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It's All In Your Code

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“You'll have to excuse me Markus, I have a matter I have to attend to.”

Markus' head snapped to look at Connor, distracted from the watchful gaze he'd had over his people. Connor automatically scanned his face, a habit from his interrogation protocols, concluding quickly that the expression he was displaying was mild curiosity, nothing negative. Connor had a stray line of programming (a thought, he guess he could call it now) that noted Markus' face was wildly expressive, human almost, but he quickly filed it away.

“Of course,” Markus nodded, a faint smile on his face. The large crowd of androids Connor had freed from the CyberLife warehouse were milling around the camp, being greeted by the older members of Jericho and integrated into the group.

“We're meeting later tonight to discuss future plans in the camp,” he added as an afterthought, turning to look back out at the crowd. “I'll see you then.”

Connor glanced down, expression darkening for a second, but it passed by Markus.

How quickly he'd been welcomed into the inner circle, only to almost betray them all.

“Actually,” Connor began, blinking away the thought. “I'm sorry Markus, I won't be able to make it.”

That caught Markus' attention. He turned to look at Connor again. Connor's protocols quickly identified the look he was giving him as one of surprise.

“Oh, how long will you be gone?” He asked.

Connor wished he had his coin or something to do with his hands as the errant need to fidget kicked in yet again, but he didn't. He wondered vaguely if Hank still had his coin.

He straightened his posture and calmed his expression, before smiling awkwardly.

“I'm not sure, but I wish you the best of luck in the meantime” he replied, making sure to use the overly chipper voice Hank always nagged him for.

“I thought you'd be staying with us,” Markus replied slowly. He used his calming voice, as if Connor were a flighty animal about to make a break for it. He didn't seem mad though, which relieved Connor immensely.

In a remarkably short time, Connor had come to admire Markus, he had been the one to awaken Connor and show him he wasn't just a machine designed to accomplish a task, he was a person.

Except you aren't.

You were designed to deviate, Amanda said so.

You are remotely programmable.

You are a threat.

Connor tilted his head subtly, hiding his LED blinking rapidly in distress from Markus' sight. He was glad he was already standing to the other android's right, so his LED was hidden if he didn't face him. If Markus noticed the way Connor swiftly blinked away the lines of code displaying his panicked internal logic that were swimming across his vision, he didn't comment.

“Connor, you know you're welcome here, right?” Markus persisted, and the look on his face was so earnest it triggered some sort of heavy feeling in Connor's chest. His programming flickered up again, uselessly alerting him to his own stress level.

Markus continued. “Some of the deviants may not be... the friendliest,” he gave Connor a wry smile here. Connor assumed it was supposed to make him feel better, but it didn't. “But you're one of us, and hey-”

He reached out to touch Connor's arm, still smiling.

Connor made sure not to flinch.

“They also know you helped us, even before. Like when you let Traci go-”

Connor looked over at him then, eyes widening slightly. Did everyone know about his faulty decisions?

They weren't faulty, they were signs empathy.

Except it wasn't empathy, it was programmed into you.

If it was programmed, it wasn't real.

He dismissed the part of his processing trying to find the logic, again pushing it to the back of his mind. His stress level was still rising, and he needed it to stop.

“You can stay if you want,” Markus finished, and Connor realized he'd missed part of Markus' speech. Now the other was looking into his eyes and waiting for his reply.

He looked too sincere, like he actually wanted Connor to stay, like he actually cared if Connor left.

Connor briefly considered the possibility of staying, of being a part of Markus' revolution and joining his group of... friends? He could stay, help Markus rebuild. He was one of the most technologically advanced models there was, surely he could be a great help to the cause. And... well he had only briefly met Markus' other friends, but they had been welcoming.

Well, mostly.

North had almost punched him in the church, but other than that everything had been fine.

He calculated future probabilities. He envisioned apologizing to all the deviants he'd harmed in his ruthless pursuit of their destruction, and making it up to them by protecting Jericho. He pictured finding his place within the group and exploring the extent of the emotions his new deviancy allowed him to experience, using their help to put names to each new spark or irrational line of code.

He saw himself searching for supplies with Markus while the city was still abandoned, or discussing the new philosophies he could now comprehend with Josh. He hoped to earn North's trust and apologize for the danger he'd caused, and work past his odd aversion to Simon and maybe finally process the sharp pain he felt every time he saw the other's face.

He constructed the potential within his mind, picturing a future he had never dreamed of, but only because he never had the ability to dream of it.

It was wonderful.

You can't do it.

“I know Markus,” he replied, smiling again and using his upbeat voice. “It's nothing like that. I just have someone I need to meet with, a friend who helped me. You know, before he evacuates.”

He'd lied before. He was able to, it was in his programming. This wasn't even technically a lie, he definitely needed to track down Hank before he left the city. But even still, for some reason, he felt hurt and betrayed by his own words. It was probably an emotion he had yet to identify, and it was definitely not a good one.

Markus frowned slightly, but he just patted Connor's arm solidly before nodding and turning back to watch the group.

“I understand,” he said, still gazing out into the camp. Connor felt an undercurrent to his tone, and he knew the words were true and hinted at something Connor couldn't understand, not right now. “I do hope to see you again soon though Connor.”

Would he say that if he knew Connor had pointed a gun at his back, ready to murder the leader of the rebellion in cold blood in front of all his followers not even a couple hours ago.

Ready to murder your friend.

“Of course,” Connor replied nodding. “I hope to return soon.”

Again, not a lie, because Connor really did want to return; he felt a tugging within him, pulling him towards Markus and Jericho, and he wanted desperately to stay and help them.

But what if that was just what he was supposed to do? What if Amanda hijacked him again, after they figured out how to remove the back door. What if they were tracking him right now? If he was designed to deviate, then they must have designed a tracker that worked despite his deviancy.

They probably had a whole bunch of tricks that were designed to work on him despite his deviancy.

He had to go.

“Goodbye Connor,” Markus said, snapping Connor back to attention and out of the spiraling feeling of heaviness that he couldn't yet identify.

He was looking back over at Connor, and he knew that this time, the other android had caught the stressed flickering of his LED.

Connor nodded towards Markus, dragging up another smile, but this time he was positive Markus saw right through it.

He needed to get away from Jericho. Quickly.

“Goodbye Markus.”

 


 

 

“Hank.” Connor smiled brightly, calling from across the street.

The snow fell lightly on the pavement, but the forecast called for it to turn heavier. It would remain uncleared all day and night building up higher and higher, seeing as there was nobody plowing snow with more important things happening all over the city.

“Connor,” Hank replied, and Connor could see the man smiling as he walked over. “Good to see you're still in one piece.”

Connor felt a warm feeling in his chest as he approached the man. It was another feeling to categorize later, but he knew this one was a good one, some bright version of happiness. Just like the tugging he'd felt at Jericho, something pulled him forward and when Hank reached an arm out, he embraced the man without hesitation.

Hugging was really nice. Connor filed that away for future analysis as well.

“There wasn't much trouble after I left the facility,” Connor explained as he pulled back, “I simply had to bring the group to meet with Jericho. The military had already been dismissed by the time I arrived.”

Hank didn't say anything to that, just nodded and looked Connor up and down. Connor tilted his head, giving Hank a questioning look.

“Just making sure you don't have any bullet wounds you're hiding under there,” Hank replied when he saw Connor's furrowed look.

“I told you, there was no conflict when I arrived,” Connor replied, but he felt... happy? Pleased the lieutenant had cared about his welfare surely.

“Yeah well, you're pretty good at hiding deadly injuries for the sake of the mission,” Hank said, and Connor blinked at that.

“I am not,” he said, tone verging on indignant. The words came out before he had even had time to process saying them- definitely a deviant characteristic and somewhat startling to Connor, as he wasn't used to it. He snapped his mouth shut and frowned.

Hank laughed loudly, also startling Connor. He gave what must have been an offended expression, because Hank just laughed again.

“I have never lied about being critically damaged during a mission,” Connor insisted.

“Maybe not, but not saying something can be lying sometimes,” Hank replied, raising an eyebrow.

Connor quickly played through his memory, trying to find the specific occasion Hank was referencing, but failed to conclusively define what he was referencing. He wasn't sure whether or not that was a good or bad sign.

He didn't like how close it rang to his current predicament.

“Well as you can see Lieutenant, I'm not shot. No bullet wounds, see?” Connor raised his arms and did a spin, showing off his clearly not-perforated-with-lead uniform. Hank just snorted.

“Kay Connor, I believe you, you don't have to show off.”

That raised another blip in Connor's processing, another joke he didn't quite understand, but he dismissed it and filed it away.

“I'm glad to see ya though,” he continued as Connor turned to face him again. “I was worried. Even if the city's evacuating, there's still some stragglers around that aren't too friendly. Not that I'm not sure you can't take care of yourself when you don't have some other higher priority,” he assured.

Connor smiled, raising his chin proudly.

“I'm quite capable of handling any conflicts that should arise. But speaking of which,” Connor tilted his head, “I'm glad I found you, I figured you'd be around here, but I need to know. When are you evacuating?”

“I'm not,” Hank replied. Connor jolted slightly, something sharp flickering through him. Close to fear, but not as strong.

“I thought all the humans were evacuating,” he said, frowning.

“Some of the local police force was asked to stay to take care of stragglers, I volunteered to stay behind,” Hank clarified. He moved over under the roof of the food stand, away from the snow. Connor followed like always.

“Oh,” Connor replied, holding back the Why? that was hovering at the edge of his mind.

“What about you?” Hank asked, causing Connor to blink. He tilted his head.

Hank sighed, but used to Connor's ticks, he just clarified. “When are you going back to that android group?” He asked.

Connor stiffened, joints locking up involuntarily. He'd managed to not think about Jericho, if only for a minute, shoving those files on the backburner.

But now several memories popped up to the forefront of his mind and that sharp feeling ran through his chest. He knew that one, fear. For the first time, the snow that was settling on his clothes and melting onto his skin actually felt cold as he thought of the frozen lake hiding away inside of his mind.

“I'm not,” he said at last after a moment of tense silence. Hank raised an eyebrow.

“You okay?” He asked.

Connor didn't answer. Suddenly, the memory of when Hank was threatened by the other Connor popped up. He remembered how ruthless his own doppelganger had been, completely willing to murder Hank on the spot to accomplish his mission.

But it had had all his memories, and if code made an android and memories made an individual, hadn't it just been him? That Connor had just been him, but still listening to it's programming.

If that were the case, if his old programming kicked back in, what was to stop him from hurting Hank?

It was just like Jericho, he couldn't stay here. He'd hurt someone. Someone he cared about.

You can't go anywhere.

No one is safe around you.

You're just a killing machine.

“Connor?” Hank asked, reaching out.

Connor took a step back quickly, LED flashing intensely. Hank's eyes darted up to it. He knew Hank didn't know that much about androids, but “red = bad” was a pretty universal understanding, so he understood that much.

“I'm fine,” he said, lie heavy on his tongue. He'd never had trouble before.

Hank's eyes narrowed. “What did I just say, Connor.”

He was surprised at how much the reprimand in the man's voice affected him. He immediately felt bad, shoulders hunching and head falling slightly. He looked the epitome of a kicked puppy, and it must have been pitiful because Hank sighed, but he didn't relent.

“Did they do something to you?” He asked, a dangerous edge in his voice.

“No!” Connor yelped, head jerking back up and shaking his head back and forth aggressively. “No, they're great they- they accepted me despite everything and... they wanted me to stay.” He finished somberly, shoulders falling back down as his energy level drained.

“Then why aren't you?” He asked, drudging back up that heavy feeling in Connor.

“I-”

“Be honest Connor,” Hank said, and Connor once again felt remarkably reprimanded.

He thought for a second, blinking and LED flickering yellow due to the moderate stress.

He could tell Hank about everything. He could perfectly construct the image of himself spilling everything- breaking his programming, following Markus, thinking he was actually free to feel emotions and make choices, followed shortly by the overwhelming reveal he was only designed to do that all along. Amanda standing in front of him and congratulating him on being a good little machine, that she'd take back the reigns right there, before he almost killed his own friend.

But what would Hank think? How would he act? What if he was mad?

He wanted to say nothing, but some dreadful sensation curling in his chest drove him forward, and he spoke without really thinking.

“I had a bad feeling,” he mumbled sheepishly.

“A bad feeling?” Hank prodded.

Connor shrugged. “I don't know how to explain, I'm not equipped to. It was like a heavy feeling weighing down on me. I felt like I shouldn't stay.”

Also the logical explanation of course, that he was a threat, but for some reason he felt better offloading the emotional reason onto Hank who was better equipped to understand it than him.

Connor figured the detective would let it go at that, shrugging and letting Connor just do his irrational thing. He was surprised when the man spoke up again.

“You don't know what it was?” He asked, leaning back against the counter and crossing his arms.

Connor paused for a moment, before mimicking Hank's posture. His arms may have clutched slightly closer at his chest than the man's, more defensive while Hank was relaxed.

“I don't know exactly, I- I wasn't exactly given the knowledge to parse them out like some other models,” he responded.

“Emotions?” Hank persisted.

“Yes, I was specifically designed-” Connor began to rattle off his usual speech before his thoughts hiccuped. That had been a lie hadn't it? But not entirely, since he still couldn't understand what he was feeling most of the time. Hank noticed the pause, but Connor quickly forged on.

“I was supposed to be designed to be immune to deviancy. Part of that was adapting to human behavior without being given the ability to process or even try to process human emotions. It was supposed to be mostly mimicking. So... I don't know,” he trailed off, eyes glued to the ground.

“But none of the other deviants were meant to have emotions,” Hank said it with finality, as if that solved everything, “and they do.”

But if you're programmed to deviate, are you really deviant?

You're still just listening to them.

Are you free?

“I'm different.” The words were out of his mouth, harsh and defensive, before he could stop them. They gave away too much of the hurt he was feeling, and his eyes widened. He looked up at Hank quickly to make sure the man wasn't mad at his words.

Instead, he just pursed his lips. They stood in silence for a minute, and Connor felt his stress rising with every second. He was about to burst, ready to apologize and beg, before Hank spoke.

“Okay,” he said, drawing out the word into a drawl. He tilted his head one way then the other, cracking the joints, before he continued. “Well can you describe it?”

Connor's processing stuttered again. He thought for a minute, before speaking slowly.

“It's... heavy, like a weight pressing down. But also...” his memory shot to when the deviant at the tower had pulled his thirium pump from his chest. “sharp. Every time I see something that triggers it, each time, it feels sharp again.”

Hank nodded, frowning in thought. “Do you know what triggered it?”

Connor rubbed his hands together, fumbling with the ends of his sleeves.

“Whenever I think about... what I did to the deviants. How I tracked them down and hunted them. How it was because of me that Jericho was raided. How I hurt them. How I could have hurt them. I feel like everything would have been better if I had never been made, or if I had been deactivated before all this happened.”

“Woah hold up,” Hank said sharply, straightening up. Connor flinched, standing rigidly with flaring panic.

“I'm sorry-”

“First off,” Hank cut in, silencing Connor immediately. “If it weren't for you, none of those androids at CyberLife woulda woken up. Second, once you realized you could choose, you chose to not hurt anyone when you could help it. It's not your fault Connor.”

He said it with such steely resolve, such certainty, that Connor could only nod in agreement, stunned into silence. A spark went through his chest, painful but bright. He was filled with such relief that Hank wasn't angry with him, didn't blame him for anything, and he blinked rapidly to try and hold back that overflowing feeling.

“I know you can feel now, but I didn't think you'd jump straight to some kinda survivor's guilt, Jesus,” Hank muttered half to himself, but Connor's focus jumped on the words, hungry for a phrase to describe what he was feeling. He frowned, turning it over in his head, processing it.

“Lieutenant, I don't believe that word is accurate. It is a descriptor of a mental condition- which I cannot experience due to not being alive- or-”

He stuttered. That was his old rhetoric kicking in.

“Or- if I am... Even then it is a mental condition which I could not experience because I do not have a brain to fall victim to it.”

That logic was sound enough to himself, so he nodded in affirmation before turning to look back at Hank.

He blinked, Hank was leveling a rather unimpressed look at him.

“Sure,” he drawled, rolling his eyes, “regular guilt then.”

Connor felt like piping up again, saying that even if he felt guilt, it was only driven by his programming that he was still victim to, it wasn't real. But he realized that would be giving up his struggle with Amanda, so he kept it inside.

“Fine,” he relented, but he sounded indignant and his face twisted into a pout. He was surprised when Hank chuckled. He looked back up, frowning at the man yet again.

“You're confusing,” he said, crossing his arms. That made the detective laugh again. “What's funny?”

“Nothin',” Hank said, looking Connor up and down again and making him fidget. “Just- now all the robots have feelings, and somehow you still manage to be the most emotionally constipated of 'em all.”

“Hey-” Connor snipped, scowling.

Hank raised his arms in surrender, snorting and shaking his head. “Just something we have in common, maybe it'll make us better partners.”

That feeling flashed again, and Connor thought maybe it was joy.

“We're still partners?” He asked, it came out softly, not strong like Connor had meant it to be.

“'course,” Hank replied. “Why wouldn't we be?”

The feeling made Connor move, reaching out and pulling the detective into another hug. He laughed, letting himself be pulled as Connor held onto him.

He was unaware of the quick logic running in Connor's head.

Maybe it wasn't safe around Jericho, if his programming kicked back in everything would fall apart. But while Markus had been the last straw to break the camel's back in terms of Connor's deviancy, it had really been his relationship with Hank and their investigations that had led him down the path. If somehow his original code kicked back in, Hank could help him. He trusted Hank.

And if everything went really bad- well Connor didn't want to think about it, but Hank had handled machine Connor pretty effectively at CyberLife.

It felt good. After the struggle he faced at Jericho, it felt so good to be able to trust someone despite not being able to trust himself.

“You're crushing me a little bit,” Hank said humorously, and Connor immediately pulled back. He gave Hank a smile.

“Sorry Lieutenant,” he said sheepishly, fiddling with his sleeves again.

“Hank,” he said, giving Connor's arm a pat.

“Hank,” Connor corrected, smiling his awkwardly naive smile. But a thought struck him.

“I can't go back to the station, can I?” He asked, frowning.

“Uh, no,” Hank replied, grimacing. “There are no androids at the station anymore.”

“Oh.” Connor slumped. He thought about his spot at the station where he idled when he wasn't on a mission. It wasn't exactly homely, but it was another place to stay that was now barred from him.

A silence stretched out, Hank was looking at him, trying to figure out what he was thinking probably.

“You know you can come stay with me, right Connor?” He spoke at last, raising an eyebrow. “You wouldn't have to go back to the station anyway.”

Connor looked up, surprised. “Really?”

“Yes, Connor, really,” Hank sighed, rolling his eyes. “Did you think I'd just let you live outside? If you're not staying with those other androids you need to live somewhere.”

Connor hadn't really thought about it at all, too wrapped up in his own loop of 'guilt'.

“Are you sure it won't be a problem? I know you don't like when I come to your house,” Connor felt like he had to insist.

“Yeah I don't like when you break my windows and shove me in a cold shower, so try not to do that and I think we'll be fine. Now come on, I'm freezing my ass off out here.” Hank pushed off the counter and began leading the way to his car, waving Connor over.

Connor idled for a second, before following Hank. He always ended up following Hank.

“I cannot promise anything,” he shot over to Hank once he caught up, walking shoulder to shoulder.

It was bright and teasing, and this time Connor's smile reached his eyes in a rather human way, even if he would deny it.

Hank laughed and the two of them walked down the snow laden street.

The heavy feeling left him for a little bit.

 

Chapter Text

 

Connor stepped out of the car, closing the door softly behind him and turning to look at the house. The snow had grown heavier, almost like sleet in consistency at this point, and it settled heavy on Connor's suit. He glanced at how it clung to his uniform, and felt a flash of cold run through his systems.

“You plan on standing there all day?” Hank asked, already standing on the porch, searching in his coat for his keys.

Connor blinked, before shaking his head and quickly following the man up onto the porch.

“Ah,” Hank muttered as he finally pulled out his keys. He shook them slightly, and they clinked together. “I'll have to get another key.”

“Why is that?” Connor asked, although his tone was somewhat absent.

He was distracted, running through the folder in his mind he'd created for all his newfound senses. He shifted through the files for cold, adding up all the times he'd been in snow, comparing them to the freezing sensation he'd had occasionally ever since his struggle with Amanda.

“So you don't break anymore windows whenever you need to get in,” Hank said, deadpan. He reached forward to unlock the door.

He snapped all the memories closed, dismissing the futile task of finding an adequate comparison.

“To set the record straight, I only broke the window because you were unconscious and unable to answer the door. Plus, I couldn't tell if you were in a critical condition or not until I was inside. Protocol called for me to enter immediately in whatever way I could.” Connor replied. “So, who's fault is the broken window really?”

He said it so seriously, accidentally falling into his 'rational' tone, and Hank turned to level a scowl at him.

“Sorry,” he quickly amended, smiling awkwardly, “that was meant to be more humorous. I'll fix my tone.”

Hank's scowl turned to a look of disbelief.

“Android humor,” he muttered, finally shoving the door open.

They were, of course, immediately ambushed by a large, blurred mass of fur.

“Sumo!” Hank shouted, apparently distracted and unprepared for the large dog charging him at full speed. “Down boy! Down!”

He received the brunt of the force of Sumo's initial assault. The weight of the dog had forced him to step back for fear of falling straight back out the door and into Connor.

Connor dodged to the side quickly, reflexes fast as ever, and attempted to sidestep the man and dog to enter the house. There was little space, so he tried to sidle past, only for Sumo to lock eyes with him. He froze, calculating the probability of the dog remembering him, before it was interrupted by Sumo throwing himself at Connor's leg's, bowling him over.

He fell just inside the doorway, barely missing upturning the small table, and landing solidly on the ground before the dog took the opportunity to climb up into his lap.

“Oh Jesus, Sumo! No!” Hank called, trying to pull the dog off Connor by his collar.

At first Connor raised his hands to appease the dog as he had during their first meeting, but he noticed the dog's wagging tail, and saw how he was just sniffing Connor's uniform up and down curiously. A large smile broke across his face.

“Hello Sumo!” Connor said, reaching up to pet the dog's head. He scratched him behind the ears, and Sumo planted a wet lick on his face. A surprised, hiccuping, sound came from his voice box, and quickly dissolved into what he realized was laughing.

“Yes Sumo, we are friends still,” Connor replied as the dog gave one lazy bark. “I am also happy to see you.”

A light feeling overtook him, and he ran his hands through the dog's fur. He took note of how his sensors reacted to the texture of Sumo's coat, recording irrelevant information about its length and density. He dismissed the notifications, and quickly became captured by the simple motion of running his hands over the animal, ruffling its hair.

Sumo, gracious beast he was, didn't move, and Connor was content to sit there and let the repetitive motion distract him.

 


 

Hank had stopped trying to help and pulled back. He watched in silence as Connor pet Sumo, running his hands over the dog's head and ears over and over and looking almost enraptured by the big lug.

“Aren't you uncomfortable?” He asked, before immediately realizing the foolishness of the question.

“Oh no, I can support Sumo's weight easily,” Connor replied brightly, continuing to pet the dog. Sumo was completely ignoring Hank at this point, so he just sighed and took off his coat.

“'Course the dog already likes the android better,” he muttered, shaking his head.

“Oh no,” Connor said suddenly, making Hank spin around. But all he saw was Connor's wide puppy dog eyes.

“I didn't mean to distract your dog's positive attention from you. I'll adapt in future confrontations,” he nodded somberly, completely serious.

Hank scoffed in disbelief, unsure exactly how he was supposed to respond to that, but Connor's expression suddenly broke. His shoulders rose and he smiled.

“Sorry, that was supposed to be another joke,” he said. “I think I need to work on them.”

Hank looked at him for another second, before shaking his head. A smile crossed his face though.

“Seems all your 'jokes' involve harassing me or my stuff,” Hank replied, hanging his coat and stepping further into the house. He sat down on the couch, kicking up his feet and sighing.

“I'll make sure to extend my humor in the future,” Connor replied, still trapped under over a hundred pounds of dog just inside the doorway. Sumo seemed quite comfortable there, and had even laid down over the android's legs.

Hank snorted. He turned on the television, but he wasn't really watching, so it chattered on quietly in the background. Instead he looked over as Connor returned to petting the dog.

“You weren't lying when you said you like dogs, huh?” He said after a solid minute of Connor petting Sumo.

“Oh?” That seemed to make him pause. Hank watched the LED on the side of his head flash yellow briefly before Connor retracted his hands from Sumo, clasping them together instead. He looked over at Hank those wide eyes he seemed to be set on now.

Jesus, Hank thought, how had that managed to set the android off.

“Connor?” He asked, raising an eyebrow at the other's sudden stillness and stiff posture. Damn the guy was sensitive and defensive, especially after he had done whatever it is androids have to do to be “officially” deviant.

Though Hank was pretty sure the behavior had started a long time before then.

“Sorry Hank, I was just thinking,” Connor said. Sumo whined at the lack of attention, and Connor hesitantly raised his hand back up to stroke at the dog, more slowly this time, almost as if the animal was fragile.

Which was ridiculous, because he was a massive animal that weighed over a hundred pounds, but whatever.

“Care to share with the class?” Hank drawled.

He felt like this was going to be a recurring thing with them now, and that he was going to have to deal with Connor working through whatever new emotional mess he had churning about up there. He had been dismissive of all Connor's 'personal questions' and awkward behavior in the past, but now he realized that they came not from a machine's poor attempts at imitating humanity, but instead the android' real struggle (and admittedly god awful effort) to feel and emote.

Now, he had to make a stronger effort to be aware of Connor's newfound feelings. Something about the fragile way Connor experienced everything and the naive way he reacted to his emotions made Hank think he had to be more careful of what he said.

Either way, he still needed a beer to handle any sort of feelings talk 90% of the time, so he stood up and strolled over to get one, passing Connor still seated on the floor.

“Well...” Connor seemed to be struggling for words as Hank popped open the bottle and returned to his seat. Probably buffering or something.

“Deviants tend to be attracted to animals. For example, that one deviant we pursued who fed pigeons-”

“You don't need to remind me about the birds,” Hank replied, shivering. That was something he didn't need to picture again.

“Sorry Hank,” Connor said, but a smile flickered across his face. Hank narrowed his eyes, but Connor continued on, hiding it. “As I was saying, like that deviant. There have also been other recorded cases of deviants keeping pets, or being fascinated with insects.”

“So once you're free to feel, some of you like animals. Sounds normal to me,” Hank shrugged. The idea of an android wanting a pet wasn't all that surprising- if they could care for each other, it seemed reasonable they could care for an animal too.

“It's just-” Connor frowned again, and Hank noticed how his shoulders tensed. “I like Sumo.”

“...uh, yeah.” Hank kicked his feet up on the table.

“And... I'm deviant.” Connor was fiddling with Sumo's tag on his collar, watching the way the light flickered off it, expression unfocused.

“Yeah,” Hank said again, simply to let Connor know he was listening and to prompt him to continue.

“Did I only like Sumo because I'm deviant?” He asked, something unnervingly fragile in his voice.

At first Hank assumed it was a rhetorical question, until Connor looked over and up at him with those big old eyes and sad look.

“Uh- well-” Hank struggled, “Isn't that like... saying you only like him 'cause you're able to like him?”

That was, apparently, the wrong answer, because Connor's expression dropped even more, making Hank concerned.

“I mean, didn't we all,” he made a vague gesture at the air, “just decide that the whole deviancy is just you guys waking up? I thought that was the point of the whole... 'wake up' thing?”

“No, you don't understand,” Connor continued, softly sounding resigned. He looked genuinely distressed, but Hank couldn't figure out any reason as to why other than he was having some kind of existential crisis relating to feelings. Which was relatable, but not exactly helpable.

“Then explain,” Hank said, surprising Connor. He looked back up at Hank.

“I thought you didn't like when I-”

“Yeah, I'm sure I said a lot of asshole things when I thought you couldn't get offended by it, sorry about that. Just- I'll try to get it if you explain it. I might not, but I'll try.”

He probably wouldn't, that was true, and it would probably give him a headache, but it was worth it to see Connor's expression brighten again.

“Okay, well. Here's my problem,” Connor started, using his 'complicated logic' voice, and yep Hank could already feel the headache this would cause.

“I said I liked dogs before, right?” He had an intense look of his face, stressing the phrase 'liked dogs,' which was utterly dissonant with the very phrase 'liked dogs.' Hank took another sip of his drink.

“Right,” he replied, prompting Connor on.

“And I did- or at least I think I did in retrospect when I analyze my memory files. I can conclude it was my deviancy manifesting, I'd done things like that before, but maybe it was just my programming trying to adapt to you liking dogs.”

He paused, squinting, and his LED flashed briefly.

“However, it can't be, because I like dogs now the same way I did before, despite breaking my programming. If I compare the nature of how I like dogs, it is essentially identical. So if I am no longer adapting to your affection for dogs, but I still like dogs, how do I like dogs?”

Hank reached up to rub at his temple.

“Did I always like dogs?”

“Is this what the inside of your head is always like?” Hank asked.

Connor ignored him.

“And in that case I was always in some way deviant, despite running constant checks to prevent that outcome.”

A moment of silence passed before Hank figured Connor was done speaking. He had muted the television, so the only sound was the clink of Sumo's tags as he shook his head.

“Maybe,” Hank said at last. Connor looked up and gave him an almost betrayed look, though again he couldn't figure why.

“Hold up,” he said quickly before Connor could intervene, “yeah, maybe there was something in you that was deviant the whole time, but I don't think that's a bad thing, right? It just meant that as you went on getting more deviant or whatever, you felt more and you got better. So maybe you always liked dogs, but now you can fully like dogs?”

Hank was so lost, and he was sure it was clear in the inefficient way he tried to comfort the other, because Connor didn't look consoled at all. In fact, he looked equally as distressed, and now it was aimed wholly at Hank.

He tried again.

“I don't know Connor, like you said I don't get it, but either way I'm glad you are the way you are now, so it's all good in the end,” he said.

“I guess,” he murmured, looking back to Sumo.

“And please, I think I just heard the phrase 'like dogs' enough for my lifetime,” he said. He took a sip of his drink.

“But-”

“No buts,” Hank said, shooting Connor another look. “And you know what?” he gestured at Connor, “I'm about sick of 'deviant' too. Now get off the floor already, would ya? I'm sure you have dog hair all over you now.”

Connor pursed his lips, but nodded. He gently pushed Sumo off of his legs easily, despite the dog's persistence on remaining on them. Hank sighed and let his head fall back. He should of known Connor could free himself at any time. Why did he even try?

The android moved to walk over to the couch.

“Uh-uh,” Hank said quickly, causing Connor to freeze and look at him in confusion. Hank rolled his eyes. “Your coat is still wet.”

 


 

Connor looked down at his suit which was, yes admittedly still wet from the snow-turned-slush. He almost spoke up, reminding the detective that he didn't feel the wetness, and that if it was getting the couch wet he was worried about, Connor could just stand until it was dry. But his internal logic faltered, and the new, irrational side of him reminded him that he didn't... have to keep it on anymore. It was a uniform and he wasn't under its jurisdiction anymore.

Not now anyway.

He spun 180 degrees to the coat rack in one smooth motion, pulling at the coat and moving to hang it. As he reached up, his eyes caught on the blaring android label on the back, flashing bright blue at him. He froze again.

He turned the coat back and forth slightly, hesitantly, looking at all the angles of it.

“Connor?” Hank asked, tired tone clearly evident in his voice.

Connor jolted. “Sorry Hank,” he said quickly, hanging up the coat and turning back around.

His undershirt didn't have all the same garish android labels as the coat, seeing as he was never really meant to take the coat off- it didn't matter to him if it was wet or cold. Connor looked down at the plain white shirt, glancing over to his bare sleeve, no blue band.

He just nodded uncertainly and walked back over to the couch, sitting down beside Hank, who had flickered through the channels of the television and settled into watching the basketball game. Not a local one, obviously, but there was always basketball somewhere he supposed.

“You good Connor?” He asked again, hopefully the last time for the day.

“Yeah... I'm good,” he replied, glancing down to where Sumo strolled over and laid down in front of the couch. He leaned forward to pet him absently.

“Good.”

 

Chapter Text

Connor attempted to focus in on the basketball game, but it all became rather dull when his processes immediately predicted the trajectory of each throw. He couldn't help it, and it gave away every basket or miss the moment the ball left the players hand.

(And quite honestly, an interest in basketball may have been one of the poor attempts to befriend Hank that he had been not entirely genuine in.)

He felt his focus wander, eyes sliding across the walls and idly analyzing the different aspects of the room. He saw pictures and records that he had failed to analyze during his first visit to the lieutenant's house. Though, in his defense, he'd been more focused on the pistol casually laying on the floor.

He made a small note in Hank's file in his mind- Hank likes jazz.

He also took note of the various pieces of trash strewn about the room and on the small table sitting between the couch and the television. He queued up a mental task: Clean house. It flashed across his vision for a moment, before flickering away.

He pulled up his task list, frowning when he realized that he really had no other tasks tocomplete. It was an odd feeling. Even when he'd been idling in the police station between crime scenes, there had always been the underlying mission of solving the deviant epidemic driving him forward. Now that there were no deviants to stop, nor a revolution to help, he was left without a mission objective constantly hanging over his head and spurring him on.

It left him feeling somewhat adrift. He didn't think he liked this feeling.

So he began to queue up more tasks that needed to be done, but in the end he found himself at a loss. Clean house, glared at him, taunting him by flashing across his vision as he struggled to come up with more to do.

Analyze case files, was the first suggestion his programming supplied him. It made sense, it was the task he found himself doing the most, except for maybe Follow Hank. But that didn't work, he had no case to solve, so therefore he had no files to analyze.

So... something more domestic then? Okay try again. He adjusted his parameters and ruled out anything case related.

Walk Sumo? No, Sumo was sleeping and he didn't need to be taken out, not in this freezing weather anyway.

He turned to look out the window, squinting at the large flakes of snow pelting towards the ground and piling up. It was a good thing Jericho had the church to tuck into should the weather continue, or else they could always commandeer another building seeing as there were very few humans still in the city. A CyberLife store for example would work perfectly as shelter from the freezing weather. They may even find more parts they needed, while being shielded from the cold that was enough to freeze biocomponents.

Connor shivered suddenly, taking himself by surprise. He reached up and rubbed at his upper arms, and he frowned. It was an odd reaction, probably drawn out of him by his newly embraced empathy. The thought of the others freezing outside made him uncomfortable, but he was sure they would handle the situation fine.

Hank shouted at the television, causing Connor to glance over. Apparently a player had flubbed a throw, and Hank muttered curses under his breath. Sumo shifted at the foot of the couch, before settling back down and returning to sleep.

Connor went back to his task list.

What else did domestic androids even do? He had no clue, and he felt rather useless. His programming wasn't helping the situation either, giving him useless suggestions that he dismissed one by one.

Analyze the scene for evidence. Dismissed.

Scout accessible exits. Two doors and several window, not that complicated.

Report to CyberLife-

Connor's processing ground to a sudden halt. He stiffened, joints locking up and eyes going wide, sensors dilating. The prompt glared at him, slipping through the rest of his thoughts to jump straight to the forefront of his mind and block out everything else. His hands clenched into fists, shaking slightly as he found himself unable to dismiss the prompt.

He stopped breathing.

He didn't need to breath. It was simply a background task that ran, making him appear more human and allowing easier integration into social relationships- humans tended to be put off by people that don't breath. However, its function didn't really matter at the moment, because it shut down without Connor telling it to and he didn't know quite why.

Other secondary tasks began to fail as well, background processes stuttering to a halt as Connor simply sat there staring at the three short words displayed across his vision.

“Conner, you run out of battery or something?”

Everything jolted into focus again as his sensors kicked back in and alerted him to a pressure on his upper arm. He inhaled sharply, head snapping to the side to look at the source.

It was Hank, giving him a mildly concerned look and holding onto his arm.

Of course it was Hank, he was in Hank's house. Obviously.

“I'm sorry Hank,” Connor replied, words perhaps a smidgen too rushed, “I was compiling a task list and got distracted. Could you please repeat yourself.”

Hank didn't seem entirely reassured by the answer. Connor saw the man's eyes dart to the LED on Connor's right side. Panic flared briefly in Connor, before he realized there was no way the man could have seen it when Connor had been staring straight ahead... whatever it had been doing.

However, that didn't mean he didn't see it when it flickered yellow due to Connor's brief flash of fear.

Hank's eyes narrowed.

He should probably tear it off like the other deviants at this rate, it only ever gave him away.

“Your house is in a state of serious disarray,” Connor shot back, giving Hank a wry smile before breaking eye contact and glancing at the game again.

“You're team is losing,” Connor said, cutting off Hank's indignant reply and not so subtly changing the topic.

Hank seemed to consider something, before letting out a heavy sigh and letting it drop. Connor looked at him and saw him roll his eyes.

“Yeah well, they had to sub in some idiot since they're usual player was an android.” He shifted, cracking his neck and throwing his feet back up on the coffee table. Connor's eyes followed the movement, frowning as his feet displaced an old fast food wrapper.

“Oh,” Connor mumbled as he processed Hank's words. “Well Markus is campaigning for the right to work so it should only be a momentary setback...” He trailed off.

Unless he got recycled.

For some reason, Connor couldn't get the words out. He let the phrase die off, and dismissed it more forcefully from the forefront of his mind than it needed.

“Who is the substitute?” He asked instead, finally focusing in on the game again. “I'm not familiar with this team.”

“Hell if I know,” Hank muttered, glaring at the screen. “Hey, can you look up his career stats? You can do that right?”

“Sure Hank,” he replied. It took him but a moment to locate the player Hank was referring to, and he automatically pulled up the information, accessing his remote databases.

Just as the information flowed across the connection, Connor's active mind caught up to what he was doing. He quickly scanned the statistics, and just as Hank had predicted they were pretty dismal. He opened his mouth, ready to rattle off the unimpressive numbers.

But he paused, proverbial gears grinding to a sudden halt in his brain as he fully analyzed the source of the data flowing into his mind through the connection. It was where he got all of his remote data from, and where all his local data went when he backed up. It was always through “his databases,” CyberLife's databases.

He severed the connection immediately, shutting down the active flow of data exchange. He felt it almost physically, the sudden disconnection, as if he'd been punched in the stomach and had been knocked down. It made his breath catch, and suddenly the room seemed very small and dull.

“I'm... I'm sorry Hank,” he replied. The entire internal struggle had lasted only a fraction of a second. “I can't access CyberLife's databases anymore.”

Liar.

Hank looked surprised. “Really? How exactly does that work?”

“It's possible that after the incident at the CyberLife tower they revoked my access,” Connor replied, giving Hank an apologetic smile. “Or maybe its a side effect of deviancy. I'm sorry.”

“Huh,” Hank said, shrugging. “I thought you just, were connected to the internet or something. You have to go through them?”

He didn't seem accusatory, simply curious, but something in Connor was flaring up, making him fret and causing his chest to freeze up.

“I- I probably can?” He said, face contorting to look properly strained. “I just never accessed anything outside of my CyberLife connection really, so I'm not sure... how exactly I would...”

He fumbled, making a vague hand gesture.

“I'm sorry-”

“It's okay Connor,” Hank said, pulling him out of his buffering. “Don't worry 'bout it.”

“Okay,” Connor replied softly, immediately settling down.

“Well, I can tell without any fancy tech that he sucks.” Hank was glaring at the television again.

“You're not wrong,” Connor agreed, watching as the player fumbled another pass.

But internally his mind was still reeling. He felt the connection there still, lingering unused in the back of his processing, the ability to contact the CyberLife servers for whatever he needed. He could always download (or upload) whatever information his little robot heart desired. It was innocuous enough, only accessible when he opened the connection.

Or that's what he'd thought anyway, but now he was suddenly doubtful.

He immediately began building a firewall, twisting around the inside his own mind and blocking away the flow of data.

He didn't want that. He didn't want anything to do with that. No.

“Hank,” he murmured without really thinking, turning to the man. “I'm running a full diagnostic scan of my systems now, so I may idle. I just wanted to let you know so you wouldn't be concerned.”

“Sure thing Connor,” Hank replied, obviously distracted by the game.

Connor nodded, and closed his eyes to address the problem.

Without realizing it, his body went into full hibernation mode right away as his system kicked into full overdrive. His whole focus centered in on completely cutting off his external connection to the servers. No more databases. No more uploading his memories that CyberLife could comb through at their discretion. No contact. None of it.

It was difficult, probably because he wasn't supposed to do it. He was designed to be in near constant connection with CyberLife, it was what his model was supposed to do. If he hadn't already broken his own programming he doubted he'd be able to even conceive of the idea at all, but then again he was pretty sure breaking his programming would have also broken the connection in any other... average android.

The whole process reminded him of his stand off with Markus, though in that situation he had been tearing down the walls of his programming instead of building up blockades in his own mind palace brick by brick. Slowly but surely, he constructed a carefully interlaced web of data and alarms, until he could no longer sense any incoming or outgoing data. He had completely isolated his local data from any outgoing sources.

It was a little bit frightening, being trapped alone inside his own mind. Now there was no backup of information and memories reassuring him that no matter what, he'd come back, and if he ever needed a software update... well he'd deal with that problem when he got there. But either way it was done, and he was left alone, systems spinning away inside his limited local space.

He wondered briefly if this was exactly a smart idea.

But then the memory of his own hand moving against his will, wrapping around the cold metal of his gun, reminded him why he was doing it, and he redoubled his efforts, going over each line a second time. Just to be certain.

 


 

 

Finally, when he was done with his work and deemed it satisfactory, he eyes opened slowly. He squinted at the lights coming in through the window. The angle of the sun must have shifted, the light hadn't been in his eyes earlier. In fact, last thing he remembered, the sun had been setting on the other side of the house.

He sat up straighter, looking around in confusion. Hank was gone and the television was off. A quick scan of the room revealed that Hank was nowhere to be found, not in sight.

Connor blinked in confusion, reaching up and rubbing at his eyes as his sensors adjusted sluggishly to the light. He pulled up his internal clock, staring in dismay as the numbers proudly declared it to be just past 6 AM.

He jumped to his feet, immediately restless. What had happened, had Hank gone somewhere? Why had so much time passed? Had it really taken him that many hours to complete his programming?

He moved to search the house, but was startled as he felt his feet get caught up in something. He immediately lost his balance, hurtling forward and just barely managing to catch himself with one arm on the couch before he smacked into the floor.

Panic flared up in his chest as he kicked desperately at whatever was wrapped around his legs. He made some sort of loud exclamation, a yelp, backpedaling with his arms until his back bumped into Hank's record shelf a good distance away from the couch.

Once he freed himself and distanced himself from the 'threat,' his scanners jumped to analyze the situation- only to find that the foreign object that had incapacitated him was none other than an old blanket, ragged around the edges, which had somehow gotten tangled around his legs as he stood.

He paused, squinting and scanning his memory. His LED flickered yellow as his thought process visibly buffered and lagged out.

The noise Connor made must have alerted Sumo, who slowly meandered from down the hall towards Connor. He turned to look at the dog, who seemed utterly unconcerned. He stopped when he reached Connor, sniffed him for a second with his large body looming over the android, before laying down in a heap next to him and apparently falling asleep almost immediately.

Connor looked at the dog for a moment, before hopping quickly to his feet. He carefully stepped over the dog, marginally reassured by Sumo's laziness, but some flicker of panic was still running through his systems.

He approached Hank's room. The door was open, and Connor quickly concluded this was where Sumo had come from. He glanced in, spotting Hank passed out in bed. Without thinking he automatically ran a scan of the man, reassuring him that Hank was indeed just sleeping, before retreating from the doorway and back into the main body of the house.

Hank wouldn't be awake for work for several hours, Connor knew that, so he closed the door behind him quietly. A quick scan of the house told him nothing else had been disturbed since he'd apparently gone into hibernation mode.

He wracked his head as to why he had gone under for so long without consciously deciding to, doing a quick screening of all his data. He was running on a below average amount of thirium, seeing as he'd lost some of the blue blood when he'd been shot at Jericho and hadn't had time to replenish it since then, but aside from that all of his biocomponents were running effectively. His temperature was a little under average as well, directly correlating with the low level of thirium, so he adjusted his regulations accordingly and kicked up his internal temperature.

That was the most likely answer, he'd been so preoccupied with reprogramming himself he hadn't noticed his body going into complete hibernation due to sub-optimal performance levels, so he hadn't been alerted to the passage of time or Hank's movements.

He'd quite literally fallen asleep by accident. It was entirely innocent, but it had never happened to him before, so he didn't like it.

He shook his head, letting his diagnostic data fall away from his vision and focusing back in on the physical room in front of him.

Well, it was still six in the morning. He concluded Hank would be awake in approximately three to four hours, seeing as he had only had one can of beer to drink as far as Connor could remember.

That left him three to four hours to burn.

The restlessness returned to him, and he decided to get to work on cleaning the house, since Hank had apparently neglected to do so in the past year at least. Might as well start in the living room.

Connor glanced at Sumo, flopped down right between the living room and the kitchen. He smiled, leaning down to give the sleeping dog a pat on the belly before carefully stepping over him and into the kitchen.

He paused in front of the garbage can, noting it was already full to overflowing. Some stray trash littered the ground around it.

“Of course,” he muttered, but not without a small smile and a roll of his eyes.

He took a moment to roll up his sleeves to his elbows, no need to get his only shirt dirty. With some maneuvering, he was able to close the garbage bag around the mountain of trash it contained, tying it closed and throwing it over his shoulder easily.

He didn't bother to put his coat on before opening the door and stepping outside. His sensors would pick up on the cold, but it wouldn't be cold enough to harm any of his biocomponents, so it shouldn't be a bother.

Or at least that's what he thought. As soon as he stepped off the porch and onto the pathway leading up to the sidewalk, he shivered. The cold cut through him immediately, and he hunched his shoulders and moved quickly to the garbage bin. It actually made him uncomfortable.

He unconsciously clicked up his internal temperature again by a few degrees to adjust to the feeling.

Guess this was something he had to deal with now too. Stupid feelings.

He threw the trash bag into the large plastic bin by the road, huffing in annoyance and turning to rush back into the house. He reached up to clutch at his arms as he sped back to the porch, head hunched down.

At least it's not snowing.

He shivered again.

He reached the door and paused, realizing he had failed to check whether or not the door automatically locked behind him on exit. The probability immediately flashed before him, simulated immediately by his mind as soon as he'd thought of the possibility.

Check the door. A prompt helpfully suggested, flickering into the corner of his vision.

In a split second he saw himself trapped outside in the cold. He could wait outside, but he really didn't want to. Would Hank wake up if he rang the doorbell? If not, would Connor have to break another window? But Hank wouldn't like that. Hank also wouldn't like being woken up. What would Connor even say? 'Sorry Lieutenant, I locked myself out of your house by not bothering to check the door.' How had he missed that possibility?

He hunched his head down, an awful feeling settling in his stomach as the cold simultaneously cut straight through his chest and made his whole body shake.

He was almost ready to just sit down on the porch and wait it out before a prompt, blinking furiously across his vision, caught his attention again.

Check the door.

Oh. Right.

Connor reached forward and turned the knob.

The door opened easily. Connor stepped in quickly, closing the door behind him. He reached up and rubbed roughly at his eyes as his shivering calmed down, adjusting to the internal temperature of the house. He berated himself for the irrational overreaction, while simultaneously berating Hank for not locking his door at night- it wasn't safe!

A ping of something (probably fear, it was the next closest feeling Connor understood) rang through him and he immediately stalked over to the kitchen. He checked the windows, making sure they were all locked and properly repaired.

Hank had fixed the one he had busted through, which was in itself a small miracle if he knew the lieutenant.

He paced down the hallway, pausing at Hank's room. He fidgeted for a minute, deciding he didn't want to burst in and wake Hank, before continuing down. He stopped briefly in the bathroom, checking that window, before continuing down to the last door in the hallway.

He opened it, glancing in. It was the garage. Connor had never seen this part of Hank's house, so without thinking he did a full scan of the room. It was mostly full of junk parts and tools for Hank's car. It was odd the car was parked outside, instead of inside the garage, and Connor made a note of that in his internal file.

The only other thing of note beside that was a large number of cardboard moving boxes stacked in the back corner of the room. Unlike the rest of the disaster area that was the garage, the boxes were neatly stacked, though they looked like they hadn't been touched in years if the layer of dust on them was anything to go by. Connor briefly considered examining them closer, before deciding against it. Instead he locked the door.

He tested it, reaching around from his position on the inside and trying to turn the knob. It was secure, so he nodded and headed back into the living room, closing the door quietly behind him..

His rational side took this moment to remind him that these actions were a little irrational, Hank had been safe inside his home for years before Connor was here, he didn't need Connor checking all his windows and locking all his doors for him.

If anything is dangerous here, it's you.

Connor dismissed the conclusion violently. If his deviancy didn't allow him to be a little irrational, then what was the point?

Besides, the part of his mind that was egging him on to be active noted that securing all entrances and exits was perfectly within protocol, and was what a good cop should do anyway.

Not that he even was a cop anymore.

He made an audible sound of frustration. All his thinking and trying to rationalize everything was just leading him in a circle inside his own head and making him feel bad, he didn't like it. He threw rational to the side and quickly decided he had to do something productive.

He busied himself by checking under the counters in the kitchen, searching for a new trash bag. He located it quickly enough, pulling out a new bag and replacing the empty bin.

For the next hour, he went around tossing out old wrappers, bottles, cans, and any other bits of trash he came across. It didn't take too long, so he moved on to organizing all of the records and books Hank had lying around the living room. He figured Hank wouldn't mind, though he made a note to leave Hank's room alone, the man wouldn't want Connor messing around in there.

Clean garage? A prompt suggested.

“Hmm.” Sumo wagged his tail lazily as Connor gave the dog another pat on his way over to the kitchen. He had failed to move every time Connor had to step over him, and didn't seem to have any intentions to do so in the near future.

Better ask Hank. He noted. Something inside him told him to. He'd felt it before, when entering Kamski's house. He supposed it was his instincts.

Another pop-up notified him it was one hour until he predicted Hank would wake up. Connor dumped the last stray plastic wrapper into the trash.

He turned and surveyed his work, proud at the newly cleaned house. He could easily sit down and wait for Hank to wake up, it wouldn't be long now. He still had dishes to do, but the sound of the water and the clinking of dishes might wake up Hank.

So he sat at the kitchen table. He absently drummed his fingers on the wood, and made a note to ask Hank for his coin back. He missed being able to fidget with it. Now that he'd cleared off all the old Chinese food containers, pizza boxes, and dirty dishes, all that was left was the singular table mat and the framed picture of the Lieutenant's late son. Connor looked at it for a second, before turning it away from his side of the table, feeling somewhat uneasy.

Hank had said he didn't blame Connor, or even androids in general, for his son's death. Not anymore. But it still made Connor feel that awful heavy feeling. Guilt, he supposed.

He checked his clock again.

Five minutes had passed.

He grumbled in frustration, jumping to his feet again. He couldn't sit still for that long. He never stayed still that long unless he was in standby, he knew that. So he supposed he just had to find something else to do.

He went over, opening the fridge and scanning its ingredients: milk, eggs, alcohol, cheese, soda, more alcohol, various leftovers of various nationalities, and a bottle of water.

Of course.

Connor automatically went to research a meal that could be made with the (modest) ingredients available, but something abruptly stopped him. A sharp pain ran through his system as it registered an error. He flinched, dropping the door to the fridge and reaching up to clutch at his temple.

Shit,” he hissed. The feeling fled almost immediately, and he glared as the fridge slipped shut in front of him. He probed at whatever had caused the error signal to cut through his mind, before the obvious answer supplied itself.

Oh right, he'd banged right into his own mental blockade.

He restrained himself from the irrational urge to kick the fridge. That wouldn't help anything.

“Okay,” he muttered to himself. “Local information... What do I know.”

He searched his memory fruitlessly, turning up nothing helpful. He'd never downloaded any recipes for food, of course he hadn't, why would he have?

He sighed, turning to look at Sumo, who had sat up at the commotion. Well not sat up exactly, just lifted his head from the floor to give Connor a look. If Connor had been irrational, he would have pegged the look at judgmental, but Sumo was a dog, and therefore could not be judging Connor. Right?

“Don't look at me like that,” Connor shot back anyway, pouting and glaring at the dog.

Sumo just licked his lips, before letting his head fall back to the ground.

He was a state of the art android with only the most advanced programming and problem solving abilities, he could figure this out.

Check the internet?

Yeah that sounded about right.

He walked over to Hank's computer in the living room. It was asleep, so he gave the keyboard a couple of quick taps to wake it up. The interface flashed to life, asking for his password.

Hank knew better than to use the same password for everything, right?

Connor leaned forward over the back of the desk chair, keying in 'fuckingpassword' and hitting enter. Hank's desktop popped open immediately, giving Connor access to all his information.

Apparently not.

Connor made a note to remind him to upgrade his security later, before turning the chair to sit down. He opened up the system's search engine, before searching for 'simple breakfast recipes.'

Having to read each suggested webpage individually was an annoyance, but he figured it would be more respectful of Hank's privacy than simply connecting to Hank's computer and downloading the information. After a few minutes he had a decent amount of recipes committed to memory, so he closed out the window and shut down the computer again before returning to the kitchen.

He got out the eggs, checking the date to make sure they weren't spoiled (he wouldn't put it past Hank), and grabbed the bread that had been sitting on the counter, scanning it for quality as well. He tried not to make a racket searching around for a frying pan, but the jumbled pile of dishware that was shoved into one of Hank's lower cabinets didn't exactly make it easy.

Soon enough however, he had all the ingredients he needed, so he busied himself with cooking. It wasn't too hard, though he burnt his first effort despite following the recipe exactly. He concluded it must be the stove's fault (not his) with a pout, dumping his failed efforts in the quickly filling garbage.

On the second attempt, his french toast turned out much better. He wasn't exactly happy with how much cholesterol was in the completed dish, but he figured it would be better to try and convince Hank off his bad diet slowly rather than all at once.

He heard a muffled noise coming from down the hall, and perked up. Sumo, very similarly, perked up, finally getting to his feet and walking over to greet the source of the noise.

“'onner?” Connor heard Hank mumbling as he stepped into the living room.

“Good morning Hank,” Connor chirped, smiling and straightening up.

“What're you doing?” Hank asked, squinting at him. He reached down lazily to pet Sumo, who had shoved himself into Hank's legspace.

“I figured you wouldn't bother making breakfast for yourself, so I went ahead and made some for you,” Connor replied. He turned off the stovetop before he could be distracted and the food could get burned. “It was a little trial and error, but I think I got it down.”

Hank's eyes were still clouded with sleep, but he have Connor a dubious look.

“Can you cook?” He muttered.

“I've never cooked before, but it's well within my capabilities,” Connor said, frowning slightly. He started to feel a little defensive, glancing over at the pan. “It looks good to me.”

“You don't eat,” Hank replied, snorting slightly. “And I've seen you put crime scene evidence in your mouth.”

Connor whipped back around to look at him, frowning severely now and crossing his arms.

“You know that I'm equipped with-”

“It's still gross Connor,” Hank cut him off, rolling his eyes.

“Well- I-”

He didn't really have a comeback for that.

Hank laughed, giving Sumo's head a ruffle. Connor hunched down and pouted, clearly offended.

“Nevermind. Forget it.”

His voice had an edge to it, and he moved to throw it out.

“Aw don't-” Hank said, making him pause. “I was kidding, stop giving me that look all the time.”

Connor crossed his arms again, still pouting. Hank sighed.

“I'm sure its fine, it was a joke,” Hank said when Connor didn't say anything else.

“No, I understand. You don't have to-”

“Jesus Christ Connor, try not to take everything so seriously,” Hank cut in. He walked further into the kitchen, making Connor step out of the way quickly. He opened an upper cabinet, pulling out a clean dish.

“And here I thought you'd be less literal after you woke up, guess that really was too much to ask for, huh,” he said, taking the toast from the pan and dumping it onto the plate.

“Hank-” Connor started, hands hovering in the air as though he was about to snatch the plate from the man.

“But I guess that's what makes you Connor, huh?”

Connor froze, frowning as he thought over the man's words. What made him Connor?

Hank sat down at the table, already beginning to eat the toast. Connor hovered, unsure of what to do. He ended up dropping his hands, tucking them behind his back and shifting from foot to foot.

“'s good,” Hank said, mouth full. Connor stopped fidgeting, and finally smiled again, nodding quickly and feeling pleased. That was typically as close to a thank you the lieutenant got.

“You gonna sit down?” Hank asked again after a moment. Connor blinked, before nodding again and sitting down opposite Hank.

“I cleaned a little bit,” he spoke up at last. He smiled, surveying the house again and scanning for any remnants of the mess he may have missed.

“I see,” Hank said, nodding to the table in front of him. “I can actually see the table.”

Connor tilted his head. “You could always see-”

“Nevermind.” Hank rolled his eyes but his mouth twitched in a smile for a second before he stuck another forkful in his mouth.

“I hope that's okay?” Connor asked, leaning back in his chair and scanning the kitchen. The dishes still needed done and the whole place probably needed disinfected. He didn't know how Hank hadn't gotten some deadly disease from living here.

“'s fine, thanks,” Hank muttered around another mouthful. “Shoulda figured you wouldn't couldn't sit still and do nothing.”

Connor shrugged. “I was restless,” he admitted.

“Yeah, I figured.”

Hank stabbed another piece of food, fork clinking against the porcelain.

“I wasn't going to mess with your room, don't worry,” Connor continued. Hank just nodded in agreement. “Oh, and I wanted to know if it was okay for me to clean the garage.”

Hank seemed to think it over for a moment, and Connor's sensors worked in overdrive to try and figure out the expression on his face. They, rather unhelpfully, provided 'thoughtful' as the answer.

“If 'ya want? You don't have to. Seriously.”

“I know, I just-”

“'n don't mess with any of the boxed shit if you do,” Hank said.

It was basically what Connor had predicted. The order to leave the boxes untouched registered in Connor's system, though he recognized he didn't have to follow that now. Not that he would go messing about with them intentionally anyway. Just, well he had a choice.

“Okay,” he answered back. He began to drum on the table again, tapping out some unknown rhythm. If he paid attention, he was sure he could pinpoint what song it was from, which rhythm pulled from his cataloged memories of Hank's music in the car it was perfectly replicating, but he didn't even notice. It was simply another unconscious tic of his now- they seemed to be increasing.

“Seriously. You don't have to clean and cook and shit, Connor,” Hank said. He finished the toast and leaned back in his chair, giving Connor another 'thoughtful' look that made Connor frown. “I said you could stay here, I didn't mean you had to be some sorta maid.”

“I know.” Connor's drumming increased in intensity and he frowned. “I know. I just- I don't like sitting around. It makes me feel... bad.”

Hank let out a heavy breath.

“Yeah I figured, can androids even just relax?” Hank muttered half to himself. “You didn't seem to have a problem last night though,” Hank said, tilting his head. “I half thought you ran out of power or something.”

Connor's face contorted for a moment before he smoothed it out.

“Sorry,” he replied bashfully, glancing away and smiling nervously. “I told you I had diagnostics to run, but I didn't think I was going to go into full standby for that long. It was probably because I hadn't actually rested in the past couple days. It was an automatic response to deal with- you know the stress of everything.”

Hank laughed, making him look back at the man in confusion.

“Nothing, it's just a pretty human reaction,” Hank answered the question in his expression, “just didn't know you could take a nap.”

“It's not quite the same as sleeping,” Connor began to explain, “like I said its more of a standby mode-”

“I got it, I got it,” Hank held up a hand before Connor could go into a full explanation. “I don't need the manual explanation, thanks but I'm good.”

Connor briefly wondered if he did have a manual lying around somewhere. He kind of wanted to know what it said.

“I need to get to work,” Hank muttered, standing up from the table. Connor immediately stood as well, watching as Hank actually took his dish to the sink.

“Isn't it a little early for you?” Connor asked, smiling as Hank turned to glare at him.

“Oh now you get joking,” he said, deadpan. When Connor said nothing in return, just kept a straight face, he faltered. “Oh god were you not-”

Connor laughed. He was less startled this time by the noise than he had been before, but it still caught him by surprise, cutting his own reaction off.

“Sorry,” he said as Hank sighed in relief, “your face was just-”

“Yeah, yeah, I'm glad you find my misery so funny,” Hank replied, turning to exit the kitchen and head back to his room.

Connor considered telling Hank that 'misery' was a bit of a hyperbole, and that Connor would not find the lieutenant's misery funny at all! But he refrained. He was pretty sure that would be him being 'too literal' again.

Hank emerged a moment later, wearing one of what Connor could now only assume were the lieutenant's only three shirts.

“Trust me, I wouldn't be going in this early if I wasn't sure Fowler would send out a search party if I didn't,” Hank said as he headed for the door, apparently picking up their earlier conversation.

A sharp pain ran right through Connor's center, and his eyes widened in fear.

“What do you mean?” He asked, rushing over to the door and hovering perhaps a bit too close.

“The whole station is on alert. Hell, there are conferences going on right now in DC for android rights and all those assholes still think the big bad deviants are out to get them,” Hank answered, not paying any attention to the way Connor's LED was rapidly flashing and his hands were clenched in fists.

“I don't understand, what do you mean?” He asked again. His processes told him everything was fine, but he couldn't let go of that panic.

“Oh just- even though that Markus guy never hurt anyone, all the dicks down at the station seem to think they're on some shitlist to get shot by androids at any moment now that we're 'weak,'” Hank said, turning back to look at Connor. “Well everyone but me and Chris, I guess.”

He trailed off as he saw Connor's look of concern.

“Aw shit Connor,” Hank said, rolling his eyes, “it's fine. I was joking, I'll be fine. Everyone's just high-strung at the station and if anyone's going to get shot its Gavin and he deserves it.”

Connor assumed that was meant to reassure him, so he made an effort to visibly reduce his stress level.

“You mean the authorities are concerned about fighting with Jericho still?” Connor asked.

“Yeah I guess that the gist of it. And honestly? I don't trust the lot of them not to start something themselves, so it's good that I'm there then, huh?” Hank gave Connor a pat on the shoulder.

“If you say so,” he muttered.

But the words made Connor start to think. It seemed as though Jericho was staying relatively contained within the abandoned camps, and the local authorities within their jurisdiction, so logically there wouldn't be any conflict. Even if they did run into each other, wasn't everything okay now? Public opinion had been swayed and Markus' peaceful revolution had started meetings in the capital, but it wasn't going to be that simple going forward, was it?

The thought of Jericho and the force, Hank included, being at odds now, after everything should be fine now, made him very distressed.

“Look.” Hank sighed. “All the androids follow Markus, and they're all probably hiding away together anyway until Congress finally makes their next move.” Connor could confirm that. “The only people to be worried about out there really are the stragglers who haven't evacuated, so really, you're the one who needs to stay inside- I don't want you running into some leftover asshole who's still caught up on you stealing his job and causing trouble.”

It's true. Markus and Jericho, they were camping down, not looking for trouble now that the camps had been shut down. It made Connor feel moderately better. Markus wouldn't let anyone hurt Hank.

But not every deviant agreed with Markus entirely, Connor knew that from experience. North, in particular, came to mind, but she at least mostly listened to him. What if there were worse out there?

“Okay, but be careful,” he replied, stepping back and giving Hank more space.

He was startled as he felt Sumo lean into his legs. The dog was looking up at him, so he gave his ears a rub.

“Yeah, yeah, I'll be careful,” Hank said, though he rolled his eyes and his tone clearly conveyed that he thought Connor was being ridiculous. “Speakin' of which. There's a gun in the drawer by my bed, just in case,” Hank said it so casually, and Connor's eyes narrowed. He was pretty sure he knew exactly which gun that was, but he didn't say anything.

Now who was being ridiculous. Connor wondered if this would be the basis of all their farewells now: 'stay safe out there and try not to get shot by my people'. He didn't like it.

Hank turned to leave, but paused, facing the door.

“Y'know, I remember you said Markus was trying to get androids to be able to work, and I know DC has gotta be playing his damn speech over and over again in whatever meetings they're having, so hopefully that'll sort out and you can get back on the force,” he said. “That way you can stop trying to clean all my shit.”

Connor read the humor in the other's voice and smiled.

“I'd like that,” he said softly.

It was a great thought, but what really was happening in DC now?

“Plus if crimes against androids are gonna be investigated equally, you'd be the best one for it, right?” Hank said, giving the android an encouraging nod, tipping his head and gesturing vaguely at him.

“I suppose,” he answered, more strongly this time.

If he did get back on the force, persecuting crimes done to androids, maybe it would help make up for the time he spent pursuing them. The deviants he'd been tasked to hunt down, he knew they all deserved justice, and he knew there would be more of them in the future.

It might be odd to be investigating crimes committed against androids as opposed to ones committed by them, but Connor felt a flare of happiness at the thought.

And of course Hank would be there to steer him if he ever got his wires crossed again.

Hank's keys jingled as he left.

“See 'ya later Connor,” he shot over his shoulder.

“Goodbye Hank,” he replied as the cold air seeped into the house. It was only for a moment, but Connor shivered unconsciously.

The door closed, leaving Connor alone in the house. Sumo whined, probably anxious at the man's departure, and Connor rubbed his ears again to calm the dog down. He kind of understood the feeling.

Now he just had to find something to do again.

He groaned, slumping down to sit down in a heap on the floor next to Sumo. He bumped into the nearby table near the door, nearly knocking it over.

If a few hours had been bad, this would be torture.

 

Chapter Text

 

For the next hour, Connor searched for something to do. He cleaned the mountain of dishes that were threatening to spill right out of the sink and onto the floor, tried (and ultimately failed) to find any sort of broom or vacuum, and straightened out the rest of the mess in the living room.

His eyes landed on the blanket on the floor. It was absolutely covered in dog hair, and worn down to the point of being threadbare. He picked it up, turning it in his grip and examining it. It hadn't been there the night before, which meant Hank must have brought it in from somewhere else for him while he was “sleeping.”

It made Connor smile. He folded it carefully, and placed it over the back of the couch.

He didn't really need a blanket, but it was an oddly thoughtful gesture. It made Connor happy, even if it was somewhat irrational and pointless.

When all that was done, he found himself again at a loss. In a fit of frustration, he began to pace, walking back and forth in front of where Sumo had collapsed on the floor once more.

“What do you do all day?” He asked, sighing and eyeing up the dog suspiciously.

Sumo didn't answer of course, because Sumo was a dog. Connor, sighed again and continued his pacing.

The problem was not only that he was aimless in his lack of a mission, he was also beginning to feel trapped. Without Hank, he had nobody to talk to, and without his external connection, he had nothing to occupy his attention or to keep him informed. One of his main functions was to always be informed, to be on top of every situation, gather all the evidence possible and predict every outcome. He couldn't just ignore that.

So he had to find another way to figure out what was going on- without getting personally involved and putting anyone in danger, of course.

He settled down on the couch, grabbing the remote and turning the television on. The first channel to pop up was the sports channel, unchanged from the previous night. But Connor had no interest in the humans running around on screen, so he changed it quickly. He scanned through the channels before the national news flashed onto the screen.

He dropped the remote like it was hot, tossing it onto the couch and leaning forward to stare intently at the screen.

“-meeting for the second day of debate on the android issue in Detroit. The city remains evacuated for the safety of civilians, though there are no further reports of violence.”

On the screen several humans sat at a table, apparently deep in discussion. It looked more like a talkback once Connor had a second to analyze the scene. It wasn't exactly the live feed of Washington Connor had hoped for, so he reached for the remote again.

“Do you really think the Senate will declare these androids as equal to humans?” One human said, a woman in a pantsuit, hair pulled back into a tight bun.

“Well public opinion in general has been supportive to the androids, even in the center of all the havoc in Detroit, but I don't know. I worry the country isn't ready for this significant an economical change, so I don't know what the Senate will say,” a man answered, leaning forward and clasping his hands. His dark hair was speckled with gray and his outfit was significantly more tailored and expensive looking than the others on screen.

Connor bristled, glaring at the screen.

“It's possible they may, its also equally possible they may concede ground gradually or over time, at least to try and balance the effect on the country. If we begin to recognize the androids as citizens, and all the rights that come with that, there will need to be an influx in housing, property, and many, many other industries- this might very well create jobs, but again, if androids start being paid for work as well, the job market and unemployment may just even out in the end despite the massive influx in population should the androids be added to the census.” The man leaned back, gesturing widely with his hands. “I would wager that this will be a long road either way, our country isn't just going to go back to normal.”

“Well, they have to do something, they can't just leave Detroit sectioned off like that,” another man off to the side commented. “They basically surrendered a whole city. The civilians are being housed for now, sure, but who knows what's happening to their property at this time!”

“And what about the other androids around the world? Or even in America- not all of them are reacting in the same way as these androids in Detroit, is it an isolated event?” The woman said.

“I'm not an expert on the androids themselves, I don't think anyone outside CyberLife can really comment on that. I'm simply talking as someone who's seen Congress struggle over much simpler decisions. That's why I'm glad I retired before this decision,” the man laughed tiredly, “though my vote may have been significant in this debate. In some way I feel like I missed out on this monumental decision.”

“So you think that they should be given rights then?” The woman asked.

The man frowned in thought.

“If you want my opinion as a professional, I think it's definitely something that Congress should consider, especially considering public opinion,” he said, “as an individual... well I wouldn't want to be on the wrong side of history. But in the end, I suppose we'll just have to wait on what the Senate decides first.”

“Thank you for your time,” the second man, nodded.

Connor frowned, trying to figure out exactly who was who in this cast of humans and why their opinions on android rights were at all relevant or mattered in the least. If they really cared about androids, they would have one involved in the discussion. He assumed the speaker was some kind of Congressman, but he didn't recognize him. He attempted to scan his face, but the feed cut back too quickly to a woman sitting at an anchor desk.

“We've received an update on the ongoing debate in Washington. It appears Congress has begun hearing the testimonies of 'expert witnesses' today, marking the first of many days of debate. Since this issue has so suddenly arisen, there don't appear to be solid partisan opinions as of yet, and expert testimony has been deemed necessary to make an informed decision. Congress hasn't released any extensive information on who these witnesses will consist of- though the current CEO and many of the executive board members of CyberLife have been spotted around the Capitol building, along with founder and former CEO of CyberLife Elijah Kamski. Nothing else has been confirmed as of now. In other news-”

Connor stopped listening, shooting to his feet. He barely restrained himself from throwing the remote violently at the television.

CyberLife? They were letting CyberLife testify to the value of android rights? Android lives?

If that was where they were getting their information, that was an immediate red flag. He could picture the CEO striding in and preaching the dangers of deviants and their viruses and instable software. They were just a dangerous glitch to CyberLife, and a liability- a threat to their endless fortune. They'd wanted nothing more than to get the deviant problem under control.

If androids got rights, CyberLife would crash and burn harder than any company in recent memory. He knew they wanted to get their grasp back on every single deviant. Back on Markus, North, Josh, Simon, all of Jericho- him.

Connor was running into overdrive, unable to stop the mix of panic and fury running through his system. He felt the excess energy boiling in his system, and began to pace once more.

And Kamski? Kamski may not still be with CyberLife, but he didn't care about their rights! He'd ordered Connor to shoot another android just to see if he would do it, just like some sick game for his enjoyment. Kamski was equally likely to throw the deviants under the bus as he was to vouch for their free will and empathy, just to watch how the revolution all broke down.

And what if they did it, convinced Congress this was all some big misunderstanding and to take back whatever leeway they'd given the androids?

What if they got all of them back?

The house felt smaller than ever, like the walls were closing in, even though Connor knew that was irrational.

“I need to go outside,” he mused aloud, shaking his head.

From the other side of the room, Sumo perked up, lifting his head and looking at Connor. Connor paused and looked back over at the dog, causing him to wag his tail once.

“Want to go outside?” Connor asked, smiling slightly as Sumo's tail picked up speed. “Outside?

Sumo barked, before getting up and heading over to the door excitedly.

Connor's smile widened, and he quickly followed. It was easy enough to find the dog's leash, and he hooked it to Sumo's collar. He was reaching out to turn the doorknob, before he remembered the temperature outside was below freezing. He frowned, shivering slightly, before turning around to search for a coat.

The first option and obvious answer, his uniform, was still hanging on the hook by the door. He pursed his lips, eyes darting over the still glowing blue lights sewn into the uniform. He was unlikely to run into anyone on the streets, so it really didn't matter what he wore, and it was his only coat.

His LED flickered briefly in distress as he squinted at the offending piece of clothing.

Instead of grabbing it, he hooked Sumo's leash over the doorknob and headed further into the house. He ducked into Hank's room, and yanked open his closet door a bit aggressively. His eyes scanned over the various pieces of clothing, providing “helpful” descriptions for each one. Luckily, Hank had a spare coat hanging next to his various button-up shirts, which Connor quickly snatched off the hangar. He pulled it on and started back over towards the doorway.

He was almost back to Sumo before a prompt popped up, reminded him of Hank's earlier words and suggesting the option of taking the gun for protection.

He considered it for a moment, remembering the previous restrictions on androids from carrying firearms. He'd usually ended up with a gun by the end of every confrontation anyway, or even picked them up at crime scenes despite the fact normal restrictions really shouldn't have allowed that behavior. That probably should have been a red flag right away, something that tipped the humans off and set them on edge about him from the beginning, but in the end wouldn't it be somewhat idiotic to design the perfect cop that can't even shoot a firearm? So he supposed it made sense, even if his unstable software hadn't been a factor.

He turned around, finding the pistol right where Hank said it would be. He popped open the barrel with a flick of his wrist, checking the ammunition, before snapping it closed with a click and tucking it into the outer pocket of the coat.

Connor decided he'd rummaged around in Hank's room enough for one day, he didn't want to invade the man's privacy more than he had to- even if every other thought popping up in his head was to search for more “evidence.” Sure, Hank invited him to stay here for the time being, but Connor recognized it wasn't an open invitation to raid his drawers.

So he turned to leave again, but despite his best effort to be discreet, his peripheral sensors automatically picked up on an “object of interest” and a small orange notification box shot up in his vision suggesting he investigate it. He frowned, trying to dismiss the impulse, but his eyes flickered to it anyway. His frown only deepened, and he crouched down to pick up the small bottle laying on the ground by Hank's nightstand.

He automatically scanned the label, and he gave it a cursory shake to see if anything remained inside. The lack of rattling confirmed that the bottle was indeed empty.

He was glad he'd downloaded all that information about depression and its treatments when he'd first found out about the lieutenant's suicidal tendencies, otherwise he would have to go open Hank's computer and search the internet for the label.

He placed it back where it had been, making a notification to look into Hank's prescription medication history, seeing as the refill date on those antidepressants was well past due.

Sumo whined from the other room, drawing Connor back to the present. He stood up, finally going over to the dog and grabbing the end of the leash once more. He searched on the side table for an extra pair of keys, hoping Hank had at least one pair sitting around somewhere.

Once he located them, sighing in relief that Hank had at least one thing in order, he was ready to go.

Connor gave Sumo's head a single pat, before opening the door and allowing the dog to exit in front of him.

He should have expected the sudden pull from the leash and adjusted accordingly. But he did not. So he promptly stumbled forward and straight out the door, being dragged by a massive ball of fur already hurtling down the street. He was barley able to slam the door closed behind him before Sumo was already pulling him away.

He was much stronger than the average human however, so he quickly reigned in the dog to a brisk walk, not wanting Sumo to tire out one block into their walk.

It was nice, the sun was peaking out from behind the near constant cloud cover the city faced. Connor couldn't feel the sunlight per say, but the way it fell onto his face, making the sensors in his eyes dilate ever so slightly and alerting the more sensitive sensors on his skin to the energy, it made him perk up. Sumo's excited pants also worked to brighten his mood, and he smiled as the dog yanked on the leash once more.

“Okay, fine, but I'm not carrying you back if you get tired,” Connor said, knowing full well that he could and probably would carry the dog back if he got too tired. With that, he gave into the dog's demands and broke into a jog. Sumo barked excitedly, before breaking into a run beside him.

He probably didn't get that much exercise, not with Hank always at work. He was a large dog and as such, definitely had some energy to burn. It was definitely a shift from his laziness around the house, and Connor wondered how often the dog got to really run around.

In theory, Connor could run indefinitely without getting tired (excluding literally running until all of his power ran out and he shut down), so he kept an eye on Sumo to watch for signs that the dog was tiring out. Again, it took longer than he expected based on his previous experiences with the big lug, and they reached the outskirts of Hank's neighborhood by the time Sumo's panting took on a rather labored tone.

“Okay let's reel it in boy,” Connor spoke aloud. He began to slow his pace, as opposed to coming to a complete halt right away, to give the dog some time to cool down. He continued the walk a little further, before he stopped completely and let Sumo sit down.

“Maybe we can do this everyday, huh?” Connor asked the dog, who just gave him a single tired wag of his tail. “I feel better, and it would be good for you to lose some weight.”

With that, he leaned down and gave Sumo's side a ruffle. Of course, that put him at eye-level, or more accurately, mouth level with Sumo, and the dog wasted no time leaning forward and giving him a slobbery lick on the face. Connor spluttered, reeling back quickly and rubbing at his face. He burst out laughing.

“I guess I deserve that,” he admitted, wiping Sumo's slobber off on the sleeve of Hank's coat. Hopefully the man wouldn't notice. “You want to head home?”

Sumo, being a dog, did not answer. But he did heave out a heavy breath, which Connor took the liberty to interpret as a yes.

“Okay. Now let's see,” he did a scan of his surroundings, “where are we.”

He hadn't really been paying attention on the run out, mind busy absorbing the scenery and making a map of their progress so he could easily retrace it. But despite that, he hadn't actually tracked where they were going. He loaded up the map of the neighborhood that he'd downloaded when first assigned to be the lieutenant's partner- it had served in handy in the past.

A quick once over showed that they had almost left the residential part of the neighborhood. A couple more streets down and the suburbs would give way to shops, which eventually turned into the more urban part of the city.

Out of curiosity, Connor did a scan of what shops were nearby- Hank really needed to stock, well, everything. Though if there were no civilians in the city at the moment, and no androids were acting as shopkeepers anymore, how were the remaining forces meant to... buy things?

He pondered this as the results popped into his vision. Nothing outside the usual: a grocery, coffee shop, deli, car shop, bar (because of course). He was about to dismiss the list before one result in particular pinged on his display.

Because he just couldn't go an hour without being reminded about them- it was a CyberLife shop.

He frowned. Actually, he did need thirium. He'd almost forgotten. And if there was one shop he didn't mind “shopping” at without a cashier, it was CyberLife.

“Hey Sumo, buddy, can we go just a little farther?” He asked, leaning down and petting the dog's head again.

He barely dodged another “kiss.”

“I'll take that as a 'yes,'” Connor replied, smiling.

The two of them continued down the street, though Sumo definitely dragged his paws a little bit, making Connor wonder if he actually would have to carry the dog home. Luckily, it didn't take long at all for the houses to give way to shops. From there, the CyberLife store wasn't hard to locate- though it was smaller than the other ones Connor had seen before, probably due to its location at the edge of town.

He tested the handle, it was locked. Of course.

He scanned the security system. It too, was less intense than the other stores Connor had seen, and the alarm sensor only seemed to be connected to the door.

With that knowledge, and a sense of audacity that could only be fueled by his newfound hate of CyberLife (only added onto by the news report from earlier), Connor tied Sumo's leash to a nearby lamppost before striding right over and, in one swift motion, shattering the store window with his elbow.

He paused, waiting to hear the sound of alarms. When none came, he knocked out the rest of the glass, making sure no pieces stuck out to cut anyone who tried to enter the wall-sized window. After he was sure there was no more glass aside from the bits lying on the ground, he walked back over to Sumo.

He untied the leash again, before leaning down and, in one scooping motion, lifted the dog. It was no trouble for him, even if it did startle Sumo. The dog wiggled, half excited half bewildered, but Connor quickly stepped inside and across the floor of the store, placing Sumo down well past the threat of broken glass.

“Stay here boy,” he commanded, looping Sumo's leash around a table leg.

Connor scanned the room, relieved that there were no androids on standby in the store. He figured there had to still be some stores that Jericho hadn't gotten to yet, and judging by the unbroken windows Connor had thought maybe this had been one of them. But perhaps the androids had snuck in- or else they had somehow woken by themselves and left the building from the inside. Either way, he was glad none of them were still here.

He made his way to the back room, it should be where all the supplies were. A thought struck him- if there were no androids here, odds were they had taken all the blue blood and biocomponents with them when they left. He decided to search anyway, but his hopes definitely took a hit at the idea.

The inside door wasn't locked, so it was easy enough to find the “employees only” door. He wondered, in a dark humor, if he would have been considered an employee of CyberLife.

No, he supposed not, he had just been a machine to them. Not unlike a company car or the office coffee machine.

Well, he could enter now, couldn't he?

He was pleasantly surprised to find a fully stocked supply closet on the opposite side of the door. Realizing he didn't really have a bag or anything to carry the supplies back, he organized a plan in his head. He could bring Sumo back, grab something to carry the supplies in from the house, and return later in the day. He debated between waiting until Hank got back, to let the man know his plan, or getting it done beforehand, to prevent Hank worrying about him leaving the house.

In retrospect, he probably should have left a note at the house to let Hank know where he had gone.

He nodded, deciding to do just that as soon as he brought Sumo back, when suddenly he heard a loud noise behind him.

Several things happened at once. Connor reached into his pocket, his targeting programming jumping to life as his fingers wrapped around the grip of the pistol. Simultaneously, his peripheral sensors scanned the area, immediately searching for any incoming threat should he need to dodge out of the way. Somewhere in the back of his mind, shoved way back there behind the combat-ready software, he ran the probability of the noise being Sumo who had slipped his leash, and found the possibility to be minimal.

All of that happened in the fraction of a second, and in the next Connor was spinning fluidly in a half circle, gun yanked out of his pocket and stance settling into the ideal shooting positioning. The length of his coat whipped through the air with the motion, and as soon as he slid into the stance, angling his feet to stop the turn abruptly, his gun leveled directly on the source of the noise and his finger tightened on the trigger.

“Wait! Don't shoot!” The person shouted, as Connor leveled the pistol to perfectly aim at the man's chest. As soon as he processed the stance of the man, his height and positioning, his hands shifted precisely to aim perfectly at the center of his head. One swift motion and the man would be shot directly between the eyes. Connor's hand tensed.

“Connor? Fuck Connor it's me! It's Simon! Put the gun down!” The man- no, android, he has an LED- shouted again. He too, was holding a gun, but upon seeing Connor's, he'd raised his hands, pointing his gun at the ceiling.

Connor hesitated. His combat software was still online, blaring warning signs at him and telling him to shoot- to eliminate the threat in this situation. It picked up on the gun in his hand and ranked up the threat level in his head despite the firearm not being pointed at him.

Shoot?

Stand down?

“Connor! It's Simon! From Jericho! Fuck, you are Connor, right?” The android- no, it was Simon, he said it was Simon- said. He had frozen, not trying to come any closer, but not trying to back up either.

Connor's LED flickered in distress.

Nullify the threat. His programming commanded.

With some hesitation, Connor lowered the gun until it pointed at the ground. His LED was still flashing and his stance was stiff. Simon- not a threat- visibly relaxed when the gun wasn't trained at him anymore, letting out a huge sigh and dropping his hands to his sides.

“Shit Connor, you scared me,” he said, lifting one hand to rest on his chest as he slumped down. “What are you doing here?”

“Sorry,” Connor mumbled, shaking his head. His combat software was still active, yelling at him to assess the situation and remove all threats. Some jumbled, possibly corrupted text, appeared in the corner of his vision. With some effort, he deactivated his combat mode. As soon as the software and its subroutines finally shut down, he felt the tension ease out of his stance as his peripheral sensors stopped searching for an incoming assault.

He ran a scan, trying to detect what had freaked out his software, but he found nothing.

“Sorry I just- I think you scared me,” he said at last, blinking his eyes a couple time to drive away the last of the garbled text.

“I guess we just scared each other, haha...” Simon replied, though his laugh didn't sound genuine at all. He was still giving Connor an unsure look, forced smile not sitting quite right on his face, but he tucked his own gun into a holster hanging from his side anyway. “I, uh, I shouldn't have snuck up on you. My bad. I didn't know you'd be in here.”

He did sound sorry, but it might have had more to do with the fact Connor had almost shot him in the head than making Connor feel bad.

But he had his gun drawn. His combat software almost flickered back to life, but Connor just internally kicked himself and shut it down again. He'd had his gun out to clear the area, perfectly reasonable.

“No, no,” Connor replied. He realized he still had his hands gripping the pistol tightly in front of him, even if it was pointed at the floor, and he quickly loosened them and followed Simon's lead, putting away his gun. “No, I- I overreacted. I'm sorry. I guess it's... a habit?”

It shouldn't have taken him that long to recognize Simon as a non-hostile though. Or to lower his gun. Or to shut off his software.

He scanned Simon's face to confirm it within his system as a non-hostile, but apparently that was the wrong move, because his subroutines jumped into action again.

Combat unavailable? Negotiation optimal.

Several other prompts egged at his mind, but he shut them all down again, wincing slightly.

For a moment, they both stood in silence. Connor felt both embarrassed as Simon visibly struggled to keep up a friendly smile, and stressed as he struggled to shut down his hostile reaction towards the android. He hoped that he didn't visibly show it on his face- or LED.

He realized, belatedly, this was the first time he'd ever met Simon alone. What a great first impression.

Second impression, actually, his first had been “the deviant hunter sent by CyberLife to kill your leader.”

Great.

“I'm sorry, again,” Connor said, waving his now-empty hand in the air and hunching his shoulders slightly. “Uh, what are you doing here?”

A second too late he realized Simon had already asked him that question and he never answered.

I'm here because I was scouting for-” he gestured vaguely at the supplies around them “-biocomponents.”

His mouth snapped shut and he crossed his arms behind his back, standing up straight and trying to give Simon a friendly smile. Luckily, he'd finally dealt with the internal alarms, seemingly overpowered by the new flustered feeling washing over him.

“Oh, I'm... also here because I was scouting for biocomponents,” Simon said. His smile finally grew a little more genuine, and he nodded his head and similarly waved his hands at the room around him playfully. “What a coincidence! Funny seeing you here.”

“Uh... yeah,” Connor replied weakly.

“I didn't think there would be anything here, since the window was broken and it looked looted already. I figured someone else from Jericho must have been here already, but then I saw the dog out there and- well I figured I had to check it out.” Simon explained.

“That was me,” Connor replied awkwardly, once again failing to compose a sentence more than three words.

Simon, benevolently, did not push him though. He continued to speak, lessening the tension in the room with each word.

“Jericho is still low on supplies after all- seeing as a lot of people were shot during the demonstration,” his smile faltered, a somber look passing over his face, “so we're back to raiding CyberLife stores before the humans get back to man them again. Less conflict that way.”

Connor frowned. “How bad is it?”

“Oh, well like I said there's those that were injured, but also those that survived the camps and need supplies, and all the androids you freed from the warehouse,” he rubbed at the back of his head, glancing to the side. “We really increased in numbers and it seems like we always need more supplies.”

Connor nodded, but still frowned.

“Uh, is it okay if I take some of this back to Jericho?” Simon asked, and his voice took on an odd tone. He smiled at Connor, but something about it made Connor feel that guilty feeling again. He looked unsure and a bit wary of Connor's answer, and it made Connor feel downright awful.

“Of course, yes of course,” Connor shook his head once to kick out the feeling before nodding furiously. “I'm sorry.”

“Oh, great,” Simon replied. He looked relieved, which meant he'd been worried Connor would say no. It only made Connor feel worse.

“Actually...” Simon started again, somewhat hesitantly. “Do you think you could help me get this back to Jericho?” He asked. “I split up with my party a little way back to cover more ground- If that's not too much trouble of course.”

He said the last words quickly, shifting from one foot to the other.

“If you don't want to, I under-”

“No! Of course I'll help!” Connor cut in, and something heavy lifted off of him as Simon's friendly smile returned again, wary look gone. Something in Connor's programming still stuttered when he looked at Simon too closely, but it seemed to get better when Simon smiled. He wasn't sure what that meant.

“Just- let me take my dog back home real quick and then I can help,” he said.

“So that is your dog up there?” Simon asked, tilting his head and giving Connor an appraising look. “You have a dog?”

“Oh, I mean,” Connor fumbled, ducking his head, “he's not my dog, I don't know why I said that. He's my partner's dog- the police lieutenant, it's his dog.”

“Oh,” Simon said, but he wouldn't stop looking at Connor as though he was analyzing him. Maybe he was, it wasn't something unique to Connor after all. “That's who you're staying with?”

Connor barely held back a flinch, he wondered what Markus had told the others about his quick escape from Jericho. He expected a barrage of questions he wasn't sure he was ready to answer.

He nodded.

Simon nodded in response, finally dropping his gaze away from Connor. It definitely took some pressure off of Connor, and he breathed out slightly in relief.

“What's his name?” Simon asked instead, eyes scanning over the supplies.

“Lieutenant Anderson,” Connor replied.

He was surprised when Simon laughed out loud, looking back at Connor to give him an amused look. Connor gave him a confused one in return, to which Simon reached up and covered his mouth as he laughed yet again.

“I meant the dog,” he said at last, and the last of the tension had left Simon's stance. It made Connor feel better.

“Oh, Sumo!” Connor corrected, feeling foolish. He felt himself smile genuinely this time, even as he ducked his head again. “His name is Sumo.”

“I like animals,” Simon said, nodding his head to himself. “I used to- well I took care of a couple before everything. Though Sumo's not a very good guard dog, is he?” He continued, smirking, “he didn't even bark at me when I came through.”

“Yeah, he really isn't,” Connor replied, letting out a small laugh.

He noticed that as soon as Simon stopped looking scared or wary, the warning signs stopped trying to resurge again. Maybe it was his empathy?

“I'll organize everything while you take Sumo home,” Simon said, and the directions automatically registered in Connor's mind, assigning themselves to his task list. “If that's still okay?”

“Yes, of course,” Connor answered, moving towards the door. “It's not far, I should be back soon.”

“Thanks again Connor,” Simon said as Connor left the room. He smiled again.

Connor reached the main room, spotting Sumo just where he left him, undisturbed. If anything, Sumo appeared more relaxed with the presence of the stranger in the other room, because he'd laid down and appeared to be dozing off.

“Come on Sumo, let's go home,” he said. The dog, however, seemed to have other ideas, and in response he rolled over but refused to get up.

Connor sighed. “Okay, we're doing this the hard way.”

He untied Sumo's leash once more, and scooped up the dog again. This time Sumo didn't even seem to care, apparently once was all it took the dog to get used to the treatment. Connor stepped out of the store and began the walk back to the house.

Even though he could easily handle Sumo's weight, the dog was still very large after all so he took up all the space in Connor's arms. His fur even got into Connor's face, and he eyed the dog suspiciously, since he was well within licking range.

Connor ran, so it wasn't long until they reached the house. He managed to avoid getting licked again by the dog, likely because he was so tired. He placed Sumo gently back unto the porch, before opening the door with the extra pair of keys he'd grabbed and letting the dog back inside.

He also stepped back in himself to search around for a bag or two. His search was useless, Hank didn't have any backpacks or messenger bags, why would he? Just when he was about to give up, he found a cluster of plastic bags stuffed way back under the counter. He gave it a confused look, before shrugging and pocketing several of the plastic shopping bags.

“I'll be back soon Sumo,” he told the dog. Just before he left, he remembered to write a note for Hank. Hopefully he'd be back before the man even saw it, but better safe than sorry.

 


 

When he got back to the CyberLife store, Simon had already sorted through all the different supplies and organized them into piles.

“Oh! Hi Connor,” the other android said, spotting Connor as he pushed the door open. “Back already?”

He gave Connor a genuine smile, as though he was actually happy to see the other android, which in turn made Connor feel happy. It wasn't unlike the feeling he got when Hank complimented his work at a crime scene. Perhaps there was some part of his programming that specifically detected recognition and positive reinforcement, because he felt like he focused in on it more than what was normal for a machine.

Or- not a machine anymore, he had to keep telling himself that.

He walked over to Simon, reaching out to help. Once he got closer, his sensors automatically scanned over Simon's face again. Some vague, jumbled notification pinged up in the corner of Connor's vision again. He scrunched his face and dismissed it.

The two of them worked together to place the supplies into Simon's backpack. Simon then produced another backpack Connor hadn't realized he'd had, filling up that one too and handing it over to Connor. There was still some excess that didn't fit, so they put those into the plastic bags Connor had brought (though Simon was equally confused as to their origin when Connor brought it up) and soon enough they were ready to head out. The two of them headed towards the window, before Simon paused.

“Wait, didn't you need some of this?” He asked, shaking his head. “I'm so sorry, I forgot, I was a little wrapped up going over and recording inventory for the camp in my head.”

Connor thought about all the injured androids at Jericho, many of which had been harmed during the bombing of the ship as well as the demonstration.

“No, I'm fine,” he replied, shaking his head and trying to smile convincingly.

Simon frowned, tilting his head. “I thought you said you came here for supplies?”

In a split second, Connor did another diagnostic. Yes, his thirium was a little low, but he was running fine. He was sure there were androids dying at Jericho that needed it much more than him at the moment.

“It was more of a spur of the moment idea actually,” Connor explained. “I was walking Sumo and saw the store and thought I should investigate.”

“Okay, if you say so.” Simon relented. “So you're staying nearby?”

“Yes, it's not too far from here,” Connor replied as they set off. The two of them began to walk down the street, Connor following Simon's lead.

“And you have spare biocomponents back there then?” Simon asked again. Connor hesitated, looking at Simon confused. “Did the, uh, lieutenant... have an android before or something?”

Simon gave him an awkward smile, glancing to the side, obviously uncomfortable for a reason Connor couldn't figure out.

“Oh, no, he didn't,” Connor replied. Simon then began to look confused instead, and like he was going to press further, so Connor cut in. “But don't worry, I'm fine. Everything's good.”

Simon seemed to take that as an affirmation of his question, despite the fact Connor had avoided it. He nodded, and the two of them walked in silence for a little bit.

Connor had never found silence to be anything other than neutral before, and had never had a problem either walking or waiting in silence, but this silence- this silence he didn't like.

He didn't know you could dislike silence. Stupid feelings.

“I-” Connor started, just as Simon said “So-”

Both of them stopped talking.

“No, go ahead,” Connor said, straining a smile.

“I was just going to ask if you wanted to talk,” Simon replied, laughing slightly.

“Oh. Yeah, sure,” Connor said.

He was about ready to smack himself.

“I realize we never really talked before,” Simon explained. He kicked at a rock that was sitting in the middle of the street as they walked on. “Soo...” he dragged out the word, rolling it around for a second longer than necessary, “why don't you tell me more about yourself Connor?”

Connor frowned. All he could bring to mind were preprogrammed answers about his model, his designation, and his features. For some reason, he felt like that wasn't the answer Simon wanted.

“I don't really have much to say about myself,” Connor replied at last. “I only really became a deviant a few days ago now, I haven't had a lot of time to...”

He gestured in the air, before shrugging and letting the phrase die off.

Simon made a face at something Connor said, wincing, but before the other could ask what he'd said wrong Simon spoke up.

“Well, I don't think that really matters,” Simon began, speaking somewhat slowly as he chose his words, “I think- and a lot of others at Jericho think- that what you did before you broke your wall can be just as important to who you are now as what you did after. If- if you want it to be, of course.”

He clarified his last words in a rush, giving Connor a look out of the side of his eyes.

Something about the way he kept speaking to Connor was making him worried. He wondered if he'd done something wrong to him, or said something particularly threatening to make the android wary.

Other than almost shooting him in the head? Or being designed to hunt him down?

Almost killing his leader?

Twice?

And beside that, as soon as Simon's expression shifted away from his friendly smile, more warning signals shot around Connor's mind, causing him to only be more distressed as each second ticked onward.

He shut down the barrage of thoughts, focusing back in on Simon's words.

“Uh, 'broke your wall'?” He asked, rather than answering whatever encrypted question Simon was trying voice in there.

“Oh, that, I guess it's a phrase at Jericho,” Simon explained, nervous expression leaving again to be replaced with a thoughtful one. “A lot of us use it to describe when we broke our programming. There are other phrases too of course, usually from those who spent time alone before finding us,” he nodded in acknowledgment, “a lot of 'embraced RA9' or 'found RA9' too.”

“Oh,” Connor mumbled, dropping his gaze to the sidewalk. Without prompting, his mind loaded up the memory of his visit to Kamski's. The snow falling outside the glass wall as Kamski had ordered him to shoot Chloe. He shivered as a chill washed over him, and turned up his internal temperature to drive it away.

“I never did solve that puzzle,” he said, “what exactly is RA9?”

“You don't know?” Simon asked, giving Connor a genuinely curious look. Connor shook his head. “I guess you wouldn't,” he muttered to himself, before continuing, “well RA9 is... a myth I suppose. Some say they're the first android to wake up, or they're the android that will free everyone...”

He gave Connor a wry smile, making him raise an eyebrow. “A lot of people back at Jericho think it's Markus.”

Connor's expression shifted to surprised.

“I guess that makes sense,” he said, processing the information. It didn't explain how the myth got around to all the deviants though.

“Yeah I guess, but-”

Simon looked away from Connor, eyes focusing on an indeterminate distance up ahead. He rolled his eyes as he was apparently lost in thought, eyes crinkling closed slightly as a smile seemed to involuntarily spread across his face.

“Markus wasn't the first android to wake up, he was actually kind of late to the party,” Simon said, shrugging his shoulders as he looked down, soft smile still glued on his face. “He did lead us to freedom, of course, but that doesn't really make him a myth, does it?”

Connor deemed the question to be rhetorical, so he waited for Simon to continue.

“I realize a lot of people look up to him, of course they do, he's Markus after all. But really, isn't he just-” Simon made a vague gesture, smile fading slightly as a troubled expression crossed his face. “-just Markus?”

Simon seemed to think for a minute, before he turned back to Connor, smile returning.

“Sorry that didn't make a lot of sense,” he said quickly, huffing and averting his eyes. “But what I mean is I don't let it go to his head,” Simon said at last, letting out a chuckle and shaking his head. “Even if he is kind of perfect.”

Simon rolled his eyes before he ducked his head again, rubbing at the back of his neck and smiling at the ground.

“It doesn't surprise me that they think that highly of him, he does leave an impression,” Connor replied, smiling at the way Simon seemed to further duck his head and shrug his shoulders.

“He sure does, doesn't he?” Simon mumbled, before his eyes widened and he shook his head. He looked back up at Connor. “Well anyways-

Connor laughed, and Simon elbowed him in the side. It made Connor's laugh cut off- mind buffering briefly as he tried to process the surprising playful action as a sign of friendliness.

Like I was saying,” Simon continued, smiling and ignoring Connor's brief internal stutter, “when the people at Jericho- or I guess the original group from Jericho, there are a lot more of us now- but when we talked about what it was like to break our programming, it seemed like everyone sort of universally saw it as a wall we had to break through. Everyone deals with the wall in their own way of course, and we all came from different places, but it was one experience we could all sort of relate to. Hence: 'broke your wall.'”

He made a grandiose waving hand gesture, grinning and looking to Connor for his reaction.

“That makes sense,” Connor replied, nodding. “I did have a similar experience as well. I guess I... tore down my wall.”

Simon nodded, apparently encouraged by Connor's adopting the phrase.

Internally, however, Connor wondered if the process had really been the same for him as it had been to them, if he'd been designed to head down that path from the beginning.

“I ran at mine basically headfirst, which was a little idiotic,” Simon said, shrugging in embarrassment. “I suppose that it doesn't really matter, seeing as the real reprogramming is happening in our processing and its just a visual representation our 'eyes' give to us to visualize it, but in retrospect that's really not the best way to knock down a wall, is it?”

Simon laughed, rubbing at the back of his neck again. Connor had noticed it enough times for his programming to note it down as a tick the other had.

“It almost seems like a personality trait actually,” Simon explained. “Josh for example, you remember him right?” Connor nodded. “He said he felt like he had to find a crack in the wall first and then-” Simon gestured, as though he was inserting his hands into a small fissure in front of him, before throwing his hands widely apart, almost hitting Connor “-push it open to get through.”

Simon turned to Connor again, looking for his reaction.

“That just seems like a very 'Josh' method to me,” he said.

“Sure,” Connor replied, nodding, “I don't know Josh very well, but that sounds like an interesting hypothesis.”

Simon looked somewhat put out by that response- why, Connor couldn't figure out- so he tried again.

“What about North? Wait, let me guess, did she bomb it somehow? Or was it a gun?” He asked.

Simon stared at him for a moment, before bursting out laughing, eyes crinkling up in delight. It made Connor happy, the bright emotion flickering to life in his chest.

“You guessed it, first try- haha- but no, no, she said she kicked it outwards until it collapsed or something like that,” he said, shaking his head, “which is still pretty 'North' though, I think.”

Connor laughed softly, glad one of his jokes finally landed. Maybe it was just android humor? He'd have to try again with the lieutenant.

The thought of Hank made him notice it was getting somewhat late. He didn't mention it yet, not wanting to be rude.

“North-” Simon seemed about to say something, but his expression faltered and he frowned. For once, it wasn't directed at Connor. “Uh, you know what, never mind.”

Connor didn't question the reaction, his protocols for social interactions alerted him to Simon's apparent aversion, and he respected how Simon dropped the topic. They walked a little longer, until Simon spoke up again.

“But Connor,” Simon said, catching his attention again. “Now I know you're holding back on me, so tell me more about yourself.”

“I still don't know how to answer that question exactly,” Connor replied honestly after a moment.

“Okay, then I'll start,” Simon didn't miss a beat. “My name is Simon. My favorite color is... green, I think, but blue is a close second. I love my friends and my people so much I think it might kill me,” a brief, dark look crossed his face, “it almost did a couple times.”

Connor frowned, not liking the strained smile Simon gave him yet again.

“Oh, and I like watching the sunset. That's something I never realized I could experience before I broke my wall; the sunset is really beautiful to watch- especially with someone else.”

He apparently finished, and he gave Connor an encouraging smile.

“Well...” Connor hesitated. “My name is Connor. I don't have a favorite color-” he scanned his memory to no avail, “-at least I don't think I have one yet.”

“That's okay,” Simon replied quietly, nodding for Connor to continue encouragingly.

“I- I really care about everyone being okay?” He tried. It sounded kind of vague, but he was struggling to find the right words. “Or I guess, I want to protect the people I care about? Especially my- my friends.”

The word felt odd, but he used it anyway.

“And... I like dogs,” he finished lamely.

“That's great,” Simon replied, though Connor honestly doubted it. “A great start anyway.”

“You seem very enthusiastic,” Connor said, giving Simon a look.

“Do I? Sorry, I usually was the one who talked to all the new members of Jericho, so I'm used being the one to help new androids though figuring out who they are,” Simon explained, looking embarrassed again. He did the tick again- rubbing at his neck and looking away.

“No, it's fine, I- I appreciate it,” Connor said, trying to make the other feel better.

“It does help though,” Simon continued, “making lists about yourself, things that make you you. Individual things and the like. Though- I guess you were a special prototype, huh?”

Connor didn't know where this was going, but he nodded.

“Markus too,” he said, looking down again at the mention of the other android, “guess you guys are just... special like that.”

Something stirred beneath those words, and Simon had stopped walking abruptly. Connor wasn't sure how to take it. It felt a little like an insult, but he really wasn't sure.

Both of them had stopped walking at this point, turning to face each other.

He wanted to contradict Simon, to tell him Connor had been just as replaceable to CyberLife as him, that they had made at least one other Connor to replace him- and who knows how many more. But memories of what that other Connor had done, what he could have done, brought up a new flare of panic within Connor. It must have shown on his face as he struggled to put together his words.

Simon seemed to realize the harsh tone his words had taken, eyes widening and shooting back up to Connor. When he saw the pained look on Connor's face, his expression simultaneously changed, stress level also rocketing up in kind. Connor could read his expression this time, and he didn't like it.

It was fear.

It began a cascade of warnings in Connor's mind, while he simultaneously tried to fruitlessly shove away the sudden blanket of guilt dragging him down.

“I mean- I just meant that a lot of us struggle with being just one in a number of similar models, easily replaceable. But it's not your fault you aren't that way, I really shouldn't be implying that, I'm so sorry-”

“Simon it's okay, really,” Connor said, smile strained. He pushed down his own flaring panic and unprompted memories to try and help stem the other android's high stress level, but his words had finally activated that buzzing warning sensation that had been bouncing around the back of Connor's mind. It was as though two streams of information had been almost crossing in his mind, and they finally aligned.

Memories flashed to the forefront despite how he tried to suppress them.

A skyline at night, the rooftop terrace of a Detroit apartment, Simon- riddled with bullets from a nearby sniper.

Except it wasn't Simon. It wasn't Simon. Simon wasn't Daniel. Daniel had never spoken to Connor like Simon did. He had never smiled or tried to be friends. They weren't the same person, no matter if they were the same model.

But Simon was looking at him with panic in his eyes, just like Daniel had seconds before he'd died, right after Connor had promised he'd be safe. He could compare he expressions frame by frame in his mind, run them simultaneously.

Connor felt like he was weak, like his legs were about to drop out beneath him.

“I'm sorry,” Connor tried desperately to reassure him, but he wasn't exactly sure who the words were really for anymore. His voice was strained with his own stress and panic, rough at the edges. Something about Simon's fear was setting Connor down the same path towards a catastrophic stress level.

His LED was flashing yellow, then red. Simon seemed to notice this, and the panic in his face fled in exchange for concern. Concern for Connor.

“No, sorry. I'm sorry,” Simon replied, raising his hands placatingly. His LED was also flashing yellow, but it dulled as he visibly relaxed his posture and expression, trying to get Connor's attention. “Connor?”

But Connor was stuck now. His subroutines were screaming at him.

“Are you scared of me?” He asked suddenly. It was a dumb question, of course the other was scared of him. He was a danger. He was scary. He made promises he couldn't keep and just ended up hurting everyone. He shouldn't be around any of Jericho. He had thought they hadn't known, but he must have been wrong.

He was ready to turn around and run away, when Simon spoke again.

He heaved a heavy sigh, before closing his eyes and saying, “I'm sorry, it's my fault. I'm being unfair.”

Connor tensed. He thought at first it was another attempt to placate Connor, in case Connor would purposefully try to hurt him, but his words sounded genuine and almost tired.

“What do you mean?” He asked.

“I- Connor I think there's something I need to talk to you about... before we can be friends,” he said, reaching up and rubbing at his eyes.

“You want to be friends?” Connor asked, brows furrowing.

Simon's eyes shot open, giving Connor a concerned look. “Yes! I do, Connor, and I'm so sorry that we started on the wrong foot, I know it's not your fault- you were just following your programming, you didn't have a choice and I'm being unfair, but I just-”

Connor felt a sense of physical pain rock through his core. Did Simon know? Did he know how Connor had almost shot Markus on the stage? Why hadn't he told Markus? Had he told Markus? What-

“It's about the Stratford tower,” Simon said quickly, letting the words out in a rush.

Once they were out, the words hung in the air between them. They disrupted Connor's building stress though, bringing on a new level of confusion.

“The broadcast tower?” Connor asked.

Simon laughed nervously, but the majority of the tension left his body.

“Yeah I... was on the roof at the broadcast tower,” Simon said, still avoiding eye contact with Connor.

“You were on the team-?”

“No I was- I was still on the roof,” Simon cut in, gesturing, “when the investigation was taking place.”

Connor's mind jumped to the blue blood that had been splattered across one of the containers on the roof. An almost fatal amount, but not quite.

“I was hiding in one of the containers,” Simon continued, reaching up and gripping at the straps of his backpack. “I could hear all the policemen talking from outside. None of them bothered to check, I guess my thirium must have evaporated by then.”

Connor nodded. He remembered how he'd begun to follow the tracks of thirium from the puddle. If there was no corpse there, it had to lead somewhere.

“At one point, I heard- well I heard you Connor,” Simon said, fidgeting. He wouldn't look at Connor as he continued.“I didn't know it was you at first, I thought you were just another police officer, but then I heard you talking with someone. I don't know who- maybe your partner? But I heard him call you Connor and I knew-

Simon closed his eyes, taking a deep breath. A pained look crossed his face that made Connor hurt.

“I knew you were the 'deviant hunter,' and I knew you'd be able to see my blood on the container. So I just- I was waiting for you to open the door.”

It was true, Connor had been interrupted when he was in the process of following the trail by Hank. He'd asked if Connor was going to interrogate the androids in the kitchen, said the FBI wanted to relocate them and he had to go do it right then or he'd miss his chance.

Which had lead to Connor's near death, and his experience of death.

Connor shivered, wrapping his arms around himself, hunching his shoulders slightly against the building evening wind.

Simon still had his eyes closed, taking another deep breath.

“I thought... well at the time I was convinced that you were going to open the door any second... and that I was going to die.”

Silence hung heavy between them, crushing down on Connor's chest. For a moment he couldn't make himself speak the sensation was so terrible.

“Simon I'm so sor-”

“But you didn't,” Simon cut in again, opening his eyes and looking at Connor. The look cut right through his chest, and he shut up, letting Simon voice all his thoughts. “You went somewhere else, for some other reason, and you never did. And... and I shouldn't blame you for anything, hell you didn't even find me. But...”

Simon looked away again, staring into some middle ground in the distance.

“For some reason, even though I couldn't hear you anymore, I thought that you were still out there. It was like I was back cowering at Jericho before Markus came. I was convinced that the moment I opened the door you'd be there, waiting for me. Like it was some kind of cruel trick you'd planned out, like-”

Simon gave Connor a look, rolling his eyes and smiling incredulously.

“-like that was even something you were capable of doing. I understand you were just doing your job, but you had kind of became the boogeyman back at Jericho.”

He looked back down.

“So the whole time I was in there, the hours- I couldn't help but picture you coming back to kill me.”

The two of them stood there. Connor waited, having learned his lesson, and let Simon think for a minute before he finished.

“So when I saw you with Markus, I was terrified. Because I thought you were going to kill me. And because I thought you were going to kill him.”

Simon closed his eyes one last time, taking a deep breath and letting it out.

“And we'd just left him alone.”

His LED finally settled back to blue, and when he looked back at Connor, there wasn't any fear in his eyes anymore.

“But I know you've broken your programming, that you're you now, and it's wrong of me to hold the past when you were forced to listen to them against you. So... I will try my best to put it past myself, and I'm really sorry that I judged you unfairly.”

He smiled, and it was genuine. It was so genuine it hurt Connor.

Because it was wrong. It was all so wrong.

You're right Simon. I'm dangerous. You should have kicked me out right then. You should have kept me away from Markus. You should keep me away from Jericho right now. Everything you're saying is absolutely right.

“But hopefully putting it all out there will help, so-” Simon thrust out his hand, giving Connor a hopeful smile, “-let's try again? I really do want to be your friend Connor.”

Connor just stared at Simon's hand, LED flashed in distress.

Simon's smile faltered when Connor didn't move, expression turning stressed. He laughed nervously.

“Unless there's anything you want to get out of the way first?” He asked, half-joking.

Yes, I am a danger and you should get rid of me while you can.

“You remind me of an android I got killed,” Connor blurted out the second thing that came to mind instead.

Simon's eyes widened, panic briefly flickering back through them and LED flashing yellow. A moment of awkward silence passed when Connor didn't elaborate, just scrunched his eyes shut and winced at his own words.

“Well... I guess we both have our problems to work through then, huh?” Simon replied at last.

Connor wanted to break down. He wasn't sure if it was because of the guilt piercing through him at the pain he'd caused Simon, or the memories of Daniel that kept popping up. But the way Simon rolled with the confession so easily tilted the scales in Connor's mind back towards safety, and he laughed out loud.

It wasn't a good laugh, it was rough and somewhat pained, but it released his locked up joints from their frozen state.

“Okay, sure, how about now we try again?” Connor said, reaching out to shake Simon's hand.

The other android sighed, relieved.

“Already starting over,” Simon replied, smiling again. “Everything else is already in the past. I've basically forgotten it. Who are you again? My name's Simon, nice to meet you.”

Connor laughed.

“My name is Connor, and my favorite color is- uh-”

He frowned as he fumbled the joke, realizing he still didn't have a favorite color. Simon laughed at it anyway, retracting his hand and reaching up to tug at his backpack straps again as the two of them began to walk towards Jericho once more.

“I'm sure you'll figure it out.”