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Deathwish 5000

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"How are you doing?" Gerard is crossing his legs and with the movement I can see the instant change; his arms come in a little closer to his body as he shrinks in. It looks like he's tracing the visible line of his ExoLegs under his tight black pants and for a moment I imagine myself doing the same, documenting the shapes.

"Uh," Good job Frank. Why don't you drool a little while you're at it. "Jesus, sorry." I sit back slightly, trying to avoid looking at him, and I take in a little hole in the ceiling instead, and the buzzing of long extinct bugs outside. "I don't think I've slept through a whole fucking night in like two weeks." I force my eyes closed a silent prayer that maybe this whole conversation, this whole day can be over and I can know if Gerard hates me or not. Or I guess if I need to hate him.

When I open my eyes, there's a large ceramic mug in my face, and a very strong smell of coffee.

"Same." Gerard mumbles, and I notice he's waiting for me to grab the coffee mug from him. I try not to shake but it doesn't look like I succeed. "I mean, mostly same. If it's not night terrors, the shooting back pain usually keeps me awake."

"God, sorry, that sounds terrible." I say, speaking into the mug. Damn, this coffee is hot and it's the fucking bitterest I've ever tasted.

"Nah," he waves off my sympathy. "Besides, insomnia helps me get a lot more work done. I was actually always really shitty at sleeping—I used to only sleep during the day, party all night. I was like some kind of vampire poser." Looking at him now, it doesn't look as if he's gotten over that vampire poser thing. And it's so weird that this is the same guy who a few weeks ago was rocking lemon hair and a floral open shirt with ripped jeans. One thing's for sure, while Gerard doesn't really have a universal constant style, he is at least more interesting than my ripped shirt, ripped jacket and ripped pants aesthetic.

"So...you used to party?"

He nods, gulping the rest of his burning hot coffee, much to my terror. "Clubbing mostly, and that was about a decade ago, but fuck yeah, I was the belle of the ball, bitch. You wear a mesh top and you get a lot of drinks from guys." He chuckles dryly, one corner of his lips lifting into a nostalgic smile as I try to picture an 18 year old Gerard getting into clubs in a mesh shirt. It's a lovely vision, and I try to imagine what color his skin is under neon lights. "It got me into trouble though, all the drinking. I spent most of my early twenties at the bottom of a glass, soaked in whiskey, or whatever the hell I could find. But I had fun, at least at the beginning." He turns to me, a thoughtful glance. "You would have probably liked me back then."

"Yeah, back then I would have been like 13 or 14, dude."

I regret saying that, as it looks as if he's close to spewing and I really don't/do really like the thought of having to clean coffee stains out of that shirt. "Jesus, fuck, really? I had no clue you were so young! You're like a fucking baby! Oh god..." He groans, and I'm not sure what to do, other than watch as Gerard recoils in horror and slowly recovers.

"I'm 24 man, it's fine."

He just guffaws, running his hands through his hair, and getting slightly trapped in the knots. "My brother is like, 25, Jesus." I watch as his face relaxes into an embarrassed grin.

"Mikey, right?"

His eyebrows raise. "Yeah, Mikey. Did you uh, do you know him?"

"Well, I did, back when I was in high school. We were friends for a while."

He giggles a little. "What did Mikey do?"

"Nothing, it was my fault." I respond, putting the mug down and crossing my arms, close my eyes, try to remember what I said. "I can't even remember what I said, I think I was pretty drunk at the time, but I woke up the next morning with an eye swollen shut."

"Ah," he nods in understanding. "You were the guy that Pete punched in the face."

"One of the many I'm guessing."

"Yeah, god bless Pete, what he didn't have in size he made up for in sheer blinding narcissism. Kinda like you, but you're more of an impulsive jackass than self-obsessed dickhole."

Rolling my eyes, I say, "I'll take that as a compliment." He's got that playful smile right now, and while I'm still not exactly sure how he's feeling, it at least doesn’t seem like he hates me. So I guess I can relax a little into the idea of us not being total enemies. Maybe we can even make this work.

"Should we maybe try to get some work done before you have to leave, G?" I stand but stop as soon as I see his face. "You okay?"

"G, I like the sound of that." He stands slowly and then clasps his hands together. "Alright, I guess we'll get to work."

While Gerard works on the programming, a lot of the mechanical fixing is up to me, which basically means that while Gerard gets to sit at his holo-desk and type, I'm jamming my hands into the open stomach of a bot. Feeling around for broken parts, I grimace as the universal blue lubricant all bots share stains my clothes and already heavily inked hands and I curse at myself for not wearing longer gloves. At least Gerard has actual tools for this kind of shit, so I'm able to correctly meld things together and cut things without having to worry too much about when my last tetanus shot was or something like that. It's interesting, remembering the warehouse with its stained and blacked walls, littered in drawings, versus now. All of his equipment and tools were always clean, but I wonder what made him want the change of scenery.

A change of scenery my puckered asshole. I'm in a trailer in the middle of the fucking desert right now and I’m not sure if the facade affect climate control but I’m sweating like Zac Farro in a vintage store. Yolandi’s spine is barely connected by the time I arch my back, listen as a few ligaments crack in contentment, and then leave the table. Destination: coffee.

As I head towards the small coffee pot in the kitchen area, I decide it’s safe to steal a look at the recently gothed Gerard. His head is between his shoulder blades, hunched down, punching down at each key as the hologram green text in front of him scrolls ever upward. He’s been just sitting there, silent for hours by this point. I check my clock.

Five hours in fact.

He’s an immovable force. I’m starting to think he’s a goddamn bot, he doesn’t complain like a fucking human, or stop ever. No breaks, just hyper focus. Me, after twenty minutes I’ve already checked my news and feed channels twice, watched the minutes rattle by and decide that ten minutes is too long to continue on a conversation for. I get twitchy after five minutes worth of listening. Maybe that’s why my dad always put a gear in my hand; there was always something to fix at home.

It’s been two minutes. No movement from Gerard. I’m not even sure if he can tell I’m watching him. I know for certain I wouldn’t want him to know, but this guy’s level of focus is almost on my level of avoiding people. Maybe he is avoiding me. I would avoid me, if I were him.

"Fuck!" I involuntarily curse as a nice helping of scorching hot coffee pours over my hand and I drop the mug onto the floor, watch as it shatters and the coffee inside flings itself in every direction, and on my pants.

“Shit, shit, sorry.”

I’m too embarrassed to look back as I hear the chair creak and the hiss of his ExoLegs. Every step towards me and I want to shrink away.

He doesn’t speak a word, but in my numbed and burning hand I feel the lightest touch, and one hand comes down from my eyes. I don’t want to open my eyes, lock eyes with a red faced Gerard or something worse. So much for being friends.

“I-I can clean it up.” I offer quietly, but I just feel another touch from him, and my burnt hand is cradled in between his.

“You’re bleeding, Frank. Uh,” Through the numbness, I can feel the lightest touch of his hands, and somehow it gives me comfort. My eyes open just wide enough to see the blurry shape of him, I imagine my face is probably twisted in an expression of embarrassment and pain, but Gerard guides me to a table and sits me down. All the while, holding my hand--no--clutching it, and clutching it tight.

Metal scrapes against the floor and he warns me, “Okay, here’s the chair,” as he leans me down on it. “Did you get coffee or something in your eyes?”

“Not sure,” I grunt, which is true, and my vision is to shit right now, but Gerard doesn’t need to know that I simply don’t want to look. Despite of the dizziness and pain, I can’t help but worry about how much of an idiot he thinks I am.

“Well, I’ll take a look at them. Let me, uh, I’m gonna go get some stuff for you hand, just...wait here. I’ll be back in a second.” His blobby shape picks itself up and he turns from me. “Shit--ice,” he interrupts himself. “I’ll get you ice first.”

One ice pack and several rounds of apologies later, we’re sitting at that same table he left me at, a floating LED shines directly on to my hand, while Gerard leans over most of the table, his shirt scooting up.

“You know, it’s funny.” Gerard whispers as he picks the shrapnel from my hand, one tiny piece at a time. I hold my breath, worried that the slightest movement could sabotage all of his work. “Every time I see you, you’ve got some new bruise or cut--broken bones here, scars here, a black eye. It’s like I’m beginning to think I’m your bad luck charm.”

I begin to shrug and then remember to hold still. “Maybe danger just finds me.”

“Or maybe vice versa.” His smile is quick, and difficult to catch--if I wasn’t already staring I would have missed it entirely. “You’ve gotta have the worst luck out of anyone I’ve ever known, and that’s including myself.” He wraps the last piece he pulls in a cloth and cleans off his tools. “That’s it, you’re done.” He turns over to his tools.

“Skin gun please.” He turns back to me then. “You might wanna duck your head, I’m still testing this out.” Confused but silent, I do as he says, and just as I do a small blue gun-shaped tool flies out of its holster at breakneck speed, and jumps right into Gerard’s hand, where he catches it without even blinking.

“Holy shit.”

He smiles, exhaling and steals a glance at me. “Pretty cool, right? I’ve been working on it for a while. Tiny microchips laced into my hand like a glove so the tools know exactly where to go. Next step is to make it work without the chips and just read the palms of anyone.”

“Well, when it’s working for your coffee pot, let me know.” Gerard giggles, and it’s about the cutest goddamn thing. It feels right when he smiles.

He sets up the gun then, throwing a clear vial in. “Stem cells,” he explains, holding it out to me. “Shoots them under the skin. Then I just need to bandage your hand up, and then you’ll be fine in a few hours. You ready?”

I nod, and I inhale sharply as I feel the needle, but it’s over in an instant.

“You’re way better than me with needles, well, obviously you are, you’d have to be,” he points to all my tattoos. “I’ve heard that light up tattoos are way more painful too. They go deeper down. What was it like getting your first one? Bandage please!” This time I know to duck, as the bandage shoots across a different wall and smacks him in the face, landing on the table. “Shit. Well, at least it was just bandages.”

Stifling my laughter, I answer. “It was pretty fucking brutal, but I was also like seventeen, which didn’t make it any better. Found the only place that would do it without parent permission. I squirmed a lot, and it looked like shit. I had to get it redone, especially after I decided on the green neon thing.”

He nods, finishing up the final wrapping of bandages and securing them closed. “Which one is it?”

I move the collar of my shirt, pointing to my neck, and the scorpion tattoo. “I got it put just high enough so it’d show over a collared shirt, so I couldn’t get a normal job. It was a dumb act of rebellion I guess. And I didn’t notice until later, but I bartered with the lady until she did it for like 43 carbons or something, and it has four legs on one side and 3 on the other.” I can feel him look at it, and the quiet mumble of approval.

“I always really liked tattoos, you know, but I’d never get one,” Gerard muses and when I turn to look back at him I notice the gun and the bandages floating back lazily into their designated spots on the walls. “Don’t like needles. Needles always got me into trouble.” His eyes dart across the room and I imagine he’s going through his mental checklist. “Alright hand is good, got it bandaged up...what else?”

“Should we get back to work?” I hate the idea once I say it, and it’s obvious in his face that Gerard doesn’t want to either.

“Oh, I was supposed to check your eye.”

I chuckle. “I think I would have felt if fucking ceramic pieces were in my eye by now, Gee.”

“Yeah, well you motherfucker, I am watching you tonight, you’re my guest, so I’m gonna make sure you don’t have a scratched cornea.” He stands and pulls up a chair close to me. And by close, I mean...close. Knees touching. He grumbles for a second, swatting at my thigh. “Need to get closer, open your legs.”

Jesus Christ. I pray as his legs are now straddling mine, one of his knees almost pressed against my groin. My heart starts kicking a little quicker in my chest, but I try to stay calm.

And then he’s flashing a fucking light in my eye.

“Fuck! A warning would have been fine, dude.” Instinctively, I find myself shutting my eyes tight again.

"Sorry, sometimes I forget you're a whiny bitch." I sigh as he giggles, then with staggered breath he continues, "Ok, I need your eyes open again. 3,2,1, open."

I'm disappointed to find there's still just a light in my eyes, and no Gerard in my lap. But I keep my eye open this time, watching his ear and watching his shoulders raise with every breath, lower with each exhale.

"All clear. Next eye, 3,2,1."

After a few concentrated hums and breaths, the light is off.

"Alright, you'll be happy to know that your eyes aren't going to start bleeding randomly." The light is floating back to its spot as a rub at my eyes profusely.

"My hero," I mutter.

I still feel his legs up against my own, straddling me and now without a bright ass light in my eyes, there's nothing in between the two of us. I'm not sure how hyper-aware Gerard is of our positioning, but I know that my lungs are caught in what feels like my fucking windpipe as I'm realizing just how close Gerard was this whole time. And his hands are close too, rested on either of his thighs.

"Gee?" He turns, his eyes big and bright against his pale skin, skin so pale I want to bring the color back to the surface. Maybe across his neck, or his collarbone. "I-I don't know how to thank you for putting up with me and all my bullshit."

He waves it off, leaning against his knee. This is the closest I've ever been to him, other than that other time. Even back then, he seemed so rattled, and now he's practically fucking straddling me. And maintaining eye contact. I know I'm soaking his whole goth aesthetic in, but this jackass is laser focused on my face.

He waves it off, leaning against his knee. This is the closest I've ever been to him, other than that other time. Even back then, he seemed so rattled, and now he's practically fucking straddling me. And maintaining eye contact. I know I'm soaking his whole goth aesthetic in, but this jackass is laser focused on my face. “I mean…” he breathes, “I can think of one way. If you want to that is, because I don’t want to pressure you into anything because I respectyourpersonalspaceandall--”

This time, I’m the one who digs my hands into his black long tresses and pulls him in, silencing him, but not before he makes a small, surprised noise, and a quick feeling of pleasure travels down my chest and bubbles somewhere in my stomach. He’s melting into the kiss and is now pushing into me, as I feel one arm wrap around my waist, and then my neck, tingling against my skin with their sudden heat.

I open my mouth slightly and allow his tongue to enter into my mouth with a small moan. Fuck, I want to make him moan like that again, and I untangle one hand from his soft hair and slide it under his shirt and feel his spine spasm at the sudden touch.

He moves away, but I can tell that it’s hesitant. When you’ve got a direct feed of oxygen into your nose constantly, you sometimes forget other people have to breathe. “Holy fuck,” Gerard mutters as he pulls away. I drink in the image of him--tussled messy hair, lips raw from kissing, cheeks burning crimson, eyes all black with a lingering hunger. “What...what was that?” He huffs, straightening himself up. We’re both still in our chair, straddling each other, and I notice the slight ache in my back from leaning in so much.

“Payback, bitch.” I chirp happily back at him.

He seems to consider that for a moment, itching his head slowly, and it’s now that I notice that Gerard’s a little slow when his mental capacities are being taken up by...something else. “Does…” he’s still breathing heavily as he collects his thoughts. “Does it really count as payback if I enjoyed it?”

I shrug. “I’m not sure. Would you like to try that again?” I ask playfully and Gerard is already nodding before I’m done asking the question.

So, still locking eyes with him, I stand up out of my chair, smile as he whimpers for my return, and then laugh at his surprise as I sit down on his lap.

“I don’t want you to throw your back out, old man,” I respond to his curious glance.

“Oh, haha, so original. And fuck you, I’m only a few years older than you. You should treat your elders with respect.”

“Mm,” I mumble against his lips as he pulls me in again. This time, it’s his hands that do some travelling, one touching the skin of my back and the other fumbling at the hem of my shirt. I break our connection for a moment to ask, “Are you trying to get my shirt off?”

“Uh, yeah. Trying and failing it seems.” It’s a nice change to be looking down at him now, looking at his red face, expression blank but that lustful look in his eyes. I think I’d like to keep it that way.

“I can do it. But give me some space.” I scoot back on his thighs, only spend a moment on noticing how they’re looking a little tighter now and wriggle out of my shirt with a little fanfare, much to his amusement. I then throw it off to the side.

“Thanks for the show,” he mutters, but then his eyes are travelling down to my chest and stay there. He’s still got his arms on my hips, but he seems to stop for a moment, lean back.

“What is it?”

Dumb Gerard once again returns, and I think I like him almost as smartass Gerard. “You’re like a fucking piece of art.” He moves one hand to trail a finger over the ink of my collarbone, sending a hot shiver through me. He’s pointing at the base of my neck then, and I know the tattoo that he pointing at: Let Love In but it’s flipped backwards so only I can read it in a mirror. “This one is nice.”

“Well, I’m happy to know you approve.” He doesn’t lean in again, and I’m confused for a moment. “What are you thinking?”

“I’m thinking...I’d like to give you a few hickies. Should I like, avoid the neck area or…?”

I love this idiot, and I feel the large smile spread across my face. “Be my guest, dude. No place off limits.” So I scoot in again closer, and he’s already gazing over his skin, trying to find the perfect place. He chooses that first tattoo I ever saw him notice: the scorpion on the right side of my neck. My back arcs in pleasure, and an involuntary but lovely moans finds it ways out of me, to which I can feel his smile up against my hot skin.

“You know..” I say, fighting against the dumb horniness that is rising in me. “By about now, I’m thinking, ah! Fuck, yes right there! I’m thinking you knew there wasn't something in my eye, didn't you? I’m thinking may--maybe you just wanted an excuse to straddle my legs.”

“Mm, I plead the fifth.” I feel his hot breath right on my collarbone as his lips linger there.

“You--you motherfucker.” But it’s kind of hard to stay mad at him when he’s sucking on my collarbone, and trailing fingers down the line of my back like this and holy fuck, am I enjoying it. Every little whimper I make seems to pull Gerard in closer, and I feel his grip tighten once I start whispering his name, begging him for more.

I’m unbuckling that cheetah print belt, encouraged by this moans, and on to his pants buttons by the time that I hear a ringing in my ears, and groggily, I come back to reality and recognize the ringtone.

Fuck. It’s a video call.

“Gee!” It takes a little bit of encouragement and me standing up to get him to break out of it. He’s blinking, still unaware until I check the call and see it’s meant to be a three way call between the two of us and…

Hayley Fucking Williams.

“Gee, Hayley’s calling!” I’m frantically searching for my shirt that seems to have disappeared completely. Gerard is sitting very still, and I try to comb his wild hair a little with my hands, to no success. “Gee. Hayley thinks we’ve been working on that bot. Shit, and where the fuck is my shirt?”

His eyes are starting to clear a little and I say my sad goodbyes to Dumb Gerard until the next time. “Oh, shit!” He jumps up then. “What do we do? Where is your shirt?” He’s buckling up his belt, and buttoning his pants, slightly disappointed, I can tell by the dip in his voice.

“It’s fucking gone! It’s disappeared!” I’m frantically running around, checking under each table, but no, my shirt’s fucked off to some other dimension.

“How about we get you one of my shirts?”

“Fuck, no, that’ll be even more suspicious!”

“Wait!” He calls, and I snap my head back to look at a still slightly disoriented, and very cute Gerard. “I have a plan. Get under the table.”

There’s no time to argue, considering the call is on its last ring. And we both know there’s likely astern talk and maybe a quick punch to the jaw in our future if we ignore a call from Hayley. So I get under the table, Gerard fixes his shirt and I am thanking my atheist god that I was tugging on the back of his shirt and not the front. He takes a deep breath then, and with a nod from me, answers the call.

“H-Hey Hayley!” I have to keep myself from giggling as his voice rises at least an octave, which probably just makes him sound more suspicious.

“Gerard, where’s Frank? I can’t see him, his feed won’t come on.” I can just imagine her face, eyebrows knit together, arms crossed.

“Oh we were-ah, working on that ANRI bot and she’s been giving us some trouble.” It’s now that I learn that Gerard is pretty terrible at lying, and I would have been better, but I am the one who is half naked at the moment, so he’ll have to do. I feel sorry for him, but I’m also the one straddling the cold-ass floor, so it’s not ideal for either of us. “He reconnected her motor skills, and she straight up punched Frank in the gut, so he’s taking a little break in my office.” Not the worst, not the best lie ever. Maybe it’ll be enough.

“Okay, I guess I’ll talk to him the next time I see him. I ran into Josh earlier back at the station, and he was telling me a little about the incident at that pharmacy he and Tyler were sent to the other day. Oh, he also wanted to tell Frank that Tyler is okay, but is staying with him tonight. Do you think Frank will be staying with you tonight then?”

My eyeline is blocked at about Gerard’s stomach and crotch by a metal table, but I can see him shrug. “I imagine he will be. Don’t know how long he’ll be out for.”

“Out? I thought you said was just taking a break--”

“No, I, uh, I meant he got pretty badly knocked out. Yeah.” Hopefully his enthusiasm about this lie will rub off on Hayley, but it’s doubtful.

“Gerard?” Hayley muses, definitely confused. “What’s that hanging on your tool rack in the background? Is there a shirt on your wall?”

“Fuck.” I mutter, and Gerard starts pretending to cough to cover up the sound of my cursing. I try to stifle my laughter then by cupping my hands over my mouth.

“Um, it-it could be. I mean, no, yes.” A brilliant save, Gee. Very proud of you.

“Right.” Is all Hayley says in return, but I can imagine her eyes narrowing. “Well, keep on working. You still have that date tonight?”

Shit. I had completely forgotten about that. All of the remaining giddiness, that high flying, floating feeling of being in Gerard’s arms, tangling ourselves up together--completely falls away. I’m suddenly aware of how cold the floor is, how embarrassed I feel to be under some guy’s table hiding from my boss. My heart sinks and I’m tempted to just slink away on the floor and to the door, pray Gerard doesn’t notice. But walking through the city at night half naked is...actually not the strangest or worst thing I’ve done, now that I’m thinking of it. I’m already scooting away by the time Gerard responds.

“Oh, um, I’m not sure if he’s still interested. You know, I’ve messed up so many times with him, I don’t know if he’ll even take a chance on me now.”

That gets me to stop right in my tracks.

“Well, do you still like him?”

It’s right about now that I wish I could see Gerard’s face. “Yeah, I really do.” His response is barely audible. “I like him a lot, actually.”

There it is. Hope again. I feel something tugging inside of me, something that makes me stay put under the next table over. The floor isn’t so bad anyway, a little cold, but I can handle that. Easy.

“Then...try again. Explain yourself to him, but don’t sabotage the relationship before it’s even just started.” There’s a softness, a nostalgia, and a little bit of heartbreak present in Hayley’s voice. It’s the most delicate I’ve heard her sound, ever.

“Yeah, that’s a good idea. I think I’ll go talk to him now, if that’s alright?”

“Of course. You’ve got time, but remember you need to have that bot ready to roll in the next few days. I want it in my cubicle by Wednesday. Does that sound do-able?”

I listen as Gerard clears his throat. “Yes, ma’am, that’ll work just fine.”

“And for the love of god, just don’t mess this up with this guy. I don’t want to hear that you’ve chickened out of any more dates, you’re a great guy and anyone would be happy to have you. I’ve known you personally and professionally for a long enough time to say that.” Goddamit, Hayley is melting my heart right now. Hayley of all people.

“I-I won’t, ma’am.” He answers, voice small.

“Great. See you Wednesday. Oh and I hope Frank feels better too. That kid is a magnet for bad luck.”

Gerard chuckles once--breathy and stifled. “Don’t I know it.”

I hear the dial tone that means that Hayley’s hung up, and Gerard’s chair squeals under him as he moves to stand up. Then, he’s stretching and walks away, muttering something quietly to himself. Something I imagine is only meant for himself.

Then, there’s a white bundle of cloth in my face.

“Hayley found your shirt.”

“Yeah, I noticed.” He helps me up, and right as I’m about to apologize to him, he sweeps me up, hiking me up so I’m above him and his arms are under my legs, and looking down at him, he kisses me once again, this time it’s deep and beautiful, not yearning, not erotic--just sensitive.

I lean back in once he pulls away.

“I think...I owe you an apology. I’ve been an ass. I’ve done this all the wrong way.” There’s a mix of regret and yearning in his eyes, hurt too, one that I feel in my chest too. “So, I’d like to start over if it’s okay with you.”

I don’t know how to respond exactly, and I think it catches him off guard.

“Would you, ah, like to go out with me tonight? And then after tonight, I’ll understand if you don’t want to be with me. We can call it off, pretend this never happened, and then you can go back to hating me if you want--”

“Gerard.” It’s hard to look into his face right now, the face of a guy that I had thought was just cute and then I’d pined over. And now Gerard could be mine. “I never hated you.”

“So...that’s a yes?”

“Yeah, that’s a yes.”

He exhales maybe for the first time tonight. “Great, good, great. Okay.” He hesitates for a moment, and I think I might be seeing the return of Dumb Hot Gerard, but this Gerard is just Cute Hot, and y’know, I’m really fine with it. “I going to put you down now. And this will probably be the only time from here on out that you will ever hear me say: Frank Iero, put your shirt on because we’re going out.”

He sets me down on the table, and as I fumble to put my shirt back on, he’s already turning off the lights and locking up his office. My hands are fucking shaking from the kind of night I’ve had, and checking my hand, I notice that the burn marks are gone, and I remove the bandages, throwing them in the nearest trash can.

“What about the ANRI bot?” I ask as he walks back over, adjusting his belt and putting his black leather jacket back on. His hair is newly brushed, and he looks good as new.

He shrugs. “We can figure something out.”

“Do you want me to pay for dinner?”

“Nope, no way, I’ll pay. It’s the least I can do for you.” His smile is brighter than any neon sign, any tattoo.

“Ok, one more thing,” I say, as I hop off the table and find myself right next to him, his hand finding a way into mine. I’m impressed to find that they fit together perfectly.

“Which is?” His breath is hot against my face as he kisses my temple.

“Was there another guy? Were you actually gonna go on a date tonight?”

He shakes his head. “It was always you. Always you and no one else.”

Always me.

“Hm,” I all I can think to say as we exit his workshop, lock up his gate hand in hand, fading into the midnight streets. “I think I like the sound of that.”