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Evening Shadows

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You bit into your sandwich with a satisfied hum. You loved your job dearly (at least most days), but you still enjoyed your lunch breaks. Now that the weather was getting warmer once again, you had taken to going to the park and sit in the sun while eating. Just those few minutes away from the busy streets and bustling precinct really helped you get through the rest of the day slightly more relaxed.

The bench you were usually sitting on was in a relatively quiet spot, hidden between blooming bushes and old trees. You could still watch all kinds of people pass by from where you were sitting, but at the same time you were hidden well enough so that most people didn’t notice. It was fun to watch the other humans and androids at the park. You liked to use your investigative skills to try and figure out what kind of person someone was, or what job they worked. Like that, your lunch breaks often ended way too quickly for your liking, but it relaxed you too, so you kept doing it. Today was no different.

Well, actually, today was very different, because today you weren’t alone.

An android with piercing grey eyes sat on the bench next to you staring straight ahead and not paying you any mind. RK900, or Conan as you had taken to calling him, had been with the Detroit Police Department for a few months now and he was still just as stoic as when he first joined you. It wasn’t like he was unfriendly, but he also wasn’t exactly… approachable. He was always pretty straight to the point in whatever he said and never missed an opportunity to show off his superior android skills. Most people at the precinct hadn’t taken kindly to his presence, especially since everyone tended to compare him to Connor, who was soft and friendly, where Conan was all edges and sharp corners.

So, ever since you had started working with him, you had tried your best to be nice to him and to treat him with respect. You always greeted him the same way you greeted everyone else and inquired after his well-being. Now and then you tried to get some small talk going as well, but your attempts were usually in vain, since he had never learned how to carry a conversation, nor did he want to. He liked to make it abundantly clear that he had no desire to become more human or engage in any activity that didn’t relate to whatever case you were currently working on.

Which was a shame, since you had developed a gigantic crush on him.

At this point you were getting tired of feeling this way towards a person, who clearly had no interest in you. Or anyone else for that matter. You just wanted it to stop. You wanted your heart to stop speeding up every time you saw him. You wanted your hands to stop growing clammy whenever he was near. And you wanted your brain to stop going crazy with thoughts of him when you laid awake at night. But sadly it wasn’t that easy, so you had to live with the constant pain of liking someone, who probably hated you for always attempting to distract him from his missions.

Nevertheless, your dumb little crush didn’t change the fact that you wanted to be kind to him and treat him like the equal he was. Which was why you had talked him into going to the park with you to get some fresh air and take a small break. Conan had agreed reluctantly, but only after you had been nagging him for a few minutes. He had also told you he’d keep working in that big android brain of his, which you couldn’t stop him from doing anyway, so you had agreed.

So now here you were, sitting in the sun next to your crush, biting into a tasty sandwich. It sounded sweet, maybe romantic even, but the reality was anything but.

You could practically feel the bad energy coming from the android and you were almost certain it was entirely your fault he looked about ready to shoot someone. He probably wanted nothing more but to get back to work and close the case as soon as possible and despised you for dragging him away from the precinct.

You took another bite of your sandwich and turned to him as you chewed thoughtfully. His LED was flickering softly, so he was most likely doing research or filing reports or something else no other person would be doing on their break. You shook your head to yourself.

“Do you ever stop working?” You asked, watching closely as he stilled, before turning to you. His eyes were cold as always, but at this point you had gotten used to it.

“No. Not unless my systems reach critical levels and I need to divert my energy elsewhere.” He explained, making you scoff. “Do you have a problem with that, detective?”

With a shrug you bit into your sandwich, chewing slowly while you tried to come up with a way to phrase your reply that would convince him to take a break for just a few minutes.

“Not really, but maybe you could use the opportunity to work on your observational skills.” You gestured vaguely to the people on the path not too far away and his gaze followed your movement. He stared at the passing figures for a few seconds.

“I admit, it’s not a bad idea.” He finally said and you hid your triumphant smirk behind your sandwich.

“See, sometimes I have good ideas. That guy, tell me about him.” You pointed at a tall man in a baggy sweater. You personally couldn’t get a lot from him. He looked pretty normal and uninteresting to you, but maybe Conan would be able to analyze him more thoroughly with his sensors.

“Charles Cook, 34, unemployed. No criminal record. His heart rate is elevated, he is slightly distressed, but by what exactly, I cannot discern. Judging by the stain on his chest, he just ate lunch, presumably fast food.” Conan looked at you with his typical vacant stare, but he looked just a tiny bit proud. You snorted.

“Pretty good. But I think you misinterpreted the elevated heart rate. He isn't distressed, well not really.” You gestured to the man again, who was now talking to a shorter person. “He was waiting for his date, so he was nervous.”

Conan’s LED flashed as he filed away the new insight, still staring at the two people, who were now talking animatedly with large smiles on their faces. Finally, Conan turned back to you when they walked away. By now you had finished your sandwich and sipped on your iced tea instead.

“Thank you for the correction. A lot of human emotions manifest similarly, so it can be hard for me to discern them properly.” His grey eyes bored into yours and you felt a small blush creep into your cheeks. He'd most definitely not have any problems reading that human emotion. Thankfully, he didn't seem to be too interested in you.

Just as always. You thought unhappily. You wished he'd care at least a bit about you.

“What about that couple? Leave out the names and stuff, I don't really care about that. Just tell me what you can deduce about them.” You told him with an encouraging smile, pointing at two older ladies. Conan immediately scanned them with his usual unreadable expression.

“They wear matching rings, so it's safe to assume they are married. The one on the right has dirt stains on her hands, so she most likely enjoys gardening. The one on the left is a business woman, her posture and attire give that much away. They own a white cat, judging by the cat hair on both of their clothes.” He concluded and you smiled. It felt weird to gain insight into complete strangers’ lives this way, but in this case it made you happy. It sounded like they lived the perfect life and you couldn't help but feel a pang of envy.

“Detective.” Conan drew your attention away from the retreating couple, so you turned to him. “You should try it as well. It might be beneficial to building your skills too.”

You nodded in agreement, waiting for him to point out who he wanted you to analyse. Your results would definitely be less impressive, but you'd try your best anyway.

“The man with the baseball hat and the woman next to him.” He finally said and you almost groaned at the fact that it was another happy couple. It was like the world was taunting you.

“Uhm, well, she enjoys his company, her smile is genuine. He feels the same way, but he's nervous.” You looked more closely, eyes widening when you noticed his fingers move closer to hers, before he retracted them quickly. You smiled to yourself. “He wants to hold her hand, but he's afraid she will reject him.”

You suddenly imagined being in his position. Just you and Conan strolling through the park, talking happily, as you struggled with your feelings. There were a lot of things you had considered doing with Conan before, but holding hands hadn't been one of them… until now. It sounded surprisingly appealing to you. It wasn't like he'd ever let you hold his hand though, not when he was looking at you like that again. He looked almost angry now.

“Why would he want to hold her hand? What is the practical benefit of it?” Conan asked and you made a face. This wouldn't be easy to explain to the emotionless android.

“Hm… Well, it's a way to show affection, but it's also for comfort. You know by now that we humans usually enjoy all kinds of physical contact, and with all of our confusing emotions it can be nice to have someone to hold onto. Just a casual touch to feel more at home.” You felt like you didn't do a very good job of explaining when his LED flickered yellow for a second, before turning back to blue. Nevertheless, Conan seemed to be satisfied with your answer.

“I see.” He only said, turning his attention back to the passing people. Your eyes rested on him for a few seconds, appreciating his profile, before you turned back to continue people watching as well. A silence settled between you and you felt your stomach twist in knots, a sudden anxiety overcoming you. The unhappy aura coming off of Conan increased once again and you began to feel guilty. He didn't want to be here, did he? He wanted to be working and not sitting here with you on a bench. You had only dragged him here out of selfish reasons and you suddenly felt awful for it.

“I'm sorry.” You mumbled, making Conan turn to you. “I know you don't want to be here, I shouldn't have forced you to come with me. You can go back to the precinct if you want to, I don't mind.”

Conan’s LED spun and flickered as he processed your words, before he seemed to frown ever so slightly. It was probably the most expressive you had ever seen him.

“I apologize, detective. You must be misinterpreting my actions and demeanour. If I didn't want to be here, I wouldn't be.” He explained and you just stared at him wide-eyed. He actually didn't despise any second spent with you here at the park? That was… it was unexpected.

“Oh.” You said, feeling your cheeks heat up. “I figured since I always try to distract you from work, you wouldn't really like spending time with me all that much. I know I can be pretty annoying.”

A light chuckle died in your throat, when his frown deepened even more and his LED spun even faster. His eyes darted across your face, but what he was looking for eluded you.

“I don't find you unpleasant to spend time with. I prefer your company over that of most other people, if not all.” There was a flicker of uncertainty in his eyes, that completely threw you for a loop. “Do you believe that I don't like you, detective?”

Your throat closed up, as you felt your heart go crazy in your chest. It was true that you thought he hated you, but being confronted with it like this, you realized you might've been wrong. The heat that rushed to your cheeks made you fumble for words under his intense gaze, and you tried to get your emotions under control.

“Well, uhm, you always seem annoyed when I try to talk to you. And I know you just want to solve cases and stuff, but I still distract you, so I don't see why you wouldn't dislike me.”

His LED turned red and you stared.

“I…” He blinked slowly, deliberately. You swallowed, unable to take your eyes off of him for even a second. “You are always treating me kindly, even though I am just a machine. There's no reason for me to dislike you.”

You didn't know what to say. Of all the things you had expected to come out of this little trip to the park, this wasn't something you had anticipated at all. For months you had lived under the assumption that he found your company less than favorable, so hearing him assure you of the opposite, made you question yourself. Were you really that dense, that you didn't realize, or was he just really awful at expressing himself?

You knew for a fact that the latter was the case, considering he never seemed to have any feelings at all, but you suspected your little crush had also made it harder for you to look at things objectively. It was probably a combination of both, that lead you to believe that he disliked you. Now you just felt silly.

“That’s a relief.” You said finally, trying to give him a smile, that probably ended up looking pretty wobbly. Conan still looked down at you with his usual expression, but at least his LED had returned to its calm blue color once again.

“I'm glad I was able to clear up your confusion.” He inclined his head towards you and you smiled a bit brighter. “By my calculations we should be departing soon, if we want to be able to return to the precinct in time.”

With a happy little sigh, you got up and slung your bag over your shoulder, before turning to Conan.

“Thank you for spending the break with me.” You told him as the two of you began to walk back towards the station. Your heart was still beating wildly in your chest and you had a hard time calming it down.

“You're welcome. Maybe we could repeat this some time.” He said and you couldn't help but get excited at the prospect of this becoming a more regular thing.

“I’d like that.” You smiled, looking over at him just to find him fixing you with an interested look. You raised an eyebrow in question. “What's up?”

“Can I hold your hand?”

Your brain stuttered to a sudden halt, and so did your feet. A overwhelming heat spread across your cheeks, as you gaped at him in shock. So much for him not letting you hold his hand. You unsuccessfully tried to swallow the lump in your throat and when you spoke your voice sounded coarse to your own ears.

“Y-yes, but why?” You asked, barely holding in a gasp, when you felt his fingers close around yours a second later. His hand was much warmer than you had anticipated and he was gentle in his movements as he intertwined your fingers.

“You mentioned that humans hold hands as a gesture of comfort. I want you to feel safe.” He admitted, his piercing eyes resting on yours as he tugged lightly on your hand to make you start walking once again. You did as he had silently asked and let him lead you through the park. The blush on your face wouldn't let up, no matter how hard you tried to calm down. There was no way he didn't notice the effect he had on you, but you wondered if he was able to interpret your reaction correctly.

“I do feel safe with you, Conan.” You mumbled and when you looked up, you saw the tiniest of smiles tugging at the corners of his lips.

“As you should.” He said confidently and your heart hammered loudly.

You were absolutely screwed.