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Quiet on Set Please

Chapter Text

     You were the owner of one of three flower shops left in Detroit since the extinction of honey bees.


     You had been pretty well off before. Lucky enough to have been able to afford a place in a relatively nice part of town, you made a nice and comfortable living for yourself.


     When the bees were gone, flowers themselves became a bit more complicated. The process of pollinating flowers had to become mechanical. When you couldn’t afford a contract with the company you had been using, you started using paint brushes to transfer pollen from male flowers to female plants in the garden on top of your apartment complex. It took you hours and hours, and didn’t leave you time for anything else. Needless to say, it wasn’t very sustainable.


     Nearing the end of your rope, you were on the verge of closing down the shop just to keep yourself afloat. Then, one night you found a large envelope outside your door. On the outside were your initials. You quickly brought it inside and turned on the overhead light of the shop. The envelope itself didn’t look suspicious or dangerous, but you still wanted to be cautious. You grabbed a pair of long shears, then set the envelope on the checkout counter near the back. Stepping as far away as you could but still be able to reach it with the shears, you carefully snipped on the corner.


     Satisfied it didn’t immediately explode, you step closer, setting down the shears to the side and picking up the envelope. It surprised you how light it was, almost as if it didn’t have anything in it at all. The flash of white you saw when the corner shifted told you that was incorrect. Ripping it the rest of the way open, you shook two pieces of paper out. The first was an index card with perfect print on it.


     Owner of the Magnolia,


     Your shop means a lot to me. I hope this helps.




     The second piece of paper was a check. A big check.


     “What,” you whisper to yourself, alone in the night. That check had a lot of zeros. Enough to pay your rent for months, enough to buy your entire inventory who knows how many times over, enough to… Save the shop.


     With the amount of money this check allowed you, you would be able to afford a 5 year long contract with the flower delivery service you had used before bees went extinct. You could save your business!


     But you had no idea who this C.M. was, where their money came from or why they were giving it to you. Half of you begged to just rip the thing to shreds and not worry about that money ever again. The other half of you knew better. While you figured there was no way that this money could come with no strings attached, you simply had to take the chance. This was your livelihood and the universe was giving you a second chance to keep it alive.


     You deposited the check the next morning.



     You had a real bad habit of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.


     It started in elementary school. You noticed around 5th grade that every single year, whoever your best friend happened to be, they would suddenly move away before the year was over. It often left you spending your summers alone and starting your school years afraid.


     In high school, other people started to notice your bad luck. It seemed every huge party you got invited to got crashed by either parents or the police. Every friend group you found yourself in seemed to dissolve into chaos before the year was over. And you always were at the center of it all.


     The bad experiences made you a loner in college. You kept to yourself and your studies, not wanting to get hurt or hurt anyone else again. You managed to get through your Associate’s Degree without a fault until you got a call about your aunt. She was sick, dying even, and had no children to take care of her. She had called upon you to help her in this dire time. After some arguing of why she wouldn’t just buy an android, you dropped out of school to care for her full time. That lasted about a year.


     When she died, everything she had became yours, including the Magnolia Flower Shop your aunt had spent her life creating. With nothing to do and nowhere to go, you threw your life into the shop. You made it your own and it turned into the best thing you ever did for yourself, and you would always be thankful to her for giving you that.


     Your bad luck didn’t cease completely, often manifesting itself into clumsiness. Stubbing your toe here and there, dropping a vase full of flowers every once in awhile. But you had your good days and you could manage the bad ones.


     Today was not one of the good days.


     The morning had been relatively slow for a Friday, leaving you plenty of time to sip on your coffee and work on the arrangements you needed done by Monday for a wedding. The bride had requested arrangements to feature the color purple, so you had an order coming in with lavender, catmint, and lilac candytuft around noon.


     A customer had just left when a man popped his head in the door. “Delivery for the Magnolia?”


     “Yes,” you replied in a soft voice, locking down the checkout counter and coming around to meet him out front. He opened up the back of the truck, starting to hand you containers of the specialty flowers you had ordered, along with several containers of the basics you needed to restock. You stacked them all next to you, checking over your receipt to make sure you had everything you had ordered before beginning to take them inside. You thanked him and he nodded at you, sliding the back closed and turning back to the drivers side. You noticed the blue circle on his temple as you grabbed the first packet of flowers and moved to take them inside. You absently wondered why he hadn’t removed it like most androids after the revolution.


     When you bent down to pick up the last packet, the one containing the catmint you had ordered, you stopped there on the sidewalk to admire it. It felt as though they were fresh picked this morning and you took a moment to take a sniff, closing your eyes and enjoying the light smell it offered you.


     You were so lost to it, you didn’t hear a far off yell of warning.


     Suddenly, you were hit by what felt like a brick wall. It knocked the wind out of you immediately, the force of it tossing the flowers out of your hands. And just like that the brick wall was a person and completely on top of you on the concrete. Your head spun and ached, your vision blurring for a moment. The person scrambled to get off of you and continue running. You laid there for a moment, just trying to collect what had happened when another face appeared above you.


     “Sorry about that.” Your eyes focused on the brown eyes in front of you before moving to the yellow ring on his temple. You felt a hand behind your back and another on your arm, pulling you upright. “You really should be more observant,” the android looked worried for a moment then seemed to remember himself. “Sorry again,” and then he took off running after the brick wall.


     Your catmint was stomped into the sidewalk, your head was still spinning, and you just wanted to know why bad things always seemed to happen to you.

Chapter Text

     With the sun going down and with you not having seen anyone for over an hour, you decided to close up the shop an hour early. You were trampled today and you deserved an extra hour to sit on your couch and recover.


     Only a few things stood between you and leaving, so you made quick work of checking the misting system and dealing with the cash register. You were almost finished counting when you heard the soft chime of the door. “I’m sorry, we’re closed early today.” You said in your token soft voice without looking up.


     “I’m sorry, I’ll come back.” The voice was familiar enough that you looked up, meeting his eyes for a moment as he retreated back for the door.


     “Wait,” your voice returned to a normal volume for the first time since this morning. “You’re the guy who helped me up today.”


     His head tilted to the side as he turned back toward you. “Yes, that’s what I did,” he said as if trying to comprehend it himself. You noticed.


     “Why? Why were you chasing that guy?” Your aching head remembered the figure in plaid struggling to get off of you and then continuing to run like his life depended on it.


     “I’m a police detective,” he explained while straightening his tie, his head lifting slightly in pride, “he was a fugitive I was attempting to arrest.”


     “Did you get him?”


     “No, he managed to get away,” his head lowered again, hands coming together in front of him like he was worried about something. You noticed.


     “That’s a shame,” you replied, your voice going soft again as you looked back down at the work you had been doing previously. There was a moment of tense silence as you organized the envelopes of money and rubber banded them together. You looked back at him and saw his eyes looking out over the shop, a slight frown on his face. “Was there something else you needed?”


     It seemed to startle him that you spoke again, his hands coming apart and dropping to his sides before meeting again behind his back, a position that seemed to make him look more calm and collected than before. “Yes,” his eyes trained on you. “I wanted to apologize once again and inquire as to whether you had been injured when you fell. I tried to warn you to move, but it didn’t seem as though you heard me,” his gaze flicked to the ground for a moment before coming back to you. His manner of speaking confused you a bit, but you decided not to dwell on it.


     “Just a bit of pain from hitting my head, nothing major. Thanks for asking.” You pulled yourself up to sit on the counter facing him, your hands resting in your lap.


     “I also wanted to apologize for my comment on your observational skills. Upon reflection, I’ve realized it may have been insensitive.”


     “Don’t worry about it,” you looked down at your hands in embarrassment. “I probably could stand to be more observant of what is going on around me.” You looked up at him slightly; he seemed relieved at your answer as his eyes left you again to look over the shop. You studied him for a moment, absently spinning the ring on your left thumb. Remembering yourself, you hopped off the counter. “Well I really have to close up, the misters will be turning on soon and we don’t want to be here when that happens,” you gave a half hearted laugh, untying your apron and lifting it over your head as you rounded the counter again.


     “Oh! Of course... I’ll leave you to that.” You could hear his dress shoes on the floor shuffle for a moment before turning toward the door.


     You turned to the side, watching him take long strides away and then pull the door open before you spoke. “Wait.”


     He turned back toward you, his hand still holding the door open and letting in the cool night air. “Yes?”


     “What’s your name?”


     A small smile graced his face. “Connor. And yours?”




     “Well, Y/N. It was a pleasure to meet you.” He turned back and made his way out into the dark, the smile never leaving his face. You noticed.



     The next morning was a rough one. Your head still pounded from it’s pounding yesterday and getting up to open the shop at 10 felt like some kind of weird torture. The only thing that got you up was knowing you had three arrangements scheduled to be picked up today, and just not showing up for those is bad for business. The back of your head didn’t particularly care about business, but you got up anyway.


     Looking nice was low on your priority list as you grabbed the bottle of ibuprofen out of its drawer in your kitchen. Number one on the list being clothes that weren’t your pajamas and number two being a cup of coffee. You decided to forego a shower, breaking out the dry shampoo instead. Your outfit ended up being a tshirt and jeans and a pair of patterned socks, meeting yourself in the mirror as you did anything to get your hair out of your face. Looking “put together” enough, you filled up your to-go cup and made your way out into the brisk morning.


     Your first arrangement was set to be picked up at 10:30am, a repeat customer who came in every weekend. You were excited to see him and catch up, as you hadn’t been able to last weekend. Something about some big meeting with important people had him out of town. You had only just turned on the lights and put on your apron when he arrived.


     “Markus.” Your voice was quiet but warm, smiling just at the sight of him.


     “Good morning,” he replied, his voice the same volume as yours, just as always. “How are you?”


     You sighed, leaning on the counter facing him. “I’m okay. Had a bit of a tumble yesterday that I’m still recovering from.” His face changed to one of concern but you waved him off. “I’m alright now, I promise. How was that big meeting thing you had to do?”


     It was his turn to sigh as he leaned against the other side of the counter, one elbow propped on it. “You know how D.C. is. All talk but nothing ever seems to get done…” He wistfully looked over the shop and out the window, the morning sun shining in almost blindingly.


     You laughed to yourself. “It’s hard being Android Jesus.”


     He groaned, “you know I hate it when people call me that.” The smile pulling at his lips betrayed him. “Just give me the flowers already.”


     “Sure thing,” you spun on your heel, reaching for the clear vase behind you. “I went with a yellow and red theme this time, focusing around the two sunflowers you asked for over text.” You carefully set it on the counter, watching his face as he took it in.


     “Beautiful, as always. I’m sure Carl will love them.” His face turned sad for a moment, pushing the vase off to the side to focus on you again.


     “How is he doing, Markus?”


     His eyes settled on his hands, making them into fists on the counter. “He wishes he could get out of bed more than he is.” His voice dropped to a whisper. “The doctor’s say its not long now.”


     You rested your hand on top of his, his fist releasing. “I’m so sorry to hear that. I know how much he means to you.”


     His head rose, tears in the corner of his eyes. “He meant a lot to your aunt too. I’m sorry you haven’t been able to meet him.”


     “Me too,” you squeezed his hand. “Maybe soon?” He nodded, the back of his other hand coming up to rub against his eyes. You let go, coming around the counter and holding your arms out in an offering. He accepted it gratefully, wrapping his arms around you and squeezing. You gave him a light kiss on the cheek, squeezing back gently before stepping away.


     “I like your socks by the way,” he said, now trying to stifle a giggle.


     You narrowed your eyes at him. “Thanks, I like them too.” You both started laugh as you made your way back behind the counter. “Now pay me and get out of here.”


     “As you wish,” he pulled a card out of his pocket and handed it to you, watching carefully as you swiped it through your cash register. “I hope you’re not overcharging me,” he teased.


     “Oh you know me,” you replied mockingly, “stealing from my customers to buy myself awesome socks.” You handed him back his card.


     “Knew it.” He grinned, putting the card away and then pulling the vase towards him. “Thanks.”


     “Be careful with them,” you replied, smile bright. He nodded and lifted it off the counter with ease, making his way back through the aisle and out into the golden morning.

Chapter Text

     Through your time at the Magnolia, you noticed Mondays were the most popular days for funerals.


     Your most complex orders always came from people who were grieving. They always wanted very specific flowers in specific colors because of very in depth meanings and often needed them in a very short span of time. You had more than once had to venture out to the farm yourself to grab supplies because waiting on your weekly delivery wasn’t enough. You wanted to do your best for these people, even if it meant driving far out of the city on your lunch break to get the specific flower they needed. Anything to make them feel more at peace.


     You had multiple pickups today from people dressed all in black, sad eyes and tired smiles. You greeted them all softly and wished them luck on the day ahead because you knew they needed it. Most of the time they would just thank you and be on their way, but today you had a few strange occurances.


     Two had simply ignored you, paying without a word and making their way out into the world. One had broken down crying as soon as you spoke, and you had struggled to comfort the total stranger. One just looked like a shell of a person, a thousand yard stare and speaking only in whispers.


     It left you drained of almost all of your energy when it came time to close up. You were about to lock the door from the dark, cold outside world when you felt it pushing back against you. You took three steps back, watching the shadow turn to person.


     “Connor?” You asked in disbelief, finding yourself looking up at him. You didn’t remember him being this tall.


     “Hello,” he replied, shutting the door carefully behind him with a smile.


     “It’s been a while,” you returned his smile, folding your arms behind your back as you suddenly found it very hard to make eye contact with him.


     “About a month, I suppose.” He stepped to the side suddenly, taking small steps through the second row of flowers you had on display. You watched him as he examined them, seeming to spend the same amount of time looking at each type of flower.


     You made your way back behind your counter, back to safety. “Is there something I can help you with?”


     His eyes met yours and you felt the urge to look away again but resisted. There was just something about the way he was looking at you that felt… intense.


     “Actually yes. I am in need of some flowers,” he lifted a daisy out of it’s sorted container and twirled it in between his fingers, “but first, may I ask you a question?” You nodded, your fingertips beginning to tap lightly on the table top to soothe a restlessness you felt coming on. “What is the purpose of the sign you have beside the door?”


     You looked over to the wooden sign that leaned against the glass, painted in a script it read “Quiet on Set.” You momentarily reflected on finding the sign in your aunt’s attic shortly after she died, some memory of her time in theatre in high school.


     “It’s to remind people to keep their voices down when they come inside. This is a place of peace,” you laced your fingers together and pressed your palms down onto the counter, lifting up onto your toes for a moment before rolling back down onto your heels. He nodded thoughtfully, eyes still on the sign. You bit your lip, feeling awkward. “So what do you need the flowers for?”


     He considered it for a moment, as if he didn’t already know the answer. You felt your eyebrows meet in the middle of your forehead in confusion. “I’ve heard that flowers are a good way to liven up a space,” he explained as he continued to twirl the stem of the daisy, “I wanted to see if that was true.”


     Your look of confusion endured for another moment before falling. “I guess that’s as good a reason as any.” Your fingers tapped one last string on the counter before pulling out a notepad and pen. “Did you have anything in particular in mind? Any specific type of flower or color?”


     He continued staring at the daisy for a moment, the LED on his temple spinning in yellow. You wondered why.


     “Well, I like this one.” He held up the flower in his hand a moment, a smile coming to his face.


     You felt yourself smile too. “Ok, daisies, got it.” You scribbled it down on your notepad. “Anything else?”


     “What types of blue flowers do you have?”


     “Lots! I have blue hydrangeas, blue dandelions, clematis, aster, blue hibiscus…” You pointed to the general area of the store each resided before trailing off. He seemed suddenly overwhelmed at the choices, looking down at the daisy before returning his eyes to you like he was lost. You looked at each other for a moment, the silence of the shop becoming overwhelming. “You know… I think I have the flower just for you.”


     He seemed surprised. “A flower for me?” You nodded, a grin on your face as you came out from behind the counter and moved to where he stood. He watched your movements like a hawk in a way that should have made you uncomfortable. But, surprisingly, it didn’t.


     As soon as you came face to face, your grin never fading, you reached for a container just next to him. “Morning glory.” You said quietly, plucking one of them from the container and pulling it towards you. One of your favorites, you admired the yellow center that extended into white and then extended further into a rich dark blue. You looked up at him and saw something amazing.


     He was looking at the flower in your hands in absolute awe . Like it was the most wonderful thing he had ever seen. His lips parted slightly and his eyes a bit wider than normal. It had to be one of the most adorable things.


     “It’s beautiful,” he replied just as soft, gently taking the flower in his open hand to bring it closer to his face.


     “It’s actually supposed to symbolize love. But I just think it’s pretty. It’s one of my favorites.” His look of wonder continued as you spoke, his eyes meeting yours for a moment before returning to the flower. You suddenly became aware of how close you two were and felt yourself flush, quickly turning on your heel and putting as much distance between you as possible. “The only problem is the blossoms only last a day.”


     You mumbled something under your breath as you rounded the counter once again. “What?” He looked up at you almost immediately. You forgot he must have sensitive hearing as an android.


     “Nothing!” You tried to sound cheerful. He raised one eyebrow and watched you for a moment before returning to the petals in his hands. “So I guess you want to feature that one too?” He nodded enthusiastically, finally making his way to the counter. He set both flowers down gently, as if moving too fast would rip them to shreds. You almost laughed, but decided not to save him the embarrassment. “Let me put something together.”


     You grabbed one of your premade paper flower holders, taking the two flowers on the counter and setting them inside before moving to grab a few more of each. Then you went to work finding complimentary flowers, mostly in white, but a few in yellow to accent the yellow center of both the morning glories and the daisies. It was second nature to you by now and immediately put you at ease.


     You didn’t see Connor watching you with a smile as you practically danced through the shop.


     Throwing in one last datura for good measure, you raised the bouquet to the light in joy. When you turned back to Connor, you found a vision. Leaned back against one of the displays with his ankles crossed, arms folded over his chest, a smile on his face that you couldn’t quite describe. He looked more at ease than you had ever seen him.


     Setting the bouquet down on the display in front of you, you leaned toward him with your hands on the table. “Can I ask you a question? Well, two really but-”


     “It’s only fair,” he cut you off, his head tilting to the side again. “I got to ask you one.”


     “Ok,” you said, exhaling for a moment. You decided to go with the easier one first. “Why do you still wear the clothes from when you were an android?”


     “Just feels more comfortable, I think,” he replied without even stopping to think. “Plus it looks professional, and I think I look quite good in it.” He uncrossed his arms to pull the lapels straighter, moving to prop his hands on the table to either side of him. “Next question?” He smiled, satisfied with that answer.


     You took a deep breath, feeling your face get hot just thinking about asking. You were afraid of the answer. “Why are you really here, Connor?”


     This time he took a minute to think about it. Which gave you a minute to stew in your nervousness. You weren’t sure what you wanted him to say, or what you didn't want him to say. But you had a bad feeling that you weren’t going to like his answer.


     “Honestly? I’m not quite sure.” You gave him a look and he shrugged. “It was a long day at work. I had a lot on my mind. I decided to go for a walk,” he folded his arms over his chest again, looking defensive. “I wasn’t paying attention to where I was going, I just wanted to think. I ended up on this street. I saw you were about to close up and thought I would stop in.”


     You released a breath you hadn’t realized you were holding. Out of all the answers he could’ve given you, you supposed that was one of the best. “Well,” you stepped out around the display and moved to stand in front of him in the narrow aisle. You held out the bouquet, which he hesitantly took. “I’m sorry you had a long day. I hope these help.” You watched another soft smile grow on his face, looking down at the flowers in his hands like they were a newborn child.


     Quiet as you could, you stepped away and made your way back to the counter. Checking the time and seeing it was half an hour past when you were supposed to close, you realized the misters would be turning on. “I suppose those misters will be turning on soon,” he said, as if reading your mind. “How much do I owe you?”


     You looked him up and down for a moment, seeing the way he still casually leaned against the table and the smile that hadn’t left his face since you had given him the flowers. “Don’t worry about it,” you replied, locking up the cash register to count tomorrow morning.


     He looked at you surprised. “Are you sure? These are a lot of flowers to just not pay for.”


     “Most of them were going to be too old to sell by tomorrow anyway,” you explained, setting the timer on the misters back a few minutes so you could safely get yourself out of the shop. “Just enjoy them.”


     He looked back down at them like they were his entire world. “I will.” His voice was soft, almost a whisper. You practically ripped off your apron and began to usher him out of the store, muttering “you should come when we’re open next time.” He muttered an apology, almost like he was making fun of you. As soon as you were both safely out of the shop, you gave him a glare. He put up his hands like you’d threatened him before you both began to laugh.


     Suddenly feeling a shiver run through your bones, you registered how cold it is outside with the autumn night air filling your lungs. “God, I need to start bringing a jacket for walking home at night, it’s already getting so cold.” You wrapped your arms around your middle, rubbing your hands on them.


     “I would offer you my jacket, but I’m not sure when we’ll see each other again,” he looked out over the street and then turned his head back to you.


     “Well you’re always welcome in the Magnolia.”


     “Thank you, Y/N,” he replied with a warm smile. You returned it even though your teeth were knocking together with your shivers. “Well you better get home before you freeze,” he started backing away slowly. “Until we meet again.”


     “Goodbye Connor.” He gave you a little wave with his free hand as he turned on his heel and walked off down the street, his dress shoes knocking on the sidewalk. You watched him for just a moment before hurrying off in the other direction, desperate to get to your warm apartment.

Chapter Text

     “What are you hoping to get out of this?” You managed to get out through the trembling of your entire body, staring down the barrel of a gun with your hands in the air.


     “Shut up.” The gruff voice commanded, and your eyes flew closed, your entire body wanting to collapse in on itself. “Open the door.” He motioned to the door he had you pinned against, the door to your shop. You lowered one hand slowly to the handle, twisting and then almost falling backwards into the shop. He advanced quickly, pushing you along until your lower back hit the counter, then a little more so you were leaning back over it.


     You felt your back strain, your eyes squeezing shut as the barrel of the gun pressed against the center of your collarbone. When you managed to open them again, tears fell. The robber remained unaffected.


     “Where’s your money?” He commanded, his voice a booming echo in the quiet shop.


     “I-I don’t have much, it was a s-slow day,” your voice shook and you yelped as he pressed the gun harder against you.


     “I didn’t ask for an explanation, sweetheart! I asked where’s the money?” He was yelling now and your entire body tensed even harder than it already was.


     “In the safe below the counter!” You cried out, a sob ripping from your throat as he finally stepped away. Your arms hugged yourself tight, your shoulders coming forward as you panicked, feeling like you just wanted to curl into a ball. You managed to look up in time to see him flick his gun toward the other side of the counter.


     “Then go open it.” He remained on the far side of the counter as you slowly rounded it, your knees barely holding you up. He continuously looked over his shoulder to make sure no one was watching as he pressured you to move faster.


     You fell to your knees in front of the safe, pressing in the 7 digit code and swinging it open. You started to pull out the envelopes from the past two days and reached up to set them on the counter above you. When you were finished you started to slowly rise, your hand reaching for the timer for the misters. You turned it to start just as you made it to your full height.


     Like clockwork, the misters came on, immediately surrounding the robber as he stood among the flowers.


     “What the fuck is this?!” He yelled, wiping a hand over his face.


     “The sprinklers,” you explained shakily, “they turn on the water the flowers after the shop is closed.” He looked at you disgusted, raising his gun again. You put your hands up, water starting to seep into your clothes as you shivered. You kept his gun trained on you as he collected the envelopes and attempted to shove them into his pockets.


     “Come back around the counter.” Your legs turned to stone as you slightly shook your head. “Did that sound like a question?!” He bellowed, straightening out his arm to hold the gun closer to you as he cocked it. You quickly came out around the counter, the mist collecting on your skin in large droplets now. He took a large step toward you, grabbing your arm in a death grip as he pulled you right up against him. He pressed the gun against your throat. “You don’t tell anyone about this, you hear me? No one. Or I’ll be back.”


     You nodded quickly, swallowing hard and squeezing your eyes shut tight. You felt him back away and kept your eyes closed until you heard the chime of the door. Immediately collapsing onto the floor, you leaned up against the counter as another sob tore through you. Tears flowed freely as you managed to pull your phone out of your back pocket. Completely ignoring his warning, you dialed 911.


     “911, what’s your emergency?”


     “I was just robbed at gunpoint.”


     Connor and Hank were the second to arrive on the scene. This call wasn’t their jobs, but after seeing the address of the crime, Connor had insisted. Hank just said whatever and went along with it.


     He dipped around another officer outside the door and pushed his way inside, the lights still shining warm and bright. He found you curled into yourself, leaned against the counter. A female officer was trying to talk to you, ask you questions, but you just stared past her, shivers still shaking your body. Your clothes were soaked, even through your jacket, and your hair was still dripping.


     The officer looked up at him with a face full of pity. “I think she’s in shock.”


     He kneeled down next to you, softly placing a hand on your back that you shied away from. “Y/N? It’s me, Connor.” You turned his direction a bit but still didn’t meet his eyes, your stare somewhere far off. “Can you tell me what happened?”


     “He-” You choked, tears beginning to fall again. “He had a gun. I- I didn’t know what to do I just did what he said I don’t know why I did I’m so sorry I don’t,” your words began to tumble together and your face contorted in pain as you curled in again.


     Connor could feel his heart breaking. And it hurt. “You did the right thing. You survived,” he tried to get you to look at him but to no avail, you just continued to shake and cry.


     Standing now, he turned to Hank, who was spinning a rose between his fingers. “The victim says she was threatened with a gun. We should look around to see if he might have left any evidence.”


     “Connor,” Hank’s voice was a volatile whisper, “this isn’t really our fuckin’ job. We’re homicide detectives.”


     Connor struggled for a moment, looking at the other with pleading eyes. Unable to think of a good reason for them to investigate this, he settled for begging. “Please, Lieutenant. Can’t we just take a look around?”


     Hank just glared for a minute, his arms crossed as well as he could without dropping the rose. “Fine, but only because we already came all the way down here.”


     Connor responded in a stiff nod, immediately beginning to analyze the situation. The first thing he noticed was scratch marks on the floor near one of the legs of the counter. He didn’t think it could move, but it seemed to have been slightly disturbed. He visualized a man pushing you up against the counter at gunpoint.


     He shook the image away.


     The second thing was the open safe behind the counter. The primary motive was money. He hadn’t wanted to hurt you, he just wanted cash. He visualized you knelt down on the floor, opening the safe. Then he thought about your clothes.


     You were soaked to the skin. His eyes trailed from the open safe to the lever for the sprinkler system. He visualized you setting it off while you were crouched below the counter, most likely in an attempt to scare the guy off. He stepped back from the counter, casting a glance at the female officer attempting to get a description of your attacker while also trying to soothe you. He grit his teeth and went back to the task at hand.


     Hank slowly made his way over, his eyes falling to the safe. “He just wanted the money. But he had to get through the person who could get it for him.”


     “So your friend gave him what he wanted,” Hank nodded his head to himself, setting his rose on the counter. “But why this shop? It obviously wouldn’t have that much cash on hand.”


     Connor surveyed the ceiling of the place, slowly spinning in a circle to take it all in. “It’s probably the only one in the area that doesn’t have cameras.”


     Hank shook his head, “he probably surveyed the place beforehand, planned the whole thing out.”


     A sudden yelp had them both whipping around toward the source of the sound. You were on your feet, quickly backing away from the officer with your hands up to keep her from coming closer. “No, nonononono…” You backed up until you were pressed against the wall your hands still straight out.


     “What’s wrong? Are you okay?” Connor took slow steps toward you. Your wild eyes met his and he froze where he stood.


     “He said-” You shivered again, your arms coming in to hold yourself. “He said he would come for me if I called the police. I didn’t even think, I didn’t…” Your eyes shifted between the three in the room, moving nervously between your feet. “What am I going to do? What is he gonna do to me?” Your eyes squeezed shut again.


     Connor took a quick step forward, just a few feet away from you now. He held his hands out slightly, trying to make himself look open. “I promise,” your eyes opened, “no one will let him hurt you.” Your eyes flicked away before coming back to his. “I won’t let him hurt you.”


     You fell into him, your hands fisting up in the lapels of his jacket as another sob racked your body. He slowly put his arms around you, looking over at Hank in a slightly panic. He just shrugged, his face sad.


     “Maybe I better escort you home,” the female officer stepped forward, hand hovering over your back.


     “That’s okay,” he surprised himself by speaking, “I can do it.”


     “You can?” Hank asked, his arms crossing again and an eyebrow raised.


     Connor just nodded, his arms holding you just a little tighter. “Let’s get you home,” he all but whispered to you. You only slightly nodded, pulling a way a bit and wiping the tears from your face as you tried to calm yourself.


     He already knew your address, pulling it from the database in an effort to make things easier. He instructed the two responding officers to collect as much evidence as they could before he got back. He looked to Hank, who just waved him off. “I’ll hang out here until you get back, see if I can sniff anything out.”


     “Ok. Thank you Lieutenant.” Connor softly put an arm around your shoulders, a gesture you instinctively leaned into. “Let’s get you home so you can get changed, ok?” You just nodded dumbly, letting him lead you out and into the night.


     By the time you both arrived at your apartment, you were a sleepwalker. He had long since let you go, simply walking next to you as you became more and more like a zombie before him. He wasn’t sure why, but every step you took felt more and more to him like pain. But not physical pain. An internal pain. One he had never felt before.


     When you pushed open the door, all that remained of you was moonlight and silence. Like you had been completely eaten away.


     The instructions inside begged him to fix it, even though he knew he couldn’t.


     “Will you be okay?”


     “I think so,” you didn’t sound sure. He wished you would’ve sounded sure.


     “Alright.” He didn’t know what else to say. “Then goodnight.”


     You just nodded, slowly closing the door in his face.


     His heart burned.

Chapter Text

I don't believe in ghosts

But I feel the most sipping spirits

The spirits of my past

Emptying up my glass

You can hear them


     “Why do you walk that way, girl, why do talk that way,” you sang along, moving to the beat around your kitchen. It was Sunday, normally your one day off, and you had spent most of the day cleaning and blasting music. It sucked to have housework to do on your day off, but the music made it fun. You loved to dance and sing as loud as you could, knowing it wouldn’t bother any of your neighbors.


Make an entrance

Hell, this life's a stage

Tickets to your play, a play for the middays


     You had taken Saturday off too. After what happened on Friday, you thought it would be better to take some time to collect yourself. You had spent most of Saturday in bed, just processing what had happened. When Sunday rolled around, you decided to get stuff done instead of just sitting there dwelling on what could have been. You didn’t want to think about it more than you had already. You pushed it down and locked it away.


Act one was no fun

But act two took us to the bedroom


     You were so engrossed in your performance you almost didn’t hear the knock on the door announcing your dinner had arrived. You hadn’t felt like cooking after cleaning all day to you had decided to treat yourself to some takeout.


     Dancing toward the door, you pulled the jacket from a nearby chair to cover yourself. Your tank top was enough, but your short shorts left you a little less than presentable. Pulling the heavy jacket up over your shoulders and zipping it up to the top, you pulled the door open and froze.


You said, "Sex saves lives"

You said it with your eyes


     Connor stared back at you, his eyes falling to your bare legs before rushing back to your face, his cheeks warming. The music blared on behind you as you struggled to think of what to do. Try to save yourself some modesty? Act like everything was normal? You settled for just questioning.


     “Connor,” you forced a small laugh as you pulled the jacket down as far as you could. Luckily, it was pretty long on you. “What are you doing here?”


     He swallowed, hands wringing together in front of him in his token nervous gesture. “I wanted to make sure you were okay, after Friday. I didn’t have your phone number, so I thought I would stop by.” His gaze finally left you, his head falling slightly to the right as he rubbed a hand on the back of his neck.


     The monster inside you screamed to slam the door in his face. You fought it. “Do you want to come in?” Stepping out of the way and opening the door a bit wider.


     “Sure,” he replied, taking a step inside. He looked out over the apartment and you were suddenly so glad you had spent most of the day cleaning.


     “Make yourself comfortable,” you said, shutting the door behind him. “Just excuse me for a second.” He nodded in your direction, still examining your apartment.


     You hurried off down the small hallway to your bedroom. You unzipped the jacket and threw it on your bed, grabbing the nearest pair of jeans and pulling them on as quick as you could. Taking a quick look in the mirror, you tried to straighten out your hair as best you could before crossing the room in three steps, walking back out into the main room. He looked over to you when you entered, looking relieved at your change of clothes. That made two of you.


     You suddenly became aware of the music still blasting again.


You said, "Sex saves lives"

You said it with your eyes

Then I asked you

"Why do you walk that way, girl?

Why do you talk that way?"


     Your face flushed red as you practically jumped over your couch to grab the remote. You quickly turned the volume down and changed the playlist to a softer, more relaxed one. Connor didn’t seem to notice or care, just staring at the book he had taken off your shelf.


     “What are you looking at?” You motioned to the book, taking a few steps toward him.


     “Inkheart,” he replied, turning the book over and over in his hands before opening it, the pages falling apart. “My database says this book was written in 2003. That was several years ago.” You nodded, watching for a moment as he flipped through the pages.


     “It was my aunt’s. She used to have me read it to her because it was one of her favorites as a teenager,” you felt a smile coming to your face at the memory. “I started to like it so I kept it.”


     Connor looked at you quizzically. “Your aunt was okay with you keeping her favorite book?”


     You looked down at the ground. “Well since she’s dead, she can’t really complain.”


     The book snapped shut. “Oh… I’m sorry. I didn’t realize.”


     “It’s okay, you didn’t know.” You looked up at him, offering a weak smile. His face remained straight, putting the book back onto the shelf. “So what brings you here again?”


     He didn’t face you, continuing to scan your apartment. “I wanted to make sure you were alright.”


     Your heart felt the stab, small but there. “Oh yeah, I’m fine.” You waved him off, walking back toward the kitchen and away from him. The other voice inside yelled for his help, you pushed it down. He turned to face you but continued to avoid eye contact, concern lacing his features.


     “Often when one experiences traumatizing events they-”


     “I said I’m fine.” You repeated more forcefully, your hand hitting the kitchen table with more power than you intended. The monster inside screeched in pain as you continue to press it further and further down.


     “Alright,” he conceded, looking down at the floor.


     “I’m sorry,” you turned to him quickly and he raised his head to finally, finally look you in the eye. “I didn’t mean to raise my voice.”


     He shook his head, “that’s quite alright. I shouldn’t have pressed.”


     His voice sounded different than you remembered, but you weren’t sure why. You pulled out your phone, checking on the order you had placed. It still said out for delivery. “Can I get you anything?”


     “No, I’m alright. Thank you.” He turned back toward the bookshelf, his arms crossed over his chest. You grimaced to yourself before taking a deep breath. Making your way to the couch, you sat down on the edge, your hands resting on either side of your knees. You began to bounce your legs, your heels jumping up and down as the balls of your feet remained firmly on the floor.


     “Thank you for helping me on Friday, by the way.” It came out more emotionless than you meant it too.


     He turned back toward you, leaning his shoulder against the wall as he crossed his ankles again. “It was no trouble.” The LED on his temple, the one you now had full view of, turned yellow. “You mentioned that he threatened you. That if you told the police he would hurt you.” You stopped moving. “Are you concerned he will follow through on that threat?”


     Jumping to your feet you practically ran into the kitchen, pulling out a glass before answering. “I’m sure it will be fine.” You weren’t sure. “Nothing to worry too much about.” You were worried as all hell. You filled the cup with water, downing the whole thing in huge gulps as you leaned against the sink.


     “Y/N.” Your head snapped his direction. “Are you sure you’re okay?”


     The monster inside screamed for release. You were getting tired of fighting it.


     “Yeah,” you said, not sure at all as tears started to form. You were tired and you were scared. But you were fine, right?


     His voice lowered again. “You’re crying.” You swore under your breath, sliding down into a chair at your kitchen table. You set down your glass and put your face in your hands, fighting the urge to dig your nails in. You heard his dress shoes walk across the tile, then the soft scraping of the chair next to you being pulled out. His voice was closer than you anticipated when he spoke next. “Why are you so reluctant to tell me that you’re not okay?”


     You rubbed roughly at your eyes for a moment before leaning back hard in your chair, purposely avoiding making eye contact with him. “I barely know you,” you whispered, the tips of your fingers tapping a familiar beat on the table. Your other hand came up to wipe away tears forming in the corners of your eyes.


     Connor’s hand grasped yours and you both froze. Your head slowly turned to his and he was just staring at where his hand held yours. After what felt like 5 minutes to you, his gaze finally slid up your arm and to your face. His face read like confusion with a tinge of panic. “I’m sorry, I’m not sure why I did that,” his hand still didn’t let go of yours.


     The monster inside clawed at your insides and ripped and tore and scrambled for purchase in the pit that became your stomach. Your brain spun and you looked back and forth between his equally panicked eyes because you needed something, anything to give you the answers you needed.


     “I-” There was a knock on the door.


     “Delivery!” The muffled voice called out.


     He quickly retracted his hand as you slowly rose to your feet, your insides feeling like liquid. You turned on your heel and crossed over to the door, pulling it open and greeting the person on the other side like your entire body wasn’t filled to the brim with anxiety.


     When you turned back to your apartment, food in hand, Connor was standing in the kitchen with his hands wringing together. His eyes were locked on you, his LED a spinning yellow.


     “Maybe I better go.”


     The voice inside screamed for you to stop him, to beg him to stay.


     The monster inside screamed at him to never come back.


     “Ok,” you said instead. “Maybe I’ll see you around the shop?”


     He nodded stiffly, taking long strides to the door, lightly brushing past you. You turned toward him as the door slid open.


     “Goodbye then,” you said as he stepped out, a certain hopefulness in your voice.


     He looked back toward you, a sad smile on his face. “Goodbye.”


     The door shut behind him and the war inside your mind waged on.

Chapter Text

     Monday morning came too soon.


     With the shop officially open, you took a moment to reflect on the anxiety you had woken up with and then screamed out into your pillows. Your night of tossing and turning led to an exhausted morning and an exhausted morning calls for coffee.


     You sipped at the steaming drink in your mug, remembering the blessed day you got a coffee maker just for the shop. Looking out over the bright morning, you took a deep breath in and held it for a moment before exhaling as your body released just a little bit of the tension you had woken up with. You continued to repeat this pattern, getting a little bit more relaxed each time, until you heard the chime of the door.


     “Good morning,” you said to the two silhouettes that had just arrived in your peaceful morning. You weren’t able to make out anything about them because of the bright light coming in from behind, but you could tell they were together.


     They murmured a ‘morning’ in response as their heads turned to take in the shop. You hid a small smile of pride behind your mug as you took another sip.


     They wandered their way around, every once in awhile stopping to admire some of the flowers in their displays with quiet giggles. You watched one of them stop in their spot as the other wandered on, the silhouette of their head slowly turning to take it all in. You watched as the first slowly reach their hand toward one of the containers, as if entranced. As they pulled it from the container - what was that shape, pansy? No, violets - they held it up to the sun and you watched the light reflect off their blue hair.


     “Piper!” You heard a voice whisper, the wandering figure immediately turning toward them and coming over. You watched intently as the first slowly handed the flower to the second, Piper, and whispered, “these. These are the ones.”


     You watched as Piper slowly lifted the flower up, turning to the side so the light could catch it. “Wow,” they whispered, pulling in the flower to smell it. “I agree.” And they dissolved into soft, happy giggles. You felt a large smile come to your face.


     The pair grabbed a few more of the flowers and hurried to your counter. You set your coffee cup off to the side, offering them a smile. You could see them more clearly here, their faces nearly identical. The only thing to you could differentiate between them was one had long blue hair and the other short ginger.


     “We-” they both spoke at the same time, then started to giggle again, leaning in close to each other as they did. “We will take these,” the blue haired one continued, setting the fistful of violets down on the counter.


     “Of course!” You typed a code into the cash register. “Did you want a vase or paper container to put them in or just the flowers?”


     “How much for the vase?” Piper asked, a hopeful smile on her face.


     “$2.” Piper looked at the other with pleading eyes and they eventually sighed, nodding to you a confirmation. Your smile never fading, you scanned one of the vases on the table behind the counter and carefully placed the violets inside.


     You told them how much it would be, and the blue haired one handed you a card. Piper did a little excited hop next to them as you swiped the card and handed it back. “Here you go,” you slid the vase toward them, “and enjoy.”


     “Thank you,” Piper grinned, “we will.”


     One of them grabbed the vase and they turned back toward the light, making their way down the aisle toward the door. Just before they pushed out into the morning, you caught a glance down. The silhouettes of their hands clasped together at their sides.


     You flashed back to last night, Connor holding your hand as you just stared at each other.


     You shook it away.


     Taking a moment to breath once more, you pulled out your phone and called Markus.



     The self driving cab pulled up to an incredible house in a very lush part of town and you just sat there in awe. It was wonderful and you couldn’t help but think it fit with what you had imagined of Carl.


     The cab gave you several warnings to either pick a new destination or get out, so you stepped out onto the pavement and pulled your jacket tighter around yourself. The chill in the night air told of winter close to come.


     Markus was waiting for you on the front steps, looking casual with his hands in his pockets. He smiled when he saw you walking up the incline.


     “Good evening.” He called, making his way down the last few steps toward you.


     “You’re so lucky you don’t feel cold,” you called back, already starting to shiver from the moment you stepped out of the warm taxi. He welcomed you with a warm hug and you returned the gesture, still shivering in his arms.


     “Let’s get you inside so you can warm up.” His smile warmed your heart and you lowered your head to hide your grin as he led you inside. “He’s been excited since you called,” he said as he began to take your coat off your shoulders.


     “Really?” You asked, turning toward him in surprise after you jacket was off.


     “Really,” he confirmed, nodding his head. “He doesn’t get a lot of visitors and when I told him it was Freida’s relative well…” He gave you a look you couldn’t quite read but decided it might as well be a positive one. “Let me take you to him.”


     He offered his arm, his eyebrow raised in a suggestive way before his face broke into a grin. You hooked your arm through his, laughing as he led you slowly up the staircase. You looked out of the great room as you got to the top of the steps and you couldn’t stop the soft “wow…” that escaped you. Your eyes got caught on the shelves of books, the stuffed giraffe in the corner, and windows everywhere. It was beautiful.


     “It’s nice, isn’t it?” Markus broke you from your trance and you just nodded dumbly. He pulled your arm to the right and over to another person who was waiting outside the door to what you assumed was Carl’s room.


     “Hello, I’m Carl’s caretaker, Penelope,” the woman held out her hand, which you lightly shook. “You must be Freida’s relative.”


     “That’s me!” You felt your smile almost turn into a cringe. As nice as it was to be welcomed so happily into this home, it felt more like it was because of your relationship to your aunt than it was about you.


     “Well let them in!” You heard a raspy voice call from behind the door. Penelope politely slid the doors open and motioned for you to enter the bedroom.


     Carl was laying in a hospital bed in the middle of the room, connected to various machines. He had a breathing assistant device up his nose and an IV in his arm. He looked old and frail, but the smile on his face said anything but.


     “Come in! Let me have a look at you,” he waved you over with one hand, the other pushing the blanket down as he sat up straighter. You stepped inside, doing a slow turn as you walked toward him. “It’s nice to finally meet you. How is the shop doing? I haven’t been since your aunt ran it.”


     “It’s doing well,” you replied with a smile. “I love it there.”


     He chucked softly, “I’m glad. It's a wonderful place, and she loved it very much.”


     Silence fell over the room and you shifted uncomfortably between your feet, admiring the decorations littered throughout. The place definitely had an eccentric feel, but you supposed that fit your description of Carl quite nicely.


     “Have you seen your cousin recently?” He asked out of the blue, adjusting slightly in the bed.


     You laughed lightly. “I’m sorry, you must be confused. I don’t have any cousins. Aunt Freida had no children.”


     “Oh, I see... So she never told you.” You paused, your eyes narrowing at him.


     “Never told me what?” He shifted uncomfortably in bed. You took a small step closer.


     “Your aunt and I-”


     “Oh no, let me stop you right there.” You put a hand up, turning to the side away from him. Markus was giving you a pitiful look. “You knew?” You pointed an accusing finger at him. He just shrugged.


     “It wasn’t my place to tell you.”


     “Ok, ok. So,” you turned back toward Carl. “You’re telling me you and my aunt hooked up, and that your son Leo is my cousin?!”


     Carl just nodded, starting to roughly cough into his hand.


     “All this time…” You were talking mostly to yourself now as you began to pace the room. “The entire time I was caring for her she told me she had no children. That I was the only one who could help her. You’re telling me she was lying to me that whole time?”


     Carl continued coughing, sounding like he was struggling to breathe. “I think that’s enough for tonight,” Penelope said kindly as she rushed to get him a cup of water.


     You suddenly panicked, worrying that it was your fault. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to-”


     “It’s quite alright,” Carl managed to get out, his voice more hoarse than normal. “I am getting tired is all.” He took a few more sips from the cup Penelope held for him. “But do come back and see me again. I’d be happy to tell you all about it.”


     You nodded, not sure you wanted to hear all about it but nodding all the same. Markus held out his arm for you to exit first, and you heard him have a short conversation with Carl and Penelope before following you out the door.


     “Well that was… Interesting.”


     You hit him on the arm, “I can’t believe you knew and never told me.”


     He pretended to look shocked, a sly smile on his face. “I only just found out a little while ago.”


     “How long ago?” You glared at him.


     He struggled to hold in a laugh. “A few months.” You gave a dramatic sigh and made your way down the staircase, your hands in the air. He quickly followed after you, almost knocking you over with the force he used to put his arm around your shoulders. “Come on, it’s a little funny.”


     You scoffed. “Yeah, because Leo being my cousin is funny.” You suddenly turned toward him. “Does this technically make Carl my uncle?!”


     He shook his head, “not unless him and Freida got married, which they didn’t.” You exhaled a breath; having one surprise family member in one day was enough. “Anyway, sorry your visit couldn’t last long. It’s late for him as is.”


     “That’s okay. It was still very nice to meet him. And to see his home. It’s incredible.” You motioned your arm towards the door at the end of the hall that you assumed led to the main room.


     “It is a very nice home.” Markus smiled, looking down slightly as if remembering something.


     You stood in silence to let him cherish his memory, switching between looking at him and admiring the pieces of the artwork in the room. “Well, I better get going,” you said finally, breaking him out of his trance.


     “Of course,” he replied, stepped over to the side to get your coat. “I already called you a taxi.”


     You smiled at him, letting him help you into your jacket. “Thank you so much Markus, you’re so kind to me.”


     He just shrugged. “It’s what friends do.” The statement warmed your heart.


     After a quick hug goodbye, you made your way out into the impossibly colder night and quickly trotted down the raised driveway to where the self driving taxi was waiting for you. As you slid inside, the door shutting behind you and embracing you in warmth, you took one final look over the house on the hill.

Chapter Text

     A rock tumbled down next to you as you sat on the edge of the cliff. The opening stretched down into what looked like a never ending abyss of darkness despite the sunny, orange ground you sat on. Almost like no light could penetrate it.


     Your hands gripped tight to the edge, your knuckles turning white as you continued to look down. It’s depth terrified you, but you couldn’t help but think of how familiar it felt to be here, just on the edge.


     “Well?” A pair of dress shoes appeared next to you, kicking up a bit of dirt as they settled. You let your eyes trail up his form, up the dress pants, the perfectly fitted jacket surrounding the pristine white shirt, up to his face, the same asymmetric piece of hair hanging down onto his forehead. His arms were crossed, looking out over the edge and towards the horizon.


     “Well what?” You asked, continuing to look up at him as the rocks dug into your palms from how tight you were hanging onto the edge.


     “Are you going to jump?”


     You felt your face flush red, moving your head down to stare at your lap. “No,” you whispered, not sure he would hear you over how the wind began to pick up.


     “Well, why not?” He asked, a bit louder this time to make sure you heard him as the wind rapidly increased. You looked up at him for a moment, saw him continuing to watch the horizon, like he was waiting for something, the wind starting to disturb his clothes and hair.


     You grabbed the edge even harder, enough to hurt now. “I’m scared,” you whispered.


     “You’re going to have to speak up,” he explained, his face still blank.


     “I said I’m scared,” you spoke at a normal volume, the now blustering wind still drowning you out.


     “I can’t hear you.” His voice rang out loud and clear.


     You grit your teeth and squeezed your eyes shut, steeling yourself as the wind attempted to blow you over on your side.


     “I SAID I’M SCARED,” you yelled over the storm brewing, both inside and out. You felt a finger and thumb on your jawline, pulling your face to the side. You opened your eyes and felt your heart skip a beat.


     He was crouched down beside you now, his hand cupping the side of your face and his thumb tracing a small circle on your cheek. He looked concerned, his eyebrows pinched together on his forehead. “Because you have everything to be afraid of,” he whispered, and somehow you heard him clearly despite the wind. You watched as his face softened, as his eyes glanced down at your mouth and then back to your eyes. You felt him very softly press his hand just a bit harder against you and you felt yourself instinctively lean into the touch.


     It began to rain, the sky very quickly growing dark. You felt it plaster your clothes to your skin and run down your body, down to your feet, the trails leading straight into the hole before you. His hand withdrew and you watched as he stood tall, then held his hand out to help you up. You took it, letting him do most of the lifting as you scrambled away from the edge.


     “Let’s do it together.” His voice still loud and clear over the wind.


     “What?! You’re crazy. There’s no way I’m jumping!” You yelled, wrapping your arms around yourself as the rain chilled you to the bone. The storm continued overhead, the thunder clapping a warning as the rain poured down on you both.


     Slowly, he took each of your hands in his own, watching you closely as he did. “You have to trust me.”


     You unconsciously grasped his hands tighter, the wind whipping now. “But… I barely know you.” The statement sounded familiar coming out of you.


     He gave a light tug and you stumbled forward into him, one of his arms wrapping around your torso and the other still holding tight to you hand, as if you were about to dance. Your arm linked over his shoulders instinctively. “You can’t let your past hold you back anymore,” he explained, his expression earnest. “You have to try.”


     You felt your cheeks warming from the intimacy of your position but you also couldn’t find it in you to look away. “I’m scared,” you whispered again, sure he would be able to hear you.


     “Don’t worry,” his face suddenly broke into a smile. “I’ll catch you.” You nodded, his smile infectious as you felt yourself grow giddy. Terrified and excited at the same time, your stomach twisting into knots.


     “Okay,” you said with a smile. “I trust you, Connor.”


     You both jumped.


     When your eyes slid open, you found yourself staring at the white ceiling of your bedroom. You were cold, your blanket abandoned at the foot of the bed and your sheets a tangled mess. Your heart was racing but your breathing was even and calm. You took a moment to just take it all in.


     Propping yourself up on your elbow, you reached over to your bedside table and wrapped your fingers around your phone. You checked the time first, 3:32 am, then tapped your note taking app. You wrote down as much of the dream as you could remember, already feeling it fade from your mind. As soon as you were satisfied, you set your phone on the bedside table and flopped back down onto the pillows.


     Feeling the pull of sleep again, you couldn’t help but be afraid of what exactly your dream was telling you. You figured tomorrow was a better time to figure it out.


     You drifted back to sleep as snow fluttered down past your window.

Chapter Text

     A month passed like clockwork.


     Detroit was well into winter now, snow lining the sidewalks and the streets. Just stepping out would leave frost on your clothes and no one left home without a coat.


     You spent hours by the window, sipping on your coffee and watching the way the sun reflected off the snow in the morning. Winter was always a busy time of year for you, the lack of green outside made people want to bring the green indoors. You were happy to provide. You just made sure to keep plenty of poinsettias and red roses around with Christmas fast approaching. The time of year for red flowers had come.


     You had moved a stool out to your normal place by the window so you could watch the people hurry by on their way to warm places. You laughed at the children waddling along because of the sheer amount of layers their parents had placed them in, barely able to see their faces over the scarves. It was the same every morning, but the enjoyment never ceased.


     When a beaten up old car pulled up in front of the shop, you hopped off your stool, making your way back toward your counter so that you could at least pretend you were working in case they came in. It wasn’t often a car parked in front, as most people walked around this part of town, even in the snow. You had your back toward the door, still walking back to the counter, when the gust of cold air made its way in. The feel of it on your back made you yelp and put a jump in your step as you quickly rounded the counter.


     “Sorry,” a gruff voice said, “I’ll shut the door.”


     There in the doorway stood an older man, one you recognized as familiar. He looked like the cop that had come in with Connor when the store had gotten rob but this guy was… Cleaner. His long grey hair was pulled back into a small ponytail at the back of his head and his beard was neatly groomed. His clothes looked huge on him. He stepped out of the way and your heart stopped.


     Connor was staring at you, his eyes bright. He wore a long peacoat in a dark navy, a color that suited him quite well you couldn’t help but notice. The lapels stood straight up as if he were Sherlock Holmes or something, and you also couldn’t help but notice that that looked ridiculous. However, he looked more at ease than you had ever seen him. With the morning sun coming in behind him, he looked like an angel that had decided to grace your shop.


     When your heart managed to restart itself from the shock, you realized how dumb you must look, just staring at him. You threw on a smile and looked to the first entry. The sideways smile on his face told you he noticed.


     “Hello, gentlemen. What can I do for you today?” Your soft, ever professional customer service voice asked.


     The man, whose name you didn’t know but the word Lieutenant came to mind, cleared his throat. “We’re here about the robbery that took place a few months ago.” You tensed up, setting your mug down on the counter quickly to keep from dropping it.


     “What about it?” You asked, your forced smile betraying the fight or flight instinct that began to course through your veins.


     “We believe we caught the man,” Connor said as he removed the leather gloves on his hands. Exhale, you reminded yourself. Breathing is good.


     The Lieutenant gave him a look. “We had a similar robbery occur in another part of town. Young adult closing up alone, held at gunpoint as the robber pushed into the store.” You turned around and leaned back on the counter, disgust coming up your throat and leaving you with a sour taste in your mouth.


     “Are they okay?” You asked over your shoulder.


     “She’s fine,” he assured you. “Luckily there was an off duty cop out for a walk that happened upon the scene.” You wrapped your arms around yourself, looking straight at the back wall as your eyes began to water. “The cop intervened, and it ended in a fire fight. The girl wasn’t hurt, but both the cop and the suspect were rushed to the hospital.”


     You turned back now, your arms still tight around yourself. Your eyes met the Lieutenant’s before flicking to Connor. He stood with his arms crossed, his eyes on you but his expression unreadable. “What happened to them?”


     “The cop is still in surgery, but the doctors say it looks like he’s gonna make it.” A soft smile came to his face before dropping. “The suspect was pronounced dead at 1:02am this morning.” You exhaled harshly, a single tear falling as you squeezed your eyes shut.


     “He’s dead?” You asked, slowly blinking open your eyes.


     “We’d like you to look at a few pictures, if that’s okay. Just to confirm it’s the right guy.” He took a step toward you, pulling a tablet out of his pocket. You glanced over to see Connor giving him a weird look.


     “You’re being awfully professional, Hank.” A small smile came to his face.


     “Shut up.” Hank grumbled, continuing his way toward you as he tapped around on the tablet. Connor shrugged and then looked back to you, his face softening. You watched him for a moment before looking down at the tablet that had been set on the counter in front of you. The sight hit you like a punch in the gut.


     You quickly turned away, your hand covering your mouth because you felt like you were going to be sick. “That’s him.”


     “Well that’s a good thing, right?” Hank locked the tablet and slid it back into the pocket of his coat. “You don’t have to worry about his threat anymore.”


     You just stared at him, your hand dropping as you continued to feel unsure what to say. Sure, the man had traumatized you. But were you supposed to be happy he was dead? You’d be happier if he was in jail. To pay time for what he did to you. Death was an escape from that.


     You decided to keep your thoughts to yourself.


     “Well, is there anything else I can do to help you gentlemen?” Your customer service voice came back out.


     “I guess not,” Hank gave you a strange look before turning for the door.


     “Thank you, Lieutenant.” He gave you a wave over his shoulder and you heard him mumble “whatever” before pushing past Connor and out the door.


     Connor remained, still frozen in the spot he had been cast to, as if he were a statue that had to be moved. His hands were tucked into the pockets of his coat and he looked lost in thought.


     “Connor?” You called out to him as you reached for your mug again, bringing it up to take a sip. This seemed to break him from his trance, turning toward you in surprise. His eyes were wide and his cheeks flushed, as if you had caught him doing something he shouldn’t be.


     “Sorry,” he shifted slightly. “I’ll just…” He pointed toward the door with his thumb, then spun on his heel toward it. His hand grabbed the handle and he stopped. He just stood there for a moment, staring at the handle like the door was locked. You sipped your coffee again, deciding to let the fumbling android figure out exactly what he was doing. It only took a minute or two.


     “Actually,” he spun back toward you, his hand still hanging in the air at handle level. “Can I have your phone number?”


     You sputtered behind the safety of your mug. “What?”


     He took a few steps forward, his hand finally falling to his side. “Your cell phone number. Can I have it?”


     You felt a smile coming on but you tried to resist it. “Isn’t it inappropriate for a cop to ask for the phone number of someone he’s helping?”


     He looked shocked at your answer. Then his hand came up to his chin, his eyebrows knitted together, and his mouth became a slight frown. You dubbed it his thinking face. “You’re right,” he sighed, turning back toward the door and taking a few steps toward it before pausing again.


     You struggled to hold in a laugh as he turned quickly back toward you, his face like an excited puppy. “What about as a customer?”


     “What?” You asked again, the smile breaking through now.


     “As a customer, could I ask for your phone number?” He looked so hopeful and the way it made your heart beat fast terrified you.


     “As a customer,” you pretended to look thoughtful for a moment, imitating his thinking face with your free hand touching your chin. “You could technically ask for my phone number as a customer.”


     A grin spread across his face as he made one large step toward you again. “Then can I have your phone number?”


     You laughed lightly, setting your mug down on the counter. You told him what it was, which he recited back to you to make sure he got right. You nodded, absently tapping your fingertips on the counter.


     “Then I’ll call you,” he started slowly walking backwards, “or text you, I haven’t decided yet.”


     “Texting would be better, I hate talking on the phone.”


     “Noted,” his smile grew, as if learning anything at all about you was a gift for him. You willed your heart to slow down. “Then I’ll text you.”


     “You do that.” You tapped one last time on the counter then grabbed something underneath it, trying to suddenly make yourself look busy as he made his way towards the door. As soon as you heard the chime, you looked up to watch him almost slide over to the beat up car and jump into the passenger seat, the smile never leaving his face.


     You could used to that.

Chapter Text

     There could never be enough blankets on your couch.


     You had just gotten back from work, which meant you had just turned the heat on and it was still freezing cold in your apartment. You had prepared for this. Every blanket you owned was sitting on your couch and the wood for the fireplace had been prepped this morning before you left. You had planned it all out but that didn’t stop you from freezing your ass off while you got it all together.


     Fire started and five blankets deep, you were finally starting to feel your toes again. You snaked out an arm to grab the remote to your entertainment system and flipped on some music.


     A slow funk song started up on your default shuffle and you left it playing as you tucked back into your blanket burrito.


No flask can keep it

Bubble up and cut right through

But you're someone I believe in


     You closed your eyes and leaned your head back to rest. After Hank and Connor had left, business had picked up significantly and continued to be busy until closing time. It seemed like people were coming in right after the other with no breaks. Someone had even tried to fight you over how many roses you were willing to give her. With roses being one of the most popular flowers of the season, you had to limit it to 12 per customer per day. After 5 minutes of her nearly yelling in your normally quiet store, you informed her to just come back tomorrow for the other 12 and you would make sure you had enough then. She had realized she was causing a scene and paid for the 12 roses she had while fuming. You declared it a win.


You heat me like a filament

Anytime you're in the room

But you burned me and I'm smoking


     The fire crackling and the long day, you were almost asleep when you felt your phone buzz.


Message from: RK800, Serial Number 313 248 317 – 51


     You unlocked your phone and opened your messages app.


From: RK800, Serial Number 313 248 317 – 51

     Good evening, it’s Connor. I hope I caught you safely home from work.


     You tapped around for a minute, making a contact for him before replying.


To: Connor

     Good evening! and yeah, I just got home.


From: Connor

     I’m glad. How was the rest of your day?


To: Connor

     Busy. and I got yelled at. but wasn’t too bad. How was your day?


From: Connor

     I’m sorry you were yelled at. I’m sure whatever it was wasn’t your fault.


     My day went well, as always. The Lieutenant was in a surprisingly good mood today. I think your shop has some type of aura that affects people’s emotions.


     You laughed, your phone almost falling out of your hand. Just the way he said it was so funny to you and you weren’t sure if you were supposed to take it as a compliment or not. You held your phone back up and typed a reply.


To: Connor

     Can I ask you a question?


     The reply was immediate, as always.


From: Connor

     Of course. What is it?


     You bit your lip, unsure if it was impolite to ask. You just had to know, it was a part of something you didn’t quite understand.


To: Connor

     Do you text me in your head?


     Like, do you have to pull out a phone to reply to me or do you just think a response and it sends to my phone?


From: Connor

     I do have a phone. But most of my communication is done wirelessly, yes.


     That was crazy to you. Just being able to do all of those things in your head without ever touching another thing. The things androids were capable of impressed you to no end.


To: Connor

     So you can text while doing other things and not even have to take a minute to pause?


From: Connor

     If it is a long message, I will have to pause for a moment to compile it, but for the most part it is immediate. For example, I’m texting you this while also investigating a crime scene.


     You set your phone down to attend to a little girl who had just come in. “Hello,” you said sweetly, leaning over the counter to get closer to her level. “How can I help you?”


     “Can you help me find a flower?” She asked and your heart melted. You nodded enthusiastically and came out around the counter, kneeling down beside her. She pulled off her thick gloves and shoved them into the pockets of her coat. “So if I tell you what it looks like, you can help me find it?” You nodded again.


     She began describing. Small, light blue, normally clustered together. Found easily in the wild. You had a few in mind so you took her hand and led her around the store, pointing a few out. She shook her head adamantly at each one, saying that wasn’t it.


     You were running out of options when she seemed to spot it herself, jumping away from you and pointing to one of the containers on display. “That one!” She was much louder than she had been when she walked in, excited. “What is that one called?”


     Pulling one out of the container, you held it out to her and watched as she slowly took hold of the stem between her half frozen fingers. She held it close to her as she looked up expectantly at you for your answer. “Myosotis,” she looked disheartened, “but most people called them Forget-Me-Nots.”


     “Forget me not,” she said softly to herself, staring at the flower. “These are her favorite flower.” You were about to burst from how cute the moment was.


     You heard a muffled call from outside the shop and she suddenly stood up straight. “Thank you for your help!” She held the flower back out to you, looking antsy to go.


     “You keep it,” you pushed her hand away softly and smiled. Her face broke out into a grin and she sprinted out of the store and into the arms of a large man outside. You watched after her for a moment before turning back for the counter and your phone.


From: Connor

     It seems as though you are suddenly called to work. I should focus on my own duties as well. I will send you another message later, if that’s okay with you?


     Almost sad at the thought of not getting to talk to him until the end of the workday, you sighed. He was probably right anyway.


To: Connor

     I look forward to it.


From: Connor

     Can I ask you a question?


     You were in the middle of cooking yourself dinner when you got the message, looking over at your phone as you stirred the boiling pot on the stove. You felt your heart skip a beat when you read it, anxiety taking hold. You always seemed to fear the worst whenever people asked you questions like that. You put a lid on the pot and grabbed your phone.


To: Connor

     Sure! What is it?


     A minute passed and you still had no answer. You had never waited more than 30 seconds for a reply from him before and now time seemed to stretch on forever while you waited for a response. You let your anxiety get the better of you.


To: Connor

     Say something before I go crazy.


     The next response was immediate.


From: Connor

     I apologize for making you wait, I was debating on whether I wanted to ask or not.


     You smiled, that was a struggle you knew all too well.


To: Connor

     Well you already asked me if you should ask it, so it’s only fair to now ask it.


From: Connor

     I suppose you’re right.


     You glanced up and saw your pot boiling over. “Shit,” you muttered as you threw your phone down on the table and jumped into action. A minute of stirring and wiping later, you picked up your phone again and saw three messages waiting for you.


From: Connor

     I wanted to ask you if you would like to go out with me sometime.




     I apologize, I fear I’ve made you uncomfortable.


     Your hand hit your forehead, cursing your meal for taking you away from your conversation at the worst time. Why couldn’t you just send messages in your head like him?


To: Connor

     No! My pot just boiled over so I didn’t see your message fast enough, I’m sorry.


From: Connor

     No need to apologize.


     You ran a hand through your hair, realizing you had to give him an answer. While you had been having a lot of fun texting him the last few days, going out still seemed real and terrifying. You felt a small part of you begging you to put the phone down and never speak to him again. But a much bigger part told you that you had nothing to lose by meeting him for a cup of coffee.


To: Connor

     I’d love to go out with you.


From: Connor

     Really? You would?


     There was a huge smile on your face as you typed your reply.


To: Connor

     Yes, I would.


From: Connor



     You laughed, setting your phone back down beside the stove as you went back to cooking your dinner.


     Who gave him permission to be so adorable?

Chapter Text

From: Connor

     I’ll see you tonight, then.


     And just like that, you once again realized it was Saturday and you were meeting up with Connor tonight. Not like you had been up half the night before thinking yourself into circles about it. What did you have to be afraid of? Nothing.


     But you were afraid anyway.


     You were only half way through the work day so you still had several hours to worry yourself into holes. Luckily, it had been a pretty busy day so far, only starting to lull in customers around lunch time. You secretly hoped it would pick back up again so you wouldn’t have as much free time to get lost in your thoughts.


     As if your prayers were heard, the bell above the door chimed. You looked up and saw a woman with short white hair standing in your doorway. She had paused there, looking around.


     “Would you mind shutting the door please?” You called out softly, “The cold is bad for the flowers.”


     Her eyes locked on yours. “Of course!” She stepped inside and let the door fall shut behind her. After wiping her boots on the rug by the door, she took a few more quiet steps into the shop before stopping. “I wanted to say thank you.”


     You looked up at her face again, feeling confused. “Thank you for what? I’ve never seen you before.”


     The woman laughed lightly, shaking her head as little bits of frost rained down around her. “A couple of days ago you helped my daughter. She came in asking about flowers?”


     You nodded now, a smile coming to your face. “Oh! So you must be forget-me-nots.” The woman now took her turn to look confused. “She was looking for your favorite flower.”


     “Oh, I see.” She looked down at the flowers for a moment. She pulled an orange peony out of a container and lifted it to her nose. Her eyes drifted closed as she took a deep breath in. “You must have made quite an impression on her.” Her eyes opened again, meeting yours. You leaned your head to the side, unsure what she meant. “She’s been asking nonstop for me to come to your shop. She seems to think a vase of flowers will solve all the troubles we’re having.” She seemed to laugh a bit, looking almost uncomfortable.


     “Well, I would be happy to make you one if you wanted.” You chimed in, trying to look as naturally happy as possible. Just because you were having an anxious day doesn’t mean you couldn’t help make someone else's day better. This woman seemed troubled, to say the least.


     She looked up at you, almost sad. “I wouldn’t have anything to give you in return.”


     Your heart broke. You knew times were still bad for some, despite the android revolution opening up more jobs. It especially hurt to see someone struggling around the holidays. You didn’t want to make it a habit but you thought that just maybe you could do something to help.


     “How about you just owe me one?” You suggested, offering a sincere smile. “Whenever you’re back on your feet, you remember me and pay me back then.”


     Tears came to her eyes. “You’re so kind.” You wanted to give her a hug but decided against it. You just grabbed a vase from behind you and walked around toward her, gently taking the peony from her hand. You slipped it into the vase and got to work.


     Grabbing some forget-me-nots, you settled for a blue and orange theme. Not exactly complimentary colors, but you decided to make it work. You grabbed an orange rose and some white carnations. You looked around for a moment, pulling out two longer stems of foxgloves for an added pop of color. Looking around for a moment to find just one more flower to add, your eyes fell on the white daises. You felt a pull at your heart as the memory threatened to come to the surface. You pushed it away and grabbed two for good measure.


     When you turned back to her, there was a smile on her face for the first time since she walked in. You presented the bouquet with pride, which she gingerly took from your hands. “Thank you so much. I don’t know how I’ll ever repay you.”


     You made your way back behind your counter before replying. “Just do right by that little girl, and you will have repayed me enough.”


     The woman looked about ready to cry. You almost wanted to cry with her. She basically ran toward you and held out her hand. “I’m Kara, by the way.”


     “Y/N.” You shook her hand and held it there for a second. She looked down at your clasped hands and then back up to you. “I hope things get better for you soon.”


     A single tear fell down her cheek. “Thank you.” You let her hand go and she gripped the vase tight again, giving you a slight nod before turning back toward the world with her head held high. She definitely looked like a mom who could do anything.


     When you finally closed up the shop, you practically sprinted home. Both because you felt like your insides were full of bees because of how nervous and excited you were, and because it was fucking freezing.


     You almost trampled a woman and her dog on your way inside but you made it in record time. Throwing the heat on but not even bothering to start a fire, you stripped as you turned the shower on to hot . You deserved it.


     One very long and thorough shower later, you flopped onto your bed in only a towel. Sure, you had just upped your electricity bill $10, but it was a necessary cost. Your hair soaked into the sheets in a halo around your head as you just took a moment to breathe and stare at the ceiling. You can do this, you told yourself over and over. You have nothing to be afraid of. Why were you so afraid anyway?


     Sitting up on your bed, you stared at the full length mirror in the corner of the room. You remembered rushing to look presentable in that mirror the time Connor showed up at your house to check on you. Staring at yourself now, your hair wet and your towel discarded on the floor, you felt exactly like yourself. Terrified of the unknown and of getting hurt again, you felt more human than ever. Did androids feel the same fear? They had so much knowledge all packed into their heads, and had access to everything there ever had been on top of that. Did they fear the unknown? Did they worry about what was to come? Or did they just see it as a number of calculated options that each had a statistical chance of occuring? Was Connor as nervous about this as you were?


     After a moment of letting yourself get lost in the what if’s of it all, you kicked the towel to the other side of the room and jumped off your bed. You were determined to look nice for this date and you would knock his socks off if it was the last thing you ever did.


     By the time you had picked out something to wear, half of your clothes were thrown on the bed. He hadn’t told you exactly what you’d be doing, but told you to dress warmly. Which mean something outside. And in these temperatures at night, you were going to need layers.


     A black long sleeve came on first, the sleeves coming up to your palms with holes to put your thumbs through. Comfy and practical. You threw on a heavy, light grey sweater over it, just baggy enough at the bottom to look stylish as your long sleeve peeked out of the sleeves and slightly over the neckline. Slipping on some thick, long black socks first, you pulled your favorite pair of blue jeans on over them. You paused before sliding on a skinny black belt to keep them up in case things got active. You were pleasantly warm now, feeling comfy and casual and attractive.


     You jumped back into your bathroom, finishing the rest of your preparations. Your toothbrush hanging out of your mouth, you had both hands attempting to wrangle your hair the way you wanted it to sit before it dried too much. You looked at yourself in the mirror, the determined look on your face, and you began to laugh. Your toothbrush clattered to the sink and a bit of toothpaste now on the mirror, you continued to giggle as you wiped it off and went back to what you were doing. It felt nice to laugh at yourself when you felt so pent up inside with how nervous and excited you were for this.


     Satisfied with the picture in the mirror, you pulled your phone out of your back pocket. Connor said he would be by to pick you up any minute now. You slid out of the bathroom and down the hall on your socks, trying to get your mind off the elephant sitting on your chest. You picked up your long black coat, the one you planned to wear today, and remembered answering the door in basically only this jacket. Your face flushed red and you grit your teeth, willing the embarrassing memory away. Sure, it had been a little funny looking back. But mostly just mortifying.


     You were about to sit down on the couch to rest your already tired legs when there was a knock at the door. Your entire body immediately tensed and you willed it not to. It didn’t listen. Taking a deep breath, you made your way slowly over to your door and put on a smile before pulling the door open. Your jaw hit the floor.


     You were absolutely and utterly boned.

Chapter Text

     Nothing on earth could have prepared you for what stood on the other side of that door.


     Connor looked like a model right out of a magazine. A dark brown sweater layered over a white button up with the top button undone, both with the sleeves rolled up. A pair of jeans that fit him like the devil and his navy coat hung over his arm, all pulled together by a pair of dark brown, leather oxfords that looked like they wouldn’t last five minutes in the snow. He was an absolutely vision just standing awkwardly by the door, but nothing prepared you for the blow to the stomach that was the smile that lit up his face when he saw you.


     “Wow,” was all he said for a moment. The smile on his face could’ve melted all the snow in Detroit. It sure as hell melted you.


     “Wow, yourself.” You tried to laugh, it coming out breathy and weird. You awkwardly motioned to him while he just continued to stare you down, you felt your cheeks flush pink. After another moment of tense silence that he didn’t seem to think was tense at all, you spoke again. “Hello.”


     This seemed to break him out of the spell you hadn’t known you cast. “Good evening.” He rubbed the back of his neck, looking embarrassed at his own actions. “You look nice,” he offered, his eyes moving to yours for a split second before moving them literally anywhere else.


     “Thank you.” You crossed one hand over your torso and rubbed the sweater up and down your arm, unsure what to do. This was just about as awkward as you had anticipated.


     “Are you going to bring a scarf?” He asked suddenly, and you gave him a weird look. “It’s going to be very cold out tonight and I don’t want you to get sick.” He attempted to explain, his free hand motioning as he spoke.


     “Exactly how long are we going to be outside?” You raised an eyebrow, crossing your arms over your chest.


     The LED on his temple spun yellow for a moment before returning to blue. “It could be up to an hour and a half.”


     You cringed, hoping whatever he had planned was worth it. “I’ll go grab a scarf.”


     Leaving him in the open door, you hurried back to your room as you slipped the coat onto your shoulders. You grabbed the first thick scarf you saw and pulled it around your neck, hopping back out of your room and down the hallway.


     Connor had stepped inside and shut the door behind him. His jacket laid across your couch and there he stood, once again admiring your bookshelf. “I’m guessing you like books?” He whipped toward you as you placed a hand on your hip, a smile on your face.


     “I’ve never read one,” he looked wistfully at the shelf before turning back to you, “but I would like to.” Your heart swelled at how hopeful he looked.


     “Well, you’re welcome to any of my books anytime.” He grinned at you, quickly stepping out around the couch as he grabbed his coat.


     “Maybe next time.” He slipped it on with a grace and reached for your door. “Are you ready to go?”


     “Let me just grab my shoes,” you sidestepped past him to the shoe rack next to your door. You grabbed your good snow boots and pulled them on, lacing them up tight. Since you were going to be outside, you assumed there was going to be a lot of walking. Your already aching legs cursed the thought.


     You jumped up with a hop, one that brought a smile to his face, which brought one to yours. He pulled the door open and stepped out, waiting patiently as you locked the door behind you. When you turned toward him, he offered his arm out to you. You linked your arm through his and let him lead you through your apartment building and down to the first floor. He paused in the lobby, dropping your arms.


     “Are you sure about this?” He asked, suddenly looking self conscious. You were confused for a moment before realizing he thought you still didn’t want to go out with him.


     “Of course, I am. It’ll be fun!” You put on a wide smile, even through your nervousness. This seemed to reassure him a bit as he offered his arm once more.


     You linked them, keeping step as he grinned and hurried you both out the door and into the chill night air.


     You ran straight into a carriage.


     “Oh, sorry,” you said as you looked up to where the driver would normally be, but found no one there.


     “Are you apologizing to the horse?” Connor had a cheeky smile on his face, obviously making fun of you.


     “Maybe!” You glared at him.


     “Well?” He offered his other arm toward the carriage.


     “What?” You asked, at first confused but then in slight disbelief. “The carriage?”


     He nodded, suddenly looking nervous again. “I thought we could go for a ride around the town, looking at all the Christmas lights. I packed blankets and something for you to drink in a Thermos? Is that okay?”


     Suddenly giddy, you jumped up in place. “That’s amazing! I’d love to!” You hopped into the carriage and squished yourself into one of the corners to make sure he would have room to sit. You grabbed at the pile of blankets sitting on the floor, pulling two immediately around your lap and your shoulders, effectively covering the outfit you had carefully picked out. But you needed the warmth.


     He stepped up into the carriage after you and gracefully took a seat. After pressing a few things into a screen, he leaned back and the carriage lurched forward.


     Over the past hour, you had both somehow moved to sitting right next to each other, and his arm had somehow made its way around your shoulders. You vaguely remembered something about him trying to fix the blanket around your upper body and then never removing it. Not that you minded one bit.


     You had been oooing and ahhing at all the fantastic lighting displays Detroit had to offer as your android horse had taken all of the best routes to avoid traffic. Every single time you looked over at Connor to speak, he was staring out at the lights in wonder. Like he had never seen something so beautiful. It made your smile almost painfully wide.


     “So how did you end up as a police detective after everything that happened?” You had asked after a few minutes of silence, your teeth only slightly knocking together from how cold you still were despite the blankets.


     “That was actually what I was before androids were given citizenship. My original purpose.” He seemed almost sad.


     “And you wanted to continue to do that when you had freedom?” You turned toward him a bit to address him directly, his hand falling off your shoulder.


     He looked thoughtful for a moment before nodding. “It’s what I’m good at. And I like being Hank’s partner.” He looked at you for a second before looking out. “Plus I can help people that way.”


     “You helped me.” You said quietly, and a smile grew on his face as he continued looking out. “What?”


     He looked back at you, his eyes bright. “I know it wasn’t the best of circumstances… But I am glad I met you.”


     You felt your face warm and fought the urge to look away. “I’m glad I met you too.” You pulled the blankets tighter around yourself. “I’m having a really good time, Connor.”


     “I’m glad.” He grinned. “So how did you end up working at the Magnolia?”


     “My aunt left it for me in her will.” You wondered if that was too depressing and immediately launched into your next sentence. “I had left college after getting my associates to take care of her and then when she left it for me, I saw it as a chance to start over and be my own person.” He nodded, as if letting you know he was listening to what you had to say. “I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life at the time and I ended up throwing myself into the shop.”


     “You seem to really love working there.”


     “I do,” you nodded, looking him right in the eye. You thought back to Kara, the woman who had came in at the end of her rope who just needed something to smile about. “I get to help people too.”


     A comfortable silence fell over you both as you looked up at the arches of lights you found yourself under. They twinkled like stars above you both and you let your head fall back onto his arm as you watched them slowly go by. It was incredibly peaceful and you, for the first time in a long time, felt safe.


     “Well,” he cleared his throat to get your attention and his hand found its way to your shoulder again, pulling you in slightly. “As much as I would like to continue talking, it’s probably about time we head back. I’m sure you’re very cold.”


     “Freezing,” you laughed out, leaning further into him as you pulled the blanket up higher. He rubbed his hand up and down as if to warm you before leaning forward to set the horse to take you both back to you apartment. It was closer than you had expected. You didn’t know all of these wonders were so nearby. Mostly because you rarely ventured out of your neighborhood, it had everything you needed. It took someone else to show you something new.


     When the carriage pulled up to your building, you reluctantly peeled off your blankets and ran into the warm lobby, rubbing your own arms. Connor followed you, walking slowly with a hand in his pocket. His jaw was tense and he suddenly looked unsure. It occurred to you he probably had no idea what to do next. Deciding now was your chance, you took a small step toward him.


     “Thank you so much for tonight,” you said softly, making eye contact as his grew wide. “I really enjoyed myself.” You slowly drew forward and gave him a kiss on the cheek, smiling as you pulled away.


     The look on his face said it all.


     You turned away, silently reveling in your victory as you tried not to laugh at how utterly dumb he had looked in response. “Goodnight,” you heard him weakly call after you, and you flashed back a smile at him.


     “Goodnight, Connor.”