Prototype 0.1

A collaborative fanfiction by Jenny (chakramchucker) and Mu (badpirate)

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Strong Bad stared at the poorly xeroxed piece of paper in his hand, nose wrinkled in disdain.

There were a lot of word combinations he disliked. Dry t-shirt contest. Rent past due. Grandma's coming to visit.

But few were as bad as trust building exercises. It wasn't that he minded the break from work. Staring at a screen all day when he wasn't allowed to check his e-mail was horribly boring.

No, what bothered him was that out of the thirty, maybe forty coworkers he had, he knew that somehow, someway, he was going to be paired up with...

"Strong Bad and ... Homestar Runner."

He cringed mentally. Every freakin' time.

"Whaddya know, this makes two years in a row," his assigned partner declared in sing-song, sliding over to stand beside him. "I hope we do that animal guessing game."

Unlike Strong Bad, Homestar appeared to be happy enough with his designated companion.

Strong Bad rolled his eyes. "Three years," he corrected irritably. "This will be the third year we're partners. What are the friggen odds?"

Homestar shrugged. "I could tell ya but I think that guy's giving us the evil eye," he whispered loudly, making an evil-eye-warding symbol out of his fingers and holding it up.

The motivational speaker was indeed sending them a look, but it was out of annoyance rather than sinister intent. "Now then, this next activity is called the trust fall. I've put you in pairs so that you can take turns being the faller and the catcher. Any volunteers to demonstrate? Ah, Homestar."

"Huh?" Homestar blinked. He had his hand raised for the warning sign and quickly hid it behind his back. The damage was already done, though.

"Oh, you have gotta be kidding me," Strong Bad complained loudly. "Trust fall? Seriously? What is this, summer camp? Isn't there like ... Linux that needs to be written? Some phone calls to answer? Do we really have to do all this crap?"

The speaker sighed. He had been coming there for three years, and every year the crazy guy in the wrestling mask gave him the same speech. "Yes, Strong Bad, you really do have to do this. Come up here, boys."

"Oh come on, Strong Bad. This is way more fun than sitting at the help desk all day. We get free cookies," Homestar reminded him. He dutifully marched up to the front of the room, bypassing the rows of folding chairs that were sparsely seated. Due to a freak overnight flu epidemic, a lot of the other employees were out 'sick' today.

Strong Bad wished he had remembered that today was the trust building exercise. Then he'd 'have the flu' as well. Then again, he frequently had the flu. Or a cold. Or a freak sky diving accident. But that was last week ... he'd have to wait at least one more week to use that excuse again.

"Okay, Strong Bad, you fall and Homestar will catch you," the speaker instructed. Strong Bad gave his partner an unimpressed look.

"How about dumdum falls and I catch him? If he sees something shiny I might end up breaking my skull," he replied flatly, thumbing towards Homestar.

Homestar pouted. "But there's nothing shiny in the room besides the folding chairs and the coffee machine and those aren't that interesting."

The speaker rolled his eyes. "You'll both be taking a turn at it, so whoever goes first will be switching anyway. Part of a healthy work environment is being able to depend on your fellow employees. The trust has to go both ways."

"Ladies first," Strong Bad snickered, pushing Homestar forward.

"Okay, ready? Just close your eyes, fall back and Strong Bad will catch you. Don't be nervous," the speaker said, patting Homestar on the shoulder.

Homestar smiled weakly, glancing back at Strong Bad. He seemed to gather his courage and straightened, closing his eyes. "Allrighty." He started to lean back, then stopped himself and peeped an eye open. "Now?"

"Yes. Go," the speaker replied flatly.

"Okay, okay." Homestar glanced over his shoulder again before closing his eyes. He leaned back, teetering hesitantly on his heels before letting himself fall.

And fall. Strong Bad took a giant step back, arms outstretched. He grinned innocently when Homestar smashed to the floor, taking a folding chair with him. "Oh, gosh darn it all, did I miss? My bad."

"Strong Bad!" the speaker hissed angrily, helping Homestar to his feet. "Are you okay?"

Strong Bad rolled his eyes. "There's nothing in his head to damage, he'll be fine."

Homestar blinked and rubbed his head. "I'm g-g-good." He twitched a bit and glanced down at his arm, quickly covering a gash with his hand. "Oh! Oops..."

"Did you hurt yourself?" The speaker reached for his arm, but he pulled it away.

"Just my arm, it's fine." Homestar replied. "I better go get it fixed up, if that's okay."

"Yes, of course. The first aid kit is in Helen's office," the speaker said, but Strong Bad stared at Homestar's arm quizzically.

He followed him out of the room, arms crossed over his chest. He snickered. "Faking an injury to get out of that? Good idea, dork. You're not even bleeding."

"Of course I'm not bleeding," Homestar said, rolling his eyes. He pushed open the door to the office he had been directed to and started rummaging through shelves until he found the aforementioned emergency kit. He lifted it off the shelf with both hands and set it on the desk- Helen's desk, presumably. It then became clear why Homestar was not bleeding.

Bleeding required arteries. There was a gash on Homestar's arm, all right. But it didn't reveal the usual human tissue. Beneath a flesh-like layer of bloodless outer skin was circuitry. He bit his lip and frowned at the contents of the first aid kit, oblivious to the fact that his innards were showing. None of it seemed overly useful- then he spotted some tape. "Aha! That'll work." He nabbed it and started picking at it, trying to find the end.

Strong Bad shook his head, staring. He pointed, and his mouth opened to speak but the words didn't come out right away. Wires? Circuits?

He shook his head again and turned to leave. No. Impossible. Homestar was just faking the injury. There wasn't anything on his arm. Still ... Strong Bad looked back over his shoulder, catching a glimpse of grey and red before Homestar flattened the plastic faux flesh over it so he could tape it up.

Strong Bad turned back to the door again, visibly puzzled. Wires and circuits. In Homestar's arm. Instead of blood and flesh. He buried his head in his hand and walked back to his cubicle. Someone had to have switched the regular coffee for decaf again, because he was clearly still half-asleep.

Homestar didn't notice him leave and kept talking to himself throughout the bandaging process. Upon completion, he finally glanced up and realized his partner was gone. "Strong Bad?" He popped his head out into the hallway and looked down both directions. "Hm." With a shrug and one last poke at his bandaged arm, he headed back to the conference room.

In the mean time, back in the main office...

"Psst," a voice from the cubicle beside Strong Bad's hissed. "Is it over?" Judging by the soft-spoken, dull tone of voice it was Strong Sad. His aversion to pep talks of every kind left him a refugee under his own desk. No one really noticed he was missing- in fact, the first year they'd had their team-building exercises he had actually been asked to leave, much to Strong Bad's jealous protests. Still, he enjoyed the solitude and darkness of sitting under there, even if the lighting made it hard to read.

"It is for me," Strong Bad replied boredly. He had started up a game of solitaire and was mindlessly clicking through it. He glanced over at his brother out of the corner of his eye. "You're a nerd, right?"

He paused.

"So you'd know ... hmm. How to put this… Okay. Everyone bleeds, right? No exceptions?"

"I don't know if I wanna answer that question," Strong Sad replied suspiciously as he leaned against the edge of the cubicle. Then again, if this was leading to Strong Bad punching him or something, it was probably inevitable. After thinking if over for a second he added, "Yeah. Everyone bleeds, as sure as everyone lives and dies. Unless they're already dead, of course. Then there's no pulse to make the blood flow."

"He might be braindead, but I'm pretty sure he's still ... alive," Strong Bad muttered. He went back to his game quietly.

Strong Sad raised a pale eyebrow and sighed- somewhat in relief. "So this is about Homestar? What'd you do to him now?"

"I didn't--" Strong Bad stopped his defensive remark. Oh, right. He let Homestar crash to the floor.

"Nothing out of the ordinary," he stated curtly. "But he cut himself and ... didn't bleed. I'm pretty sure I saw wires, man."

"That is strange," Strong Sad admitted. "You know, last month in my Popular Science magazine I read an article about some new prosthetics being built that mimic real limbs. Maybe he signed up for one when they were in the design stage. He must've been in some horrible accident..." he trailed off, wondering what it might have been. A car crash, probably. Those accounted for the most deaths and injuries according to nationwide statistics- right after household accidents and falls.

Strong Bad narrowed his eyes at his screen. Prosthetic limbs? How boring.

"I bet he's a robot."

Strong Sad scoffed. "You mean an android. Besides, everybody knows there hasn't been an android built yet that can copy the higher brain functions of a human being. Even Homestar has too much of a personality to be one."

"He does live with that creepy Homeschool Winner guy. He's supposed to be smart, right?" Strong Bad reminded him. He snorted dismissively. "But you're right. Homestar's not nearly cool enough to be a robot."

"Android," Strong Sad corrected.

"Whatever."

Strong Sad was quiet for a bit. "He still has a cool prosthetic limb, though," he observed. "If what you saw was real."

"I just need coffee," Strong Bad yawned. "Now go back to reading under your desk or something. I'm trying win at solitaire before the company blocks the site again."

Strong Bad and his brother managed to successfully dodge the rest of the trust building exercises-- they weren't exactly welcome company, anyway. At the end of the day, Strong Bad rummaged through his desk for some change for the bus.

"I need a friggen car," he muttered, baby brother at his heels. He glared over his shoulder. "Or you. You need a friggen car so I can sleep or play video games on the way home."

"I have a college education to pay for. Art school is expensive, you know. Maybe you could ask Homeschool for a ride," Strong Sad huffed, nodding towards a white van that had pulled up outside the office. "Or show up for work more often and get yourself a car if you want one so bad."

"Hey guys!" a familiar voice piped up from behind them. It was Homestar again, having been released from the confines of the conference room. He caught up with them and paused to blink at Strong Sad. "I didn't know you worked here."

"Only for the last couple of years," Strong Sad sighed wearily.

"We had lunch together yesterday, you moron," Strong Bad huffed. He glanced at Homestar's bandaged up arm, but didn't mention it. "Do you always get picked up? Why the crap do you never offer us a ride?"

"Oh, right. I figured he lived here or something." He shrugged at Strong Sad. "You don't seem like a help desk kind of person. You're too depressing."

"Thanks," Strong Sad said flatly. "But I don't-"

"You're welcome. Oh, and you never asked, Strong Bad. Why, do you want a ride?" Homestar perked up.

Strong Bad looked back at the windowless van and its driver, who was on a cellphone and ranting away to someone. "Pass. There's no way I'm getting in a car with Homeschool Winner. That guy gives me the jibblies."

"Aw, he's not so bad. For an uncle, I guess... even if he's the only one I got," Homestar admitted. "And he is kind of cranky when I get hurt and need repairs." He absently picked at his makeshift bandage and frowned. "Well, I better go. Seeya around." He waved and walked away.

Strong Bad was quiet when he the van drove away.

"...need repairs?" He elbowed his brother. "Told you he was a robot."

Strong Sad rolled his eyes and resumed walking toward the bus stop. "He has a prosthetic arm. And you make fun of my imagination..."

"Prosthetic arm, yeah, right," Strong Bad rolled his eyes. "And is that why Homeschool changes from Homestar's cousin, to his uncle and back again all the friggen time? His memory bank is probably broken. I bet he's one of those lame housekeeping robots."

"Androids," Strong Sad corrected, annoyed. "And if he was built for housekeeping, I don't think Homeschool would let him leave the house. Plus he has a girlfriend, and androids don't have girlfriends."

Strong Bad mulled that one over. "He obviously doesn't want anyone to know he's a rob... android. But if he WERE a robot it would explain why he's so friggen fast. I never see him exercise, do you?"

"I've never seen you exercise either," Strong Sad observed flatly.

"I'm not fast. Like, inhumanly fast," Strong Bad snapped.

Strong Sad seemed to consider that point for a moment. "You know, just because he always beats you at sports doesn't mean you have to make excuses for it by claiming your opponent isn't human. He could just be a good athlete. And he probably exercises at home. He doesn't seem to have many other hobbies."

"It's not just that! He beats me at everything. He can code faster than I can, did you know that?" Strong Bad huffed. "He always gets his work done in record time. I can type 160 words per minute but he can STILL be done before I am. That means he can type like ... 190, almost 200 words per minute. Who's the fastest typist you know?"

"It still sounds to me like you're jealous," Strong Sad muttered. He knew this remark could lead to physical harm, so he quickly added, "There's just not enough evidence to prove it. Besides, what are you gonna do even if you did find out he was some sort of android?"

"I..." Strong Bad considered that and frowned, realizing that he didn't know what he'd do if Homestar was, in fact, a robot. He then punched his brother in the arm. "I'm not jealous. Let's just go, if I miss the bus because you keep rambling I'm gonna be mad."

"Ow," Strong Sad whimpered, rubbing his arm. "It was just hypothetical..."

The two siblings successfully boarded their bus fifteen minutes later, Strong Sad drowning out the trip with the compilation of Sloshy albums on his iPod until they pulled up at their street. Homeschool's van was already in his- or was it Homestar's driveway? It probably depended on which story was true, the cousin one or the uncle one. No one really questioned it. The lawn got mowed and the place seemed habitable enough. Homestar tended to spend most of his time away from it though, which lended more credibility to the idea that the house belonged to Homeschool.
Not that anyone saw much of him to ask. He was almost more elusive than the mythical bear-holding-a-shark... but that was about to change. Later that evening, there was a knock at the door of the Strong household.

"Get the door!" Strong Bad shouted, less than a few feet from the door himself. Strong sad came down from his room with a scowl. "And why can't you answer it?"

"Because I told you to, duh," Strong Bad huffed, flipping through his magazine. "Ask a stupid question..."

Strong Sad sighed and went to comply. It was probably Homestar again. He wondered what excuse he'd use this time to barge in as he pulled open the door- and blinked. "Oh. Hi."

The awkward looking man on the other side of the doorway shifted and pulled his hands out of his pockets. He blinked at Strong Sad momentarily from behind slightly skewed glasses which he adjusted a moment later while speaking. "Yes, hello. Um... I was wondering if I could have a word with Strong Bad. Is he home, by any chance?"

"Uh, yeah. One sec, he's right here," Strong Sad replied, visibly confused. This day was getting more and more bizarre. "Uh, Strong Bad? It's for you."

"Of course it's for me, I'm the only one in this house worth talking to," Strong Bad snorted, getting up.

At that, Strong Sad rolled his eyes and motioned for the unexpected guest to come in.
Homeschool scanned the room as he stepped inside, frowning at the empty chip bags and pizza boxes laying around the house. It was not an environment he liked to imagine his experiments taking place in, but then his research did have to involve all aspects of human behavior... even the bad ones. Thankfully there was Marzipan's place to balance this out.

"What's up?" Strong Bad asked, plopping back down into his chair. "You left your lair and your creepy van just to pay a visit?"

Snapping back to attention, Homeschool cleared his throat. His 'lair'? "No, I- I apologize for the intrusion. I'll try to get to the point quickly. As I understand you spend a lot of time with Homestar, correct?"

Strong Bad blinked. "What? No. Opposite way around. He spends a lot of time with me. I spend a lot of time telling him to get out of my face."

"Yes, well, in either case... I assume you were present today when he recieved his injury at work. He told me you were," Homeschool continued. He seemed to hesitate briefly. "I am here to talk about that, specifically." He seemed to be watching Strong Bad particularly attentively as he spoke. "What... if you don't mind me asking, did you see of the incident?"

He didn't respond right away, eyes flicking towards Strong Sad. "Not much. Just Dumbstar falling backwards and smacking his head. Pretty funny stuff," he replied as casually as possible. "Said he cut his arm, but uh. I didn't see anything. He's a bad liar."

Homeschool relaxed a bit. "Ah. Well don't worry, I'm not accusing you of anything. I merely wanted to know what happened for insurance purposes. You know how picky the companies get about claims."

"Yeah I know," Strong Sad said slowly. "He gets his insurance through the benefits package at work, right?"

"Er, yes," Homeschool replied, adjusting his glasses again. "Well, I won't waste any more of your time. Thank you for your assistance. If he hurts himself again, do let me know immediately. I'd rather he didn't try to tend it himself."

"Uh, sure, I guess," Strong Bad replied, frowning. He watched Homeschool go.

"...we don't ... have a benefits package. Not for our level of job, anyway," Strong Bad muttered. He pointed at his brother triumphantly. "I told you he was a total weirdo. There's gonna be something going on."

"I'll believe that, but I still don't think Homestar is an android," Strong Sad responded, folding his arms over his chest. "Are you sure we should be poking around in this? There's probably a good reason Homeschool's keeping his roomie's arm a secret."

"Well kept secrets are the only secrets worth finding out," Strong Bad snickered.

"Uh huh. Well, you do what you want. I don't wanna be responsible for embarassing some poor guy who lost his arm in an accident and was just trying to live a normal life. As if life isn't cruel enough." He turned and started back up the stairs to his room.

"Well, fine!" Strong Bad called out angrily. "I can't figure this out all on my own. I don't need your nerdy brand of help." He crossed his arms over his chest and pouted.

"... I gotta call Homestar," he muttered, heading for the kitchen. "I'll invite the dork to hang out with me tomorrow, he'll say yes because he's got some sort of boycrush on me, and I'll figure it out somehow. Best plan ever."

---------------

It turned out that it was not the best plan ever. No, it was the most annoying plan ever. Strong Bad wished he had brought earplugs because Homestar just refused to stop babbling.

"And then she was all like, 'I don't care if you're the king of China, you still have to pay for that sandwich' so I was like that's so wrong, lady, China doesn't have kings. They have... um, sultans." Homestar blinked. "Or was it an overlord? But anyway, video games. Fun times."

Strong Bad rubbed his temples. "Yes. Yes, video games. Let's play some video games quietly," he groaned, slipping a quarter into the machine. He looked around the arcade. It was weird being the only two adults in the building, but arcades were dark and there were video games. Fun times indeed.

Homestar couldn't have cared less if the arcade was filled with aliens playing bingo. His mood could only be described as electric at the very fact that he was along- by invitation, for once- on an outing with Strong Bad. He grabbed the other joystick and wiggled it around for about a minute, hardly looking like he was concentrating while doing so. The pixelated dinosaur on Strong Bad's side of the screen collapsed and 'Game Over" flashed brightly. "I win. Let's do it again!"

Strong Bad growled and slipped in another quarter. "You ever play this game before?"

"Nope. It's fun, though," Homestar grinned as the game started up again.

"Hmph." Strong Bad glared at the screen. Natural talent for video games ... definitely weird, but maybe not robot weird.

"So I was talking to Strong Sad and he said vampires are cooler than robots," Strong Bad said distractedly, eyes focused on the game. "What do you think?"

"Pff, of course robots are way cooler," Homestar snorted. "Vampires have to eat blood all the time and sleep in coffins. But turning into a bat is kinda cool."

Interesting. Strong Bad raised an eyebrow. "Yeah, I think so too. But robots gotta like... recharge, right?"

"Um, no." Homestar blinked at him. "Duh, that's what sugar is for."

"Robots don't eat," Strong Bad pointed out. He looked away, a little annoyed. That was a flaw in his theory.

"Who told you that?" Homestar snorted. "Energy comes from sugar, sugar comes from food, and we eat the food. Seriously, Strong Bad, I thought everybody knew that."

"You're pretty ... knowledgeable about the eating habits of robots," Strong Bad pointed out suspiciously.

"Sure, I guess," Homestar shrugged. "So which game you wanna play next?'

Strong Bad pulled his pockets inside out. "Uh. Something ... free?"

"Oh. Okay then." Homestar scanned the room. There seemed to be only games with flashing screens that asked for coins, but he didn't have any coins. And if he didn't have any coins, that might mean they'd have to leave. He frowned, then perked up when he spotted a change machine. I don't want to go home yet.

"Wait here," he said, waving a hand at Strong Bad. He walked up to the machine and started pressing keys on the number pad. He frowned when it made a beeping noise after the first series of presses, then proceeded to enter more numbers. His fingers sped across the input buttons until suddenly a torrent of quarters spilled into the change dish. It looked to be at least twenty bucks worth.

Strong Bad only looked over at the sound over crashing down coins. "What the crap... how long do you expect to stick around here, Dorkstar?" He whistled. "Shoulda told me you brought money with you."

"I didn't," Homestar replied, dropping a handful of quarters into Strong Bad's hand. "Besides, you need the practice. You're not much of a challenge."

"I'm not much of a ...?" He growled and tossed the quarters at him and stomped away. "Keep your chump change. I'm outta here. Not much of a challenge ..."

Homestar blinked after him, forgetting about the quarters. "But- wait!" He caught up with him at the door. "I don't mind, really!"

"You don't mind," Strong Bad repeated sarcastically. "Gee, thanks."

"I don't get what you're so upset about, I thought we were having fun," Homestar frowned.

"Hanging out with you is not fun," Strong Bad pointed out. "It's ... a waste of a Saturday afternoon is what it is."

Homestar was genuinely hurt by that, but tried to shake it off. "Well then- well how can I make it not... not fun? You're the one that invited me. We didn't have to come to the arcade."

Strong Bad seemed to consider it. "You can buy me lunch," he suggested. "I'm starving. The least I can do is get a meal out of this."

"Okay, let me get the rest of the quarters," Homestar said quickly, going back to gather what he could off the floor.

He waited impatiently out front. How did Homestar manage to get a zillion quarters out of the machine if he didn't bring money? Maybe he asked nicely. After all, Strong Bad was still working under the impression that Homestar was a robot. Robots and machines could talk to each other, right? Right. Of course. Somehow.

He returned a bit later with his pockets stuffed- he'd lost a few dollars worth under the machines from roll-aways, but he had more than enough for their next destination. He glanced at the sky as they headed down the sidewalk towards Marshmallow's Last Stand. It was cloudy and somewhat dark for so early in the afternoon. He wrinkled his nose at the humid air. "Man, I hope it doesn't rain. I hate rain."

Strong Bad raised an eyebrow at that. "Oh yeah? Hmm. Guess you shoulda brought an umbrella then, huh?"

"Umbrellas don't help," Homestar muttered, starting to stick his hands in his pockets only to realize they were filled with quarters.

"Maybe we'll lucky out and it won't rain," Strong Bad suggested. Truth be told, he wasn't a fan of rain, either. He looked over at him curiously. "Hey, random but ... can you swim?"

"NO," Homestar shuddered. "Can you?"

"Of course, I'm awesome," Strong Bad snorted indignantly. He gave Homestar a curious look. "But you're all ... sportsy. You can't swim? Seriously?"

"Are you kidding? Why would I want to go near all that water," Homestar replied, sounding both disgusted and maybe even a little scared at the idea.

"Afraid you'll drown?"

"Afraid I'll die," Homestar corrected. "I hate water. I could drink it, but it's got nothing in it worth drinking. It's the dumbest thing ever. It doesn't even taste good and it... I just hate it." He snorted and kicked a pebble up the sidewalk.

"Hmm." Strong Bad tapped his chin. An interesting development. Strong Sad would probably say it's just a coincidence that robots hate water like Homestar hated water, but Strong Sad was a fat moron.

He stopped when he felt a raindrop. "An umbrella would be nice," he muttered.

"Yeah, I-" Homestar stopped and his eyes widened as he felt a raindrop, too. He yelped and rubbed his arm where it had hit before dashing for the nearest awning for shelter.

Strong Bad raised an eyebrow. "It's just spitting. Stop being such a baby."

"I need to go home," Homestar whimpered, back pressed against the building as he glared at the dark specks that intermittently appeared on the sidewalk. Strong Bad or not, he wasn't ready to face a rain storm unprotected.

"Then go," Strong Bad shrugged. "It's a long walk, though. Have fun."

Homestar shook his head adamantly. "I can't walk in this!"

"Why?"

He glared at Strong Bad, feeling a momentary wave of jealousy at his apparent immunity to the very annoying problem of water. "Because."

"Because why?" Strong Bad asked, looking down at his nails as he stood in the rain defiantly.

"Because... " Homestar hesitated before sticking his hand out in the rain. He winced and shuddered at the contact before drawing his hand back under the shelter just as a faint shock of blue ran up his arm. His fingers twitched for a split second and he dried off his hand with his shirt just as Strong Bad glanced back up at him. "I... can't. What if I fall in a puddle?"

"Then you get back up," Strong Bad shrugged. "I don't see how you're getting home without getting wet, dorkstar."

He glowered out from under the awning at the dampening streets. Marshmallow's Last Stand was only just around the corner. If he moved fast enough, maybe... but no, his fear got the better of him again.

"You're right, I guess I can't go home," he huffed. He grabbed at his hat and sank down against the side of the building. "This sucks."

Strong Bad tapped his foot impatiently before he marched off. "Be right back."

He came back a few minutes with a newspaper. "It's not an umbrella but it'll do. I'll give it to you if you answer one teensy little question for me."

"Sure, anything," Homestar agreed gratefully.

"Are you a robot?"

"Of course, what else would I be?" Homestar looked surprised at the fact that he'd bothered to ask something that easy. "Well, I mean, an android... but close enough." He held out his hands for the newspaper.

Strong Bad blinked a few times, obediently handing him the newspaper. "You're ... an android? Shouldn't you be more secretive with that information? Unless you're just trying to be funny..." He tapped his chin. "...hmm. Really?"

"Um, yeah. I didn't know it- oh..." He frowned. "You know, now that I think of it, Homeschool mighta mentioned it was a secret at one point." He added in a loud whisper, "Don't tell him I told you."

"Tell him? I don't even know if I believe you." He paused to smirk. "Prove it."

"Okay." Homestar blinked at him. He wasn't entirely sure what would be considered sufficient evidence for his claim. "Like how?"

"Do something ... robot-y," Strong Bad shrugged, wiggling his fingers at him.

Homestar cocked his head. "I don't know what counts as robot-y. You do something robot-y and I'll try and copy it."

"I can't do something robot-y, I'm not a robot," Strong Bad huffed. He tapped his foot on the ground. "Don't you got like ... super powers? Unless you really are one of those lame housekeeping robots. Boring."

"Aw, you're not robot?" He seemed a little disappointed. "Well, I can run fast. Can't do that in the rain, though." He bit his lip and tried to think of something. He knew humans were pretty fragile, and he knew he had to be careful not to accidentally hurt them. They weren't as strong- "Oh! I got it. C'mere," he motioned for him to step under the awning.

Strong Bad hesitantly approached him, and wrung the water from his hair. "Figured something out?"

"Yup." Homestar tucked the newspaper between his knees and grabbed Strong Bad around the waist. His companion's damp clothing had an unpleasant reaction with his artificial skin, but he ignored it for now and lifted Strong Bad as near to over his head as he could manage without knocking his head against the shelter above them.

He was met with a kick in the face thanks to that sudden movement. "Put me down you moron!" Strong Bad hissed angrily, kicking him again. This caused Homestar to lose his grip, and Strong Bad tumbled on top of him.

He groaned and rubbed his head, steadying himself up with his other hand on Homestar's shoulder, effectively pinning him to the ground. "I think I might believe you," he muttered. "Just don't you EVER do that again."

"S-sowwy," Homestar muttered, his voice retaining a digitized edge to it thanks to the facial impact. He cleared his throat and smiled nervously.

Strong Bad crossed his arms over his chest. "You're really a robot," he muttered. It didn't sound like a question, more like he was talking to himself. He pulled himself off of Homestar and sat down next to him on the curb. "You're really a robot."

"You'we weally a human," Homestar mused, getting up to sit beside him. "How weird." His voice seemed to be returning to normal.

"There's a lot more humans than robots," Strong Bad pointed out. He blinked. "Wait. Strong Sad that there's never been an android that ... could pass for human."

He paused.

"But it took me three years to figure out you're a robot. You don't ... look like a robot." He tilted his head. "I mean, you pass for human. So ... are you like ... a secret?" He snapped his fingers. "I bet that creepy Homeschool Winner made you, huh? Holy crap."

"He's my cousin," Homestar stated. "He... fixes me up and stuff. I thought there were lots of other robots like me out there." He frowned. "I bet you just never asked them like you asked me."

"No. Y... you're seriously the only one," Strong Bad insisted. He tapped his chin. "I probably shouldn't kick you in the face anymore. I can't afford to pay Homeschool if I break his invention."

"Plus, that hurts," Homestar complained.

"How can it hurt, you're a friggen robot," Strong Bad pointed out. "You can't feel. At least, you shouldn't be able to, if science-fiction movies taught me anything."

"Puh-leeze. Science fiction movies are so off," Homestar snorted, rolling his eyes. "They are fun, though. Even if the Terminator movies were kinda overboard."

"So ... you can feel?" He rested his chin on his knees, thinking it over. "Weird. Can you really feel or is just a programmed reaction... I mean, you're a robot. You don't like ... have a nervous system. So you can't really feel. Your emotions must be fake, too."

He frowned at that and turned towards Homestar. "Holy crap. You're not a real person. That's ... well, it's weird. You've been living across the street from me for three years and ... you're not real." Strong Bad sighed angrily. "How can someone so fake be so annoying," he grumbled.

Homestar shot him a glare, insulted. "Hey, I might not be fleshy but I'm still a real person," he huffed, folding his arms over his chest. "I'm not fake."

"You're not ... not fake," Strong Bad insisted. "You're a complicated program, man. I mean, there's no way you have actual emotions. That'd mean you'd have like ... a soul or something."

"Says you." Homestar snorted. "I dunno but right now my emotions are pretty insulted. I don't think they wanna buy you lunch anymore."

Strong Bad tapped his fingers on the sidewalk. He was pretty friggen hungry, but was it worth an apology?

His stomach growled loudly.

...yeah, it was. "Allright, jeez, I'm sorry. Now buy me food."

Homestar raised a suspicious eyebrow at him. "You mean it?"

"Yes, I mean it. I'm starving," he complained, pointing down the street. "Food."

"All right, apology accepted," Homestar agreed, cheering up almost instantly. He got to his feet and unfolded his newspaper, losing some of his recovered perkiness as his attention went back to the rain again. He stood uneasily at the edge of his shelter.

"Maybe we should... wait a bit."

Strong Bad snorted. "You'd think he'd remember to make you water proof."

"Oh, I am... mostly," Homestar admitted.

"Mostly?" Strong Bad leaned over curiously. "What do you mean mostly?"

"Well, my mouth is waterproof. The rest of me is just resistant 'cause the raindrops mess with me. A-like so..." he pulled out a quarter and held his hand out in the rain for a bit, biting his lip again as his fingers twitched occasionally. He then withdrew his hand and held it up. The quarter stuck there, magnetized. After a few seconds, a faint blue flash ran up his arm and the quarter fell off. "Doesn't feel very good," he noted. "But it doesn't... like, kill me or anything. I think." He shuddered. "I hate water."

"That's kinda neat," Strong Bad snickered. "I wonder why your mouth is water proof, though. What the crap is the point to that?"

"Eating, duh," Homestar replied. "And drinking. And... I dunno." He shrugged. "I think it was kinda expensive to do that so that's why Homeschool didn't waterproof all of me."

"Why do you eat? It seems weird to make a robot that eats," Strong Bad observed. He was quiet for a few seconds. "Kissing, probably. If you kissed someone, and they got electrocuted everyone would figure out your a robot pretty fast."

"Kissing? That's not watery. Marzipan kisses me on the cheek all the time," Homestar noted distractedly. "And I'll have you know I eat for the same reason everybody does. I gotta have fuel, man. This ticker doesn't run on an empty tank." He patted his chest. "Soo... I'm practically human anyway. Just a little better. Except for the water part."

Strong Bad snorted. "You've been going with her for three years and you haven't really kissed her? Man, I guess robots don't have a sex drive," he mused. He tapped his lip. "The good kind of kissing happens lips to lips, you dork. And if it's really good, there's some spit-swapping involved. Geez. You're such a kid."

"Ohh. That kind." Homestar put his hands on his hips thoughtfully. He had seen that kind of kissing in movies before. He mentally reviewed the hazy memory files on the technique before jerking his present company forward and planting one on him experimentally. He released him and giggled. "Was that right? That was pretty good."

Strong Bad slapped him instinctively. "NO. JUST. NO. DON'T DO THAT. BAD ROBOT."

"Ow!" Homestar glared at him and rubbed his face. "What the crap was that for?"

"You kissed me!" he snapped. "You don't get to just kiss anyone you want, especially not dudes. Especially not dudes named Strong Bad. Like, extra extra especially on that one. Just. No." He picked up the newspaper, rolled it up and bapped him on the head. "Bad robot!"

"Cut it out, I'm not a dog," Homestar complained, readjusting his hat after backing off a bit. "I don't get what the big deal is... "

"The big deal is that you're only supposed to kiss your girlfriend like that, not the guy who tolerates you," Strong Bad huffed. He wiped his mouth on the back of his hand.

"Augh, robot cooties. You are so friggen dense. Don't you ever watch movies? Girls and boys kiss, not boys and boys. Well. That's not totally true. I guess some boys kiss but I am NOT one of those kinds of boys. Just. Augh." He retched.

"'Course I watch movies," Homestar replied defensively. "I watch tons of movies. All the time. Except when I get kicked out of the theater or when they're boring." He rubbed the back of his neck. "And I've never seen you kiss any girls so how would I know," Homestar muttered. "I thought it was a good kiss. Way better than Marzipan-style."

"Just assume every guy, by default, likes girls," Strong Bad snorted. He looked away, eyes narrowed as he mulled over the last statement. Was it a good kiss?

Yes. It wasn't like any kiss he had before, anyway. Awkward teenage kisses behind the bleachers were ... no. They were forgettable, at best. Homestar was programmed pretty friggen well for a useless robot. He still hadn't figured out why Homeschool made him. He wasn't a maid. He clearly wasn't some subservient sex robot or else he'd be better informed.

He snorted. "For the most disgusting thing that ever happened to me, it was okay. Just don't ever do it again, got it?"

"Yes sir," Homestar agreed, sounding a bit disappointed. "Can I have my newspaper back?"

Strong Bad held it out to him. "Sure, whatever. Now come on, I'm hungry."