Author Topic: Silver Sweethearts [NSFW!] [SPG/Daft Punk] (unfinished)  (Read 289 times)


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Silver Sweethearts [NSFW!] [SPG/Daft Punk] (unfinished)
« on: April 09, 2014, 08:27:56 pm »

Disclaimer: Steam Powered Giraffe belongs to the Bennets. Daft Punk belongs to their respective owners and artists. I just do weird things with words.

Disclaimer#2: This fic has absolutely nothing to do with the respective love lives of either David Michael Bennett or Thomas Bangalter. Both of whom, I hope and pray, never ever ever find this fic.

                               Silver Sweethearts
Masked Smutter

  Walter Robotics prides itself in the ultimate in advanced technology in mechanical miracles. Even the vintage robots are still years ahead of what most robotics companies can manage. Robots with genuine human emotion. Robots who feel, in more ways that one. Robots capable of enjoying most, if not all, human pleasures.
  Robots who can, for example, enjoy a hug.
  The most modern ones are so close to perfect that they straddle the uncanny valley. There's even a division in Walter Robotics dedicated to ensure that the newest of 'bots have enough flaws to be relatable by their human customers.
  But right down to the oldest of them, at over one hundred years of age, all Walter Robotics robots are capable of love.
  And, in loving, would do whatever it takes to make the one they love happy.
  This is why the Red Ribbons exist.
  They're very special red ribbons. They contain metal, as well as the vibrantly-coloured silk. Hematite, to be precise. Tiny, almost microscopic beads, making the ribbons sparkle under the right light.
  All Walter Robotics robots can feel when hematite touches their exterior plating.
  Even the oldest of them. Who can't, strictly speaking, feel the touch of a lover.
  Three rolls of such red ribbon lay, carefully maintained, in each bag of luggage belonging to three such robots. The oldest of the robots. One ribbon is well-used and well-loved. This is not the story of that ribbon.
  One has only recently been used. This is not that ribbon's story either. Though it does feature, a little.
  Only one has yet to be touched. Just wait.
  Robotocon. Somewhere in the not-too-distant future.
  "Who are we op-en-ing for?" asked Hatchworth.
  "Some modern junk," dismissed The Spine.
  "J-junk, eh?" teased Rabbit. "That why y-y-y-y-ya got all their re-re-records?"
  "I'm studying the style."
  Rabbit laughed, even as the Walter Girls torqued her gears. Making sure she didn't have an unscripted malfunction on this, one of the shows that could gain Walter Robotics significant interest. They had to be in good form.
  The Spine had had himself tuned up, badgered the others into making certain they were tuned up, too. Though, evidently, Rabbit had been the last to submit. He could feel her feeling better. Not through wifi, but through the oldest of links that they still shared. Rabbit's echoes had always been a constant reassurance of family for him. Just like his echoes were for her.
  She felt wrong letting anyone else but Walter Girl Paige fix her. Still. Still missed her.
  He felt wrong not having a Reed in the band. But, budgets were a **** and change was a cruel mistress.
  At least they were still doing what they were made to do. Rather than some of the things they had been forced to do.
  "Curtain in ten," bellowed Steve. "Put 'em back together and everyone get their clothes on!"
  "Saucy," joked Rabbit.
  "There we go, sweetie," said Walter Girl Chelsea. "How's that?"
  "It'll work," Rabbit grudgingly admitted.
  The Spine knew from the echoes that she was running significantly better than she had in years. Even under Paige's care. But, because Rabbit was stubborn and sentimental, grudging approval was the only approval she could give. Therefore, he was the one who gave the newcomer the nod and smile.
  They shared the stage with a pyramid, of all things. But then, they'd shared a stage with better and worse. Including dancing girls of both calibers, a giant and, on one strange night, the undead.
  A pyramid was the least of their concerns.
  Even when, during the middle of Hatch Fever, it opened to reveal the 'modern junk'.
  Daft Punk.
  Two relatively new robots. Not Walter Robotics' work. Some distant competitor who didn't bother giving either of them a working face. Who didn't ensure that all their workings were on the inside. But who did, somehow, make them irresistible.
  Especially the silver one.
  Unbidden, his own oil pump supplied an extra bass beat. Even though this was completely unrehearsed, The Spine knew what this was.
  It was a showdown.
  Old versus new.
  Thomas' visor scrolled out, "I C WAT U DID THAR," as they matched beats and mixed samples live. Guy Man simply tried to dazzle them with rainbows and pyrotechnics.
  The crowd went wild.
  It was the first and only show where Bebop couldn't enact his rather strict maintenance routines. Steam flooded the stage. Bass and rhythm competed with melody and harmony.
  Century old singing automatons matched modern French robotics and held their own.
  And finished in a draw.
  The Spine flexed his wrist. He'd have to have some intense words with the convention organizers. Possibly after Steve finished chewing them out, dragon-style. They had contracts, a dragon, an animate yarn doll, two vicious Walter Girls and three armed automatons to back up their argument. Vow of peace or no vow of peace.
  That sort of thing, though the audience obviously loved it, was blatantly unprofessional. Each team of robots should have been allowed to shine.
  At least the old pump had shut down again. Damned erratic, noisy thing.
  And speaking of noisy things...
  Thomas sat on a crate of some other band's belongings. Technicians were swapping out his coolant fluid. Some were arguing animatedly about the cost of the stuff.
  The Spine tipped his hat to him and gestured with his water bottle. Water was cheaper, and free. And, with a cocky smirk, took a generous swig.
  The visor read, "SHOWOFF ANTIQUE."
  Guy Man's helm/head showed a rotating fan, then a thumb's up.
  That night, in the hotel room, it was another story.
  The pump was going again and he was rather desperately trying to cram soundproofing into the thin spaces in his chest cavity to shut it up.
  Stupid sexy French robots and their stupid sexy accents and their stupid shiny chrome...
  And worse, he could Feel the actions of Rabbit, next door.
  She was missing Paige. Missing the things they used to do together. And she'd taken out her red ribbon.
  The Spine was almost a helpless passenger, this time. Resonating with Rabbit's echoes as she imagined her absent ex-lover removing her clothes, layer by excruciating layer.
  He, in turn, stripped, too. Dawdled about removing from his luggage the roll of his own ribbon that had remained untouched since he finished weaving it. Decades ago, now. Finally surrendered to the thirst for feeling and the need for some variety of release.
  He unrolled the ribbon.
  Matched its touch with his own imagination.
  And quite literally fell face-first into the bed.
  Rabbit pictured Paige, lovingly winding the ribbon around her body. Playing with her reactions. Making her glitch in ways only she knew how.
  The Spine imagined Thomas. Bare of any human clothes. Playing his titanium alloy body like an antique instrument. Tangled, yes! Tangled in the cables of the Hall of Wires. His sensitive cooling fins butting against the thick cords as he was lost in the throes of ecstasy.
  He forced himself to disengage his voices. There were humans trying to sleep, and it was bad enough with the erratic thunder of his oil pump, no matter how much soundproofing he succeeded in using.
  Steam hissed. The Ribbon became like a living thing. Looping around him. Helping his fantasy reach its inevitable peak...
  It would be some work, later, to unravel the ribbon from his body. The Spine could barely summon the energy to move his arms into a comfortable position.
  _So. You and Thomas, eh?_ teased Rabbit over the wifi.
  _Shut up,_ he mentally growled. _It'll never happen. I'm to old for him._ He struggled to move. The ribbon resisted, made his circuits misfire in interestingly erotic ways. Knots he didn't remember making tightened and tangled him further.
  Why did he feel so weak?
  He needed to recharge.
  Just a brief rest. Then he could work his way out of this tangle.
  He tried to say something. No sound. Wait. He'd de-activated his harmonics. Restarting them... made his eyes shut again.
  Hatchy's voice. Saying something about a red ribbon.
  Steve swore. "You picked a hell of a time to work off blue balls, damnit!"
  Rabbit's voice. "Hold y-y-y-yer horses, I'll g-get 'im."
  More of Steve's swearing.
  The click and clunk of the neighbouring door. Rabbit coming into his field of view. "Aw... d-d-dummins..." she tisked. "You ma-made a re-real mess of yourself. Short circuits ev-ev-everywhere." Gently, very gently, Rabbit turned off his feedback. Dulling his senses to the point where the ribbon no longer produced such delicious agonies. Only then did she unravel the tangled mess around him. "Ya re-really gotta be c-c-c-careful wit' these things, bro. With that sp-p-pecial someone. At least th' first t-t-t-t-time."
  Power returned to his arms. A low, slow power that allowed him to sluggishly assist. His voice activated in a low and piteous moan.
  "This is what happens when it g-g-g-gets snagged in yer chassis, bro." Rabbit's sharp fingers didn't even fray the ribbon. Just removed its peculiar magic, knot by knot. "'S why ya g-g-g-gotta have someone helpin' ya."
  The Spine tried to speak, "I I I I I g-g-g-g-ge-e-e-et it." Ow. That hurt.
  "Don't try t' talk. You sssssssound like y-y-y-y-you need a c-complete over-overhaul."
  Outside the door, Steve's angry yell, "Does he have pants on, yet?"
  "One mo-more minute," Rabbit sang.
  Great coils of ribbon fell off him. A nominal strength returned -slowly- to his legs.
  Rabbit helped him with the aforementioned pants. Slung his discarded shirt over his torso. "Want the zi-zippers in the back d-d-done up?"
  He shook his head. Wobbled uncertainly from the dizziness. Rabbit caught him and supported him with one arm over her shoulders. "Le-lean on me, bro."
  It was a slow and painful stagger to the door. And Steve, smoking in fury, was not impressed.
  "Christ. You look like zombie **** warmed over. **** walking. You're getting *carried* to the maintenance station."
  Rabbit let out a whoop and lifted him onto her back.
  He was too weak to resist. To... emotionally shattered to protest.
  He must look like hell. Hatchy kept anxiously pinging him via wifi to see if he was still responding.
  _Still alive, little bro,_ he send out over the Wifi. _Tired and sore, but still alive._
  The maintenance chair reconfigured itself for him the instant Rabbit and Hatchy started lowering him into it. Support for his back so that the Walter Girls could access his chest, with slots to accomodate his famous - and secretively sensitive - cooling fins.
  Judging by the looks on everyone's faces, he had not done himself any favours with last night's -ah- solo adventure.
  "Look at him. Is he completely anodized?"
  Someone wrest his shirt from his body. The lack of fastened zippers made it less of a struggle for them.
  "Almost," supplied Rabbit, who'd seen. "G-g-good luck gettin' his p-p-p-p-p-pants off here, though."
  Especially since robot maintenance was something that the human public liked to gawk at. No privacy.
  Walter Girl Chelsea regarded the readouts. "Looks like those disks are slipping again. Hang on."
  He slotted his fingers into the cutoff handles in his armrests. Maybe this time...
  The adjustment modulators hit him full force. He arced away from them, fingers tightening on the cuttoff switches. He'd only find out later that he'd cried out for Ma. Years dead. She couldn't give the comfort he sought.
  Old habits died hard. Especially those habits that had become basic programming.
  "Sorry," said the newbie. "I keep forgetting the numbers are reversed." She twiddled with the controls. "Try that?"
  He sank cautiously back down on the support. Ah. Much better. Now the hammers were subtly trying to rearrange the problematic linkages in his famous backbone. His last upgrade was such a rush job, that he was loath, ever since, to accept another.
  "All right, I'm going to give you a polish. Get you back to your normal silver, okay?"
  He managed a nod.
  Techs were fussing in the neighbouring repair bay. They were fussing in French. The Spine levered his head up so he could see...
  Thomas. Also without a shirt. Also with technicians putting a proper buff back on his exterior. And, if The Spine knew Walter Robotics' procedure, soon to share the ignominy of having his chest plates open to the gawking public.
  Yep. There came the power tools. He sank his head back down and closed his eyes to most of what they were doing to his body. Imagine himself somewhere else where someone closer was fixing him up. Somewhere private.
  "Boiler's running low," said Walter Girl Chelsea. "Here. Drink up."
  Something kept brushing his fins. Turning his fantasy meanderings into comforting imaginings of Thomas looking after him, following the wreck he'd made of himself. Which made his usual grateful whimpering for the water top-up a little louder. A little more desperate.
  He always spared a thankful look for the technician helping him top up. He couldn't talk during the procedure, of course. But gratitude came in many forms, and the Walter Workers understood.
  The vibrations of the correctional hammers and the intermittent brushing of his cooling fins were both doing exquisite things to his libido. The Spine fought to resume a more... publicly amenable fantasy. He even opened his eyes in the hopes that the reality of his surroundings would quench his hidden passions.
  The reality was that Thomas was watching him.
  And that was when that damned oil pump kicked in let everyone within a five-mile radius know that a Walter's Robot was falling in love.
  The swarming Walter Workers, used to this, stopped to put in ear plugs and swapped out his emergency soundproofing for some of the most advanced stuff with micro-portals to cancel out the nigh-deafening sound. And even with that, triple-layered around his oil pump, there was still a steady Thomba, Thomba, Thomba coming from his chest.
  _Never will happen. It's never going to happen,_ he reminded himself. Besides, he'd probably wind up accidentally crushing that new-fangled array of plastic and chrome-plated aluminium if it ever got that far.
  "Polishing your face, now," said Walter Girl Caroline. She knew about the Vietnam Glitch, and kept at least one hand in contact with his plating at all times.
  The old terrors only effected his pump, this time. Making it flutter erratically as he forced himself to keep his bellows pumping steadily during the process.
  When he could see again, Thomas stopped scrolling exclamation points and query marks to LED-comment, "SICK BEATS" at him.
  Sick. Yes. He must be sick. Those modern imitators had only been operational since nineteen ninety-three. Young punks. He was in his early hundred-twenties. The age difference was phenomenal. Impossible.
  What was the rule? Half one's age plus eight?
  Huh. He didn't bother following that with the organics he dated. Why should it apply to flimsy robots made out of cheap, nineties technology?
  Wait. Was he talking himself out of thinking about it or *into* doing so?
  Someone was tweaking his settings. Trying to make him fall into Stasis so he could recharge properly. There were too many people around. Gawking. Taking pictures of his exposed interior. He could try to ignore them while he was awake, but the very thought of random gawkers treating him like some kind of museum exhibit while he was unaware and unable to stop them?
  He'd fight that with every atom of his being.
  "Do-do-don't," he asked. "Too too too ma-man-many pe-peop-pe..."
  "Shh, shh. All right. Just stay as still as you can, hm? Just recharge yourself."
  Which was difficult with the thing brushing his fins like that. Erratically. Unpredictably.
  "Some-some-some-thi-thing," Damn those glitches. The sooner he degaussed the better. "Be-be-be-be-be-hi-hi-hi..."
  "Oh! The curtain!" Walter Girl Chelsea moved some things around and the wavering caress that had been driving him insane in interesting ways just... went away.
  He sank into his supports with a moan. Letting off literal steam helped release the tensions that were causing half the trouble that the Walter Girls were trying to fix.
  Just a silly fantasy.
  That shiny new bot wouldn't even glance his way.
  The Spine got to 'enjoy' that flight of fancy for all of ten minutes before movement in the neighbouring bay caught his eye. Thomas' techs had finished with the overly-shiny music technician and allowed him to rise.
  He was still walking unsteadily, though.
  Straight. Towards. Him.
  He steadied his shiny silver arms on the chair. Leaned close to The Spines' ear.
  "Ze next time you dream of me? Keep it off ze wifi, yeah?" he murmured.
  He always forgot to turn off the wifi.
  Well, that settled it.
  He could never talk to Thomas again. Or ever.
  That should have been the end of it, except for one thing.
  Rabbit snagged Guy Man by his collar and effortlessly lifted him up to her eye level. "Aw-awright shiny-boy. Level wit' us."
  Little hearts bubbled and popped on his display. "Allo, beautiful..."
  "Flattery mi-might get ya somewheres," Rabbit threatened. "But we wa-wanna know 'bout yer little pal. Thomas."
  "Spill," demanded Hatchy. "We need to know if he is go-ing to break our bro-ther's heart."
  "G-g-give us the info," Rabbit menaced. "Or I *kiss* ya."
  Guy appeared to consider this. They could tell by the animated hourglass on his helm display. "I would prefer 'and'..."
  "What?" said Hatchy.
  "What?" said Rabbit.
  "I give you ze information... *and* you kiss me?" Flirty, LED eyebrows waggled up and down on a stylized smiley face.
  Rabbit held him aloft by one arm. Leaned over to talk to Hatchy. "It ain't workin' he w-w-w-won't c-crack."
  "He said he'd tell you ev-er-y-thing. He wants the kiss-ing."
  "What? Why?"
  "May-be he likes you."
  Rabbit looked up at him. At the happy little hearts floating from 'chin' to 'brow' before they popped. She turned back to Hatchy. "What? Kiss a g-g-g-guy?"
  "Yes please," said Guy.
  They got through an entire performance without any kind of unscripted glitch. The Spine allowed himself an entire minute to enjoy that before he noticed.
  Thomas was watching.
  His screen displayed, "<3 DAYUM <3".
  What was *that* supposed to mean? The Spine handed his guitar off to Walter Girl Caroline while glaring something resembling venom at the much-younger robot/competitor. And, as they passed, he made sure to cut him dead.
  Cheap modern junk. Made to break. Made to be replaced by the next, new model. No heart.
  Yes. He could keep telling himself that until he began to believe it.
  Then it might not hurt so hard when his oil pump caught on with that idea.
  He could literally feel Rabbit plotting something. Her echoes hadn't made much sense to him at all, lately. "Ain't ya gonna wa-watch them? Th-th-th-they watched us. It's only f-f-fair. Pro-professional courtesy and all."
  "Hmph," he said aloud. Inside, he knew Rabbit was up to something. It was, after all, her default state. If Rabbit wasn't up to something, she was very possibly ill to the point of nearing death. "Only for professional courtesy, you understand." He folded his arms, stilled his body, and judged them hard.
  Only Rabbit would be able to tell that he was secretly enjoying himself.
  "Nuh-uh. You wa-wait. No sneakin' off t' play wit' ribbons," Rabbit manipulated him into a spot she'd ominously marked with chalk. "Ya need that left kn-kn-knee looked at. I felt it creakin'."
  "Sure it isn't *your* knees, Rabbit?" he teased.
  "I'll have you know both of mine are evenly creaky," she sniffed. "It's yours that are lo-lo-lopsided. And annoying."
  He knew damned well that his knees were fine, but he'd also learned that it was better in the long run to allow Rabbit to get whatever tricks she had out of her system. And, if he was feeling benevolent or the trick was particularly amusing, play along.
  Whatever it was involved a small conspiracy with the modern junk. Half of the modern junk.
  Hatchy delayed Thomas with utter nonsense while Rabbit and Guy Man conferred briefly before uniting against the handsome silver mix-master.
  All of them pushing Thomas into him was a complete surprise.
  It all happened so fast.
  Thomas collided with his chest, sending him over the precarious balance point by which he lived his life.
  There were tangles of stage ropes behind him, which snagged in his fins. Stopping a complete fall at the cost of his personal comfort. Making him intensely aware of the lightweight robot currently tangled right up against him. His hands got caught in the ropes and the fins.
  The explosive exclamation that erupted from his lips sounded way too sexual to The Spines' ears. He sincerely hoped that no-one else heard that.
  He couldn't take a deep breath and he needed to cool himself. His chest was impeded by Thomas. Sure, he could force a deep breath, but that could easily rip Thomas' arms off. Damn flimsy modern technology. Nevertheless, he forced himself to speak. "You all right, sonny?"
  "Depends. Comment ça va, grandpère?"
  Well, that certainly killed any desire, despite the closeness of their situation. "Stay still or I'll rip your arms off. Cheap junk like yourself is built so flimsy these days."
  "Said ze rust-bucket," Thomas' visor showed colons and parentheses. Smiley faces.
  Right. Enough of that. The Spine tipped his head back and disengaged from his body. Ignoring the shrieks of everyone around him.
  "You're s'posed'a kiss 'im!" wailed Rabbit.
  Coiled around the ropes, he found the key-points of the tangle. Much easier without his spines in the way.
  Thomas made the mistake of trying to right his body. Both crashed to the ground as the ropes stopped supporting them. "Zut!" Thomas straddled The Spine's body like a human would a floating log. "'Ow much scrap metal is zere?"
  "More than you're worth," he slithered back into his body and levered himself upright. He didn't even notice the newer French bot's weight. "New technology like you has no idea what it's like to be built to last." He patted Thomas' head indulgently. "You'll probably fall apart in another twenty years or so."
  "At least I don't squeak when I move," countered Thomas.
  "Hah! We can hear your joints halfway across the convention."
  "Sure that isn't your own noisy parts?" An irreverential tap on The Spine's chest. "Zere is some old thunder in zat tin can."
  "Titanium alloy," corrected The Spine. "Meanwhile, what are you? Chrome-plated aluminium? Plastic?" He picked him up by the collar and shook him. "Lightweight, fragile, cheap junk."
  "I'm prettier zan you."
  The Spine put him down. "Fat lot of good that does you. You don't even have lips to kiss with."
  "Ah, why so interested in kissing?"
  He vented steam and cleared his throat. "I don't expect a whippersnapper such as yourself understand. Sony."
  Thomas malfunctioned. Exclamations point scrolled across his visor and a bizarre grinding sound came from within his mechanicals.
  He'd won.
  The Spine adjusted his tie and began an exaggerated saunter towards their accommodations. As he left, he heard, "Whippersnapper? Seriously? Hahahahahahaha..."
  He maintained his dignity all the way out to the showroom floor.
  There were robots everywhere. Exhibitions. New young things barely days old, not allowed to leave their displays. The Spine pitied the little babies. Putting on a show. Not knowing what they were doing, for whom, or why. And most likely to be scrapped or shut down and never activated again.
  Doomed little mayflies.
  Poor things.
  "Such a sad face," said a French accent.
  Crap. It was the walking diskman. Or was it iPod? "At least I can make one."
  "Why so sad? You should be 'appy to see the new life, non?"
  "You've obviously never seen what happens after the con."
  "They don't get to go home. They don't have families. Nobody cares about them. They're just turned off and disassembled. Packed up like--"
  "Expensive toys for rich men?"
  How the heck did *he* know? "Display equipment. And they never come back. Who wants to see last year's innovations?"
  "Or last century's? Or is it ze century before? I forget."
  "Yeah, I heard the newer technology has memory storage problems." A hit. A palpable hit. The Spine allowed himself a smirk.
  "But it does allow us to innovate more frequently. What style was your latest song? Forty years ago? Eighty?"
  "I think it was the number of words in your last song times ten. So thirty-five."
  "You couldn't make a techno song even if you knew how to run ze equipment."
  "And I bet you wouldn't even know what a guitar is for. I bet you don't even know what harmony *is*."
  They were face to shining face. Trading barbs without any heed whatsoever to what was happening around them.
  Which was why it was so easy for Rabbit to tip him towards his shiny chrome adversary.
  His lips met Thomas' face. At the tiny slot where a mouth should have been.
  It was an electric kiss.
  And Thomas' hands found their way to his rump. Well. It wasn't as if he could actually reach much higher. So... he wasn't as unwilling as he pretended to be.
  "Success!" Rabbit squeaked.
  Then she, Hatchy, and even Guy Man forcibly ushered the two of them somewhere more private. Which was a stone bench in the sunshine outside the convention centre. Rabbit manipulated both of them into a companionable arrangement.
  "There. Now you t-t-t-t-t-two are not allowed to get up until you sort so-so-something out. We'll be wa-watching."
  Thomas' hand was inexplicably in his. And his boiler was doing double-time from stress. And he knew, without a doubt, that both his mechanical siblings would rain fire down on them if either dared to move from this spot. He'd survive, and Walter Robotics had spares of his wardrobe... but the flimsy, modern mixmaster by his side would undoubtedly melt.
  He could not - would not - let that happen.
  "I 'ave all your records," said Thomas.
  "I have all of yours," he confessed.
  "I believe we have ze same number of records."
  "Depends how you count. We've changed names more than a few times over the years."
  "I found a copy of your album as ze Steam Boyz."
  The Spine rolled his eyes. "Ugh. They promised they recalled and shredded all of those disks."
  "I agree, it was a bad mistake. The music was tres bon." An electronic sigh. "The music was always..."
  The Spine nodded. "I appreciate your style. I've tried... to make music like yours. That's not an acoustic arrangement." A sly glance at Thomas. "And there's never enough words to sing."
  "And you sing too many."
  "We have meaning."
  "We've won awards."
  "Annoying modern rubbish."
  "Cranky old antique." This time, Thomas drew him in. Sparks and touch and closeness and a breath's worth of heaven. "Why do you have to be so beautiful?"
  He could have asked the same thing. "Yo-you're pretty well made yourself. For modern expendable... technology."
  "So. You share more with your sister than anyone thinks?"
  "I heard a little stutter."
  "You di-did not."
  Thomas leaned closer. "I think it's cute."
  "I do no-no-not stutter."
  "Care to argue about it later? On a date?"
  A date? His oil pump thundered briefly. "Yo-yo-you'd... be see-see-seen--*?"
  "Avec vous. Oui. And why not? You still cut the figure, non?"
  "I doubt you know how to dance."
  "Try me. Grandpère."
  Fine. He could hold his own against any new-fangled shiny music accessory. He'd proven it once. He could prove it again. "All right, Sony. You. Me. Tonight. The Great Hall of Music. Brush up on your foxtrot."
  "Qu'est-ce que l'enfer est un fox-trot?"[1]
  Gah. French. It did something horribly delightful to his circuitry. "Adapt by tonight. Consider it a challenge."
  "Eh. Then it shall be a date. I shall bring my dancing feet."
  He hoped that wasn't literal.
  It wasn't, as it turned out, literal. But he did have atrocious taste in casual clothing. He'd have to help him fix that.
  "Did you leave your taste in the nineties as well?" he jibed.
  "Depends. Did you leave yours halfway through last century?"
  "Shut up and dance, walkman."
  He had two left feet(not literally), so The Spine lead. He did adapt quickly, but The Spine managed to make him look more than a little clumsy and foolish for the first few turns.
  "Modern technology," The Spine sneered. "So-o-o-o adaptive." He dipped Thomas. "So easily disoriented."
  Thomas reflexively held tight to him. One hand found a fin.
  The Spine fought for stability. Control. Which was difficult, considering how that one touch had all his thoughts pointed due Bedroom. It was a struggle just to get them both back on their feet.
  Now the smiley on Thomas' visor had a greater-than sign in front of it. "And old tech is so very, very," he purred, "full of flaws." Now that hand roamed up and down his fins. So lightly. So tauntingly.
  Steam came into play. Fogged him up. Caused a brief cascade of multicoloured lights across his visor. An unprompted spasm of his body.
  The Spine steadied him in alarm. Watched in subtle terror as it played out over an entire, hellish minute.
  Finally, what passed for normal movement returned. "Ooogh... Do not do zat again..."
  He'd already redirected his steam output to some lower vents that he usually used on stage. "Let me guess. They never made you waterproof."
  "Waterproof is one thing. Vapour-proof is another. Keep your antiquated exhausts to yourself."
  "Not my fault you're not backwards-compatible."
  "Were you even fitted with a USB?"
  Alarm. Extremely racy thoughts. "Why? You planning to use one?"
  Blushing. Or at least, scrolling the word 'blush' across his visor. "Uh. Er. Maybe?"
  He made Thomas twirl. "First date's a little early, do-don't you think?" Damnit!
  "I must remember you antiques are slow," he countered. Deliberately moved his hand so that some fingers lay between his fins. Just close enough to graze them.
  He glared at Thomas through hooded eyes. "I wi-wi-will find a way t-t-t-to ge-ge-get even..."
  "Music to my ears. Grandpère."
  Inspired desperation made him sneak a hand under Thomas' shirt. Find some wires. Make a short with his fingers.
  Thomas moaned and almost lost control of his legs. It was not a moan of pain.
  "Still music... Sony?"
  Thomas seized him by the neck. Lunged for his ear. "I am going to saw you in half with that pretty red ribbon yours. I am -oooooh!- I am going to make you *beg*."
  And since his own inclinations headed that way, regardless, that very idea sounded like music.
  Dancing was forgotten. Both were almost fighting to make the other succumb to their desires. Right there on the dance floor. Thomas with his hands trying to play The Spine's fins. The Spine with his hands making shorts out of Thomas' circuitry.
  Of course security escorted them outside.
  The Spine found the fortitude to disengage. No matter how much he wanted a more intimate contact. "The-they wouldn't thro-throw humans outside for ma-making out."
  "Excusez? Making out? Mon dieu. Zat was more like foreplay..."
  The Spine scoffed. "No staying power. I'd rip you to shreds *and* drain your batteries."
  "Brag, brag, brag..." Thomas made a yakking mouth with one hand. "Care to back any of that up with some facts?"
  "We played you to a standstill on the stage. Don't you believe I could do that elsewhere?"
  Which was how they ended up in his room. Someone kind and understanding - probably Hatchy - had tidied away the red ribbon and left it on its spool, just peeking out of his travel case. But that barely mattered right now because making out had become a competition between them.
  Titanium face scraped against shiny chrome. Sparks between them caused all manner of erotic misfirings in his brain.
  Both fumbled and fought with each others' clothes. Tried to beat the other to the bare, exterior plating hidden beneath suddenly too-human trappings.
  Thomas succeeded in opening The Spine's vest and throwing it back onto his throbbing fins. Thomas' shirt shredded under The Spine's hands as a direct result.
  "Zi-zi-i-i-pper-er-ers," he managed.
  He used a hug to reach them. Purposely ground the slider against his back. Made sure he slid his fingers down the intervening fin on the way to the next slider. Drew it out.
  He knew exactly what he was doing. And what it did to The Spine.
  Out of lustful revenge, The Spine tore the hoodie almost neatly in half. Just so he could trap Thomas in the embrace he started and find every chink in his chrome-plated armour and exploit it.
  They fell to the floor. Grappled with the fastenings of each other's pants. Kicked off their own shoes so they could shed the last barriers between them. Fought for the honour of being on top. Kicked and tangled their legs as their pants made it a struggle to finally win nudity.
  Thomas broke the kiss battle first. Arcing his head back to cry out in broken and stuttering French. The Spine pushed his advantage, raining arc'ing kisses everywhere with an exposed wire that he could reach. Finding and exploiting every last seam.
  And always, always, using the protocols he had when making love to organics. Supporting his massive weight and only using a fraction of it, pressing against his lover. Thrusting against his lover.
  Thomas was stuttering now. His voice warbling between harmonic ranges as he gasped out, "Wh-why (UH!) ma-ma-ma(Ooooooh!)make l'am-am-amour (Dieu!) li-like I'm (unh!) hu-hu-huma-ma(Aouhnh!)man?"
  He put most of his energy into the insult he wanted most to apply to himself. "Because you're as fra-fragile as one."
  Thomas was significantly less articulate after that. He just focussed on a frenzy of trying to return the passion he was receiving. Until he glitched out in a glory of misfiring circuits and gasping The Spine's name in French.
  It was a battle for him to stop. A battle he won, though barely. The Spine lay himself down and embraced the gasping Thomas tenderly. Listened to the whining of his cooling fans. Caressed his chromed plating as if he could soothe away the new scratches and dents.
  "See?" he teased lovingly. "Nuh-no staying po-power."
  Thomas' visor displayed an odd image. (O_O). Was it an expression? A glitch? "After that hu-uman thing? You o-o-owe me some payback."
  That chilled his passions a little. "Do-don't like being called human, eh?"
  "Au contraire, mon amour. I... I loved it."
  He almost glitched. Dipped easily into self-depreciating humour. "These old ears must not have heard right. You... *loved* it?" So many robots shunned human things. So many hated to be compared at all to the weaker, vulnerable, fleshy creatures who made them. Held themselves above even the simplest of human things. Like love.
  He listened incredulously as Thomas waxed lyrical about the human things he yearned for. Softness. Flexibility. That certain amount of freedom that was only attainable by being one of them. The ability to learn without needing someone to program it into you.
  The Spine closed his eyes and let the words and their French accent wash over him. The unattainable dream. They both wanted humanity, but at the core of it was acceptance from the humans who ruled their worlds. Who weighed them daily in the balance and found them simultaneously worthy and wanting.
  He found himself sighing, "Oh yes," at every breath. Feeling the old wants coming back to haunt him.
  And then Thomas found the ribbon. He kept talking, of course. Talking of human things like taste and being ticklish and waking or sleeping at unscheduled moments as if he were constructing a fairy tale made out of envious desire.
  The Spine could feel the odd brush of movement. A hand here. A limb there. He didn't really care what Thomas was up to. He was losing himself in the dream. To have skin. To know what foods tasted like. To know what it was like to scratch an itch.
  And with a sudden {zwip!} there was red ribbon looped tight around his torso. be vulnerable.
  His entire body was not in his control any more. The red ribbon was everywhere. In his cooling fins. Laced around his crotch. Encircling his legs. Even wound around his neck. And despite all this, a whispered, "Pappy," escaped him.
  It was a habit so deep that it reached all the way back to eighteen ninety-six, when he was strapped to the slab and scared of the dark.
  After all. Humans cried out to their creator.
  He almost reflexively sat up in a kneel. Leaned back, supporting his weight with his arms. Letting his lover have maximum access to everywhere covered in the red ribbon.
  Thomas ran a hand down his front. From neck to thigh. The Spine could only moan at the feeling of another's hand on his titanium alloy skin.
  When no further touch came, he opened his eyes to see Thomas staring at his hand as if seeing it for the first time.
  "Very di-different from pressure sen-sensors, eh?" he managed.
  The Spine smiled. "My guess is your e-engineers cribbed some notes from Walter Ro-robotics. We have a full array of he-hematite-laced accessories in the online store."
  Thomas was playing with a long, loose end of the red ribbon. Touching it to places on his own body. "A-any more of the-ese?"
  "Those are... c-c-custom. Spe-speci-ial."
  "...zut..." He finally -finally!- began running his hands over The Spine's ribbon-bedecked body. Two karats sat on either side of an underscore on his screen. "Anysing I need to know?"
  O damn him. The Spine concentrated on talking properly. Difficult, given the ways that Thomas was interfering with his concentration. "Mu-mu-mu-ust un-unti-tie (Oh!) un-un-undo it (ohyes...) af-af-te-ter-er-er..."
  Thomas gradually exposed himself to the ribbon. Hands, then arms, then tracings of leg and torso. And, finally and at last, electric kisses from the edges of his chrome-plated head. His care and caution were beyond the sweetest of tortures for The Spine. His boiler ran hot and would not cool. He had to concentrate just to ensure that his waste steam did not harm his lover.
  He almost didn't notice that he was running out of water until it started to hurt.
  By then, Thomas was playing his fins, pressing himself against his body in an enticing rhythm. It was harder to speak now than at any time in their... adventures.
  Nevertheless, he had to try. "Wa-a-a-a... tuuuurrrrrrr..."
  "Hmn?" murmured Thomas, laying static charges on The Spine's cheek.
  "...wah... wa. a. at. e. er..."
  A scroll of exclamation points flashed across his visor. "Dieu! Un moment." His delicious presence left him panting and trying not to crash. And then there was the touch of a water bottle at his lips. "Drink."
  The moans and grateful grunts he made definitely sounded sexual. Part of him hoped that it would entice Thomas. Excite him. The Spine opened his eyes and confronted... not the sight of Thomas' caring visor, but the affront of his chrome-plated crotch. The water bottle jutting outwards from there in Thomas' hands, making it look like...
  Something more human than either of them possessed.
  Damned arrogant musical toy!
  He knew that The Spine needed the water and could not refuse it. No matter how provoking the situation was in which way it came to him. And since he was vulnerable, there was really only one thing he could do in retaliation.
  Turn it into a performance.
  "*MMMMMMMMMmmmmmmhhh*..." he rumbled. Maintaining eye contact. Opening his mouth to the flow of water. Licking the nozzle of the bottle. He found a trailing end of the red ribbon and shifted his weight so he could run it up and down one of Thomas' forearms.
  Thomas' knees began to tremble. His visor read, "HOT!"
  Pity the ribbon would not quite reach the modern robot's crotch. Or his own. The Spine dallied it around the parts he could reach. Making certain every last moan went straight to Thomas' electronic libido. Writhing underneath his lover like getting a top-up was the epitome of ecstasy.
  All staring at Thomas through half-lidded eyes.
  "Dir-ir-irty old ma-a-an," Thomas managed.
  The Spine smirked, even in the midst of his performance. Vocal glitches were catching. And comments like that only made him play harder.
  When the water ran out, he captured one of Thomas' hands and began kissing his way up it.
  "Da-a-amn you... It's... my-y-y-y tu-urn..."
  The empty bottle bounced off the bed when Thomas threw it absently away.
  "Well, the-en," The Spine panted. "Le-let's se-se-see wha-at you g-g-got, pard-pardner..."
  Thomas literally fell to his knees. Pushed The Spine's hand back down. For all his pretended ferocity, his visor scrolled between, "WOW" and "HOT". He had control of the trailing ribbon and, thusly, control of The Spine like a leash on a dog. He knew how the roaming sensation of touch could reduce a formerly unfeeling robot to an overwhelmed and excited heap of happy scrap.
  The feel of Thomas' hands on his fins was more than enough to drive him wild. Having those fins wrapped in the red ribbon kept him running hot in more ways than one.
  The touch of the ribbon against his fins... in the very agile hands of that ridiculously beautiful robot...
  It was almost enough to put him all the way into heaven.
  Thomas' clever, quick fingers were searching his body for something. Probing his every inch. And growing so frustrated that he couldn't find it.
  "Où est il? Où diable est-il?"
  "The USB!"
  "Ta-a-ta-ta-a-a-ake off... wi-wi-wig. A-a-a-a-all po-por-ports... he-he-head."
  "Y-y-you're ba-ald?"
  He couldn't talk. Not with what was going on between them. It would take far too long. He found Thomas' wifi presence and spawned a private chat arena. _You know any robots who grow hair?_
  The relief from not being forced to speak aloud was a welcome balm as the glitches took them both over. _All right. You have a point._
  The Spine leaned into the touch of the red ribbon as the catches that held his hair in place released, one by one. His voices -high and low- misfired and bubbled out moans in all differing tones and sharp bursts of static. As they moved together in a world wrapped in red ribbon and mounting bliss.
  And just when he thought he couldn't take any more, Thomas docked the cable between them and their passions exploded between them in a flood of data than neither could possibly process.
  The world came back into focus with the ribbon slowly withdrawing from his body. Voiced a staticky moan.
  "Easy, old man," soothed Thomas. "Just making certain you don't wind up in the chair again."
  "L'ss 'f th' 'ld," he croaked. "'M h'gh q'l'ty 'ng'n'r'ng."
  "Ssshhh... Past time for some of ze after-care. Just relax."
  "Mmmfff," he grumbled. "V'ry h'rd w'th y' 'r'nd..."
  This time, more water came with just a hand associated with it. And after the water, there was oil from his personal stock. And when the ribbon was gone, Thomas soothed him into somnolence with gentle embraces and static-charged kisses.
  "Can you move, yet?"
  The Spine tried. It would be painfully slow, but he could move.
  "Ç'est bon. Up onto the bed. You should not be resting on ze floor."
  "D'n't m'k m' l'n 'n y'. 'D cr'sh y'."
  "Ssshhh... Hop la. Get comfy."
  His body was still feeling. The softness of the pillows and comforter. The gentle touch of Thomas by his side. The comfort he had known with so many others, of a lover by his side. He could feel his boiler cooling, just from the calm of it all. He drew Thomas in for a good, old-fashioned snuggle.
  He couldn't see what was on Thomas' visor display. It didn't matter what was on there. He didn't understand half of the nonsense he put on that thing. Touch was more important, now. Chest against chest. Cheek against pate. Arms surrounding him and lying flat against his lightweight plating.
  Warmth against warmth.
  Like humans do.
  The old thunder still beat inside him. It was a far more comfortable rhythm, now. One that could stay just as it was until... until a painful end.
  This was not the time to think about those things things.
  Live in the moment. That was the ticket. That was the only way to stay positive about anything.
  Right now, he was positively in the arms of someone who wanted him back. Who willingly stayed for an embrace and snuggled into it to boot. He was positively earning a return embrace and a slow, lazy cascade of spark-laden kisses. Positively wanted.
  "Ah," Thomas sighed. "I knew you could be nice to me. Why so competitive, eh?"
  "Ingrained instinct," The Spine sighed. "We've been facing competing models... newer and fresher robots. Newer and better sounds. Ever since the end of the Great War." A slight, desperate edge of need crept into his embrace. He made himself relax his clinging grip. "Every time... Every single time... We had to prove we were still worthy. We had to win every last time. Or... or be *retired*."
  Thomas flinched. He knew what that meant. He'd been in the world long enough to know what that meant for any robot.
  The Spine soothed his shoulders with one hand. Feeling the feeling of touch slip away as the magic of the red ribbon's contact faded in every second. "It's difficult to remember that we have a solid fan base, now. Easier to remember all the other times. Every other time..." That they had to prove that they were worth keeping.
  Every successive generation of Walters did keep them. They were the only ones who treated the Automatons as almost equal to people. Only reminding them that they were things when absolutely necessary. But that didn't stop the drive to prove that they were worth it.
  Even against other robot musicians who they may personally admire.
  Thomas started laughing.
  "What's so funny?"
  "All this time..." a helpless and more than nervous cackle. "I was worried we would not be able to measure up to *you*." That he wouldn't be able to compete with one hundred and twenty years of elegantly-designed history. That he wouldn't measure up against the Walters' trademark resilient and robust designs.
  The Spine sighed steam. "Maybe there's more human in us than we thought. Fighting against each other like that."
  "Why so morbid, old man?"
  "Four wars[2] and more than a century of experience..."
  "Touché." Thomas' fingers drew lazy circles on The Spine's plating. He found his own hands following suit.
  The magic may have faded, but the companionship remained. "Proper date, tomorrow?" he suggested. "Something we can both enjoy?"
  "And nothing to win," added Thomas. "Feels like I already won."
  He had to agree, but all that wanted to come out was a, "Mmmmm..."
  Something was blocking his cooling pack. Making the fans whirr and his self-protection protocols ensure that he could escape.
  The Spine was spooned close up against his back. The heat from his boiler interfering with Thomas' pack. He fought to get an arm loose enough to lever it out above his head.
  He had three more minutes before his internal clock woke him up anyway. No point in going back into sleep mode. But plenty of point in enjoying every last moment of this before duty called them both back to the stage.
  The Spine murmured and his grip tightened.
  And what a grip he had.
  One arm, underneath them both, curled around Thomas' head. The other wrapped snug around his torso. Both legs tangled in his and a mysterious fifth limb tightened and loosened rhythmically on his uppermost thigh and rump.
  Thomas made the mistake of looking down far enough to find The Spine's head resting on his midrif. The famous fins stood proud above Thomas' thigh and the rest of his entire spinal column was wrapped around him like a snake.
  There was only one thing he could do.
  Scream like his life depended on it.
  The Spine flickered awake at the noise. "D' I hurt you?" He made his arms and legs loosen their hold. Crept up so he was face to face with his lover. "How can I help?"
  "Head... your head!"
  He slithered back into himself and checked Thomas for damage. "What? You've seen me lose my head before."
  "Oui... but... Ze last time, your body was dead."
  "Inactive," he corrected. "I have some limited control over short distances, but for the most part, I shut it off when I disconnect. Must've disconnected in my sleep mode..."
  "Disconn-- You do this a lot?"
  "I usually rest in 'snake' mode. It's... comfortable."
  Thomas shuddered. "I prefer you in one piece."
  The Spine ran himself through his morning array of stretches. He'd been through this, before, with a number of other lovers. "I might prefer you in a better wardrobe, but you wouldn't recharge in them, would you?"
  "I recharge without any clothes at all."
  Whelp. *That* put his boiler into overdrive. The mere thought of Thomas in all his shiny glory, relaxed and vulnerable... He tried to get a grip. After all, the very same man was right there, and naked, right in front of him.
  But, not relaxed.
  A human lover would have appreciated a gentle massage. "It's the same sort of thing. Inside this body, there's a lot of low-level discomforts. Most of the time, they don't even matter. But not all the time."
  "That sounds... rehearsed..."
  "I might have alarmed a few others like that."
  "A few?"
  "What? You think I spent a hundred and twenty years as celibate?"
  Thomas scrolled bizarre symbols across his visor. Nonsense. "Er. When you put it that way... non."
  They enjoyed a lazy entwining, exploring each other without any urgency for the outside world. Rehearsals and tune-ups and anything beyond their shared bed just... failed to matter, right then and there.
  "Do I... measure up?"
  It took everything he had not to smirk. All this time, he had been wondering how he could compete against Thomas' modern advancements. "I don't keep score," he admitted. "I just enjoy... while the company lasts."
  [1] What the hell is a foxtrot?
  [2] The copper elephant war, WW1, WW2 and Vietnam. In case you're interested.
[Stuck on what to do next. All ideas welcome]

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