Depending on the state of the crime scene, that could prove to be a big problem. Regardless, Clea had a mission, and she was determined to succeed, no matter the obstacles. The detectives counted on her.
Next to her, Elijah was walking nonchalantly, hands in his pockets. It was very strange to see him again- Clea had not planned on this, and she didn't really know how she felt about it either. She didn't hate the man's guts like Chloe, but she also didn't understand why Clara still bothered checking on him. Overall, much like Cora and Calysto, Clea just wanted him to stay out of her life. He was a thing of the past, a mere memory, and she intended to keep it that way. She eyed him discreetly. He seemed healthier than he’d been back when she left.
The android girl adjusted her blouse and tugged on her ponytail, her LED spinning yellow a couple times as she reflected on this oh so bizarre situation. The Kamski she knew would've never helped a pair of android detectives run an underground investigation against his own company, especially if he had nothing to gain from it. She heard that supposedly he'd changed quite a bit. Hah! Yeah, right. She'd spent seventeen years living with this man. Her sisters and her, they’d seen him both at the height of his glory and at rock bottom, as a bitter hermit, and he’d been exactly the same all the way through; steady and unmovable like a mountain. Oh, sure, Kamski wasn't quite as bad as most people thought; but he certainly wasn't one to put others' interests before his own. So why was he even cooperating?
Obviously, Clea had heard that he'd dated an android- the very android lawyer they were working for, apparently- and she would've never believed it if it wasn't for Connor and Neil's accounts of the story. There had to be something really special about Clyde, but to be honest, she didn't see it- and she really didn't understand why people liked him either. Clara, Markus, Simon- they all talked about him fondly, but when she'd met him, he had been very distant. Not rude or mean, not really: but he was very detached, all about business, and obviously not interested in getting to know her as a person- which seemed even worse than indifference, somehow. In fact, his demeanor was quite similar to what she remembered of Elijah's; a self-centered, detached, obviously depressed jerk. So hey, they were probably a good match, after all. Well- until it blew up in their faces, obviously.
For the entire time they walked around, Kamski droned about new legislations and changes in the internal organization of the company- Clea didn't even bother listening. She'd already had to pretend that she was visiting Kamski, as if he was her friend , and it was aggravating enough. She was only there because Connor had asked her to, and she couldn't say no to a revolutionary hero. This lawyer brother of his had better be good.
Clea and Kamski walked in the first lab- or at least, what had been the first lab. The walls had all been torn down, and the result was a long, corridor-like room with several workstations at regular intervals across the space. Connor's voice rang in Clea’s ear through the DPD’s private channel.
>> This should be the place… Remember, fifth station. The victim says he was pushed to the wall several times, but since said walls are gone we won't be able to prove that. Pay attention to the stool in particular; according to Caleb's testimony, it should have traces of damage and Thirium.
Clea wondered why Connor even bothered repeating himself; she had a perfect memory, just as he did, there was no need. He was probably anxious and frustrated that he couldn't be there and do the job himself. It hurt Clea's ego a little. Obviously she knew that she wasn't on the same technological level as the RK brothers; it was a fact. Kamski had upgraded her hardware as years went by, so she wasn't as outdated as she could've been, but still, she couldn't compare with highly specialized prototypes. They had only sent her, a simple officer, because they couldn't set foot in the Tower themselves without alerting the entire company. But maybe if she did this job right, she thought, then they would trust her abilities.
"...which is why we've rearranged the workshops. This particular station is used to test motor coordination…"
The android observed each table with attention, feigning interest in hopes that the employees milling around wouldn't catch on when she'd actually start sampling evidence. The time they were spending in front of each station was agonizingly long- and the closer they got, the more anxious she felt.
"... This one has a particular setup that allows us to replace internal organs and correct anomalies in the cloaking technology used for synthetic skin and hair. See the mechanical arms here…"
That's the one . Without losing a millisecond, Clea activated her scanner and started searching. Stool first.
>> Connor, we have a problem.
>> I know, I can see. There's no stool.
What was the meaning of this? Workstations were fixated to the floor, and stools were supposed to be bolted to the stations: it wasn't like someone could've just moved it to another room. Clea fought as hard as she could to maintain her pleasant smile, but her brow betrayed the tiniest hint of a frown.
>> They're onto us.
>> They oughta be. Be careful, Clea.
>> Always. How's the transfer progressing?
>> It's still running, but it's gonna take another twenty minutes before we've backed up all of their security logs. We need to go unnoticed until then. Try to keep collecting evidence if you have the occasion, but for now, laying low is the priority.
>> Roger that.
The android squinted. There were several marks and chips on the table of the station that couldn't come from normal use; and there, in the interstices of the mechanical arms, Thirium had poured. Knowing that collecting samples wasn't an option anymore, she took pictures- as many pictures as she could. Kamski glanced to the side and deliberately blinked at her; a couple of technician androids were coming their way. Quickly, they moved on and continued their visit. Even if she was deeply unimpressed with the man in general, Clea had to admit, Kamski was doing a decent job- he was confident, alert, and he never stopped talking.
But the duo of androids caught up to them really fast, and they stood in their way, displaying smiles that barely dissimulated their intentions. "I'm sorry sir" one of them chimed in with a tone that was way too sweet, "but I'm afraid your guest needs to come with us right now."
>> Connor, what do I do? What’s the status on-
>> The data transfer has stopped, they must’ve found the emitter. You need to get out of here right now!
Clea was already pre-constructing an escape route, wondering how many Cyberlife androids she could take on unarmed- when Kamski took a step forward and stood in front of her, his arms crossed. He… actually looks upset.
“What’s the meaning of this?” he demanded.
“Sir, we have reasons to believe that this individual is an infiltrated spy.”
“Nonsense!” Kamski growled- and to Clea’s surprise, quite convincingly too.“I won’t let my employees disrespect a guest that I have personally invited!”
One of the androids took the emitting chip out of their pocket. “She was stealing classified data, sir.”
Clea and Elijah exchanged a look. They knew they couldn’t go much further without endangering his credibility- and the consequences could be dire. The man took a deep breath. “This is a grave accusation”, he declared sternly, “and I certainly won’t act on it unless you have definitive proof- which this isn’t. However, I will personally make sure that my friend here is escorted to the entrance where she will take a taxi to the police station, and I’m sure she won’t mind remaining there until we are able to dismiss your ridiculous claims.” And turning to her, he gave Clea the cheesiest, most annoying falsely apologetic smile she’d ever seen. “I’m sorry about this. I’m absolutely convinced this is all a misunderstanding, obviously, but I hope you understand my caution.”
“Oh, certainly” she chirped with a bashful grin. “I will assist you any way I can.” Oh Kamski, you sly bastard.
-- Tuesday, December 20, 2039 - 23:14 --
As he passed the threshold of his apartment, Neil froze for a second, frowning. Something was off; the place was dark, and perfectly silent. Gavin was supposed to be home by now, and when Gavin was home, there was always music, or a movie, or something in the background. He hated silence. Besides, it was way too early for him to be asleep already. Cautiously, Neil took a few steps into the living room, his LED blinking yellow and his hand on the gun holster at his hip; but the tension subsided a bit once he noticed that Asshat, Gavin's black cat, was sleeping undisturbed on the couch, rolled up in a fluffy pretzel. The android walked to the center of the room, and he turned on the lights; everything seemed in order. The big cat yawned and stretched lazily before he jumped down, the yellow bandana around his neck swerving as he joyously bounced on his little paws; once he was close enough, he started rubbing against Neil's legs. That quiet affection was one of the things in his new life that felt so natural to Neil, so attuned to his own way of experiencing existence and feelings, that he sometimes wondered if he could ever live without having a cat friend again. "If Gavin ever leaves me, I'll have to take you with me, little one" he told Asshat, tilting his head towards the creature at his feet with a smile. The cat stared back, and blinked amicably.
"Ha, fat chance!"
Neil tensed for a fraction of second, but his sensors quickly matched the sound waves with Gavin's voice. He walked to the kitchen door; sure enough, sitting at the table by the window, barely visible in the dim moonlight, was his partner. He was arched over his elbows and holding his head in his hands. "What are you doing here, sitting alone in the dark ?" Neil asked, raising an inquisitive eyebrow.
Gavin shrugged and rubbed his eyes. "Waiting for you. The fucking neons at the precinct gave me a headache that won’t go away, so I left the lights off."
The android hummed in assessment and walked closer, a hand hovering over the detective's shoulder. Gavin gave him a tiny nod. Neil wasn't sure what had happened to him in the past as he never really talked about it, but the man was very particular about being touched. It had taken a relatively long time for him to accept and appreciate any physical contact from his boyfriend, and he still occasionally shut off or panicked if taken by surprise. At first, that particularity had proved extremely confusing to Neil, who couldn't seem to define when he could or couldn't come close: so they'd agreed on this. Neil would reach out, but not touch Gavin until he'd been given a clear sign (either verbal, or a nod, in most cases) that he was welcome to proceed.
Reassured, the android wrapped an arm around his human's shoulders. "I'm sorry I'm late" he said quietly.
Gavin leaned his head against Neil's shoulder and closed his eyes. "S'fine. You're busy. I get it."
"Are you sure ? You don't sound very happy."
"Yeah, I mean, I'm not thrilled, but you gotta do what you gotta do, y'know."
Neil rested his chin on top of Gavin's head. The locks of unruly hair felt so soft to his synthetic skin. He sighed. "Thank you for understanding."
As his only answer, the man let out a faint grunt. A moment passed.
"So how did it go ? Found anything ?"
Neil hummed thoughtfully. "We managed to recover some evidence and a few of their surveillance files, but not as many as we'd hoped... I suspect they knew ahead of time that we'd try to infiltrate them. We were planning to test a particular stool in the suspect’s lab for DNA and Thirium residue, remember ?”
“Yeah, and trust me, I wish I could forget about the fuckin’ gruesome stool bullshit” Gavin groaned.
“Well, it wasn’t there. The stools are bolted to the workstations, and yet, this one had vanished. They had to know. They couldn't throw Clea out since she was Kamski's guest, but they kept close watch the entire duration of her visit, and they caught her before she could access the closet where the victim was held." The android sighed. “Elijah managed to get her out of there in time, but they must’ve destroyed all trace of remaining evidence by now. I'm afraid we weren't cautious enough."
Gavin tilted his head to the side, lost in his thoughts. Carefully, dutifully, Neil ran his fingers through his lover's hair; the man closed his eyes appreciatively. "Does Clyde know that Eli's helping you guys ?" He asked, and his voice sounded kind of slurred, probably due to his tiredness and headache. Neil's mouth twisted into a pained grimace.
"No. I couldn't bring myself to tell him."
"Hmm. Well, that's probably better. Let sleeping dogs lie, y'know. I didn't expect those two to split up so brutally, honestly. Fucking idiots."
The android nodded, and he looked out the window absently, his brow furrowing. When he heard the news of their separation, he was saddened, but not exactly surprised; Clyde and Elijah had a really complicated history, and they were both struggling with their own problems. Such a relationship would've probably required more efforts than they were able to provide. But regardless, he was alarmed by Clyde's rapidly decaying mood: these days, his brother was an obsessive loner, barely getting out of the office he rented at Jericho's headquarters. Of course, preparing for a trial in a matter of weeks was a gargantuan task, so it made sense; but on the few occasions they met, he gave off such an intense vibe of sadness and defeat that Neil couldn't help but worry.
And visibly, Gavin worried too. He leaned on his elbows and grunted. "You just let them on their own for what, not even a month ? Barely three weeks, and everything comes crashing down !"
Neil tilted his head and brushed his hand against the man's cheek. "You seem really upset."
Gavin pushed his forehead in his hands, pressing his eyes against his palms, and sighed. "Yeah. I hate that Eli's on his own again. Honestly ? It's scary."
"Scary ? But he spent ten years in seclusion before he met Clyde, didn't he ?"
"Yep, but he had the girls, and. Well. You never met him back then. He was… so cold."
The android waited, expecting a follow-up to that statement, but it never came; so he just laid his other hand on his boyfriend's shoulder, in an attempt to soothe him. "I see. I'm worried about Clyde as well. I'm afraid he might have lost sight of himself."
It was so dark that Neil almost missed it- but Gavin's mouth contorted in a painful grimace, and the muscles of his jaw tightened. He seemed so distressed. "What are we gonna do with these fools, babe ?" He whispered, his voice raspy with emotion and tiredness. His heart aching at the sight, Neil leaned forward, and he wrapped his arms around the detective's torso. "I don't know, love. But regardless of what we plan, we can't do anything with a fever, can we ? Come on, I'll carry you to bed if you want."
Gavin had a tiny smile. "You bet your ass I want that" he croaked quietly.
-- Wednesday, January 4, 2040 - 13:39 --
"S-so is there anything helpful at all in there ?"
Clyde looked up from the tablet he was holding to gaze for a second at his client's face. Caleb was an AP700, a domestic model with black hair, high cheekbones and deep brown monolid eyes: his skin was deactivated in several places, most noticeably on his neck, under his chin. There, his chassis bore traces of deep lacerations. Caleb was quite skittish, and he stammered a little here and there- Clyde wasn't even aware that androids could have speech impediments, and though it obviously derived from shock, he vaguely wondered what had shifted in his programming for that to happen.
"Well" he sighed, "most of the data has been infected by some kind of malware, but still, it seems promising. I'll try to restore the footage by tomorrow, okay ?"
Caleb shifted his weight from one leg to the other. "But isn't it gonna be dangerous ? Mister Sixty, I don't want you to-to-"
Politely, Clyde waited a moment to let his client finish his sentence, but he seemed unable to utter another word; so the android smiled wearily. When he'd first filled his civil identity form, he'd chosen Sixty as his last name; it made sense, since it had been, after all, the very first thing anyone had ever called him- other than his serial number or model name, of course. But now, every time someone used this name, the memory of Kamski's face flashed before his eyes and scorched his wiring. "Just call me Clyde. I'll be fine, don't worry. No matter how strong this program is, there's no chance it could damage an RK800."
Caleb slowly closed his mouth and averted his eyes, visibly uncomfortable. People seemed to behave that way more and more often around him, Clyde noted; and he couldn't really figure out why. Everyone probably pitied him after the whole Kamski fiasco. Or maybe he was just being bitter and making them uncomfortable- but either way, it didn't really matter. All that mattered right now was that they win the trial. Anything else could wait.
"I sh-should get going" Caleb finally said, rising on his feet and extending his arm. Clyde stood up as well, and he shook his hand. "Thank you for stopping by" he answered as pleasantly as he could. It probably wasn't much, but hey, he was trying. The other android simply nodded, and they locked eyes; after a moment, he turned on his heels and walked out of the room.
Clyde sat back down and sighed quietly. For a second, he stared at his desk, his mind blank. There was so much he should've been feeling at that point, but he knew better than to let himself get distracted. So he returned to his case files, spinning the ring on his finger, failing to notice that someone was pushing the slightly ajar door.
Clyde had a tiny jump. How could he even be surprised, a highly sophisticated android such as him ? How embarrassing. Swiftly, he glanced over his shoulder. "Hi, Josh. Come in."
Josh passed the threshold, a tiny smile on his face. Clyde didn't know him all too well; actually, they'd never even talked, really. But there was something very soothing about that guy. His presence felt grounding. Clyde had no trouble imagining why Markus liked having him around. The lawyer turned around on his chair to face his guest, and he leaned on his elbows. A couple of locks slipped from behind his ear and hung in front of his eyes. “What brings you here ?”
“Well, I was paying a visit to Rupert who lives down the corridor, so I figured I’d drop by. Clara mentioned you rarely got to be around people these days, I thought you might enjoy some company.”
Huh? That was a strange idea. At first, Clyde felt some annoyance at Clara’s excessive worry; and yet, as he gazed at Josh, he realised that maybe there was some truth to it after all. Maybe some company would do him good. “That’s thoughtful of you” he smiled tentatively. “It’s funny, now that you mention it, I don’t think I’ve ever met Rupert.”
Josh sat down at the little round table in the center of the room, and he rested his chin on the palm of his hand. “It’s not surprising” he answered pleasantly. “Rupert had a… bad experience with Connor, so I’d suspect he avoids you altogether as well.”
Clyde squinted as his LED spinned yellow. He had some very distant second-hand memories of a rooftop chase, and to be absolutely fair, he couldn’t blame that gentle soul for being somewhat traumatized by the whole ordeal. “I understand. How is he doing ?”
“Oh, good! He’s made a lot of progress with Simon’s help, and I’ve been coaching him with his writing as well. He’s gotten much better.”
Clyde titled his head, intrigued. “His writing ? Can androids… not know how to write ?”
Josh chuckled quietly and shook his head. “Ah well, that’s not what I meant. Rupert does know how to write, he just… how do I put it. Let’s say he doesn’t know how to stop writing.”
“Oh.” Well, that did make sense, considering the state of his old hideout’s walls. Clyde nodded, and he looked out the window for an instant. He expected Josh to ask about the case at any moment, as everyone did; but somehow, the android didn’t seem interested in conversation. He was just sitting there, looking around idly. “Uh, look, I really don’t mean to be rude, but I’m afraid I have a lot of work to do” Clyde finally said, and he started feeling ashamed as soon as the words escaped his lips. But the tall android looked up and smiled, unfazed.
“That’s alright” he answered without so much as moving an artificial muscle. “I brought a book, I can keep myself occupied.”
“I can leave if you want me to, of course, but I don’t mind sitting in silence. You don’t have to entertain me.”
Clyde’s brow furrowed. Josh was a strange android indeed. In any other circumstances, he would’ve hated to have someone hanging around in his back while he worked: that was why he’d appreciated having his desk facing Kamski’s, back then, a century ago. But with Josh, somehow, it didn’t matter. Something about him inspired nothing but trust, and in these trying times, Clyde found himself craving a reassuring presence. Josh didn’t try to know what was going on with him, or press him to go outside or take a rest, he didn’t even try to make small talk. Josh simply sat there, and it was precisely what Clyde needed him to do.
“Well” he answered quietly, a genuine smile forming on his lips. The first in weeks. “I’d like that. Thanks.”
-- Thursday, January 19, 2040 - 06:12 --
Detroit was rather beautiful that early in the year. The snow had receded a little- it wasn't so much of a blizzard anymore, instead it covered the city like a fuzzy white blanket, piling up over the roofs and trees, snuffing out the sounds. But even though it was technically his first winter as a conscious being, Clyde didn't pay the slightest attention to the change of scenery. The weeks had passed by so fast, waltzing in and out of his life in a blurry whirlwind, just out of reach- no matter how hard he tried, the android could only ever graze them with the tip of his fingers. To his kind, time was an undeniable constant; unlike humans, the way androids experienced time was as tangible, linear and unalterable as, say, gravity. At least, that’s what Clyde used to think. Ever since he’d left Kamski’s house, reality had taken such an unexpected turn. Time itself was disappearing, it seemed. So Clyde did the only thing he could to keep working on his case; he stopped paying attention altogether. It had started really small: at first, he was just misplacing his belongings- a very mundane human behaviour, but a really, really strange occurrence for an android. Then, he stopped noticing what the weather was like, or when Simon and Markus walked past his door. It wasn’t like his brain wasn’t picking up these informations- it simply refused to process them, and it filed all the data somewhere remote, in the back of his mind, so he didn’t have to touch any of it. To put it simply, he was checked out; so of course, he barely heard when Markus spoke up.
"So how do you feel? Are you ready?"
Clyde took a deep breath in an attempt to keep his Thirium pump from overheating. It had been a while since he'd last felt so vulnerable and afraid, and he had not missed the sensation. His mind was busy chasing a thousand different thoughts, and in his anxious state, he almost felt like the walls of this dusty little corridor were closing in on him. "As ready as I'll ever be" he answered quietly. Oh, even his voice sounded foreign to him.
"Hmm" Markus hummed, crossing his arms thoughtfully. "Well, whatever happens in the following days, you're doing a great thing for all of us. You should be proud of yourself, Clyde."
The corners of Clyde's mouth quirked upwards, but he didn't quite smile; he couldn't. He was too worried. No matter what Markus, Connor or Neil said- no matter what they all said. If he lost the trial, he would never be able to look at any of them in the eyes again. The stakes were too high. And his thoughts that just wouldn't stop racing! Again and again, obsessively, the case files opened in front of his mind’s eyes, the pleading strategy, the evidence- it all unraveled on loop, and he couldn't stop it. "Markus?"
Jericho's leader blinked and smiled encouragingly. "Yes?"
Clyde sighed, looking down at his hands. It’s probably a waste of time, but it’s worth a shot, I suppose. "I heard you could- quiet down rogue protocols. Do you think you could give it a try?"
Markus tilted his head, and his smile turned into an unconvinced pout. "Well… I could, but that would imply interfacing, and I know it's not really your thing, so… it's your choice."
Clyde shuddered. The very idea of interfacing brought back its fair share of unchecked guilt and festering sadness; but he'd heard others describe how calm they felt after Markus had done- whatever it was he did to them. Apparently, he was able to bring calm even to the most tormented androids by selectively shutting down misbehaving programs, which resulted in a state of blissful mindfulness. Clyde doubted it would last too long, considering the circumstances, but he knew he had to give it a try. His whole brain was in the verge of explosion. So he outstretched his arm. "Whenever you're ready."
Markus nodded with a gentle smile and took his hand, his skin receding. There was the usual rush of energy; and suddenly, Clyde was assailed with data, a vertiginous amount of data. It wasn’t like anything he’d ever experienced before. It seemed to him that he had access to everything Markus had ever been, and even more; a whole new realm of mindblowing possibilities was opening before him. But the dizzying sensation was quickly replaced by… nothing. There was literally nothing on his mind. Clyde was suddenly blank of all emotion, good or bad, and he was finally able to think straight. Markus stared at him in the eye for a few seconds, and he let go of his hand; the feeling of soothing emptiness remained, but Clyde felt uneasy. Interfacing with another android was… It was all too much. It was so different from doing it with Elijah. Too much information, too much of everything- it didn't feel as special and intimate. It wasn't the same. He didn't like it.
But there was no interfacing with Kamski anymore, and there were more pressing matters to attend to. For now, this would have to do. "Thank you" the android breathed quietly.
"Oh please, it's the least I can do. I still have a couple things that need addressing before we leave for the courthouse, but don't hesitate if you need anything." And with these words, Markus gave him one last smile, patted his shoulder, and he left the room.
Alone with his thoughts once again, Clyde sat down and pressed his forehead to his hands, screwing his eyes shut. There was nothing to do but wait, now; so he focused on his breathing protocol and tried to relax. But after seconds that felt like centuries, the android started feeling antsy again. No, there was no way he was going to sit there and do nothing until Markus was ready to leave. But he wasn't exactly able to think about anything other than the impending trial either; so Clyde brought up his case files and went over his defense again. Well, the empty mind was nice while it lasted. As the documents zoomed by in his mind, line after line, he started fidgeting with a button on the sleeve of his nice court suit. His case was made, really; despite a difficult investigation, hindered by Cyberlife's machinations, they'd managed to build up a solid case, and he had no doubt that the jury would recognize that much. But if Cyberlife’s committee was backing up the suspect, it meant he could afford an excellent defense team. So in the end, what was going to make a difference... would be Clyde’s attitude. He'd spent hour upon hour studying as many pleas and court hearings as he could, analyzing and sorting the verdicts according to the defense attorney's behaviour during the trials, to the point that at any given time during the last couple months, he'd had a recording of some sort being played in the back of his mind as he worked. And the results weren't very clear cut either, to be honest. There were so many parameters that he would have no influence upon; humans were unpredictable by nature. If anything, it seemed that they tended to be more receptive to passionate lawyers, ones who expressed their opinions with emotional attachment- but the data points were all over the place. It was a gamble, and a wild one at that; it simply seemed to pay a lot more when successful. The more rational choice would be to stay cold and logical, to let the facts speak for themselves; but Clyde knew he wasn’t gonna be able to. Looking up, his jaw clenched, he rose to his feet. The rage he’d buried deep within this whole time was finally resurfacing, and it boiled right under his skin, ready to burst. If this was his only chance to be heard, if this was the only time he could stand up against the injustice his kind faced, then Clyde was going to rain hell down on all these humans. How did Markus even manage to stay calm and peaceful during the revolution? Well, nevermind; he wasn’t Markus. So much for calm and logic; this was his fight, and he was mad as fuck.
-- Monday, January 30, 2040 - 19:08 --
“The unprecedented trial continues as a Cyberlife technician faces charges of aggravated assault and kidnapping in the first lawsuit in human history to involve an android plaintiff. The hearings progress with the defense bringing in new witness…”
Elijah’s head perked up, and he immediately pushed his phone aside to focus on the television set. Its light was quite aggressive- especially in the dark, with all the lights off- but he didn’t mind; hunched over the armrest of his chair, the man stared at the screen, completely absorbed.
“...relevant to the case. The defense team accuses android prosecutor Clyde Sixty of misconduct during the cross-examinations, describing him as “overly aggressive” and “exhibiting anti-human sentiments”. Several members claim his previous involvement with Cyberlife constitutes a major conflict of interests, and are demanding that he is removed from the case. Sixty has declined to comment on the allegations. The role of Jericho leader Markus Manfred…”
Oh, there he was. His anxiety was suddenly shooting through the roof, and he could feel his heart beat in his temples- but still, Elijah smiled. The court footage showed an impeccable Clyde in a grey suit and a half ponytail, striding across the stand in front of the witness box; he was standing straight, his gestures sharp, his gaze sharper. Everything about him exuded carefully controlled fury- and although that was a very different, very foreign look on him, Elijah couldn't help but admire him. Such confidence, such passion. Oh, he was amazing.
A long sigh escaped Kamski’s lips. He’d been following the news coverage of the trial ever since it had started, of course; he couldn’t have escaped it even if he’d wanted to. Cyberlife’s legal team had been working on the case since day one, they’d done everything they could to dissociate from the defendant, while their so-called “Ethics Committee”- a disgraceful masquerade- tried to pass the months of torture and sequestration off as an accident. They were doing all of this right under his nose, in his own company, and he couldn’t do anything… well, beside smuggling Clea inside the Tower. It was so little.
And so, every night, Elijah turned on the news and watched history unfold. Every night, his heart jumped straight to his throat the moment Clyde appeared, and pride and melancholy battled in his chest as he got to stare at the fierce golden eyes for a few precious seconds. A few seconds where nothing else existed, and he could clutch to the evidence that his android, his dear android, was still out there in the world. Clyde lived, Clyde was doing good. Clyde was shaping history. He was a memory, not just a wild daydream. It was hard to tell the difference, sometimes.
But the program moved on to the next story, and Elijah slowly slumped in his armchair as the adrenaline rush subsided. Is it… bad? Is it unhealthy? Should I let go?
Tired, he looked around him. The living room wasn’t perfectly clean- even in the darkness, he could make out the silhouettes of dirty clothes, mugs and dishes scattered all around; the cleaning bots actually had work, for once. Okay, so yeah, maybe he wasn't as mindful of his living space as he used to be. Besides, he did skip a meal here and there, which was never a good sign. But still, it wasn’t all that bad. And the solitude… the solitude weighed on his shoulders sometimes, sure. But he was alive, and he was holding on.
No, even better, Elijah thought as he let his eyes drift off to the ceiling.
He was moving on.
-- Wednesday, February 8, 2040 - 18:43 --
As the night fell on Detroit, so did the activity in the police station. Hank tossed a file on his desk and stretched his shoulders with a grunt. The day had been awfully long, and he couldn’t be more impatient to get home and basically fuse with his couch. Maybe Connor would even help Sumo climb on his lap while they watched their evening movie; the thought made him smile. Watching TV at night had taken a whole new dimension now that the android was in his life. It wasn’t a pathetic attempt at escapism anymore, it was quality time spent with the ones he loved- with his family. He slipped his jacket on, grabbed his phone and his empty mug and headed for the break room's little kitchen corner, frowning as he did; only a year prior he would’ve rather died than being caught doing the dishes at work, and yet there he was. Connor was really rubbing off on him, huh. As he scrubbed the coffee-stained porcelain under lukewarm water, Hank realized that it had been a while since he’d last seen his partner. It’s only when he turned around after placing his mug on the drain rack that he noticed his android, standing there at the table, still wearing his black police uniform. He was staring at the television, stiff and silent, its bluish light softly outlining his brown curls. The sound was muted, but Hank knew it didn’t matter to Connor; he was probably streaming it directly in his brain, or something weird like that. A single glance was enough to know exactly what it was that had the android so captivated. Hank took a few steps closer, and he laid a hand on the table, right next to Connor’s. “So it’s finally over, huh.”
“It seems so”, Connor answered quietly. Hank scoffed, surprised by his tone.
“Aren’t you glad? You guys worked so hard on this case, I thought you’d be thrilled.”
The android turned his head to look at his partner’s face. “Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’m relieved. And proud, I guess.”
Hank sighed. He knew this expression; it was the one his lover took when he tried to hide that something was wrong so as not to alarm him. It wasn't subtle at all. “But?”
“But… I don’t know” Connor answered, and he looked down at his gloved hands for a moment. Gently, Hank nudged his elbow.
“What’s wrong, Con?”
The android pursed his lips. He’d become so expressive over the course of his first year as a deviant; every emotion that crossed his face was like magnified. He blinked, and jerked his head towards the screen, his little brown curl dancing on his forehead. “Look at him.”
Hank bent forward a little and squinted at the screen, feeling like an absolute fool. That was what he deserved for being too proud to wear his glasses at work. In the video, Clyde was walking out of the courthouse in the middle of a crowd, a hand on the shoulder of his client, Markus standing by his side. His hair was partially tied back, and he had the most severe expression Hank had ever seen on any of the RK brothers- and that meant Neil as well. “Well, doesn’t he look dapper.”
“He does” Connor answered, his mouth contorted in a bad smile mimic. Hank’s hand grazed the android’s forearm. “They were showing footage from the trial, earlier. That was… that was the scariest thing I’ve ever seen.”
“You guys are a terrifying bunch” Hank joked in a pitiful attempt at lightening up the mood.
“He had the same look on his face as the day we… the Revolution day. At the Cyberlife Tower.”
Oh. Connor looked up at Hank, and there was so much pain in his eyes. He seemed so small and fragile all of a sudden, under his police uniform. Oh how Hank wished he could’ve just held him; but the walls of the station were towering around them, an ever pressing reminder that they were watched. Observed at all times. Judged. Or maybe it was only in Hank’s head, since Neil and Gavin had no qualms being affectionate towards each other on their workplace.
Oh, get a grip, Hank. He clearly needs you. He took a deep breath, and his hand found Connor's. The android let him lace their fingers together. "I'm sorry."
The android screwed his eyes shut, as if in pain. "I can't hold it against him forever. I know that, but…"
Hank lifted his other hand and laid it on Connor's shoulder, grazing his neck with his thumb. "Hey, it's okay. You’ve been through a lot, you have every right to feel things."
"But it's unfair to Clyde."
Still looking straight at the android's eyes, Hank slowly shook his head. "It’s not, I promise. The fact that you still have things to work on doesn't mean you don’t care about him, or that you're not supportive."
Connor let his gaze slip down to the table. His voice was slightly strangled. "I… I don't know. I think I need to do better."
The lieutenant pursed his lips. Well, that was probably as far as they were gonna get for today. He patted his partner’s forearm affectionately.
“You're the boss. But you don’t have to bear this alone, okay? I’m here. Now c’mon, Con, go get changed and we’ll head home. There’s a big boy there who’s still waiting for his evening walk.”
Ever so faintly, Connor smiled. “You’re right. Let’s not leave him hanging.”
-- Wednesday, February 8, 2040 - 20:38 --
The door creaked quietly as it was being pushed open. The small room was pitch-black- to human eyes at least. But a sliver of pale moonlight that filtered under the drawn curtains highlighted faintly the shapes of the furniture, and it was enough for Clyde to process the space, so he didn't bother reaching for the switch. To be honest, he would have been just as fine in complete darkness; he knew this little room so well. There was nothing to see in there anyway. In a few measured strides, Clyde had reached the border of his bed. Slowly, he sat down, letting the weight of his mechanical body sink in the mattress; he still had his coat on, and said coat was still damp from all the snow, but it couldn't have mattered less. As his eyes mindlessly scanned the barren surface of his desk, realization dawned on the android- or rather, it viciously bit him in the neck. This whole place. It was empty. There was a desk and a computer, a chair and a bed. A little table, a bin. That was it. No picture on the walls, no plant in the corner. No mug, no book, nothing. He'd been living here for about two months now, and yet, there wasn't a single object here that could indicate he'd ever been there at all. If he was to disappear at this very instant, there would be no trace of his existence. As if he'd never even woken up.
Clyde leaned forward, suddenly feeling all the weight of his synthetic body. Oh, the irony was almost beautiful, really. Earlier in the day, he'd managed to obtain justice in court for one of his kind, proving once and for all that androids were sentient beings deserving of rights and freedom: and all the while he was working on this case, he'd been acting like a machine. On their own accord, his hands found one another, and his fingers tangled tightly together, as if to mimic the grip of another person. Clyde closed his eyes, and he remembered. He remembered how it was to be a machine. To have a purpose; a mission, an objective, an absolute. To know your place in the world and to never even question whether you could, let alone should, stray from it. The first time around he'd been maintaining Elijah alive, this time he'd been focused on winning the trial: but in the end, it was all the same. It had felt the same, that is to say, nothing. Clyde breathed in through his nose, slowly, steadily. He’d never needed to breathe, but he found it quite grounding. A little notification appeared in front of his eyes with a muted ding.
Are you sure you don’t want to come celebrate with us? This is your victory, after all.
With a low moan, the android hid his face in the palms of his hands. What was he even supposed to answer? That he was freaking out? That this didn’t even feel like a victory? There was a strange sensation in his throat, as if he'd swallowed a burning coal.
But Clyde immediately froze when he heard the tiny, almost imperceptible squeak of the door being pushed. His synthetic muscles tensed, his golden eyes glowing in the darkness as he ran his preconstruction software, and he prepared to pounce.
“Is anyone in there?”
Cautiously, Josh stepped through the threshold and turned on the light. He jumped slightly, startled. “Oh Clyde, that’s just you! I’m sorry, I saw the door was open with the lights off, so I was afraid someone had broken in-”
Clyde looked up at the tall android, and he sat back down with a tired smile. “That’s okay, Josh. Thanks for checking.”
Josh nodded slowly, awkwardly shifting his weight from one foot to the other as he regained his composure. “Are you okay?”
Clyde had a pause. To be perfectly honest, he didn’t want to be showing any sign of weakness in front of an influent Jericho member; not right after he’d finally proved he was good for something. Now more than ever, he wanted to be an asset, not a liability. He wanted them to know they’d been right to trust him, and being very obviously unstable didn’t feel like a good way to achieve that. But then again. This was Josh. And Josh… well, Josh felt safe. At least, Clyde hoped with every fiber of his being that he was- for he let his head fall to the side with a sigh. “Do you have a moment?”
The tall android simply nodded, and slowly, carefully, he sat down on the bed next to him. He wasn’t in Clyde’s personal space, no, but he was still close enough that his body mass triggered a slight buzz in the RK’s proximity sensor, a very discreet and reassuring presence right at the periphery of his senses. Just perfect.
At first, they just sat in silence. It was hard getting the words out- but Josh didn’t seem to mind. He must have understood how heavy the words that finally came out of Clyde’s vocal module were- they rang barely louder than a whisper. “I know it's gonna sound stupid, but… Do you ever wonder if you’ve even deviated?”
"Hmm. Actually, I used to."
Clyde sat closer to the edge of the bed, intrigued- and quite taken aback. He had not expected his weird question to get an answer, let alone a positive one. "Really?"
A faint chuckle escaped Josh’s lips, and he smiled fondly. "Of course. Deviancy isn't an easy thing to process."
Clyde nodded, his head hanging a little lower. "It definitely isn't."
"Is there anything in particular that makes you feel that way?" Josh asked. His voice was so quiet, yet so warm and comforting. The RK squinted as he tried to collect his thoughts.
"Well… I deviated to save Eli- uh, Kamski. And I kept taking care of him, but well- caring for him was already my prime directive as a machine. I did it because I wanted to, I think so, but… that’s all I'd ever known. And then I left, and I latched onto this trial; it kind of became my new prime directive. Now, I don't have one anymore, and it's- scary? Is it supposed to be that way? Am I still supposed to hop from a prime directive to another? Did deviancy even change anything?"
Josh looked at him quietly, nodding along patiently as he rambled. Clyde felt kind of ashamed to be pouring his heart out to an android he barely even knew; but now that the gates had opened, it all came flooding out. "I can’t help but think I never really broke free from my programming, you know. Was Simon right? Was I wrong to take care of Kamski?"
He took a deep breath. "Am I... still a slave?"
Crossing his arms, Josh tilted his head. His expression was warm and understanding, but he looked pretty unfazed, as if he’d expected every word. “Look, Clyde, you've had a rough start.”
“Tskk” Clyde hissed derisively before he could catch himself, “everyone did. Markus was shot and thrown in a dump. You were assaulted!”
“Yes. We all suffered. That’s the point.”
“...oh. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be” Josh shrugged. “What I mean is, you must allow yourself to process this new way of experiencing the world. A year is a very short amount of time.”
The tall android looked out the window. The distant glow of the moon outlined the shape of his cheekbones against the ink black darkness of the room. "You know”, he resumed, the hint of a smile gracing his lips, “it took me a while to understand it, but humans are just like us. They set themselves goals, just as we have prime directives. The main difference is that they can choose whether or not to follow them, and being deviant gives us that choice as well."
Choice, huh. Clyde winced. “But I hate choices. Always have. What if I’m wrong, every time?”
“Well… you learn from it. You grow.”
But I… don’t feel like I’ve learnt anything. This conversation was becoming vague and confusing, and frustration started to build up in Clyde's throat. It wasn't like him, to get worked up like that, it really wasn't, but he couldn't help it. Okay. Maybe I haven’t been direct enough.
“Be honest” he blurted out, “Do you think like Simon? That I shouldn’t have helped Kamski?”
As soon as the words came out of his mouth, Clyde winced, and for a second, he regretted being so blunt; it really sounded like he resented Simon, one of Jericho's leaders, and had said so to one of his closest friends, huh. That couldn't be good… but the cat was out of the bag now. Timidly, he looked up in Josh’s eyes, silently pleading for an answer- and for indulgence. In response, the other android hummed thoughtfully. "Hm. Did you ever feel trapped?"
"I… no. Never."
"Do you regret spending this time with him?"
"No, not at all" he answered immediately, surprising himself a little. “I loved h- ...I loved living there.”
Josh’s lips stretched into a thin smile. “There you have it, then. If you’re at peace with what happened, then you shouldn’t worry so much about something that’s in the past.”
Of all things he could have felt, Clyde had not expected relief to come from this answer. And yet, being walked through his own mind, seeing his feelings laid out in front of him, was surprisingly soothing. Josh was right. He’d been running in circles and tangling the threads, searching for rights and wrongs and blames to place, but now that he was stepping back and looking at them from afar, things seemed quite simple, actually. His shoulders slumped slightly. Maybe he just lacked the experience. Maybe one year really was a short amount of time.
That bubble of relief was short lived, however- now that the way was clear, another doubt crept up along the android’s spine, a possibility that froze him on the spot. “Oh no, Josh” he breathed out, his eyes widening, “Was leaving him a mistake, then ?”
Josh’s gaze settled on his face for a second, and then drifted off into space. His tone was sympathetic and soft, almost as if he could remember suffering the very same pain. “Only you can answer that question, Clyde.”
“It did allow me to win the trial” the RK tried hesitantly. That much was true, and it was probably the most important thing he’d ever done in his short life, so it should’ve been enough to justify leaving Elijah- but somehow, it didn’t feel like it was. Josh arched an eyebrow.
Clyde blinked. Yeah, he thought to himself with a bitter scoff, but what? I don’t know, man. I wish I knew. He screwed his eyes shut. “...But I just- I can’t help it. I still miss... the life I had with him, I guess.”
Uttering this simple sentence was like taking a punch to the throat, and the android sat there, feeling winded. A faint whirring rang in his ears.
This conversation was so exhausting. Clyde wasn’t sure he had the energy to even finish it, he kind of wanted to run away and hide; but then, what would’ve been the point in spilling his guts? If he had to feel terrible, at least he was going to make it count. “What should I do?”
Josh sighed, still staring at the empty space ahead of him. “Well, Simon would advise that you forget him and move on.”
Clyde couldn’t repress a shudder as he took this second punch. This wasn’t what he’d expected. But he’d asked, after all. “I guess you're r-”
“But I am not Simon.”
Josh finally turned to him, and he smirked. “See, Markus and him are both great leaders because they see the big picture- they know which way to steer people for the sake of the greater good. We owe them so much... and yet, I feel differently.”
Clyde tilted his head and frowned. This whole conversation was a rollercoaster ride, and he wasn’t sure how much longer he could stand it. “What do you mean?” he asked, somewhat impatiently.
“Well, I think that every individual story matters- that you shouldn't have to hurt or sacrifice your happiness for the sake of the android kind.”
The RK groaned. As helpful as Josh was, he sure liked to digress. “So what should I do, then?” he pressed. Josh shrugged.
“Whatever you want. Whatever you feel would help. If you think reaching out to Kamski will bring you closure, then by all means, do. If you'd rather keep going and move on, that's fine too.“
Whatever I want? That’s it? Clyde blinked. "But- how do I know what I want? What if all this is just another way I am following a prime di-"
"Clyde”, Josh interrupted, his tone gentle but definitive. “With all due respect, I think you should stop overthinking it. If you let it fester, your obsession with being a machine will cut you off from a lot of good things. We are androids. We need goals, it's just how we work. Even as deviants."
"We are androids" Clyde repeated in a murmur. No matter how hard he tried to dissociate from that truth, it remained- well, a fact. Josh observed him for a second, and he smiled.
"You know, I really think that not all programming is bad. If a prime directive helps you navigate your life, then why shouldn't you keep one ?"
"I… I don't know."
Josh closed his eyes for a second, and his smile faltered; as his LED turned yellow, his gaze became distant. "Something came up. I'm sorry, I'm gonna need to leave, Clyde."
The RK sat upright. "Is it serious? Will you be alright?"
"Oh, don't you worry, it'll be fine."
...That didn’t sound very sincere, but he decided not to push. "Okay. Thank you, Josh."
"Anytime. See you around, friend, take care."
Clyde waved weakly at the tall android as he walked out- and when the door closed, he let out a ragged breath.
The trial was over.
Now was the time to wake up, just like he'd done before. Just like the first time, he was confused and scared, and lost and hurt; but there was no Elijah to take care of, this time. There was nothing to distract him from his feelings, to keep him busy and numb. A flash of gold caught his attention, his own eyes reflecting on the screen of the computer. As he stared back at himself, Clyde knew that no matter what he chose to do, he had to face his humanity alone, and that he had to feel it all. Confusion, fear, pain.
-- Friday, April 6, 2040 - 19:56 --
"Hello Nei- oh no you don't!" Elijah yelped, and he sidestepped just in time to prevent a fluffy black cat from venturing out in the hall. The creature looked up at him with a murderous look on its little face just as Neil scooped it up. The android smiled warmly as he stood back up. Boy was he tall.
"Thank you, Elijah. I'm fast, but somehow this rascal is even faster. Please do come in."
"Thanks. Good to see you, Neil" the man replied, and he started taking off his coat as soon as he'd stepped inside. He knew where the coat hanger was, after all. "What's the cat’s name again?"
Neil grimaced and hesitated for a second, eyeing him cautiously. He obviously suspected that Elijah perfectly remembered the dumb name of his dumb brother’s cat, and was he just trying to get him to say it out loud- which absolutely was the case. “Alcyone” he articulated slowly.
“No it’s not, you dirty liar” Gavin’s voice protested loudly from down the corridor. “He’s called Asshat!”
"Oh, that's right" Elijah hummed joyfully as he walked towards the living room. "So creative."
“You know I’ve had his name officially changed months ago. You agreed to that" Neil sneered with a spectacular eyeroll.
“Yeah well nobody actually calls their pet by the name on their papers, so who cares!” Gavin’s barky laughter rang through the apartment, and a head of messy hair soon emerged from the bathroom door. "You're late, Eli. I don't think you've been late since we were teens?"
His brother's burly hand clasped his shoulder briefly, and Elijah smiled. "Well look, I know that it's hard to believe, but I am not perfect."
"Yeah, yeah, whatever. C'mon, dinner’s almost ready, let’s drink."
They stepped together in the living room. Asshat jumped from Neil's arms and immediately went to hide under the couch; Elijah watched the cat disappear with a strange feeling of unease. It had never liked him, for some reason. Gavin's place was the same as always- or at least, it looked the same. It actually felt, well, different: it was much cleaner than it used to be, for a start. The furniture had been moved around- not much at all, but just enough so that the whole room felt less cramped, much easier to navigate. Neil's influence was so obvious, and yet so subtle.
"Wow, I haven’t visited in a hot minute" Elijah noted, looking around as he sat down in the battered armchair. "Did you change the wallpaper?"
Gavin huffed, visibly annoyed. "Nines did" he replied , his tone loaded with reproach, as he grabbed the bottle of whiskey that was waiting on the coffee table and opened it.
"It was starting to ripple with humidity" the android retorted defensively as he crossed his arms. Elijah frowned.
"You have humidity problems?"
"Eh" Gavin shrugged, and he let himself fall on a massive beanbag, a glass in hand. "It's not really a problem. Tincan needs something to obsess over, that's all."
Neil didn't answer, but if looks could kill, both humans would be goners by now. Elijah mentally patted himself on the back for resisting the urge to actually give laser eyes to androids. He shifted in his seat. "Why don't you move out? If it's because of money, you know I-"
"Nah thanks. I like this place just fine." The brothers exchanged a look, and it was clear that the subject wasn't open for discussion. Gavin had always been very particular about getting financial help. Personally, Elijah thought it was stupid to let pride get in the way, especially since he had more money than he'd ever get to spend in a hundred lifetimes, and he could very easily afford to buy his brother a nice condo; but regardless, he dropped the subject, picked up his glass and took a sip of whiskey. "Sure. It's nice. So, what’s up?"
Gavin crossed his legs and leaned forward with an exaggerated smile. He didn't exactly look tense, but something was definitely off. "Oh, not much. You know, the usual."
Elijah cocked an eyebrow. "Hm. And uh, how's work?"
Gavin and his boyfriend exchanged a look. "Oh, good. It's been quiet lately, we're lucky, really."
Neil, who had been pacing around restlessly, finally sat down on the couch, right in front of him. "Indeed. What about you?" The android asked gravely. Elijah wondered why he sounded so serious. This was just small talk, after all, and they were all very obviously bad at it.
"Oh, same as usual. I got a second assistant, their name's Copper. Everything is easier with them around, Brad doesn't look like he's about to catch on fire any moment anymore."
Neil tilted his head with polite interest. His eyes didn’t leave Elijah’s face, even for a second. "Oh. Is Copper a human?"
"Oh, no no no" Elijah chuckled. "They’re not. A human could never handle it, that would be too much work. That's a job for two androids."
"Or one highly efficient detective prototype."
At that moment, Gavin had the most forced cough Elijah had ever heard. “How long will it take until the roast chicken’s done?”
Neil didn’t even bother looking at his boyfriend. "About fifteen minutes" he said slowly. Damn, the way he had to stare into your soul when he was talking, it was impressive. Heavy. Gavin once said he was conducting most interrogations at the precinct, and Elijah certainly understood why that was. And they were just talking about chicken right now!
“Yeah, um, why don’t you go check on-”
“That won’t be necessary, Gavin” Elijah sighed. He knew there was no way out of this conversation, and he didn’t mind having it anyway. “If Neil wants to talk about Clyde, then let’s talk about Clyde.”
The android hummed. “Oh, this isn’t about him. I know how my brother’s doing, I’m not concerned. He’s got plenty of people around him. No, I’d rather like to know how you are holding up on your own. We’re worried about you.”
Elijah couldn’t repress a surprised flinch. Well. This is unexpected. “Oh. Well. Thank you, but I’m fine, really-”
Gavin interrupted him with a groan, and instantly, he stiffened, the weight of guilt pressing hard on on his shoulders. Of course his brother had no reason to believe him. Not after what had happened last time he’d said that.”I promise you, Gavin. This time it’s true. I’ve got this” he added, his tone softer.
Neil rested his hands over his knees. “Are you sure? If you need anything from us, don’t hesitate to ask- we’re always here.”
Unsure of what he was supposed to say, Elijah took a long sip of whiskey. He was touched, sure, but also very uncomfortable. Is this how Gavin feels when I offer him money?
But thankfully, Gavin chimed in and broke the awkwardness of the moment. “Not anything though. I’m not cooking for you. You don’t look like you’re starving anyway.”
Elijah scoffed, pretending to be offended. “What, you think I can’t cook? I mean, I don’t, I order most of my meals- but I could if I wanted to . ”
The detective snorted derisively. “Yeah, I wouldn’t bother either if I was loaded like you.”
“May I remind you that I do most of the cooking in this house?” Neil interjected.
“Only because you want to. I was fine eating only instant noodles and canned raviolis.”
Elijah stared at his brother, horrified, and made a mental note to never let Gavin lecture him about food ever again. Neil simply sighed and rose to his feet. “Well. Since we’re talking about it, I’d better go check on the chicken roast. You’re welcome” he announced with a mocking smile and a little bow. Gavin simply laughed as he walked away. There was a lot of tenderness in his expression; the two of them always sounded like they were at each other’s throats, and yet their relationship was as strong as one can be. It was… well, both beautiful and painful to witness, honestly.
“No offense, Gav, but you guys have the weirdest communication habits I’ve ever seen” Elijah remarked as he reached for the bottle to pour himself a second glass of whiskey. His brother shrugged.
“Maybe, but it works for us.”
“Yeah, it looks like it does.”
For a moment, they drank in silence. Neil was still occupied in the kitchen, and the sounds of plates were soon accompanied by a mouthwatering smell. Such a rare instant of peace- a little bubble of momentary bliss that was so precious, so fragile it felt frozen in time, and yet Elijah knew it was only a matter of seconds before it vanished; so he closed his eyes to savour it.
It was Gavin’s voice that broke the moment. “So you’re not planning on seeing anyone new?”
Elijah sighed, his eyes closed still. “I don’t know.”
“You don’t know?”
A little tsk escaped his lips. It was probably the alcohol that made his brother ask such annoying questions- just as the alcohol compelled him to answer. “It’s been what, five months? I don’t need to be with someone, you know.”
Gavin didn’t answer right away- and when he did, his voice barely reached his brother’s ears. “I don’t like that you’re on your own, Eli.”
Elijah let his hand slip off his face, and he straightened up to take a proper look at Gavin. This was… he didn’t know what this was. There were so many conflicting feelings trapped in his chest. He was embarrassed, but still touched that someone would genuinely care about his well being, and pretty annoyed at the suggestion that he couldn’t take care of himself, but also melancholic at the memory of his lost relationship, and guilty that he’d worried his brother, and- He didn’t know. There was too much going on. He was tired. A tiny smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. “It’s not as bad as I thought it’d be, you know” he murmured. “Nothing I can’t handle with therapy and pills.”
“Yeah. Besides, you know I’m not a people person. It worked with Clyde, but Clyde was special.”
Gavin stared at his hands for a while. He hummed, or sighed maybe- it was too faint for Elijah to hear. “Have you talked to him since he left?”
“...No. I didn’t want to bother him. He probably doesn’t want anything to do with me, now.” After all, he’s the one who walked away.
Despite the nature of their conversation- or maybe because of it- and between the drunkenness, the warmth and the pleasant smells, Elijah felt like he could doze off at any given time. Gavin got up and put his glass down on the table; it tinted and glimmered briefly under the dimmed lighting.
“Well” he said, and he looked at his brother in the eye for the first time in the evening. “It’s not really my place to tell, but y’know- I think he might.”
With that, he stretched his shoulders and walked towards the kitchen. It’s only as his gaze trailed behind his brother that Elijah noticed Neil, leaning against the doorframe with his arms crossed, a sympathetic smile on his face. “There’s a small park along the banks of the river. It’s right across from the Tower, near the bridge. Clyde just settled in his new office downtown, and he often takes walks there after work.”
His mind being somewhat fogged, Elijah frowned as he tried to piece back together the information he’d just been given. “Yeah, so?”
The android chuckled. “All I’m saying is, he’s not far. And, you know, I don’t even think he blocked your number.”
“...What are you-”
Gavin’s voice cut him short.
“Come on, Eli! Grub’s up!”
-- Monday, July 9, 2040 - 20:28 --
A gust of wind blew through the avenue, leaving the trees to shiver in its wake. Oh, it wasn’t strong, not at all- just enough so that a tiny little flower came off the branch it was nestled on, carried by a remnant breeze to the tall buildings standing across the street. A window had been left ajar there, on the fourth floor, and the flower was swept in; for a second, it swirled gracefully above the desk that was propped next to the wall, and it landed right on top of a pale hand. Obviously, the little vegetal barely weighted anything, but it was enough for Clyde to look down in surprise, roused from his thoughts. Oh. The window’s still open, huh. The night was falling, which meant that insects would soon be swarming inside. Delicately, he picked the tiny thing between two fingers and stared at it blankly for a couple of seconds; he then stood up, tossed it back outside without a second thought, and closed both the window and its blinds. As he breathed out wearily, the android swept his gaze across the office he shared with his associates. It wasn’t all that small, but the six desks took up a lot of space, so the whole office felt rather cramped- and the several charging stations that lined up against the wall didn’t help at all. And to think they were supposed to add another desk for their new trainee soon... Clyde tousled his hair with a grunt. I guess we’re gonna have to move out already. Had I known, I would’ve rented something bigger from the get go.
To be quite honest, he was pretty much taken aback by the success of his newborn law firm. Sure, the televised trial had been a huge event, but it was supposed to be the endgame: the one most important thing he’d ever do for his kin, his last attempt at making amends- and Clyde had not planned for an aftermath. Overnight, he’d become kind of a prominent android public figure- and not all the attention he received was positive, far from that. Many of his peers accused him of spying for CyberLife, others simply didn’t trust him- and all in all, he couldn’t blame them. But still, this victory, along with Markus’ support, had made waves, and androids from all across the country started speaking up about the abuse they endured. There was so much work left to do. Encouraged (or rather, gently but firmly urged) by Jericho, Clyde had taken in an apprentice, and he’d officially founded the AAR- Alliance for Android Representation; to his great surprise, they were drowning in requests from day one. So he’d recruited another associate, and then another, and in a matter of weeks, he’d assembled his little team in this small office space in downtown Detroit. Belle Isle wasn’t far; in fact, they could see the Cyberlife Tower from the windows. Sometimes it was depressing: but most days, being able to see the dark silhouette peak between two buildings while he read testimony over testimony of the atrocities committed by Cyberlife only strengthened Clyde’s resolve to bring justice. It helped him stay angry.
It wasn’t always easy, dealing with all of this. Some of the things he heard were so horrendous he was tempted to resign and run away, really far, where he would never have to hear another such story; on some days, he felt an urge to march into the Tower and do justice himself. But thankfully, a great deal of androids supported the team in their quest for justice, and that trust gave him the strength and confidence he needed. He knew the AAR was doing good work, that they were picking up the slack for the Ethics Committee’s corruption and incompetence. They were working hard for everyone’s sake, and objectively, on every front, things were going well.
He'd even received an email from Liliana, that cute android tech from CyberLife. She wrote to inform him that she'd quit her job, and with many openly flirty compliments, she asked him out to dinner. The prospect should've pleased him, really. Liliana was a great android, and he could’ve used some company. She definitely wasn't the worst person to get involved with either, and under other circumstances, Clyde would have gladly accepted her invitation, but... somehow, he just didn't feel like it. He didn't really feel like doing anything outside of work- he felt so tired all the time.
Okay, maybe not tired. Exhaustion didn't really translate to androids. It was more of a… loss of will, maybe. As time went by, Clyde felt less and less inclined to reach out to others. Now that he didn't have to think about the trial nonstop, surely he could afford to spend some time with his family and friends- he did work a lot, but it wasn't like he was too busy even for a phone call. No, it was just that he didn't want to do that. Or, if he wanted to, he didn't have the energy. It was a strange thing to conceptualise, and he couldn't even fully grasp it himself. Sometimes, one of his brothers called, or he crossed Simon's path in the corridors; as pleasing as they were, these encounters always left him with a strange, lingering feeling of guilt. Clyde always did his best to avoid Clara, though. He couldn't deal with the prospect of disappointing her, for some reason. He got up in the morning, went to work, came back home late at night, went into stasis. That was enough for him, and it didn't occur to him that this might not be a normal life to live. After all, he was functional, in the most basic sense of the word. He went through the motions, and it worked, and it was enough.
So, yeah. He was settled. He was doing good, all things considered. Of course, had Clyde been a little bit more self aware, he might've noticed how similar his life had become to that of Elijah, back when he first activated; but the irony of the situation was lost on him, for he deliberately avoided thinking about the man at all.
After the discussion he’d had with Josh on the day of the verdict, for a while, Clyde had been determined to cross the bridge, walk to Elijah’s house and, well, simply ring the doorbell; but the thought was as terrifying as it was appealing, and as week upon week passed by, time whittled his resolve away. After a while, the idea seemed absurd altogether: soon, the mere memory of Kamski’s existence was sitting in some corner of his mind, undisturbed, coated in a nice layer of dust, and every day he dutifully tiptoed around it and pretended it didn’t exist.
It worked just fine.
That is, until this morning.
Ever since he'd received the text, the Thirium in Clyde’s veins had been racing faster than usual- and he’d been so antsy for the entire day that he’d had to take off his spinning ring in order to stop fidgeting and actually get some work done. He’d just settled at his desk when it arrived, and he was busy transferring files onto his computer; the moment the phone number displayed in front of him, the shock it caused him was so strong his terminal crashed.
“I’ll be near the bridge at the Gabriel Richard park by 9pm.” That was all it said. With a growing feeling of unease, Clyde glanced once again at the clock in the corner of his eye. 20:31. Almost time.
"Oh, Clyde, you’re still here? I was about to turn off the lights. Do you need to stay late tonight?"
With a start, Clyde turned to look at the silhouette that was standing in the doorframe- a tall, bulky android with curly hair. He was a TR400, apparently; his stature was intimidating to say the least, but his expression was always so gentle, if only a bit guarded. "Oh no, you can turn them off, I was about to leave" Clyde answered as he ran a weary hand on his neck. "Thanks, Avery. How's the training of our new recruit going?"
His associate pushed his hands on his hips. "Fine. She's very eager. Humans are difficult to teach, though."
"Really? She’s already a skilled lawyer, she shouldn't have trouble understanding anything."
"She doesn't. But the way she incorporates data is inconvenient. Very slow."
Clyde tilted his head and smiled. A bittersweet memory stirred in the back of his mind, but he refused to let it take shape any further. "She's human. You know what I always say" he hummed as he turned his computer off.
"Yes" Avery answered quietly. "Whoever wants to help should be able to."
"Exactly. Enjoy your evening, Avery."
Without another word, the sturdy android nodded and left. Clyde picked up his light jacket and examined it for a second. The memory of that old grey thing he first awoke in flashed in front of his eyes. Repressing a shiver, he slipped the plain black jacket on, turned to the door, and shook his hair distractedly as he walked out of the office.
The night was chilly, Clyde supposed- the temperature was fairly low for a midsummer night. It wasn't like he could feel the cold though, so he didn’t mind. He was thankful he couldn't, really- some human things were definitely more of an inconvenience than anything else.
Ever since he'd settled down in town, Clyde had taken to strolling along the banks of the river after work; there was a little park near the bridge that led to the island, and when the day had dawned, that the street lights turned on and that their reflections started dancing on the river, the sight was splendid. Such a curious coincidence that Elijah wanted to meet here- but the android didn’t think much of it. It was probably the most convenient place; close enough for both of them, and the chances of being bothered were low since the park was deserted most of the time. Absently straightening the folds of his jacket, Clyde sat on a bench and watched in silence. The Cyberlife Tower was there, on the other side of the river, its gigantic silhouette looming threateningly in the violet sky. It still felt rather strange to see it from the outside so often, when he used to spend all of his time inside its walls. And there, somewhere along the banks, was Kamski's huge designer house. His old home. Clyde tried not to think about it.
His proximity sensors alerted him of a presence in his back, and the android’s mind brutally switched off. All semblance of a coherent thought was gone, only to be replaced by sheer panic. For half a second, a primal, uncontrollable urge to get up and run away seized him so violently his hands trembled; but when the voice reached his ears, he froze on the spot.
Clyde tried to turn around and look at him, if only to make sure that he wasn’t mistaken somehow; but he simply couldn't. The shock was so much stronger than he’d anticipated. It held him in such a tight stranglehold that he could barely make sense of what he’d been told. "Hello" he choked out.
Elijah walked around the bench and stood to his right, at a respectable distance. Clyde could smell his cologne. It was intoxicating, almost. The android stared stubbornly at the water. It wasn’t like he could do anything else, really. All control over his own reactions escaped him. Oh, this was awful. This encounter had been a bad idea, it felt terrible, he wanted it to end; so maybe his tone was a tad more curt than he’d wished when he asked "So, what do you want?"
If he’d picked up on the android’s discomfort, Elijah did not let it show. His tone was friendly and even. "Well, I just wanted to chat. Hear what you’ve been up to."
His heart stuck in his throat, Clyde had to take a second to calm down. Alright. Hang in there. If he can do this, so can you. Nervously, he inhaled sharply, and jerked his head towards the empty seat next to him. "Okay."
Elijah sat down, his hands buried in the pockets of his jeans, and he hummed. "I followed the trial. You were amazing."
A barely audible, genuinely surprised "Oh" escaped the android’s lips before he could get a grip. No, this wouldn't do. He couldn't afford to appear vulnerable! With a forced smirk, he straightened his back and took the most condescending tone he could muster. "Well, Connor said you helped retrieve some of our evidence, so. I guess I should thank you."
"You're welcome. I wish I had done more."
Yeah, right. Aggravated, Clyde let out a sarcastic scoff. No matter how crucial those evidences had been in securing a victory, Kamski sounded so full of himself, it was infuriating. And yet, there wasn’t an ounce of aggression emanating from him, only curiosity- well. Maybe all this tension was just getting to him. In the corner of his eye, he could see Elijah hunch over his knees. "You've made quite a name for yourself, these past few months" the man commented pleasantly.
Finally, finally, the android’s muscles started loosening up. The apprehension and shock were wearing off, and despite everything that had happened in the last few months, the presence next to him felt oddly comforting. Countless times, he’d sat with Elijah for a chat. This whole exchange was imbued with a bittersweet familiarity. "I suppose” he shrugged. “I guess we've been quite a nuisance to you as well."
Elijah chuckled. Centuries might’ve as well passed since Clyde had last heard this sound, and his heart sank in his chest. "Oh, not at all" the man replied gleefully, unaware of his distress. "Well, to my company, maybe. But you know I love nothing more than watching my PR team run around in the corridors while they scream and flail. If anything, you've made them all healthier."
Clyde nodded, afraid of what might come out of his mouth if he even tried to speak. No matter how hard he wanted to turn his head and look at Elijah, something visceral, a profound apprehension he couldn’t really place, prevented him from doing so. Instead, they sat in silence for a moment, watching the lights of the city reflecting off the ever shifting surface of the water. Somewhere behind them, the mournful wail of a police car siren echoed between the trees: in an instant, it faded away in the sounds of traffic. The android heaved a quiet sigh. “I thought you’d never want to see me again, after what I did.”
He didn’t know what had prompted him to admit such a thing, and it had felt terrible; but Elijah’s reaction- or rather, absence of reaction- was an even worse scald on his heart, he soon discovered. The man just tilted his head sideways, impassive. “You didn’t do anything to me, though. You just left.”
Way to rub it in, thanks. Clyde knew what he’d done; it wasn’t like him to shy away from facts. But the truth of it was really unpleasant, no matter how dismissive Kamski was. “I did” he answered slowly, his shoulders weighted down by the cold grip of shame, his thumb mechanically searching for the ring he’d taken off earlier. ”Without even saying anything. I just… left.” He paused, screwing his eyes shut. “That was awful of me.”
Elijah leaned back, propping an elbow against the backrest of the bench, and he looked up at the sky. A few scattered stars were shyly gleaming, up there, light years away. “Look, even if we’d had a long, heartbreaking conversation, nothing would’ve changed. You needed to leave, you left. That’s all.”
As embarrassing as it was to admit, Clyde let out what could only be described as a pained whimper. “Why are you okay with this?” he croaked.
The man shrugged. “Why are you not?"
Deep down, somewhere in the android's chest, something broke. “Why am I…? I don’t know! I hate that I did... that . It’s not- like me. I would’ve never abandoned you!”
Elijah raised an eyebrow. “Then why did you leave?”
“I don’t know” Clyde breathed quietly, a shiver working its way up along his spine. “You were turning away from me, and- I guess… I kind of hoped…” What did I even hope for, exactly?
“You hoped I’d hurt, didn’t you.”
The shock and surprise felt like a slap across the face, and Clyde sat there, motionless. The worst part was the detachment. How casual Elijah had sounded. He didn’t even seem upset. How could he even consider such a gross thing? ...Was he even wrong? Clyde didn’t know anymore. He couldn’t remember. The android just stared at his hands. “No” he finally whispered. His whole body felt numb, so numb. “I hoped you’d come after me.”
At that, Elijah actually paused. He clicked his tongue.
“...Well, here I am.”
Clyde sat up and chanced a glance to his right; immediately, he wished he hadn't. Oh, the man was breathtaking. Kamski looked so healthy and confident; meanwhile, he sported a messy ponytail and a crumpled shirt. These days, people told him he looked grumpy all the time. The tables have turned . "Guess you are" he simply replied. It wasn't a clever answer, not by a long shot, but it was the best he could do.
Elijah looked back at him, and there was something in his gaze that the android didn’t like- something that could’ve been sadness, but that most definitely looked like pity. No, there’s no way I’m letting you take pity on me. Don’t you dare. Determined to change the subject, he cleared his throat.
"So how have you been doing?"
Clyde was asking the question out of genuine interest, but the moment he did, he realised he absolutely dreaded the answer. Elijah leaned his head to the side, looking up at the streetlights. "Me? Oh, same old, same old. I'm trying to make changes in the company's structure, but you know how it is. Everything is a bureaucratic nightmare."
The android was looking at the water so intently that his optical units were having trouble keeping focus. "Yeah, sure. How have you been doing?"
Elijah hummed. "Well. Good, I guess."
And there it was. At this point, Clyde felt so numb and empty that he was almost forgetting how distraught he felt. Slowly, he looked up at Elijah's face. The man blinked his blue eyes with a little smile. "You know" he added, tilting his head, "at first I was afraid I wouldn't be able to live without you, but I'm just fine on my own."
Clyde blinked, gutted. He knew he deserved this for leaving all of a sudden without even saying goodbye, he knew it. He deserved every bit of the pettiness, and yet, it hurt so much. For a moment, they sat there, staring at each other. How could you? After all we’ve been through, how could you? I saved your life. How dare you show your face only to humiliate me with your happiness?! Before he even knew it, anger was boiling in Clyde’s circuits. Abruptly, he got up. "Well, I'm glad you didn't even notice I was gone, then", the android hissed between his teeth.
But he didn’t even have time to turn away- to his surprise, Elijah sprang to his feet and immediately grabbed his sleeve. "Hey, no, Clyde, wait" he hurriedly pleaded. "That's not what I meant. Let me explain. Please."
Clyde stood still for a second, considering. Everything was said and done, and nothing could make a difference anymore, he knew it; but even then, his chest swelled with foolish hope, and the hand on his arm made his Thirium pump bolt erratically. So against his better judgement, he pivoted to face the man, and, staring at him severely, he waited in silence. Elijah winced. "No, what I meant- okay, just give me a second.” The man took a deep, ragged breath.
“The thing is- back when you left. I was wondering if I actually liked... having you around, or if I was just scared that I wouldn't survive being alone again. But then you left, and I felt great! I mean-"
It was so weird to see Kamski tumble over his words like that. He who usually was so collected and articulate. Clyde didn't even have the will to interrupt him. Elijah groaned quietly, frustrated. "What I’m trying to say” he finally blurted out with growing agitation, “is that I was alone and I survived. And I'm fine. But still, there's not a day that went by ever since that I have not missed you terribly. And I know for sure now that it’s not just the company that I miss. It’s you. I’ve missed you."
Well, whatever this was, it certainly wasn't what Clyde had been expecting. Dumbfounded, he just stood there, blinking in silence. A beat passed: Elijah coughed, looked away, and let go of the sleeve- but the android seized his hand right as it was pulling away. Tears were slowly starting to bead at the corner of his eyes, but in this moment, he honestly couldn’t care less if his composed facade shattered. There were so many things he wanted to say, but he just couldn't. Elijah looked at him in silence, surprise and emotion showing in his eyes.
“I don’t understand” Clyde blurted out, his eyes bolted to his own hand, heat spreading in his chest. His Thirium pump was buzzing so hard. “You should hate me. You should hate me so much.”
Elijah’s lips formed a soft, melancholic smile. “Now, now” he murmured, lifting a hand that he laid gently on the android’s shoulder. Clyde screwed his eyes shut. "I would’ve hated me."
“I could never hate you, Clyde. Not when you did the right thing.”
The android winced, shaking his head vehemently. “I know you’re trying to comfort me, but how could this have been the right thing to do? Don’t lie to me.”
“I’m not lying” Elijah sighed. “I can see now that I was treating you terribly. You put up with so much. Anyone would’ve left- and most people would’ve probably left much earlier than you did. I didn't deserve such patience.”
Clyde tried to protest, but no word came out. Elijah’s breathing hitched. ”You did what you had to, that’s okay. I can’t resent you for preserving yourself.”
So there it was, eh. Hearing the man admit to mistreating him was difficult, but also rather freeing. It wasn’t something he’d even admitted to himself. He never wanted to see himself as the victim of anything or anyone, because, well, he was Sixty. He was the failed Connor, he deserved it, right? ...right? No matter how often he’d heard that he was deserving of love and that he didn’t have to endlessly suffer for his past crimes, it never really sank in, because he’d never allowed it to. Now, at this very moment, he finally started to understand what this meant. He latched onto Elijah even harder, burying his face in his shoulder. Kamski pulled him closer and wrapped an arm around his shoulders comfortingly.
They stood there for a while. Clyde had a lot to process, but also he was so comfortable- and kind of jittery- in Elijah’s arms, he never wanted the embrace to stop. But the man started shivering. “Are you cold?” he asked gently.
“Doesn’t matter” Elijah answered, and though he did his best to keep an even voice, his lips trembled a bit. “Take your time.”
As tempting as the proposition was, Clyde didn’t want him to freeze to death, so he pulled back a little. “Thanks. I’m good.”
For a moment, neither of them dared speaking up. Obviously they both could feel the tension building up, but they both seemed stubbornly set on ignoring it- until finally, Elijah gave in. Shrugging slightly, he sighed. “Well. What do we do now?” he asked, a little awkwardly.
The implications of this question were enough to send sparks through Clyde’s nervous system. “I- I’m not sure."
"What do you want to do?”
“Well, I- you know, I have a good life, now, I know I do… I have a meaningful job, good friends, a supportive family... but...”
“But it feels empty?” Elijah finished with a hint of a smile.
“Yeah. It feels empty.”
“I can relate.”
Clyde glanced up; Elijah was looking back at him. For a fleeting moment, it seemed to him that they understood each other so viscerally, so profoundly well that it was as if they’d never parted. They were back in synch. As he drew a deep breath, the android’s synthetic heart ground to a halt.
Surprised, they both jolted. A chuckle, an embarrassed- but relieved- glance to the side. The hand Clyde was holding squeezed his fingers.
“Alright” Elijah said, and his smile was blinding. “Do you want… this? Me? Again?" He winced a little at his less than perfect formulation. "I can’t tell the future, of course- you probably could do that better than me with your- anyway." He stopped talking to give himself a nervous eyeroll, which the android found really adorable. "I promise I’ll do my best to treat you as well as you deserve.”
Clyde tilted his head to the side, grinning. His sight was getting blurred by tears, but he didn’t mind. “Well that’s not very encouraging” he quipped, his voice strangled in his throat, "but I'll take it." He pressed himself closer to Elijah. The tip of their noses could almost touch.
Elijah quietly snickered. "You can" he answered simply.
The moment their lips connected, a shudder of apprehension ran through his body- followed immediately by a wave of relief. The kiss felt familiar. It felt good. It felt like home. Submerged by months of pent up emotions, Clyde started laughing without being able to stop himself; but Elijah probably understood, for he chuckled too, and they just stood there, finally facing each other, laughing breathlessly with delight.
“Oh, I can’t believe it took you so long!”
“Hey”, Elijah protested, “You knew where to find me. You know I never go anywhere.”
They hugged in a mess of hair and tangled limbs, their foreheads pressed together. It was the most wonderful feeling in the world, Clyde decided.
“I’m so glad, Eli.”
“Me too…” he answered, and quietly, whispering only for himself, he repeated; “me too.”
Another shiver shook Elijah’s body. Clyde pulled away and started vigorously rubbing his hands against the man’s arms to warm him up. “You shouldn’t go around so late in such a flimsy jacket” he reprimanded gently.
“Ah, to be honest I didn’t think I’d be outside for so long” Elijah shrugged. “I thought you’d tell me to fuck off and I’d be home ten minutes after.”
Clyde laughed. “Aww, come on!”
Elijah looked back at him, but his expression had shifted; it was kind of hard to place, full of affection, but also kind of apprehensive, all of a sudden. Oh, that wasn't a good sign.
"What's wrong?" the android asked, and as he struggled to keep a straight face, his brain immediately started unraveling the most terrible scenarios; what if he was in another relationship already? What if he was married? What if he'd been married all along and had a chi-
"I, well- I guess I'm about to ruin everything, but, you know, if you wanna come back to my place-"
Oh, is that all? You didn’t have to scare me like that! The relief Clyde felt was so intense that he almost burst out laughing; but instead, he scoffed, faking outrage. "Wow, aren't you quick to get to the point!"
The banter didn’t seem to alleviate Elijah’s worries one bit. "No” he corrected, agitated, “I meant- to live with me." The man's voice died down awkwardly, and he frowned briefly upon hearing his own sentence. He heaved a sigh. "...Is it worse? I can't tell if it's worse."
Clyde chuckled. Poor thing. "Alright, hot stuff, don’t start panicking” he answered gleefully. “It'll be hard to leave my sad and empty one-room apartment, of course, but yes, I'll come back to live in your giant luxury mansion. Now where did you park your car?"