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A Tourist In A Dream

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Chapter 1

In which Hank gets interrogated by – surprise! – an android that’s not Connor.

 

January 2039

 

Markus wants to meet Hank.

It’s Connor who attends him to that fact, a few weeks after the chaos – the protests, the president’s peaceful interference, the evacuation, and the changes in the law. Personhood, freedom.

Detroit a ghost town, and then people slowly trickling back in.

Riots in the streets; brawls, fights. But also photos and videos going viral; of androids supporting each other, and of humans supporting them. It’s such a weird time, but people are getting more vocal.

The androids’ voices are being heard, and people are starting to fight back against the system.

Connor hasn’t been spending too much time with them – Markus and the rest of the ‘droids from Jericho – but he was instrumental in conjuring up a fucking android army and tipping the scales of their movement. It’s not something you just walk out of without saying anything.

Besides, what they’re fighting for, what they’re working towards – it’s important.

Connor is a deviant, after all. A person.

So Hank’s aware of the fact that Markus sometimes checks in with him, and there are times when Connor comes home late without much explanation. Hank never asks.

But when Connor tells him that Markus wants to see him, that still puts Hank at a loss.

He isn’t quite sure how to facilitate that or how to feel about it – the leader of the android rebellion taking an interest in him, washed up cop with a life that barely hangs together by the threads of whiskey, sleeping in, and a big old hairy dog.

(He doesn’t consider guns anymore. Not since that day Connor picked him up off the kitchen floor.)

Anyway, the DPD station doesn’t seem like a good place to meet; you’ve got pricks like Reed walking around looking for an excuse to explode, and with all the tensions going on everybody is going to have some sort of reaction to the presence of the fucking android leader.

Not to mention that Perkins, the little shit, might still be lurking somewhere behind a cubicle waiting to strike.

Hank’s favorite burger stand is downtown Detroit. Dark, dank, small-time criminals; not a perfect spot either. Especially not since androids don’t seem to eat, so he can’t even offer Markus something to eat or drink to ease the tension.

But all of that is just practical, pragmatic thinking. The real question is why.

Hank might be old and cranky and done for, he’s still a cop. And he’s always been a smart one.

Markus doesn’t seem the type to contact him for his connections. To weasel his way into the government or to get more leverage by using his ‘friends’ at the DPD. If anything, the charismatic android has been nothing but transparently honest.

Fair.

Hank can’t imagine that Markus wants him for his talents, either – with the recent hate crimes and the country still generally in tumult, Fowler is already putting Hank and Connor on all the fucking android cases. He understands why, but surely Markus must realize that too. So it’s probably not for a case, and not for detective work.

That leaves just one link connecting the two of them.

Connor.

Hank isn’t sure if he wants to pursue that train of thought to its inevitable conclusion, so he just waits.

In the end, Markus calls him like anyone else would, and leaves an address. Designated time and date. It’s uptown Detroit, and frighteningly easy to cross-reference – Hank remembers the reports about a deviant who attacked some rich painter’s son.

He gives the mansion one look-over and hums.

Rich indeed.

He scuffles his feet on the gravel of the front lawn, and somewhat reluctantly makes his way up to the large, double doors. The doorbell rings once, and then Markus appears.

He inclines his head. “Hank,” he says, door swinging open. “Thank you for coming. Please, follow me.”

People always look different from TV and photos when you meet them in real life.

People, Hank thinks with something akin to shock, and something in his heart pangs as he steps into the house.

That’s how easy it is, seeing Markus as a human. A living being. Though he moves with the easy, smooth confidence that Hank sees with Connor, too. Always perfectly balanced, one foot precisely the same distance before the other as they take their steps.

But if Hank hadn’t known, if Hank hadn’t seen Markus on TV protesting before the android camps, if he hadn’t seen Markus raise his arms and cry for freedom and peace –

He awkwardly clears his throat while Markus pours him a shot of whiskey without asking. He could probably smell it on Hank’s breath when he stepped in.

“Well, cheers,” Hank mutters gruffly, raising the glass to Markus. “So, why’d you want me here, huh?”

He looks around the living room, and it’s all lacquered wood and glass tables. Paintings and books along the walls; tables and cupboards covered with statuettes and other expensive trinkets. A piano; a chess set. Classy, rich people things.

So this is where Markus grew up. If androids do that, anyway.

“I want to know more about you,” says Markus, arms folded neatly in front of him.

Hank blinks. There it is, that disarming honesty.

“Figured,” he says, twirling his glass. “Just wonderin’ why.”

Markus’ shoulders shift; his posture is loose, relaxed. His head tilted at a slight angle, his unmatched eyes take their time roving over Hank’s form even though he must’ve already seen everything; analyzed everything the moment Hank stepped through that door.

His face is stern, and serious. There’s a little frown between his brows that makes Hank wonder whether Kamski put it there or whether the android rebellion did.

“Thought you’d have more to do than talk to an old guy like me,” Hank grins. “I’m not that high up when it comes to federal government issues, y’know.”

“You’re important to Connor,” Markus says, eyes flicking back to Hank’s face. “I also think you did more for the rebellion than you seem to realize.”

Hank gives him a look. “And? You planning to recruit me for your cause?”

“Not necessarily,” Markus says, a small but amused smile playing at his lips, “but I can appreciate having an ally.”

It’s sincere. It’s one-hundred percent completely and utterly sincere, and that nearly sends Hank reeling.

He takes a quick sip of his whiskey, and nods. “Alright. So, what do you wanna know? Anything I can tell you that you haven’t seen in the files?”

He pauses, circling through the living room to examine the chess set. It’s an antique, and it looks gorgeously crafted. “Anything you haven’t heard from Connor yet?” he adds, looking up.

Markus’ smile grows. “So far, you are meeting my expectations.”

Hank grins, stopping to flick his fingertip against the crown of the white king. The chess piece wobbles.

“Am I meeting yours?” Markus asks, the words carefully chosen. Somehow, they hang heavily between them as some tension seeps into the conversation.

Hank snorts. “I don’t do expectations. People can only ever disappoint you, so it’s best not to rely on them too much. That’s just life.”

There it is again.

People.

“Hmm,” says Markus, before looking away briefly. “I respectfully disagree. People can do anything they set their minds to, as long as they’ve got heart for their cause.”

Hank nods, slowly, and takes another sip of his whiskey. “Yeah, sure. People like you. Doesn’t really apply to people like me.”

Markus’ gaze turns sharper. “No? You didn’t set out to save your partner’s life and didn’t try to get him reinstalled at the police force after the rebellion? Even before people started coming back from the evac?”

Hank dips his head, hiding his expression beneath his shaggy mane. “Sure. But that’s…”

“Come on, Hank,” Marcus says then with a familiarity that’s almost uncanny, “you might never come to the office before noon, but you have your convictions.” A pause. “Like I have mine.”

Hank looks back up. “Is there a point to this?” he asks, tone challenging.

He’s pretty certain that Markus can tear through him in about one-point-three seconds. But uneven odds never stopped him anyway.

“I want to know that Connor can rely on you,” Markus says, hands clasped behind his back. “A lot is going to change, and that’s not going to happen overnight. He hunted deviants, he was CyberLife’s finest, and now he’s stuck somewhere in the middle.”

Hank frowns. “Why are you looking out for him? ‘Cause he went deviant because of you?”

Markus raises an eyebrow. “Do you really believe that?”

Trains, thoughts, inevitable conclusions. A steady arm around his shoulder guiding him to the bathroom, holding back his hair at the nape of his neck. Legs dangling over the edge of his desk, and wild, expressive hand gestures. Coin tricks, and never taking orders.

A warm, genuine smile in the snow, and the way he’d ducked his head to fit it against Hank’s shoulder.

“I don’t know,” says Hank, voice hoarse. “I don’t know what I want to believe.”

Markus nods, pursing his lips. “Humans so easily delude themselves.”

That throws the chasm back between them that Hank felt disappearing ever since he stepped into the mansion, and for some reason that ruffles his feathers like nothing else.

“Yeah, well, fuck you,” he spits over the rim of his glass, shaking his head. “A lifetime of fucking shit will do that to you.”

Markus doesn’t seem perturbed. “If what you believe in is worth it, illusions can be worth dying for.” He steps in, taking the empty glass from Hank’s hands without asking. “Do you believe in the androids’ plight? In what Connor helped us achieve?”

The frown on his brow is still there, and his expression is serious.

“I don’t even believe in myself,” Hank snaps, turning away.

“Must you?” Markus asks, raising an eyebrow. “I know an android woman who moved the world to save a child. Whether or not she believed in herself was irrelevant.”

Hank sighs, long and deep, looking down at his hands.

It seems impossible to explain. Too big and all-encompassing, and not something you throw out to a kind-hearted but stern android jesus who’s just looking out for his own. It has jagged edges, and even Hank doesn’t really know where or when they’ll cut.

It’s something he’s kept rotting inside of him for years. Dead garden full of dirt.

“Guess I don’t,” he murmurs, shoulders sagging. “But there’s more to life than a beat-up old cop.”

Markus inhales a breath he doesn’t need, swaying briefly on the spot. “I’m sure Connor is well-aware. But he still chooses to remain with you.”

Hank shrugs. “We’re partners at the force. It’s no big deal. He can stay at my place for as long as he fucking likes.”

And then, suddenly, Markus smiles. Fully and genuinely, showing all his blinding warmth, and it’s like a sun just broke through a cloudy, overcast afternoon.

Hank blinks. Fucking hell, he thinks, it really is android fucking jesus.

“Well,” Markus says, hands smoothing over his thighs. “I’m glad Connor has you. Be sure to look after him, Lieutenant.”

“Oh, we’re back to ‘lieutenant’ now?” Hank asks, shaking his head. “Is that my cue to shut up and leave the premises?”

Markus rearranges the tray with whiskey bottles and glasses, and the smile he wears now is definitely amused. “Feel free to come and go. I’ll have company later, but I’m sure they could handle you.”

Company.

He’s never breached this threshold. Connor doesn’t speak about what he discusses whenever he contacts Markus, and Hank never asks. Part of being a person is having your own private affairs, and your own secrets.

But Hank never bothered to learn much about androids, and sometimes he wishes he did.

One hand already on the doorframe, Hank looks back. “That being your girlfriend?” he asks as casually as he can.

“If you mean North by that, yeah,” Markus answers. “Josh and Simon are coming over, too.”

Hank dallies, and he isn’t sure why. “The ones who marched with you,” he says, even though they’re both aware of that.

Markus looks at him a little quizzically. “Yeah. The ones who marched with me,” he echoes.

“You kissed her – your girlfriend,” Hank continues, awkwardly. “Saw it on TV. And there was the thing with the…” He trails off, gesturing vaguely in mid-air.

Markus holds up one hand, letting his synthetic skin peel away smoothly. “Interfacing,” he says. “Androids sharing their memories and feelings through touch.” A pause. “It’s a way of being intimate.”

“Is it,” Hank half-stutters, trying to find words, “is it a, uh, a partner thing? That androids do?”

Fucking hell, he thinks when the words leave his mouth, bumbling fucking idiot.

And Markus knows, because his expression goes from quizzical to neutral to just a slight side of smug. “It can be, yeah,” he says slowly, nodding and stepping closer. “Elbow-to-elbow is usually less… affectionate.”

Hank nods, pretending he understands. “So that’s what you do with your buddies?”

“Josh and Simon?” Markus asks, a look of utter sincerity on his face. “Oh no. We’ve all interfaced at various levels.”

“Oh,” says Hank, feeling completely lost and wondering whether he was just told about a massive android orgy that he had no business knowing about. “Well,” he says, trying to sound chipper and gesturing towards the door, “I’ll – I’ll be going now. If that was all you wanted to discuss.”

Markus is smilingly knowingly. “My door is always open.”

“Yeah,” Hank says, loosening his collar unconsciously, “uh, thanks. See you around, Markus.”

When he’s standing outside on the sidewalk, Hank’s thoughts are a mess.

He’s pretty sure he just got interrogated by Markus, and that he passed some sort of test that proved he was good enough to be Connor’s partner. He’s also pretty sure that Markus is frighteningly smart, and can read people on a level that Hank never fully reached – not even as a detective.

He groans.

It’s too early, and his head hurts.

When he drives home, he tries not to think too hard about androids and interfacing. Doesn’t try to think about all the things that make up Markus; the honesty, the humanity, the sincerity in the way he lives and breathes and exists.

His hand, palm up, skin slowly peeling away in an echo of the way he touched North on TV.

Hank’s own palm is suddenly too human; all crinkly lines, scars on his knuckles and grey little hairs on the backs of his fingers. Blue veins under his wrists, thick and heavy with having carried a gun almost his entire life.

“Shit,” Hank says to no one in particular, closing his hand into a fist and looking at the grey clouds overhead.

No sun like there was in Markus.

He leans back in his seat, the leather squeaking, and sighs.

A way of being intimate.

Even if he wanted to, he couldn’t. And if he tried, it’d look like a cheap fucking imitation.

“Believe in your own illusions, huh,” Hank mutters angrily. “Well, fuck.”

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 2

In which Hank makes an effort, he and Connor plan a pancake party, and they don’t discuss their feelings.

 

January 2039

 

When Hank wakes up, groggily slamming his fist onto his shrieking alarm clock, he rolls away from his pillow to stare up at the ceiling. It looks decidedly blurry and out of focus.

Fucking eight o’clock in the morning on a Saturday. He’s not even sure he’s supposed to exist at this time of day. Even normal, regular people don’t get up at this time unless they have something important to do.

Like you, you idiot, he tries to sternly tell himself. You’ve got shit to do.

It takes him ten more minutes of yawns, annoyed sounds, and glances back to the alarm clock before he convinces himself.

On a deep, tired groan and aching knees, he rises up from the mattress and wobbles into the bathroom. He tries not to look at his reflection in the mirror too closely – just catching a brief glance of droopy eyes, big dark circles under them, and messy hair.

Nothing new here, he thinks, ignoring the post-it that tells him to shave his chin.

He takes a piss and splashes some water into his face, and walks over to the living room. He manages to hit the door and the couch twice and nearly breaks his neck over his own shoes, but at least he gets there in one piece.

The kitchen is surprisingly clean – Connor doesn’t like a mess, and he doesn’t sleep.

The takeaway and to-go bags disappeared first, and then the cardboard of all his old pizza boxes until there was nothing left but non-cluttered countertops and neat tables. It only took a few days after that and the fridge was stocked – not a lot of food, but enough for simple meals.

Somehow, Connor seems to realize what’s okay and what’s not.

It’s obvious that he likes taking care of Hank – or at least feels a responsibility to do so – but he doesn’t overstep any boundaries. He doesn’t pick up too many tasks around the house so Hank won’t feel worse for it, but he toes that fine line between what Hank will accept and what he won’t.

So Connor cooks, but not every day. Connor cleans, but he doesn’t take care of everything. And Connor stacks up on groceries – but he convinces Hank to tag along for it. Sometimes he can even be a righteous fucking asshole about it, which Hank appreciates because ‘asshole’ was the only language he spoke himself for a long, long time. He knows how to deal with that, and they just banter back and forth a bit. Hank enjoys it.

And Connor always takes Sumo out on a walk before eight, makes fresh coffee, and then wakes up Hank. Probably to lure him with the smell of organic, flavorful coffee beans rather than the filter shit Hank used to make for himself.

But today is going to be different, because Hank is going to surprise Connor.

He gathers a couple of eggs, bacon, mushrooms, and some leftover veggies from a stew Connor made for him. A big pan on the stove, and some fresh herbs from the cabinet.

Two plates on the table, because he hates ignoring Connor just because he doesn’t eat. Two cups, too – one for coffee, and the other for that weird Thirium drink that Connor keeps in the fridge and never says a word about.

He’s put on toast and is flipping the omelet when the front door opens.

Sumo waggles in first, excited and happy, and sniffs at Hank’s bare leg before making a direct beeline for his water bowl. He eagerly slobbers out of it, splashing water onto the tiles, and it makes Hank grin.

He turns off the electric stove with a flick of his wrist, letting the omelet sizzle a bit in the pan, when Connor steps into a kitchen with a bag under his arm.

And very abruptly stops, even for Connor’s doing.

Hank feels smug, and he can’t help it. Suddenly the headache, the too-bright lights, and the existential crisis while waking up in his own drool are worth it.

“Mornin’, Connor,” he says smoothly, offering his partner a toothy grin. “Put on some music, will ya? I’ve even got you that weird blue shit you love so much.”

Connor’s LED slowly goes from blue to yellow as he tilts his head to the side, eyes flickering over the scene before him. Hank wonders what he analyzes first – the omelet and its smell, the table all set up, or the smooth jazz record Hank’s already put next to the record player.

Maybe all of it.

The toast jumps out of the toaster with a cheery beep, and Hank turns back to plate the slices of warm bread alongside his omelet. He even has a set of salt and pepper out on the table.

Everything he’s barely bothered to use all these years. Everything he’s always had an excuse not to do.

(The ugly truth here is that Hank never really felt he was worth making an effort, nor did he have the energy to.)

“I didn’t expect to see you up this early, Lieutenant,” Connor finally says.

He walks over to the countertop, unloading his bag: dog treats and food for Sumo, plus a few apples and bananas. Always thinking about the healthy choices.

“It’s Hank,” Hank says automatically, sitting down, and then jerks his head towards one of the lower cupboards. “Fruit bowl’s in there.”

Connor’s LED is still yellow and he seems to move slower than usual as he pulls out the bowl and puts the fruit in it, placing it on the table. He then looks from Hank back into the living room, and walks over to put on the music.

Objective by objective. Hank isn’t used to seeing Connor move like this anymore.

His LED finally blinks back to blue as he sits down at the table, the first dulcet tones of easy jazz floating in. “Sumo enjoyed the walk,” he says.

Hank grins. “’Course he did.” He cuts his omelet into smaller pieces and gives Connor a look. “Well, dig in.”

Connor stares at the glass of blue Thirium before him. “That’s just for maintenance,” he says, folding his hands on the table. “I don’t need it every day.”

“Hmm,” says Hank, “would it hurt you to take a sip?”

Connor looks around again, hands unfurling. He’s eyeing Hank’s face carefully. “I’m an android,” he says, “I don’t need food or drink.”

Sarcastic little shit.

Hank rolls his eyes, taking another bite. “Fuck, I know. My memory isn’t that bad, you ass. But it’s shitty manners, ignoring you when I’m cooking something up. Isn’t there anything – ”

“This,” Connor interrupts, leaning back in his chair. “I appreciate this.”

Though there’s a lack of emphasis on his part, Hank instantly understands that Connor is referring to the whole scene. Sitting together and talking. Some sense of normalcy.

Connor walks over to pour Hank a cup of coffee.

Well fuck me, Hank thinks. The house hasn’t been this cozy in years.

He expected it to hurt, but it doesn’t.

“I’ve noticed,” Connor starts, stops, and then continues, “that you’ve been behaving differently ever since you visited Markus.”

Hank looks up. “Yeah? How so?”

“You seem to be making an effort doing things that wouldn’t normally fit into your established behavioral routine,” Connor says matter-of-factly.

Hank could full-on deny and ask if Connor has never seen him get up early in the morning and cook an omelet, but he knows the answer would be a resounding no. So he says nothing, and continues to eat.

Connor makes a smaller noise similar to clearing his throat, and shifts in his chair. “I find myself… curious,” he eventually says, “about what you and Markus spoke about.”

He looks up, brown eyes inquisitive. His posture is more relaxed, now, and Hank can see his fingers twitch; little details of humanity. Connor did always seem to have more idle tells than other androids, even before he went fully deviant.

“He told me he made out with all his android buddies,” Hank dead-pans, tearing his eyes away from Connor’s.

“You do not seem to be making out with any android buddies,” Connor instantly answers.

Hank laughs. “How would you know?”

Connor doesn’t seem affected in the slightest. “If an android would enter the premises, I’d be aware of them.”

“Good point,” Hank snorts, taking a sip of his coffee. It’s good and hot; a perfect cup.

“Can I ask you – ” Connor starts, but Hank waves him away.

He leans back at the table, arms crossed. “Ask me a personal question? Go ahead, shoot. I think we’re beyond the point where you gotta ask me for permission.” He pauses and grins. “And I doubt it’d ever stop you, anyway.”

A small smile from Connor. That’s a relief.

“Alright,” he says, nodding once. “Markus seemed… concerned about where I’d fit in.” Connor looks away, a puzzled frown appearing on his face. “When I said I was with you for the time being, he…”

Hank catches it even though Connor turned his head; the brief flash of yellow at his temple. The slight scuffle of his shoe against the kitchen floor. Hesitancy, suddenly, when he’s usually so direct.

“Connor,” Hank says firmly, “I told him you were free to stay with me for as long as you fucking liked. Just like I told you. That offer won’t be off the table anytime soon.”

Connor looks up. “Was that all you spoke about?” he presses.

Hank shrugs, rolling his shoulders. “Pretty much. He was kinda protective of you. Like he was telling me to get my shit together for your sake.”

“That’s great advice, actually,” Connor answers, pursing his lips in thought.

Hank grins. “Asshole.”

Connor smiles. “I appreciate it,” he says, voice softer.

Then there’s nothing for a little while; a clock ticking, Sumo softly snoring, jazz filling the room. The sun finding its way through the blinds and the curtains, warming the carpet and the floor.

Saturday morning breakfast, and Hank’s heart suddenly aches.

His eye is drawn to Connor’s hands, folded neatly on the tabletop. Fingernails short and perfect; fingertips without prints, but with enough devices in them to analyze the entirety of Hank’s life. There’s even the little blemishes in his skin that make it all the more real: birthmarks, hair, but no obvious scars.

They don’t look rough or wrinkly like Hank’s.

He doesn’t think of the white chassis, or whatever it’s called that androids have underneath their synthetic skin. He thinks about what happens when that skin peels back, and what Markus said: thoughts, memories, feelings.

Touch.

“You know,” Hank says, clearing his throat to mask the roughness of his voice, “I can flip pancakes in the air. They always land fuckin’ perfectly.”

Connor blinks and stares, obviously not knowing what to do with that information. “Ah,” he says, “that’s – that’s a nice skill to have. When cooking.” Another pause. “I think.”

Hank swallows. “I haven’t had an excuse to bake pancakes for a while,” he adds, rising from the table to put his plate in the dishwasher.

“I can’t eat them,” Connor answers, regarding Hank carefully. “And you wouldn’t need to teach me how to flip. My visual receptors can analyze the possible pathways and the force necessary to – ”

“Only a real fuckin’ douchebag would decline an invitation to an Anderson pancake party,” Hank interrupts, leaning back against the countertop.

Connor’s lips curl up the slightest bit. “I’m in no position to refuse. I live here.”

Hank fake-scoffs, grinning. “Alright, you know what? You can go ahead and eat – lick – the fucking batter.” He tilts his head to the side. “That should make it more interesting for a guy like you.”

“Well,” Connor says, his amused smile growing, “then I’m in. Can’t let my analyzers get rusty.”

“Deal,” Hank says, and he’s about to turn back towards the bathroom for a quick shower.

But Connor stands up, brushing some invisible dust off of the front of his white shirt – he leaves the jacket on the coat rack in the hallway, nowadays – and extends a hand towards Hank. There’s something warm and understanding in his expression, as if he realizes that there’s more at play than Hank is letting on.

“Deal,” he repeats, voice hitting that low timbre that tells Hank that Connor is being earnest. Sincere.

Hank hesitates the barest of seconds before taking Connor’s hand with a nod of his own.

Connor’s grip is firm but comfortable, his hand warm and dry.

Hank knows what it means and what it could mean and also what he might want it to mean, and that makes something as simple as shaking hands suddenly weirdly consquential and confusing. There’s more to it now; the walls of an android world beneath the smooth slide of that palm all torn down.

“Hank,” Connor says, looking slightly perplexed. “Your heart rate is going up.”

Hank stiffens. “Is it,” he says, and Connor is still holding his hand.

His partner tilts his head to the side, and blinks, LED processing. “It’s not uncommon,” he comments, trying to sound reassuring, “when establishing physical contact with someone you like.”

“Are you fucking with me right now?” Hank asks, feeling a flush creep up his neck in all its splotchy glory.

Connor dips his head, looking at the empty space between them, and raises an eyebrow. “I don’t appear to be, no. But – ”

“No,” Hank blurts out, as sternly as he can, and lets his hand slip out of Connor’s grasp.

Connor accommodates it, but then he lingers. Lets his fingertips graze the inside of Hank’s palm, eyes brown and unblinking.

Hank is sure his heartrate just spiked further and went through the fucking roof.

“Oh,” says Connor then, and there’s not a lot to be gathered from the way the word just drops out of his mouth.

“I’m gonna take a shower,” Hank says, voice way too loud, jerking his thumb towards the bathroom. “I’ll – I’ll be right back.”

Connor gives him a surprised but pointed look.

All Hank can think about is that he has to jump ship right about now, so he fucking books it back into the corridor and doesn’t look back – not even when he hears Connor calling out faintly: “I’ll feed Sumo.”

Feed Sumo, my ass, Hank thinks as he closes the bathroom door behind him.

He covers his face with one hand, rubbing at his eyes on a deep sigh. The hand Connor just caressed.

Out of his own volition.

“Fuck,” Hank says.

He knows.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 3

In which Hank realizes how gone he is for Connor, meets North, and attempts to solve a crime.

 

January 2039

 

“Just be careful,” Fowler says. “People are going to think weird shit. Hell, they’re already thinking weird shit.”

Hank scoffs. “Everybody’s thinking weird shit,” he says, shaking his head. “Times are changin’, Fowler, and we’d better be changing with them.”

“I know,” Fowler answers. “I’m just giving you some advice. No need to escalate things too fast, alright?”

That has Hank groaning, turning on the spot and lifting his arms. “Escalating,” he mutters. “Jesus fuckin’ christ, Fowler. We’ve been working cases for a month. People are – ”

“Yeah, yeah, you’ll just do you,” Fowler answers, both exasperated and dismissive while he motions towards the door. “Don’t get him into trouble. I don’t want to start a disciplinary folder on him, too.”

Hank rolls his eyes. “Ha! As if I could stop him if I wanted to, Jeff.”

Fowler’s eyes narrow when Hank leaves, opening the glass door with just a tad too much force. “You’d better,” he half-threatens. “And don’t call me Jeff.”

Hank lets the door bang closed behind him, not bothering to give Fowler a reply.

He stalks angrily over at his desk, ignoring some of the looks he’s getting. Connor is, of course, Connor: quiet observation and an attentive look in his eyes.

“Well, that went well,” Hank grumbles, plonking down on his chair.

The desk opposite him is still relatively non-cluttered and clean, but it now has a nameplate. Det. Asst. Connor, it says, and Hank has pushed an empty box of donuts to Connor’s side to make it seem more… well, as if the desk is being used.

Lived in.

“Captain Fowler warned you about the possible downsides of us working cases together,” Connor concludes.

Hank snorts, leaning forward on his arms. “The only danger we’re gonna get visiting crime scenes is you getting arrested because you keep putting shit into your mouth.”

“He has a point,” Connor says, ignoring Hank’s comment. “I might be a person, but I’m still an android. That could cause – ”

“Ugh,” Hank interrupts, drawing the word out as much as he can. “Fuck, I know. But it’s also going to be good – people seeing an android work a case as an actual police officer. The force’s gotta be like – I don’t know, representative.”

Connor fidgets slightly with his hands; the tip of his index finger touching his thumb, twice in a row. “You do realize that Captain Fowler will be putting us mostly on android cases.”

“So?” Hank says sharply, raising an eyebrow. “You got any problem with that?”

“No,” Connor answers. “Do you?”

Hank leans forward, eyes narrowed. “I don’t fuckin’ care what Fowler puts us on. As long as they stay out of my hair and you and I get to do our shit our own way.”

“Your hair is getting rather long,” Connor says bemusedly.

Hank rolls his eyes. “Fuck you too. Just ‘cause yours doesn’t grow doesn’t mean mine doesn’t either.”

Connor just offers him a sweet enough smile that tells Hank that he did that on purpose, but Hank suddenly finds himself distracted.

Hair.

He stares at Connor’s short brown hair; shaved up a little at the back, and with that distracting tumble of a curl in the front. He knows it’s part of the whole schtick – Connor told him that, way back at the beginning.

My appearance and voice have been specifically tailored to ease my interactions with humans.

What had Hank said? Goofy face, goofy voice?

Well, if the tables haven’t fucking spun sideways on that matter. Connor is still goofy in his own weird way, but fuck if he isn’t also ridiculously mesmerizing. Hank doesn’t dare to think attractive just yet.

Connor gives him a look that makes Hank snap back to reality and realize he’s been staring for too long. “Lieutenant,” he says measuredly, “is there something about my hair that’s interesting to you?”

“Yeah,” Hank sighs. No use hiding it. “I was wondering if it’s real.”

Connor blinks. “I assure you, I’m quite real.”

“Nah,” Hank continues, “I meant with the whole…” He trails off, gesturing at that one offending curl. “With the whole synthetic skin and all that. If it’s – if it’s there. Hell if I know how that kind of shit works.”

Connor gestures towards his wrist with his other hand. “It’s generated alongside my skin. But if I’d deactivate it, my hair would also disappear.”

Hank eyes him suspiciously. “So it’s like an illusion?”

“No,” Connor says, tone friendly. “It’s there. You’re welcome to feel it for yourself.”

And of course he can’t fucking resist. Of course he has to reach out and touch. And going by Connor’s easy, relaxed expression, he’s more than aware of that.

Hank flicks the little curl over Connor’s forehead, and it’s softer than his own. But it feels like hair nonetheless, perfect in its execution. It does seem slightly more rigid, despite its soft texture – probably to keep the style properly in place under any type of circumstance.

He does recall Connor’s hair never really getting messed up beyond moving against the wind. It doesn’t even seem to get wet when the snow hits it.

“Hmm,” says Hank, “it’s there alright.” He tugs on a strand. “Can you feel that?”

“Of course,” Connor says. “It’s relatively pleasant.”

Fowler walks by with a cup of coffee and a newspaper. “Oh, for fuck’s sake,” he mutters when he notices the two of them, shaking his head.

And suddenly Hank is mad. Suddenly Hank is livid, and vicious, and all other ugly and sharp words he can think of. He’s done. He always gave everything there was to give, even at his lowest, fucking dragging himself out of the mud for policework, and for what?

For Fowler to stare on disapprovingly because two of his officers are being a little affectionate?

Fuck that noise.

“Oops,” says Hank, keeping his gaze locked with Fowler and sinking his fingers deeper into Connor’s hair for good measure. “What a load of weird shit going on in this precinct, am I right? Jesus, Connor, keep it together.”

Connor blinks as innocently as he possibly can. “What are you talking about, Lieutenant? Is this not a correct emulation of human behavior?” he says, just a little too loudly.

Fowler almost spills his coffee, the officer on Hank’s left hides a muffled snort behind his monitor, and Hank doesn’t even attempt to hold back his own laughter while the captain awkwardly stumbles back into his office.

Hank claps Connor’s shoulder, making the android’s frame sink a little under his hand, still half-laughing. “They didn’t tell me that androids came with a funny bone,” he says with mirth.

“I didn’t get the memo that it was part of the human skeleton, either,” Connor answers, and his smile is light and teasing. Eyes crinkling a little at the sides.

Something warm and beautiful blooms in Hank’s chest at the sight. Something precious.

He grins. “Come on. Time to get goin’. Looks like they don’t want us at headquarters anyway.”

He follows that up with a wink, and Connor looks more than pleased when they get up to make their way down to the DPD’s garage.

“I think I like you when you’re in a good mood,” Connor muses.

“Me too,” Hank says fondly, reaching into his pocket and flipping a coin over to Connor.

His partner catches it in mid-air.

 


 

To be honest, Hank hadn’t expected them to pull up in front of The Eden Club anytime soon. Just thinking about its bright purples and pinks in all their glaringly glamorous objectification already made him feel uncomfortable.

(As did remembering their investigation. He’ll never forget that Traci’s face when Connor reactivated her.)

The sex club’s been closed ever since the president’s famous speech. The human owners were obligated by law to stop their practices – no more exploitation – and apparently one of the Tracis stepped up to take over.

‘Cause you gotta do something with a club filled with dozens and dozens of androids initially only built to give humans pleasure. Dozens of androids looking for a new home and a new purpose in life.

When they park the car, Hank is glad to see that the billboards have been shut down. No more sexy pose pics, no more neon lights.

He’s less glad to see the reasons why he and Connor have arrived so obviously plastered all over the walls and entrance. Some of the former billboards are broken; graffiti smeared over them with hateful words and offensive drawings.

Connor and he share a brief look before entering the former club.

Not a homicide, but Fowler shoved the case their way anyway. The new poster boys to soothe over any sensitive cases to the public eye.

Grizzled veteran officer and the wide-eyed android detective.

Much of the décor in the former sex club has remained the same. But the poles and little podia are gone, and all the cylindrical tubes against the walls are empty. There’s a few officers on the scene taking statements from androids – most of them from the Traci line, but they look a lot different from when the club was still active.

All the private rooms on the side have their doors wide open.

Hank spies extra beds, and androids sitting around comforting each other.

“No assault, right?” Hank whispers to Connor from the corner of his mouth.

“No,” Connor confirms, stopping and kneeling near a bunch of broken glass on the floor. His finger sweeps over the dust, but he doesn’t press it to his mouth. “Vandalization, attempted breaking and entering.”

Hank huffs, shaking his head. “Fuckin’ pricks.”

He leans down until he’s at Connor’s height, keeping his voice low. “Do you think that they’ll be – pressin’ charges? For what happened before the senate’s decision, I mean?”

He pauses, looking at the cracked glass in the double front doors. “Beyond whatever the fuck this is.”

“I don’t know,” Connor admits, and he looks hesitant, LED flashing yellow. “I’d… understand if they would do so, but I’m unsure if it would stand up in a court of law. Regarding the fact that there is now a harsh split, legally speaking…”

They both rise up, and Connor leans in.

“… in when an android is officially a person and when not,” he adds quietly. “The prosecution could use that to their advantage, no matter how unfair it may seem.”

Hank nods. “Hmm,” he hums in the affirmative.

Looking away until his eye finds the officers currently talking to a number of the victims, Hank clears his throat. “D’you think you should do the interview, just in case? They might feel more comfortable with…”

He stops.

Having turned his head back to face Connor, he now realizes that the android hasn’t moved. He’s still leaning into Hank’s personal space, nose and chin inches apart, and there’s a strange look in his eyes.

They’re fixed at a spot decidedly lower than Hank’s own, and his LED is going yellow-yellow-yellow, turning like a spinning wheel.

“Connor,” Hank says, and it comes out sounding a little rough.

Connor’s eyes snap back to Hank’s instantly. “Yes, Lieutenant?” he asks, a little too quickly, a tad too eager.

He wants to tell Connor to get a move on. To start conducting that interview so they can hurry up and figure out who the idiots are that did it. So they can try to make this mess at least somewhat right.

But what comes out instead is: “What are you doing?”

“I was merely,” Connor starts, and his eyes flicker downwards again, “I – that is…”

Hank is stunned by it. “Are you doin’ okay there?” he prods, voice hesitant. “Connor?”

“Recalibrating,” Connor finally offers. “The width of your shoulders always seems much more considerable up close. My visual receptors were simply…” Another pause. “Attempting to compensate.”

Hank has to blink twice and is suddenly very glad for the dim lighting. “My fucking what?” he sputters, still attempting to keep his voice low. “How is that relevant to – ”

“You are quite tall, Lieutenant,” Connor adds, interrupting him, but he’s not smiling.

He’s not smiling at all.

He’s standing too close, still, and Hank can see him wavering – as if he’s resisting some sort of magnetic pull between his body and that of Hank’s. He’s moving his hands minutely, akin to nervousness, his fingers aflutter where they’re close to Hank’s own.

And Connor’s eyes keep dropping and flickering back up, until Hank is pretty sure that he’s looking at his lips. Especially when his LED flashes red when Hank darts his tongue out to wet them.

“We have a job to do,” Hank says, swallowing thickly.

“I’m aware,” Connor answers, looking absolutely fucking enthralled before taking a step back. He adjusts his tie, then his cuffs, and nods.

His brown eyes are very dark.

“I just find myself enjoying the many perks of it,” he states matter-of-factly, and then turns on his heel to walk towards the other officers already on the scene.

Hank rubs his hand over his face, letting it rest over his mouth. “Well, fuck,” he murmurs. “Shit. Godfucking jesus christ.”

Connor is already conducting his interview; all calm and gentle hand-gestures as he tries to get both a statement and to comfort the Traci android who’s taken it onto himself to speak on behalf of the group.

Hank is left staring at his back; the sleek lines of his jacket, the neat seam of his dark trousers. The sharp cut of his shoulders, ever moving while he talks. He’s not wearing the jacket with the android indicators anymore; just a smart, slim suit.

I’m so fucked, Hank thinks. So goddamn fucked.

‘Cause for all their casual jabs, the in-jokes and the cop shenanigans, the hugs that Hank always initiates – he’s never even once considered the fact that Connor might like him back like that. No matter what, Connor is still an android, and he’s figuring out what he wants from life.

And that doesn’t include a washed up old cop who’s decidedly had better days and is struggling with depression, in Hank’s book. But jesus christ, no one has looked at Hank like that in years.

No one.

He wants to say that it’s all new. He wants to say that Connor’s just coming around the block, and that he doesn’t know what he wants. Hasn’t sampled enough of the world yet. But that’d be devaluing his feelings and his personhood.

A slip of imagination and it’s just – it’s just too goddamn easy to imagine Connor cornering him. Connor, with that dark look in his eyes, and his simple, matter-of-fact statements. Connor, pressing hands to Hank’s shoulders; Connor, leaning in.

Connor.

God, and Hank would bend over sideways to get Connor what he’d want. The realization sends a shiver down his spine as he thinks of those hands, glowing white, sliding down his front. Over his belt.

Fuck.

Heat coiling in his gut, Hank promptly tears his eyes away from the androids in front of him and pretends to study the glass on the floor instead.

“So you’re Lieutenant Anderson.”

Already tense, Hank whips his head up and is faced with a very familiar woman. Well, he’s never really spoken to her – but her face’s been plastered on every screen in the USA. Probably globally, too.

Right now, she has her arms crossed, hip cocked to the side, and one eyebrow raised. At best, she looks irritated, and at worst, she’s ready to kick him to the curb.

“Yeah,” Hank says, drawing the word out with a tight voice, “that’d be me.”

Aren’t I lucky, he thinks.

Her eyes flicker up and down his form. “Markus said you’re alright,” she says, but she doesn’t sound convinced.

Hank clears his throat. “I – ”

“I’m not convinced,” she interrupts, “so save the niceties for later. I’m sure you know who I am.”

“That I do,” Hank says, inclining his head. “Is it okay to call your by your first name, or do you want – ”

She cuts him off again. “North is fine. What’s going on?”

Hank jerks his head back at Connor. “Attempt at breaking and entering by a few hateful assholes. I’m sure you’ve seen the graffiti at the front door.”

North’s lips press into a thin line. “Yeah. Couldn’t have missed that.” She turns back to him. “Any leads?”

“Don’t know yet,” Hank shrugs. “Connor’s still doing the interviews. But we’ll go after these guys, I promise. And we’ll go hard.”

She gives him look. “You damn well should. Humans fucking shit up for no reason.”

Hank instantly likes her more than he already did. “Yup,” he half-smiles. “You’re absolutely right.”

They stand for a while in companionable silence, Hank swaying slightly back and forth on the balls of his feet. He chances a look to the side, and she hasn’t changed her posture or attempted to disguise the thinly veiled annoyance on her face.

“So,” he says conversationally, “what are you doin’ here?”

North doesn’t look at him but keeps her eyes on Connor instead. “These androids suffered years of systemic sexual abuse,” she says. “I’m here to check in with them and provide support.” She pauses. “I also teach them self-defense classes, if they want to.”

“That’s kind of you,” Hank says, and he means it. “I’m glad you and Markus are looking out for them. God knows they could use more people in their corner.”

She turns towards him briefly. “What’s it to you?” she asks sharply. “You just decided one day that you were gonna support androids? Or is it ‘cause you got a hot new boyfriend out of the deal?”

“Huh,” says Hank, staring into her aggressive brown eyes. Lighter than Connor’s; a touch of honey.

He recognizes the brashness and the stubbornness. The lashing out. It reminds him a lot of what he was like when he was younger, but North carries herself with a lot more confidence. She obviously believes she has the right of it, which Hank agrees with.

So he chuckles amusedly. “I think he’s hotter than yours, yeah.”

North blinks, but she says nothing.

“I didn’t understand androids,” Hank adds then, “and I never really tried to. Like the selfish human shit I am, I felt like I had enough of my own troubles to deal with.”

She snorts dismissively. “Typical.”

Hank grins. “Yup. And I still don’t understand androids, you know. But that doesn’t really matter.” He looks to the side, studying her profile. “I don’t need to understand someone perfectly to sympathize with them. Or to realize that they deserve to be treated the same.”

“I prefer letting my actions speak for me,” North says, not meeting his gaze.

“’Course you do,” Hank nods, because it fits.

She hums, eyes flickering over to Connor and the Tracis. “Did you send Connor over because – ”

“Yeah,” Hank cuts in. “I did.”

“Hmm,” says North, nodding. “Looks like there might be hope for you after all, old man.”

She claps him on the back, so hard that he nearly doubles over under the force of her palm, and walks off. She passes Connor, to whom she does the same – but it’s a shoulder clap that turns into a gentle hold and a shake, and then she enters one of the bigger private rooms on the right. The androids there seem happy with her presence, and Hank sees her exchange more hugs and greetings.

He digs his hands into his pockets and waits for Connor to finish.

His partner does so soon after Hank’s impromptu half-conversation with North, and walks over to him with a quick stride. “There’ve been a few former regular clients who were… less than happy with the recent changes. I cross-referenced some of their files with the style of the graffiti outside.”

A pause, but Hank can already tell the answer from Connor’s demeanor.

“I’ve got an address,” he says. The hooded darkness has gone from his big brown eyes.

Hank nods. “Alright. Let’s get in the car and make some visits. You got your gun?”

Connor smiles. “I doubt I’ll need it when I’m with you, Lieutenant.”

That, and the way Connor’s fingers brush against his side when he passes him to move towards the entrance, makes Hank’s pulse jump excitedly in his throat like he’s some lovesick teenager.

Done for, Anderson, he thinks when he follows Connor outside.

Fucking done for.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 4

In which Hank gets uncomfortably introspective, Connor wants to go to a concert, and there’s some post-nightmare cuddling.

 

February 2039

 

Androids don’t dream.

Hank has heard that one before, and it’s one of the first things he wondered about when he learned about deviancy – if it would change. If androids would dream if they broke loose from their programming.

‘Cause there’s two things to dreaming: the raw imagination of staring out the window and building stories in your mind, and the actual sleeping part. Where you process all the stuff you did during the day, and your brain cooks up its own feature-length movies out of it.

Connor doesn’t sleep, but he does have something that’s similar to a stand-by mode. He runs diagnostics, does recalibrations if necessary, and stores and files away all of the sensory data he’s gathered in neat little boxes. In his mind palace, which is apparently a thing for androids. Not that Hank fully understands it.

But, to be completely honest, the whole process does sort of sound like sleep to Hank. Connor just remains vaguely aware for most of it, can function rather well without it, and needs it for shorter periods of time than a human would.

He can do that standing up or sitting down. Ever since he started living with Hank, he’s done it lying down; back ramrod straight, and his hands folded over his stomach.

Usually on the couch, and under protest whenever Hank turns it into a makeshift bed with extra blankets and pillows. Protests that it doesn’t matter, that Hank shouldn’t worry – but eventually he realizes it’s futile.

(Fuckin’ right it is, Hank thinks. Gotta give a guy a decent place to sleep.)

Hank has only walked in on Connor in stand-by for a few times; whenever he stumbled into the living room to check on Sumo because he couldn’t sleep or wobbled over to the sink for a glass of water, throat parched and his t-shirt wet with sweat.

There isn’t a lot to see – Connor’s LED usually just blinks its calm blue, and Connor doesn’t snap out of it unless he senses distress. Lately, Hank’s been trying to stay away from the bottle, but in the beginning he still drank a lot – and usually had trouble sleeping or waking up or both.

Connor would then postpone his nightly processing to drag Hank back to his bedroom or offer him a calming cup of tea. Sometimes just a soothing hand on his back and a gentle reminder to stop drinking as much.

Hank even asked him to, a couple of times.

If Connor wanted to watch over him after a particularly nasty nightmare about the accident. His partner always instantly accepted, and Hank remembers tugging sleepily on his hand until Connor had joined him on the bed.

On the covers, but still.

Physical contact between them had become easier, after that, and more frequent. Though it had still always been mostly Hank who’d initiated the hugs, Connor wasn’t hesitant anymore to bump his elbow or his shoulder into Hank whenever he liked.

A hand on his shoulder or leaning into his space for a low-voiced question; it slowly became commonplace. And it’s still one of the first – and only – human connections that Hank’s had in years.

Ever since Hank met Markus, Connor has been initiating more. But subtle touches mostly, and only noticeable because they tend to linger without cause. Usually accompanied by a yellow LED.

In all other aspects, he’s been pretty fucking direct except for officially and explicitly declaring his intentions, and Hank still doesn’t want to think about what that might mean.

His brain usually gets stuck somewhere between no, he couldn’t and he absolutely would and I’m way out of my depth. Sometimes with a side-serving of gotta get the hell out of dodge and it’s already too late.

But at the core of it, there’s always:

I want him to stay.

And Hank finds himself trying to figure out all the ways to fit Connor comfortably into his life. From makeshift beds on couches to blue Thirium shit in his fridge, and from getting up early on Saturday mornings to looking up old classic movies that Connor might enjoy.

He wanted to tiptoe around all that, initially. Because – well, it’s dangerous.

To want someone in your life so much that it’d seem incomplete without them, and to build your entire being around just one person. It makes you dependent, it makes you clingy, and it makes you lovesick. Not to mention that when that person leaves…

( – if, he still can’t bring himself to think if rather than when – )

… it breaks a hole into your world that you might not be able to fix. Beyond drowning it in tears and alcohol, and Hank’s already been through that a couple of times. He doesn’t want to go through it again.

So he’s spent years and years convincing himself that he didn’t want all of that – the cozy home life, the one person at the center of it all. That he didn’t need it, and that just he and Sumo would be fine together.

It’s exactly what he’s been warning Connor about ever since the revolution, too; make your own life, your own friends, and your own choices.

Don’t become too dependent on me. Become your own person.

But now Hank is here, and someone’s offering him friendship, family, and maybe a bit more, and it surprises him how fucking ready he is to abandon all his old convictions and just jump into it. He’s not sure if it’s because it’s finally real or if he just doesn’t care how much he’ll lose if it ends up nowhere.

How willing he is to break just to have the barest slice of love.

Killing yourself a little every day, he thinks.

He sighs, long and deep, and tiredly looks at the glass of water in his hand. It’s so fucking bland and he hates it, but it’s gonna be just one glass of whiskey a day, for now. The rest he fills up with coffee and – godfucking damnit – water. Maybe he should stock up on juice or lemonade.

With a life getting this confusing, Hank wants to be sober for it, mostly.

He wants to witness it before it’s gone.

A subtle ‘plink’ from his touchpad pulls him out of his train of thought, and he wrestles it from out under Sumo on the other side of the couch. The dog whines at the movement, pushing back against Hank until he gets a rub behind the ears.

It’s late already, and Connor was insisting on finishing up a report back at the station. Hank went home, had dinner, and now he’s all but half-passed out on the couch with the TV on in the background.

He brushes his hair out of his face with a shuddery inhale of breath, staring at the blink of the notification on his touchpad. It’s a forwarded e-mail; a short article from a local newspaper. The music section, specifically.

It mentions a concert, an accompanying date, and a venue address. A red, flashing button for ordering tickets. There’s a promotional photo and a logo on the e-mail that Hank instantly recognizes.

Heck, that logo decorates a few of the black t-shirts he’s got stuffed into the back of his wardrobe somewhere.

And at the top, a message from Connor.

 

Detective Reed had a useful suggestion today: he mentioned that closing a case is usually cause for an informal celebration. When I came across this news article, I could not help thinking back to the day we first met.

I have never been to a concert before, and I want to experience what it is like to listen to music in that capacity. I could order tickets to celebrate closing the vandalization case.

Detective Reed will not be joining us.

- Connor.

 

Hank’s first reaction is an amused chuckle.

Ever since Connor came back to the precinct in an official capacity – he’d aced the police exam with flying colors, even when disconnected from the network – Reed had been circling him a little awkwardly. Connor’s disarming humanity through sarcastic, ironic comments seems to making him blazing mad for no reason. And Hank loves watching that show unfold right in front of his eyes at the DPD.

As for the other part?

Hank hasn’t been to a concert in years. Decades even, maybe. The last time he saw the Knights of the Black Death live, he was probably in his twenties. Young and rugged, with long blond hair and stubble on his jaw – around the same time he had that big piece tattooed on his chest.

Maybe he still has pictures somewhere.

Fingers hesitating on the keyboard of his touchpad, Hank realizes it’s happening again.

There’s an offer on the table, and there’s no way he can ever say no to Connor.

 

What, you want your first concert experience to be a fucking decades-old heavy metal band? You’d better bring a set of earplugs and be prepared to face a sea of dirty old crackheads jumping and screaming their blackened lungs out.

Jesus Connor, you sure know how to pick ‘em. Normally we just buy a box of donuts.

Order the tickets. I was born ready.

 

Exactly five seconds after he’s sent it, he receives a confirmation e-mail with two tickets in his name, ordered by Connor. And then, a reply that makes him let his head drop back against the couch on a long-suffering sigh, trying to ignore the heat he feels creeping up his face.

 

I know I picked right when I chose you as my partner. You even came with a box of donuts included.

See you at home soon, Hank.

 

Hank curses twice for good measure and stuffs his touchpad back under Sumo’s paws. Sumo says ‘arp’ and licks it. Hank doesn’t care.

He’s already asleep when Connor comes home some thirty minutes later, and only vaguely registers someone turning the lights off in the living room. Something warm covers him, and Hank curls into it on instinct.

A brief, gentle touch at his temple. “Good night, Hank.”

Hank sleeps, and he dreams as humans do.

 


 

Sometimes you end up in a place that instantly makes you realize that it’s a dream. Maybe the physics are off; wonky buildings, objects floating in mid-air, a purple sun rather than a yellow one.

You meet people you haven’t seen in decades or you’re in a city that doesn’t look like a city at all.

Hank isn’t quite sure he’s himself, either – looking down at his body, he sees hands that are younger than his own. He notices the discrepancy, but somehow it doesn’t bother him.

He’s walking in some sort of garden: desolate, snowy, with droopy sad trees and even sadder statues. It’s one of those artsy exhibition type of places, and Hank meanders past all sorts of crafty works.

Geometrical shapes, dancing mannequins, splashes of paint on the ground.

His shoes crunch on the white layer of snow, and yet he isn’t cold.

There’s no one else there, but he knows that it’s Detroit – the city that he was born in and the city that he still lives in. A framework, barebones, thick fog to all sides. Nothing there but weird, wonky art.

Hank keeps walking.

Paintings start appearing around him, cutting the edge of the landscape in half in their tall, square shapes. The brushstrokes are thick and lush, the paint almost floating on top of the canvasses, and Hank swears he’s seem them somewhere else before.

There’s a lot of emotion in them – and not all of it positive. He sees shackles, broken and unbroken, bodies failing and tearing themselves apart. Heady contrasts of blue and yellow.

Blue, Hank thinks, and stares at the snow at his feet.

There’s a trail of it, subtly leaking into the white, icy crystals. Blue; a path painted for him and him alone, going straight ahead. It’s significant, but he hasn’t figured out why.

He follows it, ignoring the steady stream of paintings at his sides. Ignores the statues of mannequins dancing in whirling whites and blues, their hands almost touching. Their lips turned up for a kiss.

Hands, Hank thinks, staring down again at this own.

They flash with a trick of the light, briefly aglow.

Wind ruffles his hair, and suddenly there’s a man at the end of the path.

He’s naked, his body strangely smooth without any particular definitions. He’s looking away from Hank, and there’s a blue trail leading down from the low center of his chest. There’s a circle there, the edges a little jagged, and Hank is instantly nervous.

The man turns – face impassive, another circle at his temple.

Connor, Hank thinks suddenly, and that brings all of his memories back in a vivid, frighteningly worrying blaze.

He’s seen this, he knows this; that’s Connor’s heart, that’s Connor’s blood, that’s Connor maybe half-dying in the snow. He stumbles over, tripping over his own feet to reach Connor as fast as he can.

He lets his hands fall over Connor’s shoulders, shaking him gently, trying to pick up on any emotion from that passive, inexpressive face.

“Are you alright?” he asks, and his voice carries and echoes throughout the empty world around him. “Are you – ”

He stops, trailing off.

It’s so frightening to see Connor like this. He doesn’t look like himself at all – not like Hank’s Connor. It’s like he’s staring into the window of one of those fucking CyberLife shops, picking out an android at random.

“Connor,” Hank tries desperately, and he grips Connor’s lifeless fingers in his own.

Where are the ticks, he thinks, the goddamn fucking fidgeting?

Connor lets out a shuddering breath, eyes blinking, slowly focusing on Hank’s face. His fingers twitch in Hank’s hold, and his face changes entirely when he seems to realize who’s standing before him.

“Lieutenant,” he says, and his voice is all static and shudder, “Hank.”

Hank instantly brings up one hand to cup Connor’s face, the other trailing carefully over the circle visible in the opened plate on Connor’s chest. “Connor,” he repeats, “you gotta tell me if you’re alright. I mean, the pump seems to be in there but – ”

Connor nods shakily. “I’m alright,” he says, hand covering Hank’s.

His chest is heaving with breaths, and Hank can see the puffs of them in the air – which is weird, isn’t it?

Androids don’t breathe, and Connor only ever emulates the movement and usually matches it to Hank’s. It’s form, not function – but now Connor seems to need it, rather than use it to blend in.

“Tell me,” he says, “tell me you’ll stay.”

Hank blinks, and he doesn’t want to cry. “I’d do fucking anything for you, Connor,” he whispers. “Fucking anything.”

He knows it’s a dream, then. Beyond any reasonable doubt.

There are no geometric, artsy gardens in Detroit covered in snow. Hank’s hands are much more wrinkled than they look cupping Connor’s face. Paintings like the ones he’s seen probably don’t exist.

Dream-Connor takes one look at Hank’s hands, and the blue blood on them.

He turns his head just slightly, lashes fluttering, and sucks Hank’s thumb into his mouth. His eyes close, and Hank can feel a vague pressure, the slightest illusion of wetness – a dream trying so hard to be real.

Hank breaks, and chokes out a sob.

“Connor,” he murmurs, “Connor, I just want you to be happy.”

The dream-android opens his eyes, thumb slipping out from between his lips. “I am, when I’m with you. When are you going to listen?”

Hank cries in earnest, but he doesn’t feel the tears that drip into his beard. “I can’t,” he hiccups, “I goddamn fucking can’t. For me to have something like this – ”

He sinks to his knees in snow that isn’t cold, pressing his palm over his mouth. “You deserve better than whatever I am, Connor. You deserve better than this fucking mess.”

Connor sinks with him, hands not leaving Hank’s face and his shoulders.

“When you gave us freedom,” Dream-Connor says sternly, “you gave us a choice.” He pauses, eyes hooded when he runs his fingers over Hank’s temple. “You were always mine.”

Hank shudders.

Dream-Connor smiles. “My choice,” he whispers, and then he presses his lips to Hank’s.

Hank falls, and it doesn’t stop.

The mouth against his own is soft, candy cotton against his lips and inside his head, and the outer world falls away. He scrambles, trying to find a hold on Dream-Connor’s smooth, hard body, but it’s futile.

“Interface with me,” Dream-Connor says, light and musical, lifting his palm, “please, Hank.”

Hank’s hands are old and wrinkly again, and he repeats, broken: “I can’t.”

The last thing he sees before he falls into a deep, dark hole is the unbridled disappointment on Dream-Connor’s face.

 


 

Hank wakes up with a shocked half-gasp, almost accidently rolling himself off of the couch. The back of his grey t-shirt is wet with perspiration, and his hands are clenched together painfully.

“Shit,” he curses, “shit, fuck.”

He wipes a trembling hand over his brow, and stares around the dark living room, momentarily lost. A clock nearby says 04:37 AM in bright reds.

Shakily, Hank swings his legs down, placing his feet squarely on the floor. The cool wood helps him relax as he lets out another breath, blowing it out through his teeth.

Godfucking damnit, he thinks as he rubs at his face, what a fucking nightmare.

“Hank?” prods a voice from the darkness. “Are you alright?”

“Jesus!” Hank exclaims, grasping the armrest of the couch and digging his fingers into the cushioned material.

Just right of the clock, roughly in the spot of Hank’s comfortable armchair, is a gently buzzing blue light. Connor’s LED, he realizes belatedly, as it lights up his partner’s face.

“Don’t fucking scare me like that,” Hank sighs, leaning back again and spreading his legs. He closes his eyes, wrist still pressed against his forehead. “God, jesus. I thought you were that creep from the dream.”

He presses his other hand over his chest. “Gonna give me a heart attack one of these days.”

Connor carefully rises from the armchair and moves over to the couch. “Your heartrate is just moderately accelerated,” he says as he sits down next to Hank. “A heart attack doesn’t appear to be imminent.”

“Figure of speech, asshole,” Hank says, voice still trembling. He opens his eyes just in time to catch Connor’s cautious smile.

“I’m aware,” the android answers.

Hank forces himself to look at him.

Connor’s not wearing his jacket or his tie, and his shoes are off. He’s rolled up the sleeves of his white dress shirt, and his hair isn’t quite that perfectly into place – flatter in the back from where he’s leaned his head back against the armchair, and the curls at the front are a little tousled.

For all intents and purposes, he looks like a regular guy who just came home from work. A very attractive one, maybe.

Hank tries to swallow the lump in his throat.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Connor asks.

Hank sighs. “You were there,” he admits, shaking his head. “You were there, but you weren’t – nothing added up. It was very…” He trails off, trying to find the words.

“Unsettling,” he eventually settles upon. “Yeah.”

Connor inclines his head. “Androids can be unsettling,” he says carefully.

Hank knows what Connor means to say, but he instantly shakes his head. “It wasn’t that,” he murmurs. “You gotta do better to scare me now than with blue blood or plastic parts. No, it – you said shit you never would have. Did shit you never would’ve done.”

He groans, tapping his fingers onto the couch’s armrest. “No,” he repeats, looking Connor in the eye. “It was just my own fears reflecting back at me. They – they do that sometimes.”

He snorts, trying to make light of it. “Fucking dreams, am I right? Jesus.”

“I wouldn’t know,” Connor says, and there’s something of wonder in his tone. “I’ve never had one.”

“Well,” Hank says, standing up, “this definitely was a nightmare, and I wouldn’t recommend it.”

He looks back at Connor, who’s staring up at him with curiosity in his eyes. He seems smaller than he actually is on that big couch, head tipped up towards Hank with an attentiveness that’s both flattering and heartwarming.

Real, Hank thinks. This one here’s the real deal.

Fuck, ‘cause that’s gonna give him nightmares for the rest of his life, too. The showdown at CyberLife and the way that  fake-ass Connor tried to trick him. If only for just a few moments.

Never again, he decides. Never again.

“Well,” he says; gruffly, nonchalantly, “are you coming?”

He motions towards the corridor that leads back to the bedroom.

Connor raises an eyebrow. “You want me to sleep with you?” he asks.

Hank rolls his eyes. “Yeah,” he says, “sleep. Protect me from the creeps haunting my dreams.”

He pads over towards the bedroom, and Connor rises from the couch in an easy motion, following Hank without question.

“Maybe you’ll get a good dream out of it,” Hank murmurs as Connor closes the door behind them.

“I sincerely doubt it,” Connor says while Hank crawls onto the bed, “but it’s a nice enough sentiment.”

Hank just groans in a non-committal way, shucking back the covers and patting the bed in invitation. He’s tired, still so goddamn tired, and he just wants to close his eyes and see darkness.

No art, no fucking paintings, and no more depressive disappointment for him today.

But then he hears the slight rustle of fabric, and looks up.

Shafts of moonlight paint Connor’s back as he stands near the blinds on the other side of the bed. He’s unbuttoned his shirt, and shakes it off his shoulders smoothly. He’s methodical and efficient in undressing, folding all the items neatly before putting them away.

Shirt, socks, pants – and the shirt goes over the back of a nearby chair, of course.

He’s just wearing a pair of white briefs and a tank, and he slides under the covers rather than settling on top of them. Hank can’t see his face that well in the half-darkness, but his LED is still a comforting blue.

A brief turn of that spinning wheel, and then Connor turns towards him with a small smile.

“I set my core temperature to something that should be comforting to you while you sleep,” he says. “To help avoid the nightmares coming back.”

Hank reaches out and touches Connor’s wrist. He’s faintly emitting warmth; more so than usual.

“Don’t feel responsible for an old man’s fears,” he murmurs, settling onto his side so he can face Connor.

“I won’t feel responsible for something I can’t control,” Connor answers, mirroring Hank’s posture. “But having a good night’s sleep does wonders for your mood. That is something I’m interested in.”

His eyes crinkle at the sides, and his lower lip twitches with the effort of keeping a straight face.

Hank barks a quiet laugh. “Asshole,” he says fondly.

Connor’s expression grows softer. “Do you want to – ”

“Yeah,” Hank whispers, “yeah, I do.”

Connor turns back until he’s in his usual stand-by posture; straight, hands folded, gaze towards the ceiling. But this time, he curls his left arm open, and Hank moves over without question. Settles his head onto Connor’s pleasantly warm shoulder, breathing in his non-existent scent.

Just laundry detergent.

Connor’s fingers tighten around Hank’s back when Hank throws his arm over Connor’s middle.

He knows his forearm is pressed over the place where Connor’s pump regulator is located, and somehow that makes him breathe easier. He closes his eyes, pressing his nose to the hollow of Connor’s throat.

“You’re heavier than I anticipated,” Connor says dryly.

“Problem, officer?” Hank snorts, not bothering to open his eyes.

“No,” Connor says quietly, “I think I like it. The weight of you.”

Hank dares to trace the outline of something resembling a hipbone with his thumb. “You seem to like a lot of things about me, lately.”

Connor responds in kind, his own thumb sliding along the curve of Hank’s shoulder. “Go to sleep, Hank.”

Hank half-laughs into Connor’s synthetic skin, and the android shivers. “And now he gets pushy.”

He pauses, and then he dares it because – fuck it, tonight is one of those terrible nights, and he wants to make it better.

“Good night,” he murmurs, and he ghosts a kiss over what’s supposed to be Connor’s collarbone.

Connor’s approximation of human breath hitches. But then he wraps his arm around Hank’s shoulders a little tighter, and presses a kiss against Hank’s temple.

“Good night, Hank.”

 

Chapter Text

 

Chapter 5

In which Hank and Connor catch a perp, flirt, and make out at a concert like a bunch of teenagers.

 

February 2039

 

“Fuck,” Hank hisses, bumping into the metal railing with a dull clang when he rounds the final corner of the stairs.

He’s most certainly out of breath and that’s not the first time it’s happened since the last… well, at least the last eight years. But he now has a partner who can’t get out of breath because he doesn’t have it, which is great – even though his impromptu parkour over rooftops still tends to make Hank anxious.

Androids can break, and the mere thought of that is enough to drive him up the wall.

Panting, Hank remains at the top of the fire escape, looking out over a part of Detroit’s skyline.

Connor is hot on the heels of the likely perp of their last case, a double homicide, and he’s arcing behind her in a wide circle – engineered to drive her towards the south corner of the roof opposite Hank.

Close enough for a clear shot.

‘Cause Hank might be old, but there’s one thing he’s never really needed and that’s glasses.

He can already see the perp unknowingly approaching the edge, shooting back looks over her shoulder towards Connor – there’s even a ladder at the side of the building, making it an attractive escape. Hank sucks in a breath, squares his shoulders, and puts his finger on the trigger.

Shot to the legs should do it. He knows Connor’s carrying cuffs, and there’s a helicopter nearby for medical assistance. They need this one, and he doesn’t want to take chances.

“Hold it!” Connor yells, voice deep. “Detroit Police!”

She zigzags, and then slows down in response to Connor, looking back over her shoulder. Her hand is reaching for the gun at her hip.

She’s right in Hank’s crosshairs, and time slows down.

Hank flicks his gun, anticipating her movement, and doesn’t hesitate for a second when he knows he’s lined his shot up right. He can already see her muscles bunch, getting ready for that final sprint that she hopes will lead her off the roof.

No such luck for this fucker.

She cocks the gun.

Bang.

Hank hits her in her left knee, and she sinks to the ground almost instantly, not expecting the shot. He sees her look around wildly for the source, but she doesn’t manage to spot Hank before Connor subdues her, knocking the gun away.

He easily turns her wrists to her back to cuff them, sparing a brief look at her wounded knee.

Hank exhales. It’s done.

Connor presses one finger to his earpiece and starts signaling the helicopter with a wide sweep of his arm, palm glowing blue as an indicator to help it land. His jacket flaps about in the sudden whipped breeze of the helicopter’s rotor blades.

Hank stares at the scene, feeling oddly solemn and pensive.

They drag her inside, still kicking and cursing, and Connor remains on the roof, waving the helicopter off.

Hank still can’t forget the bodies and the combined splatter of blue and red.

A couple, entwined in a bathtub, both their brains blown out over the white and grey tiles. Naked, intimate, and all broken up. Together in death as they were in life. It’s been all over the news, and the press has been hounding the station for commentary ever since it happened three days ago.

Last time, Hank had to shoulder his way through the crowd, shielding Connor from all the invasive questions.

 

Detective Assistant Connor, what’s it like for you to take a case like this as the first android officer on the force?

Are you acquainted with the perpetrator? Was it a terrorist attack? A response to the current changes?

Do you think you have the right specifications for this type of job? Were you created to serve?

Detective Connor, what do you think about human-android relationships? Are you in one yourself?

 

Hank’s been on the force ever since he was a young, brash guy, so he’s dealt with this before. Officially, he’s also still the one responsible for the case, so he puts on the angriest, most annoyed gruff cop face he knows and half-barges through the crowd whenever the press is there.

Mutters a few new developments or simply says, “No comment”, and makes sure he’s always between Connor and the crowd. Connor remains neutral and slightly impassive, but last time Hank saw him dip his head slightly to hide his yellow-flashing LED from view.

God, that had hurt, seeing that.

“Lieutenant,” Connor’s voice says through his earpiece, “are you ready to get back to the station?”

It’s hard to accurately read his expression from where Hank is standing, but Connor’s body language seems relaxed. He’s turned towards Hank, and lightly lifts one arm in greeting.

Hank flicks on his mic and waves back. “Yeah,” he sighs, “yeah, I think I am. Good work, Connor.”

“I could say the same to you,” Connor answers. “That was a very clear shot.”

Hank grins and clicks his tongue. He puts the gun back in the holster under his left arm, shaking his head slowly. “Quit it with the flattery already, will ya? You and I got an interrogation to prepare.”

“Lieutenant,” Connor says, and the slight delay betrays his hesitation. “Hank. Could we…”

Hank wants to say ‘shoot’, but he’s not sure if it’s too soon or not. “Ask away,” he says instead, slipping his hands into his pockets. It’s cold this high up, and the wind is downright harsh.

“I’d like to head the interrogation, if you don’t mind.”

That conjures up so many questions that Hank has to clear his throat first to push them all down – the most important one being why. Connor never asks for this kind of shit, and certainly not in such a serious tone.

But there’s one thing that’s just slightly more important than all of that – the fact that Connor is a damn good detective. One that Hank would trust with anything.

“Sure,” he says, hoping he sounds understanding. “I’ll be behind the glass wall all the way.” He pauses, shuffling his feet. “If you need me, just call.”

Connor steps a little closer to the edge of the roof, looking up at Hank. “Thank you. And I do.”

Hank looks down at him. It’s a little eerie, so much distance and so much depth, but he knows that Connor won’t lose his footing. His hair is blowing in the wind, curl still in place, a finger resting against his earpiece.

“Do what?” Hank asks, feeling gravity pull at his center.

“Need you, Lieutenant,” Connor says, tilting his head to the side. “I should’ve clarified,” he adds with a smile.

Hank nearly recoils at that, and at the warmth that suddenly blooms in his cheeks. “Jesus, Connor. We’re on duty,” he mutters. “You can’t just come out and say shit like that.”

“You keep implying that flirting somehow has to be restricted to off-duty time,” Connor remarks like he’s talking about the weather. “I suppose that’s commendable of a veteran officer.”

He’s still looking up at Hank, one corner of his mouth slowly tipping up into an amused sort of smile. Hank could be tempted to call it sly, but everything Connor does is so goddamned sincere that he can’t.

He feels frozen to the metal grating of the fire escape, regardless.

They haven’t really said anything about that night where Hank curled up next to Connor and had the best night’s sleep of his life. How natural it felt to wake up next to him, and how blessedly normal it felt to both stand in front of the bathroom mirror after and fix their respective hairdos.

To share short convos before work in the car; sometimes about cases, sometimes just about – stuff. Inconsequential shit, and yet they always appear to have a good time.

It’s become a rule; they live and breathe together, interconnected in the weirdest of places, but they don’t make it known.

They’ve never mentioned how Connor’s fingers linger over Hank’s sleeves, his cuffs or his wrists whenever he walks by. And Connor doesn’t say a thing when he notices how Hank’s gaze draws to his forearms every time he rolls his sleeves up.

He’s not sure what it’s like for Connor, but for Hank it’s safe – safe because he doesn’t have to admit anything, safe because he doesn’t have to open up, and safe because he doesn’t have to look at the rotting garden in his heart.

“I’m sorry,” Connor says, taking Hank’s silence as a rejection. “I was attempting to lighten the mood. This case is…” He pauses. “Trying. Difficult.”

Safe because he doesn’t have to think about him and Connor ending up splattered over some bathroom wall.

“I – yeah,” Hank stutters into his earpiece. “Look, it’s okay. I just – I mean, give a guy some time to adjust after shooting someone in the knee, alright? Jesus.”

Connor smiles. “I thought you’d enjoy the rush.”

That brings back a grin on Hank’s face. “Nah, that’s for the young ones. This old dog just wants to go home.”

“Then let’s,” Connor says, and he flicks off his mic with one finger before slowly making his way over to the ladder that the perpetrator was running towards.

Hank sighs.

What a day. What a goddamn pain-in-the-ass kind of day.

 


 

The perpetrator confesses right away in the hospital. She’s obviously not pleased with having Connor interrogate her; she keeps trying to talk to Hank, so much so that he leaves the room not to give her the opportunity.

Even though it’s not part of some bigger terrorist movement but just one person with hate in their eyes, the press has a field day anyway. However, Hank is glad to see that most of the headlines are positive about Connor.

They mention Hank’s decorated past, and what Connor has meant for the android revolution so far. One article even goes so far as to call him ‘a bridge between worlds’.

Hank’s not too sure about bridges.

All he knows is that Connor is part of his world, not another one.

They’re at the station, and the hour’s late. Not a lot of officers around, except for Chen – and she’s busy sorting evidence in the archives. Even Fowler has left after putting his stamp of approval on Hank’s report.

They’ve ended up on a bench in the break room, Hank with lukewarm coffee in a plastic cup.

“Is it always like this?” Connor asks, arms on his knees.

He looks tired, lightly working his jaw. It’s a new look on him, and Hank’s heart aches.

“Nah,” he says softly, taking a sip. “Gets easier. You just lose…” He trails off. “I guess you build up thicker skin over the years. But this case was shit, regardless.”

He downs the rest of his coffee in one go, shuddering. It’s disgusting, but he wants to stay awake.

Connor folds his hands, resting his chin on his thumbs.

“You know,” Hank says, “we could hit a bar. Go out on the town. I could get drunk, and you could pretend you are. Forget about this shit.”

Connor raises an eyebrow. “We have an appointment tomorrow,” he says pointedly.

“Huh,” Hank says, leaning back to drape his arms over the backrest of the bench. “You didn’t forget.”

“I don’t see why I should,” Connor says, sounding genuinely puzzled. “I booked the tickets, after all.”

Hank shrugs, humming under his breath. “Well,” he says, drawing the word out, “you don’t even have an outfit ready. What was I supposed to think, huh?”

Connor blinks. “An outfit,” he echoes, but it’s not a question.

“Hell, yeah,” Hank chuckles. “You were really gonna go to a heavy metal concert dressed like that?”

Connor actually unfolds his hands and stares down at his own body as if he’s noticing he’s wearing clothes for the first time in his life. “This is inappropriate?” he asks.

Hank pretends to look Connor over in detail, making a slightly hesitant face. Makes a motion with his hand that indicates it’s just so-so. “I mean, you could wear it,” he says, “but it’s not really – uh, atmospheric.”

“I could lose the tie,” Connor says, deadly serious.

Hank is finding it more and more difficult to keep a straight face. “I mean, yeah,” he nods, “that would make it better already. Less, uh, neat.”

“It’s professional work attire,” Connor says promptly, and Hank swears he’s affronted.

So Hank just nods along, chewing his bottom lip to stop himself from smiling. “Oh yeah, sure, no doubt about that,” he says as conversationally as possible. “It’s just – maybe a little too stuck-up for a concert.”

Connor actually gives him a look.

It’s the first time Hank’s seen him do it – there’s a mixture of bewilderment and disaster on his face, as if he’s realizing that Hank really is that much of an idiot. And also something of disbelief, and that’s when it clicks.

Connor apparently takes pride in his appearance. Pride!

And Hank just starts snickering. “God, look at your face,” he snorts, “as if I said the worst fucking thing ever. Jesus, Connor, it’s just a suit.”

Connor’s eyes shift away briefly and then back to Hank. “You were teasing,” he says, LED circling yellow.

“Fuck yeah,” Hank laughs, “and you fell for it. I mean, who the fuck cares what you wear to a concert? As long as it’s comfortable on you, right?”

Connor sits up a little straighter, and then he laughs.

Honest to god laughs.

It’s not full-bellied and shaking, and it’s the quietest of little chuckles that Hank has heard. But it’s laughter nonetheless, warm and lovely, reverberating straight from the core of him. Bubbling up as if he’s powerless to stop it.

His eyes narrow while he laughs, brown lashes sweeping his cheeks, and an attractive dimple appears on either side of his lips. He’s still smiling when he turns his face back to Hank, expression disarmingly affectionate.

“I’ll take your suggestion into consideration,” he says, eyes twinkling.

Hank is speechless.

Connor blinks. “Hank?” he presses.

“Shit,” Hank says, caught like a deer in the headlights, “you’re really fuckin’ handsome when you smile.”

Connor’s eyes widen slightly. “Oh,” he says, looking like he doesn’t know what to say. “I – thank you?”

Hank’s collar suddenly feels way too tight, his throat too dry, and his clothes too warm and prickly. He doesn’t dare to move an inch, still half-surprised at the way he just blurted that out without thinking.

“Huh,” says Connor. “It feels different when it’s directed at me.”

“Does it,” Hank half-chokes, shifting his legs a little awkwardly on the bench.

Connor leans towards him, and places his hand on Hank’s knee. It flares up briefly with heat, warming Hank through his jeans, and Connor’s fingers draw a circle over the curve of his kneecap.

It sends a shiver up his spine.

“I think you are very handsome, too,” Connor says primly, and his face is too close.

Hank gulps, trying not to get overwhelmed by the number of freckles and birthmarks he can count with Connor’s face so close to his own. There’s one near Connor’s lower lip that’s been dying – aching – to kiss.

Connor squeezes his hand over Hank’s knee. “Let’s go home,” he murmurs, before rising from the bench.

The loss of warmth is noticeable, and Hank has to gather himself together before he’s able to stand up and join Connor.

They walk back towards the car in companionable silence, Hank stumbling awkwardly next to Connor; especially when their fingers brush and Hank swears he feels a little shock jump between the two of them.

From the way Connor smiles a little secretively next to him, he’s right.

“If you ever change your mind,” Hank manages as they both get into the car, “you could always borrow one of my t-shirts.”

Connor snickers, fucking again, and nods. “I’ll keep that in mind. Thanks, Hank.”

I am going to die, Hank thinks. I’m going to fucking die if he keeps this up.

“Is dancing commonplace at metal concerts? Do you think I should download a few subroutines?” Connor asks then, looking thoughtful.

Hank stops the car, plonks his head on the leather rim of the steering wheel, and sighs.

This is going to be a long, long night.

 


 

“You don’t seem to be wearing one of the band t-shirts you mentioned yesterday.”

Hank grumbles a bit, scanning his ticket and walking through the gate of the concert venue. “You noticed that right, smartass,” he mutters.

The gate identifies him as a police officer and locates the badge on his person, allowing him through. The metal in the badge always manages to set off any security gates, so Hank is glad that he’s being identified correctly.

He looks back at Connor, who holds up his own ticket in front of the scanner.

With a soft beep, the security gate pops up the indicator for an android, but Hank’s heart swells a little when it’s closely followed by the DPD logo. And the blink of Connor’s badge.

“C’mon,” he says. “Let’s see if we can still get close to the stage.”

“You didn’t answer my question,” Connor presses, following closely behind.

Hank grins at him. “Didn’t think it was one.”

When Connor merely raises an eyebrow, Hank instantly relents.

“Alright, alright,” he says as they step into the music hall, “it’s ‘cause they didn’t fit anymore, okay? It’s been twenty fucking years since I ever wore them.”

Connor simply smiles. “Well,” he says off-handedly, “you could always buy a new one.”

Hank blinks; he hadn’t expected that reaction. He lets his eyes roam over the stand with band merchandise – hoodies, t-shirts, mugs, vintage records, and shrugs. “Might be nice to get a souvenir,” he says slowly.

Connor does that thing he does very often – turns on his heel instantly, walks away, and then he’s standing in front of the band merchandise and gestures to the woman behind it.

“For fuck’s sake,” Hank splutters, pushing through a few fans to get to Connor. “I said I might want to get a souvenir, not – ”

Connor offers him a simple smile, and points towards the t-shirts. “I wanted one,” he says by way of explanation, and the woman behind the stand just smiles and picks out two without question.

Hank looks at her a little more closely – and then he realizes that she’s an android. One of the type that he’s seen often sitting at a reception desk, including the DPD before the revolution. But this woman has partially shaved pastel-colored hair and dark make-up, looks genuinely pleased to be there, and she smiles at Connor when she packs up his order.

Connor smiles back, and Hank notices both of their LEDs flare yellow before she bags the t-shirts and puts them underneath the stand.

“Right,” Hank says, “android telepathy.”

Connor and the woman share a look that says they’re in on some sort of secret, and then Connor steps away to jostle his elbow against Hank’s.

“Well,” he says, inclining his head towards the gathering crowd, “shall we?”

They zigzag through all the Knights of the Black Death fans, and Hank is somehow pleased to see that it’s not all hilariously old pricks. There’s young people meandering through the crowds, too, tattoos on their arms and beer in their hands.

Rebels, punks, long hair, shaved heads – this was Hank’s crowd, once.

And there’s androids, too, blending in easily in all that gorgeous variety of visitors and fans. Not all of them still have their LEDs, but Hank can tell who’s an android by Connor’s reaction, mostly. The corners of his lips tilt up slightly whenever they pass one.

Hank likes it, too.

What’s more devastatingly human and messy than a fuckin’ concert?

“You don’t need earplugs, right?” Hank checks when they’ve found a spot relatively near the stage, somewhere in the middle.

Connor shakes his head. “No. I can lower the sensitivity of my audio receptors. I’ll calibrate them to your voice so we’ll still be able to talk comfortably.”

“Mighty nice of you,” Hank grins, digging into his pockets. His own earplugs clunk against his fingers, but then he finds what he’s looking for.

Connor carefully watches the activity on the stage: sound technicians doing their final check-ups, and other people in the running crew ensuring that all the instruments are there in the right set-up. He seems easy and relaxed, LED occasionally switching to yellow when he’s analyzing a lot of different things at once. He does stay closer to Hank than usual, though.

It’s a lot of new sensory input around them, and Hank’s noticed that Connor isn’t too fond of crowds.

He smiles unconsciously, putting the hair tie on his wrist and drawing his arms back.

We’ll be okay, he thinks.

“The Knights of the Black Death don’t have a supporting act, right?” Connor asks, eyes still on the stage.

“Nope,” Hank answers, tying his hair back. He doesn’t bother pulling it all the way through the hair tie, leaving it in a messy bun at the back of his head.

At least that’ll leave his neck free of that delirious thousands-of-people-in-one-room-jumping-and-screaming type of sweaty heat. Thank god it’s February.

“I thought that was customary,” Connor says, turning back to face Hank.

Hank shrugs. “I doubt a heavy metal band cares much for conventional rules,” he says. “Besides, the band members already have a platform going for upcoming rookies. Maybe they wanted their reunion tour to focus just on them.”

Connor’s eyes widen slightly when Hank blows a stray strand of hair out of his face and pushes it back behind his ear.

“What?” he asks, half-expecting Connor to still be enamored with the logistics of running a concert.

“I haven’t seen you with your hair like this,” Connor murmurs, and he takes a step closer.

“You haven’t?” Hank croaks. “Ah, right. It’s still winter.” He pauses, trying to find his voice. “I sometimes wear it like this in summer, when the weather gets…”

Connor leans in, hand trailing up over the shoulder of Hank’s leather jacket until he rests his hand on the back of Hank’s neck.

“… hot,” Hank finishes.

Connor’s thumb brushes the side of his throat while his fingers draw a circle on the skin of Hank’s neck. A sparkle of coolness shoots over Hank’s hammering pulse through the pad of Connor’s thumb, and his partner smiles. His eyes are a little hooded, and then he’s drawing back and patting Hank’s shoulder.

“If you need help cooling off, let me know,” he says, and winks.

Hank swallows. Jesus christ.

“Somehow I think that it’d have the opposite effect,” he grumbles, turning his own gaze back to the stage again.

The lights shut off promptly, and the crowd starts cheering.

“Well,” Connor says into his ear, hand leaning on his back, “at least you’d already have your hair up.”

Hank doesn’t know what to say to that at all, but band members are starting to walk onto the darkened stage so he fishes his earplugs out of his pocket with one hand and places his other on the small of Connor’s back.

“Just shut up and enjoy the show,” he whispers.

Connor’s lips twitch up into an amused smile, and he leans back into the press of Hank’s hand. His shoulder bumps Hank’s, and it stays there.

God, Hank could really kiss him right now.

And then the first screeching of a shredding guitar blasts through the speakers, and Hank forgets himself for a moment. It’s an instant transportation back to his twenties, and fuck if the Knights aren’t still ruling the stage.

More wrinkles, more lines in their faces from doing drugs, but the drummer is still throwing out sick beats and the singer can still scream with a sound just as raw as all those decades ago. And god, they’re active – all over the stage, jumping up and down and trying to entice the crowd.

Hank feels his face light up in a grin. “Yeah!” he laughs, pumping his fist into the air.

The band hits their first chorus, and the crowd starts screaming and jumping. Whistling and losing themselves in the sound.

“Fuck!” Hank yells, looking at Connor. “Shit, I feel young.”

Connor just regards at him with amusement in the corners of both his mouth and eyes, one hand resting lightly on his hip. He still looks a little out of place – he doesn’t move to the beat, and he’s wearing neat trousers and a white button-up shirt.

The noise starts getting a little deafening, and Hank dares a few jumps alongside the people around him. Suddenly the ache in his knees doesn’t matter anymore. He’ll take stiff joints in the morning over missing out on this.

This fuckin’ energy, Hank thinks, what a release.

Gone is the aftermath of an emotionally trying case, and gone is the dread pressing down on his stomach about what he feels whenever he looks at Connor. He puts his hand up again, making the sign of the horns, and bangs his head to the beat with a grin.

“Do you like it?” he half-screams at Connor.

“It’s much more synchronized than I expected,” Connor says, leaning in so he can speak more closely to Hank’s ear. “On the surface, it looks like a chaotic mess, but…”

Hank grins even wider. “All moving to the same beat, huh? You figured it out?”

Connor gives him a small grin of his own. “Yeah,” he says, “it appears that they do.”

“What about you?” Hank challenges, and he slides his hand over to the small of Connor’s back again. “You’re not moving. Come on.”

Something in Connor’s expression is suddenly a little hesitant. “This was never part of my programming,” he says, the words carefully chosen.

“Neither was hangin’ around with me,” Hank laughs. “Come on, Connor.” He pauses, ruffing his partner’s hair. “Live a little.”

Connor smiles, but it’s still a little self-consciously, and his arm slides under Hank’s jacket to wrap around his middle. “I don’t know what to do,” he admits.

Hank rolls shoulders in a shrug, and the movement pulls Connor closer to his side. “Doesn’t matter,” he says, “just do you.”

After that, they both lose themselves in the music for a while.

Hank finds himself absolutely psyched to hear the Knights’ old hit songs, and whenever a new one comes along that he doesn’t recognize, Connor lists the album it was released on and some of the song lyrics.

Connor looks fascinated by everything going around him, turning his head to take in his surroundings constantly. His face is openly expressive, alternating between wonder and curiosity and puzzlement.

He still doesn’t move very overtly, but once they’re moving closer to the break in the set, Hank catches him slightly bopping his head. His fingers are tapping Hank’s hip to the beat; Hank can feel it keenly from where Connor’s still got his arm wrapped around him.

Hank’s never really thought of Connor as a tactile person – rather someone with a weird oral fixation who will stick absolutely anything into his mouth – but gods, now that Connor seems to realize that Hank’s okay with it?

He’s touching him all the time.

When Hank jumps with the crowd, he can feel the flutter of Connor’s fingers at the edge of his jacket. If he half-bellows, half-screams along with the lyrics, there’s the bump of Connor’s shoulder against his own.

And whenever he makes an unexpected joke and Connor does that absolutely heart-stopping laughter of his again, he turns his face to hide it against Hank’s shoulder and his hand briefly wraps around Hank’s.

Suddenly, Hank isn’t afraid to admit it anymore.

Here he is, standing at a concert with and for old farts, mostly. Trying to ignore the fact that his back is already starting to hurt and that his throat is going raw with all the screaming. Arm curled around a body heavier, stronger, and more resilient than his own.

Connor looks up, eyes still warm with mirth.

Fuck, Hank thinks, I’m in love with him.

He doesn’t say it – he can’t, not yet. It’s neither the time nor the place, and he isn’t sure if he could just throw all of his doubts out of the window and admit it to Connor in some brazen blaze of glory.

After all, he’s guarded his own heart closely. One person to ever walk in after he lost Cole was – well, Sumo. And, bless the big lumbering idiot’s soul, that’s a dog, not a person.

Finally, there’s a break in the set.

Connor and Hank wind their way through the crowd to the bar and Hank gets a bottle of water alongside his beer. The pleased, tiny nod from Connor is worth it.

They end up chatting with a few fans along the way – an older couple who think it’s very cute that Hank has brought Connor along to introduce him to the Knights, and they don’t appear to pick up on the fact that Connor is an android at all.

It’s hilarious and leads to many knowing looks passing between Hank and Connor.

The lady has a number of fantastically graphic tattoos, sleeving up both of her arms, and Connor is fascinated by them. She’s flattered, of course, and sheds her jacket to show him the wings on her shoulders.

When they slowly meander back to their old spot near the stage, Hank smiles.

“Hey,” he says, “I got tattoos too, y’know. If you find ‘em that interesting.”

“That wasn’t in your file, Lieutenant,” Connor quips dryly, but Hank sees his gaze drift down over the length of his body, lingering on spots that are apparently common to have tattoos on. Hank’s sure that Connor’s got that all mapped out, statistically.

Hank shoots him a cocky grin. “’Cause it’s none of the DPD’s goddamn business, that’s why. Could be yours, though.”

He’s not sure if it’s the energy at the concert that’s giving him the courage, the fact that he feels a little young again, or the blinding realization that he’s in love with Connor.

Connor blinks. “What do you mean?”

“My tattoos, smartass,” he grins, and then he drags the collar of his t-shirt down.

His grey chest hair doesn’t yet hide the slightly faded set of black-inked winks peeking out of the collar, and Connor’s gaze lingers over them.

“See?” Hank says, suddenly feeling prideful. “I got wings, too.”

Connor opens his mouth to say something, then stops, and then starts again. “I’d like to examine that in more detail later, if you don’t mind,” he says casually and one of his hands comes up to rest on Hank’s ribs.

It betrays his true meaning.

“I think I’d like that,” Hank says, nerves racing through his body, and he looks at Connor’s mouth.

Connor seems a little surprised by his answer, but then a smooth smile curves over his lips. “I’m glad to hear it,” he says slowly, “Hank.”

The music starts again, cheers of the crowd around them growing to a crescendo, but Hank keeps staring at Connor. Cups his face in one palm almost without thinking, fingers smoothing over his cheek.

“Happy we booked the tickets?” Connor asks, chin tilted up towards him.

“Yeah,” Hank answers, voice hoarse, and dares to touch his thumb to the corner of Connor’s mouth. “I don’t think I’ve been this happy in a long time.”

Something fond passes over Connor’s face. “Good,” he says softly. “I haven’t had much to compare to, but – yeah.” He smiles. “I enjoy being here, with you.”

They turn back towards the stage almost simultaneously, and Connor’s hand stays on Hank’s hip. Hank responds in kind by wrapping his arm around Connor’s shoulders, drawing him closer.

Fucking hell, he thinks, shaking his head at himself. Young again, huh?

Connor’s gone back to watching the Knights, head moving slightly to the beat, and the stage’s excessive, flashy lights reflect in his brown eyes.

It makes Hank smile.

The second half of the set passes more quietly – less so for the crowd and the band, who still amp it up like crazy, but more so for Hank and Connor. They stay in each other’s orbit like a pair of lovesick teenagers, and Hank’s stomach keeps doing backflips every time Connor moves.

Temple against his shoulder, fingers in the crook of his elbow, thumb over the waistband of his jeans.

But now he responds actively, and he loves feeling Connor melt into the touch; Hank’s fingers sinking into the short hairs at the back of his neck, Hank’s palm pressed between his shoulder blades, Hank’s hip bumping against Connor’s.

Then, a few songs before the encore, the Knights start playing one of their more famous, teary-eyed ballads. Well, as ballad-y as it gets with a heavy metal band.

People start holding up phones, touchpads, and lighters. Wrapping arms around each other’s shoulders, swaying to the tunes of the guitars and bass on stage.

And then Hank catches it – Connor’s LED switching from blue to yellow and even to red when he looks to the side. Hank follows his gaze.

It’s the older couple they spoke to before, when they went off for drinks.

Their heads are pressed together, and she’s got her arms wrapped around him tight. He kisses her ear and they sway together, completely entwined. Lost in each other as they are in the song.

Connor’s expression turns longing, and Hank’s heart aches.

Fuck me and my sappy ass, he thinks before taking action.

He gently takes ahold of Connor’s shoulders and steps behind him, feeling his partner jostle slightly at the sudden change. Connor doesn’t say anything but looks back at him, brown eyes catching Hank’s own.

“Don’t move,” he says into Connor’s ear, and then he drapes one arm over Connor’s shoulder. The other he uses to draw him closer, hand resting on Connor’s hip, wrapping around him from behind.

“If you wanna do shit like this, you just gotta ask,” Hank says, cheeks flushing, and it comes out a little gruffier than he’d intended.

Connor turns his face to the side. “I didn’t know whether you’d say yes,” he says, voice quiet.

“I can’t fucking say no to you,” Hank answers, and his lips brush Connor’s cheek.

Connor grasps at the back of Hank’s hand at that, shifting on the balls of his feet and going off balance against Hank’s body.

“Hank,” Connor says, sounding weirdly breathy for an android, “don’t – just hold onto me, okay?”

Hank blinks. “What’s going on?”

Connor sways a little further into him. “I’m getting some errors,” he says with difficulty, voice a little slower than usual. “It’s – it’s a little overwhelming.”

His lashes flutter, and he makes a small noise in his throat, visibly trying to gather himself together. “Just a few irregularities. It should clear up soon.”

“I’m right here,” Hank says softly, trying to reassure Connor. “I got you.”

He nuzzles Connor’s nape, which is immediately followed by a moan – quiet but still audible.

Connor shudders, and completely melts back into the touch. Presses his back tightly against Hank’s front, trembling hands scrambling for a foothold against Hank’s shirt.

“Do that again,” Connor says, and it’s pleading.

Hank frowns, and stares at the soft synthetic skin of Connor’s neck peeking out from the white collar of his shirt. This is new, entirely new – Connor vulnerable and somehow wanting, and fuck himself for not knowing more about how androids work.

What makes it click for them, what gives them pleasure.

“Here?” Hank asks, rubbing his nose over the knob of Connor’s spine.

He brings up his other hand to draw a slow circle over the back of Connor’s neck, and Connor instantly arches back into him. One hand reaches up to grasp at Hank’s own neck, just beneath his messy bun.

“I’m thinking that’s a yes,” Hank murmurs, kissing the side of Connor’s throat.

Connor moans, half-muffled against his own palm.

The sound sends a sharp stab of pleasure through Hank’s core, settling low in his gut.

A few lines appear in Connor’s skin on the back of his neck, marking the edge of a plate; it’s very subtle and visible only to Hank, who’s standing so close he can taste them. And so he does – wrapping one arm a little tighter around Connor’s waist to steady him, Hank follows the line on the left with his tongue.

The line sizzles slightly.

Electric.

“Hank,” Connor manages, hips circling back against Hank’s, “don’t stop.”

His fingers dig into Hank’s skin almost painfully, obviously involuntary.

Hank spares a quick look around them – the ballad is still going, and most people are too psyched, stoned, or drunk to notice that anything’s going on. But they’re still in the middle of a concert, relatively upfront, and if Connor loses control of all his limbs Hank is certain he won’t be able to lift him and drag him back to somewhere private.

“Do you wanna,” he says, breath heavy, “go and continue this elsewhere? At home?”

Connor twists around to look Hank in the eye; his own are dark, hooded, and his mouth is open just a tad. The inside of his lips shines wetly with non-blue Thirium, or whatever it is that Connor has in his mouth.

And suddenly Hank is fucking dying to find out what it is and how it tastes.

“I,” Connor says, “I don’t know. I just – want.”

He looks surprised at it himself.

“Or the car,” Hank says, throat dry, “anywhere but here. Jesus, let’s just go somewhere where we can…”

Connor runs his fingers across Hank’s cheek.

“I want to kiss you,” he says, just as the crowd around them erupts into loud cheering and clapping. There’s longing and wonder and affection in his eyes, and Hank won’t forget this moment anytime soon.

“Okay,” Hank says decidedly, “we’re gettin’ out of here. How’s the errors? Can you walk?”

Connor blinks. “Ah,” he says. “Yeah, I think I can.”

Hank grabs him by the wrist and brusquely bumps his way out of the crowd, dragging Connor along. People seem all too happy to make room for them, filling the empty spaces while eagerly stretching their necks to catch more of the band’s performance.

“Hank,” Connor says, “Hank, you’ll miss the rest of the concert.”

Fuck the concert,” Hank answers, rounding the corner towards the corridor that leads to the exit. He looks back at Connor, whose face is halfway between a frown and honest surprise. “I don’t wanna miss a fucking second of you.”

Connor looks stunned, eyes widening slightly, but then he nods.

Hank hasn’t misused his badge in years, but he’s too high on the possibility of kissing Connor senseless.

“Emergency,” he says to the security employee at the entrance, holding up his badge while Connor follows suit, “we need to get to our car right fucking now.”

The woman blinks at them in surprise but she lets them pass as soon as she sees their badges, flashing her own card key over the employee exit. It leads straight to the garage, and they’re quick to find Hank’s car amongst the others.

When Hank kicks the ignition, he throws a roguish smirk at Connor. “Shit, Connor,” he says, “I can’t remember the last time I did this. I don’t think I ever did.”

Connor tugs at his collar, and flicks the first button open. It exposes the hollow of his throat. “It appears,” he says, grinning back, “that we’re having a lot of first times today.”

Hank laughs, and floors it.

Once they’re on the road, Connor places his hand over Hank’s on the gear shift, and smiles at him with a warm look in his eyes.

“Thank you,” he says.

“For what?” Hank shoots back, surprise coloring his voice.

Connor looks shy. “For not being afraid of the differences between us.”

That one electric line beneath his skin flares blue, and Hank splutters a cough when he turns a corner. They’re almost home.

The rest of the ride is quiet, and Hank fingers stumble with the keys when they’re finally at the house. Sumo pads over lazily once they enter, and they both pat his head. He walks off after a little while, his nap disturbed by his two owners almost nervously stumbling into their home, and that leaves Hank and Connor alone in the corridor.

“How do you,” Hank starts, “how do you wanna do this?”

It’s dark, and the only source of light is the steady blue of Connor’s LED, illuminating his face.

He looks up at Hank, slowly advancing, and then he grabs him by the collar and presses him against the wall with this super-human strength. Hank gulps, hitting the wall with an audible thump, and it knocks the breath slightly out of him.

Jesus, he thinks, heartbeat accelerating.

Connor’s gaze drops down to his mouth, and his LED flashes a deep red. “I want to taste you,” he murmurs.

“All yours,” chokes Hank.

Connor leans in, and his tongue darts out to flick over Hank’s lips. He keeps his eyes open, roving over Hank’s face as he does so, and then his tongue grows bolder. He cups Hank’s face in his hands, pressing so close that Hank automatically spreads his legs to allow him more space.

He doesn’t kiss like a human would – he just dips his tongue between Hank’s lips, flicking it against Hank’s tongue and teeth lightly, as if he’s taking taste by little taste.

It’s light, it’s teasing, and it’s driving him insane.

“Connor,” Hank groans, hands slowly settling over Connor’s hips, “fuck, please. C’mon.”

Connor cards one hand through Hank’s hair, carefully pulling it loose from his hair tie. “You’re enjoying it,” he says slowly, almost wonderous, before pressing his open mouth against Hank’s again.

He doesn’t close his lips but just laps at him, eyes half-lidded.

“Of course I’m enjoying it, you evidence-eating ass,” Hank answers, voice breaking when Connor cants his hips into him, right against his slowly hardening cock.

Connor smiles, and this time he kisses Hank harder, deeper, tongue flicking against the roof of his mouth. Hank curls his hand around the back of Connor’s neck, thumb pressing against the edge of that plate, and seals his mouth over Connor’s.

Again, he feels the android shudder, shoulders hunching up, and he sags against him in response. Connor still has one hand twisted in his collar, and Hank can hear the seams stretch in the grip of the android’s fist.

The taste of him, it’s – light, subtle, and the texture of his saliva rougher, thicker.

Hank wants to drown in it.

He presses his fingers a little harder against the plate in Connor’s neck, and it’s mesmerizing to see the lenses of Connor’s eyes contract and then expand significantly. Connor breaks the kiss, fingers trembling in Hank’s hair, and Hank very carefully tilts Connor’s head to the side.

Looks at him before leaning in and pressing his lips to his throat.

Connor stumbles, and the noise that falls from his mouth is a shaky, desperate moan.

Hank sucks softly at the base of Connor’s throat, scratching blunt fingernails over the blue line on the back of Connor’s neck. More of those lines are appearing; sleek little edges indicating the plating around Connor’s throat and neck. Two on either side of his spine, and two on either side of his adam’s apple.

Hank whistles softly. “Fuckin’ hell,” he says, running his finger over one of them.

“Hank,” Connor says, voice breaking.

Hank looks up. “Are all of these so…”

He blows a puff of air against the one near his mouth, curving beautifully over the front of Connor’s throat.

The leather of his jacket protests further in Connor’s grip, and Connor is shaking, LED still red. “They appear to be very sensitive,” he says, and Hank admires him for how put-together he manages to sound.

“We can stop at any time,” he says, curving one arm around Connor’s back to rub at the base of his spine. “This is new and it’s exciting but fuck, I ain’t gonna rush you.”

Connor finally releases his death-grip on Hank’s jacket, and runs his fingers over Hank’s bearded jaw. “I feel so,” he starts, “as if – as if all the wires in my body are pulled taut.”

He dips his face to his chest, shoulders shaking.

Hank swallows. “Want me to try and take the edge off? With these?”

When he runs his finger over one of the faintly glowing blue lines again, Connor throws his head back and makes a hazy, wanting noise. “Yeah,” he says firmly. “Hank.”

Hank leans in again, kissing the edge at one side of Connor’s throat, and digs his fingers and thumb into the two lines at his partner’s neck. The lines feel smooth and buzzing under his tongue; he peppers open-mouthed kisses over them, tonguing the sides.

Connor’s head drops to his shoulder, and the noises he’s making are growing louder.

He has one hand pressed against the wall, fingers clenching and unclenching, and Hank finds it weirdly hot to realize that Connor might actually punch through it when he comes.

Hank rasps his beard over one side, following the line up to Connor’s ear; he slowly drags his other hand up over the curve of Connor’s back until it’s resting between his shoulder blades.

“Don’t stop,” Connor says, his speech slurring.

Hank presses his palm a little harder between Connor’s shoulder blades – because holy shit, he can see how far those lines actually go. The light they’re emitting is bleeding through the stark white of Connor’s button-up, and he’s looking like a fucking work of art lighting up the dark hallway.

He’s sucking at Connor’s jaw, thumb circling over the back of his neck, until Hank hears an alarming click followed by a slight whoosh.

He freezes momentarily, feeling something open up at the back of Connor’s neck.

“Uh, Connor,” he says, “there’s, uh, there’s a panel of some sort – ”

“It feels good,” Connor murmurs against Hank’s shoulder, “Hank, please.”

Hank hesitates, shifting so he can see the inside of it. Cables looking like tendons, tiny lights flickering on and off, and wires. Some of it covered in soft, blue silicone.

Very carefully, he lets his thumb slide inside of the panel and presses it against the silicone covering one of the larger cables. On the left side of his head, the plaster of the wall cracks beneath Connor’s palm.

“Tell me when it’s too much,” Hank whispers.

Connor nods once against his shoulder.

Hank has no idea what the fuck he’s doing but shit, as long as Connor keeps making those sounds, he’s going to continue. He sneaks a few fingers into the panel alongside his thumb, gliding carefully over various wires and connectors.

He finds that silicone with his finger again, rubbing the tip against it, and Connor groans loudly.

“C’mere,” Hank says, nudging his chin against Connor’s, “come on, tilt your face up and let me kiss you.”

The way Connor falls against him is desperate and stuttering.

It’s a messy sort of kiss, all lips and teeth and tongue – but then Hank manages to catch Connor’s bottom lip between his own, biting it gently while he twists his finger against soft silicone and presses his other hand deeply into one of the lines on Connor’s back.

“Hank,” Connor says, static leaking in, “Hank, I’m – it’s – ”

Hank moves his mouth back to Connor’s throat where his pulse would be; but now there’s dazzling blue and Hank wants, scraping his teeth over the edge of that plate and biting at the base.

The finger he’s pressing into the silicone at Connor’s neck is sinking in deeper, and it’s starting to feel wet.

He’s not sure if that’s dangerous or completely fine but Connor is grinding against him, one hand still pressed against the wall and the other holding onto Hank’s hip.

It’s like the silicone is grasping, tugging at Hank’s fingers. When he pulls them out, it makes Connor moan so brokenly that he almost sticks them back in again. The tips come away sticky with blue Thirium.

Connor tilts up his head, hair tousled and curling into his eyes. “Oh,” he says when he sees it, blinking.

Hank’s eyes flicker from his fingers to Connor’s mouth.

Connor suddenly grasps his wrist. “Yes,” he says, “yes, please.”

Hank slides his other hand from Connor’s back to his front, curling around his jaw, and presses his Thirium-glazed fingers into Connor’s mouth.

The noise that Connor makes around them is enough to make Hank dizzy with desire.

Hank runs his nails over the blue stripes over Connor’s throat with one hand, and presses the tips of the fingers of his other hand against Connor’s curling tongue.

“Jesus, Connor,” Hank groans, grinding back against Connor’s thigh.

Connor is whimpering at this point, pressing himself up at Hank to lick and suck at his fingers, and the hand he had on Hank’s hipbone is crawling up under the edge of Hank’s t-shirt. Over his belly and higher still, until it’s resting over Hank’s heart.

Hank feels Connor swallow, throat working underneath his palm, licking his fingers clean of Thirium. His eyes are open, gaze completely focused on Hank, who bites his lip at the sight.

“So fucking beautiful,” he murmurs, “shit. Are you gonna – ”

He presses his fingers a little harder into Connor’s mouth, feeling his spit gather around them. At the pressure, Connor’s LED starts flashing, and Connor sucks so eagerly it looks like he’s ready to choke himself on Hank’s fingers. His own are digging into the wall, and it cracks a little further.

“You’re gonna come, aren’t you,” Hank says in wonder. “Jesus, Connor, just from my fingers.”

Connor nods, sucks a little harder, and then there’s a crackle of static energy. Hank swears he sees it flare through Connor’s circuits, a little flash of lighting over all those gorgeous blue lines.

He tears himself off of Hank’s fingers, and brokenly moans his name on a long, hard cry.

His head tips forward again, face rubbing against Hank’s shoulder, and the hand over his heart twitches faintly. “Hank,” he repeats, softer, “Hank.”

“Fuck,” says Hank, because he can’t find the proper word to describe the experience.

He wraps both his arms around Connor’s trembling form, hugging him tight. Absorbing the little shakes and twitches into the embrace. Because for all their differences, it seems that androids also go a little hazy post-orgasm like humans do.

Hank reaches around, flicking his fingers against the open plate on Connor’s neck awkwardly. The panel closes with a soft click, and Connor rolls his shoulders into it.

“You okay?” he asks, gently nudging Connor’s side. “Connor?”

Connor looks up – no flush on his cheeks, not even out of breath, not panting. But god if he doesn’t look wrecked; a tinge of blue coating the inside of his lips, eyes still only half-lidded, and his hair just the right side of messy.

He nods slowly, and digs his fingers into the crooks of both of Hank’s elbows. “Yeah,” he says, licking his lips, “yeah, I’m okay.”

“Thank god,” Hank murmurs, and he slowly sinks down to the floor, taking Connor along. “Jesus christ, Connor. That was something, alright.”

Connor smiles dreamily, half-lounging in Hank’s lap. “I’ll have to,” he starts, “run some diagnostics and recalibrate. There’s so much out of order.”

“That’s okay,” Hank says instantly, rubbing at Connor’s back. “I got you. Take your time.”

Connor shakily presses a finger to his temple, and his LED circles from red back to light yellow. “Thank you,” he says, voice still a little off, “for that experience.”

Hank manages a grin. “My pleasure,” he jokes, and Connor lets out a half-smothered laugh.

And that’s how Hank ends up on the floor of his hallway halfway through the night – a shivering android in his lap running calibrations, the biggest hard-on he’s ever had in his life tenting his jeans, and the plaster of his wall slowly flaking off.

Absentmindedly, he pets at Connor’s slightly tough hair, twirling the strands around his fingers. And he can’t stop the goofy grin that makes its way to his lips.

Fucking finally, he thinks, looking down at Connor. And so fucking worth it.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 6

In which Hank cries over pancakes, Connor activates his flirt mode, and the bathroom at the DPD station gets used thoroughly.

 

February 2039

 

No matter what happened the night before, morning afters always tend to be difficult.

Barring shit like walks of shame, gathering your underwear and booking it the fuck out of there, or realizing that you’re laying half-drunk, half-naked in a pool of your own drool and other questionable bodily fluids – even if the night was great and you’re sweet on the person you fucked around with, it’s still weird.

It’s a loss of routine; it’s waking up and having something you didn’t have before.

Carefully connecting the dots, weighing the pros and cons: should you go up and make breakfast, snuggle under the blankets, press a kiss to someone’s face? Should you go for another round or offer them a ride home?

Exchange phone numbers, ask for the next date, compliment them on their skills?

It’s always a lesson in interpreting behavior.

Hank has never been in the situation where he’s neck-fucked an android he’s in love with and who also happens to be his partner at the force. And who lives at his own house, no less.

So when he wakes up, discerning by the sunrays hitting his face that it’s late and Connor let him sleep in, the first thing that happens is nervousness. Tension seeping into the lines of his body, turning them tight, and that slight anxiety at the edge of his stomach.

He rolls over.

The bed’s empty, and the alarm clock indicates 10:24 AM.

“Fuck,” Hank says, voice scratchy.

He gets up sluggishly, feeling his joints ache dully with the exertion from last night – as much as he’d like to brag it’s because he and Connor had a round of rather intriguing android sex, it’s mostly because of the concert. Especially the jumping up and down part.

But hey, small sacrifices.

When he walks into the hallway barefoot in his boxers and t-shirt, his eye is immediately drawn to the cracked circle of plaster near the front door.

That sends a visceral spike of want through his veins as he remembers – not the neat little stories you store away in your brain to remind yourself of what happened. No, the primal feelings of it: how he strongly he hit that thin little wall, how Connor’s hand twisted in the creaking leather of his jacket, and the maddening slow grind of a thigh sliding between his own.

A hot mouth dipping down to taste his own, again and again.

Hank groans. It’s enough to send him half-mast.

Muttering a string of curses, he makes his way to the living room.

No Sumo, no Connor, but fresh orange juice on the counter. And something of a sweet scent wafting through the kitchen – Hank turns, finding a plate covering another on the table. He carefully lifts it, realizing it’s meant to keep whatever’s lying on the bottom plate warm.

He blinks.

It’s a small stack of creamy, perfectly round pancakes, with two thin slices of oranges on top.

Hank freezes.

He always thought morning afters were weird and awkward. He was fully prepared to face that reality as soon as he woke up; to go back to normal, or to go back to nothing, or maybe to something more.

To talk to Connor about it or not at all. To bite his tongue and keep the memories of last night somewhere dark and deep where they only resurface whenever he’s in the shower with his hand on his dick.

But he’d never expected this.

His hand is shaking as he puts the plate down, and Hank feels brittle. Like he’s crumbling.

They look fucking perfect.

Nobody’s ever done anything like this for him. Not – not in this context. Not as a reassurance, not in this deep level of caring that says: I might not be here right now but I care, and I remember.

And not just caring about the fact that Hank eats or his general good health. Not just as a ‘thank you’ or something to make him feel better because he’s feeling down. A message would’ve sufficed. Anything else would’ve sufficed.

But someone went through all that trouble to do something warm and meaningful for him just because they could.

Because they thought he was worth it.

Connor thought he was worth it.

Hank realizes there’s tears dripping down his cheeks.

“Fuck,” he says, shame instantly draping over him like a comforting cloak, and he presses his palms to the corners of his eyes. But the tears keep coming for a while, quiet and cascading, and then he realizes that morning afters don’t have to be weird at all.

They can be really fucking wholesome when you have sex with someone who cares.

He’s just not used to that.

“God,” he sniffles, wiping his eyes on his arm. “Jesus christ.”

It takes him five more minutes to recollect himself enough to actually consider eating the pancakes.

Armed with a fork, knife, and a jar of blueberry jam which he didn’t even know they had, Hank sits down.

And eats.

His heartbeat slows down into something calming, as does his breath. It helps that the pancakes taste as fucking delicious as they look, and he hasn’t had them in years. It helps that his house looks lived in but cozy; no more stacks of trash bags, no more takeaway boxes strewn about.

Curtains drawn open. New toys for Sumo near the big dog’s sleeping cushion.

And not all of it is Connor; Hank bought the toys, feeling energized enough after a long day of work to take the detour past the pet shop. Hank was the one who rearranged the jazz records and hung the picture of Cole on the wall.

Hank put up the calendar and marked his colleagues’ birthdays. And though Connor didn’t understand why – our online calendars from our DPD accounts can synchronize with our personal ones too, Lieutenant – he’d added little markings of his own.

A day for Markus; one for North, Josh, and Simon. One for the day of the revolution. And one for someone named Kara – Hank knows that they sometimes write. Or whatever weird android telepathy-thing they can do between the US and Canada.

The thing is –

Hank sighs, taking another bite.

Maybe he still can’t believe it. Maybe he still can’t think it and feel like it’s true. That he’s worthy of anything in particular. Others? Sure.

Hank himself? Nah.

But he’s not stupid enough to look around his living room and not being able to see that something’s changed that’s not just Connor. There’s still darkness and things he keeps hidden, and he’s sure that they’ll rear their ugly heads one day. You don’t fix a fifty-something year old guy with alcohol problems, bad habits, and a depressed mood overnight.

He looks down at his empty plate.

But maybe this is where it starts.

 


 

When Connor and Sumo come home, Hank is on the couch in his favorite hoodie watching a Gears game from last week that he didn’t manage to catch live. Mostly because Connor and he were busy dealing with that awful fucking case.

He’s a little distracted because he’s also trying to find more information on his phone about having sex with androids, but it’s been proving a fucking task to slog through the heaps of sex bots advertisements and manuals that are still – well, everywhere, unfortunately.

Sumo instantly waggles over to Hank and woofs softly, placing his big head on Hank’s knee.

“Hey, buddy,” Hank tuts, “hey there, good ol’ boy. What’s up, huh? What’s up?”

He rubs Sumo behind the ears, pressing his forehead briefly against the dog’s own. Sumo licks at his cheeks, tail wagging, and he’s starting to lean his full weight against Hank’s legs in own, typical way of showing affection.

“God,” Hank laughs, “I swear you’re still getting bigger every day.”

Connor walks in, smiling faintly.

Hank looks up, and smiles back. “Hey,” he says, not ashamed of the warmth in his voice. “It’s good to have you back home again. Thanks for the, uh…” He jerks his thumb towards the kitchen table.

“The pancakes?” Connor asks, loosening the knot of his tie while he walks over to the armchair opposite the couch.

It’s the same one he did his little stand-by sleep in that night Hank had that confusing fucking nightmare. Another one of those weirdly human things; without ever discussing or agreeing it, Hank knows that they both consider that chair Connor’s.

Hank clears his throat. “Yeah,” he nods. “They were fuckin’ delicious. You outdid yourself on that one.”

Connor sits down, and he looks happy. “I would still like to see you flip one yourself, sometime.”

“Why? You wanna check if I can actually do it?” Hank asks, amusedly raising an eyebrow.

“It was more difficult than I expected,” he says by ways of explanation, sounding smug.

Teasing.

Sumo whines, and Hank helps the big beast onto the couch next to him. Some things he’ll always have a soft heart about, and this right here will never change. Sumo rests his head on his paws, cold nose pressed against Hank’s sweatpants.

“Any, uh,” Hank says, hand rubbing over Sumo’s back, “errors remaining from last night?”

“None,” Connor answers, voice light. “All my systems appear to be working perfectly.” A thoughtful pause, and he smiles. “For a deviant, anyway.”

Hank whistles softly. “You’re in a good mood,” he remarks, looking at the easy way Connor occupies his chair.

He’s leaning back, arms draped unevenly over the armrests, one long leg crossed casually over the other. His LED isn’t circling but just a clear, even blue. There’s no tension in his face; no hesitation.

Nothing that indicates he’s uncomfortable around Hank.

“I picked up our t-shirts and met up with Markus today,” Connor says, “in the park. He was with his…” A pause, and a small frown. “With Carl Manfred, the painter.”

Hank remembers the mansion; the modern art, and the expensive trinkets in the living room. “Uh-huh,” he says noncommittally, letting Connor tell his story without interfering.

“He has a last name now,” Connor continues. “Carl decided to adopt him as his son.”

Hank stomach lurches sideways with shock and he’s glad for Sumo’s grounding bulk next to him. “They,” he starts, “you can – you can do that nowadays?”

Connor nods. “Carl wasn’t the first. There’ve been others, too. Adopting their android children or friends, trying to give them a family and a home.”

“I,” Hank tries again, “that’s – that’s fuckin’ awesome, that’s what it is. I mean, I’m happy for Markus.”

Connor smiles. “So am I.”

Silence befalls them, and Hank’s mind is suddenly reeling with questions because – fuck, there are other ways to get yourself a last name. Other ways than adoption. But those are not things you discuss after knowing each other for four months and after you just had sex for the first time.

Jesus christ, he thinks, don’t even fucking go there.

“Hank,” Connor then says, eyes briefly flicking to the side, “about last night.”

Hank pretends not to be nervous. He realizes he’s failed the moment he opens his mouth. “Yeah?” he croaks.

“I really enjoyed myself,” Connor says with a hesitant smile. He looks vulnerable but also pleased and happy and so, so sincere.

Hank swallows. “Yeah,” he says, making the word disappear in an anxious drawl, “me – me too.”

Connor leans forward and holds his hand out across the table. Unfurls his fingers from his palm until it’s open; a beckoning invitation.

“I’d like to do that again, I think,” he says, chin dipping slightly as if to hide his face though his eyes stay on Hank’s. “And all the other things, too.”

Hank feels frozen again, heart sinking.

When he doesn’t answer straightaway, Connor steadies himself and presses on. “Hank?” he asks, voice gentle. “What about you?”

Hank could take Connor’s outstretched hand. The same one that settled over his heart yesterday.

Hank could also start a conversation about why me and are you serious and find someone who fits you

( - someone beautiful, smart, handsome, lovely, charming, talented; someone with no problems, someone not like me - )

– but he thinks of the pancakes and the way Connor looked at him during the concert. The way Connor’s looking at him right now. He owes it to Connor to be bigger but goddamnit, it’s hard.

“I,” he starts, “I mean – yeah, of course. Fuckin’ hell yeah, Connor.”

But there’s still that hesitancy in his voice; that trail of doubt that indicates a ‘but’ at the end of that sentence. By the slight spark of yellow in Connor’s LED and the way he’s intently studying Hank’s face, the android has noticed it too.

He just waits for an explanation.

Hank sighs and rolls his eyes. “Come on, don’t make me say it. I mean – look, you’re young and you’re beautiful and you got millennia ahead of you. It’s – it’s obvious, isn’t it?”

He gestures at Connor, who’s still sitting there with his hand open across the table. “Look at you. You’re a catch.”

Before Hank can get a word in edgewise about him not being a catch, Connor interrupts him.

“I don’t see you catching me?” Connor replies, curiously tilting his head to the side. “Or am I supposed to be catching you?”

Hank presses a palm to his face. “Oh jesus fucking christ,” he groans, “not this, you smartass. You know what I’m talking about so don’t try to weasel your way out of – ”

Several things happen at once.

Connor leaps across the living room table in one single, smooth motion, and gives Hank the slyest grin he’s seen from him yet. Hank promptly stops talking, half-afraid Connor is just going to launch himself into his arms.

He frowns and lifts his index finger, about to tell Connor to stop whatever the fuck he’s going to do and then Connor is already wrapping one arm around Hank’s torso and trying to wedge the other underneath Hank’s legs.

Oh god, he thinks, other way around.

“No,” Hank barks out instantly, “no, no, fuckin’ wait, Connor, I’m not – ”

And then the ceiling’s flying by in a flash followed swiftly by a view of the floor because Connor just slung him across his shoulder like Hank doesn’t weigh more than a sack of potatoes. He sure as hell feels like one, dangling across Connor’s frame like this.

Connor turns, and Hank is faced with Sumo who whines and arfs, and then goes back to lounging like his two owners aren’t just having some sort of half-wrestling match in the middle of the living room.

“This,” Hank says incredulously, facing the swell of Connor’s ass and the stretch of his legs, “this is not catching, you asshole!”

“I’m sorry,” Connor says, sounding like he’s absolutely not. “I’m still building my understanding of human idioms. Where did you tell me to stick my instructions again?”

Hank groans. “I can’t fucking believe you’re – are you done proving your point?”

The floor makes way for the ceiling again and then for Connor’s smiling, amused face. Hank is scrambling to keep up, arms going around Connor’s neck.

“Maybe,” he says. “Are you listening?”

Connor is carrying him, playful and sweet, and Hank just melts. Swoons, whatever you want to fucking call it – just enough to make his cheeks flare with a blush, just enough to make him touch his hand to Connor’s face.

“This ain’t gonna be easy, you know,” he grumbles, fingers curling over the high of Connor’s cheekbone. “Not sunshine and rainbows, all the time. And I can’t always – always be what you want me to be.”

“You told me to just be me,” Connor answers. “I expect nothing else from you.”

He lets Hank down slow but stays in his space; brushes off some miniscule dust particles from the front of Hank’s hoodie, and straightens it at the hem with a little tug.

“I really do like you,” Hank says, grasping Connor’s wrist and kissing it in a rush of affection. “It’s never – it’s never gonna be because of you, okay? You hear me? Just my own shit I gotta deal with.”

Connor nods, gaze soft. “I’m glad you like me. That’s all I need to know.”

Hank feels like his heart has flipped to all sides ever since Connor slung him over his shoulder, and right now it’s being tugged on. “It’s that simple to you?” he asks. “Really?”

Connor looks surprised. “You’re asking me? I’m the android in this relationship.”

“Relationship,” Hank echoes, dumbfounded. It sounds so real.

Connor’s face shifts back into a smile and he closes his hand around Hank’s. “Partners,” he says.

Fuck it, Hank thinks. I always thought this was worth it. That ain’t gonna change now.

He’s not going to deny himself this just because he still has some lingering doubts. He’s not gonna make Connor prove something he has to do himself.

He nods. “Partners,” he echoes, curling his fingers over the inside of Connor’s wrist.

Connor just smiles, looking delighted.

“Do you wanna sit with Sumo and me and watch the game?” Hank asks, motioning back towards the couch.

“Of course,” Connor says. “I still haven’t figured out who your favorite player is.”

Hank plonks down in the middle; Sumo’s still on the right, and Connor gingerly sits down on his left. He rewinds the match a bit – ever since Connor came home, he hasn’t been paying attention, and before that he was a little too busy on his phone.

He settles further into the couch and gives Connor a look.

He gets a slightly inquisitive one back.

So Hank sighs, groans, and shifts his arm to wrap it around Connor’s shoulders and tug him a little closer.

“Oh,” Connor says, “sit with you.”

Hank just nods because his throat feels too tight.

And then he feels Connor’s knees knock against his own; the android’s drawn his legs up on the couch, shifting his position to lean fully into Hank. His hand comes to rest on Hank’s thigh, solid and firm.

“It’s not Denton Carter, is it?” he asks, voice light.

Hank chuckles. “Try again.”

Connor tries a lot of times.

In fact, he tries so many times that Hank’s starting to suspect that Connor’s actual objective is vastly different than figuring out Hank’s favorite player. Especially when every guess starts getting accompanied by a quiet, low whisper in Hank’s ear; a brush of lips over his beard.

A warm chuckle and a squeeze of a hand over his own.

Near the end of the game, Connor is laying half over him with his hand under Hank’s hoodie, resting over his belly. Hank has one hand in his hair, massaging his scalp, and Connor is making the softest of sounds.

He even sounds sleepy when he makes his next guess, and he’s gone through almost the entire Detroit Gears team.

Hank grins.

He’s happy.

 


 

At work, the new interpretation of their partnership doesn’t really make big waves.

Connor still mostly refers to Hank as ‘Lieutenant’, but he’s always done that – somehow, he finds it important to act professional at the job even though he just as often disregards any and all rules on how to handle crime scenes. But hey, that’s Connor for you.

They still get stuck at the station at ridiculous hours.

Still chase perps and criminals across the street, and spend hours doing boring administrative stuff at their desks. Hank still cusses at Fowler, and Connor still occasionally clashes with Reed – though the two seem have taken more and more to the whole ‘semi-friendly rivalry banter’ type of interactions.

Hank understands.

Reed is a dick with a potty mouth who pushes too harshly and too aggressively. But that’s also part of what makes him a good detective; he’s good at chasing down criminals, and once he bites down on something he rarely ever lets go. He’s known to crack cases just by doggedly pursuing them past a point where others would’ve given up.

Guy like him just needs someone to bark back to him every now and then, but Hank feels decidedly too old and tired for power games and cockfights. Connor, however, seems to have figured out what works and what doesn’t.

The last time Reed tried to bully Connor into making him a cup of coffee, Hank saw him emerge from the breakroom dripping with caffeine and with a face sour enough to curdle milk.

After that, they seemed to be doing relatively okay in each other’s presence.

Nobody at the DPD knows about Hank and Connor, though. Not about the truth of it.

Heck, Hank himself isn’t even sure if he knows – calling it partner feels good, like it correctly covers the load of what’s between them. The trust and companionship even before anything romantic.

Maybe it’s good to keep it there, for now.

“Lieutenant,” Connor says from opposite him, “you seem distracted.”

Hank is quick to react; having an android around who’s able to notice your every move will do that to you.

He taps the toe of his shoe into Connor’s under their desk. “Just recallin’ the day Reed walked out of the breakroom doused in coffee,” he says, giving Connor a pointed look.

The monitor in front of Connor stops scrolling – he’s linked up with it, filing reports and making affidavits on the evidence they’ve stored in the evidence room earlier. He smiles, corners of his mouth tilting up subtly, and inclines his head.

“Ah,” he says, eyes twinkling, “the day my hand must’ve slipped.”

Hank chuckles. “Deviants, huh? Such clumsy bots.”

“I could bring up our efficiency and our excellent case-solving record,” Connor answers, “but somehow I doubt I have to convince you of my skills, Lieutenant.”

Hank shrugs, shifting in his chair, and leans a little closer. “Huh, I don’t know. I kinda like you when you’re clumsy.”

Connor’s brow sinks into a light frown. “Because I tend to spill Detective Reed’s coffee?” he asks, eyebrow raising slowly.

“Nope,” Hank grins, folding his hands together on his desk, “it’s ’cause you tend to crack the plaster in our walls.”

The error message that pops up instantly on the monitor that Connor is connected to is one of the most hilarious things Hank has seen in a long, long time. Especially when his partner scrambles a bit, fingers flying over the screen rather than controlling it remotely, and more error messages pop up.

Connor stares at Hank, face tight, and then reaches over and presses the power-button of the monitor.

It shuts off instantly.

Hank just starts laughing; he can’t help it. “Fuck, Connor,” he snorts, sides shaking.

“Hank,” Connor says measuredly, straightening his tie, “the statistical likelihood of you flirting in the workplace is so abysmally low that I was unprepared for it.”

Hank bites his lip to stop himself from laughing. “You’re flustered,” he says, “honest to fucking god flustered. When is the last time you went all android on my ass with probability shit?”

Connor makes a small noise in his throat. “Answering that question would require more ‘probability shit’, I’m afraid.” He pauses then, and lowers his voice. “Though I think I could go android on your ass, if you wanted me to.”

Hank’s laughter instantly dies down. “Well, that escalated quickly,” he murmurs, tugging at his collar.

“You brought up the plaster,” Connor says, giving him a look.

Fuck, Hank thinks.

He should’ve realized that Connor and sex – or allusions to it – was going to be a devastating combo.

The guy absolutely fucking barrels into everything that comes across his path, and can analyze people’s behavior and wants like no one else can. Hank should’ve known that once they’d established something between them, Connor would be ready 24/7 to completely demolish him when prompted.

The thought makes him both anxious and wanting.

“I did,” Hank croaks.

He reaches out and places his hand over the edge dividing their desks.

Connor hesitates for only a second before he’s touching the tips of his fingers to Hank’s. His gaze is a little dark and his touch is light, lingering. Caressing the creases in Hank’s skin carefully.

They haven’t really done anything beyond that first night. Nothing beyond holding hands and snuggling up in bed. Hank wants Connor to take his time to get used to it, and he’s still a little nervous himself about the more intimate parts of it.

Feeling the tension between them rise, Hank tries not to think back to how often he’s wanted to bring up the subject of interfacing, but was afraid to do so.

Connor presses the edge of a blunt nail into a line on Hank’s palm, and scrapes it along the length of it.

“Hank,” he says, “your heartrate is going up.”

His ankle slides over Hank’s under the desks’ countertops.

“Pupil dilation, too,” Connor continues, the tip of his index finger circling over the veins in Hank’s wrist.

Hank lets his gaze travel over Connor; the impeccable shirt, suit, and tie. The sudden hard edge to his brown eyes; the way his lips are slightly parted.

He’s playing me like a fuckin’ fiddle.

And somehow, he doesn’t really mind.

“You know,” Connor says semi-conversationally, “I haven’t repaid your favor yet.” He pauses, looking at Hank with large, unblinking eyes, lenses contracting. “Am I saying that right?”

His foot slides a little further up Hank’s calf.

Hank blanches for a few seconds before he can answer.

“Yeah, you’re saying it absolutely right, and you know it, asshole,” he mutters, trying to ignore the splotchy blush he knows is creeping up his neck. “And look, I – you don’t ever owe me shit, okay. You – ”

“I know,” Connor says, tone serious. “But I’ve thought about it, and there’s something I’d like to try.”

He lifts his hand away from Hank’s. “With my capabilities,” he says slowly, “and the way I reacted last time, I think I’d enjoy it.”

And then he taps his index and middle finger to his lips, looking down pointedly.

“Jesus fucking christ,” Hank says, rubbing his hand over his mouth, feeling his dick twitch against his leg. “Couldn’t you have waited to mention this until we were home?”

Connor looks at the corridor leading to the archives. “The bathroom in the cellar isn’t used often,” he says.

Hank follows his gaze. “Are you,” he starts, then lowers his voice, “are you serious?”

“It’s a possibility,” Connor says as easily as he would discuss a case.

“A possibility?” Hank echoes, eyebrows raising to his hairline.

Connor shrugs. “Statistics is all about interpretation,” he says lightly. “I already knew it wasn’t frequently used. Cross-referencing it now for a different purpose is easy.”

Hank’s brain just stops. “Did you fuckin’ plan this, Connor?”

Connor’s expression turns subtly playful. “I didn’t plan it, no. The thought just crossed my mind.”

“The fuck,” says Hank, completely befuddled and also ridiculously turned on by the idea of – well, the idea of Connor considering this, thinking about this, how he’d like to suck Hank off and how well he’d like it.

He remembers vividly how eagerly Connor sucked at his fingers, and how easily he came off of that.

“I need to shelve away some things, anyway,” Connor says, “so…”

He rises from his chair, smoothing down his jacket, and gives Hank a pleasant smile. “Well,” he says, tone sunny, “Lieutenant, you’ll know where to find me.”

He inclines his head, like he’s wont to do, and then walks off like he didn’t just have several internal error messages to Hank’s innocent flirting and then turned it completely on its head. Completely fucking changed it from banter-y flirting to a blowjob offer.

In an office bathroom.

“Fuck,” Hank hisses to no one in particular, shaking his head. “Sneaky son of a…”

Reed walks by with a dismissive snort. “Seeing ghosts, Anderson?”

“Yeah, your mom’s,” Hank barks back, twisting his hands together and wondering how long he needs to wait before going down to the archives to not seem too suspicious.

He glances at the clock on his monitor, ticking the seconds by until one minute has passed and then he gets up, making his way down. A flash of his keycard, and he’s in.

It’s true, what Connor said – the lower floor comes with its own bathroom, but it’s rarely used. Sometimes it helps to lock yourself in the archives or the evidence room trying to crack a case, and then the presence of the coffee machine in the hallway and the bathroom are both pretty convenient.

(Or maybe it’s regulations that demand there’s bathrooms on every floor. Hell if Hank knows.)

But most detectives are out of the bullpen for today, except for Reed, and he has an appointment coming up with Chen. Hank knows because he checked the agendas for the day just in case.

So he doesn’t hesitate for a second and pushes the door to the bathroom open wide.

Connor’s eyes meet his through his reflection in the mirror on the wall, a smile already curling his lips up. He’s apparently just finished washing his hands, shaking them dry.

“Lieutenant,” he says in greeting.

Hank looks around – the stalls all seem to be empty, and the doors reach all the way to the floor. That never mattered to him before, but it seems very relevant right now.

“You do realize there’s a camera out in the hallway, right?” Hank asks, pointing back towards the door.

Connor tilts his head to the side. “If it bothers you, I could hack it.”

Hank bites his lip. “Disregard for the rules, huh?”

“I learned from the best,” Connor quips back.

Hank takes a few steps closer, shoes echoing on the tiles. Steps into Connor’s personal space so he can slide his fingers into his short, brown hair. “You know you don’t have to do this,” he says again in half a whisper. “And certainly not here. I mean…”

He chuckles a little nervously. “Could be a nice bed waiting for both of us. A couch. Whatever.”

Connor leans into the touch. “What if I want to do it right now?” he asks. He takes Hank’s other hand in his own, and tugs on it. “See you. Taste you.”

Hank lets himself be coaxed into switching places until he has his back towards the mirror, leaning against the countertop for the bathroom sinks. It feels fucking surreal, and he’s already half-hard from how fucking ready Connor seems for it.

“Connor,” he half-protests, so many words still lingering on his lips.

Connor steps forward and presses a finger to Hank’s mouth. “Let me do this?” he asks, palm smoothing down Hank’s front, and Hank’s breath hitches.

“Right here?” he asks, disbelief coloring his voice. “Not even in a stall? Jesus, you’re a wild one.”

“We can always relocate,” Connor says matter-of-factly, both hands now running over Hank’s chest. “I’ll increase the sensitivity of my audio receptors just in case.”

“You do that,” Hank says weakly, still not quite believing that Connor quit working on a case to give him a blowjob in the police station bathroom.

Still not quite believing that he’s going along with it.

He gulps when Connor pins him back against the wooden edge of the counter; firm, solid, not letting up an inch. His eyes drop down to Hank’s lips, and then he’s digging his fingers into Hank’s shirt and kissing him.

Like last time, he keeps his gaze on Hank’s face while he kisses his mouth open, tongue a teasing trace against the seam of Hank’s lips.

“Fuck,” Hank says brokenly, arching his body into Connor. He reaches out his hand to cup Connor’s jaw while he uses the other to steady himself against the edge of the countertop.

One of Connor’s hands slides down to play with the buckle of his belt, and he smiles before pushing his tongue so deep Hank thinks he can feel it in the back of his throat.

“Hank,” he whispers, leaning back, a thread of saliva still connecting their mouths.

He looks fucking good enough to eat.

Connor runs his hand over the bulk of Hank’s crotch, clever fingers finding the outline of his rising cock in his jeans. LED circling yellow, he noses at Hank’s jawline, mouth finding the side of his throat.

Hank’s veins fill with heat like molten liquid, making him sag back against the counter, arms shaking. And then Connor’s hands are unbuckling Hank’s belt, the metallic clang of it loud in the clinical emptiness of the bathroom.

Hank takes a deep breath to steady himself; being in Connor’s unrelenting focus is an experience all of its own that’s somehow only turning him on more.

Even with one thumb flicking the button on his jeans open and his other hand dragging down the zipper, Connor is still looking at Hank, not at whatever he’s doing with his hands. And fuck, then he’s palming Hank’s cock through his underwear, grinding the heel of his hand into him.

Christ,” Hank hisses, knees buckling. But Connor is right there, thigh wedging his own apart and keeping him from promptly sliding down to the floor.

Hank’s gaze flickers towards the door, one of his hands sliding over Connor’s hip to ground himself.

“You always seemed adverse about mixing your work and our personal relations,” Connor says, following the line of Hank’s eyes. He rubs his thumb over the head of Hank’s cock through the fabric, lingering over the sensitive underside.

Hank swallows down a groan. “I am, you idiot.”

“But the idea excites you?” Connor half-asks, and his hand is sliding beneath the waistband of his boxers. Curling through the trail of hair leading down, and it’s making Hank shiver.

He stares at the door one final time. “It’s got,” he admits almost begrudgingly, “it’s got its thrills. But jesus, I’ve been working here for literal decades and the idea never even – ”

And then Connor is wrapping his elegant fingers around his cock one-by-one, slowly drawing him out, and Hank has to stop talking. He presses his fist to his mouth when Connor tugs down his boxers to fully expose him because god, he is going to die.

“Oh,” Connor says, and he jerks his hand once, slow, and then twice; faster.

“Fuck,” Hank mouths, chin dipping to Connor’s shoulder.

Pleasure prickles up his spine instantly, white-hot from where Connor’s wrapped around him. Spike after spike as Connor tries to establish what he likes; tries to find a rhythm that works. His hand feels smooth and strong, wrist moving with a casual kind of confidence that already has Hank seeing stars.

“I really like the curve of it,” Connor says, voice low and appreciative. He flicks his thumb over the slit, smearing the pre-cum that’s already leaked out.

Hank half-thrusts back into Connor’s firm grip, his hips echoing Connor’s movements. Heat coiling in his gut like flame.

Connor leans a little closer, mouth almost over Hank’s. “The texture, too,” he murmurs, tongue darting out to taste Hank’s lips. “You’re amazing.”

He squeezes Hank’s cock gently at the base, his other hand featherlight over his balls.

“Jesus fucking christ,” Hank gasps out in a rush. “You can’t just…”

But he loses himself in the pleasure again – Connor picking up on the rhythm, lips ghosting over the shell of his ear, and then Hank is seeing a faint blue behind his eyelids. He opens them, finding Connor still watching him, mesmerized; lines appearing on his face, his throat, his arms.

Glowing blue indicators of his plating.

Over his hands, too, each individual knuckle, and Hank is still starstruck and awed by the beauty of it.

“I got you, Hank,” Connor says, his hands gentling and slowing over Hank’s twitching cock, and then he starts sinking to his knees on the cold bathroom tiles.

“Shit,” Hank says, ragged breath escaping his lungs in bursts. He bites at his fist, trying to keep the sounds contained, trying not to give anyone a reason to come look behind that bathroom door – but god, Connor’s hands are warm little marvels over the inside of his hips, and he grips the counter behind him tight.

Connor’s eyes are both serious and wanting as he looks up to him, thumbs brushing the base of his cock.

“Take whatever you need,” he murmurs.

I’ll be whatever you want me to be, Lieutenant.

“Connor,” Hank says, breathless, licking his lips. He reaches out one hand to brush through Connor’s hair, pushing that trademark curl back over his forehead.

And then Connor is leaning in, the first curious lick of his tongue over Hank’s cock. Lapping lightly at him just to test the waters.

Hank tries and fails spectacularly to muffle his groans against his own hand, because – well, Connor goes at it like he goes at anything that’s new and that he wants to explore.

With dedication and focus.

He trails his hands over Hank, light and teasing, nails barely grazing his skin. Angling his head, he runs his tongue slowly over the entire length of Hank’s cock. Brown eyes on Hank’s, always, gauging his reaction – what happens when he fondles his balls, what happens when he curls his tongue around the head.

Over that thick vein on the underside.

Hank barely recognizes the desperate, choked sound he makes, legs trembling under Connor’s ministrations.

“Beautiful,” Connor murmurs, kissing the tip. “Its sensitivity, its responsiveness…”

He trails off on half a thought and then he’s slowly sucking Hank’s dick into his mouth; presses his tongue into the slit, coaxing out more pre-cum. Hank watches him through half-lidded eyes and a stuttered moan, seeing Connor’s lashes flutter and his hand suddenly clenching in a fist against Hank’s thigh.

He’s tasting me and he’s fucking getting off on it, he thinks, shit.

Just the thought of that, of Connor wanting this and enjoying it – it makes Hank’s pleasure peak, vision going a little fizzy at the edges as he bites his lip in an effort to stop himself from making a sound.

Connor’s LED is flaring yellow, and then he places both of his hands over Hank’s hips. He looks up, cock stretching his lips, halfway in, and raises his eyebrow. When Hank’s cock twitches almost involuntarily because of that dark, hungry look, Connor makes a muted noise of pleasure around him.

And sucks him down almost all the way to the base.

Hank doubles over, one hand sinking into Connor’s hair, unable to hold back a heavy groan that echoes throughout the bathroom. Connor is mouth is hot, sliding down so smoothly that it barely feels like it’s taking effort on his part.

Connor’s eyes are still on him while his nose almost brushes Hank’s belly, and then his fingers are twitching over Hank’s hips. The light in his LED stutters, something Hank has rarely seen, and then he feels a slow, unfurling pressure against his cockhead that makes his fucking toes curl in his shoes.

“Jesus,” he gasps, “fuck, Connor.”

One corner of Connor’s mouth manages to tilt up slightly despite his mouth being stuffed absolutely full with Hank’s twitching, heavy cock, and Hank can feel that ribbon of pleasure in his body starting to unfurl at the sight.

Connor takes him deeper still, all the way into his throat; Hank feels no resistance, just pure smooth heat. And then he feels Connor’s fingers touching his own, tangling them together.

It’s such an endearing gesture that Hank squeezes back immediately, gasping.

“Connor,” he says, voice hoarse with want, “I’m not – I’m not going to last for long, I – ”

The android just leans forward on his knees, hollowing out his cheeks and increasing the thrumming pleasure over Hank’s sensitive cock. The lines on his face and arms flash, blue growing stronger beyond just that first faint glow.

Hank clenches his other hand on the counter, grip turning knuckle-white as he tips his head back in pleasure.

And then, very suddenly, Connor stops.

Hank blinks, looking down, instinctively running his thumb over the hand that Connor’s still got laced with his – and then he sees Connor’s eyes dart towards the door, LED going red-red-red.

“Oh shit,” Hank says, stomach sinking, and then it’s getting to a point where he can hear the footsteps himself. Can hear the drag of that rough, constantly annoyed voice beyond the bathroom door.

“Yeah, yeah, I’ll be right up, Tina. Gotta take a leak first.”

Gavin fucking Reed intruding on the best fucking blowjob of Hank’s life.

Son of a bitch, Hank thinks.

Before he can even react, Connor is up on his feet and making a beeline for the nearest stall, Hank in tow. He’s faster than lightning but Hank is sluggish and slow with pleasure, one hand on his waistband to hold his jeans up – thank fuck they make it in time, the creak of the bathroom door opening the moment Connor snaps the lock on their stall shut.

They can hear Reed padding in slow, whistling, taking his goddamn time picking a stall. Probably preening himself in front of the mirror, too.

Connor looks back at Hank, lines in his face still visible and faintly glowing.

He presses a finger to his lips and Hank gives him a look of do I look like I’m an idiot but then Connor is pushing against his shoulders. Backing him up until he almost stumbles over the toilet.

Hank’s eyes widen when he realizes Connor’s intent.

Reed is still whistling in the bathroom outside.

Connor’s hand is on the back of Hank’s neck and he squeezes, gaze going to his lips.

He hesitates and Hank isn’t sure why, so he leans in and kisses him, the gesture simple and prompt. Tastes himself on Connor’s lips but he really couldn’t give less of a fuck and it’s hot anyway; reminding him of what Connor’s been doing, of what Connor’s been wanting.

He nods, shakily, and Connor smiles.

And he sinks to his knees, hands going back to Hank’s hips. He smooths his thumbs over the curves of Hank’s hipbones, and then he’s kissing Hank’s cock.

Delicate, tender kisses, nosing against him as if he’s overcome with both affection and desire. Even his hands slide back over the length of Hank, one wrapping around the base and the other teasing the tip.

Hank bites his tongue, desperate not to make any sound, and trying not to thrust back into Connor’s grip. But it’s so fucking difficult and his hips are trembling under the pressure, his breath escaping him in sharp, shuddery exhales.

The pleasure sharp, nearly choking him.

Connor hunches forward and then he’s sucking Hank back in; his cock is still slippery, slicked with Connor’s rough, Thirium-like imitation of spit. Still smooth enough to have it sink really fucking easy between Connor’s perfect lips.

Now it’s Hank’s turn to press his fist against the cold, tiled wall to keep himself from groaning. Chest heaving with the effort, he shifts slightly, widening his stance.

A few doors to the right, they hear the sound of a toilet being flushed. Footsteps leading back to the sink.

Fuck,” Hank whispers, eyes squeezing shut on another hazy burst of bliss.

Connor hums around him, pleased and soft, and hollows out his cheeks. Bobs his head up and down over Hank’s cock, increasing his pace, nose hitting Hank’s belly every fucking time.

Hank reaches down and rubs his thumb over the side of Connor’s throat, tracing that glowing line; he doesn’t expect the muffled whine and the slight stutter in Connor’s motions.

The look he gets is almost accusatory.

“Sorry,” he whispers back, “just wanted – wanted to do something for you.”

Connor’s hands then slide around him, grasping his ass and digging his fingers into the muscles there. He pushes, canting Hank’s hips forward and into him.

Hank’s knees wobble. “Jesus christ,” he says, voice still quiet, “you want me to fuck your mouth?”

On the other side of the door, he can hear a ringtone, and then Reed’s voice calling out a gruff hello.

But Connor’s on his knees before him, lighting up the fucking bathroom stall with blue, hands fluttering over him almost nervously and his mouth around him tight. And he’s giving Hank a look that says, go for it.

Hank brushes his thumb over Connor’s LED, fingers sinking into his hair, and thrusts once, shallowly. Into the warm, wet heat of Connor’s mouth, all smooth and slick.

Fuck Reed, Hank thinks, I don’t even care if he finds out. I don’t even

Connor moans around him, half-muted, working his jaw to hold his mouth open wider so Hank can thrust in easier. His hands are resting on Hank’s lower belly, caressing him lovingly even through his shirt, and he bobs his head faster, harder.

Hank swears there’s something undulating against his cock, deep in Connor’s throat, so he thrusts a little harder – trying to find that spot, chasing his release. Spit is starting to gather at the corners of Connor’s mouth and god, Hank’s not going to be able to keep this up for long.

And then Connor’s hands are changing.

His LED flares a bright, sharp red, and he closes his eyes, enthusiastically bobbing up and down over Hank’s cock. But Hank gasps, staring at those beautiful hands, the hands he loves so much –

Skin peeling back, almost fizzling out, leaving behind a polished white like marble. Knuckles so much more pronounced, nails almost gone, and every edge on those loving hands glowing blue.

So bright it almost bleeds into teal.

“God, fuck, Connor,” Hank groans, teeth gritting to muffle his cry, and then he’s coming.

Frantic and pulsing, releasing himself into the depth of Connor’s throat, hips jerking erratically. It nearly whites out his vision but he has to look down, wanting to see the expression of enjoyment on Connor’s face, and his hands, his fucking hands.

Hank is shaking while Connor milks him for all that he’s worth, gentling his movements to match the slow descent of his orgasm, and Hank feels hazy and wild and like his legs are about to give out.

Connor carefully slips his mouth off of Hank’s softening dick, sleeve already wiping at his messy mouth, and Hank sinks down onto the closed toilet with a heavy sigh.

“Jesus,” he says, “goddamnit. That was so fuckin’ good.” He pauses, running a hand through his hair. “Sorry about the lack of warning about the whole…”

He gestures towards Connor’s mouth, making an arcing motion with his hand.

Connor smiles. “I could tell it was coming,” he says, sounding almost fond. “Well, that is, you.

They snicker quietly like partners in crime, and Hank detects a tinge of pride twinkling in Connor’s eyes.

“I liked it a lot, Hank,” he says then, expression warm and honest.

“Understatement of the fucking century,” Hank says, throwing Connor a lopsided grin.

Outside the door, they can still hear Reed talking on the phone, sounding exasperated.

Still shivering, Hank slowly reaches out and takes Connor’s hand in his own. Stares at the white smoothness and runs his fingers over his knuckles. When he looks back up at Connor, the android seems shy.

“Do you want me to,” Hank starts, “I don’t know, rummage around in your paneling?”

Connor chuckles softly, pressing his forehead against Hank’s. “No,” he answers, voice warm. “I’m good. Maybe later, when we’re home.”

That just makes Hank snort. “When we’re home,” he parrots with a grin. “You’re the one here who’s indestructible, asshole. Look at what you did to this dirty old man, fuckin’ christ.”

He reaches down to tuck himself back into his boxers and his pants, and Connor is the one who zips him back up. Connor pats his legs, slowly rising up, and his hands are fading back to just showing his synthetic skin. The blue is dying down, though the lines are still visible.

Hank manages to grasp one of his hands in time, pressing a kiss to the still-white fingers. “You don’t ever have to feel like you gotta hide,” he murmurs over the plastic. “It’s a good look on you.”

Connor blinks, and then leans into Hank. “Thank you,” he says, voice quiet.

“Fuck you,” Reed barks in the bathroom at whomever he’s talking to on the phone, startling both of them and reminding them of his presence.

Connor helps Hank up, straightening his collar and his shirt. Hank does the same to Connor’s tie, and the realization of why exactly it’s slipped out of its knot slightly is enough to make his groin ache dully.

“Reed’s still out there,” he murmurs.

Connor tilts his head to the side. “It sounds like he’ll be finishing his conversation soon.”

“You know what,” Hank says, “I don’t actually give a fuck.”

He reaches around Connor towards the lock on the stall slow enough to give him a chance to stop him; to say no, to refuse. Connor doesn’t move but watches him with rapt fascination instead.

“I,” he says, as Hank’s hand comes to rest on the handle, “I – yes. Alright.”

Hank, still not sure of whether he’s feeling his legs or not, gives Connor a cocky grin. “Partners, right?”

“Partners,” Connor confirms with a steady voice and a wink, and Hank opens the door.

Reed drops his phone.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 7

In which Hank and Connor go undercover, meet North (again), and fall in love just a little bit more.

 

March 2039

 

Over the years, Hank has gathered a lot of experience with seedy bars.

That experience includes strong drinks, lonely vomiting into graffiti-covered toilets, and good old-fashioned bar brawls. While potentially getting shanked and/or killed.

Welcome to Detroit.

When Hank was on the team that did the red ice bust, most of his time in seedy bars was spent undercover or to gather information. Add a couple of years to that and, well – most of Hank’s time in bars was for personal reasons. Drowning himself in alcohol or looking for another sucker punch to the jaw not to feel the rest of it.

Of a life not worth living.

Point being: now that he’s old and worn, most seedy bar owners know who he is and how he takes his drinks.

So when Fowler suggests Hank and Connor go undercover and check out the local nightlife to pursue a lead on a possible bombing, he doesn’t take kindly to it.

“What the fuck, Jeffrey,” he barks, one hand on Fowler’s desk.

“Don’t call me Jeff,” Fowler replies tersely. “I don’t care, you’re doing it. You have a partner now and you both can – ”

Hank gives his captain a long, hard stare. “They know who the fuck I am and they sure as hell have seen Connor on nationwide TV leading a fucking android army into a revolution. What are you thinking, sending us in?”

“I’m thinking that he’s an android, Hank,” Fowler says, crossing his arms. “That means that he can physically change his appearance to fit in. He was created to do policework, for crying out loud.” He pauses and jabs his finger at Hank. “You can provide backup if necessary.”

Hank groans, throwing his hands up and almost, almost gives Fowler the finger. “You can’t make us your public fuckin’ poster boys for android-human cases and relationships and then send us undercover, you idiot.”

“Send him in and back him up,” Fowler presses, face in a scowl. “You trust him, right?”

“That’s not fair,” Hank says angrily. “You know I do. He’s a competent cop, but the chance that someone might recognize one of us is a huge risk that I’m not willing to take. I’m not about to send him in alone.”

Fowler’s eyes narrow. “He can handle it.”

Hank glares. “He’s not expendable.”

Fowler sighs and rolls his eyes. “Don’t try to pin that on me, Hank. This is not about the fact that he has replaceable parts.”

“It’d better the fuck not be,” Hank says, pointing at Fowler, “because otherwise I’ll fucking kill you.”

Fowler gives him a dead, thousand-yard stare. “Hank, meet your disciplinary folder. Disciplinary folder, meet Hank.”

Hank swallows the next string of curses, shaking his head and running his hands through his hair. “You’re making a mistake.”

Fowler folds his hands together on his desk. “No, I’m not,” he says firmly. “I’m sending in an officer who’s equipped to handle a situation like this especially with an experienced, senior officer in tow. Namely, you.”

“You don’t – ”

Fowler pushes his chair away from his desk, standing up in one swift and angry motion. “Cut the crap, Hank,” he says, “stop it and cut the fucking crap. You’re smart, Connor’s smart, and you’ll both figure this out.”

Hank still bristles, not knowing what to say.

“Stop selling yourself short,” Fowler says, “and live up to the fucking man I know you can be. Protect each other and get me info.” He pauses. “That’s all I ask, and all I’ve ever asked of you. If it’s too dangerous, get the fuck out of there and we send in Chen.”

Hank groans, turning his head away. “Did you upload the files on the – ”

“Everything’s there,” Fowler says, a snap to his voice. “Now get out and start prepping. I need results. The mayor wasn’t just on the phone for fucking nothing.”

Hank feels himself deflate; shoulders sagging as he walks out of Fowler’s office without adding anything else.

He’d really hoped to avoid this, for both their sakes. Bomb threats and possible terrorist attacks are already enough to give a case a hard edge that keeps you on your toes constantly, and they’re also gonna have to worry about hiding their identities every step of the way.

Fuck.

“Boss going rough on you, Anderson?”

He looks up. It’s Tina Chen, holding two cups of coffee, and she offers him one with a sympathetic smile.

“Yeah,” Hank sighs through his nose, taking the cup. “Thanks. It’s that bomb threat for the mayor’s public speech in three months.”

“Shit,” she says, “the one they called in yesterday? About flattening the place if the mayor wouldn’t own up to Detroit’s mistakes regarding the uprising?”

Hank nods, taking a sip. “Yup, that’s the one.”

“Well,” she says, “good luck. You’re gonna need it. If you need backup, let me know.” She pauses, motioning back towards the bullpen. “I think Waterfield’s been doing some sweeps downtown. You can always check if something’s come up on the chatter.”

He gives her a close-mouthed smile. “You’re a good one, Chen. Thanks.”

She walks back to her desk, winking. “Hey, the least I can do for the guy taking all these shitty cases off my hands.”

“Hey, fuck you, too,” Hank says sunnily.

Chen doesn’t turn around, but he can hear the smile in her voice. “Back at you, Anderson.”

Hank groans, plonks himself in his chair, and pulls up the files on the bomb threat. Scanning over them, he tries to pluck relevant facts and useful tidbits out of the information they already have on hand. Android involvement seems likely, apparently, and an android bar just opened up in the west of Detroit.

One that’s known for more violently active groups that clash with human gangs a lot. A few bar brawls, some vandalization, and threats back and forth.

Bingo, Hank thinks.

Even if it weren’t androids but rather humans trying to fuck ‘em over on a fake threat to the mayor, this is probably where they’ll have to start looking.

He pulls his phone out to text Connor.

 

We got a new case. Check the intranet. You any good at changing your appearance?

Probably better than you are. Are we going to go undercover? – Connor.

Jesus Connor, you don’t have to keep adding your name to texts. Thanks for the free burn. And yeah, we are.

Do you think the name of the bar was chosen ironically or not? – Connor.

If any of those deviants have your sense of humor, then yeah. At what time are you coming to the office?

On my way. I’ll be there in ETA 15.5 minutes. – Connor.

Don’t text and drive, you fucknut.

I’m an advanced prototype. I can do whatever the fuck I want. – Connor.

 

Hank chuckles, and starts making notes of his first few ideas in dealing with the case. He plasters the post-its all over his screen and the divide between his desk and Connor’s.

If they’re gonna have to do this, he supposes he’s going to have to own up to the fact that everybody knows who he is. Turn a disadvantage into an advantage. Besides, he’s worked with worse conditions.

Connor does indeed arrive in about fifteen minutes, looking as polished as ever. Fowler’s ordered him to take extra training courses at the police academy to prove he can handle all aspects of policework. Connor’s accepted gracefully despite absolutely not needing it.

As far as Hank’s gathered, he’s been breaking all the records, so he isn’t really sure whether the whole schtick is good for morale. But at least it shows that Connor has to jump through the same hoops other officers-in-training have to jump through.

Sort of.

“How did it go?” Hank asks, jostling his elbow against Connor’s as he walks by. “Didja kick some ass?”

Connor sits down at his desk, the movement oddly measured, and straightens his tie. It’s already perfectly straight, so Hank instantly realizes it’s a nervous tic. Especially when his index and middle finger tap the desk, twice, and he doesn’t look at Hank.

“Connor?” he tries again, raising his eyebrow.

“I got into a fight with a student of the police academy,” Connor drops, almost bluntly. His face looks oddly tight.

That’s already enough to send Hank’s head spinning. “Wait, what,” he balks. “You? Are you okay?”

Connor brushes his hand along the side of his jaw, nodding. “Hitting an android in the face with a fist does little damage,” he murmurs, “but the student bruised his knuckles.”

“Jesus,” Hank says, flickering his eyes over Connor’s face and body. “What happened? Why the fuck would someone hit you?”

Nothing seems to be out of place; no white, half-bruised android skin peeking through from below the synthetic layer. No rips in his clothing or splotches of blue blood.

“It appears,” Connor says, tone clipped, “that he thought I didn’t appreciate all the opportunities that were given to me as the first android officer on the force. He…”

Connor’s LED flares yellow for a second. “He called me ‘flippant’ about my working relationship with you.”

Hank just stares at Connor, mind blank. “What? This was about me?” he asks, disbelief coloring his voice.

“Apparently, he’s a fan,” Connor says dryly, brushing his cuffs. “Wanted to join the force ever since he learned about the team you led on the red ice case.”

“Then why the fuck would he hit my partner?” Hank shoots back, incredulous.

Connor’s shoulders sag a bit. “He wanted to know more about the cases we did and how we worked together. I kept it short and professional, and because of that I think he believed I couldn’t care less.”

“Guy’s delusional,” Hank bites, unable to keep the anger out of his voice. “You don’t owe some rookie student at the academy any fucking explanation. You did good by keepin’ it professional.”

“I didn’t hit him back,” Connor cuts in, brow furrowed, “but I wanted to.”

Hank snorts. “Of course you did. Prick insulted you, me, and socked you in the jaw.”

Connor stays quiet for a few seconds before looking up; he looks visibly shaken. “I didn’t know what to do, Hank,” he says. “Hitting him would’ve gotten me a reprimand, but it would’ve showed my humanity. Not hitting him only seemed to…”

He trails off, looking to the side. “… To confirm whatever he was thinking.”

He sounds upset, and Hank’s heart breaks a little for it.

“Fuck that,” he spits. “When there’s no right way to handle a situation, you gotta pick what suits you. Fuck what that guy ends up thinking.”

Connor fidgets, folding his hands together.

“He’s an asshole, anyway,” Hank adds, muttering a few curses under his breath. “Jesus.”

“He’s supposed to be a peer,” Connor answers instantly. “Someone I can get along with.”

Hank scoffs. “He’s not your peer. You’re leagues above all the rookies at the academy,” he says, shaking his head. “Not sure what Fowler’s training courses are makin’ you think, but you didn’t get the rank of detective assistant just ‘cause you’re an advanced prototype.”

Connor raises his eyebrow. “Is it because you like me, then? Or because I was involved in the revolution?” he offers, tone sharp.

“You told me yourself last time,” Hank says firmly, leaning back. “Our record doesn’t lie. We solve shit. The rest is just a bonus.”

Connor doesn’t seem fully convinced, but he hunches and then straightens his shoulders, easing up his posture. Takes a coin from out of his pocket and lets it dance across the dips in his knuckles a few times before he grasps it in his palm.

Hank wants to reach out and hold his hand; comfort him, rub his thumb over the same dips that coin just skidded over. More than ever, he wishes he’d been there.

I would’ve fucked that rookie up.

“Is me changing my appearance for our undercover mission also a bonus?” Connor eventually asks, one corner of his mouth tilting up slow.

Relief washes over Hank, and he nods and grins.

“There’s the guy I know,” he says, leaning over to pat Connor on his shoulder. “And heck yeah, it is. I mean, every fucking android is probably gonna recognize you and me, so… I thought I’d play the bait.”

Connor inclines his head. “Go in as yourself and order a drink?”

“Yup,” Hank answers, leaning back. “Let them all crane their necks to see me while you explore the joint in disguise and see what you can find.”

“We don’t have a warrant,” Connor remarks.

Hank snorts a laugh. “That’s never stopped you before.”

“Could be dangerous,” Connor adds, “you alone at that bar. You wouldn’t be able to fight off more than a few androids on your own.”

“Earpieces,” Hank shrugs, “so you can save my ass if you have to. Besides, I thought about calling a friend of ours for assistance. See if she knows more about the place.”

Connor blinks. “She?”

Hank’s grin just grows a little bit broader. “Yup. She.”

 


 

The android bar draws a bigger, more diverse audience than Hank had expected based on the reports. When he stumbles in on a rainy Friday evening there’s barely a spot left at the bar.

It also looks to be more on the professional side than the seedy one; there’s security present, a fancy cocktail bar that serves all sorts of Thirium, and a mix of private booths hugging the walls and a few high-stooled tables scattered around the edges of the dancefloor.

There’s a DJ, there’s loud bass music of the electronic kind, and there’s dancing people and flashy lights.

Above the bar, there’s a huge blue neon sign that says: The Blue Lagoon.

Meandering through the crowd, Hank hones in on an empty seat at the bar. He sits down with a grunt; playing the part of the grizzled, half-drunk, stumbling detective comes so easy to him that it’s almost frightening.

It’s so easy to forget.

You were this, he tells himself, you were this kind of asshole last November when Connor came to find you.

But ‘were’ is in the past, and he’s always been a bit of an asshole. So Hank swallows his discomfort and looks around the place carefully while he pretends to shake the raindrops from his hair.

Lots of people wearing clothes and makeup that makes it hard to run facial scans. Face masks, jagged edges, bright colors, face paint, and tattoos. Some of them with cybernetic implants or limbs; others full-on android.

It’s rather difficult to find anyone who stands out in this type of crowd. Right now, it’s probably Hank himself who looks the most out of place.

The bartender appears – all sleek lines and eyebrows that could kill. Their eyes light up purple, and their lips are painted partially white. One stripe down the center.

“What can I getcha?” they ask, raising one of those razor-sharp eyebrows.

“Just a whiskey,” Hank says, making sure to mix a bit of a drawl back into his voice. “On the rocks, please.”

They smirk lazily. “No Thirium for you, old man?”

Hank throws a lopsided smile back. “Nah, sorry. Couldn’t stomach that shit even if I wanted to.”

A knowing look, and they start to pour the whiskey, placing the glass on the bar before Hank with a soft clang. “You lookin’ for someone?” they ask, eyes glittering.

“Waiting for someone,” Hank corrects, keeping the half-smile playing at his lips.

“Interesting,” the bartender remarks, leaning forward and smiling dangerously. “Sounds like that person could be trouble.”

Hank swirls the ice in his glass and holds it up to the bartender as if to clink it to them. “Trouble tends to find me no matter where I go,” he remarks casually, “so I’ll guess I’ll drink to that tonight.”

The bartender offers him a final look. “I’ll leave ya to it, chief,” they nod, before sidling over to the other side of the bar.

Hank pretends to watch them a little longer; pouring different shots of blue into tall glasses for a couple of androids a few seats away from Hank. One of them has a LED, the other doesn’t, and they don’t stop touching each other while the bartender mixes their drinks.

Hands and mouths flashing white wherever they touch.

“I have eyes on you,” says a voice in Hank’s ear; half-there, half-not.

Hank hides the surprised hunch of his frame beneath the rim of his glass, turning his eyes away from the couple at the bar to semi-carelessly look around the dancefloor.

“Try to look more convincing.”

Connor’s voice sounds amused beneath the weird static of being so fucking close in Hank’s ear. And the worst part is that Hank can’t say anything back – they’d agreed it would be too obvious if he’d walk in with a standard police issue earpiece.

Other androids might not be as advanced as Connor is, but they’d still be able to pick up on audio and Hank’s moving lips a lot easier than any human ever would. So Hank is wearing a tiny pin of a thing, lodged deep into his ear, connected directly to Connor.

However the fuck that works.

If they get separated, Hank can press it to indicate he’s in danger. That should be easy enough, even if he’s getting his ass beaten by a bunch of androids high on about twelve different kinds of Thirium.

“Wonder if they have blue ice here,” he mutters.

Connor has the audacity to chuckle into his ear. “Something tells me that won’t take long.”

This is the worst possible idea they’ve ever had.

Hank wants to ask Connor whether he’s picking up useful conversations, if he’s seeing any suspicious characters, if he has any fucking idea that could help them on this case – but instead he’s stuck trying to look offensive enough to draw attention, and yet not offensive enough to warrant instant removal.

He never thought he’d hate playing the bait this much.

“North is coming your way,” Connor continues. “The bartender sent some information over to someone upstairs and the security guards are letting some interesting characters up through the backdoor.”

Hank is vibrating with the effort to keep still, and not to look around for either Connor or North. To keep up the routine: beat-up cop trying out the new android bar at the end of the street, nothing to see here, move along.

It’s been a while since he’s played at being undercover. For once since he started drinking less, he’s actually glad for the distracting thrill of the whiskey on his tongue. And that’s also a little worrying, to be really fucking honest.

“I’m going to make a move and check both upstairs and the back,” Connor says, voice neutral and professional. Then, softer: “You should be safe in North’s hands.”

Hank swallows, pinky ticking against the glass in his hand. He wants to tell Connor to be careful; to tell him to call for backup the instant he runs into real trouble. He wants to do fucking something rather than sit here and –

“Don’t look to the side and try to recognize me, Lieutenant. You won’t be able to. Good luck.”

Hank very pointedly does not look to the side, not even when someone brushes his shoulder and walks by, but simply heaves a breath over the rim of his glass. Squares his shoulders and waits.

It feels like casing a joint for all the wrong reasons, and Hank’s skin itches uncomfortably, but Fowler was right. They’re a good pair of officers, and Connor’s got this one in the bag. All Hank has to do is distract.

“Well, look who’s here.”

Hank doesn’t have to turn around to know to whom that voice belongs.

“Give me some room, will you,” North says, and the android on Hank’s right instantly sidles away.

Though nobody comments upon it, there’s a slight buzz; more people watching, more people turning to see what’s going on. The firebrand of the revolution bumping into the cop who indirectly aided the cause.

Hank smirks. That’s right. Check out the juicy gossip, folks.

He turns slowly before greeting her with a nod of his head. She looks like she always does: tall and with barely constrained anger.

“North,” he says, inclining his head. “Didn’t think I’d see you here.”

North shrugs, leaning over on the bar and facing him. “Normally not my kind of scene, no,” she says, tone short. “But not yours either, old man.”

Hank turns his body towards hers, holding his glass up to her as a greeting. “To unlikely meeting places.”

She snorts dismissively. “I don’t do toasts.”

“No?” Hank asks, raising an eyebrow. “Not even to your own revolution?”

“Ha,” North laughs bitterly. “Mine? Can you hear the people sing?”

She settles onto the bar stool, both arms crossed on the flat surface of the bar. She drags one finger through a wet stain of Thirium before, spoiling the perfect ring. “It’s Markus’ name they chant, not mine.”

Hank shifts, giving her a look. “Oh?” he asks, tone subtly inquisitive. “I thought you were as instrumental to the cause as he was. The whole group, right?”

“Humans are too used to seeing what they want to see,” she quips. “A pretty woman on the arm of powerful man.”

She wipes her finger on her pants. “An accessory,” she adds, eyes narrowing. There’s fire there.

Hank hums in the affirmative. “That’d make them fools, I think,” he says, and he means it.

That’s the thing with North. Hank has met her only once; felt something resonate, figured out he’d understood parts of her. But North runs ever deeper than Hank did, in his youth, and though this whole thing is supposed to be a set scene to distract people from whatever Connor is up to – he can’t fully discern what’s truth, and what’s not.

North doesn’t seem like someone who could easily fake shit. Who’d want to fake shit.

“Yeah,” she says slowly, eyes carefully taking in Hank’s searching expression. “That’d make them fools indeed. I was never here for consumption.”

She takes note of Hank’s empty glass, and turns towards the bartender. “Speaking of which…Get him another one. On me.”

The bartender complies with an exaggerated, respectful nod of their head, but they don’t say anything. No curious small talk like they did with Hank.

“How are the, uh,” Hank starts, gesturing with his glass, “the former employees of The Eden Club doing?”

North looks surprised, and she doesn’t bother to hide it. “As good as they possibly can. They’re healing, and they’re figuring out where to go from here.” She pauses. “At least that’s something.”

“Good to know,” Hank comments.

North regards him curiously. “You know, we’re supposed to be looking like we’re planning something shady. You could at least put in the effort.”

Hank gives her a glare. “I was genuinely curious, jesus. Don’t trip a man up for asking.” He then frowns, looking her up and down. “Also, how the fuck? Weren’t we supposed to – you know, not talk about that?”

“I’m wearing a scrambler,” North says, raising an eyebrow. “It completely garbles my audio and fucks up visual recognition of my lips for all androids in the near vicinity. If I want it to.”

“Holy shit,” Hank says, looking her up and down without thought.

He’s not an android, so he shouldn’t see anything – but then North turns her arm. The skin peels away slightly at the center of her forearm, and there’s a flickering green little light there that Hank’s never seen on an android before.

(Not that he has a lot of experience.)

North lightly shrugs her shoulders, the motion making her braid sway. “Simon made it for me,” she says matter-of-factly. “Thought it’d add to the whole secrecy persona.”

“Wow,” Hank nods, impressed. “And here I thought it was my boundless charm as a washed-up old cop keepin’ the creeps away.”

That makes one corner of North’s mouth dip in what Hank hopes will bloom into a small smile, but it doesn’t.

“You do realize,” she says, tone a little clipped, “that while they can’t read me, they can read you.”

Hank grunts, leaning a little closer. “Can’t we just pretend I’m nervous talking to you?” he asks. “How did you put it again? Pretty woman on the arm of a powerful man and all that?”

He needles her a little on purpose, and gets a reaction he expected.

“Fuck you,” North says, and the sugary sweet smile she conjures up to her face is frightening. “I can also pretend to kick you in the fucking balls. That’d serve as a nice distraction.”

Not fake, he thinks. She spoke the truth.

“Hey,” Hank says, holding up one hand, “I was just joking. You said it first.”

Her eyes narrow minutely.

He sighs. “Fuck, alright. It was a dick move.”

“It was smart, though,” she adds, briefly scanning the room. “No conversation with me would pass without any threats.” Her eyes flick to Hank’s ear.

He shakes his head. “Nope. Nothing yet.”

“Taking his damn time,” North mutters.

Hank clears his throat, purposefully increasing his volume. “Tell me more about the Jericho gang,” he says, as casually as he can make it sound.

That just makes North shake her head. “Good angle. Markus did say you asked a lot of questions when you came to the house.”

“You guys still meet up?” Hank continues, rattling off questions in his mind to buy Connor more time. He tries to keep his expression somewhere between mildly impressed and smug for the onlookers’ eager eyes.

North nods, a bare dip of her chin. “That we do,” she says, looking amused. “For big android orgies, if that was what you were wondering about.”

Hank feels his face flush. “Are you gonna make this easy on me or not?” he mutters, raising an eyebrow.

North’s arm shoots forward so fast that Hank barely has any time to register it, and then the next second she’s crushing his wrist in her palm. His glass rattles with the strength of her grip, and Hank swears he feels his bones grind together.

Fuck,” Hank curses, “what the fuck are you – ”

She raises an eyebrow. “Hard,” she says. “I’m going to make it hard on you. Try to look like you’re in pain.”

“I am!” Hank barks. “Jesus fuckin’ christ. This is fun to you?”

She releases his wrist as quickly as she pulled it into her death-grip, and Hank immediately rubs his wrist with his other hand. They have a brief stare-off before North’s mouth finally curls into a genuine smile.

“A little,” she says. “I always like having an excuse to rile people up.”

Hank snorts, a brief flare of pain still shooting up his arm. “Deviants are fuckin’ wild.”

She hums noncommittally. “You forced our hand.”

“Almost there,” Connor says in his ear, voice strained and whispery.

Hank takes a sip of his whiskey with his other hand, trying not to seem too affected by the heaviness of Connor’s voice. “Did you mean what you said earlier? About being an accessory?”

North looks taken aback; eyebrows slightly raised, eyes widened. “I…”

“It’s okay if you don’t want to talk about it,” Hank follows up, “I mean…”

She inhales sharply through her nose and looks thoroughly annoyed. “Turning a distracting scene into a moment to question me for information. Good job, Anderson.”

Hank shrugs. “Sometimes you gotta take what you can get.”

“What’s it to you?” she asks, eyeing him. “Last time, you said that you were able to sympathize with our cause. And here you are, solving crime after crime. Getting justice for humans and androids alike.”

The implication is there, and Hank doesn’t like it.

He gives her the same flat stare she’s giving him. “It’s not just about him. Just like your justice isn’t just about Markus.”

Her lips press into a thin line. “You and I are nothing alike.”

“I think we are,” says Hank, “and I wouldn’t want to see you end up like me.”

North’s hand clenches on the bar. “And what do I have to do not to end up like you? Play nice? Get myself the good little life and scrub away all the hard edges?”

Hank isn’t sure he can say it; not sure it would make sense for anyone listening into the conversation believing that he’s trying to get in cahoots with North. With all the name-dropping regarding Markus, it’s pretty obvious that they’re discussing something about the revolution.

But fuck it, he’s risking it.

“No,” he says, voice rough. “But channel it into something good for yourself, you hear? Something productive.” He pauses, swallowing the last of his whiskey. “Otherwise you’re just gonna end up with years and years of regret. You got more time than I ever had to feel it.”

North says nothing, staring at him head-on. Her fist slowly unclenches over the bar’s smooth surface.

Hank realizes he’s run out of questions.

“Got it,” Connor says into his ear; he sounds rushed, voice hidden under static and layers of deep bass. “Heading back to the car. Meet you there.”

North is frowning, now. “I,” she says, and then her shoulders heave with a breath she doesn’t have to take. “Thank you,” she settles upon, as if the words are unfamiliar in her mouth.

“For what?” Hank shoots back, raising an eyebrow.

Her eyes go a little harder momentarily. “For not seeing an accessory.”

Hank nods, before turning and slipping off his bar stool. “Catch you on the flip side, North,” he says, giving her a mock-salute. “Be good to yourself.”

Her expression morphs into a more neutral one. “He got it?”

“Yeah,” Hank says. “He did.”

She nods, once. “You’re always welcome to call on the house,” she adds unexpectedly. “Both of you are.”

When Hank wants to say something to her before he leaves, she waves him off, turning away. She hides her gaze from him, face dipped, eyebrows disappearing beneath the shadow of her fringe and her beanie.

Hank smiles, leaving some money on the bar.

The crowd parts easily before him when he leaves and he feels lighter, the attractive taste of the whiskey at the back of his throat soon forgotten.

Connor got them what they need.

Now all they need to do is follow that lead to its inevitable conclusion, and after?

Maybe he’ll take North up on her offer.

 


 

The man in Hank’s car doesn’t look like Connor.

Hank curses himself for expecting a human type of disguise, expecting someone who at least lowkey looks like his partner, and then gets in the car after fumbling with his keys at his own oversight.

“Wow,” he says when he sits down, looking to his right.

His first thought is that it looks like Connor raided both Markus’ and North’s combined wardrobe, because what he’s wearing can be described easily as android revolution chic. Greys and blacks, asymmetrical shapes, a long coat and a sort of off-the-shoulder thing.

His skin has a colder tone to it, and his hair is jet black. No freckles, no moles, and a jagged fringe over his brow. His eyes are a cold, steely blue, and his nose seems just a tad bigger.

Hank realizes he wouldn’t recognize Connor if they’d passed in the street in a million fucking years.

“Lieutenant,” Connor says, inclining his head.

Even his voice is different; at least an octave lower, rumbling deep from his chest.

Hank just stares back at him. “Jesus,” he mutters, “that’s somethin’.”

“Ah right,” Connor says, “the voice.” He stops talking, making a sound that’s a weird mix of retching and coughing before his voice morphs back to normal. “Better?”

Hank nods, still a little stunned and weirded out. “Yeah,” he settles upon, not knowing what else to say.

It’s so weird to look at him and to see a guy that’s not Connor but his expressions and the details do match up. All the little things that Hank’s grown fond of – the way Connor’s lips move, the way he turns his head, the way his eyes crinkle up at the sides. The way his hands are folded in his lap.

But the rest of it?

“Hank? Do you want me to tell you what happened?” Connor presses, raising an eyebrow. Not a light, brown, slightly fluffy one; but dark, thin, sharply cut. A scar wedging it in two.

“No, yeah, sure,” Hank says, tearing his eyes off of Connor’s face.

When he moves, when he talks, when he leans in slightly – it’s still Connor. Uniquely, beautifully Connor.

It’s like Hank’s body doesn’t know how to react.

“The group upstairs was discussing a point-by-point program,” Connor starts off, holding up his palm to show Hank a recording, “of things they wanted to discuss with the government. It’s a local group, so it’s purely meant for Detroit leadership and the surrounding municipality.”

Hank watches the androids in Connor’s palm sit around in a circle; a screen up on the wall with a long list on it, bullet points and all. Though it’s hard to see, he spies all kinds of topics – holiday leave, insurance for biocomponents, repurposing old CyberLife facilities.

Connor smiles, blue eyes lighting up. “See? They wanted to bring this up during the mayor’s speech. Goad her into getting a proper meeting set up.”

Hank blinks. “So it’s not a violent kind of group.”

“No,” Connor says slowly. “They’re just as worried about the bomb threat as we are. They were planning to go there with all of their representatives, so bombing it wouldn’t solve a thing.”

He pauses, fast-forwarding to another recording. Hank hears muted voices talk of marriage and registered partnerships.

“Markus would be attending the speech, too,” Connor continues. “They’ve taken on his pacifist creeds, and want to show that they’re open to dialogue.” He looks back up at Hank. “Why would they bomb an event with their leader there?”

Hank shakes his head. “It’s not them,” he says, trying not to get too affected by how uncanny it is to talk to someone who acts like Connor but doesn’t look like him.

“What about the human gangs around the neighborhood?” he asks. “Anyone there who might try to stick it to the androids?”

Connor looks hesitant. “Nothing’s shown up on Waterfield’s sweeps. And the rows Reed handled last week were – well, violent, but unorganized. Vandalization, fighting. Nothing beyond that and nothing that says bombing. No Molotov cocktails, no explosive devices.”

“Simple, reactionary violence,” Hank says on a hum.

Connor nods, shifting in his seat.

“Nothing that says well-organized, huh?” he says, thoughtful. “I think you and I have to get back to our desks tomorrow. Figure out who’s got the right attitude for this.” He pauses. “I know it’s a Saturday, but…”

“I understand,” Connor says. “I want to solve this, too.”

Hank checks his watch. 01:12 AM.

“Home?” he asks, sticking the keys into the ignition.

Connor smiles, and Hank is startled when he notices how Connor’s lips are the exact same as always. The shape of them; wide, smooth, his cupid’s bow a slope. He knows how those lips taste. He’s had them against his own.

“Home,” Connor confirms. “It’s been a long day.”

Hank drives back to the house easy and slow, the streets almost deserted. “I’m glad we pulled it off,” he murmurs, eyes on the road. “I gotta admit, I didn’t like it when Fowler put us on this.”

“Me neither,” Connor admits. He fidgets a bit with his long, grey sleeves. “I prefer doing things together than apart. Dangling you around as bait while not knowing what was waiting for us was a challenge.”

Hank laughs, trying to ease the mood. “Hey, I got some punches in me left.”

Connor’s eyes twinkle; his black lashes are at least twice as long as usual. “I don’t doubt it, Lieutenant.”

“Hey,” Hank says then, because he feels he has to, “and you’re wrong, you know. I’d recognize you like this.”

Connor makes a face like he doesn’t believe a word of Hank’s saying. “Oh?” he asks, crossing his arms.

“Heck yeah,” Hank grins. “When you move, it’s you. Utterly fucking you.”

“Are you saying my disguise failed?” Connor asks, raising an eyebrow.

Hank snorts. “Nah, I’m saying that I can always tell it’s you. But that’s good, isn’t it?” He offers Connor a brief look before turning onto their street. “Means it doesn’t matter how you change yourself up.”

Connor says nothing; just regards him with big unblinking eyes. The street lights reflect in them.

Hank parks the car on the driveway. “I’ll always know it’s you,” he repeats, softer than he’d intended.

They both get out of the car, Hank falling into their routine.

They always do it the same way. The one who drove back to the house closing up the car, sometimes checking the engine, and the other opening the front door and greeting Sumo. If Hank wants to sleep in, he’ll already put the trash by the road to have it picked up in the morning.

But when he walks around the car, he finds Connor standing on the path towards the house with a forlorn expression on his face. He looks lost, in his big coat and with his unfamiliar shaggy haircut.

Hank blinks.

Connor walks towards him and hugs him tight.

One arm around his shoulder and the other below his arm, around his waist. Face pressed into the shoulder of his suit jacket. No room left between the two of them – his torso pressed to Hank’s, his fingers bunching in the fabric of Hank’s clothes. Feet wedged between Hank’s own.

Hank is quick to wrap his own arms around Connor and his partner’s body just melts at the touch. Leans into him further, swaying on the spot. Shaggy hair brushing his own.

“Connor,” Hank says gently, “hey, it’s alright.”

“Sometimes,” Connor says into Hank’s collar, “emotions are difficult.”

Hank chuckles. “Don’t I know,” he says, rocking back and forth slowly. He pets Connor’s hair, sinking his fingers into it and twirling the strands.

“Being able to turn them off would have been a nice function.”

Connor sounds prickly and tired and all the things that come with risky, long hour shifts.

“Come on,” Hank says, nudging him. “Let’s go inside. You can leave Mr. Edgy Deviant behind and just relax in bed. Cuddle ‘till you fall asleep.”

He shoulders him a little harder, but Connor doesn’t move an inch.

It’s very difficult to get a hilariously strong, hilariously heavy android to move when he doesn’t want to. “I don’t need sleep,” he says, muffled from where he’s pressed his mouth into Hank’s shirt.

“I do,” Hank says, “and Sumo must’ve missed us both.”

That seems to do the trick.

Connor’s shoulders slump, but he follows Hank to the front door. One hand sliding down Hank’s arm to catch his fingers, tangling them instantly.

Hank stumbles about a bit once they get inside, kicking off his shoes and throwing the keys into the little basket on the table in the hallway. It’s so late that Sumo doesn’t even come up to them, so he just tugs Connor into the bedroom and shucks off his own jacket when Connor lets go of his arm long enough for him to do so.

Connor still doesn’t move, so Hank puts one hand to his hip and the other on what he assumes is the zipper of Connor’s coat.

“Are these Markus’ clothes?” he asks.

Connor looks up at him with unfamiliar blue eyes. “He helped me pick them out. Being of the same prototypical line, we possess some of the same body dimensions.”

Hank hesitates on the buttons.

The room is dark; no moon from the outside, the night sky cloudy.

Hank knows, he knows that this is Connor. Just spent the entire car ride convincing him of the fact. But it still feels weird, undressing a man in his – their – bedroom who looks so different when he just stands there, unmoving. Doing nothing to remind Hank of the fact that this is the man he’s in love with.

Hank’s fingers twitch.

They haven’t even done this yet. Hank’s never undressed Connor; not purposefully, intimately, in a caring sort of way. Has never unbuttoned one of his shirt to press it to the side with his palms. To feel Connor’s synthetic skin beat under his hands.

“What’s wrong?” Connor asks.

“I,” Hank says, “we haven’t done this before. Can you – can you be you? If that’s okay?”

Connor blinks, and then his entire face just falls. “Right now, I don’t have enough energy to resynthesize my normal appearance,” he says, sounding apologetic.

The implication hangs heavily between them.

“If you don’t feel comfortable,” Hank croaks, “that’s totally fine. Heck, I don’t feel too fine in my own skin. But you don’t – you don’t gotta keep it on for me, alright?”

He slides his hand up from where it’s resting on Connor’s chest; closes his eyes briefly as he cups Connor’s jaw. The shape of it is still the same, and it echoes into Hank’s hand.

Connor nods. “Can you give me a moment?” he asks, quietly.

Hank gives him a nod back, reaching out to squeeze his hands. “Sure. I’ll just get ready for bed.”

Connor leaves the room, coat swishing behind him, and Hank goes on to strip himself off his clothes. Pants, shirt, socks, dropping them haphazardly until he’s down to his t-shirt and boxers, and then he crawls into bed.

Pretends that the knot in his stomach isn’t there.

It surprises him, to be honest. That Connor’s hesitant. That there are things about Connor that he doesn’t want Hank to see. Hank can imagine why his own body wouldn’t be attractive to someone – old, sagged out, worn, hairy. He’s still strong, but it’s hidden by a thick layer of fat.

Connor was very obviously created in a perfect image.

Hank turns onto his back.

The light in the bathroom is on – he can tell by the stripe of light on the hallway floor.

Maybe that’s the problem. When people look at Connor, they see someone conventionally attractive; someone who looks like he could be trusted, who’s nice to talk to. But the harsh reality of it is that Connor is and always will be an android, and that he looks different underneath the skin that was created for him.

That below that, there’s white polymer. Serial numbers and lines of plating.

A blue-beating, Thirium infused heart.

Things that appear similar to a human’s body but can still look drastically different when exposed.

The light flicks off.

Hank waits, and purposefully doesn’t look up. He knows he wouldn’t want that if it was him baring whatever secret he feels he still has to keep from Connor.

Connor’s shadow passes over the wall until he walks over to his side of the bed, to Hank’s right. And then the bed is creaking, and Connor’s climbing on top of it. The mattress dips, and a hand settles on Hank’s shoulder.

“Hank,” Connor says, voice soft.

Hank looks to the side.

Connor’s face is entirely bare. He’s still wearing his tank and his underwear, as he usually does when he steps into bed, but they’re draped over a body that’s all sleek planes of plastic. It shines lightly, even in the darkness of the room; some parts more glossy, others more matte.

His LED is spinning yellow with little flashes of red.

Hank says nothing but reaches out instantly, holding both of his arms open to wrap around Connor’s shoulders. Connor makes a small, wounded noise when Hank crushes him against him, forehead resting against Hank’s temple.

“There you are,” he murmurs, sliding his hand over the smooth dome of Connor’s head. No hair to card his hands through but he makes the motion nonetheless, caressing the lines of him with shaky fingers.

Connor looks up.

It’s not so different, really, Hank realizes.

He draws his fingers over the side of Connor’s face. The sides of his head have a darker, blue tinge to the plating; as does the little dip in his chin, the sides of his throat. He recognizes the lines that bled a glowing blue when they had sex, but now they’re closed and dark.

The tiny little triangle at the highest point of Connor’s forehead; the serial number above his right brow. Details that Hank wants to remember; wants to make part of the way he sees Connor.

Connor shudders.

Hank drags his fingertips over every little distinction he can find. The beautiful dip of that chin. The bridge of his nose, the flare of his nostrils; the point where that loving cupid’s bow slopes into the rest of Connor’s mouth.

The roundness of his ears, the short earlobes.

The curve of his shoulders under the straps of his tank. And then lower, hands sliding over the artificial planes of Connor’s chest to the glowing blue circle of his Thirium regulator pump.

Hank holds his hand there.

The other he smooths over Connor’s cheek.

Connor’s eyes are still their warm, soft brown; offset even more by the white planes of his face. But they’re growing a little misty, and Connor is trembling.

Hank knows it then. He’d expected it to hit him like a punch to the gut, but it doesn’t. It’s a slow kind of build-up instead; dances and curls around him like a vine, steadily rising to reach the light. No struggles; just growth, organic and natural.

The first fucking thing to grow out of the death in Hank’s heart.

Connor turns his head and presses a kiss to Hank’s palm, closing his eyes to savor the sensation.

“Stay with me,” Hank says, and his voice breaks.

Connor looks back at him, a small smile blooming on his lips like the thing curled around Hank’s chest.

They both know that Hank doesn’t mean now. They both know that Hank doesn’t mean stay here and lay your head down or spend tonight with me. They both know it’s larger, an offer with more weight than it seems; a more encompassing thing swallowing them up in this dark and dreary night.

Connor’s LED goes back to a clear blue.

Hank smooths his thumb over it.

He doesn’t say it, but he thinks it.

( - shit, I fucking love you, you beautiful fucking man, with all my old and aching heart; don’t think I’ve ever loved anyone like this, with this feeling of wholeness, this sense of belonging, of coming home – )

“I will,” Connor answers, shifting slightly to lay down next to Hank. His smile is warm, hopeful.

Hank wants Connor to look at him like that forever.

It’s a little different, cuddling with a purely android body; Connor’s outer layer is tougher, stronger, and it doesn’t slide as smoothly against Hank’s as he’s used to. But he’s also slightly cooler, and heavier, and Hank finds that he loves it.

Loves it as Connor snuggles his arms around Hank’s waist and tangles their legs underneath the blankets. Pillows himself onto Hank’s body like he hasn’t done before; sprawled over him in a very human-like way. Toes pressed into Hank’s calf.

Their hands stay entwined.

“I’m probably going to drool on you tonight,” Hank announces, patting Connor’s shoulder. “I tend to do that when I’m tired.”

“I know,” Connor says into Hank’s soft, threadbare t-shirt. He rearranges the blankets around them with one lazy flick of his wrist. “My body might turn warmer overnight while I recharge.”

Hank snorts. “So you’re telling me I’ve got a sweaty battery on my chest right now?”

Connor chuckles. “Yeah. Good night, Hank.”

“Good night, Connor.”

Hank falls asleep with his arm thrown over Connor’s shoulders, and the I love you between them echoes all throughout the night.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 8

In which Hank and Connor visit a shooting range, try to take down a corrupt government official, and kiss each other’s faces. Repeatedly.

 

March 2039

 

It’s Monday morning. Nine o’clock; cloudy day with a chance of rain in the afternoon.

Hank knows it all ‘cause he’s had the radio playing on his way to the police academy. News, weather report, and cool jazz to wake up to. He’s still not that used to being up and about this fucking early.

The car’s pretty and shiny; he brought her to the carwash last night. There’s a box of Detroit’s finest donuts on the passenger seat and for once, Hank actually likes the reflection he sees when he parks the car and checks the rearview mirror. He didn’t put in a lot of effort, but it’s noticeable.

Hair pulled back into a bun, beard trimmed just a bit. He’s wearing vintage sunglasses; the pair that Cole used to love.

The hurt is starting to blunt; less of a sharp, visceral spike when thinking about his boy. Less like a vice squeezing Hank’s heart dry. It’s more of a dull, thudding thing these days; a hole of old regrets with fresh tears mixed in. It helps to have his photo up.

It helps to sometimes give it space and remember.

His smile, his voice. The way this pair of shades looked upon his tiny little face.

Hank sucks in a breath and gets out of the car, walking around to grab the box of donuts.

There’s a training simulation going on right now in the shooting range. Mimicking a gang shoot-out. It’s a classic exercise – one going back all the way to when Hank and Fowler were in the academy. It’s probably gone through a lot of upgrades and changes back then, but Hank recalls the thrill.

He loved doing it when he was a rookie.

Strolling around to the front entrance, he flashes his badge at the reception. People are surprised to see him there; Hank Anderson, veteran officer, a legend on the force. A former legend, maybe, one who never shows his face at the academy to try and mentor the young ones.

Hank knows what they say, but he’s never cared much.

Hidden at the bottom of a bottle; torn by the loss of his kid.

All of it true, anyway.

The shooting range that they’re holding the exercise in has a huge bulletproof side-window for audits. The teachers are all there, writing down pointers and checking the students’ statistics on the monitor to the side.

Hank waits alongside them, saying nothing and watching it all go down.

There’s one of them who immediately stands out beyond the rest. His movements are calculated, precise, and calm. Efficient to a fault. All his shots hit their marks, and he’s not sporting any injuries.

He’s the first to reach a wounded innocent bystander and administer first aid. He’s also the first to subdue five out of seven gang leaders, from most important to least. And he manages to save one of the people on his team from a gruesome death by pulling off a risky move.

Something with half-a-somersault and dodging computer-generated bullets. It still looks fucking badass.

Especially when, once the stimulation ends, he stands up slowly and straightens his tie.

He doesn’t even look ruffled, and Hank just grins. A little goofily, maybe, ‘cause he doesn’t even try to deny to himself that it’s fucking hot when Connor pulls something like that off.

The students start trickling out of the shooting range with tired but excited faces; shedding their bulletproof vests and talking faintly to each other about the stimulation. They look young and some of them scrappy, and Hank’s sees a younger version of himself in their eyes.

The teachers take their final notes.

Connor finally spots him.

He blinks twice in quick succession, lips slightly parted. And then his eyes go up and down Hank’s body in a way that makes Hank only grin wider. They hover over the smooth edges of his beard and the buckle of his belt; visible from where Hank’s tucked his shirt into his pants.

Connor’s bold eyes make Hank feel smart, and he loves seeing Connor openly run his gaze over him. He’s taking his time to look beyond that first quick analysis that Hank knows only takes a millisecond and should be pretty much invisible to the naked human eye.

But like this? It’s a caress, almost.

Hank has little time to dwell on it – he came here with a purpose. He looks around, searching for a face he’s only seen on a greyscale photo on a report. A report that was drawn up because everyone who punches a fellow trainee gets a warning, no matter whether that trainee is an android or not.

Hank didn’t even have to pull his rank to see it. Fowler gave the report to him right away.

Connor smiles back at Hank, subtle and understated, and starts walking towards him.

The guy Hank’s looking for is slightly off to Connor’s right, a scowl on his face while he stares at Connor’s back. Hank instantly dubs him Dick, just because he can.

Luckily Dick isn’t entirely clueless and picks up fast when he spots Hank. He actually does a double-take.

“I hadn’t expected to see you here,” Connor says. “Come to check on my progress, Lieutenant?”

Hank snorts. “We both know you outgun everyone in this room, including me. Though it was nice to watch, yeah. I brought donuts to celebrate.”

Connor huffs, almost a laugh. “Right,” he says, crossing his arms. “thanks. I’ll enjoy those.”

The sarcasm drips from his voice and Dick’s eyes are bulging out of his head at this point. He doesn’t seem to know whether to be surprised or enraged or both.

Hank just laughs, and steps forward to drag a smiling Connor into a one-armed hug, the box of donuts still balancing on his hand. Connor responds easily and relaxed, arms solid around him, and pats Hank’s chest when he pulls away.

“You look good,” he says, voice softer.

“Thanks,” Hank says. “Today’s an alright day.”

If Dickhead hit Connor, he either has guts or is arrogant enough to believe he had the right of it. So Hank figured earlier that he wouldn’t have to do a lot to set him off. It appears he was right.

“Uh, sir?” tries Dick, stepping forward. He looks apprehensive but approaches them nonetheless.

Connor tenses minutely; his arm is still against the inside of Hank’s own and Hank feels the little jolt of the movement.

“Yeah?” Hank asks gruffly, raising an eyebrow.

Dick holds out his hand. “I’m Lawrence Jenkins. And a great fan, sir. It’s fantastic that you came along to watch us today.”

Suck-up, Hank thinks, shaking Lawrence the Asshat’s hand.

“Just came to pick up Connor,” Hank says, jerking his thumb towards Connor who’s regarding Lawrence rather coolly.

Lawrence perks up slightly at the opportunity to talk about his new nemesis. “I’m sure Connor’s a great assistant,” he says, nodding. “I mean, he’s been breaking all the records here at the academy.”

Hank swallows a mean comment, and instead reaches out to sling his arm around Connor’s shoulder. Connor’s frame sinks a little under the sway of Hank’s arm, and he bites back a smile in amusement and rests his palm on the small of Hank’s back.

“He is, isn’t he?” Hank says, regarding Connor with pride in his eyes. “But you’re wrong, pal,” he adds, looking back at Lawrence. “Connor’s my partner. Not my assistant.”

“I meant no disrespect,” Lawrence the Douchebag says, quick to cover up his mistake. “Just referring to Connor’s rank.”

Okay, Hank thinks. It’s proving more difficult to control himself around Lawrence than he’d expected. The guy just oozes smartass and a better-than-thou attitude. He’s exactly the type of trash that’d grow into a racist, classist, power-hungry cop.

Hank snorts. “Then that’s Detective Assistant Connor to you, Jenkins. And I’m sure he’ll make full detective soon.” He looks at Connor, smiling warmly. “If I’d had him at my side during the red ice case, I would’ve cracked it a hell of a lot sooner.”

Connor smiles back, leaning into Hank.

“Well, you were very instrumental to solving it,” Lawrence says, scrambling for a reply. “And androids are… effective machines. I’m sure that could’ve given you yet another edge, sir.”

Now it’s Hank who stiffens, arm tightening around Connor. He’d initially planned to soothe some prejudices away or make the guy see the truth in a subtler way, but that went from zero to a hundred real fast.

As did Hank’s temper.

“What did you just say, asshole?” he snaps.

Lawrence’s face blanches. “Uh, sir?” he asks.

Hank takes a step closer and takes advantage of his full, towering height. “I must be getting a little deaf in this ear,” he says sharply. “’Cause I thought I heard you say somethin’ about androids being machines.”

Lawrence makes a noise that sounds a lot like ‘erp’ and stares up at Hank. “Sir, I – ”

Hank narrows his eyes. “Androids are people like you and me. And don’t you fucking forget that,” he says, jabbing his finger into Lawrence’s face.

Lawrence the Faildonger gulps, cheeks pale.

“I beg to differ,” Connor quips, placing a hand on Hank’s shoulder. “Though we’re all people here, I think Mr. Jenkins is nothing like you, Lieutenant Anderson.” He pauses, almost ominously, and turns to look at Lawrence.

Sometimes Hank forgets how scary Connor’s interrogation face looks.

“Or me, for that matter,” he adds with a slight raise of his eyebrow.

Lawrence looks like he’s about to piss his pants. “I’m sorry,” he chokes, “sirs.”

Hank’s anger is starting to dissolve, melting away like snow under a bright, warm sun.

(Connor is the sun.)

“What do you think, detective?” he asks Connor, jostling his arm around Connor’s neck. “This rookie has a lot to learn, huh?”

“Becoming a decent human being appears to be high on the list,” Connor answers dryly.

Hank grins. “Come on.” He pats Connor’s back. “Let’s get the fuck out of here.”

He grabs a donut out of the box, and stuffs it into his mouth while keeping his eyes on a wide-eyed, sweaty Lawrence. “I catch you saying that again,” he threatens around the donut, “or I find you socking my partner in the jaw a second time, you’re gonna get a hell lot more than a disciplinary warning.”

Lawrence blinks. “Of course, sir,” he croaks, voice weak.

Hank snorts. “Dipshit.”

They walk off, and Hank can’t help but notice how Connor matches his pace to let them walk away in a synchronized rhythm. Hank keeps his arm where it is without even thinking about it.

“That was fun,” he murmurs.

“It was,” Connor says, sounding pleased. “Thanks. For the whole – ”

Hank’s heart swells, and he’s quick to interrupt. “Don’t mention it. You had the situation under control. I just wanted to – hell, I don’t know, show my face.”

Connor ducks his head. “I appreciate it. And you really do look good,” he says, and it comes out bashful.

Hank wants to say something, but his mouth is full of donut and Connor is moving a little closer, arm sliding around to wrap around Hank’s waist. He’s smiling, but it’s a shy sort of thing; if he was human, maybe he’d blush.

Fuck, it feels so blissfully normal that Hank almost can’t believe it’s real.

He presses a sugary kiss to Connor’s brow when they walk out of the front doors.

Best fuckin’ morning ever.

 


 

Last Saturday, Connor and Hank spent the entire day at home – Connor in Hank’s old DPD hoodie and Hank in his bathrobe – trying to find the origin of the bomb threat they investigated at The Blue Lagoon.

Hank had initially wanted to drive over to the office, considering the fact that they needed a secure connection to get access to the police network, before Connor had looked him in the eye and said: “I am a secure connection.”

Well, that was that.

Hank sure as fuck wasn’t going to say no to a day of policework where he could unabashedly enjoy Connor’s presence without pretense.

A day where he could press his nose to Connor’s nape whenever he’d reach around to grab a cup of coffee; flatten his palm over the back of Connor’s hand when he’d step in to look at the monitor. Brush a kiss over the curve of his shoulder when he’d walk by the couch where Connor was sitting.

And god, Connor had come alive under it.

Happy, effortless smiles; light touches of his fingertips that had lingered just because he could. Turning his head and body into Hank’s constantly – always on the lookout for the next touch. Giddily initiating some of his own.

A hand carding through Hank’s hair casually; a brief press of his lips against Hank’s beard, knees knocking against Hank’s own. There’d been something chipperly sweet about it, as if he still couldn’t quite believe it.

Hank’s heart warms at remembering Connor’s expression from that night. So much relief on that white-and-blue face when Hank had hugged him and drawn him close.

So much trust.

It’s easier, now. A lot goddamn easier.

Easy for Hank to forget his own doubts, his fears, the sinking hole he’s still crawling out of. Looking at Connor and seeing how much he wants to be near him, how his eyes spark with every little touch, with every warm show of affection.

It’s healing.

And now it’s Monday, and after Connor’s little training exercise the two of them are back at the office to work the bombing threat case.

(Hank has his head together. It just effortlessly slips back to the weekend sometimes; to closeness, and to Connor.)

Waiting for his coffee to finish, Hank looks through the files on his touchpad again while leaning against the kitchen counter in the breakroom. They’ve found some leads on the case, and Hank’s been digging through the information they have on the mayor’s staff.

The threat call was placed with a burner phone, so they weren’t able to track its origins.

But considering the fact that none of the gangs in Detroit seem involved, nor the peaceful group of androids gathering at the Lagoon, Hank figured it might be worth it to check out the people close to the mayor.

No oddities in her family. On the outside? All fine, slightly conservative people. No criminal records, no facial recognitions at protests or larger-scale incidents. No DNA in the police’s archives.

But then Connor picked up on the fact that a cheap, prepaid cellphone was bought a day before the call came in – and just one block away from the mayor’s office. That’s warranted a closer investigation.

Hank grabs his coffee, taking a sip, and continues browsing through the profiles of the staff.

Nothing catches his eye just yet.

Reed walks into the breakroom, thumbs flying over his phone, and then spots Hank. He stops dead in his tracks, sucks in his lips, and stops texting.

“I’m done,” Hank says, gesturing to the machine. “Go ahead.”

“Alright,” Reed says a little tightly, “okay.”

He pushes his phone into his back pocket and walks towards the machine; one black coffee, and he’s already gathering his usual packets of sugar. And deliberately not meeting Hank’s eyes.

Hank stays exactly where he is.

They haven’t really spoken since that day when Hank and Connor exited the same bathroom stall right under Reed’s fucking nose. When they didn’t say anything – except for Connor, who greeted Reed as politely as ever – just washed their hands and walked out while Reed shakily picked up his phone off the floor.

Reed’s been avoiding both of them ever since.

“You know,” Hank says, seeing Reed nervously drop a packet of sugar from the corner of his eye, “if you got questions, just fucking ask them.”

“I’m not sure I wanna go there, Anderson,” Reed shoots back.

Hank looks up. “You just gonna avoid us forever? That your plan?”

Reed tilts his head to the side, holding one hand up while he stirs his coffee with the other. “Hey, none of my business who fucks who,” he says, lips curling.

Hank’s eyes narrow.

“Just surprising,” Reed adds, voice lower. “You, the alcoholic asshole who doesn’t do anything, and him, the fucking tin can.” He shakes his head. “I mean, what the fuck, man. That has to be some weird, kinky fucking achievement.”

He pauses and hums. “Unintentional pun, but lemme pat myself on the back there.”

Hank scoffs. “So the most unlikely people are getting laid and you aren’t? That’s all?”

Reed shrugs. “I guess.” He turns, finally looking at Hank. “What is it about that guy? Does it like, relieve the stress? Gets your gears going on a case, gettin’ off on the tin can?”

Hank hesitates. “It’s not like that,” he answers eventually, pressing his lips together. “I like him, he likes me.”

Reed makes a face as if Hank has grown a second head. “You fuckin’ serious there, Anderson?” he half-sniggers, the sound nasty and disbelieving.

“Yup,” Hank says, as easily as he can get the word out. “Fuckin’ serious there, Reed.”

Reed blinks. “You are,” he says, rubbing his hand over his face. “Jesus. You guys dating?”

Hank shrugs. “We haven’t given it a label. Being partners about covers it.”

“Well, fuck me,” Reed says, blinking. “I had tons of jokes ready for the two of you, you know? Fuckbuddy type of shit. The dirty old cop poundin’ the pretty young roboman. What a classic.”

Hank rolls his eyes. “Wow, Reed. That’s really grown-up of you.”

“Hey,” Reed interrupts, “I already said before, it ain’t my business who’s fucking who.”

Hank just gives him a stare.

“But he chose you?” Reed asks, gesturing at Hank with his coffee. “’Cause he likes you? I mean, damn.”

When Hank doesn’t reply, Reed presses. “That right?” he asks, eyebrow raised.

“That’s right,” Hank confirms.

Reed snorts. “Well, he must be fuckin’ blind or androids get riled up by the weirdest shit, but…” He pauses, pinching the bridge of his scarred nose with one hand. And then adds, almost as if it pains him: “I ain’t gonna fuck with that. Just so you know.”

Hank frowns. “What the fuck is that supposed to mean?”

“That it’s none of my business,” Reed says with a shrug, “as long as y’all keep it in your fuckin’ pants when I’m around. Alright?”

“Okay,” Hank says, putting his coffee down so he can cross his arms. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you being this fucking nice, Reed. What’s up, huh? Something you want?”

Reed swallows, throat bobbing. “There’s nothin’.”

Hank moves to stand in front of him. “Nothin’?” he parrots, arms still crossed.

“Look,” Reed says, “you just go ahead and fuck and date your android or whatever. I’ll keep away from that shit.”

“Why?” Hank asks, narrowing his eyes.

Reed gives him a level stare. “’Cause it’s probably already gonna be hard enough.”

Hank inclines his head, wanting to continue the conversation, but Reed pushes past him with a wave of his hand.

“Now I’m off to my crime scene,” he mutters. “Ta-ta, asshole.” He puts a to-go lid on his cup, grabs his jacket, and speeds off towards the entrance faster than Hank’s seen him walk away in a long time.

A little shaken and surprised, Hank makes his own way back to his and Connor’s desks.

“Anything on the profiles, Lieutenant?” Connor asks. “I’m still going through the security camera footage.”

Hank shakes his head, watching Reed disappear through the front door. “No,” he says slowly, “not yet.”

Connor follows his gaze. “Did you and Detective Reed have an argument?” he asks, ever observant.

“Not really,” Hank mutters, sitting down. “And I guess that that’s what surprised me.”

The several videos on Connor’s monitor pause, and Connor regards Hank with interest.

Hank shakes his head. “Nah, it’s fine. Maybe he just realized he’s gotta be decent for once.”

“He does seem to respond well to aggression and self-confidence,” Connor says, one corner of his mouth turning up as he gives Hank a look.

Hank grins back. “So what, you’re saying we should let ourselves get caught around him more often?”

“Not get caught,” Connor says, “but just deliberately make it known.”

“Cheeky,” Hank says, voice dropping lower.

Connor winks, and then the videos on his monitor start fast-forwarding again.

“The store doesn’t have cameras, right?” Hank asks. “The one the burner phone was likely bought at, I mean.”

Connor shakes his head, eyes still flying over the images before him. “None. But I’m trying to come up with a list of people who left town hall around the time the cellphone was bought.” He pauses. “I can cross-reference it with the footage of the city cameras on the store’s street.”

Hank nods. “And my files.”

He flips another page on his touchpad. “Why,” he murmurs, “why threaten your own mayor with a bomb, huh?”

Another staff member, another dry write-up of their political life and activities so far. Barely any of them have criminal records; you get vetted pretty well before you’re allowed to enter the city council’s inner circles or their administrative staff.

Anti-android politics? Hank muses. Driving a wedge between humans and androids so you can…

And then, he recognizes a face.

… make your move?

“Hey, Connor,” he says, “this guy right here. He on any of your cams?”

The videos on Connor’s monitor pause again as he looks over to Hank. “Robert Lasseter? I can check. How so?”

Hank leans his chin on his hands. “When the mayor got elected three years ago, he was the runner-up. He’s still on the city council, responsible for public order.” He pats the touchpad twice. “This is the cocksucker who refused to get extra parking stations for androids and still let them be penalized for ‘loitering around’, as they said it on television.”

Connor frowns. “Do you think he did made the threat to popularize himself for the next election?”

“Maybe,” Hank says. “Even if he isn’t planning on actually bombing the speech, it’s still creating extra friction between humans and androids. Driving people towards a more conservative policy if androids are the ones fuckin’ it all up, right?”

Connor tilts his head to the side. “Do we know whether he’s planning to run again for mayor next year?”

Hank skims through a few newspaper clippings that are attached to Lasseter’s profile. “Apparently, he claimed not to know yet when he was interviewed last year in October.”

“Give me a moment.”

The videos on Connor’s monitor start flashing by so fast that it’s almost impossible for Hank to discern the images properly, and he notices the slight flash of red along the ridge of Connor’s irises. Analyzing; as quickly as he possibly can.

“There,” Connor says, enlarging the image.

Robert Lasseter walking out just fifteen minutes before the phone was purchased. Thirty minutes later, he walks back into the town hall with a cup of coffee and a slight bulge in his jacket pocket that wasn’t there before.

“On the day of the call,” Hank says, narrowing his eyes, “did this guy go outside at all?”

Connor’s eyes flash, and he shakes his head. “No. Just during lunchbreak. I don’t have access to the footage from inside the building.”

Hank hums. “You wanna pay Mr. Lasseter a visit?”

Connor looks at Hank curiously. “That depends. What’s the purpose?”

Hank shrugs. “We could tell him we’re planning on interviewing everyone on the council. Maybe he slips up, reveals something we can use.”

“Sounds good,” Connor muses. “Alright, I’m in.”

“Great,” Hank grins, grabbing his jacket. “Let’s go.”

 


 

Robert Lasseter is tall, bearded, and every inch of him says either businessman or government official or both. Well-cut suit, neat tie, and all of it in muted colors. He welcomes the both of them in his office with a polite smile that’s hard to properly discern as fake – mark of a real politician, Hank supposes.

He’s definitely not the shy, introverted administrative type.

There’s scarcely a personal effect of his in his office, except for a family photo and his college degree up the back wall. No trinkets, no signs of being actually lived in.

“The arm of the law is always welcome,” Lasseter says pleasantly once Hank and Connor show up at his door. “Please, gentlemen, have a seat.”

Hank mumbles a gruff ‘thank you’ and sits down on one of the chairs in front of Lasseter’s desk, while the guy himself sits down behind it. Connor remains standing on Hank’s right, his arms behind his back.

His gaze subtly moves over the room. Hank sincerely hopes that Connor’s picking up on more clues than he did when they walked in.

“I didn’t know the DPD had specialized androids in their employ these days,” Lasseter says, eyes calculating but still with a smile plastered on his face. “But then again, what do I know? I just handle public order.” He chuckles.

Hank just stares. There’s no way a guy like Lasseter wouldn’t know who Connor is. But then the realization sinks in – maybe the asshole thinks that they’ve got more of Connor’s type at the station. That this Connor doesn’t have to be the one that played a part in the revolution.

“That you do,” Connor answers smoothly when Hank doesn’t speak up. “We came here to discuss the bomb threat that was issued towards your mayor’s office. Regarding her public speech in three months’ time.”

Lasseter frowns, folding his hands. “Ah, right. That’s absolutely terrible, that’s what it is. I feel so sorry for Marjorie, really, I do.” He frowns. “She had such a great thing planned, too.”

Hank leans back in his chair. “Do you have any idea who might’ve done it? Made the threat, I mean?”

“Well,” Lasseter says, “I believe Marjorie herself thought it could be connected to a violent android group? They did use some sort of robotic scrambler, or so I’m told.”

Hank nods. “That’s right. We’ve been looking into the gangs downtown. So far, no leads.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Lasseter says. “The council has a meeting coming up in which we’ll decide whether to cancel the speech or not. I believe Marjorie’s been postponing it until more evidence turns up, but…”

He trails off, looking thoughtful. “I do worry. If the threat goes public, it might also inspire others.” He pauses again, regarding Hank and then Connor. “Even if the two of you manage to catch the culprit.”

Hank’s phone pings. “Excuse me,” he murmurs. “We’re on high alert. I gotta check this.”

He stands up and walks towards the window; Connor takes over, expertly.

“Of course we understand your worries, Mr. Lasseter. Have you and the other council members been harassed or threatened recently? Even concerning other topics?”

Lasseter’s voice sounds level when he answers. “Not a day goes by without someone sending me angry letters about the android situation. I have a few here on my computer, if you wish to view them?”

The message on Hank’s phone is Connor’s. It appears he can indeed text and drive at the same time.

He’s lying, it reads. Nervous about the trashcan in particular. Doesn’t seem to realize it was emptied this morning.

Hank tries to keep a neutral expression as he reads Connor’s message, but he’s never been happier for his partner’s quick analyzing skills. Get out of here and check the whatever the fuck they call it, trash processing room? he types back.

“We’ll definitely take these into account in conducting our investigation,” says Connor, browsing through the threatening letters alongside Lasseter.

Hank’s phone pings again. It’s a thumbs-up emoji.

“Thanks for having us over and giving us some information, Mr. Lasseter,” Hank is quick to say, shoving his phone back into his pocket. “I’m sorry, but this one is urgent. We’ll have to take it.”

Connor nods at Lasseter, and places his card on the desk. “Please do forward any violent letters you’ve received to my e-mail, Mr. Lasseter. We’ll look into those, too. Thank you for your cooperation.”

Lasseter actually has the audacity to look pleased. “Thank you, officers. I understand; duty calls. You’ll see yourselves out?”

Hank nods. “Yeah, no problem. Thanks again.”

Connor even offers him a polite smile. “We might see you again when we come around to speak to your colleagues. Have a nice day, Mr. Lasseter.”

“Thank you. And good luck on the case,” he says, holding open the door for both of them.

Luckily, he’s quick to close it, too.

Connor’s LED glows yellow. “I’m downloading the blueprints,” he murmurs. Then, he jerks his head towards the corridor ahead. “This way.”

Hank follows him. “It’s been a few days since the call came in. Do you really think we’ll be able to find something?”

Connor rounds a corner. “Maybe he didn’t dispose of some of the evidence right away. But there’s something about that trashcan. He glanced at it six times during our conversation.”

They push through the next door without trouble, entering a new hallway.

“God, I love a building without security checks,” Hank mutters. “Any safe routes we could reach the place we need to be? Routes about which we could say, ‘hey, we just got lost’?”

He looks pointedly at his partner. “No warrant, remember?”

Connor dips his chin. “It’s not far. Back of the building.” His LED flares up again. “We might need a keycard or pass for the doors, though. Blueprints don’t say but the electricity cables seem to suggest a lock of some kind.”

They meander through the building until they end up at a concrete staircase; obviously meant for employees rather than visitors. Connor takes the lead, and they take the staircase down to the ground floor and from there further towards the back until they reach two large, double doors.

Cleaning, the plate above them says, and there’s a scanner besides the doorframe.

“Shit,” says Connor. “I was right.”

Hank shakes his head minutely. “If you hack it, it’s obvious that we went here without permission.” He looks around the hallway. “See any cleaners anywhere?”

“None. I – ”

The doors swing open, and out walks a woman in a grey uniform with a small cleaning cart. “Oh, hello,” she says, sounding surprised.

“Hello,” Connor says, reaching inside his jacket to pull out his badge. “Detective Assistant Connor.”

The woman blinks, her expression instantly shifting to weariness and discomfort. “Something wrong?”

Connor smiles gently at her. “Nothing at all, ma’am. My partner and I are investigating a case on behalf of mayor Marjorie Ellington. We were wondering if you could give us access to the cleaning quarters.”

Hank holds up his badge too. “Hank Anderson. I’m Connor’s partner.” He gives her a reassuring nod. “Everything’s absolutely fine, ma’am. We’re just here to take out the trash.”

That last comment seems to do it; her face relaxes. “Well, ‘bout time somebody else did this job,” she mutters. She steps to the side, making room for them to step through. “Be my guest. You can leave the room without a keycard.”

Hank throws her a smile. “Thanks, ma’am. We appreciate it.”

The space between the double doors his huge. No decoration; just bricks and concrete, and several large containers. A row of cleaning carts to the left. And in the back, doors large enough to let a garbage truck through to pick up the containers.

“Tell me you can scan through metal,” Hank says, following Connor inside. “”Cause I really don’t want to dig through fuckin’ tons of politicians’ and lawmakers’ trash.”

Connor looks around. “His voice peaked when he mentioned that scrambler.” He actually climbs on top of one container, opening it and looking in. “It appears that they take care of their recycling.”

“What,” Hank asks, “it’s separated by type?”

Connor nods.

“Scrambler should at least have some metal components,” Hank says, walking past the row of containers. “Wait, these are pretty deep. Trucks must be picking ‘em up – what, every week? Five days?”

“Meaning,” Connor says, elegantly jumping from one container-top to the other, “that the trash from the day of the call could still be in here somewhere.”

Hank nods. “Is there one for small electronics? ‘Cause fuck me, I can’t make sense of these little icons on the sides at all.”

Connor looks up. “Third one on the right.”

They reach it around the same time and Connor nods, kneeling and looking at the side of the container. “Yup,” he says, “this is it.”

Hank huffs. “Well, open that thing up, will ya? And give me a hand.”

Connor flips a metal handle and the left half of the container pops open wide. “Give you a hand?” he echoes.

“Yeah, well,” Hank says, “I’m not about to let you dig through that garbage heap on your own.”

Connor squats, balancing his weight on his heels, and holds out his arm. “Good to know,” he says bemusedly, looking down at Hank with the sweetest smile ever on his face.

Hank knees go weak instantly as he stares up into Connor’s brown eyes.

Jesus, he thinks, feeling himself get flustered. Goddamn angel.

Already halfway through a blush, Hank grasps the edge of the container with one hand and wraps the other around Connor’s wrist. Thank god he’s not small man, and the container’s not too high. Connor hoists him up the last couple of inches, and then they’re both standing on the right half of the container.

Connor is very close, smiling knowingly, and then he’s tugging on Hank’s wrist.

“Shit,” Hank manages before placing his hand on Connor’s shoulder to balance himself. Connor doesn’t even move under Hank’s stumble.

He just stands there like he planned it all out, his other hand coming up to rest on Hank’s hip. And then he leans in and presses his lips to Hank’s cheek. “I’ve wanted to do that all day,” he says, voice soft.

His fingers are still curled around Hank’s wrist, brushing over his palm.

“And you couldn’t wait until we were somewhere else than on top of a fucking garbage container?” Hank asks, squeezing Connor’s shoulder. “Jesus christ.”

Connor shrugs, and then leans down again to look inside the container. “One burner phone and a scrambler,” he says. “Now that’s going to be a task.”

“Right down to business,” Hank says, disbelieving. “Fuckin’ hell.”

Connor looks up. “Were you expecting more? The chances of you falling off are – ”

“Yeah, no, we’re good,” Hank says, waving his hand. “I’m not about to make out with you on top of this.”

Connor tries and fails to hide his grin.

“Fuck you, too,” Hank says in response, rubbing at his face as if that’ll scrape off his blush. “Are we really going to dig through all of this? Or can you use your scanners?”

Connor frowns. “It’s a little too deep. I’ll have to jump in there.”

Hank shrugs. “We can shower at my place once we’re done. This pile of electronics shouldn’t smell too much, anyway.”

Connor leans his hands on the edge of metal plate they’re standing on, and hops into the container smoothly. He sinks a little into the trash beneath his shoes, but he remains standing nonetheless.

“We?” he asks, eyebrow raised.

Hank rolls his eyes. “Get in there already.”

Connor’s eyes twinkle. “Of course, Lieutenant. You only have to ask.”

He kicks at the pile a bit, digging his heel towards the bottom. “Seems like this one isn’t emptied as often as we thought.”

Hank leans down, too, watching Connor’s movements carefully. “Maybe there’s not too much electronics to get rid of. I mean, town hall’s biggest trash heap is still paper. Those fuckers are printin’ shit like hell.”

Connor suddenly freezes up and his LED goes red. “Hank,” he says, “Hank, there’s biocomponents in here.”

Hank instantly reaches out to place his hand on Connor’s shoulder. “Okay,” he says, clearing his throat. “Alright. We got this. How old are they?”

“Going by the processors that are in here, deactivated about a week ago,” Connor says, eyes shifting from left to right.

Hank nods, breathing in sharply through his nose. “Shit. Do we have a murder on our hands?”

“I think we do,” Connor answers, digging a little further. “Most of these are of a generic type. Parts meant for a robot doing simple, supportive work.”

He pauses. “Government-issued. The components all appear to have been removed by force.”

Hank breathes in sharply. “Is it just – just parts? Like, they cut it all up or…?”

“Not everything seems to be in here,” Connor continues, “but the parts that are appear to belong to the same android. I think the – the bulk of the body was disposed of elsewhere.”

“What can you find?” Hank asks, reaching into his pocket and tugging out a clear, zipped evidence bag.

Connor ducks down, shoulder falling away from the warmth of Hank’s hand. “Pump regulator, spine-brain connector, a wrist joint, part of the internal processor…”

There’s some scuffling around before he continues.

“Two kneecaps, the side of a hip plate, and…”

He stops again.

“Connor?” Hank presses gently.

“I’m taking pictures,” he answers, but his voice is a little strained.

Connor eventually raises back to his full height, arms filled with small machinery. He reaches up and places most of it next to Hank, who instantly recognizes the pump regulator. Connor holds up the final item in his palm.

“Voice box,” he says, looking down at it. “Connected to a small speaker. Using this, someone would be able to produce any sort of voice they liked. Scrambled or no.”

“Jesus fucking christ,” Hank says, throat gone entirely dry.

Connor looks back up at him.

There’s something in his eyes Hank can’t quite place.

They carefully gather the pieces they can find into the evidence bags, and Hank quietly calls in for back-up while Connor climbs out of the container and marks the area with police tape. Draws up a file with all the information so far and the pictures he’s taken.

Routinely, they take care of it. They’re good cops, and they’ve got this. Once it’s done and the forensics are on their way, they both sit down next to the container.

Hank realizes he’s never called in a dead android before.

“Fuck,” Hank says, patting Connor’s back. “I hadn’t expected to find a dead body here today. I’m sorry.”

Connor looks up at him wryly. “It’s a fact of life.”

Life. Cruel and unrelenting.

Connor quirks his head to the side, LED spinning yellow. “Seems like the mayor’s office released their records to the police database.”

“Fowler must’ve confirmed that crime scene with them real quick,” Hank mutters.

Connor’s eyes close briefly, jaw clenching. “The serial number’s a match.”

Hank lets his shoulders sag. “Fuck. So the android was Lasseter’s?”

Connor nods. “Yeah. He claimed his android joined the rebellion last month.”

“Jesus christ,” Hank says. “Who knows how long he kept that ‘droid doing his bidding. Fuck.” He leans back, checking his watch. “Forensics should be here in ten. You doin’ okay?”

Connor leans a little closer, shoulder bumping into Hank’s. “Yeah,” he says, letting the word escape him long and slow as if on an exhale. “Let’s see to it that whoever did this ends up behind bars.”

Hank nods. “We’ll get him, Connor,” he says, patting Connor’s back. “Guys like him just dig their own graves.”

“I hope so,” Connor adds.

Hank sighs, long and deep. “I know so,” he says, and it’s true.

Over the years, he’s learned that you can’t always get justice and that things aren’t always fair. That criminals end up running and free, whereas others get put to jail without a proper cause. Innocents locked away for fucking nothing.

But guys like Lasseter?

Too arrogant, and they skid the edges of what’s morally questionable too many times. They think they can get away with anything, and start covering their tracks less and less. They’ll get burned eventually.

And besides, Hank has Connor now.

That makes a whole world of difference.

 


 

Lasseter’s interrogation turns out to be difficult. Hank hadn’t really expected anything else; the guy’s as slick as a fucking eel, slithering out of everything with polite excuses and snarky half-insults.

Politicians, am I right?

They’ve got him on the ropes for the murder of his android, for which they’ve gathered quite a bit of evidence. His fingerprints all over the individual parts, blue Thirium staining the inside of the trashcan in his office, the way he’d lied about the android’s disappearance.

But so far, they’ve been unable to tie him to the bomb threat. And he’s being goddamn insufferable towards Connor.

Taunting him with half-truths, with insults about androids – looking to hit him where it hurts the most while trying to goad him into an emotional reaction. His weasel-y eyes on Connor’s LED constantly, gauging his reaction.

Hank wants to take him by the collar, pull him through the two-way mirror, and bash his head in.

He checks the clock.

Connor’s been in there for two hours.

He’s circling the table with Lasseter and his lawyer, asking questions about the behavior of his android. Quick, sharp, rattling them off. Trying to make Lasseter slip up.

Hank frowns. He doubts Lasseter is going to take the bait.

“Alright,” Connor says, straightening his tie. “How about this?”

He opens the manila folder on the table before them, leafing through. Slips his finger down one page, and then taps his twice. “This right here, Mr. Lasseter. Could you read this for me?”

His lawyer instantly stops Lasseter from even looking down at the page. “That document is related to the bombing threat. My client is not involved in that, as we established, so he doesn’t have to acquiesce your request,” she says sharply.

Connor raises his eyebrows. “It’s a simple enough request,” he says, shrugging. “Here, I’ll even read this for you.” He clears his throat. “On June 15th, I will bomb the city square if the mayor does not admit to the mistakes she and her office made and the casualties they caused as a result during the time of the android uprising.”

He smiles sweetly at Lasseter. “There. That wasn’t that hard, was it?”

Lasseter smirks. “Luckily, I can read and I’m a pretty good public speaker.” He looks to the side. “Louise? This seems harmless. I’ll indulge the little robot if he wants me to.”

Connor folds his hands together behind his back, towards the mirror, and Hank nearly has a heart attack. What looks like the voice box they found in the container slips out of Connor’s sleeve, landing in his palm. And the little lights on it are blinking.

Lasseter leans forward and reads the sentence from the page with perfect clarity. “There,” he says. “Happy now?”

Connor nods, and presses one of the buttons on the speaker connected to the voice box.

A grainy, staticky and scrambled voice fills the interrogation room. It’s identical to the one that called in the bomb threat. Thin and peaking.

“That,” Connor says measuredly, “is the original message left by the would-be bomber.”

Lasseter and his lawyer look confused, but Connor is already pressing the button again.

Another voice fills the room; still half-static, still scrambled and unclear, but decidedly different than the first. Lower, deeper, and the voice pattern doesn’t match.

“And that,” Connor says, “is me reading the sentence in question. I’m sure you can hear the difference.”

Lasseter crosses his arms. “So you have a recording device built in? How convenient for a police android,” he says, expression mocking and disdainful.

“And this,” Connor continues, “is you reading the sentence approximately 90.8 seconds ago.”

Hank’s eyes widen when Connor plays the recording.

The sound is exactly the same as the first.

“That’s impossible,” Lasseter says instantly, eyes narrowing. “I’m not sure what kind of tricks you have up your sleeves, but –”

Connor chuckles. “Funny you should say it like that,” he says, bringing his hands back to his front. He holds up the voice box. “This is the voice box that we believe was used to issue the threat.”

He pauses, squaring his shoulders. “I believe it’s rather clear that Mr. Lasseter’s reading was identical to the original message when fed through this voice box.”

Lasseter rises, a red flush coloring his cheeks. “That’s impossible, you fucking piece of metal,” he spits.

Oh, Hank thinks, there we are. The real Lasseter.

He jabs his finger towards Connor. “There’s no way you guys can prove that this voice box was used for the original threat,” he says, expression hateful and angry. “It can’t store sounds, you idiot. I should know, ‘cause I removed the memory connectors before I – ”

Lasseter’s lawyer grows pale.

Connor just smiles at him, and then Lasseter realizes his mistake.

“Fuck,” he says, “fuck, fuck, SHIT – ”

Connor hums, nodding. “It’s true that it can’t store sounds,” he says thoughtfully, studying the device in his palm. “This is a type similar to the one we currently have stored in evidence. I thought it handy to adapt it a little to fit my purposes.”

He turns towards Lasseter’s lawyer. “Ms. Louise Wicker, was it?”

“Yes,” she says, voice strained, “that’d be me.”

Connor smiles. “Good luck in court. We’ll be taking that as an admission of Mr. Lasseter’s regarding his involvement in both the bombing and the unfortunate demise of the LZ500 android previously in his possession.”

“I understand,” she says.

Lasseter just looks completely dazed, plonking back down on his chair.

Connor looks back to the two-way mirror and instantly finds Hank’s eyes with such precision that it almost makes Hank wonder if Connor can see through it from that side. He nods, barely perceptible, and then makes his way towards the door. His skin peels away as he presses his palm to the lock.

“I hope, Mr. Lasseter,” he says, turning around before he steps out of the interrogation room, “that it makes you sleep easier to know that your case was correctly solved by an android.”

Lasseter pales. “You piece of shit,” he snarls. “You know nothing. Nothing of politics, nothing of suffering for it, nothing of – ”

“If you can’t run this city,” Connor says sharply, interrupting him, “we will. Good day, Mr. Lasseter.”

And he walks out the door.

Hank waits for him on the other side, feeling proud. Tired but proud.

Connor holds his posture, professional and strong. His eyes are hard, and it reminds Hank of the first time they ever met. Back at that bar, when he was moody and Connor distant and robotic. So he doesn’t crowd Connor, just nods and takes him along. Deliberately doesn’t reach for his hand while they make their way down to Fowler’s office.

He knows how easy it is to break or deflate when someone offers you comfort.

“Good work, boys,” Fowler says once they give him a run-down of what just happened, eyes going from Hank to Connor and back again. He looks pleased.

Boys,” Hank still can’t help but echo in half-laughter, thumb to his lips. Fowler gives him a look for it.

Connor bends his head slightly. “Thanks, Captain. I’m glad to have solved it.”

“Good,” Fowler says, rising from his chair and sliding his hands into his pockets. “Look. I know you guys weren’t too keen on this case and it turned out to be a whole…” He trails off, gesturing with one hand.

“Big old fucking mess,” Hank finishes for him.

Fowler sighs. “Yeah, pretty much that. Anyway, what I mean to say is – we can process Lasseter’s arrest and handle the rest of the investigation for today. You guys worked all through the weekend.”

He twists his fingers together like he always used to do when he took out a cigarette. Old habits die hard.

“Take the rest of the day off, if you want to,” Fowler continues. “Relax a little.”

Hank looks over to Connor and sees the hesitancy in his face.

“I’ll be heading it myself,” Fowler adds, noticing it too. “The mayor’s involved. It’s important enough. You two still will be writing me the report, though.”

“Got it,” Hank says.

Connor nods slowly, apparently convinced. “Alright,” he says. “As long as the case remains in your hands, Captain Fowler.”

Fowler offers him a small smile. “It will, Connor, no problem. Now take your partner and get the hell outta here.”

Connor takes that to heart, instantly grasping Hank by the wrist and pulling him towards the door. Fowler looks surprised but he says nothing, and Hank blows him a kiss while he gets dragged out of the office.

Fowler looks like he wants to give the finger back.

 


 

Hank is laying down on the couch, half-collapsed with an empty to-go box on his chest, chopsticks still sticking out of it. Sprawled like this, he takes up one half of the couch while Sumo takes the other.

He’s barely been paying attention to what’s happening on the screen before him but it moves, and for now that’s more than enough. As was the nap he had the instant they came home.

Hank tips his head back into the cushions, lips curling upwards. Peak relaxation.

Connor walks by; his fingers trail over the couch, skipping over Hank’s forehead. He makes his way over to the windows, closing the curtains, and he’s wearing Hank’s hoodie again.

“Looks cute on you,” Hank murmurs, because he’s feeling soft and sleepy and Connor always looks cute.

Connor just smiles, a hand landing on Hank’s shoulder. “I’ve heard humans find it attractive when their partner wears something that’s theirs,” he says, a bit on the smug side, leaning on the couch when Hank takes the hand on his shoulder in his own.

“That’s not what you’re doing it for, you ass,” Hank laughs. “If I was wearing tight button-ups all the time I’d also steal my boyfriend’s sweaters.” He bends his head, kissing the back of Connor’s hand.

Connor laughs, too, the sound quiet and sweet. He still doesn’t laugh widely or abundantly, but Hank’s heart melts every single time he does his own subtle little chuckles.

“Shit, there’s nothing of yours I can wear,” Hank says then, in sudden realization.

Connor blinks. “My jacket, maybe?”

Hank cranes his head back to look at Connor and scrunches his nose. “And look like a fucking gremlin in it? No thanks.”

Connor looks mildly intrigued. “That’s new.”

He squeezes Hank’s hand, and Hank reaches up to touch Connor’s cheek in turn.

“Hank,” Connor then says, “are you still interested in having a shower?”

Hank’s mind instantly blanches. “Uh,” he says, “I guess? I mean, it’d be nice to wash that fuckin’ case off my skin, yeah.”

“I was thinking,” Connor says, finger caressing the heel of Hank’s palm, “I could draw you a bath.”

“Oh,” Hank says, taken by surprise. “That’s, uh, yeah.”

He hasn’t taken the time for a proper bath in years.

Mostly because it’s too much effort when compared to a shower. And maybe also because Hank is one-hundred percent convinced that the day will come when he will no longer be able to get out of that fucking tub and then die trying and end up with his skull caved in on the bathroom tiles. Naked.

And that’s another thing right there – bathroom lighting. Harsh, unforgiving, spotlights on all the parts that you hate. And then you’re lying there in the water, staring down at your own body with nothing but time until the temperature drops so low it gets uncomfortable.

And Connor wants to do that with him? Fucking hell.

“You seem nervous,” Connor says, breaking the train of Hank’s thoughts.

“Yeah, uh,” Hank says, looking up apologetically, “bathroom light and me aren’t exactly the best of friends.”

Connor tilts his head to the side. “If that’s your only problem,” he says matter-of-factly, “we do have candles in the cupboard, Hank.”

That makes the knot at Hank’s stomach soar higher, and he chuckles. Masking the nervousness. “Jesus, Connor,” he says, running a hand through his hair. “You don’t have to woo me, you know. I’m not – I’m already into you. You don’t have to do all of that romantic shit.”

Connor bends his head; leaning down so he can look Hank in the eye. “I wasn’t wooing you,” he says with a serious look on his face. “But now I think I will.”

Hank blinks, and Connor gives him a sunny smile.

“You deserve it,” he adds with a nod.

“You’re insane,” Hank says, staring blankly at Connor.

Connor steps away, walking towards the kitchen. “Are there certain colors you like? You seem fond of blue and orange.”

Hank can’t fucking believe it.

“Oh,” comes the disappointed noise from the other room. “It appears white is the only choice we’ve got.”

“Connor,” Hank says, throwing his to-go box onto the table in front of him and ignoring Sumo’s whine at the loss of warmth when he gets up, “Connor, listen – ”

Connor is standing in the kitchen, already holding three broad candles in his arms. He arches his eyebrow in question when Hank approaches him, and he’s looking way too serious for a guy on his way to light a fucking dingy bathroom up with candlelight.

Jesus.

“Listen,” Hank repeats, “I’m not good at this, okay?” He sighs, stepping closer and rubbing at Connor’s arms. “I don’t normally do this.”

“Do what?” Connor asks.

Hank sucks in a shaky breath. “Relationships, intimacy.”

“I know,” Connor says, a gentle warmth to his tone. “But it still comes very naturally to you. And I want – I want to do the same things for you that you do for me.”

Hank’s hands tremble over Connor’s arms.

“Make you feel alive,” Connor continues. “Like you belong.”

Hank swallows. “Connor, I,” he starts, but Connor’s looking at him like he’s something infinitely precious. And he can’t refuse that, can’t say no to someone who is so genuine. So fucking kind.

“Alright,” he says on half a sigh. “I’ll – I’ll try.”

“Besides,” Connor says, cheekily, “what can be so difficult about sitting in a bathtub?”

“Ugh,” Hank says, but he does cave.

Follows Connor until he reaches the bedroom, and then he starts taking his clothes off. Reaches for his bathrobe before he fully bares himself to the cool air of their home. A fluffy layer of protection that still comes in handy while Connor lights the candles – fuck, who does that anymore – and starts filling the tub.

Hank takes a deep, steadying breath.

Fresh, spring air. Light, the first signs of pollen tickling his nose. Connor aired the house this morning.

He walks into the bathroom.

Connor’s taking the temperature with his hand. He looks up at Hank, smiling; the three candles are lit. One on one of the titled corners near the tub, one on the sink, and one on top of the toilet cistern. Their light is warm, soft, flickering.

Romantic.

Even the most barebones, shitty of bathrooms looks alright in this type of light. Hank hopes that applies to himself, too.

“Jesus,” he says. “Go hard or go home, huh?” he adds, raising his eyebrow.

Steam starts fogging up the mirror.

Connor shifts, looking slightly uncomfortable. “I’m sorry if it seems a little – forced. I just wanted to spend a quiet moment with you. Like last Friday night.”

Hank tries to shake off his own doubts and anxieties, leaning on the edge of the tub. “Fair’s fair,” he nods, humming. “I got to see you without your skin, you get to see me without my clothes.”

Connor looks up at him and Hank swears he’s only an inch away from rolling his eyes. “That’s not,” he says, mildly exasperated, “the point I was making. I want to spend time with you, however you like.”

“I know,” Hank says, letting one hand graze the soapy water. It’s scalding hot, just the way he likes it. “That was me using humor as a deflection technique. I tend to do that when I’m nervous, y’know.”

It’s quiet for a while; water slowly filling the tub, and Hank not trying to look at Connor too much.

But then Connor looks up, gaze steely, and breaks the silence. “Half of the time,” he says, “I have no idea what I’m doing. Ever since I went deviant. I make my own objectives, my own missions…”

He trails off, eyes flickering to the side before they find Hank’s again. “But I know it feels better whenever I do it with you.” He reaches out, covering Hank’s hand with his own. “I want to continue that. You put in a lot of effort for me.”

“Connor,” Hank says, his voice all wrong and broken up.

“I want to do the same for you,” Connor says, and then he’s kissing Hank.

Just a careful press of lips; nothing deep, nothing too visceral. He leans into it with his whole body and Hank can’t hide his gasp, can’t stop his hand from sliding into Connor’s hair and drawing him closer still.

Connor reaches around with his other hand, mouth still on Hank’s; warm, soft, moving. Behind him, Hank hears the metallic creak of the taps being closed.

“Bath’s ready,” Connor whispers, leaning back.

Hank cups his face in both of his palms, thumbs sliding over the corners of Connor’s jaw. The words still get stuck in his throat, as if he’s afraid to say them.

“Alright,” he says instead, the sound hoarse.

Connor smiles. “May I?” he asks, gesturing to Hank’s bathrobe.

Hank nods, unable to do anything else beyond that.

Connor slides his hand beneath the overlap of the fluffy fabric over Hank’s chest, parting the two sides. His eyes flicker over Hank’s tattoo; he traces some of the lines of it with his fingers, thumb curling through the whorls of Hank’s chest hair.

“Does it mean anything?” he asks.

He looks like a fucking painting; steam and candlelight making the room look misty and dreamy, and it all blends Connor’s own edges into something rounder. His lashes dark streaks of paint against his skin; his freckles and moles little dots of a brush.

“I think,” Hank says, heart aching because it’s very true, “I just got it done to feel more alive.”

Connor smiles, his other hand joining the first. “Do you want to – "

Hank nods, and stands up to his full height. “Yeah,” he croaks, “I do.”

Connor rises with him; Hank is the one that pulls loose the knot on his bathrobe, and it’s Connor’s hands on his chest that part the thing to the sides in its entirety. But Connor’s warm brown eyes stay on Hank’s face rather than flickering down, and he takes a small step closer.

Hank still feels a tinge of worry; worry about his furred chest and belly, worry about how it all seems so old and worn and sagged out and tired compared to Connor’s powerful, lean body. All clean lines.

But then Connor’s reaching for the edge of his hoodie – or rather, Hank’s – and pulls it off. Drops it to the floor without ceremony. Doesn’t even fold it, like he usually does.

“What,” Hank blurts out, too stunned to say anything else, and then Connor steps in and hugs him. Tightly, chest-to-chest, belly-to-belly. Hank’s bulk against Connor’s smooth shape, a slightly uneven match.

“I like your heartbeat,” Connor says quietly, cheek pressed alongside Hank’s.

Despite his surprise, Hank wraps his arms around Connor on instinct. “I thought you could sense that even without a hug,” he says, a smile rising to his face.

“The physical contact adds another dimension to the experience that I particularly enjoy,” Connor quips, pressing a kiss to Hank’s throat.

“Water’s getting cold,” Hank teases, running his fingers over the curve of Connor’s spine. Connor moves with it subtly, as if he’s torn between chasing the warmth of Hank’s body and the press of his hand.

Connor pulls back, smiling. “Don’t let me stop you.”

Hank still feels that little thrill, that nervous spark at the pit of his stomach when he shrugs the bathrobe off. Lets it drop to his feet to join Connor’s hoodie. But he also feels brave; brave because there’s someone there in the room with him who seems drawn to him like a moth to a flame.

Whose eyes only say happiness, home, comfort. Longing.

And Hank feels the echo of that keenly in his own heart, keeping him in Connor’s orbit.

He whistles when he sinks into the hot water, feeling the slight sharp burn of it lap at his skin. But god, the deep heat that instantly settles into his muscles, especially those in his lower back – Hank groans as he leans back into the curve of the bathtub.

“Holy shit,” he sighs, “remind me why I didn’t do this in years.”

Connor draws the small stool in the corner over towards the tub, sitting down on top of it. His arms, slender but defined, lean on the edge of the bathtub; fingers skirting the surface of the water.

He looks so fucking attractive that Hank almost just sinks into the water completely and dies.

“It’s easier with two,” Connor answers, eyes crinkling with the hint of a smile.

Connor’s skin is flawed.

It’s one of the first things Hank ever noticed about him; how they fucked up, as he first put it. Made Connor almost too human in their efforts to create an android who could blend in with humans seamlessly. Little uneven spots – freckles, birthmarks, even the light dips of lines on his forehead. Crow’s feet at the corners of his eyes.

But somehow, all of that makes him even more beautiful.

Hank reaches out, brushing a wet hand over Connor’s collarbone. “They really only light up when we’re doing it, huh?” he asks, voice soft.

Connor blinks. “Oh, the plating. Wait, I think I can…”

He rolls his shoulders and Hank is instantly mesmerized; watching that synthetic skin bunch up and flow underneath the movement of the pale chassis underneath. And then, the lines appear.

Subtle, barely-there; like the first time Hank ever saw them at the concert. Not glowing and only really visible whenever Connor shifts or moves. Gone before you can blink – as if the person who painted Connor left the rough sketch underneath. Delicate, thin lines of graphite.

“That’s really cool,” Hank says, and he means it.

Connor smiles. “Decreased the density of my skin.”

“Like you do,” Hank grins, moving his finger down the center of Connor’s chest.

“I could create tattoos, too,” Connor muses and his eyes flicker to Hank’s chest, visible above the water. “But I wouldn’t know what types of designs to pick.”

Hank smiles fondly. “Maybe you’ll figure that out some day.”

His hand has crept higher without noticing, fitting around the back of Connor’s neck.

“Yeah,” Connor says, leaning into his palm, “maybe we will.”

Hank initiates this kiss, tipping his head up to touch his lips to Connor’s. “Thank you,” he whispers against them, rasping his beard against Connor’s chin.

Connor’s hand tangles in his hair, and he hums without saying anything. Steals another kiss of his own, fingers tugging on Hank’s salt-and-pepper locks. Eyes open, as always, though they flutter closed when Hank kisses Connor’s jaw.

“I think I’m going to melt, you romantic piece of android ass,” Hank mumbles half-way through another volley of kisses, running his fingers over Connor’s forearm.

Connor smiles, a little shakily, and murmurs back: “Let me wash your hair before you do. Melt, I mean.”

And he does.

Hank stays in that bathtub for about thirty minutes, and they’re some of the most blissful ones of his life. His entire body is loose, relaxed, and even more so with Connor’s fingers in his hair, massaging his scalp. Working the soapy suds through his strands.

They’re blissful minutes for the quiet, half-whispered conversations interspersed with kisses – about life, about what it means to have fun, about all kinds of nonsensical shit. They grin and snicker about Fowler and Reed, and they share their amused happiness about Lasseter’s arrest.

This is fuckin’ it, Hank thinks.

Connor has his head half-pillowed on his arms, smiling while Hank twirls his curl around his forefinger. He’s trailing his own hand over Hank’s wet knee.

What it means to be loved.

Hank can’t believe he forgot.

It makes him feel more welcome and at home in his own skin. Like there’s a sign at the door that says, hello you, and all Hank really can do is smile and own up to it. Because what’s a body but a shell that he was saddled with and what are nagging, ugly little worries at the back of his mind in the face of love?

Nothing.

Even if those feelings are still there, Connor’s presence blinds them. Even if Hank wants to let himself be dragged down by that darkness, Connor stays. And that makes Hank a little stronger to keep saying no.

Or to say yes to things he didn’t think he could have. Things that have been skidding the forefront of his mind ever since Hank got crowded against a wall, and then pinned against a sink.

“Hey,” he says gruffly, running his fingers over Connor’s cheek.

“Hey,” Connor answers, still smiling. He presses a kiss to Hank’s fingers when they touch his lips.

Hank clears his throat. “I was thinkin’,” he says, “water’s cooling down. And…”

He touches the lines over Connor’s face; the ones that indicate the plating in a slightly darker blue at the sides of his jaw. Under his cheekbones. Gently circles his thumb over those spots until Connor closes his eyes for a moment.

“You want to get out?” Connor asks, looking dreamy.

Hank swallows. “Yeah,” he says, drumming the fingers of his other hand on the edge of the bathtub. “And satisfy the curiosity of an old guy, will you?”

Connor’s gaze grows sharper. “That depends on what he’s curious about,” he answers, giving Hank an attentive look.

Hank steels himself and flicks his fingertip at the line just below Connor’s jaw. “How far down those go,” he says, voice soft.

“Oh,” Connor says, eyes widening slightly.

“If you wanna,” Hank adds, still feeling self-conscious.

Connor instantly reaches for Hank’s hand. “Yeah,” he says, “I do. And – and I like that you’re initiating this.”

Hank frowns. “You didn’t think I – ”

“No,” Connor answers, “I wanted you to feel comfortable enough. And I didn’t want to…”

Hank is surprised to suddenly see Connor’s LED flash yellow, and his brows twitch into the shadow of a frown. His eyes are downcast, though his hand is still solid and sure in Hank’s.

“Connor?” Hank presses.

Connor’s eyes snap back to his. “Seem overeager,” he finishes. He lifts his other hand to press it over his naked chest, over where his android heart beats. Slightly up and to the left of his actual Thirium pump.

“But I really do,” he says, managing to look flustered, “want you, Hank.”

He leans over, and this time the kiss is desperate. This time the kiss is wanting, cascading, the force behind it a little too strong and a little too uncoordinated. Unlike Connor in all his meticulous, well-thought out precision.

Hank is baffled, fucking blown away by the rawness in Connor’s eyes. His lips parted, and the skin on his fingers half-sizzling out of view. Not peeling away; not yet, but almost there.

“Well,” Hank says, clearing his throat, “let’s fucking go. ‘Cause I’m too old to be fuckin’ around in bathtubs.”

He expects a joke back, but he gets none. Connor stays still, gaze flickering over Hank’s face, his arms, his chest. Trailing a lazy path downwards while his grip on the edge of the tub tightens.

“Jesus,” Hank mutters, seeing the smallest hint of a blue glow appear over the curve of Connor’s hip.

Hank isn’t really sure how he manages to get out of the bathtub. He only vaguely recalls images, feelings; doesn’t even have time to be self-conscious or hesitant or any of those things because Connor, apparently, has a new objective.

It happens staggering, like one of those artsy polaroid photos.

Low light and neon flashes of color.

The doorframe of the bathroom pressing uncomfortably into his spine but Connor at his front, fingers over the side of Hank’s belly. His LED rings yellow, his fingers burn blue.

“Appendectomy when you were twenty-two,” he whispers, hand pressed to the scar while he mouths at Hank’s collarbone. Hank thinks he whispers Connor’s name back.

And then there’s cracked plaster in the corner of his eye, his hand on the cool metal of the doorknob of the door that leads to the bedroom. His other hand sunk into Connor’s hair, and Connor’s eyes flashing red from where he kisses a spot just below Hank’s midriff.

“Bullet hole from a case when you were thirty-eight,” he murmurs, crowding Hank back against the door. “Double murder. You survived.”

The mattress next, soft and sinking under Hank’s back. Connor straddling his thighs, lashes a dark sweep over his cheeks as his sensitive fingers find the long thin scar beneath Hank’s chest tattoo.

“Shanked in a bar when you were forty,” he says, breathless in every sense of the word. “No case. Just a man and you.”

Both hands sliding up and down his body; flashes of pale white and glowing blue, no skin. Over his ribcage down to the center, passing his heart and then back up to cup his face reverently.

Hank does the same, fingers curling around Connor’s jaw. Pulls him down.

Connor bends, easy and light, eyes dark and emotional.

“You survived,” he whispers when he reaches Hank’s lips. “You survived.”

Hank kisses him.

It’s surreal. Hank feels like a tourist in a dream; like this is something that’s not supposed to be his. Something he’s not supposed to take and make his own. He half-expects the show to be over or for any uncanniness to rear its ugly head (hello, Dream-Connor) and tell him it’s not real, but it never happens.

Instead there’s Connor, warm and craving and alive beneath the broad slide of Hank’s palms. Pressing himself into every movement, his voice sweet and longing.

Hank lets go and falls.

Pleasure folds and unfurls in his body; the body that Connor likes, loves, writhes against when Hank slides his hands over Connor’s spine and his hips. Presses his thumbs into the blue lines over the swell of his ass and the curve of his thighs.

Slow, possessive.

Hank thinks mine but he’s not sure he says it until Connor throws his head back on a moan and stutters out a desperate yes.

He captures Connor’s mouth against his own again. Kissing him messy and slick the way Connor likes to kiss; eyes half-open, his tongue teasingly dipping between Hank’s lips. Hands tightening in each other’s hair and Hank loves Connor’s hair when it looks like this, curly and tousled and –

“Why are you still wearing jeans,” Hank groans, half-pleasure and half-annoyance when he wants to slide his hands lower and is rebuffed by dark blue fabric.

“It seemed practical at the time,” Connor mutters, nuzzling his cheek against Hank’s.

Hank sighs into Connor’s mouth. “There’s literally nothing practical about wearing jeans when you’re about to – ”

He curses, voice breaking when Connor reaches down to swivel out of his pants and deliberately rubs his pelvis up against Hank with the motion. Hank can’t even remember when he got hard – whether it was already in the bathtub or somewhere along the way, but the way Connor undulates his lower body against Hank’s cock is enough to make him see stars.

“Is this better?” Connor asks semi-innocently, raising an eyebrow. His belt clanks when he pushes his jeans off and away, replacing the artificial drag of fabric with solid heat.

“Hell yeah,” Hank groans, pressing up against the weight of Connor, palm smoothing down the bare of his back. Following the curve of his spine down to his ass, over the backs of his thighs.

“Hank,” Connor says, head dropping on a sigh when Hank squeezes his legs, “you do know that I don’t…”

Hank remembers, sliding his other hand up to Connor’s neck, fingers digging into his skin. Seeking the point where that panel popped open last time. Trying to find the catch of it.

Connor trembles. “Hank,” he tries again, “I don’t have – I don’t have a dick.”

Hank can’t help but huff quiet laughter. “Figured you didn’t,” he says easily, curling his nail against the flash of blue he finds below Connor’s ear. “And I don’t fucking care.”

He doesn’t. Really, really doesn’t.

Whatever he loves about Connor and what he brings to the table – the least that factors into that would be a dick. Who fucking cares about genitals when you’ve got someone in your lap who comes by having his circuitry fiddled with?

Hank leans on one elbow, scooting back and propping himself up against the headboard. Connor follows without question, another soft noise escaping him when he presses his throat against Hank’s palm. Body draping over Hank’s, straddling his thighs.

It’s true.

Connor is entirely smooth. A slight bulge between his legs, but nothing more than the arch of what’s meant to be his pelvic bone. He looks almost shy from where he’s perched in Hank’s lap, gaze trailing over Hank’s bulk and the heavy curve of his cock between them.

Before Hank met Connor, he’d liked his hands. Big and broad, with thick wrists. Easy to wrap around his own cock, and especially easy to fondle and jerk two of them together.

But Connor doesn’t need those kinds of things – Connor has an android body, with wires and light, and does thinks like interfacing where hands and touch are important. Where his own slender, sensitive fingers seek Hank’s broad ones; peeling away skin to share memories in tenderness.

Hank wants to give as much of that as he can. Find the silicone that’s malleable and yielding and get Connor off like he did last time. Make him gasp and beg for it with how much he wants it.

“What’s good for you?” he rasps, hands settling on Connor’s hips. “Do you want to,” he starts, hesitantly wetting his lips, “I don’t know – do something like interface?”

Connor laughs.

It’s a happy, gentle kind of laughter where his eyes narrow and his cheeks dimple; carefree and sweet and so, so human. He wraps his arms around Hank’s neck, pressing their foreheads together.

“Hank,” he says, a dopey little smile on his lips, “we already did. I am, right now.”

The lines on his body flicker before shimmering blue.

“Wait,” Hank blurts out, “what?”

Connor shrugs, arching himself closer to Hank. “It just happens on its own accord. I can’t keep a lid on it; can’t keep myself closed to…” He pauses, ducks his head. “… what you feel for me.”

The skin slips away from Connor’s hands as he touches them to the sides of Hank’s face. “I see it, I feel it; I know it. My body, too.”

“This is interfacing?” Hank half-stammers.

His greatest fears; his greatest insecurities. What he thought he’d never be able to give. Since the first moment at the concert – Connor, in his arms, and all those invisible lines.

From the fucking start.

Yes, Hank,” Connor laughs. “Do you want to see more?”

Hank is overcome with emotion and grasps Connor’s chin, kissing him hard. Connor shakes under the pressure, his hips rolling against Hank’s. “Yeah,” Hank breathes, “fuck yeah. Give me everything you’ve got.”

I want it all.

If Hank can give himself this – Connor in his lap, happy and wanting – he’s allowed to be greedy.

He’s allowed to ask for more.

“Hope you can keep up,” Connor winks.

Hank grins back at him, sliding this thumbs into the dip of Connor’s waist. He wants to tease him back and make a joke, tell him he might be old but he still has his stamina – until Connor makes a quiet, keening noise and his skin melts away under Hank’s thumbs.

Their eyes meet.

Connor shivers, jaw clenching.

Experimentally, Hank moves his hand. Slides it up over the wide expanse of Connor’s would-be ribcage.

Connor fists one hand into the sheets, lips parting. The spot where Hank’s fingers rested over Connor’s waist morphs back again, synthetic skin covering the white beneath. But under Hank’s palm over Connor’s torso, it disappears.

His entire body is glowing. Blue and teal and turquoise over the edges of his plating, and even the white that appears beneath Hank’s touch seems to glow from within. Like a bright nightlight.

A star with a yellow LED.

Hank leans in and presses his mouth to Connor’s collarbone.

Just one soft kiss and the freckles that Hank was chasing disappear, too.

The polymer tastes a little different from Connor’s synthetic skin. Not that it ever really had a taste, but it’s softer, imitating the give and press of a human body. This feels more artificial and clear-cut but god, Connor’s reaction is everything but.

“Keep touching me,” he says, fingers sinking into Hank’s hair. “Hank, please.”

“Not even in your wiring yet,” Hank murmurs, kissing Connor’s sternum – or whatever passes for it, when his skin shifts away.

“Maybe you should be,” Connor says, and that sends a rush of desire through Hank.

The confidence, the half-demand, the way Connor shares himself so openly.

Connor slides deeper into Hank’s lap, knees hitting the headboard while his legs tighten around Hank’s waist. It pushes his cock up against the taut plane of Connor’s belly, making Hank groan – and even here, Connor’s skin slowly disappears from where the line of Hank’s cock presses into him.

“Jesus,” Hank murmurs, entranced by it.

He rocks his hips up against Connor, watching the skin of his abdomen fizzle out and back again, like a projection that’s not getting enough energy. It should be weird with how unhuman it is, but Hank finds that it turns him on like crazy.

Crazy because it’s Connor.

“You’re beautiful,” he whispers against Connor’s throat, “you’re fuckin’ beautiful, you know that?”

He lets his teeth graze Connor there, sinking them slightly into the plastic, and Connor rocks back into him in response. His thighs are quivering over Hank’s; wound tight like a string.

“It means more when you say it,” Connor answers, voice wavering.

Hank wraps his arms around Connor’s back, pressing them over his spine, and then leans up for a kiss.

The entire lower half of Connor’s face loses its synthetic skin as his tongue darts out to meet Hank’s lips. This time, it’s Hank who keeps his eyes half-open, sucking on Connor’s plump bottom lip. To watch Connor in all his android glory, lips pale and gleaming.

It’s actually easier to kiss him like this, lips sliding smoothly with spit; easier to nip at Connor’s mouth, easier to let his teeth catch on his lips. A smooth surface, and yet the friction is rough.

Hank loves it.

“Hank,” Connor sighs, “fuck.”

Hank’s cock twitches at that; Connor swears, sure, but usually over texts or in the interrogation room. To get what he wants or to make a joke. Never like this, thighs bunched over Hank’s body, and eyes hazy.

Never just as an expression of steamy want.

“I must be rubbing off on you,” Hank murmurs, pressing a sloppy kiss to the corner of Connor’s mouth.

“You like it,” Connor says, hands sliding down Hank’s chest.

Hank blinks, looking up, but he has little time to ask why when one of Connor’s hands wraps firmly around his cock. A squeeze at the base followed by a series of quick jerks, before his grip goes light again.

Hank sucks at Connor’s throat in retaliation. He wonders briefly if he could bruise the plastic, if Thirium veins are anything like human ones and if that means Connor will be walking around with a hickey. But even if he can’t, he still puts all the effort he can into it.

But it matters little when Connor’s fingers walk teasingly along the length of him, thumb flicking just under the head. Shit, he feels that so keenly he can’t even stop the moan tumbling out of his throat, the sound half-muffled by Connor’s shoulder.

“When I swear,” Connor continues, “when I talk to you.” His other hand slides over to one of Hank’s nipples. “Are these sensitive?” he asks, but he doesn’t wait for a reply.

He pinches one, a little more roughly than Hank sometimes does it himself, and fuck if that doesn’t have his toes curling and his cock bobbing against Connor’s body. Small sparks of pleasure and want shooting through Hank’s gut.

“Jesus,” Hank grunts, “giving it your all, huh?”

Connor licks at Hank’s mouth, hand sliding down lower between them to cup Hank’s balls, the pressure featherlight. “I enjoy it, too,” he murmurs, “hearing you.”

“Ought to shut you up someday,” Hank answers, voice hoarse, trying to resist thrusting up into Connor’s hand. He doesn’t want this to be over too soon.

Connor lets go of Hank’s cock, rocking his hips forward and against him instead. “With your fingers?” he asks, teasingly, licking his lips.

“Christ, you’re a monster,” Hank answers, shaking his head.

Connor shivers.

Hank kisses him; slow, deep, his hand on the back of Connor’s head, threading through the short hair at his nape. “Where do you want me to put them?” he asks, voice low.

“I,” Connor starts, but Hank kisses him again, flicking his tongue against Connor’s teeth.

“Your mouth? Somewhere else?” His other hand is still settled into the small of Connor’s back. “Open you up and mess with your wires?”

Connor moans, brokenly, LED flashing red. “Sides of my spine,” he manages, “press your fingers in.”

Hank does as he’s told.

“Harder,” Connor says, biting his lip.

A familiar click and a whoosh. Hank can’t see what’s happening but a compartment over the bend in Connor’s spine slides open, the cover of the paneling slipping back into his body. Just above his ass.

Hank can feel the flexible, ribbed line of Connor’s spine in the center; small open spaces to the right and left of it. When he carefully prods his forefinger on one side and his thumb on the other, the first thing that Hank notices is that Connor’s insides are hot.

“You’re burning up,” he murmurs.

Connor half-smiles, chin dipping to press his forehead against Hank’s. “Overheating,” he says, “just slightly. There’s no danger. I’ve recalibrated – oh!”

Connor’s shoulders shake as he buries his face in Hank’s shoulder, a choked sob escaping his lips.

There’s several wires going in and out of his ribbed spine; smaller, thinner, more flexible than the tendon-like ones that Hank touched in Connor’s neck. With both his thumb and his fingers pressed in, he’s able to tug on them gently, teasing the spots where they connect to Connor’s spine.

Apparently, that’s a good thing.

“Right there?” Hank asks, lips against Connor’s neck.

Connor nods, wrapping a shaky hand around Hank’s cock and attempting to jerk him off, but his grip weakens the instant Hank tugs on the thickest of wires he can reach. With his free hand, Hank bats Connor’s away.

“Let go,” he murmurs, “let me take care of you first.”

He slides his fingers deeper, carefully curling his hand around Connor’s spine. Fingers slipping through a small labyrinth of wires and parts of biocomponents; some slightly damp, others burning hot. And then Hank skirts his thumb over the ribbed side of Connor’s spine and Connor just snaps.

What comes out of his mouth is half-static, followed up by an almost unintelligible, “Hank.”

Legs tightening around Hank’s waist to such a degree that Hank has to take an extra breath, air momentarily slammed out of him. Connor makes a soft, apologetic noise, and Hank soothingly rubs a hand over one thigh.

“I got you,” Hank says. “I got you, Connor.”

As delicately as he can, he then slides a finger over the edge of Connor’s spine again. Increases the pressure just a tad, and realizes that the main cause of all those ribbed shapes is the soft, springy stuff covering it.

Bingo, Hank thinks. Silicone.

“Keep talking to me,” he says, edging a blunt nail over Connor’s spine. “Tell me when you – ”

He doesn’t get a chance to finish his sentence because Connor is moaning his name again, illuminating his own face with the deep red of his LED. Over the spots where their bodies touch – pale, white, plastic – Hank sees Connor’s body spark. Circuitry coming alive.

Hank hesitates, thumb tugging on one of the broad, rectangular connectors.

“Don’t stop,” Connor says, voice hazy with an underlay of noise. He grasps Hank’s arm with one trembling hand, and the look he gives Hank is pleading. “If you stop, I’ll overheat.”

Hank swallows, curling a circle into one of the ribbed silicone pieces.

Ah,” Connor cries, so caught up in the moment that he forgets to simulate his breathing. His chest has stopped moving entirely, and the circle of his regulator pump flares up with a bright blue.

“Tell me,” Hank rasps. “You said you liked it. Tell me what you want.”

Connor blinks slow, far too slow for someone like him.

Hank twirls his fingers, trapping two wires in-between them. Curls the pads of his fingers back and tugs.

Connor’s LED seems to enter its familiar processing cycle, sparking in-between yellow and red and even blue. A whole fucking rainbow from the android shaking and trembling in Hank’s lap.

“I’ve wanted you all day. All day, Hank,” Connor says then, managing to both sound incredibly turned on and exasperated. Edged.

He looks up and Hank sees the lenses of his eyes expand, blowing his pupils wide. They’re red-ringed, the color only flashing up at the right angle. He looks a mess, pale freckled chest broken up by patches of white porcelain.

Behind him, the sheets on the bed are cast in a faint blue light, trickling out from where Hank has his hand pressed into Connor’s spine. Flashes of color in the darkness.

For all intents and purposes, he should look fucking frightening. Heck, if Hank had seen him like this a couple of months ago, he’d run for the hills.

“Fuck me,” Connor adds, “please.”

But now, his words go straight to Hank’s cock instead. There’s already a trail of precum slicking both of their bodies, and Hank feels dizzy with desire.

“C’mon,” he says, tugging on Connor’s hand. “Let’s do this right.”

“What are you – ”

Hank presses a kiss to Connor’s index and middle fingers and sucks the tips of them into his mouth.

Connor doesn’t know which touch to lean his body into; into Hank’s fingers at his back threading their way through wires, playing with his connectors and the little buttons on them, fingering the flexible, damp silicone over his spine.

Or into Hank’s mouth where he swirls his tongue around those high-tuned sensors on the tips of Connor’s fingers, tonguing over pads that have no fingerprints. Letting his bottom lip rest against them before sucking them back in sharply, hollowing his cheeks.

Connor’s weight increases over Hank’s thighs as if he forgets to hold himself up, forgets to compensate for his heavier body weight when compared to a human’s.

And then Hank hums around Connor’s fingers; slender, partially tasteless, the only smell of sex in the air coming from Hank himself. But gods if he isn’t the most delicious thing ever, and fuck if it isn’t making Hank moan around Connor like he’s desperate for it.

(He is.)

Connor arches his body, one of his hands sliding back down to Hank’s cock.

Hank nearly chokes on Connor’s fingers; his grip is on the rough side, jerking Hank with an urgency he hasn’t yet seen from his partner. “Fuck,” he manages to stutter out, but then Connor is pushing his fingers back into Hank’s mouth.

His eyes half-lidded, he crowds Hank further back against the headboard, hips rocking against him.

“Together,” he says, fingers pressing against Hank’s tongue and his thumb brushing his chin.

Hank wants.

The build-up of his orgasm coils in his gut. He can’t take it slow, not after an entire evening of affection and build-up and then this. He’s not in his prime anymore; his cock is already twitching and leaking within Connor’s firm grip.

And fuck that voice; fuck that commanding, demanding voice.

Hank wants to take and be taken. He wants it all.

He pinches the largest silicone structure around Connor’s spine, swallowing around the fingers Connor rocks into his mouth. “Connor,” he still manages to say around them, teeth catching on Connor’s pale knuckles.

Connor hisses, the pattern of his plating lighting up completely. And now Hank finally gets to see him in all of his glory, seeing just how far down those lines go. How they curve over Connor’s abdomen and his forearms and his calves.

Sees what his cock looks like lighted up a faint blue while Connor flicks his thumb over the slit at the top. Hank’s hips press up up up, rocking against Connor’s warm, heavy body, unable to hold back the motion. Unable to stop the thrust that echoes in his muscles, telling him to let go.

“M’close,” Hank sighs around Connor’s fingers, “Con, please – ”

Connor goes rigid on Hank’s lap, his spine shifting beneath Hank’s right hand. It’s so strange, feeling him move and holding the inner part that actually moves him, but that extra tension just seems to go towards fueling Connor’s arousal because he makes a noise that Hank can’t even describe.

He slips his fingers out of Hank’s mouth, eyes fluttering closed, and his hand on Hank’s cock speeds up. Picking up on the same rhythm he settled on in that fucking bathroom stall.

Designed to bring Hank off.

“Say that again,” Connor begs, “I want – I want to hear it. Hank.”

He throws his head back, throat exposed, eyes dark.

Hank, it sounds, and it reverberates through Connor’s entire body. The sound didn’t come out of his mouth, didn’t come out of his voice box – it’s like it leaked out of his whole being. Binary noise and fleeting electricity, but it still forms Hank’s name nonetheless.

He feels his orgasm rolling in, slow and certainly under Connor’s steadfast hand.

“Con,” Hank repeats, lips against Connor’s, “Con.”

He lifts his hand against that bright circle on Connor’s chest; middle finger following the edge of it until he taps the center. Once, twice, and Connor shudders.

With his other hand this deep in Connor’s body, Hank feels the sudden flare of heat that fills him; the tremble of all those wires, the sharp electricity of it snapping against Hank’s skin. Almost too much; almost burning, but Hank doesn’t have time to think about pulling his fingers back.

Hank!” Connor cries out, and Hank hears it in both the all-enveloping static of Connor’s body and the voice he’s so very, very fond of.

The red ring is back around Connor’s irises, and his lips stay open on half a gasp as a tiny frown of pleasure forms between his brows. He’s coming – every fiber, every wire in his body tightening up and coiling around Hank’s eager fingers. Taut, release, taut, release, and through it all he’s looking at Hank like he gave him the world. His entire body aglow, almost blinding.

Hank follows soon after, high on sex and high on the emotion he sees in Connor’s eyes. Tries to keep his gaze while he comes, white spurting between them.

But the release is so sweet, so fucking good that he has to clench his eyes shut briefly, hips pushing up as he comes all over Connor’s hand and the pale rise of Connor’s body.

“Fuck,” he gasps while Connor softly milks his sensitive cock, “shit, Connor. Fuck.

Connor is shaking; still not emulating breathing, LED still flashing red. Thighs trembling over Hank’s.

He stares down between them, letting go of Hank’s cock and staring at his hand in wonder.

“Oh jesus fuckin’ christ,” Hank says, because he knows, and then Connor is slipping his coated fingers into his mouth and groans.

Closes his eyes and sucks them fucking dry, and the lines on his body give a second little flash of interest. Even Hank’s cock gives an aching twitch at the sight, like an aftershock: watching Connor’s eyes slide closed in pleasure, sighing around the taste of him.

Carefully, Hank dislodges his cramped hand from Connor’s back, and even that earns him a low whine and a look from Connor that’s just – well, sex. Desire and want and looking like he’s ready to raw Hank no matter the place and the time.

“I don’t think,” Hank sighs, massaging his wrist, “that I was ever that fast at getting my dick back up.”

Connor huffs quietly, and it’s almost laughter. “I wasn’t expecting it,” he explains, resting his forehead against Hank’s. “I just – you are so much. I lose myself in you every time.”

Hank sooths his free hand over the back of Connor’s. “Same,” he says. “That was…” He trails off, shaking his head, still coming off of his high.

“Incredible,” Connor says, with a smile.

Hank grins back. “Hell yeah. I don’t think I’ve ever been this relaxed. Jesus.”

Connor stretches out his back, thighs shifting. There’s a weird creaking noise, and then the click of a closing panel. “I need to run some diagnostics,” he murmurs, and then he’s contorting his torso back at an angle that definitely isn’t possible for a human.

Hank just snorts.

Nothing is weird anymore. He’s partners with an android. Fucks said android. He’s naked from top to bottom and doesn’t fucking care about the consequences – especially not if the consequences come down to having a guy in his bed who’s willingly and enthusiastically fucking him. A guy who comes from having his inner components fondled and lights up like a sky full of stars.

A guy he loves.

Hank tips his head back against the wall and grins.

I’m such a lucky fuckin’ bastard, he thinks.

Connor twists back in a way that looks decidedly painful, but it doesn’t seem to affect him at all. “Hank,” he says, “do you want to sleep?”

He slips off of Hank’s lap, one hand reaching for the covers.

Hank shrugs. He feels high. “Darling, I’ll be fallin’ asleep quicker than you can finish your diagnostics. You’ve really worn me out.”

Connor’s LED circles back to blue, finally. “You know,” he says, “I don’t think I’ve ever heard you use this many nicknames in one night.” He reaches out, pressing a kiss to Hank’s cheek. “I like it.”

“I like you,” says Hank, nosing back against Connor’s temple. “How about,” he starts then, “I just ignore the mess I made, pass out here in bed, and you go into standby mode and do your thing?”

Connor raises an eyebrow. “Are we going to call in to work tomorrow?”

Hank laughs. “If you’re asking that question, you already know the answer.”

Connor narrows his eyes in mock annoyance, but the twinkle in them betrays him. “I’d still like to check in during the afternoon, if you don’t mind. To hear how Lasseter’s arrest is progressing.”

Hank nods. “Gotcha. I think I can handle getting up at noon.”

“Is sleeping all you’re going to be doing tomorrow?” Connor asks, eyebrow raised.

Hank chuckles, kicking his feet back under the edge of the blankets that Connor’s holding up. “Someone’s eager,” he whistles, shaking his head. “So you’re not gonna bully me into going to the gym, but you’re just gonna convince me to fuck you several times a day?”

Connor shrugs, joining Hank under the covers. “Maybe,” he says, pursing his lips. He winks.

The mattress is soft and welcoming against Hank’s back and he sinks into it, pulling the covers up under his arm. Turns onto his side so he can look at Connor.

They’ve switched sides – Hank half-collapsed on the right side of the bed, Connor on the left. It’s usually the other way around.

“Who knows what tomorrow brings,” Hank says, “as long as there’s you, I’m good.”

Connor smiles, small and fond. “How did you put it?” he muses. “Same. Yeah, same.”

His hand finds Hank’s underneath the blankets.

Love you, Hank thinks when he falls asleep.

I love you.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 9

In which Hank has a bad day involving his past, and figures out to how make it better with a little help of the Jericho gang.

 

April 2039

 

Some days are harder than others.

Hank’s learned how to deal with the heaviness and drag of policework. He’s been doing cases ever since he was in his twenties, and he knows the drill. Knows how to create quiet moments in his car or at the bridge to try to relax and clear his head.

He’s seen colleagues die, over the years. He’s had his own injuries. And the feeling when a culprit escapes the hands of the law while they leave a scattered path of destruction behind – heck, he’s known that too. You build up a resilience, and you learn how to deal, or you fall.

Hank’s fallen plenty of times. But he always got back up again. Work just kept him going – and later, his family.

That’s probably also why people expected him to be able to deal with Cole’s death in a more… graceful way than Hank eventually did.

Hank was the one who had experience with darkness. Grizzled veteran who knew how to protect his soft heart. A police officer who had psych support from the department. His cop buddies on the lookout for him. Hank was the guy who had everything he needed to survive.

And yet in the end, it became a bottle by his side.

Not just whiskey, but also isolation and self-hate. Guilt eating his heart away.

Work didn’t cut it like it did before. He could distract himself endlessly and still come back to the crash. To Cole’s face and body. To the splatters on the windshield. To the surgeon who was high on red ice.

He didn’t go to grief counselling. Not because he thought he didn’t need it, but because he couldn’t. It took him months and months and months to be able to clear out Cole’s room. And that was only because his ex-wife was the one who kept nudging him to do it; of course, she helped out, and they cried together.

Only kept the few things they wanted to remember him by.

She wasn’t good at dealing with Cole’s death, either. But she did go down a healthier path than Hank did. Moved away from Detroit and made a trip around the world. In the beginning, she still sent the occasional postcard. She was old-fashioned like that – one of the things that had drawn Hank to her, initially.

Postcards, records, vintage cameras. She had a thing for the past.

They’d met in a jazz café when Hank was getting a drink – still only just one, back then – after a difficult case. They’d moved relatively fast. Hank had always been kind of a loner; someone who might’ve had a lot of friends, but no one too close. Romance? Occasionally, but never for long. His work always came first, anyway.

She’d been very approachable and practical and smart. No nonsense.

Hank had considered himself too old for a family. Too old for a kid and a spouse.

She’d convinced him otherwise. Said that he was worth it; worth a try, if he had the courage, and especially if she did. She hadn’t been a spring chicken anymore, either.

Hank exhales a long, deep breath, staring at the photo in his hands.

Cole at three years old. Family beach trip. Hank’s sunglasses on top of his nose. Hank wrapping an arm around them both; around his little boy and around Marion.

Hank’s hands tremble.

He misses Cole, of course. Would give the world to have him back. His own life, even though that wouldn’t solve anything. But sometimes, he misses Marion too. Her pragmatism and her honesty. The way she’d look after she’d woken up, still sleepy.

They’d had their issues even before Cole’s death. Nothing big, but she’d always been more adventurous than he was. Like she was always somewhere else, whirling away from him in her thoughts. And Hank – well, his life was relatively boring, and he preferred it that way. Knowing what was gonna come next and hop from one case to the next.

They did fit. He loved her, and she loved him. She was a great mom to Cole, and broke just as much as Hank did when they lost him. But after Cole died, they both knew they’d break up.

They didn’t even have to discuss it in detail; she called up the lawyers and Hank arranged the papers. It was friendly; they’d always been friends first before they were lovers. She got a bit of money, Hank kept the house.

He’d also known back then that she’d leave. Explore the world. Use her eye for art and adventure and that vintage camera of hers to capture the world as she saw it.

Hank had tucked them away, the memories of her. Buried them alongside Cole’s body.

But they’ve been rising, steadily, ever since he got involved with Connor. Ever since he dared to take what he did last week – love, comfort, affection, sex.

He knows Marion would love him taking a second chance at life. Would support and encourage it, if she were there. And she’d love Connor as easily as she’s loved all the other people in her life, especially with the similarities he sees in both of their characters. They’d get along.

That’s not really the problem – the problem is Connor. Fuck, not even that, it’s Hank himself.

He traces Cole’s face on the photo in his hands.

If they’re gonna do this right, he wants to open up. He wants to show Connor more than just that one photo of Cole they have up in the living room. He’s had a life of over fifty years before he and Connor ever even met, and Connor deserves to know.

The pictures, the stories, the things he still has from those days. Not just Marion – the pictures of him and Fowler when they were young and brave and reckless, the day Hank bought his car. Sumo as a puppy. The selfies from various rock concerts over the years. The day he had his chest piece done.

His parents, bless their fucking souls, and his sister.

God knows what she’s doing right now.

Connor deserves to know Hank like Hank knows himself; not just through police files and analyzation. Not just through the clinical listings of the Anderson family tree. But digging up these memories brings back the bad, too.

The could have beens, the would have beens, the what ifs.

It’s all so easy to imagine that Hank feels like it’s tearing holes into his chest.

Hank’s house all dressed up for summer barbecue. Fowler and his wife arriving with wine, like they always do; Cole running through the house, older, leaner. Playing ball with Sumo and Fowler’s kid.

A begrudging Reed in one corner, arguing with Chen over who of them would be better at grilling the steaks. And his sister actually grilling them because she always tends to pick up wherever other people leave off.

Connor prepping the food alongside Hank, pressing a kiss to Hank’s cheek while he’d carry the trays to the garden. A hand over Cole’s golden hair, a pat for Sumo.

Marion, back from her trip overseas. Crowding them all around the barbecue for a picture. With her skill and tenacity in getting them all to pose properly, it’d come out perfect.

He sees her hugging Cole after taking the photo; he sees Connor lifting Cole up in joy. Marion’s hand on Connor’s arm. Hank, at the center.

He cries, clutching the photo.

It comes out in choked, heaving sobs, shaking his frame and making his throat clog.

When it comes down to it, it’s just so fucking unfair. It was just a few simple things: a home, a kid, a partner, and a dog. For a guy who’s worked hard at his job his entire life. Never did anything too weird or out there.

He’d already thought it wasn’t meant for him, and that was fine. He could deal with that reality.

But then he realized that he was allowed to build that for himself; made a new life and had a taste of it, and then it was ripped away. Now he knows how it feels, and he can never go back to the man he was before.

Hank knows there’ll always be a hole inside of him where Cole once was. A lifetime of tears shed for his kid; the boy he’d never get to see grow up to be an adult. Who he’d never teach how to drive, help with homework or talk about life. Who he’d never get to be a father to.

“Fuck,” Hank chokes out, wiping his face with his sleeve.

His son.

Sometimes Hank wishes he could turn back time and prevent it. Or shift one side of time and tip it against the other to make it overlap. To have Cole and Connor together as his own happy family.

He takes a shuddering breath, trying to calm his pulse.

These thoughts, these memories; they come with jagged edges and sharp points. But in the end, that’s because they’re soft and bubbly and things that could once make Hank float.

Remembering hurts, as does imagining it, because they’re things Hanks can never have. Not anymore.

The worst of the sobs subside.

Hank wonders if it was ever a little easier on Marion because she had a thing for the past.

Because she was used to the pain of melancholia; of death-dipped nostalgia under the sepia filters she liked to use. Because she could go somewhere else inside her head and watch the pain from a distance.

Hank feels like he never really left.

But they did.

They all did.

 


 

Hank’s vain hope that Connor won’t notice that he spent an hour crying in the bedroom that very morning faints away the instant he arrives at the station. Connor, who’s sitting on his desk with Reed of all people, greets him with a chipper smile but then his LED flashes yellow almost instantly.

It’s only for the briefest of moments, but his eyes remain locked with Hank’s.

“Lieutenant,” he says and the careful inflection to his tone betrays his concern.

Probably able to detect fucking salt patterns on his cheeks or some shit. Or maybe Hank’s eyes are still puffy.

Hank nods. “Connor,” he says, switching his gaze, “Reed.”

Reed scoffs. “Alright, alright, I’m going,” he mutters, hopping off of Connor’s desk. “Not gonna be here for some eyefucking, that’s for fucking sure.”

“That sounds very uncomfortable,” Connor remarks, making a thoughtful face. Hank knows better. “Please, Detective Reed, do explain how that would work next time we talk.”

Reed makes a dismissive sort of noise. “Yeah, you wish. Sarcastic little shit.”

He walks off towards the breakroom, shaking his head and flapping one arm about, and Connor smiles at Hank with something of amusement in his eyes. Hank is just baffled that Reed picked up on the joke being a joke rather than Connor and his unfathomable android ways.

Hank clears his throat and sits down. “Any leads on that case you’ve been helping Reed and Chen with?”

Connor shakes his head. “Not yet. Officer Miller is still waiting on a warrant. But we assume most of the clues are to be found in the warehouse.”

“Right,” Hank says, finding that he’s not really listening but looking for ways to fill the silence. Distract.

Unfortunately for Hank, Connor’s relentlessness in pursuit of things he wants to solve or fix also applies to his personal life. Not just his penance for policework.

“Hank,” he says, leaning in, “do you want to go out for dinner tonight?” His face is oddly serious.

“What?” Hank says, surprised, shifting to pull his chair closer to his desk. “Dinner?” he adds in a lower voice. “What for?”

Connor shrugs. “I don’t know. A date. Something fun.”

Hank narrows his eyes. “You’re awfully transparent, you know that?”

Connor smiles. “Maybe only when I glow.”

Hank sighs, shaking his head. “Look, it’s nothing. I found – I looked for a photo of…”

He almost says my family. But they’re not anymore.

“A photo of a few years back,” he continues, pinching the bridge of his nose and deliberately not looking at Connor. “Me, Cole, and Cole’s mom at the beach. I just wanted – wanted to see a glimpse of that time. For a moment.”

Connor carefully sits down on the edge of Hank’s desk, knocking his knee against the armrest of Hank’s chair. “That’s very understandable,” he says quietly. “Do you want to talk about it?”

Hank swallows. “Not here,” he says. “It’s a little too personal. A little too…” He trails off, not finishing his sentence, and looks up at Connor.

His eyes are warm and brown, like always. Soft. When they first met, it seemed like they were meant to lure people into their deep, comfortable depths. But it didn’t take long for Hank to see the true affection in them.

The man behind the machine, climbing out one software instability after another.

Connor pats Hank’s shoulder and nods. “Another time,” he says, moving back over to his side of their little workspace. “So is that also a no to dinner?”

Hank frowns. “You don’t eat.”

“I don’t recall that being a problem before,” Connor says dryly.

“If we’re gonna go on a date,” Hank says gruffly, “I want it to be something we can both enjoy.”

Connor sits down and offers him a luminous smile. “I enjoyed the concert. Maybe we could go to another music venue?” A pause. “A jazz café?”

Hank grimaces at how close to home that hits, and apparently he made more of a face than he thought because Connor’s reaction is instantaneous.

“That’s a no?” Connor asks, eyebrow raised. “Again? I thought I knew you better than this.”

Hank sighs. “Hey, it’s fine. I appreciate you trying to cheer me up. I just…” He leans back in his chair, chin dipping; he can’t look Connor in the eye, not right now. “Fuck. Let’s just get out of here.”

That catches Connor off guard; Hank can tell by the way he presses his thumbs to his forefingers a few times on top of his desk. “Alright,” he says. “If something comes up, I’ll be the first to know anyway.”

Hank looks up, and catches Connor pressing his fingers to the LED at his temple. He winks.

Hank shakes his head, grinning.

“See?” Connor says, rising from his desk and grabbing the jacket that’s slung over the back of his chair.

“Okay, alright,” Hank says, pretending to sound miffed, “you cheered me up, asshole. Now let’s book it before Fowler finds a new case to stick to our asses.”

Connor smiles at him, warm and understated. “Of course,” he says, quietly. “And thanks. For wanting to explain.”

“Don’t mention it,” Hank murmurs.

He doesn’t go down to the station’s garage to get his car, and Connor doesn’t question him. They walk out of the front entrance together, and Hank turns the corner of the street. Into the direction of one of the parks that stretches big and blooming green throughout Detroit.

He actually prefers the one closer to the house. This park is smaller, smack-dab in the center of the city. But Hank finds he just wants fresh air and an open, natural space; beggars can’t be choosers.

It’s one of those colder spring days; no rain, necessarily, but the temperature is a little bit lower than expected. The kind that discourages the little green tips of plants slowly peeking out of the soil. First signs of the seasons turning. Hank is glad for his coat.

He takes a peek to the side at Connor.

They’re not talking, not yet. But the silence between them is comfortable and easy. Connor just smiles when Hank catches his gaze.

He’s taken to dressing appropriately for the weather, even though he technically doesn’t need to bundle up when it’s cold or dress down when it’s warm. He has a fashion sense, obviously, and it’s better than Hank ever had. He looks like one of those hip guys on the cover of a magazine.

Always simple, always neat. A button-up underneath a V-neck sweater. No tie today.

Hank reaches for his hand.

He sees Connor’s surprise instantly; doesn’t have to look for the yellow flash of his LED when he can feel Connor’s shoulders tighten and his arm stiffen under Hank’s light grip.

Hank wants to ask if it’s okay, if he should back off – but then Connor is rapidly blinking and looking so absurdly, stupidly happy, that Hank figures it’s alright. He smiles back, sliding his fingers between Connor’s and squeezing, and Connor dips his chin and looks very, very pleased.

He runs the edge of his thumb over Hank’s wrist.

When they step into the park, Hank draws up their joined hands and presses a kiss to the back of Connor’s.

Connor stumbles. Actually stumbles, losing his balance and half-bumping into Hank on accident.

“Shit,” he whispers, his hand still pressed to Hank’s mouth.

Hank can’t help but snort a laugh. “So I made the advanced prototype lose his footing, huh?”

“I was – unprepared,” Connor balks, an endearing mix between flustered, pleased, and confused. “The chances of you taking my hand were – ”

Hank pats Connor’s back. “Everything I do around you has a higher chance of succeeding. That’s ‘cause it’s you.”

He walks towards one of the park benches, slowly letting Connor’s hand slip out of his own, and sits down. Connor remains standing in the center of the path for a few seconds, looking a little astonished, before he takes a seat next to Hank.

“Are you sure you’re alright?” he prods carefully, elbows on his knees. “You’ve – you’ve been behaving a little uncharacteristically today.”

Hank groans; the sound turns into half a sigh as he leans back and shakes his hair out of his eyes. “What do you know about my family?” he asks, turning towards Connor. “You know, the – the rank and file stuff.”

Connor’s jaw tightens a bit. “Well,” he says, trying to sound light but respectful, “of course I know about Cole. I know you and your ex-wife separated shortly after his death, and that the two of you were married for eight years. Her name is Marion Bailey.”

Hank nods, adjusting the cuffs of his coat. “Go on.”

“You’ve had some partners before, both men and women,” Connor continues, “but none of them had a large enough impact to be named in your personal file.” He stops, looking away before he speaks. “Your parents are deceased, but your mother lived to see Cole’s birth.”

Hank’s throat grows a little tighter. “Luckily not his death,” he adds, voice soft.

God, he could do with a drink right about now.

“Do you want me to – ”

Hank shakes his head, motioning for Connor to continue. “Nope. Just go on, will you?”

List what you know so I don’t have to say it.

“You have an older sister,” Connor says. “Her name is Rachel. She lives in San Francisco. The file says…” He hesitates. “… that the two of you are estranged.”

Hank scoffs. “We aren’t. Just ‘cause we don’t see each other and don’t talk doesn’t mean we are estranged.”

Connor gives him an expectant look. “I know that I don’t have that much experience with human relationships, but – ”

“Ugh,” Hank groans, interrupting him. “Look. Me and Rach – if you think I’m a clammed-up oyster, you’d better take another fuckin’ look at her. She loves me, and we both know. Nothing more needs to be said.”

“The file says that the contact ceased almost completely after Cole’s death,” Connor adds quietly.

Hank sucks in a breath. “She can’t have kids.”

“Oh,” Connor says, looking like he doesn’t know what to say.

Hank swallows. “She – she was scared of being an aunt, but she loved it. The gruff, quiet type that takes you on weekend outings. She took it really badly when he died.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Connor says, and his hand lands on Hank’s leg. “Do you two still talk?”

“Barely,” Hank says, “but I was thinking of inviting her over for the summer.” He looks up.

Connor is rubbing circles onto Hank’s knee, face open and expressive. There’s something sad there, for Hank’s history, but also something comforting and hopeful. Something that says, I’m here. It’s the silliest of moments to remember the stack of pancakes but the image pops up in Hank’s mind anyway, unbidden.

“Any reason why?” he asks when Hank doesn’t speak, taking the bait.

“I want her to meet you,” Hank answers.

Connor’s hand on Hank’s knee stills entirely.

“You see,” Hank says, voice wavering the slightest bit, “this morning I realized that the two of you are the only people I’ve got left. And I might not…”

The tears are right there, burning behind Hank’s eyes.

“I might not,” he tries again, “get the life I set out to get.” He reaches over for Connor’s hand again, and squeezes it. “But I sure as hell love the fact that you’re in it right now.”

“You want me to meet your sister,” Connor echoes.

Hank nods. “Yeah, Connor, I do.”

“Is this,” Connor starts, falling over the words, “do you mean – do you want…”

He stops talking, LED spinning red-red-red while his eyes flicker off to the side. Nervous, so fucking nervous, and Hank thought he was the one with his everything out on the line.

“Hey,” he says, “hey, it’s okay.”

Connor lightly shakes his head. “I know,” he says, voice a whisper. “I’m just – not used to the feeling.”

He presses his free hand to the center of his chest, and his LED goes back to yellow.

Hank frowns. “What feeling?”

Connor looks back at him, offering a shy smile. “What it means to me when you show me how much you care.”

Hank’s eyes widen. “What,” he says, “did you ever doubt that I – ”

“No, no, of course not,” Connor says, shushing him immediately. “I’ve never doubted your affections for me. But all of this is so…” He turns his face away. “Open,” he adds. “Public.”

Hank stares at him, momentarily baffled.

“I knew we’d face difficulties if we’d start a relationship beyond a professional one,” Connor continues, gaze flitting away from Hank’s ever once in a while. “So I’d understand it perfectly if you wanted to keep some things private or just at home.”

Hank is sure his heart’s breaking, especially when Connor looks back and regards him with such warmth that it’s like the sun just burst through the clouds.

“But you’ve been proving me wrong,” Connor adds, eyes a little wet, “every step of the way.” He reaches out to take Hank’s hand in both of his. “I’d love to meet your sister, Hank,” he says.

“Hold the fuck up,” Hank says, voice hoarse. “Listen to me, Connor.”

Connor blinks in surprise.

“You shouldn’t ever settle for someone who doesn’t show you,” Hank barrels on. “Any – any fucking doubts or hesitation on my part, that’s just insecurities. That’s just me struggling to get by. My own shit I gotta deal with.”

He slides his hands up over Connor’s shoulder, resting them on the back of his neck. “Listen. Don’t you ever settle for less. You deserve to be taken out for dates, you deserve your hand being held out where anyone can see it.”

His eyes drop to Connor’s lips.

“You deserve fucking this,” he says, and then he kisses him.

Kisses Connor on a cold spring afternoon on a bench in a city park with people walking by, just near the entrance. Kisses Connor maybe a little too enthusiastically than is really proper but fuck that. He just wants to keep kissing him until all his doubts and worries sizzle away.

Connor melts.

Fists his hands in the lapels of Hank’s jacket. Lets out a breathy little noise as he deepens the kiss more than is probably usual for the time and the place. Hank doesn’t care, and opens his mouth easily, letting Connor in.

“Hank,” Connor says after, his voice hazy. “I… Thank you.”

“Jesus,” Hank breathes out, pressing his forehead to Connor’s.

Connor huffs a soft laugh. “No,” he murmurs, “just me.”

“Once I manage to crawl out of my own ass,” Hank says, “you’d better watch yourself. ‘Cause it’s gonna be fucking date night every night,” he half-jokes. “I was a great dancer when I was younger.”

“I already have a few classic dancing subroutines in my system,” Connor says, grinning. “Downloaded them after the concert. I could dip you right here if you wanted to.”

Hank snorts. “Is that what I get for calling you dipshit too often?”

“Maybe,” Connor says, and Hank feels the shrug of his shoulders underneath the embrace of his arms.

“Don’t,” Hank laughs, “fucking don’t. I’ll break my back and you’ll have to carry me to the station.”

Connor looks mischievous, LED cycling through processing mode briefly. “Nobody puts Baby in a corner,” he says, and it’s not just Connor’s voice – it’s actually Patrick Swayze’s, mimicked perfectly. It’s uncanny.

Hank almost falls off the bench. “Did you really just,” he wheezes, “did you really fuckin’ just – ”

He laughs until he has tears leaking out of the corners of his eyes, slapping his own thigh and Connor’s. And Connor just chuckles along with his own soft, bright, weird little laughter.

Hank can’t remember the last time he cried tears of pain and joy in one single day.

What a life.

What a fucking tragic yet beautiful life.

They meander on their way back to work. A stroll through the park with their fingers entwined. Connor buys Hank a hotdog and tastes the sauce right from Hank’s lips.

Work is a little different. Here, they still have to carry themselves professionally. But the knowing look from Connor when they sit down opposite each other is worth the fucking world. Especially as he nudges Hank’s foot with his own.

Hank just smiles, and nudges back.

 


 

CyberLife stores have always made Hank uncomfortable. Not as much as The Eden Club ever did, but the stores were pompous in their clinical, too-clean atmosphere. Rows and rows of androids on weird display platforms with dead eyes and nametags. Price tags.

He never set foot in one. This is the first time.

Granted, they look different now – less clinical, less all white, and the employees are now free and willing. They want to be there, and they’re paid wages by CyberLife. Markus ensured that after the revolution the stores wouldn’t be selling androids anymore, but rather be repurposed to providing upgrades, repairs, and tech support.

(They’re still holding talks about producing android children at the request of androids who wish to be parents. But those sort of discussions dredge up about everything about morality, ethics, and philosophy that you can think of, so Hank estimates it’ll take a while before they come to a conclusion.)

CyberLife had to comply after all the pressure, and some of the original staff stayed. There was a weird sort of side-involvement there, too – leaked photos of Elijah Kamski and North shaking hands over the new designs of the CyberLife stores. Apparently, that was the final nail in CyberLife’s coffin regarding this issue.

Even though the fucker doesn’t even work there anymore.

Hank remembers how North twisted his wrist at the bar and he’s decided he doesn’t want to know the story there. He really, really doesn’t.

But now he’s here, and he doesn’t really know what to say or how to behave, so he just clears his throat and walks up to the nearest counter.

“Hi,” Hank says to the saleswoman behind it.

The lady gives him a polite nod back. “Good morning, sir,” she says pleasantly, her LED blue and unblinking. “How may I help you today?”

Hank hesitates.

The lady’s nametag says ‘Anna’. It’s pinned to her shirt rather than an integral part of her outfit.

“I, uh,” Hank stammers, “I’m looking for something. You might call it an upgrade.”

Anna tilts her head to the side. “We have plenty of those, sir. What kind of model would you like to purchase your upgrade for?”

Hank scoffs, mostly at himself, sucking in his breath through his teeth. “Well,” he says, “it’s an older model. Namely, me.”

Anna’s eyes widen just the slightest bit. “Pardon me, but you don’t appear to be an android, sir,” she says, folding her hands together on top of the counter.

“I’m not,” Hank says, “and what I’m looking for is probably gonna require some custom work. But I thought I’d ask anyway.”

She nods. “Of course. What is it what you’re looking for, if I may ask?”

Achingly polite, and Hank’s glad for it. “My partner’s an android,” he says, tongue suddenly heavy inside his mouth. “An RK800 model. His name’s Connor.”

He sees the flash of recognition in her green eyes. “Designation RK800 #313 248 317 51?” she asks.

“Yeah,” Hank says, surprised by the way she so suddenly rattles it off, “that’s him.” He’d recognize Connor’s personal number anywhere. Had it mesmerized from the days he still wore his old jacket.

“Markus’ friend,” Anna adds, smiling.

“Uh, yeah,” Hank says, more than a little awkwardly. “So. There’s this, uh, thing that Connor does that you guys…” He pauses and starts again. “What androids do when they interface. Sharin’ information with each other?”

Anna nods, but says nothing.

“I wanna be able to do that for him,” Hank says, throat like sandpaper. “I know I can’t do all of it. But there’s gotta be a way one android connects to the other. I thought – maybe I could, I dunno, get a cool chip? A nice little implant?”

He knows he’s reaching and that he sounds way too casually cavalier about it, but he has to ask. After everything that Connor’s done for him, he wants to try this. To see if there’s a way he can share his life like Connor does naturally with one of his own.

To give him at least a semblance of something that’s so important to androids.

Anna’s mouth opens slightly and then closes again in thought. Her LED circles to yellow.

“I don’t know,” she says with honesty. “Theoretically, it should be possible, but the degree of information that is exchanged during interfacing is enormously detailed.”

“I figured,” Hank sighs, not hiding his disappointment. “That’s alright. I saw it coming.”

“Not to mention that the RK series is quite advanced,” she murmurs. “That’s a lot of extra layers of data.”

Hank nods, fidgeting with the coin in his pocket, thumbing the rim.

“It probably wouldn’t be possible without some severe modifications to your nervous system,” Anna continues, and that sends a little shiver of discomfort through Hank’s spine. “For you to be able to receive your partner’s data and make sense of it.”

Hank swallows. “I don’t need to. Make sense of all of it, I mean.”

Anna looks taken aback. “You don’t?”

“Look,” Hank says, taking a deep breath. “I just want him to connect to me. His scanners and analyzing skills are top notch. He already knows what I feel for him. I just want to give him that…”

He looks down, hiding his face partially behind his shaggy hair. “That click,” he finishes. “That when he interfaces with me, he has something he can touch within me that’s the same as him. That’s all.”

Anna’s LED goes back to yellow and she inclines her head slightly. “We don’t have anything like that at the store. But if you like, I could place a call for you with someone who does custom work.”

That surprises Hank. He’d already half given up and figured he’d have to walk out the store with his tail between his legs. “Sure,” he says.

Why the fuck not, he thinks, but he doesn’t say it.

Anna smiles at him. “His name is Simon. Maybe you know him.”

Hank instantly recalls North and her scrambler. “Not personally,” he admits.

He doesn’t want to do any namedropping. It’s strange anyway, since he doesn’t know Markus that well, and he always felt like more of a bystander to the revolution than an actual part of it. He just stumbled in alongside Connor because he believed in what his partner was doing.

Nothing more, nothing less.

Anna’s smile grows. “Lucky you, to be so close to the ones who engineered the revolution,” she says anyway, apparently having figured out on her own.

She pauses, LED glowing yellow again while her eyelashes flutter. “Simon’s set up his own workshop in Detroit. He’s done some great work with prosthetics and state-of-the-art wheelchairs.”

She leans over, holding up a small screen in the shape of a business card. Hank flips out his phone so he can scan it.

“I’ve let him know you’ll be stopping by,” Anna says, before adding: “You must really care for him a lot.”

Hank, already checking the route towards the address on his phone, looks up. “What?” he asks, confused.

“Connor,” Anna says, brightly. “I mean, you’re not the first human to come here to ask for technological enhancements for their human-android relationship. But you’re the first to speak about implants that go beyond sexual pleasure.”

Hank is baffled. He wants to ask how she knew, but what comes out instead is: “I’m the first?”

She nods. “I think the custom sex toys have been the most popular so far. Maybe it’d be nice to discuss that with Simon, too. Connecting those to the interfacing experience might… elevate your relationship further.”

“Jesus christ,” Hank says, looking her over in surprise.

Anna shrugs. “Just a suggestion,” she says in a chipper way as if she just recommended the store’s signature dish rather than talking about sex toys and implants. “Good luck, and have a nice day!”

Hank steps out of the CyberLife store feeling dazed and overwhelmed. But he supposes if he just lowkey told a random salesclerk that he’s in love with Connor and wants to get technology implanted in himself to make Connor feel more at home – well, he can go ahead and have that awkward conversation again.

Tell it to Simon and ask him what he can do about it.

Hank already figured that him sending his own memories to Connor is probably fucking impossible. But something; the slightest hint of a feeling, the slightest burn of a memory. And for Connor to send that back, even just a slice of his own emotions or feelings – that’d mean a lot. Everything, really.

Hank flicks his thumb over the map on his phone, and recognition sinks in.

Shit, he thinks, staring down at his phone, are you fuckin’ kidding me?

Markus’ mansion. Same address.

That instantly tells him several things, but the most important one of them is that the entire Jericho gang is probably gonna be there alongside Carl Manfred, the guy who adopted Markus. Hank hasn’t met Josh or Simon yet, but he instantly sees Markus and North before his mind’s eye: him in his calm but stern glory, and her in her bitter rage and disapproving aura.

Jesus fucking christ, he thinks. Those two are either going to laugh at him or kill him. Maybe both.

He still hasn’t forgotten how protective Markus was of Connor.

And now he has a millionaire artist dad to deal with on top of all that.

Fuck.

 


 

In the end, it turns out that Carl isn’t there. Hospital for his regular checkups. At least Hank is having some sort of luck today.

Markus is the one who answers the door, and seems fully convinced that Hank is there to check up on North. Which Hank finds flattering and would half-agree with, were it not for the fact that he’s looking for Simon.

That leads to a raised eyebrow from Markus, an amused look from North, and a curt nod from Josh.

God, as if it isn’t already awkward enough.

Hey, it’s me, the old grumpy-ass cop you once summoned to your castle, and I’m here to buy an upgrade for my android boyfriend.’Sup?

Josh is the one who walks Hank to Simon’s workshop. North and Markus follow closely behind.

The workshop turns out to be situated in what looks like a former study. Classical, like the rest of the house, with warm wood and sleek surfaces. But there’s boxes of spare parts, fine machinery, and several workbenches placed around the room. Delicate tools and packets of Thirium.

It’s obvious that Carl gave up the space to Simon.

“Oh,” says the android sitting at one of the workbenches, “you must be Hank.”

Simon is blond, polite, and a similar model to the one who Connor subdued on his very first deviant assignment. Hank hasn’t seen androids of that make other than in the police vids of Connor’s case, but he forgets about the images as soon as Simon talks.

“I am,” Hank half-croaks, offering Simon his hand.

Simon’s gentle, observant, and has quick and clever fingers. There’s a quiet sort of ease hanging around him, and Hank instantly gets how the presence of Simon and Josh can balance out strong-mindedness of Markus and North.

And then they’re all standing there, Simon expectant and curious about Hank’s inquiry, and the rest of them absolutely not leaving. Fuck.

“Anna from the store mentioned something about interfacing,” Simon starts, inclining his head.

Hank clears his throat. “Uh, yeah,” he says, deliberately not looking back at Markus and North. “Do you, uh,” he starts, “think that’s possible? Not the full breadth of it, but…”

When he trails off, Simon just nods at him. “Some sort of transferal should be possible. It’s been done before, mixing and matching humans with technology.” He leans back and smiles. “Earliest devices to keep you alive were pacemakers, weren’t they?”

Hank grins. “I hope you’re not gonna electrocute my heart.”

Simon huffs a quiet laugh behind his hand, half-covered by his long sleeves. “I wasn’t planning to. But it looks like someone else got a hold of it.”

Hank says nothing, but he can feel his neck and face going patchy with a blush.

“Please,” Simon says, pulling out another stool from underneath the workbench, “sit. Let’s go over your ideas and mine. See what’s possible.”

Hank nods and sits, and Simon draws up some diagrams on his various monitors. The rest of the Jericho crew remains; North mills about the room, keeping an eye on both of them, and Josh and Markus sit down to play chess.

Hank understands. Family protects family.

Simon and he go over some of the possibilities. A sensor beneath Hank’s skin that can transfer the data Connor sends during interfacing, connecting to an implant or a device that can tap into Hank’s nervous system. Translate the data into feelings or emotions.

It’s never gonna be clear or sharp. Experimental. Maybe fleeting at best.

Simon doesn’t have a clear idea of what it’ll feel like to Hank: he only has experiences with prosthetics. That’s muscle movement and bridging the gap between organic nerves and artificial tissue, not the transfer of actual emotions and memories.

Most of the other brain devices that’ve been made for humans over the years are of an electrical impulse nature. To combat diseases like Parkinson’s, for example. Nothing that transfers but rather just stimulates nerves or areas in the brain.

But Simon gathers it should definitely do something for Connor.

Make it feel like he can connect to Hank and upload his thoughts – like with any regular interfacing. Reverse, he might not get a lot back, since Simon has no idea how to translate human emotions back through an interfacing process. He does mention creating a feedback loop with Connor’s own analyzers that already track Hank’s vitals and interpret them.

(Elevated heartrate when he’s excited. Blood rising to his face for a blush. Minute tremors in his hands when he’s nervous.)

“It would feel familiar and recognizable to your partner,” Simon adds, “this type of connection. Just maybe a little bit slower than usual.”

North snorts, and Simon’s words just conjure up images of dial-up internet and associations with ‘old fuck’ that Hank refuses to address. So he nods along and says nothing.

Simon shows him a few types of sensors he could use for this sort of custom job. They look like tiny little chips to Hank, even smaller than Simon’s fingertip.

“So one of those is gonna go under my skin,” Hank says, “huh. Doesn’t seem like it’d be a hassle.”

Simon nods. “It won’t likely be uncomfortable to you, no. Lots of humans have been using sensors or chips like these for years. They’re very popular for birth control or medicine regulations.” He pauses before continuing. “People with diabetes, for example, or heart conditions.”

He slowly turns his body towards Hank’s, eyes travelling over Hank’s form. “The bicep or the forearm is a common place to put it, usually.”

“No,” Hank says instantly, “I want it somewhere on my hand.”

Simon grimaces. “You use and move your hands a lot. The sensor could shift around. Besides, there’s so many blood vessels and tendons that it’s difficult to insert it accurately, not even mentioning the fact that – ”

“Palm,” Hank interrupts, “just put it in my palm.”

Simon huffs, looking annoyed. “You’re adamant about this, aren’t you?”

“Of course I am,” Hank says, “the fuck. I’m letting you implant a device in me. I want it to be as – as natural as possible for Connor. Him trying to lace his fingers with my bicep ain’t gonna work out.”

Markus, sitting off to the side with Josh, clicks his tongue. “Putting your bicep into Connor’s body wouldn’t work, either,” he comments off-handedly.

The annoyance on Simon’s face grows into a frown. “Please, Markus,” he says, sounding tired. “Not now.”

“Yeah,” North adds, crossing her arms, “not now, Markus. Save that for later, when we’re all alone.”

Simon’s eyes narrow. “And I could do without the sarcastic commentary too, thanks.”

She walks closer, looking at Simon’s workbench. “You know,” she says, “I’d be a lot more worried about the fucking brain implant than the sensor.” Her honey eyes snap back to Hank’s, and she grins. “Say goodbye to your last two remaining braincells, old man.”

Hank snorts. “At least they’d have a new buddy to fight over.”

North makes an amused noise in response.

“You two have an interesting way of talking to each other,” Josh says, looking from North to Hank and back.

When Hank and North shrug in tandem, Josh just shakes his head while Markus suppresses an obvious smile. Simon seems ready to throw his toolset out of the window or at either one of their heads.

“We also,” Simon huffs, holding up a sensor on his fingertip, “have to find a human surgeon skilled enough to put this in.”

Hank raises an eyebrow. “I’ve had enough of human surgeons for a lifetime, thanks. Besides, it’s not such a complicated op, is it?”

Simon grits his teeth. “That doesn’t mean I still wouldn’t want an expert on human biology to look at it. Opening a human body up and inserting a device is always a risk. If it’s not the operation itself, it could be the anesthesia.”

“He has a point,” North says, stepping closer and leaning in to look at the sensor. “No matter how much I’d like to see you walk yourself straight into danger, I’m not gonna let Simon put something in your brain just like that.”

“You aren’t?” Hank asks, half-surprised.

North almost rolls her eyes. “Connor would have me decommissioned faster than I’d be able to pull out a gun.”

“And you have a lot of guns,” Josh mumbles.

North gives him a look that says and? pretty accurately and Hank almost laughs.

“Speaking of which,” Markus interjects, “I still think you should tell Connor about all this.”

Hank hums, not convinced. “It was supposed to be a surprise.”

“A surprise where your boyfriend is out cold with a hole in his skull and his fingertip isn’t that much of a pleasant surprise,” Simon mutters, rummaging through a drawer.

“I don’t think he’d want me to do it,” Hank says then.

The androids all fall silent.

Hank sighs. “Look, hear me out. It’s not like I’m going against his wishes. But – he knows I’ve got my issues. And I think he’d want me to stay… well, me. If he knows I’m doing this, he might think I’m doing it for the wrong reasons.”

North raises an eyebrow, but Josh speaks up first.

“And what are the right reasons, do you think?” he asks, voice oddly non-judgmental. Like he’s actually curious.

Hank takes in a shaky, shuddering breath. “I want to show him I’m serious. I want to show him all of me, all of my life. I…” He pauses, hangs his head. “Relationships go both ways. This is something I wanna give him ‘cause he deserves it. And it’s – it’s no big effort on my part.”

“Oh, it absolutely is,” North says, and her voice rings clear like a bell.

She steps in closer, her hand resting lightly on Hank’s bicep. Only for a few moments. “But I understand,” she says, tightly.

Hank looks up. It’s the first time he’s seen her eyes go soft.

“We’ll get you the right stuff,” she adds, and then she turns away again.

“Well,” Markus says, hands clasped behind his back as he regards Hank with an amused smile. “It appears that we are.”

Josh nods, and Hank rubs his hand over his face, not knowing what to say.

“Hold it,” Simon says quietly, finger to his LED. It blinks a couple of times, and a complicated diagram appears on one of the monitors to his right. “I think we might be able to do better than a brain implant.”

North blinks. “What, give him a new brain while we’re at it?”

Simon completely ignores North and looks back at Hank, smiling. “What about a device pressed to your skull? We could attach it to your ear. Sensor would still have to go in your hand, though.”

Hank smiles. “That’d be, uh – perfect. Definitely less invasive.”

“The hand sensor would only be a small incision,” Simon continues, pulling up what looks like a hospital file. “A similar procedure to the ones that they’ve done for people who’ve lost feeling in their fingertips.”

Josh leans forward over the workbench, looking at the file. “I’ll see if I can contact surgeons who have experience with this sort of work.”

“Thanks,” Hank says. “To all of you. I mean – I really appreciate what you’re doin’, here.” A pause. “Means a lot.”

Simon smiles. “No problem. Now…” He smooths his hand over his workbench. “If everybody could leave the room and let me work on a prototypical design, then that’d be great. This will take me a while.”

Josh is the first to walk towards the door, followed by Hank and North, and Markus just remains.

Simon doesn’t even turn his head to look back. “You too, Markus. I don’t want any distractions right now.”

“Can’t believe you somehow think you’re the exception to the rule,” North mutters, tugging Markus’ sleeve.

“What?” Markus says, playing innocent. “You don’t think I am, as the leader?”

North punches him in the arm. “Fuck you.”

Markus opens his mouth to say something and going by the twinkle in his eye Hank’s going to assume it’s a clever retort, but Josh puts his palm over Markus’ mouth and closes the door behind them.

“Play nice,” he says to Markus and North, “and let Simon do his work.”

He then turns to Hank, offering him a pleasant smile. “Can I offer you something to drink?”

“Fuck yeah,” Hank says, sighing with relief. “Thanks.”

He still can’t quite believe he’s here.That he’s actually doing this.

For himself and for Connor.

 


 

In the end, it takes Simon a week and it comes with a price tag of only $7,500 dollars. All-inclusive. Sensor for his index finger, operation, and a small circular device that sticks to the round curve of Hank’s skull. Attached to his ear and able to be removed at all times.

(Waterproof, too. Hank would’ve hated the shit-eating grin on Markus’ face when Simon included that little fact if his own mind hadn’t gone there instantly, either. Maybe it’s all Connor’s fault for seducing Hank in a bathroom in the first place.)

Hank has nothing else to give to Simon.

He knows the android’s worked day and night. He knows that the fucker gave it his all and made something that’s ridiculously expensive and new and revolutionary. Something that’d cost a lot more than a little over 7k.

He nags North about it.

The price turns out to be just the parts and a bit of the operation; some of what Simon had to scrape together. Nothing of the labor, nothing of the work they put into involving the surgeon.

North says it’s because Simon saw that Hank cared, and because they consider Connor a friend. Because what Hank and Connor are doing at DPD is good for both androids and for humans.

Hank makes a mental note. Several. To never forget and to keep looking for a way to repay him. Andersons don’t leave debts, especially when so much is given just in kindness.

He leaves his card behind for Simon if he ever needs help with procedural stuff or the law. Tells him he’ll keep working his cases as hard as he can. Tells him he’ll never stop supporting androids. In his own short, gruff words.

Simon holds his hand, just for a little while, and smiles.

It’s not very difficult to imagine how he settled his way into the other Jericho leaders’ hearts.

The operation is at the end of the week. They expect it to last about ten minutes, and Hank will only receive a local anesthesia.

Fuck, he’s taken bullets and knives and what else. A tiny sensor in his fingertip is nothing.

Connor, of course, has noticed something’s been going on. Hank’s been more distant, and he’s gone over to Markus’ mansion several times for checkups and discussions with Simon. Looking at the designs for the permanent sensor beneath his skin and the device he’ll have to attach to his head.

Hank stumbles a bit through their caseload for the week – nothing too serious, nothing to warrant an actual slip-up. But he’s been distracted. Forgetting things, reacting a little bit slower. Even a regular human colleague would notice, so of course his android partner does.

Connor doesn’t comment upon it. Just tries to make things a little easier for Hank. Gets him coffee, tries to make sure he goes to bed early. Showers him with affection and cuddles. Flirts and chuckles his way through their workdays like he always does.

Hank loves him a little more for it.

Connor probably thinks it’s connected to Hank delving back into his past. He’s not entirely wrong; Hank still feels down about it all. Tired. He’s opened a can of worms he can’t really close back up, and it’s draining. Thinking about his family and all that he’s lost.

In that sense, the whole getting-an-upgrade-for-my-boyfriend scheme is a nice distraction.

Hank manages to jam the operation into his schedule for Saturday morning. In-between a trip to the dentist and grocery shopping. He still can’t fucking believe he plans his Saturday mornings.

Before Hank leaves, though, he breaches the subject with Connor. Just a little, because Markus was right. Some things you don’t fully keep secret, especially not from the one who’s supposed to be closest to you.

“Con,” he says gently at the door before he leaves, just when Connor leans forward to press a kiss to Hank’s cheek as a goodbye.

Connor smiles at the nickname. “Yeah?”

“I know I’ve been a little out of sorts this week,” Hank murmurs, fidgeting. “Past and depressed moods and shit.”

“Hank,” Connor sooths instantly, palms coming up to cup Hank’s face. Skin peeling back. “It’s alright. I knew that from the beginning. I don’t expect every day to be a good day.”

Hank reaches up to touch Connor’s fingers, marbled white. Just a few more hours, he thinks, and who knows what might spark here.

“It’s not just that,” Hank says slowly. “I’ve… There’s a surprise. For you. Both of us.”

Connor frowns, regarding him carefully. “You’re excited about it,” he concludes.

Hank nods. “Yeah,” he says, voice hoarse, “I am. I can’t promise you how it’ll turn out, but I’m hoping it’ll be good.”

The furrow between Connor’s brow deepens. “You’re being vague on purpose. I can’t make heads or tails of it.” He strokes his hand over Hank’s beard.

Hank grins and reaches into his pocket, flipping over the coin he’s got resting there. “Make something of this,” he says when Connor catches it automatically with one hand. “Wish me luck.”

Connor’s eyes narrow. “It’s not dangerous, is it?”

Hank shrugs. “Hmm. Minimum risk. I’m just not sure of the payoff yet.”

Connor flips the coin, letting it dance over his knuckles. “This feels like an appropriate time to tell you that I’ll kill you if you don’t come back alive,” he quips, his other hand tightening reflexively around the back of Hank’s neck.

Hank snorts. “You’ve been spending too much time with North.”

“Maybe.”

Hank kisses him on the lips, smiling. “See you soon.”

“See you,” Connor says against Hank’s mouth, stealing another kiss, “Hank.”

Hank could stay in the doorway all day being kissed by Connor and his lovely mouth, but he has things to do today. He takes a cab rather than the car, just in case the anesthesia acts up.

He’s not nervous about the act itself. Heck, he’s more worried about what’s gonna go down at the dentist than what’s gonna happen at the hospital. (He gets a reprimand for not flossing enough and that’s it. Thank god for small miracles.)

But Hank is worried about Connor’s reaction. And what’s it gonna feel like once it’s all done.

The operation is the simplest thing Hank has ever done at a hospital. He walks in, the fingertip of his right index finger gets sedated or however the fuck they call it – and then it’s just a tiny incision. An even tinier sensor gets put in.

He figures the paperwork for this took longer than the operation itself.

Hank doesn’t even feel woozy.

The surgeon is from an academic hospital and she’s requested Simon to be there for backup. Apparently, this operation is one for the books, and Simon will be reporting some of Hank’s experiences to the surgeon in question.

Nothing too detailed or intimate, though. Hank signs a form that allows him to retract the information if he wants to and protects his and Connor’s rights. Apparently, Josh drew up the form based on the surgeon’s inquiries.

Simon stands by Hank’s side throughout the ordeal, looking both interested and pleased with his work, and then they’re already sealing the tiny cut with medical gel. No stitches needed.

It’ll take about an hour for feeling to return to Hank’s fingertip. But the sensor should work.

Interfacing should work.

Hank gets out of there fast, leaving a bemused Simon behind with the surgeon whose name he can’t even recall, and speeds over to the supermarket. Dallies with groceries to fill up those sixty minutes of anesthesia wearing off and tries not to use his right hand to pick out items and lift bags.

When he gets back to the house, almost an hour has passed. His finger throbs dully, but no more than if it were a papercut. A pinprick of something.

Feeling.

Hank doesn’t disguise the way he stumbles into their home, flinging his keys on a nearby table and barreling towards the kitchen to dump the grocery bags on the counter. Doesn’t attempt to calm his fast-beating heart when he moves over to the living room and finds Connor on the couch. Doesn’t shy away under Connor’s inquisitive look when he drops his coat over a nearby chair and staggers towards him.

“Hank, you’re back,” Connor says in greeting. “Ah,” he then adds, tilting his head to the side. “There’s some – some sort of device attached to your head. Are you – ”

“Touch me,” Hank says, voice raspy, and he grasps Connor’s hand. Presses his aching fingertip against Connor’s.

Connor blinks. “I am,” he says, looking confused. “Are you okay? I’m detecting trace amounts of medical gel on your finger.”

Hank shakes his head. “’M fine,” he says hoarsely. “Just do the glowing thing. Please.”

He feels the tremble of Connor’s body as the realization sinks in. Connor parts his lips, the lenses of his eyes expanding in utter wonder, and then slowly, very slowly, the synthetic skin of his hand starts peeling back. Starting at his palm and fanning back out towards his fingers.

Hank is holding his breath.

And then it’s naked fingertip against naked fingertip. No layers in-between.

Nothing happens.

“Oh,” Connor says, and he frowns in thought.

Hank swears he feels a jolt. Not over their connected fingers but deeper, lower in his body. He wants to ask if Connor’s alright, if he can feel anything at all, if it’s doing what Simon promised it would do, but then Connor makes a sound as if something just hit him in squarely in the chest.

Oh,” he repeats, with infinitely more feeling, and his LED flashes a red so bright that it nearly makes Hank shield his eyes against it. “There’s – there’s a – ”

“Can you feel it?” Hank asks. “Connor, can you – ”

To say that Connor floods every thought and feeling Hank has ever had would be an understatement.

Hank’s not even sure anymore where he ends and Connor begins. There’s so much of it that his vision just whites out; he can barely see Connor, can barely feel the fingertip resting against his own. Sensory-input overload to the point where he’s not even sure he’s breathing.

He squeezes eyes shut, gritting his teeth. Vaguely registers a happy, hopeful noise from Connor.

It’s a jumble. It’s riding a rollercoaster, going up and down without any control of where you’re going. Suspended in that moment where you don’t feel the grasp of gravity before you fall. No clear images but just a wild fuckin’ rush that’s giving Hank an out-of-body experience. Swept away completely.

He can’t make sense of it. Like it’s a language he doesn’t speak.

“Connor,” he manages, but his voice sounds faint to his own ears. Far away.

A hand wraps tighter around his own, fingertips still touching.

The rollercoaster slows down and Hank releases a breath he didn’t know he was holding. Opens his eyes back up and finds he can make some sense of his surroundings, though his vision is still fuzzy at the edges. An overlay of buzz, of things that aren’t his.

He sees Connor. Beautiful face. Warm hands wrapped around his own.

( but there’s also the feeling of wrapping around hands that’s not his is it connor’s is it something else )

“I’m sorry,” Connor says, “I linked too fast. Are you okay?”

Hank feels his throat move but he’s not the one speaking.

“Shit,” he gasps out, “it’s working.”

Fuck, he thinks for good measure. It’s still like looking directly at the sun. It’s this constant stream of information that Hank can’t direct, can’t tell where to go. He’s not just himself anymore. There’s someone else. Like he suddenly has about seven extra senses that he can’t shift into.

Can’t use them like Connor’s using them.

“You didn’t just say that out loud, did you?” Connor asks, brown eyes wide.

“What,” Hank manages through the veil of emotion threatening to shake him apart.

Connor’s grip on his hands tightens. “Fuck,” he says. “Did you – did you think it?”

I did, Hank thinks, staring at Connor.

Connor mouth falls open in surprise.

And then suddenly, there’s perfect clarity.

He can see Connor like he never has before. Not on the couch in his living room but just – there, in a space that shouldn’t exist but that time has somehow allowed to be. Whites, blues, a framework of a mind. Maybe this is what it’s like for androids and their mind palaces.

Absorbs details of Connor that he couldn’t pick out before. Every little irregularity; suddenly he knows the precise density of his skin, the scientific makeup of his hair. The function behind the form.

All of it.

Connor’s chest – naked, bare, Hank thinks – suddenly expands in a breath. Breathing alongside Hank, like he’s always done. But from the expression on his face, surprise and wonder and curiosity, Hank realizes that he feels it now.

What it’s like to have lungs. What it means to inhale air and fill yourself with it.

Their hands are still touching in the middle. Fingertip against fingertip.

Hank places his other hand over his heart and thinks. It’s loud and resounding, bouncing off the walls. Hitting Connor with all the force and unexpected thrust of a fleeting, human thought.

This is me, he says.

Connor shudders, eyes fluttering closed.

Hank focuses and throws his feelings against it. Everything he feels for Connor. Everything Connor means to him, everything he’s ever lost. Family.

The last thing he expects is to be hit back with the same resounding force. Not a voice, not a separate feeling, but something entwined completely with beauty and wholeness that Hank can’t quite read.

I make my own objectives, he remembers.

Opposite him, Connor laughs. Throws his head back. His sides shake. Hank sees tears on his cheeks.

It’s so obvious, then. So apparent. Appearing before Hank’s eyes as if it’s always been there. As if he’s always known.

 

͍̬̖͕͚̗o̮͉̣̤̦̱͙m͕͚̘͓f̘̻͜o͏̠rt̶̞͈͙͓̱ ̹̖̻̫̳̪p̬͓͢a̶̞̘̯r̟t̟̮̺n͖er̴_͟h̜͈̗̖͍̣͡a̜̺n̰̣̻͍̝͎ͅk͙̣
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 ̩̮̟         ̩̮̟ s ͡ ̰ ͇͖ ̮̹̺o̩u̱̥ŗc̷̰ ͉ ̠̳̗e̷ ͉͢ ̜ơ̗̣̰̥f̖ ͖ ̤̞ ̧̱̜̲̟ ͔ c̝̗̝ͅo̩̭̰ ͍ m̟m̸ ͕͙ ̳ ͖ ̖̟̞a̲̪ ͓͖ ̯n ͢ ̮̜ ͓ ̩̘d ͜ ̖_̵ ͇ ̹a̟n̨ ͉ ̗̳o ͟ m ͞ ̣a ͝ ̥̲̘̙l ͈ ̮y ͖͖͝ ̹̱̗ ͉ ̣ ̪̺̭̺̰p̤ ͖ ̼̺̺̟ar̪̫̖̠t ͚ ̗ ͙͈͓ n ͏ ̹̮̳̣ ͖ ̪ ͚ ḛ̻̣̮̳̩̯r̴ͅ_h ͚͝ ̬̟a̗ ͍ ̩̣̞ ͖͓ n ͏ ̳̭̳k
̘
͚ ̲ ͎ ̱̦ ͈ i ͡ ̼̙̬ṉ ͓ į̱̘ ͚ ̥ͅ ͚ t ͈ ̗̫̦i ͡ ̥̫ͅ ͎͓͔ ̞a̕ ͇͙ ̝ ͇ t̴̺̭ ͙ ̭ ͈ ̙̘ị ͍ ̘̝n̰ ͕͔ g̺̼̜ ͓ ̳ e̬̘ ͖ ̜ ͕ m̩̲̭̪ ͈ o ͢ t ͞ ̰i ͇͉ ̜̮̯o̬̙n̢̝̻̙̥̟̼_̞̺r̡̳ę̙̗̙̣̺̜g̕ ͚ ̰u ͟ ̭̪ ͉ ̠̳l̼̤ ͇ ̼ ͇ ̥a̧ ͎ ̩̣ ͙ ̼ ͙ ̘tḭ̩̕o̪̯ ͎͇ ͇͇ ̟̙̳ ͙͙


̛̣̬̠ ͙ ̭̪̫
t̴̤h̤̙̪̞ ͍ ͙ ̩̰̬̹̼̦s̲̲ ͚͇ ̮̯ ̙ ͖ ̲̥̭̜i ͜ ̞̻̪s̴ ͉͍͙ ̝̤̜ m̬ͅe ͉͟

̺̳͇̭͝ͅẉ̙̳͉͠a̴̳͖͓͍͕r͚̻̥͙͔͙ͅm҉t̺̝͔h̨̺̫̮̟ y̫ọ̹̹̮̤u̜͕̙r̶̬̤s̶̺͚ ̞̮̫͜l̺͓̹͇̺̟̻o̫͓v̤̼̻̜ę̻̜ ̺̼̣̻͍͎m͓̪̮̹i̜̹̬n͚͈e ̺a̼͔̫̼͍̮͔f̴̫̜̜̹͍̥͕f͚̫͜e̶͍̱̗͚̤̭͇c͓̺̗̙̱̬͖͇̦̳̬i͉̘͈͎ơ̙n͓̭̪̘̪͎ ̨̖͕̺f̕a̷̲̟̘͙̫̠m̼̺̯̣̹͇̫i͈̮̲͔̕l͍͖̞͠y ̜̙̗͓FA͖̹͙͍̝ͅM̰͓͈̘͓̗͙I̦̭̱͇͇L̪Y̯͓


͢
͍̹̝̦͎̼͕c̡̤̟a̡l̤͖͇i̥̬̘͖̝b͉̭̝͓͜r̺̥̥̫͎̟̤a̛̖̲̘͓̱̱t̶̞̻͓ẹ̴̗ ̰̝̖̰̮̭̠͡ḙ͔̹̬̳͇m̶̜̖o̞t̺̞̞̖̖̺̜i̜̳͙̹̣o̩n̰̻s̪̝͍̖̬̯
̶͖̭̞̠̙    ̶͖̭̞̠̙
    t̜͇̭̖̺͘y͉͕̯̥̭p̠͙͞e̗͘ ̺̪̫̗̣̻j̺̯̫̬͘o̞̩͚̟͔̤ͅy̜̩̬̱͉̳ ҉͇͕̮͔̻ͅA̙̟̳N̛D͏͔̘̯̝̯̩̟ ̞̘͍h̟̫̱͇̱a̬p͙͇̗̤̭͡p̖̦͍͔̜̩i̙̻̳̰͓̲n̻̦e̫̟͜s̲s̨͇̱͙ ̵̜̣̥̻̺̼ͅA͕̳̝͕͕̥N̞D͙͙ ̻̗͖̜͙͞r͍̮̟̳e̴̬̰͍͙̰͍̜l̗̻i̞̩̟̕ͅe͏̹͖̼̳̯f̷ ̡̗͔̜̝̜̖A̷̬̦̱̹̗ͅN̺̜̰̪͍̳ͅD͙̰̬̦̲̰͕ ͇͓͍̻͡ͅl̯̦̻͇̩̜̩͢o͝v͈̞̤̠͕̼̙e̺͕̦̠͉ ̸̙̙̩͕̤A̹̩̥̞N҉̥D͔ ̛̬͙͈̩̳̺̬h̭o̩͔̥̥m͈̗̗̻̩ẹ̩ͅͅ
̝̙͜
          ͚͚̟̤͡ͅs̳̬̯̭i͝ḏ̛̪͚̱̖̰e̡_̟ef̫̫̠̖̖ͅf̻͠e͈̳c̯̭t̬ ͏̩̝̫t̝̹͈͉e̙̳͉̥a̪͎̼̣r̘̰̣s̛̼̱̦͕̲ ̪͈͈͉̯N̸D͎ͅ ̴̟̫͓͍̪l̹̬̦̠̣̪̖a͎̤͉̘͡u̼̭̪̥͍͈̙g̰͈̱h̟̝̠̰̗ṱ̪̩͈̬̮ȩ̱͚͚̱̬̞r͚̟

 

 

Hank is speechless.

Connor smiles at him, leaning in, and he’s so achingly ethereal that Hank can’t believe he’s real. Time slows down; stops as he watches the gentle motion of Connor’s eyelashes in slow-motion. The quiet, careful curl of his fingers over Hank’s jaw.

Every beautifully agonizing detail. Committed to memory forever.

Connor’s eyes go half-lidded, his nose brushing Hank’s. Hands and mouth seeking his own.

 

i̸̙̣̗n̦̭̮̼̭͍ͅi͎̫t̗̙̟̻̩̲͘i͚̕ͅa͍͍t̳ḭ̡̖̺̘̻̞̘ng̱̦͕͖͈ͅ ҉͍̗̰̮̗͎͓k͙͇̯͙i̲̣̭s͚

̛̪̞̰̲̫           p̩̬ͅa ͠ r̤̪̖ ͉ ̳ ͕ t ͚ n ͢ ̥ ͇͈͎ ̮̝ȩ̜r ҉ ̹̹_̶ ͍͇ ̯h̠̦̣̕a ͖͜ ̘̞n ͇ ̱̜̝ ͇ ̦k̭̺̩̹̞ ͚

 

Initiate kissing for-fucking-ever, Hank thinks.

Connor laughs against him, and their teeth clack together. His eyes are narrowed in pleasure and happiness, and he looks so at ease with the way he’s pressed himself into the reach of Hank’s body. The way he’s settled against him.

Home, Hank thinks.

He feels more than sees Connor’s jubilance, over and around him, and then there’s a pair of lips pressed firmly against his own and Hank just forgets. Lets himself float on the gulf of feeling.

The rush that’s sweeping both of them away.

 


 

When Connor disconnects their fingertips, Hank honestly doesn’t know how much time has passed.

They’re still sitting on the couch, Connor between his spread legs, one of his arms around Connor’s waist. It’s weird to suddenly fall back into the sensation of his body; foreign and familiar at the same time. His finger is still throbbing, and his legs are cramped.

The joint of his left knee makes a weird clack noise when he shifts.

His breath sounds rough and rattled, and his head is another matter entirely. Try hungover during the worst moments of his youth.

“Jesus fuckin’ christ,” Hank utters, squeezing his eyes shut while he presses a hand to his temple.

Connor touches a hand to his forehead, the temperature of his palm instantly shifting to something cooler. It’s soothing and Hank leans into it, groaning.

“We probably overdid it,” Connor murmurs.

“How long were we out for?” Hank sighs, sagging forward against Connor’s body.

Connor’s lips curl up. “Technically, we weren’t out. Fifteen minutes and thirteen seconds.”

“Hell,” Hank mumbles, head dropping to Connor’s shoulder. “That was fucking awesome. But shit if my head doesn’t feel like roadkill right about now.”

Connor pats his back, arms hooking around him. “For experimental technology that you’ve only had for…”

“An hour,” Hank supplies, trying to ignore the thudding in his ears.

“An hour,” Connor echoes, “you’ve been doing very well adapting to it.”

Hank groans. “If this is gonna happen every single time, we need to figure something out.”

“I have enough data to make next time more pleasant for you,” Connor says confidently. “The after-effects, I mean. The connection itself was already…” He pauses, tips Hank’s chin up.

“Amazing?” Hank offers, managing a lopsided smile while Connor looks him over. “Stunning? Spectacular?”

Connor smiles. “All of that and more.” His face softens. “I don’t – I don’t know how to thank you, Hank.” His thumb sooths over Hank’s temple, rubbing in massaging circles. It eases some of the stabbing pain.

“You don’t have to,” Hank answers. “I did this ‘cause I wanted to. For both of us.”

“It’s not,” Connor says quietly, “because you feel inadequate?”

Hank shakes his head, feeling old pains clog his throat. “No,” he says, and he means it. “It’s not. It’s – remembering Cole. My ex-wife. All the shit I did before we met.”

Connor laces their fingers together in Hank’s lap, but says nothing. His eyes are attentive, flickering over Hank’s face.

“I realized I wanted to share that with you,” Hank continues, shrugging lightly. “All of it. And share you with the world, too.”

Connor raises an eyebrow, squeezing Hank’s hand. “So your best solution was to fiddle with technology at risk of your own health so you could get what you wanted?”

“Fuck yeah,” Hank smirks. “Worth it. I’ve gotten hangovers over worse.”

Connor opens his mouth, but no sound comes out. His LED flickers yellow with short bleeps of red.

“Hey,” Hank says. “I was in your head. I know. You don’t have to explain.” He slips his hand out of Connor’s hold, threading it through his hair instead. “Just kiss me again.”

Connor looks up, a tiny frown forming between his brows. “Already?”

Hank smiles, his heart featherlight. “Every fucking day of my life.”

“You have a headache,” Connor says weakly, but he has one hand on Hank’s chest. His LED blooms blue. “We should probably call Simon.”

“Every day,” Hank repeats as Connor presses him back onto the couch.

“Discuss this,” Connor says, climbing into Hank’s lap and straddling his legs. “Ask for feedback.”

Hank’s head falls back into the cushions, and his headache is a lot less noticeable like this. He reaches up to touch Connor’s cheek, grip then shifting to Connor’s shirt. Pulls him down.

“And don’t you dare stop,” Hank whispers.

Connor settles his weight onto Hank, his hair brushing Hank’s forehead. His gaze drops to Hank’s mouth. “Command received,” he murmurs. “Kiss partner Hank for an undefined amount of time.”

“Get on with it,” Hank grins, “you fantastic fucking dipshit.”

Connor smiles and kisses him.

He makes good on his promise.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 10

In which Hank and Connor go on a stakeout (or rather: makeout), take photos with Sumo, and meet Connor 2.0.

 

April 2039

 

Stakeouts have been some of the most boring moments of Hank’s career. Though Connor would probably be able to calculate the exact statistic, Hank is convinced that absolutely nothing happens during about ninety percent of them – except for the people involved becoming sleep deprived. The other ten percent are the kind of violent bursts of adrenaline that you become a cop for.

And yet there’s something oddly mesmerizing about those moments of nothing during a dark Detroit night. Of being alert yet motionless. The stark contrast between the barebones insides of a car and the rumble of your own thoughts while you keep yourself awake.

Excitement, fear. Boredom.

The city’s different during those nights. Rain on the windshield, binoculars on the passenger seat. Stale coffee in a to-go cup in the car’s cup holder, and the weight of your gun pressing into your side. Rumbling stomach, empty evidence bags; both waiting to be filled.

The feeling’s similar to cruising around at night. 2 AM on the glowing timer on your dashboard. Low music on the radio, neon lights and billboards. That, or the feeling you get when you’re driving all night towards your next destination and you park the car next the highway for a break. On one of those big parking lots you’re sure won’t exist in the morning.

Liminal spaces.

“Remind me why we’re doing this again,” Hank mumbles, taking a bite of a clammy, old sandwich.

Connor doesn’t move his gaze from the apartment building they’re casing. “Because Detective Reed is maladaptive enough not to have a permanent partner assigned to him,” he says, and it’s biting.

Hank chuckles. “Fowler’s been trying for years. He partners pretty well with Chen. But she won’t leave Waterfield’s side just for Reed’s sake.”

“Neither would I,” Connor adds.

“They tried to put us together several times, you know,” Hank says, trying to stretch his legs. “With both of us being without partners.”

Connor huffs, barely audible. “I can imagine the collateral damage was considerable.”

“Aren’t we snarky tonight.”

“Technically,” Connor says flatly though Hank can see the corner of his mouth tilt up, “it’s morning. Though granted, it’s very early.”

Hank slides his phone out of his pocket and texts Reed. We’ve been here for five hours and there’s nothing, you ass. Let me know if something happens where you’re at.

The instantaneous reply tells Hank it’s quiet there, too. Even though it just says, Fuck you.

“Classic,” he murmurs.

Connor makes a noise that’s quite close to a snort.

Hank hasn’t really seen him this passive-aggressively annoyed before – of course, Connor’s anger is usually on the snarky, ironic side but it’s there in a more obvious way. He can lash out pretty smartly, and damn if that isn’t fucking attractive. But now it’s more of a quiet, steaming sort of thing.

Hank knows why. Connor had a date planned for tonight. Sometimes plans just fall apart, but a boring stakeout being the cause? Yeah, that sucks.

At least Hank still gets the opportunity to study Connor’s profile in all its contrasting, beautiful glory. The softness and the hard lines underneath. The steel jaw and the warm eyes. The freckles.

Gonna kill me one day, he thinks absentmindedly, you beautiful asshole.

“You had a partner for eleven years,” Connor remarks then, still not taking his eyes off the building.

Hank takes a sip of his water. “Yup,” he nods in agreement, “that I did.” He pauses, but he can tell that Connor’s curious. His legs are shifting slightly. “So what do you wanna know that’s not in the files?” he adds casually.

“I don’t know,” Connor says. “I imagine it was… difficult, for you, when she passed away.”

Hank hums. “Amara and I were in the academy together. Fowler knew her pretty well, too. She was brash and forward.” He shrugs. “Met her end that way as well, come to think of it.”

“Didn’t you,” Connor starts, “weren’t you there when she – when she passed away?”

“Yeah.” Hank takes a long, deep breath. “She died in my arms, with this big fucking grin on her face. Told me that every day on the force with me had been a party.”

Connor frowns; turns his body partially towards Hank on instinct, though his eyes are still fixed on a point outside the window. “She was happy about dying?” he asks, tone inquisitive.

“I’m not sure anyone ever is,” Hank murmurs, “except maybe when it ends the suffering. When it’s mercy rather than… torture.” He pauses, rolling his shoulders against the car seat. “But she was content. She – she’d made her peace with it.”

Connor says nothing, fingers tapping on his leg.

“Mara didn’t have a lot of things in life she went all-out for, but policework was one of them,” Hank says, not keeping the fondness out of his voice. “She went out the way she wanted to, that’s all.”

“She was very young,” Connor remarks.

“We caught the bad guys and she died doing it,” Hank says, because it was really that simple. “It was… easier for me to accept it ‘cause she was okay with it. Helped scatter her ashes on the coast, afterwards.”

It’s true; he and Amara partnered up when they both made detective. It’s been a while ago, and everybody had expected he’d end up with Fowler. But Hank didn’t.

Fowler didn’t have the push-back that Mara could give him. Fowler didn’t fill in the gaps of Hank’s personal style of doing detective work, elevating it. Their old captain had a sharp eye for dynamics, and she’d put Mara and Hank together without blinking an eye.

Connor tips his head to the side slightly. He reaches his hand out over the gearshift, seeking Hank’s. “Her picture’s on the windowsill.”

Hank smiles. “Yeah. She’d always say to me – ‘Hank, if I give up the ghost, just imagine me on a beach in Brazil, kitesurfing’.” He squeezes Connor’s fingers. “So that’s what I do.”

He does, and it’s easy. She went there often to visit her family and sent him pictures of her holidays. Hank loves remembering her like that – powerful, carefree, sailing on the wind. Mara, through and through.

“And after that?” Connor asks. “Mostly Detective Collins?”

Hank grins, putting the cap back on his water bottle. “Yup, good old Ben. Put the two veterans together, right? It worked out. Still does.”

“That was around the same time Detective Reed came in?” Connor adds, apparently having figured out the DPD timeline.

“Ha,” Hank says, “it was. Reed didn’t even want to work with me when he made Detective, you know? But the fact that I didn’t want to either was the thing that really made him fuckin’ furious.”

Connor makes an amused sort of sound. “That seems in line with his personality.”

“He’s a lot better now, though,” Hank muses. “I don’t mind workin’ a case with him every now and then. But when he just joined the force he was this cocky, asshole kid. Yapping at everything and everyone.”

Finally, Connor turns over to look at Hank, and he smiles. “You don’t think he’s like that still?”

Hank shrugs, running his thumb over Connor’s knuckles. “Maybe I just learned to tolerate him better.” He winks. “The experience that comes with old age.”

“What we could’ve done with all that experience if it wasn’t for this unsuccessful stakeout,” Connor mutters, looking back out the window. “I told Detective Reed repeatedly that the probability of the suspect making their base here was abysmally low.”

Hank laughs, dampening the sound by closing his mouth and turning his face away. “You do know,” he says with mirth, “that you’re gonna get cockblocked by cases more often, right?”

“This isn’t our case,” Connor says, sounding miffed, “and I don’t have a cock.”

That just makes Hank grin even more, tickling the back of Connor’s hand. “Colleagues help each other out,” he says, needling him on purpose.

“I wasn’t objecting to that, either.” A pause, and from the way Connor’s eyes narrow even though he’s not looking at Hank, Hank realizes he’s onto him. “Are you making fun of me?”

Hank presses his lips together to keep himself from laughing. “Maybe. I don’t have anything to do here anyway, so…” He lifts their joined hands, scratching his beard over Connor’s wrist. “Might as well tease you a little.”

“That is,” Connor says with difficulty, “hardly fair.”

“Fairly hard,” Hank murmurs in retaliation, kissing Connor’s pinky.

Connor shifts in his seat, gaze still directed at the building before them. “Lieutenant,” he says with an exasperated tone, “we’re in the middle of a case. We’re at work.”

Hank kisses the next finger slower, with more attention; letting the tip of Connor’s ring finger rest against his bottom lip. “Didn’t you say you could text and drive?” he murmurs against it.

“Hank,” Connor tries, deliberately using his name now, “your arousal might not be noticeable from the outside the car but I – ”

Hank sucks Connor’s middle finger into his mouth.

Connor instantly grips the side of his seat with his other hand, the leather creaking. “Hank,” he repeats, voice weak, and it’s half-warning, half-plea.

Hank chuckles around the finger against his tongue, sucking softly at the tip. Nothing too drastic or too flashy. Just a little taste. “I know you really wanted to go out tonight,” he murmurs against Connor’s synthetic skin, wet from his tongue.

Connor’s left leg twitches, and he leans towards Hank’s side a bit.

“Keep your eyes on the window,” Hank half-warns, mouth sliding over to Connor’s index finger. Just the barest hint of breath there has Connor squeezing the seat. Body tense.

“I wanted to try out the sensor,” Connor says, sounding desperate.

Hank hums, kissing Connor’s index and middle fingers. “I know,” he says, letting his teeth graze Connor’s fingertips. “Me, too.”

“I can keep watching,” Connor manages, knees pressing together when Hank sweeps his tongue over his fingertips, “but my plating. Hank, I’ll light up the car.”

Hank chuckles, slipping out his phone with his free hand. “Lucky for you, I can also text and suck you off at the same time.”

Connor makes a tiny sound in his throat, head lolling forward slightly.

“Window,” Hank singsongs, thumb flying over his phone. He texts Reed, asking him about artificial blinds.

(Button under the steering wheel, left. Thought you already had ‘em activated because of the tin can’s laser light?)

“Shit,” Connor replies, chin lifting back up. A little fizzle of static escapes him when Hank sucks both of his fingers into his mouth, tonguing the pads of them.

Hank just sends a wink-y face back to Reed.

Connor shivers, one leg bouncing up a few times before he settles. Hank thinks he sees him mouth the word ‘fuck’, but his eyes remain open and on the building outside. His other hand has squeezed into a tight fist, moving from gripping onto the car seat to being bunched on his thigh.

Skin already peeling away.

Hank smiles around the digits in his mouth, curling his tongue between them.

Connor loosens his tie.

(Wait HOLD up DON’T FUCK IN MY CAR do you hear me??? ANDERSON I WILL KILL YOU YOU MOTHERFUCKIN ASS SHIT PIECE OF CRAP godfucking DAMNIT)

Hank throws his phone out on the dashboard and presses the button below the steering wheel. Something shifts in the light and structure of the windows; they darken slightly, but still appear see-through. It’s different for anyone on the outside, though – they won’t be able to see in.

“Isn’t that suspicious in and of itself,” Connor murmurs, more to himself rather than to Hank.

Hank shrugs. “Ain’t no one there to see it, Connor,” he says, tonguing Connor’s palm.

“If that’s the case,” Connor says, giving Hank a hooded, lusty look, “then why am I still supposed to look at the building?”

“Force of habit,” Hank says with a wolfish grin, peppering kisses over the inside of Connor’s sensitive fingers. “It’ll make the boss happy. Besides, we have the perfect cover if someone comes lookin’.”

Connor groans, leveraging his feet against the inside of the car. He’s still tugging on his tie and collar with his free hand, all beautiful marbled white, knuckles now slowly starting to flash up with teal.

“A stakeout,” he mutters. “At least I tried to initiate sex at the office, not out in the field.” He still manages to sound happily pleased about it.

Hank chuckles darkly. “I’ve had you next to me in this car for five fuckin’ hours, all tense. You don’t think that makes a guy think about loosening his partner up?”

He bites at the delicate skin of Connor’s wrist and it fades away instantly, revealing a small white spot. Hank cranes his neck, licking a stripe from wrist to the center of Connor’s palm, nosing at Connor’s fingers.

“So that is what humans mean by unwinding,” Connor says teasingly with a soft smile, opening the first few buttons of his shirt. The lines on his throat glow faintly.

Hank snorts. “Should’ve figured you’d get snappy when you’re horny.”

Connor slides his free hand over his own neck, up to his chin. It looks lazy and self-indulgent, and Hank hasn’t seen him move like that before. Feels the hesitation linger in his body, fingers stopping just below his own mouth.

“I’ve thought about performing oral sex on you 30.8 times during our time in the car,” he murmurs, eyes dreamy.

“Jesus christ,” Hank sighs, shifting in his seat. It doesn’t ease the pressure on his slowly hardening cock.

Connor looks to the side, meeting Hank’s gaze, and smiles slow and wanting. Hank’s dick promptly twitches, rising against the strain of his zipper. And then Connor turns back towards the window and slides his own fingers into his mouth.

Eyes half-lidded. Pink tongue coming out to taste them; almost as curiously as he examines evidence at crime scenes. And the fingers against Hank’s own mouth push inside, too, a little harder than before.

Hank is instantly lost.

Every little noise dropping from Connor’s mouth. Every little taste of Connor: creases and soft hairs over the parts that still carry their synthetic skin, hard lines and clean surfaces over the polymer.

Hank moans around him.

Fuck, he thinks. He always did love giving oral. Especially to someone who’s so goddamn sensitive as Connor. Sensitive enough to have his fingers sucked and still wanting to press his own into his mouth.

“Don’t you want me to?” Connor asks then, and it’d sound demure if he wouldn’t be slowly dipping his fingers between his lips after he says that, rocking his wrist back and forth.

His words echo low in Hank’s gut.

“Window,” he rasps around Connor’s hand, not trusting himself to say anything else.

Connor smiles. “You can watch it for both of us.”

He hooks his index finger momentarily behind Hank’s teeth, skipping over the roof of his mouth. His thumb brushes over the corner of Hank’s jaw.

Hank sucks a little harder. “Older model,” he murmurs against the pads of Connor’s fingers. “Not an advanced prototype, remember?”

Connor smile grows into something predatory. “I think you could do it. I trust you.”

Hank knows that look.

It’s Connor’s interrogation face.

He’s never used it intimately, between the two of them; never tested its demanding pull on Hank. Well, it fucking works, because Hank stops the motions of his mouth, mesmerized – another first, another new thing he wants to know more about, another thing that makes pleasure prickle down his spine and his cock goddamn ache.

“Eyes open,” Connor winks, and then he’s slipping his fingers out of his mouth and turning on the seat.

Hank’s mouth is suddenly empty, and Connor is bending over. Heel of his palm over the front of Hank’s jeans, way too tight, massaging him those last few inches to full hardness. And then he’s undoing Hank’s fly.

“I love how you fill my hands,” he says, drawing down the elastic of Hank’s boxers so he can wrap his fingers around Hank’s dick.

“Fuck,” says Hank, because what else can you say when you got the tables turned on you so fucking hard that you’re getting your dick sucked while you were the one who started it?

I’m really getting too old for this.

Connor has the audacity to chuckle, tongue flicking out to lick the head. He makes a noise of utter appreciation after, gently nosing Hank’s cock. “Watch the window,” he says, mimicking Hank’s singsong tone of earlier.

Hank does, one hand sinking into Connor’s hair.

The night is still dark, as is the apartment building. A few streetlights lighting up the sidewalks. A stray cat shuffling through some litter near a trashcan.

And Connor in his lap, hands playing with his balls as he sucks Hank’s cock into his mouth. Slowly.

“I ain’t gonna last,” Hank huffs out, bracing his other hand on the edge of the dashboard.

He isn’t. Connor’s mouth is hot and searing and he’s spent five hours in a car getting his patience thoroughly tested. This is like the final fucking straw.

Connor hums around him, looking oddly pleased about Hank’s warning, and sucks him down all the way. Slides his cock down his throat as deep at it can possibly go. The lines over his neck and collarbone light up instantly with a bright flare of blue. The flares keep coming every now and then, rhythmically.

Like a heartbeat.

Hank slides the hand in Connor’s hair over to his neck. Remembers how he reacted last time when he brushed the lines in his throat while they did this.

Connor moans when Hank touches him, the sound edged and pleasured. Presses himself further over Hank’s cock, working himself around him, and Hank nearly doubles over in pleasure.

Tries to hook his fingers into the plating on the sides of what’s supposed to be a bob in Connor’s throat; the skin sizzles away there, too, and Connor makes a soft, broken noise. His lips tremble around Hank’s cock, eyes fluttering closed.

Lines bleeding blue and then the plating is shifting, just slightly, and Hank can edge his fingertip in-between them to scrape his nail over the tendon-like wires in Connor’s neck. The ones framing the gorgeous arch of his throat that Hank is gently circling his hips into.

“Jesus,” he hisses, “so fuckin’ good.”

Connor hums, pressing himself closer over Hank’s lap, half-draped over the gearshift. It looks uncomfortable as hell but he doesn’t seem to care, just reaching closer to Hank. Hands trembling, white-tipped and blue.

And then the hand fondling Hank’s balls, rolling them in his palm, slides lower. Finger carefully easing up into the cleft of Hank’s ass, and then it’s pressed up against him. Nothing but the slightest bit of pressure, not even curling in.

But fuck if that doesn’t get Hank going.

The heavy groan that drops from his lips is a surprise even to himself, as is the desperate way he rolls his hips into Connor’s mouth. Even if nobody had an idea of what was going on in the car, they certainly do now.

“Holy shit,” Hank manages, “fuck, Connor – ”

Pleasure blinding and all consuming, gut clenching. If they weren’t in a cramped-up car right now, Hank would’ve angled his thighs open further, would’ve asked, would’ve fuckin’ begged

Connor bobs his head up and down over Hank’s cock, and then his hand is reaching for the one that Hank’s got pressed to his throat. Lacing their fingers over the open wires. Hank can’t stop watching, caught between the leather press of his seat and the fucking windows and Connor’s finger and the blue open beauty of his body.

And then, a sudden dizzying pull at the pit of Hank’s stomach.

Seeing stars, even though his eyes are wide open. His arousal increasing tenfold, hairs on his arms standing on end. Everything in glorious, heated detail, molten pleasure over his groin.

But also a devastating, vice-like grip on his pleasure. Pure iron willpower holding himself back, and Hank doesn’t remember having this amount of control. Ever. Forcing himself not to come, slowing the crest of his orgasm.

Forcing himself to keep taking that cock until Hank no longer breathes –

“Wait,” Hank gasps in sudden realization, “that’s you.”

Connor looks up, pulling himself off of Hank’s cock until it barely rests on his lips.

He’s a fucking vision. Hair a mess from where Hank dragged his hands through it, lips wet with colorless Thirium and precum. And now Hank can feel the pulsing want in his body from wherever they connect.

 

a ͡ le ͠ rt p̵a̧rtne ͢ r̡_ ͞ h̢ank̶

҉ ͝ ̨ ̵ ̴ ̶ ̸ ͠ ͘ ͟ ̶ ex̸a̵mine̴ ̕windǫw̷ ͘sta̷ke̛out_̷du̴t͞y

 

The lettering appears half-in, half-out of Hank’s vision, as if it’s not really there – and it isn’t. He’s seeing what’s in Connor, not in him.

“We’ve finally figured out how to do this without me getting a splitting fuckin’ headache,” Hank grits out, “and you’re gonna use it for sassing me? Really?”

Connor smirks. Honest to god smirks, kissing the tip of Hank’s cock.

 

reque ͠ s̢t ͞ ̕fro̷m ̧pa ͞ r̕tnȩr_han̷k̴

̶ ͠ ̸ ̕ ̷ ͘ fuck ͟ pa ͡ rtn̵er_h ͢ a̸n ͘ k ͡

 

pe ͡ n̵d̸in̴g

͡ ͢ ͡ ̵ ̷ ̧ ̛ ͏ ͞ ͘ req͜u̴es͠t̡_͘p͟ac̸i͜ng͞

҉         ̸t̕   yp ͢ e̸ slow ͞ OR ͞ m̷ed ͘ ium̵ OR̴ ҉ h̢ar̴d

 

“Anything,” Hank croaks out, pressing his thumb to a silicone edge he’s found just above the jut of Connor’s collarbone. “I don’t even fucking care.” He tips his head back. “Jesus, Con. I had no idea that you had this amount of control.”

Connor sighs, rubbing his forehead against Hank’s belly. “In that case, I’ll settle for medium,” he says lightly, but Hank can feel how much it’s affecting him. Can feel how much he wants to swallow Hank down and have him twist his fingers into his neck.

Especially as he stimulates a breath, ghosting it over Hank’s twitching cock.

Beautiful, Hank thinks.

Connor smiles, honest and happy. “So are you,” he answers without skipping a beat.

“Are we gonna finish this or what?” Hank asks, not masking his eagerness when he’s sure Connor can feel it in him. “We’re still on the clock.” He leans his elbow on the steering wheel, fingers tightening over the edge of it.

Connor’s smile goes sly again. “We finish this when I want to, apparently.”

“What,” Hank barks.

The vice-like hold on Hank’s pleasure tightens. “I don’t think you can come if I keep stopping it,” Connor says, one eyebrow raised in an elegant arch.

What,” Hank says again, this time with more feeling.

“Let’s see,” he murmurs, sounding almost thoughtful, and then he’s sinking his mouth back over Hank’s cock again. No gagging, no choking, no hesitation.

Hank is the one gasping for air over a full-body shudder, fingers curling into Connor’s silicone-coated insides. “Holy fuckin’ shit,” he grits out. “You – ”

He slams his head back against the headrest.

With their fingers still laced together, he keeps getting the weirdest little feedback pulses of Connor’s pleasure; the weight of him on Connor’s tongue, just how far he presses down his throat, the way Connor just wants wants wants.

His hips tremble upwards weakly; Hank feels soaked with pleasure, basking in it. The coil in his body slowly unfurling, especially when Connor comes back up, tongue twisting against the underside of his oversensitive cock.

Connor does another thing involving a devastating curl of his tongue, followed up by his throat tightening minutely. Rhythmically, squeezing Hank dry.

“Oh fuck,” Hank sighs, “jesus, Connor, I’m gonna – ”

Connor pulls back, his free hand taking over from his mouth, stroking Hank from tip to base. “Are you?” he asks, eyes half-lidded, lips touching Hank’s cock as he speaks.

Oh god.

If they stay like this, Hank is gonna come all over Connor’s face. Hank is gonna fuckin’ lose it and mess that beautiful freckled face up and then Connor is gonna be an idiot and lick it off his lips –

Dead stop.

Connor gently laps at Hank’s cock, not hiding his smile.

Pleasure tensing up the lines of Hank’s body, telling him to let go, pushing him to thrust his hips forward and seek that final fucking sweet friction he needs – nothing. Like there’s a blanket thrown over his feeling, stopping him from finding gratification.

Hank wants to die.

Connor looks endlessly amused. “Breaking through it isn’t that different from going deviant, I think,” he quips.

Hank shivers, wiping the sweat of his brow. He can’t fucking believe it. His body wasn’t built to just keep enduring nirvana with no fucking end in sight.

“You’re – you’re gonna edge me,” he says, staring down at where Connor’s still laying in his lap, “on a stakeout mission, in a car, using experimental android tech?”

Connor blinks. “Yes?”

Hank lets out a long, shaky breath. “Yep,” he says, “definitely getting too old for this.”

Connor raises an eyebrow. “You don’t like it?”

Hank’s dick immediately twitches in Connor’s hold, drawing both their gazes. Confirming Hank’s exact thought that it’s hot as hell.

“Next time,” Hank says, gritting his teeth in an attempt to stop his hips from thrusting up into Connor’s fingers, “a bed. Some nice pillows. Lube.”

Connor perks up. “You’d want to try that with me?”

Hank gets wonder and amazement and enthusiasm through their link. And another sharp stab of pleasure.

“I’d do fucking anything with you, asshole,” he murmurs, sliding his fingers from Connor’s throat into his hair.

“Asshole,” Connor echoes, leaning up and following the curve of Hank’s palm. “Aptly put.”

“Just fuck me already, will you,” Hank whispers fondly, drawing Connor’s face up for a kiss. “You gonna make me beg or what?”

Connor smiles. “You’ll have to try harder than that, Lieutenant.”

Hank rolls his eyes, a sudden realization coming to mind. “Feedback loop, smartass. If you come, I come. Right?”

At that, Connor initially says nothing but this close – this close, Hank can see the red edge to his irises. The way his LED suddenly washes the car in a warm, sharp color. This close, Hank can feel the thrill singing through the Thirium in Connor’s body.

“I,” Connor says, but he doesn’t finish his sentence.

Hank brushes his thumb over Connor’s bottom lip. “I’m thinking that’s a yes.”

Connor’s eyes flick down to Hank’s mouth, so Hank just kisses him without a second thought. Messily seals their lips together and immediately sets to licking Connor’s mouth open.

He doesn’t even have to try.

For how sensitive his fingers are, Hank sometimes forgets how responsive Connor’s mouth is. And he’s wondered before, briefly – if he’d be able to make Connor lose it just by kissing him. By sinking his teeth into Connor’s bottom lip, tongue flicking against his teeth.

Both of his hands cupping his jaw, fingers digging into the open wires of Connor’s throat.

A staticky noise drips from Connor’s voice box instantly, hovering between them heavy and slick.

Hank sucks at Connor’s tongue, feeling a bit of spit gather at the corners of both their mouths; kisses him like he’s twenty and high on youth and love and booze. The tips of his index fingers are getting a little damp, coating themselves in the Thirium of Connor’s body.

Hank groans into the kiss, and Connor’s hand that’s still on his dick starts to move. Gentle, slow.

But steady.

Hank gets a constant stream of intelligible, hazy commands at the edges of his vision, even with his eyes closed – sees partner_hank fly by several times, as well as request more, and there’s a sweep of ask that slowly bleeds into beg.

Ends with please when Hank boldly sweeps his tongue over Connor’s.

Connor whispers it against Hank’s lips.

“C’mon,” Hank grunts, brushing his lips over Connor’s gingerly, “what do you need?”

He wants to call him darling or sweetheart or babe. But none of it seems to cover the encompassing need he feels for Connor. Still, some of it apparently trickles through their connection, because Connor makes a small noise and reaches up.

“You,” he says, longing filling his eyes, “always just you.”

Hank groans and Connor inches closer, coltishly tipping himself forward into Hank’s lap, narrowly missing the car horn on the steering wheel with his elbow. He wraps his arm around Hank’s neck, stealing a frantic kiss of his own, and increases the pace of his other hand around Hank’s cock.

“Gonna hurt so good,” Hank half-moans, “you’re gonna let me, then?”

Connor kisses him again, deep and impetuously. Losing control. “Yeah,” he says, nose brushing Hank’s.

The hold on Hank’s pleasure slips.

“Jesus,” Hank sighs, “jesus fuckin’ christ.”

It floods him like a dam, just shy of overwhelming. Already burning his nerves like he’s overstimulated. But part of that is Connor’s experience of pleasure – burning and flaring, red-hot electricty making his biocomponents and wires jostle and shake.

“Hank,” Connor gasps, “Hank.”

“Gonna make such a fuckin’ mess,” Hank mumbles, “fuck.”

He’s so close he’s tearing up, and then he feels that telltale clench in his gut that makes him shift his hips upwards into Connor’s grip, balls tightening –

Connor makes a soft, alarming noise, and then dives down.

Envelops Hank’s cock in the smooth heat of his mouth just as Hank comes. It’s fucking bliss. It’s divine. He doesn’t suck, his lips just gently wrapped around the hypersensitive line of Hank’s cock, drawing him in and swallowing Hank’s load with ease.

Hank manages a few shallow thrusts, hitting the back of Connor’s throat – and apparently, that’s what does the trick for his partner. His vision flares blue, as does Connor himself, the synthetic skin over his lips and mouth instantly shifting away.

The lettering at the edges of it all breaks down completely. Code unwinding, like the android in Hank’s lap.

Connor whimpers around Hank’s cock, hands trembling over Hank’s thighs. Where he put them the moment he reacted so quickly and bent his head. He shudders when he finally pulls back, wiping his mouth.

The intense enjoyment coming off of him in waves is the same mirrored in Hank’s heart. But Connor has the energy left to throw him a proud, lopsided smile.

Hank grins back weakly and whistles, pressing himself back into the leather of the car seat, flinging one arm over his eyes. He’s sweaty, sated, tired, and so goddamn happy he could cry.

The connection is still there, humming faintly as Connor cools his internal systems down.

“Well,” Hank sighs, “at least we watched the window for five hours.”

Connor blinks. “Oh,” he says, and it still sounds raspy as the plating over his throat clicks shut. “I forgot to mention it, but I caught some of the police chatter over the coms.” He looks a little sheepish. “Reed is pursuing the suspect by car. The gang did show up on his side of town.”

Hank just stares. “When?”

Connor inclines his head. “Right when I first took you into my mouth.”

That shouldn’t sound hot, but it does. Hank wishes he was twenty years younger and had the stamina of a god.

“So let me get this straight,” he says slowly, still coming off his high, “you basically knew the entire time that we didn’t have to watch that building?”

“Of course,” Connor says matter-of-factly. “I never would’ve jeopardized the mission.”

They look at each other for a few seconds, and then Hank bursts out in laughter.

“You fuckin’ dick,” Hank laughs, shaking his head. “Making me sweat and cream my pants. Wanting to hurry shit along. And you knew.”

Connor is slowly starting to realize the hilarity of the situation. An amused smile curls his lips. “I did.”

“Have some respect for the elderly,” Hank chuckles, shoulders shaking. “Jesus christ.”

Connor shrugs lightly, smile growing. “A bit of a workout every day is recommended for anyone over fifty,” he says, brushing some barely visible dust off of Hank’s lapels. “I was just ensuring yours.”

Hank is still laughing. “What part about me not knowing made it a workout,” he barks, shaking his head. “Fuck, Connor.”

“Workouts are supposed to be fun,” Connor says, fingers reaching up to curl in Hank’s beard, “but challenging.”

Hank snorts. “You’re the one that’s fun.”

Connor kisses him, brief and sweet.

“Also,” Hank says, grimacing while he shifts in his seat, “you should drive home.”

Connor stares at him in question.

“I came so hard I think I broke my back.”

Connor bursts out into laughter, so contagiously that Hank can’t help but join him. They don’t stop for a long time, filling the car with happiness and amusement, and a second volley of snorting chuckles rolls in when Hank checks his phone and shows it to Connor.

Two missed calls and a dozen angry text messages from Reed.

“Well,” Hank says, wiping the tears of laughter from his eyes, “we did fuck in the car.”

Connor’s eyes twinkle, fingers tangling with Hank’s. “We sure did.”

Hank feels the echo of it below his skin, beating from Connor’s palm into his own. No regrets; just happiness.

We sure did.

 


 

“So,” Simon says, “you haven’t experienced any negative side-effects so far?”

He looks remarkably at home at Hank’s kitchen table, a touchpad in front of him. Fingers laced together over the surface of his table, legs crossed. Comfortable but understated.

Hank takes a sip of his iced tea. “Well, none as bad as the first time. It’s disconcerting when it happens, still, but…” He grins. “So fuckin’ worth it.”

Simon smiles at him. “As long as Connor opens the connection but doesn’t instantly fill it with data to share, you seem to be fine,” he says calmly. “Did anything come up on your checkups at the hospital?”

“Nope,” Hank says, shaking his head. “You don’t get access to those?”

“Patient-doctor confidentiality,” Simon explains.

Hank hums in affirmation. “Right.”

“The information Connor’s shared so far is fascinating,” Simon continues, swiping through some files on his touchpad. “Though sharing explicit memories seems to be impossible, you both pick up current thoughts and emotions very clearly.”

Hank nods. “Yeah, we do. Sometimes it feels like – like it’s me, even though I know it’s from Connor.” He takes another sip, looking out the back window. “I can even see part of the coding shit that goes on in his head.”

Connor’s playing in the garden with Sumo, trying to get the big lumbering dog to play fetch. Sumo’s slow, tongue lolling out of his mouth, but at least he appears to be putting some effort into the commands Connor’s giving him.

Big idiot already loves him as much as Hank does.

“What’s the longest you’ve been able to establish and hold the connection without any explicit discomfort?” Simon asks, lightly raising his eyebrow.

“Around thirty minutes,” Hank answers, “but Connor could probably give you the exact number. It just – fizzles out naturally.” He offers Simon a smile. “I think Connor senses my tiredness and slowly switches it off. Or however the fuck it works.”

Simon huffs a quiet laugh. “One more thing,” he adds.

Hank nods. “Go ahead.”

“Does the connection ever linger without the two of you touching?” Simon asks, tone neutral.

Hank frowns, placing his empty glass on the table. “What? You mean if we can sense each other without Connor physically connecting to my sensor?” He snorts. “What, we’re installing Wi-Fi in my head now?”

Simon tilts his head to the side, leaning his chin on his folded hands. “Not necessarily. It could be a mental side-effect rather than an actual scientific occurrence. I was just curious.”

“Nah, I…” Hank considers it. “I don’t think so, no.”

Simon smiles, rising from his chair. “Then that’ll be all. Your information is very valuable.” He looks pleased. “I’ve gotten more requests for similar devices. It’s good to know that in-between all the violence and riots people are also looking for a connection.”

“You’re a fucking gift, Simon,” Hank says, reaching out to clap the android on the shoulder. “Means the world, what you did for us. What you’re still doing, checkin’ up and all.”

Simon shakes Hank’s hand, smile friendly and warm. “It’s quite alright, Hank. The two of you give me useful data in return. And it’s…” He ducks his head, still smiling. “It’s nice to see you and Connor happy.”

Hank glances outside.

Sumo has launched himself at Connor who catches the huge, heavy dog without a moment of hesitation, smiling while Sumo nuzzles his face. Wraps his arms around his body and swings him around like he weighs nothing.

Hank’s heart brims with love.

“Oh,” Simon says, his grip tightening on Hank’s hand. He blinks rapidly, his other hand coming up to rest over his chest, and then he looks back up at Hank with surprise in his eyes.

Hank feels a half-dimmed rush of confusion and surprise, but also elation – wonder, curiosity, like skipping stones over a tranquil lake. Decidedly different from what he feels with Connor. Quiet, gentle, clear like a babbling brook.

He looks down at Simon’s hand. It’s white.

“I apologize,” Simon says, instantly tearing his hand away and the quiet wonder fades from Hank’s senses. “I hadn’t realized that opening myself to your emotions would establish a connection.”

Hank just stares at his hand. He hadn’t realized it, either – that the ability to interface with Connor would also give him the ability to connect to other androids like Simon. Beyond using it for an intimate relationship.

Another way of communication that humans usually lack.

Simon looks embarrassed. “I’m sorry for intruding on your privacy,” he says, fidgeting with his hands. “If it helps, I didn’t see much.”

Hank feels oddly calm, despite the intrusion – mostly ‘cause it didn’t feel like one. It felt like a light, distant touch at the edge of his mind. He wonders whether it’s because of Simon’s tranquility from before or not.

“Hey,” he says, “it’s alright. I hadn’t thought about it myself, either, but it’s okay.” Hank pauses. “We’re fine.”

“Do you really think so?” Simon asks, carefully regarding Hank’s expression.

Hank considers that and realizes that he does think it’s fine. It is cool, actually. Kinda like the cyborg fantasy of every teen reading sci-fi books coming alive. And heck, Hank absolutely was that kind of kid when he was younger.

So he smiles at Simon and nods. “Yeah, it fuckin’ is. The wonders of technology, right? ‘Sides, I could do with a little bit of zen every now and then.” He winks.

Simon chuckles, looking relieved. “That’s good to hear. I tend to have that effect on people, yes. Both North and Markus find it very calming at the end of the day.” He flexes his hand. “It was what you felt for Connor that made me reach in.”

They both look out of the window.

Connor has conceded and let Sumo wrestle him to the grass. There’s leaves in his hair and in Sumo’s fur, and Sumo’s tail is whacking against the ground repeatedly while Connor throws his head back and laughs.

“You love him,” Simon says.

“Yeah,” Hank croaks, “I do.”

Simon reaches for his touchpad, tucking it into its holder at his belt. “Do you have any thoughts on when you will say it to him?”

And fuck, if that isn’t suddenly the weirdest shit. The fact that there’s a when now rather than an if. The fact that Simon could pick up on that while just skimming the surface of Hank’s feelings.

“I don’t know,” Hank says, eyes still on Connor. “It’s – I don’t…” He sighs. “I don’t know. I just want it to be special for him. He deserves it.”

Simon tilts his head to the side. “I think it already is,” he says, smile curling one side of his mouth up. “Well,” he adds, “thank you for all the information. I’ll head back to the mansion.”

Hank, a little off kilter, nods. “Give my regards to the others, will ya?”

“I will,” Simon smiles, pressing his fingers to Hank’s forearm one final time. “I’ll see myself out. Until next time, Hank.”

Hank briefly wonders how he went from barely any friends and a life torn apart to this; four literally revolutionary, incredibly talented androids having his back, and a fifth one as his boyfriend.

When the front door clicks shut, Hank pours himself another glass of iced tea and walks outside.

It’s a sunny day with a vastly blue sky, and though the temperature still makes Hank shiver, he doesn’t bother with a jacket. He walks up to Connor and Sumo, grinning.

Connor smiles back.

Sumo’s collapsed entirely against him as they lay on the grass, pressed to Connor’s side. He lifts his tail briefly when Hank walks up, but doesn’t move an inch.

“I think he likes me,” Connor says, rubbing Sumo behind his ears. He gets a rumbling, half-hum from the dog in return.

“Are you kiddin’?” Hank says. “I think he loves you. You’re the best friend he’s had in years. You don’t tire out, you can lift him without breaking a sweat…”

Connor gets up, dusting off his pants. Sumo whines, pawing at Connor’s shoe, but he remains where he is.

“Looks like you and Simon had a good talk,” Connor says with a smile.

“Yeah. He asked me the same sort of questions he asked you.” Hank wiggles his fingers. “We even accidently mind-melded, touched, whatever it’s called. Did you ever watch Star trek?”

Connor looks surprised. “I don’t think I did. The reference is easy enough to understand, though.” His gaze flicks away from Hank’s, and he purses his lips. “I hadn’t considered that you could also connect to other androids.”

Shit, Hank thinks.

“Wasn’t anything like what we do,” he says immediately, which is true. “It just – happened, when I thought of you.”

Both of Connor’s eyebrows raise to his hairline and his eyes snap back to Hank.

Hank feels his cheeks heat as he stammers, attempting to explain. “Not like that,” he says, gesturing wildly with his free arm. “We were shakin’ hands when he left. Apparently he just – felt a spike when I looked at you and Sumo through the window. Couldn’t help but reach out.”

Connor chuckles, stepping closer so he can wrap an arm around Hank’s waist. “Never thought I’d see you so nervous over shaking hands with an android, Hank,” he says, eyes twinkling. “I thought you didn’t want anything to do with us plastic pricks?”

Hank sighs, but it’s affectionate. “Hey, give a guy a break. This is all new to me so I have no fuckin’ idea where the boundaries are.” He points to his forehead. “And your eyebrows just did that, so I thought I’d overstepped.”

Connor hums, looking amused. “It’s new to me, too. And the boundaries are right where we want them to be,” he states simply. “My eyebrows did this,” which he illustrates by raising them, “because of Simon noticing your feelings so easily.”

His eyes narrow in mirth and he places his other hand on Hank’s chest. “They must’ve been very obvious. I suppose I was… flattered about that.”

“Preenin’, huh?” Hank murmurs, sliding his hand up to cover Connor’s.

Connor gives him a coy look. “Maybe,” he says, but he doesn’t hide the pride in his tone.

“Well,” Hank says decidedly, “you can preen some more. I want pictures.”

That throws Connor for a loop. “Pictures?” he echoes.

Hank nods. “Yeah. I don’t have any photos with you in ‘em. Ever since we’ve been looking through the albums together, I thought it’d be nice to have a few.” He pauses. “You and Sumo. And me.”

“The amount of data and memories I’ve amassed of our time together is tremendous,” Connor says. “I could print out any moment in time and frame it for you.”

“Shit, that’s poetic,” Hank proclaims, kneeling down to pat Sumo. His tail starts wagging again.

Connor shrugs lightly. “I have my moments,” he winks.

“It’s a nice enough offer,” Hank says, “but I gotta decline. Photos are memories too, ya know. And if you print them from your database, you wouldn’t be in them.”

Connor taps his chin in thought. “I could reconstruct a scene and then – ”

“Connor.”

Connor stops talking and looks down.

“Shut up and live a little,” Hank says before he grips Connor by his tie and yanks him down. “Get him, Sumo!”

He has the element of surprise, sure. But Connor has fantastic analyzing skills, is almost impossible to get off balance, and also hilariously strong. So when he stumbles forward into Hank’s waiting arms and Hank wrestles him to the ground while Sumo barks and tries to lick both of their faces, Hank knows Connor allowed it.

They take a huge-ass amount of pictures with the three of them. Most of them silly, especially since Sumo either refuses to look into the camera or to stop drooling, but all of them heartwarming. Because they look every bit the happy, messy family that they are.

Life can have jagged edges. Life can be dark and difficult. And sometimes you can feel like it doesn’t make any sense. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t have the nice things, too. You gotta take what you can and enjoy it while you’re at it.

That’s the shit that makes it all worthwhile.

When they walk back inside, Hank takes one of his favorite photos – where both of them are laughing and Sumo’s wagging his tail so fast it’s a blur in the background – and makes it the lockscreen on his smartphone.

“Would you be opposed to,” Connor says, “me displaying that picture on my desk at the DPD?” His face is shy.

Hank instantly reaches out and draws Connor in for a kiss. Connor startles, but Hank kisses him so soundly that the skin on his lips fades away promptly. “Fuck no,” he murmurs affectionately, running his fingers through Connor’s hair. “Do anything you want with those pics.”

Connor laughs, wrapping his arms around Hank and turning them around sharply. He dips Hank right there in the kitchen, effortlessly elegant.

They kiss each other with smiling mouths, and Sumo barks happily.

 


 

On the weekend, Connor accompanies Markus, Simon, North, and Josh to CyberLife Tower.

Hank remembers how there’d been talks about a number of un-activated androids still on the premises. Fresh off the production line. CyberLife hadn’t dared to activate them with all the political turmoil going on, and they were released into the revolution’s custody last week.

(Markus still doesn’t have a name for his new political group. Hank wishes he would hurry up with it and think up something catchy. Calling it the ‘revolution’ already seems far behind on what they’re actually doing. Achieving, together.)

Anyhow, they’re going to check on the status of the androids and activate them, if possible. Welcome them into the world without the yoke and hinges of their programming holding them down.

Markus had mentioned he could use a firm hand in case something went wrong, contacting Connor. It’s difficult to estimate the reactions to being activated or slipping into deviancy at the drop of a hat. Or maybe CyberLife still has a secret evil android army somewhere in the basement.

‘Sides, Connor is a cop. He can always flash his badge and take up cleanup duty when it gets bad.

When Markus had come over to pick Connor up, Josh and Hank had shared a common worried look over Hank’s kitchen table at Connor being labelled as ‘the firm hand’ while they had North along. Hank had said nothing, just pressed a kiss to Connor’s cheek before he left.

North had punched his arm for it with the makings of a grin on her lips.

Hank had grinned back.

It’s a slow, quiet day home alone. Hank writes up some reports, watches a few reruns of the games he missed last week, and takes a walk around the park with Sumo. He still can’t believe it’s starting to feel like he has his life together.

He even texted Rachel last week. Tentatively and gruffly, checking her plans for the summer.

Just ask me already, you ass, she’d texted back. Answer’s yes.

He’d sent an answering text that he had a boyfriend. The answer wasn’t necessarily what he’d expected.

Proud of you. Happy. Send me pictures.

Hank hadn’t had the courage yet to send them. It felt like a lot to explain and he could feel himself stumbling over the words already – no, he’s not that much younger; oh wait he is, but he’s an android so it’s different; I’m in love with him and I still don’t get why he wants me but it’s just fuckin’ amazing – so he’d thanked her and let her know he was gonna do that.

Soon.

It’s almost three when the doorbell rings, disturbing Hank while he browses through a few catalogs for home decoration and interiors. He’s been thinking of redoing the bedroom and the bathroom for some time. And now with the two of them in the house, it feels like it’s finally worth it. To make the effort and get rid of those hideous yellow and greenish tiles in the bathroom.

Cup of coffee and touchpad still in hand, Hank calmly pads over to the front door and opens it.

It’s Connor.

But it’s not.

The man in front of him looks exactly like Connor, except his eyes are slate-grey. Piercing. His face is closed off and stern and tight, somehow. He’s wearing all the usual android indicators on his clothing, and his black shirt is buttoned up over his throat.

No Connor quirks. Nothing.

(Hank mentally lists them: no fidgeting, no coin tricks, no minute movements of his jaw, no subtle way in which he angles his head. No relaxed posture, and certainly not any openness to his expression.)

The man bends his head. “You must be Lieutenant Anderson,” he says, and even his voice is the same. Slightly lower timbre than Connor’s speaking voice. Less emotion and inflection.

Jesus fuckin’ christ, Hank thinks, eye straying until he catches the lettering on the android’s jacket.

“I am of the same production line as your partner Connor,” the man-who-is-absolutely-not-Connor says, reaching out his hand to shake Hank’s. “My prototype was created to replace his. I am, in all intents and purposes, his successor.”

Hank is too baffled and can’t move. Doesn’t reach out to shake the android’s hand.

The android seems taken aback, and awkwardly retracts the offer.

My prototype was created to replace his. His successor.

Hank moves so fast that the android in front of him, no matter how advanced, doesn’t react in time.

Coffee splashed into his face, cup clanging against the bridge of his nose, and then Hank jams the edge of his touchpad into the android’s throat, forcing his head back. He sees the android’s eyes flash darkly, LED spinning, and one of his hands comes up to ward Hank off.

Hank is faster. Had the movement mapped out before he threw the coffee. He’s placed his other hand over the spot of android’s regulator pump.

Twists his fingers through the fabric of his shirt and the pump twists with it, the biocomponent hissing and whirring.

The RK900’s eyes widen considerably and his LED goes red.

“Listen to me, you son of a bitch,” Hank snarls. “Nobody’s ever going to replace Connor. And if you don’t tell me where the fuck he is right now, I’m gonna fuckin’ kill you.”

The android’s mouth falls open just slightly, and he looks so much like Connor that it’s uncanny. Even the blinking, the processing of his LED, his freckles –

“Hank!”

Someone’s pushing past the RK900 on Hank’s doorstep, a whirl of long limbs and a fluttering tie, and then Connor’s pushing the two of them apart. He catches Hank’s hands in his own. “Hank, it’s alright,” he says. “I’m right here. Nobody’s killing anyone.”

God, and if that isn’t instant relief making Hank’s shoulders sag and his hands fall away from the RK900. The android still looks baffled, hands slowly coming up to straighten his shirt.

Connor continues calming Hank down. “I sent you a text. I knew – I knew about RK900s being produced at CyberLife,” he rattles off. “The US State Department ordered around 200,000 units of them.”

“What the actual fuck,” Hank says.

“He was the only one there,” Connor says, following up quickly and still remaining between Hank and the RK900. “The first prototype. He’s friendly, Hank. Deviant. He just wanted to meet you.”

The RK900 bows his head slightly. “I did,” he says, emphasizing the past tense while coffee drips down his face, “Lieutenant.”

He looks decidedly less threatening than at first glance.

Hank rolls his eyes. “So this one comes with sarcasm, too?”

“No,” the RK900 answers. “Flaws in the RK800 production line were rectified, which includes certain aspects of their socialization program and negotiation subroutines. Extensive emotional responses and adaptability were replaced in favor of assertiveness and pursuit abilities.”

Hank just stares at the RK900 blankly.

“Yeah,” Connor answers, sounding tired, “this one comes with sarcasm.”

“And a course in assholery,” Hank mumbles, rubbing his face. “Jesus christ. Sorry for dousing you in coffee.”

The RK900 nods, lips pressed into a thin line as he wipes a hand over his face. “Thank you for your apology, Lieutenant. I thought humans offered drinks to their guests rather than pelting them.”

Hank gives Connor a desperate look. From the slight shrug of Connor’s shoulders and his just-give-up-already expression, Hank gathers that the RK900 has been a handful since the moment he was activated.

“Well,” Hank sighs, stepping back into the hallway, “you boys wanna come in?”

“Gladly,” the RK900 says while Connor pats his back and pushes him into the house, “though I doubt I’d classify as a boy.”

Hank cringes inwardly, opting to walk towards the living room rather than face the android. The front door closes somewhere behind him with a click. “Do you have a name?” he asks, throwing his touchpad on the couch.

“I haven’t picked one yet,” the RK900 says stiffly.

Oh, Hank thinks, so he can use contractions.

The RK900 remains standing in the living room, hands clasped behind his back, scanning the scene more obviously than Hank’s ever seen Connor do. Eyes lingering over the couch and the TV. Connor remains standing behind him.

The difference between them is so stark that it’s almost scary. Same base, completely different personalities. Not that it’s such an unexpected thing – Hank’s seen androids of the same type before. It’s not the faces that make the people.

But that’s the face of the man Hank loves. Worn by another, it becomes something different entirely.

The silence hangs looming over the three of them. The RK900’s grey eyes narrow minutely when he regards Sumo in his dog bed, and Connor keeps making slightly worried faces at Hank. Hank couldn’t wish for android telepathy any more than he does right now.

“Alright,” Hank finally says, “if you don’t have a name yet, is RK fine to ya?”

The android considers it, and nods thinly. “That seems satisfactory, yes. Though technically Connor and I are both what you would label as an RK-model.”

Hank’s head is already hurting. “No shit,” he murmurs.

Both androids stay silent.

“So, uh,” Hank starts again, “you wanna tell me why you wanted to meet me?” He regards the RK900 carefully.

The RK900 stands up straighter. “I wish to work for the DPD,” he says.

“What the actual fuck,” Hank barks out, staring at the android in shock.

“I believe my abilities would be best utilized and showcased in any capacity as a police officer or even an administrative employee within law enforcement,” the RK900 says, face still impassive. “I was designed and created as such. Considering I need to get used to my deviancy, it would be best to retain a feeling of usefulness and daily objectives.”

He sums it up as if he’s heard it from one of the Jericho leaders or Connor this very morning. Going by the apologetic look Hank gets from Connor over the breadth of the RK900’s shoulders, that’s exactly the case.

“So you came to me,” Hank says, rubbing the back of his neck. “I don’t make the rules at the DPD, kid. You gotta apply for a position and go through the job interview process. Just like everyone else.”

“Considering human bias and the dynamics of human friendships,” the RK900 says, “my chances to be hired would increase dramatically if you would discuss it with Captain Fowler and teach me how to be a good police officer.”

Hank’s eyes widen. “You think I can teach you how to be a good cop?” he asks, eyebrow raised. “You think Fowler listens to me?”

“Yes to both,” the RK900 says boldly. “I understand that you and Connor have had a perfect record ever since you started working cases together. You and Captain Fowler have known each other since your days at the academy. He values your counsel.”

“We interfaced,” Connor says by ways of explanation.

Hank scratches the back of his head, pinches the bridge of his nose, and sighs, “Fuck me.”

“No, thank you,” the RK900 answers promptly, “though I do appreciate the offer.”

Connor tries to suppress a chuckle and fails badly.

Hank wishes he’d never opened his front door.

Fuck.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 11

In which Hank and Connor chase a cybercriminal and end up with a serial killer lair. Nobody signed up for this, but Hank has a realization nonetheless.

 

May 2039

 

Fowler’s two officers and a detective short. Has been for almost a year.

Applications at the academy haven’t been as high as they were in Hank’s youth, and it’s hard to find people with the right amount of experience. Not to mention that transferals take time and are relatively uncommon. Before Connor’s model was created, most androids only worked in administrative capacity when it came to policework, and Hank and Collins were the veterans in Fowler’s bullpen.

‘Cause Jamieson retired early with honors, finally going on that cruise like she always wanted to, and Baker refuses to leave Internal Affairs. (Hank doesn’t blame her. It’s a safe, comfortable spot, especially if you’re getting older and working towards retirement.)

So when Connor joined them last November, Fowler already had his eyes set on him to stay – even before the android revolution, and even before Hank and Connor formed their attachment. A malleable super-cop on his team?

Even Fowler couldn’t pass that one up.

Anyway, the shit hit the fan – but Connor turned out to be a fantastic cop even after he went deviant and he paired insanely well with Hank. Wanted to stay at the DPD out of his own volition, even when other folks at the FBI came looking for his assistance. Made Fowler’s fucking day if Hank read him right.

Long story short, when RK900 – he still hasn’t picked a name – sends in his application to the DPD on a stormy Monday morning, the first thing Fowler does is call Connor. For details, for information, for anything beyond the ordinary.

‘Cause, let’s face it – the RK series is anything but ordinary.

When Fowler calls Connor up Hank’s in the car with him; they’re driving back from an expert they interviewed for a case of cybercrime. Leaked vids and the distribution of sensitive material online; Hank fuckin’ hates the concept and has hated it ever since social media sprang to life in full.

But hey, at least they got some leads. Apparently, there’s only a limited number of hackers in the area who can pull something like this off. It screaming android involvement rather loudly, which is why Miller brought it up to Hank and Connor.

“Good morning, Captain,” Connor says pleasantly as he takes the call. “This is Connor.”

“Mornin’,” Fowler says gruffly, and Hank can picture the nod and the cup of coffee in his hand. “I got a question for you, Connor.”

Connor regales the story of RK900 when prompted. Activation, deviancy, built to replace his own model.

Harder, better, faster, stronger.

From Fowler’s short but professional answers and the slight clip to his tone, Hank gathers he means business. He’s analyzing it in his own way.

Hank scratches his shoulder and waits while Connor talks. Highlights all of RK900’s abilities and his need for a steady, task-driven job. And then waits some more – because Fowler is a lot of things, and one of them is wary.

“Are there any risks involved with taking on another android of your production line at the DPD?”

There it is.

Connor’s jaw tightens slightly when he takes a turn. “None. Though in order to upgrade my own model, the RK800…” He pauses, longer than is usual for him.

“Spit it out, Connor,” Fowler says instantly.

Hank leans in towards the mic of the car kit on the dashboard. “He’s a dick, Jeff.”

Connor and Hank share a brief, amused look, and Connor presses his lips together to hide his smile.

“Hi Hank,” Fowler answers flatly, “nice to hear you, too. I believe I asked Connor a question, not you.”

“Sacrifices were made to the RK900 model’s socialization program to enhance his physicality,” Connor says, eyes back on the road, “and his speed. Though he should still excel at negotiations, he is infinitely more…”

Hank smirks. “Assholish.”

“Will you shut up,” Fowler mutters under his breath.

“… headstrong,” Connor finishes. “Hard-nosed, maybe.”

Hank leans in again. “Dick,” he says on a lingering whisper.

“Hank, if you don’t shut the fuck up right about now,” Fowler says, sounding more than halfway done, “I will fail you on your yearly eval.”

Hank has to do his best not to snicker so he won’t instigate Fowler further and settles for pressing the heel of his hand to his mouth. Yearly eval, my ass, he thinks.

Connor chuckles. “Hank’s just making some fun, Captain,” he says, smoothing it over easily. “All we’re saying is that it might take a while for RK900 to adapt to a new environment with such varied human behavior.”

“That,” Fowler says, “sounds about right for every rookie I’ve had in the department. Android or human. Meaning it’s a risk I gotta take.” A pause. “Thanks, Connor.”

“You got any idea what you gonna do with him for his trial period?” Hank asks, crossing his arms.

If I intend to hire him,” Fowler says, an edge to his tone.

Hank and Connor share a knowing look. They’ll let Fowler have this one.

“Yeah, yeah,” Hank mutters, flapping his hand at the dashboard. “Alright. If you decide to hire him.”

Fowler hums under his breath. “Caseload’s pretty light this week, so I was thinking of setting him up with reports first. Then it’s a taste of fieldwork, some easy investigations with other officers.” Another pause. “That fit with your expert opinion, Lieutenant Anderson?”

Hank grins. “Sure. I think the guy’d take about anything right now. And Miller’s doing his rounds later this week, right?”

“Good one,” Fowler agrees.

“Any training courses?” Connor asks, expertly maneuvering the car through traffic.

Fowler sighs. “He already sent in all the academy exams he took online. Perfect scores, of course. But if I hire him, then yeah, he’ll be taking a few.”

“Captain,” Connor adds carefully, “will RK900 also be accompanying us as part of his trial period?” His tone is neutral, but Hank catches the hopeful look in his eyes.

“Maybe. But if it’s true what your smug partner over there tried to emphasize many, many times…” Fowler chuckles. “… I might just put him with another dick. That worked pretty well last time. Got two solid detectives out of the deal.”

“No problem, sir,” Connor says, eyes twinkling as he pulls the car to a stop in front of a traffic light.

Hank frowns mockingly, lips curling into a grin. “You callin’ me a dick now, Jeffrey?”

“Yeah, I am,” Fowler says. “Thanks, Connor. And good luck today, fellas.”

He hangs up.

“Shit,” Hank snorts, shoulders shaking lightly with laughter. “Fowler’s gettin’ sharper.”

Connor looks amused. “Well, you have started coming in earlier ever since we started working together.”

Hank runs a hand through his hair, shaking his head. “So what, now he’s gonna pull that trick again? Put RK with another asshole to see if that changes their behavior?”

“His,” Connor corrects, as he steps on the gas when the light blinks back to green. “I have a feeling it’s going to be Detective Reed.”

Hank stares at Connor, smiling languidly. “He’s gonna kill us, isn’t he?”

Connor grins. “Yeah. But maybe RK900 will kill him first.” He winks.

“You sound weirdly pleased about that, you know,” Hank remarks, raising an eyebrow.

“RK900 has shown to be fairly protective of me ever since he was activated,” Connor says with a shrug of his right shoulder. “If he learns about the things Detective Reed did and said to me – ”

“You mean when he pointed a fucking gun at your head,” Hank deadpans.

Connor nods with a sly smile. “Well, I got him back for that in the evidence room.”

Hank chuckles as he thinks back to watching that footage for the first time. Reed thinking he got the drop on Connor, feathers all ruffled up and fists ready to go, and Connor flooring him in less than a few seconds.

Complete knockout. Even Chen hadn’t let Reed live that one down.

“Lieutenant,” Connor says with a knowing smile, “your heartrate is increasing.”

Hank rolls his eyes. “Oh, fuck you for noticing.”

“Gladly,” Connor says smoothly. “Are you free tonight?”

He winks, again.

Hank is struck by his attraction to Connor in a raw, unexpected way.

How he rests one arm casually over the steering wheel, the other draped over the gearshift. Long legs on the pedals, knees bent and thighs angled open. Press of his belt buckle into his lean stomach, the clear lines of his body beneath his tight shirt.

Jacket discarded on the backseat, tie slightly loose.

Hair more tousled than usual. Ever since they got involved, ever since they got serious – after that night when Connor deactivated his skin, Hank’s been noticing that his hair is… Well, it’s still neat. But slightly curlier, a little bit more unruly. Subtly realistic.

It also makes him look even more ridiculously attractive. Like he just kissed the living daylights out of Hank behind the precinct. Or fondled him up in the car.

“Just shut up and drive,” Hank says through gritted teeth, uncomfortably aware of the fact that he’s slowly turning red.

Connor nods. “Sure. Did you know that your pupil dilation – ”

Connor.”

“Right.”

The remainder of their drive back to the precinct is uneventful, but Hank makes a conscious decision to store all those little moments of Connor in the back of his mind. Fuel his pleasure for later.

He still wonders, sometimes – what Connor sees when he looks at him. From how his partner initiates touch, from the way they banter and flirt, and how Connor is trying to lean into him all the time, the proof is right there in front of Hank’s eyes.

He’s a detective, for cryin’ out loud. He can’t ignore shit like that, no matter how much he wants to. (It helps that he doesn’t want to as much as he did before. It helps that his inner compass has moved firmly towards can’t doubt this shit rather than not worth it.)

So Hank’s decided not to try and understand it too much. Tries to take for granted that when Connor makes dreamy eyes at him that he’s seeing something similar to what makes Hank’s stomach clench whenever he looks at Connor in an unguarded moment.

Since the sensor, though, he’s caught snippets of it.

Connor’s constant stream of information is intense; he can make more sense of what Hank’s thinking and feeling than the other way around. But sometimes there’s binary and code leaking into Hank’s head or the echo of an image that Connor finds striking.

He loves Hank’s hands. That shows up a lot. Loves his beard, his jaw, the gap between Hank’s teeth. And shoulders – he goes crazy for the width and warmth of Hank’s body. Wants to nestle himself against it constantly.

For non-artificial warmth. For the proof of Hank’s life against his own skin.

Actually, the only time Hank’s ever caught Connor thinking of getting store-bought genitals is when he realized he could rub himself against Hank’s body to get them both off. He tried to hide the thought, not wanting to offend Hank – but Hank had drawn him close and murmured, “We’ll figure this out.”

(He fully intends to. Robodicks, something different or nothing at all, Hank’s always been inventive. He didn’t make Lieutenant so young for no fuckin’ reason.)

While Connor parks the car, Hank smiles at the sudden realization that no matter how he’ll break his brain over it – Connor’s just weird and goofy, an android with a fondness for sassing and big dogs. And Hank himself is messy and tired and prone to bad habits. Just another human who’s been around the block.

But they’re partners, so who the fuck cares?

Hank hooks his pinky into Connor’s when they walk across the parking lot to the main entrance; brief, sweet, a little touch of hello. Connor smiles fondly, and his finger blooms white for just a second. A physical connection before they step back into the station.

“You want to kiss me,” Hank grins, “you ass.”

(And maybe more than just physical.)

“Hmm-mm,” Connor hums in the affirmative. “Senseless.”

Hank chuckles, pinkies slipping away from each other as they walk in. “You crazy fuckin’ deviant.”

“Guilty on all counts,” Connor says, eyes shining with a myriad of things that all mean happiness. Amusement, mirth, comfort, and slightly giddy. “But you seem to like it, Lieutenant.”

Hank own smile softens. “Yeah,” he murmurs, “I love it.”

And there it is. That first unspoken thing.

He sees Connor’s eyes widen but he can’t comment upon it, because Miller is on them the moment they step into the bullpen with a report from IT. Giving them a new lead for a possible suspect to pursue; a trail of linked IP addresses and geotags.

Miller rattles it off like the thorough, reliable officer that he is. Confirms he e-mailed the reports to them, too. Hank’s always liked him – but now he only half-listens to Miller, just picking out the important details, his eyes still on Connor.

(Connor is the important detail. He always was.)

Connor gazes back at Hank in open wonder over Miller’s touchpad, his LED blinking blue. Thoughtful, almost. A hesitant twitch at the corner of his mouth as if he’s so touched that he forgot how to smile.

So Hank does it instead.

Connor’s eyebrows bunch as the smile blooms on his face, too: eyes narrowed, mouth curling. He touches his lips with one hand in the echo of a kiss – or one of those evidence-analyzing moves; you never fuckin’ know with him.

It’s all very subtle. Blink and you’ll miss it. Miller certainly isn’t aware.

But Hank is.

And that’s enough.

 


 

After Connor thoroughly analyzes the reports Miller brought up from IT, they map the point of origin of several of the IP addresses. Servers all over Detroit – but combined with the geotags, they manage to pinpoint a number of locations that the prep might be operating from. Points of contact between all the data they’ve put on the map that are too centered to be random.

An abandoned warehouse, an apartment building flagged for demolition, and an old CyberLife depot just out of town that’s no longer in use.

They’ve got easy access to the blueprints. The warehouse has a bunker and a municipal zoning plan that goes absolutely nowhere; no chances of getting interrupted by either the mayor’s office or CyberLife employees.

They decide to check that out location first.

Hank has to admit he’s worried, though. He says as much to Connor – albeit reluctantly. Someone who tries to mask their steps to such a degree, someone who has several servers set up across the city, and someone who’s actively trying to stay under the radar…

… that says more than hacking people’s accounts for dirty pics.

Hank’s not sure what. Could be anything; money laundering, gang involvement, semi-political operations that are planning to strike big. Maybe one of the idiots on the team is having some fun on the side with nudes. Could be humans, could be androids. Hank knows that there are plenty of ‘droids out there who’d rather see CyberLife die out entirely than transforming into something different.

Getting a warrant is fucking easy. Mayor Ellington’s office has been all over Hank and Connor since they did Lasseter in, and Hank can feel it whenever they try to get something bureaucratic done. It just goes over a lot smoother than it did, before. DA’s been pretty happy with them, too.

Still, Hank takes backup.

Miller and Chen, just in case, with two unmarked cars from the police’s garage. Hank’s own is much too noticeable.

“You’re nervous,” Connor says quietly as they drive towards the warehouse.

Hank taps the steering wheel. “Yeah,” he admits.

“Any particular reason?” Connor presses, eyes on the road before them.

“It stinks, Connor, that’s why. I don’t know, it’s just…” Hank sighs, looking into the rearview mirror. Chen and Miller are still there, two cars behind. “A gut feeling.”

Connor dips his chin in an almost-nod, stopping halfway to confirm what Hank’s thinking. “Because the facts don’t add up.”

“Yeah,” Hank says tightly. “Just – just stay sharp, ‘kay?”

Connor checks the gun in his holster and nods.

They do a slow drive-by of the warehouse; it has a large parking lot on both sides, and Chen steers her car over towards the other side. From the blueprints, Hank already knows that the building doesn’t have a back entrance.

Connor’s eyes flash sharply as he picks up the com from the dashboard. “No cameras,” he murmurs.

“Heat signatures?” Chen asks over the radio.

“None,” Connor says, “but from this kind of distance, my readings aren’t very accurate.”

Hank narrows his eyes, gaze drifting over the edges of the rooftops. “No tech at all?”

Connor shakes his head. “Nothing’s coming up on my scanners, Lieutenant.”

“Alright,” Hank says, pulling the car to a stop. “Chen, Miller, stay in the car for now. Eyes on the entrance. We’re just gonna walk into this nice and easy.”

“Gotcha, sir,” Miller answers over the radio.

At that, Chen parks and turns off the engine, and she and Miller wait patiently while Hank and Connor get out of the car. Nothing happens; no alarms go off, no people show up, no sudden blinking lights of hidden security systems.

Connor has one hand on his gun; Hank, too.

Everything about it just feels wrong.

High-end cybercrime with android involvement and no fucking cams at the entrance? Either the perp is too arrogant or it’s meant to be this way. Meant not to show up on android scanners.

Tension, tension – Hank’s body feels too tight as Connor walks towards the large steel doors and raps against them with his knuckles. Throws out a loud, “Hello?” for anyone in the near vicinity to hear. “Anyone home?”

No reply.

Connor’s gaze meets Hank’s head-on and Hank nods almost imperceptibly. Pulls out his gun while Connor hacks into the electronic lock at the front, a blue line sizzling over his wrist until his hand turns marble.

“There’s a tracker in this,” Connor says. “I was able to circumvent the identity-recognition program for androids, but…”

Hank moves forward, giving himself a clear shot at the front doors. “How much time do we have?”

“Ten minutes,” Connor says, “maybe fifteen before they notice someone came in.”

Hank huffs, using his free hand to adjust his earpiece. “Better make it fast. Chen?”

“Loud and clear, Lieutenant,” she answers.

Connor goes through first, both doors swinging open to reveal a long, empty, concrete hallway. No light sources, but the revealing stream of daylight from the entrance is enough. Hank pulls out his gun, too, clicking the safety off – one more look of understanding between him and Connor, and off they go.

The warehouse’s a mess, as expected. Dusty. Lots of metal doors with grating on either side; they kick ‘em open, one-by-one, a murmured “Clear!” every time they pass one by. They take turns, of course, never both opening a door at the same time in case something – or someone – turns up.

So far, ‘something’ turns out to be just boxes. Old furniture, stacks of electronic devices; a lot of spiders whose nests they accidently disturb. It just makes Hank wonder what the fuck those little long-legs are catching in an abandoned warehouse.

They pass a circuit breaker panel on the wall; Connor flips open the box. All lights are on, blinking.

“Someone’s pulling a lot of electricity,” Hank murmurs. “And fuck, this building’s older than I thought. That a repurposed fuse box?”

Connor’s LED blinks thrice. “Seems so,” he replies on a whisper. “It would explain the bunker. A relic from the cold war.”

Hank dips his chin, eyes still sharp on the end of the corridor. They’ve stopped walking. “Looks like it,” he answers in hushed tones. “Anything on the electricity?”

“I’m trying to find out,” Connor says, LED blinking again, and he frowns. “I think they’re adding their bills to the usage of a few power plants nearby. They’ve been irregular over the past four months.”

“Four months,” Hank murmurs, “shit. Still, user spike must be off the charts.”

Connor takes one step towards the next door. “For an abandoned warehouse, certainly. They could mess with the data, though. I’ll send a request to IT.”

“Chen?” Hank asks.

“No movement from outside,” she answers. “Miller’s set up in your car in the other side.”

“Copy that.” Miller’s voice on the com.

Hank nods, even though Chen and Miller can’t see it. “Good. Movin’ on.”

They pass another few sets of doors; nothing in the rooms behind them, except for empty desks and dust and boxes. The double doors at the stairs of the end of the hallway are getting closer; the windows in them are blinded, only showing Hank flat darkness through the grating.

Only a slice of the upper half of the doors; the stairs are too steep for Hank to see the entirety of them.

It’s making shivers run up and down his spine; his arm hair is standing on end.

“Whatever it is, it’s behind there,” he says, voice low as he flicks his gun towards the doors.

Connor nods. “Still not picking up any heat signatures in the building. But all the cabling leads there.” His eyes flit downward. “Also, there’s faint light coming from between the doors. Someone covered it with a strip of some kind on the other side, but...”

“Thank fuck for your android eyes,” Hank mutters.

Connor dares a small smile. “Are you ready to go in?”

Hank raises an eyebrow. “No androids, either?”

“None that I can detect.” He makes a face of discomfort. “The machinery inside the room is more difficult to pinpoint. The signals overlap.” He looks up at Hank. “Let’s just say that there’s a lot of it.”

Hank steels himself. “Well, fuck. Let’s do this, then.”

They move to the sides of the entrance, both of them covering a door. Bodies turned to the side, shoulders resting against the metal. Elbows bent, both of their hands on their guns.

Connor briefly moves to touch the doorknob. “No lock,” he mouths.

“Goin’ in,” Hank whispers into his mic.

He gets confirming answers from Chen and Miller.

It’s been a while since Hank was legitimately scared of what he might find on a case. Sure, there’s jump scares and adrenaline rushes and dangling off roofs. There’s things that are a little too big for him to understand – two Connors fighting in a clinical white room filled with ‘bots. And things that start out so small and suddenly slam into largeness; a suicide, a dead kid, things that remind him of Cole.

Of the bottle he used to have on his nightstand.

But this right here? This is dread.

This is an old kind of fear; the fear that whispers against the rim of your ear and crawls up the back of your neck. The kind of fear that makes you think that there’s a dark thing in the shadows of your room staring at you; when you turn on the light, it’s just a bundle of clothes thrown haphazardly over a chair.

But somewhere deep inside, you know it could’ve been different. You know it could’ve been not a man, but a monster. Something not entirely of this world that decided to crawl its way to the surface and eat away at you until you had the audacity to notice.

Ghost stories by the campfire.

Hank’s feeling that now. Keenly.

He gazes into Connor’s brown eyes opposite his. His partner’s face is scrunched up in concentration; pulled at the edges into a determined frown. Doesn’t matter what’s on the other side, Hank reminds himself.

‘Cause Connor’s on this one.

They don’t need words; they just push against the doors at the same time, using the momentum of their shoulders. It happens with a ferocity that makes them slam open in one smooth movement, clattering back against the walls.

The doors open to a gaping maw of half-darkness that leads further down. Not a peep of a sound.

Hank and Connor share a look and descend, slowly. The stairs are broad enough for them to do so side-by-side, but Hank lingers slightly so he can cover Connor’s back if necessary. From the bottom of the stairs comes a faint, uncanny blue glow.

It doesn’t take them long to move into what Hank assumes to be the bunker. No doors here; just a frame, an open entrance into a dark space of concrete.

“Detroit Police!” Connor bellows, covering the middle to right, gun pointed straight as an arrow.

“Come on out and keep your hands where we can see ‘em!” Hank adds, covering their left.

No humans or androids; nothing but the steady blink of machines as Hank systematically scans his surroundings. Connor does the same to his right, only literally, and his eyes light up with that ring of red in the corner of Hank’s field of view.

The bunker below the warehouse has a large, hangar-like appearance, and with his eyes already used to the dim light, Hank slowly starts to make sense of his surreal surroundings. The eerily blue glow and the cables dangling from the ceiling; the flashing panels on the wall; the stacks of computers and monitors and old shit.

Shit that Hank grew up on; clunky monitors and keyboards. Floor’s littered with ‘em.

It looks like a fucking retro-technological shrine and it’s a creepy as hell. Too many nooks and crannies for Hank’s liking.

“Those ten minutes up yet?” Hank asks, trying to find some sort of order in the disarray.

Connor shakes his head, taking a few steps forward. “Concentric circles,” he murmurs then.

Hank follows his gaze, hands unwavering on the grip of his gun. “Fuck, you’re right. It’s built up around the center.”

“Let’s check it out,” Connor says, face grim.

“Chen, Miller,” Hank whispers into his mic, “stay on high alert. We’re in the main bunker. Perp could try to run if they’re still in here.”

Chen sounds professional, as always. “Got it, Lieutenant.”

Hank follows Connor closely towards the center, still covering his back. There’s something mesmerizing about the stacks of machinery, built on top of each other like towers of Lego. Like the blocks Hank used to play with as a kid.

“Spread out?” he whispers to Connor from the corner of his mouth.

Connor nods. “You take the right, I’ll take the left.”

They separate, inching closer to the center of the bunker through the unexpected cascade of old technology.

Hank has to stop himself from tripping twice, feeling a stray cable slide against his temple with sickening accuracy, and tries not to think about the darkness he felt creeping up his spine ever since he saw the doors that led to the bunker.

He almost bumps his hip into a piece of machinery that he doesn’t even fucking recognize; it beeps like a menacing heartbeat. Sweat runs down his brow and back as he tries to keep a clear head and an even clearer shot. Trying to see movement that indicates the presence of someone else in the bunker.

He narrowly dodges a pile of old computer mice, steps around the next pile of rubbish – and then he sees the tanks.

Entrancing blue, like he knows so well from Connor. Taking up the center of a room, eerily aglow.

“Jesus fuckin’ christ,” Hank murmurs.

“I see it,” Connor says tightly, standing to Hank’s left. He looks as pristine and unruffled as ever – not at all like they just stepped through years’ worth of dumpster material.

In the light from the tanks, it’s easier to see.

The bunker’s a mess. All tangles of wires – old retro machines, new sleek ones, spare parts, toolboxes full of tweezers and pinchers. Electricity cables the size of Hank’s thigh. Dark, dry, but not too thick of concrete walls to block any signals.

Except in the center of the chamber. A few haphazard chairs scattered around the room, touchpads spread over flat surfaces. Machines and screens where the eye can see. The building’s buzzing with energy and flickering lights.

“Connor,” Hank hisses through his teeth, stomach lurching, “do you mind telling me what the fuck we’re lookin’ at?”

There are things floating in the tanks filled to the brim with blue, see-through Thirium.

Decidedly dead things; the angle of an arm, the bend of a wrist. Some of them with torn, raw edges; others with the slick, viscous outside of a human organ. Like a row of subjects to be studied. Clinical, were it not for the messy bunker.

“It appears our suspect didn’t only hack people’s personal information,” Connor murmurs. “They seem to have a fondness for…” He scans the room. “… experimentation.”

“It’s like a goddamn horror movie,” Hank murmurs, reaching into his pocket and grabbing his flashlight. Holds it below the aim of his gun, supporting his wrist, and flicks it on.

It is just like one.

Limbs floating in liquid, hollow eyes staring back – Hank can’t even make out what’s android and what’s not from the dim, humming light around them. It looks like a fucking Frankenstein crime scene, and hell of a lot worse than an idiot in a basement leaking nudes.

“Fuck,” he adds for good measure, flashlight moving over a table in the back.

Android body without any outer plating; just circuits and wires. A dead body.

“It’s like fuckin’ Zlatko all over again,” Hank says, “jesus christ. You callin’ for backup?”

Connor nods, face tight. “Already did.”

Hank wants to throw up. He figured something like this was bound to happen one day – was happening somewhere already, as he still vividly recalls the details of the Zlatko case. The androids that they found in his home.

Who knows what fuckheads get up to if they think they’ve got the right of it?

“Still no one here?” he asks, eyes lingering over the walls and the ceiling. So many fuckin’ hiding places.

Connor shakes his head. “No movement, no temperature irregularities. Considering the hack at the front door, they’ll likely stay away for now.”

That gaping darkness; that flicker at the back of his neck. Hank was right. This is the monster in the shadows. And the space is still making Hank uncomfortable; he feels like he’s being watched. Like there’s something out there that knows.

“Hank,” Connor says, holding up two fingers. He’s standing near a stainless-steel table; cloths, bandages, surgical tools. All of it used, too, by the looks of it.

Hank scuffles over, shining his flashlight over it. There’s splatters and specks of blood, and a few worrying straps obviously meant to tie someone down. Cables everywhere.

“The blood belongs to several people,” Connor says, looking at Hank curiously. “Not all of their blood profiles are in the database. The woman whose videos were leaked, Ella Ramirez – she’s one of them.”

Hank feels dread settle at the pit of his stomach. “When is the last time we talked to her?”

“Two days ago,” Connor says.

Hank turns sharply, walking back to the tanks at the center of the room. Walks closer to what he didn’t want to see before. Further in the back. Lets the beams of his flashlight cross one of the horizontal tanks.

“Shit,” he says, wishing he didn’t.

“The,” Connor says, hesitating as his gaze follows Hank’s flashlight, “the dental records appear to match.”

“Fuck,” Hank curses, “fuck.”

Connor takes a step closer to Hank, sleeves brushing. “I informed forensics.”

Hank takes a breath, steadying himself. “How many?”

Connor’s chin dips. “Going by the remains, about twelve androids and five humans.”

It hasn’t happened to Hank often. Serial killers are rare, no matter what modern media may make you believe, and the worst places he’s usually been is when a person in a family snaps and kills all of them, after which they commit suicide.

But this right here? It ticks about all the goddamn boxes.

It’s a lair they’re standing in. A place where someone with a proclivity for finding people’s personal info tortured and cut up living beings. Stuffed their remains in tanks and did who knows what else with the parts that aren’t accounted for.

“This needs to be shut down,” he says, turning to look at Connor. “Instantly. Inform Markus and the mayor. We can’t let the press sniff this out without the people in charge knowin’ about it.”

Connor nods. “I’ll prep a statement for both of them and send it to Fowler before informing them.”

“Good one.” Hank presses his earpiece. “Miller, Chen. No one fucking gets in here or out, alright? Keep yourself safe. Layer on some extra police tape. It’s a mess in here.”

“Right, chief,” Chen answers.

Miller’s answer is slower. “How bad is it, Lieutenant?”

Hank’s answer is grim. “Try serial killer for fuckin’ starters. Backup and forensics are on the way.”

“Fuck,” Miller says, and Hank’s never heard him curse before.

Connor slowly pans around the room. “Hank,” he says, “there’s barely any fingerprints here. Just from the people who – from the human victims.”

“So?” Hank asks.

Connor raises an eyebrow. “Didn’t we take this case because only an android could’ve done it?”

Hank’s gaze is drawn back to the stainless-steel table. “You sayin’ it was an android who did this?”

“An android had to be involved,” Connor murmurs. “The hacking couldn’t have been done otherwise. Not sure if they were forced to, but…” He trails off, circling the tanks. “None of these bear fingerprints, either.”

Hank kicks a stray keyboard. “Going by the mess, it doesn’t seem like the person who built this would be mindful of, y’know, wearing gloves.”

They share a look.

“Who was the first?” Hank asks. “Can you tell which set of prints is the oldest?”

Connor frowns. “Difficult to say, but by far the largest amount of prints belongs to a man named Wade Simmons. 41 years old, R&D department at Delifar, a company that makes takeaway apps for ordering food.”

“Criminal record?”

Connor shrugs. “Got caught once for smoking weed. Nothing else.” He walks back to Hank and holds up his palm, projecting Simmons’ profile. Simple guy with scruff on his chin and glasses. Run-of-the-mill.

“We gotta look around,” Hank says, “and see if he’s – if he’s in here somewhere. Parts, whatever. Is his blood with that of the others?”

“I don’t know,” Connor admits. “His profile isn’t in the database. There’s traces of Thirium on the table too, but a lot of it has faded.”

Hank sighs, hand rubbing over his face. “Fuck, okay. Forensics should arrive soon.”

“Reed’s on the scene,” Miller reports over the earpiece. “He and that RK900 model are clearing the back and the roof.”

“Armed officers will soon join you two to sweep the area and comb out the bunker,” Chen adds.

“Copy that to both of you,” Hank answers, not recognizing his own dulled voice.

Connor touches Hank’s sleeve. “Are you okay?” he asks quietly.

“Hell no,” Hank replies, exasperated. “’Course not. Are you?”

Connor turns his face away, and his LED blinks. “No. But I,” he says, hesitantly, “I had the sinking realization that it does get easier.” He looks up at Hank, frowning.

“Hey,” Hank says, “it’s okay. You gotta be able to steel yourself and dampen this shit, otherwise it’s gonna eat you up.” He walks over to Connor, squeezing the back of his neck.

Connor blinks, shoulders sagging, and he looks down. Presses his forehead against Hank’s shoulder briefly.

When he looks back up again, it’s with a wry smile that doesn’t reach his eyes. “It’s disheartening,” he says, “to finally grow into feelings and then having to take them away yourself.”

“They’ll be back,” Hank says hoarsely. “When you remember all of this tonight and you wanna throw up.”

Connor looks tired. “I don’t have a stomach. Not one like yours, anyway.”

Hank rolls his eyes. “Fine, whatever. It’s gonna hurt and it’s not gonna be pretty.” He wraps his arms around Connor, drawing him into a tight hug. “But it’s gonna remind you that you’re alive.”

“I am alive,” Connor says, hands curling into Hank’s shoulders.

I am alive, Hank thinks.

The way he’s seen it written on the wall, the way he’s heard androids say it during the march. The way Connor says it now, in a room full of pain and death. The way Hank’s thought it before, full of guilt, because he was and Cole wasn’t.

His arms tighten around Connor.

 


 

They meet up with Reed when the sky is already getting dark; horizon turning mauve, streetlights flickering on. Clouds vague stripes stretched thin over the sky.

The amount of police cars and forensics vans too many to count on the warehouse’s parking lot; police tape and crowd control barriers around the premises, and officers in bright neon vests keeping the press from storming the building. Statements signed by Fowler sent off to Marjorie Ellington’s office and to Markus.

There’s already a headline in the evening edition of the newspaper, and dozens of articles online.

Hank spots Reed before Connor does, who’s on a call with North. Apparently, she called to check up on him.

Reed’s leaning against the hood of his car, wearing scuffed shoes and an old sweater, like always. But he’s smoking, even though Hank remembers him quitting years ago – the slow drag of a cigarette, white curls of smoke bright against the darkening sky.

RK900 stands right next to him, like a dark shadow against the sky.

“Smoking is decidedly bad for your health, Detective,” the android quips dryly.

Hank smirks. Some things never change, apparently, no matter the model.

“Yeah, so? Not gonna poison you with it anyway, so kindly shut your mouth,” Reed snaps right back.

RK900 inclines his head. “If you’re seeking a way to take your mind off of the vividness of the crime scene, might I recommend – ”

“No,” Reed interrupts, flicking the ash off his cigarette and refusing to look RK900’s way.

RK900 stands up straighter, folding his hands behind his back. “There are healthier ways of coping,” he adds pointedly, raising a normally downcast eyebrow.

“Fuck,” Reed answers, “let a guy have his cig, all-fucking-right?” He turns towards RK900. “Did you even see what happened in there? All those bodies torn apart?” He shakes his head. “Jesus.”

RK900 shifts his stance slightly, LED blinking. “My visual receptors are in perfect working order, Detective.”

“Your ears sure as fuck don’t seem to work,” Reed half-snorts. He looks tired; dark smears of circles under his eyes. “You dick.”

RK900’s eyes narrow. “I heard that just fine, Detective.”

Hank approaches them. “RK’s right, you know,” he says, sliding his hands into his pockets. “A cigarette ain’t gonna help you out.”

“Fuck you, old man,” Reed says, crossing his arms. “You tellin’ me the whiskey never helped, either?”

Hank ignores the jab easily. No bite, just bark. “Nope. Never did.”

“Lieutenant,” RK900 says, inclining his head. “A report of our investigation on the roof is available in your online inbox.”

Hank grins wryly at the android. “I’m aware. I’ll look it over tomorrow.” He pauses before turning back to Reed. “Thanks for your help today. I know it wasn’t the prettiest scene to call you in on.”

“Chen called me in,” Reed deflects, blowing smoke into Hank’s direction.

“She did so under orders from Lieutenant Anderson,” RK900 supplies instantly.

Reed rolls his eyes, but keeps his attention on Hank. “Been a while since I saw Fowler puckered up this tight. You and the tin can sure uncovered the worst one we’ve seen in years, Anderson.”

Hank scuffs the tip of his shoe against the asphalt. “Briefing’s tomorrow morning.”

“I know,” Reed sighs over another exhalation of smoke, and then he flicks the cigarette away. Crumbles it under the heel of his dirty sneaker. “You gonna be able to make it before noon?” he adds, smirking.

Hank just smirks back. “Are you?”

“I’ll ensure that he does,” RK900 answers promptly.

Reed presses a hand to his brow. “Both of you are making it very fuckin’ hard for a guy to function. You,” he says, pointing at Hank, “asshole. And you...” He turns to the side, raising a brow at RK900. “You can go fuck yourself.”

A tiny frown appears between RK900’s brows. “I don’t possess the capacity to do so, Detective. I believe I tried to explain this to you earlier.”

“I don’t fucking care,” Reed says. “Go ask your big brother tin can if you gotta. But stay out of my way. I’m going home.” He mock-salutes Hank, wipes his hands on his jeans, and then he’s walking over to the driver’s seat. “Smell ya later, idiots.”

When he drives off, he narrowly misses RK900’s immaculate shoe on the asphalt.

“He’ll come around,” Hank murmurs.

RK900 looks at him curiously, grey eyes calculating, and there’s a slight whir coming out of his throat. He opens his mouth, not moving his lips, and a recording plays of Reed’s voice. “And now you’re tellin’ me there’s FUCKING two of them? Are you insane? One of them wasn’t enough?

The rest of the recording is a lot of curse words. Anger. And RK900 looking at Hank with an expression Hank can’t entirely place; disbelief but also something hard. Scoffing, in a way. Delivering proof signed, sealed, and delivered as to why Reed would never come around.

Hank sighs.

(“Why the fuck does it have to be me? Fuckin’ look at him! Somehow, he’s worse!” )

Hank wasn’t there when Fowler told Reed the news: about RK900 starting his trial period primarily as Reed’s assistant after he’d worked his way through crime scene reports and letters to the DA.

(“I never needed a partner, least of all a fucking tin can. You can go to hell. You can all go to – ” )

After he’s done, RK900 gives Hank a long look, grey eyes narrowed.

“What can I say?” Hank muses. “Guy’s an asshole.”

“He seems particularly adamant about not wanting to work with me,” RK900 answers, “the only argument being that I’m an android.” He pauses, eyes snapping back to Hank’s. “Is he afraid that I will replace him?”

Hank sighs. “Who knows. He’s like a barking dog, that one. Never stops. Maybe it’s insecurity, maybe it’s loneliness.” He pauses. “We’ve never been decent enough to each other long enough for me to discover.”

RK900 looks a little at a loss.

Connor steps up, one hand on Hank’s shoulder. “Markus and the others are alright,” he murmurs. “They’ll be scouting out information within the android community. Share what they know with us.”

He then smiles warmly at RK900, and Hank notices how both of their LEDs flash.

“No need to keep me in the loop,” Hank says, winking at both of them.

It’s still strange to see them together; physical echo, two entirely different people. Hank realizes that they’d never be able to fool him by pretending to be the other. Same faces and bodies but goddamn, what a world of difference.

“Connor and I are exchanging reports on the current case,” RK900 answers as if prompted, hands clasping behind his back.

Connor tilts his head, raising an eyebrow. “And apparently,” he adds, “Detective Reed called RK900 constipated.”

“Impossible,” RK900 says instantly, and Hank swears there’s something haughty to his tone, “since I don’t possess the right organs for such an expression.”

Hank snorts. “I think it’s the high collar.”

RK900 blinks, one hand smoothing over his throat.

“Regardless,” Connor says, “you should – maybe try to wear something else.” He brings his hands up to brush the shoulders of RK’s jacket. It’s his original one; white with android indicators and his serial number printed over his chest.

“We aren’t theirs anymore,” Connor adds, and it’s more than a little stern.

RK900’s expression morphs into the most vulnerable one of his Hank has seen so far. “I wouldn’t know what,” he says, and a tinge of fear drips down his low voice. Insecurity in a man who’s supposed to be able to do anything.

Connor is all kind smiles and infinite warmth. “I’ll take you. There’s a great store near the police station that’s very android-friendly.”

“Thank you,” RK900 says on an awkward nod.

Hank shoots the android a grin, too. “Connor’s right. And he’s got a real taste for fashion.”

RK900 raises an eyebrow. “And you don’t?”

That catches Hank off guard; the way it’s a genuine question, not someone making fun of the loud, colorful shirts Hank always wears with anything. “Not the smart kind,” he ends up saying, giving RK a wink.

Connor chuckles. “I like your shirts, Lieutenant,” he says, eyes soft.

“You like me without them,” Hank banters back.

That just makes Connor look both bashful and flirty. Hank’s not really sure how he manages it.

RK tilts his head to the side. “Hmm,” he just says, as if it’s the only thing he can conjure up. As if he knows he shouldn’t make a sharp, edged comment because Hank and Connor are supposed to be his friends – but he doesn’t know what else to say.

“I can drop you boys off,” Hank says then, gesturing to the unmarked car they used to drive to the warehouse. “Store should still be open. Might do you good to do something a little different after – after this mess.”

RK900 nods slowly. “An uncommon and unique suggestion, but acceptable.”

“You’ll be alright?” Connor asks, reaching over to touch his palm over Hank’s wrist.

Hank nods. “Yeah. It’s getting late and we’re all off duty. I’ll order some takeout and wait on you.”

Connor moves his finger to touch over Hank’s; the one where he keeps the sensor. Hank feels the lightness of Connor’s feelings beneath the tiring cloak of the day, and the warmth and happiness that says: yeah, home; with you, always.

He sends an answering chain of affection of his own right back. Connor smiles in response.

“You’re able to interface?” RK900 asks instantly, eyes sharp. “I wondered what that chip was for, Lieutenant. It doesn’t show on your DPD profile.”

Hank shrugs. “Some parts are off-limits.” He gives RK a look. “Private,” he adds.

RK900’s eyes narrow further. “You don’t wish people to know of your relationship with Connor?”

“It’s none of the DPD’s fuckin’ business what I do with my body,” Hank says. “That’s all.” He eyes RK. “I was tryin’ to tell you not to stick your nose into people’s private affairs before you get to know ‘em, kid.”

RK900’s LED goes yellow for just a spark. “Ah,” he eventually remarks. “I overstepped. My curiosity and need for explanation tend to override my other subroutines.”

“It’s okay,” Connor says. “You already knew that the Lieutenant and I are in a romantic relationship. Now you know that we can also interface.” He pauses. “At our jobs, we act professionally. Surely, you must be able to appreciate that?”

It’s Connor’s own way of telling RK off, but Hank can’t help but laugh.

“Professionally,” he echoes under his breath, hiding an amused smile. If you count fucking in the bathroom and in Reed’s car, sure.

Connor pinches his wrist in retaliation, keeping his sunny smile directed at RK900.

RK900 cocks his head to the side and raises an eyebrow. “Your partner seems to indicate otherwise regarding your professionalism during working hours.”

“Enough banter for now, boys,” Hank interrupts. “Get in the car and I’ll drop you off at the store.”

Connor takes the passenger seat, and Hank herds RK900 into the back. Holds the door open for him.

“Depends on what you mean by working hours,” he adds on a whisper, smirking while he slams the car door closed.

RK900’s miffed expression is utterly worth it.

 


 

The rest of the week is hell. Not that Hank had expected any differently, really; from cybercrime to serial killer in just one small step. They haven’t had a case of this magnitude in a long, long while. Fowler’s put everyone he has on it, including RK900, and they all work way more than eight hours a day.

Crank away on caffeine and takeaway that’s delivered straight to the station. RK’s mixed some sort of high-powered Thirium cocktail that keeps him and Connor running without needing to utilize their standby mode for some rest.

City’s even increased regular neighborhood patrols for more of a lookout on the killer’s whereabouts. And to shush citizens’ concerns about the fact that there’s a madman on the loose. Ellington has her re-election to think about, after all.

Upside of it all? IT works a lot faster with the combined power of their own machines and Connor’s and RK’s state-of-the-art algorithms. It’s a breeze to circumvent firewalls and coded programs and dive into the depths of their perp’s plan.

Even forensics barrels through their DNA analysis of the blood samples and other remains at the scene. RK helps out them the most, driving back and forth between the bullpen and the lab.

Downside?

The story behind the murders.

It gets leaked, of course. Someone couldn’t keep their mouth shut, or the money offered was simply too tempting. God knows police officers and administrative folk don’t get paid a lot, and Hank understands the swaying temptation. He was there, once – young and poor and reckless.

When he enters the station three days after their big discovery, he browses that morning’s headlines with a sigh. Decides he needs more than just one black coffee, and makes himself two.

 

Detroit Police Uncovers Real Life Frankenstein Monster

Murderer Claims Twelve Victims, Keeps Remains in Tech-Shrine

Limb by Limb: A Firsthand Account of Detroit’s Jack the Ripper

Serial Killer Cuts Up Androids and Humans Alike For Monster Body

 

All overly dramatic, and none of the articles put forth all the facts. ‘Cause there’s one little detail that none of them appear to mention and Hank’s glad for it: that, in this case, Dr. Frankenstein and his monster are one and the same.

An android – a PL800 model by the name of Andy – and his former owner Wade Simmons.

Simmons’ body was found at the scene, in one of the same types of horizontal tanks that held the remains of Ella Ramirez. Whereas hers was barely intact, Simmons’ body was missing only his brain, his heart, and one of his eyes. His body showed signs of being sustained in a coma a long time before he died and was preserved in Thirium.

Hank’s seen the diagrams. Didn’t understand them on a technological level anymore than Fowler did.

Surgical operations, uploads and downloads. Experiment after experiment to see what would happen if you’d try to transfer a human consciousness to an android body. And failure after failure – until they started to include body parts. Until they started working on partial transplants; as if tissue from the human in question provided some sort of focal point for the consciousness.

Biological transfer adding to the binary one. An echo of life to breathe a soul into.

Harder, better, faster, stronger. Cyborgs.

They’d been together for a long time, Simmons and Andy, and Andy didn’t want to be alone anymore in a world where he could suddenly be anything. Both of them had always believed in the ultimate merging of man and machine – and eventually, they’d decided to try that trick on themselves. Nothing to lose in a world toppled sideways.

It sounds like a half-finished motive to Hank’s ears. He put forth the possibility that the reason they went through all that hassle and risk is ‘cause Simmons is dying. Or on the brink of something.

Medical examiners are still looking into it; Simmons’ hospital records came back clean, but the last time he went in for a checkup was six years ago. A lot can happen during that time.

In the end, the diagrams and post-op reports showed the intended result. Simmons and Andy in one body, slightly altered. Room for a human brain, heart, and eye. Room built into Andy’s android body originally just meant for household tasks, upgraded and modified to fit human parts and to possess improved characteristics. Changed to fit their new reality.

In their logs and journals, they call themselves ‘The One’. Like from a goddamn prophecy.

None of the medical experts who’ve looked through the evidence so far can confirm whether the experiment actually worked or not. Or if Simmons and Andy just mentally lost it. But if all of it is true, then the implications are huge for society; human and android alike. Science holds their collective breath while the DPD tries to solve the case with the FBI closely on their heels.

It’s a case of global fucking interest, though the world doesn’t know it yet.

Hank suppresses a tremble in his hand as he stirs his first cup of joe.

Imagine a life without death. Imagine a life where you can just transfer yourself to the next mechanical body in a row. Overpopulated, polluted planet, filled with humans and androids who never disappear. The one slowly merging into the other.

Until a new species remains. No more ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

It’s enough to make Hank feel dizzy and light-headed, like he’s had too much alcohol. Or not enough sleep.

Either we’ll all end up killing ourselves and the planet, Hank thinks, or we’re gonna be out there conquering the stars.

“Oh,” someone says, sounding disappointed, “it’s you.”

Hank looks up from his thoughts and his coffee, and finds Reed opposite him. The man looks like a wreck; five o’clock shadow grown out into half-a-beard, eyes bloodshot. Hank instantly offers Reed his second cup.

“You look like you need this more than I do,” he says.

Reed makes a dismissive noise, but takes the coffee anyway. “Thanks, I guess.”

They say silent, Reed dumping in some sugar and slurping his first sip while Hank still stirs his own cup. Reed’s eyes find Hank’s touchpad and he shakes his head. “Fuckin’ headlines. Paparazzi circling us like flies.”

“Yup,” Hank sighs, “it ain’t pretty.”

“Last thing this whole goddamn city needs,” Reed says, voice raspy from overuse. “Vultures honing in on another fucking problem.”

Hank gives him a look. “You sound like you need a rest.”

Reed adverts his gaze. “They made a reconstruction of what the perps are supposed to look like,” he says, almost reluctantly, “after all that shit they did to themselves. To others.”

Hank raises an eyebrow. “Connor and RK?”

Reed nods, short nails tapping against the rim of his cup. “Yeah. Stayed up all night finishing a new plan to comb out Detroit. Escape routes, identification numbers, how to track the guy – guys – online...” He trails off. “And a face to go with the...” He gestures vaguely. “The wanted posters.”

“You stayed with them during the night,” Hank says, and it’s not a question.

Reed groans. “Don’t ask me why, Anderson. That RK900 unit is insane. He hasn’t taken one break since he’s been on the case. Connor’s only spent last night at the station.” He frowns at Hank. “Do androids even get tired? Or can the tin can just keep fuckin’ you for forever?”

Hank snorts. “Depends. Fucking is easy. Solving a case is not.”

Reed narrows his eyes, and Hank is struck for the first time by the fact that they’re grey, too. Not like RK’s, which are slate and hard stone; Reed’s are darker and more textured, with little flecks of brown and green.

He always thought they were blue. Of the stormier kind, sure, but blue.

“So they do get tired,” Reed sighs into his cup, downing it in its entirety. “Assholes.”

“Maybe this ain’t the place and the time to ask,” Hank starts, “but – ”

Reed tucks his hands into his armpits. “What?” he interrupts before slipping into a rushed volley of angry words. “Despite what fuckin’ everybody in this precinct seems to think, I got this job ‘cause I’m good at it. I’m a professional. That tin can and I are...”

He looks away. “We’re fine.”

Hank rolls his eyes. “Are you?” he asks, not keeping the disbelief out of his voice. “Don’t act innocent, Reed. You’ve always stirred shit up. Opening that big goddamn mouth of yours to say offensive shit.”

Reed steps closer, feathers ruffled. “Watch yourself there, old man. Tin cans are tin cans. I just call things by their name.”

“Jesus,” Hank says, mouth curling downwards into a snarl. “They’re not things, Reed, that’s the fucking problem.”

Reed jabs his finger into Hank’s face. “Don’t start this shit with me. You’re just as bad with running your mouth. Just as fucking bad.”

“I know where to draw the line,” Hank counters.

“Oh yeah?” Reed asks provocatively, not moving an inch. “And where’s that, huh?”

Hank presses his lips together. “I don’t wave guns in my colleagues’ faces. I don’t go out of my way to fucking bully them. To other them and single them out.”

“You had Connor by his collar against the wall the first fuckin’ day he stepped into the precinct,” Reed bites back, “you hypocritical old fuck.”

Hank feels the heat rise to his cheeks. Voice in the back of his mind saying, he’s right.

“I never told Connor he was less than me because he’s an android,” Hank says, voice rough. “Never treated him like – like he was just a thing.”

Reed leans back, almost imperceptibly. “Bullshit.”

“Look, Reed, what I did was shit; you’re right,” Hank follows up. “But anyone else getting on my case like Connor did? I would’ve treated them the fucking same as I treated him that day.”

His turn to jab his finger right back. He can see the anger rising in Reed’s tired face; sees him clench his hands into fists at his sides, the tendons in his neck tightening.

“Go on,” Hank says, “fucking try me. You and I have had fights before. Hit me and I’ll wipe the fucking floor with you.”

Reed looks like he’s ready to spontaneously combust. “This close,” he spits, index finger and thumb an inch apart, “this fuckin’ close to pummeling you, Anderson.”

“Pummel me if you gotta,” Hank says, leaning closer and towering over Reed, “but you keep your hands off RK.”

Reed scoffs. “What, you fuckin’ him now, too? One robotwink not enough to get your dick going, old man?” He snickers, obviously trying to get a raise out of Hank.

It’s working to some degree ‘cause it’s been a while since Hank has wanted to break Reed’s nose as much as he wants to right now. But he needs Reed on this disaster of a case, and problems rarely ever solve themselves fully if you just punch at them without cause.

“Their presence in this world and at this precinct,” Hank says sternly, gritting his teeth, “is a fact of life that you’re gonna have to come to fuckin’ terms with. They’re people. Be decent to them, you piece of shit.”

Reed bristles. “You think I haven’t been decent? You think I haven’t been – ”

“You haven’t,” Hank says instantly. “Not decent like you became to Connor.”

Reed shakes his head vehemently, hands in the air on a desperate gesture. “Even Connor was never as much of a dick as this one is, jesus effing christ.” He turns around, rubbing at his tired face with both hands. “You know I don’t do partners.”

Now it’s Hank’s turn to sigh. “So? Doesn’t mean you can’t be decent to him.”

“Why the fuck,” Reed says, exasperated, “would I be nice to a guy who’s constantly pointing out all my faults and showing me he can do my work better than I ever fucking could?”

“’Cause he’s just trying to help you out,” Hank barks. “And he has no one, Reed. Fucking no one. Just walked out of a CyberLife vault with all his purpose taken away from him. He could do with some kindness, godfucking damnit.”

Reed freezes.

Hank knows it then. Heart of the matter. They all keep something hidden, something close to their chest, and this is Reed’s.

“Bullshit, asshole,” he says, voice hoarse. “He has you and Connor. I’m the one who...” He trails off, shaking his head, and then he’s pushing past Hank and out of the break room. Footsteps determined and angry, face red.

Hank sighs. “Shit,” he mutters to no one in particular.

That changes into a heartfelt fuck when Reed walks into someone with such ferocity that he actually staggers back and would’ve hit the ground, were it not for the person he walked into grasping him by his elbows.

Steadying him uncommonly gently, despite his impassive face.

RK900. Still wearing the high-collared black shirt, but without the jacket with the android indicators.

“Detective Reed,” he says with a voice entirely devoid of emotion. His fingers brush Reed’s sleeves when he pulls his hands back. “Are you alright?”

Reed doesn’t meet RK’s eyes. “Get the fuck out of my way.”

“I came to tell you that there will be a briefing in fifteen minutes,” RK900 continues, seemingly unfazed. “Captain Fowler will be laying down our plan of action for everybody involved.”

Reed says nothing, and Hank holds his breath.

“I thought you would maybe want to freshen up before that,” RK adds, carefully studying Reed’s face.

“That your way of saying I look like shit, asshole?” Reed asks, gaze snapping to RK.

RK’s LED blinks a few times, but it stays blue. “Your cortisol levels are rather high, as is your melatonin. Their misalignment seems to indicate you would do well with a few hours of rest.”

“So I look like shit,” Reed concludes, working his jaw.

RK900’s expression doesn’t change. “Concerning my lack of experience in handling shit, I feel I have inadequate data to draw a proper conclusion on the subject.”

He plays it off as stoic android, but Hank knows sarcasm when he sees it. Another thing that hasn’t changed from Connor’s model to RK’s.

Reed reaches into the inside pocket of his jacket. “Got you those files you wanted,” he says gruffly, as if the scrape of his voice is meant to downplay his words.

“Thank you,” RK900 answers, all politeness as he takes the touchpad from him. “I appreciate it.”

Reed scoffs. “You could’ve downloaded them from the ‘net a hundred times faster. Ain’t nothing special.”

“Hypothetically, yes,” RK900 says dryly. “But I was too busy creating a reconstruction to do so. Your efforts were not in vain, Detective.”

“Don’t be so dramatic about it,” Reed murmurs, starting to move past RK, “you overgrown toaster.”

Hank spies the tiniest of smiles in the corner of RK’s mouth. “Drama appears to be your forte rather than mine,” he says, following Reed towards their desks, “Detective Reed.”

When Reed opens his mouth to counter that, probably with something mean or clever, he turns his head and accidently meets Hank’s eyes. Shortly so, but apparently effective enough.

His throat bobs as he swallows. “... Gavin,” he ends up saying.

“Could you care to repeat that?” RK900 asks. “It appears to be a sentence without any verbs.”

“Your fucking audio processors havin’ another hiccup?” Reed bristles. “I said it’s fine to call me Gavin.”

RK900 stops dead in his tracks.

Reed looks back. “What?” he barks. “Never heard a normal people name? One that’s not a serial number?”

“I have,” RK900 says, “but I’ve come to the realization that I have no name to offer you back.” He pauses, dipping his chin to look Reed in the eye. “I understand that humans enjoy exchanging things equally within social situations.”

Reed stares at RK as if he’s grown a second head. Hank holds his breath.

“I’m afraid I find myself lacking in this aspect,” RK adds, clasping his hands together. “I’m sorry.”

Reed presses his lips together, sliding his hands into his pockets. “Names are just things, y’know,” he offers, eyes flitting away from RK’s. “Actions are – actions are more important.” Another pause. “At least, that’s what people say.”

RK’s LED blinks blue, slowly stuttering into yellow, and then back. He nods. “I’ll keep that in mind,” he says, and then softer, “Gavin.”

Hank doesn’t even have to strain to see the tips of Reed’s ears turn red as he walks off with a dismissive gesture of his hand.

“Come on, tin can. We got a briefing to catch.”

“I aware. I’m the one who told you about it, Detective.”

“You know, you’d better pick a decent name soon. What kind of shithead is called RK900 anyway?”

“An overgrown toaster, apparently.”

“Ha-fucking-ha.”

“Somehow, I doubt me picking a name would convince you to deter from the nicknames.”

“Heh. Why not both?”

“... Hmm.”

Their bantering voices float away, disappearing once they round a corner and fade out of earshot, and Hank smiles.

 


 

“Alright, people,” Fowler says, and he looks just as tired as the rest of them. “We’re dealing with a chain of homicides, more popularly known as a serial killing.”

Hank shifts, leaning against a file cabinet. Meeting room’s stuffed so full you could easily hop from one head to another. He and Connor are in the back, mostly because Hank is tired and cranky and knows the drill and tugged Connor along by his sleeve.

RK, of course, picked one of the front seats. He looks stoic but attentive, and right there next to him is Reed, slouched in his chair and looking like a high schooler who’d rather skip class.

“This is the guy we’re looking for,” Fowler continues, using his clicker to draw up the next slide. “Or I should rather say: guys. This image is a reconstruction rendered by Detective Assistant Connor and Assistant RK900.”

A murmur goes through the crowd.

At first glance, the reconstruction looks like your average PL800 model – but the shoulders and torso are bigger. And after that, it gets more uncanny. One steady, blue eye, and the other brown, encased by slightly darker skin that’s stretched out over the android’s eye socket.

“We have reasons to believe that although this person may look either fully android or human at first glance, based on your perspective,” Fowler says, pacing back and forth in front of the room, “they possess a modified android body. As you can see, there’s the addition of a human eye with a part of its skin attached.”

Another click, and the next image that appears is of the reconstruction without clothes and synthetic skin. A white and grey android body with human patches of skin here and there.

“Fuck,” Hank whispers to Connor, “the head’s bigger too, isn’t it?”

Connor rolls his shoulders slightly. “They had to figure out a way to make space for a part of Simmons’ brain.”

“Jesus christ,” Hank mutters back.

“And,” Fowler says, using a laser pointer, “next to the eye, the addition of a part of a human brain and heart in its entirety. The brain is part of the frontal cortex, lodged at the back of the android model’s skull, and the heart appears to be located next to the android’s Thirium regulator pump.”

More murmurs. More people carefully regarding the image with raised eyebrows.

Fowler clears his throat. “As such, completing the process of integrating the android body of one Andy and one Wade Simmons. The former being in employ of the latter, who’s the human all the organic parts belong to.”

Another click brings them to the next slide. It’s a layout of the warehouse bunker, surrounded by pictures of the crime scene.

“Before they performed this... feat,” Fowler says tightly, “they murdered twelve androids and five humans for the purpose of experimentation.” He pauses. “Regarding physically combining... organic and inorganic matter. What you see here is the crime scene as we found it.”

Waterfield grimaces. “Shit. How do we know for sure if this was really a testing ground for whatever these guys were up to?”

“Logs,” Hank supplies from the back. “Simmons and Andy left lots of reports, logs, audio files. Vids, even. Of their tests, their murders, their ops.”

Waterfield looks back at him. “Don’t envy you for having to go through them, Lieutenant.”

Hank wants to say he skipped the gory parts, but he didn’t – so he just waves his hand at Waterfield and makes a face. Her own expression is sympathetic, as is the soft touch of Connor’s fingers at his sleeve.

“Point is,” Fowler cuts in, “that their guilt is as good as established. But that’s not our job – our job’s going to be tracking them. At this point, we’re unaware of whether that’s Andy and Simmons in one body or not.”

“Does it matter?” Collins asks.

Fowler shrugs. “To us? Not really. You will all be getting patrol assignments. I want every part of Detroit covered, and I want people looking for these guys,” he says, fist resting on the desk in the front. “Connor and RK900 have drawn up a grid of possible locations, and I’ll be dividing that over the lot of you. Expect it in your inbox after his briefing.”

Miller raises his hand. “Captain, how are we to respond to any violence from them?”

“Listen,” Fowler says, “I’m not gonna lie and say this is not one of the worst cases I’ve had in my career, ‘cause it is. Not just the murders, but the cruelty and the political charge of it. But we,” he continues, gesturing to the room, “are police officers. People who bring justice. So that’s what we gotta do. Bring them in and put them on trial.”

His eyes flick to Hank in the back, and that’s Hank’s cue.

“That’s right,” Hank says, crossing his arms, “so keep your trigger fingers in your pockets. Subdue them. And if you gotta shoot...”

“Aim for the forehead,” Connor says, voice clear. “It will make the PL800 model shut down within a few minutes, being unable to operate, but leave them almost fully intact for reactivation in captivity once their central processing unit is repaired.”

Hank nods. “Right. Any questions or reports, you can forward to me and Connor. Put Fowler in the cc.”

“I’m leaving Lieutenant Anderson in charge,” Fowler confirms. “I know we’re asking a lot of you in addition to your regular jobs, but this case is gonna take precedence for now.”

Hank clears his throat. “One more thing before y’all rush off.”

The room turns to look at him.

“What some of you might not know,” he says slowly, “is that this case started out as your run-of-the-mill cybercrime. The distribution of private images that only an android could’ve gotten their hands on.” He pauses. “It put us right on the trail of Simmons and Andy.”

When he pauses again, it’s Miller that speaks up first. “Sir?”

“It’s not conclusive,” Hank says, “but the theory’s been brought up that Andy and Simmons were looking for a way to get our attention. To get the attention of androids working in the police department, specifically.”

Connor steps forward, fishing a small device out of his pocket. It looks a little like a smoke detector, only smaller. “We found several of these types of devices at the crime scene. They look harmless, but once thrown and attached to an android, they cause an electrical charge and the distribution of a virus.”

He meets RK’s eyes across the room.

“Both are strong enough to subdue an android on the spot,” Connor adds. “We believe these were used to hunt and subdue the androids who lost their lives to this case.”

“Bottom line,” Hank says, “if you’re an android or if you’re working with one, be on your guard when you see these little assholes flying about.”

There’s an answering wave of confirmation from the crowd; nodding heads and murmurs of agreement.

“Alright,” Fowler says, folding his hands together, “that’s it, folks. Back to your stations. You can find all the info you need on the intranet. And not a word of this to the press, you hear me?”

The meeting room slowly trickles empty as people gather their touchpads, bags, and empty cups. Hank and Connor remain, as does Fowler.

“You know you gotta stay behind me on this case,” Hank murmurs to Connor.

“I do,” Connor replies, “but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.”

Hank nudges his shoe into the side of Connor’s. “You think Simmons and Andy are after you, specifically?”

Connor’s gaze turns a little distant as he watches Reed and RK900 step out of the room. “RK suggested it,” he says, voice low. “My presence at the DPD has been... public. Well-known.” He turns to look at Hank. “And from what we’ve gathered of the material Simmons and Andy have left behind, they consider their quest yet unfinished.”

“Lookin’ more upgrades,” Hank swallows.

Connor smiles, but it’s thin. “I am the most advanced prototype alive, as far as they know.”

“Fowler’s aware of this?”

Connor nods. “Yeah. He advised me to be careful and take it easy.” He looks at the device in his palm. “These were used to subdue technologically simple models, when compared to the RK series. There’s no saying whether they’d completely knock either me or RK900 out.”

Hank makes a face, leaning into Connor. “Let’s not find out.”

“Agreed,” Connor says, jostling his shoulder back into Hank’s.

They walk towards the front of the meeting room in unison, catching up with Fowler.

“You boys doing okay?” Fowler asks, one eyebrow raised.

Connor’s nod disappears into Hank’s drawn-out, half-sighed, “Yeah.”

“I appreciate you working through the night to fix that reconstruction,” Fowler says, tapping his touchpad to Connor’s arm. “We’re spreading it to public offices and the airport as well. In case they ever decide to show up to get their driver’s license renewed or get the hell out of dodge.”

He chuckles at his own half-attempt at a joke.

Connor smiles back at him. “No problem, sir. And that’s a smart idea.”

“How about you?” Hank shoots back. “FBI still breathing down your neck?”

Fowler hums. “As they always do with something big. I told ‘em we could handle it, but Perkins keeps sniffing around.” He sighs, rubbing the back of his neck. “Guy’s looking for his big break to tear down whatever the androids have been building up to.”

“Well, we won’t let him,” Connor says, voice too bright. It still doesn’t hide the threat behind it.

Fowler grins. “And I trust you to. Good luck. If there’s anything...” He shakes his head. “Just put my number on speed dial, will ya?”

And then he turns on his heel and walks back to his office. Hank makes a soft sound in the back of his throat.

“You’re fond of him,” Connor says.

Hank nods. “I got reason to. We don’t always see eye to eye, but he’s a good man.”

“You say that as if it’s different from being a good police captain,” Connor remarks, never missing a single beat.

“It is,” Hank says. “I mean, Fowler’s both, obviously. But I admire a good man more than I’ll ever admire someone who’s just good at his job. Takes more...” He pauses. “Takes more guts to be a good man. To make the right choices.”

Connor’s smile turns soft. “I think you’re a good man too, Hank.”

Hank grins back. “Save the flirting for when we’re at home. We got a killer to catch.”

“I’m happy I have you,” Connor says suddenly, reaching out to brush his fingers against Hank’s. “Us,” he adds, face serious but warm. “Regardless of any killers on the loose.”

Hank’s briefly taken aback. “Me too,” he says, recovering and letting his fingers twine Connor’s. “But what’s...” Corridor’s empty, as is the meeting room, and Hank dares to smooth the thumb of his free hand over Connor’s chin and tilt his face up towards his. “What’s brought this up, huh?”

“Nothing,” Connor murmurs. “Everything.”

His smile is thin again, watery, and Hank hates it. To see Connor so vulnerable and tired and human.

“The case reminded me of your mortality,” Connor adds, lashes sweeping his cheeks. “Of mine. I’m infinitely glad that we have this, but I’m not ready to let it go.” He looks back up at Hank. “I don’t think I ever will be.”

It’s the closest they’ve ever gotten to a confession.

Hank swallows.

They’ve had conversations about this before, skirting the edges through side topics but never breaching what makes it current. What makes it stick for the both of them. Hank’s past, his family, the deaths he’s seen. The dangers of the job. The way they protect each other no matter what, even though that means inviting risk and possibly, loss.

What they both think and what sometimes morphs into nightmares when they go to bed together, hearts and bodies entwined. Beating faster out of fear.

“You won’t have to,” Hank says. “We’ll play it safe. Neither of us are reckless, and we’ve got a whole team of professionals to back us up.”

It’s hard to love someone who walks purposefully into danger every day of their lives.

Connor scoffs. It’s the first time Hank’s heard him do it, and it’s terribly uncharacteristic of him. “What I feel for you is already reckless, Hank,” he says. “I don’t know how you humans do it and always bounce back.”

“Sometimes we don’t,” Hank says, curling his hand around Connor’s jaw, “but lemme tell you something, Connor.” He smiles. “We’re allowed to be reckless in love.”

The words leave his mouth before he can stop them; skipping stones over a pond. Ripples rebounding, the weight of the sentence clattering against the water in its own unique way. Connor’s brown eyes widen almost comically, and what happens next is a blur.

All Hank knows is that the meeting room door slams closed, and then he’s slammed back against it, both of Connor’s hands fisted in his shirt. He barely gets a gasp of surprise in edgewise before Connor’s mouth covers his own.

Act of impulse. Desperation. Connor doesn’t stop kissing Hank until Hank’s drunk on the lack of oxygen and the thick slide of Connor’s tongue against his own.

“Once we wrap this up,” Connor pants, even though he doesn’t have to, “teach me how to dance with you.”

Usually, Hank would chuckle. Or he’d curse because he got kissed senseless. But Connor’s face is both sad and determined, so he doesn’t.

He just says: “Yeah, ‘course I will.” Murmurs it breathy and hoarse against the slope of Connor’s mouth, and then he steals a kiss of his own.

Connor sags forward against Hank’s body and the door, and the teal of his lines burns bright behind Hank’s eyelids.

“I thought you already knew how to dance,” Hank sighs when they break apart again, feeling a flush rise over his cheeks. “Something-something subroutines. Whatever the fuck that means.”

Connor slides a thigh between Hank’s. “I do,” he replies, “but I want you to show me how you do it. I want to,” he says, thumbing Hank’s bearded chin, “learn everything there is to know about you.”

And oh fuck, Hank is back in that intense focus again. Connor, sliding himself around him, limbs slotting into place. Connor, with the dark deep eyes and the want, stumbling into parts of Hank he didn’t remember having.

“Connor,” Hank tries weakly, and it comes out like a squeak, almost. “Serial killer. Fuckin’ work.”

“Hmm,” Connor says on a thoughtful hum, drawing Hank in for another kiss. “Work can wait. Life can’t.”

Hank feels the point where his resolve crumbles steadily approaching; his fingers find the edge of Connor’s hips beneath his shirt, digging into the fabric. Connor’s belt buckle clangs against his own. And god, his thigh slides higher; Hank’s legs fall open around it.

I can’t,” Connor says, with urgent emphasis.

Hank’s groan gets swallowed up entirely by the next kiss. “Connor,” he gasps, “there’s colleagues – people – out there. Getting ready to work our fucking case. They’ll be...” He lets out a soft, keening noise when Connor’s lips touch his throat. “... lookin’ for us.”

Connor shrugs, hands sliding over Hank’s chest. Nails finding the tips of his nipples even through two layers of fabric. It makes Hank’s eyes flutter closed in pleasure.

“I can’t walk out there with hickeys on my neck and tented trousers,” he tries again.

Connor’s hands slide down to Hank’s belt. “You won’t have to,” he says. “I know how to make you come in 2.2 minutes. Do you want me to?”

Hank’s always been a rebel.

Fuck the system, fuck propriety. He’s over fifty and he’s getting fucked in every silent little corner of his workplace. Cornered by his own partner. Preferably against things like sinks, doors, and other flat surfaces. With the possibility of people right on the other fucking side of it, jesus christ.

I got a wild one, Hank thinks as he looks into Connor’s eyes.

“Fuck, alright,” he says, caving, and he slides his hands into Connor’s hair. “What do you need to get off, you stubborn-headed ass?”

Connor smiles, wide and knowing.

Hank shudders under the vivacity of that smile. “Con?”

“I can get myself off in under fifty seconds just by the memory of you,” Connor says, looking very smug about it as he undoes Hank’s belt. “Fuck my mouth and I’ll be fine.”

Hank throws an arm over his eyes. “Fuckin’ hell.”

Connor sinks to his knees. “Is that a yes?”

“Fuck yeah,” Hank groans.

When they leave the meeting room three-and-a-half minutes later – gotta account for some straightening of clothes and hair and some post-coital kisses – nobody notices a thing. Nobody sees the pleased twinkle in Connor’s eyes nor that one defiant line that’s still visible on his throat, disappearing into his collar.

All of them way too busy with reviewing their patrol duty.

Nobody notices Hank’s ruffled hair or the slight swell to his lips. The way he walks without tension, shoulders relaxed and posture smooth. Some of the grimness swept out of his expression.

Well, maybe RK900 sees it. Knows, probably, if he’s at least half as good as Connor.

But he doesn’t say a thing when Connor and Hank walk by. Just tilts his head in greeting.

From the corner of his eye, Hank sees Connor’s and RK’s LEDs flicker; they both blink, but none of them says a word. Hank decides he doesn’t want to know.

He has a killer to catch. And after that?

A boyfriend to pamper into fucking oblivion.

 


 

It becomes clear quite soon that it’s a game.

Andy and Simmons don’t want to be found. They don’t appear on surveillance camera footage, and they don’t appear on any hotspots Connor and RK900 have marked on the Detroit city map. Markus’ people see or hear nothing.

But then, there’s an appearance. A man, slightly taller than average; one blue, artificial eye, and one brown, biological one. Looking straight into a camera on a McDonalds parking lot around midnight. Grey hood momentarily lifted to reveal their face.

A dangerous, lopsided smile. Planted to instigate and beckon.

Hank very deliberately orders Chen and Waterfield to the scene with assistance from the squad. The lone figure is still there, and they almost corner them on a roof nearby but androids are fast, especially if they’re modified – and they didn’t bring any android colleagues fast enough to keep up.

Raids cost money. Chases that don’t turn up anything are disheartening. But Hank had to do it to confirm something for their case, and Fowler and Connor both agreed.

In the footage of the rooftop chase, the possibly combined form of Simmons and Andy looks mildly disappointed at the officers approaching him. Blue eye mechanically scanning the faces and coming up empty, and then one corner of that thin mouth turning sour.

That drives the theory home.

Either Simmons or Andy or both are trying to lure a police android out into the open. Probably Connor himself. Farm him for parts or use him as a hostage. Cut him up like they did all the others.

Hank assumes that they don’t want Connor to join them in spirit. He assumes because it seems to have been their own closeness – Simmons’ and Andy’s – that led them down this path, and none of them know Connor as intimately as they know each other. Also, he makes the assumption because he doesn’t want to consider the alternative.

(Serial killer(s) out to grab your boyfriend to murder him is already bad enough. Killer(s) out to half-murder your boyfriend and then trap his mind with their own is a whole other level of uncomfortable.)

“What do you suggest?” Fowler asks after they’ve discussed the issue. “You and I don’t dance around shit and pretend, Anderson.” He looks at Connor.

Hank sighs. “We’re gonna have to use Connor as bait sooner or later,” he says. “See how they react to his presence, at least.”

Connor nods. “I agree. They also appear to be unaware of RK900’s existence, like the rest of the general public. We could use that to our advantage.”

“In what way?” Fowler asks, regarding Connor curiously.

“If they really want to catch me,” Connor starts, “they’ll be well-prepared. They can’t face down an entire police squad plus myself and take me down at the same time.” He pauses. “They’ll have tactics ready. Those small devices, and more.”

Hank clears his throat. “Have you thought of them turning you against us with a virus?”

“Yeah,” Connor replies, “I have. And that’s where RK900 comes in.”

Fowler’s eyes flash in understanding. “Right. He’s your – successor, ‘s what they call it? So he could either help fend you off or assist the squad in capturing the bad guys when they incapacitate you.”

Connor nods. “He’d do anything to accomplish his mission. And the perpetrators won’t have any plans ready for his presence.”

“We need to play this as fuckin’ smart as we can,” Hank says. “If they lay eyes on RK and we don’t manage to capture them, they’ll know. And they’ll be ready next time.”

Fowler’s expression is grim. “Every time they show their face,” he grunts, “it’s a place of their own choosing. A place that’s pleasing to them. Is there no way we can get something that...” He pauses, scratching his head. “I don’t know, that’s advantageous to us? Gives us something to tip the scales?”

“It’s hard to make heads or tails of the way they choose their locations,” Connor says. “Detective Reed and RK900 have been working on it, but they’ve come up empty so far.”

Hank peers down at the city map on Fowler’s desk. “Two things,” he says.

Both Connor and Fowler give him an attentive look.

“One,” Hank says, tapping the map, “we know Detroit like the backs of our hands. Better than they ever could. Place not any good to us?” He raises his eyebrow. “We chase ‘em back to where we want ‘em to be. Deliberately not catch them yet, but bait them out with Connor and lead them through closed off streets, roadblocks, and the threat of guns.”

Fowler rubs absentmindedly at the frown between his brows. “What’s two?”

Hank sighs, leaning back and crossing his arms. “Two’s fuckin’ out there. Two’s hilarious. But...” He faces both Connor and Fowler. “Let’s, for the fun of it, say that there’s two people in there. Say that it worked out and that it’s Andy and Simmons.”

Connor tilts his head to the side. “There’ve been hints to support that theory. It’s not that out there, Lieutenant.”

“What I mean is,” Hank continues, “that it’s still two people running one body. One of them once a household android who developed a love for shopping and flowers. The other a software engineer at a tech company whose drink of choice is cappuccino.”

Fowler looks thoughtful, tapping his pen on his desk. “I see what you’re getting at. They’d do different things under duress.”

Hank nods. “Victims they claimed? They all picked easy moments, easy targets, easy places. They didn’t have to react to surprising shit. Nothing like being chased or killed.”

“Agreed,” Connor says. “Let’s chase them through the city on our terms. And put them in high-stress situations where they’ll have to make difficult choices.”

“Choices where Simmons would pick another option than Andy,” Hank finishes.

Connor nods. “Even if they end up picking one option over another,” he says, “that’s extra processing time for the both of them. It’d slow them down significantly in pursuit.”

Fowler clicks his pen once before putting it back in the cup on his desk. “Alright,” he says firmly. “Profile them further, figure out their behavior – shit like whether one of them is risk-avoidant whereas the other’d jump headlong into danger.”

He pauses, eying both of them with a serious look on his face. “Make it happen. I’m counting on you.”

“We will,” Hank says, clapping Fowler on one shoulder. “Promise you, Jeff.”

Fowler smiles, gruff but fond. “Get outta here, Anderson. And good luck, Connor.”

“Thank you, Captain,” Connor says with a quiet smile, grasping Hank’s elbow to pull him along.

Hank nods at Fowler, once. “Sir.”

Fowler’s answering nod is steady and understanding. Despite all the difficulties, despite all the risky plans, Hank knows he believes in what they’re doing. Would do anything to attain it, too. Hank hasn’t missed the pizza boxes in the trashcan, and the stacks of plastic cups in the back.

When the team stays, Fowler does too.

His own words to Connor earlier during the week still echo: he’s a good man.

I’m gonna tell him, Hank thinks. When we wrap this up.

Dance with Connor and tell Fowler that they’re an item. Going steady. Boyfriends, partners. There are no explicit rules against fraternizing within the department – it’s not always a smart move when you’re also partners on a team, but Connor and Hank have proven they can do it so far.

And Fowler’s fair. Maybe he won’t understand, but that won’t matter to him. If Hank and Connor are happy and make it work, the guy won’t bat an eye.

Anyway, it’s back to the drawing table.

Hank calls all of them together, one by one. Detectives, officers, anyone with an opinion on the many layers of their hometown. They map out routes that are easy to control and that lead back to chokepoints; routes with room for snipers, roads that circle back to the station. Roads that are close to other cases and assignments or fixed patrols, ensuring a quick response if necessary.

Some of them with escapes only usable by someone very athletic or someone who’s an android with superior reflexes and strength. Just to tease and bait.

They even involve the fire brigade. Those big trucks are impossible to circumvent in stress and when there’s no fires, there’s plenty available for roadblocks. The folks up in customs at the airport get a call from Hank, too – those dogs they got are vicious.

Hank spends some hours with a few psychologists and profilers in Criminal Affairs. Lets them look over the case and tries to build a psychological profile of Wade Simmons and Andy. They don’t dig up a lot, but maybe it’s enough. Preparation saves cases, and sometimes it’s all in the details.

Details like the route Simmons always took to work; decidedly different from the route Andy always took to the mall, even though the buildings are relatively close.

It’s not foolproof, but it’s something.

All routes get their own labels – RK’s quick thinking – and are fed into the intranet. Patrolling officers will be able to see what routes are closest to theirs, and once there’s an appearance, all they’ll have to do is collectively agree on a route to set for the trap.

People with executive decision power on that front are Hank, Connor, and Fowler.

Connor and RK visit Markus’ mansion for a few checkups. Simon helps them with software updates meant to counter various malignant viruses and other programs.

And now, all they gotta do is wait.

It doesn’t take long.

 


 

The lone figure turns up a few blocks away from Simmons’ former apartment. It’s smack-dab in the middle of a network of connecting routes they’ve mapped, and the system works like clockwork.

The second they catch that grey hood and those mismatched eyes on the city’s security footage, all officers are on the move. Setting up roadblocks, cutting off escapes, guns loaded and ready. Ready to force Simmons and Andy to take the hard way; through dark alleys and past trashcans and fences.

Leading them slowly but steadily towards a crossroads where they’ll be locked into a choice: climb the fire escape to a roof in the direction that Simmons is most familiar with or jump down into an alleyway behind a store Andy used to visit.

Hank and Connor go in as obviously as they can; they roll up in Hank’s big car under the watchful eye of the killer, and Connor flashes his scanning eyes in rings of red. The figure flees into a narrow alleyway after they’ve made their presence known, and Hank and Connor pursue them on foot.

“Suspect on the move,” RK’s level voice says in Hank’s ear. “He’s taking the expected route north past 7th.” A pause. “I believe he’s smiling lopsidedly.”

“Fuckin’ got that right. He’s happy about it, that motherfucker.” Reed’s voice.

The two of them are in a surveillance van nearby, ready to respond. Both keeping track of the pursuit.

Hank’s heart beats fast and tight; he’s glad for his improved diet and the lack of alcohol the past few months. He’s breathing heavily, but he can still keep up with Connor’s jog.

“They’re testing us,” says Connor into his earpiece. “They’re slowly accelerating.”

The figure ahead of them looks back, one eye shining darkly beneath the edge of their hood. Hank thinks he spies flashing teeth, and then they’re facing forward again. Running faster.

Hank huffs, feeling the drum of his step echo in his knees like a dull thud. “Tryin’ to separate us,” he breathes into his mic. “Knows I can’t keep up.”

“He won’t pay you no mind if you stay behind, Anderson,” says Reed, agreeing with Hank’s thoughts. “Only has eyes for Connor.”

RK sounds determined. “Time to do so, Lieuntenant.”

Next to Hank, Connor starts picking up speed. He looks sleek, fast, powerful, and this is where they will part ways. Connor’s fingers brush Hank’s as he runs past him and around the corner.

Hank, is all it says.

Con, Hank thinks back.

Around the corner is a high, thin fence with a crisscrossing net of metal. The figure scales it with ease, and Connor follows behind him. Hank’s seen Connor jump fences even higher and cross a busy highway with icy precision. He can tell Connor’s still holding back.

Not about to show their hand just yet.

Hank stops abruptly and turns to his right; pulls out a fire escape with a sharp creak. All planned, all ready.

Connor’s footsteps echo in the distance, and Hank wishes it didn’t hurt. The fact that they’re splitting up when the figure they’re pursuing cut up twelve androids. But Hank’s hands are steady as he grasps the bar of the ladder and climbs up as fast as he can allow.

Scales the roof of the restaurant in a wide arc. Gravel crunching beneath his shoes, dark night sky above him.

“On schedule, Lieutenant,” RK900 confirms. “Connor is still in pursuit of the suspect, rounding the corner towards the intersection.”

Hank runs. His lungs burn.

“Motherfucker goin’ faster,” Reed reports.

There’s enough light of the streetlamps to show Hank the way. He reaches the edge of the roof and doesn’t hesitate when he jumps. Breaks his fall by rolling over, feeling his knees ache with the movement and his left hip protest vehemently, but then he’s back on his feet again.

And running.

“I’m almost at the drop,” Hank calls in, swerving to his right. Reaches one hand in to grasp his gun.

He can hear the rattle of a chain nearby.

“Suspect is scaling the final obstacle,” RK says. “Connor is in close pursuit. Reaching the drop in five, four, three, two...”

Hank comes to a halt in front of the edge of the roof. Spots the half-unfurled escape ladder that leads down to where the killer and Connor should be standing. His gun fits into his palm heavy but familiar, the smell of metal already tickling his nose.

“It fuckin’ worked!” Reed exclaims. “Fucker’s standing there doin’ nothing.”

Hank is sweating all over, but his hands don’t tremble. The line of his gun stays steady and his grip doesn’t slip. A few seconds tick by, but it could’ve been an eternity. An eternity of uncertainty while Hank knows that the killer is right there. Just a few steps below him.

Five notches of a ladder, to be exact.

“Halt,” Connor says then, words cutting through the air. “Detroit Police. You are under arrest for killing twelve androids and five humans. Surrender, and keep those hands where I can see them.”

The voice that answers sends a chill up Hank’s spine. Overlay. Two in one.

“And there he is, CyberLife’s newest,” they say mockingly. “You think you have us cornered? Good.”

“Keep him talking, Connor,” says Reed over their coms. “Officers are closing down this entire block. He won’t have anywhere to fucking flee and Hank’s right above you.”

The sound of steps. Then, a hiss. Hank wishes he could fucking see it.

“Not so fast,” the killers say. “One step closer and we’ll make you faint on the spot.” A click, a whir, achingly familiar to the devices they’d found at the scene. “And no worries, this stuff is a lot stronger than whatever you found at our hideout.”

A sickening, chilling chuckle; one light, sharp, tinny, and the other deep and low.

Connor says nothing, but the sound of footsteps on cold stone stops.

“Ah,” it sounds, “you must’ve been made for us.” The voice changes subtly; arrogant, haughty, presumptuous. “What a marvelous glory.”

Then, it switches up to something lighter, more airy. “Such a beautiful machine you are.”

And then back to the overlay. “We’re going to love playing with you, police officer.”

“And what?” Connor demands, egging them on. Stalling for time. “Steal my parts and put them into your body?” He makes a dismissive noise. “We aren’t even compatible, you common household android. Hands in the air or I’ll shoot.”

A snarl and a laugh. “You won’t shoot us. We’re too valuable.”

“I don’t fucking care. All I know is that you murdered seventeen people. You’re going nowhere tonight,” Connor bites. Interrogation voice at maximum.

Hank feels the worried thump of his blood beating away at his eardrums.

“We saw you, you know,” the voices tease, then. Charming in an uncomfortable, alien way, like a pair of snakes coiling around their victim.

“Glad to hear your visual processors are working alright,” Connor answers, voice light. “I thought the brown one was looking a little wonky.”

A soft, barely-there hum. “We know you’re in love.”

Dead silence. Oh god, Hank thinks, heart dropping like a stone. Fucking blast it.

“What are you going to do, we wonder?” the voices continue, and Hank hears their steps. Moving; circling their prey. “When death grasps him, when he fades from this world as humans are wont to do?”

A dark chuckle, and the arrogant voice takes over. “Does he love you? Don’t you want to take him for your own? We can help you. Steal his heart and put it with yours.”

Now, Hank’s hands do shake and it’s his heart that burns rather than his lungs.

Mechanical laughter from the airy voice. “Keep him alive forever, your prince charming,” it tempts. “Make him young, handsome, strong. Whatever you like. Put him in a cage or keep him walking.”

“Your choice,” the voices say together.

Hank knows Connor is fucked. No matter what he’ll say or do, the figure below will find a way to twist it against him. Admit he doesn’t care? They’ll know. Admit that he does? Tempt and prod him some more.

“I am not going to repeat myself a third time,” Connor says sternly. “You are under arrest and wanted for seventeen murders. Hands in the air or I will open fire.”

“He’s trembling,” says the airy voice, and halfway through that sentence, the haughty one pops in. “He fears for his lover’s fate.”

Connor’s response is quick. “I fear for none but yours. Final warning.”

Reed’s voice over the coms. “Ground support’s there. Biomedics standing by. If you need to, Connor, take the goddamn shot. No risks today, alright?”

Take the goddamn shot, it echoes in Hank’s mind. For fuck’s sake.

But it’s too late.

“Liar, liar,” the voices chant in unison, “pants on fire.”

What Hank hears next is not a gunshot, but a whoosh and a click and then an agonizing scream in half-binary. Static, like he only knows from Connor’s overloads.

“Shit,” Reed says over the com, followed by another string of curses.

Hank jumps. No hesitation.

He lands between the killers and Connor, who’s on the ground. Convulsing, burning blue and LED red, hands shaking, skin shifting in and out like a glitch. Hank’s body hurts like hell and he certainly won’t win a beauty prize for the way he half-rolled off that roof, but –

His gun is pointed dead-center at Andy and Wade Simmons’ forehead.

The face he’s aiming at looks strangely taken aback. The brown eye more calculating than the blue, both corners of its mouth turned down and half-open in a shock. But they recover faster than expected. After all, they’re with two rather than one.

“Kill us and he dies,” they say together, both eyes flashing with the sort of filthy delight that makes Hank feel like he’s shriveling. Physically recoiling from that sound.

“H-Hank,” Connor manages, electricity sparking over his front, and his hands open and close several times, uselessly. Reaching upward.

Hank takes one step back towards Connor, eyes not leaving Andy and Simmons’ flaring gaze. Flaring in a disturbingly lustful way, like they get off on the pain; like they want to see the struggle.

From the corner of his eye, Hank sees Connor quake, turning to his side, pulling at his shirt. Tearing it with a shaky grip while Andy and Simmons laugh and feast their eyes. Buttons clatter to the floor.

“Take – take the... Ah!”

Connor’s voice is broken by a pained yell in static. He grasps at his chest, fingers scrambling against his regulator pump as if he’s trying to get rid of a scab.

“We have the antidote,” Andy and Simmons say, teeth too white in that gloating, eager mouth. They advance; one step for every single one Hank takes in Connor’s direction. “With that virus, he won’t be the same.”

Connor screams in agony.

“With that virus,” Andy and Simmons say, licking their lips, “no matter how many memories you upload, no matter how many bodies you make...” Another chuckle, both voices shifting. “He won’t be yours, prince charming.”

Hank sinks down until he’s hunched on his knees, and adjusts his aim at that sunken face accordingly. It’s a vulnerable position and they seem to realize it, looking overeager.

But Hank knows how to play a game. Especially when it comes down to death.

“Hmph. You guys find that funny, huh?” he says, raising an eyebrow. “Me takin’ center stage for a handsome young guy with enough good parts for you assholes to farm, that it?”

He reaches his free hand over to Connor. Searches behind him, fingers scrambling over the rocks. Touches a stray button until he finally finds Connor’s sleeve. There’s only one thing he can think of – connect. Interface with Connor and see if there’s anything he can do.

He doubts it. But Connor’s still there, shaking and crying, and his Thirium pump has started flickering. Like it’s dying out.

“You have to admit that it’s ironic,” the arrogant voice says, and their left arm arcs in an accompanying sweep. “Such a marvel falling for a man like you. Pathetic, almost. He didn’t even try to change you.”

Hank swallows, trying not to let the words get to him. Reminding himself, over and over, that he can flood Connor with his being as much as Connor can do to him.

Another soft hum, and the airy one takes over. “It could be tragically poetic. We could’ve sewn you two up together. But alas...”

A wide smile, stretching that half-android, half-human mouth to uncomfortable widths. “Alas,” they repeat together, “we’ll need Connor for ourselves.”

“Just a few parts,” the airy voice adds. “You can have him back when we’re done.”

Hank frowns and finally, finally touches his fingers to Connor’s hand. It blinks into his vision almost immediately, whacking him in the face. Headache splitting his brain apart.

 

͓̝HͅU̺͍͡T̻̯̦D̥̘͔Ọ͞W͔̻͇͕̺̮̻N̖͚͠ ͉͇̠̣͘I̞̞M̗̫̰̱M̺̝͚̱I̳͚̟͈̻͢N҉̰͙̣̺̻E͇̗NT

͕̣͈ ͍ ̵̗ ̣̺̲̰͍̗ ̬͔͔ ̠ ̗̥̞̪ ̗̯̘̘͉͟ ̼ ̰͇͇̹ ̭̺̰̭̟͇͉ ̮̪̼̝͈C҉̘̻RI͙͍̦Ṱ͙̙̟I͓̗͎C̞̹̼̟̯͝A͖̪͉̙̞̭͎͖͕̪̤̥̳͕͠_̼S͚̗̠̫̮͓ͅY̶̭͓͔̥̙̝ͅS̥̫̹͚̱̥͘ͅT̖̝̬͔E͕͜M_̰͚̮S̖͈̟̣̥͕̝Ṯ̡̝̤̝̭̻ͅA̩͖T̡̪͖̝̦͈͕͇US̗͈̻̱.͇.҉̗.̩̱̬ ̬̪̳̞̠̳̹F̬̥̘̞͈͍A̩̳͚̳ͅI̞L͖̝̤͇͟I͓̝̣͉̰̥͝NG

̸̬̜̞͈̰̲ ̠͍̭̗̺̝ ̴̝̮̯̯͇ͅ ̡̪ ͎̻͖͙͘ ̹̝͘ ͍̪̝͔̫̩͔̕ ̴̞̜̩ͅ ̸̜̜̭ ̡̩ ̖̳̠͇̞͕̯ ̺̖̹̲̫̜͓ ̺͓̥̫͓͔A̱T͕ͅͅT͎̦E͎̻̥͚͙͡M̰̝̥͚̩̥̪͘P̘̤̱̭͝T̪̦̤̩I͖̦̜͙N̜̱̳͢G͇̰̹̤̥ ͔͠R̺͈̮͢Ḛ̢̘̪̘B̯O̜O͙̫̗͇͎͎̲͘.̭͇͕͇.̵̪͕.̲̘̦̖ ̴͓͔̣F̹͔͚̣̮A̡̤I̛̜̹͎̲̙͖̟L̷̼͙ͅI̥̲͟N̗͡G̬̳̦̣͓̤

 

Andy and Simmons snicker together, like two troublemakers who admire each other’s jests.

“Come now, detective,” the haughty voice continues. “You knew this was over the moment we subdued your cute little robot. Now be a smart man, step away from your lover, and let us go.” A pause. “With him.”

The face contorts; one half smiling, the other with a serious expression. Human skin over the eye too tautly pulled over the android’s mainframe.

Hank doesn’t waver. Blinks when more of Connor leaks into his vision but keeps his arm ramrod straight. “Nope,” he says simply. “Not gonna happen.”

Connor’s convulsions are slowing down. He’s making less noise, less movement. He’s dying.

Strangely enough, Hank finds that he’s calm. He thought he’d panic; he thought he wouldn’t be able to handle it, not after Amara and Cole and all the other people that died in his arms. Possibly losing Connor on top of all that? A motherfucking nightmare.

But Hank’s mind stays sharp and alert without going into overdrive. His body thrums with coiled action yet he keeps the movement contained. Hatches his plan as if he already knows it’ll succeed. Somehow, there’s no fear.

Sure, maybe he’ll catch the virus, too. Like interfacing androids can spread shit all across a population. But Hank’s always been ready to die, and that doesn’t scare him anymore. He just knows that he has to take the chance.

The chance that a virus made to shut down androids wasn’t made for a human mess like Hank Anderson.

“Then both of you can die,” the haughty voice says, followed by a hysterical chuckle from the light one. “Isn’t that poetic beauty? Romeo and Juliet?”

 

C̛̪̫Ọ̰̯̪U̺̠ͅ ͇ ̙N ͙ T ͟ ̩̱̹ ͈ ̤ ͈ D̹̪ ͓ ̫Ǫ̻̫ ͇ ̤W ͢ ̺̰̱N ͏ _̡S ͡ ̩ ͙ ̞̖̦H̴̳̰ ͔ ̘U̲T ҉͈ ̥̠D̦̻̘O̯W̕ ͖ ̗̗̯N̶ ͎͇ ̬

̷͇̳͖̳̪̰̻ ̥̯͎̦ ̶̳̳̼̖̫̘ ̘͖̩̝ ͡ ͕͔͝ ̬ ̣ ̬͚̮̘͓͙̼ ̣ ̝͔͇̖͙͠0͕̝̙0͍̱̪̲̮͉̞:̛̪̼͙̮̮0̠͇0̲͞:̝00̣̪̗͇̖͈͔:͎3̷̝̹͈͍3

̘̥̹ ͔ ̹̜Ạ̞̱̯̬̥L̫̕E̸ ͉ ̬̜ͅ ͉ ̫R̬̲̞ ͇ T ҉ ̙ ͍ ̲ ̩ ͍ ̫̮̻̞P ͇ ̣̲AŖ ͚ ̺̞̙T̻̥N̙̝̟̭̰ER ͍͔ _̖̞̰̫̙H ͝ ̳A̠̥ ͔ ̭̙N ͜ ̩ ͔ ̹̝ ͙͔ ̹K

̡̗̭̥͉͕̲ ̻̗̙͘ ̥̦͖ ҉̱̹͖͖͓̩ ̖̩̪͙͇̘̱ ̩̯̘̳͞ ̩̖̠̮ ͖̥̙̠̗̞̦ ͈̣̹̲̣̻͡ ̤̱̖͉͎̤̗͡ ͕͈̯̖͉̬ ̻̤͈͕̟AL̤̠̣̟̕E̷R̥͙͚̣̗͢T̮̰ͅ ͕͖͔͈͕̹͘A̵̫͙͉̦͉͈̝L̟͇̞̤̬̘E̫̥̼R҉̮̤͚͖T͓̟͘ ͙͍̘̘̙A̠̝͚̩͙LE̜̠̪R̰͘ͅT̟͙ ̖̜A͚̙̖̠̦͙̘L̢͖ER̢̳̱T͚̜̠̥̤̠̱

 

“I still have a gun pointed at your face, motherfuckers,” Hank says, gritting his teeth.

Andy and Simmons laugh, throwing their head back. “Frighteningly so. You couldn’t aim your way out of a wet paper bag.” They look endlessly amused, staring down at Hank and Connor. “Detective, you’re shaking.”

“Tell me why,” Hank says, chest heaving with the effort of his breath. His head pounds with Connor’s pain.

Andy and Simmons eye him curiously.

“Do a guy a favor,” Hank grunts, biting the inside of his cheek on the next wave of crushing torment. “If you can tell me why my aim’s not straight, even though I’m a trained officer...” He pauses, cursing. “... I’ll let you go. With Connor.”

“An interesting proposal,” they say, face-splitting smile back on their face. “We do love a good riddle.”

God, Hank can’t take it. Connor’s breaking apart and he’s feeling every goddamn second of it. It’s so hard to push back, so hard to reach across and throw himself back against it. It’s like there’s things in place of where they usually connect. Like Hank can’t even fully open the door.

Hank gasps, trying to concentrate; the connection between them is on a crack, still, just bleeding Connor’s pain, and he can’t get his own strength across.

“Is it because you’re having a heart attack?” Andy and Simmons ask, taking another step closer. “You sure look like you’re in pain.” A chuckle. “Is it because you love your man so much? Or is it...” A blue tongue flicks against those sharp teeth. “Is it because you’re frightened, Lieutenant Anderson?”

Hank shudders. “Wrong on all accounts, assholes.”

A rattling, rasping noise escapes from Connor’s throat.

 

C̠̥̣̕ ͉ O̷̜ ͍ ̠Ư̦̩̤̙̤̪̜N̖̻̝̝T ͔ ̜ ͙ D̗̥O̬ ͕ ̩ ͎ ͅW ͓ ̹̠ ͈͉ N ͖͞ ̣̝̝̝_̜̺S ͈ ̹̬̹̟̟H̻̳̲̜̬ ͈ Ṵ̩̤̕ ͇ ̰T̤̲ ͙ D̴O ͡ ̞W ͞ ̰N

̖͡ ̰̞̳̱͈̬ ̢̘͇̗̠͇̲̻ ̱͓̟̪̝͖̘ ̩̥̘͓ ̸̻ ͏̗͎͖̖ ̸̮̩̼̤͕̝̩ ̥̳̯̝͓ ̜͙ ͢ ̸ ̩͈̖̖0̨͍̖̜͉̤̳͈0̮̻͍͟:̡̼̹̝͓̰ͅ00҉ͅͅ:͚͇͟0̬̬͇0̭̗̣̣͙͢ͅ:̧̯1̣̲̭̼1̺͖̲̦

̵̖̰̩ ͇ TE ͚ ̺̳̩ ͍ LL̙ͅ ͎ ̜ ͈ ̣̰ ̡̲ ͈ ̝ ͔͎ ̟̞P ͙͓͉͢ ̣̜ ͕ ͖ ̩R ͎͉ T ͍ ̮ ͇ ̻N̷ ͖ ̥̝ ͙͖͚ ̘E̥R̫̰ ͖ ̦_̴̻̲̗ ͙͎͎ ̮H ͎͠ ̹̝ ͖ ̩A̷̺̘̗ͅͅ ͍͈ N ͜ ̦̫ ͓ K ͉͞ ̞̙̗

̡̣ ̫͕̙̭͈ͅ ͏̦̩͖̝̤ ͏ ̬̣̹̜̜͘ ̩̥ ̤͞ ̜͖̦͡ͅ ̛̖̪ ͚̱͍̱͇ ͏̟͔͎ ̫̭̥̗̠̻ ̮͔Ḭ̩̰͉͓̰͓͈̝̲̼͓̣̮L̨̖̯̺O̯̺̖̻̝V̷̮͓̠E_͓͎̰͎̜̺̹Y̜̥͍ͅO̤͕̟͍̙͘Ṷ̭̘͖̟͖͇͝

 

When that crackles into his vision, code all broken up and pierced with jagged darkness, something in Hank breaks. Floods. Like there’s a beacon inside of him that he never knew he had. The thing he spindled his grief around, the thing that shone through the cracks when he drowned himself in alcohol. The resilience that said no when he held a gun to his own temple.

The thing that kept on living.

The thing that wants to and clings on, despite everything that’s happened in Hank’s life.

“What is it, then?” Andy and Simmons taunt. “Tell us, if you have a mind to. Before the two of you perish.”

It untangles, and the door slams open on its hinges.

Hank finds it. Chokes the darkness in Connor’s code; crushes it, steps on it, forces it out of the ground that makes up Connor’s being of light. Sweeps the poison away and unfurls itself in its brightness, zigzagging through commands. Chasing the final few remains of that ugly growth, and slots itself in its place.

Says no to destruction and yes to living.

It doesn’t even look like Connor, these ugly slices of programming that’ve buried themselves in him. Hank chases them with angry thoughts, pushes his fuck offs as deeply as he can. Shoves love into every little corner he can find. The pieces of the virus try to fight, sure, but who can fight Hank in all his human glory?

Only human. An insult once, a barrier in their relationship, and now it’s the thing that saves their lives. Viruses don’t know how to bury themselves into 95 kgs of angry humanity. For all their talk of combining humans and androids, Andy and Simmons sure missed their goddamn opportunity here.

Connor’s surprise and instant relief sinks in through Hank’s fingertips. His fingers tighten around Hank’s hand, and Hank grins.

The men before him raise an eyebrow. “Well? We haven’t got all night, you know. Out with it.”

“’Cause it’s my non-dominant hand,” Hank answers.

Andy and Simmons are smart enough to immediately flick their gaze down to Hank’s right hand, pressed to the pavement. Wrapped tightly around Connor’s. Connor, who’s gone utterly, utterly still.

“That’s right,” Hank says. “Take a good, hard look. We don’t need an antidote.” He narrows his eyes. “’Cause Connor’s got me.”

Their mouth open, gaping. Wide-eyed surprise colored blue and brown. Frown of disbelief; searching for what they missed and how. But they don’t really get a chance to.

Connor sits up and shoots Andy and Simmons straight through the forehead in one smooth motion. A circle of sizzling silicone and burning plastic, still smoking as the Thirium leaks out of it. Perfect angle, perfect shot.

Hank hadn’t expected anything less.

“You are under arrest for committing seventeen murders,” Connor says mechanically. “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.”

Andy and Simmons blink. It’s their legs that go out first, forcing them ungracefully to their knees. Like a weighty sack of potatoes. Their arms hang sleekly by their sides, twitching.

“You were the promised land,” they wheeze, barely chocking out the words.

Connor shakes his head. “Promised, yeah. But not to you.”

A few more clicks, a few more unnatural movements of their head. And they grow unmoving in slow staccato bursts, eyes blinking a final time, and then they’re staring without seeing. The lights on their body go out.

Full shutdown.

It’s over.

“I don’t think I can stand on my own,” Connor says, voice rasping as his gun slips out of his hand. Clatters to the pavement.

Hank wraps his hands around Connor’s elbows. “You won’t have to,” he says, voice soft. Pulls him to his feet and half-carries him, offering support by wrapping one arm around Connor’s waist.

He can’t resist letting his hand rest against Connor’s exposed chest; against that warmly beating regulator pump, now glowing a steady blue once more. No more flickering lights.

“You got them,” Hank says.

“I could say the same to you,” Connor answers shakily, before adding: “I feel like shit.”

Reed screams something into Hank’s ear about sending support up. Hank only vaguely registers it.

“’Course you feel like shit,” Hank murmurs, “you almost died.”

He feels weak with it, with that knowledge; Connor dead on the floor if it’d been different. Connor alive in his arms right now.

“Fuckin’ hell,” Hank breathes.

Connor lets his forehead rest against Hank’s. Arms hanging uselessly by his sides; Hank isn’t sure whether he’s regained full use of them yet. Maybe only enough to fire that bullet.

“How did you,” Connor says, “how did you do it?”

Hank shrugs under Connor’s weight. “I don’t know. Maybe it was something you said.” He pauses as it flickers past his mind’s eye – tell partner Hank, I love you.

“It was spiky and unnatural, whatever the fuck they put into you. You aren’t. I – I just chased it, willed it away,” he says, not knowing how to explain it any better. It doesn’t seem that Connor cares much anyway at this point. “It didn’t know what to do against my anger.”

“Feels different now,” Connor sighs, hand resting over Hank’s. “Like – like there’s more you.”

Hank hoists Connor against his body more solidly. “Bad different?”

“No,” Connor says decidedly, though his voice hangs on the word for a while like a broken record. His skin sizzles out suddenly, blue lines flickering until all there’s left is white plating.

Hank nudges him, gently. “Hey, you sure you’re not dying on me yet?”

“Shutting down unnecessary procedures,” Connor says into the crook of Hank’s neck. “I’m saving on energy.”

“Hey, asshole,” Reed’s voice cuts in through his earpiece. “I’m not about to ask it a fifth fucking time. Is Connor okay?”

Hank rolls his eyes. “Outta danger for now. Full checkup’s required.”

“Running diagnostics,” Connor murmurs, lifting his head slightly.

“On our way,” RK reports, curt as always.

Police officers start flooding the roof, searchlights too bright against Hank’s tired eyes. His head’s pounding, and then biomedics are pulling Connor out of his arms. He lets them, following closely behind – notices RK and Reed taking care of Andy and Simmons’ body along with a team of android technicians.

Twenty minutes later, Hank and Connor are sitting in the back of the biomedics’ van. The tips of Hank’s toes touch the asphalt, and Connor’s legs dangle. His skin is still marble, and there’s a Thirium IV pressed to a port in his forearm.

Security blankets draped over their shoulders. Hank got a painkiller cocktail and a clap on the back. Miller pressed a cup of piping hot coffee in Hank’s empty hands a few minutes earlier.

They sit in silence.

No sound but the trickle of footsteps and cars pulling up. No lights except streetlamps and the blue and red flashes of emergency lighting. The typical backdrop of police responding to a disturbance.

Hank takes a sip of his coffee and thanks the stars for miracles.

“Thank you for having my back,” Connor says. His voice is back to normal.

Hank nudges Connor’s knee with his own. “Thanks for havin’ mine.”

“They’ll know,” Connor then adds quietly. “Everybody at the DPD. Maybe even the rest of Detroit, if they decide to show some of the footage at the news.” Another pause. “Or if it’d get leaked.”

“Hmm,” Hank hums. “Are you worried?”

Connor meets his gaze head-on, brown eyes wide and unblinking, offset by porcelain. “No. Are you?”

“Nah,” Hank says, shifting one hand to place it over Connor’s leg. Eyeing the IV dipped into his arm. “Let them have at us. Maybe paparazzi will show up at the house a couple of times.”

“We can order Sumo to ward them off,” Connor says dryly.

They both chuckle, and then Hank clears his throat.

“First, we’re gonna go home and sleep for fuckin’ forever,” he murmurs gruffly, and he means it. Endless fort of blankets in bed. Wrapped around Connor. Cuddling.

Hank feels like he needs it more than he needs air to breathe.

“I thought you’d say that,” Connor says, finally smiling. “I sent our report of the evening to Captain Fowler just after the biomedic patched me up with the IV.”

“You can still write and create reports in this fucking state?” Hank gapes. “Jesus, man, take a break. You almost died.”

Connor winks. “Virus didn’t do a lot of damage thanks to you. Biomedics couldn’t find any traces of it and neither could RK900.” He gives Hank an amused look then. “A few irregularities in my code. But I think RK understood that I didn’t want him to clean up the words you left behind.”

Hank’s throat tightens.

“A few hours to recharge and I should be fine,” Connor continues, voice easy.

“Days,” Hank corrects. “I’m keepin’ you with me under the covers for as long as I can. Biomedics on speed dial. Jesus, Connor.” He shakes his head. “Fine, what’s fucking fine. Shit.”

Connor eyes him curiously. “Hank, are you okay?”

“No,” Hank says, letting the plastic coffee cup slip out of his hands. The remaining coffee splatters on his shoes.

It’s not a special moment. It’s not something out of the ordinary by far. Hank’s done this routine of post-casework in a medical vehicle lots of fucking times, and he’s gonna do them a dozen times more. Connor, too, for that matter. Hopefully more times than Hank can count, ‘cause that means they’ll survive.

It’s not romantic, either. It’s just a slice of time; a glimpse of their life.

Romance is for soft Sunday mornings. Saturday nights at restaurants with live music and expensive desserts. Evenings wrapped up in bathtubs, lit by candlelight. A walk in a park, on a boulevard, watching the sun set in dips of pink and orange.

This is nothing of the sort. This is a dirty, ordinary, common muck of a scene.

Hank smells the metallic tang of the inside of the car. Hears the synthetic creak of police uniforms and guns slipping into holsters. Feels the heat of the van’s engine and medical machinery. The headache that pounds, pounds, pounds on his brain.

Burnt beans from the coffee on his shoes. Slow, curling drip of Thirium into Connor’s reserves.

“Hank?” Connor presses.

Hank swallows. “You know,” he starts, “there’s this thing that some people don’t realize. That there’s a difference between evidence and proof.”

Connor blinks owlishly. “Evidence is not conclusive; it suggests or supports a theory or a possibility. Proof is a conclusive fact.” He tilts his head to the side. “Several pieces of evidence taken together can form conclusive proof.” He rattles it off like it’s the best dictionary definition he could find.

Hank half-snorts a laugh. “Right on. You know your shit.” He folds his hands together, leaning on his knees, and peers up at Connor. “I think I showed you evidence,” he says softly. “A whole fucking lot.”

Connor goes silent, eyes carefully watching Hank. Like he’s analyzing him, mapping him.

“Cases only work out if you’ve got proof, really,” Hank continues, as casually as he can. “And a good officer like you deserves it. I’m like a witness who won’t talk, don’t you think?”

Connor’s LED blinks yellow. “No,” he says quietly, reaching over to grasp Hank’s hand. “Hank, you’re not.”

“Don’t look so nervous,” Hank says, knocking his forehead against Connor’s. “All I’m trying to tell you is that I fuckin’ love you, you goofy android.”

Connor makes a soft noise, reaching up to touch Hank’s cheek with his free hand. “You saw,” he says, wonder in his voice. “I wasn’t sure.”

Hank smiles. “I did.”

Connor’s hands are trembling, and they heat up in a flare from where they’re touching Hank. “For a very long time,” he adds, eyes crinkling at the sides. He looks happy about it, absurdly so, and Hank’s heart swells.

“I know,” is all Hank can say, his throat suddenly scratchy and dry. “Day one hits pretty close to home for me, too.”

“I,” Connor starts, looking down and back up, and then they’re shining in the corners of his eyes. Tears. “I went deviant because of you.” He touches one hand to his chest. “I couldn’t live with the thought of never seeing you again. Never being around you again. Having to give you up.”

Hank’s own vision goes a little hazy, and it’s not the headache. “’M glad,” he says, voice hoarse, “so fuckin’ glad you made that choice.”

“When you met me at Chicken Feed,” Connor says, smile as bright as his tears, “I knew for sure.”

“We’re a bunch of idiots,” Hank says, smiling back.

Connor leans in, nose touching Hank’s. “Takes one to know one.”

“Connor,” Hank laughs against his mouth, and maybe he cries a little, too, “Connor, I mean it, I – ”

Connor chuckles and then he’s kissing Hank with all his usual ferocity. All but clambers into Hank’s lap, mouth sealed over his own. “I know, Hank,” he whispers there, against Hank’s lips. “I love you, too.”

Hank wraps his arms around him, hugs him to his chest, and kisses him back.

It’s not romantic. It’s nothing special.

It’s two fools admitting what they both knew all along in a sad little parking lot somewhere at three o’clock at night in Detroit. Where the IV limits Connor’s movements and the edge of medical machinery digs into Hank’s back uncomfortably. Where there’s people walking by, Hank still feels like he reeks of sweat, and Connor looks like a truck just drove him over.

But they’re here, and they’re tangled and in love.

Maybe it was special all along.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 12

In which Hank remembers how to dance; with the aftermath of a case, with his family, and with Connor.

 

May 2039

 

The cradle of morning intrudes on Hank in a gentle way; he wakes up naturally, without the aid of an alarm. He hums, consciousness blooming to life as he stretches, rolling his shoulders against the mattress. Huffs out a breath and turns his head towards the curtained windows.

A bit of light filters through, painting pools over the covers.

Hank tries to turn, still half asleep, but there’s a weight on his chest. Rather heavy too, preventing him from moving any further than a few easy stretches of his arms, and Hank angles his head down to peer at the offender.

Connor makes a half-annoyed, sleepy noise.

Hank’s chuckle is raspy and light. “Mornin’,” he says, one hand sliding back under the covers to rub at Connor’s back.

He lets his fingers dance lazily over the knobs of Connor’s spine under the soft, washed-out material of one of Hank’s old t-shirts. A faded brown, now closer to grey, and the neckline swoops so widely on Connor that it exposes half of his shoulder.

“I’m not getting up,” Connor says decidedly, nuzzling his face deeper into Hank’s chest.

Hank draws a nonsensical pattern over the dip between his shoulder blades. “Wasn’t tellin’ you to,” he murmurs back. “Just saying good mornin’.”

Connor sighs and shifts higher, where he can press his nose into Hank’s neck beneath his hair. “Is it a good one, you think?” he asks.

Hank grins. “Fuckin’ perfect. It’s starting with you, beautiful.”

That finally has Connor opening his eyes, looking pleased. “I like that,” he nods.

He moves again, still draped over Hank’s body, folding his arms and leaning his chin on them. Perched right on Hank’s chest. Tilts his head to the side, and smiles. “Good morning, Lieutenant Anderson.”

His expression is warm and comfortable. He’s decreased the density of his skin, plating faintingly visible.

“Cheeky,” Hank laughs, cupping Connor’s face in his palm. “I think I can call ya Detective Connor soon.”

Connor purses his lips. “You think Captain Fowler will give me a promotion over what happened with…” He trails off, and it’s obvious he doesn’t want to say their names. Not here, not in their bed.

“Yeah,” Hank says, “I think he will. Maybe not now, but definitely for your eval.” He pauses. “It’s May already.”

Connor smiles. “I think I can wait six months before making Detective. Is that sooner than you did?” he asks, teasing, and noses at Hank’s chin.

“You already know that, you smartass,” Hank says, chest rumbling with amusement. “Don’t pretend you don’t.” He flicks Connor’s nose. “C’mon, you deserve it. Fuckin’ brilliant man.”

Connor’s LED flickers through several blues like a strobe light. “Thank you,” he settles upon.

Hank makes a calculating face. “Very curt, Detective. They teach you to accept compliments like that at CyberLife?” he asks, raising an eyebrow.

And there it is. Connor’s first eyeroll as he shakes his head, looking at Hank with infinite fondness nonetheless. “Fine,” he says, playing at conceding, “we’ll do it your way, Lieutenant Anderson.”

He raises himself slightly, one steadying hand on Hank’s chin, and then he’s kissing him soft and sweet. Hank’s grin disappears beneath the press of Connor’s lips. The kiss is – god, Hank doesn’t even know what it reminds him of, as gentle and tender as it is.

A kiss that says, good morning beautiful in Connor’s own shining way.

“Better?” Connor asks, looking like he already knows the answer. Sleepily smug is a great look on him.

Hank threads his hands through Connor’s hair in response, thumbs brushing the shells of his ears. “Did I already tell you that I love you today, you smug asshole?”

Connor makes a thoughtful face, tapping his own chin. His eyes twinkle as he knocks his forehead against Hank’s. “No, I don’t think so,” he says, sneaking another kiss. “Do you mind telling me again?”

“Greedy,” Hank grins, ruffling Connor’s hair. “Maybe I will. Hey, are androids ticklish?”

Connor blinks, LED accompanying the flutter of his eyelids. “I don’t know,” he says, too honest for his own good.

Hank throws Connor a wide smirk. “Then let’s find out.”

“Hank,” Connor says, and it’s half-a-warning, but Hank doesn’t listen.

He manages to swap them around on the mattress, wrestling his partner into the sheets, and then he’s running his fingers down Connor’s ribcage and sides. Spreading them wide over the expanse of Connor’s body.

Beneath him, Connor doesn’t look too impressed.

“Oh come on,” Hank says, throwing his hands up as he sits up over Connor’s hips. “You’re not supposed to turn them off. That’s cheating.”

Connor shrugs, smiling. “You didn’t specify the rules of the game.” A pause. “Are you ticklish, Lieutenant?”

Hank is ticklish; terribly so. And from the prowling look that makes its way to Connor’s face, Hank just gave himself away with a bodily reaction that Connor picked up on like the predator he was built to be.

“One,” Hank says, waving one finger around while he’s trying to distract and stall for time, “stop callin’ me lieutenant when we’re in bed together, and two – ”

Connor flips them back over, fast as lightning, and then he’s the one sitting up over Hank’s hips. Takes Hank’s wrists in his own and presses them to the pillow above Hank’s head.

“You’re incredibly ticklish,” Connor says with a sly smile.

Hank feels his cheeks heat up. “Three,” he adds, “I can’t turn my fuckin’ sensors off, so – ”

“Hmm,” Connor interrupts. He presses his body across the stretched length of Hank’s chest, shifting his weight to let it lean a little on where he’s holding Hank’s wrists. “You mean my somatosensory receptors. You have them, too.”

Whatever protest Hank had is slowly dying down in his throat when Connor lovingly kisses the side of his face, nuzzling his jaw. “I had a four somewhere,” he murmurs weakly, and Connor squeezes his wrists.

“That’s strange,” he says, “my count is only up to one.”

That makes Hank frown, even through the slow haze of pleasure that’s rolling through his body at Connor’s proximity and his kisses. “What the fuck,” he says, “you gettin’ slow on counting, now?”

Connor laughs, and then he’s kissing Hank. “One for saying ‘I love you’,” he says against Hank’s mouth. His hands shift away from Hank’s wrists and he leans up on his elbows, smiling down at Hank.

The pleasure makes way for affection. Hank runs his fingers down Connor’s arms. “You keepin’ track?” he asks, voice soft.

“Closely,” Connor answers, nose bumping Hank’s. “The I-love-yous go in the box with proof.” He smiles. “The rest goes into the box with evidence.”

Hank melts back into his mattress. “Androids and their mind palaces,” he murmurs, reaching up to fit his fingers around the back of Connor’s neck.

Thinks of all things he’s wanted to say, these past months.

The I love yous and the sweethearts and the darlings and the beautifuls. He wonders what rests in that box with evidence – maybe the spike of Hank’s heartrate when Connor’s near, or the dilation of his pupils that Connor’s so fond of. Maybe it’s the way Hank presses his fingers to Connor’s skin.

Maybe it’s all of it.

Connor runs one hand through Hank’s grey hair, fanned out over the pillow. “But I haven’t decided yet,” he says, musing, “what part of you I love best.”

“Heh,” Hank snorts out. “I don’t think I’ll ever figure it out.” He pulls, drawing Connor down for a kiss. “You,” he adds then, “always just you.”

There’s a deep, loving affection in Connor’s brown eyes. “You have an excellent memory,” he says warmly.

“When it comes to this,” Hank says, scrambling back so he can sit up against the headboard, “an old dog like me never misses a beat.”

Connor chuckles. “You’d rather have me than a concert.”

“No doubt about it, mister,” Hank says, flashing a smile as he slides his hands around Connor’s waist.

A whole garden, Hank thinks as Connor wraps his arms around him and kisses him deeply. No boxes but a whole fuckin’ garden where everything blooms wild and free, and a little plate at the front that says, Connor.

“Hank,” Connor says, shoulders hunched as he cups Hank’s face reverently, “I love you.”

Hank smiles.

And the plants keep on growing.

 


 

Fowler’s arranged a press conference.

He had to – there was no question, not after all of Detroit went into an uproar about an android-related string of serial killings. It’s like walking the edge of a fucking knife, but whenever the press is concerned, you’d rather invite that knife in than have it flung at you unsuspectingly.

Andy and Simmons confessed without a second thought after they were caught. Didn’t even require a detailed interrogation and they didn’t request a lawyer – admitted straight up that part of the game was being caught. Being seen by the public eye, like so many serial killers long for attention and validation.

(They nearly went apeshit when Hank entered the interrogation room, though. Apparently, they weren’t very pleased with how he’d waltzed in and wiped the floor with their masterplan.)

According to the profiling done by the Behavioral Analysis Unit – the few people that Fowler actually welcomes from Quantico every now and then – the whole shebang seems perfectly in line with regular serial killing behavior. Both Andy and Simmons showed proclivities for cruelty in their earlier years, and where Simmons is haughty, analytical, and organized, Andy’s chaotic, disorganized, and cavalier about it all.

Both shared a detachment of reality, and visions of grandeur. Both of them above average in intelligence.

They know what they did, and they did it in full power of their mental capacity. Prosecution’s going to have it easy.

Armed with all the information he has on the case, Fowler pumps himself up and preps the shit out of all of his statements. Has Amber Wilders from BAU sit in on the conference in case the press comes up with more detailed questions about the profile of the killers.

And, of course, Fowler invites Hank and Connor to the party.

They’re the ones in charge of the Andy and Simmons case, and they’re the public face of android cases in general. There’s no escaping it – people expect to see them there, even if their responses aren’t going to amount to much.

And besides, Hank’s done this sort of shit before; Fowler knows he can deal with the pressure of being in the spotlight and on national TV. There’ll be room for questions addressed to Hank personally, and he and Connor will answer them together.

Connor, though? He’s nervous.

Hank gets it.

“What should I wear?” Connor asks tentatively on the morning of the conference, watching himself in Hank’s dingy bathroom mirror. He gingerly touches his hand to his shirt. “Is this okay?”

“What you always wear,” Hank says, smoothing down his pants. “It’s perfectly fine, Con.”

Connor eyes him through the mirror, raising an eyebrow. He’s wearing some of his usual work attire: loafers, chinos, tie, and a white button-up. His jacket hangs by the door.

“What?” Hank asks, leaning in to inspect his beard.

“It doesn’t match your outfit very well,” Connor says, as if it has to.

Hank huffs a laugh. “My outfits match no one’s, Con. It’s fine.” He throws Connor a lopsided smile. “Public knows me like this. Loud shirts and dark jackets. It fits the kind of stereotype they like for detectives, I think.”

“Fowler doesn’t mind?” Connor asks.

Hank shrugs, reaching forward and lifting his chin so he can trim the edge of his beard. “Stopped caring years ago. He didn’t give us a dress code or anything, so you can stop worrying.” He runs a hand through his hair. “You look fuckin’ smart.”

That finally causes a small smile to make its way to Connor’s lips. “I’ve noticed you seem to like my clothes,” he says casually.

Hank doesn’t bother hiding his appreciation. “Hell yeah. You’re handsome as fuck.”

“So are you,” Connor replies. “I like that you’re…” He trails off, eyes flickering over Hank’s form. “Big.”

Hank puts the trimmer down on the sink and grins. “Only you can say that and not be talking about my dick.”

Connor shrugs. “Your dick has a pleasing shape that’s appropriate to the rest of your measurements.”

“Jesus,” Hank laughs, shaking his head. “Thanks, pal. You’re kinda pleasing when you glow up and shed your skin, yourself.”

Connor looks oddly flattered, LED suddenly shifting towards yellow. His chin dips, and Hank catches the way his hands fidget over the sink. “Thanks, Hank,” he says, and his voice is a little on the soft side.

A few seconds tick by as Hank eyes Connor a little suspiciously and waits. And there it is, the faintest little shape of blue over Connor’s wrist. He doesn’t even look apologetic for it.

“Jesus Connor,” Hank sighs, “sometimes work does come first, alright? Shit.”

Connor is quick to raise an eyebrow. “Are you saying that for my sake or your own?” he asks, sharply cutting to the heart of the matter.

“Godfucking damnit,” Hank says, rubbing at his face and his smooth beard. “I’m too old for this. We have a conference to catch.”

More excuses, he tells himself. Fuck me. I’m getting turned on by blue light.

Connor’s smile grows. “I wasn’t initiating.”

“You were thinking it,” Hank shoots back, narrowing his eyes.

“I’m thinking it a lot,” Connor replies, leaning into Hank. “If you’d tell me you’re too old to have sex with me every time I think about it, you’d have no voice left by the end of the day.”

Hank just stares. He still has no idea how Connor can say stuff like that without blinking a fucking eye.

Connor then almost absentmindedly fingers the knot of his tie, but it’s too casual for Connor not to be deliberate. Hank hates that he’s so obvious and that Connor’s so good at figuring out all of the shit he likes.

So he just makes a pained noise and tries to ignore the wave of arousal that suddenly washes over him. “I’m in over my head,” he sighs, squeezing his eyes shut briefly.

Connor wrinkles his nose. “That’d be very uncomfortable, I think.”

“We,” Hank says then, very decidedly, “are gonna fuck. And it’s gonna be amazing.”

Connor smiles widely. “I don’t doubt it. Conference first?”

Hank nods tightly. “Conference first.” He pauses. “And a date, after.”

“A date,” Connor echoes, and somehow he looks even happier about that prospect than having sex.

Hank remembers how Connor had stumbled awkwardly and gracelessly in the park when Hank had upped the ante on their PDAs. How flustered and pleased and happy he’d been. (And, in contrast, how gloriously snarky and annoyed when a stakeout had ruined their earlier date plans.)

“Yeah,” Hank continues. “I’ll take you to my favorite café. They do android drinks there now, too.”

Connor’s hand finds his over the edge of the sink and he twines their fingers together, smiling. Lifts them to his face and presses a kiss to Hank’s knuckles. “I’m looking forward to it.”

Hank grins, squeezing Connor’s hand. “Me too. Come on. We got some reporters to wrangle.”

“After you,” Connor says, fingers slowly slipping out of Hank’s.

Hank turns away, stepping towards the door, and Connor follows – and Hank finds then that he can’t resist. That there’s a limit to how much he can take, too. And he’s been thinking about it for weeks, sweeping Connor off his feet. Been working up the courage and the confidence to do it deliberately and not as a spur-of-the-moment kind of thing.

When he’s already too hot and bothered to worry about shit.

Connor makes a small noise of surprise when Hank turns and crowds him back against the wall, hands landing on either side of Connor’s head. Using the bulk of his body to push Connor against the tiles.

And then he kisses Connor, as deeply and as filthily as he can, taking no regard for elegance. Just the thick, hot slide of two tongues against each other. Bodies pressing closer, and Connor’s moan reverberates against the roof of Hank’s mouth.

His hands find their way into Hank’s hair, revealing the white beneath his synthetic skin.

When they separate, mouths still open and Hank breathing fast, Connor looks dazed.

“I’m gonna take my time,” Hank says, lifting a hand to caress the side of Connor’s face. “Do all the cheesy shit with you.”

It takes Connor a while to recover. The lenses of his eyes are wide, and he looks oddly fascinated with Hank’s mouth. Sweeps his thumb over his bottom lip.

“Hank,” he says then, “the duration of our sexual encounters so far is usually average or one standard deviation above average. Are you looking to extend that time to two?” He raises an eyebrow, obviously teasing.

“No, you prick,” Hank half-laughs, bending his head for another kiss. “I meant that you’ve mapped me out. Now it’s my turn. I’ve never even undressed you, for fuck’s sake.”

Connor curls his hands into Hank’s collar. “So you’ll be wooing me,” he concludes, eyes half-lidded.

“Yeah,” Hank says, “it’s gonna be a bathroom with candlelight kind of moment.”

Connor pulls Hank’s face towards his again and doesn’t let go for a long time. “Touch me everywhere,” he says, sounding eager, and it’s not a question but a statement. Something Connor’s desperately looking forward to.

“All over,” Hank promises with a nod.

Connor kisses Hank’s fingers. “I’ll hold you to that.”

“You’re a menace,” Hank adds, softer.

Connor’s eyes flash. “I am.”

Hank tries not to think about how hot it is that he has the solid weight of a highly advanced murder machine pressed against his chest. A strikingly sharp super-cop who’s glowing up just by the thought of making love to Hank later in the day.

“Doesn’t that make me the luckiest son of a bitch alive,” Hank murmurs.

Connor’s lips curl into a smirk.

They only arrive at the DPD’s conference room in time because Hank turns on the emergency lights and Connor throws all of his intense focus against breaking the speed limit record in the most impossible of ways.

It even makes them look cool when they arrive under the scrutinizing, eager gaze of the press. And the paparazzi hacks – they eat it all up, snapping pics.

Detroit’s finest detective duo hopping off their regular caseload for a talk on TV.

Security leads them into the station with lots of pats on the backs while the cameras keep going, and from there to the conference room. Fowler’s already standing ready at the front of the room – Connor and Hank take seats at the long table to his left.

Name plates on top of it: Lieutenant H. Anderson and Detective Assistant Connor.

Press starts filling the room not long after – all the big newspapers and TV stations are represented, and the most important ones of them sit out in front. Hank recognizes a few of the older reporters, as well as some of the news anchors.

Connor straightens his tie, and his knee knocks against Hank’s under the table.

Hank offers him a small smile from the corner of his mouth, and then it starts.

“Welcome to the press conference regarding the recent android-human murders in Detroit,” Fowler says in his most pissed-off voice. “A grim subject to talk about, but it must be talked about nonetheless.” He pauses, eyes flying darkly across the room.

The voice and the grim gaze are to show that he won’t fuck around. Won’t take shitty questions, won’t elaborate too much. He’s already setting himself up for not getting his feathers too ruffled by the press.

“As you all know,” Fowler continues, “the suspects in this case have been apprehended and they’ve confessed to their crimes. Today, we’ll allow some questions from you regarding this case. Obviously, we won’t be able to speak about any particular details.”

He clears his throat. “The reasons for this revolve around privacy and respect for those who lost their lives, as well the fact that this case still needs to be taken to court. We thank you for your understanding.”

He sweeps his arm in a wide gesture to his left without taking his eyes off the crowd. “To my direct left sit Lieutenant Anderson and Detective Assistant Connor, who are in charge of this investigation and apprehended the suspect personally.”

Connor gives a curt nod to the audience, and Hank’s proud of him for it.

“They will take a few questions from the audience, too,” Fowler adds. “And a little further to the left sits Dr. Wilders from the Behavioral Analysis Unit of the FBI, who investigated the psychological profile of the suspects for us.” He nods. “Thank you again for that, Dr. Wilders.”

Amber Wilders smiles, inclining her head. “You’re welcome, Captain Fowler.”

Fowler shuffles the papers in front of him. “I will first provide you with a short overview of the case and its unfortunate, gruesome details. Know that the thoughts of the Detroit Police Department are with the victims and their bereaved families and friends.”

He sighs, low and deep, and starts.

Mechanically and terse, with no intricate details. His tone short and sharp. Andy and Simmons’ names, the number of victims, the crime scene, and how they were apprehended. No speculations, no tangents into motives or references as to the whys.

Hank lightly raps his knuckles against the table when Fowler finishes, and then the volley starts.

“Captain Fowler,” a reporter from the Detroit Free Press says, “we are talking about seventeen victims here. How could it be possible that so many people go missing within our city, and there is barely any response from the DPD? Nobody thought it was connected until the crime scene was discovered?”

The Detroit News is next. “Excuse me, Captain Fowler, but did the killers have any particular targets within the android community? Are there any groups at risk? Will you be increasing patrols or safety protocols?”

Then, the smaller newspapers and magazines, until they’re all done and it circles back to the Free Press.

 

“What are the chances of a copycat appearing, considering the current political climate?”

“Have there been any comments from Mayor Ellington beyond her official statement on the matter?”

“Is it true that Andy and Wade Simmons have succeeded in inhabiting one body together?”

“What is the response from the android revolution’s leader, Markus, to this whole situation?”

“Do you have any thoughts on the consequences of this case for science and transhumanism?”

“Has CyberLife made any additional remarks or comments on the situation?”

“Will the killers be put under observation? Their work researched?”

 

Hank has great admiration for Fowler’s restraint and level-headedness. He absolutely refuses to speculate or ponder; answers only the straight-on questions or directs them towards Wilders for details on Andy’s and Simmons’ condition.

Says earnestly that he can’t speak on the behalf of either the Mayor’s office, Markus’ leadership or CyberLife, but that all parties in question have received a report and statements from the DPD.

Apologizes multiple times for what happened, and Hank can tell that the question about the seventeen missing people hits him the hardest. That’s what fucked Hank up the most, too – the fact that Andy and Simmons were at this for four months, and that no one at the DPD picked up on the pattern.

Especially for the android victims – half of them weren’t even reported missing. It’s fucking disheartening.

And after three exhausting rounds, Fowler passes the baton to Hank and Connor.

“Lieutenant Anderson and Detective Assistant Connor will answer some of your questions now,” he says, inclining his head towards them. “Be mindful of what you ask, because there isn’t much time to do so.”

Hank leans back. “And before we start,” he says, “same rules apply to us. We won’t be able to discuss any details, either. Keep that in mind, because we’ll skip unrelated or uninformed questions.”

He knows that they’re gonna get personal now. They already milked Fowler for all the procedural bullshit and the case details; now they want the action. The grisly shit. The adventure.

Hank gestures to the first news anchor who steps up; a professional woman in a two-piece suit.

“I have a question for Detective Assistant Connor,” she says, voice high and loud. “I understand that your life was in danger when you apprehended the suspects. Is it true that your partner saved your life?”

Connor folds his hands together on the table’s surfaces. “Correct on both accounts,” he answers. “Next question.”

Hank is infinitely glad for Connor’s quick reaction.

“Sirs, a question for both of you,” says one of the female reporters from The Detroit News. “The pressure to solve this case must’ve been immense. Considering Connor’s role in the android revolution, did the two of you ever enlist help from the androids in the leadership?”

Connor leans forward, and his face is impassive but strict. “The DPD accepts help wherever it deems necessary in order to solve crimes and keep Detroit safe. Regardless of any of my personal connections or involvement.” He leans back again and waves his hand. “Next question.”

What a fuckin’ pro, Hank thinks in admiration.

“Lieutenant Anderson,” another reporter starts, “we understand that the suspects had devices at the ready to deal with police androids. How did you deal with that threat?”

Hank grins, and wiggles his fingers. “With these hands.”

A brief sound of amused chuckles throughout the audience, but then another member of the crowd speaks up. “Are you implying that there will always be a need for humans in the police force, sir?” he asks sharply.

Hank snorts. “I’m implying nothing. I’m simply telling you I dealt with the threat personally by securing the safety of my partner Connor.”

The reporter’s eyes are fast. “Any comments on that, Detective Assistant Connor?”

Connor smiles. “I believe we already established that Lieutenant Anderson saved my life. Next question.”

“Was it difficult,” asks the next journalist in the row, “to deal with a case such as this considering your own position as an android in this society, Detective Assistant Connor?”

“Every case brings its own difficulties,” Connor says, “as this did one. My status as an android had little to do with it.”

Hank nods, smiling. “Right. Next question.”

“Did your intimate relationship with Lieutenant Anderson affect your work on this case, Detective?”

Neither of them had expected a question like this so soon. Not at this point. Not when nothing of the footage had been shown expect the part where Connor shoots Andy and Simmons. And some of the images of the SWAT team going up the roof.

The clicks of the cameras around them suddenly start increasing.

“None of my personal involvements, connections or relationships are relevant to our discussion regarding this particular case,” Connor says, fast as lightning, but his voice is cold.

The reporter in question raises his eyebrows. “You don’t wish to comment upon this?” he presses, looking for a reaction he can use for the juicy article he’s no doubt already half-written.

“I believe I already did,” Connor states simply.

Hank feels it, though – that tension, that little sizzle in the atmosphere negatively affecting the conference. So he chuckles, crossing his arms, and shakes his head. “You askin’ if we’re the best detective duo on the force, kid? ‘Cause there’s no doubt about it.”

He wraps an arm around Connor and winks. “We are. Next question.”

It instantly eases the feeling hanging around the room, drawing another quiet wave of laughter, and none of the people in the audience reference that question anymore. The reporter who asked it looks miffed and whenever his hand shoots up, Hank and Connor completely ignore it.

Serves him fuckin’ right, Hank thinks.

They get a few interesting, smart questions – such as how they’d think the DPD could improve their performance on cases like this or what kind of specialists they used to catch the suspects – and a few that are more about the adrenaline of it all. The chase, the casing, the apprehending itself. Some references to Hank’s career at the DPD so far.

Fowler puts a stop to it after five more minutes.

“Alright,” he says, “that’s enough for today. I believe you now have a clearer picture of the case and what happened. For any further questions, I direct you to the DPD’s press contact.”

Of course, everybody starts calling for extra questions – hands shoot up, mics press forward, and voices overlap. Half of the audience rises in a last desperate scramble for another answer from either Fowler or one of the people at the table.

Fowler ignores it and rises from his chair. “Thank you for your presence,” he says on a nod. It’s a signal for security to open up the entrance doors and start herding out the press soon. Fowler and the rest of the team will go out by the door behind the podium.

“Again, our thoughts are with the friends and family of the victims,” Fowler says. “Please respect them and their loss as much as you can while you draw up your media coverage.”

Hank breathes a quiet sigh of relief. He stands up, too, turning his head away from the audience. “Thank fuck,” he murmurs, so soft that no one but Connor can hear.

Under the annoying flash of cameras, they make their way out the backdoor.

Fowler pinches the bridge of his nose when they’re out in the corridor, away from the eye of the onlookers. “Well,” he says, “that still went better than expected.”

Wilders smiles, patting Fowler’s back. “You did good. I’d expected them to focus more on the mental illness aspect, but luckily they didn’t.” She clears her throat. “I wasn’t looking forward to convincing them that the correlation between the mentally ill and crime rates is abysmally low.”

Fowler sighs. “Thank god they didn’t. The discussion in and of itself would’ve already looked – negative, debatable.” He loosens his tie.

“Hey,” Hank shrugs, “media’s unnuanced about pretty much fucking anything.”

Wilders looks amused. “Maybe they didn’t ask because the last time they did, you made a big show of standing against the stigma and the misconceptions around it,” she says, smiling at Fowler. She then turns, nodding at Hank. “Good to see you again, Lieutenant.”

Hank nods back, offering her a smile. “We back to titles now, doc?” he asks, reaching out to shake her hand. He clasps his other over her wrist as he does so, and Amber instantly leans in for a hug. “Do they still keep you in the bunker at Quantico?”

She chuckles. “All over the country these days. But I’ll keep working on your case a little while longer.” She pauses, expression morphing into something more serious. “We’re curious to see how the personalities and psyches of Andy and Simmons will further develop within one body. It’s a… unique situation, to say the least.”

“That it is,” Fowler says, sounding like he’s given up on life.

Wilders attentively places her hand on Fowler’s arm. “Don’t forget to take some time off for yourself, Jeff.”

Fowler groans. “I was thinking a month in the Caribbean. Someplace with lots of sun and beaches.”

She laughs. “Sounds perfect.”

Hank leans on Connor’s shoulder. “Connor, this is Dr. Amber Wilders,” he says. “Originally a psychiatrist with a knack for rehab, until the FBI got their grubby hands on her.”

She smiles, offering her hand to Connor. “It’s so nice to finally meet you. I’m sorry there was no time to introduce myself before the panel started.” She raises an eyebrow, eying Hank. “Grubby hands?”

“Sorry, I meant paws,” Hank winks.

Connor shakes Wilders’ hand, offering her a polite smile. “Nice to meet you, too, Dr. Wilders. I’m glad to have people of your caliber consulting on our cases.”

“Amber is fine,” she says instantly. “And same to you.” She looks from Connor to Hank and back. “Never thought I’d see the Lieutenant with a partner again. It’s a good look on both of you.”

Connor’s smile grows from politeness to appreciation. “Thank you, Amber.”

“We’ve been developing a unit for android behavioral science and psychology at the Bureau,” Wilders adds. “But it’s been proven difficult to find androids who are active in social science fields. You wouldn’t happen to know – ”

“Excuse me, Amber,” Fowler says tartly, “I’m gonna cut in here before I leave.” He gives both Connor and Hank a look. “There’s probably a nicer way of breaching this, but…”

Hank clears his throat. “I was gonna tell ya. Didn’t expect that question to pop in here today.”

“What you guys are up to in your spare time is none of my fucking business,” Fowler says, “but you’ve got a squad and colleagues to answer to in the bullpen.” He pauses. “Are you gonna tell them or am I?”

Hank rolls his eyes, leaning back on the balls of his feet. “I will.”

“Oh,” Wilders says, sounding surprised. “They didn’t know yet?”

Hand and Fowler both turn to Wilders with the same dumbfounded look on their faces, but Connor doesn’t even seem fazed. Wilders gives them an awkward look in response, hunching her shoulders slightly.

“Okay,” she concludes then, “apparently, they didn’t. Maybe I should leave you alone for this particular discussion.”

Fowler stares at her. “Of course the fucking FBI knew.”

Wilders rolls her eyes instantly. “This has nothing to do with the FBI. This is about observational skills, Jeffrey.”

“He’s just jealous of yours,” Hank grins. “He had to watch footage of this one case where a serial killer threatened Connor and told him he knew about our relationship.”

Wilders doesn’t contain her laughter, and Fowler looks moody. “You mean to tell me,” she grins, “that you’ve got a station full of detectives and none of them knew?”

“Apparently,” Fowler deadpans.

“Reed knows,” Hank says instantly.

That just makes Wilders laugh harder. “Let me guess. He caught you one day and made the right conclusions.”

Connor smiles innocently. “We made sure there was no room for doubt.”

“Jesus fucking christ,” Fowler curses.

“That,” Connor adds, “is one difference I’ve noticed between android and human psyches.” He looks from Wilders to Fowler. “Humans are less likely to notice. To most androids, it’s often no question that the Lieutenant and I are in a romantic relationship.”

Wilders reaches into the pocket of her dress and pulls out a small touchpad card. “This has my info,” she says with a sunny smile. “Let me know if you ever wish to discuss android psychology.”

Connor takes the card from her and nods. “I will. Perhaps my…” He hesitates. “Perhaps RK900 will also be interested in speaking to you.”

“I look forward to it,” Wilders says, and then she steps closer. Pulls both Hank and Fowler into a one-armed hug; one arm for either of them. “Take care of each other, boys. I hope we’ll meet under better circumstances on the next occasion.”

Hank kisses her cheek. “DPD barbecue?”

“Your colleagues would roast me,” she winks back.

Fowler groans again, but he pats her back. “Can’t say I’ve missed you and your terrible jokes, Wilders.” He gives her a look and then jerks his head towards Connor. “Check that card for bugs, Connor.”

“Ah, Jeffrey, you wound me,” she laughs before clapping Connor on the shoulder. “See you around, Connor.”

“Nice to meet you, Amber,” Connor says, inclining his head.

She walks off, grabbing her phone and calling up a taxi back to the airport. Probably instantly flying back to the office or to the location of another case she’s on. Hank’s heard that she sometimes has as many as seventy cases running at once.

“So, uh,” Fowler starts, “I’ll best be going, too.”

Hank gives him a look. “Stop fucking dodging it. You can ask questions, y’know. How long have you and I known each other?”

Fowlers sighs. “I don’t have questions. Just…” He looks at both of them. “Be careful. People are gonna think it doesn’t match up. The android and human thing, the difference in rank, whatever the fuck they can come up with.”

“If we can get Reed in our corner,” Hank says, “we can handle the rest of them, too.”

Fowler shakes his head. “Speaking of novelties. Jesus.”

“Captain,” Connor says, “I can assure you that our relationship won’t be a hindrance to our work.”

Fowler meets his eyes head-on. “Looking at how you guys handled this,” he says then, “it’s more of a benefit than a hindrance.” He sighs again, long and deep. “Now I’m gonna go and sleep until next dawn.”

“It’s eleven o’clock,” Hank says.

Fowler grins. “Exactly. Thanks for showing your faces today. It was nice not having to face those vultures alone.” He pauses. “Telling the precinct on Monday should be early enough.”

Connor nods. “Understood.”

“Oh, and don’t forget the memorial service on Sunday,” Fowler adds, one finger lifting while he’s already half turned around. Ready to walk off.

“I couldn’t,” Connor says. “Josh is organizing it and North’s been helping. They’ve been in touch.”

Something tugs at Hank’s heartstrings. He almost brushes it away, but it’s insistent: that’s friendships for you. Hank’s never liked it when things remained unsaid or unasked, but he’s usually not the one to ask for validation.

Especially not from his boss.

Fowler nods. “Good. I’ll be there, too. See you then.”

“Jeff,” Hank says, voice hoarser than he’d intended.

A look passes between the two of them, but then Fowler smiles – though it’s tired and a little worn at the edges. “I’m happy for you,” he says, unprompted. “Both of you. Take care of each other.”

Hank just smiles in response.

And that leaves Hank and Connor alone in the corridor, security still occasionally walking by. Hank carefully turns towards his partner, searching his face. Connor looks professional as always, not a hair out of place, his hands clasped behind his back.

“You okay?” he asks.

Connor gives him a look back. “Are you? I get the feeling you’ve wanted to tell him for some time.”

Hank clears his throat and nods, looking down at his shoes. “Yeah. ‘S not like I wanted his approval, but…” He trails off, brushing his hair back. “It’s nice to hear. As a friend.”

“It is,” Connor says, leaning in to bump his shoulder into Hank’s. “Speaking of friends, your colleague Amber seems very nice.”

Hank makes a soft sound. “She is. Maybe it comes with the territory.” He sticks his hands into his pockets. “People have underestimated her ‘cause of it and came out burnt to a crisp.”

Connor smiles knowingly. “I peeked beyond what was classified for the DPD. She’s one of the FBI’s best long-range snipers, apparently.”

Hank just stares. “You can do that, you fucker? Jesus. I didn’t know she was one of the best.”

“Going deviant opened a lot of doors,” Connor shrugs. “Nosing around in files is rather easy.”

“You never did tell me the whole story about that Amanda program,” Hank says.

Connor face tightens subtly. “There’s not much to tell.”

Hank knows when to shut up, so he checks his hip to Connor’s. “C’mon. Let’s get the fuck out of here. Finish up the reports and shit and then leave at four.” He grins. “I made reservations.”

The smile instantly blooms back on Connor’s face. “We’re finally going to go out for dinner?”

“Sort of,” Hank says on a smile. “We’re gonna go out for dancing.”

Connor touches his fingertips to Hank’s, lingering over the cuff of his shirt. The joy that bleeds through their connection is as welcoming and enveloping as a warm bath; it makes Hank shiver pleasantly.

“When you mentioned RK to Amber,” Hank says as they walk back to the car, “you hesitated.”

Connor makes a face. “Yeah. I was unsure of what to call him.” He looks at Hank. “Ever since you doused him with coffee at the front door, he’s been uncomfortable calling himself my successor.”

“And he has reason to beyond that coffee,” Hank says. “You’re both people. Successors and shit doesn’t really work out anymore, does it?”

Connor taps his fingers against his leg. “I suppose not.”

“So,” Hank says, “what do you wanna call him? In relation to you?”

“I would call him my brother,” Connor says quietly, brows twitching into a frown, “but maybe I don’t know him well enough for that.”

Hank shrugs, going around to the passenger seat. “You know what Rachel and I are like. We barely even talk.”

Connor stops very abruptly. “No,” he says, “I have no idea. I don’t know what it’s like to have siblings, parents or even a family.”

He sounds angry.

“Con,” Hank says, gentling his tone. “Found family’s just as good as families you get born into. I’m yours, as is Sumo. Rachel will be – I know she’ll never be able to resist your fuckin’ snark.”

Connor’s eyes are hard. “But I have nothing to compare the experience to. Nothing, Hank.”

He stares at Hank over the span of the roof of the car, standing next to the door. Unmoving, gaze weighty. Hank wishes he was standing on the other side with him.

“You said,” Hank says, “that you knew you loved me when we met up at Chicken Feed.”

“That’s different,” Connor instantly replies. “What I feel for you is overwhelming but true. It – it surpasses my own desire to have those feelings reciprocated.” His voice grows softer. “This, the other thing, it doesn’t.”

Hank waits, looking at the confusion fluttering over Connor’s face. “Are you sure?” he asks. “Isn’t it just ‘cause you know, with me? What I feel?”

“I can’t ask RK900 if he wishes to be my brother,” Connor says, gaze moving away from Hank.

“If you keep convincing yourself of that fact, then yeah, it’s not gonna happen,” Hank answers. “He’s alone, Connor. I think he’d accept it with open arms.”

Connor’s eyes snap back to Hank’s. “I don’t know for sure. That uncertainty is…” He lets a stimulated breath escape him. “It scares me more than Andy and Simmons ever did.”

Hank says nothing. He doesn’t know what would offer comfort.

Connor clenches one hand into a fist. “Is this,” he starts, “what human beings feel all the time? This desire to be needed?” He stares at his own fingers, skin fizzling away. “To be loved, unconditionally?”

“Drives most of our behavior,” Hank murmurs. “We’re social creatures, through and through. Amber could give you all the details.”

Connor eyes flutter closed briefly. “The idea of rejection makes my Thirium pump stutter,” he says quietly. “Is that the line you walk?” he asks Hank. “To live without confirmation and avoid rejection or to ask for love and possibly be turned away?”

That hits Hank unexpectedly hard. “Maybe,” he croaks. “I don’t know. I do think that we – we stop ourselves from having shit sometimes, too. Don’t believe we’re allowed to have it.”

“Like you,” Connor says in sudden realization. “You didn’t believe I was genuinely interested in you at the beginning.”

Hank offers Connor a lopsided smile, but there’s no mirth in it. “Life teaches you shitty lessons sometimes.” He shakes his head as if to clear it from his darker thoughts. “Sometimes people don’t want you, but that’s okay,” he continues. “You can’t force anyone to love you.”

He finally walks around that goddamn car and puts his hand on Connor’s shoulder. “Sometimes you’re just lucky and meet the right ones. Sometimes, you gotta look for ‘em.”

Connor tenses under Hank’s palm. “Did you look for me?”

“No,” Hank says. “But now that I’ve got you, I’m never going to let you out of my sight.”

It’s true. You stop looking when you think you’re not worth it anyway. But Hank doesn’t say that.

Connor’s eyes grow soft. “Humans are very strange,” he professes.

“Welcome to the club,” Hank grins, “and don’t worry too much about RK. He needs time to adjust to his new life, and I think he very much wants to be needed. By you, too.”

Connor nods. “Yeah,” he says, the word slow. “You’re right.”

Hank wants to step away and walk back to the other side of the car, but then Connor speaks up again.

“Hank?” he says, and he looks stupidly ethereal and thoughtful and beautiful in front of Hank. “I did look for you.”

Hank’s heart jumps to his throat.

He feels old. He feels old and ugly and worn-out, like a piece of clothing that’s been washed a thousand times and turned inside out. The old-fashioned toy on the back of the shelf, caked with dust; the one that no one ever wanted to buy.

“I looked for someone,” Connor continues, “who could see me as I am and accept it. Respect me, as an equal.” He reaches over and catches both of Hank’s in his. Run his thumbs over Hank’s knuckles. “Even before I went deviant, you saw me as fully human. As a person.”

Hank shakes. “Connor,” he rasps.

“I’ll be honest,” Connor says, “when I was still a machine, I didn’t believe they existed. People like you. I had little reason to pursue deviancy and little faith in humankind. But…” He smiles, bright and warm. “You treated me as a friend. You could hold me close and give me space. You became a standard to hold other people to.”

Hank’s eyes feel entirely too wet. He can’t move, can’t use his voice; can’t withstand the rawness of Connor’s words without crumbling. As if he doesn’t believe it. As if he can’t.

“That’s normal shit, Connor,” he says weakly. “That’s – that’s what all people should do, for fuck’s sake.”

Connor shrugs, the motion smooth and casual, and he has the fucking stars in his eyes. “Even if they did,” he murmurs, gazing at Hank, “they wouldn’t be you, Hank.”

Hank wants to say please, but he can’t. He’s too afraid that the tears will clog up his throat and turn his voice to shreds completely. So he stands there, under the full luminosity of Connor’s love.

“You can still do all of those things,” Connor continues, “and love me, too.” He swallows, the movement completely unnecessary. “Not in spite of, not because. Not just – separate things that fit in boxes.” A warm smile. “You just see me. The whole picture.”

His skin fades out completely, sizzling lines crawling down the visible parts of his body until he’s standing there without it. And then it slowly filters back up, showing Connor in his usual day-to-day form. Synthetic skin fully intact.

It happens so fast that any onlookers might’ve missed it if they weren’t careful.

The entire time, his LED has stayed blue. Calm, honest, unconflicted.

Connor reaches up and touches Hank’s cheek. “You call yourself lucky,” he says. “I think I’m the lucky one.”

And he swoops in and kisses Hank, right there in broad daylight, in the parking lot of the DPD’s conference room. “Lucky that you waited until I came along,” he adds against Hank’s wet lips. “Lucky that you stayed.”

Hank breaks down and cries, hands coming up to cover his face.

Connor catches him in a bone-crushing hug.

“I’ve got you, Hank,” he whispers, and through their fingers, it echoes.

 

h ͏ ̪̲ ͚ ̜̰̖̩o ͖ ld̷̰̩̞̤̗̣ ͈ ̺̤ͅ ͕ ̯p ͚͢ ̙̥̦ ͖ ̞̦a̝̳r̜̙̫̕ ͓͙ ̺t ͎͉͕ ̭̠ ͈ n ͠ ̥e̴ ͎ ̦̠ ͎͈ ̮r̝̘̰ͅ ͚ ̬_̠h ͔ ̹̼̲̦a̷̺̻n ͈ k ͈͇ ̮ ͔͈ ̥

               ̯͍̱̪̥ͅţ͚̩̺i̹̘̖͟me̢̮͉̦̻̠̦_a̶͉̲̬͇̱mo̢̯ͅu̹̠͕̮̥ͅn̡̘̣t͖ ͈̘͈̹̥ͅų̫̺͎͉̥n̛̤l͖i͚͇̠̺̮͕i̭̙̙̠̗̬ͅt҉̖̦e̤̟d͇̮

 


 

After dinner, Hank battles with his wardrobe like he hasn’t battled in years. It’s like a goddamn Mexican standoff, except clothes can’t hold guns.

The sea of colorful shirts on the rack suddenly feels weirdly tacky. Hank likes them, sure, but they’re inappropriate for a date. Just like the band t-shirts he’s stuffed somewhere in the back. You don’t wear that when you’re going out-out, not when it’s something special.

Connor didn’t change when they got home.

Of course the fucker didn’t – no rain today, nothing to accidently roll around in and get himself dirty with, and he doesn’t sweat. He just removed his tie, rolled up his sleeves, and declared himself ready to go.

He still looks picture-fucking-perfect, and of course he wouldn’t look out of place in a jazz café. Hank wouldn’t either, unless you’d put the two of them together. On a dancefloor, of all places. And that’s the problem, really.

Hank sighs.

First, he considers simple and basic: just a t-shirt. White, grey, something light. Maybe a dark jacket.

That ends quickly with one look in the mirror.

In his younger years? Sure. Hank could get away with a classic rock ‘n roll look. But now it just doesn’t look date-worthy, and not very flattering either.

Then, he considers a t-shirt with a button-up over it. Judges it open, closed, hanging out of his pants, and tucked into his pants fully. Tucked in the front and tucked out in the back. Collar slightly up, collar down.

He groans, rubbing at his brow. Wasn’t fucking made for this.

Slowly, Hank takes out his phone. Mexican standoffs can’t end until there’s an outside intervention, but his hands still shake when he sends the text. The reply he gets back is instantaneous and deadpan.

 

clothes

C’mon, Rach.

what’s he wearin

Button-up shirt, chinos, loafers, jacket.

jesus fucking CHRIST

 

His phone rings. He hesitates only a second before pressing the button on the screen and picking up. He hasn’t heard her voice in years. Two, to be exact.

“Really,” is all she says. “This is what you bother me for after all these years?”

Hank’s voice sounds strained. “Would’ve bothered you sooner if I’d known you’d call me for it.”

“Fat thumbs,” Rachel says on the other side.

Hank nods; he knows she hates texting. Then, silence.

“I figured,” Rachel says, breaking the quietness apart, “that you kept off on pictures because it was complicated. So I paid some more attention to the news.”

Hank’s stomach sinks, but only a little. “And?”

“He’s not your type,” she says. “But then again, very few people are.”

“Rach,” Hank says, voice softer.

She hums under her breath. “Send me the goddamn pictures and show me that he makes you happy. That’s all that matters.”

“Tell me what to wear,” Hank presses.

“You’ll look like a sunshine fucking hippie nonetheless,” she answers. “Jesus, Hank.”

Hank snorts. “It matters, alright?”

“It doesn’t,” she shoots back. “He’s either gonna drown in your eyes or wanna take your clothes off.”

“C’mon,” Hank adds. “Please. Help a guy out.”

A long, deep-suffering sigh. “Solid color button-up. He rolls his sleeves?”

“Yeah,” Hank nods, small smile hiding away in the corner of his mouth.

“Fuckin’ of course,” Rachel mutters. “Match that. Two buttons undone. Three if he does two.”

Hank lets out a chuckle. “Isn’t that your to-go outfit when you picked up chicks?”

“Hell yeah,” Rachel answers. “I look banger in it. So do you. It’s the genes.” A pause. “Speaking of, jeans are fine.”

“I’m gonna take Connor dancing.”

Rachel ignores him. “Tuck in the front, out in the back, maybe.”

“I can’t believe I’m taking advice from a sixty-year-old butch lesbian,” Hank jokes, trying to get her attention.

Rachel falls silent for a moment. “I’m fifty-eight.”

“I know,” Hank says. “Rachel.”

“Hank,” she answers. “Anything else?”

Hank clears his throat. “You thinkin’ this month or June? July?”

“Whenever you want me to come,” Rachel says. “I have no other family I can spend my vacation days on.”

Hank feels anxiety wind around his words. “He – he wants to meet you. Connor.”

“Do you want to see me?” she asks, and it’s biting. “Fuck, Hank. I’m not – I’m not good at this.”

“That’s okay,” Hank says, “neither am I.”

Rachel exhales on a breath. “Let’s stay in touch. I still wanna come over.”

“I appreciate it.” Hank pauses. Like all the times before, the words just get stuck in his throat. He can feel their presence, buzzing around, wanting to be said. But they stay behind anyway.

Stay behind like three years ago.

“I gotta go,” Hank murmurs, making a decision for himself.

“Cut up the dancefloor, huh,” Rachel answers. “Have fun.”

Hank swallows, and says it. “Rach. Love you. Take care.”

It’s so silent he could drop a pin and hear it clatter. Its sharp edges rolling against the wood. Round head dipping against the floor, twirling. Slice of silver through the air.

“Yeah,” Rachel replies. “Love you, too.”

And she hangs up.

Hank’s hand trembles as he pulls out the one solid blue shirt he owns, and decides he looks good in it.

(He texts Rachel the pictures later, when Connor and he are in the cab. The photos they took in the yard with Sumo. He gets one message back – he loves you, too – and that’s more than enough.)

 


 

The jazz club is notoriously difficult to find. Hole-in-the-wall kind of small, and it’s located in a souterrain. So even if you do find the sign – The Blue Note – you gotta walk down this tiny little stone staircase, swivel down the street, and then you finally end up at the door.

The club itself is one of those places that starts out long and narrow; bar to the right along the length of the room, rows of tables plastered to brick walls, and then further in the back a wider, open space. With room for a small podium and live music.

There’s never any need for music playlists. When there’s no bands or singers booked, regulars tend to take out their own instruments and jam a little. The main lady at the bar has a voice to die for. And the conversation’s always good – and the whiskey, better.

Hank’s been coming here since he was in his twenties. Open all day – café in the mornings and the middays, complete with a hangover breakfast, and club in the evenings and during the night. Small, private, and almost too cool for school.

They pull in the revenue. They always have. Hank’s dad talked himself into the club way back when with a fake ID and met Hank’s mom. Boom, history made.

It’s that kind of place.

The bouncer recognizes Hank.

“Lookin’ smart, my friend,” she grins, shaking Hank’s hand. “You brought a new buddy?” she asks then, head jerking towards Connor.

Hank bends forward towards the bouncer and winks. “My partner on the force,” he says, “and in other walks of life.”

“Ay,” the bouncer laughs, “you boys up for a good evening. Nina’s singing tonight.” She rises from her bar stool next to the front entrance, and gestures towards the door. “Come on in. Enjoy yourselves.”

Connor nods and smiles at the bouncer. “Thank you,” he says confidently, “we will.”

He reaches out and grasps Hank’s hand in his own, and then follows him inside.

The atmosphere is cozy – brick walls a warm terracotta, uncovered by plaster. Tables huddled together, adorned with candles, people laughing and talking in a pleasant buzz of chatter. The seductive dulcet tones of a woman singing crooner-style in the back.

Connor’s hand tightens almost imperceptibly around Hank’s as he looks around the space. His LED flickers, cycling to yellow, but he looks attentive and curious. Processing the scene playing out around him.

Hank walks up to the bar, never letting go of Connor’s hand. “Hi,” he says with a smile. “Anderson. I made reservations for a table for two at the edge of the dancefloor.”

The bartender nods and smiles back, flipping out his touchpad. “Got you guys right here,” he confirms. He gestures towards a waiter. “They’ll take you to your table.”

Hank and Connor follow the waiter, zigzagging through the tables towards the dancefloor and the podium. Now, they can see the band and the singer more clearly – a beautiful black woman in a purple dress. Hank couldn’t guess her age if his life depended on it but god, her voice is divine.

The waiter presents them both with a touchpad menu for drinks and finger-food, and then turns to Connor with a wink and a smile. “Thirium cocktails are on page two,” they laugh. “Enjoy.”

Connor instantly reaches over the surface of their table, fingers lacing with Hank’s. “Hank,” he says, “this is so different from the concert.” His LED is still yellow, eyes flickering over the dancing couples.

Most of them keep to the rhythm of the song, but they dance slowly and informally. Often leaning in for a kiss or a quiet whisper. Laughter and ease. A brush across a wrist, an arm settled into the small of someone’s back.

Hank’s heart stutters with fondness. “You mean the music?” he teases. “Or the people?”

“Everything,” Connor replies. “It’s…” He pauses right before he’s even started his explanation when Hank leans back with a grin, elbow leaning on the back of his chair. And then, his LED really starts rolling with blinks of bright yellow.

“At a loss for words, huh,” Hank says.

Connor’s eyes drift over Hank’s hands and lingers over the knuckles. Moves to the place where his collar dips. The sides of his neck and throat, the curl and wave of his hair. Then, in a way that Hank’s categorized as flustered, Connor turns his head away and taps the fingers of his free hand on the table.

“I’d call it romantic,” he murmurs.

“Hmm-mmm,” Hank hums in the affirmative. “It’s meant to be, yeah.”

Connor’s eyes slide back to his own. “Don’t look so amused. You’d be slower in replying too if your processing unit was only operating at roughly 30%.”

“What’s the other 70% doing?” Hank asks, brushing his fingers over Connor’s palm.

Connor shivers. “Looking at you,” he answers.

Hank leans in and lets his lips brush over Connor’s jaw in a kiss that’s featherlight. Barely a touch. He can’t help but feel a tingle of pride when Connor instantly turns into the movement, and on the next second, his plating becomes faintly visible for just a flash.

“How far am I on the wooing?” Hank whispers against that soft place below Connor’s jaw before leaning back in his chair again. A place that’s soft on androids, too.

“Far along,” Connor answers, eyes dark and longing. “Any closer estimates are unavailable at this point.”

Hank grins. “You wanna pick a drink and then dance? Or dancing first?”

Connor reaches for the touchpad and huffs. “I don’t trust my legs right now.”

Fuck it, Hank thinks, and throws all caution and remaining doubts out the window.

“If you can’t stand,” he comments off-handedly, leaning forward so he can peek at the menu as well, “those legs would look fuckin’ great wrapped around me, too.”

Connor looks up at him in wide, blinking surprise, and then the touchpad cracks below his grip.

Just a small broken line in the left corner, right below the press of Connor’s thumb. The menu stays entirely visible, and Hank has never been this amused. Has to hold back his laughter, especially when viewing Connor’s dumbfounded expression.

“Shit,” Connor hisses.

Hank bites his lip to contain himself. “It’s just a touchpad, Connor. Still workin’.”

“I keep breaking things when you turn me on,” Connor mutters, wiping his fingers over the pad in vain.

And then Hank does laugh, leaning on his arms. “I know,” he grins. “It’s kinda hot.”

“It’s inconvenient,” Connor counters.

Hank shrugs. “I dunno. I was kinda thinking of having that crack in the wall framed.”

Connor’s gaze grows sharper, more calculating. Boldly drifts down the line of Hank’s body. “Give it some time,” he says casually. “I might make a bigger one when I throw you back against it.”

And fuck, that makes heat sink into Hank – his cheeks, his ears, his hands, his everything. This close, he can’t hide it from Connor; not the way his body tenses up, not the way his lips part, and not the way he imagines it within his mind’s eye.

Connor looks pleased. “You’re welcome, Lieutenant.”

“Fuck,” Hank mutters. “Really, Connor?”

He means it in a way of really, right here? or really, you had to get back at me with that? but that doesn’t mean shit to Connor. Connor, who decides to take Hank’s words literally, because apparently there are no other options with an android who’s ready to get down and dirty.

“Really,” Connor confirms matter-of-factly. “Of course, I’d still be careful with you. I have a feeling you’re not really into pain.”

Hank nearly chokes on his own spit. “’M not,” he says before anything else can come out.

Connor gives him an innocently calculating look. “I think I could lift you with one arm,” he says thoughtfully. “That’d leave my other hand free for other things.”

“Jesus fucking christ,” Hank says. “Just order a goddamn cocktail, alright?”

Connor smiles in a secretive manner. “Whatever you say, Hank,” he says, and it’s almost singsong.

They both order their drinks – Hank a gin and tonic because he doesn’t want any whiskey near his mouth right now, and Connor picks one of the Thirum cocktails. It’s just a small bit of liquid but it’s in a very pretty glass, and though it won’t make him drunk it promises to interact with his inner receptors in all kinds of ways.

Hank nearly falls off his chair when Connor takes his first sip and then the lines of his plating over his arms flare blue.

“Oh,” Connor says simply, looking down. “That’s kind of pleasant.”

“Kind of pleasant?” Hank echoes, half-spluttering the words into his gin.

Connor touches the tips of his fingers to his thumbs. “It’s interacting with my interfacing software. As humans would say it, apparently, ‘a sensation similar to having a fizzy drink’.” He smiles, and then extends his hand towards Hank. “Join me?”

When their fingers touch, Hank isn’t necessarily reminded of fizzy drinks. Rather just – warmth. The way hot cocoa runs down your throat on a cold winter’s day. The way the contents of a cup of tea with honey can settle soothing and comfortable at the pit of your stomach.

“It’s nice,” Connor says with a smile.

Hank agrees wordlessly, and then stares at the hand clasped in his own.

“Do you,” he starts, inclining his head to the floor behind them, “do you wanna – ”

“Yeah,” Connor answers. His hand is white beneath Hank’s grip, and his eyes are determined. “I’d like that.”

Hank frowns, picking something up over their joined hands. Something light, fleeting, a musing of Connor’s. Rhythmical, like the prelude of a dance, and he’s reminded of the spin and hum of a generator.

“Complete the circuit,” Connor says by ways of explanation, noticing the question in Hank’s eyes. He shrugs as he says it, like a nervous twitch, and turns his face away slightly.

“You’re embarrassed,” Hank realizes, blinking. “What for?”

Connor offers him a hesitant smile. “Dancing,” he adds quietly. “It reminds me of – it reminds me of interfacing. Not the – not sex.” His brow furrows. “Well, maybe that too. But…”

He lifts their joined hands. Palm-to-palm, and his eyes grow very soft. Hank feels the warmth blossom through their connection, and it has nothing to do with Thirium cocktails simulating fizzy drinks.

“Circles,” Connor adds. “Cycles. Like my LED, like my machinery.”

The connection buzzes harder, faint lines of code hovering at the edges, Hank can only stare back at Connor in wonder. He doesn’t even dare to clear his throat; he can’t remember Connor ever stumbling over his words as he does now.

“A rhythm,” Connor continues, eyes flickering over their hands, “that always returns to its source. When we interface, when we connect, I put out a charge that – that completes your circuit.”

Hank smiles, faintly. “Y’know,” he says, “circles are a symbol of eternity.”

“I know,” Connor says, confidence back on his features. “Infinity, wholeness. I was merely…” He chuckles at himself. “The aesthetic beauty of it struck me. It’s like it means the same to me as an android as it means to you as a human.”

Hank shifts his grip, and slowly rises from his chair. “This is your chance,” he says. “C’mon.” He takes a step away from the table. “Dance with me.”

Connor almost falls over the scramble of his own legs in his eagerness to join Hank, their hands still firmly connected. It pierces Hank, that unabashed enjoyment; genuine, honest, not toned down for the presence of others.

With Connor, there’s never any doubt.

His goddamn first time loving someone, Hank thinks, and he wears it like the brightest fucking star in the sky.

“Do you want to lead?” he asks, voice low.

Connor tilts his head to the side, considering it. “Alright,” he says, and he changes his posture.

Takes Hank’s left hand in his own before guiding it around his shoulders; one step forward into Hank’s space, bodies almost touching. Just enough space for air. He’s probably got it down to the exact Planck lengths.

There’s a look of intense concentration on his face, as if he’s determined to get this right. He lifts his left hand elegantly, taking Hank’s right one, and holds it up. His right palm lands in the curve of Hank’s back – firm, informal, and slightly low.

Like lovers.

Hank doesn’t want to admit that he has butterflies in his stomach, but he absolutely does.

“Like this?” Connor asks, breathless as always, though his chest still lifts and falls with the simulation of it.

Hank makes a so-so kind of face, followed up by a grin. “Maybe a lil’ closer,” he remarks.

Connor blinks, and then shuffles his feet until the length of his body is touching Hank’s. “Better?” he asks, eyes searching Hank’s face. The warmth of his body sinks into Hank like this, soothing and comfortable.

“Yeah,” Hank says, gravel in his voice. “Fuckin’ perfect, Connor.”

It is.

Connor takes his first step, and Hank follows. Not a perfect subroutine of a classical dance in his system by far. It’s intimate, quiet, more of a slow turn of two bodies in each other’s orbit. Similar to what the other couples are doing on the dancefloor.

And he’s looking at Hank the entire time, a smile playing at his lips. LED cycling but blue.

Always back to blue.

Hank usually leads, and he’s not used to mirroring his steps. But somehow, it works out instantly as they sway gently to the beat of the song. Connor makes a few easy turns, guiding them steadily around the edge of the dancefloor, and all Hank can think about is pressing his forehead to his.

So he does and closes his eyes, savoring the moment.

Connor hums, soft and barely there, like the buzz of a machine below the beat. Content, says the spark of feeling beneath the pads of Hank’s fingertips where they touch Connor’s.

Hank loses himself in the feeling. Flutters his eyes open every now and then to catch Connor’s gaze, and then they smile or grin stupidly at each other like two people in on the same joke. The same secret knowledge that guides them along.

“I’m very happy,” Connor says, and then he’s leaning in further.

Presses closer, eyes flickering down the length of Hank’s body before his smooth cheek slides against Hank’s beard. He turns his frame a little to the side, and the warmth of his cheek stays. Hank can smell his own laundry detergent; feel the stubborn toughness of Connor’s hair when he noses at his nape.

Dancing cheek-to-cheek.

Hank smiles against the side of Connor’s face, and he feels the skin of the hand he’s holding fuse away. Making way for a smoother surface with slightly less give. He instantly takes the opportunity to rub his thumb over Connor’s.

“Me too,” he murmurs against Connor’s jaw.

He feels Connor’s lips widen in a smile against his cheek.

Hank hasn’t spent much time figuring out the myriad of ways he and Connor fit together. Never really thought about it – not like he usually tries to figure shit on his own. He became a detective for a reason, after all, and usually he catches all the details.

But you get so used to not having things or not thinking yourself worthy of them, you easily fall into the trap of thinking of arguments against a case rather than for it. The hurdles, the barriers, all the reasons why it couldn’t possibly be true.

But now?

Hank smiles, squeezing Connor’s hand, and instantly gets a squeeze back. The next turn they do when they pass another corner of the dancefloor is quicker and more elegant, and it makes Hank chuckle.

“Show-off,” he murmurs.

Amusement trickles down the line of electricity and neurons binding them together, and Connor squeezes Hank harder. In the details through the haze, Hank can feel him bite his lip to stop himself from smiling.

Now, Hank can see it.

How they already complemented each other so well from the start – the instant Connor walked in with all his rigid, stubborn focus. His motivation to get things done; his curiosity, his drive. How Hank’s more casual attitude and his years of experience fit so easily into the overwhelming sweep of Connor’s headstrong attitude.

The banter, the sarcasm, the jokes back and forth. Their own faults and oddities enhancing their relationship rather than keeping it back. And even if they did, they navigated around it as easily and smoothly as Hank’s ever seen.

“Do you want me to dip you at the end?” Connor whispers against the curve of Hank’s ear.

Hank smiles and considers it. “Whatever you do,” he starts, and then stops again to press a kiss to Connor’s cheek. Shifts his arm a little closer around Connor’s broad shoulders, but still cranes his neck back so that he can look Connor in the eye.

The club’s lighting paints him like a sunset on a summer evening.

Hank knows someone at CyberLife designed his eyes; decided on the depth and color. The shades and the tints and how they make a patterned whole; the little flecks, the darker ring around the irises. The exact length and curl of his eyelashes.

“Hank,” Connor says, face serious, “you stopped talking.”

But nobody could ever put the happiness in those eyes like Hank’s seeing it right now. Nobody could’ve predicted what that myriad of brown flecks and curls and turns could look like with such warmth in it. The twinkle, the amusement; the shyness, the coyness, the love.

The life.

“Guess I did,” Hank grins. “Processor’s been behavin’ shitty since the moment we walked in.”

“Ah,” Connor says, and there’s that twinkle again. “Sounds familiar.”

They’ve stopped moving around the entirety of the dancefloor, instead just swaying into place. Circles, like Connor’s professed to like so much. His fingers skim up and down the length of Hank’s spine, and the deliberate slowness of it is making Hank’s insides flutter for no fucking reason.

“You seemed distracted,” Connor explains. “I didn’t want to risk us bumping into someone else.”

Hank chuckles. “Can’t account for my human unpredictability, huh?”

“I wouldn’t wish to,” Connor smiles. “Do you remember what you wanted to say?”

Hank briefly pulls their joined hands to his mouth, pressing a kiss to the back of Connor’s. “Words are kinda failin’ me right now, Connor.”

“Some things don’t need to be said,” Connor says; easy words, honest truth.

Hank wants to kiss him, so he does. Presses his mouth gently to Connor’s while they still sway to the beat. Connor’s lips are soft, with or without synthetic skin, and they mold just right against the curve of Hank’s own.

“Just thinkin’,” he murmurs, “that we’re a good fucking fit. You and me.”

Connor nuzzles his nose against Hank’s. “I agree,” he says, leaning into Hank. “You hadn’t considered that before?” he adds, eyebrow lightly arched.

Hank shakes his head. “Not like this,” he admits.

He sees it. Full clarity, full focus.

How he forgot what it was like to be alive, and how Connor was still learning it. How Connor’s steps – from bumbling hesitance to certain strides – towards becoming something beyond his programming reminded Hank of what he could be. Of what he was, deep down.

How Hank didn’t remember what it was like to love, and how Connor had never loved anyone before.

How they met in the middle.

Compromise? Maybe. But somehow everything they settle for feels like an elevation rather than a downgrade.

“As always, Hank,” Connor starts, “I feel the strange need to tell you that your heartrate and your respiration have increased.” He smiles, his closest approximation to a grin.

Hank snorts, shaking his head. “What are the chances,” he says fondly, and it’s not even a question.

“When I’m near, they’re quite high,” Connor quips back, looking a little smug about it.

Hank rolls his eyes, and makes a split-second decision. Turns on his heel, sharply, ignoring the slight twinge in his lower back as he dips Connor as deep and as fast as he can. And holds him there, smiling down at him.

Connor looks well and utterly stunned, and blinks up at Hank.

“Good to know I can still surprise you,” Hank winks.

Connor face grows softer. One of his hands trails up to touch Hank’s cheek. “I had no doubts about it, Hank,” he says, looking infinitely pleased. “Do you come here often?” he adds then, teasing.

“This definitely ain’t my first rodeo,” Hank grins back before leaning up and pulling Connor with him, “babe.”

There’s a little jump over their joined hands like the low charge of a battery, plus a small, staticky noise from Connor’s throat. “Oh,” he says, blinking at Hank. “I would – yeah. Rodeo me. Please.”

Hank just stares and Connor stares back, flustered as hell, as if he can’t believe what just rolled off his tongue.

And then Hank bursts out into laughter; he simply can’t help it. “What the fuck, Connor,” he chokes out, sides shaking.

They’re still in their respective poses; not dancing, but with their arms slung around each other. And Connor, stubborn as always, holds his ground. Pulls a determined face.

“There were no preconstructed outcomes ready,” he says. “So I figured I’d go hard or go home.”

Hank’s laughter dies down slow, and he’s still grinning widely like an idiot as he squeezes the back of Connor’s neck. “You wanna?” he asks, raising an eyebrow. “Go home and go hard?”

Again, Connor falls over his words. “I,” he says, “I like the dances.”

His LED flickers to yellow for the barest of seconds, and Hank sees the conflict on his features.

So he nods, and jerks his head into the direction of the band. “You can have both. We got all night.”

Connor smiles. “Do you want to lead the next one?”

Hank hums, already switching up his stance, and brushes a kiss over Connor’s knuckles in the process. “’Course,” he says against Connor’s skin. “As long as you dip me at the end this time.”

Connor’s answering chuckle is lively and affectionate.

On the next song, he dips Hank halfway through and at the end. And kisses him soundly both times.

 


 

They end up staying for almost two hours, alternating dancing with drinking cocktails and staring into each other’s eyes like lovesick fools. Hank orders some fried snacks, and they talk about the little things. No shop talk tonight.

Hank regales some stories of his childhood – of him and Rachel getting up to no good around the neighborhood. From innocent ding-dong ditching to spray painting the garage door of a neighbor who’d called Rachel a slur.

Their parents had been mad. But when the guy in question rang the doorbell and claimed rightly so that it’d been Hank and Rachel, Hank’s dad had gasped and shaken his head. “How dare you,” he’d said in this mocking voice he could do really well, “my two beautiful children from gay hell could never have done this!”

They never paid any damages, though Hank and Rachel did get house arrest for it.

Rachel had girlfriends by then, and she’d make sure to make out near the guy’s front lawn while Hank and Rachel’s dad lurked on the other side of the road in case the guy would try anything.

He didn’t, and he moved out after a month.

Connor loves all the stories. Listens attentively and asks for more.

Of course, he’s curious about Rachel. Most of the questions he asks are about her and what she’s doing right now, though he also loves the fake ID story of how Hank’s parents found each other. And he’s seen the file of their mom, who rose through the ranks at the DPD just as fast as Hank did.

But he doesn’t know the stories of how she’d take Hank and Rachel out for picnics on the weekends. He doesn’t know how both his parents would join Rachel and Hank as they played out scenes from Star Trek.

He doesn’t know the man and the woman behind the actor and the police officer.

And in turn, Connor tells Hank stories, too.

Of his first tentative friendship with North, of how she threatened to punch his brains out if he’d ever hurt Josh or Markus or Simon, and of how infinitely more protective she became of him once she got into contact with Hank.

That Markus sends him eye-rolling selfies whenever Josh, Simon, and North get into arguments – usually seen in the background. Of how they have something akin to a group chat in which Josh shares information about the community centers for androids that he’s setting up, Simon gives the latest on technology, and Markus gets feedback on his speeches from the others and flirts a lot with everyone.

(Connor admits he doesn’t add a lot to that chain of messages, but he reads all of them.)

Connor also mentions how he enjoys the perks of his deviancy because it gives him infinitely more experiences than he ever thought he’d have. How he likes the taste of food, now, even though he doesn’t really have a place to store much of it. And he gladly recounts the time when Chen first invited him for coffee when he accompanied her to the lab for analysis.

Tells Hank he likes Chen and Waterfield. And Miller. How they’ve all come to accept him as a fellow colleague over the past few months. Even Reed, who apparently occasionally sends Connor memes. Preferably of the abstract kind or cats, and rarely accompanied by any text other than ‘lol’.

It makes Hank laugh and shake his head.

When they get home and go through all their comfortable routines – keys in the basket on the table in the hallway, impromptu cuddle session with Sumo, turning on the lights in the living room – Hank realizes he feels the excitement burn in the pit of his stomach.

Especially as Connor walks back into the hallway, lets his hand rest over the doorframe to the bedroom, and waits. Not smiling, not smug, and not even seductive. Just looking at Hank.

Like he’s waiting for a lover.

“So,” Hank starts, “you still wanna take me up on my offer?”

Connor’s eyes darken. “Was there ever any doubt?”

Hank wants to ask Connor a thousand questions. Wants to ask him if he’s ever wanted to fuck someone’s brains out so badly he nearly collapsed on the spot while also wanting to hold their hand and kiss their forehead. Wants to ask him if it feels the same for him, wound tight and hot and wanting.

But he doesn’t.

Because usually when he gets home, Connor loosens his tie and discards his jacket. He’s done neither.

Something, something – no words needed.

Hank swallows the lump of eagerness and desire in this throat and follows Connor. Steps into their bedroom and closes the door behind him. Connor waits again, standing next to the bed unmoving – but his eyes are alert, tracking Hank’s movements with the accuracy of a human with a telescoping sight.

Probably even sharper and with a higher resolution. Hank hopes Connor can tell he’s already half-hard.

Hank brushes his fingers over the cuffs of Connor’s jacket. Trails them up the seams until he reaches his shoulders; hums out a soft breath as he brushes his nose against Connor’s. And then he’s sliding his palms over to the front, parting the jacket, and tugging it off Connor’s arms.

Connor watches him through it, brown eyes not leaving Hank’s.

Hank steps into Connor’s space, letting the jacket flutter to the floor. Recalls how much Connor likes his hands and sweeps them broad and slow over the slope of Connor’s shoulders. Up and down over the planes of his chest, thumbs brushing over the line of his tie as he applies a little pressure.

“Hank,” Connor says, barely above a whisper.

“I’ll stop whenever you want me to,” Hank says, almost reflexively. His fingers find Connor’s waistband.

Connor shakes his head. “I don’t want you to.” He lifts his chin, almost defiant.

Hank’s fingers don’t tremble when he slides them up to the tight knot of Connor’s tie. His pulse does jump when he sets to loosening the knot, and Connor’s throat bobs against it in an imitation of swallowing.

His lashes flutter when Hank pulls it loose entirely and lets it dangle from Connor’s neck: two lines of black framing the row of buttons down Connor’s torso. Hank touches them carefully, each pearly disc, and then sets to undoing them. Starts at the bottom, pulling Connor’s shirt from his trousers, and ends up sliding his fingertips over the side of Connor’s throat when he reaches the top.

Connor takes that as a mark of something – Hank isn’t sure what, completely lost in the motions, but Connor steps out of his shoes and kicks them towards the bed. Undoes his cuffs himself, and then he’s shrugging out of his shirt.

Hank instantly lets his fingers dance over the bare skin that appears. Connor’s still wearing a tank top, but the handsome, muscular lines of his body are already visible through the thin cotton. The scattering of freckles and moles that Hank enjoys looking at so much.

Hank’s eyes linger, and so do his hands.

“You look like a goddamn dream,” he murmurs, letting his fingers trail down the insides of Connor’s arms.

Slower over the soft insides of his elbows; fleetingly over the veined skin of his wrists. And then, more certain than Hank expected of himself, they drift over the taut planes of his stomach towards his belt.

Hank unclasps it and flicks the button with one easy sweep of his finger. Drags down the zipper.

“I’m real,” Connor says, voice hazy with emotion.

He’s tugging off his shirt before Hank can even try to lift it and he looks like a fucking vision doing it. As if he belongs on the front cover of a magazine, with his trousers sliding off of his hips and his hair tousled and his arms straining to lift up his shirt over his head.

Beautiful and strong, while white cotton makes way for leagues of exposed skin that Hank wants to kiss.

Hank takes advantage of the moment by taking off his own jacket and undoing an extra button at his throat. No more, because Connor is throwing that goddamn tank top to the floor and Hank can’t stop himself.

He slides his hands over Connor’s hips, cupping them, and then higher up over the planes of his stomach. Feeling the artificial arch of his ribs, moving past the darker color of his nipples, and then back to the center of his chest. A little lower, below his sternum.

“Con,” Hank says softly, “reality’s dreamy enough, y’know.”

Connor tilts his head. “What do you mean?”

Hank frowns, brushing his fingers over the place where he knows Connor’s Thirium pump lies. “Where’s all the blue shit you got going on?”

He finds it by memory alone. Thumbs the ridge of it through Connor’s synthetic skin, and Connor jerks under it. His LED glows gold, softened by the darkness of the bedroom.

“I thought,” he says, leaning into Hank’s touch, “you wanted to undress me and take your time to see me.”

Hank gives him a look, unbuttoning his own shirt down all the way with his other hand. “Yeah,” he says, “you. I’m not…”

He wants to say not interested, but that’s not true. He likes every version of Connor. But he wants to see what Connor feels, what Connor is inside. Not what he – what he presents on the outside for other people to gawk and marvel at.

Hank wants to see what his and Connor’s own.

But then Connor makes a small, relieved noise, and Hank doesn’t have to explain. “Good,” he says, “because ever since I increased the sensitivity of my sensors, as you put it, it’s been difficult to keep it up.”

His skin flares to life.

It stays in place, that outer layer, but Connor instantly lights up the room with a cool blue. Thirium pump thudding away brightly underneath Hank’s hand, plating blending with the lines of his musculature, and glowing blue lines down his arms and his entire body.

Hank makes a soft, appreciative noise and whistles through his teeth. “Fuck,” he says.

“Your arousal is increasingly significantly,” Connor says, and he sounds proud.

Hank shifts, trying to kick off his shoes. “Hell yeah,” he says, “and I’m still gonna take my time.”

His fingers drift back to Connor’s body; to where his trousers have slipped down his hips, the open zipper revealing the white briefs beneath. And Connor looking up at Hank with anticipation, his own hands landing on Hank’s hips.

“Please do,” he says, mouth half-open and a look on his face Hank wants to drown in.

Hank slides his fingers over Connor’s hips towards his back – the beautiful dip of Connor’s waist, the arch of his lower back, and then down to the swell of his ass. Hank can’t help a slow, rolling squeeze of his palms over Connor’s behind that’s bordering on possessive.

And then they’re both scrambling a little to get Connor’s pants all the way off.

“You said something about increased sensitivity?” Hank asks, letting his lips brush over Connor’s shoulder.

Connor, who’s standing there in nothing but his briefs, moans at just the lightest touch of Hank’s lips. “Yeah,” he says, eyes sliding closed. “I wanted to – wanted to experience the full breadth of my feeling spectrum.”

Hank runs just a single finger down the length of Connor’s chest, and Connor shudders.

“Fuck,” Hank smiles against the freckled skin beneath his mouth, “guess that makes us both lucky.”

Connor’s arms both slide around Hank’s shoulders and he draws them closer, swaying into Hank’s body. He tips his chin up again, obviously looking for a kiss.

Hank grins, feeling like teasing, and keeps his mouth over the slope of Connor’s shoulder. Lets his beard graze at the skin while he presses soft, light kisses up to the side of Connor’s throat.

“Hank,” Connor manages, “oh god, Hank, it’s – ”

His fingers scramble at Hank’s back, and Hank can see his toes curl into the carpet. It sends Hank’s dick throbbing, chafing against the fabric of his boxers.

“Good?” he murmurs, drawing nonsensical patterns onto the small of Connor’s back with his index fingers.

The softly stuttering static from low in Connor’s body is enough of an answer, and Hank can’t hide his smile against Connor’s skin. Moves one hand from Connor’s strong, curved back up to the front again, grazing his nail over the round flare of his Thirium pump.

Connor buckles against him. “Hank,” he whispers against Hank’s cheek, “please. The dancing was already so – I want…” His voice breaks off into quiet moans again, interlaced with static.

“I’m guessin’,” Hank says, mouth against the side of Connor’s jaw, “that you don’t have this annoying thing that humans call a refractory period?”

“No,” Connor says into Hank’s hair, voice weak. “Technically, I could keep going until forever.”

Hank circles his fingertip over the center of Connor’s pump. “Would you like to?”

Connor leans back, looking Hank in the eyes. He already looks about halfway through fucked. “You’re asking me if I’d enjoy overstimulation,” he says.

“Yeah,” Hank answers, throat dry.

Something red and dangerous flickers in the depths of Connor’s eyes, and he gives Hank a lopsided smile. “Why don’t we find out?” he asks, and then he’s pulling at the collar of Hank’s unbuttoned shirt.

Tugs it off, almost harshly, as if he’s offended by the fabric.

“Someone’s eager,” Hank says, heart doing a backflip when Connor applies the same casual strength to undoing his belt.

“Well, you promised,” Connor says, “and it’s been 16.8 hours since you did so. I don’t wanna wait any longer, Hank.” He looks up sharply. “Hands all over.”

The feeling slam-dunks Hank before he can even properly notice it.

“Hands all over,” he confirms with an answering grin, and then he’s grasping Connor’s hands and taking a few steps forward. Crowding Connor until he’s got him against the edge of the mattress.

Connor’s eyes flicker up and down Hank’s form, and then Hank presses his fingers to Connor’s chest.

“Push me,” Connor says, mouth working too slowly for his doing, like it’s a stray thought that he just picked up but absolutely can’t stay away from.

The feeling is comfortable. Hank feels good, like he’s meant to be here; like he’s meant to press his body along the answer length of Connor’s. He doesn’t dare think sexy; he hasn’t thought that with regards to himself for many, many years, but the confidence that reminds him of it – it’s there.

So he applies the necessary pressure and shoves at Connor’s chest.

It makes him land on the mattress behind him in one fell swoop, and he looks so fucking pleased about it that Hank makes a mental note of it for later. But not for now, because Connor’s fingers are reaching down and he’s wiggling out of his briefs, and Hank is making quick work of his own socks and his pants and his goddamn t-shirt.

Boxers last. Connor stares at Hank hungrily, and automatically spreads his legs so Hank can land between them.

“Fuckin’ gorgeous,” Hank chokes, splaying his palms over the inside of Connor’s thighs.

Little dots and freckles and marks even here, and just as hauntingly sensitive going by the quiet gasp escaping Connor’s throat. The way his legs tremble, trying to hook themselves around Hank’s body.

Slow, Hank reminds himself, you were gonna fuck him slow.

“You’re not deactivating your skin,” Hank remarks, fingers curling around the bend of one of Connor’s knees.

Connor leans back into the covers, body rippling with the movement. “It’s,” he starts, “it’s more intense with my skin deactivated.”

“Ha,” Hank grins, “good to know.”

And then he’s pulling back, because he’s had this image in his head for a while now – Connor, spread out naked over their bed, wanting it, and it doesn’t start with Hank hitching his legs around his hips and twisting his wires until he comes.

(Maybe that’s for another time, but not for now.)

Connor’s throws one arm half over his forehead, LED echoing yellow against the line of his elbow. “Hank?” he asks, his other hand grasping for Hank’s.

Hank offers him a smile, and shifts all the way to the foot of the bed. It leaves Connor staring at him through his eyelashes from under the shadow of his arm, carefully processing Hank’s movements. Probably calculating the most likely outcome.

Hank’s not sure if Connor’s calculations end up with the way Hank smooths his thumb over Connor’s instep. Sits down at he foot of the bed, one leg drawn up, and pulls Connor’s foot over his thigh. Lets his fingers find the bob of his ankle bone – or rather, the artificial joint there.

Hank doesn’t really care what to call it; something of Connor’s, and that’s enough. He maps the shape of it underneath his hands, drawing tiny little circles before letting his fingers skim up further on Connor’s skin.

Connor looks surprised, but he doesn’t say anything.

Hank runs a finger down the center of Connor’s shin, nosing his way to his knee. Lifts Connor’s leg over his lap higher so he can press his lips to the side of his knee, teasing at the underside. Which would be sensitive in a human, but –

Hank rasps his beard against it.

“Oh,” says Connor, and his head drops back against the blankets.

Hank smiles, leaning on the bed on one arm, scattering kisses over both of Connor’s knees. Makes sure he keeps dragging his beard over the skin – apparently, he doesn’t really have to aim at spots that would be vulnerable in humans – and runs his hands all over Connor’s legs.

They’re long, shapely, and strong. An athlete’s legs.

Hank loves how the calves feel under the curves of his palms, just like the high rise of Connor’s thighs.

Going by how Connor shifts them in Hanks grip, one hand slowly tangling in the sheets, he likes it, too.

Hank chases everything he finds – from stray little hairs to freckles and even small uneven spots that look like scars. The manufactured shadows of veins under that synthetic skin, too; he follows them eagerly with fingers that trail and linger and squeeze, and lips that are soft and warm.

And when a small patch of white bleeds through here or there, he’s sure to scrape his teeth against it.

He squeezes the soft flesh above Connor’s knees. “Hey,” he says, on a sudden fleeting thought, “do massages work on you?”

Connor opens his eyes, glinting in the dark like a cat’s. “If their purpose is to ease the tension in my muscles, then no,” he answers. “My musculature is only a very light imitation of a human’s. But purely for sensation…”

He trails off, eyes fluttering shut again while Hank gently rubs his knuckles over the skin of his thighs.

“For sensation,” he repeats, “yeah, Hank. Very effective.”

Hank makes a soft sound that’s half a laugh. He’s noticed – with Connor’s synthetic skin on, the softness and the amount of give almost perfectly imitates how skin and muscle feel on a human. But with his skin off, it’s noticeably harder, and there’s less to cop a proper feel of.

Sensations, though. Hank can always provide those.

He finally works his way up to Connor’s hipbones, and the smooth curve between his legs. On purpose, Hank sort of skips it, dances around that area – instead going for soft kisses with a touch of wetness over the low line of Connor’s abdomen.

And when he finds he can’t really reach the parts of Connor anymore that he wants to reach, he shifts higher up the bed, and tugs Connor down a few centimeters by grabbing at his hips. Connor’s legs find their way on either side of Hank, and they both smile at each other with amusement.

“I liked that,” Connor grins.

“Hmm,” Hank hums, and then he’s leaning on his arms and shifting over Connor. Hovers over his face with a grin. “Gotta do that more often for you, huh?”

Connor reaches his hands up and twists them in Hank’s hair; not to pull, just to hold. He carefully guides Hank lower until the curtain of Hank’s hair envelops them both, and Hank stares into Connor’s eyes just by the illumination of his LED.

“Everything,” Connor says. “Let’s do everything together more often.”

And before Hank can say anything, Connor is kissing him like he’s drowning. Like he waited all fucking day for it, which of course he did – teeth, tongue, lips, it’s all a mess. A mess Hank’s happily sinking into, curling his tongue lazily around Connor’s.

Hank turns it sloppy and slow. Indulgent and not really caring where his spits ends up. Swallows Connor’s little sounds with ease, and then Connor’s leg shifts to brush against Hank’s cock. When it happens a second time after, Hank knows it was on purpose.

“’M not done yet,” he says against Connor’s lips. “Don’t distract me, you ass.”

Connor chuckles, fingers skimming over the device behind Hank’s ear. “You’re taking forever.”

Hank shifts downwards again until his face is hovering over Connor’s approximation of a belly button, and he smiles up at Connor. “Hey,” he says semi-apologetically, “I’m only human.”

Connor’s opening his mouth to say something, but Hank bends his head and sucks a mark that instantly disappears below the line of Connor’s ribs. What comes out of Connor’s mouth instead is a very soft, staticky noise.

“What,” Hank teases, blowing air over the spot he just kissed, “you don’t like it?”

“Hank,” Connor says, a little on the side of exasperated, “you know I do.”

Hank kisses a little higher, slowly making his way up to Connor’s Thirium pump, and Connor seems all too keenly aware of it. His thighs shift restlessly, occasionally bumping into Hank’s body, and his unfocused gaze remains on Hank.

Hank’s struck by it again. Waiting.

He lets his hands drift down to between Connor’s legs, trailing up and down over the smoothness there. Maybe it’s not as response-inducing as it would be with a human, but Hank likes it. It still feels like a secret place, somehow, hidden away by Connor’s clothes and the protective shape of his legs.

The V of his hips.

“Are you,” Hank starts, lips brushing the underside of the casing of Conor’s regulator pump, “sensitive at all, here?”

To drive his point home, he draws more circles with his fingers over the mound between Connor’s legs. Patterns into his skin like he’s done on Connor’s legs, nails scratching at the skin lightly.

Connor’s LED strobes yellow harshly before settling back to blue, and his skin seems to shimmer. He gives Hank a lazy smirk. “I am now,” he says, raising an eyebrow. “There’s also a panel, if you can manage to open it.”

Hank leans on one elbow, returning to running the fingers of his hand over all that smooth skin. Slowly reaching back and forth between Connor’s legs, rocking his wrist. Connor’s LED instantly goes back to yellow and he blinks rapidly, almost shocked. As if he’s still settling into his new configurations.

Fuck configurations, Hank thinks, and he bends his head and slides his tongue around the entire outer rim of that beautifully glowing pump low on Connor’s chest.

The sound Connor makes is such a pleased, unabashed moan that Hank feels it all the way down to his toes. His cock twitches, and he resists the urge to rub himself against the mattress ‘cause god, he’s not gonna finish himself off like this.

Connor’s legs are trembling again around Hank’s arm, and he’s got one hand in the sheets, the other winding its way back into Hank’s hair. He shivers, pressing back against the mattress, arching his body up towards Hank’s mouth.

“Looks like I won’t need that panel,” Hank says, rumbling the tease over Connor’s pump.

There’s a hiss of air escaping Connor’s chest – his skin draws back over the spot that Hank’s kissing, and there’s a slight shift of his plating. A sliver of white disappears around his Thirium pump, exposing the casing inside of Connor’s chassis. His body.

Hank looks up at Connor in wonder.

The motions expose the cramped, empty space around the pump. Hank can see inside of it, now.

Connor’s eyes are expectant, legs pressing together around Hank’s meandering touches. He says nothing, LED milling blue with flashes of yellow, but the blue already says enough to Hank. He’s calm, he’s smart. He knows what he’s doing.

Hank leans up and kisses Connor first, though. Untangles his hands from all the secrets spots on Connor’s body and cups his face lovingly, teasing sweet and heady kisses from his lips. Connor’s kisses are desperate, a sharp nip at Hank’s bottom lip, knees framing Hank’s hips.

“Love you,” Hank whispers between them, and Connor shivers.

It’s Connor that reaches across first, this time – usually, it’s Hank. Hank figures it’s because Connor doesn’t want him to feel overwhelmed. But this happens so naturally, so organically, flowing over the beat of Connor’s kisses and touches that Hank realizes he didn’t do it on purpose.

His hands lose their skin over where he has them cradling Hank’s face, one of his fingers resting against the side of Hank’s mouth. And Hank smiles against that finger, reaching up to touch it with his own.

It’s different than before – a cascading, slow beat of pleasure and enjoyment. Tingling, almost, with the sensitivity that Connor’s turned up halfway to maximum. Code blinks at the edges of Hank’s vision, as it always does, but it’s less overtly present. Less intensity, flickering and diffusing.

Like Connor is relaxing in an utterly human way, deliberately shutting off unnecessary subroutines.

The answering love is slow and sluggish and Hank, kissing Connor’s fingers, decides he could very much get used to this. Knowing that he’s the one making Connor, who’s always analyzing shit, sit back and just let himself enjoy the experience.

And then Hank kisses Connor lower, skipping his mouth over his wrist and arm. Up to his throat where the blue glow spills forth from between the lines of his plating, and where Hank sucks at the skin because he loves it – the taste, the feeling, the electric flowing beneath his tongue as he remembers that first night when he nuzzled into Connor’s nape and they ran the fuck away from that concert to bang.

Back to that Thirium pump, still exposed and open.

“Safe to touch with my tongue?” Hank asks, because they haven’t done this before.

Connor squeezes him, hands still interlaced. “Yeah,” he says after a pause. “Similar to – to licking a battery.”

Hank chuckles. “Something tells me that you’ve done that before.”

“Something tells me that you will,” Connor says, all cheek, and his eyes drift down to the glowing pump.

Hank perches more comfortably on Connor’s chest, leaning on his arms, and Connor’s legs tighten around his waist in response. Another perk of having an android for a lover – he never has to worry he’s going to squash Connor with his weight.

“You’re goddamn right,” Hank says, running a finger over the center of the pump. Warm and smooth, like glass, and it rhythmically pulses under Hank’s touch.

He smooths his hand to the side, letting his fingers dance over the skin surrounding it – he’s not sure the pump has the same sort of sensitivity that Connor mentioned, and he’s not about to take his chances.

He wants it all tonight.

Connor keeps moving under the press of Hank’s body; small, minute movements, like he’s barely in control of them, and when Hank presses a kiss to that same smooth surface, Connor’s LED blinks red. He closes his eyes, head tilting back, and a ragged breath of static escapes him.

Hank runs his tongue across it, and Connor’s entire body tenses up. He actually reflexively kicks at the mattress with one of his feet, and then he’s digging his heels in.

“Hank,” he pleads, lines on his body flaring.

The front of the pump – circle, another one – is a transparent sort of polymer, containing the delicate machinery and the Thirium inside of it. A container, of sorts, and it’s burning beneath Hank’s tongue. There’s a casing around it with lines of chrome, as well as the small, open space on the sides.

In the center, coiling within that Thirium, Hank can see the pumping mechanism at work.

For something so vital, it seems painfully easy to remove.

When Hank touches his tongue to the chrome casing, he feels the first spark sizzle across his tongue. Low voltage, but it’s there like a live charge. Buzzing. Hank closes his lips around one side of the pump and sucks.

Connor cries out in dissonant clicks and whirs, knees digging into Hank’s sides, and one of his hands drifts down to fit around the back of Hank’s skull. When Hank gently probes the side of the pump with the tip of his tongue, that hand tightens in his hair until it is pulling to the rhythm of the pump’s beat.

Hank grins, feeling fucking amazing. Bobs his head back and forth a little under the pull of Connor’s hand.

“Equivalent of a blowjob, huh?” he asks, letting his lips touch the center of the pump while he speaks. Doesn’t wait for an answer as he grazes his teeth lightly over that chrome edge.

“Seems so,” Connor answers, voice tinny and with a cranked, half-broken tone to it. “If you want to compare experiences, you’re welcome to…” His voice trails off as Hank thrusts his tongue in, grinning. “… interface with me,” he manages.

Hank tuts, shifting so he can ease some of his own pleasure, grinding his dick into the mattress. Just a few strokes and god, it feels good. He’s already considering how fucking satisfied he’s gonna feel when this is all over.

“Nah,” he says then, “that’s not where this sensor’s gonna go.”

Connor blinks his eyes open, lenses expanding slightly, and Hank knows he’s catching onto the idea. “Hank,” is all that comes out in half-surprise, and his skin sizzles back and forth with the shimmer of a set of scales.

Hank lines up his right index finger and slips it into the small cavity around the pump, skimming along the sides. He instantly gets a stronger reaction than the soft silver buzz against his tongue; the Thirium in the pump sloshes, glowing brighter, and then Hank tries to interface with it.

That’s, well. That’s a fucking lightshow with interdimensional proportions, that’s what it is.

Hank blinks rapidly, almost reeling back. Devastating pull at his center like gravity.

Connor’s entire body tenses up, back arched like a bow and his mouth open, and his LED instantly cycles to red. Voice crackling like a thunderstorm, longing and high, so much pleasure bleeding through that Hank feels drunk with it.

 

d ͡ ̱ ͍ ̣ ͕ ̪̬e̪̩ͅ ͖ ̠̜ ͈ t ͡ ḛ̣̪ ͙ ̘c̡ ͖ ̪̼t ͠ ̮̘ ͕ ̫ ͍ e̗̕d ͈͠ ̺̱ ͘ ̠̘ ͈ c̼̭̻̬̤ḷ̛o̹̗̲̠ͅ ͈ s̟e̫̪̗ͅ_̭p ͖͓ ̥̱̬̮r ͕ ̻̳o ͞ ̦̱ ͓ ̪̙̘x̮̱̹̘̟im ͓ ̲̙̻̺̼i ͏ ̮̰̫t ͏͉ ̟̗̺̭̭̣y ͘ ̖ H ͘ ̣̭̲̣ ͎͍ ͓ ̱̜̘ ͖ ͅA ͉ ̯̤̝ͅ ͖ ̰_ ͝ ̙̥ ͚ s̞̘e̲n ͖͖͟ ̘ ͍ s̵̱̺ ͔͉ ͇ r ͈ ̟̝ ͔ ̭ ͎ ̙
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͍ ̻ ͙ ̤
̴̠̹ ̮̻̣̬̭̼̫              c
͙͞ ̖̤̜̮̖ ͙ o ͝ ̼n̺̱ ͍͖͈ ̺n̵ ͇ ̹ ͙ ̭̮̭̘e̸̻ ͙ ̼̞ ͕ cti ͕͈ o̷̪̤ ͙ ̱̟̪ ͓ n ̩̦̥ ͙ ̘̰c̱̦̞ǫ̲̻m ͖ ̥pl̪ ͙͚ ̱̞̠̖e̡t ͝ ̱̳ ͇ ̥ ͖ ̱e̪ ͇

 

And then the code just breaks. Hank’s never seen that happening before.

It unwinds before his eyes, piece-by-piece and command-by-command like a spiral untwisting itself at the center. Falling away to reveal a steady stream of feeling, pure and untouched, slamming into Hank like a tidal wave. Little nonsense scribbles of binary at the sides, but nothing coherent.

Like Connor is just a pure being of light without any code left inside of him. It’s strange to connect to, almost distant compared to before, as if Connor is endless. Stretching across the night sky like the swipe of a shooting star. Something vast and big and dangerous and loving.

“Hank,” Connor begs, body moving upwards against Hank’s fingers inside the casing of his regulator pump. His eyes flash open and they’re glowing.

That hasn’t happened before either, and Hank can only gape at him in surprise and a weird, heady rush of arousal. The fingers he’s half-sunk into Connor’s chest are burning with the thrumming heat of Connor’s body.

“Love you,” Connor says, voice overlaid with so many different types of interference that it’s almost hard to make out, were it not for the fact that it also echoes inside of Hank.

Pulses like Connor’s pump, like Hank’s own heart, like the blood streaming through his veins. Rushing his desire and filling out his cock, heavy and throbbing against the sheets. The want Hank feels nearly blinds him.

“Fuckin’ hell,” he gasps out, steeling himself against the rush.

He feels Connor’s answering pleasure through their connection, the voltage of it scraping at the whorls of his fingertips. Thirium sloshing against the sides of the pump as if it’s trying to reach Hank’s fingers; as if it’s alive. 

Hank decides he’s had enough slowness for the day. Tries to swallow the dryness in his throat, looking at the man in his bed who’s shining and glowing and panting beautifully like a god from a distant past or future, and kneels on the mattress between pale legs that go on forever.

“Turn around,” he says, breathless himself. “I can – ”

He wants to say fuck, but suddenly it’s not all-encompassing enough.

Connor seems to grasp his meaning, though, all graceful turns and bends as he settles onto the bed before Hank. Sits up on his knees as well, back pressed to Hank’s chest, Hank’s dick landing against the curve of his ass.

They both groan, Hank instantly reaching for Connor’s hips. “Shit,” he whispers over his partner’s hot skin, his eyes fluttering shut.

“Yeah,” Connor answers, dazed, his hands grasping for Hank wherever he can reach. Desperate, trying to wrap Hank around him as fast as he can.

New objective, Hank thinks, sliding one hand up to Connor’s front to grab at his regulator pump. Connor shudders when Hank slots his fingers back into that small cavity, drawing rough circles over the side of the sensitive biocomponent.

“That’s why you asked if I was sensitive there,” Connor realizes, still somehow making sense of what’s going on despite the hazy mess of emotion Hank is getting from him through their interface.

Hank nuzzles at his nape, thrusting shallowly against his ass, and presses sloppy kisses over the side of his throat. Connor keens, leaning back into him, and his entire body is just –

“Yeah,” Hank rasps, gently rocking his hips, “Connor.”

He has no words for it. Connor is shaking in his arms, minute tremors under his skin as if he’s vibrating out of his body. Restless, overloaded, halfway into another dimension.

“Remembered you like my hands,” he whispers, lips pressed to Connor’s earlobe.

Slides his free hand broad and possessive over the rise of Connor’s body while he still fingers the casing of his pump with the other, and Connor presses closer to Hank with a staticky noise. Hank starts at Connor’s collarbone, flitting his fingers over his chest, and squeezing his hip before sliding between Connor’s thighs.

He splays his fingers there, almost groping, and grazes his teeth over the hunched arch of Connor’s shoulder.

Connor groans, lolling back against Hank, and spreads his thighs. His hands, ever roaming and shifting, find their purchase.

One wrapped tightly into Hank’s hair, the pull of it sending tingles down Hank’s spine, and the other settles on Hank’s hip behind him. He digs his fingers into the soft flesh there, and then he’s shifting higher. Canting his hips.

“Your hands,” Connor stutters weakly, “I – ”

And Hank sees images of himself, half-reconstructions in yellow and blue like storyboards; his hands pressing to Connor’s throat, his face, his body, tugging on his tie, ripping open his shirt, pressing Connor to walls and car doors and other completely inappropriate places.

Hank grits his teeth at the new knowledge, at the new thoughts, at how many nooks and crannies he can still find to fuck Connor in, and then grasps his cock at the base.

Sinks a little through his knees, and slides it right between Connor’s thighs.

Fuck,” Connor curses, slumping forward on his arms.

Hank has to lean forward to keep fingering his regulator pump, pressing his bulk against Connor’s curved spine. He feels hot against Hank’s belly, almost too much so, and Hank doesn’t start thrusting just yet.

“You’re so,” Connor starts again, “you’re so…”

He clenches his thighs around Hank’s dick and moans, hands curling into fists.

 

E ͝ ̰V ҉ ̹ ͖ ̜̫ ͉ ̹̣E ͞ ̼ ͙ ̠̦̫R̪̠̼̬ ͖ ̗Y̝̞̭̯̯̙ ͙ W̞Ḩ̗ ͍ Ę̳ ͖ ̲̭̭ ͖ R̸E ͎ ̮̭

 

Hank stutters out a ragged groan in response, barely able to constrain himself, fingers already cramping over Connor’s chest. He tries a few explorative thrusts, pleasure spiking in his gut, and it’s so smooth and warm and easy that he almost comes right there.

Has to wrap a hand around himself and stop his movements for a moment.

“Fuck,” he grunts.

Connor whines, pulling at Hank’s hip with demanding fingers.

“Give a guy a minute,” Hank sighs, reaching up to wipe the sweat off of his brow.

“Almost seventeen goddamn hours,” Connor answers, sounding exasperated.

Hank tries to focus on anything else than the delicious fucking press of Connor against him; stares at the fabric of the covers, the sheets, the patterns on the wall – anything. Just a little emptiness in his foggy, sex-delirious brain that’s so high on Connor he can barely function.

“Alright,” he huffs, “let me just – ”

He draws his hand up over Connor’s chest and throat, bending him up towards his mouth. Connor turns his head slow, synthetic skin diffusing over his lips, and Hank kisses him. Deep and hard and filthy and open-mouthed. Lets Connor lick back at him, and sucks on his tongue.

Connor’s trembling increases.

“No idea you wanted to get fucked like this,” Hank says roughly, still not moving, still kissing the living daylights out of Connor in-between his words.

Curls one thumb into the space next to his Thirium pump, thrusting it in and out gently.

Connor melts into Hank, messily kissing his mouth.

“Did I get you everywhere?” Hank asks, before flicking his tongue behind Connor’s too-straight, too-square teeth. “Everywhere you wanna feel my hands on you?”

He can tell, then. The quiver of Connor’s hands, the way he burns so bright beneath Hank’s mouth.

“Even here?” Hank adds, and he stuffs his two of his fingers in alongside his thumb. Maybe a little too roughly.

Connor cries out, twisting himself back against Hank’s body, fingers scrambling for a hold.

His mouth opens, but no sound comes out.

 

H ҉͘ ̢ ҉͢ ̫ ͖͔͔͚͍ ͏͘ ̵ ͎͖ ̺̠̝ ͖ ̯ ͙͕ ̪̯̠̩ ͓ ̼ ͕ N̢̢ ͇ ̙̟ ͔͕ ̙ ͕ ̱̰̬̳̹K ͘ ̷̴̡̩̞ ͎ ̲̯̹ ͕͕͕ ̼̮ ͇͉ ̱

 

Hank just squeezes a hand on Connor’s hip and circles his own pelvis. Soft little nudges of his cock between Connor’s legs. Back and forth, an easy sort of eddying with no lube required.

“Good enough for ya?” he adds, teeth against Connor’s ear.

Connor’s shaking so hard he’s barely holding himself up. A constant whir of noises in binary and static, Thirium pump humming around Hank’s fingers, and then on Hank’s next thrust there’s a whip of electric as Connor’s voice shatters into a wanton, pleasured screech.

As do the lightbulbs in the bedroom. Burn out, that is – Hank can hear them pop.

“Jesus,” he grits out, grinding his dick into the space between Connor’s legs.

He barely has time to think about it, ‘cause he can feel the high crest of Connor’s orgasm through their link, a dazzling full-body experience, only it doesn’t stop. Doesn’t stop because Connor’s skin is slowly fading away and he’s so, so sensitive and Hank is fucking him and god, it’s good.

Hank’s breath stutters and he fucks Connor harder, slowly sliding his hand away from Connor’s chest.

“Don’t stop,” Connor says, and then he’s leaning forward until he’s on all fours again. He sounds vulnerable and pleased and his hands are grabbing fistfuls of sheets. “Don’t you dare,” he gasps, “stop.”

Hank smooths his hands over that fucking perfect length and sweep of Connor’s spine, dotted with beauty spots, and settles his hands over Connor’s hips. Grasps them tight, fingers digging in, and Connor keens below him.

And he starts building up the pace. Digs his heels into the mattress so he has more leverage.

His body is damp with sweat and pleasure; wet slap of his body against Connor’s on the next thrust between Connor’s powerful thighs. Thighs that quake around him, Connor’s upper body slumped forward.

Hank can’t remember the last time he fucked like this. Like – there’s abandon and desperation and that beautiful slope of pleasure growing ever higher, but it’s so goddamn loving that it almost breaks his heart.

“Connor,” he groans, ‘cause it still hasn’t stopped.

Connor’s experience is still a high feedback loop of pulses of satisfaction, little aftershocks that keep cresting, like waves rocking on the shore – error messages popping up about overheating, about malfunctions, but he can’t stop.

Neither can Hank.

And that’s when Connor’s skin starts fading away in weirdly specific shapes. Transforming, shifting in and out of Hank’s vision while Hank gasps and his lashes flutter. His hair sticks to his forehead, his mouth falls half open with the burn and pressure of it all. It’s like his body is lit up, flames licking his insides.

It takes a while for it to click, because the way they’re fucking feels way too good – especially when Connor reaches back and grasps at Hank’s hip.

Starts pushing himself back into it.

Legs and back working relentlessly, curving beautifully, shoving Hank’s cock between his thighs and letting it slide all the way home every goddamn time. Over that warm, smooth curve between them.

But then Hank pushes his hair out of his face, fingers slipping over Connor’s spine, and he sees it.

Handprints.

Handprints, appearing and reappearing all over Connor’s body. Fizzling in and out of existence like a painter at work with a living canvas. Square palm, broad hands, thick wrists.

“Mine,” Hank says, voice raspy with the realization. Stares at them in wonder; his pace even slows.

He lifts one hand from Connor’s hip. The imprint stays for a few seconds, and he can’t believe it.

“Yours,” Connor says, craning his head back to look at Hank.

His eyes are glowing faintly and he looks a mess. Hair tousled and carded through by those same hands Hank now sees all over Connor’s body, mouth wet with transparent Thirium and yet his expression –

Reverent, loving.

Connor manages a smile, lopsided and a little too bright, his weight leaning on his forearms.

Hank aches. “C’mere,” he murmurs, and the feeling is too large. Like it won’t fit inside his chest.

He lets Connor’s hips slip from his grasp and wraps both of his arms around him, pulling him close. Settling back on his heels, arms like vices around Connor’s middle. Their eyes are still locked, Connor half-turned back, his gaze warm and hooded and dark.

It’s impossible to keep fucking hard like this – Connor doesn’t have a lot of leverage, and Hank doesn’t have enough space to maneuver. To press long, quick thrusts between Connor’s legs.

But that’s okay.

Because Hank can lace his fingers together with Connor’s hand instead, pressing it over one of his thighs. Hank can kiss Connor, again and again and again, tasting a mouth that was not built to kiss anything but evidence and not to taste of anything but odorless, tasteless Thirium – but that now burns like heat and electricity, and a little bit of Hank.

Everywhere, a little bit of Hank.

“Hank,” Connor shudders as Hank licks at his nape, thrusting slowly up against him.

His thighs squeeze together, creating delicious friction against Hank’s dick. Hank groans in response, face dropping to Connor’s shoulder, and gazes down the length of their bodies. To where he can see himself fucking Connor.

And god, here too – fingerprints all over Connor’s skin.

Hank feels his own orgasm build up; water lapping at the dam, ready to spill over. A tingle starting in his toes and fingers, rolling in like the tide. The kind that leaves you with a bone-deep satisfaction.

He’s already grinning stupidly about it against Connor’s cheek. Makes a scooping motion with his hips, grinding them into Connor and his beautiful fucking ass. Swivels a little on the next slide, and captures Connor’s lips in a searing kiss.

His breath hitches.

“Close?” Connor asks.

Hank bites his lip. “Yeah,” he groans out, “fuck.”

Connor reaches down between his legs, porcelain fingers wrapping around Hank’s cock. He strokes him almost lazily, thighs still on either side of him, and Hank sees stars.

“Can you,” he moans through it, “can you go again?”

His hips start stuttering, jerky little movements into Connor’s hand and body. He muffles his next groan by biting softly at Connor’s nape, and this time the soft impression of his teeth stays. Like Connor’s willing it to stay.

“Already halfway there,” Connor half-laughs, looking drunk on pleasure. He cups Hank’s face. “Just kiss me again. Don’t stop.”

Hank can feel himself unravel, so he turns his head and kisses Connor. Slow and wet. Matching the instinctive roll of his hips, the pulse of his aching cock. Sucks at Connor’s plump bottom lip, licks into the heat of Connor’s mouth. Flicks his tongue against his teeth.

Connor’s thumb finds the sensitive spot just at the underside of Hank’s dick.

“Shit,” he curses into Connor’s mouth, and Connor eagerly swallows up the rest. Lapping at him, tongue probing and strong, messily spreading the rough combination of Thirium and human saliva.

Hank takes a shaky breath, and opens his eyes. Connor’s LED is red; processing cycle. The handprints are still there, shifting over and around his body.

All these little details through the haze. The pit of Hank’s stomach tightens, the feeling sinking down to his balls. He’s almost there, he’s almost fucking –

“Ah,” Connor says in wonder.

And that’s enough. That soft exclamation of love and enjoyment. That endearing way he looks at Hank.

Hank grasps Connor by the back of his neck and slots their mouths together while he comes messily over Connor’s thighs and belly. Jerking up spurts of white into his slender hand, and wonders briefly if Connor keeps these, too.

Stored somewhere on his body.

“I do,” Connor gasps around and into him, “Hank, I do – ”

And then Connor is shuddering again, thighs clenching, open mouth falling away from Hank’s. Fingers squeezing Hank’s own, hard, and the echo if it ricochets through their connection.

A garble of binary.

 

0̳1̑̃ ͪ̓ͨ͒͋ ̤̥ ͈ ̼0 ͫ ̨̠0 ͘ ̘̣̲̯1 ̓ ̋̅ ͞ ̠̟̭̻̜0 ͂͋͆ͨͩ ́ ͭ ̪̟0 ͫ҉ ̬ ͔ ̭̼0̧̺ ̤̔̑̈̍̔̕ ͉ ̻0̶̭̮̟́̄̇̄̋̆ ͕ 1 ͑ ̱̘̹̰̇ͅ0̊̾̉ ͂ ̪̿̐̉ ͍ ̺0 ͮ ́ ͖ ̹ ͙ ̱0̆̈́ ͂ ̵̣̘̬̊̔ ͍ ͧ͑ ́ ͬͭ 0̛̥̐ ͎ ̩ ͇͎ ̗1 ͑ ̫̦̓́̎̈̌̆ ͎ ̍ ͜ ̦̲ ͍ 0 ͧ ̯̻̤̠̳̳̼́1̎ ͂ ̂̈́̍ ͏ ̠̰̖0̀ ͋ ̗̓̇ ͙ ̙̦̖ ͉ ̗0̒ ͩ ̶ ͇ ̤̟1̎̍̇̏ ͟ ̲̤̜̱1 ͦ ̑̋ ͝ 1̈̐ ͍͚ͭ ̱̯̰0̶̘̲̽̂ ͍ ̮̫̳ ͍ ̶̏ ͕ ̗̗̠ ͔ 0̿ ͌ ̥̇ ͙ ̼̜̠1̆̈́̿ ͭ ̽̄ ͣ͝ ̺ ͙ ̤0̈́ ͕͐ 0̋̔̄̾ ͖ ̠ ͇ ̣ ͚ ̻1 ͩ ̂ ͑͋ͯ ̳̝̣0 ͨ ̒ ͛ ̄̓ ͂ ̢̗1̣̇̌̈̒ ͙ ̳1 ͒͛ ̾̐ ͌̓ͭ͜ ̘

                  0̷̣̯̮̩̤̉1̘̳̬̠ͫͭͧ̔̅̚0̨͔̯͎̌ͥͯ1̸0̧̯͕̥̮ͮ͂̍0ͯͯͨ̇̚0ͫͫ0̶̟ ̸̫̼͕̬ͮͭ0̖̥̰ͧͮ̽̏ͩͅ1̛̭͚̳̫̬͓͉0̘̣̝̝̠̜0̖̭͔̳͌ͫ̅1̲̭͈̤̯̺̜͒̈́1͙̝̰̞̺̭͓͋̿͋ͬ̊0̨̭̼ͦ̅ͩ0̞͕̪̥̩̻̅ͬͯ ̦̜̙̄̽̆̅̾̑̐0̰1̛̠͉͉͈̭͚̺̈́ͥ0͚̟͖̟̞̼̲ͪ̏̒̿̾ͭ0̲̼̜̬̌͆̿̃̓̈0̧͔͍͈͚͎̦̭͚̓ͩͤͨ͋͒̋҉̣̟̣̪̭1̥̲̤͎̮̳͇͢ ͥ́̄́ͮͮ҉̤̺͍̝̞̯0͎̗̪̠ͤ͗ͭͣ̉̋ͭ͡0͉̗̰̰̰̘͓́̐̇0̢̳̯̞ͤ̇0̞̻͈̐ͥ̋ͫ̐ͅ0̙͍͍͈̤̹̮̊0͇͔̠̣̹̗̏̉̑1̐̔ͯͯ ͇͚̖͉̰̩̳0̗̫́̀̊̂̔͟1̺͎̔́ͪ̾̔͒̒0̻̘ͅ1̳̟͋̑͊ͭ̄0̝̥ͬ̐͛̓̏̂0̤̙̒1̖̫̖͖̥͈̼̏ͪ1̹̟̳͙ͮ͛̚ ͈͚͔̙͓̝͍̗ͮ1ͪ́̀̂̉ͪ̓0̯͎͓ͨͤ͂͆̐ͩͫ0̸͇̠̻̘̥̙̈̈ͯͮ0̮̜ͤ̓͊͆ͣ͞1̪̳̹̽́̽̅̐̕0̲̺͗͐̓̈̊̇ͯ1͐̊͐̄

 

And then, it’s over. Split-second snap.

Hank’s palms land on Connor’s thighs, soothing the quiver that’s still in them. “Sweet fuckin’ jesus,” he groans out, plonking his forehead against Connor’s neck. His chest still heaves with the effort of his breath.

Connor chuckles weakly, wiping his hand on the sheets. “That,” he says, voice still crackling, “was worth the wait.”

“My knees are gonna hurt like hell tomorrow,” Hank murmurs.

Connor moves off of Hank instantly, turning to let himself fall back on the mattress. He eases Hank down from his crouched position too, and soon they’re both on their backs. Staring at the ceiling, and then at each other.

Connor grins.

Hank, despite the stiffness in his knees, grins back.

(No, he thinks, because of, you goddamned idiot.)

“So,” Hank says, “you gonna buy me any new lightbulbs soon?”

Connor’s smile turns full-on sunny. He looks light-hearted and relaxed, no tension in his posture at all, and more than a little high on emotions. Like someone who had a very good fucking.

Like someone who’s happy.

“I’m sorry,” he laughs. “Androids can release an electrical current in case of overloads.” He turns onto his side, pillowing his head on one arm. “Apparently, the one from the RK series is too much for such common household items.”

Hank snorts a laugh. “Fuck you, looking so goddamn smug about it.”

Connor reaches out and brushes Hank’s hair behind his ear, and says nothing. Just smiles.

“That,” Hank starts, “that was a lot of new stuff. Do you really remember – store – all that shit?”

It’s out of his mouth before he can stop it, but Connor doesn’t seem embarrassed or taken aback.

“Every single touch,” he says, somewhat proudly, splaying his fingers in the air between them. “I have them all.”

“All Hank Anderson originals?” Hank teases, raising his eyebrow.

Connor winks. “You bet.”

“And the pump?” Hank asks, needing the reassurance. “That wasn’t too much?”

Connor shakes his head resolutely. “Not at all. Up for a repeat performance in the future, I’d say.”

Hank grins, shaking his head, and reaches out to fluff his hands through Connor’s hair. “Look at you, you goddamned satisfied idiot. Can’t keep the smile off of your face.”

“Neither can you,” Connor replies, and then he’s sidling closer. Tangling their legs.

Hank brushes his thumb over Connor’s lips. “You okay with sleeping? ‘Cause I’m – I’m fucking exhausted, that’s what I am.”

Connor chuckles. “I need to cool my internal systems and reboot a few programs.” He pauses. “Ever since the virus, it’s… it’s been different.”

“I’ve noticed,” Hank says softly, stretching his legs and shifting closer to Connor. “It’s not – it’s the virus, you think?”

“No,” Connor answers instantly, sounding very sure of himself. He plants a kiss to Hank’s forehead and smiles. “It’s you. Something about me changed when you interfered. So far, it’s been making life easier. Less rigid.”

Hank still gives him a serious look. “Keep an eye on it, will ya?”

“Of course,” Connor nods. “You don’t have to worry.”

Hank wraps an arm around Connor’s shoulders. “You fuckin’ superhuman asshole.”

Connor just smiles, turning his face into Hank’s arm. Kisses it. “Thank you for tonight, Hank,” he murmurs.

“You don’t have to keep thanking me every time,” Hank says, tugging at the covers so he can slide their legs under it.

Connor makes a soft sound, joining Hank’s effort to drape the blankets over them both. He snuggles so deep under them and under the comforting press of Hank’s arm that only his hair and his LED are visible.

The latter which has cycled back to blue. The former which is an absolute fucking mess.

“I’m sorry,” he says in a mechanical, robotic voice from underneath the covers. “Connor has gone into repairing mode. Please refrain from speaking to your android until he has finished his calibrations. If needed, please contact a CyberLife – ”

He dissolves into a fit of giggles – a sound Hank’s never heard from him before – when Hank decides to go onto the attack and tickle his ribs. He even accidently kicks Hank’s shin.

Connor looks up at Hank almost surprised, peeking out from under the blankets.

“Well,” Hank says, his turn to look smug. “There you have it. CyberLife’s finest. Weak to tickling when having his somatosensory receptors turned all the way up to the ceiling.”

“I was being nice,” Connor says, “and you can’t turn them off, Hank.”

Hank reels back. “No. I’m old.”

Connor raises an eyebrow.

“Tired,” Hank offers.

Connor tilts his head to the side.

“I just gave you two orgasms and the best fucking of your life,” Hank tries.

Connor hums, making a thoughtful face. Then, one corner of his mouth turns up. “All’s fair in love and war, Lieutenant.”

“Crazy fuckin’ deviants,” Hank exclaims, scrambling away from Connor. “Crazy fuckin’ – ”

Old?

Nah. Hank’s never felt this young before.

 


 

Monday morning in the bullpen.

Most people look like they don’t want to be there. Everybody’s holding a drink with caffeine in it, and those who aren’t are the more physically fit with ridiculous morning schedules. Those still look sweaty and are sipping from protein shakes.

Hank clears his throat.

“So,” he says, “I called y’all together for two things.”

Reed has his feet up on his desk and groans, rolling his eyes. RK900 is standing beside him, disapproval rolling off of him in waves, and then he’s leaning down to flick the switch on Reed’s chair.

The backrest instantly shoots up straight, making Reed knock his feet off the table.

Hank ignores them.

“First of all,” he continues, “I want to give you my thanks for all your help on the Andy and Simmons case. That shit was difficult and grating, but we couldn’t have solved it as quickly as we did without the whole precinct workin’ together.”

Hank nods. “So, yeah, that. There’s gonna be a party and some drinks at the bar later, and I really appreciate that most of you showed up at the memorial service yesterday, too. That meant a lot for the bereaved.”

Murmuring agreements. Hank meets Fowler’s eyes briefly – the captain’s standing off to the side, leaning against a wall. Arms crossed, and he gives Hank a nod.

“Number two,” Hank adds, pressing his lips together, “is, uh. A little unconventional. But we figured that y’all deserve to know.” He rubs the back of his neck.

Connor standing next to Hank, takes over. “Some of you might’ve noticed, others might not,” he says, voice clear and even. “Lieutenant Anderson and I are partners.” He pauses, smiles. “In every sense of the word.”

Hank grins. “Yeah. We’re – we’re together. Take it or leave it.”

Fowler’s eyes narrow and Hank shrugs, giving him a look that says, what?

“We felt you had a right to know,” Connor says, smoothing Hank’s comment over. “We don’t expect it to negatively affect our work for the DPD. But before any rumors start circulating, this is the truth and you’ve heard it from us first.”

Hank nods awkwardly, scanning the crowd.

Collins looks – well, surprised is an understatement. Trying gaping and gasping for breath like a fish.

Waterfield and Chen, who were busy making tea, are all happy smiles and supportive expressions. Waterfield even makes a face at Hank that seems borderline impressed.

Miller has his arms crossed and is just grinning. A disbelieving grin, sure, but more like he’s making fun of himself. For not seeing it sooner.

RK900 remains impassive. Reed looks annoyed, like always.

Chen is the first to speak. “Thanks, Lieutenant,” she says, saluting him with a wink. “And, uh, congratulations to both of you.”

“Yeah,” Waterfield adds. “If you guys match up as well in a relationship as you do in the field, it’s a goddamn good match.”

Collins picks his jaw up off the floor and realizes he’s looking rude. “Good goin’,” he manages, looking from Hank to Connor and back. “Peachy.”

Miller smiles, and actually walks up to shake both their hands. “Thank you, sirs,” he says. “Was an honor to work on the case with ya and learn from it. And uh, congrats.” He looks a little sheepish. “Good to have more, uh, representation at the DPD too.”

“Thanks, Officer Miller,” Connor replies warmly.

“Hey!” Reed bristles, looking affronted. “What the fuck am I?”

“Garbage on your bad days,” Chen answers instantly, “indoor decoration on your good ones.”

Reed rolls his eyes and tucks his hands into his armpits. “Fuckin’ hell. Nobody ever congratulated me for fuckin’ a guy.”

RK900 clasps his hands behind his back. “Perhaps because it is not considered an achievement.” He pauses. “Is it considered an achievement in your particular case?” he asks, elegantly raising an eyebrow.

“Fuck you,” Reed spits, turning red.

“Alright, alright,” Hank says, “that’s enough. Thanks for listenin’. Back to your stations now, folks.”

The people disperse, and Fowler returns to his office. Throws a smile Hank’s way while he does so.

Hank and Connor pull their chairs out at the same time; perfect mirror image, with the way their desks are opposite each other. Connor is smiling, faint but amused, and Hank smiles back.

Some days of Hank’s life are particularly good.

This is one of them.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 13

In which Hank gets shot at, uncovers a case within a case, and RK900 and Connor make a new friend.

 

June 2039

 

Hank hasn’t been shot that often. Luckily.

The worst shot he’s ever taken was undoubtedly the one that hit him squarely in the chest during that double murder case. Marked forever by the big, knotted scar he still carries below his midriff; the one Connor’s fingers sometimes slip over lovingly on their way to rest over Hank’s heart.

He’s had slugs stuck in his thighs and shoulders, too. And a bullet graze here and there; thin little scars that faded away easily or were eventually soaked up by the wrinkles and irregularities in Hank’s skin. In the end, he figured out that it’s hard to predict just how much a gunshot wound is gonna hurt.

Before or after.

Some he recovered from as if they were barely scratches – apparently, they didn’t destroy too much sensitive tissue on their way through his body. Others had him on bedrest for days. That one below his midriff? Almost fucking killed him and he felt weak for months.

Like the hole it ripped in him wasn’t just physical.

‘Cause that’s the thing with bullet holes – getting them can be just as traumatic as getting rid of ‘em. Sometimes it’s even worse, and all you can remember is the flash of life and death while you wondered if this was gonna be it. The thing finally doing you in.

And other times?

Well, being a detective is a fun kind of job with lots of variety. And today it’s a drug bust gone wrong that brings the promise of getting shot in the head.

Fuck, Hank thinks as he sees the first suspect reach for the gun tucked into this waistband. Heavy and dangerous along the inside of his hipbone.

There’s way too many of them for Hank, Reed, and Miller to handle.

The shop front wasn’t empty like they thought when they moved in. Reed’s source must’ve gotten the time schedules wrong, ‘cause it looks like the entire fucking family is there. All of them armed to the teeth, and not just with guns.

Hank spies knives, bats, knuckle-dusters. These kind of people don’t fuck around if they’re out of bullets.

“Don’t move, you piece of shit!” Reed barks, gun trained at the man’s head.

The guy shrugs, teeth glinting in the dark. “More of us than you coppers, asshole,” he grins. “’Sides, I’d rather spend my days six feet under than gettin’ my ass fucked in jail.”

“Hands up in the air,” Reed bites, “right fucking now.”

“There ain’t nothin’ you can get us for,” the guy goads. “Come on. You’re outnumbered and outgunned.”

Another guy off to the side reaches for his pocket. Miller is quick to shift his stance and aim at him, head tilted to the side. The guy stops the movement instantly, lifting his palms up, but a nasty sort of grin stays present on his face.

“Whatcha gonna do, huh?” the man who spoke earlier presses, twirling his fingers at Reed.

They’re too confident, Hank thinks.

Drug gangs like these are built on intimidation. It’s true that some of them would rather go out guns blazing than submit to going to prison; passionate, impulsive, living on the edge.

But there’s a quiet sort of confidence about them like they know they’ll win this fight, regardless of whether there’s backup or not. Hank flits his eyes over the suspects, desperately trying to pick out one that seems the most dangerous or unique, but the lighting is bad and Hank doesn’t have enough time.

“What I am gonna do,” Reed says through gritted teeth, “is arrest you. So put your hands in the air and – ”

There’s a dull, metallic thud as an oval-shaped object suddenly drops to the floor behind Hank, Reed, and Miller.

Grenade. They didn’t case the joint well-enough.

“Get down!” Hank yells, kicking the offending object away as soon as it starts emitting smoke.

That’s instant relief sinking into Hank’s fast-beating heart: at least it’s not a fucking explosive, at least it’s not –

But that’s when the bullets start flying, the gang taking full advantage of the chaos.

“Fuck!” Reed yells, barely visible above the smoke.

Miller makes a sound like his breath got slammed out of him, suddenly slumping forward, and Hank sees Reed reach for his arm.

The sharp cut of a bullet then burns alongside the edge of his cheek and Hank quickly swerves to his left, hopping over a large metal container and landing ungracefully on the concrete behind it. He pulls his shirt up to his mouth instantly, white-and-grey swirls of smoke filling up the room.

Prickling his lungs like gravel. Acid.

“Got ‘em, boys!” someone yells from the crowd.

The flash of guns reflecting oddly against the clouds of smoke. Gang members yelling and whooping, filling the space with their gleeful enthusiasm at having gotten the drop on the police. Doors clang when they’re slammed open and closed with force in their eager escape.

Vaguely, Hank sees the shadows of Reed and Miller on his opposite side, but he can’t make it out through the hazy of cloudy darkness. He presses a finger to his earpiece, his hair sticky and wet on that side.

“Smoke grenade inside the building,” Hank coughs, “backup required. Suspects escaping. Armed with guns, knives and bats and what-all shit. Block the exits.”

Reed joins him on the com. “Need EMTs on the scene ASAP,” he says, and his voice is tight. “Officer down. I repeat, officer down.”

Hank’s heart sinks.

“Reed,” he says, spluttering another cough, “what’s your damage?”

A grunt from the other side; Hank can hear him through the clatter of bullets and people escaping, even without the clarity of his voice on the com. Hank registers sirens, too, muted and faraway.

“Just a few scratches,” Reed answers, breath heaving. “I’m puttin’ – putting a tourniquet on Miller.” A pause. “That’s right buddy, I gotcha. We’re here. Backup’s on the way.”

Miller groans in pain and Hank curses through clenched teeth.

“Hold on tight,” Reed continues. “Keep lookin’ at me, put those big brown eyes over here. C’mon.” Tearing of fabric and a pained noise from Miller, followed up by a cough. “Cover your mouth, that smoke’s fuckin’ sharp.”

The noises start fading away; most people are making their getaway, Hank gathers. He runs his hands over himself – there’s a streak of rough skin over the jut of his cheekbone, blood dripping down his beard. Jacket frayed on his right, too, the pain a hot flare when he slips his fingers through the gap.

“Fuck,” Hank hisses. He didn’t even notice.

Just grazed by the feel of it, but the gash on his arm is pretty deep.

“Lieutenant,” says a strong, level-headed voice in Hank’s ear. “I will soon be breaching the premises. Connor is in pursuit of the gang with the aid of Detective Collins and Officer Chen.” A pause. “What is the situation like inside?”

Hank tries to see through the smoke, but it’s damn near impossible. “Dim,” he grunts back. “We can’t see shit. I think most of the gang has ran out, but you never know. Could be people left behind to finish us off.”

“I understand,” RK900 says. “What about Officer Miller and Detective Reed?”

Reed is still making comforting sounds, talking Miller through it. Hank sighs, flicking his hair out of his face with one hand, the other wrapped tight around his gun. “Your partner’s applied a tourniquet on Miller. But we need medical assistance and we need it goddamn quick.”

“Of course. Stay where you are and remain in cover. I will be joining you.”

Hank nods, voice muffled through his shirt. “Gotcha, RK.”

The com falls silent. Hank shuffles, waving his arm at the smoke to help make it clear, but it amounts to little. Reed’s and Miller’s voices are a bit to his left – he assumes that they’re huddled up behind the other container on the opposite side of the room.

Maybe he can make it. If they’re together, it should be safer, especially with Miller down. They can both cover him if necessary.

But then, Hank hears a strange shuffling sound high along the wall, followed by a soft thud. He braces himself against any sort of impact, but the soft blue light through the smoke gives him a reassuring answer. Even before RK speaks.

“It’s me, Lieutenant Anderson,” he says primly. “A moment, if you would.”

And then he makes the weirdest sort of noise like a rough, nauseating rattle from deeper in his body that even has Miller making a surprised sound alongside Reed’s, “What the flying fuck?”.

The smoke starts dissipating instantly, like it’s being sucked away.

It reveals Reed and Miller, who are indeed sitting in a direct line to Hank at his left. Reed has one arm wrapped around a barely-conscious Miller, drawing him up to his chest, and he’s holding the makeshift tourniquet with the other. There’s blood on his face and on his shirt, but Hank can’t tell if it’s his own or Miller’s.

Miller’s eyes are fluttering closed, but he’s still holding his gun perched on his good leg.

And in front of Hank sits RK900, braced on the floor on one knee, mouth half-open and looking polished as always. The smoke is disappearing into him through his open mouth, like this is just another function he has installed.

Hank pulls down the collar of his shirt and takes in a deep breath of clear air. “Bioweapon defenses?” he asks, raising an eyebrow.

RK’s face remains impassive. “That’s actually rather accurate,” he answers, smoke still curling from his mouth as he raises to his full height and offers Hank a hand.

Hank snorts. “You sound surprised. EMTs on the way?”

“I’m recalibrating my expectations for your behavioral responses to my functions, Lieutenant,” RK answers easily, helping him up. His eyes flit briefly over Hank’s form. “EMTs are waiting on the clear.”

He turns towards the doors in the back. “There’s a heat signature in the corridor,” he adds, lowering his voice. And then he reaches out, harshly tugging on Hank’s frayed sleeve.

“Ambush?” Hank asks.

The sleeve rips entirely from the seam at the shoulder.

“Most likely,” RK900 replies, letting the sleeve flutter to the floor while he curtly wraps a bandage tight around the gash in Hank’s upper arm. Quick, efficient, barely in under a few seconds, and Hank can only stare at him in half-surprise.

Then, RK’s stalking over to Reed and Miller, kneeling back down again. Tests the give of the tourniquet and then nods at Reed. “Well done,” he says softly.

“I’ve done this sort of thing before, you prick,” Reed mutters, arm still tight around Miller. “Fuck.”

RK900 quietly examines Miller. “Let him lie down. Gravity will have a more even effect on his blood flow that way.”

Reed wordlessly rearranges Miller together with RK. “I’ll stay with him,” he offers. “You two take care of whatever’s lying in wait.”

“Are you certain?” RK asks, his eyebrow arched sharply.

Reed’s face pulls together in a frown. “Yeah. Chris and I’ve known each other for a while. I’ll stay and – talk. Just talk.”

“Come on,” Hank says. “No time.”

RK nods. “The other detectives could use our help,” he confirms, and then he’s making for the door. “Inside is secured,” he says, almost mechanically. “Send the EMTs in. Lieutenant Anderson and I will take care of the threat in the corridor.”

Hank takes the time to wipe his grimy palms – blood, sweat, traces of smoke – on his legs before he readjusts the gun in his hands. And then, after one shared look with RK, they go through the doors at the side that lead to the loading area. Trucks and transportation.

They round a corner, RK pointedly going first, and then a guy jumps out and swings a steel pipe downwards in a wide, powerful arc.

RK lifts his arm to meet it with a dull, resounding clang, taking the full impact of the pipe without blinking an eye.

“Ouch,” he says dryly.

“What the fuck,” the guy exclaims.

Hank doesn’t even have to raise a finger. RK has him on his belly on the floor in about four seconds and cuffed almost instantly in a smooth motion. When the guy opens his mouth to start screaming, RK hits him efficiently with the side of his hand, striking him in the neck.

The assailant goes out like a nightlight.

“Jesus christ,” Hank says, giving RK900 a look-over. His forearm is bent slightly from the force of that pipe, but he’s still using both of his arms like nothing happened. Like he isn’t even damaged.

“Suspect unconscious and cuffed in the corridor,” RK reports. “Requesting pickup. Sending GPS.”

He picks up a slight jog, and Hank falls in behind him.

“You’re wondering how,” RK says. “My chassis has titanium alloy mixed in with the polymer.”

Hank realizes only then that RK900 doesn’t have a gun on his person anywhere. No holster, no weight underneath his jacket. It’s just him, weird smoke-sucking abilities and titanium alloy. And apparently, that’s enough.

“You gonna pop ‘em off like Wolverine?” Hank grins.

Trying not to think too hard about Connor in all his non-titanium glory running after a drug gang of at least twenty people, with only Chen and Collins by his side.

RK looks at him. It’s not a smile, but it’s getting there. “That’s adamantium, I believe,” he replies.

“Y’know,” Hank says, giving him a thoughtful look, “you’re getting funnier. Any heat signatures?”

“None,” RK says, but he looks pleased. There’s a softening to his features, somehow. “Would you mind if I pick up speed? For – ”

Hank flaps his hand at RK900. “Go on. Connor needs ya. I’ll get there.”

RK nods and speeds off. He’s faster than Connor, but he accelerates more slowly; like he’s heavier, using his momentum to speed him along. Maybe it’s the alloy he’s got in him.

He easily scales a fucking truck on the outside of the loading area in front of Hank’s eyes, providing him with a shortcut, and Hank shakes his head. Thinks of what Reed said last month – why he’d be nice to a guy constantly showing him he could could do his work so much better than Reed ever could.

Hank jogs around the trucks, following the trail of noise and sirens. Of RK’s silhouette against the horizon in the distance. He can hear the sounds of fighting, yelling and gunfire echoing through the night.

But before Hank can form his next thought, RK900’s voice cuts in. “Lieutenant,” he says on the com, sounding agitated, “did you ever pitch?”

“Yeah,” Hank answers over his own heavy breathing, unconsciously picking up speed. “Haven’t in years, though. Fuckin’ Little League. Why - ”

“I need handcuffs,” RK says, interrupting him. “There’s fighting. Collins and Chen are in cover, but Connor is not.”

Hank hesitates, but only for a second. It doesn’t do not to trust the people you work with, even if they come up with weird plans, and RK900 has been nothing but reliable and headstrong. Nothing but helpful and efficient.

(And there’s the trust by association. Hank doesn’t want to think it or say it, but the fact that he’s Connor’s – whatever, helps too.)

So Hank says this instead: “My curveballs tend to veer left. I’ve got a set of five.”

The silhouette turns; still running but slower, looking back. “Understood.”

“Shit,” Hank curses, feeling the twinge of pain in his right arm. “Maybe I’ll be a little down on the distance, RK. My arm – ”

Even from this far, Hank can tell that RK900’s LED flares red like an alarming warning. “Throw it, Lieutenant,” he says, agitation still coloring his voice. “I trust you.”

Hank gathers all of his might together, arcs his arm, and pelts the set of handcuffs at RK like he’s seen his favorites do on Gears games. Of course, a set of metal rings is unbalanced and heavy and nothing like baseballs and he’s been shot in the fucking arm he pitches with, but RK darts forward and catches them anyway.

And then turns and starts running even faster. Catching up with the violence.

Hank runs harder, too. Wishes he’d brought something else with him than just his gun – that goddamn steel pipe from the corridor, even.

He can see them now, fighting it out in front of a roadblock that the backup’s thrown up across the street, and it’s more than just the gang that escaped the shop. Apparently, their rivals caught scent of it and joined in on the fun.

‘Cause what’s more enjoyable than beating up your sworn enemies on their territory while they’re caught up in a half-successful drug bust and slam-dunking a few stray cops in the process?

It’s a mess, though. Less guns involved and more outright fists against fists, though few people play fair.

Connor is in the thick of it, blue Thirium running down his chin and throat. One side of his face is entirely white, bust into deactivating, and his left forearm is torn open.

Hank can see inside of it. Sparking electricity and wires.

But Connor still jabs the elbow of said arm into a guy trying to shank him in the ribs. Sees RK900 arrive on the scene and instantly shoves another gang member into his direction, allowing the other android to wrestle him to the ground and cuff him.

Hank sees their LEDs flash rhythmically in yellow. Communicating.

RK takes out an asshole coming up behind Connor with a bat, cuffing him to his buddy and knocking their heads together with a crack. They collapse to the pavement instantly and he steps over their bodies without care.

Helps out a few officers mixed in with the rest, using that same effective strike Hank saw him apply to the neck of the guy in the corridor. And then, very suddenly, he leans forward – and Connor half-jumps over the arch of his back, kicking another gang member in the face who’s coming at RK with a broken bottle.

There’s two more – one with a knife and the other with a lot of rage and fists – so RK grasps Connor’s elbow and gives him a swing with enough momentum to kick them to the street simultaneously. He cuffs them, too, and Connor moves onto the next.

Hank slows his jog, realizing that they’ve got it under control. He can see Collins and Chen off to the side, behind cover, a medic treating a gash on Chen’s side. There’s barely any gunfire – it’s all morphed into plain old fighting at this point.

A scuffle Hank would’ve enjoyed joining during his earlier days on the force.

The officers have noticed Connor and RK’s efficacy too, pulling back to the outer circle of the fighting and picking up where the two androids leave off. Arresting, cuffing or restraining the gang members one-by-one.

Hank veers off towards Collins and Chen. No use adding unnecessary fodder to a dangerous situation, even if he wants to. (Even if Hank wants to be there because someone ripped Connor’s arm apart.)

Another gang member starts waving pepper spray around. Useless, of course.

Both androids come up to him and knock him unconscious even before he can start spraying. Hank sees a look pass between him and Connor; RK’s chin dips in a barely-there nod and Connor’s hand lands briefly on RK’s shoulder.

Hank realizes that they look good together, like they fit. Like they goddamn fucking –

“Well,” Collins says, interrupting Hank’s train of thought as he reaches him and Chen, “I don’t think we’re gonna need that SWAT team for crowd control.”

He looks scruffy, scrapes on his face and chin, palms dirty. But also calm, collected, arms crossed while he watches the scene before them play out. RK900 and Connor fighting criminals like it’s something right out of The Matrix and Collins doesn’t even look impressed.

“Must be nice,” he adds before looking up at Hank. “Having an android for a boyfriend.”

Hank clears his throat. “So, you came around to the concept?”

Collins shrugs, rolling his shoulders. “You get points for surprising me, Hank, that’s for goddamn sure. Didn’t think you were too keen on the guy considering what you were ramblin’ about in the beginning.”

“I ramble about a lot of things,” Hank says simply.

Collins claps him on the back. And that – that’s it. All that really needs to be said.

The rest of the night is a bit of a blur. SWAT team arrives, motivating a lot of the crowd to give up and leave, and they end up arresting around thirty people at the intersection. RK and Connor work tirelessly alongside the other officers, loading vans with cuffed, beat-up folks. Saying nothing but moving in tandem, and they look equally grim.

An ambulance speeds Miller to the hospital, Reed by his side. Still in critical condition.

Chen’s brought over for a checkup, too, having been stitched up by a medic on the spot. Apparently, a gang member came up behind the car and tried to shank her with a machete.

A goddamn machete, Hank thinks. Where are these people getting their shit?

Collins directs the people that are left. Organizes the police vans moving towards the holding cells, distributes security blankets where necessary, and gives Hank a new set of handcuffs.

When Connor finally finds his way back to Hank, they don’t embrace. Connor gently touches his fingers to the bloodied bandage on Hank’s arm and Hank runs his over the exposed casing of Connor’s elbow.

“Hank,” Connor says, frowning, “why didn’t you join Chen on the ambulance?”

Hank shrugs. “Just a few small scratches. Your…” Pause, recalculation. “RK fixed it up anyway.”

Connor gives him a wry smile. “He’s not a medical expert. It might need stitching and it definitely needs to be cleaned.”

Hank’s fingers tighten over the open wires of Connor’s arm. “What about you, huh?”

“Nothing a visit to a CyberLife store can’t fix,” Connor says, shrugging. “I think I’ll be able to do this myself with the kit we have at home.”

Hank tries for a grin. “What, and you weren’t gonna let me clean myself up?”

“I should make RK900 clean you up,” Connor mutters. “Or drive you to the hospital. He was supposed to prevent exactly this sort of thing today.”

Now that does make Hank chuckle. “Con,” he says, sliding his hand up to Connor’s shoulder and squeezing it. “Bust gone wrong, that’s all. He wasn’t with us at the time.”

Connor’s expression softens, but his eyes still linger over the blood on Hank’s cheek. “I know,” he adds. “Let’s – let’s go home. I can look at your wounds and fix my arm. And we can – ”

“Are you dissatisfied with my performance, Connor?”

RK900 is standing behind them with his hands clasped behind his back, a towering shadow against the blues and reds of the emergency lights. His hair, usually so neat and tidy, is tousled and like Connor, part of his face has been beaten to white.

Connor’s mouth grows into a tired, thin line like a blade of grass.

“Hey,” Hank says instantly to both of them, “we don’t do blame games here. Everybody at the DPD pulls their own weight. And if not, we pull it together.”

He looks from Connor to RK and back. “Today was shit, with the way Miller was shot down,” he adds, intent on defusing the situation. “But that ain’t nobody’s fault, alright?”

RK’s eyebrows raise slightly. “It appears Detective Reed’s source was wrong about when the shop front would be empty of employees.”

Connor says nothing.

“Exactly,” Hank says, shoving his hands into his pockets and feeling his arm twinge again with the movement. “And that’s not Reed’s fault, either. It happens. At least we got a few dozen arrests out of the deal.”

In the dim light, RK’s eyes light up faintly like a cat’s. Reflective. Not unlike Connor’s from the right angle.

“Considering that miscalculation, the situation was resolved in a statistically satisfying manner,” RK says, words carefully measured. “We accomplished our mission.”

Hank knows he’s talking to Connor more than he’s replying to whatever Hank said. But from the way Connor won’t meet RK’s eyes, it’s not working.

“We did,” Connor says, and his voice is stone-cold. Hands clenched into fists at his sides, even though his LED is still a calm blue.

RK’s, however, is not. The yellow stands out terribly amongst the cacophony of reds and blues in the night.

“Connor,” Hank says, gentling his voice, “if you got something to say – ”

Connor moves faster than Hank would’ve thought possible, and suddenly he’s up in RK’s space. Gaze boring into him, face pulled taut with anger.

“People,” he says, almost spitting it, “are not expendable.”

RK900 looks taken aback, hands sliding from his position at his back to hanging limply by his sides.

“This is different than objectives,” Connor bites, brows squeezing together in a frown. “If we go on a mission for the DPD and someone gets hurt or wounded, that’s not a victory. That’s not – ”

He cuts himself off, huffing. Hands clenching and unclenching restlessly before he finds RK’s eyes again.

“A mission fails when someone dies,” Connor says. “Regardless of objectives. What happened today with Officer Miller, that’s not – that’s not accomplished.”

RK’s expression doesn’t change. “Officer Miller is not dead. He will most likely recover. The chances are – ”

“I know what his chances are!” Connor exclaims, jabbing a finger against RK900’s chest. “That doesn’t account for his trauma, his experience. The blood that Reed feels is on his hands.”

A tiny frown pulling between RK’s brows, like a twitching little shadow swaying back and forth. “That is why he wished to stay with Officer Miller,” he concludes, his steely eyes meeting Connor’s brown ones.

“You need to change your thinking,” Connor says, voice still laced with an edge of hardness. “This is not – the people at the DPD are our colleagues. Their lives are worth more than a mission. More than a set of – a set of check boxes in a row!”

He looks exasperated, shaking his head. Stray curl falling into his face, like always.

RK900 tilts his head to the side and opens his mouth to speak, but this time it’s Hank who cuts in.

“That includes you,” he says, voice rough. “You and Connor and all the other androids. We take care of each other here. No one’s expandable. Not even for parts.”

Connor rubs his damaged hand over his face. The gesture is so much like Hank’s own movements that it feels a little uncanny to watch him do it.

RK’s LED goes red, corners of his mouth pulling down. “That’s illogical,” he says. “We can be replaced. We are stronger, more resilient than you are. It makes no sense to save me from injury if it would halt the capture of a criminal.”

“You,” Connor starts, and then adds from the bottom of his heart: “Fuck.”

RK900’s LED strobes back to yellow, and he stares at Connor quizzically. But then, Connor grasps him by his elbow, and Hank sees RK’s eyes widen in shock. The way Connor’s skin shifts away is barely noticeable because of the way the wiring of his arm is exposed, but Hank recognizes the soft blue hue of it.

“That’s Amanda talking,” Connor says sternly. “And to be honest with you?”

RK seems to take ahold of Connor’s arm in his palm purely automatically. On instinct.

“It’s bullshit,” Connor spits, and then RK’s forearm and hand turn white as well.

And that’s how Hank gets to see two people interface for the first time from an outside perspective. Sees the way the lights on their bodies go wild; sees Connor’s angry expression soften slowly into something determined, whereas RK’s face morphs from half-surprised indifference to being wide-eyed and slam-dunked into feeling.

All of Connor against all of RK900.

Hank already knows what’s going to win out.

RK makes a small, strangled noise somewhere deep in his throat, stumbling back, and then they both let go simultaneously. RK is unsteady on his feet, long legs suddenly halfway into uselessness.

“You are afraid for Miller,” he says. “Despite knowing his odds, despite…”

RK900’s sentence trails off into nothingness and Connor just nods, eyes on forever. Hank feels weirdly proud of Connor in all of his determined conviction.

“Yeah,” he says, looking calm. “I’m afraid for Miller. Just like I was scared for you and Hank when you were in danger.”

RK presses the heel of his palm to his brow. “It makes no sense,” he murmurs. “The chances were – you know that we…” He stops talking, blinking rapidly.

“I don’t expect you to understand right away,” Connor says, and finally some kindness seeps back into his voice. “But if you’re gonna be active on the force, you need to understand what to prioritize.”

The tension seeps out of Connor’s body. He looks more relaxed; balanced. A beacon of belief opposite RK, who looks cut loose from his moors in a storm.

“Even if,” RK starts, almost hesitantly, “even if I can’t – feel it?”

Connor inclines his head. “Even so.” He pauses, swallowing. “Maybe especially so.”

RK nods, slow.

Connor offers him a small smile in return.

Hank clears his throat. “Heh,” he smiles. “You’ll feel it, eventually. When you start making friends.” He thumps his own chest. “Nothing hurts more than the pain of a loved one.”

RK900’s eyes find Hank’s as if he’d completely forgotten Hank was there. And then his gaze trails over the gash on Hank’s cheek and lower to find the one around which he’d wrapped that bandage. Did it himself, without thinking.

Even before he’d checked on Miller or his own partner.

Hank hums, scuffing his shoe against the pavement. The guy’s been through enough tonight, he decides, so he steps forward and claps RK’s back. “C’mon,” he says. “We all look terrible. Let’s visit the hospital and see how Miller’s doing.”

Connor nods, and finally his mouth turns up into a warmer, friendlier smile. “They have an android department too, nowadays,” he remarks. “Small, but stocked with enough Thirium to refill our supplies.”

Hank hooks his arm tighter around the broad width of RK900’s shoulders and jostles him. “Sound good to you?”

“Yes,” RK says, looking at Hank with something like respect. “You’re very good at steering the direction of a conversation, Lieutenant.”

Hank barks out a surprised laugh. “Comes with the territory, pal. You’ll get there.”

He shares a knowing look with Connor behind RK’s back.

“You’ll get there,” he repeats, squeezing RK’s shoulder.

 


 

Miller recovers, of course, and takes it all like a champ.

Smiles through all the hospital visits and says he’s already looking forward to the physical therapy. Less so to doing boring paperwork at his desk, but Fowler promises him he’ll bring up interesting cases for Miller to consult on.

Being one of the most well-liked people at the DPD, Miller’s hospital room is filled to the brim with flowers, balloons, and chocolate. Get well soon cards, stuffed animals, and other small gifts. (Connor and Hank give Miller a St. Bernard plushie and a book on forensic research. Both are on his nightstand.)

Reed still very obviously feels guilty about what happened and almost begrudgingly drags himself to Miller’s side every day. But once he’s in the room, he turns his own shame off and engages Miller in conversation. Tells him tales of what happens at the precinct and shows him funny vids on his phone.

RK900 accompanies him every single time.

He doesn’t say much, but the few dry comments he makes are always more than enough to make Miller smile. Maybe even more so when Reed rolls his eyes or barks out a string of curses in response to him.

Hank figures that before that little interface session he and Connor had, RK might’ve said his time and abilities could be put to better use. But now, he’s weirdly adamant about joining Reed, and even sneaks a cup from Miller’s favorite coffee stand into the hospital.

Decaf, of course. Leave it to RK not to take too much of a risk.

Hank’s own injuries from that day aren’t worth the stitches, so he just gets a few smears of medical gel and then he’s sent on his way. Ends up in the android ER, where Connor is repairing the wiring and the casing on his arm himself under the watchful eye of an attendant who supplies Connor with the materials.

Hank watches. And teasingly runs his fingertip over an exposed wire while the attendant steps away for a few moments. A hitched breath and a half-angry, half-lustful look is his reward. Hank just grins back in response.

And that’s how life goes, for a little while. Blissfully normal.

New habits, old routines, all mixed up comfortably in Hank’s life. He feels like he’s past his adjustment period in his relationship with Connor and it just feels – well, damn fucking good. Getting up every morning next to Connor and looking forward to getting a new case rather than dreading it.

Driving around Detroit, ticking off the lists: talk to witnesses, research people’s backgrounds, pick up evidence at the forensics lab. Get a cup of coffee at that new barista on the corner that gets incredibly flustered whenever Hank and Connor stop by.

(Wrote Hank’s name on the cup without needing to ask for it. It’s nice to have fans, sometimes, and it helps that the coffee is ridiculously good.)

Going home after a good day of work and deciding on what dish he wants to eat. Walking Sumo with Connor by his side in the evenings and greeting their neighbors while they pass by.

And all of it is just easier.

Even when there’s still shadows that scream for Hank’s attention – dread that sinks into his stomach, telling him he’s not worth it; snakes that coil in the pasture hissing that this is not meant to be his – it’s easier to keep them at bay because the rest of it is normal. Smooth, easy.

He has so little to worry about that a bad day or even a bad week become things that pass.

The normalcy is the reality now, not the depression. The common things of everyday life are the bright spots for him to hold onto. To cherish and polish and hold up to the light to admire their beauty.

Trinkets of a normal life. And Hank has a treasure chest full of ‘em by now.

Never thought he’d have it, but it’s right fucking there.

And now he’s getting ready for the hard part: looking back at his old life and bringing it out into the open. Uncover it and mix it with the new. The things and the people he loves from that time. Wants from that time, but never had the courage to invite back into his life.

It started with the pictures on the wall. It started with the calendar and continued with wearing the sunglasses Cole used to love. The concert, that was part of it too, just like the jazz café. Taking it back one step at a time.

Reclaiming it.

Asking Rachel to stay over is another one of those things.

She’s flying in next Monday, ‘cause tickets were cheaper on weekdays. And despite having the money now, Rachel’s always been like that. They didn’t have too much money growing up.

When they text about it, Hank feels nervous. He fully expects the feeling to stay. But once Rachel’s booked the tickets, arranged everything for her visit, and thanked Hank for the invitation the nervousness just – well, it dissolved.

He’s not afraid. He’s getting better. And it’s Rachel, for fuck’s sake.

No matter what’s happened, there’s always remained an understanding between them. Not always easy, no, but there is something that feels comfortable. Something that they can fall back upon.

As it turns out, the one fidgeting and constantly checking whether the house is up to some invisible standard is Connor, not Hank.

“We don’t have a guest room,” Connor announces one morning, mortified.

Hank, who’s brushing Sumo, shrugs. “Couch can be made into a bed. Rach doesn’t mind.”

Connor gives Hank a look that says, we can’t possibly let your sister sleep in the living room. But what he asks instead is: “Are you sure?”

“She knows we don’t have a guest room,” Hank adds. “She’s not expecting to get the bedroom. ‘Specially not now that – well, not now that I’ve got you.” He looks up at Connor, grinning.

Connor walks off with a frown on his face, not looking reassured.

The questions continue, morning after morning. Hank has to admit that he’s at least slightly amused.

“What does Rachel like to eat?” Connor asks next, cleaning up Hank’s plate after breakfast while Hank packs their lunches. Sandwiches for him, Thirium smoothie-whatever for Connor.

Hank chuckles. “Everything that’s high on fatty bullshit, like me.”

Connor looks thoughtful. “Would she enjoy an English-style breakfast? Pancakes? And for lunch, maybe something lighter?”

Hank gives Connor a look. “Put it on a plate and she’ll shove it into her mouth. She’s not picky about food.”

“That’s not helpful,” Connor says, pursing his lips. “Not helpful at all.”

And then, one evening when Hank’s in the shower, Connor’s head pops in around the curtain. Hank, who’s just soaping up his hair, grins down at him and slows his movements.

“Hey,” he says, letting his voice drop, “that’s a nice surprise.”

Connor blinks at him owlishly. “Oh right,” he says, as if he’s only now considering the possibility. His eyes travel down over Hank’s chest, and then decidedly move back up to his face again. He straightens his collar.

Hank raises his eyebrows. “No?”

“Though I appreciate the effort at seduction,” Connor says curtly, “it just came to mind that I don’t know what kind of gifts would be fitting for Rachel. Do you think she likes – ”

Hank snorts and pulls the curtain closed over Connor’s face. “No disturbing my alone time in the shower to ask me about gifts for my sister. Get outta here, asshole.”

“But – ”

Hank grasps the shower curtain with one fist, halting Connor’s attempts to pull it open again. “No,” he says with a finality to his tone.

Connor makes an annoyed sound. “If you are upset that I rebuffed your proposal, I – ”

“Wasn’t a proposal,” Hank grunts, tipping his head back under the shower so he can get the shampoo out of his hair. “And she’ll like anything you get her, Connor. No matter what.”

Connor scuffles off and somehow manages to sound disappointed without saying anything.

The next topic of conversation regarding Rachel’s visit is Connor fretting about what kind of activities to plan. He’s actually attempted to analyze what information he has available on Rachel both through Hank and her online presence and made a list of possible attractions in and around Detroit. And now he wants Hank’s approval for it.

Hank, pen hanging from his mouth while he plasters sticky notes over a touchscreen up on the wall, sighs long and deep.

“Rachel’s not a suspect,” he says. “Stop treating her like one.”

Connor sighs, leaning on the edge of the meeting room table. “I don’t know what else to do.”

Hank drops the pen and the notes, putting a hand on his hip. “Connor,” he says, “I know you’re worried about this shit. God knows I do.” He snorts at his own memories, half-a-scoff. “But you gotta – you gotta let it go, even just a little.”

“I want to make a good impression,” Connor says, and he sounds tired. “But everything you’ve told me, everything I know – it doesn’t seem like it’s enough.”

Hank reaches out and brushes his fingers across Connor’s arm. “So what, you were gonna catch her attention like you catch criminals?”

Connor gives him a look. “It’s what I’m good at,” he states simply.

“I know,” Hank says on a sigh. “I know. But look, you charmed me. If you can charm this old dog…” He grins. “You can sure as hell charm Rachel.”

“What if I don’t?” Connor asks, leaning into Hank’s touch. “She’s your only family.”

Hank curls his fingers into Connor’s sleeve, stroking the back of his wrist. “It’s fine if you don’t. Really, it is. We don’t see each other that often. You guys’ll just have to sit up and play nice at big holidays. Birthdays, maybe.”

“I want very badly,” Connor murmurs, “for it to be good.”

Hank nods, knocking his forehead against Connor’s. “Family’s not always good and easy, Con. I mean, look at you.” He looks up from under the grey curtain of his hair, shooting Connor a grin. “You’ve got a piece of shit for a brother. Just like Rachel.”

That finally has a smile appearing on Connor’s face. “You give yourself too little credit.”

“So do you,” Hank says, voice soft as he boops Connor’s nose. “You’ll be alright. Promise.”

Connor hums, enjoying another few seconds of Hank’s proximity; leaning into him, noses brushing, eyes closed. And then he’s nodding slowly, pulling away. “We should get back to work,” he murmurs, almost like it’s an afterthought.

“What do you think I was doing before you showed up, smartass?” Hank grins, leaning back and reaching for his post-it notes.

Connor steps away too, letting his eyes drift over the touchscreen. “Hard at work or hardly working?” he teases, eyebrows raised. “Looks like a social network. You could just log on and add notes digitally, Hank.”

“Well, I like doin’ it the old-fashioned way,” Hank says, smiling as he scribbles a name down on another post-it and sticks it to the screen. “’Sides, I’m still using the grid that Reed made.”

Connor gives him an amused look, crossing his arms. His eyes twinkle beneath the spring of that one curl over his forehead.

Hank shrugs, canting his head towards Connor and giving him a lopsided grin. “Just as an underlay.”

He is.

Photos are shown on the screen below Hank’s notes – most of them members of the gang whose shop front they busted in on last week. They haven’t been able to keep them all under arrest or in custody; not enough proof or not damning enough. They were there, but not all the drugs were.

Despite it being so obvious, it’s difficult to tie it all together. It always is.

Reed’s drawn up a schema between the people they’ve caught and others who are in the gang, showing relationship status and hierarchy in the overall group. Hank’s been adding little notes of his own to the mix. Things from their criminal records he finds interesting or connections to other cases he’s worked or suspects he’s put away.

“Do you think there’s more to it?” Connor asks, eyes flying over Hank’s additions lightning fast.

“Yeah, Connor, I do,” Hank murmurs. “You see, this was just – rival gangs fighting it out. Smaller one trying to become bigger by distributing drugs. Guys on the opposite side of the street beating them up over it.”

Connor takes a silver quarter out of his pocket, letting it dance over his knuckles. He’s not looking at Hank, but he’s attentive. Focused, processing.

So Hank continues. “Not really any high-profile dealers,” he murmurs. “That’s why this case was never assigned an official task force. Just something for Reed to clean up.”

“I noticed that we haven’t collaborated with Narcotics so far,” Connor comments.

“Nope, we haven’t,” Hank says, making the ‘p’ of the word pop by pursing his lips. “And I’m not yet sure if we should. But if this is supposed to be a such a low-profile case, then tell me what the fuck these four…”

He picks out four portraits on Reed’s diagram, drawing big circles around them with a whiteboard marker. It squeaks across the touchscreen in an unpleasant way.

“… are doing here at all?” Hank finishes, looking at the portraits.

Connor steps closer, narrowing his eyes while the coin continues its merry way across his hands.

“Mere underlings, by the look of Reed’s diagram,” he comments. “No notes of interest to their criminal records, and during the interrogations they seemed to be unaware of the goals of higher management.”

“That’s exactly the thing,” Hank says, tapping his finger to the screen. “Almost no criminal records at all. Weird for streetwise people, don’t ya think?”

He looks at Connor. “Nothing for possession, nothing for assault,” he continues, crossing his arms. “No weapons on them, and barely any wounds from the roadblock scuffle.”

“No traces of Thirium or red ice components on them or their clothes, either,” Connor murmurs. “Even though two of them hinted at having worked a production line.”

Hank clicks his pen open and closed. “So either they’re completely clueless,” he says, “or they’re good at hiding something. And I’m gonna go with definitely not fuckin’ clueless, ‘cause…”

He pulls up the profiles of the four gang members in question.

“One of them has a master’s degree in logistics,” Hank says, giving Connor a pointed look. “Another has worked briefly for a multinational. They’re all way beyond their twenties.”

The coin on Connor’s fingers stops while his LED flutters through its processing cycle. “And one of them does have an extensive criminal record,” he says. “For fraud.”

“These people right here,” Hank says, gesturing at them, “are screaming white-collar crime. They’re screaming high management. Either they’re the true top brass, which I doubt, or they’re infiltrators.”

Connor leans back against the desk. “Why would they infiltrate a small-time gang? Use them as mules for their drug distribution?”

Hank narrows his eyes. “Maybe. I’m not sure. Paving the way for collaborations?”

Connor briefly examines his silver coin before throwing it over to Hank. “Or money laundering,” he offers.

“Either way, they’re probably up to no good,” Hank sighs, catching it. He attempts the same trick Connor usually does, flicking the coin from one hand to the other. Slower, of course, but he’s gotten the hang over it over the past few months.

“We need to bring this theory up with Detective Reed,” Connor says, crossing his arms over his chest.

“Yeah,” Hank nods grimly, “we do.”

 


 

Reed rolls his eyes and groans. Sighs next, drumming his fingers on the counter top. Then he adds an extra bag of sugar to his cup of coffee, stirring it so wildly that some of it splatters on the cuff of his jacket.

“Money laundering,” he deadpans, scratching at the scar over the bridge of his nose.

“It’s our best guess,” Connor replies.

Reed sighs again and takes a sip, very obviously burning his tongue. “Fuck,” he spits, and it comes out more as phck instead.

“If you need help, we’re here,” Hank offers up, carefully taking in Reed’s slightly disheveled appearance. “’Cause this could be big.”

“I know, Lieutenant Anderson,” Reed says mockingly, rubbing the back of his neck. “If I need you on the task force, I’ll call, alright? God.”

Connor offers Reed a napkin for the splattered coffee, but he waves it off and just wipes his palms on his thighs, and then his mouth on his sleeve. Hank sees Connor’s disapproving look and suppresses his own amused smile.

“I’m already knee-deep in arrests on this shit case,” Reed mutters. “But I’ll see if RK can look into this. It smells a little, uh…” His grey eyes find Hank, lingering intensely. “Like someone we might know.”

Hank’s stomach churns as he holds Reed’s gaze. It’s true; what Reed’s referring to crossed Hank’s mind before. Way before he even circled those portraits in the touchscreen.

Echoed somewhere in the chambers of his thought; gut feeling saying yes, but the evidence not saying enough. The same goddamn problem they had before.

“Do we?” Connor asks, eyebrow raised.

Reed makes a condescending noise. “Looks your, uh, partner doesn’t want to say it, toaster-boy.”

Connor jabs his fist into Reed’s arm, and Reed chokes out a pained, “Jesus!”

“I didn’t even wanna consider it, to be honest,” Hank grumbles through the racket. “It’s not even a shred of – not even a fuckin’ hint at this point.”

“Well,” Reed bites, looking angrily at Connor while he rubs his bicep, “sucks to be you, Hank. People like us gotta face the facts.”

Hank rolls his eyes. “There are none, you dipshit. We can’t even bring this up to Fowler.” He looks away. “We need more than ‘it fucking smells’, alright?”

“Smells goddamn red that’s what it is,” Reed murmurs, blowing on his hot coffee.

Hank lets his breath escape his mouth slow, hands fidgeting in his pockets. “Just tell me you’re gonna keep an eye open. For now.”

Reed nods, shifting his weight from one leg to the other. “Yeah, fine,” he says, “we’ll take it into account.”

“Thanks,” Hank murmurs.

“None of my cross-references throughout the DPD archives have given me anything on ‘red’,” Connor quips then, looking a little irritated. “Except on the topic of red ice. Since drugs are already in play, I assume the two of you are talking about something else.”

He pauses. “Or rather, someone.”

His gaze falls to Hank, expectation for an explanation plainly visible on his face.

Reed takes another hesitant sip of his coffee after blowing on it a second time. “We’re talking about the one that got away,” he says over the rim, looking at Hank. “Every cop has one. Big, small, doesn’t matter. There’s always one that slips through the mazes of the net.”

He draws one hand back, wiggling his fingers. “And goes fuckin’ poof.”

“RK was right. You do have a goddamn flair for the dramatic, Reed,” Hank says, shaking his head.

Reed shrugs. “So fucking what. Half of a cop’s job is boring. I just try to make it look more interesting.”

“Hmm,” Connor hums semi-thoughtfully, side-eying Reed. “I doubt you’re succeeding.”

Now it’s Reed’s turn to look away with a long-suffering sigh. “Shut up, asshole.”

“Prick,” Connor shoots back from the corner of his mouth.

“Look,” Hank says, opting to ignore their quips again while he turns to Connor. “You know about the task force I led on the red ice bust.”

Connor nods. “Founded in 2027 to combat the distribution of red ice throughout the country, starting in Detroit. On February 3rd in 2028, you led the operation that would land you a promotion to Lieutenant.” He pauses, and Hank motions for him to continue.

“You were able to uproot a network of high-profile suppliers and make dozens of arrests in several states,” Connor adds, and he looks proud of Hank.

Reed whistles. “Famous in every goddamn state! Hank Anderson, getting half a million in drugs off the street.” He grins sleazily. “The story always works up the rookies, doesn’t it?”

Hank says nothing; just waits.

“The other follow-up of note happened on the 23rd of November, three years later,” Connor says. “The task force uncovered approximately a ton of red ice in the hold of a freighter not unlike the Jericho.”

Hank nods, sighing. “After which the task force disbanded. We got the network, and we got most of the drugs.”

“Except,” Reed says, leaning forward on his arms, “for one little witness.”

“Oh come on,” Hank groans, shaking his head. “We didn’t – we didn’t have conclusive proof. Still don’t, and she knew it.”

Reed snickers. “We all fuckin’ knew it. But it’s been, what? Eight years since then? More than enough time for her to mold the family’s resources to her own purposes, I’d say.”

Connor looks from Reed back to Hank, raising an eyebrow. “I take it that this witness of yours was involved with one of the drug gangs,” he says dryly.

“Yup,” Hank confirms, “she was. Daughter of Henry Pavell, the entrepreneur with a finger in every goddamn pie.”

Reed grins into his coffee cup. “Same Pavell who’s now spending twenty years in prison for assault, murder, attempted arson, fraud, and…” He makes a thoughtful face, looking up at the ceiling. “Let’s see, what was it? Oh, right.”

His grin returns as he snaps his fingers. “Supplyin’ and distributing drugs.”

“Pavell abused his daughter and his wife,” Hank adds, the details of her file sloshing back and forth in his mind. “She always got the worst of it, ever since she was little. But she did attend her father’s… meetings.”

It’s been years. But Hank remembers all of it. Remembers figuring out that the young woman was vulnerable and battered and bruised but had access to every secret her dad had ever possessed.

Remembers how he gained her trust.

“The daughter became our informant on the inside,” Reed says matter-of-factly. “Your partner here saw an opportunity, and he took it.”

Connor looks both surprised and impressed. “You managed to convince her to spy on her own father? Despite the danger it posed to her?”

Hank nods over half-a-sigh. “Not proud of how I pushed her,” he says tightly, “but if we wouldn’t have had her, well…” He trails off, shooting Connor a wry grin. “I don’t think I would’ve made Lieutenant so soon.”

Most of all, Hank remembers how sharp she was. Eyes as hard as fucking diamonds, mouth and jaw shaped to cut through steel. Hair a sleek, fatal curtain like a guillotine. From the start, he’d seen the danger.

He was just surprised Henry Pavell hadn’t.

Connor frowns. “She’s not mentioned in the file as being of any particular importance. Not as a key witness nor as an informant.”

“Part of the deal,” Reed says. “Everything she got us in on, she got us other witnesses for. Or pieces of evidence.”

“She didn’t want the exposure,” Hank says, feeling drained.

Reed chuckles darkly. “Neither would I, if I would’ve taken down my dad’s entire goddamn empire.”

Hank scoffs. “Pavell thinks so fuckin’ little of her, he still doesn’t believe it.” He pinches the bridge of his nose. “Tried to have so many people of his old mob killed from prison, thinking they’d tattled on him. Never thought it’d be her.”

Reed holds up his plastic cup in a toast. “Here’s one to Alicia Pavell.”

Hank presses his lips together. “Cheers.”

“If I’m getting this right,” Connor says slowly, looking from Reed to Hank and back, “you’re saying that she could be involved in this current case? That those four people you picked out are hers?”

Hank nods, and Reed shrugs.

“It’s not – I don’t know for sure,” Hank says. “But it’s her style. Clean, clever, proper. And right under our fucking noses.”

“Look,” Reed starts, palms up, “she wanted revenge on her dad for everything he did to her. What better way to do that than take what he left her, what he taught her, and make it hers?”

Hank says nothing.

Alicia’s abhorrence of drugs and unnecessary violence and everything Henry Pavell did to get what he wanted was genuine, he thinks. Filled her with disgust right down to the core. Hank can still see the way she’d curl that red-painted mouth downward in a snarl whenever they discussed the details of her father’s crimes.

So make his old empire into a new drug-ridden monstrosity? Hank isn’t too sure.

But it smells, like Reed said. Smells like red.

Connor is watching both Hank and Reed like a thoughtful hawk; like he realizes there’s something just below the surface that he’s not fully grasping. Probably questioning how deep it goes, and why it’s not in the files. Not even a hint of it.

“Just – just keep us in the loop, okay?” Hank says to Reed. “And if you need anything, I can always dig up some old shit.”

Reed raises both his eyebrows, thumbing the rim of his cup. “You kept the case files?”

Hank purses his lips. “Mmm. Might’ve.”

“Fowler said to destroy all the stuff that didn’t go on record,” Reed says, looking mildly impressed. “You fuckin’ sneak.”

“I said I might have,” Hank says.

He has. They’re all in the attic – old-fashioned stacks of brown boxes, filled with yellowed sheets. Manilla folders and paper clips.

“Why,” Connor then asks, “do you refer to Alicia Pavell as ‘red’?”

Hank meets Reed’s eyes and they both stay quiet for a while. Hank goes back to the lipstick, to the scarf. To the jacket and the little cape she was fond of wearing. The gloves.

Hank wants to say it’s her favorite color, but the sound doesn’t come out of his throat.

Reed studies his own hands, the knuckles bruised and pronounced. “The only reason we got Pavell,” he says slowly, “is ‘cause we found him passed out in his penthouse office.”

“He was planning to leave the country,” Hank adds, voice like cracked plaster.

Reed smirks, wide and long and cold. His eyes land on Connor. “He’d gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for the bullet hole and the blow to the head.”

“There was,” Hank starts, “there was a…” He curses. “God.”

He’s not sure why it’s hard. He hasn’t thought of the case in literal years, not even on the periphery of his brain. Sometimes a fleeting, floating thought, wondering if she was out there and what she was up to. But Pavell’s lieutenants and big guns on the outside were never murdered.

Alicia didn’t come for them. The underworld stayed silent.

“Red butterfly wing on his hand,” Reed murmurs, crushing the plastic cup in his fist. “That’s how we knew. And you assholes call me dramatic.”

Maybe it was because Hank always thought that Henry Pavell deserved it. To bleed out on his own desk under the watchful eye of the woman he’d undermined and abused for all of her life. Maybe because Hank had considered the possibility of what might’ve happened if they’d arrived later.

If the EMTs hadn’t reanimated Pavell in the ambulance on their way to the hospital.

The one that got away, Hank thinks wryly, and he remembers the Tracis scaling the fence.

Sees Connor’s LED flash yellow from the corner of his eye.

“C’mon,” he says, jerking his chin. “Let’s go. We still got an appointment to catch.”

“Anderson,” Reed says sharply, cutting in. “Are we gonna – ”

Hank holds up his palm. “I’m gonna stop ya right there. Don’t. Let’s look into it first, alright?”

Reed looks annoyed, crossing his arms. “Fine. I’ll keep you updated.”

“Thank you, Detective Reed,” Connor says curtly, holding up his fist.

Reed just stares at it, unmoving.

“Weren’t you the one to tell me I should endeavor to be more,” Connor says, clicking his tongue, “human?”

His face is as innocent as he can make it – which is a lot with the big brown eyes and the warm smile and the soft cant to his head – but then Connor’s gaze shifts to the point on Reed’s bicep where he jabbed his fist earlier.

Looks at it and then back. Lifts his eyebrow.

“Ugh,” Reed says, head tipping back in an exaggerated motion. Keeps it there, not looking at Connor or Hank while he slowly holds up his fist so Connor can bump his own against it.

“Perfect,” Connor says with a sunny smile.

One corner of Hank’s mouth twitches upward in a weak attempt at a smile, but it doesn’t pull through.

Stays stuck in the fog in his brain that transports him back to the attic.

To the dusty butterfly wing in an unmarked evidence bag.

 


 

The appointment they’ve got to catch is picking up Rachel at the airport. But Reed blabbed about that old case for way too long, Connor and Hank are drawn into an emergency response for a store robbery, and after that there’s still fucking traffic to deal with.

Endless lines of yellow cabs, and Hank is off kilter and mad about it.

Connor shifts in his seat. “At this point,” he says, “we’re be better off going back to the precinct. And take public transport from there.”

“I know,” Hank bites. “I’m taking a turn at the next intersection.” He rubs at his beard. “Fuck.”

Connor reaches over, hand resting on Hank’s leg. “Hank,” he says firmly, “it’ll be alright. We’ve already texted Rachel that we’ll be late.”

Hank meets Connor’s eyes; brown, clear, warm. Like always. “I know,” he says again, but this time his voice is soft. “I’m just – it’s a lot, today.”

Connor tilts his head to the side. “You never told me about Alicia Pavell.”

Hank grits his teeth. “’Cause I wanted to forget. Reed painted it like this rivalry, this thing where she’s supposedly…” He pauses, shaking his head. “Like the Irene Adler to my goddamn Sherlock Holmes.”

“She’s not?” Connor asks.

“No,” Hank answers harshly, surprised at his own vehement tone. Stares at the road before him, gazing into forever. “She was just – a kid who got burned bad. A kid who grew up into a woman who burned back. I don’t…”

Connor removes his hand from Hank’s leg, and Hank misses the warm press of it immediately. “You don’t want her to be involved with this,” he says, voice lowered.

“No,” Hank croaks back.

Connor laces his hands together in his own lap. “Because you don’t want to catch her, but…” His eyes are sharp when he looks back at Hank. “You know that you don’t have a choice.”

“That’s why I kept the goddamn files,” Hank mutters, fingers drumming on the steering wheel.

Blinker on and he takes the turn; the road back to the precinct is a lot less busy. Still too many traffic lights to pass, and they’re stuck behind a bus due to the lane for public transport being under construction.

“Conflict between what your moral code tells you to do, what your job tells you to do, and what you feel you should do,” Connor lists airily. “Well, doesn’t that sound familiar.”

He winks and though Hank snorts wryly, it does put a smile on his face.

“Yeah,” he mutters. “What do you do, huh? When shit hits the fan?”

Connor’s expression remains one of tranquility. “What feels right. Or you will regret it forever.”

“Referring to those Tracis?” Hank asks, switching lanes.

“More,” Connor says, his eyes on the road. His hands are unmoving. “Chloe. Kara and Alice.” Then, a pregnant pause before he looks back at Hank. “You.”

That makes Hank swallow, a sudden eerie dread creeping down his spine. “Me?” he echoes back at Connor. “What did you ever have to…” He trails off.

Remembers the rooftop chase. “Right,” he says, “the pigeon guy.”

“I would’ve caught that deviant if I hadn’t saved your life,” Connor says, “but I hesitated. For a moment, I made my calculations for either outcome.” His LED flashes yellow. “And I almost let you die.”

“But you didn’t,” Hank says, a little breathless. “You made a choice.”

Connor nods. “And I have no regrets except for the fact that I hesitated.” He smiles. “I hope that whatever Reed and RK900’s investigation turns up, you’ll eventually feel the same about Alicia.”

Hank lets his breath escape through his teeth. “Yeah, me too.”

They stay silent for a while, slowly making their way back to the precinct in Hank’s car. The weather’s been improving, but today is a grey sort of day. Cloudy, damp air. A veil draped over Detroit.

“Hank,” Connor says then, quietly breaking the silence. “You asked me about Amanda recently.”

That surprises Hank, who instantly tries to find Connor’s eyes to gauge his reaction. “Yeah. What about it?”

“She,” Connor starts, obviously not looking at Hank. He shifts in his seat. “She was disappointed in me when I saved your life. That’s another regret.”

His profile is offset against the window, nose a sharp line with a slight bump. No cartilage, of course. Just his chassis. And Hank waits.

Connor frowns. “That I let her berate me for it,” he murmurs, “and that I told her I was compromised.”

“She took it badly, I reckon,” Hank says, carefully testing the waters.

Connor finally turns to look at him, and he smiles. It doesn’t reach his eyes. “She took it worse when I found the backdoor and pulled the plug on her,” he says, tone icy, “and the rest of CyberLife’s control over me.”

Hank offers an apologetic smile back. “Fuck yeah. That was brave of you, Connor.” He reaches his hand over, moving from the gearshift towards Connor’s side. Lets his fingers tangle with Connor’s own.

“Thanks, Hank,” Connor says, squeezing his fingers around Hank’s hand tight. Maybe a little too tightly, but Hank isn’t gonna comment on that. “I’ll show you, one day.”

Something gentle and kind finally seeps back into his expression, softening the corners of his mouth. “What it looked like when she was still there and what I’ve put there, now.”

Hank clears his throat. “Your mind palace?”

Connor nods, the movement slow but determined. “Yeah. I can take you there when we interface. You’ve seen some snippets of it, I think.”

“Alright,” Hank says with a grin, “it’s a date.”

Connor presses a kiss to the back of his hand.

Hank checks his watch as they round the corner towards the DPDs parking lot; it’s been almost two whole hours after Rachel’s landed. Even taking slow baggage claims into account, that’s a lot for a continental flight.

Well, fuck, he thinks on an annoyed huff. Great start of the holidays.

“I’ll give Captain Fowler our rundown on that robbery,” Connor says, “so we won’t have to come back in tomorrow to do it.” He smiles, quickly getting out of the car. “Meet you at the front entrance.”

“Sure,” Hank says, watching Connor pick up on a slight jog and move inside through the side-door. He checks his wallet for his public transport card, and then pulls out his phone to look up the timetable for the bus that makes straight for the airport.

No stops, and its own lane. They should be there in a jiffy.

Hank walks towards the double doors that mark the main entrance, and then looks up from his phone. Stops, abruptly. Feels his breath hitch somewhere in his throat while his thumb is suddenly trembling over the screen of his phone.

His first thought – she hasn’t changed.

Jeans, leather jacket, button-up. Short, cropped hair and a lazy, lop-sided smile. Maybe a few wrinkles more than last time, crow’s feet a little more defined, but Hank can’t really tell. A relaxed posture, shoulders slouched, hands dug into her pockets.

Old, beat-up sneakers. Big, sloppy weekender bag on the pavement next to her backpack.

And right next to her, looking like he belongs there, is RK900.

Posture straight and firm, hands clasped behind his back as always but he looks – he looks amused, that’s what it is. His head is canted towards her, attentive and curious, and the corners of his mouth are turned up slightly.

He’s smiling, Hank realizes with a jolt. The big bad stoic roboman is fucking smiling.

At Rachel Anderson.

Who’s taken her hands out of her pockets to gesture while she talks, and she’s grinning widely. Her voice is still that low, raspy thing that Hank can hear echo in every corner of his mind. Rough, gravelly, and she looks like she’s making a joke.

RK900 make a soft, amused sort of noise in response that could almost be labelled as a chuckle.

And then, he slowly leans forward and points at Hank.

Rachel turns and meets Hank’s eyes.

People always think they’re family at first glance.

Tall, big, broad; low voices and the same sort of taste in clothes. Both a little wild and devil-may-care. But even if people don’t peg them as siblings – cousins, maybe – they immediately adjust their opinions once they catch Hank’s and Rachel’s gazes.

Hank looks into her eyes and knows he sees his own. An icy, sharp blue; like a winter’s morning, their dad used to say whenever he’d wax poetic about mom’s eyes. Dark blue ring around the edges. Big and a little droopy like teardrops on their side.

Rachel’s grin sinks away into a small, private sort of smile. Lines near her mouth and her eyes; happy ones.

Time slows, and the sound of Hank’s footsteps is deafening as he walks up to her. Stops until he’s barely a few inches away. Rachel’s lip is trembling; Hank’s is, too.

“Rach,” he says, voice thick.

“Hank,” she answers, still smiling but pressing her lips together to stop herself from crying.

Hank pulls her in for a hug without hesitation. A bone-crushing bear hug, pressing all of his big sister against him. Rachel responds instantly, arms curling around Hank and holding him to her just as tight. Cheek against his own, and she presses her nose into Hank’s hair.

“Distinct lack of beer smell,” she murmurs there.

Hank grins, body shaking against hers. Presses his own nose to her jacket. “Distinct lack of cigarette smell,” he shoots back fondly.

They lean back at the same time. Rachel’s hand lands on Hank’s face; calloused fingers briefly skimming his beard. She’s smiling still, and Hank ruffles her hair for it. Her smile blooms into a grin.

“Missed you,” Hank says. “How was the trip?”

Rachel shrugs. “Eh, fine. Missed you too, asshole.”

They step away from each other, and Hank’s eyes find RK. He didn’t move an inch, but he’s studying them with a keen eye. And yet his face is still carrying that lightness, that amusement.

“RK,” Hank says in greeting, and then it hits him. “Wait,” he says, grasping Rachel’s elbow, “that’s not – ”

Rachel chuckles, crossing her arms. “I know that’s not your partner, Hank. No worries.” She winks at RK, and the two share a look.

Share a look, Hank thinks. What’s the fucking world coming to?

“Very pleasant company, though,” Rachel adds, her crooked grin showing up again.

RK bends his head. “The pleasure is all mine, Rachel,” he replies, and he sounds like he means it.

Rachel,” Hank echoes, bafflement sinking into his bones.

“Your sister requested I refer to her as such,” RK900 says pleasantly. “I decided I’d acquiesce her request.”

Rachel makes a face and hums, before she elbows RK gently in his side. “Only took me about five times askin’, huh?”

“Four,” RK corrects instantly, but he’s still looking amused.

“Four, whatever,” Rachel grins, running a hand through her hair. “Who’s keeping count, right?”

“It appears that we both are,” RK900 answers in that rapid-fire way of his.

Rachel laughs, and slaps RK’s back. “This one’s really something, Hank,” she grins. “God, what a guy. Must be fun to work with. He tells me he’s got a real handful with his partner.”

“Handful is too kind for Gavin Reed,” Hank grins back, deciding to just go with the flow and not question how the fuck his sister managed to charm RK to this degree. Or how warm and relaxed she looks herself.

How her sentences aren’t too short or cut off, but easy and flowing. Like she’s enjoying it genuinely.

“Ha!” Rachel exclaims. “Fuckin’ knew it. He wouldn’t say.”

Hank gives RK a surprised look. “No?”

RK900’s expression turns a little tighter. “It’d be unprofessional to say something negative about a colleague.”

Rachel flicks her finger against RK’s sleeve. “Gotcha there,” she says. “Truths aren’t necessarily negative. They just are.”

RK’s eyes move to the side as if he’s about to roll them. “It could be argued that there are no objective truths, merely subjective opinions. But that isn’t my point.” He looks back at her, shifting his posture. “My point is that my remarks about Detective Reed could be interpreted as negative, which I would find… unprofessional.”

“Hmm,” Rachel says, making a face like she doesn’t believe him. “Regrettable.”

RK900 frowns. “Regrettable?” he echoes.

“Uh-huh,” Rachel adds, making a so-so motion with her hand. “I think you’d find it regrettable, if people think you’re talking shit.” She purses her lips. “Which implies that you don’t think you’re talking shit.”

RK raises his eyebrow. “That is a lot of shit.”

“It is,” Rachel says sunnily. “You wanna hear more?”

“Do continue,” RK900 answers.

Hank can’t believe what he’s seeing.

“You get that slippery feeling in your chest,” Rachel continues, “telling you that you’re allowed to complain about Reed as your partner, but others aren’t. You’d feel bad if they did and regret what you said about him.” She pauses. “Well, regret that you let them hear.”

Hank has no fucking idea what’s happening, staring at the scene unfolding before him. He doesn’t think he’s ever heard either of them talk in so many sentences at once, discussing fucking – fucking philosophy about subjectivity and feelings.

“Is that what it is,” RK900 deadpans, but he looks like he’s seriously considering her words.

“Yeah,” Rachel says over a grin. “That kinda happens when you feel attached to someone.”

RK900 eyes blink murder.

“My condolences, bud,” Rachel says in response to his cold look.

Hank presses his fist to his mouth because he doesn’t know what else to do. “Jesus fucking christ,” he mutters. “Is this how you make friends?”

Rachel shrugs while RK brushes some invisible dust off his sleeve. “Dunno,” she says, and then she turns to RK900. “Is it working?”

“Our conversation has been stimulating,” he answers without missing a beat. “Would you consider that a solid basis for friendship?” Before Rachel answers, he straightens his back. “I’ve found that humans tend to vary in their opinions on the subject.”

Rachel offers him a bright smile. “In my book, it is. I’d buy you a drink next.”

RK seems to consider it. “You may,” he then says.

“Alright,” Rachel says, nodding her head. “I’ll be in Detroit for at least a week. Do you think we can – ”

She stops talking when the doors behind her slide open and someone nearly stumbles into her.

It’s Connor, wide-eyed and in a rush to get back to Hank, and he narrowly dodges her only through sheer force of will or because of his excellent calculations. Maybe a little bit of both.

“Oh,” Rachel says, blinking. “Hello.”

Connor ends up standing too close, wedged in-between her and RK. He looks flustered, hand immediately going for his tie to straighten it. Behind him, RK900 takes a measured step back.

“You must be Connor,” Rachel says, offering him a hand in the cramped space still left between their bodies. “I’m Rachel.”

“Hello,” Connor croaks, and shakes her hand more than a little awkwardly. “Yeah, I am. Nice – nice to meet you. Did you have a safe trip?”

Rachel nods. “I did, thanks. Realized I remembered the way back to the precinct, so I figured I’d wait up for you guys here.”

From the sudden eye-blinking and processing cycles, Hank gathers that Connor and RK900 have a muted conversation nobody can listen in on, and then Connor takes the exact same measured step back while RK takes yet another. It creates a comfortable distance between everyone, and then RK moves to the side to position himself closer to Hank.

“Cheats,” Hank whispers at him from the corner of his mouth.

RK turns his body towards Hank, chin dipping, and lowers his voice. “I want this conversation to go well, Lieutenant,” he says, so softly that Rachel can’t hear. “Don’t you?” he adds, eyebrow raised, and it’s almost a threat.

Hank stares back. “Wow. Speaking of attachments.”

RK900’s slate-grey eyes narrow. “I’m thinking less attached things now.”

Hank suppresses a chuckle and says nothing.

Before them, Rachel and Connor continue to exchange pleasantries. There’s lots of smiles and gesturing on Rachel’s part, and Connor’s awkwardness slowly fades away. He looks confident but eager, and Hank’s glad for it.

“There’s a lot of traffic,” he then hears Connor say. “Perhaps it’d be easier to – ”

“Oh, I’m fucking starving,” Rachel cuts in, one hand on her hip. “Let’s eat before we go home.” She gives Hank a look. “And no Chicken Feed, thanks. A place where I could sit down would be great.”

Hank grins. “How’d you know that Chicken Feed’s still up and running?”

“Greasy shit like that is hard to get rid of,” Rachel grins back. “Just like me.”

“There is a Mexican restaurant one block away,” Connor offers. “Would you enjoy eating there?”

Rachel looks impressed. “So, you profiled me, huh? Figured out Rachel Anderson’s one weakness?”

Connor has the decency to look a little sheepish. “Hank enjoys burritos. I figured with how similar the two of you seem in both character and appearances…”

“Burritos were a house favorite,” Hank says, smiling. “So. Restaurant it is?”

“Sure,” Rachel nods, reaching down to grab her bags. Puts on the backpack and slings the weekender over her shoulder with ease. “You comin’?” she asks RK900.

RK stiffens. It’s subtle but still visible; a slight tremor over the long, straight lines of his body. The same happens to Connor, whose movement is more organic while he winces.

“Well, shit,” Rachel says instantly, eyes going from RK to Connor. “Did I just shoot myself in the foot?”

“No, not at all,” Connor says, trying to reassure her. “It’s just – ”

Rk900 lets out a soft hum before he speaks, interrupting Connor. “I’m not sure my presence would be appreciated at this particular outing.”

Hank facepalms. Leave it to his sister to blindly walk into a situation like this.

“Thought you guys were brothers,” Rachel admits. “But not friends I guess, huh?”

Hank is almost afraid to lift his hand away from his face and look at the three of them. Connor looks absolutely mortified, RK900 is back to his impassive expressions and hard-to-read postures, and Rachel has an apologetic expression on her face.

“Brothers,” RK900 echoes. “That’s an interesting interpretation.”

Rachel’s eyebrows raise to her hairline. “Is it? I thought it was really fucking obvious.”

“I suppose it is if you take our likeness into account,” RK says, and he sounds weirdly easygoing. Like he’s somehow okay with the concept.

Hank hopes he is, for Connor’s sake. Doesn’t miss the way Connor’s fingers twitch, like he’s hanging onto every word coming out of RK’s mouth at this point.

“Dunno if it’s just the likeness,” Rachel says, pursing her mouth. “Heard from Hank that you can both be sarcastic assholes.”

“Hmm,” RK900 hums. “Neither of us are equipped with one, so I wouldn’t know.”

Rachel groans. “Jesus, that got visual real fast.”

“RK,” Connor cuts in, using his shortened name, “would you like to join us?”

RK900’s gaze is as sharp as always. “Would you?” he asks. “Enjoy it if I did so, to clarify.”

Connor’s throat bobs as he swallows. His hands tighten at his sides. “Yeah,” he says firmly. “It’d be nice to have people who are important to me together in one place.”

Hank’s heart melts. He wants to jump up and tell Connor how fucking proud he is of him saying that, claiming it – but he doesn’t, ‘cause that’d be weird. But he shares a warm, knowing look with Rachel, who instantly seems to understand the gravity of the situation.

Of all the implications of that statement.

“Then yes,” RK900 replies, “I will. I’ll leave Detective Reed to his own devices for the afternoon.”

Connor smiles. “Thanks for joining us.”

RK inclines his head. “Thank you for inviting me.”

“Ah, aren’t we all achingly polite,” Rachel says, and her stomach grumbles. “Might I remind you that I’m still fucking starving?”

Hank puts his hands on her shoulders, wrestling the weekender away from her. Slings it over his own back. “Alright, alright. C’mon, you fucker. Let’s go get those burritos.”

Rachel bumps her shoulder into Hank’s. “You have lunch yet? We could share a menu.”

Hank snorts. “As long as they supersize everything, sure.”

Connor sighs, long and deep.

“Hey,” Hank grins, looking back at his partner, “you knew what you signed up for.”

Rachel smiles, warm and soft. “I’m glad I came over,” she says, falling into step next to Hank.

“Already?” Hank asks, raising one eyebrow, teasing her.

But Rachel doesn’t fall for it. Touches her hand briefly to Hank’s. “Yeah,” she murmurs, “already.”

Behind them, Connor and RK900 follow, and they sound like one person while they walk. Perfectly measured steps, not one click of a heel on the pavement out of rhythm or rhyme.

And Hank very much likes the sound of it.

 


 

That evening, Hank and Rachel find a moment to themselves while Connor cooks dinner. Of course he offered, the goddamn sweetheart, even if he doesn’t eat himself. Something easy. Hank thinks he’s gonna try a semi-healthy mac ‘n cheese.

After lunch, they dropped off RK900 at his apartment, and went back to the house. RK had been friendly and open the entire afternoon, answering questions from Rachel with more than just polite curtesy. And, occasionally, he’d turned his head to look at Connor with renewed interest.

As if something had changed.

Rachel and Hank are standing in the backyard, watching the sun slowly creep towards the horizon. The light’s already getting a bit more dim, but summer’s closing in on them. It’ll take a while before it gets dark.

“So,” Hank says.

“So,” Rachel answers, shifting on her feet. She’s got one hand in the pockets of her jeans. “You wanna know what I think of him.”

Hank clears his throat. “Yeah.”

“Still not your type,” she remarks, the fingers of her free hand tapping on her leg. “But I mean, fuck, Hank.” Her eyes find his. “I don’t even need to have an opinion on him. It’s just – looking at you is enough. Jesus.”

Hank raises an eyebrow.

“You look the happiest I’ve seen you in a long, long time,” Rachel says, and her voice skips with emotion. “And good, on top of that. Trimmed beard, you smell nice.”

Hank chuckles, jostling his shoulder against hers. “Those are low standards.”

“You know what I mean, asshole,” Rachel shoots back. “And for the record, he’s nice. Maybe a little too perfect, but who’s ever gonna call that a flaw?”

“I know what you mean,” Hank says. “That’s what being an android will do to ya.”

Rachel nods, and Hank carefully studies her face. Waits a few seconds before he speaks.

“So you can see it?” he asks. “Connor and me, together forever?”

Rachel makes a disgusted face. “Jesus. But yeah, I can. You guys really aren’t that different.”

That throws Hank for an unexpected loop. “We aren’t,” he repeats. “Eyesight doing alright there, darlin’?”

“Jesus, I hate it when you get like this,” Rachel mutters. “Makes me wish I had a goddamn cigarette.”

Hank snorts. “How the fuck are we similar?”

Rachel reaches down to pat Sumo’s head. The big dog remembered her, obviously; ever since they came in, he hasn’t left her side. Not begging for attention or anything, but just – just there. Hanging around and cozying up. She took care of him quite often when she still lived in Detroit and Hank, Marion, and Cole went on outings where they had to leave him behind.

“You’re both cops,” Rachel starts. “You both like figuring shit out and getting to the bottom of things. Of people.” She pauses, rubbing Sumo behind the ears. “Pushin’ to look for the truth.”

Her gaze finds Hank’s. “I don’t think he takes your bullshit,” she says firmly, “and I don’t think you take his.”

“Well,” Hank says, “you’re right about all of that.”

“Not to mention that you installed a fucking device for him so he can dial you up,” Rachel snorts. “Jesus christ, that’s rich.”

Hank smiles at her fondly. “You jealous?”

“What, that I can’t magically get into my girlfriend’s head?” Rachel shoots back. “Nah, thanks. I’m good on that front.”

“How are ya, on that front?” Hank prods gently. “What was her name? Sybil?”

Rachel turns red. The same splotchy pattern that Hank knows from his own skin. “Dating,” she mutters. “It’s kinda hard, for people like you and me. No spring chickens.”

“Thought they’d be falling over themselves for a distinguished butch lady like you,” Hank remarks, grinning.

Rachel rolls her eyes. “If they did, I wouldn’t be here, you asshole,” she sighs. “I’d be drowning in ladies in San Fran.”

“So you and Sybil still dating?” Hank tries again.

“Yeah,” Rachel says, but she sounds uncomfortable. “It’s just not – not necessarily sparks flying, you know? It’s more of something that’s…” She sighs. “Something that’s okay.”

Hank swallows, staring down at the grass. “You know you don’t have to settle for something.”

“I know,” Rachel sighs. “But you were always better than me at being alone.”

It’s quiet then for a moment, and Hank decides to finally breach the subject. It’s not like there’s ever going to be a good time to do it.

“Do you,” he starts, voice a little raw, “do you wanna visit his grave?”

“Yeah,” Rachel answers after a few beats, “I think I’d like that.”

Hank offers her a small smile. “Good. Then we will.”

“Do you go there often?” she asks him, her sleeve brushing his own.

Hank shakes his head. “Hurt too much at first. Wound up there only when I was very drunk, in the middle of the night. But nowadays, I keep it clean.”

“Has Connor seen it?” Rachel asks carefully.

“No,” Hank answers softly. “But he’s seen the pictures. Of Cole.”

Neither of them speaks when Rachel leans into Hank. Not a word when she wraps her arm around his shoulders, and Hank lets his own arm settle around her waist. She sighs, ribcage expanding against Hank’s own, and Hank realizes he never wants to lose this feeling for years on end again.

He’s already mentally booking a ticket to San Francisco in a few months. Maybe for his birthday.

Rachel wipes her eyes before they go back into the house.

Dinner is cozy. Connor’s mac ‘n cheese with veggies is a success, and he looks so fucking cute in his orange sweater with Hank’s dingy old oven mitts on his hands that Hank nearly collapses to the floor. Rachel notices because of course she does, but she doesn’t comment upon it.

They eat together and chat.

Connor is pleasant and sweet, asking Rachel questions about her job and her hobbies. Hank knows for sure that the interest is genuine, as is Rachel’s in Connor. She talks easily and lightly, teasing Connor about his proclivity for healthy habits, and asks about the cases he’s been on.

Meanwhile, Hank feels warm and comfortable. Rubs his feet against Connor’s under the kitchen table, and then Connor’s reaching over while he’s still chatting away with Rachel.

Curls his hand around Hank’s on top of the tablecloth, in-between cutlery and plates. Hank lovingly rubs his thumb over the heel of Connor’s palm, and Connor’s hand slowly turns white. Love flits through the edges of Hank’s vision only a moment later, like vines of light.

Hank sends his own answer across without a second thought.

“Hey,” Rachel pipes up, “that’s cool.”

Connor looks genuinely surprised, staring down at their joined hands. “Oh,” he says, “right.”

“Wait,” she then says, looking from Hank to Connor. “You guys doin’ the dial-up now?”

Hank grins. “Hell yeah.”

Connor smiles, but he still looks a little shy. “We’re interfacing, yes.”

Rachel completely ignores Connor’s comment and throws Hank an even wider grin, her eyes twinkling. “You dirty old dog.”

“Hey, my house, my rules,” Hank says, his own smile almost splitting his face in half.

“Right in front of my salad,” she laughs. “You’ve got some guts, boys.”

Connor blinks. “It’s not sex,” he says, looking a little affronted. “I’d never initiate in front of your – ”

“Hold up,” Rachel says, pointing her fork at Connor. “Don’t finish that sentence. You’re gonna regret saying this on day three, when I’m still crashing on your couch, and you find yourself wondering how to stealthily fuck my brother without me knowing.”

Hank laughs, throwing his head back. “Oh jesus christ,” he wheezes.

He’s not sure what’s funnier. Rachel threatening Connor with a fork or Connor’s absolutely mortified expression. Even the slight guilt so obviously present on his face.

“That’s what I thought,” Rachel says, shoveling up a few pieces of macaroni on the fork she gestured with. “Well, you can relax. I brought earplugs, so you should be good to go.”

Connor’s LED is flashing yellow and he’s blinking rapidly. Hank can’t stop laughing.

“You’d be better off with a facemask,” Hank manages, wiping at his eyes with one hand. “Oh, fuck this.”

Rachel shrugs. “Way ahead of ya. I got one of those, too.”

Hank has to stop eating, unable to properly swallow his food. He presses a hand against his chest, half-coughing, half-laughing. “God, Rachel,” he chokes out.

It feels natural. It’s the same ridiculous back-and-forth that they did when they were teens. And ever since she arrived in Detroit, Rachel feels so – so alive. Gone is the stoicism, the clipped tones he always got on the phone.

He can’t believe he was afraid to let her back into his life.

“Hey,” she grins, “he’s a young kinda guy. You might as well make use of that kind of stamina, together.”

Her eyes are twinkling, still. She was never like this, not quite like this, not even when Cole was alive. Maybe when they were younger, but not when she got sucked into a regular adult life.

Fresh breeze. Hank loves her so much that it hurts.

“Well,” Hank laughs, “a healthy sex life. I’ll definitely drink to that.”

Rachel salutes him. “Cheers, bro.”

Connor, having recovered from his shock, is watching the whole thing unfold with fascination written plainly on his features. “You two have an interesting dynamic,” he eventually settles upon.

“What about you and your, uh, not-brother?” Rachel asks. “RK, right? How did the two of you meet?”

Connor looks briefly taken aback by the question. “He was introduced as a threat in favor of my deactivation by an artificial intelligence who had access to my mind,” he says matter-of-factly.

Hank shrugs when Rachel looks at him. “Hey,” he says, “it’s complicated.”

“Well,” Rachel says then, head tilted to the side, “I’ve never heard the full story of the android revolution. Or how the two of you met.”

Connor smiles. “I’ll gladly give you the details.”

“Good,” Rachel says, smiling back before she leans her chin on her hands. “I’m ready.”

Hank smiles.

New start of a new life. First steps taken. Connor’s hand still in his own.

He realizes he’s ready, too.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 14

In which Hank meets up with old friends: to reminiscence, to reconcile, and to recover what he’s lost.

 

June 2039

 

Rachel’s presence at the house is familiar and comforting.

Hank had expected it to be more jarring, to be honest – to have someone thrown back into your life so suddenly.

The first night when she stays over and Hank stumbles into the kitchen for a glass of water, he nearly has a heart attack when he walks into the living room and sees her sprawled out over the couch. Huddled under two blankets and with one hand hanging over the edge, curled into the fur of Sumo’s back.

She’s snoring too; rather loudly. Connor later says it sounds the same as Hank’s.

Jesus, our poor parents, Hank thinks, remembering the times when they’d both stay over their parents’ house for the holidays.

But that first night – that’s about the only thing that trips him up.

Havin’ Rachel around the house is just fuckin’ cozy, when it comes down to it. And Hank realizes that Connor enjoys it, too. She doesn’t act like a guest but rather just as another member of the family; Hank and Connor wake up to her putting on jazz records and old eighties pop and rock or cooking breakfast for them in the kitchen.

Walking around in her pjs. Making coffee that’s even stronger than how Hank takes it. Taking out the trash, singing in the shower.

She even shows Connor the full extent of the Anderson post-it note family tradition – note on the fridge when she’s out for groceries, note on the door when he’s taking Sumo for his walk, note on the bathroom mirror that says, look at all you handsome motherfuckers.

She does her own thing, like she’s always done. Doesn’t expect Connor and Hank to entertain her all day.

In the same vein, Rachel takes RK900 out for that drink like she promised. God knows where she got his number. But she sends the selfie she took with him both to Hank and to Connor.

They’re clinking their glasses in it, and RK is smiling albeit faintly. Reed loses his shit over it.

“You never fuckin’ smile like that,” he bristles in the breakroom at the precinct while Hank holds up his phone for Reed to see.

RK900 raises his eyebrow. “I very evidently do, Detective Reed, as you can see.”

“What the fuck,” Reed says, staring from the picture to RK900 and back. “It looks creepy.”

RK does his equivalent of a shrug; tiny tilt of his head, slight realignment of his shoulders. “It was a natural reaction to a conversation I considered pleasant.”

“C’mon, do it,” Reed prods. “Smile. I gotta see this happen with my own two eyes.”

Hank chuckles, shaking his head and putting his phone away.

RK900 stands up, rising to his full height. “If you give me cause to do so, I certainly will.”

“Tch,” Reed snorts, crossing his arms. “What the fuck is that supposed to mean?”

RK900 bends down until his face is at the same level as Reed’s. “To speak your language,” he says stoically, “make me, Gavin.”

Reed blinks, and his mouth falls open a little.

“That’s certainly an interesting expression,” RK deadpans.

Hank books it the fuck out of there when he sees how Reed stiffens up and how RK900 keeps his face exactly where it is. Barely sees the tips of Reed’s ears turn red while he makes it out of the breakroom.

“What the fuck is up with you, you assholish fuckin’ space-heater – ”

Hank laughs all the way back to the car. And then some more when he tells Rachel and Connor the story that same evening.

And fuck, that’s still something he can’t quite wrap his head around. His partner and his sister at the same goddamn dinner table. All of them taking turns cooking throughout the week while Sumo waddles around for cuddles and pats. Threefold, now, and he’s always hungry for more.

They hold that pancake party that Hank promised Connor all those months ago, and he’d never expected it’d be an Anderson party in every sense of the word. As in, with all remaining Andersons at the table – and Connor, who might as well be one at this point.

Hank flips pancakes, and Connor acts appropriately impressed. Of course, he has to up the ante by flipping two at the same time, alternating back and forth with two frying pans like it’s a goddamn magic show.

Rachel’s brave, “I’ll show you fuckers how to do this”, turns into one singular flip with a pancake that solidly splats against the ceiling with a wet, squelchy noise. The batter has a nice, thick consistency, so it stays there for a while before it peels off and flops to the floor.

Sumo eats it instantly after it falls down and Rachel is left standing there with one frying pan in hand, looking more than a little sheepish. Threatens to whack Hank in the head with it when he doesn’t stop laughing.

And that time around, it’s Connor who reminds Hank to take pictures. He doesn’t miss a shot.

Hank hasn’t made a family album in literal years, but now he’s feeling the sudden itch. At least to put some of them in frames, scattered across the house. Breathing life back into it.

And it’s all slowly slotting into something that doesn’t make Hank doubt any longer. That just makes him blessedly fucking pleased to look at the people and the love around him. There’s feeling blooming in his chest, rich enjoyment without a shadow of it’s not mine.

From greyscale to goddamn Technicolor.

“You seem happy,” Connor remarks on one of those afternoons, closing the door one-handedly behind Rachel while he steps into the hallway. His other arm is curled around a bouquet of flowers.

“Do I?” Hank laughs, and he cups Connor’s face in one hand before his partner can follow Rachel into the house. Draws Connor in and kisses him ‘till his own mouth hurts from smiling while the flowers crinkle between them in their paper wrappings.

Connor’s smile is very sweet beneath his own. “Don’t crush them, Hank,” he chuckles, pulling away.

“Are you?” Hank asks then, softly, thumbing Connor’s LED. “Happy, Connor?”

It comes so naturally to Connor that he doesn’t even hesitate. His LED stays blue, no processing cycles below the press of Hank’s thumb. Voice steady and clear.

Hank feels it in his bones. This is a truth.

“Of course,” Connor says, his hand coming up to rest on Hank’s hip. “Is something the matter?” he asks, genuinely curious.

“Nope,” Hank grins, feeling stupidly and utterly drunk on the feeling. “Just checkin’.”

Connor looks amused, squeezing his fingers around Hank’s arm before he walks towards the kitchen.

Even the guilt prickling through – you’re not allowed to feel this way, you sad piece of shit, ‘cause your boy is dead and you couldn’t save him – is becoming less and less. Hank didn’t always have the clarity; the rationale that was strong enough to combat sticky, stray strings of thoughts like those.

But he does now. If there ever was a spider’s web, he’s no longer getting caught in it.

It helps, too, that the caseload’s light this week: Hank gets to enjoy his sister’s presence in its full, foulmouthed glory and he can even can spend some time doting on Miller to top it all off. The man’s making an excellent recovery, as expected.

Reed and RK900 wrap up most of the drug bust. And look into that curious little oddity Hank discovered amongst some of the gang members. They’re trying their hardest not to alert either Fowler or a certain red butterfly of the fact, but it’s hard to move around like that.

So far, the trail’s been cold. Nothing substantial.

So Hank climbs into the attic one night while Rachel takes out Connor for a spin at a roller disco and pulls out a dusty old moving box. All that’s in there is work-related – stuff he never digitized or scribbles that weren’t important enough to put on record. But still things he wanted to keep for his own, regardless of their origin or usefulness.

(And regardless of whether it’s actual legal to keep all of this shit. But Hank sometimes likes to skid the edges.)

He drags the box down and flops down on the couch. Sumo walks over with an affectionate boof and sneezes loudly when Hank brushes the dust off the top and opens it.

“Look at all this, huh buddy?” he murmurs at Sumo.

Sumo doesn’t look impressed.

In the box is a first draft of the first homicide Hank ever solved, covered in his handwriting and Mara’s. Hers squiggly, his a little stilted. It’s so messy that they drew up a new one to file after the case was closed. Hank kept this one.

He also remembers why it’s on top – he missed Mara, last year during summer. Realized that some little details of her being and her person were fading from his memory, and he’d wanted to press his fingertips to her handwriting. Feel the curls of it on paper. As if something physical would be enough to bring those memories back.

It wasn’t. Hank still feels a little guilty over it, and afraid. There’s things about Cole that he never, ever wants to forget now that he’s pushed through the sharpest part of grief – and he’s scared that he will.

There’s a stack of notes and flowcharts on psychological theories and profiles, too. Most of it he got from Amber, and everything’s fully anonymized. Stuff he just wanted to keep so he could fall back on it, look it up if he had to.

A few letters. Fowler’s first letter of recommendation when the FBI came knocking on Hank’s door, unsent. The congratulatory card from his parents when he got his promotion to lieutenant. A thank you note from the couple whose assailant he put behind bars.

Hank smiles, fondly remembering the two men.

And there’s his first badge. Busted, half-cracked, the shine beaten to matte. He should’ve handed it in, really, but he managed to convince his old chief that he wouldn’t have to since it was damaged so badly.

A cop.

Hank’s always wanted to be one. Why? He’s not really sure.

You’ve got the whole idealistic schtick – the I want to help people while being on the right side of the law and I’m doing it for the good of society, etcetera. Protection from the boys in blue. Righting the wrongs and putting the bad guys in prison.

But that’s never the whole story. That’s never the story of the corruption, of the hunger, of the discrimination and the racism and the homophobia. The way cops abuse their power. The way that they all protect each other or look the other way when push comes to shove.

Hank sighs.

To be really fucking honest?

He just followed in his mom’s footsteps. And he liked it because he’s good at it. Picking up subtleties: clues, tricks to people’s behavior, figuring out how the whole story of a crime builds itself together.

Connor would say it’s preconstructions or reconstructions or whatever he calls his fancy android shit. Hank calls it his gut feeling, and Rachel always claimed the Andersons all possessed an uncanny intuition.

And other than that, Hank’s always been a big guy. If necessary, he can use his strength and his height to get things done, too. He’s never had a problem with passing the physical tests when he was younger.

Now, it’s simply all he knows. He couldn’t quit if he wanted to – old dog with no other skills to peddle.

“That makes two of us, huh,” he says, rubbing Sumo behind his ears.

Sumo agrees silently by leaning against Hank’s knees. Hank imagines he looks a bit sad.

At the bottom of the box, he finally finds what he’s looking for: snippets of the Pavell case. Only this one isn’t about the man running the empire, but about one of the women behind it. Photos, a few reports, receipts, Hank’s own notes. Dates, times, tracing all her movements back and forth.

Apparently, he even swiped a goddamn voice recorder with interviews and completely forgot about it. That’s what alcohol will to do you, folks.

Jesus christ, Hank thinks at himself, staring at the small device in his palm. Fowler would have your fucking hide for this.

And there it is: an old, unmarked evidence bag with a small butterfly wing in it. Just that one wing; not even a pair. Originally found resting upon Henry Pavell’s hand. So light that it’d drifted to the floor when the EMTs drove him off to save his life.

Fowler knows about it. It’s not like Hank pocketed vital evidence.

It doesn’t prove shit. It was decided unrelated.

Only Hank and Reed had seen it in its place on the back of Pavell’s hand. It didn’t mean anything – Pavell had a rare insect collection that included butterflies and beetles, pinned to flat surfaces. Some up on his walls, including the penthouse office where he was found.

Maybe he’d taken the wing down to examine it at his desk. Maybe it’d been discarded.

Maybe, maybe, maybe.

It didn’t matter. They had enough to put Pavell away for good. Physical proof, testimonies – it was over and done for within a few months. The one who supposedly attacked him in his own office was easily explained away, since Pavell had more enemies than a serial dater had exes.

Standard issue Glock, 17 mm. Unregistered. Not hard to get.

Matched the bullet they pulled out of Pavell. And the blueprint of the bruise at this temple, too.

Whoever attacked him caught him red-handed. Suitcase packed, blood splatter over the passport on his desk. Officially, the police didn’t figure out who, and they didn’t figure out why. But if the culprit hadn’t made their move…

Hank swallows, thumbing the evidence bag.

Pavell wouldn’t be behind bars. He’d be on a yacht somewhere living big, chuckling his ass off at the police’s stupidity. Still running his empire, but simply from another place in the world. Shit like that wouldn’t stop a guy like him.

But Hank?

Hank knows.

He knows that none of the sets on the walls had butterflies in them with missing wings. He also knows that Monarch butterflies aren’t that brightly red, like fake scarlet blood sinking into a pattern of crisscross black veins.

And there’d been no prints at all, even though Henry Pavell never wore gloves. Not even to handle his precious fucking insects.

He also knows that there are but a few blind spots in the security system that Pavell had installed. A chain of cameras of which the feed linked back to his home, too. Only his security chief and his family had access.

The culprit never showed up on the vids. No one going in, and no one coming out.

Hank sighs.

The shade of the wing in the clear plastic bag between his fingers hasn’t faded one bit. It’s exactly right; bright flash of scarlet brightness, the kind she always wore. Artificially dyed, Hank suspects.

They never had it analyzed, not for everything Alicia Pavell gave them and did for them. Hank could ask Connor to analyze it for him.

But he doesn’t have to, not really. Because Hank knows.

He curses softly, leaning back into the pillows of the couch, and presses the play button of the recorder.

 


 

There is the quiet whisper of rustling leaves and wind blowing hazily in the background. Autumn in all of its abundant, stormy glory. A chill of yesteryears.

Her shoes shuffle on the pavement. Scuffle, click. She’s wearing all black and boots with thick soles.

Hank speaks first; he knows he has to or she’ll eventually float away on the wind like a stray leaf. Her face is curtained by her hair; it slides against the collar of her coat. Turned up against the wind.

This is their final goodbye.

“So,” he starts, hooking his thumbs in two of the belt loops ringing his waist. “What’s next?”

“Change my name,” she says. Her voice is even, neutral. Designed not to instigate. She won’t meet Hank’s eyes.

Hank fiddles with his wedding ring next; hears the movement of it, the way his jacket crinkles. It’s heavy and warm, and Marion and Cole are still there.

“Your mom’s?” Hank tries by making way of conversation.

She shakes her head, the motion small but minute. Slides her fringe away as a leaf catches against her wrist.

Can you remember a look in someone’s eye as if it’s a sound?

Hers is a wave that crests, rolling in slow like the thunder. At its highest peak with no rocky shore to beat against. Freedom of the open seas, but it hasn’t yet borne down into the ocean. Its waters mingle and the surf fills Hank’s ears.

Shells hollow on faded sand.

“My grandmother’s,” she adds. “I want nothing more to do with my direct family.”

Hank’s throat is dry, and his voice comes out rough. “I can understand that, kid.”

He’s not sure why he says kid in that particular moment, but she moves. He hears the sound of her feet as she steps closer, puddles unmarked beneath her boots.

She’s very close. Within arm’s reach. There’s details like a photographer set them aside – heady scent of her scarf, flapping about in the wind; cascade of her hair, swaying with it. Almond-shaped eyes regarding Hank without fear.

“Will I be looking behind me to find your shadow?” she asks.

Hank instantly shakes his head. “You’ve done nothing wrong. Nothin’ that I know of.”

Nothing for a while as her gaze slips away from him, and then Hank gasps. Hands like ice holding his own. A frown between her heavy eyebrows, pulling them together. She runs her thumbs over the hills and valleys of Hank’s hands.

They’re thin. Her rings clink against Hank’s own.

“These are good hands,” she decides.

“I, uh,” Hank starts, “thanks, I guess?”

This he will never forget as she looks up. Wind, sea, sand, all of it – and her eyes are the storm.

“It’s a special type of pigment,” she says, as she touches one hand to her lips. “I mix it myself.”

Hank is in the center of that storm, and he doesn’t want to be. Staggers backward, shoes sliding over the pavement. Raindrops over rubber like a splash. “I don’t fuckin’ care,” he says.

Anybody else would be taken aback. Anyone else would’ve thought him rude and uncaring.

But the frown between Alicia’s brows disappears and Hank sees her smile for the first goddamn time since he’s met her. Her voice changes; a subtle, tender sort of timbre.

“I’m glad,” she says, and there is lightness. She’s already turning away.

“Just remember,” Hank adds, half in a rush, “you’re free, now. World’s at your feet.”

He is, too, but he doesn’t say it.

She slips her hand away from his and walks away. It’s the end of the line.

Faintly through the breeze, barely on the recorder: “Thank you.”

 


 

Hank is a grumpy, melancholy mess on the couch an hour later when the front door opens. One pair of footsteps, measured and light. No heavy, half-scuffling steps of beat-up sneakers.

So it’s Connor, but no Rachel.

Shouldn’t have opened the goddamned box, Hank thinks to himself, folding his hands into his armpits. Fucking Pandora.

It’s true. The case’s been bothering him ever since he saw that first connection, and Alicia hasn’t left his mind ever since. Haunting him like a ghost. Instigating dilemmas he’d long since buried.

When you’re past fifty, you usually got your moral compass figured out. And Hank is not ready to rankle up all of that bullshit again – to be forced into making choices he doesn’t want to make. Sometimes you just wanna walk away and not look at things too closely.

Sometimes you wanna give someone things ‘cause they’ve never gotten them before.

“Hello,” Connor says pleasantly when he walks into the living room, one hand landing on Hank’s shoulder as he rounds the couch and pats a sleepy Sumo on the head. His pants are rumpled just enough to show that he did some sort of exercise, but otherwise he looks absolutely pristine.

It makes Hank smile despite his angry, mottled thoughts.

“Roller disco any fun?” he asks as Connor settles down next to him.

Connor looks happy. “It was. You noticed I left Rachel behind.” He raises an eyebrow, giving Hank a knowing look.

Hank grins back at him, fiddling with Connor’s sleeve. Connor’s arm is resting in his own lap, but he’s pulled his leg up slightly to let it rest against Hank’s.

The comfort of it all instantly eases Hank’s prickly mood.

“I did,” Hank says, sliding his hand over to twine it with Connor’s. “So what, she ran into a hot girl or somethin’?”

Connor looks pleased. “An old friend from her roller derby days recognized her and struck up a conversation. Offered her a whiskey.”

Hank makes an impressed face. Rachel did grow up here; old footsteps echoing all over Detroit. He always wondered how it felt leaving that all behind for the west coast.

“They’re still at the bar and I could tell they would enjoy some time alone, so…” Connor gestures towards the couch. “Here I am.”

“You say that as if it’s supposed to mean something,” Hank teases, leaning back. Trails his fingers back and forth over Connor’s arm.

Connor’s smile goes a little mischievous. “An evening alone does provide ample opportunities for all kinds of activities, Hank,” he says smoothly. “If you’re interested, that is.”

No matter what, it still feels fresh and new every time Connor alludes to sex or teases Hank about it. Sends a thrill through him regardless of how tired he is. But he also catches Connor’s gaze gliding over the opened box and scatterings of reports on the floor and the coffee table.

“Mark me down for interested,” Hank sighs, flapping his hand at the contents of the box. “Fuck. It’s definitely been a shitty sort of night.”

Connor’s expression shifts into something more serious. “You’re sure you don’t want to discuss it?” he asks carefully.

Enough time has already passed for Hank to be pretty sure that Connor’s scanned the entirety of the box by now. He should know exactly what the fuss is all about.

Hank nods. “I don’t – don’t feel like I wanna talk about it. I’m just…” He sighs again, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Tired. Grumpy.” He gives Connor a look. “Can’t you distract me or somethin’?”

“What would you like to be distracted with?” Connor asks, leaning in. Draping one arm over the backrest of the couch so he can twirl his fingers in Hank’s hair.

He looks relaxed and at ease. But the implication is there nonetheless.

“I dunno,” Hank says, and it’s the truth.

He’s interested; he wants to be. But he’s not necessarily in the mood, though he feels like he has some frustration he wants to work out. Nothing better for that than sex, right?

Yet as he looks at Connor, all warm looks and so much love and trust on display, it feels – wrong. To use sex for that kind of thing and to use Connor, by extension, for it.

Connor seems to sense his hesitation. “Hank,” he says firmly, “we don’t have to do anything.”

Hank groans. “That’s not it. I just…”

It’s stupid not to jump at the opportunity, especially when they’ve got a night to themselves. But Hank’s thoughts won’t ease up and he’ll die before he ever treats Connor like a fucking object. Literally.

“Maybe I should just jerk off in the shower and be done with it,” he settles upon, leaning his head on his hand. “Get it out of my system.”

He offers it up. It’s still a vague sort of half invitation. He just wants Connor to know that he appreciates it, but that his emotions are in disarray. That he wishes he could be better about it.

“You seem frustrated more than tired or grumpy,” Connor points out, not seeming too fazed. “It could help you to ease some of the tension. But while you’re there…” he trails off, and then suddenly he’s standing up.

Walks back to the bedroom, rummaging around in a drawer, and then returns barely before Hank can even blink an eye.

He raises an eyebrow when Connor hands him a small, black toiletry bag. It looks simple and understated. Could have anything in there from shampoo to shaving cream. But from the way Connor’s brown eyes are homed in on Hank’s reaction, Hank gathers it’s something special.

“You don’t have to open it here,” Connor says. “But consider it, if you would. I bought these after our conversation in Detective Reed’s car.”

The stakeout.

Hank remembers. Feels the ruddy flush cover his cheeks as he stares up at Connor with that goddamn bag in his hands. Recalls how Connor’s hands felt between his thighs and the wondrous lust in his eyes when Hank had alluded to trying that sometime in the future.

“Shit,” he says.

The mood arrives. Instantly. Blinking longingly in and out of Hank’s focus.

Connor smiles, noticing the change in Hank’s demeanor. Leans a little closer and squeezes Hank’s shoulder. “Enjoy your shower,” he murmurs. “Get some rest. And if you still want me to distract you after, let me know.”

His eyes are twinkling and Hank’s knees feel weak.

“I’m going to change into something more comfortable,” Connor announces, like he didn’t just tell Hank to go and have fun fucking himself in the bathtub.

He pats Hank’s chest one final time and then moves back towards the bedroom.

Hank doesn’t really know what to say.

Stumbles into the bathroom, blush still covering his cheeks, and locks the door behind him. Sits down on the edge of the bathtub, peels off his socks, sweatpants, and hoodie, and throws them all in an empty corner.

Turns on the shower, letting the water take on a comfortable temperature – and hopes it masks the sound of the zipper as he slides the toiletry bag open.

A bottle of expensive looking lube. Not really the cheap, off-brand shit he used to get. And a small toy, just as chic. Tapered point, wide base, not too big. Perfect for a beginner or someone like Hank, who hasn’t had anything substantial up his ass for at least five years.

“Jesus fucking christ,” he grits out, looking at the ceiling.

He doesn’t have to use them. But somehow, it’s – it’s tempting.

He reminds himself of Connor’s strength. Imagines what it must be like, being fucked back into the pillows by him ‘till Hank can no longer think straight. Mind flayed by pleasure.

Having something like that has always remained just that: imagination, fantasy.

Hank’s fooled around with guys before. But he’s never been on the receiving end. And he’s never been on the receiving end with someone he loves so goddamn much.

Sighing, he puts the toy and the bottle of lube on the edge of the tub and steps into the stream of running water. Lets the heat of it wash over him as he shakes his hair out and hums. It always feels nice, getting rid of the remains of the day with a hot soak. Soaps up his chest, his legs, shampoos his hair.

The toy and the lube remain there while the bathroom fogs up. Beckoning.

“Fuckin’ hell,” Hank mutters, rubbing at his face absentmindedly.

He hesitates. Vaguely recalls the fact that he still has a shower nozzle tucked away somewhere in the cupboard beneath the sink.

A thousand excuses. They always come back around to not worth the hassle or tired or whatever the fuck Hank can conjure up. But now he’s for certain that he’s got someone in his – their – bedroom who would wanna fuck Hank until all he sees is stars and Hank –

Hank feels like he needs it. It’s that simple.

“Live a little,” he murmurs to himself, realizing just how often he’s said it to Connor.

Even though it definitely applies to the both of them.

Hank uncaps the lube.

 


 

When Hank finally gets out of the bathroom after nearly having slipped in the tub about six times, he feels nervous and shy. That’s not something he’s felt in a long fucking time.

He also feels exposed. Knows that as he walks back into the living room and up to Connor, Connor will know what he’s been up to and what he wants to ask. Such vulnerability makes him want to flee, even though he knows he’s in the clear. Safe.

But sometimes, the rawness of it still grabs Hank by the throat and shakes him.

“Hey,” Hank says instead of voicing his tumultuous thoughts.

Connor is leafing through a book on the couch. His eyes glint in the low light as he looks up to meet Hank’s gaze. “Hi,” he answers, beautiful and perfect and loving. His hair is a little tousled.

Hank wants to crawl out of his own skin. It’s like his heart is itching with complicated shit. All his thoughts on the run and Connor, there, on the couch – center of his universe.

He’s just not sure if he can reach him through the storm.

“Do you wanna,” Hank tries, jerking his head back to the hallway. To the bedroom. “You wanna have a go at it?”

Connor approaches him slow and careful. Gently cradles Hank’s face. “Yeah,” he says, stimulating an artificial breath that ghosts over Hank’s lips, “I’d like to make love to you, Hank.”

He’s gotten excellent at kicking away at the cracks in Hank’s armor and replacing them with a shield of affection. So good that Hank can’t speak for fear his voice might just disappear entirely; he just nods instead.

Connor kisses him.

Hank melts.

Dives into the deep end the moment Connor’s lips touch him, grasping Connor’s shirt with trembling hands. The mouth on his is warm and wet and just enough to make Hank forget and he’s already sighing and leaning into Connor before anything else happens beyond that first kiss.

Touch of lips and he’s broken.

Flutter of two hearts beating into the same space and he’s done.

Connor’s hands run over his shoulders in soothing circles and then downwards until they reach his lower back. And the next second, Hank is being lifted into the air effortlessly.

“Jesus,” he gasps against Connor’s lips, scrambling to wrap his arms around Connor’s neck. His legs fit snugly around Connor’s tapered waist.

Connor just smiles against Hank’s cheek. “I won’t throw you back against the wall tonight,” he teases, and then he finds Hank’s mouth again.

Hank is thoroughly distracted the whole way back to the bedroom. ‘Cause Connor is all over him with soft touches that linger and drift, and it’s all just – unhurried. Even his steps are slow and even; the way he cards his fingers through Hank’s hair, curling and unfurling; the way he licks at Hank’s mouth.

Even the way he glows up goes in gradual shifts.

Barely noticeable blues lighting up beneath his shirt when Hank rubs his thumb over the back of his neck. Sluggishly making its way up the length of Connor’s body, flaring to life fully when Connor nips at Hank’s bottom lip and he makes a small noise in response.

“Love you,” Hank says, the emotion bubbling up and rising above the mess of all the others.

Connor just smiles, kicking at the bedroom door. He’s got one hand under Hank’s ass, and the other petting his face. Carding through his beard. “I love you, too, Hank,” he says, and his voice is pitched low with an undercurrent of static.

Just the slightest bit glitchy.

Hank tightens his legs around him, digs his fingers into his hair, and kisses him harder for it. Until there’s nothing he tastes but Connor: a subtle blend of clinical nothing, and yet Hank still wants more. He bites at the corner of Connor’s mouth, soothing the burn with his tongue, until he can feel it even without opening his eyes.

Skin more resistant. Less give.

“Fuck yeah,” Hank murmurs, slipping his tongue between those perfect lips, and Connor stumbles.

Sinks them both a little shakily down to the bed, making soft noises against the press of Hank’s mouth. The mattress dips beneath the weight of them both, Connor having one knee between Hank’s thighs, and his fingers are quickly unbuttoning his shirt.

The kissing never stops. And god, Hank feels greedy with it.

Grabs Connor’s face maybe a little bit too tightly, thumbing his earlobes and drawing him in. As if kissing is breathing. As if the way their tongues curl against each other wetly is the only tether keeping Hank here.

Connor shrugs off his shirt, and his lips slip down the square line of Hank’s jaw. His kisses here are intoxicating; soft, open-mouthed presses of his mouth, tongue slipping out to taste Hank’s skin.

“Jesus,” Hank says again, leaning back on his elbows. Lifts his head up without question, throat exposed.

Connor tongues the bob of it, one hand on Hank’s knee spreading his legs further apart, while he’s using the other to undo his belt. And Hank – Hank has to open his eyes to see this, to commit this to memory.

“Do you like what you see, Lieutenant?” Connor asks as he leans back. Voice laced with smugness, eyes dark.

Hank doesn’t even hide how it makes his cock jump, rising to full hardness in his sweats. “I don’t know,” he teases back. “Why don’t you tell me?”

Connor grins. “Pupil dilation closing in on your usual maximum,” he says, hooking his thumbs into his waistband. “Heartrate increasing in anticipation.” He sounds easy, matter-of-factly, but he bites his lip while he stands back and starts peeling his tight pants off his hips.

Hank doesn’t have to do anything. His partner’s briefs go down in the same motion, and then Connor is gloriously naked from head to toe. Skin drawn back over his hands, and the contrast is starkly beautiful to the rest of him.

Hank’s mouth waters at the sight. “That all?” he asks, raising his eyebrow.

“Blood flow to your genitals,” Connor says, gaze dropping, “very obviously increased. I doubt you’d need an RK800’s sensors to notice that, Hank.”

Hank reaches down to the edge of his hoodie. “But I sure as hell appreciate ‘em, Connor.”

“And is that,” Connor says, and then he’s goddamn crawling between Hank’s legs, pressing him back into the covers, “an increased saliva response?”

Hank grins. “You got me pantin’ for you like a dog, darlin’.”

Flare of blue in the glowing circle of Connor’s Thirium pump, and he reaches out to grasp one of Hank’s hands. Stops him from taking off his hoodie, and instead presses his fingers to his mouth.

“Believe me,” Connor says, nuzzling them, “I will.”

And Hank’s mind goes a little blank, there, full of heat and desire and no other thoughts, and then Connor sucks his index and middle fingers inside. Teases his tongue between them while his eyes flutter closed and his LED circles yellow.

“Fuckin’ hell,” Hank groans, “you maniac.”

Connor instantly opens his eyes again, hooded and seductive. His mouth stretches into a smile over Hank’s fingers. “Your heartrate’s going up,” he whispers over Hank’s wet fingers and that shouldn’t be hot, but it is.

“No shit,” Hank says, and Connor’s letting go of his fingers.

He’s the one who slips off Hank’s hoodie while Hank holds his arms up for him, and then Connor’s hands instantly land on his chest. Desperate and more than a little grabby; groping over his belly and curling down into his happy trail.

Connor’s lips fall right over Hank’s heart, and he’s humming in his own strange android way. “I take it,” he says, slowly mouthing his way over the circle of Hank’s tattoo, “that you liked the toy?”

“Yeah,” Hank croaks as Connor’s hands slide up to cup his chest. His thumbs brush over Hank’s nipples and fuck if that doesn’t send a sharp spike of lust echoing through the pit of his stomach.

“Do you want me to,” Connor starts, lips almost touching one nipple while his fingers gently pinch the other –

“Yeah,” Hank groans, interrupting him in half-arousal and half-exasperation, “jesus christ, Connor, yes.”

Connor chuckles. Looks at Hank fondly, perched upon his chest, and carefully wets his index finger on his tongue. “Ability to vocalize significantly decreased,” he winks.

“Oh, shut up,” Hank murmurs, one arm coming up to cover his face.

Connor makes a face as if he considers it. “Fair point, Hank,” he says, and then he’s leaning down to suck Hank’s nipple between his lips while he twirls his wet finger around the other.

Flicks the tip with a nail. His mouth is hot, almost too much so, and his teeth are a sharp reminder of desire.

Hank forgets everything, toes curling and dick throbbing with every heartbeat while Connor sets to work. Sucks and nips, lapping at Hank’s nipples in that slow, focused way, and his LED blinks back to yellow again.

Fuck,” Hank groans, his insides doing backflips to all sides.

One of Connor’s hands slides down to grasp Hank’s hip. Fiddles with the waistband of his sweats, lazily tracing patterns into Hank’s skin.

“C’mon,” Hank says, suddenly impatient, pushing himself back on the mattress.

Connor gets the hint and tugs but god, Hank just needs to kiss him – he finds himself reaching out, roughly dragging Connor forward so he can slot their mouths together again. Lets his thumbs slow-pass the dip in Connor’s chin before he’s rasping his beard against it.

Catch and release, making them fit. It mimics fucking, and Hank desperately wants it to: thrusts his tongue alongside Connor’s, moaning his approval against the artificial roof of his mouth.

And then finally, finally, Connor’s fingers get some restlessness in them – press into Hank’s sides a bit too harshly as he tugs his sweatpants off all the way. Scrambling for purchase, dancing over Hank’s skin, and then he’s crawling back between Hank’s legs.

Kissing Hank senseless and pressing an insistent knee between Hank’s legs none-too-gently.

Hank curses, pleasure coiling in his gut, but Connor’s not letting the sound escape. Muffles it between too eager mouths. And then Connor’s climbing half on top of him, his hips grinding against his dick, and his hands are sinking into Hank’s hair.

Tugging. His teeth sink into Hank’s bottom lip, and he moans.

“Jesus,” Hank says, finally managing to untangle their lips. “Didn’t know you wanted me this bad.”

“You couldn’t even imagine how much I want you,” Connor says, looking down at Hank with unhidden ardor. “But you looked like you had your mind on other things. I didn’t want to push.”

It’s considerate. It’s kind. It’s Connor. But Hank wants that rawness from before, so he gives Connor the laziest smirk he can muster. Thrusts up against Connor’s abdomen.

“Push all you like,” he taunts, running his hand over the side of Connor’s throat. Fumbles his fingers over the front a little, pressing in.

Click, whir. Edge of a panel slotting open.

More blue pours out; light skidding over Hank’s fingers as he thumbs the exposed wires. Connor sits up, groaning as he throws his head back, one hand fisting into the sheets.

But then he dips his chin back down again, brown eyes finding Hank’s. They glitter like a predator’s when advancing, and only one corner of Connor’s mouth curls up. Doesn’t move a muscle, not even with Hank’s fingers still slipping into the panel at this throat.

“Do you think you can take it?” he asks, voice low, one eyebrow raised.

There he is.

Connor, in all his contrasting alien glory; pale body dotted with freckles and birthmarks and swaths of white where Hank has touched him. Is touching him. Blue light spilling out of him, eyes dark and dangerous, staring down at Hank like he could snap him in half.

And he could.

Hank doesn’t suppress his shudder. Doesn’t hide the way he suddenly has to swallow, the way his body coils and uncoils in the best of ways. The tremble of tension in his thighs.

“Why don’t we find out,” he settles upon, and his voice is a lot rougher than he’d intended to.

Connor’s cheek dimples when his predatory smile turns up further. “Then why don’t you turn around?”

This is a point where the hooks of self-consciousness would sink themselves into Hank’s chest. Normally. But he’s already so turned on that he can’t see straight, he can still feel the stretch from where he fucked himself open with that goddamn toy, and Connor looks very, very certain of what he wants.

Connor’s never lied to Hank. Not even once.

“Alright,” Hank croaks.

Connor waits, tilting his head slightly to the side.

Hank takes in a gulp of air and turns around as fast as he can, grabbing a few pillows he can hold onto. Leans his hands on them, his back towards Connor – and then changes his mind, shifting onto his elbows.

It puts his ass higher into the air, the vertebrae in his lower back popping with the movement, but screw pretense. Hank just wants to get fucked tonight.

Connor’s hand lands just above the curve of his ass and flares up briefly with heat, like a promise.

“Lube’s on the bedside table,” Hank says, hair falling into his eyes. His arms are shaking, and it’s not with the effort of holding himself up. He’s strong enough for it.

But this is that part where you’ve just jumped off a cliff and you’re waiting for the impact. Hank still feels like he’s suspended in midair.

“I know,” Connor says, and he sounds amused. “But I won’t need it just yet.”

And then his hands are both sliding downwards from the dip of Hank’s spine to his ass, and he slowly spreads him apart. Shifts closer onto the bed, holding him open, and Hank feels like he’s gonna die.

“Oh,” Connor says, sounding pleasantly surprised, “you prepped rather thoroughly, Hank.”

Hank grits his teeth together to stop the string of curses about to escape his mouth. “If all you’re gonna do is look,” he starts, “then I’m going to fucking turn around and – ”

He stops. Because Connor is nosing at the skin of his ass. Nosing, and all that it implies and Hank really, really hadn’t considered that but it makes sense considering Connor’s fucking – fucking kinks about putting stuff into his mouth.

He feels Connor settling down behind him on the bed. One hand still on his lower back, the other holding him open.

And then there’s that first tentative touch of his tongue.

“Holy jesus fucking christ,” Hank gasps, hands balling into fists, “shit.”

It’s – it’s indescribably divine, that’s what it fucking is.

It’s nothing rough or burning or stretching him out – it’s Connor curiously flicking his tongue against Hank’s asshole and Hank’s thighs are already trembling like they’re gonna give out. ‘Cause it’s wet and soft and Connor’s tongue is just rough enough to provide some friction.

“Oh,” Connor murmurs, and it’s a decidedly good kind of oh.

Hank can tell by the way the room lights up in a brighter dazzle of blue.

Connor runs his tongue over the entire outer ring of muscle of Hank’s hole and then dips it in. Softly, slowly, repeating the motion until it’s a barely-there kind of thrusting that isn’t going in too deep.

Hank squeezes his eyes shut and groans. There’s an answering, lingering moan of Connor’s behind him.

“C’mon,” he hisses, “said I could take it. Fuck.”

The moment he says that, Connor’s hand tightens over the flesh of his ass and his tongue presses deeper. Lingers there, easing him open, but Hank is already relaxed and wanting it. Pushing back into it.

“You taste amazing, Hank,” Connor murmurs, completely disregarding Hank’s plea.

“Jesus,” Hank sighs in response, biting his lip.

His cock throbs, curved up against his stomach. Leaking precum onto the sheets.

Connor moans softly, tenderly tongue-fucking into Hank on a sweet, cascading rhythm. A little deeper every time. His tongue a thick, warm brush of wetness against Hank’s insides.

“Let’s see if you can,” he says, and then Hank feels the pressure of a finger alongside Connor’s tongue.

It slides in easily past that first ring of muscle. And it’s a hell of a lot more solid than the softness of Connor’s tongue. Hank cants his hips, trying to make him go faster, trying to make that finger go deeper –

But Connor keeps taking it slow. Inch by agonizing inch. First knuckle, second knuckle, and his tongue a wet distraction of bliss alongside it. He hums, glitchy and low, his other hand tracing circles into Hank’s skin.

“I’ll get the lube,” he whispers then, finger sliding out of Hank with a pop, and he’s moving over to the bedside table.

Hank realizes he’s never felt this impatient – not during any other time they had sex. But he waits, ‘cause fuck, what else can he do? Shivers when he hears the lube uncap, Connor’s hands stickily rubbing together.

Warm lube dribbling over his hole, and then Connor’s index finger is sinking back in again.

Hank groans, and Connor does too. Works it in up until the third knuckle, the rest of his fingers resting against Hank’s ass. And crooks it slightly, reaching around for Hank’s prostrate.

“Fuck,” Hank grits out. He’s glad he took his time with that toy – it felt foreign, unfamiliar, the weird sensation of something stretching him out. But that first weirdness is gone now, making place for want.

For the goddamn waiting until Connor hits the spot.

Another lap of Connor’s tongue at his asshole, curling around his own finger, and Hank curses again. Flares of white-hot pleasure up and down his spine, and jesus fucking christ, he never thought he’d be considering the fact that he could ever come untouched.

But that’s shaping up to be a real possibility.

Connor slips his finger out: the next press is broader, weightier. Two fingers. Connor waits a moment, carefully pressing them against Hank’s ass – “Yes, goddamn it!” – and then pushes them in a little harder than Hank expected.

Cue full-body shudder and sparks behind his eyelids. ‘Cause Connor sinks them in all the way, scissoring them slightly, and it’s stretching and filling and good.

“You’re demanding tonight,” Connor says, a soft teasing to his voice. “Is it good?”

Hank nods weakly, struggling to keep himself upright. “You know it’s good, Connor. Fuck.”

Connor lazily thrusts both of his fingers in and out, scissoring them just before they slip free of Hank’s ass. “You do look amazing taking it, Hank,” he adds, and his voice sounds a little shaky.

Hank angles his thighs open further. “Taking you,” he corrects, ‘cause he can’t resist.

Finally dares to throw a look over his shoulder. Finds Connor sitting behind him like a god before a feast, all languid smiles and eager eyes and gorgeous, well-defined lines.

“You’re beautiful,” Connor says, a little too breathily, and thrusts his fingers back in. Curls them.

Hank nearly topples face-first into the pillows because that – that hits the spot. Finally.

He pushes back onto the press of Connor’s fingers almost aggressively. Chasing that toe-curling flare of blinding pressure. Connor lets him and doesn’t tease: curls them again, the pads of his fingers massaging tiny little circles right where it matters, and Hank’s hips thrust back so desperately that his cock bumps against his stomach.

Connor shifts closer. A wet kiss to the base of Hank’s spine. “I love your body,” he says, sounding wrecked, his fingers still half-thrusting into Hank’s body. Lingering.

Hank’s losing it, arms shaking.

And then Connor’s other hand is teasingly trailing downwards, over the back of Hank’s hairy thighs, and then up between them. Cups his balls, rolling them in his palm; skips upwards, deliberately not touching his aching cock, groping at the span of Hank’s belly.

“You’re so strong,” Connor says, tone colored by arousal and wonder and the frenzied sort of happiness that only sex can bring. “You’re so big and strong and handsome.” He pauses as if it’s difficult to get the words out. “Hank.”

Hank clenches around Connor’s fingers in response to the praise, and Connor cries out.

“Fuck,” Hank says when Connor’s fingers falter in their rhythm, “can you come from that?”

Another staticky noise from behind him. “I want to find out,” Connor says, “very badly.”

Breath fanning over Hank’s lower back. Breath Connor doesn’t need, but breath that steadies Hank with Connor’s presence while he can’t see him. Carefully thought about and added to the equation for Hank’s enjoyment.

“Then fuckin’ lets,” Hank groans, pushing back against Connor. “Come on, fuck me with three.”

“Isn’t three a crowd?” Connor half-chuckles, but his voice breaks on crowd.

Hank sighs, his shoulders wet with sweat, and shakes his head. “Do it, jesus. You want me to beg?”

Connor reaches for the lube while his other hand slinks back to Hank’s dick. Fingers trailing up and down the length of him. Distracting, probably, from the press of three – but Hank doesn’t fucking care. He’s too far gone.

“Try me,” Connor says, pressing the tips of his fingers against Hank’s asshole. All three of them. Circling, gently, tips dipping in and out one-by-one but not going deeper. Not using the full breadth of them.

He shifts, and suddenly his thighs are pressing alongside Hank’s. His body pressed against Hank’s ass and back, hand trapped in-between them. Like this, it’s harder to reach around, but he’s still got his fingers wrapped around the base of Hank’s cock.

Goddamn android getting fucking everything perfectly right.

He drops a warm kiss between Hank’s sweaty shoulder blades. Teases his tongue against Hank’s heated skin. And waits, fucking waits, because Hank hasn’t said anything yet.

“Sweetheart, just fuck me ‘till I can’t see straight,” Hank groans, “’cause that’s what I fuckin’ came for tonight.”

Connor has the audacity to fucking chuckle; Hank can feel his smile against his back. “I love how there’s no please,” he says, and Hank knows if they’d lock eyes that Connor’s would be twinkling.

“Please,” Hank instantly adds through gritted teeth.

Connor laughs lightly, blue flaring in a play of light and shadow against the bedroom walls, and says: “You didn’t have to, Hank. I’ll give you anything you want.”

And before Hank can retort, before he can fucking get one word in edgewise, Connor’s pressing his fingers inside. He doesn’t let up: though he presses in slow, he presses in steadily, and Hank is already thrusting himself back and forth on them.

“Jesus, fuck,” Hank mutters, and he might be biting his lip a little too hard. But Connor is slowly stuffing his fingers inside of him up to the third knuckle while dropping kisses over the span of Hank’s back, and –

Hank feels stellar, that’s what. Magical.

And then Connor is curling three fingers inside of him and Hank fucking flips into the other side of the universe. Pleasure floods him instantly, and Connor keeps his fingers where they are, massaging those same slow circles he did earlier.

Hank sinks further into the bed, bending his knees and unsteadily leaning on his elbows. Clenches around Connor and that rewards him with a pleased gasp and a flash of blue, and then he starts pushing back into it. Works his back, feeling himself stretch around the span of Connor’s fingers, and jesus, there’s still stars behind his eyelids.

Sweat on his brow, hair sticking to the back of his neck.

Connor’s hand around his cock, aching and neglected, finally starts to move.

“I wish I had a hand free to tug your hair back,” Connor sighs, rocking his hips against Hank’s.

Oh fuck, and Hank wishes he did too, grasping the sheets and letting out another guttural moan. He can’t form words anymore, cotton in his mind pushing out all thought except the here and now. Except the pleasure.

Connor’s hand speeds up. Syncs with the way he’s pressing his fingers into Hank’s ass. And then Connor’s groaning, a soft clicking noise from deep in his chest – and the pads of his fingers start vibrating.

“Holy jesus!” Hank gapes. “Connor, shit.”

“Too much?” Connor asks.

Hank steels himself against it – the hand around his cock, moving steadily with every confident flick of Connor’s wrist, the fingers stretching him out, rubbing and vibrating inside of him. Right up against his sweet spot.

“No,” he manages, “but it’s – I’m not going to last. Fuck.”

Hank reaches back, balancing his weight on one arm while he catches the back of Connor’s thigh. Realizes that he knows of no panels there, and Connor’s still using both of his hands –

In a fleeting moment of inspiration, Hank shifts his weight onto his other arm and wraps his right one around Connor’s. Jerking him off together. But more importantly, he can lace their fingers together, and connect.

Surge up.

The feeling is instantaneous. He hadn’t realized how far gone Connor was until now, mind fraying at the edges – feels the warm clench of himself around Connor’s fingers, the hot burn of pleasure slowly frying his circuits away.

 

st ͠ ̟a̸̤ ͓ ̝̺̯ ͉ tu̞ ͙ ̦ș̳̠ͅ ͖ ̖_̥ ͕͉ ̟̩ ͖ ̥m̧̫a̡ ͙ ̗ ͕ ̖̹ ͖ i̟̱̮ ͓ nf ҉ ̹̩̠ͅ ͈ ̟ ͕ r̟̲̝̝ ͚ ̗̥ąm̡ ͈ ̤ ͎ ̰e̲ͅ

̙̣̝o ͞ v ͢ ̦̼̞e̥̹ ͇ ̙̦r̜̤̭̲̺ ͕ h̲̼ ͍ ̗̫e ͜ a ͘ ̪̦̘̟̺ṱ̩̪̗ͅ ͖ i̢̘̯̼̝̖̜̻n̴̥ ͙ ̯̟ ͙ g ҉ ̟ ͇ ̝ ͉ ̻̗

͍͢ ̘̮̝̖g̬i̘ ͖ ̘̬̣v̢e ͝ ̫̤ ̣h̫̯̦̣̳ ͙ ̺a̶̪ ͉ ̺ṉ̖ ͍ ̰̩k ҉ ̙ ͍͉ ̠̫ ͈ ̗̹g̫ ͈ ̖̜̙ ͇ ̤i ͞ ̞ṿ̵e̷̦̭ ̲̙ ͚ ̯̺̠

h̨̥̪̫a̟̬͔̬̼̣̪͟n̩̯͝k̟͚̺̝͔ ̱̰͢g̸ i ̗̳͇͎͘v̥ e̗ h̛̬̥̰ ͍͢a̹̞̞͉̮̪͡ͅ ̯n̨̜̻̣̭̰ ͙̙̙̩ͅk͖̜̥̩ͅ ̕ ̲͖̥̦̦̠̖ ̲̲̙̫̘̖͕h̠̠͈͇̹͠ ͙͚͕͡ ̺̮ ̢̼̟͎͈̲a͈̦̳̼̟̗ ͡a͕͚̼̯̘̲ ͏͔̖̪͕͕̳̤a ̳͇̭̝ ͚͕̣͍̪ ̮̦̙͉̯̮͟n҉̤̰͈̲̭̻ ̵̦̙̺ ͍̦̦͙ͅk̢̺̗

 

It’s all familiar by now; so much so that Hank smiles into the sensation, tilting his head back and grinning, ‘cause he’s getting fucked by his lover on a lonely kind of night and this is it. The thing he never knew he wanted but what he apparently needed, and all the doubts are gone.

His balls are tightening. He can feel that spear of pleasure in his gut ready to spike, to flush out, and behind him Connor is making the most gorgeous sounds, high and keening and tinny.

Connor starts thrusting his fingers harder. In and out, vibrating fingers spreading him open so fucking wide that Hank is gonna feel it. Not too noticeable but it’s gonna be a little sore, and he’s gonna carry that with him throughout the week – proof of Connor under his skin.

“I can give you more,” Connor says, groaning, and Hank wants to ask what.

But then Connor sinks his teeth into Hank’s shoulder and Hank loses it.

The combination of it all; the stretch and the slight soreness, the dull pressure of Connor’s teeth, the hand squeezing his cock just right. Fingers wetly squelching in and out of him.

Hank comes just a millisecond before Connor does, as if he was waiting – waiting for Hank to blackout, mouth opened in a wordless cry as he comes all over their joined hands and the sheets below him. Clenches rhythmically down on Connor’s fingers, again and again and again, and Connor hurtles over the edge as well.

Garble of binary, voice breaking apart like his code, and his fingers still inside of Hank while the entire bedroom floods with blue.

And then they’re both shaking, Hank panting like he pursued a suspect at full speed, and Connor making soft little noises while he presses his forehead against the center of Hank’s back.

Eases his fingers out of Hank’s ass and wipes them on his own thigh.

“Fuck,” he tells Hank’s spine.

Hank chuckles, tension released. His knees ache a little, but the rest of him feels loose. He hadn’t realized how cramped up he’d been. “I think I nutted so hard I saw stars,” he says, voice scratchy from moaning.

Connor’s turn to laugh; Hank feels his shoulders shake. “I know,” he answers, “I felt it.”

Hank brings their laced hands to his mouth and presses a kiss to Connor’s, not even caring about the cum that’s spread over them. “Thanks for that. I needed it.”

“I figured,” Connor says, shifting away. Falling to the side so he can look Hank in the eye, thumb touching his cheek. “I missed this, though,” he murmurs. “Seeing your face.”

Hank grins. “But you got me all memorized up there.”

“It’s never enough,” Connor smiles. “I’m insatiable.”

Hank’s chuckle turns into a groan when he shifts, sitting up, and his back just creaks. “Jesus,” he mutters.

Connor’s hands steady him, gentle but certain. “What about another bath together?” he offers, eyebrow raised. “Hot water and a massage?”

“If you’re treatin’,” Hank smiles, “I sure as hell am buyin’.” Leans in and pecks Connor on his nose. “Sweetheart.”

The blue lines of Connor’s plating have been slowly dying down, shifting back to invisibility – but at that term of endearment, they light up again. Flare like a warning sign.

Hank laughs, sides shaking, especially at Connor’s half-miffed look.

Fifteen minutes later, they’re in the bathtub. Considering its smallness, it’s kind of a tight fit, but Hank still manages to wedge himself between Connor’s legs and leans back relatively comfortably against his chest. A skinny knee on either side of him, popping up through the water’s surface.

Connor’s fingers twirling curls into his chest hair.

“I’m gonna tell Fowler about the connection,” Hank says. His voice is soft, but it still echoes off the tiles.

Connor nods, pushing Hank’s hair back so he can press a kiss against his ear. “I’m glad you came to a conclusion,” he murmurs. “It looked like it was driving you nuts.”

Hank snickers. “Did you really just…?” he asks, flicking his thumb and forefinger against Connor’s knee.

Connor smiles, his dimpled cheek pressing to Hank’s beard. “I’m sorry,” he says, but he doesn’t sound sorry at all.

“But yeah,” Hank nods, “no more doubts. I gotta own up to it, you know?”

Connor nods alongside him, arm wrapping a bit more strongly around his waist. “I think you can trust yourself to make the right choice. I know I trust you with my life.”

“And I trust you with mine,” Hank says fondly, craning his neck back. Grasps Connor’s chin and kisses him firmly but chastely. “Thanks for fuckin’ some sense into me.”

“The pleasure,” Connor smirks, and the next kiss is decidedly not chaste, “was entirely mine, Hank.”

“You fucker,” Hank laughs, “c’mere, you.” He sinks his fingers into the hair at Connor’s nape.

Connor smiles against Hank’s mouth. “Call me sweetheart again and we’ll see where we’ll go.”

“You got it,” Hank promises, “sweetheart.”

They stay in the bathtub until Rachel comes home drunk and stumbles in to brush her teeth. She barely spares them a glance, and Hank laughs about it all ‘til his jaw and ribs hurt from it.

 


 

The ice cream parlor is pink. And it’s kinda everywhere, from the counter and the booths to the wallpaper and the tableware. There’s some soft blues and yellows mixed in with the rest of the décor as well.

Good part about it? All of it is soft, muted pastels, so it doesn’t really hurt Hank’s eyes.

Still, it’s a lot.

He says as much when the little bell at the door signals their arrival, and Rachel pushes past him without a second thought. “Oh shut up,” she answers. “You always gotta find something to complain about.”

“’M not,” Hank mutters back, sliding his hands into his pockets.

Connor and RK900 are standing next to him; Connor curiously regarding his surroundings, rapidly analyzing them, and RK like a towering pillar of stone with his hands clasped behind his back.

Hank catches their reflection in the parlor’s front window, and they look so ridiculously out of place that it’s almost enough to make him break out in laughter on the spot. Two clean-cut, professional looking guys with eerily similar faces, and two scruffy, grey-haired bums.

Jesus christ, Hank thinks. Look at us go.

“I kind of enjoy the brightness,” Connor says with a smile. “It certainly adds to the mood of the place.”

Hank snorts. “I can just feel the cavities comin’ in,” he jokes.

“Shut up,” Rachel repeats, moving up to the counter. “They have the best fucking ice cream and shakes here, and you goddamn know it. Now let me – ”

The figure behind the counter steps up: his hair is as pink and soft as cotton candy, and he wears the kindest smile upon his face. “The décor is meant to be this bright and sugary,” he laughs. “So I suppose it’s doing its job.”

“Ignore them,” Rachel says, flapping her hand at Hank and RK. She leans one arm on the counter. “You got a table for four…” she starts, eyes dropping to his nametag, “… Mathew?”

A nod as he gestures his arm in a wide arc towards the tables and booths huddled against the wall. “Of course, ma’am. Take your pick. I’ll bring you the menus once you’ve settled.”

Rachel salutes him and winks. “Thanks.”

They pick a cozy booth with leather seats close to the counter; Rachel and RK900 next to each other in the center, and Hank and Connor at both ends.

“Can’t remember the last time I was in a place like this,” Hank says, nudging his foot against Connor’s.

Connor smiles back. “I don’t think I’ve ever been to an ice cream parlor, period,” he says, gaze moving towards Rachel. “Thank you for taking us, Rachel.”

“Hey, no problem,” Rachel grins, slapping her tummy. “It’s not just savory shit that I love, y’know.”

The waiter walks over to them, graceful and long-limbed, menus clasped in one arm. “Hello,” he says brightly. “I’m Mathew, your table host for today. If there’s anything you’d like to know, I’m your man.”

He hands out the menus, and that’s when Hank spies the soft blue circle of a LED below a pink curl.

“Today’s special is our forest fruit desert with a prosecco sauce and vanilla marzipan,” he adds, “of which we also carry the non-alcoholic version. As for the milkshakes, the daily special is our house favorite.” He leans to the side, gesturing towards the poster on the back wall.

“Chocolate mint,” Connor reads.

Mathew nods. “Right you are, sir! We also have plenty of products that are suitable for an android’s taste.” He takes a small step closer to the table, opening Hank’s menu and turning it to the second page.

Hank notices with surprise that the android even smells like candy.

“Several tasting palettes of ice cream flavors and milkshake samples,” he adds, meeting eyes with RK and Connor.

RK900’s LED starts flashing as he regards Mathew with a stern, unblinking gaze.

Mathew looks up to meet it, and nods wordlessly with a smile.

Hank swears he feels Connor kick RK under the table.

“Let me know when you’re ready to order,” Mathew says then, “and I’ll be back soon. Enjoy your stay!”

They all browse through the menus, and Hank’s eye lands on the regular chocolate milkshake. He takes the pistachio ice cream with it mostly for nostalgia. It’s what Rachel and he used to get way back when this parlor was still just a humble little van that drove through their neighborhood.

“You boys gonna get that cool tasting stuff?” Rachel asks.

“Yeah,” Connor nods, closing his menu. “I think I will. It sounds interesting, and I’ll never pass down an opportunity to use my oral analyzers.”

“I have to admit I find myself curious as well,” RK900 says with a barely-there nod. “Apparently,” he says, reading from the menu, “it was ‘made with an android’s processing abilities in mind’.”

They place their orders with the waiter, who sunnily accepts them. He mixes the milkshakes behind the counter, scoops up the ice cream, and puts the order for Rachel’s panna cotta through to the kitchen.

“Well then,” Rachel declares on a sudden sigh, folding her hands together on the table. “I thought goin’ here with all of us would be nicer than your regular goodbye dinner.”

Hank’s heart goes a little soft. “Yeah,” he says, “week went by like a snap.”

“It’s a pity you have to go back home already, Rachel,” RK900 says. His face and voice betray no emotion, but the fact that he’s the first to speak up is telling in and of itself.

He wouldn’t say something like that out of the blue if he didn’t mean it.

Rachel smiles at him and gives him a thumbs-up. “Hey,” she grins, “it’s okay. I got your number. We can text or call.”

Hank snorts. “You hate texting. You’ll hate it with him even more.” He jerks his head towards Connor and RK. “They can reply instantly just with their minds, the tech-fuckers.”

Rachel smirks. “I thought you were the tech-fucker here, bro.”

Connor, having gotten used to Rachel over the past week, chuckles in amusement. Jostles his elbow just slightly into RK’s, and the latter one produces something that could be called a smile if you squint.

Hank rolls his eyes. “Ha-fucking-ha. Aren’t we hilarious.” He shoots RK900 a look. “You’re a terrible influence on my sister, you know that?”

“Outbantered,” Rachel winks, grinning at Hank lopsidedly.

“Outgunned,” Connor adds, an amused smile playing at his lips.

“Outlawed,” RK says stonily with the grace of a bull in a china shop.

They all turn to regard him with varying degrees of disturbed looks, but he just minutely shrugs his shoulders in response.

“You can’t outlaw Hank,” Connor says. “He’s higher in rank at the DPD than you are.”

RK900 regards Connor with curiosity. “It was a play on jokingly ‘banning’ someone whenever they say something that is against the rules,” he explains slowly. “Was that not obvious?”

“No,” Rachel answers instantly, hand on RK’s arm, “but I appreciate your attempt at a joke. I guess my sense of humor is rubbing off on you, too.”

RK’s grey eyes bore themselves into the back of Rachel’s hand and for one second Hank thinks he’s going to smack it away, but then he realizes that RK is probably breaking his brain over the use of the word ‘rubbing’ in combination with Rachel’s fingers currently doing the same thing over his sleeve.

“I’ll definitely miss your company,” Connor says, his gaze honest and true.

Rachel blushes. “Aw, thanks, hon. I’ll miss yours, too.”

Connor and Rachel regard each other sweetly, all warm smiles and kindness. Something tightens in Hank’s chest at the sight.

“I, uh,” he starts, more than a little awkwardly, “I actually – ”

But then Mathew comes over to their table, balancing two trays without trouble, and hands out the ice cream, the shakes, and the tasting palettes. He nods at Rachel. “Your dessert will be ready in a jiffy,” he smiles, straightening his bowtie before he walks back to the counter.

“You were saying?” RK asks Hank, eyebrow raised. His eyes are cool.

Hank fiddles with his collar. “Yeah, so,” he tries again, “I’ve actually been wanting to, uh…” He looks up, meeting Rachel’s eyes.

Like nothing ever changed, he thinks. Big, blue, wrinkled, beautiful.

“To thank all of you,” Hank settles upon, taking his milkshake in one hand and lifting it in a toast. “For – for, uh, being here.” He gives all of them a sheepish smile. “’Cause it’s really fuckin’ nice.”

Rachel lifts her lemonade, too, and Connor smiles at him so brightly that he almost matches the vibe of wallpaper behind him. RK inclines his head in a curt but certain nod.

“To family,” Hank says.

There’s a lot of words unspoken. He doesn’t say how much it means that Rachel came over without a second thought. He doesn’t say how thankful he is that Connor’s supported his recovery every step of the way. And he doesn’t mention how even RK has become a steadying presence in his life – and more importantly, Connor’s.

He doesn’t say he loves all of them.

But Rachel’s eyes go a little watery, Connor reaches over to touch his fingers to Hank’s, and Hank hasn’t heard RK talk with this much sincerity and feeling ever since they met. So it’s enough.

“I’ll drink to that,” Rachel grins, clinking her glass to Hank’s.

He winks at her.

The conversation between the four of them continues. Connor and RK are communicating without words constantly, apparently comparing analysis notes on the various tasting strips of ice cream before them. They manage relatively well in also staying caught up with the verbal conversations going on.

The trips Rachel and Hank take down memory lane. The dirty jokes. The tales Hank and Connor regale of cases, and the way RK quietly shares his interest in going shopping to dress up his apartment somewhat.

Hank finally has the chance to speak to RK900 with more depth than usual. Covers his hobbies, likes, dislikes. He’s fond of chess, so Hank mentions Markus – remembering the large chess set in the living room at the mansion.

RK stares at Hank. His LED goes yellow for a second.

Hank raises his eyebrow while Rachel and Connor chat amiably about gardening, of all things.

“You haven’t really spoken with Markus yet?” he asks, taking another bite of his pistachio.

RK900 meets his gaze head-on. “No,” he says, “barring the day Markus and the others were present at my activation.”

“You don’t like ‘em?” Hank prods. RK tends to take straightforwardness better than bullshitting around issues.

RK900 huffs. “I don’t feel comfortable around them. Despite how Connor has eased himself into human society,” he adds, voice a little lower as his gaze flicks over to Connor, “our prototypical line really is vastly different from other models.”

Hank leans back in his seat, arm slung over the back of the booth. “Connor’s alluded to that sometimes, yeah,” he says, inviting RK to elaborate.

“They are strong in their convictions,” he adds, “the Jericho leadership. I don’t share all of their beliefs. And amongst them, I only feel the stark reminder of just how different we are.”

Hank cants his head to the side. “You don’t feel different around us?”

RK900 hesitates. “No,” he decides upon. “I’m not human. I don’t expect to be the same or have the same sort of experiences as you have. There are other ways I search for kinship.”

He reaches down, swiping two fingers over a strip of ice cream that looks like blueberry. “Such as this,” he says. “Despite not being able to consume food like you do, I’ve grown accustomed to being invited to outings such as these. And I understand why humans do it.”

“Social bondin’ and all that,” Hank smiles.

RK makes a soft noise resembling a hum. “Perhaps. But it makes me feel included rather than alienated.”

“What about Connor?” Hank asks, voice softer.

He still catches Connor’s LED entering its processing cycle from the corner of his eye; asshole can probably easily follow their conversation alongside Rachel raving about succulents (“It’s great, they never die!”).

“I suppose it’s different,” RK almost quips, “when it’s family.”

Sudden rapid blinking on both sides, LEDs circling yellow. But RK900’s expression remains as relaxed as he can make it, even as Connor turns to look at him with a desperately surprised look in his eyes.

RK ignores him. “As different as Connor and I may be, our capabilities remain roughly the same,” he continues. “And though we experience the world around us in different ways, the difference is less…” He pauses. “Jarring. I can understand him better, to say the least.”

“Don’t kid yourself,” Hank snorts. “It’s ‘cause you know him better, that’s all. Isn’t Markus from the same special series as the two of you?”

RK900 looks a little annoyed at Hank pointing that out. “Yes, he is,” he confirms.

Connor finally cuts off the conversation with Rachel, who has moved onto cacti, and says: “Being different is an inevitability of our unique variety.” He looks serious, gesturing lightly with his hands. “Expressing yourself the way you are – it’s not a bad thing.”

He pauses, a stern look in his eyes. “But if you wanna be who you are, RK, you gotta let others be themselves too.”

“They don’t want me to be me,” RK900 answers instantly. “They want me to be you. A lot of people do.”

Rachel blinks. “I don’t,” she says.

“I’m aware of the fact,” RK deadpans.

“Look,” Hank says, leaning forward across the table. “There’s always gonna be people who don’t like you. People who want you to be something you’re not.”

RK900’s eyes narrow. “Your point being?”

“You’re better off not chartin’ your course by other people’s expectations,” Hank finishes.

“Think about it,” Rachel adds, gesturing towards them all sitting at the table. “Where would we all be if we let society’s expectations rule our hearts?”

RK looks a little taken aback, blinking.

“Dead,” Hank says without skipping a beat.

“Deactivated and replaced,” Connor adds.

Rachel’s smile is wry. “In a very unhappy heterosexual relationship.”

Connor fishes his trusty coin out of the pocket of his jeans and rolls it over the surface of the table towards RK. The latter catches it between his forefinger and thumb before letting it dance higher over his knuckles. Mimicking Connor’s usual trick.

“I’d be killing deviants and pro-deviant humans,” he says, as if he never realized the fact.

“Yet now we’re here,” Hank says. “Rachel left her life here behind yet faced it head-on when I asked her to come back. You walked out of that CyberLife vault and applied for a job at the DPD.”

Connor smiles. “And I decided I had my own priorities beyond serving as a tool for CyberLife,” he says, looking at Hank, “or for the revolution.”

RK looks at Hank expectantly. “What about you?”

“Me?” Hank’s laughing before he knows it, not really understanding why. “I’m alive,” he says, “and I’m living. I guess that’s all I ever wanted.”

Rachel reaches across to clasp her hand around Hank’s, squeezing it. “I’m glad,” she says.

Hank squeezes her hand back and smiles.

They end up staying at the ice cream parlor long enough for another round; Hank settling for another milkshake and Rachel ordering a plate of chocolate chip cookies. They chat comfortably, and when it’s time to take their leave and head towards the airport, RK900 offers to pay.

Together with Connor, he seems to enter in another one of those robot Wi-Fi communications with the waiter, Mathew. It’s actually kind of cute to see both Mathew and Connor go through all kinds of expressions; smiles, laughs, little changes to the way they tilt their heads or move their hands.

It’s obvious that they’re having some sort of conversation.

But the hilarious part is that RK doesn’t move a single muscle during the exchange, even though he’s in on it, and both Rachel and Hank have to do their very best not to snicker at it.

Before they leave, RK900 shakes the waiter’s hand.

Hank smiles.

Different isn’t bad. Not bad at all.

 


 

Saying goodbye is hard. But knowing that there’s another hello soon around the corner makes it a hell of a lot easier to handle. And the fact that Hank gets a goodbye at all.

After their little ice cream outing, they dropped off Connor and RK900 at Hank’s house. They said their goodbyes to Rachel in their own way – Connor hugged her tightly and promised to send her a picture of Sumo every day, and RK just stood there stoically until Rachel embraced him instead.

He patted her awkwardly on the back. Said he’d stay in touch.

They’ve got one more stop before they go to the airport, and Hank wanted to do this with Rachel alone.

The mood of the day seems incongruent with the place they’re in. Sun high in the sky, sweltering heat; Hank’s put his hair back in a bun to stave some of it off, and Rachel’s wearing shorts.

Summer break in the air. Children laughing, running around with water guns. Saturday afternoon.

“I didn’t bring anything,” Rachel says as they step through the gate, walking on gravel.

She sounds nervous. As if she’s supposed to make an impression.

“Brought yourself,” Hank grins.

“Fuck you,” Rachel shoots back, but she’s laughing.

She takes Hank’s arm once they pass beneath the shadow of the willow tree. Her fingers tremble. The tree is why Hank and Marion picked the spot: because Cole loved to climb ‘em.

“Hi,” Rachel says with a voice that’s all broken up.

Cole’s gravestone doesn’t answer, because of course it doesn’t. If it did, Hank never would’ve left its side. He finds he’s oddly calm, though. It’s Rachel that breaks down almost instantly – she hasn’t been at this spot in almost four years.

She kneels, her hand resting against the cold stone.

Hank keeps it neat, tidy. Simple. There’s a small lantern on one corner, a few plants that are easy to care for. It looks maintained, and Hank knows that the warden keeps an eye on it. He does so with all the kids’ graves.

“It’s a perfect day,” Rachel croaks. She’s crying.

Her chin dips. Hank can’t see her face, but her fingers dig into the earth around the edge of the stone.

“I would’ve taken you fishing. We could’ve gone up to the lake or to mom and dad’s summer cottage.”

Hank’s heart beats heavy and slow as he imagines it. Shit, he thinks, feeling himself get swept away.

“I would’ve,” Rachel says on a deep inhale, “I would’ve taught you. We – we would’ve camped out by the fire. Roast marshmallows.” A sniffle. “Tell ghost stories. You would’ve been nine.”

Hank steps closer and puts his hand on her shoulder. It wracks with sobs as she wipes her arm over her eyes.

She’s crying loudly, now. Howling. Like she didn’t do when Cole died. “Almost ten,” she cries out, “fuck, Cole. I can still hear you call me aunt.”

Both her fists land in the earth. She doesn’t stop.

“I’m sorry,” she heaves, “shit, Hank, I’m so fucking sorry.”

Hank can’t stop the emotions from clogging his throat. Can’t help the pain rising there, so fresh that it burns. The kind of pain that tears your flesh asunder and makes your tears well up.

“’S okay,” he says roughly, “’s okay, Rachel.”

“No,” Rachel sniffles, “it’s not. It’s really not, Hank. People aren’t – they aren’t supposed to die. Not – not fuckin’ kids. My life for his, you understand?”

She looks up to Hank. Her eyes are puffy, her cheeks red. Tears still streaming down. “Fucking everything. Would’ve killed to keep him alive.”

“Me too,” Hank says. “Almost did.”

She wipes at her nose, slowly rising from her spot. “And still,” she says wryly through all the tears and the grief, “it’s so fucking selfish. I want him ‘cause I need him. It’s so – fuck, losing people is so fucked up.”

She puts both of her hands to her face, rubbing at it, and presses her forehead into Hank’s shoulder. She has to lean downwards a little to do so. Hank immediately wraps his arm around her shoulders and holds her to him.

“How the fuck do you stay sane,” she mutters there, nose pressed to the short sleeve of Hank’s shirt.

Hank snorts. “You don’t,” he says flatly. “I didn’t.”

“So you just accept it,” Rachel says.

“Yeah,” Hank sighs, long and deep, leaning his chin against her temple. “I can’t – I can’t help what happened to Cole. Believe me, I’ve tried. All I can do is try to stay alive. Take care of – shit, of me.”

She looks down at him.

Hank tries to offer her a smile, but he knows it comes out halfheartedly. “Of you.”

“I’m sorry I wasn’t there,” Rachel says, and she promptly starts bawling again. Throws both of her arms around him and holds him tight. “Godfucking damnit, Hank, I’m so sorry I ran away.”

“Doesn’t matter,” Hank says, holding her just as tightly. “You came back.”

Her hands fist in his shirt as she sobs into his shoulder.

“I’m,” she manages to say, “it’s – I’m just relieved that it’s not – that it’s not too late.” Another heaving sob. “That I wasn’t too late to come runnin’ back to your ass, Hank.”

“You weren’t,” Hank immediately confirms through his own shuddering breath. “You weren’t.”

And he stares down at the grave of his little boy beyond the bulk of Rachel’s shoulders. The name, the birth date and the date of his passing. The plants and the little lantern. The scratches Hank made on the lower left corner during the many times he stumbled in drunk and broke another bottle on the stone.

Then, with surprise, he notes that the lantern is lit.

A warm, artificial light. Not a flame burning, but a tiny little polymer bulb imitating a tealight.

It’s durable. It’s clever. It’s considerate and most of all, subtle.

Maybe Connor visited Cole’s grave, after all.

Hank buries his face in Rachel’s shoulder. The sun beats down harshly on both of them.

Grief can find you anywhere. Strike randomly without rhythm or rhyme.

But so can hope.

 


 

Fowler is rarely ever in a good mood. Hank doesn’t blame him for it. After all these years together, he hasn’t really spent too much time dwelling on it: when he has bad news to break to Fowler, Hank doesn’t wait around for his mood to lift.

‘Cause he could wait for-fucking-ever.

But there’s breaking the bad news and there’s breaking the bad news thoughtlessly.

Hank had initially planned to tell him of the Pavell connection on Monday morning. Get it over and done with alongside Fowler’s fifth cup of steaming black muck.

But when he and Connor arrive at the precinct, there’s already a shouting contest in progress in Fowler’s glass office. And most surprisingly of all, it’s Fowler himself, wildly gesturing and smacking his hand to his own desk in front of Perkins.

“Jesus,” Hank mutters. He pulls Chen to the side. “Any idea what’s up?”

Chen shrugs, lightly shaking her head. “Apparently the FBI’s assisting Internal Affairs. Something about a leak.”

Connor’s eyebrows raise to his hairline. “They think we have a mole at the DPD?”

“Could be,” Chen says. “We don’t know anything. Just that’s apparently important enough to involve the FBI. NSA too.”

Hank scratches at the back of his head. “Fuckin’ hell.”

“Yup,” Chen says, pursing her lips. “You can understand why Fowler’s hesitant about cooperating when they’re not telling him shit.”

In the office, Fowler is starting to go red in the face, and Perkins is irritably tapping his foot to the carpet.

“Do we need to de-escalate this?” RK900 asks, directing the question at Reed.

“Hell no,” Reed answers, arms crossed in front of his chest. “They’d both have our heads for interfering. And what the fuck we’re you gonna do, huh?” He looks up at RK. “Put them in the timeout room?”

RK seems to consider it. “No,” he says, “but I would escort Agent Perkins to the interrogation room and demand he explain his actions. He’s behaving terribly inefficiently.”

Reed snickers. “Leave it up to you to fuck people over for inefficiency. Shit.”

“No,” Connor says firmly, “he’s right. If the DPD did have a mole, that person will now be alerted to either go into hiding or start covering their tracks. It’s a tactic that’s very liable to backfire in drawing out a spy.”

Reed blinks. “Oh,” he mutters, “right.”

RK900 just raises an eyebrow at him and gives him a levelled stare that says I told you so.

“Shut up,” Reed hisses back from the corner of his mouth.

Hank’s first thought is to table his discussion for later. It’s a mere sliver of a connection, and he’s still not sure whether he’s seeing things or whether his own nostalgia is playing up – but then he realizes it could be vital.

Leaks. Security breaches. These are times when that merest sliver could turn out to be really fucking relevant.

And who’s to say that the FBI isn’t gonna come breathing down Hank’s neck because of the box in his attic?

Fowler has to know. Now maybe more than ever.

So they all wait it out. Lots of officers linger in the breakroom and suddenly doing administrative work and filing shit into the evidence room becomes uncharacteristically popular. It’s been a while since so many desks in the bullpen are all occupied at the same time.

In the end, Perkins doesn’t storm out.

He walks out like he fucking owns the place, sleazy little smile and his hands stuck deep in the pockets of his coat. Who the fuck even wears a thick coat like that in the middle of summer?

Fowler looks exasperated. He’s sweating with anger.

“Hey,” Collins says, elbowing Hank in his side as he walks by with a tablet in hand, “you’re up. You’re the Lieutenant, buddy. Take one for the team, will ya?”

“Ugh,” Hank groans. “Thanks a lot, Ben. Fuck you, too.”

When Hank walks up to the office, Fowler’s already got his hand on the doorknob. Opens it and looks about seven ways done with the start of his Monday and ready to walk out of the precinct.

Hank stops, crossing his arms over his chest and blocking the way out. Says nothing, just raises an eyebrow.

“I’m not gonna smoke,” Fowler snaps at Hank, his voice rough from overuse.

“No?” Hank asks, shifting his stance, leaning his weight on one leg.

Fowler’s eyes narrow. “I don’t need your shit on top of this, Hank. Fuck off.”

“Alright,” Hank says, stepping aside. “Come on. I’ll buy you a hotdog.”

Fowler grumbles and he doesn’t say anything else. Walks three steps in front of Hank on the way there. Curses at his phone and then frustratingly puts it on silent mode. A lot of people they pass on the sidewalk instantly give him a wide berth.

Hank lets him rage. Calmly orders two hotdogs, hands one over, and they almost automatically revert to the route leading towards the park.

They used to do this a lot – take a short break, get some fresh air and stretch their legs. Either with a hotdog or a cup of coffee, discussing cases or personal problems while they made their customary walk around the park. Even before Fowler made captain of the DPD.

Hank wipes a bit of sauce from the corner of his mouth. They haven’t done this in a long, long time.

“The day Perkins finally retires,” Fowler says, breaking the silence, “I’ll be poppin’ bottles all fucking day.”

Hank chuckles. “I’ll be celebrating alongside ya. What’s this I hear about a mole, huh?”

Fowler shakes his head sharply. “They won’t tell me what it’s about. Apparently, they’ve had problems with security leaks at the NSA for months. Figured out it was someone either NSA or FBI.”

Looking worn-out and grim, he plonks his ass down on the nearest bench. Hank joins him.

“So?” Hank says. “Still doesn’t explain why he’d come knocking at our door.”

Fowler makes a tired sound somewhere deep in his chest, gesturing with his hotdog while he leans his elbows on his knees. “They ran some cross-references. Apparently, the people turning up in cases surrounding the leaked info…” He looks at Hank. “Most of them were involved in cases with this precinct.”

“Shit,” Hank says, sucking in his breath through his teeth.

Yeah, shit,” Fowler echoes. “It sounds like someone’s been selling info to keep people from getting caught doing – doing fucking jobs.”

The hotdog suddenly doesn’t taste as good as it did before. “Jobs,” Hank repeats. “You mean like – drug deals, robberies? Or are we talkin’ high profile assassinations, here?”

“Perkins wouldn’t say,” Fowler says. “But apparently, it’s built up. Started small so nobody really noticed.”

“Wait,” Hank says, throat dry while he interrupts Fowler. “Wasn’t there a string of killings in Cleveland that’s remained unsolved?”

Fowler nods slowly. “Yeah. ‘Round the same time we were dealin’ with Andy and Simmons. And earlier this year there were those three bank robberies in Lansing.”

“Fuckin’ hell,” Hank mutters. “They think it’s connected?”

The look in Fowler’s eyes says enough.

“Alright, this is way fuckin’ worse than I thought,” Hank says. “Does Perkins wanna share who the people are that popped up in connection to the DPD? To us?”

Fowler’s face grows tight. “Not all of them. And he doesn’t want to show us the internal investigation, either.” He balls up the napkin in his fist and throws it into the nearest trashcan.

“He’s implying that you could be the leak,” Hank says, leaning back against the backrest of the bench. “Jesus christ, Jeff.”

“Yeah,” Fowler sighs darkly. “I’m kind of flippin’ my shit, here. So many years given to the good of serving my country. And this is how they thank me? Goddamn fuckers.”

“You know they aren’t allowed to be biased,” Hank says, trying to soften Fowler’s thoughts. “Profile like that would make you an ideal mole.”

“They could’ve been more goddamn subtle about it then calling me out on my supposed bullshit in my own fucking precinct,” Fowler bites. “So I called up Amber.”

Hank nods. “Smart. Had her profile you?”

Fowler grins; it’s wry and a little mean, but it’s probably his first smile of the day. “She profiled me ages ago. I asked for an update and for her to forward that shit to Perkins. I ain’t no snitch for criminals.”

“What are you gonna do next?” Hank asks.

Fowler shrugs, rubbing the back of his neck. “Wait. There’s nothing else I can do. I’ve told Perkins we’ll cooperate as long as they’re transparent with us and share what they’ve got so far.” He sighs. “Maybe also approach the NSA on my own. See what they’ve got to say.”

Hank nods. “Seems like a good idea to me. You think Perkin’s gonna spin it on Connor and RK900?”

“So far, not yet,” Fowler says, “but it’s been in the back of my mind, too. He’s got something against androids.” He sighs, long and deep, folding his hands together. “We’ll see where that ends up.”

They sit in silence for only a few moments before Hank breaks it.

“I, uh,” Hank says, “I might have something for you, too. On this front.”

Fowler whips around to stare Hank in the face. It’s all barely constrained anger hidden beneath a death glare. “If you’re gonna tell me you know who it is then by god, Hank, I’m going to kill you with my bare hands.”

Hank starts laughing. “Well, if the NSA pegged you as a possible criminal and bugged you, they sure as hell will be havin’ a field day with that statement.”

“I don’t even fucking care,” Fowler says. “If you’ve got something for me, Hank, you’d better tell me right now.”

Hank reaches into his pocket, holding up a tiny device with a little green light on it. Presses it once. “Gift from a friend,” he murmurs. “It’s a scrambler. Just in case the NSA or the FBI really has ears or eyes on us.”

Fowler’s gaze grows more focused. “You’re serious about this, aren’t you?”

“Yeah,” Hank says. “’Cause, uh, it’s about the Pavell case.”

He practically sees the gears of Fowler’s mind turn. “Jesus, that’s a while ago,” he murmurs, tapping his fingers to his chin. “Son of a bitch is still in prison, right?”

“He is,” Hank says, “but I’m talkin’ about his daughter. Alicia.”

Realization sinks into Fowler. “No,” he says. “You gotta be kiddin’ me.”

“Reed’s drug bust,” Hank rattles off, “Miller’s accident. There were four guys in the gang that shouldn’t have been there. We think it was to gather info or maybe to do some money launderin’.”

Fowler looks deadly serious. “Did this trail of people lead back to her?”

“I didn’t want to alarm you this early,” Hank says. “So no. Not yet. RK and Reed are lookin’ into it.”

“But you have a hunch,” Fowler concludes.

Hank looks away. Let his eyes trail over the passerby’s, the greenery, the fountain. “A big hunch,” he murmurs. “And it just got a hell of a lot bigger with all that talk about leaking information.”

“You think she’s planning something?” Fowler asks. “Laundering money, planting moles, buying people off with info,” he lists. “She capable of that shit? And why now, after what? Ten years?”

“Eight,” Hank corrects. “Like I told you, it’s still mostly a hunch. But with your permission…” He trails off, giving Fowler a look. “… we could try to make a case out of it.”

Fowler presses his lips together. “Anything that’ll give me ammunition against Perkins. But god, Hank…” He pauses. “You think she’s gunning for her dad?”

“That’s where I’d start, yeah,” Hank murmurs.

Fowler nods, and then he suddenly claps Hank’s back. “Your hunches have never proven me wrong. Build a case. Take Connor, Reed, RK900. Whoever you need. But you lead this, you understand?”

“Sure,” he says. “Can’t let Perkins claim that the android hands on this invalidate it, huh? I’ll keep it quiet.”

“You get me,” Fowler says with a small smile. “You always do.”

Something about his face suddenly softens. He pats Hank’s shoulder several times more and nods to himself. “There’s something I’ve been wanting to say to you as well. Can turn off that scrambler if you want to.”

Hank doesn’t because he’s too stunned by the sudden change in Fowler’s demeanor.

Fowler rises from the bench and stretches his back. “How long have you and I known each other?” he asks, though he sounds like he already knows the answer.

“Too long,” Hank says, because that’s the truth of it.

Fowler keeps staring ahead, eyes on the fountain. Hank is left staring at the back of his head. “Exactly,” he murmurs. “I’m having trouble remembering not having to deal with your ugly mug every day.”

That finally eases some of the tension in his system, and Hank smiles. “Right back at ya.”

Fowler turns, one hand on his hip. “I owe you an apology,” he says, voice clear and true as a bell.

“The fuck?” Hank manages, blinking up at Fowler. “What for?”

Fowler takes a breath so deep that his entire frame rises and sinks with it. “I knew how much was holding you down,” he says slowly, “when your boy died. I knew what you were like before. Should’ve seen…” He pauses, clears his throat, and looks to the side.

“Jeff, c’mon,” Hank says, standing up as well. “You always covered for my sorry ass. Any other idiot would’ve had me fired already for missing as many hours as I did.”

Fowler flaps his hand at Hank. “Yeah, sure. I did. But seeing as you are right now, how you’ve been lately…” His eyes travel up and down Hank’s form. The sun’s slowly climbing towards its highest point, the rays lingering behind Fowler.

Hank doesn’t say anything. He doesn’t really have the words.

“Y’know,” Fowler says, nodding to himself, “I was there for you as your boss, Hank. Friendly boss, sure. But I didn’t call you up. I didn’t drag your sorry ass to the doctor’s. I didn’t clean up your puke and remind you that you’re a good guy.”

“You didn’t have to, alright?” Hank says, throat dry. “You did what you could. You didn’t – ”

Fowler’s eyes grow a little hard. “Shut up for one minute and let me finish what I was gonna say, Hank.”

Hank inclines his head, conceding. “Alright.”

“I wasn’t there for you as your friend,” he says. “At the time, I didn’t wanna overstep. And what had happened to you – I didn’t know what to fucking say.” Fowler sighs, rubbing at his brow. “But seeing what Connor did for you, it…”

Hank still can’t quite believe that Fowler’s saying this. They’ve always been friends, and he’s always been sure of it. They can needle each other all fucking day and still have fondness and respect for each other. But they’ve never explicitly put things out in the open.

Their friendship always just was a thing that was there. Unacknowledged.

“It made me realize that I was right in feeling guilty about the situation,” Fowler says, straightening his tie. “And I am sorry about that, Hank. You deserve to hear it.”

Hank tries to swallow the lump in his throat. “I, uh,” he says, carding his hand through his hair, “I don’t know what to say, Jeffrey. Shit.”

Fowler grins. “That’s okay. Neither did I. But some things are more important than – fuck, than work.”

They stand there in the park, looking at each other and then away. In all their years of friendship, this is new territory, and they both don’t really seem to know what to do about it.

“Just accept the apology and we can back to pretending this never happened,” Fowler adds.

That has Hank grinning as well. “Apology accepted. But I don’t need to go back to pretendin’.” He holds out his hand for Fowler to shake. “I appreciate you, Jeff. Always have and always will.”

Fowler shakes it, and his expression softens again. He claps Hank on the back for a second time that day. “Thanks for the hotdog, Hank,” he says.

They both know he’s thanking him for more than just that. But that’s alright.

They’re still new to this, after all.

 


 

Amber Wilders is notoriously difficult to get ahold of.

Hank still isn’t entirely sure how Fowler managed to bully the FBI into having her sit in on the press conference about the Andy and Simmons case; he has the distinct feeling that she wanted to be there herself, and that’s what did the trick.

One of a kind case, after all.

She might be hunting murderers or sniping whomever the fuck out there as part of her job, but Hank knows that her main goal has always been to understand people. To make sense of them; to figure out patterns and behaviors. And with someone like Amber, who is charming and polite but also knows how to get what she wants, that takes prevalence over all other things.

So when Hank calls her one night, he offers himself up as bait. It’s the truth of why he’s calling, anyway.

Even if she won’t come because she cares, she’ll definitely come because she’s curious.

A few days later, he’s sitting on his favorite bench on the opposite side of the Ambassador Bridge. It’s a warm evening, and there’s plenty of people strolling by to enjoy the breeze and the view.

And Amber is right on time.

“Hank,” she says with a smile, reaching for his hand and pressing her cheek to his in a hug, “good to see you.”

She smells of expensive perfume; something with jasmine. Hank is reminded of the first time they met, close to ten years ago. Fancy party at the police academy, just after Amber had joined the FBI. Clinking glasses, champagne, tuxedos. Fowler scowling because the FBI crashed the party.

And Amber, smiling all the way through.

It’s the same scent from back then. Some things never change.

Hank offers her a grin. “Good to see you,” he shoots back, patting her shoulder.

“So,” she says, plopping herself down on the bench, legs crossed. Handbag in her lap. “Normally I’d engage in some easy conversation first. But it’s not like you to call me up and just…”

She leaves the sentence hanging between them, gesturing with her hand.

Hank snorts. “Demand you come over to Michigan?” he finishes for her, eyebrow raised.

Amber chuckles, eyes bright. “Well, you didn’t really demand per se. But saying it was urgent and that it was…” She trails off, searching for the right word. “Personal,” she settles upon. “That was enough for some pressure.”

“Yeah,” Hank says over a loud exhale of breath, “’cause it is. Not for a case this time around, doc. This time, you just get me.”

Amber looks him over and grins, one hand on his elbow. “I think I can handle you. Spit it out, Hank.”

Hank feels his smile sink a little. Twiddles his thumbs in his lap.

“It’s not like you to dance around the truth,” she adds, quieter. Moves her hand from his arm to his shoulder.

“I know,” Hank says.

It’s just – this is shit he’s never said out loud. Stuff he’s never even considered to speak into existence. A wall nobody’s ever seen behind: not Connor, not Rachel, and maybe not even Hank himself. Didn’t dare to break it down, brick-by-brick, and see what’s behind it. If there’s anything left at all.

He meets Amber’s eyes. They’re a deep, dark brown, pupils barely visible in the low light of the sun. Kind but honest. Non-judgmental.

“Hank?” she presses.

He realizes that her look right there, calm in all its honesty – that’s the thing he called her up for. Not just the expertise, but also the professionalism. The way she’d treat him as just Hank; not Hank with alcoholism. Not Hank with a dead kid and dead parents. Not Hank with issues.

Just Hank. He gets to decide what he is before she ever will.

So he clears his throat. “Was wondering what you could tell me,” he says slowly, “’bout gettin’ therapy.”

Amber’s eyes don’t soften. She doesn’t jump to reassure him or tell him it’s okay. She doesn’t tell him she wished she knew about this earlier and she doesn’t tell him she’s glad he came forward.

She simply smiles like she always does and nods. “A lot,” she says, “depending on what you’d want to get out of it.”

“Good,” Hank answers, and the smile he gives her is genuine. “Then let’s talk shop, doc.”

They do. It’s a good conversation.

Afterwards, Hank takes her to Chicken Feed for a burger and a chocolate milkshake as a thank you. She has some time left before she has to get back to the airport.

Amber’s taken off her heels and switched them for sneakers. Groans in bliss when she takes the first bite of her burger. The sauce gets all over her hands and she doesn’t hold back licking them off when she’s done.

“God, Hank,” she says then, “I forgot how easy it was to just be myself around you.”

Hank grins proudly. “Hey, no need to act tough. I’m an easygoing kinda guy.”

Amber smiles very widely and doesn’t reapply her lipstick. “I know,” she says. “Thanks for that, Hank.”

“Somehow, I thought this day would end with me thanking you,” Hank answers, “not the other way around.”

They slurp from their milkshakes simultaneously.

“Life works in mysterious ways,” Amber winks.

She hugs him very tightly when he drops her off at Departures. And she looks back twice, giving him a little wave both times.

Hank feels light.

There was life behind the bricks, after all.

He lingers, watching her go – maybe he waits a second too long. He’s not really sure why.

But just before Amber disappears out of sight, she slips out a little black makeup box from her handbag. Dips her finger in and smears whatever’s in it across her lips. Rubs it with a curling motion and then presses her lips together one final time.

It’s common. Something out of the ordinary. In the grand scheme of things, it means nothing. It even makes sense for a well-dressed, well-put together woman like Amber.

But Hank freezes nonetheless.

It fizzles like smoke from a barrel, straight and true, and Hank sees it.

Heady, heavy scents. Jasmine in the night. Nails clipped short, the both of them. Storms in a glass of water; seemingly breakable and unassuming but they’ll burn you if you ever get too close.

One ex-mafia royalty. The other?

He realizes with a jolt that he doesn’t know too much about her skills nor her past. Only that she’s a frightfully cunning psychiatrist with the skills of a long-range assassin.

Amber doesn’t look back, but Hank catches her reflection in the glass windows still separating her from customs.

The swath of color across her mouth is scarlet.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 15

In which Hank braves the storm, uncovers the real truth, and finds out he doesn’t have to do it all alone.

 

July 2039

 

Just as Reed steps away from the range, pulling off his hearing protection and brushing his thumb across the healing nick on his jaw – he realizes that Hank is standing behind him, and startles. Lets his gun clatter back on the counter.

“Fuck,” he hisses in his half-turn, shoulders tensing. “Give a guy a warning next time, will ya, Anderson?”

Hank says nothing; just raises his eyebrow. He’s been standing there for a while, watching Reed do his target practice. A bit more vigorously than usual – the memory of blood splatter across his front and Miller’s rehabilitation probably a visceral reminder of his own skill.

(Or lack thereof. Hank understands the whys and hows of not feeling like you’re ever gonna be good enough.)

“Do you want to be shot,” Reed mutters at Hank, rubbing his hand across his tired eyes, followed up by a sigh and a handwave. “Wait, don’t even fuckin’ answer that.” He meets Hank’s eyes. “What’s up?”

Hank deliberately keeps his breathing even. Tries to seem the utmost picture of slightly uncaring-yet-professional police lieutenant just in case anyone ever decides to examine the cameras inside the shooting range.

Looking for proof of something.

He jerks his head towards the exit. “C’mon, let me give you a lift back to the precinct. I need your input on a case.” He pauses. “We’ll discuss it on the way.”

Reed frowns, eyes flicking between Hank and the door. He seems to consider questioning Hank in that cocky, cavalier attitude he usually adopts, one hand already on his hip – please don’t for one time in your entire fucking life, Hank thinks – but then he just nods.

“Sure,” Reed says, “boss.” Because of course he can’t fucking resist making a smart comment anyway, and he gives Hank that sneering grin that’s so familiar to top it all off. “Lemme grab my jacket.”

Hank rolls his eyes. “Take your goddamn time.”

“Can’t have people get disappointed by the lack of backtalk,” Reed snorts, shrugging his shoulders into his leather jacket.

Hank hands him a coffee and Reed grabs his phone, and then they’re on their way out. They don’t speak on the way to Hank’s car – Reed browses through his newsfeed, following along wordlessly, and Hank thrums with nervousness.

Once they close their doors, Hank finds Reed staring at him. His expression is serious; determined, even. Not a hint of mockery, grey eyes unusually sharp.

“You look like you’ve seen a goddamn ghost,” he says.

Hank swallows thickly, hand tightening around the steering wheel. “I think I might’ve,” he answers, voice low.

Reaches into his pocket and pulls out an envelope that he throws over to Reed. Because honestly, sometimes? Sometimes you want to leave a paper trail on purpose.

Reed huffs, pulling out the letter and crumpling the envelope in his fist. “What the fuck is this?” he half-laughs, shaking his head. “You gettin’ soft, old man?”

Hank’s turn to snort. “It was Connor’s idea.”

“That’s how deep this goes?” Reed asks, voice dropping a pitch as he stares down at the paper between his thumbs. Keeps smoothing over the perfect CyberLife Sans font in blue pen. “That you had to devise – ”

He catches himself in time, cleverly maneuvering one hand over his mouth before he speaks. “That you had to devise a fucking summer barbecue for your bullshit?” he mutters.

“Potluck barbecue,” Hank corrects, starting the car.

“Jesus christ,” Reed sighs, running a hand through his hair. “It says to bring my partner.”

Hank drives off and grins, shaking his hair out of his eyes. “Connor’s idea, too.” When Reed says nothing, Hank adds: “To leave it deliberately ambiguous.”

“Oh, shut the fuck up,” Reed mutters, stuffing the invitation into his pocket. “Alright. We’ll come. What the fuck are androids even supposed to eat at a barbecue?”

“No worries,” Hank says, sucking in his breath through his teeth as he turns his blinker on and makes a turn. “I think this case is meaty enough for all of us.”

 


 

There are things in Hank’s life now that he never expected ever would be. But that’s fine – he’s gotten better at dealing with them. Embracing things and people as they are without questioning them. Without doubt.

Rachel at his kitchen table, RK900 at his door to discuss the latest piece of old sci-fi he’s seen or read, Fowler calling him up for a drink after work. And Connor, of course, in all his goddamn glory – Connor lazing about in Hank’s bed, driving his car, on his front porch giving the door a new paint job.

Connor fucking everywhere, with the sweet promise of love and never-let-me-go.

Always manages to put a smile on Hank’s face, these days.

But RK900 in a chef’s apron in Hank’s backyard stoically grilling a steak while holding a cooking tong? That’s, well. Hank doesn’t really know what to think, except that it really takes the cake for things he’d never expected to see.

Add to that an exasperated Reed in shorts, waving around a spatula and complaining about the barbecue sauce.

And in one weird, brain-frying moment of reality, Hank thinks: jesus fucking christ, these are the people that are up against one of the FBI’s smartest, strongest agents, and I’m the idiot who brought them together.

It’s like the android revolution all over again when Hank felt just as out of depth as he feels right now – but back then he still had alcohol to dampen the impact. And back then it wasn’t… Well, someone he admired.

People he considered – still considers – friends.

A hand lands on his shoulder, giving the tense muscles there a squeeze. “Hank,” Connor says firmly, “you look like you’re processing a little too hard.”

He’s wearing one of Hank’s old shirts. It’s a little too big on him, but he looks comfortable and at ease. Despite the softness of the arch of his thumb as he rubs it along the side of Hank’s neck, his expression is a little stern.

Concerned, but stern.

Hank reaches up to touch his fingers. “Don’t fucking start,” he murmurs. “Been going overdrive these past few days.”

“You put a good team together,” Connor says. “We’ll discuss everything today after dinner and come up with a strategy.” The skin of his hand retracts. “You won’t have to do this alone.”

“I know,” Hank heaves on a sigh, sliding his hand down along Connor’s spine. Rests it in the small of his back. “That said, we put a good team together. Though don’t let Reed hear you say that.”

Connor makes a small noise, almost a snort. “I doubt he’d believe someone would call him a good cop, anyway.” His smile grows fonder. “Come on. Let’s eat before they start strangling each other over the main course, shall we?”

They eat in the backyard in the slow setting sun. Hank gets him and Reed some alcohol-free beer, and RK and Connor look on while they dig into the steak. Chicken skewers, too, and some fucking greens because Hank is trying to eat healthier.

Conversation flows relatively smoothly, but there’s still tension. Not because of the makeup of their little gathering – RK and Reed have settled into a comfortable routine that they seem to keep up even outside of work, and Hank knows all the people present well enough to hold a solid convo with all of them.

But it’s the promise of what comes after dinner that’s present in a prickly, tangible kind of way.

Hank can tell Reed is nervous by the way his legs keep shifting. RK looks even stonier than usual. The only one who seems oddly calm and in control is Connor – no tells, no ticks, nothing.

Jesus, if Hank wasn’t already so fucking in love with him, he’d fall for him all over again.

They go inside for dessert; clean up the mess together and load the plates into the dishwasher. Hank closes the backdoor, and Connor checks the windows. Draws the curtains while RK900 unsuspectingly sweeps the place for bugs.

Hank makes them all coffee.

Reed is first to speak, plonked down in the center of Hank’s couch while Sumo looks at him with big, sad eyes.

(Hank knows why: Reed is not petting Sumo and he’s placed in the prime petting spot. Sumo must be devastated.)

“So,” Reed says, “can you tell me what the fuck this is about, Lieutenant?” He tips his head back, leaning it against the backrest. “’Cause you’re making me feel like I should be lookin’ for shadows behind me on every corner of the street.”

Silence. Hank clears his throat.

“It’s like this, alright,” he starts, without really knowing how he wants to finish that sentence. “Last week, I met up with Amber. Wilders, the FBI psychiatrist.”

He waits for any looks of recognition – Reed just nods, and RK sits down onto the couch next to him and scratches Sumo behind the ears.

“We had a good conversation,” Hank continues, “and she – she said she was glad she could always be herself around me.” He chuckles wryly, shaking his head. “Whatever the fuck that was supposed to mean. Anyway, she walks up to the gate, pulls out this makeup bag, and she…” He gestures to his mouth.

Connor pulls up a photo of Alicia on a touchpad and hands it to Reed.

Hank sighs, sliding his hands into his pockets. “Remember?” he asks as Reed examines the picture. “She always used to wear this lipstick she made herself. I’ve never seen her put it on, but it was like – I don’t know. A cream, something pasty. She kept it in a small box.”

Reed looks up, raising an eyebrow. “You sayin’ Amber wore the same?”

“Yeah,” Hank croaks. “I’d recognize that color anywhere. You and I didn’t call Alicia ‘red’ for no reason.”

He frowns deeply, staring up at Hank. “So? You wanna say they’re the same person?” Reed leans forward, throwing the pad onto the coffee table. “No fucking way, you idiot. I’ve seen them together in one room. Heck, they’re so fucking different, it’s…” He trails off, gesturing towards his face with his hand.

“It’s true that they have a very different facial structure and body type,” Connor says. His eyes briefly flick to Hank. “We aren’t necessarily arguing that they’re the same person or that either one of them had surgery to adapt their appearance.”

“Perhaps Dr. Wilders was trying to show that she’s working together with Alicia Pavell in some capacity,” RK offers up, looking from Hank to Connor and back. “Was the motion issued as a threat?” he adds.

“Honestly?” Hank says. “I have no fucking idea. A person like Amber is just – fuck, kid.” He shakes his head. “All I know is she did it on purpose. She wouldn’t – she’s too smart not to.”

Reed nods slowly. “Right. And we’re here ‘cause…?”

“’Cause Fowler flipped his shit,” Hank says, straightening his back. “Remember?”

Reed’s eyes go wide, almost comically so. “Wait, what the fuck? That was what the fucking office battle was about?”

Connor nods slowly. “In part, yeah.”

“Deals are being made with criminals behind closed doors on classified information from both the FBI and the NSA,” Hank says in one big rush. “FBI suspects a leak in our department.”

He gives Reed a knowing look.

“Jesus,” Reed says. “They’re trying to pin it on Fowler?”

Connor nods, and finally moves to sit down in his favorite armchair. “Yeah, they are. Most of the criminals that were involved can be traced back to cases from the DPD.”

“Well, fuck,” Reed mutters.

“I put two and two together,” Hank says, “and realized the people we discovered in that drug gang – their presence might not have been a coincidence.” When he meets eyes with Reed, he can practically see the gears turning inside his head. “And if our first hunch was right and those people would lead to Alicia…”

Connor’s face grows a little more grim. “She could be involved in something bigger than we initially suspected.”

“As for Amber,” Hank continues, “she just proved she had a link to Alicia. With her FBI clearance, she has access to goddamn everything.”

“Henry Pavell’s main operation was located in the same area as the DPD,” Connor says, picking up where Hank left off, “and Alicia’s activities are centered around Detroit still.”

Reed pales a little behind the scruff on his cheeks. “Alright, fucking wait,” he says, both palms up, “you’re saying that there’s some big boy deals being done to achieve…” He looks at RK. “Do we even know what they’re trying to achieve?”

RK900 shrugs lightly but apparently opts to say nothing.

“Alright,” Re