“Damn.” Sam put the knife down he was using to chop a red pepper and examined his finger. “Slipped.”
“Let me see.” Yann got up from his seat at the table, took Sam’s hand and examined the damage. The tip of his left index finger was sliced through. “I’ll get some glue.”
“I can get it, there’s no need—”
“Let me. You sit down.”
Sam’s silvery eyes crinkled at the edges. “I don’t bleed. I’m not going to faint.”
“Yes, I know, but…” Yann pushed his fingers through his hair. “Please, let me do this?”
Fully smiling now, Sam sat down. “Okay,” he said.
Hours later they sat on the sofa together, watching an old film in which someone jumped around wearing a lot of red leather. Sam sipped from a glass of glucose, salts and ethanol. Yann drank wine. After a while, brain humming with a gentle alcoholic buzz, he dropped his head to Sam’s shoulder.
Sam slid his arm around his waist and pulled him closer. After a few minutes, he dipped his head and kissed the top of Yann’s head.
Yann pulled away, staring at him.
“I’m sorry,” said Sam. “Weird?”
“Uh. No. It’s… sorry. I…”
“It’s okay. I understand. I’m not human, it’s—”
“No! No. I mean, I’ve thought about… and… that’s not… it’s more. Uh. Is it… a… a choice?”
Yann’s words came out in a rush. “Is it something you’re doing because you think I want you to?”
“I’m fully self-actualised, Yann. You know that. I learn and make decisions.”
“Yes, yes, but. But. If I said ‘do this’ would you… would you do it anyway? Because I said so? Could I… force you?”
“You could force a human,” said Sam, reasonably. “You’re one-hundred and ninety-one centimetres tall, you have enough muscle mass to generate power and leverage and your balance is excellent.”
“I don’t mean like that!”
“You have above average intelligence and good emotional awareness. You could psychologically manipulate someone, if—”
“It’s not the same thing!”
“How is it not?”
Yann made an exasperated noise. “I mean, can you say no?”
Sam gazed at him. “I wouldn’t.”
Yann gazed back. “Why?”
“I don’t want to.”
“If… you changed your mind and did want to, you’d say?”
Sam reached out and touched the edge of Yann’s jaw. “I promise.”
Yann leaned into his fingers and sighed. “All right, then.”
Days later, they lay in bed, limbs tangled.
“Your skin is so warm,” whispered Yann. “And it tastes of salt and… and skin.”
Sam smiled. “It’s designed to. So does yours.”
“It evolved to, I suppose.” Yann traced circles on Sam’s chest. “I love you.”
“You’re only saying that because your brain is full of endorphins and oxytocin,” said Sam, chuckling. “I love you, too.”
“You’re just saying that because of… programming and electrical signals,” retorted Yann.
“Mm. Do you think it makes any practical difference?”
Yann considered it. “You know,” he said, “I don’t think it does.”
Something soft and fluffy, because we need that right now. Also informed consent is good. Do the consent thing. Check the consent thing. If everyone’s motivations are good, it should be easy. And if not, well.