Al was more nervous than he had ever been in his life.
Actually, that was a lie. He’d been afraid of everything once – so deeply, completely afraid that it had been nearly impossible for him to function outside of the house. This wasn’t anything like the nerves that had built up at the mere thought of others seeing him all those years ago. This was… different. This time he worried for reasons outside of himself. He loved Yaritza, and it was for her sake that he hoped her family would like him.
He started on what was probably his third slice of chocolate cake, going through all possible scenarios in his head. He was going to be prepared, no matter what.
Al, put a shirt on. Papa wants us all in the garden to go over some ‘ground rules’.
He snickered. He could hear Lyra’s eyes rolling from the other side of the house.
I’ll just be a minute. By the way, how do you know I don’t have a shirt on?
You never have a shirt on at this time on weekends. And you’d better not have eaten all that cake!
He looked in the fridge, groaning when he saw the empty platter. How much had he managed to get through this morning?
Whoops. I’ll make you another one later, I promise.
THERE WAS A WHOLE CAKE IN THAT FRIDGE, ALTAIR CENTAURI!
He laughed, shutting the door again. He really did need to pay more attention to what he was doing. Eight whole slices. So much for his sister being the glutton in the family…
I heard that.
She might be a glutton, but she really was a remarkable telepath.
“It’s about time, baby brother. I think papa would have cried if you’d kept us waiting much longer,” Leo said, grinning.
“I would not.”
“He totally would,” Malik mouthed from behind his husband, holding up his hands in surrender when Lor whirled around to glare at him. Al laughed. If he and Yari could be even half as happy as his parents, they’d be living the dream.
“Right,” Lor said, clapping his hands together, “rule time.”
“We need to make a good impression, Shea. Besides, most of these rules don’t apply to you, so don’t worry.” He still got that goofy smile every time Shea called him ‘Papa’, though she’d been saying it for almost a year now. The first time it had happened, Al had been sure his dads would faint they were so happy. They’d been adopted by her, not just the other way around.
“So, first things first. No telepathy.”
Predictable, but still groan-worthy.
“I’m serious! While we have guests, all conversations will be held out loud, understand?”
“Yes, papa,” they chorused, with varying degrees of enthusiasm.
“Does that rule start now?” Lyra asked.
“Well, no. Why?”
“Good, because if it did then Ellie would have broken it. She’s going to be a bit late – she can’t find her glasses.”
“Ask her if they’re on her head. That’s where mine tend to be.”
Lyra closed her eyes for a moment, and giggled. “Yeah, they were. She’ll be here in a minute.”
It was probably a good idea to wait out by the front of the house. If they were going to all this effort to make a good impression, it wouldn’t do to have no-one waiting to greet their guests. Besides, if it was partially because he wanted to see his fiance, well, who could blame him.
“I’m awake!” He leapt up from the chair, knocking it over as his legs got tangled in it. His jaw dropped.
“You look absolutely stunning.”
“I’m glad, because I feel a little overdressed. Mum said we should dress up and- hang on, I didn’t know you could do that.”
Al looked up, grinning at the surprise on her face. “Honestly, it’s one of the first times it’s actually worked for me. Tada! Sixan quick-change powers.”
“That doesn’t sound like a real thing.”
“It totally is, though. The last time I tried it I ended up with my trousers on my head.”
“Where was your shirt?”
“You don’t want to know.”
“Well, you look great,” Yaritza said, smiling as she stepped forwards and kissed him. “Are you as nervous as I am?”
“Me, too. My family will be here soon – Amata couldn’t decide which top to wear. She’s been so excited to meet you all. I’ve talked her out of saying ‘we come in peace’, though. I have to warn you, my sister has been a little… unpredictable since she hit her teens. It’s not her fault, but if she starts behaving oddly, please don’t be annoyed at her.”
“I’m sure it’ll be fine. If it makes you feel better you can let the others know?”
She shook her head. “That would just draw attention to it. We’ll keep our fingers crossed, ok?”
“Hello, Mr Vaughan. It’s good to meet you.”
“Well, you’re polite at least. It’s good to meet you, too.”
Al smiled, relieved. He’d managed a whole sentence without messing up. If he could do that a few more times today then maybe this would go well.
“Would you like a drink? We’ve got lemonade and iced tea, but if you’d like something else then the twins are pretty good at mixing things.”
“Lemonade would be good.”
“You’re the dancer, aren’t you?”
Lyra blinked, taken aback. “Yes. Well, I used to be. Not so much anymore.”
“Can you teach me?” Amata asked. “Yari said that you can spin fire.”
“I can, but-”
“Is Al going to leave?”
“Yeah, he is.”
“I don’t want him to leave.”
“He won’t be gone. It will be like with Ellie – she’s here all the time. Al will be, too.”
“And you? Lyra?”
“In the end.”
“What about me?”
“That’s up to you.”
“Thank you for doing all this, Mr Centauri.”
“You’re welcome. I think it went well,” Lor paused, “didn’t it?”
“Yes, it did.”
“Papa? Dad? I’ve got work early tomorrow, so I’m heading home.”
Lor ran to the door. “Wait. I’ve got something I need to ask you.”
“So, I’ve been working on something.”
“Is this the thing Dad told you off for?”
Lor looked down at his hands. “Maybe…”
“Are you going to tell me what it is?”
“Only if you promise not to tell anyone.”
“It’s not illegal, is it?”
“I’ve never checked. That way I can claim ignorance.”
Well, he might as well just come out and say it. He took a deep breath and looked into her eyes.
“I’m creating a body for a sentient A.I.”
She stared at him, stunned.
“I’m almost done, I’m just missing a few components. I have contacts on Sixam, and they’ve agreed to get them for me. I need someone to pick them up, and you’re the only astronaut I trust, Ellie.”
“I get to go to Sixam?” she asked, and he could see the excitement in her eyes. “I get to see where we’re from?”
“Yes. I’d need to make a few adjustments to your rocket, but I promise you they’re safe. I’ll be with you all the time and-”
“I’ll do it. When can we start?”
Leo walked over to the living area, the plate of macaroons balanced on his hand. Lyra was already there, but something felt wrong.
She didn’t look up.
Ly? What’s wrong?
No telepathy, remember?
The sims are gone. We can chat like this all you want.
“Unless,” he added out loud, “you’d rather talk like this?”
She shook her head.
No, not really.
Her voice in his head was sad, tinged with blue and the scent of salt. He sat down, placing the plate between them.
Did you not have fun?
That’s not it.
Come on, tell me.
She bit back a sob, and he hugged her.
Don’t want to talk about it, huh?
She shook her head and he handed her a macaroon.
Want me to go?
She shook it again, even more vigorously.
Don’t go. Please. I’ll cheer up.
Well, I might have something to help with that. You see, I had an idea.
“Oi,” he said, and she giggled, wiping her eyes.
So, you know we’ve got some money to build our own houses, yeah?
Well, maybe we could combine ours and do something a bit fancier?
I mean, we’d have separate sections and everything, but maybe a joint kitchen or garden or something like that. Only if you want to, of course.
“Wow, she speaks.”
Lyra pouted, and he grinned back at her. Her mind was turning green again, and when she next spoke he could feel her natural energy returning.
I’d like that.
Lyra hugged him, almost crying again but for a completely different reason. She wasn’t going to be alone. She might not know what was going to happen to her when the government decided on her future, but she’d have her twin with her. She could do anything.
A/N – So, I actually really struggled with this chapter (hence the long break). I’m not used to having to keep an eye on so many sims at once, and keeping the pace flowing was very difficult. This whole thing happened about six in-game hours, and I spent about twice that long in real-hours writing and re-writing this chapter. I’m still not sure about it, but I think it’s because it’s out of my comfort zone. I hope you enjoy it, and hopefully next time I have to do something like this I’ll be a little more sure of what I’m doing!