“Look at its eyes. I bet the video cameras are located there, sending a 24/7 feed of all your most private actions straight to the heart of our totalitarian bastard government.”
“…Right,” Pete says. The eyes are large and staring and kind of glassy, yeah, but they’re also a little…cute. They’re an odd mixture of blue and green, framed by thick, light-colored lashes that Pete knows are synthesized plastic but still manage to look incredibly lifelike. Pete huffs out a breath, and they flutter.
“I’m serious, Pete!” Andy’s moved away now, hands waving in the air wildly as he continues. “I can’t believe you bought one of these pieces of—they’re tools, man, tools that the government’s using to monitor its citizens! I don’t think you’re taking this seriously enough.”
“The Patriot Act was overturned decades ago,” Pete murmurs. He brushes one finger along the shell of its ear. It’s soft.
“I don’t see what that has to do with anything,” says Andy, frowning.
“Also, it’s just a cleaning robot,” Pete points out. “I got it from Mikey, who said he bought it from a friend. I kind of doubt that the government has infiltrated Mikey’s shady network of friends.”
“But that’s the thing! You never know,” Andy says.
“Hey,” Pete says, “do you think it can talk? I wonder where the on button is…”
Andy rolls his eyes in disgust.
* * *
It turns out that the robot can talk. But only sometimes. And only, apparently, in swear words.
Pete’s pretty sure of all this, because he spent all morning messing with it.
“Hey, Joe,” Pete grins, “look at this.”
Joe’s disembodied head stares at him from the wall projector.
“Dude,” Pete says, poking at the robot.
The robot slouches almost imperceptibly in his chair.
“Can I see your hat?” Pete smiles brightly.
He waits for one, two seconds, before reaching to grab at it. The robot’s reaction is instantaneous.
“Fuck off,” it snarls, hands coming up to press the trucker hat protectively to its head.
Then it blinks several times before blushing, deeply, and slouching even further.
“Cool, right?” Pete says to Joe.
“That is so rad,” Joe agrees, nodding slowly. “I wonder if it’s some kind of defense mechanism? Maybe the entire hard drive is covered by the hat, so it’s programmed not to let anyone come too near it.”
“Maybe,” Pete says. The robot’s blushing harder now, and it’s started glaring down at its lap. Pete watches for a moment before switching his attention back to Joe.
“We should totally check,” Joe says, afro waving around his head. “Just turn it off, and then we’ll be able to see, right?”
“Yeah, okay,” Pete says. He stares at it. It stares at the ground. Pete somehow feels like he should ask its permission, or something, but that’s stupid, because it’s just a machine.
So he reaches out and jabs at the belly button maybe a little harder than necessary. He’s not sure if he’s imagining the tiny flinch.
* * *
There’s nothing under the cap, except for this tiny bald spot. Joe tells him that it’s shoddy workmanship, and that Pete should return it and ask for his money back. Pete says that it’s too much trouble, and that he’s too lazy, but really he’s kind of fond of the bald spot. It’s nice, the little flaw. It’s quirky. It’s got character. It’s more…Pete’s brain wants to think human, but that’s a dangerous road, so Pete quickly moves on from the thought.
He says goodbye to Joe and waits for him to hang up before turning the robot back on.
As soon as all its systems reboot, it scoots away from Pete as quickly as it can, and Pete feels this weird, unidentifiable pang in his chest.
Whatever. The thing’s got weird programming, seriously. Its maker must have been fucking certifiable.
* * *
It’s not unusual for Pete to wake up in the middle of the night. What is unusual is for Pete to be woken up by external stimuli, instead of his own stupid body. Someone is very clearly moving things around downstairs, and Pete rolls his eyes to himself. Burglars are so 21st century. He wonders how they got past the security system.
Quietly, he grabs his grandmother’s antique keyboard in one hand and starts inching down the stairs. The lights are all on, and Pete has to roll his eyes again, because seriously? What kind of amateurs are these?
He’s almost to the foot of the stairs when a small, red-headed blur zooms past him. Pete blinks.
It’s the robot, duster in one hand and a bottle of some generic cleaner in the other.
“What are you doing?” Pete asks after a few minutes, in which the robot dusted the mantle, scrubbed his kitchen windows, and got halfway through sweeping the floor.
It freezes, and then slowly turns around. Reluctantly, it raises its eyes to Pete’s.
Pete fights the urge to be the one to blink first. “Dude?” he prompts.
Then the robot loses the embarrassed flush and just huffs impatiently. “I’m cleaning,” it says witheringly. “Because I’m a cleaning robot. Did you somehow miss that?”
“It’s the middle of the night,” Pete retorts. “I didn’t realize I’d bought a nocturnal robot.”
“Oh my god,” Pete says suddenly. “You just talked.”
It rolls its eyes to the ceiling.
“Without using the words fuck, shit, or ass,” Pete continues. “Dude. I thought that was your entire vocabulary.”
“Are we done here?” the robot says. “Asshole,” it adds as an afterthought.
“Yeah, yeah,” Pete says without really listening. “Can you do other tricks, too, besides talking?”
The robot very pointedly turns its back on Pete and starts wiping off the counter.
* * *
“I feel like I should command more respect,” Pete says. “Aren’t I its master, or something?”
There’s a faint scuffle behind him, and Pete almost turns around, but decides not to. It’s probably just Mrs. Gardner from next door, trying to find the lightswitch again.
“Have you checked his eyes for video cameras yet?” Andy asks.
“It’s really weird,” Pete continues. “Sometimes it seems like the thing has actual human moods, you know? This one time I made a joke about male-pattern baldness and Dr. Evil, and I don’t even really remember what the joke was about; all you need to know is that it was a seriously great joke, but yeah, it just threw this complete bitchfit and totally dyed all my socks pink.”
“I’ve heard stories about the government hacking into email accounts and accessing people’s financial records,” Andy says. “You should watch that robot at all times. Constant vigilance!”
“I’ve been creeping myself out a few times,” Pete says. “Like, I know its ass is just made out of synthetic materials like silicone and—and whatever the fuck, but that doesn’t negate the fact that it’s just a really great ass, you know?”
“There were two mysterious deaths last week,” Andy says. “I bet they were caused by cleaning robots.”
“Do you think I should try to stop staring at its ass?” Pete asks. “I feel like I might be having a moral dilemma. Do those feel like indigestion?”
“Speaking of robots,” Andy says, “have you ever seen Terminator?”
“Thanks, Andy,” Pete says. “You’ve been a big help.”
* * *
“Do you have a name? Everyone should have a name,” Pete muses. “Well, except for machines and stuff. Do you count?”
The robot’s jaw tightens, and he starts dusting a little more violently, sending clouds of grey into the air.
“I’ll name you anyway,” Pete rasps, trying not to cough. “What do you think about…Fido?”
The robot stops dusting the windowsills and stares at Pete like he’s grown a second head.
“No, no, you’re right,” Pete says. “That’s not original enough. You’re a robot, right, so maybe…R2D2? Some other collection of letters and numbers that sounds suitably ambiguous and technological?”
“Has it ever occurred to you that I might already have a name?” the robot asks slowly.
“Oh, you do?” Pete asks. “That’s great! Can you tell me? Because I’ve kind of been staring at your ass lately and it’s really skeeving me out that I don’t know your name. I feel like that’s objectification, you know, staring at people’s asses without knowing their name.”
The robot takes one long, deep breath. Pete wonders offhandedly if it really has to breathe, or if it’s just doing that to keep up appearances.
“Sometimes I wonder if killing myself will stop the pain,” it says matter-of-factly. “And then I remember I’m a robot.”
“That’s pretty deep, dude,” Pete says. “What pain?”
The robot looks at him. Pete feels like he’s missing something.
“Sooo, anyway,” Pete continues. “What’s your name? I’m Pete Wentz, by the way. Did you know that? I’m not sure if I ever told you.”
“I get your mail for you,” the robot says. “And guess what’s on your mail.”
“Right, my name,” Pete says. “So, what’s yours? I’ll keep calling you Fido if you don’t tell me.”
“Are you always this annoying?” the robot asks.
“Nah, it’s all for your benefit, Fido.” Pete smiles nice and wide.
The robot heaves a gusty sigh. “I’m Patrick. Now will you shut up?”
“That’s a nice name,” Pete remarks. “Great for nicknames.”
Patrick turns on the vacuum cleaner full blast, pointedly.
* * *
Some people say that Pete has a limited repertoire. And by some people, he means disgruntled exes. Which Pete really doesn’t appreciate, because his repertoire isn’t limited so much as he strategically decides to repeat reliable old moves. The classics. You can never go wrong with the classics.
“Hey, Patrick,” Pete drawls out. He leans against the counter invitingly.
Patrick looks up from mopping the floor and then chokes on air. “What—why—“ He coughs some more.
“Yes?” Pete smiles.
Patrick directs his gaze to the floor. His ears are a very deep red. “Why are you naked,” he grits out.
Pete looks down at himself. “Bartskull not working for you? I know some people think it’s weird, but it’s really just art, you know.”
“Why is this happening to me?” Patrick mutters.
“Because you’re incredibly lucky?” Pete offers. Patrick appears to be turning a peculiar shade of purple. This isn’t usually how these encounters go—typically, when Pete gets naked, there’s less unnatural coloration and more, ahem, hardening going on—but Pete decides to push on anyway.
“Hey,” he says, “I don’t want to seem pushy, but it’s kind of chilly, so if we could just speed things up a little bit…”
Okay, Pete totally does not deserve that bucket full of cold water to his face.
* * *
“Speed things up?” Cassadee seems to be having a hard time getting words out. “That’s really what you said?”
“Maybe he’s defective,” Pete says. The word feels odd in his mouth, large and uncomfortable and almost guilty, but Pete presses on. “I thought robots were supposed to listen to their owners.”
“You are such a jackass,” Cassadee sighs.
“You can’t say that to me!” Pete says, mouth open. “I’m your boss.”
“Get over yourself,” Cassadee tells him. “You own one of about twenty thousand coffee joints in the greater Chicago area. Trust me, I could get another job.”
“Maybe I’m just not enough of an authority figure,” Pete says. “I feel like no one respects me. Not my employees, not even my robot.”
“Maybe it’s because you’re kind of short. You don’t have a very intimidating stature,” Jon says, patting him on the shoulder as he walks past. Cassadee gets up as if to go, but Pete quickly grabs her sleeve.
“Wait, you can’t go yet. You haven’t told me what to do,” Pete says.
“My break’s over,” Cassadee says.
“I’m your boss, I set your breaks,” Pete says triumphantly.
“Not according to the Fair Labor Standards Act of 2231,” Cassadee mutters, but she stays in the booth.
“You need to tell me how to get into Patrick’s pants,” Pete says earnestly.
“Do you realize how pathetic it is that you’re asking me for advice on how to sleep with your cleaning robot?”
“Oh, good,” Cassadee says. “Then it shouldn’t sting too much when I tell you that, cleaning robot or not, if a guy doesn’t want in your skintight pants, he doesn’t want in your pants.”
“Do you think I should go with the pity approach?” Pete says, considering.
“I think you should go with the try-not-to-get-indicted-on-sexual-harass
“Wait, can robots sue in court?” Pete blinks.
“For the sake of your poor robot, let’s just go with yes.”
Pete feels like that wasn’t a very clear answer.
* * *
Patrick’s hair looks really nice in the sunlight, all burnished red-gold and other clichés. It fringes out around his face, soft locks falling a little over his ears and one kind of in his eyes. He looks really cute, brow furrowed in concentration as he reaches on his tiptoes to get some cobwebs in the corner of the ceiling.
“Could you stop staring at me?” Patrick huffs. “It’s seriously creeping me out.”
“I’m not staring,” Pete says absentmindedly. Whatever, Pete can get away with a little lie here and there. It’s not like Patrick has eyes in the back of his head.
“But there’s a mirror right in front of me,” Patrick says. “So I can, you know. See you.”
“You can watch me watching you,” Pete says dreamily.
“Do you have some daily quota of creepiness you need to fulfill?”
Pete decides to switch tactics.
“You’re a cleaning robot, right? So, you clean everything, yeah?” Pete asks, trying to look innocent.
“Yes,” Patrick says slowly. He’s turned around now, and gripping the duster in front of himself protectively. “Why?”
“Oh, no reason,” Pete says. “It’s just that I’ve been, uh, getting a little dirty. And I was wondering if you’d help clean me up.” He waggles his eyebrows.
“Oh my god,” Patrick says.
“Is that a good ‘oh my god’?” Pete wants to know. “Like, an ‘Oh my god take me now’?”
“It was an ‘Oh my god why did Mikey give me to you,’ actually,” Patrick clarifies.
“…Oh,” Pete says, sighing.
Pete looks at Patrick for a moment, silently. The abused duster is hanging sadly from one hand, some feathers sticking out at awkward angles, and there’s a bit of dirt on his cheek.
“Hey, you’ve got something on your cheek,” Pete says quietly, and he moves forward to brush it off with his hand. Once he’s there, though, he pauses, hand hovering by Patrick’s face. He doesn’t think Patrick’s breathing.
He stands there for a moment, thinking to himself. Talking clearly isn’t getting him anywhere. Maybe—maybe the time for talking has passed. Maybe it’s time for action. Yeah. Yeah, that sounds good.
So quickly, before Patrick can move away or scream or punch him (and before Pete can completely chicken out), Pete presses a kiss to Patrick’s slightly open mouth. Then he steps backward immediately, just out of range of any flailing fists.
Patrick is staring at him.
“That, um. That wasn’t so bad, was it?” Pete attempts. This might have been a bad choice. Pete’s pretty sure it is, actually, and Patrick’s still not saying anything, and Pete’s lips are kind of tingling like he accidentally used his ex’s peppermint chapstick.
There are a few more beats of silence, in which Pete contemplates whether the kiss would have gone better if he actually was wearing peppermint chapstick. Because that shit feels awesome.
Then Patrick says, licking sloppily over his lower lip, “Did you eat pizza for lunch?”
Which, to be honest, wasn’t exactly the reaction Pete was going for. But it’s a start.
* * *
“Do you think robots have free will?” Pete asks Joe.
“I feel like this is too profound for early morning conversation,” Joe says. “Hold on a sec, let me light up a joint.”
“I’m just worried about consent issues, you know?” Pete continues.
Joe peers at him. “I think I’m lost.”
“I mean, Patrick has been giving me some really mixed signals,” Pete explains. “Sometimes I wonder if he’s playing hard-to-get, and sometimes I wonder if he just doesn’t want to fuck me, and then sometimes I wonder if maybe he’s just not programmed for, like, sexual activities. You know what I’m saying?”
“Wait,” Joe says. “Are we talking about your cleaning robot?”
“Yeah, Joe, keep up,” Pete says. “I want to do the horizontal tango with him, and I’m not sure if he feels the same way. Do you think sending a note would be too juvenile?”
“Your cleaning robot,” Joe repeats.
“Yeah, my cleaning robot.”
“Okay, look, Pete.” Joe actually looks kind of distressed, pulling one hand through his tangled hair. “I know Mikey’s rejection of you was bad. I know you’re still hurting. I know that you haven’t really, well, gotten any for quite some time. But I still don’t think you need to resort to desperately propositioning any humanoid object you come across.”
“Wait, what?” Pete says. “The thing with Mikey happened, like, five years ago.”
“I get that you’re really insecure about these things,” Joe says. “And I know the robot must be really tempting because it’s a sure thing. A good stroke for your ego. But you don’t have to do this, Pete.”
“He is so not a sure thing,” Pete splutters. “Are you—are you insane? The guy seems like he would rather rub down my kitchen table than me.”
“Pete,” Joe says very gently. “It’s a robot.”
“So what?” Pete asks, slightly annoyed. “It’s almost the 24th Century, man. And Gabe’s been getting down with his robot forever. What’s his name? William?”
“Gabe wears zebra-striped pants and plastic glasses without lenses,” Joe says. “I’m not sure if you should really trust his judgment.”
“Gabe’s glasses are awesome,” Pete says, twisting his mouth.
“Pete,” Joe says, sighing, “this isn’t going to be like one of those times where you do something just because I told you not to, right?”
“I do things because I want to do them.” Pete sets his jaw. “Okay, whatever. I have to go.”
“Pete, this is not a good idea,” Joe says. Pete ends the video call.
He watches the wall fade back to white, chewing on the inside of his mouth.
* * *
“I feel like we need to have a talk,” Pete says seriously.
Patrick looks at him, wary. “About what?”
“Come on. Take a seat next to me.” Pete pats the plush seat cushion invitingly.
“This isn’t about the lamp in the foyer, right?” Patrick asks as he sits down gingerly. “Because I totally did not mean to break it, and also, it was kind of butt-ugly anyway, so you should really be thanking me. Uh. In a manner of speaking.”
Pete blinks. “You broke the lamp?”
“Because that was a gift from my mom. She’s dead now.”
“…Oh,” Patrick says. He fiddles with the brim of his cap. “Sorry. For your, um. Loss. Losses?”
“No, there was only one of her. Didn’t decide to get cloned,” Pete says. “Good thing, too; those things are damn creepy.”
“I meant her and the lamp,” Patrick says.
“Oh,” Pete says. “Um. It’s okay. I was searching for a reason to get rid of the annoying thing, anyway. Something that wouldn’t make my dad freak out.”
“You’re talking about the lamp, right? Not your mom?”
“…Yeah,” Pete says.
They sit there for a few moments.
Patrick says, “So. You wanted to talk to me?”
“Right!” Pete says. He jumps up and starts pacing around, rubbing suddenly clammy hands on his pants. “I, um. So, I was thinking to myself these past few days while doing nothing in particular—actually, wait, no, that’s a lie, I was actually looking up pick-up lines, but anyway, the point is, I was doing shit and thinking when suddenly I had a revelation.”
“You haven’t found God, have you?” Patrick asks dubiously.
“No, uh, not that kind of revelation. I don’t think.” Pete pauses for a moment. “Anyway, I was debating to myself the relative merits of different pick-up lines, when I realized that instead of arguing with myself about your feelings, I should just come and ask the man in question. Uh. Robot.”
“I’m not all that into pick-up lines,” Patrick says. “When you’re a robot, those tend to get really creepy really fast. Like, there are only so many puns you can make about turning me on, you know?”
“No, wait, that wasn’t what I was going to ask,” Pete says quickly.
“Well, I don’t like flowers, either,” Patrick says. “Or sonnets. Or, um, spontaneous bouts of nudity. Really.”
“Are you serious?” Pete asks. “That one always works! Haven’t you ever seen How I Met Your Mother? Best trip to the Museum of Media Arts ever.”
Patrick is getting that glazed-over look, so Pete talks a little faster.
“Okay, wait. I’m getting a little off-track. No. What I was really wondering was how you felt about me in general; like, you know, whether you like me in that way or not, kind of in the same sense as those do you like me check yes or no notes but face-to-face, you know, which I personally think lends it a lot more credence and also, I feel too old to be writing those notes anymore. Not that I’m old, really, I’m pretty young at heart, I like to think, but, um. Yeah.”
He sits back down again.
Patrick blinks. “I’m, um,” he starts, and then closes his mouth again. “What?”
“Oh, wait, I should probably have asked you about your body’s capabilities before all of this, huh?” Pete says. “Sorry. That was insensitive of me. Because, I mean, I don’t even know if your programming allows you to make the beast with two backs, right, and I feel like that’s kind of essential to any sort of sexual activity occurring.”
Patrick says, eyes narrowing, “Are you trying to ask me if my dick works?”
Pete thinks about it. “Yeah, pretty much.”
“What if I said no?” Patrick asks. “Would that make you stop?”
“Well. Um. If you wanted me to. I guess. Sure.” Pete gnaws at his lower lip. This doesn’t sound very promising. “Do you want me to? Stop, I mean?”
Patrick starts staring at a certain point on the floor, and he crosses his arms. His shoulders hunch over a little bit.
“Patrick?” Pete says.
“What I’m wondering is how you manage to get any ass at all,” Patrick says, eyes still glued to the floor. “Because I can’t really imagine anyone getting all hot from you spouting ninety words a minute about nothing in particular. Also, your moves are kind of nonexistent. Seriously, getting naked? Looking up pick-up lines? Sitting down to ask me if I like you, check yes or no? Asking if my dick works?”
Pete’s about to open his mouth to defend himself indignantly when he realizes—Wait. Was that just a deflection? Because it sounded like one. And as a former lawyer-in-training, Pete knows deflections.
He grins a little bit. “Are you trying to change the subject?” he asks, smiling brightly.
“I don’t—I mean—Your pipes need cleaning,” Patrick announces. “So I’ll go do that now.” And before Pete can blink, he escapes to the upstairs bathroom.
“Was that a euphemism?” Pete asks the empty room. “I think that was a euphemism.”
* * *
“Hey, Patrick,” Pete says. “Want to watch a movie?”
“I don’t know. Is it porn?” Patrick asks, which is kind of an offensive assumption considering that Pete doesn’t spend all his time looking up porn, seriously. Just some of it. Also, wow, Patrick has no business mucking around in Pete’s internet browsing history.
…And whatever, if the movie is maybe, uh, slightly porny, that still doesn’t excuse Patrick’s heartless stereotyping.
“Is it?” Patrick prompts when Pete doesn’t say anything.
“Definitely not,” Pete answers with a wide smile. (He can just trade Naughty Students VII for something else with a suitable amount of clothing. It’s no biggie.)
Later on that evening, Pete feels that things are going well.
They’ve gotten the twentieth installment of Mission Impossible, starring the fifth or sixth clone of Tom Cruise. (The Church of Scientology was the one of the first groups to jump on the clone bandwagon, and they haven’t looked back since.)
Tom Cruise VI has just magically dodged yet another shower of bullets, and Patrick’s staring at the screen, transfixed. So carefully, Pete inches a little closer to Patrick. Patrick doesn’t notice, instead gasping a little bit when Cruise shoots down a few more nameless bad guys.
So Pete continues, edging closer and closer until their thighs are pressed together gently. Patrick bites his lip at Cruise’s impassioned speech to no one in particular. Pete takes it as his cue to slowly, gingerly, raise his right arm and lower it like a gradually descending bird over Patrick’s shoulders.
Which is when Patrick decides to take notice of the proceedings, Tom Cruise having temporarily decided to reload his gun.
He stiffens, and slowly turns his head towards Pete. Pete feels a little offended when Patrick flinches at the sight of Pete’s face five inches away.
“Hi,” Pete says.
“What are you doing?” Patrick asks.
“The movie? Or me?”
“Um,” Pete says diplomatically.
“Right,” Patrick says. “Why is your arm around my shoulders?”
“Oh, weird,” Pete says. “How’d that happen?”
Patrick huffs out a sigh. “You are really lame. Like, not even the cute, endearing kind of lame. Just really, incredibly, embarrassingly lame.”
Pete doesn’t think he likes where this is going, so he decides to try and derail it.
“Mmph,” Patrick says when their lips connect.
Pete can’t tell if that’s a good or a bad sound. Probably if it’s a bad sound, Pete will find out soon enough.
So he continues, tilting Patrick’s head back and sweeping a tentative tongue across the seam of his lips. Patrick’s motionless for one very long second before opening readily enough. Pete takes advantage of it quickly, humming happily and sliding his tongue inside to lick teasingly against the roof of Patrick’s mouth.
Patrick’s kissing back, Pete notes dimly with a small spark of victory. Pete isn’t sure what he expected, for Patrick to be clumsy and inexperienced or what, but Patrick is kissing a lot better than probably the average robot can (or so Pete thinks). It is, of course, a possibility that all robots are specifically built to be great make-out partners, in which case Pete has vastly underestimated the potential of engineers.
But Pete thinks he’s maybe overanalyzing this, so he focuses back on the kissing.
It’s really nice, actually, just sitting on the couch and making out like acne-ridden teenagers. Pete feels kind of warm all over (and especially in one specific area, but Pete’s trying to take things slowly, for once). The kisses are lazy and comfortable, Pete sucking softly on Patrick’s bottom lip, and then Patrick mouthing over the corner of Pete’s mouth, nipping a few times.
Dreamily, Pete starts to rub slow circles with his hand on the back of Patrick’s neck, fingers smoothing over the warm, soft skin, scratching lightly and moving downward, sweeping under the thin cloth of Patrick’s shirt.
This is even nicer, Pete thinks, but a few moments later, Patrick starts moving a little oddly. Pete doesn’t really take too much notice of it until he hears a scrabbling noise, at which point he’s getting a little weirded out. He thought house rats were eradicated at the beginning of the 23rd Century.
Reluctantly, he detaches his lips from Patrick’s—but not before pressing a few more light kisses—and sits back. Patrick’s lips are red and swollen and spit-slick (and really, really obscene), and Pete can feel his pants getting noticeably tighter. He gets sidetracked for a few moments, just staring, before snapping out of it.
“Dude, what’s that noise?” Pete asks.
“What noise?” Patrick says. He’s positioned kind of strangely, arms folded behind him. It looks like they’re moving.
“What are you doing?” Pete asks suspiciously.
“Talking,” Patrick says, which is totally an obnoxious answer that Pete’s used at least a dozen times on his friends, and Pete does not appreciate the turnabout.
“Oh my god,” Pete says suddenly.
“Are you texting behind your back? Were you texting some slutty robot while we were making out?” Pete demands, mouth open.
“What? No!” Patrick says.
“Then what are you doing?”
“I was just…” Patrick looks shifty.
“I can’t believe it!” Pete says. “We’re not even going out yet, and you’re already cheating on me.”
“We’re not going out?” Patrick asks, face darkening.
“I don’t know, you tell me,” Pete says. “You’re the one who’s texting five different people while canoodling with me.”
“I can’t believe I just kissed a guy who uses the word canoodling unironically,” Patrick says.
“Stop trying to change the subject!” Pete jabs his index finger into Patrick’s chest. “What. Were you doing?”
“I was…” Patrick looks down. He fidgets. “I was cleaning, okay?” He takes one hand from behind his back and shows it to Pete. It’s full of popcorn kernels.
“You were cleaning the popcorn kernels from inside the couch while we were making out,” Pete says, just to make sure he’s got everything clear.
“Yeah,” Patrick says, blushing.
“But why? Was it—It wasn’t boring, was it?” Pete asks, and fuck, he’s getting a little red now, too. “I didn’t slobber, did I? Shit, I slobbered.”
“No, no, it wasn’t the kissing,” Patrick says. “I’m just—I’m a cleaning robot, Pete. I’m programmed to clean! I can’t help it. I just felt the kernels and was compelled to clean them up.”
“Compelled?” Pete says. That seems like an awfully convenient excuse.
Patrick shrugs. “Yeah. I mean—the kissing…” He starts blushing again. “The kissing wasn’t that bad. I guess.”
Pete grins a little bit, mollified. “Did I ever tell you that in high school, I was pretty much the make-out king?”
“Oh, shit,” Patrick says, not listening. “You made me miss the ending, you dick!”
And he quickly grabs the control and rewinds to Cruise peeling his shirt off to reveal a totally disgusting and not at all attractive chest. Patrick’s still staring raptly.
A little too raptly. Pete sighs to himself and stares down at his hands, trying to push down a faint feeling of wrongness.
* * *
“Hey, Patrick,” Pete drawls. He leans against the refrigerator, seductively.
Patrick doesn’t turn around, still dusting the cabinets. “Is it safe for me to look?” he asks.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, are you naked?”
“I’m not always naked, you know.” Pete feels like he should mention this, just to make things clear.
“Judging by precedent…”
“Have you gotten into my old law textbooks again?”
“…No,” Patrick says, shiftily.
“It’s okay,” Pete says. “You using long words is kind of hot.”
Patrick’s ears and neck turn a bright scarlet. “Whatever,” he mutters.
Pete starts walking closer, sidling up to Patrick until he’s pressed up against the line of Patrick’s back. He hooks his chin over Patrick’s shoulder happily.
“How’s cleaning going?” he mumbles against Patrick’s neck.
“I’m usually a lot more efficient when I don’t have giant things attached to my back,” Patrick grumbles, but Pete can tell from his tone that he’s totally smiling.
“You can be efficient later,” Pete tells him, and, when Patrick doesn’t object, mouths along Patrick’s neck. “You taste good,” Pete remarks, and he slides his arms up under Patrick’s shirt, skimming against the warm skin.
Patrick takes in a long, shuddery breath, and Pete grins a little bit, nipping at the impossibly soft skin under his jaw. Insistently, he pushes at Patrick until they’re facing each other and Pete can kiss Patrick properly.
“You’ve got a one-track mind,” says Patrick, but when Pete’s swallowing the words into his own mouth, they don’t sting at all. Pete’s even kind of pleased, licking into Patrick’s mouth, because one-track minds have focus. And people with focus get what they want, like incredibly hot cleaning robots with attitude problems and really nice asses.
Patrick hums when Pete moves from his mouth back to his neck, sucking gently. Dimly, Pete wonders if robots can get hickeys. Even if they can’t, Pete can have fun trying, especially with the sharp inhales coming from Patrick. He slides one hand into Patrick’s back pocket, curving along his ass and pulling him closer, the other hand scrabbling shakily at Patrick’s jean buttons.
Pete’s got the top button undone and one thigh pressed between Patrick’s legs, rubbing against him and making Patrick’s breath distort into satisfying little hitching noises, when suddenly, the cabinet door slams closed with a bang.
“What the fuck!” Pete yelps, rearing back. “What was that?”
“Oops,” Patrick says, blushing deeply. He quickly puts his right hand behind his back, but not before Pete catches a glimpse of tattered brown feathers.
“Were you just trying to dust the cabinets?” Pete demands.
Patrick frowns. “Well. Um, for certain values of dusting, considering I can’t really see behind me…”
“You were cleaning again,” Pete says flatly. “While we were getting it on.”
“Getting it on?” Patrick says, wrinkling his nose.
“Do not try to change the subject!” Pete is so not in the mood to defend his admittedly eclectic (and anachronistic) vocabulary, and to demonstrate this, he jabs his index finger into Patrick’s chest. “What’s going on, man? Why do you keep doing this?”
“I already told you,” Patrick says, face getting darker. “It’s not my fault! It’s my fucking programming, okay. It’s not like I can override it. When I feel cabinets and dust behind me, I just dust. It’s what I’m supposed to fucking do. I’m a cleaning robot, Pete.”
“Well, then—“ Frustrated, Pete runs a hand over his bangs, hard-on rapidly fading.
Patrick looks back at him, and bites his lip. His really red, swollen lip. Pete stares at it for a moment.
“Hey,” Pete says. “You said the dusty cabinets triggered your cleaning attack, right?”
“I wouldn’t call it an attack,” Patrick replies slowly, frowning.
“Your reaction. Whatever.” Pete waves it away. “What if we just moved somewhere else? Somewhere that doesn’t have dusty cabinets or popcorn-infested couches?”
Patrick raises an eyebrow.
Pete waggles his back.
* * *
“God, this is so much better,” Pete sighs. He licks a stripe up Patrick’s ear, mostly just to be annoying, but Patrick shivers, and Pete’s dick is immediately back with the program.
“We should have moved to my bedroom ages ago,” Pete mumbles, sliding his hands up under Patrick’s shirt.
“Yeah?” Patrick mumbles back, mouthing along Pete’s neck, legs falling apart to let Pete press closer, and wow, Pete’s a genius.
“I love beds and other horizontal surfaces,” Pete says happily.
“You always talk this much while you’re ‘getting it on’?” Patrick asks, and his voice is mocking, but Pete can totally feel his lips smiling against his jaw, so he just grins back, helplessly.
“Only when it’s with someone special,” Pete tells Patrick. Patrick pinches his side, and Pete jerks, laughing. “Hey,” he says. “Hey. If you really want to shut me up, you know you could just…” He lets himself trail off suggestively.
Patrick pauses. “What do you mean?” he asks, voice guarded.
Pete smirks. Then he edges his way downward, over Patrick’s chest and his soft tummy and then, finally, he balances himself on his elbows right over Patrick’s crotch.
“Hi, there,” Pete says, because sometimes he just can’t resist, okay.
Patrick chokes on some spit. Or, like, special robot lubricating fluid, Pete doesn’t know.
Then slowly, Pete unbuttons Patrick’s fly, fingers lingering because Pete loves this part, the build-up, the burning anticipation, the way he can tell that Patrick has completely stopped breathing. (Ordinarily, Pete would open the fly with his teeth, because Pete has chops, yo, but ever since that one incident where he had to get a canine replaced when it got caught in—well, that part’s not important. Suffice it to say that Pete just likes to play it safe now.)
Before pushing the pants aside, Pete reaches over to breathe over the tented area, just to drag it out a little longer, and also because having Patrick like this, tense and silent and completely focused on Pete, is strangely addictive. He fans warm breath out, and then he blinks, and…
He’s on the floor. When did that happen?
Pete squints his eyes at the ceiling, vision slightly blurry from the impact of his head against the bedpost. “Was there an earthquake?” he asks Patrick.
Patrick’s silent for a long time. Pete’s content to just lie there. His head’s throbbing in a very rhythmic manner, and the urgency of the moment has kind of passed, anyway. Turns out concussions aren’t great for sustaining boners.
“Um. Maybe,” Patrick finally answers.
“Maybe there was an earthquake?” Pete clarifies. “You’re not sure?”
“Well,” Patrick says. And then he stops.
Getting a little exasperated, Pete claws himself up, trying to ignore the way the room seems to be swimming around him. “Dude. What the fuck happened, man?”
Patrick starts blushing. “I think that I, um. I maybe kind of tried to make the bed? While we were still on it? Like, I jerked the sheet, and you kind of…”
“Fell,” Pete supplies. “Right. Fantastic.”
“I’m sorry!” Patrick says, actually looking contrite this time. “It’s my—“
“Programming, yeah, got it,” Pete fills in for him. Patrick’s face is getting remarkably fuzzy, like he’s one of those old, crackly movie reels, and Pete’s ears are ringing in this really annoying way.
“You know,” Pete says, “I don’t feel so good.”
And suddenly, Pete doesn’t see Patrick’s face at all, fuzzy or not. It’s all just black.
When Pete comes to, Patrick’s face is right over it, red and frantic, and he’s saying something very loudly, like Pete’s deaf, or something.
“I’m not hard of hearing,” Pete comments mildly. He feels amazingly mellow.
“Pete! Pete, oh, God, the paramedics are coming, I called them three minutes ago, and we’re getting you to a hospital, it’s all going to be fine!” Patrick doesn’t seem to breathe at all through all of that. Pete supposes it’s good that he’s a robot, or Patrick might be passing out, too, from lack of oxygen.
“That’s cool,” Pete says, nodding. The room dips alarmingly. “So, I think we’re going to have to do something about this.”
“The paramedics are right around the corner, Pete, and if they’re not, I’m going to go get their fucking asses myself—“
“No, no, not about my head,” Pete says. “Well, about that, too. But I really meant that we have to do something about…” He waves a hand between himself and Patrick. “Us.”
Patrick’s opening his mouth to ask a question, or just to freak out some more, and Pete doesn’t really feel like dealing with either of those things, especially when his ceiling’s spinning (and not in the good way), so it’s pretty amazingly convenient that he passes out. Again.
* * *
Mikey likes vintage RPGs. They're just--quirkier. They have more character. And besides, it's a lot easier to cheat and override the aging code. Makes for a more complete gaming experience, in Mikey's opinion.
Also, Gerard has beef with pretty much everyone in the gaming industry--left over from the epic market battle of the 2280's, where RPG- and robot-makers wrestled for pieces of each other's market share, and if you ask anyone but Gerard, RPG-makers definitely kicked some robot ass. Robots are now pretty much reserved for the eccentric and rich. So, yeah. Gerard would probably disown Mikey if he bought any RPGs made within the last century.
But that's okay, because like Mikey mentioned, he likes the older versions better. There's this one called World of Warcraft that a sizeable portion of the population still plays every so often, and Mikey's idea of a perfect afternoon is to sit down at Gerard's gigantic vintage computer, armed with nothing but his wits and several syringes of caffeine, and just spend a couple (or ten) uninterrupted hours playing.
The key word here would be uninterrupted. Because there's nothing worse than settling into the rhythm of a game when you're rudely pulled out of it by a video-call. Especially when the person calling is--
"Pete," Mikey greets flatly.
There's really no other alternative but to log out of the game--whenever Pete calls, it'll take a good few hours to wrangle himself out of the conversation.
"Mikey!" Pete says. Pete enjoys shouting during video-calls, like he's half-deaf or doesn't trust the connection or thinks that volume will help emphasize whatever point he's making. (It doesn't.)
"What's up?" Mikey ask. He picks at his fingernail. Maybe he should get one of those talon-like implants. That would be pretty cool, especially if he decided to go to the virtual gaming convention next month.
"I think you sold me a defective robot, man!" There's a brief pause, before Pete's head disappears, (there’s a bandage on it, and Mikey wonders about it before mentally shrugging), and then there’s some static, and then, very distinctly--"Motherfucker. Patrick, babe, I didn't mean it. Ow! Stop kicking me, seriously! I'll stop with the fucking pet names!"
"..." Mikey says. Then, because he is sort of fond of Pete, he deigns to ask, "Are you okay, dude?"
"Perfect," Pete gasps, head back in the frame. "But, um, yeah. Can you help me get in touch with Patrick's manufacturer?"
Mikey pops a piece of gum into his mouth. "Who's Patrick?"
"The cleaning robot, Mikey!" Aaaand Pete's back to shouting again.
Mikey blinks, thinks for a moment. "Oh, yeah. Sure. Hold on a second." Ignoring Pete's baffled expression, Mikey gets up, walks over to the stairs, and yells down to Gerard.
"What is it, Mikey?" Gerard calls back, sounding harried.
"Someone's on the phone for you." And then, because Mikey figures Gee will want a warning, he adds, "It's Patrick's companion." Gerard doesn’t like the word “owner;” he prefers “friend,” “companion,” or, sometimes, if he’s really drunk and has visited William and Gabe and Travis recently, “soulmate.”
"Oh, right! Patrick!" There's some scuffling, and Gee's voice telling someone to stop touching that--Mikey briefly wonders if a rapist got into the house, and if maybe he should go down to see if everything's okay--before Gerard's thundering up the stairs towards Mikey.
"Who'd you sell him to, anyway?" Gerard tosses over his shoulder while walking past.
"Um," Mikey says. "Well."
Luckily, Gerard doesn't pause to hear Mikey's answer (which would have been a series of 'um's and 'uh's and probably a few well-placed evasive remarks about Gerard's ever-open fly).
So when he hears Gerard's shriek of "You gave Patrick to PETE FUCKING WENTZ?" Mikey's already halfway out the door to safety.
It will be okay. Gerard will probably have forgotten all about it by dinnertime. Or, like, tomorrow.
Maybe Mikey will just stay at Alicia's for a few days.
* * *
"Mikey sold Patrick to you?" Gerard is really getting very red. Pete wonders if he should inquire into his blood pressure, but then decides not to, because he and Patrick do need Gerard's help, after all.
"Hey, Gerard," Patrick says, popping into view of the video camera. "How's it going?"
"Patrick!" Gerard says. He seems to flail a little bit before getting himself under control. "Patrick, how are you?" he asks urgently. "Are you all right? Any injuries?”
Pete snorts at that. “Dude, if anything, he’s been injuring me—“
Gerard talks over Pete, not even pretending to pay attention to him. Pete pouts a little bit.
“Patrick,” Gerard’s saying, “Are you okay there? Do you feel safe? Has he tried to make you…do anything?” Gerard whispers the last part, as though he’s not on fucking speakerphone.
“Hey!” Pete says. “I resent that implication.”
Pete’s all ready to work himself into a fit of righteous indignation when he remembers that, oh. He is trying to make Patrick do things. Huh. Pete deflates a little bit.
But Patrick’s shaking his head, even though he’s completely red. “Gerard, stop freaking out. I’m totally fine. Seriously. Pete’s kind of a jackass, but after you get past the stupid bangs, he’s not that bad.”
“Hey!” Pete says again. One would think that Patrick would be nicer to Pete after he caused him to get a concussion that nearly resulted in some internal bleeding, but one would be wrong.
“If you say so,” Gerard says dubiously. “So why are you contacting me, then, if not to pass me some surreptitious message about how you’re being held here against your will and forced to engage in disgusting sexual acts?”
“…” Patrick says.
“Oh my God, it’s in code, isn’t it?” Gerard snaps his fingers. “Can you repeat what you just said, slowly? Let me go get a recorder—“
“Gerard!” Pete says loudly. “Patrick’s not passing any stupid message to you. He is perfectly happy here.”
“Says you,” Gerard shoots back in a very insulting tone.
Okay, whatever, so maybe Pete had done some morally questionable things back when he was trying to get into Mikey’s skintight pants, but that was at least five years ago. And he’s been in therapy since then. Jesus.
“Guys, let’s just—focus. Okay?” Patrick says.
“Fine,” Pete says, because he’s apparently become a complete pushover.
“So why are you really calling me?” Gerard asks reluctantly.
“We’ve got some questions about how you made me,” Patrick says. “My programming, and stuff.”
“Like what?” says Gerard.
Pete figures he might as well cut straight to the chase. “Well, me and Patrick have been trying to get into some hot monkey loving, but Patrick’s always compelled to start cleaning before we actually get anywhere. You see what I’m saying?”
So, maybe Pete’s words are a slight miscalculation. It takes about twenty minutes before they can convince Gerard that Pete’s not trying to rape Patrick, and another ten before Gerard stops hyperventilating.
“Well,” Gerard says thoughtfully. “I don’t think it’s your programming that’s the issue, Patrick.”
“What do you mean?” Patrick frowns. “What else could it be?”
“Nothing in your code forces you to clean,” Gerard explains. “I just gave you the knowledge to clean. You can learn how to do any other job, dude. I wanted my robots to have the freedom to choose who and what they wanted to be. Every robot is individually made, with unique characteristics.” His face darkens. “We’re not like one of those soulless factories, mass-producing a generic product.”
“You made Patrick yourself?” Pete clarifies.
Gerard sniffs. “Of course. I make all the robots myself. In fact, either me or Mikey personally ensures that each robot gets placed with someone who is emotionally compatible and who will love and respect that robot for who they are. Mikey clearly dropped the ball in this case,” says Gerard pointedly.
“Whatever,” Pete says, rolling his eyes. “If it’s not Patrick’s programming, then what’s making him clean all the time? It’s not a virus, is it?” Something in Pete’s stomach clenches for a moment, and he turns his head to look at Patrick.
But Patrick just snorts. “Yeah, right. A virus to make a robot perform his task to the fullest of his abilities? Wouldn’t be much of a fucking virus.”
Gerard’s nodding. “I don’t think it’s anything external, Patrick. I think that whatever’s affecting you, it’s…” He bites his lip and slants his gaze to rest on Pete.
“What?” asks Pete defensively.
“I don’t—“ Gerard sighs and looks back at Patrick. “Patrick, I think it’s you. You’re making yourself clean all the time.”
“What do you mean?” Patrick says.
“I think you’re using cleaning as some sort of—some sort of anchoring mechanism. Because it’s familiar to you.” Gerard nibbles on his thumbnail.
“Anchoring mechanism?” Pete repeats. “So there’s nothing we can do about it? He’s just going to—clean all the time?” Pete resigns himself to a lifetime of blue balls.
“No, I wouldn’t say that,” Gerard says slowly. “If you knew why you kept defaulting to your cleaning mode, Patrick, you would be able to stop yourself, I think.”
“But I don’t know why!” Patrick snaps.
“Well, in that case, I have a friend who might be able to help.” Gerard smiles, baring every one of his tiny, tiny teeth.