Chapter Nine
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After Gemini left, Smith let his anger roil back to the surface. Furiously he paced across her little apartment, sub-vocalizing his dislike of the whole situation in a rumble that would have made a crouching panther proud.

What had he been doing? Aside from the fact that he’d confirmed his suspicions about Gemini’s physical attraction to him, Smith was...puzzled by his own actions. That first kiss in the bedroom had been a calculated move. He wanted to gauge her response. He couldn’t help being satisfied with the results. Gemini was very responsive, and his own functionality subroutines were sufficient for the task ahead.

But the second kiss, that had been different. His anger had peaked then. That, paired with the sudden realization that his dangerous nature aroused Gemini, that changed things. For the first time in his existence, Smith forgot to analyze. He didn’t calculate his next move, didn’t even speculate on his actions’ relevance to his orders. He simply acted. He was improvising. Of course he had functioned on that level before when he was chasing renegade humans. Wielding his Desert Eagle was second nature to him. It required only a few basic files.

Except this time he’d been using more than basic files. And why in the name of the Mainframe hadn’t he been completely repulsed?

He did not like this. At all. Smith never apologized, never made excuses for what he was. Smith was proud to be a machine. He wasn’t the only Agent to think so, either. Although he wasn’t the only Agent to possess emotions, Smith was apparently in possession of the widest variety and intensity. Dammit. Sometimes he wished he was like Jones and Brown, just aware enough to do their jobs and not weighted down by all these extraneous thoughts. They were like children, less than children, compared to Smith. How blissful it must be not to know anything.

He wanted to break something. Shoot something. A little hiss escaped his clenched teeth as he paced. Touching his earpiece, Smith connected to the Mainframe and all but demanded to know why he was ordered on this mission.

[...Classified information...You are not authorized for access...]

Dammit. Smith kicked the couch, sending it onto its back and against the wall with a satisfying thud. What kind of power games were his superiors playing? It was the curse of sentience...to desire power, to have the forethought to manipulate others and the environment in the achieving of goals. Smith wasn’t exempt from that himself. Who didn’t do it? He hated when others were manipulating him, however. Who didn’t?

How dare Gemini be angry with him? She was a most confounding female. She’d been grateful to him when he’d defended her before. The difference between that situation and the struggle on the floor still puzzled Smith. Was it possible she and Tommy really were playing? All Smith had seen was the struggle. He heard her choking and acted without thinking. Basic files taking over again. Of course it was amusing to see all the humans frightened. He would savor that memory. But the look of shock, of near betrayal in Gemini’s eyes stuck with him.

And so he returned to his previous problem. Why didn’t Gemini’s touch make him feel infected? Smith ran a self-diagnostic. All systems functioning perfectly. Was he already so infected by her that he no longer felt saturated by her smell? If this was an evolution in his programming, he would prefer to remain primitive.

He could almost hear his logic circuits grinding together.

Of course that was the moment Gemini chose to return. A great clamor preceded her arrival. Smith wondered just how one little creature could make so much noise. Then the revelation came that more than one little creature was returning.

A bundle of hissing, growling, stinking fur shot from Gemini’s arms before she had time to curse it. With the refuge underneath the couch unavailable, the bundle scrabbled into the kitchen and crouched on top of the refrigerator. It continued to hiss and emit a foul odor.

“What. Is. That?” Smith asked. He was almost reluctant to hear the answer.

“It’s a cat.”

“It smells like a skunk.”

“That’s nothing a little tomato juice bath won’t cure.”

Smith adjusted his lapels. He lifted an eyebrow at Gemini.

“Fine, you big priss,” she mumbled, “I’ll go get some tomato juice.” She gathered up her money and keys and left the apartment again.

Left Smith alone with the “cat”.

He watched it from the safety of the living room. It was hissing less, but still puffed up in a show of bravado. It was grey, he suspected, even under all that filth. Matted fur. Wild yellow eyes. The cat watched Smith as he approached its perch. Slowly, so as not to alarm it, the Agent raised his hand toward the refrigerator. The cat scrunched backward into the space between the refrigerator and the cabinet. It hissed again, but with considerably less gusto.

[...“I don’t want to hurt you”...] Smith’s own words came back to him. It was true. He didn’t. Taking a step backward, Smith tried to regard the situation from a different perspective. The cat winced and puffed up its fur again at the sudden movement.

The thing was terrified. How could it not be? It had been dragged here to this strange place by an enormous creature and left to fend for itself with no recognizable means of doing so. Thrust into a situation it could not control or understand. Smith began to wonder about Gemini’s motives. Again. Her actions held very little logic most of the time. Didn’t she have a difficult enough time taking care of herself, without adding the responsibility of caring for another living thing?

Gemini returned, this time hauling a shopping bag. She managed to slam the door closed just in time to keep the grey, stinking comet from escaping. It got tangled in her legs and nearly toppled her to the floor. Smith stood out of the way, as inconspicuous as a large AI could be. He fought the urge to smirk. If she wanted to risk her own personal safety with the terrified little creature, she was welcome to.

Basically ignoring Smith, Gemini prepared a tomato juice bath for the cat, which was now trying to dig up the carpet in the corner. Smith didn’t have to be a superior being to know what that meant. Passively, he watched as Gemini returned to the living room, now wearing worn-out clothes, and began to talk to the animal in soothing tones. After a few token hisses to maintain its reputation, the cat leaned forward and delicately sniffed the woman’s extended finger. It alternately eyed Gemini, Smith, and the door.

“Good kitty,” Gemini crooned, “such a good kitty... I just want to give you a bath so you can be a pretty puddy again.” Though her tone didn’t change, Smith knew the next part was directed at him, “Let me give you a nice bath, so my friend the Agent can breathe easily again.” She crept closer. “It’s okay... I won’t hurt you... Good little pretty kitty... Let me make you a pretty girl again...”

“Girl?” Smith asked.

“Shhh!”

Smith repressed the audible part of his sigh. The cat sniffed Gemini’s fingers again, looking somewhat less terrified. “Meh?” it said softly. A thready rumbling sound came from somewhere inside the dirty little body.

“Aww, you’re purring for me? Good girl!”

[...Good girl?...] That wasn’t a growl? Silently, Smith accessed relevant files on felines and purring. Explanations of the purring phenomenon were varied. Some sources said it was the result of vibrating vocal cords, others said purring came from the animal attempting to harmonize with the spiritual vibe of another plane of existence. However, all sources agreed that a purring cat was the epitome of contentment. So it was a good sound coming from the mangy thing’s throat.

Finally, Gemini was able to pick up the wary animal. It struggled very little...until they entered the bathroom. Deciding against assisting this folly, Smith stood silently beside the bathtub. Gemini wrestled the little creature into the red tinted water. The cat almost appeared to have mutated into an octopus, for all the squirming it was doing. Gemini was cursing quite creatively by now.

“Why don’t you alter the Matrix?” Smith asked.

“Because it’s more fun doing it the old-fashioned way.”

Smith frowned. He observed the scene before him. Now soaked to the knees, Gemini was practically bathing in the tub with the cat. Her perch on the edge of the tub was precarious. The feline had calmed down for the moment, but Smith could only categorize the look on its face as resentful. It was probably contemplating an escape.

“That is not my idea of fun,” he said.

“I doubt you have any idea of fun.”

Gemini shampooed the cat again, muttering about “lather, rinse, repeat” and then rinsed until the grey fur was slicked against its body. It resembled a strange reptile now more than a cat. Gemini spoke quietly and soothingly to it again. She rubbed out the excess water from fur that fortunately no longer emitted its former foulness.

Unfortunately, sharing a bath with a wet, terrified cat was not a wise choice. The feline decided it wasn’t tolerating any more and made its escape. With a mighty yowl, the cat squirmed free of Gemini’s grip and leapt, sending the human back against the tiled wall with an unpleasant thud. Smith let the cat go. He was more concerned about the woman’s welfare.

Rubbing her head, Gemini sat groaning in the pink bathwater. If he hadn’t known it was tomato juice, Smith would have thought it was blood. For once in his existence, it was not an appealing image.

Smith was unsure how to assist her. She’d left upset not that long ago, and focused on bathing the animal instead of talking to him. He didn’t know if she wanted him nearby at all.

“Damn cat,” Gemini muttered. She struggled to stand up.

“You brought it here.”

“And thanks for all your help, too.”

Gemini slipped stepping out of the tub. Pitching ungracefully forward, she ended up in Smith’s arms. The Agent’s expensive suit now boasted a decoration of dirty bathwater. Smith held her steady, thinking it wisest not to smirk at her. Gemini looked up at Smith, her eyes wide. He recalled that she had seemed taller the day they’d met. Probably high-heeled shoes. Strange that he missed that particular detail.

Cupping the back of her head in his hand, Smith asked, “Are you injured?”

“Only my pride... Good catch.”

Already a lump was forming on the back of her head. Threading his fingers through her unruly dark locks, Smith carefully massaged the bump. [...Strange...] “Touching you should repulse me,” he said. Why it didn’t was still a mystery to him.

“Gee, sorry I can’t be more disgusting for you.”

Smith grimaced. Her lack of offense at nearly everything he said irritated him. “You ruined my suit.”

“Glad to know what your top priority is.”

Her tone was sarcastic, indicating she was upset with him, but she wasn’t moving out of his arms. These types of mixed messages had confused AIs for untold time. Smith looked down at Gemini, wondering just how this one human could explain her entire species. Wondering just how this one woman had suddenly changed most of his opinions on humanity.

“Your tone and your body language are in conflict,” Smith said.

Ever so slightly, she leaned against him. “When in doubt, believe the body language,” she said. A strange twinkle passed through her eyes before her next statement. “If you were human...you’d know this was a good time to kiss me.”

“You’re no longer angry with me?”

“We’ll talk about it later. I don’t want to think about it right now.”

He accepted that and leaned down to kiss her. Her mouth was soft beneath his. The curves of her body were also soft, and despite his earlier conundrum, Smith didn’t concern himself with the fact that again he wasn’t repulsed by her touch. If it wasn’t disgust...perhaps it was pleasure. Smith stopped analyzing for the moment and tried to let himself be surrounded by the feeling. It actually wasn’t a terrible sensation...and Gemini’s soft little sigh against his mouth had to be an indication of pleasure...

A few moments after Gemini’s arms came up around his shoulders, Smith ended the kiss. She stared at him, most likely trying to see past the AI that he was and into some disgusting sentimental presence that wasn’t there. He knew that look. He didn’t like that look.

“What did you feel just then?” she asked.

“Nothing.”

“Liar.”

“Don’t ever call me a liar,” he growled.

“...Or else what? You’ll choke me again? Very nice, Smith. Who wouldn’t want a wonderful person like you living in their house? I’m sure loving it.”

Smith released her. “I’m not a nice person...I’m not a person at all.”

“You’re half right.”

“Which half?”

“The nice part.”

Smith contemplated the implications of this. “You seemed to enjoy my unkind behavior...earlier,” he said. “Does it still hold true? Perhaps we should find out...” He grabbed the back of her head and used his other arm to anchor her body against his. He snarled at her. Tilting her head to expose the side of her neck, Smith applied savage openmouthed kisses to her skin.

She squirmed. “Smith...” Her tone was not imploring.

“Tell me this still excites you...”

“Dammit, Smith! Stop it!” She shoved his shoulders and managed to separate them far enough for her to glare at him. “I am *not* into dangerous sex. If you try that route again, you can go back home to the Mainframe and screw yourself! Now, let go!”

He did. Thinking he’d rather face the disapproval of his superiors than the anger of this woman, he stepped away from her. She was practically panting. Shaky hands raked through her hair and over her wet clothes. Smith knew those mannerisms. He knew it was best to stay silent at this point.

Gemini sighed. “I can’t talk right now,” she growled. “I need a shower. Smith...?”

He understood. Although the concept of privacy was different for AIs, Smith knew what Gemini was asking without her saying it. He left her alone for her shower.

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