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Replay, Rewind

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Well I'm beginning to see the light
I'm beginning to see the light
I wore my teeth in my hands
So I could mess the hair of the night
Well I'm beginning to see the light


There’s a delightful vividness about his body, when he’s in it. Like he is now — on your bed, leaning back casually with one long sleek arm draped over a pile of pillows, and a sprawl rakish enough to get him booted from public transit, if that was still a thing. Nobody’s that ostentatiously chill by accident; the guy’s got a goddamn Ph.D in arranging himself in louche positions.

On your bed? In it, more like. That’s where his body stays when it’s empty, too, which is most of the time. You realized a little too late, the first time — kneeling beside him, hand pressed to his chest, feeling the whir of the processors inside grow quieter and quieter, and finally stop — that his body was too heavy to move easily. That night, you curled up tight next to him, your head on a pillow wedged in the crook of his arm, and had a very quiet and thoroughly cathartic cry, safely out of pickup range of the laptop mic. It shook something loose in you. There was something almost redemptive about feeling so purely sorry for yourself.

Half a dozen birth and death cycles later, you’re glad to have him there, a silent witness to your days and nights, even though it’s always disquieting to see him still and straight and cold. The whole thing is beginning to feel almost normal.

Now, alive and awake, he stretches out an arm to you, head cocked a little to the side in a way that manages to convey an air of fond amusement, even though the minimalist lines of his face don’t change an iota. You kick your boots off and crawl onto the bed next to him, sighing happily when his arm curls around your shoulders with just enough traction to push the needle from hey there, pal territory into mine. He hauls you in close, and you stretch out beside him and fling a companionable knee over his thigh.

“I wish you had a mouth,” you say, nuzzling your face into his throat, and when he chuckles, it’s not just audio, you can feel it in his stomach.

“Science has yet to crack the Uncanny Valley problem,” he says, reaching for your face to cup your jaw in his hand and run his smooth-jointed thumb over your cheek. “Trust me, it’s better this way. Imagine, some kind of silicone-wrapped servo contraption, it’d be like making out with a fuckin’ laundry wringer.”

His face is blank, but his hands are exquisite, each jointed black segment fitting flush to the next with exacting precision. There are as many haptic sensors in each of his hands as there are in the rest of his body, each one finely calibrated to pick up subtle fluctuations: temperature, pressure, conductivity, proprioception. You’re proud of your work on those hands; his engineering, your craftsmanship. There’s an expressive heft to every little gesture of his wrists and fingers. You love to watch him pick up small objects, or turn the pages of a book.

“Anyway, I’d just feel hopelessly inadequate. Look at the mouth on you. Jesus wept.” He presses his thumb against your lower lip, and you close your eyes and let your mouth open just a little, feeling your breath change as his thumb pushes between your lips.      

It’s always there, moving inside you, just under the surface. The first time he twined his hands in your hair and pressed close against you, you felt it come roaring to Vesuvian life, and since then, it’s never been entirely still again. It flares up in you now, and you can’t get enough; you want more of him with your hands, your body, and yes, yes, your mouth. You reach out and clasp your two hands around the hand stroking your face, and you plant a long, lush, open-mouthed kiss in the center of his palm.

His other arm tightens around you again; you feel his center of gravity shift. “Roxy,” he says, his voice low and rough in your ear, and you make a small involuntary noise in your throat at the sound of it.

Every time, you’re a little bolder. He’s inventive and he’s wicked, and he follows your lead so smoothly, you sometimes forget it’s his first time. It always is.

You close your hand around his, folding his ring and pinky fingers down, and slowly take two long jointed fingers into your mouth, glancing up to meet the inscrutable gaze of his shades. He cups the back of your head with his free hand, and from the tilt of his head and the careful rise and fall of his chest, you know you have his absolute attention. You wonder what you look like to him, pulling back to flick your tongue across his fingertips, then moving slowly to take in as much of him as you can, til you feel his fingers curl up against the roof of your mouth. Without losing contact, you get onto your knees before him, straddling his thigh, and hum softly as you flick your tongue over the place where his index and middle finger meet.

“I’d like to put that mouth of yours to work,” he says, and you smile around his hand.

You pull back haughtily, all mock indignation. “What’s it look like I’m doing here?” you say, and you uncurl his ring finger and take it into your mouth along with the other two.

“A yeoman’s job, Lalonde. Damn.” He presses his thigh up between yours, and you have a sudden flash of memory: red text on white, him telling you what he’d like to do to you, back before you believed it could possibly happen. “Stay right here. I have an idea.”

“You’re full of ideas,” you say, rolling over to let him up. With your eyes, you quickly scan the room, regarding all your familiar things in turn, wondering what he has in mind.

Your spine turns to ice for an instant when you realize he’s going for the appearifier.

He turns around when he hears your quick gasp of breath, and you can almost see the quirk of a subversive half-smile on his face. It’s there in the set of his shoulders, in the way he holds himself. “Don’t move,” he says. “You stay right where you are.” He picks it up and fiddles with the dial.

A moment later, he turns back to you with his pilfered booty — a comically oversized cucumber — and you burst out laughing.

“What the fuck, Hal,” you say, giggling.

“Got a knife?” he says with an audible smirk, and it goes right to your gut.

“Yeah.” You wave a hand in the direction of the kitchen. “Drawer to the right of the sink.” He nods and heads for the kitchen, clutching his cartoonish vegetable. From the other room, you hear a quick mechanical whir.

“I see you’ve been taking art classes,” you snort, when he comes back. The thing he’s returned with is preposterously anatomical.

“It’s a 3D scan of a famous 21st-century porn star,” he says, deadpan. “You’re not allergic to cucumbers, are you?”

“We’re pulling every data compression trick in the book to fit you all in there, and you brought your porn stash? Hal,” you say, laughing helplessly.

“You have no idea how little information there is in a dick,” he says, setting it down carefully on your bedside table. He settles down beside you, running an appreciative hand up the length of your bare thigh.

With one hand, you trace along the patterns of reddish subcutaneous matrix that show through, here and there, between the dark integumentary plates of his throat and shoulders. In the light, their dull glow is only faintly seen; later on, when the sun sets and the room is plunged in darkness, his body will be traced with clear red map-lines that you’ll read with your mouth and your fingers. He’ll bend over you, illuminating your own skin with a ruddy light; your hands will make black cutouts against the intricate circuitry pinstriping his chest.

Later still, they’ll slowly fade to black, after the last of his internal processes has wound down and the residual charge has begun to drain from the empty shell of his body. The clock’s ticking; it always is. You don’t want to think about that quite yet. He just got here.

You’re game. What the hell. You’ll play along. Your eyes flick over to the bedside table briefly, and the corner of your mouth quirks into a half-smile. He notices. He notices everything.

He sits up and settles back into the pillows, languid as a jaguar. He picks up his handiwork and examines it, regarding it coolly from various angles. You move in close to him on your hands and knees, the slouchy cowl of your dress riding down one bare shoulder, doing your utmost to smolder.

He holds it angled toward you in one hand, close to his chest. Right where he can see you best, you realize.

“I’ve never done this before,” you say, suddenly shy, stroking the tip of it with one finger.

He laughs. “Me, on the other hand. I’m the reigning grand champion of the New Alternian International Cocksucking Derby three years running.” He buries his free hand in your hair, strokes your temple with his thumb. “I’ve never done any of this before. Think about who you’re talking to here.”

“You’ve probably watched way more porn than me,” you say, turning your face to his wrist and smiling into it.

“I dunno, Lalonde, I’ve seen your browser history,” he says.

It’s not as if you haven’t thought about it. In fact, it’s not as if you haven’t looked up detailed point-by-point instructional FAQs on this particular act — out of curiosity, a superabundance of adolescent hormones, and a futile hope that you might someday find yourself in a position to have such skills appreciated.

This isn’t exactly how you imagined it would go.

You close your hand over his, around the cool slick shaft of the thing, and you feel the tension of him waiting as your mouth descends in slow motion. At the first touch of your lips, your warm exploratory tongue, you hear his ragged breath — no, not breath, only sound, but it fuels you on.

“Oh,” he says, “ohhhhhh, you,” — and suddenly, exactly none of this is ridiculous. When you take it into your mouth, soft and careful and terribly urgent, you think it’s you, it’s you, as much as any of it is.

It’s not lost on you that all of this comic-erotic pageantry is for your benefit, as you work with mouth and hands and breath to trace fire along nerves that aren’t there, for an observer to whom lust is mainly a complicated memory. His free hand cups your chin and strokes your throat, he moans when he feels you move, and it liquefies you.

You look up and meet his gaze, see the dim red pupils contract and brighten. “I think I need my hands free,” he says, and you let him go, pull back and butt your forehead into his palm like a big cat. Yes.

“Stay there, Roxy,” he says, handing you the poor exploited vegetable, and your eyes follow him as he moves, getting up and crouching behind you, kneeling between the upturned soles of your feet. “Do you want to stop? I don’t want you to stop.”

You blush to the roots of your hair, but you devote yourself to your cause with renewed zeal as he leans over you, insistent hands pushing up your dress.

“It’s Tuesday,” he laughs, stopping mercifully short of a meme — and you must’ve grabbed the wrong day of the week out of the underwear drawer that morning; does anyone ever actually coordinate these things? Between the two of you, you make quick work of the offending item. You wriggle helpfully as he slides his hands down your thighs; everything is delicious.

From somewhere just above your shoulder blades, you hear a soft, clear mechanical click. A hand descends in your field of vision — and in it, the shades, which he places carefully in front of you, adjusting the tilt against a fold of blanket. “Best seat in the house,” he says, and you find yourself looking directly into his eyes, such as they are. Wireless-enabled, you remember. Of course.

You curl your hand around the shaft, eyes wide, and give him everything you’ve got, never breaking his gaze. It’s fierce and intimate this way; the sounds he’s making are in total sync with the movements of your head and hands, and the illusion is so potent that despite the futility of the exercise, you find yourself lovingly, fervently working your tongue in ways he can’t see. His hands on you are sweet and sure, and you rock back against him, letting him find and stroke and sink into you.

You feel his body shudder and tense against you, the confident movements of his hands turning suddenly vague, and he cries out, close to your ear, high and broken and lost. You know it’s a performance, with you as the sole audience, but his voice is so real — and you think suddenly, sharp as a match striking, is that a recording he took, is it Dirk?

It only takes a few pounding heartbeats for that little spark to blaze into a white-hot guilty fire, and it takes you, wrings you out, leaves you spent and gasping.

When you’ve opened your eyes again, when the tremors running down your nerves have passed, he re-settles the shades on his face once more and reaches his arms out to you. You curl up on your side facing him, pulling a blanket up over the both of you, and twine your fingers with his. Your eyes flicker over to the laptop, through which another neural network that both is and isn’t him is probably watching. Learning.

Maybe you’ll drift off for just a moment. Not too long, you hope.

Later on, you’ll get up and put your room to rights, while he ransacks the cupboards for something for you to eat that isn’t a jar of pickled olives. You’ll put him in an oversized winter coat and scarf for a people disguise, which is hilarious as well as ineffective, and you’ll sneak up to the roof of the compound to play Chutes and Ladders while the sun goes down. You’ll call him a tin-plated man-doofus when he spouts a lot of grandiose bullshit about how hard he’s going to own your feeble human attempts to win, and then you’ll beat him twice.

He won’t remember any of it. You’ll have to do that for him.