“You know on Earth the androids eventually get names?”
3S always does that. Almost fall asleep and then begin a conversation. It matches how airheaded he is when he’s awake.
“They’re down there a long time,” 801S replies. “It doesn’t surprise me.”
3S lifts his head from the excessive bedding and props himself up on his elbows. If he were anyone other than the system administrator, there's no way he would be allowed the luxury of such a fluffy blanket or any of his ridiculously plush pillows. It’s all he’s ever asked for, so maybe the Commander is more permissive with him, the same way the Operators are permissive with the Commander’s infamously messy private quarters. “Have you ever thought about having a name?”
“No.” His voice is a bit harsher than he meant, but he wishes 3S wouldn’t pretend like that. When they both know it’s not realistic, daydreams like that just feel cruel. “We'll never get names.”
“Not from the Commander,” 3S admits. “But we could name each other.”
801S stops staring at the symmetrical lines in the ceiling and turns his head on the pillow to search the other scanner’s face. The eternal mess of 3S’ charming but disheveled hair curls just above his heavy lashes, but the silly grin that accompanies his teasing is absent.
“We’re androids, 3S. We don’t need names. Designations are fine.”
He laughs softly. “It’s not about need.”
“Then what is it about? If you want a name, fine but I'm the only No. 801 that exists. They don’t even have any of me in storage.”
“I heard…” 3S says slowly, while his silicon fingers move beneath the blankets and trail along the exposed plates on 801S’ arms. “That humans believed naming something made it yours.”
801S resists swallowing, but there’s no ignoring the way the pulse of black box speeds up. "I'm pretty sure it doesn’t have that kind of meaning among androids."
"I’m not so sure.” He rolls onto his stomach. “Isn't getting a name from whoever is above you in the chain of command like them saying 'You're one of my own and I'll take care of you'?"
3S' hooded gaze staring dreamily out the window is too much. 801S scowls but makes sure to turn his face away. The agitation he feels is not to about 3S and he won’t let him think it is. "So what? Are you saying you want to take care of me?"
The weight on the bed shifts and 3S leans over him. He’s smiling in that lonesome, self-effacing way that 801S can’t bear. It reminds him that 3S has seen generations of YoRHa come and die and go while only being able to diligently perform his duties as the server administrator. That until 801S was rolled out, he was working himself to near breakdown then sleeping for days or weeks just to exercise some minor control and exact some minor punishment on himself for always being safe. For living a long, continuous life while others like him were dying in a war on a planet as unreachable to him as the moon.
"If I could,” he whispers. “I would.”
801S nearly turns away out of shame. Now he is the one who has been insensitive. They’re equally trapped in this farce, even if it’s for different reasons, and they both know it.
3S leans in until their foreheads touch and they both close their eyes. That’s how the acknowledge one another. How they apologize when they’ve let the circumstances make them insensitive to each other and themselves. “An android, YoRHa, a scanner... Those are things you share with others. If I name you, I can put a word to everything you are from this moment until…"
“Hush.” This time, 801S can’t keep from swallowing. “What’ll you do if the Commander finds out the Sys Admin is a weird romantic.”
“Tell her I got it from you.” 3S lays back at his side. Beneath the blankets, their fingers intertwine like vines growing around one another. “You keep a record of all the little things the other scanners do.”
“It’s for statistical purposes.”
801S’ temperature rises, but mildly. It's no secret between them that he was not programmed to adore humanity the way other YoRHa do. He doesn’t hate them. He sees no point in that. But he is known to be vocal about the persistent imitation of humanity being antithetical to the android progress. There is nothing that infuriates him more than arbitrary differences caused by the pretense of humanity, especially when they lead directly to failures. He shuns them at every turn, eschewing his anti-magnetic skin, and refusing to entertain that he or any of them have determinable sex that isn’t as arbitrary and changeable as the design of their uniforms.
Yet the human things that 3S does always infect him and make him feel like a child in the middle of a futile rebellion. A one-of-a-kind unit this late in the generation had ‘prototype’ written all over it. His eventual fate has never been a mystery to him, or anyone else. Even if he holds on to all the little human things the other scanners do, he knows someday Command will have whatever data he is providing and that will be the end of him.
Still he logs data he knows he cannot keep.
“1S always ends up liking books,” he says, quietly enough so he can pretend it doesn’t hurt. “And carving stuff out of wood. 4S likes trying on clothes he finds on Earth and dyes his hair weird colors. 9S likes baths and 11S always ends up humming and whistling and gets songs stuck in all the Operators’ heads. 32S likes eating and 42S always ends up interested in jokes even though he’s terrible at them...”
It might be sweet, but it always ends up bitter when he thinks of how many times he’s watched these patterns emerge and reemerge.
“And you like to stargaze.”
How does he do that with his voice, 801S wonders? He isn’t crying, but 3S has an uncanny way of saying things that feels like having tears wiped away.
“I like it better with you,” he mumbles.
3S’ eyes widen, and his brows vanish behind the curtain of his hair. Every now and again, 801S manages to catch him off guard and it always makes him feel a little proud, though he doesn’t know why.
“Yeah,” he says with a bashful smile. “I like sleeping better with you, too. But you know, 801S… The 1S who carved animals and the one who carved combs weren’t the same person. If you had a name… then even if someday there’s a you who looks at planets or asteroids or down at the Earth… I can keep it and say this version of you was mine.”
Androids don’t blush, but 801S feels heat flood him from the chest up. "Was that all this was about?! You could’ve just said that instead of dancing it around it! I'm already in bed with you!"
"Ah, is that your blessing? You like the idea?"
"I like you, you sleepy idiot."
"Hehe, then I'll have to think up a good one. Something that suits you..."
"If you give me a really feminine name, I'll dump you."
"Mmm, if I give you a really manly name, you'll dump me too, what a pinch I’m in~” He laughs and his arms, so soft and so warm, encircle 801S and bring him closer. “1S said the Resistance androids are all named after flowers and colors, but maybe I can name you after a star since you like them?”
“…I’ll like whatever you call me, 3S.” He presses their foreheads together. “Did you still want me to name you too?”
“I’ll be happy if you keep calling me ‘sleepy idiot’ like you always do.”
Something in 801S' chest wavers and he lets his anti-magnetic skin creep back over his panels and coat him in supple skin. No matter how he tells himself over and over that has no use for human things—that it’s unnecessary for an android to do these things, he always leans into these embraces with frustrating eagerness. He knows that black boxes don’t beat, but he listens. He knows androids only breath to vent heat, but it becomes a rhythmic assurance that 3S is alive whenever they’re this close. Neither one of them has ever known anything but the consistent cold of space, but 801S always finds himself beginning to breathe as well.
They are both full of such needless human habits.
Clutching 3S closer, he shudders. Tears roll from his eyes. Another human thing that causes him unnecessary pain and frustration. If emotion was prohibited, why give them the capacity? Why did they have to have hearts at all?
“Is there any point to this…? To any of this?”
“…I think there’s a point.” It is a cruel question by nature, but 3S pulls the blanket up over their heads and laces his fingers through 801S’ hair to soothe his desperation. “I feel…hope when I’m with you. Like maybe the war will really end. And when it does that I’ll still belong somewhere. Even if I know that’s not true, I think just feeling that way is enough. Meeting you, being yelled at by you to take better care of myself, sharing sleep with you, looking at the stars with you… I don’t know if this feeling is what it means to love someone, but…”
“Well, we’re androids. Even if it’s not love, we might not need anything else.”
It’s such a small but sweet appeal that 801S can’t help but laugh. But he likes that. It’s without pressure to be human or anything else but what they are. If that’s all that matters, what’s another unrealistic daydream on top of the rest as long as they’re together? “Then I want to sleep and stargaze with you a hundred—no, a thousand times. And you better come up with a name you’ll never forget.”
3S buries his face into 801S’ hair, and he can feel the smile on his lips. “I can do that.”
The Bunker rotates. Beyond the window, the sunlit Earth, the flickering stars, and the glow of the dead moon take turns casting their light on them.
Over and over and over.