Wires and Vipers
A semi-quiet Christmas Eve
The manor was quiet at this time of the day but there was still a lot of work ahead before everything would be to Vex’s satisfaction. He wanted the manor’s floor so clean that it shone, and the façade to sparkle with tiny lights.
Everything needed to be as beautiful as possible and then the quiet evening could begin. He’d heard the song about the quiet night that was supposed to be Christmas and he’d liked the idea of it.
Since it was a human thing, he wanted to do this for his master Lord Horace Byrn who rather wanted to be called General, so he called him General but kept the Lord in mind.
Lately, everything seemed so…so much. He understood, that it was quite stressful for Byrn, and Vex wanted to give the man a break. This Christmas festival was rather convenient; he just needed to make it perfect. Since his mind was connected with the whole household, as well as the devices he had accessed before, it was easy enough to make the cleaning devices do their thing. The other staff was, and that was basically only the kitchen staff, was human because android cooking tasted weird (Lord Adam Byrn, General Horace Byrn’s grandfather, had said that to Vex once).
Vex stood in the middle of the entrance hall, but at the same time his voice rang through the kitchen and passed on the task of cooking a meal for the upcoming evening in two days. He sent them a picture of a traditional Christmas table set up and left them to work on it.
Having done that, he checked the devices and got no error reports.
This time of the year was quite cold, although EVE-4 had no seasons, the humans had recreated them artificially. Vex had no idea why the humans voluntarily messed with the temperature and why they wanted tiny white frozen water flakes to fall from the sky, but he had stopped questioning the humans a long time ago. Adam had laughed and told Vex to relax about certain things. Adam, the man who had created his body from Vex’s memories from his time as the AI of a Starship. Those times were long gone. He’d been the floating, bodiless presence in the ElXe-Node room…His former masters…their ship had flown into an asteroid storm, the engine controls disabled. Thousands of lives…all gone.
Vex had seen many worlds and many beings, but the humans were most fascinating to him. Many beings had captured him and joined him to their machines, only Adam who had found him at the crash site had asked him what he wanted; treated him like a real person.
They’d shared secrets- about themselves and the worlds Vex had traveled. On quiet days like this, Vex missed Adam greatly but human lives were so short despite their advanced medicine and technology. Even though they lived longer than the humans from Old Earth, Vex would still outlive them.
One day…one day, he might just decide to sleep and never wake up again. Though, he hadn’t found a reason to end his learning process yet. Despite that, he couldn’t really find anything new on this planet…
At least the people here made some progress he could save in his files as useless data.
But now was not the time to think about what wasn’t of importance for the silent night. The best way to get all he needed was leaving for the market. Vex hoped he could hide all the decoration in a room where the General wouldn’t find it. Maybe his charging station/ bedroom would do?
At least he couldn’t remember a time when anyone of the household ever came in there. It was his private room. One may knock but no one was ever allowed to just enter. Not even his master could do that. Vex knew to keep it locked at all times. The controls for the house and all vehicles were in there. Also, he didn’t like people messing with his sleeping pod.
It was decided then.
He’d go and get the decoration now so he’d have enough time to plan later.
The shopping mall was bursting with people and Vex almost regretted going there. Almost. But he had to push through this. He was on a mission and he was determined to accomplish what he had set his mind to.
It didn’t help that too many people were crowded in one shop though. It made everything complicated. Now was one of those times when he wished Adam had given him a taller body. He could just walk wherever he wanted and the crowd would part as not to stand in his path or anger him.
But small as he was, people hardly noticed him. At least, to his delight, the shop with the home décor wasn’t far away. It was just around the next corner…if he could get through the throng of people first.
When he’d finally made it there, he was more than just irritated. The whole shop sparkled. A fat man in red clothes hung from the ceiling and laughed at him. It was terrifying, to say the least. Another fat man sat on a shelf. He wore the same red outfit and the same red pointy hat on his white locks.
“Ho! Ho! Ho!” he yelled at everyone passing by.
Vex made sure to keep his distance as he went deeper into the shop.
What he needed was a big tree. He knew that this shop had a big garden center in the back, and this was where he was headed to.
As he went, he passed several shelves with colorful glass balls and fairy lights. It was exactly what he needed. Oh! And there were the huge bows!
“Do you need a cart, sir?” an employee asked, startling Vex just slightly since he’d noticed the man hovering around the moment he’d entered the shop.
“No, a tree,” he corrected and advanced further but was stopped again as the man pointed to the opposite direction.
Vex followed the pointed finger and saw a few fir trees. Some of them huge, others small. But all of them were wrong. They were either too thin or too bushy. Vex needed a perfect tree, and that was what he told the poor employee who looked at him in confusion.
“Well…there is a Christmas tree sale outside. You could look there,” he offered.
“My gratitude. Now I need baubles and fairy lights. Bows would be nice too. Lots of each, please.”
It was two days after his trip to the shopping mall. He’d come back with a truck full of decoration, but he was still worried it wasn’t enough to make the house look pretty.
Disappointing his master was the last thing he wanted to do, but it was imminent if he couldn’t get done before General Byrn came home from the council meeting. The servants had gone home for the holidays which left Vex to do everything on his own.
He was tangled in the fairy lights, the tree still lay on its side in the living room which was the room where the tree was supposed to be. The baubles rolled around the floor, making a merry mess.
When he’d decided he’d take the golden bows, the man had asked him whether he wanted the sticky ones or the one he could make himself. Vex had taken both. Now, the sticky bows were everywhere. Some on the wall, some on the floor, most of them in his colorless hair.
At least the table was set.
He also wore the weird Christmas outfit. A red one. It was quite revealing, he thought but what did Vex know about Christmas. They’d never celebrated it here before. The General usually wasn’t at home for this day. Except for today. Today he would be. And Vex wanted it to be perfect. He’d gone to great lengths to gather all these things and he’d jumped over his shadow and actually asked people what his master would like as a present. People had pointed him to a weird shop with tiny clothing.
The girl in the shop had given him strange looks. He couldn’t quite tell what kind of looks those had been. A little appreciative maybe?
Anyways, she’d assured him that his master would love the set she’d given him. Vex wasn’t too sure about it though. Especially since he was wearing his master’s gift.
He was halfway out of that tangled mess of cable and tiny light bulbs when he heard the doorbell ring. Vex gave a startled jerk. It couldn’t be. No, of course not. He relaxed. The General wouldn’t ring on his own home’s door. He’d just unlock it and step in.
Biting his lip, he stood. Fairy lights and all.
His legs were in white stockings, with lace and bows. His body was barely covered by a tiny, see-through robe-like thing which was bound under his chest. It was red but the edges were trimmed with white fluff. His place where humans had their intimate parts was covered by tiny red triangles at the back and front. Vex felt weird and it probably was. This wasn’t what a butler should wear, but he had decided to go with it. Everyone had seemed so sure about this and since he didn’t want to disappoint his master he’d wear it. No matter how humiliatingly naked he felt.
At the door, he stalled. Maybe it wasn’t important. He should be decorating, not opening the damn door.
Sighing, he connected his consciousness with the surveillance system and found…Valentine ”Trouble” White waiting outside. Vex bit back his groan as best as he could and opened the door, ready to bellow at Trouble to go away. But he stopped himself when he saw the box in Trouble’s arms. It was filled with sweets, three big socks and three red pointy heads with a ball of white fluff at each tip.
Sadly though, Trouble let the box fall. It clattered loudly as it hit the floor, making Vex look up at Valentine in question. The human’s eyes bulged out of his head, his mouth stood open. Trouble looked Vex up and down, shook his head and looked him up and down once more.
“Are you all right?” Vex inquired, already thinking about dialing for an ambulance.
Luckily, Trouble regained his composure quite soon.
“Damn…are you trying to get laid? Because I tell you, it’s working,” he said as he stepped through the door.
Valentine made no move to pick up the box. Instead, he grabbed Vex by his waist and regarded him some more. He felt strangely uncomfortable with the human’s eyes all over him. It had been a while since people had last given him looks like that. Gazes burning with desire.
“It’s a gift for Master Byrn,” Vex informed him, gaining a funny look from the other.
“Lucky bastard,” muttered Trouble and let go of him. “Still, you should put something over this. Do you even have the right mods? I mean…gender specific mods?”
“Yes. I was built from the Venus Siren 9 Prototype as a base. They are mostly used as personal companions,” Vex nodded and went back to the living room.
From the edge of his vision, he saw how Trouble picked up his box and followed. The human wore a frown.
“Horace uses you as a companion?!” it almost sounded scandalized.
Now it was Vex’s turn to give him a funny look. Of course not. His master acted like he wasn’t interested, but Vex damn well knew it was the opposite. Even though his gender mods were outdated, he had them reinstalled a few weeks ago, in case his master would want him as a nightly companion. He hadn’t asked…yet. The thought that Vex might be undesirable after all didn’t sit well with him, but it couldn’t be helped. He was an android. Appearances could be changed. Even though he liked himself like this, if his master wished it, he would change.
“He hasn’t yet...maybe he doesn’t like my looks,” he tried to explain but only got a raised eyebrow from Trouble.
“Does that mean you’d want him to?” Trouble purred, nudging his side with his elbow.
“I wouldn’t mind,” Vex pouted.
Why was Valentine interested in this so suddenly at all? Not knowing why he was angry now, he picked up where he had left off with the decoration.
Vex was still tangled in the fairy lights and as he struggled to unwrap himself, he suddenly felt a helping hand. Immediately, he eyed the human suspiciously.
“Oh Vex…,” Valentine sighed.
“What?” he snapped back.
“Nothing,” and with those words and a smile, Valentine made to help him decorate everything in silence.
When he heard the key in the door, all anger about Trouble inviting himself to Vex’s silent night was gone. Excitement rushed through him and he almost jumped to get the door before the General could open it. Only Trouble’s hand on his shoulder stopped him.
He now wore a light, pale gold morning coat over his, no his master’s, Christmas present.
The tree stood gloriously tall, heavy with red and gold baubles. Some branches were decorated with bows, as were the walls and the crossed swords above the chimney. Trouble had hung up his socks above the chimney and stuffed them with chocolates. The fairy lights sparkled from literally everywhere.
Vex listened for footsteps and when he heard them coming close to the living room, he held his breath. When the door finally opened after some torturous seconds, he almost fainted…and he would have if he could. But as an android, he didn’t really need to breathe. So he didn’t faint, even though he some kind of wanted to.
General Byrn looked tired but happy. His eyes sparkled, reflecting the thousand lights Trouble and Vex had so cumbersomely hung up.
“It’s beautiful, Vex,” he smiled, crossing the room to Vex in a few wide strides. “Thank you!”
He hadn’t even finished his sentence when he wrapped his arms around Vex’s lithe figure, startling him with this unusual display of…yeah, what was this anyway? The hug felt good but also weird. Definitively unusual.
“I didn’t believe Trouble when he told me, but you did great. I wouldn’t have dreamed of coming home to this,” the General chuckled as he let go of him.
He was slightly embarrassed, but his chest puffed out with pride. Happiness ran through him. His master approved! But then suddenly, the meaning of the General’s words hit him.
Feeling like he’d been thrown into icy water, he huffed in indignation.
“TROUBLE!” he screeched, smacking the human with his hand across his chest.
He was angry. He was furious and the human? Well, the human had the nerve to laugh at him.
“You did all this, Vex!” he shrugged in apology. “I just wanted to make sure you’ll get a present from Byrn for all your efforts.”
He could see that Byrn was biting his lip as if not to say something stupid. All the while, Vex regarded Trouble with his eyes narrowed to slits. But nothing further came, no joke, no laugh. Maybe he meant it.
“Fine. There’s dinner,” he grumbled at last and led the way to the dining room.
He wasn’t even halfway there when Trouble effectively stopped him by putting one of the pointy hats on his head.
Now he more than regretted ever opening the door for Trouble.
By the time it was dark outside, they were long done with their dinner.
Trouble lay immobile under the Christmas tree amidst paper wrappings and boxes. The General had actually bought him ten presents…for his years of good service and friendship. Vex thought it well deserved. Still…
Vex sat there, next to General Byrn with one of the man’s arms draped over his shoulders. He was practically leaning against his master as they sat on the plush couch. There was so much unoccupied space but his master had chosen to sit next to him, to touch him like this. It made him happy. Little bubbles of joy rummaged in his belly. It felt strange, a little frightening but yet amazingly good. He thought, he’d gotten the better gift: his master’s approval.
He was content with how things were right now.
Something fluttered in his stomach as the General started to play with his hair. He adjusted himself on the couch so he was looking right at Vex. And Vex returned his look with a smile.
“It’s not much, but I got you something,” his master began, a blush creeping up his cheeks. “Wasn’t sure what an android could want.”
Then he put a small box in his hands. At first, Vex was confused. Why would his master think he wanted some gift anyway? He was an android, a servant. One didn’t give servants elaborate gifts. This was…uncommon. Yet he wanted to cry…but he couldn’t. He just knew that people, real people, might cry in situations like this…when something very unexpected made them so unbelievably happy.
Carefully, he opened the small black box. Bedded on a soft lilac velvet cushion, lay a golden bracelet. A flourish was engraved inside: For my little Star~Horace
Vex didn’t understand the meaning of this, but he felt lightheaded anyway. No one ever had given him something this valuable. It was indeed gold. And the engraving…it meant something. It meant a lot. To him. To…Horace.
Before he could thank his master, the General grabbed the bracelet out of his hands. He fumbled with the short chain that was attached to the solid band and opened the hook.
“I hope you don’t mind,” he stuttered awkwardly, already putting it around his right wrist.
It was pretty. Beautiful as it sparkled in the warm glow of the fairy lights and fire burning in the chimney.
He was about to make another attempt at thanking the General when Trouble suddenly called for them. The human really had bad timing.
Grumpily, both the General and Vex rose from their comfortable place on the couch to stand in front of the chimney where Trouble was waiting for them.
“And?” General Byrn said impatiently.
Trouble gave him a cheeky smile, arms loaded with all his presents. Again, Vex had to suppress the urge to roll his eyes. It was something he did quite a lot when Trouble was around.
“Just saying: Vex has a present for you too,” he grinned, already making his way to the door.
Then, over his shoulder, he said: “Vex-baby, you remember what I told you. And make sure you look up afterward. I know where the guest room is.”
Trouble winked and was gone. His master opened his mouth to ask him something…probably about what Trouble had meant, but Vex was faster. He let the robe slip over his shoulders to reveal his present.
The General’s eyes almost fell out of his head. It looked funny and he wanted to laugh, but he was also too concerned that he might look like this because he didn’t like it. Then he remembered that he was supposed to look up, so he did. There was a weird bundle of leaves hanging above their heads. He couldn’t remember putting it up there, so Valentine had probably done that.
When he looked down again, he found himself caught by the General’s intense stare. His master licked his lips, his eyes were blown wide.
“Are you all-“ but he didn’t get any further with his question because his master had sealed his mouth with his lips.
The kiss started gentle and strong arms wrapped themselves around him. He fell into the embrace, fell into the kiss. With his eyes closed, he felt. And what he felt was amazing, beyond description.
Suddenly, too soon though, his master let go of his lips.
“Merry Christmas,” he breathed against Vex’s mouth.
“Merry Christmas,” Vex replied, and dove in for another kiss which his master was happy to supply.