“John?” If he didn’t know better, John would have sworn Dorian’s voice sounded...strained?
“John!” Louder this time, more urgent. John dodged a shelf overflowing with heaps of delicate electronics to find Dorian, still stripped down to his shirt and perched on the edge of a work table.
“What’s up? I thought Rudy said you were done?” He checked the display on his phone. “This code update was only supposed to take a couple of minutes, tops. We got places to be.”
Dorian winced. “That’s the thing. He said once I rebooted, I’d be good to go.”
“So? You rebooted, right? Get dressed. Let’s go.”
“Yeah.” Dorian’s voice lowered. “Except there must have been a bug in the update.” He tilted his head toward his lap and the sizeable bulge in his manufacturer-issued undergarment. “I don’t think this qualifies as ‘good to go’.”
For once, John found himself at a loss for words. He knew the DRN model were programmed to emulate humans as much as possible; he’d just never considered how close that was.
“What the hell have you got in there?”
Dorian looked up at him, annoyed. “Hey, it’s a tightly packed array of delicate and critical sensors. What’s in your pants?”
John sighed. “Well deal with it and let’s go.”
“That’s the problem.” John could have sworn light that pulsed through Dorian’s facial circuitry was more than slightly pink hued. “I don’t know how. This has never happened before. I’m not programmed for this.”
“Can’t you just… I don’t know...hard boot, or something? Pull your battery?”
“John. Seriously? I’m not your phone.”
“You relay my calls all the time.”
“This is a glitch.”
“It’s not a glitch. It’s a normal human function.” John pointed out. Then kicked himself at the pained look on Dorian’s face. Somewhere along the way he’d got comfortable enough with Dorian to forget he was a synthetic. Oh, he knew that DRNs weren’t human; he was reminded of it on a daily basis. It’s just that he’d managed to forget that Dorian was one. All the ribbing and snark aside, Dorian fit like a partner should. “Look… is Rudy still here?”
“He said he had to go pick up some parts or something for a project.”
“Okay. Good.” John looked around the lab, as if the solution was hidden amongst the piles of spare parts. The small kitchenette under the balcony caught his eye. “Hang on a second.” He rifled through the cabinets until he found the heavy flat-sided glass bottle.
“Here.” He handed the bottle over to Dorian. “Use this.”
Dorian raised an eyebrow. “Olive oil? John, it’s sticking out, not squeaking.”
“Just pour some on your hand and…you know.” He mimed slipping his hands down the front of his pants.
Dorian’s eyebrows slid higher. “You do this?”
“Look, you want help, or not?”
Dorian considered the bottle. “I need help. I’m not sure yours is the kind I want.”
Still, he pulled the waistband of his underpants out and slid his hand inside. His brow furrowed and his mouth rounded into an ‘oh’. John found the framed collection of butterflies over Rudy's workbench suddenly fascinating. “Go easy there. Don’t short it out,” he threw out.
“That’s…” Dorian’s voice stuttered, “that’s kind of the whole point, isn’t it?” There was the sound of shuffling fabric and something kind of slick. Then, "Uh, John?"
John glanced over his shoulder and caught the way Dorian's brows had pulled together. "Problem?"
"It's not working."
John spun around, surprised. "You broke it? That hardware's delicate. You gotta go easy on it."
Dorian rolled his eyes. "I mean this," he pointed with a shake of his head to the hand down his pants. "It's not fixing the issue." He sounded annoyed. John couldn't blame him. There was nothing worse than uncooperative hardware.
"Look," John grabbed a thick handled screw driver off the workbench and gripped it around the handle. He moved his thumb over the butt-end of, sliding it back and forth, then switching direction and tracing slow circles over the top. "You need to slow it down a bit. Build it up gradually. Like this."
Dorian's hand started to move again, slower this time as he mimicked John's fingers. His facial circuitry started to flicker, lazily cycling through the range of colors. His eyes slipped closed and the flickering sped up and the room seemed to get a little warmer. Or at least it did to John. "Okay," Dorian breathed out. "I think...I think this..." His voice stuttered again. "This is working now."
The flickering shifted into full-fledged flashing, cycling red to green to pink to blue. John's fist holding the screw driver tightened. Dorian's hand jerked. Then the workshop door slammed.
John dropped the screw driver at the sound of Rudy's voice. "Everything come back up okay?" Rudy called from behind the armload of boxes he was carrying.
"No problems here," Dorian answered, sounding much more composed than John felt at the moment. He'd already started pulling his shirt and pants back on. John chanced a glance at the DRN's chassis. Looked like everything was back to normal. He found himself a little envious.
"Hey," Dorian dropped his voice as Rudy rounded the corner. "You might want this." He gestured to John's own pants with the bottle of olive oil. "But hurry up. We got places to be."