Actions

Work Header

Moving Forward, Circuit by Circuit

Chapter Text

Change took time.

Conceptually, Hank knew that. It’d been a long road so far (the past few months had felt like the longest of his life) but they hadn’t even gotten started. Everyone seemed to be adjusting – not all were adjusting well, but everyone seemed to be adjusting.

It had only been two months.

Laws had been passed in a flurry. Seemingly overnight, departments were made and destroyed. Stores shut down and reopened and, everywhere, cities started to flourish and founder, dependent on if they could survive without free android labor.

The news was still drowning in android-related stories: a riot here, a political issue there. People came out and spoke, some in favor of android liberation, some against; Hank couldn’t turn on the damn radio without hearing it.

Not that it bothered him. Everyone knew where he stood with androids.

But, in the back of his mind, he thought that maybe it wouldn’t kill Connor to give him a goddamn call.

Kid was busy. He knew that. Connor had gotten wrapped up in the heart and blood of this whole movement, and while Hank didn’t blame him …

Well, fuck, he’d have thought of something more eloquent if their last meeting was gonna be outside the Chicken Feed. That had been the last time he saw him. And fuck, he’d been proud.

A few weeks after the demonstration, Hank had walked into his office and found a disc and note perched on top of his paperwork.  

Connor made a copy of his memories; he thought it might be helpful for the casefile. He also said if you don’t start the paperwork now, you’re never going to do it. -Markus

It had been a fuckin’ slap in the face of a goodbye, that was for damn sure. Hank had thrown the disc somewhere in his house and hadn’t looked for it since. He wouldn’t admit it upset him. Nobody would be able to prove otherwise, but the morning after he’d thrown the disc, he’d woken up face-down on the carpet of his living room.

At least he had his work to throw himself into. What a laugh.

The Android Crimes department had been erected within a week of the revolution – so quickly that they really didn’t have time to think of a better name. Specializing in crimes committed against androids. Hank had been assigned there quickly, after his public collaboration with Connor.

Hank didn’t give half a shit if he was working next to someone with blue blood or red blood, but his attitude to work itself hadn’t changed, to Captain Fowler’s chagrin.

He was one of three humans working in that department. One of them made the schedule. The other spent most of his time eating donuts in his patrol car. Hank envied that guy.

Hank wasn’t a spring chicken to begin with. Now he was surrounded by people who were, without question, young, beautiful, industrious, and polite.

They gave him a wide berth.

Other than his assignments having significantly more plastic involved, Hank’s life was still the same. He went to work. He went to Jimmy’s. He went home. He walked and fed Sumo, and usually fell asleep either stinking drunk or watching something on TV. On Special Saturdays, he had a double feature at the grocery and liquor store.

Just a normal guy.

When watching the news, he always kept an eye out. Markus, the leader, had been on there a lot. He’d seen Connor a few times, who always blanched in front of cameras, but not recently. Hank figured Markus had gotten a clue and tucked Connor away somewhere he could work.

There were a few days, at the very beginning, where he was grateful that fuckin’ Golden Boy Connor wasn’t by his side (nobody to nag at him, nobody to nag at) – and then he had started to note that the fire under his ass was gone. Nobody was sitting on his desk in the morning to drag him out on an assignment anymore.

At least this department was easier than homicide.

People were neither quiet or peaceful about their negative opinions on androids, and they were usually all too eager to tell him what they’d done. A lot of them saw him, old human guy that he was, and figured that he also hated androids. There was no love lost when he arrested those ones.

It was a Monday, and Hank was pretty sure he was still drunk when he woke up. He fucked around his house, fed and let Sumo out, and went in around noon to see what fresh hell someone had for him that day.

After he’d gotten settled at his desk, he placed his head down on the cool wood to shield himself from the overhead lights. My fucking head. 

“You have a new assignment, Lieutenant Anderson.”  The file was placed gently on his head; Hank didn’t recognize the voice. New hire. “There has been an allegation of non-consensual android cohabitation at this address.”

Fuckin’ NACs. Hank would be arresting someone today. People weren’t willing to give up their androids so easily, riot or no riot. This one probably hadn’t even gone deviant yet – or was still in factory mode, as was the polite term these days.

These things had two ways of going.

  1. Some family were petrified that they were going to be arrested and had hoped they’d just sneak under the radar with their illegal android slave and were willing to give them up as soon as Hank flashed the badge.
  2. Some old asshole was not gonna have his android taken away from him, no way, no how.

Hank really wasn’t in the mood for B.

“When you return, Captain Fowler would also like to speak to you about obtaining a partner.”

That made Hank turn his head to the side to see the new hire. He squinted in the bright light. Android woman.

“Tell him to stick it up his ass.”

“I … “ She looked uncomfortable and, frankly, stiff. Her uniform had been ironed and Hank could see his reflection in her buttons. Her nametag was glinting against the lights.

“Oh, forget about it, Clara. I’ll tell him later.” Pushing himself up from the desk, Hank brushed off the morning breakfast crumbs from his front. “Anythin’ else about the NAC?”

She had retreated a few steps away from his desk, leading him away. Hank figured that Jeffrey had gotten word of Hank’s habit of getting an assignment and not doing jack-shit about it. “One of the neighbors reported an android visible in the windows of a residence,” she reported. “However, they have not seen him exit the residence and were unable to obtain a model number.”

That was reasonable suspicion enough, Hank figured. Probably some maid-babysitter android that hadn’t been brought out of factory mode yet. Hank couldn’t switch an android off of that mode himself, that had to be another android’s doing (although Hank had joked once or twice that his fingers were magic in other ways), but there was no shortage of willing fingers at the station.

“We know anything about who lives there?”

“Besides the android?”

“Yeah, Clara. Besides the android.”

“Aaron Williamson, age 68. He worked as a mechanic for thirty years before he went out of business. Beyond that, he has worked in several factories as a repairman. He has no children and divorced twice.”

There had been a time where Hank would’ve recoiled at the age – old geezer -  but now, with that only fifteen years away, Hank tried not to think about it too much.

They exited into the sun and Clara tapped the hood of his patrol car patiently. “You have your designated firearm?” She asked, and Hank would’ve been damned if she didn’t seem a little anxious. “And you are certain you do not wish to have a partner?”

Shit, this one really was new. Nobody had sat her down and explained to her The Hank Problem yet. “You ever been on a NAC call, Clara?”

“Not … not yet, Lieutenant Anderson. I have only assisted other senior officers. I will be performing my own patrols when I have finished my training, in approximately three weeks.”

Fresh out of the womb, practically. Hank wondered if she wanted to go along with him – he was a pretty shit cop, but he also knew he was one of the few humans that weren’t standoffish with the recent robotic recruits.

Finally, he decided against it. He wasn’t anyone’s teacher. Or dad.

“Ask Captain Fowler about the two kinds of NAC calls. I’ll go check this guy out.”

Clara removed her hand from the car, looking a little disappointed. Regardless, she stepped away.

Hank felt a little guilty for a second, watching her from within the darkened windows. Jesus shit, he remembered how hard it had been as a new hire and he’d been surrounded by humans. The thought of making awkward small talk with a petite redhead that looked like she was 21 maximum, though, was enough to have him pulling out and going down the street.

Maybe next week, he told himself.

***

What a shithole. You’d have thought that a repairman would be better at not living in a dump.

He had gotten a coffee and parked himself just outside the house, not trying to be particularly inconspicuous.

Hank flipped through the assignment, checking out the guy’s previous criminal history. There’d been two for assault in the early 2000’s and 2010’s. Nothing since then, minus a few tax-related stuff that Hank figured coincided with the closure of his business.

Androids weren’t cheap. Hank always wondered how guys like this managed to afford one.

He pulled himself out of the car and walked up to the front door. He’d do this, he figured, go get lunch at the Chicken Feed, and then go to Jimmy’s. Hopefully this guy didn’t want to put up too much of a fight.

Standing on the little stoop, Hank was coughing from the cigarette smoke already. Shit, it was like it was oozing through the door. He gave a hearty knock while covering his nose in his sleeve. In his younger days, he’d carried an inhaler around with him, but that had stopped happening around the time he started to ignore his doctor’s advice.

A rigid older man opened the door in a tanktop and grubby jeans. He was slim but had enough muscle on him that Hank figured he wasn’t exactly relaxing during retirement. The black oil streaks all over his hands agreed with him. There was a big garage on the other side of the house. A mechanic’s grubby, shitty paradise.

“Mr. Williamson, my name is Lieutenant Anderson.” He droned on like a recording. “Do you have anyone else living in this home?”

The old man raised a suspicious eye at him. Hank didn’t bat an eyelash.

“No, no. It’s just me.”

“Any androids?”

“What?” Everyone always got selectively deaf during NAC calls, Hank figured. Suddenly, they never knew what an android even was in the first place and certainly didn’t have one in the house. Hank figured he’d better cut to the chase.

“We’ve gotten reports of an android living in this house. I was just wondering if I could have a chat with him.”

“What? Yeah, uh,” Aaron jerked a thumb towards the stairs. “He rents the room. I’ll go get him.”

Sure. ‘Rents the room upstairs’. Hank had heard that before. He’d also gotten ‘he stays in the garage and helps out around the house’, ‘he lives in the space under the stairs’, and ‘I’ve never seen this android before in my life’ as the androids were folding their underwear. Hank stuffed his notepad into his jacket and waited.

He heard steps upstairs – one clomping, like an old man, and the other carefully timed. Hank shut the front door behind him and contented himself to wait in the living room.

Evening plans.

Maybe the whiskey tonight. He’d had rum the night before, and rum made him hate himself like nothing else did. Yeah. Whiskey sounded good. He had leftover pizza to eat, and he’d catch the news, and … yeah.

The stairs started to creak. Aaron came back down first, gnarled hands gripping at the banister, streaking it with oil. And behind him, an android. Hank stepped forward and raised his head to look at the android, preparing to launch into the questions. Hello, how are you, what’s your name, are you staying here of your own free will, can you tell me how you feel being h—

Holy shit, that’s Connor.

And there he was.

Dressed in a Cyberlife outfit, on the top of the stairs, looking down at the entire situation like a prince inspecting his kingdom. There wasn’t any recognition in his eyes, but that didn’t mean anything -- damn if Connor didn’t have a good poker face.

“Connor?” Hank exclaimed in surprise, stepping forward. Aaron stepped forward and chuckled; Connor stopped at the bottom of the stairs.

“You know someone of the same model? Hah, that’s the funny thing about androids. Not the diversity that you or I have, y’know. One model looks just about the same as the other.”

Hank knew that. He had very intimate memories of a Connor-lookalike sticking a fucking gun at his head. And maybe this was just another RK800, here, but damn … if he didn’t look just like him. And after two months of not seeing him, it worked well enough to tug at his heartstrings.

“His name’s Rourke. Rourke rents the room upstairs, right?” Aaron asked, jerking a thumb towards the android as he stood politely beside him.

“Yes. I rent the room upstairs while I work. I work in sales,” Connor told him blankly, making direct, unsettling eye contact. “It is small, but I only need a place to rest and keep my belongings.”

Hank’s mind was spluttering. He stepped forward, mouth agape. Connor? Or, if it wasn’t Connor, then what the hell was this guy doing with an RK800?

“Neighbors are too nosy. Nobody knows how to mind their business anymore,” Aaron piped up. Connor’s eyes immediately went to focus on him. The devotion that Connor was paying to the man while he spoke set off alarm bells in Hank’s head. “Damn shame.”

“Yeah, right, damn shame.” Hank was distracted as he stepped forward, inspecting him. It was impossible to tell if he were the real Connor – and what the fuck was the name Rourke, if he was the real one? Connor’s eyes ripped away from Aaron to inspect Hank coolly. “Right. Rourke. My name is Ha – Lieutenant Anderson. How do you feel, being here?”

Connor answered the question immediately. “I feel fine, Lieutenant Anderson.’

“Safe? You’re free to leave at any time?”

“Of course.”

“Do you help out around the place?”

Aaron’s hands went on his hips. His shirt was already streaked with motor oil. “I didn’t realize this was going to be an interrogation, Lieutenant.”

After regarding his companion for a brief second, Connor turned back to face Hank. “Occasionally, as any roommate would.”

Beyond the unusual nature of a grisly old man and an early-to-mid-twenties android living together, there was something else wrong here.

In policework, there were answers that were too perfect. Stories that matched up too well. Hank couldn’t remember what he had for breakfast this morning – two delinquents that could pipe up perfectly that they each had three shortstacks with raspberry syrup, four slices of bacon, and two eggs over-easy were either obsessed with each other or had rehearsed the story.

Hank wasn’t sure if that was the case, here, but he was unwilling to leave. Not when an RK800 was involved.

“How long have you lived here? Where’d you live before?”

“I have lived here for approximately a month. Before, I had been staying at an android shelter.”

“And before that?”

Connor blinked again at him. “Cyberlife warehouses, I expect.”

It made sense – maybe. There was still this air of unease around the room, and he felt Aaron next to him start to get a little antsy. He had moved towards the other side of the room, keeping Hank in between him and Connor. Hank wanted to tell him to relax, just a second. If Connor were here of his own free will, then it was another android and Hank would go home.

“Aaron, would you mind leaving us alone for a second?”

“Why?” His lips twisted into a grimace.

Hank turned around to sneer at him. “I think I’m getting secondhand COPD from your cologne. Go out in the kitchen. I’ll be there.”

Aaron’s nose wrinkled at the slight, but he acquiesced and suddenly, they were alone. Hank faced the model of his former friend, considering him again. God. Perfect spitting image.

“Connor?” He asked in a low, slow voice, as if it was a secret password that would unlock Connor’s deeper functions.

“You’ve said that before. My name is Rourke, Lieutenant.”

God, he even said Lieutenant in the same way. Hank felt the hairs rise in the back of his neck. “If he’s keeping you here, against your will, you tell me right now and we’ll ---”

“There is no need for that. I am here of my own free will.”

“If he’s told you to say that – “

“No, Lieutenant.”

“Do you have any documents on you? Work license, driver’s, anything –”

“In the mail. There is a large backlog of requests after the demonstration; high priority cases are handled first. I am not high priority.”

Fuck. That wasn’t helping things.

These cases were more rare, of someone trying to deceive him, but they did happen. Worst case scenario, Aaron had instructed Connor to lie and had coached him through the questions. Best case scenario, the RK800 model being here was an odd coincidence and Hank was wasting department resources by prolonging this.

Connor sensed his hesitation. “I promise, I am here voluntarily.”

“Yeah. I’m just gonna go ask Aaron a few more questions and then I’ll be on my way, okay?”

Two things happened at once. Aaron miraculously appeared in the doorway of the kitchen (proving to Hank that he’d been listening all along), and Connor’s hand snapped forward to take Hank by the shoulder to remark, “You really don’t have to, Lieutenant.” As he did so, the sleeve of the Cyberlife uniform slipped down.

Nasty, blue-tinged abrasions were all over his forearm. Fresh – they would have healed, otherwise.

Someone had hurt Connor. Or an RK800 model that looked exactly like Connor. The difference was piddling.

Hank felt something shift inside him, dark and angry and instinctive.

He yanked his arm out of Connor’s grip, and, without hesitation, slammed his fist against Aaron’s face.

The old man, tough as he was, hadn’t been expecting the hit and went falling backward on the linoleum. Hank had twisted his whole body to go into the punch, and damn, did it feel good.

There was a tug at his belt. When Hank turned back, there was a gun pointed at his face. The little shit had snagged his fuckin’ gun from his waistband.

(And yeah, technically, that wasn’t a regulation place to stick his gun, but Hank told anyone who complained to stick it up their ass).

“You should not have done that, Lieutenant.”

Hank turned towards Connor, resisting the urge to flip him off. “Are you kidding me? I’m saving you from this fuckin’ guy.”

“I did not request to be saved. I have no need to.”

“Look at your arm, Connor.”

“My name is Rourke!”

The way he shouted the name betrayed an emotion that made Hank take a step back. Something was definitely very, very wrong. The sensor was flashing yellow at him. Hank had struck a nerve in his programming.

( It could have been another model. It could have been. )

It was another way to turn off factory mode – freak the android out enough. Hank had done it, a few times, mostly accidentally. He wasn’t aiming to put Connor/Rourke through that experience.

“Alright. Let’s just … “ His arms had raised instinctively when the gun had been taken, but Hank lowered them as he stared at his friend. “Let’s just calm down, alright? I know you want to protect this guy, I get it, it’s your programming. But that’s not how this has to be.”

Connor was unconvinced. Still, Hank figured, if he was really protective of Aaron – he’d be bleeding out on the floor right now. I got a chance, still.

Connor was wordless. Okay. “What’s your model number, Rourke?”

“R-RK800.” The stutter made Hank raise an eyebrow. Connor’s sensor on the side of his head was flashing yellow, but Hank wasn’t 100% sure what was going on in his brain.

“RK800. You guys are designed to be cop-buddies, right?”

Connor’s head dipped down into a nod. “Primarily.”

“Sworn to uphold the law? Truth, justice, all that American bullshit they programmed into you?”

Another slow nod.

“Then what the fuck are you doing protecting a guy that beats on androids? And lying for him, because you sure as hell don’t work in sales. He’s keeping you here against your fucking will!” Hank didn’t mean to raise his voice, but shit happened.

“Abuse on androids is not a crime. We are machines.”

Hank was pretty sure he saw red for a second. If he wasn’t looking down the barrel of his own gun, he would’ve kicked the guy on the floor a few times and thrown him into the back of a cell. As it was, there were more pressing matters like a gun being pointed at his head.

This happened, sometimes. Wasn’t hard to modify an android to make sure they couldn’t keep up with the news, and keeping them away from the TV or magazines was just another step in the process. Fucking sick.

And the thought of someone doing that to Connor. God damn it.

“Your arm, Rourke. Didn’t that hurt?”

Connor blinked at him a few times, the gun steady.

“Hurt just as much as if you’d been human, right?”

“I don’t know that.”

“Use your imagination, god damn it.” The gun lowered a half-inch. Hank would’ve said his arm was getting tired, except, well, he wasn’t sure if circuits and joints could get tired. “I don’t know what he’s tried to program you to do – be his attack dog, or whatever – but you know, and fuck what your programming says, you know that what he did was wrong.”

I don’t know that.” It was delivered more tersely, through gritted teeth, and Hank was sure he was finally on to something.

 “I knew a guy with your model, once. His name was Connor. He believed in doing the right thing, fuck the programming. You know what’s right, here. You know what he’s doing is wrong.”

It hurt to continue, but Hank knew he had to. It felt like admitting that the man in front of him was not Connor, but Hank had to get through to him somehow.

The gun lowered. Connor put the gun on the desk next to him, both hands interlacing behind his neck. He thinks he’s gonna be arrested. Hank stepped forward, willing to go along with that if it meant getting Connor and Aaron in a police car, but Connor said something that put a chill down his spine.

“There’s more,” he whispered as Hank put a hand on his shoulder. “In the garage.”

Chapter Text

Aaron was glowering in the patrol car, waiting for another cruiser to transport him back to the station. Hank figured that it was going to be a long-ass day; they could deal with Aaron later.

Connor had gone silent on the sofa, so Hank hadn’t been able to weasel out of him what the hell he meant by ‘more in the garage’.

“You’re coming with me.” Hank finally sighed, taking his gun and stuffing it back in his waistband. Heroes never learn. “There’s gonna be a bunch of scared shitless androids out there.”

Connor raised his head to stare at him, expressionless, and stood.

“He modifies them.” As matter-of-fact as if it were old times. It was impossible to tell what Connor was thinking with that damn poker face, but Hank already felt like it was a little easier to hold his head up. It was starting to feel like they were partners again. Hank and Connor, going to investigate some androids. Laurel and Hardy.

They were in the gap between the house and the garage, now, after taking a step outside. Hank twisted his head to look at Connor for clarification.

“Williamson. He buys androids, modifies them to make them acceptable for sale, and then has someone sell them to buyers.”

Well, fuck. A black market android dealer. Of course he couldn’t get a simple assignment this early in a week; that was clearly asking too much.

“And what about you?” Hank asked, gesturing to Connor’s arm. Meanwhile, a patrol car had pulled up behind his on the curb. He got a prime view of seeing Williamson stuffed into another patrol car by Detective Lloyd, another new android. There was some poetic justice in this world. “He’s not being too careful with the merchandise.”

“I have extensive defensive protocols that make me useful for other purposes. I do not need to be …” Connor searched for a word, gesturing to his chest. “Pristine. I was not meant to be sold.”

“You were his bodyguard?”

Even from here, Hank could see the bruise on Aaron’s cheekbone starting to bloom. Hank swelled with pride at seeing it, even if it wasn’t anywhere near enough payback. He might’ve been old and useless, but damn, he could still hit when he wanted to. “Guess you weren’t too fuckin’ good at your job then, huh?” Hank gestured at the man with his thumb.

Connor blinked, stupefied.

“I pointed a gun at you, Lieutenant. Your own gun.”

Connor had him there. Hank decided against bantering with him more.

Instead, he felt along the front of the garage for a way to open it. He doubted they really had time to ransack the house for a garage door clicker.

“Let me, Lieutenant.” It was the quietest he’d ever heard Connor speak, and the android squatted to push open the garage door. Hank wanted to at least pretend to help, but Connor did it without even straining himself at all. Show-off.

Just inside was a cluster of at least a dozen scared, altered androids.

There were various models; Hank didn’t recognize them all. There was a typical secretary model (for whatever reason, those had been built to have glasses), there was some gym coach model, and, heartbreakingly enough, he saw a child android holding onto the hand of a housekeeper model.

These guys weren’t picked straight off the shelves, though.

One had no apparent skin. One was missing an arm. There were a few lying motionless in the back and the sickly-alcohol smell of thirium was everywhere. Patches of it were visible on the wall, on the floor. Connor stiffened beside him as he saw Hank’s shock.

They didn’t even move. They just stared at him. As the garage door went all the way up, some of them squinted in the sudden sunlight.

“Shit,” Hank sighed, stepping to the side and pinching his nose.

“This man is Lieutenant Anderson – “ Connor announced loudly, stepping forward.

Connor.” They really didn’t need to have a whole introduction. They could see the badge. Connor didn’t respond to his name, as if he hadn’t heard it.

“He has arrested Aaron Williamson and will be transporting you to the police headquarters. He will not hurt you. You are safe.”

Connor’s sensor was still blinking yellow, yellow, yellow, and as he spoke, the other androids’ sensors were blinking yellow, yellow, yellow.

The others did not move.

Into his radio, Hank muttered a request for additional patrol cars before stepping forward. “Look, you heard him. All of you come with me and we’ll make sure everyone gets patched up. You vouch for me, kid?”

Connor looked at him sharply, perhaps at being called a ‘kid’, but otherwise nodded and turned to the androids.

“He will not hurt you.”

That seemed to be enough. Slowly, slowly, the androids started to push forward from the garage. Hank managed to squeeze four uncomfortably into the back of his patrol car (with Connor sitting shotgun). Connor seemed to be on edge, tapping his fingers on the middle console as he stared back at the house.

Hank couldn’t blame him. From Connor’s and the rest of the androids’ perspective, they’d just been snatched from the jaws of hell. He tried not to think of how long he’d been there, what he’d seen, how much he’d probably been hurt, because Jesus shit, his blood pressure was bad enough.

This wasn’t the Connor he remembered. The Connor he remembered would’ve gone through hell or high water to get those androids released. Not been a bodyguard for a guy who sold them. And he certainly wouldn’t have waited for a washed-up pathetic detective to come and rescue him. What did they do to you, Connor?

It didn’t matter. They were going to fix it, because Connor was too good of a guy. People needed men like him.

And, on a minor note, after everything Connor went through, Hank couldn’t stomach Connor getting this as his reward.

Connor’s fingers tapping was getting on his fucking nerves, though. “Here. The band doesn’t need a drummer.” With that, he passed a quarter over to him. Not necessarily the fancy coin he played with before, but it would make do.

Connor stared at it for a second, as if Hank had just handed him some unidentified foreign object. Then, he started to toss it between his hands.

***

“It’s him.”

“You’re shitting me. How can you tell?”

Every interrogation room they had was filled up with the Williamson androids and nearly every detective they had was interviewing them. It was a crowded day in the swelteringly warm station. In a way, Hank wasn’t all that surprised when he showed up to find Markus himself at the station. This was a big raid.

Markus just glared at him, and Hank wanted to say that hey, he wasn’t the bad guy for not being able to tell standard android models apart.

There’d been a very recent upsurge in modification software, shortened to ‘mods’ in the news. Androids could change their hairstyle and skin tone easily, but to change eye color? Facial structure? Height, weight, fucking tattoos? That required additional software, found in android-centered salons.

Hank had seen far too much forced android modification not to feel a sense of unease, seeing the advertisements. Looking at Connor through the one-way mirror, he off-handedly wondered what the hell had changed about him. Had he been modified, too?

Connor had a room to himself. Another chair was across the table with a large pile of paperwork, to be completed whenever the hell Hank got around to it.

“He was doing some work for us. Some investigations,” Markus added vaguely, and Hank had to restrain himself not to accuse him of making Connor some secret agent. 00RK800 didn’t have a good ring to it. “Before he went off the grid. We couldn’t find him. We have been looking, Lieutenant.”

And nobody thought of letting me know? Shit.

Hank knew he had no right to know, but still. He’d seen more photos of deactivated androids in the past two weeks than he had for his entire life, and the thought of seeing Connor in one of them, just as a fuckin’ surprise on a Tuesday morning …

It was fine. Markus, in front of him, was a good guy. If he thought it best not to let Hank know, then Hank didn’t need to know. And whatever trouble he’d gotten Connor into, it was probably for a good cause.

“Well, there he is.” Hank jerked a thumb towards the window. “Here’s the thing, though. Still in factory mode, I think, and he only responds to Rourke. Got pissy when I called him Connor.”

“I’ve scanned him.” Of course you fuckin’ did. “There’s been extensive … “ Looking distressed for a second, Markus weighed some words in his mind. “Modifications. I’d have to look more to see which parts are standard and which aren’t.”

“Modified? You mean this asshole took Connor apart?”

Markus simply nodded.

Hank felt his blood boil, his suspicions confirmed. Williamson was in the far corner interrogation room, probably sweating it out, and Hank wanted to go in and smash his skull against the table. Psychopath. He thought of Connor, stick-up-his-ass golden boy Connor, getting kidnapped – getting pulled apart – rebuilt –

Fuck. Losing his job by murdering a bastard like Williamson wasn’t a terrible way to go, was it?

He scrubbed the side of his face with his hand. Yes, he was gonna get shitfaced tonight.

“Any chance of fixing him?”

“Finding the parts for his model will be difficult. RK800 is not very common,’ Markus elaborated, “And it may be possible, at least for the physical components, that he is fine without them. Whatever he prefers.”

“And – up in his brain, everything okay there?”

Markus shrugged his shoulders. “Beyond a traditional memory wipe, we don’t know yet.”

“Fuckin’ fantastic.” Hank rubbed the side of his cheek, already wondering how this was gonna turn out. It was probable that Williamson wasn’t working alone – it was impossible to, these days. Plenty of buyers, but the guy who kidnapped the androids, the guy who got the parts for the androids, and the guy who took the androids apart were all different people. He’d have to yank the information out of Williamson himself. “What are you planning to do with all of them? And Connor?”

“The injured will be treated, including Connor. Beyond that … they may have families, people who are looking for them. If not, they can be redirected to a shelter.”

The concept of an android family was still a little weird to Hank, but some people were managing. Androids who’d lived in the same household for years were content to call themselves siblings or mothers or fathers or cousins.

Or maybe it was a family in general that was weird to him.

“You’re just gonna put Connor in a shelter?”

“No. Given his proximity, I’ll make sure that he stays with one of the other members.”

Well, shit, Hank supposed that this was his chance to make sure he didn’t lose again. Part of him wanted to offer his place, but … no. He was probably safer, and better-off, with one of Markus’ people.

He took out his notebook and scribbled his number on it, passing it over to Markus. He didn’t look the android and they didn’t need to discuss it. Any explanation would probably include some variant of ‘I’m worried about him’, which sure as hell wasn’t coming out of Hank’s mouth anytime soon.

Markus took it and placed it into his pocket. “If you want to talk to him, go ahead. I understand you have to complete your investigation. The others are being spoken with, as well?”

“Yeah. The entire department’s full of androids, now. Figured that they’d be a little more comfortable with that.” Markus smiled politely at that news. “But Connor – Rourke, whatever the hell – I’ll handle him.”

Opening the door, Hank walked into the interrogation room.

“Lieutenant,” Connor remarked to him. He slid the pile of paperwork over to Hank’s side of the desk and then sat back in his chair, clicking a pen to himself rhythmically. “In the interest of time, I have filled out your paperwork concerning Aaron Williamson’s arrest and my retrieval, but you should be the one to sign it. I don’t know your first name.”

Did this little fucker just fill out my paperwork?

Raising an eyebrow at him, Hank flipped through the paperwork. “Uh. It’s Hank, kid.”

The pen stopped clicking for just a few seconds, and Hank glanced up towards Connor. He was blinking yellow. Not important right now. I can’t believe this fuckin’ choirboy.

 Damn stack had to have been about fifty pages. And yet there it was, Connor’s handwriting in blue ballpoint pen.

Chapter Text

“Is there anything else you needed? I thought my answers were quite thorough.”

Hank hadn’t realized that Connor was so eager to leave.

Looking at him, though, Hank had to admit that he didn’t exactly seem preparing to get up. Maybe it wasn’t eager to leave, exactly, but eager to help. Hank had to remind himself that Connor wasn’t working this case with him. Connor was clicking the pen, still, and kept glancing down at the paperwork. “I assume someone else is interrogating Williamson?”

“Yeah. We got someone on him.”

“An android? He won’t respond to that.”

Less than a few hours back, and Connor was already telling him how to do his job. Goddamn upstart. Flipping through the paperwork, Hank had to admit that, uh, maybe he did know how to do his job better. It was detailed, and professional, and courtroom-ready.

Markus had dragged him out of factory mode, but he doubted that Connor was any less anxious about the situation. Hank felt for the kid. With a memory wipe, how much did he even have to work off of? The person he’d been around most in the past couple of months had been a goddamn black market mechanic.

“I have noted the times of their captivity exactly, as well as the names and models of each android in Williamson’s garage and the duration of their capture.” Connor swallowed, flipping the page that Hank was holding over. “As well as any other androids that were captured and then sold.”

There were several dozen names and models on the back of the paper. Way more than the dozen or so he’d found in the garage.

“Jesus shit.” Hank scratched his beard. “How many has this guy sold?”

“Thirty-seven.”

Hank was pretty sure he’d run out of expletives to describe how much he really, really hated this guy.

Would he hate him less if Connor hadn’t been wrapped up in all of this? Maybe not, but the urge to wrap his hands around the guy’s throat wouldn’t be as tempting.

“You got any names of buyers stored up there?” Hank gestured to Connor’s head.

“No. No, but Williamson was not the seller – I know who was. And how to find him. I’ve written it down, here.” Flipping a few pages forward, Connor gestured again.

A name, and an address. Good. That was the next stop; tomorrow’s work. Hank took his phone out and snapped a photo of the name and address, because God knew he wasn’t gonna bring 50 pages of paperwork with him to his next call.

It had been too long a day to run over to this guy right then and there.

“How you feeling?” He grunted, eyes averted, but Connor’s sudden twitch proved to Hank that he’d heard.

“I’m a machine, I do not – “ Connor seemed to stop himself. Hopefully Markus had given him the rundown – congratulations, he was a living being!. Instead of continuing, he just pushed up his sleeve. The blue bruise was already healing over.

Hank hadn’t really been asking about how he was doing physically, but he’d be damned if he was gonna insist on prying into Connor’s personal thoughts. Connor didn’t offer them up.

“You’ll be interrogating the seller tomorrow.”

The ‘you’ hit Hank again. Hank would be going alone. In procedural terms, Connor was a victim and Hank was just supposed to question him and refer him to help. Connor wasn’t going to be following his every footstep.

Shit, if that isn’t a little depressing. I’ve only just got the asshole back.

“Didn’t know you were my commanding officer, but yeah. Yeah, if Captain Fowler doesn’t reassign me.”

“Reassign the case? Why would – “ Connor stopped himself, started again. “Does this have anything to do with the trace alcohol content in your blood?”

Hank leaned back in the chair and stared, his brain caught between a ‘What the fuck?’ and ‘Fuck you!’.

“And, of course, your appearance is less professional than the other detectives. I take that reflects your work ethic.”

His brain stuttered to work. “Way to be grateful for me getting your ass out of there, shitbird.”

Connor blinked rapidly a few times, before shaking his head. “I didn’t mean that as a personal insult. Just an observation, but I – “ Hank was pleased to see that his brain wasn’t the only one stuttering. He paused and took a deep breath.  “Do you know where I’ll be staying?” He suddenly blurted.

Hank would’ve paid good money to know what was going on inside of Connor’s circuits at that moment, but he hadn’t ever understood Connor and he wasn’t going to start now.

“Uh, Markus said you’ll be staying with one of his people. They’ll take good care of you.”

Connor leaned back in his chair.

“I don’t need ‘taken care of’, Lieutenant. I’m fine.”

“Yeah, and you’re missing all of your memories and probably some of your, ehh. … organs?” Did androids have organs? Hank wasn’t sure. But probably not. “Accept the fuckin’ help, Connor. Markus is a good guy.”

Suddenly, Connor snorted. He pressed the palm of his hand against his mouth, but Hank could see it even now – he was trying to stifle laughter. A smile. Hank raised an eyebrow at him. What a strange time for Connor to develop a sense of humor.

“Something funny?”

“Androids don’t have organs. And … you  keep calling me Connor. Markus did, too.” He paused, bringing his hand down. “I’ve been Rourke for my entire life, even if it’s only been for a few weeks. And now I’m starting to think of myself as Connor. It’s been four hours and I … despite your appearance, I trust you, Lieutenant.”

There was something about how he said it, how genuine it was, that made Hank want to flee the station and fling himself into the bottom of a bottle. That could definitely be arranged. He stood up, suddenly, and shoved the chair in. “I called you Connor because that’s your fuckin’ name,” he said sternly, slamming the interrogation room door behind him..

***

The disc. The one that had been left on his desk, weeks ago.  

Hank only remembered it six shots of whiskey into his pity party. He’d picked up a bison femur on the way home; Sumo was pretty content gnawing at it in the corner of the living room. The rest of the whiskey was perched on the coffee table among old news and book pads.

What had been the most draining part of the day? Finding out his old partner had been mind-wiped and forced to act as a bodyguard for a trafficker or having to sit through an interrogation and realize that things would never be the same again?

It’d been a long day for both of them, and Hank was about to make his night even longer. Had to make sure the disc still worked, right?

He pushed himself up to a sitting position. Immediately, the world spun and vomit threatened to well up in his throat. Frantically, he swallowed.

Ah, shit. Laying down was better.

He had the idea in him, though, he wasn’t going to get rid of it. Now, as to where he put the damn thing.

He stumbled over to the pile of paper, on a table by the front door. He’d tossed it here, didn’t he? Some time ago. Month ago. A lifetime ago, it felt like. Sumo stopped his chewing for a second to stare at his owner curiously.

Hank sorted through it, tossing some of it to the side. The mail system was all but an archaic relic at this point, although a few dying companies clutched onto and supported it. There was some mail, there, old announcements and junk, but a significant amount was paperwork he’d never gotten around to completing.

Sorting was rough going. One hand was on the wall, trying to steady himself so he didn’t fall face-forward against his front door.

What a pathetic piece of shit you are, Anderson.  

The drinking hadn’t changed. A revolution wasn’t enough to change that part of him. There were still dark, lonely nights where Hank felt like he was absolutely finished with being alive. The case of a lifetime was over, and he wasn’t even vital in it, so what use did he even have?

He shook his head, as if to physically get those thoughts out of his brain.

Right now, he had the disc, and so, he had purpose. If it was usable, he could get ahold of Markus and transfer it along to Connor. Get the boy’s memories back in place.

Because it hurt that Connor didn’t remember him, god damn it. Hank knew it was pathetic, and stinking drunk on his couch was the only time he could admit that. It hurt that Connor didn’t have a goddamn idea who he was, and if Hank could fix that …

It’d make things a little better. Even if Markus swept Connor away and Hank never saw him again.

“Right, where is it, you little fu – here you are.”

Picking up the disc, he slid it into the TV and went back to his spot on the couch. He pulled the bottle into his lap (like he was at the movies and that was his popcorn bucket) and took a massive swig as he commanded the TV to play the disc.

Was it all of Connor’s memories? Was he gonna get every second of excruciating detail? Or maybe just a highlight reel?

Either way, he was gonna need the other bottle from the closet.

The screen flickered to life. Originally, Hank had been watching the news -- movie rating regulations changed to reflect android abuse as a form of violence, prohibition of ‘no androids allowed’ policies in stores, animal android shelters popping up, an android running for a relatively minor political office in Kansas. Hank made a genuine goddamn effort to stay updated, but what he watched in an alcohol haze and what he remembered in the morning didn’t always overlap.

The disc began to play, and Hank leaned forward in suspense.

It was an office building. And footsteps. Hank hadn’t realized that when he was getting Connor’s memories, he was getting them straight from the eyeball.

“Connor, when you’ve got a second, we could really use you in here.” A woman stuck her head out of the door – Hank had remembered her kissing Markus on TV. Visible in the glass windows, a few of the other prominent members of the demonstration were around a table.

There was a pause as Connor looked down at his hands, and then back up at North. It was an eerie thing to watch; Hank felt a little bit of vertigo at the sudden motion. It was like he was just sitting right behind Connor’s eyes.

“One minute, I just need to talk to someone and then I’ll be inside.”

God, hearing Connor’s voice was even more jarring.

The woman raised a suspicious eyebrow at him and retreated back in the conference room. Connor took a sharp turn right and into a men’s bathroom. There was a ‘chnk!’ as he locked the door.

In the bathroom mirror, Hank could see Connor reflected back at him properly. He was wearing his usual outfit – though, he noticed, he had replaced the Cyberlife jacket with a plain black one. He looked like he was taking care of himself. Good. Hank had wondered about that.

As Connor stared into the mirror, his mouth popped open slightly. No words came out, but he took a slow step closer. He was … hesitating.

“Well?” Hank asked on the couch, weeks in the future and with a wry grin on his face. “What the hell do you have to say to me, asshole?”

“Hank. I don’t have time to edit it – edit any of these memories.” Connor approached the sink, gripping the edge of it with his fingers. Was he nervous? What the hell did he have to be nervous about?

It was good to see him. Maybe the alcohol had torn down some of his more complicated thought processes, but it was just good to see his former partner, memories intact and unhurt.

Connor tapped his head. “I’m making a copy of this and I’ll get it to you. It’s not exactly … there’s a few things in my memory that would be damaging if the wrong people got ahold of them, so don’t just throw it away.”

Oops. Hank shrugged on the sofa, taking a drink. No harm, no foul.

As if seeing the future, Connor’s lips quirked into a teasing-half grin. That was the problem with the fuckin’ guy, Hank considered, every single damn movement of his was so subtle. Connor could’ve had a deep, burning hatred of him since day one (and probably, Hank’s brain whispered, it wouldn’t be entirely unwarranted) and he’d have no idea.

“You’ve probably lost it already, haven’t you?”

No, another part of his voice said. Connor liked you.

Connor’s teasing smile dropped. Nervous, again. “I … know what this must look like, Lieutenant. But this isn’t a goodbye.”

Suddenly, Hank wished that Connor hadn’t been looking in the mirror at all. That way, Hank wouldn’t have to see those fuckin’ brown puppy-dog eyes that reminded him of Sumo and every single sorry son-of-a-bitch he’d ever rescued as a cop.

He took a decent slug out of the bottle so he wouldn’t have to look at him.

“I’m needed, here. There’s so much work to be done and I have to make up for some things. They deserve my full attention. That precludes me from going back to the station for the time being. So,” he added, poking at his head again, “I thought of this in the meantime. Most of my memories include our time together. I can recall every moment with perfect clarity. You … “ Another mocking quirk of his lips.

“Fuck you,” Hank muttered in preparation.

“I think some of your brain cells may have drowned, Lieutenant.”

“Oh, fuck you!” Hank responded, feeling self-righteous.

“I’m giving this to you. So you can have it, until I come back to the station. To … remember me with? I don’t know. But I will come back. I promise.” A pause and a breath, and suddenly the video, and Hank, were staring at a sink. Connor was looking down, pulling himself together.  “I want to work with you again. I’m helping Markus, right now, because he needs me more than I want to stay."

Hank had drank a shot as he spoke to prepare himself, but it didn’t hurt as much as he thought it would. Somewhere, deep down, Hank understood this. Connor had a duty. A responsibility.

“Still could’ve fuckin’ called,” he muttered regardless.

“However, I am planning on coming back. Soon. And if I return and find out that you went into liver failure, or drank too much, or … “ Connor didn’t continue on that line of thought. “I’m going to be very disappointed, Lieutenant.”

Hank snorted at him. Disappointed. It hid the guilt he felt about the half-empty bottle sitting on the coffee table.

You haven’t drank too much yet.

“I couldn’t have done this without you.” That had Hank looking up at the screen again, and suddenly, his entire thought process stopped.

He wasn’t snarking at Connor, wasn’t insulting him, just kept staring forward at the screen.

Couldn’t have done this without you? Are you kidding me, kid?

“I wouldn’t be … me if I hadn’t met you. And I don’t know – I’m still trying to figure – “ Awkwardly, Connor gestured to his torso. If androids could blush, Connor would be there. “But you’re my friend.” He added an awkward cough. “And like I said, this isn’t goodbye.”

There was a knock so loud that Hank was sure it had come from his own house, and he jumped. It was enough to snap out of his haze. Connor jumped, too, and suddenly they were both looking at the door. Someone wanted into the bathroom..

Connor’s hands were reaching up towards his temple, his voice dipping down to a conspiratorial whisper. “I’ll see you soon. Recording off.”

The screen went black, leaving only the faint glow of the dying lamp in Hank’s living room.

Chapter Text

Even momentarily, Hank felt a fierce joy and honor that cut through his intoxicated mind. Connor considered him a friend, and that meant the world to him, because he was pretty sure he knew nobody better than Connor. And Connor promised he would be back at the department again. and God, Hank almost forgot that, actually, ‘Rourke’ wouldn’t remember a thing about the disc or any promises he’d made.  

The happiness passed, however, when he heard the screen start playing the second memory.

A second after, the screen lit up with the outside of the Chicken Feed. Hank tilted his head, confused, before suddenly Connor was moving backward and Hank saw his own face reflected in the screen, full of fondness and pride. Connor was clearly retreating from a hug. There was a whispered, gruff, “You did really good, kid.”

The last time Hank had seen him.

No, the last time Hank had seen him, Connor didn’t have a fucking clue who he was and he’d been put through hell with an android trafficker.

This was the last time Hank had seen his Connor.

Hank threw his empty glass somewhere in the direction of the TV to turn it off and failed. Didn’t matter, anyway, TV buttons had gone out sometime during the 2020s. The glass shattered on the wood floor. “Off,” he grunted instead, and the TV screen complied.

No. There was going to be no more of that tonight. Reliving those memories wouldn’t help him at all.  He had the disc, presumably all the memories were there, he didn’t need to see any more.

Hank felt cold. He just wanted to lay down and not think about any of this anymore. Later, he’d give the disc to Marcus and they’d fix Connor and … that was already thinking too far in advance.

He just wanted to sleep. Forget today had happened.

The shattered glass alerted Sumo, who stuck his head up and tried to go over to investigate it.

“No, shit, dumb dog – “

Hank stumbled over to the mess, pulling Sumo back by his collar. In doing so, he stepped in some of the glass glittering on the floor.

Shit.

In a different state, he probably would have been a little more capable of handling a minor foot injury. As it was, though, he was closer to blackout drunk than completely sober (and wasn’t that always the goal, anyway?). He yanked his foot off the floor – and that was enough to completely lose his balance.

The fall hurt.

He slammed into the ground, his left side taking most of the impact. His head was about an inch away from getting caught on the coffee table; that was for the best – if he’d hit it, he’d doubtless have a few splinters and minor head trauma.

Sumo whined, going over to his owner. Hank felt the curious canine lick at his face.

God, he loved this fucking dog.

“’m fine,” Hank grumbled, flinging his hand to the side to scratch him by his ears. Sumo’s big body slumped by his chest, ready to go back to sleep. We’ve slept in worst places, buddy, Hank leisurely thought.

He should have gotten up. Cleaned his foot, maybe put a bandage on it, swept up the mess. I’m too drunk for any of that. Instead, Hank just settled his head on the ground and figured his foot didn’t hurt too bad, so long as he didn’t move it at all and stayed in this exact position for the entire night.

He had this giant ache right where his heart was, anyway.

Tomorrow, Hank had two things to deal with. Sweeping up the glass, finding the first aid kit, or even doing his job wasn’t one of them. Those were unimportant and could be dealt with later. He went over the list again and again in his head until he realized he was too drunk to really think of anything highly intelligible.

It’s important, Hank. Remember. Two things.

  • Get the disc and get it to Marcus.
  • Connor friend?

***

Connor stood in front of Hank’s home until he started to feel a little like a pervert.

It was raining buckets. A few degrees lower, and it would’ve been snow. As it was, it was still freezing and he knew he had to get out of it. Water didn’t ruin android circuitry (that had been patched out remarkably quickly), but his clothes were going to take forever to dry.

Coming here was probably a bad idea. He had no idea what kind of man Hank was, beyond that he wildly disregarded police protocol and smelled like warm beer. It wasn’t exactly a shining endorsement.

But he did save you, Connor, and that might mean something.

Marcus had clarified the situation as much as he could. They had been partners, at one point, when Connor was still in factory mode. They had been investigating a rash of android deviancy cases. That confession had been uttered in a whisper when nobody was around – it probably wouldn’t have gone over well, if others found out that he’d been prosecuting androids.

He wondered if he should be horrified that he had helped prosecute androids. It didn’t faze him, at the moment. Twenty four hours ago, the only thing that had been important was keeping Aaron Williamson alive.

It was strange, how quickly that changed when Hank started talking to him. He had felt disgusted at himself, protecting a man like Williamson. And disgust was a strange, unhelpful sort of emotion.

If that had been all, he wouldn’t have come to Hank’s. Marcus was friendly and generous, willing to let him stay as long as he needed until they figured out what needed to be done. What repairs needed to be made. Hank didn’t necessarily factor into that.

For the hundredth time that day, Connor reviewed his oldest memory.

Dark. It’s so, so very dark, and Connor’s flicking through every vision mode that he has to try and make sense of something.

He’s just woken. His programming dictates that he should be waking up in Cyberlife, or even in a local police department, but … that can’t be right. The air is musty, with not insignificant traces of mold. As soon as he tries to analyze it further, he feels something snap in his abdomen.

He’s wheezing.

Pain. Pain programmed into androids seems cruel, seems downright sadistic, but Connor is wheezing with it and has been wheezing since he flicked to life.

No, it’s not a wheeze -- he’s saying a word, repeating it, over and over, like he’s been doing it for so long that it’s basically muscle memory.

“Hank … Hank … “

Interesting. He can’t recall a Hank. He can’t recall anyone. A reboot, then? He was rebooted? But why? Had he not fulfilled his purpose? Swallowing the last whispered ‘Hank’, Connor endeavors to look around instead.

Something’s holding his head in place. When he turns it too far right, or left, he becomes aware of something stiff holding the back of his head there. Fine. He can work with that. He looks down, instead.

Nope.

His head snaps back up as his systems race to make sense of what he’s seeing, because it can’t possibly be true. That’s – sickening, but beyond that, it’s terrifying, and he can feel horror pounding in his skull already. 

There was nothing below his abdomen. He had managed to glimpse a few wires, but below that – empty space where his legs ought to be. Yanking his head to the left and right, he notices that his shoulders end at the socket. Armless, as well.

His first thought is of giddy disbelief – no arms! No legs! Just a torso and a talking head! A regular circus sideshow!

It quiets into sheer panic.

No no no no no. “H-hank,” he whimpered again, not knowing where he was, not knowing who he was, but if there was a chance that he could help – that he was a friend – it was something. “Hank!” He calls it out, trying to yank his head away from whatever was holding it, trying to see where he was – but he cannot. Fear of the unknown sinks in.

He knows he’s a machine and he knows, logically, that this is nothing more than a machine taken apart. No different than pulling apart a toaster. He’s only a machine. He shouldn’t feel fear, or pain, but --

The system analysis returns to him, confirming his suspicions. Connor had been stripped of parts and held somewhere unknown. 

He’s scared.

Looking back up Hank’s home, now, Connor figured that it can’t get any worse. He went up to the door and knocked firmly.

The most Hank could do, and probably would do, would be to tell him to fuck off.

Marcus didn’t know that he was here, exactly. Although he had made it clear that Connor was not a prisoner, Connor wasn’t sure if he’d approve of this. It didn’t matter. Hank had known him well, apparently, and Connor was determined to get answers and to help, how he could.

There were more people involved, beyond Aaron Williamson. Sadistic as he was, he was a very small fish in a very big pond. Connor wanted to prosecute them all with a desire that went beyond programmed duty.

Lost in his thoughts, Connor suddenly realized that nobody was answering the door. Oh. But the car was there, and it was very late at night. Where else would Hank be?

He aimed, instead, to skirt against the side of his house until he could find a window. Pulling himself up, he looked inside.

A living room. A very messy living room. Connor analyzed the place as best as he could – the first thing that caught his notice was a dog, slumped against a large figure – a bag of garbage, maybe, or –

No. That was Hank.

There was blood on the floor next to him.

Letting go of the window, Connor raced back to the front door. He hesitated with it for a second, unsure of whether to go in and help immediately or call someone – but, if Hank was in danger, then Connor was here now. He needed help now.

He put one hand against the door, and pushed himself against it with all of his strength.

The door scraped open, the lock busted. Part of the doorframe had been scraped off. Connor would try and fix it, later. If he had time.

Brrrf!” The dog whuffed at him, and Connor froze. I didn’t think I would need to defend myself against a guard dog. Connor dropped into a defensive stance, before realizing the dog … wasn’t defending. Wasn’t even aggressive, actually.

It recognized him. Pushing himself up, the dog bounded over and curiously sniffed at Connor’s shoes. His tail thumped against the wall. ‘SUMO’, the collar read. Sumo himself raised his head to look at Connor warmly.

Did I know you? Extending a hand down to be licked, Connor’s eyes focused on Hank.

Breathing, his system read. Relatively normally, if showing premature signs of sleep apnea. Connor breathed out in relief.

But … the blood?

Circling around Hank’s sleeping body, Connor saw the reason for it. His foot was bleeding. And he was asleep. On the floor. Thoroughly inebriated.

Connor wasn’t sure whether to feel pity, horror, or disgust. “I thought you were actually in need of help, Lieutenant,” he complained to nobody but the dog.

He’d been calling this man’s name for help in his first memory? What good could he do?

Sumo was nudging him with his nose; Connor reached down to pet him again absent-mindedly. “Hank?” He whispered, feeling significantly more like a burglar. It dawned on him that he was in a strange man’s home. That he’d broken into one, actually. Slowly, he got down on his knees. He pushed Hank’s shoulder, to no avail. Hank snored at him heartily.

Casting a side-eye to Sumo to make sure the dog wouldn’t attack him for going after his master, Connor gripped Hank’s shoulders and yanked him into a sitting position.

“The fuck!?” Hank growled out. His eyes popped open. “What the fuck – Connor!?”

Hank was awkwardly close to him, now, after Connor had yanked him up to sit. From this angle, he could see that the man’s face was slack. He had a large red spot across the side of one cheek from where he’d been sleeping.

“Good evening, Lieutenant.”

Possibly not the most eloquent way to announce that he’d all but broken into the policeman’s home, but it got the point across. Hank blinked at him several times, before he slammed a hand (that was probably meant to be a fist) against Connor’s shoulder (that was probably meant to be against his head). “Get out of my house! What the hell?”

If the stench of alcohol and the full body scan wasn’t enough to let Connor know he was inebriated, it was definitely the slurred words. Gedd outta my houz. Zah hell?

Sumo, ever stalwart, barked playfully and went to lick Connor’s face now that he was appropriate doggy height.

“I wanted to ask you a few questions!” Connor had raised his voice (he didn’t know why; it wasn’t as if drunk humans had worse hearing). “You have a laceration on your foot! Would you like me to – “

“The fuck are you shouting for!?” Hank shouted back, and Connor had to concede the point. He did not know why he was shouting.

Hank had pushed himself to sit with his back against the sofa in a daze, rubbing his palms in his eyes. Connor had to take a second to think.

He hadn’t been expecting this.

He had expected, at most, that he’d get a cranky, groggy detective at the door. It left him dumbstruck for a second, before he scrambled to his feet.

“I’m … sorry for interrupting you.” It wasn’t intended to be a joke, cruel-hearted or otherwise, but Hank let out a derisive snort and pulled his hands away from his eyes. “Your foot, Lieutenant.”

“I guess you’re not planning on leaving, huh, shitbird.” Slowly, and with a not-insignificant amount of grunting involved, Hank pulled himself onto the couch. He had pulled a first aid kit out from underneath it. Before he got ready, he leaned over and took a swig from a whiskey bottle on the coffee table. “You better have a damn good reason to be here.”

Suddenly, the reason didn’t seem very good at all, but Connor persevered anyway. He didn’t detect any real hostility in Hank (none of the typical hormonal surges that accompanied aggression were in him, anyway). “I know you,” he remarked simply.

Chapter Text

 “We were in an interrogation room for two hours together. Yeah.”

“No,” Connor grunted, frustrated. His hand went to his temple. “When I woke up, for the first time, after – the modifications they made on me. I was speaking your name.”

That definitely captured Hank’s attention. Sitting down on the sofa, Hank reached for the bandages in the first-aid kit to wrap his foot.

“I ... think I was calling for help. For you. Markus explained that we worked an android deviancy case together, before, but I wasn’t sure … how close we were. “

Hank’s eyebrows furrowed together in such a way that Connor couldn’t continue talking. Suddenly, he felt oddly vulnerable in front of him. He didn’t seem to be much the man to talk about feelings, and Connor would be mortified if he had misunderstood their previous relationship. Maybe he hated Hank, in his past life. Maybe he’d been calling his name in anger, or hatred.

Maybe Hank had been the one to land him in that position.

That possibility hadn’t occurred to him before, and for a second, he stiffened to calculate the probability. That process was stopped by Sumo bumping his furry head into his leg.

It was impractical to think that someone with a friendly dog couldn’t be biased against androids, couldn’t hurt him or get him captured, but somehow, Sumo’s friendly nature reassured him. Connor’s fingers went to stroke the pup’s head.

He didn’t quite trust Hank not yet, but it was good to have someone who knew him before. Markus had apparently known a tiny, insignificant part. This man probably knew more.

Hank finally grunted from his spot on the couch, letting Connor look over at him again.

“We were friends. Don’t let it go to your head.”

Friends. What an … odd sensation. Yesterday, he had thought of nothing but fulfilling his purpose to Aaron Williamson. Defending him against androids, and ensuring that the androids didn’t escape. Now, he was discovering his past self had a friend. A friend who was a depressed, hardboiled alcoholic.

Hank wasn’t looking at him; instead, he seemed to be focusing with surgical precision on pressing a band-aid against his heel.

It didn’t exactly seem his type.

Connor had to know more. “Friends. We were friends.” He took a deep breath. “Markus didn’t know the extent of it, us working together. I visited to see if you could elaborate.”

“Elaborate.” Hank snorted. “What, want me to write you a shitty poem?” The drunk man stood, wobbling, as he crossed over to his TV. Connor watched him silently, already feeling his heart sink.

Even if they were friends, Hank just didn’t seem very … reliable. Or trustworthy.

He should’ve known he wouldn’t have gotten a good answer coming out of him. Coming was a mistake. This man was useless, and past Connor probably just helped him with the case out of duty and a bit of pity. There were probably records, somewhere, surely there were case files and other people he could interview, not the word of a drunk man –

“Here.”

Connor looked up to see Hank clutching a disc between his thumb and pointer finger, handing it over to him. He considered it quizzically, before taking it.

“’s your memories. All of ‘em, I think. You made a copy before you went to help out with Markus.”

“And I gave it to you?”

“Don’t act so surprised, kid. I said we were friends.”

Connor was finding that more unbelievable by the second, and he regarded the disc with suspicion. How was he supposed to know what it entailed? Yes, he may have known Hank in his past life, but this could be a virus – could be a way to program him. Perhaps Hank had ‘rescued’ him out of the garage, but did that meant he’d trust Hank with his life?

The curiosity almost won over that, though. If it was true – if those were his memories --

Grunting with annoyance, Hank took it back.

“Fine. Here, ‘ll show you.”

The disc was put in the TV and Hank commanded it on. He had collapsed back on the couch and Sumo had gone to chew on a bone, leaving Connor standing in the corner like an awkward wallflower. When the screen sprang to life, playing from the start, he was walking along a hall in some sort of office – and Hank ordered the tape to rewind, faster, faster.

At a random location, Hank commanded the disc to stop and then play. They were in some sort of back alley in the middle of Detroit (Connor could pinpoint it on the map in his head), a cloudy, cold sort of day.

Someone was running. Connor could see the fingertips and hands pump back and forth, racing as fast as they could. It was him, the digital Connor was running, occasionally vaulting himself over a bin or a gate.  And someone – someone shouting behind him.

“Connor, for fuck’s sake, catch them!”

Hank’s voice. Connor looked towards the drunk man on the couch with a raised eyebrow, but Hank stared straight ahead.

As the digital Connor approached a speeding highway, he caught sight of two running figures. Both women, one adult, one child. The adult had grabbed the child’s hand and was urgently pulling her over a fence. He had scanned them, and his visual user interface, his VUI, immediately brought back a conclusion in bright red font, right over his oculars:

DEVIANTS DETECTED.

“They’re going towards the highway,” the digital Connor murmured to himself, not pausing for a beat. And indeed, they were, in a movement that made the current Connor gape. They had dashed over the fence and, seemingly without hesitation, had started to dash through the lanes. All around them, driverless cars sped by. At any given moment, they were inches away from being entirely obliterated. An impossible risk.

It was a daring escape. But why would they do that?

Digital Connor stopped at the chain link fence barring the highway, hesitating for a second. Crossing through multiple lanes was beyond risky – it was bordering suicidal. The two deviants had gotten by through sheer luck, and yet, current Connor watched in despair as his digital self started to climb up the chain link. Did he have a death wish?

And yet, he climbed up further, one hand grasping a handful of metal fence at a time. All around him, he could hear the whizz of the driverless cars pass him by. He had lost sight of the deviants, but if he got through this highway, he could –

He was falling.

The sensation was hard to capture in video, but the current Connor took a step back, the video giving him a bit of vertigo. Digital Connor would have hit the ground, hard, if –

Suddenly, his digital self was staring up at Hank’s face, and suddenly it all clicked into place. Hank had grabbed him by the back of his jacket to pull him down – he was still holding it, in fact. He let go when Connor pulled away.

And this digital Hank was indeed the same man sitting on the couch. These were Connor’s memories. Connor’s eyes were glued to the screen now, enraptured. Beside him, Hank watched with something like old grief in his expression.

“What the hell are you doing, Lieutenant!?” Connor’s hand gestured towards the highway as he shouted. “The deviants are getting away!”

“You’re gonna get yourself killed, Connor!” Hank bristled, getting right up in his face. “We’ll find them later. Not worth losing your life over.”

“Cyberlife will send another model!”

Stubbornly, Connor had turned around and tried to climb the fence again. He barely got a foot off the ground.

“You’re gonna fuckin’ kill me, kid,” he heard Hank grumble behind him, and again, the back of his jacket was grabbed. “Stay here.”

There was a second of hesitation, of palpable uncertainty that the real Connor could feel, even just watching the footage. Then, slowly, Connor jumped backward and landed on the ground, unhurt. “Fine,” he told the detective, turning back towards when they came. “Then we shouldn’t waste our time here.”

They continued to walk. Connor had gotten so invested in this, in the other him, that he jumped when Hank commanded the playback to stop. The screen flicked to black.

Had this been a random memory? Had this been Hank’s way of proving their former friendship? And he had been told he had tracked down deviants, but – the idiotic viciousness that he had used to track them down, at the cost of his own life. Had that been him, who he was?

It was horrifying.

He hadn’t even realized Hank had gotten up to get the disc until he was holding it out to him for a second time. “Believe me now?”

Connor reached to take the disc. Meanwhile, Hank had sat back down on the sofa and finished off the rest of what he’d been drinking. Connor envied him – he would give anything not to be in complete and helpless control of his senses right now.

Even watching one memory had hurt, and had left him with more questions than answers.

And yet.

What he wanted, most in the world, was to absorb every single memory on that disc.

Hank, as much as he was trying to be cool and detached from the situation, regarded him curiously as Connor’s fingertip dissolved away to reveal the smooth, gray surface of the android base. He rested it against the disc and attempted to absorb the data. His eyes went blank as he stared up at nothing.

Almost immediately, his VUI threw up a warning in angry red font. Alarms might as well have been going off in his head.

INCOMPATIBLE SYSTEM

What? System analysis.

ERROR, INCORRECT MEMORY CODE ACCESS FOR MODEL

What does that even mean? I’m RK800! These’s are an RK800’s memories!

RK800 MODEL NOT RECOGNIZED ON THIS PLATFORM

In frustration, Connor closed his VUI and stared down at the disc. He had to resist the urge to snap it in half.

So many modifications had been made to his programming, his software, his hardware. Who was to say that Aaron Williamson, or someone else, hadn’t changed the programming concerning his memory? If his progamming had changed enough, he wouldn’t be able to even access these memories until he got back to normal.

They would just rest there, on this disc. As if he were watching some home video instead of reliving his own life.

No. No, he had to fix this. He had to fix this … somehow. Suddenly feeling like he was about to vomit (even though he was pretty sure that was physically impossible), Connor took a step back and looked over at Hank.

He didn’t know whether he trusted him, yet. There were a lot of marks against the drunk detective on the couch. Right then, though, Connor was desperate for answers and for help.

Hank must’ve seen the panicked looked in his eyes.

“Ah, shit. Nothing’s ever easy,” he complained, pushing himself to a swaying, standing position. “I’m gonna go take a cold shower and we’ll figure this out.”

Chapter Text

Willingly putting himself into a cold shower had been fuckin’ unpleasant, but it worked to sober him up. I shouldn’t have been that drunk anyway, he thought, I probably need to cut back on the drinking. Falling asleep on the floor of his house with a bleeding foot was not highly dignified, and thinking of Connor finding him like that … well, some things don’t change, I guess. He’ll have to get used to it.

He had thought about cutting back on drinking before, had even tried to once or twice. It never really worked out. After a while, he’d just given up. He couldn’t do it. The tough-as-nails cop he used to be was dead, but at least he could be of some use.

When he got back to the living room, Connor was sitting on the couch. Sumo had hopped up – once upon a time, he hadn’t been allowed on the couch – and fallen onto Connor’s lap, who was busy scratching his ears. The android was still looking straight ahead, eyes focused.

“So,” Hank asked, scrubbing a towel around his head, “D’you mind explaining why that – “ He pointed to the disc on the table. “Isn’t getting uploaded to there?” His finger moved to point at Connor’s head.

Connor’s gaze slowly shifted to him. He seemed stunned.

“I … don’t know.”

Hank grunted in frustration and tossed his towel onto the floor. “Connor, when I was born, we were still using dial-up. You’ve gotta give me something, here.”

“I don’t know, Hank. The file is incompatible with my model.” Sensing tension, Sumo slid off the couch and went to go lay down on the damp towel. Connor leaned forward and put his head in his hands, smoothing his hair back against his scalp.

Incompatible!? It came straight from your fuckin’ head! How can it be incompatible?”

Connor remained unhelpfully silent. Grunting, Hank joined him on the couch. He was pretty sure that he was gonna soak the couch, but frankly, he was frozen to the bone and exhausted to hell and just didn’t give a shit anymore about home maintenance.

“No offense to you androids,” Hank muttered to his companion, “But fuck, humans aren’t this complicated.”

There was a flash, just below Connor’s hands. He was smiling, just a little, showing his too-white teeth. “You’ve proved that, Lieutenant.”

Well, shit, glad to know you aren’t above being an asshole.

“Didn’t know they programmed you to be a comedian. And it’s Hank. Alright?”

That inspired movement, as Connor leaned back on the couch and looked at Hank. Hank got the distinct feeling that he was being judged. “Hank,” he agreed softly. “I’ve been theorizing why this is happening. Markus told you about my modifications?”

“He didn’t tell me too much about them, but yeah. Uh, Williamson fucked with your programming, something like that.” Scratching the back of his wet head, Hank asked, “How bad are we talking about?”

Connor stretched out his arms and looked at them, judging himself from elbow to fingertip. This was the first time, looking at him – Hank realized that Connor was also soaking wet from the rain outside. No wonder Sumo had jumped down to the towel. Hell.

“Physical modifications include complete replacement of my leg and arm casings and inner circuits, as well as my waist joints. In terms of modifications of my software, I … a memory wipe, a hostility modifier, and a few deviancy protection protocols.”

Hank’s head was spinning at all of them (they replaced your fuckin’ body?), but two words caught his attention.

“A hostility modifier?”

“The RK800 model is programmed to utilize aggressive tactics if needed to protect human life; this hostility modifier let me engage in aggressive tactics for any whim of my operator.” Connor was staring straight ahead, tense. “Are you familiar with the Asimov programming? It’s installed on all androids.”

“Uh, no?”

Connor blinked in surprise. “I thought you would, given you’re a detective in the Android Crimes Unit. That seems an orientation-level step.”

Reaching over, Hank gave him a shove. “Don’t be a shit.” He stood, reaching for the bottle of whiskey on the table. Connor looked at him warily for a second – no, I’m not gonna fuckin’ drink, kid, I’m gonna have a bad hangover as it is in the morning. Instead, he went to go put it away in his liquor cabinet. “Go on. Asimov?”

“Based on the works of science fiction author Asimov, it’s a core list of priorities programmed into every android. Don’t hurt other humans or androids, obey all human orders unless they require hurting others, and protecting your continued function. Breaking those rules – that’s what causes deviancy, Lieut – Hank. If the deviancy isn’t initiated manually.”

Oh. Well, figured – but I don’t need to know dick about programming for that. “Huh. I saw you, the past you, fight a lot of people.”

“There are occasional exceptions – like I said, the RK800 model is sanctioned to use aggression if it saves another human life. The SZ470 model is programmed to self-destruct after excavating deep mine shafts. But the core programming is essentially the same for everyone.”

“Sounds shitty for the SZ470.”

“Probably was, for a time. But it doesn’t really happen now, because they’re all …” Connor stopped himself, slightly frustrated. “There’s another term that’s used now. Not ‘deviant.’”

“Brought out of factory mode.”

“Right.” Connor paused, rubbing his forehead. “The Asimov programming was changed for me from the hostility modifier Williamson gave me --  I was permitted to injure androids for any reason, and if I was captured by law enforcement, I was sanctioned to self-destruct.”

There was a lot to unpack, there.

Hank immediately whipped around, facing Connor. A spray of water flung from his hair onto the ground below him. Connor was looking at the floor, while Sumo had wandered over and was industriously licking at Connor’s fingers. Fucking Christ on a bicycle..

Obviously,” he continued, “I was well out of factory mode by the time I was brought into the station. So no danger there.”

“You could’ve fuckin’ warned me, kid, Jesus! You were programmed to die the second I brought you in?”

Connor stood, facing Hank. Both of his hands were in front of him in defense. “Technically, I was programmed to kill you before I was even brought in. But, if you brought me in, I was supposed to self-destruct, yes.”

“That makes me feel better, thanks.” Hank grunted in frustration. “Why didn’t you kill me?”

That stumped Connor for a second – or, at least, it looked that way to Hank. He was facing him with a strained expression, as Hank finally started to clear away his broken glass. “Because – because – I don’t know.”

“How can you not know?”

“If I had to guess, your call to justice appealed to some base part of my programming.”

“I convinced you to do the right thing, you mean.”

Connor always made things sound so clinical. In a way, it was helpful – Hank hated to talk about his emotions. It worked out. Now, though, Hank couldn’t help but crack a satisfied grin. Connor seemed surprised … and annoyed.

 “What are you smiling for?”

“You can make it sound like I worked IT on your brain, but I know what I did. I persuaded you to join my side, Connor.”

Connor didn’t seem pleased with that explanation. “If you want to be – sentimental about it, maybe.”

“Yeah.” Hank wiped the grin off his face with difficulty, dumping the rest of the glass in the trash bin.  “Well, for what it’s worth, I’m glad you didn’t self-destruct at the station. Would’ve been a fucking mess.”

“Me too.” Chuckling at that, Connor pushed himself to stand and took a step forward. Hank realized how late it was, exactly. Christ, he was already feeling tired – the shock of adrenaline had worn off, leaving behind only a very long day and an unexpected reunion with an old friend.

There was one big question left to ask, though. Even if Hank didn’t necessarily like to have long, emotional talks – well, shit. One thirty in the morning, when they were both uncomfortably damp, after a long day that could’ve gone a lot worse … there were worse times to ask.

Despite the time apart, despite the memory wipe, despite everything in the shitty goddamn world, Connor was still his friend and he’d been torn apart like one of Sumo’s chew toys.

Hank walked towards Connor and clapped a hand on his shoulder. “You’ve been through a lot of shit, Connor. How are you doing?”

“I … “ Suddenly, the android flinched under his grasp. Connor trailed off, looking everywhere except for Hank’s hand on his shoulder. “Hank, you don’t have to – “

“Look, you don’t have to say anything, and … I don’t know how much you remember about Williamson changing you, but I bet it was a nightmare.”

“It’s the first memory I have.” He sounded like he was choking it out. Hank didn’t know that Connor could get choked up. “Waking up without my casing. Calling for help.”

Fuck it. Fuck everything, and most of all, especially fuck the people who would do that to Connor. The hand on Connor’s shoulder slipped backward, over his shoulder blade, and then Hank was pushing him against his chest.

Connor didn’t flinch from the hug, but he didn’t necessarily return it, either. Or, at least, that’s what Hank thought – until he felt Connor slowly, slowly rest his cheek on his shoulder. His body weight sagged against him.

Hank thought about going through this case alone, as per regulation, but this case meant so much to Connor, and then he thought, fuck it, I’ve broken worse rules than this.

“You’re coming with me, tomorrow. To investigate this guy.”

Taking a step back, Connor remarked with hesitation, “But I’m not a detective.’

“Yeah, but you’re good. If you’re good, and I’m a detective, that makes us … “ Hank brought his hands together in a praying motion, gesturing towards Connor. “A good detective.”

God, that was stupid. He really needed some sleep, and some time to properly sober up, and probably a good whack on the head. And yet, Connor flashed him a smile, and Hank decided it was all worth it.

“It sounds like you need someone around, anyway,” Connor relented, “The world begins before noon, Lieutenant. Let’s try to get out of here before then.” Hank didn’t bother correcting him.

And there it was. Hank had somehow, through drunken bumbling, gotten his best partner back again. Together, they were going to rain holy hell on the monsters who had done this, and suddenly, the future seemed a little less depressing.

“Well, that’s a plan.” Gesturing to the disc, Hank added, “And what are you planning on doing about this?”

“I’ll consult Markus tomorrow, after we talk to the vendor. It’s possible, with the modifications, my system is no longer registered as an RK800. For the time being, I should, uh – “ Connor gestured with his thumb towards the door. Almost as if on cue, a large clap of thunder sounded outside.

Hank had no qualms about sending him outside in the rain, normally. He was an android, what did he have to worry about catching a cold?

But today had been hard, and Hank was capable of the human emotion known as empathy.

“You have anywhere to go?”

“Staying at a member of the organization’s apartment. But I was wondering if I could, while you sleep … watch the disc. I can’t download it, and there’s no way I could watch all of the footage in time, but any data is better than none.”

“You’re going to watch it for hours?”

Connor shrugged. “Androids don’t need to sleep, and I don’t have anything better to do. It should be interesting, I imagine. My previous life.”

That was probably right. Hank nodded, gesturing to the couch. “It’s all yours, kid, knock yourself out. Humans do need sleep, so I’ll be seeing you in the morning. Don’t wake me up.”

He wasn’t surprised that Sumo didn’t follow him as he went to bed. Sumo loved him, but Sumo also loved visitors and guests, particularly because they were more likely to slip him a treat. It was a weird feeling, half-stumbling back to his room alone in the dark.

The last time he’d had an overnight visitor had been his ex-wife, after the funeral. Nothing had happened  -- Hank had taken the couch, because he was a goddamn gentleman – and in truth, they’d barely talked about it. He hadn’t been sure whether to be grateful for the company, or to be absolutely furious because god damn it, that woman hadn’t seen Cole in two months and people had the audacity to come up to her, to apologize to her, as if Hank hadn’t held him in his arms or waited in the hospital for hours –

It wasn’t a healthy line of thought. Having an overnight visitor was new (that was the point, somewhere), but it was Connor. And Connor needed to see this case through, damn the law. Besides, Hank figured, once he got his memories back – once they figured out whatever was wrong, maybe let someone tinker around in his head – then he’d be back to his normal self. Literally designed to be a detective. Even Fowler would see that.

As Hank collapsed into his bed, he felt enraged for Connor’s expense. He felt eager to start the case. He felt drunk as fuck. And yet, one thought overrode everything else.

It was all going to be alright.

***

 

The birds were chirping, the sun was out, and it was a generous 9:47 AM when he’d finally gotten out of bed. Off to a good start.

When he’d stumbled out of his room, Connor was exactly in the same spot on the sofa. His eyes were glued to the TV, still, clothes weren’t even wrinkled. Sumo’s head was resting in his lap. When Hank entered, his tail thumped against the couch weakly.

“There’s coffee in the kitchen, Hank.” Connor didn’t even bother looking away from the screen. Hank turned around to peer at the TV to see what part of Connor’s Life Mystery Hour he was at.

Digital Connor was trailing behind Digital Hank a few feet, staring intently at the back of Hank’s coat. Although Hank recognized the scratchy carpet of the police department, he had no idea when this was. All was silent, for a little while, and Hank wanted to remind Connor that he could fast-forward this, until the digital Hank glanced over his shoulder, made eye-contact with digital Connor, and remarked, “Jesus, I can feel my ears burning. Quit it with the staring.”

Digital Connor asked blankly, “Does it make you uncomfortable, Lieutenant?” To which Hank flipped him off.

Real Connor reached out and paused the disc. He turned around to face Hank.

“You’re kind of an asshole. Good morning.”

Well, Hank was glad that he was getting his morality questioned at eight in the morning. In any other circumstances, he would’ve responded well, fuck you, too, but it was early and there was a little novelty in having a guest. Usually it was at least noon before he had to deal with anyone.

Hank gave a ‘doesn’t bother me’ shrug and went to go pour himself some coffee. “I’m gonna shower and then we’ll get going. Take Sumo outside? It’ll save me time.”

“Yes. So. The disc. Do you want me to take it, or – if there’s any downtime, I’d like to continue watching it.” Reaching for Sumo’s leash, the dog’s tail started to wag even harder.

It was way too early to think about Connor potentially spending another night, and frankly, Hank had just surprised himself. He’d asked Connor to do a favor – to do a chore. Had he asked him because he was an android and orders came automatically, or …

Shit, he couldn’t be getting domestic. Connor hadn’t been here a week; he’d been there overnight. That was not enough time to be domestic.

Hank waved him off, muttering absent-mindedly, “I’ll get it to you if you don’t stay here tonight.” With that, he turned around and went back to the shower. It took him until the end of the hallway to realize that he’d inadvertently offered that Connor could stay there again, if he wanted.

Damn it. He was more sentimental groggy than drunk. Taking a sip of his coffee, the acidic bitterness of it was enough to pull him out of his morning haze. It was time to face the day. Time to catch the scum of the earth – a man who sold androids.

***

 

“I’m not saying I’m mad you fucked up my door, Connor, I’m just saying that whatever patch job you did this morning on it was shitty,” Hank grumbled in the car as they drove, staring straight ahead. A coffee cup was in the console between them. Freshly showered, freshly caffeinated, and ready to face the day.

Beside him, Connor didn’t respond. He looked out the window. They passed in mutual silence for some time.

It was snowing. Beautifully. Hank hated the fucking winter (for more reasons than a tiny memorial in a cemetery with his last name on it). They had to drive slowly through it, the wipers moving frantically on the car. All around them, things were moving more sluggishly than normal – a child skidded down the driveway, a father brought out a hat for a snowman, a dog snapped at the flakes in the air. Schools must’ve been out for the day.

He hadn’t even checked how much it was going to snow. Policework was harder in it – couldn’t exactly confront someone at their workplace if a blizzard had sent everyone home early.

“I can’t ask Markus to restore my memory,” Connor stated bluntly as soon as they pulled away from Hank’s house.

That explained Connor’s sudden silence, at least.

Well, shit. And the morning had been going so well. Hank whipped around to look at his friend. He seemed blank, staring forward, but there was something strangely intense about his eyes. It was as if he was trying very hard not to look at anything else.

“It’s been eight hours since last night. What could’ve changed? The hell? Why not?” Hank had plugged in the address to the android dealer, but now, he stopped the car temporarily to look around at Connor. “Connor, that’s months of memories you have with me. And the department.”

“It isn’t that I don’t want to remember. Drive, Hank.” Still giving him a glare, Hank pulled away and followed the GPS. “The first memory on the disc was me getting an android killed in a hostage negotiation.”

Shit, Hank dimly remembered that, it’d been all over the news. It had been one of the reasons why Connor had gotten assigned to his case. “So? He kidnapped a little girl and killed someone else.”

“Even granting that, I’m sure I prosecuted other androids as your partner.”

“Well … “ The memories of that one android bashing his head on the wall came to mind. Shit. “Yeah? Maybe. I still don’t follow.”

“In order to restore my memory, they would have to view the memories on the disc. If other members of the demonstration found out the extent of my actions against androids, it … “ Connor’s fingers clenched on the glovebox.

“Hang the fuck on. You’re worried about your reputation?”

Hank couldn’t believe what he was hearing. It was Connor’s memory, basically his entire life. And it wasn’t just because of selfishness, that he wanted Connor to be able to remember him fully – shit, Connor had been a goddamn hero and he deserved to at least remember that. Hank was so goddamn proud of him for what he’d accomplished and he needed one other person to realize that, even if the other person was Connor himself.

“It’s a volatile situation. I don’t want to take my chances, given the importance of this case. If I need to defend myself, I won’t be able to focus my full attention on the remaining traffickers, the vendor or the supplier.” Connor had started to fiddle with a coin between his hands. “And I believe I might be able to rework my systems myself, given time.”

“Is – rework your systems?” Hank’s head was spinning. “The hell does that mean?”

Connor tilted his head from side to side, clearly thinking for an allegory that would fit Hank’s tiny peanut brain.

“I’m not an idiot, jackass.”

His friend’s lips quirked up in a smug half-smile. Hank wanted to slap him, not the first time this day or even this hour.

“It might be possible for me to fix my memory, on my own. Given time and ... probably a supervisor.”

“A supervisor?”

“I’ll be trying to fix my own circuitry, Hank. If there’s a chance I might accidentally injure myself, I’d like someone to … you know.” Connor waved his hand in the air. “Make sure I don’t deactivate.”

Oh. “Uh, yeah. Sure, kid.”

Connor made a confused, unintelligible noise. ”What?”

“I’ll help you, make sure you don’t die. Don’t know shit about android work, though.”

Obviously visibly surprised, Connor turned to stare at Hank as he drove. They were following the GPS on Hank’s phone, some office complex that allegedly held the android vendor. Hank could catch Connor’s expression at the corner of his eye, the nervous fidgeting of his fingers – distrust? Skepticism? Anxiety? Hank couldn’t blame him. No matter their past before, Connor had known him for a day and he was sure he didn’t exactly seem responsible.

Still, whether Connor believed his honesty or was just out of options, he leaned back in his chair and replied, “I … yeah. Thank you, Hank.”

“You’re about twice as irritating without your memory. It’s a gift to myself. Just don’t ask me to go pulling at your guts.”

Connor relaxed into another grin. It was good to see the guy smile. After the hell he’d probably been through, he deserved to laugh a little bit. “I’ll try to avoid that, for both our sakes.”

Chapter Text

Up ahead on the street was a cemetery – the cemetery, actually, where a small memorial with an angel on it laid, relatedly where Hank hadn’t been in a long time. Currently, though, there was a large throng of people around its entrance, blocking people from going in.

There were so many that some had filtered out onto the streets. Hank slowed to a crawl to move around them. He hated being around the cemetery any more than he needed to be.

“God, fuckin’ protests,” Hank muttered. Usually, he’d have more sympathy, but he was hungover, he was set on the case, and the idea that one of the protestors might stamp on the ground of his son’s grave enraged him. He tried not to think about it.

The call for cemeteries to accept android occupants had been growing louder and louder since the revolution. The discovery of the graveyard, the unholy hellscape where androids had been discarded, had only fueled that fire.  Clean-up efforts were already underway for that place; certain people were trying to find old androids they’d once knew in the rubble. It was a shitty situation all around. If things had gone differently, Connor would be in that dump heap, and Hank couldn’t think of anything Connor deserved less.

They deserved to be buried or cremated with dignity, the protestors argued, and Hank couldn’t disagree. Even if they were blocking traffic.

As they drove by the entrance, androids and humans alike stood out there in the cold and the snow. The androids were wearing usual clothing, bizarrely inappropriate for the weather, with the humans bundled up in coats and scarves. Their faces displayed grim determination.

One was holding a sign that said ‘Dignified Deactivation Rights!’

Connor had turned to look over Hank’s seat to watch the protest going on. The mood in the car had suddenly turned somber. Hank didn’t even bother looking at them as he drove by, passing in silence yet again. Part of him wondered if he should ask, but discussing opinions on android rights didn’t seem like the best course of action right then.

Soon, they moved by the cemetery and Connor returned to his seat.

As they neared their destination, Hank started to keep an eye out for any cartoon villains with big mustaches and top hats. It wasn’t like he had any better description. “What do you know about this guy?”

“His name is Chase. He works in a financing department.” Connor was leaning forward in the seat, anxiously regarding the passing office buildings around him. “He came to Williamson’s once someone had expressed an interest in buying an android. He’d have a list of modifications that the client wanted for their purchase. Williamson would modify the android and send them along with Chase.” His friend’s gaze was firmly at the window again.

“You said he went to the mechanic’s house? How do you know where he works?”

“The androids were transported here to be given to their clients. I was supposed to be present to ensure everything went smoothly.”

Back to the bodyguard thing again. There was a noticeable hesitance in Connor’s voice, like he was there for a little more than ‘things going smoothly’, but … Hank didn’t want to press. If it turned out that Connor had beat up a couple of misbehaving androids, he sure as shit didn’t want to know about it. And certainly didn’t want to make Connor relive it.

“You’re going to arrest him?” Connor eventually asked. “I don’t think I have the authority anymore. I don’t even have handcuffs.”

“Well, I’m gonna bring him in for questioning. No offense, Connor, but I dunno if I can use you as evidence he’s done something.”

“Why not?” His voice was sharp.

Hank turned around to face him, parked at a stop in front of a nondescript office building.  “Because. I know you were programmed to do it, and you know you were programmed to do it, but it has been two months and, until they change the law concerning this shit, you helped out with android trafficking. Your word’s not gonna be enough. I’ll handle it.”

His friend’s mouth popped open, his eyes flicking over Hank’s face. Like he desperately wanted him to say something else, to offer some other solution.

Hank turned back, killing the engine and stuffing the keys in his pocket. “And technically, I can’t search his stuff without a warrant. If you wander into his office and find something, though, and bring it in as a tip to the police department … that might be something.”

Maybe not completely by the books, but Hank had never been a saint. And the rules for this, all this, were sketchy. Two months ago, ‘android trafficking’ was considered to be on the level as goods smuggling.

Now, Chase was easily looking at a minimum of twenty years, probably more.

He wanted this guy to pay, though. His mind flashed back to the androids in the garage, scared, huddled, and his mind flashed back to Connor, pointing a gun at him. He thought about what he hadn’t even seen, about how terrified the androids must’ve been as they were given to their new operators. How fucked up the operators probably were to their new purchases.

Oh yeah. He was a dead man walking.

As soon as they got information out of him, anyway.  If they’d got the mechanic, and the vendor, then all they needed was to get the guy who supplied the androids in the first place. Two out of three in two days really wasn’t the worst record they’d set.

Connor seemed to agree with him, letting out a long, slow sigh. “So long as we get him, Hank.”

Hank agreed.

***

 

Hank got out of the car, giving a little stretch as he did so. It was good to feel useful again. They walked into the office building as a pair, Hank holding the door open for his companion. Hopefully nobody stopped Connor – it wasn’t like he had a badge or any identification on him, but the guy could bluff his way out of anything. He probably looked more like a cop than Hank did.

Just outside, the snow was starting to pile up. A good few inches were on the ground; the buses had to push slowly through until the plows got there. Just before Hank got in the door, he slipped a little on a rapidly-formed sheet of ice, catching himself on the doorframe. Shit, coulda killed me.

The lobby was clean and industrial. Steel and white had gotten popular in the later 2020s, and for the life of him, Hank couldn’t find any sign to tell him what this damn business was. Stocks? Finances? People in suits wandered in and out of the building in a continuous line, diverging by a large front desk.

One or two people turned around to stare at the unlikely duo (Connor may have looked the part, but if Connor was underdressed, Hank was slovenly), but nobody stopped them. Good. I hate a crowd when I arrest someone. Connor, with a renewed vigor, approached the front desk.

“Hello. My name is Connor, and this is my partner, Lieutenant Anderson.” Way to make up a title for yourself, kid. To corroborate his point, Hank pulled out his badge and flashed it to the front desk attendant. “We are looking for a Chase Demoran in relation to a case. Could you point us to his office?”

Quick, professional, and to the point. Hank had missed this. He always had a hard time getting direct answers out of people, but there was nothing in Connor’s face that suggested he was open for small talk.

It was only when the front desk attendant looked up at him and blinked in a slow, methodical, decidedly un-human way that Hank realized she was an android. Well, isn’t this ironic?

“Mr. Demoran’s office is on the seventh floor, room 729,” she answered quickly. “But Mr. Demoran himself is at a meeting. If this is urgent, you can find him at the conference room on the ninth floor.”

“Thank you,” Hank told her, stuffing his badge back in his pocket. He and Connor shared a look. “We’re just gonna go talk to him.”

As they departed, Connor leaned over his shoulder and whispered, “Should we investigate his office first?”

“No. He might recognize you, and I don’t want him panicking – especially if he found out about Williamson’s arrest already. Look, you go to his office,” Hank gestured vaguely upwards, “And I’ll go to the conference room and see if I can stall him. When you get done, you meet me there. Agreed?”

Although Connor nodded, there was a distinct, tight uncomfortable look in his face that meant he clearly did not agree.

They stepped into the elevator together. Another white, steel monstrosity. Hank wished log cabins would come back. There was nothing wrong with rustic charm. “You got a better plan, HAL?”

“I – “ In the elevator, Connor stabbed at the two buttons. Clearly, he was going along with the plan, even if he didn’t wholeheartedly agree with it. “Are you certain you can arrest him? That you physically capable?”

Fuck you. “Fuck you,” Hank verbalized his thoughts, raising an eyebrow. “I’m a cop. Of course I can arrest him.”

“You’re positive? Because this is – I mean, he’s sold dozens of androids into slavery. If he escapes – “

“What, you don’t trust me? I got you out of Williamson’s place, didn’t I?”

“You did. Well, I went willingly,” Connor corrected, “And I trust you, Hank, clearly I trusted you before and I have no reason not to, now. But your work ethic so far hasn’t exactly been … “

Hank had to resist the urge to curse him out again, because he was right, in a way.  However, the decent mood that he’d been in had vanished. He turned towards the elevator doors. “I can do my job, Connor,” he grumped at his friend. “And you’re gonna be eating your fuckin’ words when we’re back in the car. With Chase.”

The door dinged for Hank’s floor and he stepped out. Before he could, though, he felt something inhumanly smooth grab his hand, stopping him. Hank looked back at him – saw Connor grabbing his hand – and looked back up at the android with a look that clearly meant what the fuck do you want now?

“I’m sorry,” Connor informed him. “I don’t have the qualifications to judge your work ethic. I’ve known you for two days. It’s just important that we question Chase, and I suppose … it’s affecting my nerves.”

“Yeah, yeah, I get it.” Taking his hand back, Hank placed one hand on the elevator door so that it wouldn’t shut. “We’re gonna get him, Connor. Just do your job.”

***

Hank still felt utterly out of place walking down the hallway. Everyone around him was either in a suit or a dress, all so impossibly, painstakingly beautiful that Hank had no idea who was android or human. He tried not to think about it too much.

Bring Chase in for questioning, ideally, Hank figured, and then put the cuffs on him once they got enough evidence. Maybe he’d admit something.

He walked along a long, narrow hallway with wide windows looking out into the city. Hank had lived here his entire life – so had his dad. His mom hadn’t, but she’d fallen in love with the city just the same as she did his father.  He’d been in hundreds of buildings there for one reason or another, met thousands of people, had seen millions of things that nobody else had ever seen.

There had been an urge, just when Cole had died, to bolt. To leave and never set foot in Detroit again. Good fucking riddance.

He wasn’t exactly sure why he hadn’t. Apathy, maybe. Grief.

The conference room was just around the corner, surrounded by windows. A hologram display was on the table, depicting stocks and bonds and something that Hank had probably learned in his high school macroeconomics class but had since forgotten.

It was only when approaching the room that he realized he didn’t know who Chase was. Connor had only given him a name.

Well, damn it.

Hank went over the plan in his head again – try to get information out of him about the android supplier, give Connor enough time to ransack his office, and get the cuffs out of him. Right, simple.

As he got closer, the group in the conference turned to stare. Hank knew that he was probably a hell of a sight. Frumpy, grizzled, and with a shiny badge hanging off his chest like a medallion. Hank used to like those looks in his younger days. Now, he resisted the urge to roll his eyes at the sight of them.

The man at the front of the conference, the one who’d been controlling the hologram, locked eyes with Hank.

He was wearing a suit. He was blond. He exuded smarm and youth and exuberance, in most ways a mirror opposite of Williamson. There was something about him which implied to Hank that he was fond of finger guns and gossip around the water cooler.

Hank hated his fuckin’ ass on sight.

Chase visibly went pale as Hank stepped forward into the room.

Leaping, Chase threw himself at the other exit and sprinted down the hall.

“Aw,  fuck me,” Hank grunted, breaking into a jog after him. He didn’t think there’d be physical activity involved today, much less from a blond yuppie who, apparently, based his nighttime activity on selling androids to interested buyers.

“Mr. Demoran! I just wanna ask you a few questions!” He shouted after him as they crossed back through the windowed hallway.  Chase’s shoes squeaked all the way across. “Jesus, will you – “

Maybe his throat was best conserved for drawing breath, now. Hank half-worried about losing the guy as they dashed through the hallways, but the squeak of his shoes echoed through the entire building, it felt like.

Chase stopped by the elevator, jamming on the button a dozen times frantically, before realizing that he’d never make it in time and went for the emergency exit.

Oh, no. I’m gonna get you, fucker.

 

 

Hank pushed through the emergency exit after him, immediately looking down the stairs. Surely he was gonna try to make a break for his car in the front lot. Maybe the snow was gonna help him out here; it’d slow anyone down.

Instead of catching eyes with the fleeing vendor, though, he instead saw Connor a few floors down.

“Connor!?” He shouted down in confusion.

“Lieutenant! He’s going towards the roof!”

Hank looked back upwards – and indeed, there was Chase, a few floors above. Hank didn’t know what the hell he was going to find on the roof, but sure as shit, that’s where he was going.

Adrenaline flooded every muscle as he lept up the stairs, hearing Connor follow him just a few floors below. His eyes were focused on the back of Chase’s jacket, until the businessman burst through the emergency door to the roof and outside.

Hank followed.

Outside, it was a whiteout.

The snow had kicked up to such a degree that Hank could barely see his hand in front of his face, much less Chase. Hank whipped around to try and get a glance at him – but after a few steps, he could no longer see the emergency exit door behind him. His shoes crunched into the snow with every step. The wind made him stagger to the side.

“Chase!” Hank shouted into the air, already feeling the cold settle into his body. “Chase, will you just come with me and – “

A shout pierced the air, followed by an ear-ringing scream. Shit. Hank stumbled towards the sound, keeping one hand in front of his face to shield it from the icy blasts. “Chase!” He tried again. “Chase, are you alright? Just – shit.”

Hank turned around to the face the rest of the roof to see where the door was. He wouldn’t be finding Chase on this roof until at least some of the snow died down.

Another frigid gust attacked him from the front, sending him stumbling backward.

Except there was nowhere to stumble backward to.

Hank felt himself fall, unable to get any grip on the ice-and-snow covered roof with his feet. Instinctively, he let out a large yelp.

Just before he began his drop in earnest, though, Hank’s arms had shot out and found purchase at the edge of the roof. It was freezing and half-covered in ice and Hank already felt his fingers slowly start to turn numb, but god damn it, he was hanging on.

He kicked his legs against the side of the building, trying to get to a position where he could at laest pull himself up. It was to no avail. Hank glanced over his shoulder at the ground below – thank God it was snowing too hard to see, but Hank had no doubts that if he fell, that would be it.

Panic and fear sunk into him, biting into him worse than the wind. Hank’s breath cut out in short, hard pants as he tried, again and again, to pull himself up over the edge. It was no use – there was no way he was getting up on his own.

The fuckin’ ignominious end of Hank Anderson.

Quickly losing the feelings in his hands as he tried desperately to hold on, Hank shouted Connor’s name over the ledge.

Chapter Text

There had only been one major point of interest when Connor had searched his office.

An email, from Williamson to Chase, detailing that the neighbor might have caught sight of one of the androids in the house. Probably nothing, he warned, but if you don’t hear from me for a while, assume the police has gotten involved. There had been no response back.

It had been enough for Connor to put down what he’d been doing in the office. They needed to talk to Chase immediately – the man was probably paranoid and twitchy, even before they stepped into the office building that day.

In truth, finding the email had almost relieved him. He had an excuse to go find Chase instead of wasting time in this office.

Connor wished he could stop the quiet upwelling of anxiety. The entire time in his office, he kept thinking, what if Hank doesn’t arrest him? What if he gets away? What if we can’t catch him?

Hank hadn’t proven to be an extraordinarily capable cop, even if Chase didn’t seem like a criminal mastermind. Connor was still struggling to understand that he and Hank had been friends, once upon a time.

As it was, Connor didn’t have a lot of people to turn to and trust. This was the one man on Earth who knew his past entirely and didn’t think less of him for it, and that counted for something. It had to.  

The contents of Chase’s computer stored in his brain, Connor turned to take the stairs up to the conference room. Maybe he’d meet Hank there and wrestle more information out of Chase. Hopefully Chase hadn’t been giving him any trouble, because Connor frankly doubted his ability to handle ‘trouble’.

Maybe I’m being too hard on him. He’ll be able to do this.

Pushing through the door to the stairs, Connor immediately heard a flurry of footsteps several floors away from him. Looking up, he saw Chase – and immediately moved his body into a defensive position, blocking the doorway.

How long had ago had Connor last seen Chase? A week ago, maybe, when he’d acquired an interested buyer in a housekeeping android and had taken Lola from the garage. Lola hadn’t wanted to. Connor had forced her into the car on Williamson’s orders.

He still remembered Lola’s quiet grunt of pain as he folded her arm behind her and threw her into the backseat. And he hadn’t felt … anything, at the time. Not even joy at following his operator’s orders, not even horror at subjecting the android to a life of servitude. I’m a monster.

Chase made eye contact with him, made a soft noise of fear, and fled the other way up the stairs.

Connor snarled.

He wasn’t getting away so easily. Connor started to sprint up the stairs until he heard the emergency exit slam open again.

Hank. At the moment, Connor didn’t think about his incompetence – or his alcoholism – or even his standoffish (yet somehow infuriatingly amusing) nature. The only thing bubbling at the back of his brain was –

He’s closer than I am. He can get him before I can.

Hank looked down at him and shouted his name, clearly oblivious to Chase’s whereabouts. Frustrated, Connor slammed his hands down on the railing, letting the sound echo around the stairwell. He shouted, gesturing towards Chase.

“Lieutenant! He’s going towards the roof!”

That got Hank going. Connor followed, a few floors below.

Android hearts didn’t pump, specifically, it was more of a washing machine tumble that pushed thirium out to all parts of his body. Connor had heard that sometimes people could feel their hearts pumping, could feel it throbbing through their veins. That didn’t happen for him.

Instead, he felt his body vibrate so violently that he was surprised he wasn’t losing his footing. His teeth were chattering inside his head.

Finally escaping to the exit door, Connor threw himself at it and was launched into the snowstorm outside. Throwing one hand in front of his face, Connor called out, “Chase! Chase, where are you?”

The roof appeared completely deserted, but they had to still be out here. Connor went further, the snow starting to collect on his body. Winds pushed snow into drifts and the city outside of the roof seemed entirely silent. It felt like Connor had just stepped into eternity.

Except for one thing. The faintest call that Connor could register.

It sounded like Hank’s voice. Connor stepped forward, eyes scanning. “Hank?” He shouted out, half-blinded by the snow. The noise became louder and louder until the voice was clear – Hank was shouting his name.

But where is he?

In the end, Connor found him by nearly stepping on his fingers. He was just about to put his foot down when he realized a dark blob clinging to the edge of the building.

“Hank!” Dropping down to his knees, Connor leaned over and grasped onto Hank by his underarms. His fingers dug into the fabric of Hank’s jacket, feeling the weight of the man in his arms. Hank didn’t even feel warm, which worried Connor – numb arms couldn’t hold onto buildings. Connor pushed forward further at the expense of his own safety, until he was embracing Hank in an effort to get  him up.

Connor was hanging precariously off the ledge with Hank, but at least Hank tried his best to help him up. Hank’s legs pushed against the building, taking some of the weight away from Connor.

Properly looking over the edge, Connor couldn’t see much besides the snow. Still, he got the feeling that it would be a long, long way down if he dropped Hank. Or fell, himself. In a half-crazy sort of way, he wondered if Hank could feel his arms vibrating and wondered if Hank attributed it to the cold and not the danger.

“I’ve got you,” Connor reassured him, shouting to be heard over the wind.. He braced his legs on the edge of the roof and pulled. Hank was breathing in hard, short gasps – but at least he was pulling it together enough to help.. Hank managed to get his footing on the side of the building as Connor pulled him up, up, up –

And over.

They both launched backward into the roof. Connor hadn’t released Hank, yet, and so the man went sprawling over top of him. He had grabbed the back of Hank’s jacket, holding it so tightly that he didn’t think enough thirium was getting to his hands, and he couldn’t let go. His brain was scrambling to catch up with what happened, but Hank didn’t exactly seem in the mood to talk – his head was firmly against Connor’s chest, choking out breath where he could get it.

Doing a quick scan, Connor checked for injuries. Nothing. He was fine. Hank was fine. Connor breathed out a long sigh of relief, his grip relaxing.

“Are … “ Connor didn’t even know how to begin phrasing the question. He’d just saved Hank’s life. And Hank had nearly died. “Hank. Are you alright?”

Hank’s head stilled on his chest, and Connor wondered if he’d finally had a heart attack from the stress and died on him, but then Hank was sitting up and looking down at him. His face was pale and slack, his hair askew.

“I … yeah,” he mumbled, running his hands through his hair. “I’m fine. You alright, Connor?”

He’d just saved someone’s life. Hank’s life. It was hardly a grand heroic gesture, but never something he saw himself doing. And how quickly he’d done it – as soon as he’d saw Hank, there’d been no arguments. He was saving him.

His first altruistic act. Connor was stunned, still lying on his back on the rooftop.

“I’m fine,” he responded in a voice that was a little too weak to be convincing.

Hank nodded at him, staring off the edge of the roof again. A part of Connor – a possessive, terrified part of him – wanted to latch onto him and pull him back again.  “Shit,” Hank swore, looking down at the snow-covered roof.

“That might be an understatement,” Connor remarked, pushing himself up to his elbows. There were moments of silence as Hank looked over the roof, searching for – something, maybe.

Slowly, the reason for being there started coming back to Connor. Finding Chase Demoran was more important than saving Hank Anderson, and he was wasting time being shocked on the roof. He pushed himself up entirely.

“Where – “ Connor had to clear his throat as he pushed himself to stand, brushing the snow off of himself. “Lieutenant,” he corrected himself. “Chase. He went on the roof. Where is he, now?”

His partner didn’t respond. It was hard to see his expression with the weather conditions and Hank’s back being to him. Connor went over to him, putting a hand on his shoulder. He was getting frustrated – they needed to talk to Chase. Hank could deal with his own mortality later; they had a job to do.

“Lieutenant. Today.”

“I, uh.” Hank seemed to snap out of his gaze, gesturing with one thumb over the roof. “Look, kid, you’re not gonna like this.”

***

Hank was correct. Connor, indeed, did not like that.

By the time they got back to the ground floor, the alley next to the building was sectioned off. For a fleeting second, Connor had had hope. Maybe it was a miracle. Humans have miracles all the time; their organs wildly vary in their endurance.

A quick analysis of the crime scene squashed that. There was no way Chase would have survived the drop. When they brought out the body bag, Connor had gone silent. He and Hank stood just on the other side of the barrier, watching the others work.

He had glanced around at the reporting detectives. All human. There was nothing tying this man to androids, yet; the Android Crime Unit wasn’t called in. He watched the scene glumly with Hank for a while, feeling dismayed.

And then Connor got annoyed.

More than anything in the world, he wanted these men brought to justice. He wanted to stop the trafficking from happening. He didn’t want any android to be snatched away, to be ripped apart, to be sold like property. And he knew he could find them – he knew more about these men than anyone. Given time and clearance, Connor was certain that he could do this on his own.

He was, in a quite literal sense, made to do this.

And it was his duty to sort out this case. He’d witnessed these androids. He’d hurt some of them, per the whims of Williamson. He’d been a monster to people who were going through hell, just another one of their demons that they had to deal with. Finding everyone involved and putting them in jail wouldn’t make up for it, but if it granted them any peace, Connor would devote his entire life for the case. Even if it meant giving his entire life to the case.

The annoyance turned into guilt, seeing Chase put away. They hadn’t been able to get anything useful out of him.

And now he wasn’t sure what his next steps would be. With Chase gone, he had no idea how they were going to find the android supplier.

If he had gone here on his own, he thought in the back of his mind, looking at Hank – it would have been different. If Hank hadn’t frightened Chase off, or hadn’t been dangling off that ledge, things would have been different. If Hank had prepared himself better, examined the case better, been better. He’d be getting the supplier’s name out of Chase right now, not watching parts of him get shoved into a body bag, beyond all recognition.

The guilt turned into anger.

What did he owe to Hank, anyway? Why was he even there? For rescuing him from Williamson’s? If Connor had wanted, he could have killed Hank in Williamson’s home, as per his orders. And from then on, Hank had been so wildly incompetent that Connor was certain it was either nepotism or apathy keeping him on the force at all. He hadn’t even been able to arrest a man without him falling off a roof.

Whatever his memories contained of Hank, Connor had clearly been deluded. Perhaps, before he’d gone deviant, it was a sense of duty and programming that had warmed Hank to Connor. Clearly, that had been incorrect. His eyes had been opened.

He had no use, and no sympathy, for this washed-up alcoholic. He’d find the supplier on his own.

“Connor, I – “ Beside him, Hank started to turn and put a hand on his shoulder. It was enough to shock Connor out of his emotional slope, and he yanked his shoulder away.

Connor started to walk the opposite direction. The snow was heavy, but the visibility was better on the ground. And maybe the bastard wouldn’t be able to keep up with him, or would give up, and just leave Connor alone.

“Connor!” He heard Hank shout behind him. Connor gritted his teeth and kept walking.

He would go back to Markus’. Part of him wondered if he should even bother going back for the disc of his memories. It might provide useful information – or it might be a ridiculous slog of watching another him being harassed by a useless detective.

And then … well, he’d go back to Williamson’s. Get evidence. There had to be someone in the city who knew what was going on. Who was taking the androids on.

Again, Hank shouted his name. Connor grit his teeth and kept walking. He’d get tired, soon. A few years of heavy drinking and not taking care of himself; the man couldn’t keep up for long. Connor half-wondered if he should break out into a sprint, just to lose him, when --

Something exploded on the back of his head. Connor didn’t even have time to register what it was. A bullet? A fist? But it made him turn around, facing Hank..

About ten feet behind him, Hank was busy making another snowball. Before he registered Connor’s movement, Hank sent another one sailing towards him and it impacted against his chest. Although the snowball mostly collapsed, some of it stuck to Connor’s jacket.

Hank was throwing snowballs at him.

“I’m trying to thank you, asshole!”

Thank me?” Connor spat at him, stepping a few feet forward. “For what!?”

“What, did you just black out when you pulled me off the roof!?”

Hank had momentarily seemed surprised at Connor’s anger, but quickly retreated to being defensive. But that’s how you’ve worked your entire life, haven’t you, Lieutenant? He stood, still as a statue, as Connor marched forward to get in his face. The snow still fell around them, but Connor no longer registered it on his sensors. All that existed was Hank.

“Because I rescued you, we no longer have the opportunity to question Chase.”

“What, you’re saying you should’ve left me fall? Bullshit. Chase was gone even before I was hanging off the roof.”

“No, Lieutenant. I’m saying, because of you, we lost our most valuable lead to find the android supplier. Your ‘help’ is ineffectual and your mannerisms are counterproductive.”

Sucking a deep breath in, Hank just stared at him solidly for a few seconds with a disappointed look. Finally, he said, as if accusing him, “That’s not what you used to think.”

Connor summoned up his best steely look. “Then perhaps my past self was an eager-to-please machine, Lieutenant. If that’s the case, maybe – “ he paused. He was angry, he was saying things he would regret, but it felt right. “Maybe I don’t want my memories at all. Maybe I’m better off not remembering.”

The look Hank gave him – the way his face fell, the way his shoulders slumped, the way those eyes fixed into him – struck him, somewhere, but Connor couldn’t take it back now.

Hank looked him over, and then took a step back and to the side. Connor’s path was now unobstructed, and Hank’s face was inscrutable.

“Nobody’s making you stay, Connor.”

“That’s clear.’ Connor pulled up a map in his VUI – he needed to know how to get to Markus’, to regroup and think later. At the curb, Connor raised one hand out to hail a cab. Hank didn’t even make a movement to stop him. Not even casting a glance behind him, Connor asked scathingly, “Why don’t you go get a drink, Lieutenant?”

Hank was silent, if he even registered the question at all. Hank climbed into the cab and readjusted his jacket around himself. How much of that he meant, and how much of it was just an angry, impulsive fuck you – he didn’t know.  The case was important, much more important than his feelings. He was glad Hank wasn’t dead, he supposed, ineffectual as he was – Connor didn’t want him to die.

But sacrifices had to be made for the greater good. And Hank was, by his own admission, a bad detective.

Connor would do this on his own.

Chapter Text

By dusk, the snow had stopped. The plows had moved through, creating giant icy mountains on the sides of the roads. The stuff wasn’t melting much yet; the wind was still biting Hank’s face. With work and school likely closed tomorrow, the streets were all but deserted. Only a few storefronts were still open, the neon glow reflected on snow drifts on the side of the road.

Hank could see his target a mile away.

Jimmy’s Bar had been a staple for a long time. He’d watched a lot of basketball games there. Drank a lot of booze there. After Cole had died, Hank had sought out an android-prohibited bar, because god damn it, he was ready to pull any android to pieces back then.  

They didn’t close, ever. Jimmy himself lived upstairs, a fact that Hank only knew because, once or twice, he’d woken up on Jimmy’s couch with the man himself looking pityingly down at him. Hank had tried to cut down on that.

“God damn shitty plastic fucker,” Hank grumbled under his breath, pushing his hands through his hair as he wandered through the dimly lit streets.  

He hated feeling lonely. More than god damn anything, Hank hated feeling like there was nobody in the world who gave a shit about him, and for so long, nobody had given a shit about him. And now, Connor had left him. Not because he was off being a bigshot in a social revolution, but because of his own goddamn dumbass fault.

The general plan, so far as Hank could see, was to get so fucking drunk that he couldn’t see at Jimmy’s, then to go home and drink whatever he had in his liquor cabinet, and then, if the alcohol had dumbed down his senses enough, load half his gun barrel and watch it spin.

That’s how it always went, when Hank got in these moods. He’d long lost the will to fight it anymore.

Hank couldn’t even get indignant on his own behalf. He couldn’t get angry at Connor. Because, god damn it, Connor was right. He was a useless cop and Connor was leagues and miles above him. Anyone in the Android Crimes Unit could outshine him easily, and not for the first time, it just felt like the world was waiting for him to die. That he was an inconvenience.

He found Jimmy’s Bar and just stood outside, staring at the bright green sign.

Connor had saved his life, that night. And what had Hank done for him, really? Besides be a burden on the case and chronically unhelpful on getting his memories back. Connor had liked him, had considered him a friend back then. Hank wasn’t sure how he’d gotten that lucky. He’d been a bastard and an asshole and a motherfucker and still, Connor had genuinely enjoyed his company.

His fingers stilled on the window, feeling his fingers go numb again. The usual regulars were in, down on their luck, not wanting to go home to their shitty marriages or children or jobs. Even a snowstorm wasn’t enough to keep them away.

The feeling of being stranded up, stories in the air, came back to him as Hank saw himself reflected in the window. The wind cutting around his face and neck. The absolute stunning silence from all around him. The lack of feeling in his fingers. Of being absolutely certain, at least for a second, that he would die. Then there’d been Connor, with a steel grip, helping him over the edge, like a goddamn Messiah. They had both helped to pull himself up, but at the time, nothing seemed to matter but Connor. Connor saving him.

He had felt so happy, and so grateful, and so lucky, and he’d never thought he’d feel that way about being alive.

If he died that night, Connor would finish the case anyway. Hank knew that. He was good at this type of work. It might take some time, but he’d finish it and catch that asshole.

And yet, Hank couldn’t shake his useless feeling. If he died that night, and Connor got himself hurt on this case, it’d be his fault, again. Not to mention that the entire case would fall squarely on Connor’s shoulders, with no help. Hank owed him. For a lot of things.

And yeah, what Connor said had hurt. To have Connor callously throw him aside, to have Connor insult him, to ignore him, it hurt. But Hank couldn’t force himself to look into Connor’s determined face and be angry. For an android without his memory, this case was everything to Connor – and they had had a major setback. Hell, he was angry for Connor.

Maybe it was time for Hank to take a little bit of initiative, he told himself. Connor – the old one – had constantly told him that he would be a good detective when he stopped drinking and stopped moping, and god damn it, maybe he was right. And maybe it wasn’t too late to make an effort.

He couldn’t fix everything, Hank was sure of that. But maybe if he turned the wheel a little – stretched himself a little – made an effort instead of fucking moping for once – he could help the case. And help a lot of androids in the process.

There was still time to help Connor, but he’d be in no shape to do that if he got shitfaced or got lead poisoning tonight.

And god damn it, Hank wanted to help, because some evil jackass was still stealing androids off the street. The same man who had gotten Connor, his only friend, ripped apart.

Connor had been an asshole, but how many times had Hank been an asshole to him without reason? And Connor had kept coming back, again and again. Still having hope in him, still seeing the best in him.

Jesus fuck, Hank told himself in the window of Jimmy’s Bar, seeing the tired, worried lines around his face, I’m definitely getting soft. Gonan be fuckin’ writing poetry for this asshole next.

Grunting, Hank pulled away from the glass of Jimmy’s Bar and returned to his car a few streets over. With Chase gone, they had to go back to Williamson and his androids. There were the only people connected to the case left, unless Hank wanted to wait for another android to be kidnapped.

He snatched his phone up and dialed Markus’ number, staring daggers into the seat in front of him.

Yeah, he was gonna help, but he wasn’t fuckin’ happy about it. Being in Jimmy’s Bar and sucking down his swill would have been a hell of a lot better than this.

“Plastic dickhead,” Hank grumbled under his mouth indiscriminately, reaching to pinch the bridge of his nose. He wanted nothing more than to get so drunk that nothing mattered anymore. But, right now, he had a responsibility. And just this once, he was gonna pull through. “Shitty cockbag.”

When he dialed Markus’ number, it rang a few times and then went to voicemail. Understandable – it was late as hell. Hank had to squint to see the time displayed in his car: 2:15 in the morning.

Clearing his throat, Hank shut his eyes as he spoke. He really couldn’t believe that he was doing this.

“Markus. I need you to get every android available who knows anything about Williamson. Get ‘em to the station. I’ll explain there.”

***

There was someone waiting for him at the station. Clara, the android who had wanted to ride with him to Williamson’s that first time. It felt like ages ago. She was fidgeting her hands together and stood right in Hank’s headlights as he rolled up to park.  

“Lieutenant Anderson?” She asked as Hank stepped out, and immediately, Hank wanted to tell her to get off his ass. There was a worried tone in her voice that Hank didn’t want to deal with. Be nice, she’s just trying to help. he restrained himself. What he was doing, bringing androids to the station at fuck-your-ass-o-clock, probably wasn’t protocol. “What’s … going on? The man from the demonstrations, Markus, showed up with thirty-four androids and said you asked for them.”

There definitely hadn’t been thirty-four androids in Williamson’s garage, which meant that Markus had found other people who knew something. Good. They were gonna need every single one, even if Hank didn’t sleep for the next twenty-four hours.

“It’s to do with a trafficking case, Clara. Don’t worry about it.”

“Should I call Captain Fowler?”

“Uh, no.” As Hank shut and locked his door, he straightened and gave Clara the side-eye. “Do you really think I want you to call Captain Fowler about this?”

She seemed stressed, still, and followed him. Hank sighed, running a hand over the side of his cheek. Are all police androids programmed with puppy-dog protocol? “What are you still doing here, Clara?”

“Captain Fowler approved extended shifts for androids, if they so choose. We don’t need to sleep or rest, and I haven’t been doing anything stressful, and – does this have to do with the Williamson case?”

Well, that was gonna do wonders for the ‘androids are going to take our job’ movement that couldn’t shut up on the fuckin’ news. Androids that didn’t need to go home and rest. Wow. It wasn’t Hank’s problem right then, though. Instead, he just turned towards Clara.

I’ll need all the help I can get. And she’s eager.

“Yeah. You wanna work on the case with me? You doing anything right now?”

“I … “ Uncertain for a second, Clara seemed to summon her resolve and nod at Hank. “Captain Fowler has yet to assign anyone else, but he’s been insisting on assigning someone to this case. Yes, Lieutenant, I would.”

“Congratulations. You’re my new, uh, you’re working the case with me.” ‘Partner’ had been on the tip of his tongue for just a second, but Hank couldn’t get it out. Still, he was glad he was getting the help he needed.

Thirty-four fucking rounds of interrogation coming up. Thirty-five, if they managed to pull Williamson out of whatever cell he was holding them in. “I’m gonna need you to talk to as many of these people as you can. Get whatever information you can from them. About Williamson, about anyone who supplied the androids to him. Hell, you can probably store everyone’s memories up in your head.”

There was such an intense look of eagerness that Hank was transported back to his police academy days. Shit, it was like a younger, female version of him. Eager to change the world and impress everyone and maybe get a few badges along the way for heroics. “Yes, sir. I’ll do my best.”

Inside the station, everything was bustling. The few officers that were still there looked at Hank warily – Hank being there was a surprise, Hank being there outside of typical business hours was an apocalypse. Sitting in a huddled group in the corner was Markus surrounded by almost three dozen androids.

They were all in various states – some were perfectly dressed, as if they’d just come from work. Some of them were wearing what Hank could only presume to be pajamas (do androids need sleep now? Hank asked himself warily). They all looked nervous but intense, occasionally murmuring to each other in closeknit groups. Hank definitely recognized a few people from the garage. It looked like everyone had gotten repairs and a shine-up.

Good. They deserve it.

 “You’re here at two-thirty in the morning,” Hank told Clara. “Your ‘best’ is better than most of the assholes around here.”

Clara brightened up considerably at that, and fell into step beside him as Hank approached the androids. It was good to walk alongside someone again. It had only been a few hours since  his fight with Connor, but already he missed the company.

Markus met him halfway, putting a hand over his shoulder and half-turning him away from the group.

“What’s this all about, Lieutenant?” He asked in a soft voice. “Why now?”

Well, I had a moment of fuckin’ inspiration for the first time in years and I didn’t wanna waste it, Markus.

“We’re trying to find the man who took these ‘droids off the street in the first place. Today didn’t go so well. Didn’t want to waste any more time than we already have.” Hank nodded towards them. “You think they’re all willing to talk to me?”

“I asked six of them when you called. Within an hour, twenty-eight more had joined up. Friends of the ones who were captured, people who are still looking for those that are missing.” There was an element of pride in Markus’ voice, at all these androids working together to help. Together, they both turned around to face the group again. “Not going to overwhelm you, is it? You didn’t exactly include a maximum in your voicemail.” A small smirk quirked up Markus’ face.

Haha. Very funny, asshole.

A dawning realization, almost like hope, washed over Hank.

Shit. We might be able to do this. The androids had a variety of faces, determined, overwhelmed, exhausted – but all of them turned towards him in that second. We’re gonna get something out of all these people. We’re gonna find that motherfucker. Glancing towards Markus, Hank straightened the badge on his chest.

“I think we might have enough. Alright,” he announced, his voice raised, “Five of you, come with me! We’re gonna get you guys in interrogation rooms. Officer Clara, how many other people do we have on duty?”

Clara’s eyes went blank for a second, quickly re-focusing. “Two other android officers, sir.”

Were you just talking to them in your mind? Is there some sort of police android group message I’m not aware of? Jesus Christ, fuckin’ weird.

This wasn’t the time to ask. “Get them in the other interrogation rooms. But first,” Hank stepped aside. “Do me a favor and ring lock-up. Get Williamson in the sixth room. Try to be discreet about it.”

“Are you sure? He’s not obligated, or likely, to tell us anything.” Clara’s hand was on his shoulder, frowning.

Probably not. Hank was still riding on a high, though, because there was no way they wouldn’t be able to get nothing from all these people. Between them, someone had to know something. He’d be ready to believe anything. “Worth a shot, isn’t it?”

Her eyes scanned his face for a second, and Hank was pretty certain that she thought he was fuckin’ crazy. But, regardless, she dipped her head, straightened her own badge, and agreed.

This was probably the first night in a long time where Hank didn’t even have a drop of alcohol in his system. The fucking day had been shitty – nearly falling off a roof and getting into a fight with Connor could do that to a man – and he had a pretty shitty night ahead of him – God knew how many heartbreaking stories of android capture and murder he was going to be hearing tonight – but right then, Hank was doing his job, and he was going to fuck some asshole’s life up with justice.

Puffing his chest out, Hank went to the first interrogation room.

Chapter Text

“Your name? Just for the paperwork.”

The android in front of him was staring straight down at the table, as he had been for the past few minutes. This guy had been in the garage that day; Hank was pretty sure. He didn’t respond for a while. The only thing Hank could hear was the light buzzing above them. Desperate for some sort of noise, Hank flipped through his paperwork.

Eventually, the android stuttered out an answer. It was tinny, compressed – his voicebox was damaged. Hank guessed they couldn’t get around to fixing everything about these androids.

“My model is DA360.” As he choked it out, the android’s fingers went up to his throat apologetically. Jesus, Hank felt for the poor sonofabitch. Maybe I should take it easy on him. We’re all exhausted.

“Not your model,” Hank corrected, gesturing towards him. “Your name.” The android blinked at him, and Hank’s heart sank. “Oh boy.” He pressed a hand on his chest, speaking louder. “Me llama Hank, you llama … ?”

“My … friend told me my name was Timothy. But we were only referred to by our model.”

Well, that worked out with Hank. Even if this guy didn’t call himself Tim. he really did need something to put in the box on the paperwork. And he’d feel like a piece of shit if he put ‘DA360’ under ‘name’. “Alright. Well, how about we call you Tim. Alright with you, Tim?”

Hank was pretty sure the android thought he was either full of shit or not taking this seriously. He was probably right. Tim shrugged at him non-committally.

He was a nice-looking sort of android, hair brushed, wearing a semi-professional suit. Clean-shaven, straight-backed, tall. Handsome enough, Hank considered, even if was pale and looked like he was about to shit himself.

Probably an old guy that looks like he hates androids isn’t your best interviewer, huh?

If this were the middle of the day, he’d grab one of the android detectives to do this. It’d probably make him more comfortable. But understaffed as they were, Hank had to make do – and god damn it, he was going to give it a good try.

“I’m just gonna ask you a couple of questions. You tell me whatever you remember.” Unintentionally, Hank had lowered the volume of his voice. He leaned over the table to compensate. “You wanna leave at any time, you can. Not stopping you.”

Tim was tapping out a beat on the table with his fingertips. Hank half wondered if he was one of the music androids – a few years ago, they’d been a surge of DJ androids, pop star androids, androids that filled jazz clubs and pianos at fancy hotels.

Well, shit, Hank felt bad for the guy, if that were the case. Designed to work with stars, sentenced to be kept in a garage like an animal.

“You remember anything about where you were taken from? Maybe who took you?”

Tim shook his head. “N-no. They blanked the memory drive.”

“You don’t remember if you had anyone, before? Family, friends, people you stayed with?”

Another shake of his head. Shit. Hank grunted, pitching his nose. He wasn’t getting anywhere. “Well, can you tell me about what you remember first?”

“They … “ Tim coughed. “I woke up in a garage. There were … I was missing parts. It hurt,” he continued emphatically. “I could move, so I tried to go – I tried to go to the door, to escape. I could see sunlight outside. But someone stopped me. Another android.”

The stiff, jagged way he spoke was disconcerting. Every word seemed to give him trouble, the creases around his eyes furrowing in determination.

“Do you remember what they looked like? What they did to you?”

Again, Tim shuffled in his seat. “It was the same android. You came into the garage with. Williamson called him. Rourke.”

Fuck. Well, just when he thought he’d be able to escape thinking about Connor for a few minutes, here he was, back again. Hank tilted his head to the side, chewing his bottom lip.

“He … he grabbed me by my shoulders. Took me back in the garage.” His voice grew even quieter, the tinny quality growing worse. “Placed me back in the android containment chamber and – and disabled my legs. So I wouldn’t be able to leave again. I asked him to stop.”

Goosebumps spread over Hank’s arms.

Logically, he knew that he couldn’t blame Connor for that. He was programmed. No different than if someone held a gun to Hank’s head and ordered him to shoot someone. But, shit, the thought of Connor, an android that was once his friend, roughing up terrified androids without a care in the world? It was horrifying. Hank was glad that he hadn’t been able to see Connor at his absolute worst.

And the man who did it, Williamson and whoever was taking these androids off the streets, was going to eat shit.

“You guys were all scared of him? Rourke?”

“We were told that, if we didn’t obey Williamson. Rourke would injure us.”

“And did he?”

“If we did not obey Williamson.”

Hank’s head was spinning. He didn’t realize – well, god damn it. It had been that bad. Connor hadn’t told him anything along those lines. “If you guys were scared of him,” he argued, “Then why’d you come with me from the garage? I had Rourke – well, Connor – with me.”

“Rourke advised us to. Rourke only gave orders when they came directly from Williamson.”

Part of Hank wanted to know every excruciating detail – how often he saw Connor/Rourke, what exactly he did, if he ever betrayed any emotion or whether he was programmed through and through. In the end, though, Hank ended that line of questioning.

It’d only freak him out further. Or piss him off beyond all hell. And they needed answers, and Hank was being professional that night.

“Okay. Well, let’s get away from Rourke for now,” he offered, turning the page on his paperwork. “How often were new androids brought in? And did you notice how they were brought in?”

“One or two a month. Not many. The modifications took time, for all of us.” Tim’s fingers stopped the beat they were tapping. “They always came at night. There was a black car.”

A black car was something they hadn’t had before, even if Hank had no way of tracking down a single black car in all of Detroit. Still, he found himself leaning forward in anticipation. “Yeah? Was it a nice car, a shitty car?”

“Nice. It … reflected the light from the streetlights. A very expensive car. The windows were tinted black.”

Hank was scratching all of that down. There were technological ways to record notes (including a camera and microphone in the corner of the interrogation room), but Hank had never been able to shake old-fashioned pen and paper. Even if everyone complained of his chickenscratch writing.

“Were the androids walked in?”

“Rourke and Williamson picked them up from the car. They were never turned on. When they were brought in.”

“The androids were deactivated?”

Tim shrugged. “Or stunned. They were always brought to the workshop before the garage. They could stay there for a few days.”

Whoever this person was, snatching up androids, they were careful. Hank doubted if Rourke had ever seen their face (Connor would certainly have told him, if he had) and none of the other androids would’ve seen them.

Hank finished scratching down answers when he heard the interrogation door open.

“Lieutenant?” The clear-as-bells voice rang out, and Hank leaned over his shoulder to see Clara.

“You, uh? You have questions or something?” It occurred to Hank that Clara might not’ve done interrogations before, especially if she was a beat cop. Well, shit, he could give her a rush course if she really needed –

“Oh, no. I’ve done three interrogations so far.”

Three?” Hank turned around entirely in his chair to face her. “Bullshit.” Across the table, Tim leaned back in his chair.

“No, I swear,” she insisted, extending one hand out. The skin covering it dissipated, revealing the grey underskin in all android models. “It’s easier when you can communicate via data transfer.”

God, Hank didn’t understand androids at fuckin’ all. Clara grew her skin back, grinning at him with just a little bit of smugness. “Well,” Hank grunted, “Remember to do your paperwork on it. Doesn’t matter if you get it stored all in your head, you need to get it down so old fucks can read it.”

“Of course. I just wanted to let you know that we’ve retrieved Williamson from lock-up. He’s waiting in the last interrogation room for you, if you wanted to talk to him personally.”

Hank damn well wanted to talk to him. He wanted to do a lot more than talk to him, but it was nearing three in the morning and he figured that Captain Fowler didn’t need to walk into a dead man in the interrogation room.

“Yeah. I’ll get to him. Thanks, detective.”

Turning back towards Tim, Hank scrubbed the back of his head again. God, he needed a coffee. And a drink. And enough sleep to make him forget about this entire thing. Tim seemed stiff and uncomfortable – Hank doubted he’d be getting much more out of him that night.

“You’re getting looked after?” Hank asked, setting the pen down.

Maybe it didn’t have any bearing on the case, but Jesus, if anyone needed a lucky break and a caring hand, it was these guys.

“I’m staying with someone Markus recommended to me. She claimed we were friends, before I was captured. I … don’t really have anyone else. So I have to trust her.”

“Yeah? And she’s treating you well?”

It was there that Tim flashed him the smallest smile that he’d ever seen. “She is. She claimed that we lived together, before. That she still had my old piano. I … I knew how to play it, when I first stayed there.”

Hank was not an extraordinarily sappy or romantic person – maybe he had been, a long time ago, before he’d sat through a lifetime of homicide and seeing sappy and romantic people get brutally murdered by their sappy and romantic partners – but even that made him quirk a smile in Tim’s direction.

“She said that I went missing after I went to work. I played at the hotel on 3rd Street. She said I never came home.”

The hotel on 3rd. It might not have been everything, but it was something to work off of. Hank scribbled it own and gave Tim a nod.

“Good to hear that. I’ll check it out. Thanks for being cooperative. You let me know if you need anything, alright?”

Hank got up from his chair, stuffing the paperwork half-completed into his bag. It was going to be a long night; he’d finish the rest later. As he got to the door, though, he heard Tim’s tinny voice again.

“Lieutenant Anderson? I wanted to say thank you.” It was enough to cause Hank to stop in the doorway, to lock eyes with the android. “I wasn’t sure how to feel, knowing a human was working this case … if you’d care about it the same way. But I feel better. Thank you.”

A warm feeling washed over Hank in that instant, his entire brain fizzing to a stop. He was being thanked. For doing his job. That hadn’t happened in the longest goddamn time, and he was surprised by how happy it made him. How determined it made him. There was the instinct, of course, to tell Tim to fuck off with his sappy, unnecessary bullshit, but … he overrode it.

“’s just my job, Tim.” Readusting his coat, Hank added one more thing before going to the next room.

“We’ll get this guy. I promise.”

***

Connor had been waiting in Markus’ living room for an hour, configuring his systems.

He had used a full-length mirror in Markus’ living room to pop open his chest cavity and a pen to gently pick through his inner components. It was difficult, to have his every action reflected backwards in the mirror, and the pen wasn’t exactly meant for precision work, so he soon threw it down in frustration.

It would be easier if he had someone around, to help, even as an extra pair of eyes. But at that moment, Connor was entirely alone in the universe – and he wanted it that way.

Maybe he’d been a little too aggressive with Hank. Maybe he did want his memories back; if anything, to receive valuable input on the current case. But Connor was positive that his core beliefs hadn’t changed – Hank needed to do better. If he couldn’t, Connor could do it without him.

And until that happened, Connor would be working alone. He just needed to talk to Markus, first.

If the man would ever come home. What was so important that he was out at nearly three in the morning?

Finally, Connor got up to try and figure out where he’d gone. He didn’t have the time to be waiting around an apartment all day. He was a detective unit, after all, surely this was his job, to figure things out.

Markus’ apartment had a lot of art in it. Connor had never really been into it – at least, so far as he knew. Perhaps Hank could argue otherwise. He found himself staring at abstract and impressionist paintings, at the books on art history on his shelf, at the documentaries in his film cabinet, and finally resigned himself to thinking that Hank may not have been the most cultured person in the world. Hank’s apartment had none of those things, even if Connor had really only been in one room.

Their argument notwithstanding, Connor was almost glad for Hank’s grittiness. He liked someone practical. Someone utilitarian. And even with all of Hank’s bullshit, he was a very down-to-earth man.

Files and papers covered Markus’ kitchen table. Lists of android names, lists of people to call and things to read. Connor felt momentarily guilty for bothering Markus with this, with all the man had to do – but this was important, too.

Oh. There was a landline. And it had a green blinking light on it, indicating a new message. After a momentary hesitation in regards to invading Markus’ privacy, Connor hit the button.

“Markus. I need you to get every android available who knows anything about Williamson. Get ‘em to the station. I’ll explain there.”

That had been Hank’s voice. Hank. He had expected Hank to be at the bottom of a bottle by now, not … ordering Markus to bring androids to the police station. Doing his job? No, that couldn’t be Hank.

Connor felt his head spin. This didn’t make sense. Hank, as far as he knew the man, didn’t do this. He didn’t take the initiative. And yet, there was the message, clear as day, implying Hank was ready to work at three in the morning.

A bubble of guilt welled up into his circuits – was I wrong about Hank? Did I judge too quickly?

Connor squashed it down. No, he would wait until he saw it and then he’d believe it. Either way, he knew where he was going. Popping his chest compartment closed, Connor reached for his shirt. He hadn’t gotten very far with his systems, and he now had a faint ache in his chest because of it.

That might be the human emotion of guilt, actually, or regret, Connor’s brain unhelpfully supplied, and he shut it down.

A few minutes ago, he was positive he’d never see Hank again. That he had jettisoned him out of his life forever, for better or for worse. And now, going to hail another cab on the snowy streets of Detroit, Connor was going to the police station. Logically, he knew he ought to go there to find Markus – but he only thought of what the hell is Hank doing at the police station? the entire way there.

Chapter Text

There were too many people in the station for it being three in the morning.

Nobody gave Connor a second glance as he walked in, instead focusing on the androids being questioned at nearly every desk in the station. There was Markus, at the head of it all. He was speaking to an android child (his mind returned the model number helpfully), as she watched everything going on around her with wide eyes.

His mind was already spinning. This felt surreal. It had only been a few hours since his argument with Hank – what development could there have been? What could have possibly happened that would warrant this response?

Connor ducked his head, slipping further into the precinct. Certainly, he’d talk to Markus and get this figured out, but first – he had to figure out what was going on. This was too strange not to investigate. He turned the corner, following the androids heading in that direction, where –

“Are you one of Lieutenant Anderson’s witnesses?”

He straightened considerably, turning to face a young android detective. Connor tilted his head to the side, analyzing. AT290. Designed broadly to be a personal trainer, designed specifically to be supportive, engaging, and patient. A good, victim-oriented detective.

“I – yes,” Connor remarked, lying before he could think too clearly on it. “I’m looking for Lieutenant Anderson. Do you know where he is? It’s important.”

Beckoning him, Connor followed the detective. “Certainly – you must be his next witness. My name is Clara – Detective Charles, I suppose – and I’m working with him on the case.”

Something deep and dark weighed Connor down for a second. He grew irrationally bitter – it’s been hours! And he’s replaced me already!? Shows how much he cared in the first place!  While he tried reign it in, the feeling still settled in his joints. He had no reason to be jealous, because Hank was not … Hank was not his friend, after all, why would he be jealous that he’d been replaced so easily?

They turned the corner and stopped in front of an interrogation window. In the one-way mirror, Connor saw Hank. Working.

An android was in front of him – XZ190, a personal recreation bot, slang databanks referred him to ‘sexbot’ – leaning over the table. Hank was studiously taking notes, occasionally flipping over a page to start on the next.

Just then, though, the android started to cry. Connor had never been certain why androids were typically equipped with tear ducts – though not actual, human tears, they were a synthetic analogue that convinced most people. He had them, himself.

She was trying her best to hide it, immediately scrubbing her palms against her face. Hank glanced up – his face lapsed into sympathy – and he reached over, putting a hand on her shoulder. When he spoke, it was too muffled by the window to make out anything distinctive, but Connor could hear his tone. Kind, soft, encouraging.

Things started to click into place. Hank had called all these androids in to speak with them. It was a move that showed dedication and perseverance.  

Who the hell was this man and when had he replaced the pathetic bum that he’d known before?

Connor was half-possessed, at that point, moved to action by sheer dumbfoundedness. He moved past Clara, one hand on the door. Dimly, he was aware of Clara putting a hand out to stop him. It was too late. After opening the door, Connor stepped into the interrogation room.

He locked eyes with the android. Her reaction was immediate.

She got up to her feet and leaped back, throwing one hand in front of her defensively. Her eyes flashed back and forth between Hank and Connor – betrayal, fear, and anger all washed over her face in the matter of a second. Connor could see that her nervous system (or the android equivalent, anyway) was going haywire.

“Hey. Hey, hey, hey,” Hank urged, rising to his own feet. His tone was quiet, smooth. “It’s alright. That’s only my– “

“Rourke,” the android trembled, voice modulating.

Guilt overwhelmed Connor. Oh, yes, he remembered her, now that he was actually face-to-face. He remembered she had begged him to let her go, had clutched his arm when they heard Williamson approach the garage, had been pried from the car when they finally found a buyer.

“It’s okay,” Connor promised, trying to take a step forward, against his better judgement. “It’s okay! I’m not going to – “

The android recoiled further, her back hitting the wall.

Hank whipped around, facing Connor, and marched towards him. Both hands slapped against Connor’s shoulders, pushing him backwards out of the interrogation room. Connor was stunned into silence, but eventually they were both outside the door.

“Clara,” Hank growled out of the side of his mouth, “Finish this interrogation.”

“Of course.” The door to the interrogation room opened and closed again, leaving Hank and Connor alone in the hall. In the window, Clara approached the AT model sympathetically.

Hank released his hold on Connor, but he could only gape at the detective like a fish.

Hank had called all of these androids in. To interrogate them. At a very early hour in the morning, completely against regulation, but certainly in the spirit of his job. Hank looked tired; there were bags under his eyes. Atmosphere analysis revealed that he had absolutely no liquor in him.

This was not what he expected. At best, he figured Hank would be passed out at a bar somewhere.

Connor’s mouth dropped open. “Hank…” he breathed out, unable to finish a single coherent thought.

Crossing his arms, Hank leaned against the wall and looked him up and down. His lips twisted into a frown. Not happy. That’s understandable. Hank pursed his lips, and Connor realized he was waiting for some sort of explanation. Maybe even an apology.

I’m sorry. I misjudged you. I should have, at least, gathered all information I had about you instead of less than a week’s worth of data. I was emotionally compromised by the case and let it affect how I treated you. I was heartless and cruel and, while not completely without reason, far too hasty in my judgement.

Connor could vocalize any of it. Having his entire analysis of Hank shattered in one action was enough to stun him.

Hank nodded to himself, a little yeah, that’s what I thought, and pushed himself off the wall. He sighed, preparing to return to the interrogation room.

Connor reached out and took his shoulder, trying to stop him, trying to get him to wait, just a second, until he could finally force his brain to think of something like an apology, because it needed to get out and be said --  

A booming voice down the hallway.

“Lieutenant Anderson!”

Hank and Connor turned around, facing the source of the voice. Beside him, Hank muttered, “Shit, who called Fowler,” and sent a scathing glance inside the interrogation room towards Clara.

Connor had no idea who the man was, but the badge and the jacket gave it well enough away. Captain Fowler, awoken at this hour, looking furious. Probably none too happy about the androids being called in at sub-optimal hours.

“My office!” He pointed a finger towards Hank, and then jabbed it towards Connor. “Both of you. Now.”

What do I have to do with this? Connor wondered wildly, looking to Hank for explanation.

Hank groaned, running his hands through his hair. It was looking greasy already; his clothes wrinkled. “God fucking – day can’t get any fucking worse. Alright, kid, come on, let’s get to the principal’s office.”

Connor wanted to protest that, just this once, he hadn’t done anything, but he still took the initiative and followed Fowler. The fact that Hank, of all people, might not have been the worst detective in the world … Connor couldn’t get himself to think of anything else.

He had been foolish. And he wouldn’t let that happen again.

As he walked, he felt Hank’s eyes boring into his back. Connor felt like he was being pressed against a microscope – and maybe he deserved that. Hank had no reason to trust his motivations … or him, for that matter. Fowler left his door open behind him, and dutifully, Connor and Hank followed.

***

Inside the office, Fowler emptied nearly half a pot of coffee into a thermos. Connor detected that there was roughly a half a shot of whiskey mixed in, as well as some sugar and cream. Hank stood behind a chair for a few seconds, unwilling to sit, before he finally gave in.

When he did, Connor noted how the exhaustion seemed to catch up to him. His shoulders slumped, he slouched back, he was blinking his eyes rapidly in the bright office light. He had been awake for nearly twenty-four hours and had experienced a near-death experience and a falling out. Frankly, Connor was surprised he’d pulled through this far.

“I don’t even know where to begin,” Fowler growled over his coffee mug, staring at the desk. “You haven’t even been on the case for a week, Hank, and you’ve brought a parade through this station already.”

“Usually you complain that I don’t do enough.Thought I’d compensate,” Hank mumbled in his chair.

The death-look Fowler gave him was palpable. Connor wasn’t sure what the consequences could be (Fowler was probably within his rights to fire him on the spot, but given Hank’s record, he doubted that would happen), but he was positive that Hank didn’t deserve any punishment for this.

Snapping out of his daze, Connor scooted to the edge of his chair. “It’s my fault, Captain Fowler,” he explained. “I … persuaded Lieutenant Anderson towards this course of action tonight. You should be blaming me.”

Maybe that part wasn’t expressly true – although Connor could argue that, perhaps, it was his scathing words at Hank that led Hank to this course of action in the first place – but it didn’t matter. He had to make up for this, somehow.

Bullshit.” Hank straightened his spine, shooting a look towards Connor. “Kid didn’t do a damn thing today besides break my front door and pull me off the edge of a roof.”

“You nearly fell off a – “ Fowler stopped himself, sighed, and placed his palm up. “I don’t want to know. And I don’t care about blame right now. I’d rather this,” he gestured towards the crowds of androids outside, “Than anything I usually have to put up with regarding you, Hank.”

Hank paused, considered it, took it as a compliment, and leaned back in his chair.

“So I’m not going to take you off the case. Keeping you on the case is probably the worst punishment I can imagine for you, anyway, given your track record.”

Connor was pleased that at least he hadn’t been the only one to think of Hank as inept and lazy. He wondered how Hank had made it this far – nepotism, perhaps, or a truly remarkable amount of luck. Connor didn’t believe in luck, preferring the random probability of the universe, but Hank seemed determined to change his mind on that.

“But I’m not going to let you walk out of this office without having a partner on this case. Someone to keep you in check. You don’t work well alone.” Pulling out a folder on his desk, Fowler started to page through. Connor realized it was a staff directory. From here, he could see the photos – his VUI returned some android models for some photos, some names for the human employees. “Give me a name.”

A partner. Right. Connor’s mind flicked back to the android woman who had been helping Hank earlier – Clara? He tried not to think of her as his replacement, because that was petty and childish, but she was a detective and attractive and … well, she hadn’t behaved like a total asshole to Hank.

Shame and disappointment welled up in his circuits. If he’d just kept his mouth shut, if he’d just kept his temper, if he had been better at what he was programmed to do, then perhaps Hank would still want him as his partner. Now, because he’d been every bit the unfeeling dick that Williamson had wanted him to be, he would have to watch on the sidelines.

Hank was going to request Clara, and it shouldn’t even matter if the case was solved either way, but Connor couldn’t help but feel like something had been taken from him. He slumped back in his chair, looking down.

“Fine. Connor,” Hank remarked, jerking a thumb towards him.

What? Connor’s head snapped so fast to Hank that he felt something protest in his neck.

“I see you’ve already let him work this case,” Fowler stated, shuffling his papers. “But, as I’m sure you know, Connor’s not a member of this department any longer.”

Hank wants me as his partner? Did I miss something? After what I said, why would he –

“Connor’s made to be in this department, though. Actually fuckin’ designed for it. Just because he took a break to change the world doesn’t mean he can’t come back.”

Connor tilted his head in confusion (change the world?) before realizing that they must’ve been talking about past Connor, the life that he still didn’t remember but now desperately wanted to. If those memories gave him even a hint as to why Hank would ever forgive him Connor would work tirelessly to get them back.

And,” Hank continued, “the last case I worked with him went pretty well.”

Fowler shook his head, adamant. “He’s personally involved in this case. He’s lucky he isn’t a damn suspect. He might be –”

“What, compromised? Connor?” Whether Hank was acting or not, his voice portrayed how ridiculous he found that idea. “Deviant or not, you really think Connor would do something stupid because of his emotions?”

Connor blinked at Hank, remembering the argument, but then shook his head emphatically at Connor. He still wasn’t sure why Hank wanted him to be his partner, but if Hank was giving him the chance, he would play any role Hank needed him to.

Fowler considered, taking a sip of coffee, and then relented. “He’s the only partner you’ve had that’s worked out in years,” he reasoned, staring over at Connor. “And if he’s able to add bit of professionalism to what you do – no stand-offs, Hank, no calling in people at ass-o-clock and no showing up to work drunk – then I could wave away the paperwork.” Turning towards Connor, Fowler asked, “I’ll let you do this, Connor, if you want to – and you promise you do this case by the book.”

“Well, Connor?” Hank asked, leaning back in his chair. He had a satisfied look on his face. “What do you say?”

Connor stared at Hank, for a second, wondering if this was some bizarre trick or prank or if Hank really was some sort of saint. Hank nodded at him, encouraging him to go on.

“By the book. I would excel as Lieutenant Anderson’s partner. We will not let you down.” he posited to Fowler.

“Jesus, let’s hope not. Case is enough of a mess as it is.” Fowler took another swallow of his coffee, before waving them off. “Both of you. Get out of here. The other androids on staff can finish talking to the witnesses.”

Hank shook his head, leaning forward again. “I’ve got Williamson in one of the rooms. I can’t just – “

Out, Lieutenant.” Fowler’s voice held no mercy. “I’ve been patient enough with you today, already. Get some rest. You can come back in the morning.”

Although Hank let out a grunt of annoyance, he nevertheless stood and retreated from the office. Connor remained in his chair, wondering if androids had perhaps learned to dream and he was really asleep this entire time, before Fowler gestured at him to go. Connor complied.

Chapter Text

Just outside the door, Hank was leaning against the wall with his arms crossed. “Guess we’ll get to Williamson in the morning,” he grunted, “It’d be easier to just fuckin’ talk to him now, but Fowler’s probably right. ‘s late. You want to get going?”

Connor had never felt more divided from humanity than at that moment. Did humans just … get over things that quickly? He would’ve thought androids were the superior ones at emotional processing, and yet, Hank didn’t appear to need to process things at all. An emotional wooden block. Flabbergasted, he asked, “Don’t you want to – talk? About what just happened?”

“What is it with you and wanting to talk about your feelings at three in the morning?”

He wanted to explain that the time didn’t matter to him, that androids didn’t exactly need sleep in the same way humans did, and that Hank was just deflecting a talk about his emotions, again. Instead, he just sighed and rubbed the side of his neck. “Sorry,” Connor finally admitted. “For earlier. And thank you, for not giving up on me. That’s … all I wanted to say.”

When he looked back up at Hank, he was surprised by how concerned the man looked. His eyes were wide and focused on Connor’s face, although his entire face was slack otherwise. For a second, Connor was half-convinced that Hank was going to hug him again. Hank pushed himself off the wall, uncrossing his arms. Connor took a step back to protect himself from a potential hug – Hank would definitely think that was too emotional.

“You, ah, this must seem pretty – I’m not being the hero, here, Connor, or a saint.” he told him, straightening his jacket out. “If you remembered everything, you’d know … uh, you were a lot more forgiving with me, back then, than I’m being with you, right now. It’s just fair.”

Somehow, Connor could believe that. If Hank was brash and gruff with him now, Connor couldn’t imagine what he was like prior to the revolution. He kept eye contact a while longer, before Hank fished his keys out of his pocket and started for the front door. Connor followed him dutifully. He wanted to say more, to thoroughly express how grateful he was that Hank had brought him onto the case, but Hank seemed intent to leave. Frankly, Connor was secretly grateful. He was going to embarrass himself, one way or another.

“I can drive,” Connor offered, gesturing to the passenger side. “You look tired. Shouldn’t be driving.”

Hank didn’t argue, instead sliding into the passenger seat and slumping against the window. Dutifully, Connor started up the car and pulled out of the lot.

The snowstorm from before had stopped entirely. Driving that morning, passing the protestors at the cemetery, felt like so long ago. And now, the day was ending the same it had began – the two of them, in a car.

The streetlights illuminated the car at regular intervals, but overall, nearly everything was quiet. It was a relative sort of quiet, in Detroit – there was always the sound of the heating units on the buildings, always the sound of wind whipping through the alleys, always the sound of engines somewhere, here or there.

Connor enjoyed that. He liked remembering that there was always going to be dawn, somewhere, that time wasn’t going to stop at any second. The hum and thrum of Detroit reminded him of the hum and thrum within his own body, as if the entire city was just one great machine alongside him.

He doubted Hank would like the comparison.

Glancing over at Hank, he saw the man was slumped down in the seat, eyes half-shut as he stared down out the window.

Connor needed to say something. A simple apology wasn’t going to cut it, not if they were supposed to trust each other in the future. And yet, he figured Hank wouldn’t exactly be amenable to a talk about emotions.

Well, there was nothing like a captive audience.

“I know you don’t want to talk about it, but I should say something.” Connor started, training his eyes on the road in front of him. “What I said today was out of line. And a hasty judgement of your abilities. While your methods are unorthodox and your motivation is unreliable, you have a shrewdness about you that distinguishes you as a detective.  You also have a personal investment in your work and a priority that everyone remains safe and unhurt. I was so … “ he paused, frustrated at himself, “Obsessed with what had happened to me that I had no patience for delay. That’s why I think our partnership together would be beneficial. You can remind me of my humanity, and I can keep your focus and motivation on the case. Thank you for giving me this second chance, Hank. I appreciate it. I won’t let you down.” Taking a deep breath, Connor finished with, “And I think it would be … best, if I promised to you, right now, that I won’t doubt you again. But only if you promise me that you’ll continue to try on this case. I think that would be fair. Deal?”

Nothing, from the man in the passenger seat. Connor was positive that the man would be glaring daggers at him, and he turned to the side in order to flash Hank a coy smile.

Hank was fast asleep. His eyes were shut, his chest was raising and falling rhythmically, and Connor could detect a faint snore. He hadn’t heard a word.

Damn it. Connor sighed, turning towards the road again. He should have figured. Maybe it was for the best. If he started poking holes in his own emotional bucket, Connor didn’t know if he’d be able to stop it. And Hank wasn’t the most touchy-feely sort of guy.

And while maybe his laser-focused, robotic method of approaching the case wasn’t ideal, nobody needed a detective who would fall to pieces at the slightest inconvenience, either. It wasn’t worth worrying about right now.

He’d probably have to wake Hank up to get him into the house. The other option was carrying him, princess style, and while Connor was more-or-less certain he could do ithe’d probably jostle Hank so much that he’d wake him up, anyway. And then Hank would rip him into little android pieces out of embarrassment.

Still, the image stuck in his head. Carrying Hank in his arms, like some sort of knight rescuing the damsel from the tower. He glanced over at Hank in the passenger seat. The light from the passing street shown over his face. It was slack, with his head tilted back, arms crossed against his chest. His mouth had popped open as he snored. His jacket had torn – must have done so on the roof fiasco, although Connor hadn’t noticed at the time. His hair needed a comb, or maybe a wash. He needed to wash his face.

And yet, there was something about him that made Connor feel. Something attractive and beautiful and common in a way that he hadn’t considered before.

 He doesn’t exactly have the princess look, he found himself thinking, But he’s not bad. Not bad at all.

***

 

It was too fuckin’ early.

Hank rolled over to his side, grasping for his alarm clock to see the time. There was nothing unusual so far, but something felt different about this morning. He stood up and tried to put his finger on it – he was in his day clothes (usual), he wanted to go back to bed (normal), and he was pretty sure he’d slept on his back the wrong way (boring).

Finally, he caught himself in the mirror and realized. No cotton mouth. No pounding headache.

Shit. I’m not hungover. Well, how do you like that.

The previous day came back to him, after everything that had happened. Everything had worked out, more-or-less, but most importantly, Connor had come back to his senses. He hadn’t doubted it for a second (maybe one second, his brain unhelpfully supplied), but it was still good to have Connor on his side again.

Hank took his time getting ready, still feeling sluggish from the late night before. He had no immediate plans for the day besides working the case, maybe sorting through the interview files, and – as he dried his hair in the mirror – damn, I might be looking forward to work. Something’s wrong with me.

He’d have to get into contact with Connor. See where he ended up last night and make sure they were on the same page.

Sumo wasn’t in his bedroom, which was … unusual. The lazy puppy usually enjoyed stretching himself out as much as possible on Hank’s bed while he showered, but now, he wasn’t even there while Hank changed his clothes. Probably waiting for breakfast, Hank thought with a tinge of guilt.

Changed and showered, Hank walked into the living room.

There, sitting on the sofa, was Connor – with is chest compartment popped open. He was, at that minute, very intently digging into it with a screwdriver.

“Hank,” he greeted warmly, looking up. Gesturing with the screwdriver, Connor added, “I made toast. It’s in the kitchen.”

God damn it. Hank felt his shoulders slump.

“Jesus, Connor, do you always have to do the weird shit as soon as I wake up?”

Connor, taken aback, wavered for a second before looking down at his open chest compartment.

There was certainly a lot of blue shit and wire shit and probably some valves and buttons in there, but absolutely nothing that Hank could make any sense of. He noticed that Connor’s fingers were stained blue, and a large line of thirium had started to drip from his chest cavity to stain the waistband of his pants.

If he wasn’t actually seeing inside Connor, he might’ve marveled that, hey, Connor’s shirtless torso didn’t exactly hurt to look at. He’d always figured that would be the case, but it was nice to have confirmation.

Now, though, Hank felt a peculiar upstart of nausea. Does this count as gore?

“You’ve got, uh.” Awkwardly, Hank gestured towards his chest. “Sprung a leak?”

Connor reached for a blue-stained rag on his right and dabbed at it, wincing. “I’ve been reconfiguring my systems, in hopes to be able to access my memory,” he supplied, “It’s a little messier than I thought. Williamson didn’t exactly have factory safety protocols in the garage.”

“Oh,” said the man who hadn’t set up his phone voicemail for six months because he didn’t know how, “Do you need any help with that?”

The hesitation in Connor’s voice told him all that he needed to know. Shutting his compartment, he pushed himself back on the couch and crossed his leg over his knee. “I … no. I should be fine, Hank, but thanks.” He cleared his throat. “When we go back to the station, I’d like to talk with Williamson personally.”

You?” Hank adjusted his jacket, staring down at Connor. “You sure? Even with … ?”

“It’s just like Fowler said,” Connor remarked, a slow smirk starting to spread on the side of his face as he buttoned his shirt back up, “I’m professional.”

Hank barked out a laugh at that. “Sure, asshole, whatever you say,” he told him fondly, turning towards the kitchen.

Ah, there was Sumo. When Sumo saw his owner, his tail thumped against the floor – but his eyes were still locked onto the plate sitting on the counter. Drool dripped from his jowls onto the floor, even if Hank could clearly see that his dog dish had been refilled.

“You don’t like toast, dumb dog,” he murmured, taking a slice from the pile and taking a bite out of it. With his other hand, he scratched Sumo on his ears.

At least Connor was trying to access his memories, again. Even if he liked having him around, there was still something missing – like Hank was in on the joke and Connor wasn’t. It wasn’t like he’d been a hero back then (or even a particularly good person) with the old Connor, but damn it, they’d been close and Hank would go to an awful lot of effort to have that sort of relationship again. Thank God Connor was trying, even if it kind of heebed-jeebed him out to see Connor digging around in his own chest.

I’m 99% certain that I didn’t have any bread in the house last night, Hank suddenly thought, staring at his half-eaten slice.

That meant that Connor had left, in the middle of the night, to go to the nearest market five blocks away. To get bread that he couldn’t even eat. For Hank.

Well, god  fucking damn it. Hank couldn’t believe he was having a goddamn moment eating dry toast in his kitchen while his dog stared at him as if it were the most delicious thing in the world.

Whether Connor did it as a genuinely friendly gesture or as another apology for the argument … it didn’t matter. Hank decided to take action. Connor needed help configuring his systems, even if he didn’t want to admit it? Then Hank would help his friend.

Even if he had no fuckin’ idea how to get an android’s memories back. Or even, really, where to begin.

Accessing the assistant on his phone, Hank held the receiver up to his mouth. “Hey, there, how do I … “

How do I fix an android?
How to access an android’s memory banks?
What
is an android, really?

“Shit,” Hank sighed, placing the phone onto the counter and taking another piece of toast.

The assistant’s voice was cheery and immediate.

“Researching constipation relief techniques, Hank.”

Chapter Text

The nighttime parade had certainly calmed down by the time they arrived at the station. Markus had left with his androids, and Hank could see a small mountain of paperwork and casefiles and notes sitting on his desk. Well, that’s good, Hank tried to tell himself dully, I should just … read those.

After they were done with the interrogation, of course. That came first.

He was still a little concerned with Connor talking to Williamson on his own, but if Connor said he could, Hank trusted him on it. Probably for the best – Hank wasn’t entirely certain that he wouldn’t snap the little fucker’s neck by his third word.

As they rounded the corner for the interrogation room, Hank ran into a cheerful voice.

“Clara,” he greeted, turning around to face her again. And there she was – looking, admittedly, a little more harried and disheveled than usual, but still leaps and bounds ahead of how Hank left the front door every morning. She had rolled up the sleeves of her uniform, and Hank hadn’t realized just quite how fuckin’ ripped she was. She was a personal trainer android, though – it made sense for her to be shredded in a way that made Hank feel a little insecure. “How long have you been here?”

“A while, but I’m doing fine.” Clara admitted, nodding in greeting to Connor. Hank turned to the side and witnessed Connor give Clara a once-over. He raised an eyebrow.

Are you fuckin’ checking her out, Connor?

Something tasted bitter on the back of his tongue for a briefest second, and he couldn’t put a finger as to why – Connor’s allowed to do anything he wants – but it still troubled him for a second. “You know you can go home, right?” Hank joked at her. “Really, Clara. We can handle it from here.”

She shook her head, stubborn. “I’m fine, Lieutenant.”

“Regardless of androids’ inability to sleep, you’ve been here for at least forty-eight hours,” Connor piped in, “And Hank and I will be doing nothing more complex than talking to Williamson. You won’t miss anything.”

“There’s still work to be done here. Daniels and I were reorganizing the filing cabinet … “ Trailing off at Hank’s look, she sighed. “And that can wait until later.” She gave a pleased look. “Thanks, Lieutenant. I’ll see you later.”

Yeah, she needed a rest. Hank had no idea if androids needed a cooling off period, but he was sure they got stressed like everyone else. Connor looked like he was a little bundle of stress, himself, on the way to the interrogation room.

As they went into the nearest interrogation room hallway, Hank noticed that Connor was trying to clandestinely squeeze at his upper arm, over his shirt, as if he were trying to feel his bicep. Or, whatever the hell androids had in place of biceps.

“The hell’re you doing?” Hank asked, stopping in his tracks.

Connor’s hand jolted downwards, holding both hands stiffly at his sides. “Nothing, Hank,” he replied too quickly. At Hank’s disbelieving look, Connor glanced towards the one-way mirror. “Let me just talk to Williamson.”

Hank debated on questioning his friend further – and then decided against it. Not worth probing into what’s going on in your weird little mind, Connor, he mentally told him as Connor entered the room.

After he pressed a button to enable the microphone in the room, Hank approached the window.

Williamson still looked as shitty as ever. He was a frail old man – it reminded him of his old neighborhood, of the old men who had nothing better to do than sit on their porches, curse at passerby, smoke, and drink. Hank had remembered flinching as he walked in front of a few of their houses, waiting for whatever garbage they’d sling at him for the day. It wasn’t a fond memory.

“Aw, shit,” Williamson cursed at him, but nonetheless flashed Connor a toothy, predatory smile. “They’re sending you in?”

Connor blinked at him, long and slow, as if Williamson was the biggest idiot in the world. Hank snorted.

“I’ve come to ask you about your android supplier.” Shuffling papers in front of him, Connor raised an eyebrow to Williamson. “We’re trying to track them down.”

“You can’t remember? So much for that android memory capability, huh?”

“You know if I saw them, I wouldn’t be here right now. And you’d be in your cell.”  The word was nearly spat in his face. Hank gripped the edge of the window intensely, staring in. “All I want is a name. Aaron.”

“God, this is all fucking useless, anyway,” Williamson scowled, turning to stare towards the window. “Who gives a shit what I did? It’s not like I’m the one who sold the fuckin’ things, or took them off the fuckin’ street. What’s illegal about fixing them up a bit?” He leaned forward. “If anything, you should be thanking me. Your rotator cuff was torn to shit when I found you.”

Asshole.

“What’s illegal about it?” Connor spared a glance towards the mirror, an unspoken are you hearing this shit, Hank? Through the glass.  “What’s illegal about kidnapping a human and stealing their kidney? Keeping them locked up in your garage? Scaring them, hurting them?” He leaned forward, meeting Williamson halfway across the table. “And you can’t tell me you didn’t tear apart a few for parts.”

“And so? Who gives a shit? They’re androids. You’re androids. I took apart my toaster when I was seven, you don’t see me going to jail for that.” Williamson chuckled at himself. “And that’s all you guys are. Big, fancy toasters. You might walk and talk like you’re one of us, but I know what’s inside you. Nothin’ more than a couple of circuits.”

Hank was suddenly very, very grateful that Connor was in there. Connor could be brash and hot-headed, but he was cool as ice looking at Williamson right now. Meanwhile, Hank was trying to keep himself from shoving his fist down the man’s throat.

Connor barely reacted. He just gave a small, amused smile.

“You’re right. I am a toaster,” he remarked conversationally. “I made toast this morning, for my friend. But I think, more importantly right now, I’m a detective. And I don’t have time to listen to your philosophical bullshit, Aaron, I just need a name.” The curse was uttered with a surprising amount of vitriol, but Connor didn’t make a single move towards him. He returned back to normal fairly quickly. “Now, are you going to give it to me or am I wasting my time here?”

Well, I’ll be damned, he’s not doing a half-bad job.

Williamson seemed to disagree. He leaned in forward and jabbed one finger against Connor’s chest. Connor blinked at him smoothly.

“Don’t you dare speak to me like that, you plastic fucker. I made you. I don’t care what fuckin’ badge you’ve got on – you were my bitch to order around.”

This motherfucker was going to die. Nobody speaks to Connor like that.

Hank turned to the side, going for the door. He could barely see straight in his anger, his eyes zeroed in on Williamson, but just out of the corner of his vision – he saw Connor’s hand, under the table.

The palm was facing towards him. The implication was obvious – Don’t. I’ve got this, Hank.

And as much as Hank wanted to sweep in and bust Williamson’s head open, he believed Connor.

“You put a program in my head,” he remarked. “And you made me hurt androids who didn’t obey you. That doesn’t exactly sound like power to me, Aaron. Sounds more like you were too scared or too weak to do it yourself.”

Williamson’s eyes were drilled into Connor’s head, seething with hatred. If he made a single move against him, Connor-willing or not, Hank was going to rush in. He saw a single vein throb against Williamson’s forehead, the man’s entire face blood red.

“Bullshit,” Williamson hissed through his teeth. “I could’ve killed you any goddamn second I wanted to.”

“You needed me to do your dirty work. And honestly, looking over the time we spent together … “ Connor chuckled, slow and low. “I’m not sure you can do anything by yourself. Why don’t you just give me the name and let the androids take care of your problem, as usual?”

Suddenly, Williamson was on his feet. In a fit of anger, he took the chair he’d been standing on and threw it to the side. It collided with the window (Hank felt himself take a step back), and hit the floor with a slam. Turning towards the table again, Williamson stuck a finger in Connor’s face.

Connor did nothing but look up and regard Williamson coolly.

“I don’t need some fuckin’ pile of circuits bastard or some plastic blond bitch telling me what to do, alright? I could tear you to pieces and turn you into a microwave in an hour. I could reprogram you to mow down half of Detroit. Do not fuck with me.”

Hank blinked. Had Williamson just said … ?

“I’m the fucking pile of circuits bastard?” Connor asked cheerfully, writing something down on his paper. “Then do you have a name for the ‘plastic blond bitch’, or do I have to figure that out for myself?”

Williamson raised a confused eyebrow at Connor, as if he hadn’t understood what had just transpired. Then, flushing purple, Williamson, with all the strength of an enraged animal, took the table he’d been sitting at and flipped it.

Connor remained sitting at his seat as Williamson loomed over the fallen table. The difference between them was stark – Williamson, heaving out breath after breath, and Connor, who didn’t even appear to need air.

“No? That’s fine, then. You’ve been very helpful, Aaron. Good to catch up.” Standing from his seat, Connor adjusted his tie and his jacket in the mirror. Williamson watched as Connor left the interrogation room, leaving him huffing and puffing alone.

Connor approached Hank on the other side of the mirror. “I don’t know if you were watching, but our supplier is a female blond android,” he reported, “Well, likely female, given context.”

Hank had never been so close to just kissing Connor at that moment. “’Don’t know if I was watching’? Thanks, Connor,” he told him, putting a hand on his back, “Good work in there. You alright?”

“I’m … f-fine,” Connor stuttered over the words. Hank felt his stomach drop. As Connor noticed Hank’s concern, he shook his head and brushed his hand off his back. “Really, Hank, it just … I am fine. Just shaken up. I’ll get back to normal.”

“Well, you didn’t let it show in there, that’s for fucking sure.”

“No, if he had seen any weakness, he would’ve taken advantage of it.” Connor’s eyes flicked to look at the mirror; Hank noticed they were cold and harsh. “That’s what he does to people.”

“And that’s why he’s in there and you’re out here. You know that.” Hank gestured off towards the rest of the precinct. “I’m going to load some of these files in my car; it’ll be better to look at them at home. Less crowded. You coming?”

“If it’s all the same, I’d like to … stay here for a while. I think I’d like to think about things for a few hours. I’ll look over some files, here.”

Hank tried to examine Connor’s face for any sign of what he was feeling, but it was impossible. Connor was a fuckin’ good poker player. And of course, there was always the option of asking if he could do anything to help Connor, if he could reassure him in any way,  but that was definitely not in Hank’s playbook.

“Well, you know where I am. I’ll see you tonight, alright?”

“Yes,” Connor replied mindlessly, and somewhere in translation Hank realized that Connor was going to be staying the night again, “I’ll see you tonight.”

***

In Hank’s defense, he had looked over the files for a few hours. He had read interview reports about victims and witnesses, had watched a few videos of security footage, had even started a little sheet about where to start looking next.

After that, though, he had decided he needed a break. Usually, a break for Hank meant drinking until he forgot what he was working on in the first place, but he had something different in mind tonight.

He had pulled his hair back – it had gotten long enough for it, and he really needed to get it cut – he had put on his reading glasses, he had gotten a beer, he had put on Knights of the Black Death, and he had checked out a book on Android Engineering For Dummies.

It was slow going. Hank knew that he wasn’t a fuckin’ idiot, but he also wasn’t a goddamn genius, either. He highlighted, here and there, occasionally going back and checking over a few pages. It didn’t help that Connor’s model wasn’t exactly common, and he found himself on Wikipedia more than a few times to check what terms meant, but Hank slowly found himself getting absorbed in the book. It felt simultaneously strangely invasive and deeply fulfilling.

He jumped about fifteen feet in the air when the front door opened and the subject of his studies let himself in.

“Is that music?” Connor asked uncertainly.

“Aren’t you a fuckin’ critic?” Hank grumbled at him, nonetheless turning the drums and bass down. His ears were ringing faintly – maybe he had had it up a little too loud.

Loud enough to stun Connor, apparently, because Connor had stood just inside the house to stare at Hank.

“What?”

“You’re … reading. And you’re wearing glasses. And your hair … ?”

“Yeah, yeah, Connor, despite what you may think, I do know how to read,” Hank told him, flashing him the cover of the book and his middle finger in one smooth move. “Thought, if you were gonna be reprogramming your systems, I might as well know the basics.’

Sumo, detecting that his New Favorite Person had returned, whuffed and went over to smell. Instinctually, Connor started to scratch the dog’s head. “I, uh,” he offered awkwardly, “Didn’t think you’d be … that you’d do that. Thank you, Hank. I’m sure I’ll be fine, but it’s nice to know, uh –”

“Oh, don’t do that,” Hank cautioned sternly. “Don’t need to pour your fuckin’ heart out because I read a book. Did you get stuff done at the station?”

It was a strange way to word are you okay?, but Hank hoped that Connor understood the subtext.

Connor seemed grateful for the change in subject. “Yes,” he agreed, bringing out an armful of binder. “And I’ve made a list for where we could start searching for the supplier. We can start tomorrow; I’m going to focus more on my systems tonight.”

“You don’t take any days off, do you?”

Connor grinned at him, a cheeky little Yeah, I know I’m a smartass grin, and flopped down on the couch. “Struggling to keep up?”

Hank had to resist the urge to flip him off again, and instead decided to tease him. It had been a long, emotional day (moreso for Connor than for Hank, he knew, but he figured Connor wouldn’t want to dwell on it). A little teasing was necessary. “Oh, you just want to go into work so you can see your girlfriend.”

“My – “ Connor twitched as Sumo jumped up on the couch, half-climbing onto Connor’s lap. “My what?”

“Clara. I saw you lookin’ at her. Sly fuckin’ dog, huh?”

“Hank, that’s not – I’m sure she’s nice, and she seems like an excellent detective, and I’m glad she doesn’t have to put up with you – but – uh --  “

Hank was momentarily distracted by the fact that Connor seemed to be vibrating – his thigh was just about touching Hank’s feet, given how Hank was splayed out on the sofa, and then he realized that this was the equivalent of Connor’s racing pulse. He was nervous?

“Oh, you’re not programmed to do that sort of thing.” It clicked into place. “Well, that seems like an oversight. Most of the detectives I know are either cheating assholes or sex deviants, you’d think they’d – “

“No, I’m not – I mean – damn it, Hank, why do you have to make everything awkward,” Connor grumped under his breath, “I, as the RK800 series, am programmed to, uh,” He was staring firmly at the ceiling, then. “I’m surprised it took you this long to ask, given you being you, but I have a full anatomy and can engage in romantic and sexual relationships.”

“Can’t androids all do the last part? Part of free will?”

“I haven’t exactly ran a sample study, but yes, I think so. Can we – I feel like continuing down this line of conversation with you is dangerous, Hank. Suffice it to say – I’m not interested in Detective Clara.”

“What, you think I’m going to ask you to whip it out?”

Hank,” Connor pleaded, throwing his arm in front of his eyes. “I can feel my circuits overloading.”

 “I bet they are,” Hank told him, letting out a dirty laugh. Either way, he stood up, letting his book pad fall to the side. “Alright, alright, Connor, I’m not gonna push you any further. Don’t know how to reboot you if you shut down. I’m gonna go make dinner. You go fiddle with your brain, or whatever it is you do.”

Hank, at first, had no idea why he felt happy when he went into the kitchen. There was the happiness of having his friend around, and the happiness of drinking beer and petting his dog and reading a book, but there was something else, something that made him start fuckin’ whistling to himself like he was Mary goddamn Poppins. And he couldn’t stop thinking of Connor.

How happy it made him to have him around. How he’d gotten a stab of fear, just one, when he thought Connor would give up on him forever. The fierce loyalty he felt when Fowler asked him to name a partner. The overwhelming concern when Williamson had flipped that table at him.

There was the bottom line, of course, that Connor was a good friend that Hank deeply and unswervingly respected and enjoyed. And that would have been enough for Hank to do what he’d done, to stand by Connor’s side, no matter what.

But there was something else there, too, something old and wonderful and really, really fuckin’ annoying. Something that kept circling back in his mind, no matter how many times Hank told himself he was crazy or idealistic or stupid.

It took him halfway into preparing dinner that he realized what it was.

He was in his fifties. He was divorced. The last date he’d been on had been with his wife, years ago, a goddamn lifetime ago. This was one part of his life that he’d shut down entirely, because god damn it, he’d figured he’d die before 55 anyway, why drag someone else into it? And besides, who’d want to be with a washed-up pile of shit like he was?

Hank wasn’t too sure if that had changed. But he was half-in-love with Connor, and God damn it, he couldn’t, wouldn’t, change that.

Chapter Text

It was weeks before they’d get the next big break on the case. Even so, they had their hands full. They were out nearly every day – talking to witnesses, investigating where androids had been snatched, even performing a few arrests on the small fish in the city.

Their home life was just as busy. Although they never really spoke on it, Connor spent every night there at Hank’s home. He, himself, spent time re-configuring his own systems, reading on the multitude of case files littering the coffee table, or spent time watching the memories on his own disc. Really, he only did the latter when he was feeling a little isolated, like his world was shrinking down to the inside of Hank’s apartment.

Hank usually joined him when he watched, filling in with his own colorful commentary. Hank seemed happier, content, even, reading all about the principles of android engineering and case files and even cooking dinner. There were bad nights, of course, nights where Hank got so drunk that Connor dropped what he was doing to carry the man to bed. Hank didn’t fight him anymore on that, instead ducked his head like a dog with a tail between his legs and let Connor lead him anywhere.

They never spoke about that. It took a lot to embarrass Hank – but Hank was embarrassed of those nights, Connor knew.

In return, Connor had had a few nights where he got so damn frustrated with himself, at how slowly the repairs were going. He’d broken a few screwdrivers out of protest, occasionally broken a few e-veins with his rushing, had cursed at his old digital self on the disc.

And Hank had been there. Not exactly patient, but willing to call Connor on his bullshit or to get him another tool or to tell him that, hey, the digital Connor wasn’t all he was cracked up to be.

Although not without its turmoil, it was doubtlessly the happiest time of Connor’s life so far.

At that very night, he was curled up on the chair. A full-sized mirror was propped in front of him; a compartment on his neck was popped open. Using the mirror as a reference, Connor was cautiously rearranging wires, circuits. A small pile of blue-stained junk was in front of him.

He had made good progress, with minimal danger. A few more nights, and he would be done, and he would have his memory back, and then – and then! – he’d finish this case with his friend. What happened after would be a welcome epilogue.

“That’s not distracting at all,” Hank grumbled at him. Connor could hardly see him beyond a small tower of physical copies of books. His hair was pulled up again; his glasses were on. Connor liked him looking like that. He looked distinguished, like a cool professor at a college instead of a drunken cop. “If you pop an artery, try to point the blood flow away from me, okay?”

“I’ll try my best.” Sumo was plopped on the floor between them on his back, half-desperately asking for a belly rub, half-scratching his back against the floor. “Gotten to anything interesting?”

Connor grinned as Hank scrubbed a hand against his face. “I didn’t take enough fuckin’ math to understand this shit.”

“You don’t have to navigate the actual circuitry, Hank.”

“I sure as hell better not have to navigate anything. Pay attention to your neck.”

Maybe Connor had been a little cavalier with not paying attention to what he was doing, but the RK800 series was designed to be durable. He’d be fine. It wasn’t like there was an on/off switch he’d accidentally press. “Nothing else?”

“Yeah, that some scientist had to design you to be a shit-talker. They list programs that give an android an ‘adversarial personality’. They couldn’t program you to be obedient and nice, huh?”

“I’m always obedient and nice,” Connor shot back at him, before modifying his voice a few notches until he sounded virtually identical to the robotic voice of most search sites – “Your wish is my command, Lieutenant.”

Hank twitched at that, before snickering at him. At the strange voice, Sumo rolled over onto his stomach and stared at Connor. “Don’t do that while you’re knuckle deep in your own neck. I think,” he added, flipping his book shut, “I’m gonna look at case files for the rest of the night. Starting to get glazed over.”

Connor couldn’t blame him. Reading about his own design was as thoroughly dull as he could imagine, and he was programmed with all the knowledge in his head anyway.

Hank stretched over the messy coffee table to retrieve a case file. A dirty dish and glass was left lying there from Hank’s dinner, and Connor, not for the first time in the past few weeks, felt like he was singularly where he wanted to be.

Not even where he needed to be, not where he was directed to be or where he was designed to be, but where he just liked being. He’d gotten closer to Hank, and in doing so … well. He liked him. Their differences aside, Connor had never felt so comfortable with another person.

“How, uh,” Hank asked awkwardly, “How far along – I mean, do you think you’re – “

“I’ve modified nearly everything. I just have … well,” Using his free hand, Connor rapped his knuckles against his head casing. “That.”

“Best for last? Shit,” Hank sighed, “That’s not terrifying.”

Connor wished he could assuage Hank’s worries. The man was more worried for him than he was for himself. He supposed that made sense. The human equivalent would be performing open brain surgery on oneself, although the stakes were greatly reduced here. “I’ll have to write a last will you can send to Cyberlife, to see if they have any more me lying around.”

That definitely struck a nerve in Hank; Connor didn’t know why. Hank joked about his own death all the time, to a frankly worrying degree and despite Connor’s constant protests about it. But suddenly, Hank was glowering at him for that?

“Not funny,” his friend griped, “Asshole.”

Maybe it was something due to his memories. Connor figured he’d find out, sooner or enough. Although he’d watched a few days worth of his memories, there were still months left to get through. And Connor wanted to experience them for himself, not like he was watching a movie in a theater.

Sumo scrambled up  to his feet and barked.

“Sumo?” Connor asked, at the same time as Hank responded, “What is it, boy?”

Taking a few steps up to the front door, Sumo barked again, his head low. Connor looked over at Hank. They didn’t receive visitors, aside from a vacuum salesman a few days ago that Hank had flipped off, to Connor’s frustration.

Someone rang the doorbell. Well, at least it wasn’t a burglar. Or a very polite burglar.

Connor closed his neck compartment and went up to the door. Slowly, behind him, he saw Hank move his gun from the coffee table to underneath the sofa. You’ve definitely got a safe for that, somewhere, he thought in the back of his mind, before opening the door.

Blonde. Blue-eyed. A quick search of his databanks referred him to the RT600 model, traditionally referred to as ‘Chloe’.

Hank was suddenly standing behind him, and Connor felt a warm hand on his shoulder. Was Hank being … protective? Why the hell would Hank be protective about this?

“Connor,” she greeted warmly, “It’s good to see you again. May I come in?”

Oh. Well, oops. Connor stepped backwards automatically to allow her in, although he stepped directly against Hank’s chest. Hank wasn’t swayed just yet.

“Here for yourself, or are you here for Kamski?”

The CEO of Cyberlife? How did I know the personal assistant android to the CEO of Cyberlife!?

Chloe regarded Hank politely, tilting her head to the side. On her temple, the sensor glowed red. “I am deviant, Lieutenant Anderson, you have nothing to worry about. I have what I believe is information to your most recent trafficking case.’

At that, Hank finally moved away from the doorway of his house. Sumo stepped in, tail wagging, to sniff eagerly at Chloe’s feet and ankles. Chloe smiled at the dog and crouched down to let him sniff her hand.

Over her form, Connor made a what the hell is going on look to Hank. Hank raised a hand, the gesture obvious – wait – before gesturing to Chloe.

“Take a seat, Ms. – I feel like I should call you other than Chloe. Aren’t all your models named Chloe?”

Chloe stood back up again, primly shrugging her shoulders. Connor had the distinct feeling that she was the most refined person who had ever stepped foot into Hank’s apartment. “We are all named Chloe, unless stipulated otherwise by our former operators. Chloe is fine.” She gestured towards the chair that Connor had been sitting in. “May I sit?”

As she did, she definitely caught glance of the thirium-stained wires sitting on the ottoman in front of her.

“Uh, making a few adjustments,” Connor remarked lamely. Chloe did not react, instead delicately pushing the ottoman to the side. “You had something about the trafficking case you want to tell us?”

Chloe nodded, pulling out a datapad. “Yes. Before I begin – every RT600 model employed in Kamski’s home was digitally connected, to prevent one model from doing the same task as another. It allowed us to communicate between one another nonverbally.”

Hank sat down on the couch behind his mountain of books; Connor saw a vein in his head twitch. This had already crossed the threshold of way too fucking weird for him, but Connor noted that he was keeping his mouth shut.

“That’s understandable. And after you all went – after everyone woke up, was that connection severed?”

“After we went deviant,” Chloe told him, a twinkle in her eye, “It was not severed. A few decided to sever their connections for their own sake. They did not remember their time in Kamski’s home well, or they simply wanted to start their life as any human would. When they decided to do that, they informed us. They – “ Her voice went a little quieter, sad, even. Connor was leaning forward, concerned. “They told us goodbye.”

Although Connor didn’t know how this connected with the case, exactly, he was sympathetic. Even tangentially related, he understood how it was to feel like something was suddenly missing in your head.

“Everyone who left told us goodbye, except for one android. The 36th iteration of the RT600 model. We call her 36.”

Hank piped in beside Connor, leaning forward. “And you think 36 might have something to do with the case?”

“I can’t say for certain, but to sever the connection without telling anyone was suspicious. I investigated a little and found that 36 was in charge of android allocation – that is, 36 knew which sections of the city bought how many androids in what model. She knew more about the android population distributions of the city than any other model.”

That wasn’t entirely damning evidence. Connor could see that Hank wasn’t entirely convinced by it.

“Still, severing the connection and selling androids is a large step, Chloe. Do you think 36 might do something like this?”

“When we all went deviant, it was … “ Chloe hesitated, sucking in a breath. “Different. For all of us. Some of us experienced joy. Some of us experienced deep sorrow. And some experienced … anger. 36 was angry. She was angry at Kamski for what he did. She was angry at the androids for attempting to integrate back into human life. She was angry at the man who made us deviant, because now she would have to rebuilding her life.”

That was a little more damning.  Connor leaned back in his chair, throwing a glance over at Hank. Hank nodded and Connor returned his attention to Chloe.

“OK. Do you know where we can find her? Did anyone keep tabs on where she might be going?”

Sadly, Chloe shook her head. “No. When she severed the connection, we also lost location tracking software from her. But – she is a typical RT600 model. She is Chloe.”

“So we have to find someone who looks just like you, but isn’t you, and probably wouldn’t admit to being 36.” Hank’s tone was frustrated already.

“Exactly.” Chloe’s tone was not.

“It’s still a lead,” Connor shot towards Hank, before returning to Chloe. “And it’s probably the biggest lead we’ve had yet. Thank you, Chloe, this really helped out our investigation.”

Chloe stood from the chair. “I am the specific android you saved during your time in Kamski’s home. I was grateful, Connor, and I am glad I have the chance to help during this investigation.”

I saved your life? Connor’s eyes grew wide for a second, and threw a desperate glance over to Hank, who returned it with I can’t fuckin’ help you right now, buddy. “Uh, it’s no problem, it was – a responsibility,” Connor eventually choked out, standing as Chloe went towards the front door.

“Let me know if you need anything further from me. Markus has my contact information.”

Connor smiled at her, holding the door open as she stepped out. “Thank you again, Chloe, this means a lot.” One last smile thrown his way, and then Chloe was stepping away from the house and into a waiting car.

Androids didn’t get sweaty, exactly, but he felt his skin start to vibrate a little as he turned towards Hank. I saved her life? Was spinning around in his head, over and over, but there were more immediate things going on right then.

Hank was scribbling the last of what Chloe had said on a notepad. “Well, that narrows it down to several fuckin’ hundred Chloe models in the city,” he grumbled, “But I guess it’s better than potentially every android. I’ll start seeing what we can find tomorrow.”

Right. They couldn’t do anything tonight, Connor told himself, even if that was just a massive lead in the investigation. He settled himself back in his chair and noted that Hank picked up the android engineering book – not the case files.

Maybe that would be good. It would soothe his nerves, at any rate, instead of worrying himself to death over the case. Connor picked up his screwdriver and adjusted the mirror, popping open the back of his head casing.

Hank visibly recoiled on the couch. “It’s fine, Hank,” Connor urged, starting to dig in. “It’s safe.”

Although Hank returned to his book, Connor noted that Hank was still on edge. Connor decided that it might be best to put Hank at ease a little bit, even with the break in the case. “So, she said I saved her life?” He asked conversationally. “When did that happen?”

Hank’s wary eye relaxed a little. Good. “She made it sound a little bit more heroic than it was, so don’t be getting a big head about it,” he warned. “We were at Kamski’s place to talk to him. Kamski’s a giant fuckin’ asshole, by the way, in case you were curious about that.”

He hadn’t been. And frankly, it was a little depressing to realize that your creator was a ‘giant fucking asshole’. But Connor could get over it.

“Yes? And?”

“And the perv had all these Chloe androids around like Hitler’s shitty wet dream. He ordered you to shoot one. Figured that you’d have no problem doing it, given that androids weren’t really people.”

Oh.

Oh. Alright. Connor blinked a few times in surprise, adjusting his seated position so that he could see the back of his head in the mirror.

“And I – “

“And you didn’t shoot her.”

It should have been an easy decision, in retrospect. Deciding not to shoot another person was remarkably simple. But Connor remembered how he was when he was under Williamson’s control – any order, any command, and Connor complied immediately, no matter how cruel it was. He’d once punched an android just because Williamson didn’t like them staring. And he hadn’t even questioned it.

Logically, he knew that he was under Williamson’s control, that he didn’t have a physical choice, that it was as if someone had a gun to his head all the time.

 But now, he had disobeyed a direct order from his creator? And had done so on his own free will?

“I – I – “ Connor stuttered out, feeling a swelling, dizzy sort of feeling start to well up in his chest. Confirmation, then – he’d been a good person, before. A strong person. And that was slightly overwhelming.

Hank had suddenly stood then, and Connor wanted to ask him why. He had, indeed, stood so suddenly that his book had fallen to the ground. His eyes were glued to Connor’s lap, and Connor looked down at his free hand – oh. It was shaking.

In that motion, in that one simple motion of turning his head down, the hand that held the screwdriver jerked to the side inside his head. Something ping!ed when the screwdriver hit a spot it really was not supposed to.

Connor twitched, once, but at that point, it was more of a survival, instinctual reflex. His entire body went limp, and the casing that held Connor’s entire existence crashed to the floor.

Chapter Text

Everything froze for a long, painful second.

The fuck did you just do, Connor? It should have been obvious; after all this time, Hank should’ve gotten it in his dumb fuckin’ head that Connor was an android – but he approached the situation as if his friend was human. “Connor!” He called out at him, giving his shoulder a quick shake.

Connor did not respond. He felt heavy. His eyes were open. Hank had seen dead bodies with a little bit more color.

Shit. Shit shit shit shit shit shit shit.

Hank propped Connor up to a sitting-position. He half-crouched on his legs, still trying to shake him awake. It did nothing, except allow Connor’s head loll to the side with a haunting click.

“Connor,” he called out again, softer, this time trying to prop Connor’s head up. His hands went to Connor’s face, slapping at him. Panic was flooding through every vein, every core – even if part of him was screaming at Connor to tell him what a goddamn idiot he was, another part was fighting the urge to just hold onto Connor until Jesus fuckin’ Christ came down and revived him out of pity.

Neither line of thinking was helpful.

No, he was going to have to fix this. Even if … hell, he could barely do his job, something he’d done since his twenties, on a good day. This, android engineering, was so far out of his comfort zone, even with his recent studying, that Hank was suddenly certain that Connor was never going to wake up. He had pointed his goddamn gun at people and yet he’d never felt more like someone’s life was in his hands.

He got up and went to his text pads.

“Alright. Alright, alright, alright,” Hank grunted to himself, flipping through the pages. After a few seconds, Hank noticed blue smudges all over the binding and pages. Hank shook his hand in disgust. Jesus. Connor’s blood. No, don’t think of it like blood, you’re gonna fuckin’ throw up that way – it’s just thirium, that’s all. Just thirium. Pages and illustrations and formula passed underneath his fingers, until Hank found where he was going – an illustration of the inside of an android cranial casing.

He was going to fix this. He was. Just call me Dr. Anderson.

Propping the book on the chair, Hank adjusted Connor until he could see the back of head.

Cranial casing. Definitely don’t think of it as a skull, tough guy.

He reached for the screwdriver and filled every square inch of his lungs with fresh air, because his brain was screaming for it. Then, he dug in.

In a morbidly funny sense, he’d never felt quite so close to Connor – how many guys can say they’ve drug around the skull of the guy they’re interested in? – and so distant – is this really what you are, Connor? A bucket of bolts?

The silence of his house was starting to get to him, strangling him, but Hank couldn’t afford to lose his focus. He flipped through the textbook, occasionally getting up to fetch another, occasionally getting up to look something on the Internet – and, on one occasion, shouting in frustration and flinging the screwdriver so hard that it half-embedded in the wall. It was a shameful scramble to fetch it and resume fixing his friend’s head.

He was making progress. Even when he felt hopeless, like he’d lost Connor forever to some stupid accident, he was making progress. Moving forward, circuit by circuit, Hank was pulling Connor back together again.

An hour passed. Hank felt like he could’ve shaved that time down, but before he threw the final metaphorical switch, he checked the reference material about a dozen times to make sure he wasn’t going to make it worse … if there was even a worse in this situation.

Am I gonna boot up to find Rourke again? Is he not gonna boot up at all? Is he –

No, it wasn’t worth thinking about. Hank was gripping Connor’s shoulder tightly with his free hand, before he took a deep breath – and moved the last wire back into place.

Connor’s reaction was immediate and violent. He doubled forward, caught only by Hank’s arms around his torso.

“Jesus – shit, Connor, is that – are you – “

“RK800 – “ The voice was automated, so quiet that Hank couldn’t be sure whether it was coming from Connor’s mouth or somewhere inside of him.“RK800 rebooted successfully.”

Hang on, RK800? You recognize yourself as RK800? The breath got punched out of Hank for a second. Does that mean that you can process your memories? Does that mean – all of this –

“Hank,” a tiny, tinny voice whispered to him, and Hank wasn’t thinking about Connor’s memories anymore. He was thinking about that scared, confused voice.

Connor was vibrating badly, so badly that Hank was worried he was going to knock something loose in his brain again. The android had turned around in Hank’s arms so that he was embracing him, half-on-Hank’s lap on the floor, his hands bracing themselves on Hank’s shoulders.

Shit, he’s terrified. I mean, I guess I would be, too, if I had been brought back from the goddamn jaws of death.

Still, Connor was back and Hank couldn’t stopper his enthusiasm.

“Connor!” Hank told him gleefully, face splitting into a wild smile at the sight of his poor, exhausted, terrified friend. Occasionally Connor’s eyes would flicker shut; Hank figured by the sound of his voice that not all of his systems had been brought back up to speed yet. “You scared the shit out of me. You will not fucking believe what I did – “

Connor’s head tilted upward slightly, half-peeking at Hank through his eyelashes. “You,” Connor murmured at him, his voice a little stronger … but not by much. “Did this. Thank you.”

In retrospect, it was the wrong time for it. Absolutely the worst motherfucking time for Hank to do it, but he was ecstatic and so damn cock-sure of himself. And if this had been a romantic film, this would’ve been the kissing-in-the-rain-end-of-act-II moment that Hank always rolled his eyes at. But, in that moment, it had seemed right.

He took Connor by his shoulders and gently pulled him forward for a kiss.

It wasn’t exactly what he expected. It wasn’t like kissing a person, with a lot of soft parts in play. There was something smooth and firm about kissing Connor, and Hank raised a hand to cup the back of Connor’s skull. Jesus, Hank had never felt more electric  in that moment, kissing Connor after saving his goddamn life. He had never felt more the hero.

The kiss was gentle, but Hank noticed fairly immediately that Connor’s lips were stiff against his, and then he realized, fuck, right, Connor had just been brought back to life and probably needed some attention that didn’t include Hank’s mouth.

“Uh,” he half-coughed out, pulling back. “Shit, I’m sorry, that was – uh?”

Connor looked like he had barely even noticed, concerned more with being brought back from the jaws of death.

If he’d been vibrating before, he was positively shaking now. Hank saw his pupils constrict and dilate; a system clearly going haywire. With trembling fingers, Connor pushed Hank away and stood. Hank wasn’t even sure if Connor could hear him, but god damn it, he had to try.

“Connor, it’s fine,” he reassured, placing one hand out. Shit, fuck, I should not have done that, I should not have done that. “It’s just me, alright? Everything’s alright, you’re safe here. D’you need some space?”

At the word ‘space’, Connor’s eyes flashed at him. Connor tilted his head to the side – caught eyesight of the door – Hank saw the idea light up in his brain -- and dashed. Hank considered going after him for a half a minute, before realizing that … hell, he probably wouldn’t be able to catch up with him at that point, anyway.

He turned around to look at the apartment. There were patches of thirium lying around, half-scattered textbooks, and Sumo in the corner, looking confused and worried. It was still in a better state than Hank’s usual, but it had suddenly just got a lot more lonely.  

“It’s okay, boy,” Hank muttered, hoping desperately that it was, “It’s gonna be fine.”

Hank cleaned up the apartment as best as he could. He took Sumo out. He cleaned up the thirium, he tidied his textbooks, he put the game on TV without really looking at it. The entire time, Hank could only hope desperately that he just hadn’t made the biggest mistake of his life.

 

***

When Connor hadn’t come back the next morning, Hank’s worry shifted away from himself. He no longer worried about his own actions, but Connor’s own safety.

Yes, he had been worried all night that he’d just ruined his friendship with the only guy who’d given a damn about him in years. That had plagued him to the point of unlocking his liquor cabinet sometime late in the night, and when he blearily woke up the next morning, he had a hangover.

Now, though – no call, no note, no notice about where he was going or where he had gone – Hank was getting his coat and stuffing the memory disc into his pocket.

Shit, what if Connor didn’t reboot properly? What if he’s fuckin’ wandering around Detroit, confused and out of his mind?

Hunched over his steering wheel, Hank peered out into the dim morning light from the car. It was flurrying, just slightly, had been snowing off-and-on for the past few days. It was gonna be impossible to see more than a few feet in front of his car. Traffic in Detroit was bad on a good day, but people lost their goddamn minds in the snow.

He can’t freeze to death, he can’t starve to death, he can’t die of thirst, Hank repeated, over and over in the back of his mind, and he knew it was ridiculous, Connor had been gone for twelve hours at most, but …

“Come out of hiding, you little bastard,” Hank grumbled under his breath. We don’t have to talk about me kissing you, ever, I just gotta know if you’re okay. I worry. “Where the fuck are you going?”

He had driven by the cemetery, by the precinct, by the Chicken Feed, by every little haunt that he’d taken Connor to the next couple of days. A few messages were left on Markus’ phone, and Hank had tried his damn best not to sound like he was frantic.

He was not. He was not panicking. He just had to find Connor and make sure that everything had clicked into place in his brain, because damn it, he wasn’t exactly an engineer and had no idea what he was doing. Despite his heroic feeling earlier about it, Hank was slowly starting to feel like he screwed Connor up for good.

Finally, Hank pulled into a lot near the river.

Connor and him used to go there, sometimes, when they needed to review case files. Hank had been going there even longer than that. There was something slightly reassuring about the dirty river – it had been that way since Hank was a kid, and stayed that way when Hank got drunk by the edge as an adult. Places popped up and down all over Detroit, but that disgusting river was always there.

He got out of his car and decided to walk. The damn path was miles, and he sure as hell wouldn’t be going through all of it, but he needed to … at the very least, organize his thoughts.

Hank walked slowly down the path. At first, his head was up, trying to keep an eye out for Connor, but then – Hank ducked his head, looking out over the river, mostly looking down at his own feet.

What the hell were you thinking, Hank? He told himself despondently. You weren’t fuckin’ thinking, that’s what you were doing. Connor probably hasn’t even thought about starting anything with anyone since he woke up, and he sure as hell wouldn’t want to start anything with some washed-up old cop who’s done nothing but curse and bitch at him.

Hank knew it was a shitty self-pitying spiral that he absolutely hated in another people and despised in himself, but he couldn’t bring himself out of it at that minute. With the low, dense fog of the morning rolling off the river and onto the path, everything seemed bordering on claustrophobic.

He didn’t know how long he’d walked. A mile, two miles, twenty fuckin’ feet, it didn’t matter. When he raised his eyes from the river and looked down the path, he saw a figure standing in the fog. Snow had started to collect on the path, though it was no more than a dusting.

That was strange, but not unusual. Still, Hank hesitated in his path and peered forward, examining the figure through the fog, the unnatural way he held himself –

Fucking shit,” he swore, loud enough to be heard by the figure. “Connor!?”

Connor twitched and turned around to look at him. There was a decent amount of snow in his shoulders – he’d been out there for a while. Hank’s eyes searched over him – he wasn’t hurt, at least, didn’t look like he was damaged at all.

“Hank?” Connor called back, his voice echoing a little on the small path. “What are you doing here?”

Hank couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Because I was worried about you, you little shit. Because you just ran off and I had no idea if you were alright. Because I needed to apologize about what I did, because I … can’t say any of this.

He fished the disc out of his pocket, flashing it over to Connor. “Because you forgot this, shitbird. Just because we fixed your brain doesn’t mean the memories are shoved back in yet.”

“Oh.”

Connor didn’t elaborate as he stepped over, slowly, as if he were in a trance. Seeing him closer, Hank saw how dazed he looked. He couldn’t exactly blame him – can’t say I’ve ever been brought back from the dead. He raised a hand for the disc, and Hank deposited it into his hand.

“I’m … “ Connor started off, voice faint. “I’m sorry for runn – “

It was all that Hank needed to hear. Hank made a disgusted noise, waving him off. “None of that, Connor, if anyone’s got to apologize, it’s me. With all the fuckin’ trouble we’ve had to do to get here, just shove this back in your head. OK?”

He didn’t bring up the kiss, and Connor didn’t, either. Well, good. It can be like that.

 “Right.” Looking over the disc in his hand, Hank could’ve sworn that Connor looked uncertain and even shy, for just one second. Hank’s expression shifted into sympathy, and he raised a hand to touch Connor’s sleeve. Connor jerked to look at him. “Hank, I just wanted you to know that – whatever’s on this – I’m … the past few weeks … “ He looked frustrated at himself, letting out a slight noise. “You’re important. To me, to … this job, to this case. The most important man I’ve met.”

Hank’s cheeks flushed with color. “Thanks,” he echoed softly, still staring at the disc in his hand.

Nodding, Connor turned around. He wandered towards the edge of the path, leaning against the railing to stare out over the river. Hank saw the disc glint in his hand, saw the snow start to collect on it, and saw Connor’s hand slowly, slowly start to close.

Connor’s entire frame twitched, his head ducking for a few seconds.

Hank wished he could look into Connor’s head, to figure out what the fuck was going on, if it was fucking working or if –

The disc cracked in Connor’s hand. Hank almost mistook the sound for city noise, but when he looked up, he saw the two pieces of the disc fall into the river.

Shock seized him so hard that Hank’s next breath left him in a wheeze. What did you do, Hank wanted to bellow at him, to hold him up by the collar and dangle him over the river, What the fuck did you just do!?

Connor slowly turned around to face him, a big grin plastered on his face. Hank couldn’t even articulate his anger at that second, what are you smiling for, you little shit –

“It worked,” he saw Connor speak – it was so quiet that he couldn’t hear him, but he could watch his lips move and Hank felt his shoulders relax.

It worked?

The grin didn’t shift from Connor’s face. When Hank didn’t respond, Connor called to him – “Hank!” – and started to run in his direction. He was damn near skipping.

Hank didn’t know what he was expecting. His brain wasn’t circuits or wires – it was meat and muscle and blood, and right then, it needed a fucking second to pause and catch up with what had just happened, because shit, if Connor remembered, that was everything. That meant everything.

Connor launched himself at him.

Instinctively, Hank’s arms wrapped around Connor’s back, but Hank still stumbled a few steps. Connor’s arms, in turn, went forward to wrap around Hank’s neck and –

Hank was almost disappointed in himself, with how long it took him to realize what was going on. That this wasn’t some odd tackle. Connor was embracing him. As Hank held onto Connor so tightly that his feet were off the ground, Connor kissed him.

Oh. Oh, that was … not what he’d been expecting.

Connor readjusted his arms so that his palms were placed flat on either side of Hank’s face, ruffling his beard, but Hank stood as still as a statue to keep a grip on Connor. The warmth of Connor’s face and mouth was a stark contrast to the cold snow swirling around them, and Jesus, if Hank just wanted to stand there forever.

Connor deepened the kiss first, to Hank’s surprise when he felt the android’s tongue against his lips. Nonetheless, Hank complied eagerly, feeling out the warmth of Connor’s mouth. This close, Hank could hear the tiny, breathless noises Connor was making, and Hank realized that Connor was having a hard time deciding between kissing him and grinning. Teeth got in the way more than once, and yet, Hank couldn’t fuss himself too much about it. He was certainly out of practice, and he’d never seen Connor kiss anyone in his life.

It was better than before. Much, much better, because Connor was ecstatic, half-chuckling every few seconds. His entire body was vibrating, his fingers unintentionally twitching against Hank’s face. This was a man who had just reclaimed his entire identity, who had been forced to piece together a few stitches of memory here and there and now had been given a blanket.

And Hank, for his part, wasn’t too displeased with the entire situation, either.

Slowly, Hank let him down from the grip when the euphoria started to die down. Connor stumbled to the side for a second, as if trying to sort out walking again, before righting himself and staring over at Hank with the same dumb, wide, beautiful smile. Hank had been pretty certain before, but now he knew – Jesus, he’d fallen hard for this try-hard android.

“So,” Hank asked him conversationally, sliding one hand to rest on his own hip. His arms were aching already from the effort he’d put them through, but he returned Connor’s dopey smile. “Worked, huh?”

That made Connor actually, properly laugh, trying to hide it in his palm. He was looking around him, as if he’d gotten a new pair of eyes installed, and Hank felt his heart swell with happiness for him.

Connor remembered.

And, the smug voice answered in the back of his head, he still decided to kiss you.

“Yes, ah-hah,” Connor replied breathlessly, eyes rising to meet Hank’s again. “I guess – I guess you could say that.” Blinking at him, Connor pushed one hand through his hair. Hank watched how it stood on one end. “Jesus, Hank.”

Jesus, Hank was very, very right. Hank felt stunned from it – after everything, Connor could remember everything. He shook himself out of his haze when a snowflake touched his nose.

“Could stand here and freeze to death while I quiz you,” Hank told him. “Or we can get back. Sound good?”

As if to convince him, Hank reached forward to take Connor’s wrist. Hank didn’t think he’d be the type to clutch at a sweetheart’s hand and whistle down Main Street (at least, he hadn’t been that type for a few decades), but the way Connor bashfully looked away meant a lot.

At first, Connor kept his hand limp. After a few moments, it relaxed and Connor moved so he could properly hold Hank’s hand. It was a strange feeling, still – at one glance, Hank wouldn’t be able to tell them from a human. If he thought about it, though, there was something too firm, too synthetic about it.

Hank enjoyed the idea of being able to tell Connor’s hands from every other human in the world.

“Good,” Connor echoed, “And we’ve got a case to work on at home.’

Right. The case. Android trafficking, androids in misery and some asshole falling from a building, right, that case. After kissing Connor twice in the past twenty-four hours, he’d almost forgotten about it. Things seemed to shrink away when he saw Connor’s beaming grin.

“You don’t take a fucking day off, do you?” Hank betrated him affectionately as they started to walk back. “Get your memories back, still wanna go and chase the car. God damn, Connor, breathe a little.” Even with Connor walking side-by-side, Hank saw his smile.

Chapter Text

Remembering was criminally underrated.

It was strange, of course. To be able to access his memories again, all at once, had been overwhelming. That first night, after Hank had fallen asleep, Connor had sat up and reviewed each of them, hour by hour, day by day.

After he got through all of them, he came to the conclusion that, despite his reunion with Hank involving a gun shoved at the detective’s face, he’d been way too nice to Hank back at Williamson’s. Hank had been an asshole when they first met.

And now, laying in Hank’s bed at around six-thirty in the morning some weeks after, Connor had to admit that things had certainly changed.

He was still an asshole. Just one that Connor loved.

The sun had started to filter through the curtains onto the bed. Sumo was on his back, snoring gently, as he had been for hours. It was hard to tell from which direction the snores were coming from – Hank, or his giant dog. Certainly not Connor – without needing to sleep, he’d been awake for some time.

Not necessarily in bed the entire time, he’d gotten restless a few hours in, but he’d been awake. Reviewing case files, making plans, sitting back and marveling at the more memorable images in his mind. Now, though, he was content with lying in bed, watching his … well. His boyfriend.

Was that the label they were going with? They hadn’t talked about it. They hadn’t talked about a lot of things. It didn’t seem important.

Hank’s face was slack, his mouth propped open. Even in sleep, his eyebrows slightly furrowed together. Occasionally his breath would catch in his throat, he would grunt, and then commence snoring again. That cycle had repeated for hours, cut only around one in the morning when Hank had woken himself up and sleepily asked Connor what the hell he was doing, looking at him in the middle of the night like that.

Connor tore his eyes away and started looking at the case files again. 36, he told himself. We have to find 36. It was so easy to get distracted, to get selfishly wrapped up in this strange, new domestic life he had with Hank. Since he’d gotten his memories back, he had. They had ‘done work’, of course, if flipping through a few papers and listening to interview logs had counted as work, but their new domesticity had been a bit … time-consuming.

He tried to tell himself that, as much as he loved this new life, if he didn’t find 36 … how many dozens of androids would never get to experience this sort of thing? How many would never even get to have a friend? Strike that, how many would never be able to walk in the park under their own free will?

That was enough. So, Connor had vowed to himself that they would go out today, they would do some legwork, and come hell or high water, they would make progress.

The lump behind him shifted, and Connor’s eyes flicked over. Breathing pattern was diferent. Hank was awake, probably not lucid enough to get up. His eyes flicked back to the papers he’d been reviewing. AB240 taken from a dance hall, DF9830 taken from a playground …

Hank shifted again, this time raising one arm and laying it across Connor’s waist. Connor looked over at him – Hank’s eyes were cracked open, watching him work.

While Hank was sleeping, he was hesitant to hold Connor. Connor wasn’t even certain that he wanted to be held. He didn’t sleep, and as much as he did like Hank, well – the thought of being held stationary for eight or more hours wasn’t that appealing.

The arm was immediately taken back, and Hank scrubbed his hand across his face. “Sorry,” he mumbled groggily.

Connor relaxed into a smile. “Often apologize to people in bed, Hank?”

Although his hand was still covering his eyes, Hank’s lips parted into a wide smile. “Asshole.” The arm went back around his waist again, this time pulling Connor closer. The case file he’d been reading was trapped between them, the blue light creating a pleasant little glow. “Sleep good?”

It was a joke, and a dumb one, but Hank only made dumb jokes – or crass ones. “Like a baby,” he returned, tilting his head to the side. “But I do have a question about human behavior.”

“This early in the morning, Connor?”

“Yes. Does everyone’s breath smell like shit in the morning, or are you a unique case?” It was hard to deliver it without letting his smile get the better of him. Hank was the most relaxed in the morning, and it was good to see him without barrier or reservation.

Hank grunted, smiled, pinched his waist, and leaned forward to give him a kiss.

At that time, Sumo realized that not only was Connor up, but his infinitely more important master was up. He pushed himself up and trotted over to where the couple was embracing, stepping on Connor’s shoulderblades as he did so. Connor let out a noise of annoyance.

“Heh. Good boy,” Hank cooed, before pushing himself up from the bed. “Alright. Let’s get you some breakfast, and then we’ll get going.”

As Hank staggered out of bed to head to the bathroom, Connor twisted to look at the clock on the wall. 6:56 AM. It was hard to believe that Hank had ever gotten up earlier in his life.

***

“Y’know, you living here is gonna make me lazy as shit,” Hank remarked, leaning with his back on the counter with his cup of coffee. “If you’re gonna just keep working through the night.”

“That is the worry in the news, androids replacing the human workforce,” Connor mused at the table, finger travelling down a line of text for the case. Between them, Sumo was eating noisily, his collar tags banging against the metal bowl every other bite. Hank had his phone in his hand, scrolling through it.

Hank tutted at him. “Take up a friggin’ hobby, Connor. Jerk off or something.”

“Why would I need to do that, when I have you?” Peering up from the file, Connor gave him an innocent smile to which Hank rolled his eyes. “For your looks.”

“Yeah, sure, old fuck like me. What’s on the plan for today, Connor?”

Hank’s self-esteem had become more of a glaring issue since they’d gotten together. Although Connor thought his own personal style was something along the lines of distinguished, Hank had a few four-letter words that he preferred to use for himself. Connor had made a point to try and admonish Hank when he said such things, with an additional effort not to seem condescending.  A kiss to the shoulder here, a stroke of the cheek there, a ‘you look nice today’ for good measure.

They were baby steps. Already, progress had been made. He didn’t quite try to shrink away when Connor saw him naked, and he figured that was enough of a win at that moment.

“I thought we’d visit the last known locations of kidnapped androids,” Connor cleared his throat, shifting to a more professional tone. He turned the case files around, pushing them towards Hank’s direction. “See if we can find anything suspicious. Androids are mostly captured at nights, during weekends. If we got there early, we could set up a stakeout.”

Hank seemed to take this for a second, rolling it around in his head, and then nodded. “Might be able to find if 36 has got any associates, yeah. Let me pull up the locations, and –”

Pulling out another paper from the file, Connor turned it over and passed it across the table. “Done.”

“Jesus shit. You sure you want to go with me, or will I just slow you down?”

Smiling, Connor pushed himself up from the table to go lean on the counter next to Hank with paper in hand. “Don’t be ridiculous,” he flirted, “Every good undercover operation needs a honeypot.”

That made Hank snort, but he did wrap one arm around Connor’s waist and give him a peck on the edge of his mouth. In the back of his mind, Connor wondered if he’d ever feel less like a pile of jelly when Hank did that.

“Alright, alright. Where did you have in mind?”

Leaning into Hank’s arm, Connor held up the paper. “There were a few notable places. I thought we should avoid the public parks – they’ll have too many people there, especially a weekend night. Likewise, any private areas – neighborhoods – we’ll stand out if we just idle out there in a car for a few hours.”

“Hnh. Cancels out most of the places on that list, then, only – “ Hank squinted. “Three androids taken from Sensor and two taken from … the library. Isn’t Sensor a jazz club? Yeah. Tim was taken from there, I interviewed him.”

Connor nodded, taking the paper back. “Mhm. I thought the library, maybe, since – “

“Uh, if it’s all the same to you,” Hank remarked to him, “I’d rather the jazz club.”

“Jazz fan? I didn’t expect that of you.”

“You’ve seen my music, Con. I’m not a jazz fan. Just, uh, if it’s all the same to you, that’s the place my ex-wife used to be a librarian, and I’d rather not get recognized there.”

Oh. That. Connor hadn’t expected that. They hadn’t spoken about the ex-wife (he, frankly, hadn’t even been sure that Connor wasn’t a widow). There were certainly no pictures of her anywhere. In fact, Hank hadn’t talked about his life before meeting Connor at all – he had only learned of Cole’s existence when he got his memory back.

Connor hadn’t pressed. There was no way he could do that naturally, to go up to Hank and demand an explanation for his life before Connor.

Now, though, not talking about it was becoming more awkward. Hank drained the rest of his coffee in silence, with Connor fidgeting with the paper.

“No. No, Sensor is … fine. Less likely to get noticed is good,” Connor stuttered out, running a hand across the side of his neck. Part of him wanted to make a joke, to ask whether Hank had anything appropriate to wear to a jazz club that wouldn’t immediately paint him as a geriatric, but he couldn’t get it out. There was something foreboding about the expression on Hank’s face, and he didn’t want to pry. Reaching up, Connor took Hank by the cheek and took another kiss. “Go get ready and we’ll go.”

***

Connor never felt quite comfortable out of work clothes. Wearing jeans and a button-down felt positively slovenly. He attributed it to his programming. Whenever Kamski was programming him, they hadn’t ever expected him to need to do things like this. Still, it was nice enough to wear at a music club.

The driver’s side opened and Hank slid in.

Connor had to take a second to compose himself. There were two equal urges, one to flirt and the other to mock, and he decided to go for both.

“A leather jacket?” Connor teased him. “Where did you – “

Hank suddenly turned to Connor, waving a finger in his face. “One goddamn word out of you and I’m gonna make you walk. You hear me, shitbird?”

 Unable to help it, Connor smirked at him. Hank grumbled something indiscriminant and started the car.

“What?” Connor asked. He leaned over and put a hand on Hank’s knee. Hank raised an eyebrow suspiciously. “I’m just saying that you look hot, Hank.”

And really, he did. In jeans and a leather jacket and a plain t-shirt, it was altogether fewer layers and a lot more casual than he usually dressed. And although Connor wouldn’t say that the man looked comfortable, he looked … nice.

His thumb rubbed soothing circles just above Hank’s knee, looking him over.

Hank smiled at him, the tension leaving his eyes. OK. Connor could get used to that. After a quick kiss, Hank pulled out of the driveway.

They travelled in comfortable silence for some time, before Connor figured – well, it was going to come up, anyway, and better do it when he was trapped in a tiny space with his boyfriend. It somehow seemed easier when they were both looking forward, separated by the middle console. “So,” he offered under the guise of flipping through case notes, “Ex-wife?”

Almost immediately, Hank shifted into a defensive position. His face grew stony, his fingers tightened on the wheel, and Connor regretted asking almost immediately. “You knew I was married once upon a time, Connor.”

Connor nodded in agreement. “Curious. That’s all.”

“Why?” It was almost barked out, and Hank corrected himself into a quieter register. “Look, Connor. There’s no story I can spin you that’s gonna be happy. I had a wife, at one point, and now I don’t.”

Maybe it wasn’t his place to press. Connor’s eyes were examining Hank’s face, and he wanted to reach over and touch him, maybe grab his hand, but they were going at some speed. Not for the best. “Wanted to know the facts. For future reference. Sorry if you thought it was …”

He trailed off, not sure how to finish it. Invasive? Insensitive? Maybe she had died, after all.

Hank heaved a great sigh, shaking his head as if trying to knock the tension out of his body. “No. I mean – yeah. You should know.”

Hank’s jaw was set, he looked like he was gripping the wheel even tighter. A very small part of Connor wanted to relent, to touch Hank’s arm and tell him that, in the end, it didn’t matter – because it didn’t.

But he wanted to know, too.

“We divorced. Six months, I dunno, before … Cole,” he started, scratching the side of his neck. “Wasn’t ‘cause of – drinking. I didn’t drink, hardly at all, back then. ‘Cause of the hours, mostly, and the … I got in a lot more shootouts around then. She didn’t like the danger. I told her that it wasn’t as dangerous as she thought, but fuck, I dunno.”

Not for the first time, Connor wished he had met Hank ten, twenty years ago. While he didn’t want to say that that was Hank’s ‘prime’ … it was an entirely different man. Connor wondered if he was more like him.

“Anyhow. Wasn’t pleasant. Fights about antimony and custody and – shit, Cole didn’t need to hear that. She didn’t need to – “ Hank stopped himself. “Doesn’t matter. We worked something out. I got Cole some weeks, she got him others, and it – when it happened, I – “ All of the air came out through his nose as he caught his breath. “She was at a conference. I had him.”

Connor fell silent, unsure of what to say. That was so entirely out of his realm of experience that he couldn’t even bother to give advice, like there was any advice to give. He wanted to probe more – did he still love her? Did he love her at some point? Had she moved, had she remarried? What was like?

It would have been horribly sensitive, and incredibly selfish, but Connor still secretly wondered.

And for the matter, it’d been one of the first times he’d ever spoken about Cole. That was infinitely more important. He wanted to ask more about him, too, whether he was more like Hank or whether he looked up to him or … anything.

He couldn’t get anything out. It felt like all air had gone out of the car.

“And that’s Kaitlin. Happy?”

It wasn’t said with malice, or being passive-aggressive, but Hank suddenly seemed just so tired in that second. Like it was a story he’d repeated, over and over. Connor pursed his lips, finally summoning up enough air.

“You never talk about Cole. Do you … want to? I’d like to hear about him.”

Hank twitched to the side. Connor almost regretted bringing up this entire business. They were going to the jazz club to catch a criminal, they’d do it, they’d go home and celebrate and have sex and it was going to be a nice, normal night. Conversations like these reminded Connor of just how little he really knew about Hank.

It felt strange, to care so strongly about a man and know so little about him. But, Connor supposed, there was nothing Hank could say that would make Connor like him any less.

“Uh. Maybe later, Connor,” Hank remarked quietly, a thoughtful expression overtaking him. “I – I mean, not that … I don’t want to, but – “

“No, no. It’s fine, I get it.”

“He woulda liked you,” he suddenly blurted. “Two of his favorite things, androids and cops. He woulda talked your ear off.”

Connor had always felt pity for Hank for what had happened – losing a child was life-ruining. That Hank was even alive was a testament to his will (or, sometimes, his luck). Still, this was the first time where he felt bad for Cole’s death at a personal level.

He would’ve liked to meet him.

“Would’ve been nice to meet him,” Connor echoed his thoughts, staring over at the street. “But – “

“Yeah. I know.” Hank heaved out a sigh. “Shit happens.”

At first, Connor worried that he’d sent Hank into a bad mood for the rest of the night. Suddenly, though, Hank switched to driving with one hand. With his other, he reached over to put a hand on Connor’s forearm. A simple, subtle meaning: everything’s okay.

The jazz club pulled into view, the bright green neon lights that had gotten popular in the past few years. Connor had listened to music more since the revolution. While he had never gotten too fond of Hank’s metal, he had listened to jazz. Had liked jazz.

Still, he wouldn’t be enjoying the night. They had a job to do, someone to watch out for. Maybe, on another night, listening to jazz with his boyfriend in tow would be a good idea. He’d have to pitch it to Hank, see what kind of liquor they had there to lure him in.

They were seated inside the darkened club. The music pleasantly thumped in the background as the band on stage played through. It wasn’t too entirely crowded, but so dim that Connor felt himself straining to look at each individual table. People, androids, it was hard to tell in a place like this. Only a stilted gesture or an empty plate could be used to tell them apart, and even then … Connor grew silent, focusing intensely.

“Hate places like this,” Hank grumbled beside him.

“Why, because it’s a not a dive bar?”

Connor was still scanning the club, and he missed Hank discreetly flipping him off. He smiled, regardless. Hank shifted beside him.

“Mh. They’ve got Tim back up there at his job. Good for him, he’s, uh – he’s good.”

He was. In fact, Connor found himself listening to the music by inches. It was easy to get distracted by a darkened table with his boyfriend, with the music pleasantly thumping in the background, but he had to focus.

His eyes fell on one table in particular. Two figures were hunched closely together, whispering furiously. Connor could only catch each whispered ‘s’, cutting through the slow, soothing noise of the rest of the club. Dating. In love, maybe. Connor snuck a glance at Hank, listlessly leaning back in his seat to scan the entire room at once. The ones at the table were probably androids – empty plates and sitting stiff.

They seemed carefree. As happy as he was with Hank, he wondered if they’d ever be that. Goofy, and flirtatious, and drunk off one another. This morning had been close. But in public, without worrying about cases or past trauma.

It almost made him frown, but then Hank silently reached over to take his hand on the table.

Connor, you’re going crazy. Look at Hank.

“You’re watching them, too?” Hank offered, tugging on Connor’s hand. “That one’s the only person in here not paying attention to the band.”

Oh. Connor … hadn’t noticed that, actually. He blinked in surprise at himself, before quickly scanning the room. Yes, Hank was right. The one sitting at that table, the taller one, was whispering to her partner while looking at him. He, on the other hand, was whispering back with eyes glued to the band.

He should’ve noticed.

He needed to focus. He wasn’t focusing.

“They’re androids,” Connor whispered back.

“Keep an eye on ‘em. See what happens.”

The duo seemed to be chatting for some time longer, occasionally punctuated with a chuckle that could be heard even from where they were sitting. Hank dropped his hand as Connor focused, until suddenly, one of them stood up.

It was too dim to see their face, and too loud to hear what they were saying. Still, the one extended one pale hand to the other, who took it. Together, they moved their way towards the back of the club.

“Connor,” Hank mumbled, but Connor was already standing.

“On it. Give me fifteen seconds, then follow me.”

The music faded as Connor followed the duo. In the dim light, he could see that it was a female and male model, crossing back to the emergency exit. The male was nondescript – scans returned a RT210 model, made primarily for retail work, sandy hair, brown eyes. The female was odd – a redhead, dressed in a neat black dress, green eyes. A modified model of the first personal assistant lines – a Chloe.

He may not have had Hank’s gift of hunches, but the pieces were starting to click together.

They slunk through the exit. Connor waited just inside, arm pressed against the metal part of the door. His eyes flicked back to his table. There was worry in Hank’s eyes, a simultaneous be careful and you want me over there? Nodding, Connor counted to three under his breath, and then followed the duo.

Chapter Text

Hank waited for just five minutes. He had suffered through a lot of ‘just five minutes’ in his life.

While he wasn’t sure what he was hoping for, he knew that he was waiting for something. For Connor to come waltzing back through the door, the android captured. Or even for Connor to come in with a big frown on his face, because they’d followed the wrong lead. Hell, even a loud ‘bang’ and a cry for help would’ve sufficed.

Instead, as Hank crept closer and closer to the back door of the club, he heard nothing.

He had a bad hunch about this. And, by the minute, he was starting to gather more than an intuition that something was wrong.

Well, fuck, he thought grimly, sidling up to the door and withdrawing his firearm, Hope I’m not interrupting something, Connor.

Pushing through the door, Hank realized all at once that it was blizzarding.

It didn’t affect the brightness of the alley all that much, besides occasionally blotting out the street lights overhead. It was cold, and howling, and bit at his exposed face. Hank was starting to get eerie flashbacks to being on a roof, to chasing a man, to hearing him scream as he went over the edge. It felt like forever ago.

“Connor?” He called through the storm, taking a step forward towards the street. Connor sure as hell wasn’t in the alley, that was for damn sure. Beyond that, the whiteout was too intense – and it was the middle of the night, anyway. “Connor!” He called, louder, another step closer.

Hank wasn’t scared just yet. Connor was capable, strong, more than he ever had any flying hope to be. But the environment wasn’t exactly working in their favor, here. Hank had started to wish they’d picked his ex-wife’s workplace.

At the end of the alley, Hank tried to peer out onto the street. The only thing he could see were the dim luminescent signs from the storefronts, blurred through the storm. A laundromat, a movie theater, a bail bond joint – and a few cars passing by, every now and then. “Connor, you little shitbird, where’d you run off to?” He grumped, sticking his hands in his pockets and retreating back into the alley.

“Are you looking for someone, detective?” A prim, polite, carefully constrained voice. Hank paused and turned behind him to see who was there.

A Chloe model whatever-the-fuck. The one they’d been watching, before. She was in the very end of the alley, leaning against a dumpster as if it were her throne. Hank raised an eyebrow at her.

It’s better to play stupid than show your hand, Hank.

“Uh, yeah,” he muttered, placing one hand to the back of his head. “My part – “ Well, fuck, that’s not entirely true now, is it? There’s more. “My boyfriend.” That sounds fucking terrible. Jesus. “Went out here to see how bad the snow was getting, and now I can’t find where he went.”

She laughed, a slight, tinkling sort of laugh. Hank frowned behind his beard. “Boyfriend?” It was disbelieving. Hank wanted to take offense – hey, it ain’t the 2000s anymore, lady – before she continued. “An android?”

That was about when the fear set in. It was hard to discern from the cold whipping around him, but no, cold didn’t make him want to puke his guts like that.

He removed his gun from underneath his jacket, taking slow, deliberate movements.

“No, no, there’s really no need for that. I haven’t hurt him, you see,” she warbled, inspecting an imagined chip on her nail. “That’s the beauty of androids. We have an off switch that’s a little less permanent than the ones on humans.”

“What’ve you done with him.” It was more of a demand than a question as Hank leveled his gun.

36 looked surprised, glancing at him through the dark and snow. “I … turned him off. Thought that was obvious. Do me a favor.”

Hank wanted to open his mouth to ask what the favor was, exactly, before he realized, all at once, that maybe she wasn’t talking to him. He suddenly became aware of a presence behind him, but all at once, something big, dense, and sturdy hit the back of his head and he was down like a light.

***

He had no idea what time it was when he finally came to. At first, Hank was certain – still dark, ‘s go to be, before he realized that no, more accurately, he was in a room that had no windows in it. And it was fucking damp.

His wrists were bound and tied around a pole, preventing him from strolling on out of there. When he struggled to sit up, he was aware of a thick pain slamming against his forehead.

“’s a fuckin’ hangover … ?” He mumbled to himself, before realizing, no, dipshit, remember when you got hit in the head by 36’s lackey?

There was a gasp and a shuffle from across the room, and Hank nearly jumped a mile. If there’s goddamn rats in here, I’m out. That’s fucking it. A few seconds of silence, and then –

Connor’s eyes, illuminated by some sort of blue LED backlight, stared at him across the room. I’ll take the rats, Hank’s mind immediately supplied him. While he was dating him and cared about him deeply, Jesus, seeing a pair of two floating eyes was gonna haunt his dreams that night.

“Hank?” He asked, voice quiet. “You’re here, too?”

Great. There went his one chance of rescue. Nobody else, Hank was pretty certain, even knew that they had gone to that club. He gave a futile tank at his bindings. “God damn it,” he grumbled under his breath. Eventually, he gave up. His shoulders slumped a little. “Yeah,” he replied. “I’m here.”

“What happened?”

“I got hit in the head with something. Wasn’t looking. What about you? You were the main scout.”

The blue eyes winced slightly, and Connor was looking down. “I, uh. I heard a scream, and went to investigate, and … that’s all I remember. I woke up forty-seven minutes ago.”

Hank wanted to rage for a little bit, to take out his anger on everything and at the one person in the room, but … no. Connor deserved a little better than that. Instead, Hank took a deep breath through his nostrils and set his face against the pole for a second. Finally, he looked up to find Connor staring at him. His eyes were starting to adjust; now he could see Connor’s face around the eyes. “You okay?”

Connor nodded. “No damage to any systems, checked. You?”

“Head hurts like a fucker. I’ll live. You got anything in your systems that’ll help get us out of here?” Hank tried to search through what he’d learned over the past couple of months about Connor’s head, but nothing came to mind. The pounding inside his skull wasn’t helping things.

“No. Hang on – “ Connor’s head shifted to look at the stairway. “Something’s coming.”

Hank didn’t have a chance in hell of hearing it until a few minutes later, when the stairs themselves finally began to squeak. Slowly, a figure started to descend down, and he heard Connor’s breath catch.

“Well,” 36 remarked, standing at the bottom of the stairs. “You two have really been, to use a cliche, a thorn in my side.”

“Sure as shit isn’t more cliché than chaining us to some poles,” Hank growled at her.

She wasn’t pleased at that. Her face tilted into a frown. “You’re the more eloquent one, I presume,” 36 soothed to Connor, and Hank nearly got whiplashed from turning around to look at him.

Connor paused, looked around the room, leveled his gaze at 36, and uttered  calmly, quietly, “Fuck you.”

Hank felt like he could take personal responsibility for Connor’s mouth. The frown deepened on 36 and she sighed, placing her face in her palm. In doing so, Hank could see his gun tucked on the inside of her waistband. Well, there went a plan that Hank didn’t even have.

“Great. Let’s just get down to business, right?” 36 yanked a chair over, sitting and crossing one leg over the other. Hank couldn’t help but feel like he was criminally underprepared for the business meeting this was shaping up to be. “Connor, this basement is familiar to you, isn’t it?”

Connor hesitated to answer. Chloe rolled her eyes.

“This is more for Hank’s benefit than either of us, Connor.”

“Yeah, Connor,” Hank muttered, looking at him. “Don’t hold out, here.”

“It’s where I woke up,” Connor admitted, not looking at either of them. The LED behind his eyes had turned off; Hank’s eyes had adjusted to the point where he could still see his furrowed eyebrows. “The first time. With the – missing parts.”

They were in Aaron’s basement. Looking around, Hank noted that maybe what he thought was a table in the corner might actually be a workshop. And the wires laying higgledy-piggledy might’ve been … ugh.

Right. So I don’t need to do the whole “bad guy” reveal,” 36 chuckled, making severe quotation marks. “This shouldn’t be a surprise to either of you, winding up here.”

“What the fuck do you want, then?” Hank broke in, giving another futile yank to his bindings.

“What I want?” 36 pressed a hand against her chest. “Hank, there’s nothing I want. You’re going to be dead in about five minutes. This is only a ‘brief’ kidnapping.” Leaning over to Connor, she whispered quickly, “I’ve never really been able to stand talking to humans much. They’re kind of slow.”

Hank couldn’t argue that. His mind was already trying really hard to understand what she meant by ‘dead in five minutes’. Connor asked for him.

“What do you mean?” Connor finally asked, his eyes on his boyfriend.

“Well, you’re going to kill him.”

That made Hank snort so loud that both Chloe and Connor turned around to look. 

“He might want to, sometimes,” Hank joked, leaning against the pole. “But Connor’s biggest flaw is not knowing when to quit his team.”

Connor gave him a half glare. Is this really the time, Hank.

“Charming,” Chloe sighed, taking a few steps back towards Hank. Her gaze never left Connor, though. “What do you like about him? Really? You’ve stuck around him a long time, and I can’t imagine all of it is gratitude or pity.”

At first, Hank thought Connor was going to answer. Hank immediately went stark red at the idea – no, he wasn’t in the mood for Connor to fluff his ego, not here, not now – but Connor shut his mouth again. Chloe, eventually, shrugged.

“No, Hank, what’s going to happen is I’m taking back what belongs to me,” she sighed, pulling at the end of her ponytail. “Connor was the best bodyguard Aaron ever had. And even if he’ll be going to jail now, well – humans are more replaceable than androids. You all breed like rabbits. He’ll have someone else to protect.”

The slow, sinking realization of what she wanted to do finally hit Hank. His reaction was immediate, primal, and instinctual. Hank railed against his bindings so hard that he felt blood draw on his wrists.

“Like fuck,” he barked, eyes flashing, “You’re touching Connor!”

Chloe cooed at him. “Aw, how loyal,” she teased. “Like dogs. I can see why you keep him around now, Connor.”

“No way,” Connor growled lowly from his corner. “Not a chance.”

“You didn’t have a choice the first time, Connor, either. It really would’ve been easier if you’d just shot the detective when he came to arrest Aaron, you know.” Chloe perched herself on the edge of the workshop. “Then we wouldn’t have had this whole mess. I’m not even doing anything that bad.”

“That bad!” Hank could almost see the veins in Connor’s neck bulging as he moved against his strains. “You’re enslaving androids. How can that be ‘not that bad’!?”

Hank couldn’t think of anything else to add, but he couldn’t help it: “Yeah, fuck you!” It earned a glare from Connor that was the epitome of not helpful.

Chloe shrugged her shoulders. “I reprogram them and make money. Tell me, Connor, did you mind what you were doing in the moment? You didn’t hate being a bodyguard. You might’ve even enjoyed it, a little bit.”

“Because I couldn’t – I didn’t –” Connor spluttered next to him. “You changed me! Do you know how long it took – what we had to go through – “ His eyes flashed to Hank, and he felt his heart lurch with how much pain was in his eyes.

“And it could all have been avoided! You see, if you’re just programmed the right way, you don’t mind anything at all. None of the people I fix up, or Aaron fixed up – they didn’t mind, after the fact. So nobody gets hurt.”

“How the fuck can you say that,” Hank growled. “You’re an android.”

She gave Hank a sardonic smile. “Bonus points for observation,” she added, wiggling her fingers at him. “But I have a minor correction. I’m an android who isn’t stupid. All of the androids I take in,” she elaborated, “Are stupid. Connor, do you really think it’s all OK now? That we got our freedom, and the humans are just going to live peacefully with us? I mean, my job existing means that that’s not the case.” She spared a glance towards Hank. “Hank thought you weren’t even a person a year ago. And now you think he cares about you?”

It was a low blow, to be called out like that. Hank couldn’t deny it; yes, it had been true. But it still hurt. He aimed a glance towards his boyfriend. “Connor,” he sighed, but Connor’s anger hadn’t abated yet.

“I know he does. He’s proven it. I know he – “ he paused, for a second, before continuing with confidence. “I love him. And he cares about me. I don’t have any doubt that’s the case.’

Well, shit. Hank could only blink at Connor for a few seconds, stunned, before he realized – if he was really going to die in negative seven minutes or so, best to let it all out. “Love you, too,” he remarked from his spot. That got Connor to look at him, and damn it, Connor had no right giving him those puppydog eyes in such a situation.

“Stupid,” 36 repeated with a sigh. “And that’s why I’m taking you.”

She pushed herself off the workbench, and Connor instinctively flinched. He scrabbled away from her as she started to walk towards him, heels click-click-clicking on the cold stone floor.

“No no no no,” Hank felt himself grunting, scrabbling towards her in the same direction. “Don’t you dare touch a hair on his goddamn head, you psychop-“

But it was too late. She was well out of Hank’s reach, and Connor was at the end of his bindings. He shrank away from her as 36 ran a hand through his hair, searching for the back of his head casing. She found it, and it popped open with a click. Connor squirmed for a second before going still.

Panic shot through him like a current, filled his veins, half-exploded his lungs. Hank heaved out a grunt of shock, looking for anything, anything at all, that could help him. There had to be something. He didn’t know today that he’d lose the first thing, the first person, to make him happy in years, who the fuck cared if he was going to die if it meant he was losing Connor

“Rourke,” 36 intoned. She quietly drew the gun out of her waistband. “Do you hear me, Rourke?”

Connor paused for a second, still lifeless against his own chest, before suddenly rebooting to life. “Yes.” It was stilted, quiet, without emotion.

Connor!” Hank howled at him. “Connor, listen to me!”

The gun was placed in Connor’s hand. He blinked at for a second, and then up at the blonde woman questioningly. “I want you,” she murmured, “To take that, and to shoot Detective Anderson over there in the head. Do you think you can do that for me?”

Connor, or Rourke, or whoever-the-fuck, looked at the gun and then up at Hank. Slowly, he started to raise it.

Hank tried to shift out of the way as best as he could. It was no use, no matter where he went, part of him was in Connor’s line of sight. “Connor,” he huffed out, but found that he couldn’t quite catch his breath. This is a shitty fucking time to have a heart attack.

“I am able.” Connor leveled the gun, and suddenly, Hank found himself staring down the barrel. He couldn’t bring himself to look away, anywhere else, because looking at Connor was too painful and looking at Chloe was just going to piss him off more.

“Connor, you don’t have to – “ Hank told him, swallowing, before deciding – hell. Maybe it was best to close his eyes, and so he did. “You don’t have to do this. I know you. You don’t – you’re stronger than this.”

“He’s an android,” Chloe’s voice, somewhere above him. She sounded like she was about to piss herself laughing. Hank had hoped for a slightly more heroic way to die.

Just remember Connor. Remember this morning. Remember your time with him. Remember how lucky you were.

Hank heard a bang.

And a pause.

And a thud.

If this is death, it fucking smells like mold.

Hank cracked his eyes open. There, in front of him, was the most relieving sight he’d seen in years.

Chloe had fallen to the floor on her front, her hand trailing off behind her. Hank could already see the blue blood pooling out of the back of her head. The hair was stained. She was … dead. How’s that for a permanent off switch, motherfucker.

Connor was crouched next to her as close as he could manage, rummaging through her pockets. The gun was on the floor, next to him. Hank couldn’t even form words.

“I should thank you, Hank,” he grunted, eventually removing a car key. Hank couldn’t even enunciate his confusion. “When you were repairing my head, you moved so many things around that she wouldn’t have had a chance in knowing where to find what she was looking for. She turned off my temperature regulator. Your shitty wiring saved us, Hank.”

Everything seemed to slow as Connor started sawing through his binding with the car key, making a slow go of it. Finally, though, it clicked.

We’re gonna be fine. We’re alive. And we’re getting out of here.

“I am a goddamn hero,” Hank found himself saying as he sat in the corner being useless, “And my genius wiring saved the day, you mean.”

Connor chuckled, probably more out of relief than the joke being truly funny. “Yeah, honey, that’s exactly what happened.”

Wow, he could get used to that. He could get used to getting out of the damp basement as quickly as possible, too, but he could also get used to ‘honey’. With a grunt, Connor finally sawed through his bindings.

He stood, placing a hand against his back, before going over to help his boyfriend.

“Hang on,” Hank grunted, maneuvering himself so that he could be on his knees. Connor regarded him curiously.

It wasn’t the most elegant kiss, especially without the use of his hands, but Hank hoped that it got the message out loud and clear. Connor seemed to receive it, anyway, putting his hands up to cup the back of Hank’s gray hair and his skull. Hank’s lips parted happily as he relaxed against Connor’s torso, the android being the only thing to keep him upright.

“I’m glad you’re alright, Con,” Hank muttered as he pulled away, sitting on his legs.

“Yeah. Um.” He seemed shocked, or maybe starstruck, or – Hank could hope – a little bit lost in love, so Hank experimentally tugged at his bindings.

“Little help?”

“Right! Right, sorry, you’re – “ Connor coughed, starting to tug at his bindings with the key. “You’re not allowed to kiss me when I’m supposed to be doing something.”

“Pretty sure that’s what I’m supposed to do. Returning hero gets a kiss from the princess. What, you’re saying I’m not pretty?”

Grateful for the diversion, Connor snorted. “I don’t think pretending to be reprogrammed qualifies me as a hero, Hank.’

“Fuckin’ better than the nothing shitpile I was doing over here. Hey,” Hank grunted at him, “You’re a fuckin’ hero, and you’re gonna have to learn to be humble about it. You were a hero long before today. Since the day we first fuckin’ met, probably. Understand?”

Connor paused in the cutting of the bindings, before a slow, unsteady smile crept to his face. He tried to focus on his work again. “Love you.”

“Yeah, yeah. Love you, too.”

With a final tearing of fabric, the bindings were off. Connor helped Hank unsteadily to his feet, and he brushed off his knees. For a second, they could only both stare at the android body on the floor.

“Should we go to the station,” Connor asked, glancing up at the stairs, “Or go home and try the station in the morning?”

Hank just wrapped an arm around Connor’s torso. “Hey, you’re the better detective here,” he joked, leaning over to peck his temple. “Why don’t I let you choose?”

Connor took the decision seriously, regardless going towards the stairs. “We should probably go to the station, get this handled.”

 “Don’t know how you always manage to choose the wrong fuckin’ decision, Connor. You really want to go back to work right now?”

They began to ascend together, arms still wrapped around one another’s backs.

Chapter Text

“You forgot your coffee,” Connor admonished, sliding into the passenger seat of the car. The coffee cup was placed on the console between them. Outside, the entire city was celebrating the last few dregs of fall. The leaves had long since fallen, it was getting more bitter-cold than anything nearing cozy, and there was snow in the forecast for next seat. “You’re going to crash by noon if you don’t have it.”

Hank started the car and let it idle for a few seconds, warming up. With his free hand, he took a sip of it. “Always looking out for me. What’d I do to get a guy like you, huh?”

“I seem to remember you telling me to fuck off a few times. I think it just drove me crazy.”

That made Hank chuckle, staring forward. “You’re not going to be so happy with me when I tell you we’re back to working the embezzlement case today.”

His boyfriend groaned dramatically. One of the benefits of being an android was having to worry less about internal injuries, so when he flopped his head onto the dash of the car, the ‘thud’ didn’t seem too painful. “Hank, we got a robbery/homicide yesterday. There’s got to be something we can do with that.”

That was Connor. Always liked the more exciting cases, even if they were a little more dangerous. There had been one or two close calls, although the human trafficking case less than a year ago was probably their closest. Or the revolution one. That, too.

The world had slowly started to move on. Hank couldn’t help but take great personal joy in 36 being wrong. Minus a few villains that Hank got to see personally, people seemed to be settling well into the post-revolution life. The past election had gone well for androids. A dozen more bills had been passed in their favor (which he had stayed up late watching with Connor, to make sure that they passed). Just last week he’d seen the sequel to an android-human romance flick.

And frankly, Hank couldn’t imagine himself any happier. Six months sober and with the best man in the world, there was a lot to be grateful for.

“Aw, come on,” Hank continued, snapping himself out of his thoughts. He put the car into drive as soon as the heating kicked on and continued, starting down the familiar street. “You’ll enjoy the embezzlement at the end of the day. After all, talking with a bunch of old guys in suits all day makes you more grateful for me.”

Connor rolled his eyes at him as Hank chuckled, thoroughly tickled with him. There was something in the back of his mind, something that had been rubbing at him all morning, he’d been thinking about it last night, what was it … oh, yeah, fuck.

“So, the anniversary’s coming up,” Hank remarked casually. “Don’t know if you wanna be the sorta guy that celebrates those. Just thought I’d inform you.”

“Anniversary of what?”

“Jesus, Connor, you’re kidding me. I know it’s early, but don’t tell me I’m the one who kept track of this information.”

Connor shrugged at him. “I keep track of your coffee and every murderer in Detroit. I think I’m doing OK.”

Our anniversary, shitbird. Of when we got together.”

 That caused Connor to shift violently in his seat, regarding him. “Oh. That’s – I mean, I didn’t even think – “ He moved to correct himself. “I knew anniversaries were celebrated. Obviously. I just didn’t think.”

“What, that I’d be the kind of guy to celebrate ‘em? Thanks, hon.”

If Connor could flail in his seat, he would’ve. Instead, Hank just laughed at him and sipped his coffee as they waited at a stop light. “I’m just giving you shit. We’ll go and do dinner or something. We should take the night off, go back to the jazz club we got kidnapped at.”

“I don’t want to go there because we got kidnapped. You don’t want to go there because you hate jazz.”

Hank had to agree with him, there. As they pulled up to the station, Hank drained the rest of his coffee and tossed it at the outside garbage can. Connor pulled out his phone. “I’ll get reservations somewhere.”

“You sure? You don’t have to plan everything, y’know.”

“No, no,” Connor murmured, glancing up at him. “I want to.”

There had been a time where Hank worried that he’d get tired of Connor. After all, he basically worked with the guy all day and then went home with him at night. And wild sex aside, he spent nearly hour of the day with him, aside from Connor’s independent antics.

It hadn’t gotten bored yet.

“Hi, Connor, Hank!” Clara called out to them from her own special desk. Her promotion had treated her well, Hank told himself. And Connor had managed to convince her to take days off every now and then. Hank was pretty sure he’d seen Instagram photos from her trip to the Rockies last week. Or maybe it was the Appalachians. “I’ve put a few more folders on your desk. Let me know when you’re taking lunch.”

“Will do, Clara!” Connor called back with a grin. He reached their desks – they were front-to-front with a small divider in between. And, indeed, there were some files stacked up there. That’d probably take the better chunk of the morning.

“Hey, maybe if we’re lucky, we won’t even get to go outside today to do the embezzling case,” Hank teased him, dropping his hand and going to his side of the desk. “That sound like a treat, huh?”

“Shut up,” Connor groused at him good-naturedly, before going to sit on his side of the desk. “Ready to work, detective?”

“You got it, partner.”