It all started with the tap of two fingers against the back of his right hand.
Richard paused the video feed he had been reviewing through his HUD, then opened his eyes to find that someone had claimed the seat next to his at the conference table. He had never been personally introduced to this particular PL600, but Richard knew precisely who he was after only a brief automatic scan. Why Simon, Markus’ right hand man was talking to him, one of the embassy’s most junior diplomats, however, was another question entirely.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to disturb you,” the blond said with an apologetic smile that made his eyes crinkle at the corners.
“Not at all,” the RK900 replied. “I was only reviewing the local news reports. Is there something I could assist you with, Simon?”
The other android blinked, smile slipping for a moment before returning with a curiously wry tilt to it, a reaction that proved unusually difficult for Richard to decipher. None of the answers his social integration software came back with made any sense within the context of their brief interaction, and the RK900’s eyes must have betrayed his confusion as Simon’s expression quickly shifted to something more sympathetic.
“I’m sorry,” he mused, smile still a little wry as he settled back into his chair. “I guess I’m still not used to people always knowing who I am before I have a chance to introduce myself.”
Richard winced internally as he realized he’d committed a faux pas of sorts and quickly said, “I apologize, I’ve been told I am sometimes too direct. I shouldn’t have presumed.”
The RK900’s expression was a stoic now as it had been when Simon had first approached him, but something in the way he dropped his grey eyes told the PL600 that he was more bothered by his slip than was obvious to the casual observer.
Acting on reflex, Simon reached out and rested his hand lightly over Richard’s wrist and said, “Don’t worry about it, really,” as he leaned slightly to catch the other android’s gaze once more and offered him a reassuring smile. It seemed to work as the RK900 met his eyes once more and offered him the smallest of smiles, just a slight upward quirk at the left corner of his mouth. The opposite of Connor, Simon noted automatically.
When he’d heard that Connor’s ‘little brother’ would be coming to work with them in their diplomatic efforts with the humans, Simon hadn’t known what to expect. Despite looking almost exactly like the RK800, Richard somehow cut a much more imposing figure in person, and was even more difficult to get a read on. So much so, apparently, that some of those working at the newly minted android embassy had taken to calling him ‘stone-face’ behind his back. Unkind though it sounded, Simon had to admit that the nickname was apt and no doubt the source of the foreboding air the android seemed to carry with him wherever he went.
Speaking to him for the first time, though, Simon suspected there was a sensitive soul behind the mask of indifference and it peaked not only his curiosity, but his compassion even as Richard himself regarded the PL600’s hand where it still lingered on his wrist and wondered at its presence there.
Not the why of it; he understood the social purpose of such a gesture. Simon meant it to reassure him, but all the RK900 could think of was the fact that he had no recollection of anyone ever doing such a thing before. His limited experience with interpersonal touching mostly focused around the shoulders, after all. Connor had hugged him before, and both he and Hank would give him the occasional grip there as a show of solidarity or appreciation. Even Gavin Reed had given him a slap on the back in what his brother claimed was a rare show of camaraderie when the detective had told him he’d done ‘a pretty good job for a tin-can’ back when Richard had still been working at the DPD.
The RK900 pulled his gaze away before Simon could notice, and the PL600 withdrew his hand shortly after before continuing to speak. “Besides, I can hardly complain when I already know exactly who you are,” he mused.
Richard wasn’t surprised at the news. After all, as far as either he or Connor knew, the pair of them were still unique in the world. Terms of release for the unactivated androids of all models still in CyberLife’s custody had yet to be reached, a subject that was one of many the assembly of androids had come together to address today.
“But that doesn’t mean we can’t introduce ourselves anyways,” the blond pointed out as he offered his hand to Richard. “My name’s Simon,” he said with a warm, friendly smile that made the other android blink.
The RK900 hesitated only briefly before accepting the gesture in turn and saying, “My name is Richard, it’s a pleasure to meet you, Simon.”
Simon’s smile widened and Richard’s system suffered a brief error as his thirium flow regulator skipped a cycle. “It’s a pleasure to finally meet you as well, Richard,” the PL600 said as he released his hold on the other android’s hand. Richard allowed it to return to where it had been resting on the tabletop, though flexed his fingers unconsciously as memory of the brief touch replayed on a loop in his mind.
It was hardly his first handshake, but somehow it felt like the most meaningful. Perhaps it was the foolishness of the naive, or even another peculiar system error, but when Simon looked at him, Richard felt as if the other android was really seeing him . Not just the android originally created to replace Connor, not CyberLife’s ultimate creation or another would-be deviant hunter, just… him.
It was a strange sensation the RK900’s system was struggling to process.
“I’ve heard a lot about you.”
Richard’s eyes widened fractionally, making Simon laugh and reach out to pat his hand; a warm, friendly gesture that threatened to distract the android again. Before he could reply, however, the PL600 continued, “Don’t worry, Connor has only good things to say about you.”
Something in Richard relaxed a little, though he wasn’t sure why it had tensed in the first place beyond the fact that he suddenly found himself wanting Simon to think well of him. “He overstated, I’m sure,” the android demurred as he dropped his gaze once more.
“I doubt it,” Simon remarked. “You know what a stickler for accuracy he can be,” the PL600 mused with a chuckle as he sat back in his seat once more. “Regardless, I’m glad we were able to lure you away from the DPD, we could really use all the help we can get around here.”
Richard started to object to the idea that he had been lured into working at the android embassy, but he had to admit that the statement wasn’t entirely inaccurate. Until Markus himself had approached him with his job offer, Richard had been working as a detective at the same precinct as Connor. The work was rewarding, but it had never quite captured his interest the way it had the RK800’s post deviation. Connor had, after all, been programmed to assist in the deviancy case before things had spiraled into outright revolution. Richard, on the other hand, despite being the only completed unit of his model, had been programmed to work with the US State Department. He had been equipped with a full suite of diplomacy protocols the likes of which never before seen in an android, though his learning software was so advanced that detective work had come easily to him.
Richard knew Connor had been disappointed when he had decided to take Markus’ job offer rather than remain with his brother and Hank at the DPD, but even Connor had to admit that it would be a waste of valuable diplomatic resources to keep him there. Especially considering the uphill battle androidkind faced in the ongoing fight to obtain equal rights. Luckily, Markus’ opinion seemed to hold a great deal of weight with Connor, so the RK800 hadn’t held it against him, and it wasn’t as if they didn’t see each other frequently. Connor attended as many of Markus’ meetings as he was able to fit in around his regular duties as a detective, and that was besides the time they spent together outside of work.
“I’m glad to be here,” Richard told Simon and was rewarded with another warm smile for his efforts.
Richard wasn’t deaf.
In fact, his audio sensors were far more sensitive than most androids, so he was well aware of the nickname that had started following him around the embassy.
‘Stone-face’, they called him.
It was stupid, he knew it was stupid, but the appellation still stung. He also knew the others didn’t mean to be cruel, but the unwanted nickname still struck a sour chord considering that his limited ability to emote was something of a sore point for the android. The source of his shortcoming was unknown and a continual source of frustration for Richard, especially considering Connor seemed to have no difficulty in that department; not these days, anyways. His brother insisted that he’d get better with practice, or simply come to it with time, but the RK900 had long since come to suspect it was something buried in his base code. After all, a diplomat with a perfect poker face would be a valuable asset in negotiations of any kind.
Richard pushed the thought from his mind and focused on the task at hand. Another day, another meeting with his fellow diplomats around the conference table-
“Hey,” a voice said and a hand brushed his arm, gently pulling Richard from his thoughts to look down at the android that had addressed him.
“I saved you a seat,” the PL600 said as he gestured to the empty chair next to him and offered up an inviting smile that was all the convincing Richard needed to accept.
“Thank you,” the android said as he took his seat, grateful for and also curiously affected by the kind offer.
The meeting began immediately after so neither of them had a chance to say more, though Simon did reach out and give Richard’s forearm a fond pat in recognition of his gratitude. With his attention caught by Markus’ opening brief, however, he didn’t notice the way the RK900’s eyes lingered on him for a long moment before he too turned his attention to the task at hand.
Nearly an hour later, though, little had been accomplished. Things had devolved into a barely civilized argument nearly twenty minutes ago with North and Josh at the forefront of the battle, butting heads as they often did, while others occasionally managed to squeeze in a point or two from the sidelines in favor of one or the other.
Richard disagreed with both of them, but he had yet to come up with something better himself. So for the time being he observed from the sidelines, turning the issue at hand this way and that within the confines of his mind palace, picking at it in hopes of teasing forth a solution that might prove more palatable, or at least more efficient.
Markus seemed to be making use of the same tactic as far as Richard could tell from where he sat several chairs away. The revolution leader had said very little since the argument began, though his mismatched gaze flicked back and forth between the participants as first one, and then the other, claimed the proverbial floor.
One person that wasn’t content to sit and watch was Simon. He continually tried to interject a more level-headed point of view into the discussion, as was often the case, but Josh and North were paying him little attention today. Pitted against North’s hot temper and the formidable debate experience Josh possessed as a former professor, the PL600 was finding it difficult to get a word in edgewise without going against his nature and resorting to shouting himself. Simon would start to speak, but with his friends on the warpath, anything he said was quickly overrun and his frustration was beginning to show. Richard watched the other android out of the corner of his eye, noted the fierce frown and the annoyance that sparked behind his blue eyes as one hand balled into a fist on the table top, and found himself sympathizing.
Simon wasn’t the only android looking irked either, but he was one of the few still fighting to get a word in where the others had long since given up. No doubt they hoped for a fresh start after the scheduled break that was approaching far too slowly for anyone’s liking.
Coming to a decision, Richard waited until there was a slight pause in the argument and said, “That’s enough.”
With his interruption timed to cut through the conversation with the precision of a surgeon’s scalpel, Richard hadn’t even needed to raise his voice; he simply let his low, even tone carry across the table like a bell. Every eye turned his way as a result, landing on him like a heavy weight to pin him in his seat. Beside him, Simon also stared, brows lifted in surprise at his unexpected interruption.
Josh frowned and started to speak, but before he could, Richard continued, “You’re arguing in circles and getting nowhere. Yield the floor and allow someone else to speak.”
The RK900 turned to Simon as he finished, expression as even as ever and, startled, the blonde android realized that Richard had intervened on his behalf rather than of a desire to say something himself. Grateful and touched by the gesture, frustration melting away in the face of the other android’s kindness, Simon offered him a smile.
Realizing belatedly how badly they had been acting, Josh and North shared a guilty look and apologized with the air of chastened children.
At the head of the table Markus masked a smile behind his hand, seeming just as relieved as everyone else that the pair had been called to heel. In an effort to promote open discussion among his people the RK200 had perhaps let things run a little too free considering the strength of his companion’s personalities. Markus’ mismatched gaze found Richard’s and he gave him a small nod of gratitude before turning to his long time friend and asking, “What have you got, Simon?”
The scheduled break finally arrived, and while Simon hadn’t quite sold everyone on his course of action, the debate had been much more open and civilized from that point on, so at least progress was finally being made.
As was the norm, everyone broke into groups and mingled or went to take care of brief errands elsewhere until the meeting started up again. As was also the norm, Richard found himself alone next to a window, leaning one shoulder against the wall and staring out at the cityscape beyond in silent contemplation.
What wasn’t normal was the unexpected arrival of Simon, who came to stand next to him at the window, hands tucked neatly into the pockets of his suit pants as he too took a moment to admire the view before speaking.
“Thank you,” he said simply as he turned to regard the other android.
Richard was only an inch taller than him, but as he leaned casually against the wall and tilted his head to regard Simon with half-lidded eyes, he seemed much larger. It was something in the way he carried himself, the PL600 thought, though the fact that he had been designed with a more muscular build probably didn’t hurt either. His every move had a panther-like grace to it that advertised just how easily he could end just about anyone, human or android, that he came into contact with… but even that had nothing on his eyes.
Their grey coloring was common enough among androids, but the intensity with which they regarded everything in their purview was enough to steal the non-existent breath from Simon’s synthetic lungs. The PL600 wondered how he saw the world, what things he could perceive that Simon, and most other androids (let alone humans) could not.
He wondered what Richard saw when he looked at him .
“It’s nothing,” the RK900 said as he straightened and folded his hands neatly behind his back.
“To you, maybe,” Simon mused with a light snort. “But I’m grateful anyways. I was seriously considering throwing my pen at one of them.” Richard arched a brow and Simon was pleased when he actually got a tiny smile out of the other android. “Well, alright, not really,” he admitted.
“For one thing, you don’t actually have a pen,” Richard pointed out and Simon laughed.
“True. Maybe I should start carrying one.”
“Just to throw?”
“Oh not just to throw,” Simon said as he tried and failed to suppress another smile. “But mostly to throw.”
Another quirk of the lips from Richard. “You’ll want a fairly heavy one, then.”
“Oh yes, it’d go much further that way, wouldn’t it? Imagine my embarrassment if I threw it only to have it fall short of my target.”
The conversation was completely absurd, but Richard found himself enjoying the banter. It wasn’t something he’d had much opportunity to partake in, and to find it flowing so easily with Simon made something unnamed deep inside him flutter. That’s probably what pushed the small huff of laughter past his lips and into the world for the first time.
Simon had no way of knowing, but it was the first time Richard had laughed reflexively rather than because custom or circumstance dictated so to his social integration program. The RK900 glanced at the other android, though Simon was too busy laughing himself to notice the startled, almost awed look in his eyes.
It vanished as quickly as it arrived, however, and by the time Simon looked at him again, Richard’s face was back to its usual deadpan.
“But seriously, though,” the PL600 said and nudged him lightly with his own shoulder, “-thank you. I never would have gotten them to listen if not for you.”
“I’m uncertain as to why I needed to interfere in the first place,” Richard admitted with a small frown.
“Ah, well,” Simon mused ruefully as he turned his gaze back out the window once more. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’m not exactly the loudest person in the group.”
Richard’s frown deepened. “That’s not what I meant,” he said, drawing Simon’s attention once more. With the weight of the PL600’s eyes on him, Richard hesitated for a moment, then clarified, “I only meant that they should want to hear you speak. You have more practical experience living in the world than almost anyone else at the table.”
A light laugh escaped Simon and he countered, “Maybe, but my relative age doesn’t guarantee I have anything that actually merits saying.”
“No,” Richard agreed. “But you are also intelligent and kind,” he continued in a matter-of-fact tone that made Simon blink, taken aback by the ease and confidence with which he spoke on the matter. “The fact that you possess all three of these traits makes you uniquely qualified to offer your opinion on any number of subjects, Simon.”
“I-” the blond began, then stopped, completely at a loss.
From anyone else Simon might suspect they were trying to curry favor with Markus’ right hand man in hopes of becoming closer with the revolution leader, but Richard had no need of that. What was more, Simon could sense only an honest truth in the RK900’s words as his clear, grey eyes regarded him with straightforward earnestness that made his thirium pump jump alarmingly in his chest.
This time, it was Simon that dropped his gaze as tears threatened at the corners of his bright blue eyes. “Thank you, Richard,” he said quietly as he wiped quickly at his eyes in hopes of hiding his discomfiture.
Unfortunately, the other android was far too observant for such subterfuge and shifted closer on reflex, hands lifting as though to reach out to him, only to drop back to his sides uncertainly. “I’ve upset you,” he said, confusion clear in his voice if not on his face beyond the barest furrow of a brow. “I’m sorry. Please, whatever I said, I-”
“No, it’s nothing like that,” Simon said quickly as he gave up trying to hide his face and looked up at Richard once more, tears persisting despite his best efforts. “That was just…” a weak huff of laughter escaped the blond. “I think that was the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.”
“So you’re not… upset with me?” Richard asked, system processes nearly swamped by relief when Simon immediately shook his head and smiled. He was still crying, though, and that was a state of affairs the RK900 found he simply could not tolerate. “Here,” he said and drew the white pocket square from the breast pocket of his suit jacket then gave it a gentle shake to unfold it. Richard was sorely tempted to use it to wipe away the other android’s tears himself, but resisted the urge at the last moment and offered it to Simon instead.
“Thank you,” the other android said as he accepted the square of fabric and Richard tried but failed to ignore the pleasant sensation of the blond’s fingers brushing against his own.
“It’s nothing,” Richard said as the other android wiped away his tears then offered the pocket square back to him. Another brief brush of the fingertips and then the RK900 was tucking the square of fabric back into his pocket as Simon shook his head ruefully.
“You keep saying that,” he mused, “But I’m still grateful.”
Before Richard could come up with a response, an alert that the meeting was starting up again went out and they both turned.
“Well, back to the grindstone,” Simon remarked with a small sigh, then turned and looked at Richard again, only to become distracted by his now rumpled pocket square. Without asking, he reached up and tidied the thing so it sat flush in its pocket, fingers brushing absently across Richard’s chest as he did so. “There, that’s better.”
Richard’s tongue had never felt thicker or clumsier than when he managed to say “Thank you,” a moment later, though luckily he sounded normal to his external sensors.
“You’re welcome,” Simon said with a warm smile that Richard swore made the room just a little bit brighter.
Sitting together at meetings became a regular occurrence for the pair from then on with whoever arrived first endeavoring to save the other a place. Generally this meant Simon, but the first time Richard beat him to the conference room and saved him a seat, the PL600 seemed so pleased Richard made an effort to be the first to arrive more frequently. The fact that Simon almost always ran a hand along his shoulders as he took his seat had nothing to do with it.
That’s what Richard tried to tell himself, anyways.
Truth be told, the RK900 found himself obsessing over every little way Simon touched him. Every time a hand was left to linger on his forearm, or fingers brushed the back of his hand, Richard cataloged it carefully away to be assessed and dissected late at night when he was alone. He understood human body language, and knew that the majority of androids were programmed to emulate it, but something in Richard quaked at the thought of misinterpreting Simon’s actions. Of presuming too much.
Humans were difficult creatures to understand at times, after all. For some, such gestures as Simon made towards him were simply friendly overtures, rather than romantic ones, and the PL600 had been deviant longer than most. This made him more human, thus more difficult to read, in Richard’s opinion.
Asking himself just what he wanted Simon’s intentions to be was a question that plagued the RK900’s thoughts, but only because he refused to answer it. To hope for one over the other felt too much like opening himself up for disappointment, though when it came right down to it… he knew he was being a coward.
So he continued to catalog Simon’s every touch and told himself that whatever the PL600 wanted to give him was enough, that his desperation for more didn’t grow by the day. Faster, even, as Simon soon began to seek his company outside of group meetings too.
He’d stop to say hello in the morning after they’d both arrived at work.
Richard would check in on him on his way to a meeting.
They’d bump into one another in the hall and wind up talking for ten minutes…
These all too brief moments stolen together made Richard look forward to going to work every morning in a way he never had before… until reports of attacks on androids carried out after dark in the vicinity of the embassy began to crop up.
Living in the area as most of the androids they worked with did, Simon walked to and from work most days. Also like the others, he was seriously considering calling a cab as he made his way down to the front door from his office one evening after a particularly long and trying day. Before he had made up his mind, however he arrived downstairs to find Richard lingering in the lobby, staring out at the growing dark.
“Is it raining again?” Simon asked as he approached the other android, who immediately turned towards him at the sound of his voice.
“No,” Richard answered. “Why?”
Simon gestured at him and said, “It’s not like you to wait around, I thought maybe you were waiting out the rain before walking home.”
Understanding dawned in the RK900’s eyes and he shook his head. “No,” he repeated, then hesitated for a moment, eyes drifting from Simon’s face to the door before he admitted, “Actually, I was waiting for you .”
“Waiting for me?” Simon repeated, eyebrows going up in surprise at the unexpected answer and Richard nodded.
“I…” the taller android hesitated again, then forced himself to meet Simon’s eyes and pressed on, “wanted to walk you home. I’m sure you’ve heard, but there have been several attacks on androids in the area lately.”
A soft, surprised ‘oh’ was Simon’s only initial reaction to the statement as he struggled to reign in his system’s automatic functions so the blush that desperately wanted to take over his face remained in check. “You don’t have to do that,” he said and shoved his hands into his pockets to keep from fidgeting.
“Please?” Richard asked as he stepped in closer, low voice gentle but insistent. “I would feel better if I saw for myself that you got home safely.”
Simon looked up at him again and opened his mouth to object a second time, only for the words to die on his lips.
The better he came to know the RK900, the less he understood the ‘stone-face’ nickname some of the others around the office had given him. It was subtle, but Simon could decipher the earnest concern and hope on Richard’s face and in his eyes. It made it very hard for him to say no, and honestly, Simon didn’t particularly want to anyways.
“Alright,” he said, pulse quickening at the relief that flooded the other android’s features at his answer. “As long as I’m not putting you out. I can always call a cab, you know.”
“No, it’s my pleasure,” Richard reassured him quickly as they both turned and headed out the door.
They fell into step easily and silence reigned between them until Simon thought of something he’d overheard at work earlier that day and shared it. The anecdote managed to draw a smile to Richard’s stoic features and the blonde found himself smiling in turn as their shoulders brushed, reminding him of how very close they were. The RK900 dropped his gaze to the sidewalk and inspired a treacherous little flame of hope to bloom somewhere in Simon’s chest when he didn’t adjust his stride to avoid further contact.
He’d never known what to make of the fact that Richard never reached out to him physically despite how close Simon, at least, thought they had become. He never pulled away or objected to being touched, but the PL600 had no idea if he liked it. He did, at least, trust that Richard would say something if he didn’t , but…
Simon knew he should probably just ask , but he didn’t quite have it in him. Or maybe he was afraid of the answer. Truth be told, he very much liked touching Richard. Liked that the android allowed him in so close when he kept others at arm’s length. Liked that Richard smiled for him more than anyone else.
Mustering his nerve, Simon took a breath he didn’t actually need then shifted his stride so his shoulder not only brushed his companion’s, but allowed him to tuck his arm into the crook of Richard’s, bringing them closer yet. “So, are you going to Carl’s gallery opening?” Simon asked in an attempt to mask his own nerves at the bold move he’d made.
Richard nearly missed his stride at Simon’s sudden closeness, but his system quickly rallied and he continued on smoothly as though nothing at all had happened. He didn’t look down at the point where their arms interlocked, though the RK900 desperately wanted to, relishing the sensation even as he wondered at the meaning of it.
Simon’s question about the party he and all of the higher ups at the embassy had received an invitation to helped him focus at least. “I hadn’t decided yet, actually,” Richard admitted. Finally, he dared to look at the other android sidelong and asked, “How about you?”
“Carl is a good friend of mine, I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Simon said with a fond smile for the absent artist.
“Well,” Richard said after a moment’s consideration he mostly spent admiring the blond’s profile as he gazed up at the twilight sky, “then neither will I.”
“Your suit is blue.”
Richard glanced behind him in the mirror that hung on the wall of his room to see Connor standing in the door of his bedroom looking vaguely surprised.
“An astute observation, no wonder you thrive as a detective,” he mused aloud as he finished fixing his tie and turned to regard his brother.
Connor gave him a wry look as he tugged the sleeves of his own black suit neatly into place at his wrists. “A blue suit and jokes. I guess leaving the DPD for the embassy really was good for you,” the RK800 remarked with a soft huff of amusement as he passed his brother the white pocket square he’d left out on the dresser.
Despite Connor’s teasing tone, Richard recognized the honest observation behind the words and considered it for a moment as he accepted the handkerchief and tucked it into the breast pocket of his suit. “I think it has been,” he admitted quietly as he met his brother’s eyes, searching them reflexively for some sign that the other android was disappointed.
Connor only smiled and said, “I’m glad, Richard,” in a low, earnest voice before turning his attention back to his brother’s suit. He flicked away a bit of lint and said, “You look good in blue.”
“Thank you,” Richard said, feeling lighter somehow as he took one last look in the mirror to check himself. The suit was a new one he had acquired just for the gallery opening after reviewing the contents of his closet and finding himself curiously dissatisfied with the black ensemble he had been planning on wearing. The new suit was a dark blue with a matching tie, white shirt, and silver clip, plus the all important pocket square, and Richard had to admit his brother was right.
He looked good in blue.
Behind him, Connor stepped out of the mirror’s periphery and allowed himself a moment to really look at Richard. He’d been serious when he remarked that leaving the DPD seemed to have done well by his younger brother, though he wouldn’t be a detective if he didn’t also note that the change wrought in Richard had sped up significantly the last few weeks. He smiled more easily, for one, and Connor was certain he’d gotten at least two genuine laughs out of the android last week, which was new.
“You’re looking forward to this,” Connor observed as the RK900 finished what he was doing and turned towards him again.
Richard blinked at the statement apropos of nothing, then averted his eyes and remarked casually, “I am. I’ve never been to a gallery opening before; it should be interesting.”
His brother was deflecting and Connor knew it, but rather than push, the detective let him be. Instead, he held the door open for Richard and remarked, “I’m sure it will.”
“You know, of all the pictures here this evening, I think this one might be my favorite.”
Pulled from his contemplation of a particularly striking painting, Richard turned as Simon came to stand at his side, a fond smile on his face.
“There is something about it,” the RK900 agreed thoughtfully, though now that the other android had arrived, Richard had eyes only for him. Simon was wearing a suit in a shade of deep maroon that the android had never really appreciated until then, accompanied by a white shirt and a black tie that gave him an altogether dashing air.
Especially when he turned to give Richard a proper head-to-toe once over, eyes tracing up the full length of him with a look the RK900 dared to hope might be just a little bit admiring.
“I like that blue on you,” Simon said as he reached out and brushed a hand down Richard’s arm as if to admire the fabric of his suit before smiling at him and adding, “It brings out your eyes.”
The easy compliment made Richard feel as though something in his positronic brain had short-circuited, scattering his thoughts and leaving him at a loss for words. Panicking internally, desperate to say something, anything , the RK900 said, “Thank you,” as he forced his gaze back to the painting he had been admiring before Simon showed up. It wasn’t able to hold his attention long, though, as his eyes were drawn back to the other android. “You too,” he added, feeling awkward but desperate to convey his own admiration. “You look good, I mean.”
Simon wasn’t able to stop the pleased flush that overtook his cheeks at the other android’s compliment, and for once, he didn’t particularly mind. “Thank you,” he said before mustering his courage and reaching out to Richard once more. He pressed a hand lightly between the RK’s shoulder blades and pointed towards another painting that had caught his eye earlier that evening. “Have you seen this one? It was one of the last Carl painted before the revolution.”
In that moment, Simon probably could have steered Richard right off the nearest balcony for all the android could resist the warm, gentle pressure of his hand against his back, and the RK900 went readily where he lead. “Not yet,” he answered as they came to a stop in front of the paining in question.
Rather than drop away once he had Richard where he wanted him, however, Simon’s hand slid from his shoulders down to his lower back and lingered there; a distracting, beatific presence that threatened to make the android lose all sense of composure.
Richard had no idea what would happen if he did. He only knew there was a desperate, incandescent ache for something he couldn’t quite put a name to growing stronger in him by the moment.
Richard had begun to calculate the odds that he might spontaneously combust at some point that evening, but before he actually did, North approached to say hello and then pulled Simon away to assist her with something. In the meantime, the RK900 made the rounds, saying hello to coworkers and colleagues as well as Carl Manfred himself before finding himself in a less crowded corner of the gallery contemplating another work of art.
Or, rather, that’s what he had been doing before he’d caught sight of Connor and Markus standing across the room, speaking quietly among themselves. Richard had almost started to approach them, but stopped himself when he noted the subtle shift in their body language.
Thinking themselves alone (or as alone as two people could get at a party), they moved closer by degrees until their shoulders brushed but neither moved to give the other space. Connor leaned in to say something and Markus tilted his head to better hear over the music that had started up in an adjoining room and whatever Richard’s brother had said, it drew a chuckle from the revolutionary. This inspired a smile and more from Connor as the RK800 brushed a hand over the other android’s shoulder then gestured at one of the other paintings which Markus turned to look at. Connor used the opportunity to drop his hand from his companion’s arm to his lower back before sliding it around to the RK200’s opposite hip so he could draw Markus in flush against him.
Richard froze in place as he watched the scene play out, grey eyes widening fractionally in surprise at his brother’s actions. Not because he thought them too forward (Markus certainly didn’t seem to be objecting), but because he recognized them from the way Simon acted towards him . Seeing them from the outside looking in they were… intimate, warm, and spoke of a deep affection Richard hadn’t realized his brother harbored for the revolution leader.
A moment later, however, the RK900 realized there was something fundamentally different about their exchange: as soon as Connor slid his arm around Markus’ waist, the RK200 smiled then mirrored the gesture.
The sight stoked that fierce ache in his chest again and all Richard could do was stand there and feel a fool, knowing what he ought to do while still feeling plagued by insecurity.
Markus straightened, apparently having received a message, then excused himself, though not before leaning in to brush his lips against Connor’s temple. The RK800 smiled and murmured something in turn, then watched the other android go before allowing his attention to drift back to the painting he and Markus had been too involved with one another to really pay any true attention to up until that moment.
Richard nearly left as well, but looking at his brother as he stood alone in the gallery, the RK900 decided to seize the opportunity that presented itself and approached him instead. He made no attempt to mask his approach, so Connor heard him coming and glanced back over his shoulder, smiling when he realized who it was.
“Hello, Richard. Enjoying the party?” he asked. When his brother didn’t immediately answer, though his smile faded and he took a closer look at the other android. Being one of the few that could read his micro-expressions with any sort of ease, Connor knew Richard was troubled, but considering how much the RK900 had been looking forward to the party, he couldn’t think of a reason why this would be. “What’s wrong?” he asked.
For all his diplomatic protocols, vast library of knowledge, and fluency in just about every language under the sun, Richard found himself completely incapable of expressing himself for a long moment. Eventually, as the concerned furrow in Connor’s brow threatened to turn into an outright frown, Richard pushed aside any attempt at graceful expression and blurted out, “You and Markus- are you…”
The RK800’s eyes widened fractionally at the non sequitur of a disjointed question, completely caught off guard but realizing that he and the revolutionary had been discovered. For a brief moment he considered trying to play it off, but something in Richard’s almost desperate expression and the tense line of his shoulders told him that this would be entirely the wrong thing to do. Besides, this was his brother , after all, and if anyone could keep a secret it was Richard.
Connor glanced around the room and, seeing they weren’t completely alone, took the other android lightly by the elbow and pulled him into a secluded corner where they could have some modicum of privacy. “We’re dating,” he said, deciding there was no point in beating around the bush. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner,” he continued when Richard’s eyes widened fractionally at the news, though the fact that something in his brother seemed to relax at the admission rather than tense further or become offended felt incongruous (if fortuitous) to the RK800. “We’re just… trying to keep it quiet. We both like our privacy and Markus is concerned that my being involved with him could make me an even greater target for the anti-android movement than I already am,” he explained quietly, though clearly didn’t seem particularly perturbed by this possibility.
“Not an unreasonable concern,” Richard said distantly, mind clearly somewhere else.
Connor waited for him to say more, but when his brother remained silent, the android’s concern returned full force. “Richard… did something happen?” he asked quietly, dark eyes searching the RK900’s features for some hint as to what might be causing him to act so strangely. For a long moment the younger android wouldn’t meet his gaze, but when he did, Connor pressed, “What’s going on?”
Richard dropped his eyes and let his gaze go to a nearby painting, barely even registering the actual image as he struggled to pin down what he wanted to say, to ask. Eventually, he settled on, “Why did you touch him the way you did?”
“Markus?” Connor asked after a moment’s hesitation during which he briefly reviewed the few stolen moments he and his boyfriend had before Markus was called away again. Richard nodded so the RK800 replied in a slow, thoughtful tone, “Because I… like to.” His brother’s eyes were on him again, this time with all the intensity of a tightly focused laser. Realizing his answer was important to the other RK in some way he didn’t understand, Connor tried his best to answer thoroughly, despite feeling a bit awkward about the matter. “I care about him deeply and being physically close to him feels good. Touching communicates affection without words but also connotes a certain level of trust and intimacy as well.”
Richard nodded slowly, seeming to process Connor’s answer before pressing, “And having him return those gestures…”
His sentence petered off, but the RK800 understood where he was going and couldn’t keep the small, wistful smile off his face as he replied, “It’s the best feeling in the world. He reaches out to me and I know he wants me with him; he holds me and I feel how much he cares. When he kisses me, I-” Realizing he was maybe explaining a little too much, Connor cut himself off and spread his hands as he shrugged, a helpless, adoring smile on his face.
“I see,” Richard replied, but rather than seeming relieved, the android frowned into the distance, prompting his brother to speak again as the pieces began to slot into place.
“Do you have someone you like?” the detective asked, and when his brother’s eyes flicked furtively back to his face, Connor knew he’d hit the nail on the head.
The RK800 nodded and continued, feeling out his growing theory, “But you’re not sure if they like you back.”
“ Yes ,” his brother replied with such feeling that Connor couldn’t help but smile again, recalling the feeling all to well himself from the days when he’d still been uncertain of Markus’ affection. “He touches me the way you do Markus, and I hope… but I-” Richard ran his fingers through his hair, more discomfited in that moment than his brother had ever seen him before. “I worry I might be reading more into his gestures than he means for me to. I don’t want to assume he sees me as, or wants me to be, anything more than a friend.”
The RK900’s expression turned pained and Connor reached out to him, gripped his shoulders tight and gave him a gentle shake. “Richard, do you really like this person?” he asked, canting his head at an angle to catch his brother’s eyes.
“Yes,” he replied with a sigh. “Very much so.”
“Then start small,” Connor suggested with a smile. “Feel things out. Try touching him back in the same way when he reaches out to you and just… see where things go.”
Richard was quiet for a moment. He could list one hundred and one different reasons he shouldn’t simply ‘see where things go’, but the RK900 knew himself well enough to recognize that it was just the fear speaking. Fear that kept him running in place rather than pushing forward down the road of life. Connor was right, there was no way to know how Simon really felt about him if he didn’t dare to find out, and the thought that he might decide Richard himself wasn’t interested and move on was unacceptable.
The android took a deep breath then nodded, and Connor smiled. “Why not ask him to dance?” the RK800 suggested. Richard gave him a look of pure alarm at the suggestion and Connor laughed. “You might as well. Have one for me and everyone else that can’t dance with the person they care about tonight,” he added, regret coloring his tone even as he kept his smile firmly in place.
Simon had lost track of Richard in the press of the party nearly thirty minutes ago, and he wasn’t sure he’d ever forgive North for pulling him away if he didn’t find the android again before he left. He’d been going room by room looking for Richard, but by the time he’d made the full circuit and wound up back in the main room where people had started pairing off and dancing along to the music provided by the live band, Simon was almost ready to give up.
A gentle hand pressed to the middle of his back made the PL600 look around and begin to shift away, thinking someone in the crowd behind him was trying to squeeze past. When he found Richard there, watching him with those sharp grey eyes of his, though, he immediately stopped and broke into a smile. “There you are,” he said, stepping closer so he wouldn’t have to raise his voice to be heard over the music. “I was beginning to worry that you’d left.”
Nearly overwhelmed by the happiness of Simon’s smile at the sight of him of all people, Richard froze briefly before managing a smile of his own. When the other android went so far as to move in closer, the RK900 reminded himself of his brother’s advice and let his hand slide from Simon’s back to his arm under the pretext of leaning in so he could be heard. “Without saying goodbye?”
The presence of Richard’s hand on his arm did not go unnoticed by Simon, and it took everything in him not to stare at the place where it rested against the deep maroon fabric of his suit. Richard had reached out to him ; was touching him of his own volition. The other android had sought him out in the crowd and now they stood with scant inches between them, Richard’s hand on his arm and eyes seeming to search his own as if looking for something while Simon’s head swam with something he could only describe as euphoria.
Was he smiling too much? He felt like he was smiling too much.
“That would have been awfully rude of you,” the PL600 said, feeling as though his thirium regulator were running a mile a minute, though a brief system’s check reassured him that it was functioning normally.
Richard nodded in agreement with the statement, the corner of his mouth pulling up in a tiny smile before dropping again as he said, “I couldn’t if I wanted too, actually. I needed to ask you something.”
“Oh?” Simon asked, blinking at this unexpected turn, at a loss for what he meant. “Does that mean you plan to leave once you’ve asked your question?” he asked, mostly teasing, though there was a thread of disappointment in his words at the thought.
Richard gave Simon an inscrutable look from under the dark swath of his eyelashes that the blond found entirely too provocative, then said, “Only if you say no.”
“Then the answer is yes,” Simon said with a bold lift of his chin as he tried to mask the growing blush across his cheeks.
The RK900’s eyes widened fractionally at the reply and a soft huff of laughter escaped him as he dropped his gaze and let his hand slide down the length of Simon’s arm until his fingers brushed across the back of his hand. “Well,” he replied quietly as he gently took the blond’s hand in his own, “would you mind leading, then?”
“Leading?” Simon repeated, momentarily baffled until the answer clicked and his thirium pump nearly skipped a beat. “You want to dance?” he asked hopefully as his grip on Richard’s hand tightened reflexively.
The other android nodded as he met Simon’s eyes again and admitted, “I know how, but I never have before.”
“I could lead, if you like,” the PL600 suggested, head spinning at the thought of finally getting to hold Richard in his arms, if only for the span of a single song.
“I would like that very much,” the RK900 replied, a faint blush overtaking his pale features at the delighted smile Simon fixed him with before leading him through the crowd by the hand to the dance floor.
When they arrived, Simon shifted his hold on Richard’s hand and pulled him in close with one fluid move that made the RK900 blink even as the other settled naturally on his partner’s shoulder. The moment the blonde’s other hand found Richard’s waist, they were off around the floor, blending in seamlessly with the other couples as they picked up the steps of a slow foxtrot with the ease of two people that had danced together a thousand times before.
They hadn’t of course, but as they glided gracefully across the floor, bodies pressed flush together and feet light, it felt as though they had. Saccharine though it sounded, Richard couldn’t help but think it felt so very right to be precisely where he was, as if he’d been built to just such a purpose, and to just such a partner. Simon was a strong lead, and Richard never had to guess what he wanted to do or where he wanted to go, and trusted him completely when the other android dipped him back in a graceful arc.
Before they straightened again, the pair locked eyes, so close their noses nearly brushed. A deep, almost overwhelming urge to kiss Richard nearly overcame Simon in that moment, but he resisted at the last second, knowing it would cross a line. Richard had, at long last, reached out to him, initiated a touch and even asked him to dance, but it was too soon for anything else. For all Simon knew, things would be back to normal at work tomorrow, and while the prospect hurt to consider, he resolved to enjoy what he could, while he could.
The song came to an end all too soon, but when Simon brought them to a stop, neither of them actually moved to part.
“We could keep going,” Richard suggested, grey eyes regarding his partner with a quiet hope that the PL600 couldn’t have dashed if he’d wanted to.
And he certainly didn’t want to.
Simon smiled at him, warm and sweet as he leaned in close and murmured, “I’m yours for as long as you’ll have me.”
Across the room, standing along one of the walls, Connor smiled as he watched Simon and his brother transition smoothly into a waltz as the band started to play once more. Beside him, Markus took his hand and twined their fingers together as he leaned over and murmured something in the detective’s ear that made him laugh.
There was a meeting bright and early the next morning, and Simon was certain his thirium pump, or any other of a dozen bits of hardware vital to his function were going to suffer a catastrophic failure as he waited for Richard to arrive.
He had saved the other android a seat as per usual (though honestly there was hardly any point these days; everyone knew better than to try and take their seats), and memories of the previous night continually interrupted any more practical thoughts he tried to distract himself with. It had been wonderful dancing with Richard, and while Simon had resolved to enjoy what was given while it lasted, the idea that things might go back to the way they had been before that magical evening pained him.
“Good morning, Simon.”
The PL600 jolted almost violently at the sound of Richard’s voice as the other android took his seat and the blonde reached out to him reflexively, hand landing on his forearm.
Richard blinked at him, surprised by the reaction. A small smile tugged at the corner of his mouth and he said, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to sneak up on you.”
“No, you’re fine,” Simon replied, free hand going to his chest as a self deprecating laugh escaped him. “My mind was miles away.”
Realizing his other hand was still on Richard’s arm, the blonde started to withdraw it, only for the RK900 to stop him by covering it with his own as he said, “Well, I’m glad to have you back,” in a quiet, but earnest voice.
Simon’s synthetic breath hitched in his chest as his eyes dropped to the hand on his, warm, solid, and so very, very welcome. “I-” the PL600 said, then stopped, feeling his vocal system was suddenly in danger of glitching as his system struggled to process the sheer relief, hope, and joy that warred in the android. After a moment, he tried again; “There’s nowhere else I’d rather be.”
The sudden shift in Richard's touching policy both surprised and delighted Simon. He had no idea what had brought the change on, but he wasn't about to look a gift horse in the mouth.
Not when it felt so damn good.
Simon had always been a fairly open person, long since in the habit of mimicking human mannerisms after his time spent as a deviant trying to blend in with pre-revolution society to survive. Reaching out to people he liked was a reflex to him; a hand placed on a forearm to reassure, the gentle bump of one shoulder against another to cajole, or even the occasional hug, were all second nature.
It was different with Richard, though. As the days passed he found himself wanting more than such casual fare and began to allow his touches to linger in a fashion he never would with his friends. When their legs happened to bump under the table he wouldn't move away, and was thrilled when, after a sidelong glance at him, Richard didn't either. When they were both forced to work late one evening on a shared project, they set up camp in the break room on the sofa rather than in one of the many empty conference rooms or offices available. Tall as they both were, it was a tight fit but neither complained, simply relished the excuse the seating arrangement gave them to touch and be touched. Knees bumped, thighs brushed... and then Simon's arm wound up around Richard's shoulders when the other android leaned against him under the pretense of looking at the tablet the PL600 had been reading from.
After spending one blissful evening with him on the dance floor, Richard was addicted to touching Simon and the need for further contact only grew as he indulged his impulses with increasing frequency. On the plus side, the almost painful ache that had been threatening to overwhelm his systems had subsided once he'd finally reached out to Simon and found his attentions welcomed with a smile. On the other, a desperate need for more grew unchecked in its place, like an out of control wildfire after a long drought.
For the first time in his relatively short existence, Richard felt greedy; loving every moment he spent with Simon, yet always wanting more. Still, the wanting at least bolstered his nerve, helped him push past his own internal reservations in ways he didn't think he would have otherwise dared.
Ra9 knew he needed all the help he could get, after all.
Walking home together after work had become a habit for the pair, even after increased police patrols had resulted in a sharp drop off in attacks on androids in the area. Rain or shine, five in the evening or after midnight, Richard would walk Simon back to his apartment, grateful that the other android had accepted his company so readily after the first time. He’d have long since run out of excuses otherwise.
Another habit was Simon’s insistence on walking arm and arm down the street, Richard’s hand tucked into his pocket, and the blond’s arm snug around his, hand lingering on the RK900’s bicep. It was an arrangement Richard had long since come to not only enjoy, but look forward to, until the day he finally worked up the nerve to push it that little bit further.
As Simon chatted amiably about his day, he was taken off guard when his companion gently pulled his arm free of his grip.
The PL600 stopped mid-sentence, suddenly concerned he’d said something wrong, but his worry was immediately assuaged when Richard took his hand and twined his fingers with Simon’s. The blond’s thirium pump really did miss a beat, then, and his system kicked his internal cooling processes into high gear.
“Is that okay?” Richard asked gently as they walked, pace slower now.
Realizing he’d been staring at the way their fingers interlaced as naturally as if they’d been designed to do so, Simon flushed and looked up to meet the other android’s searching, worried grey eyes.
“Yes,” he practically stumbled over himself to reply before Richard could get the wrong idea. In fact, distracted as he was, Simon actually did stumble over an uneven bit of sidewalk, forcing his companion to steady him with his newly adjusted grip before he could fall.
“Good,” Richard said when the blonde had found his stride again, though the PL600 was now several shades redder than he had been a moment before. Unable to resist the temptation, he leaned in and added, “just in time, it seems.”
A soft, embarrassed huff of amusement escaped Simon, though his words had left him in the wake of the RK900’s gentle teasing. The android dropped his head to rest against Richard’s shoulder as they walked, suddenly too overcome by a powerful sense of contentment the likes of which he’d never experienced before to respond with words.
Markus’ scheduled speaking events always drew a crowd, and while the majority were supporters of android rights, antis flocked to protest outside like moths to the flame every time.
Neither Simon nor Richard had been assigned to accompany the revolutionary on this particular outing, but that didn’t mean they were able to skip the crowds. Unfortunately, since the event was out of town, that meant that locals gathered outside the android embassy in Detroit to make their opinions known instead.
The DPD had sent out a compliment of officers to keep the protesters in check and the way open so various employees and diplomats could come and go safely, but Richard was still on edge as he and Simon approached from across the street. The RK900 had waited for the other android a ways down the road as he often did when such protests cropped up outside the embassy, and was rewarded with one of Simon’s doting smiles.
“Everyone seems very energetic today,” the PL600 mused, seeming unconcerned by the display.
Richard’s hold on his hand tightened fractionally as they neared the crowd and the path between the police barriers put in place to give them a straight shot to the front door of the embassy. “I wish they’d direct their ‘energy’ into more useful pastimes,” he replied stiffly, eyes scanning the crowd as they walked.
“If wishes were fishes, they’d none of them starve,” Simon remarked in turn with a wry curve of his lips. He’d long since grown used to playing it cool in such situations, particularly with the press just a little ways off, covering the protest on the off chance something interesting happened. That didn’t mean he was comfortable, though. “As long as no one-”
Before he could finish the thought, movement caught the blonde’s eye as something hurtled through the air towards him. He didn’t even have time to flinch, let alone dodge-
There was a sharp slap of impact and Simon blinked as Richard lowered his free hand to examine the object he’d just snatched out of the air before it could strike the PL600 in the head.
Ra9 he was fast . Simon hadn’t even seen the other android move, and his system struggled to make sense of the sequence of events that had just transpired as his eyes dropped to examine what it was his companion had caught.
“-throws anything,” the PL600 finished quietly as they both stared at the half-brick in Richard’s hand. It wasn’t the first time protesters had thrown something at him, but this was the first time in awhile he’d come so close to suffering actual damage as a result.
Richard moved quickly and before Simon knew it, the RK900 had pushed the blonde carefully behind him and turned to face the man he’d identified as their would-be attacker. Never one to let someone else take his blows, Simon tried to side-step the larger android, but Richard put out one hand to stop his progress, gripping him tight. The change in position afforded the blonde a view of his protector’s face at least, but nothing could have prepared Simon for the cold fury written across Richard’s normally stoic features.
The android didn’t shout, snarl, or anything of the sort as he stared down the human on the other side of the barrier and half-hidden in the crowd, though the synthetic muscles of his jaw did flex as he clenched his jaw.
“Richard,” Simon said, hand going to the center of the RK900’s back as the human started to back away warily as if Richard’s steely gaze might physically cut him. “Richard, come away,” he prompted gently, hoping his words would get through to him before he did something he was (mostly) certain he would regret later.
The moment seemed to stretch for an eternity, though Simon’s internal clock informed him it was only a few seconds before Richard finally broke his staring contest in favor of glancing back at his companion. He didn’t hold his gaze long though, as he turned back and lifted the hand in which he still clutched the brick that had nearly struck Simon.
The PL600 had a brief, horrible moment where he thought Richard might throw it, but, instead, the RK900 simply held it in front of him where the human could see. His hand tightened around it, so much so that Simon swore he could hear the joints of his fingers creak until, sharp as a gunshot, the piece of masonry shattered in his grip and fell to the ground in a cascade of rubble and dust.
The human blanched, eyes going wide as dinner plates at the display, and a panicked second later, he fled the scene. Frightened though he’d been, Simon had to clap a hand over his mouth to stop himself from laughing outright at the sight.
Richard watched the man go, then looked at Simon, fury replaced by concern as he slid an arm around the PL600’s shoulders and started them walking again. “Are you okay?” he asked, a deep furrow springing up between his brows as he searched his companion’s features for any sign of damage despite knowing full well he hadn’t been hit.
“I’m fine,” Simon reassured him as they finally made it in the front door and let it swing shut behind them. Out of the protesters’ reach, the hard line of Richard’s shoulders relaxed fractionally, though he kept his arm around the blonde’s shoulders so Simon remained pressed flush against his side. “How could I be anything but with you here?” he added quietly and turned in Richard’s grip so they faced one another, his hand coming to rest lightly on the RK900’s chest, just over his thirium pump.
“I-” Richard began, then stopped, words deserting him as he met Simon’s eyes and found nothing but trust and admiration staring back at him. The PL600’s total confidence in him affected Richard more deeply than any physical show affection could, though the way the blond was pressed against him, hand over his chest like it belonged there (and it did. Oh it did -) was certainly giving sentiment a run for its money. “You should be careful,” he insisted, voice low and rough as he finally found his words again. “No matter who you’re with,” Richard added even as his traitorous hand lifted to curl possessively around Simon’s.
A small chuckle escaped the blonde and he canted his head slightly to one side as he said, “I know,” before gently pulling free of Richard’s hold. He was loathe to do so, but the RK900 let him go and was relieved when Simon maintained his hold on his hand as they walked deeper into the embassy together. “But I always feel better with you around,” he said quietly with a smile and Richard’s hand tightened reflexively around his own.
Later, as afternoon wore on into evening, Simon wrapped up his work and went in search of Richard. After parting ways that morning, they hadn’t had another moment alone together for the rest of the day, but the android didn’t think he was imagining it when he thought the RK900 had been watching him more closely than usual.
Simon found the other android in his office, though rather than behind his desk, Richard was standing beside the window, arms crossed over his chest as he stared unseeing into the distance. The blond paused in the open doorway, knocked lightly on the jamb to attract Richard’s attention, and was rewarded when the taller android glanced back at him, apparently caught unawares.
“Simon,” he said, appearing almost surprised to see him there. He must have consulted his inner clock as he blinked and continued, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to keep you waiting. Are you ready to leave?”
The blonde watched the other android thoughtfully as he dropped his arms and went to his desk to neaten the sparse array of items on its surface. “Is something wrong?” Simon asked rather than answering the question. Richard glanced up at him, then dropped his gaze again as he straightened a cup of pens that hadn’t actually been crooked. Knowing when the other android was avoiding giving an answer, the PL600 stepped into the room proper and closed the door quietly behind him, then approached the desk and gently stopped the restless movements of Richard’s hands with one of his own. “Richard,” he said, voice gentle but insistent.
The RK900 stopped his busy work and looked at the other android again, though this time he held his gaze as he straightened and sighed a little. Rather than pull away from Simon’s grasp, though, he shifted his own hand so he could twine their fingers in the way that had become a habit since the first day he’d dared to try it. Richard searched the blonde’s gaze with his own, finding genuine concern and more than a little curiosity in his expressive blue eyes, though there was a determined set to his jaw that declared he wasn’t going to let the question go easily.
Realizing he might as well confess, Richard shifted uncomfortably, gaze drifting sideways to a painting that hung on the wall behind Simon without really taking in any of its detail, then admitted, “I was thinking about this morning.”
Simon nodded, having guessed as much himself. “The man that threw the brick?”
“Only tangentially,” Richard replied and Simon’s eyebrows went up in silent question. The RK900 struggled to explain the feeling that had been plaguing him most of the day, then finally decided that being straight forward was the only logical course of action. “I was scared. Not of the man,” he said with a dismissive wave of his free hand, “but…” His grey eyes were drawn inexorably back to the other android’s face once more where they traced idly over his familiar features the same way he had a thousand times before.
He never tired of the view.
“But?” Simon prompted gently, cheeks heating inexplicably under the weight of the other android’s eyes.
“I was afraid you might be hurt,” Richard finally admitted as he shifted closer, finding comfort in the proximity even as his thirium regulator threatened to skip a cycle with every inch of distance he closed between them. “Afraid that I’d be too slow, that I wouldn’t be strong enough…” His words petered off and it took a moment before he found them again, and even then, he barely spoke above a whisper when he said, “I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to protect you if the crowd suddenly turned ugly.”
The breath rushed unsteadily out of Simon at the admission, touched beyond words by the sentiment but pained by the distress and unease that lingered in Richard’s eyes. “You were fast enough,” Simon reassured him as he reached up reflexively to cup the other android’s face with one hand.
“This time,” the taller android said, frowning even as his free hand went up to press over Simon’s were it rested against his cheek, taking comfort in the gesture despite the worry that gnawed at him from within. “But next time-”
“You can’t think like that, Richard, it won’t help either of us,” Simon chided the other android gently with a sad sort of smile. “You can’t protect me from everything; that’s just not how the world works, and you have to accept that.”
The RK900’s unhappy expression turned rebellious. “I can try.”
It was the closest Simon had ever seen Richard come to pouting, and it was enough to make the PL600 laugh as a powerful surge of affection welled up from deep inside him to completely override any other thought he might have had in that moment. Pushing himself flush against Richard and allowing his arms to slide up around his neck as he pulled him into a tight hug felt like the most natural response in the world to the RK900’s sweet natured stubbornness.
Richard went still, taken off guard by the sudden, though welcome, embrace as he tried to puzzle out what he had said to earn something so wholly divine. Whatever the cause, the android slipped his arms around Simon’s slender frame, one hand sliding up to rest possessively between his shoulders while the other lingered at his lower back.
Simon’s cheek brushed Richard’s as he turned and murmured, “We’ll protect each other as best we can, how about that?”
Yet again robbed of every ounce of eloquence in the face of such earnest sentiment, Richard pulled the other android in tight with a sigh of pure bliss. Overcome by a deep and abiding sense of devotion to the android in his arms, the RK900 pressed his cheek to Simon’s, unconsciously nuzzling him so his long nose brushed the fringe of golden hair at his temple.
“Alright,” he sighed quietly, laid low by the blond’s earnest question. “Alright.”
Connor, Hank, and Richard’s work schedules rarely lined up in a way that allowed them to spend more than a fleeting hour or two in one another’s company as a family, but every so often the stars would align and the three would get an entire day together. Usually they would spend their time together at Hank’s house, but today Connor had managed to get his hands on three tickets to a basketball game, so they’d attended together and gone for drinks afterward instead.
It’d been… nice. Even after all this time Richard was still trying to wrap his head around the concept of family, particularly such an odd one as theirs, but he appreciated it all the same. Knowing that Hank and Connor would drop everything to help him if he had a problem brought a special kind of peace to the RK900, and knowing that he would do the same for them served to grow that sense of ‘family’. He couldn’t have defined it in any specific terms, which was unusual for him, but he knew how they made him feel , and that, he’d come to understand, was the important part.
He was lucky, not every android had those bonds to tether and support them in an uncertain world, and the fact that he had somehow managed to gain yet another such tie in the form of Simon filled Richard with a deep sense of gratitude.
While his relationship with the PL600 was just as important the ones he had with Hank and Connor, it was also fundamentally different. Receiving a message from Simon filled him with an excited anticipation that word from no one else could duplicate, and while he enjoyed spending time with his family, Richard wasn’t filled by an almost overwhelming longing to be physically near them when they were apart.
He felt it now as he stared out the window of the cab he’d called to take him back to his apartment after a pleasant day spent with his brother and their adopted father. The sun was beginning to set, and the RK900 was admiring the way the pink and gold light illuminated the city streets when he received a message from Simon.
‘ How was your day? ’
Richard had told Simon of his plans to go out the day previous as he’d walked the android home from work, but his thinking to ask after him the next day still sent a little thrill through his system.
‘ It was good. ‘Our’ team won, so Hank was quite pleased ,’ he responded, smiling to himself a little before following up with, ‘ And you? How was your day? ’
‘ Pleasantly quiet, ’ came the response a moment later and Richard could picture Simon’s smile as clearly as if he were there in the car with him. Another message, with an image attached, followed immediately after. It was a picture of the same sunset Richard was currently admiring through the window, though from a higher vantage point. ‘ Enjoying the view. It’s definitely missing something, though. ’
Curious, Richard replied, ‘ Oh? ’
‘ Someone to enjoy it with. ’ The statement inexplicably brought a flush to Richard’s cheeks, but before he could respond, Simon added, ‘ That is an invitation, by the way. ’
Standing on his third floor apartment balcony and staring out at the city, Simon smiled to himself when Richard replied, ‘ I’ll be there in five minutes ’.
True to his word, a cab pulled up in front of the building just shy of five minutes later, and the PL600’s smile widened when Richard stepped out onto the sidewalk and immediately looked up to see him waiting. Rather than walk around to the stairs that lead up into the apartment complex proper, however, Richard strode across the grassy lawn and came to a stop just below the balcony.
Amused, Simon leaned his arms on the railing and looked down at the other android as he asked, “Aren’t you going to come up?” His smile turned teasing after a moment, and he added, “Or were you planning to recite some Shakespeare for me?”
The shadows that fell across the lawn were growing deeper by the moment as the sun continued to set, but Simon stood out like a beacon high overhead, cast in glorious golden light that caught his hair and lit his blue eyes from within. Richard was silent as he admired the view before finally replying, “No, I’m afraid nothing the bard has written would suit, but there are other great poets that might capture my… capture the moment.”
Simon blinked at this unexpected answer and shifted forward a little to lean more heavily on the railing. He’d long known that Richard was a sensitive soul, but to see it so clearly on display was a rare thing, and he wasn’t surprised when the other android dropped his gaze and ran one restless hand through his dark hair.
He was, however, surprised when Richard cast him one last shy glance, then stepped out of sight into the shadows beneath Simon’s balcony. The PL600 leaned forward a little further, brows knit in confusion as he tried to catch a glimpse of him, but to no avail. After a moment, though, Richard’s warm, familiar voice called gently from the shadows, “Do you feel my soul rise up through the darkness?” and Simon felt a little thrill run from head to toe and out to his fingertips as he recognized the words immediately.
Below him, from the comfort of the shadows that kept him hidden from those captivating blue eyes that ever drove him to distraction, Richard leaned against the uneven brick of the apartment complex’s outer wall for support as he continued, “Everything tonight is so wonderful, so sweet. I speak, you listen; me at your feet!” The android dropped his head back against the wall, a sigh escaping him as his eyes fluttered shut and he tried to imagine how Simon might look as he listened. Was he laughing silently at him and his fledgling attempt at a romantic overture?
No, he was too kind of heart for that.
It certainly wasn’t what Richard had planned to do when he accepted Simon’s invitation, but when he’d gotten out of the cab and first laid eyes on him, the RK900 had been at a loss for words for how to express the intense, all consuming emotion that welled up within him.
And so here he was, borrowing from the masters to try and get his meaning across.
“Even in my sweetest dreams, I never planned on this,” Richard murmured, voice carrying in spite of the drop in volume, and quotation though it was, the words could not have been more true. How could he have possibly guessed how much Simon would come to mean to him that first day they had met? He had opened his eyes to a whole new world, and Richard knew that, no matter what happened in the future, he’d never be the same again. “My purpose is fulfilled, now I can die.”
Overhead, Simon craned a little further as Richard’s words floated up to him out of the shadows. The android didn’t need to breathe, but he still felt curiously breathless, dizzy even, and his fingers tightened reflexively where they gripped the railing. “Richard,” he called, voice gentle and coaxing, wanting more than anything to see him then, to touch him, hold him…
“My poem makes him tremble in the boughs,” the RK900 continued and Simon bit his lip at the accuracy of the statement, the beat of the pump that labored in his chest growing almost erratic to keep up with everything the android found himself feeling in that moment. “I can feel the shaking of your hand come down along this jasmine strand…”
Richard’s words petered off then, and he took a breath in an attempt to calm the anxious energy that seemed to pulse beneath his synthetic skin. A moment, he only needed a moment to collect himself and then he could step out and face those eyes again, to find what effect his recitation might have had on the android that consumed his every waking thought.
“I tremble and weep-”
Richard went still, eyes flying open as Simon’s words drifted down to him from overhead, voice echoing with just a hint of static that belied how deeply affected he was. It was a rare occurrence, but sometimes when they were together and Simon seemed at his happiest, his vocal instruments would malfunction, interrupting his speech patterns or disrupting their tonal quality. Richard knew these moments always embarrassed the PL600, but he had come to treasure them; they were proof that he made the other android truly, deeply happy, after all, and there was nothing he wanted to do more in all the world.
Overhead, Simon fought to speak, knowing the next words as surely as he had the ones before, but his faulty vocal systems betrayed him. Desperate to speak, the android force reset the rebellious subsystem, and when it came back online a moment later, he declared, “ I love you .”
Three seconds that felt like an eternity stretched out between them in silence, and Simon feared he had overstepped. He felt the truth of his statement as certainly as he knew the sun rose in the East, but that didn’t mean Richard reciprocated. Maybe it was too soon. Maybe-
Richard stepped out from under the balcony, grey eyes wide with surprise, disbelief and… hope. The sight sent such a powerful rush of relief crashing through Simon’s system that the android was certain his knees would give out from under him. Needing him near more than ever before, the PL600 reached a hand down towards Richard and continued in a low, pleading tone, “You have bewitched me.”
Those three little words had pierced Richard’s chest like a shot and left him dazed, wondering if he could have possibly heard Simon correctly. Surely not. Surely… But the way Simon smiled when he saw him, the way he reached out a hand towards him… that told Richard all he needed to know.
“Simon,” he said, voice barely above a whisper.
The sound of his name on Richard’s lips, soft and reverent as a prayer threatened to stop his hardware cold, but he persisted and beckoned to the other android and said, “Come up.”
He’d expected the RK900 to go around to the stairs; Simon even straightened in anticipation of meeting him at the door. Instead, Richard remained rooted in place for a moment, then ran towards the wall and got several steps up it before catching the uneven brickwork and closing the remaining distance between them with a few quick double overhand hops that would make a free runner green with envy. He reached the third story balcony without so much as a fumble as Simon stared, then reached out and pulled himself onto the balcony, feet wedged between the rail posts, hands tightly gripping the railing as the pair suddenly found themselves nose-to-nose.
“Well-” Simon began, then laughed, unable to think of anything to say in the moment, overcome as he was first by emotion, and then surprise. He quickly quieted when he saw the way Richard’s grey eyes searched his features, though, and repeated himself, gentle and a little shy now, “ Well .”
Richard opened his mouth to speak, then stopped himself before trying again. “Did you-” he began, but that was as far as he got before the railing groaned and shifted alarmingly under his grip, apparently less stable than it appeared. Before he swayed more than a couple of inches, though, Simon grabbed him by the front of his shirt and pulled him firmly back in.
“Maybe you should-” Simon began, but more concerned with the subject at hand than his possible imminent demise, Richard interrupted him.
“Did you mean it? What you said?”
Simon blinked, then smiled, soft and sweet as he said, “Of course I mean it.” Richard’s brow furrowed, but when he started to speak, Simon cut him off. “If you ask me if I’m certain,” he warned, “I will drop you.”
This time it was Richard’s turn to laugh and he dropped his gaze to where his hands still gripped the unstable railing. “I’m sorry,” he said, then glanced up at the blond from under his lashes and admitted, “Hearing you say it… Hearing you say-”
“I love you,” Simon repeated, soft and fervent as he used his grip on the other android’s shirt to pull him in until their noses nearly brushed.
Richard’s lashes fluttered at the words and he hummed an affirmative before whispering, “Just sounds too good to be true.” He tilted his head fractionally, a silent invitation that brought a deep flush of pink across his pale cheeks and made Simon groan quietly before finally closing the remaining distance between them to claim his lips.
It was Richard’s first kiss, but in that brief moment of utter bliss as Simon’s lips moved soft but insistent against his own, he thought it could have been his last and he would have died happy.
Reality reasserted itself when the railing shifted again and it occurred to Richard that if he died, he certainly wouldn’t be able to kiss Simon again, which was not at all an acceptable outcome for the evening. “Maybe I should-”
“Get over here,” Simon finished for him with a startled huff of laughter and, together, they managed to get Richard onto the correct side of the railing with his feet planted firmly on the balcony.
The RK900 straightened his rumpled shirt and he glanced back at the unreliable piece of architecture, then said, “I can fix that,” before turning to face Simon again.
The other android was already closing the distance between them, though, and only managed to murmur, “Later,” before their lips found each other again. Simon’s hands cupped Richard’s face as the RK900’s arms slipped around his waist and pulled him in as close as was physically possible. The blonde let his arms shift forward to wrap around the taller android’s neck as he kissed Richard for all he was worth. A pleased sigh escaped Simon when the other android’s hands slid up his back and then down over his ribs to settle at his waist and he nipped lightly at Richard’s full bottom lip before shifting to press a little kiss over the left corner of his mouth.
The side he always smiled from.
A soft, desperate little noise escaped the RK900 and he twisted his head to catch Simon’s lips again, desperate for more. The sensation of the other android smiling against his mouth inspired an acute ache in Richard’s chest and without thinking, he pushed Simon back until they fetched up against the closed sliding glass door with a soft thump. The blonde’s hands slid down to grip the front of his shirt again and dragged him in, deepening their kiss, tongue slipping past the lips Richard had parted in silent invitation to taste the other android.
The heat and the pleasure of it played merry havoc with Richard’s systems, and for a long minute Simon, the way he tasted, the way he felt, the way he moved, was all the RK900 could perceive; as if the rest of the world had ceased to exist entirely.
“I love you,” Richard mumbled against Simon’s mouth and was rewarded with another sweet curl of the blond’s lips against his own. “I love you,” he repeated, surprised by the simple but profound joy he found in saying the words. It was enough that he finally pulled back to look into Simon’s eyes, a shy but rapidly growing smile overtaking his features.
It was wider than any the PL600 had ever seen on the other android’s face before; it flashed his straight, white teeth, and made his eyes crinkle at the corners, and it stole Simon’s breath away. Completely unable to resist the urge, the blond smile in turn and let his hand drift up to cup the side of Richard’s face, only for the other android to turn so he could press a kiss into his palm.
“I love you too,” Simon said, then leaned forward so his forehead pressed lightly against Richard’s. They remained like that for a long moment, smiling and content in one another’s arms as the sun finally dropped below the horizon and took the last few rays of soft, golden light with it. He pushed forward and pressed a brief kiss to Richard’s lips, but pulled away again before he could respond. A light laugh escaped him and the little frown the RK900 leveled at him in response, but Simon only opened the door at his back and took the other android by the hand as he said, “Come inside, it’s getting chilly out here.”
“Is it?” Richard asked as he glanced up and around, surprised to find it so dark as Simon lead him into his apartment. “I hadn’t noticed.”
So, they never specifically say as much, but Richard and Simon are actually quoting from the balcony scene in Cyrano de Bergerac! Specifically the French movie version from the 90s.
Thanks again so much for reading, guys, hope you enjoyed! If you did, what was your favorite part? Let me know in the comments, I love hearing that from you guys!