There were few Neopian homes with quite as much money as theirs. Their owner had been around Neopia for a very long time, longer than most of the humans inhabiting their world; persistence, diligence and some very smart investments had garnered her a lot of respect, friends and money (although the former two may have been almost entirely due to the latter).
The four of them lived on a huge estate in Neopia Central, at the top of a hill with a winding driveway leading up to it. Their owner joined them when she had the time, between her work and her socializing; for the most part it was just them, servants and a big house. All four of them had Petpets and all of them had rare colourations; they ate gourmet food for every meal; they read only the most expensive books. Their life was a luxurious, but wholly neglected, one. That was why they turned to each other for affection and care.
The only one of them that had been around at the start of it all was Lazrus, the Buzz. He'd been around when their owner was still poor and compassionate. She had rescued him from the pound, nursed him back to health from being nearly half-dead and had treated him like her own son. It was then that the few investments she could afford to make started to pay off and she started having a major cash flow coming in for the first time in her life. That was when the second Neopet came into their family; Karling, the Krawk. This being a much earlier time, Krawk petpets weren't as expensive, and she'd quickly handed one to Lazrus as soon as she could afford it. It wasn't until after that she figured out the significance of the pets and grew Karling into a full-grown Krawk. As Lazrus and Karling started to get closer and closer, turning into real brothers, their owner started to drift away, becoming more absorbed in her money.
For the longest time, Lazrus and Karling had nothing but each other. Recently, however, two other pets had joined the family; Zipakna the Hissi and, most recently, Kabot the Ruki.
That morning was as normal as any other; Lazrus stood at the stove, making fried Neggs and Doughnutfruit for breakfast; Karling sat at the table, playing with Cyclops, his Fire Cyodrake; Zipakna sat next to him, reading a new copy of The Voodoo Techo; and Kabot, as always, just sat.
Each of them sort of had their roles in the group. Lazrus, who had been painted Zombie the day the brush had been released, was sort of their caretaker; he assumed the roles any normal owner had to take, such as making sure they got three square meals a day and enough sleep to keep them from falling over. Karling was the troublemaker, the one that usually ended up being brought home in handcuffs at least once a week- on a good week- and was painted Darigan because of it. He also took the role of cynic and tended to gripe about anything as long as someone would listen. Zipakna was the quiet, delicate one that needed to be taken care of; being Mutant, he was very sensitive when it came to his appearance and tended to stay inside curled up with his books. And.. then there was Kabot.
If Kabot ever had emotions, none of them had ever seen them. He had joined the "family" not too long ago, and had been a Robot from the first day they'd met him. He spoke very concisely on the rare occasions he did speak and always in the same monotone. For all purposes and effects, Robot wasn't just his colour, it was his nature down to a T.
"Negg and Doughnutfruit stir-fry coming up," Lazrus called out, moving the frying pan from one burner to another. His Blue Pofew, Hindenburg, sat on the counter nearby, making little squeaking noises as he pulled plates from the cupboards. "Karling, could you grab drinks? And by that I do not mean Neocola- real drinks, please, save that gut rot for lunch at the least." Karling looked up at Lazrus and gave him a particularly dry look before heaving himself out of his chair and dragging himself in an early morning stupor over to the fridge.
"Does chocolate milk count as a 'real' drink?" he asked, sticking his head in the fridge.
"Why don't you try something with fruit in it, Karley. You know, fruit? Those things that grow on trees and are healthy for you?" he said, shovelling food onto plates. As the toast popped in the toaster, he grabbed it and put it on the plates alongside the Negg and Doughnutfruit "stir-fry". Over at the fridge, Karling held his hand up and made a mocking 'talking' hand motion. After a few minutes he pulled his head out of the fridge and brought a bottle of Fresh Faerie Fruit Punch with him. Lazrus looked over and raised an eyebrow. "Karley, that's all sugar."
"Take it or leave it," he said, depositing the bottle on the table. Zipakna looked up from his book with one head, the other still intently scanning the pages. Lazrus rolled his eyes as he put a plate in front of the Hissi and Karling. As he walked back to the counter, Kabot pulled his chair in and crossed his pincers on the table. Karling started pouring juice for himself, Lazrus and Zipakna, but hesitated when he moved to Kabot's glass. "Wait, how the hell do you not rust?" he asked. Kabot looked up at him, his eyes dimming a little.
"My digestive tract is sealed and made entirely of plastics. My inner body is at no risk of being rusted out by what I consume unless it ruptures and I do not notice, which is statistically improbable." he replied, giving Lazrus a curt nod as he set a plate in front of him, Kabot's version of a thank you. Karling merely shook his head at his newest "brother" and turned his attention to his plate of food.
"You're weird." he sighed, which quickly earned him a smack on the back of the head from Lazrus as the oldest pet sat down.
"Now now, children, lets not fight over breakfast. Save it for playtime." Lazrus chided, digging into his plate of food.
Breakfast was probably the most peaceful time of day in the house, mostly because everyone was still tired and their mouths were full. Everyone ate in peace, even the Petpets who nibbled at a fifth plate of food set by the table while chirping happily.
"So," Lazrus said between bites, fixing his ascot. "What's everyone's plans for the day?" Zipakna looked up and gave him a shy smile, eating with one head while the other kept its eyes on the book. Lazrus nodded in acknowledgement. "Karley?" The Darigan Krawk shrugged, pushing his food around on his plate.
"I don't know. A little vandalizing, maybe some petty thievery- you know, the usual." he replied with a little grin. Lazrus rolled his eyes and looked over to Kabot, who immediately caught his eyes.
"I'm not sure as of this moment," he replied, taking another bite of his stir-fry. "Shopping, perhaps?" Lazrus nodded again. Karling looked over at him.
"And what are you doing today, mom?" he asked, grabbing his plate and downing the rest of his juice. He deposited the dishes in the dishwasher and leaned back against the counter. Lazrus shrugged.
"I have.. plans, I guess. Nothing important." he said. Kabot looked at him, his eyes dimming and brightening in substitute of blinking.
"Avoiding the question is generally a sign of hiding something." he pointed out, picking up his plate and glass and following the same procedure as Karling. The statement was made completely objectively. Lazrus grinned a little and rolled his eyes.
"It's nothing important. And I'd rather not have anyone poking into my social life, so no, I'm not going to tell you where I'm going." he replied, taking his and Zipakna's dishes to the dishwasher.
"Ooh, a social matter. You don't have any friends, so that must mean you're going on a date," Karling said, hopping up onto the counter. "Come on, tell me who the lucky girl is. Or guy, I'm not judgemental." Lazrus shot him a very dry look and crossed his arms.
"We're not talking about this," he replied, taking Karling by the wrists and pulling him off the counter. "And besides, I do have friends. Just not ones I subject to the indignity of meeting you, Karley. Now, if you'll excuse me.." Shoving the leftovers into a plastic container and shoving them into a fridge, at the same time depositing the skillet and spatula in the dishwasher, he shuffled past Karling.
"By all means, go get ready for your date. I'll be riiight here to torment you when you leave." He grinned smugly at his older 'brother' as he passed, chuckling as he heard the creaking of the servants stairs to the upper level. They never used the actual dining room- instead they ate in breakfast nook set up for the servants that they kindly let them use. The dining room was too big, reminded them of too many stiff dinners where they had to smile and pretend to be content for the sake of their owner's big, important friends.
Kabot looked at the doorway through which Lazrus left, then at Karling.
"I'm sorry, I don't speak pretentious robot. I'm going to go harass him some more." Without another word he slipped out, bounding up the stairs. The robotic pet turned towards Zipakna instead, who was giving him a sympathetic look.
"What is a 'date'? My- knowledge of social interaction is insufficient, to say the least." he explained, closing his book and setting it aside.
"I, um-" Zipakna cleared his throats, looking in a different direction with each head. "A date is when- when two pets like each other and they go out, like to a movie or to lunch or something like that." he explained.
"And this 'date'- it is a confirmation of affection?" Kabot asked.
"I- guess you could call it that, yeah." he replied. Kabot nodded.
"..interesting. I was not aware that Lazrus was interested in anyone in that way," he said. "If you need me, I will be in the reading room."
Kabot had never really known emotions the way most pets did. He understood the base concept of most feelings, but he'd never actually felt any of them. The words in his head were merely dictionary definitions of those emotions. He sometimes felt a little spark, though, a minute amount of feeling- nothing that could suggest a deep-rooted understanding, but enough to make him question whether he was really emotionless or simply emotionally suppressed. He'd heard the term used before to describe people and pets who showed no emotion whatsoever- anger, fear, sadness- because of something that happened in the past, or sometimes for no reason at all.
All he knew was that all of the affection and care Lazrus showed him, treating him exactly like any other pet even with the way he acted, it made him feel something for Lazrus. It made his robotic stomach flutter whenever Lazrus smiled at him, his mechanical heart skip a beat when Lazrus put a hand on him. He had no idea what he was feeling, but he knew that it was Lazrus who was making it happen.
Kabot quickly located his Unabridged Dictionary among the many books lining the shelves- between him and Zipakna, the house was always full of books- and flipped through its pages with practised efficiency. He hit the Ds and traced a pincer down, looking for that word, the one that was bothering him so much.
"Date; an appointment for a particular time; a social appointment, engagement, or occasion arranged beforehand with another person; a person with whom one has such a social appointment or engagement." he read aloud, tracing his finger along the words as he read them. Once he had filed away the information, he closed the book with a definite snap and set it back in its proper place before sitting in one of the many cushy armchairs around the room.
Lazrus was the first name he knew aside from his own. The first thing he remembered as he walked into what was going to be his home was Lazrus coming forward and taking him by the hand to show him where he was going to be sleeping, where they ate breakfast, introduce him to the other two- he was the first thing he really knew. If he felt anything for anyone, it was for him.
"No, seriously. Who the hell is it? You're going to drive me crazy."
Lazrus determinedly ignored Karling as he leaned against the door frame of his bathroom, picking underneath his claws.
"You seem to know everything about everyone. Why don't you go find out on your own?" Lazrus suggested. "I'm sure you have your sources."
"Sources, yes," Karling replied. "Miracle workers, no. You're a hard mother-fucker to keep track of, you know that?"
"I pride myself on it, actually." Lazrus replied, glaring at his crooked ascot and untying it. Karling rolled his eyes.
"Here, let me fix it for you," he said, stepping forward and taking Lazrus by the shoulders. He turned him around and took the ascot in his hands and tied it for him. "Can't you at least tell me something about this mystery pet?" he asked, also smoothing out Lazrus' vest before the Buzz smacked his hands away.
"For a man who wears nothing torn jeans and t-shirts you're awfully fussy about my clothes." he pointed out, turning back towards the mirror and smoothing out his spines.
"Designer torn jeans and brand-name t-shirts, thank you very much," he replied, crossing his arms and pretending to look offended. "I pay very good money to look like a poor, disgruntled teenager." Lazrus rolled his eyes as he straightened himself out for the last time before pushing his way out of the bathroom.
"It's a good thing I don't particularly care about our owner or how you spend her money, or else I'd be telling you you're massively wasting it." he said.
"Come ooon, Lazrus. At least tell me the gender of your date." Karling pushed. Lazrus sighed.
"Okay, fine. My date is a male. Are you satisfied now?" he said, standing in the doorway of his room. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I still have some getting ready to do." Before Karling could say anything else, Lazrus slammed the door in his face, leaving him standing there with another question halfway in his throat.
Kabot was still sitting in his reading room an hour and a half later, making his way through The Magic of the Healing Springs, when he heard Lazrus come down the stairs. Immediately he set the book aside and walked out into the hall to see him primping himself in the mirror.
"Your appearance is suitable, Lazrus," he said, startling the Buzz a little. "There is no need for you to do that." Lazrus smiled at him.
"Thanks, Kabot, but I'd like to be absolutely sure." he said, smoothing back his spines.
"You are going out on a.. date, yes?" he said, leaning back against the wall. Lazrus turned to look at him; he noticed there were dark lines around his eyes, presumably made with eyeliner.
"Uh.. yeah. Yeah, I am. Why do you ask?" he asked in reply, leaning back against the little table in front of the mirror to be on the same plane as Kabot.
"I was simply curious. Does this relationship have any degree of permanency?" Kabot asked, putting his hands behind his back. Lazrus gave him a curious look and shrugged.
"I'm not entirely sure, to be perfectly honest. I want to say yes? But we've only been going out for a few months; hardly enough time to be sure." he explained, walking down the hall towards the front hall coat closet.
"Rather early for one of these dates, isn't it?" he asked, committing the conversation to memory for later use in case he needed it as he followed him.
"Not really," Lazrus replied. "We're planning on putting around Neopia Central for a few hours, maybe grabbing some lunch, stuff like that. Morning dates work better for us, anyway; he works in the evening."
"I see," Kabot nodded. Lazrus pulled his pea coat out of the closet and pulled it on, pulling his collar up to protect his neck from the late fall winds and temperatures. "Well, you have a good time on your date. I will be spending the day running errands. Is there anything you would like me to do while I am out?" he asked.
"Uh, no, it's okay Kabot. Thank you for the offer though," he said, leaning over and giving Kabot a quick kiss on the cheek. He opened the door and raised his shoulders against the cold air that blew in. "You, um, have a good day, okay?" Kabot nodded.
"You as well." he replied. Lazrus smiled at him as he closed the door, and as soon as the door was closed he reached up and but his hand over where Lazrus kissed him. He felt strangely warm, but ignored it; if his sensors hadn't picked anything up, clearly there was nothing wrong. Instead he chose to just go back to reading for a little bit before leaving.
Kabot felt lucky that he didn't feel the cold due to his internal heating systems, as everyone else on the streets had donned heavy coats and scarves; it was close to the end of the Month of Storing, and everyone was starting their shopping for the Day of Giving. Doing exactly that was one of the many things on his to-do list, but first he had a few stops to make.
The first thing he had to do was stop by the bank to collect the day's interest for the family account, followed by making the daily donations to the Money Tree and Second-Hand Shoppe; Lazrus truly believed in spreading around the wealth and so they left things there whenever they could. Finally, he stopped by the Soup Faerie to donate a bit of money to her as well, to help keep her in business.
After that it was time to start his Day of Giving shopping. Karling and Zipakna were very easy to shop for; Karling's life revolved entirely around his appearance and Zipakna spent all of his time reading. His first stop was at Uni's Clothing, where he managed to find a Warm Krawk Utility Jacket to keep his cold-blooded brother warm during the cold months, as well as dropping by the Grooming Parlour and picking him up a new set of Illusen's Organic shampoo and conditioner. For Zipakna he picked up a limited-edition copy of Meercas in Love, one of his favourite books.
That left only Lazrus.
Lazrus was not an easy pet to shop for. After all, what were you supposed to get someone who told you he had everything he could ever want, as Lazrus frequently did? He walked along the streets of Neopia Central, his purchased presents so far in one arm and his Pink Cuttlebot, Tenta, in the other.
As he walked through the streets, looking in the windows and inwardly debating over what he was going to get his oldest brother, he started to walk in front of a little diner sandwiched between Gifts Galore and the gardening supply shop.
He would have simply kept on walking had he not seen Lazrus sitting at a table in the middle of the restaurant. Sitting across from him was a purple Aisha boy with glasses. The two of them were both poking at half-eaten plates of food. Lazrus was talking animatedly while his date seemed to be listening with rapture.
Casually leaning back against the wall nearest the window, he put a hand to the glass so the little microphones in his pincers could pick up the sound of Lazrus' conversation. He wasn't quite sure why he was listening in on Lazrus, but he felt a desperate need to do so. After sorting through the various conversations going on elsewhere in the restaurant, he finally picked up on Lazrus' voice frequency and locked onto it.
"...and then I slammed the door in his face. Honestly, sometimes I think the only reason he's so interested in my social life is because he doesn't really have one of his own," Lazrus let out an enchanting little laugh as he poked at the rice on his plate. His date smiled at him a little shyly, pushing around his salad in much the same way. "You know, it's nice not having to cook for once."
"Sounds like an exciting morning, that's for sure," he said, delicately eating a cherry tomato off of his plate. "I should meet your brothers soon, don't you think? I mean, as much as you talk about Karling badly, I know they're all very important to you." Lazrus nearly choked on the bite of rice he was taking.
"You.. you really want to meet them?" he asked, sounding happily overwhelmed. "I mean- of course, if that's what you want. Karling can be kind of obnoxious sometimes, but Zipakna is a sweetheart and Kabot- well, Kabot is Kabot. I happen to be rather fond of him but I can see where he might take some getting used to. The whole emotionless thing can be a little frustrating to deal with sometimes, admittedly. Now, why don't we-"
Kabot pulled his hand away from the window and clenched his pincers, looking back into the restaurant just in time to see Lazrus put his hand over the other pet's. His internal systems felt strangely hot despite the cold weather and he felt a strange compulsion to simply get out of there, as fast as possible, so he did exactly that. Although usually quiet, Tenta made a little crooning noise as he carried her and the packages back towards the main part of Neopia Central.
"I am fine, Tenta. Merely a- malfunction of sorts. I- need to make a final quick stop back at the book shop. Then we will head home."
As soon as Karling heard the front door open he bolted upright, removing his head from Zipakna's lap. As soon as he saw that it was Kabot and not Lazrus, he relaxed slightly.
"Welcome back, Professor Coldheart. How goes things in the world of the bleak and loveless?" he asked, putting his head in his hand. Kabot gave him a momentary glance before heading up the stairs to put the presents he'd bought away. After he had gone, Karling but his head back in Zipakna's lap.
"..you shouldn't talk to him like that. He's nice, really, he's just different." he said, stroking Karling's hair. Karling looked up at him.
"He's not just different, Zip, he's unnatural. Literally. There's something wrong with any pet who literally doesn't feel anything," he replied, rolling over onto his side, nudging his snout into Zipakna's stomach. "I just- feel uncomfortable whenever he's around." Zipakna turns Karling's head back to facing directly upwards and kisses him.
"Just give him a chance. He's nice, really. I promise," he assured him, continuing to stroke his hair. Karling made a whiny complaining noise. "If you don't shape up, Lazrus will hate you forever. He likes Kabot as much as he likes either of us." Karling grumbled and pushed his face back into Zipakna's stomach.
"Screw Lazrus," he mumbled. "I don't need his approval." He closed his eyes and relaxed as Zipakna gently brushed at his hair with his claws. The younger pet made a hissing, crooning sort of noise.
"..you want it, though, don't you?" he asked, enjoying the silky softness of Karling's hair. The Krawk in question scoffed at his suggestion, but he wrapped his arms around Zipakna and buried his face in his stomach even more. Zipakna smiled at him; he knew Karling wanted Lazrus' approval, but he was too proud to admit it.
Suddenly, Cyclops and Zipakna's Mutant Cobrall Orbit, who had been curled up by the window, started making a lot of noise. Karling bolted up yet again as their noise making brought his attention to the sound of someone walking up to the front door. As soon as he had straightened himself out, Lazrus walked in the door. When he saw the two of them sitting on the couch, doing nothing in particular, he gave them a weird look.
"Uh... hi, guys. What are you two doing just sitting around?" he asked, pulling off his coat and putting it back in the closet.
"I was waiting for you to get back from your date." Karling replied. "How did it go?"
"The same as always, Karley. And no, I'm not going to tell you what 'the same as always' is, because frankly it's none of your business," he said, walking towards the reading room. Before he walked completely past the opening to the sitting room where Karling and Zipakna were located, he paused and peered in. "Is Kabot here?" he asked. Karling put his arms behind his bed and slumped down on the couch, snarling a little. Zipakna cleared his throat to distract Lazrus from Karling's attitude.
"He just got back," Zipakna replied. "He went up to his room carrying a bunch of stuff," Lazrus nodded and took a few steps back, looking up the staircase, before shrugging and continuing towards the back of the house. "Hey, um- can we have tacos for dinner?" The Buzz looked over at his youngest "sibling" to see him giving him his best pleading look. He sighed and rolled his eyes with a little grin.
"Okay, fine. As long as everyone eats them with lettuce and tomatoes." he replied. Zipakna smiled.
"Thank yooouuu, Laz." he said. As Lazrus walked away, Karling leaned over and whispered to the youngest pet.
"Let's go up to my room. Lazrus absolutely refuses to enter it."
Lazrus walked around the reading room, every so often pulling a book off the shelf and flipping through the first few pages. He didn't normally have much time to spend in here, just reading, like Zipakna and Kabot did; he'd taken it upon himself to take care of the boys like the owner they'd never had.
He turned around when he heard the door open and close to see Kabot standing there, doorknob still in hand.
"Lazrus," he said, sounding as close to shocked as he ever had. "I did not expect you to be in here. How did your date go?" he asked, sitting in one of the armchairs. He casually flipped the pages of the book he'd left while he went shopping as he looked up at the oldest pet.
"Swimmingly, thank you," he replied, pulling another random book from the shelves. "And how did your day go?"
"Well. I finished all of my shopping. Now I must only wrap them and they'll be ready to give when the time comes." Lazrus nodded and straightened out the book he'd put away.
"You're certainly efficient. We have almost a month until the Day of Giving," Lazrus pointed out. Kabot gave a little shrug, something he often saw Karling do when he wanted to avoid a question. "Um.. Kabot. How would you feel if I brought the pet I've been dating to have dinner with the four of us?"
Kabot froze. His internal systems were feeling strangely warm again, and he was slowly developing some sort of uncontrollable facial tick.
"I- would have no problem with that, Lazrus. You are the one who cooks, after all." he pointed out, thumbing through his book back to the page where he'd left off in an effort to distract himself. Lazrus noticed the slight hesitation when he spoke, something Karling almost never did, and walked around the front of the chair to get a closer look at him.
"Are you okay?" he asked, putting a hand on Kabot's face where he was twitching uncontrollably and looking shocked when he felt how hot he was. His internal systems, which were already ridiculously warm, were now borderline overheating.
"I'm- fine," he replied, brushing Lazrus' hand away. "It is just a minor malfunction." Lazrus crouched in front of him, resting his hands on Kabot's external knee joints.
"Do you want me to call Mr. Jordan?" Mr. Jordan was the engineer who serviced Kabot when he broke or malfunctioned, his 'doctor' of sorts. Kabot shook his head.
"No, it is not something that requires his attention. Scans show no major problems. It is most likely just due to my prolonged external exposure to the cold. I should be fine after I warm up a little," he replied, pulling his legs back a little. Every touch was making his temperature spike. "Thank you for your concern, however."
"Are you sure? I don't want you breaking down," Lazrus said, rubbing along Kabot's leg in what he presumed was supposed to be a comforting motion. The robotic pet nodded, closing his eyes and trying not to let out the little squeaky noise caught in his throat. "Okay, if you're sure," Finally, the Buzz stood up and took his hands off of him, fixing his vest. "By the way, Zipakna wants tacos for dinner. You're okay with that?" Kabot simply nodded again, not wanting to really open his mouth to speak. Lazrus gave him a worried look before slowly walking out of the room, keeping an eye on him until he no longer could.
As soon as he was out of the room, Kabot let out the high pitched 'squeak' he'd been holding in. He'd never felt anything in his system like this before; he was immune to the sicknesses that affected the rest of his family and he'd never heard of a malfunction like this. Every time it came upon him, it had something to do with Lazrus, and as far as he knew there existed no errors ever reported that were brought on by exposure to specific people.
He curled on himself a little, picking up his book and opening it to where he'd left off. He tried to force his mind to focus on the words on the page, but all he could see was Lazrus kneeling in front of him with that worried look on his face and the feeling of his hand on his face and leg were practically burned into his plating.
What was happening to him?
After a very fitful night of recharge, Kabot slipped out of the house through the front entrance, determinedly avoiding the servant's area altogether. He wanted to minimize his exposure to Lazrus as much as possible until he was sure of what was causing his system to react so strangely whenever he was around him. Strangely enough, the thought of avoiding Lazrus was causing an almost nauseous feeling to build. He ignored it and walked down to the train station a block and a half away.
Mr. Jordan lived in a remote location close to the Haunted Woods, about an hour's walk from Neovia Station. He was an incredibly skilled engineer and took only very select clients, preferring to keep to himself. He made house calls for very few clients, but the combination of their wealth and Lazrus' polite attitude made him more lenient. However, Kabot didn't want to worry Lazrus by saying yes, he needed Mr. Jordan to come to the house.
After an hour of walking, he arrived at the door of the brilliant engineer and knocked loudly enough that he would be able to hear him even over the sound of any of his tools. A few moments later, he heard the many locks shifting and the door opened as wide as the chain keeping it closed would allow.
Mr. Jordan was very shy, preferring the company of his Ghostkerchief to the rest of the world. The Blue Draik peered out of the cracked door with one wide, red eye, pushing his glasses up his snout.
"Mr. Jordan? It is Kabot. May I come in?" he said, looking back at him through the small opening as best as he could.
"Kabot? What's wrong?" he asked.
"I- need a quick checkup. Do you have the time?" He drummed his pincers together, staring down at the ground. Mr. Jordan made a quiet, sympathetic noise and closed the door. Kabot heard the chain slide and the door opened again, this time all the way.
"I always have the time for a client like you, Kabot. I'm working on another pet right now, but if you'll just wait right here I'll get to you soon, okay?" he replied, sweeping an arm towards the armchairs gathered around near a roaring fire. In one of them, a teenage human boy sat, staring into the fire with a worried look on his face. Kabot sat in the chair farthest from him as he watched the Draik engineer go over to him and put a reassuring hand on his shoulder. "Axis will be done soon. He just needed a little part replacement and he'll be as good as new after a few days of rest, okay?" he said. The human boy looked up at him and nodded.
"Thank you." he said, wringing his hands. Mr. Jordan smiled at him.
"It's nothing." he replied before disappearing behind the nearby curtain into the back room where he took pets to be examined.
Kabot settled back into his chair, pulling his legs up to his chest. For once, his brain's ability to calculate and receive information at near impossible rates was completely useless; this situation was completely beyond his comprehension. His body was reacting to outside stimuli in unusual ways against his wishes. Something had to be wrong with him, something just had to be. There was no logical explanation for any of this.
A few minutes later a Robot Shoyru walked out from behind the curtain, Mr. Jordan helping to guide him along. The human boy stood up and walked over to the Shoyru, taking his hands in his own.
"Are you okay, Axis? Let's go home so you can rest." he said, leading him out of the building by the hand. Kabot squirmed uncomfortably in his seat at the sight of an owner and pet getting along so well; he hadn't come into the family until after their owner had essentially abandoned them, but he understood the general accepted conduct of owners and how his differed.
Mr. Jordan walked over to Kabot and offered a hand to help him up. "Let's take a look at you, shall we?"he said as he helped the robot pet up. He lead him to the back portion of the house and prompted him to sit up on his examination table. Whistling, the Draik walked over to the tool shelves on the far wall and grabbed a drill. "Turn around, please?"
Kabot swung his legs up onto the table and bent forwards a little to give the engineer better access to the panel that opened onto his main system. As Mr. Jordan unscrewed the panel and set it aside, poking through wires, Kabot let his mind wander to the situation at hand. He thought about how he felt nauseous thinking about being apart from the Lazrus, thought about the heat and need to run away that had overtaken him when he saw the oldest pet with his date, thought about the much different heat that spiked at Lazrus' touch- at the feel of his hand on his face, on his knee, stroking his leg..
He was snapped out of his thoughts by the sound of Mr. Jordan yelping and jumping back, stumbling into the counter and knocking a bunch of tools off with a clatter. "Christ, Kabot, you're burning up."
"Yes, that is the problem, you see; I've been experiencing.. random temperature spikes the past couple of days." he explained, crossing his legs at the ankle joint.
"That's weird," Mr. Jordan said, carefully moving some of Kabot's wires with a screwdriver. "I changed your coolant just a couple of weeks ago, didn't I? You shouldn't be overheating like this. Have you sustained any external or internal damage recently?"
Kabot shook his head, replying, "There has been no external trauma and even the most in-depth of scans show no internal damage. I've also run diagnostics protocols and no viruses or program corruptions have been found. Other than this problem I am a 'picture of health', as it were." The engineer pursed his lips and made thoughtful noises.
"Yes, that you are, which is what worries me," he said, grabbing his clipboard from the counter. "Usually malfunctions without any other symptoms or any real cause can only be solved with a total system reboot." He looked very distressed as he spoke.
"What would that do?" Kabot asked. Clearly something was wrong with this process if Mr. Jordan was that distressed over it.
"A- total system reboot completely wipes clean all of your systems, including your memory banks. All of your memories would be completely erased," he explained with a sigh. "Are you sure there's nothing else? Just these heat spikes?" he asked.
Kabot felt the same nauseous feeling he got when he thought about purposely avoiding Lazrus, only much more intense. He exhaled deeply, putting his hands together. "Well..."
"'Well' is good. Tell me about 'well'." Mr. Jordan replied, pushing his glasses up his nose again.
"There.. may actually be a trigger." he replied. Mr. Jordan leaned in, listening intently.
"Do tell." Kabot swallowed hard, twirling his pincers.
"Well- I'm not entirely sure, but every time it has happened, Lazrus has either been nearby or on my mind," he replied. "I- do not see how that would have anything to do with my overheating, but there you have it."
Mr. Jordan got a strange look of understanding on his face, and Kabot was dying to know what he was thinking. "And, um, how exactly was Lazrus involved every time you started overheating like this?" he asked. Kabot squirmed a little where he sat.
"The first time, I saw him and his- date through a window while I was out shopping," he explained. "Then it- happened again when he touched my face and my knee and- and rubbed my leg out of concern. And just now I was thinking about the situation and it happened again."
Mr. Jordan smiled at him and set the clipboard and tools aside. "Kabot, I don't think there's anything wrong with you. In fact, developmentally, I think you're ahead of a lot of pets of your kind." he explained, taking off his glasses and setting them aside. Kabot tilted his head.
"What- what do you mean?" he asked, his antenna twitching. Mr. Jordan laughed.
"Do you know what 'blushing' is, Kabot?" he asked. Kabot gave a little nod.
"It is when one's face turns red, as from embarrassment or shame. Zipakna often does it." he explained.
"Yes, and blushing is caused by veins dilating in the face, which makes people turn red. It also makes their face heat up," he explained. "When you're around Lazrus, your body is simulating the response by making you heat up, either because you're embarrassed or because you're angry."
"But- but why?" Kabot asked. Mr. Jordan laughed.
"If I had to guess, I'd say you're in love with him. With Lazrus." he replied.
"In.. love? No, it is not possible. I- I was not made to be able to feel such things." he said, shaking his head.
"It wouldn't be the first time that someone started to exist outside their base programming," Mr. Jordan replied. "Trust me, it's much better than the alternative. You don't want the last three years you've spent with your family to just disappear, do you?" he asked. Kabot shook his head more adamantly.
"No, I would not- would never want that to happen," he replied. The idea of forgetting Lazrus, of forgetting all of the things he'd done for him- it was almost painful.
In fact, the first memory of his current home was of Lazrus. His owner had lead him into the house and promptly disappeared, and he saw the Zombie Buzz come towards him and put his arms around him and take him by the hand, showing him around where he was going to be living from now on.
"This- love. It is a good thing?" he asked.
"I'm no expert, but yeah, usually," Mr. Jordan replied. "Now, you should probably head home. The fact that you came here instead of calling me to drop by and the fact that you're here alone probably means Lazrus doesn't know you're gone."
"You are quite astute," Kabot said, stepping off of the examination table. "Thank you for your help, Mr. Jordan. I will see you soon."
As he stepped through the curtain, Mr. Jordan called back, "I hope not too soon."
Lazrus stuck his head around the corner when he heard the servant entrance door open, smiling when he saw Kabot standing there.
"Where've you been, Kabot? I was starting to worry," he said, wiping his hands on the blue apron he was wearing. "Never mind that now, though," He waved his hand in dismissal, turning back to the slew of food spread out on the counter. "Gregor- that's my boyfriend- he's coming over for dinner tonight. I'm making turkey and a roast, as well as steamed vegetables, stuffing, roasted seasoned potatoes, cranberry sauce, as well as an apple pie and a pumpkin pie."
At the mention of this- Gregor character, Kabot felt his temperature suddenly spike. It didn't feel like the way it felt when Lazrus touched him; if he had to put an emotion to the heat, the emotions he was slowly starting to accept existed, it would have been anger.
"That seems like a lot of work. Would you like some assistance?" he asked, stepping in beside him at the counter. Lazrus looked over at him in surprise.
"You can cook?" he asked.
"I have never tried, but I am quite sure I know enough about the concept to do some simple things." He picked up the recipe book Lazrus was using as reference for the pies, quickly committing the page to memory. Lazrus smiled at him and put a hand on his arm.
"Thanks. Maybe I can actually get everything done before he gets here with your help," he said. Kabot felt the heat build up in his body again, this time accompanied by a cold surge going up his spine. "How about you start on the pies?"
Kabot looked over at the older pet and tilted his head, a little rush travelling from his stomach to his throat.
He could get used to this 'love' thing.
Karling watched from the front sitting room as Lazrus literally flew to the front door when the doorbell rang.
"Where's the fire, Laz?" the Krawk grinned. Lazrus gave him a glare from around the corner of the opening into the sitting room.
"Don't you have anything better to do?" he asked.
"Better than getting to see your boyfriend? Not in the slightest." he replied, leaning back in his chair. Lazrus rolled his eyes as he yanked open the door. Upon opening it, a grin split his face.
"Gregor," he greeted, extending a hand. The purple Aisha smiled and took it, allowing himself to be lead into the house. "I'm glad you decided to stop by tonight. I hope you're hungry, we made a lot of food."
"Starving," Gregor replied with a little smile. As they passed the sitting room, still hand-in-hand, he saw Karling lounging on the loveseat. The second oldest pet gave him a toothy grin and sat up, putting his hands behind his head. "Uh, hi."
"Hi there," he said, getting to his feet and walking over. Gregor dropped Lazrus' hand and extended his own towards Karling, who shook it hard. "So you're the mystery boyfriend. You know, I practically had to strangle Laz to get him to tell me you were a guy," The purple Aisha couldn't help but laugh a little at that, as Karling leaned in. "Personally, I think you could do a lot better. Lazrus is a natural-born single mom at heart."
Lazrus, who'd had enough of seeing Karling play around with his boyfriend, pushed his head away from Gregor's. "Don't you have property to be vandalizing or something?" he asked with a pointed glare. His younger brother gave him the cheekiest toothy grin possible.
"And miss out on this delicious turkey dinner? Not in your life, big bro." he said, crossing his arms and standing up straight to emphasize his height advantage over the oldest pet, something he did whenever he wanted to feel superior. Lazrus just rolled his eyes again and turned back to Gregor, taking his hand again and leading him towards the main dining room that was almost never used.
"You'll have to excuse him, his brain stopped developing when he was still a Petpet. That's Karling, by the way," he said. That night, for the first time in as long as any of them could remember, the dining room table was lined with food, the chandelier was casting light off of its hanging crystals and all of the candles were lit. Kabot was futzing with one of the flower arrangements the servants kept up in the room just in case, trying to hide some of the more dead flowers behind the more brilliant blooms. "And this is Kabot." Gregor gave the newest pet a little wave.
Kabot couldn't take his eyes off of Lazrus and the purple Aisha's intertwined hands, but he managed a curt nod and a little, "Greetings." as he abandoned his work on the flowers.
"Hi. I've heard a lot about you. Lazrus talks about you a lot," he said. That sentence made Kabot's electronic heart skip a beat, and he quickly took a seat at the table, crossing his arms on the table. "So, where's your other brother? Zipakna?"
"That's a- very good question. Hey, Karling!" he called back down the hall.
"What?" Karling yelled back, sounding irritated.
"If you've got nothing better to do, go find Zipakna and bring him in for dinner, okay?" he instructed.
"Sure thing, boss man." Karling yelled back. Lazrus lead Gregor over to the table and pulled out the chair opposite Kabot. He sat at the head of the table, between the two of them. Moments later Karling reappeared, Zipakna following, practically hiding behind him.
"Zipakna," Lazrus said, gently but firmly. The Mutant slithered out from behind Karling, sitting beside Kabot. "This is Gregor. Gregor, this is Zipakna. You'll have to excuse him, he's a little shy."
"Well, since that concludes your introduction to the triad of People Cooler Than Your Boyfriend," Kabot looked over at Karling as he said this and Karling rolled his eyes. "Yes, even you, Kabot," he sighed. "As I was saying, let's eat. I'm starving." Lazrus smiled a little as he reached out to put a heaping pile of vegetables on both his and Gregor's plates.
Later, after dinner had been eaten (with Karling telling Gregor embarrassing stories about Lazrus and making thinly veiled passes at him the whole time), Lazrus stood at the door, holding both of Gregor's hands in his.
"When's your next day off?" he asked. Gregor smiled at him.
"I have the next couple of days off, actually," he replied. "Why don't we go out to eat tomorrow? My treat." he said.
"You don't have to do that, Greg, I have more money than I know what to do with-" Gregor cut him off by putting a finger over his lips.
"I insist," he said. "Meet me at the train station tomorrow? Around noon?"
Lazrus leaned in and kissed him.
"On the dot," he said, stroking his palm with his thumb. "Have a safe trip home."
"Thanks." Gregor said, pulling his hands free from Lazrus'. The Buzz watched as he walked down the winding path leading out of the estate, until he could no longer see him. As he stepped back inside, Karling grinned at him from the winding staircase where he was sitting.
"I like him." he said. Lazrus glared at him, untying his ascot and undoing the first button of his shirt. Karling determinedly did not look as he did so.
"I could tell," the oldest pet grumbled, tossing his vest at his younger brother. "You didn't have to spend the whole night hitting on him, you know."
Karling shrugged, replying, "If it helps, he was very uncomfortable whenever I tried, so at least you know he's loyal." Lazrus rolled his eyes, this time less amused and more exasperated.
"Well, after that escapade, he won't be coming over again, I can assure you of that," he said, unbuttoning his shirt further. Karling turned his head, staring into the sitting room opposite. "Honestly, I don't know what possesses you to act like this. You could at least try to act decent. The next time you pull a stunt like that, I- I don't know what I'm going to do," He slipped his dress shirt off his shoulders and threw that at the Krawk as well. "The least you can do after that episode is toss those in the washer."
"We have servants for that, you know." he grumbled, tossing the clothes over his shoulder regardless.
"Yes, and currently one of their names is Karling. Just do it." he snarled as he walked up the stairs, presumably to his room in search of his sleep clothes.
Karling was about to snap out another complaint, but he bit it back and stayed quiet. Lazrus was right, after all. He'd behaved like a complete asshole. But it was partially Lazrus' fault, too, for bringing his boyfriend here. What the fuck did he want from him?
Kabot shoved the plates into the dishwasher. The heat hadn't subsided yet; this was the longest it had so far lasted. He dented a metal serving tray trying to load it into the already packed dishwasher and let out an annoyed, mechanical sigh.
Annoyance. Another emotion he'd never felt. But right now he was most certainly annoyed. Two days ago he wasn't even aware of Gregor's existence; now the first peaks of angry emotions were entering his brain, all directed at the Purple Aisha. Every time he saw him and Lazrus getting too close, he wanted to pry them apart.
"What's with the Incredible Hulk routine?"
Kabot nearly jumped when he heard Karling, turning to see him standing in the doorway holding Lazrus' shirt and vest in his arms.
"I- simply was not paying attention to what I was doing." he quickly lied, tossing the serving tray into the garbage. Karling gave a little nod that quite clearly said 'I don't believe a word you just said'.
"..so, he got to you too, huh?" he asked. Kabot started, packing dishes away faster.
"No, nothing 'got to' me-" He stopped suddenly, processing Karling's sentence in his head again. "Wait, 'too'?"
Karling snarled, ignoring his questioning exclamation. "Don't tell me that you, the freakish, cold-hearted wonder, are jealous." It sounded like the sort of thing Karling would normally say teasingly, but today he spat it with pure venom. Kabot shook his head, less a 'no' and more just to clear his mind.
"What is it that you always say? 'It is none of your business'?" he said, shouldering past Karling to shove leftovers in the fridge. Karling turned to look at him with an almost confused looking snarl.
"Jealous, moody.. you're really the whole fucking package, aren't you?" he spat, walking towards the entrance to the laundry room. "I almost feel sorry for you."
Kabot turned towards the second oldest pet, closing the fridge door as he did.
"What do you mean?" he asked, genuinely curious. Karling turned his head to the side, looking at him and practically baring his fangs.
"He'll never love you," Karling replied simply. "He thinks of you like his kid, for crying out loud. Just forget about it."
Kabot dropped his pincers from the fridge handle as Karling slipped into the laundry room, slamming the door behind him. His head was spinning wildly, another strange new sensation. He sat down at the kitchen table, unable to support himself any longer. He had never even considered the possibility that Lazrus might never love him back. This whole 'love' thing was so new to him- and it wasn't like he'd ever had any sort of emotional involvement with Lazrus before, not even gratitude for everything he'd done for him.
And he had Gregor. He couldn't forget about that.
Kabot felt a sudden pain in his chest and doubled over in pain, rocking back and forth. He let out a little whimper.
Was love supposed to be this painful?
Karling opened Lazrus' door and quiet literally threw the freshly laundered clothes at him, not really caring what sort of state Lazrus was in. That is, until he saw Lazrus lying in bed with the sheets just barely covering him, in a clear state of undress.
"Have you ever heard of knocking?" he asked, pulling his sheets up around him better. Karling was glad that his scales disguised the fact that he was blushing like crazy.
"There's your stupid laundry. I'm going to bed." he growled. He slipped out of the room and slammed the door behind him, walking towards the bathroom closest to his bedroom. As he stepped inside and locked the door, he let out a shaky breath.
He grabbed the shower head from his stand-up shower and turned on the cold water, spraying it over his head to cool himself down. After a few seconds he tossed it on the floor of the shower and turned the water off, quickly towelling off his head. As he stepped out into the hall, he briefly debated heading into his room and just falling asleep, but at the last minute he turned and went down a few rooms further. He gently knocked.
"Mrh.. yes?" replied the sleepy voice from inside. Karling let out a deep sigh.
"Can I come in?" he asked softly. He heard the bed creak a little, presumably as its inhabitant sat up.
Karling stepped inside the dark room to see Zipakna sitting up in bed, blankets bunched up around his lower half, smiling at him. He smiled back, his first genuine smile all night.
"Sorry, did I wake you?" he asked, padding over and sitting on the edge of the bed. Zipakna put a hand on his forearm and tugged, guiding him to lie down with him. He happily followed.
"I wasn't quite asleep yet," the youngest pet replied. He offered the other half of his covers to him, and to his surprise, Karling accepted. "You're sleeping here?"
Karling never slept in Zipakna's bed. Lazrus usually came in to wake Zipakna up in the morning and one of Karling's greatest fears was that Lazrus would find out about them; Zipakna was Lazrus' baby and Karling was the bad boy, the worst influence Lazrus could think of. He hated seeing them even just casually spending time together; knowing they'd been dating for almost a year now would just about drive him to kill; with his current attitude, almost definitely. But Karling was pissed at the Buzz and really couldn't care less what he thought.
"Course," he replied, as though it were completely obvious. Before he ducked under the covers, he slipped his clothes off- Karling slept without clothes, usually- and Zipakna flipped over onto his stomach, burying his faces in the pillow and blushing like crazy. The sight made Karling smile as he slipped under the covers with him. "Is this the first time you've seen me naked?" he asked, stretching his arm out across the pillows. Zipakna quickly accepted the invitation and curled in next to him, shuddering a little. Karling felt strangely warm for a cold-blooded creature.
"Mmhm." he mumbled against his scales.
Lying here with Zipakna like this, it was easy to forget that Lazrus had brought his boyfriend to the house. That Kabot, the little freak, was in love with the Buzz.
It was easy to forget a lot of things. Even why he was mad in the first place.
Kabot hadn't been able to recharge at all that night, and was walking around the house trying to distract himself. He'd picked at almost all of the curtains and flower arrangements and had circled both the upper and lower floors at least once. His second time around the lower floor, he practically bumped into Lazrus as he fussed with his ascot. He took a shy step back from the Buzz, clasping his pincers together. Lazrus looked over at him.
"Are you feeling okay?" he asked. Kabot nodded.
"Where are you going?" the robot asked, knowing that Lazrus never fussed with his clothes unless he was on his way out. Lazrus turned back towards the mirror.
"I'm meeting Gregor for lunch," he said, smiling at himself. "Karling and Zipakna aren't awake yet, can you deal with that?" he asked.
"Uh- sure," Kabot replied. "I- do not want to delay your date, but can we talk when you get home?" he asked. Lazrus looked over him, a slightly worried look in his eyes.
"Is something wrong?" He took a step towards Kabot and put a hand on his face. The robot did his best not to shy away from the touch.
"It- can wait until you get home." he replied, crossing his arms. Lazrus dropped his hand.
"...okay. If you're sure." he said, turning and walking towards the front door. "Like I said, check on those two to make sure they haven't died in their sleep or something. Hindenburg is taken care of. I shouldn't be long but if I am, there's more leftovers than we'll ever know what to do with," he explained, grabbing his coat and throwing it on. "I'll definitely be back before too late, though. We'll talk then, promise." Kabot nodded, curling in on himself a little as Lazrus stepped out of the house.
Karling's words had struck him very deeply. He had had almost impeccable logic when it came to math or science or medicine, but in the case of behaviour he rarely came up with the correct solution. He'd just assumed that Lazrus would be receptive to his new found feelings; he'd never even considered Lazrus' situation. Lazrus was already in love with someone, someone he'd been with for quite a length of time. And, if what Karling said was any indication, he was in love with him too and had been for a while. Lazrus had options, options that were a lot better than him.
He wanted Lazrus to notice him, to consider him like that. He wanted his feelings to be reciprocated. He hated the idea that it would never happen. That was why he had to ask, even if it held the chance of ruining the sort of relationship he and Lazrus had at the moment.
Lazrus smiled when he saw Gregor standing outside the train station, wearing a giant parka and mittens and earmuffs, curled in on himself as a protection against the cold. The Aisha returned the smile, although it looked a little awkward.
"Hey," he greeted, draping his arms across Gregor's hips and pulling him closer. "Sorry I'm a bit late. You haven't been waiting long, have you?" he asked. The Aisha put his hands on Lazrus' chest and smiled up at him.
"Only a couple of minutes. I, er- caught a ride with a friend that was headed this way," He dropped his hands, brushing Lazrus' arms off of his hips and taking his hands in his own. "I'm starving, though; where do you want to eat?" he asked. Lazrus shrugged.
"Morty's?" he suggested. Morty was an ageing Chia who owned a little diner in one of the smaller residential areas of Neopia Central. The place was fairly quiet and had good food, so the two of them tended to go there a lot.
"Sounds good." Gregor said, walking towards the platform. The great thing about Neopia Central Train Station was that local trains left every ten minutes, so even if you missed yours you would almost never be late.
It didn't take them very long to get there; a train ride that lasted a couple of minutes and a five minute walk from the station to the restaurant. Lazrus rambled a little bit as they walked- apologizing for what happened at dinner the night before, telling Gregor about how worried he was about Kabot, discussing the things they'd been doing recently. The Aisha politely listened and nodded, keeping his hands in his pockets and his head tucked into the collar of his coat. Once they reached the restaurant, Lazrus opened the door for him and let him walk ahead of him like the gentleman he was.
Once they walked in, a Poogle waitress told them to sit wherever they'd like and she'd be with them shortly. They nodded at her and seating themselves in the back corner, where they were mostly shielded from the sight of the few other patrons.
As they ate- Lazrus attacking a fruit salad and Gregor poking at a bowl of oatmeal.
"I really hope Kabot woke up Zipakna and Kabot like I asked him to- I don't want Zipakna up at all hours of the night." he said between strawberries. Kabot looked up from his food and gave him an awkward smile before setting his spoon down.
"Lazrus, can we talk for a minute?"
Lazrus set his fork down. He didn't quite like the serious ton to Gregor's voice.
"..of course." he replied, sounding a little unsure. Gregor laced his fingers together and stared down at the table, sort of averting his gaze.
"There's no real easy way to say this, but-" He cleared his throat, looking up at the Buzz. "I think we should break up."
The sound of Lazrus' heart breaking was almost audible.
"..what?" he said in disbelief. "Break up? But- but why? Look, if this is about what happened last night, I talked to Karling and-" Gregor reached a hand across the table and put a finger to his mouth.
"No, no, it's not about that. It's not about you at all, really."
"If you say 'it's not you, it's me', I swear-" Gregor quieted him again.
"I'm in love with someone else, Lazrus," he replied. "I've been in love with him for a while, and- and I didn't want to lie to you anymore. You're really nice and I like you a lot, but it's just not the same, Laz. I'm sorry." he said, dropping his hand to the table. Lazrus just looked at him, slack-jawed in total confusion.
"I- I thought-" he stuttered, staring at him in complete disbelief. "You told me you loved me."
"And I meant it- at the time. Look, Lazrus, please don't make this difficult," he said. He pulled out his wallet and deposited a couple of bills on the table. "Just- go home, okay?"
Lazrus stared in disbelief as Gregor got up and walked towards the door, leaving his food totally untouched. He watched as his boyfriend- ex-boyfriend- walked out of the restaurant. A car across the street opened its door and a Camouflage Grarrl stepped out. Gregor smiled an ear-splitting grin at him and stepped forward, letting him wrap his arms around him, tilting his head up to kiss him.
The little broken remnants of Lazrus' heart were slowly and painfully ground into dust as he watched him pile into the car and leave.
Kabot sat in the sitting room near the front door, waiting for Lazrus like he had been almost since he walked out the door. He'd gotten up to wake up Zipakna and Karling, who had for some reason been together in Zipakna's bed, but other than that he'd just sat there waiting for Lazrus to come home. He expected to be sitting there for hours, but really it only took about forty-five minutes before he heard Lazrus coming up the drive.
The Buzz threw the door open and stepped into the house. Kabot stood to greet him and immediately noticed that he was shaking.
Lazrus hadn't cried at all when Gregor broke up with him and he hadn't cried on the train home, either. He was visibly shaking with the effort, in fact. But it wasn't like he didn't want to. He saw Kabot step towards him, not looking very certain of himself.
"Hello, Kabot," he said, his voice cracking and downtrodden. "I know I promised we would talk as soon as I got home, but.. I'm really not in the mood right now." The robot tilted his head, looking into his eyes, which were tearing up slightly. No, no, he wasn't going to cry in front of Kabot.
"Are you okay?" Kabot asked, stepping forward and reaching up to put his hand to Lazrus' face.
That was when he broke down.
He started sobbing uncontrollably, burying his face in Kabot's cold shoulder. He put his hands against his chest, shaking as Kabot awkwardly put his arms around him.
"Please- please don't cry," Kabot said, his voice pitching wildly. He paused, scanning his files for information on what to do, but almost instinctively started rubbing his back as he hiccuped against him. "What happened?" he asked. His programmed morality felt bad for enjoying this- he had Lazrus in his arms, desperately clinging to him, but he was crying.
"Gregor- Gregor broke up with me, he left me for another pet, I- I don't know what I'm going to do, Kabot, I love him and he just left me." he sobbed.
Kabot held the older pet a little tighter, let him cry against his shoulder as his nerve sensors felt the warm, salty water roll down his body. After a minute or so, Lazrus pulled back and looked up at him. His grey-blue eyes were a little red and his eyeliner was running, and he hiccuped again. He felt his heart flutter a little at the sight.
"He does not know what he is giving up," he said, stepping back a little and putting his hands on his shoulders, looking straight into his eyes. "Is there anything I can do for you, Lazrus?" he asked. Lazrus reached up and wiped tears and makeup from his eyes.
"..don't leave me?" he said.
Kabot swallowed past a lump in his throat. Lazrus was looking at him with the most pitiful eyes he'd ever seen and that request- he felt himself flush, not as hot as usual but still making him feel warm to the touch. It made Lazrus lean back into him, enjoying the warmth in comparison to his previous cold exterior.
Kabot rubbed his back a little more, letting out a deep, shaky sigh. "I will not. I promise."
Kabot lead his older "brother" to the nearest couch, holding him against him. As they shifted into a more comfortable position, Lazrus put his arms around Kabot's neck. The younger pet stroked his spines, letting him just cry against him for a little while. After a while, the Buzz was reduced to little hiccuping sobs.
"Lazrus.." Kabot said, reaching down and taking his chin between two pincers, tilting his head up. "If he left you like that, he is not worth crying over." he said, stroking his spines again. Lazrus bit his lower lip.
"But- he's smart and nice and well-read and I loved him, Kabot. He was perfect. He.." Lazrus curled up tighter, shaking a little against the robot. Kabot's heart practically broke at that.
"Lazrus, please do not do this to yourself," he said, holding the Buzz tightly. "Gregor was not right for you." Pushing away from him a little, Lazrus gave him a little glare.
"You barely know him." he pointed out. Kabot took Lazrus' face in his hands and tilted his face up.
"But I know you, Lazrus. He does not deserve you. You are a beautiful person- you are intelligent and compassionate and reliable and you have the most gentle touch and the most beautiful smile. If he cannot see that, that is his loss." he said, dropping his hands to take Lazrus' in his own, like he had seen the Buzz doing with his now ex-boyfriend. The oldest pet blinked a couple of times, clearly confused.
"Kabot, you- saying those sort of things- you're not-" He gripped Kabot's pincers tightly in his hands as the robot cast his gaze downwards.
"I- the reason I have been having so many problems recently is because.. because I have fallen in love with you, Lazrus," he replied, determinedly keeping his eyes off of Lazrus. "Please do not ask me how. Even I am unaware. I had no idea I could even feel such things, and yet- every time I am with you, my heart races and my internal systems heat. And whenever I saw you with Gregor, I felt- angry, I believe. I wished for that to be me. I realize this is probably a very inappropriate moment to tell you this, but- I could no longer keep it to myself." Tentatively, he looked up and into Lazrus' eyes.
For a few moments, the Buzz merely stared at him in disbelief. Then he dropped his hands from Kabot's. The Ruki panicked- he shouldn't have done that, Lazrus was too vulnerable right now, too damaged. He was about to apologize when Lazrus smiled at him.
"You.. you really mean that?" he said. Kabot tilted his head, almost looking confused.
"Of course I do. You are the first thing in this world that was able to make me feel." he explained. Lazrus took his pincers in his hands, holding them up. He leaned his forehead against Kabot's pincers and let out a deep sigh.
"I.. that makes me very happy, Kabot." he said, laughing a little.
"Truly? You are not upset with me?" he asked. Lazrus looked up at him.
"Of course not. I've always been very intrigued by you.. I have to admit, I maybe even had a bit of a crush on you when I first met you.. but I always thought you'd never be able to fall in love, so I just forgot about it," he admitted. "It's easy to forget about loving someone who can never love you back, but- I think I maybe love you too?" Kabot's entire body visibly relaxed, and he squeezed Lazrus' hands a little tighter.
"I am not quite sure what happens from here." he shamelessly admitted. Lazrus laughed a little.
"Let's start with this." he replied, leaning forward and kissing him.
Things went completely without incident through the Month of Celebrating- Kabot and Lazrus agreed that it was probably better to let Karling and Zipakna figure out the new nature of their relationship on their own. Meanwhile, Lazrus was teaching Kabot as much as possible about the nature of romantic relationships and relationships in general.
On the morning of the Day of Giving, Zipakna and Karling (sleeping in their separate beds- they hadn't slept together since that night, for fear that Lazrus would find out about them) woke up to the smell of pancakes and trudged downstairs, Karling wearing the first clothes he could manage to find (they never showered before opening presents, it was pretty much a tradition at this point). They expected to see Lazrus standing at the stove, frying pan in hand, and were sufficiently surprised to see Kabot standing there instead. Lazrus was sitting at the table, head leaned into his hands, wearing pyjama pants and an old shirt. Kabot flipped the pancakes with expert skill. The two of them were talking in low voices, but stopped as soon as they heard them come in. Karling leaned against the door frame.
"Well isn't this quaint." he said, letting Zipakna move around him to sit at the table. Lazrus looked over at him and smiled.
"Good morning, Karling. Come and sit down. Kabot was nice enough to offer to make breakfast." he said. The entire table was already said, drinks and all (caramel hot chocolate- Karling's favourite)
"So I see," he muttered. "What kind of freaky health food pancakes are you going to stuff down our throats this time?" he asked. Lazrus laughed and shook his head.
"They're marble pancakes- vanilla and chocolate. Made with cake mix. It's a special treat, since it's the Day of Giving and all," he explained. "Just sit. Trust me, it's the last time you're going to get something like this for a while." He pat the seat next to him, between himself and Zipakna, and Karling couldn't help but smile a little as he went and sat down. Minutes later, Kabot put a plate of pancakes on the table and everyone started helping themselves.
Lazrus looked at the three of them- his family- and smiled. This was how he always wanted things to be.