Automan walked around each room, recording every detail, even the ones no human eye could see. He'd watched every videotape, scanned every bit of reading material and even imagined sequels to everything with himself as the protagonist. He could have appeared to Walter at the precinct and tried to help with whatever case had them the most perplexed, but he knew Walter didn't want him there.
Walter had said often enough that he'd call him if he needed him, and sometimes appeared irritated when he showed up unexpected. In fact, from what Automan had observed of human behavior in real life and in all of Walter's videotapes, it almost seemed as if Walter were jealous of him at times, as if Automan might be encroaching upon his territory. Best to do as he says, at least for a while. One day, when he had a better handle on human behavior, he might try to discuss it with Walter.
He'd just noted a weak spot in a pipe inside the wall that he would warn Walter about later, when he saw a box behind a panel in Walter's closet. He opened the closet and slid the panel to the side to reveal a large cardboard box. A box full of videotapes.
They might not even be Walter's, but the lack of dust on the items in front of the panel and the box hinted that it was accessed recently. For precisely 0.32843 seconds he considered that perhaps he should put the box back and not watch the videotapes.
As the first tape began, Automan bobbed his head to the music. He was familiar with this type of music thanks to his in-depth knowledge of John Travolta's acting career. He stopped bobbing his head when a second actor appeared and engaged the first in an activity that Walter had not input into his system, and that he had not yet seen on a videotape.
Walter sat with his hip on the corner of Jack Curtis' desk as they discussed a recent case of embezzlement that they'd cracked together, both with Walter's computer knowledge and Jack's decades of experience on the force. The Captain was grudgingly accepting of computers now that they'd helped in so many cases, but that didn't keep Walter's stomach from knotting a little bit every day when he opened the door to the computer room. The Captain was always threatening to get rid of the machines to hire more men, and Walter wasn't entirely convinced he wouldn't have a little too much to drink one night and decide to do it.
His computers were safe today, at least, and Jack thought they would be for some time if the Captain wanted to continue to get the funding they'd been receiving since the computers went in. And if he wanted to continue to get the kudos from the Commissioner, the Mayor, and the other higher-ups when they broke a case that others couldn't crack. The Captain approached them, frowning.
"Nebish, I've been look--"
"Nebicher, sir. I know it's spelled with a 'ch,' but it's pronounced like a 'k.' A hard 'k.'"
The captain stared at Walter, his eyes widening by the second."Do I care?" he shouted.
"No, sir. No, you don't."
Jack chuckled and shook his head at Roxanne who was across the room, giggling.
"Get the Kindlemann report on my desk before you go home today."
"It's on your desk, sir. I put it there this morning." Walter's eyes widened a little as he exchanged a glance with Jack.
"You did? Then get me the latest reports on . . . on whatever's latest."
Walter closed his eyes for a moment and sighed. "Yes, Captain."
As the Captain walked away, Jack nudged Walter's calf with his foot. "Getting cocky today, Nebish?" He laughed and slapped Walter's knee. "You'd better get him a piece of paper with something written on it. Probably doesn't matter what, he just wants to make you jump a little."
"Yeah, I know."
"You could write a report about how Agent Mann has been a huge help to this department, for instance. And maybe explain why it is that only you get to contact him when we're on a tough case, and how none of the rest of us have his number . . . and how the two of you are practically joined at the hip when he is here. I'd request a copy of that, just for some light reading."
If it had been anybody but Jack, Walter might have died. But the smile on his face let Walter know he was truly only teasing, and not in the way that others might. And if there was anybody he could reveal Agent Mann's real identity to, he guessed it would be Jack. At least he respected what computers could do.
"Joined at the hip, huh?" Walter tried not to laugh. They were joined in more ways than that when he merged with Automan for protection. Then he felt his face heat up. Joined at the hip, with Automan . . . that wasn't exactly something he hadn't thought about several times a day, every day, since the moment he'd materialized in Walter's basement.
"We just make good partners, that's all," he rattled out as he stood and made a show of stretching and yawning.
"You do," Jack said, still smiling. "Excellent partners. In fact, I've rarely seen two partners on the force work together quite that well. My advice, and I know you didn't ask for it . . . don't hesitate, Walter."
Oh my God. Did he--was he--? Was Jack telling him what Walter thought he was telling him?
"Jack . . . ."
"No, I mean it. Don't hesitate to call him in on cases. You seem to be reluctant sometimes, but a good partner is worth gold. It doesn't diminish the part you play in a case, not at all. Like a good partner, Agent Mann manages to take the great work you already do and make it look even better."
Jack rose then and clapped Walter on the arm. "Call him when he can be helpful. You two keep up the good work and pretty soon the Captain will pronounce your name right every day." Jack winked at him and swung his suit jacket over his shoulder. "I'm out, Walter. Want to grab some dinner?"
"Thanks, but maybe another time. I have to make something up for the Captain to read, remember?"
Jack saluted and headed out of the office, leaving Walter to try to slow his racing heart and catch his breath. He'd been so foolish to think Jack knew and might even be encouraging him to call "Agent Mann" for things beyond police work. Where was his head?
He couldn't stop thinking of that conversation for the next hour or so he spent collating the data gathered from a recent string of burglaries. By the time he got home, he'd decided he had to get such foolish thoughts away for good so he wouldn't mistake an innocent conversation about Automan for something like that again.
Cursor buzzed by his face, blinking at him as soon as he walked in the door. "What is it, boy? Is Timmy in the well?" he said, laughing a little as Cursor flew in a wild pattern like an angry bee. "You know he's the only one who can understand you."
"Walter!" Automan walked into the room, through the wall separating Walter's bedroom from the living room. "I'm pleased to see you're home."
"Thanks. I'm happy to see you, too." I'm always too darn happy to see you. What was I thinking when I designed you? Why did I have to make you so . . . you? Automan was like the combined lovechild of every actor Walter had every admired--all right, every actor he'd ever found handsome and desirable. He was tall, well-built, with big blue eyes, thick blonde hair, and a face that could look rugged with some stubble or elegant and refined with the right clothes and demeanor. He was simply beautiful. Walter had scoffed when he'd announced that he was perfect, an eleven, but darn if he wasn't right. He was the perfect male specimen--in Walter's opinion.
"So, Automan, why are you here? Do you have some information on those burglaries?" Walter put his briefcase down on the couch and led them into the kitchen where he got himself a glass of water. "Or would you like to watch some more gangster movies? I was actually thinking maybe we'd watch Star Wars or something fairly new, so you can understand pop culture a little better. Maybe you should read some comic books." He dropped some ice into his glass and took a drink.
"Actually, I've been watching some of your videotapes today, Walter, and I'd like for you to be my bitch this evening."
Walter spit water across the room and coughed while Auto smacked his back.
"Or I could be your bitch, if you prefer," he announced. "I'm not entirely sure that it matters which one of us is the other's bit--"
"Stop--saying that word."
Walter coughed again. "Yes."
"It is inappropriate?"
"It is." He put his hand on his chest and tried to breath.
"I apologize. No one said so in the videotapes. Should I say, 'Let's get down to some fucking' instead, or is that inappropriate, too?"
"Oh my God." Walter sat at the kitchen table and put his head in his hands. "What videotapes, Auto? Where?"
"Behind the wall in your closet, Walter. You also have a pipe behind that wall that could be the source of a problematic water leak if it's not repaired soon. The water would ruin your videotapes," he added in a helpful voice.
"I can't believe you were snooping around in my bedroom! I didn't tell you that you could watch any videotape you find behind a wall!"
"Forgive me, Walter. I wasn't snooping, but looking into the walls for structural specifications and abnormalities. Then I saw the box full of tapes, and occupied myself with those instead. They were fascinating and seem to have given me quite an education. All the knowledge about behavior they held was entirely new to me, so it clearly was a good use of my time."
"Clearly," Walter mumbled. "Look, Auto, I want you to forget everything you saw in those videotapes. The whole things are inappropriate. That's why they were behind the wall."
Auto looked at Walter for a moment, madly processing information.
"Why are you staring at me?"
"I'm sorry, Walter. I didn't mean to stare. I was wondering why they have been watched so many times if they are so inappropriate. The tapes are eroded enough in spots to indicate that they have been played repeatedly in your player, which, until I fixed it, had one head badly out of alignment with the others, causing uneven--"
"Auto! What I watch or when or how just isn't your business." Walter hadn't meant to sound quite so vicious.
"You're angry with me?"
"Yes. No. I--"
"Walter, I have noted your vital signs each time you've been angry with me. As you know, that has happened often, so I've had many opportunities to see what you're like when you're angry. Your rapid heartbeat and respiration combined with your flushed cheeks most likely indicate embarrassment in this case, not deception or anger, if I've processed the data correctly. Have I embarrassed you by watching the tapes?"
Walter looked at Auto and tried to tell himself again that he was a hologram. He wasn't real. Someone you could step inside to be protected from bullets wasn't a someone but a thing. Those blue eyes, those lips . . . they looked too real. And with enough power, those lips would feel real . . . .
"I am embarrassed, but if we can just forget about it I'll get over it in no time."
"I'm hesitant to erase any of my memory, Walter, because the gaps that it might leave could cause problems in my perception of time. Is it truly necessary that I forget them? I'd much rather not. I find myself intently curious about them."
"Auto, you're intently curious about everything."
"I am. But these are even more interesting, for several different reasons."
Walter shook his head. "You're about to tell me those reasons, and I don't even want to know why."
Automan held his hands out a little to the sides. "But Walter, I--"
"No! Can't you just go back into the computer and do something that you . . . some processing or something you do?"
"I have been processing, Walter, and have come to some fascinating conclusions. I have some theories I want to test, and so many questions."
Walter hurried into the living room. "I've gotta get out of here."
"We can take the Autocar. Cursor!"
"No, not you, just me." Walter actually felt badly then, because if he didn't know better he'd have sworn Auto shrank back a little, hurt that he wasn't included. But he couldn't be hurt. He was a hologram! "I don't mean to snap, it's just . . . ."
"Walter, if you helped me understand some things, perhaps these sorts of situations wouldn't occur. You're embarrassed and upset with me, but I still have no idea why."
Walter's shoulders slumped, and he sighed. He plopped onto the couch and grabbed a throw pillow to wrap his arms around it and hold it against his stomach. "The tapes you watched . . . they're a private thing, Auto. Personal."
Automan nodded slowly. "You know the men in them?"
"Well, you were not in them. In what way are they personal?"
Walter chewed his lip for a moment as Automan sat next to him. It was a curious thing that he sat in chairs at all, since he never needed to sit. It was purely verisimilitude--giving the appearance of being human. Yet he did it often, even when he was alone, Walter knew, because he'd sometimes come home to find him sitting in a chair watching movies.
"Auto, remember Abilene? The soap opera?"
"Yes. Lust, passion, betrayal, amnesia, long pauses on the characters' expressions just before a commercial, people dying and then reappearing later because they didn't really die, more betrayal, more lust--"
"I get the picture," Walter said. "Remember how you felt after you watched it? You wanted to go and experience falling in love, feeling passion and romance. Lust. And at other times, you wanted to experience the atmosphere in different places, be around people with a zest for life. Well, Auto, those only show . . . one side of lust, romance and love. Between the opposite sex. Men and women."
"Ruggedly handsome men and steamy women with erotic desires," Auto explained enthusiastically.
Walter nodded. "Right. But there are other sides to it. Like you saw . . . in those tapes." His eyebrows went up as he waited for Automan to see what he meant. "Men with erotic desires . . . for other men."
"Yes, that much was quite clear."
"Well . . . it's embarrassing! Those tapes are private."
Automan put his hands on his knees and leaned forward, looking for all the world like he was scrutinizing something on the far wall. "I fail to understand what is embarrassing about it, or why the tapes are private." He looked at Walter. "Were you afraid someone would steal them?"
Oh my God, why can't he figure this out and move on to something else? "No."
"Then why were they behind a panel in the wall?"
"Because they're embarrassing!"
"So you . . . hid them from yourself?"
"Auto . . . please, can't you just take my word for it?"
"Walter, I only--"
The phone rang, and Walter sprang up to answer it, uncommonly grateful for the interruption. Roxanne was on the phone saying they needed him to come back to the station. Jack had some information he wanted put into the computer in case it took a long time to come up with some sort of pattern.
"I'll be right there. Gotta go," Walter said to Automan when he hung up.
"I'll come with you. I can help."
"No, not tonight. I don't need you for this. Just stay here, or go back inside the computer . . . and for once, please do what I ask?" He left before Auto could protest again, but he felt guilty for brushing him off as angrily as he had.
When he came back later, Automan was gone. Walter felt badly enough that he went to the computer in his basement and summoned him, but not even Cursor came out. He waited a while, hoping Auto might change his mind and appear, or that he would finish whatever processing was keeping him in the system and show up. It was one-thirty in the morning before Walter gave up and went to bed.
He hadn't dozed off yet when he thought he felt an earthquake, and knew it was Automan. Before he could get up, Automan was in his bedroom. Walter turned the lamp on.
"Hello, Walter. You wanted me?"
Walter's mouth fell open. Automan had figured that out? "Wh-what?"
Automan tilted his head. "You called me?"
"Oh," Walter said with a nervous laugh. "I did. I wanted to apologize for the way I acted earlier. I'm very sorry. I hope we can just forget it ever happened."
"Thank you for the apology. I'd rather not forget, however, as you know."
"I know," he said with a sigh. "What I mean is I hope we can just put it behind us."
Automan turned and looked behind himself.
"I mean I don't want to talk about it anymore!"
"Ah. I see. Would you mind if I talked about it?"
Walter rubbed his forehead. He kept forgetting that Automan only knew the colloquialisms and figures of speech he'd encountered. "I would mind. I don't want either of us to talk about it."
Walter plopped down onto his back and put a hand on his forehead. "Auto, if I explain why, that's the same as talking about it, which I don't want to do. Can you see the paradox in that with your--"
Automan crawled onto the bed and straddled Walter's hips.
"What are you doing?"
"Not talking about it." He leaned down and kissed Walter.
"Mmmmph!" Walter pushed against Automan's chest without effect for a moment, his lips trapped firmly beneath Auto's in a chaste kiss that made his lips tingle from the tiny charge that accompanied a handshake or other touch by Automan. But Walter knew that wasn't the only reason he was tingling.
Automan finally let himself be pushed up and away, but he didn't move off Walter. "I don't understand. After analyzing all the data at my disposal, I was sure you would enjoy that."
"Get off me! Now!" Walter's heart was racing, and despite the shock of what had happened, he was hardening. Having Auto straddling him this way, Walter looking up at his gorgeous face and knowing those lips were just against his . . . if he thought he was embarrassed before, he was about to be truly humiliated now.
Auto did as Walter demanded and stood by the bed. "I apologize that I have upset you."
"Upset me?" Walter asked, rolling over so his back was to Auto, both because he was flustered and because he didn't want Auto to notice if he couldn't stop his body's reaction. "'Upset' is an understatement."
"But . . . I was confident that you had watched those tapes because you enjoyed that sort of activity between men. And since you designed me based on what you found to be ideal physical and mental specimens, that you'd find me attractive enough to want to do those things with."
"Have I disappointed you in some way, Walter?"
Walter shook his head. "Please just leave. Everything will be fine if you'll just go now and stop asking me questions."
There was a long, silent pause, then Walter heard his bedroom door shut. He let out a shaky breath, not aware he'd been holding it until that moment. He heard Cursor! behind his door. A few moments later, Auto came back in. Walter sat up, his mouth open, and didn't move. Cursor normally outfitted Auto in something appropriate for the task at hand. Cursor clearly thought he'd done that now. Walter could only stare quietly, though a voice in his head alternately cheered frantically and shrieked.
"Is this better?" Automan said. "I realize you didn't enter this information, but I took what you did program in and extrapolated that while using what the men in the tapes looked like as a benchmark." Auto's hand went to his bare chest, where he rubbed the patch of dark-blonde fur. "When I've worn shirts with open collars, my chest and neck area showed a fairly thick layer of hair, so I thought you might like this." The hair covered his chest and headed in a narrowing line down the center of his muscular stomach. All the way to--
"Oh my God." Walter stared at the erection Automan had given himself. It wasn't abnormally large, but he definitely would have been well-paid to appear in any of the videos in the closet. From what Walter could see, he was . . . perfect.
Automan held his arms out to his sides and slowly turned, revealing a toned, muscular bottom that Walter couldn't have designed better himself. "Do I meet with your approval, Walter? I can change anything you like. Cursor!"
"No, no," Walter said, holding his hand up. "It's fine. You're . . . gorgeous."
"I am," Automan agreed. "Thanks to you."
Walter couldn't help but laugh. As Automan had pointed out to him many times, Walter had programmed him to be honest.
"So, Walter," Automan said in full-voice, seemingly pleased that Walter approved of him, "can I now fuck you through the mattress? Or ream your tight--"
"Auto!" Walter rubbed his forehead and wasn't sure if he wanted to laugh, cry or pass out. "Everything those men said to each other in those tapes?"
"Don't say any of that."
"All right. But what do I say if not those things?"
Walter rose from the bed, hoping to end his temptation to stay there and let Auto crawl in with him. He wore only underwear, but tried to appear dignified nonetheless."There's no need to say anything, because we're not going to--not going to do--"
"Why not?" Auto said, approaching him. "You obviously find me attractive, and the men in those tapes of yours seemed to enjoy themselves immensely. I watched carefully so I know I can duplicate--"
"Please, Auto . . . I don't want you to duplicate any of that." He put a hand up as if to push against Automan's chest to urge him to go. "I'd really like to get some sleep."
"I don't understand." Automan gave him that look that drove Walter mad. It was part puppy-eyed pleading and part exasperation. When exactly had he programmed that in? He got that look when Auto discovered something new and had questions that Walter wasn't interested in answering. The first time had been when a woman asked his sign, and Auto had no idea what she meant.
Walter sighed. "I don't want you to duplicate any of that, because . . . that's not what I like. Those tapes are not necessarily full of things I'd like to do, the way I'd like to do them. They're just what's available. Does that help?"
"So, you enjoy the activity the men are doing, but not necessarily the way they're doing it."
"Exactly! See, you've got it now. Curiosity satisfied?" He pushed against Automan's chest this time, trying not to think about how the skin felt realistically warm beneath his hand.
"If you were engaging in such an activity, how would you do it differently?"
Walter took a deep breath and tried to be patient. "You remember the soap opera, Abilene? Think of the way the men and women interacted . . . romantically."
Auto nodded. "They didn't do anything quite like what was in those tapes, however."
"No, but use your imagination. I mean, take what you saw in those tapes and cross it with the different kinds of interactions between the men and women in the soap and . . . ."
"Extrapolate! As we both know, I do that rather well." Automan tilted his head to the side, then grabbed Walter, wrapping his arms around his waist and shoulders. He bent Walter back as if dipping him during a tango. Before Walter could say anything, Automan's mouth was on his, not so chastely this time. Walter started to push away, but Auto held him fast, his tongue pressing in, accompanied by the light charge one felt sometimes when touching Automan's skin. The way Auto pulled them tightly together for just a moment before deepening the kiss made Walter forget why he'd resisted this in the first place.
Automan broke the kiss and looked down at Walter, still holding him bent back. "Is that what you mean, Walter? That was a cross between the extended kissing scene in Hard Humpin' Boy Beach and the way Rancher John greeted Rita Mae when she escaped the clutches of their nemesis, the President of Seward County Bank & Trust. That was just before John confessed that he'd been seeing Dixie because he thought Rita Mae had died in a terrible fire, after the--"
"Auto. I get it."
"And . . . ." And a hologram had just given him the best kiss he'd ever had? "On a scale of one to ten? As much as I almost hate to admit this to you," he whispered, "I'd give it a 45." He smiled at Automan, not expecting the next kiss that came then, one like the first, maybe even better. Auto let Walter straighten, then reached around to cup Walter's bottom, sliding his fingers into his underwear and squeezing. His kiss moved down to Walter's jaw and kept dropping lower until Auto sucked the side of Walter's neck. He moved his hips forward, his erection rubbing against Walter's groin and lower stomach.
As Walter's arms slid around Auto's shoulders, Auto spoke softly. "That was a combination of a scene from Pizza Boy Plaything and the one where Billie Jo is about to betray--"
"Shh." Walter kissed Auto this time, pressing his body forward to rub them together. The warmth was what did it--Auto's skin was warm. He was a ball of energy, so it made sense, but it was hard to think of him that way. A hologram, but one that felt so real under Walter's hands. He ran his hands over Automan's strong back, the skin soft and pliant. He swore he could feel the play of muscles beneath it, either because he had a good imagination, or because Auto had intended that after watching naked men go at each other all day.
As Auto's cock rubbed against his, he vowed that he'd never tease Cursor again, either. Not after it gave him this.
Walter realized he was being walked backward toward the bed. He almost stopped and sent Auto away. He almost tried to explain why this was a terrible, awful and unreasonable idea. And he almost didn’t allow himself to be lowered onto the bed in a manner that took his breath away, after Auto had so carefully slid his underwear down his legs. He gasped at the way strong arms put him in place, gently but with a certainty of what was coming next. Automan looked at him, seeming concerned.
Walter swallowed hard and laughed nervously. "What was that, Auto? A cross between the scene where Johnny throws Bobby on the bed to show him what he thinks real men do and the one where Beulah Jean is being seduced by the General who just found out she's due to inherit a fortune?" He smiled, and he wanted to laugh again because of the trembling inside him that wouldn't stop.
"Neither. I . . . improvised. Didn't you like--"
Walter clapped a hand on each side of Auto's head and pulled him into a kiss. Auto reached into the bedside table drawer, and Walter almost called it off again. Auto knew about his lube? The look of horror on his face prompted Automan to shake his head.
"It wasn't on purpose, Walter. I can see through things."
That was good enough, because when Auto wrapped his hand around Walter's cock and started kissing a line down his body, any and all future decisions about whether they were going to do this, or why or how, were completely up to Auto and the things he did with his hands.
And his lips. Holy god . . . a Hoover couldn't do that. "Auto!" He stroked the thick blond hair he'd designed and looked down at the innocent expression greeting him from between his legs. "Easy?"
Auto nodded and went back to his task with much less force. As a slicked finger slipped inside Walter, feeling alien since it had been such a long time, he grunted. And Auto stopped, focused on his lips and tongue, and then started pressing forward again much slower. Walter offhandedly realized that he'd never had such a responsive, attentive lover. And probably never would again.
He relaxed and went the feelings. Soon, fingers inside him were hitting the right spot, and Auto's mouth worked in tune with them to bring Walter to the edge.
"I'm gonna . . . . " Come. Why can't I say it? Watching Auto suck him was enough. He wouldn't even have needed the look Auto gave him them, or the physical sensation. Just the sight of him could do it. "Stop!"
Auto pulled away as if he'd hurt Walter. "Don't you want me to continue so that you can . . . reach climax."
Walter knew that wasn't what he'd started to say. God only knew what term he'd have used from those movies. "Well, yes, but I'd rather . . . ."
"I understand. You'd rather reach climax through intercourse!" Auto said in a tone of voice that seemed more appropriate for a superhero who's just figured out who the villain is than someone about to have sex.
Walter patted Auto's hair and nodded. Auto's fingers had never left him, and they'd done their job as far as Walter was concerned. He was nervous, and his hands shook a little, but he used some lubricant in his palm on Auto. He stroked Auto, far more than necessary just to make him slick.
It was a little disappointing that Auto didn’t react in a way a human would. The physical side of this was probably forever lost to him. But his face looked intense as he processed everything that was happening, and the way he looked at Walter . . . if someone didn't know he was a hologram, they might see lust there, or . . . love. If someone didn't know.
Stroking him was still a turn on, just from the feel of the hardness in his hand and imagining how Auto would react if he were rea--no. If he were human.
Auto pressed his cock against Walter's opening, then looked down at him, eyebrow arched, all pomp and drama. "I'm going to make love to you now, and you won't be able to sit on that thing for a week after I'm done plucking your dewy flower and pounding your hole." His expression grew earnest. "I didn't improvise that. It was a cross between two scenes."
"Yeah, I can tell."
Auto smiled a little and pushed forward, following Walter's lead as if he'd done this a thousand times. Walter smiled a little at that thought--for Auto, watching was as good as doing. And apparently he'd gotten an eyeful.
"Do you like that?" Auto asked softly as he slowly began moving inside him. Walter didn't know where he pulled the words or the tone from, but they were perfect.
"Yes." His legs and arms pulled Auto to him, helping him set a rhythm. No one had ever felt like such a perfect fit before, physically or otherwise. No one had made him feel such things. The fact that Automan couldn't feel a thing, physically or otherwise, stayed in the back of Walter's mind.
Auto kissed his shoulder, gazed down at him when he made sounds of pleasure, kissed him deeply, nuzzled his neck--he did everything perfectly as he took Walter gradually faster and harder. When Walter's fingers dug into Auto's shoulders as he arched against him and came, Automan's mouth opened a little and he smiled, watching intently enough to make Walter self-conscious.
After they'd both stopped moving, Auto said, "You really enjoyed that, Walter. I seem to have satisfied you a great deal."
Walter laughed at how pleased with himself Auto sounded."You did. Very much."
Auto slipped from him and rolled to his side. He put an arm around Walter and pulled him in close. Like they were real lovers, Walter thought. Then he realized they actually were. Weren't they? Could they be lovers when it seemed so one-sided?
"Auto, does it bother you? That you can't really experience anything, I mean."
Auto looked at him. "But I experience everything."
"What we just did, you experienced it but you didn't . . . I mean, you can't . . . experience it. You don't feel physical pleasure the way I did, or passion."
Auto stared at him for a moment. "I cannot feel physical pleasure. But as for the rest, I disagree with your assessment of the situation. You've told me before that I can't feel emotions. And I can't. Not in the way you do. But I feel something."
Walter opened his mouth to speak, but Auto shook his head.
"Walter, I know you don’t see me as real, or something that can truly feel anything." Did he sound sad? Walter wondered. "But I am real, even though I'm not made of flesh and blood like you. And I do become aware of things, my systems undergo subtle changes and mode shifts, I feel things. Perhaps the definition of feel is different for you and me, but I do feel."
Auto had said that so passionately, that Walter felt just his tone alone made his case. "I'm sorry. I didn't realize. It just seems to me that you can't feel what I feel, physically or emotionally." Did he really just give himself away that much? "It seems unfair to you. And, to be honest, half the fun of making love to someone is in giving that person pleasure. I can't do that for you, and won't ever be able to."
The smile Auto gave him made his breath catch. "Walter, you already do. We just don't define pleasure the same way, either."
Walter sat up, shaking his head. "Auto . . . you can't love . . . ."
"You? I already do. You created me, you feed me with information, shape me with ideas. And I'm strong enough now to interact with you and others in an independent way, using my processing and deductive skills to manage it. All because of you. And I just gave you intense pleasure," he said proudly. "I enjoyed doing so. I found it very satisfactory and fascinating, and I want to do it often. Of course I love you. Again, I think we have to consider that your definitions and mine may not be exactly the same."
"You love me," Walter said, smiling at the thrill the words gave him, but saddened that they really didn't mean what he wanted them to. "And if your love is just a serious of electrical impulses and sets of processed data?"
Auto sat up and cocked an eyebrow. "First, it sounds remarkably similar to human brain activity. Second . . . does it really matter?" He leaned over and kissed Walter, a soft zzzzip running over Walter's lips when they touched.
"No," Walter whispered, deciding that this kiss had to be the best one so far. "No, it doesn't."
Auto lay down and held out his arm, then pulled him in close again. "Also, Walter, I should remind you that I do not get fatigued in the same way you do, at least not as long as there's power available. So I can repeat our earlier actions as many times as you would like. I believe the romantic term is, oddly enough, sloppy seconds? At least that's what Biff asked if he could have from the busboy he met in the diner bathroom. Would you like--"
"No. I--I wouldn't." Walter sighed, but then he laughed and rubbed the hair on Auto's chest, letting his fingers sink into it just because he could. "But I would like to make love twice, if that's all right with you."
"Walter, I've got a lead on those burglaries, if--" Jack had opened the computer room door without knocking, the way he usually did it, to find Walter sitting in a chair with agent Mann standing a few feet away. It seemed strange, because he could have sworn that Mann was standing right next to him when he'd opened the door. The man had seemed to be practically in Walter's lap.
"Sorry, was I interrupting something?"
"No, Jack," Walter quickly pointed out. They'd just been talking about the way Auto danced as The Electrician at Zippers and what he'd thought of the women trying to paw him. Auto had liked it and found it stimulating, of course with a slightly different definition than Walter's. Walter had found it horrifying, because he was on display, whipping those women into a frenzy. He'd been jealous. And impressed with his sexy dancing skills, which he preferred Auto would only ever use in private. "Um, we were just . . . talking about . . . ."
"Officer Nebicher and I were discussing something he told me you pointed out to him the other day. The importance of someone having your back, supporting and protecting you."
"Good, good," Jack said. "That's what it's all about, Agent Mann."
"Please, call me Auto."
"All right, Otto. I'm glad Walter has you on his side."
Auto looked at Jack. "Both sides, as well as front and back," he said seriously.
Walter beamed at Auto, but spoke to Jack. "I have him wherever I need him," he said. "Thanks to him, I think I'm finally starting to understand the value of a good partnership."