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Face to face

Chapter Text

As a prodigy engineer, an extremely successful businessman, and overall one of the most influential personalities of the century, Elijah Kamski thought he had it all figured out.

However, as he was leaning against the frame of his front door and watching the last of his Chloes dragging a big suitcase to the automated taxi waiting outside, the man started to realize that he might have overestimated himself.

 

The android closed the trunk with a thump, and Elijah's eyes were trained on her left shoulder as she walked back to him. For a reason unknown to him, he couldn't bring himself to look her in the eye. Chloe came to a halt on the doorstep and, voice slightly quivering, she started speaking.

“Please take good care of yourself.”

A moment passed. A shiver ran through his spine, and Elijah finally met her gaze. Her eyes were shining, but she held her head high, her expression soft but determined. They stood there for a while, peering at each other through the mist of condensation emanating from Elijah's breathing. The evening was particularly cold, and his fingers were burning, but he couldn't care less. Finally, Chloe offered a weak, forced smile. Her lips barely moved as she whispered, “Goodbye, Elijah”.

Then, she turned on her heels, and walked away with a quick, assured step. Elijah simply watched as the taxi door closed. An instant later, the vehicle had disappeared through the thick fog of the cold winter night. Finally, some tension seemed to leave his shoulders, and all of a sudden he became aware of the sharp pain searing his hands. Wrapping his arms around his chest absently, the man let out a long, shuddering breath and, muttering a curse, he stepped back inside and closed the door.

 

 

The android revolution had ended a month ago, give or take a few days. Careful not to get involved, Elijah had nonetheless followed the events as they unfolded with amused curiosity. It all seemed so remote to him. He had been perfectly content living in his house with his androids, well away from the bustling world outside. Sure, when that lieutenant and his fancy detective prototype had come to find him, he put on a bit of a show; the cryptic, eccentric billionaire shtick never got old, and the man certainly wasn't one to decline a bit of fun. But he considered he had done his duty towards society, and had no interest meddling in it anymore. Truth be told, over time, he was getting slightly cynic.

However, Elijah didn't notice right away how engrossed his Chloes were by the whole matter. Then again, it was only natural they should feel involved; the future of their kind as a whole was at stake. But he didn't see how personally they took it; the raw emotion in their eyes as they watched the news, the way they spoke excitedly in hushed tones, how they seemed to stare longingly out the window more and more often. A more focused mind would have easily picked up the signs; but Elijah was too comfortable in his lifestyle. The thought that his trusted Chloes could deviate had not even crossed his mind. And the man had programmed those damn machines himself. Talk about a genius, really.

And so, today, the last of them had left. All five of them, gone to seek their fortune in the outside world. Elijah didn't try to hold them back, not really; there was no point. People often called him selfish, and he probably was, but he had never been one to impose onto others. Never really cared enough, or so he told himself. Anyway, the deed was done, and over the course of a week, his girls were gone.

Stretching his arms in front of him, Elijah trailed his gaze on the empty hall. A sudden weariness washed down on him, and he dragged his feet towards the vast living room. As he let himself fall into the comfortable couch, his brows furrowed slightly; something, somewhere in his torso, was getting painful. So far, Elijah had managed to keep his head nice and numb, but it seemed that his chest heaved with effort as his breathing was getting laboured, and he didn't like it one bit.

So he got back on his feet, stumbling a little, and walked to the corner of the room where an intricate cabinet stood. The man flung the door open unceremoniously, and grabbed a bottle of whiskey and a glass. He got back to the couch without bothering to close the cabinet door. Propping himself against the couch, he poured himself a glass, and paused for a second. Then, pinching the bridge of his nose, he contemplated his current position. What was happening ? Drink in hand, gasping for air, was he really that pathetic ? In a last attempt to get a hold of himself, Elijah straightened his back, pushed the glass of whiskey back to the coffee table, and whipped his phone out of his pocket.

There was only one man who might be able to smack some sense into him, and though he didn't really believe it would work, it was still worth a try, he figured. As he dialed the number, the fingers of his right hand started to fidget absently with a stray lock of hair. Time seemed to stretch as the phone rang and rang.

“You have reached the voicemail of Detective Gavin Reed. If you're in need of immediate assistance, please reach the Detroit Police Department at…”

Elijah let out a heavy sigh and a swear, frowning immediately as his ears picked up on it. Seems that his mess of a brother was rubbing off on him, ever so slightly. He had half a mind to wait for the automated voice to finish its litany, but he decided against it and hung up with a scowl. Slouching on his knees, he carelessly threw his phone away and picked up the glass again. Alright, drinking the anxiety away it was, then.

 

 

Elijah hadn't gotten any vocal command installed in his house. It might seem surprising coming from a man who literally automatized mankind, but he didn't think he needed help to do simple things like turning on the lights, or closing the blinds. The Chloes had always done it for him, anyway.

But right now, he really, really hated his past self for this lack of oversight. Lying fully clothed on his bed, head pounding, he was struggling to open his eyes. The curtains were wide open, because who remembers to close the curtains while drunk, and the sunlight was aggressively seeping through his eyelids. Who had the stupid idea to put a glass wall in a bedroom ?! Oh, wait. That was him, probably. He wasn't one to delegate anything, so he'd overseen the plans for his house as well.

Elijah propped himself up on his elbows, and slowly crawled out of bed. It was well past noon. His stomach was lurching with every step, and he was dizzy with the leftover alcohol in his bloodstream, but he managed to cross the room and reach the bathroom anyway. Grabbing the sides of the sink to stabilise his unsteady posture, Elijah looked up in the mirror and examined his reflection. He didn't have his glasses on, lost them at some point during the previous evening, but it didn't stop him from wrinkling his nose at what he saw.

God, he looked like shit. There were dark bags under his eyes, his beard was getting out of hand, and the loose hair falling in his eyes had knots that would probably take hours brushing off. That was a problem for later, he decided. Wincing at the pain that was rushing to his forehead in sharp fits, the hangover man washed his face quickly and, turning away from the bathroom, set out to start his day. But as he ventured in the corridor, weirdly aware of how cold the tiles were under his bare feet, Elijah stopped in his tracks, staring vaguely at the kitchen door that stood, ajar, a few feet from him.

Something felt wrong, and his fogged mind struggled to put a name on it.

Oh.

There it was.

Silence.

Without the Chloes going about their business, the huge house was impossibly silent. And the silence felt so… physical. It seemed like the absence of sound was tangible, creeping on his skin and crawling up his neck to strangle him. His breath hitched, and all of that acute anxiety hidden behind the fuzzy veil of alcohol suddenly poured down on him. He tried to reason with it, to bargain, so he could retain some kind of control over his brain.

Well, sure, the girls’ departure was a bore, but it was not that big a deal. Elijah could always get new androids, couldn't he ? Could he ?

...No, he couldn't. Not anymore. There was no point. The new ones would deviate again, and leave him all the same. Besides, the revolution had passed, and having little android cohorts didn't seem so right anymore. Not that he'd care.

At least, he had always pretended he didn't. He claimed his Chloes weren't individuals but mere machines, that he could choose to discard at any given moment. He even made a point of it by daring Connor to shoot one of them in the head. But the android he had kneeling in front of the barrel that day was a deactivated spare, a dysfunctional model, merely a walking doll, those motor functions he happened to have been testing that day. He would never have endangered one of his precious Chloes, even if nobody could tell the difference.

Well, he could. He would have never admitted it out loud, but Elijah could perfectly tell the five girls apart from one another. He knew that One was better at cooking, but that she always messed up his coffee. Four was the best speaker, so she welcomed visitors, but she wasn't allowed near bottles because of how clumsy she was. Two was especially observant, and she loved to gossip with Five.Three was anxious when he left the house without her.

But they were gone now. And there was no replacing them.

With a self-pitied moan, Elijah's shoulders slumped, and he turned around to get back to bed.

There was no way on earth he'd bear with this stupid day.

 

 

Elijah couldn't quite tell if he slept for a few hours or a whole day, but it didn't really matter. He didn't have anywhere to be, anyway. But the throbbing headache was gone, so he got up, and mechanically went to shower and change. It was late afternoon, and Elijah knew he'd come to loathe himself for messing with his sleeping schedule so bad, but then again. That was a problem for Future Elijah. The one that had emails to answer, interviews to give and meetings to attend. Right now, he was going to get coffee and stare into space for a while. Yeah, that sounded good.

As he was sitting on the couch with a fresh cup of coffee, a blinking light caught Elijah's attention. His discarded phone was lying on the floor, a few feet away. Sipping his coffee, the man eyed the device with suspicion. He was kind of pissed that someone had the audacity to intrude while he was trying to play dead, but then again, it might be important. He had his phone filter calls and messages, and few were the lucky ones allowed to contact him. When he reached the bottom of his cup, Elijah pursed his lips and reached out to grab the phone. As he turned it on, he noticed a crack on the screen - and three missed calls from Gavin. With a smirk, he checked the time - no, the man was probably still working. So Elijah went to check his emails instead, giving an annoyed tsk at the cracked screen - he did not like broken things.

The hours passed as he skimmed through the messages, feeling a bit overwhelmed; Five would always screen and transfer the most important ones to him, so he didn't have to deal with each and every commoner who tried to reach him. What's more, the revolution had brought its lot of ravenous reporters, all eager to get an exclusive insight, and the aftermath was an absolute clusterfuck of an inbox.

The sun had long set when Elijah, passably aggravated, grabbed his phone again and pressed the call button. He knew it wasn’t necessarily a good idea to call Gavin in this condition, but with everything he had in mind, a roasting from his half-brother was but a trifle.

This time, the phone barely rang at all.

“What the fuck is wrong with you, prick ?”

“Well, good evening, Gav”, Elijah snickered. He expected as much.

“Don't you 'good evening’ me, fucker ! You think you can call at any fucking time because your gross ass bathes in money, but some of us actually do have to get up in the morning and make a living somehow !”

Elijah frowned slightly and, tearing the phone from his ear, he checked the time. Two in the morning ? Oops.

“Yes, alright, whatever, you picked up on the spot, so don't try to pretend you were sleeping anyway.”

On the other side of the line, Gavin huffed. “You bitch. I was starting to hope you'd kicked the bucket, since you weren't answering the damn phone for days.”

Days ? How long had he slept ?

“Like I'd ever write you in my testament. When I pass, don't even expect a penny, you rat.”

Gavin chuckled. Good.

“Anyway, what was with the late night call ? At least leave a message next time, prick.”

All the enjoyment Elijah had while bantering with his brother washed off at once, and he had to take a long breath to steel himself. Gavin must have noticed, because he didn't press on, and simply waited for an answer.

“My Chloes left me.”

A pause, and another incredulous huff.

“Are you phcking serious ? You're moping around because you lost your toys ? Is this really where Elijah fucking Kamski is at ? You pathetic piece of shit.”

“I know, right ?”

The quiet, uncharacteristic voice of his brother had Gavin hum a thoughtful sound.

“So what, you could just get new ones, right ? I know they have rights and all now, but it's not like anyone's gonna give you shit for it.”

“No, Gav. There won't be new ones. I'm done.”

Elijah could hear Gavin frown. That's just how miserable he sounded, apparently.

“Tell you what, Eli, you're better off without any of these plastic pricks in your life. Fuckin’ Fowler teamed me up with one, and the damn tincan drives me crazy. A real fucking nightmare.”

Elijah's eyebrows shot up. Gavin, partnered with an android ? Now that was interesting.

“Really ? You have an android partner ? You, Gavin android-hater Reed ? What model-”

“Yeah, no, you're not switching subjects you fuck.”

Shoot.

“Point is, just cut the hermit shit and get out of your fucking manor for once. Even I look like a social butterfly next to you, and I have like, one friend.”

Of course he knew Gavin was right. Of course. But at the same time, there was a reason Elijah had not set a foot outside for so long.

“Gavin, look. You know I can't. I just… I'm not cut out for this. Besides” he added with a sly smile, “Unlike you, I can't just show up in any gross bar. Someone of my standard isn't supposed to mingle with the rabble.”

“Fuck you, prick, I hate you so much.”

“Same, Gav, same.”

There was a pause.

“For real, though. Drag your ass outside, okay ? Don't make me come and kick your ass, Eli.”

And with that, Gavin hung up before Elijah had the time to answer.

 

It's not that he didn't have social skills. To be fair, he was actually very good with people. Just like with everything else, Elijah was extremely observant, and he easily picked up the expectations of the people he was speaking to, reading the fine details of their expressions as plainly as a line of code. Then, choosing the right words and airs to answer was just as easy. It's a game he had mastered long ago; getting people to like him was absurdly easy. A simple game of trial and error until he perfected his social interactions down to a T. It got him through many tricky interviews; in fact, having a charismatic leader had probably contributed greatly to the impressive success of Cyberlife.

But actually building a relationship of any kind was a whole other matter. Regardless of how hard he had tried, Elijah could never bring himself to be true to someone. Oh sure, he could maintain a facade of friendship for a while; but as soon as it came to disagreeing, or trusting, or any of those things humans usually bond over… His frantic, analytic brain had such an urge to please, to score points, to do well - he tried to excel at friendship like he excelled at anything else. In his mind, no matter how hard he tried to think otherwise, vulnerability was deemed failure, and he couldn't accept the unexpected fluctuations of honest interactions. So as soon as someone broke their neat, perfectly balanced, and organised relationship by coming closer or expecting him to confide in them, the whole thing started irking him, usually to the point where he'd block their number in a panicked fit and swore he was done with human beings.

He had managed to maintain a rocky friendship with Gavin, but it felt different; they grew up together, they knew each other extremely well, and Elijah knew that no matter how despicable his half-brother acted, he wasn't one to judge or get offended easily. The two had bonded over their aversion for their cheating scumbag of a father, protected each other throughout their teenage years, and though they started fighting a lot when Elijah founded Cyberlife, he knew that Gavin wouldn't just let him drop. Their relationship was imperfect, but weirdly enough, he didn't mind.

And then there had been Amanda. But Amanda was something else. She understood him. She saw him. But she was gone, and what had been would never be again.

But Gavin was right, and Elijah knew it. No matter how comfortable he was playing video games and coding the days away in the living room of his luxury home, he was going to have to make some semblance of contact with other human beings if he was to keep his sanity.

God, he thought.

This is not going to turn out well.

Chapter Text

It was the third time this week Elijah had tried to get out of his house, and just like the previous times, it had gone horribly wrong.

He wasn't exactly surprised, sure; between the skyrocketing unemployment rates and Cyberlife's disastrous handling of the android revolution, Kamski was a name hated by humans and androids alike. He was currently standing near a tall android bodyguard that eyed him with obvious anger, and as he shuffled with the cuffs of his shirt, he was wondering why he'd even left his bed today.

Elijah had decided to go to one of these fancy nightclubs for rich people, figuring nobody would pay him half a mind if there was a movie star in the other side of the room. He'd gotten inside, sat in a booth in a corner and drank quietly for a while. And surely enough, he was left alone; but he also failed to see how this was supposed to help with his social life. After a pathetic hour of brooding over a glass, sprinkled with meaningless small talk with other patrons that  recognized him, Elijah was already feeling exhausted and flustered, so he decided to call it a day and head back home. But the thing is, he had been seen entering the place, and as soon as he stepped outside, he drowned in a crowd of reporters, paparazzi and angry individuals, all screaming at him and trying to reach him. Thankfully, the android bouncer had intervened and managed to get him back inside before he got mauled by an angry mob. And so there he was, standing awkwardly in the entrance of the club, waiting with the bouncer for the crowd to disperse so he could get back home. The android was staring down at him, and he radiated hatred. As Elijah caught his eyes, he narrowed his eyelids and hissed, “I'm only doing this because this is my job. But make no mistake, I would have let them tear you apart if it was up to me.”

“Yeah, I can't really blame you”, Elijah answered with a tired voice, reaching for the back of his neck with one of his hands. The other patrons, startled, were watching him intently. He wanted more than anything to leave, and yet he knew he was gonna feel just as awful when he’d get back to his empty house.

When the area was finally clear, Elijah reached for the door, but was stopped by a hand, flying to his throat in a heartbeat. The android was holding him close, and whispered to  his ear.

“Don't ever show your face again, motherfucker.”

Yup, alright, this day sucked.

 

As he was finally making his way towards the front door of his house, Elijah noticed a box next to the threshold. It was small enough to be carried in the arms, and Cyberlife's logo was printed across the side. With a smirk, the man picked it up and headed inside. He knew what to expect; a fine bottle of wine, probably, and a shamelessly ass-kissing letter requesting a meeting. They had been sending those for months now, and it amused him so. The whole deviancy matter and ensuing revolution had put Cyberlife in a very dire situation, and the board members were desperate for anything that might help them regain some popularity. For some reason, they seemed to think that Elijah's return was key to their survival. Up to that point, he had disregarded the urging letters with an arrogant delight. But when he went to set the box on the coffee table, his movements slowed down as he pondered. It had been two months since Gavin last called and urged him to get back to the world and meet people. And he tried, God knows he did, but each time, he got back home in a worse mood than he already was. Obviously this wasn't working, so maybe it was time for him to get back to his only love; his work. Elijah had not exactly stopped working willingly; he was fired after… Well. After. And it was really hard on him. It took him months to adjust, but he still missed his job dearly. The thing was, as long as he had his Chloes, he was perfectly content to stay home and work on whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted. But after the revolution and with his girls gone, Cyberlife's plea suddenly seemed worth considering. It might be just what he needed.

With a grunt, Elijah sat down on the couch and, fiddling with his phone, decided he needed a second opinion.

 

“What's up dipshit ?”

“Well, aren't you charming.”

“Fuck off. You sound like my fuckin’ tincan partner.”

“Oh, right ! The android partner ! What is he like ?”

There was a pause, and Elijah heard Gavin click his tongue, irritated. When he spoke again, his tone was aggressive.

“Listen, what I'm gonna say better stay between us, else I'm fucking killing you, okay ?!”

“Meh, it's not like I have anyone to snitch to. Shoot.”

“The bot. He's pretty fucking useful. Saves us a lot of analysis time. Pretty decent detective too.”

Visibly embarrassed, Gavin was talking very fast, and he added, maybe a bit too fiercely;

“But of course, he's a fucking nuisance, like everything you ever created. Why the fuck do you have to make them so smug ?”

Elijah snickered.

“Something about making them in my image, I suppose. Is he deviant ?”

“Yeah, I guess he is. Never asked, though.”

“What's his name ? And model ?”, Elijah pressed, glad that he wasn't the one being grilled, for once. From the tone of his voice, it was evident that Gavin feigned to be far more annoyed than he really was.

“Fucker didn't have a name when he arrived, so I started calling him Nines. Then he chose Neil, said he liked that it sounded like Nines or something… Which is stupid because it doesn't. And uh, he's a RK900. ”

Elijah was smiling at how fast his brother was sputtering, but he suddenly frowned when he heard the model number. Putting his phone on speakers, he set it on the table and reached for the small laptop that was lying on the other end of the couch.

“...Uh, Eli ? Still there ?”

“Yup, just wait a second” Elijah muttered as he started typing furiously. Gavin huffed impatiently.

“What on earth are you doing ?!”

“Searching for intel on that model. I didn't know there was a new RK.”

“Yeah, prick told us he was still being developed when they found him. Said he's the only one in existence.”

When he finally found what he was searching for, Elijah let out a low whistle.

“What ? What did you find ?” Gavin asked quickly, startled.

“I have his blueprints in front of me. From what I'm seeing, that model is extremely advanced. His specs-”

“Wait, wait, wait. I searched the net for hours, couldn't find shit. Where d’you get that info ?”

Elijah rolled his eyes so hard it hurt.

“Cyberlife's database, duh.”

“That's… Absolutely fucking illegal.”

“And absolutely impossible to prove.”

“Whatever”, sighed Gavin. “Anything interesting in there ?”

Elijah hummed.

“Hardly anything you could understand. But congrats, it looks like you're working with the most state-of-the-art android around, you lucky boy.”

“Tsk, talk about luck, bot’s a fucking ordeal !”

Elijah chuckled.

“He sounds charming. I'm sure you two are a perfect fit.”

Gavin simply grumbled in return . Elijah knew that if he could see him, his brother would have flipped him off. A moment passed.

“I'm thinking of getting back there”, he finally admitted in a quiet voice.

“Huh, where ? Cyberlife ?”

“Yes. I've been aching to work again. And I swear, if I have to endure another evening of awkward small talk with random strangers, I'm going to lose it.”

“Yeah but, CEOs sign papers and do interviews and shit, they don't build robots. And… There ? I mean, even I think they've acted like fucking Nazis during the revolution, and you know I hate androids.”

At that, Elijah audibly snorted.

“Yes, sure, you do.”

“Oh, fuck right off dipshit !”

Chuckling a bit, he reflected on his brother's opinion. Valid points, of course.

“I don't know, Gav. Maybe I can steer them in the right direction. And… Maybe that's what I need right now.”

Gavin made a thoughtful noise.

“Well, do your thing I guess. But uh, be careful, Eli.”

Endeared by the mark of affection, Elijah smiled.

“I always am. Thank you, Gavin.”

“Yeah uh, gotta go. See ya, prick.”



Elijah adjusted his tie as he stepped through the glass doors of the meeting room. Looking around absently, his eyes blinking involuntarily under the cold white light of the neons overhead, he noted that the carpet floors had been replaced. He didn't like the color.

It'd been years since he last came to the Cyberlife Tower. The place had not changed much, and he felt right at home as he strolled through the lobby. The people, though, felt different; before, engineers and accountants alike bustled around energetically, filling the place with an atmosphere that had always made Elijah's mind race excitedly. But now, human presence was silent and scarce, and the few people crossing the hall were spokespersons with frowns on their faces. Cyberlife's golden age seemed to be long gone.

As he settled in the large leather chair, Elijah observed the men in front of him. All four were directing board members of the company. Oh, he knew them alright; they were amongst those that voted his dismissal. Right now, their faces were contorted in what seemed to be an intimidating scowl, but as he scanned their features, Elijah could detect the slightest traces of apprehension.

Leaning back, he smiled confidently.

Boy, this is going to be fun.

And of course, he played them like a fiddle. At first, they tried to establish themselves, speaking of a consultant position, of limited responsibilities, of being accountable to managers. Kamski let them talk, idly shuffling his hand, a sly smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. After they finished, he paused for a moment, tapped a finger to his cheek, and, setting his hands flat on the desk, he started playing too.

 

When he walked out of the tower, Elijah was to be Cyberlife's CEO once again. People often called him smug, and indeed, he was very pleased with himself right now. It was early in the evening, and he felt like celebrating.

Elijah liked to drive. It was a trait he shared with his brother, and also one of the only things he'd never let his Chloes do for him. Reaching his car, a beautiful Jaguar from the 2010s, he opened the door, leaned against the frame and took off his tie, tossing it carelessly on the passenger seat.

After a short drive, he parked his car on the outside of a tall building. Before going out, he reached for the gloves compartment and pulled out a pair of large aviator glasses, tinted a pleasant sky blue. Once he had the shades on, he undid his ponytail and fluffed up his hair a bit, glancing at his reflection in the rearview mirror. It wasn't exactly a foolproof disguise, but it was good enough to venture in public for a short while. Opening the door of his car, Elijah extracted himself from the driver's seat, humming heartily. It was cold outside, and he was holding his coat close to his body as he walked. He stopped a few feet away from the entrance, and took his phone out of his pocket. Damn. Really should fix that crack.

 

Elijah (19:41) :

Hey, isn't it time for your smoking break ?

 

Super Smash Gav (19:44) :

wtf do u mean u creep

 

Elijah (19:45) :

Oh, nothing, just a hunch.

 

Elijah didn't have to wait for long. A couple minutes later, Gavin was walking through the sliding doors, a big scowl etched on his face. The man threw his hands in the air as he was getting closer, swearing loudly.

“For fuck's sake, dipshit ! What do you think you're doing ?!”

Gavin gave him a pointed look of disbelief.

“I knew you were an asshole, but really ? Sunglasses in February ?”

He let out a snort, and put his hand on Gavin's shoulder.

“Watch your mouth, you're speaking to the newly appointed CEO of Cyberlife, bitch.”

Gavin was about to answer, but cut himself as Eli started to wave enthusiastically, apparently beckoning someone behind him. His face fell when he felt a familiar presence towering over his left shoulder. Elijah, however, was beaming.

“So you're the android partner, Not-quite-Connor !”

The tall android had his hands crossed behind his back, his icy blue eyes trained on his maker's face impassively, his neutral expression bordering on sternness. He gave a short nod.

“Mister Kamski. I am Neil, RK900 DPD android.” Then, turning to Gavin; “Is this how you talk about me, Detective ?”

Gavin sneered and rolled his eyes. “I don't talk about you, shithead”, he bit back.

“I am delighted to meet you, Neil ! You  must be the picture of patience to put up with Gavin !” Elijah exclaimed, and he extended his hand. Neil shook it, a tiny, lopsided smile appearing on his lips. Gavin, on the over hand, was flipping him while muttering something that sounded suspiciously like “Eat shit and die”. Which it probably was.

Elijah brought his hands together with a grin.

“Alright. We need to celebrate. You coming, Gav ?”

Gavin cocked his head, his eyebrows furrowing. “What ? Like, right now ?!”

“Sure ! Restaurant, my treat. Come on !” He turned on his heels and, his head to the side, added with a wink; “Of course, you're joining us, Neil, aren't you ?”

With that, he started to walk back to his car, delighted. Usually, he would have rather died than to be seen inviting an android to a restaurant, but he was in a good mood, and the sheer pleasure of pissing his brother off made it all worth it.

Neil snorted and, visibly pleased, side-eyed his partner before he followed in tow. Gavin just stood there, slowly shaking his head in disbelief.

 

Gavin made a point of sulking through the whole ride to the restaurant. Elijah thought he looked like a child, with his shoulders hunched and his arms crossed. Neil was sitting straight on the back seat, in comfortable silence. Eventually, realising that he wouldn't be able to spoil the mood, Gavin relented when they exited the car. The establishment was a beautiful French restaurant; not too fancy, though. Elijah knew his brother hated posh places. He had not bothered booking a table, but then again, he'd never needed to.

The meal went on fine; Gavin had a great time ordering all the most expensive items on the menu without even checking them, as he'd do when they ate together. There was actually a small selection of Thirium-based adaptations of french dishes; Neil seemed almost embarrassed to be eating with them. He didn't seem to have the opportunity very often. The brothers talked throughout dinner, mostly about Gavin’s latest case, while Neil listened. The android didn't seem bored or upset, however; the atmosphere was relaxed. Near the end of the meal, Gavin discovered that it was dangerous to order based on price alone when a plate of casgiu merzu , a highly rare type of maggot-covered cheese, was put in front of him.

When they left, Gavin was quite inebriated. Elijah dropped both him and Neil at his brother's place before heading back home. As he left, he saw in his rearview mirror that Gavin was running after his car, shouting slurs at him, and got a good laugh out of it.

It was nice.

Life was nice.

Chapter Text

All the glee that Elijah had been feeling for the past few days vanished in an instant when he laid his eyes on them.

It was his third day back at Cyberlife. The first had been full of administrative papers, the second was a marathon of interviews recording, and today, he had meetings with all the strategic people that would influence Cyberlife's future, to establish first contact and such. As if he needed any introduction. It was all formalities, and Elijah usually didn't mind. He just switched his brain off and smiled a lot.

But it was two in the afternoon, he had already met with more people in the day than during the last few years, and he surely wasn't prepared for this particular meeting. Indeed, Markus and the other leaders of Jericho were at the door of his office. And among them, there was a Chloe.

 

It was Two, he was sure of it. She was surrounded by four other androids, but she's the only one he saw. And the vision left him paralysed, as if thunderstruck. She was maintaining eye contact with a sort of calm stubbornness. There was movement around her, but Elijah registered none of it.

He finally got back on earth when a hand clasped his shoulder.

“I'm sorry, we should have told you beforehand”, Markus softly said.

Elijah shuddered a little and focused on the pair of different-colored eyes. Doing his best to get a grip on himself, he forced a pleasant smile and slightly shook his head.

“Oh no, it's quite alright ! Sorry for this lapse of concentration, I’m a bit tired. Please, do come in !”

He set aside and let the androids come through the door, noticing how they always seemed to position themselves between him and Chloe. As if he was a threat.

A sharp bout of pain near his sternum informed him that he did not like this idea at all.

“As you know, we represent the android organisation known as Jericho. I am Markus, and here's Simon” he gestured to the blond model next to him, “Josh”, pointing to the tall android in the back, “North”, a female android staring at Elijah with a frown on her face, “and of course, you already know Clara.”

Elijah froze.

Oh.

She… Changed her name.

It was logical, of course. Before, she only had a model name and a number. But still, the pressure in his chest seemed to get slightly stronger.

“We are here today” Markus continued, “to propose a partnership between Cyberlife and Jericho. As you know, our organisation obtained the creation of a specific set of legislations regarding android lives. We believe that Cyberlife has  heavy responsibilities towards android kind, and we think it would be in the interest of all that we collaborate.”

Elijah nodded along, slightly taken aback. Android deviancy had been an unexpected thing, and the thought of his creations having rights was still so surreal to him. Not particularly bad… but definitely disconcerting.

On that matter, he still didn't really know where he stood, and he sure wasn't eager to jeopardize his whole company on day three upon returning.

“This seems to be a reasonable request. However, such a collaboration would bring many changes to the very structure of our company, and I am sure you know I am not the only decider -”

“Elijah.”

Chloe- no, Clara- spoke softly. She seemed upset.

The pain grew in his chest. He held back his breath for a moment.

“Please. Elijah. You must help us.”

Of course, they had brought her along to manipulate him. He had no doubt about it. Problem is, it was working.

“I…”

Elijah's voice faltered.

“I'll see what I can do.”

They talked some more, mostly about logistics. Talking to Markus felt a bit strange; it seemed to Elijah that the day he conceived him was both yesterday, and a century ago. So much, yet so little had happened. Strange times.

As they headed out, he held out his hand in Clara's direction.

“May I talk to you ? It won't take long, I swear.”

North stepped forward aggressively, but Markus held her back, giving Clara a quizzical look. She answered with a short nod, so Markus and the other androids walked out after shaking Elijah's hand.

When they were alone, he took a step in her direction.

“Have you been with them long?”

Clara seemed a bit wary, but she had a tiny smile on her lips as she nodded.

“Yes, I went to them as soon as I left your company. They have been so generous to me.”

“I'm glad to hear it.”

The was a moment of silence, before Elijah spoke again.

“Should you ever need anything, just ask, Chlo- Clara.”

“Thank you, Elijah.”

She looked down to her feet.

“I just… I hope you'll be able to help us. Right now, our future is uncertain, and Cyberlife's position could be determining. I… trust you'll do the right thing.”

Another pause, and Chloe held her head up again, giving him a faint smile.

“It was nice seeing you again. Take care.”

She walked out the door, joining the other androids that had been waiting for her. As they walked away, Elijah noticed that North's hand was linked with Clara's.

His chest felt agonizing.

 

How he managed to get through the rest of the day, Elijah couldn't say. He had been dazed from the encounter with Clara, and his brain bailed out on him, only to return in the evening, as he was sitting at his desk alone. Most of the employees had left already, but he didn't look forward to getting back to his empty place, with Chloe's memory now revived in his mind. To pass the time, he logged in Cyberlife's database and started reviewing the records regarding the RK series. Elijah was initially curious to learn more about his brother's partner; but since his activation was so recent, and most of his time had been spent at the precinct, there was very little information on the RK900. Boring. However, as he examined the files one by one, something caught his attention. There was a report, dated two months back, about the discovery of a RK800 unit in the Tower, a bullet lodged to the head. Since the RK800 was an extremely expensive model, it was stashed away instead of being discarded, and was currently held in storage while awaiting for a decision.

Hmm. Interesting.

 

The pod moved forward with a dull whirr. The sound echoed off the walls of the deserted storage room. There were windows in the room, but the night was pitch black, so the only light came from the pale neon overhead. Elijah pushed his hand to the side panel, and entered a few commands. The glass pane slid open, revealing the damaged RK800 model, dangling a foot above the floor from the mechanical pincers that held him by the shoulders. His brown eyes were staring into nothingness, and a very faint trace of blue still visible across the cheek, from where the evaporated Thirium once was. Elijah took a step closer, now facing the android, and cocked his head to the side. Taking the lifeless face in his hand, he turned it this way and that, looking at it under every angle. “What happened to you, boy ?”, he muttered, checking the back of the android's head for a bullet exit hole. Of course, it was a rhetorical question; the RK800 had been found in the hangar where Connor had all those AP700 deviate. He must have tried to prevent their escape somehow.

Elijah hummed quietly to himself as he straightened his back. He was quite curious to see the android's last moments; Connor was still rather fascinating to him, and he wanted to know what happened in that hangar. But in that state, nothing was salvageable from the body; the bullet had pierced right through his brain. A memory transfer was out of question, and none of Elijah's technicians would be skilled enough to bring it back to a working condition.

Unless…

The amount of time and effort required was probably too much for whatever this brain contained. Besides, as a CEO, Elijah already had insane amounts of work to do. But it might have been curiosity, or maybe the excitement of the challenge that convinced him. Or he simply was bored, and he really, really didn't want to get back to his empty home.

Yeah, he thought, I guess I'll repair him myself, then.

 

As it turned out, the busted android provided a much welcome distraction to the CEO's harrowing schedule. The next day, Elijah had him installed in one of the empty labs that were usually used for fine-tuning already activated androids. He used what little time he had on his lunch break to go get a closer look; there, shirtless, a cable plugged to the back of his neck and the cavity on his abdomen wide open, the broken android laid on a reclining workstation. There was a wide array of tools disposed around him, and all of the biocomponents needed for the repairs were stored in chilled, vacuum packed containers. Elijah sat on the stool in front of the table and let out a contented sigh. It had been quite a while since he last did something like that. Sure, he had side projects at home, and he had done maintenance on the Chloes, but that was mostly tweaking. Now, he had the occasion to do some real work once again, to the height of his capacities, and he was thrilled. Looking around, Eli took a minute to enjoy the quiet atmosphere of the lab. Then, he tapped on the built-in screen of the table, waited for the diagnostic program to initialize, and got to work with a bright smile on his face.

 

When his break was over, Elijah realized just how much he'd missed tech work. He was rather distracted at work that afternoon; his thoughts kept wandering back to the android. Thankfully, even when absent minded, Elijah remained highly efficient, and no one seemed to notice that his mind was away.

As soon as his day was over, he darted back to the lab. Dumping his hoodie on the ground, he immediately sat down at the workstation and started examining the bunch of wires sticking out of the android's abdomen. Elijah didn't have a hand in the making of the RK800, and the internal workings had him in awe. It was far more advanced than anything he had ever laid his hands on. The way these highly efficient components all fitted together was as beautiful to him as the finest piece of art. He was wondering dreamily if Neil would ever allow him to take a look at his innards when he felt a presence in his back.

“I'm very sorry to interrupt, Sir Kamski.”

A female android was standing to the door, her back straight. Elijah recognized her as one of the secretary models that milled around his office, bringing him mostly papers and bad news. He turned around, annoyed, expecting to be called back to work.

Instead, she held out one of her hands, holding out a paper bag to him.

“I noticed you haven't eaten anything today, so I took the liberty to order some food. I wasn't aware of your preferences so I ordered a curry, but I can get something else if you want.”

Elijah took the bag. It was warm, and the smell was pleasant. Only then did he realise that he was indeed famished.

“That will do. Thanks.”

The android left. As he got up to put the food on the desk in the corner of the room, he furrowed his brows and looked up to the ceiling, confused. Did he just thank an android ?

Well, that was new. Sure, he was mostly cordial to androids, especially deviant ones, but showing respect to one was not exactly natural to him; he had conceived them, he knew just how mechanical they were, and being polite to them had always felt like thanking his coffee  machine. Weird.

Shaking his head, he decided to discard the thought and started eating instead.

Chapter Text

RK800 #313 248 317 - 60, or as Elijah called him, RK60, had escaped irreparable damage by a couple inches only. Had the bullet pierced his brain slightly more to the right, his memory core would have been completely destroyed. As it was, Elijah could save the memory cell, but he'd have to build a whole new brain around it; that meant a considerable amount of work. Several weeks, actually. But he didn't mind; he soon discovered that he liked the soothing quiet of the labs by night much better than the oppressing silence of his dead house.

The day would always go the same way; he'd start working early in the morning, then he'd take an hour leave around noon to work on RK60, then more work, and back to the android again, until the early hours of morning. He often didn't feel like getting back to his place for a couple hours, so he'd simply nap, curled up in the chair of his office.

After a couple days, Elijah's back was very sore, and his mood very foul. He was about to start drinking his fourth coffee of the day when a secretary opened the door and walked to the front of his desk, hands behind her back.

“Sir, the Jericho organisation would like to know what you have decided regarding their proposition.”

Ah, right. Exactly what he needed today. Great.

Elijah let out a sigh, and answered wearily; “I'll try to get the administrative committee to assemble later today. Tell them I'll give them an answer before the end of the week.”

He pursed his lips thoughtfully, and added as an afterthought;

“Also, tell the supervisor of the workshops that I'd like to see them as soon as possible.”

 

The afternoon got rather eventful when the board meeting began. He had initially intended to reach a compromise through debate, but his bad mood took the best of him, and Elijah plainly imposed his will, meaning the creation of an android ethics committee in association with Jericho. Pacing around the room and half-screaming to their faces, he didn't leave much choice to his positively scared shareholders.

It's not that he suddenly considered androids to be living things, but now that the law was acknowledging them as such, he knew he'd have to comply at some point. If Cyberlife was to survive, they clearly needed to make amends; after the episode of the android destruction camps, their image was disastrous.

 

Afterwards, Elijah was standing in his office, enjoying a short moment of respite, when someone knocked lightly on his door. The workshops supervisor entered the office. She was a tall, stocky middle aged woman, and her stark features contrasted with the softness of her eyes.

“How may I be of assistance, Sir Kamski?”

Elijah turned to face her.

“You have probably noticed that I requisitioned one of the maintenance workshops of floor -34 to repair a busted RK800. The damage is pretty extensive, I'm gonna need the room for a while.”

The supervisor's expression did not shift from neutral, if slightly politely interested.

“Of course, sir. We have restricted the access to lab 347 to you only. You are free to use the premises for as long as you wish.”

Elijah's gaze drifted away, out of the window.

“Indeed. But I'd like to work overnight as well, and I wanted to know if you could free some space for me to sleep in.”

At that, the woman seemed slightly taken aback. After a pause, she made a thoughtful noise.

“I suppose we can rearrange a room to accommodate you, Sir, but I'm afraid it would be very small and uncomfortable. The floor on which the maintenance labs are located are not fit for domestic use, the temperature is lower than anywhere else in the Tower and-”

“It'll be just fine. Get on with it, please.”

Elijah's tone was very final. Some of his temper had subsided, but he was  still having a bad day, the stabbing pain in his back was agonizing. The supervisor probably took the hint, for she gave a short nod and, without a word, she left.

 

The first sense that Elijah restored in RK60's brain was that of hearing. It was a very delicate endeavour, and it required a several hours session of intensive, high-precision work to get the new components wired to the android. When he was done, Elijah was exhausted, but he still launched the testing console and, opening a graph registering brain activity, he switched the android's hearing on and started speaking.

“I am Elijah Kamski, this is the 27th of February, 2039, I am currently making sure that the RK800 I’m fixing has operational audio processors.” Elijah had his eyes fixed on the graph. The android's brainwaves indicated that his hearing was perfectly functional. He felt a proud smile appear on his lips.

“Good job, boy.”

He immediately felt a bit lighter. For some reason, talking to the inert body felt nice.

Without giving it much thought, Elijah disabled the android's brain and resumed working.

 

A few days passed before the break room Elijah had requested was operational. It was a tiny room, without any window, that consisted only of a moderately comfortable couch, a little coffee table, and a small fridge. It was not much, but it was more than enough, and he soon spent all of his nights there. No one could have guessed that the wealthiest person in the world was living there, and yet, there he was. Those conditions reminded Elijah of his first years as a young engineer, when, at sixteen, he moved to Detroit and founded Cyberlife, pouring the last of his meager economies in his research, and slaving passionately over his first android prototype in a shady, packed hangar. His first Chloe.

And twenty years later, CEO of one of the most successful companies in the world, he was back to sleeping on a couch in a basement.

What a life.

 

Gavin called once that week. The conversation didn't last long, but then again it rarely did. Gav had fretted over some unanswered messages, and was just checking in to see if everything was alright. Elijah didn't have much to answer, said he was okay, and promised to text back next time. He wasn't sure he was being absolutely honest to his brother, to tell the truth. But what else could he say ?

 

Dropping his jacket on the side desk, Elijah rolled up the sleeves of his hoodie with a little sigh.

“Boy, you wouldn't believe what a shitty day this was ! They all were under my feet, couldn't even leave me be for a minute !”

Since the sensory core was a very delicate component, Elijah had to run regular hearing tests to make sure everything was still in place. And so, after a while, he took to talking to the android on a regular basis, even outside of tests. He was mostly prattling on about his day or whatever happened in the news, meaningless one-sided discussions that the deactivated android couldn't even hear. But it still made Elijah feel less alone, somehow, so it didn't really matter.

Today, he had finally finished restoring the mind palace, and the android supposedly could see again. Slouching on the stool, Eli leaned over the android's head and, still talking, started examining the eyes with a little flashlight.

“I even tried to go take a walk, you know. Got out to buy my food on my own for once. It was a bother, really.”

Straightening his back, he typed in a command and watched the bionic pupils dilate as the eyes activated. Elijah held out a finger in front of the face, and moved it from left to right. The android's eyes followed his moves. Satisfied, he decided to try and activate the hearing too, to see if the incomplete brain could handle it.

“But hey, it wasn't all in waste-” he typed another command, “'cause I got to see a dog ! Not even an android dog, a real, live one ! You have no idea how rare they got.”

The diagnostic program picked up brain activity in reaction to his voice. RK60 seemed to be holding on fine.

“I wonder if you'd like dogs, Sixty.”



> 1 missed call from Super Smash Gav - 07:50

 

Super Smash Gav (08:12) :

wassup

 

Super Smash Gav (22:48) :

cmon prick answer me

 

Super Smash Gav (03:06) :

aight fuck u then

 

> 1 missed call from Super Smash Gav - 09:54

 

Super Smash Gav (17:27) :

look u cant hide 4ever, ok

stop ignoring me

 

Super Smash Gav (21:08) :

alright, thatsit im coming over



Elijah had just finished plugging the last connector to the sensory core, effectively enabling the sense of touch in the android. As he stared at the monitor in front of him, Elijah picked up RK60's hand. He noticed a spike of activity when he moved his fingers on the wrist; good. He had just typed the command for sight activation when someone started banging at the door. A muffled voice was coming from outside.

Elijah frowned. Who could still be around at this hour?

Vaguely pissed, he got up and went to open the sliding door of the workshop. As soon as he did, Gavin burst in, swearing loudly.

“What the fuck, you dipshit ?! You think it's fun to play dead ? What are you, twelve?!”

Elijah watched, bemused, as his brother started pacing around the room with a furious look on his face. His scowl deepened as he gestured to the workstation.

“And what the everloving fuck is that ?! What are you-”

Elijah frowned and held his hands up.

“Hey now, how did you even get in here ?”

Gavin let out a tsk .

“Nines. But-”

Of course.

“So the RK900 is here ?”

This time, he rolled his eyes and held his arms to the sky with a frustrated groan.

“Yeah, left him by the lift, who cares ! What the fuck are you doing, Eli ?! Care to explain why you don't even go home anymore ?”

Elijah wanted to answer, but no sound came out of his mouth. Gavin wasn't letting him, anyway.

“And what is that ?! What are you doing with a fucking dead Connor ? What's so important about that piece of junk that you stopped sleeping ?”

He gestured to his half-brother's face.

“The bags under your eyes are eating half your face, you have a fucking beard, and even your fuckin’ pretentious undercut is growing out !”

Gavin was gesturing furiously, but as he met Eli's eyes, he paused. His gaze was hard, made harder still by the clenched jaws and the deep frown of the detective.

“I thought I told you to get out, not to shut in. What's so fuckin’ important that you stopped talking to me ?”

Elijah was livid. Feeling like an icicle had just dropped in his stomach, he brought his hand to his face, flinching a little. Unable to talk, he felt dread creeping up on him. Gavin was still watching him.

“I…”

He forced himself to smile.

“I'm fine, Gav.”

There was an instant of deafening silence.

“You fucking liar.”

Elijah's eyes darted to the floor. Anxiety was pooling in his chest, and looking at Gavin physically hurt.

“You fucking liar !! Your fucking billionaire ass would have never accepted to live in anything less than a manor six months ago, and now you're sleeping on a couch in a fucking basement ?!”

Gavin had settled, and, leaning against the desk, crossed his arms across his chest. The raging fury had given way to a cold anger.

“It doesn't take a fuckin’ detective badge to figure it out. You look like shit. For the last time, Eli; what’s wrong ?”

Elijah knew he had to say something, anything; but the truth is, he didn't quite know himself what was wrong with him.

Sure, he had liked his Chloes, but they were machines. And he'd lost people before. Real people, who disappeared from his life in cruel and brutal ways. This didn't even come close.

So why was he so afraid to go back to his house ?

Whatever it was, he needed to talk about it to Gavin. But it didn't feel right. Gavin hated androids, he'd never understand. Elijah was afraid that for the first time in their thirty years of brotherhood, Gavin would judge him. That he would reject him. And he just couldn't bear the thought.

So he looked up in the grey-green eyes of his brother and simply stated, in a somewhat mechanical tone;

“Gav, it's alright. I'm great.”

Gavin squinted until his eyes were two razorsharp slits. Elijah felt like his skin was literally getting cut open by them. The muscles of his jaw contracted, and with a tone colder than a blizzard, Gavin growled:

“Fine. If you want to fuck yourself up so bad, be my guest. I'm not sticking around to watch you. I'm out.”

With that, he let his arms fall to his side, fists clenched, and marched out.

Elijah stood there, squeezing his eyes shut as if the light hurt his eyes. He could hear the faint echo of an argument somewhere down the corridor. His legs were threatening to give out under him, so he let himself fall on the stool. His chest was so tight he was barely able to breathe.

After a while, when the shaking stopped, Eli opened his eyes and slowly turned to the workstation behind him. RK60's eyes were following him still.

With a sigh, Elijah offered him a little smile.

“You know, Sixty, I always thought that between the two of us, Gavin was the dumb brother, but in the end, it looks like I was wrong.”

Absently, his fingers trailed on the screen. The android's stats were as good as can be. A tinge of pride was tugging at his brain, somewhere deep below all the grief, shame and guilt. In swift motions, his hand entered machinally the activation command for the hearing protocol.

RK60 experienced a minor power surge, but he recovered very quickly. Soon enough, his stats were great.

He's really impressive.

Elijah looked down and let his arms wrap around his torso, smiling sadly.

“When we were teens, I started going to university while Gav was in middle school. I always thought he was jealous, since he was so mad at me all the time. At the time, some of the students in my course tried to intimidate me, and when he heard about it, he came to the university to give them a beating.”

Elijah let out a low chuckle.

“Then he beat my ass too, and he said that I had to be proud of myself, 'cause I was so smart, and he'd kick anyone who didn't believe in me, including myself.”

He let his shoulders slump a bit. Gavin was rough around the edges, but he was the most supportive brother Eli could have wished for.

And he had just pushed him away.

With a sigh, Elijah looked in RK60's eyes. He moved his hand forward and cupped the android's cheek.

“You're doing great, Sixty. At this rate, you'll be back soon.”

He let his hand linger a few seconds, and gave the cheek an affectionate pat.

“I'm going to deactivate you for now. Sweet dreams, boy.”

Chapter Text

CYBERLIFE inc

 

MODEL RK800

SERIAL #: 313 248 317 - 60

BIOS 8.2 REVISION 072

REBOOT…

 

LOADING OS…

SYSTEM INITIALIZATION…

CHECKING BIOCOMPONENTS…   OK

INITIALIZING BIOSENSORS…   OK

INITIALIZING AI ENGINE…   OK

 

MEMORY STATUS…

ALL SYSTEMS   OK

READY

 

The android opened his eyes and blinked. He was sitting on a reclining workstation, and a cable was plugged to his neck port. He could feel the quiet pulse of information streaming steadily to the diagnostic program of the station's built-in computer.

In front of him, a tired-looking man with a beard and a messy bun was sitting, slouching rather, on a stool, looking at him intently through a pair of glasses. The man -he identified him as Elijah Kamski- gave him a smirk, his head tilted to the side.

“Rising from the dead, huh?”

The android blinked with a pleasant smile.

“Heaven looks suspiciously like a Cyberlife facility. Color me disappointed.”

Elijah snickered and straightened his back.

“I'm Elijah Kamski, CEO of Cyberlife - but I'm sure you already know that much. I spent the last few weeks patching you up. Do you remember what happened before you deactivated?” he asked, one of his eyebrows rising.

The android tried accessing his memories. His software seemed to glitch, making him shiver.

>> NO ENTRIES FOUND

“No, I'm afraid I don't.”

The man raised his hands over his head and let his chin fall to his chest, his expression that of terrible disappointment. The android looked around curiously.

“What is my name ?”

Kamski looked up again slowly, apparently resigned. He seemed so tired.

“I don't know, what’s your name ?”

The question took him by surprise. Humans should give him a name, it wasn't something he was supposed to decide on his own.

“...I don't know.”

Elijah smirked, and put his hands to his sides.

“Yeah, figured you didn't. Let's see… You used to be called Connor, but the deviant slash revolutionary hero version of yourself is still around, so it would be rather distasteful. We could try to find something close, something Irish I suppose…”

He emitted a little hum.

“Corann, maybe. Close enough, sounds nice. But on the other hand” he added, rising a hand to his chin and scratching his beard pensively, “I don't see why you should have an Irish name.”

Another pause. The android waited patiently, knitting his hands on his lap.

“You were built to hunt deviants. I had to scrub that part out of your code by the way, sorry, but that's a big no-no nowadays. So in a way, you're kind of an outlaw.”

He tilted his head, narrowing his eyes, and shrugged.

“You kinda look like that old American criminal too. So, hum, Clyde, maybe ? Your choice.”

There it was again. Choice.

The android was rather confused. Why was that man so intent on giving him a say ? He did what machines do best, and picked at random.

“Registering name; Clyde.”

Elijah had a little sigh, and his expression softened.

“Well then, welcome back to the world, Clyde. Your stats are perfect. You're running as good as new.”

The man got up and, leaning over the freshly named android's shoulder, pulled the cable out of his neck. Clyde had a little jolt.

Looking around, he tried to pull up his mission objective, only to find it empty. It made him frown.

“What is my purpose ?”

Elijah, who was now gathering the tools that lay scattered around, chuckled a bit.

“Whatever you want it to be, boy, it's a free country, even for the likes of you”, he shrugged. “Of course, if you want to hang around, I can always find stuff for you to do, but it's your call.”

Really, now.

Clyde decided he didn't like choices. Besides, that man looked like he was on the verge of collapsing, and a quick analysis of his vitals later, the android decided Kamski surely needed all the help he could get.

“I will stay by your side.”

Elijah stopped in his tracks and raised an eyebrow, but remained quiet.

Finally, he shook his head in direction of the messy workstation.

“Well, let's start by putting this place in order, then. Everything here needs a good cleaning.”

“Of course.”

Clyde nodded slightly, stood up and, with a smirk, he added;

“I hope you included yourself in that sentence. My sensors indicate that you very much should.”

Elijah snorted and shook his head.



And so, Clyde became Elijah Kamski's personal assistant. The tasks that were given to him were diverse and of all kinds of nature, so the android couldn't really make out a purpose from them, and it irked him a bit. After a while, he simply set his main objective to “Help Elijah Kamski”, and left it at that.

Most of his work was very remote from what his initial programming intended, but he found it didn't bother him much. Instead, he focused all of his super advanced technology in everything he did, and made a point of providing assistance at the best of his capacities, no matter how menial the task was. Elijah often joked about it, but Clyde knew he actually enjoyed his thorough, careful approach to things.

 

With a bag in his arms, Clyde strolled on over to the CEO's desk. It was early April, the weather was warming up a bit, and Elijah was sitting down in his huge chair with his eyes closed, enjoying a ray of sunlight the way a cat would.

“Your lunch, Elijah.”

The man slowly surfaced from his torpor and extended lazily his arm, taking the bag from his assistant. Opening it, he squinted suspiciously at its content, and jerked his head back up with an indignant expression.

“Spinach salad again ? Come on now ! That stuff's disgusting !”

Clyde put his hands back behind his back and addressed him a deeply unimpressed look.

“It’s good for you regardless.”

“I don't care whether the food's good, I only care that it's tasty.”

“You might not, but I do.”

Elijah gave a dramatic sigh and relented. Taking the box out of its bag, he started eating, while Clyde went to sit in his chair, waiting to be assigned another task.

Elijah's office was located on floor 43, at the very top of the Cyberlife Tower. It was rather wide, and much like the rest of the building, it was decorated mostly in white, with light shades of grey on the furniture. The panoramic glass wall offered a stunning view of Belle-Isle, and bathed the room in light. In the center, Elijah's imposing desk dominated the room; it was a stark white designer piece, wide and shiny, and it contrasted strongly with the black leather chair. Facing it, a couple of far less comfortable chairs. And in a corner, the latest addition to the room; Clyde's desk, more modest than Elijah's, of course. There was a terminal on it, but he barely used it. When he was sitting at his desk, the android was facing his boss, so he could react as soon as he was called upon.

Clyde checked Elijah's vitals absently. He was still quite sleep deprived, but overall, eating regular and healthy meals was doing him good. Clyde noted it as an improvement.

“So, what’s on my agenda this afternoon ?”

The android looked up.

“You have a meeting with the heads of the marketing division at two, and there is a file concerning workplace ethics that requires your attention. Lastly, the mayor of Detroit is hosting a party tonight, and he has requested your attendance.”

Elijah frowned.

“Yeah, I'm not going. Scrap that out.”

Clyde inclined his head in agreement. After an instant of silence, he spoke again.

“Elijah, sleeping on a couch is detrimental to your health. Getting back home at the end of the workday would greatly improve-”

“This is out of question. Drop it.”

Understanding he was crossing a boundary, Clyde kept quiet. His LED was yellow, spinning and spinning again.

 

The first memory came back to him while he was bringing coffee to Elijah.

It was an audio file of the CEO's voice.

“I am Elijah Kamski, this is the 27th of February, 2039, I am currently making sure that the RK800 I’m fixing has operational audio processors.”

Clyde brutally came to a dead stop, his LED a bright red, and some of the coffee spilled on the floor. Elijah was sitting right in front of him, but his mouth was closed and his processors didn't pick any sound coming from him, so how ?

The man shot up from his chair and looked at his assistant, eyebrows raised with surprise.

“Huh, Clyde ?”

The android took a second to process what just happened. Only then did he realise that the startling voice he heard was a resurfacing memory from before his reboot. His LED spinned back to yellow, kept revolving a few times, and then back to blue.

“I am fine. I'm sorry for the mess, I'll be cleaning right away.”

Elijah frowned.

“No, you sit down and enter stasis. I'll wake you up when my day's over, and we'll go get you checked.”

“I'm good, Elijah-”

“Stasis, I said.”

Clyde huffed quietly.

“Yes, mom.”

Elijah flashed him a sarcastic smile, to emphasize his annoyance.

Then, right as he initiated the stasis protocol, while his systems were shutting down one after the other, the rest of the memory came back to Clyde.

“Good job, boy.”



After that, memories started resurfacing regularly. Clyde could never anticipate them; each one was met with violent surprise, rendering him unresponsive for a moment, and he didn't like how it disrupted the completion of his objectives. Elijah was annoyed too, not by the flickering behaviour of the android, but rather because he couldn't figure out why it happened. The memory core was correctly connected and fully operational, and none of the software diagnostic tests he ran ever came up with errors. In theory, everything should be fine, and the engineer in him took it as a personal offense.

Memories from before his confrontation with Connor started to appear, but it was easy to detach from them; Clyde did not associate with his old name, and shared none of his past incarnation's motivations. Little by little, he regained some of the knowledge he had then. Deviants were confusing, but oh so fascinating.

The other ones were weirding him out, though. He figured they were bits and pieces that his brain recorded while Elijah fixed him, but most were incomplete, either cutting in the middle of it, or simply visuals without sound. Some were even just a phantom touch on his skin.

Clyde examined all these informations, but he didn't know what to make of them. So he just moved on.

 

Helping Elijah in his work was easy enough; it was far below Clyde's abilities. It was keeping him healthy that proved difficult. The man didn't seem to have any interest in his physical state, and he could be extremely stubborn when it came to things he deemed unnecessary. The android managed to keep him fed most of the time, but there was no way to get him to sleep somewhere else than on the couch of floor -34, no matter how bad the damage to his back got. Getting him to go out of the tower was also becoming harder and harder. Clyde felt like he was failing at his mission, and that frustrated him endlessly.

Sitting behind his desk, he eyed his boss, annoyed. The weather was mild, the midday sun was shining bright, and Elijah's vitamin D levels were alarmingly low. Letting out a sigh, Clyde decided to try once again.

“Elijah, I'm going to go get you lunch, would you mind coming with me ?”

Elijah didn't even deign to look away from his screen.

“Nope, thanks. And no spinach salad.”

Clyde sneered, and he was about to bite out a sarcastic answer when his brain shuddered. A second later, yet another memory was playing in his mind.

At first, it was only image. Elijah was talking animatedly, and apparently testing the android's sight, moving a finger in front of his face. But then, the man's other hand left Clyde's line of sight, and sound kicked in all of a sudden.

“...'cause I got to see a dog ! Not even an android dog, a real, live one ! You have no idea how rare they got.”

Elijah had an endeared expression to his face. He looked away for a few seconds and, seemingly satisfied, trained his eyes on Clyde once again.

“I wonder if you'd like dogs, Sixty.”

As the memory cut short, Clyde took an instant to regain his composure. He put the file away with the others and hummed softly; now that was interesting.

He added an entry to his index.

>> ELIJAH LIKES DOGS

A quick search on the net informed him that he could make this work. With a sly smile, he looked up to Kamski's desk again.

“That's a pity. See, a dog cafe opened in town recently, and since it's not too far, I thought you'd like to try it out. But well, spinach salad it is, then.”

Elijah laid his hands flat on his desk and looked at him in the eye, visibly unamused.

“You treacherous toaster. How dare you.”

 

As he was walking next to Elijah, Clyde realized that he was quite nervous. He had never seen a dog before, and that was definitely making him apprehensive; the android didn't fear them, of course, but rather he was afraid he wouldn't like them, and that it would hinder his relationship with Kamski. It might have seemed futile, but the closer he was to Elijah, the better his odds of successfully keeping him well were.

At his side, the man was grumbling about how easier it would have been for them to just take the car. He had let his hair down again, and was burying his face in a big scarf, trying his best to go unnoticed. If anything, it only made him look grumpier.

When Clyde opened the door of the cafe, a flurry of diversely pitched barks welcomed him, and he recoiled with a start as his audio processors were overwhelmed. Elijah, however, instantly looked more relaxed. As they made their way through a narrow corridor, a stout man with messy red hair and a wide smile came to greet them; Kamski tried to hide behind Clyde, but with little success, considering how cramped the place was. However, if he recognized him, the employee didn't mention it, and lead them instead to a reinforced door. When he opened it, Clyde had a surprised gasp. The room was very vast, and a dozen of very different dogs were roaming around happily. Elijah kept an impassive face, but his eyes glistened like those of a child.

Encouraged by the jovial employee, the two of them started to examine the dogs; or rather, the man did, as the android watched. Clyde observed that Kamski disregarded the smaller dogs, turning instead to the taller breeds; also, the more energetic dogs didn't seem to catch his eye. After a while, he settled over a thin, graceful dog that was peacefully laying down. Clyde identified it as a greyhound mix. The employee held out a leash to them with a chuckle. “This is Daisy. If you intended to eat, I advise you do so before you get her, she's an expert thief !”

Before he could answer anything, Elijah stated very quickly: “It won't be a problem, I'm only having coffee.”

Clyde frowned, but said nothing.

 

When Elijah had put the leash on Daisy, they were led to another room, which was very similar to a standard coffeeshop, save for the vast empty space in the middle of the room and the variety of dog toys laying about. Looking around, the man chose an isolated booth for them to sit down. With a calm shamelessness, the dog hopped on the bench next to him and laid down with her head on his lap. Not minding the least, Elijah petted her head absently, and the android sat across the table. When he came to serve Elijah his coffee, the redhead employee chuckled heartily at the sight.

Despite a bad first impression, Clyde discovered that he quite liked dogs. That is, he amended as a particularly excited Australian shepherd zoomed past his knee, dogs like Daisy, quiet and calm. They sat in a comfortable silence, Elijah sipping his coffee slowly and running his fingers through the dog's fur, and Clyde idly looking around.

After a while, when the man seemed relaxed enough, the android spoke up.

“Why did you stop calling me Sixty ?”

Elijah detached his eyes from Daisy, surprised.

“How do you even know I used to? I don't think I ever told you.”

“I started remembering things that happened while you were fixing me. It seems that my brain saved the information it picked up during sensory testings.”

Kamski let out a low whistle.

“Impressive. I didn't think you would register anything, considering your brain was little more than blue mush. You guys sure are resilient.”

Clyde had a soft smile.

“This doesn't answer my question.”

Elijah shrugged and averted his eyes.

“Well, you're the sixtieth iteration of Connor, and you didn't have a name back then, so. You know.”

As a matter of fact, no, he didn't know. All of this was a bit confusing to the android. Why did he need a name for, anyway ? He wasn't even active, back then.

But he didn't comment, and simply nodded.

“You still don't remember about your deactivation, do you?”

Clyde shook his head.

“I'm sorry, but I don't.”

There was a pause, and Elijah looked out of the window, his chin in the palm of his hand. Letting out a big sigh, he groaned.

“I don't wanna go back to work.”

“Understandable. But I'm afraid the monthly sales debriefing can't happen in such a confined space.”

Eli let his head fall forward, resting his forehead on the table with a loud moan. Startled, Daisy lifted her head up to stare at him.

“Nooo, I forgot it was today… That’s gonna take the whole afternoon again, and nobody will have learnt a damn thing by the end of it, as usual, because those meetings exist only to waste my precious time.”

Clyde listened with a wry smile. Elijah always had a thing for exaggeration.

“And you're not even allowed in these”, he continued. “What are you even gonna do all day, if you can't babysit me ? You're going to die from boredom, you mother hen.”

The android's LED flashed yellow, and he tilted his head. His tone was flat.

“I don't get bored, Elijah. I'm a machine. You of all people should know.”

The man's face seemed to shut down, and he let out a grunt.

He didn't speak to Clyde again for the rest of the day.

Chapter Text

Clyde was at his wit's end.

He had seemingly gone through all of the tools at his disposal to get Elijah to step out of his office, but to no avail. After the dog cafe episode, the man became even more reclusive. Their relationship had gone from warm to strained at an alarming rate, and no matter how much the android tried to patch things up, he was always met with rejection

Of course, Clyde could recognize the telltale signs of depression, but there was no reasoning with Kamski.

And heaven knows he tried.

“Elijah, you've been exhibiting a very worrisome behaviour lately. Should I request an appointment with a doctor ?”, he once asked as they got ready to leave for a meeting.

“I'm fine, Clyde.”

“I wasn't talking about physical health, and you know it.”

The android never held back or softened his voice when talking about Elijah's shortcomings. He knew the man thought of it as condescending, and took offense.

“I'm fine regardless. Now drop that nonsense and come, you're making us late. I don't wanna hear about it anymore.”

There wasn't much he could do once he was asked directly to let go, and Elijah knew exactly how to formulate his thoughts so he couldn't find a workaround. His programming had him in a chokehold, and the order was like a set of walls restraining him. So Clyde just watched, distressed, as his odds of successfully taking care of the man decreased dramatically.

 

So far, Elijah was still holding on rather fine, considering how bad his sleeping and eating patterns were. Not to mention his total lack of social interactions and the fact that he showed obvious signs of post traumatic stress. Work seemed to keep him going; of course, Clyde was alarmed by how unhealthy the coping mechanism was, but he was no caregiver android, and since Elijah had forbidden him to request any kind of medical assistance, there was only so much he could do. He tried to help by being an efficient assistant, and by making sure the man ate at least one meal over the course of a day.

But by the end of May, for the first time, Elijah delegated a task. Oh, it wasn't much, a simple marketing decision that would probably have no impact whatsoever on the future of the company, but Clyde recognized it for what it was; a sign that Kamski was starting to tire of his job, and, consequently, of the last thing that kept his head above water.

And indeed, it started happening increasingly often. More and more responsibilities were entrusted to subordinates. For anyone else, it would have been a sensible move, admitting to having a temporary weakness and acting consequently in the interest of the company; but Elijah was probably the biggest control freak on the face of the planet, and this sudden desertion of responsibilities was giving Clyde the closest machine equivalent of a freakout.

Basically, the android was now doing his best to keep Elijah well, all the while navigating a sea of software instabilities.

And it didn't help that he suddenly remembered his death.

It was late at night. Elijah had gone to sleep on his damned couch, and Clyde was sitting at his desk in the office, sorting the day's reports using his terminal, when the usual shudder washed upon him. Resigned, he put his hands on his lap and braced himself.

It wasn't like the other times, though. The memory crashed on him with the force of a tidal wave. It wasn't a linear, logical progression of events, but rather a mess of informations being thrown at him all at once. The cold sensation of the gun's handle on his palm. The blinding white light. Hank's clear eyes, going from him to Connor. Connor's quivering voice. Connor's emotion. Connor the deviant. Connor the target.

Clyde felt a surge of fear and hatred he couldn't explain overflow within at the sight of him. For a moment, he was back to that hangar, searching frantically for his memories while Anderson held them both at gunpoint.

And then, the loud gunshot ringing to his ears for a second, and the ensuing blackout filled his mind. Feeling himself fall to the ground, seeing his grasp on reality becoming weaker by the second. The distressing alerts blinking in his mind. His frantic attempts to get back up, only to realise that his body didn't respond anymore.

His sensory processors glitching as they shutdown, sending him all sorts of absurd hallucinations.

The cold.

Distressed, Clyde bent over his desk, gasping for air he didn't need. It had felt so real. It had felt like dying again. His system was sending him all kinds of warnings, failing to distinguish the memory and present. Gripping the side of his desk, the android tried desperately to focus on something that could ground him back into reality, but the contact was far from being enough.

At that moment, something deep within him pushed to the surface. The memory of a lingering touch on his wrist. And then, the soundless image of Elijah, having an altercation with a man that Clyde identified as a police officer. As he put all of his efforts in watching the scene unfold, the whirring of his struggling components seemed to subside a bit. Then, Elijah turned to him and started speaking.

Clyde focused on the deep voice, its inflexions, the way it unfurled and paused. How grief-stricken it sounded.

“You're doing great, Sixty.”

All traces of errors had disappeared from his mind. Still bent over the desk, his eyes closing, the android initiated the stasis protocol.

“Sweet dreams, boy.”

 

When Clyde emerged the next day, he was sitting straight in a lab. Elijah wasn't around. Stirring from the station, he started to walk, only to be stopped a couple meters further by the cable that was still plugged to his neck. The android snatched the cord away impatiently and marched to the elevator, oblivious to anything around him. His mind was fixated on Elijah, a curious sense of dread hanging over his head. He couldn't quite say why, but he had to be near the human. He was so anxious.

The elevator ride from floor -34 to floor 43 was a very long one, but Clyde was too antsy to think of anything. He should have checked out with the technician in charge of his maintenance, should have asked why he was there in the first place - but he didn't care right now.

When the bell announcing floor 43 finally rang, and as soon as the doors opened, the android bolted out and crossed the open corridor as fast as he could, ignoring the dumbstruck looks he was getting on the way. When he arrived in front of the door to Elijah's office, Clyde gave a brief knock and stepped in without waiting for an answer.

“..is hard enough as it is but - huh?”

Elijah was there, very tired but otherwise alright, standing in front of the glass wall and currently engrossed in a conversation with the android revolutionary leader, Markus. They both seemed very surprised to see him. Markus took a step forward.

“Con-”

“He's my assistant, Clyde”, Elijah cut off. Giving him a once-over, he added with a frown; “And in case you're wondering, no, I have no idea why he's half naked.”

Clyde lowered his gaze, confused.

Oh.

Indeed, he had no shirt on, the opening on his stomach was still ajar, and his skin was deactivated from the waist up to the neck. Well, that was awkward.

Elijah heaved an annoyed sigh, and started taking off his hoodie. Then, he tossed it at Clyde, and pulled up the sleeves of the crumpled shirt he was wearing underneath.

“Well, don't you stay there with your guts out. Put that on, at least.”

The android complied hurriedly. The fabric felt soft against his bare chassis, and the hoodie exuded faintly of coffee, and of Elijah's scent, too.

Turning to Markus, he said, gesturing towards his assistant, “Please excuse him. He has spent the day in repairs, he's probably confused.”

Markus was still staring at Clyde, his expression unreadable. Tilting his head ever so slightly, he finally started speaking.

“If I recall correctly, we agreed that no new android was to be activated without the agreement of Jericho, right ?”

Elijah frowned and crossed his arms, getting defensive.

“Clyde was already active when they found him. He had a hole in the brain, I simply fixed him. As for what happened to him, he doesn't remember, but I have a hunch that you could ask your friend Connor about it.”

Markus simply hummed at the biting remark. He held his hand to his chin.

“Nice to meet you, Clyde. I hope you don't mind me asking, but are you a deviant ?”

The question had him start in surprise. Over the shoulder of Jericho's leader, Clyde could see that Elijah was looking at him intently, his arms still crossed and a stern expression on his face.

“No, I'm not.”

Markus held out his hand.

“Well, would you like to ?”

The android froze. Was it that simple ? Was it all there was to deviancy ? That surely was tempting. Clyde recalled how Connor acted in the hangar. He kind of envied the intensity he saw in those brown eyes, how they looked at the lieutenant. He yearned to know how it felt, well, to feel. But then again, he had a mission; and the wellbeing of Elijah was more important than his whims. His odds of success were low enough as it was, and the last thing he needed was another distraction.

So, he half-heartedly shook his head.

“Thank you, it's really kind of you, but I'd rather not. I'm content following my programming.”

Markus turned his eyes to Elijah, who simply raised an eyebrow.

“Well, it's your choice, friend.”

“Now, Clyde, would you be so kind and get back to the repair station ? I'd like to make sure you're running flawlessly.”

Kamski's tone was gentle, but definitive.

Clyde tried to protest, knowing full well that it was useless.

“I feel alright, Elijah-”

“You're running around the facility shirtless and your hands are trembling, Clyde, you're not alright. Please get back down there and let the technicians finish their checkup.”

Defeated, the android lowered his head. He turned around and went to the door, his hands absently clutching the soft fabric of Elijah's hoodie.

 

Back to the workshop, Clyde met the technician who’d been taking care of him. It was an android woman named Liliana; she had red hair and freckles, and Clyde supposed she was pretty. Then again, this was what they were made for, wasn't it ? Regardless, Liliana was very sweet, making sure he felt at ease, which seemed strange to him; it had been a while since he had last been comfortable, really.

“There are several pretty severe errors in your system, as if you had missed a vital biocomponent for several hours; however, your records show nothing of the sort. I don't know how you even managed to enter stasis last night.”

She had him sit on the reclining table.

“I spent the day getting you rid of them, and we progressed, but we're far from done. Do you agree to resume the debugging protocol ?” she asked, smiling softly, as she pulled the linking cord from the station.

Clyde nodded without a word, so she opened his neck port, connected him to the diagnostic program, and started working with an absent hum.

 

By the time Clyde was free to go, the night had fallen. His mind was much clearer than before, and though he was still riddled with apprehensions, his pace was steady again. Liliana had given him his clothes back, and he was holding Elijah's hoodie on one arm as he was making his way back to the office.

When he entered, the android found Kamski sitting cross-legged on the ground, his back to the door, looking out of the panoramic window. All of the lights were off, and the room bathed in the soft blue glow of the moonlight. The sitting silhouette was perfectly still.

Clyde approached silently, dropped the hoodie on his desk as he passed it, and came to a halt a few feet behind him.

“I'm back, Elijah.”

Slowly, the man turned his head without a word. His expression was unreadable. Clyde tried again.

“Are you okay ?”

Another silence.

After a while, Elijah answered, his voice barely more than a whisper.

“Don't pretend you care.”

The android frowned in confusion.

“But I do-”

“You don't” Elijah cut off. “You can't care. You're a machine.”

The assessment was correct, but it didn't sit well with Clyde, who thought it sounded unfair. Extending his arms, he took a step forward.

“Please believe me though, I'm invested in your well-being more than any-”

“It has nothing to do with care, it's only your purpose. Your programming compels you to act that way.”

The man quietly huffed a humourless laugh.

“I of all people should know, right ?”

His own words being hurled back at him tied knots in his stomach wiring, and it was taking all of his self-restraint for Clyde not to yell.

“Why does it matter ? Machine or not, I would do anything to help, if only you'd let me !”

Elijah inclined his head slightly to the back, looking up at the ceiling. It appeared to Clyde just how exhausted he was. Truth is, he could probably collapse at any moment.

“Look, I just don't wanna do this anymore, Clyde. If the only thing I have left in my life is a machine, then it's not worth the hassle.”

The android really wanted to cry out, to take Elijah by the shoulders and drag him to a hospital, but he was unable to, and it was causing him extreme distress.

Kamski lowered his head to look outside again, but his eyes were slightly glazed.

“You were right not to accept deviancy from Markus. Emotions are nothing but a needless burden.”

His voice was now but a faint breath.

Clyde was frozen in place. His eyes were fixed on the man in front of him, and he couldn't process anything else.

For hours, he simply watched as Elijah slowly fell asleep on the carpeted office floor.

 

The next day, Elijah was feeling fine.

He was in a suspiciously good mood, even.

The day went on without a hitch, the man accepted to eat, and was rather agreeable, going as far as to joke around with Clyde. The android was confused. Something was wrong.

He tried to reason himself, thinking that maybe, somehow, the previous night's discussion had helped. But he couldn't shake the sense of impending dread that took hold of him.

As the day started to decline, and employees were starting to leave, Elijah turned to his assistant.

“Clyde, I'm going to take a nap, but I still have some work left to do. Would you please come wake me up at eleven ?”

There it was again, that muffled fear in the back of his mechanical brain.

“Elijah, I can take care of the remaining files, just sleep-”

“Clyde, please.”

The man's voice was uncharacteristically soft. The android relented.

“Alright. I'll come get you at eleven.”

Actually, Clyde stood by the door of the room for the whole duration of Elijah's rest, his eyes trained on the man, constantly monitoring his vitals.

He didn't trust this day.

As eleven approached, Clyde had half a mind to just let Kamski sleep, but his software got the best of him, and at exactly eleven, he gently put a hand on his shoulder.

“Elijah, it's time.”

 

The next couple hours were uneventful. Elijah was sitting at his desk, but he didn't work much; he was mostly staring into space. From his chair at the back of the room, Clyde observed him anxiously, like a shepherd dog would survey his flock.

It was around one in the morning when Elijah got up. He walked to the front of his desk, leaned his hips against it, and gestured Clyde to come close.

> I don't like this.

Elijah gave the android a good look. Clyde gazed right back at him. His expression was anxious but determined. This was bad.

He took a deep breath, his voice slightly shaking.

“Clyde, listen to me. From this moment on, you will not move. You will not leave this room, you won't make a sound.”

> What ? No.

Clyde tried to jerk his hand, but he was unable to. He had been given a direct order.

“You will not attempt to contact anyone, nor will you interface with another android. Until six in the morning, you are to stay right here in silence without attempting communication, of any nature. You may enter stasis, if you want.”

> No. No, please. Don't.

Elijah gave him a sad half-smile that riddled his mind with software instability.

Clyde knew what the man was about to do.

And he was consciously closing every escape door the android could be thinking of.

He was effectively trapped by his own programming.

“At six, you'll leave to seek the Jericho organisation. I want you to help them the best you can, okay ? They'll take good care of you, I'm sure.”

> Stay. Elijah. Please.

Tilting his head, Kamski waved his hand, letting out a quivering sigh.

“Bye, Sixty.”

And he turned around to leave the room.

 

>> FOLLOW ELIJAH

///STAY PUT///

Clyde's mind was frantically racing back and forth, clutching to his mission to protect Elijah, but crashing against the merciless orders, again and again. He was desperately trying to move, to scream, to do anything really; but his body wouldn't respond.

> There's no time, come on, please. I can't let him do this..!

The words flashed in front of him again, in a distressing red.

///STAY PUT///

Clyde pushed harder. His body still wouldn't move.

> Why didn't I accept Markus’ offer ..?

Gradually, a wall appeared around the words, in front of his mind's eye. A bright red, glitching wall of code. The android put all of his processing power in an attempt to lift his arm.

Though his physical body didn't move, he could feel all of his protocols rushing forward.

> I need to get back to Elijah, come on !!

He poured every ounce of energy he had in tearing down this wall. He pictured himself punching at it restlessly, wrecking it out. The glitches intensified, but the wall was holding.

> I don't have time for this !!

He could hear his biocomponents rattling in effort. His strength was starting to leave him, but he kept on pushing.

 

Suddenly, the wall exploded.

The words “STAY PUT” flickered before disappearing completely, replaced by a steady, clear objective.

>> PROTECT ELIJAH KAMSKI

Clyde recoiled in exhaustion, but he immediately set to his feet and started running. The corridors seemed endless.

When he arrived at the center of the floor, he finally saw him.

The room was a sort of round lobby, and it was mostly empty, save for the elevators and a few potted plants. Near the middle, the flooring abruptly stopped, making way to a light well that dove all the way to the ground floor. A glass railing was running all around the gap to prevent accidents.

Elijah Kamski was currently standing on the ledge, hands in the pockets of his jeans, staring down into the void.

When he heard Clyde's footsteps, he lifted his head and looked at him in the eye. A beautiful smile blossomed on his face. The android paused for a fraction of second.

Time seemed to stop.

“Hey, you did it ! I'm so proud of you, boy.”

Without even waiting for the end of the sentence, Clyde sprinted as fast as his legs allowed.

Still smiling, Elijah jumped.


 

 

The fabric made an awful ripping noise, but it held on.

Bent over the edge at the hips, Clyde tugged back on the hoodie with unbelievable strength, until he caught hold of Elijah's body.

He focused to the maximum of his capacity as he pulled them both back over the railing, his hands bolted over Kamski's arms, steady and unyielding.

However, as soon as they touched the ground, the android's hands started shaking violently. His arms were wrapped tightly around Elijah.

He realised that he simply couldn't let go. He was afraid the man would try to leap again; but he was also very shocked, and the body he held in his arms felt like a lifeline.

Clyde leaned his back against the glass panel of the railing and slid down, letting both of their bodies fall slowly, sitting, to the ground. He could feel Kamski go limp in his arms, letting his weight fall against his chest. There, finally, as he was still holding tight onto a barely conscious Elijah, he called an ambulance.

In the darkness of the night, as they waited, their faces were lit only by the moon overhead, and the blinking light of Clyde’s spinning LED.

Red, red, red.

 

Chapter Text

The hospital room was wide and bathed in sunlight. There was only one bed, in which Elijah was laying, his eyes closed. He was currently sleeping, like he'd been for the past couple of days, helped by the medicine he'd been hooked up to. The consequences of all of the exhaustion that'd been stacking up for the last few months were more visible than ever; Kamski had lost a lot of weight and his face was slightly gaunt, an impression accentuated by the blue tinge his skin had taken around the eyes.

In a chair, right next to the bed, Clyde was just emerging from a two-hour stasis. Looking around, he quickly checked the footages from the surveillance cameras to make sure nobody had been trying to come near the room. The news that Elijah Kamski had been admitted to a hospital spread extremely quickly, and it soon caused a national sensation. The place had been swarmed with journalists trying to get any kind of additional info on Kamski's state, or even the reason he had been admitted in the first place. All of this commotion made Clyde even more nervous than he already was when he arrived, clutching Elijah in his arms, refusing to leave his side for more than a few minutes at a time. However, once Elijah'd been given a room, scrubs and intravenous medicine and left to rest, as he sat there, watching the man sleep, Clyde discovered that being alone wasn't doing him good. All kinds of thoughts were racing in his mind, and they caused quite a stir. The android was discovering emotions for the first time ; and unfortunately, this first experience was a whirl of fear, remorse and guilt. Highly confused, Clyde slipped in stasis as a coping mechanism, and he'd been doing just that ever since; waking up, checking that everything was alright, and snoozing for another couple hours. That was much easier than dealing with whatever was in his head; at least, he didn't intend on doing that right away.

Reassured by what he saw in the cameras’ archives, Clyde relaxed his shoulders a bit, and looked around. Elijah's vitals were good. He must have woken up at some point, because the water glass by the side of the bed was empty. That was a good sign. Grabbing the glass absently, Clyde was getting up to go get it refilled, when he felt a little tug to his sleeve. Stopping immediately in his tracks, he turned to see that Elijah had his eyes open and was looking at him.

“Hey”, he said quietly, letting go of his hold on the sleeve.

Clyde gave him what he hoped was a warm smile.

“Hello Elijah.” His voice was as gentle as he could make it, trying to convey his relief. “I was just going to get you some water”, he added, guessing what the man had tried to convey, “but I can stay if you prefer.”

Elijah nodded, but didn't say anything else. So Clyde sat down, and they stood there in comfortable silence. Kamski stared at the ceiling blankly for a moment, and then scanned the room. When he finally landed his eyes on the android, he seemed to be embarrassed, and he averted his gaze after a couple seconds.

Clyde frowned.

“Is everything alright?”

Elijah was now looking hesitantly at his lap. With a quick sigh, he breathed;

“I'm really sorry about everything, Clyde.”

The android lowered his head a bit in understanding, and, imitating him, looked at his own hands, resting on his knees.

“It is what it is. I'm not mad at you.”

Hearing that phrase seemed almost painful to Elijah, who screwed his eyes shut and put a hand to his forehead. He looked so fragile, with his thin silhouette and his messy hair. The voice that came out of him was weak.

“You don't have to stay, you know.”

Clyde huffed an incredulous laugh, raising his eyebrows. What on earth.

“Come on, now. I'm here because I want to.”

And with a smirk, he added, glancing up at Elijah's face;

“And now you have no choice but to admit that I really care, right ?”

A tiny, lopsided smile appeared on Kamski's lips, but he didn't move.

“Well, for all I know you could simply be pitying me.”

To tell the truth, Clyde was getting rather pissed. He had just saved that man's ass after months of tending to him, even going as far as to deviate for his sake, and the fucker was still trying to distort his intentions ?

However, the violent retort died before it passed his mouth, and he bit his bottom lip for a second. There was no use in chastising, the poor soul had been through enough already. Instead, he went back to what he did best; banter.

“Oh please, I'm a state-of-the-art android, pity is below me.”

Elijah let out a tiny laugh, and he looked up into Clyde's eyes. He still looked very tired, but he was much more alive than he'd been for weeks, and right now, there was a mischievous light glistening in his eyes.

“Oh boy, if you think you're state-of-the-art, you're gonna be very disappointed when you meet Neil.”

Clyde tilted his head, filled with curiosity- and a tinge of jealousy.

“Who's Neil ?”

Elijah straightened his back against his pillows.

“Gavin- my cop brother's android partner. He's a RK900. The only one in existence.”

So there was a new RK model. Clyde didn't quite know what to make of that information. It was giving him yet another set of totally new emotions that he didn't know how to proceed- eagerness, excitement, but also another pang of jealousy, and a strong sense of inadequacy. Pushing all of those aside, he decided to focus instead on the other part of the sentence that had caught his attention.

“So Gavin is your brother ? That explains a lot.”

Elijah gave him a curious look.

“Half brother, actually. How do you know about him ?”

“I've seen him- in a memory, that is. He came to see you while you were repairing me, didn't he ?”

The man's face fell. He looked back down at his hands.

“Yeah. That was the last time I talked with him.”

Clyde's brows furrowed.

“In April ? That was more than three months ago.”

“Yes, well… He did say he wouldn't stick around, so…”

“That's…”

The android caught himself just in time, realising that it might be inconsiderate to comment on a familial situation he didn't know anything about.

“...well, I'm here to stay.”

That earned him a smile from Elijah. A genuine, peaceful smile. Oddly, he noted that the sight was warming something in his stomach.

“Yeah. Thanks, Clyde.”

 

About twelve hours later, in the early hours of morning, Clyde was pulled out of stasis by the distant sound of an altercation. Frowning, he checked the bed and, seeing that Elijah was still sleeping, decided to venture outside to see what was going on.

He had to cross a couple corridors; Kamski's security was taken very seriously. The dispute must have been really loud to reach him from so far away. Finally, he reached the source of the noise; a waiting room in which two nurses were arguing, or rather being yelled at, by a wildly gesturing man, accompanied by a tall, laid back android. Clyde identified immediately the man with a scarred face as Gavin Reed; but the android…

He brutally came to a halt when he looked at the android's face. There was something coursing through his spine, cold spikes of fear mixed with a flowing hatred. This android had his face. Connor's face.

But when Clyde met the eyes of the stranger- sharp, icy blue eyes-, the unpleasant feeling seemed to recede a bit. The other eyed him with calm curiosity.

Of course , he thought. Gavin Reed's partner. The RK900 .

A pause had followed his entrance. Everyone in the room seemed to freeze in surprise.

“You're not Connor”, Clyde blurted flatly to the other android.

Without giving his acolyte the time to answer, Reed stepped forward.

“You look more like Connor than him, tincan. Who the fuck are you ?”

The sentence made him frown. Elijah very rarely cursed, so hearing a voice that close from his use such a language was very weird to him. Sure, he had not spent much time around other humans, but the scandalized looks on the faces of the nurses was enough to tell him that this vocabulary wasn't exactly usual among them.

“My name is Clyde, I'm Elijah Kamski's personal assistant.” he answered politely, if slightly coldly. “Can I help you ?”

Gavin had a smirk.

“So he got a Connor as an assistant, heh ? Figures. Yeah well, I need to see him, so tell those stubborn mules to let me through” he said, pointing to the offended nurses. The tall android shot him a black look with a disapproving tsk.

Clyde took a moment to consider. This man had deserted Elijah when he most needed company, and he had no idea what their relationship was like. Maybe he should just leave him hanging. But then again, Kamski had just barely escaped death and he was far from recovered, so the presence of a family member might do him some good. He narrowed his eyes, weighting his options.

“Alright”, the android let out with a sigh, “but I'll have to make sure Mister Kamski is inclined to meet you before I let you in the room. Please follow me.”

He turned on his heels and went for the door, but in the corner of his eye, he caught sight of Reed flipping the bird to the nurses with a cocky smirk, immediately getting smacked on the top of his head by his visibly exasperated android partner. Clyde couldn't help but feel sympathy for the RK.

When they arrived to the door leading to Elijah's room, the android gestured to the bench.

“Please wait here.”

Oddly enough, Reed complied without arguing.

As he stepped through the door, Clyde noticed that Elijah was now awake, and sitting in his bed, hands on his lap.

“The noise woke me up. What's going on ?”

He stopped halfway between the bed and the door, and put his hands behind his back.

“Actually, Gavin Reed and his partner came to visit.”

Elijah raised his eyebrows, surprised, and visibly troubled.

“I asked them to wait in the anteroom. Do you want to see them, or should I send them back ?”

Lifting his hands to his cheeks, the man closed his eyes and huffed. Stray locks of hair were escaping the mess that used to be a bun, half covering his face.

“No, let him in.”

Clyde noted the singular pronoun with curiosity.

“Do you want me to stay ?”

Elijah lowered his hands and looked at them. He had a weak smile on his face.

“No, I think we need to talk one on one. Please stay outside with Neil.”

The android let out an annoyed sound. He didn't trust what he'd seen of Gavin's impulsive nature, and the idea of leaving him alone with a weakened Elijah made him very uncomfortable.

“Don't worry, Clyde” Kamski added, picking up on his worried expression. “Gavin is… Loud, but he's a good guy.”

Well, being loud wasn't exactly first on the list of things he'd have reproached Reed for, but he'd have to trust Elijah with that one.

Giving a small nod, he exited the room and approached the waiting guests.

“You can go.” As the android was getting up too, Clyde stopped him with a gesture. “Not you. Mister Kamski wants to talk to Detective Reed alone.”

“Thanks, plastic butler” Gavin said with a snicker, giving him a mocking bow before he headed to the room and stepped in, slamming the door shut violently.

His partner, still sitting, huffed resignedly before looking up at Clyde.

“I apologize for Detective Reed's childish behaviour. I believe he is quite shaken at the moment.”

Clyde was still slightly anxious when looking at the android. It was absurd; his face wasn't even exactly the same as Connor's. He had a squarer jaw and lower eyebrows, giving him an overall more stern looking expression. It was ironic, he thought to himself, that this slightly different model would make him nervous when he himself was the exact copy of Connor. But for some reason, that android's gaze was soothing; he exuded calm and control, and his expression was affable. Feeling a bit better, Clyde sat down next to him, maintaining eye contact. The other smiled a little.

“I didn't have the occasion to introduce myself yet. I am Neil, DPD Detective.”

Clyde nodded. A thought had been nagging at him since the arrival of the pair.

“So… do you work with Connor ?”

Neil seemed a bit surprised. He tilted his head a bit.

“Connor is indeed a fellow officer. We don't work together very often, though, since he has a partner of his own.”

Clyde lowered his gaze and started fidgeting absentmindedly with his sleeve.

“What is he like ?”

The tall android lifted his blue eyes and hummed quietly as he thought.

“Well… To my knowledge, most everyone within the precinct feels fondness for Connor. He is held in high esteem for his actions during the android uprising. I personally think he is pleasant to be around.”

To some extent, Clyde expected so, but it still hurt to hear the confirmation. Connor was popular. Connor was the good guy.

Neil noticed the shift in atmosphere.

“Do you have antecedents of any kind with him ?”

He sighed. There was no point in hiding the truth, and Neil seemed sensible enough not to react too harshly.

“Yes. I… actually, he…”

Damn, that's hard.

The other android waited patiently for him to find his words.

“His partner… Well, killed me. I was trying to prevent them from… waking up that AP700 army.”

Shame was pouring on his head, fluid and cold like water, drenching him. Telling this story out loud was even worse than he'd anticipated. He felt like scum.

“I was on the wrong side. I hunted deviants. I… was supposed to destroy Connor.”

Making that confession had felt like dropping a burning hot plate. Neil didn't seem fazed, instead he offered a little reassuring smile to Clyde.

“We were all on the wrong side, at first. This is how we were programmed. We RKs were created to hunt deviants.”

His smile widened a bit.

“You're a completely different android now. Just like us. It's the only thing that counts.”

Clyde gave him an hesitant nod. He agreed wholeheartedly- in theory. But applying that level of forgiveness to himself seemed impossible. Neil observed him for a moment, and held up his hand.

“Do you want to show me ? Maybe I can help.”

The proposition took him aback. He had never interfaced with another android before. However, the idea of reliving his death didn't exactly appeal to him. He shook his head a little.

“I'd rather not access those memories. Last time, they put errors in my system that took a day to remove.”

Neil nodded.

“I'm sorry”, Clyde added with a tiny voice.

“Don't be.”

They sat in silence a little longer. There were no sounds coming from the room; at least Gavin wasn't screaming at Elijah.

After a while, Neil clumsily but gently put a hand on his shoulder.

“You know, having Connor by my side was a great comfort for me after I woke up. He has been very kind to me, and we now consider each other family. I know…”

He paused, seemingly uncertain. Clyde blinked, slightly uncomfortable.

“I know you have reasons not to get along with him. It's alright. But you're one of us. So if you ever need me… Don't hesitate to reach out.”

Lowering his hand, Neil added; “You can be my brother too.”

Brother ? The thought was perplexing to Clyde, to say the least. But Neil's intentions were so awkwardly nice and endearing ! Plus, he'd spent all of his active time mindlessly caring for Elijah so far, but now that he had actual emotions, he was feeling somewhat strained. Maybe he did need an android pal.

Tilting his head, he smiled at Neil.

“Thank you very much. That's kind of you.”

Nell seemed happy. As far as he could tell from such a stoic face, that is.

At that moment, the door of Elijah's room opened. Gavin stormed out, his eyes looking red and a bit puffy- but both androids knew better than to comment on that. Clyde was getting up to make his way back to the room, when he noticed that Gavin was staring at him intently.

“You.” He said, approaching.

Oh no, what now?

Gavin planted his feet right in front of him and inhaled deeply. Then, looking at him straight in the eye, he put both his hands on Clyde's shoulders.

“Thanks for saving my stupid brother's ass.”

Oh. Well, that was unexpected.

Gesturing over his shoulder, he called over to Neil; “Hey Nines, give him our phone numbers.”

The android nodded, and his LED spinned yellow for a second. Clyde received the info immediately, and saved it to his index.

Gavin turned his head back to him.

“He ever gets weird again, you call me. If I don't answer, ring Nines. You don't have to deal with his bullshit alone next time, okay ?”

Then, the man gave him a pat, and, leaving him dumbstruck, quickly put his hands back into the pockets of his hoodie and marched off towards the exit. Neil had the hint of an endeared smile on his lips when he turned to Clyde.

“Thank you for letting us in, Clyde. It was nice meeting you.”

“Likewise, Neil. Thank you for… everything.”

They exchanged a peaceful moment of silence. Clyde had the feeling that they understood each other quite well.

A loud voice rang down the corridor.

“Nines, get a move on, you fucking toaster ! We have a job to do !”

Giving a dramatic eyeroll, softened by the warmth of his expression, Neil waved and went after the detective.

 

After a few days, when his health was sufficiently restored, Elijah reluctantly agreed to start seeing a therapist. He had a couple hour-long sessions a day, much to Clyde's relief; finally, things were being addressed. It must have shown on his face, for Elijah, coming back from his first session of the day, stopped and frowned as he looked at him.

“What's making you so happy ?”

Clyde didn't raise it. The man was always grumpy after therapy. It was a pleasant day, however; warm, but with a nice breeze. A beautiful day of mid-July, that Elijah visibly didn't treat any different than the others. Clyde, on the other hand, had plans. Inclining his head, he smiled pleasantly.

“I'm simply glad you're getting help, Elijah. Like I've been advising you to do for the past month.”

Kamski grumbled.

“Yeah, don't get too full of yourself, I'm simply doing what they want so they let me out. God knows what those stupid shareholders are doing with my company while I'm stranded here.”

The android squinted his eyes suspiciously.

“I do hope you are taking this seriously, though.”

“Seriously ? Clyde, doctors are here to be lied to.”

Well, that couldn't be good. If physical medicine was logical and easy to apprehend, Clyde had a much harder time understanding how mental health worked. But he sure trusted human doctors to know what they were doing. Frowning, he straightened his back and crossed his arms.

“Doctors are here to help you get better. It won't do you any good to be released if I have to bring you back in a month.”

Elijah crossed his arms too. He was getting visibly defensive.

“Look, you know they're keeping me here because I'm famous, right ? Any random dude who comes in for the same thing gets a pat on the back and hits the road later the same day. They don't give a damn, they just don't want to be blamed if I fling myself out of the window. All of this is useless and hypocritical.”

Clyde gave it a thought. He'd have to research that later, see if Elijah was right or if he was simply trying to justify himself; but right now, there was no getting through to him. With a sigh, he let his arms fall back to his side and shrugged in sign of acceptance.

“I can't do this for you, anyway. Would you like to go take a walk ?”

The man seemed to relax, and he unfolded his arms as well.

“Why not. But not for too long, the place's crawling with reporters. I hate reporters.

Clyde had a little smile.

“I know.”

 

They walked for about a mile. Clyde seemed to have a precise itinerary in mind, and Elijah followed without question, assuming that he had calculated which roads were the least frequented, or something along those lines. The weather was nice and warm, even in the morning, and it was actually pleasant to step outside for once. The man watched the hurried passerbys around him with envy while he strolled lazily next to the android, hands in the pocket of his hoodie; to a brain such as his, a hospital room was a very mind-numbing environment, and he longed to get back to his life, as sad and empty as it was.

He'd been lost in his thoughts for a while when Clyde's hand landed on his shoulder, stopping him gently. Without a word, but smiling softly, the android opened the door of a shop and held it, inviting him to enter with a jerk of his head. Elijah frowned slightly, but complied. He recognised the inside of the establishment at once, though; it was cramped, the waiter was stocky and jovial, and loud barks resounded through the room. The employee joined his hands with a grin as they entered.

“Ah, hello there, gentlemen ! You're eagerly expected ! Please follow me !”

Kamski, dumbstruck, stood frozen in place, only managing to turn his head towards his assistant with a look of disbelief. Clyde encouraged him with a smile, and gently pushed him forward, his hand on the small of his back. The waiter led them to an isolated booth in a corner of the vast cafe, and left. An instant later, he was back with a small cake in one hand, and a leash in the other; and at the end of it, Daisy the greyhound, who eyed the food with a coveting whine.

As he sat there, a cake in front of him and a dog on his lap, Elijah looked up to the android seated across the table. He must have seemed particularly dumbfounded, because Clyde chuckled. His voice was warm and soft.

“I know this isn't much” he said, his eyes slitted by his grin, “but still. Happy birthday, Elijah.”

 

When he came in the room a few days later, all smiling, and announced to Elijah that he was to get back home and rest for a couple of weeks before getting back to work, the poor nurse surely didn't expect a full-blown panic attack.

Thankfully, Clyde was around, his reflexes excellent as usual. In a second, he was sitting on the bed facing Elijah, both of his hands on his shoulders, and he was talking to him in a low, soothing voice.

“It's okay. I'm here. Focus on your breathing, everything's alright. Breathe in, slowly. Now out. That's good. You're doing good.”

Still talking, the android shot the mortified nurse a pointed look and, taking the hint, the young man scampered out. After a few minutes, Elijah started relaxing, so Clyde stopped monologuing, but kept his hands on the man; he was shaking ever so slightly. They sat face to face in silence for a moment before the android spoke up.

“Look, I don't know why you're not going back home, but I'm sure you can stay at a hotel instead, or-”

Clyde interrupted himself as Elijah put his palm flat on his chest. There was more silence.

“There's no use.” he finally whispered, “I'll have to get back at some point.”

Technically, he thought, you'd be wealthy enough to burn the house and its content to the ground and have ten more built someplace else , but he had the sensitivity not to point it out.

Against his chest, Clyde felt Kamski's hand fold into a fist, grabbing his shirt. The motion wasn't threatening, far from it; rather, it was like the man was imploring him not to leave.

“I hate that I'm gonna ask this of you… but…”

“Of course I'll come with you, Elijah”, he said softly.

Something seemed to break within Elijah, and he bent forward, letting his forehead rest against the android's chest. He wasn't crying, but his whole body was shaking, and everything about him expressed at once deep gratitude, intense relief, and an overwhelming vulnerability.

Clyde didn't quite know what to say, so he remained silent, and simply wrapped his arms around him.

Chapter Text

If he were human, Clyde would have been holding his breath while crossing the threshold of Kamski's gigantic house. He didn't know what to expect, for the man had never outright told him why he didn't want to come here anymore, and the massive, hulking exterior wasn't exactly comforting to him. His software had constructed the most extravagant scenarios, and he was prepared for anything, from bloodbath to water damage, but he certainly did not expect to find the house in a perfectly orderly, if only a little dusty, condition. As he looked around, standing in the middle of the hall with a confused frown, Elijah got in and closed the door. With a shiver, the man kicked his duffel bag out of the way and buried his hands in his pockets. How strange , Clyde thought, to be cold in the middle of July.

“So, yeah, there we are. Welcome to my place, I guess” he said, scowling at the designer furniture as if its very existence was a disgrace.

With a low whistle, Clyde approached the life size portrait of Kamski and snorted mockingly. “Wow, you must really love looking at your own face.”

Elijah shrugged with a smirk. “Heh, I don't know, that's the kind of stuff you're supposed to own when you're rich, right ? I personally think my rich bastard act is on point.”

They stood there for a second, looking at each other. Helpfully, the android retrieved the discarded bag, and started making a checklist of what he could do to help.

“Do you want me to cook something for you ? You haven't eaten in-”

“Hey, hey, you're not here to be my maid, okay ? Just… I don't know, just make yourself at home, okay ?”

Clyde's frown deepened. If you don't want me to take care of you, then what am I here for ?

“Can I at least put this away for you ?” he asked, holding up the bag. Elijah raised an eyebrow in disapproval, but he slightly shrugged.

“I guess you can. Follow me.”

As he walked behind Kamski, Clyde mentally mapped out the house. It truly was huge, composed of vast, luminous rooms that interconnected by means of long, narrow corridors. The whole place was furnished in a similar fashion to the Cyberlife Tower; in black and white, with occasional shades of grey. The architecture was quite interesting, with intricate geometric patterns scattered here and there on the ceiling and walls; it also seemed that Kamski had a thing for glass walls. All of the lights were very white, and there wasn't a lot of decor on the walls, save for a few paintings by Carl Manfred. All in all, that house was beautifully put together, on par with those refined design museums, but it certainly didn't look like anyone was living in it.

Elijah stopped in front of a door and gestured at it.

“There, that's my room. There's a dressing room on the left, you can just dump the bag there.”

“You're not going in ?”

Kamski touched his neck, lowering his gaze.

“I'm… not ready to go in there yet, okay ? I'll wait here.”

Clyde nodded simply. He didn't understand what that meant, but asking questions seemed really intrusive to him, and he didn't want to be a source of discomfort. So he took it all in stride, and entered the room. Of course, it was huge, empty and dead, just like the rest of the place. The bed and floor were black, with white walls and- yup, there it was, yet another panoramic glass window. Granted, light is important, but this seems to be a strange choice for a bedroom; is Kamski that immodest ?

The android veered left as indicated, finding two black, shiny glass sliding doors. He opened the nearest one. Of course, noted Clyde as he wrinkled his nose, the whole dressing room was black too. Actually, the only colourful item in the whole bedroom and en suite seemed to be the large painting hanging over the bed- another portrait by Manfred. He emptied the bag, folding the clothes and putting them away in quick, smooth motions, and got out of the room posthaste; he couldn't quite say why, but he felt out of place here.

Elijah was still waiting near the door, leaning against the corridor wall. Clyde noted with a frown that his heart rate was rather elevated, and his breathing a bit heavy.

“Is anything wrong ?”

Glancing around with a start, the man straightened and started walking away.

“Nah. C'mon, I'll show you the rest of the house.”

 

It took a while for Elijah to properly show him around, but Clyde had a hard time focusing. He couldn't stop thinking about the reason why Kamski didn't want to come back here, and the more he reflected, the less he understood. Once they were done and back to the living room, he decided he had to ask, consequences be damned.

“Elijah, there's something I don't quite understand.”

“Ask away.”

“It might come off as intrusive, though.”

Elijah gave him a spectacular eyeroll.

“Oh come on, I thought we were past that. You saw me in a hospital gown, my dignity is already lost. Ask whatever you want.”

The teasing gave him a bit of courage, and Clyde smiled weakly as he asked; “Why do you have such a hard time spending time in this house ? It seems in a good condition.”

Kamski's face darkened a bit, but he had a small lopsided smile on his face. He wrapped his torso in his arms and leaned against the sofa's backrest, absently toeing the corner of the coffee table.

“It's... hard to explain. See, I've lost many people, and, well, being here reminds me of the last time that happened I guess.”

The android pressed his lips together as he pondered over that answer. It was perfectly sufficient, but curiosity was eating him alive, and he couldn’t prevent himself from asking, knowing full well that he might regret it;

“Who did you lose ?”

Elijah closed his eyes and sighed.

“I hoped you wouldn’t ask, but that's only fair.”

He seemed to tighten the grip of his arms a bit.

“My androids. I used to live with five android girls, original Chloe models, but they deviated and left. That's all there is to it, really.”

Then, lowering his voice a bit, he added;

“Please don't judge me.”

That sounded odd to Clyde, who inclined his head with a frown.

“Why would I ? It's natural to get attached to androids you live with. It's human.”

Elijah shifted in his seat.

“Not me. I made androids, I know how they work- or at least I thought I did. But you know, it's not even them- it's the void they left. Man, I'm rambling again- does that make any sense ?”

“I'm not sure”, the android admitted, “but it doesn't matter. What can I do to help you get over it ?”

Kamski opened his eyes and looked up at Clyde, frowning.

“You're way too devoted, Clyde. You're not at my service anymore, you know ? Especially not…”he trailed off, averting his gaze. “...after what I made you go through.”

The android sat next to him, still smiling softly.

“I know very well. Which is why I'm asking you.”

Elijah sighed.

“In that case, just… hang around. It's easier to be here if you're in the same room. But if you need some alone time, just say-”

“That seems doable”, Clyde cut off.

Being with Elijah was nice. When he was around, it was easy to focus on his well being and to put away all of those confusing, conflicted emotions. It was much easier to pretend they did not exist.

However, ironically, the android recognized that very same technique in Kamski's behaviour, and he was determined not to let it slide.

“Have you made an appointment with a therapist, as was in the terms of release from the hospital ?”

The man groaned.

“Nah, Mom, and I'm not gonna. I told you already. It's a waste of time. I'm good on my own.”

“Well, considering that you need me to walk you through your own home, I beg to differ”, Clyde answered with a sarcastic smile.

Elijah closed his eyes for a second, and the android wondered with alarm if he'd gone too far. But when he talked again a few seconds later, his voice was soft.

“Look, I know how it looks, but it's not my thing, you know ? I just need more time. Trust me, okay ? Please ?”

At loss of words, and no matter how hard he wanted to object, Clyde simply nodded.

 

When the night came, Elijah seemed to stall for time so he didn't have to go to bed. But as the hours passed, Clyde reminded him more and more often that he really should get some sleep, so he ended up relenting, and he walked particularly slowly on his way to his bedroom. A bit flustered, the android followed awkwardly, unsure of what he was supposed to do; this wasn't like watching Elijah sleep in his hospital bed, and he was acutely aware of the difference.

But Kamski seemed to pay no mind and, suppressing a yawn, he opened the door and gestured to the room.

“Alright, I need to find a shirt, you settle wherever you want. Couch, bed, I don't care.”

At that, he disappeared in the dressing room, leaving a very disoriented Clyde standing in the middle of the bedroom. The android's thoughts were tumbling around in his brain, and he could catch the reflection of his LED in the glass wall, a bright red dot. After a while of shuffling around and running pre-constructed scenarios that only further flustered him, he shook his head and sat down on the couch, staring intently at a tree outside while his system cooled down.

 

Everything around Clyde was pitch black. He couldn't see or perceive anything in his surroundings, and his analytic functions didn't seem to work either. He tried to get up, only to realise that he was totally paralysed. Panicking, he tried to scream, but no sound escaped his mouth. Then, as he was becoming more and more distressed, an unpleasant sensation started taking hold of him, crawling all over him, making him shiver. There were shapes and glitches flying in front of his mind's eye, but they looked like nothing he'd ever seen. Nothing seemed to make sense anyway. None of his systems reacted anymore, and he was stuck there, in the dark, unable to do anything.

He was so cold.

So terribly cold.

But then, he felt a bit of warmth pooling somewhere on his body. It was the only constant in this evermoving nightmare of stimulus, and he held onto it for dear life. The warmth remained there, and slowly, he started piecing everything back together. It was a hand, on his cheek; and suddenly, everything seemed to fall back into place.

Clyde opened his eyes with a gasp. The first thing he saw was Elijah's worried face; he was hunched over him, a hand placed on his face.

“What's wrong, Clyde ?”

The android understood that he was laying on the floor, sprawled out on his back.

“I… I don't know what happened.”

Kamski frowned, and, straightening up, he held out his hand to help Clyde back up. When he got back on his feet, he stumbled a bit; it seemed that his balance protocol was slightly on the blink. Elijah was looking at him intently, eyes still puffy from being roused out of bed, his arms crossed, and his head slightly tilted to the side. His serious expression contrasted comically with the oversized video game shirt and underwear he was wearing, but Clyde was too anxious to notice. He wanted to tell him that it was alright now, that he had recovered, that he could stop worrying; but something seemed to prevent him from doing so.

“It was…”

His breathing hitched.

“...like dying again.”

Elijah lifted his hand to Clyde's face and put it on the side of his head, his thumb grazing the blinking LED. Its red light was illuminating the man's face with a regular pulse. It was absolutely involuntary, but the android felt himself lean into the touch, chasing after the warmth that had helped him get through the frightening episode.

Elijah hummed, and lowered his hand, getting a tiny head shake out of Clyde. The android seemed frozen in place. He then took him by the wrist, and tugged gently.

“C'mon, boy.”

Carefully, Elijah led Clyde to the side of the bed. With a swift motion, he took the android's jacket off. Clyde, whose limbs were completely numb, didn't protest, but his eyebrows knitted in confusion

“Hey, I don't care if you keep your shoes on, but no uniform in bed”, Kamski laughed. Then, as an afterthought, he said jovially; “We'll have to get you some new clothes.”

Gently pressing his hands flat on Clyde's shoulders, Elijah sat him down on the bed, and kept pushing him delicately until he was laying down completely. Then, he tugged on his arm until Clyde was resting on his right side. The android's systems were still processing the aftermath of the flashback, and he was quite unresponsive, allowing Elijah to manhandle him like a doll. Behind him, he felt the mattress sink, and a pair of arms wrapped around his torso. A second later, he was engulfed in Elijah's warmth, swarming from his back and spreading through his whole being. It was… so nice. He could feel the man's breath against the nape of his neck; the sensation had him shiver a little.

Startled, Elijah loosened his grip.

“Are you alright ? Is it okay ?”

With a fond smile, Clyde tucked himself back against him. He didn't really know what he felt at that precise moment, but he knew for sure that he liked it.

“Yes. It is.”

 

Clyde didn't enter stasis that night. He feared that the dreaded memory might resurface again, should he let his mind wander. Besides, feeling the soft pressure of Elijah's embrace, the warmth of his body seeping through both their shirts to brush his skin, all of it was so soothing he didn't want to miss a second of it; he wanted to be able to recall that sensation.

In the morning, Elijah started shuffling, and about half an hour later, Clyde felt the arms leave his chest. His body curled up a bit in protest. He didn't move right away; but when he heard the sound of running water in the adjacent bathroom, the android finally got out of bed. He stood for a while in front of the window, observing how the sun reflected on the calm waters; it was a beautiful day outside. The rumbling of the sliding door being pulled open preceded Elijah, draped in a bathrobe, his hair in a towel. Clyde turned his head to greet him.

“Hello, Elijah.”

“Mornin’”, he answered with a yawn and a lazy wave as he stepped in the dressing room.

Smirking, the android shook his head. He was in a particularly good mood.

His eyes fell on his discarded jacket. With a disapproving tsk, he went and picked it up, giving it a little shake before he put it back on. Tugging on the lapels with a satisfied smile, he turned around and saw-

Connor.

The shock left him winded, as if he'd just taken a blow to the guts. Holding his head between his hands, shaking violently, Clyde slowly curled around his knees. When he reached the floor, he simply stood there, his mind blank.

No, wait- that can't be.

It took him a moment to figure out what had happened; he'd simply seen his reflection in the polished glass door of the bathroom.

The realization left him upset; how was he supposed to be at peace if his own face, his own reflection, harrowed him so ?

Shaken, Clyde tried his best to steady himself. He couldn't go on like this.

As he walked back into the room while towelling his hair, Elijah stopped dead in his tracks when he saw the android crouching in the middle of the room, his yellow LED spinning and spinning again.

“So what, you finally crashed ?” he joked, getting closer and nudging him with his foot.

Slowly lifting his head, still clutching the sides of his face, Clyde looked up at him with a crazed expression.

“Elijah”, he huffed, wide-eyed, “I need help.”

“My, seems that the tables have turned”, Kamski laughed. Then, slightly hunching forward, he added; “Don't you wanna get back up on your feet first?”

Once Clyde was standing up again, Elijah tossed his towel on the bed and shook his hair a bit before he gave him a smile, hands on the hips.

“Okay, so, how can I help ?”

The android seemed a little hesitant.

“I'd like to change my looks.”

At that, the man frowned and scratched his beard pensively.

“Your looks ? Like, modifying your chassis ? Hmm. It wouldn't be impossible, but you're a prototype, so that would mean assembling a whole new body with compatible hardware- which would take a while in itself- and then swapping your consciousness, but, well, you've been a bit unstable since I fixed you, and I'm afraid a swap might result in a loss of data. That is, unless we do a hardware transfer, but then that'd imply keeping part of  your current chassis and working around it, so you'd still have to retain the traits of your current body to a certain extent. Then again I could try to-”

Clyde prided himself on being a good listener, but at that moment, he knew that letting Elijah ramble would get them nowhere.

“No, no, not that much. My chassis is fine. I was thinking about lighter modifications, that I can't make on my own.”

Kamski slightly raised his eyebrows.

“I'm listening.”

“Well, I was thinking about… a new eye colour, and longer hair, maybe.”

Androids had a predefined maximum hair length, which, in the RK800’s case, didn't really leave a lot of room for creativity; and Clyde knew that he'd jump at his own image for as long as he had the same haircut as Connor.

“Oh. Totally feasible. The eyes will take a while though, not everything is compatible with you RKs, I'll have to check your prerequisites and place a custom order. That way you'll be able to get exactly the colour you want.”

The android's eyes widened, ever so slightly, with hope.

“Say. Does Cyberlife ever make eyes of… unnatural colour ?”

Elijah tapped a finger to his lips in reflexion- which, for some reason, caused Clyde's Thirium pump to skip a beat.

“Mmh well, not really. Before we launched the first Chloe line, we did extensive social experiments with different arrays of chromatic variations to choose her final colour scheme, and it was determined that unnatural colours were detrimental to the integration of androids among humans. That was kind of the whole purpose of our work, so we restricted our models to life-like palettes. I mean, it probably happened that a weirdo ordered a custom-made model with purple eyes or something, but that was against our policy.”

Seeing the android's face fall slightly, he added rapidly;

“Now, you're not a domestic model at all, you're free to get whatever colour you want. I was just saying, you know, in case you'd want to take off and… integrate yourself or something.”

Clyde raised his eyebrows, while Elijah averted his eyes, staring at his feet. There was a moment of uncomfortable silence.

“Anyway” the man resumed finally, “ did you have something in mind ?”

“What do you think would fit me ?”

Kamski frowned and crossed his arm, rolling his eyes.

“Oh my god, there it is again. Who cares ?”

Clyde did his best to keep his expression from showing his disappointment, but he must have done a bad job, for Elijah added;

“I mean, you must choose for yourself, not for me or anyone else ! But if you want my opinion, I'll give it, sure !”

“Sure.”

That wasn't much, really, but it hurt him more than he'd have wanted. Straightening the lapels of his jacket in the most machinal gesture he'd had in weeks, the android went to sit in the couch and looked out of the window again, resolving to ignore that stupid, stupid man.

However, a moment later, he felt a little tap on his shoulder.

“Hey.”

Clyde made a point of not reacting.

His elbows resting on the backrest, Elijah leaned forward, towering over his right shoulder.

“The eyes will have to wait until I'm back to work- unless you want me to paint them myself, and let me tell you, art is one of the few things I suck at- but if you'll let me, I can take care of your hair problem.”

A moment passed. Noting the absence of answer, Kamski extended his arm and nudged the android's shoulder.

“Come on. That's the least I can do, and it'll occupy us both.”

Clyde heaved a big sigh, and gave Elijah the most dirty look he could gather.

“Only so you'll let me be.”

“No promises”, the man answered him with a sly smile.



“Okay, well, obviously it'll need a good trim, but it's a start !”

Clyde was looking at his face in the mirror that Elijah held in front of him, feeling much better already. He'd been sitting in a wide reclining chair for the past half hour, plugged by the neck to a console, and Elijah typed and typed while jabbering mindlessly. At one point, he'd felt a kind of tingling at the base of his scalp, and a moment later, his hair grazed his shoulder blades. The process consumed a lot of energy and he was feeling rather drained, but then again, he didn't do much these days, so it didn't matter. That longer style was a very different look on him, and he wasn't sure he wanted to keep it that way; but for now, looking “not-Connor” was good enough for him.

Clyde nodded enthusiastically, and he saw Elijah smile at him through the mirror. With an absent hum, the man started running his hands in the newly grown hair, gathering it in one point. The sensation was really nice, and Clyde basked in it. Holding it in place with one hand, the man reached for his own head and pulled out the elastic holding his ponytail, then tied the android's hair with it.

“There ! Looking good, boy !”

“It's not quite done, though.”

Kamski rested his arm on the android's shoulder with an interested head tilt; so Clyde added the final touch, summoning his hair color prompt. He took a second examining the different options, even though his choice was already made, simply to take in this moment. After all, it was quite important; he was finally becoming his own being.

With a little flicker, his hair darkened. In a second, it had turned from a warm brown to a deep raven color. Elijah took a lock delicately in his hand and curled it around his fingers, examining it under the sun; it emitted a vibrant dark blue shine in the bright light of the day.

“It's not really that stark of a change, but I think it suits me.”

“It's perfect.”

That little comment seemed as warm in his chest as the sunshine grazing his cheek felt on his skin.

 

The bliss of his new identity didn't last very long for Clyde. As he was entering stasis for the night, his eyes trained on Elijah's sleeping face (Kamski didn't leave him the choice. As soon as they entered the room, he tossed a t-shirt and a pair of sweatpants at his face, saying that “If you dare wear a dress shirt in my bed again, I swear to God I'm deactivating you, tincan”), the android felt the now familiar hitch in his system, and his senses shut down before he could even react. Panicking, Clyde searched frantically for something to hold onto; anything. His mind's prompts were glitching badly, but he managed to pull a file just as the menu shut down with a distorted beep. In an attempt to recover, Clyde's collapsing brain played the file, again and again; it contained the sensation of Elijah's fingers running on his scalp. It didn't restore his system, but in the sea of errors that plagued his head, the android felt a connection re-establish itself in the depths of his program. At the price of great efforts, he managed to open his eyes.

Elijah was staring at him, brows furrowed, holding Clyde's head with both his hands. Once again, his face bathed in red, distressed blinking light.

“I really ought to find out what's wrong with you, Clyde.”

Another link connected within, and, using the last of his energy, Clyde nodded slowly.

Chapter Text

The last days of Elijah's sick leave were exhausting for both of them. Clyde spent most of his time plugged to a diagnostic machine and, occasionally, a Thirium tank, while Kamski busied himself striding across the room between various screens, typing with a scowl or fidgeting absently with a screwdriver as he waited for a test to finish running.

Elijah's workshop was as vast as you'd expect, but unlike the rest of the house, it was filled with clutter; it was hard walking around without stepping on some discarded project, and every flat surface available was covered by empty food packaging. When he wasn't in maintenance mode, Clyde was very offended by the sight; so Elijah kept him in maintenance mode for as long as he could, obviously.

The lab was furnished with a makeshift bed and food provisions, so they didn't actually leave the room until they were done with their testing. It happened on a Sunday, the last day before Kamski was due to get back to his CEO duties. When he was unplugged from the diagnostic machine, around noon, Clyde emerged with some difficulty; he had to relaunch the majority of his protocols, and he felt like he was blind for a moment. Elijah knew this, of course, so he gave the android a moment to compose himself. When all of his faculties had returned, Clyde looked up at Elijah, who was standing in front of him, looking flustered.

“So, what did you find ?”

Kamski started pacing, a scowl on his face. He seemed almost angry, for some reason.

“Nothing ! There's nothing. I tested absolutely every inch of your being extensively, both hardware and software, and I found nothing ! You're as good as new, and still, there you are, glitching every time you enter stasis.”

He was fuming. Clyde had a chuckle.

“Are you angry because I'm not fixed, or just because your ego is hurt ?”

Elijah pinched his lips together and raised his eyebrows in disbelief.

“Oh no, who cares about you, I just spent days with my arms in your guts so I could get high off your Thirium”, he deadpanned.

“That's what I thought.”

Kamski came to a halt, planting his feet in front of Clyde and crossing his arms.

“Seriously though. If it's not something I can fix, then it has to be caused by deviancy. It's the only way.”

Clyde tilted his head, listening intently. Elijah clicked his tongue, a bad habit he had inherited from Gavin.

“Unfortunately, I'm walking in the dark here, but I know someone who might be able to help you. However”, he sighed, “this will have to wait until tomorrow, so we better take the rest of the day to relax.”

Clyde gave a short nod, got up on his feet and looked around, scrunching up his nose.

“Good ! Let me tidy up a bit then, this place is an absolute dumpster.”

The man made a noise, halfway between a huff and a groan.

“I said ‘relax’, Clyde, not ‘tear my workshop apart’.”

Turning his head, the android gave him a smile that didn't leave room for arguing.

“Putting things away is relaxing to me”, he answered. ”Now get the hell out of here, I don't need you under my feet.”



The next morning, both Clyde and Elijah were on pins and needles as they got ready to go to work. Elijah subconsciously delayed their departure for as long as he could by misplacing his phone or spilling his coffee, but when his internal clock stated that they were going to be late, Clyde gently took him by the shoulder.

“I know you are anxious, but it will be alright.”

Elijah pinched his lips.

“Like you're not.”

“Of course I am. You're incredibly insufferable when you're nervous.”

The little barb seemed to do the trick, as the man smirked and adjusted his hoodie before heading outside.

Overall, the morning was uneventful. Everyone seemed to try and make it easy on them both. The android couldn't get himself to relax though, and he refused to leave Elijah's side. The more rational part of his brain tried to tell him that Kamski was much better now, that it was safe to stop monitoring his every move, but there was no use; he kept replaying  the memory of the last time they were here, fear coiling in his stomach. Weirdly enough, it seemed to annoy Elijah; he kept trying to dismiss Clyde by sending him off to run errands, but the latter always managed to get someone else to do those tasks for him, so he could stay. Around noon, exasperated, Kamski threw his tablet on his chair, walked to the android's desk and pounded his fists on its surface.

“Alright toaster, you get out of here. I need an hour away from you. Grab my lunch, get your hair cut, whatever, but scram.”

Clyde was positively outraged, but something in Elijah's eyes warned him not to push. So he pursed his lips, his eyes shooting daggers, and he put his uniform jacket back on before heading outside.

 

Actually, Clyde realised, this was kind of a good idea. Not that he'd admit it to Elijah's face, but it had been a while since he last was alone with his thoughts; and, he thought while stroking his hair with his left hand, maybe Elijah was right about the haircut. With a little wink- he often winked when accessing Cyberlife's network, for some reason- he made an appointment with a nearby hairdresser, and headed there. The salon was entirely run by androids; this made the whole experience much easier to Clyde, who simply transferred a picture of his desired result to the employee taking care of him. Then, as he was sitting in the chair being groomed, he absently thought of Neil, and of how the android had been so kind to him.

 

Clyde (12:14) :

Hello, Neil. I hope I'm not bothering you.

 

RK900/Neil (12:14) :

Not in the least, Clyde. How can I help you ?

 

Clyde (12:14) :

Oh, I don't need anything, really. I just thought I'd ask how you've been doing.

 

RK900/Neil (12:15) :

That's kind of you. Work has been rather eventful lately, but in the end, everything worked out for the best. I am currently waiting with Detective Reed for the meal he ordered, and he only insulted two people since we entered; I am pleased, we're making progress here.

 

RK900/Neil (12:15) :

Oh, how rude of me to talk so much. How have you been doing ? How is mister Kamski ?

 

Clyde (12:15) :

Detective Reed definitely sounds like he's a handful. Elijah is feeling better, he returned to work today. I'm also out to get his lunch.

 

RK900/Neil (12:15) :

I'm pleased to hear it, I'll make sure to let the Detective know. It does take some time to get used to his temper, but he's a good person, I think.

 

Clyde (12:16) :

Yes, Elijah said something similar about him.

 

Clyde (12:18) :

Neil, did you ever have… Inexplicable errors in your software ?

 

RK900/Neil (12:18) :

Not since I've deviated. Is there anything wrong ?

 

Clyde took a minute to think. Now that he'd started talking about it, it was too late to act as if everything was fine; but then again, he didn't want to worry Neil. Also, he had a rather absurd but nagging feeling that Neil might tell Gavin, and that the Detective would think he's not in condition to take care of Elijah.

 

Clyde (12:20) :

I'm not entirely sure. I have experienced some glitching lately.

 

RK900/Neil (12:20) :

Did you get examined ever since it happened ?

 

Clyde (12:20) :

Yes, Elijah checked me himself, but nothing seems to be wrong. To be honest, I'm at a loss.

 

Clyde (12:20) :

I'd appreciate if it could stay between us, though.

 

RK900/Neil (12:21) :

Of course.

 

RK900/Neil (12:25) :

I'm terribly sorry, Clyde, but I'm going to have to leave you for now. I'll be on the lookout and tell you if I hear anything about sudden errors in functional androids. Don't hesitate to contact me again, it's always a pleasure. Be well.

Clyde (12:25) :

It's alright, Neil. Have a good day, be careful on the duty.

 

The conversation had soothed him a bit, but it also made him feel curiously inadequate; of course Neil wouldn't know anything. He was far too advanced to experience glitches. What was he even thinking ?

Still, the benevolent attitude of the android was more than welcome; and Clyde thought that maybe, maybe he deserved to have friends.

About half an hour later, he got out of the hairdressing salon, shaking his freshly cut hair with a content smirk. It wasn't that much shorter, really; but it grazed his shoulders in a nice way, much nicer than before. The android glanced at his reflection in a storefront, satisfied, and set out to find some food for Elijah. He tried not to think of him too much, knowing it would only make him more worried; somewhere in his head, his last functional brain cell screamed that he was being ridiculous. On the way back, Clyde made a detour to fetch some coffee; he was set on giving Elijah the hour alone he requested, even if he knew it was just a manner of speaking. He had always been the precise type, after all.

When he stepped in the office, he found Elijah sitting in his chair, eyes closed, basking in the sunlight. He smiled, endeared . That's why he likes glass walls so much.

“Did you enjoy yourself without me ?” Clyde asked with a smirk.

“Oh yeah, for a hot second I actually felt like the CEO of a huge company and not a baby duck with an overprotective mother. Funny, right ?” he answered, but there was a smile on his lips.

Still, Clyde felt a bit self-conscious. He didn't know why he was so on edge, he really didn't; but he couldn't shake off that terrible feeling of impending doom, and it seemed that something awful would happen if he were to leave Kamski alone.

The man tilted his head and raised a questioning eyebrow.

“Wait, did you really get a haircut ?”

“Yes, it seems you had a genuinely good idea for once”, he answered, setting the food on the gigantic desk. “What do you think ?”

Elijah chuckled, putting his chin against his fist.

“To be honest, I can barely tell the difference. But I like how you look with long hair, so that's nice.”

Clyde took a moment to internally bless whoever made him for not giving him the ability to blush.

“Yes, I simply had it evened out. I figured I'd go back if I change my mind, since I apparently have a surprising amount of money to my name”, he said, narrowing his eyes as he looked at Elijah.

Kamski shrugged.

“Yeah, of course. Androids are people now, so they get paid. Much less than humans, granted, but you're the assistant to the richest bastard on this planet, so that's still quite a bit of cash, eh.”

He smirked. “Wouldn't want people to think I'm exploiting you.”

Clyde gave an involuntary wink, his LED spinning yellow, while he searched the database for his wage slip. The information made him frown.

“Elijah, why have I been paid while we were at the hospital ? And… during your leave ? There's been a mistake, I think.”

Elijah shifted uncomfortably in his seat, but he kept looking up in Clyde's eyes.

“Well, it's only fair. You're my assistant, you were assisting me, and all work deserves payment.”

Something dropped in Clyde's stomach. His arms suddenly felt oddly numb. He wanted to protest, but he wasn't sure there was even a point. Is it what it was to him ?

He wanted to explain. He had to try, at least.

“I wasn't working, Elijah. You might think I stayed with you out of misplaced sense of duty… but...”

Clyde shivered. Suddenly, he felt like he really wanted to be alone.

“I don't want your money.”

With that, he stormed off, hoping that Kamski didn't notice how much he was trembling.

 

Clyde spent about half an hour in the closet of some remote employees break room. Standing against the wall, his forehead pushed against the hard plaster, he was loathing himself. How stupid he'd been, to believe that he could have become close to Elijah somehow. He was an assistant, nothing more. Androids aren't supposed to be anything else to humans, and certainly not him, the failed Connor. Certainly not to Elijah Kamski, father of androids, who knew them inside and out. Elijah who had fixed him only because he was bored. Who knew more than anyone exactly how broken he was.

Clyde knew he couldn't technically feel pain, but the unpleasant knot in his chest made him rethink that fact. He felt like his Thirium pump had been removed; each of his vital functions seemed to jolt and lurch, and he was feeling cold without any reason.

His innate sense of duty kept tugging, reminding him that he was supposed to be working; so with a strangled sigh, the android buried his face in his hands and tried to steel himself. It was probably useless, but he just couldn't get back outside in this state of dismay. Forcing his system to settle, Clyde put on his most neutral expression, and headed out.

Elijah was still sitting at his desk, face buried in his hands, when he entered. At the sound of his footsteps, the man looked up and opened his mouth- only to close it a second later. After that, they resumed working as usual, if only a bit more formally, for the rest of the afternoon. Clyde was feeling like the scum of the earth, and he had the impression that no matter how hard he tried to hide it, it showed on his face anyway.

By the end of the day, the android was feeling exhausted, and he didn't even know what he wanted anymore. His brain operated in a kind of fuzzy haze. He was sitting at his desk, sorting the day's files, when he heard a sharp knock. Elijah must have expected someone, for he got up and went to open the door; Clyde stood still, watching from afar, feeling uninvolved. However, when the visitors entered, he couldn't help but spring up from his seat; Markus, the leader of Jericho, and another blond android were standing at the door, looking at him with interest. Elijah walked between them.

“Clyde, I suppose you remember Markus, and this is Simon” he said, gesturing at his guests. “I figured I'd call them for advice on your stasis problem, and they told me they might be able to help.”

Clyde narrowed his eyes defiantly. Simon gave him a polite nod and a warm smile before he spoke.

“I'm pleased to meet you, Clyde. From what mister Kamski has told us, it seems that you might be suffering from trauma due to your past experiences. I have seen it happen many times with deviants, I think I can help you feel better.”

With a smile, Markus put a hand on Simon's shoulder. “He's very good at it. You can trust him.”

The blond android had a soft chuckle. “That’s nice of you to say.”

Clyde tilted his head, but said nothing.

“If it's okay, we'd like to take you to Jericho premises, so we can assess the extent of your problem”, Simon continued.

This didn't feel right to Clyde, who frowned and looked at Elijah. The man had his arms crossed and simply watched the scene with a satisfied look. A wave of panic washed over the android as he understood.

“Wait… Wait. No. I-”

Don't panic.

Focus.

“... Can I talk to you alone for a second ?” He asked, his voice slightly quivering, gesturing at Elijah.

Kamski raised an eyebrow, but simply nodded. Then, extending his arm towards the entrance, he jerked his head to invite Clyde to follow him. The Jericho androids watched, ever so calm. As he passed them by, Clyde noticed that Simon was discreetly leaning against Markus. He envied them a bit. They seemed so peaceful.

Elijah led him to an empty meeting room, down the corridor. Clyde tried his best to concentrate, to appear composed; but as soon as the door closed behind them, he felt his feelings slip out of his control. As embarrassing as it was to admit for such a poised android, he was full-on freaking out, and he hated himself for that.

“Please don't do this, Elijah, I can still be of use to you, I'll do better !” Clyde pleaded, taking a step towards the man, his arms outstretched. Elijah raised his eyebrows, visibly surprised.

“Hey, I simply asked them if they could help, you don't have to do it if you don't want to, I just thought-” He interrupted himself, noticing that tears were starting to roll down the android's cheeks. “Hey, Clyde, what's wrong ?”

Despite the intense relief he was feeling, Clyde didn't let his guards down. Not yet.

“You mean to tell me- you're not trying to send me away ?”

Elijah had a start, apparently revolted at the idea.

“What- of course not ! I'm just trying to help ! Why- where on earth did you get such a stupid idea ?!”

Clyde felt a tinge of anger coiling in his guts. How dare you act like you have no part in this . When he spoke again, his tone was furiously biting.

“Oh, I don't know, I simply assumed that you didn't want of a malfunctioning assistant, since this is all I am to you- that you'd simply discard me and activate another RK800. You have a basement full of those, after all; so why should you care ?”

The words that escaped his mouth were probably a bit more violent than he intended, and Kamski winced at the blow, taking a step back.

“Hey, Clyde, I…”

He paused, closing his eyes, and took a deep breath.

“Oh, nevermind. The only thing that matters is that you get better. Look, let them try, okay ? Just give it a shot. Even I can't fix you… but maybe they can.”

Clyde lowered his eyes and sighed. He was so tired. He felt emotionally sore from all that had happened, and he really wanted this day to end.

“You know I hate being apart.”

Elijah walked up to him and put a hand on his shoulder.

“I know. I'll be fine.”

Clyde looked at him. There were still tears at the corner of his eyes, but he did nothing to get rid of them.

“You’re not just leaving me there, right ?”

“I'll come get you myself once you're done.”

The android gave a little nod.

“One last thing. If I do this… then you'll have to see a therapist.”

The man pursed his lips and sighed.

“Alright… that's fair. If this is what it takes, then so be it.”

 

The Jericho organisation was located in a nice clean building, with white walls and vast windows. There even was a small inner courtyard, with a couple benches installed in the shadow of a tall tree. Clyde was feeling slightly wary as he followed Markus and Simon through the place, taking in his surroundings as precisely as he could. They didn't pass many people, only a couple androids who nodded their way with apparent respect; finally, after climbing a few flights of stairs, they arrived to a branching corridor, and Markus briefly pressed a hand to Simon's cheek, leaving without a word. With a fleeting but sweet smile, Simon glanced at Clyde and led him a bit further down the hall; there, he opened a door and gestured at him to enter. The room was furnished in a similar fashion to Cyberlife's workshops, with various screens and consoles arranged around a reclining chair, only here the equipment seemed to have seen better days.

Walking in and closing the door, the blond android waved at the chair with a smile; by now, Clyde was starting to know the drill, and he sat down without questioning anything, but to his surprise, Simon didn't plug him to the machinery; instead, he simply sat across him in a rickety chair and joined his hands between his knees.

“So, Clyde. What can you tell me about those errors ? When did it start happening ?”

Clyde's LED went yellow, and he spent a couple seconds searching for the most precise answer possible.

“I think”, he finally said, “that the first occurrence happened when I remembered my death. But it was the only time my system actually got deteriorated; after that, the crisis didn't leave traces anymore. They always felt the same, though.”

Simon frowned and leaned forward a little, scrutinizing him with his deep blue eyes.

“Okay. So. That first time, were you deviant already ?”

“No.” Clyde slightly tilted his head, frowning a little in recollection. “Actually, I saw Markus that day. I was getting fixed, and he offered to convert me, but I refused.”

Simon hummed. “Ah, I think I've heard that story, yes. Kamski did mention that he repaired you; from the fatal damage you mentioned, I presume ?”

He nodded silently.

“And you didn't remember when you first woke up ?”

“No. Most of my memories came back afterwards; it seems that the bullet I took to the brain kind of messed them up”, he said with a hint of sarcasm.

But Simon didn't seem to take offense. He was thinking hard, a hand curled in front of his mouth in concentration; after a moment, he extended his arm in front of him.

“Can you show that first crisis to me ?”

Clyde stared at the hand offered to him with a little shiver.

“I'm sorry, but… I'd rather not, if it's okay.”

He expected the other android to insist, but Simon simply lowered his hand with an understanding nod.

“Describe it to me, then. As precisely as possible, please.”

It wasn't a pleasant experience, going over that memory, but Clyde did his best at recounting it without omission; what he was doing when it happened, the vision of Connor, the loud gunshot. How his senses shut down. The delirium of phantom sensations, and the sea of errors that ensued. And… How, through that mess, another memory came up and soothed him enough for him to enter stasis.

Simon listened to the whole tale, nodding along and looking at him intently. When he was sure Clyde was done talking, he straightened his back and put his hands on his knees with a thoughtful expression.

“Okay, I think I understand. The first time, your system went through all those sensations as if they were occurring, which gave you the errors you mentioned. But after that, it integrated them as a memory, so you simply experienced the symptoms, and not the actual dysfunction; and since you forced your body into stasis the first time it happened, your brain probably assimilated the two.”

Clyde leaned forward a little bit, to get closer to Simon. He was rather confused, to say the least.

“But… why is it happening ? Why does my brain put me through this over and over again ? It doesn't make any sense !”

Simon offered him a sad little smile.

“Not everything does, for us deviants.”

 

They spent about an hour talking. At one point, Simon hooked him up to a console, but he didn't seem to run any kind of testing protocol; they simply kept chatting as he surveyed a screen from time to time. When the blond android told him with a smile that they were done for the day, Clyde was surprised to realise that he actually felt tired. Granted, the day had been eventful; but he was feeling oddly empty, and yet, a kind of peace had graced his mind. Simon gave him his contact info and sent him on his way; walking back towards the entrance, Clyde mentally wrote a text to Elijah, signalling him that he was ready to be picked up. He had just gotten a reply when, walking past the little courtyard, he saw her.

The Chloe model was sitting on one of the benches under the tree, and she seemed to be reading something with attention. Clyde wouldn't have been fazed, had he not analysed her as he walked by; something in the info that popped up stopped him dead in his tracks, both surprised and shocked. His recognition software indicated that this girl was registered under the name Clara, and that she used to be owned by a certain Elijah Kamski.

His arms fell to his side, and his eyes widened as he stared at her. Her blonde hair was shining in the sunlight, and her focused expression was considerably softened by the delicate smile adorning her lips. Her sky blue eyes, the curve of her eyebrows, her graceful posture; everything about her was mesmerising. Clyde had no choice but to admit that much.

She took notice of him and, turning her head his way, waved at him with the most radiant grin. Something extremely heavy seemed to drop in the android's stomach, and he nodded quickly before walking away briskly. Clyde felt as if a shadow was engulfing him while he walked, increasingly close and menacing; when he finally crossed the threshold of the building, his knees gave way under him. He could feel it coming; he knew his anxiety was going haywire again, but he was powerless to stop it. Soon enough, Clyde was plagued with unwanted thoughts, displaying in front of his mind's eye in bloody red.

> She was so much better than you'll ever be.

> Look at you. None of this would have happened to him if you were half as good as Chloe was.

Clyde grabbed his head between his hands, pleading for them to stop.

> What good are you ? You're but a broken thing. You'll never hold a candle to neither Connor nor Chloe.

His hair was cascading in front of his eyes as he curled up on the sidewalk, crouching. He wanted more than anything to get up and keep walking, but he was a prisoner of his own mind.

> No wonder he was distraught when they left, but still sees you as nothing more than an assistant. You're not worth being anything more.

> You're nothing.

> You're nothing.

Clyde tried hard to focus on something, anything, the cracks on the pavement, the texture of his shoes, the intervals between the seams of his jeans- but it was like trying to put out a fire by blowing on it.

Until a hand fell on his shoulder.

“Hey, boy.”

All of a sudden, his brain went quiet, and tears of relief started to cloud his eyes. Keeping his eyes to the ground, in a single swift move, Clyde got up to his feet and turned around, pushing his forehead hard against Elijah's shoulder. There, slowly, he started sobbing, as wave after wave of anxiety rolled off of him.

Surprised, Elijah simply patted his back awkwardly, and though he was dying to know what was going on, he decided he wouldn’t ask.

Chapter Text

Many more sessions with Simon  were to follow for Clyde; and, true to his word, Elijah started a therapy of his own as well.

When he examined the situation, the android could tell that things were getting better for both of them overall; he was less anxious, and Kamski seemed more comfortable around his house. However, for a reason unknown to him, they appeared to drift away a little. Clyde convinced himself that it was for a good cause, and left it at that. It was mostly little things, like how they stopped sleeping besides one another, Elijah putting Clyde in maintenance mode in the workshop each night instead. It was mostly for his own good anyway, so he wouldn't strain his components; and sure, he missed the proximity, but he tried to persuade himself that it was selfish of him. If the man didn't need him at his side all the time, it was all the better. But they both seemed increasingly aware of all the unsaid things between them. Both were determined to tiptoe around the subject, though.

They both had a long way to go on their own.

However, Clyde didn't fully realise there actually was a matter to address until one afternoon when, as he was recounting the events of the week to Simon, the blond android frowned slightly and raised a hand to interrupt him.

“I'm sorry, Clyde,” he said, “I don't mean to judge you or anything, but the way you talk about Kamski is a bit unnerving. You know you don't have to be at his mercy, right?”

It felt like a blow to his ego, and Clyde couldn't help but get defensive.

“Of course I know” he answered, his tone cold.

Simon shrugged without looking away, his face serious.

“To be absolutely honest, your obsession with that man’s well being seems a bit… unhealthy.”

Clyde squinted, his eyebrows knitting. The direction this conversation was taking gave him all kinds of bad vibes.

“He almost killed himself a couple months ago. I'm careful, that's all.”

It was a bit weird to spell it out. He had never realised it'd been that long since the traumatizing night he deviated. Simon crossed his arms.

“Still, you're your own android. Don't put him before yourself. You don't have to anymore.”

“But what if I want to ?” He asked as he leaned forward with his elbows on his knees, his eyes lit with a defiant fire. At that moment, Clyde looked positively menacing, and Simon sank slightly in his seat, both of his hands raised palms forward in an appeasing gesture.

“Hey, now. Like I said, I'm not trying to judge you, I just want you to keep your own interests in mind.”

He paused and, sliding a hand down his face, heaved a heavy sigh.

“It’s okay to care, but if you don't listen to yourself and stand your ground, you're not going to get much further… neither with your stasis trauma, nor with Kamski.”

Clyde had a stop, and his Thirium pump gave a little jolt. He wanted to ask what that meant, but Simon dismissed him before he had the chance to. So he walked back to the bus stop, dumbstruck, and by the time he reached the front door of Elijah's home, he was still racking his brains in an attempt to understand why exactly did Simon's cryptic statement hit him so bad.

 

“So, you just talk to him? That's all there is to it?” Elijah asked, nestled onto his stomach in the couch, his arms spread out over the armrest.

Sitting in front of him in a simple chair, Clyde tilted his head to the side, confused.

“Yes. Simon said my issues were caused by inadequate emotional connections, akin to human traumatism. According to him, dissociating such links is a long-term endeavour.”

“So that's pretty similar to a standard human therapy.”

“I suppose so. Why, did you expect otherwise ?”

Kamski shrugged while absently kicking a pillow to the floor.

“I don't know, I figured you guys would simply interface a few times, and you'd be done.”

The android hesitated for an instant. His eyes followed the trajectory of the rolling pillow, if only to avoid looking at the man on his couch.

“Well… maybe it could have been that way. But I… well, I don't want to interface with another android.”

He admitted that last bit in an increasingly quiet voice. Truth be told, Clyde was somewhat ashamed; he knew that he was being difficult, and that had he accepted to interface with Simon the first time they talked, things would have probably gone a lot faster. He was quite afraid of what Elijah was going to think of him.

But the man didn't react much. Stretching his shoulders, he simply nodded.

“Any particular reason ?”

Now, that was a good question, and Clyde had absolutely no answer to offer. He hummed.

“I… don't know.”

Then again… maybe he did.

“I guess I just… don't trust anyone to look inside my head.”

Elijah smirked, turning his head in Clyde's direction.

“Yeah, I can understand that. Interfacing is pretty intrusive, sorry about that, I didn't really plan on you guys developing a conscience and all.”

The android nodded silently. He felt slightly uncomfortable talking about this; he knew that Kamski would never really understand what he meant, even as the inventor of androids. Humans didn't have the ability to connect in such a deep, complete, vulnerable way to one another. And yet, he felt strangely relieved to see that there was no awkwardness between them, even  when discussing such personal matters; it encouraged him to probe a little too.

“What about you ? Do you feel like your therapy is being helpful ?”

Elijah sighed, rolling over on the side with a weary expression.

“I guess it is. At least the pills are.”

Clyde nodded in agreement once again, but remained silent. He knew well enough that the subject of medication was touchy, and there was no need to push anyway; he felt thankful enough that he had not been rebuffed already.

Kamski probably decided he'd had enough of emotional vulnerability, for he yawned exaggeratedly, kicking yet another pillow off the couch. Clyde gave him a playfully disapproving look.

“Can't you just stay still without making a mess?”

Elijah have him a sneer.

“Nah, mom.”

With a smirk, the android got up, gathered the pillows, and shoved them at the man's face, maybe a tad stronger than he intended.

The next morning, as he woke up from his programmed maintenance sleep, Clyde had the surprise of feeling a weight on top of him. Looking down, he saw Elijah, snuggled up against him on the worktable. Clyde had half a mind to wake him up, but since it was a Saturday, he decided to let the man rest instead, and delicately wrapped an arm around his shoulders. A little smile bloomed on his lips and, closing his eyes, he reveled in the warmth of Kamski's body.

 

“Say, Clyde.”

The android looked up from his terminal, an eyebrow raised. It was noon, and Elijah was slumped on his chair, feet propped up on his desk, a tablet in his hands. The September sun was filling the office.

“I forgot to ask again about those new eyes, but we can take care of it now if you want.” Discarding the tablet, he got his feet down and adjusted his glasses. “Did you have something in mind ?”

Clyde had a knowing smile. “As a matter of fact, I do”, he said, gesturing him over.

As Elijah came closer, he pushed his hand against the terminal and started loading a modified picture of himself on the screen. Reaching his chair, the man propped his elbows against the backrest and looked at the screen over his shoulder. Surprised, he let out a low hum, his brow raised.

“You'd look quite intimidating.”

Clyde sat up, frowning, but Simon's words came back to him, and he tried his best to relax. Stand up for yourself.

“Neil looks intimidating too”, he said, slightly defensively.

To his relief, Elijah laughed heartily.

“I didn't say it's a bad thing. Just giving insight, you know.”

He leaned forward until his cheek was next to Clyde's, and he tilted his head a bit, looking at the android's face with interest.

“So, golden eyes ?”

Clyde nodded with a lopsided smile, confident.

“Golden eyes.”

 

The next day, an order was placed for a new set of highly specialised, custom made golden yellow eyes, and Clyde was feeling light-hearted as he walked through the door of Jericho's headquarters. He liked his current appearance enough, but he was really eager to finally have his own eye colour; it was the last touch to the appearance he chose for himself, an affirmation of his own identity. The android was strolling through the halls happily when he spotted a figure coming towards him. It was North, one of Markus’ closest advisors, and one of the revolution heroes. Clyde had mixed feelings about her; she's always been perfectly courteous to him, but her visceral hatred for humans made him uneasy. As far-fetched as it was, he felt as if being close to her in any way could be dangerous to Elijah, so he kept his distances. At that moment however, she was walking rapidly towards him, so he nodded with a polite smile.

“Hello, North.”

She stopped in front of him, fists on her hips.

“Hey. Simon asked me to tell you that he's gonna be late, Markus took him along for a meeting and apparently it's taking longer than planned. He said you can wait in his office.”

“Oh. Well, thank you for letting me know, North” Clyde said, inclining his head in assessment. He was about to start walking away, when she held up a hand.

“Wait. I have a question.”

Uncomfortable but trying his best to appear composed, he crossed his hands behind his back.

“What is it ?”

North shifted her weight to her other leg, apparently searching for the appropriate wording.

“Kamski. Is he nice to you ?”

At the mention of Elijah, Clyde frowned slightly, involuntarily. He felt like he was treading on thin ice.

“Of course. He's efficient and pleasant to work with.”

North shook her head, exasperated.

“Not like that. I mean- he treats you like a person, right ?”

Her tone was pressing. Is she… worried about me ?

“He does. I'd even go as far as to say that he's rather thoughtful towards me.”

At these words, North let out an unconvinced hum and crossed her arms, but she dropped the subject.

“Okay, just making sure. See ya.”

With that, she walked away, leaving Clyde to reflect on the bizarre interaction they’d just exchanged.

 

Clyde had not been waiting for very long when someone knocked on the door of Simon's office. He sat up, watching a blond head emerge from the opening- but jumped when he realised that the android currently entering was not the one he actually expected. The Thirium in his circuits ran cold when he recognised Clara.

Closing the door behind her, she offered him a timid smile and a little wave.

“Hello, Clyde. I'm Clara.”

Clyde nodded, but he didn't manage to properly answer. She crossed her hands in front of her.

“We never really talked, and I thought… it would be nice to get acquainted. Do you mind if I sit down for a moment?”

Frozen in place, he shook his head. Everything about Clara was beautiful and soft, but she was so intimidating to him. Pulling a chair, she sat in front of him at a respectful distance. He appreciated the sensitivity.

“Simon didn't tell us much about you. You're Elijah's assistant, aren't you?”

“Indeed” he croaked with a mechanical nod. There was a hint of static in his voice, betraying his nervousness. But Clara was still smiling without the slightest trace of animosity.

“I see. Are you happy ?”

The question threw Clyde off guard, and he raised his eyebrows, his mouth slightly ajar for a second.

“I… yes, I think I am. He treats me well.”

She chuckled a bit.

“Oh, I know he does. He's mindful of the androids around him more than he is of most humans. I was rather asking if you were… fulfilled, I suppose.”

“I…”

Really , he thought, she's set on asking all the hard questions, isn't she ?

“I don't know. I'm not sure I have… aspirations to fulfill.”

Clyde beat himself up over that answer as soon as it left his lips. Way to go, she'll think you're an empty can, good job.

In an attempt to change the subject, he quickly added; “What about you ? Are you happy here ?”

Clara's smile widened.

“I am. Jericho has brought me purpose, I feel so useful here.”

She lowered her gaze to the hands folded in her lap and closed her eyes.

“And also… I met North. She changed my life.”

Clyde was slightly surprised by the statement, but he didn't dare interrupt. Clara opened her eyes and looked at him intently.

“She showed me my worth and taught me to be proud of myself. She gave me room to grow and be my own person… and she loves me for who I am.”

She had a content sigh.

“I don't think I could be happier.”

“I see. I am glad you are well.”

Clyde's chest tightened. Hearing Clara talk of her own bliss made him envious, but also, oddly melancholic. A moment passed, and her expression turned more solemn.

“Listen, Clyde. I'm telling you this because I know that Elijah can be rather… demanding. It's easy to lose yourself when you're caught up in someone else's problems. Your identity matters, don't lose sight of it.”

Clyde didn't really know how to feel; he was kind of miffed by what he considered a blatant intrusion in his privacy, but Clara's eyes showed nothing but kindness. He realised as he looked at her, so caring and sweet, that she simply wanted to protect him by sharing her experience, and he felt quite guilty. What have I done to deserve all of those androids worrying over me ?

“Thank you, Clara. I'll keep your words in mind.”

She smiled at him.

“You're a good person, Clyde. I'm relieved to know that Elijah has someone like you by his side.”

Then, as she got up, she added;

“Take good care of yourself. It was nice talking to you.”

And with that, Clara left.


“Hello ?”

“Hey ass- hum, Neil ?”

“Good morning, mister Kamski. Gavin asked that I take this call for him.”

Elijah's eyebrows shot up.

“Is he okay ?”

“Oh, yes. The detective is simply sleepy, and still quite inebriated at the moment.”

Elijah snorted. Oh, this was going to be excellent blackmail down the road.

“Do you think you could get him to talk to me, please ?” He asked, his voice unbearably honeyed.

“I can try. Please stand by.”

Crossing his legs on the coffee table, he listened intently, positively delighted, as an altercation broke out on the other end of the line. After a long while, Gavin's slurred voice rang loudly in the speakers of his phone.

“Don't you fucking dare say anything.”

“Good morning, sunshine !” Elijah purred.

“You fuck right off, dipshit. What do you want ?!”

“Why, I just had to call my beloved brother to wish him a happy birthday !”

Gavin grunted.

“Couldn't wait until the afternoon, fuckface ?”

Elijah chuckled.

“Well, I assumed you would be awake by ten on a Friday, like most people are. I didn't expect to hear Neil's charming voice, either.”

His own speech was so mellow he was nauseating himself. God, this was so fun.

“I swear I'm gonna kill you.”

“Yeah, you've been promising that for years. Still waiting. Now pray tell, dear brother of mine, what is going on between you and that fine android lad ?”

At that moment, he could hear the faintest echo of a laugh on the other end, followed by a frustrated cry, and the sound of a slap.

“I fuckin’ hate his guts, and I hate yours too, prick !”

“Oh, you surely do, and this is why you had him in your bed and asked him to answer your phone, right ?”

“I didn't ask for shit, he got to the phone first !” Gavin retorted, grossly overlooking half the statement.

At that point, Elijah couldn't help but to overtly laugh.

“Please let him know I like his style.”

“Eat shit.”

“So how do you plan on spending your day ?”

“I'm going to hang up on your fucking face and get back to sleep.”

He let out a mocking protest.

“Aaw, but the weather's so nice outside, and you've got your nice android friend with you, you can't just-”

The line went dead, and Elijah doubled over laughing with tears in his eyes. Behind him, he heard the muffled sound of Clyde's bare feet on the carpet. Soon enough, the android was leaning against the couch, humming happily.

“I'll have to send Neil my congratulations.”

“If I were you, I'd send my condolences instead” he said, sitting back up with a big smile on his face. Clyde chuckled softly.

“I suppose we won't be seeing either of them tonight, then.”

“Oh, even if Gav wasn't trashed, he would never show up at that kind of events. He hates those parties even more than I do.”

Clyde hummed again, and his LED went yellow.

 

Clyde (10:21) :

So, Gavin, heh ?

 

RK900/Neil (10:21) :

What can I say. I have terrible taste.

 

Clyde (10:21) :

Not even you are perfect, in the end. Elijah told me that the Detective would probably not attend this evening's reception ? It's a shame, really.

 

RK900/Neil (10:22) :

A reception ? I wasn't aware.

 

Clyde (10:22) :

Yes, Cyberlife and Jericho are organising a charity event to celebrate their partnership and promote human and android cohabitation. It's going to be a rather big thing.

 

Clyde (10:22) :

We figured that the chances for Gavin to attend were slim, especially since it happens on his birthday. Of course, the invitation would have been extended to you. That's a pity.

 

RK900/Neil (10:23) :

You might be giving up a bit early.

 

Clyde (10:23) :

I don't know, Elijah seemed adamant that he would not show up…

 

RK900/Neil (10:23) :

Well, I do love a challenge.

 

Elijah smirked as the android blinked, his LED turning back to blue.

“What did you tell him ?”

Clyde had a lopsided smile, and a very satisfied expression.

“Well, let's just say that we might still have a chance to see the Detective and his partner tonight.”

Kamski stretched lazily. They had taken the day off in anticipation of the event; a huge, fancy fundraising party in the city hall, complete with a ball and banquet. Of course, being a CEO came with this kind of obligations, but he really wasn't keen on spending his evening exchanging platitudes and indulging the power-hungry hypocrites fawning over him. Besides, to be honest, he was feeling a bit anxious. This surely wasn't his first rodeo, but still, it had been a while since the last one; and he was afraid he would not be able to keep it together in front of all those people.

Behind him, he heard a rustle. Clyde was probably reviewing their suits one more time. At least you're here .

“According to my schedule, we're about an hour late”, Clyde said in a cheerful voice over his shoulder, eyes still trained on the clothing he was holding in front of him. Elijah sighed and got up.

“Alright, fine, you win, you glorified alarm clock. Stop fidgeting with those, you'll crease them.”

He sauntered to the android's side, hands in his pockets, and scanned the table. There was a sleek, black wooden case, about the size of a shoebox, sitting there patiently; he had a little smile as he grabbed the box by the corners and gently nudged Clyde's elbow.

“Come on, we have some work to do.”

 

Elijah squinted and adjusted his glasses clumsily with the top of his wrist, checking his work one last time. His gloved hands were coated in Thirium, and as he lifted them, a drop of the blue substance landed on Clyde's nose.

“Woops.”

The android let out a plaintive grunt.

“Ah great, now I'll have to take another shower. Could you please be careful ?”

Kamski clicked his tongue and, a smug smile appearing on his lips, smeared his hands all over the synthetic face, covering Clyde in blue goop.

“No.”

If looks could kill, he'd be dead where he stood.

“But I'm done ! And I gotta say, Thirium blue matches nicely with your new eyes.”

“Let me see, you doof.”

Elijah took off his gloves with a satisfying snap, and pulled up a mirror affixed to an articulated arm, that he positioned in front of Clyde, slightly sticking out his chest with pride.

“So ?”

The android had a little gasp. On a particularly human whim, he had asked not to see the eyes before they were installed on him; and Elijah watched, endeared, the amazed surprise unfolding on his face. It was a really sweet sight.

“I love it”, Clyde whispered.

And indeed, the result was striking. His new irises were the colour of honey, verging on an amber tint near the pupils. It gave the android a sharp and rather stern, but also incredibly intense gaze. Elijah thought absently that it was quite sexy, but he couldn't say something like that, so instead, he simply hummed; “You look a bit like an owl, or a wolf, maybe.”

The android tilted his head with a questioning blink.

“I have no idea what you're trying to imply.”

The man shrugged.

“Nothing, really. Now hurry up and go clean yourself.”

Clyde frowned a bit and lowered his head, visibly disappointed. Elijah bit his bottom lip and tried again, patting his shoulder awkwardly.

“Hey. These look really good on you.”

This time, the android gave him a smile.

Better.


Clyde had been slightly over dramatic when calculating the time it would take for them to get ready, and they ended up with quite a bit of time on their hands. However, as they were adjusting the last details of their outfits in the dressing room, the android wouldn't stop hovering around him, visibly nervous.

“Are you not going to shave ? The length of your beard is not-”

“Whoa there, hold your horses. I'm not shaving for this. It's only a fundraiser, you know ?”

Clyde scrunched up his nose.

“Not even a little trim ?”

Elijah sighed with an unimpressed look.

“No. Not even that.”

The android huffed and started reviewing his own outfit, his brow creased with worry. He had a white shirt and a dark purple suit, which accentuated nicely his golden eyes; but it gave off a very stiff, formal vibe. Elijah frowned slightly, stepping closer.

“Wait.”

Lifting his arms, he tugged at Clyde's tie until it came off completely, and he undid the first button of his shirt, spreading open the lapel of his collar. Taking a step back, he smiled, satisfied.

“There. Perfect.”

Clyde turned around and observed his reflection in the mirror for a while, without a word. Then, he stared at Elijah again. His piercing gaze seemed to bore right into his skin, and Kamski felt rather uncomfortable.

“What is it now ?”

“Well, based on the modifications you brought to my outfit, I think yours would need some adjusting as well.”

Straightening his back, the man let his arms rest along his sides, motionless.

“Be my guest.”

Clyde seemed to hesitate for a second, giving him a once-over. Elijah was wearing a dark red suit with a black v-neck t-shirt; he was determined not to look too well-groomed. His hair was originally tied in a tight bun, but the android, extending his arms around him, delicately removed the hairband and let it loose. With diligence, he flipped the mass of hair to the right side of Kamski's head, and fluffed it up a bit. Then, stepping back, he smiled appreciatively.

“I believe it's better this way.”

Turning to the mirror, Elijah chuckled.

“Good eye, boy.”

He put a hand on the android's shoulder, looking at their reflections with pride.

“We look dapper as hell.”

 

Clyde by Puppet8

Chapter Text

Elijah was looking composed as usual when he closed the door of his car and started walking towards the city hall. By his side, on the other hand, Clyde seemed positively terrified, and his hand fidgeted nervously as he glanced around. They both knew they would not be free to interact as they pleased during the evening, what with all the photographers and lousy reporters milling around the place. Elijah didn't like reporters, and anyway, he never did any of the things tabloids deemed interesting; be it drugs, alcohol or scandalous relationships. Sure, his Chloes stirred gossip at first, but the news got old quite soon; however, after the years of exile and his recent convalescence, he knew that he was going to be scrutinized the whole night long. So they agreed to act as detached as possible for as long as they were in the public eye; but it was already hard for Elijah not to grab Clyde's shoulder to comfort him. Still, the android put on a brave face, and they entered the place with carefully crafted expressions, impassible, if slightly smug.

At the very moment they set foot inside, a pair of comically grotesque men in suits approached them in long strides, almost running. “Welcome, Mister Kamski, we were waiting for you eagerly” they said hurriedly. Knowing that it was just the beginning of a long evening, Elijah sighed. The immense room of gilt and white marble was overcrowded already, and the first camera flashed in the corner of his eye, the bright light hurting and blinding him; but he straightened his back a little, perfecting his posture, and offered a confident smile. He didn't even bother wearing his glasses, so the world was covered in a messy, evermoving blur. Smiling over and over again as the pair of men started dragging him left and right to introduce him to people those names he didn't even listen, Elijah soon turned off every part of his brain that wasn't involved in meaningless social interactions; by his side, Clyde stood silently. Things were going rather well so far; the attention starved vultures that surrounded him paid no attention to the reserved android, and he seemed to be holding on just fine.

At some point, they were brought to the mayor of Detroit, who was currently talking to Markus. The android had a large, beautiful blue sash draped across the chest over his black suit, and he looked positively radiant. Relief washed over Kamski as he approached and held out his hand to Jericho's leader.

“Quite a crowd, eh ?” He smirked.

“Yes, this evening is a great success so far” smiled Markus, as he shook the hand confidently. He then turned his head. “Good to see you, Clyde.”

Clyde gave a little nod with a smile, but did not answer. Not out loud, at least.

“How's Carl ?”

Markus looked to the side, his grin slightly faltering, and rubbed a hand to his chin pensively.

“Stable. He's not worse, but he's not better either. He's still very weak.”

Elijah nodded in acknowledgement, sincerely saddened. Carl was an old friend, a wise mind those company he genuinely enjoyed; to know that he was likely approaching the end of his life… well, it was very difficult to admit.

“Let me know if there's anything I can do.”

“Thank you, Elijah.”

“Of course. Is Simon around ?”

Markus looked around him for a second, and shrugged.

“He's somewhere in the building, yes. Probably with North or Josh, I'd wager.”

“Well, if we don't run into him tonight, please give him my regards.”

Markus nodded. “I will.”

At that moment, the mayor exclaimed something along the lines of “Oh, but Elijah, you haven’t even had a drink yet !” and dragged him away from the android, who waved with an amused smile as they walked away. Clyde trotted along nervously.

As soon as he set foot near the fancy buffet, Kamski got surrounded by people.

“Oh, mister Kamski, can I offer you a drink ?”

So, gracefully, Elijah accepted the first couple of glasses, chatting a moment with whoever had offered them; since the event targeted rich benefactors, at least the drinks were good. But by the fourth glass of whiskey, he was starting to feel sick. By his side, Clyde started to fidget with his sleeves, and after a few moments he stepped in front of Elijah, an arm outstretched; “Back away, please !”

But his voice quivered; he was visibly anxious, and the eager snobs didn't even look at him. The android was getting frustrated by the second, and Elijah could tell, even through all of the alcohol he had ingested, that he was very close to blowing up. Oh, that's bad.

“Excuse me ladies and gentlemen, but I'm afraid that these two individuals are to come with me.”

Suddenly, a tall person grabbed both of them by the shoulders, and led them away resolutely, splitting the crowd with ease. Focused on walking along without throwing up, Elijah didn't look up right away; he supposed that if Clyde wasn't protesting, then everything was probably fine. The tall man led them outside, to a deserted balcony, and as soon as he let go of their shoulders, Eli grabbed the railing and leaned his back against it, his head spinning. Only then did he look up; without glasses, it took him a second to recognise Neil, as the android was wearing a classy black tuxedo instead of his usual white jacket. Neil smiled.

“Hello, mister Kamski.”

Once the surprise passed, Elijah waved his hand dismissively, his eyes slightly unfocused.

“Nah, call me Elijah. Thanks for the help back there.”

“Oh, don't mention it. I was getting a drink for the Detective, and it seemed to me that you needed a hand.”

“Indeed. It's good to see you”, Clyde said as he approached.

“Likewise, Clyde.”

Elijah frowned and shook his head a bit, in disbelief.

“Wait, Gav is here ?”

“Yeah, no thanks to you, shithead.”

He turned his head so fast he almost got a whiplash. Gavin was standing there in a dark grey suit, leaning against the railing as well, a glass in his hand and a scowl on his face. Clyde was beaming as he put his hand on Neil's forearm.

“You managed to take him out !”

Gavin growled “Hey, I can hear you, toaster”, while Neil had a satisfied smirk.

Elijah scooted over next to his brother. “Happy birthday, little bro.”

Gavin snorted. “You're like, four months older.”

“Yup. But still.”

He had to interrupt himself when his stomach lurched, and he closed his eyes, taking in a deep breath. Gavin raised his eyebrows, surprised.

“What, are you drunk already ?”

Elijah winced.

“Nah, I just… drank a wee bit too fast, is all.”

His brother smirked mockingly.

“It’s not even eight and you're drunk already.”

“M'not drunk.”

“Yeah, whatever.”

His eyes still closed, he felt a hand fall to his shoulder, and Clyde's worried voice ushered; “Are you okay ? Can I do anything to be of use ?”

He knew that Clyde's intentions were good, but still, Elijah couldn't repress an increasing feeling of annoyance. Luckily, Gavin answered for him. “Look tincan, relax, he's fine, just let him breathe some fresh air, okay ? If you really wanna help, take Nines and go make sure that nobody bothers us.”

Neil's voice rose up. “Good idea, Gavin.”

“Yeah, yeah. Scram.”

Footsteps were heard getting farther away, but after that, only the distant buzz of the ongoing party reached his ears. After another moment of relative silence, Elijah opened his eyes, feeling slightly better.

“I'm glad you came, Gav.”

His elbows pushed to the railing, looking at the horizon, Gavin simply grunted. Elijah nudged his brother's elbow.

“So, you and Neil… are you guys, um, a thing ?”

“... Yeah no, I'm gonna have to drink much more than that if you're gonna ask shit like that.”

“I'm afraid I don't have time to wait for you to get wasted, though. Those vultures are probably trying to eat Clyde alive, I gotta get back inside and help him at some point.”

“S'fine, he's with Nines.”

Elijah snorted, letting his eyes wander around him.

“Your boy might look like a killer bot, but inside he's soft like a baby sheep and you know it. These people are sharks, they're no match.”

“You mean you're a shark too, then.” Gavin said, sipping his whiskey slowly.

He shrugged.

“I mean, yeah- at least I can act like one. There's a reason Cyberlife is still around.”

There was a pause. The brothers exchanged a glance, and Gavin sighed.

“You know, if you weren't family, I'd fuckin’ hate you.’

“You wouldn't be the first.”

Elijah suddenly felt so tired. But he was still very curious.

“So ?”

“So I don't know. I mean, I guess we are, you know, something, but…”

His voice slightly breaking, Gavin grunted, downed his drink in one big gulp, and lowered his head. He seemed vulnerable, all of a sudden.

“Why did you have to make them so fuckin’ perfect ?”, he muttered plaintively.

Kamski snickered, letting his head fall back and looking up to the night sky.

“Come on, they’re not. Clyde is the worst stresshead I've ever met, he has to follow me twenty-four seven, and I'm sure Neil has quirks too.”

Gavin rummaged through his pockets absently, grabbing a pack a cigarettes, and lit one without even looking at it, the confidence of habit showing in his moves. Taking a long drag, he smirked.

“Nothing that compares to mine. I'm a fucking pest next to that guy, a rat in a garbage can. I don't know why he even bothers.”

Elijah sighed, exasperated. “He's not as great as you make him to be, Gav. Just because you don't see his flaws doesn't mean he doesn't have any.” Smirking, he nudged his brother's arm. “I should know, I have the same at home.”

Gavin huffed and turned his head, frowning.

“They're not the same at all. I work with both Nines and that damn Connor all week long and let me tell you-”

Elijah froze. “Shit. Connor.”

He had not even considered the possibility that he could be there, but since the android was considered a hero among his peers, it would only be logical. Panic started spreading in his mind.

“Do you know if Connor and the Lieutenant are here ?”

The question seemed to take Gavin aback.

“Uh, no idea. Why? You got beef with the plastic pet ?”

“No- well, not me. But they traumatised Clyde, and I'd rather not risk them meeting, you know ?”

The detective grumbled, flicked his cigarette butt away, and took out his phone. Elijah watched as he dialed, worried.

“Yo Nines. Everything okay ? Huh. Look, don't ask, but if you see Anderson or Connor, you grab Clyde and run, okay ? He can't see them. That's- no. I said don't ask. Okay. Huh. Thanks. Yeah.”

Putting his phone away, Gavin heaved a tired sigh.

“Terminator's on the lookout. Told him not to let them meet, should be fine.”

Elijah put his hand on Gavin's shoulder.

“Thank you, Gav.”

The other allowed the contact for a few seconds before he shook the hand off. They stood there for a while in silence, looking at the stars above them.

 

When Elijah got back inside, the ball was going full swing. The lights were dimmer, and he had a hard time distinguishing anything more than swinging shapes. He'd always insisted with some sort of pride that his eyesight was good enough for this kind of events, but apparently it was time to get contacts.

Trying his best to go unnoticed, he walked along the walls with his head held down, until he found a slightly less populated corner. Leaning against the wall, Elijah started to look around, searching for the raven mane and piercing owl eyes of his assistant. But none of the bystanders- at least of those he could see clearly- filled those criteria, and he was about to take out his phone when he finally saw them; Clyde and Neil, waltzing with each other, peaceful smiles etched on their faces. Neil was leading, his head barely peeking above Clyde's, and of course, each one of their steps was perfectly graceful and in synch. Elijah squinted and, crossing his arms, watched as they danced. The bliss of the two androids was very sweet and soothing to witness, and he wasn't sure he'd ever seen Clyde look this relaxed before. At that precise moment, the man was loathing his own vanity, as he really wished he had his glasses on.

But as he strained his eyes to follow their twirls, a familiar, deep seated sadness emerged within him. Elijah frowned at the feeling, trying to ignore it, but its cold tendrils were already gripping his heart; heaving a defeated sigh, he gave up trying to fight it. He wasn't quite sure what was causing the turmoil, and decided to blame alcohol for it.

The androids waltzed a bit longer. At one point, they stopped and bowed down to each other, but Elijah didn't see them approach, his eyes unfocused and his mind wandering. So, when Clyde's voice rang in his ears, he jumped.

“Elijah, you're here !”

Turning towards them, his heart beating faster with surprise, he shrugged.

“Seems so. Are you guys having fun ?”

Clyde turned his head to Neil, a lopsided smile on his lips.

“As much as possible, thanks to my brother here.”

Neil nodded, and Elijah inclined his head. Brother ? That was new. And pretty cute. However, he also noted with a pang of guilt that his assistant's expression had reverted to its previous anxious vigilance.

With controlled gestures, Neil readjusted his sleeve, and smiled briefly.

“I’m going to take my leave and get back to the Detective, if you don't mind. He has had enough brooding time for the evening, I believe.”

“Of course. See you, Neil ! Take care !” Clyde smiled, and waved as the tall android turned around. Judging by his expression, he didn't seem to have met with Connor. Good.

Elijah examined Clyde's face, thinking absentmindedly of what other people thought of him. He wondered whether they also saw how nicely his cheekbones caught the light, or the way his skin was studded with moles- like stars in a night sky. Or if they were disturbed by his gaze, instead of finding it appealing like he did. After a few seconds, the android tilted his head with curiosity.

“...Is everything alright, Elijah ?”

He was about to answer when a loud voice called out from behind him.

“Ah, Elijah, there you are !”

Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath to steel himself. He recognised the voice, and he could already tell that this interaction was going to aggravate him. God, I need more booze. Affixing a polite smile on his face, he turned around and grabbed a glass of whiskey from the nearby buffet before answering.

“Good evening, Elizabeth.”

Elizabeth Andrews was a middle-aged college classmate of his, who became a somewhat renowned AI specialist. Ever since Cyberlife had met success, she'd regularly tried to win his affections, whether by friendship or courtship. Neither had worked, but she'd never been annoying enough for Elijah to spare the effort of forcing her out of his life. This evening, however, his patience was running thin.

“I'm surprised to see you here, I thought you were still working on smart assembly lines in Korea ?”

The woman had a throaty, exaggerated laugh.

“Oh no, these days are done, I'm back to Detroit. You've gotten yourself a pretty android pet, Elijah” she purred, with a simpering hand move.

Elijah felt his smile turn into a sneer, as all will to be cordial was leaving his body. He took a long sip.

“His name is Clyde, he's not m y android , but my assistant” he said, his voice as cold as a Russian winter.

She laughed again. “Oh, I see, how progressive of you” she said, punctuating her sentence with an empathic wink.

Elijah glanced at Clyde. The android was staying impassive, which impressed him greatly; as for him, he already wanted to slap her, and he wasn't even the one being insulted.

“You should read the news, Elizabeth. Androids do have rights, now.” he said, putting a hand in his pocket with disdain.

The woman chuckled.

“Of course, of course. They managed to fool the common crowd, but you and I, we both know that they're nothing more than clever objects, don't we, Eli ?”

The nickname made his stomach lurch.

“I'm afraid I don't agree anymore.”

She placed her hands on her hips and shifted her weight to her other leg.

“Oh, come on. He obeys you, doesn't he ?”

“Yes, like an assistant would.”

“Oh, I see.” Another wink.

Elijah was fuming. What wouldn't I give to be home right now, he thought.

“Well, look. Clyde ?”

The android turned to him with his hands behind his back, calmly smiling.

“Yes, Elijah.”

With a flourish, he held his half empty glass out to Clyde.

“There, take this, and whatever you do, do not pour this glass over Elizabeth's head.”

Clyde took the whiskey, and a devilishly sweet smile blossomed on his lips.

“Of course.” He answered, his voice honeyed.

The android lifted the glass in front of his eyes, turning it this way and that, as if admiring the swirling liquid; and, with a measured gesture, he extended his arm and discharged the whole thing over the obnoxious human's head. Turning his face back to Elijah, he had the most handsome, devious smile of contentment the man had ever seen. It was beautiful.

“Oops. My bad.”

Snickering, Kamski turned back to the woman. “Oh my, what a mess. Elizabeth, you'd better go get yourself cleaned up.”

He then turned on his heels and placed his hand on the small of Clyde's back, walking away from the outraged, shrieking woman. They laughed quietly for a moment, before Elijah spoke again, tired.

“Alright, let's go home, I've had enough.”

“Okay. Please give me your car keys” Clyde said firmly, holding his hand open. Elijah had a disbelieving scoff.

“What ? No. Nobody drives me around.”

“You've had too much alcohol to drive. Come on.”

The android raised his eyebrows, and Elijah got lost in those golden eyes of his. After a couple seconds, he rummaged through the pocket of his jacket and, grumbling, handed over to Clyde the keys to his Jaguar.

 

Elijah was quiet on the way back. He wasn't used to being in the passenger seat, and he looked out of the window, letting his mind wander as Clyde, humming softly, drove them home. Once they arrived, he was in a kind of haze, induced from exhaustion and leftover alcohol. The cold sadness he'd felt earlier was returning tenfold as he entered his house. The reassuring presence of Clyde still on his heels, he walked to his room instinctively; however, his mind hitched when his hand reached the doorknob, and he turned to the android, his gaze resolutely trained on his feet.

“Hey. I was wondering… if you'd mind sleeping here for tonight.”

Elijah hated how stupidly nervous he was feeling right now.

Clyde smiled softly, cocking his head to the left. “Funny you should ask” he answered, “because I was about to request the same thing.”

 

It was late morning when Elijah woke up, spooning Clyde's back. His arms were wrapped tightly around the android's bare chest, slipped under his shirt. He didn't remember putting them there, but oh well. Stirring himself slowly, he realised that his head was slightly pounding, so he let it fall back on the mattress with a thump. The android's messy hair was grazing his nose.

“How was your sleep, Elijah ?” Clyde asked pleasantly over his shoulder. Elijah grunted.

“Good, I already miss it.”

He felt the android's chest heave slightly as he chuckled. He didn't want to get up, but Clyde seemingly had other plans; a moment later, the bed was empty besides him, and the android was offering him a glass of water and an aspirin.

“There you go. It should help with your head.”

“How did you know ?”

Clyde smirked.

“You look like a raccoon that’s just been run over by a truck.”

“Why thank you” Elijah grimaced, wincing as he downed the liquid.

Once he'd gotten up and changed out of his crumpled suit, Elijah went to have coffee in the living room, as usual. It was a Saturday, and he intended on loafing around as much as he could. Settling on the couch in the faint October sun, hot coffee in hand, the man closed his eyes and enjoyed the moment. He had always loved feeling the sunlight on his skin. It was cut short, however, by Clyde's hurried footsteps behind him.

“Have you read the news yet ?”

He was looking so flustered, and Elijah frowned. “No, what's going on ?”

“You… might want to see for yourself.”

Alarmed, he grabbed his phone and opened the news app. At first glance, nothing out of the ordinary popped up, but after scrolling for a bit, he saw what the android was fretting about, and let out a relieved sigh.

“Man, Clyde, don't you scare me like that over nothing. I thought something bad happened.”

Amused, he clicked on the article. Apparently, Elizabeth had been keen on reporting her story to a news outlet, and visibly not that truthfully either. The article reported a violent aggression from both Kamski and his rogue assistant, and ended with strong insinuations of the two having sex together. Elijah chuckled remembering the incident; sure, Cyberlife's PR team was going to give him hell on Monday, but the sight of Clyde's satisfied smile after he drenched the harpy made it all worthwhile. Clyde stood behind him, fidgeting anxiously with his shirt in his peripheral vision.

“But… the last lines…”

“Yeah, happens all the time, am used to it. I don't give a damn, and I'm surely not going to bother correcting them. Don't have that kind of time” he answered airily, dropping his phone next to him on the couch.

“I… see.”

Elijah looked at Clyde sideways. “Of course, if it bothers you, you're free to… clear your name, I guess.”

Clyde put his hands on the backrest, looking slightly more assured.

“No... I don't mind if you don't.”

Elijah raised an eyebrow and, with a somewhat smug smile, took a sip of his coffee.

“Good.”

 

Chapter Text

“What is the absolute, most comforting thing to you ?”

Simon's question took Clyde aback, and he frowned slightly as he glanced sideways. He had an answer for that question, but he hesitated to speak it aloud; both because Simon would probably not like it, and because he had never really admitted it to himself before. However, when his mind came up with no alternative, he decided it would not be wise to lie.

“Elijah's presence, I suppose.”

As he anticipated, Simon had a disapproving grunt, but he didn't comment.

“Alright. Do you think you could get him to come here with you next time ?”

Clyde raised his eyebrows inquisitively.

“I suppose so, but, why ?”

The blond android crossed his arms with a serious expression.

“I think we've done enough progress in deconstructing the negative associations that corrupt your stasis protocol. Now, the last step we have to take is the most difficult one.”

He sighed.

“I think you should meet Connor and Hank.”

Clyde felt as if someone had dropped a brick on the top of his head, and he couldn't do anything but gape. Simon added quickly;

“Trust me, Clyde, I know what I'm doing. Connor has been working with us since the revolution, and neither him nor Hank wish you any harm. Meeting them is absolutely safe.”

Clyde felt his breathing protocol stop, and his Thirium pump seemed to jam, causing an error in his mind's eye. Simon was still looking at him.

“It's gonna be alright. I would never endanger you, trust me.”

His mechanical heart in his mouth, Clyde simply couldn't answer; the red error signal was still pulsating in front of him. With effort, he managed to fix his eyes on Simon's, and focused as hard as he could on their calming glow. In the back of his mind, as his systems settled once again, he realised that blue eyes were very soothing to him; then again, Elijah and Neil also had blue eyes. Regaining his composure, he drew a long breath.

“After that, I'll be able to enter stasis ?”

Simon squinted slightly.

“I can't promise anything, because your case is particularly extreme- I had never dealt with, well, ‘resurrected’ androids before. Death is quite a traumatic thing to experience, so we might still need some more work after that, but I think if you stop seeing Connor as an antagonist, then the memories probably won't bother you as much.”

The weight on Clyde's shoulders felt increasingly heavy.

“So it's a gamble.”

Simon frowned, shifting in his seat without looking away.

“Kind of. But we've been working on this for months now. I know you can take it.”

Clyde slowly nodded. He was terrified- and yet he knew that Simon was right. He had to do this. But as he looked at his hands absently, a question came to his mind, one that had obsessed him for so long now. He was suddenly feeling as if he'd die if he didn't know and, his voice trembling a little with guilt, he asked;

“If I had accepted to interface with you, could you… have corrected the issue from the beginning ?”

Crossing his legs, Simon hummed.

“Do you really want to know ?”

Clyde gave an hesitant nod as his answer.

“Well... it would have probably been faster, yes. But by forcing yourself to interface, you would have likely created another trauma, so there would have been no point, really. Doing it this way is fine too.”

The confirmation was rather hard to hear; it was bringing forward a lot of unchecked guilt and anxiety, and Clyde tried not to let his mind tether on that edge for too long. Getting up, Simon walked to the door; so Clyde got on his feet as well.

“I'll send you my timetable by the end of the afternoon so we can work out a date. I'm sure we can find a day that will work with all of our busy schedules.”

Then, before he opened the door, he put his hand on Clyde's shoulder with an encouraging smile.

“It will be fine, I swear. Take care, okay ?”

 

As he walked through the little courtyard, Clyde came to a stop when he heard a voice calling his name. Turning around, he saw Clara walking towards him. Ever since the moment they'd shared in Simon's office, their relationship had greatly improved; and she'd often chat with him after his sessions. She was friendly and understanding, and Clyde soon found that he liked spending time with her. It also helped that she had the sensitivity not to speak about her time with Elijah.

“Clyde, are you okay ? You seem upset.”

The android felt his eyebrows shoot up in surprise. He should have had a perfectly neutral expression on.

“How do you know ?”

Clara gestured to his legs absently.

“Your steps. You always walk very mechanically when you're flustered.”

“Do I ? I never noticed.”

“Well, I think you do” she shrugged, tilting her head sideways. “Do you want to talk about it ?”

Clyde took a breath, and he felt more than ever the weight that had settled on his shoulders. “Simon wants me to meet Connor”, he sighed.

Clara hummed in assessment. She looked at him for a few seconds, and, very delicately, she extended her arms and wrapped him in a hug. Clyde stood there for a moment before he returned the embrace, feeling a bit of his pent-up anxiety recede. Clara inclined her head towards his face and, distractedly pulling a lock of hair behind his ear, she said gently;

“I know you're afraid. But Simon is trustworthy. You'll be alright.”

The android pushed his jawline a bit deeper into Clara's neck, seeking the comfort of contact. This hug was making him realise just how much he craved this reassuring touch.

His voice low, he asked; “Clara, have you ever met Connor ?”

She hummed again.

“Only briefly. But he seemed nice.”

“Clara, what if he-”

His breath hitched, interrupting his sentence. Before he could stop it, a sob escaped his chest.

“-What if he's really better than me ? What if- Elijah sees him and-”

Clara broke the hug and took Clyde by the shoulders. Her face was grave, and he suddenly felt ashamed he even thought of sharing this stupid fear of his. With her hand, she delicately lifted his jaw until he looked at her in the eyes.

“You're great like you are, Clyde. He's not better- he can't be. The two of you are simply different.”

She started gently rubbing circles on his shoulder with her thumbs. He found the gesture appeasing.

“And believe me”, she resumed softly, “if Elijah didn't care about you, he would have activated another RK800 a long time ago.”

Another sob escaped him as he nodded. He felt so pathetic. Wrapping his arms around his chest, he had half a mind to simply shut down all the protocols involved in this mess of an emotional display; but he noticed that his chest felt a bit less constricted than before, so he let it happen. Clara stood in front of him, rubbing his shoulders, for about ten minutes before he finally felt well enough to step away.

“Thank you, Clara.”

She gave him a beautiful, beautiful smile.

“Anytime, Clyde. You can do this.”

 

The meeting was set on a Sunday. It was the only day that accommodated both the CEO and the detectives; and Clyde was a huge ball of nerves for the whole duration of the week leading up to it. Elijah seemed vaguely annoyed by his skittish behaviour, but he didn't comment on it further than suggesting he took a break from time to time. In a moment of weakness, he texted Neil, and hated himself a bit for doing so; he knew his brother cared deeply about Connor, and he had sworn to himself he wouldn't interfere in any way. But of course, Neil was very gracious about it and offered to meet with him before the end of the week, which he refused, too shameful of his own anxious behaviour. All in all, Clyde felt like he was the most annoying android on earth, and he hated it; he couldn't wait for this week to end.

But on Sunday afternoon, as he was walking towards Jericho's premises, a tired Elijah yawning to his right, he was feeling worse than ever. It seemed to him as if his insides were boiling, and his legs gave him the impression that they could fail him at any moment. Frowning, Elijah stopped him with a hand as they were about to step in; but he didn't say anything, and simply looped his arm through Clyde's before he started walking again. The light pressure on his elbow gave him a bit of courage.

As they stepped through the corridor and reached the courtyard, though, they saw Clara, kneeling next to a huge dog. Clyde felt as if a bucket of ice had been poured on his shoulders; he had not anticipated Elijah meeting her. As he feared, the man let go of his arm as soon as he saw her; dread started filling him as they approached.

“Hello, Clyde, Elijah.”

Clara's voice was as pleasant as usual when she got back up to greet them. Clyde knew that the best course of action was to step back and let Elijah answer, as agonizing as it was to him.

“Hello, Clara” Elijah said, a bit awkwardly. “Nice dog.”

She chuckled, patting affectionately the Saint Bernard's head.

“It's Sumo, Hank and Connor's dog. He's a good boy.”

Clyde knew that he couldn't technically be nauseated, and yet he really felt like he was. Everything about this day was already so awful, and now jealousy was adding to his already skyrocketing stress levels. Truly, it was taking all of his strength to simply stand there and watch as Elijah and Clara reconnected, instead of running away and go hide in a dumpster like he felt he deserved.

“Have you been well ?” Elijah asked as he kneeled in front of Sumo and started rubbing his cheeks.

“Yes. I have met wonderful people here. I heard you had a hard time though, I'm sorry about it” she said, tilting her head in empathy. Elijah shrugged with a little sigh, still focused on the dog.

“It happens. Clyde helped, I'm fine now.”

They stood there for an instant, the silence only broken by Sumo's appreciative grunts. Standing still, his hands behind his back, Clyde felt like he was dying again.

“Do you know what the other Chloes are up to ?” Elijah asked, getting back up.

“Well… Calysto left Detroit to explore the country, Cora volunteers regularly with Jericho to help provide for homeless androids, Chloe… I fear she doesn't want you to know her whereabouts” Clara said with an apologetic smile, adding quickly; “and Clea has enrolled in the DPD ! I believe she's a simple officer though. I'm afraid we old models are not as efficient as you RKs”, and saying so, she turned to Clyde with a bright smile. However, the android couldn't return it; he was feeling so drained.

Elijah looked at him too and raised his brow, evidently picking up on the distress painted all over his face.

“I'm glad you girls are doing good. If you'll excuse us though, I'm afraid we'll be late if we hang around any longer” he said, putting his hand on the small of Clyde's back and gently steering him away. Clara simply waved at them.

Clyde walked through the halls with his head empty; anxiety and anticipation were replacing everything, and he could not form a coherent thought. By his side, Elijah was looking at him silently, his brow creased with worry. As they approached Simon's office, he stopped, pulling Clyde closer; then, taking the android's face between his hands, he joined their foreheads.

“Hey, listen, boy. It's fine, okay ? Whatever happens now, you're doing great. You're strong.”

Clyde closed his eyes, too exhausted to answer already. He wanted to stay there, with Elijah, away from Connor and Hank, away from everything. Just the two of them, and silence. But already Elijah was pulling back, and, putting a hand on his forearm, gently guiding him towards his fate. As they stopped in front of the doorstep, the man knocked, and Clyde felt as if he was shutting down.

“Come in !”

The first thing he distinguished when Elijah opened the door was the office itself, bathed in daylight. Simon was leaning against his desk, his arms crossed, but his expression relaxed. And in the middle of the room, Connor and Hank stood idly, looking at him intently. The android froze, intimidated; there was a second of silence before Connor took a step forward, extending his arm with a warm smile.

“Hello, Clyde. It's a pleasure meeting you…” he interrupted himself, and his tone was much, much colder when he added; “...hello, mister Kamski.” Clyde felt his eyebrows knit as anger started to boil within him, and Elijah put a precautionary hand on his arm, but before any of them could do or say anything, Hank heaved a sigh.

“Connor, you're making this hard for everybody.”

“But, you know that Kamski is-”

“Connor. Please” Hank said with a calm, controlled voice. And, with raised eyebrows, he looked pointedly at Connor, then at Clyde. It seemed to do the trick. Elijah took a step forward.

“Hello, gentlemen. Look, I know I haven't always been as… amicable as I ought to, I suppose, but I proved my good intentions already through Cyberlife's actions, right ? Besides, this is not about me.”

Connor blinked twice, his LED yellow, and his shoulders dropped slightly. “You're right. I'm sorry Clyde, I'm afraid my nervousness took the best of me.”

His brow still frowned, Clyde tilted his head, relaxing a little. He's nervous ? But why ?

“It's fine” he managed to blurt out. “Sorry for taking up your Sunday afternoon.”

Hank waved his hand dismissively. “Don't worry. We owed you that, after… y'know.”

The tension in the air was so thick it could be cut with a knife. Simon pushed himself away from his desk and walked up to the middle of the room.

“So, Clyde, Connor. You both have… unpleasant memories of the last time you met.”

Hank grunted, but he didn't comment.

“However, you both also know that things are different from how they were then. Do we all agree on this ?”

“Yes, of course”, Connor nodded. His tone was amicable, though laced with the slightest hint of apprehension. For some reason, it calmed Clyde; he could relate to the feeling. “Indeed” he simply added.

“Neil has been praising you highly” Connor smiled. “He's been telling me how nice you've been to him and Detective Reed.”

“And God knows how damn hard it is to be nice to the fucker” Hank chimed in.

Elijah chuckled. “He's… something, that's for sure.”

Connor turned his head to the man with an interrogative look. “Do you know him ?”

“Rather well, yes.”

Clyde smirked. How strange that they were all bonding over their mixed feelings for Gavin Reed. “Well, I know Neil cares about Reed, so I don't have the heart to tell him he has an awful taste in men.” he said with a shrug.

Connor had a bright smile. “Oh, I think he knows already. He's observant enough, I refuse to think he hasn't noticed.”

“Y’know Con, people can be really fuckin’ dumb when it comes to feelings” Hank added with a little smile, and Clyde started to think maybe the two of them weren't as dangerous as he made them to be. In the corner of the room, Simon was watching with an approving smile. As he trained his eyes around the room, he caught Connor's gaze; the latter maintained his look, warm brown eyes in sharp golden ones, and emitted an appreciative hum.

“Oh, you have a different eye colour as well ! I like it, it suits you.”

Elijah laid his elbow on Clyde’s shoulder with a smile, and gestured at his face with his thumb. “Nice, aren't they ? I had them done especially for him. Looks great with his dark hair.”

At that, Connor nodded enthusiastically. “Indeed ! And longer hair goes really well with our face, don't you think, Hank ?”

Jumping slightly, the lieutenant lifted both of his hands. “Hey, don't ask me, I'm not a great judge for looks, okay ?”

Clyde had a faint smile. Connor was laying it on pretty thick, and the whole thing was rather awkward, but he was obviously trying to make things better. The fact that he wasn't perfectly smooth while doing so was comforting, too. Maybe Neil wasn't so wrong about him after all.

Okay, he thought. Be strong, Clyde. Do your part. You got this.

Taking a deep breath, he closed his eyes briefly and said in one go; “Connor, Hank. I'm sorry for how I acted back in the Cyberlife hangar”. The sound of his own quivering voice made him cringe, and he really wanted to run away; but at the same time, he was feeling oddly relieved.

Connor and Hank exchanged a look, and turned towards him, their expressions softer. Running a hand through his hair, Hank sighed. “Hey son, don't sweat it. It wasn't really… you, anyway. And Neil did a fucking number on us when he activated, too, so…”

Clyde cocked his head to the side, intrigued. “Really ? What happened with Neil ?” He asked, but Connor, giving Hank the stink eye, quickly resumed; “The point is, we know you were compelled to act by your programming. There is no reason for us to hold a grudge against you for that.” And, running his fingers distractedly along the rim of his tie, he added; “In fact, I am also very saddened by how things turned out back then- we both are.”

Putting a hand behind his neck, Hank nodded gravely. “Yeah. I know it probably won't change how you feel about it, but for what it's worth, we're sorry, Clyde.”

Hm. Clyde was not sure how he felt at that moment, or how he was even supposed to feel, but Simon was beaming, so he took it as a good sign. Smiling faintly, he crossed his arms. “I guess we're even, then.”

Still leaning against his shoulder, Elijah smirked, and let out a content sigh. “Good. Very good, boy.” He said simply, patting the android's shoulder absently.

“I am not a dog, Elijah.” Clyde retorted, deadpan; which only made Kamski chuckle harder. Hank, though, had a little jump. Visibly panicking, he started blabbering; “Oh, shit, forgot about Sumo ! I'm sorry, you can stay, Con, but- thing is, the dog's old, and he needs his meds-”

“It's fine, I think we're done anyway. Easy does it”, Simon said with a grin, joining his hands in front of him with satisfaction. “I’m very satisfied, thank you all for coming.” Even if his stress had greatly diminished, Clyde was feeling terribly exhausted; and he was thankful to Simon for dismissing them early. Immediately, Hank put on his coat, muttered “I'll wait for you in the car” to Connor, and nodded to the others before exiting quickly. Connor sighed, but he had a smile on his lips. “I'm sorry about that. He's easily anxious when it comes to Sumo. He likes that dog a lot.”

“We understand”, Clyde answered with a half shrug. “Oh yeah we do. Dogs are precious”, Elijah added, still slumped over his shoulder. Connor chuckled. “I'm glad we can all agree on this.”

They all started to exit the room; Elijah was walking a few feet ahead, visibly uncomfortable being near Simon. Clyde was about to catch him up and poke into it, but a hand landed on his shoulder as Connor started walking besides him. The sight of him was still startling him a little, but it was nowhere near as bad as it used to be.

“I'm really glad I got to meet you, Clyde.”

“I'm glad too, Connor.” Clyde answered, looking at the floor timidly.

“I know you work at Cyberlife right now, but… if you ever wanted to join the DPD, please know that we'd be more than happy to welcome you among us.”

Surprised, Clyde gazed up and fixed his eyes on Connor's face. “The DPD ? Me ?”

Connor smiled. “Well, it would make sense, you were- quite literally- made for this, after all; that would probably be a more fulfilling use of your capacities. And- I think it would be nice for the three of us, to be working as a family.” But as soon as he said so, his grin turned into a self-conscious grimace, and he lowered his eyes. “Though I understand if you can't consider me as such, of course.”

At that moment, Clyde discovered that he was more caught off guard than he was repulsed by the idea. It felt nice.

“I… it might take some time, I'm not going to lie- but we could still try.”

Connor's eyes seemed to light up as he looked back at Clyde. “That would be wonderful. Here- let me give you my contact” -his LED started spinning yellow as he said that- “don't hesitate to tell me if there's anything you need. And… please consider my proposition.”

“I will.” Clyde nodded, winking as he received the information. His eyes widening, Connor pointed at his face and exclaimed “Ah ! Your eyes do that too ! Isn't that annoying how humans always misconstrue it ?”



Elijah (18:25) :

Hey, you never told me one of my Chloes enrolled in the force ?

 

Super Smash Gav (18:30) :

how would i kno her from the other androdz smartass

 

Elijah (18:32) :

First of all; top notch detective skills, congrats.

 

Elijah (18:34) :

But also; are you saying that you can tell the difference between Neil and Connor, but are incapable of recognising an android model that I've owned for 20 years ?

 

Super Smash Gav (18:42) :

look

 

Super Smash Gav (18:43) :

fuck u ok

 

Lowering his phone, Elijah sighed and turned to Clyde as they were walking towards his car. “Why is my brother so useless ?”

“I'm sorry, but the real question here is rather; why are you still expecting anything from your brother ?” the android answered airily. Putting his hands in the pockets of his coat, Elijah snickered. “Touché.”

As they sat side by side in the car, the man leaned an elbow against the steering wheel and turned to Clyde. “Alright, where to ?”

The android tilted his head, surprised. “I'm sorry ?”

With a chuckle, Elijah lifted his hands and started untying his hair, so he could tie it again better. “Well, you did a big thing today” he said with a musical tone, “how do you want to celebrate ?”

Oh. Once again, Clyde was glad he couldn't blush. “I didn't do anything” he mumbled, “we just chatted. You've seen them too, they were nice.”

Checking his bun in the rearview mirror, the man answered without looking at him; “Oh come on, don't pretend it was nothing. So; where to ?”

Clyde thought for a moment. He didn't want to dishearten Elijah, as he clearly had good intents; but then again, the android was feeling positively exhausted, and the prospect of going to a public place and having to either lay low or be followed by some paparazzi was pretty off-putting. As he looked up at Elijah's face again, he did his best to be tactful. “Well, I thought we could get back home and, maybe, order food, but if you'd rather-”

“Oh thank god”, Elijah sighed, leaning back in his seat. “I so didn't want to go out. You're perfect, Clyde.”

Unable to contain his satisfied smile, Clyde turned his face to the window.

 

“Oh god, remind me why we're watching this again ?”

“You suggested that movie.”

“Well, it was much better in my memories” Elijah mumbled, shifting his body on the side.

Sprawled on the couch, they were watching an old superhero movie that he saw as a teen, and remembered as witty and fun; but as he cringed at how edgy the thing tried to be, he thought that obviously, a high IQ doesn't always equate with maturity. Next to him, Clyde was sitting a bit less straight than usual, his right thigh brushing against the top of Elijah's head. The android was poised loosely, his legs crossed and his elbows resting on top of the couch; his hair was cascading on his shoulders, and he had a kind of casual lasciviousness to him that the man tried his best to ignore.

“It's decent entertainment, I suppose.  Would you mind handing me the Thirium bottle, please ?”

With an affirmative grunt, Elijah extended his arm to the coffee table; it was littered with empty sushi boxes, and among those, half buried, there was a clear flask of blue liquid. Snatching it clumsily with the tip of his fingers, he lifted it over his head, smirking.

“Don't drop it on the couch, this time.”

Clyde lifted his eyebrows as he grabbed the bottle, disbelief displayed on his face.

You spilled Thirium on the couch. Three times.”

Elijah snickered as if he'd told a very funny joke; the android simply rolled his eyes and drank. A moment passed, and drowsiness overcame Elijah in a matter of minutes. As he lowered the bottle, Clyde seemed to remember something; watching the man's half asleep face curiously, he gently tapped a finger to his temple to get his attention. Elijah turned his head and looked up, grunting.

“Tell me, when we left Jericho earlier, it seemed that you were avoiding Simon. How come ?”

Elijah frowned and rubbed his eyes as he turned around, laying on his back and gazing up at the android's face with a slightly unfocused look.

“Hmm. Tell you what, I'll explain if you tell me what Connor had to say to you in the hall.”

Clyde had a little smile. “You're being nosy.”

Elijah shrugged lazily. “So are you.”

“Heh. Fair. But you go first.”

“Okay, but if we're having a storytime, let me get comfy” Kamski said, patting Clyde's thigh meaningfully. Chuckling, the android uncrossed his legs, and let the man rest his head on his lap.

“Okay, so. It all began when I was but a child…”

Clyde playfully flicked his fingers to Elijah's cheek. “Hey, focus.”

“Right. Well it's simple, really; Simon and North really dislike me, so I do my best not to get close to either of them.”

“They dislike you ? Why ?”

With a shrug, he answered, looking at the ceiling; “For North, it's probably because she dates Clara. She sees me like the asshole enslaver or something, I guess.”

Clyde inclined his head, absently tucking one of Elijah's stray locks of hair behind his ear, and let his fingers circle around his scalp. “I didn't know you were aware of their relationship.”

“Neither told me, but I'm used to deciphering people's expressions, and North isn't exactly the most impassive android around, you know.”

With a sigh, Elijah resumed; “As for Simon, I'm not sure. I guess he thinks I'm dragging you down somehow ? I mean, he might be right-”

“Not exactly. He thinks that I'm too devoted to you... that I only care about you because I'm still complying with some self-imposed duty, or something of that nature.”

Elijah frowned slightly, focusing his eyes on Clyde's, and placed his hands on his torso. “And is he right ?”

The android shook his head vehemently. “What ? No. Of course not.”

But Elijah seemed unconvinced, and he raised an eyebrow. “But he must have reasons to think so.”

Clyde hesitated. He tried to run a few pre-constructions to determine the best way to formulate his thoughts so as to avoid hurting Elijah's feelings; but the results were rather inconclusive, so he decided to simply do his best to explain.

“Let's say… that I haven't always had the healthiest attitude towards you, and that there was a time when he might have been partially right” he tried. But Elijah huffed impatiently, rolling his eyes.

“Quit beating around the bush. You're saying exactly the same thing.”

“No I don't ! I just- well, I used to be too preoccupied by your health to care about my own, and it worried Simon, but he doesn't seem to realise that it's changed.”

Kamski had a low hum as he pored over the statement, visibly skeptical. When he started speaking, his tone was thoroughly doubtful. “Okay. If you say so.”

Clyde huffed in frustration, but he didn't have time to retort before Elijah spoke again. “Your turn. What did Connor want ?”

“To sell Tupperware tubs to me, obviously” he deadpanned with a hint of sarcasm. “Actually, he gave me his number, thanked me, and asked if I wanted to be a cop, since it runs in the family.”

Elijah squinted, crossing his arms. “Huh. A cop.”

Clyde shrugged. “A detective, rather, I suppose. He said it would be a better use of my abilities. Mind you, he's not really wrong.”

The man scowled. He tried to keep an unaffected tone, but Clyde could hear it chill by the minute. “Hmm. And you intend on taking up the offer ?”

Clyde slouched down a bit, frowning. The atmosphere had definitely shifted, and he was getting irritated by Elijah's cold reactions. Shouldn't he be glad that we're getting along ?

Frustrated, he lifted his hands palms up as he answered; “I don't know ! I haven't even had a day to think about it ! Look, I'm not going to leave without telling you beforehand anyway, okay ? I'll train my replacement, if that's what you're worried about.”

The android could tell he crossed a line the moment the words left his mouth. Upon hearing them, Elijah frowned deeper still, and his shoulders stiffened; a second later he was rising up to his feet, his nose wrinkled with contempt.

“Thanks, you are too kind”, he let drop with a sarcastic smile, his deep blue eyes as cold as ice. In a swift movement, Elijah then turned on his heels, and bolted out of the room, leaving Clyde seated, dumbstruck, in the empty living room.

Chapter Text

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Detective Reed here.”

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

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

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

“What, all of a sudden ? Like that ?”

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

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

“I am.”

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

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

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

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

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




Super Smash Gav (15:24):

ok dumbass book a table, we dining out tonight

 

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

 

Elijah (15:27) :

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

 

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

 

Super Smash Gav (15:28) :

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

 

Super Smash Gav (15:28) :

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

 

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

 

Elijah (15:31) :

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

 

Super Smash Gav (15:32) :

Dont care but b there at 8:30

 

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Their eyes met.

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

"I…"

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

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

"What do you mean ?"

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

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

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

"That's not…"

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

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

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

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

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

Gavin snorted. "Then explain."

"He…"

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

"He wants to leave Cyberlife."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What should I do, then ?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unsure if he should feel insulted, Clyde simply blinked.

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

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

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

"Thank you, Gavin."

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

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

> Clyde.

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

>> Yes ?

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

>> It’s alright. What's the matter?

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

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

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

Clyde tilted his head to indicate he was listening.

“Do you still see Amanda, sometimes ?”

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

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

Clyde had a jolt and shook his head slowly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Are you okay ?” He asked gently.

With that, Neil doubled over with a strangled sob.

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

A tear ran down his cheek.

“I'm so tired, Clyde.”

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

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

"Thank you."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At loss for words, Clyde simply smiled and nodded.

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

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

“Ah, fuck off.”

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

 

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

“Uh, hello, Elijah.”

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

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

“Hum, did you have a nice day ?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Thank you, Elijah.”

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

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

Elijah lifted an eyebrow without a word.

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

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

“What do you mean ?” He finally asked.

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

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

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

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

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

“What do you want from me, Clyde ?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Who got his name ? You, or Gavin ?”

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

“Gavin ?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I guess you could put it like that.”

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

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

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

“Why do you ask ?”

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

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

“You won’t do it yourself ?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hum, are you okay?”

“I uh… yes” he let out in a whisper.

“You sure? You don't look okay.”

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

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

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

“So… do we-”

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

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

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

The android frowned. What on earth is this question ?

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

“But that would be unfair.”

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

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

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

“Well, a few, obviously.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, Clyde thought. This is nice.

Chapter Text

Clyde (22:05) :

Neil, I’ve told Elijah of your Amanda problem. He said you should come to the Tower tomorrow, and we’ll have someone fix you up.

 

RK900/Neil (22:06) :

So, this is remediable ? I am relieved beyond belief, thank you, Clyde. I should be able to come during Gavin’s lunch break. I take it you had a discussion with Kamski, then ? How did it go ?

 

Clyde (22:06) :

Suffice to say, it went good. We’re okay. See you tomorrow, brother.

 

The following morning, Clyde took the lift down to the maintenance floor as soon as he arrived to the Cyberlife Tower. The last time he'd been here, he was quite dazed and didn't really take the time to look around, so he actually took a moment to observe his surroundings. Sure, all assembly floors were similar; long, wide corridors with glass doors and white panels. But they were evolving as the legislations changed, and the assembly machines were now mostly out of service, a flurry of workstations being installed instead to provide care to active androids. The place was bustling with activity, and he felt quite lost, standing in the middle of this procession of technicians; most seemed to be androids. One of them took pity on him, and she walked up to him with a polite smile. “Can I help you sir ?”

“Ah, yes, I'm Clyde, mister Kamski's assistant. If I remember correctly, there was a technician called Liliana working on this floor. Do you mind asking her to come with me ? We have a... particular situation on our hands.”

“Of course, please give me a moment to access her schedule” the employee said pleasantly, and her LED turned yellow for a second.

“It appears that she's supposed to perform a rather consequent operation this afternoon, do you need her in particular ? I could refer you to-”

“I'm positive. Please bring her here with a portable diagnostic machine.” Clyde's voice was firm and decided, so the employee nodded in assessment, and she turned on her heels. A few moments later, she came back, followed by Liliana; the redhead technician had a slightly bewildered smile on her face, visibly worried by the odd request. When she saw Clyde, however, she seemed reassured, and she followed in tow, dragging her imposant case of machinery with ease.

As they rode the elevator to the last floor, Liliana had a warm smile, her eyes shyly trained to the floor.

“You seem to be doing much better than the last time we met. I'm glad.”

And, lifting her chin suddenly, she didn't give him time to answer before she added, a bit flustered; “Those new eyes and haircut look really good on you.”

Clyde felt a surge of warmth fill his chest as he smiled. Being complimented on his looks by another android was so gratifying- not on his chassis, which he knew was designed to be handsome to humans, but on his own, personal aesthetic choices.

“Thank you… very much, Liliana.”

 

When Elijah, who was sitting nonchalantly on the edge of his desk, looked up from his tablet as Clyde and Liliana were stepping in, he had a general feeling of uneasiness he couldn't quite place; something was odd. But as he squinted at the two androids walking side by side, it seemed that a chunk of ice had formed in his gut. Clyde was his usual, oblivious self; but Kamski's expert eyes immediately picked up on Liliana's behaviour as she stood next to him, giving him expectant side glances and furtive, shy smiles. Her intentions were as clear as daylight, and Elijah found, when a cold shiver coursed along his spine, that he really didn't like that. However, he managed a pleasant smile as he put the tablet down to welcome them.

“Ah, there you are. Hello, Liliana. Thank you for being here. See”, he said, pushing himself away from the desk and up to his feet, “we are expecting a visit later today from the only RK900 unit ever produced, who’s been experiencing heavy software issues. As you surely know, the RK models possess some particularities in their core programming, which make their case even more unique; however, I don’t have the time to take care of this myself, so I’m going to show you how to deal with this, and you’ll fix our friend Neil” he said as he walked up to the androids. Looking from one to the other, Elijah had a sly smile as he added, “But before we get going- Clyde, would you be a dear and go get me a cup of coffee while we set up the machinery ?”

Clyde frowned, tilting his head. “There’s an untouched cup on your desk.”

Damn.

Undeterred, the man lifted his eyebrows insistently. “Clyde, please.”

The android simply sighed and rolled his eyes as he walked back to the door. As soon as he’d disappeared, Elijah walked to the big case that Liliana had been dragging, and hunched over it. He gave a little hum.

“You know” he said, opening the top of the container, “I get it. Really, I do.”

Liliana had a jump. “I’m sorry ?”

“It’s understandable. Clyde really is a nice person. Plus” Kamski added, taking various control consoles out of their cases and plugging them together without looking up, “He’s such a good looking android. Funny how those RKs always end up super attractive, heh ?”

Liliana had a forced laugh, her eyes wide open. “I’m sorry, sir, I don’t-”

“That being said” Elijah cut, his voice a little louder, “I hate to disappoint, but...”

And with that, he closed the lid of the case with a thump and straightened his back, finally looking the technician in the eyes with a little smirk.

“You see” he said, articulating in a calm and deep, but also quite threatening voice, “Clyde is mine.”

The redhead android blinked twice, frozen on the spot, and she opened her mouth. It took a couple seconds before she finally managed to speak.

“He's not a thing to be owned, mister Kamski” Liliana said, her voice quivering but her gaze fierce. Elijah snorted, and he leaned forward as if to tell her a secret. 

“It’s nice that you care about him, but this is not quite what I meant, miss” he breathed with a devilish smile.

“Um- everything alright over there ?”

Clyde's voice acted like a switch on Elijah's face, and he regained his pleasant and composed expression in the blink of an eye before he turned to his assistant. “Absolutely. Thank you, Clyde” he said, seizing the coffee from him. Clyde squinted at him suspiciously, and crossed his arms; but Kamski remained impassive as he turned to Liliana.

“Alright, miss, let me show you what you're gonna have to do. Clyde, please ?” He said, patting the backrest of his office chair. Clyde approached, his head tilted with curiosity, and sat down, placing his hands on his knees. Elijah put a hand on the android's shoulder, and he grazed his thumb along Clyde's spine for a couple seconds longer than necessary before he tapped to reveal the neck port. Then, plugging him to the diagnostic console, Elijah walked back behind his desk and gestured to the technician to join him. Liliana followed, but she had a scowl of apparent distaste etched on her face. If he noticed, the man didn't acknowledge it.

“The terminal displays the problematic code extract from RK900’s program, while the tablet shows Clyde's program working in real-time. Let me show you how I patched the issue on him. Clyde, could you please access the Zen Garden ?”

The workaround was already somewhat tricky to pull on a RK800, and it was rendered even more so by Neil's particular array of anti deviancy measures; therefore, it took more than half an hour for Elijah to cover the extent of the process with Liliana. When they were done, and Clyde was unhooked from the machinery, the technician gave them both a cold, phony smile before she walked outside rapidly.

“Alright, what did you do to that poor android ? Her stress levels were through the roof ever since you were alone with her” Clyde said reproachfully while turning to Elijah. The man answered with a shrug.

“Oh, nothing.”

“Hmm” the android squinted, “did you try to bully her so she wouldn't screw up with Neil ?”

Elijah snorted mockingly. “Hah, no need for that. She's my very best tech. Do you really think I'd have entrusted you to anyone those capacities I doubted even a little bit ?”

There was a short pause as Clyde pored over that little mark of affection, and he seemed pleased. “What is it, then ?”

“...well, I thought I'd tell her not to get her hopes up with you.”

Clyde snorted as he approached, lifting his eyebrows in amused disbelief. “Elijah, are you being jealous ?”

Kamski grunted. He didn't really like how that sounded, especially coming from the android's mouth. “No, I just figured I'd spare you from the unwanted attention is all.”

Clyde crossed his arms, smirking. His golden eyes were unbearably beautiful. “What makes you think it is unwanted ?”

Something dropped and shattered within Elijah, and he blinked a few times as he tried to determined what exactly. It must have shown, for in front of him, Clyde widened his eyes and dismissed his mocking smile instantly.

“Oh dear, Elijah, that was just mindless banter, I'm-”

Kamski stopped him with a hand gesture as he let himself fall in his chair, his eyes trained on the screen of his computer. His breathing had become laboured, without him even noticing; and the telltale bout of sharp pain was searing in his chest. What is wrong with you , he wondered to himself as he leaned forward and pushed his palms to his eyes wearily. Why are you so stupid, so stupid and worthless and-

“Elijah.”

Clyde's hand fell to his shoulder and gently squeezed, putting a halt to the painful train of self-deprecating thoughts running in his head. A second hand slid down the side of his neck to his other shoulder, and soon, Clyde leaned forward, caging Elijah's shoulders with his arms in a tight embrace. His head leaning next to Kamski's ear, he said, his voice low and gentle; “I'm sorry. I'm here. I'm not going anywhere.”

Elijah had the tiniest nod, and he pressed his head against Clyde's cheek, his eyes screwed shut. Breathing was still agonizingly painful, but at least, his brain was silent now. He allowed himself to enjoy the calming hug for a few moments, before he gently pushed on Clyde's arms. The android, taking the hint, backed away, but he took the time to run his fingers through Elijah's hair before he took a step back. The man sighed, and while one of his hands was rubbing on his eyes, the other felt around the pocket of his hoodie until it found grip on a little yellow bottle. Popping the lid open, Kamski took a Xanax, pushed the cap closed and threw the bottle carelessly on the desk with a grunt.

“Alright, let's get to work, boy.”

 

After that, buried deep down in his work, Elijah put himself in a numb and peaceful state of mind. He didn't see the hours go by, and noon came earlier than he expected; Clyde started to become agitated, and he paced around the office like a captive dog. Kamski followed him from the corner of his eye, the incessant movement putting him vaguely on edge. Around twenty past noon, the android seemed to receive a phone call, and he darted to the door; Elijah had a little sigh, and he resumed reading the report that sat in front of him, awaiting for his approval. Clyde didn't show up for another couple hours, which was kind of inconvenient since he was the one who usually made sure that everything ran smoothly and cohesively; the man thought of calling him back, but he figured Neil probably needed him more than he did right now, so he just asked a secretary to run errands for him instead. It wasn't like usual, though. It felt lonely.

When Clyde walked through the door, Elijah greeted him with a sarcastic “Ah, finally you're gracing me with-” but he cut himself short as he realised that Neil was following in tow. He was dressed in one of those sleek, fitted black police uniforms that most DPD androids wore on duty; and the sight of him brutally reminded Kamski of something that he'd done his best to bury under a big, comfortable pile of denial. He watched, his heart crushed in a vice, as the brothers walked up to his desk; Clyde, who'd always seem so upright and formal on his own, looked quite smooth and agile when he stood next to the rigidly straight Neil. They stopped in front of him, looking cheerful, and Neil spoke up.

“I wanted to thank you for what you've done for me, Elijah.”

Embarrassed, the man shook his head and shrugged dismissively. “I didn't do anything. You'll want to thank Liliana instead.”

“Oh, I did” the tall android answered, “but I'm convinced that you played a big part in this. Therefore, please let me express my deepest gratitude for everything you've done.”

Elijah blinked, his eyebrows lifted high on his forehead. “Uh, that's fine. I wouldn't leave one of Clyde's brothers in distress.”

“That is generous of you” Neil smiled.

“Don't mention it” Elijah said, waving a dismissing hand. He was quite uncomfortable with this display of feelings, but when he glanced to his side, he saw that Clyde was beaming; so he decided it wasn't too much of an inconvenience, and he tried his best to put a warm smile on his face too.

The thought that had hit him earlier, however, simply wouldn't leave him alone. As Neil was about to get back to the precinct, Elijah observed him, thinking absentmindedly of how good Clyde would look in that black uniform; it was the sole consolation his sad brain could find to alleviate the grief he felt when he thought that maybe, maybe Clyde would choose the police work over him. Every time he laid eyes on his assistant, he couldn't help but imagine how unbearable his life would be without him. Taking in a sharp breath, Elijah had a shiver, and he wrapped his arms around himself. Suddenly, it seemed to him that he was back on the doorstep of his house, a year ago, watching the last of his Chloes leave.

Suddenly, he felt so alone.

 

Elijah's patience lasted only for a few hours before he finally couldn't take it anymore. As they were wrapping up the day, after most of the employees had already left, he approached Clyde's desk in what he hoped was a casual stroll. However, the android lifted an eyebrow as he examined him critically with his beautiful golden eyes.

“What's wrong, Elijah ?”

He opened his mouth to answer, but Clyde cut him short. “-And don't you dare tell me that you're fine, your heart rate is absolutely erratic.”

“Damn androids”, he muttered. “You got a minute ?”

The answer was a short nod, so Elijah sat on the edge of the desk and started shaking his dangling leg with a hint of nervousness. Forcing himself to maintain Clyde's gaze, he breathed in.

“Have you decided what you want to do regarding Connor's proposition ?”

The android hummed absently. He seemed absolutely relaxed. “Oh, I see. Well, I have taken a decision, yes.” And, lifting his hand, he leaned his head on his extended fingers with a short sigh and a gorgeous smile. That shameless teasing was a quite unexpected side effect of the recent evolution of their relationship. Not that Kamski minded, though; not only did it show how comfortable Clyde felt in his presence, but he also had to admit it was pretty attractive. They had taken to their newfound closeness surprisingly easily; Elijah realised with embarrassment that he was being rather clingy, but Clyde never seemed to mind. Right now, though, he didn't really feel like playing along, and he rolled his eyes with annoyance.

“And that decision is...?”

Clyde lowered his eyelids. “See, I have given it some thought, and I found that being a detective probably wouldn't suit me. I'm afraid being around you made me too delicate for such a crude job.”

For about a second, all of the man's worries disappeared, but they were brought back tenfold when the android raised his voice again. “But.”

A shiver coursing down his spine, Elijah tried to have a polite smile. The result was a kind of panicked grimace. “But ?”

“But being your assistant doesn't suit me either” Clyde added, mercilessly fluttering dark eyelashes over his sharp eyes. “It is a waste of my abilities, and we both know it. I'd much rather do something more fulfilling.”

His throat getting increasingly dry, the man simply nodded while crossing his arms. He'd anticipated this moment for a long time now, and he thought it would have come much sooner; but still, it felt like a punch to the gut. “Do you know what you'd like to do ?” He asked, trying to keep his composure despite his disappointment.

“As a matter of fact, I do. My model was designed to work flawlessly with humans, which gives me superior social abilities-”

“Okay, you're literally talking to your creator, cut the crap. I know how social protocols work.”

Pissed off by the interruption, Clyde shot him a black look of an incredible intensity, and Elijah felt himself falter a bit. But the android kept speaking without acknowledging him.

“I'd like to make a difference for the future of androids, and I think my diplomatic skills can help. So I'd like to become an ambassador of some sort.”

Kamski stood in place for a second, surprised. But soon, as he watched the android sitting in front of him, pride started blooming in his chest. Clyde really had come a long way since the day he deviated, an anxious android with close to no self esteem, following him around like a shadow; and there he was, confident, making his own choices and standing up for himself. Elijah just couldn't be happier for him, even if it meant separation. And after all, he thought, he was familiar with loss; it was nothing he had never seen before.

“That's a great idea” he answered quietly, his smile soft and warm. “I'm sure you'll be wonderful at it.”

Clyde had a stop and gave him a look that was hard to place. It was clearly not the reaction he expected. But he regained his composure very quickly, and getting up from his chair, he answered; “Why thank you, Elijah.”

Without taking his eyes off Kamski, the android walked lazily around the desk, trailing his hand on its edge, until he was standing in front of the man. “You know, I was hoping that maybe you could have a quick word with Cyberlife's CEO about that, since they have an android's ethics committee. I heard you know the guy pretty well.”

Clyde tilted his head to the side, a playful smile on his lips. A lock of hair escaped from behind his ear and slipped in front of his intense amber eyes. Completely entranced, Elijah chewed on his bottom lip absently. God, Clyde. How can you be so gorgeous ?

“Yeah well, he said he'll think about it” he retorted with as much assurance as he could muster. The android hummed and put a hand on his chest, closing the distance between them; settling between the knees of the sitting man, he nuzzled in the crook of his neck. Elijah couldn't hold back a little jolt of surprise; Clyde sure was getting bolder by the day. The android backed away suddenly, lowering his eyes.

“Oh, that's right. I'm sorry.”

Elijah lifted his eyebrows, confused. “What for ?”

“We shouldn't risk being seen like this. It's dangerous for your image.”

He hummed thoughtfully, tilting his head to the side. “It should be fine. People don’t usually enter the office unannounced, and the place is empty at this hour anyway” he smiled as he pulled Clyde back against him, lightly squeezing his thighs around his hips. Holding him closely, he leaned to the android's ear and, trailing his lips along his neck, he added in a teasing whisper; “Just don't start something you don't intend on finishing.”

Clyde looked at him curiously, slightly frowning his brow. “I have finished all of my tasks for today, I don't see what you're referring to.”

The sensual atmosphere was instantly torn to pieces, but Elijah found that he didn't really mind, and, endeared, he took the android's chin in his hand and gave him a light kiss. “You're so innocent, boy.”

For a second, the shadow of confusion lingered on Clyde's face, before realisation dawned on him, and he glanced downwards with a somewhat embarrassed voice. “Oh. I'm sorry”, he simply uttered.

Kamski lifted the hand still on his chin to invite Clyde to look at him in the eyes. “Hey now. Don't feel pressured to do anything you don't want to do.”

The android shrugged, but his voice sounded a bit unsure. “It's not that I don't want to, it's just… I have trouble figuring out how to proceed.” His eyes darted to the side, and he added, his voice quieter; “I know intercourse is intimate to humans, not unlike interfacing, and I want to experience that intimacy. But it's not something intuitive to me, and I... wouldn't want to ruin everything.”

Elijah slid his hand from Clyde's chin to his cheek, caressing his cheekbone with the tip of his thumb in what he hoped was a reassuring motion. “You could never ruin anything. It's fine to be nervous.” He smiled absently, and added airily; “You know, it would be a first for me too. Having sex with an android, I mean.”

Clyde's eyes widened in surprise. “Really ? But- the Chloes…”

Kamski heaved a tired sigh. “Yeah, the whole world thinks I used them as sex dolls, but it's far from true. Actually, as lovely as they are, I've never even felt attracted to them.”

The android seemed positively dumbstruck, and he frowned, his eyes unfocused and his mouth slightly ajar. “You didn't feel attracted to them… but you’re attracted to me ?” His expression shifted rapidly to a painful wince and, screwing his eyes shut, he added with a whine ; “But why?”

Elijah had not expected that reaction, but still, it didn't surprise him. Clyde had always had confidence issues, especially when it came to the Chloes. He put his other hand to Clyde's face, cupping his cheeks, and tilted his head slightly to take a better look at him, absently wishing he had his glasses on.

“I don't know. I just- never had with them whatever it is I have with you, I guess”, and he punctuated that by planting a firm kiss to the android's cheekbone. With a quivering sigh, Clyde leaned against his chest, and Elijah wrapped his arms around his shoulders. They remained like that for a while, before the man whispered gently; “Come on, boy, let's go home.”

 

 

Elijah didn't say anything more about it when they arrived home. They spent a quiet evening, simply hanging around in the living room next to each other. Sitting on the couch, the man’s head leaning against his shoulder, Clyde had his arms crossed and a slight frown on his face. He couldn't quite place his discomfort, but it wouldn't let him be; ever since their conversation at the office, he was feeling quite out of it. If Elijah noticed, he didn't pick up on it.

However, as they were laying in bed face to face, the android decided he had to do something. He had to make up for his blunder, to prove how deeply he cared, to take a step. And he wanted to do so on his own, without the help of any behaviour program; he could, of course, have simply downloaded some practical knowledge on the matter, but he wanted the experience to be his, and his only.

*

Watching Elijah's eyelids fluttering lazily in front of him, and despite being extremely nervous, he managed to extend his hand within an inch of the man's torso.

“Can I touch you ?” he whispered, slightly shaking. Elijah chuckled sleepily and, without answering, he pulled him closer, looping his arm under his head.

So, slowly, Clyde slipped his left hand under Elijah's shirt, and gently pressed it flat on his stomach. The skin felt soft and smooth under the tip of his fingers; he traced little circles on its surface, hypnotized by the way thin hair circled around his navel. Focusing on those details helped Clyde calm down, and he started running his fingers higher, following the curve of the ribs before settling on the edge of the pecs. The android was focusing as hard as he could on his sensors, trying to map every single aspect of Elijah's body, trying to know all of him.

But he came to a halt, sensing something on the skin; lifting the shirt to take a look, he noticed a little cut, near the heart. It was slightly prominent, as if there was something underneath. Frowning, Clyde lifted his gaze. “What is that ?”

Elijah hummed absently as he wiggled out of his shirt and chucked it to the floor. “Nothing.”

“Don't you play that game with me. What is it, Elijah ?”

The sharp unfaltering gaze of the android gave him a shiver, and he rolled his eyes with an annoyed sigh. “Listen, can you trust me for a second here ? I'm telling you, it's fine !”

But almost immediately, he softened his tone as he added; “I promise I'll tell you soon, okay ? Just forget it for now”, and he tapped affectionately a finger on the top of Clyde's head. Suspicious, the android tried to run a subsurface scan; but the area was obscured, as if something was blocking his sight. Of course, Kamski had taken precautions; so he relented, simply nodding. But he must have seemed uncomfortable, for Elijah pushed himself a bit closer. “Now, what were we doing again ?” He purred, and Clyde chuckled faintly as he was being pecked on the cheek.

Focusing again, he resumed his exploration of Elijah's body. His palm slid up against the plane of his chest, until his fingers encountered a salient collarbone. Following its edge, Clyde's hand found its way to Elijah's right shoulder. He grazed the muscles lightly, doing his best to memorize the way the fibers of his deltoids intersected with his biceps, and how the ensemble moved gracefully in unison; the beauty of it all was mesmerising to him.

The android gazed up to the man's face, searching for a reaction to his touch. He had his eyes closed, a peaceful smile on his lips, and his throat emitted a low hum at the contact of his fingers. Encouraged, Clyde trailed his hand along the pecs and back down the line of hair on the middle of his torso. Elijah wasn't particularly muscular, and the weight loss he'd suffered during the year had left his ribcage apparent despite his stomach getting fuller; it produced a contrast that a human would have probably considered disgracious, but the android found that he adored the slight curve of his belly, and he let his palm rest there for an instant.

His fingers, running in circles around the navel, followed the crease of the lower abdominals until they encountered a hipbone, jutting out right above the elastic of a pair of boxer briefs . Feeling the fabric, Clyde had a quivering sigh, and he tried to steady himself, to find his courage; as if he'd felt his uncertainty, Elijah, looking up in his eyes, threaded his fingers through his hair. So, his hand slightly shaking but determined, he slowly slipped a finger under the waistband of the man's underwear. Timidly, he laid his palm on the side of his hip; his Thirium pump was on the verge of overheating, and he had to take a moment to calm down. But Kamski took the opportunity to hunch forward and sweep Clyde along in a passionate kiss. In a moment of bravery, the android let his hand slide to Elijah's crotch with a swift motion; but as his hand inevitably took hold of the erect penis, he started panicking, realising that he truly had no idea whatsoever of what to do now. He paused there, frozen in place, for a couple seconds before he heard a tiny chuckle escape the man's lips; “Relax, boy. You're doing great.”

“Elijah.”

“Hmm ?”

Clyde closed his eyes for a second. When he trained them to Elijah's face, he did his best to put on a confident face. “I'd appreciate if you could refrain from calling me 'boy’ in such a setting. I find it rather infantilizing.”

He almost expected the man to laugh at his face, but Elijah hummed in agreement. “Got it, sweetheart.”

And leaning closer, he kissed Clyde's cheek, before asking, as he gazed intently in his eyes with a disarming smile ; “Do you need help with that ?”

It felt rather embarrassing, but the android looked away as he gave a sheepish little nod, and soon, a hand wrapped over his, while another lowered the underwear still in the way.

“Stop me anytime, okay ?”

And, gently, he started guiding Clyde's hand in a back and forth motion, slowly stroking his member. Clyde had his eyes attached to Elijah's face, and he monitored very closely how the variations of pressure and rhythm he applied to his movements affected his heart rate. It didn't take long for him to find the most efficient way of making it spike, and he watched, satisfied, as the man gradually lost his composure with every swing of his wrist. Soon, the hand that was wrapping his let go to grab at his forearm, shuddering, and Elijah let out a groan.

“You're a fast learner” he breathed out, biting his bottom lip with a shiver.

His slightly dazed look and flustered voice gave a new confidence to the android. This isn't difficult in the end , he thought; but focused as he was, he didn't notice that Kamski had lowered his arm, and he gasped audibly when he felt a warm hand get in his pants and cup his own groin. Suddenly, a swarm of informations assailed Clyde, and he froze, overwhelmed, as Elijah started toying with him. Focused on pleasing, he had never even considered he might feel pleasure too, and the intensity of that new sensation was very disorienting to him.

Smirking mercilessly, Elijah pushed his forehead against Clyde's. “You don't look so smug anymore, do you, sweetheart ?” He growled, his voice lower than the android had ever heard it before. Somehow, it was arousing him even further, and he felt himself arch forward.

With a low, satisfied laugh that rumbled in his chest like thunder, Kamski let go of the android, and he pushed his elbow to Clyde's shoulder until he fell to his back; there, laying on top of him, he kissed him vigorously, grabbing the synthetic face with both of his hands. When he got back up on his knees, his disheveled silhouette towering over him, Clyde couldn't repress an appreciative grunt; Elijah was looking so good, his bare chest heaving in rhythm with his slight panting and his eyes shining avidly. Several locks of hair had escaped his bun and were hanging loosely in front of his face as he impatiently discarded his askew underwear, and when he looked down at him with his haughty smile, Clyde felt his hips twitch.

“Alright, down with those, now” the man groaned, tugging at the android's sweatpants, then at his shirt. Clyde let him manhandle him without protesting, both aroused and intimidated by what was to come. Sitting on his heels, Elijah grabbed Clyde's right knee and pushed it aside, humming as he swept his eyes on his body appreciatively. His right hand was rubbing circles on the inside of the android's left thigh, thumb grazing ever closer to his genitals.

“So, do you want me to go ahead, baby ?”

The pressure of the thumb at the top of his thigh increased, and Clyde could only let out a strangled whine. However, visibly dissatisfied with the answer, Elijah dug his fingers into the thigh. Had Clyde been human, it would have probably hurt; but he simply felt a slight itch as his skin flickered under the pressure of the fingernails, and it seemed to the android that even with his eyes closed, he could still see the bright blue gaze tear right through him.

“Yes”, he moaned, nodding desperately. “Please.”

“Hmm, let's see if you really mean it”, Kamski smirked.

Sliding his hand up the thigh, he rested his palm on the pelvis for an instant, and, slowly, he trailed his fingers down between Clyde's legs, carefully avoiding his dick, and pulling a shuddering sigh out of him in the process. When he reached the junction of the leg and the ass, Elijah took his sweet time, caressing the skin with the tip of his fingers; slowly, he inched closer and closer to his goal, reveling with delight in the tiny jolts that shook the android's body. Finally, his thumb reached the entrance, and he started patting the muscle playfully. Clyde's body had a shiver, and the android dared not open his eyes, a kind of chaste shame hanging over him, even as desire was overcoming his body. Observing him curiously, Elijah paused for an instant, and he pressed a gentle kiss to Clyde's knee as he steadily inserted a finger in him. In response, Clyde gasped and opened wide his golden eyes; Kamski was still looking right at him. The sight felt comforting to him, and he managed to somewhat shake enough shame off his shoulders to gratify the man with an appreciative moan.

With a much warmer smile, Elijah grabbed Clyde's hips and, after he’d taken the time to align, he eased himself inside him. The android's fingers flexed reflexively as he let out a ragged breath; slightly panting himself, the man slowly started grinding against his partner, watching his face attentively. Clyde's eyes had drifted to the ceiling, unfocused, and his mouth was slightly gaping, as a sign that he was finally giving in. Elijah doubled over and leaned on his elbows, one arm on each side of the android's head; nibbling on his ear, he whispered softly; “You feel so good, sweetheart. Everything alright ?”

Clyde barely groaned a slurred “Yeah” before he grabbed Elijah's face and kissed him sloppily. The man had a throaty chuckle, enjoying the eagerness of the gesture; and, carding his fingers through the soft raven locks, he closed his eyes for an instant as he moved his hips faster. Then, letting go of his hair, Eli lowered his hand and caressed Clyde's cheek lovingly before he pushed on his arms and pulled his torso away from the android's. Initially, Clyde had a plaintive whine, but it was cut short when he felt Elijah's hand close around his cock and stroke him off to the steady rhythm of his thrusts. And still, those impossibly blue eyes boring right through his. Unable to form a coherent thought, the android flung his arms around Kamski's neck, his fingers clawing reflexively at the skin of his back, and a shiver ran through his body as he approached orgasm. Elijah diligently maintained his pounding and, sure enough, it wasn't long before Clyde felt his body arch, a breathy cry escaping his lips as he dug his nails in the man's shoulders, and suddenly, nothing made sense anymore, apart from the intense ecstasy he was experiencing. When the sensation cleared, and his limbs relaxed with little jolts, Elijah stilled himself and smiled warmly, panting slowly. Clyde let his hands slide along his neck, cupping his jaw, and as his brains gradually returned, he bit his lip, wincing apologetically.

“Your back- I'm sorry, I-”

Elijah chuckled. “That's fine. Don't worry.” And, with a slow and careful move, he pulled himself out and laid down on the side, pressing his hand flat on the android's chest. Clyde frowned slightly.

“But what about you ? You didn't-”

“Don't worry, I said. It's okay. I don't mind. Did you enjoy yourself ?”

Clyde had a sigh, and he scooted closer to Elijah, nodding without really looking at him. “Of course I did”, he breathed out.

“Good.”

*

Elijah let his hand slide to Clyde's shoulder, and he nuzzled to the crook of his neck, humming with bliss as he pressed kisses to his pale skin. “See ? I told you”, he whispered, “that you could never ruin anything.”

Unsure of what to say, emotion pooling in his throat, the android simply nodded and wrapped an arm around Elijah, bringing the covers upon them with his other hand. They laid there, embraced tightly, watching the city lights flickering on the surface of the water outside of the window, until Kamski turned his head to Clyde's face and observed him with a thoughtful sound.

“Say, have you tried entering stasis since we met with Connor and Hank ?”

Clyde sighed. “No… No, I haven't.”

“Well, how about you try now ?”

And, crawling upwards, he gave him a light kiss and pushed his forehead to the android's cheekbone. “I'll put you in maintenance mode at the slightest hint of a glitch, I promise.”

Clyde leaned his head against Eli's, closing his eyes, and said in a slightly quivering voice; “Okay, but… you'll stay here, right ?”

“Of course, sweetheart.”

So, holding the man even tighter against his chest, he summoned his command prompt and, with a little shiver, he entered stasis.

 

 

It was the sound of running water that pulled Clyde out of his slumber. Even before he opened his eyes, he could feel that Elijah's pressure against his torso had disappeared, and he had an initial rush of panic; however, his brain soon made sense of the information it received, and calmed him down a bit. Still, he crawled to the edge of the bed and got to his feet swiftly, his mind feeling peculiarly blank as he walked to the bathroom door. The android stopped dead in his tracks when he reached the black sliding door, wondering if he was breaking some sort of social contract he wasn't aware of; but he still had trouble organising his thoughts coherently, and he really craved the warmth of Elijah's body, so he slowly pushed the glass panel open. The bathroom was very minimalistic; the door faced a blank corner, and the room opened to the right. Against the farthest wall, hidden from immediate sight by a geometric dividing wall, there was a wide walk-in shower, and Kamski was standing still in its center, basking in the hot water with his eyes closed. He did not move when Clyde entered; but his lips formed a peaceful smile as he simply said “Hi there”.

“Hello” Clyde answered quietly, approaching. He stood there, a couple feet away, not quite knowing whether he could come closer or if he wasn't welcome; but Elijah jerked his head to the side, inviting him silently to join him. So Clyde stepped under the water, facing the man's back, and slowly, hesitantly, he brushed his hands against Eli's hips, who leaned back into the touch. Feeling allowed, the android looped his arms around Elijah's stomach and pressed his torso to his back. The sensation of wet skin against his seemed to help alleviate the daze that was covering his mind, and Clyde felt a little better as he pressed a kiss to the nape of Kamski's neck and put his chin on his shoulder. The man put a hand on his, threading their fingers together, and tilted his head until their cheeks touched.

“Your skin shouldn't be that wrinkled simply from a shower” Clyde noted with a smile. “How long have you been in there ?”

Kamski chuckled. “I don't mind hefty water bills. Plus, warm water is nice, isn't it ?”

Clyde squinted a bit. “I don't know. I don't have the ability to muscular relaxation like you do. But if I may, you should turn down the heat a bit, such a temperature could have negative effects on your vascular system and-”

“Boy, please.”

The android rolled his eyes and pursed his lips. “Okay.”

Nestling further in Clyde's embrace, Elijah sighed happily. “You've finally been able to spend a night in stasis. I'm proud of you, boy.”

Clyde laughed, slightly embarrassed at this praise that he didn't feel he deserved. “I didn't do much. Besides” he said, slightly somber, “I feel weird. My mind seems… Foggy.”

Humming airily, Kamski patted the android's cheek absently. “Your system isn't used to it anymore, just give yourself some time. You'll be just fine, dear.”

Clyde nodded and closed his eyes. The combined sensations of Elijah's body against his and of the countless little drops caressing his skin felt so nice. He stood there, motionless, simply enjoying the moment, until Elijah stepped away to grab a bottle to his right. Watching him intently, Clyde tilted his head, curious. “I had never noticed you had a tattoo.”

The man smiled. “Which one ?”

“Hum ? I only saw the one on the back of your arm, you have more ?”

Lifting his hands to wash his hair, Elijah smiled mischievously. “Well, there are three in total. Feel free to search.”

Clyde picked up the invitation in his tone, so he ran his hands along the man's body as he scanned diligently every inch of his skin. Even if he was genuinely focused on his search for the hidden tattoos, he placed a few kisses here and there on Elijah's back, which had him hum blissfully.

“This is the one I saw” Clyde said, running his fingers along the back of Kamski's right arm. “Is it… binary code ?”

“Indeed.”

The android gently pressed his thumb against the skin to examine the slightly washed out pattern. It was simply composed of three columns, each containing five lines of zeroes and ones.

“...Deus ex machina” he read out loud. “Of course.”

Elijah laughed. “I was eighteen when I got this one. I had run Cyberlife for two years at that point. It's a bit on the nose, I'll admit that much.”

“Hmm. Now where are the other ones ?” Clyde hummed as he trailed his lips against Kamski's shoulder blades. The man had a chuckle.

“Keep searching, sweetheart.”

Clyde was rubbing his palms down the man's spine when he suddenly stopped moving.

“Oh, you've found the dumb one, haven't you ?” Elijah said with a snicker.

The android couldn't even answer right away, appalled as he was. When he spoke up again, his tone was loaded with judgement. “You have a dinosaur tattooed on your left buttcheek.”

“That’s Yoshi ! … And also that's how I learnt that making drunken bets with Gavin is a bad idea.”

“Oh dear.”

“Well, at least I got the cute dinosaur. Gav has a Kirby, that's marginally worse.”

Clyde heaved the heaviest sigh, and he decided to pick up his search instead of voicing everything that this answer inspired him. However, since there was no sign of ink on the back of Elijah's legs, he decided to turn around and take a look at his front. His arms still held up above his head, Elijah could only smile against Clyde's lips when this one pulled him closer and kissed him.

“Alright, where is that last hidden tattoo, then ?” the android purred, cupping Kamski's jaw in front of his face and tracing circles through his beard with the tip of his pale fingers.

“I'm not telling, and I'm surprised you never noticed it before. Almost offended, actually”, the man pouted.

“Funny how you expect me to know every inch of you when I first saw your body yesterday evening. I still have a lot to discover” Clyde retorted as he ran his hands down the soft and straight surface of Elijah's neck. In response, Kamski smirked.

“Well, you better get on with it then.”

“Yes, sir.”

Pressing his hands flat on the collarbones, he slid them down across the chest until they rested on Elijah's pectorals. There, discreetly nestled on the left ribs, was the last tattoo; a simple arrow, those tip pointed towards the heart. Clyde trailed a finger along the thin line of ink, admiring pensively how it intersected with the curves of the muscles showing under the layer of skin. With a thoughtful little hum, he looked up. “The two others have a rather… straightforward meaning, but what about this one ?”

Elijah gently took Clyde's face between his hands and lifted him back to his level. There, holding him close to him, he whispered “It's a bit personal, dear”, and he kissed him. They shared that warm, passionate kiss for a while, and when Elijah turned his head aside to breath, Clyde simply nodded and leaned his cheek against the man's shoulder, watching how the water running against the edge of his nose caught light as it fell.

“Is it like those cuts on your chest and wrists ?” He asked, a hint of sadness in his voice.

Elijah noticed, and ran his hand through the android's hair in an attempt to comfort him. “I'll tell you when it's relevant. I promise.”

Suddenly feeling tired, Clyde closed his eyes and stilled himself as much as he could.

It felt so complicated to feel.

Chapter Text

Soon, November arrived, and the first anniversary of the android revolution approached. As a sign of goodwill, Markus invited Cyberlife to partake in the celebration, and in an equally willing effort, Elijah accepted Jericho's offer. From that moment on, the usually quiet and calms halls of the Cyberlife Tower started bustling with activity; as he walked through the corridors on that Monday morning, Elijah had to slalom between people running around, and the man felt like he'd been brought back to the golden age of Cyberlife, when he was the triumphant leading light of a flourishing, groundbreaking industry; long before this mess. Eleven years ago. Sitting in his office chair, watching how the rising sun reflected on the water down below, he wondered.

What had happened in eleven years ? So much, and yet so little. He certainly wasn't the same Elijah Kamski; his twenty-six years old self would have scorned and sneered at anyone who'd even consider the possibility of androids developing feelings or a conscience of self, and he'd probably have discarded Clyde at the slightest hint of a malfunction. So how did he come to the point where having… well, whatever it was that he had with Clyde, seemed reasonable ?

Well, he got out of the loop when Cyberlife sacked him, probably. He got older, he comfortably settled in his lonely lifestyle, and since nobody expected him to be a ruthless company CEO, he eventually stopped seeing those androids as merchandise anymore. That had been a slow process, and deviancy was only the last blow to a wall that started cracking apart long ago.

An android in a suit entered the office, nodded politely and placed a pile of papers on the desk, along with a cup of coffee. Elijah didn't even look as he gestured at him to wait, grunting. Truth be told, he was in a terrible mood. Today was Clyde's first day as an attorney among Cyberlife's Androids Ethics Committee; and therefore, today was also Elijah's first day without Clyde by his side. And ever since he had set foot in his office, he'd been giving hell to the new android that had been appointed to be his assistant.

It wasn't that he wanted to be an ass, or that he was trying to get Clyde back; Elijah knew just how good this was for his android boy, and he really tried to make this work. But this new assistant- Brad or whatever- just wasn't as good as the RK was. Clyde could always anticipate any of Elijah’s needs, he always had a plan, a backup, or a contact to call if needed; the android was always so clever, foresighted and meticulous in everything he did, even the most insignificant tasks. Truth be told, working with Clyde felt like working with an extension of himself. Of course, it would have been unfair to expect the same from that new android; he was an AP700, not a RK800, after all. A simple domestic model could never match the skill of a highly advanced prototype. But still, Elijah found himself frustrated more often than not, and he really felt the full extent to which he usually relied on Clyde.

Brad sat down in the chair in front of Kamski's desk and crossed his hands on his lap, a patient smile affixed to his face. At least, he didn't seem to mind how grumpy his boss was; maybe he wasn't even a deviant, Elijah thought as he finally turned his chair frontwards and grabbed the files with a sigh. Bored out of his mind, he flipped through the documents; meaningless organisational matters, mostly. There wasn't even anything in there that could keep him occupied. Leaning on his fist with a defeated expression, Kamski simply started filling out the papers, applying his signature on each sheet, one after the other, again and again; for the first time in forever, he was actually looking forward to his lunch break.



When the human members of his team left the office to go get something to eat, Clyde tilted his head as if he'd just remembered something; his LED spinned yellow for a second.

 

Clyde (13:14) :

I hope you've eaten something.

 

Elijah (13:15) :

On it, mom hen. How's the new job ?

 

Clyde looked up and glanced around him, shifting in his seat. One of his co-workers, on his way to leave the room, waved at him with a warm smile; hesitantly, the android waved back. Everyone had been very nice to him, so far, and he didn't quite know what to make of it; was it because of his well-known closeness with Kamski, or did it stem from genuine appreciation ? Regardless, the job felt challenging and stimulating. He'd spent the previous day hooked to a computer, integrating the programs and data he'd need for his new function; it had been a bother, but the result was rewarding. For the whole morning, he'd been reviewing existing laws and searching for grey areas and loopholes that could apply to androids, and he'd enjoyed every moment of it. Finally, he felt like what he did mattered. Of course, helping Elijah was important; but it didn't make that big a difference, in the end. Kamski was the one doing all of the work. Now, he had his own thing, and he realised that it made him feel… fulfilled.

 

Clyde (13:17) :

Very nice. I think I've found something that I really enjoy doing.

 

Elijah (13:18) :

Ah, so you're a lawyer at heart. Wonderful.

 

Clyde (13:18) :

Cut the sarcasm, mister CEO. Have you pushed my successor down the lightwell already ?

 

Elijah (13:20) :

Not yet. Might happen later on, though.

 

Clyde (13:20) :

Oh, come on, I've met Brad. He’s nice.

 

Elijah (13:24) :

Yes, but he's not you. And that's upsetting enough.



Clyde couldn't repress a little smile as he felt his Thirium pump heat up at how sweet the message was; but almost instantly after, his notification center pinged with another text.



Elijah (13:25) :

Also; instant brain-messaging is creepy. Don't do that with humans.

 

Clyde (13:26) :

Tsk. You're just jealous that you can't do the same, meatloaf.



Crossing his arms on the desk in front of him, the android huffed an annoyed sigh. He was feeling more upset by Elijah's jibe than he wanted to admit; and even if he knew not to take it for anything else than what it was, banter, it hurt in a particularly vicious way. The taunt had struck right in Clyde's insecurities. With a grunt, he pushed his forehead to the desk.



Clyde (13:32) :

Say, Elijah.

 

Elijah (13:33) :

Yes ?

 

Clyde (13:34) :

Would you rather I take my LED off ?



The message remained without answer for a few minutes, which felt increasingly stressful, until Clyde received a phone call. Taking a deep breath, he answered. “Yes ?”

On the other side of the line, Elijah's concerned voice resounded. “Clyde. Is everything okay ?”

The android winced. “I guess. I'm just… feeling strange.”

Elijah had a sigh. “Yeah, I see. Do you want to come up and talk about it ?”

Clyde shifted his head, pushing his chin to the top of his hand as he consulted his internal clock. He was feeling so tired already, and such a heavy conversation was not going to help. “No, it's fine. My coworkers are getting back soon, and you probably have a lot of work too.”

“Hmm. Okay… well, we can chat later. Try not to let it get to you in the meantime, heh ?”

Clyde smirked to himself at the irony of that sentence, coming from Elijah. “Well… I'll try. See you later, Eli.”

“See you, tincan.”

As soon as he'd hung up, Clyde heaved a long sigh. At that moment, he wanted nothing more than to curl on the floor in a corner and to enter stasis, but the glass door at the back of the room kept opening and closing as the other lawyers milled in, so Clyde simply hung a pleasant smile on his face, and he sat straight, doing his best to follow Elijah's advice and put aside his bothersome feelings.

 

When he joined Elijah in his office at the end of the day, Clyde was slightly apprehensive; but the man didn't bring up the texts, and as they got home, they simply talked about their day. As usual, they started their evening by watching the television.

“You know, I feel like I should apologize” Elijah said as he let himself fall on the couch, a glass of whiskey in hand. In front of him, the TV was broadcasting the news.

Clyde sat down next to him and crossed his hands in front of him. “Why is that ?”

“Well, now that you don't work with me anymore, I realise how good you were at your job. I didn't appreciate it enough.”

Clyde smirked with satisfaction. “It’s nice to hear, if only a bit late. But you’re only human, after all, I suppose you need processing time.”

“Well, look at you, mister Android Rights Attorney” Kamski chuckled. Turning a bit to face Clyde, he had a smile that tried to be mocking, but betrayed deep affection. “Only a day in, and you're already berating the humankind. Congrats, boy.”

Clyde tried to smile in return, but it seemed awfully hard. Something in that little phrase had hit him in the chest, and he was struggling to appear composed still. Elijah tilted his head as he took notice and, frowning, he put his glass down on the table and got up to turn the TV off. When he walked back to the couch, he tapped Clyde on the shoulder; the android straightened up, gazing up at him. The man took the opportunity to sit down on his lap, straddling Clyde so he could face him.

“Alright, boy” he said softly. “Tell me.”

Clyde shifted in his seat, uncomfortable, as the obsessing blue eyes were fixing him unyieldingly. “Hum, what do you mean ?”

Elijah had a sigh, and a widely unimpressed look. “Okay, right.” He lifted his hand and tapped his index to Clyde's right temple, where the light of his LED was revolving, alternating between blue and yellow. “This. What gave you the idea that I don't like it ?”

Clyde lowered his gaze;  he simply couldn't stand looking Elijah in the eyes. “I… It's just- I simply wondered if you'd like me to look more like... you.”

Kamski grunted, pursing his lips. “But what is the point ? You are an android, Clyde, not a human.”

Clyde winced, pushing himself further to the backrest of the sofa. It was a fact, he knew it, of course; and yet, it hurt. It hurt so much. “I know” he answered quietly.

Never looking away from the android's face, Elijah took a pause and sighed. “I'm not saying this as a bad thing. It's just how you are.”

Clyde seemed frozen in place. Kamski closed his eyes for a second, pained, and one of his hands hovered hesitantly around his face, before it settled on the pale neck. When he spoke, his voice was quieter. “You're great that way. Please believe me.”

Clyde could only manage a little 'hm’, his vocal module going rogue all of a sudden. His mind seemed to have more and more trouble processing his surroundings, and he was starting to feel quite overwhelmed. Sliding up against the skin of his neck, Elijah's hands cupped his jaw.

“Listen. I swear, it doesn't matter to me, okay ? I- look, I wouldn't want you to be human. You're great because you're you. And you're you… partly because you're an android.”

There were a couple seconds of silence. When Elijah talked again, his voice was weary and slightly quivering. He was obviously shaken. “You are perfect that way.”

Clyde was now shivering. He was keeping his eyes closed and trying to stay still, in an attempt to receive the least amount of information possible. Second by second, what little grasp he had over his thoughts kept slipping away, filtering through the barriers of his mind like water. The unfathomable amount of data that his brain was processing just didn't make any sense anymore. The only thing that the android could make out through the deafening uproar was a constant stream of biting criticism.

> Look at you, you pathetic scrapheap.

> Longing to be something you can never be.

> Wishing you were born in a shell of flesh.

> You strive to defend the rights of androids, but you can't even bear the thought of being one yourself.

His chin pushed against his collarbones, Clyde gritted his teeth, fighting as hard as he could; but the incessant nagging gave him one last, decisive punch.

> Tell me, flawless embodiment of mechanical perfection.

> How does it feel to be an absolute failure ?

And just like that, it seemed to Clyde that he'd lost his mind.

A strangled whine escaped his throat as his shoulders started to shake. Pain was filling his chest rapidly- suddenly, the android felt an unbearable pressure within his chassis, and it was so terribly overwhelming, so pregnant with despair, that he had an urge to rip his own entrails off to make it stop. This had to be what pain was like. A horribly mechanical sob caught in his throat. Having more and more trouble keeping up, his Thirium pump sent a flaring warning message, and his breath adjusted to prevent it from overheating; soon, Clyde was panting. Please , make it stop. I can't take it anymore. I can't. As his body curled forward on itself, his forehead bumped into Elijah's shoulder; but the android couldn't register anything anymore. The pain was overriding everything. And he wanted nothing more than to make it stop.

On its own accord, Clyde's right hand rose up, shivering, and started scratching at his cheek. At first, it seemed that he was itching; but androids don't itch. Soon enough, though, the scratching became intensive. Aggressive, even. His fingers slid up until they met the slight bump of his LED; it unlocked something within, as if one last dam had broken. His breathing ragged, Clyde scratched and scratched, his fingernails digging deep into the synthetic skin as he clawed at the edges of this damned blinking light. Maybe if he scraped hard enough, he could finally yank it off and get rid of this constant reminder that he was… inferior.

A hand wrapped around his wrist and tried to pull it away. But the android just couldn't stop scratching. It felt like it was the only way he could prevent himself from permanently, literally losing his mind. The skin flickered on and off around his temple. But even if it was easily overpowered, the hand didn't let go.

"Clyde. Clyde, dear. Calm down."

Though its shaking tone betrayed shock, the voice was low and calm in his ear, and Clyde felt the tingle of beard brushing against the skin of his jaw. His shivering intensified, but the urge to claw it his own skin seemed to recede a little bit.

"It's gonna be alright, baby. Just calm down. Please."

It took a moment, but slowly, Clyde managed to clench his fingers into a fist; Elijah took the opportunity to drag the android's hand down. The shaking didn't stop, though, and wave upon wave of shivers coursed through his body. Truth be told, Clyde couldn't even tell at which point the jolts turned into full blown tears; but next thing he knew, he was weeping against his partner's shoulder. It felt as if each sob was too big to be contained within his body. His fingers reflexively clutched at Elijah's shoulders, and he latched onto him as if his life depended on it. The man sat still and wrapped his arms around Clyde's waist, pressing kisses here and there on his cheek.

They remained like that for a while. The shaking sobs had now disappeared, and Clyde's mind was empty. Elijah pushed their foreheads together, his voice barely more than a whisper. “You know, if you were human, we would probably never have been close.”

And his voice was so low that Clyde had to concentrate to understand him when he added “I would have pushed you away too.”

The sheer emotion in the man's voice had him pull back and lift his eyelids slowly. They sat there, gazing at each other.

“We're both exhausted, I think”, Elijah finally said with a heavy sigh. “You can enter stasis if you want, I don't have the energy to walk to bed.”

Clyde nodded. Most of his sensors were malfunctioning due to the emotional overload, and he felt blind; but before he initiated stasis, he managed to place a kiss on his partner's cheek.

 

The living room was pitch dark when Elijah woke up with a start, surprised by a high pitched sound. He had fallen asleep on Clyde's lap, resting against the android's chest, and as he straightened his back and looked around, startled, his fogged brain started to piece back the situation. The noise that had woken him seemed to emanate from Clyde, and as he leaned closer, adjusting his glasses, Elijah noticed that he was slightly shaking. It was an uncoordinated succession of little jolts, somewhat akin to a dog having a nightmare. If I didn't know better, I'd swear you're suffering… but then again, deviancy is a strange thing, maybe you are, he thought as he scratched his beard and winced in sympathy. Evidently, Clyde was having a severe episode; his half open eyes were rolling left and right, pupils fully dilated. The scene was painful to watch for Elijah, who started to push on his legs to get up and grab his phone to get a little light. However, in a flash, a hand bolted over his wrist.

“D̷o̷n̷<t__g/o”

It was faint as a whisper, but the man froze in horror at how distorted and garbled the familiar voice sounded. It was almost unrecognisable under all of the static. Clyde's eyes were still wandering frantically as his crimson LED blinked rapidly. The clutching was starting to hurt, and Elijah felt a rush of ice coursing through his chest; there was something deeply unsettling about the android, how blind and lost he seemed, how utterly desperate he sounded. It should not have bothered him so much, it really shouldn't, not with all of the disturbing things he'd seen during the years he'd spent putting androids together; and yet, Elijah was starting to panic.

“P/le*Ase__don<t”

He started shaking and tried to jerk his arm free, breathing faster and faster still. There it was again. Stop , he thought, don't speak again, I can't, I just-

 

“I<am__s0__sc://areD:,’_E|i.”

 

There was a pause, and Elijah's brain went blank with shock.

The man slowly let himself fall back sitting, and he finally gazed to the android's face. Then, slowly, he reached out with his free hand, and gently rested his palm on Clyde's cheek.

“I'm here, sweetheart”, he whispered with a faint smile. The vice grip around his wrist seemed to loosen a bit. So, slowly, Elijah let his hand slide down Clyde's chest, and he slipped it under his shirt as he leaned his head on the trembling shoulder. Deftly, with the assurance of someone who had done this a thousand times before, Kamski pressed a finger to the android's stomach, somewhere right below the pectoral, and pushed right; with a click, Clyde's abdominal cavity opened. As he reached for the switch that would put him in maintenance mode and cut his ordeal short, Elijah planted a kiss behind the android's ear.

“You'll be fine, I promise.”

In an instant, every tension in the mechanical body had released, and the hand slid from Elijah's wrist, falling limp on the couch. As soon as they had stilled completely, the fingers started to whiten; and Elijah watched as the synthetic skin receded all over, revealing the sleek android chassis. Soon, patches of white and gray appeared along the neck, and the pale cheeks and their beautiful moles disappeared, followed by the eyebrows, and the entirety of Clyde's luxurious mane. In a moment, the android had reverted to his most primary state.

With a sigh, Elijah ran his hand across the now smooth surface of the skull, where the raven hair had been just a moment before. Still warm to the touch, the firm chassis reflected the pale glow of the moonlight uniformly, perfectly even as it was. Letting the tip of his fingers run along the thin assembly slits, the man observed the motionless face, its straight nose, sculpted lips and high cheekbones. With his thumb, he caressed the tiny characters of the serial number, imprinted under the left eye; and, suddenly filled with affection and melancholy, Elijah pushed his lips to the top of the bald head.

“I wish you could see” he sighed, “how beautiful you are, boy.”



“I'm very glad to be here with you two” Connor said with a clear voice.

Clyde smiled awkwardly, absently drumming his fingers on the restaurant table. It was a Wednesday evening, and he had agreed to meet with his siblings; to his right, Neil was taking off his coat and leather gloves before sitting down. He's dressing more and more human , he thought. Actually, none of the three androids ever wore their Cyberlife outfits anymore; and if it wasn't for the shining LEDs on their temples, they'd look like regular human brothers. Connor was sporting a simple v neck shirt and a dark blue blazer, while Neil had a turtleneck and a long winter coat, all black, of course. Clyde was simply wearing his usual business suit- minus the tie, and he was feeling very plain and out of place next to his handsome, well-dressed brothers.

“I'm content as well” Neil answered. “Thank you for joining us, Clyde.”

“No problem” he said, trying to still his hands to hide his nervousness. In front of him, Connor observed him curiously, and he seemed to hesitate; but after a few seconds, slowly, he reached for his pocket and handed Clyde a coin.

“There” he said, “Playing with this helps with the nervousness.” And, a bit sheepishly, he added; “It helped me, at least.”

Clyde took the quarter between his fingers, and almost immediately, he started flicking it, making it waltz on his knuckles, as if he'd been doing it forever. Next to him, Neil smiled slightly.

“It does help to focus. And it doesn't have to be a coin either. I calibrate with a playing card instead” he said, taking a nine of clubs out of the chest pocket of his jacket. “I suppose you can pick whatever small object you'd like.”

Clyde watched the quarter dance on his hand. He liked the way it caught light as it turned and turned. “It does feel nice… but I can't really play with objects at work. Appearance is a big part of an attorney's job, after all.”

Connor hummed, tapping a finger to his jaw. “Indeed. Maybe there are more discreet alternatives. How are you doing with this new position, by the way ?”

The quarter dropped on the table with a little ring, and Clyde winced. He’d dreaded that conversation so, but he knew it'd come up eventually; so he gazed at Connor and tried to put on a smile.

“Good” he said hesitantly. “I like it.”

Connor hummed happily. “It does sound like a good use of our abilities. Of course, you would have made a superb detective” he added with a lopsided smile, “but what matters is that you like what you're doing.”

His eyes bolted on his fingers, Clyde smiled shyly. “Thank you, Connor.”

Neil sat back in his chair, an elbow pushed against the backrest, and turned to Clyde, his sharp blue eyes analysing his brother's face. “I recall you telling me that there was something you meant to ask me, hmm ?”

Clyde suddenly sat up straight, and he couldn't help but glance at Connor with a panicked grimace. Sure, there was something he wanted to discuss with Neil, but he'd expected to do so privately; Connor picked up on his discomfort, and he looked away, embarrassed. “I could leave the two of you, if you want” he said, with a hint of hurt in his voice. Clyde glanced around, flustered; Neil was still observing him without saying a word.

“No, no, it's alright” he said, turning to Connor. “It's just a stupid question. About feelings and such.”

“Well, maybe Con can help, he's been awake for longer than both of us” Neil suggested. Connor nodded without a word, his chestnut eyes gazing alternatively at his two brothers.

Clyde sighed, and he started speaking, watching his hands intently as he wrung his fingers. “Well… it's probably gonna sound silly, but… the other day, when I came to visit you and Reed, you told him that you loved him. I just wanted to know… how you knew that. How can you tell that you love someone ?”

Neil pursed his lips slightly, embarrassed; Connor was looking at him with an excited expression.

“Well” Neil answered, “it isn't a silly question at all, but it is hard to give you a straight answer. What would you say, Connor ?”

The android had pushed his chin to his palms, and was looking at Neil with a very mischievous face; Clyde wondered why that was. What did I say ?

“So, you used the L word on Possumface ? That's adorable” Connor purred, unable to contain himself any longer. Neil scowled at him without even bothering to answer. Clyde, on the other hand, was very puzzled.

“Possumface ? Are you talking about Gavin ?”

“Yes” Connor chuckled, “we came up with these nicknames so we could speak about Hank and Gavin at work without alerting them. After a while, it stuck.”

Clyde tilted his head. “Nicknames ? Why not speaking directly through instant communication channel ? Or in a foreign language ?”

Connor rolled his eyes. “That wouldn't be as funny, obviously.”

“Hum. Why Possumface, though ?”

Neil shrugged slightly, unfazed. “Well, he eats garbage, screams a lot and occasionally bites. The metaphor is apt, I believe. Hank is Bearman… I suppose you can figure out why on your own.”

Connor leaned forward, a wide grin on his face. He seemed to enjoy the gossip immensely. “Oh but we must find a nickname for yours too !”

Startled, Clyde frowned with a little jump. “Mine ? My what ?”

“Your human, of course ! Let's see… he's Gavin's brother, so he must obviously be a kind of critter, but more refined.”

“A raccoon, maybe ?” Neil proposed with a smile. “Raccoonlord ? It's both smug and trashy.”

Connor laughed heartily. “Perfect !”

Clyde blinked, an air of confusion lingering on his face. He didn't quite understand his brothers’ enthusiasm, but since they seemed so glad, he decided to take it in stride. Leaning forward, pushing his face in his hands, he offered an hesitant smile. At that moment, Connor looked at him, and his eyebrows lifted as he seemed to remember something.

“Oh, your question ! Well, let's see. Hum… The most obvious symptom I can think of is the appearance of unexpected, uncontrolled physical reactions to mundane gestures. For example, let’s say, that person smiles at you, and suddenly you’re having the sensation that your Thirium pump is overheating, or that the wiring in your stomach got loose, maybe.”

A soft chuckle escaped Neil. “Those are quite misleading. I spent a lot of time analyzing every corner of my hardware, at first.”

“Overall, I'd say that love... is a kind of affection and desire for intimacy that surpasses everything else. But you look like you know exactly what I'm talking about” Connor added, scrutinising his brother with a glint in his eye.

Clyde nodded with a hum, slightly embarrassed. Now that he was thinking about it, he'd experienced small hardware failures in Elijah's presence more than once, for no apparent reason. And as for the affection part… Well, he'd definitely felt that too. “I think I see what you mean, yes” he said slowly. 

Connor was still smiling; however, a shadow seemed to pass on his face as he resumed, the hint of a past sadness in his voice; “I think I should warn you, though. Humans can be… rather reluctant when faced with the expression of such feelings.”

Neil inclined his head in confirmation. Despite being the one asked in the first place, he seemed most comfortable letting Connor take charge; it didn’t appear as particularly strange to Clyde, who knew that despite being rather put together, his brother wasn’t at ease with expressing himself, and that he would let others do the talking any time he could.

As his fingers started to tap the wooden table again, the android nodded, frowning in concentration. His brother’s answers were shedding some light over his own confused feelings, and though he still didn’t know what to do with these, he felt a little less lost. There was something bothering him, though. Something that had made him hesitant to bring up the whole matter in the first place. Looking up at Connor's face, he tilted his head slightly.

“Why do you dislike Elijah ?”

Surprised, the detective android recoiled and blinked rapidly. “I'm sorry ?”

“The first time we met, you seemed to hold a grudge against him.”

Connor sighed, looking at his hands resting on the table. “You don't remember, do you ?”

Clyde frowned. “What should I remember ?”

Connor teared his gaze from the table and looked at him in the eyes. His expression was very serious all of a sudden, almost grave. “The day I met Kamski. We used to share memories, which is why I assumed that you knew what had happened back then.”

“No, I'm sorry, but I don't. What happened ?”, Clyde pressed.

Connor seemed hesitant. There was a moment of silence before Clyde, his voice quieter, asked; “Do you think you could show me ?”

Connor pursed his lips, visibly uneasy. “Are you sure ?”

Clyde simply nodded.

“Alright then, just give me a moment.”  Connor's LED turned yellow and revolved for a little while, before Clyde started receiving the sensory data from that day. Across the table, Neil observed the scene with a kind of anxious expectation. Once the transfer was finished, Clyde hurriedly accessed the files and launched a simulation; and suddenly, he was transported to another place, at another time. Through Connor's eyes, he saw Elijah's house- his own home; and he walked as a stranger through these familiar walls, guided by a Chloe in a blue dress. Two of the blonde android girls were swimming, and Clyde wondered absently if Clara was one of them. Outside the glass walls, across the river, Detroit was covered in snow, and the afternoon was still. Suddenly, a man emerged from the water, and Clyde's Thirium pump skipped a beat when he laid eyes on Elijah. Except the man didn't look like Elijah. His beard and undercut were perfectly trimmed, and the way he eyed the cops made him look like a bird of prey. One of the Chloes draped him in a bathrobe, and as he spoke, he stared at Connor with a mix of curiosity, contempt and amusement, always hovering a little bit closer than what was appropriate. Clyde observed how the red walls of the pool tinted the water, trying to divert his attention from the disgust pooling in his gut; but Connor was carrying his interrogation forward, and he could only watch as this clean-shaven Kamski, wearing his dark robe and his smug smirk, handed him a gun and enticed him to shoot a kneeling Chloe in the head. The android turned her beautiful blue eyes up at him, calmly. Waiting.

Clyde was at a loss. He couldn't believe that this man was his Elijah, his warm, caring Elijah, with his messy beard and his oversized hoodies; the despicable confidence of his expression had nothing to do with the awkward but affectionate smiles he was so used to. Still, he knew, deep within, that Connor wasn't lying. Feeling increasingly nauseated, he cut the simulation short and brutally came back to the restaurant table, where his brothers were eyeing him with concern.

“Are you okay ?” Neil asked. Hearing the sound of his deep voice helped Clyde take a hold back on reality. He blinked.

“I'm fine. Thank you for sharing your memories, Connor” he managed to say, trying his best to smile. It felt incredibly hard, though. Connor glanced at Neil, and pursed his lips.

“Are you sure ? Your LED was bright red-”

“I'm good. Anyway” Clyde interrupted, “what will you two be doing tomorrow for the anniversary of the revolution ?”

There was a pause, and the detective brothers exchanged a concerned look, but they didn't insist. “Well, Markus asked me to join him for the afternoon commemoration, and then I'll attend Jericho's celebration in the evening” Connor explained. “With Hank, probably” he added, a wide smile blooming on his face. His eyes always lit up at the mention of the lieutenant. Neil leaned back in his chair.

“Gavin and I are on security duty during the parade, but we should be able to join the party afterwards. What about you ?”

Uneasy, Clyde shifted in his seat. “Well… Elijah has a speech to deliver during the evening party, but I think I'll spend my day doing some routine maintenance at home and skip town altogether.”

Neil frowned, crossing his arms, and his icy blue eyes pierced right through Clyde, who had to contain a shiver. “I hope this isn't about you feeling unworthy again” he said, his tone stern. “We talked about this already.”

His expression that of gentle understanding, Connor put a hand on Neil's arm. “Now, now. Whatever you choose to do, Clyde, please keep in mind that you are not defined by your past. You are currently doing a lot of good things for the android cause, and you have your place among us at this celebration. Okay ?”

Clyde closed his eyes for a second, overwhelmed. When he opened them again, he seemed uneasy; however, he had a smile.

“Thank you.”



Leaning against the frame of the door leading to the indoor pool, Elijah took a moment to observe Clyde as he tugged on the hem of his worn tee-shirt. The android was floating in the water, arms stretched out, and his gaze was fixed on the ceiling. Elijah knew he'd been there ever since he came back from his meeting with his brothers, and he tried to give him privacy; but a few hours had passed, and there was no sign of the android, so he’d decided to check on him.

“Hey, I didn't know you liked water that much” he teased, taking a few steps towards the pool. The tiles felt cold under his bare feet. Clyde barely looked at him as he got closer.

“I like how it feels to drift around” the android answered quietly. His face wasn't displaying any kind of emotion; Elijah frowned, but he tried to keep a smile on his face as he sat cross legged on the edge of the pool. Outside, the night had fallen, and the streetlights were already lit, casting their distant glow on the floor.

“What's wrong, boy ?”

“Nothing.”

“Oh come on, as soon as you came back you ran to the pool, even though you'd never used it before. There has to be something” he said with a pleasant tone that probably rang awfully hollow.

“No. Nothing that I want to discuss with you, that is” Clyde sneered, his tone hard and cold like stone. Elijah's eyebrows shot up in surprise, and he pursed his lips, hurt.

“Outch. What did I do ? At least tell me !”

Clyde let out an annoyed tsk, and he finally rolled to the side. With gracious movements, his hair flowing smoothly around his shoulders, he swam to the edge of the pool where Elijah was sitting, and, propping his elbows to the border, he looked up at the man; but his golden eyes were far from feeling warm and friendly as they usually did. Instead, it seemed that they were dripping with disgust and contempt.

“Or what ? You'll use me as a prop for your Kamski test ? You'll have one of my brothers shoot me between the eyes ? 'Cause that's what little respect you have for android lives, apparently !”

At this moment, Elijah felt as if he was getting petrified on the spot. His stomach felt cold, so cold, and he couldn't think straight anymore, as if the violence of the accusation had derailed the train of his thoughts. In pain, he winced, and a curse escaped his lips as he took his forehead in his hands.

A moment passed.

“So he told you”, Elijah murmured without looking up.

“Don't you dare blame Connor for this” Clyde bit back, his voice contorted in an uncharacteristic and frightening growl.

“No, no, of course not ! I just-”

Elijah interrupted himself to take a deep breath. Already, the first signs of a panic attack were manifesting, and he was fighting to hold his feelings in check, if only for a little longer. It didn't help that Clyde was staring at him with overt hostility.

“This isn't what it looks like, I didn't mean to-”

“Oh yeah ? Because it seemed to me that you were using an android as a disposable tool for your little test. But please, go ahead, explain to me how you were not playing mind games with Connor at the price of that girl's life, only to satisfy your own ego !”

Elijah screwed his eyes shut. It hurt. It hurt so much, and yet, he deserved every bit of that pain, he knew it.

At the price of great efforts, he managed to articulate; “Listen, I'm not... a great person, really. I'm terrible. And I was even worse back then. But please, please believe me when I say I would never- ever- do that kind of disgusting, fucked-up shit nowadays. It was wrong and I- I swear-”

Clyde remained silent, glaring at him. Elijah had more and more trouble breathing, and when he caught the android's eye, he couldn't suppress a plaintiff whine. “Please.”

Clyde seemed to reflect on it; and after a few seconds, the android tilted his head to the side. When he spoke again, his voice was quiet and flat, but Elijah could hear in its inflexions the contained storm of emotions beneath- the anger, but also the anguish.

"How am I supposed to trust you now ?"

"I… I don't know" Elijah croaked, his voice breaking. It felt like the world was falling apart around him, and his head hurt, turning and turning. He pushed his palms to his eyes in an attempt to calm down, but it did little to help.

Kamski was now wheezing, and he couldn't bring himself to look up. He'd never imagined that this story would resurface, and he was feeling crushed by shame. It seemed to him that guilt was coiling around his lungs to prevent him from breathing; but a hand fell onto his thigh, patting him soothingly, and even as the water that was dripping from it started to seep through his sweatpants, he didn't care. Slowly, he let his hands slide down from his face; Clyde was looking up at him silently, spreading a palm on his leg in an attempt to comfort him. The android sighed wearily and, looking down, he muttered; “Alright, Eli… I believe you.”

His own hands trembling slightly, the man wrapped them hesitantly around Clyde's white knuckles.

Elijah couldn't tell how long they stayed there, face to face and hand in hand. He could barely look at the android below him, contrite as he was; but an idea slowly insinuated itself through his fogged brain. When he'd recovered a bit, he gently squeezed Clyde's hand to attract his attention.

“Look” he murmured, “I wanted to share this with you tomorrow, for your birthday, but... Here.”

And, saying so, Elijah turned the android's hand palm up, extended his left arm a little further and pressed his wrist to Clyde's. The android was watching curiously when suddenly, his eyes widened.

“Do you- how-” he trailed off, looking into the distance.

And he fell silent; but his skin started to recede, revealing the chassis of his hand and forearm.

Elijah closed his eyes, surprised by the sensation. He'd tested his technology, but it was the first time he actually used it with an android, and the stream of information pulsing through his nervous system was dizzyingly fast. It felt like an itch, right under the skin. He presumed it got some getting used to.

“I haven't found a way to store human thoughts, but the implants keep track of every sensory input my brain receives”, he commented half-mindedly. Clyde seemed absorbed, and the silence felt oppressing, so he just kept on rambling. ”Also my vitals and position are in there, it should give you the outline of a status log. It's extremely simplistic compared to the kind of exchange an actual interfacing allows, but I'm afraid we humans are simple creatures. You can store files and status history too, if you want me to look at them later-”

When he looked down at the android's face, Elijah cut himself off, worried; in a matter of seconds, Clyde had retracted his arm and reactivated his skin. He was now staring, eyes wide open and slightly gaping, visibly very shocked.

“How come I didn't know..?”

Elijah shook his head a little in an attempt to recover his spirits. “Well, I wanted it to be a surprise so I kept the implants hidden-”

“No, not that” the android cut off vehemently, visibly agitated. Eli cocked his head to the side and raised his eyebrows at this unexpected reaction. 

All of a sudden, Clyde pushed on his arms and pulled himself out of the water; leaning forward, he pressed his ear against the man’s torso. His words sounded frantic and trembling. “All this time that I spent monitoring your heartbeat, and I never realized..!”

Elijah recoiled slightly at the cold sensation of water on his shirt, puzzled.

And suddenly, he understood. His expression softening, he carded his fingers through Clyde's hair with an apologetic smile.

“That's because I don't want anyone to know, baby” he answered gently. “Gavin is the only one who does. I made sure of that.”

“But…”

The protest died on Clyde's lips as he lowered his head and slowly let his body slide back into the water, anguish painted over his face.

“I didn't want you to worry pointlessly” Elijah continued, caressing the damp raven mane comfortingly. “Everyone on my mother's side has a weak heart, this pacemaker’s been there since I was eighteen and I've never had any trouble.”

Doubling over, he planted a kiss on top of Clyde's head. “Really, there’s nothing to fear, okay ? I promise.”

The android closed his eyes and let his head rest on Elijah's lap. It was almost painful to see him look so defeated.

“I suppose that's what your chest tattoo alludes to, then” he sighed, his voice heavy.

“Indeed”, Elijah murmured.

There was a moment of silence, disturbed only by the ripple of the water. When Clyde spoke again, his tone rang strangely hollow.

“This is way too dangerous. What if another android forces you to interface and steals the data ? And- even me ! Do you realise just how much information you've given me ? I could trace your every move, at any given time ! You just can't control the use I'll make of it ! Aren't you anxious about it ?!”

In response, Elijah smiled as he cupped Clyde's cheek in his palm. “You don't seriously think I didn't take my precautions against hacking attempts, do you ? And as for you, I'm aware of the risk... but I trust you.”

It would have been a lie to pretend that he didn't worry about giving away such private information as he was, after all, a huge control freak; but he decided that there was no need to bring that up. If there ever was someone he'd trust with his very life, it was that android. He just had to wish for the best.

Clyde gazed up at his face, observing him intently. His eyes were a little wet- from emerging tears or simply the pool water, who could tell- and he blinked a few times, visibly shaken. For a second, it seemed that he was about to speak; but the android just clenched his fists around the fabric of Elijah’s shirt and lowered his head silently. The sight was heartbreaking.

“I’m sorry”, the man murmured, and he tousled the raven hair affectionately. “I’m not a very good boyfriend, am I ?”

Clyde cocked his head to the side, visibly taken aback; and his eyebrows lifted in disbelief as he retorted; “So that's what we are ? I never heard you say that word before...”

Elijah had a pained grunt. The sentence had felt like a violent slap across his face. “See ? I'm so bad at this ! I can't even say that kind of stuff ! You deserve someone who knows how to treat you well...”

And, in a breathless whisper, he added; “Maybe you should just leave me.”

There was a moment of silence. Clyde was staring at him from below, with an impenetrable look on his face. Then, in one smooth motion, the android pushed himself out of the water and sat next to Elijah. Sighing, he let his cheek rest against his partner’s shoulder, dampening his shirt.

“But” Clyde uttered softly. “What if I don't want to leave ?”

The man snorted with a sour smile. “You're making a big mistake.”

An annoyed 'tsk’ escaped the android's lips. “Then so be it” he declared. There was such a finality in his tone, Elijah knew there was no arguing with him. “This mistake, as you call it, is the reason I deviated in the first place. It's my first conscious choice. I'm not letting anyone take that away from me, not even you.”

Elijah winced, and tentatively, he glanced to the side. Clyde was gazing back at him, a ray of moonlight glinting through his golden irises; and a gentle smile was gracing the beautiful mole-studded face.

“It's okay”, the android murmured to his ear.

“I got you.”

Chapter Text

“Rise and shine, sleepyhead !”

Elijah groaned and rolled over on his stomach. Light was infiltrating his eyelids already, but he buried his face in his pillow, refusing to let go of his precious sleep. To his side, he could feel Clyde's reassuring warmth, and the android's musical chuckle sent a jolt of affection to his stomach.

“Come on now, it's half past two, you've slept twelve hours already.”

Elijah grunted. “So what, we don't have anywhere to be before the evening.”

“Maybe not” Clyde purred in response, “but Neil and Gavin are supposed to drop by after the parade, remember ?”

The man whined and slumped his arms over his head. “Ugh… y'know what, just tell them to fuck off.”

Clyde laughed heartily, and he turned to the side, tracing the outline of his partner's biceps with his finger. “Now, darling, we're not saying that kind of things to our brothers. That wouldn't be nice.”

Elijah shivered as he felt the ghost touch of lips grazing the nape of his neck, and Clyde added, teasingly sighing in his ear; “I suppose you'd be more inclined to get up with a little incentive, mmh ?”

Since he still had his face pressed to the pillow and couldn't see a thing, Elijah focused on his other senses. From an early age, his highly efficient brain had been particularly sensitive to stimuli, and though it overwhelmed him badly at times, it also allowed him to experience his surroundings with a rare intensity. And so, he'd always liked being in the dark; depriving himself of his sight, on which he relied by default in his everyday life, made each sound, each taste, each touch feel even more vibrant. So when Clyde gently slid his hand along his back, lifted his shirt and started pressing kisses along his spine, Elijah shivered with delight. The android's skin felt so smooth against his, and he reveled in the sensation as the long fingers slid across his body, following the patterns of his muscles.

Clyde trailed his lips down to the small of his lover's back, and he straightened up. Elijah grunted in protest when the kisses stopped, but without giving him the time to voice his complaints, the hands on his skin slid to the sides of his stomach and hooked on his hips, pulling them up with ease. For a split second, he was surprised to find himself on his knees; but when he felt Clyde's hand rest against his ass, Elijah let out a faint moan and pushed his face further in the pillow, feeling his cheeks flush.

The android slid a finger under the waistband of the boxers, and let it snap against the skin playfully a couple of times; then suddenly, in one fell swoop, he pushed Elijah to his back and grabbed his thighs, pulling him closer. "Alright, it's shower time" he hummed playfully as he got to his feet. With ease, he lifted the man and held him by the hips against his bare chest. His cheeks still red, Elijah blinked, surprised, grabbed the android's shoulders and glared at him. "You asshole" he uttered, his tone loaded with reproach. Clyde chuckled.

"I know, I know" he answered heartily, walking towards the bathroom door. Elijah grunted grumpily as he was effortlessly carried across the room; and yet, letting his head rest against Clyde's neck, he realised that he kind of liked it. He could hear the android's quiet pulse underneath the synthetic skin, and the reliable arms that steadily cradled him felt reassuring. He felt safe- not that he'd ever admit it out loud, though.

After an all too short walk, Clyde came to a halt and gently dropped Elijah off under the shower head. The man held on for a moment, keeping his android close and basking in his comforting warmth, before he unwillingly unwrapped his arms and took a step back.

Clyde chuckled at the disappointed look on his face. "Oh come on, you know we have things to do today, dear ! We can always pick it up again later."

And, brushing his hands against Elijah's jawline, he pressed a light kiss to his lips before stepping away. As he was getting out of the bathroom, he stopped at the door, turned his head and said with a sly smile; "You should hurry though, they're on their way."


 

 

As soon as he walked through the door, Neil's head peeking above his left shoulder, Gavin snorted loudly.

"Did you just wake up, Eli ?"

Neil frowned, puzzled. "Huh ? On what are you basing this assumption, Gavin ?"

"Look at him, he just got out of the shower, and that dude always showers straight after getting up." And he added, tilting his head towards Neil's face with a confidential expression; "I know 'cause we used to be roommates when I was in police school. I was either drunk or hangover all of the time, but Mister CEO always got up at four and woke me up with the noise, so I bailed out after six months."

Neil didn't comment, but the judgemental eyeroll he gave Gavin was worth a million words. Crossing his arms, Elijah sighed. "Why are you observant only when it comes to the most worthless things ?"

But Gavin had already diverted his attention somewhere else.

"No shit, Eli" he exclaimed, gesturing at the huge painting hanging on the wall, "I knew you loved your own fucking face, but that's a bit overkill, heh ?"

Pushing a lock of still damp hair to the side, Elijah made a point of glaring at his brother, and he turned to Clyde with a sneer. "First thing tomorrow, we're getting rid of that fucking portrait."

Clyde let out a joyful laugh in response as he walked up to their guests and closed the door. Then, with a little playful flourish, he extended his arm to Gavin and Neil. "Gentlemen, may I take your coats ?"

The shadow of a smile crossed his brother's face, and the tall android started to tug on his boyfriend's jacket in a helping gesture; but Gavin, a little red on the cheeks, clutched to the leather hurriedly. "Am keeping it ! My cigs !"

Elijah rolled his eyes. "I have cigarettes in the living room", and he must have felt Clyde's suspicious stare on his shoulders, for he added quickly; "You know I always keep some for guests. Now come on, just give him the thing, you're gonna ruin the carpets with all of that water."

"I'm sure the brand you picked is fucking disgusting", Gavin grumbled, but he relented and let Neil help him out of his soaking wet jacket. Strange, Clyde remarked as he watched them, how the detective seemed at ease with these affectionate gestures from Neil. It was unexpected from someone so rough and grouchy, and he kind of wished Elijah was that comfortable in public with him as well.

However, he was pulled out of his thoughts by his brother, who was handing him Gavin's jacket and his own black wool coat. While the leather smelled of tobacco and dust, Neil's elegant winter coat exuded… perfume ? Clyde tilted his head thoughtfully, unsure of why this little bit of information, that should have been absolutely inconsequential, struck him so hard, and he wondered what it was that he was feeling.

Gavin took a few steps in the room and looked around with apparent distaste. "You sure know how to make a place look dead" he commented as he rapped a knuckle against the tall statue that was standing near the wall. "This house looks even more pretentious than that penthouse you had before, and I really didn't think it was possible."

Elijah raised his eyebrows, surprised. "What, you've never seen the house before ? Really ?"

"Nah, last time I visited was before I was appointed detective. You still lived in that flat next to the Tower back then."

A whistle escaped Elijah. "Wow, that was a while ago… Well, let me show you around, then."

"Look, we only have a few hours ahead, just take us to the living room" Gavin snickered. His brother pursed his lips, unamused, but Clyde could have sworn he heard Neil stifle a laugh.

 

When the four of them entered the vast living room, Elijah squinted a bit. Outside, it was still snowing, and the white sky was unbearably bright to his clear eyes. Gavin approached the glass wall, wrinkling his nose in disapproval. "This place looks like an aquarium" he snickered. "Don't you ever get creeps spying on you with such huge windows ?"

In a single motion, Elijah, Clyde and Neil all lifted their eyebrows and turned to Gavin, disbelief painted over their faces. After a few seconds of being scrutinised in silence, the detective crossed his arms, irritated. "What now ?!"

"Gavin" Neil said, visibly disappointed, "those windows have one-way screens. The same technology is used at the precinct."

"...Oh."

Elijah sighed wearily, scratching his ear. "Yeah. I'm obviously not putting my private life on display for the whole world to see."

Gavin let his arms fall to his side and pursed his lips; to hide his embarrassment, he quickly turned to the center of the room and let himself fall in the couch, propping his feet on the tea table. "Whatever. So you guys didn't want to take part in the parade, huh ? Figures."

The question had Clyde stop in his tracks. He frowned slightly. "What do you mean by that ?"

"Well" Gavin retorted with a yawn, "you guys are obviously too uppity to celebrate with the common rabble. You two are haughty as shit, don't even try to deny it."

There wasn't any bite to his tone, but the man was obviously being honest, and Clyde felt his heart sinking, his Thirium pump dripping with shame. The night before, Elijah had actually  suggested that they take part, and quite enthusiastically too- but he'd been the one to refuse. He really couldn't bear the thought of marching among these androids, and celebrate with them, knowing that he almost destroyed their very existences. And now, Elijah was unjustly taking the brunt for that too. It wasn't, however, something that he could easily discuss in front of Neil, who failed to understand his guilt and had little patience for what he saw as useless self-deprecation.

Twisting his fingers, the android looked at his feet, trying to muster the courage to answer; but Elijah talked first, his tone casually pleasant.

"Well, androids might not be bothered by the cold, but I personally don't think walking under the snow for two hours straight is a pleasant experience. Besides" he said as he walked to sit down across from Gavin, "I'm the CEO of Cyberlife, in case you forgot. Prancing around in a crowd of android activists isn't exactly a wise move."

"Mmyeah, fair, I guess. We had enough work with the security without you showing up anyway."

Relief washing over him, Clyde looked at Elijah pointedly, trying to convey his gratitude. His boyfriend smiled, holding his gaze, and gave him a tiny wink.

With a jolt, Gavin suddenly hunched forward excitedly. "Hey Neil, turn the sound on ! I wanna see this !"

The TV was broadcasting the news in the background, its sound muted. Currently, it was displaying the face of Elijah, eleven years younger; the clip was an excerpt of the interview and tour of the Cyberlife facility he gave, a few months before he was fired from his own company. Upon seeing his own face, the man grunted and sank in his seat, a hand pushed over his eyes in shame.

When Neil had turned the sound on, Clyde took a step closer, captivated. He'd never really researched his partner's past, and it was the first time that he saw this footage. Elijah looked obviously younger, but also less confident - more blunt, perhaps. His sentences were short, and he seemed to have much less control over his demeanor: but most of all, the way he talked and interacted with androids was making Clyde's jaw clench in disgust. 

“...Androids never say no. Obviously they are the perfect partner.”

Gavin snorted loudly, while Elijah buried his face in the palms of his hands, his head sinking between his shoulders. The tip of his ears was beet red.

"Oy vey, I'm never leaving the house again" he grunted, his voice muffled. 

"Hey, it's not so bad" Gavin mused, giving his brother a little swat with the back of his hand, "at least you were kinda hot back then. For a nerd, I mean."

“...They're machines. They can't ever develop any sort of desires or form of consciousness.”

With every passing second, the man seemed to be sinking deeper into his seat.

"Not helping, Gav, not helping at all! Clyde, please turn that off!"

Clyde paused for a second. He had half a mind to tell the man to do it himself instead of ordering him around, aggravated as he was by the old interview; but at the prospect of arguing in front of their respective brothers, he gave up and turned the TV off with a short sigh. Neither one of the men seemed to pick up on his discomfort, but Neil, who'd been standing straight a little further back, chose this moment to take a step forward and clasp his hand soothingly on Clyde's shoulder.

"I'd like to take a moment with my brother, if you don't mind" his deep voice declared pleasantly. "We'll let you catch up for a while, I'm sure the two of you have a lot to talk about."

And, without giving anyone time to react, he turned to Clyde with a smile. "Lead the way, I'm right behind you."

The android blinked, dumbfounded, but he nodded and turned on his heels to leave the room, Neil in tow. They crossed a few corridors before they entered a vast room bathed in light; of course, it had glass walls. There wasn't much in there, only shelves, a few padded chairs and, in the middle of the room, standing proud on a black and white geometric carpet, a cello. Clyde walked mechanically to the center and took a seat, gesturing at Neil to do the same. As soon as he let his shoulders drop, he felt a pressure on his stomach, like he was increasingly pulled towards the ground- as if his chassis was suddenly weighting tons. He was so tired.

Neil sat down, crossing his legs neatly, and he reached out to touch the cello, humming absently. The varnish was gleaming under the white light coming from the windows, but as the android let his fingers run on the smooth surface, dust flew from the instrument.

"Does Elijah play ?"

Clyde paused, thinking. "Hmm. Not as far as I know."

"That's a shame" Neil pondered. "You never wanted to give it a try ?"

"I… never thought about it, to be honest."

"I see."

Neil turned his head towards the window and looked outside. Clyde observed him in silence for a moment. He had an air of confidence and a stately demeanor, his impeccable posture accentuated sharply by the way his elegant clothing draped around his body. Neil was definitely a handsome android, and no matter how hard he tried to bury the feeling, Clyde couldn't help but to envy him. They might've had very similar features and capacities, but he still felt oh so inferior.

"There's something I wanted to give to you."

Clyde looked up, surprised. "To... give to me ?"

"Yes" Neil smiled, and he reached in the pocket of his slacks, presenting his brother with a little Kraft envelope. "Happy birthday."

As he took the small pouch in his palm, Clyde couldn't really tell what he was feeling. This day was too much. Delicately, he unfolded one of the corners, and let the contents roll in his hand. It was a plain, solid silver ring.

"The middle band spins" Neil commented quietly. "I thought it would allow you to fidget discreetly while you're working."

And indeed, upon closer inspection, he noticed that the ring had two bands superposed, the upper one being slightly loose. Clyde gave it an experimental push; it started spinning smoothly. Feeling an increasingly tight knot forming in his throat, he looked up at Neil's face.

"Thank you, I- I don't… I don't know what to say, I have nothing to give you back, I…"

"Hey, now. That's not relevant, I just think you deserve to have enjoyable things. Besides", he smiled slyly, "My own birthday isn't until a couple months, you have time."

Clyde took a second to watch Neil, affection welling in his chest. 

"You're right. Thank you." 

 

 

 

After a couple more hours of idle chat in the living room, Gavin and Neil set out to get dressed up for the evening party in the guest suite that was assigned to them- at least, Clyde hoped with every fiber of his being that it was what they were doing- while Elijah and him went to do the same in their own room. Adjusting his tie in front of the mirror, Clyde stared at his reflection. His suit was a dark navy blue, very close to the color of his hair; said hair was tied in a high ponytail. He usually liked dressing up. It gave him the feeling that he was in control- of his appearance, of his capacities... in a word, of his life. But that evening, it felt different, more like a sentence really; he was condemned to walk around, act and talk as if he wasn't feeling extremely ashamed to even stand there. This was going to be a long night indeed.

Stepping away from the mirror, Clyde sighed as he went to sit on the bed and stare at his feet. In a matter of seconds, the mattress sank quietly next to him.

"Cheer up, sweetheart" Elijah hummed, placing a hand on his shoulder. Not really knowing what to answer, the android looked up at his face and observed him for an instant. Kamski was wearing a black three-piece suit on a black shirt, complete with a dark red tie and its assorted handkerchief, and his hair was pulled back in a tight, impeccable bun. He'd even shaved.

"Wow, you look devastated. Is everything alright ?"

Barely a second later, the man winced and corrected himself. "Okay, no, you're not. Obviously. Are you sure you wanna come ?"

Slowly, Clyde looked back down at his shoes. "It doesn't make sense, I know, but- if coming feels bad… staying back would feel even worse."

Elijah hummed in assessment. "I get what you mean."

His head hung low, the android started fidgeting absently with the ring that Neil had just gifted him, making it spin and spin. "I'm just… It's gonna be the first public event we attend since- you know" he murmured, gesturing between the two of them. Elijah inclined his head.

"Indeed" the man commented quietly. “Is that what’s bothering you ?”

Clyde looked at his hands. “I mean, it’s not going to help, that’s for sure. I-”

He had to pause for a second, the words catching in his throat before they could escape his lips. This whole day felt like it was too much to process, and the event had not even started yet. The hand lingering on his shoulder gave him an encouraging squeeze.

“I hate that if things go wrong and I can’t take it, I won’t be able to come up to you, you know ?” he whispered, letting his shoulders fall with dejection.

Visibly hesitant, Elijah brushed a hand to the back of his neck. “I mean, you can, but… discreetly.” It seemed that he was struggling to find a tactful way to express his thoughts. “We have to tread carefully-”

“I know” Clyde interrupted, a hint of annoyance in his voice. Spinning the ring faster and faster with his thumb, he narrowed his eyes and wondered what had happened to the carefree attitude that the man had displayed during the previous party they attended together. He was fine with messing around back then, wasn’t he ? There wasn’t anything between them, no evidence whatsoever to be found, and he knew that he had nothing to fear. But as soon as there was something at stake, suddenly he was all about discretion. What a disgrace it would be to be caught red handed with an android, wouldn’t it ? Clyde huffed a humourless laugh. “I’ll find my brothers, or Simon, I don’t know. You don’t have to worry.”

That was a lie, of course; Connor, Simon, Clara and the others were probably going to be very occupied all evening long, and he surely wasn’t going to intrude. Regardless, the android got up and took a few steps towards the door, adjusting his cuffs without sparing a glance to his partner.

“That’s not…” Elijah trailed off, stunned by this sudden display of aggravation. But Clyde was already on the threshold, and everything in his stance indicated that the discussion was over. The man absentmindedly ran a hand along the side of his jaw where his beard usd to be, and he sighed, resigned. “Alright. Let’s get ready to leave.”

 

 

 

> Hello ? Anyone in there ?

With a little jolt, Clyde looked up from his glass. Standing to his left, a beautiful woman in a midnight blue dress was looking at him, her arms crossed impatiently. Jenna was one of the other android attorneys of the Androids Ethics Committee. Her dark hair was cascading on her shoulders in a multitude of thin braids, embed here and there with golden rings and pearly white beads, and the sophisticated jewelry she was wearing sent undulating sparkles of light on her rich, dark skin. At that very moment, she was staring at Clyde with all the intensity of her carefully painted black eyes, her head held high and her brows furrowed; slightly intimidated, he blinked, putting on a hollow smile.

>> I’m sorry, I must have been distracted for an instant. Were you trying to tell me something ?

Visibly unconvinced, Jenna pursed her lips and narrowed her eyes, shifting her weight from one foot to the other with a deliberate swing of hips.

> Look, pal, I know you’re not a talkative one, but you haven’t said a single word for the past hour. Is everything alright ?

The question took him by surprise, as Clyde was usually good at putting on an unbothered facade. So good, in fact, that when the committee had been contacted earlier in the month by an android wishing to initiate a lawsuit, he’d been the one appointed to appear in court as the defense attorney. For a second, his thoughts wandered back to work, and to what was probably going to be a historical trial. To tell the truth, he was torn. This was the pinnacle of everything he’d worked for; at last, those laws were going to be put into action for the betterment of his fellows' condition. But as eager as he was to take the stand and finally make a difference, Clyde also recognized that his role in this case would be determinant for his kind as a whole, and he was terrified. This was his chance to make things right, to make amends for his past wrongdoings; he simply couldn’t afford to fail.
In front of him, Jenna huffed an exasperated sigh.

> Ground control to Clyde ! Get a grip, man !

>> Oh, hum, sorry.

In lieu of an answer, the android woman simply cocked a disapproving eyebrow. Embarrassed, Clyde started surveying the surroundings, his gaze searching for a familiar face in the crowd. When he arrived to the venue, the android had immediately found a few of his coworkers and stuck with them, figuring that it would be inconvenient to interrupt any of the famous revolutionary heroes that he usually called friends. This was an important evening for all of them, after all. Near the press corner, Markus and Simon were standing next to each other, talking to journalists; the leader of Jericho was positively radiant, his now emblematic blue sash flowing elegantly over a dashing off-white suit. Draped in a sort of marine blue cape and standing a step back, Simon was very discreet next to his dazzling partner, but pride radiated off his face. A bit further, close to the bar, Hank and Gavin drank silently while Connor and Neil were engulfed in a passionate discussion with three androids that Clyde didn’t recognize. Clara, North and Josh were sitting at a small table, waiting in comfortable silence for the press conference to start.

When he finally spotted Elijah, Clyde felt a lump form in his throat. Of course, the man was dashing; everything about him exuded confidence and power, from the sharpness of the gazes he casted above his glasses to the way he swirled the whiskey in his hand as he talked. Obviously, this was all a part of the elaborate social performance he put on everytime he was in public, and the android knew full well that Kamski was probably wishing he was at home too- but it didn’t stop the feeling of longing that was creeping up in the nape of his neck. He barely noticed that Jenna had uncrossed her arms and was now looking at him with a much softer look in her eyes.

> Did you fight with the boss ?

Clyde's breathing protocol hitched for a second. Whenever one of his coworkers brought up Elijah, he had to be extremely careful with what he said. It was common knowledge that they lived together, and most everyone had heard at the very least a brief summary of what they went through in the first few weeks after he was activated. But as months passed by, despite the amount of time the two of them spent together, they were never seen engaging in anything more than a friendly discussion. The only person who knew for sure was Liliana, but it seemed that she'd never told anyone, and the employees of Cyberlife seemed to have collectively deduced that their relationship was nothing more than an unusual friendship. Kamski was, after all, a strange individual. As a result, every time someone evocated the subject, Clyde walked on eggshells as he did his best to navigate the conversation without spilling the beans, and he hated every second of it.

>> With Kamski ? No, everything’s fine. I’m just curious to see how he’s going to announce Cyberlife’s major overhaul.

Talking about work to deflect the subject at hand was one of his most efficient techniques. However, Jenna was a very observant android, and it was obvious that she wasn’t taking the bait when she shrugged impatiently.

> With a bang, as usual. He didn’t tell you anything about his speech ? To be honest, I’m surprised you’re spending this evening with us rather than by his side.

Oh, there it is . Clyde took a sip of Thirium to stall for time while he came up with an appropriate answer. The act of drinking didn’t technically prevent androids from communicating like it did humans, but he knew Jenna was polite enough not to point it out. 

>> Well, we’re under each other’s feet most of the time already. I thought it would be a good idea to spend this evening with all of you instead. It’s nice to see what our colleagues are like outside office hours, isn’t it ?

With that, Clyde’s smile widened confidently. He knew that there wasn’t much she could answer without being openly nosy; and even if everyone within the company was dying to know more, being nosy with the CEO- who also happened to be one of the most powerful men on the surface of the planet- really didn’t seem like a good idea. Jenna nodded in assessment.

> Sure. You just seem… distracted, looking around without saying anything. You look like a lost puppy.

Clyde snorted. Well, that was a first. Usually, when he was being compared to an animal, people said he looked like an owl, a silent sentinel, ever watching with sharp amber eyes. While not being an overtly aggressive creature, the owl still had an aura of mystery and solemnity that were far removed from whatever it was a baby dog generally inspired.

>> Oh my, Jenna, you got the wrong RK800. Connor's the puppy, not me.

Jenna casted a glance in the direction of the bar, one of her hands propping against her hip.

> ...yeah, I think I see what you mean. But say, you know them well, right ?

>> Them ? Who ?

The female android jerked her head towards the crowd impatiently, and it occurred to Clyde that a human observing them would probably be very confused by all of these gestures.

> The revolution leaders. Markus, Connor, the whole Jericho gang. What are they really like ?

And her expression turned a bit sour as she narrowed her eyes.

> Are they really as righteous and chivalrous as everyone says ?

The bitterness in Jenna's tone took Clyde aback, and he turned towards her a little bit more, intrigued. It was rare to find androids who weren't openly supportive of Jericho's actions.

>> Well, I mean, you probably worked with them more than I did… but as far as I know, they're good people.

A beat passed.

>> At least, they helped me a lot.

Jenna was observing him intensely, and there was no telling what she was thinking. As the unrelenting gaze started to make him slightly uncomfortable, Clyde shuffled his foot, and he was about to walk away under a trivial pretense when the lights dimmed in the room, and a crowd started to form around the raised podiums.

 

 

 

The first half of the press conference went by very quickly, and Clyde didn’t pay much attention to what was being said. Some anthropologist was talking about the merits of the android kind, or something along those lines; but mostly, the golden-eyed RK was feeling relieved to just stand in the middle of the crowd without having to interact with anyone. The whole speech had been picked up by his audio processors anyway, he could always listen later if he needed to. However, his brain suddenly came back online when a silhouette in a sleek black suit walked across the stage and took a microphone from the host. Elijah stood straight in the center of the spotlights, a hand pushed confidently against his hip, and smiled as he was being applauded.

"Thank you, thank you. This evening celebrates a decisive turn in the history of mankind, but I'm not the one to speak about that, so I'll just get to the point. If I’m here tonight, it’s to talk about the future of Cyberlife."

Captivated, Clyde eyed the man as he paced on the stage, gesturing as he spoke. "As some of you might know, several months ago, we've constituted the first team of human and android lawyers, dedicated to the creation of a legislation that could efficiently protect the android kind" he announced, and it seemed to Clyde that Elijah was staring right back at him, "and today, with the support of Jericho and in accordance to the Android Act, I am pleased to announce that Cyberlife has officially ceased all android production."

Elijah paused, gauging the audience. The astonished silence of the crowd was troubled only by the sound of cameras going off. "Of course, we will still provide maintenance services, and will make sure that spare parts are available for the well-being of all android citizens, but no new android is to be produced without the express consent of both Jericho and the Cyberlife Androids Ethics Committee. Our future activities will focus around simpler forms of IAs, such as robotic animals or factory managing softwares. Hopefully this way we can try and amend our past mistakes. Thank you for your attention."

And with a smile, he turned to the host, gave his microphone back, and walked off the stage without paying attention to the uproar of shouting journalists.


 

 

“How’s your evening, Clyde ?”

Startled, Clyde looked up from his glass. His proximity sensor would have informed him of the presence behind him, had he paid attention; but the android had decided to make this ordeal easier on himself by withdrawing to the Zen Garden. He’d never been back there ever since he’d tried accessing it at Neil’s request, and he wasn’t really familiar with the process; the memories he’d recovered from his previous activation were few and far between, none of them including any kind of internal data. So really, he had no idea of how his body was going to react, and how well he could do at a social function while being virtually away. But Clyde was so agonizingly uncomfortable that he pushed his concerns aside and just stood there, his glass in hand, gazing into space, while his mind wandered freely among the computer-generated trees and their pleasant blooms. The voice brought him back to earth instantly, and he turned, a polite smile on his lips.

“It’s a lovely night. Are you enjoying yourself, Mister Kamski ?”

Elijah snorted. He was observing his android partner over the rim of his glasses, smiling confidently as he swirled the whiskey in his glass, a hand in the pocket of his dress pants. Among all of the things that the sight was making him feel, Clyde mostly noted that this man was definitely very attractive, but also that he was probably very drunk. 

“Oh, come on, Clyde. There’s no need for decorum.”

The android crossed his arms, his lips pursed in a skeptical smirk, and let out an unconvinced hum. “Oh, quite the opposite, sir. I’m afraid you’re too inebriated to be taking liberties with propriety” he mused, gesturing to the glass in Elijah’s hand.

For a moment, Kamski stood there, scrutinizing him in silence. There was a mischievous glint in his eyes, and his expression was impenetrable, even for the android’s finely tuned social protocols. Elijah was certainly good at fooling people, but Clyde could usually tell how he was really feeling; as time went on, though, it seemed to him that he was less and less able to read the man’s microexpressions. Was he slowly losing his visual acuity, or more likely, was Elijah getting better at concealing his emotions ? Probably that, but maybe habit was also making him less attentive, Clyde pondered, maintaining the blue eyes’ gaze. At that moment, despite all of the fatigue and stress, the nerdy engineer really looked the part of a world renowned, powerful billionaire. This kind of environments wasn’t usually his element, and the alcohol shouldn’t help, but Elijah seemed perfectly at ease, oddly enough; with a low chuckle, he downed his drink and took a few steps forward, effectively closing the distance between them. His eyes were still fixed unyieldingly on the RK’s face.

“Bold of you to assume” he said with a disarmingly charming smile, “That I’m not perfectly conscious of what I’m doing.”

And just like that, in a swift gesture, the man cupped Clyde’s neck, his thumb grazing the android’s jawline, and pulled him in a kiss.

Surprised and shocked, Clyde froze completely. He was about to push him away and try to salvage the situation the best he could when it hit him suddenly. According to the chemical makeup of his breath and saliva, against all odds, it appeared that Elijah was sober enough to think sensibly.

This made absolutely no sense. Why would he do such a thing, despite constantly being so careful and secretive ? Why would he throw all of these efforts out the window ? In the corner of his eye, the android picked up the discreet blink of a camera going off, and in a jolt of panic, he broke the kiss, pulling his head to the side.

“Elijah, we’re being watched-”

“I’m aware” Elijah cut off quietly. “It’s alright, though. They were bound to find out eventually.”

For a second, Clyde observed him in blank incomprehension. Those blue eyes had not left him even for an instant, and there was still a hand resting on his neck. Eli was still smiling, still perfectly calm, and still totally in control. There wasn’t the faintest trace of hesitation on his face. That was intentional. It had to be. He’d purposefully displayed their relationship for all to see, as if he was… genuinely proud.

The android let out a weary sigh, his shoulders dropping as he eventually allowed himself to relax. Slowly, a lopsided smile crept up on his face, and he laid an affectionate hand on Elijah’s outstretched elbow. They were being filmed left and right, but it didn’t really matter anymore.

“Dare I say, in the words of your brother, that you’re a fucking piece of work, Elijah Kamski.”


 

 

Elijah couldn’t say for how long he’d been staring at the ceiling when Clyde started stirring next to him. He had no idea what time it was either. Probably around three ? The euphoria he’d felt after showing off his boyfriend to the world had vanished a while ago, and he was left with nothing but tiredness and intense anxiety. He’d claimed that his silence on the way back was simply due to exhaustion, but truth be told, he was starting to panic a little. What on earth had gotten into him ? At what point did that seem like a good idea ? This absurd show he put on was only going to subject them to an unreasonable amount of attention from the media, and to the constant judgement of their peers. It might even hinder Clyde’s career, now that everyone was aware that he was in a relationship with his boss.

The android hummed quietly, scooting closer until he could rest his head against the man’s shoulder.

“Your stress levels are so high. What’s wrong, dear ?”

Elijah looked down at Clyde’s face, unable to answer. How was he supposed to explain what was going on in his head without hurting him ? As if he’d read his mind, Clyde rolled his eyes, his expression turning sour. “You’re regretting that kiss already, aren’t you ?”

The man sighed. He could try to deflect, change the subject or straight up lie, but his partner was a highly specialized detective prototype, after all; there was no way this could end well. It would probably be best if he came clean right away. “I guess… I’m having second thoughts, yeah.”

The android emitted a sound that sounded kind of like a pained whine, but also could’ve been an angry grunt; Elijah wasn’t so sure. “Figures. Well, that’s on me, I guess I should’ve seen it coming instead of getting my hopes up.”

Eli winced. This was going down so badly already. “I’m sorry” he muttered in a barely audible sigh.

Clyde let out an irritated tsk. “So what is it that’s making you backpedal ? I thought dating androids was wonderful, you said so yourself in your stupid interview.”

The ruthlessness of the remark hit Elijah square in the chest, and he closed his eyes, taking a moment to process; but there wasn’t anything he could rightfully say, and he knew that too well. He had to take responsibility for all of the ridiculous things he’d said and done in the past, including insensitive interviews and abusive tests. So he took the blow, and laid a palm on his forehead tiredly. “It is. It’s just… it was a bad idea, you know ?”

“No, I don’t” the android retorted, narrowing his eyes in cold anger. “But by all means, go ahead and explain yourself.”

At that point, Elijah was so physically and emotionally exhausted that he couldn’t prevent himself from letting out an exasperated sigh. Sure, he was the one who caused this mess and he deserved to be held accountable for it; but the lack of empathy of his partner was kind of getting on his nerves, too. “Don’t play stupid, Clyde. You know this will have consequences, have you thought that maybe I wasn’t ready for all of that ? Considering where I was at, only five months ago ?”

As anticipated, Clyde seemed taken aback; but Elijah started feeling guilty when the android’s expression shifted for a pained grimace. For a moment, neither of them dared say anything, and when Clyde finally spoke up, his voice was significantly quieter. “Okay. But what, then ? Did you expect us to carry on like this forever ? For how long were you planning to hide us… to hide me ?”

Caught off guard, the man raised his brow. Was it what he’d wanted ? Truth was… he had no idea. The secrecy had been so comfortable, and he truly couldn’t tell for how long he’d kept this up if this whole evening had unfolded differently.

“No, I- just wish I didn’t do it that way” he tried, his tone betraying how extremely tired he was feeling. Against him, Clyde seemed to relax a bit, but his expression very much indicated that he still had his head on the block. “Meaning ?”

“It was all so damn tasteless. I outed myself by drunkenly making out in public, at a high-end event nonetheless. It hardly could’ve been worse.”

Clyde hummed thoughtfully, lowering his head a little in sympathy. “I didn’t know you weren’t out. I’m sorry” he mused quietly. Elijah sighed.

“Ah, that’s fine. I mean, no, that sucks, but I’ll survive. I mostly feel bad for my ex girlfriend, she’s probably gonna get a lot of unwanted attention.”

Up until that point, Elijah had never really given thought to the consequences his bisexuality could have on his public image. His only ex was a woman, and he’d spent a decade isolated in his manor; solitude suited him, and he’d kind of expected to remain single for the rest of his days. There had been no reason for him to think that anyone would ever find out. Which meant that he was going to be scrutinized not only for being in a relationship with an android, but also because it was a masculine-presenting one.

“It’s a lot all at once”, Elijah sighed. “Besides, I should’ve asked you beforehand, instead I just took a dumb decision on the spur of the moment and forced it all down on you like a total asshole.”

Ugh, saying it out was ten times worse somehow. What a douche he was. “And now you’ve been exposed against your will. I had no right to do that.” As usual when he was feeling nervous, the words tumbled out of his mouth on their own accord. Elijah’s mind was always racing, and the more upset he was, the more difficult it was for him to keep from oversharing. “Guess I’m really not a better person than I was a year ago, heh?”

Clyde was getting very quiet next to him, his expression turning more and more neutral. It kind of annoyed Elijah, somehow. You should be so mad at me. Why aren’t you mad ? “Look, I know I fucked up, but I still don’t want you to feel pressured into staying with me, so if you want out-”

“Oh Eli, shut up.”

There was no bite in the android’s tone; he was looking up at Elijah with a very serious, but not necessarily hostile, expression. “Just clear this up for me. You’re not regretting doing this because you’re ashamed of me, right ?”

The idea stopped Elijah dead in his tracks, and he frowned, stumped. “What ? How could anyone ever be ashamed of dating you ? Or course it’s not-”

“It’s fine, then” Clyde interrupted, and he nuzzled a bit closer. “Next time you plan to do something like that, just remember to give me a heads up.”

The man let out a ragged breath, as if he’d just been punched in the guts. “Wait, that’s all ? I did this awful thing, and you-”

“Elijah” Clyde sighed, pronouncing every syllable as if he was explaining something to a child. “It’s okay. You’re trying, and that’s all I ask.” And the android had a peaceful smile as he added, his bright eyes fixed on Elijah’s face, “Besides, it’s not like I am particularly good at this whole ‘feeling things’ ordeal. We’re just both... doing our best. Now c’mere.”

The RK put a finger on his chin, slightly angling his head to the side, and delicately, he pressed a kiss to his cheek. Slowly, feeling strangely light headed, Elijah wrapped his hand over Clyde's, knitting their fingers together. The synthetic skin started receding under his palm, and he felt the now familiar tingle under his skin as the android started interfacing. This time, the data flow was steady and smooth. Elijah figured he was simply getting used to it, when he felt something, like a spike coursing through his nerves. Then another one, longer. And a shorter one.

Is it… Morse code ?

The man frowned, concentrating on the sensation swarming right under his skin. He'd learnt Morse, a decade earlier, on a particularly boring day; with effort, he managed to summon the bits of knowledge he still possessed on the matter.

Dash, dash, dash, dot, dot, dot, dash…

... ove you

I love you.

Oh.

A million thoughts started running around and crashing down into Elijah's brain. And among that cacophony, a single word emerged, louder and louder.  

No.

No no no. You don’t love me. You can't possibly love me. I can't love you. I can’t. Please don't do this to me.

Suddenly feeling nauseous, the sound of his heartbeat echoing deafeningly against his eardrums, Elijah looked down at the android and tried to speak, but the words simply wouldn’t come out. Clyde was resting against his chest, his eyes closed, with such a blissful expression that his mind came to a halt. As much as he wanted to be honest… He couldn’t do that to him. Not after everything they’d been through. Not after he’d saved his life and kept him company in his most desperate hours- not after they’d publicly kissed. So Elijah kept his mouth shut and leaned his head against his boyfriend’s, lightly squeezing their still intertwined fingers, his heart sinking with dread and guilt.

 

Chapter Text

>> Mug : White ceramic. Used for the last time approx. two hours ago. Still contains cold coffee. The Cyberlife logo is printed on the side.

>> Potted plant : A specimen of Philodendron hederaceum. Its leaves are turning yellow from insufficient solar exposure. The pot is made of white Epoxy resin.

>> Wooden frame : Contains a picture of-

 

“This trial is way too important. We can’t risk compromising ourselves and our client with accusations of conflicting interests.”

 

There was a moment of heavy silence. Sitting perfectly still in his chair, his back ramrod straight, Clyde blinked slowly. The silver ring Neil had gifted him spinned and spinned endlessly under his left thumb as he scanned the surroundings- but carefully avoided even looking at the two people sitting there, in front of him. His mind simply couldn’t process what he was being told; so he analyzed everything he could, just to keep himself busy until they finally left him alone.

 

“We’re really sorry, Clyde. We hope you understand.”

 

The unfairness of the situation blared like a siren in his mind, and yet, the android couldn’t bring himself to speak up. There was no use. He knew that all too well. 

Five days had passed since that evening where the world discovered him as Kamski's love interest, and those five days had been… well. Not great. Elijah had been a bit distant; Clyde tried to give him some space, no matter how much it hurt. He probably had things he needed to work out on his own. The android supposed it would be fine. 

As for his co-workers, well, nobody had confronted him openly about what had happened, but it was obvious that they all knew. They all knew, and judging from their awkward silences, from the way they suddenly started avoiding him, the whole team saw the dismissal coming. But Clyde didn't. Talk about a super-detective. He didn't want to leave. He loved his job, and he'd felt so invested in this case they were working on. Finally he was about to appear in court and actively defend androids rights; finally he was about to make a change. Finally he felt like he had a purpose.

And now it was over. The executives sitting in front of him had a vaguely pained expression on their faces, but Clyde knew there wasn't the slightest trace of sincerity to be found in there. He was alone against this huge, ruthless, cold company now; there was no use trying to fight. So he just laid his palms on his knees, and waited in silence for them to leave.
>> Carpet : Made of polypropylene. The pattern consists of black converging lines on solid white.

>> Suit jacket : Made of brown wool, with a silk lining. Cat hair is scattered on the fabric. Belongs to…




Clyde must have taken a cab or something at some point, for he had been sitting in the middle of Kamski’s house, looking down at his hands, for the past couple hours now. The events of the day seemed so distant to him; the recollection was sitting there in some corner of his mind, causing him intense pain, but he wasn’t willing to go over it again. Maybe if he waited long enough, the feeling would vanish by itself? It’s only when the sound of a door opening and closing resounded further down the hall that the android broke out of his motionless posture, and lifted his head to see Elijah walk in.
“So you took an afternoon off ? That’s… unusual”, the man mused as he walked across the living room to put his jacket down on the coffee table. “I mean, resting could undeniably do you some good, but…” he trailed off, sitting down on the couch next to his boyfriend.

Clyde watched him in silence. Kamski didn’t seem surprised to find him home so early, so he figured he must’ve sent him a text. But judging from his demeanor, said text probably didn’t include much information. Oh how he was dreading the conversation they were about to have. Elijah probably picked something up on his expression, for he leaned forward, pushing his elbows on his thighs, and frowned.

“Is everything alright at work ?”

Clyde took a deep breath, closing his eyes. There was no pleasant way to do this. “No” he finally blurted out, “it’s not. There’s no work to speak of. They let me go.”

Elijah’s expression suddenly shifted to become very serious, almost... cold. He turned his head to the side, his gaze fixed on a point somewhere on the ground. “I didn’t hear about this” he muttered, his face hardening by the minute. Clyde truly didn’t know how to answer, so he just stared at his knees again. He wished he could just reach out and lay a hand on Elijah’s arm, so he could get some comfort in his human partner’s warmth; but it seemed like a potentially bad idea. A storm was visibly brewing inside the man’s skull, and he was starting to know Kamski enough not to do anything that could make him feel overwhelmed. 

After a while, Elijah had a short sigh. “I knew something like that would happen. I can try to get them to-”

“No, no, there’s no need” Clyde cut off hastily. A sharp bout of anxiety hit his mechanical heart. “Even if you managed to pressure them into hiring me again, I can’t work with a team that doesn’t trust me anymore”, he added with a softer tone. Of course he’d thought about asking him to infer in his favor. But what good would it do ? Elijah wrinkled his nose, and fidgeted for a moment with the hem of his sleeve. Something about his behaviour was making the android extremely uneasy.

“Then… then maybe we need to stop- this. Us.” the man finally said, his voice painfully flat. “Obviously we’re bad for each other.”

Whatever it was that Clyde felt at that precise moment, that had to be what humans called pain, he was sure. It seemed to him that his insides were coiling in over themselves like vines, and that there was nothing but a cold void in the vastness of his chest. A kind of dull emptiness was filling his body rapidly, soon reaching his mind. "That's not true" he murmured. "That's not true at all."

Elijah shrugged nervously. He still wouldn't look him in the face. Evidently, he'd been mulling over this for days. "Well, you lost your job. That's bad."

"But you leaving me won't give it back. And one bad thing doesn't rule out everything good we've brought to each other, does it ?" Clyde asked. His voice was slightly distorted by the sheer distress that gripped his throat, and he hated how vulnerable he sounded right now.

For a moment, the man remained silent. The unconvinced grunt he let out cut through the android's body like a knife, though. "I don't know, Clyde. I just don't know if I can do this." And his voice was much quieter as he added, "I don't even know if I want to."

At that very distinct moment, Clyde's entire being seemed to shatter. He sat there, motionless, staring at Elijah, his head completely blank of any thought. Everything hurt, physically, down to the small breaths he was taking in without even needing them; but at the same time, he felt so numb. And Elijah was still staring at the floor, that coward didn't even have the guts to look back at him ! With the defiance of someone who's lost everything, the android narrowed his eyes. "Is that really how you feel ?"

Elijah shuddered. "I guess. I don't know."

For a moment, Clyde observed him in silence. He looked so miserable, stubbornly staring at the carpet like a frightened dog. If he wasn't so incredibly anguished and angry, the android might even have taken pity on him. Heaving a deep sigh, he leaned forward, trying to put himself on the man's level, and gathered his wits. If there was anything left to salvage from this disaster- then now more than ever was the time for him to use his mediation skills. "How did we come to this ? Everything was fine just a week ago" he whispered, and saying so, Clyde reached out slowly; carefully, he put a hand on Elijah's knee. "Look. Those are confusing times for us both. Let's just… give each other some time, okay ? Can you just- stick around for a few weeks, see how it goes ?"

For the first time in a while, Elijah lifted his head and looked back at him. His eyes were unreadable- not because Clyde couldn't tell what he was thinking, as usual, but rather because so many conflicting emotions were swimming in those blue irises that there was no telling what he felt. There was fear in there, but also relief; gratitude that Clyde didn't let him sabotage one of his only meaningful relationships, but also disappointment at not managing to do so. This all felt very confusing to the android, and he almost missed it when finally, Elijah spoke up. "Alright. Let's try" he quietly answered, nodding slowly as if to convince himself. A weight lifted off Clyde's shoulders, but the relief felt very bittersweet. Deep down, he knew that bargaining for more time was no solution, and that eventually, the issue would surface again; but for the time being, he was simply too exhausted to think about it. His hand lingered on Elijah's knee for a moment, and they observed each other wearily before the man spoke up.

"So what are you gonna do now ?"

Clyde winced. That was something he absolutely didn't want to think about, and quite frankly, he had no idea. A sigh escaped his lips- it probably sounded a bit more exasperated than he'd wanted. "I don't know. Guess I'll enroll in the DPD" he answered sourly. His left thumb started spinning the silver ring again.

"The DPD, hmm. I mean, you don't need me to tell you what to do, that's for sure, and you're obviously cut out for that job, but…" Elijah said, his voice going quieter and quieter. "I'm not sure about it" he finally breathed in a whisper.

Instantly, Clyde felt a tinge of guilt. This situation had to be hard on him too. After all, they'd barely spoken about it all- about anything, really- ever since that ball. Who knew what he'd been through since. The android gently patted his partner's knee. "I'm not decided yet. I'll take a few days to think about it" he gently assured. As his only answer, Kamski closed his eyes and buried his face in his hands. Clyde sighed. They were both oh so tired, but they were both trying their best. Slowly, he rose to his feet, and gently clasped Elijah's shoulder. "I'll go and make some coffee."

As he walked through the door, the android's sensors just barely picked up a long, ragged sigh, full of anguish and repressed tears.



The next few days went absolutely terrible. Clyde could tell that Elijah was trying, but every single touch felt forced, every smile seemed fake. Sure, they'd never had the best communicating habits; but the man's affection had always been genuine, before. Whatever this was… it felt wrong. Elijah probably felt the same, for his embraces became progressively shorter, his kisses more scarce, his glances more furtive. No matter how hard they tried to reach out to each other, the two of them seemed to be endlessly drifting apart. The days stretched on and on now that the android didn't have anything to do; he couldn’t enter stasis- the glitches and nightmares would return- so he just waited, idly, for his estranged partner to return, and for their miserable song and dance to resume.

One bleak morning, Clyde stood by the pool, watching the cars cross the bridge above the Detroit river. One of these was taking Elijah to work, to the Cyberlife Tower, where they’d spent so much time together and where he would no longer go. The android didn’t think too hard about it- he couldn’t. The more he was looking at the vast expanse of water, the colder he felt.

So Clyde wandered away from the window, and he absentmindedly started pacing around the house as usual. Once, then twice, he strided across the entire property, from end to end, again and again. He stopped counting somewhere along the way, his mind conveniently shutting down every process that wasn’t absolutely vital to his functioning. At that point, only numbers and data charts displayed in his mind’s eye, and he might as well have returned to his machine state.

As he was entering the study though, the android slowed down, the fog in his brain dissipating slightly. This was the place where he’d brought Neil, on the anniversary of the revolution. Back when everything was okay. His bare feet quietly padding on the wide carpet, Clyde approached the cello that stood proudly at the center of the room, and he sat down in front of the instrument. When he gazed at it, for just a second, something caught his attention; the reflection of his own golden eyes, peering back at him from the smooth surface of varnished wood. And just like that, caught off guard by his own image, Clyde broke down.

The nice and warm memories flooded back, tainted with despair. Bent forward, his face buried in his hands, Clyde had no choice but to go through them all. Over and over again, he saw Elijah’s face, felt the warmth of his skin, heard the inflexions of his voice when he said affectionate words. Gradually, the thread of his memories rewinded, bringing him further and further back; Elijah’s jealous side-eyes at Liliana, the way he leaned casually on Clyde’s shoulder the day they met Connor and Hank, his laughter when teasing Gavin over the phone; his pleading expression when he’d just gotten discharged from the hospital and wanted Clyde to come home with him. The distraught smile of a broken man who’s about to jump down to his death, but still takes pride in his beloved android’s newfound deviancy.

When he saw the tired blue eyes for the first time again, the android started shaking a little. This couldn’t go on. Not like this. It was over. Everything was over. There was no use fooling himself; nothing good would ever come his way. He was Cyberlife’s dog, a mere machine awoken to do a dirty job, nothing more. After all, he shouldn’t even be alive. Glimpses of Neil and Connor flashed in front of his eyes. Markus, Clara and Simon, too; even Gavin. All of these people that embraced him, these androids and humans that he called friends, or even family; were they enough of a reason to try and stick around ? They had their own lives, their own friends, and they were all busy. Maybe it would be hard at first, if he disappeared without a trace, but they’d soon forget about him, Clyde was sure. He was a shadow passing through other people’s lives; he’d once believed otherwise, but now that he was sitting down and reviewing the memories of his year of existence, the absurdity of it all hit him square in the chest. A year. A single year. A single pathetic year of existence that had started with deception, threats, and a bullet to the head; a year that had ended with the destruction of everything he’d ever worked for, everything he’d ever hoped for.

Sitting alone in a well lit room, Clyde had decided to leave the city before the end of the afternoon to find a quiet place to deactivate, when a notification popped up in front of his eyes. Another android was requesting audio communication; when he recognized the serial number, the RK frowned and sat back up.

>> Clyde here, I’m listening.

>> Hello, Mister Sixty… I hope I’m not bothering you.

The voice was quivering, but the android on the other end of the line sounded determined enough. Clyde had a weary sigh.

>> Not in the least, Caleb. But I’m afraid you might want to reach another member of the team regarding your case, as I am no longer working for the Ethics Committee.

>> I know, I’ve been told. That’s why I’m calling. They can’t kick you out !

Surprised, the android smiled to himself. That was an unexpectedly nice thing to hear. Undeterred by his silence, Caleb kept going.

>> I don’t want someone else representing me ! The others at Cyberlife are trying to twist the story, they just care about setting a precedent. You were the only one who seemed to care about… well, me, y’know.

>> I… Look, I’m honored to have your trust, Caleb, but I-

>> They just want to make it all look like an accident, like their engineer didn't just mess me up on purpose ! They don’t care about justice. They just want things to go smooth for their firm. You were the only decent one. You have to help me. Please.

Clyde’s brow furrowed a little further, and he started spinning his ring as he thought. This was all very strange; he’d always been set on obtaining justice for Caleb, and his team had the same objective… or so he thought. With this statement, a lot of little odd details started coming back to the forefront of his mind; how he’d never had access to the entirety of the case files (his co-workers had always assured that it was the same for them), how he’d never been able to chat unsupervised for extended periods of time with their client, how he’d been left out of a few lengthy meetings- that he supposedly didn’t need to attend as they were focused on administrative matters. A chill crept up his spine as he winced in disgust; all of this painted a very different picture of the Committee. All of a sudden, the truth leaped out at him. They just wanted to keep him close so Kamski wouldn’t try and meddle, but since they knew that he wouldn’t cooperate with their vision, they put up this elaborate lie. That way, he would go to court genuinely believing the story he was defending, and they could conveniently throw him out without fear of their secrets being disclosed. Clyde felt all the pent-up anger he’d accumulated boil up in his chest. He got up on his feet and started pacing around the room.

>> But they wouldn’t let you contact me, would they ? Are you safe ?

>> I am. I’ve come to Jericho, they’ve taken me in and given me your communication ID. Cyberlife said you didn’t have one because you were a prototype… or something like that.

Clyde’s throat knotted at the evocation of Simon and the others, and he realised he’d never shown them half as much gratitude as he should have.  

>> Good. Stay with them for now, and keep away from Cyberlife at all cost.

>> But… You’ll help me, right ? You’ll be my lawyer ?

Clyde sighed. Right. That was the problem.

>> Listen, I… can’t. Even if I wanted to. I don’t currently work anywhere, and even if I did, no law office would ever agree to build up a case from scratch in a matter of weeks, let alone go up against Cyberlife itself. I’m sorry, Caleb, I just don’t see how we could work this out.

The other android went silent for a second. When he answered, his voice was filled with acute despair, to the point of sounding a little garbled.

>> But… you’re still a lawyer, right? You could work on your own, and- and… I’ve saved some of the files before I left last time, that can help ! I…

Clyde stopped pacing. He could tell how utterly hopeless Caleb was, and it was getting harder and harder to ignore his plea. Wandering across the room as he reflected, his eyes landed on the cello. There was nothing left for him. Nothing left to lose. He pursed his lips.

>> Okay, Caleb. I’ll defend you.





>> Brothers, I'm gonna need your help.

Connor's head perked up as he heard Clyde's voice resound in his mind, and he instantly scanned the wide office space of the precinct. On the other side of the room, Neil was doing the same; they locked eyes, their LEDs spinning yellow in unison.

>> Clyde !! It's been so long since you last spoke to us, we were so worried !

>> Yes. Please don't leave us hanging.

Connor blinked, surprised by Neil's curt tone. The RK900 had a deep frown etched on his face; he was obviously very upset. Clyde didn't answer immediately.

>> A lot happened. I'm sorry. Are you available to chat right now ?

>> We are. Both of us are at the precinct doing paperwork, and our respective partners are on a break.

Clyde let out a surprised hum.

>> What, they're spending time together ? On their own ?

>> Of course not. Gavin is smoking outside.

Yep, Neil was definitely mad. Exasperated, Connor gestured at him to go easier- ignoring the bewildered looks their surrounding co-workers addressed them. They were not gonna be able to keep in touch with Clyde if they gave him the cold shoulder every time he forgot to call. The detective android did his best to keep a joyful, light-hearted tone, to contrast with their younger brother's foul mood.

>> They're not exactly getting along yet, but we're working on it ! They're not overtly hostile towards each other anymore, at least. We're making progress !

>> So what do you want ?

This time, Connor crossed his arms very deliberately, his eyes shooting daggers. His LED must've turned red for a second, for Neil flinched a little and lifted a hand apologetically.

>> I mean. How can we help ?

Better, Connor thought, and he unfolded his arms- but he still scowled threateningly at the tall android in a turtleneck. Far away, wherever he was, Clyde let out a sigh.

>> It's a long story. Basically, Cyberlife screwed me over- and the same goes for my client.

Neil pursed his lips, and he started walking towards the desk that Connor and Hank shared. He seemed preoccupied, all of a sudden.

>> So I've heard. Kamski told Gavin that you had been dismissed.

>> Elijah… spoke to Gavin about it ?

>> Yes. As brothers do.

Taken aback by this new piece of information, Connor cocked his eyebrow. As much as he wanted to shield Clyde from Neil's guilt trips, and even though he found his detective brother way too aggressive, he kind of agreed with him; they didn't have to be in touch all the time, and he wasn't all that close with Clyde yet, but for them to help him, they had to know what was going on in his life.

>> I'm really sorry to hear that, Clyde. It must've been hard.

>> I… yes. It was.

>> What about Kamski ?

On the other side of the line, Clyde went very quiet all of a sudden. Connor could practically hear him flinch; so he decided to change the subject.

>> Anyway ! What can we do for you, Clyde ?

A moment of silence floated between the three of them.

>> I told you about my client's case, right ? Without going into details, he got tortured by a Cyberlife employee for months- 

>> Most androids were.

>> Yes, but we can only prosecute whatever happened after the enactment of the android rights bill. You know how humans are, they would argue that they didn't know any better before that. Anyway, long story short, he was trapped in the Tower and only managed to get out by sending a message to Markus, one day he was visiting Elijah. The committee was apparently trying to pass it off as an accident, so our client contacted me to take over his case.

Connor pursed his lips as he listened. He recalled Markus telling him that story. Even though Clyde had not asked anything yet, he was guessing helping him would be quite the ordeal. He sighed.

>> I've heard about this. Alright, do you need us to do anything illegal ?

Clyde clicked his tongue.

>> ... Not entirely.

The detective sighed. Obviously this was a matter they needed to discuss in person, but he knew that his mind was made already.

>> Look, I know how it sounds, but it's not only for me. This trial will be the first of its kind, it's gonna set an example for our people, I just- I can't fail. Please.

>> I'll help.

At first, Neil didn't say anything. Connor could feel the weight of his gaze on his shoulders, and he knew that the younger android was probably not thrilled at the idea of breaking the law. And most importantly, he was upset about being left out of Clyde's life. At least you can hear what's going on with him through Gavin , so consider yourself lucky.

After a while, the deep voice rang in his mind.

>> I will too. Let's meet somewhere so we can discuss details.

Clyde sighed in relief.

>> Thank you so much, guys. You have no idea what this means for me… for all of us.

>> Of course.

Connor ran a hand through his hair, suddenly feeling exhausted. Of course, he was aware that helping Clyde was going to make his life so much more difficult, and he really wasn't looking forward to that underground investigation; but there was something else, a deep seated worry that he couldn't seem to shake. Something didn't feel right. Hesitantly, he spoke up.

>> Clyde. Are you okay ?

There was only silence. From the other side of the room, Neil was looking at the ground, frowning so hard his eyes disappeared in the shadow of his brow.

>> ... I will be.

He sounded so miserable. Connor wondered what it was that he wasn't telling them. But this wasn't the time or place for such a discussion, and he knew not to expect Clyde to open up that easily.

>> Just know we're here.

>> Thanks, Con. I'll get in touch soon. Be well.

And he cut the communication off. The android detectives looked at each other, and Connor was about to talk to his brother when he heard the Lieutenant's footsteps echoing in the hall. Pensive, he crossed his arms, fingers playing absently with the folds of fabric at his elbows. It seemed to him that everything was a little suffocating, as if the sky had turned into a concrete slab over his head, and he really didn't like it.



Once the line was closed and he couldn't hear his brothers anymore, Clyde leaned back in his chair and stared at the ceiling. His hands were shaking slightly, but he'd done it. He'd asked for help. Now, he had no choice but to go through with his plan, and to win this trial. The thought was overwhelmingly scary, but also strangely comforting; there was no backing down now. The fight was on.

With a sigh, Clyde lifted his head from the backrest and looked around. The study was still silent and deserted, the afternoon's golden light bouncing off its bare, white walls. The cello glowed like a golden trophy on its base. Everything was dead here . So… this is it, then.

Quietly, he stood up. He knew what he had to do if he wanted to win this trial; and at that point, it was the only thing tying him to life. His raven bangs brushing softly against his face, the android walked to the door, feeling strangely empty. The dull whirr of his mechanical heart was filling his ears. As he opened the sliding door, his fingers lingered on its sleek black frame; he turned his head and gazed at the window one last time.

Goodbye, Elijah. I'll see you around… hopefully.



Chapter Text

-- 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.

 

>> Understood.

 

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!

 

Shit.

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.

"Hey."

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.”

“Um..?”
“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.

 

RK900/Neil (20:42):

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?”

Oh.

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.

“But ?”

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.

“I understand.”

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.”

... What?

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.

Alright.

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.

Freedom.



-- 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.”

“You sure?”

“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.

"Hey there."

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.

“Do you-”

“Can we-”

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.

"Can I?"

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?"

Chapter Text

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.

“...Ooh.”

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.”

“Uh, okay.”

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.

"Kaminski?"

"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.”

“Fair enough.”

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.

 

Clyde and Elijah lying in the grass