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That Thing You Do

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The greatest thing, Kennex decided, is that during their car chats he still had to drive. Although they were living in a time when synthetics walked the streets with almost human-like qualities, they still haven't invented a self navigating car, so that meant even while they talked he had to have his eyes on the road.

This came in handy any number of times when he wanted to avoid looking at Dorian's face, which on the occasions he quickly glanced aside, often showed either tilted judgement of his poor life choices, or sad meaningful pools of emotional empathy attempting to bore into his soul.

"Look, you need to stop doing that… thing."

"Thing?"

Kennex didn't even have to look at him during this entire conversation to know that Dorian was giving him a face with the wrinkled brow and slight frown, like he can't imagine that Kennex, being an actual human, was acting this way.

'Cause see, Dorian's voice said 'Thing?' But his tone said, 'Just because I can read your heart rate doesn't mean I suddenly have psychic powers, especially ones that can tell what your crazy mind is thinking.'

"You know what I mean, that thing- I bet you're pressing your lips and your eyebrows are all lowered…"

When he glances to the side, Dorian is looking straight back at him, and sure enough that mild judgement is in full use.

"You mean my face?" His partner says evenly.

Looking back at the road in relief, Kennex is glad that merging lanes is still the travesty of man and traffic that it is. After taking a tiny swerve avoiding over eager cars, he rotates his shoulder a bit trying to twitch away the uncomfortable feeling of being judged as ridiculous when in fact he was a very serious police detective.

"Look, I'm even starting to enjoy all the, you know, talking we're doing, but when you pull that whatever you do, it's distracting."

Out of the corner of his eye he can tell that Dorian's looking out the windshield again with a slight curl at the side of his mouth that he gets when he's trying hard to suppress his amusement.

"I'm afraid I'm going to need more than 'that whatever you do' John."

"Stop that, don't use my own voice back at me. That's an unfair advantage in this conversation I wish we weren't having."

The curl at Dorian's mouth gets more pronounced and Kennex is beginning to doubt how much better this more-uppity-than-an-MX-43 partner is. At least with the 43's he could shove them out the car door without Lom giving him sad dog eyes.

"I'm pretty sure you're the one who started this by telling me to stop doing that 'thing'".

"Ugh. I know you know what I mean."

"Well I'm saying that anytime you want this to stop, just pick up some more hobbies. It should help round out your dating profile. There's got to be more to a man than liking quiche and smooth jazz." The scowl on Kennex's face erupts again. See this is where the whole thing started.

While they were getting into the car for their stake out Dorian asked how his trip to Martin's house went. After fumbling out that it was fine (except for how looking at Martin's son was like seeing him die all over again since Kennex had been in a coma and those memories were still so fresh), and getting those sad meaningful pools from Dorian in return, he stupidly decided to change the subject to the rest of his day. It'd been a Saturday, so he'd had the rest of it off after his visit.

There was a lot to bitch about- annoying shit that he had to take care of like followup forms he had to fill out from the hospital, slowly making his way through all the sites where he paid his rent, utilities, and subscriptions, TV services that hadn't been cancelled while he was in a coma, all the junk mail and electro-newsads he had to go through, clearing out his refrigerator because it smelled whenever he opened it and couldn't be put off any longer- just a whole mess of irritating headache that needed clearing.

Somewhere through the middle of his rant, though, he started to notice that Dorian was inordinately concentrated on him, the meaningful pools of emotional empathy vacillating with his tilted judgement of Kennex's life choices.

This was when Kennex realized how pitiful it sounded that on a Saturday night (on the heels of a healing but still depressing Saturday morning) he had been going though his mail and paying the bills, alone, like a sad, misanthropic bachelor who didn't have any more friends, and who's girlfriend almost killed him. Having Dorian bring the force of those faces on him because of that was what made Kennex decide to bring them up in the first place.

"I have hobbies, I have a ton of hobbies. I was just busy that night, there's a lot to take care of when you're, you know, in a coma for a year."

"Ok pro-hobbyist, tell me about some of them. We can cross reference them on Dr. Richard's profile to get you a better match."

There's another pause as Kennex figures out whether or not he even wants to acknowledge his dating profile again, but he had to prove that he wasn't one of those sad police detectives with no life but their job so Dorian would stop looking at him like that.

"Working out." He gives a slight tap against the steering wheel as he thinks some more. "I, well I like to read. Not-bill related things. In books, not that electronic crap. I go to the park sometimes and take pictures of the trees, play guitar- I guess not so much any more since the guys- we fell out of touch since the whole coma thing. I use the light box in my living room almost everyday."

This is when another brief epiphany hits Kennex, because he only uses his light table to look at old photographs of his ex-who-almost-killed-him and of his former-partner-killed-by-ex-girlfriend's-illegal-crime-syndicate. It probably says something about his choices in life that of all the pictures he's taken, these are the ones he put together.

Dorian is looking straight at him again with those psychic piercing eyes because God forbid Kennex have any embarrassing personal revelations without Dorian immediately there to make a face at him about it, like the android is simultaneously sad for him and also exasperated.

"Look man, I'm just saying that in the two weeks we have worked together I've noticed an increase in your stressors and a mildly elevated heart-rate. Perhaps doing something to decompress will help. Even Stahl wanted you to have some fun."

There was a brief, incredulous stutter, "Which you prevented. In fact, perhaps we should officially change your name to Benedict Android, I think it's more fitting."

"Well the paper work for that is even more extensive than it is for humans, so you're going to have to fill it out on Saturday again."

"I'm sure no one will notice another freeway accident today, look at how some of these people are driving."

"Yeah, I have noticed." Dorian's head nods pointedly at where his one hand was perched up at the top of the wheel, while the other rested against the door window.

"My driving. Now we've come to talking about my driving."

Dorian's smiling that small, amused smile again. "I mean I would ask you what you're gonna do this weekend but I'm afraid of the answer."

"You mean besides fill out some paperwork for a new DRN?"

"Well let's hope the next one is as concerned about your lack of social life because otherwise I don't think you'll have any fun until 2100. I'm thinking I might have to give my memos about orchestrating coincidental opportunities during down time to Lom, he'll be able to download it into any MX-43."

"Benedict Android, Benedict Android." He says pointedly.

When Kennex glances over Dorian's still got that strange lopsided smile he gets when it's just the two of them in the car, and it's right then he realizes that he's smiling back, like he can't help it. Somehow, when there's nowhere else to go, they end up giving each other free reign like there aren't any consequences to pouring out personal monologues and heavy philosophical discussions. There's a lightness in these times in the car that's a contrast to the tense, fraught interactions they have when out on cases and in interrogation, like they still don't know how to act around each other, tip toeing around on issues they disagree about.

"I just don't want you to get rusty. Reading social situations is a significant part of detective work and you're going to need a lot more giraffes to give out at this rate to make up for it."

"I socialize when I damn well please. You can stop smothering me like you're my mom any time now. I can talk to people."

"'Uh, ok, thank you, um, Detective Stahl. Thanks.'"

"Shut up, just shut up. Didn't I tell you not to do that anymore?"

Instead Dorian decides to keep on laughing and laughing, half bent in his seat while Kennex takes his palm away from his forehead to look up into the rearview mirror to see when the car behind is going to pass him. When his own broad grin smiles back at him, it's startling. He really can't remember the last time he looked like that, like he wasn't killing himself inside about letting Martin die, or Anna's betrayal. Talking like this together, he feels open in a way he doesn't let himself feel every day. Kennex still isn't sure he's ready for this, the way this lightness and humor can come out so easily when he's still stuck trying to piece together his memories and life.

It's different, though. Perhaps he needs something different.

"I'm pointing this out to you as a public service. I don't want Captain Maldonado to have to send you on sick leave for an aneurysm. Relax a little."

"I am relaxed." And as soon as it came out, he realized it was true. The loose way he's clutching the wheel and how his back fits fluidly against he seat is a complete difference from how he acted the last time when a '43 was in the car with him. "It's been a while since I've felt even close to this, so I guess that's one thing you're good for."

Silence fills the car for a little bit, soft and comfortable. Dorian's looking straight out the window again, brows smooth and eyes light, an oddly gentle smile lifting up his lips.

"You know, sometimes I don't think you know how compassionate you can be John. I mean sure, you can be abrupt, punch suspects in interrogation, throw your partners out of moving cars, scowl every morning I see you- but maybe you don't hear it enough, and I think you should."

There's nothing to do but clear his throat at a comment like that. Kennex has to look away because while Dorian's face was kind, it was also damn embarrassing. Although they were living in a time when synthetics walked the streets, he's glad he still has to drive and keep his eyes on the road.

It's just, this time, he's glad that Dorian is in the car with him.