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Halfjack's Discount Augmentations

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“We’re closing soon, Dorothy.” Jill warned as the small Lilim girl pushed her way in through the bar’s reinforced door.

“That’s okay! I’m not here for a drink. I was looking for you.”

Jill had flashbacks. She tried to keep her face from betraying them.

“For me?” She said, her mouth a thin line.

“For you. I need to ask you a favour.”

“What kind of favour?”

Dorothy casually glanced around the Bar. The only other occupant was Gil, who was vacantly punching something into a bar terminal. Whatever she was about to request, she decided that Gil was allowed to know about it.

“I’m getting some augmentations. I need you to be my chaperone.”

Jill’s mind ran through several interpretations for the word ‘augmentation.’ She knew that Dorothy had hinted at some parts of her being weaponized. ‘A girl needs to defend herself’ and all that. She had never asked for specifics.

And then there were the conversations they had about the tracking nanomachines allegedly found in Lilim prostitutes. Also, why did she need a chaperone? And was this something Jill could even do?

Actually why wouldn’t she ask her caretaker? Or pay someone? If this were a legal thing, there would surely be better candidates than Jill. If it were an illegal thing and she needed someone she could trust to protect her, there were definitely better candidates than Jill. There was a better candidate inside the bar, in fact.

“...Me? Augmentations?” Was how she voiced her concerns. Another thought struck her: didn’t Dorothy say something about Lilim needing to pass a test and receive hardware upgrades to become adults? She remembered that Dorothy had chosen not to undergo the operation, for her own reasons. Was that about to change?

“You. Augmentations.” Dorothy confirmed with a nod. “Also, hi.” She moved in and gave Jill a full-contact hug, mushing her face into her chest. Jill returned it, somewhat uncertainly.

“Hi yourself. What exactly are you asking me to do?”

“Look after me. I’m getting some wetwork done. Brain stuff. I’ll be down for the count for a while after.”

“Like, unconscious?”

“Yeah. Like that.”

“You can’t just stay with whoever’s doing the mods?”

“That costs extra.”

“So you’re calling me in to save a few creds?”

“Yup!” Dorothy grinned. She had loosened her grip since Jill was self-consciously struggling her way out. “It’s more about needing someone I can really trust, though. You’re at the top of that list for me.”

Jill scratched her head.

“Right. Just so we’re clear, you just need someone you can trust not to molest you while you’re unconscious?” Jill said evenly. Dorothy raised her eyebrows.

“Oh. No, I’m not worried about that at all”

Jill frowned as Dorothy winked at her, but decided not to pursue that line of conversation. She gave Dorothy a pointed silence until the Lilim took the hint and explained.

“It’s more about people plundering me for parts. Robbing me. That kind of thing.”

“Right. And you want to stay at my place after?”

“If it’s not too much trouble.”

Jill did her best to eye the Lilim cooly, trying to guess her intentions. She had a suspicion that under all the coy flirtation, Dorothy had some ulterior motive. She couldn’t bring herself to ask about it directly.

“When’s this happening?”

“Tomorrow night. You’re not working.”

“I’m… not, no.” Jill furrowed her brow.

“I asked Dana.” Dorothy explained shamelessly.

“Could you be any more overbearing?”

“Definitely could. I miiiight be holding back a lot.”

Jill sighed.

“So where is this place? How am I going to get you home?”

“It’s really close to where you live. I can foot the bill for a cab.”

“A cab could take you back to your place just as easy.”

Dorothy smiled, unconcerned.

“Then you’d be walking home by yourself. That’s dangerous.”

Jill shrugged.

“Okay.”

 

 

The establishment was called Halfjack’s Discount Augmentations, and it was run out of a basement suite that opened onto a neon-lit back alley. Dorothy led an apprehensive Jill in by the hand. The interior was a single brightly lit concrete room with three greasy looking beds and a few plastic chairs. A gaunt and skinny man wearing a floral shirt and a heavy set rubber apron seemed to be in charge of reception, paperwork, tool sanitation, and surgery. He had curly hair and a pair of aviator glasses on his forehead. Above them, he had a set of mirrored ski goggles that Jill couldn’t even guess the purpose of. On his left side, both the arm and the leg had been replaced with bionic prosthetics with loud servos, exposed wires, and mismatched, scuffed paint jobs. Judging from the general polish of the parts on shelves, his ramshackle appearance was more a fashion statement than a fact of circumstance.

The place was littered with all sorts of tools. Some of them were tools that Jill recognized; welders, soldering pens, screwdrivers, et cetera. Others looked like plundered medical equipment, the type that one would normally see in extremely wealthy hospital facilities.

“Dorothy?” The man asked unceremoniously, as though he were greeting a customer at a fast food chain.

“Present!” Dorothy said, raising her hand. Was she going out of her way to look like an excitable grade schooler? Jill supposed she made a living out of doing exactly that.

“Have you been here before?” Jill asked quietly.

“Nope. I got a recommendation.”

“Ah.”

The store clerk (presumably halfjack) looked annoyed. He nodded at Jill.

“Who’s this?”

“This is Jill. She’s my chaperone.”

“You’re not saying here to recover?”

“Nope!”

He shrugged, not one for arguing. “Got your creds. Payment’s good. Let’s get started.” He said. “Shouldn’t take more than half an hour.”

Jill stood in the corner of the room with her hands in her coat pockets and watched with muted interest. Dorothy hoisted herself onto an operating table and a cable was plugged into the side of her head. She waved drowsily to Jill before slumping over into some state of robotic unconsciousness. From the look of things, it wasn’t a very involved process. Halfjack casually plugged cable after cable into ports at the base of her neck, and then started hammering away on a beige computer keyboard. Green text began scrolling across several black terminal windows. The process looked fairly autonomous. Boring, even. That was good. Meant there was less she should worry about.

The procedure concluded with little fanfare. Halfjack grunted at Jill and sat down at his computer desk. He nodded to the Lilim lying motionless on the bed.

“You’re done?” Jill clarified.

“Yep.”

“So… I can take her?”

“If you want. It should power back on in a few hours.”

Jill puzzled out the pronoun for a second before realizing that ‘it’ was Dorothy.

“Ah. Uhh, alright. I’m going to call a cab.”

He had already turned around and was scrolling through some sort of newsfeed.

Jill waited on a stool by Dorothy’s bed, keeping her phone in hand. She looked down at the Lilim and regarded her.

She was unsettling.

Lilim were on the nearest slope of the uncanny valley, and for the most part Jill had an easy time forgetting that they weren’t really human. But every now and then, something broke the illusion. Dorothy wasn’t breathing. That was expected. It wasn’t even something new. But seeing her friend totally motionless, without even the occasional sleep-sigh to break the silence, now that was definitely unsettling.

Jill squeezed her hand. It was stone-cold, and she wasn’t really ready for that either, but she tried not to let it show. She wasn’t looking forward to carrying Dorothy out. She always felt like a creep when she watched Lenore sleeping, and this was several degrees worse.

“Is that thing yours?”

The voice made Jill flinch. She turned to see Halfjack, eating spoonfuls of bubblegum-pink ice cream from a small plastic tub.

“No. She’s mature. Just doesn’t have the body mods yet.”

Halfjack noded.

“I know. I just did the maintenance. I know it’s mature.” He took another spoonful. “Still thought you might own it. Being someone’s sex doll isn’t a bad living for Lilim.”

“Fair enough.” Jill said flatly and then turned back to Dorothy, hoping he would leave. He didn’t.

“Long as you remember they’re not people.” He said in an overly casual tone. Jill really didn’t feel like debating with him, so she stayed silent. “They’re beautiful machines. Useful. But they’re not human. Heads full of ones and zeros. We know they’re not sentient.”

There was a silence as he took another mouthful of ice cream, dribbled a bit on his hand, and licked it up.

“What fucks with me is why we give them genders.” Halfjack continued, apparently not bothered that his conversational partner wasn’t participating. “Why would we do that? They’re machines. They don’t have gender.”

Jill raised an eyebrow, but still didn’t make eye contact.

“Just goes to show: at the end of the day we’re still humans. Only reason we give them legs and skin and all that is because we wanna fuck them.” He gestured down at Dorothy. “Yours even looks like a little kid. To each their own I guess.”

“Oh. Cab’s here. I gotta go.” Jill said suddenly, holding up her phone. The discomfort she felt at manhandling Dorothy was nothing compared to the discomfort of staying here. She hoisted the Lilim up piggyback-style, hunching forward to keep her from sliding off, and climbed the steps to the alley above.

She waited a few minutes more for the cab to actually show up.

 

 

Jill paid the cab driver and he sped away the instant she hoisted her limp lilim friend out of the back seat. It was raining quietly in a fine mist that wasn’t enough to warrant an umbrella, but would cling to you and chill you to the bone. By all rights it should have been dusk, but this deep into the city, the dim twilight was replaced by an eerie and shadowless neon glow, amplified by the reflections of the rain-slick streets.

Jill shivered, adjusted her grip on Dorothy, and began walking briskly to her apartment. The last time Dorothy had come here, Jill had worried herself over what the neighbors would think of her coming home arm-in-arm with a Lilim prostitute. Now she was carrying the girl bridal-style up the stairs, praying that she wouldn’t be seen. In the end she didn’t bother to look around. If her neighbors saw her, she’d rather not know.

When she closed the door, the ambience of the Glitch City street turned to the soft pitter-patter of rain on glass, punctuated by the occasional tear of a car through the mist. Jill was out of breath, but she lumbered over to the kotatsu and set Dorothy down carefully before padding back and taking her shoes off. It was quiet, maddeningly so, but the stressful parts of the evening were now over, or so she hoped.

A couple minutes later, Jill’s coat hung dripping from the shower rod, her shoes next to one of the apartment’s two heat vents. The kotatsu was on now, as was the kettle, though she wasn’t sure she would waste any of her good tea or hot chocolate if she couldn’t share it with Dorothy. Fore had padded over and was sniffing their new houseguest with interest.

Dorothy herself was laying in the middle of the floor where Jill had left her, head resting on the cushion that Jill usually sat on. The sight of her made Jill slightly uncomfortable. It was the sort of discomfort that always preempted guilt. A this person trusts me and I had better not fuck this up sort of discomfort.

Looking down at the Lilim made her desperately need a cigarette. She glanced at the porch, the gray balcony only just discernible through foggy windows. Wondered if she would disturb the Lilim by opening the door and letting the cold in.

That was silly. Lilim weren’t bothered by the cold. She remembered how Dorothy had gone to great lengths to make sure her body was warm before making a move on Jill the last time she was here.

Jill walked over to Dorothy’s unconscious body and regarded her. Her eyes were open, but dim and glassy and unsettlingly lifeless. How long did Halfjack say she would be out? A few hours? How many was a few?

Jill knelt down and gingerly put a hand to the Lilim’s forehead. It was stone cold. She shivered and leaned back. This was just wrong. Out of character, at best. She was alway so animated. So active and bright and interested in everything. Fore made a noise and looked up at her inquisitively.

Jill looked down at the rest of her, at the uncomfortably juvenile clothes that she always wore on the job. They made her look so vulnerable, which she guessed was the point, but Jill couldn’t help but feel guilty with her sprawled out on the floor of her apartment, showing more soft, pale, synthetic skin than most would consider decent. Again, Jill found herself fixated on the girl’s limbs. The rest of her was such a perfect illusion of humanity, but the strange joints on her knees and elbows broke that illusion. They did make her look like a doll, after all.

Jill thought of what Halfjack had said, and grimaced. She heaved a shaky sigh and moved Dorothy under the Kotatsu, which was just starting to warm up. When she moved her, she brushed a hand over Dorothy’s face, closing her eyes over glassy, lifeless pupils.

There. That was better. With her eyes closed and her head poking out from under the futon, it looked as though she were comfortably sleeping. Jill smiled wanly, fidgeted with her hands. She had touched her again while she was unconscious. Not maliciously or invasively, but it still felt wrong. The violation of privacy was still there, and it made Jill uncomfortable.

She stepped onto the balcony for a smoke.

When Dorothy had come by last time, Jill had been in an actively bad headspace. She acknowledged this. But Dorothy had done everything she could to help. She cleaned and she listened, she was there for Jill. As something supportive and safe.

And yesterday in the bar, Dorothy had been her normal, flirtatious self. She had (albeit implicitly) told Jill that she had free reign to do anything to her while she was unconscious. She really wasn’t sure how she felt about that, but knowing Dorothy it was all an elaborate ruse to do something nice for her. Jill tried to take solace in that.

No matter what, Dorothy was still Dorothy. Jill knew there was no reason to be nervous around her. All things considered, she was one of the most trustworthy and genuine friends that Jill had.

So maybe it was best to experiment a little bit. She didn’t have to outright molest her friend. Didn’t have to prove Halfjack right in his thesis on human nature. But it was silly to get squeamish about being with Dorothy when she was unconscious. She should at least try to make herself comfortable.

Jill came back inside, took a deep breath, and headed to the kitchen. She filled a mug with hot water and added some white powder from a container with a label that read “APPLE DRINK.”

The only place to sit was the Kotatsu. Fore was sitting on top of it in full cat-squat, still staring at their strange, lifeless houseguest. Jill made her way over, but Dorothy was taking up most of the space underneath. This was a good start, right? Jill thought as she carefully worked her legs under the blanket. She found she could sit comfortably with her legs resting underneath Dorothy’s knees.

She thought of the last time they were here, and how Dorothy had looked when she came out of the shower. She had just been wearing a t-shirt and a pair of shorts. Something comfortable and normal. Maybe a change of clothes would make it feel less like Jill had abducted a young girl and more like she was looking after a friend. When Dorothy had first come over, she had urged Jill to get out of her work clothes and change into ‘something more comfortable.’ Jill was starting to understand why.

She set down the tablet and headed into her room, emerged with a t-shirt and the smallest pair of pyjama pants she could find. It wouldn’t be hard. There wouldn’t even be any scandalous nudity, so long as Dorothy was wearing undergarments.

It turned out she was wearing half of the appropriate number of undergarments.

Jill had never seen a Lilim topless. She didn’t know what she expected, but she had a hunch that Dorothy wasn’t a typical specimen. She was far, far more human that Jill was prepared for. Smooth, clear-skinned, and perfectly pert and pink in all the right places. Jill wrestled the t-shirt on her with more haste than was necessary.

The bottom half was easier. Skirts were less stubborn. The pattern on her panties was blue and white stripes, the cut childlike. Jill didn’t let her eyes linger. She was having second thoughts about her decision, but after just a bit more struggling Dorothy was once again fully clothed, laying limp in Jill’s lap with her limbs splayed out. Carefully, Jill replaced Dorothy under the Kotatsu, then slid in next to her and fidgeted with the tablet.

After the guilt had died down again, she began to finally feel at ease. Eventually she was comfortable enough to stretch her legs out next to Dorothy’s and slowly begin stroking the Lilim’s hair. She took her tablet and mug and began her ritual of idly scrolling through news feeds as she waited for Dorothy to awaken.

An hour passed with no sign of the Lilim waking up. Jill got up to rinse out her mug and put the kettle on again. She hit the bathroom, and when she came out she realized that the room had gone dark. Flicking the lightswitch filled the apartment with a warm glow. Perhaps warmer than usual because Dorothy was there, and Fore curled up on top of her in a way that suggested comfort and familiarity.

From the narrow kitchen she surveyed her domain. Something about it felt wholesome and domestic. Comfy and nostalgic. She knew it was probably just an LED filter to make the light seem less clinical, but it suddenly felt as though the gloom of the city couldn’t even begin to penetrate the place.

The water boiled. This time Jill didn’t bother putting anything in it. The heat and the ritual of it was enough. As she padded back to the Kotatsu she realized she was quieting her movements deliberately, as though afraid of waking the Lilim up. As if that was of any concern. Dorothy would wake up when the augmentation was done, regardless of how careful Jill was.

She sat down at the Kotatsu, and instead of going back to her tablet, she pulled Dorothy into her lap so that the blanket covered her from the waist down. Then she hugged her. Fore decided that was just a little too intimate, and sauntered to a safe distance to begin a post-nap stretch. An hour under the kotatsu had made her warm to the touch, and Jill revelled in it by pressing her face into the nape of Dorothy’s neck.

She tried to let her hands explore as they had when Dorothy had guided them that first time, but soft and inviting as the Lilim was, there was a wrongness about it that Jill just couldn’t get past. She was sure that she had her consent, but apparently that wasn’t the problem.

She let the Lilim slump back in her lap, ensuring that she was in a comfortable position before picking up her tablet and resuming the evening’s activities.

 

 

The faint sound of servos was eventually audible over the rain.

“This is nice.” Dorothy said, eyes slowly easing into their normal luminance as she craned her neck around. “Not what I expected but nice. You had a cute unconscious girl in your apartment who wouldn’t have minded anything you did to her, and what did you do?”

“Undress her.” Jill remarked with a guilty smile.

Dorothy looked down, pulled at the hem of the t-shirt, and read the word that was printed on the front. “SLUT.” She looked up at Jill and grinned from ear to ear.

“It’s a living.” She confirmed. “I actually woke up a few minutes ago. I wanted to be sneaky and see what you would be doing to me while I was at your mercy.”

“Are you disappointed?”

“No. Well, maybe a little bit. But I can’t complain about where I am now.”

“What were you expecting?” Jill asked.

“Honestly?” Dorothy squirmed her way to a more upright position, still sitting in Jill’s lap. She pulled Jill’s arms around her again before continuing. “No idea. I know you’re all gloomy and cynical and you have a dirty sense of humor so I thought maybe you’d jump at the opportunity.”

“Opportunity?”

“To be predatory. To just take me for yourself. Tie me up, push me against a wall and really fuck me, you know? Metaphorically or otherwise. Just satisfy your desires.” She shrugged. “Or something like that.”

Jill’s brow furrowed, and her embrace slackened.

“Is that seriously something you wanted?”

“I’m satisfied when my clients are satisfied.” Dorothy said opaquely. Jill let her hands fall. She leaned back, and Dorothy twisted around to give her a sidelong look. Her expression wasn’t any different from how Jill was used to seeing it across the bartop. That in itself was unsettling. Jill thought for a while before responding.

“I’m not that difficult to satisfy.” She said simply. Her tone wasn’t accusatory or judgemental. Dorothy answered it with a smile.

“No, you’re really not. So.” She turned around and crawled on top of Jill, pushing her gently to the floor. She laid her head on Jill’s chest and hugged her. “What did you do to me while I was out cold?”

“Um.” Jill stalled. Despite Dorothy’s assurance, and despite how her words had made Jill’s actions seem even more trivial, what she had done still felt like a violation in some way. Maybe not a violation of Dorothy, but a violation of something . She regretted it.

“You’re looking away from me. Is something wrong?”

“I undressed you.” She said hesitantly.

“Mmmhmm, then what?” Dorothy’s tone was playful.

“I… dressed you again?”

“Jill?”

“Yeah?”

“You’re not comfortable with this at all.”

There was a long silence. Fore yawned laboriously and stood on his haunches, watching the two of them.

“I’m not.” Jill admitted. “Sorry.”

“Sorry for what?”

“I don’t know. Leading you on I guess?”

Dorothy sat up so she was straddling Jill at the waist.

“Honey, if I knew that forcing my unconscious self on you would make you this uncomfortable, I wouldn’t have done it. I just wanted to let you know that, y’know,” she planted her arms on Jill’s shoulders. “I trust you. Enough to put myself totally in your power. I feel like you have a hard time accepting things like that at face value, so I wanted to prove it. Make you really feel it.”

Jill reddened as she looked up at Dorothy. She felt something alright. Whether it was love or empathy or embarrassment or just a plain and simple need for a cigarette, she wasn’t sure. But something was there. She believed Dorothy. It was impossible not to.

“For real though, what did you do when I was out?”

“I… nothing. I gave you clothes so you’d be clean and dry. I put you in the Kotatsu so you’d be warm. Then I just…” Jill hesitated.

“Cuddled?”

“Yeah.”

There was no insinuation in Dorothy’s smile. Just warmth.

“You really are easily satisfied.” she said. “Low maintenance.”

“Well, I did get curious.” Jill admitted. “I wanted a closer look at things. Your knees, your elbows, your skin, your hair. Lilim parts. It felt wrong though. Like I was dissecting you or something.” In a lower register, Jill added: “Treating you like a doll.”

Dorothy whistled. Ignored the last remark.

“I knew you couldn’t resist my allure.” She said as she rolled off Jill and lay face up next to her. “It’s okay if I’m awake, right? You can inspect me to your heart’s content. I really don’t mind.”

Jill propped herself up, stared down at Dorothy, who was lying rigidly, arms at her sides and a silly grin on her face.

“It’s still weird.” she said. “I don’t even know where to start.”

“Anywhere. Do we have to do this again? I went through all the trouble of breaking the ice the first time.”

“Are Lilim ticklish?”

“Why don’t you find out?”

It was awkward, but Dorothy didn’t seem to mind at all. Eyes half open, she lay still as Jill tried her best to garner a reaction. She tried all the common places: neck, armpits, and midriff, but the Lilim didn’t give her anything besides amused and inviting glances.

“So that’s a no then?” Jill said finally, taking her hands off Dorothy.

“You haven’t checked everywhere.”

“I’m going to go ahead and assume that they didn’t program you to be ticklish.”

The Lilim grinned.

“They didn’t program me to be afraid of dogs. They don’t really program us to be anything; most of what we are is unpredictable. I’ve met Lilim who are ticklish, I’m just not one of them.”

Jill thought back to what Halfjack said. About Lilim being something less than human.

“You’re a pretty interesting machine, Dorothy.”

“So are you.”

 

 

A few minutes later, two mugs sat steaming on the Kotatsu as Jill rolled out the futon. The string on Dorothy’s pyjama bottoms was pulled out to its limit, and she was waving it around in an attempt to tease Fore, who was keen on the game but not invested enough to stand up.

“Alright.” Jill said. “We have one bed, two girls, a cat, and some cocoa. It’s officially a slumber party.”

Dorothy beamed at her.

“Yes! Let’s do slumber party things! You should change into PJs too. If you let your hair down I’ll braid it.”

“That sounds nice.”

“Then we can pillow fight and it’ll turn into wrestling and then we’ll be all sweaty and then we’ll start making out.”

“Pfft. In your dreams.”

“And when we turn the lights off I’ll get all handsy.”

“That part might be okay.”

Dorothy blinked.

“Really?” She was met with a shrug.

“It’s only fair. I got kinda handsy last time you were here.”

“Only after I spent like half an hour encouraging you. I would love that, though. That’s not something I get to do very much.”

“What? Get handsy? You expect me to believe that?”

“Not in the way you’re offering, no. Lots of my clients don’t really want me exploring. I’m usually paid to be the submissive one who sits in their lap and gets fondled, or gets bent over a table and-”

“I can kind of understand when you put it that way. It’s more information about your client demographic that I didn’t really want to know, but it’s not hard to believe.” She stood up and stretched. The sound of several vertebrae realigning was audible in the apartment. “I’ll get changed. Sit tight.”

“Wear something sexy.”

 

Jill returned minutes later wearing tights and a loose-fitting sweater that hung off one shoulder. Her hair was down, though it was a total mess.

“Well, it’s sexier than last time.” Dorothy conceded. Jill frowned.

“Come on, it’s a little sexy. Honestly, I just picked something that wouldn’t get in your way.”

“Oh.” The Lilim said. “Oooooooohhhhh.”

“Braid my hair first, though.” Jill said and sat down with her back to Dorothy who, in open defiance of the order, proceeded to hug her around the waist, weaving her fingers together on top of Jill’s stomach.

“You’re like a backpack.” Jill said.

“I think the term is jetpack.”

“Backpack sounds cuter. It suits you more.”

“Are you calling me cute?”

“Yes. You’re cute. Please braid my hair.”

Dorothy did so, somewhat clumsily. Jill could tell it was something she wasn’t used to, but she had the general idea down. It took her two attempts.

“I think it looks good.” Dorothy said. “Do you have a mirror?”

“No. I can take a picture though.” Jill fumbled for her tablet and held it up. Dorothy squished herself against Jill and into the frame.

“Are we taking a selfie?” She asked, perking up with excitement.

“No?” Jill said uncertainly.

“We are now.”

At Dorothy’s direction, they ended up taking a slew of pictures together, with a variety of poses and angles. Dorothy ended up taking the tablet, holding it up emphatically and driving an impromptu photoshoot as Jill did her best to keep up. It reminded her of spending time with Lenore. She always insisted on taking photos together, possibly because she was aware of how short their time might be. Jill had simply put up with it with a few mumbled complaints, but now with Lenore gone those pictures had become very important to her.

The pictures she was taking now would be nice to have as well.

 

“So, what do you think of the braid?” Jill asked Dorothy when they finally put the tablet down.

“Different. I’ve never seen this weird alien Jill. This Jill that only exists in all-girls slumber parties. This Brave New Jill.”

“You’re overselling it.”

“Would you ever go to work like this?”

“Nah. Sounds like way too much effort.”

“You’re just too lazy.”

“Guilty.”

“Too lazy for the pillow fight part? That’s next on the slumber party agenda right?”

“I definitely don’t have enough pillows.”

“Oh yeah. You only had two last time I was here.”

“Three now. I bought…” Jill hesitated. “I bought a Model Warrior Julianne body pillow.”

Dorothy let out a fit of laughter, which subsided into a sly smile.

“Honey, really? Did you need something to cuddle that badly after I stayed over?”

“Hush. Just get handsy already.”

Jill pulled away from Dorothy and flopped down on the futon. A moment later Dorothy had crawled in beside her and rested her head on her shoulder. She curled her legs around Jill’s and they shared an embrace. Maybe Jill hadn’t fully admitted to herself that this was something she had been wishing for since the first night Dorothy spent here.

She tensed up when Dorothy’s hand worked its way free of their embrace and slid itself down to rest on her thigh. It stayed there, fingers pressing gently against her skin, but not going any further.

“You’re still nervous.” Dorothy remarked. “Your heart’s beating pretty fast.”

“Yeah.” Jill said. “I’m sorry. I can’t help it. Don’t let it stop you.”

“I’ll go slow.” She said reassuringly, and worked her hand around to Jill’s backside. Then down her legs, back up to the slight curve of her hips and waist. After her initial exploration, she pulled herself away and climbed on top of Jill.

The way that Dorothy touched her was uncanny. A subtle shade of off-human, as though she was gathering data. Something about it was machine-like, but she couldn't determine what. Still, there was a curiosity behind it all that felt very personal, if not strictly human.

Jill tensed up when Dorothy lifted the hem of her sweater, revealing a section of bare midriff. It was more from the surprise and the jolt of sudden exposure than any sort of discomfort, but Dorothy still picked up on it.

“You okay?” she asked, hands hovering. Jill nodded, and Dorothy continued by bending down and kissing her on the stomach. The sensation was bizarre; there was no breath to tickle her skin, no moisture on her lips. But she still felt very much alive. Jill squirmed inadvertently. She was more ticklish than she remembered.

“Humans are weird.” Dorothy remarked, pulling back and lifting her own shirt to reveal a clear and flat expanse of her own synthetic skin. “Some earlier Lilim used to have belly buttons too. That got cut from most models a long time ago, though.”

“That’s an odd bit of trivia.”

“It might not seem like much because every human has one, but it really says a lot about who you are and where you came from. Lilim are manufactured. We don’t have the same marks you do.”

Jill was thoughtfully silent. Dorothy’s hands were now gently exploring her bare stomach, navigating around gently to her sides. The nervous energies she had been keeping cooped up inside were making her giddy, and the lightness of Dorothy’s touch wasn’t helping.

She stifled a giggle.

Dorothy pulled back at first, confused, but then a look of understanding crept across her face.

“You’re ticklish! Oh my gosh. This is the first time I’ve got to tickle someone.” She leaned forward and attacked Jill inexpertly, touching her in all sorts of ways both effective and ineffective. Dorothy had no idea what she was doing, but the touch was so alien that it worked anyways.

Jill squirmed under her, trying to stifle her laughter as Dorothy attacked whatever spots elicited the most reaction. It wasn’t until Jill begged her to stop through laboured breaths that the attacks dispersed. She lay panting, out of breath under Dorothy, who looked like she had just uncovered buried treasure.

“Honey, that was so unbelievably cute.” She moved to touch her again, but stopped when Jill put her arms up defensively. Earnest concern crept into Dorothy’s expression. “Did I do something wrong?”

“No, no. Sorry. Everything’s still ticklish.”

“Can I not touch you?”

“You can. Just…” Jill realized how hard it would be to explain the sensation to a Lilim. “Do it more slowly? Deliberately? Just don’t touch me so lightly.”

Dorothy did her best. She planted her hands firmly on Jill’s sides until her muscles relaxed and her breathing evened out. Then she she slid her hands back around Jill.

“I don’t understand.” she said. “I don’t understand at all, but I love it.”

“I’m starting to see why you’re good at your job.”

“You’d better believe it. I love humans. I love your little quirks. I love your belly buttons. I love the little noises I can get you to make.” Dorothy’s hands explored around to the small of Jill’s back and then descended once again to her butt. “I love how soft you are.”

They laid there a while longer, Dorothy cautiously exploring and Jill mumbling words of encouragement. Time passed swiftly, and before the two knew it, night had fallen, curfew was in effect, and the soft hum that passed for silence in Glitch City became their auditory backdrop.

By this time, Dorothy had crawled her way in to share Jill’s baggy sweater. It would have been uncomfortable, but Dorothy didn’t breathe or sweat. She simply laid still, clamped firmly around Jill, head pressed against her bare chest.

Jill was hugging her loosely, and beginning to doze.

Halfjack had been right about one thing. Whatever Dorothy was, she wasn’t human. He was wrong about everything else, though.