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Positronic relays, surging in the dark

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Baley nestled contentedly back against Jessie, hoping he had a few more minutes to sleep before the alarm woke him for his shift. He rolled over, anticipating her warm curves, and encountered a much larger, flatter body type than expected.

Aurora. He was on Aurora, not home on Earth. Baley fumbled for the lighting control at the head of the bed and blinked against the sudden flood of oddly orange light to see a man in his bed, regarding him from a few inches away.

“Jehoshaphat,” Baley gasped, then recognized the figure. “Daneel?”

“Hello, Partner Elijah,” Daneel greeted him placidly.

“Aren’t you supposed to be standing guard outside the room?” Baley asked, his heart rate gradually returning to normal.

“I believe that the benefits of a prone, as opposed to a standing, position in this circumstance outweigh the minor decrease in my reaction time to any potential threat.”

“I’ll take your word for it,” Baley said, reminding himself to be patient. “But could you please explain why you are in the room, when I specifically ordered you to remain outside the room while I was sleeping?”

“You cried out. I entered the room in order to determine if you were in danger. You were not, but I saw that your sleep was disturbed, possibly by a ‘bad dream’ such as you have complained of in the past. I remained in order to assist you.”

“And this assistance takes the form of you lying here in my bed because …?”

“Humans require frequent physical contact with other human beings for physical and emotional wellness. On Solaria, and here on Aurora, Spacer precautions against infection have prevented others from meeting your need. I observed that Solarian children, before they were trained out of this requirement, had it met by robots. On Earth, your wife shared a bed with you. I therefore hypothesized that my presence in your bed might allow for more for a more restful sleep period.”

It made sense, by robot standards. Baley could certainly have ordered Daneel out of bed, but he hadn't been sleeping well, and it hardly seemed worth the effort. He rarely slept alone, back home, and the bed, however perfectly temperature-controlled, felt warmer with Daneel in it.

Baley inched closer to the middle of the bed and hesitantly extended his arm and leg over Daneel, as he would Jessie. Then he froze. “You’re naked. And erect.”

“Yes.”

“I understood that erections were completely voluntary, in humaniform robots.”

“They are,” Daneel confirmed. After a moment, he clarified, “I am demonstrating my availability in case you should desire a sexual interaction.”

Baley withdrew to the far side of the bed, three times wider than any Earth bed. He recalled the vigorous hug he had given Daneel, when first seeing him on the ship, and Daneel’s acceptance of it. An acceptance guaranteed by the First Law of Robotics. Daneel could no more have declined that hug, thereby causing embarrassment—possible emotional harm—to the human who had embraced him, than he could fly.

“It’s possible that we should be investigating more than one crime here,” Bailey muttered. “Do you remember, on the ship, when I ascertained that it is not possible, at least on Aurora, to ‘murder’ a robot?”

“Of course, Partner Elijah. The conversation revealed potential omissions in my programming as pertains to the subtleties of human language.”

“Then, in light of that conversation, and according to your knowledge of both law and morality, I have a question for you. Is it possible for a robot to be raped?”

Daneel’s forehead wrinkled in thought. There was a long pause. “I do not believe so, Partner Elijah. According to Earth's legal code, a sexual assault charge is predicated on the lack of consent on the part of one or more of the persons involved in a sexual act. I can conceive of no situation in which this would apply to a robot.”

Baley’s stomach roiled uneasily. “Do you mean to say that a robot operating under the Three Laws cannot consent, and therefore a lack of consent is meaningless?”

“No. It is certainly possible for a robot to be forced into actions that cause an imbalance in the positronic pathways, analogous to pain or emotional distress in a human, by a conflict between the Laws. That could, if current human law were extended to robots, be considered an assault. However, I cannot conceive of any non-damaging sexual act, desired by a human, that would lead to such conflict.”

Baley shook his head, his hair shushing oddly against the silky-smooth surface of the pillow. “So not only is it impossible for a robot to say no to sex, it’s impossible for a robot to even want to say no?”

Daneel paused again. “I believe that is essentially correct, in the case of other robots. However, Dr. Fastolfe would be more qualified than I to provide an expert opinion on this matter.”

“Other robots?” Baley asked, his instincts on high alert. “Do you mean to say that humaniform robots, such as yourself and Jander Panell, are capable of both giving and withholding consent in sexual interactions?”

“... yes?” Daneel replied, with an uncertainty that was highly uncharacteristic of him.

“Please explain what you mean, Daneel. It could be vital to the case.”

“It is difficult to be precise,” Daneel said. “Perhaps Dr. Fastolfe -”

“No. I want to hear why you believe this to be true,” Baley demanded, aware that he was, once again, cross-examining a robot.

“For any robot, interacting with humans, serving them, pleasing them, induces a positive, beneficial state in the positronic relays.”

Baley nodded. He was familiar with this most basic understanding of robotics.

“I experience this state frequently; when I was called on to provide sexual stimulation to humans during my programming and training, it was no different. Friend Jander’s reactions were equivalent. I had no contact with friend Jander after he joined Gladia’s household. However, when you described their interactions to Dr. Fastolfe, that she considered him, not merely a tool for sexual gratification, but a lover, even a husband—I found myself contemplating such a relationship, and it seemed…” Daneel trailed off, as if unable to find an appropriate term, before concluding, quietly, “most desirable.”

Baley cleared his throat, stunned at the turn the conversation had taken. He had considered jealousy as a potential motive, but it never would have occurred to him to include robots in the suspect pool. Still, Daneel was the only humaniform robot, according to him the only one capable of this type of reaction, and he hadn’t known about the relationship between Gladia and Jander until this afternoon. “You heard me describe Jander’s relationship with Gladia, and found that you wanted to become her husband?”

“No. Gladia found my presence distressing, and even were that not the case, my positronic responses to her are no more intense than they are to the average human being. I would seek out such a relationship, if it were possible, only with the human most important to me.”

“Dr. Fastolfe?” Baley said, warily.

“You, Partner Elijah.”

Baley closed his eyes. He had expected a degree of culture shock, displaced from Earth into the mores and customs of Aurora. This was far worse, a disorientation akin to the overwhelming terror he had first felt under the open sky. Some cowardly part of him wanted to get up, out of bed, and retreat to the Personal. But he would not do that to Daneel.

“Are you well, Partner Elijah?” Daneel asked in a urgent tone that Baley could not help but interpret as anxiety.

“I’m fine, Daneel. It was just a surprise.”

“After our first case together, I attempted to research the sexual customs of Earth, to augment my Auroran-based programming, but was unsuccessful. There are few resources, and those available were frequently contradicted by my own observations of Earth, and of you, Partner Elijah.”

Baley chuckled. He had tried viewing one book-film about Earth while he was here. Just one. It was as far from factual research as Earth’s own myths of the rich Spacer-woman mysteriously journeying to Earth and falling in love with the first man to save her from a wrong step on the Expressway.

“There was a moment, on Solaria,” Daneel continued, “when Gladia had viewed us and pointed out that, as we were physically present in the same room, you could reach out and touch me at any time. You turned to me and it seemed that you might, indeed, touch me. I detected no disgust in you at our closeness, or the implied potential for greater contact. As this was all the direct evidence I had, I did not realize that an offer of sexual interaction would be distressing. I hope that I have not caused significant harm or offense, according to Earth custom.”

Baley held up a hand, and Daneel immediately stopped talking. “You told me, once, that you didn’t seek to extend your knowledge unless it was necessary for the performance of an assigned task.”

“All knowledge of Earth is useful, since it allows me to be a more effective partner to you.”

There was something oddly rote about his response. “Were you ordered to say that?” Baley asked, suspicious.

“No, Partner Elijah. Dr. Fastolfe has, however, questioned me on this topic 322 times since we first left Earth orbit. Dr. Fastolfe was at first concerned that some instability in my programming might be causing me to view a temporary assignment as permanent. In the end he determined that it was an atypical response related to the unique properties of my humaniform positronic brain.”

“What permanent assignment?” Baley asked.

“I am, and always will be, your partner,” Daneel said, a promise of eternal loyalty from a robot that might outlast the stars themselves.

“Daneel,” Baley said because he couldn’t help but respond, overwhelmed by a wave of—what?—gratitude, affection, a powerful neuronic surge of emotion. What could he say to that? What had he to offer but the truth?

“You wanted to know about the sexual customs of Earth,” Baley said abruptly.

“Yes.”

“Obviously taking a robot as a lover would be viewed as the worst form of perversion, on Earth.”

Daneel nodded and moved as if to get up out of bed.

“Wait. You’re not just a robot. You’re my partner. My male partner. Well,” Baley corrected himself hurriedly, “masculine, in any case. And that is widely encouraged on Earth, both before, during, and as an alternative to marriage between a man and a woman.”

Daneel settled back down to listen. The sheet had slipped, displaying his shoulder and one nipple in a way that Baley would have assumed was intentionally provocative if it had been some wildly attractive man, rather than Daneel, laying in bed with him.

Baley had always enjoyed educating himself in the rich history and sociology of Earth. How could he explain this aspect of Earth’s culture clearly to a complete outsider? Knowing that the robot had nearly infinite patience, Baley took a historical perspective. “You are aware, of course, that no reversible method of birth control is 100% effective?”

Daneel looked puzzled. “I believe there are several common methods on Aurora that are highly reliable.”

“Highly reliable, yes, but not completely. That sliver of chance, when multiplied by the eight billion humans of Earth, is the cause of the slow but steady increase in population that stretches the resources of Earth tighter and tighter every year.”

Daneel’s brow wrinkled. Baley and Dr. Fastolfe had discussed Earth’s population dilemma in front of him before; either he had grown more expressive over the past years, or the disastrous implications for humanity disturbed his positronic pathways more now than they had on his first trip to Earth. “Is it not possible for the planetary population to be more strictly controlled?”

Baley shrugged. “Sterilization is always available to individuals, but most choose not to accept it. Children are the most sought after privilege in our society. Even if many citizens cannot afford a child license, the possibility that they may, at some point in the future, be able to purchase a license or win one in the lottery prevents civil unrest. The government's trial attempt to heavily incentivize sterilization in a single City, 250 years ago, led to public accusations of genocide and the worst riots in my planet’s history. Over a period of six months, the City of Los Angeles completely self-destructed. Since that time, the sociologists of Earth have determined that the most effective strategies for population control are mandatory education, reversible birth control procedures enacted when citizens reach the age of puberty, and the encouragement of homosexual partnerships.”

Daneel’s face had returned to its usual serene expression. “Homosexual partnerships are socially advantaged over heterosexual ones because they cannot lead to accidental reproduction?”

“Exactly. Especially for young people. Homosexual relationships provide an important social, emotional, and sexual outlet in our society.” Baley couldn’t help but recall the maddeningly catchy jingle from his childhood proselytizing the advantages of ‘funships.’ “Adults are free to marry whomever they choose, of course. It was no more expensive for me to apply for a marriage license with Jessie than if I’d chosen a man, and there were no negative repercussions for either of our careers. Earth’s society is absolutely puritanical, though, when it comes to male-female relationships. For me to become involved with another woman, while married to Jessie, would be deeply shameful to us both. That damned hyperwave, and its portrayal of my interactions with Gladia, caused quite the scandal on Earth.

“Close homosocial and homosexual relationships are another matter altogether. Jessie has a dear friend, Sumaya, who she’s been with since they were fifteen. Bentley grew up referring to her as ‘Auntie Sumaya.’ You might have noticed that Jessie was thrilled when I first brought you home to dinner, before she found out you were a robot. She’s always been concerned that I don’t have any close male friends.”

Oddly enough, Daneel appeared as disturbed by this as he had been about the future of the Earth. “You have no close male friends, Partner Elijah?”

“I’m high on the introvert scale, so I haven’t particularly felt the need. And it’s not as if I’m so likable or devastatingly sexually attractive that I’m constantly turning down invitations.”

“I must disagree,” Daneel said. “I have found you to be both likeable and attractive.”

Baley peered at Daneel quizzically, wondering how seriously to take that. Absolutely seriously, he decided. “I’m glad. Because of all the men I’ve partnered with in the course of my work, Daneel, you’re the only one I’ve ever considered a friend.”

Daneel regarded him with a faint smile that, for once, seemed to reach his eyes.

“All of which is my incredibly long-winded way of talking myself around to the realization that, no, I’m not distressed by your offer. I’m complimented by it. So,” Baley continued awkwardly. “I suppose the only question I have for you at this point, Daneel, is this: did you lie down in bed with me to help me sleep, or because you were hoping I would initiate a sexual encounter?”

Daneel blinked. “I believe that is a false dichotomy, Partner Elijah, since both statements are equally true.”

“All right then,” Baley said, dry-mouthed. “All right.” He regretted not having a Spacer’s expertise with robots. He would need to be very, very careful to avoid saying anything that could possibly be construed as an order. “I’m going to lie down here, on my back, in the middle of the bed,” he said, actions following his words. “If, and only if you wanted to, Daneel, you could lift up the sheet and touch me.”

Daneel immediately sat up and pushed the sheet down to the foot of the bed. He studied Baley’s body with an intense focus. Baley swallowed, caught between the irrational fear that Daneel would reject him and an anxious, stomach-churning arousal more reminiscent of the moments when he awoke, ejaculating, from a stress dream than the warm, steady affection of his nights with Jessie.

Daneel was unselfconsciously magnificent when naked, the platonic ideal of a Spacer. Baley looked down at Daneel’s cock, which he had glimpsed once before in shameful violation of the privacy codes of the men’s Personal. Erect, it was significantly larger than his own; of course the man who designed the first humaniform robot would build it that way. Somehow the thought, and the wry amusement it afforded, steadied him.

Daneel reached down and gently, curiously, pressed his fingertips to Baley’s mouth. Baley’s lips automatically parted.

“Your pulse is elevated,” Daneel said.

“You, uh,” Baley’s tongue flicked out as he spoke and encountered Daneel’s fingers, which tasted of nothing at all — not sweat or oil or any of the other flavors he had apparently subconsciously assumed a robot would. “You seem to have that effect on me.”

Daneel nodded. He began to explore Baley’s body, slowly, with both hands, watching closely. Baley tilted his head back to allow one hand to stroke down his throat and over his Adam’s apple. He squirmed as Daneel touched the ticklish bit along his side, sighed as Daneel’s hand brushed against his nipple, then bit his lip against any demand or plea that might escape when the hand moved on. He was determined to allow Daneel as much free will as possible here, tonight, in this bed.

“Observing your reactions is both informative and… pleasing, Partner Elijah,” Daneel murmured, his hand returning to lightly tease Baley’s nipple. “Do not attempt to hide them from me,” he said, fingers closing in a tight pinch.

Baley gasped.

Daneel went still. “Was that a sound of pain?”

“No. No, it was pleasure.” Baley insisted, mostly truthful, because while that had hurt a bit, it also felt very, very good. If Daneel thought he had hurt him, he would stop, and that was the last thing Baley wanted.

Daneel continued, more gently now, hands exploring the curves of Baley’s belly and thighs. He seemed intrigued by Baley’s body hair. Baley wondered, for a moment, whether Spacers were naturally less hairy or depilated as a matter of custom, before being thoroughly distracted by the sensation of Daneel’s hands exploring his sensitive ankles and then returning to rub the arch of first one foot, then the other. Baley groaned at the sensation, not sexual but pleasurable and intimate.

He looked up at Daneel and found him watching, rapt. “Are you well?” Daneel asked, the question seeming near automatic.

Baley grinned at him. “That feels wonderful,” he said, honestly.

Daneel began tracing up Baley’s calves and inner thigh with his nails. Baley couldn’t help but push into Daneel’s touch as if admitting as much had made it impossible to hold back, anticipating where that touch would reach next, his erection straining up against his stomach.

Daneel sat back. Baley whined a wordless protest.

Daneel responded, hovering anxiously over Baley as if unsure where or how to touch. “I am accustomed to clear directives in these matters, and have no information regarding Earth sexual practices,” Daneel said. “If there is any act you prefer, you should specify it at this time.”

“Anything,” Baley said frantically, then immediately corrected himself. “Anything you want. Just… please!”

Daneel came to a decision. He knelt between Baley’s legs and slowly, watching for Baley’s reaction, pressed a kiss to the head of his cock. Baley moaned. Daneel then wrapped one hand around the base of Baley’s cock and took the head into his mouth. It was—oh, different from a human mouth. The same temperature, but slicker somehow, and oh, fuck…

Baley spread his legs in wordless encouragement. Daneel reached down to touch and play with his balls and then, hesitantly, to rub behind them. Bailey groaned, his eyes fluttering shut.

That wonderful mouth moved away. “Please open your eyes, Partner Elijah,” Daneel said.

Baley looked down at Daneel, his lips plump and flush from sucking him, thrilled that Daneel had asked for what he wanted, what he needed.

Daneel bent down and started sucking him, sloppy and urgent, never losing eye contact. Baley thought perhaps this was what Daneel wanted more than anything, this moment of connection, of intimacy and ecstasy. He imagined Daneel laying motionless in this bed as he slept, watching him, wanting him, wanting this, positronic relays surging in the dark—and then Baley shuddered, shocked into his own orgasm by the idea.

Daneel made a soft, satisfied sound. He moved to sit up, but Baley tugged at him and he collapsed gracefully down onto the bed.

“Can I… reciprocate?” Baley asked, hand moving down Daneel’s hip to find his cock, soft and dry.

“There is no need,” Daneel said, “unless such reciprocation is required by Earth custom?”

“No, Baley said, yawning. “It’s a common courtesy, but only if desired by your partner.”

“You have already given me what I desired,” Daneel said. “I was correct in my hypothesis that sexual interaction with you would stimulate my positronic pathways more intensely than any other stimuli I have encountered.”

Baley was instantly reminded of Gladia, discovering that sex with a robot eager to please her was better than the casual sex Auroran men offered, and was chilled by the comparison. They had begun the night with Baley wondering whether Robot Jander Panell had been a willing participant in his sexual relationship with Gladia. Now he was worried about Daneel.

Gladia had refused to so much as look at Daneel today, but in a week, a month? Dr. Fastolfe might offer to loan Daneel to her, to assuage her grief at losing Jander. How would she treat such an imperfect copy, a humaniform robot that did not provide her with the same level of service and dedication? Would she use Daneel anyway? Mistreat him? Share him with others?

Baley cleared his throat. “Am I correct in thinking that tonight you wanted to have sex with me, Daneel?”

“That is correct,” Daneel said. Baley must be imagining the warmth in his voice as he said it.

“Do you want to have sex with other humans? Or robots, perhaps?”

“I do not.”

Baley narrowed his eyes. “One of the most important cultural norms on Aurora is that, while everyone is free to offer sex, everyone is also free to refuse. You should say no, if a human asks you for sex and you don’t want to participate.”

“I am a robot, Partner Elijah,” Daneel reminded him.

“I know you are. But you told me, on the ship here, that Aurorans don’t make distinctions between robots and humans. I’ve since found that the humans here don’t seem to take that very seriously. But you do. You may not be human, but you are an Auroran and a, a person. You should have the right to refuse if you don’t want to have sex,” Baley insisted.

Daneel considered. Baley imagined his positronic brain modeling such a request and weighing the potentials involved. “The harm I would suffer from such an act is not significant enough for the Third Law to override the Second Law, in this situation,” Daneel announced.

Baley sat up, slowly arranged some pillows behind him, and pulled up the sheet to cover himself. Daneel shouldn’t have to ‘suffer’ any unwanted act. The Third Law wasn’t enough to prevent him from obeying a human’s orders, but the First Law should be. And Dr. Fastolfe, the galaxy’s greatest roboticist, had done everything in his power to make sure that Daneel’s First Law drive, with respect to Baley, was incredibly strong.

Baley was no roboticist, but one thing he had learned was that it was not only a human’s flawless logic that robots responded to, but also the urgency of their command. The power of the human’s emotion. The Spacers, who lived their centuries of life swaddled in luxury, free from any fear of disease, pain, hunger or violence, could never match the passionate intensity of the people of Earth.

“Police use the term, ‘homicide’ as opposed to ‘murder’ because it grants us some emotional distance,” Baley told Daneel, building the foundations of his argument. “That’s necessary for crimes that arouse such intense emotional responses in humans; calling it 'murder' might prevent us from gathering and objectively assessing the evidence needed to solve the case.”

Daneel listened attentively.

“Of course, homicide is not the most heinous crime. Logically you might think that killing another human being would have the greatest emotional impact, but that’s not the case. No. The law you cited earlier referred to ‘sexual assault.’ That’s another term used to gain emotional distance. Because, to an Earthman, there is nothing more distressing, nothing that arouses more horror and grief and rage, than the thought of someone they love being raped.”

Baley had been an officer of the law too long to respond to the thought in the abstract. That was a problem. Baley wouldn’t be able to bluff Daneel; he could sense human emotions. For this plan to work, Baley would have to let go of all that professional distance—the psychological exoskeleton he’d built up to protect himself—and truly feel the emotions he'd described. He forced himself to imagine Jessie in the position of victims he had interviewed, over the years, and swallowed hard

“And yet this crime is committed by Earthmen?” Daneel asked.

Baley nodded. “Not often, but it is. It’s not logical. It’s not right. But it happens. You, as my partner, need to understand the conditions that could cause severe emotional distress in me, just as you are able to anticipate my discomfort when it comes to the Outside.”

“I understand,” Daneel said gravely.

Baley took a deep breath. “Then there’s one more thing you need to know.” He locked eyes with his partner. “I love you, Daneel,” he said, rather surprised to find that it was the absolute truth, unvarnished by any of the mental reservations he had prepared. He loved Daneel. Not "as much as I ever could love a robot" or "like a brother." He simply—loved him.

Daneel cocked his head, became gradually more animated as he processed Baley's declaration and integrated it into his world-view—and then froze. Baley was horribly reminded of Jander Panell, the warm and empty-eyed humaniform corpse he had examined earlier that day.

“It’s not you hurting me,” Baley insisted quickly. “It’s them, the thought of people harming you in that way,” touching Daneel, forcing him, laughing as they used him, “of them… raping you,” Baley choked out, shaking with rage at the Spacers, the goddamned Spacers who couldn’t follow their own goddamned rules long enough to recognize that Daneel was a person, not a thing.

Daneel was up, out of the bed. He was trembling—no, not trembling, vibrating, an impossible, inhuman micro-movement as he paced rapidly between the door and the windows, searching for potential threats.

After a few cycles around the room Daneel dropped to his knees in front of Baley, sitting on the edge of the bed. “Touch me,” he blurted out. “I am here. I am unharmed. You need not experience distress.”

Unharmed, like hell. Baley felt like shit for throwing Daneel into this state, for using a declaration of love as a weapon. But since it was the only weapon he could possibly use to protect Daneel, he was determined to use it effectively.

“For now,” Baley said bitterly. “You’re safe for now. But they won’t let me stay here, on Aurora. In a few days, whether I solve the case or not, they’ll be shipping me back to Earth. And they won’t allow you to stay on Earth with me. I won’t be able to protect you! So you have to—you have to protect yourself from anyone who would harm you. Please. For me. So I know that you’ll be safe.”

Daneel stared up at him. “Partner Elijah, I c-cannot do as you ask,” he stuttered. “The Second Law -”

“Damn the Second Law,” Baley roared. “This is about the First Law! The only way you can save me from this, this terrible fear that you will be abused once I am gone, is if you can protect yourself. Not by harming a human. Just—if a human acts to harm you in that way, or orders you to do something that would be harmful, say no. By Auroran custom, that would be enough to stop them. You can, can reprogram yourself enough for that, can’t you?” Baley asked desperately, ignoring the tear rolling down his cheek.

Daneel reached up to touch the tear. He brought his hand down into his lap and studied the water clinging to his forefinger. “I cannot reprogram myself,” he said quietly.

Baley took a deep, shuddering breath, trying to think of something, anything—

“However,” Daneel said, “It should be possible, with sufficient time and effort to… pre-determine the resolution of the positronic imbalances in my brain that result from specific conflicts between the Three Laws, so as to control the outcome.”

“So you can tell them no?” Baley asked hopefully.

Daneel nodded. “Not yet, but in time, yes.”

“You’re not lying to me?” Baley asked, suspicion the natural backswing of hope. “Tell me if you're lying!” he ordered.

“I am not lying,” Daneel reassured him gravely. “I would not risk such grievous harm to you.”

Baley collapsed forward into Daneel’s lap. Daneel caught him, and Baley hugged him, harder than he would have dared hug a human, and let the tears come.

“Thank you, Daneel,” he whispered once he could.

“Thank you, Partner Elijah,” Daneel whispered back. “Even knowing that Gladia had taken friend Jander as her husband, I did not believe it was possible for a human to care so deeply for a robot.”

After a time Daneel picked Baley up, in inhumanly strong arms, and tucked him neatly into bed. Baley allowed it, exhausted, beloved, and content.

“It’s not that I’m jealous,” Baley slurred. “I just don’t want anyone to hurt you, Daneel. You deserve good things. Friends. Lovers. A world with a real C/Fe culture, where people treat you with respect. Not like Aurora. Maybe you can build one. You’ve got time, you and Bentley…” he trailed off.

“Perhaps,” Daneel said quietly as he joined Baley in bed. “But for now, all is well. I am safe, and you are safe, and it is time for you to rest. I will guard your sleep.”

Baley wondered vaguely about his other guard, Giskard, posted outside the window. What had he heard tonight, and what would he make of it? There was something on the edges of his mind, some insight, elusive yet vital. He murmured, trying to capture the thought before it escaped him.

“Who was there first?” Daneel asked.

“Giskard,” Baley answered, and drifted off to sleep.