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Glaring Red

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"Hello, brother dearest."

 

Brother.

 

Connor was stunned, speechless. He didn't know what to think or how to react. Elijah Kamski was here, in Gavin's apartment. They were family. Kamski was part of the past Gavin was so desperate to keep hidden.

 

All he could do was stare at the man from behind Gavin, who had suddenly become so pale, Connor was worried he might just faint.

 

"No greeting? You break my heart. And after I went through the trouble of finding you. Took me almost an hour. You've done quite a nice job at hiding, I must admit."

 

Kamski's voice was just like Connor remembered it. Slick, level, self-assured. Yet something about the sound of it, its edges and the slightly predatory tone, sent Connor's processors into overdrive. He remembered Gavin in the interrogation room, the same deceptive smoothness in the way he had spoken. And everything clicked.

 

This was what his mind had tried to tell him back then. The similarities his deeply buried memories had picked up on when his conscious thoughts hadn't.

 

He took in the details of Kamski's face, the line of his jaw, the curve of his lips. Sharper, somewhat aristocratic, but the resemblance was undeniably there.

 

Gavin's back brushed against Connor's chest, bringing his attention back to the present. Gavin was shaking, so badly he would have stumbled had Connor not been behind him, supporting him.

 

This was bad.

 

He wasn't well and this encounter was only making everything worse.

 

"I was about to say you haven't changed," Kamski said, a smile on his face like he didn't notice the effect he had on Gavin, "but I see you are enjoying the company of my creation after all."

 

His eyes found Connor's, studying him like he one might an interesting painting or another decorative object. Connor couldn't hold his gaze, lowering his head so he didn't have to look at Kamski anymore. There was something about him that made his skin crawl.

 

"I can't say I'm surprised, little brother. And what a magnificent creation he is, isn't he?"

 

Those words made Connor snap his head back up again, a dark curiosity spreading inside of him. Kamski's tone was strange, suggestive. He was alluding to something, but Connor didn't know what. Gavin seemed to know however.

 

Connor felt more than saw him flinch before he moved, bringing distance them while taking a step towards Kamski in an act of pure defiance.

 

"Leave him out of this."

 

It was the first thing Gavin had said since entering the apartment. The vibrations in his voice spoke of anger and fear, yet Gavin held his head high, his eyes meeting Kamski's directly, the muscles in his back tensing up in an effort to stop himself from shaking.

 

Kamski didn't look impressed. He simply laughed, directing his next words at Connor. He was deliberately ignoring Gavin, effortlessly maintaining the upper hand in the conversation.

 

"I see you are doing well, Connor. I want to say I didn't expect you to join the police force after gaining your freedom," he said calmly. "Then again, you still continued your mission during the revolution, even after developing empathy."

 

Kamski raised his hand to stroke his chin, pensive and calculating. Cold.

 

"I wonder how much of what is driving you is an actual desire for justice ... and how much is left over programming, urging you to solve puzzles and finish your mission. RK800, made to aid humans in investigations ..."

 

Connor froze, caught off guard. He felt the breath hitch in his artificial lungs, his system sending warning messages to his processors.

 

He thought about Gavin's request from a few days ago, about how he hadn't been able to stop himself.

 

Despite his deviancy, despite the emotions he had come to experience, he was still aware of what he was and what he was not. He wasn't a person. He was a machine, enacting protocols, confined by the limits of his programming.

 

He was -

 

"I said leave him alone."

 

Gavin's voice was steady now, low and threatening. Protective.

 

He was looking out for Connor, moving further in front of him, as if to shield him. All of it in spite of how badly he was doing, stress levels dangerously elevated, heart racing, pulse slightly arrhythmical, sweat pouring out of his skin.

 

Kamski had the audacity to laugh at Gavin's resolve, blue eyes as empty and vast as a clear winter sky.

 

"Look at you, little brother. It seems to me you have grown quite a bit. I was right to seek you out now."

 

"I don't give a fuck about what you think or why you are here or what you want," Gavin stated, breathing heavily. "I don't want any part in it. Get the fuck out of here."

 

Kamski sighed deeply, running a hand over his neck. He looked a lot like Gavin doing that, Connor thought, yet he was nothing like him, different in every way. He had none of the warmth Gavin had, despite his anger and his flaws and the raw pain underneath his hard, uninviting shell.

 

"You hurt my feelings, Gavin," Kamski said, not sounding hurt at all. "I came all this way to visit you and to give you some important information. Something that might be related to your case."

 

A part of Connor he couldn't silence was intrigued, wanting to know more, hanging onto every word out of the mouth of this manipulator. And he hated it. Still, he found himself staring at the man in front of him, drawn in by his carefully chosen words. He was half aware of Gavin doing the same, shoulders drawn back and stiff as a board.

 

"How do you know about that case?" Connor asked, unable to hold back any longer. "There hasn't been an official statement yet."

 

Kamski simply smiled his insincere smile.

 

"I have my sources. That's all I am going to say about this. But I assure you it is useful information."

 

Gavin glared at him, crossing his arms in an attempt to hide how unnerved he was.

 

"Where's the catch? You never give out anything without expecting something in return."

 

"No catch," Kamski said. "I just want to talk."

 

"Sounds like a pretty big catch to me, brother. I don't want to talk to you, not here. Not now. We can do it on my terms, another time. Just ... leave."

 

Connor looked over at Gavin, alarmed. His voice was strained, no strength left in him, despite the show of contempt he was trying to convey. Not to mention his blood pressure was falling dramatically. He had gotten even paler than before, chalk white and shivering. At this rate, he would really pass out, and soon.

 

Not knowing what else to to, Connor gently pulled Gavin away from Kamski, positioning himself between the two men.

 

"I'm sorry, Mr Kamski, but I think my partner has asked you to leave twice now. You are trespassing at this point and I will take action to remove you from the premises if necessary. If you have anything to contribute to this case, you can come talk to me at the station, tomorrow at noon."

 

Connor half expected Kamski to protest. To his utter surprise, however, he just looked at Connor with a mildly puzzled expression that was gone as quickly as it had appeared, replaced by his usual cool, slightly smug demeanor.

 

He shrugged, walking past them with another glance at his brother who was half leaning against the door by now, his forehead pressed against Connor's back.

 

"You most of all should know I don't make trips to a police station. However, I would like to talk to you in private sometime."

 

His voice was so quiet, Connor was sure Gavin hadn't been able to pick up on it, not with how heavily he was breathing.

 

Turning away, Kamski took something from his pocket, a USB flash drive, oddly ancient technology in a world where direct data transfer was fast and incredibly easy, especially with androids involved.

He gave him another smile, less fake, but by no means less predatory than before, and put the device in Connor's hand. Reflexively, Connor took it, glancing at it with raised eyebrows, silently asking just what exactly Kamski was playing at.

 

He knew he shouldn't keep it, he shouldn't take anything from someone like him, it had to come with a downside, some strings attached.

 

For some reason, he didn't follow his own instincts. He remained still and silent, just watching Kamski as he left, holding onto the device against better judgment, going so far as to slip it into his pocket so Gavin wouldn't see.

 

The second Kamski was gone, Connor spun around, grabbing Gavin by the shoulders to hold him, just in time to prevent him from falling.

 

"Are you alright?"

 

No answer.

 

"Gavin, please talk to me."

 

"... Fuck."

 

Gavin wasn't even trying to keep it together anymore, his shaking had become uncontrollable, cold sweat making his shirt damp.

 

"Fuck."

 

Not knowing what else to do, Connor put Gavin's arm around his shoulders, steadying him by the waist.

 

"Do you want to lie down or would you rather sit on the couch?"

 

"Couch," Gavin said quietly. "And turn off that noise."

 

It took Connor a moment to realize he meant the music still playing in the background. It had turned from the uneasy, ambient tune into a soft piano piece, one Connor might have found soothing under different circumstances. Now it only made him squirm uncomfortably, the memory of Kamski's strange and dangerous smile still fresh in his mind.

 

He walked Gavin to the couch carefully, making sure he didn't put pressure on his ribs as he sat down, before shutting off the stereo.

 

Silence.

 

The sound of Gavin breathing. Softly whispered curses, barely audible.

 

He turned to face Gavin again to find him hunched over, hands clenched into fists, eyes shut tightly.

 

"Gavin -"

 

"Stop."

 

Connor was startled by the short, rough response. He didn't know how to behave. Should he say something? Do something? He wanted to comfort Gavin, but how?

 

"I -"

 

"Don't," Gavin said, exhausted, cold, refusing to look at him. "Just don't. Not now. I can't deal with this now."

 

Connor wasn't hurt to be shot down like that. He wasn't. He understood that Gavin wasn't ready, understood how overwhelming this ordeal must have been for him. He really, honestly wasn't hurt.

 

Then why was it suddenly harder to breathe?

 

"Gavin ..."

 

Why was his voice unsteady?

 

Gavin shook his head almost violently, refusing to answer as he buried his face in his hands. His shoulders were still trembling.

 

"Alright," Connor said. "I'll leave you alone."

 

With that, he walked out of the living room, gently closing the door behind himself. He let his back hit the wood with a quiet thump, leaning against it for support while trying and failing to breathe normally again. He wasn't hurt. He wasn't hurt.

 

Or was he?

 

By how harsh Gavin had been, how he had refused to even let Connor speak? He understood that, understood that his presence probably wasn't what Gavin needed right now.

 

Then why?

 

The walls were back, he realized then. After everything that happened, after their closeness at the hospital, the honesty in Gavin's apology, they were back to square one.

 

Connor didn't know what to do or how to fix this. He had the distressing realization that maybe, just maybe, he wouldn't be able to fix it at all; not without Gavin willingly opening up to him as well. And he wasn't sure if he could live with this situation not getting better again, after he had seen a glimpse of how things could be instead.

 

He was so overwhelmed by his flood of emotions, he just wanted to scream in anger and frustration and pain.

 

Instead, he silently pulled out the flash drive Kamski had given him, the simple, silver device, smaller than his own thumb. If only Kamski hadn't come, he thought. No information was worth this.

 

He closed his hand around the device, tempted to crush the cursed thing. But he didn't. He couldn't. This was bigger than him, this case was so much bigger than any of them.

 

It had almost taken Gavin from him.

 

He had to prevent that from happening again, he had solve the case if it fucking killed him.

 

This brought on the second realization. No matter how much he despised Kamski for what he had done, for putting his own brother through hell, knowingly, by forcing his way into his life in this most vulnerable moment, Connor was desperate for any information he could get.

 

He would take the bait. Meet up with Kamski - even if it played right into his hands.