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For the third time that day, Miranda traced the creases of his right hand with the fingers of his left, fidgeting a bit when the fingernails reached the small bump that had formed right where the middle crease ended. Not much about that hand had changed outwardly since the last time he’d obsessively examined it save for a few veins becoming slightly more blue, but that was more due to the cold weather that was seeping in as the sun went down. Giles hadn’t come up yet to light the fireplace, and being that the small white bracelet on Miranda’s left wrist deemed him mentally disoriented with glaring red bold font, he wasn’t about to risk falling down the stairs and condemning himself to more rest in the recovery room.

“Good evening, love,” Anders’ voice welcomed, calmly slipping through the suite doors and casting off his hoodie. With Miranda’s attention gathered, he inquired, “Are you feeling okay? I’ve got a surprise for you tomorrow if you’re up to it.”

Miranda eased off of the middle couch, trembling for a moment before he hooked a foot around the leg of the coffee table. “It won’t be much of a surprise if you’re telling me about it now, because then I’ll be expecting something unexpected to happen.”

“Okay, fine.” Anders settled down on the wall side couch, beckoning Miranda to come over and cuddle with him. “Some of the home payments went through today. I’m buying a townhouse for us, love. It’ll do you some good to get out of this tiny suite and explore the city for yourself. Sure, I may have made you to be my partner, but I didn’t intend for you to be a lab rat your whole life.”

“Does that mean that I’m officially an existing person like you now?” He waved off Anders’ offer, making him sit up and cross his legs over the coffee table in dejection. “Does your precious government acknowledge that I exist now?”

“I’m working on that. The citizenship system is nowhere as easy to slip into as it was back in 2013.” He crossed his arms, creasing the fabric of his red nightshirt that he’d hidden all day and averting his gaze to the small hole that was forming in Miranda’s right sock. “Back in the good old days, all the administration here needed to do was submit a packet of information on the donors of the material used to create a subject, have them appear in court once, and then they had citizenship. It rarely happened, though, being that almost none of the subjects back then were refined enough to be presented to the public. And of those who were…” He sighed and shook his head, brushing his hair behind his ears. “We only went through that two times. My good friends Amane and Ambrose were both born here under the old admins at a different facility as proof of the first cancer cure, and they got their citizenships here back in 2012 when they were deemed viable for at least the next fifty years. Good old test tube babies…”

“Is there anything here you can’t do, Anders? Or buy your way into?”

He glanced up, met with Miranda’s unfocused and dilated eyes. “I can’t make you love me. I can make you feel affection by raising your estrogen levels, but I can’t make you genuinely love me. That takes free will.”

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