He knew he was in desperate danger the first time he looked into those wide eyes, keenly questioning and profoundly lost: they were so damned green, something he'd always had a distinct weakness for. In fact the first thought that crossed his mind upon seeing them was: Green as absinthe, and just as illegal. Oh, not in a purely technical sense — California's sodomy laws had been repealed nearly ten years ago — but in every other way that mattered those eyes and the unlined face that framed them were pure trouble, and it had just landed squarely in his lap, figuratively speaking.
For several days afterwards he was kept too busy with a whirl of investigative activity and paperwork to think about it much: Bonnie was trying to stabilize KITT psychologically, Michael was roaring around like an enraged tiger, and nobody knew who the hell's body the AI had ended up in — only that he was there, and that the question of how to get him out of it again loomed just as large and far more urgently. But every so often a thought managed to infiltrate the fortress of Devon's mind anyway, especially late at night when he ungirded his mental loins for sleep: while he lay there defenceless it came back to him again, that searching gaze brighter than jade, it slipped between the sheets and lay down next to him in fact, and he clutched at his pillow and closed his eyes more tightly and directed all his willpower to outrunning it.
Pointless, of course. Even in human form KITT retained a speed and a power that could easily take your breath away, if you weren't careful.
And Devon had to be very careful indeed, for any number of reasons. Over the course of six hectic days he sorted the moral tangle out into three main strands: power differential, relative ages, and the question of homosexual attraction itself. The last factor was an unhappy surprise, but not an entirely unexpected one — the last time he'd felt this way had been about a fellow agent in the SIS, also a man considerably younger than himself, a bright and highly professional fellow with a dry wit and… too many similarities to the present situation to be anything less than deeply uncomfortable. But Devon had put that firmly behind him: he knew the law and he knew his duty, and no matter how powerful the attraction he hadn't been willing to throw his career away over an episode of mere animal lust. After a year the handsome young agent in question had transferred out and with considerable relief he'd set himself back on a lifelong path of fancying the proper sex.
Brian Coleson, too, had possessed gorgeous green eyes.
The first factor was the clearest cut: he was the Executive Director of FLAG, and KITT was Foundation property… or at least he had been, because the argument could be made that he was now effectively human and that the concept of owning someone's soul was ethically repugnant in the extreme. The more he worried the problem the more Devon came to the conclusion that while this point was superficially the most obvious, it actually led to a labyrinth of questions with a Minotaur lurking at its heart… or someone else who stood outside all existing categories, neither fish nor fowl, neither machine nor man. He didn't want to get any closer than he absolutely had to, but late at night he found himself daring the shadowy corridors anyway without even a ball of twine in his hands to guide him back out again. It certainly didn't help that KITT himself turned to him for advice in these present difficulties, and that he currently lacked the cool detachment necessary to deny the —
KITT seldom smiled, but when he did it lit up his entire face. And he always brightened when he saw Devon come into the same room. Every single time.
— just what was KITT, anyway? The term Dear boy came to Devon's lips easily, as easily as the smiles that seemed to naturally blossom in KITT's presence, but in the case of artificial intelligence physical age meant nothing: KITT had been cognitively mature from the instant of his activation inside his robotic body. Devon knew this to be true because he'd been there, and because he had been the second person whom KITT had ever spoken to. Even then, mere seconds into full life, the AI had struck him as a vital presence: keenly intelligent, remarkably earnest, curious about everyone and everything around him. He'd felt a surge of fatherly protectiveness that was both immediate and instinctive, and for the past three years that paradigm of older mentor and younger protege had continued to hold true. Certainly he'd fought for KITT's right to exist on more than one occasion, facing down the Board of Directors with steely determination when they'd threatened to pull funding and to have KITT decommissioned. That was something that Devon Miles would never allow, because the Knight Industries Two Thousand project had been Wilton Knight's dying dream, and…
"Devon!" Such an eager inflection, and oh sweet Lord, that smile…
… and because he liked KITT on a purely personal level. He liked him a great deal indeed. They'd spent many long evenings in remote communication while Michael was asleep and KITT was piloting the car, playing chess and trading stories and discussing the finer points of culture, philosophy, and life in general. It never ceased to amaze him that KITT could be such a paradoxical combination of certifiable genius, erudite professor, effective field agent and innocent child: the AI's sense of wonder at the world around him never faded, everything was an adventure, and no matter how many terrible things happened to him — and there'd been a few that had come close to extinguishing him forever — he never lost the relentless curiosity that operated side by side with his pre-programmed caution.
The expertise and the innocence effectively cancelled each other out in Devon's mind. To him, KITT was fundamentally ageless and timeless. Certainly not mortal. Definitely not human, for all that he possessed a bright and beautiful soul and more than his share of inherent humanity.
KITT rose from the seat where he'd been scanning the diary of Peter DeVries' girlfriend and crossed the small room with graceful precision in every movement, to lay his hand on the arm of Devon's suit jacket, gazing up at him with clear pleasure. "I was hoping you'd stop by."
Devon smiled in return, telling his heart to stop skipping so ridiculously inside his chest. "Of course I did, dear boy — I promised I would, didn't I, just as soon as I'd wrapped up the Caulder affair?" He laid a gentle hand on top of KITT's slender fingers. "It's nearly lunchtime, you know. Would you care to join me?"
KITT inclined DeVrie's pointed chin in a little bow, his eyes full of unabashed anticipation. "I'd be delighted, of course." The persistence of memory had re-crafted the human's voice to an amazing extent, raising its pitch and imposing the accent that KITT had originally been programmed with. The effect was both pleasing and uncanny. "Perhaps you can help me to understand a passage I came across in the diary this morning…?"
They set out for Devon's office, hand lingering on arm and heads together, and for the next two hours nothing else seemed to exist.
KITT was now unquestionably male. He was twenty-eight years old, stood five feet eleven inches tall, and weighed one hundred and seventy-six pounds. He had sharp features and short spikes of tousled chestnut hair and a green gaze that shone with preternaturally brilliant intellect, and his most frail gesture penetrated Devon's inner world with effortless and terrifying power.
The three thorny strands fell at his feet, their Gordian knot cut with a single stroke. Deep in the mirrors of the maze, Devon could only dream of the world he had left behind, where categories were clearly defined and if things were not always quite what they seemed, at least he had a better idea of where they stood.