It's against NHL rules for Brendan to play with his pain receptors turned off--the idea was someone who didn’t feel the bumps and bruises of the game would have an unfair advantage over the other players. Not that he would want to anyway. He always feels--less than when he turns them off, which is basically never unless he needs to for repairs or maintenance.
Breaking his hand hurts like a bitch, though.
Androids were, for the most part, thought to be inadequate and underperforming in professional team settings. They were better for solitary sports; ballet, figuring skating, swimming, track. There were only ten of them currently playing in the NHL, two dozen or so in the American League.
There were high hopes for the project when the Penguins used the first overall pick on SD-8-CRB-7 in 2005. But for the most part, they didn’t bring anything to the game an ordinary human couldn’t. The media was against the idea, for the most part, Don Cherry being one of the most vocal, and the fans didn’t care for them either.
Brendan didn’t care about any of that.
He just wanted to play hockey.
The team doctors insist on turning off his pain receptors for the surgery. The only other option is a hard shutdown, and despite the urging of the team’s medical staff, Brendan outright refuses. He doesn’t want to be turned off. Won’t.
Lying on the table with the sensors in his entire body turned off is bad enough. He feels detached from himself, cold and alone despite the doctors and nurses around him. For the most part, they ignore him, act like he’s not even there. A kind nurse sits down beside his head and explains in a low voice exactly what they’re doing to him, and he lets her words wash over him.
“Don’t talk to it!” one of the doctors, chastises her. She shoots Brendan an apologetic look, but gets to her feet.
Afterward, he is released to a team representative on behalf of Bergevin, Brendan’s legal guardian.
“I’ll take you home?”
The last thing Brendan wants is to be alone right now, but—
“Sure,” he says. “That sounds fine.”
It was his billet mom in Vancouver who named him.
When BND-11-GLG went to stay with his billet family in 2008, he was five years post production. There was a--Brendan’s taught himself not to say ‘real’ in the years since, but that was how he saw it at the time--school next to his learning centre.
He used to watch the other kids and want to be with them, to be one of them.
It wasn’t until he got to Vancouver that he learned that maybe he could.
“Welcome, welcome,” Della told him. “We put a room together for you, sweetheart, but we can get you new things if it’s not to your liking.”
BND-11-GLG had no idea whether he liked it or not. The room was a bright blue, and the bed was soft with extra pillows. He tried to smile at her, overwhelmed.
Della and her husband Ian were hockey parents longer than BND-11-GLG had existed. Their own kids, a boy and two girls, had long since moved out, and Della insisted they were happy to have him.
“What should we call you, dear?” Della asked.
“BND-11-GLG,” he said. It’s what they called him at the centre.
“Well, that’s not going to work,” she said, brushing his hair off his forehead. It was short, and didn’t obstruct his vision. BND-11-GLG and the other ‘droids didn’t have a choice at the centre of style. The male models wore a short buzz, and the girls a straight bob that reached just below their shoulders. He never considered the possibility of wearing his own hair differently. Della stroked his forehead, and although he did not understand why she did it, it made him feel… warm.
“What about Brendan?” she asked him.
And every time Brendan says no.
Missing games, being away from the team, recovery, it all sucks, but he can put up with it because he knows it serves a purpose, knows it will get him back to where he wants to be, playing hockey.
The media started questioning the viability of Android players after the most prominent 'droid in the sport missed an entire season due to an undisclosed injury in 2011.
“What’re we paying ‘em for, if they can’t even play?” Was the question asked over and over again by the likes of Don Cherry and Mike Milbury. “What are they bringing to the game that a real human being couldn’t do?” Nevermind the fact that Brendan wasn’t actually paid, his funds kept in trust until he achieved personhood or retired from the league, whichever one came first.
Brendan didn’t want to do or be anything more than his teammates.
Sitting at home, watching his team lose, it sucks. Hearing commentators question whether he should be dealt in a trade, if anyone would take him, if he’s worth his contract, it sucks.
Someone online sends him the link to Jim Kyte’s twitter, and Brendan just loses it. Marchand is human so it’s probably not about what he is, but Brendan has had enough.
The team suspends his twitter privileges.
Brendan was no different. He wanted to play hockey. Wanted to play NHL hockey. The only difference was Brendan needed ten years of employed work before he could be his own person, and playing in juniors wasn’t going to cut it.
It was disappointing when he got sent back down to the Giants for another year, but hockey was hockey, and when his skates were cutting rivets in the ice, or he was getting up close and personal with a defender in the crease, he was no different from anyone else.
In Hamilton the team had him living in a provincially regulated facility. It was the first time Brendan had been back to a group home like this since before he started playing hockey. The team was friendly enough, but no one really went out of their way to get to know him. The other 'droids he lived with are fewer years post production, and they didn’t play professional sports. Being around them reminded Brendan uncomfortably of himself before Vancouver.
It was a relief when the lockout ends and he got called up to Montreal.
There was less resentment with the Canadiens then there was with the Bulldogs, a few of the guys had played with 'droids before. Gionta in particular acted like everything was normal, and the rest of the team followed the captain’s lead.
“We’re making arrangements for you to stay in a state house here in Montreal,” Bergevin told him.
Brendan’s heart sank. It wasn’t that the government houses were inherently bad. It was just. Brendan wanted to have his own space, and failing that—be with the team. He wasn’t sure he could take more months of coming back to sterile environments where he could never get all the way warm.
“That’s,” he said nodding. “That sounds fine.” The one thing he learned was to never push it with someone in charge of his livelihood, especially when they were the GM of a National Hockey League team. He couldn’t even be excited about the news that he got to stay up with the team for the shortened season, thinking about how much he hated the provincial houses, how miserable and isolating they were.
“What’s with you?” Galchenyuk asked, when Brendan got back to the locker room. He had got a huge grin on his face, and Brendan knew he had a meeting with Bergevin before Brendan. “Did they send you down?”
“Nah,” Brendan said, mustering a smile at last. It didn’t matter where he lives. He was going to play NHL hockey for the Montreal Canadiens. Everything else could be put aside. “You?”
“Staying up,” Galchenyuk said, and Brendan held out his hand for him to slap. To Brendan’s surprise, Galchenyuk pulled him in for a hug, slapping him on the back twice. “Congrats, man!”
He was smiling widely, and Brendan let his earlier disappointment about living arrangements wash away. It didn’t matter where he lived because he was going to play hockey. NHL hockey.
“What were you frowning about?” Galchenyuk asked him.
“Huh?” Brendan asked, still smiling. “Oh, nothing.”
Galchenyuk elbowed him. “C’mon.”
Brendan didn’t know how to say it without calling attention to who—what—he was. “Just kinda bummed about my living arrangements,” he settled for. It was vague but true.
“Why? Where’re you living?”
Brendan sighed, trying to hang on to his earlier happiness. It didn’t matter where he lived, or who with. He was going to play hockey. He was going to play.
“You need a place to stay kid?” Gorges cut in, saving Brendan from having to answer.
“Um,” Brendan said. “Really?”
Gorges shrugged. “Maggie won’t mind. We’ve had rookies before.”
“Um,” Brendan said, heart racing. “But I’m—you know I’m—”
Gorges shrugged again. “Up to you kid.”
Brendan had to clear it with the team, and it took jumping through a few hoops, but he was finally allowed.
“Is this everything you have?” Maggie asked when they moved him in.
Brendan nodded. “Yeah, I didn’t really have room for anything in Hamilton…”
“Okay,” she said amicably. “Well, you can always buy more once you’re settled.”
Brendan’s allowance didn’t really allow for that, but it didn’t matter.
Playing the Bruins is always a lot of fun, and getting to do it outside, the wind blowing in his face and burning his cheeks, tears rolling down his face, and drowning out the cheers of the fans, is an experience Brendan will never forget for as long as he plays hockey. Longer probably.
He’s never felt so alive.
They fly back to Montreal right after the game.
The team had a low key New Year’s Eve together at their hotel in Boston, but a few of the younger guys want to go out to celebrate the win.
“Getting the new year off to a good start!” PK says when they land. “Who’s in? Chuck? Larry?”
Brendan can’t legally drink, but that has never stopped him from going out and having a good time with the team. Sometimes, in their first years before Alex could drink the two of them would stay in together. Brendan could pretend they were just the same then, two underage guys in their NHL rookie season.
It can be awkward sometimes when guys forget that Brendan can’t drink, but he’s used to it by now. And it’s not like he never gets drunk. Sometimes when they’re out at a bar Carey or Nate will slip him a beer, but the consequences are much stricter for him than they would be for the average underage drinker. It’s not a big deal, and Brendan can drink to his heart’s content when they’re not in public. He lives with it.
Alex, on the other hand, has none of Brendan’s restrictions. He’s a warm body next to Brendan, slumped down in the booth where they’re sitting, his head resting on Brendan’s shoulder.
He’s patting Brendan’s thigh absentmindedly, fingers trailing up and down in a ridiculous tease. Brendan is doing his best to ignore it and carry on a normal conversation with Nate across the table, but he keeps looking down at Alex’s big hand on his thigh.
“You okay there, bud?” he asks when he can’t stand it anymore. He ducks his head down to try and catch Alex’s attention, but his has his eyes closed. Brendan circles his fingers around Alex’s wrist, can feel the comforting thump-thump of Alex’s pulse against his fingertips. “Chuck?”
“Hm,” Alex says. “You’re warm.” He pets Brendan’s thigh a few more times.
“He’s half asleep.” Someone—Brendan doesn’t see who—on the other side of the table laughs.
“Come on, buddy,” Brendan says, sliding one arm around Alex’s shoulders and shaking him slightly. “Let’s get you home.”
The team doesn’t allow Brendan to drive, but he can hail a cab just as good as anyone else. He gives the driver Alex’s address, and helps him out of the vehicle when they arrive.
“I’m happy you’re back,” Alex says. He’s slumped against the doorway while Brendan struggles to find Alex’s keys in his coat pocket. “So freaking clutch,” he slurs.
His arm slides around Brendan’s shoulders, slotting the two of them together chest to chest and hip to hip. Brendan has to tilt his head up to look at Alex’s face, and when he does he sucks in a sharp breath. Alex’s eyes are lidded, his cheeks and mouth red from the cold. Their breath mists between them, and Alex pulls Brendan tighter.
Brendan’s hand settles on Alex’s hip, steadying two of them from toppling over. Alex is looking down at him with dark eyes, and Brendan wants to look away, move outside Alex’s magnetic orbit. He doesn’t think about this, not ever.
“I missed you.”
Alex’s words are hot against Brendan’s lips, and Brendan has to blink hard, his hand still fumbling in Alex’s coat for his keys. His fingers brush against the harsh metal, and he pulls them out.
“Here we go,” he says, trying to extricate himself from Alex’s grip. “Time to go inside, buddy.”
“No, wait,” Alex says, tightening his grip on Brendan’s shoulders, pulling him closer. “I want to tell you something... It’s important.”
“Oh yeah?” Brendan asks indulgently. “What’s that?”
Alex looks down at him, and licks his lips. He draws in a deep breath, and Brendan has enough time to notice the freckles scattered across the bridge of his nose, enough time to realise things cannot end well from here. Alex’s lips part, wet and shiny—
“For goodness sake, Alex,” Anna says yanking the front door open. “What’s the matter—oh.”
“Hi,” Brendan says from his position wrapped up in Alex’s arms. Alex drops his head down to the crook of Brendan’s neck, slumping his weight down and forcing Brendan to support the two of them. “Little help?”
“Are you sure you want it?” Anna asks, a sharp look in her eyes.
Brendan groans. “Heavy fucker,” he mutters into Alex’s ear, and ignores the way Alex seems to shudder in his arms.
Anna pulls back the door, and Brendan gets the two of them inside.
“You can sleep on the couch,” she says. “Unless—”
“Couch is fine,” Brendan says.
Alex strips off his clothes down to his underwear when Brendan gets him into his bedroom. Brendan remembers this habit from when the two of them shared a room on the road, Alex drunk and happy, and insisting on not wearing clothes. It was a struggle then, and Brendan can’t say it’s any easier now.
“All right, Chuck, you good from here?”
Alex grabbed Brendan’s wrist, digging his fingers into the tendons. “Don’t go yet.”
Brendan sat down on the edge of the bed and fought the urge to run his fingers through Alex’s scruffy hair. His eyelids keep drooping shut before he pulls them back open again. “I missed you,” he says.
“You mentioned,” Brendan tells him, a fond grin on his face. He does reach out then, brushing Alex’s hair away from his forehead. He tells himself it’s okay because Alex won’t remember this in the morning. He’s already half-asleep.
“I don’t like when you’re not around,” Alex says.
Brendan waits a moment, listening to his breathing evening out. “Same, bud,” he says before getting to his feet. He texts PK to let him know he won’t be home tonight. Sure, he could call a cab, but he doesn’t want to.
For once, Brendan lets himself just have it.
Either he met people who didn’t know about his 'droid status—awkward—or they did know about it, and they were into it. A little too into it.
Brendan had been through it all. Those who saw him as nothing more than a glorified sex toy, the ones who saw him as a body to use for their own pleasure without having to think about his feelings were pretty bad. Not as bad as the ones who thought they could ‘reform’ or ‘teach’ him something, the ones who thought he wasn’t enough as he was.
Brendan learned to spot those people real quick.
Less upsetting but just as common were the jeers from other players and fans alike. “Hope your team is getting more than hockey outta you,” they grunted on the ice. “How much for a night, gotta earn your place?” at the bar after a bad game.
Brendan tuned it all out, didn’t let the ‘tin can’ taunts get to him, ignored it when he heard the other coaches screaming “Hit it!” at their players when he planted himself in front of the crease.
Currently, Brendan was trying to get away from a couple hitting at him at the bar. The guy--whose name Brendan had promptly forgotten--snagged Brendan’s arm on his way back from the bathrooms. He could tell right away they only wanted to hook up with him because he was a 'droid, and Brendan wasn’t about that. He was nobody’s fetish, or a checkmark they could cross off their bucket list.
“Nice to meet you,” he said, extricating himself from their clutches. “I gotta get back now.”
The guy didn’t take his hand off Brendan’s arm.
“Hey,” Prust said, sneaking up on the group of them.
Brendan turned, his smile not waivering. “Hey, Prusty. I was just heading back.”
Prust bared his teeth at the couple, the same look Brendan saw from him on the ice.
“What the fuck was that?” Brendan hissed once they’ve made their escape.
“What?” Prust asked. “You looked like you could use a save, I was just doing you a favour.”
“I don’t need your help!” Brendan said. “I was handling it just fine.” And he was. Brendan had been dealing with these kinds of people a long time. Long enough to know that guy would have backed off given another second.
Prust rolled his eyes. “Don’t freak out. They were never going to listen to you, I was just speeding things along. C’mon, Gally.”
Brendan reared back like he’d been slapped. “Why wouldn’t they have listened to me?” he asked.
Prust rolled his eyes. “C’mon, don’t--” he said.
“No. Why, Prusty. I wanna know.”
Prust threw his hands up. “God, you’re touchy tonight. Whatever man, I’ll leave you to fend for yourself next time.”
Brendan wanted to retort, but they were already back at the booth. Prust turned his back already talking to Carey.
“You okay?” Alex asked.
Brendan nodded. “Yeah,” he said. “Totally fine.”
So yeah, he didn’t hook up a lot, but he was honestly fine with it. Not, like, never he wasn’t a virgin or anything like that, but by the time of his sophomore NHL season he knew enough to get that it wasn’t really something he was going to have. At least not right now.
He makes his money in front of the opponents crease. The territory comes with complimentary crosschecks, and the occasional butt-end or slewfoot. He knows how it works, and it’s worth it when he’s scoring goals and ruffling the other goalie’s feathers.
What isn’t worth it, isn’t what Brendan signed up for, is some asshole nailing Alex into the boards from behind with no call.
Brendan sees red, flying after the guy and giving him a shove with both hands. “What the fuck was that?” he screams. “What the fuck!”
The other player shoves him back, shouting in Brendan’s face. The refs pull them apart and they each get two minutes for roughing. Brendan fumes in the box until his time is up, and puts his stick on the ice for a Hail Mary pass from PK. He scores.
“You let that toaster fight for you?” the same guy jeers at Alex from the bench. Alex chews on his mouthguard but doesn’t reply.
Brendan doesn’t think more of it. The games move so fast and at such intensity that sometimes Brendan watches video review and thinks, wait, that was me? Alex is pissed at him after the game, Brendan can tell although he doesn’t really understand why.
Alex ignores him through both their post game interviews. Brendan can hear the reporters asking Alex about Brendan, sees his mouth go tight out of the corner of his eye. Brendan doesn’t hear his response.
Alex ignores him through their cool down, and Brendan has to practically chase him through the parking lot, calling Alex’s name more than once before he stops.
“What the hell, man?” Brendan asks.
“It was reckless,” Alex says, vibrating with emotion. His face is dark and cloudy. It takes Brendan a minute to realise Alex is talking about his scuffle.
“I was protect—” he cuts himself off. “I was standing up for you.” It seems safer, and has the benefit of being no less true.
“I don’t need you to protect me!”
Anger blossoms inside him, although if asked to explain he couldn’t say why. Brendan is very much a ‘no pain no gain,’ kind of guy, has prided himself on thriving in the tough zones, getting down and dirty and proving himself.
He squares his shoulders, spine going straight and stiff. There’s been a lot of people out there who didn’t believe in him, didn’t think he could—or would—do whatever it took. Brendan just didn’t think Alex was one of those people.
“I’d do it for any teammate,” Brendan says.
Instead of walking Alex back from the edge like Brendan expected, his statement only seems to upset him further. His mouth is a straight line, pinched and flat. He shakes his head as if to clear it.
“Don’t,” is all he says. He turns on his heel and stalks off before Brendan can get another word in edgewise.
Alex took a check into the boards thirty seconds into the game in Chicago, and went down hard. Brendan didn’t think much of it when Alex got up and fished out his shift, but he definitely noticed it moments later when he was going down the tunnel to the room.
He didn’t have time to think about it, had to concentrate on the game.
The loss felt that much worse when it came, that they couldn’t pull it out for Chucky.
Brendan sat next to Alex on the plane, careful not to bump him, still a little out of it from the painkillers the team doctors gave him.
Gorges gave Alex a ride home, and Brendan helped him inside, until he could foist Alex off on his family.
It was nice that Alex lived with his family, Brendan thought not for the first time. Nice that he had them, that he wasn’t alone.
“You okay, kid?” Josh asked him, when Brendan got back into the car.
Brendan made himself nod. He wasn’t sure how to explain how he was feeling, or even what he was feeling. Alex just sprained his ankle, he was going to be fine. Possibly he wouldn’t even end up missing the first round of the playoffs.
But there was something about seeing Alex first in pain, and then loose and a little bit out of it on meds that really hit Brendan hard.
Brendan wouldn’t ever experience that. He could get hurt, yes, felt the pain just as much as anyone else (or so said the studies). He wasn’t like them, the other guys on his team, not human.
Brendan had always known that, no one had ever let him forget it for a second, but somehow seeing Alex hurt tonight was different, or maybe--not different. Bigger somehow, realer, and scarier. It was the same as it had always been, and Brendan was just the one who--
“Gally?” Josh prodded. “You in there? Is Alex okay/”
He nodded. “Yeah. Yeah, he’s fine. His mom’s going to take care of him.
Josh put the car into gear. He reached across the centre console and gripped the back of Brendan’s neck roughly, shaking him a little. “And you?” he asked. “You doing okay?”
“Huh?” Brendan asked. “Yeah, of course. Why?”
Josh looked at him for a long moment “Sometimes I forget how young you are,” he said.
Brendan flushed. “I’m--”
“It’s not a bad thing,” he said, squeezing again. “And I’m not--” He sighed. “I know you’re not a kid, but you haven’t been around the block as long, that’s all. It can be scary, eh?”
“I’m not scared,” Brendan said. He didn’t know why Josh was saying all this to him now, but he didn’t like it. Didn’t like the way it made him feel, or his own thoughts swirling around inside his head over and over on a loop.
“Okay,” Josh said kindly. “Didn’t say you were.” He let go of Brendan’s neck with one last squeeze. “You wanna come back tomorrow? Check on him?”
Brendan knew Alex was going to be fine. There was no need to come and check on him. He knew that.
But seeing it for himself could be good. Yeah.
“Sure,” he said, not looking in Josh’s direction. “Yeah, whatever.”
That part is nice. Even if Alex won’t make eye contact with him off the ice, when they’re playing hockey it’s beautiful and easy. Brendan can let himself fly into Alex’s arms after a goal because that’s what they’ve always done. He doesn’t have to think about what it means or why Alex won’t look at him otherwise.
After a week, Alex seems to pull the stick out of his ass and get over whatever was bothering him. They don’t talk about it. Alex just shows up at PK’s place with food, and the two of them play video games for the next couple hours.
Brendan thinks maybe they should talk about it, but honestly he doesn’t want to know whatever bad thing Alex thinks of him. Better to just ignore it all together than know for sure his best friend is some kind of bigot.
The season crawls forward.
The team keeps losing. All the good will and excitement they built at the start of the season, and when Brendan came back for the Winter Classic feels like it’s slipping through their fingers.
Then the word comes down that Carey’s out for the season.
It’s a blow. Brendan thinks they all believed he’d be back, and that somehow they would turn the season around.
As February fades away to March the level of desperation grows in the room as they dip in and out of a playoff spot. Brendan feels tight with anxiety near constantly. It isn’t that he doesn’t believe the team can do it. He does. He believes in this team, his guys, he knows they have what it takes.
They just don’t seem to be getting there.
And Brendan is so tired.
He is sitting in his stall after practice, trying to muster up the energy to get out of his gear and into the shower. It wasn’t even a particularly hard practice, but he is feeling a tiredness that goes down to his core.
A hand lands on his shoulder, startling him out of his daze. He looks up directly into Alex’s pale blue eyes, crinkled up with worry. “Hey,” he says. “You okay?”
Brendan knuckles his eyes, trying to concentrate. “Yeah,” he says. “Yeah, I’m fine.”
Leaning forward he undoes his skates slowly and carefully. It feels nice to get his feet on solid ground, and he rolls his ankles, enjoying the stretch of it. That motivates him to slide off his hockey pants, and unwind the tape holding his socks up over his shinpads. Once those are gone he feels looser, and he is able to stand and make his way into the shower.
The water beats down on his back and shoulders, unwinding some of the stress and tension there. He spends longer than he normally would under the spray and he expects the locker room to be empty when he comes out.
He’s right--almost. Alex is waiting for him by his stall, scrolling through something on his phone. He doesn’t look up when Brendan comes into the room, and Brendan forces himself not to stare.
“What’re you still doing here?” He’s aiming for nonchalant, but his voice comes out wearier than he expected.
“I wanted to make sure you’re okay,” Alex says. “I thought you were going to drown yourself in there.”
“I can’t drown,” Brendan says.
This catches Alex off guard. Brendan watches as he physically collects himself.
“What, really?” he asks.
Brendan nods, balling up his towel and tossing it across the room into the laundry basket. “Yeah,” he says. He grabs a clear pair of boxers and steps into them. “I mean eventually I’d shut down from prolonged exposure, I think? Or something. But I wouldn’t technically drown, I guess.”
Alex stares at him for a moment, blinking. “Well, good,” he says. “That’s good.”
Brendan turns his back and pulls on the rest of his clothes. When he faces Alex again, his bag slung over his shoulder, Alex is still staring at him.
“Dude,” Brendan says. All he wants to do is go home and get into his bed. “What?”
Alex shakes his head. “It’s nothing,” he says.
Brendan stares at him for a moment. “Okay,” Brendan says slowly. “Well, I’m gonna get going then.” He’s just. So tired.
“I was going to give you a ride,” Alex says.
Oh. Brendan was going to take an Uber, but this is fine too, he thinks. “Sure,” he says. “I mean. Thanks. That’d be good.”
Alex is quiet on the walk down to the parking garage, and Brendan doesn’t know what to make of it. Things have been weird between them, slightly off. Brendan doesn’t know why and he doesn’t know how to fix it. Alex is all over the place, acting like nothing is wrong one day and quiet and withdrawn the next.
Brendan throws his bag in the back of Alex’s car. He turns to open the passenger side door, but Alex is standing right in front of him.
“Woah,” Brendan says, jerking so his back hits the car. “You’re standing kinda close there, buddy.”
Alex makes a frustrated noise, looking down and away. “I just,” he says. “Can I just, fucking--” He growls in the back of his throat, and puts a hand on the car window boxing Brendan in. “Just fucking let me--”
Brendan has half a second to wonder let him what? before Alex’s mouth crashes down on his, lips soft and wet. His other hand grips Brendan’s chin holding him steady as Alex licks into his mouth. Brendan gasps, his hands settling on Alex’s hips, as Alex presses closer, one of his thighs sliding between Brendan’s legs.
Brendan isn’t sure how long they stay like that, the two of them just kissing in the parking lot where anyone might see them. Eventually, that thought becomes unavoidable and he wrenches his face away turning to the side.
“Wait,” he gasps. “Wait, wait, Alex.”
Alex does, pressing his face into Brendan’s neck and panting wetly. Brendan can feel his breath tickling his neck, and he runs his hands up over Alex’s jacketed back and shoulders.
“Where is this coming from?” he asks, because he knows how he feels. Has known for a long time, but Alex has never indicated that he felt the same.
“Are you kidding me?” Alex asks, lifting his head from Brendan’s neck.
“Uh, no,” Brendan says. “No offense, but like two weeks ago you didn’t want a ‘droid fighting for you, and now you’re kissing me, so excuse me for--”
“I didn’t want you fighting because you have a broken hand,” Alex interrupts. His hands are on Brendan’s shoulders now, squeezing hard.
“Uh,” Brendan says. Because, wait, really?
“Uh,” Alex echoes meanly. “Did you really think that of me?”
“No,” Brendan says quietly. Because he hadn’t. He trusts Alex, and he knows him, at least he thought he did, and it had never really made sense. “But dude, you ignored me for like a week. What was I supposed to think?”
Alex groans. “I was fucking scared, okay? You scared me.”
“Don’t fucking smile at me, asshole,” Alex grumps.
But Brendan can’t stop, couldn’t tamp it down if he tried, joy bubbling up deep and real and true inside him. “Why don’t you make me?” he asks, hands already moving to tug Alex in.
“Hm,” Alex says grumpily, but he still leans in to kiss Brendan’s teeth.
“Hello,” the man said, smiling.
He didn’t say anything.
“You’re called BND-11-GLG,” BND-11-GLG was told. “Can you speak?”
BND-11-GLG wasn’t sure if he could.
The man leant in, shining a light into BND-11-GLG’s eyes, taking hold of his chin and prying his mouth open. “Say ‘ah,’” he was commanded.
“Ah,” BND-11-GLG said. As far as first words went, it left a lot to be desired.
“Hm,” the man said. “Stand please.”
The man inspected him slowly. “You’ll do,” he said.
Yes, thought BND-11-GLG not quite sure what it meant but certain nonetheless. Yes, he will.