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Family Affairs

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"yea, can't wait. Uh-huh, see you all Saturday. Love you too, bye," I press the red circle with too much ire to be comfortable. I sit back in my office chair, rubbing my eyes once I drop my phone to my lap. "Fuck," I shout," Fuck, Fuck, Fuck!" I let my hands drop to my thighs, staring up at the ceiling trying to think.

Lost in thought I don't hear the knocking at my door. It isn't till someone sets a hand on me that I notice. Startled, I jump, looking up at Daniel's also surprised face.

"Sorry, didn't mean to scare you, love," he hovers his hand over my shoulder. I stare from him to his arm then back again. When did he get in here?

"Oh, it's fine. I was just a bit lost in thought," I answer. I suck in a breath, sitting up to push away from my desk.

"What were you thinking about. Penny for your thoughts, if you will," he grins. My lip edges quirk as well. I stand and head out the room, Daniel following closely behind.

"Just dreading the family meet-up this weekend," I clarify. I head into the kitchen for a drink. Opening the fridge and grabbing a water. "They are always so…much? They are just difficult to be a part of," I take a sip," I'm just not a fan."

I rest against the island, watching Daniel for a moment. Looking at his screen, seeing how his mouth quirks to the side in thought.

"Why is it difficult? I thought family gatherings are something to enjoy," he asks with a head tilt. So adorable the way he gets curious about things. You can always know he is truly engaged in a conversation if he asks questions.

"they should be but younger vs older generations generally ruin these get-togethers. Older bashing the younger's choice in lifestyles while younger resent the older for ruining the world they are coming into. Lots of voiced opinions and politics," I answer. Which is true, I never enjoyed these kinds of things. Aunt Carol generally makes the gatherings fun but ever since she sent me Daniel she has only been interested in talking about that. How is he doing, are you treating him well? Does everything, ya know, work? You should bring him up to the house and let me see him again, how I miss him so. I don't mind the questions, I get it, but I'd like to talk about other stuff.

"If you are so against it then why go?"

"because I have to. If I don’t then I will never hear the end of it. 'where is Tracey? Probably off at work again, never gives us the time of day anymore since she graduated. I just don't understand that girl.' just a lot of that anytime I get a call. I just need to suck it up and go," I shrug. It’s a simple fact, a family isn't a must but having that kind of backup and community is important. I love them all dearly but I just want them to stop asking when I'm getting married and if I have a boyfriend. I cannot explain to everyone how I'm committed to a robot Aunt Carol made. That would be one hell of a mess.

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I sit in my car fuming, gripping the steering wheel too tightly with the music mute. I'm too pissed to tolerate any music at the moment. I go well over the speed limit as I rush home, wanting this day to be over more than anything.

My mind wonders to the moment I walked through the front door. The home was lovely, sitting on the coast of a lake of all places. It just screamed 'I'm rich'. The view makes the get together the more tolerable. Which wasn't enough in this case.

I was first greeted by cousin Sophia, the twenty-something artist of the family. Seeing her accusing face should have been a foreboding sign. Like a picket-sign at the entrance of a dark forest telling others to turn back now. As the main character of a horror movie, I thought nothing of it.

The second person who greets me is my grandmother, dressed to the nines. I go into her group of older women. She is passive in her conversation, hinting at something I'm not getting. She passes curious glances at me, acting like I'm supposed to get some kind of joke. Like an idiot, I think nothing of it.

The beginning of the party feels like all eyes are on me. Whispers behind my back along with snickering. It isn't until I walk in the middle of Aunt Carol's conversation that I get a clue.

She was in the middle of talking about her latest project. Offhandedly mentioning Daniel, making stop instead of walking by. I stay behind her, listening as she backtracks and ends up bragging about her work on my boyfriend. I don't panic, sitting mostly on the edge of stress. She continues blabbering about the intricate work and how special his A.I. is. I stop breathing when she mentions his capacity for feelings. My stomach drops when she mentions me. Next, filling everyone in on my relationship with a robot, not making me look good at all.

Now knowing why everyone was laughing behind my back, the party gets all the more devastating. I try to rough it out, having only snide comments. I can do this, it's fine.

I was an idiot. Like the dumb blonde in a slasher running up the stairs instead of out the door.

It starts small. Someone asks a question about relationships, curious about a boyfriend I have. Then its like a snowball down a steep mountain. Things go from passive to straight-up vulgar. I couldn't take it.

Thinking back, I dig my nails into the steering wheel cover. The perverts that I'm related to are insane! The blatant disrespect and ignorance were not only hurtful but rage-inducing.

I scratch the bottom of my bumper as I speed into the driveway. I throw the car in park and shove the seatbelt off. I grumble to myself as I storm up the walkway and into the house. Slamming the door behind myself I just barely see Daniel out the corner of my eye.

"Tracey? You are home early," he greets with a smile till I throw the keys into the bowl with too much force. "You ok," he asks, keeping wide breath. He knows from my work tantrums to give me a wide range less he wants to be the target of my ire.

I give him an off glance but storm into the kitchen to grab some leftover pie Daniel made. I grab the whole tin and bring it into the living room to devour. I sit on the couch with a huff and shove piles of pie into my mouth. I sneer at the wall as I chew, not even caring about the crumb falling onto my dress.

Daniel hesitantly walks in and sits on the chair diagonally from me. He fiddles with his fingers, perhaps waiting for me to speak. As I continue forcing more food down my throat he talks instead.

"you look lovely in your sundress," he compliments.

"Fucking Carol," I throw the fork onto the mostly finished pie tin, "I cannot believe her! You would think her of all people would know to keep her mouth shut but nooo~, she too damn proud of herself. She had to pat herself on the back and tell fucking everyone!." I toss the tin onto the coffee table, crossing my arms as I shake my head.

"What did Carol say," he asks worriedly. I finally look at Daniel, taking in his robotic form. Looking at every wire, screw, light, and hard plastic cover.

"She told everyone about you. Told everyone about her 'wonderful creation that is living with Tracey'," I nearly shout. His animated brows furrow, cocking his head at me.

"Does that bother you that Carol told people about me?" he looks almost offended now.

"I'm not mad about you but what she said about you. She apparently let it drop that I was 'involved' with you. Which led to a bunch of snarky comments and inappropriate questions all through lunch."

"Like what," he asks.

"'Couldn't find a real man, huh? Just had to build one?'
'You do know sex toys aren't people, right?'
'so stuck in her work that she married it, how funny.' then my favorite from cousin Ethan, 'Do you think I could borrow him for myself? Must be one hell of a lay if you're developing feelings for it.'. Just the most disrespectful shit! Then what could I say? I couldn't be like 'no, it's not like that. He is practically human.' no one would have believed me, just consider me insane," I rant. I'm ready to blow a gasket just remembering the most embarrassing lunch I've ever been to. I even had relatives offering to set me up with their coworker's sons or friends. Like, holy hell!

As I'm stewing in my own anger I don’t notice Daniel folding into himself. I curiously look him over, noticing the most human gestures. He is holding his elbows, tilting his head away, and projecting a worried look on his screen.

"Daniel," I ask softer than I've been all day," you ok?" he glances up at me for a moment, turning back down to the floor.

"Do you wish you had something more real? A human boyfriend instead of me," he asks. The question twists my heart.

"Of course not," I answer. The question, to me, sounds absurd.

"But," he hesitates," you can't take me out to places. Can't do all the social things like take couples photos with me or meet the family." he picks at the plastic on his arm, his fingers ticking with soft clicks. His shoulders slump before he speaks again, breaking my heart even more. "I'm not," he pauses," real."

I watch him dumbfounded. I haven't thought of his insecurities, not even thinking he had any. He has always been so confident, even when he first got here he held himself with firmness.

I stand from the couch, walking to him. I know just answering won't be enough. His animated eyes follow me, looking up with his head tilted back. I reach out and cup his face with both hands. I can feel the slight warmth radiating from his screen, nearly smiling as he nuzzles his face to my palm.

"Daniel," I start," There is nothing more real or loved than you. I would rather spend the rest of the time with you than have to tolerate a single conversation with another human. Don't you even doubt for a second that I would want some lousy man over everything you have to offer. I love you, and not because I think you are something that you aren't. I love my sexy robot boyfriend." I lean down, pressing my forehead to his. I watch as his eyes seemingly twinkle with admiration. His arms unfold and pull me closer, guiding my legs around his so I can settle on his lap.

"Thank you, Tracey," he just barely whispers. I lean down and press a kiss to his cheek, running my fingers down to his neck to hold his wires. He does his own form of a kiss, rubbing his screen to my forehead. I rest my head on his shoulder, fiddling with his cords between my fingers. I press short kisses to his screen, knowing he enjoys them so.

"Besides," I chuckle," I don't think normal men can turn into a vibrator." he sits up, leaning back to look down at me. He wears an amused but shocked face.

"Tracey, am I just a sex toy to you," he pretends offense," I say, perhaps your cousin Ethan will cherish me more than you are."

I bark out a laugh," shut up. He isn't allowed to have you." I continue chuckling as he rubs his screen to my cheek, groping my hips as he does.

"And no one is allowed to have you," he purrs. I pet along his head, clenching my thighs around his.

"I like it when you get possessive," I grin. He watches me from the corner of his eyes.

"And I like it when you grind into my lap," he pushes my hips into his. I playful swat as his hands, more content at sitting here for a moment longer. He catches on and sits back on the chair, pulling me close to lay against his chest.

We sit there in comfortable silence, holding each other. He pets along my back, tracing his fingers on the part of my spine open to the air. I run my nails over his chest, scratching at the plastic.

"I'm sorry you had a bad day with your family," he breaks the silence.

"meh, at least I have a great boyfriend to make it all better," I smile up at him. He grins back, leaning down for a kiss. Screen meets lips in a heartwarming embrace.

"Love you," he mumbles against me.

"love you too," I answer back.