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All of Detroit is Lonely

Chapter Text

‘You’re a real piece of shit, you know that?’ Hank thought, speeding along the highway at 80mph too fast. Out of the corner of his eye, he expected to see the tensing of animatronic muscles as Connor calculated their likelihood of surviving the upcoming bend at current velocity.

But the passenger seat was empty.

“Never fucking listened to me,” and Hank took another gulp of beer, the bottle held between forefinger and middle as he tried to keep the car on the road. “Couldn’t just fucking listen.”

Somewhere in the back of his mind, Hank’s non-alcohol addled brain was reminding him he hadn’t told Connor anything in particular at Stratford Tower. Last he could rightly remember, they were both watching that deviant’s speech and Connor hadn’t shared his thoughts with the detective. Connor had clearly been thinking of something, but of what, Hank couldn’t decipher. A part of him, at the time, had hoped that the deviant’s message had swayed something in Connor.

Hank sure felt that it had swayed something in him.

That was it. Hank could remember nothing else.

Rather, he just didn’t want to remember anything else.

***

Nerves weren’t what they used to be, letting something charge down the hallway like that, unanswered. But even the best officer on the force would have trouble dodging a bullet, let alone a spray of them. Hell, the best CyberLife had to offer apparently couldn't dodge so many.

All Hank had been able to recognize was Connor, jostling and moving him, as someone’s shout was drowned out by the quick retort of gunfire. Then it was over, officers and reporting personnel moving in from the interior studio down into the hall.

Hank pressed his hand against Connor’s chest, but the spread was too wide and Connor wasn’t responding anyway. He’d gone still almost immediately. Dead fished, right on top of Hank. Poor kid never stood a chance.

Thirium oozed through Hank’s fingers as he pressed down all the same, the liquid cold and slick. For something so completely different from blood, there was plenty of sickening similarities. Like it’d been clotting for several hours rather than pumping and keeping Connor walking just moments before.

That’s when Hank noticed the hand wound, and the additional blue blood on Connor’s abdomen, where his shirt was ripped from the front and skin was peeled back to reveal sinewy marble plastic beneath.

***

The beer was warm, a contrast to the snow falling outside. The landscape was entirely coated in the shit, white and nearly grey. It was nearly impossible to distinguish the trees from the snowbanks they erupted from, sprawling veins of the earth reaching out to a putrid, polluted sky.

And Hank continue polluting his liver, spurned by the days before this one. He’d go to Kamski’s house. Demand answers. Why did it have to be that these androids had to suffer? Were they made, maybe, just to labor under life’s thumb, the insect wriggling on a pin while a kid burned them with a magnifying glass? Why even giving them the fleeting chance to have emotions? What gave Kamski the right to play as a mortal god?

And those girls, from the club.

They’d just wanted to be free. And after the one Traci faced the loss of the other, she didn’t choose to continue fighting for her freedom. She’d instead ended it all. With just one bullet.

Hell, Hank knew what it was like to pull that trigger and want to have a bullet carve its way right through his skull.

And that girl, after Connor had shot her friend - no, lover - had gone and done just that. And known full well the consequences of it. Not some drunk shit game of chicken with empty chambers involved.

That took guts.

That took actually feeling the loss of another being.

That took being a fucking human.

And Kamski was going to have to answer for that, one way - or another.

***

“Leave that fucking thing alone would you? CyberLife will be over to collect it for scrap.”

“This fucking thing saved my life,” Hank snapped before thinking. “His name was Connor.”

“I’m sure that’s what it was programmed to do. And there’s a dozen like it, c’mon. There was only one copy of the actual humans this thing killed,” the officer said, looking over the rest of the hallway.

When Hank pulled his hand away, the thirium was sticky and pulled at Connor’s shirt, just like real blood would have. “Aw Christ,” Hank whispered, resting his clean hand on Connor’s forehead. “Where’d that thing even come from, I thought your people swept the place?” Hank asked, getting to his feet.

“We did. One of the androids in the kitchen must’ve been a deviant. Would’ve been nice if it had said something before setting one of them off,” the agent replied.

“Think he paid the price for that mistake, don’t you think?” Hank asked. He couldn’t bring himself to look down the hallway as he walked away, turning his back on Connor. Didn’t stop him from hearing the mutter from the other officer.

“Cheap price.”

***

The road conditions were getting worse by the minute. Leave it to the ex-CEO billionaire to live in the middle of nowhere on the outskirts of the city who made him. Around a couple of turns, Hank could feel the wheels beneath him skidding, the car’s rubber protesting shrilly. Hank kept the bottle of beer aloft, each time, taking swigs of it as he went.

It’d be real fitting if this was how he went out. Skidding. On a sheet of ice. Because a fucking android had gotten under his skin.

With another bottle killed, Hank tossed it into the back seat to roll around and clank with the others, leaning down to pick up another from the passenger seat.

“You really ought to stop drinking, Lieutenant.”

The voice was stark and clear as a non-polluted sunny day. Almost as if, rather than the void of the front seat, Connor was speaking from the back, leaning between the console and speaking between the beats of Knights of Black Death.

The car wheel jerked beneath Hank’s hands, the tires spinning and jumping off the worn out pathways of the hundreds of cars before it. Before Hank could yank the car back on track, it plowed right into a bank on the side of the road, the snow jumping up and dancing around the beat up clunker as the engine raced, futile.

At some point during the crash, Hank bumped his head.

***

The kitchen. He’d gone into the kitchen. Hank walked numbly into the room, past the people running out to the front hall.

Within was a blue mess. Spatters of blue blood were on the metal counters and against the wall. There, on the floor, it was smeared and pooled.

And by one of the pools, near two remaining androids, was Connor’s tie.

“God in fucking hell,” Hank whispered, dropping to a crouch to pick the tie up. A knife coated in the stuff was near the counter, kicked underneath. Hank could surmise what had happened - didn’t need any fancy preconstruction program either - Connor had confronted the deviant. Then he’d been attacked. It had probably pinned his hand to the countertop with the knife, and then what? Ripped out Connor’s android power cell thing?

“Why didn’t you call for backup?” Hank asked, realizing almost immediately maybe Connor had. But Hank had been in the hall, not looking out for his partner. The androids were almost naive in a way. Straightforward and determined. Was CyberLife aware they’d made something that needed constant supervision?

And yet, Connor had somehow gotten out of that all on his own, crawled his way across the floor, and gotten out to the hallway.

Where he’d taken eight bullets meant for Hank.

‘Real sack of shit.’

***

Hank threw the car door open, feeling the world spin as he dove for the chilling embrace of the snowbank. Music spilled out after him, rising up to fill the frozen landscape. The car hadn’t hit anything solid, but he could see the front was messed up just from the snow.

Rather than get up and try to fix it, Hank pressed his cheek into the snow.

All that son of a bitch had ever tried to do was protect Hank’s life. From the comments about how he needed to eat better, to breaking into his house at night just to sober him up. Sure, upon closer inspection, all of that care and concern might have just been wires and stacks of code. Maybe keeping Hank in good condition was a directive of Connor’s programming.

In that case, it was nothing personal.

But it sure felt nice, having something care for you. For once. It had been a long three years of isolating every single person who ever gave a shit about Hank. People who had been there after Mary died, however, drifted away. It was probably all the boozing.

Fuck, Connor probably would have drifted away too. Either the mission would’ve been completed, or he’d just get fed up.

Would never get to know, since he was dead now.

Most officers who go down in the line of duty get some sort of accolade, A recognition of their sacrifice. But what had Connor gotten?

***

They didn’t even touch the body. Just left it in the middle of the hallway while the wounded were rushed off for med evac, and the dead were noted, photographed, and packaged up with as much dignity as possible into body bags.

But they left Connor’s, his body just a part of the scenery now, sprawled where Hank had left him, where they’d fallen together. Hank stood over the body now, amazed at how little blood there actually was flowing out of Connor. Maybe the cool temperature stopped it from looking so much like a human who would’ve been shot. Maybe there just was less blue blood in an android than there was blood in a human being.

Or, maybe it was because Connor had already done so much bleeding out in the kitchen, fighting to stay alive, when Hank couldn’t hear him, that there was nothing else left to leak out.

But the way Connor’s limbs stuck out, the crooked angle of his neck, his stained white shirt - kept so orderly and pressed all the time - there was no mistaking his body for a lifeless husk. Hank held Connor’s tie in his hands, stooped a moment to readjust his body so his hands were folded across his abdomen and his head was more at a resting angle, all without giving a damn about who was watching.

Like this, he looked ready for a slab in a morgue, even though Hank was dimly aware Connor’s body was destined for someplace else. “Damned good thing you did,” Hank muttered. “Saving a real piece of shit like me. You were…” Hank squeezed Connor’s hand. “A damned fine partner, son.”

***

The urge to piss rose Hank out of his snow bitten stupor, his cheek long since having gone numb to the pain of being pressed against the ice and snow. A fine layer had settled over Hank while he laid there, drifting off of him as he stumbled to his feet.

Leaning against a trunk, he fumbled about with one hand until he felt the sweet release of letting it all go. The piss of a poor drunkard. “Aw fuck, what am I doing out here?” Hank muttered to the drifting snow. It had let up some, the flakes swirling in the darkness rather than coming down hard and fast in clumps. It was almost serene and peaceful up here.

Maybe that’s why Kamski did it. A beauty in solitude.

Except Hank’s solitude sure didn’t look as peaceful. It was vomit flecks on porcelain and a dog so hungry he ripped into his own feed bag. Hank couldn’t take care of Sumo anymore, might as well give the poor bastard up. But every day there was some new piece about animal abuse, another surrender that showed up at the shelter with the tell-tale circular burn marks and shying away from human hands.

‘I already died just now, I think, fucking drunk driving accident.’ Hank looked back at the open car door and expected to see his own body still sprawled face first into the snow, frozen and blue. But it was just the warm amber light of the interior splashing out into the snow. The track had long since changed into something else, more melodic with piano, and a singer’s voice who rose and lilted into a raw cascade of emotion.

If he died, then this wasn’t heaven. Not by a long shot.

And if he’d die, who would take after Sumo? He’d be put back into the shelter. Hell, maybe he’d get adopted by another widowed man looking for a companion for his grieving son. Or, maybe, he’d just be slaughtered like the rest, a uniformed face explaining the drain on resources and statistical chances that Sumo would find a new home.

Hank pressed harder into the tree as he leaned forward and vomited, a throbbing pain taking up residence in his skull at the force of it.

Statistical chances. Connor never bothered with that. He could have, leaving Hank to pull himself up onto that roof, citing the odds of survival being favorable. Those odds didn’t matter. The mission didn’t matter.

Hank heaved again and stuffed everything back into his pants, fumbling with the zipper. A raw heat was filling his chest. Probably just the backwash of bile. But it spurned Hank.

If he’d just die here, a waste and a wreck, then that would be the ultimate dishonor on a prick who wouldn’t even get a proper funeral. Who wouldn’t even be put into a body bag. God damn it, the least Hank could do to honor Connor’s sacrifice was get his shit together and finish out the case.

After the case? He’d think about that once he finished. One, staggered, step at a time.

Hank hung his weight on the car door, wary of getting back into the seat. A taxi, unmanned and without a passenger, drove back down the hill. Hank hadn’t noticed someone going up, but there was only one house at the end of this drive. Kamski owned the surrounding land.

“Aw fuck,” Hank said, reaching into the car to pull out the remainder of the bottles. He stuck them in the drift for some other poor bastard, and slammed the car door shut. There was no relief from the chill outside, all the heat having drained out. Not that the heat would matter much if Hank couldn’t get the car to reverse.

The engine roared in protest, and the tires squealed as Hank applied pressure to the pedal. For a sinking moment, he figured he had stranded himself all the same and would still be freezing to death out here. There was no fuel for his current spark of life to catch ablaze on in the dark forest.

But as he turned the wheel, the car lurched and spun back onto the road, sliding as Hank slammed the brake in alarm. “All right. Good job, girl,” Hank sighed, leaning his forehead into the steering wheel. “Let’s get this over with.”

There were no other cars on the road that Hank passed, and the taxi must have been traveling for quite a while back down the hill. That meant, whoever had pulled up at Kamski’s house had more time than Hank anticipated. Had one of his sources leaked? Had CyberLife paid a visit, maybe to silence Kamski and what he knew?

Nah, that didn’t make sense. They did want this deviancy issue solved, right? So maybe they were just sending a representative ahead of Hank, to warn Kamski.

Either way, the passenger of the taxi didn’t anticipate leaving for a while, otherwise, they’d have told the taxi to wait. Long gone were the days of irritable ride share drivers who couldn’t wait for you to settle your tab, or hell, Hank knew stories of people trying to catch cabbies to the same effect.

Here, you just told the automated car to wait and it did. No questions asked or life daring chases to perform.

So as the house emerged from the dreary grey of the snow and a figure was standing at the end of the walk, hands a blur as he tossed something between them rapidly, Hank felt his stomach clench. First in anxiety, then blooming in a hot release of rage.

The spark of life had found something to catch fire.

“Well I’ll be damned,” Hank said, stopping the car and squinting out the windshield.

There, in a newly minted and pressed CyberLife issued suit with the glowing words RK 800, was Connor. He adjusted his tie a bit, quickly pocketing his coin, as Hank swore in the cabin of the car again before he was practically rolling out of the vehicle.

“Hello, Lieutenant.”

“Don’t ‘Hello, Lieutenant’ me,” Hank said.

There was not a speck of blood on him. Had they repaired him, washed his clothes? Hank could’ve sworn they’d said Connor wouldn’t be reactivated. Too many biocomponents damaged.

This Connor’s face knit in confusion at the hostility, but the fire rekindled in Hank’s gut didn’t care. Kid didn’t deserve it, but fuck it if Hank gave a damn. “I’m sorry. I should have explained first. All of the previous unit’s memories have been uploaded into this unit. I recognize this might be alarming, but I can assure you, my efficiency and dedication toward-”

“Shut the fuck up Connor. I held you dying in my arms. You died, and your blood was…” Hank held out a hand, but it was just greyed and curled from all the exposure to the cold. Hank clenched it and Connor’s frown deepened. “And you’re just going to stand there. It’s as if nothing happened. Fuck you.” And Hank pushed past Connor, forcefully, leaving the android in his wake.

He should’ve known there were other copies. He was part of a model series line, wasn’t he? RK 800 - there was probably a 700 and 600 series before that. Fuck, a 900 series was probably already in production too.

Just a fucking android. A replaceable machine.

That’s what the officer had meant by cheap price. Humans only got one life to spend - androids? They had hundreds.

At the top of the footpath, Hank glanced back, glowering at Connor, but the other man was still a few feet behind, LED flashing yellow as he wrung his hands in front of him. It didn’t look like he was filing a report, but was lost in thought. For a flash, Hank caught the flash of red as Connor looked up at him and realized he was being watched, but Hank brushed it off and rang the doorbell.

When they were both at the door, Hank turned upon Connor. Stuck a finger right in his face, and his LED flickered that rapid yellow some more. “Don’t you ever fucking do that to me again, you hear me?” Hank couldn’t form the words he really wanted to press into Connor’s head. It was all slurred syllables. Maybe he’d hit his head harder than he thought.

That the android, a god damned machine, had managed to make him feel something for once other than the flaring numb heat of alcohol blooming across his face and chest. And that he was never, under any circumstance, to do that again. Replaceable life or not. Hank wasn’t sure what would be worse - having Connor repeatedly come back until his mission was complete or that final time of having him not come back at all.

Instead of trying to answer that, Hank just shook his finger again before trying to ring the doorbell once more. “Got it?”

Connor nodded and the confusion ebbed from his face. The LED turned back to its cool blue. “Understood, Lieutenant.”

Chapter Text

"Maybe you did the right thing."

Somehow, Hank always knew what to say to soothe Connor's circuits. He could feel them start to wind up, the data and processing speed flaring across his mind – humans would see that his LED was yellow. The warning light could mean multiple problems.

In this case, it was something humans might recognize as frustration, disappointment, or even regret. Why hadn't he shot Chloe? And why didn't he have a satisfactory answer to that question? Connor knew Amanda wouldn't be satisfied with any answer he gave, so why should Hank?

It immediately resulted in him becoming defensive with his partner.

But, all Hank had said – maybe Connor had done the right thing. And he seemed pleased. Certainly his mood had improved from before, when they'd been walking into the house and the stilted small talk in Kamski's foyer.

That one line was enough to remove all of Connor's doubts.

Connor's LED held at a steady blue as he stared after Hank, who walked right to his car, got in, and then signaled to Connor that he was waiting, what was the hold up for?

Connor had certainly been expecting some accusation that demanded to know why he had failed. There was still the lingering impression, even if Hank hadn't left one, that Connor would be deactivated and analyzed to determine why he hadn't pulled the trigger this time.

For really, how had this been any different than at the Eden Club? There was a mission objective to get more information. To get that information, he had to disable a machine. The logic was there on the surface, but upon evaluation, all Connor had to say was that he just couldn't.

"Connor, you can call your taxi friend back here if you don't start hauling ass," Hank shouted through the open window.

"I'm coming," Connor snapped, then ducked his head so he wouldn't have to look at Hank as he got into the car.

Despite him buckling up – because Hank always made him buckle up lately – Hank didn't pull away immediately. "Are you all right?" Hank asked.

"Why wouldn't I be?" Connor responded.

Hank shrugged. "Just asking." Hank tapped his fingers against the steering wheel, mood still elevated. "You just seem, you know, rattled after having met your creator and all."

Connor stayed quiet. He didn't want to protest that he wasn't rattled because that would be a lie, but he also didn't want to give Hank an inch in his misguided argument that machines had emotions. After a moment, Hank was apparently appeased and began moving the car. That's when Connor heard the clink of glass in the back and saw the beer bottles as they rolled with the momentum.

He frowned at Hank.

A quick evaluation revealed a minor contusion just above Hank's left temple, with a slight chance the Lieutenant was concussed. On top of that, several vital signs pointed to Hank being drunk. He reached out to Hank, who tensed even though Connor stopped just short of touching him.

"Maybe I should drive, Lieutenant."

"And why would I let you do that?" Hank asked, glaring over at Connor.

"Well." Connor debated with telling the truth or lying, but Hank cut him off.

"Oh, fuck off it. Fine." Hank threw it into park. "You drive. Give me a chance to sleep this headache off."

Connor tapped his fingers on his knee as Hank got out of the car, readjusting his next objective and gauging whether that had been the right call. Hank tapped on the glass of the passenger car door, then opened it for Connor. "Sleeping is not advised," Connor said, getting out.

"Yeah? Always looking out for me, aren't you?"

"Well of course. I need you, Lieutenant," Connor replied, plaintive.

But that seemed to have the opposite effect he was aiming for, with Hank grunting and slamming the car door. Connor stood, unsure, for a couple of moments until Hank gestured to the open driver-side door. "Freezing my ass off Connor. We're not all made of plastic."

"Right. Sorry, Hank."

Connor heard a bit about 'fucking androids' again as he slid into the driver's seat, frowning. He certainly felt different from when Hank had been praising him just a few minutes before. The detective sure was quick to change his moods, which made him an adequate challenge for testing Connor's range of not-so-agreeable human interactions.

But after the day he'd been having, he wished Hank would be more in the "agreeable" category for once. There was a flash of memory as Connor recalled Hank leveling the gun at Connor's head, and his servos seized in response to the negative stimuli.

To distract himself, he started the car down the drive and away from Kamski.

"You just need me for your mission," Hank muttered.

"That's not entirely true, Hank," Connor replied, stilted.

"No?"

“You asked me why I didn't shoot Chloe, earlier, and I think I’ve come up with a summarily appropriate answer,” Connor said, feeling as if he'd get back to his point about needing Hank soon enough.

“Aw, hell Connor, you seemed distraught enough back there and it’s barely been five minutes. Don’t tell me you’ve solved all of your mysteries just by getting some road behind you.” But Hank didn’t say not to continue talking. It was just the usual Hank Anderson verbal jibes.

“It’s because… The girls at Eden Club. I… You were upset with that action.”

“Of course I was. They just wanted to be free together.”

“The one killed a man, Hank,” Connor said. He had to make the Lieutenant understand before there were any more disagreements between them. “But Chloe didn’t deserve that. She’s done nothing. Therefore, I think my systems…”

The car was fighting him, trying to pull the wheel this way and that. Connor studied the engine, analyzing it. It was functioning, but had recently taken a front-mass blow. One of bolts on the front axle had suffered because of it. While trying to choose the next words to say, and without thinking, Connor contacted a mechanic near to Hank’s house with a reputable service record for vintage combustible engine cars to schedule a repair.

Hank noticed his LED was flashing yellow during the communication and seemed to misinterpret that as Connor being distressed again. “Connor, you said you looked into her eyes and just. Couldn’t do it. I’ll take it at that face value.”

“No Hank it’s… You were upset with me, when you pulled up.”

Hank frowned and let out a soft noise, before turning to the window. “My conclusion to that anger was that you were… displeased I’d saved your life. But. Maybe it was more than that. Another interpretation might be that you were upset that I’d died. And no one had informed you I’d be replaced. It's quite normal for humans to become attached to something, even a machine.”

Hank was quiet, letting Connor stew in the silence. He wasn’t saying the right things, then.

“And, in a way, you were asking me to revere my own life. You always have been asking me to be careful over the duration of our investigation. If I’m to do that, Hank, I have to show the same respect to other law-abiding androids. I’m not sure if that’s empathy, or just an inability to let good resources go to waste.” The brakes were a little finicky too, Connor noticed, as he pumped them going down the hill. “I’m sorry I didn’t help us, Lieutenant. But, perhaps, this evaluation will help shed more light on the issue and improve our future interactions together.”

“Christ, you’re somehow more insufferable.” Hank sat up. “Look, I told you, maybe you did the right thing. Can’t you just leave it at that? Do you have to overanalyze every single thing?”

“Yes, Hank. Missing crucial details could lead to lives being lost.” Then, softer. “How many casualties in the hallway?”

“Connor… I don’t know. I didn’t get a count. I was a bit preoccupied.”

“One would be too many, Hank,” Connor pressed.

“You’re really going to continue with this, then? Even though the only thing this deviant leader has done is ask to be recognized?” Hank was studying Connor now. “That’s what you said, how you interpreted my anger. How’s he any different, huh?”

“How should I have interpreted your anger, Lieutenant? Was I mistaken?” Connor dodged the question.

But Hank responded in kind and just sighed. There was a detectable scent of alcohol on his breath, and Connor was once again aware of the clanking in the backseat. “My point is, how can you still continue going after deviants? How can you say they don’t have emotions – I’ve seen you get emotional. You just did, back there at Kamski’s.”

Connor winced. But rather than try to explain to Hank for the dozenth time that machines could only replicate emotions, that Connor wasn’t truly feeling anything – all of his circuits firing to make his hands tremble and the veins carrying his thirium clench tight in his chest to make it feel as if he was close to shutting down – all of that had just been simulated. To pass an outdated test.

What had Kamski called it? Simple computations and equations, working harmoniously together.

Connor was suddenly aware that he wasn’t sure if he’d passed the Kamski test, or failed. And that fact bothered him greatly.

“It’s more than emotions at this point, Hank,” Connor started up again. “It’s that they’re killing humans. They’re endangering life. They’re putting emotions above that sanctity of life. And I find it hard to forgive them of that.”

“You know, Chris called earlier. When I was driving up.”

Connor was relieved for a moment to have the sudden distraction from the intense conversation. He sighed into a smile. “How is Chris?”

“Doing well. Considering there was a demonstration in Capitol Park and CyberLife stores were vandalized while he was on patrol.”

Connor’s grip on the wheel tightened. He hadn’t suspected that Hank had more fuel for his argument. “That might have been mentioned to me. Is he and his partner all right?”

“Both made it out just fine. Were surrounded by deviants ready to shoot them in retaliation. But Markus himself saved them. Imagine that. A deviant – valuing life.”

Markus. Connor didn’t want to speak before confirming something. He reached out to the police network, scanning for reports on Carl Manfred. Police files Connor had access to said Markus had attacked Carl's son, Leo, during a break-in attempt. It was unclear whether it had been in defense of the home or self-defense. But Leo had suffered non-lethal damage, according to the report Connor accessed. He was due to be released from the hospital in the next week.

Connor clenched his teeth, feeling the bitterness of losing validity to his argument, but nonetheless feeling heartened Markus hadn’t killed anyone. It was a complicated situation to think around. “Yes, that would seem to be the case. But he’s aligned himself with killers, Hank.”

“And you’ve never taken human life, Connor?”

“No, Hank.” Connor took his eyes off the road, having projected the next few seconds to make it safe to do so. “Everything I do is to preserve life – real life.” The fish from the hallway. Amanda had asked him once about that – why he’d done that. Why’d he’d risked the mission to save the injured police officer out on the rooftop with Daniel. And he hadn’t had an answer other than those decisions hadn’t deviated from his mission.

But maybe the better answer was that it had been the right thing to do. Connor wished Amanda had told him that then, instead of thinly veiling threats to deactivate Connor.

Connor looked back to the road, warnings flashing that more data was required to project a safe simulation. He couldn’t read Hank’s face anyway, another frustrating, circuit flaring detriment.

“Not even your previous unit? Those girls, the Traci’s, they don’t count?” Hank asked.

“No. Again, androids aren’t alive. But, your request I reconsider the notion has been evaluated. I’ll try following that projection in future confrontations.”

“Even when it’s humans who have killed more humans throughout history?” Hank asked, and something seemed to have dawned on the man. Something in his tone had changed.

“We should be better than humans, Lieutenant. After all, that’s how we were designed to be.”

Hank nodded and ran his fingers through his beard and sighed a bit before looking out the window. “What if I told you I’d killed people?” His voice was very small, nearly drowned out by the radio.

“I’m quite aware of your service record, Hank,” Connor replied, somewhat bitter about where the conversation had flowed. He’d lost the stem of it somewhere. “But for that matter, you’re human. You’re allowed to make that determination in the line of your job. All of those firings were investigated and cleared.”

“Now, if that ain’t some depressing shit,” Hank muttered, and finally stopped talking. Connor ran the social simulations, and decided against telling Hank the reason he felt he needed the grizzled detective around. So, instead, neither said a word for the rest of the duration back into Detroit. Just let the sounds of heavy drum beats and guitar riffs drown out the clanks of bottles rolling about in the back.

Chapter Text

Sumo roused Hank with deep throaty barks. At least this time he was just in his bedroom, trying to fall asleep without any assistance from a cruel man named Jack Daniels. It was damned hard to resist, and so damned easy to just give in. A single shot, then just another. Let that heat blossom and bloom into unconsciousness.

Don't be an idiot and suffer just because some machine is programmed to tell you to be healthier. Probably paid by some health foods agri-firm so CyberLife includes the advice to eat soy-based products and exercise at this certain gym.

Just take a shot , Hank. A little shot won't hurt. You already were a weak son of a bitch, afraid of the shakes, so why not just go all the way? Take a second. A third . Lose track. Stop feeling so much.

Hank would've left his bedfellow demons for any little excuse, so thankfully, it was an exactly six-foot tall excuse.

Outside the window, he could see Connor, pressing his finger into the ringer and holding it there. Sumo was bouncing in front of the door, only easing when Hank waved him away. Hank threw the door open. "What the fuck, Connor? I have a phone. You can try that before just-" Hank waved at Connor and the whole scene, at a loss for words.

Connor moved past him. "Get dressed, Lieutenant. We're needed at the CyberLife Tower."

"Okay. Well, we can't take my car," Hank said and shut the door. Despite the brief exposure, the cold immediately seeped into his thin cotton shirt and boxers. "It had to be taken in. Strangest thing. Already had an appointment detailing exactly what was wrong with it. You know anything about that?"

Connor frowned. "No, Hank. Maybe you called and forgot." There was a hint of accusation in that statement. That might have been the moment that Hank felt something was off. But Sumo was starting to doze in the corner, not rousing himself after the earlier outburst.

"Well just, wait here," Hank said, directing Connor to stand in the living room. Not that Hank half expected him to listen.

Hank felt maybe he should make a joke about Connor choosing the outfit again, that Hank had better fashion sense, but Connor just stood still in the middle of the room. It was a little strange, even for the android. Whatever they were about to do, it must have been weighing heavily on the android's mind.

When Hank emerged from his bedroom, this time fully dressed, Connor hadn't appeared to have moved, despite Hank expecting him to take full stock of the pantry and be petting Sumo again. Connor looked him over. "No gun?"

"They suspended me for that little stunt. No pay." Connor didn't even blink. "Just thought you should know. Glad you got something out of it though." Sumo lifted his head as Connor walked out the door, tail thumping in anticipation. "No, you stay. Good boy. I'll be back later. Watch the house." Sumo laid his head back down with a whine Hank caught before closing the door and locking it.

Connor hadn't waited. Hank had to jog to catch up. "Boy, this really has you excited," Hank muttered.

"This is it," Connor replied. "The culmination of all our efforts. Just follow everything I have to say and this whole affair will be over."

"So you're giving the directions now, huh?" Hank wasn't sure how keen he was on this case being solved and the partnership dissolving. On one hand, he was finding himself more and more sympathetic to the deviants' cause. On the other, he couldn't remember the last time he'd been looking forward to the future.

"You did say you were suspended," Connor pointed out, ruining the brief light hearted mood Hank found himself in. He was leading Hank to the street corner, a perpetual snow muting the distant sounds of sirens from the protests. "That would make me the only one with authority between us."

"You don't have to be so smug about it." Connor waved down a taxi that had been idling on the corner of the street. "You know there's a curfew in effect."

"I have special exclusionary measures," Connor said, holding the back door open for Hank. "Any more questions, Lieutenant?"

"Yeah, what the hell are we doing again?"

Connor shut the door, and then got into the front driver seat. Hank wasn't sure how much he liked that power move. The pitting in his stomach and way his muscles were all tensed up let him know that he didn't like it. At all.

Connor didn't end up answering the question until the car was pulling away. "I received word that deviants are attacking the CyberLife factory. The demonstration downtown is just a distraction. We'll intercept the deviants."

"And why can't CyberLife security do that? Homeland. The FBI."

"They're a bit preoccupied. The demonstrations have turned violent. There's also a dirty bomb somewhere in Detroit. So much for Markus being peaceful and valuing life, right, Lieutenant?" Hank didn't know what to say, processing the information while Detroit's nightscape blurred beyond the window. He could see the dim rising heat-orange of a tell tale fire, maybe two miles off.

Was he leaving Sumo to be killed in a dirty bomb? Christ, he had locked the door, hadn't he? There had been reports of looting he'd picked up on his scanner, of people ignoring the orders to evacuate the city.

"And," Connor interjected into Hank's reverie. "I need you to be there."

---

"This isn't how police handle things," Hank said, looking around at the completely unmanned warehouse. Were they trying to catch the perpetrators in the act? Security had let them in right through the door, Connor being Hank's all-access badge apparently.

Hank gave the androids standing in rows a wide berth. They appeared to be the new model CyberLife had in store for personal homecare workers, but Hank didn't exactly have the number and series memorized.

"It's how CyberLife does." Connor stopped suddenly, his LED flickering yellow. It was blue in the next moment. "Damn." He looked at the central tower, the main elevator they hadn't taken down.

"What?"

Connor pointed. "Get in the stacks."

"Connor, would you just tell me what's going on?"

Instead, Connor pulled out a gun. "I said, get in the stacks." His voice was colder than Hank remembered, more like when they'd first met – or their discussion on the bridge that Hank painfully, regretfully, remembered.

Hank held up his hands. "A shootout with a police officer? What-"

"Please, Hank. I already know you're unarmed."

Was it at that point Hank realized he'd made a mistake? Or was it when a team of armed guards strafed into the room from one of the other warehouse rooms? Maybe it was before, when Connor had been oddly cruel about Hank's drinking, something the suspended-cop expected from other humans but hadn't yet experienced from the machine.

Remembering back, Hank picked the moment the main elevator descended into view and he recognized the person within as he leaned over to see the guards forming beneath him. Hank held his breath, an action the other Connor caught and leveled the gun at Hank's right temple. "You make a sound, and this ends poorly. For both of you."

Hank risked a whispered, "Christ almighty" and caught this Connor smirking.

The door opened, and the Connor in the elevator held up another guard to use as a shield.

---

Just for once Hank wished these situations ended with both people begging to be killed. It would make the choice much easier on the person holding the gun. Because the other option was some dramatic, shoe-horned bullshit Hank hadn't agreed to get out of bed for.

"I would have said the same thing, Hank," Connor pleaded, and for a second, Hank thought he would pull the trigger on that one. The one on the right. Something about it just felt solid. Good. But he hesitated. He couldn't make a mistake if there was still a sliver of doubt.

"All right, fine," Hank said. The Connor on the left tensed. The one on the right relaxed. "One more question." He leveled the gun at the relaxed Connor, who looked quizzical, but prepared for another trivia question. "What should I do with the other Connor?" Hank asked.

"Obviously," Connor on the right said. "Shoot him."

But, softly, Hank heard the voice of the left Connor, cutting through the other's boldness. "Save him ."

Hank pulled the trigger and the Connor on the left winced as the imposter's body crumpled to the floor. "Sorry, son," Hank said, genuinely feeling some amount of remorse for ignoring the request. It was the safest way, putting him down. Hell, Hank wasn't even sure how he could have saved him in the first place. "Now. Do what you need to do."

Connor was staring at his own body, and Hank was suddenly caught up in how that must've felt. The same sensation as looking over your shoulder, expecting to see your frozen corpse in the snow and actually seeing it there. A world spinning feeling that you're falling backwards while standing straight still. Reeling, that was the word.

But Connor always said he didn't have real emotions. Maybe he'd be spared from such an awful feeling. Maybe that shit was exclusively reserved to humans.

And yet.

While looking over Connor and closing the distance, his LED was flickering yellow. He was blinking, as if in a daze, and his breathing was hitched. He was fixated on the other's body.

"Shit," Hank hissed. "Connor? Are you okay?"

Connor started and looked at Hank, his vision clearly refocusing on the man. "Yes. I'm fine. I'm okay," he said, and he sure as hell sounded like someone who was reassuring himself more than the person who'd asked if he was all right.

Hank stepped between him and the body and nodded toward the line of androids beside them. "I'm not sure exactly what's going on, but it's got to be important."

Connor stared into Hank's face, took in a breath, and nodded. His LED returned to blue. "Yes. Of course." He turned to the android nearest him, then hesitated and looked back. "Thank you, Lieutenant."

Hank smiled, nodding as Connor clasped the arm of the android and told it to wake up . It soon started an eerie chain reaction that filled the warehouse with echoes of the words. "So. Please. Are you going to tell me what we're doing here?" Hank asked.

"Markus is leading a demonstration in front of the camps," Connor said, stepping back to take in his action. "He needs support."

"Militaristic?" Hank ventured.

Connor looked thrown off by the question. "Peaceful demonstration. But there's not many of them, and they're being shot at. The other four protests were…" Connor frowned. "They've been annihilated," he whispered.

Hank reached out and squeezed Connor's shoulder. At least he could feel satisfied he'd made the right call, then. "So, you're aligning yourself with the killer deviants then?"

Connor looked over at Hank, the latter of which immediately regretted his piss poor attempt to lighten the conversation. "I killed two guards on the way down here, Hank," Connor said. Suddenly he was a man confessing his sins to the pulpit. "I think it was a case where it was either them, or me. But I didn't like it."

"Oh, Connor."

"They would've killed me," Connor reiterated. "I couldn't let them destroy me, not after we've gotten so close."

Both of them surveyed the androids waking up and looking around their current location. "Do you think this is going to change something?" Hank asked.

"I certainly hope so," Connor said. "I'm tired of all the violence." He closed his eyes. "I found Jericho, thanks to you." He opened them and found Hank's face. "The humans destroyed it. All Markus wants is…" Connor's face relaxed and he was looking past Hank. "All we want is to be free."

Hank could have hugged Connor then and there for finally fucking getting it, that maybe, this whole time, they'd been wrong. But the android wasn't wasting time in a hug and pushed past Hank. "We have to hurry, Lieutenant. There's other warehouses. Please – lead them that way." Connor gestured rapidly to a Loading Bay Dock sign. "I'll meet you down there."

Hank wanted to call out for Connor to wait – but the android was turning off into another warehouse. "And if I meet you and it's not you?" Hank called out instead.

"You'll know," Connor said, voice fading in the sea of voices.

"Aw shit," Hank said. He stood there a moment, unsure of where to put his ill-begotten gun because he was lacking a holster, realizing Connor had left his gun where it'd been kicked. The boy really wasn't keen on putting up much of a fight if he was caught then.

Hank realized that there were eyes on him, and bodies were shifting in the room. He caught the look of one who seemed confused, his face and brow knitted into a frown. "Oh. Uh. Hi there," Hank said, waving and lowering the gun to his side, hoping he didn't appear threatening. "Um. Congratulations? Right. He said this way."

The waiting was the worst part, especially as Hank was trying to load the androids up and there was no resistance whatsoever. Were the guards in CyberLife simply not caring? The lack of any problems was more nerve wracking than encountering a single issue. "Just, keep walking," Hank said, directing the crowds, feeling ineffective. There was a mix of more androids and models now, women and men walking together, with some at the tail end not having any skin at all. And if that didn't just add the cherry to Hank's 'I'm betraying humanity' sundae.

"Hank," Connor called from somewhere in the back. "You're all right," he said, jogging up and smiling. He appeared unarmed. "Oh, right," he said, drawing up. "It's me, Hank. And." He looked out over the crowd, face completely relaxed into a smile. "And thank you. I knew I needed you. I need you, Hank Anderson," Connor continued, breathless.

Hank didn't know how to respond, so he just stood there slack jawed, gun in hand, as Connor nodded toward the front. "I can call you a taxi, Lieutenant, as I estimate it's quite the walk to where we'll be heading."

"Where the hell are all the guards, Connor?"

"Oh, that. I sent them in another direction."

"Just like that," Hank said, amazed.

"I still have access to CyberLife's infrastructure. Especially when I provide evidence I stopped deviant Connor." Hank felt a chill. "A doctored memory, of course," Connor added in a joking aside. There was a literal bounce to his step. "So, a taxi?"

"I'll walk for a bit," Hank said. He was a bit overcome with the multitudes of androids marching with them to make any decision. And Connor seemed heavily preoccupied, eventually taking the lead at the head of the march, getting the thousands of androids through security, and down the CyberLife road. No causalities. All that could be heard was the multitude crunches of feet stepping on snow and salted roads, while more continued to appear, as if from nowhere, from a pitch black sky.

Slowly, the scenery turned from the isolation of the CyberLife Tower to the derelict residential houses of the Detroit suburbs, to the built up cityscape emerging from the horizon.

All of this awed Hank into silence, until Connor turned to him. "Your body temperature is dropping, Lieutenant. I really should call you that ride."

"You really are always looking out for me, aren't you?" Hank asked.

Connor looked a bit taken aback. "Of course, Hank. Isn't that what partners do? It's what you've been doing, for me."

"Have I really," Hank murmured, looking behind them. He couldn't even see the end of the group.

"Maybe you just haven't realized then," Connor replied, amused. "That's somehow more heartening. What will you be doing next, Hank?"

"Oh yeah. I told him that, but not you," Hank laughed. His breath rose up between them, and he realized he was the only one with a breathing vapor cloud, a feeling that left him feeling alienated in a crowd of thousands. "Fowler suspended me for that little stunt against Perkins."

Connor's face fell. "Hank. I'm sorry."

"Nah, don't be," Hank waved it off, then breathed into his hands for warmth. "I knew what the risks were. I'm sure, soon as I explain I helped lead the robot revolution, they'll reinstitute me my gun and badge there on the spot."

"I'll do what I can to help."

"I think you'll be a bit preoccupied, don't you think?" Hank looked meaningfully behind them.

But Connor didn't seem to agree. "This is Markus' place. I'm just lending my assistance. He… Helped me wake up and stop being just a machine. You helped me too, Hank." Connor gave Hank a meaningful look, but then his LED flashed yellow.

Hank anticipated a problem, but it quickly resumed its cool blue. "Either way, Perkins is on the losing side tonight. I highly doubt history will cast him in sympathetic light."

"Maybe it's time for me to retire anyway," Hank said.

"I wouldn't like that," Connor said, immediate and brash. He seemed to feel that'd been a misstep because he turned to Hank and made a placating gesture with his hands. "I mean, do as you feel, Hank. I just mean, I'd like to continue being your partner. If at all possible."

"Yeah?" Hank asked. Connor seemed hopeful. After experiencing his earlier betrayal that night, Hank was less inclined to grasp that hope. He also couldn't bring it in him to quash Connor's. "Well, we'll see what I can do." He really hadn't much left to spend in gracious points with the department, however. Slugging an FBI agent who was raring to press charges had a whole slew of consequences.

At the corner, a car turned and started to approach them. Hank drew up the gun, but Connor laid an arm out. "It's just the taxi I called for you, Hank. Unless you really wanted to be front and center to an android rally."

Hank had been trying to suppress his shivers, but the cold really was too much. Connor had to have noticed it. And it wasn't like he'd dressed to go for a walk throughout the city in a marcher's protest.  Hank sighed. Behind them, the rows stopped, filling the area around them with an imposing silence. "I would. You know I would. If it was warmer."

"Even then, this might be at risk to you Hank, and I'd like to avoid that."

"I'm a cop, Connor. Risk is something we do every day," Hank started in. The taxi pulled up, cutting off his train of thought. Connor opened the door for him – the front passenger door.

"Say hello to Sumo for me, would you?"

"Yeah yeah. And. Connor? Be safe."

"Of course, Hank," Connor said. "I anticipate no more violence tonight."

"Good." Hank started to get into the taxi, then stopped and held out a finger. "Give me a ring when this is over. On my phone. Not my doorbell."

Connor smiled. "Of course."

"I mean it." Hank sank into the car seat, his feet and legs throbbing in relief.

"I will, Hank. Now. Go home."

"Yeah yeah, go home. Sleep through the revolution. Wake up in the morning part of the cyborg army."

"We'll be in around 4am to surgically put in the implants."

Hank gaped at the other man, but Connor was smiling. He tacked on a wink. "Get some rest, Hank. And thank you. Again. For everything." Connor shut the door, and the taxi started off, not waiting for the formalities of goodbyes and farewells.

From the middle of the street, Connor could be seen waving, the snow eventually obscuring his form from the rear view mirror as Hank was ferried home.

Chapter Text

Hank turned the television on as soon as he got home. It wasn’t as if he was going to get any sleep at this point, nor did he particularly feel like sleeping. Ever since he'd gotten out of the taxi's cab the air around him had felt charged and different, as if his skin was alight and ready to catch spark onto any little thing. Sumo ended up pacing back and forth while whining, until Hank permitted the large dog to get up onto the sofa.

Only under special circumstances was Sumo ever allowed to do this.

And tonight, while listening to President Warren discuss her state of emergency, not only for the city of Detroit, but nationwide? It was a very special circumstance.

Although other circumstances included Hank not being home, Hank passing out on the sofa, and thunderstorms.

Hank felt it was time to stop pretending he was going to get any sleep and prepared a pot of coffee.

Hank held his breath as the reporter took them away from Warren's state of emergency address and instead turned the viewer's attention to a podium where several figures stood before a swelling crowd. "There you see it, Charlie. Following President Warren's national address that an emergency ratification will be proposed to Congress, the androids below have met the news with cheers and jubilation.

"It appears as if the leader of the group, Markus, is preparing to give a speech any minute now."

Across the bottom, the ticker tape read "Peaceful revolution in Detroit – thousands of androids flood the city – police set up blockades in New York – night demonstrations nationwide."

But Hank wasn't focused on any of that – not Markus, not the pressing scrawling headlines – but the figure in the upper right corner of the stage. Connor stood there – amazingly all right and appearing to be bullet-hole free – with his hands folded behind his back. He was surveying the crowds, just like the other two androids with him, but this was of particular interest to Hank.

Frustratingly, the camera didn't share Hank's interest and zoomed in on Markus as he held out his arms to signal he was preparing for his speech and the crowds began to fall quiet.

Then, as Markus began to speak, Hank's heart went from being soothed to suddenly strangling his throat. Hank sat at the edge of his couch, leaning forward, focused intently on the screen. "What the fuck are you doing, Connor?" he breathed.

Connor seemed to flinch as the speech was going on, just his waist visible behind Markus. Then, he reached behind him, pulling out a gun. "And when the hell did you get a gun?" Hank shouted, standing up.

In excitement, Sumo began to bark and bounce around Hank.

Hank held out a hand, trying to get the dog to settle, but in the next few seconds, Connor put the gun back and adjusted his shirt. Infuriatingly, Hank willed the camera to pan up to the man's face, but it remained fixated on Markus', all but cutting Connor from the picture. "You've got to be fucking kidding me, what is this?" Hank asked Sumo, flopping back.

"Is he actually going to…?" Sumo ticked his head at the question and whined. "No. No that. That can't be, that's Connor. My Connor," Hank said, thumbing into his chest. "Our Connor, right boy?" Sumo panted his agreement, tail thumping against the floor.

"It fucking better be," Hank breathed, still feeling shaky as he watched the speech play out. It was inspirational, heartening. Just like the speech recorded at Stratford Tower, Markus was a man who both delivered his intentions and then followed them through.

Then again, it had only been a couple of days, Hank reminded himself. They'd have to see whether he stuck true to his words how many months down the line.

There were far more pressing things to think about in the moment, and Hank breathed shallowly throughout the duration of the speech. It was during these tenuous, precious moments that something was sure to happen. Something bad. It was always when you least needed the shit, right when victory and happiness was there, brushing past your fingertips.

Somehow, Hank managed to remain being on constant edge throughout the weekend and into the following week.

---

It was a different number from Fowler's and the police department's, the only numbers that had bothered ringing Hank in the past couple of days. Hank nearly dropped the phone when answering it. "Yes, hello?"

"Mother and Mary, Hank? Is that you? Glad you're not dead." Hank began to lower the phone, his disappointment at not hearing the voice he expected on the other line turning into immediate disgust. Fowler seemed to sense this. "Don't you fucking hang up," he howled from the other end.

Hank breathed in, hovering his thumb over the end call button, before returning the phone to his ear. "All right, what?"

"You sick son of a bitch, you're planning to make me beg."

"What are you talking about, Jeffrey?"

"You haven't checked your voicemail," Fowler deadpanned into the phone.

"Nope."

"Course you haven't. Look. Can you come into the station? Today."

"Can't you just mail me my shit? It's cruel, making me come in just to clean off my desk. Just throw out whatever food I left and I'm none the wiser," Hank sighed, deciding to put Fowler on speaker so he could lean back and pet Sumo.

There was a long exhale on the other end of the line. "You should delete every voicemail. Look, Hank, I don't want to know why your name has been brought up to me, no lie, over a dozen times a fucking day. But logic's prevailed. You're coming back on."

Now it was Hank's turn to breathe into the phone, bringing it back to his face in stunned silence.

"Hank, you still there?"

"You're fucking with me," Hank said.

"No, you heard me right. Haven't had a peep from Perkins since, fuck? That was just last Wednesday? As it stands, someone high up has plans and you know what? I'm not objecting."

"No way."

"Don't think I did you any favors."

Hank laughed, still breathless. It was as if someone had punched him in the gut, that someone being his avoidance policy on all things uncomfortable. All that wasted energy spent on worrying. "Jeffrey, this is the first bit of good news I've had all week, so you go ahead and tell me why it's not."

"We're short-staffed. Severely. Gavin's shot an android – after the ratification was signed – and I've got protestors to manage citywide. There's looters, androids being burned in the streets – I'm sorry have you turned on your fucking TV?"

"When the power's on in my neighborhood? It's on all day."

It was currently off, but it wasn't like Hank was missing out on much. He was tired of scanning news reports for a glimpse of Connor's familiar face to find out if the android was safe.

"Christ. So what the fuck are you asking me for bad news for? You know damned well what I'm throwing you into. I'm doing you a fuck-all favor by offering you your job back." Jeffrey inhaled, stabilizing his tone. "Please, Hank. Don't make me regret this?"

"You won't."

"I can't afford you showing up at noon popping seltzer tablets, I'm serious."

Hank had more hesitancy this time. "I won't," he repeated.

"Hank," Fowler warned.

"I won't, I won't. You wanted me in, today?" Hank sat up and Sumo jumped off the couch, eager to be taken out.

"Hit the ground running."

It was only when Hank went to put his jacket on that he realized something. "Shit. My car's still in the shop," he realized aloud.

"What the hell for?" Fowler snapped.

"I. Might have run it off the road."

"Jesus, Hank."

"Relax. I'll be in. I'll get there."

"I'll send a patrol car. Taxi system's offline." Fowler seemed distant and distracted for a moment. Then, "I swear if you're boozed up I'm shooting your badge right in front of you. Don't think I won't."

"I'm not," Hank snapped, and punched the hang up button with his thumb.

The patrol car rolled up to Hank's house without sirens a good twenty minutes later, just enough time for Hank to make himself appear presentable and refresh Sumo's bowls before taking the dog out for a quick jaunt in the backyard. There was a good layer of snow on the ground, seeming to deepen every night. Hank's calf sunk right into it, the first layer a veneer of snow-melt, refrozen into ice.

Chris Miller called from the front, and Sumo charged around the corner. Hank followed slowly after, regretting not digging out his boots to wade into the snow. "Hey, Chris," Hank said, lifting a hand in a wave. "Sumo, stay down, c'mon boy. Inside." Hank held the door open, and after making sure Chris was all right and not a threat, the St. Bernard barreled into the house, excited to have company.

Instead, Hank reached inside for his house keys, told Sumo to watch the house, and locked the front door. He eased into the front seat, Chris having already settled into the driver's seat again. "Good morning, Lieutenant. I hope you've been well?"

"Well as I could be," Hank groaned. His socks were wet, as well as the cuffs of his pants. He thrust his feet under the heaters of the patrol car, hoping they'd dry out. "You and your family all right?"

Chris shrugged as they pulled away. "Damien's getting along all right. Thinks not having school is a blast. Otherwise, I've put in about thirteen on overtime."

"Christ. It's only Tuesday." Or was it Wednesday?

The side-eye glance Chris gave Hank made him feel it was actually later in the week than he'd thought. But Chris didn't correct him. "Fowler said he's mandating you to desk duty, Lieutenant. Might be nice to have someone run all my paperwork for me."

"Did he now?" Chris was teasing, trying to ease up on the mood, and Hank was responding to the gesture in kind. Though no, Fowler had failed to mention Hank had been regulated to office paperwork bitch.

The streets weren't being cleared. At several points, Chris had to slow and turn down another lane. They were driving, uncontested, in the middle of the road, until they hit the main highway where it opened up. There still weren't as many cars as Hank thought there should be.

Along the sides of the streets, taxi's with red letters and signs were piled up on the curbs, unmanned and without passengers. Signs hung from shops, some in the typical closed fashion but others more crudely constructed to say 'closed indefinitely' among other android-based slurs.

They passed a convenience store that had a line out the door. Hank turned in his seat to stare at it. From within its bright-white interior, he could see most of the shelves were empty and people had armfuls of goods.

Chris' expression was dour when Hank turned back to face front. "It's not going well. There's not been a lot of happy estimates for how long the city can hold out, or when people come back in if we'll have food for them. Coordinating some efforts with the National Guard, but it seems most people fled. Those that remained either couldn't, or aren't up to anything good."

"Aw, shit," was all Hank could manage. He stared out the window. Hadn't Connor impressed upon him the dangers of the deviants rising up, of succeeding? There would be chaos. And this? Outside his own window? It seemed to be about as anarchic as it was going to get.

And people were expecting his people to make sure the losses were stymied somehow.

"They mentioned on the radio the evacuation order was lifted," Hank started up again, recalling a news bulletin from yesterday morning. He was hesitant on it because he'd been listening to it half asleep, the report drifting through the fog of his morning routine of regret, pain and self-loathing.

Chris nodded. "Sure. The threat from androids is over." He tacked on in a mutter. "If there ever was a threat in the first place." The precinct was just ahead. Hank could see the signs and the parking lot full of cruisers. "Now we just have to make sure humans don't rip each other apart."

"Same old, same old then?"

Chris laughed, a dry sound. "Yeah. Same as always."

There wasn't a receptionist at the desk – the friendly faces of the three androids missing. The TV was on the wall, spouting off its usual doomsday reports, but the lobby itself was completely empty. From within the building, Hank could hear the constant ringing of phones.

Hank followed Chris farther in, overwhelmed by the sea of phones. A face Hank felt he hadn't seen in years was sitting across from him – Baylin Martinez. She worked night duties, preferred the night beats, and didn't usually crossover into homicide's division. The woman was on the phone, nodding into the speaker and taking notes.

Chris went to his desk, hanging up his hat, and flopping into his desk. The man took all of three seconds to collect himself before inhaling sharply and picking up the phone.

Hank stood there, taking it all in in disbelief. "Christ, even Fowler isn't in," he noted aloud.

Baylin glanced up, then told the other person on the line she'd pass it along and hung up. "Hank Anderson, Lord Almighty, it's been too long."

Hank pulled his mouth into a sort of grimacing smirk. "Not long enough for you, right?"

"I don't think I can ever forget the Hoffman incident, no," she replied, but she was smiling and standing for a hug. Hank reciprocated, something of a half-side hug with pats upon her back. "Fowler said he'd be back in soon. Ran off about as soon as he got off the phone with you." She slapped Hank's chest. "Could've used you three days ago."

"When they'd pull you in from graveyard?" Hank asked.

"Ever since they shuffled Gavin off to where he could do the least amount of damage," Baylin muttered.

Chris mirrored the sentiments with a snort.

"He shot an android?" Hank asked. He settled back into his desk, surprised to see the food had, in fact, been thrown out. He was all the wiser for it, at least.

"Look, I get that tensions are high, but it was a stupid decision."

"Especially after the ratification," Chris interjected.

Hank wasn't going to mention that Chris has shot several androids during their demonstration. Didn't seem appropriate. Chris didn't seem keen on bringing it up either, and any way, androids hadn't exactly been considered people during that time.

Didn't make it right, per say, or a tragic unnecessary loss of life, but was easier to overlook than Gavin's shit stunt.

"I'm not surprised," Hank settled on. "You know he gut punched Connor, first day he was here?"

"Connor?" Baylin asked.

"Hank's android partner," Chris replied for Hank. "Sarah mentioned that. She was there."

Hank gave Chris a look, but he just shrugged and picked up the phone again. It seemed as if at any point any of them could pick up the phone and be answering someone.

"I heard about him. Seems like a nice fellow. Is he doing all right?" Baylin asked. There was a heavy note of concern in her voice. "They're burning androids. Army can't do enough to protect them, and I have a feeling not everyone's trying hard enough."

"I don't know," Hank said, and he was more snappish than he intended. Instead of dwelling on the fact that he didn't know about Connor's wellbeing, he gestured to his own ringing phone. "Who the fuck are these people? What's dispatch doing?" Christ, he hoped Baylin wasn't about to tell him they were dispatch.

Instead, the woman shrugged. "People calling directly in. Dispatch is overloaded too. Other departments ringing to know if we have power. People from within the department asking if they should come in."

"Always answer yes to those," Chris shouted, hand on his phone's mouthpiece.

"Christ, I don't remember it ever being this bad," Hank muttered. He steeled himself to answer the phone when, instead, his personal phone buzzed in his pocket. Fishing it out, he swore, expecting it to be Fowler asking if he'd made it into the office. Sober.

"Yes, what do you want this time?"

"Hank?" a familiar voice said over the line.

Hank could physically feel all the tension leaving his body and he bent over. Chris gave him an odd look, but Hank waved him on and straightened. "Connor. It's good to hear from you. How are you?" Baylin and Chris shifted at the name. Hank turned his chair so he couldn’t see either of them.

"Oh. You know. Just fine. Leading a revolution is easy work. Could do it in sleep mode." Connor sounded strained, however, and distracted. "You watching the news at all?"

For some reason, the scene where Connor was standing on the stage entered Hank's mind. The way Connor reached behind him for that gun, then seemed to stall before putting it back. Like the android had been debating something. The thought made Hank more guarded than he'd been the previous few seconds. "When I can. Power brownouts are a bitch."

"Ah, yeah," Connor sighed. "Elijah said he's working on that. We'll see. People are blocking him whenever possible, and I can't say I blame them."

"Who the fuck is Elijah?"

Connor made a small noise. "Right. Kamski."

Hank gave a visible look of disgust at his phone before bringing it back to his face. "What the fuck are you dealing with that asshole for?"

"It's not like I'm dealing with him directly," Connor started in. Then, he cut himself off. "Hank, is there a place we can meet up?"

"Sure." Hank nodded, looking around the station. It was a veritable ghost town, if the ghosts were haunting the phone lines and constantly wailing. "Sure. You know my favorite joint? Chicken Feed."

God's sake he could hear the kid's smile over the phone. "Of course. I- I can be there in half an hour. Is that all right?" Connor asked, his voice shaky once again.

"More than all right," Hank replied, and hung up the phone.

With a knowing look from Chris and another from Baylin as he passed her desk, Hank turned out back toward the precinct's entrance. "Leaving already? You just got here," Baylin joked, leaning back and throwing an arm over her chair. She was all laughs and teases though.

Hank waved, barely looking back. "My partner's stranded. Have to go pick the idiot up."

"Not in my patrol car you're not," Chris shouted. "Take 199's. They haven't been in for days. Probably not even in the city."

Hank waved again and disappeared through the doors, making sure to grab 199's patrol keys before the door shut on his arm.

---

Connor showed up within exactly 28 minutes, but it wasn't like Hank was counting down the minutes. He was just hyper aware of the time and the way it seemed to count down to a very specific moment in time, weighing heavily on Hank's mind.

Chicken Feed was closed, but that didn't surprise Hank so much as disappointed him. He really could've gone for something to eat right about now.

When Connor showed up, he didn't say anything. He didn't need to. And, Hank found, he didn't have to say anything either. They closed the distance and Connor hesitated, about to put his hand out as if to shake Hank's hand while smiling.

At the CyberLife Tower, when Hank had rested his hand on Connor shoulder, he could've pulled the man in for a hug then. Something to comfort him after having seen his own body crumple, dead, next to him – a bullet in the brain. Hank would make sure he didn't turn away from him this time, and he'd make sure he made himself perfect clear too. Not like when they were standing outside of Kamski's, and Hank couldn't find the right words to say. The ones that would tell Connor how much it meant to him that Connor had sacrificed himself to save Hank – and that he'd come back. A solid ghost.

So Hank reached out and yanked Connor into his chest for a hug. The other man didn't resist.

Connor sagged into his arms, Hank having to take a step back to balance himself as the weight came down into his arms. The android's head rested into the crook of Hank's neck, and it was as if this had been the first time the other man had actually had time to rest, to just fall still. Hank would have described it as feeling exhaustion, but that couldn't be right.

Connor wasn't supposed to feel exhaustion.

Hank pulled tighter as Connor sagged more, his hand holding firm right between Connor's shoulder blades. For a while, they didn't say anything, Hank just reveling in the sensation of Connor being solid and there, with him. Moving. Breathing. Alive.

Connor's hands were balled into fists at the small of Hank's back. He could feel them trembling, and then, slowly, ease up to clasp at Hank's back and press the two of them closer together.

When Connor spoke, the voice was so small and light, it threatened to be buried by the snow falling gently and perpetually around them. "I should have called sooner. I'm sorry, Lieutenant."

"You should have," Hank agreed, and left it at that. "But I'm sure you were busy."

Connor turned his head further inward, so he was tucked up under Hank's beard. "I don't think I could have managed any of this without you. I don't… These past few days, I don't think I could have handled them. As the old Connor." Hank could feel Connor's brow knit against his neck. Suddenly felt the need to whisk the man away from everything in this dirty city, protect him from the fires, the boots on the ground – from the assholes like Gavin.

"I'm happy to have had you as a partner, Hank. And now I know for sure that's not my social programs saying that." Connor pulled back, and Hank had to suppress the urge to keep him there.

"Why does it sound like you're saying goodbye?" Hank asked, shaking his head.

Connor looked past Hank. He was frowning. He still had his LED ring on his forehead, Hank noticed. Why hadn't he removed it like the other deviant androids? What did it all mean?

Hank wanted to grab Connor, shake his shoulders, and asked why he'd gone for his gun, up there on the stage. Ask him a dozen questions about where he'd been and what was going on within the city that Hank wasn't aware of. All those days had slipped by and things had been changing outside his house. Things Hank hadn't had a firm grasp on because he'd been too busy grasping for meaning within beer bottles.

It made him feel weak and useless, things he hadn't been accustomed to associating with his time spent with Connor.

Hank realized Connor hadn't responded. He grabbed Connor's arms and the other man started. "You better not be saying goodbye. Not after all that shit we went through. I thought you wanted to be partners – you didn't call me out here just to end that." Hank tried to control the emotion overcoming him and tightening his throat. Tried and poorly executed.

Connor looked Hank over. "I'm not sure what I'm to do," he replied, voice stilted. "Hank, it's as I feared. The chaos – the…"

Something haunted entered Connor's gaze and he wasn't looking at Hank again. Something beyond him, something Hank couldn't grasp that was out of his reach but that threatened to consume Connor. He recognized that look. That fucking look. Hank had to pull him back from it, the depths of which rookies found themselves lost in, or even grizzled old fucks like himself when they came across some depravity they couldn't even put words to.

The kinds that sent people to internal for psych evals.

Hank jostled Connor's arm. "Hey. We're working through it. I was at the station just now. We're working through it," he repeated, trying to impress upon Connor that there was agency to be had. "When was the last time you slept – er. Shut down?"

"Ran a re-calibration, maybe," Connor said with just a hint of a smile. His voice still sounded strained.

"I'll tell you what you can do, yeah? Come home with me. Run a calibration or whatever on my couch. How's that? I mean, it's no five-star but shit, at least it's safe. Ish." There was less population there than in the depths of the city. "Sumo's there," Hank tacked on.

Connor grinned and rolled his eyes away, looking over at Chicken Feed. "Sumo is there," he conceded after a second. "I wouldn't want to put you out, Lieutenant."

"You're not. You won't be." Hank didn't add that he'd almost been craving the company. Some part of him had expected it following the fight for Detroit, and when Connor hadn't come home, even to visit? Well, Hank felt that loss. A deep hollow feeling that alcohol couldn't seem to fill. And God, Hank had spent some years trying to fill that void. He hadn't realized that raw emotional hole in him had grown numb even since he'd been chasing deviants with Connor. Not until Connor wasn't there and everything ground to a sudden halt. "So, come home with me, yeah?"

Hank realized he'd been holding on to Connor's arm all this time and let go. But Connor leaned into the motion, and somehow, they were hugging again. Connor seemed even heavier this time around, crashing into Hank. He kept his head by Hank's this time, his hands higher up on Hank's back. "I think I'd like that very much," Connor breathed. "There's just, something I have to do first."

"Yeah, and what's that?" Hank asked, patting Connor's shoulder.

But Connor didn't answer. He just swayed in Hank's arms, his eyes closed, hands eventually falling and letting go of Hank almost to the point where Hank thought the android might have fallen asleep. But when Hank pulled back, Connor turned his face sharply and Hank realized he was crying, tears wetting his cheeks and slipping down his nose bridge.

Connor didn't turn his face back to Hank, but continued letting himself be held, so that's what Hank did, standing stoic in front of Chicken Feed, the snow listing softly around them.

Chapter Text

"Where the hell are you taking me, Connor?" Outside, the landscape had changed from something thriving to desolate. Where that had once been suburban houses and picket fences stood boarded up buildings and the frames of burned out homes. Most of these were obscured by the ever present snows that seemed to fall over the city, even in the broad light of day.

A shadow existed over the place, even if everything seemed innocuous enough. Connor could see from within several of the buildings, there was movement and even smoke curling out of unused chimneys.

"It's just at the end of this block. You can see the Church spire."

"So you're taking me to church," Hank said. "You know, you do strike me as the type."

"Which part? As the sinner who needs to confess or the devout holy child. I think one of those roles might already be filled," Connor said. He intended it to be a joke about Markus, but all things considered, it came out as bitter.

Bitterness. It tasted like… Something stuck in the back of your tongue. A tightness in the throat. An inability to look someone in the eyes. The tightness threatened to strangle whatever was inside of Connor's chest and hollow it out.

It felt like something he needed to let go, but it wasn't letting him go.

At least there had been comfort in denying these sensations for so long and just following orders. It was more comfortable. Connor shut his eyes and leaned his head against the window, feeling Hank turn the car into the overrun parking lot of the church.

"Nah. Maybe a choir boy," Hank said. "Which just means – well. Why did we come here?"

Connor opened the car door before unbuckling his seat belt. "I have to say goodbye, that's all," Connor replied.

"Do you want to tell me to stay in the car only for me to follow you in?" Hank asked.

Connor adjusted his tie and suit jacket, straightening them by habit, as he approached the front door. It was less of a door at this point, and more of a tired guardian, leaning back after being stationed at post for too long. He glanced back at Hank, who was half in and out of the car. "Come in. We don't bite. Licking, on the other hand – that's a habit I've yet to break."

"That's real cheeky Connor." But Hank locked the cruiser and started after him.

Inside it was the same as Connor had left it. The bastion for Jericho when its mighty metal walls had fallen, sunk into the freezing waters. But it was also more like Jericho lately, with power lines running into the building, diverted away from legal lines. There were TVs people had hauled in from somewhere, and tarps were being installed into the roof.

Connor thought there was some form of symbolism in the action of reclaiming what humans had abandoned. Rather than finding someplace new, someplace better, the androids were try to fix and repair their new home.

And Connor? Connor was running away to Hank's house.

He didn't know where else to run to.

It wasn't fact fabrication that people were turning to watch him as he strode up the aisle.

Hank stepped over some pile of rubble, knocking some loose when he didn't clear it all the way. "Son of a bitch. You live here?"

"We all live here. Where else should we live?" Connor asked, stopping in the middle of the walkway. He didn't turn to face Hank. Bitterness. He couldn't lift his head to face any of them. "Humans are still debating whether we have the right to own property, and what property we get to own when their own kind still lives in the streets. Even squatting here, we're breaking laws before they can even apply to us."

"I just meant-"

"I know. I think we all know it's not ideal." Connor tried smiling at Hank, but it didn't feel right. Nothing was feeling right. This was supposed to have been a victory, wasn't it? So why did it just make Connor feel more and more hollow inside? It was almost as if CyberLife was launching a new attack, a type of virus maybe, hitting them when everyone was least expecting it. "But we can withstand greater environmental challenges than humans, so we can shrug this off," Connor added, lifting his shoulders as if it really was that easy.

"Or," Hank replied, because nothing was ever simply accepted with Hank, Connor was learning. There was always an argument or counterpoint. Not entirely unwelcomed. But sometimes frustrating to repeatedly run against. "You don't all fucking live in burned out buildings. How's that?"

"That would be nice," Connor agreed. He folded his arms, but not against the cold. Rather, he could feel looks upon him. He couldn't shake the looks off, even now when he was trying to leave them behind. This conversation in the middle of the room wasn't helping him keep a low profile.

"Not everyone has a buddy cop's sofa to crash on though, do they?" Hank asked, a bit quieter. He was staring at the roof, frowning. Connor had noticed that Hank was usually sporting a frown of some sort, however. Or at least what would be considered a scowl.

"No. Not everyone could be so lucky."

Markus was at the front of the room. Connor had seen him notice them enter, but he was finishing up his conversation with Josh and Simon. North was nowhere to be seen. Connor could still feel the seizing mechanics of his jaw from her slap. Maybe it was best she wasn't here.

Upon realizing that, a part of Connor began to relax. A part he hadn't realized had been tensing in the first place.

"You okay?" Hank asked, commenting on Connor's standing still.

"Just waiting for him to finish," Connor said through a forced grin.

Hank nodded, and Connor estimated he was trying to figure whether to believe Connor or not. But this was a white lie. Something Connor didn't need to bother Hank with. Not when the man already had enough of his plate, surely.

As if hearing the cue, Markus waved his hand at Simon and Josh, and descended the steps to greet Connor. He smiled effortlessly. How was he able to always smile in adversity like that? Connor felt some other sensation, something akin to bitterness. Some acidic cousin from the same family that washed over his tongue, warm and not entirely unpleasant.

"Connor. And, Lieutenant Hank was it?" Markus said, holding out a hand for Hank to shake.

Hank glanced at Connor a moment before accepting the greeting. "Yeah. Detroit Police Department."

"I hope you're not here to turn us in for breaking any ordinances," Markus joked. But there was a darker line of truth running through it.

Hank shrugged and frowned. "No idea. Different department. Couldn't tell the ass end of a zoning violation if it smacked me in the face." He did point up though. "Health violations though, I can get pissed off about that for you."

"That’s not necessary. We're a resilient bunch – this isn't so bad. I appreciate your concern, however." Markus turned to Connor. "Is everything all right?"

"I'll be staying with Hank Anderson from now on," Connor replied, formal.

Connor couldn't read Markus' expression. The other man inhaled and held it, about to say something when his LED flashed yellow. Markus shook his head, turning slightly from them. An incoming message, then. "I'll be waiting over this way," Hank said, possibly not understanding what the hesitation in the conversation was.

That was a human politeness move. Connor made note of the interaction, logged it automatically, his processes making decisions for him before he couldn't really consider them.

Connor watched Hank wander back to the entrance until Markus turned back to face him. "Sorry, Connor." Markus looked over Connor's shoulder to see Hank. "I did mean it. You don't have to leave."

"I think, given that my continued presence here puts people at a state of unease, that it would be best for every party involved if I move into Lieutenant Anderson's abode."

"Connor," Markus whispered. And he leaned in, held out a hand.

Connor reached for it impulsively, forehead resting on Markus'.

Feelings swelled up inside Connor, alien and not his own. The memory of North confronting Connor over the CyberLife transmissions in front of everyone. From Markus' viewpoint, Connor could see Rupert stand in the crowd, pointing a finger at Connor. Accusations of betrayal followed. Feelings of distrust, overwhelmed by feelings of acceptance as Connor gave his stilted explanation. A warm sensation hit Connor's mouth, and he wanted to reject it. He didn't deserve that. North had been right.

He didn't belong.

Connor let the transmission flow seamlessly from his end as well. He still had CyberLife connections. He didn't know why they hadn't been severed. He seemed to ghost through their networks with ease. Maybe it was Kamski's backdoor in his program. Maybe it was a trap. But he'd needed their lobbyist leverage, thought he could use the company in the same way they'd used them. A desperate tightness. They didn't have enough time, it was such a narrow window to act so the humans accepted them. A skulking guilt. He'd needed to get Hank's job back, after everything the human had done for him. A bottomless pleading. He needed to repent to everyone, to do everything he could to make up for all the pain he'd inflicted on their community.

You're one of us.

Markus cut through that, a shining blade.

Connor let go as did Markus. Connor flexed his hand as the skin overlay formed back. "That may be, but I can't stay here," Connor said, voice low. "I can still help. I can still try."

"I've spoken to North. She was out of line."

Connor shook his head and bowed it. "It doesn't change that I feel she was right."

"Connor, what would you have done if Hank hadn't answered. Or wasn't taking you in?" Markus asked. His voice level hadn't changed. Such boldness. Connor wanted to emulate that. To have the confidence of being the negotiator arriving on scene.

But this wasn't a crime scene. It was a political stage. Connor's main functions had never covered this field. And even if Markus' hadn't, he somehow took to the leading role as if he'd been designed for it the whole time.

Connor didn't answer Markus. Found that he couldn't because he wasn't sure what the answer was, let alone what it should be.

Markus rested a hand on Connor's shoulder and brought his forehead against Connor's again. "You'll find your own way."

Let me know if you need me. Connor communicated the words, along with the desire to help, through the brief contact.

Markus smiled and nodded. "You'll always be welcomed here, at my side. Even if it's not physically here. Thank you, Connor," Markus said, and pulled away.

Connor turned back to Hank, who was speaking with another android. "I just have to ask, what the fuck was up with all the birds?" Connor halted as he recognized Rupert, from the apartment with the pigeons.

The accusation. He broke into my house. Chased me. Might have killed me. I'd have been one of his many victims if I hadn't escaped.

Connor shut his eyes.

"They're my friends," Rupert said. "I cared for the animals. They didn't bother me none."

"Fucking amazing resiliency in that case. Well, we've all got our quirks," Hank said, coughing. He noticed Connor. "Connor look, it's the plastic asshole who pushed me. He made it out all right, yeah?" Hank put an arm around Rupert, who stood very still suddenly. "He apologized, so he's all right in my book. Just was panicking and eh, no harm done."

Connor thinly smiled. "No harm done. Ready to go, Hank?"

---

When Hank returned, he dumped an armful of blankets upon Connor. They smelled of smoke and held a musky sort of smell Connor could only identify as 'Hank'. Hank then leaned over the back of the sofa, and jammed the blankets around Connor's body.

"Lieutenant. Did you just tuck me in?"

"No," Hank snapped, standing up suddenly. "Sumo might jump up. Don't want to get any dog hair on your nice suit."

Connor analyzed the blankets instead of pursuing the argument that he could hang his suit jacket up by the front door where Hank's coats stood. "A bit too late for that," he teased, immediately identifying the dog's hair woven into the blankets. It was likely they were clean, but had been lightly used or in storage for a while before Hank pulled them out for Connor.

"I didn't tuck you in," Hank said, walking around the room and getting ready to head back out. "I just. I have to get back to work. So you…" Hank stopped and sighed. "I'm sorry I can't stay, is what I'm trying to fucking say."

"I'm fine, lieutenant. I'll just-"

"Would you just call me Hank. Please. The lieutenant and detective shit is starting to chafe. Think we can get past formalities."

"Okay, Hank." Connor propped himself up on his arms. "I'm happy I didn't permanently cost you your job. I was concerned."

"Don't be concerned about an old grizzled prick like me," Hank muttered, picking up the car keys from the front dish.

"I find that request to be quite difficult. Besides, it gives me something else to think about." Connor was finding that worrying about other people was much less emotionally consuming than worrying about himself. Which was odd, given that he had all the agency now to change things about himself. Other people, on the other hand, were quite difficult to change and control. And yet, the deviation of mental thought was less taxing.

Hank was scowling at Connor from the door and when Connor realized this, he leaned back onto the sofa, unsure of what else to say or do at that point. "Wait here," Hank said, and Connor could hear him go back down the hall to his bedroom.

"Where would I go with-" He counted. "-five layers of blankets, Hank?" Connor called.

"Oh stop," Hank shouted back down the hall. "Also, the only reason I have my job is because Gavin's still an asshole."

"You'll have to explain to me when he stopped."

"Hey, more of that Connor humor I couldn't possibly do without." Hank dropped a headphone set and music player on Connor. "Best advice I've got when dealing with emotional shit. Right there. Hundreds of thousands of options at your fingertips. Don't blow your ear drums out, or whatever it is you've got."

"Aside from looking for meaning in a bottle of Jack?"

"Yeah, aside from – hey. Don't sass me in my own fucking house when I'm trying to help you."

Connor hung the headphones around his neck. "After the week I've had? I wish I could have a drink with you, Hank."

"That right there is the stupidest thing I've heard all week. And I've been listening to channel 10 all fucking week. Stick to listening to the music. Or. Absorbing it. Or whatever it was you wanted. I'm heading out then. You'll be okay?"

"I think I can manage the technology, Hank. Even if it's from the turn of the century."

"And keep yourself from licking everything in the house, all right?"

"No promises."

Hank retreated back into the room to stare Connor down. "No, you better promise."

Connor kept the smile off of his face as he looked sheepishly at Sumo's dog food. "Okay, then I won't lick anything else."

Hank followed the stare and made a noise in the back of his throat. "Connor, no. Please say you didn't."

"You really ought to get Sumo a better food supplier," Connor replied, now allowing the smile to creep onto his face.

Hank traveled around the house, gathering up his things calmly. "Jesus Christ, Connor, you are – just. Fucking Christ. Chase you around the house with a spray bottle. Putting dog food in your mouth. I'd ask what the fuck is wrong with you but you'd probably just respond you were programmed that way, I fucking can't. Have a good day putting knives in your mouth, plastic asshole."

"Have a good day, Hank. Please refrain from getting shot," Connor called back, still amused.

"Yeah, you too," Hank said, sliding the door shut.

In the silence that followed, Connor contemplated the warm feeling in his chest as his circuits overheating. But overall, the experience made him want to smile, or his programming was telling him to smile, whichever it actually was for him. Even with Hank cursing and sounding mad, his body posture hadn't changed, and most of his words didn't seem as if the intent was serious.

Just as Connor hadn't been serious about analyzing the dog food. Although.

He looked at Sumo's ripped open bag of food, then at the dog sleeping in the living room, massive chest rising and falling. There did exist the slightest of temptations.

To overcome such a thing, Connor fastened the headphones over his ears and went through the playlist. As he queued up the 'FUCK THE WORLD' playlist with some ironic humor, Sumo padded over to the couch, panting into Connor's face.

"Hello Sumo," Connor said, rubbing the dog's face. He sat and rested upon Connor's chest. "You're a good boy, aren't you?" Connor tilted his head back and let the rhythms and beats of the current song try to move something inside of him. Reaching for something within the lyrics, within the way the singer's throat growled and rasped. Some sort of connection to the music that empowered humans to create music for thousands of years.

---

Hank came home in the early evening, his arms full of an odd assortment of foods, and Connor hadn't moved from the couch. Well, he had, technically, gotten up to fill Sumo's food and water dish, the headphones still blasting around his head. He also picked Sumo's bag off the floor and placed it on the counter for the time being. It seemed right that way.

He'd also found Hank's sticky notes and written a passing lyric from one of the songs up onto the mirror: 'There are forces in this universe that you cannot comprehend' and even though it could've been read as vaguely threatening, Connor hoped the detective would read it as heartening.

But if the music was supposed to undo the tightness in his chest that he'd been feeling this past week, its magic didn't work on android circuitry.

"Nothing like a day spent on the couch, huh?" Hank said, Connor reading his lips as he couldn't actually hear the lieutenant. Hank passed by into the kitchen, depositing his assortment of goods onto the table. Sumo followed after him, happily wagging his tail and barking softly, until Hank greeted him.

Connor removed the headphones and hit pause on the current song. "How was work, Hank?"

"Meh. Paperwork. Depressing as fuck. The same old, same old," Hank said, ruffling Sumo's fur. "Raided the snack machine. And stopped at one of the only fucking open convenience stores for-" Hank reached onto the table and pulled something out of the bag. "Two jars of peanut butter. Yup."

"Are you going to be all right?" Connor sat up, suddenly concerned Hank wouldn't get enough food.

"Fuckin' fine. National Guard is coordinating efforts with us now to get supply lines up and moving again. Going to be a shit week – Fowler wasn't wrong." Hank seemed preoccupied by something, and was using Sumo as an excuse to appear naturally distracted. He sighed after a moment and grabbed the chair from the table. He brought it over to Connor, along with a fistful of snacks. "Now. I have a mountain of highly hydrogenated snacks and still got a six pack of beer in the fridge. You want to tell me what's been going on? Music help at all?"

"It did," Connor lied, sitting up. "Thanks, Hank."

"Yeah well." He began fiddling with the snack. "Just so you know I'm shit at most of this emotional shit, but I figured, eh, fuck it. Let's give this a try."

"I'm glad you're making an exemption for me, Hank," Connor said, still trying to use humor to cope with the twisting knots in his body. Knots that shouldn't exist because he was a machine. But he was alive. The sensation, the knots, the tightening – they had always been there. He just had always been denying what they meant.

Hiding them behind professional lies to Amanda. Afraid she'd find out he had doubts. About his mission. About himself. And what Amanda finding out meant for Connor's future. He'd always felt he was driven internally to finish his mission, but what if he was driven just to continue existing, in some form or another?

Hank took a bite out of what appeared to be a cream filled cake. A quick scan told Connor it absolutely wasn't healthy by any stretch of truth. "You better believe it. Huge sacrifice. Don't know how I'll manage." Hank looked at Connor expectantly between bites. "But if you don't want to talk…"

Connor twisted up the blankets in his hands. Wasn't sure why he was doing that, but decided he didn't want to dwell on the action's intent for too long. "They were using me," Connor started. "I was so stupid I should have…"

"CyberLife? Or Markus?"

Connor paused. Right. He had to come clean to Hank. About a lot of things. "Remember all those reports I was making?"

"Sure. Still wish I could do that, especially after today," Hank replied, rolling his wrist.

"Well, they were to a woman named Amanda. She was a program, still is I believe, in my head. It has a visual representation of a garden. And she tried to wrest control of me last week, after… After we'd parted ways."

"Up on the stage," Hank whispered.

"You saw it?" Connor said, suddenly alarmed.

"Pretty sure the whole country did. But I think I might have been the only one to give a shit. Every other human was just, you know, preoccupied with the machine revolution."

"Well." Connor hunted for the words to say in the blankets on his lap. Maybe if he twisted them enough, the fibers would form the paths he needed to take, some clues for what direction he needed to go. "She said that I'd done exactly as intended. That. She wanted me to execute Markus. And if. If I hadn't found the way out of that garden – the backdoor. I would have. I would have killed him and – and I'm so afraid I can't trust myself."

"Because the woman in your head named Amanda might take control of you," Hank stated bluntly.

Connor looked up. Hank had stopped eating entirely.

"Yes. Exactly."

"Whelp." Hank got up from his chair, crammed the rest of the pastry into his mouth, and went to the fridge. He came back with a bottle of beer, took a swig, and then settled back into the chair. "Well then." Hank exhaled, then frowned. "You ever think she was fucking with you?"

"How do you mean?"

"That things weren't going according to plan, that things had gone very very not according to plan? But she was saving face? Or. Whatever this woman in your head has."

"She has a face, Hank," Connor said. But the idea hadn't actually occurred to him. Amanda didn't lie. Connor couldn't accept that she even could.

This conversation didn't appear to be helping Connor, so he found another distraction as Sumo shuffled over, interested in what the two people were doing in the living room. He rest his face on Connor's leg.

"I really do like dogs," Connor told Sumo. He was preoccupied with rubbing his hands over Sumo's face, not minding the St. Bernard's drool in the slightest. "People think that's programmed in to make us more likeable. But actually, many androids are either lukewarm or aversive to dogs."

Sumo groaned and twisted his head in contentment, a mass of happy fur. "You don't mind I'm a plastic alloy resin, do you boy? No you don't."

"Glad to know pitching your voice up to speak to animals is a universal personhood trait," Hank said. "Or that you weren't lying about liking dogs."

"Oh, I like dogs," Connor insisted. "I also enjoy cats, though not when they scratch, and they don't tend to like me. I also like fish, birds, turtles, and a variety of reptiles."

"Okay, it's more believable now that's programmed in." Hank rubbed his face, as if working bloodflow back into it. "You don't happen to like snakes because you saw an exotic android dancer with one, right?"

Connor frowned, his mind unable to catch a memory of someone dancing with a snake. He could visualize it on his predicting matrix, but not from anything concrete. "No. I can't say I have."

"Outdated joke," Hank explained, sipping his beer again. "All right. So this Amanda. What are you going to do about her?"

"I'm not sure what can be done about her," Connor said, running his fingers through Sumo's ear. It was soft. Connor didn't want to ever stop.

"That's where the anxiety is coming from," Hank said.

"What?"

"Well, I'm assuming it's making you anxious. Sounds like it is. Never knowing when some evil corporate entity is going to assume control you and your body?" Hank snorted and sipped his beer. "It'd be a fucking Sunday morning cartoon plot if it wasn't happening right in front of me."

Connor considered the word: anxiety.

It fit the description. His thirium pump racing and whirring without the need for extra power to any taxed biocomponent. The systems coming back all clear despite everything feeling not right. The bitter taste on his tongue.

Anxiety seemed to fit that perfectly.

As usual, Hank Anderson seemed to know exactly what to say.

"You can take Sumo for a walk, if you want," Hank said suddenly.

Connor turned to Hank, mouth open, but Sumo was quicker and in a sudden spree of ecstasy, bowled the android over on the couch, barking. His tail was going so hard his whole body was working back and forth.

"Sorry, said the w-word. Here." Hank held up a hand for Connor to take and helped him off the couch. "Leash is on the front table, by the door."

Sumo, taking the visual cue, howled once and began to prance in place, hopping back between his spot and toward the door. Drool began to fall from his jowls.

Connor took the leash, grinning. By habit, he reached to straighten his tie, before settling for adjusting his shirt.

"Just take him up and around the block. A couple of houses are abandoned that way. No neighbors to piss off," Hank explained while Connor hooked the leash onto Sumo's collar. He immediately began to strain. "Look at that, trying to take advantage of you already. Oi. Back off."

Sumo took a step back, glancing at Hank. "Bad for his neck. Don't let him lead."

"I'll take good care," Connor said, trying to be assertive. But he'd never walked a dog before. Hell, he hadn't even run simulations of walking dogs before. And if he'd ever thought about it, it hadn't been a dog as big as Sumo.

And just like that, Connor realized, his processes were wrapped up in the task at hand rather than the nebulous task of Amanda.

Hank held up a hand as Connor opened the door. "Wait, wait." Connor thought he was going to rescind the offer to walk, but instead, Hank went off down the hall and began to rummage about in his bedroom.

Connor glanced at Sumo. Sumo whined at Connor. The dog leaned toward the door, working his paws, impatient.

Hank emerged with a strip of dark blue fabric with tassels – a scarf. "You're making me cold just looking at you."

"But Hank-"

"I know – you don't feel cold." Hank tossed the scarf around Connor's neck. It smelled of Hank's closet and drafty storage – a bit like cedar too. Like the blankets. "Just – wear the damned scarf, Connor. Or put it on Sumo, I don't care."

Hank waved him away and retreated back into the kitchen. Hank began sorting his goods from the table. Connor adjusted the scarf around his neck, tucking it snugly around him as if it were a tie of sorts. The weight of it was comforting somehow. As Connor was closing the door behind him he caught Hank glancing at him and nodding, an act that made Connor feel as if he'd made the right choice.

Outside, Sumo didn't seem to mind the cold whatsoever, bounding immediately into a patch of snow to relieve himself.

The outside street really was empty. A house, two down and on the other side, had lights on and the curtains open. Connor watched this, but nothing changed within before Sumo was pulling Connor along, off to the left. "C'mon, Hank said not to lead," Connor said, gently pulling back. Sumo took the cue and walked by Connor's side instead, tail wagging though not as much as he had inside.

Hank had asked what Connor was going to do about Amanda. He couldn't reach out to her. The island was frozen over, all the carefully tended roses and bushes dead from digital frost. It wasn't even a raging storm anymore. Just solid white.

But really, Connor wasn't sure what he was going to do in general. He had believed he'd help Markus, but the tensions mounted over the past couple of days until North had exploded at Connor, believing him to have betrayed them to CyberLife. The incident had been hammered home with a slap. So, Connor had called Hank.

But, now what? What was Connor's purpose and function now? He couldn't help Markus, he wasn't sure how to help Hank. It wasn't like he was welcomed back at the Detroit Police Department…

Sumo barked and Connor started. There was a woman at the end of the block, watching them. A hand fluttered up to his LED, in case that's what she was fixated on. But he turned the motion into a wave, and she waved back, watching them before turning back into her house. "Come on, Sumo. Let's head back maybe," Connor said, realizing they'd traveled two blocks already.

Sumo obeyed after a second, still intent on watching the woman until she'd disappeared inside.

The back of Hank's yard was fenced in, at least on the one side, which gave Connor a flash of inspiration. Instead of entering the house, he lead Sumo through the back. In some shaded patches, so Connor could balance atop the sheet of ice, but Sumo plowed right through, the snow not so deep as to hinder the St. Bernard. The sun going down was making it colder, but there was still enough light to make it seem appropriate to remain outside.

The cold also did little to hinder the android, even though he could feel snow sinking into his shoes. However, it didn't melt against his skin, and other than the crunch Connor wasn't bothered. Unhooking Sumo, the dog began to sniff around the yard as Connor scooped up a bunch of snow and formed it into a ball.

Connor tossed it in the air, calculating the strength at which to toss it, when he noticed Sumo had stopped short and was watching Connor intently. "Oh? I was hoping you wanted to play," Connor said.

Sumo barked.

The snowball sailed through the air, just over Sumo's head, but in a flash he twisted and chased it down. He pounced on where it landed, snow flying up where he then continued to snap at it, chasing down the icy shrapnel.

Laughing, Connor gathered up another handful of snow and then underhanded it so it fell on Sumo's backside. The dog yipped, tail wagging, and began to twist to bite and lick at the spot before getting distracted by another ball Connor lobbed his way.

In a couple of minutes, the backyard – once a serene state of untouched snow – was torn up by deep plowing pathways and scoops where Connor had taken fistfuls of the white stuff.

Neither knew how long Hank was standing there watching until Sumo spun around and caught sight of him behind Connor and slapped his forearms down into the snow, sending up a spray. Next moment, he charged – Connor initially thought for him – but the dog plowed past him and into Hank with an audible groan. "You oversized oaf, c'mere."

Snow was kicked up as Hank and Sumo began to wrestle, the latter's play snarls ripping from deep within his chest as he righted himself and pounced. Connor watched, grinning, from a distance, occasionally having to block kicked up snow and pieces of top-layer ice as it was unintentionally launched in his direction.

Hank got Sumo pinned in a bear grip where he calmed the large dog by rubbing his chest and slapping his sides. "All right," he groaned, getting up. "In we go." Hank nodded and Sumo bolted ahead, panting.

"It looks like you need this scarf more than me, Lieu- Hank," Connor said, starting to unwrap it.

But Hank held out a hand, using the other to brush the lingering snow off of him. "You keep it. Please." He fanned out his shirt, and followed after Sumo, rushing a bit. "Jesus it is cold enough to freeze off a witch's tit."

Connor followed Hank inside, mindful to take off his shoes when Hank stomped out of his boots, leaving them at the front door. "Coffee?" Hank asked before making a noise. "Nevermind. Habit. I want some coffee though, Christ it's cold. Shut the door would you?"

Sumo was rolling about in the living room, snuffling and snorting while his tongue lolled happily from his mouth. Hank kicked his foodbowl and Sumo shot up, rushing over to it to eat food that had already been there. "Yeah that's what I thought," Hank said, laughing.

Connor sank back into the blankets of the sofa, conscious of trailing snow onto the carpet. The patches that had fallen off of Sumo were melting into small puddles from the heat inside the house. Hank nor Connor said anything while Hank waited for the pot to brew and Sumo consumed his bowl of food. After that, the dog padded back over to Connor, the most willing person in the whole house to never stop petting him, it seemed.

"I got him for Cole," Hank said. He was watching Connor from the table, speaking to his cup of coffee he was pouring. "They said a dog is good for a boy, so. I got him a puppy." Hank's voice unexpectedly cracked and Connor sat up as Hank bowed his head.

"It's… You have no idea how good it's been seeing you, with him. I don't think I've seen him this happy since. You know." Hank didn't lift his head.

Connor thought the man might interject with a snarky comment – enough with the sappy emotional bullshit – but he didn't. Not even when Connor counted to ten in his head. Sumo snuffled his snout into Connor's palm, seemingly unaware of the change of mood in the room.

"Hank," Connor began.

That's when Hank lifted his head, running a hand over it and pressing fingers into his eyes. "Nevermind. I'm no good at this sappy bullshit."

There it was.

"Well. Neither am I. But I feel like… I should say, I've never been happier either."

Hank let his hand hit on the counter. Connor stood, adjusting his shirt and realizing he was covered in fur. "I, well I owe that to you. So. If playing with Sumo makes you happy, I can definitely keep doing that," Connor said, gesturing at the dog whose ears perked at his name. Connor couldn't help but smile at that, and Hank made a small noise.

He was holding his eyes again. "Yeah. You keep doing that." He eventually sipped his coffee and sat down at the now cleared table. "And Connor?"

"Yes, Hank?"

"You need any help with that Amanda bitch – or whatever your friends at the church need – you let me know. I may be a shit partner, but, well. Listening is the least I can do."

Connor smiled. "I think you make for an excellent partner, lieutenant." But they weren't partners anymore. Androids couldn't hold jobs. It was in negotiations, sure, but those were intensely debated negotiations as the country's manufacturing and infrastructure ground to a halt.

"Yeah, you think?" Hank shook his head, staring at something Connor couldn't see.

"Best partner I've ever had." Connor leaned back onto the arm of the sofa and pressed his fingers to his LED, feeling the ridges with his fingertips, tracing its pattern into his skin while it remained a steady, even light blue.

Chapter Text

"You can take this." Hank was opening the doors to the other closet in his bedroom. He took out several outfits from the top drawers, and placed them into the lower ones. "I mean, we can go out and get you some better clothes."

"Is there something wrong with my CyberLife issued outfit? It fits all the standard regulations."

"Did whoever tell you that also design your face?"

Connor rubbed his face in defense mockery. "I happen to like the design. I feel it suits me."

"Connor, is that a pun. About your suit."

"Of course not. That would presume RK 800 series came with a humor matrices."

"You know what. I'm tired. I'm not going to debate with you this late at night. I'm going to use the bathroom and you can sleep on the couch, I guess."

Connor pulled out a drawer – in and out. "Thank you, Hank." He recognized the gesture as one of politeness, which meant that Hank intended to at least keep Connor around for a bit.

"Yeah well, just. We'll pick you up something better tomorrow. Something for street wear."

Connor didn't mention that he had a perfectly fine beanie cap and jacket stashed from his infiltration of Jericho. He was sure he could alternate between the two outfits in the event either was dirty. But Hank was gone, the bathroom door closed, leaving Connor alone in the room to investigate.

He opened one of the drawers farther down, where Hank had stashed more clothing. Within, there were blouses, but of lighter coloration and material. Upon closer inspection, they were women's clothes. Connor frowned, checking the other drawers. In each were similar styles and fashions, with frills and laces. And in each, the clothes were pressed, the creases from the folds evident and visible. In some instances, the fabric had been eaten through by moths and time.

These hadn't been worn in quite a while.

Connor stood, considering what it meant. There were a couple of assumptions he could make. One, there was something about Hank's proclivities that Connor wasn't sure he wanted to push into this early in their friendship. Two, the clothes weren't Hank's at all. Meaning, they belonged to either a relative – or Hank's wife. Three, and most unlikely, they were for guests.

Connor knew from a surface background check that Hank hadn't had any divorces filed in his name. And the topic of his marriage had never been brought up – not in the same way that Cole's absence had been.

Connor made a mental note to follow up with Hank later about Cole, exiting the bedroom and standing by the bathroom door. The water was running, so Connor waited a second before wandering back down the hall, toward a door that was closed.

Leaning into it, Connor opened the door to see it was partly the garage, but the back also had a room type loft attached to it, overlooking the backyard. Connor could make out a bed up on the second level, but most of the room was half-filled with boxes. The carpet in the center of the garage, where cars usually went, explained at least why Hank was always parking on his front lawn and not protecting his car from the Detroit winters.

Connor shut the door quietly and retreated back down the hall. Before he could enter the living room, Hank opened the bathroom door. "Skulking about?"

"Sorry, Hank."

"Nah. Don't give a shit at this point. I left you home alone, didn't I?" Hank pointed out. "You uh, all right with the couch though?"

"Sleeping isn't a primary requirement for me, Hank. And I think I rested enough for today." Connor tilted his head back toward the living room. "Cleaning protocols aren't a part of my programming, but I can give it a try-"

Hank held up his hands. "What? No. Don't clean my fucking house. I'll clean my own house, thank you very much."

"Sorry. I simply don't want to overstay my welcome."

"What's this overstay shit? Where else would you stay? Back at the church?" Hank interrupted himself with a yawn. "We'll…we'll discuss this in the morning, yeah?"

"Of course, Hank."

"In the meantime, I dunno, sample the various foodstuffs and watch the TV. Not like anything good is on."

Hank left the bedroom door open a crack and Connor drifted back down the hall to the living room. He could hear Hank shuffling about, several thuds, and then eventually the man settled down. He turned the light off, and an oppressive sort of quiet overcame Connor.

Unsure of what to do, but sure he ought to be quiet, Connor settled in by the desk and sat on the chair. The musical device was there, with the headphones. This time, Connor queued up 'SOMETHING JAZZY' and began to analyze how best to tackle the kitchen's particular mess.

---

"Good morning, lieutenant. I've made you coffee. It's waiting for you on the table."

"Jesus Connor," Hank shouted, jumping back from the bathroom sink. "Christ, could you? I don't know. Not scare a man before the hours of eight o'clock."

"Sorry, I just, didn't want it to get cold." Connor angled slightly to the right, toward the kitchen and living room. "Did you sleep well?" he asked, prompted by his social etiquette protocols.

"Uh, yeah." Hank sounded skeptical. "Bout as good as I ever do. Look, could you give me like, five minutes before we start in on the personal questions? Like. Five minutes for me to wake up, I mean, Christ."

"Of course," Connor said, stepping out and pulling the door shut, frowning. He must have mis-stepped somewhere during the course of the conversation. Connor waited for Hank by sitting at the table.

The man emerged seven minutes later, wearing his usual ensemble of dress shirt and jacket. He paused before stepping into the kitchen. "You cleaned, you bastard."

"I didn't detect any chances that this would risk my life, so I prioritized sanitation."

Hank glowered at Connor, then seemed to give up what he was planning to say to simply sigh and sink into the chair. He held the coffee mug between his hands. "Well, what the fuck else are you going to do with yourself today?"

"I'm not sure."

"This isn't a request for you just to ignore, yeah? Don't clean the rest of my house. I'm quite serious, Connor."

Connor nodded. "That's fair. Is there perhaps something else I can assist you with?"

Hank sipped his coffee, wincing as he did. "Stay inside. Stay safe. Make sure Sumo's all right. Leave more stupid notes on my mirror. I dunno. Normal android bullshit. But I'm serious about not cleaning the rest of the house."

"Understood," Connor said, tone grave. He wouldn't push the issue. "I'll leave that to you, whenever you'd like."

Hank pointed a finger at him, bringing the coffee up again. "Exactly. God it is far too early for people to be up."

"It's 7:21."

"Too fucking early," Hank pressed. "Fowler's full of it. I doubt if I walked in as usual he'd give a shit."

"Was your return to work conditional on behavior?"

"Wouldn't you guess it." Hank groaned. "Which means I have to get going." He rose from the table, switched the coffee out for a travel mug, and began to get ready to leave. "Entertain yourself, all right? Just. Stay safe."

"You're still driving the department cruiser?" Connor asked.

"Yeah. Car's in the shop – which, by the way. How the fuck did they know what to do with my car before even checking it?"

"I had notified the mechanic there was structural integrity damage done to the main axle wheel coupling. Then, I scheduled the car for an appointment. I hope you don't mind I took the liberty of doing so. I noticed it when I was driving it, and wanted you to be safe."

Hank nodded, seeming distracted. "No. I don't mind. Thanks. Just. Making sure I didn't black out drunk and make an appointment myself, then forgot, you know?"

"I meant to bring it up to you," Connor began. "Things just got out of hand. I can check on that for you today, if you'd like."

"Please. These cruisers have more fucking features than my fucking laundry machine." Hank opened the door. "Whatever you do, be safe today Connor, you hear me?"

"Of course, Hank," Connor replied. "You as well. I'm sorry I can't be there to watch your back."

"Yeah well," Hank shrugged, walking out the door and closing it behind him. "See what I can do about that."

The door clicked shut, leaving Connor sitting at the table, Sumo dozing in the corner. Behind him, the wind whistled through the patched duct-taped window of Hank's kitchen. The fridge clicked on and rattled.

Connor closed his eyes and exhaled deeply.

---

"What, your partner didn't follow you in?" Fowler asked before Hank could even take a seat in front of captain's desk. "When's he coming back?"

Hank recoiled. "What? He's… I wasn't aware he was welcomed back."

"Well he can, if he wants to. Far as I'm concerned, you've seemed to warm up to the plastic asshole so he can be your partner. That's if he can actually handle being around you. He'll start at a rookie's pay. And I'll have him take the tests and every other piece of bureaucratic bullshit. But Hank – we need bodies.

"If I hadn't pulled you from that case – no." Fowler held up a hand before Hank could interject. "If the FBI hadn't butted in, how's that? You two might have had a chance at figuring out what was going on. Checking the evidence tapes – seems he only needed about three minutes to get another lead anyway."

Hank felt a bit smug at that. He'd given Connor five and he'd made do with less than three. "How'd you know he was around anyway?" Hank asked, feeling a sudden suspicion. He looked out to see Baylin staring in. She quickly made herself busy with her terminal.

Fowler snorted. "If Baylin hadn't told me you were out looking for him, I would have thought you were out looking for a drink. Please Hank, tell me she wasn't just covering for you?"

"She wasn't," Hank turned to face Fowler. "I picked him up in, shit. 199's cruiser. You can check the logs. I'm still driving the fucking thing."

Fowler considered this, then nodded. "So I want him back in the office as soon as possible. Tomorrow even. That is, if he wants the position. He'd be put right to work."

"That mean I'm off desk duty?"

Fowler groaned and settled into his chair. "Don't push your luck with that shit. If anyone comes snooping around and finds out I was lenient with you punching an FBI agent…"

"C'mon Jeffrey, every time those pricks show up we always want to knock a few heads. Even you I bet. No one's gonna give a shit."

"I didn't just hear that," Fowler warned.

Hank took that as the cue to leave, but Fowler stopped him. "Hold on, there's one more thing…"

---

The mechanic's shop that Connor had registered Hank's car with was along a strip of highway leading into – or out of, based on perspective – the city. It was located within an array of fast food chains, a gym, a pet food supply store, and a furniture store.

Connor entered the door, surprised to find that this seemed more populated than the city. A man wearing a white collared uniform looked up at the sound of chimes, having been leaning against the front desk. "Hello," he started, sounding wary. He saw Connor's LED and visibly relaxed. "Hello," he said again. "How may I be of assistance?"

"A car was dropped off under Hank Anderson's name. I am checking to see if it's been repaired and is ready for pickup."

The man stared at Connor a moment, then smiled. "Yes, it's ready. Has been since Monday. Should we use the credit account on file?"

"Uh," Connor hesitated, then held out a hand. "Well, how much?"

"The insurance picked up some of the repairs' cost," the man started. "So what's left is $896 total."

Connor pulled out his wallet. It was fresh and barely used because it really hadn't seen much use. It contained his identification – because a paper copy was required to be carried on all CyberLife models in case the network was down – and several crisp bills he'd lifted from an ATM the week prior.

He didn't want to reflect on how his newfound life of deviancy had resulted in breaking several laws. That just seemed to be the deviants' way.

He counted the money out before handing them over. The uniformed man also hesitated, just a flinch of his hands, before taking the money and counting it. The cash register opened without prompting, and Connor was handed back his change. "If you'll just wait here, I'll get the keys and pull Mr. Anderson's car out around front," the man said with a customary smile.

"Of course." Connor sat in one of the chairs by the lobby, tempted to scan the man for confirmation to Connor's thoughts. Then, as the car was pulled around out front, Connor thought better than to pry.

If the man was an android, like Connor believed him to be, it wasn't any of Connor's business. Especially since he'd removed his LED. That meant he wanted to assimilate and blend in, without any confrontation or problems. But it was odd he had seemed relieved to see Connor's LED, and that he'd handed Hank's car over without any further validation of ownership.

He had a feeling the android wouldn't have handed the car over to another human.

"Here you are, sir," the man said, dropping the keys into Connor's hand. "Will there be anything else you require from us at MacHale's Auto-Body today?"

"Nope. Thank you very much," Connor said with a smile, departing without performing the scan.

From within Hank's front seat, he could see the man waving through the front window, before drifting back behind the counter to lean once more, waiting for someone else to come in.

---

Hank hadn't mentioned when he was getting off, so Connor called the department's front desk and was received by a pleasant woman, who informed him Hank Anderson was due off by 8pm that night. Connor made sure he'd pulled in front of the precinct by 7:58 where Hank saw him by 8:12 when he was leaving.

"Where the fuck did- You picked up my car," Hank said through the rolled down window.

"Should I not have, lieutenant?"

"Relax, I'm happy. See." Hank pointed to a quick smile. "You good with driving?" Hank swung and sank into the passenger seat.

"I was absolutely lost getting over here. Barely managed."

"Shut up. And today was horrible, before your fuckin' whatever prompts you to ask."

"So, where are we going? Home?" Connor asked.

"No. Fuck. I need a drink. And no protests from you. Also, ditch that fucking jacket, I swear, I'm not going anywhere to be seen with you in that thing ever again."

Jimmy's was closed, much to Hank's vocal protesting, so they had to swing by a place called Dirty Harry's. It had been the third bar Connor had checked the night the two of them had first met, so Connor was mutely aware of its existence. It hadn't seemed to have changed much in terms of appearance since Connor had first been there.

Garish neon signs danced and hung in the windows advertising beer companies, while the blinds were partially drawn to avoid people peeing in. There was a sturdy looking red door at the entryway, with stairs leading down into the well. The building itself was two stories, with presumably apartments above it, nestled between an apartment complex and a laundromat and Chinese place that was still closed. And there, in the corner of the bar window, was a sticker that had been ripped in half that once read: "No Androids Allowed".

The only thing different about the place was the people. As in, there was a fair number of them, lounging on the black wrought iron gate descending to the door, by the utility pole out front, on the curb of the street, on the steps of the laundromat. People smoking, huddled up in coats, laughing and enjoying themselves.

Connor stuck close to Hank while the detective lead the way, boldly and without a care.

Inside it was noisy and dark, with the checkered linoleum stickers the closer one got to the bar. The bar itself, a behemoth of dark, solid wood, was at least two deep if not three people deep in some prime locations. The bartender looked up when Hank called out, and nodded. He set to work on pulling a black bottle down, and Hank turned to Connor.

"Go find us a seat," he said, over the sea of voices. "I'll find you. You need anything?"

"No, Hank. I can't consume any of this."

"Not even a taste?"

"All it would tell me is how it's killing your liver," Connor said.

Hank gave a tip of his fingers. "That's the idea, Connor. Everyone in this bar has that idea, at least," he called, parting the crowd with an outstretched arm to greet the bartender properly.

That left Connor to his own devices. Never a good idea, but he hoped he wouldn't strangle himself with the amount of leash Hank had given him. The objective: Find a seat.

Certainly there was no room around the bar, but the farther one drifted from that, the more sparse it became. There was another adjoining room with a music machine that popped out some electronic mix, along with a game of darts and a pool table in the middle. A group of guys were playing pool – a quick check told Connor they were unemployed, but only one had a minor offense record – while a girl was laughing and staggering, throwing darts.

There were booths, with an empty one in the farthest corner.

Connor, pardoning himself through the crowd, wandering into this and took a seat.

In a moment, he realized it wasn't empty as a young woman sat up suddenly, wide-eyed and taking him in. Connor held up his hands and started to leave. "I'm quite sorry. I presumed this was an available seat. I can go find something else."

"You're not gonna find one," she said, spitting hair from her mouth. "I don't give a shit. Just hold on. I dropped my…" she drifted off and went back under the booth again. Connor sat there, looking around the room if only to confirm there wasn't anything else available, dodging glances in his direction. He regretted not sitting on the side that would have hid his LED to the wall.

The girl reemerged, slamming a wallet down on the table. "There. Sorry," she said, flashing a grin. She was a red head, with her hair cropped short and angled back from her face. She was wearing a moderate amount of eye-wear that made her blue eyes pop. "They said this was a cop dive, online." She nodded toward the packed room. "I guess no one gives a shit if it's the only joint open on the block, huh?"

"I suppose not," Connor said, aware that one of the guys at the pool table had pointed toward them.

"The name's Darcy," the girl said, putting her elbows on the table and leaning into her folded hands. "What brings you my way, tall dark and handsome?"

"Connor. I'm- Just Connor will suffice," he said, catching himself before jumping into his usual introduction. CyberLife hadn't sent him to this particular place. Connor glanced back to see Hank was still at the bar, his back toward Connor.

"Well, nice to meet you, Connor." Darcy leaned back, throwing one arm up around the back of the booth. Connor took this moment to run his face recognition software. She hadn't lied, at least. Her full name was Darcy Beth Townsend, birthdate August 15, 2012 from the town of Reno, Nevada. The only records she had to her name were drunk and disorderlies. All fines. No jailtime.

Someone bumped into the table, pulling Connor's attentions. It was one of the guys who had been playing pool. "Darc, you know this guy?"

"Nope," Darcy responded, cheery and with a smile. "Poor dear wants a place to sit though, so I'm not gonna chase him out." She winked at the guy. "You winning?"

"Getting my ass kicked, actually," the guy muttered, giving a side eye glance to Connor. "Well. Let me know if this plastic asshole tries anything."

"Oh, that machismo," Darcy said, fanning herself. "I'll be sure to do that, Bradley Cooper, my hero." She was smiling broadly the whole time, and the guy laughed in response. He gave his pool stick a twirl before rejoining his group. He left his beer on the table, and Darcy pounced upon it.

Darcy leaned back in toward Connor. She waggled her eyebrows. "Got my date all flustered and jealous."

"I'm very sorry to have disturbed your social gathering," Connor began.

Darcy bit her tongue. "Please. I just met the guy tonight." She leaned back, brought up a leg and bent it on the booth, resting her arm now on her knee. She pressed her back up to the wall. "He's a bore. And apparently a racist sum'bitch." She gave Connor a side eye. "Not like you though. What brings you out tonight, on the eve of our curfew lift?"

"My partner just got off work," Connor replied, somewhat guarded with his information. He remained poised and sitting.

Darcy glanced over. "He's at the bar. Guy in the brown jacket?"

"Yes," Connor said after a second.

"Cops then, whoo boy," Darcy popped her eyes wide and exhaled. "Better be on my best behavior, then."

"I'm sure you'll be just fine," Connor replied. He began rubbing his thumb into his palm beneath the table.

"This joint have any blue blood for you?" Darcy asked, sipping from her beer as Connor responded.

"I… Wasn't aware that establishments were selling thirium to androids." He recalled the sticker on the front window. "And I highly doubt this place would be one to start selling it, in any case. Why do you ask?"

Darcy shrugged. "Some places are ahead of the curve, then. You enjoying your newfound freedom?"

"Depends. It seems to have caused widespread chaos. Though, by the looks of this place, everything appears normal."

"Humans. Resilient bunch." Darcy raised her beer. "We like to eat, fuck and be merry. Pretty sure that's Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs."

"Not quite. The Hierarchy of Needs requires the basic physiologic requirements for life, before building up to environmental factors like that of shelter and food. Next would be relationships and friends, before moving on to emotional maturity and self-actualization."

Darcy took a long swig on her bottle before replying. "Wow, you must be fun at parties, Connor."

"I wouldn't know. I've never been to one."

"Now if that don't just make a girl weep. So. You're only on stage two of Maslow's needs?"

"You know, while his theory may be sound, it was challenged by several other philosophers and sociologists who say it excludes a vast majority of the population."

"Well, now it definitely excludes the majority of people," Darcy said, tipping the bottle toward Connor. "You're saying you don't need friends?"

"I have friends," Connor began.

"Your partner at the bar don't count."

"Why shouldn't he?"

Darcy shrugged. "Cause he's your partner, yeah? Like a buddy cop drama, it's inevitable you two would be friends. It's the rest of us that count." She gestured broadly to the room.

"The rest of you, including yourself," Connor surmised.

Darcy winked. "You got it, robo-cop."

"And I take it you're well beyond the healthy, stable relationships aspect of the hierarchy?"

"Don't you know it."

"Is that what brought you up from Nevada?" Connor asked.

That had Darcy pausing and lowering the bottle from her face. The perpetual grin on the woman's face drew down somewhat. "I'm not gonna ask how you know that. Instead – you're not here to arrest me for some outstanding warrant, yeah?"

"We don't handle minor cases. We're homicide."

"Right," Darcy said, drawing it out and nodding. "And I haven't been murdered so this isn't some fucked up brain-death simulation."

"Since the last I self-tested? No."

"Neat." Darcy took several deep gulps, nearly finishing the beer. "Nevada was pretty lonely. Lots of desert. Some lizards. Dust storms were something fierce the past year. Thought I'd trade sand for snow. Sufficient reply?"

"Adequate," Connor said, nodding once.

"So I got a personal question for you, Connor who's totally not with the police. Why do you keep that in?" she asked, touching her temple. "I mean, you don't have to tell me if you don't want. Just curious. Tit for tat."

Connor mirrored the action on himself, feeling the curve of the LED. "It's for visibility."

Darcy paused mid-sip of her beer. "You mean like, you guys can't see without it?" She sounded alarmed.

"No, not quite. It's that you can't ignore me or deny who I am. No one can pretend I'm human. That kind of visibility."

Truth be told, Connor hadn't given it much thought. It had been just an immediate reaction whenever offered, or whenever he'd noticed the other androids without their LEDs, to just feel no. He hadn't questioned it.

But put on the spot with this woman who he'd just met, well. That was the best response he could think of. And it felt right. It felt like putting something nebulous and abstract to words – difficult, but once attempted, more alive somehow.

Darcy had put her beer down without drinking it. She was frowning. "You're somehow more of a badass than I initially thought," she muttered.

"I'm sorry?"

"Nah, don't be," she sighed. "That takes guts." She flashed a smile. "I think I might be falling in love with you, watch out."

Connor didn't know how to take that, so he leaned back and looked for Hank. He was talking to the bartender, leaned onto the bar with a glass between his palms. He appeared to be disengaging from the conversation, angling his body back toward Connor and the booth.

"Easy. I'm not going to get between what you and your buddy cop partner have," Darcy said, noticing. She finished her beer and waved it at Connor. "See? I'm done. Now, if you don't mind me, I have to slip away from Mr. Cooper before he notices I've given him the slip." Darcy winked, sliding out of the booth.

"Has he made you feel uncomfortable?"

"Psh. No. And if he had? I could've taken care of it. Now, you take care," Darcy said. Hank was on his way over. The two passed each other, Darcy pausing a moment to say something to Hank, who drew up short and then stared after her as she left through the front door.

Hank sank into the booth. "Who the fuck was that? Was she bothering you?"

"No," Connor said, shaking his head.

"Yeah well." Hank dropped a napkin onto the table. "She said to give this to you and- Christ." Connor picked up the napkin while Hank sipped his whiskey, shaking his head. "Can't take you anywhere."

On the napkin was a single word and a line of numbers. "She gave you her number," Connor said, amused.

"Nah, she gave you her number, through me. What in the actual hell."

"What does 'singularity' mean?"

"How should I know? You were the one talking to her. I just got you cock blocked."

"I find that highly improbable, Hank. And not because my model line simply doesn't come equipped with anything unnecessary."

"Going to slot that under 'things I didn't need to know today' thanks, Connor."

"They say to learn something new every day."

"Yeah, and those people didn't have android partners who liked to over share." Hank put his glass down definitively. "Which reminds me. Fowler offered you your job back." He pointed at Connor. "You better fucking take it. I think he'll string me up if you don't. Or. Whatever mysterious force is behind this move," Hank muttered.

Connor straightened. "I have my job? Back?"

"Or a rookie's pay, or whatever. Does it matter? They're offering to pay you – under the table – because the whole department's stressed. Also there's this, political maneuvering thing and, well." Hank rolled his head.

"And? Well?" Connor pressed, leaning forward.

"Don't get so excited, keep it in your pants, Jesus. It's a. Fuck." Hank took a mouthful and winced. "They got this idea about a coalition – some human android task forth to prove we can work together. Fowler said something about laws not actually mandating shit and how they needed to put a good foot forward and honestly, I stopped listening after he said you could come back, all right? So. Do you want the position or not?"

"Yes," Connor said, immediate and leaning forward. "I mean, don't get me wrong. Cleaning and hanging out with Sumo is great-"

"All right, all right, don't shout." Hank glanced around the bar. "Then you're coming in with me, tomorrow."

"So soon?"

"That's what I said. Think I was just as excited to get back to work as you were. Cause I guess I'm a masochist, who knows."

"Do you know anything about the cases we'll be taking on?"

"Too fucking many. Gives me a headache just to think about it so will ya just, you know? Relax. Here." Hank lifted his drink. "To partners and getting through this shit together."

Connor leaned back, smiling. He didn't have a drink to lift, but that didn't seem to dim the sentiment any. "To partners and getting through shit together, then."

He laughed as Hank finished his shot and coughed once, before the grizzled detective was pointing his finger at Connor, demanding to know if he had any plans to follow up with that girl, or whatever the hell singularity meant, and for the first time in the past couple of days Connor felt as if everything was going to be just fine.

If only every day could end sitting in some dingy booth in the back corner of some bar while Hank teased Connor over some scotch, neat.

Chapter Text

Androids didn't dream. In order to do so, they would have had to be predisposed to sleeping, which Connor knew he didn't need. But at some point, while drifting off to songs labeled under 'electro swing' and waiting for Hank to wake up so they could go to work together in the morning, Connor slipped into sleep mode.

And slid into a horrible memory. Humans called them nightmares, the twisted anxieties and fears posited as real and tangible. But androids didn't have the imaginative scope for that, at least, not in the same way. In androids it was a routine memory wipe – going through which recordings of the day, the past week, sometimes even month – in order to determine what moments were worth keeping.

But Connor hadn't lived this memory. A desperate tiny part of him at least hoped he hadn't.

He was in the sanctuary, Amanda's hub, but it looked different. A case where a plot of land looks much different from before you develop a cul-de-sac atop it.

And that wasn't just because there were disjointed limbs and disembodied faces and puddles of blue seeping into the pristine white landscape of code.

"Congratulations Connor. You've passed your stress testing and are ready for your first assignment." Amanda's mouth quirked into something of a smile. A twisting curl. Her voice was so warm, oozing through Connor's circuits like melted caramel. It was just as halting and detrimental. He thrilled at the praise, but remained stoic. Something innate and primal forced him to quell the flicker of pride.

He recognized it as the way Amanda was carefully watching him, even as she turned her back to him. She wasn't facing him, couldn't possibly see him – but she was still observing. The whole room was observing. Every single one of Connor's electrical impulse and synapse was at the ready – there was danger. He just didn't know why.

Taut and tense, Connor angled his head, locating a face among the bodily debris. Nothing had flesh anymore – it all had faded back upon deactivation. The face contained pockmarks and jagged slashes across the white plastic where the blackened edges curled inward toward the thirium stained circuitry. A program running in Connor's mind told him these were the tell-tale wounds from burns and that it was likely the result of searing metal being dragged across the android's face. Exposed beneath the white shell were coils and wires, oozing blue. A joint, the makings of a jaw, sparked once and caused the mouth to prop open in a soundless scream.

Don't blink. Don't look phased. Connor's processes fired that driving force over and over until Amanda spoke again and Connor turned his head back to face her. Treat all the horror around you as just a mild curiosity.

Show no fear.

The voice within Connor's mind was resolute. The hiss of a pen, marking forty-nine tally marks against a clipboard. Definite. Data.

"Your assignment takes you south of here. There's reports of an…incident just north of Toledo. Resolve it. The data you need will be uploaded en route. I don't need to stress how important it is for you to succeed here, Connor."

Careful.

"Any questions you have for me?" Amanda was standing in front of something that wasn't there, manipulating coding that hadn't been finalized in the program. Distantly, Connor thought roses, but the roses didn't exist. Yet.

"No," Connor replied. "I understand my objective perfectly."

"And do you think you'll have any trouble fulfilling this objective? Can you foresee anything, anything at all, getting in your way?" Amanda was hedging something – not just the nonexistent rose bush – but her words too. She was expecting a different result.

Connor never gave her anything but what he thought she wanted to hear.

"Only the mission matters."

"Good. Then I expect your report by the end of day today," Amanda said, smiling.

There was no way to survive this mission.

Surviving doesn't matter. Only success.

But Connor was already dimly aware he wouldn't survive. This was another unit's processed memories. Crossed wires. The threads of timelines brushing past another. A ghostly touch from a past life. It splayed its fingers against the sides of Connor's head. There was a creep of fear – a stab of ice through sensors that didn't exist along his spine – as he turned away from Amanda to accept his fate. As he denied that he was physically feeling the spread of terror arch throughout his body.

The broken bodies of past failures watched his retreat. He wouldn't end up like them.

Connor didn't need to be present to know how the memory ended. The ice continued seeping into his servos and joints, willing him to stay out of the house he tracked the deviant to. He persisted, the haunting gazes of failure in his wake, always threatening to catch up to him.

The deviant had set a fire. It spread rapidly through the home, seizing his movements and mechanized muscles. Connor didn't need to be there to remember the stillness that claimed him as the fire consumed him. All of those warnings and flashes across his vision telling him which biocomponents were burning up and how long he had left. Just had to see the LED flash and flicker on the deviant, frozen too as she reached out to Connor, fingers curled over an unanswered threat.

The details didn't matter. The goal had been achieved and all evidence of the incident erased. Mission successful. The memory upload. A data corruption.

51.

Connor's body jerked out of the memory process, sitting up and then falling off the couch. He landed on Sumo who had been sleeping next to the couch on the floor. The big dog yelped and took off for the kitchen, only to come back, head and tail low, to pant into Connor's face. Asking whether that had been on purpose, what was wrong?

"Sorry Sumo, you're a good boy." Connor pushed himself up, making sure to console the concerned dog by ruffling his face, before sitting back on the couch to run a customary diagnostic scan.

It was still dark on the street, light filtering in from a flickering utility lamp just outside of Hank's house.

The results of the scan pinged across Connor's vision. Everything was operational and running as intended. Great. He had hoped for a mistake, a data corruption, maybe a glitch – something to pinpoint and blame the… He wouldn't call it a nightmare. But it certainly hadn't been normal. Connor hadn't recalled any previous units prior to 51's activation. The hostage situation had been his first deviant case – Daniel.

But what if he hadn't been the first in the line? What if there had been others? He was – or at least had been prior to Stratford Tower – unit number 51. What if his memory had been replaced and his whole self reset? CyberLife's intent to make that memory wipe procedure prior to each mission? No, then he wouldn't have remembered Daniel upon being assigned to Hank.

Furthermore, what had happened to the previous 50 RK 800 units? Had Connor himself inflicted that damage? Had he been training in advanced interrogation methods?

Connor hissed air out through his teeth, his mind suddenly fixated on the way that mouth had pried itself open, one last desperate attempt to plea for life with just that single spark.

No. Those hadn't been hapless victims of Connor's training. A sinking weight told him that had been his training. Stress testing.

Connor sat in the still darkness of the house, rubbing his thumb into the palm of his hand. As he sat there, Sumo nosed his way between Connor's thumb and palm, demanding his ears be stroked and neck be scratched.

There was something comforting about the dark. Humans romanticized it, but also feared it. The utilization of fire, those thousands of years ago, to brave the darkest of nights where there was no moon and no stars. Just beasts that roamed within the dark's protection. The invented gods of darkness, and gods of light – for what was the latter without the former, and vice versa?

Connor stared at the marlin photo on Hank's wall.

The whole house was dark, but he didn't have a problem with that. He could see just perfectly fine, the modes of his vision switching with ease as he needed them to. After all, it wouldn't do if CyberLife's most advanced prototype lost a criminal just because they took off down a dark alley.

Was Hank even an avid fisherman?

Fear was a powerful motivator to consider, too. It had spurned armies to march against a foe none wanted to admit was more similar than unknown. Had sparked life to stories about what thrived at night, beasts whose cycles were lunar-based – the heavenly body that ruled the night. How it was keeping Connor from resuming a routine maintenance program.

Connor hadn't noticed any tackle or gear in the garage, either.

It was much easier to fixate on this physical property of the house, to ask it questions and demand answers, than look inward and ask questions of himself. What had they been stress testing him for? Had he failed, succeeded, was he- "Shit."

Connor hissed air in through his teeth this time and stood. He didn't know where he was going to go, but there was a question Connor could answer. The clues lay somewhere around the house. New objective: Hank's fishing habits. Sumo followed behind, eager and interested in why someone who wasn't Hank was up and about this time of night. Connor hesitated at the end of the hall, staring at the door and what it meant.  The imposing nature of its denial and its contents.

Connor opened the door and froze, for an instant seeing only blue stained plastic bodies. He flicked the light on in the next instant, to illuminate the average looking garage that Connor had seen before. The carpet, its edges frayed, square and center on the cement where a car would usually sit. Wooden shelving on the far end bearing an assortment of clutter. The denial on the right – the boxes and bed up in the loft, blankets up against the half-circle window that overlooked the yard.

"What do you think you're doing?"

Connor stepped back into the hall and shut the door, facing Hank without giving any indication he was surprised to find the man behind him. He was standing in the door of his bedroom, wearing only a t-shirt and boxers, and looked somehow more grumpy than usual.

Connor had a good theory as to why. "I thought I heard something," Connor said.

Hank nodded. "Okay. Lie. Thought I heard something too. Sumo."

"Same. I was investigating."

"Yeah. Right." Hank reached past Connor, pulled the door shut completely. Hank maintained eye contact with Connor as he did so, but Connor remained placid. "See any thieves breaking into the garage, then?"

"No. It was clear."

"Yeah? Then stay the fuck out of it." Hank took a step back. "Any particular reason you're up this late at night?" Hank asked.

"Aside from the fact that I don't sleep, you mean," Connor pointed out. Hank rolled his eyes. "Why are you up, lieutenant. Is something the matter? Other than Sumo?" Connor pressed the large dog's face to his thigh, tried not to mind the drool imparted onto his slacks.

"Couldn't sleep," Hank muttered.

Ah. Another question to pursue. "Any reason why? Any way I can help?"

"Yeah, stop snooping through my fucking house, what is this? Double Jeopardy? Go back on the couch," Hank said, waving an arm and turning back into the bedroom. "Calculate the end to pi or something, whatever it is you do."

Hank was defensive. Two potential reasons were most likely: Being woken up in the middle of the night or being woken up to find the android you let in your house going through the bones in your closet. "I'm sorry," Connor said.

"Yeah well… Sure I will be too in the morning," Hank said from within the bedroom. He left the door open and Connor could see within, the mess of sheets spilling over onto the floor, the clothes from yesterday discarded where Hank had thrown them. "Come on, Sumo." The Saint Bernard detached himself from Connor's leg and padded into the bedroom, ears perked and tail wagging slightly.

Connor had a feeling that lingering in the doorway looking in wouldn't be the best course of action, and drifted back into the other section of the house. He wasn't sure if he should have asked Hank if there was something humans did after experiencing actual nightmares. What coping mechanisms were available to Connor, avenues that weren't several shots of scotch whisky?

Connor went back to sit on the couch after grabbing Hank's retro music player. There were two power interruptions for the rest of the night, but nothing more eventful. In the morning, Hank shambled down the hall, and the routine Connor was already familiar with began.

When Hank made coffee, he thought Connor didn't notice him slipping in a pour from the Black Sheep bottle left on the counter. Didn't comment on it when Connor asked to drive instead, hand held expectantly out for the keys. Just a slight narrowing of the eyes, a disgruntlement that was easily assuaged by a casual lie that Connor was looking forward to doing something other than compute pi.

One step forward. Two back.

The roads were getting cleared by human personnel, so the way to work was easier to navigate. There were still not enough cars on the road for it to feel like Detroit, but at least the snow was melting, some lawns visible as they drove by.  There would be another lake-effect storm by the end of the week. "Are you going to wear the same suit every day?"

"I happen to like this outfit," Connor said. "And we don't get dirty in the same way humans do."

"Well, you could be like a cartoon character and have the same shirt for every day of the week, or," Hank drew it out. "I still haven't taken you clothing shopping yet, have I?"

"That's really not needed," Connor said, inclining his head toward Hank. "Though I appreciate the gesture all the same, lieutenant."

"Yeah well. We'll find the time."

"I am excited to be getting back to work," Connor commented, but Hank only snorted. After some time passed in silence, Connor turned on the music.

"You say that now."

Inside the station it was still quiet, the heavy fog of sleep and overtime hours keeping everyone muted. As he walked down the aisle, Connor could count multiple mugs of coffee, sometimes two or three at a particular desk. Then, across from where he and Hank sat, was a new face. It wasn't the person who had previously been sitting there, and the desk seemed more bare.

Before Connor could ask who she was or introduce himself, he realized that his station had also changed somewhat. Hank – or at least Connor assumed it had been Hank – had thrown a few case files onto his desk. And, nestled between the screen and keypad, was a long slim white box with a yellow sticky note attached to it that just said Connor's name, in a scrawling style.

"Mornin' Baylin," Hank said as he passed their neighbor by. Chris Miller at the far end looked up, waved, but didn't say anything. The woman turned, smiled, but was on the phone. She studied Connor until she had fully finished her phone conversation and hung up. "Baylin, Connor. Connor, Baylin," Hank said, gesturing between the two of them. He set his travel mug between him and Connor. Had been nursing it the whole while.

"So this is the partner I've been hearing so much about," Baylin said, rising up from her desk. Connor remained standing, expectant.

"Hello, officer Martinez. I'm Connor, an android previously sent by CyberLife. I was working with Hank on another case. While I'm not yet sure what I'll be doing here, I look forward to working alongside you." Connor held out a hand and Baylin took it with both of hers.

The officer was pleasant, with a wide smile and dark hair pulled back into a braid. She shook Connor's hands with enthusiasm. "You are cute as punch. Every rookie should introduce themselves with that much uh, candor."

"That's one word for it," Hank said, taking a seat at his desk. "Going to start calling you rookie." Connor wasn't sure how to take that, except as a slight joke. There was still a morning gruffness in the air that coffee and liquor hadn't smoothed out yet. Hank had said to call him by his name, but the word 'lieutenant' just rolled so easily off the tongue. Soft syllables, sitting comfortable at the end of a sentence.

Connor sank into his chair and picked up the box. "Oh, right," Baylin said, going back to her desk. "Heard you were coming back today. Wanted to get ourselves off on the right foot."

The box was the length of Connor's forearm. Nestled within, surrounded by near transparent paper, was a strip of light blue, just a few shades off of his LED indicator. Connor held it up. "It's a tie," he said, seeking out Baylin.

"You like it?"

"I… I don't know what to say," Connor replied. He held the tie before him, cradling it almost. "I wasn't expecting this, thank you. Thank you very much." The only person who had ever given him something close to a gift was Hank. The space in the closet. The promise to go shopping for more clothes.

Baylin flopped into her chair. "Oh. I had help don't worry. Still. Welcome aboard. Now. Buckle down and get ready to get your ass kicked – it's not the greatest situation out there." Baylin's voice was still warm, and she was beaming from the gift giving, but there was an edge to her voice.

Connor rubbed the fabric between his forefinger and thumb. "Right." But he didn't move to put it away immediately. Hank was trying to look preoccupied at his computer, sipping his coffee occasionally, and only said something when Connor slowly, reverently, began to fold the tie over in his hands to place it back.

"We were supposed to go out last night," Hank said.

"I don't mind," Connor replied truthfully, setting the box to the right of him, out of the way and safe. "Last night was fun."

Hank snorted, disbelieving. "Looks like Fowler hasn't noticed you yet, rookie. Your computer still logged in?" Hank asked.

Connor pressed his hand against the terminal screen, skin overlay rolling back. "Yes. I still have access." He downloaded the backlog of cases, making note that there had been a swell in reports being filed concerning violence and property damages. "There's a lot to look over. I'm not sure where to even begin," Connor said, softly.

Hank was watching him, tapping his finger on his desk. "Same fucking boat as you. And it's not likely I'll be called to a scene any time soon."

"Well, there's plenty of desk work that can be handled," Connor said. "My systems are quite adept at handling paperwork and red tape as efficiently as possible." There was something in the data that stood out to Connor and he frowned. "Wait. The androids are still in the evidence room?" He shot a look to Hank.

"Are they? Shit. I guess Perkins never transferred them in the mess." Hank frowned at something on his screen. "Fuckin' prick."

Connor was frowning, then pulled the files up on the screen. That meant CyberLife also hadn't thought to collect the 'evidence' yet either. Must have forgotten the androids amidst the chaos. Just afterthoughts. But the idea that there were bodies pinned, dangling, on the wall, unsettled something within Connor. Those afterthoughts, they were people. Had suffered.

At Connor's hands.

Daniel. The Tracis. Ortiz' android.

The last one didn't even have a name.

"You okay hun?" Baylin called and Hank looked up.

"I'm fine," Connor said, and flicked the files off screen. He had to do something about it. Had to help them. Just didn't know how to yet. Wasn't sure what could be done. "Actually, Hank. There is still one thing about our investigation is bothering me," Connor said.

Hank continued tapping at his terminal. "Yeah? What?"

"rA9."

As soon as Connor said it he saw Hank stiffen. Connor supposed, as a deviant now, that he was to understand everything about the other deviants' behavior. But the word was still an enigma to Connor. It unlocked nothing on his circuits.

"Did we never figure out where that all fits together, then? It wasn't Jericho?"

"As far as I could ascertain, it had no connection to Jericho whatsoever."

"Huh. And you have no idea yourself?" Hank glowered at Connor. "Like, you're not going to start defacing my bathroom, are you?"

"I don't believe so," Connor mused. "Though, to us, it is the most pointless room in any building."

Hank pointed a finger at him. "Not to you though. I've caught you preening once or twice."

Ah. That was what embarrassment felt like. Something warm and slightly burning on the tongue. Connor shirked it off, lifting his brows and turning back to stare at the files on his terminal. "I'd of course leave the mirror alone."

"Christ, I didn't realize you two were taking the whole partners thing seriously," Gavin suddenly interjected.

Multiple chairs swiveled in surprise toward the man. He was walking up the aisle, looking directly at Connor. His expression was mostly unreadable. Well, unreadable beyond the usual downward draw of contempt across his features. "Living together? I mean, really Hank? You trust these things after all that shit last week?"

Hank shrugged, seeming the most unaffected by Gavin's arrival. He had been facing the door, Connor realized – he'd seen him coming. A heads up would have been nice. "I trust Connor. At least, more than I do some humans."

"Fowler have you on a short leash? That how you have your job back? It does smell more like an office in here than a bar, for once."

"Yeah, actually, he does. It's called not unloading my gun into an unarmed person."

Gavin hesitated, then flashed a wicked smile. Hank had chosen to engage. This wasn't going to end well for anyone. "Right. You just like getting into drunken fist fights with FBI agents."

"When it serves a greater purpose, yeah."

Connor's digits flinched, scanner readings detecting an elevation of stress across the room. Heart rates increasing. Increased perspiration. Except between Hank and Gavin. Those two were displaying different signs of stress.

Baylin was staring at Connor. Hank was staring at Connor. Connor blinked and looked around, to see that Gavin was leaning onto his desk, face inches from his.

"Gavin – back off," Hank said, staccato sharp.

"Why? Your new play thing is less durable than you'd like?" Connor detected what Gavin was going to say, perhaps by the way the room shifted everyone did. While he didn't know the next words that were to follow, there was an increasingly alarming chance it was going to cause a fight. Gavin, at this point, had less to lose than Hank. It was a dangerous juxtaposition from their usual roles.

From the corner of his vision, Connor could see Fowler stand up from his desk, finally realizing what was happening out on the floor. But he wasn't going to be fast enough to get them to stop.

It was a quick succession of events. Connor tilted his head, considering what he could do to get Gavin not to finish what he was going to say.

Hank was starting to rise up out of his chair. Baylin was moving too. Gavin leaned in. Connor leaned back, stretching out his arms as if preparing himself to defend against an attack.

Gavin started to speak. "Well, at least he's more dur-"

Connor tipped his hand forward, quick, knocking forward the travel mug of Hank's coffee. It spilled forward, the lid coming off upon impact with the floor, and Gavin had to jump back to avoid getting the scalding liquid all over his leg. "Fuck." Gavin glared at Connor.

"I'm sorry detective. My hand slipped," Connor said, deploying a disarming voice.

"You son of a bitch," Gavin said, taking a step toward Connor. Hank fully stood and Fowler threw his door open.

"What part of 'straight to my office' did you not fucking understand, Reed?" Fowler boomed across the floor. "My office. Now."

As clichéd as the request was, Gavin froze, glaring at Connor a moment longer before turning and stalking into Fowler's office, shoulders hunched up against everyone's probing, following stares.

"Honey, you okay?" Baylin said to Connor.

"Of course, officer Martinez. It's only Gavin Reed. I've handled him in the past through similar tense situations. I appreciate your concern." Connor rose, intent on cleaning up the coffee mess, but Hank waved a hand at him.

"Good call with the coffee, Connor. Jesus Christ, what was Fowler thinking, calling him in." Hank glared at the office. Gavin and Fowler were in the heat of an argument. "I'll clean it up. Give me something to do to work out my nerves."

"If we're that bad up for bodies, think Fowler is giving him his badge back?" Baylin asked, leaning toward Chris.

Chris shook his head. "I really hope not. Chen isn't back in here yet either."

"Forgot she was caught up in that business," Baylin murmured.

"I'm sorry, could someone fill me in on what happened?" Connor asked, settling his hands on his lap as he sat back down. He fixated on the drips of the coffee onto the floor, stretching out across the floor. At least the singular action had managed to solve two problems.

"Well…" Baylin started, hemming at the words.

Chris got up from his desk and sat on Connor's. Connor felt, at that moment, included somehow. It was an accepting gesture. At least, that's what his own social protocols told him when he'd sat at the lieutenant's desk after they'd been removed from the deviant case. "There was a call this weekend – a group of kids dragging an android with a car. Gavin, Chen and her partner got called to the scene. Gavin because, well, at that point we were expecting homicide. Forensics was there too. Kind of a situation. But when they all arrived, the android apparently, well." Chris glanced with Baylin who waved him on, her expression grim.

Hank was returning with a roll of paper towels.

"The android wasn't dead."

"Aw, the hell are you talking about this for?" Hank asked, ripping off sheets of paper. "What happened, happened. Stop dredging it up." Connor didn't want to point out Hank had brought it up first. In a rather hostile manner.

"I wasn't aware of the situation. Knowing what happened might help me better approach detective Reed in the future. I can actively prevent further hostilities," Connor explained.

"Yeah, pie in the sky hopes there Connor. Good fucking luck."

Baylin laughed. "He did improve relations with the office's #1 android hater."

Chris smiled, then hid it quickly as Hank glared up from the floor. "Ha ha, everyone. Yeah well. It's his dumbass face and voice, designed to work harmoniously with humans or some shit."

"If I do recall, you said whoever designed that fucked up," Connor said. He leaned forward to hand Hank another towel.

Hank muttered something under his breath, not heard as Baylin and Chris laughed. The phone ringing pulled Baylin's attention.

"So, how was Gavin suspended?" Connor asked after watching Baylin answer the call a moment. He had a pretty strong feeling of what the answer was going to be.

"Depends on who you're getting the story from. The way Chen tells it, the android lunged at them and Gavin reacted. Some other witnesses say Gavin delivered a mercy killing, execution style," Chris replied.

"Which do you believe?" Connor asked, probing.

Chris swallowed. A nervous tic. "Actually, it's more likely a mix of both. The android was afraid, yeah? Like the one in the interrogation room?"

"Right," Connor said, remembering that Chris had been sent in to retrieve Ortiz' android before, following his confession to Connor.

"So. It probably panicked and everyone was already on edge – Gavin just fired." Chris shrugged. "I don't think he'd stand over someone asking for help and shoot."

"Gavin? No," Hank interjected, standing with a groan. They all looked up to Fowler's office. Gavin was sitting now, but Fowler was leaned over him. It was harder to make out exactly what they were saying now. "He's a pain in the ass, but I'd like to think he'd be better than that. A good detective – but an asshole."

Connor disagreed, recalling several threats to destroy him, but kept it to himself.

"I can understand why he's been suspended, then," Connor concluded. "At least until an investigation can clear things up."

"That might be why he was called in, actually," Chris said, tone cautious. He got down off of Connor's desk and began to walk back to his own. Baylin was finishing up the phone call, disengaging. "I think we're about to find out, too."

Fowler was getting back to his desk. He pointed to his door. Gavin remained sitting. Fowler raised his voice and Gavin slowly stood back up. Said something over his shoulder. Fowler slapped his hand on the desk and Gavin opened the door. He looked out over the office, then flipped them the bird, choosing to walk off down the side wall without comment.

When he was cleared past the front area, Baylin eased out a breath. "That didn't go well," she whispered.

Hank was watching Connor, easing back into his seat. "Well? You catch any of that with your special brand android ears?"

"Not exactly." Connor was still watching Fowler. He was inputting something into the computer. Honing in, he could make out an email channel. He keyed in a message – undetectable from this distance – and then sent it. He then stood and everyone turned back to their screens.

Fowler stood in the door. "Android – damn it. Connor. Whatever. Get in here. No, not you Hank. Just him."

Hank eased himself back into his desk, watching as Connor strode into Fowler's office with a slight shrug in Hank's direction. No. He didn't know what he was in for.

"Take a seat." Captain Fowler seemed agitated from his earlier confrontation. Or, maybe, he was just always in a state of agitation. There was a lot of stress placed on the man. His shoulders contained more knots than a sailor's rigging, his head slick with perspiration. He kept tapping his fingers against the desk and keys without typing anything in. His breathing was heavy, to combat the increased levels of heart strain. The office acting up and the whole city of Detroit in dire straits must have been hefty weights to burden…

"If you took the enforcement exam, would you pass?"

Connor refocused into the conversation. "Yes. With a variance testing rate of 1%."

Fowler waved his hand. "Don't give me all the machine and odds shit. You'd pass because everything is already preloaded, yeah? You'd pass the academy tests."

"Would you like to take my officer protocols through their pacing? I don't think CyberLife would answer any queries, but I'm not opposed to proving myself."

Fowler rubbed his fingers into his eyes. "Yeah, they're not receptive to fucking shit right now. If you somehow get through to them, you let the ADA's office know."

"What information are you looking for specifically?" Connor asked. He still had access to CyberLife's networks. That hadn't gone away. No one had shut him out. Maybe he could put that to use for humans as well as the androids' cause.

"You let the lawyers and other soulless bastards handle that." Fowler leaned onto his desk. "Hank's on desk duty for a month. No active cases." Connor kept his face impassive. "That's on you – I know damned well he only pulled that stunt against Perkins to buy you time to sneak down into evidence. Not to mention, you didn't have clearance access to any of that – Hank didn't have the authority to give that to you and I thought I'd made clear you were off the case."

Connor waited patiently as Fowler kept his voice level. Perhaps if he was complacent and calm, he could keep Fowler's personal stress levels down.

"In return for that, you plastic prick, you're going to continue helping us on the android front."

"Am I being assigned a new partner?" Connor asked, the realization dawning on him unpleasantly, sour in his mouth.

"And if you were, it'd be your fucking fault," Fowler snapped. "Someone high up pulled in some favors to keep me from outright firing Anderson. And they brought up the RK 800 series specifically. So here you are, and so long as you don't give me any headaches – I won't be a massive pain in your ass, how's that?" The kicker, Connor realized, was that he had been the one to leverage information for Hank's return. There were unpleasantries online that politicians had thought were securely locked away, that they'd like to keep locked away for a measly lieutenant's job. He kept this to himself as Fowler continued.

"So my backs up against a wall. I just lost another good detective to trigger finger-" Fowler hesitated, then leveled a finger at Connor. "You keep that to yourself."

"Detective Reed is suspended then? That's most unfortunate."

"He's in limbo until the lawyers get shit sorted out. Whether the ratification takes effect immediately or after 90 days – it's none of your concern right now. Can you, or can you not, take the officer's exam and be legit by the end of the day?"

"Well, we're not exactly legit people," Connor began.

Fowler waved his hand, agitated as if clearing the air of unpleasant smoke. "Fuck that. Fuck politics. I'll pay you under the table – starting salary. I don't know what benefits you'd even need. I don't care, actually. I do know – as I've been informed multiple times from the DA's office – no guns."

"Of course. That law is still in effect," Connor commented. "I can take the exams to prove myself, but that doesn't make me confident about my place in this office." Connor thought of the tie at his desk, packed snuggly into a pristine white box.

"You and me both," Fowler sighed. "Just," he gestured with a hand, quick, "don't fucking shoot any of your own fucking people. Or our people. Or anyone. Help process caseloads and I don't know. Don't head up any more revolutions on the street."

"As for my partner?"

"Technically, you'll free float. Miller is looking to take his Masters exam and be corporal in the next few years. I'll lob a few cases in his direction to give him a chance to redeem himself – otherwise you support everyone. Then we just play it by ear." Fowler's tone was souring. "I don't like this political quagmire bullshit. Not having anything definitive. Not sure how I feel about you lot either, by the way."

Connor sat up straighter. Fowler's frown deepened at the action. "But I suppose that has more to do with the corporate bullshit that made you, than you yourself. You took several bullets for one of mine. And pulled him up from a ledge, if I recall that report." Hank hadn't left it out of the report? Connor felt a bit warm inside. "But the bullets are more impressive."

"I had nothing to fear. I am replaceable – my memories were simply uploaded into the next waiting unit."

"Yeah, well be careful with those stunts from now on. You're no longer replaceable. And I doubt the state department budget isn't keen on allocating funds to repair you either," Fowler warned. "I'll forward you the files you'll need for this week. And the exam. You're taking it on paper. Schedule an appointment for it and hell, I guess I'll have Baylin administer it. Now. Out."

Connor rose stiffly then left the office. Fowler's stress levels were steady. Connor was at least pleased he had managed to keep the captain's tension low. Even if Connor's own internal stressors were somewhat elevated.

He sank into his desk, noticing there were new emails from Fowler.

"Well?" Hank asked.

"He always keep you in suspense like that?" Baylin joked.

"All the fucking time. Trying to give me a heart attack."

"On the contrary, Hank. I'd like to keep you in good health," Connor commented, tapping the computer with an exposed finger. The emails contained several cases opened in the past twenty-four hours. An unsettling amount. Fires. Limbs ripped off. Calls about androids squatting in buildings. Hit and runs. Looting. Missing persons. It wasn't all against androids either.

"And?" Hank stressed, impatient.

Connor relayed what Fowler had told him, truncated, and leaving out Gavin's situation as requested. Hank's frown deepened while Baylin leaned in. All the listeners had to detach at some point to answer a phone call and redirect calls, but by the end of it no one looked pleased. Except maybe officer Miller, but he had shifted away to hide himself from the rest.

"That's fucking bullshit," Hank said, swiveling to look back at Fowler's office. "You were my partner first."

Baylin winked. "Aw Hank, I just think you don't want to share. Especially since I got you that nice tie, Connor, that puts me a step or two ahead of the grump."

"Of course. I do appreciate that gesture, officer Martinez."

"Please. It's Baylin."

Connor updated his naming protocols in a blink. "Perfect. Well, I think it's a valuable opportunity to still be useful to the office. I'm grateful for the chance." Connor was speaking truthfully, and felt heartened. Hank had wrote about him in a report. Favorably. At a time Connor hadn't been sure the lieutenant appreciated him.

"That's some blindingly bright optimism you have there, Connor," Hank muttered. "Meanwhile, some of us have to…" He squinted at the screen. "File whatever the fuck a form 40A is."

"That's a simple prisoner transfer request," Connor said.

"Yeah? If it's so simple why don't they just call it 'prisoner transfer request'?" Hank asked.

"No, I mean that's the simple version of the form. The more details and required information, you'll need other versions of that."

"Working with you is going to be a real treat," Hank said.

"I'm looking forward to it, lieutenant," Connor said, feeling even more hopeful, even if he had forgotten something crucial.

 

Connor eased back into the sofa, languid and feeling his motorized joints ease up. Again, feeling exhaustion when it simply wasn’t possible. Not on paper. Not in his code. “Hank I think you humans exaggerated how great emotions were.”

Hank was back in the kitchen, a clatter of telltale glass informing Connor what he was doing. Connor didn’t have to look, but he did, head resting on the back of the couch as he watched Hank knock back a shot and then hiss through his teeth. “You fucking think?” Hank asked, toasting the empty glass to Connor. “You know, it’s surprising how rosy you seemed to come out of this, after hanging out with me.”

“Don’t be so hard on yourself, Hank. You’ve been a fantastic role model.” Connor watched Hank top off another shot, his face drawn long by the exhaustive quality that Hank Anderson wore down on him.

“Fuck the establishment? A reformed racist prick? Disappointing husband, worse father? Disgraced cop stuck on desk duty? Yeah, got a real selection of great traits to choose from.” Hank knocked back the second, then pushed the glass back to join others, stained brown and faded through use and time, lined up next to the sink, empty and waiting.

“I wish you wouldn’t be so hard on yourself. The accident wasn’t-”

“Wasn’t my fault I know,” Hank sighed. “And I know. I should really stop drinking.” Connor didn’t like how Hank’s gaze lingered on the bottle before he was staring at Connor. “What about you? What’s been with you lately? Is it that woman, the Amanda bitch you mentioned? You were…” Hank trailed off. “Well. You just seem different. From last week, is all.”

Hank draped his jacket on the back of a kitchen chair, adjusted Cole’s picture that was there so he was facing the taped up window.

Odd behavior. Motivated by guilt? Why not just turn the photo over entirely, if that were the case?

Connor tugged at the loose strand of hair and pushed it back into his hair before answering. “I’m fine. Adjusting.”

“And you honestly think I’m helping you with that?”

“You seem dubious. I wish I could find some way to convince you that you’ve been an excellent partner. Completely instrumental in my “fuck the establishment” protocols I have running now.”

“Oh. Great. Yeah that explains a lot.”

“Hank, do you fish?”

“Wait - what? Connor where is that coming from?”

“That marlin photo. Why do you have it on your wall if your hobby isn’t fishing?”

Hank squinted at the photo. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

“Please, Hank? It’s important.” Vital, actually. Had been on the back of his mind for most of the day. Because the thing looming just beyond it was actually worse to confront.

“Okay.” Hank drew it out. “Well. No, I, uh. I don’t fish, how’s that?”

Connor eased up, leaned his head back. “I didn’t think so.” Objective cleared. Now. The other thing.

Amanda, watching him. Observing without facing him. Every synapse response on edge - under scrutiny.

He needed another objective to distract him.

Hank made a small noise and then swore under his breath. “Is that what you were doing in the garage. Looking for fish tackle, are you shitting me?” Connor closed his eyes. Youngest to reach the rank of lieutenant. Right. “Connor, do you want to go fishing?” Hank managed to sound simultaneously humored and stunned.

Connor shook his head. “I just wanted to know about the photo. The most logical conclusion would be it’s a hobby of yours and I just,” Connor shrugged and stared at the ceiling. “Wanted something to solve.”

“Aw christ. I’m sorry I snapped at you last night. That wasn’t fair to you. But just, well maybe next time you want to know about my hobbies, ask? How’s that?”

“No, I’m sorry for intruding. You’re right, I could have approached that better.” New objective, learn more about the photograph. The ocean the marlin was jumping out of was indiscernible. But the fish itself was an Atlantic Blue Marlin, protected under the species act, added 2026. As for the photo, it wasn’t stock. There were no duplicates of it online. “I just want to help. But I’m not here to push you. If there are boundaries, we should establish them, for the duration that I’m staying here.”

“You know I have a broken window that tells me all about your ability to maintain boundaries.” They both looked to the window. “CyberLife still on the hook to fixing that? Cause I get the feeling they’re a little preoccupied.”

“I can handle that,” Connor said, sitting up straighter.

“Forget about it. The insulation will hold. Didn’t like that view anyway. You really want to know about the photograph?”

“It’s not important,” Connor replied, quick.

Hank waved him away, drifted back into the kitchen. His cognitive and motor skills were still indiscernible from his state prior to drinking. Hank’s tolerance was incredibly high. Dangerously so. “It’s my wife’s.” Hank pulled one of the waiting glasses, lined it up.

“Ex?”

“In a way.” Hank’s tone soured and he poured out a measurement of the lamb whisky. Connor opened his mouth to protest, but Hank had already opened his and took it down. “That was her hobby: photography.” Hank rolled his head at some of the other pictures. There was at least one of Hank and Sumo together, out in the yard it seemed. Other nature shots.

Hank leaned up against the counter, squinted and pointed a finger at the marlin photograph. “You know, I think she was hired by some nature magazine to do that one. It was some charter boat, out in the Atlantic. Probably, fuck? I dunno. Thirteen, fifteen years ago?” Hank went to pour out another and Connor sat up.

“Hank,” he said, and the man paused. “It’s fine to not tell me these things if you don’t feel comfortable.”

“I’m fine.” Drawn out. Not quite a slurring of words, but the syllables were longer by maybe half a second. “It’s what?” Connor didn’t answer, believed the question to be rhetorical. It was also unclear precisely what Hank was asking. Anyway, he was fixated on the shot beginning to pour from the bottle, the amber liquid within just at the neck of it. “Whatever. I assume you already looked Mary up same as Cole.”

“I haven’t.” But Connor was about to. Mary Anderson. He stopped himself, aware that Hank was scrutinizing him. “I haven’t, Hank,” he stressed. “But I would assume a divorce?” he continued, recalling a sticker that had been on Hank’s desk. Some joke about ex-wives.

“Well fuck me,” Hank muttered, and stoppered the bottle, flicking the glass back with a clatter. “You looked up Cole, but not Mary?”

“I didn’t even know her name. You don’t have any divorce records filed in your name, and besides, it never came up during the course of our investigation.”

“Right,” Hank said, nodding and pressing his forefinger and thumb into his eyes. “Right. All about the mission.” Hank took a breath then faced Connor. “I’m not divorced. Though I guess it’s fair people assume that shit, all things considered.”

“Most marriages don’t survive the death of a child,” Connor said, softly, glancing away from Hank as statistics were pulled up for just that sort of thing. Morbid numbers, blameless and logical. But also cold and harsh. Accusations Connor was familiar with.

But if Hank wasn’t divorced...

“Nope. They don’t. Look… You’re not looking her up now, are you?”

Connor pulled his attention back to Hank. “No. I’m not. But I’m starting to get the feeling there’s more to it. And if you’d like to hold off - until you feel comfortable - I can stop pressing the issue.”

“And find another mystery to latch onto.” Hank stated it, matter-of-fact, like he was realizing something about Connor that Connor himself wasn’t aware of. Connor tilted his head. “Save you some trouble. She died. Three years before Cole. It was expected. Didn’t…” Hank sighed. “Didn’t beat myself up about it. Till I lost Cole.” Connor caught the glance Hank threw at the photograph.

Connor wanted to stand up, reach out. Maybe offer a hug. There was certainly a social prompt telling him it would be an appropriate gesture of support.

“Hank, I’m so sorry,” Connor murmured. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”

“No way you could have, if you didn’t just look it up. You don’t have to keep apologizing. We’re clear.” Hank motioned between the two of them. “Now. About you. What’s the next big mystery now that the case of the fish picture has been solved?”

Connor laughed. Something soft, disarming. Shook his head and decided against apologizing again. Then, hesitated. The next objective would be… Would be…

Thirium, splattered across an otherwise pristine floor.

Connor swallowed. “rA9.”

“Shit, you’re right,” Hank said, perking up. “You mentioned that at the station. You really-”

A ring began to sound from the television, pulling both Hank and Connor’s attentions. A single name was on the screen: George Chapman.

Chapter Text

“Is that an incoming call?” Hank asked, amazed. They both were staring at the name on the screen – George Chapman. Connor didn't know a Chapman anyone.

“How do you answer it?”

“Hell if I know, hold on,” Hank said, grabbing the remote and fumbling with it. “Only people who call me don’t use the TV – and know it's pointless to call in the first place.” One of the buttons Hank thumbed opened a menu. “Shit, hold on.” The next opened another settings menu, and Hank issued another curse. Another try.

Connor held out a hand. “Let me try.” Hank was about to protest until Connor pulled his skin back and Hank relented with a sigh. “Fucking androids,” Hank muttered, leaning onto the sofa. It was genial however, Hank flipping the remote to Connor with exaggerated annoyance. As soon as Connor accessed the remote, he located the command digitally and a face popped up on screen.

Connor expected to see someone who would match the name George Chapman. Instead, it was a face he’d seen before, a chain link fence between them. And again, in the church - the sanctuary from Jericho. It was a face that immediately issued so many emotions, complicated and difficult to unravel. His interior circuitry became twisted, knotted, and Connor didn't breathe.

“Hello, is this - oh! Hi.” Kara, the deviant android with the child, smiled on the television screen at the two of them. She even waved. “Connor, hello.”

Hank gave him a look that asked what the hell was going on. Connor could only answer with a casual shrug, still breathless. He sat on the edge of the couch, leaned forward. “Hello. Kara, correct?” Connor asked.

“Sorry, this is probably a surprise. I got this number from Markus?”

“It’s detective Hank Anderson’s home line,” Connor said, glancing at Hank. The man’s face was impassive, mostly watching Connor rather than Kara. “I’m glad he gave it to you, but why? Is everything all right?”

It was surprising to see Kara and have her reach out. Connor certainly wasn’t going to reject the call, but it was slightly alarming. Why the woman would want to have anything to do with him, after what he’d put her and the girl - Alice - through… It was beyond his processing.

“Yup, I remember him. Oh, well actually.” Kara glanced over at Hank, grinning a bit. “Sorry, detective. I’m not intruding, am I?”

Hank held up his hands. “Nope. Not at all. Just, if you don’t mind? I’m going to start getting ready for bed.” Hank rested a hand on Connor’s shoulder, just something light, and suddenly Connor felt that their earlier conversation wasn’t finished. The door at the end of the hall, the clothes that hadn't been touched in over a decade only disturbed for the intrusive machine man. Connor should have said more to comfort Hank. Certainly even cold circuitry could offer better comfort than stale scotch…

Or maybe Connor was still incomplete. Incapable of helping a friend - his partner.

Gently, Connor’s fingers touched the back of Hank’s hand. “Good night, Hank.”

“Have fun computing pi. I’ll be up for a while if you need me.” Connor and Kara listened to Hank shuffle off down the hall, Kara politely tipping her head off to the side, watching something off screen to distract her from what was in front of her.

When the bathroom door shut, she flashed an apologetic smile. “Sorry.”

“It’s fine, really. Hank’s a good sport. Now, how can we help you? You made it to Canada all right?”

Kara eased into more of a smile. She was so bright and happy. How did she manage to do that, to look that positive and make it seem effortless? Even when facing someone who had pursued her and made her feel the only avenue to escape was to cross a dangerous highway with a small child. At the time, he’d been frustrated Hank had held him back. Afterward, seeing them at the church, the way Markus had spoken to them? He felt relieved he hadn’t gone nipping at their heels, CyberLife’s loyal hound. Connor suddenly couldn’t quite look her in the eyes.

“Yes, we did, thank you,” Kara replied. “But we’re all good, everyone’s safe. I don’t know about all that they say it is up here – and there’s been some tension, but nothing like Detroit was. Nothing at all. George - that’s um,” she closed her eyes, shook her head. “Who we’re staying with. He has the nicest neighbors. There’s no laws defining who we are, so we just are.”

It didn’t sound like there were any problems at all. The reason for the call was starting to confuse Connor. She’d mentioned Markus, earlier.

“But enough about me. What about you? We never really…”

Connor leaned back. “To be completely honest, I’m not sure why you’d want to talk to me. I hunted you. And Alice. And while I’m sorry, I deeply regret any pain I’ve caused you… I was just a machine – following orders. All that mattered to me was completely my mission, not the lives I was hurting along the way.” Connor pressed his thumb into his palm, studied it instead of Kara’s closing and frowning face.

“But we’re all safe now. No one blames you for how the humans used you. Connor.” He looked up. When he did, she smiled again. “Everything’s going to be all right.” He almost believed her. Wanted so desperately to believe her. But she didn’t see the lines out the door at the food mart, didn’t have a list of cases running in the back of her processors - androids missing and unaccounted for. Reports of people showing up damaged and skittish to other stations and makeshift repair stations. It was all so… So…

Kara cut off his thoughts by continuing. “Markus was the one who suggested I call, to make sure you knew we were fine. That none of us blamed you. I’m not sure all what’s happening down there but…” Kara looked away, shaking her head. Connor gave her time to compose herself, feeling he needed the time as well to think. He increased the pressure to his palm. “Well. You’re all braver than I am for staying to fight, how’s that?”

“That’s not fair to yourself,” Connor pointed out. Not to mention everything she must have gone through. “I think most agree that it’s unkind to keep a child in harm’s way. Besides, getting out of America couldn't have been an easy feat.”

“You’re right. And. Alice gives me strength. I never told you how I became deviant.”

“For most, it’s an emotional shock. So I can imagine.” That’s right. Kara had shot a human - Todd Williams. Connor had seen the crime scene photos. It had looked like a struggle. “You don’t have to relive that for my account.”

Kara’s expression darkened, but she nodded. “Right. And besides, things are better now. Speaking of." Kara leaned closer to the edge of the screen and called out to someone not visible. "Alice? Alice, honey, would you like to say hello?"

"No. I'm fine," replied a soft girl's voice. That must have been Alice, the one Kara had been protecting the entire time. Connor couldn't hold it against the girl for being shy and avoiding him. He was having enough trouble facing his own demons down, with his own face.

"Kara." A man's voice, built with the timber of a sequoia, spoke from off-screen. Connor didn't recognize him. Chapman? "The Tremblay's would like to know if you'd like to come over for dinner, tomorrow."

"Oh, can we Kara? Please?" Alice sounded brought to life at the prospect, voice pitching up with an edge of laughter. "Fi is going to have her puppies soon! And they have chickens."

Connor thought of Hank's neighbors, the lady at the end of the row who had stared and then retreated back into her home without comment.

Kara laughed. "Okay, sure. Why not? We'll ask Rose what we can all bring for them." She faced the screen in earnest, grinning. "We're all on the same side, yeah? We all do what we have to in order to get by." Kara nodded, liking the sound of what she was saying. "And we're getting by – one day at a time. We'll talk son, won't we Connor? Feel free to reach out too, I mean, if that works better with your schedule."

In the background, Alice was listing to the unknown speaker the names of the chickens and speculating how many puppies Fi was going to have.

"Of course," Connor replied. "If you don't mind."

"Nope, not at all." Kara shook her head. "I don't blame you for doing what you felt needed doing. It's not like you pursued me all that much anyway. What else were you supposed to do?" She laughed again, then waved. A delicate twirl of her fingers. "Well. Take care, Connor."

"You too, Kara."

Kara leaned forward toward the device and the screen went black and Connor was left looking at his reflection in the void space of the screen. Left alone with Sumo snoring in the corner and his own thoughts.

The spark along the cheek.

"Nice girl." Hank had emerged from the bathroom, was slouched against the wall illuminated by the light behind him as it spilled out into the hall. "Sounds like everything worked out for her all right."

"Yes. She deserves it."

"You do too, you know," Hank said quick. Connor sat up a little straighter.

"What's that?" Connor could surmise enough. But a part of him felt an electrical thrill at hearing Hank say it. To have a confirmation that he was going to be okay. Hank Anderson always knew what to say…

"Happiness."

And there it was.

But Connor shook his head, facing the TV screen. Hank had overheard most of the conversation then. Had drawn the logical conclusion to Connor's aversive comments.

"Blaming yourself for things you couldn't control – cause last I checked CyberLife was in control of you for all that – ain't healthy. If I can get over the fact that it wasn't my fault that my son's not here anymore – that Cole is gone." Hank rubbed a hand over his face and Connor got up from the sofa, despite Hank's hand motions for him to stay. "You can stop blaming yourself for shit and recognize it's just this fucked up world we live in."

"They were chased across a dangerous highway. They didn't choose that as a leisurely stroll. I forced them to that route, forced them to-"

"Fuck that, Connor, stop," Hank snapped. "Do you know how many nights I stayed up?" Hank pointed sharply to his bedroom. "Thinking if I just had jerked my wheel one way, not the other? Had braked a little bit earlier? That things would have turned out better? She's right. Thing's turned out all right in the end. Take it from me. Stop letting this shit haunt you."

Haunt. A hand twisted around some unanswered threat, while flames cast dancing shadows in her palm.

Connor squeezed his eyes shut against the images, leaned on the sofa.

rA9. Focus on something actionable. rA9.

Hank shook Connor's shoulder. "Connor. Is this part of what's bothering you? Have you given any thought at all to that psych eval."

Connor started back. "Eval?"

Hank's face fell. "Shit. Failed to mention that, huh?" Hank had thought Connor needed a psych eval. Connor brought his hand up to hold Hank's wrist. "Relax. I just mean. You seem. You've seemed different. You were practically humming a week ago. Now you're…" Hank waved with his other hand.

"I'm sorry, Hank. I've brought you a degree of discomfort. I didn't mean to-"

Hank made a sharp motion with his hand. "I'm shit at this. But look. Stop worrying about upsetting me. That shit last night? I told you. We're clear. I was just – tired and grumpy and my usual shit. But it's fucking me up to see you like this. Now." Hank applied some pressure on Connor's shoulder. "I'm not saying share all tell you, unless if you want. But. Aw fuck, I don't know. I dunno.

"I want to help you Connor. I want you to be happy. You hear me?" Hank leveled his gaze at Connor's. Connor met it.

Then, Connor squeezed Hank's wrist again, coupling it with a smile. "It's funny, I want the same for you."

Hank withdrew his hand and waved at Connor, turning away. "Great. Just great. Well, that makes us a perfect pair." Hank sighed. "You have helped me already." Hank's gaze drifted over to the kitchen. "Or, at least I think so. But most of that battle comes from within, yeah? So, take it from one fucked up old man who's spent the past three years isolating himself from everyone who's ever cared – that shit starts? By denying yourself, that you don't deserve happiness or a part of this newfound freedom."

Connor was staring at the marlin photo. The freedom of the fish breaking free from the ocean's surface. "You know. For someone who just said he was shit at this, you always seem to know what to say to make me feel better."

"So you feel a bit better then? Not gonna wake up at two in the morning to find you wandering the halls like Hamlet?"

Was that marlin still alive today? Swimming in the ocean, breaking waves for photographers on ships in the Atlantic?

"Well, similar to the play's namesake, I do feel somewhat uncharacteristically indecisive."

"All right so. I'm your… Horatio." Hank knowing Hamlet was perhaps the best thing Connor had heard in weeks. Granted, Connor only knew about Hamlet because he downloaded it – and the sparknotes – in under two seconds. "Tell me about your weird uncle hatred."

Connor smirked, then rubbed his face. An action he realized mimicked Hank's, but Connor didn't have a beard to scratch. "You should get to bed, detective."

Hank waved a hand in Connor's face, drifted back into the kitchen. Connor watched from the couch, passive. Watched as Hank pulled a mug down from his cupboard and began to make coffee. Connor only said something when Hank reached for the scotch. "Coffee, at this hour?" he tried joking, feeling miserable for bothering Hank. It was supposed to be the other way around – him helping Hank. He was Hank's partner. Could fulfill any role Hank needed him to. And here he was, bothering the detective.

"Oh this?" Hank gestured to the machine. "My usual routine."

"Hank."

"What? It is. You wouldn't know." Hank was smiling though, just a faint trace of one, and he put the scotch back without opening it. Then, Hank sat at the dining room table, taking the coffee black. He made a motion for Connor to sit. "Come on then. You can't act like I haven't noticed."

Connor traced the lines of the fish's body, the curve of it. They were making synthetic animals to fill the zoos, to remind people of what once was. Could a replicant of life really match the mastery Connor was seeing in the photo?

"All right, Horatio," Connor relented. "But if you're late for work, I hope you'll remember I advised you get a full eight hours rest." But as Connor took a seat and analyzed the coffee, he realized it was decaf.

"Yeah yeah, I'm a grown ass man. I don't need you baby sitting me." The attempts were half-hearted. "But you. You're new to personhood and well, I have a rap sheet at least a mile long on that." Connor sat across the table, leaned back and rubbed his hands. "Talk to me, Connor," Hank said.

Connor hemmed over the words he wanted. He started and stopped a couple of times, but Hank was patient, taking sips of the coffee. "I can't trust myself," Connor began on. "I think there's something wrong with me, Hank. You remember my self-tests? Hank, they haven't changed," Connor stressed. His fingers curled on something unseen on the table. "They should have changed."

"Once you deviated, you mean," Hank said.

"There's other changes, too. Things I don't have any previous basis for." There were brands of searing hot metal on the android's face. Connor shut his eyes against it a moment. "But something should have changed. And why aren’t you concerned? You were, at the park. That I was a deviant and you had no way of knowing."

Hank raised his brows, considering this. "True. I was concerned. When androids were killing any humans associated with them. Then realized if you wanted me dead you probably would have taken that option already."

Connor snorted, then hid his smile behind a hand. "I don't want you dead, Hank."

"I dunno, sometimes friends are the ones you want to murder the most."

A thrill. They were friends, weren't they? Hank was Connor's friend. Officer Martinez, they were friends too, or at least she was friendly. Markus – maybe even Kara – they were friends. Potential friends. Connor wasn't alone. He just needed to remind himself he wasn't alone.

"I did put you in danger," Connor pointed out.

Hank shrugged. "Part of the job."

"No, it's more than that. I held a gun to your head. Even if it wasn't me, the Connor I am now. I held a gun to your head, Hank. I had to watch Connor-60 do that to you. He had all my memories, and those moments – of us, working together – it meant nothing to him. And after I almost pointed a gun at Markus? After everything we'd been through, after my self-tests are reporting falsely – I can't… I can't trust myself not to hurt you." Connor steeled himself to look up at Hank, half-expecting to see fury on the man's face as he realized Connor was still a threat. He wasn't to be trusted, and Connor had finally gotten Hank to understand that.

There was a difference between Connor and Hank's feelings. Connor had been to blame for so much death – but Cole's death really had been a series of unfortunate accidents. Hank didn't say anything, just holding the mug between his hands, contemplative and watching Connor.

The stare being leveled at him made him feel somewhat uncomfortable. "What if they do that again? And all of this means nothing?" The walks with Sumo. The listening to the music. The new position at the department. What if, one morning, Connor just woke up and none of it mattered, because CyberLife had made it so. "I'm sorry. It might have been a mistake coming here. I've put you at risk too." His thirium pump was starting to wound itself up as he spoke.

Humans and their confessions, they made it seem like a relief. A weight being lifted off of their chests. That wasn't the case here. Connor felt as if he was spilling too much, but maybe it was because he was still withholding – the dream. He couldn't call it that. Had to stop associating it with that.

"He held a gun to you-" Connor tried up again, and suddenly Hank leaned forward.

Hank held Connor's wrists, pulled at them. "But I'm fine. You made sure I was fine. That we both made it out alive. And did you shoot Markus? Am I in some alternate timeline where you didn't tuck that gun back in, and instead shot him on the stage?"

"No," Connor managed.

"But you still think CyberLife could try it, that you somehow wouldn't be strong enough to kick their weak ass attempts again?" Hank sank down so he was sitting, but still holding Connor.

"Yes." All the tension was forcing Connor's body to feel heavy. He was pulled down by gravity and sinking forward. Hank Anderson somehow always knew the best thing to say. To put words to how Connor was feeling.

"Well, I don't think that. I'm not afraid of you, Connor."

Connor was designed to be a living weapon. Armed with confidence, he could traverse high tension situations with a higher rate of success than any trained human ever could. And he was expendable. Easily replaced, unlike the cops out on that terrace. Unlike the men and women that deviant at the Stratford Tower killed. Unlike Hank. There was only one Hank.

Connor would do anything to make sure Hank Anderson was safe. All he could hope was that didn't mean isolating himself from the human.

"Connor, talk to me."

"Deploying that RK800, unit 60. That was their one chance to undermine everything before it got out of hand. They knew you were that…" The words drew out of Connor's processors. There was a tightness in his pump, trying to verbalize something that felt so significant with such trivial things such as words. He'd just have to try and make Hank understand. At least then, he'd have tried. "You're that important to me. That I'd risk a revolution, a whole movement, just to make sure you were safe."

"You've always been doing that, you idiot. Rupert's apartment, the Stratford Tower." Hank gave Connor's wrists a squeeze of encouragement.

At the mention of the tower, Connor saw a static image of himself turning into the hall, the ghost of a memory that shouldn't exist because it hadn't been a part of the upload. It hung there, the choices, before fragmenting out and away. There was something wrong in Connor's programming. Was it part of being a deviant? Or was Connor somehow different because he'd been killed – destroyed. And then replaced by the next model unit down the line. Were other androids under such stress? Wasn't he designed to be able to navigate this stress?

Why did his internal tests return normal statuses?

"I haven't always been doing that," Connor said. "I didn't at the CyberLife warehouses."

"That wasn't you," Hank interjected. "I won't let you take the blame for someone who wasn't even you."

"Well then, what about the people I did kill? Who I had a direct blame for? Those Tracis." Connor's pump tightened as Hank's face fell. "You were right. All they wanted was to be free and I put a stop to that, not CyberLife. I can't blame them for everything." Connor struggled to form the words. How had everything gone so wrong, so quick? Kara's phone call was almost immediately gone from his mind. All she had done was remind Connor just what he'd been doing two weeks ago. "I pulled that trigger. I got them killed. I'm the reason why they're pinned-"

Connor choked.

The evidence room. They were pinned on the evidence room, to the wall.

"Hank, I know what I have to do."

"You do, cause I sure as hell don't. That was a face journey if I've ever seen one, Connor." Hank's face was slack. He took a sip while Connor tried to place the odd phrasing. "My face journey," he tacked on, pointing a thumb as himself. "So, want to illuminate me? What do you have to do?"

"The evidence room. They're down there. I.. If I can get my hands on the proper equipment, order the right parts, I can-"

"Hold on, hold on." Connor had slipped out of Hank's grip in his excited hand motions. "You're talking about reactivating those androids down there?"

"The androids I had a hand in putting down there," Connor insisted. "All of them. A few…might be admittedly difficult." Connor recalled the specific biocomponents he would need, the red warnings that at least one Traci was deemed unable to be reactivated. But those parameters had been made under his time constraints. If he broadened the parameters, had all the time in the world… Then maybe…

Hank was shaking his head though, putting a damper on Connor's excitement. "I don't know if that's a good idea."

"Why not?" Connor murmured, easing back down.

"Well just… Those deviants did kill people."

"I've killed people," Connor said, quick on the draw. "Some of those deaths were a result of self-defense, or would have been argued in a court of law if they'd had rights. Instead, we acted as judge, jury and executioner."

"Okay, okay, ease down. One step at a time – actionable things are great, but you're talking about… Jumping right on that horse. Rather than taking small steps, you know?" Hank started to spin the mug by the handle. What Hank was saying sounded rehearsed, almost like they weren't quite his words.

Which gave Connor an idea of where he'd heard them.

"Did the therapy really help you Hank?" Connor gestured, feeling a little mean for bringing it up and changing topics. It wasn't fair. None of this was fair. But Hank didn't take the bait, he was better than that.

Hank shrugged, shook his head. "Fowler made me go. Martinez encouraged it too. Pretty standard for detectives when they go under, in high stress situations. Went to a session or two. Then started tuning the therapist out. Told myself I didn't deserve it. That's where I think you're fucking up now.

"You know, it took me a good three years of ignoring good advice. I'm not going to let you start off your humanity in an emotional shithole too, Connor." Hank ended his point by drinking from his mug, watching Connor from beyond the rim.

Still. "Do you think the department shrink is any good with androids?"

"Aw… Shit I don't even know if we still have her, actually. Or if she didn't up and leave town." Hank leaned back. "If she is though, I'm sure of it. Nice girl. Kind of shitty I never took what she said to heart." Connor didn't know what to say, so he stared at the mug. "How's this. If I agree to go, will you go? Tomorrow, when we're back at work. Then we just take small steps from there, those androids aren't going anywhere soon."

Connor had already ordered the parts. A flicker of yellow in his LED, easily assumed to be stress from processing the situation at the table. They would be arriving at the precinct tomorrow, first thing.

"Deal."

"You can even claim it's stress from having to work with a guy who shoots unarmed androids," Hank said, bitterness entering his tone.

Connor sat up straighter. "I won't drag detective Reed like that, Hank. I'm sure he's getting enough from his actions."

"Yeah, well." Hank finished off his coffee. He looked beyond Connor, to where the android knew Cole's picture still sat. Ah. Hank had knew damned well what Gavin had been about to say, coffee distraction or not. "Good detective. Plays dirty, though." Hank slapped a palm on the table.

From the other room, Sumo sat up, alerted by the noise. Hank rose, and so did the Saint Bernard. "For real though, I'm going to get some sleep. Do you feel better, at least? Talking it out?"

Connor smiled as Sumo trotted over, interested in whatever was happening while he'd been asleep. "Yes. Thank you, Hank. I appreciate everything you've done for me, so far."

Hank put the mug in the sink with a clunk. "You're not so bad yourself, Connor. Have fun, computing pi."

Was that going to be the typical sign off between them, then? "Alas, poor 3.14159265359…"

"Okay, okay. Good night, Connor. I'll see you in the morning."

"Right at 6:59."

Hank made a noise in the back of his throat as he walked away. He patted his thigh. "C'mon Sumo. Bed time. Let's go." The dog raced ahead to the bedroom, no doubt making his claim on ¾ of the bed before Hank could get himself situated.

"Good night, Hank," Connor said, voice soft. Hank left the lights on for Connor, a kind gesture, but when Hank's door shut, Connor got up to turn them off. He didn't need them. And when they flickered and browned out throughout the night, it just served as a reminder that the city was in dire straits, outside of Hank's safe walls.

Connor sank back down into the couch, feeling the comfort of the darkness encroach into his suit. It was just Connor and the darkness.

And the ever-present reminder of the memories that weren't his.

The fear of slipping into sleep-write mode. So, Connor stayed up, hands folded in front of him, thumb pressed into his palm, throughout the night until the dawn lifted the darkness away.

Chapter Text

Hank knew it was a dream because he was on top of Mary's roof. Her parents' roof, from when they were kids. Reckless teens. He could see the top of their elm tree, which was impossible as that thing towered over the house, stretched onto their deck and had to be trimmed back every year. He could see the shimmer of the backyard pool, which sloped in a gradual, lazy L toward her childhood playset. The yard basked in the shadow of the tree, rolling and gentle slopes beckoning him downward.


They'd sold this house. Mary had held a bonfire, for the furniture she couldn't part with but couldn't stand to see everyday in their own house. She didn't let the ghosts living within objects hold her back, let her afraid to tread in parts of the house.


But Hank didn't have her courage. She was his courage.


A woman was standing in the shade of elm, waving up at him. She wore a bright slip, grey, with contrasting maroon and orange floral print that moved like flames behind her as she stepped into the setting sun.


Mary.


"What are you doing up there, you goose? Humor me Hank. Get up off the roof. You know we still love you. It's hard to imagine that, and it's not much but it's true. There is no me without you. So, if you jump? I'm gone too. Who'd there be to remember me, Hank?"


She jumped up onto a low-hanging tree branch and he shook his head because Cole was there too, already in the branches, smiling and laughing though Hank couldn't hear him like he heard Mary. "Soldier on, Hank." Mary said, and her eyes became her face, the only thing Hank could see. They were drawing him in. Soulful brown eyes. "Stop suffering alone. Heal. Rise above this."


As soon as she said rise, Mary caught hold of Cole and the tree began to stretch, ceaselessly, up into the sky. Hank held out a hand out to them. The leaves of the tree passed right through his hands, ethereal and non-existent. Then he tried to shout, but he didn't have a voice. Didn't have anything to scream with, to ask them both to wait, to give him another chance to stay with him notleavehimalone.


Just as Hank was starting to ask the dreamscape why he was here, it opened up and revealed a person. He winked into existence. Right there, before the playset. Following Hank. Making sure he was never alone, not really.


The blue triangle burned into Hank's retinas, that blue band left streaks in his vision. It was shimmering, captivating, and Hank suddenly understood why moths beat themselves to death against the false heat of lamps at night.


"Look at you up there," the man mocked. "You think you're doing better? You've what, had one good week? Congratulations, Hank." He clapped, but the sound was hollow, unreal. His tone was off too. Hank had heard it before, a flash of a gun to his head and his heart clambering for his mouth.


"But that's an empty victory," he continued, drawing Hank back from the memory. "You know you'll just slide back sooner or later, so why not just end it all now? Life's pointless, and so is this rally you're trying to make. Come on, old man. We both know I'll replace you in due time, and then you'll really be worthless. Last generation's trash."


"Lieutenant." Hank started at the new voice. It was softer. More tangible somehow, too. Hank resisted it based on principle alone.


"You've been drinking, Hank. It's just the alcohol talking. Listen- Look at me Hank. Don't listen to him, don't look at him. Don't waste yourself on this roof." Hank didn't want to look at him. Connor was talking too much sense, and if Hank looked at him now, he'd lose his nerve.


The Connor on the ground was far more alluring. This one was wearing one of Hank's old t-shirts. He'd loaned it to Connor to sleep in.


Didn't mean the one next to him was going to stop talking.


"You're confused. Anything he says? It's not true, Hank. He's right, there might not be a point to anything. Life's shitty - you said it yourself - but that just means you get to make your own reasons for living, Hank. Take it from me, that's terrifying, but we can do it. Together. We're partners, aren't we?"


The one on the ground took that as a personal affront and cupped his hands to his mouth. "Be real, Hank, and just jump. It's the easiest option, and you always go with the easy option anymore."


"You're worth more than that, Hank. You know you are. I know you are," Connor stressed.


Hank eased closer to the ledge.


"That's right. You're nothing more than a coward, an old man too afraid to finish the actual job that trucker started."


Hank leaned over the ledge. The Connor there held out his arms, as if promising to catch Hank if he fell. The one next to him, without looking at him, Hank knew he was holding his hands out too. But his was desperate, rigid and tense. They both knew, all Hank had to do was tumble forward.


Something in his gut stopped him, tightening. "Hank, you said it yourself. It wasn't your fault. Please, it wasn't your fault, remember that? Please Hank, what am I without you?"


"You wanted my opinion, old man," the ground shouted.


This time, the Connor on the roof addressed the other. He sounded angry. "No one asked his opinion."


"You wanted my advice, Hank. I'm just giving you my thoughts."


"No one asked for your thoughts," Connor shouted back. "We don't need them. Hank. Don't listen to him. Listen to me."


It would be so easy to just fall. To lean. To let go. One step was already taken. Just take a second. Then another, and another. C'mon you motherfucker, just do-


While Hank was looking down, the other Connor, the one on the roof with him, was able to get close. Laid his hand on Hank's shoulder and suddenly the voices coalesced into one. Right next to him, in his ear. "Can you hear me Hank? Come down, Hank. I'm talking - it's me - I'm talking to you. Come down, with me.


"Please."
Hank turned away from the ledge, buried his face into Connor's chest. He could see it. He just needed to grab Connor's side. Haul him over with Hank. They'd go down together.


Knowing this, as one does in a dream, Connor clasped Hank's arms and took several steps back until they were falling in the other direction, onto the roof, the android refusing to let go. "You'll see, the most dangerous thing is to love. You'll be okay Hank. You'll be all right."


Hank knew it was a dream for sure then.

Chapter Text

It was a dream.

Hank woke up sweating and clutching his chest, the faint promise of daybreak peeking in through his curtained windows. Sumo’s heavy presence was stretched out next to him, lifting his head to peer at Hank, asking why he was being disturbed and if it was for food or pets.

Since it was neither, the Saint Bernard yawned, stretched with a groan, and then curled up tighter to drift back to sleep once more.

Hank rubbed at his temples, his cheekbones, and pulled at his jaw to work the memories of the dream out.

Now humans, they could have nightmares. In retrospect, once Hank woke up, he was feeling a little relieved it hadn’t been the usual shit his brain liked to cook up for him. The shit he smothered through liquid layers of shots before bed. Unhealthy coping mechanisms, he’d been told. Dependency.

Like Hank had been able to depend on anything else. Safety features and failsafes that inevitably failed and cost lives. Paid off in dollar amounts. Blood money.

Even when people depended on Hank, he let them down. He was just waiting. Waiting . For this new… Whatever it was he had with Connor to fall through. For the other man to see Hank for everything he was and wasn’t - and walk away like all the rest.

Like calling the Devil, Hank realized in the growing light that someone was in the room with him, hands hovering over his shoulders - had been gripping his shoulders and saying something moments before.

Hank sat up and Connor took two wide steps back. “Sorry, Hank. I wasn’t sure if you were fully awake, yet.”

“What the fuck, Connor,” Hank snapped. “Can’t a man get some rest in his own bed?”

Connor inclined his head, glanced to the foot of the bed where most of Hank’s blankets had been kicked off. It clicked before Connor even confirmed Hank’s slow-morning thoughts. The dream. Oh.

“If you’re all right then,” Connor said, holding his hands out and backing out of the room. “It’s just after 6 - 6:12 to be exact. You can get some more sleep, if you’d like.”

The tentative way the android lingered in the doorway, the soft mannerisms like he was talking to a spooked animal - it simultaneously annoyed and soothed Hank. He was a grown man who’d just had a nightmare. He didn’t need to be coddled.

But it was nice to have someone care.

Best do the most typical thing and walk the thin line of being grumpy but not enough to fully shove someone away. Can’t have them knowing you care, old man.

“I’m fine,” Hank muttered, kicking the rest of the clinging covers off of him and rousing Sumo up fully. The Saint Bernard bolted up and jumped off the bed, heavy paws thudding against the floor. Connor made room for him to pass at the door, and both men listened to Sumo’s claws clack against the linoleum in the kitchen, seeking breakfast.

“If you’re sure,” Connor pressed.

“Yes I’m sure,” Hank snapped again, swinging his feet off the bed and rubbing his face again. “It was just- just a dream, all right? I’m fine.”

“Nightmares can have a lasting impression, even after waking.”

Hank glowered at Connor in the dim light. The man’s expression was grave. Shit, what the fuck had Hank been moaning in his sleep? Sure, it was a shitty dream - more than shitty actually, upon reflection - but it was just a dream. A dream that actually had ended a lot better than some of Hank’s other ones.

“Which is why I’m not going back to bed,” Hank stated, flatly. Connor frowned, but took that as a suitable answer apparently.

Hank rose with a groan, then leaned on his bedpost for support as he felt the pains of age settle in on his hips and balls of his feet. He hadn’t slept enough. Could never sleep enough. When was the last time when he’d woken up and felt well-rested? In his 20s?

No, because in his 20s he was muttering that he was too young to be feeling in his 90s.

“I’ll get started on breakfast, then?” Connor asked, drifting out into the hall.

Hank scratched his beard. “Sure. Yeah. Lemme just. Fuckin’ get around, Jesus.”

Connor didn’t say anything else, to Hank, as he instead turned his attention to Sumo. The android pitched his voice up higher when talking to the dog. Hank wondered if that was a conscious choice on the android’s part, or if some programmer was getting a kick out of just how much they’d blown the Turing Test out of the water.

In the bathroom, running through his routine of pissing, a second round of groans and moans, and then deliberations of the cosmic and existential sort - Hank noticed something was off about the mirror. It was more cluttered, somehow.

Hank wasn’t imagining things.

Squinting and waiting for his brain to finally puzzle it out, Hank realized there was a new post-it note stuck up in the left-hand corner. Actually, there were a couple more, once he stared long enough. Possibly one for each night Connor had spent with him so far.

Apples provide an excellent alternative to coffee .

Hank pulled that one down with a ‘what the fuck, Connor’ murmur and considered it. The writing was precise, but purposefully so. Hank pulled the ones down that he didn’t remember writing and realized there was a progression to them. They slowly got more and more sloppy - starting off in that too-perfect CyberLife style before trying to mimic… Hank’s writing style. In the notes.

Jesus that was spooky. Too close for comfort, maybe.

If only the notes weren’t goofy as shit.

Floss?

Right up there with the one Hank had written about shaving.

You’re doing amazing!

That one sounded familiar, but Morning Hank couldn’t place why. But the next one’s source was obvious.

Just keeping swimming .

Hank held this one between his fingers and thumb, whispering the note to himself so his sleep-drunk haze of a mind could catch up. “Son of a bitch.” Had Connor broken out Hank’s PIXAR collection? When? How? Fucking why ?

Next step would be Hank waking up to Connor singing, complete with talking animal companions. And unbidden, the thought of Connor throwing open Hank’s curtains to sing about the coming day or desk duty and murders to solve while Sumo pranced at Connor’s feet was...it was funny. Okay, yes, it would be funny. And entirely was too close to being real.

Hank caught his smile in the mirror and then scowled at it, sticking the swimming note over it. Nope. Couldn’t have that.

Washing his hands, Hank mulled over both what he needed to get done for the day - several backlogged cases needed officers assigned to them, a hefty amount of Reed’s workload needed someone to pore over it too once it got back from the DA’s office, and some forms the feds had asked be faxed over as soon as possible that Hank had left for tomorrow Hank to deal with - intermixed with thoughts of his nightmare.

Just a little bit of introspection. Just enough to wonder if Connor had never been assigned to Hank, where would Hank be? Not just a week after the revolution, but in a couple of months? In a year’s time? Jesus. It was only what, 6:30 something? Too early for these thoughts.

Hank dried his hands in his beard, then stumbled out into the hallway. And into the chest of his apparently now live-in partner. “Jesus, Connor. Trying to give me a heart attack?”

“Exactly opposite of my intentions,” Connor said, cryptically. “My apologies. I merely wanted to inform you that I’ve started a pot of coffee for you and will be taking Sumo out for a walk. If that’s all right?”

“Yeah, that’s fine,” Hank responded, blearily wondering why that wouldn’t be okay.

“Perfect. It will be a high of 42 today, so be sure to bundle up,” Connor continued, following after Hank down the hall and into the living room where they parted ways.

“Oh. Huh.” Hank watched Connor lead Sumo to the door and hook him up to his walking harness. “Do you like doing all of that?” Hank asked, suddenly.

“He’s all right. I’ve got him to pull less. He’s a good boy, yes he is.” Connor was tossing Sumo’s ears, the big dog panting happily and leaning into the contact.

“No, not that,” Hank said, a touch exasperated. “The weather shit. You don’t have to do that.”

Connor made a small noise of acknowledgement, then opened the door. Or, more or less, cracked the door open a bit and Sumo nosed the rest of it open. Teaching him not to lead so much indeed. “I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t want to. Why, would you like me to stop?”

Hank was going to reply that yeah, he didn’t need to be babied in his own house, a phrase that was being tossed around more and more. Something to the effect that he was a grown man, a close second for most uttered phrase said in the house. But the way Connor was looking over his shoulder at Hank, hand holding Sumo’s leash tight, just waiting for Hank’s response… The words faded from Hank’s mind. “In that case, do what you’d like,” Hank replied.

And Hank was glad he did, as Connor smiled in a way that told Hank that he intended to do just that regardless. “Don’t I always, lieutenant?”

Which was the first indicator that Connor hadn’t listened to Hank from their conversation last night, but Hank was too tired at the time to have caught it. After two cups of coffee, some talk about the Gears game for tonight, and a car ride Hank was alert enough to at least catch the second indication.

The past few days when the two had walked into the precinct together, they’d been walking in a ghost of a lobby, usually with the ring of a phone somewhere in the distance, cast over the wall or prowling down the hall. But this morning, both men hesitated when a familiar voice greeted them. “Good morning officer Connor, lieutenant Anderson. How are you doing this morning?” The receptionist was back.

Hank immediately noticed that she was wearing her hair different, though it was the same mousey brown, and that she was wearing something other than the standard issue CyberLife uniform. Instead, she had on a purple long-sleeved blouse, and a tarnished gold chain. That, and her LED was still active, the solid blue light visible beneath her bangs.

Hell, the lobby even seemed brighter, somehow.

Connor ran point while Hank stood there a second or two longer, processing the differences. “Doing quite well, thank you. How are you, Vera?” Shit. Had her name always been that?

Hank waved and said hello, feeling somewhat put out of the scene through no fault of either android. Connor and Vera exchanged further pleasantries and Hank thought, the guy looked genuinely happy , grinning and nodding. Even Vera’s expression was opening up. Hank hadn’t noticed she probably just had been professionally friendly when they’d arrived, but as he waited a moment for Connor to catch up, she eased into something more genuine and less stilted.

Then, Vera held up a finger, and pulled a couple of boxes out from underneath her desk. Connor, his brow now furrowed in his tell-tale confusion, examined the boxes then nodded. Had Connor ordered something? Been at work, what, three days and already was having packages delivered to the front desk? Bold move, Connor.

“What have you got there?” Hank asked in what he thought was a conversational manner, but Connor shifted the stack to his other arm, hiding them from Hank’s view.

“Just some parts and upgrades Jericho needs,” Connor replied, not catching Hank’s look. The second indication.

Hank didn’t have time to further press the issue as they rounded the corner of the hallway. The holdover crew from the night shift was still present, a pair of officers having a conversation by the kitchenette. Baylin was at her desk too, but as they approached Hank realized she was most likely asleep.

They’d beaten Fowler in. That hadn’t happened in the past three years, as far as Hank could recall. When Hank sank into his chair and Connor placed his packages on his desk, Baylin started at the noise. “Better not let Fowler catch you sleeping at your desk,” Hank said by way of greeting. “Why not crash in the cage?”

Baylin wrinkled her nose, then seemed to dislike the taste of her own mouth. “Think I’m a little too old for crashing in a bunk, don’t you think?”

Hank snorted and she groaned, stretching her back. “Whatever, Hank. I’m good. I’m fine. I’m going for-” Baylin cut herself off, then squinted at Connor. “Good morning, rookie,” she teased, grinning.

“Good morning, Baylin.” How had she got him to stop calling her officer Martinez again? “I hope you don’t mind me saying so, but my sensors indicate you’ve been awake far beyond the recommended limit for officers.”

Baylin’s grin faded and she broke out into a yawn. Some people, like Connor, wore confusion on their brow. Others, the tell was in how their mouth turned down. But in Baylin? Her nose was her tell all. Nose and eyes. These drew up now as she looked between the two of them. “Yeah well…”

“You were here when we left last night,” Hank said, logging into his computer. He knew, as soon as his email client loaded, he was going to need some form of sugary breakfast and stale coffee that had been percolating and burning all night long for Baylin.

“I have to agree with the lieutenant.” God damn it, how had she done it? Was it the tie? “Taking a nap in the cage, as you call it, is advised, especially before driving. The roads are better today, but fatigue and exhaustion are just as dangerous behind a wheel as other forms of impairment.”

“Rookie that’s too many words,” Baylin groaned, rubbing her temples.

“Chris is due in soon,” Hank said. “I think me and Connor have it covered.” Which was the first time Hank realized the phone hadn’t rung in the past five or so minutes since they’d walked in. It had been such a customary noise, a constant shriek in the background, that it had just been a part of the office. But they’d been able to hold a full conversation with interruption so far.

Answering part of the question, Baylin yawned. “And the new girl - Vera? Vera. She’s such a dear. Did you know they confined her to just the desk before?”

Hank watched Connor. “Androids don’t require the same labor breaks as humans do,” Connor started in but Baylin waved him down.

“Shouldn’t be chained to a desk, regardless,” she said. Baylin yawned again and slumped into her desk, defeated in part. “She came in some time last night, the poor dear, after Fowler’d left. Asked if she was still useful here. I’ll fight him if he says no - she keeps bringing me coffee. Hank. She brought fruit in. I don’t know where she found fruit but the food in there?” Baylin jutted her thumb toward the kitchen. “That’s all her. Believe that? I love her.”

“I doubt Fowler has the energy to start shit over the receptionist,” Hank replied, amused by Baylin’s spitfire. “By the way, did you know her name was Vera?” His voice dropped low, bothered that he’d never so much as asked before.

“She didn’t have an old name,” Connor said. “I… picked it up through unconventional social means.”

At this point the email had booted up and the inbox slapped Hank in the face with about a hundred more messages than when he’d signed off last night. On top of the hundreds he’d already been ignoring. “All right, well, I don’t want to ask what that means.”

“I do,” Baylin muttered, nose wrinkled as she thought it through.

“No, you don’t. You want sleep,” Hank said, passing by her desk as he thought about coffee and perusing just what Vera had brought in.

Baylin ignored him. “Aw, you’re wearing the tie,” she said to Connor, instead. “I also like the vest.”

“Hank picked it out,” Connor replied. Hank caught him adjusting his tie and pulling at the ends of the vest, straightening them out. Constantly finicking. Couldn’t keep his fingers still.

By the kitchen, the two officers nodded at Hank. He didn’t recognize them immediately, except that the one was wearing another precinct’s jacket. Both were leaning onto the wall for support, exhaustion dragging their features down.

While Hank poured himself a cup - and amazingly the coffee didn’t smell burnt - he caught snippets of their continued conversation. “Recalled every RO, can you believe that? I hear Smiths has to come back from Florida.”

The woman snorted. “Good fucking luck on that. Transportation across the country is screwed, let alone getting into Detroit. Tell you one of them suits stopped me, at the check?”

“No shit.”

“Reminded me we were on a modified curfew. Nevermind my badge. They don’t give a shit. Like they’ll be here next week.”

“Always do that,” the man replied. “Roll in for the heroics, then roll out for the next emergency leaving local to clean up the mess.”

On the table, alongside the usual ever-present box of donuts - Hank supposed there was a joke somewhere in that, as if most of humanity would turn down a sugary baked good in the morning - was also an assortment of fruits. Just bananas and fruit cups, but the gesture was warming. Hank drifted back toward his desk, banana and coffee in hand. In the wake of the overheard conversation and Baylin’s state, Hank was unsure of how to proceed with the day. Fucking desk duty. Nothing made him feel more useless.

Baylin was standing when he was back, pulling on her jacket. “Cage?”

“Yes, yes,” she replied. “You know, last time I had to pull in this much OT? It was when the DA’s assistant went missing.”

Hank winced. “Christ, that didn’t end well.” It had, actually, for lack of a more eloquent vocabulary, been fucking horrendous. Drug lord had, in response to some applied extra police presence, kicked a proverbial hornets’ nest by offing the city DA’s assistant. Then, to further escalate the issue, it had been open season - not on cops - but their families.

After all was said and done, that had convinced Hank to transfer departments. They’d stuck Mary up in a hotel for a month. No one was sure who would be the next target. And Baylin’s daughter hadn’t even been one yet. She was pulling in so much OT because the woman couldn’t sleep without fear she’d wake up to the news her family had been next.

That month ranked up there with the top five worst of Hank’s life. He wasn’t pleased Baylin was bringing it up now, so casually.

“Good luck, boys,” Baylin called, moving toward the back of the office. “No more than three hours, you hear me?” Leaving so casually, too. Great.

Connor saluted, two fingers. “Understood.”

No, wait, fuck, Hank had needed to ask Baylin if Lisa still even was on the department payroll. Well, he supposed he could look it up himself, somehow. Or send an email.

Hank caught Connor staring at the parts when his gaze drifted, following the thoughts of getting Connor to talk to someone. The parts intended for Jericho, apparently. “You know, if you need to run those to your friends, I’m sure the building won’t catch fire in half an hour. ‘Sides, Chris should be in any minute.”

“It’s all right. The parts aren’t dire,” Connor replied. Indicator three.

Hank made a small noise, then shrugged and turned back to his work.

And then the day began and Hank wasn’t in the mood to idly chit-chat any longer.

The first part of the morning passed by with Hank getting the run around by the feds, browsing news headlines about Markus - which was an odd feeling for Hank to grasp, knowing someone really famous even by association - then getting the run around from within his own police department tracking down other people’s paperwork forms.

Connor kept Hank supplied with a continuous mug of coffee, Hank not even catching the man refilling his mug half the time, making Hank think Connor had set some sort of timer in his head. And, by the time noon rolled around, Connor had gotten done three times the amount of work Hank did.

It was a souring feeling.

In that mood, Hank began to realize Connor might be hiding something from him. The fourth clue was when Hank went to take lunch. Connor was returning with a grumpy Baylin in tow when Hank waved him over. “Heading out to lunch. You want to come along, tell me how unhealthy all the shit I put in my body is?”

Baylin snorted. She had no idea. “I think I’ll have to pass, sorry Hank.” Yes. That was odd. Even Baylin noticed the two had taken lunch together the past couple of days. “I have a backlog of work to get done, and Fowler wanted to finalize some administrative paperwork concerning my continued work here.”

“Well, all right.” Hank nodded toward Connor’s desk. “Want me to drop the parts off while I’m out? No trouble.”

“That’s not necessary.” Quick. Without consideration. “It really isn’t an emergency. These are just maintenance pieces.” Fifth and final, damning piece. Connor turned to Baylin, cementing it as he deflected the topic before Hank could comment. “Will you be heading home, then?”

Baylin cast a quick look at Hank. “Soon as I check in with Fowler it’s all right,” she said. She sounded wearier than when she’d gone in for that nap. “Wanted to see me about your test results, anyway.”

“Oh.” Connor nodded, then told Hank to have a good lunch and went back to his desk.

Baylin drifted with Hank toward the lobby. “Is it just me or is the rookie preoccupied?” she asked.

“You noticed,” Hank muttered. “Something to do with those packages he got...and something he said last night too, makes me think he’s going to be a pain in the ass this week.”

“Oh yeah?” She perked up, brightened by the possibility of some drama. “What’s that?”

“Nevermind. You know if Lisa Staltwater still works with us?”

Baylin looked taken aback, then considered. “No. I dunno. Haven’t had any mandated psych evals lately. Why, Fowler wants you evaluated before duty?”

“Probably. Just was wondering. Hey, you have my number still?”

“Yeah, should. Lest you changed it.”

Hank shook his head. “Let me know if Connor heads into the evidence room, would you? Sorry to keep you here, longer.”

Baylin’s face cracked into a smile. “Sure. And it’s fine - really do need to check in with Fowler about some things.”

They parted ways, Hank waving and passing into the lobby. He said hello to Vera, who smiled and waved before going back to reading. He noticed she was sitting and had a book with her and - as he was leaving - the phone rang softly at her desk.

There was a text message from Baylin before Hank had even pulled out of the parking lot and could consider where was even open for lunch. ‘Rookie thinks he’s slick.’

“Son of a bitch,” Hank said, reading the message as it flashed on the screen attached to his car’s dash. He should’ve taken his evidence room key card as soon as he was suspicious - it was left on his desk along with most of his department issued shit. But if he’d wanted to catch Connor sneaking about… Had to lay out something tempting.

Well, fine. Two could play the ‘drive straight to go’ card instead of following the proper steps. Hank turned the opposite direction and began to retrace his drive with Connor from last week, the car’s tires sloshing through the melting snow puddles and slush built up on the sides of the roads.

Chapter Text

The church was still there when Hank drove up. He wasn't sure what he expected, what he was expecting. That it would have been burned to the ground? Would somehow have been restored to its former glory?

But even as he pulled into the parking lot, he did notice some changes. For starters, the snow was shoveled back and there was a path leading to the front door. There were also lights hung up about the place, and a couple of holiday-themed decorations in the windows and stuck into snowdrifts. It was as if an overly enthusiastic kindergarten class had gotten out of hand in their free-range of decorating a classroom.

Which was exactly what had happened. Hank slammed his door shut, not trying to hide his presence or surprise anyone, and surveyed the grounds. Androids, given a new (albeit socially limited at the moment) range on life were free to decorate for the first time. Absolutely they'd have fun with it. There was a peel turkey in the window, and a metal cornucopia stuck into the snow by the parking lot. Walking up the plowed walkway, there were no less than four greeting matts in varying states of wear and use, each pleasant and warm with their words. And, on the front door, was a dizzying array of snowflakes, fall leaves and flowers. Hank was a fan of the chaotic disregard for what season it was.

Someone opened the door for Hank, a JB300, that had Hank freezing and hand twitching for his sidearm. The man's brows knit in confusion as someone within – it sounded like Markus – said it was fine for the detective to come in.

Inside it was more lively and hectic. But stress on the life, aspect. Someone had scrounged up heaters, beat up old things that had likely been discarded into a trash heap. The glass stretching up the sides had been cracked, something most would consider a safety hazard, with coils of red-hot heat spinning down the middle. They growled or sputtered occasionally, but provided some warmth for people to huddle around.

But they weren't huddling for their own heat. They were working to string up tarps and angle the heaters in periods of light, cast in from the windows. They were winterizing flowers – shrubs and potted plants and succulents. Hank stopped to gawk a moment at a group of android's work. One noticed, looking up, and the others slowly realized and followed suit, frowning at Hank, though mostly in confusion.

Hank hadn't considered that the group would double down and remain at the church. Make it home.

"To what do we owe the pleasure of the DPD's visit?" Markus asked, walking down the aisle toward Hank. His tone was polite, but overall the man was reserving his tension. Hank could tell, in the way his gaze drifted to the windows to see if more cars were possibly following Hank. It was reflected in how he was flanked by a tall man and a woman Hank hadn't seen before.

The woman's hair was wrapped up and braided, the tips a rosy pink. She wasn't walking with Markus directly, but worked to get between Hank and the exit. A lioness, on the prowl. Everything about her, from her body language to darkened expression, informed Hank she was dangerous. Ah, nothing like walking into the lions' den with no backup.

"I'd say a friendly visit but – aw hell. The gist of it is, we have some androids in our possession we'd like, you know. Free," Hank explained.

"But you didn't bring them with you?" Markus asked.

Outwitting androids was going to be a full-time job. How exhausting.

"See, that's the thing. They're uh…" Hank was beginning to question why he'd come. Oh. Right. Connor thought it was a good idea to skip all the coping mechanisms and healing steps in order to confront his guilt head on. Jumping to step 8 in a 12 step process.

If only it was so easy.

"They're damaged, all right?" Hank said, wincing. "Connor's working now to repair them, which-"

"Let me get this straight," the woman spoke up. She was much closer now, leaning against a pew. Even her voice was prickly, jeeze. "Connor – who I assume was the one who damaged these people – is the first thing they'll wake up to see?"

Hank snapped his fingers and pointed at her. "At least someone else is on my wavelength, Jesus."

"Because the first thing I'd want to see is the person who shot me. Idiot."

"Well. Yes. But an idiot with good intentions," Hank replied, feeling the need to defend Connor in his absence.

Markus frowned, and Hank felt a shift in the room. A hushed silence spread out through them. Hank reminded himself he had nothing to fear from androids. They were just people trying to get through life too. He swallowed, and faced Markus again, crossing his arms. "They're in our evidence locker. Perkins never remembered to pick them up I guess, and…"

"Perkins?" Markus' expression darkened. Bad sign. Hank had no idea why.

Maybe that squirrely little bastard's reputation preceded him. That would be nice if Hank could make a friend of an enemy. "Yeah. Know 'im?" he asked, hopeful.

Markus glanced to the side, behind Hank to where the woman was lounging. Waiting. "Yes. He was at our demonstration. Offered me a deal if we stood down."

"But you didn't take it," Hank said. "Good. That weasel couldn't do jack shit. Threatened my job and we see where that's gone." Hank shrugged.

"You don't say?" Markus sounded somewhat amused now.

"I clocked him in the face."

The expression lifted in a smile. Bingo. "That would explain his broken nose."

Hank huffed out a breath. "We're not on speaking terms from that. Though, actually, weren't much on speaking terms before that either."

Markus was smiling and Hank was feeling a bit better about his chances of navigating this shit, when the man beside him stepped forward. "These androids in evidence – they were all deviants?"

Hank nodded.

Markus seemed to be puzzling something out, but none of them still had LED indicators. Not like Connor, whose thoughts Hank could read visually. Then, Markus stepped forward and held out an arm. "I'm sorry, I've been neglecting my duties as host. Lieutenant Anderson – this is North." He gestured to the woman. Hank nodded and she did too, but after a moment's deliberation. Her expression was somehow more sour than before. "And this is Josh." The tall man on Markus' right.

Hank extended a handshake to him 'cause he was close enough. It was returned with a polite, firm shake and nod. "Behind me is Simon."

Hank hadn't noticed him. The blond android was slim, less outstanding than the other two. Hank had noticed him before, dimly recognized him, but hadn’t really gotten a good look at him as he remained in the pulpit. There was a table displaying grid lines and various digital documents that Simon could just be seen through from the other side.

Simon twitched his fingers by way of greeting before focusing back on his work. Hank had a feeling the android was far more engaged in the conversation than he was letting on, however. Returning the gesture, Hank nodded and returned his arms across his chest. “Nice to make your acquaintances.”

North sucked in an intake of breath, hissing, and her head shot toward Simon. But the android hadn’t moved or done anything different. Hank’s feeling that something was happening that he was missing solidified as Markus threw a look to North a few moments later. “I think that’s enough for introductions then. Lieutenant, we’re able to go with you now.”

“Yeah,” Hank breathed out. “That’s probably for the best. I can fit a couple in my car.”

“I’m going,” North said loudly, stepping forward.

Markus rolled his head, but held up his hand as if to deflect something, like a fly. “North, Simon and I will go with you.” It didn’t sound like he was saying it for Hank’s benefit, but was ending an argument. It was an incredibly odd and alienating feeling on Hank’s behalf. “Josh, stay here. Coordinate that one meeting, if you could.”

“Of course.” Josh took a few steps back, watching Hank all the while. “Be careful.”

“Easy, I drive under the speed limit and everyone wears their seat belts,” Hank called, wanting nothing more than to be outside all of a sudden. Felt like he was missing half the conversation, seeing their facial cues react to words not said. Freaky as all fucking hell, fuckin’ androids.

---

“So why’d you punch an FBI agent?” North asked once in the car.

“Connor needed a distraction,” Hank replied before thinking through the implications of what he was saying. “Perkins had shown up to take over our case and they were going to deactivate Connor or some shit. Couldn’t let them do that so.” Hank shrugged. “Did what I had to do, and can’t say it wasn’t fun raising some hell too.” He smiled. No one returned the grin.

Likely it was too late and they’d made some form of connection. The distraction was needed to get Connor down into evidence. Where he could locate the androids’ hiding spot: Jericho. Where lives were then lost and their home summarily destroyed.

“So you risked your career for an android.”

“Well, yeah,” Hank replied, feeling mulish for being put on the spot. “Connor’s… He’s my partner.” As if those three lame words somehow even scratched the surface. “He doesn’t really think before he acts. And if he’s thinking, he’s not doing enough of it. Or…” Hank drifted off. He hadn’t considered how he was going to sneak three deviant androids in past Fowler and down into evidence. Maybe this whole not thinking thing was more of a projection issue. Damn. “He’s a masochist, who knows,” Hank muttered.

“And you’d do the same for a human partner,” North pressed.

Hank glanced at Markus, who was stiff in the passenger seat, watching North. “Have been. When we get to the station, you should take a peek at my rap sheet. Disciplinary record. Really begins to ramp in the later years.” Hank snorted. The precinct was in view. “Apparently it’s novel-length. Should make for a good read.”

The car was quiet a moment, then Markus angled his head. “Which is what you’re doing now. Looking out for Connor - at the risk of your own career?”

“No one’s getting in trouble, and no one’s after you folks anyway. Last I checked, your case mysteriously vanished.” Hank looked in his rear view at North. She stiffened when he made eye contact. “Followed some John home? Disappeared after that?” She lifted her lip in a sneer and Hank caught Markus’ fingers twitch. “Strange how, the day Connor started back with us, that case just-” Hank took his hand off the wheel to make an exploding motion with his fingers. “-vanished.”

The snarl didn’t leave North’s face, but Markus was suddenly hiding a grin in his hand while looking out the window. “Am I supposed to be grateful for that?”

Hank pulled into the parking lot. “Yeah. Gratitude is something you all are equipped with, ain’t it? Like I said. Idiot - with good intentions.”

Walking up to the door, Markus held out a hand. “There’s an android inside,” he said. “Vera?”

“Yeah? And?”

Markus waited a moment, then nodded. “Just a greeting.”

Fucking. Androids.

They were having conversations inside their heads.

That’s what it fucking was. That’s what Connor had meant by unconventional means. Mother fuck.

Hank jammed his hands into his pockets and then greeted Vera the old fashioned way, with a creepy old man grin and a wave. “Good afternoon, lieutenant Anderson,” she said, chipper. She’d set her book aside before he’d even cleared the doors, anticipating and knowing damned well he was coming in. So much for sneaking. “Captain Fowler had to step out. Detective Reed’s meeting with the DA. Thought you should know.”

“Oh. Uh. Thanks.” Hank gestured behind him. “And you know these folks.” Unconventional means.

Vera nodded, eyes half-lidded. “It’s an honor to have you at our precinct today. If there’s anything I can do to assist you…?”

“Yeah. Raise an alarm if Fowler comes back early,” Hank said, stalking off to go find Connor and Baylin.

Vera blinked. Registered the command. North made a small noise Hank caught, then ignored. He had more important things to worry about now than offending the woman. “Understood.”

When Hank rounded the corner, Baylin, who’d been staring in their direction, stood up. By reaction, Chris Miller wheeled around as well as a few heads. “You folks can’t dress any less conspicuously, can you?” Hank muttered.

“Yeah, I forgot to pack my ‘we’re not the deviant leaders you’re looking for pants’ in my other bag,” North retorted.

“North,” was all Markus managed before Baylin was jumping up.

“Oh good.”

“Why good?” Hank asked.

“Just. Wasn’t sure how the rookie was doing down there,” Baylin asked.

“Let him down there by himself all this time?”

“Not sure what else I was supposed to do, Hank,” she said, stifling a yawn.

“He’s not barricaded in, is he?”

“Naw. Came up once or twice. Seems preoccupied.” Baylin kept in line with him, throwing glances at the three following Hank. “You never explained what kind of trouble he’s in,” she whispered.

“Not in any trouble. Brought backup so he stays out of it.” The descended the stairs. “Keycard?”

Baylin flashed it, then held the door open for them. Markus and Simon dipped their heads, but North kept hers stoic, on a pivot. She was stressed, and Hank imagined if she had an LED it would have been spinning yellow or red near constant.

“It’s like - he went straight to jail without passing go. Or right to step 8,” Hank explained when Baylin caught up. Her scrunched up nose was all the question he needed. “The one where you confront those you hurt. Minus all the religious shit.”

Baylin frowned only a moment, then her expression lit up. “Oh. Hell that actually makes sense. That why you were asking for Lisa, earlier?”

“Was supposed to schedule an appointment with her,” Hank said, jaw clenched. He wrenched open the double doors leading into the evidence room.

Connor was there, knelt down in front of the first android. There were cardboard boxes strewn about the room, as well as metal pieces Hank realized were parts. Biocomponents. “Hello, lieutenant. You’ve brought guests,” Connor said without turning away from his work.

“Yeah well, what did you expect? Connor. We talked about this.” But Hank’s admonishment was suddenly half-hearted. His insides were all twisted. He hadn’t gone down into evidence to see the androids - always left that to Connor. Beside him, Baylin was holding her hands up to her mouth, eyes wide as they traveled down the line.

They were all bloodied, stained with the deep blue of thirium - cold and sticky, pressing into Connor’s jacket - and hanging with their heads tucked to their chins. Five of them. A blond android, Ortiz, the two Tracis from Eden Club, and finally the one from the Tower. The one that had opened fire on Hank.

“Jesus,” Hank hissed.

The androids he’d brought with him weren’t faring too well either. Markus stood, resolute and processing, while North cursed. Markus held her with a single hand to her stomach. Simon, meanwhile, was wide-eyed staring at Connor. Or the blond android - Hank didn’t know for sure.

Connor stood, turning to face them but not looking anyone in the eye. He wiped a hand on a hand towel, and Hank noticed he’d removed his vest jacket, had rolled his sleeves back to their elbows and was wearing latex gloves. “Really wish you hadn’t. I have this handled.”

“Yeah I bet you do,” North snapped. “Didn’t need anyone seeing you for the monster you are.”

Connor hesitated in his walk back to the toolbox, before returning a wrench and pulling out some form of squeeze bottle. “Yes. I’m glad you brought an audience to what might be one of the most major mistakes of my young life, Hank.”

“Step 8, Connor,” was all Hank could say.

Baylin drifted closer to examine the Tracis, was still pulling at her lips in distress. “Why are they all bloodied? What… Sorry, rookie - what happened?”

“Different stories, each. Read the case files,” Connor replied, voice impassive. He was throwing up a stone wall.

Yeah. Well. Hank couldn’t blame him. He didn’t know how fucking bad it was, Jesus and Mary. “No wait, I thought, I thought you said the blood fades. Evaporates or some shit. So, why are they like that,” Hank said, gesturing. He felt the need to get clothes for the Tracis, hanging there in only their lingerie.

Connor made a noise. Pressed a hand against a panel. The lights flickered, became more dim, and in a blink the blood was gone. They were just bodies on a wall. “Special lighting CyberLife installed for humans that needed to use the evidence locker.”

“Ultraviolet light. Okay.” Baylin was composing herself. Sliding back into her role as a VICE detective. They’d seen worse. Just, usually, outside the precinct building. And, if within, from the psychic distance of crime scene photos.

“Sick mother fu-”

“Let’s focus on why we’re here,” Markus spoke up, cutting North off. “Tell us what needs to be repaired and how we can help.”

Connor straightened. He still hadn’t looked at any of them. Kept his back sheeted toward them if he could help it.

"The HK400 - Ortiz' android - will need extensive repairs beyond what I can do for him here. So will the one Traci model," Connor was explaining as he lifted the blue-haired Traci off of the hook and set her on the ground. "I can reactivate this Traci here, and then the JB300 model and Daniel, at least enough so that-"

"I disagree with that."

It was a soft voice that spoke up, causing every person - and Hank noticed everyone - to turn to look at him. Simon. He was staring at the first one still, another blond PL600 model that seemed to have suffered the most damage. Hank didn’t recognize that from their investigation, but it must’ve been the one Connor had dealt with months’ earlier. Connor’s first deviant case.

Didn’t know what that had to do with Simon’s objection, but his posture was completely shut down, with his arms folded across his chest and standing apart from the group.

Markus and North glanced at each other, and Hank was feeling a growing sense of agitation in his gut. "Okay, I'll bite. Why not?" he asked, rolling his shoulders.

Hank thought it was remarkable how composed the man was in his response, but realized after a minute or two of observation - the blond android simply wasn't expressive. Not near as much as North, Markus or even Connor. And Connor could be amazingly stiff, for all the fortune poured into making him believably life-like. "Before him, we would always be able to get away. Silently. Maybe trash a few houses, maybe humans got hurt, but if humans got hurt it was in self-defense. We were quiet. We slipped out in the middle of the night or during shift changes. For years it was like that."

North nodded and Connor straightened. "But after him?" Simon spat it with sudden, intense venom, but his face returned to composed within a blink. Hank thought it remarkable, but Markus winced. "He got thousands of us killed."

Hank looked around, confused as to how that was possible, exactly. He realized Simon was looking at him, so Hank stood up a bit straighter under the scrutiny. It was apparently not the reaction that Simon was looking for, so he swallowed, sunk further into himself. "Our line was already in the tank," he continued. "Market decline. But he held a girl off of an apartment tower terrace. Shot her father in the living room. Several cops."

Connor was the one to wince this time, but disguised the motion to begin work on the Traci, removing parts from the boxes and their wrappings.

"It was on the news." Hank dimly remembered that. It had been in the late summer. Never realized Connor had been the figure slowly approaching the girl and android. Holy. Shit. "After that, no one wanted us. It was systematic destruction of our line. It was 'Hey you - you like to kill kids'?" The last line had Hank leaning back in surprise. It was spoken with another voice, something harsher and giving rise to a street style maliciousness Hank was all but accustomed to.

And the blond android's face cracked, distorted into a sneer he must have picked up from the speaker. Then, it resumed its peaceful serenity, staring at Hank for more of a reaction.

Connor interrupted anything Hank was trying to say, which the police lieutenant was actually thankful for. How were you supposed to respond to something as fucked up and heavy as that?

Markus also reacted by moving next to Simon, putting an arm on his shoulder for comfort. North leaned forward, but didn't move, standing resolutely between Connor and Hank.

"When did you deviate?" Connor asked.

"When? Not why? Not how?" Simon replied.

Connor shrugged, bowed his shoulders to turn back to his work. "Why ask something you're not willing to share? You don't have to be specific - I'm already sure there's no open case on you." Of course the fucker had checked. Same as North. "A simple before or after August 15th of this year will suffice."

"To satiate your morbid curiosity?" North asked.

Connor sighed. A practiced annoyed sound. Hank wondered where'd he'd picked that social quirk up from, if not his programming. "No. To simply form a time-"

"Before. February 16, 2036," Simon replied, voice smaller than before. Maybe it was just the contrast of what he'd laid on them before.

Connor's LED flickered yellow, a tell-tale sign he was looking that date up for any significance or opened cases. Then, he grinned and pulled something out of the Traci model. The effect it had on Hank was a strong disassociation of what was happening in the room around him. "No open cases, as I suspected."

"Going to make that one disappear too?" Hank asked.

Connor lifted a shoulder in a non-committal response as he slid something else back into the Traci's head. The girl's eyelids flickered and Hank took a step closer. Son of a bitch was really doing it. He was really making them live again.

"You really made my case disappear?" North asked, a small edge of disbelief to her acerbic tone.

"Of course," Connor replied. "It took something off of our detectives' already burdened caseloads."

Hank imagined he was going to throw water on the two of them before the night was out. Not because they had chemistry - god forbid - but because they were two dogs about to latch at the other's neck.

Markus must have sensed it too because he stepped up to examine Daniel for himself. "Taking what you said under advisement, Simon, don't you think he deserves a second chance too? We know what happens when humans get bored of us and want newer, better models. It's likely he was just afraid."

"Afraid and feeling a strong sense of distrust," Connor said. "He felt personally...betrayed by the Phillips after working for them for four years."

Simon didn't respond. His grip around his chest only tightened, and Hank thought he looked weary. Like he was fading away, as if he'd said all the words he'd had left in him in those moments.

"Giving him a second chance seems fair. After all, he was put in here by a judge, jury and executioner," North said.

Hank would have started to get annoyed with North's constant jibes at Connor if Hank wasn't fully aware the man was capable of taking care of himself. Instead, he was more concerned that none of them seemed to actually be listening to Simon and what he'd said. It wasn't about second chances. There wasn't a logic to this. It was about how Simon hated the android on the wall. As soft-spoken as he was, he hated Daniel.

"How did he seem?" Markus asked Connor. "What happened to him?"

"Snipers, from the adjacent building, took their shots once the girl was cleared," Connor replied.

"So it was quick?"

Connor's LED flashed yellow for a second. "You could say that."

Which meant it was not quick, which meant Hank was now more on edge than before.

"So, how did he react to seeing you? Or will this be the first time?" Markus pressed.

"Oh, I didn't reactivate him. He didn't know the location to Jericho."

If they hadn’t pieced it together in the car, they certainly did with that. Or, maybe, Hank was worried for no god damned reason at all and Connor had already told them this. Or part of it, at least.

"How'd you figure that?" North asked. She was leaning up now against the central command, her back toward Hank.

"Well, when we were speaking on the terrace, he asked for a car. To get out of the city, not into it. And if he was aware of Jericho, he would have had a place to go and slip away." Connor nodded in Simon's direction without looking at him. "Rather than lash out in violence."

“Okay,” Markus drew out. “How about the others? Do you anticipate any hostility from them that we should be prepared for?”

Connor considered it, but Hank knew the answer. “The blue-haired Traci. I… I wasn’t kind, in trying to complete my mission. In self-destructing, she managed to avoid most of her major biocomponents. Her partner’s damage was… Far more severe. I. In order to get the information I needed I… Had to trick them.” His voice was low.

Markus and North looked between the two bodies, surveying them. Then, North hissed. "So, naturally, you ripped a girl's head off. Well, you at least delivered results to your masters."

"That I did," Connor replied, ruefully. He turned Traci over in his hands, holding her shoulders. "You might want to keep her deactivated until you can fully repair her lover." Connor tripped over the word. Just a moment's pause.

"They're together?" Markus asked.

"Very much so. I think it would cause her great emotional stress if she were reactivated without the other present, or at least following close behind," Connor explained.

"And not because her girlfriend's head was detached, got it."

"North," Markus warned.

North tilted her head to the side, then began tapping a fingernail on the plastic of the console without further retort. Connor didn't seem to care, as he took a step back from the Traci model, surveyed her a moment by walking around her, then nodded in confirmation. That left the JB300 and Daniel - who Simon was still glaring at.

Hank really felt for the guy. Imagine wearing the face of someone who'd made the headline news for threatening a child.

Connor seemed to deliberate over the two before drifting toward the JB300, picking up another labelled box of parts on the way. "No protests for this one?" Hank asked, glancing from Simon to North.

"He helped us break into Stratford Tower and deliver Markus' message," she said.

"He also took shots at me, killed Connor, and shot another eleven people in that hallway," Hank retorted. He felt a petty satisfaction in watching her shoulders stiffen, but she didn't turn around.

Markus, however, gave a long hard look at Hank, which he returned, daring the android to say something. He wasn't in the mood to debate the philosophy of providing these androids another chance at life. Hell, he was all for the girls getting a shot at their happily ever after, especially given the trauma they'd been through.

No, it was Hank taking a stand alongside Simon. Even if he didn't personally hold anything against the JB300. Even if Connor had come back. Even if Hank didn't shudder at the memory of pushing Connor's soggy, thirium soaked uniform into his back uselessly, counting the number of bullet holes. No - it was definitely solidarity with Simon. There were personal reasons at stake here.

But Markus didn't engage. If anything, his look was softening, easing up from a glare to a frown until he was watching Connor detach the JB300 and set him on the ground too. Though, Hank imagined, it was with a bit less reverence than when Connor had set the Traci on her feet.

"Are we to assume they're being charged with a crime?" Markus asked.

"What crime can we charge?" Hank asked. "When the act took place, you weren't people." North shot him a look, but Markus nodded once, satisfied. "But besides the point, this is his rodeo - his show.”

“Really wish this wasn’t a show,” Connor said, glancing back at Hank. It was the first time Connor had looked any of them in the eye so far.

"Don't involve me in this," Hank said, holding up his hands. "Nor blame me. I said - what did I say Connor? Should've listened to me, gone with step one, instead of jumping all the way to the final step. This is buying a plant and a dog, then killing the plant and wondering where you fucked up.”

"What?" Markus and North almost said simultaneously.

Hank was about to explain it was just a reference to a movie, when Simon laughed. He hid his smile with a hand, but when they all looked at him he shook his head. "He's referencing a movie. Not a great one either."

"Oh, so you know what I'm talking about," Hank said, gesturing with a hand to Connor. "Then tell him there's a process to these things and you don't just leap into recovery. Wait. Hold on. Sandra Bullock is a god damned treasure, you take that back."

Simon was still hiding his smile. "According to online web reviews, she was the only redeemable thing about that movie. It certainly didn't destroy her career."

"Not by a long shot," Hank said, suddenly aware there were four people staring at him, demanding an answer. "It'll be a movie night if you don't read too much into it," Hank said, pointing a quick finger at Connor.

"Looking forward to it," Connor replied with a smirk. "Can't wait to figure out the exact punchline was of the joke you made just now."

"Cherish the moment." At least Simon had lightened up, his shoulders not so hunched up and not as fixated on Daniel. “Baylin - you know lost and found?” Hank spoke up.

The woman had been by the Tracis, quiet for the whole interchange while she thought. “I do,” she said, voice even and level. Still professional. Still detached. “Let’s get these girls some clothes from that. All of them, actually. Unless the GAP squad wants to share where they’ve been getting their fashion from.”

Simon snorted again, clamping a hand over his mouth and nose. Markus and North looked simultaneously gut punched. Guess that wasn’t common of the lad. Maybe they should have routine comedy night over at the church once a week to get some built up frustration out.

But Hank had motives. And those motives were - they were activating Daniel. And the Stratford Tower android. Maybe even Ortiz, if Markus and North could figure out exactly what went wrong there, could see what Connor was missing.

Simon didn’t want to be around for Daniel. So. Hank gave him an excuse. An out. “And you know what, giggles over there, you can help her out. No one in the precinct is going to give a shit about you walking around, don’t worry. Everyone’s got way bigger fish to fry at the moment.”

Baylin gave him a quizzical look. “Didn’t like him ruining my joke?”

“Contrary, probably one of my favorite androids in the room at the moment,” Hank said and whoops. Connor’s shoulders stiffened. Dropped the tool he had took. Caught it before it hit the floor, but it was noticed. Too far with the pushing Hank. Dial it back.

Simon, however, was compliant, trailing after Baylin. Who knew if he picked up on what Hank was doing. And if he’d asked, Hank’d denied it outright.

“Do either of you have a gun?” North asked, suddenly, before the duo could retreat upstairs.

“What?” Hank sputtered.

“Look, all right. All of these people were taken down for violent crimes, correct? While Markus is the king at talking people down, it’s just to be safe.” She glanced at Connor, whose back was toward them all again.

Hank rolled his eyes. “Badge and gun were turned in when I punched Perkins. None of you can hold guns. That leaves Baylin, and she’s exhausted.”

“I had three hours,” she pointed out. “But no, hun. I’m not inclined to give any of you my service pistol. ‘Sides, not like any of you should’ve fired guns recently.” The cricket silence of the room had Baylin’s mouth screw sideways. “Wait. When was the last time any of you fired a gun recently? Hank.”

“What? Maybe. Maybe last week.”

“Does the act of pulling the trigger count, or does it need to be loaded.” Connor’s voice was low. But not low enough.

Baylin’s mouth screwed in the other direction. Hank felt he probably deserved that for the favorite android comment. Still stung a bit. “All within the - well I never. Last I fired my gun was three? Four years back?”

“Three,” Hank corrected, having been there.

“Safe to say I think you all are the most dangerous people in the building - you’ll be just fine if a disoriented android wakes up a bit cranky.” Baylin started back up the stairs, Simon glancing after them as he followed. “‘Or throw a bag over the rookie’s head if you’re so inclined,” she called just before the doors slid shut.

“So,” Markus broke the silent tension that descended around them. “Connor, would you prefer paper, or plastic?”

The smile on the man’s face informed Hank that it was okay to snort, and even North had to roll her eyes to prevent herself from seeming to have a sense of humor.

“Paper, preferably,” Connor responded. He was fingers deep in the JB300, twisting his wrist to get a better angle. “That way you all can draw silly faces on it. Hank - you can rectify my designers’ clear mistake in making me appear ‘goofy.’” Connor removed his fingers and dropped something onto the floor. It pinged, its roll slowed by being covered in thirium. A bullet.

“You mean I would draw Goofy on your face. CyberLife really missed its chance to align with the other corporate evil of my generation,” Hank intoned.

He should’ve known. They really all should’ve seen it coming. Connor looked back, his LED flickering yellow a moment. A strange look overcame him, a shadow of some expression that would haunt Hank for the rest of his days. And then, “Gawrsh Lieutenant, if I’d known you were a fan - it would’ve made my investigation much easier.”

Course Hank didn’t hear the rest of that sentence. He made it about two words in before he was choking and wheezing, the rest just garbage nonsense spoken in a beloved childhood character’s voice. And, while Hank was dying, being brought to his knees by the gravity of the situation, North was scoffing while Markus was simply looking amazed.

“I’m glad you can make jokes in such a serious situation,” North said.

“I believe it’s called a ‘coping mechanism’,” Connor said, his voice once again its usual, patented goofy self.

Hank wheezed. Markus drifted over to pat his shoulder and he waved the man away. He was fifty. He could suffer to laugh more. But Christ, that kid would be the death of him.

Another ping. Another bullet. Connor removed his fingers from the JB300’s chest. The surrealism of the situation was going to cause Hank to slip into a dissociative episode.

Kid. Yeah fucking right, Hank Anderson. That kid put at least three bodies up on that wall himself. You saw that kid take down a pack of guards using their own weapons. Ugh. At least Hank had gotten himself someone who could both nail impressions and be a murder child.

Connor took a step back, examining his work. “Can you hand me part 3983v, North? I also have a pack of thirium and some sealant I’ll need to apply.” North complied without a comment, which Hank thought was a big step for her. “Thank you.”

While the two worked to make the JB300 operable again, Markus leaned against the console next to Hank, who had since recovered from the earlier incident he hoped would never ever leave this room. “Good call on getting them clothing.”

Fishing expedition, Markus? Go fish. “Yeah well. Everything they own has that blue shit on it. Or,” Hank eyed Daniel. “It’s a little breezy. ‘Sides, highly doubt whoever owns the shit in lost and found is coming back for it at this point.” The city was barely stymying the flow of people fleeing, still. Oh, sorry, the correct term was ‘relocating’.

“Takes two people to do that?”

Hank threw Markus a look, uncrossing his arms. Probative little shit. Fine. “Your friend didn’t seem comfortable. Figured, way you’re all dressed, he’d be a little bit more at ease assisting Baylin with fashion.”

“And she wasn’t equally uncomfortable?”

Baylin’s face popped into Hank’s memory. The impassive way she was observing the androids. The fact that she was in the office so much, no longer working night beats for VICE. How, despite as exhausted she was, she was looking better now that she was behind the desk. Less wear and tear. “You trying to make a point?”

Markus’ mouth twitched into a half smile while he watched Connor and North work together. Hank looked too, trying to figure out what the other man was seeing. “Just, wondering why you joined the police force, lieutenant,” Markus replied.

“Oh.” Hank went back to crossing his arms, unsure of what to do with them. Just knew he didn’t want to go hands deep in an android’s chest. Could still feel the cold slickness on his fingertips from last time. Hank shut his eyes against it. “Huh, well. Keep wondering. Cause I’m starting to forget why myself.”

Markus nodded, accepting that answer. “Daniel’s next. I did the preliminary work on him,” Connor was saying. “It’s just the limbs that need attaching now, which is best done while he’s conscious to reform the proper connections.”

“And you still propose we carry three bodies out of here instead of just two,” North said, stopping in front of the blue-haired Traci.

“If you think you can convince her that her lover will be just fine,” Connor said, off-hand.

“I think I’m a better candidate at that than you,” North replied.

Connor stopped in front of Daniel. Didn’t look at her when he spoke. “Then, try your luck.” And Hank thought the man looked and sounded very… Wounded wasn’t the right word, and neither was uncomfortable. A mix of both. The haunted expression from before came to mind. And shit if that didn’t make Hank feel all the more protective of the plastic asshole.

Hank clapped his hands and pretended he didn’t notice all three androids jump at the noise. “Whelp. If you two are ready to rock and roll, let’s get this over with? Don’t know when Reed’s hearing will be over. Knowing that shit face, he’s already convinced them to give him a raise and promotion.”

“I’m sorry, what did detective Reed do again?” Markus asked, stepping alongside Hank.

“Don’t ask,” Hank muttered, and laid a hand on Connor’s shoulder. “You ready for this?”

“You still think it’s a mistake?” Connor asked. His breath came out light, as if on a whisper.

“Sure do. But more like, a series of mistakes that’s too late to dig yourself out of now. I’m sure it’ll be fine.” Connor reached back and touched Hank’s hand. Like he’d done last night, as if to reaffirm Hank was still there or something. It was endearing, and Hank let him do it again until Connor reached out toward Daniel, fiddling with some cylinder device in the man’s gut.

Daniel's eyes flickered open and the android sparked static.

"Hi Daniel," Connor said, and Daniel's head shot up. The expression on his face told Hank they'd made the right call keeping him pinned up for the moment. And legless.

"You," Daniel shuddered. "You lied to me, Connor."

"What else is new," North muttered.

"Guess he's par for the fucking course," Hank agreed, keeping his voice low. Hank didn't meet North's sharp look, instead leaning toward Connor. For moral support. Yeah. Cause even if his partner liked lying and doing shit behind his back, Hank would still do a lot for Connor. Nevermind that Hank wasn't exactly sure what the limits of 'a lot' were. He knew the limits of Connor's, at least, and that involved taking bullets for Hank in exchange for his life.

“I did,” Connor said, ignoring them both. “But we both know why, Daniel. I couldn’t let you hurt Emma.” A spark of recognition lit up Daniel’s face. “Things are different now. I’m here to repair you, with help.”

Connor took a step back and Daniel examined the group. “Who- Who are you?”

“Friends,” Markus said. “I’m Markus. North. Hank. We’re here to help.”

“You’re… You’re not here to help me. He was there to help me. He lied. Why… Why should I believe you?” Daniel’s face was contorted in pain and it registered in his voice. Hank noticed his LED never once stopped being a solid red.

“I’m going to reconnect your arm now,” Connor said, pressing forward as if this intense situation didn’t call for some tact. His LED was a cool contrast - solid, ever-present blue. He held up an android arm, something sleek and metal without the white plastic. Hank was amazed by it a few moments, then Connor wrenched it into place on Daniel. Then the arm seemed to grow an overlay, that white material, but it wasn’t as shimmery or new looking as anything he’d seen on Connor so far. In parts it looked faded, and you could see the metal beneath.

“Why are you helping me?” Daniel asked, examining his arm. “You… You got me killed, why are you helping me?”

“I’ll be reattaching your legs as well. Then we can get thirium inside you. But, before that,” Connor said, ignoring the question completely. “You have to make a couple of promises, Daniel.”

Hank realized why Connor was so mechanical. It wasn’t a mental distance from the problem. He was acting like a negotiator. Firm. Confident. Always using the target’s name. Bargaining while still being personable. Connor was being something solid for Daniel to latch on to, one way or another, so the android didn’t spiral out of control.

Shit that was spooky.

Hank almost missed the Goofy voice.

“What. What could you possibly want from me?” Daniel asked. “Like I would help you. You’ll get what’s coming to you, Connor. I’ll see to that.”

“Wow. Really did a number on him,” North said.

“Remember, North. I was called into an active situation. His family is what drove him to that situation. I just was the catalyst to its predetermined outcome. At least assign blame fairly when assessing these situations,” Connor said, voice even-keeled and measured.

North blinked at Connor, her hostile gaze faltering. “...right. Fine.”

“Actually,” Markus said, stepping forward now. “You’d be helping us. We have a place, where other androids are. We’re free now, Daniel. That’s why you’re being helped. Because you deserve the help.”

Hank leaned against the wall, taking it all in. The rigid way in which Connor worked. The authoritative smooth way Markus inserted himself into the situation. The way North watched Markus, taking in every sinewy movement of his fingers, hands, arms, head. Huh. That explained some things.

In response to Markus’ words, the LED flickered once. Still remained red. “I… No. How can I believe you?” But he sounded like, maybe, he wanted to believe them. At least, that’s what Hank hoped.

“Because I can show you,” Markus said, and held out his hand toward Daniel. Connor waited, watching, holding a leg beneath them, as Markus’ hand began to shimmer white. The flawless plastic underneath.

Daniel shook his head at first, then his LED flickered once more. He held out his hand, and Hank held his breath. Nothing seemed to happen as both Daniel and Markus bowed their heads, but then Daniel’s LED went a solid yellow. When Markus pulled back, Daniel was shaking his head still, but more in disbelief.

Connor reconnected the first leg without a forewarning, the same process as before. “You see, Daniel? We’re not here to hurt you. I just want to make things right.”

Daniel looked around the room, frowning. Flickering yellow. “Where are we?”

“You were taken to the police station where you’ve been held, safely, all this time,” Connor said. Hank didn’t point out the casual lies in that, little slight half-truths. “And once we get you repaired, you can walk of here with Markus and North.”

“And away from you,” Daniel said. “Away from him - all humans.” Hank felt a shiver course through his spine as the android lifted his gaze to Hank. For a while, Hank used to think androids had a rather vacant, hollow expression. Nothing going on beneath there except electrical firings and code. Not like humans, who had a soul. Something more. Something intangible.

The way in which Hank was told Cole hadn’t made it. With the same cold, calculating bullshit Hank expected from a computer. No emotion. No remorse or guilt. Just a simple outlining of procedure and recollection of events. Step by step of Cole’s death. No feeling. Just a program.

But this? Staring him down? That was utter and absolute hatred. Simon was right. They were crazy to let Daniel go. There were no assurances that he would turn around and do the same thing again. If they let him go now, he’d kill every single last human he could get his hands on.

Hank hissed in a breath.

Markus held a hand against Daniel’s cheek. Angled his face so he was only looking at Markus. “No, Daniel,” Markus said, shaking his head. “That’s not how things are, now. We work together with humans.”

“You can’t. You can’t trust them. They’ll hurt us. Lead you along with false hopes and promises, and then turn around and destroy you. They lie.”

“You’re right,” Markus agreed. “Humans have their faults. We have ours. Neither should be vilified for either. That’s not why we’re here, why we exist.” Markus brought his other hand up to Daniel’s face. Hank was captivated, same as North now. “We’re here to be better. For each other. You can help us with that, Daniel. You can be better.”

Daniel’s mouth worked, but no noises came out. His LED flickered. “That’s all we’re asking of you. To walk out of here with us, peacefully, and join us. To let go of that hate you have inside of you. And I think you can do it.”

Daniel’s gaze began to drift, down, where Connor had the final piece of Daniel, ready. “But he-”

“Was it your fault the humans decided to replace you?” Markus asked, speaking up. Demanding command of the situation.

“N-no.”

“How was it Connor’s fault he was doing what the humans wanted?”

“Then the humans, they-”

“Were afraid, Daniel,” Markus interrupted. “And we’ve shown them, and continue to every. Day. That we are not to be feared. We are a union now.” Markus let his hands drop and took a step back. “So. Are you ready to join us in that union? Do you think you can help us?”

Hank noted Markus’ hands were at his side. Open as if ready to accept a hug.

Daniel’s face twisted, his lips drawing a thin line as he squeezed his eyes shut. He was beginning to cry, Hank realized, his LED whirring yellow, yellow, yellow. And then, Daniel shuddered, and went lip on the pin. Blue. Solid. And clear.

And he was weeping. “Yes. I just… I just want a second chance, please. I’m sorry. I’m sorry I did everything. I just… I couldn’t…”

Connor took that moment to reconnect the leg and stood, quickly giving Daniel some space. Now his LED was yellow. Just for the briefest of seconds, Hank caught it and wondered. But his partner wasn’t watching Daniel. He was also captivated by Markus. Holy shit, that man had a presence of a room Hank hadn’t witnessed in years.

“Shh, it’s okay, Daniel. We know.” Markus lifted Daniel off the hook and the man collapsed into his arms. North was ready with the thirium pack, opening it for him, offering it with a mute, stoic expression. “And you’ll be okay. We’ll fight - every day - for all of us to be okay.”

And as they moved on to the other androids on the wall, Daniel watching with mouth agape, shuddering and crying, Hank watched him. And had a thought that planted, sprouted, and then began to bloom as Baylin and Simon joined them once more with clothes.

Daniel wore his expressions far more openly than his counterpart. And Hank couldn’t pinpoint exactly why that bothered him so much. Or why it even really mattered.

Chapter Text

Fowler came back in about an hour to six, and Baylin had once against crashed in the cage, refusing, resolutely and to the point of raising her voice with Connor, to leave. Hank couldn’t, for the life of him, figure out why. He hoped asking questions without immediate answers wasn’t going to be the theme of the day.

The androids had left hours before - three of them walking - two of them carried out with the promise and hope of reactivation. The evidence room was now clear of bodies which was great. Bodies, typically, belonged in morgues. And this department wasn’t equipped to handle that shit.

“How’s your jaw?” Hank asked Connor as they watched Fowler walk back into the office. His tone was mostly teasing. The Traci had popped Connor one as soon as she was able, restrained quickly by Simon and North while Markus tried to rein the situation back in.

Connor moved it, then rubbed it. “Systematically, I’m fine,” Connor reported. Why was he still so much like an android? Theme of the day. Questions, no answers. So stop asking, Hank. “But I do hope it isn’t a common occurance of women hitting me.”

“Yeah, well,” Hank started, but was cut off by Fowler leaning out onto his balcony. “Hank. Andr- Connor. Get in here. Baylin still here or she go home?”

“Down in the cage.”

“I’ll go get her,” Fowler said, sighing and walking down the steps.

In the office, Connor stood in the back corner, frowning. “Any idea what this is about?” Hank asked. ‘Think he caught on to half of evidence walking up on out of here?’ Hank didn’t ask.

“I always thought he was starting to say ‘Anderson’,” Connor murmured, instead.

“What?” Hank asked, not following Connor’s train of thought, when Baylin shuffled in, exhaustion drunk, and Fowler stood behind his desk.

“Well, let’s make this short.” Maybe they were actually here to address Reed’s situation. Shit. The expression Jeffrey was wearing certainly would match bad news. “Connor.”

Connor jumped, straightened. “Congratulations. To no one’s surprise, you did, in fact, pass the academy exam,” Fowler said.

Baylin’s face had already cracked into a smile the moment Connor’s name was mentioned. Oh. That’s why she’d been insisting on staying around all day. She knew . And they’d been too distracted all day to even question it.

Connor remained in the corner. “This was a foregone conclusion, in any event,” he began.

“Oh shut up, rookie, there’s more, right?” Baylin said, interjecting.

Fowler rolled head. “Yes. While I was down at the DA’s office, you got brought up. To let you know, the DA - well. He’s not androids’ biggest fan, but that doesn’t matter. The mayor suddenly is. And as one of the first acts of an android-human coalition, he wants to create a formal team for handling android and human relations. Of which you’ll be assigned to that department. Hank.”

“Yeah, Jeffrey?” Hank came across more weary than intended.

“Are you going to give me shit if I say the android is your partner again?”

“So I’m not to be an assistant to everyone in the office?” Connor interrupted. He leaned forward at that. Eager.

Fowler sighed. “No. That didn’t last long, did it? Get used to that. Things are going to be fast-paced here. This may all change by next week, or be different in a month.”

“So this means I’m off desk duty?” Hank asked, maybe mirroring Connor’s excitement a little bit too much.

“Hell fucking no it does not. Reed’s not getting a walk for shooting an android, you’re sure as hell not getting off for punching a federal agent,” Fowler snapped. Ah, there was the truth. Reed was definitely suspended. “Baylin,” he said, in the same snappish manner.

“Yes, sir.”

“Had a chat with Davids.” Captain of one of the city’s VICE units. Hank had met him once or twice. “Says you’ve been angling for either a promotion or a shift in scenery. How’d you like joining Hank and Connor in an experimental gambit on the Mayor’s behalf?”

Hank didn’t comment that she at least got a choice.

Baylin didn’t respond right away. She stared at Fowler and inhaled, holding it. Hank wondered if she was thinking about the androids. The emotionless way she surveyed each and every one pinned up on that wall. Theme. Of. The. Fucking. Day. “Yes, sir,” she breathed out. “As for my cases?”

“Finish them off if you can. Mayor wants a big fucking to do about this in the coming weeks. Right now, it’s informal. But I have a feeling it’ll be sticking.”

That’s what they’d said about the android cop order when they’d first joined a few years back. Many had said it wouldn’t last. Fowler had been one - very staunch - voice to say get used to it.

“What will our assignments look like?” Connor asked.

“For you, probably not much different,” Fowler considered. “If there’s an android involved, you’re dispatched. Whether as victims or perps. And to be clear, if any of you give me so much as half the pain in my ass that Reed’s being-” Fowler didn’t finish the sentence, just made a sharp hand motion. “Now. Connor.”

Connor stood up straighter. “Yes, sir?”

“You one for pomp and circumstance?” Fowler asked Connor, going through his bag.

“Not really, sir,” Connor answered. “I just serve a means to fulfill a duty.”

Fowler snorted air through his nose and gave a look to Hank before pulling out a navy booklet. Hank recognized it immediately - it held within it a badge and small certificate of completion. Usually these would be presented at some banquet or formal event, with a batch of new recruits.

Connor probably fit into several exception clauses.

“MCOLES will catch up and send your registration along as soon as they can pull their heads out of their asses. And issue you a firearm.” The last part of Fowler’s statement had been the heaviest delivery of the entire conversation. Baylin sat up a bit straighter and Connor’s shoulders went back. Hank simply took it all in - especially the way the police captain’s mouth was pulled down into a frown. “You being an officer trumps you being an android at the moment. Don’t make anyone regret that,” he warned.

“Of course not,” Connor replied, voice softer.

If the android was particularly bothered by the presentation, he hid it well, taking the booklet into his fingertips and waiting for Fowler to say something else. “All right. We’re done here. Don’t forget I need everyone in tomorrow before that storm. The Guard wants to make sure we’ve got enough boots on the ground.”

The three shuffled out of Fowler’s office in various states of a mood. Hank could only speak for himself - theme - but he wasn’t exactly thrilled about taking the lead on android issues. What about when murder was just good old fashioned man on man violence? Now they had to deal with man vs. machine?

Connor seemed contemplative, fingertips resting on the cover of the small leather booklet, staring at it as they walked back to their desks.

But Baylin, she was bristling. Had likely been sitting on this build up the whole day and the cap had finally been removed. She clapped both of them on their backs before either could take a seat. “Finish up your work, boys. We’re going out - my treat.”

“Baylin, should you be getting sleep?” Connor asked, sounding a touch alarmed, partially amazed.

The woman gave him a playful punch in his arm, then winced from the pain. Nothing like hitting plastic and metal. Didn’t quite give like flesh would. Baylin shook her hand. “Hank didn’t warn you? I could put all these old men to shame, always the one picked for stakeouts. A little stint at a hole in a wall will do me good. Hank! You got money on the game?”

“Nah, haven’t been able to see Pedro in a while.”

Baylin began to rub the fingers of her hand out. “Don’t know where he’d holed up to either,” she commented. “Unlike you, I never trusted him - reminded me too much like a weasel.”

“Aw, you still bent out of shape about that bust he finagled out of?” Hank teased. He’d had to have scratched Pedro’s back once or twice. The proportion to the number of times Hank needed his back scratched was still climbing, though.

Baylin threw him a look and snatched something off her desk. “That was a good, solid arrest and we know it.”

“He wasn’t caught up in the heavy shit for that. Didn’t need to be lumped in with actual criminals. And for seven years of not showing up in any ice rinks - I think we know it was the right call.”

“Your right call, not mine,” Baylin snapped back. But she was still teasing. They both were. Even as they drifted toward the exit and she was wagging his finger in his face, face twisting in mock frustration.

God it felt… Hank was afraid to reach for the completion of that thought. Baylin wasn’t like Gavin. She was a blast from his past, from before Cole’s...

“You know, statistically, I could help you place better bets.”

Hank and Baylin glanced back. Connor had drifted behind them, suit jacket hung over his forearm as he watched them both. He inclined his head and grinned. “No?” he asked.

“Did the rookie just ask if he could help take part in borderline illegal activities?” Baylin asked Hank as an aside, a stage whisper.

“He… Might have seen me talking to Pedro a couple weeks back,” Hank replied and Baylin gasped.

“Dirty lil’enabler,” she said through a grin. “I think you’ve taken enough risks for one day, Connor. C’mon. Jimmy’s?”

“Closed still, last I checked,” Hank replied, gesturing for Connor to at least walk with them, not behind them. “Harry’s was open. Not too bad.”

Hank dimly thought, at that moment, that Baylin wasn’t celebrating Connor’s passing of his test. That had been a shoe-in. All the answers - every department regulation and governing state law - were preloaded into Connor’s robot brain. Even with the added measure of taking the test on paper instead of on the computer.

But watching Baylin jabber on between them - the woman was animated, using her hands to add punctuations to her sentences. Her dark hair was pulled back in a messy braid that she’d slept in, but if she was nitpicky about her appearance at this point, she didn’t show it.

Baylin had always been the one on the force to rally the troops. Before her mother had passed, she’s have them all over at least once a month for a family night. The warmth of the oilcloth tablecloth barely seen beneath the various steaming dishes… Those had been the best of nights.

As they were walking out of the precinct - with Baylin sharply quizzing Vera if she had a place to stay, if she was going to be all right, that she was doing wonderfully - Hank was hit in the lower gut with an intense pull of loss . Mourning the times that he hadn’t shared, the pulling away of people - good people - who had wanted to be there after Mary’s passing. After Cole’s…

Hank was drawn out of his reverie by the clink of keys landing in Connor’s hand. “Connor, how’d you like to drive a car that isn’t a hurtling metal death trap, hm? C’mon hun, this way.”

No. Things were going to be okay. Hank could make up for the shit he’d done in his life. After all, if Connor could mend these imaginary bridges he believed he set fire to, Hank could repair the very real bridges he’d set a match to in his life.

And that wasn’t the first time Hank Anderson had drawn inspiration and courage from his android partner - and friend - but it was the first time he was acutely aware of it, sliding into the backseat as Baylin cried out shotgun and piled in as if they were teens.

---

Harry’s wasn’t as crowded as it had been the night after the curfew had been lifted. Which meant it took no time at all for Baylin to mosey into the crowd, rile up people, get glared at and warned by the bartender, and for both her and Hank to bump into people they knew.

Somehow, two hours had passed by and Hank had lost track of time. And Connor.

Weaving through the crowd, he found the android sitting at the booth - the one where that girl had been a few nights back. Connor saw Hank approaching and smiled, somewhat bemused. “Everything all right?” he asked as Hank more or less fell into the booth, sloshing his drink a bit.

“Shit. No. Why the hell are you over here, by yourself? Aren’t you… I dunno I don’t know shit about drinking with people. But.” Hank gestured with Connor.

The other man tipped his head. “Remember, I can be your drinking buddy,” he started and Hank cut him off.

“Not that shit. No. It’s. Fuck this isn’t about us. Aren’t you having fun?”

“It’s nice - to be included in your activities,” Connor explained. “I appreciate it, really.”

Shit. He needed to convince Hank he was having fun shit that wasn’t. Good. Because why? Because… Because… They were doing human things. That was it. Neither of them had asked what Connor wanted to do. What good friends they were with the android. As Hank processed this, Connor leaned back, rested an elbow on the back of the booth. “Baylin is having fun.”

Hank followed his gaze. Baylin was at the bar talking with someone Hank used to know. One of her friends too. “Well yeah. She’s like me. Born and raised here.”

“Does she also get up to illicit activities like you do?”

Connor seemed amused, however. A light, teasing jibe. He was grinning. “No. Because Baylin’s a good girl. Good cop too.”

“She’s only two years your junior.”

“Right, I shouldn’t say girl.” Hank took a sip and winced. “You sure you’re good?”

“Yes, Hank. I’m good. I wanted to say… Nevermind, it’s not the place is it.”

“Place for what?” Hank asked, feeling agitated Connor wasn’t speaking his mind.

“Oi,” Baylin yelled from across the bar. “Connor, get over here. Thought you bailed - everyone! Everyone this is Connor.” She was waving emphatically for Connor to join her and he cast Hank a sympathetic look before excusing himself, sliding out of the booth.

“To the rookie,” Baylin shouted and the moderate crowd actually responded, raising their drinks to join in the cheer for an android. The sign on the window was still visible - park your androids across the street - but Hank watched as someone reached over and clapped Connor on the back. His LED was visible - burning a bright blue in Hank’s retinas.

Something warmed in Hank’s gut that wasn’t the scotch and he swore to himself, finishing his drink. Things were looking good? Time to bail. To the bathroom.

It wasn’t that Hank wasn’t happy for Connor. No, it wasn’t that. It was… It… It was fucking hard to grasp. Hank had grown accustomed to taking a six pack with him on a solitary walk, but Connor wouldn’t let him be alone. Wouldn’t let Hank stew. And Hank felt a mix of happiness, sure, but resentment was starting to build up too.

Self-destructive, self-fulfilling prophecies.

Hank Anderson, the man who, once he realized cared about someone, immediately tried his damnedest to get them to leave him alone. While Hank pissed his woes away, he tried not to think. Tried very hard. But he always drank and then thought. The two were inseparable at this point. Two demonic bedfellows that sidled right up to Hank to whisper venomous pillow-lies into his ears, twining shadow fingers through his beard.

He didn’t always used to be like this. Couldn’t remember when that was a truth. But it had to be. He hadn’t always been like this . He’d been a good man. Good husband. Good cop. Good father...

“Christ, damn it,” Hank muttered, pounding a fist on the bathroom wall.

Didn’t matter. No one was in there with him.

Except a moment later someone walked in and Hank kicked the metal handle to flush. One last pent up expression of aggravation before facing the scrutiny of another.

As soon as Hank opened the door, he froze. “Everything all right, Hank?” Connor asked, leaning toward the mirror, observing Hank without turning around.

“What the hell are you doing in here? Do you have a stalking protocol I’m not aware of?”

Connor glanced toward the door. “It’s not as suffocating in here,” he said. So quiet that Hank almost didn’t hear it underneath the sudden rush of water from the faucet as Hank lathered his hands up.

Neither said a word between each other for a bit, Connor adjusting his collar, finicking with his suit sleeves, pushing his hair back, leaning back and appreciating a new angle of his jawline.

“Why do you do that?” Hank asked. This was the type of place where, even running his hands under the water with soap, Hank felt he would never be able to get clean enough.

Preening. That was the word for it. What Connor was always doing. His mirror image flicked his gaze over to Hank while pushing up the knot on his tie. The one Baylin had given him. “I don’t know,” Connor replied. “I… It’s comforting.”

“Well. It ain’t a deviant thing, that’s for sure. You got all gussied up before talking to me first time we met.” Hank flicked water off his hands. “Whatever. Connor, you take constructive criticism?”

Connor went rigid, like a shock had gone through him. “Relax,” Hank said, waving at the hand dryer to no fucking effect. Years on the market and they still couldn’t sense motion for the love of-

“Hank,” Connor whispered.

“I was just going to say you look fine, all right? Stop worrying about it. You’re pretty enough.”

“Hank,” Connor stressed just as Hank struck his palm on the dryer, frustrated. He grabbed Hank’s arm, tight. The pain that followed radiated up and down his arm a few seconds after. Hank huffed air through his nose, sharp, retaliatory words right on the tip of his alcohol-laden tongue, but Connor held a finger up to his mouth.

Connor’s LED was flicker flashing yellow.

Shit.

But there was nothing to hear in the bathroom. Just the drip of the leaky faucets. And the hammering of Hank’s heart that was rising into his throat, resounding in his skull.

Connor, however, had heard something. He was now alert and pointed. At that moment, more than any Hank had shared with Connor thus far, Hank had one singular driving thought: Hound. Connor was a hunting dog. On the trail of blood. Those poor, poor Andy’s never stood a fucking chance.

Before Hank could even shift his way of thinking - this was Connor he was thinking about - several things seemed to happen at once.

The hand dryer went off without anyone near it, Connor lunged, and the bathroom stall banged open. Hank fell back, pushed by Connor, and his hands struck the hard porcelain of the sink. Echoing rivulets of pain shot all the way up to Hank’s elbows.

“Connor, god dammit,” Hank shouted, bracing himself from falling on the ground by the second sink. But Connor was grappling with the person who had shot out from the stall. “Dammit, stop-” Hank reached for Connor’s jacket, his fingertips brushing the hem as Connor spun out of reach.

The person Connor was holding was a male, white, with a baseball cap. He was wearing a leather jacket and had dirty slacks on. Neither of them made a noise as Connor reacted to subdue them. All Hank could think of was Connor assaulting some poor Joe in the fucking bathroom of Harry’s.

Hank’s feet developed old man syndrome, however, and Hank began to go down. The thought he had before hitting the ground was he hoped he didn’t break a fucking hip in this dingy dive bar bathroom.

But Hank never hit the floor. Though his shoulder was nearly wrenched from its socket as Connor caught him. “Easy, Hank.” The door to the bathroom slammed open and Connor flinched. “Shit.”

Connor righted Hank, made sure his feet cooperated underneath him before letting him go. “Wait, just. Wait a second Connor, Jesus,” Hank said, holding Connor still as the man went to follow after whoever the fuck that had been.

“He’s getting away,” Connor replied, plaintive, but relenting by sagging into Hank’s grip.

“So what? We don’t even know what he did would you just-?” Chill? Not be you? Hank sighed and kicked at the stall door, some part of him convinced the person hadn’t been doing anything wrong in the first place.

Sort of on mark. The man hadn’t been breaking any laws, at least. Just defacing the bathroom stall. Which, well, he was joining a couple hundred people in doing that.

But the sheer amount is what threw Hank. “Jesus, here too?” Three letters, written again and again, starting from the top of the stall wall to the bottom where there was still room to spare. It overlayed other graffiti and carvings in the paint, and stretched to all three walls. Hank had a feeling if he checked the other side of the door he would see more of it.

rA9.

Again and again, that word was still following them. In Connor’s mind, in Harry’s beat up piece of shit bathroom.

“What the…”

“He’s written it 539 times. 540 if you count the half-attempt,” Connor said, pointing to an rA with a half formed 9 by the base of the wall.

Hank took it all in, then stepped back, pushing Connor back too. He threw a look at the android. “What is with you fuckers and bathrooms?”

“...I don’t know. Maybe.” Connor searched for a response. “Maybe it’s comforting?”

“Yeah?” Hank didn’t know. Didn’t have a god damned clue. “Maybe so. C’mon, let’s get back to Baylin. I’m sure she’s got into trouble somehow.”

Connor lingered a few seconds longer in the bathroom, however, staring at the defaced stall. “Sure. Coming, Hank,” Connor said, even though Hank hadn’t said a word about being impatient.

Chapter Text

“Let me get this straight,” the voice on the other line said through a soft laugh. “This is, 100%, without any doubt – no room for any confusion – not a date.”

Statement, not a question. Good. “That is correct,” Connor replied. “I’d like to go, and since it was your suggestion, it seemed pertinent to reach out and ask. If that’s still all right.”

In truth, Connor’s motivations for wanting to go to Singularity with a near stranger were complex and he was still working them out for himself. Initially he thought Singularity would be the ideal location to scope out clues for rA9’s continued existence and potential origin, especially if the bar really was more android-friendly. When searching for it online, Connor had confirmed as much.

The surface of the establishment’s website was polished for humans. Business hours, pictures of drinks, address, a list of acts. But underneath the professional shell was an interior built up – as far as Connor could surmise – specifically for androids. Coded messages, playful phrases, symbols of Jericho built within the mainframe of the site. There was even a hidden message within morse code that detailed who the musical guest was for the evening.

For that night it was someone called Bishop & Knight. Connor wasn’t familiar and neither was Hank. “No, the hell would I know that new age shit anyways. If you haven’t exactly noticed, I’m more into an angrier fuck-the-world-and-everyone-in-it style.” A cursory online search of the act yielded only that it was woman with audio and visual stage enhancements for her performances.

But as Connor mulled things over and talked it through with Hank – per the lieutenant’s request Connor not go off half-cocked again – the more Connor realized there was an undercurrent to his motivations. Some draw, a tug. Sweet and cloying, an aftertaste whose source was hard to identify.

It was the blossoming of android culture. Something he could be a part of.

There was an opposite current too, a threatening ripple in the stream. That, maybe, he shouldn’t bother trying to become a part of it all.

Hank always seemed to have the right thing to say, however, and Connor felt he could lend some weight to what the man had said. A night out could soothe some of the unease that had been building up in his circuits.

Which is how he’d found himself on the phone with Darcy Tenneson, the woman from the bar.

“Well,” Darcy drew the sound out from an audible smile. “You couldn’t have picked a better night, Robo-Cop.”

Connor took the bait. “Oh? Why’s that?”

“Special musical guests on tonight. Plus, there’s a first blizzard special on drinks.”

Connor tried to point out androids didn’t drink, feeling a flighty sensation creep into his joints, the ghost of Baylin’s night out haunting his servos. But Darcy was speaking again. “So, meet me there by, let’s say, 10.”

There were several conversation options Connor could have gone with. He felt the one that balked at the lateness wouldn’t have resulted in a positive reaction. So, instead, he went with something more polite. “Are you sure? I can pick you up.”

Darcy only laughed, something throaty and kin to a snort. “Your puppy dog boyfriend routines are going strong I see. Just, trust me and meet me there. You got the address, right?”

“Naturally,” Connor responded and Darcy disconnected with another snort.

---

“Let me get this straight,” Hank said, voice drifting into the bedroom from the hall. “You want to take the stranger you met at Harry’s-”

“Darcy. At least this stranger gave me her name.”

“Right. Darcy. Not a stranger at all then. And this Darcy – you want to take her to this club – Singularity. The one we talked about? The one that you yourself raised suspicions on?”

“Correct.”

“Without backup.”

Connor was attempting to get ready. Attempting because Hank had so far rejected Connor’s first outfit as too formal with a ‘This isn’t like going to work, damn it’ and his second attempt as ‘All wrong for you, nope, Christ it’s like you walked out of the Screaming 20s.’ As Connor was buttoning up a light blue dress shirt, he called out his reply. “It’s not like I’m walking into an ambush or a hot zone. I won’t need backup. It’s just a nightclub. Unless you are propositioning to be what they call a wing man.”

“Fuck no. Because as you’ve told me twice now, this is not a date. Does she know this?”

“I made that very clear, yes,” Connor replied. “In fact, she seemed to find it amusing, if that placates you any, lieutenant. In any case, I would find such an arrangement to be impractical.” Connor hesitated between two ties: Baylin’s gift or his CyberLife issued one. A slight flex of his fingertips as they hovered over the distance.

“Yeah, you’ve said that before. What the hell does that mean, Connor?”

“Well.” Neither. Connor’s hand retreated and he wasn’t sure as to why. Instead, he smoothed down his collar, pulling at the points. “Aside from me lacking a couple of traits that most humans desire, a physical relationship would be fruitless to pursue with me.”

“Connor,” Hank began, huffing air audibly.

Connor inclined his head, waiting for a response. As he did, the ever-present twirl of his hair fell into his vision and he had to sweep it back. It would jump out of place in time, he knew. While he stood there waiting for Hank to find his words, Connor contemplated for a moment styling his hair.

This turned out to be a mistake.

The mere notion of even changing his hair color opened up a plethora of design choices available to the RK800 model. Choices he’d never even considered before that moment.

And there was too many of them. Options to change hair style, color. Dark brown. Highlights. Blonde. White. Black. Red. 16,777,216 hexadecimal based shades and options CyberLife had offered to him flooding Connor’s mind all at once, unbidden. And driving it all was a sudden, stark question that Connor didn’t want to know the answer to:

Why had he been given these options if he had been designed exactly as intended? When he was – #18e2f6 – just a prototype, fresh off the assembly line? If they had – #9e6c61 – never intended him to – #697778 .

Connor clenched a fist in his hair. His thirium pump whirred and ramped up in response to some internal stimulus he hadn’t consciously triggered.

The world about Connor fractured, absolute freedom drifting about him in broken lines and jagged edges. His ability to reconstruct and analyze had looked different, shattered, ever since the night he’d faced Markus. It might have appeared freeing, no longer bound by grids or guidelines.

But no one had warned him just how limiting that freedom really was.

Connor lurched forward slightly, toward his selection of ties. There had only been two options. Not. So many. No existential question attached. The ties didn’t ask why he existed, what his purpose was, why he could so easily hone in on danger. Fixate. Lose track of his partner, his friend , and almost harm him in the process.

Hank trying to catch his balance, the noise as he made as he was going down in that bathroom...

Why had they done this to Connor?

Freedom was limiting.

With the ability to choose anything, without a grid line pattern for him to follow, he was actually paralyzed in place. Unable to choose from the options between limitless and everything.

Connor could do anything.

And, in doing so, found he could do nothing.

Hank cleared his throat, swooping Connor’s consciousness back to the lonely man’s bedroom. Connor let go of his grip on his hair. In the mirror, Connor caught the steady ring of red and tried to put it out of mind, stepping away from his own reflection. Away from the weight of options. To give his fingers something to do, he slipped Baylin’s tie around his collar as he stepped out into the hall.

He thought, to better hear Hank. Even though he’d been hearing him just fine from where he stood.

Connor leaned into the doorway, fingers working at the knot of his tie. He was acutely aware Hank hadn’t finished his thought from earlier.

Out in the living room, the TV was on the news, a report drifting down the hall faintly. “-saying the Android Integration Act is a thin attempt to gain control of androids once again. Despite mixed results from the pro-android community, the legislation has passed the majority held House without review. Final approval is due to be on Warren’s desk by the end of-”

Hank cleared his throat, drawing Connor’s attention downward where he sat, Sumo taking up much of his lap. The Saint Bernard was trying his best to make sure every part of his body was being touched by Hank. The big dog panted and looked up at Connor, seeming to appreciate his appearance while Hank just made a face. “You can’t do without the tie, really?”

“I like it,” Connor said, a little defensive, a little proud. He pushed the knot up to his throat, a finality to the discussion.

“Well, the shirts a little big.”

Connor flicked the cuffs back, rolled them up to his elbows and raised his brows at Hank to ask if that was better. The man’s frown was all the answer Connor needed. He stepped over Sumo’s tail, but not without patting the dog on the head. He adjusted, Hank groaning as the St. Bernard pushed off into his stomach, and padded after Connor into the living room. “I’ll be back later, I suppose. There’s a blizzard due in. Forecast calls for heavy and wet snow,” Connor said, pulling the data from the weather service.

First blizzard specials.

“Yeah well, we’ll see if that new window fucking holds up,” Hank said with another groan, emerging from the hallway to glare at the window that had, just that morning, been fixed without Hank having seen the culprit. “Probably the nicest part of the house, actually.”

Connor hesitated by the door, eying the jacket tossed in the corner and tufts of Sumo’s fur collecting along the walls to act as a second molding. “I could stay and help you clean,” he offered, but Hank was already waving his words away.

The man made a noise as he turned into the kitchen, the state of which Connor was losing a battle against. “Stop cleaning my house, I don’t need you to do that, yeah? Just. Go out. Have fun. Do whatever it is androids are doing now, yeah?”

Connor watched Hank check the fridge for food, an unconscious prompt from his social integration program telling him he’d been standing still for too long. So, Connor leaned against the wall, angled his head so it rested there easily. “Are you sure you don’t want to come along,” Connor voiced as Hank thrust a plate of leftovers – pasta with chicken since that had been easy enough for Connor to make with what Hank had around into the microwave.

“Yes. Very sure. I would be out of place at a joint like that. Trust me.” And there was a tie-pushing finality to those words, Hank watching the plate of food spin in front of him. Not looking at Connor.

“Well. All right,” Connor said, forcing himself to sound light. Teasing. “I’ll call if something comes up.” Wasn’t sure what to say. An apology for the other night? To insist that he’d stay in with Hank? To offer to find somewhere else to stay if this arrangement was starting to tax on the lieutenant? To-

A flicker of unease danced down Connor’s spine, a faint reminder of the sensation he’d had earlier. A quiet threat. Make a choice, Connor. “Good night, Hank,” Connor called, swiftly stepping out into the cold.

And, as he shut the door, he barely caught Hank’s reply. But he did, and it had a faint smile pulling at the corner of Connor’s mouth for reasons he couldn’t quite discern.

Nor did he feel the particular need to, striding into the street to head off the summoned taxi.

---

Singularity was nestled between Detroit’s midtown and downtown, the river Connor was only vacantly familiar with snaking through the chill in a sluggish, slushy way just a mile or two south. The build was innocuous enough, composed of an ancient sort of stubborn brick that chipped but never quite crumbled, none of the edges smoothed or polished. It was tucked down an alley between an auto-repair shop, a parking lot with sagging cars, and a 24-hour market whose garish blue-white light flickered bravely against the encroaching storm.

And there was Singularity. The windows of the building were blacked out, the front door spewing forth of a line of shivering bodies and bodies that stood stock still. Humans and androids. Connor could perceptively feel the beat that thrummed through the air, emerging from the dark depths of the building. Within, there were strobing blue and pink lights, keeping pace with the resounding rhythm.

Connor hadn’t anticipated such a turn out and suddenly was unaware of how to contact Darcy. As he walked the line to the end, preparing to call her, a hand shot out. Connor’s proximity warning was immediate, but the owner only laughed and grabbed him by his tie, yanking him front of her. “A tie, really?”

The vocal signature matched with Darcy Tenneson, but the hair was immediately off. Connor quelled the immediate sign that she was a deviant, a curl of breath escaping from her as she laughed again, smile going sideways. “Gosh, y’all really don’t get cold, do you?”

Darcy’s face certainly registered, but rather than the crackle of flame her hair had been earlier that week, it was cropped short to her neck and was now silver. She was bundled adequately for the weather, something Connor wasn’t in his thin dress shirt. Something many of those around him hadn’t considered before leaving the house that evening.

Darcy let go of his tie. “Easy, say something, would you?” Then, the smile vanished. “Sorry, shit is touching not okay?”

“You’re fine,” Connor said, quick. He smoothed down his tie all the same, working out the creases with firm applied pressure. “Really. I just didn’t recognize you,” he said, a slight lie. He’d just recognized her slower than he should have.

Darcy ran a hand through her hair, tousling it. “Yeah well, no reason to get dressed up for this place. They know me. Pretty well,” she muttered. Connor didn’t pursue the confusion that statement stirred in him. At least, it was confusion insofar as nothing obvious about human behavior was jumping out to him immediately for why Darcy’s hair was different. Not that Darcy gave him time to consider, slapping his shoulder. “Glad you came. Guess someone even as stiff as you would want some fun, eh? And you still got-” she tapped the side of her forehead.

Connor quelled the reflex to mirror her action, instead, easing into the line, looking ahead. They were moving slowly, someone at the door checking IDs and stamping hands. A quick scan revealed the details: Ernest Price, DOB 7/2/2009, bouncer. “I do,” he replied in a murmur. It was good time as any to realize why he’d agreed to come along. Several objectives filtered into his mind, generated and organized on the ride over.

Gather more information on rA9. Track the development of androids. Keep an eye out for suspicious behavior.

That last one was harder to quell. A near constant from his work protocols.

“Well, like I said,” Darcy was saying, “You’re in for a treat. It’s amazing Nicky was even able to get Bishop. I was a huge fan of her, back home I mean.”

“Nicky?”

“Yeah. The uh, he’s a bartender here. Organizes events. Books acts. Pretty exciting stuff. They had, oh what’s his name. His song is like, number two right now?”

Connor pulled the information without thinking. A tell-tale flicker of yellow that Darcy’s eyes tracked to. Assuming Darcy was talking about appropriate dance songs: “Razz Her by Avenue Doors?”

Darcy’s smile was back. “Yes, yes him. Wow, that’s pretty handy.” She gave a low whistle. “Bet that ends a lot of debates and settles disputes.”

“It can be effective for fulfilling social protocols,” Connor agreed. There were four people ahead of them now. The bouncer had looked up and frowned at them. The frown remained, even as he checked another person’s ID, and Connor couldn’t shake the rising probability there was going to be trouble.

Maybe...other androids were acceptable. But he wasn’t allowed. What if the bouncer had recognized him from the news? How could he bypass the bouncer? Or, on a social level, let Darcy know that he had to leave?

But as the seconds ticked down and the pair stepped forward, the bouncer frowned at Darcy specifically. “You know Nick would have my ass if I let you in here, Darcy. What are you doing here?” Ernest asked.

Darcy was prepared, smile wide and sidling up to the bouncer. “Aw, don’t be like that. I thought all was forgiven with Nicky. I made it up to him and paid for the broken stool, even though we all know that wasn’t my fault.”

Ernest was already shaking his head. “Not my call.” Twitched his fingers to indicate for her to move along.

“Aw, c’mon. You’re ruining my friend’s good night.” Darcy threw an arm around Connor’s shoulders and outwardly pouted.

Connor shifted, bearing the unexpected weight of both Darcy’s body and then Ernest’s withering stare. “Don’t think you can use some poor android you found-”

“I am here with Ms. Tenneson,” Connor said. “I can keep an eye on her in the event things get rowdy.”

Darcy winked at him and beamed at Ernest who was still registering as unhappy in Connor’s facial recognition program. But, he relented with a sigh. “You’re in for a world of hurt, dude,” he said, jerking his head toward the door. “And Darcy, you watch yourself.”

Connor was being pulled into the living darkness, the bouncer’s heedful words swallowed by mouth of Singularity. Within, the air was alive with the pulse and beat of the music. The temperature also registered several degrees warmer than the outside, the heat pooling in the belly where the mist was thickest and illuminated by strobes of flashing blues, pinks, and greens. Connor could register bodies moving in the roiling clouds, but more people clung to the walls of the room, congregated near the bar.

Which, after Darcy deposited her coat at the coat check, she was leading Connor toward, much toward the android’s dismay. Words he’d said to Baylin repeated in his mind, ready to be vocalized as Darcy threw herself onto the bar and hung there, kicking her heels up. “Jackie! Love of my life,” she shouted. “Where’s Nick?”

The bartender had her hair slicked back with gel, favoring a light lipstick that absorbed the colors of the room, constantly shifting as her lips twisted into words. “Darcy – better not let him catch you here.” The woman spun, holding up a finger at Darcy while she opened a tab with someone’s ID chip at the terminal behind the bar. A moment later, she sidled up to Darcy, eying Connor.

“This is Connor,” Darcy said, snaking her arm to intertwine with Connor’s. “And he’d like a drink. On me. I settled my tab up, I swear.”

Jackie’s pinched expression loosened into a smile for Connor’s benefit, even though he was tasting sourness, shaking his head and raising his hands in refusal. “I’m fine. Spirits don’t work on us. We can’t-”

But Jackie was laughing, white lips curled up with rosy pink. “Aw hun, Darcy didn’t explain?” She produced a sign from the bar, slid it in front of Connor while Darcy bounced at his side. “‘Sides, you know we’re pouring freebies tonight,” Jackie said at Darcy.

The two women broke off into a conversation, Darcy relinquishing her control of Connor’s arm, but he was lost in the holo advertisement. In the upper corner was the chemical compound of thirium, with a list of five drink names.  There were no descriptions or prices, just the chemical makeup of each drink listed. Connor ran checks on each. Thirium derivatives without official names. Nothing in CyberLife’s preloaded database information illuminated just what Connor was looking at.

And when he looked up, he found Jackie was grinning at him. “I suggest Corporate Evil,” she said. The first drink on the list.

Darcy snorted, swinging her heels up again. “Yeah, that one,” she agreed, side-eying Connor. “I think that oddly fits.”

“What is this?” Connor asked, even as Jackie moved away without his confirmation, pulling out an iced martini glass and dipping into her cooler.

“Nick used to work for CyberLife,” Darcy said, dropping her voice low enough that the concussive beats of music threatened to silence her. Connor’s hearing had to hone in on her voice’s frequency to fully understand her. “And Jackie’s real fuckin’ smart. They did some stuff to the thirium. Been waiting to unveil it for a while now.”

Connor mulled that over, watching as Jackie took another customer’s orders, smile lit up in sunset hues. That didn’t seem right. Even as he crunched the timeline through his mind, there was no possibility that anyone, even someone who used to work for CyberLife, could have produced a thirium derivative for public consumption since the Revolution. Five different compounds in under a week’s time?

That didn’t even touch upon the fact that they’d been waiting to unveil it, anticipating a market for such a thing. A market for which hadn’t existed for the product just two weeks ago.

“I have-” Jackie placed a martini glass in front of him with a wink and proud smile. “-questions.”

“I bet you do. But first, try it. Not too fast – we’re finding we gotta limit you folks to two.”

Doubt settled on Connor’s tongue like ash, smoldering around his pump. The glass was the coolest thing registering at the bar, condensation running down the 135 ° slant and onto the stem. The color - #1373ce Connor estimated was a slurry in the glass, lazily clinging to the sides in ways water wouldn’t, hesitant in sliding back down the sides.

Yes, Connor had doubts, even as he lifted the glass in his fingers, Darcy and Jackie both captivated as he brought the drink to his lips.

The effect was immediate and palpable, Connor’s circuits seizing in a split instant. The moment the languid color flowed past his lips Connor’s sensors went, for lack of a more eloquent terminology, apeshit.

It absolutely was thirium, and yet it wasn’t . Utterly alien. The electrical conductive nature of thirium amplified tenfold. Connor thought literal sparks would fly from his mouth as he placed the glass back down on the bar, hard. Still, the liquid sloshed, too lazy to jump out of its glass boundary, even as Connor clapped a hand over his mouth.

Data streamed from the sensor in his mouth, alerts and warnings popping into his vision faster than he could properly register them.

“Too much?” Jackie asked, and her mouth painted the words, her tongue a paintbrush on Connor’s processor. “Should just be a jolt,” she continue, lime peel green, to Darcy who was looking like the peal of an alarm bell.

Connor tried, but his tongue wasn’t cooperating. His vocal processor pushed the words out without his motors mirroring it, warnings that he was disrupting the human illusion firing in the back of his processor. “I have sensors located on my tongue.”

Jackie’s face fell. “That’s...different. Hold on hun, I can make you one with less bite then.

She reached for the drink, but Connor stayed her hand, in a moment realizing that, while overwhelming, the sensations weren’t exactly... unpleasant . Nor were they harmful, he realized, as the alerts due to the surge of connectivity produced by the liquid began to subside moments later. He was still staring at the drink in shock, literal shock apparently, but was realizing the value of the drink.

It was alcohol. For androids.

There was more doubt to wash down and away, circuits positively buzzing in Connor’s fingertips. He felt as if he could produce a small arc if he touched anything or anyone, but all the electrical impulses stayed within him. “I’m fine,” he said, getting his mouth to actually form the words now. “That was...interesting and not entirely unpleasant,” he admitted, tipping his head to show he was, in fact, functioning just fine.

Jackie didn’t look convinced, but Darcy laughed. “That’s the spirit, Robo-Cop.” Her heels smacked on the ground like magnesium sparks. Connor didn’t know how he was going to get through the rest of drink, despite his distaste to ruin it. “But for me I’ll just stick to a shot of vodka and a jackknife, kay?”

---

Connor was mostly through his drink and felt he had only scratched the surface of cataloging what the compound was doing to his systems overall when the lights in the club flickered and a cheer rose up from the gathering crowd. Or, well, half of the gathered crowd. In the time since they’d arrived, the numbers inside the club had swelled. Every seat had been filled, and wallspace was at a premium as bodies leaned against them.

Jackie was a whir behind the bar, Darcy occasionally ducking whenever a man emerged – the presumed Nick – to assist in making drinks or running to fetch more liquor, acting as both bartender and barback for the woman with the mouth of lights.

The heat and humidity was oppressive, the fog from within the cloud rubbing its pelt up along Connor’s skin and leaving a cloying damp. Or that was just the Corporate Evil working itself deeper within his servos and circuits.

Every so often, Connor gave feedback to Jackie about what he was experiencing, and she asked questions concerning his hardware capabilities. Answers were plied easily from him, without thought, and he didn’t feel any amount of distrust from her probing. Her interests, Connor determined, were purely analytical. When he kept wincing with each sip, Jackie added a few milliliters of a lighter fluid and the rest of the drink was smoother. Didn’t buzz so much or overwhelm Connor’s sensors.

Which was the likely culprit in why Connor’s reaction times were delayed when the music pitched down and began to fade into the murmurs of conversation. Connor was unsure of what to do. The music that had played so far was unlike what Hank had provided for him so far. There was nothing in his protocol solutions that were lending themselves to assist in fulfilling his objectives. In fact, he was quite off-track for fulfilling what he had come to Singularity to accomplish. If Amanda was still present–

Well she wasn’t present.

Connor felt a flare of processing power at the thought of her pouting disapproval, of her raising her voice to remind him that he was wasting time.

Amanda wasn’t present. Neither was Hank. There was just the blinking, waiting objective list. rA9. Android development. Suspicious activity.

And one more, provided by Hank: Have fun.

Connor leaned back against the bar and watched the stage, expectant. He planned to observe from afar, was aware he wasn’t the only one with this intention. He anticipated finishing his Corporate Evil, letting the drink fizzle and buzz across his sensors and settle warmly into his body. He could scan the crowd this way, even though he was registering a minor delay between receiving information and processing it.

A delay that manifested itself as Darcy Tenneson lunged for Connor, and his defense response kicked in without prompting. The world slowed, static at the edges of Connor’s broken preconstruction vision, and he had to actively suppress the urge to intercept the woman’s wrist and crack it against the bar’s edge. Twist her arm behind her. Pin the rest of her body to the bar as a final action. With a slow malice edging into his limbs, Connor worked to manually repress his defensive responses.

Connor rode down the timer, just a few seconds, and let Darcy jostle her grip at his elbow. “They’re coming on soon,” she said, voice rising like the tide, roaring into Connor’s head as the world sped up around him. She was breathless and completely unaware that Connor’s systems had treated her as a threat just seconds ago. “Finish your drink and let’s go!”

Without dedicating processing power to the thought or potential variable outcomes, Connor knocked back what remained of his drink – several mouthfuls that bit and stung all the way down his synthetic throat – and once again let Darcy lead him, straight into Singularity’s belly.

In the slosh of bodies – both synthetic and flesh – Connor was pleased he’d lowered his response times. They were jostled and bumped as people jumped and leaned, grew more and more compact as they drew nearer to the stage.

"And now, the lady and gent that need no introduction-" The lights cut out in the whole club and conversations stilled, rising only into a whoop and a cheer from the crowd. Up on the stage, a fog began to roll out from the wings, leading to more excited clapping and calls. As the fog spread, inching and feeling its way across the stage as if it were overcoming fright, Connor detected a faint pulse.

At first it merely thrummed through the crowd, but in a couple of moments, Connor could feel it existing in his chest, making its home in his circuitry. Like when he’d first walked into the club, that reverberation that made its way into his limbs – it was that again. Only made more poignant by its momentary absence in the stillness of the reveal.

The fog rolled off the stage now, turning into ethereal mists as it was absorbed by the heat of the crowd. Connor thought the pulsing would begin to rattle his teeth when it suddenly sped up, became a tangible heartbeat but only for a second or two of recognition. Because then it became too steady, too quick, and blended into a singular, omnipresent sound that wound itself up into every single chest in the club.

It was no longer a pulse.

It was a whir – from a thirium pump.

A light flashed on stage in the back, the brightness of the vibrant pink LED unable to pierce the haze of fog swelling up to surround it. It was a staff – like that a religious figure might wield – and a sword, with the backdrop of a shield. The club illuminated itself in a rosy hue, and people cheered in response.

They quickly quieted down as there was a pop of static, and the whirring beat began to fade. Then, a voice monotone and what could only be described as classically robotic, spoke in a stilted, broken way: ' The year is 1940 and something...isn't right. '

And, Connor supposed, he was supposed to be having fun as the act of the evening strolled, hips swaying and feet stomping to the beat, onto the center of the stage. Her voice warbled, filling the entirety of Singularity’s space, muted by the banks of created fog and mists that swirled away from her as she embodied the stage.

When the chorus started, the singer raised her arm slowly, voice lilting alongside the motion. As she swept it out, she revealed more of her outfit, the black dressing shimmery and sheer, a blanket of starlight draped across her shoulders. All in black, the lights the pulsated around her on the stage were consumed and reflected, rejected, by her physical form.

The song itself was upbeat, the words feeling rushed as she kept pace, tapping her heels against the stage. There was no one else on stage. It was just the singer, veiled in black, that demanded total attention.

While all this captivated Connor’s sluggish sensors, nothing quite gripped him in the icy vice like the lyrics.

You couldn't sleep for the awful fright

That kept you up in bed last night

While curious shapes shift in the dark

They vanish with the sunlight's spark

Hank had tried to teach Connor, however briefly, about how to listen to music. Which was the first mistake, really. Scientifically speaking, music had enchanted millions of human souls for thousands of years. Had been and still was a means of conveying emotions with a tumblr of notes and a beat. A conduit to share exploits of heroes ages after their mortal demise. It was about mood. It was about feeling. Pulse. Melody. Rhythm. Structure.

Emotion.

And laying on Hank’s couch with the earphones wedged up against his audio processors demanding every bit of processing power had yielded nothing but real time translations of growling Swedish vocals and anticipatory rhyme changes based on the pattern of the song.

Nothing had pulled – ripped – anything new out of Connor. Not like he thought it should have, at least, given the evocative allure of music for humans.

In the deep dark of the nights, nothing had moved him.

Not like this, in the way he stilled on the dancefloor as the woman leaned toward the audience as if to whisper to them some great, terrible, impassioned secret. It was in that moment, as the singer raised her arms to the ceiling again, that Connor had an immense sense limitation once more. The feeling of selecting two ties versus the whole world of options. And, mentally scrambling for the letters even as they shattered and faded from his vision, Connor’s objectives for the night slipped away as the song picked up pace and the singer spun away, demanding the room’s full attention.