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by my own hand, or none

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Hank Anderson had never expected to have shit pinned up on his fridge anymore.

When Cole was alive, he’d had a set of colorful alphabet magnets, used them to pin up anything even mildly important- kindergarten “worksheets”, crayon drawings, pictures. He’d thrown all of the magnets out at one point. pissed off and grieving.

So when he decided to put up the list, he just cursed under his breath and used some scotch tape that would last probably a week before it went ahead and peeled off. But he’s gotta keep this particular piece of paper where he can see it. Where they can both see it.

The paper read, in Hank’s messy, they made me learn cursive in elementary school and god damn you I’m using it badly scrawl-

STUFF CONNOR LIKES:

He considered it. This was the third breakdown in a week- well, for a human it would be a breakdown, Connor’s LED just went yellow-red-yellow and spun for entirely too long while he stood still with a miserable expression on his face- about preferences . Whether an android was “allowed” to like things, or about how could he even tell if he liked things, liking was a human emotion and that meant he was deviant and bad .

On the list of problems Hank had expected in his life, having custody of a robot with anxiety wasn’t one of them. But here they were, and Connor was becoming too much of a person to be okay with staying at the empty police station all night like an iPod on a charging port. Therefore, he lived at Hank’s, and Hank got a weird roommate that had breakdowns about minor things like “If I do the cleaning does that make me a glorified Roomba”, and “Am I allowed to like things”.

Connor was literally built to be able to think for himself, more than other androids were- it was an integral part of police work. The downside of that was, the Cyberlife fuckheads had decided to counter that with heavy programming against doing so outside of a mission. Hank wished he could get his hands on the idiot who made that particular decision. Yeah, let’s give the robot crushing guilt issues. Great idea.

Stewing in the kitchen, Hank heard an excited-Sumo noise from the living room, not quite a bark but a big-dog whumph .

“Yeah!” Connor sounded about as happy as he ever got. “There, yeah- like that. Now come back, Sumo.”

Hank smirked. Sumo liked chasing things- but he thought fetching was for chumps. Hank could throw his tug-of-war toy and Sumo would go for it, and then just... trot off to chew on it happily. This was clearly frustrating to Connor, whose encyclopedia of a brain apparently downloaded every media trope in existence and could only think “dogs = fetch”.

“No- Sumo, come. Come here, Sumo!” He was trying, Hank would give him that. That dumb baby-talk voice that humans did to talk to dogs wasn’t something Connor was programmed with, but his voice still went higher and more inviting when he tried to call Sumo to him.

There was a thump in the hallway, the noise of a big, fluffy dog laying down on the floor, content with his chew toy and oblivious to the idiot trying to call him back.

Smiling, Hank added their first item.

  • SUMO


  • COTTON CANDY ICE CREAM

The kid at the ice cream place- it was a tiny, family-owned store, too small to have an android staffing the counter, so they got to interact with a bored teenager instead- handed over a third tiny spoon.

Hank took the empty one out of Connor’s right hand, tossing it in the paper bag under the counter, and gave him the full one. His LED was spinning blue as he contemplated ice cream and the mysteries of the universe.

Androids didn’t need to eat things, but they had enough biological components that small amounts wouldn’t fuck them up, and their sensory systems were advanced enough to tell the difference between tastes. Connor, as a specialty model, had more of that sense than most, so Hank was conducting “experiments in sensory input”, as Connor called them.

Or, as Hank called it, “taking the android out for ice cream”. He didn’t feel the need to pussyfoot around it. Was it weird? Sure. Was it one of the few ways he actually wanted to spend his free time? Fuckin’ absolutely.

Connor was wearing a shirt that wasn’t his work uniform, a soft old T-shirt of Hank’s- he’d gotten it at Disney with Cole on one of their few vacations, with a graphic of Pinocchio on it and the words NO STRINGS . Hank thought it was hilarious that morning when Connor put it on, though he was wise enough to know if he said anything Connor would probably take it right back off. He probably didn’t even recognize the cartoon.

Jesus, it was almost a hundred years old. That made Hank feel fucking ancient.

Anyways, Connor’s LED was uncovered, so he was recognizably an android. And some people got... weird... about androids out of uniform, even with the tolerance movement making slow strides. So Hank loomed protectively over his friend, side-eyeing the kid when he stared for too long at the flashing blue light in Connor’s forehead.

Connor opened and closed his mouth, some sticky residue smudged around his lips. “Why,” he asked, “do none of these have the right chemical components? They’re superficially similar to fruit flavors, but not recognizable.”

The teenager made a derisive snorting noise, and Hank gave him his best Really ? eyebrow. “I dunno, kid. Human tongues don’t analyze chemical structures. It’s really more about smell than taste.”

Connor’s ring changed to yellow, spinning rapidly, and Hank leaned closer- was he okay?- but he blinked a few seconds later, back from his Google search. “The banana flavoring is based on a fruit that’s been extinct for a hundred years ! How does anyone think it tastes right?”

Hank rolled his eyes and suppressed a smile. He was pretty sure that it hadn’t been exactly a hundred years since that one kind of banana went extinct, but one of the tells that Connor was happy or excited was that he would knock it off with the precision in numbers and dates. Rounding up was an indicator that, bitching or not, he liked this. “It doesn’t have to be exact, dumbass. Just eat the ice cream.”

Sticking the tiny plastic spoon in his mouth, Connor narrowed his eyes. “This cannot be what cherries taste like.”

“Oh my god.”

Standing up on his toes, Connor looked over the counter at the flavor variety. “Can I try that blue one?” He asked the teenager. “Blue isn’t a color found in many fruits, so why are humans so obsessed with turning their food blue?” This one was directed at Hank, who shrugged.

The teenager made an exasperated noise. “Are you even gonna buy anything?”

“Hey, watch yourself!” Hank barked, making him jump. “Police business, move the fuck along.”

Connor smiled at the joke, nodding his thanks as he took the tiny spoon and the thimble-sized lump of bright blue ice cream.

“And you already tried that one, stupid robot.” The kid muttered rebelliously.

Connor looked up at Hank like he’d been caught red-handed, the spoon still sticking out of his mouth.

“Fuck did you just say, kid?” Hank squared his shoulders, walking up close, and the kid skittered back.

“Sorry!” He squeaked, voice cracking.

“You want me to call your mother?” Hank threatened. He’d met the owner of the store, once or twice, and figured he had enough pull to at least get this twerp grounded.

“Hank.” Connor said, soft. “Can we go?” He looked... sad, which was just a fuckin’ nightmare- it made Hank’s heart hurt.

He sighed, ready to nut up and make a strategic retreat, when he realized something wasn’t adding up. Connor usually refused to try something more than once- if it was “unnecessary”, he didn’t want to upset humans by consuming it.

Hank narrowed his eyes.   Oh, poor me, I’m a robot and I’m not letting myself ask for ice cream . Avoidant little shit. “Yeah, fine, I’ll bite. Two cones, one scoop of the cotton candy and one of the banana, and then we’re out of your hair.”

The kid was quiet, finally, while he scooped out the ice cream and rang up the sale. Connor looked at him funny when Hank handed him the single-scoop cone of bright blue ice cream, but let himself be hustled out the door and into the slowly-warming spring air.

They sat together on the hood of the car, licking the ice cream cones like five-year-olds, and Hank enjoyed the feeling of sun on his skin. Connor finished the small lump of ice cream, seeming puzzled about what to do with the cone until Hank took pity on him and confiscated it, biting into the cardboard-tasting stuff.

There were spots of blue around Connor’s mouth, and the whole drive home, Hank had to resist the urge to lick his finger and scrub them off, like he would have with Cole.

 

  • CSI: DETROIT

 

Hank was making scrambled eggs- he couldn’t really cook much, but eggs were how he’d fed himself in college and they were how he was feeding himself now- one lazy Saturday morning. The fans were going in all the windows, letting in the Detroit-smelling spring air that was still better than the cooped-up smell of winter, when he heard Connor yell.

Hank!

“One second,” he said back, a little annoyed. Couldn’t the kid let him eat breakfast at least? “Eggs’ll burn.”

Hank please come here! ” His voice was urgent, with a nervous tone- and knowing Connor, ‘nervous’ could mean anything from ‘there’s a spider on the floor’ to ‘I am actively dying’. Hank dropped the spatula and bolted for the living room.

What ?” He asked, spinning himself around the door jamb. He was really and truly too old for this.

Connor was sitting on the back of the couch- for some reason as his deviancy progressed, he’d developed an allergy to sitting right on the furniture- and pointing to the TV. There was one of those damn cop shows that Connor liked to watch, like he didn’t get enough of that nonsense during the week.

On the screen was a new character (because Hank had sat here watching this with Connor enough to recognize the characters, he was pretty sure it was rotting his brain) in a black shirt- no. A jacket, printed with the logo of that Cyberlife knockoff the show used because the company was trademarked, and emblazoned with SJ2000 .

“It’s me!” Connor said, excited and bewildered and still pointing. “They put me on TV!”

Shawn is a prototype android for the department’s use ,” said one of the detective characters as the actor smiled blandly. The CGI LED on his forehead blinked blue.

There were probably some complex thoughts about empathy and identification with media and representation that Hank could be having right now. Also probably some sentimental shit about how happy Connor looked to see “himself” on TV, like a “real” person. Hank remembered watching Will and Grace as a teenager, that feeling of seeing someone like him that wasn’t a crazy person or a sick pathos magnet.

At the moment, though, his eggs were gonna burn, so he trotted back to the kitchen, grumbling the whole way. Especially when he nearly tripped over Sumo, splayed out on the cool kitchen tile like the spring weather was personally assaulting him and his thick fur.

That afternoon, they watched the newest episodes, sitting together on the couch- for a given value of “together” with Connor sitting, in turns, on the floor, the armrest, and the back of the couch. The “Shawn” character was helpful and earnest enough, reminding Hank vaguely of how Connor had been in those first few days at the station. He probably wasn’t going to turn evil, and the other characters who interacted with him negatively got a clearly audience-directed lecture on how to treat sentient non-humans with respect.

Connor was riveted every time he was onscreen, loving the dumb camera tricks that showed how the android analyzed the crime scenes, gasping when the CGI LED on his forehead went yellow when a detective told him to clean up.

Hank had a low level of interest for everything on the show but the Captain of the team and her wife- even after so long, seeing gay people on TV was still pretty novel for a kid who’d clung to Willow and Tara in the 90s- but he got a kick out of watching Connor get all starry-eyed. It felt like progress.

 

  • MUSIC


As it turned out, Connor didn’t actually like heavy metal. Hank was not shocked. That first conversation of theirs had been so scripted and shat out, it was probably randomly generated by algorithm.

Not that he hadn’t given it the old college try. Hank would still find him occasionally, playing too-loud music through Hank’s old noise-cancelling headphones- it seemed like a weird thing he did, subjecting himself to something it was pretty plain to Hank he didn’t like, but hey. However he wanted to spend his free time. Maybe he couldn't even tell that he didn't like them.

He did, however, take recommendations. Hank showed him a lot of old jazz recordings- even, in a sentimental moment, one of his high school band concerts. (He’d worn a suit and tie for the first time and screwed up an inconvenient high note when Karson Reynolds winked at him. It was horribly embarrassing.) Connor liked Sinatra, and Benny Goodman. He even expressed a passing interest in swing dance, though he dropped it shyly the next day.

A few of the other cops gave him music. Officer Campbell, in the desk down the row, gave him some links to Celtic rock, which he was pretty ambivalent to; Detective Tophill was into old hair metal, which Connor seemed to like a little more than the heavy screamo.

Captain Fowler actually got an extra symphony ticket for him, after Connor found that classical music was up his alley. He came home raving about Holst’s The Planets, and would absolutely blast Jupiter: Bringer of Jollity some days. (Once, when Connor had gone too long without his internal diagnostic, he admitted to Hank that the song “made him feel like a person”, which made Hank so sad he almost couldn’t stand it.)

He liked the Queen albums that Hank put on when they cleaned the house together. Those were good days, reminding Hank of his mother- windows open, everything smelling like Windex and bleach, Queen blasting on the speakers. Connor had had several Emotions about being the only one doing the cleaning, but doing it together was nice. Hank took the dishes, and Connor was more efficient with the broom than Hank had ever been. (Roombas scared Sumo, so Hank cleaned the old-fashioned way, when he cleaned at all.)

There were some android bands making everything from synthpop to angry punk music, and Hank brought up the possibility of seeking them out a couple of times, but Connor usually declined. He wasn’t comfortable around other androids a lot, actually. Hank wasn’t gonna push it.

They even watched Pinocchio one evening, after Hank finally broke and told Connor why he found it so funny when Connor borrowed that shirt. (It wasn’t really borrowing anymore. Connor had just put it into his own drawer, and Hank liked seeing him wear it enough that he didn’t even make a smart-assed comment.)

Digging the box of kids’ movies out of the basement was... painful. It was full of other stuff, too, a few fine-motor toys, the feelings cards he’d used with Cole when he was frustrated with words. Some books and clothes that he’d been saving until Cole was older. He had a Moment, sitting on the cold basement floor, and then wiped the tears away and hauled the box up the stairs.

The movies went on the shelf, the toys set aside to be donated. The big cardboard painting- faded now, it used to be an Easter egg but the little-kid finger paint swirls were all smudged and cracked- was set aside, unsure if he wanted to put it on the wall or burn it.

As Connor put the movie on and skipped the previews- it was a fucking Blu-ray , even, showing exactly how ancient Hank was- he pulled out one last thing, a little box. Refrigerator magnets, huh. They weren’t the alphabet ones, those he’d thrown away. He vaguely remembered setting these aside until Cole- he winced as his heart clenched at the thought- learned to read. They were black-and-white printed words, for practice putting sentences together.

He set them aside. Connor’s list was starting to peel off the fridge, just like he’d predicted; they could use the magnets.

Hank sat on the couch, nursing a beer, watching the Blue Fairy and Geppetto and Jiminy Cricket while Connor lounged on the floor; it was weird, watching this without a little kid marveling at the magic. Cole had always run up to the screen to stroke the Blue Fairy’s face.

After about the fiftieth “ I wanna be a real boy !”, Connor’s LED blinked yellow, spinning. Hank watched him, wondering if he should turn the movie off or something. But Connor just turned around, looking through some of the box stuff instead of paying attention to the screen where the earnest little puppet thought being a “real” boy sounded like a great idea, instead of the serious inconvenience Connor seemed to be finding it.

During the scene with the whale- which Hank had never actually watched before, having to pause or skip it because it freaked Cole out- Connor took the magnets into the kitchen, and didn’t come back for about ten minutes. When he came back, the Blue Fairy was waving her magic wand to turn Pinocchio completely human; he watched the closing credits quietly, his mouth pressed into a thin line.

They went to bed in silence, both of them struggling with feelings the stupid 100-year-old movie had dredged up.

The next morning, Hank saw that the word magnets were scattered across the fridge, to and summer holding up the top two corners of Connor’s list. A few of them were poetically arranged; once i have to be or not  in one corner, when is it bad to want/ day s I talk I’m cold   carefully placed in two lines under the list. Connor had been busy.

The word magnets seemed to be rearranged whenever Connor had a feeling ; over the next week or so a few new little couplets were constructed and deconstructed. Hank liked it. At last, a reliable indicator of those emotions Connor insisted he didn't have.

When he would arrive at the office, sometimes he’d start whistling I’ve Got No Strings , too. That was awful cute.

 

  • BEING AN ASSHOLE TO GAVIN

 

Sometimes, Connor had days where he was just a little shit.

He’d tried it with Hank plenty- saying no when Hank asked him to do something, or misinterpreting what Hank wanted him to do. At first, they’d fought about it, but frankly being disobeyed or mouthed off to made Hank feel much better about his robot friend. Connor could be creepy when he was too obedient. Hank needed a little pushback so that he didn’t feel like a heel, ordering Connor around all day.

So yeah, some days, Hank said “ do the fucking dishes ”, and Connor got that little twist in his face and said “ make me ”, and they argued until the argument petered out, after which Connor seemed to feel better. Hank understood it as much as he ever would.

Still, they could be hard days. Especially the ones when flat-out refusal was apparently too hard, and Connor just evaded or misconstrued all his instructions, usually messing up some of their work and making himself anxious into the bargain.

What was unexpected, though, was when he took it out of the house.

So one of those days that Connor was being a dick about something and the argument made them late for work, they walked in a half-hour after clock-in time and Gavin, stellar example of the human race that he was, decided to be a dickhead.

“Get a little too busy with the blowjob this morning?” Gavin asked as they walked past his desk, Connor following Hank by three paces and visibly sulking.

“Fuck you.” Connor said casually, and Hank stopped, a huge bark of laughter escaping him. Connor swore, sure. They argued, sure. But he was pretty sure this was the first time Connor had ever told someone else to go fuck themselves, and frankly, Hank was ready to throw him a fucking party.

Connor crashed into his back, not expecting him to stop dead in the middle of the bullpen. On most sides they were surrounded by laughter, some scattered applause. The department had slowly gotten more and more fed up with Gavin’s behavior towards Connor, who was always nice and polite and brought good coffee for the break room. (Coffee was the real way into any cop’s heart, and Connor took advantage of that to ingratiate himself.) Hank had heard more than one opinion that “his” android should just stand up for himself, already, because nobody would think less of him for it.

(He’d been almost offended at everyone referring to Connor as “ his ” android- right up until he’d overheard a conversation and realized that when they talked to Connor, Hank was referred to as “ your human ”. That one warmed his heart and cooled the urge to knock some heads together.)

“Hank!” Connor said, startled, as he walked into the broad wall of Hank’s back. He staggered back, and seemed to notice the laughter happening around him. Someone yelled “ hey, you tell him!” , and Connor’s eyes got all wide as a tiny, shy smile twisted his mouth.

Gavin, for his part, looked like he’d been goosed. Hank turned, laughing pointedly, and grinned a big asshole grin at him before he went on his way.

From then on, the assholery didn’t stop, exactly, but Gavin toned it down and it was less vicious. Knowing that the android bit back, with the support of the department behind him, seemed to settle the local dickhead down. And in contrast, Connor’s own dickery concentrated a bit- there was less bullshit at home when Connor knew he had a pass (within reason) to bitch out Gavin at work.

Hank was reminded of some of the things he’d read about teenagers. Boundary-testing. Rule-breaking. It was interesting, even if it took three requests and some mild yelling to get Connor to fold the laundry.

 

  • HUGS

 

Sometimes, Hank really regretted starting to care about android rights and shit.

They got most of the android cases. The laws were slowly changing- legislation was going through that made causing serious harm to an android a legal issue, instead of a warranty one. Connor, extremely efficient as ever, was the official department liaison to an android shelter or two around the city. Just like the domestic shelters, their locations were secret- and Connor had the dubious honor of being the only one on the force allowed to know their addresses.

However, the justice system didn’t have much precedent for the cases, and juries weren’t eager to convict someone of android abuse when almost all of them had androids at home.

It meant when they did get an abuse case, the victim usually had doubts about pressing charges. It meant the perpetrator usually walked right back out the door. It meant even when they did all the work, put in all the time, gathered all the evidence- the perp would still walk. They hadn’t even made any charges stick yet.

Hank figured it probably drove Connor insane. The transition was slow as he went from a mindset of a deviant-hunter to a deviant android himself, but he seemed to be accepting himself as one of them , even if an uncommonly privileged one.

Hank had worked a few gay-bashing cases in his time. They always hit hard. Even knowing Connor was the only one capable of doing this job... He wanted to put them both in for a transfer. Or possibly a long vacation.

This guy was garden-variety scum- owned a YK700 and used her as a punching bag. The android was in the shelter, Connor having ushered her there as soon as they finished their interview. There wasn’t even really anything noticeable about this particular dickhead.

Which was why it was such a surprise that Connor had the reaction he did.

Connor’s LED often went yellow in the interrogation room. It was a delicate situation and processing it was a good thing. It was yellow as he asked “ What exactly prompted you to hit her with the chair?

The perp shrugged. “ I don’t know, man. Something about her face. She just wasn’t reacting right. Glitching out. It’s not like she’s a real person .”

Connor sat very still, his yellow LED spinning and spinning. Hank, behind the one-way glass, glanced at the clock.

In a split second, Connor’s LED was a deep red, and he was across the whole fucking table in one leap.

Shouting, Hank sped out the door and around, into the interrogation room. Connor hadn’t done any damage yet, but he was holding the perp against the wall, hands fisted in the guy’s grubby T-shirt.

Hank grabbed hold of Connor’s arms, pulling him back, heedless of the danger. Androids weighed pretty much the same as a human of the same size, and Connor was a small guy, but he fought and squirmed in the hold, eerily silent. The perp crashed to the ground, looking shell-shocked as Hank dragged Connor out of the room.

Three cops rushed past them and into the interrogation room. Hank ignored their dirty looks as he dropped Connor and got his back to the wall. He was doing that stutter-static moving thing that androids did when they were stressed, the humanoid fluidity of his movements failing as he freaked right the fuck out.

“Hey!” Hank said, firm. He pressed Connor’s shoulders to the wall, letting him feel the cold solidity at his back. “It’s okay. You’re okay. What the fuck was that?”

“You-” Connor shook his head, his LED bright yellow, still twitchy. “You humans- you don’t understand...”

Staying very still, Hank felt his own hurt and offense as Connor spat the word human like it was something other , and put it the fuck away. He could still remember the only really bad fight he’d had with Jeff when they were partners, coming off a bashing case- you fucking straight people don’t get it , he’d snarled, and Jeff fucking yelled at him like an asshole . They’d settled it, barely. He wasn’t gonna do that to Connor, not right now.

“You don't...” Connor was breathing hard, almost overheating with the stress, his LED flashing yellow-red-yellow like a warning sign. “Y-you all go on about empathy like it’s some thing that only humans have and then you- you look us in the face when we look just like you, and you do this , and where’s your empathy? Who are you to say we don't have it when you can't even resist the urge to beat us with chairs for-  for what? For being glitchy ?” Burying his face in his hands, he sagged against the wall. The yellow of the LED pulsed, reflecting on his fingers.

Maybe it was a bad instinct, but Hank kept a tight hold on his shoulders, hurting for him. This was probably the first time in Hank’s hearing that Connor has used us and we to refer to androids, beaten and abused ones especially. It was a category he didn't seem eager to put himself in.

Hank just stayed, wondering if more words were going to bubble up out of Connor’s misery. He’d listen. Right now, being listened to was gonna be a lot better for Connor than getting an answer.

If he had an answer to give, which he didn't. All he had was bottomless sorrow for a dumb boy who wanted to scream why do they hate us so much ? at the sky, Connor bleeding into memories of his teenaged self.

That yellow ring had been spinning for an awfully long time; Hank wondered if Connor was okay in there. On the scale of “deviant android thoughts”, being afraid of death was probably a 1; contemplating the nature of evil and prejudice was more like a 27. That had to be tough for someone whose programmed terror of deviancy was still fucking him up.

“Connor?” He said. “You okay? I’m not mad at you. Frankly, as far as I’m concerned, you should've gotten a hit in.”

Under Hank’s hands, Connor’s shoulders stuttered. On a human, he’d suspect a sob, but androids couldn’t cry (which, Hank knew from experience, was hell when you were feeling this miserable), so it was probably a laugh.

They just stayed there, still. Connor’s LED stayed yellow, but blinked blue every once in a while; Hank even caught his eyes peeking through his fingers once or twice, as though he were making sure Hank was still there.

He resisted the urge to fill the silence. Empathy, as far as he understood it, was different from compassion, and different from actually doing nice shit for other people. All the technical definition of empathy was, was the ability to see someone else and put yourself in their shoes, feeling what they were feeling. Not having that understanding, or not having much of it, didn’t stop someone from being a kind or good person.

Hank had done his research before adopting an autistic kid. He could talk the philosophical talk.

But philosophy wasn’t going to help Connor, not when he was still agonizing over the pain of people like him getting the shit kicked out of them for no reason. Defining what a word meant was small peanuts compared to “why does evil exist”.

The LED was starting to blink back to blue a little more frequently, but spinning an awful lot. Connor was still too quiet.

“You okay?” Hank tried.

Another little shoulder movement as Connor snorted. He shook his head.

“You.... wanna be alone?” He did feel a little unnecessary, standing around in the hallway when he could be helping process the sonuvabitch in the other room. (Process him down a flight of stairs, possibly.)

The LED flashed back to yellow. Connor shook his head.

Hank’s heart clenched up at that. There were times Connor looked like fucking superhero, almost terrifying in the things he could do. Others, when Connor seemed like the biggest pain in the ass Hank had ever had the misfortune of encountering.

But sometimes, he looked an awful lot like a scared rookie, a kid just figuring the world out.

“Oh, kid.” Hank pulled forward, wrapping Connor up in his arms. “I’m sorry.”



About two months and six items on the list later- LOUD BRASS INSTRUMENTS after Fowler lent him some old marching band recordings, THAT INDIAN PLACE ON 9TH after he freaked out the staff with his excitement over the chemical makeups of their sauces- Hank came into the kitchen one morning to find Connor making breakfast.

Which was downright suspicious. He didn’t need to eat, so unless he was trying to burn their house down, he had no business being in front of that stove.

Hank made a grumbling noise that probably encompassed all that information- 8AM was not a good time to be a human- and stood in front of the table, feeling like something was off. The coffee maker dinged at him, and he walked over on reflex, grabbing the cup that he hadn’t set that was full of the coffee he hadn’t filled the thing with.

Narrowing his eyes, he sipped at the coffee. Connor was wearing pajama pants and a giant sweatshirt Jeff had left at Hank’s one time when they were partners, a big black hoodie with COLTS (FOUNDED 1963) printed in red fabric paint that was flaking off. He loved the thing; Hank could tell where in the house Connor had gone during the night by following the trail of red flakes.

Connor was making faces at the eggs in the pan as he shoved them around inexpertly, and it was somehow reassuring to know he wasn’t actually perfect at everything. On the cutting board were some chopped-up chives from the herb garden that Connor had spent most of his spring weekends constructing in their tiny backyard.

One of the tablets resting on the table showed the time and date. It was exactly six months to the day, Hank realized with a jolt, since they’d met. Since this plastic asshole walked into his bar, interrupted his drinking, and turned his life around. He kept quiet about the realization, drinking the coffee- made exactly how he preferred it, Connor might not know how he made food but he sure had enough experience with his coffee habits- and squinting at his android. His friend.

“Fuck you doing making breakfast?” He growled, sounding gruffer than he was. Mostly, he wondered if Connor was actively observing the anniversary- or rather, if he’d own up to it, instead of making up some lame beep beep I am a robot who doesn't have feelings excuse.

“Because,” Connor said, pausing his stirring, “I... Because I want to.”

He said it with a note of brave defiance, as if he was daring his programming to make him feel bad about it.

Hank stared at Connor’s turned back, feeling proud. It wasn't so long ago that Connor would dig his heels in when Hank asked if he wanted something, responding with some “ I only want to accomplish my directives” shit that pissed Hank off until he realized how pitiful it really was. Connor had fought so hard against just... doing what he wanted. To Hank at least, this felt like a victory.

Still catching something niggling at the back of his brain, he looked around the kitchen some more. There was the table, still chipped and cracked. A few tablets loaded with enough datawork to keep Connor happy until kingdom come. Connor grabbing a plate out of the cupboard- he’d been appalled at the state of Hank’s cupboards when he’d first moved in, and put an organizational system into place that Hank did his best to ruin at every opportunity.

The fridge, still covered in word magnets. Hank had actually bought a second set, more words for Connor to put his abstract feelings into. Today’s poem was:

today is for
walk ing
talk ing
beautiful
summer

I am live ing

I am be ing

 

The list, now pinned up with the words old and tomorrow - Connor shuffled them when he needed one of the in-use magnet words for his poetry- read, in Hank’s horrible all-capitals scrawl:

  • SUMO
  • COTTON CANDY ICE CREAM
  • CSI: DETROIT
  • MUSIC
  • BEING AN ASSHOLE TO GAVIN
  • HUGS
  • SWIMMING
  • LOUD BRASS INSTRUMENTS
  • THAT INDIAN PLACE ON 9TH ST
  • GARDENING
  • SMELL OF BACON GREASE
  • SUNRISES ON THE ROOF (STOP THAT OR YOU’LL BREAK YOUR NECK)

And now, suddenly, a new bottom bulletin, printed in perfect Cyberlife Sans font:

  • HANK

Staring at the list, at all the progress they’d gone ahead and made, Hank’s heart throbbed with pain and joy. Six months. Six months and this robot-turned-real-boy was the most important person in his life.

“Anyways. Good morning-” Connor started as he set the plate down on the table. Luckily, the ceramic was out of his hands when Hank tackled him in a near-bone-crushing hug. “ Ooof !”

Hank tried to put a lot of things into that hug that neither of their emotionally-constipated asses would ever be able to say, including about a hundred I love you s.

“Morning.” He said, his voice rough. Connor’s arms came up around his back, holding him tight, and he hoped they got a million more mornings, just like fuckin’ this.