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Omega Point

Chapter Text

Will wakes sore, with the sun sliding hot fingers over his eyes and forcing them closed further. He’d fallen asleep at his desk again, pencil in one hand, an obscure looking bent metal object in another. He isn’t even sure what time he’d lost consciousness this time, or what time it was now. He shrugs the blanket hung over his shoulders off and stretches with a loud groan.

His workshop is a flurry of movement as dust settles and resettles in the sunlight, his bed unmade from the morning before when he’d managed to actually sleep in it. he’s tempted to resume his efforts at slumber but knows it would not be for the best. He can’t remember the last time he’d gotten enough sleep. Years, he supposes, it hardly matters. Not since the Caesar model had hit the market and more and more demands had been made on upgrades.

The new ones always broke the fastest.

Will finds himself busy, often, adjusting settings on older models, fitting upgrades for the newer ones. It’s a back alley trade; the models can be upgraded for an awful lot of money at the store, get the latest personality chips, the upgrades to include a different voice recognition software, better optics, more natural movement and fluidity in certain activities. But Will… Will gets the clients who want the same thing for less money. It’s how he’s always lived, since he’d figured out how to dismantle the very first models and adjust them to his tastes. It had started as a party trick and grown into his livelihood.

No one wants to hire a hands-on engineer when there are machines to do the job for him. He’s adapted as the future had.

In the time he isn’t working, Will builds chips, slight variations of the things he buys black market for parts, but with better response time, or genuinely human reactions. It’s why his shop is so popular. He makes the chips, two of each type for every client, they always differ, tests them and puts one into the androids he’s fixing. For a price, of course, as anything. The other he keeps for his own model, his prize resurrection, since the initial model had been so faulty few still existed beyond parts and chips.

It’s to him now that he makes his way, gently adjusting the angle of his head from how it had fallen during the night – he’ll need to look into a new spring – checking the clarity of the eyes before carefully unplugging the power and covering the space up with clothes. He waits for the initiation sequence to run through, makes sure nothing is behaving like it shouldn’t be, and offers a smile when the eyes blink on their own, adjust, focus, and turn to him.

“Good morning, Hannibal.”

"Good morning, William." He - it - answers, as the initial diagnostics finish running. When the loose tendon spring is detected, the systems kick in to automatically tighten it enough to keep the programmed humanity more believable, and the motion is masked as a slow stretch of his neck, another blink.

The model was a known hangar queen. At one time they had been produced regularly and were in decent demand - the design had been as a cooking aide, and the production processors had been cheap to keep the cost down. Most of the initial processing power had been occupied with manual dexterity - such was the extent required to keep a smooth chef in operation. It had taken William three or four tries to find a processor that the system would accept that had enough power to run his other priorities and still maintain the dexterity required for the intended purpose.

The result was that Hannibal moved somewhat more slowly than his identical counterparts had, when they had been common. It gave his actions a reserved, meditated feel rather than slow or stunted, and his hands had a grace of their own that he'd never truly wanted to tinker with.

The eyes pass over the room and process in a slow sweep what remains the same. "Did you sleep at your desk again?" He - it - asks, and the mouth makes a small motion, before Hannibal picks himself up, done with system startup checks, and moves smoothly - the walk is something William is proud of. Not that the original had been faulty, exactly, but it had lacked something. The few others of this model still in operation had either been fully internally remodified - much like some made roadsters out of classic car shells by stripping out the internal workings and outfitting them with entirely new systems, or remained steadfastly in uncanny valley.

It had never quite been popular - most had learned to forgo the very first model of anything, and the Alexander cooks of the second generation had a reputation for better stability. Hannibal can cook, however. At that, it excels. The conversation while it does isn't standard, either.

Will rolls his head and stretches his arms over his head until his muscles scream with tension.

“Yes, I slept at my desk again.” he confirms, tone a mixture of amused and irritated. “The Crawfords want both their Caesars adjusted to be able to pass the retinal scan of their front door, I’ve been busy.”

He rubs his eyes and makes another quiet sound before following Hannibal through his workshop.

"A difficult task with acrylic retinas," Hannibal observes, in wry amusement. The apartment is small, to compensate for the overpopulation within the city itself. As expensive as it was, living any further out was prohibitively expensive. Hannibal moves in the space confidently, each exact dimension well stored in his memory and each modification adapted to nearly instantly. So long as he could observe it before he ran into it, he did not need to learn from mistakes - or not as often as he had in the beginning.

The android had come into Will’s possession as a donation, he had never been able to afford one on the money he made, and had only kept him because at the time keeping a regular eating schedule was far more difficult than Will would have admitted. He had gotten him for parts, when the woman had exchanged him for the Alexander model, but hadn’t dismantled him as he would have any other. Identical as all the droids were, Will had never found any one of them to be quite like another.

With this particular machine, something had stayed his hand.

For a while he’d kept him mostly for his intended purpose, expending a lot of effort on keeping his anger in check for when there was a malfunction that caused more cleanup at the shop than Will could afford. Eventually, he’d started using him to test his new chips on, and for three years now, Hannibal has been getting the latest upgrades as the Alexanders and Caesars did.

"What do you want for breakfast?" Hannibal asks, politely. He tended to be business-minded, Will found. At times almost stubborn - he never quite refused to sit still and let Will make adjustments as he needed to his next set of experimental workings, but if he could get Will to sit down and eat before he started working he always would.

He tries, very hard, not to read it as concern. There was a certain difficulty with the domestic assistance line - some people never could quite sympathize with them at all, preferring to either eschew their services or to be certain to treat them only as devices. Others found it impossible not to empathize.

Will had caught himself, at times, rushing to assist when one of his projects struggled with something. They all had some form of adaptive learning for new tasks that might present themselves, but the androids were also coded with hard limits. Legally, as required. When the one issue ran against the other, the newer ones would shift modes, apologize, and retreat to a safe task.

Hannibal - his particular model anyway - had a habit of stopping dead, as if trying his hardest to accomplish what Will required.

“If I say I’m not hungry, you won’t believe me,” Will replies, scratching his head gently and yawning before shaking his head as though it could shake the exhaustion away so easily. “So anything you can find in the kitchen I suppose.”

"If you say you aren't hungry," Hannibal begins, and his tone isn't the usual wrote response - it has managed to warm into a knowing sound. It's a clever trick. "You change your mind by the time I'm done cooking."

He doesn’t bother Hannibal as he goes about his usual routine. Will wonders if he has the capacity to be bored. He knows the inner workings of Hannibal better than the machine itself can possibly ever hope to, and he knows he’s never put anything in him to support the concept of ‘boredom’ but regardless, it has always interested him. asking Hannibal would be pointless, he’d get a generic reply, though occasionally he got lucky with sarcasm; a particular linguistic chip Will was still testing before advertising to his current client base.

He does, however, make Hannibal exercise it, to see the true depth of work the chip possesses. He asks questions and expects replies, rephrases them until he can get a decent answer and filter out the words that the android finds confusing. Language is Will’s particular passion with his projects, in any time he has spare, he works on creating speech chips that work in the most human way possible. To get responses quick and accurate, seemingly flawless in their communication.

So far, he has found himself stumbling on simple things like jokes. But he still tries.

“Would you want functional retinas?” he asks, regarding Hannibal’s previous comment.

Hannibal has found, from somewhere, eggs and cinnamon and bread that is perhaps two days past fresh, and milk that passes his inspection - he does not need to sniff it, he can tell by a myriad of other sensors that it has not gone bad. He eyes it speculatively anyway, checks the date, and in an action that's entirely unnecessary but standard human, waves the carton beneath his nose as if to detect any hint of sourness.

He looks up, as if to demonstrate that his retinas are perfectly functional. The motion is not usually accompanied by a whirr, but the servos work harder today to compensate for the failure of the spring and the sound is faintly audible. For a moment, he looks almost embarrassed by it, but it is perhaps a trick of the light and the angle. He swings around to finish his preparation of the French toast.

"I have what serves for functional eyesight," he answers, appearing to think about it. A number of processes and thought trees spring to life - first to recall if the question has been asked of him in the past, and any learned behaviors that might have sprung from that. He finds it a unique incident, and the 'thoughtful' hesitation turns a little longer before the path of curiosity wins out over the normal obedient disinterest.

"What would it entail?" he asks at last, mixing the eggs and milk together with a whisk.

Will mentally congratulates himself. Curiosity was something that had taken him a few years to get to the level it was not. Still imperfect, but functional. At the beginning, Hannibal would ask about everything, his curiosity set to that of a young child, but there had never been follow-through, nothing stored in his memory beyond the fact that he had asked the question, he didn’t remember the answer.

Now he was far more subtle.

“It’s a simple transplant, not unlike when I adjust your chips.” He tells him honestly, running a hand through his hair again until the curls stand up on end. He should shower. Perhaps after breakfast.

“Eyes are like fingerprints, they’re unique. The acrylic you have is the same as any of your model, you can’t be identified through it, just the tracking number on the back of the piece itself, but that requires you to be dismantled.” He continues. He’s found that honesty is much easier with Hannibal. And he hasn’t developed any ‘negative emotion’ chips for the droid to feel any indignation at being anything other than what it is.

“Why the Crawfords want their Caesars to be able to pass a retinal scan is beyond me.”

He’s made two sets, as per request order, but he has made another. A habit, now, to make a piece he keeps to put into Hannibal. It had started as testing, now he just enjoys the new upgrades on the model he has in his home. The more he puts into him the easier it is to forget that Will is a lonely, introverted engineer and believe he lives with someone who willingly wants to share space with him and his quirks, late nights and irritable behaviour.

“So, would you want them?” he asks again, to see if his question has given Hannibal a sufficient answer.

Hannibal's expressive eyes blink as he considers, focus still divided between the discussion and the task at hand. He transfers the slices of bread from the wet ingredients, onto a plate of cinnamon, fingers careful to keep it from tearing as he flips it once, and then settles each onto a hot pan. Patient.

He shows no fear at the thought of the process, if he thinks of it at all. Hannibal has always submitted willingly to every change. Unlike a person, he held no true fear of change in himself - there wasn't that innate fear of waking up and finding someone different in their head.

"I'm already unique," he decides at last - and it's an odd response. It seems almost wrote in the tone he gives it, very carefully skirting on self aware. But when he continues it's as if in consideration. Weighing options. Really it's just extended conversation - a natural extension of the careful learning processes. "And I don't suppose I need to pass any retinal scans."

He moves to wash his hands, the toast working away. Three slices, all for will. There was no point in cooking extra for himself. "But I wouldn't mind the upgrade, if it would please you."

Will’s brows rise slightly with the answer, unsure how to take it. A gentle cold spreads in his chest, not panic so much as the onset of it. Androids are not allowed to be free thinking, it’s what separates them from the people who own them. Countless activists have rallied against this law, claiming it’s the resurgence of slavery all over again, that if something is made in the human image it should be treated like a human being.

Will swallows, chews his lip for a moment, watching Hannibal wash his hands, letting his eyes linger on the breakfast cooking and filling the house with delicious sweet smells.

“No, you don’t want it.” he says after a moment, “You have what serves for functional eyesight.”

He waits to see if Hannibal has an answer for this, this which is much more a blatant offer of choice than his initial question had been. That had been loaded with implication, this held none at all. But a lot hung on the answer.

"I don't want. I don't not want." The answer is an old standby. Some old programming that remained from the days when androids were party tricks, and often demanded to explain themselves. Back when people still treated them with curiosity instead of the indifference they gained when they had proven themselves tame and functional at the jobs they were intended for and nothing else. At least they had never grown tired of hearing the same questions, giving the same answer. "So it is enough that you want it. If you do."

After a moment Will lets out a breath and shakes his head.

“There’s three chips waiting as well, I’ll need you to help me solder.”

Hannibal nods, accepting the task as he flips the toast. There is very little waste remaining on the bowls he had used to prepare the food. He is efficient. "I would be pleased to."

With the other side browning in the pan, he washes the dishes involved in the preparation, and then retrieves down a plate. After the pause of several minutes pass, in quiet, Hannibal ticks over into followup, taking up the plate and an empty glass to set them at the table for Will, and looking up as if to see if there was anything else.

"What do the chips do?" he asks, apparently having forgotten all about the subject of new eyes, and retreating to the last offered input.

Will offers a smile for the breakfast and stands up to get a fork from the drawer.

“One is a linguistic adjustment chip, someone wants to change the voice of their Alexander model to match that of an actor who played him once in a film depiction.” He rolls his eyes at the very idea, “It’s simple enough.”

He had, after all, installed such a chip in his Hannibal model, a slight European accent, gentle tones and lilted edges. He isn’t sure why he chose the voice, but it was soothing. Perhaps after he’d tired of the painfully calm generic voice asking him constant questions when he’d been working on the curiosity upgrade.

“One is just a fix on a broken connection,” he waves his hand vaguely, gesturing that it doesn’t really matter, it’s a quick job. He could possibly even get Hannibal to do that one alone, he has the memory of how to fix such things stored already.

Will takes up his fork and cuts a piece of toast at the corner, spearing it and tapping it gently against the plate before lifting it.

“And a compassion chip I’m working on.”

"Difficult," Hannibal observes. His previous conversations have given him a basic understanding of compassion by the dictionary definition, but no ability to comprehend it. No android had that - perhaps none ever really would. They could learn the words and say them, but it was impossible to truly emulate, and as such it seemed to somehow fall short.

And no one had really experimented with it, to be truly fair. It was one thing to develop a more sophisticated nervous system, to teach androids to teach themselves learned behaviors for efficiency, but human emotions weren't useful and, in some ways, skirting illegality.

"Is it for someone?" he asks, as he returns things to their places. Something strains his processor, the conversation and the fine tasks his hands are doing together are perhaps too much, and he takes up the pan before it has cooled. The fine soft plastic skin burns, releasing the smell of degrading chemicals and burnt plastic into the air, and he sets it down suddenly back on the stove. He manages - this time - not to drop it entirely.

His eyes assess the damage - superficial, but in the shallow areas the creases of his articulations create, it has burned through. "I'm sorry," he states simply - in advance of a warning, perhaps. A learned response delivered in anticipation of having caused himself to require repair.

“Shit,” Will is out of his chair quickly and holding Hannibal’s hand between his own to assess the damage done. It had been instinct, reflex, to go to his as he would for any person, and for a moment it doesn’t register in Will’s mind that there is no blood, that the smell is synthetic and wrong. He gently runs a thumb over the damage. Skin was easy to come by, people picked and chose and rearranged the appearances of their androids frequently. He could possibly even get some today if he left the workshop, but it would set him back a few hours on the retinas.

Will frowns, absently stroking the melted plastic before folding Hannibal’s palm closed gently and pressing the hand back against the android’s chest. He doesn’t ask if he’s alright. He can still differentiate between humanity and its simulation. But he does check him over.

“Can you still move?” he watches Hannibal demonstrate how his wrists still turn well, how his fingers work all the joints, how the palm flexes as it should. The grotesque damage is the only sign that anything is wrong at all, and Will can’t bear to look at it without a strange sort of empathy bubbling to the surface.

"Yes," Hannibal answers. "I can still solder, nothing internal is damaged."

“I’ll fix that,” he assures him, though he doubts Hannibal cares one way or another, in his programming he ‘works’ and that’s all that matters. “I’ll get you a new spring for the –“ he motions to his neck and sighs. For a moment he doesn’t move, then he offers a small smile.

"The left vertebral tendon spring is operating at eighty percent efficiency," Hannibal informs him. "It should serve an additional six weeks without further failure, and after that it may serve longer at sixty percent." It's not - quite - a suggestion that William shouldn't trouble himself. The reports have taken on a slightly different tone than the original diagnostics, managing to sound appreciative and apologetic both.

“What am I going to do with you?”

Hannibal gives the hint of a smile, extends his undamaged hand and touches the back of Will's gently, the ghost of reassurance. The motion wasn't strictly necessary, but it had always seemed to be a part of his programming. "Patiently repair me," he asks - or observes. "But it can wait until after your work for the Crawfords."

Ultimately the decision is William's of course, but Hannibal's opinion was usually unbiased. He had no reason to lie, certainly not pride.

Will allows that if they complete the Crawford's project beforehand, it will allow a little extra sway in his bank account for the new repairs. And a little extra, if he was careful about where he got parts.

"After breakfast," Hannibal suggests, mildly, and William wonders where he had learned to be so subtle.

He eats quickly, attempts to out-fox Hannibal and wash the dishes - unsuccessfully - and returns to his workbench, now flooded in light from the window above it. The city is busy, as it always is, but from the vantage point Will is at he can see above the rooftops of even the highest car and up to the sky. It's not quite summer, but the sun is out much more. It makes it easier to work, less pressure on Will's eyes to have natural light as opposed to the artificial white LED.

He starts on the simple chip, hoping to get it done and out of the way and shipped to the client within the hour. Hannibal helps, carefully working under Will's supervision as he watches his own work through the large magnifying glass at the table. Will jokes that with new eyes Hannibal would not need the thing. He gets a simple statement in return that using a magnifying glass does not hinder him.

With the chip finished, Will starts on the second pair of eyes, one already set aside, ready. It takes him the better part of six hours, and it's only after Hannibal's fourth calm intonation that Will should stop to eat that Will actually does.

"I'm going to need a new pair of eyes after this." he mutters, accepting the gesture Hannibal offers to pull his chair out for him. It's archaic, but Will had not gotten rid of it, there's something very comforting in the gesture.

"It's not as easy to install entirely new optical devices in humans," Hannibal intones mildly. "Better to repair-"

The buzzer at the door cuts him off, and he looks up quickly, as Will scrambles out of his seat again to answer it. It's likely a client. Hannibal makes no protest as Will departs, though he remains in the kitchen to finish cooking dinner.

Jack Crawford waits patiently at the door, and smiles brightly when Will answers it. The expression is almost sharklike on his broad, dark features, but genuine somehow anyway. He has a gap in the center of his top teeth, which he has left uncorrected perhaps as a manner of vanity, and it lends his expression something down home and pleasant. "Will," he says in greeting. "I'm sorry to interrupt your dinner, I was just stopping by on the hope that maybe they were done early...?"

It had been the Crawford's choice not to prioritize one android over the other, but Will knew it left them without house cleaners save themselves. Likely their personal quirks when it came to cleaning - usually seen to by the androids - were slowly driving each other insane. He glances over Will's shoulder, deeper into the apartment, and makes a noise as if remembering something.

"Did you hear they recalled those?"

Will refrains from rolling his eyes. It's a comment a lot of people make, but Jack seems to pride himself on constantly bringing it up, always acting as though he's surprised each time. He steps aside to let the man in.

"One set is finished," he assures him, walking briskly to his workbench to collect the set that lie in the box already, "But the other, I need a few hours more."

He hands the box over, watches Jack give it a cursory curious glance. Jack has been a longtime client of Will's since the Hannibal model was recalled, he has never had trouble with his work. But Will supposes it's human curiosity to look over something, even if it's something they don't understand.

"And this will work?" Jack asks, giving Will an expectant smile. Will's returning one is somewhat flat.

"I haven't had the chance to test them on a scanner, but I see no reason why they shouldn't." he shoves his hands into his pockets and listens to Hannibal shift around in the kitchen behind him. "Did you want to wait for the second pair or would you like me to send them in the morning?" he asks. He already knows the answer. Jack will wait. Not here, perhaps he'll return home, go into the city for a meal, but he will not let Will rest until this work is done. regardless, he waits patiently for the confirmation.

"I'd best wait," Jack says, as if he'd genuinely had to think about it. "Save myself the argument over whether hers gets first priority." Jack smiles, but there are a few days of arguments behind it. "I'm sure it won't be too long."

In the kitchen, Hannibal retrieves something extra from the fridge, shifting seamlessly from making a meal for one to making a meal for two.

"You know they're offering a brand new Alexander in exchange," Jack continues. "I bet whoever tossed it is kicking themselves right now. You ought to turn him in before they change their mind and just turn on all the lockout chips. I guess the government's interested in buying the only part that's still any good - they want that fine motor control for bomb dismantling robots."

Jack chuckles. "Isn't that something? Never put another soldier or peace officer in danger that way."

Will's eyes begin to hurt almost immediately on looking back at the workshop, and the smell of food has made him hungry as it almost always did.

"Stay for dinner," he offers politely, knowing he won't be joining Jack if the man chooses to stay. He directs him further into the house and closes the door before rubbing his eyes and walking past Jack to his workbench. There's a low divider between the bench and the area his kitchen is set, perhaps to keep dust off the food, perhaps just by design. He can see over it well enough to continue conversation that he is fairly sure will be offered, disregarding his preference for silence.

"They always come up with new innovations," he allows as he sits, one leg curled under him as he pulls the magnifying glass close again and takes up the intricate little piece once more. Just one 'eye' left. "No more waste. It's a good idea."

There's a brief silence as Will works the tiny saw to chip away another piece of metal, concentration winning out over politeness. Then he continues.

"I don't need a new Alexander. My model serves me perfectly well and I have no reason to give him up." he blows gently on the piece and reaches over for the final overlay. The outside will be finished soon, once the glue sets, but he still needs to adjust the wiring in the back to make sure the lens opens and closes as it should, and it's this that will take him a long time.

Jack laughs. "Well it seems crazy, but I guess it can't be just you. They're offering not to shut them off if you return the fine motor control unit."

Jack settles himself at the kitchen table, and Hannibal serves him after a time - he's watching Will like the man is fascinated, and doesn't bother thanking the android for dinner. He eats it easily enough however, obviously enjoying it. Hannibal surprises him by interjecting, demonstrating his usual sort of dry humor.

"I'd be less of a cook without my hands," he suggests, tone modulated into wry irony. Jack looks up at him surprised, and then seems to double take at the injured digits, which Hannibal quickly tucks out of sight... ostensibly to see to his next task.

"That's new," Jack observes, without responding directly to Hannibal.

Will's eyes flick up and scan lightly between Jack and Hannibal a few times before simply looking away, as though completely indifferent.

"I test my work before I sell it. There's a reason I've never had complaints." he says, tone neutral. He hadn't missed the loaded silence, however, after Hannibal had spoken and before Jack had replied. He wonders if it had unnerved the man that Hannibal had spoken back, or the way he had. He refrains from asking. He does, however, take the information into stride regarding the ultimatum. One has not been issued to him yet, and he is on record as owning a Hannibal model, so he supposes at one point or another, when the need for the unit is dire, one will present itself.

He pushes the magnifying glass away and carefully lays the 'eye' out to set, adjusting the lamp to shine directly on it, heating the glue and drying it.

"Someone came to you asking for sarcasm?"

"Technically that's general expression," Will points out, "And I've had a few people request custom linguistic chips, yes. I suppose they use them to impress their guests."

"And you?"

Will offers a thin smile, "I test my work." he repeats, wondering if he could steer away from the topic before it hit dangerous territory, "And I adjust it for later upgrades."

In truth, he keeps all his inventions, all his new chips and interesting ideas, in Hannibal because he enjoys his calm and stabilizing company. He likes hearing the android move through his workspace, he enjoys teaching him new things and watching how he adapts them to new situations... in essence Will has redesigned a whole new machine, he's simply kept it in a pre-made shell.

"What else does it do?" Jack asks. Hannibal has managed to settle his timing just so, now that there is a pause while the eye sets, and the new attachments harden, Hannibal delivers his dinner as well. Rather, after learning better of it, he stops at the doorway into Will's workspace holding the plate and waiting either for permission or for Will to come out and eat in the kitchen instead.

"I can juggle," Hannibal offers, blandly. It actually has the intended effect of finally engaging Jack, and as Will comes to stand in the kitchen and take his plate, the space suddenly cramped with three.

"That's a standard feature," Jack observes, "And a pretty lame party trick to boot."

"Can you juggle?" The reply is original, the tone is slightly modulated. Almost impetuous.

"I am not a robot," Jack answers firmly, unaware of Hannibal's victory in getting him to engage in direct conversation at all. The answering smile is a beautiful parody of knowing, though of course Hannibal could not have known - or perhaps even remembered if he had, given his limited memory and priority structuring. The whole expression suggests it was exactly the answer expected.

Jack could possibly be turning red, certainly it was bad for his blood pressure.

"So you've made it infuriating."

Will watches the entire exchange without hiding his smile, spearing his dinner with his fork and chewing slowly as he looks between the two of them. Hannibal stands closer to Will, not enough to shield or crowd, but enough to suggest he's used to such proximity. Will doesn't seem to mind. At Jack's words Will raises an eyebrow, expression still clear and amused.

"I've never offered you linguistic upgrades for a reason, Jack." he says, shrugging at the man's expression, "My job is to modify, in the time I'm not working I modify whatever I get my hands on. There's a lot more to him than his ability to infuriate. There's a reason I don't want an Alexander model, they're frightfully dull."

He nearly inhales his dinner, no chance to savor it regardless of how amazing - as always - it tastes. And refrains from thanking Hannibal as he always does, Jack is already in a foul enough mood to find that particular interaction anything but aggravating. He does pass his plate over to the waiting android with a smile before returning to his workbench.

"I need to check the connections," he tells Jack, already pulling the magnifying glass close again, "It shouldn't take more than an hour." the suggestion is clear: if he wants to stay, he will need to share the space, if he wants to come back, he is more than welcome to go to the door.

"Hannibal, when you're finished I need your hands for the detailing."

"Well that's not bad," Jack says. "I bet I could get these installed and then come back for the other pair, and my wife would hardly have anything to complain about."

He gets to his feet and stretches, giving another glance at Hannibal as the android finishes washing the dishes, apparently having had his fill of company for the evening. Jack does pause at the last part though, glancing into the workspace.

"Say, I guess it's probably pretty good at that isn't it?" Jack makes a thoughtful noise as Hannibal joins Will in the work space, and in his slow, considered way seats himself and waits for instruction. "Shame they're calling them back. I could save a ton on repairs."

"Who would repair your repairman?" Hannibal asks, looking up, placing his hands flat on the table and his tone a perfectly balanced suggestion of dismissal and lighthearted. Jack makes a 'huh' sound instead of laughing.

"On second thought, I'd rather have you do it, Will. But you can keep that sarcasm chip." Jack sees himself out with the box.

Hannibal takes up the tools, and seems curious about Will's laughter, but, with the usual sort of strange wisdom he seems to display, Hannibal doesn't ask.

Will eventually calms himself enough to breathe, rubbing a hand over his face as he keeps smiling.

"You may lose me customers, but I am so proud of that chip." he tells him, turning to give Hannibal a wide smile, watching as the android takes in his expression carefully, measures it, and returns the appropriate smile. It's the process of a few seconds only, but it's enough to allow for the response to not be human, or if human then stunted, someone with bad social skills who needs time to process. His smile gentles and he turns the 'eye' over for Hannibal to inspect through the magnifying glass.

"Those connections there," he says, pointing them out with the side of his little finger, "They need to join up. You have steadier hands than me."

Hannibal checks what Will is indicating, then double-checks, simulating the process in his short term memory storage before he takes up the soldering iron and carefully manipulates the connection into place before he fires the bead of metal to connect them. He waits until the join is created before dividing his attention into speaking.

"I didn't mean to displease Jack," Hannibal suggests at last, looking up. "I'll be quiet around him. Customers are important."

"You didn't displease him, you outwitted him." Will corrects, still smiling, pulling the magnifying glass over to check the connection, "That's not difficult to do. He's unused to people talking back to him, or androids. It's a taste of humble pie, he needed it."

Hannibal tests the join carefully with a tool, and then sits back and puts the iron aside. Surprisingly, he fills the next pause with something that isn't the most recent conversational topic, perhaps salvaging something before the short term memory filters pull out things flagged important for transference to learned behaviors and dumps the rest.

"You could modify an Alexander," Hannibal doesn't quite ask so much as brings up something that had caught on his curiosity. The newer model would have better operating capacity to begin with, would accept newer technology more easily.

Will pauses and looks at Hannibal carefully.

"I could," he agrees, "But I'm happy with you. I don't need an Alexander." he turns back to the 'eye' and mutters as he works, "You could out-do an Alexander in anything its meant to do, the hell would I need one."

He wonders, for a moment, if Hannibal would understand what he means if he tells him he enjoys his company and doesn't want him replaced, or if he'll just take in the words, associate them with emotion and regurgitate a reply.

"I was thinking of putting the compassion chip into you for a trial run." he says, perhaps answering Hannibal's question from breakfast, perhaps just musing aloud, "What do you think?"

"I'm not sure," Hannibal answers honestly. "I've never had compassion. I'd like to try it."

William isn't sure how much of the willingness is genuine, and how much of it is simply the way androids are. He doesn't engage his client's models very often in conversation, and those few he has in order to test out the results and make sure there weren't any conflicts with pre-existing coding in the different models, he has found dull. They are almost universally subservient, save for the occasional client who wanted carefully controlled amusements set into their models.

"Is it alright?" Hannibal asks, breaking into his thoughts. "Not restricted, I mean."

It's an unusual question, not one that Will expected. It has no modulation in the tone, and usually Hannibal doesn't question him at all. It speaks of very old programming, perhaps a model safety routine.

Will sits back, brows furrowed a moment, tapping a thin screwdriver against the side of the workbench.

"I've had a few people ask me for it." he says, "I doubt it's going to bring a smile to developers but it's not illegal." he hopes. He has no idea how much of the emotion he'd managed to instill in the chip. Human emotions were painfully complicated, enough that humans barely understood them. He fiddles with the screwdriver a moment longer before setting it aside and sitting forward to regard the 'eye' again, mentally checking off the things he still needs to adjust before turning it in his hands and initiating the startup for this particular device.

They both watch as the pupil expands and contracts depending on how much light it 'sees', and Will finds himself explaining to Hannibal why a human eye does such a thing, what else pupil dilations and contractions mean. He occasionally talks to Hannibal as he works, about anything. Simply to get it out of his system, or perhaps because as someone who is trapped inside four walls most of his life he would go mad if he didn't.

When he's run through the checks, he shuts the little 'eye' down, setting it into the box with its pair.

"Sure you don't want me to make you some?" he asks, and it's rhetorical, he's already gotten his answer from Hannibal on the matter. And even before he can answer, there's a knock on the door and Will diligently stands to get it, welcoming Jack inside a second time and walking over to take the box from his workbench to pass over.

Hannibal sits quietly while Jack is in the apartment, obedient to his earlier idea of keeping quiet in the man's presence. It seems to please Jack, anyway, or perhaps he has forgotten all about the incident earlier in the pleasure of having a new customization to install in his own models. He pays Will, and leaves a tip - though less than he has on other occasions. It's still enough that Will won't hesitate to take on whatever project the Crawfords next decide to give him.

When Will turns around, Hannibal has risen from the work station, and after a quick glance around the rest of the space he finds the android in the kitchen again, rather than readying for power-down for the evening. It's gotten later than he thought, Will realizes. He'd been at the job longer than anticipated, given Jack's interruption.

Hannibal brings him a cold cut of spongey cake and sugared strawberries - when he'd prepared the components, Will wasn't certain.

"You missed lunch, though this hardly qualifies as a replacement," Hannibal insists - anticipating a protest or an argument that Will doesn't offer. He remembers the damaged skin when Hannibal passes it to him, but it's too late for supplies now. Hannibal arches his eyebrows, and settles himself into an unobtrusive corner of the kitchen, resting at the corner of the counter. Will recognizes the power conservation mechanisms - Hannibal really should have been recharging half an hour ago to keep his battery cells in their best condition.

Will looks at the food a long time before eating it. And this time he savors it, closes his eyes as he eats, lets the flavor melt onto his tongue and into his memory. It's a good end to his day, and he makes a note to wake up earlier the next so he can get what he needs to fix Hannibal's hand and replace the spring. He doesn't let Hannibal do the dishes this time, does them himself and sets them aside before thanking Hannibal and helping him stand.

The newer models can go a few days without a recharge, but Hannibal needs one every 16 hours before he just stops moving. There's a limit to the battery capacity the body can take, so Will hasn't modified it. Watching one power down is similar to how a human being grows steadily more weary. Eyes start drooping, coordination gets shaky. Will guides Hannibal to where he needs to be and sits him down in front of him, one knee on the ground, elbow against his other.

"Thank you for your help." he tells him. It's a usual routine, he'd always been polite to his machines, since he was a child and had any to be polite to, but he has instilled such a thing in Hannibal as well, just as he has systematically installed other human traits in him. "I'll get the skin and spring tomorrow. May need to power you down again before I put them in, but that's up to you."

He smiles at Hannibal's sleepy response and carefully runs his hand down the side and around the back to hibernate him for the evening before plugging in the power.

For a long time he just watches him, lets his eyes sweep over something that looks like a man but has absolutely no organic material to constitute being one. He looks at the way the face rests, soft and realistic save for the fact that he's not breathing, and his eyes don't shift in sleep. Will chews his lip before returning to his workbench and pulling up the compassion chip.

For a few hours he works on it, adjusting certain things, carefully adding others. His hands are shaking by the time he's done, and it's well into the early morning. Regardless, he brings the tall lamp on wheels over to where Hannibal is sitting and carefully bends his head forward to access the panel at the base of his neck. He inserts the chip into one of the last empty slots and makes sure the light comes on indicating it's been accepted before closing the panel up and sitting Hannibal back comfortably again.

Without thinking much on it, Will reaches out to run the backs of his knuckles down the android's face, his thumb touching the corner of his lips before pulling away.

He sleeps in bed this time, and in the morning, he wakes Hannibal as usual.