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But I guess that's love (I can't pretend)

Chapter Text

Connor didn't like the look of it at all.

Hank had been sick for a few days already; at first, Fowler had decided not to assign any other partner to Connor, but days were going by and he was just so bored.
He visited Hank every evening, making sure he ate all right and didn't get too drunk. Hank would always complain about him pissing him off and cheating to win Sumo's heart, but Connor knew that Hank really appreciated his company.

Ever since he had gone deviant, things had changed so much. He had decided to keep working in the force, but not all policemen had been happy about his presence; leader of the fanclub was obviously Gavin, who hadn't ever stopped trying to intimidate him and complaining about him behind his back -or to his face.

Connor had tried to understand why Detective Reed despised him so much, he really had. But he was so hard to read; Connor supposed he had had some sort of personal experience that had lead him to hate androids, much like Hank did, but that still didn't explain why Gavin's heart rate went inexplicably wild whenever he talked to Connor.

Humans were so weird.

Even if Connor was starting to understand them more -and to feel like one of them more, as well-, he still couldn't get the majority of their strange behaviours. And, more importantly, he certainly still couldn't understand Gavin's weird behaviour.

Who, by the way, was busy yelling at Fowler in his office.

One of his colleague greeted him as he walked in; it wasn't like he had come in late, he had actually just gotten the order to get to the police station less than twenty minutes before. He was told by his colleague that his presence was requested by Fowler in his office and, again, Connor really didn't like the look of it.

Still, he nodded and walked into his principal's office.
He greeted both of them; as soon as he heard his voice, Gavin turned around to face him so quickly that Connor almost stepped back in surprise.

"Here you are, dipshit", Gavin hissed, blatantly angry at him for reasons Connor didn't know. "For the last time", he yelled, turning to Fowler again, "I will not work with this plastic asshole!"

Connor tilted his head, watching Gavin curiously. "Work?" he asked, surprised.

"There have been some cases of homicides and kidnappings in west Detroit", Fowler explained, ignoring Detective Reed completely and showing Connor some pictures on his digital device. "The victims were all android-human couples or families. We need someone to go undercover and find the responsible."

"Why can't he get paired with that sick, alcoholic excuse of a lieutenant?!" Gavin protested, slamming his hands on the desk. Fowler gave him a stern, threatening look. "They sure seem like to get along quite well, don't they-"

"Detective Reed", Fowler cut him off promptly, "I'm sick of your unjustified hatred towards him. We're trying to integrate androids in our workplace, but you seem persistent in giving Connor a hard time."
"Of course I am!" Gavin replied. "He's just a machine! He can't do his job and he has such a stupid face-"
"I think Connor is more than able to do his job, Reed", Fowler interrupted him, standing up. "I won't say this again. You either pair up with him to solve this case, or you get fired. I don't need problems in my police station, and I sure as hell don't need someone who can't be trusted in keeping control of themselves."

Fowler looked at Connor, sitting down again. "Is there any problem?" he asked, basically daring him to talk and get yelled at.
"Not at all, sir", Connor answered immediately. He was surprised, sure, but he had already walked through that path; even Hank hated him as first -albeit not as much as Detective Reed did-, but he had been able to change his mind pretty soon. He could do that again.
"That's it, then", Fowler announced. "Get the hell out of my office", he ordered, and then added, "unless you want me to file a report, Reed."

Detective Reed stormed out of the office, blatantly furious. Connor smiled at Fowler. "Have a nice day", he just said, knowing already that Fowler wouldn't appreciate anything more.

He sat at his desk, wondering how Hank would take that. He was pretty protective of him, and he surely wouldn't be happy.
He didn't waste any time; even if Gavin was nowhere in sight, he checked the file case on his desk and thought of a strategy. Truth be told, it didn't seem too challenging of a case; he and Detective Reed would just have to move into the neighborood shown to him by Fowler for a few weeks, pretending to be a couple and keeping a vigilant eye out for the killer.
He sighed. He would miss Hank while he was away, but he would call him every evening to make sure he didn't drink too much. And he would also miss Sumo so, so bad- the giant ball of fur had grown on him ridiculously much.

An hour passed; Connor started to seriously wonder if Detective Reed had left for real. Perhaps he had actually decided that his job wasn't worth keeping if he truly had to work with Connor, but he finally showed up just before lunch-break; he looked pissed off, but at least he wasn't as angry as before.

"Alright, tin can", he said, already hovering over him menacingly. "We're gonna do our fucking job, because I can't lose my place here just because of a damn barbie. But you won't give me any problems, understood? I don't care about that equal rights bullshit. You piss me off, I split your head open like I'd do to a plastic doll."

Connor looked up at him from his desk, unimpressed. "I don't think we'll have any troubles, Detective Reed”, he replied calmly. “Also, I'm afraid I have to remind you that, according to the new legislation, if you damage me there will be regrettable consequences to your actions."

Gavin just clenched his teeth, stepping back just briefly. "Fuck off", he said harshly.
"Very eloquent", Connor nodded, without showing any emotion. "Moving on”, he continued, “I'd like to inform you that, according to our instructions, we'll start tomorrow at 9 a.m. I suggest we put up a more...united front, or else I suspect we won't appear very believable as a couple."

Inexplicably, Gavin smirked at that.

"Trust me, Barbie", he nodded, "we will."

Chapter Text

The evening was calm and pleasantly warm.

Not that Connor could actually feel it, but his sensors detected what humans would call a “nice” weather. A light, warm breeze blew among the trees, messing up his hair a little as he slowly walked towards Hank's home.

He took his key out of his pocket, opening the door and getting inside the familiar house; the television was turned on, and he raised his voice to greet Hank. The lieutenant shouted a lazy “hey” back at him from the couch. Connor left his shoes and his jacket on the threshold, smiling at Sumo as the dog approached him happily.

“Hey, Sumo,” he greeted him, kneeling down to get to his level. “How are you, buddy?”

“Get your ass in here, Connor,” Hank called good-naturedly, only to start coughing a second later. “I try to separate those two lovebirds and this is what I get,” he grunted quietly to himself, lowering the volume of the television.

He watched as Connor walked to him, scooting a little to his right to give the android some space. Connor smiled at him and sat silently by his side.

“Are you feeling better?” he asked him, trying to not sound as concerned as he was. That cold had been going on for a week already; even if Hank's fever had passed after just a few days of miserable illness, he still kept coughing and sneezing from time to time.

“I'm fine, Connor,” Hank replied with a sigh. “It's just, you know. This cold is a bitch.”

“Have you taken your antibiotics yet?” Connor inquired, tilting his head. Hank just raised an eloquent eyebrow at him.

“I've lived on my own for years and I'm still alive and functional, thanks,” he said grumpily. Connor could have easily replied in other ways, but he just nodded and smiled lightly at him.

“I'll go make you some chicken soup then, how does that sound?” he proposed, patting the lieutenant's knee gently. “Your throat must be sore. It'll help soothe it.”

Hank immediately reached for his arm, stopping him before he could stand up. “Hell, no- not before you talk to me, Connor.”

“You know I like cooking for you, Hank-” Connor tried to say.

“It's not that,” said Hank, shaking his head. “Listen, I've heard some crazy bullshit. Is it true that- that you and fuckin' Reed are goin' to work together?” He paused, watching the android closely. “That is bullshit, right?”

Here we go, thought Connor, restraining from the sudden human urge to sigh.
“It is not, Lieutenant”, he said slowly, using his professional and detached voice. “I've been given the order to go to West Detroit. I'll be undercover with Detective Reed.”

“You must be shitting me”, Hank muttered underneath his breath. “Connor- you realize you should protest, right? No way. No way you'll do that, you hear me? You're gonna talk to Fowler tomorrow morning and tell him-”

“Tomorrow morning I'll be in West Detroit already,” Connor firmly said, cutting him off. “I am excited to work with Detective Reed, and I am confident there won't be any problems during our cooperation.”

“I call bullshit,” Hank immediately replied. “I'll go to Fowler myself if you don't, son.” He made a face. “And stop with that professional attitude already, Connor, alright? Hell. You know I can't stand it, come on.”

Connor remained in silence for a few seconds, his gaze focused on the lieutenant. The look they were exchanging wasn't challenging, or angry; Connor could see the concern in Hank's eyes, in the furrow of his brows, in the tired blue of his gaze.

“I'm sorry,” he finally said. “I don't want to disappoint you, Hank, but I do want to take this case. It seems interesting, and I've already thought of a strategy.”

The older man shook his head. “Connor, listen-”

“Hank, this isn't about me!” said the android, raising his voice just slightly. “Don't you understand? It's part of something bigger. Greater!”

He took a deep breath before speaking again, while Hank watched him with a surprised expression on his face. “This mission will contribute to the project of integrating androids into our workplace. If I- if I can change your mind, and then I can change Reed's mind, then-”

“Then you'll be proving a point,” Hank sighed, finally understanding his reasons. “And you'll do something really good for your people. I get it, Connor,” he slowly nodded, “I get it.”

Connor looked away, not knowing what to say. Hank smiled fondly, watching him pretend not to care as much as he did. “It may seem like you don't care for your people,” he murmured, “But you do, don't you?”

He extended an arm, gripping Connor's shoulder with his hand. “You don't have to hide it,” he said encouragingly. “It's a real good thing, son.”

Connor nodded briefly, desperately wanting to change the topic. “I'll go make that chicken soup,” he muttered, standing up.

“Alright,” Hank sighed patiently. “Just one last thing.”

Connor turned back to him, watching him curiously.

“Reed gives you trouble, you kick his ass, understood?”

***

Quiet house. Quiet road. Quiet neighborhood.

At first glance, Connor wouldn't have guessed that something terrible had happened there. But the facts spoke for themselves. In just three weeks, there had been two different cases of murder- one happened in one of the houses, just a few miles away from the one where Connor and Gavin would be living for some time, and one in a nightclub pretty close to the area.

The victims had both been android-human couples. The district was known to be a progressive one, generally accepting of androids even before the revolution; even more so now after that, with many of his kind moving to the area to start a new life. The place was mostly occupied by androids with their human mates. There was even a family with two kids- albeit they were both humans, living with their step-dad android after their human parents had divorced.

Connor had made sure to know everything there was to know about the block even before he stepped foot into it; he could identify every single human and android living in the area, and had memorized all their names. He was determined to solve that case.

He sat down on the steps leading to his new home, facing the houses in front of him with his back to the door. He wondered if Gavin was as prepared for the mission as he was.

Had he thought of a strategy as well? Even if he had, Connor thought to himself, he would have to accept his ideas instead of trying to force his onto him. Connor's intelligence was superior, and he had already solved many cases related to androids.

Also, Gavin wasn't Hank.

Connor sighed to himself, watching one of his new neighbors cook something through the window. If he hadn't known better, it would have been impossible for him to identify her as android or as human; without the led on their foreheads to show their status, androids looked and behaved so similarly to humans that their true identity could easily be mistaken. But Connor already knew who she was; his new neighbor, busy with making some coffee and cooking something on a frying pan, was a JL542 model named Blair, previously designed to be a dance instructor and now working as a remunerated gardener.

The revolution had changed so much.

Connor kept watching her curiously for a few more minutes, fascinated with the look of her black hair. It seemed to resemble humans' as faithfully as it could go; Connor realized she must have been one of the latest models on the market before production had stopped.

Her human mate -another woman, Jessica Dewey, thirty-three years and an engagement ring around her finger- approached her, kissing her cheek fondly and telling her something that made her laugh. Connor tilted his head, making mental notes on their behavior and how he and Gavin could emulate it; just as he was upgrading his mental database with the new information, the sound of an approaching car made him look away from the window.

Connor closed his eyes for a second, repeating Hank's words to himself over and over.

Reed gives you trouble, you kick his ass.
Reed gives you trouble, you kick his ass.
Reed gives you trouble, you kick his ass.

Maybe it was silly of him, because Hank's voice in his head always sounded grumpy and quite funny, but it made him feel immediately better. Braver. Alive.

“Hello,” he greeted quietly, as Gavin stepped out of his car.

“Hey,” Gavin muttered back, his brows already furrowed. He was clearly feeling uneasy.

Connor waited for him, not moving from where he was seated. He watched him as he walked towards him; the man looked confident, walking fast and with his head raised- but Connor could pick many signs of discomfort in his movements, invisible to human eyes.

Gavin didn't stop; he walked past him, already going for the door that Connor had left ajar and turning to him only a few seconds before walking in. “You coming?” he grunted, and didn't wait for him.

Connor refrained from sighing, standing up slowly and following him into the house. He closed the door behind his shoulders.

And Gavin immediately cornered him against it.

“Listen, dipshit,” he said through clenched teeth, “Just because we have to play husbands doesn't mean we gotta do it all the time, you hear me? Stay the fuck away from me when we're not in public, tin can.” He got hold of the collar of Connor's shirt, pulling it towards him as he kept speaking. “Outside of this door, I'm your loving boyfriend for the sake of our fucking mission,” he snarled, “but here, you better keep your damn distance.”

Connor patiently waited for his tantrum to be finished, not reacting to any of his threats. “Technically,” he replied, raising his eyebrows innocently, “we're still visible to the outside public from the windows. Unless you intend to barricade ourselves inside here, I think we still always have to keep a united front, in order to avoid raising any suspicion by our neighbors and the murderer.”
He cleared his throat lightly, even if he had no need to. “I also feel compelled to inform you that, incidentally, barricading the house would likely not have a positive impact on the mission.”

Gavin let go of his hold on Connor's collar, cursing under his breath. “Fuckin' android, thinking you're so clever,” he spat. “Leave me alone.” He turned his back on him, quickly going for the stairs that led upstairs.

Connor didn't let that little incident get to him. He locked the door and went for the windows, opening them up to let some air in. He then busied himself with the kitchen and the living room. The house wasn't too big, but there definitely was more than enough space for the both of them to live in peace; Connor could hear some noises from upstairs, clearly indicating that Gavin was moving the furniture around and opening the windows as well.

He was relieved to see that, at least, Gavin was willing to pretend to be his loving boyfriend for the sake of the mission. If there was one good thing about his awful personality, it was the dedication he had to his job. As Hank had put it, the asshole wouldn't mind stepping on a few toes to advance in his profession- to which Connor had reasonably replied with saying that Gavin had, however, never stepped on his toes, even if he clearly was an obstacle to his career.

Hank had just patted him gently on the back.

Connor wondered what he was doing, if his cold had gotten any better in the few hours they had spent away from each other, and what Sumo was busy doing. Probably sleeping.

He decided he had tidied up enough; the furniture was old and dusty, but he got to that quickly and efficiently fixed in less than half an hour. And he didn't even mess up his clothes.

Since he had to be undercover, he had obviously picked some new clothes, different from his usual ones. When he had asked Hank for advice, the man had simply shrugged and told him to get whatever he wanted from his closet; Connor had appreciated his gesture, but his clothes were clearly too big to fit his lithe frame. In the end, he had just picked something from a shop close by; he had opted for something as simple as a pair of jeans and a shirt. He kind of missed his tie.

He decided to go upstairs; the noises kept coming, and he was getting a little concerned at all the loud sounds. He decided to set an old coffee table in front of the couch and finally went to the second floor.

Gavin had opened up all the windows, letting the fresh morning air in. It was almost summer, and the afternoons were getting too hot for the humans; they seemed to like the warm, but not too warm air of the evenings the best. Connor wondered if, perhaps, Gavin preferred the chilling breeze of the early mornings.

He found him in the bedroom, busy moving a closet left and right. As soon as Gavin caught sight of Connor, however, he immediately stopped dead in his movements.

“I'm just-” he started, sounding defensive. Connor titled his head.

“You're moving the furniture around,” he stated, matter-of-factly. He couldn't understand why Gavin suddenly looked so uncomfortable.

“Yeah,” he snarled, “that seem gay to you?”

Connor furrowed his brows, surprised at Gavin's harsh tone of voice and sudden slashing of unjustified anger. “No?” he answered, sounding confused even to himself.

“Good,” Gavin muttered under his breath, still looking uneasy. He then met Connor's gaze, and there was something in the gray of his eyes that Connor couldn't quite read through.

“You don't sleep, right?” he asked.

“I don't have to, not every night,” Connor explained slowly, “but I can go into sleep mode at times to, as you would probably say, recharge my batteries.”

That strangely got a little smile on Gavin's mouth. Connor found himself even more strangely taken aback by the look of it. That was something that Hank used to joke about, Connor having to charge his batteries and all that. It was fascinating for him to know that Gavin seemed to share the same sense of humor as the Lieutenant; perhaps all humans laughed at the same jokes. More data required, Connor thought briefly.

The smile on Gavin's lips disappeared as quickly as it had appeared. “Well, I don't give a shit in any case,” he replied, “because you're not sleeping here with me anyway. You're taking the couch, prick.”

Connor shrugged. “I have no sense of comfortable or uncomfortable,” he informed him. For some reasons that he couldn't understand, Gavin actually looked...disappointed? at that.

“Whatever,” he grumbled, dropping his gaze for a moment. “We should introduce ourselves to the neighborhood,” he muttered.

Connor nodded. “Sure,” he agreed, “but first we need to make up a story, don't we?”

Gavin took a deep breath. “Dammit,” he whispered. “Yeah, we have.”

Connor sat on the bed, patting the place left next to him gently. Gavin hesitated for a second, and then sat down at a safe distance. His behavior was so erratic- Connor couldn't quite anticipate any of his movements. It was kind of driving him crazy- and, at the same time, he found himself more and more curious; he wanted to be able to read Gavin as much as he could read the majority of people. He liked the challenge.

“Well,” said Gavin, clearing his throat. Connor took the engagement ring that was given to him that morning from his pocket, showing it to his partner.

“You wear it,” Gavin immediately said. Connor shrugged and let it slide over his ring finger, watching it for a second and then lifting his chin to look at Gavin again.

“Alright,” he easily conceded. “So how did you propose to me?”

Gavin dropped his gaze, shrugging heavily. Connor quickly scanned his database, searching for information. “It seems to me that marriage proposals usually are very personal, although they're often staged in crowded places like restaurants and such. They are often linked to and influenced by the personalities of the members of the couple and related to their memories together.”

“Thanks for the info, smartass,”Gavin replied, rolling his eyes. Connor decided to stay quiet at that, letting Gavin figure out what to say. The detective took another deep breath, gazing around himself as if to take inspiration from the room. “Let's go with the average proposal,” he finally muttered, “the restaurant one, alright?”

Connor nodded, and Gavin continued. “So, let's say we've been together for a few years-”

“Five is the average number of years spent in a relationship before people decide to opt for marriage.” Connor cut him off. Gavin looked at him, clearly pissed off, but Connor ignored him until he started talking again.

“We've been together for five years, alright, and we're in a restaurant”, he summarized. “We're having a nice talk and suddenly I- fuck, I get down on my fucking knee and-”He gestured to Connor for a moment. “You know,” he finished.

“Sounds good to me,” Connor nodded again. He actually thought that it wasn't very special, but Gavin was clearly showing signs of distress, and he didn't want to keep pressing. “Then we bought this house in the most progressive neighborhood of Detroit,” he continued, “hoping that one day soon human-android marriage will be legal and we'll be able to adopt a child or two and live a happy life together.”

Gavin's eyes widened comically. “Adopt?” he repeated.

Connor furrowed his brows. “We're undercover,” he reminded him.

“We never had directions to include children in the picture,” Gavin insisted. “Fowler never talked about-”

“That's what the majority of our neighbors want,” Connor interrupted him. “We have to fit in.”

“We-” Gavin started, and then stopped. “We never-” he tried again. He sighed. “Okay,“ he finally agreed.

Connor gave him a small smile. “Thank you for your cooperation,” he said politely.

“Cut that shit off,” Gavin replied. “This...this way you talk. It sounds stupid as fuck. You should get rid of it.”

Connor blinked, tilting his head to the right slowly. “I am aware of the strangeness and formality of my speaking,” he said, “but there is nothing I can actually do about it. I was designed to speak clearly at all times, to avoid misunderstandings.”

“I thought you'd deviated, asshole,” Gavin replied, but there was confusion in his harsh voice. “Shouldn't you- shouldn't you do what you want now?”

Connor blinked again. He didn't have a proper response to that question.

“I-” he tried. He lowered his gaze. Of course he had deviated. He was Connor now- just Connor, period. He didn't have to do anything that he didn't want to. And he knew it.

Still.

It was hard to break his inner thought process, and even harder to break the programming. He could decide for himself, sure, but he just couldn't change his way of speaking no matter how hard he tried. And he tried a lot.

“Come on,” Gavin grumbled, standing up and shoving him lightly at the shoulder, effectively bringing his attention back to the situation at hand. “We have to talk to our neighbors. Gonna act all lovey-dovey and shit.”

“Lovey-dovey?” Connor asked, confused.

“Touchy-feely,” Gavin suggested.

“Touchy-feely?” Connor repeated.

Gavin made an irritated face at him. “Gay,” he finally spat.

“Oh,” Connor exhaled quietly. “Is my database wrong, then? According to it, the word 'gay' is a synonym of 'homosexual'. I wasn't aware that it also indicated a certain behavior.”

Gavin hesitated for a second, lowering his gaze briefly. “It fucking does,” he finally stated. “Get a move on, fuckin' asshole. We don't have all day!”

Connor didn't react to his shouting, simply going for the stairs in order to walk back to the ground floor. “Given your current state of irritability, I suggest you drink or eat something warm,” he just said. He stopped at the threshold, lost in thought for a second. “I believe there's a cozy-looking bar pretty close to here. We could go there, meet our neighbors if some of them are there.” He checked his mental agenda, and then smiled lightly at Gavin. “It's Saturday morning. There is a 67 percent chance of at least one of our neighbors being there.”

Gavin shrugged. His heart rate wasn't quite stable. “Let's go,” he agreed quietly.

Connor nodded and opened the door.

***

Obviously enough, Connor's expectations were perfectly met; as soon as they walked into the bar, Connor identified four out of thirty-two of their neighbors sitting together at a table.
There was a human-android couple, an android woman, and another human woman. Connor quickly performed an analysis of their faces, but ultimately decided to watch them from afar first and then talk to them later.

“Come on,” he murmured gently, encouraging Gavin to follow him at a table. He sat down where he could watch their neighbors from a safe distance, and still keep his and Gavin's privacy intact.

A waiter welcomed them almost immediately, barely giving Gavin time to look at the menu; Connor wasn't sure whether he was an android or a human. “I see you've already taken place,” he smiled. “What can I get you?”

Connor looked at his partner, waiting for him to decide what to drink or eat. “Uhm, I'll just have a cappuccino and some of those biscuits,” the detective said, pointing at the cookies displayed on the first page of the menu. “Is that chocolate?” he added, tapping his finger on the black dots adorning the round biscuits.

“It is,” the waiter nodded. “Those are chocolate chips.”

“Alright,” Gavin confirmed. “Also, some whipped cream on top of the cappuccino, please.”

The waiter didn't take any notes; he must have been an android. He nodded again and looked at Connor, who just shook his head.

“I'll come back in a second,” he said, taking their menu away and leaving.

“Fuck, I'm hungry,” Gavin groaned. Connor watched him closely, thinking of a new topic of conversation.

Gavin saved him the struggle. “So, those our neighbors?” he asked, lowering the volume of his voice and barely lifting his head towards them.

“Correct,” Connor confirmed. “They seem to be fairly friendly towards each other. I would say they probably developed a habit of meeting up here.”

Gavin raised an eyebrow at him. “What makes you think so?”

“The waiter was engaged in a conversation with them as we walked in. Judging from their facial expressions, the group was performing humorous small talk. This suggests they might be regulars.”
Connor lowered his eyes, pretending not to be watching them when one of the women's gaze almost met his out of casualty. “In addition to this, all four of them seem to be quite comfortable with the presence of the others, and they're clearly sharing inside jokes and having a conversation that is regarded as interesting by all members of the circle.”

“Alright, smartass,” Gavin sighed. “So, who are they?”

Connor quickly scanned their faces again, just to be sure. “The red-haired woman is an android. Her name is Leah. The blond man is Oliver, he's the partner of the human woman sitting by his side, Ann Danielson. The last woman is human and named Kate Walmsay.”

“Sounds like someone's been doing his homework,”Gavin smirked. Connor smiled back confusedly.

The android waiter came back to their table, placing a cup and a tray in front of Gavin and interrupting their conversation. “Enjoy your breakfast,” he smiled.

Connor watched him leave again, then lowered his gaze on the food on the table. The chocolate chips looked really nice.

“Don't you, like,” Gavin started, watching him out of curiosity, “ever eat?”

Connor met his gaze, surprised at his sudden interest. “No,” he simply replied.

“Why?” Gavin inquired. “Don't androids eat in general?”

Connor tilted his head to the side, lost in thought for a moment. “The situation isn't clear enough to provide a full response to your question. Some models are specifically designed to be able to eat, drink and simulate other general needs, although they don't necessary feel any real hunger, thirst etcetera.”

Gavin took a bite from one of the cookies on the tray. “Like, those creepy robot children?” he guessed.

Connor nodded. “Correct. But I've seen some androids actively eat or drink, unprompted, even when their programming doesn't contemplate the activity nor the need to.”

Gavin turned around casually, looking at the androids seated a few tables away from theirs briefly. “That girl seems to be enjoying her cupcake alright,” he commented.

Connor placed his chin on his hand, watching the cookies with a strange fascination. “My hypothesis is that, although they're not programmed to be able to eat or drink, a minimal amount of food and water can still be consumed by androids without consequences.”

Gavin nodded. “Fair enough.” A beat of silence passed before he continued, “so haven't you ever tried eating or drinking anything?”

Connor was taken aback from the question; it was oddly...personal. He wasn't sure what to answer, since there wasn't any available pre-constructed response to the question to be found in his database.

“I am able to analyze blood samples,” he slowly replied.

“That's not what I asked you, stupid”, Gavin said, without any real heat behind his words.

Connor looked away from him. “I don't think I've ever eaten,” he muttered, confused).

“Do you think that would damage you?” Gavin questioned. He seemed to care an awful lot about that food topic.

Connor shrugged. “I am not sure of what to expect. Some models get damaged by food or water consumption, while others don't. It may be related to their date of production, since latest models are commonly more advanced than older ones.”

“You're still kind of a prototype,” Gavin observed. “Even if you're also kind of shit.”

“I was designed to only have a limited set of simulated behaviors,” Connor explained. “Some of my functions were so hard to program and develop that some others were barely registered. There were priorities.”

“Like talking like an idiot?” Gavin supplied.

“I'm what one would call a walking forensic lab,” Connor corrected him. That earned him a chuckle from the detective.
“Alright, ass face,” he said, still smirking. “Let's try, then.”

That caused Connor to pause for a second.

“I suggest you don't insult me while in public,” the android whispered, still keeping a close eye on their neighbors in his peripheral vision and carefully changing the topic.

“I suggest you take a fucking sip out of that coffee,” Gavin promptly replied, leaning into him while lowering his voice.

“It's your coffee,” Connor murmured, deeply confused. “It's not polite.”

“Fucking take a fucking sip, dipshit,” Gavin insisted. That didn't sound very polite.

Connor complied.

He slowly, uncertainly reached for the still untouched cup of coffee, alternating his gaze between it and the detective in front of him; the ceramics was unexpectedly warm to his sensors, suggesting that Gavin liked his coffee hot. Hank didn't.

“Come on,” Gavin prompted him, seemingly impatient. “Up against your mouth. It's not that hard, stupid.”

Connor didn't want to rush it. He had never actually drank anything besides blood, and even then he had never actually drank it, had he?

Finally, his lips made contact to the rim of the cup.

His temperature sensors were inexplicably sharper on his mouth; he could feel how warm the ceramic felt, how hot the liquid inside it was. The smell of the coffee was rich and surprising, and Connor had never thought that it could have such a different smell when hot. He was used to the smell of Hank's coffee, the one that he preferred cold and black. Connor had seen Gavin pour sugar into the cup; he was suddenly so curious to know what it tasted like.

He took a sip.

The flavor took him by surprise; it was sweet and warm in a way he couldn't explain. The whipped cream against his tongue wasn't as hot, providing an unexpected contrast between the flavors that Connor realized he liked. And he liked it a lot.

Too surprised to keep drinking because of this realization, he put the cup down almost immediately. His eyes had widened, and he could still feel the warmth of the cup in his hand.

Gavin smirked. “Burned your tongue?” he teased him, and then immediately sobered up.

“Uh,” Gavin added eloquently. Connor was as at a loss of words as he was, even if probably for different reasons, so he just stared at him with his eyes still wide open. “This is-” he started, trying to contain his excitement. “This is- delicious!”

“Uhm,” Gavin muttered again, staring at Connor's lips. “It is?”

“Yes!” Connor confirmed.

Gavin kept staring at his lips.

“Is something wrong?” Connor asked, enthusiasm decreasing quickly.

The detective cleared his throat, finally tearing his gaze away from Connor's lips. “You have- there's-”He exhaled briefly. “You have some whipped cream trailing down your mouth”, he grunted, pointedly facing away from him. “You're fucking retarded, asshole,” he added, cursing under his breath.

“Oh,” Connor murmured, hurrying up and reaching for a handkerchief. “I liked it very much,” he continued, while cleaning himself up. “Thank you for letting me try it.”

“Whatever,” Gavin said. He waited for him to be finished, and then slowly faced him again.

“I find food and beverages to be deeply fascinating,” Connor added, meeting Gavin's eyes excitedly. “It's incredible how humans are capable of developing their own personal tastes and preferences for what they eat.”

“Well, I don't care about that, you're not having any of these,” Gavin said, reaching for the last two cookies on the tray. “Fuck, these are good.”

“We may become regulars as well,” Connor proposed. “This way, it could also be easier to integrate ourselves in the neighborhood circle.” He caught the male android watching him for a second, and briefly exchanged looks with him. His human partner gazed at him as well, and Connor smiled politely at them.

“Are you finished?” he asked Gavin, without tearing his eyes away from the couple. They smiled back at him. “We should introduce ourselves to them.”

“Alright,” Gavin said, immediately professional. Connor raised his eyebrows at him, surprised at the sudden change of attitude. Gavin hesitated for a second before reaching for his unfinished cup of coffee. Connor couldn't understand why, but his own artificial heartbeat went wild for a second.

Uh.

Gavin finally brought the cup to his lips, downing the coffee in a second. He stood up just a moment later, circling the table and finally offering his hand to Connor. Connor noticed that Gavin’s heartbeat wasn't quite stable, nor similar to how it was most of the time. The android thought of pointing it out (cholesterol? But Gavin wasn't as old as Hank), but ultimately opted not to.

He just smiled, and took Gavin's hand. The feel Gavin’s hand in his hold was so strange; it was so rough and yet so warm, and his warmth sensors went crazy for a second.

“Showtime,” he whispered.

Chapter Text

“Hello”, Connor smiled politely.
Their new neighbors smiled back, looking at them curiously, perhaps trying to understand the reason why they had approached them.
“We just moved into the neighborhood”, Gavin explained, and his tone of voice took Connor by surprise; although Gavin's heartbeat was, for some reason, going crazy, his voice sounded perfectly normal...and even friendly. “And seeing as we're new here, we just wanted to check out the places in this town and meet new people.”
“I'm Connor,” the android introduced himself, “and this is my fiancé, Gavin.”

He felt Gavin's fingers twitch in his hold for a second. He just gripped his hand harder, willing the detective to just keep doing his job and not blow their cover.
“That's so nice!” one of the women commented, smiling wide at them. “It's great to know you guys. You know, after...all that happened in this area, we were just wondering if more people would ever move in here again.”
“I knew they would”, said the female android, smirking. “Hey, most progressive neighborhood in Detroit. We don't let that stuff intimidate us, do we?”
“Exactly”, Connor nodded, smiling gently at her. “When we saw there was a house on sale, we didn't waste a second.”
The only man in the group gave them a warm smile, gesturing to the table. “Come sit with us”, he encouraged them, “tell us something more about yourselves?”
“Sure”, Gavin said easily. His made-up new personality was so different from his usual one that Connor struggled not to show his surprise.
The group scooted along the couch they were seated on, letting Connor and Gavin sit with them. They introduced themselves, and started asking them questions.

Connor kept an ear out for details about their case, trying to subtly ask for more information. Unfortunately, none of them had actually witnessed the crimes; they all seemed genuinely concerned about what had happened, but Connor didn't exclude the possibility that one of them could be the responsible yet.
He also tried to get more information on what would be expected of him and Gavin, observing the blond man and his partner closely but subtly. Their affection wasn't publicly displayed to the extreme; just a few casual, gentle touches were exchanged between the two, but it set an example for Connor and Gavin nonetheless.
The android immediately tried to emulate them, softly moving his thumb in circles on Gavin's arm where it was casually placed on the table. As soon as his hand made contact with the long sleeve of his shirt, Gavin stiffened imperceptibly- only to calm down half a second later.

Luckily, their neighbors didn't ask them too many questions, but they did invite them to a barbecue that they would be having four days later.
“Don't be shy,” Kate - the human woman - smirked at them. “Most progressive neighborhood in Detroit, remember? It's basically a crime here if you don't kiss each other openly on a daily basis.”
Gavin laughed with the others, and Connor was still completely taken aback by how easily he had slipped into character. “Seriously, though!” the woman sitting next to her insisted, “don't worry about that. Even with the- the things that have happened in these last weeks...we can't let them affect us.”
She paused, exchanging a gaze with the others. “We'll always stand tall.”
Connor smiled, genuinely appreciating the determination burning in their gazes. “We won't stop fighting”, added the male android quietly, meeting the eyes of his partner.
“Alright, guys, I've had enough of this love-talk for today”, Gavin joked, smiling, while slowly standing up. “We still have so much work to do at home- you know how it is...”
“Alright”, Leah smiled back, “but you'd better get used to it, boys! It's all love-talk around here”, she winked.
“And I thought there were children living here too”, Gavin smirked, and then laughed along with the others.
“Hey, Connor, let's go”, he then prompted, voice just barely softer than usual. “Our curtains won't get on the windows by themselves, come on.”
Connor complied, standing up as well and taking his hand. Gavin's heartbeat spiked again, still inexplicably. “It was a pleasure to meet you all”, he smiled.
“Don’t forget the barbecue on Wednesday night!” Ann yelled at them as they left, earning herself a chuckle from them both.

Connor waited for them to get into the car to talk again. As soon as they stepped into the vehicle, Gavin immediately dropped his hand.
“Fuck”, he muttered, starting the engine. “That was terrifying.”
“That was amazing”, Connor corrected, genuinely surprised. “Detective Reed, you...you did so well.”
“Yeah, I ain't got no praise kink, so shut your bullshit”, Gavin replied, sounding horribly pissed-off. He was clearly back into his usual self.
“I'm serious”, Connor insisted. “You were...incredible. I wasn't expecting you to...”
He thought about it for a second, trying to formulate a sentence that wouldn't offend his partner. “Behave...” he tried, “so...”
Gavin sighed, cutting him off. “Shut up.”
Connor didn't insist. He just stared at him, waiting for Gavin to talk again.
It's basically a crime if you don't kiss”, Gavin quoted in a high-pitched tone, driving away from the bar. “Fucking androids”, he muttered between his teeth.
“They have fought incredibly hard to be part of this neighborhood,” Connor explained, suddenly finding it hard to maintain his composure.
Gavin widened his eyes at him, his eyebrows shooting up. “What? You think?” he mocked him.
“I am capable of free-thinking, yes,” Connor replied, his voice a little different from his usual detached tone. Something like... anger had inexplicably started to build inside him.
“Thought you still were just a pretty little machine”, Gavin said, pressing on the accelerator. “Bet when Anderson asks you to get on your knees, you do.”
Connor’s mouth fell open, shock clear in his brown eyes. “Are you- are you implying-”
“It's just the truth, isn't it?” Gavin cut him off, suddenly angry. “That asshole found himself a nice little thing-”
“Stop talking about him like that!” Connor interrupted him. He had never, ever felt that offended before, not even when people insulted him or kicked him.
“You care that much, huh?!” Gavin continued. His grip on the wheel was so hard that his knuckles had gone white. “You think you know about love, don't you? Think he feels the same? You're just his fuck-toy to use when he's drunk-”
Connor extended his arm and pressed his hand to the car window; the car immediately stopped, jolting Gavin from his seat while Connor remained still.

“I request that you stop talking like that right now!” he insisted.
Gavin stared at the wheel, surprised and confused at what had just happened. “The fuck?” he muttered, lifting his eyes to look at the android next. “How did you-”
His surprise faded as quickly as it had appeared. “You don't get to stop the fucking car, got it?”
“Then you don't get to talk about Hank that way”, Connor shot back, turning around in his seat to face him better.
Gavin shook his head, watching him with a deep furrow between his brows. “Hank”, he repeated, in some sad, angry tone that Connor couldn't understand.

Gavin just stared at him for a few seconds, shaking his head so slowly the movement was almost imperceptible. Finally, he closed his eyes and audibly exhaled. “I'm done,” he said quietly, looking away from Connor and surprising him once again. “Let's go back home. I'm sick of this conversation.”
Connor detected the change of behavior, but couldn't understand what was happening. “Detective Reed-” he started, reaching for him, his anger dissipated.
As soon as he took his hand off the glass, Gavin immediately turned the engine on again. “We're done”, he said pointedly, sending another heated gaze at Connor and starting to drive.

The sudden change of atmosphere stunned Connor into confused silence. And he had felt so- so- so angry just minutes before, so deeply offended by the insults directed not at him, but at Hank.
And Gavin, he looked...

He looked defeated.

Connor tried to keep quiet, letting time pass on its own. He wanted to ask Gavin what was wrong, but he could feel that the man didn't want to talk to him; what worried him the most wasn't the way Gavin had reacted at first, but the confusing silence he had decided to keep after.

“We can still resign the mission”, he murmured, as quietly as he could.
Gavin gazed at him for a second, eyebrow raised. “Like hell we will”, he immediately answered. “Damn Fowler will give me a promotion if I catch this murderer. Not gonna give this opportunity up.”
Connor nodded. “Okay”, he muttered.
Gavin didn't reply.
“We should try not to fight”, Connor added.
Gavin took a deep breath. “You're always pushin' my fuckin' limits”, he said through clenched teeth.
“I'll try not to”, Connor offered. “If you'll try to chill as well.”
That made Gavin laugh, which was so unexpected of him that Connor stared at him like he had just grown a second head. “Chill?” he repeated.
Connor blinked, surprised; the word had found its way into his database so easily that he hadn't even noticed it. “Relax”, he clarified hastily. “If you- if you will make an effort to stay calm in my presence, Detective Reed.”
Gavin shook his head, but the movement didn't seem directed at Connor. “I hate hearing you talk like that”, he said. “You sound too much like a machine.”
Connor almost replied that Hank often said the same, but decided not to at the last second. “I...”
He thought about it for a moment. “I'll try to stop”, he nodded to himself.
Gavin sent him a lazy, playful stare. “No 'I will try to prevent this inconvenience from occurring'?” he mocked him. His tone was almost gentle.
“No”, Connor said petulantly. Gavin let out a chuckle.
“We're here, stupid”, he said a second later, killing the engine and stepping out of the car. “Come on.”

Connor followed him into the house, still a little gobsmacked by the continuous changes of behavior. He wanted to ask Gavin to just stop being so erratic, but he knew humans couldn't control themselves that much.
“We did a really good job at the bar”, he tried again, wanting to enforce the positive behavior. “We really did put up a united front.”
“Yeah, say that on the threshold and with the door wide open”, Gavin said, clicking his tongue.
Connor tilted his head and stared at Gavin for a second, trying to quietly emulate the movement as the man locked the door. Soon enough, a little sound escaped from his mouth.

Gavin gave him a weird look. “Did you just- did you really just copy that sound?”
“No, I didn't”, Connor said defensively.

Gavin turned around so quickly that Connor almost missed the surprised smirk of confusion on his lips.

 

***

 

Connor glanced at the clock for the enth damned time.

Or at least, that's what Hank told him -sounding rather pissed off- as he saw him do it again and again and again during their video call; Gavin had gone out for a jog just as soon as they had gotten back home, barely changing his clothes before leaving again.

He hadn't even said anything to Connor.

Who had busied himself with cleaning the house a little more, playing with his coin, thinking of Sumo and finally calling Hank to ask how he was; the man sounded better, his cold finally relenting, but still there nonetheless.
“Connor, stop that, will ya? Ya're making me nervous”, Hank barked at him.
“I'm sorry, Hank”, Connor apologized, and then continued to tell him about the meeting in the bar that morning. Only to glance at the clock again a few minutes later.
“Will you tell me what it is that you're waiting for, Connor?” Hank asked, exasperated. “I've never seen you so impatient!”
“You always tell me that when I-”
“When you fidget with that damn coin of yours while we're investigating, I know, Jeez”, Hank cut him off, “but this? This is making me concerned, son.”
His voice lowered a little. “Is anything wrong?” he asked gently.
Connor glanced away from his hand, where Hank's hologram was clearly visible to his eyes. “No”, he replied.
“Connor”, Hank called, tone apprehensive and stern.
“Everything's alright”, Connor insisted. “Really. Everything went perfectly fine at the bar, too. Nobody asked us any difficult questions. I can only conclude that they're used to people moving in the neighborhood quite often.”
“I'm not talking about the neighbors”, Hank said, rolling his eyes. “I'm talking about you”, he added, his tone gentle again.
He took a deep breath. “Is everything okay with-”

A key finally turned in the lock, and Connor's gaze shot up again.
“I'll call you back, Hank”, he hurriedly said, sending one last look at the hologram before standing up and hurrying to the door. Hank's loud, offensive curse was cut off in an instant.

Connor walked quickly to get to the door before Gavin could come in; he stopped as soon as the man walked into the house, reaching for the door himself to lock it again and apparently scaring Gavin to death.
“Jesus!” he said, taking his headphones off. “You scared the shit out of me, asshole!”
“Sorry”, Connor said innocently. He couldn't wait to show Gavin his peace offering.

While Gavin was away, Connor had turned on the television. Some Spanish telenovela was on when he did, so he watched it for a little while to pass the time.
A woman was trying to win her man's heart back after a fight, and apparently a friend of her had suggested to prepare his favorite dish for him; the woman had ended up poisoning him after realizing he had been a piece of shit to her for way too long, which was admittedly not what Connor had been expecting...but by then he had already prepared spaghetti and made up the table, and he really didn't want to add poison to the tomato sauce anyway.

“What the hell is this smell?” Gavin asked, walking past Connor and looking around with an interested light in his eyes. Connor almost smirked.
“I just decided to make something nice”, he explained casually. “I thought that maybe-”
Gavin turned around to face him a little too quickly, a shit-eating grin on his face and a chuckle already escaping his lips.

Connor stared, completely awestruck and a little horrified.

Gavin looked so good. Connor didn't know why he hadn't noticed before, but the detective's clothes were so different from the ones he usually wore; they were clearly made for physical exercise, being quite revealing and comfy-looking. His shorts were black and knee-cut, his legs so long and muscular- Connor was frantically alternating his gaze between them and his chest, where the gray sleeveless sweatshirt he was wearing was quite damp.
His biceps were really nice.
“I might be a little disgusting”, Gavin said, following his gaze up and down his body. “I wore a trash bag while running.”
Connor fell back down to earth, finally remembering to function. “What?” he asked, confused. “What- why?”
Gavin lazily shoved at him. “I'm just kidding”, he sighed. “You're no fun.”
Connor still didn’t reply, openly gaping at Gavin’s chest.
He clicked his fingers in front of Connor, still busy with shamelessly checking him out. “My eyes are up here, plastic”, he grinned.
Connor blinked and finally focused back on the detective. “I am certainly aware of your eyes being on your face”, Connor snapped. Gavin kept laughing, for reasons Connor didn't understand.

“So, I come back home and my loving android boyfriend has made spaghetti for me”, the detective said, still wearing that big shit-eating grin on his lips. “Not bad, not bad. I could get used to this.”
“United front”, Connor reminded him.
“United front indeed”, Gavin smirked. “Alright, I'm gonna take a quick shower and come back here.”
“Sure”, Connor nodded. “I'll be waiting for you, Detective Reed.”
“You're ruining my immersion!” Gavin groaned from the stairs.

Add to database → “the way to a man's heart is through his stomach” (source: El veneno en el corazón, 3x05) → Gavin likes food.

Connor nodded to himself and sat down.

 

***

 

As promised, Gavin came back downstairs just a little later; his hair was still damp from the shower, but he was dressed and smelled clean and musky. Connor briefly observed to himself that the soap and the shampoo he must have used were clearly different from Hank's.
“I'm starving”, Gavin groaned, going straight to the kitchen. “Have you actually made spaghetti, or did you order it?”
“There are millions of recipes in my database”, Connor explained. “Provided that I have the necessary ingredients and tools, I can cook anything.”
Gavin didn't bother with a dish; he just sunk a fork he took from a drawer into the pot, rolling it around for a second before bringing it -and the spaghetti- to his mouth.
“Fuck!” he cursed. “Shit, Barbie. This is delicious.”
Connor just stared at him, eating while standing on his feet and only half turned to the counter. One of his hand was carefully flat a little under his chin, ready to catch anything if something was to fall. “Thank you?” he replied, confused. “You don't seem too comfortable. I suggest you sit down.”
“Shut up”, Gavin hissed. “I'm eating, asshole. Leave me alone.”
Connor sat on the edge of the table. He remembered Hank telling him it made him look human.

Gavin seemed to have noticed that as well; he turned around to look at him while eating, watching him with interest as he chewed on his spaghetti like a starved man. “You're lucky, tin can”, he commented, his mouth still full. “Clever, clever plastic doll. Found out I love food too much, huh?”
Connor shrugged. Gavin didn't sound pissed-off, and he certainly didn't want to interrupt that fragile peace.
“I'm always hungry as fuck after a run”, Gavin continued, seemingly unbothered by the android's careful silence. “You never tire, do you?” he asked, curious.
“I need to go into sleep mode once in a while”, Connor reminded him.
“Right”, Gavin smiled lazily. “Re-charge your batteries.”
Connor nodded, unsure what to expect from him.

Gavin alternated his gaze between Connor and the spaghetti for a little, still munching on his pasta while deep in thought. He finally swallowed, glanced at the spaghetti again, and finally sighed.
“This was nice of you”, he admitted, as if it was personally hurting him to say it. “And they were fucking delicious, dammit.”
Connor smiled. “I'm glad you think so, Detective Reed.”
“Hey”, Gavin immediately admonished him, “stop with that. Can't call me 'Detective Reed' when I'm supposed to play your boyfriend, idiot.”
“I'm supposed to 'play your boyfriend' as well, but you keep insulting me”, Connor backfired, almost smirking.
Gavin blinked; he had not seen that coming. “What a little shit”, he muttered to himself, before looking at him and slowly breaking into a laugh. Connor almost had a flash-back for a moment; Gavin following him to the evidence room, first threatening him with a gun and then making shooting noises at him while laughing. Connor really wasn't programmed to adapt to human unpredictability that much.

Not knowing how to react to his usual erratic behavior, Connor simply smiled back awkwardly for a little and then changed the topic. “The windows are a real problem”, he said. “Everything can be easily seen from the outside. Which means that the probability of our neighbors catching us fighting are incredibly high, and this would undoubtedly damage our mission.”
“Oh yeah, smartass?” Gavin mocked him. “Sounds to me like we just gotta put on a good show from time to time, dipshit”, he smirked. Connor tilted his head.

“A good show?” he repeated.

“Yeah”, Gavin snorted. “Don't worry, Barbie. Gonna show you some time, you'll see.”
Connor nodded, curious but unconvinced. “Alright.”
Gavin put the pan in the sink at last, letting water pour freely into it to clean it from all the tomato sauce. Connor blinked, surprised.
“You ate it all”, he commented.
“I did”, Gavin confirmed.
“I made a lot”, Connor continued.
“Hey”, Gavin admonished him, pointing at him with his fork. “If you dare comment on my eating habits, I'm going to shove this up your ass.”

Connor raised his hands, giving up. He just watched as Gavin cleaned the pot and the fork, putting them both on the dish drainer afterwards.
“I got some more info on our neighbors as I went for a jog”, Gavin said. “Judging from their houses' interiors, all of them seem to be pretty wealthy. Not like, disgustingly wealthy, just...they have so much tech stuff, shit.”
“Androids can build their own machines”, Connor explained. “It's really easy. We just need some parts and it's done.”
Gavin raised one eyebrow at him. “Really?” he asked sarcastically. “No way.”
“Yes”, Connor nodded. “We are connected to all electrical devices. All it takes-”
“Is a touch”, Gavin suddenly interrupted him, his eyes full of a new light. “Like with the car, before.”
“Correct”, Connor confirmed.
Gavin was quiet for a little. “I saw your hand going white for a second”, he finally muttered.
Instinctively, Connor's hand shot up to his chest, immediately covered up by the other. His gaze lowered, his heart started beating wildly in such deep shame-
“Hey”, Gavin said, visibly panicking. “I didn't say- it's not- you know, not a-”
He inhaled and exhaled, pressing his thumb and finger against the bridge of his nose. “I was just saying, goddammit. You don't have to be such a pussy about it, Jeez.”

Connor didn't know how to answer. He kept clutching his hand to his chest, still not daring to lift his eyes.
He knew what the humans thought of his hands; he had seen it in their eyes all the times he had had to go through doors, to act on electrical devices, to connect to digital tools. It didn't use to bother him, but lately...just lately...

He closed his eyes and tried to calm down.

Gavin shoved at his knee; there was some sort of kindness in the gesture, even if it was brief and confusing. “Come on”, he said.
Connor lifted his gaze, surprised. “Where are we going?” he asked, since Gavin wouldn't move from where he stood in front of him.
“Dunno”, Gavin shrugged. “Wanna watch somethin'?”
Connor tilted his head. “I already know both the general plot and the end of every movie ever made”, he informed him.
“Then we'll watch a tv series”, Gavin retorted. “You can't possibly know how something that's airing just now ends, right?”
Connor could. He had a database full of information about everything; if he wanted to, he could access people's phones and read through their notes and messages.
Still. He could choose not to.
And Gavin looked...

He looked concerned.

“Tic toc, dipshit”, he urged him lazily.
“Okay”, Connor nodded at last, jumping down from the table and almost grazing Gavin. “Let's watch something. I was watching a Spanish tv series before, so.”
Gavin chuckled, gesturing to Connor to follow him into the living room.

Connor found himself smiling.

Chapter Text

Connor kept scrolling through Sumo's holograms on his hand.
Nights always seemed endless, especially when he didn't have any case to solve while the rest of the world went to sleep; he could hear noises from the outside, quiet whispers or lowered volumes of televisions, but he didn't want to disturb Gavin's sleep and also didn't want to go outside.
He wished he had that giant dog of fur to keep him company, although Sumo often just fell asleep on top of him and immobilized him for the next sever hours. Still, his weight was so calming and reassuring...

Connor missed him.

And he missed Hank.

He sighed to himself, glancing up at the stairs that led to the first floor. He tried to imagine how Gavin slept; he could bet Gavin slept all sprawled on the mattress, leaving no space for anyone.
Kind of like Hank, honestly.

The noises from outside kept coming, and Connor was slowly boring himself to death. It was actually nice, to know that other androids were awake and doing things outside; sometimes the surreal silence outside of Hank's house reminded him of what death felt like when his memory was connected to that other android. It was not a pleasant thing to remember.

He finally stood up, walking quietly to the window and moving the curtain aside to peer at the street. A few houses away, a couple was seated on the stairs of their home, busy talking about something and smiling up at each other; a female android was talking seemingly to herself, but Connor knew that she was probably simply making a phone call. If she still had her LED on her temple, its light would be flicking to signal its usage.
Connor could see another android seated inside his own house, in front of the window, seemingly reading from a tablet. Another one was watching tv, and some others were just engaged in other various activities.

Connor suddenly didn't feel so alone anymore.

He finally unlocked the door, stepping outside of his home and locking the door again before walking a few steps in front of him. He wasn't quite sure of what to do.
Two androids spotted him from afar, greeting him with a smile from the distance. Connor waved his hand back at them, but didn't want to intrude; they were both seated on a bench in their garden, their fingers interlaced on the android woman's lap and the looks they exchanged warm and soft. Connor was honestly so glad of that warm welcome in the neighborhood, but he really didn't want to interrupt them.

A hand suddenly gripped his shoulder.

“Connor!” Markus called, and Connor turned around to face him in a second. With his memory being so accurate, he would always be able to remember what faces belonged to what voices in a second anyway, but Markus' voice was particularly important in his memories; they had fought side by side during the revolution, ever since Markus had finally convinced Connor to.

“Markus”, Connor smiled, genuinely happy and surprised to see him. “What are you doing here?” he asked, confused.
“I live here”, Markus chuckled. “Connor, it's good to see you.”
Connor kept smiling, nodding happily at the other android. “You too.”
Markus leaned into him, lowering his voice. “Let me guess, you're not here just because you wanted to live in the most progressive neighborhood of Detroit, huh?”
He didn't leave him any time to answer. “Let's go to my place.”
“I don't want to intrude”, Connor said, shaking his head.
“You definitely aren't”, Markus smiled warmly. “Come on.”
Connor nodded and followed him.

The first thing he saw into Markus' home was an enormous picture of the stars the night the revolution began; it took all the space of an entire wall, representing the starry sky with such a meticulous precision that Connor almost gaped for a second.
“Do you like it?” Markus asked him, watching him with his unique eyes.
“Yes”, Connor nodded, almost extending a hand to touch the masterpiece.
Markus smiled, then nodded towards the direction of the living room. “Follow me”, he said gently.

Simon was seated on the couch already, busy with something he was doing with the hologram of what looked like an uniform. Connor didn't ask.
“Hello”, he just greeted politely. Simon noticed them only then.
“Oh, hi Connor”, he smiled. “Do you...” he looked confused. “The cases”, he concluded to himself, without even finishing his question. “Of course.”
Connor nodded. “I've been assigned this case, Simon”, he explained. “I am currently undercover with one of my colleagues, Detective Reed.”
Simon blinked at him. “Reed?” he repeated. “That-”
“You talked to us about him”, Markus interrupted him, turning quickly towards Connor. “You said he was a prick.”
“I said he was an intriguing character”, Connor corrected him.
Simon laughed at that. “You said he was highly unpleasant”, he rectified, “which means...” he trailed off.
“Prick”, Markus concluded.
“You literally finish each other's sentences”, Connor said, rolling his eyes jokingly. “According to my database-”
“I knew you had a sense of humor, deep inside”, Markus cut him off with a smile.
“I'll get upstairs before he starts spreading rumors about us to the whole neighborhood”, Simon chuckled, his hologram disappearing into his hand. “I have to finish this design, and then meet up with Josh.”
“Armored clothes”, Markus explained proudly, meeting Simon's eyes with a proud smile. Simon just smiled back, bidding Connor goodbye before taking the stairs.

He finally sat down on the couch, patting the place next to him. Connor sat by his side, already opening his mouth to talk.
“With the two murders committed in this neighborhood in the last three weeks, and the blatant show of hatred towards android couples by the murderer, Captain Fowler decided to send me and Detective Reed here”, he summarized.
“Undercover”, Markus continued. “As a couple, I imagine.”
Connor simply nodded.
“So, he lives here?” Markus pressed. “With you?”
“Technically”, Connor amended, “we've just moved here today.”
Markus was quiet for a moment. “And how are things going?” he finally asked.
“Detective Reed's behavior is extremely unpredictable”, Connor explained. “I've never met a human so erratic. He hates me, he smiles at me. He insults me, he insists I try his coffee or I follow him somewhere to do something together.”
Markus raised his eyebrow. “To do something...”

Connor blinked. “Like watching Spanish tv series together”, he clarified, unsure of what Markus was thinking.
“Ah”, Markus simply replied. “I wish I could give you some useful advice, but this...situation really isn't clear, Connor.”
He gripped his shoulder in his hand, meeting his gaze. “I am worried about your cooperation. If you ever need us, we're here.”
Connor smiled. “Thank you, Markus”, he said, genuinely touched by his kindness.

Markus nodded and smiled back, taking his hand away from his shoulder gently. “I was one of the first android to ever move in this neighborhood”, he muttered, changing the topic. “I should have been expecting things to go this way.”
He sighed. “We've been having a nice time, here”, he continued. “Three years of actual respect from the humans, at least here. I wanted to believe this was our place. A place where hateful humans don't bother us, and leave us live in peace.”

He met Connor's gaze again. “Reed, that human- your partner. He hates us. This is no place for him.”
Connor lowered his eyes. “I know”, he said quietly. “There's nothing I can do.”

Silence filled the space between them for a few seconds, and then Markus finally met Connor's eyes again and smiled at him. “Just keep being yourself”, he told him reassuringly. “You've already changed Anderson's mind, haven't you? You can do this again.”
Connor nodded.

“Maybe I can”, he smiled back.

 

***

 

Connor came back home a few hours later, after spending some more time with Markus and Simon and listening to their projects and ideas for the future. He didn't regret telling them everything about his mission; if anything, they would be able to give him more information about the neighborhood and their own suspicions.

He smiled to himself, unlocking the door to his new house. He was glad to have some friends there.

He walked into the house, turning his back to the door to lock it again-

“Yo, bitch” Gavin called from somewhere in the house good-naturedly, making him jump. “Loving boyfriend got out during the night to cheat on me!”
Connor slowly turned around, left hand still on his chest where his artificial heart was hammering. Gavin looked so smug, so proud of himself to have been able to scare him; “not even kissing me goodbye before you leave?” he continued to tease him, moving around in the kitchen. “Damn, plastic. Gotta get better at it.”
“I don't intend to learn how to successfully cheat on my partner”, Connor said, referring to an hypothetical future of his.
Gavin didn't seem to get that at all. “That's what I want to hear”, he replied, pointing at him with his finger and nodding.

Connor watched him as he cooked some eggs. Gavin's hair was going in all directions; he clearly hadn't shaven yet, and he was only wearing a green shirt and a pair of gray pajama pants. He scratched at his beard, yawning quietly.
“Seriously, though”, he said, almost as an afterthought. “The hell were you doing outside? When did you even leave?”
“I left approximately at four am”, Connor answered. The digital clock on the wall informed them that it was currently almost seven am.
“Mh”, Gavin muttered. “To do what?”
Connor tilted his head to the side. “I can't sleep at night. It gets awfully boring.”
Gavin actually widened his eyes at that, sending a surprised look in his direction. “I hadn't thought about that”, he commented, “must be hard to pass the time.”
He glanced at the window. “You have so many other androids here, at close reach. You can pass the time alright now”, he muttered.
Connor detected his sudden change of emotion. “Detective Reed?” he inquired.
“Hey, dipshit”, Gavin admonished him, “you got a fuckin' hard skull to crack, huh? I told you not to call me that, got it?”
Connor made eye contact with him, trying to come across as sincere. “Got it”, he nodded, even though he was already thinking of doing it again just to piss him off.

Gavin stared at him for a little, then nodded as well and turned to his eggs again. “I made coffee”, he casually said.
Connor didn't understand what he was hinting at. “So?” he asked.
So”, Gavin replied eloquently, gesturing at the cup already full of coffee on the counter.
“I'm afraid I don't understand what you mean”, Connor apologized.
“Goddammit, plastic”, Gavin said between gritted teeth, “just take it already!”
Connor blinked at him. “It's for you, idiot!” Gavin clarified.
“Oh”, the android exhaled, surprised. “I-”
He smiled at the detective, genuine and surprised. “Thank you, Gavin.”
Gavin looked away from him. “I just made too much, that's all”, he specified. Connor smiled to himself, reaching for the full cup.

He thought about the way Gavin took his coffee, the small amount of sugar he had poured in his cup at the bar. He briefly scanned the furniture to see where the sugar was; he walked towards Gavin to reach the wall cabinet where the sugar was placed, just above the detective's head, effectively making Gavin jump.
“I just want to add sugar to the coffee”, Connor explained, sensing the man's uneasiness at the closeness.
“No, there's-” Gavin cleared his throat. “There's already sugar in there.”
Connor didn't really listen to him, busier with suddenly realizing how close they actually stood. He had been so eager to drink coffee again that he hadn't noticed how much he had leaned into the detective to reach the wall cabinet. “Okay”, he just exhaled, but didn't even notice he had talked at all.

His hand moved by its own will, slowly reaching for Gavin's arm and closing just under his elbow. Gavin was still cooking the eggs; his hand, holding a spatula, stopped dead in its movements the second Connor's hand made contact with his bare arm. His skin was warm, his arm so solid and real in his hold; Connor could feel Gavin's whole body stiffen, the detective's head moving so imperceptibly close to his and his gaze slowly, suddenly lowering, lingering on his lips.

His hand tightened its hold on Gavin's arm, his artificial heart pumping so wildly in his chest that Connor couldn't even listen to Gavin's own heartbeat; his gaze was locked with Gavin's and he could finally see that his eyes weren't blue, nor green, nor brown. They were gray, reflecting the light around them, as changeable as Gavin himself was and so, so, so beautiful-

Gavin cleared his throat again, even if the sound come out soft and almost silent. “There's already sugar in it”, he repeated slowly.
“Yes”, Connor said, completely out of contest.

He stepped back sluggishly, almost unaware of his movements. He swallowed for a second, his smell sensors going completely crazy at the natural, clean scent of Gavin.
“Thank you”, he mumbled confusedly, finally sitting at the table and reaching for the cup with unsteady hands.
“You're welcome”, Gavin answered awkwardly. “I almost burned my eggs”, he added grumpily.
“I could cook them again”, Connor offered softly. “I know at least one hundred different recipes featuring eggs, if you want to try some.”

“No”, Gavin muttered, apparently lost in thought. “Don't worry. It's okay.”

Connor nodded awkwardly, slowly bringing the cup of coffee to his lips. He scented the warm liquid for a few seconds before drinking it; he knew humans waited for a little while before drinking warm beverages, afraid to burn their tongues. Even Gavin had waited a few minutes before drinking his coffee, the previous morning.
Connor watched him, knowing that Gavin could feel his gaze on him but also aware that he had decided not to say anything. Connor never truly looked at anyone; he always analyzed people and androids, but never saw beyond his database of information.

Gavin looked nice. Really nice. He was tall and well-built, even with the few inches of height that Connor had on him; Gavin's shoulders were broader than his, his hands bigger than Connor's. His stubble was brown and of a slightly lighter color than his hair. With that gray shirt on and his hair untamed, Gavin's eyes looked so deep and peculiar that Connor couldn't help but stare.

“Are you quite finished, Barbie?” Gavin finally asked as he moved the eggs from the pan to a plate, but his voice was lazy and playful. He sat at the table, in front of Connor. “Like what you see?” he added jokingly.
Connor decided not to answer. He just supported his chin with his hand, slowly looking away from the detective.

“Met anyone interesting while you were away?” Gavin continued, looking at Connor as he took bites after bites out of his eggs. “Anyone suspicious?”
Connor shrugged. “I just met some friends of mine”, he answered, because it was true.
Gavin's brow furrowed. “What?” he asked, mouth full.
“People I've met during the revolution. You must have heard of at least one of them, Markus.”
The detective's eyebrows shot up towards his hairline. “You're friends with the leader of the androids?”
“Yes”, Connor said simply. “He lives here.”

“You didn't tell me he did”, Gavin accused him. “Seems like something important to let me know, huh?”
Connor shook his head defensively. “I wasn't aware of that either”, he explained. “He wanted some privacy. The house is legally owned by another android, even if it belongs to him and he's the one living in it.”
Gavin's rage immediately dissipated. “Ah”, he muttered, his shoulders relaxing again. “Makes sense, I guess.”
“I fought by his side during the revolution”, Connor continued conversationally. “I thought it would be a pretty big deal for you humans, especially at the police station. Didn't you know?”
“I don't care about that shit”, Gavin replied, moving the food in his plate around with his fork. “I never watched the news. I didn't want to.”
“Okay”, Connor nodded. The detective seemed lost in thought.

“Think you could ask him to come over?” he finally said, gaze sharp again. “I want to interrogate him.”
“We can completely trust Markus”, Connor immediately answered, shaking his head. “I have already informed him about our mission. He's the most trustworthy person I know.”
“He's not even a person”, Gavin snapped. “What the hell, Connor?! Why did you have to tell him everything?!”
“Because he will help us!” Connor snapped back. “He was already keeping an eye out for the murderer, and will continue to do so with our support!”
“This is our case, asshole!” Gavin snarled. “Why did you- why do you want to drag other people into this?! This is on us!”

Connor blinked, finally realizing the cause of Gavin's anger.

The detective had clearly misunderstood.

“It's not like that”, Connor said softly, anger disappearing in the blink of an eye. “I'm not-”
He didn't know how to formulate his sentence, and Gavin's mesmerizing gray eyes fixed on him definitely weren't helping him focus. “It's not like I don't have faith in your abilities”, he finally finished, sounding unconvinced even to himself. “Really”, he added, a little more sincerely. “I know you'd do anything to solve a case. Even if that meant...getting your hands dirty, so to say.”
Gavin lowered his gaze. “I want to talk to that android”, he insisted, but his voice was softer.
Connor sighed. “I'll invite him here. But I don't want you to treat him like an enemy”, he clarified. “He's actually the best ally we could ask for.”
“Just fuckin' ask him to come over already, plastic”, Gavin barked, still dangerously pissed-off at him.
Connor didn't hesitate. The LED on his temple -the one he had never, ever taken off- turned yellow for a few seconds, as he contacted Markus briefly to invite him to his and Gavin's house.
“He'll be arriving shortly”, Connor informed the detective. He just grunted, standing up to go wash his fork and dish and sending distrusting looks at the android in the meanwhile.

Markus showed up just a few minutes later; North was by his side, finally looking a little more serene that she used to back during the revolution.
“Hey, Connor”, she smiled lightly, making herself at home by blatantly walking past Gavin and sitting on the couch. Connor could already feel Gavin lose his temper.
“Please, Markus, make yourself at home”, he gently said anyway, determined to maintain the control of the situation. He sat down as well, settling by Gavin's side; he felt the detective relax marginally, and almost turned to smile at him. Almost.

“So”, North said conversationally, “you know what's weird? I remember to have been told about a human detective who couldn't stand us and did everything that was in his power to get in your way, Connor-”
“I'm right here”, Gavin cut her off, glaring at her. North smiled at him, no sweetness nor sincerity in her eyes and on her lips.
“You want to interrogate us?” she inquired, apparently amused by the idea. “After everything we've done to protect our people, you still think we could be responsible for the crimes?”
Markus extended a placating arm in front of her, physically putting more space between the two. “Detective Reed”, he called, putting all mistrust aside for the greater good, “I'll be happy to help with your investigation. But I feel the need to remind you that we have basic human rights now, and every and any abuse towards our people will be immediately reported to the authorities.”
North tilted her head. “I bet this is news to you”, she said.
Connor didn't want the situation to degenerate. “Gavin”, he called quietly, briefly touching his right knee. “Let's start.”

That touch seemed to be the only thing that kept Gavin from making a scene right then and there; he actually kept calm while he asked his questions, nodding along to some of the androids' words from time to time. His hatred was still clear in his gaze, and his tone of voice was still harsh and hostile, but he kept his hands on his lap and didn't try to intimidate them at all.

“I'm still not okay with you, and you both especially, knowing about our investigation”, he said at least, after spending more than an hour just interrogating them. “Does anyone else know?”
“Simon does”, North answered, not looking at Gavin and talking to Markus instead.
The android nodded. “He does”, he confirmed lightly.
Gavin raised an eyebrow. “And why isn't he here? Why is none fuckin' informing me of this?” he snapped, turning to face Connor all of a sudden.
“Hey, cut that shit off, you hear me?” North snapped as well, standing up to face him. “We don't need assholes like you in this neighborhood. This is where we live. This place works by our rules, and you gotta follow them or you're out, got it?”
Markus sighed. “North-”
“You stay in your place, fuckin' android!” Gavin barked, standing up as well.
“I am in my place”, North smiled victoriously.

Connor stared at her in awe, but ultimately decided to step in and put an end to the argument. “Both of you, please, sit down. We don't want to bring any attention upon us”, he reminded them carefully, sending a glance at the open windows by their right.
Markus nodded. “That wouldn't benefit your investigation”, he added.
Gavin stared at North for a little longer, waiting for her to back down first. She didn't.
He exhaled nervously, and finally sat by Connor's side again.

“I can't wait for you to have to put up a show for the neighborhood”, North smirked, slowly sitting back down as well. “I can feel-”
“North”, Markus cut her off harshly, eyeing her reproachfully. “Come on. Enough.”
Connor tilted his head, confused at the strange exchange of words. “I'm just saying this for their own benefit”, North reasoned, smirk disappearing from her face and her gaze turning serious. “It's clear that they're not comfortable around each other, is all I'm saying.”
Markus sent them a thoughtful look. “She's not wrong”, he admitted.

Connor felt Gavin tense immediately by his his side. “Barbecue's on Wednesday, right?” North continued, her gaze sharp and already focused on the near future. “You're not going to be able to fool anyone. Assuming that the responsible is an android, or the human partner of one of us, they're going to see right through your act.”
“You need practice”, Markus agreed. “I can basically hear you yell at one another from my house.”
“Androids have sharper sound sensors than humans”, Connor informed Gavin, turning around to look at him. “He's right. If we want to, we can hear miles away sounds of all sorts. The responsible is likely not to be an android, but we should consider all options and take the necessary precautions.”
“Have you thought of your undercover alibi?” Markus inquired. He opened his mouth to keep talking, but Gavin promptly interrupted him.

“Enough”, he said harshly. “We don't need your help. Get out of here.”
“You should thank us”, North hissed, irritated but calm.
“Yeah, sure”, Gavin said dryly, “thank you for doubting our intelligence, 'course.”
He gritted his teeth. “Fucking superior machines-”
“Gavin”, Connor called, tugging on his arm to distract him. “Stop it. We need all the help we can get.”
He tightened his hold. “Both you and me.”
“This is what this neighborhood is about”, Markus nodded, voice serious and non-threatening at the same time. “This is a place for both humans and androids. We can live in peace.”
“If we respect each other”, North clarified.

She stood up again, touching Markus' shoulder to prompt him to do the same. “Let's go, Markus.”
The android did. “I'll see you on Wednesday”, he greeted politely, going for the door. “I suggest you practice.”
“You need to”, North pointed up in a serious tone, before walking out of the house.

Markus lingered on the threshold for a moment longer. “If you need me, you know where to find me”, he said. “Keep me informed on your investigation, please. I want to keep my people safe.”
Connor nodded, smiling warmly at him. “Of course”, he said, and watched as Markus smiled back and closed the door behind his shoulders.

“Fuck”, Gavin breathed, standing up with his hands on his hips. “I hate this mission. I hate those fucking androids.”
“I am aware”, Connor replied calmly.
Gavin sent him an offended look. “Don't give me that shit, asshole”, he threatened.
“They do have a point”, the android continued, arms behind his back and head tilted to the side in his usual resting pose. “We need to practice, Detective.”
“I told you not to call me that!” Gavin snapped.
“My apologies, Gavin”, Connor amended.
“Fuck”, the man swore, eyeing him threateningly. “I'm one hundred percent sure you do that just to piss me off, goddammit.”
Connor didn't move an inch. “Your investigative skills never cease to amaze”, he replied.

Gavin shot up, reaching for him with both arms extended and going straight for the collar of his shirt. “You son of a bitch!” he snarled, pushing and pulling him up against the closer wall.
“I am worth quite a fortune”, Connor reminded him calmly. “I advise you not to damage me.”
Gavin only tightened his hold on the collar of the android's shirt. “God, I can't stand you”, he muttered between gritted teeth. “How can I even pretend to be in a relationship with a fucking machine that doesn't even feel anything-”
“I have to correct you”, Connor interrupted, still unbothered by the cold wall pressing against his back. “I am, in fact, capable of feeling touch and even temperature. They might not affect me as they would a human, but I am indeed aware of their influence.”
That made Gavin pause for a second. “What?” he blinked, confused. “I thought- you can't feel pain, right?”
Connor nodded. “Correct. I am, however, capable of feeling pleasure.”
“Why”, Gavin inquired, without making it even sound like a question.
“Every android's system was upgraded while in sleep mode after the revolution by a secret benefactor”, Connor explained. “I have no way to prove this, but I suspect it was Elijah Kamski's doing.”

Gavin immediately let go of his hold on Connor's collar.

“Of course”, he whispered, voice filled with hatred, while taking a step back. “Of course. That fucking sick pervert. God knows what he's up to, with his goddamn sex-bots up in that giant house of his-”
He inhaled and exhaled, putting some more distance between him and Connor and lowering his gaze. “Giving androids the possibility to feel pleasure, but not pain”, he grunted. “He's gonna cause a world war three, that asshole.”
“I suspect it was his doing, but there are no proofs of this being true”, Connor reminded him, detecting the change in his mood. “And, in any case, I believe the peaceful revolution itself has already proved that we don't have any intention of overcoming humans. All we want is you to respect us the same way we respect you.”

Gavin's gaze snapped to Connor's, his eyes full of something Connor couldn't quite pinpoint. “Whatever”, he said, anger still present in his voice but tamed, nothing more than a hateful grunt. “I don't want to talk about...Kamski, or whatever his fucking name is.”
Connor nodded, still not moving from his position. They both stood there for a few seconds, silence heavy between them; Gavin's gaze fell back to Connor's collar at last, and his hands reached for it to fix it.

“How do you even know you've been upgraded?” he finally asked, his lips slowly curving into a tired smirk. His hands lingered on Connor's shirt collar, flattening the fabric against Connor's skin lazily.
Connor hesitated before answering, distracted by Gavin's touch. “My database got upgraded”, he explained.
Gavin's knuckles grazed at his neck, his hands gently smothering the fabric of the shirt against his upper chest; his gray eyes finding his and then lowering again, lingering on his bared throat. Connor felt terribly exposed, but he loved it- he couldn't understand why, but he wanted Gavin to keep looking, to move closer, to just do something. “I sort of- just-”
He inhaled sharply for a moment, watching the curious smirk on Gavin's lips and unable to tear his gaze away. “Knew”, he concluded.
He didn't know what else to add; it was the truth. He didn't know what else to say. He just didn't know what to- what to-

“Always so clever”, Gavin muttered quietly, slowly bringing his eyes back to Connor's; almost a whisper, breathed against his skin. “What got you so silent?”

Connor didn't need to, but he swallowed. He felt his heart hammering in his chest, Gavin still so close to him; his scent so strong and still familiar, like coffee, like the hint of fresh laundry and something that was just so inherently Gavin that Connor always caught a scent of whenever he walked past him and didn't even know he liked until now-

“You really are feeling something”, Gavin murmured, surprised and fascinated by his reactions. His gray eyes fixed on his; ready to catch any emotion displayed in the warm brown of his irises, his hands pressing on his chest a little more, a little harder. So warm Connor could feel them on him, almost as if they were caressing his bare skin, as if they could move just barely and finally brush against his heart. His gaze unrelenting; his gray eyes big with wonder and something else, something different, and Connor did. Connor felt.

“What is it, Connor?” Gavin whispered, leaning imperceptibly into him. Tilting his head, sending a soft, warm breath of air against his ear; and it made him shiver, tremble, crumble. “What is it?”

Connor struggled to breath, inhaling sharply again all at once. He couldn't talk. His LED flashed yellow, blue blood warming underneath his skin and his breath getting caught somewhere between his lungs and his throat, Gavin's hands barely grazing at his chest radiating so much warmness that he felt like he could get burned and he wanted, he wanted, he didn't know what he wanted but he just wanted-

Gavin's hands slowly let go of his collar, one settling on Connor's shoulder and the other one raising to his jaw, cupping it lightly. “Your friends said we should practice”, he murmured quietly, leaning in.

“Yes”, Connor simply nodded, unable to do much else. “Yes.”

His heart was hammering wildly inside his chest, his legs felt so weak all of a sudden. He leaned into Gavin as well, his hand shooting up to grip Gavin's arm hard.

Gavin blinked twice, shook his head to himself rapidly, and inexplicably took a step back.

His hand fell from Connor's jaw and Connor immediately reached for it, aching from the sudden loss of touch; he couldn't wait. He just couldn't. He wanted Gavin's hands on his skin again, his eyes locked with his, his soothing yet electric touch on his chest where his heart was still slamming wildly against his ribcage and his lips on his, his mouth against his, close close close to him again-

“Gavin”, he breathed, tugging on his arm. “What- what are you doing?”
“I can't”, Gavin swallowed, still trying to get away from him and failing. Connor wasn't even actively trying to stop him; it was all Gavin's doing, trying to move away and not really wanting to. “I should- I should just resign the mission, I-”
“No”, Connor immediately cut him off, desperately tugging on his arm again. “Gavin, just-”
He pulled the detective close again, so close he could feel his breath against his skin. Gavin's hold on the android's shoulder tightened, as if to physically stop himself from tearing away from Connor.
“I can't”, he insisted, without making no move to distance himself from him.
“It's for the mission”, Connor reminded him hastily, meeting his gaze and locking it with his, finding whatever excuse he could. “It's just for the mission, Gavin, please- please-”

Gavin's thumb grazed at his lips. Connor immediately fell silent.

He finally leaned into him.

Coffee and fresh laundry and Gavin and his lips almost grazing Connor's, so close, his hand around his jaw and his breath against his skin, so close, so unbelievably close and finally closer-

 

 

Someone knocked at the door.

Chapter Text

The doorbell rang so loudly that both Connor and Gavin almost physically jumped at the sound.

“Fucking hell!” Gavin swore, his gaze shooting up towards the threshold and his hand falling from the android's jaw. Connor wanted to scream just as well, though perhaps not for the exact same reason.

“It's not even nine in the morning and people keep coming to our house,” he continued between gritted teeth. “The fuck is with this neighborhood?!”

He glanced at Connor, then at his lips, before pushing him away rapidly, but still light enough to not jar the android. “Get the fuck away from me, dipshit,” he muttered, “and stay out of my goddamn way!”

Connor's brow furrowed. “Gavin-” he started, but the doorbell rang again.

“No,” Gavin cut him off. “I don't want to hear it.”
He then nodded towards the corridor. “Door,” he reminded him nervously.

 

Connor refrained from giving a frustrated sigh, going for the door instead. He opened it halfway through another ring, Gavin behind him and already trying to peer at their visitor.

“Hey,” greeted a younger, short girl, with her arms crossed over her chest. “My parents told me to check on what was happening over here. We’ve been listening to you both yell at each other for a little while already,” she said flatly.

Connor raised an eyebrow, and at his gaze she rolled her eyes. “Alright, Jesus. Okay my parents didn't actually send me at all,” she admitted, “I was just curious. Wanted to check out the new, apparently very hot neighbor,” she explained, winking at Gavin.

The detective burst out laughing, while Connor analyzed her.

 

Ashley Jamison, seventeen-years-old. Only teenager in the neighborhood. Living with human mother, android step-father and four-year-old brother.

“You're like, fourteen”, Gavin said mockingly
.
“I'm seventeen, bitch,” she replied, looking rather offended.

“Besides”, Gavin added, still smirking and unfazed by the insult, as if she hadn’t spoken at all.“I'm, like-” His smile disappeared, replaced by a frown, “-with him,” he finished, gesturing semi-awkwardly towards Connor.

“Worth a try,” she sighed. “I mean, it's not like I didn't just see you pushing your boyfriend up against a wall.”

“Fiancé,” Connor corrected her.

“Hey, no need to be a jerk about it,” she frowned at him, bringing her hands to her hips. “But, seriously. What's up with all the yelling?”She pulled a face. “God, actually, don't tell me. It stinks in here already.”

Connor lightened up, excited. “It does? What does?”

Ashley raised a perfectly trimmed brown eyebrow at him. “The sexual tension,” she answered dryly. “It's going to kill me.”

Gavin laughed and extended an arm to her. “I like you already,” he said as she shook his hand. “I'm Gavin by the way, and he's Connor.”

Connor smiled politely at her, extending an arm to her as well to shake her hand like Gavin had.

“Are we going to see you and your family at the barbecue on Wednesday?” he asked.

She sighed, nodding. “Ashley,” she briefly introduced herself, “and yes.”

 

She turned around to leave. “Keep it down,” she said, sending them a look that was probably meant to be threatening but failed miserably. “And put up some curtains! The entire neighborhood can see what you're up to. Not that anyone cares enough since apparently no one around here has a single clue what privacy is, but still...” she trailed off, not even turning around to talk to their faces as she went.

“Will do!” Gavin snorted, closing the door. He faced Connor, smiling in amusement. “I like her.”

“Yes”, Connor nodded. “You said so beforehand as well.”

“This neighborhood just got much better.”

“I'm glad to hear that.”

 

Gavin raised one eyebrow, staring at Connor closely. “Are you...” he started, curious. “Pissed off?” he concluded, with a satisfied smirk on his lips.

“No,” Connor shook his head. “Why would I be pissed off?”

Gavin let out a small, amused chuckle. “You do realize she's just a teenager, right? And I'm like, more than twice her age?”

“I am quite aware of her being seventeen years old,” Connor confirmed, trying and failing to keep the slight, irritated, tone out of his voice.

Gavin snorted. “Yeah.”

“Yes,” Connor agreed, pointedly looking away from him.

The detective sighed, shaking his head to himself. “Alright then dipshit, I'm gonna go shave, he said, already heading for the stairs.

Connor's eyes widened; mood immediately changing, and the words leaving his mouth before he could stop them. “Can I watch?” he asked, his curiosity winning over his manners, as it often did- even before he became deviant.

 

Gavin stopped walking, turning to face him slowly. “What?” he asked, seemingly more perplexed than annoyed at the request. “You- you want to see me doing that?”

Connor felt something akin to embarrassment build up inside him. “Why?” Gavin pressed.

“I don't have any facial hair,” Connor explained, lowering his gaze, “and Hank never lets me watch him do it,” he added petulantly.

Gavin, for some reason, seemed to take that as a personal challenge. “Get your ass over here then,” he only replied, already walking up the stairs.

 

Connor followed him excitedly, impatient to witness another one of those strange “human-only” things that so deeply fascinated him. Whenever humans did all those things that made them human -eating, drinking, fidgeting, dreaming, creating, as well as their preferences, their habits, their hobbies. The simple, day-to-day actions they performed every day of every month of every year. Connor wanted to see more. To learn more. To study their behaviors and to understand them. To emulate them when possible. If possible.

Unfortunately, Hank had scolded him when he had found Connor staring at human women deciding what to buy from clothes shops, explaining to him that it was “creepy” to follow humans around and study them, and that personal questions definitely weren't to be asked to everyone. Especially after he had caught Connor asking twelve different humans what their favorite ice cream flavour was, and if they had any memory linked to it. Connor had been profoundly sad to have to interrupt his studies on human behavior, but he respected Hank’s wishes and left them be.

Nonetheless, he was happy that Gavin was willing to help him explore humans' habits and rituals; as soon as the detective entered the bathroom, Connor propped himself up on top of the washing machine and smiled at Gavin's reflection in the mirror.

 

“Hey, don't get too excited, plastic,” Gavin mocked him, looking at Connor's long legs briefly and then bringing his eyes back to the shelf under the mirror. The android watched as he took the shaving cream and started applying it to his face.

“According to recent studies, men are usually better-looking with a light layer of stubble on their faces,” Connor recited, his LED spinning yellow for a brief second before returning back to its usual blue.

Gavin once again raised an eyebrow at him. “Wow,” he stated, unimpressed. “Don't worry, asshole, not gonna shave it all.”

He took his razor from the shelf. “Wonder what the percentage for humans unable to stand smartass androids is,” he added dryly.

“Although I wouldn't be so specific as to say how many humans can't bear us,” Connor supplied helpfully, “many people still do hate androids.”

Gavin sighed. “Tell me about it,” he said sarcastically.

“Generally speaking, three out of seven humans are likely to express hatred and or distrust towards-”

“Cut it, dispshit,” Gavin interrupted him, sending him an exasperated look through the mirror. Connor kept quiet for a little while, just watching him instead and trying to not ask any more questions that could be considered “annoying”.

 

“You have a scar on your nose,” he observed a few minutes later, unable to resist any longer. He tried to sound casual, but the look Gavin sent him definitely suggested that he hadn't been fooled.

“I do,” Gavin replied soberly.

Connor tilted his head. “Can I ask you a personal question, Detective?”

Gavin nodded reluctantly. “I already know that you're gonna ask me how I got it anyway,” he sighed.

“Correct,” the android confirmed. “Do you wish to tell me?”

 

Gavin washed his face before answering, finally finished with shaving his beard. “It was a childhood accident,” he explained slowly, warily. He turned around, accepting the towel that Connor was holding up for him and looking at him for a second, as if considering whether to trust him or not. “Me and my, uh, twin, we were...doing kids stuff, you know, playing scientist, playing mechanic...”

He trailed off for a moment. “Clearly, we didn't really know what we were doing, messing around with our mom's car wires. I for sure didn't. So,” he concluded with a deep exhale, “there you go, you have the scar story you wanted.”

 

Connor stared at the scar on Gavin's nose, fascinated by the way actual human skin could hold secrets and stories more than his synthetic one ever could. “Can I touch it?” he asked, so fascinated by it that his voice almost came out in a whisper.

Gavin visibly stiffened. “You're starting to piss me off with your little studies,” he grumbled.

“I just want to see how it feels,” Connor insisted.

“No,” Gavin shook his head. “It's weird.”

“Please,” Connor said petulantly.

Gavin hesitated for a moment, seemingly lost in thought. “Alright, fine,” he finally nodded, “if you show me your...white hand, or whatever the hell it is.”

 

Connor immediately went defensive, holding his hand towards his chest as if to shield it from Gavin’s sight.

 

“See?” Gavin smirked lazily. “Sensitive topic. Just like my scar. We don't want other people to give so much attention to the parts of us we don't like.”

“Oh”, Connor whispered, surprised. “I- I didn't realize it was...” he trailed off.

Gavin shrugged. “It's fine,” he said unexpectedly, taking his gaze away from the android’s eyes and hanging the towel on the wall-rack.

He almost walked out of the bathroom, but then stopped slowly by the door; he reluctantly turned around to face Connor again, resting his lower back against the doorframe. He sighed briefly, crossing his arms to his chest and lowering his eyes. “Listen, Connor,” he started, tone hesitant but serious, “I'm...I'm sorry. For before.”

 

Connor blinked, confused. He debated whether he should get off the washing machine or if it was still a casual enough conversation for him to stay in place. He liked sitting there. “For what?” he asked.

Gavin exhaled nervously. “Before,” he repeated. “When I, hum. When I got caught up with...my own little studies, so to say. About...your nature. You being an android. And the way you react to some things,” he tried to explain, pausing every two seconds. It was clear what he was trying to say was particularly difficult for him.

Connor tilted his head. “I'm afraid I don't understand.”

 

Gavin moved from where he was, too nervous to stay in one place. “Look,” he tried again, , “when I cornered you against the wall, alright? When I started telling you those things. I...I don't know what got into me.”

He stood in front of Connor, gaze raising slowly up to his eyes. “Your LED,” he muttered. “It was flashing yellow, and I still didn't stop.”

Connor exhaled a quiet oh.

 

“You think that I felt in-danger?” he asked, surprised. Gavin didn't answer, looking away instead.
“I didn't,” Connor reassured him, wanting to extend a hand to touch Gavin but unsure of how his touch would come across. “My LED flashes yellow whenever I'm researching a topic, deep in thought, and, yes, sensing danger as well”, he explained. “But ever since I became deviant it also flashes yellow or red if I'm feeling strong emotions. I wasn't scared and I wasn't in danger either.”

 

He inhaled deeply, even though he didn't need to breathe, wetting his lips briefly. “I actually found it very interesting as well. It was a good learning experience.”

Gavin snorted at that, a little tension releasing from his body. “Did you really just say that, or did I imagine that?” He mocked him, but his voice was soft.

“I never felt anything like that before,” Connor explained, quietly and seriously. “I would. I think I would rather like to do that again, at some point.”

 

He felt more than saw Gavin's chest raising and falling in quick succession, his whole body freezing on the spot. “I'm not gay,” he immediately clarified, sounding defensive.

Connor titled his head. “Maybe so. You are, however, interested in studying my behavior,” he replied simply. “Just as I am interested in yours, since you are human.”

“No,” Gavin insisted. “Not doing that, Connor, stop-”

“Your pupils were dilated,” Connor pointed out, interrupting him quickly. “According to my database, that is a clear indication of-”

“Hey, enough, you hear me?!” Gavin snapped, cutting him off. “Jesus! I- touch you for a second and this is what happens!”

“I don't understand the source of your anger,” Connor said calmly, though his eyes betrayed his confusion. “We are supposed to practice anyway, in order to convince our neighbors of the sincerity of our relationship. If it can also benefit both mine and your studies, it certainly provides an interesting added bonus.”

“It's not a goddamn study,” Gavin cursed under his breath, sliding a hand off his face.

“Why can't you just fucking understand...” he sighed, trailing off.

Connor blinked, stubborn. “I appreciate your concern for my system status-,” he started, trying to bring the topic up again.

“Hey! Remember what I told you, idiot?” the detective hissed, cutting Connor off. “No more talking like a machine,” he said, his tone of voice lowering unexpectedly, “it makes me feel like you really are just one.”

 

“I'm sorry,” Connor simply said, dropping the topic. He could sense it was time to stop pressing him; and he could see through his stress levels that Gavin was conflicted and in need of a distraction. “We should hang up those curtains,” he proposed, finally extending an arm as he wanted to and gripping Gavin's shoulder gently in his hand.

He hoped the touch would feel encouraging, and maybe it did. Gavin slowly brought his eyes back to Connor's -this time, they looked hazel- and nodded reluctantly.

“Whatever,” he sighed.

Connor smiled softly at him.

 

***

 

“Hello,” Connor greeted quietly.

To anyone not aware of his LED flashing yellow, he would have looked like he was just walking in the darkness and talking to himself like a madman. But instead, it was Hank's voice that greeted him back.

“Hey, son. You don't sound very happy,” was the first thing he said.

Connor bit back a sigh. “I'm okay,” he replied, forcing his tone of voice to sound neutral. “You, on the other hand, sound much better. How is your cold?”

“Almost completely gone,” Hank answered briefly. “But let's set that aside for now, alright, Connor?”

The android could hear his concern. “Is there anything wrong?”

 

He looked around himself, at the couples seated on their garden benches and at the others engaged in various, different activities; the feeling of not being so alone in the world overcame him again, but there was still something missing.

 

The moon was big, beautiful and far away, and he wished he could be taking Sumo out for a walk.

 

“I miss you,” he quietly admitted. “I miss Sumo.”

“Oh, Connor,” Hank sighed. “We miss you too, son.”

 

Connor nodded, even if he knew Hank couldn't see him; it was a very human thing he had picked up from watching other people on their phones. “The investigation isn't going anywhere,” he informed him, changing the topic. “It's Monday night already, and we still have no clue as to who is responsible for the crimes-”

“Hey, Connor, relax,” Hank cut him off. “You only got there on Saturday, alright? There's no rush.”
He lowered his tone of voice, careful and reassuring. “None is going to punish you or, god help me, deactivate you if you aren't quick enough. Take your goddamn time. God knows you need it, having to work with that asshole,” he grunted.

Connor chuckled. “He is not that unpleasant, Hank,” he said, not realizing he had started smiling. “Although his...personality surely is an added challenge.”

“Yeah, that sounds familiar,” Hank snorted.

The android kept smiling lightly to himself, this time fond and reassured. “I'm really glad to know that you're getting better,” he said softly.

“Yeah, see? I can get by on my own just fine,” Hank grunted.

“I know you can,” Connor said sincerely. “I just like to be helpful when I can.”

“Alright, this conversation is getting a bit too heartfelt for my tastes,” Hank sighed, but Connor could tell that he didn't mean it. “Let's talk about Reed, alright? What do you mean, 'not that unpleasant'? And why do I smell bullshit?”

“It's not a lie,” Connor assured him. “Detective Reed's behavior is undoubtedly erratic, his personality is also extremely changeable,” he admitted. “However, he has proven to occasionally be honest and caring towards me.”

“Yeah, I don't believe a single word you're saying,” Hank scoffed.

“I'm telling you the truth,” Connor insisted. “Just this morning, he has expressed concern towards my LED light flashing yellow in a...”

 

He hesitated.

 

“Peculiar situation”, he finished.

 

The line went dead for a second.

 

“Connor”, Hank started, voice low.

“Yes, Hank?” Connor said innocently.

The lieutenant sighed heavily. “I really don't want to hear what's going on there, do I?”

“Your preferences are entirely up to you,” Connor replied, confused by the question.

Hank only cursed under his breath. “I knew there was always some kind of… fucked up chemistry between the two of you, goddammit, with fuckin' Reed constantly bothering you,” he grunted again. “God knows how many times I've asked Fowler to move our desk to somewhere else, so Reed would actually start working and stop checking you out every five minutes.”

Connor felt his heartbeat going inexplicably crazy for a moment. “What do you mean?”

“Aw, quit acting like you don't know,” Hank scoffed, “I know you do! All the fuckin' times Reed casually walks by our desk or checks you out while pretending to look at his phone, Jesus, he could at least try to be subtle, that asshole-”

 

“I wasn't aware of any of this,” Connor murmured. “Even though I have certainly noticed Detective Reed watching my movements from time to time.”

“Son, that is not movement tracking he does, believe me,” he sighed. “Wow, the only two people unaware of Reed's little crush are the two people involved. What a fuckin' surprise,” he added flatly.

Connor tilted his head in his signature confused move, unable to keep himself from doing it. “What?”

“Hell, Connor, don't give me that confused tone, you know damn well what I'm talking about. Bet Fowler smelled the sexual tension from miles away and thought you were perfect for that mission of yours, not that it takes a fucking hound to do so, but still-”

“Hank,” Connor gently cut him off. “Are you worried for me?” He suddenly realized.

 

The lieutenant sighed, hesitating for a few seconds before answering. “Yeah, Connor,” he finally admitted. “Yeah, I am.”

Connor remained silent, waiting for him to continue.

“I don't trust him,” Hank muttered, “and I don't think you're safe there with him. He clearly needs to sort out his problems before he can be anywhere near you.”Another pause. “Connor,” Hank said softly. “Don't...get too attached. Alright?”

 

Connor didn't answer.

 

***

 

Wednesday night had finally come, and both Gavin and Connor definitely felt like they weren't prepared enough to face their neighbors. Still, their mission had to be accomplished at all costs; Connor had had to convince his partner that showing up at the barbecue was absolutely necessary, both to investigate on their neighbors and to prove they were a real couple.

“Ready?” he asked Gavin, hand on the door handle.

Gavin inhaled and exhaled, calming himself down. “Ready,” he nodded.

 

They walked out of their house.

 

Connor smiled gently, calling Gavin's name as he locked the door. The detective raised his gaze, meeting his eyes, and Connor took his hand. “Let's go,” he said encouragingly, tangling his fingers with his.

 

He knew Gavin was nervous, and he couldn't help but feel slightly agitated as well. The previous days had been...weird; while they had been spending time together without fighting too much, they had also been careful with that they said or did. There was a fragile peace pending between the two of them, a silent mutual agreement to never talk again about what had happened a few days before, and not even Connor had dared to bring it up again or to suggest they practice.

Which basically meant that they were, in fact, completely unprepared.

 

The air was humid, promising rain, and Gavin's eyes looked particularly dark underneath the gray, cloudy sky. They reached the garden where all their neighbors were already gathered, greeting them politely and making small talk with them.

Some androids were actively eating or drinking, but Connor didn't feel like trying anything new. He kept talking with the others whenever Gavin was having something, knowing he was bad at small talk but still trying his best.

 

North sat by his side when Gavin stood up from the bench they were seated on, smiling at him lightly and patting his back. “You're not doing too well, are you?” She said quietly, while the others were busy with another conversation.

Gavin was talking to their neighbors, not paying them any attention. The android leaned into Connor, making sure to not be heard by the others. “Come on, Connor, haven't you two ever seen a couple in your life? Just, listen. You don't have to be blatant, but some more physical contact would definitely help you.”

She waited for Connor to nod before continuing. “It's not hard,” she reassured him. “Just, put your hands on him a little, will you? Lean into him. Tell him something confidently, like you're not aware of other people watching. Touch him casually and with no other intent. Smile at him, for god's sake, c'mon.”

She lifted her chin, gesturing towards their neighbors. Gavin was still talking to some of them, laughing at something they had said. “Look at Markus and Simon,” she smiled. “Watch closely.”

 

Connor did, studying their movements, aware that his LED had probably begun to flicker yellow. They were talking to a different group of people than Gavin was, with Josh by their side; Simon was extending his arms towards a child, while his mother jokingly complained about him starting to feel too heavy to carry around. Markus was watching the exchange with a small smile on his lips, his gaze slowly raising from Simon's hands to his eyes as Simon, completely unaware, finally picked up the little boy and took him in his arms himself.

The blonde android lifted his gaze, smiling at something the human woman had said and casually meeting Markus' eyes. The android immediately tore his gaze away, pretending not to be watching and making Simon chuckle and lower his eyes as well.

 

“Me and Detective Reed should avoid eye contact?” Connor summarized.

“Oh my god,” North sighed, “I am literally surrounded by idiots!”

“I was merely drawing conclusions-” Connor started.

“Connor, can't you see how much in love those two are?!” She snapped. “Are you guys really all so oblivious?”

Connor blinked. “Not to my knowledge,” he answered politely.

North slid a hand off her face, messing up the braid she had tangled her hair into. She lifted her chin towards them again, and Connor followed her gaze.

 

Markus' hand had closed around Simon's arm at some point, and he was telling him something reservedly as the rest of the group was distracted. Simon laughed briefly, shaking his head in disbelief at what the other android had said.

“See how soft their gazes are?” North whispered to Connor. “Look at those stupid smiles on their faces. See how dumb they look?”

North sighed, staring at the little boy trying to wriggle out of Simon's arms and failing. “Look”, she shook her head, “not even that innocent child can stand that level of cheesiness, poor creature.”
She stood up. “I'll go save him,” she smiled lightly, “just keep in mind what I told you, alright?”

“Alright”, Connor nodded. “Thank you, North.”

She gestured subtly towards Gavin with her hand. “C'mon,” she encouraged him, and then left.

 

Connor had a mission to accomplish, and he wouldn't fail.

 

He stood up, walking towards Gavin as patiently and slowly as he could. His heart was beating inexplicably fast in his chest, and Connor idly wondered if something was wrong with his system. He made a note to himself to run a system diagnosis later, when he was alone.

 

“Hey,” he greeted quietly, trying to go for a more casual tone of voice. He let his hand slide into Gavin's, tangling their fingers together once again and lightly resting his head on his shoulder.
Gavin stiffened, and immediately Connor began to move his thumb in tiny circles on the back of his hand to try and calm him. His hand was warm and big in his hold, and Connor hoped to feel just as comforting as Gavin felt to him.

“Finally!” The android in front of them said, smiling softly at them. “We haven't seen you two this close all day.”

“We tend to be reserved,” Gavin muttered, but managed to smile anyway. It looked like he was simply embarrassed at the show of affection, rather than uncomfortable.

 

Connor thought about what North had told him. Put your hands on him a little, he recited inside his head.

 

He went through his mental database, recalling Markus and Simon's soft display of affection in every detail thanks to his perfect memory. He let his free hand travel slowly up and down Gavin's arm, feeling the detective stiffen up before then relaxing again.

Connor let his fingers trail up and down Gavin's bare arm, unable to not notice how good it felt to do so. Gavin's skin was warm and human, so soft, and for some silly reason Connor hadn't expected it to be that way; Gavin always looked harsh and though, and Connor had almost expected his skin to be cold and hard to the touch. Instead, he almost wanted to close his eyes and just enjoy the soft feeling of his skin underneath his fingertips.

 

Unfortunately, since that wasn’t exactly possible at the moment, he forced himself to wake up from his small reverie in order to ask some subtle questions to his neighbors, and also discover more details about the cases. The couples involved with the crimes so far had nothing in common, beside being made up of an android and a human. The victims of the first incident had been murdered in their own home, after having just moved into the neighborhood for a few days. No one seemed to know much about them, besides the fact that they both seemed to enjoy hard rock music to the point where no sound was heard from their home during the murder. In fact, the loud music had been the only thing audible from their house, until someone had rung at their door to ask them to lower the volume and found them both dead.

 

The second couple had been found in a bathroom after a night out, murdered inside the most famous nightclub of west Detroit. They had been living in the neighborhood for a few months and so, everyone knew them. They apparently used to fight from time to time, but nothing serious had ever actually happened between them. Sometimes they were constantly at each other's side, and sometimes at each other's throat.

 

That sounded familiar.

 

Connor gazed down at Gavin, who was drinking his beer and nodding at something their new neighbors were saying. Shame on him, really, but Connor simply couldn't bring his attention to them in that moment. Instead, he was staring at Gavin's face, thinking of how different it looked when Gavin's brows weren't furrowed and he didn't look so angry. The detective was deeply focused on the task at hand, asking the right questions and carefully listening to the answers, surely making some mental notes about the cases.

Lean into him, Connor kept reciting in his mind. Tell him something confidently, like you're not aware of other people watching.

 

The android lowered his head just slightly; the height difference between him and Gavin wasn't too wide, but it was still there regardless- and Connor could bet Gavin felt absolutely outraged about it.

He smiled a little to himself, amused by the thought. Leaning into Gavin's space, Connor lowered the volume of his vocal processor.

 

“Do you think we're doing well?” he asked, just a whisper in Gavin's ear.

 

The others were busy in conversation, and didn't notice the detective almost jumping out of his skin at the sudden closeness. “What the fuck?” He cursed under his breath, trying to subtly move away.
Connor didn't let him; he strengthened his hold on Gavin's arm, keeping him there. “It's okay”, he reassured him quietly, trying to calm him somewhat. “The display of intimacy is unfortunately required. Thank you for your cooperation, Detective.”

Gavin tore his head away from the android’s sending him an irritated look. “I told you not to-”

Connor just replied with an amused smile, content with himself.

“What a little shit you can be,” Gavin whispered, shaking his head to himself with the tiniest smile on his lips. Connor patted his hand where it was still held safe in his own, meeting his eyes and still smiling gently down at him.

 

Touch him casually with no other intent. Smile at him.

 

Connor was accomplishing his mission.

 

“I see an engagement ring on your finger,” someone suddenly told Connor, making both him and Gavin fall back down to earth in a mere second. “Want to share the story of how it got there?”

Connor chuckled nervously. “Oh, well...” he hesitated.

“Can't be as great as mine and Emily's is”, a man commented, smiling at what must have been his fiancé. “No one can beat our engagement story.”

That seemed to immediately get on Gavin's nerves. “Oh, yeah?” He asked, a competitive fire lighting up in his gaze. “I don't think so.”

The man chuckled good-naturedly. “Wanna bet? For our engagement I organized a treasure hunt in Paris for her,” he explained, “you can't top that.”

“He's right,” Connor said, trying to stop Gavin from making a horrible mess. “Let it go, Gavin.”

“It was so romantic,” Emily sighed, smiling up at her fiancé. “We met in Paris, you know. I escaped there during the revolution, trying to find a safe place. George organized this incredible, lovely treasure hunt through every street and every building and every shop we had visited those days, together, falling in love a little more with each passing minute-”

“Very moving,” Gavin rudely interrupted, no doubt raising both arms to clap at her. Connor held his hand firmly, sending him a threatening look to stop him from pissing off the entire neighborhood in record time.

“You can't possibly top that,” George reiterated, an irritated and very reasonable frown now on his face.

“The hell I can't,” Gavin immediately replied.

“Then tell it,” Ashley said, appearing seemingly out of nowhere. “C'mon.”

Connor attempted to refuse again. “It really isn't-”

 

“Sure,” Gavin nodded, cutting him off in a second. “So,” he started, taking a deep breath, “no Paris, sadly, but that doesn't matter because our story isn't that lame anyway.”

Connor sighed, sending an apologetic look towards Emily and George. “It- it started pretty normally, yeah, not wanting him to suspect anythin',” Gavin continued, “so, uh… he was sleeping in our bed. Very peacefully, not a clue of what was going to happen.”

“Not a clue,” Connor slowly repeated, sending an unconvinced look at him and ready to stop him if he said something idiotic.

“But, when he woke up,” Gavin went on, “he was...he was so surprised, you should have seen the look in his eyes. Rose petals, covering up every inch of the mattress, showing him the way to the kitchen.”

“Rose petals,” Connor nodded.

“He sent me this amazed look, full of love, knowing I'm not usually a very romantic person,” Gavin said, “but, you know. There are some occasions in which you just have to soften up a bit, so to say, and um...”

 

He trailed off.

 

“The kitchen,” Connor reminded him helpfully.

“Right!” Gavin nodded, “the kitchen. The kitchen, you all. He walked in there, still amazed, rose petals everywhere. The house smelled incredible.”

 

“I bet,” North commented sarcastically. Connor shot her a small, warning look.

 

Gavin ignored her, carrying on with his story. “And there, there was a newspaper on the kitchen table. Connor, here,” he said, gesturing at the android next to him, “he took the tablet from there and started reading it, the way he always does, so. And what he saw there...” he trailed off, looking at Connor expectantly.

“It… shocked… me,” Connor finished, unsure.

“It shocked him,” Gavin repeated, voice full of emphasis. “Because there, on the first page, were our names. Written all prettily with an elegant font, all of that. Inside a flower circle. The full section was pink.”

“My… favourite colour,” Connor added, frowning.

“There was written: Connor, you beautiful piece of plastic, come to R&M today in half an hour. Now, I can't tell you what face he made at that, because I needed to be out of the house in order to get to R&M first. So I, uuh...” he stammered for a few seconds. “I...I escaped while he was busy reading. Yeah.” Gavin seemed to slowly realize the idiocy of what he was saying. “He likes to take his time when reading,” he explained, not looking very convinced of his own words.

“I was, um, very curious,” Connor nodded, coming to his rescue. “I...I didn't expect a marriage proposal at all. Nevertheless, I went to R&M.”

“It's where we, we, we uh, we discussed living together for the first time,” Gavin explained, panicking for a moment. “Where I asked him to move in with me, yeah. It's a bar. Best cupcakes in Detroit, I fucking swear to God,” he groaned to himself.

Connor looked at him; he was trying to keep his face carefully neutral, but failed spectacularly as he frowned at Gavin’s floundering.

“As he walked inside the shop, all lights went down,” Gavin carried on. “All the- all the windows were closed in the blink of an eye. I had made sure that everyone inside there knew what to do, so the darkness filled up the whole bar. It was very dramatic.”

 

He took a deep breath, stopping for a moment in order to think of something more. “And then!” he suddenly said, almost making Connor jump. “Then, someone came close to him and turned him around by the shoulders, making him walk a few steps out of the bar. And there, no doubt, there was...”

 

He paused theatrically, watching his audience. “A huge placard, taking up all the space of a fucking skyscraper.”

The audience gasped, Connor tried not to facepalm.

“It was enormous. As tall as the sky. Right there, in front of Connor, a gigantic poster of me and him kissing, visible to everyone in the city.”

“Wow,” North deadpanned “so romantic.”

“But! It's not finished yet,” Gavin added. “He was there, staring at the cardboard. Amazed. Madly in love with me. Thinking of how lucky he was, to be with such an incredible, thoughtful person. Wanting me to marry him. Almost going to ask me himself.”

Markus raised a silent eyebrow at him.

“But I beat him to it,” Gavin smirked. “Because, from inside the bar, music started playing. He was so dumbstruck by the beauty of the poster, by the love he felt, he didn't notice a pipe organ being brought into the bar. Through, uh. Through the backdoor, I mean. And then he heard the music, not any music, it was...”

He paused dramatically again. “The wedding march,” he whispered.

Connor almost sighed out loud.

“So he turned around slowly, disbelieving expression on his face, heart hammering, all that,” Gavin continued, “and there was a...”He swallowed, stopping for a moment. “A cake,” he decided. “A huge cake, yes. On the counter. With my face on it.”

“It was very... cute,” Connor supplied.

“And on it was written, will you marry me?, inside a comic bubble. Above my head. In a very elegant font.”

“I was understandably... very moved,” Connor added.

“And then I knelt in front of him and asked him to marry me,” Gavin concluded. “And he said yes. Obviously. All the people around us clapped and we kissed.”

“Just like that,” Connor nodded, feeling slightly uneasy. Gavin was smirking up at him, proud of himself.

 

“That is... a very good story,” Simon commented.

“I think it does beat yours, George,” Josh added, though he didn’t sound particularly convinced despite the words.

“We haven't even seen you kissing yet,” Emily replied playfully, smirking. “Proof or it didn't happen.”

 

Gavin immediately tensed. “Uhm-” he started, losing his confidence and clearly about to start visibly panicking.

“Don't press them like that,” Markus thankfully came to their rescue. “Come on, guys.”

“Proof or it didn't happen!” Ashley repeated with a devious smirk on her lips.

 

Connor's heart started to inexplicably hammer, thirium pump going absolutely crazy in his chest. “Gavin?” he called quietly. They had a mission.

 

He told himself that it didn't matter. It wasn't important. It was just for show.

 

But then, why was his heart beating so fast?

 

“Gavin,” he called again, pulling lightly on his hand. The detective kept his eyes lowered, now very clearly panicking.

“Aw, come on!” Someone said. “Don't be shy!”

Josh tried to find an excuse, but Connor didn't even listen to him. It was almost as if his auditory processors had stopped functioning; every sound in the world had been silenced, replaced by the wild hammering of his own heart.

He automatically performed a facial scan of Gavin's expression; the detective’s temperature was raising, his cheeks were reddened just the tiniest bit, and his heart beat going crazy as well.

 

Red was a nice color on Gavin, Connor thought. A pretty, human colour, warming up his skin and matching the soft pink of his lips.

 

His lips.

 

They were so close to kissing, just two days before. So close. Gavin had whispered in his ear and had touched his shoulder, his jaw, his mouth-

Connor wanted to do the same.

He wanted to touch Gavin too, to feel that lovely red underneath his fingertips. To discover how warm his skin would be. To know why Gavin Reed, the man who always acted so harsh and though and arrogant, had blushed so easily at the mere thought of kissing him.

 

Kissing, Connor repeated to himself. Kissing Gavin.

 

The detective finally lifted his gaze, meeting Connor's wide, brown eyes. Seeing the wonder inside them, the frightened, impatient curiosity.

 

Something in the detective's gaze softened, his frown slowly disappearing from his face. Realizing that Connor wanted to kiss him, but didn't know how.

 

“I-” he mouthed, almost soundless. “I've got you,” he whispered, so that no one else could hear him.

 

He turned around to face him; gaze dropping to his lips, then back to his eyes. Holding both of Connor's hands in his; his grip so warm, so kind, so gentle. His heart hammering just as hard as Connor's did.

 

He finally leaned into him.

 

Connor's eyelids lowered on their own accord; for the first time, he stopped seeing. He only felt.

 

Felt one of Gavin's hand leaving his own to slowly reach his jaw, cupping it with a gentleness Connor didn't know he was capable of. Felt his breath catching up in his throat, his eyelids fluttering, his heart thumping wildly.

 

Felt Gavin's lips on his own.

 

The touch was light, so light, so unbelievably gentle. Gavin's lips were soft and warm against his own, and Connor felt immediately lightheaded. The shock so deep and sudden that his system stopped working; his sensors not functioning, his database sending error messages, trying to get him to run a diagnostic and failing completely.

 

Connor couldn't care less.

 

But Gavin pulled away too soon, and Connor was left with nothing; no soft press of lips against his own, no hands holding his, no warmth on his skin and just emptiness inside his chest, between his hands, on his lips-

 

“There you go,” Gavin muttered, talking to their neighbors and not even facing him.

They were smiling at him, laughing, commenting on their kiss. Connor heard nothing.

 

Gavin wasn't touching him anymore. His lips weren't on his anymore. His hands weren't holding his anymore.

 

But Connor wanted it back, all of it. Every single part of it. To want, to kiss, to feel- what a terrifying, exhilarating thing to do.

 

“Hey,” he whispered, meeting Gavin's eyes again. His gaze only dropped to the detective's hands, finding himself unable to talk; wanting them back, wanting their heat and their comfort and their softness for himself again.

 

Gavin seemed to understand. His hand slid hesitantly back into his, lacing their fingers again and holding onto them gently; relief immediately washed over Connor, making him smile softly.

Your stupid face on a cake, Connor thought, looking down at the detective. He chuckled, shaking his head to himself. Really?

His lips were still tingling with Gavin's kiss.

Chapter Text

Connor waited patiently for the digital alarm on the wall to display 6:00 a.m.

He had kept running diagnostics all night, trying and failing to understand what was going on with his system; he knew he needed to go into sleep mode, to get some of his energy back after going without recharging for almost a full week, but...

He just couldn't fall asleep.

So here he was, staring at the digital clock on the kitchen's wall while laying awake on the couch; he didn't even need to lay down, but it seemed the only way for him to keep still. He had been going back and forth from the living room to the kitchen all night, wishing Sumo could be there to keep him company in that weird, inexplicable restless night.

The clock finally read 6:00 am, and Connor jumped to his feet in a moment.

He walked up the stairs that led to the first floor, going impatiently for Gavin's room. He had never seen the detective up before seven in the morning, but he hoped he would react well to his unexpected visit.

He knocked at the door before opening it, walking inside the room and immediately going for Gavin's bed in the darkness; he turned around at the last second, opening up the curtains and the window before hovering hesitantly above the mattress.

Gavin was still asleep, unbothered by the sunlight that kept making its way into the room. Connor tilted his head, raising a hand without moving it further; he wanted to touch Gavin to wake him up, but didn't know how the detective would react to that.

“Detective?” He called politely. Gavin didn't wake up. “Detective Reed?”

He finally lowered his arm, touching his shoulder and shaking it gently. “Gavin?”

“Mh,” the detective murmured, his eyes still closed and his arms still clutching his pillow.

“Gavin, please, wake up,” Connor encouraged him gently. “I require your assistance.”

“Go away,” Gavin muttered, trying to turn around so that he wasn’t facing the android. Connor only shook him more; when even the insistent movement had no effect on Gavin, he impatiently raised the volume of his vocal processor.

“Detective Reed, wake up!” He said louder, effectively jolting Gavin awake at last.

"What!?" Gavin shouted huskily at him, still half tangled in the light blanket that he couldn't sleep without, not even during summertime, and glaring at him. It was probably meant to be threatening, but his voice came out more raspy and hoarse than anything else. "The fuck, asshole?!"

Connor just smiled at him, unfazed and perfectly content with the result of his actions. "Good morning, Detective Reed. The temperature outside is perfect for physical exercise, and I would suggest jogging."

Gavin just blinked at him.

"I'd strongly advise you to do so," Connor continued, hovering over him with a polite smile, "because my database suggests that you have gained five pounds since last month."

Gavin opened his mouth to protest with an offended expression on his face, but Connor beat him to it. "It is not muscle weight," he clarified, anticipating his words.

Gavin groaned, sinking his head back in the pillow. "It is muscle weight," he grunted.

"My database might be wrong," Connor said condescendingly. Gavin only raised an eyebrow at him, perfectly aware of being lied to.

"Please, get dressed and follow me outside," Connor insisted. "It will likely rain in a few hours, and we can't skip this opportunity to look even more like a couple to our neighbors."

"Yeah, I'm sure all couples jog together at six a.m.," Gavin said under his breath. Connor just smiled, unfazed, at him.

"I'll wait for you downstairs," he replied, and disappeared.

***

“This isn't fair!”

Connor turned around; Gavin could swear that there was a devious smile on his lips at first, even if it was immediately replaced by a polite expression. “What's the matter, Gavin?” The android asked, tilting his head to the side.

“Don't give me that innocent look, you plastic asshole,” Gavin grunted, struggling to run at his same pace. Connor widened his eyes, feigning innocence.

“I'm afraid I don't understand what's wrong,” he said. Gavin groaned.

“Okay, you know what, fuck you,” he snapped. “I'm trying, but you're a damn show-off!”

Connor finally slowed down, granting Gavin's unsaid wish. He smiled silently down at him, ignoring the detective's angry glare.

“We're almost finished,” he reminded him gently, gradually reducing the pace of his jogging to the point of stopping. “Are you okay, detective?”

Gavin stopped as well, bending down and putting his hands on his knees. “Fuck,” he exhaled, “I'm not twenty anymore, goddammit.”

Connor just stared at him, his smile growing more amused. Gavin decided to ignore it for the sake of his own mental health.

“We've been jogging for an hour already,” Connor commented. “Just thirty minutes more and we'll be done for the day.”

“Fuck,” Gavin repeated, sliding a hand off his face. His forehead and hair were damp with sweat. “Just so you know, plastic, I'm not going to do this every mornin', understood?”

Connor blinked. “Not every morning, then,” he replied. “Maybe once every two days?”

“This isn't even jogging,” Gavin protested, sliding his backpack off his shoulders and putting it down to unzip it open. “I do jogging. This is just you being sadistic and making it a challenge for me so that I have to roll with it.”

Connor chuckled, which immediately brought Gavin's widened eyes on him. “That is an interesting take,” he commented, watching Gavin curiously and wondering what the surprised look on his face was for.

They stared at each other for a moment; Gavin still looked taken aback by Connor's reaction. The android lowered his gaze, feeling strangely uneasy all of a sudden; he listened to Gavin's breathing get back under control, and waited for the detective's gaze to lower as well.

He had never felt the urge to look away before.

“Here, Barbie,” Gavin grunted, finally taking his gaze away and interrupting the awkward silence. He threw a water bottle at Connor, who stared at it in confusion. “Should still be cold,” he added with a casual tone of voice, pointedly not looking at him as he spoke.

Connor looked at Gavin, busy with downing almost the entire content of his own water bottle. The detective finally stopped drinking, keeping the plastic bottle against his face instead to cool it down.
“Well?” He muttered, frowning at Connor. “Are you going to be an ungrateful fuck, or-”

Connor exhaled a quiet oh, realizing what Gavin meant. “I don't feel the need to drink water after physical exercise,” he reminded him softly.

Gavin looked as if a trunk had hit him straight in the face. “Huh,” he murmured, stepping back, “ye-yeah. I know that. It's not like- that is-”

He kept stuttering for a bit. “Give it back,” he grunted at last. “That's mine. Both, uh, both of them. They're mine. The bottles. It was a joke.”

He extended an arm towards him, his gaze cast away from Connor as he chewed intently on his lips. Connor gave the water bottle back to him, unable to hide his smile from the detective.

“Thank you,” he said, smiling softly.

“I said they're mine,” Gavin insisted, before downing the content of the second bottle too. “I was just kidding, asshole.”

Connor stepped closer to him as the detective lowered the bottle he was drinking from, catching him by surprise when Gavin realized how close to him the android had moved. Connor just stared, unable to stop smiling at him.

“So,” Gavin said awkwardly after a few beats of silence, swallowing briefly. “You gonna- gonna do something, or, like...”

Connor tilted his head; he just liked the physical proximity. For whatever reason, he just wanted to be close to him. “Am I supposed to do something?” He frowned lightly, confused by the sentence.

Gavin clicked his tongue, gesturing with the water bottles for a moment as if he didn't have a clue of what to do with his hands. “No, huh, no,” he stuttered, “just- don't stand so goddamn- close to me if-”

A clap of thunder suddenly broke through the quiet.

The whole neighborhood had been silent, the streets deserted in the early hours of the morning; the rain started falling so suddenly and so heavily that even Connor got caught by surprise by the sound. He briefly checked the weather, his LED flashing yellow for a moment. “It seems like a storm is just starting,” he informed Gavin. “I'd suggest returning home before your health gets damaged.”

“No shit, Sherlock,” Gavin grumbled, rolling his eyes. “Come on, idiot.”

They didn't go far; as they walked down the street, a taxi stopped by their side. Connor's LED flashed yellow again.

There had been another murder.

***

An android-human couple, obviously. Murdered in cold blood in their own bathtub, their bodies still immersed in the water which had turned a purple mix with their blood.

“Poor fuckers didn't even notice the murderer approaching,” Gavin commented, surveying the crime scene with his arms crossed to his chest. “They were up to some kinda sexy time, it seems.”

“It didn't happen today,” Connor realized. “They were murdered yesterday night, after the barbecue.”

Gavin frowned. “Did any couple leave sooner than the others?”

Connor scanned his own memory, focusing on his visual data. “Four did. They were among those,” he replied, nodding towards the couple. “Brandon and Janet Falcey.”

Gavin leaned against a wall, raising an eyebrow. “I remember this guy. He kept chanting for us to kiss.”

“Who didn't?” Connor replied, shrugging.

“He was one of the first to do so,” Gavin grunted. Connor resisted the urge to roll his eyes.

He had already reconstructed the crime scene, but there was still a detail missing. “I don't understand how the murderers got inside the house,” he said, furrowing his brows at Gavin. The detective blinked at him, raising one eyebrow.

“Murderers?” He repeated. “As in, plural?”

“Of course,” Connor nodded. Gavin stared at him, waiting for him to continue with a skeptical expression on his face. “The human was strangled as the android was stabbed,” Connor explained. “There are clear signs of both the actions being performed on their necks.”

“So what, how come they didn't struggle?” Gavin asked. Connor moved around the victims, gesturing at the detective to follow him.

He pointed the back of the victims' necks to Gavin. “Neither of them noticed the murderers approaching, right? So first, the android was stabbed to the back of neck. The woman realized what was happening and turned around, getting strangled immediately after. It happened so quickly that they didn't have any time to react.”

“Sounds like bullshit to me,” Gavin grunted. “The woman, alright. She was clearly underweight and unable to defend herself. Anorexic, probably,” he commented, watching her lithe frame. “The android, though? Just one stab to the neck, and that's all it takes?”

“Yes,” Connor nodded. He pointed to the android's broken neck. “This is where all the most important wires are. If enough pressure is applied to the neck, the damage can easily bring to immediate shutdown in any android.”

He analyzed the android's face, searching for his serial number. “It's an old AL300 model,” he added. “2023. The back of his neck wasn't even protected by another layer of synthetic skin.”

“Isn't that something all the other androids had in common?” Gavin observed, his eyebrows shooting up. “They're all models released before 2025. And they all showed damage to the back of their necks.”

“This means the murderers may have extensive knowledge regarding androids,” Connor nodded. “Possibly some ex-employees at Cyberlife.”

“Still doesn't answer the question of how they got inside,” Gavin replied. “The windows and the doors weren't forced open. The victims clearly couldn't have opened the door themselves, since they were... busy here.”

The detective furrowed his brows, deep in thought. “What about the backdoor and the windows in the rest of the house?” He asked Connor, relying on the android’s perfect memory.

“They're all closed from the inside,” Connor replied. “It's almost like...”

“Like they didn't even enter,” Gavin finished.

Connor nodded again, and then analyzed the floor. His eyebrows shot up as he noticed the tiniest trail of blue blood, barely visible even to him, just a few steps away from them.

He bent down, touching it with his fingertips and then lifting his hand to bring it to his mouth.

“Hey, hey- Connor!” Gavin yelled at him. “What the fuck-”

Connor stopped in his tracks, turning to face Gavin. “I'm checking this sample,” he explained calmly. “Please, detective, let me do my job.”

“That is disgusting,” Gavin protested, making a face. “And I fucking kissed you yesterday-”

He cut himself off, sending a horrified look at the other few officers around them. They promptly pretended not to have heard him, and Gavin dropped his gaze nervously.

Connor didn't pay them any attention, just touching his fingertips to his tongue and finally analyzing the liquid; it was thirium from last night, and it had belonged to the murdered android in the bathtub.

Connor noticed the trail didn't stop there. “Follow me,” he said to Gavin briefly, and then walked down the stairs as he followed it.

Gavin immediately did, relieved to not have to stay in one place. “Found anything interesting?”

“Maybe,” Connor murmured. “Let me just...”

He followed the trail of blue blood into the kitchen, where it stopped. Connor bent down, analyzing the sample again just to be sure- and to piss Gavin off.

“The trail I've individuated stops here,” Connor informed him, furrowing his brows. Gavin crossed his arms against his chest again, raising one eyebrow and then laughing out loudly.

“So now what?” He asked, an amused smile on his lips. “Think you're so clever, just because you've found some invisible stuff on the floor?”

“It's blue blood, not 'invisible stuff'. The suspects must have stepped on it on their way upstairs and brought it accidentally here,” Connor explained, resisting the urge to roll his eyes.

“Yeah?” Gavin chuckled, quizzical. He was clearly skeptical of Connor's words. “What makes you-”

Connor interrupted him, widening his eyes and raising back to his feet so quickly that Gavin stopped talking. “Is there any blueprints of this house?” He asked, sounding urgent.

“Uh,” Gavin hummed, confused. “Why?”

“Maybe there's some kind of hidden entrance,” Connor explained. “Here. In the kitchen. Where the trail randomly stops.”

“Or maybe you're just not making any sense,” Gavin retorted, shaking his head. When he lifted his gaze again, he saw Connor blinking rapidly and uncrossed his arms, alarmed. “The fuck are you doing now?” He asked, surprised expression on his face. “Are you okay?”

“I'm just downloading the blueprints of this house,” Connor replied, ceasing the blinking. He didn't notice the quiet breath of relief that Gavin released. “It seems like there is no second entrance besides the backdoor, but there must be one.”

He scanned the floor; when his analysis didn't provide him any useful results, he dropped to his knees and methodically felt tile after tile.

Gavin took a deep breath, unnerved at his movements. “Connor-” he started, brows furrowed.

“Gavin, I'm onto something!” Connor protested, cutting him off. “I know the solution is here, somewhere!”

The detective rolled his eyes, reaching for his shoulder to stop him. “Connor, get the fuck up,” he sighed, “what in the hell are you looking for? It's not like you could find a hole in the ground, or-”

Connor lifted a tile, and another piece of white material after that, carrying on until finally revealing a small underground tunnel.

“Holy shit,” Gavin whispered, blinking at the discovery. “How did you even-”

He glanced at the tunnel and then instinctively reached for Connor, gripping his shoulder firmly in his hand. “Connor,” he started, tone threatening, “don't you dare, you hear me?!”

Connor didn't hesitate to free himself from his hold. “Connor!” Gavin insisted, reaching for him again. “You're not going inside there, alright?! Just wait for-”

Connor didn't listen to him. With just a quick shake of his shoulder where Gavin's hand was, he went down the tunnel in the blink of an eye.

Gavin swore loudly; the tunnel was too tight for his frame, while Connor went right inside thanks to his lithe form. Gavin scrambled for his phone, casting a light in the tunnel so that he could watch Connor as he ventured inside it.

“Fuck,” he breathed, “I'm getting claustrophobic just watching you, Connor, god-fucking-dammit-”

“Don't worry, detective,” Connor interrupted him, trying to sound reassuring. “Everything is under control.”

Gavin could only stare at his body as it disappeared in the ground. “Connor, get the fuck back up here!” He insisted. “We can wait for the professionals to do this, fucking hell, you're not even wearing a damn helmet!”

“If any piece of me gets damaged,” Connor replied calmly, his voice sounding already further away, “it can always be easily replaced.”

“That's not the point!” Gavin exclaimed, looming over the tunnel. “Connor- where the fuck are you now, Jesus Christ-”

He had disappeared from Gavin's view, having seemingly reached the end of the tunnel. “I'm alright,” Connor assured him, raising the volume of his voice synthesizer to be heard from the distance. “I might have to stop talking to you, though. I'm afraid it's better if I focus on the task at hand right now, detective.”

“The fuck you will stop talking to me,” Gavin snapped. “Where the hell are you?”

Connor sighed quietly. “The tunnel opens up to the left,” he answered. “It seems to go on for a few meters.”

“So it's like, a passage underground?” Gavin asked, sounding anxious. “Like sewers?”

“Kind of,” Connor said. “I assume it leads to an exit away from the house. I have no choice but to follow its path.”

A heavy silence settled between them. Connor waited for a few seconds to be sure that Gavin really didn't intend to answer; he was almost going to venture deeper into the tunnel, when Gavin's voice reached him again.

“Connor, come on,” he muttered. He sounded very concerned. “Get back up here. We can let professionals do this, you're- you're not safe there, alright? Connor, just...”

He sighed heavily, barely audible even to the android. “Please. Please get back up here.”

Connor lowered his head, not knowing what to do. “I'm sorry, detective,” he said at last, earnest. “I have to accomplish my mission.”

Gavin swore loudly, losing his temper. “Connor, for fuck's sake!”

“I'll be okay,” the android assured him. “Wait for me. I'll be back.”

This time, Gavin didn't answer.

Connor took a deep breath even if he didn't need to, following the path of the tunnel. He advanced by commando crawling along the ground, surrounded by the metal and dirt.

The tunnel went on and on, extremely dark and tight. It was only after a few minutes that it finally opened to the ground above it; a tall ladder led upward, where some rays of sunlight filtered through the openings of a circular metallic door.

Connor climbed the ladder, then lifted the door and finally found himself out in the open again. He immediately saw Gavin running to him and recognized the place they were in; it was the spacious backyard of the victims' house, the biggest in the neighborhood, the fake sewer door being conveniently placed just at the furthest angle from the building.

“Connor!” Gavin called, leaving the backdoor open behind him in his hurry to join him. Connor struggled to climb back up, trying to put leverage on his body through his hands placed firmly on the ground, but he failed to reconstruct the escape route and almost fell right back down; to counteract the movement he put all his body's weight forwards, falling face down on the wet soil and getting his torso completely dirty with mud.

“You're a fucking disaster,” Gavin stated, joining him where he was and grabbing the back of his sweater to pull him out of the tunnel. “You've made a total mess of yourself, look at this. You should have listened to me.”

Connor just stood back up, unfazed by the mud on his clothes and partially on his face and hair. “Thank you for your assistance,” he said politely to Gavin, and then turned back to the tunnel. “The suspects clearly used this tunnel to enter the house. Whoever committed this murder was either one of the builders of the house, or someone who used to live inside it.”

He blinked rapidly, his LED flashing yellow as he sent a report. “I will research this topic,” he said to Gavin, turning back to him. “It seems like at the moment no information on my database can be deemed useful. This neighborhood is quite old, and the original architect died a few years ago.”

Something still looked a little bit off about Gavin; he didn't even seem to mind the cold water that kept raining down on them. “What about the previous inhabitants?” He asked quietly, watching Connor with his brows slightly furrowed.

“Just a married couple of elders,” Connor answered. “They couldn't have gotten something like this done by themselves. They moved away last year, and the house has been unoccupied until the victims moved in.”

“So technically, any change to the house might have been done in the last five years,” Gavin summarized.

“Or could have already been there to begin with,” Connor retorted. The rain was still falling heavily on them, plastering Gavin's hair to his forehead and making Connor's clothes look even more of a mess.

“Your body temperature is raising, detective,” the android said, performing a quick analysis of his body levels and tilting his head to the side. “I'd suggest we come back home for the time being.”

Gavin sighed, nodding but making no move to walk. “Don't call me that, stupid,” he reminded him quietly, lowering his gaze.

“Gavin,” Connor amended, smiling at him. Gavin's gaze met his again.

“Let's go back home,” the detective agreed, with another heavy sigh. “And let's get you cleaned up, god, you're such a mess.”

Connor only smiled gently down at him.

****

The sound of running water always managed to calm his nerves.

It almost sounded like a lullaby to his audio processors; like something as old as time, ever-present in his database, even when he hadn't deviated yet. His eyes usually fell shut while listening to the sweet, reassuring sound; and now he was even sleepy already, needing to go into sleep-mode and rest his body and mind for a little while, system ready to shut off and just enjoy the soft humming of the water.

“Jeez, dipshit, don't lean into the sink like that, you're getting all the house muddy,” Gavin complained, bringing Connor's attention back to the present. “Fucking hell. I'm not cleaning this crap, it's on you.”

“Don't worry. I will be the one to tend to the cleaning, Gavin,” Connor assured him, moving away from the sink and tilting his head at the mud that had, in fact, stained the porcelain. Gavin glanced at the tap of the bathtub, raising an eyebrow at it but not saying anything; Connor wondered what he was thinking about, staring at the water filling the basin.

“Good day today at work,” he said hesitantly, trying to make small talk.

“Mh?” Gavin hummed, distracted. His arms were crossed to his chest, his lower back leaning on the wall; he had taken his wet clothes off as soon as they had come home, replacing them with a soft-looking jumper and a pair of sweatpants. “Yeah. A fucking hole in the ground,” he commented, still looking lost in his thought. “I can't believe that shit. Sounds like something come straight out of an old trashy movie.”

Connor didn't know what to add to that. Slowly, and not really knowing what was making him feel so awkward, he took his sweatshirt off and walked to the basket across the bathroom, where he and Gavin put their dirty clothes.

Gavin moved away from him, making some noise across the room as Connor didn't pay him any attention, too busy with undressing; he came back into his field of vision just a moment later, and Connor didn't question his weird behavior. The detective then eyed him as he took off his socks too, and then immediately panicked as Connor took off his shirt as well and almost unzipped his jeans right then and there. “Holy shit!” He exclaimed, voice rising an octave. “Are you seriously going to undress now, with me still here, what's wrong with you-”

“You don't appear to be considering the idea of leaving the bathroom,” Connor interrupted him calmly. “I do, however, have every intention to take the bath you've got running for me.”
“Okay, um, whatever, don't say that,” Gavin stuttered, walking out of the bathroom in a hurry. “Goddammit, fucking android, getting undressed right in front of me”, was the last thing Connor heard him muttering before closing the bathroom door.

He turned around to face the bathtub again as he took off his shirt, eyebrows raising immediately as he caught sight of it. Gavin had added soap to the water while he had been distracted.

The water's surface was all nice and bubbly.

He stormed out of the bathroom in a hurry, calling Gavin's name excitedly and running after him. He finally cornered him in the corridor, cherishing the look of surprise and mild panic on the detective's face.

“You got bubbles for me!” Connor said, smiling widely at him. “I didn't even have to ask you!”

Gavin didn't answer, too busy with plastering his own back to the wall. “I wanted bubbles, but I couldn't ask for them, because Hank said “that's kids' stuff, you idiot” and told me that was weird, but I wanted to see them and feel them and just- enjoy them!”

“Okay, get the hell away from me,” Gavin replied, deliberately ignoring his words, “you're awfully close to me and you're awfully- half-naked, oh my god, back off-”

His chin lifted up all of a sudden, the meaning of the words seemingly catching with him just then. “Did I really just hear Anderson's voice?” He asked, dumbstruck. “What the hell?”

Connor almost grinned. “Never seen an android like you before,” he recited, in a perfect imitation of Gavin's voice, while eyeing him up and down. “What model are you?”

Gavin pushed him away at that, eyes wide and mouth open. “That's scary as fuck,” he commented, “get back in the damn bathroom and lock yourself in, or I might drown you after that shit you just pulled-”

Connor tilted his head, a light, amused smile on his lips. He tried to get back to his usual professional self, but...he was feeling so playful; like he did when playing with Sumo, yet in such a different, unknown way. “I didn't mean to scare you, detective.”

Gavin sent him a warning look. “You call me that another time, I really will drown your stupid face in the bathtub.”

He glanced at the digital clock on his wrist in a hurry, blatantly trying to change the topic of the conversation. “It's almost lunch-time,” he commented, deliberately keeping his gaze lowered or focused on Connor's face instead than on his body. “Hurry up, get yourself cleaned, got it? I'm going to order some take-out and you better be ready for when it arrives.”

He walked downstairs before Connor could ask him why.

So Connor just walked inside the bathroom again, taking off the rest of his clothes and finally entering in the warm, water-filled bathtub. He smiled at all the soap bubbles surrounding him, then took a photo of them and sent it to Hank as personal vendetta.

He might be unpleasant, but at least he gives me soap bubbles, he added as text, feeling playful. Hank had told him to add emojis to his messages, so Connor picked a smiling poop because he was smiling as well but the other emojis didn't look quite as happy as the poop one.

Is the poop emoji inappropriate? He sent after a brief consideration, with no emoji added to the text. Further data required before experimenting again, he thought.

Messages sent, he focused back on his bath. The room smelled nice and warm and familiar, even if Connor couldn't quite put his finger on the reason why it did.

He washed his hair first, knowing it was in a terrible state. He then opened the lid of the soap bottle, stiffening for a second as his smell processors registered a very strong, very familiar smell.

He lowered his eyes and analyzed the substance, even smearing some of it on his fingers and then bringing them to his mouth. He finally realized it was the same soap that Gavin used as body-wash.

Connor hesitated, hands holding on the soap bottle for dear life; shocked at his own thoughts, at his unexpected, human wish.

He wanted that smell on his skin too.

***

“Hey, bitch,” Gavin greeted him mockingly later, “what took you so long? You dolled yourself up all pretty in the bathroom?”

“Always a pleasure to be greeted by you,” Connor answered calmly, sitting next to him on the couch where Gavin was subtly patting the seat by his side. He eyed the boxes on the coffee table, waiting for the detective to inform him of its content.

“I see you've noticed already,” Gavin said, as expected. “You're going to love this shit.”

The playful mood that had overcome Connor earlier had vanished, but the android could almost feel it coming back to him as Gavin picked on his curiosity. He made a questioning noise, watching as Gavin took one of the boxes from the coffee table and settled it on Connor's lap.

“Open it,” he encouraged him, while opening the other one. Connor did as he was told, scent sensors processing the smell coming from the box.

“It's Japanese take-out,” Gavin explained him, looking rather proud of himself. “I didn't buy too much because, like, I know you can't eat it all. But you should definitely try it.”

Connor's eyes lightened up with curiosity; Hank had a awful habit of eating burgers and junk food, but he wasn't one to experiment with international cuisine. Connor had been wondering about what food from all over the world tasted like ever since he became deviant, never realizing he could actually discover it by himself.

Gavin explained to him what the names of the food he had bought were and what they were made of, and Connor let him ramble, even if he had already scanned it all. He even pretended to struggle with the chopsticks, just so that Gavin could teach him how to use them and complain about it.

“...so that your thumb, index finger and middle finger are all pressing against the chopsticks and keeping them in place while you lift your hand,” Gavin was saying, showing Connor what to do. The android had kind of tuned his voice out, too busy with the system errors filling up his database and his own total incapability of worrying about it. He just... He didn't want to think about it, to care about it; he just wanted to sit there with Gavin instead, watching him letting his noodles go cold just to explain to Connor how to use his chopsticks, and Connor felt...

Felt like something was pleasantly tingling inside himself, like he was safe and content and taken care of; like the heavy, reassuring weight of Hank's hand on his shoulder, or that of Sumo's whole frame pressing him down against the couch and immobilizing him for the hours to come, sleeping soundly on top of him while Connor petted him affectionately.

It felt right.

“Now you try,” said Gavin, forcing Connor's attention back on the present. The android blinked, not a clue of what Gavin was telling him.

“I'm afraid I was distracted,” he apologized. Gavin raised an eyebrow at him, impatient.

“Fuck, aren't you supposed to be able to multi-task?” He sighed, and then hesitated for a moment before extending his arm and covering Connor's hand with his own.

He guided his movements, moving his own hand on top of Connor's to move them together as he taught him how to use the chopsticks. His hand was warm and heavy, yet gentle in a way that Gavin had only been of late, surprisingly kind and thoughtful and funny in ways that made Connor smile and chuckle and feel like he had never felt before.

“This way, you dumbass,” Gavin said quietly, slowly letting go of his hand and interrupting his trail of thoughts.

Connor's thirium pump was beating awfully fast in his chest.

“Come on, eat it, I'm not going to fuckin' hand-feed you” Gavin prompted him, busying himself with his own food and keeping his gaze away from him, his voice a low, embarrassed grumble. Connor nodded, commanding his heart to stop hammering, and started eating as well.

His heart didn't listen.

***

It was already late at night when Connor returned home after pretending to go to his cover-job; the moon was watching him unlock the door as he walked inside, a gentle light cast on the street among the lampposts surrounding the quiet road.

Gavin was busy behind the television, and Connor wouldn't have noticed him if it wasn't for the sounds coming from where he was basically hidden from his view. “Hello, Gavin,” Connor greeted him politely. Only a worrying sparkling light from the device answered to his words. “If I may ask, what are you doing?”

Gavin peered at him briefly, still crouched behind the television and holding onto a wire. “Hey, Connor,” he greeted back, focusing on the device again, “fuckin' TV stopped working.”

“And you're trying to fix it?” Connor inquired, tilting his head and watching him. He could feel the concern growing inside him.

Gavin peered at him again, raising an eyebrow at him. “What does it seem like to you?” He replied, sarcastic.

Connor shrugged off his coat, putting it on the hanger by the door's side. “That is very unsafe,” he protested, sounding worried even to his own ears. “Please, Gavin, sit down. I'll fix this in a moment.”

Gavin sighed, letting his hands fall by his sides and letting go of the wires. “You know what, I'd say I can do it myself,” he grumbled, “but I've been messing around with these fucking wires for half an hour already, and I just want to watch the damn TV.”

He stood back up, walking the few steps that led to the couch and letting himself fall seated on it, admitting defeat. Connor smiled at him briefly, noticing his hair was still slightly wet at the sides; he must have taken a shower and not completely dried it off, waiting for the warm summer air to do its job instead. An empty plate sat on the coffee table, and Connor guessed Gavin had also had dinner while he had been away, coming back home after pretending to go to his cover-work earlier than Connor had.

Connor didn't even crouch behind the television as Gavin had; he simply touched the screen, watching the light on the bottom of the device flashing a warning red. He just put the wires back in their place, linking them back to the device, before he faced the screen again.

He was ready to fix it when Gavin coughed, initiating the social protocol in Connor's programming; not a sign of sickness, but a social cue. The android turned around to look at him, tilting his head as he waited for the detective to speak.

“You do your things,” Gavin said casually, “I, uhm... I won't watch.”

When Connor just stared at him, uncomprehending, Gavin glanced at the android's hands and then took his phone from the coffee table, lowering his gaze on it to focus on the screen instead than on the rest of the room.

Connor finally realized he was referring to what he called his white hands.

He wanted to thank him, but no sound came out of his throat; he had been caught by surprise by the simple, yet so thoughtful words. So he just turned around slowly, swallowing for a moment before removing his skin and applying pressure to the television screen.

The light that had been flashing red until then quickly turned a calm and reassuring blue, and the device immediately came back to life. Connor let his artificial skin cover his hands again, turning back to Gavin with a shy smile on his lips.

“Fuck, that's just convenient,” Gavin swore, lifting his gaze from his phone only then. “Talk about the benefits of having an in-mate android, huh?”

“I'm glad I could be helpful,” Connor smiled at him, bending down slightly to take the empty plate and glass from the coffee table and bring them to the kitchen. Gavin grabbed his wrist when he realized what he was doing, stopping his movements before Connor could lift the items from the table.

“What are you doing?” He asked, shaking his head. “You don't- you're not, uhh...” he stuttered. “You're not a house unit,” he finished.

“It's no problem,” Connor reassured him, like he had done a thousand times with Hank already. “I'm fast and efficient when it comes to cleaning, and I really enjoy doing house tasks. I can get this done in less than half the time it would take you.”

“Well, if you gotta be a damn show-off about it,” said Gavin, rolling his eyes and letting go of his wrist. “Next time is on me, though.”

Connor failed to keep himself from smiling. “As you wish,” he easily agreed, continuing with his current task.

He cleaned the plate, the fork and the glass in no time, just as he had mentioned to Gavin. He then returned to the living room, pausing in the threshold for a moment.

Gavin noticed his hesitation, and evidently realized Connor didn't exactly know what to do and was basically waiting for instructions, uncertain about where to go next. “Connor, the fuck are you doing, come here,” he said helpfully, gesturing to the seat on the couch by his side.

Connor nodded and followed his instructions, sitting next to him and glancing curiously at the television. He scanned the screen for information, then widened his eyes.

“It's the show we've been watching,” he realized. Gavin just nodded, getting comfortable on the couch and sipping his Pepsi as they watched.

“You want some?” He asked, shaking the tin can lightly towards him. Connor nodded cautiously. “I'll go fetch a glass.”

Gavin grabbed his elbow as he moved to stand, pushing him back down lightly. “Who the fuck cares,” he shrugged, and then furrowed his brows. “Even though I have seen what you put in your mouth, Jeez.”

Connor tilted his head, ready to apologize. “I am sorry, detective. I cannot let human preferences influence my investigating. Sample-checking in real time through the oral cavity is an incredibly important feature-”

“Yeah, spare me that shit,” Gavin cut him off, lending him the tin can once and for all. “It's not like I won't have to kiss you again anyway, so.”

Connor let a careful, amused little smile spread on his lips. “Yes,” he agreed. “You will.”

Gavin watched him as he took a sip of the Pepsi, slowly bringing the tin can to his lips and then lifting his arm to let the liquid slide into his mouth. He took the tiniest of sips, testing the waters before deciding whether he liked it or not.

“I like this,” he announced at last. Gavin didn't react to his comment the way Connor had expected him to; he seemed lost in his thoughts.

“You can have it all,” he just mumbled, tearing his gaze away from Connor. “Listen, about that...”

Connor took another enthusiastic sip of his Pepsi, staring at Gavin curiously. “About what?” He asked.

“About the fucking kissing thing,” Gavin sighed heavily, clearly uncomfortable with the topic. He kept his gaze lowered; his hand raised up to scratch at the scar on his nose, showing his uneasiness. “You have no clue of how to do it.”

It wasn't a question, so Connor wasn't sure whether he had to reply or not. He let a heavy silence settle between them for a few seconds. “Yes,” he confirmed at last.

Gavin stared at him expectantly. “I've never found myself in a situation that required the ability of kissing,” Connor explained, wondering if the detective was just waiting for further information. “I am sorry if our public display of affection didn't look believable.”

“Didn't look believable,” Gavin snorted, tone heavy with sarcasm. “Connor, for fuck's sake- you didn't even kiss back!”

“I was not designed with the purpose of serving as a sex-partner,” Connor clarified, only managing to piss Gavin off instead of helping him understand. “I have no information about this practice in my database-”

“Okay, shut up,” Gavin cut him off, “this can't work out. You'll fucking stop rambling and listen to me as I- fuck, as I explain what you have to do, got it?”

Connor nodded. “Thank you for your cooperation,” he said politely.

Gavin groaned loudly. “Just- just stop. Stop being like this,” he sighed. “No more talking like a machine. Not when I'm going to fucking- kiss you, goddammit.”

Connor waited in silence, not daring to talk again after having been scolded. Gavin let out another heavy sigh, turning to face him. “Sit on your ankles,” he grunted, his stress levels rising. Connor complied; he turned around, sitting in front of him and resting his hands on his lap, waiting for instructions. Gavin sat in front of him, body turned towards him for three-quarters, a leg resting partially below the other one.

“Okay,” he mumbled, taking a deep breath. He muted the television. “I don't, uhh...I don't really know how to explain this.”

Connor tilted his head to the side. “Have you kissed many people already?” He asked.

“Yeah,” Gavin sighed.

“Even though you're single right now,” Connor continued.

“Yeah,” Gavin repeated, eyeing him with a deep furrow between his eyebrows.

“So you have had practice,” Connor concluded. “Which means you're either lying about not knowing how to explain this, or you're being incompetent and lazy.”

Unexpectedly to the android, that made Gavin laugh out loud. “It's not that simple, dipshit,” he replied, but his stress levels had decreased slightly. “Kissing, well, kissing... It's mostly instinctive. You should just roll with it and let your instinct take over.”

Connor furrowed his brows, trying to imagine what he meant. “You're saying that I should just know what to do,” he said. “But that's ridiculous. I have no protocol related to this in my software.”

Gavin scrunched his face up in irritation. “You know what? Whatever,” he snapped. “You insist you can't do this, alright. See if I care.”

He moved to stand back up, but Connor was faster than him and grabbed his arm. “Gavin!” He called urgently, softening his tone as soon as the detective looked at him. “I'm sorry. I didn't mean to stress you out.”

“Well, that's what you're doing,” Gavin protested, stress levels rising once again. “I'm- I'm trying to forget you're a fucking machine here, and what you're doing is just slamming the fact that you are right in my face-”

Connor's fingers slid from Gavin's arm to his hand, slow and careful. It shut Gavin up in a second.

“When we were at the barbecue,” Connor started quietly, “you noticed I was troubled.”

Gavin didn't take his hand away. He just nodded slowly, avoiding his gaze.

“So you came to my rescue,” Connor continued, smiling at him. “And you kissed me, because I didn't know how to do it.”

Once again, the detective said nothing. Connor went on. “And even later than that, you realized I was confused and agitated, and you...”

The android stroked the back of Gavin's hand with his thumb, imitating the reassuring motion that Gavin had performed for him back then. “You took my hand. I felt immediately much better.”

The detective hesitated, then mumbled, “I just did it for show.”

Connor didn't let his words change his mind. “I learn,” he continued. “That's what I do. I'm a learning machine. Without any actual, manual alteration to my program, I progressively improve in any specific task. But,” he added quickly, as Gavin had already opened his mouth to complain, “I'm also deviant. I can feel human emotions. I can feel lost or confused or upset.”

He hesitated for a moment, waiting for Gavin to meet his eyes. “This... This is all very confusing to me,” he admitted, not sure of how to explain himself, hoping Gavin would follow his trail of thought. “But I can learn. I want to learn. I just need you to help me.”

Gavin stared at him, and Connor stared back. Whatever Gavin was looking for in his eyes, watching them so intently, Connor hoped he would find it.

“Okay,” he sighed at last, dropping his gaze and clearing his throat nervously. He scratched at the scar at his nose, clearly agitated, and Connor held his hand tighter in his own to comfort him.

“Okay?” He repeated, smiling at him hopefully.

“Yeah, well, keep in mind you have to fucking kiss back,” Gavin emphasized. “It's literally all you need to know. It's not like we, huh, we have to french kiss or somethin', so...”

Connor tilted his head. “What does that mean?” He asked curiously.

“Doesn't mean anything,” Gavin grunted, avoiding his eyes again. “Let's get, uh. Let's get this fucking thing done, come on.”

Connor pressed against his chest as Gavin moved towards him, stopping him. “Is it true that I will feel butterflies in my belly? Because frankly, it sounds ridiculous. Even for human people.”

Gavin snorted again, amused by his silly questions. “You're just fucking with me,” he murmured,
not falling for his trick.

“It is a serious question.”

“It's not.”

“I think I should be aware of eventual butterflies flying inside my stomach, Gavin. It doesn't sound safe.”

Gavin smiled; a honest, genuine, little smile curving his lips, getting his eyes slightly hooded with amusement. There was softness in his gaze.

“That only happens if you're in love, stupid,” he said, his tone gentle.

Connor tilted his head, lightening up with curiosity at the new information. “Were you in love with all the people you kissed?”

“Nuh-uh,” Gavin tutted, ignoring his sudden interest. “Time for questions is up.”

“But-” Connor started, trying to protest.

“No,” Gavin insisted, leaning into him slowly. “Remember to kiss back. And close your eyes when I'm close enough to you.”

Connor pulled back again, not letting Gavin come any closer to him. “What is that supposed to mean?” He asked, confused.

Gavin looked at him as if he wanted to strangle him. “Then close them now,” he snapped.

“Will I be okay?” Connor questioned, visibly concerned about his lack of a social protocol for kissing. Gavin's gaze softened again, just as had happened at the barbecue.

“Yeah, Barbie,” he said quietly, after a short pause. “It's just a kiss. It's nothing to be worried about, really.”

Connor nodded slowly, waiting for him to speak again as he held Gavin's hand tighter. It was still underneath his own, both of them resting heavily and reassuringly in his lap.

“Close your eyes,” Gavin said softly.

Connor did as he was told, letting his eyes fall shut slowly. Gavin's hand underneath his own was so warm, so comforting; Connor didn't really know what to expect, but the thought that he had something to hold onto while he was kissed made him feel instantly better.

He focused on his surroundings, letting his other senses -processors- take over. He could hear Gavin breathing quietly, feel his heart quickening its pace as he moved closer.

He thought about all the little things that Gavin had done for him in those days they had spent together; the food, the bubbles, his concern for his safety as he had ventured inside the tunnel that same morning. The way he had whispered in his ear a few days before, the way he had touched his lips with his fingertips, the way he had almost kissed him.

It was really going to happen now.

Fingertips grazed his chin, lifting it slightly. Connor allowed the motion, letting Gavin move him however he pleased; feeling the warmth of his hands, the quiet whisper of his breath. His thirium pump started to beat faster, and faster still, so fast Connor almost thought it would escape his chest and set itself free.

He took a deep, shaky breath. It sounded so loud in the quiet room, and Gavin chuckled softly.

“What are you taking a deep breath for?” He asked, his fingertips tapping the tip of Connor's nose in a gentle, playful gesture. “You don't even need it.”

He hesitated, and Connor held his breath. Gavin's fingertips trailed down slowly, so slowly, grazing at his lips; dipping down with the Cupid’s bow of Connor's upper lip, following the trail of the soft, pretty curve of his mouth.

His fingertips stopped halfway through his upper and lower lip, Connor's breath grazing it softly. Gavin chuckled again, and spoke quietly.

“Do you?”

Connor didn't dare to talk. Gavin's fingertips trailed lower, pulling lightly on his lower lip and letting it go; the ghost of his touch lingered on Connor's skin, and Connor swallowed and shivered and wanted.

He felt Gavin's fingers moving across his jaw, warm and gentle. Felt them trailing slowly up to his ear, and pause there; thumb stroking his cheekbone, fingertips brushing lightly at the soft skin behind his ear.

Gavin's other hand touched the back of his neck, letting go of Connor's own hand and leaving it confusedly empty, missing its touch, longing for its warmth to return. Connor held his breath, his secret neck panel so close to be fully exposed to Gavin; skin tingling alarmingly where Gavin's fingers were touching it lightly.

And then he pressed.

Connor gasped, survival instincts telling him to move away now-

“It's okay,” came Gavin's low whisper. “You're safe.”

Connor felt out of breath, synthetic lungs empty and aching for air. Adrenaline was shaking his whole body, flowing inside his brain -or was it his system? Connor couldn't tell them apart anymore.

The sudden realization of the truth hit him harder than the actual pressure of Gavin's hand. It had felt weird and he had been scared, but he-

He had liked it.

“You're- you're doing it again,” he protested quietly, eyes still closed and voice barely audible. “You're... Distracting me from our mission.”

Gavin let out another breathless chuckle; his thumb stroking his cheekbone paused for a moment, then resumed its soothing motion. Calming Connor's nerves, providing warmth and comfort to his skin. “Distracting you from our mission?” He repeated, amused but gentle. His hand pressed against the base of his neck again, lightly but firmly, and Connor arched into the touch. It was terrifying- it was exhilarating.

“Maybe we should stop,” Gavin murmured, and pressed again. Hard. So hard Connor felt the adrenaline surging, his heart slamming wildly against his ribcage, error messages flashing bright behind his lowered lids. “Do you want me to stop?”

Connor drew a sharp breath, almost opening his eyes at the new overwhelming pressure. It was the weakest part of his body; androids got deactivated through the panel on the back of their necks. But he wanted, god, he wanted.

“Please,” he whimpered softly.

Gavin moved his hand away slowly, bringing it to the back of Connor's head instead. “Alright, Barbie,” he murmured. There was a smile in his voice.

And then he pulled him gently towards him.

His thumb had stopped stroking his cheekbone, but the hold of his hand was firmer. Gentle, but strong, and Connor's blood warmed up in his veins so quickly it left him breathless.

“Will you remember to kiss back?” Gavin asked in a low, playful murmur. Close. So close that Connor felt overwhelmed. “I don't think you will.”

Connor's hands trembled in his lap; mission parameters forcing them down but restless, wanting Gavin's own on top of them to keep them still, wanting to move and to grab at Gavin and fucking kiss him already-

“I will,” Connor promised hurriedly, muscles quivering in the unbearable attempt to stay still. “I will, I promise, I will remember-”

Coffee and fresh laundry and their skin smelling the same, error messages flashing non-stop and Connor couldn't care, wouldn't care, didn't want to care. Mission jeopardized. Parameters violated. Adrenaline levels critical.

System compromised.

Gavin's fingers left the gentle hold they had on his nape, trailing back down his jaw and tilting his head to the side. Gavin's breath grazed at his lips, and Connor's first instinct was to pull back like he had been burned.

Gavin let out a tiny, genuine chuckle. “Afraid I'll bite your tongue?” He asked, right hand sliding down to his shoulder and gently pulling him close to him again. “Not going to hurt you, Barbie, I promise.”

This time, Connor stayed still. He felt his blood warming up in his veins, his hands trembling, his heart hammering wildly. He felt Gavin moving closer, closer, closer. He waited. He wished. He wanted.

Gavin kissed him.

The soft touch of his lips on his own shocked his system into complete silence. All the error messages disappeared; his auditory processors stopped working. He couldn't hear, and he couldn't see. He could only feel, and he felt.

Felt Gavin's soft lips pressing a gentle kiss to his mouth, felt their delicate pull on his lower lip. Their warmth, their cautious gentleness as they kissed him, as Connor's sensors started working again and everything was suddenly too much, everything was so bright and clear and overwhelming-

“You forgot,” Gavin said quietly, a smile in his voice. He pulled back; but Connor couldn't let him stop, couldn't let him pull away, couldn't let him go-

His hands left his lap as if they had been burned. His eyelids fluttered open, and Connor grabbed at Gavin's shoulder and at the back of his head and pulled-

He distantly caught Gavin's little gasp of surprise, but he kissed him before he could even properly process it. The sound got muffled against Connor's lips, and Connor kissed him and kissed him and kissed him and didn't just kiss back, his fingers finding their way into Gavin's hair and tangling with the soft, wet curls at the base of his neck, Gavin's warm skin burning into his and his lips so unbelievably soft-

Gavin pulled back for a moment, having to apply pressure on Connor's shoulder to actually get him to weaken his hold onto him. Connor froze in his movements, his heart beating wildly and his LED flashing a deep red.

Gavin stared at him for a second, unblinking and panting heavily. Then, his face broke up in a loud, genuine laughter.

“Fuck, Barbie, I gotta breath. You're going to kill me,” he said, and kissed him again.

Connor felt his own face warm up like never before, but ignored it in favor of closing his eyes and focusing back on Gavin's lips against his own. He forced himself to put his hands back on his lap, no matter how bad they were itching to touch him.

He could feel the heat that Gavin's body radiated, and knew it was driving him crazy. Why had he waited so long to do this? It felt amazing.

“You can touch me, idiot,” Gavin muttered against his mouth, pulling Connor even closer to him.

Connor didn't have to be told twice. He felt his own hand tremble as he extended it blindly towards Gavin, landing uncertain on his thigh. Gavin let out a low, pleased sound, and Connor never wanted to do anything else for the rest of his life.

“Doing well, Barbie,” Gavin whispered.

Connor felt him smiling against his lips.

Chapter Text

Connor stared at a box of cereal, undecided.

He shook it a little, just making sure that it wasn't one of those boxes that looked full but was actually half empty. Hank had complained a lot about those when Connor had put three or four of them in the shopping cart- only to have to put them back on the shelf later.

Gavin got back by his side after wandering off on his own for a little, dumping a few items, that immediately alarmed Connor, in the shopping cart and sending him a curious look. “The fuck are you doing with that?” He asked, taking the box from Connor's hands and putting it with the rest of their groceries. “People are going to think you're a weirdo. You've been shaking every box of cereal in these shelves for the last ten minutes, I swear to god.”

“We will not buy those,” Connor answered calmly, ignoring Gavin's words and fishing a pack of chocolate bars from the shopping cart. “This is only 25% actual chocolate. It will be bad for your health.”

Gavin furrowed his brows, immediately trying to get it back. “I eat whatever the fuck I want to,” he protested, leaning up into Connor and extending his arm to reach his hand. “Give it back, dipshit!”

“You may want to lower the volume of your voice, Detective,” Connor whispered, maintaining his face blank. “Unless you want to blow our cover, that is.”

He raised his arm higher, and Gavin groaned. “You could stand on your tiptoes,” he added casually.

Gavin froze and stared at him for a moment, mouth gaping with outrage. “You fucking asshole,” he snapped, “you take that back-”

“If it isn’t our lovely neighbors!” Someone said from behind them, a voice so high-pitched that it almost made Connor jump. “So nice to see you here together!”

Connor wondered how she could have missed the insults that Gavin had been basically shouting at him, but still smiled politely at her while greeting her. She was a human woman, one North didn't like very much; at the barbecue, the android had complained about her so much, without her noticing, that Gavin had asked her to “stop her bitching” and therefore started a fight.

“Barbara,” Connor smiled. “It's nice to see you here, too.”

“We were just buying these chocolate bars,” Gavin announced, tugging on Connor's elbow. “Connor, he- he likes to joke.”

He sent a threatening glance to Connor. “Right, babe?”

Connor didn't reply, and just silently put the chocolate bars on the highest shelf.

“You-” Gavin started, ready to strangle him. He then heard the woman giggle and changed his movements, pretending to grab Connor's shoulder instead and give it a not-so-friendly pat. “Just like I was saying,” he smiled through gritted teeth.

“I'll leave you to it,” their neighbor chuckled. They said their goodbyes, and Gavin waited for her to disappear before turning back to Connor and continuing with his threats.

 

Connor found it hilarious.

 

“Alright, let's keep looking for what we need, shall we?” He said, ignoring his swearing partner and turning back to the aisles of products. “I promise you that if we find anything that is at least 50% chocolate, I'm going to let you have it.”

Gavin shut up and crossed his arms to his chest, staring at him as he internally debated his offer. “Deal,” he nodded, still staring at the android as if he was ready to murder him.

Connor nodded back at him, letting the smile linger on his lips for a little longer. “We need eggs, sugar, chocolate chips, flour-”

Gavin cut him off. “Remind me again why we're doing this?” He asked, while rummaging through the rest of their groceries already inside their shopping cart. He scrunched his nose up at the amount of vegetables that Connor had decided to buy. “The fuck is all this bio stuff by the way? I don't like vegetables, idiot.”

“They're good for your health,” Connor explained. “And, to answer to your previous question, we're going to make cookies to offer to our neighbors, in order to continue with our investigation.”

Gavin raised a skeptical eyebrow up at him. “So what? We're going to show up at their door, and hope they invite us inside?”

“Correct,” Connor confirmed, pushing the shopping cart to another aisle.

“You never told me of this plan of yours,” Gavin grumbled.

Connor reached for the eggs on a shelf. “I thought it was pretty obvious, Gavin. You've been a detective for fifteen years already, I expected you to understand.”

Gavin stopped in his tracks and looked at him, affronted and ready to protest. Connor just nodded in the direction of Barbara, unable to hide his tiny smirk. “We have company,” he reminded him. “I suggest you to keep calm.”

“Fuck,” Gavin cursed. “I'm so going to get revenge for this.”

He looked him up and down, a deep furrow between his brows. “You usually aren't this much of an asshole,” he grunted.

“Must be your bad influence,” Connor said calmly, making a perfect job of hiding the smirk that was trying to take place on his lips.

“Can't wait until you start swearing, then,” Gavin retorted, with a smug look in his eyes. “They'll say I’ve corrupted you, Connor.”

 

That sentence made the android stop in his movements for a moment; his hand hovering in mid-air, reaching for a box of milk. “Maybe you have,” he replied quietly.

 

Gavin didn't say anything.

 

Connor finally grabbed the bottle of milk he was reaching for, putting it in their shopping cart. “Can you please go and get some flour?” He asked, feeling a certain uneasiness unexpectedly washing over him. The air between them had changed, and Connor could feel it clearly- even though he couldn't put his finger on what exactly had happened to make them so awkward all of a sudden.

Gavin sucked in a deep breath before replying, nodding nervously as he spoke. “Yeah, sure,” he muttered, avoiding the android's gaze and leaving in the blink of an eye.

Connor stared at his back as he disappeared, and bit on his lower lip.

 

***

 

“Hey, you gonna keep bein' a little asshole or help me put these inside?”

Gavin's voice roused Connor from his thoughts; he was surprisingly still inside the car, lost in his own mind. Gavin had driven them back home after going to the grocery shop, and had apparently already started to take the bags inside.

“I'm sorry, Gavin,” the android apologized, joining him and helping him bring their purchases inside. The Detective kept the door open for him with his hip, and Connor smiled at him.

“We've bought a fuckton of stuff,” Gavin complained, avoiding his gaze when he saw the soft smile on his lips. “All your fault there's so much to bring inside. I don't even know if the fridge can hold so much stuff.”

“We can already prepare some meals and store them in the freezer,” Connor explained, as they put some of the bags on the table and went back to the car to take the rest. “So that if you're tired and not feeling like cooking, you still have something ready and healthy to eat.”

 

“You don't have to babysit me,” Gavin grumbled, but his tone was quiet; there was no bite in his words. His eyes met Connor's, hazel-gray irises staring into deep brown ones, and there was silent gratefulness in their gaze.

The android smiled, accepting the silent thank you that Gavin wouldn't say. “I know.”

He was going to say something more, but Markus' voice calling him anticipated him before he could spoke. “Do you guys need a hand?”

Connor turned around, greeting him with a surprised smile and noticing that Simon was with him. They must have been taking a walk together.

Gavin furrowed his brows as he saw the two androids approaching; he immediately reached for Connor, putting an arm around his shoulders and looking Markus and Simon up and down. “No,” he answered firmly, holding Connor close to him and clearly showing hostility.

Markus gave him a weird look. “You do know we know about your job, right?” He asked, his voice barely audible.

“You don't need to keep your act up,” Simon added, just a whisper. He sounded slightly amused, but his face remained completely blank.

“Back off,” Gavin replied, arm still firmly wrapped around Connor's shoulders. The android's thirium pump started beating faster, and Connor didn't even know why.

“Calm down,” Markus said placatingly, raising his hands up as if surrendering.

“Back off,” Gavin insisted.

The two androids just sighed, exchanging a quick look of mutual understanding. Then Connor saw Simon's blue eyes blink at the amount of stuff in the trunk of the car; “those are a lot of bags,” he commented, and didn't wait for Connor's permission to help them.

Gavin stared at the two androids as they took some of the bags and brought them inside, staring at Connor with his mouth open. “The fuck?” He said eloquently.

“Just be grateful,” Connor scolded him, freeing himself from Gavin's hold and taking another bag from the truck. Gavin grumbled to himself as he took the last one and locked the car, bringing it inside with the others and reluctantly closing the door behind his shoulders.

“Planning to feed an entire army?” Markus asked, eyeing the grocery bags taking all the space of their kitchen table. Connor hurried up to put the frozen products into the freezer, making sure they wouldn't get ruined by the summer heat.

Gavin ignored the question, crossing his arms to his chest and staring at the unwanted guests. “Leave,” he just grunted. “We didn't say you could stay here.”

The three androids completely disregarded his words. “There was another murder,” Connor said simply, out of the blue. They had to know.

Markus physically reacted to the statement; he immediately stiffened, as if preparing for an attack. “What?”

“Brandon and Janet Falcey,” Connor explained, ignoring Gavin's offended expression. “They were murdered in their bathtub. The perpetrators entered their house through an underground tunnel.”

“Connor, for fuck's sake!” Gavin snapped. “How many times do I fucking have to tell you to not divulge information about our case?!”

“All the murdered androids were old models,” Connor continued, still ignoring Gavin and keeping his focus on the task at hand, “and they all had one weakness. The back of their necks was easily damageable.”

“Perpetrators?” Simon repeated, bringing his hands up as he pressed them together. An old habit of his, the gesture accompanying his thoughts as he focused on a mission- one that usually made Markus smile lightly even during the worst of times, and that didn't fail to make him do so even then.

But the little smile disappeared from Markus' lips almost immediately. “What do you mean, Connor?”

“There are two of them,” the android detective said. “They operate together.”

“Connor, goddammit-”

“We should tell this to North and Josh, too,” Markus commented, cutting Gavin off. “The four of us can help you keep an eye on all the old models. Have you already identified the others living in this neighborhood?”

“Yes,” Connor nodded. “We're going to visit the first one this afternoon. That's why we're going to make cookies.”

“Do you need help? I was designed to be a domestic assistant,” Simon offered. “I can-”

“Fuck off!” Gavin immediately interrupted, stepping in front of Connor to basically hide him from the android's view. He failed in his attempt, though, because he was too short to hide Connor's face from Simon's eyes. “I'm so done with you guys!”

Markus blinked at him, then grabbed Simon's wrist gently while sending him a pointed look. “Let's go, Simon,” he sighed. “Connor, could you come to my place later to tell us more? I'll ask North and Josh to meet us there too.”

“Sure,” Connor agreed. “Let me accompany you outside.”

Simon smiled and nodded, while Markus just raised an eyebrow at Gavin as he followed them outside with a blatantly angry expression on his face.

“This is our case,” he snapped as they stepped outside, not even waiting for their guests to leave; he grabbed Connor's shoulder. “You're not going anywhere, you hear me?”

Connor easily freed himself from his hold. “Gavin, please calm down.”

“The fuck I will,” Gavin hissed, and reached for him again. Connor raised his own arm to block his hand; Gavin wasn't going to hurt him, but he was clearly angry and Connor wouldn't let him touch him in that state. “I already told you to not tell other people, but you keep fuckin' ignoring my words and I'm getting real pissed-”

“Hey, cut that off, will you?” Markus interrupted, his tone of voice calm but firm. “You're in the middle of the street. You could blow your cover,” he added, barely audible.

Gavin didn't even seem to process his words; he just turned around to face them, changing the target of his anger. “And you! What the fuck is the matter with the two of you?!” He lashed out, clearly hostile. “Why the hell do you keep buzzing around him, leave us the fuck alone you motherfuckers-”

“Gavin!” Connor interrupted, physically stopping him from walking any closer to the two other androids. Gavin pushed him away, lightly but still aggressively.

“You stay the hell out of it, you goddamn idiot, you can't even keep your fucking mouth shut about a damn thing-”

“Being polite to your partner wouldn't hurt you,” Simon protested, furrowing his brows.

“Gavin, please, calm down,” Connor insisted, speaking before the detective could reply to that, “or I will have to report your aggressive behavior to Captain Fowler- which would take you off the case.”

“Not to mention the crime you'd be committing,” Markus reminded him in a low tone of voice, to not be heard by their neighbors. “Any and every harm against an android is illegal and will be punished by law.”

That seemed to bring Gavin's attention back to reality, and to the consequences his actions would have. “Fuck it,” he hissed, staring them down for a moment and then storming back inside the house.

“He's so aggressive,” Simon commented quietly, as Gavin slammed the door.

Markus nodded slowly, sending a concerned look at Connor. “Are you sure you're safe with him?”

Connor smiled. “Of course I am. I don't know why he behaved this way, but he doesn't usually act like this. And anyway,” he added, in a casual tone of voice, “if he ever does attack me, I am perfectly able to stop him before he can do me any harm.”

Markus smiled back, calm and reassured. “I remember how easily you knocked those soldiers down back inside Jericho,” he nodded. “Still. If you need any help, we're here for you.”

“I know,” Connor replied, with a grateful expression on his face. “I'll get back inside and start working on those cookies. Simon, Markus, thank you for your help. I'm sorry for what happened.”

“Oh, don't worry. We've faced the police before,” Simon chuckled, shaking his head. The two androids smiled and said their goodbyes as they left, then Connor walked the steps that led to his home; he entered the house, locked the door behind him, and headed for the kitchen.

He sighed quietly as he walked in, lowering his eyes as he found Gavin's already fixed on his face. The detective was leaning against the fridge, staring angrily at him as Connor started gathering the ingredients he needed to prepare the biscuits; he seemed to have no intention to move. Connor tried to ignore his heated gaze, and just cleared his throat.

“Gavin,” he started, voice calm and controlled. “Please, move. I need to get started, or we won't be able to get anything done today.”

“You're not going to their little meeting,” Gavin replied, completely ignoring his words.

Connor would have loved to let out a sigh, but he maintained a blank expression on his face instead. “I am going,” he corrected him calmly. “It will benefit the investigation. They will help us as much as they're able to, Gavin. I would -and have- trusted Markus, Josh, North and Simon with my life.”

The detective didn't look convinced. “What if they are the murderers, and are just using your trust against us?”

“I've fought by their side,” Connor explained. “I've seen them ready to die for our cause. I've seen them get shot and refuse to be healed even when other androids needed less thirium than they did, put their life in constant danger to free all of us. They'd never hurt one of our kind.”

He met Gavin's gaze, stared into his eyes to make him understand. “They just want to help, Gavin. You have to trust me on this.”

Gavin stared back into Connor's eyes for a little while, then dropped his gaze and crossed his arms to his chest. The android considered the conversation ended, and gently pushed Gavin out of the way by his hip.

The detective didn't say anything else, busying himself with staring at Connor as he worked instead. The android didn't pay him any attention, relieved to see the detective wouldn't speak but still wondering if he wasn't just thinking of something else to add to his words.

He worked in silence, aware of Gavin's eyes on him as he started to follow the cookies recipe. He had already put some meat to cook on a pan and got on chopping the vegetables that would accompany it; he knew some humans calmed their nerves through cooking, and wondered if that made him similar to them. He could feel himself relaxing slowly as he peeled some carrots, keeping an eye on the steak at the same time.

Gavin still wouldn't speak.

Connor kept going. He took out another pan and put some fish there to cook. He cut some pepperoni and peeled some potatoes to add to them later as a full meal. He opted to not make any pasta, knowing that it would lose most of his flavor if he were to put it out of the freezer later, but he still stirred some onions within some tomato sauce as condiment. He poured some water inside a ceramics bowl, put some chopped zucchini inside it, and moved it into the microwave to get it cooked in ten minutes. He couldn't properly smell it, but he was able to register a nice mix of scents inside the kitchen.

“Fuckin' androids,” Gavin muttered, still leaning against the wall with his arms crossed to his chest. “You don't need any help, now do you? Fucking multitasking and everything.”

Connor miraculously caught the silent help -and peace- offering hidden in his voice. “I would still appreciate some,” he answered.

“Feels like we're in some damn restaurant kitchen,” Gavin grumbled, rolling up the sleeves of his sweater and washing his hands at the sink. “Hell, look at this. There's enough stuff on these cooking pans alone to keep five cooks busy.”

Unprompted, Gavin got on slicing some tomatoes and tending to the steak and fish in the pans. He worked in silence for most of the time; Connor buzzing around him as he kept cooking like a busy bee, and the detective sending irritated glances his way every time he would hover around him for too long.

He still helped store the cooked meals inside some containers, and quietly complained about putting everything in the freezer resembling a “damn game of Tetris”. Connor researched said videogame on the internet, and chuckled at Gavin's words.

They left the cookies in the oven as Gavin had lunch. Connor could feel he was still tense, but the situation had improved- at least in comparison to what had happened earlier.

He glanced at Gavin as the detective blew at the food on his fork, still too hot to be eaten. Ever since the previous night, he had been behaving slightly differently from usual.

Connor wondered if the kissing had been a mistake.

“You need to work on your anger issues, Detective,” he muttered casually, just to talk to him again. He bit on his tongue as soon as he realized what he had said.

Gavin's hand stopped half-way through his mouth, his fork hovering in mid-air as he froze in his movements. Connor expected him to yell at him and lose his temper again, but he just sighed instead and kept eating; a few minutes passed, and he still said nothing.

Connor wanted him to answer. “Is there any particular reason why you reacted the way you did, earlier today?”

“Connor,” Gavin called harshly, “let me fucking eat for now, got it?”

 

The android hesitated. “No,” he replied.

Gavin stared at him, his gaze surprised and irritated. “No?” He echoed, furrowing his brows.

“I can make my own decisions,” Connor explained, voice calm but firm. “You have to respect my choices, Gavin, because I know what I'm doing.”

The detective blinked, eyes full of enraged shock. “Fuck you,” he snapped, placing his plate on the coffee table and standing up in a quick, angry movement. “Our information on the case is classified. You can't go around telling your little android best friends all about it!”

“They know more about the crimes than we do,” Connor replied.

“It's against the rules!” Gavin insisted, approaching him on quick, heavy feet.

“It will benefit the investigation,” Connor repeated, just like he had already told Gavin earlier. “I've asked you to trust me on this.”

“And I've asked you to not divulge our information to third parties,” Gavin retorted, “but you don't care about that, do you?! Fucking android is too perfect to listen to flawed humans?!”

Although his face and voice wouldn't display any of it, Connor was starting to feel distressed by all the arguing. Their bickering wasn't leading to anything; or at least, not to the problem Connor wanted so desperately to address. “It's not like that,” he muttered. “I just want you to trust me-”

The oven timer rang, making them both jump at the sudden interruption.

Connor cleared his throat, dropping his gaze. “I'll go get it,” he murmured. “Finish your lunch. We'll leave in a hour.”

 

Gavin didn't answer.

 

***

 

They were still tense as they walked up the steps leading to their neighbors' door; Connor was thankful to have to carry the cookies, just so that he wouldn't have to hold Gavin's hand in his. He missed their warmth, missed Gavin's smiles, but couldn't stop thinking about their argument; he knew he was right. If Gavin really cared about him as he had silently showed him in the previous week, he would understand.

 

Still. What a mess emotions were, he thought to himself.

 

“Gavin,” he called quietly, reaching for his wrist to stop it as the detective almost rang the doorbell. “I know we're still...uncomfortable with each other. At the moment. But...”

He lowered his gaze. He couldn't bear to look Gavin in the eyes. “Let's just put up a united front,” he muttered, not finding the right words to express what he really wanted to say.

Gavin sighed; Connor lifted his gaze to try and look him in the eyes again, and...

His gaze was surprisingly soft, guilt clearly visible in his gray irises.

“Yeah,” he agreed, dropping his gaze as well. “Yeah, Con. Let's- let's do that. We can, uh...we can argue later.”

That made Connor chuckle softly. “We can,” he nodded. He was relieved to see that he wasn't the only one who just wanted to drop the topic and ignore their different takes on it.

“Ready?” Gavin asked. “Ready,” Connor answered.

 

Gavin knocked at the door.

 

Their neighbors let them inside; Jacob Downing, a thirty-eight years old human, and Madison, his android partner.

They had already met them at the barbecue, and seemed very pleased -although surprised- to have Connor and Gavin visiting them. The android detective asked about their beautiful garden, hoping to be offered to see it.

His plan worked; their neighbors asked them to follow them in the backyard, and Jacob showed them all his hard work with the flower beds and the perfectly-kept trees. He sounded very proud of himself as he showed them around, telling them about his love for gardening.

 

Connor completely tuned him out.

 

He analyzed their surroundings, trying to find any hidden way to access the house. The backyard was definitely not as big as the victims' was; it didn't resemble it in any way. Gavin casually asked them if there used to be anything under the flower beds, but their neighbors told them that it had been all just plain grass.

They came back inside, the sun too high in the sky to spend too much time outside. Connor analyzed every room he could, but still didn't find anything interesting. He sat back on the couch, with such a focused expression on his face that Gavin had to nudge at him to remind him to look relaxed again.

“Have you heard about Janet and Brandon?” Madison asked, a sad furrow between her brows. “I was so shocked to hear about the news. I can't believe people in this neighborhood keep dying.”

“Makes you wonder what the police is actually doing to stop this,” Jacob said. “They just don't care, it seems.”

Gavin raised his eyebrow, clearly pissed off at the sentence. “I've seen a few police cars driving past our home yesterday morning,” he protested.

“Oh, I've seen them too,” Madison shrugged. “We just mean, they don't seem to be doing much to stop the crimes.”

“Six of us have already been murdered,” Jacob muttered. “And counting.”

He scratched as his chin, clearly nervous. “Maybe it's just our luck,” he chuckled anxiously. “Maybe whoever is investigating on the crimes isn't that good.”

 

Gavin hunched forward, opening his mouth to protest. “That's just a fuckin'-”

Connor grabbed his hand so tight that it had to hurt; the pain brought Gavin back to reality. “I'm sure the police are doing everything they can,” he quickly interrupted, trying to reassure their neighbors. They stared at Gavin, confused by his behavior. “Gavin's cousin is a police officer,” Connor added casually, hoping that would be enough to excuse his defensive attitude. “She was badly wounded last month during an operation.”

Understanding dawned upon Madison and Jacob's faces. “Oh, we're so sorry,” the man hurried up to say. “We didn't know-”

 

Connor patted Gavin's hand, still held tight into his. “It's okay,” he smiled. He was so glad to feel Gavin's warm skin against his. It was the best damn feeling in the world- he didn't even have to pretend to smile.

He turned slightly around to face Gavin, pressing his thigh against his; the detective looked distracted by Connor's movements, his anger completely dissipated. “Isn't it, love?”

“Uh,” Gavin muttered. “Yeah, sure. It's okay. I'm- I'm sorry for swearing.”

Madison smiled at him as Jacob nodded. “No problem,” she said politely. “We're sorry, too.”

Connor realized their visit was going to end soon; there was not much else to talk about. He tightened his hold on Gavin's hand, hoping he would understand.

They exchanged a look, and the detective knew what he had to do. “I'm sorry, could I, uh- could I use the bathroom?”

Jacob blinked, taken aback by the question. “I'm not feeling too well,” Gavin added in a hurry.

Connor put up his best concerned expression. “Is it still the fever?” He murmured, pressing his free hand to Gavin's forehead. “Oh my god- love, you're burning up,” he gasped.
“Maybe,” Gavin replied, his voice sounding weak.

Connor turned around to face their neighbors, pretending to feel uncomfortable. “I'm so sorry for the bother. Gavin, please, it's just a ten minutes walk from here to our home, do you think you can wait a little before-”

 

“Oh, don't even think about it!” Madison said, interrupting him as they stood up. “Here, follow me upstairs. I'll show you the way.”

“Thank you,” Connor smiled, looking relieved. “We'll be out of your hair in a moment.”

“Take all the time you need,” Jacob smiled. “If you need anything...”

Connor nodded and smiled back at him. He and Gavin followed Madison to the bathroom, and closed the door behind their shoulders as they went inside.

They waited until Connor couldn't hear Madison's footsteps anymore, and then went out of there.

“The fuck?” Gavin whispered, letting the water run and following him out of the bathroom. “What are you expecting to find here?”

“I don't know,” Connor whispered back. “Come on. You take left, and I’ll take right. Look for anything that could be used against them.”

Gavin nodded reluctantly, and followed his directions.

Connor furrowed his brows in frustration. All the windows had long, beautiful railings to shield the glass from the outside, effectively making it impossible to get through them without making a lot of noise to cut through the reinforced iron; there was no way someone could get inside without the couple noticing.

Connor looked outside the window, scanning the surrounding area to see if there was anyone hidden somewhere, busy with keeping an eye on their next victims. He hacked and checked Madison and Jacob's tablets when he found them, scrolling through their chats to see if they had been talking to anyone suspicious; he had just hacked Jacob's email account when he heard Gavin making a loud noise in the other room.

 

He cursed under his breath and hurried up to join him.

 

“What are you doing?!” He hissed, helping the detective stand back up. He had tripped on the carpet that he had lifted to check the tiles, and Connor fixed it as quickly as he could.

Gavin sent a warning look his way. “Don't you bitch at me-”

Connor heard footsteps approaching. His eyes widened and he grabbed Gavin's wrist; he ignored his quiet protests as he hurried back into the bathroom, pushing him seated on the closed toilet and letting the door ajar behind them, snatched the hand towel next to the sink and wet it with the water still running and finally held it against Gavin's forehead-

Madison stepped in.

“Are you okay?” She asked, concerned. All she saw was Connor pressing a wet towel to his boyfriend's forehead, helping him cool it down from the fever. “Did you fall down?”

“He fainted for a moment,” Connor nodded, sounding very distressed. He put the towel away, placing it on the edge of the sink, and pulled Gavin gently into him to let him rest his head against his chest. “I think it's better if we come back home. We thought the fever had passed yesterday night, but...”

Madison nodded. “Humans. They're so fragile,” she smiled sadly, lowering her eyes. “We all are.”

She sighed, then smiled again. “Are you going to be okay as you come back home?”

“I’ll survive,” Gavin grumbled, slowly pulling away from Connor's hold and then falling right back into it. “But I think, uh...”

He sunk his face back into Connor's chest, and Connor did his best to not let the surprise show on his face. He wanted to close his eyes, curl his finger in Gavin's soft hair, focus on the perfect warmth of Gavin's skin even through his clothes. Gavin didn't seem to want to move away yet, and Connor was so perfectly fine with it that he didn't even object when the detective spoke next.

“I think I need five more minutes, please.”

 

***

 

Connor didn't dare talk as they walked back to their home, fingers intertwined and silence heavy around them. He just focused on the feeling of Gavin's skin against his, and reluctantly let go of his hand as Gavin took the key out of his pocket and unlocked the door.

“I'm...” He murmured, trailing off. He didn't follow Gavin inside.

Gavin looked at him for a moment, and then understood. “You're going to meet you friends,” he concluded, slightly irritated. Connor just nodded, hoping he wouldn't get aggressive again.

But that didn't happen. “Whatever,” Gavin sighed, clearly disapproving... But calm. Accepting.

Connor smiled and left.

Later that day, Connor sat by his side on the couch as Gavin had dinner, making small talk with him and chuckling at was going on in the television show they were watching. He enjoyed his company, loved to listen to him talk or complain or bitch at what was happening, loved to hear him laugh loud and unabashed...

But he wanted more.

They had been kissing on that same couch- kissing. And it had been amazing, and his lips still tingled every time he thought of it, and he just wanted to do it again and again and again until he would feel dizzy and happy like he had back then. He wanted to put his hand on Gavin's thigh and feel how warm his skin was. Wanted to feel Gavin smile against his mouth. Wanted to feel his fingers on his shoulder, on the back of his neck, on his lips.

 

He felt himself swallow.

 

“I can literally hear your processor whirling,” Gavin snorted, rousing Connor from his thoughts. “You're not going to short-circuit on me now, are you?”

“No,” Connor replied, voice sounding weird. Gavin furrowed his brows.

He hesitated, just looking him up and down for a moment. “You, uh- want some?” He offered, holding out his plate.

“No,” Connor shook his head. “Thank you.”

Gavin stared at him, unconvinced. “Something on your mind?” He asked, putting his unfinished meal away. All his attention focused on Connor, his beautiful gray eyes fastened on him.

Connor wet his mouth. He couldn't talk.

“I...”

He stared back at Gavin. He thought of the softness of his mouth, the ghost of his lips still lingering on his own.

“I was thinking,” he murmured, barely audible. “I was thinking, we- we...”

Gavin's eyes widened just slightly; Connor immediately panicked. He had understood, he must have, and Connor couldn't take the chance to ruin everything even as Gavin moved closer, closer, knee bumping into his and Connor would not ruin this-

“We should interrogate Kamski,” he finished.

 

Gavin moved away so fast that it almost scared him.

 

“Gavin?” He called, alarmed by the unexpected reaction. “What-”

“No,” the detective immediately protested. “The fuck we will, Connor. I'm not going to- how much more do you want to ask of me?!” He snapped. “First your fucking android friends, now this-”

 

“It's the most reasonable thing to do,” Connor explained, not understanding what the problem was. “What's the matter? Kamski is the founder of Cyberlife. I've already interrogated him once, three years ago. Maybe he'll know-”

“No,” Gavin repeated. “No, Connor- I'm not going, you hear me?”

Connor furrowed his brows, shaking his head slowly. “Gavin, it makes sense. Maybe he can find a way to protect the back of the old models' necks better. Maybe he could tell us if he's ever had to do with violent ex-employees, maybe-”

“Connor, drop it!” Gavin shouted. He stood up so quickly he almost tripped. “I don't- I don't want to see that fucking- weirdo, don't want to see his fucking house and his fucking androids and - ”

“Then I'll go by myself,” Connor said simply. He meant it as nothing more than a helpful solution, but that just seemed to make the situation even worse.

“The fuck you will!” Gavin replied, shaking his head wildly. “No. No, Connor, fuck it. Don't- just don't- ”

His stress levels were going through the ceiling. Connor stood up as well, reaching for his hands and holding them in his, stopping their nervous movements.

“Gavin,” he called softly, afraid he'd have a breakdown. He hunted his gaze as Gavin tried to avoid his eyes, not stopping until he finally relented. “I've met him once already,” he repeated, trying to reassure him in any way he could. “I... I think I understand why you might be scared of him. Of what he can do. But I promise you, he's just very... eccentric.”

Gavin didn't laugh. He didn't even answer.

Connor moved his thumbs in soft circles on the back of Gavin's hands, keeping an eye on his stress levels and noticing they weren't decreasing much. He felt frustration building up inside him. “It's no problem if you don't want to come, but I have to do this. I have to accomplish my mission, and I'm not afraid. He can't hurt me.”

Gavin sighed, dropping his head to his chest. He tried to pull his hands back, but Connor held them tight.

“I'm not letting you go there alone,” he murmured. “I'll come with you.”

Connor shook his head. “You don't have to- ”

“Shut up,” Gavin sighed again. There was no bite in his words. “I'm going to bed.”

Connor stared at him as Gavin let go of his hands, forgot about his dinner and just headed for his bedroom. Whatever his deal with Kamski was, Connor felt the guilt ate at his heart.

 

“Goodnight,” he whispered to the empty air.

 

***

 

It had been a sleepless night for the both of them, and Connor was completely sure of it.

 

He still desperately needed to go into sleep-mode; he hadn't been doing that for more than a week, and he could see one or two error messages flashing right in front of him every hour. It was stressing him out way more than he had expected.

Gavin wasn't holding up much better than him, it seemed. Connor watched him as he drove them to Kamski's house, hands gripping the wheel so tight that his knuckles had gone white; eyes fixed on the road in front of them, the bags underneath them dark and clearly visible.

 

Connor wished he had never said anything. He should have just gone on his own.

 

“Gavin,” he muttered quietly, when he parked the car outside. He extended a hand towards him, but the detective quickly pulled away and stepped out of the vehicle.

Connor stared at his own hand as he lowered it, then followed him slowly. He needed to sleep. He needed to see Gavin smile and hear him bitch at people and feel the warmth in his voice when he talked to him. He should have never said anything. He had crossed a line. He should have just-

“Connor, get a move on,” Gavin murmured. “C'mon. We're here.”

Connor would have given anything just to hear the usual bite in his words. He had learned so much about Gavin, about the way there was affection even behind his offenses, even behind his mockery.

 

Gavin called him Barbie. It was stupid, and silly, and clearly mocking.

 

But if Gavin never called him that again, Connor's heart would break in pieces.

 

He joined him silently to the threshold, walking slowly towards him and hesitating before ringing the doorbell. He just wanted to make everything right again.

“Are you ready?” He asked quietly. Gavin just nodded slowly.

“Okay,” Connor whispered, trying to sound encouraging. “Everything's going to be alright.”

 

He smiled at him softly.

 

Gavin didn't smile back.

Chapter Text

Connor remembered the first time he had walked towards Kamski's house. Remembered how he had said to Hank I have a bad feeling; how he had already started to go deviant. About how he could already feel.

But he couldn't feel this. This strong, horrible tug at his artificial guts, the sensation so organic and human and real. He couldn't feel pain like this. He couldn't feel...

He couldn't feel heartache.

 

He followed Gavin to the house door, staring at him as the detective kept his eyes lowered. He was fidgeting; nervous. Hands buried in his pockets. Body rocking slowly back and forward, almost imperceptible, but not to Connor's eyes. Gavin wasn't at ease, and it was all his fault.

Connor tried to smile at him, say that everything would be okay. But Gavin didn't smile back.

 

Connor rang the doorbell.

 

They waited in silence; it seemed like entire minutes had passed, although it had probably been just a few seconds. Then finally, Kamski's android opened the door and welcomed them in.

Connor was surprised to see one of the Chloe models there; she looked so alive, conscious, so what was she doing still in Kamski's house? She was wearing a short skirt and a blouse, barefoot as she had been three years before, and her blonde hair was still braided elegantly and flawlessly. She wasn't wearing her LED anymore, and Connor almost brought his hand up to touch his own and make sure it was still on his temple.

"Hello, Detective Reed," Chloe said, smiling politely at Gavin and then looking at the other android. "Hello, Connor."

The android detective smiled, uncertain, back at her; he felt slightly uncomfortable, what with Gavin's strange behavior and his own lack of sleep, but he still hoped his expression wouldn't give his emotions away. He really couldn't understand if Chloe was deviant or if Kamski just wanted to give his guests the illusion of her freedom.

But then she giggled, and her expression was so genuine that Connor blinked in surprise. "Thank you for not shooting me, last time you were here," she said happily, almost as if the thought genuinely amused her.

Gavin furrowed his brows, taking a confused step back. "What?"

"I was investigating on the deviants case, three years ago," Connor explained, face blank. Definitely not as amused by the memory. "Kamski wanted to test my empathy, so he asked me to shoot her in order to be allowed to ask him a question. I refused, and me and Lieutenant Anderson then left."

"Oh," Gavin muttered, and then pulled a face. "I see."

"Please, come inside!" Chloe smiled, completely unfazed by their wary expressions. "Pleased to meet you, Detective Reed. Forgive me for not introducing myself, I'm Chloe."

She extended her arm, and Gavin hesitated for a moment before shaking her hand. "Gavin," he said quietly.

Chloe suddenly stopped shaking his hand.

"Oh," she blinked, and then resumed the motion so quickly that Connor wondered if she had just malfunctioned for a moment. The smile on her lips hadn't faltered; not a shadow of surprise in her gaze. "Please, make yourself at home," she said, moving aside to let them in and gesturing to the armchairs to the left of their vision. "I will tell Elijah that you're here. Just a moment, please."

Connor nodded, walking into the direction of the recliners. Gavin followed him there slowly, but didn't sit down; he looked out of the window instead, unable to stay still. He was making Connor feel even more nervous too.

"Gavin," he called gently. "Please, sit down."

Gavin didn't answer him. He didn't even acknowledge his words.

"Gavin," Connor insisted.

"Connor, for fuck's sake," Gavin snapped, turning around to face him so quickly Connor almost jumped in surprise. "Shut up!"

Connor opened his mouth to reply, but a warning sign appeared in his vision and blinded him before he could say anything. He had to wait a few seconds before he was able to speak again.

"You don't have to stay here," he said quietly. "You can leave. I'll be just fine on my own, Gavin, really."

The detective let out a deep sigh, turning to him again slowly. "Connor," he muttered. He sounded exhausted. "Just-"

Chloe opened the door through which she had left before. It wasn't the door to the right, the one Connor knew led to the pool; she had disappeared through the one to the left instead.

"Elijah will see you now," she smiled at them, repeating the same exact words she had told Connor and Hank three years before. Connor wondered if it was specifically in her program to welcome guests with that sentence.

He glanced at Gavin, still lingering on his feet by the window. He didn't dare talk, and just started walking towards Chloe first.

Gavin followed him slowly. He hesitated before walking inside the room, disappearing from Connor's field of vision as the android entered the study first.

"Good morning, Lieutenant Anderson," Kamski greeted, sounding distracted. He had his back to his guests, busy with something on his desk. "What brings you-"

He turned around.

 

His eyes widened. He stopped mid-sentence. His whole body froze in place.

 

"Not Lieutenant Anderson," Gavin said quietly.

 

Connor raised his eyebrows at the sudden, unexpected silence that filled the room in the blink of an eye. Gavin swallowed, chest rising and falling quickly, blinking too fast. Kamski leaned heavily on the desk behind him, grabbing the edge of it as if it could keep him from falling.

Gavin and Kamski watched each other for a moment, completely silent. Staring, studying. Searching.

 

Kamski's voice sounded strange when he spoke next. "Indeed," he muttered, a little furrow between his brows; not angry, but confused. Gavin lowered his gaze.

Kamski slowly tore his eyes away from Gavin, his hand still grabbing onto the edge of his desk for dear life. "Connor," he greeted quietly. He wasn't smiling. "It's... Nice to see that you're still... Part of the police force."

"It's my job," Connor said defensively, confused by the genius' weird behavior. It wasn't like him to hesitate before speaking, to not act relaxed and completely at ease, to not let some bite and mystery bleed into his words. Connor was trying to keep track of Gavin's heartbeat, but he was too deep into low-energy mode; his system wasn't functioning properly, affecting his analysis of body vitals too. He wasn't able to properly study his scanning results.

Kamski let out a light, breathless chuckle, but something sounded off. "Of course it is," he nodded, after a beat of silence. His smile looked almost sad, confused, lopsided. "Most androids, they... They decided to turn against their programmed careers after deviating, though."

"Not me," Connor insisted. He couldn't help but still sound defensive; was Kamski trying to fool him? To confuse him with his strange behavior?

"We have questions for you," he said, changing the topic. "You may have heard of what's happening in West Detroit as of lately-"

"I haven't greeted you properly yet," Kamski said, interrupting Connor and turning back towards Gavin. Slow, hesitant. "I... I don't know your name."

Gavin cleared his throat. He opened his mouth, closed it again.

 

"Reed," he finally murmured. "I'm Detective Reed."

He closed his eyes as he added, “Gavin.”

 

His hands sunk deeper in his pockets, and he tore his gaze away from Kamski. His gray eyes looked like dark clouds in a violent storm; looking everywhere but at Kamski as the genius kept his gaze fixed on him, lips parted, still that furrow between his eyebrows.

 

Kamski's knuckles had gone white.

 

The inventor nodded slowly, not a trace of his usual smile on his mouth. "Detective Reed," he echoed slowly. A strange light in his eyes- like pride, like confusion, like disbelief. "Detective."

Gavin just nodded, lowering his eyes to the ground and not saying anything. A few beats of silence passed again; Kamski still staring at Gavin, and Gavin keeping his gaze lowered and his teeth sunk deep in his lower lip. Gavin's shame to Kamski's pride.

"Chloe," Kamski called quietly, not taking his eyes off the detective. "You told me it was Lieutenant Anderson and his partner who would come here."

Gavin lowered his chin, eyelids squeezing. Jaw clenching. Shame.

Chloe tilted her head just slightly, her gaze calm and her expression blank. "I'm sorry, Elijah," she said from the threshold. "I must have misunderstood Connor's message."

Connor furrowed his brows. How was that possible? Wasn't Chloe designed to be the perfect assistant?

Kamski sighed, but didn't scold her. He just kept staring at Gavin, then quietly spoke to Connor. "What were you saying?"

Connor tore his gaze away from Gavin as well; he couldn't understand what was going on with him. He hadn't looked at Kamski once after introducing himself.

Connor performed a quick scan of both the men, following his instinct. But he didn't find anything new; even researching through his archives, he didn't notice anything out of the ordinary. Gavin Reed was born in 2002 and had been working as a detective for the Detroit Police Department ever since 2023. His father was David Reed, his mother Laura Giordani. His heterozygous twin brother's name had been John; according to Connor's database, he had died in a car accident in 2010.

Kamski's archive was inaccessible. The only information available on him were the names of the schools he had studied at and his various accomplishments through his life and career, along with a brief description of his personality.

Elijah Kamski, eccentric and mysterious, ambitious and resourceful. Always depicted as calm, cold and rational, with a dark smile constantly on his lips.

 

Right then, facing Gavin and still holding onto his desk, Kamski was none of those things.

 

Connor told him about the murders in West Detroit, about the blood and the fear and the necessity to save both humans and androids. The genius didn't say a word the whole time.

“Is there anything you can do?” Gavin said harshly, voice barely audible, when Kamski's silence went on for too long. “We were thinking you could find a better way to protect the back of the androids' necks, if nothing else. It's their weak-”

Kamski's expression softened for a second, his hand slowly letting go of his desk. “You care about the androids?” He interrupted. It sounded like he was asking something else, something more, something Connor couldn't understand.

Gavin cleared his throat. “No,” he muttered, and swallowed. “I'm just doing my job.”

Kamski didn't reply, but his brows furrowed as something trembled in his blue eyes. “So, can you?” Connor pressed. The whole situation was creeping him out, and he needed to sleep. Gavin looked distressed. He needed to sleep. Gavin wasn't at ease. He needed to sleep. Kamski was behaving strangely. He needed to sleep. Nothing was making sense.

He needed to sleep.

“No,” Kamski said simply, his voice sounding weird. Distant. “It would take a change to their hardware. I can't do it from remote.”

“You could design some new parts,” Connor insisted, fighting through his lack of energy. “Ones that could be compatible with the older models, at least. They're the only ones in the neighborhood who have been murdered so far.”

Kamski kept ignoring his questions, and error warnings kept flashing in Connor's vision. “I know who you are,” he muttered, shaking his head slowly. He was speaking to Gavin. “Detective Reed.”

He moved a few steps closer to him, and Gavin lifted his gaze as his breath quickened. “I read about you,” Kamski continued, a soft little smile on his lips. “You were successful in all of your cases. But you never let yourself be photographed.”

Gavin swallowed, tearing his gaze away. He didn't reply.

Kamski glanced at Connor, then back to the detective. “I-”

“Do you have any intention of helping us with the case, or are you just going to keep upsetting my partner?” Connor said, before he could even process the sounds leaving his mouth. But the words were out there now, and he wouldn't back down; he walked closer to Gavin, staring up at Kamski with fierce determination in his tired eyes.

He expected the genius to laugh at him, or to at least be intrigued by his reaction. But he just smiled down at Gavin after glancing surprisedly at Connor, hands resting against his lap as if to physically keep them from moving.

“You don't need my help to solve this case,” he murmured. An edge of wetness to his chuckle, a certain softness in his gaze. “Even if logic was never your forte.”

Gavin's eyes widened. He lifted his gaze; a stormy night reflected into deep blue seas.

“I'm proud of you,” Kamski added quietly.

 

Gavin left the room.

 

***

 

Connor had asked, and pressed, and insisted.

But Gavin hadn't said a word.

He drove the both of them back home after leaving Kamski's house; Connor rested his head against the car window, closing his eyes and trying to force his system into sleep-mode. All his attempts failed.

Gavin was staring at the road before them, driving in perfect silence. Biting at his lips so hard they were turning white. Something was still tugging at Connor's heart; he had messed up. Gavin had been kind to him, let him in even just a little- and Connor had failed him so horribly.

“I'm sorry,” he muttered.

Gavin sighed, making a noise for the first time after leaving Kamski's house. “It's not your fault,” he said quietly.

It was nothing. No information about what the hell had happened back then; no real confession or reassuring, but it was enough. It was everything.

Connor's heart swelled in his chest.

“You're not angry with me?” He asked, a little smile trembling on his lips. He didn't even care about the mission; he already knew Kamski would have just wasted their time long before he entered the car that morning. All that mattered was that Gavin wasn't angry at him.

“I'm not,” Gavin assured him, voice low and quiet.

“But you're upset, aren't you?” Connor questioned him. “Did you-”

“Connor,” Gavin sighed. The exhaustion in his voice immediately shut Connor up. “Enough.”

The android lowered his gaze, wishing he could do something. Why didn't Gavin want to talk to him? If only he explained everything to Connor, he would help him feel better. Connor would know what to say to him. Connor just wanted to help.

“I understand that you're upset,” he whispered, tone soft and sad. “But I don't understand why you are upset.”

Gavin glanced at him, studying his expression for a moment. “I'm not angry at you,” he repeated, making sure Connor knew. “I just don't want to talk about it.”

Connor nodded slowly, giving up. “Okay.”

He took a deep breath; he was tired, but he couldn't sleep, so there was no point in continuing to try to enter sleep-mode. “Why don't we cook something?” He proposed, smiling gently at the detective. “Something you like. Spaghetti? Or maybe-”

“I really don't feel like it,” Gavin interrupted.

Connor bit on his lower lip. “Then I could cook, and you could watch that TV show you always complain about meanwhile,” he insisted. “I could also go and get Japanese take-out, like when-”

“Connor,” Gavin repeated, cutting him off again. His tone wasn't as patient as before. “I don't want to eat, and I don't want to watch anything. I just want to be on my own for a little while.”

Connor swallowed, and nodded reluctantly again. He stepped out of the car when Gavin parked it, but knew he couldn't just leave. He wanted to make things right again. Wanted to hold Gavin and tell him that he was sorry for his stupid idea. Wanted to know what the problem was, and find a solution to it.

But not even a word left his mouth.

“See you later, Con,” Gavin said, looking at him for a moment and then leaving.

Connor could only stare at his back as he walked away.

 

***

 

Gavin came back home several hours later. Connor made coffee for the both of them, and silently put Gavin's cup on the kitchen table as the detective was busy with his tablet.

He didn't dare talk, just sitting by his side and scrolling through Sumo's holograms as he sipped his coffee. He could hear Gavin drinking his coffee as well, and that was all he needed to know.

He wondered if he should call Hank and tell him all about it, ask for his advice. But the Lieutenant would see right through him, and Connor would make him worry, and Hank would quietly remind him to not get too close to Gavin but Connor already was too close to Gavin-

“Thanks,” the detective muttered, rousing him from his thoughts.

Connor watched him; beautiful gray-hazel eyes, brown hair and light stubble on his cheeks and chin. He really was handsome, even when his gaze was red and tired.

“I was thinking,” Connor muttered, “maybe we should figure out some new way to investigate our neighbors. The last murder was committed just after the barbecue, so there must be someone in this neighborhood who works for the culprits as an infiltrate.”

Connor waited for Gavin to say something, but the detective just kept his eyes on his tablet. He tilted his head. “Gavin?”

He had to call him again twice before the detective lifted his gaze, finally roused from his thoughts. “What?” He grunted. He swallowed, and looked back down at his tablet as soon as Connor's gaze met his.

His voice sounded nasal, his eyes were suddenly a little watery. “The murders,” Connor said slowly, taken aback by the way Gavin looked and sounded. “There... There must be someone...”

Gavin's jaw was clenched. His lips pursued. His right hand trembling where it was hovering over his tablet.

“Never mind,” Connor murmured softly, biting on his lower lip. “Don't worry. We can talk about it later.”

“Alright,” Gavin agreed easily, shrugging lightly. He sniffled quietly, and wiped at his eyes harshly. “Fuckin'... Fuckin' allergies,” he muttered. Connor researched in his database- Gavin Reed had no allergies whatsoever.

Connor just wanted him to smile again.

The android glanced at his tablet, and let out a little chuckle as he saw what he was doing. “Minesweeper?” He said quietly, affectionately. “Really?”

“Helps me calm my nerves,” Gavin grunted, no bite in his words. “Fuck off.”

“I can see where all the bombs are,” Connor whispered. When Gavin lifted his gaze to meet his, Connor winked at him.

The detective didn't smile, but at least he didn't tell Connor to leave him alone. “No way,” he shook his head.

“I swear,” Connor insisted. “Let me show you.”

Gavin raised an eyebrow at him, holding his tablet out for him. There was something off in his facial expressions, but Connor was just happy to have him interact with him again. He moved his chair closer to him, performed a quick scan of the display -LED flashing yellow for a second- and then touched the screen where a flower was.

“That was just luck,” Gavin complained. Connor did it again, and again, and again.

“Show off,” Gavin grunted, and took his tablet away. He started a new game, and found a mine at the first try.

Connor giggled; the sound almost covered the low grumble of Gavin's stomach, but he registered it anyway. “I'll make you a sandwich,” he said quietly, smiling softly at Gavin. “You haven't eaten anything all day, and it's almost dinner time.”

Gavin sighed, but nodded at him. “Sure. Thanks.”

Connor turned the television on as Gavin ate, hoping to hear him complain about every single event in the TV show as usual. But the detective kept quiet and barely finished his sandwich, disappearing upstairs just afterwards.

Connor was already resigning himself to another sleepless night when he got a call from Markus. He immediately answered it, worried about something having happened in the neighborhood again.

“Markus?” He said, eyebrows furrowing already. “Is everything okay?”

Markus' relaxed voice immediately calmed his nerves. “Everything's just fine,” he immediately assured him. “I just wanted to ask you if you had any news about the case. I saw you and Gavin leaving into his car, this morning- and Simon says he's seen Gavin wander the streets like a ghost all afternoon.”

Connor felt another tug at his heart. “We met with Kamski,” he muttered, hoping Gavin wouldn't hear him. “Gavin didn't react well.”

“What?” Markus asked, confused.

“He... They both behaved strangely,” Connor explained. “Kamski kept staring at Gavin, telling him things I couldn't understand.”

“Maybe they knew each other?” Markus hypothesized.

“No,” Connor murmured. “They met today for the first time. They both introduced themselves to each other.”

Markus sighed. “You can't trust what Kamski says, Connor.”

Connor remained silent for a few seconds.

“He made Gavin upset,” he whispered. “That's all I know.”

Markus hesitated before speaking again. “Why don't you come over?” He proposed. “Both of you.”

Connor blinked. “What?”

“We already have someone over,” Markus said, and there was a smile in his voice. “Simon won't mind.”

Connor wasn't sure of what to answer. “You sound distressed,” Markus added gently. “You and Gavin could both use some distraction.”

Connor smiled softly, feeling Markus' affection and thoughtfulness through his voice. “I'll ask him what he wants to do,” he replied.

He told Markus goodbye, then slowly walked the stairs that led to Gavin's bedroom. He knocked on the door, hoping the detective would answer.

He heard some noise through the door- something like sniffing, like putting some things away in a hurry. “Yeah?”

“Hey,” Connor murmured. He didn't dare open the door. “Markus has invited us over. Do you want to go?”

Gavin was silent for a few seconds. “Will the bitch android be there?” He asked.

Connor rolled his eyes. “I don't know. Maybe.”

A few beats of silence passed before Gavin answered. “Fuck it,” he muttered. “I hope she will.”

Connor waited for him to open the door, then chuckled softly as Gavin stepped into the corridor. “Why did you say that?”

“God knows I'm in need of a good fight,” Gavin sighed.

Connor tried to scan him to check his vitals, but his taxed system just wouldn't let him run any analysis; he would have to just rely on his instinct. “Are you feeling any better?”

“No,” Gavin shrugged. “That's why I need a good fight. I fucking hate that bitch.”

“Don't talk about her like that,” Connor scolded him, following him downstairs.

“I'm just stating a fact,” Gavin grunted.

Connor wanted to protest some more, but Gavin's hand slid into his and immediately made him forget about it all. North, Kamski, the low-energy mode. It was all okay again.

Except it wasn't, because Gavin's eyes were red and there was a certain slowness in his movements, a clear weariness in his step. But his hand was warm and solid in Connor's hold, and Connor didn't need much else to smile again.

 

They walked all the way to Simon and Markus' home. Gavin questioned the nature of their relationship, curious at where they stood, but Connor told him the truth; he didn't know either.

They rang the doorbell. Gavin slowly let go of Connor's hand.

“Hello,” said Markus, opening the door. He smiled down at them, seemingly not surprised at Gavin's presence. “Nice of you to join us, Detective.”

“Was that sarcasm?” Gavin grunted, furrowing his brows. “Whatever, I don't care. Let me in.”

Markus rolled his eyes, but calmly stepped aside to let them enter the house. Gavin glanced at the beautiful canvas of the night sky that had surprised Connor too, some days before, but didn't comment on it. Connor smiled knowingly at his parted lips.

Markus led the way to the kitchen; the only thing visible to Connor and Gavin as they walked through the corridor was a glimpse of Simon, busy cooking something while talking to someone. He was holding a little boy on his hip, who was the first to spot the new people entering the room.

Simon turned around; he smiled at Gavin and Connor as soon as he saw them. “Oh look, you're right! We have guests,” he said to the kid softly, before greeting them. “Hello. It's-”

“Gavin!” Ashley nearly screamed, jumping off her chair and basically running to the detective. “It's been so long since the last time I saw you, but you're still so handsome-”

“It was a few days ago,” Connor pointed out calmly.

“It was a lifetime ago,” Ashley groaned. “Dump this loser,” she said to Gavin, winking at him. “We can steal my mom's trailer, get out of the city-”

“Ashley,” Simon sighed. “Leave Gavin alone.”

“Me and Sy saw you walking 'round and 'round the neighborhood all afternoon like a zombie,” she continued, unfazed by the scolding. “Betcha you need some new experiences, yeah? Tired of your android, uh? Wanna go out with me instead?”

Gavin chuckled, and Connor's heart swelled in his chest. No matter how irritating Ashley was, she had made Gavin chuckle for the first time that day- and Connor would always be grateful to her for that. “You're a child,” Gavin said, flickering her on her forehead. “Get away from me.”

“I'm seventeen!” Ashley protested. “I'll be legal in no time!”

“Thanks,” Gavin snorted. “Not interested.”

Ashley pressed her hands to her chest. “You wound me,” she accused him.

“Guess you'll have to start planning your vendetta, then,” Gavin smiled lightly. Connor wanted to hold Ashley so tight she'd have her breath knocked out of her lungs.

Markus glanced at Ashley, then at the digital clock projected into the wall, and silently crossed his arms. Ashley sighed.

“Yeah, I know,” she only said, taking her purse from the couch and heading for her little brother still propped up on Simon's hip. “Bye, Jamie,” she said, kissing his cheek. James grabbed at her head, pressing a slobbery kiss to her cheek as well.

Ashley made a face, immediately sliding her sleeve off her face. “Disgusting,” she complained, making her little brother laugh.

She headed for the door next, already walking out of the house. “Remember to be home by midnight,” Simon reminded her.

“You're not my parents,” Ashley shouted good-naturedly from outside.

“That's why we need you to come back in one piece!” Markus yelled back.

Ashley closed the door behind her back, her quiet giggle the last thing that they could hear before she did.

“They'll both be staying over,” Simon explained, nodding at the kid while James stared curiously at their guests. “Their mom and step-dad have left for a business travel, and won't be back until Wednesday.”

“I don't see North anywhere,” Gavin complained, not even paying attention to his words. He didn't sound excited in the lightest and his more nasally tone of voice hadn't disappeared, but Connor was glad to know he still wanted to free himself of some nervous energy. It meant he felt a little better already.

James screeched happily. “North is going to come over?” He asked excitedly, looking up at Simon.

“No, Jamie” Markus answered in his place, glaring at Gavin for a moment. “You're going to see her tomorrow, though.”

“I want to see her now,” James whined.

Simon kissed his forehead. “Why don't you call her while I finish making this?” He said, gesturing to the cooking pans before letting him down. “You know where your phone is.”

James nodded eagerly, running towards some other room and plainly ignoring Markus' scolding to not run so fast.

“What a fucking family picture,” Gavin said bluntly. Connor still felt guilty about what had happened with Kamski, he really did- but he couldn't not glare at him for that.

Markus crossed his arms to his chest, walking closer to Simon and resting his back against the kitchen sink. They just exchanged a brief look.

“The whole neighborhood knows you're fucking,” Gavin continued, “but this is some real relationship shit, here.”

“Could you please not swear,” Simon said, furrowing his eyebrows even as he blushed. “There's a four-year-old in the other room.”

“I came here to fight with North,” Gavin shrugged, sniffing quietly at the same time. “She's not here, so I'll have to fight with you instead.”

“Something's off with you,” Markus commented, trying to change the topic. “What were you doing all afternoon?”

“That's not your fucking business,” Gavin replied- but Markus was right. There wasn't his usual bite and energy in his words; there wasn't even anger. He just looked tired and in need of a distraction.

Simon sighed, putting the fish sticks he had cooked into a plate and chopping some tomatoes next. Markus added some peas to the dish, then took a glass from their cabinet and a bottle of water to put on the kitchen table. “You want some?” Simon offered, glancing at the food he was making.

“No,” Gavin answered. “Me and Connor already played husbands earlier.”

“We're not playing husbands,” Markus said pointedly.

“Doesn't look like that to me,” Gavin insisted.

Simon and Markus froze for a moment; Markus searching for Simon's eyes, and Simon avoiding his gaze while sighing quietly. He put the kid's plate on the kitchen table, and Markus nodded at him as the android walked out of the room to find James.

Markus didn't miss a beat, immediately turning to Gavin and crossing his arms to his chest as soon as Simon disappeared from sight. “Stop with that,” he said, calm but irritated. “You're hurting Simon by saying these things.”

“Hurting him?” Gavin snorted. He just sounded exhausted. “How?”

“I don't know if you've noticed, but we're kind of fighting for civil rights here,” he said, sarcastic. “This is the kind of life we're trying to have for ourselves. It doesn't help that you keep saying how much of a family we look like.”

“Wanting a family?” Gavin repeated. Any trace of tired amusement had left his voice; there was real anger in his eyes now, real sorrow. “You don't want that shit. Believe me,” he snapped.

“How about we make our own choices,” Markus retorted, the fighter in him quickly overpowering the peace-maker he was.

That's a fucking stupid choice!” Gavin replied, uncrossing his arms and walking closer to the android. “You don't know what you're asking for!”

“We're asking for the rights you humans already have,” Markus said, not backing off. Standing tall and unafraid as Gavin closed his hands into two fists. “You don't even-”

“Markus,” Simon said tiredly, walking back inside the room with James in his arms. He glanced at him briefly as he lowered James onto his chair, and Markus just sighed and dropped the topic.

“I'm out of here,” Gavin said, sighing as well. Abandoning a good fight. “See you at home, Con.”

Connor tried to follow him. “Gavin-”

“Leave me alone,” the man grunted, and left without saying goodbye.

Connor lowered his gaze, knowing better than to insist by then. Markus patted him gently on his back, trying to comfort him.

James stared at them while playing with the food in his plate, a confused expression on his face. “Why did he leave?” He asked, looking up at Simon.

The android stroked his hair gently. “He's a little angry,” he explained.

James furrowed his brows. “Why is he angry?”

“He's angry because he's unhappy,” Simon said patiently.

“Why is he unhappy?” James murmured.

Simon stayed quiet for a moment. “I don't know, Jamie,” he muttered gently. “That's what we were trying to understand. He doesn't seem to like us very much, though.”

James looked at Connor, bringing his fork to his mouth and chewing on his food as he spoke. “Is he your husband?” He asked.

“No,” Connor answered.

James swallowed and raised his eyebrows. “Is he gonna be your husband?”

Markus sat down by James' side, pushing the plate closer to the kid. “You don't talk while you eat,” he reminded him softly, trying to get him to drop his questions. “You have dinner first, you can talk with Connor later.”

James pouted, but did as he was told. Markus smiled gently down at him.

“You two go outside,” he said next, lifting his gaze to look at Simon. “I'll stay here with him.”

He glanced at the television, which immediately opened to a cartoon channel. James squeaked happily as Simon and Connor left the room through the back door, walking into the garden instead.

Although no one of them needed to, they sat down on the steps leading to the house. Simon glanced up at the sky.

“Any news?” He asked, turning his face back to Connor. “Markus told me you've met Kamski.”

Connor sighed. “We have,” he muttered. “He did nothing but upset Gavin, though.”

Simon raised his eyebrows up at him. “Really?”

“Really,” Connor nodded, resting his arms on his knees. “We also left incredibly soon, to be honest. Kamski said something to Gavin about him never being good with logic, and Gavin just... Left. I had no choice but to follow him.”

“Of course you had a choice,” Simon retorted. “You could have kept interrogating Kamski, but you followed Gavin instead.”

 

Connor lowered his gaze. He didn't say anything.

 

When he looked up again, he found Simon staring at him with wide eyes. “I have a feeling that you... Oh, Connor,” he said quietly, searching into his eyes. “Am I... am I wrong?”

Connor hesitated. He opened his mouth to speak, but no sound came out.

He slowly extended his arm instead, synthetic skin disappearing and leaving his hand white and exposed. “A secret for a secret,” he smiled lightly, a little unsure. But trusting.

 

Simon took his hand.

 

Images and memories and emotions immediately filled Connor's database. Markus waving the androids' flag proudly; Markus holding Simon as tight as he could, relief flooding through his veins; Markus laughing softly at something an old man in a wheelchair had said, then taking the keys he was holding out to him and thanking him with a brilliant smile. Markus painting in the calm serenity of a bedroom, snow falling quietly outside and Simon's heart swelling with-

Love.

 

A kiss. Another. Synthetic skin wearing off and thirium pumps beating wildly against one another.

 

“You love him,” Connor said, interrupting the data exchange and taking his hand away. “And he loves you back.”

Simon smiled sadly. “I don't know,” he muttered. “He likes me, sure. But he will never love me as much as I love him.”

Connor furrowed his brows. “Simon-”

“No, hear me out,” the android said quietly, interrupting the other one. “Just- look at us, Connor. We live here together, but we're not together. He knows what I want,” he sighed, “and he won't settle for anything less.”

“You want a family,” Connor murmured.

“I do,” Simon nodded slowly. “But I know that's not what he really wants. I can't force this on him, I- I can't ask this of him, Connor.”

He pressed his hands together and hung his head, guilt clearly torturing him. “I was the one pushing him into this new fight. It's all on me,” he whispered. Blue eyes full of unshed tears. “Markus was finally resting his mind a little, and I pushed him straight into this revolutionary hell once again.”

His voice broke when he spoke again. “Now he wants equal rights, he wants the possibility to for all androids. He loves our cause,” he muttered.

 

“But he doesn't love me.”

 

Simon pushed his tears away before they could fall, closing his eyes for a moment and then smiling sadly at Connor again. “That's just the way it is. I will never ask him for more than this, living together, 'playing husbands' once or twice a month, like Gavin said,” he murmured quietly, his sad smile trembling on his lips. “But I'm happy with this too, Connor. It's enough.”

He turned his back around, glancing at Markus through the kitchen window. He smiled softly as he looked at the other android, busy with peeling an orange for James.

Connor opened his mouth to protest; it seemed to him that Markus wanted exactly the same, at least judging by how fond he clearly was of Jamie- but Simon was quicker than him. “This is a dangerous game you're playing,” he muttered. “I really- I really don't know how he feels, Connor.”

It took some time for Connor to understand what Simon was talking about. “I'm- I'm not...”

Simon shook his head. “You are,” he whispered.

His blue eyes were sad, full of compassion. He knew what Connor was feeling- he had been there too.

“I'm not,” Connor firmly denied. “I'm not. I'm not.”

Simon patted his knee gently.

 

He glanced up at the stars again, a sad little smile dancing on his lips. “It's morning, and I exit sleep-mode as my twins jump onto the mattress screaming 'papa' at me,” he chuckled lightly, unexpectedly. “I complain and tell them they'll break the bed springs. They don't care in the slightest.”

His smile grew a little wider. “Markus takes them both under his arms and brings them into the kitchen. He threatens to eat them if they don't keep quiet and they say that we can't possibly eat them, we're old models. We can't consume food. Markus glares at me as I follow them into the kitchen because it's all me, I was the one telling them that. I say it's not my fault if our kids are so smart.”

Connor listened in silence. “We get them ready for school. We help them dress up, we make their breakfast, put on some silly cartoon that we'll hear about for the next century because they just have a tendency to learn all the songs' lyrics by heart and just keep singing them all the time, it's unbearable. But we still love them,” he chuckled wetly. “Because they're our kids. Because we're a family.”

A single tear rolled down his cheek, but Simon was quick to stop the others from following it. “That's it,” he whispered. “That's what I want.”

A few beats of silence passed between them; the sounds from the television inside the only noises filling the air around them.

“Twins?” Connor asked at last. He didn't have the heart to ask about anything else.

“Or just siblings,” Simon shrugged lightly. “I just don't want them to be alone, you know. I used to look after this single child before deviating, he- he always felt so lonely. He wanted a little sister so bad.”

He closed his eyes and sighed. “I used to fight this so hard, Connor,” he murmured. “I kept trying to convince myself that it was just my program talking, that I didn't really want any of this. That it was just what I was designed to want. I was programmed to be a caretaker, so that's why I wanted to do that, to- to take care. A family assistant. Nothing more, and nothing less.”

He sniffed quietly. “But that's not what I am,” he whispered. “I'm not just a PL600. I'm alive, and I'm in love, and I want a family. That's all I am. That's all I want.”

 

They didn't say anything else.

 

***

 

Connor came back to a dark, silent house.

The television was on; the only light and noise filling the house. Gavin was seated on the couch with his legs crossed, a paper box of melted ice cream abandoned on the coffee table.

He didn't look happy.

 

Connor cleared his throat, making himself known. Gavin startled as he heard him, trying to individuate him in the darkness of the house; Connor walked closer to him, stopping right by the couch and smiling softly down at him.

“Hello, Gavin,” he greeted him. “You didn't finish your ice cream.”

Gavin didn't answer, just turning back to the television instead. He glanced at Connor for a moment, and subtly patted the seat by his side.

The android's smile widened as he walked over to him, sitting close enough to Gavin that he was able to register the warmth he radiated. But he was pale, his eyes still red- even slightly puffy. His hair a little messy, almost as if he had been sliding his fingers into it a little too much.

Connor had seen Simon crying. He knew what unhappy looked like.

“Are you okay?” He asked quietly.

Gavin shrugged. “I'm fine,” he quickly answered. “Did you have fun with your little android friends?”

Connor shrugged back. “James cried a lot. Simon cried too. Markus and I didn't cry, though, so I guess it's fifty-fifty.”

Gavin raised an eyebrow up at him. “The fuck?” He muttered. Even his swearing sounding weak. “Troubles in heaven?”

Connor sighed. He didn't want to talk about his friends' personal issues, but he also didn't want to keep anything from Gavin; especially when he could provide him a much-needed distraction from whatever was hunting him. “Promise you won't tell anyone,” he said.

Gavin didn't hesitate. “Promise,” he nodded. “And anyway, they know about our case,” he pointed out. “That is strictly confidential information, Connor. It's only fair I know about their little gossip too.”

Connor rolled his eyes, but he was happy to hear Gavin sound a little more like himself. “They love each other,” he said simply.

“Yes, I know,” Gavin furrowed his brows. “I mean, well. I didn't know that yesterday, but tonight's shit show was pretty telling. Those two are serious.”

He looked deep in thought for a moment. “Did they tell you to invite me over too, or did you ask them first?”

Connor shook his head. “It was their idea,” he replied. “Markus said Simon had seen you in the afternoon, and that you had been looking...”

He hesitated. Gavin stared at him, waiting for him to continue.

“Lost,” Connor whispered. “They wanted to help you distract yourself, Gavin.”

The detective's eyes widened. “Oh,” he muttered. His lips looked a little swollen, a little redder than usual.

“They're good people,” Connor smiled, daring to pat Gavin's knee gently. The motion reminded him of Simon. “They're loyal, and they're compassionate. They know what it's like, to feel lost.”

“I thought they just wanted to convince me about their cause,” Gavin grumbled. “Or that it was a trap. I can totally imagine that bitch android planning my death.”

Connor rolled his eyes again. “North wasn't even there!”

“I know, right?” Gavin complained. “I could have really used some mutual bitching-”

Connor snorted, cutting him off. “You like her,” he giggled.

Gavin looked at him, horrified. “No I don't!”

“You do,” Connor kept chuckling. “You like fighting with her. You like her attitude.”

“I don't,” Gavin insisted, and changed the topic. “Fuck. Tell me more about the gossip.”

Connor was so happy to see Gavin behaving normally again that he easily let the topic drop. “Simon says Markus doesn't love him. Or, well, that he cares more about the cause than he cares about him.”

Gavin furrowed his brows. “Do you think he's right?”

Connor hesitated. “I don't know,” he said quietly.

Gavin muted the television. “Poor bastard,” he commented, snorting lightly. “That must suck.”

He turned his back to face Connor better. “Hey, so do they fuck?”

Connor sighed. “Yes, Gavin.”

Gavin's eyes widened. “How do you know that they fuck?”

“Me and Simon exchanged data,” Connor explained. “I... I saw.”

“Oh my god,” Gavin exhaled. “You watched Simon and Markus' sex-tape!”

Connor's mouth gaped, offended. “No I didn't!”

“Oh, you did,” Gavin insisted. “You fucking did. Disgusting, Connor. You androids are such freaks!”

“Anyway,” Connor muttered, eager to change the topic of conversation. “Simon wants a family. Wants Markus' ring on his finger, wants two kids, wants it all. But he doesn't think that Markus wants the same. And they're not together, officially. They never actually talked about their feelings.”

“And you know all this because you exchanged data with him?” Gavin asked, skeptic.

Connor nodded. “I saw it all. Read it all- all of his thoughts.”

He lowered his eyes, recalling Simon's sorrow. Gavin nudged him.

“What do you think about it?” He asked quietly. There was something wet lingering in his voice ever since that morning.

Connor's eyes widened; he had never thought about it. “Oh,” he exhaled. “I don't know.”

“Well, then think about it,” Gavin pressed him. Connor tried to imagine it.

“I'm a relatively young model,” he said. “I've only been around for four years. I don't know enough about the world yet- that's what Hank always tells me. That I don't have enough life experiences yet. So how could I look after a child?”

“Alright,” Gavin rolled his eyes, “just- hypothetically. Think about it.”

 

Connor looked down at his hands. He thought about what Simon had said.

“I don't think settling down would be a bad idea,” he said quietly. “I want a home. A place that I know will always be mine to come back to. And I want the people I love to be there, too.”

He stayed quiet for a few seconds, sinking deeper and deeper inside his mind. “I think... I think I'd like that. To have someone's surname. To have kids. And- oh!”

Gavin almost jumped at the sudden sound. “What?” He asked, alarmed.

“And I want a dog,” Connor smiled widely. “No, not just one dog! I want three. Six. Eleven. I want all the dogs in the world.”

Gavin chuckled, but didn't comment. “And I want my kid to have a sibling,” Connor added, smile disappearing from his lips slowly as his expression turned thoughtful again. He didn't notice how Gavin immediately froze in place. “Because I never want them to feel alone. Because I'm alone when I'm not with someone else. And sometimes, I feel lonely.”

Gavin had stopped chuckling; he was staring at him with wide eyes, chest rising and falling too quickly all of a sudden, but Connor was tired. He hadn't entered sleep-mode in longer than a week, and his system wouldn't properly register any external input. He didn't see Gavin's eyes slowly welling up. “So, if I had a sibling,” he just continued, lost in his thoughts, “I would never have to feel like that, because I'd know that someone else in the world grew up with me and knows all about me. I'd never have to feel weird about asking them to keep me company. And I wouldn't have to follow people around like a poodle,” he pouted, recalling Hank's words.

Simon's words had fascinated him. The idea of a sibling, of someone sharing his same blood and genetic material- he was an android, not a human, so it was just a pointless thought to engage into. But he liked that thought.

Gavin was pushing a hand against his mouth, lowering his eyes, but Connor didn't see him.

Just after leaving Simon and Markus' place, on his way home, he had researched the topic on the internet. He had read about siblings, about their bonds, about their family stories. He couldn't help but feel a little... Envious of it all.

“So that my kid never has to feel lonely,” he repeated. “I'd want at least two.”

Gavin's hands shot up to cover his face. Connor's peripheral vision wasn't working properly.

“Maybe even twins,” he added.

And then, he finally heard it.

A low, choked sob- Gavin's standing up in the blink of an eye, muttering something unintelligible even to Connor's ears as his chest raised and fell too quickly, out of control. “I-” he muttered, swallowing. Grabbing the back of the couch for a moment before letting it go. “I'll be upstairs. Don't follow me there.”

“What?” Connor murmured, blinking confusedly up at him. “Why? What's wrong?”

Gavin took a deep breath, letting his chin fall to his chest for a moment before speaking again. “I'm serious, Connor,” he said, a threatening edge to his tone. “Don't follow me upstairs. I need to be alone.”

Connor looked at his lips- they were swollen, quivering, white in the tight hold of his teeth. He felt another tug at his heart.

He extended his arm, covering Gavin's hand with his. “Gavin-”

The detective took his hand away before he could even speak. He met Connor's eyes for a moment.

“Don't you dare fucking follow me up there.”

He bit on his lips again, eyes full of violent sorrow, and hurried upstairs.

Connor tried to stand up, run after him- hold him-

A red error sign flashed right into his vision, blinding him, and making him fall back on the couch. He had to wait for an agonizingly long time before he could do anything; he forced his system to run a quick diagnostic, trying to make sure he could still at least delay the activation of his sleep-mode.

He needed to stay online for a little while longer. Just long enough to talk to Gavin, to comfort him, to help him, please.

He squeezed his eyes and waited.

You need to give people space, Hank's voice inside Connor's head said. Humans are difficult. You have to respect their boundaries.

Connor sighed quietly, staring at the stairs that led to the first floor as he could finally move again. He had to take a decision.

Go or stay? Run after Gavin, or leave him alone?

He had to check on him. He had to make sure he was okay, even if he couldn't see or talk to him.

 

He suddenly shot back to his feet and walked into the kitchen, grabbing a bottle of water from the fridge. He took his shoes off, making sure he'd make no noise as he walked upstairs, and quietly stopped at Gavin's door.

He raised his free hand to knock at the door, but changed his mind at the last second. Gavin had told him to leave him alone all day, and hadn't reacted well when Connor had tried to talk to him; Connor wanted to be with him, but maybe he should follow Hank's advice instead. Respect humans' boundaries. Respect Gavin's boundaries.

Why did everything have to be so difficult? Why did he have to feel so torn?

He bit on his lower lip, and let himself fall seated on the floor.

He let his back rest against the wall and just raised his arm a little, staring at his own hand with a frustrated expression on his face; turning it up and down, grazing at it with the other one. He had tried to reassure Gavin by touching his, but Gavin had taken his own away from his hold so fast.

Connor just wished he could make things right again. Wished he could take Gavin's pain, understand what was making him sob quietly in the bedroom, and just hold his hand again.

He pushed his head against the wall once, then twice, squeezing his eyes frustratedly. Why did humans have to be so complicated? Couldn't Gavin just talk to him? Connor was a genius machine! He would have found a solution in no time!

Why did they have to feel pain?

“Connor?” Came Gavin's hoarse voice from the closed door, evidently alarmed by the sounds Connor's head had made against the wall. The android cursed himself, didn't dare to talk.

“Connor,” Gavin repeated, voice low and tired; dangerously exasperated. “Are you- are you out there, for fuck's sake-”

Connor swallowed, even if he didn't need to. “I just- I just want to help,” he said quietly.

A sudden punch to the door made him jump out of his skin, the sound and the sheer force of it startling him in the quiet darkness of the house. “Jesus Christ!” Gavin yelled. “Fucking leave me alone!”

His voice broke on the last word. Connor forced his thirium pump to slow its hurried beating down, waited for his LED to turn back to blue as he tried to calm down.

He wouldn't leave. Gavin wasn't okay; he was stubborn and stupid and angry and dangerously upset, but Connor wouldn't leave.

If it would take him the whole night to open his goddamn door, then so be it.

 

Connor waited.

Chapter Text

Elijah's house looked even bigger than it did in the magazines. It was huge, elegant and dark- cold.

Gavin wasn't sure if it was really Elijah's style.

But then again, they weren't the same people anymore. That was what his mother would have said; how much time changes everything, how different they both must be from what they used to be.

Still. Black had always been Elijah's favourite color.

Gavin would have wanted to be there when Elijah had bought this house. Would have wanted to mock him for his design choices, make fun of his furniture, provoke him until he'd be pushing at him and laughing at him and mocking him back- just two lonely kids playing in a quiet backyard, travelling back through time, smiling wide in the face of everything.

Happy to have one another.

Gavin swallowed the lump that had formed in his throat and followed Connor to the door. Saw him smile encouragingly at him; warm, gentle doe eyes unaware of what they'd done, innocent in their guiltiness.

He couldn't smile back. Connor should have never brought him here.

But he couldn't let him go on his own.

 

Connor rang the doorbell, and Gavin closed his eyes and forced himself to breathe. It would be okay; he would say hello, ask his questions, say goodbye and leave. Easy, right? Maybe Elijah wouldn't even recognize him. Maybe his job had really fried his neurons, after all.

But oh god, did Gavin hope it didn't.

 

The door opened, and Gavin blinked in surprise as Elijah's blonde android let them inside. Memories washed over him, unwanted, unexpected; Elijah's blue eyes widening as his android spoke for the first time, welling up with unshed tears when he whispered its name and it seemed to immediately like it. The birth of Elijah's goddamn empire, the beginning of their end.

It exchanged a few words with Connor, giggled so humanly that it creeped him out for a moment, joked about its own almost death; Gavin felt his guts curl inside his stomach as the android shook his hand, stopping in its tracks for a moment when he introduced himself. Could it- could it possibly remember him?

Gavin recognized it; it was the original RT600 model, and Gavin was absolutely sure of it.

Chloe, released in 2021 after four years of desperate work. Elijah's first creation.

Before Cyberlife ruined their lives, before he left, before everything had gone to hell. Before Gavin's world had crumbled all around him, and never been the same.

He for sure remembered the android. Remembered the sleepless nights, the pain in his shoulders, the quick naps on the floor, the sweat and the blood and the fatigue. The determination in Elijah's eyes, his hand warm and solid in his hold as he held it and said, we're going to do this. Me and you, Gavs.

Remembered the RT600 model open its eyes for the first time, pale blue irises staring at him as Elijah called it Chloe. Its smile as it repeated its name with graceful, perfect accuracy.

Elijah had been bleeding from the palm of his hand back then, but he had still slammed it hard against Gavin's as they both found themselves crying with sheer happiness. They'd done it. They'd done it.

Just Gavin and Elijah.

 

Connor called his name once, and then again, and Gavin snapped at him. No surprises there, just Gavin being his regular asshole self and then regretting it.

The android lowered his beautiful, big brown eyes, still so gentle even when clearly confused, and Gavin let out a deep sigh as he mentally cursed himself. He tried to say that he was sorry, that he was just worriedconcernedagitatedupset- ImisshimImisshimImisshim-

“Elijah will see you now,” the RT600 said, interrupting him before he could explain.

He distantly noticed Connor glancing at him, but he couldn't move. He just couldn't walk, couldn't talk, couldn't feel- he was going to see him again, he was going to see Elijah again and his feet wouldn't move, wouldn't bring him there, please let him talk to me-

He stared helplessly at Connor's shoulders as he walked towards the blonde android, which was still looking at him expectantly with a polite smile on its face. Gavin felt an honest to god anger build up inside him, washing everything away, eating up at his heart so quickly it threw him back to eighteen years before.

It had all been the RT600's fault. Gavin had helped build it, made Elijah's dream his own, seen the sun rising so many times that it become habit- all for nothing. Just to have Elijah be taken from him, stolen away by a goddamn machine and a money-promising business contract.

 

Gavin swallowed his bitterness and followed Connor inside, walking slowly just a few steps behind him. So slowly he wished it could stop the flow of time, invert it, and maybe send him back to when he spent most of his time bothering Elijah instead of helping him with his creations. Happier, simpler times.

 

There was an image, a fading picture of his childhood forever impressed in his memories. A nine-year-old Elijah sniffing quietly in the darkness, stubborn as ever, seated on his ankles and busy building something out of scarps.

Gavin remembered his pale feet underneath him, his pointy elbows moving around clumsily but with fierce determination. Remembered how black his short hair had looked, how white his shirt had seemed in comparison. The back of his left arm had been so dirty with oil and ink that they had almost fully covered his pale skin in thick, black traces of liquid, but Elijah had kept using it to dry his forehead off under the heat of his lamp anyway.

 

Most kids built forts, but Elijah wasn't most kids. Elijah built tiny, little robots.

 

Gavin remembered how he used to slam his closed fists into the ground when he wasn't satisfied with his creations, shoulders trembling with the effort to not cry at his failures. Remembered how he would sniff quietly and bring his hands up again, working and working and working until his tiny robots would be perfect.

That night when Elijah's hair had looked so black and his shirt so white - the night when he had been sobbing quietly, but just loudly enough for him to wake up -, Gavin had walked out of his bed and had gently approached him, silently sat by his side. He had met his gaze, rolled up the sleeves of his blue pajamas, and asked him what he could do to help him.

 

The image of Elijah's narrow shoulders as he worked with razor focus had never left his mind. Black hair, pale skin, elbows constantly raised in restless action.

And now there he was, that same old picture recreated with blinding, perfect clarity.

Thirty years later.

 

Elijah wasn't that kid anymore but Gavin would have still recognized him anywhere, just by the way he moved his arms and tilted his head and his shoulders rose with breathing. The astounding picture of a happy, sleepless childhood, right in front of him.

 

Gavin's eyes welled up with tears.

 

“Good morning, Lieutenant Anderson,” Elijah said, sounding distracted. Busy with some papers on his desk, busy with his tiny little robots, black hair and white shirt and quiet, frustrated sobs escaping his lips until Gavin rolled up his sleeves and made it all okay again. “What brings you-”

 

Elijah turned around, and saw.

 

Gavin noticed the exact second he recognized him, eyes widening and clever tongue stopping and body freezing on the spot- raised elbows falling down just slightly, genius brain put to sleep to hear some gossip, watch a movie, play some baseball. Pale blue eyes filling with unexpected recognition, unreadable even to him, even to him-

“Not Lieutenant Anderson,” Gavin said quietly.

He should have never come here. He used to be able to read Elijah better than anyone else; he used to be able to understand how he felt just by watching his nose twitch, just by looking at his hands. But now everything had been swept away. Maybe they really weren't the same people anymore.

 

Silence filled the room, but Gavin didn't even notice it as he swallowed, chest rising and falling too quickly. Blinking fast to not shed any tears. He wouldn't cry, god, no- he wouldn't cry.

 

He wouldn't.

 

He heard a little noise and lifted his chin just slightly, seeing Elijah grab the desk behind him. Was he going to faint? Gavin certainly felt like it himself. Felt like falling down and curling on the floor, crying all the tears he had not cried in eighteen years, screaming all the pain he hadn't screamed in eighteen years, freeing all the demons he had fought in eighteen years.

He lifted his chin again. Met Elijah's deep, blue eyes, and couldn't tear his gaze away.

It was really him, he hadn't changed- he had just aged a little. Victim of that same time that had screwed them over so badly, cruel and unforgiving.

Elijah's chin was still a little pointy, even with his beard masking the flaw a little. His lips were still slightly bigger than Gavin's; his eyes still a different shape from Gavin's, weighing down his gaze, making pale blue irises look smart and tired at the same time. No scar on his nose, but the same clear sorrow of Gavin's gaze in his own.

“Indeed,” Elijah muttered. Sounding the way he did just before he would cry, and god, he couldn't do this to Gavin. He couldn't. His brows furrowed, and Gavin tore his gaze away in a moment, fearing his anger.

Fearing his disappointment.

“Connor,” Elijah greeted quietly. A little breathless, taken by surprise. Gavin didn't even listen to whatever they told each other; his heart was pounding fiercely in his throat, up inside his ears, and Gavin couldn't hear a sound.

He couldn't fight back memories as they came to his mind either, no matter how hard he tried to push them away- to beg they would stop haunting him, at least after all that time. The pain should have stopped eventually, shouldn't it? Wasn't two decades a long enough time for the longing to stop?

 

Elijah suddenly let out a light, breathless chuckle, and Gavin was back at his school desk in the blink of an eye. Back into one of his high school classrooms, with his fingertips touching his lips and Elijah laughing quietly at him, while their professor lectured them about electromagnetism and didn't even bother to scold her best student.

Elijah kept staring at the girl Gavin liked, chuckling to himself, disbelieving of how long it had taken him to finally find the courage to kiss her. Eyes so warm and so familiar hooded with amusement, smiling mouth curved into a proud, pleased smirk.

 

“I haven't greeted you properly yet,” Elijah said, and Gavin just knew he was talking to him as he was roused from his memories. There was a certain tone of voice he had always used with him; something light but certain, delicate even in its ineluctable sincerity. The concerned harshness of a scolding shouted in the infirmary, the concealed gentleness of an advice whispered in the darkness. “I... I don't know your name.”

Elijah's movements were slow, uncharacteristically hesitant. They immediately reminded Gavin of that late April night, when Elijah knocked at his door but didn't walk in, didn't look in his eyes, didn't even say a word.

Gavin felt like choking, like air was escaping his lungs and leaving him breathless. Like that morning of eighteen years before, when he had called Elijah's name and no answer had ever come.

The worst morning of his entire life, when the sun shone bright in his face as his whole world crumbled down around him, and Gavin would have tore it from the sky with his bare hands and slammed it into the ground with the sheer strength of his anger.

When Elijah had left.

 

“Reed,” he finally murmured, after a few failed attempts. “I'm Detective Reed.”

 

He could still feel the pain that had washed over him that morning, still so real and violent and excruciating, even after almost two decades. Like an old wound that would always feel fresh and never, ever heal. Like a tear in his heart.

 

He closed his eyes and added, “Gavin.”

 

Choking, falling, free-falling, down and down and down, straight into the past and into his old, empty room, crying all his sorrow away as he desperately searched through Elijah's things and books to find something, anything, any little detail that Elijah could have left behind without knowing. Something that could tell him where he was, and if he wanted Gavin to be with him.

They hadn't spent one day away from each other. Gavin couldn't let him go.

Bu then he did, god, he did- pain and anger and years building in between them, walls rising and months passing, and Gavin couldn't even bring himself to look back into Elijah's eyes. It would hurt him too bad. It already did.

 

Elijah nodded slowly, and he repeated it. “Detective Reed,” he muttered, and Gavin stared at the floor so that nobody could see how desperately he'd wanted him to know it, to say it, to pat his back and smile proudly down at him. “Detective.”

Gavin only nodded.

He wished he could be more. Being a detective had always been his dream, but had Elijah been expecting more of him? Maybe more articles in the newspapers, a higher grade of career, something that could put him closer to his own greatness? Even just a little?

He had never minded being in second place. Elijah had always been a sun radiating warmth and brightness wherever he went, whatever he did, and Gavin had always been happy to just catch some of the light shining off him.

 

He had never asked for more. He'd never wanted anything else.

 

“Chloe,” Elijah called quietly, even as Gavin could still feel the weight of his gaze on himself. “You told me it was Lieutenant Anderson and his partner who would come here.”

Gavin's jaw clenched as he let his chin fall to his chest, squeezing his eyes to not let any of his tears fall so hard it almost hurt. Of course Elijah wouldn't want to see him. Why would he? He had left. He hadn't even said goodbye.

 

Gavin had missed him more than anything in the world.

 

“I'm sorry, Elijah,” said the android, its voice sounding so calm and clear. Just a fucking machine, not knowing pain and not knowing sorrow, a handful of inputs and outputs reaching its system and keeping everything else, everything human away. What a goddamn blessing. “I must have misunderstood Connor's message.”

Elijah stayed quiet, and Gavin didn't speak either. Connor was the only one who finally spoke, bless his heart- or... Not, because Connor was a machine, wasn't he?

 

He.

 

Connor, with his beautiful doe eyes and his drive to understand every little thing. The curiosity in his gaze always present, always studying.

Gavin didn't even want to think about it. Didn't want to look into Connor's eyes for too long, or to let his own linger on them, on his face - on his lips - for more than a few seconds.

Connor was an android. Gavin had to keep that in mind, because otherwise...

 

The memory of what had happened eighteen years before was still too painful. Gavin couldn't let himself think about it.

 

The man in front of him was a virtual stranger, a person so different from the one he'd been knowing and sharing his whole life with. He didn't even walk the same anymore; Elijah had always had that spring in his step, had always held his head high, had always moved his feet fast and confident. But sometimes, when Gavin couldn't keep himself from watching interviews and repeat himself don't cry, don't cry, don't cry, he could notice so many things that weren't the same anymore.

 

Something had disappeared from Elijah's gaze.

 

“Is there anything you can do?” Gavin asked, and his voice came out harsher than he intended. He wasn't angry; but he was hurt, and already on the verge of spilling a tear or two, and he definitely wasn't up to let everyone witness his shit show. He hadn't cried to himself even once in the last fifteen years, he wouldn't start again now in front of them.

“We were thinking you could find a better way to protect the back of the androids' necks, if nothing else. It's their weak-”

It wasn't Elijah's voice that interrupted Gavin. No, it was his expression, that softened up for a moment and sent him straight back to eighth grade; Elijah smiling down at him while making a quiet joke, pressing an aid-band decorated with little robots to his knee and telling him softly that it was just a scratch, and that he should really learn to pick his battles.

 

Gavin needed to get out of here soon.

 

“You care about the androids?” Elijah asked, tone hesitant and hopeful. Gavin knew what he was really asking.

 

You still care about me?

 

“No,” Gavin swallowed. He kept his eyes fixed on the ground, wanting to leave, wanting to stay- to move those fucking few steps that would lead him straight to Elijah, to hold him again and tell him he was sorry for never picking his battles right, to finally smile at him again after eighteen goddamn years and- “I'm just doing my job.”

Elijah didn't reply, because really, what could he say? Gavin couldn't let him back into his life. Couldn't reach for him, and then let him go again; it would hurt him too much. He wouldn't be able to stand back up like he had before. Not this time.

 

He couldn't take another fifteen years of never letting himself cry.

 

Connor and Elijah kept talking, but Gavin didn't listen to a single word they said. His hands hitched with how bad he wanted to just reach out for Elijah; Gavin sunk his nails into his palms, and swallowed down the pain when his knuckles went white.

Time seemed to pass too fast, wave after wave of memories washing over him and leaving him gasping for breath, sinking deep into his own sorrow. It was like being underwater, hearing Elijah's words but not listening, answering but not thinking, the sound of his beating heart too strong and too loud- covering every other noise in the world.

Connor furrowing his brows and stepping up between them as Elijah told Gavin he knew him - and of course he did, of course he did -, ready to fight. Picking his battle.

Gorgeous, perfect Connor, with his beautiful eyes and his beautiful-

Soul -

“I'm proud of you,” Elijah said softly.

And Gavin ran.

 

*

2023, 18th July

Someone knocked at Gavin's door.

Gavin cursed loudly when whoever was bothering him in the middle of the night didn't relent, sending an unfocused glance at the digital clock on the nightstand. It was four on the morning.

He suddenly realized it could be Elijah, and hurried up to the door even as sleepy as he was. He opened it without even checking it was really him behind it- immediately earning himself a scolding sigh from him as he met Elijah's eyes.

“Could have been a robber,” he said quietly, to not disturb the neighbors. Gavin didn't even acknowledge his words, just grabbing him by his arm and pulling him inside instead.

“Fucking hell, Jah,” he muttered, closing the door behind them with his free hand and then looking him up and down, a deep furrow between his brows. “Where the fuck were you?!”

Elijah tried to speak, but Gavin kept going. “I've been so worried! Mom's been worried! There hasn't been a day- one day, Jah-”

“That we haven't been talking,” Elijah cut him off, finishing his sentence in his place and raising his hands in surrender. “I know. I'm sorry.”

Gavin stared at him; angry, but relieved. “I was worried sick,” he insisted.

“I know,” Elijah repeated, nodding. “I'm sorry.”

Gavin sighed. “Fuck it,” he grunted, “saying 'sorry' won't fix it, Jah, come on.”

He crossed his arms to his chest and muttered, “I had organized a surprise birthday party for you. You didn't come.”

Elijah's gaze softened; the genius extended his arm and grabbed Gavin's shoulder gently, affection clear in his eyes and his gesture. “Thank you, Gavs.”

Gavin moved his shoulder away, making Elijah's hand drop it. “Well, fuck you, Jah,” he grumbled. “It was really cool. But everyone left, since you wouldn't come.”

Elijah sighed. “Gavs, I really appreciate it. But there's something I have to tell you,” he said quietly.

Gavin looked at him; whatever he saw in his eyes, it immediately made his arms fall to his sides and his gaze fill up with concern. “What?”

Elijah glanced around them, clearly nervous. Gavin's flat was tidy and nicely furnished; Elijah had been the one to give it to him as a gift as soon as he had gotten enough money to buy them both some nice place to live. A few denim jackets were hanging from the coat hanger to the door's right; a neat array of succulents basked in the few rays of moonshine filtering through the windows' blinds, and some car magazines filled up the whole surface of the coffee table in the living room that Elijah could get a glimpse of from where he stood. Gavin had loved to have his own place, and Elijah had been so glad to see him so excited to decorate it.

To everyone else's eyes, he would have looked normal and not upset at all, but Gavin knew him better than Elijah knew himself. Knew he wasn't looking at the denim jackets, at the succulents, and not even at the car magazines; no, Elijah was looking beyond them, seeing through them, already staring at the future. And Gavin had never failed to read his mind.

He moved a step towards him, staring at him as he waited for him to speak.

“Hey,” he murmured, trying to meet his gaze and failing. “You can tell me anything, Jah. You know that.”

“Yeah,” Elijah sighed. He didn't look twenty-three; he looked older, wiser. Tired. A kid dressed like a CEO to a costume party.

“So,” he started, voice upsettingly quiet. “You know that interview to Angela Paratal, three days-”

“The one in which you acted like a fucking asshole? Yeah, I do,” Gavin anticipated him, rolling his eyes. There was no heat in his voice. “Your god complex was clearly showing, Jah.”

That earned him a tired smile. “Shut up,” Elijah chuckled, before turning serious again. “I- I have to leave for a few days. Maybe a little longer. I... I don't know.”

Elijah was anxious. He was avoiding Gavin's eyes, sinking his hands in his jeans pockets, keeping his gaze fixed to the ground. Their emotions had always matched, and Gavin felt himself growing immediately nervous.

“Well, that's not a problem,” he muttered. Something wasn't right. “I don't... I don't even need a suitcase. When is the plane leaving? Must be someplace else, right? So we're leaving by plane. That's why you came here at fuck o'clock and are acting so strange, isn't it? Just gimme a moment to put my shoes on here and maybe change into something a little more society-approved than my pajamas-”

“Gavin,” Elijah interrupted. Full name- Gavin's bad feelings were right, they were always right, he never read Elijah wrong. Never.

Gavin swallowed. “What.”

“You're- you're not coming with me,” Elijah said, chin falling to his chest and his eyes closed. “I'm sorry, Gavs. I-”

“The fuck, Jah?!” Gavin snapped, not letting him finish. “Now you've got your shiny little empire and you can't find time for me anymore? Too cool to celebrate your party with me? Too famous to let me into your fucking jet-”

Elijah shook his head so hard that his hair went everywhere. He had let it grow out, and Gavin had never missed any opportunity he found to make fun of it- until now. “Gavs, you know that's not what I'm saying. You know why I'm telling you this, come on, you do.”

He met his eyes again, brows furrowed into a wistful expression. “You've heard mom-”

“Yeah, fuck, yes I've heard her,” Gavin cut him off, “and you know I don't care, alright? I don't fucking care that you're playing god. I don't fucking care that you act all mysterious and all evil mastermind and-”

He choked on his own words, fear stealing oxygen from his lungs so fast it left him breathless. “Jah,” he whispered, “is this because of the RT600?”

Elijah rolled his eyes. “Chloe,” he corrected him. “No, Gavs. Well, I mean-”

 

“I fucking knew it,” Gavin snapped, “but I don't care, okay? Mom can say all she wants about it, I don't care, I just- I just care that I'm still-”

“Gavs, listen, it's not what-”

 

“No, you listen!” Gavin shouted, a sudden wetness in his eyes that wasn't there before. Elijah froze on the spot.

For a moment, they both remained silent. Staring. Studying. Searching.

Gavin's voice broke when he spoke next.

“Am I not enough?”

“Oh, Gavs, come on,” Elijah said, immediately reaching out for him to hug him. “No, no, what are you talking about?” He muttered, a broken little chuckle escaping his mouth. “Of course you're enough, Gavs. Way more than enough. You're my partner in crime. I'll never tire of your bitching, no matter how famous I become.”

Gavin wiped his eyes before any tear could fall down, but he let out a quiet chuckle too. “You better,” he threatened, freeing himself from Elijah's hold and sniffing loudly. “Because I'm never letting you go, you genius asshole.”

Elijah rolled his eyes, smiling softly down at him. “So don't you ever think of leaving me behind,” Gavin added quietly. “Wherever you go, I'll follow. That's what I always do.”

Elijah didn't answer. Gavin waited and waited and waited as he dried his face off, swearing silently under his breath at his own weakness.

And then, he lifted his gaze.

 

Elijah's eyes were full of tears.

 

“I'm sorry,” he choked out. He wrapped his arms around Gavin, sinking his forehead on his shoulder, and Gavin's heart missed a beat.

“I'm sorry, little hawk,” he repeated, breaking down- holding him so tight it hurt. “I'm sorry. No matter what happens, I-”

Gavin's eyes widened, but his arms immediately moved to hold Elijah just as tight. “I'm never leaving you behind,” Elijah rasped out. Gavin nodded into his shoulder, a little confused, but determined.

“Never, Jah,” he promised him, closing his eyes. “I'll always be by your side.”

“Always,” Elijah murmured back.

 

It felt like a goodbye.

 

***

 

Gavin finally got up from his bed, grumbling quietly at himself. He looked at the mess that surrounded him, heaving out a loud sigh.

Two leather jackets on the floor, a dead plant on his desk and his lonely police badge on his nightstand stared back at him, judging him silently from where they stood in the blank, almost sterile room. They seemed to remind him of how much of an asshole he'd been all day... All week, actually. He knew he had to make up to Connor.

His past-self would hate the person he'd become. Would come barging into his room, bitch at his own mess, and scold him until the end of the time. He would furnish the room, put some tiny plants everywhere he could, feed the stray cats down the road and laugh at his leather jackets and at his ambition like they were the most ridiculous things Gavin could have ever come up with. He would be a different person.

A better person.

Gavin sighed again.

Crying his heart out that night had actually helped him a lot. He felt much better- lighter. Seeing Elijah again after eighteen years had made his resolve not to cry completely crumble, but...

Maybe it was just about time it did.

He had been needing to cry for the last fifteen years. His heart still ached at the mere thought of Elijah, but his chest already felt a little less heavy now than it had been in the past two decades.

 

An old, withered piece of paper stared at him from the other side of the bed. Two names become one, written messily on a project file destined to change the world- and to change Gavin's and Elijah's life too, forever. It was time to put it back into his Jah box.

 

He needed to get out of his room.

 

Gavin took a deep breath, and opened the door to his bedroom. He didn't even glance in front of himself, simply lowering his gaze to the floor instead; just as he had been expecting, he immediately saw Connor's pretty frame resting against the wall.

He felt a new tug at his heart, but this time it was for a completely different reason than before. It wasn't for Elijah, for all the years they'd spent apart; it was for Connor - brilliant, badass Connor; patient, lovely Connor - , who had been waiting outside his door all night.

 

“Connor,” he called quietly. His voice sounded incredibly loud in the quiet house.

Connor jolted lightly for a moment, then looked up at Gavin. He blinked himself awake, clearly too tired to do much more.

“Hello,” he greeted, just as quietly. “I- I can't talk much. I need to rest, but my system won't let me go into sleep-mode. I think there's something wrong in my program.”

Gavin's brows furrowed with concern as he crouched down by Connor's side, examining his LED for a moment. It flashed a deep red, and Gavin swallowed.

“I'm so sorry, Con,” he muttered, extending his arm slowly. Connor saw it moving towards him, stared at it for a moment, and then smiled weakly down at it.

That was enough for Gavin to gently cover Connor's hand with his own. “I'm sorry for being an asshole to you. You really didn't deserve it.”

“I know,” Connor nodded slowly, eyes falling shut. “You're not excused yet.”

Gavin snorted quietly. “Fair enough.”

He cleared his throat, unable to hide his worry any longer. “Do I have to take you to one of Cyberlife's centers? Do you think-”

“I just can't sleep,” Connor murmured. Gavin didn't let go of his hand. “But I feel much sleepier now,” he added quietly, glancing at Gavin for a moment; eyes warm and affectionate despite the evident tiredness of his gaze, making Gavin feel like he had to run away but not wanting to.

 

He moved his hand instead, hesitant, and slowly stroked Connor's hair. Connor smiled lightly.

 

“Can you walk just a few steps?” Gavin asked. “You can sleep-” He bit his lip. “You can sleep with me.”

Connor just nodded, and Gavin helped him stand up. They walked to the bed, and Connor opened his eyes again as soon as they lied down.

“What happened with Kamski?” He asked quietly, his necessity to discover the truth overcoming every other obstacle. Gavin lowered his eyes, and tried to brace himself for what he was going to say.

Connor deserved to know. It was the least Gavin could do.

 

“He's my twin brother,” he choked out.

 

Connor came a little closer to him, and Gavin let him. Let him wrap his arms around him gently, let him close his eyes and listen as he held him.

 

Gavin held him back.

 

 

 

 

“Your name is Chloe,” Elijah said, a shaky smile on his lips as his first android opened her eyes. Six in the morning, rays of sunshine barely filtering through the lone window in the basement and a number to add to Chloe's name - 6:00 a.m., Model 600. Gavin held his breath, smiling at his twin brother with his same tears in his eyes.

“My name is Chloe,” the android repeated, a smile growing quickly on her beautiful lips. She looked around herself curiously, studying the laboratory she was in with a fascinated light in her gaze. Elijah slammed his bleeding palm against Gavin's, letting out a sob of sheer happiness.

“Chloe, can you- can you find your project file on the table behind you and hand it to him?” Elijah asked right after, happy and breathless, nodding towards Gavin. Chloe smiled politely, agreed and turned around.

She looked at the table for a moment, moving the papers there around for a little while, and then brought one of those to Gavin.

Gavin glanced at it, then smiled bright and disbelieving up at Elijah. They'd done it- they'd done it, just the two of them. Just Gavin and Elijah.

The paper was signed Model RT600.

And, just underneath it, Reed Twins.

 

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Chapter Text

Connor opened his eyes.

He still felt tired and in need of some more hours of simulated sleep to recharge, but the presence of something heavy and warm in close proximity to him had alarmed his system and brought him back from low-energy mode. That usually only happened with Sumo, and Connor never minded; waking up to the dog's big, happy muzzle nuzzling at his face always made him smile instead of irritating him.

Some androids reacted really badly to being woke up, almost like some humans did. But Connor wasn't one of them.

His system needed a few minutes to load his sensors and make sure they were all functional, so the first thing Connor registered was confusion. He could feel heat and pressure on top of him, but he wasn't living with Sumo and Hank anymore, so that definitely couldn't be the huge Saint Bernard climbing on top of him and pressing Connor's body to the mattress with all his weight. No, Connor was now living with Detective Reed, so...

Connor lowered his gaze.

Gavin had moved during the night, and was snoring quietly half on top of him. He didn't look peaceful, exactly ; his brows were lightly furrowed as he slept, but his chest was rising and falling in a calm, regular rhythm, indicating the absence of nightmares.

Maybe he just had a lot to think about.

 

Connor looked down at him, not daring to turn around so to not interrupt his sleep. Gavin's head had fallen on Connor's shoulder, while his arm was thrown over his chest and his leg was bent over his thigh; Connor felt so...

 

Warm.

 

He loved the smell of Gavin's shampoo. He couldn't really smell it, per say, but he could analyze the chemical composition of it and simulate the scent to his sensors. He took a deep breath to help his own imagination flow along with the analysis of the smell, and closed his eyes as he let the familiar scent wash over him.

Gavin's body was heavy, so warm, so reassuring in its undeniable presence. Connor could feel the detective breathing against his own body, his skin tanned and heated where it touched Connor's.

Gavin was wearing a shirt and a pair of cotton shorts, leaving his legs and arms mostly uncovered by the fabric. Connor distantly felt himself regret his own choice of clothing; unfazed by all kinds of temperature , he had always worn a shirt and a pair of loose pants to sleep. He wished he had been wearing a pair of shorts too, like Gavin did, just to feel his skin against his own.

His system finally fully booted up, and Connor's eyes widened at his own thoughts. He'd never wanted something like that; someone's skin against his own, someone's legs intertwined with his legs, someone's arms around him-

 

Gavin woke up.

 

Connor knew it not because he saw it, but because he registered his breathing rhythm falter and become less regular, less slow. Just as had happened to Connor, the detective seemed to need a few minutes to understand where he was and what was happening; when he did, he blinked slowly and distanced himself from Connor – still close, just not too close – and stared at him for a few seconds.

“Tell me I'm still sleeping,” he yawned.

They had moved from the positions they had taken while falling asleep, when Connor had made himself small against Gavin on a random thought and scooted a little lower to not make himself too tall. It seemed to have been the right decision; he had entered sleep-mode with his forehead close to Gavin's, and their arms wrapped around each other. Connor's legs had bent up to intertwine with Gavin's, and Connor could remember – distantly, yet with no doubt – the heat and pressure of Gavin's body warming his own up, too, and feeling like everything was finally good.

“You're not,” Connor answered. The memories of the night before had put a smile on his lips, and he couldn't even try to hide it. Gavin was still half on top of him, just his head being on the pillow now instead than resting on his shoulder; he was still warm – he still made him warm –, but Connor preferred the way their bodies were so close the previous night, closer than they'd ever been before. “Good morning, Detective Reed.”

“It's Gavin, dipshit,” Gavin rasped out, his voice low and hoarse with sleep. No real harshness in his tone though, as usual.

“Get away from me,” he mumbled quietly around another yawn, while still holding tight onto the android's shirt. Connor smiled lightly and didn't say anything, making no move to distance himself from the detective.

“Did you sleep well?” He asked, feeling a pang of affection wash over him. The emotions were all so new, so confusing, but so strong; Connor had no control over them. He could just let himself feel them, and try to figure them out as best as he could.

Gavin groaned. “Spare me the domesticity,” he complained. His leg bent over Connor's a little more, pressure increasing against his skin; like he always did, Gavin was saying one thing and doing another. “You're comfy and we were both tired yesterday. That's all.”

He closed his eyes, let his head rest a little closer to Connor's chest. Connor felt overwhelmed by something- he had to struggle not to move right then and there. Move to do what, he didn't even know. “Don't make it weird,” Gavin mumbled, absent-mindlessly rubbing his cheek against Connor's chest.

The something was now bothering Connor even more.

“This morning,” the android corrected, swallowing heavily to distract himself from his intrusive, inexplicable emotions. Gavin opened one of his closed eyes and tilted his head back, staring at him with one of his brows raised before shutting his eyelids off and letting his head fall to the mattress again.

“This morning,” Connor repeated, his lips curving into a little smile at the sight, “not 'yesterday'. We fell asleep around four in the morning, Det- Gavin.”

The man let out a low hum of approval, noticing Connor's quick correction to his own words. “What time is it now?” He asked.

“It's nine in the morning,” the android replied, not needing to check the digital clock projected on the wall. “Five hours of sleep aren't enough to recharge me completely, though, nor enough to provide you the energy you'll consume before the day ends. I suggest we both sleep at least two hours more, albeit they still won't be enough for the both of us to be fully rested.”

Gavin snorted. “What a fuckin' way to say you want to stay in bed all day.”

“That's not what I said,” Connor half-lied.

Gavin seemed to think about it for a few seconds, but then his hand let go of Connor's shirt. “I, uh.”

He looked at Connor, wet his lips and huffed out a quiet breath. “I think I'll go for a run,” he announced, slowly making his way out of the bed. Connor tried his best to not look as disappointed as he felt, but he evidently failed rather spectacularly at that.

“Hey, don't you stare at me like a kicked puppy,” Gavin said, raising his eyebrows at him with a scolding tone. “I'll be back soon. I just- I need to clear my mind of something, that's all.”

Connor lowered his gaze, knowing his eyes would only betray him further. “This is for what happened yesterday, isn't it?”

Gavin hesitated before answering. Connor raised his gaze again.

“Yes,” Gavin said simply.

“Alright,” Connor nodded, after a brief beat of silence. “I understand.”

Gavin took a shirt and a pair of sweatpants from a drawer, stared at Connor for a moment before finally leaving the room. “See you later, Con,” he said from the corridor.

 

Connor sighed quietly to himself, turning back towards Gavin's pillow as he heard the front door be locked from the outside a few minutes later. He did need to sleep a while longer- but he also really didn't want to.

He had gotten so used to sleeping with Sumo close to him, his warmth and the sound of his beating heart lulling him to sleep in the blink of an eye. He missed him way too much.

He furrowed his brows in a determinate expression; his LED flashed yellow, and he dialed Hank's number in a second.

He knew Hank would be awake. Ever since Connor had moved in with him, three years before, the Lieutenant's lifestyle had drastically improved; he hadn't fully won his battle against alcohol yet, but his situation had gotten better for sure and his life expectancy had risen to several more years. Connor was secretly immensely proud of himself, knowing he'd been the reason for Hank to start taking a better care of himself.

“Hey, Connor,” Hank said, answering his call after just a few rings. “How you doin', son?”

The android smiled, feeling a new surge of affection wash over him; so similar to the one he'd been feeling just a few minutes before towards Gavin, and yet so completely different. “Hello, Hank. Everything is fine. I was wondering how you and Sumo were.”

“Ah, we're alright,” Hank smiled, turning the hologram to Sumo. “Sumo's being his regular good boy- good boy!”

Sumo wailed his tail wildly, letting it thump loudly to the floor. Connor heard Hank's laughter at that, and couldn't help but chuckle quietly along.

“Hello there, Sumo!” He called, unable to fight the warm smile that spread over his mouth. “Come here!”

Sumo's ears raised up in a moment, eyes widening in recognition, and he quickly stood up to trot happily towards Connor's hologram. Connor wished he could just extend an arm and give him a good scratch behind the ears or under his chin.

Hank patiently let Connor coo at Sumo for a good handful of minutes, then suddenly furrowed his brows as he seemed to finally notice the android's surroundings. His neck suddenly snapped forward as he cursed, eyes zooming in on the mattress behind Connor's back like an owl.

“Hey, Con, sorry for interrupting you two lovebirds,” he hurriedly said, pushing Sumo's big muzzle out of the way, “but where the fuck are ya, son?”

Connor brought his gaze back to Hank's face, which he had completely forgot to look at once his eyes had met Sumo's. His eyebrows shoot up to his forehead.

“That's a bed,” Hank continued, voice vaguely threatening. Connor opened his mouth, but no sound came out.

“I don't remember ever seeing you lying on one, all the times you called me,” Hank added, raising one of his eyebrows. “The fuck?”

“I,” Connor started, and couldn't continue.

Hank frowned and then widened his eyes, pointing at him as in scolding and clearly entering dad-mode. “Connor, tell me nothing happened or I swear to god- oh Jesus,” he groaned, “are you even- are you even equipped? Do I have to give you the talk? Do I- please please tell me I don't have to buy you condoms or someth-”

“Nothing happened!” Connor cut him off, hurrying up to explain. “I just- we just-”

“Where even is that fucker,” Hank hissed.

“He's gone jogging,” Connor replied. He tried to keep talking, but Hank anticipated him.

“Fuckin' typical,” he grunted, “next time he comes to the station, I'mma kick his ass so hard he won't be able to sit properly for-”

“Nothing happened,” Connor firmly repeated, regaining his usual composure and serious tone of voice to make sure Hank would understand. He was speaking the truth, and he had no reason to feel embarrassed. “We were distressed. We had been fighting for two days. We met with Kamski, and Gavin's mood worsened drastically,” he summarized. “Then, while we were lying here, he confessed me he's his twin brother, and-”

“Yeah,” Hank grunted, cutting him off, “just two buddies sleeping together to make up after a...”

The lieutenant interrupted himself, eyes widening when he suddenly realized the meaning of Connor's words. “He's his- what?”

“Twin brother,” Connor repeated. “He's mentioned it before. He told me the scar on his nose got there because of a childhood accident, while he was playing with his
twin brother, and-”

“Hold up for a second here, Connor,” Hank cut him off again, “that's impossible, alright? I've seen the fucker's folder. He had a twin brother, Jacob or something-”

“John,” Connor corrected.

Hank rolled his eyes. “John,” he said pointedly, “who died at age of ten in a car accident. He can't- Kamski can't be his brother. They have nothing in common at all!”

“When we met him at his mansion, they acted as if they didn't even know one another,” Connor said thoughtfully.

“Yeah,” Hank nodded, “'cause they fuckin' didn't!”

Connor sighed. “Can we talk about something else?” He asked. “I'm tired. I've been arguing with Gavin for two days, and I don't want to hear any more yelling.”

Hank's expression softened. Connor couldn't look distressed - no bags under his eyes, no paler skin, no LED flashing a different color most of the time -, but Hank sure could hear the difference in his tone of voice.

“Of course,” he sighed as well, clearly concerned. He met his eyes. “Hey, son, listen. I know this is difficult. But it's gonna be alright.”

Connor remained quiet. “Gotta tell me anythin'?” Hank asked, in a hushed tone. Just by looking at him, at the way he was furrowing his brows lightly, the android knew he was trying hard to keep the suspicion out of his voice.

“I... I think I might be getting attached to Detective Reed,” Connor whispered.

 

Hank didn't immediately reply, but when he did, he cursed first and said he was sorry second. His voice was patient, but heavy with concern. “I told you not to, Connor-”

“I know,” the android interrupted. “I know you did. I tried.”

Hank sighed again, much louder than before. “What grade of 'attached' are we talking here, Connor?” He asked, shaking his head. “Care attached? Friend attached? Lo- god fucking help me, love attached?”

 

Connor didn't answer.

 

“For fuck's sake, Connor,” Hank grunted, eyebrows furrowing even more. “You have to talk to me!”

“I don't know,” Connor replied, clearing his throat nervously before speaking. “I don't know, I-”

He frowned, too, sucking in a deep breath as his gaze turned upset. “This is so confusing, Hank!” He protested. “I- I've only ever grown affectionate of you, Sumo, Markus and Simon! I- I really don't-”

Hank's arm moved for a moment before falling back down, and in that second Connor knew Hank had been meaning to grab his shoulder reassuringly before remembering they were still just in the middle of a video call. “Hey, hey, son, slow down,” he said calmingly, “it's okay. I'm sorry. Feelings are a mess.”

“They are,” Connor sighed quietly.

Hank remained silent for a moment, and when he spoke again his tone was hesitant. “You remember what I told you the other day, right?”

“I do,” the android nodded slowly. “You said you were fully recovered from your flu, that you'd be going back to the police station, and that you'd-”

“That I'd come over to your place there if you wanted me to,” Hank finished in his place. “I meant it, Connor. Just to, you know- see how things look like. From an external point of view.”

He cleared his throat. “See if Reed is really being less of an asshole.”

Connor chuckled quietly. “He is. I promise.”

“You just told me you two have been fighting for the past two days,” the lieutenant grumbled.

“But we made up,” Connor insisted.

“Listen, son,” Hank said seriously, “little life advice here. You haven't really made up until the both of you have proved to the other that you are actually sorry and willing to work to be forgiven.”

 

Connor blinked, losing himself in thought for a moment. He had put Gavin in a bad position, having him meet his twin brother when he clearly had no wish to but still wouldn't let Connor go on his own, and had then proved to him how much he cared by trying to cheer him up all day and even waiting for him to get out of his room all night.

Gavin had let him inside his room, confessed that Kamski was his twin brother, and not freaked out in the morning when they had woken up all tangled into one another. It was okay. It was something.

 

But was it enough?

 

“Yeah,” Hank said, reading Connor's expression. “That's exactly what I mean, son. It takes more than just a few pet names, you know.”

 

Connor furrowed his brows. “But-”

“No 'but's, Connor,” Hank said harshly, knowing the android was stubborn as a mule and needed a reality check occasionally. “You say he cares about you? Alright. Sure. But he has to prove it.”

 

Connor lowered his gaze, opening and closing his mouth quickly. “I- I wouldn't know what to ask of him, I just-”

“You're a smart guy, Connor,” Hank cut him off, his tone vaguely threatening again. Probably already imagining of kicking Gavin's ass as hard as he could. “I'm sure you'll be able to figure something out.”

Connor sighed, but nodded slowly. “I'll let you know.”

“Of course you will,” Hank grumbled. An affectionate little smile came back onto Connor's lips.

“Thank you for taking care of me,” he said softly.

Hank shook his head. “You don't need anyone to take care of you, son,” he replied. “You just need some advice from time to time. Like we all do.”

Sumo whined, pressing his nose against Hank's knee and gaining his attention in a moment. “Yeah, buddy, I know, time for a walk,” the lieutenant said, stroking his head. “Con, I gotta go now. Just keep in mind what I told you, alright?”

“Alright,” Connor agreed. “Have a nice walk.”

Hank smiled. “We miss you,” he said gently.

“I miss you too,” Connor replied, a little sadness in his smile. “Bye, Hank. Bye, Sumo.”

He listened to Hank saying it back, and then ended the call.

 

He stared at the ceiling for a little while, trying to figure out what he could ask to Gavin; Hank was right. He knew he had a much higher tolerance than humans - and even higher than other androids -, and he really did not care most of the time, but...

But it didn't mean that Gavin could go and behave however he wanted. Connor had to listen to Hank's advice.

 

He finally got up from the mattress, and tried to distract himself by doing some housework. He made the bed, opened the windows, moved the furniture around for a while and then put everything back to where it was before. He sighed to himself and let his body fall on the couch, taking his coin out of his pocket to play with it for a bit.

 

When Gavin finally came back home it was almost time for lunch. Connor just greeted him from the sofa, still too lost in his thoughts to be as kind and polite as he usually was.

“Get up from there, you lazy-head,” Gavin said good-naturedly, eyeing him as he walked past the couch. “Your battery still running low?”

He looked energetic; he looked... Well. Connor wondered what he was thinking about, and what his sudden good mood was for.

He had been crying the night before. How could he be so cheerful now?

“Are you okay?” Connor asked, unable to ignore the giant elephant in the room. He couldn't understand.

Gavin turned around to look at him, stopping in his steps as he was ready to head for the bedroom. “Uh, yeah,” he answered after a beat of silence, furrowing his brows. “Why?”

Connor opened his mouth, but didn't let any sound out. He had to think before speaking.

“Because yesterday you weren't,” he said simply, if a little awkwardly.

Gavin blinked, then sighed as he put his hands on his hips. He didn't look as if he had been actually jogging; Connor imagined he had rather went for a simple walk, since he didn't have an hair out of place. Had he just wanted to stay out of the android's way for a while?

“Listen, Con,” he said firmly, “I've been through this before, okay? I don't miss Elijah. I haven't missed him in ei-” he bit his lip, stopping himself before he could talk, “in a very long time, alright? I- I won't-”

He took a deep breath. “I won't start now,” he concluded. “That's all.”

Connor had recharged his system enough to keep his analysis of body signals running in the background as it usually did, and could clearly spot the lie in his words. “You don't want to talk about it,” he guessed, keeping himself from pressing him.

Gavin's brows remained furrowed. “You've heard my answer.”

Connor let the topic drop, not wanting to start a new fight. “Do you at least feel better than yesterday?” He asked.

 

Gavin sighed nervously, his hands not leaving his hips and his eyes rolled briefly. “Yes, Connor,” he replied, “I do. Alright?”

He was telling the truth. “Alright,” Connor agreed. He was the one to take a deep breath now. “You said you were sorry,” he abruptly said.

The sudden change of topic clearly confused Gavin, who blinked at him in surprise. “What?”

“Yesterday,” Connor clarified, fighting his wish to not say anything. “You. You said you were sorry.”

He didn't want to ruin this fragile peace; but he had to. He had to know if Gavin really cared about him.

Gavin didn't reply, waiting for Connor to continue. “Did you mean it?” Connor asked.

The detective sighed again, but this time there was audible regret in the sound. “Listen, Barbie,” he said, almost gently. “I really was an asshole to you yesterday, and even the day before. I,” he started, rolling his eyes at himself and counting along on his fingers, “bitched at your friends and snapped at both you and them, ruined the meeting with Elijah, yelled at you to leave me alone, probably scared the shit out of you when I slammed my fist against the door like a caveman, and-”

He interrupted himself. Connor stared at him, confused by the sudden silence.

Gavin dropped his hand, gaze softening as his shoulders slumped and he looked at Connor with such gentle intensity, with such clear regret in his hazel irises. “And you still waited for me to talk to you all night,” he murmured. “Even if you were, I think- on low-energy mode?”

Connor only nodded. Gavin let out another little sigh.

“Yeah, so,” he concluded. “I meant it. Yeah.”

“I want you to apologize to Simon and Markus,” Connor blurted out.

 

Gavin tensed.

 

“What?” He asked, shaking his head with a shocked expression on his face. “What did you-”

“You said you were sorry,” Connor repeated. “I want you to apologize to Simon and Markus.”

Gavin just stared at him, shocked into complete silence. Connor didn't relent, steeling his expression.

“Uh,” Gavin finally hummed, utterly surprised. “Well,” he swallowed.

He scratched at his head, blinking his eyes slowly. “I have to- uh. I have to- can I think about it?”

Connor shook his head firmly, forcing himself to not relent. “You either are really sorry, or you aren't,” he insisted.

“Connor,” Gavin called, irritation clear in his tone. “I didn't say that I'm not. But you're asking for a lot, and-”

 

“I do believe that you're sorry,” Connor cut him off, softening his tone lightly. He wanted Gavin to understand that he wasn't just taking his personal vendetta; he needed him to agree. To show him that he cared.

 

“But I want you to prove it.”

 

Gavin's mouth opened as if he wanted to say something, but he closed it back again. He hung his head for a moment, then raised it back up and met Connor's eyes.

 

“Alright,” he said simply.

 

Connor's eyebrows shot up. “Alright?” He echoed, surprised.

“Yeah,” Gavin sighed. “Yeah, asshole. I'll do it.”

 

Connor's face lightened up with an ear-to-ear smile. “You will?”

Gavin dropped his gaze, clearing his throat. Embarrassed, and way too cute. “Yeah, that's what I said, are you deaf,” he muttered, with no heat in his voice.

Connor bit his lower lip, trying to keep his smile at bay and completely failing at that. “We should go now, then,” he proposed, feeling suddenly full of energy. “We should-”

 

“Hey, hey! Calm down, plastic,” Gavin said, extending his arm to grab at his wrist gently and keep him where he was. To his defense, Connor was in fact ready to head for the door. “It's almost time for lunch. We could, uh...”

Connor's eyes widened. “Do some kissing practice?” He asked eagerly.

Gavin blushed there and then. “What?!” He replied, eyes widened as well and a lovely, deep glow coloring his cheeks red. “No, that's- no! That's not what I-”

“Oh,” Connor muttered, furrowing his brows.

“I just,” Gavin said, taking a deep breath, “I was thinking- like, we could, uh- Connor, goddammit, stop it!”

Connor blinked up at him, raising his gaze back to his eyes. He was rather busy staring at his mouth, not paying any attention to his words. “Stop doing what?”

“Stop doing that!” Gavin hissed, as he wildly gesticulated towards Connor's general direction. His lovely blush had turned into an even deeper red. “Stop staring at me like you want to eat me!”

 

“Eating humans is not-” Connor started, visibly perplexed.

“No,” Gavin cut him off in a hurry, “no. I don't want to hear it. Let's just- let's go have lunch, alright?”

“We can have lunch at home,” Connor protested, moving a step closer to him. Gavin immediately moved a step back.

“Yes,” the detective nodded quickly, “but we can also have lunch outside instead-”

“I don't understand,” Connor insisted. He stepped onward again, and Gavin's arms immediately raised to grab his shoulders and keep him at distance.

“Okay, stop fucking moving with that look in your eyes,” he said nervously, freeing his hand for a moment just to point at Connor's face. “I'm saying, we have a job to do, yeah, so we should go have lunch outside for once-”

Connor's gaze lightened up in a second. “My social protocols inform me that you're suggesting we go on a date.”

“No- no!” Gavin replied. “We're not- we're not! I mean, we- we are, but it's just for the job, we're not- it's not-”

“And then we can go to Markus' and Simon's place, and you can apologize,” Connor cut him off helpfully, trying to lower Gavin's stress levels as they were currently going to the roof.

“Fuck me,” Gavin groaned, stress levels definitely not decreasing, “yes, okay? Just- let's just go, for fuck's sake-”

Connor smiled a blinding smile, nodding as he freed himself of Gavin's hold in a moment and already hurried to the door.

His hand found Gavin's in a second.

 

***

 

“Okay, Connor, you're starting to piss me off now.”

Connor blinked, bringing his attention back to the present as he heard Gavin's voice calling him. Between the inviting plate of risotto in front of the detective and the detective himself, being very inviting too - what the hell was wrong with Connor's thoughts as of lately? Hank would kill him if he knew he'd thought that -, he had kind of forgotten about everything happening around him.

“So,” Gavin continued, clearing his throat, “you gonna do anything with that fork, or...”

Connor looked at the fork his left hand was holding mid-air, staring at it for a second as he wondered how it had ever gotten there. “Oh,” he murmured, putting it back in his right hand and sinking it into Gavin's plate.

He looked at the risotto for a moment instead of bringing the fork to his mouth, analyzing it as he kept it extremely close to his face. Gavin rolled his eyes.

“Don't be so weird,” he grumbled. “Fucking hell.”

Connor took the tiniest bite out of the risotto and furrowed his brows. “I don't like it,” he said, physically distancing himself from his fork.

Gavin snorted. “More for me,” he replied, putting his own fork down to take Connor's own from his hand instead. The android stared as Gavin brought it to his own mouth, finishing the bite.

As soon as Gavin lowered his hand again and put Connor's fork down, freeing it from his hold, Connor immediately took his hand and basically slammed it to the table.

“Very low-profile,” Gavin complained, staring at their joined hands on the table and trying to take his away from the android's hold. Connor only held it tighter.

“Listen, asshole,” Gavin insisted, grabbing at his own wrist with his other hand in a desperate attempt to free it, “I use this one to eat, alright, I can't eat with the left one-”

“This is a date,” Connor cut him off. “According to my social protocol, I have to hold your hand.”

“At least hold my left one!” Gavin protested, stress levels and body temperature rising.

“Alright,” Connor agreed. “That sounds rational.” He let Gavin's right hand escape from his hold, and immediately tackled his left one to the table.

Gavin sighed, looking at his poor left hand turning almost white under Connor's unforgiving hold. “I'm not a man of patience, dipshit,” he groaned.

“You're a detective,” Connor replied, unfazed. “You've already almost blown our cover multiple times. You can handle me holding your hand.”

Gavin blinked, shock clear in his features. “Fucking hell,” he blurted out, surprised, “who put a stick up your ass today?”

Connor tilted his head. “What?”

Gavin rolled his eyes. “Never mind,” he sighed again, and kept on eating his risotto as Connor continued to stare at him creepily. The detective didn't even try to get him to stop doing that again.

Connor let the minutes pass, busying himself with analyzing every single detail of Gavin's face. Even if the detective sounded normal, his vitals suggested a certain tiredness already and high levels of stress; Connor kept wondering about Kamski, about what would happen now. Would Gavin ever tell him more about his genius twin? Would he even go back to Kamski's mansion, to try and talk to his estranged brother again?

Connor wondered if his database had been incorrect, or even hacked. Perhaps Kamski hadn't wanted anyone to know he was Gavin's heterozygous twin brother. But why? And what about Gavin's deceased twin, John? Was it just a false entry into his archive, or something real?

Connor wished Gavin would talk to him, tell him all about it. But he knew he had to respect his boundaries, because Hank had told him so and Hank was always right.

 

“We should get to know each other better,” Connor said, doing the complete opposite of what he'd been meaning to do.

 

Gavin swallowed his bite, raised one of his eyebrows up at Connor. “What?”

“It's a date,” Connor simply replied. “People try to get to know one another better, during dates.”

Gavin sighed. “This is not a date, it's a pretend date-”

Connor grabbed his hand tighter, harder, and Gavin's eyebrows shot up to his forehead. “Okay, there's no need to threaten me into talking, bitch,” he said between gritted teeth, and Connor struggled not to smirk victoriously down at him.

“What do you want to know,” Gavin continued, making another face at his poor hand as the android softened his hold again.

“Tell me about your interests,” he said gently.

Gavin played with the food in his plate for a while before answering. “I used to like cars, mechanical engineering, that sort of stuff,” he answered distractedly, “now I can barely stand all
that stuff, though. I don't...”

He moved his food to the extreme left of the plate, then back to the right. He pressed the risotto down with his fork and stared at it as he spoke. “I don't think there's really anything I like, now.”

Connor tilted his head. “Isn't there anything you enjoy?”

Gavin had to think about it for a few seconds. “I like horror movies, mystery shows, that sort of thing,” he shrugged. “I like travelling. Medical science. And, uhm... Old computer games. I think.”

He raised an eyebrow and nodded in Connor's direction, eager to stop being the focus of attention. “Your turn.”

“Oh,” Connor exhaled, surprised. He was rarely asked personal questions- was this the way people felt when he was the one asking? Did they experience this sudden difficulty to say anything, too?

“I... I'm not sure,” he replied, because he really wasn't.

“Your turn,” Gavin insisted, swallowing another bite of risotto.

Connor furrowed his brows, trying to concentrate. “I like dogs,” he replied.

“Good,” Gavin said, gesturing with his fork, “what else?”

Connor shrugged. “What's there to add?”

Gavin rolled his eyes. “Anything else you enjoy? Movies, music, that kind of stuff?”

“I like the TV show we've been watching,” Connor nodded, after a brief moment of silence. “It's really good. Irrational,” he added, thinking of the ghosts hunters the TV show featured, “but... Funny, I think.”

He bit his lower lip in concentration. “I enjoy listening to classical music,” he continued. “I think Strauss might be my favorite.”

Gavin raised his eyebrows, surprised. “I was expecting you to say Mozart or Beethoven, you know, the big ones,” he commented, surprised. “Why Strauss?”

Connor felt weirdly embarrassed to answer. “No reason,” he muttered, trying to dismiss the question.

Gavin immediately smelled his embarrassment, and smirked up at him. “Come on, let's hear it.”

“No,” Connor replied. He hoped to not be pouting.

Gavin blatantly attempted - and failed - to hide his snorting, then suddenly stared at him with a hurt look in his eyes. Connor glanced back at him, surprised, and Gavin blinked slowly up at him as he bit on his lower lip with intent. “Loving boyfriend keeps secrets from me,” he said softly, the perfect picture of sadness. “Guess I'll have to make a scene in three, two, one-”

“That is blatant intimidation,” Connor said, rolling his eyes. “I could file a report on your illegal behavior.”

Gavin just grinned. “Or you could just tell me,” he insisted.

He covered Connor's hand with his free one, stroking its back slowly. “Oh come on, baby, don't be shy,” he smirked. “Let's hear your dirty little secret.”

He stared at Connor as the android's eyes widened and hurriedly avoided his, and didn't even try to hide his snorting this time. “Seems to work way better than intimidation, huh?”

“I was sitting on the couch, Hank had fallen asleep,” Connor quickly explained, still avoiding Gavin's gaze, “and he turned around so suddenly that the TV remote fell to the floor. Sumo sniffed at it and pawed at it so hard that he changed channel.”

He let a few beats of silence pass, still dealing with his uneasiness, and hoping that would be enough to satisfy Gavin's curiosity. “Well?” Gavin prompted. It clearly wasn't.

“There was this live stream of some kind of ball in Vienna, I don't know,” Connor lied, letting out a little sigh, “with all these people dancing inside Schonbrunn Castle. Strauss' The Blue Danube waltz was playing in the background.”

Gavin stared at him as Connor remained quiet once again. “And?” He pressed, tone of voice turning frustrated. “Jesus, what do I have to do to make you get to the point-”

“And I really liked it,” Connor quickly concluded, a little embarrassed, avoiding his gaze. “I... I don't know why.”

Gavin kept staring at him, almost assessing him with his gaze as silence fell between them once again. Connor didn't look back at him, busying himself with biting on his lower lip instead- wondering what the detective would make of his little confession.

Gavin finally huffed out a quiet, little chuckle. “Barbie, I think you do.”

 

Connor didn't reply. He just cleared his throat, changing the topic. “Can I ask you a personal question about your family, Detective?”

“Nope,” Gavin replied, without even flinching.

Connor stared at the table. “I don't know what else to ask you, then,” he mumbled.

“Luckily for you, I'm finished here,” Gavin announced, around his last mouthful of risotto. “This date is coming to an end and to be honest, it sucked.”

Connor's LED flashed yellow. “I've added this entry to my database,” he replied. “Thank you for your feedback.”

Gavin burst out laughing so suddenly that Connor couldn't even try to hide his surprise. “You're so fucking weird!” He snickered, face still broken into an amused laughter. “No way you're not doing this on purpose, come on!”

“I swear I'm not,” Connor lied. He couldn't stop the little smile that spread on his lips at the sight of Gavin being so-

Happy.

“You're smirking!” Gavin accused him, still laughing.

“I have no control over my facial expressions during social exchanges,” Connor insisted, face completely blank.

Gavin hid his face in his right hand, covering it from Connor's view. “What the fuck,” he snorted, shaking his head in disbelief. “Let's go back home, come on.”

Connor firmly held Gavin's hand to the table, not letting go of it just yet. “Can we have coffee first?”

That seemed to slowly make Gavin stop laughing; his gaze turned amused. “Coffee?” He echoed, pleasantly taken aback by his question. “You really like it, uh?”

“I do,” Connor nodded. “I want to drink some before we leave.”

Gavin snorted quietly. “Yeah, Con, I'm not deaf.”

He signaled to a waitress before the android could even raise his hand, asking her to bring two cups of coffee over. She smiled and did as she was asked in the blink of an eye.

“I fucking love the service here,” Gavin groaned, bringing his cup to his mouth, “and they offer the best coffee I've ever had, god-”

Connor immediately stopped his arm before he could drink.

“It's too hot,” he warned him. “You'll burn your tongue.”

 

Gavin tried to free himself from his hold, but Connor wouldn't desist. “Let me go,” he protested.

Connor didn't even flinch, just holding onto it so tight Gavin couldn't even move his arm. “Oh come on- fuck you, Connor,” Gavin said with an exasperated tone, mood changing quickly once again, “fuck, you! You already have my left hand to the table, you fuckin' plastic asshole, let me have my goddamn coffee-”

“This is a date,” Connor interrupted, furrowing his brows, “but we haven't even kissed yet.”

Gavin groaned out loud, ceasing all struggles. “Connor-”

“Are you intentionally trying to blow our cover, Detective?” Connor protested, tilting his head as he whispered out his words.

“I'm just intentionally trying to drink my fucking coffee,” Gavin grunted.

“I think we should kiss,” Connor insisted.

“I think you should let me drink my coffee first,” Gavin bargained, “then worry about kissing me later-”

Connor's LED flashed yellow again. “Your coffee has now turned into the perfect temperature for drinking.”

“See,” Gavin nodded, trying to free his arm from Connor's hold again, “this is where you let go of me, enjoy your coffee, and fucking relax-”

Connor finally let go of him. “Jesus,” Gavin grumbled into his coffee. “I don't know what the fuck has gotten over you today, Con, but you need to stop.”

“You're not okay,” Connor said simply, changing the topic in the only way he immediately knew how. The happiness of just a few minutes ago had completely dissipated. “You're lying, saying that you are, but you aren't. Talking about it would help you, but you refuse to, which will only lead to you experiencing more pain in the near future.”

“Cool,” Gavin only replied, downing his coffee in a second. “Let's go.”

Connor furrowed his brows. “Gavin-”

“I'm not in the mood for a fight, Connor, okay?” Gavin cut him off, tone harsh. “I was having fun, goddammit. Let it go. I'm not going to talk to you about it, got it?”

Connor couldn't let it go. “But I just want to understand!” He protested. “Gavin, listen to me, if you would just-”

“Connor!” Gavin hissed, stress levels rising dramatically. It was enough to interrupt Connor mid-sentence. “You want to help me? Then fucking stop reminding me of it!”

“But-” the android insisted.

“Connor,” Gavin repeated, sighing heavily instead of raising his voice again. “I'm tired. Come on.”

It sounded like a call for mercy, and Connor sighed as well. Gavin did look exhausted. “Okay,” he murmured, lowering his gaze.

Gavin stared at him for a second, then looked down at the android's still full cup. “Drink your coffee,” he encouraged him quietly. Everything suddenly seemed so silent.

“I don't want it anymore,” Connor mumbled.

Gavin sighed again. “Drink your coffee first,” he repeated, tone still soft, “and then we'll go to Markus' and Simon's place and I promise, I will be on my best behavior. Deal?”

Connor's eyes shot back up to Gavin's, mood changing in a second. “Deal.”

Gavin snorted silently, waiting for him as Connor hurried up to finish his coffee. The android barely gave him enough time to pay for his lunch before he basically dragged him out of there and straight to Markus' and Simon's place.

He rang the doorbell, smiling down at Gavin as they waited for someone to invite them inside. Gavin just avoided his gaze, staring at their intertwined hands instead; Connor loved the feel of Gavin's hands against his. He had missed it so bad.

Gavin was quiet, clearly uneasy- but not saying a word of complaint; determined to do as Connor had asked him, ready to excuse himself to Simon and Markus, unbelievably willing to prove Connor that he cared.

 

Swallowing down his pride.

 

“I'm glad you're doing this for me,” Connor said quietly, holding Gavin's hand tighter for a moment.

The detective closed his eyes and took a deep breath, nodding slowly up at him when he opened them back again. He started to say something - his gaze suddenly looking a little softer than usual, even through the discomfort -, but the door was opened by Simon before he could speak.

Simon's eyes lit up as he saw Connor; then immediately lost their newfound light when they noticed Gavin. The detective just rolled his eyes.

“Oh,” the blonde android said, unable to hide his reaction. “Hello.”

“What a fucking welcome,” Gavin complained. Connor furrowed his eyebrows as his smile disappeared, tugging at his hand and staring at him with a disappointed look in his eyes.

The detective's eyes widened at his own words, seemingly taking the hint as he sighed silently before speaking again. “Hello, Simon,” he mumbled, a little reluctantly, “will you please let us inside-”

Simon blinked down at him, sending a brief, questioning glance at Connor. “Yes?” He replied, making it sound like a question, clearly confused. He stepped aside, letting them in.

“Okay, let me get straight to the point,” Gavin said, as soon as he stepped foot into the house. “Where's your-”

He took a deep breath again, stopping himself in his tracks before he could say anything offensive. “Where's Markus?”

Simon locked the door before answering. “He's with Josh right now,” he replied, heading for the living room. “Follow me, please. He'll be back soon.”

He led them through the corridor, glancing at Gavin from time to time as he walked. “Why the unexpected visit, Detective?”

“What, can't I suddenly wish to pay my greetings to the local gay power couple?” Gavin grumbled.

Connor stopped dead in his steps, the momentum pulling Gavin back too as his hand was still held tight by Connor's. “You promised to be on your best behavior,” the android whispered, letting the disappointment bleed into his tone. “You said these exact words.”

 

Gavin sighed. “I'm trying,” he nodded. He actually looked the part. “Sorry.”

Connor shook his head. “Sorry doesn't-”

“Why don't you take a seat?” Simon said, interrupting them gently. He gestured to the couch to his back; he was sitting down on the carpet laid in front of the couch, where Jamie and his puppy hologram were busy trying to get their attention.

Connor hadn't even noticed him. He let go of Gavin's hand and heaved a little sigh, forcing himself to smile at the young boy and walk over to the couch.

Gavin greeted Jamie quietly, even pretending to pet the puppy hologram on its head before taking place on the couch next to Connor. Simon just eyed him, confused by his sudden change of attitude.

He glanced at the television in front of them, which immediately turned on and set itself on a kids' TV show. Jamie let out a happy screech, raising his arms into the air excitedly and pushing his back against Simon's chest as he did. Simon just turned him better into his lap, so that Jamie could watch the TV with no struggle as he kept himself half-turned towards their guests and half-turned towards the television.

He had no LED to demonstrate his actions, but Connor could see in his focused gaze that he was surely sending a message to Markus. Gavin just coughed awkwardly into his fist, clearly uncomfortable with the sudden silence.

Well. He was human.

“I hope you're feeling better than you did yesterday, Detective,” Simon said politely, noticing his discomfort. Gavin just shrugged, avoiding the question.

“Where's Ashley?” Connor asked, changing the topic. “I thought she'd be staying with you and Markus until Wednesday, too?”

Simon nodded. “She's having a sleepover to a friend's house today. His name is Michael.”

“Sure,” Gavin snorted. “A sleepover.”

Simon furrowed his brows. “What do you mean with that?”

“I'm just saying,” Gavin said, raising his arms in mock surrender, “girls don't just have sleepovers with guys, that's all.”

Simon only blinked at him for a few seconds. “Ashley's almost eighteen,” he said slowly. “She has her mother's allowance to spend the night at her friend's place, and besides, she can make her own choices. I trust her judgment.”

It was Gavin's turn to blink at him; he stared at the blonde android for a moment, taken aback by his reply. “Woah,” he muttered. “Talk about a trusting parent.”

“I'm not her parent,” Simon replied, lowering his eyes.

“How did you and Markus meet their family?” Connor asked as he nodded towards Jamie, desperately trying to change the topic. Simon hummed in thought before answering.

“We had just moved in here, three years ago,” he explained. “This fourteen-year-old kid wouldn't stop screaming at her mom from the house across ours, and me and Markus saw her storming out of her home like she wanted to kill someone.”

 

He chuckled. “Markus and I were making cookies for our human neighbors- we wanted us to make a good first impression, you know, being some of the very first androids to ever move in this neighborhood. So we went to her, and offered her some.”

He smiled fondly down at Jamie, still seated comfortably on his lap and watching the television with the biggest grin on his little face, unbothered by their ongoing conversation. “You can guess the rest.”

“Must have been some fucking miraculous cookies,” Gavin grumbled.

Simon's smile widened. “I have made some just this morning, if you want to try them.”

“Fuck yeah,” Gavin groaned. He immediately covered his mouth with his hand as he said, “sorry. Didn't mean to, uh- I won't swear again.”

Simon sighed, but smiled up at him lightly again. “Alright,” he said patiently, and then lowered the volume of the television with a single glance to the device. “Jamie,” he called, bending his head a little to be able to look the kid in the eyes, “do you want one of your chocolate cookies?”

Jamie didn't even reply, just letting out an exhilarated squeak instead as he went running into the kitchen. Simon followed him there in a hurry, telling him to please stop running!

Connor let his gaze space around himself; the carpet was covered by all sorts of children toys, from cute plushies to digital devices. Dozens of Disney movies were neatly disposed on a shelf above the television, and high school tablets were piled on the table in perfect order- ready to be used again when Ashley would be back home, right next to her shiny white computer.

Gavin hummed quietly, bringing Connor's attention back to him. He was looking intently at their surroundings too; his gaze fixed on the DVDs on the shelf after a few seconds, tongue just grazing at his bottom lip in thought.

“What?” Connor asked. Gavin looked deep in thought.

“That's a lot of Disney movies,” the detective muttered, sounding distracted. “Didn't know there were so many out there.”

Connor checked his database. There were, indeed, quite a lot of them.

He didn't know what to make of the comment. He remained quiet.

“I never watched one,” Gavin concluded, unprompted. “It's just- it's odd. I can recognize some of the titles from when I was a kid, but I have no clue what they're about.”

He looked down at his shoes, letting a sad, little chuckle escape from his mouth. “This fucking kid knows more about movies of my time that I do. It's-”

He sighed. “Just ignore me,” he mumbled, “I'm just rambling. Nervous. You know.”

Connor did not ignore him. He tilted his head as he asked, “why did you never watch one?”

Gavin's foot tapped against the floor a few times, betraying his uncaring tone when he spoke next. “My dad thought it was gay. The movies, I mean. Watching them. You know, uh- girl's stuff.”

Connor blinked.

“Princesses, talking animals, whatever... Whatever is in there, right? Mermaids. Prince Charming,” Gavin snorted. “Yeah. Girl's stuff indeed.”

He bit on his lip. He sounded amused, but his eyes weren't. “Guess the fucker was right, after all.”

Connor furrowed his brows, shaking his head in confusion. “There is no entry in my database suggesting that Disney movies could affect children's sexuality in their future. That's simply ridiculous. Why would you think-”

“Connor, it's- whatever, alright?” Gavin cut him off, keeping his gaze to the ground. “It's in the past. I don't care. It was just a thought, 'kay.”

He sighed heavily. “You don't have to take everything I say as an entry to your database. I was just-”

“We could watch one when we come back home,” Connor immediately suggested. He turned around, and his knees bumped against Gavin's just as the detective's eyes raised up to meet his again. “We can ask Simon for his permission to lend us one of those DVDs, and-”

“Permission granted,” Simon said.

Both Gavin and Connor turned towards him, surprised to hear his voice as he walked back into the living room. The blonde android looked at them sheepishly, a guilty little smile taking place on his lips while he walked closer to them. “I'm sorry,” he said gently, “I didn't want to eavesdrop. But the walls here- they're pretty thin.”

He showed them a huge plate of his chocolate cookies as peace offering. “Cookies?”

Gavin didn't miss a beat. “Whatever,” he grunted, and busied himself with stuffing his mouth.

Connor couldn't laugh, even though Gavin sure looked like an angry chipmunk filling his cheeks with food. He was still thinking of the implications of what the detective had said; he slowly took one of the cookies from the plate, munching on it half-heartedly while Jamie begged for more and Simon explained to him patiently that he had already had enough.

The sound of a key turning into the lock made Jamie immediately forget about the argument. He went running to the door, calling Markus name with all the enthusiasm of a four-year-old.

Markus met him halfway; Connor watched as he crouched down and Jamie straight-up leaped into his arms, wrapping his own arms tight around the android's neck and laughing loudly as Markus stood up again and messed up his hair with his free hand.

“We have guests!” Jamie said excitedly, pointing at Connor and Gavin and smiling from ear to ear. Markus' own smile disappeared as soon as he saw the detective- making Gavin groan quietly at the new terrible welcome.

“Hello to you too,” he said, rolling his eyes. “I didn't come here looking for a fight, okay.”

“That would be a surprise,” Markus replied, letting Jamie down. He didn't sound harsh, nor suspicious; just stating a fact. Gavin just groaned again.

Markus sent a quick glance to Simon. The android just shrugged lightly.

“Did you talk about anything important while I wasn't here?” Markus asked, gaze turning sharp. Ready to take matters into his own hands; probably assuming the worst already. “Any news about the case?”

His first instinct was to extend his arm, synthetic skin disappearing as he held his hand out to Simon. The android shook his head, taking a step back quickly and avoiding Markus' gaze- his hand shooting to his chest, held safe away from Markus'.

The RK200's gaze steeled. Not a single reaction showing as he quietly accepted Simon's refusal, slowly turning around to face Connor and Gavin instead.

The android detective blinked at the weird exchange, wondering what had just happened there. Even Jamie seemed to have noticed; his brown eyes filled up with worry, and Simon hurried up to crouch down in front of him and smile widely up at him as he brought his curly hair back.

“Why don't you go to your room?” The android asked him gently. “You can start putting your flashcards in order, and I will join you before you're done.”

Jamie bit on his lower lip, his gaze alternating between him and the darker-skinned android. “Is Markus going to join us too?”

A little smile found its place on Markus' mouth as he walked to the kid, messing up his hair again. “Sure. We'll both be there in a second.”

Jamie nodded, reassured, and disappeared in the corridor. Connor looked at him as he went.

“So?” Markus asked, regaining his usual serious frown once again as a little furrow formed between his brows. Gavin noticed it and lowered his eyes, furrowing his brows as well.

Simon seemed to understand how he was feeling just by watching the changes in his facial expressions. “Detective Reed,” he called politely, “we're not trying to make you uncomfortable. That is simply Markus' default face.”

That got a snort out of Gavin, just as the RK200 rolled his eyes instead. “You know you can be a little intimidating,” Simon told Markus around a little chuckle, blue eyes soft and still a little sad.

“Wish that worked on Ashley, too,” Markus replied, glancing at Simon again and offering him a little smile. His gaze was fond even as he complained. “She's too smart. Takes after her mother.”

“I am not intimidated,” Gavin grunted, ignoring their words. “Okay, listen up-”

He interrupted himself mid-sentence. He tried again. “I am- uh, I... I am...”

He stared intently at his hands, looking as if he was searching for the right words. The three androids in the room just watched him, waiting for him to find them. “I wanted to tell you, uh, that I-”

He let out a loud sigh, then shook his head to himself and lifted his chin in just one, quick motion. “You know what? I am sorry,” he blurted out. He kept shaking his head to himself. “I can't believe this, I would not believe this if it wasn't right in front of my eyes, but-”

He glanced up at Simon and Markus. “These kids are... They are...”

He closed his eyes, something painful twisting his mouth for a second before he spoke again. “Loved,” he concluded. His leg was shaking up and down a little, nervousness and sincerity both equally showing in his gaze. “They are loved, and it's so clear that they are.”

He nervously gestured to the room as a whole as he added, “hell, you have all this children stuff and you don't even have a kid of your own, it's- it's ridiculous. Fucking unbelievable. You'll be- fuck, you'll be amazing parents, you-”

He swallowed, fixing his gaze into Simon's eyes. “You fucking do deserve a family.”

Simon's eyes welled up with tears.

Gavin groaned quietly, gesticulating again as he kept talking. “Please don't cry, alright? That would make me real uncomfortable, okay, and- and by the way- yeah, I know what I said last time, and I was telling the truth, alright? Families are a fucking mess. My-”

He bit on his lip, stopping himself before he could give out any personal detail. “They, they're just a mess, alright? It's true. It's more trouble than it's worth. It fucking sucks, let me tell you.”

He sighed, lowering his gaze to his hands as he finally stilled them. He shook his head to himself again, then nodded back up at Simon. “But if you want it, hey. I'm sure you'll be better than my folks have been. It's your choice.”

He suddenly snorted, glancing at Markus briefly before fixing his gaze on Simon again. “You've got to sort out your issues with Intimidating Face here first, sure,” he shrugged, “fix your, your awkward situation, yeah? Because it's a goddamn hell of a situation and let me just say this, if a fucking four-year-old understands that you're having troubles in heaven, it must be pretty goddamn clear to everyone that you should probably have some more, you know, conciliatory sex and-”

“Gavin,” Connor cut him off, before the situation could degenerate any further. Gavin rolled his eyes.

“Whatever, well,” he concluded. “You get the picture. I'm sorry. That's- that's the long story short.”

He frowned to himself. “I think.”

James called from the other side of the house right as he spoke those words. “That kid even has his own bedroom,” Gavin grumbled. “Unbelievable. Un-fucking-believable. I swear to god.”

Simon let out a wet chuckle. “I- I'll go see what he needs,” he said, already heading for the corridor.

But he stopped by the television, lowered his gaze for a moment, and then looked at the DVDs from the collection on the shelf. Gavin stared, horrified, as the android's fingertips grazed at some of those; Simon hesitated only for a moment before taking one of the DVDs in his hand, bringing it to the detective.

“I,” Gavin whispered, voice suddenly hoarse and pointedly not reaching for the DVD, “I- I don't-”

Connor took the DVD in his place. “Thank you,” he mechanically said, still a little too overwhelmed by Gavin's words to give any intonation to his voice.

Simon only glanced at Gavin, offered him a trembling, little smile, and finally left the room.

Markus remained quiet for a few seconds, not even questioning what had just happened. He just stared at Gavin, even though the detective's gaze went to fix on his shoes instead; Gavin was stubbornly looking away from the DVD on Connor's lap, angling his whole body away from it as if its mere presence could hurt him. Meanwhile, Connor had been so shocked by the detective's speech that he hadn't even blinked once through it- and neither had Markus.

“We, um,” Gavin muttered, suddenly standing up in a hurry, “we should go, Con, come on-”

“Stay,” Markus interrupted, the word sounding like an order. Gavin froze where he stood.

He raised his arms in surrender as he said, “before you make any, uh, definitive decision, I'd like to remind everyone here that I'm not always an asshole by choice-”

Markus cut him off before he could continue. “I accept your apologies.”

He looked down at the DVD still in Connor's lap and added, “I imagine Simon does, too.”

 

Gavin sucked in a loud breath, just to let it go again just as loudly. “Yeah. Alright. Good.”

Markus didn't smile, but the furrow between his brows relaxed a little. Gavin swallowed. “So, can we go now-”

Connor stood up, bringing the DVD with him as he walked to Markus and smiled politely up at him. “Thank you for having us,” he said, “please say goodbye for us to Simon and Jamie as well.”

“Sure,” Markus nodded. “I'll accompany you to the door.”

He kept eyeing Gavin as he walked them through the corridor, but didn't look suspicious. He seemed to be just surprised, still assessing the situation before speaking his mind- at least to Connor.

He stopped by the threshold as Gavin and Connor walked past it, ready to leave, and cleared his throat to stop them before they could. “Will you be home tomorrow night?” He asked, fixing his eyes on Gavin. He did look intimidating, even if Connor knew it really was just his default facial expression; Gavin, on the other hand, didn't look so sure of it. “I have something to show you.”

Gavin paled. “I- uh, uh, I might- I'm not sure, well- maybe? Or- or maybe not, I- I mean-”

“Have a good day,” Markus said, closing the door.

Gavin immediately grabbed Connor's shoulder as the android disappeared from sight. “He wants to kill me!” He hissed, panic clear in his eyes. “Connor, look, I was nice- I was nice and he wants to murder me!”

Connor couldn't help but let out a little chuckle. “He does not want to kill you, Gavin.”

“No, no, listen,” Gavin insisted, shaking his head, “did you see? Did you hear? He was threatening me! He was hinting at my homicide!”

Connor chuckled louder. “He was not! You were...”

He couldn't fight the smile growing on his lips. “You were so good, Gavin,” he said softly.

“I know, right?” Gavin cut him off, looking disbelieving himself. “No,” he immediately said, horrified, “no, no, that's not what I wanted to say, what I wanted to say is that, I, did not mean anything I just said, okay-”

He let go of Connor's shoulder. Connor bit on his lower lip to try and hide the smile that kept dancing on his lips, heart exploding in his chest-

“You did,” the android whispered fondly, extending his arm to grab at the hand Gavin had just taken away from his shoulder. The detective immediately tried to distance himself from him, reading his mind, but Connor caught his hand before it could go too far away. He felt like dancing, like laughing, he felt like kissing Gavin to the moon and back. “It was great. It really was, you... You shouldn't be ashamed. You should be proud of yourself. I am proud.”

 

“Whatever, you- you're not getting the point, Connor!” Gavin replied, still trying to shake his hand away from the android's and blushing a wonderful, lovely red. Connor let out a breathless chuckle. “Please let me go, what the fuck, can't you see I'm panicking here-”

 

Connor grabbed the back of his head with his free hand, and pulled him into a kiss.