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Impostor Syndrome

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Elijah got overwhelmed sometimes.

He liked to pretend he didn’t. Was good at pretending he didn’t. Gavin wasn’t a detective only by name, however.

He could see it in the way Eli’s shoulders were drawn just a smidge too tight, his smile just a smidge too thin, his eyes just a smidge too wide. The inventor was on his fifth champagne flute and they’d only been at the party for an hour, disguising his increasing level of intoxication by talking a smidge too fast, laughing a smidge too loud.

Too many smidges made quite a smudge. Elijah was upset, and Gavin didn’t know what set it off.

They were at some sort of charity ball, for the progression of eco-friendly something or other. Gavin knew it was important, and he probably should’ve learned a little more about the philanthropy before attending it as Elijah’s plus one, but no one wanted to talk to the “low-class cop” on the arm of the Father of Androids so it didn’t matter how much he knew about the topic. He was happier hovering by the snack tables, anyway, amusing himself with the knowledge that even stuffy, rich people weren’t above serving crackers and cheese.

He wasn’t amused anymore, though. Right now, he needed to ease Elijah out of his smidge-too-fast conversation with a woman draped in a glittery, red gown that probably cost more than Gavin’s car.

He wandered away from the cheeses, straightening the cuffs of his suit – God, he hadn’t worn one of these since graduating the Academy, but Eli was good at pulling him out of his comfort zone – and approached with a smile.

“Terribly sorry to interrupt,” he lied, cutting off the woman’s long-winded explanation about recyclable underwear (gross!!) to wrap an arm around Elijah’s waist, who stiffened a smidge too abruptly. “Mister Kamski’s needed for a little while. His agent is pushing for a quick phone conference with some potential sponsors, but I’ll bring him right back, madam.”

Red Dress didn’t look too happy about being cut off, but she didn’t bother pitching any kind of fit. “That’s fine, I suppose. It isn’t often someone of our caliber can truly get a night off, so I’m not surprised.”

Gavin nodded in fake understanding, leading his boyfriend away from this pretentious lady and out into the cool, evening air. He sagged in relief, chuckling a little.

“Man, Eli, it’s hard to breathe with so many fuckin’ big-headed people in there,” he joked, looking at the inventor with a grin. It faded immediately when he saw tears budding in the corners of his eyes. “Hey, whoa, what’s up?”

Elijah stared straight ahead, clutching his flute a smidge too tightly and shaking his head a smidge too hard. A few strands of carefully combed hair fell out of its bun, contributing to the image of a man dressed to the nines but seconds away from a breakdown.

Gavin pulled the drink from his trembling fingers with one hand and used the other to thread their fingers together. “Elijah, look at me.”

“I’m alright, dear,” Elijah finally stated, speaking a smidge too loud, a smidge too fast, “though I may have enjoyed one too many drinks. It’s hot. In this suit, I mean. If it were appropriate, I’d shuck it off, but we’re in public. At a party. There’s so many people here, I can’t remember all their names. It’s a wonderful cause, this charity event. I’ve always been a proponent of climate conservation, leaving behind a healthier Earth for future generations, so on and so forth. Did you know this fundraiser managed to –“

Gavin kissed the back of his hand, and Elijah sobbed, covering his mouth with the other one and squeezing his eyes shut. Tears ran down his face and dampened the sidewalk below, until they started dampening the shoulder of Gavin’s tux when he drew his boyfriend in for a hug.

“Th-they all –“ he gasped, clinging to the detective with more strength than he appeared to possess. “God…holy shit, Gavin, they’re all so important. People, the people, they’re all – and me! I’m a public – Jesus – I’m a public figure, for some reason –“

“Eli, stop talking,” Gavin whispered, rubbing slow, soothing circles in his back. Elijah was trembling hard enough that he could hear the man’s teeth chatter. “I already know, babe. It’s okay.”

He held him there, grip steady and secure, and talked to Elijah quietly outside the charity ball. He talked about the inventor’s amazing monetary contribution, his success as CyberLife’s founder, his insistence upon making Gavin feel like he deserved to be loved by someone with Eli’s kind of socioeconomic status. He talked about the dishes they left in the sink after trying and failing miserably to make a pineapple upside-down cake (more like pineapple upside-down soup…ugh), and how good the sex they had last night was, and that cheesy funk-sway ideology Elijah loved.

“F-feng shui…” he muttered, shoulders shaking with mirth, now, instead of tears, and when he pulled back he was smiling for real, despite his reddened eyes and cheeks. “It’s real; the energy in my house feels awesome, you asshole...”

Gavin grinned and shook his head. “Yeah, and I deserve to be there reaping the benefits of that energy. Just like you deserve to be at this stuffy dance, full of stuffy, rich people and really pretentious crackers and cheese.”

Elijah laughed wetly, wiping his eyes. “If it’s so pretentious, why have you been eating it the whole time?”

“Pretentious is not a synonym for un-delicious.”

He laughed again, kissing the detective’s forehead in gratitude. “Well, go grab some pretentious crackers and cheese for the road. I don’t have my makeup bag and I’m not in a state to be seen.”

Gavin shook his head, reaching up to gently coax Eli’s hair out of its bun. He watched black locks tumble over one shoulder, the inventor looking more relaxed as a result, and took his hand again.

“Nah,” he said, “let’s get a cab to take us to Burger King or something, instead. I need some good, heart-clogging grease, and I think you do, too. My treat.”

Elijah looked tempted, but looked over his shoulder in concern at the party going on inside.

“It would be rude to leave without a goodbye.”

“Then let’s be rude,” he insisted. “The money’s already been donated, Eli, this party’s just a pat on the back for reaching the funding goal.”

Gavin watched Elijah consider his words, looking like a four-course meal in his powder blue ensemble despite the redness around his eyes. Fuck being in “a state to be seen,” he could probably do an interview wearing neon pink pajamas and still get fan mail.

He was startled out of his thoughts (the likes of which were quickly turning inappropriate) when his boyfriend squeezed his hand, that trademark confidence finding its way back to his face as he grinned at Gavin.

“Fuck it,” he blurted, and man did Gavin love it when he swore, “I want a Whopper.”

“Babe,” he beamed, “I’ll buy you two. Three. Fifteen. Let’s fucking bounce.”

They called a self-driving cab and rode to Burger King together in calm, content silence. Gavin would never admit to anybody out loud how cute Elijah looked scarfing down three Whoppers and an order of large fries – somehow without gaining a pound or a pimple, the bastard – but he was glad he’d been able to soothe the man who just couldn’t seem to wrap his head around the fact that he was just as important as the other figureheads at that charity ball. More important, in the detective’s opinion.

“Betcha those guys are “too good” for fast food,” he found himself saying, unable to resist getting some more ribbing in, “what a sad life. Probably free of cardiac arrest, but sad. And bland.”

Eli smiled a little at him, those last lines of tension finally leaving his body, and he bumped his shoulder against Gavin’s. A silent thank you.

“Yes, those sad, healthy people.”

“Tragic, really. I’ll send a bouquet made of burger wrappers to all of their funerals.”

Elijah laughed, nearly brought to tears again, and Gavin counted the evening as a win.