Elijah clicked the ‘Call’ button and leaned back into the couch. Almost instantly, the laptop screen brightened to show Gavin and Neil’s (very zoomed in) faces; he recoiled a little. “Damn, guys, seriously? Are you really filming in vertical mode?”
Gavin groaned in frustration, and he threw his hands in the air. “One second! One second in and you’re already bitching! That’s a new record!”
To his left, Clyde laughed silently, and Elijah’s chest was so full with affection it was almost painful. The android had an arm propped on the backrest around his shoulders, and it grazed the nape of his neck at the slightest movement; the very discreet and delicate contact was so distracting. “Well” he sneered, trying hard to focus, “maybe if you used a computer instead of filming vertically with your phone like it’s 2015, I wouldn’t have to call you out.”
“Blah blah blah” Gavin nagged childishly; but still, he turned the phone sideways, and the picture widened, showing the two of them sitting at their kitchen table. "There!! Happy now?!"
Unfazed, Neil waved cheerfully. He was wearing… a t-shirt? Neil is probably the only person who can make a t-shirt look weird, Elijah noted. “Hello, Clyde, Elijah” the stern android greeted.
Clyde waved back with a grin. Outside, the sun shone high, as it was almost noon; its light poured in through the large living room windows, and under the bright white glow, his hair looked very blue- very vibrant. It was beautiful. “Hey guys. How’s it going?” Clyde asked happily.
“Good!” Neil smiled. “It’s such a nice day. What about you? How are you doing?”
“Oh, just fine! We both had busy weeks, so it’s good to unwind.”
“Yeah, yeah, sure” Elijah retorted impatiently. Brothers or not brothers, he still hated small talk. “So what is it you wanted to talk about? It’s not like you to be awake at eleven on a Saturday morning, Gav.”
The detective cracked a smile. “Hell no it ain't. So, Helena called, and she asked if we’d have lunch at her place tomorrow.”
As his only answer, Elijah hummed pensively. Next to him, Clyde tilted his head in confusion. “Who’s Helena?”
“She’s Gavin’s mother” Neil answered helpfully.
Gavin shrugged. “Yeah. She wants us over for her birthday.”
Elijah jolted. “Wait, is it September already? Her birthday’s tomorrow?” Wow, time sure fled. He blinked, confused. “But uh… are you sure I should come? Don't you guys want to have a- family gathering or something?”
Gavin groaned and rolled his eyes. “Yeah, and? Dude, you bought her a house, you’re more of a son to her than me at this point.”
“Ah, come on. Money doesn’t-”
“Besides” he interrupted, “she really wants to meet your android lawyer boyfriend. It’s all she’s been talking about since she saw him on TV.”
“Oh. Um.” Well, this was awkward. Elijah glanced to the side and saw Clyde, looking back at him with his eyes wide open and undisguised worry painted all over his face. Hey, wait, no, that’s not- “It’s been a while since I last saw her” he resumed hastily. “How is she with androids now?”
Gavin crossed his arms with a shrug. “Oh, she loved Neil. I mean I can’t promise she won’t make weird embarrassing mom comments, y’know the kind- but she’s chill.”
“Oh. That’s a relief.” Although the real relief was to see Clyde’s expression shift to a more relaxed one. The mere idea that his boyfriend thought he’d be ashamed to introduce him to his family was definitely heartbreaking to Elijah. He turned to the android and gazed into his beautiful golden eyes. “How do you feel about this?”
Clyde hummed and tilted his head. He was so adorable. “That might be nice” he said slowly. “And Neil’s gonna be there anyway, right?”
“Absolutely” his brother answered with a small nod.
“Everything should be fine, then. I’m down.”
Gavin clicked his tongue and yawned. “Cool. Be there at eleven-thirty tomorrow, then. See ya, nerds.” And without a warning, he hung up.
“Wow, he’s getting ruder and ruder” Elijah scoffed. Clyde snorted.
“You think? He said goodbye before hanging up. That’s an improvement if you ask me.”
“Yeah well it’s not good enough.”
The android simply laughed as he wrapped his arms around his boyfriend’s shoulders and pulled him into a hug; little by little, they slipped to the side until they were laying down on the couch, with the RK sprawled on top of his human. Clyde had been in a very good mood lately; to be honest, everything was going so well for them that it was almost stressful. If Elijah had learnt one thing from life, it was that the higher you climbed, the harder you fell: and he’d never been so high up before. It was like walking a tightrope, and he really dreaded the moment he’d trip over his feet. But the spiralling anxiety was cut short by Clyde’s lips against his neck, as his android nuzzled as close as physically possible and sighed contentedly. “I bet Gavin’s already back in bed” he said, his voice slightly muffled.
Elijah snorted. “I’m positive he is. That lazy ass rat.”
They laid there for a moment. The sunlight’s warmth was relaxing, but its brightness hurt the man’s clear eyes; so he closed them. Ah really, he felt so good he could practically-
“Hey now, don’t fall asleep, dear” Clyde teased cheerfully, and he pressed a finger to the tip of Elijah’s nose. “You don’t get to mock your brother for things you also do.”
“Hmm. Maybe he's right… sometimes.”
As his only answer, Clyde laughed and huddled even closer. A ray of sunlight caught Elijah’s sight as it reflected on the android’s ring; absentmindedly, he took his boyfriend’s hand in his and gave the ring a little push. It spinned smoothly. That’s so satisfying , the man thought, maybe I should get one for myself.
“So” he started without looking up from the pale hand, “How do you feel about meeting Helena?”
Clyde hummed, shuffling a little to get more comfortable. “Oh, well, I think it’s gonna be interesting. It’s a good sign that she liked Neil.”
“Oh, she’s a real sweetheart. I haven’t seen her in a while though, to be honest.”
Clyde turned his head, and rested his chin on Elijah’s shoulder to look up at his face. “So if I understand, she raised only Gavin, right?”
“Yeah. Our mothers were good friends though, so we spent most of our weekends together, growing up. We’d catch up on TV shows, play video games, that kind of things.”
“That’s cute. I wonder if I can get Helena to share a few childhood pictures” Clyde teased with a mischievous smile. Elijah scoffed.
“Don’t even think about it.”
"Aw, come on. I'm sure you were adorable."
"Trust me, I was not-" Elijah interrupted himself to yawn. "I was a very scrawny kid." Slowly, he sat up and stretched lazily. He knew that he shouldn’t fall back asleep (and certainly not on a couch; that’d ruin his back for at least a day), no matter how tempting the sun and his boyfriend’s embrace were. “Well” he sighed “I’d better make a few phone calls then.”
Clyde looked up at him quizzically, nudging him with his knee. “What for? It’s Saturday.”
“Yeah, but I gotta find someone to deliver flowers and wine to her place last minute on a Sunday.”
The android sat up as well. He frowned. “What? You’re just gonna order stuff?”
Elijah turned to the side and crossed his arms. “Of course” he replied defensively. “You have no idea how hard it is to find gifts for this woman. She doesn't care for jewelry or whatever, her only interests are her super specific hobbies that change all the time.”
“But ordering flowers is probably the least personal thing you could possibly do! Why not try to make something instead?”
The man scoffed. “ Make something? I’m terrible at crafting! What do you even want me to give her, a noodle pendant?”
“No” Clyde smiled mysteriously. “I have a much better idea.”
Even as he unpacked the groceries and laid the ingredients on the table, Elijah was still very unsure about this whole plan. But Clyde seemed so thrilled, and ever since they’d been back together, he’d never managed to refuse anything to him. So here they were, baking an apple pie. Whatever , he thought as he arranged the apples in an orderly line. If- or rather when- this fails, I can still order the flowers and wine . From the other side of the kitchen counter, Clyde gave him one of his sharp, lawyer-y looks. “You don’t seem convinced.”
“Of course I’m not, babe, I haven’t cooked in about fifteen years! And even back then, I was bad at it.”
The android had already turned his back, and he was rummaging through the cupboards. He cooed a little “Aaw”, barely audible under the rucus of clinking pans, before he turned back, an empty dish in his hands and a fond smile on his face. “But you have me, now. I’ll help, don’t you worry.” And he leaned over the countertop to plant a little kiss on Elijah’s cheek.
Oh. Okay. This is nice. But still. “You sure we couldn’t use readymade pie crust at least?” he complained. Clyde threw an apron at him without even bothering to reply.
The recipe itself didn’t seem that complicated, but Elijah felt like an absolute failure- and it certainly wasn’t often that he felt that way. His hands were clumsy, and the texture of butter and flour sticking to his skin grossed him out; but Clyde was right next to him, looking at him with a patient smile and vigilant eyes, correcting his gestures and adjusting the measuring of ingredients. “Oh” he hummed, his eyes glowing a little as he analyzed the dough, “You need to add a bit more salt. Here” he offered, holding out the bowl. The man took a pinch hesitantly, never breaking eye contact. “Like that?”
“Yup” Clyde hummed, nodding cheerfully. “A tiny bit more.”
Once the dough was deemed satisfactory- and indeed, it looked nice, all smooth and squishy- the two turned their attention to the apples. Clyde’s initial intention was to simply guide his boyfriend throughout and leave him to do the actual work, as he wanted him to actually make the gift himself; but that changed about half an apple in, when Elijah’s hand slipped and the knife scratched his palm. It was nothing, really, it barely even bled- but nonetheless, Clyde took the knife very resolutely and peeled off the remaining fruit himself (though only after applying a bandage that he’d whipped up from thin air, apparently). Elijah felt a tinge of jealousy as he watched him work; even when he was assembling android hardware, the one thing he was best at- and it could arguably be said he was the best among all humanity at making androids- even then, he couldn’t possibly match the speed and precision that Clyde had when peeling apples. Look at you, dear, you’re tearing through this recipe like a chef even though you’ve never even cooked before. It was so impressive.
“Okay” the android exclaimed happily, straightening up. “Now we need to put some butter and sugar at the bottom of the dish, to make the apples sweeter. There, cut a little chunk and rub it on the sides with your fingers.”
Elijah recoiled in disgust. “With my fingers? You sure?”
“Yeah” Clyde shrugged. “It’s the easiest way to do it. Most people think it’s a fun part.”
“I don’t see what’s fun about it. The texture’s weird, it’s all… gross.”
“Everything’s gross to you, huh” the android retorted, but he still pulled the dish and butter in front of him to take over. Elijah felt a tinge of guilt knot his throat.
“I’m sorry” he muttered miserably.
Clyde’s hands stilled, and he lifted his head. “What? Why?”
“Well, I’m useless.”
The android remained silent for a second, and he tilted his head with a sympathetic hum. “Hey now. That was my idea. Maybe we shouldn’t have gone for this if you didn’t feel comfortable.”
For a second there, Elijah worried. I shouldn’t have said that, I should’ve kept it to myself. Idiot . Truth was, every time Clyde was disappointed or even slightly inconvenienced, he started sweating bullets at the idea of him leaving again. Now that he knew exactly how much he liked having him around, he wasn’t about to let him slip away.
...But once the urge to fuss over his boyfriend passed, of course, he realized how ridiculous he was being. So ridiculous, in fact, that the man let out a little snort. Of course they could disagree sometimes. That didn’t mean anything. Especially not when the matter at hand was an apple pie. With a smile, he reached out and placed his hand on Clyde’s cheek. “No, you were right. This is a really good idea, and I’m sure Helena will love it.”
The android beamed and nodded before resuming the task at hand- and Elijah’s chest felt as warm as a cat under the sun.
Once the pie was out of the oven- and Elijah had to admit, it smelled as good as it looked- the pair went to sit by the pool. The afternoon sun was flooding the whole room, sending shards of bright red light bouncing off the water. Those reflections were the main reason he’d had his pool water tainted crimson, honestly; when the sun was angled right, the whole room turned to stained glass. Clyde sat crossed legged on the border, the trims of his ample cardigan trailing into the water. Elijah settled down next to him, letting his legs dangle in the pool- who cared if his sweatpants got soaked, it wasn’t like they had anywhere to be. He regularly found himself swimming with some clothes on, somehow. He didn’t mind, and no one was going to tell him off in his own house, anyway.
Clyde leaned against him and rested his head on his shoulder. His eyes lost on the undulating surface of the pool, he sighed of ease. Elijah looped his arm around the android’s waist. “This is such a nice day” he said quietly.
“Mhm” Clyde hummed with a nod. “We should bake more often. I’m sure you could be really good at it, you know.”
The man scoffed. “But you did most of the work.”
“Hey, that’s not true” Clyde retorted, and he looked up with a smirk. “You carved that dent in your hand all on your own.”
Elijah laughed. Those crinkles that appeared at the sides of his honey-colored eyes when he smiled were way too cute. “I did, which is why I think I shouldn’t be allowed in a kitchen anymore.”
“You don’t have to bake if you don’t want to, dear” the android hummed as he laced their fingers together.
“No, you’re right. I think it would be a nice hobby for us. As long as you don’t let me do it all by myself.”
Clyde's eyes reflected so much tenderness, and so did the smile he tried so hard to pass as a sarcastic smirk. "Of course I won't" he quipped, "I don't want you to cut off all of your fingers."
Elijah didn’t answer; instead, he leaned and pressed a kiss on his cheek. The android cooed with delight- and Elijah felt the familiar tingle under his skin as they interfaced.
As he sat there, his legs immersed in warm water, his cheek resting against his boyfriend’s, and their hands intertwined, the man closed his eyes.
This moment, right here.
This warmth, this intimacy.
This quiet happiness.
This was everything he’d ever wanted.
“Okay, once I’ve brushed my hair I should be read- oh babe, what are you wearing?”
Clyde froze, his shoulders hunching up in panic. “What? What’s wrong?”
Elijah walked inside the dressing-room and appraised him with a look, repressing a chuckle. “Oh Clyde, you don’t need to wear a tie to visit Helena” he smiled, endeared. “Every other time when I go to her place, she’s in pajamas anyway.”
The android relaxed a little. “Oh.”
“Yeah. Just the shirt will do fine! Don't you worry about impressing her.”
Clyde raised his hands to his throat, and hesitantly, he started to untie the knot from his collar. “So she’s a middle-aged woman version of Gavin, basically.”
“Hey, don’t insult Helena” Elijah laughed as he stepped away to grab a brush in front of the mirror in the adjacent bathroom. “Although you can tell by watching her that she raised him, I guess.”
Clyde looked outside as he leaned against the walk-in closet’s doorframe. The weather was so nice- storm season had just ended, and it had been a good while since the sky had been so blue. There wasn't a single cloud in sight. “I'm not trying to imply you're being useless, but would you happen to have anything less vague to give me?”
“Mmh well, she’s very… how can I put it. She doesn’t give a damn about appearances ?”
“Well, that explains… Gavin.”
“That it does.”
Clyde ran his fingers through his hair and let out a sigh. Even if he didn’t care to admit it, he was feeling pretty nervous. His brother and his boyfriend both had spent the previous day reassuring him that everything was gonna be fine, and still, he couldn’t shake the jittery apprehension off. After all, meeting Gavin’s mom was the closest he’d probably ever get to meeting Elijah’s parents, and he really wanted to make a good impression. “I wonder if meeting your mom also would explain who you are as a person” he hummed absently, his gaze still fixed on the blue mirror that was the Detroit river.
Next to him, he heard Elijah click his tongue. That was a sign that something bothered him, usually. “I’m not sure” he finally answered without turning around. “She was really different from Helena. To be honest, I really wonder how the two of them managed to stay friends for so long.”
Clyde noted the use of a past tense, and he frowned- but he didn’t rise it. “Oh?” he simply replied.
“Yeah. See, Helena is a really warm, friendly woman, so visiting her was always a joy. She’d let us do anything we wanted, she even let me build bots in her basement. Well, Mama Kaminski definitely wasn’t like that, quite the opposite, really” he answered, his tone loaded with a bittersweet mix of nostalgia and resentment.
"Yup. It's Polish, I shortened it when I changed my name. Believe me, she did not like it."
"I see." Clyde stepped away from the doorframe and turned towards him. “I’m sorry for your loss” he simply said, and for a moment, he completely forgot the stress, the family lunch, everything. Elijah’s hands froze, and he turned with a frown and a surprised half smile.
“Oh no, she’s not dead, not at all! We just don’t talk anymore” he shrugged.
“Oh. Well, still.”
Elijah waved his hand dismissively. “Nah, it’s fine” he retorted as he walked up to his boyfriend. “We never were the most functional family, but she could've kept us in her life if she'd cared to. It's her loss.”
“I take it Gavin wasn't all that close to her either?”
“Ha! That’s quite the understatement” the man laughed. “He was terrified of her.“
“What, her too?” Clyde sneered. “Wasn’t that the case with Amanda as well?”
“I know, right? I think he once asked me why all the women in my life were scary.”
Clyde couldn’t repress a snort, and he laid a hand on Elijah’s shoulder. "Well, look at me. I suppose you just like being around terrifying people."
“Oh my, what a dreadful individual indeed, woe is me!" his boyfriend sighed dramatically, raising a hand to his forehead for effect- and although his smile betrayed how thoroughly smitten he was, the android frowned.
"You should genuinely fear me, though. All sensible people are afraid of attorneys."
"Bold of you to assume I am sensible" the man beamed, and he patted his waist. "Come on, I really think we should get going, dear.”
The anxiety surged again as Clyde stepped back a little bit more abruptly than he’d wished. “Wh- are you sure my outfit is appropriate? My hair doesn’t look weird? And what about-”
Elijah smiled beautifully, his blue eyes appraising him with delight. “Clyde, my dear, she’ll love you. You look wonderful.”
“You ready, babe?”
Clyde frowned as he turned to Elijah, who had his arm raised, his finger ready to press the bell button. “Hmm? Of course I’m ready. No idea why you’d think I’m not.”
“Well, your breathing protocol stopped working a while ago, so I thought you might be stressed out and you needed a minute.”
“Nonsense” the android huffed as he switched the breathing simulation program back on, “You just didn’t see me breathe because you’re not used to your new contacts, that’s all.”
“Sure thing, sweetheart” Elijah hummed amicably as he pressed the doorbell button.
For the few instants that followed, Clyde looked around to take the scenery in. It was a nice little neighborhood, very quaint and quiet, full of identical little houses with neat, well manicured front lawns. Helena’s house was just as neat as the others, but she had a few sculptures on her lawn; most noticeably, a good sized, neon pink flamingo was standing on its two metal legs near the porch. Clyde was starting to wonder what it was that compelled humans to put such strange things in their gardens- when his thoughts were interrupted by the sound of the door opening.
“Ooh, Elijah, my dear, hello!”
In the doorframe appeared a small woman, several inches shorter than both of them, with a wild mane of curly auburn hair with greying roots. The first thing Clyde noticed was her eyes- they were so wide, and exactly the same shade of green as Gavin’s. It was strange to be able to fully see them: unlike her son, she didn’t frown. She looked older than she really was, in the way that people who have led a hard life sometimes do; but the grin that stretched across her face glinted so hard it eclipsed the wrinkles. Helena also had the same nose shape as Gavin- save the scar, of course.
“Hi Helena- oof” Elijah wheezed, right as he was being swept up in a tight hug.
“Ooh, Eli, my boy!” She exclaimed. "How have you been? You look healthy! Did you change your diet?" Helena started chattering, appraising Elijah and fussing over the collar of his jacket. The man smiled fondly, patting her shoulder.
“It's good to see you, Helena. I’d like you to meet Clyde.”
Gavin's mother turned to the android, and her expression radiated so much warmth that he almost forgot his nervosity for a second. “Here he is!” she exclaimed cheerfully, and she grabbed him by the arms. “The famous lawyer!”
Disoriented, Clyde let out a weak “Madam” before he, too, got pulled into a tight hug. The woman burst into laughter.
“Such a gentleman! No no no dear, you call me Helena!”
As she let go of him, Clyde glanced furtively at Elijah. He smiled back and winked. “We baked you an apple pie” the man announced proudly, handing her the bag he was carrying. It didn’t look like much, all clumsily wrapped in aluminum foil, but Helena still looked at it as if it was the Holy Grail.
“Elijah, dear, you baked something?! But you’re such a busy man! You shouldn’t have!” she squealed, taking the plate with the utmost deference. Elijah chuckled awkwardly, his cheeks blushing with embarrassment. “Ah, it was Clyde’s idea. He helped a lot. Actually, he did most of it.”
“No I didn’t” the android hastily protested, but Helena turned to him with a delighted smile.
“Oh, I already love you” she cooed, and she turned on her heels. “Come on kids, get inside! We’ll wait for Gavin and Neil with a glass of wine!”
Carefully, Clyde passed the threshold and peered around. The place was… disorienting to say the least. The furniture was mismatched (and frankly, very gaudy) and colorful, with no rhyme or reason to the patterns on the fabrics and wallpapers. There was some mess, clothes piling up on the chairs and newspapers on the floor here and there, but it only made the place seem well lived in, as welcoming and warm as its owner. “I’m surprised we arrived first” Elijah noted as he took off his blazer. “Gavin’s a mess, but Neil isn’t the type to be late.”
Helena had already disappeared in the kitchen. “Eh” she called from there, “they’re not really late. It’s just a nice family gathering anyway, it’s fine.”
“But still. Stanley isn’t home?”
Helena emerged from the kitchen, three wine glasses held skillfully between the fingers of her right hand, and a bottle of white wine in the left. “Oh, sweetie, you know Gavin doesn’t want him around. I asked him to go fishing for the day.”
Elijah frowned, and it was obvious that he was about to say something; but Helena cut him off by setting the glasses down on the coffee table. “Now, Clyde, I don’t have anything that’s good for robots, but I want you to drink with us!”
To his side, Clyde saw his partner roll his eyes at the term ‘robot’, but he simply smiled. “Oh, wine will do just fine. I can absolutely consume regular food. Thank you, Helena.”
They all sat down around the coffee table, in the old bright red leather couches. Clyde nudged a fluffy, heart shaped pillow aside. Everything smelled faintly of citrus, he noted.
“So, I’ve seen you on television” Helena said, observing Clyde with a spark of mischievous curiosity in her eyes as she poured three (very generous) glasses of wine. “That was an impressive trial back then, every news channel talked about it. I didn’t think Elijah was going to bring me someone so famous!”
Clyde couldn’t repress a surprised twitch of eyebrows; but Elijah is so much more famous than me ? Sat to his left, the man grabbed his glass with a chuckle, visibly happy not to be the center of attention for once. “Oh, well, that was a big case, for sure, um, but not every case my firm handles is like that” he answered, tripping over his words with embarrassment. “We mostly deal with, uh, little things-” Helena waved a dismissive hand as she sat down, her glass in hand.
“Oh come on, don’t be modest, dear.”
“He’s always like that” Elijah chimed in, before taking a long sip. Traitor. Clyde looked between the two of them, puzzled; to the extent of his knowledge, human tradition expected people to have toasts before they started drinking, but somehow, these two didn’t care. That wasn’t surprising coming from Elijah, and he supposed it had to be expected from Gavin’s mother as well. She probably despised social conventions and meaningless propriety as much as his partner did.
“I’m glad you finally came to visit, Elijah. It’s been, what, three years?”
Elijah choked on his drink, and a faint blush tinted his cheeks. “Has it been that long? Wow, I’m sorry” he coughed out pitifully.
“Don’t worry dear, I know you’re a busy man.”
Well, he wasn’t before last year, Clyde thought, but he kept his mouth shut. He didn’t want Elijah to choke to death with wine, after all. Something in Helena’s tone suggested she already knew anyway, and that this was her way to gently reprimand him. She crossed her legs and took another sip. “How’s Deborah?”
Judging by the way Elijah shuffled uncomfortably in his seat, Clyde guessed the subject was sensitive. “I heard from the nursing home last month, she seems fine.”
Helena nodded with a hum. “Good, good. You’re doing everything you can, sweetie.” She smiled gently, lowering her glass. “She’s got a good kid.”
Deborah is Elijah’s mother? She’s in a nursing home? But I thought- Clyde frowned slightly, confused. But everything in Elijah’s body language indicated shame and embarrassment; so he kept his mouth shut, and instead, he laid a comforting hand on his boyfriend’s knee. You know what? It’s okay. You don’t have to talk about it.
Elijah winced; but the tense awkwardness was cut short by the sound of the front door being thrown open. “Sup!” Gavin’s loud voice boomed in the corridor. The detective soon entered the living room, followed by a visibly pleased Neil who carried a covered plate in his hands. “Hi mom” he said, and he hunched over the armchair to place a kiss on Helena’s forehead. “Happy birthday.”
“Aw, thank you dear. My, Neil, you look handsome today!"
"No matter how hard I try, I can never be as radiant as you are, Helena" the android answered with a disarmingly charming smile that Clyde had never seen before.
"Ooh, you flatterer! What’s this?”
Neil puffed out his chest proudly. “Gavin and I decided to bake cookies.”
“ He decided we’d bake cookies, rather” Gavin grumbled.
Baffled, Clyde glanced at Elijah; the two couldn’t help but snicker, which only served to irritate Gavin further. “What? I don’t have the money to buy fancy shit, I’m a fucking cop!”
“Nah” Elijah chuckled, “it’s just that- Clyde had me bake something too! It’s an apple pie, it’s on the kitchen table.”
Neil smirked, visibly pleased. “We are brothers, after all.”
But Gavin didn’t seem amused at all. “Ah, great” he groaned, throwing up his hands in frustration. “So even my cookies have to compete against the wonderful creations of Mister Genius?!”
“Now, now” Helena intervened. “I’m sure you all did a great job, kids! Besides, the pie is a good dessert, and the cookies will be perfect for tea!”
“Mhm” the detective grumbled, instantly settling down. He did seem ashamed at his own temper outburst. “It’s fine. We’re not children, Mom, y’know.” His mother placed a hand on his arm.
“I know, I know. Gavin, would you be a darling and go get a couple extra glasses in the kitchen, please?”
“Yeah, sure.” The man left the room without a word. He seemed so much more… docile? Relaxed? underneath his usual layer of foul mood. That was surprising. Neil walked to the armchair next to Helena and sat down, his hands crossed on his knees. “I’m glad to see you all” he hummed peacefully as he looked around at the faces in front of him. When he locked eyes with his brother, their LEDs spinned yellow in unison for a second; Clyde smiled. It turned out that he liked these android greetings, after all. It made him feel so much closer to Neil, that they had this bond no human could ever experience. It was comforting.
Gavin emerged from the kitchen with the glasses, and a bottle of dark blue liquid. He popped the cork open and poured the bubbly liquid into a glass that he handed to Neil. “There ya go. Clyde, you want some?”
The android tilted his head. “Is this- Thirium based alcohol?”
Gavin lifted the bottle and squinted at the label. “Doubt there’s actual alcohol in there, but yeah, it’s Thirium.”
“Oh. Sure, thank you.”
“I had no idea they made that kind of stuff” Helena marveled, and she grabbed the bottle as well to take a closer look. “I’ll have to make sure to keep some in my fridge for when you kids visit.”
“We’re turning thirty-eight this year, Helena, I’m not convinced we still qualify as kids” Elijah chimed in.
“Oh, come on. You’ll always be my kids” she retorted as she lifted her glass to take a long sip.
As the others settled into pleasant, idle conversation, Clyde looked around some more. He noticed that there were no childhood pictures on the walls; a couple portraits of a newborn baby (obviously Gavin) hung on the wall near the chimney, but that was about it. It seemed strange that someone like Helena, who was so close to her kid- well, her kids- wouldn’t proudly display her family pictures. “I have to admit, Helena” he began, looking into her eyes with what could only be described as a professional attorney stare, “I’m a bit disappointed. I expected your walls to be covered with childhood photos of these two.”
Helena put a hand on her cheek and laughed. “Oh, you’re adorable!” Well, that’s the first time someone’s said that after I just stared into their soul, he thought, but he didn’t interrupt. “I can’t have pictures around the house. When he was a kid, Gavin only accepted to be on pictures if Elijah was there too, so I have to be careful. That could be trouble for him.”
Elijah shuffled his foot a little. “Sorry.”
She waved her hand dismissively. “Oh darling, it’s okay! I have them all on my computer anyway. I can look at them at any time.”
It took a second before the ball dropped, but as soon as it did, Clyde’s eyes darted to his brother’s face.
>> Please tell me you’ve hacked into her computer and saved these pictures.
Neil’s smile widened.
>> Of course not. I asked her permission like a civilized person would. But yes, I do have them.
>> Why didn’t you share before?!
Neil glanced to the side. Someone must’ve told a joke, for Gavin was laughing so hard he choked on his wine, which only made Helena laugh harder. Elijah scoffed, but he couldn’t repress his smile.
>> I thought it was only fair that you met her first.
Clyde felt his mechanical heart warm up. He smiled.
>> You’re right.
As he stepped outside the house with a new kettle of freshly brewed tea, Clyde could hear that Helena was still engrossed in the story she was telling when he'd left.
“...and so that’s what I did, but of course Cindy wouldn’t back down with the yard issue. You know how Cindy is, honey” she said cheerfully, gesturing at Gavin. “She’s the worsht” he approved sternly, as if his mouth wasn’t full of cookie.
“Isn’t she! So I just casually mentioned that my son and his partner both were in the force, and wouldn’t you know, the first thing she does the next day is fix her fence. Isn’t that amazing?”
Neil nodded gravely. “Absolutely.”
Wow, Neil is approving of intimidation? He really does like her, Clyde smirked to himself as he placed the kettle on the table and sat down next to his brother. The warm afternoon breeze was gently blowing through their hair as they had tea on the little house’s patio. Helena was doing most of the talking, but she didn’t seem to mind. “Now I can even tell her there’s a lawyer in my family” she cooed at Clyde.
He had half a mind to explain that actually, he was a court attorney, and a specialised one at that, that she wasn’t an android and that he didn’t file domestic complaints- but he realized before he spoke how useless it would’ve been to point all that out. So he simply answered with a feeble “Haha, sure” and an awkward smile.
“Oh, where’s Elijah?” Now that he looked around the table properly, Clyde noticed that his boyfriend wasn’t there anymore. A tiny spike of fear caught in his throat, but he ignored it.
“Oh, he went to lie down under the tree” Helena answered, pointing at a patch of grass under a wide weeping willow; and sure enough, the android saw his man, stretched out on the ground in the grass. “He likes to rest there after lunch. Poor thing doesn’t get enough sunlight if you want my opinion.”
The corners of his mouth pulled into a smile as Clyde watched him. He was suddenly overtaken by an urge to stand up and run to him. No. That’s not polite. You stay where you are. Helena poured herself some more tea. “Why don’t you go and join him?” she asked amicably, without even looking up from the kettle.
“... is it okay if I do?”
The woman laughed. “Oh, my dear, you don’t even have to ask! We’re not that kind of family.” She peered at him knowingly over her cup, her deep green eyes twinkling. “Just go already.”
Clyde felt his chest swell with affection for this woman, and he swore he’d get to know her more later; but for now, he simply nodded and rose to his feet without further ado.
Elijah was lying on his back, his eyes closed, basking in the sunlight. He looked like he might be asleep; but when Clyde sat down next to him, he hummed lazily. “I wish we had a garden. Maybe I should buy a summer house or something.”
The android scoffed. “The entirety of Belle Isle is basically your backyard, I don’t think you need to buy a private garden.”
The man shrugged, and he opened his eyes slightly, wincing as the daylight hurt his eyes. Clyde gazed down at him and ran a finger along his cheek, endeared. “You know, I never expected that an indoor guy such as you would enjoy sunlight so much. You’re just like a cat.”
Elijah didn’t reply- but he smiled. They exchanged a peaceful moment of silence.
“Helena is a really nice person. I’m glad we came.”
“She is. I knew she’d like you.”
“Heh. What can I say, I’m a natural charmer” Clyde smirked. He gazed back at the table; Gavin and his mother were smoking cigarettes and gesturing enthusiastically while they chatted, and he really saw the resemblance more than ever. “Gavin looks so relaxed, here. And you do too. You haven’t fidgeted once since we arrived."
Elijah scoffed indignantly. "I don't fidget" he protested- and he frowned and wrinkled his nose, noticing that the android's LED had started spinning. "What are you doing?"
"A supercut montage of all the times you've fidgeted in my presence. I've reviewed only one month worth of footage and have found over three hundred instances already, so it's taking a little time-"
"Ah shut up" the man sneered, and he pushed Clyde's knee- his head being just out of reach. "Okay, point taken, I fidget."
"Well", Clyde smiled, "Here, you don't, somehow."
Elijah looked away, intently staring at the android's left shoulder, and he shrugged. He seemed almost embarrassed- as if he was suddenly finding himself with all this vulnerability in his hands, and he didn’t quite know what to make of it. "I don't know, being here with Gav and Helena is just… yknow" he trailed off quietly. With the tip of his finger, Clyde grazed the side of his jaw.
"It feels safe?"
"...yeah. Safe and familiar."
A beat passed. Clyde leaned back and tilted his head, turning his face towards the sky: although he knew he couldn't quite experience it as intensely as humans did, still, the warmth of the sun on his skin filled him with a unique kind of bliss. As much as he liked making fun of Elijah for his love of large windows, he easily understood him.
“It’s nice to spend time all together, as a family” he sighed with ease.
Elijah’s gaze became distant, and his smile faded a bit. The android frowned. “What’s wrong, Eli?”
He sighed. “So… you know I lied about my mother.”
Clyde tilted his head without breaking eye contact. His hair slipped from behind his ear and dangled in front of his eyes. He pushed it back distractedly. Curiously, being lied to didn’t bother him as much as he’d expected. “You must’ve had your reasons.”
Elijah closed his eyes. ”Yeah. They’re not good reasons, though.”
“Do you want to talk about it?”
The man shrugged nervously. “No” he answered quietly.
“Then let’s not.”
The breeze smelled faintly of freshly mowed grass, and the patches of light filtering through the tree’s foliage speckled the lawn like as many vibrant watercolour spots. This place was far enough from the city that the only noise you could hear aside from the chirping birds was the occasional rumble of a passing car. It was so relaxing, even to Clyde’s synthetic ears. Around them, a multitude of little wild flowers bloomed among the grass; absently, he picked one up and placed it in the man’s hair. “You’re so beautiful” he murmured, kind of breathless.
Elijah opened his eyes, and he chuckled quietly. “Aww. You too, baby- although you do look weird, from that angle.”
Clyde snickered. He shifted his position, so that he was laying on his stomach, his upper body propped up on his elbows, his head hanging right over his boyfriend’s. He picked another flower. “I hope you’re not allergic to pollen” he hummed as he tucked the flower behind Elijah’s ear.
“Nope. I wouldn’t roll around in the grass in the middle of summer if I was.”
Clyde looked around, his gaze wandering in the tall grass. He'd never really noticed flowers before- as in, he'd never actually stopped and observed one in detail. Roses made him uneasy; it was as if looking at them instantly gave him the android equivalent of a headache- not that it was particularly surprising after, well, Amanda. But those little wild flowers, they were something else, something that he liked: their beauty was unassuming, and yet he found them so delicate and colorful. With care, he picked some more and placed them among Elijah’s flowing locks, stopping regularly to admire his work, although his partner's peaceful smile kept catching his eyes. I am so incredibly lucky to be here with you.
As his thoughts drifted off, Clyde's hand relaxed, and the tiny flower he was holding between his fingers fluttered downwards. Gracefully, it landed right under Elijah's nose; he sneezed almost instantly. The android chuckled lightly, and he bent forward to press a kiss on his forehead.
A bird flew overhead as the breeze picked up a little. Laughter reached him from the patio. The sun was warm on his body, and it lit up his beloved’s pale skin so nicely.
Clyde sighed of ease.
All was well.