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“Would you like some water?” Kira asks, breaking the otherwise eerie silence of the Toropov household. Boris doesn’t make the same noise a real child would, and his wife’s still locked away with it, pretending otherwise. Victor doesn’t remember the last time she touched him like a wife. The bots in the living room are rigid but beautiful, infinitely more fun than she’s been in the last three years. For the most part, Victor can get by on that. Artificial love is still better than his own hand. Then there are times where he gets sick of their perfect faces and their exacting parameters—the oh so specific way they feign making love. He hovers by the kitchen table, aimless, and Kira looks at him, not because Kira can sense that he’s dehydrated, but because Kira’s programmed for little else. His repertoire is even more limited than the girls lining the living room.

He’s handsome enough, in his own way. He has the same smooth perfection as all of them: the same creamy, blemish-less skin, though a little more tanned: sun-kissed, just for some variety. His dark hair is styled back, not all that unlike Victor’s, though his pretty eyes are dull and empty. His uniform is neat and orderly, right down to his almost comical bowtie. He’s the only bot in the house not designed to Victor’s physical specifications. At the time, it didn’t matter. He just needed someone to serve dinner and play the role his wife never did. The girls are too delicate to sully their hands with dirty dishwater. Kira stares at Victor and doesn’t even have the courtesy to blink.

Maybe Victor should have water. He’s had nothing but vodka all day. It’s still coursing through him, bolstering his discontent. Maybe he’s just not drunk enough, because usually, when he’s in the midst of his stupors, he’s more than happy to lie in a pile of synthetic flesh—to let all his pretty dolls call him kitten at the exact same time. It doesn’t matter that it’s always in the exact same cadence. Now his fingers drum on the table, and a thought occurs to him—one of those random, wild dalliances that would probably never come up while sober.

There’s no one around to judge him anyway. None of his bots would ever tell. He stalks across the pearly white kitchen and right into Kira, who takes an automatic step back, but Victor loops an arm around his waist, and Kira obediently stills. Victor doesn’t leave himself any more time to think about it. He tilts his head and brushes his mouth over his butler’s lips, waiting for Kira to open up and welcome him in.

Kira doesn’t. He’s still as a board. Victor slowly pulls back, though his arm stays glued to Kira’s waist, making sure his bot doesn’t scamper off. Even though his intention should be infinitely clear, he orders, “Kiss me back.”

“I am not programmed for that.”

Victor blinks. He can’t remember the last time he was rejected by anyone other than his wife. All his bots are programmed to please him. Even Igor would probably put out if told. Obviously, Igor neglected to add the extra parameters to Kira.

But maybe that’s just what Victor needs. He smashes his mouth into Kira’s again, harder this time, and pries Kira’s pliant mouth open with his tongue, curling inside. Kira’s just as warm, just as wet as he should be. Physically, he’s perfectly fit. Victor lets his hand wander down to Kira’s ass, and Kira doesn’t protest to having it squeezed. It’s tauter, tighter than Victor’s other dolls. He kneads it as he toys with Kira’s mouth. When they part again, Kira asks, “Would you like me to download information on intimacy?”

Victor thinks over it for a fraction of a second. He could probably just have a few files copied from any one of the toys in his living room, and Kira would know what to do.

And Victor would be back where he started.

“No.”

“I cannot adequately please you without—”

“Open your mouth.”

Kira does, and Victor attacks him, grinding full-force into his chiseled body, getting nothing back until Kira hesitantly tilts his head and presses his tongue into Victor’s.

It’s the worst kiss Victor’s ever had. His bots are somewhat adaptive, but only to a very limited extent. Contrary to popular belief, they’ll probably never replace humans.

They can replace fleshlights. Victor finally steps away and decides: “Good.”

Kira meets the praise with a hollow smile, as he’s been instructed to do.

Victor gathers his hand and tugs him towards the master bedroom, hoping he’s a very slow learner.