Life with Aoba was a wondrous dream and Clear could be grateful for his inhuman nature if only because he had no need for sleep beyond pretense. Far more advanced than an Allmate, he could remain by his Aoba's side long after his lover had passed out in exhausted slumber, soaking in the rhythm of his nasally snores with no detrimental effects the morning after – a fact he took full advantage of each day, for Clear was a man in love.
But this morning… something was off this morning. Although Clear had held on as best he could, eager for the gravelly sweet, "… Urgh, it's so creepy when you do that," of Aoba's usual greeting, his body had other plans, his internal processes churning in a way that spoke distinctly of a hardware misalignment. And that is why, on this morning, Aoba awoke not to the sappy pink eyes of his lover mere inches of his face, but to the less common echoes of groans and vomiting in the bathroom across the hall.
"Clear?" he called, uncertainly. Granny would undoubtedly have been using the bathroom of the master bedroom in the events of a stomach bug so there really was no question as to who it was.
"Blaurgh," replied Clear, but he was rinsing his hands and mouth by the time Aoba located a robe and reached the doorway. "Aoba. Ah, I apologize if I woke you. "
"Not at all," Aoba's brow creased. Ren had had this trouble before after a faulty patch but the results had been considerably less organic-sounding. Then again, Granny had made roasted pork feet the night before. They were notoriously hard to resist and they both might have over-indulged.
Violently-ill home-invaders no longer a concern, Aoba couldn't help but notice that Clear was very naked, especially when said naked Clear was now wrapped around him in an overly tall embrace.
"You aren't feeling well?" he asked conciliatorily.
"Yes!" Clear beamed, wringing his hands on a towel. "I mean no, I am not feeling well. But Aoba, I'm so happy."
"Ah." With a little patient maneuvering, Aoba began shuffling them back into his room where they were less likely to give Granny an anatomically accurate eyeful. "Why are you so happy?"
"I love Aoba-san very much."
"Well done." And the door was… shut.
"I love Aoba-san very much," repeated Clear, impervious to seven a.m. sarcasm, "I would never want to be without him. I always want him with me."
Aoba had a sudden premonition but nodded encouragingly anyway. They had been over this. Aoba would age as a mortal and his love would someday walk an unmarked eternity without him. Their time was precious and fleeting. Their love would be tragic and fraught forever and ever. It was basically the vampire dilemma but with robots, and as much as they spoke of it, nothing would change.
Heartfelt declarations, tears, orgasms – it was getting to be that a stinging at the corneas was enough to set his dick on alert, but for now, Aoba was only confused and wary.
Clear had no such reservations. "A world without Aoba will be so very empty, and so I am so happy that our love will overcome this!"
What. "What? Clear, our love will what?"
Instead of answering, Clear smiled a secretive smile and pressed Aoba's hand to his still unclothed stomach.
"Ah," Aoba said faintly.
Clear's skin was slightly warm, he noticed, not for the first time. Clear had a nice set of abs, he noticed, not for the first time. Damn was it hot in here, he noticed, not for the first time. And Clear probably had some other point he was trying to make but it was almost time for work, so if he was going to make it (or if they were going to get a quickie in, either or), Clear had better catch him up.
To that effect, "Ah. I don't understand. What are you saying, our love will overcome this?"
Clear hugged Aoba in delight. "Don't worry, Aoba. No one could ever replace you, not even our baby."
Aoba didn't make it to work on time.
Granny's face was terrifyingly stern when she was being Dr. Tae Seragaki, but Aoba's freak out far outweighed his fear of consequences. "You KNEW?" he squawked recklessly and loudly enough to startle Ren at his feet.
"You two are not nearly as discreet as you think you are," said Granny, mouth twisted. "The walls can be quite thin! Please have some consideration for the other residents."
"That," Aoba choked. "That is not at all what I am referring to." He clutched his burning red face behind his hands. In contrast, Clear's expression was calm if somewhat contrite for causing his Aoba undue distress. Whether he was anxious with not understanding or with android morning sickness was ambiguous. "You. Knew. You knew that Clear and I. Could have butt-babies?!"
"Aoba, please calm down," but for once, Ren's calm baritone only elevated Aoba's blood pressure. A glance at Clear's woebegone face did the same.
"But we've never even done it that way!" Aoba wailed, and in case it wasn't clear, "He's a butt virgin!"
"Please don't tell me that," said Granny. Her expression was uneasy and almost shifty. "My acquaintance did mention something like this. There's a protocol in the earlier prototypes, a highly advanced maintenance program that, under very particular conditions, will trigger self-replication."
"…!" said Aoba.
"It was largely obsolete and they had it removed in later generations, but harmless enough." Granny sighed heavily. "We didn't want to remove any coding that was undamaged, there was little enough of that. The conditions themselves were so improbable, I can't imagine how the two of you managed to trip across it."
"It's because I love Aoba-san!" said Clear, tears blurring in his pink eyes. "I love Aoba-san, so that even when I'm with him, I want to be with him more." He gestured to his chest as though it was bursting –although it wasn't actually, this time.
Ren wagged his tail approvingly.
"That's possible." Granny stared at Clear, but nodded slowly as though that wasn't some serious bullshit right there. "Your model was never designed for such complex emotions as love. That you experience it at all suggests that you are processing your coding in an entirely new way. It's clearly not outside the realm of possibility, although I can assure you that there is not precedence for this in any prototype."
"…!" said Aoba again.
Clear hung his head.
"If you interpret your need for Aoba as a pain, and time as an enemy, your body may be responding defensively," suggested Ren. "Since it already has the capabilities, perhaps it is trying to assemble a back-up."
"But do you mind?" Clear asked in a sad, anxious voice. "Aoba-san, if you don't want me to have your butt-baby, I... I…"
With a deep sigh, Aoba slumped against the wall, eyes averted in embarrassment. "Well, it isn't that I mind," he tried. "It's just so sudden. This is… A situation like this is really unreasonable, isn't it?"
Granny shrugged. "I feel blessed that I might have a great grandson. I had given up hope."
Ren licked Aoba's socks consolingly.
Aoba bit his lip and shuffled his feet but looked his grandmother in the eye. "Is it safe? For Clear? We've never even… up there…"
"He's designed for it," Granny said very firmly and more loudly than necessary.
"You mean it?" Clear's voice was watery and he clasped Aoba's hand, nearly too tightly. "I can make a new Aoba-san…?"
"Well don't say it like that! That's too strange!" Aoba shook free of Clear's hand, cheeks once again flushed bright red. But Clear's face was so lit up with happiness, he couldn't find it in him to be too harsh. Even if this was completely ridiculous. He held Clear's hand again. "But if you're all right with it, I guess it's fine if you want to… have… our child…"
The kitchen erupted into chaos once again.
"Aoba. Clear. Are you all right?" asked Ren anxiously from his post on the table in the basement of Heibon. It wasn't the sterile facilities of a hospital, but the particulars of this birthing suggested that access to spare parts might be of more use than hot water and clean linens. There were plenty of those as well with Haga-san, upstairs.
"Ahhhhhh," groaned Clear, once again clutching Aoba's hand, this time a few weeks later.
"Ahhhhhh," groaned Aoba more quietly, whose hand, after all, was only organic.
"Whrrrrrrr, whrrrrrr, whrrrrrrr," chirped Clear's lower half, and another few inches of baby pushed out through Clear's specialty baby slot. Which may well have been his butt – Ren was very politely not satisfying that tidbit of morbid curiosity. What need was there, when so many questions he hadn't asked were getting answered that very moment?
"Whrrrrrrr, whrrrrrr, whrrrrrrr," it continued steadfastly. "Whrrrrrrrrr eeeeeeeeeeek-k-k-k-k whrrrrrrrrrrr blurgghhhhhhhhhh— Waaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh!!!!!"
"Got 'im," said Granny, satisfied, as the Xeroxing sounds faded away several hours after they had begun, only to be replaced by heartfelt newborn wails. "Good job, Clear," she added. "You can put it away now."
Clear smiled up at her tiredly, holding out his arms for his freshly produced butt baby.
"He's beautiful," Aoba whispered, hovering closer. Ren echoing the sentiment, tail wagging.
Clear frowned. "But he's the wrong color." The infant cradled in his arms was chubby and warm… but white all over, like a squishy, bawling ghost, unflattering infant mullet cascading in damp white locks down his back.
"You ran out of toner," Granny shrugged. "I wouldn't worry, the color will probably come in a little later. He sounds perfectly healthy to me."
"He does," Aoba smiled, wincing. "He has a very powerful voice."
"I think being in Clear has improved his pitch," said Ren.
"You think so?"
"Yes, his initial wailing transcended the 12-bar blues."
Clear sighed happily and tried to wield a bottle of formula at the tiny clone with little success. Alternative chord progressions continued in increasing decibel until Granny, firmly but kindly, took over the task.
"I love you," said Aoba over the outraged shrieks of Aoba 2.0, face brimming with happiness.
"And I love you, Aoba-san," said Clear. They shared a heartfelt kiss of true love and basked in the warmth of family and the comfort of having tried-and-tested heavy-duty child-rearing back-up support.