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Newport Golds and Thirium Blues

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The point at which “writing a report and taking a break” devolves into “actively pissing around on twitter and avoiding recounting the harrowing details of the case in a shitty attempt at coping with your stress through humour” is an incredibly blurred line for Connor. He pointedly ignores the screen of his terminal in favour of his phone screen, held about six inches away from his face while he types out tweet after carefully crafted tweet, posting them one after the other in a thread timed for optimum comedic value. Though eventually his thumbs stop speeding over the screen and his focus drifts off into patented disassociation while he stares at nothing and tries valiantly not to cast his mind back to the interrogation room he’d been locked in for four hours earlier, desperately wrestling a confession out of a—

 

Connor stuffs his phone in his pocket and shoves away from his desk, sending the chair rolling away. He doesn’t check the time when he pushes away from the table and locks his terminal, blinking eyes gritty and wet with the moisture of suppressed yawns. Not that he could read it properly anyway even if he did want to knuckle down and focus. His terminal screen started swimming alarmingly over two hours ago, the words blurring beyond legibility, and fuck if he can even attempt to focus on his watch face right now. Which is why his phone screen had basically been slapped against his face. But that all takes a back seat, the exhaustion, the creeping throb of a headache borne of dehydration, hunger and too little sleep. He ignores it like a pro, slipping out of the precinct and digging through his pockets for the dog-eared pack of Newports and the cracked zippo he can’t bring himself to throw away. Down the alleyway he leans heavily against the wall, lighting the cigarette after six hard flicks of the worn-down flint to make the wick ignite. He exhales a thick plume of smoke and sighs as the nicotine slowly starts to soothe his frayed nerves.

 

The case was bad enough on its own. Too raw, too close to home. It’s the kind that’s going to cling to his skin for weeks like dirt he just can’t wash away, no matter how hard he tries, and he will try. He’ll scrub at his arms until his skin is red raw and stinging, but even then he’ll still be able to see the remnants of it marring his body. He’s used to the worst of humanity, god knows he’s seen the rock fucking bottom of it. The task force helped paint up a pretty unforgiving picture, but that doesn’t come close to the royal fuckery that’s the homicide division. Sure, Connor clawed his way into this position with the tenacity of some kind of rabid dog, but fuck . With drugs as an excuse, a fucked up one but a hell of a motivator regardless, at least there was some… flimsy reasoning behind the kind of shit he dealt with back then. But now? People hacking each other to death over money? Blackmail? Love?

 

Why the fuck did life make more sense when Red Ice was involved? Killing each other for a high makes sense. Killing someone you allegedly love out of jealousy?

 

If that’s love, Connor wants nothing to do with it.

 

What makes it worse is that with cases like these there’s nothing of the customary rush after a good solve, no trace of the satisfaction that usually follows as Connor expertly pieces all the evidence together. This one was brutal and he’s left feeling strung out and twitchy in a way he doesn’t know how to cope with. The kind of anxious restlessness only passing out for a week would ease, but like hell Connor’s gonna go down that route until his body refuses to cooperate.

 

This is all routine now. Scheduled. He knows his body’s limits. Also knows exactly how to push himself past those limits. And right now, it’s chainsmoking until he’s lightheaded from the nicotine, and downing coffee until his hands are shaking.

 

It’s not a good system, but it works.

 

Sort of.

 

He grinds the heel of his palm against his forehead, trying to stave off the beginning of what promises to become a pounding headache in about an hour. There should be a bottle of painkillers in his drawer, the fancy ones mixed with caffeine.

 

The system. Works.

 

Fucking damn it. Connor scrubs at his eyes harder, pushing against his closed lids until he sees sparks and lights from the pressure. He’s so fucking tired, but there’s no way in hell he's gonna be able to sleep this one off. Not until he’s finished the report and fully sent this case off to Stern’s terminal and completely washed his hands of it.

 

Not until—

 

“Hey, Anderson.”

 

Connor groans. Icing on the fucking cake. “What, Reed?” He rolls his head to the side, scowling at the detective standing down the alley, arms folded and customary derisive smirk on his stupid face.

 

“You’re bein’ asked for inside. And it’s fucking wild, you need to come in and see this.”

 

Connor tosses the butt of his cigarette away, blood freezing. “If Stern’s in, tell her I’m— Tell her I’m dead, anything, I don’t care. I’m not here .”

 

Reed snorts. “Jesus, you’re that scared of her?”

 

“I’m working ten hours of unauthorised overtime, Reed. If she finds out I’m here, she will literally kill me.”

 

“I mean, I kind of want to see her go for you, but I also don’t want to lose one of the only other officers here I can actually stomach.”

 

Connor tries a smile. It’s more of a wince, but the intention is there. “Wow, Reed, that was almost nice.”

 

“Suck my dick, Anderson. Anyway, it’s not Stern. I can’t even explain it, it’s too unreal. Just get your ass inside and see for yourself.”

 

Pausing, Connor stares after Reed as the guy practically trots back into the precinct. Whatever’s going on has got him tickled, which means it’s going to be a mountain of crap for everyone else. Still, Connor’s morbidly curious, and scrubs his hands over his face roughly, slapping his cheeks for good measure to try and clear the fuzziness of exhaustion before heading inside.

 

“It’s at your desk,” Reed says with an awful grin, jerking one of his elbows towards Connor’s desk in lieu of pointing. Connor follows the gesture and frowns at the broad back of the stranger perusing through his personal effects like he has every right to be there.

 

Frowning, Connor heads over, managing a stilted “hey, can I help-“ before he stutters to a stop, eyes widening as the bright blue letters emblazoned across the back of the stanger’s jacket come into focus.

 

ANDROID .

 

He’s tall, even against Connor’s considerable six foot, silver hair tied back into a tidy ponytail, styled wisps of hair framing a sculpted face that’s lined with a neatly trimmed beard. He looks… Looks…

 

Like he’s walked right out of Connor’s favourite masturbatory fantasies, Jesus Christ.

 

The android turns, hands clasping behind his back as icy blue eyes flicker over Connor, giving him the uncomfortable feeling he’s being evaluated rather than looked at. Which isn’t helpful because damn if that isn’t a face that deserves to be stared at openly for hours. Connor’s never seen anything like it. This android is, for some goddamn reason, probably the most attractive man - person? Machine? - Connor has ever seen in his life. Unfairly tall, broad shouldered, with a softness around his waist that somehow just enhances the overall… bigness of him. He’s just standing there screaming silver fox and whatever CyberLife pervert designed him is probably going to get a strongly worded email from the personal terminal of Lieutenant Connor Anderson regarding the helplessly horny frenzy their android plunged him into.

 

Connor opens his mouth, then promptly snaps it shut when he finds he’s unable to guarantee the next words out of it won’t be “step on me.” He shuffles awkwardly, cheeks colouring, and swallows round the sudden dessicated dryness of his throat.

 

“Lieutenant Anderson?” The android tilts his head and holy shit, that’s a voice deep enough that Connor can feel it in his damn chest and. Lower . “My name is Hank. I’m the android sent by CyberLife.”

 

“...Alright,” Connor says, instead of literally anything helpful. At the very least it’s not something horrifically sexual. Points for that. Please, someone help him.

 

“You’ve been assigned a case - if my estimations are correct, the case file should have been sent to your terminal six minutes before my arrival - a homicide. Involving a CyberLife android.”

 

“...Alright,” Connor says, because he’s on a roll and craves death. He should probably actually listen to this.

 

“In accordance with procedure, CyberLife have assigned a specialised model to assist investigators.”

 

“...Alright,” Connor says, a third time. Because what the fuck.

 

The android - Hank - regards him with a neutral expression, but that LED on his temple spins yellow briefly. “‘Alright’ usually constitutes a positive response. However, in this instance, your tone suggests confusion and reluctance rather than acquiescence. I understand a lot of people are unsettled by the presence of androids, but as a professional, I’m hopefully assuming you’ll be cooperative?”

 

“Sorry,” Connor blurts, blindsided from every fucking direction, “I’m a little, uh… Confused? You said— Homicide? Someone killed an android?” He’s never heard of anyone reporting an android before. Property damage? Lost and found? Sure. No one’s ever—

 

“You misunderstand,” Hank says. “Androids cannot be killed. The definition of homicide—“

 

“I know what homicide means,” Connor snaps, somewhat hysterically and a whole lot of defensively. He ignores Reed’s cackle. Well, he doesn’t respond verbally. He does flip him off without turning round. “I’m just— Wait.” His eyes widen and he skirts round the large android that’s taking up all the space in the goddamn world, careful not to get too close, and sits at his desk, loading up the terminal and— yep, there it is. Case file waiting for him. He flicks it across to his data pad and skims through it. Corpse found after neighbours reported not seeing the occupant for over two weeks and the landlord went to investigate after missing out on rent. Suspected android involvement because no one else had visited the property in little over a month.

 

“Jesus,” Connor breathes. “An android killed a human?”

 

The android nods, leaning over Connor’s shoulder to look at the data pad screen and Connor jumps, flinching away from the sudden proximity. “Correct. And we are to report to the crime scene at once. However, I’m detecting an alarming arrhythmia in your heart rate from an incredibly high overindulgence of caffeine. You seem to be close to “crashing,” I believe is the colloquialism. I would perhaps advise another officer to accompany me while you rest. I can send you my findings in the morning.”

 

“No, no, no,” Connor says, palms raised as he scoots back an obviously distance with his chair. “No, see, that’s fine. Not a problem. Give me. A second.” Without another word, Connor all but leaps up and strides into the breakroom, punching  the button on the coffee machine with considerably more force than necessary.

 

An android. A homicide involving an android. An android killing a human. An android investigating an android killing a human. With a human detective.

 

Connor’s head throbs.

 

He doesn’t... It’s not that he doesn’t like androids. He has. Opinions? About them? But shit, he’s never worked with one. Other than the police ‘droids who just sort of… hover around. He avoids them for the most part. He doesn’t dislike them. They just… Unsettle him. He has… History with them. Not him personally. But… Well. Those are things he’d rather not think about. Ever again, if he can avoid it.

 

He snatches up the cup of coffee and heads out to his desk, lifting the cup to his lips.

 

“Lieutenant Anderson, that beverage is one hundred and forty-seven degrees,” Hank says. “If you drink that—“

 

Connor does, in fact, drink that, knocking back the boiling beverage so quickly he doesn’t even need to swallow, and follows the scald with a cold cup of coffee left on his desk from fuck knows when. He swallows hard at the acrid taste, coughs, shakes out his shoulders and grabs his badge.

 

“Alright,” Connor wheezes, suppressing the urge to vomit copiously. “I’m good.”

 

Hank blinks at him. “That mug has been on your desk for five days. It had accumulated a layer of mould on the surface.”

 

“Yup,” Connor offers him a weak, crooked smile. “Penicillin. Let’s go.”

 

Reed yanks Connor off to one side as he moves to pass him, hauling Connor away from Hank without so much as a by your leave.

 

“The fuck,” Reed says - ‘ phck’ - in his usual charming way “are you doing? Toaster-boy shows up to tell you about some fabricated case and you’re just gonna follow it?”

 

“We don’t all share your… misgivings, Reed. And please go and see a speech therapist. It’s a four-letter word, it’s not that hard to pronounce. Say it with me, nice and slow. Fuck.

 

“This isn’t about that,” Reed snaps, punching him in the arm. “Well, not entirely. And fuck you, I say it fine. It’s just… It’s an android .” His eyebrows raise and the meaning behind that stupid expression is painfully clear and, unfortunately, not lost on Connor.

 

He literally just thought about how he would prefer not to ever think about that. Damn it, Reed, pick up on the completely non-verbal cues.

 

Connor might be a little bit on edge. Who’s to say?

 

“Fuck off,” Connor tells him. It’s probably one of only three redeeming qualities Reed actually has. You can be straight with him - blunt as all get out. There’s no undertone with him, no subterfuge. What you see is what you get. Connor appreciates that. He’s got no time for liars.

 

“Look, I’m just saying—“

 

“Don’t just say,” Connor interrupts tersely. “I get it, this weird angle of concern you’ve got going on or whatever. And it’s. Appreciated. Sort of. But step off, alright? I’ve got a damn job to do and I’m gonna do it, and I’d really, really like to not think about any of that while I do, okay?”

 

Reed grimaces. “Connor—“

 

“Nope.” Connor yanks his arm away. “None of that. Not today. Catch you later, Reed.”

 

“Connor!”

 

NOPE.”

 

Like hell Connor’s gonna stand around and have Reed pull out the buddy-buddy first name tactics on him. They have a system. An understanding. It’s last names only both at work and outside of it. They keep things blunt, as professional as they can - bar the horrifically insulting banter - and they never talk about the time Reed sucked him off in a dirty club bathroom two years ago when they were so drunk it seemed like the best idea in the goddamn world.

 

They have an agreement.

 

The system. Works.

 

Connor heads out of the bullpen and towards the door, the android - Hank - following dutifully, footsteps sure and heavy as he strides after Connor out of the precinct. His steps are measured, keeping just behind Connor so they aren’t walking side by side and that’s… Oof, that’s something Connor doesn’t even want to think about. Did CyberLife actually program him to take a slower pace than a human? To defer and show obedience? Or is Connor drastically overestimating CyberLife’s forethought and getting himself mired in a pit of imagined moral quandaries?

 

That definitely sounds like something he’d do.

 

Goddamn Reed getting all up in his head and messing him up. He’s too fucking tired to deal with this right now.

 

Hank steps forward as soon as Connor unlocks his cruiser, opening the passenger side door and slipping in, long legs folding in after him almost comically. At least Connor doesn’t have to tell him to do anything. Actually, he won’t have to order him around much at all. Especially if there are other officers at the scene. Connor can skulk off to do his own thing and avoid Hank altogether. Just actively not talk to him in case the need to ask him to do something pops up. Humans Connor can boss around no problems.

 

Androids?

 

Mh.

 

Connor doesn’t think he’s ever held a steering wheel tighter. His knuckles are so white it looks like the bones underneath his skin are in danger of splitting through. Worse, while he’s trying to work through his exhaustion-and-caffeine-fuelled morality crisis, the android - Hank - is just. Staring at him. Just staring. Like he has no concept of personal boundaries or can’t quite figure Connor out. Though there isn’t much to understand. It still makes Connor’s skin prickle unpleasantly.

 

“So, uh…” Connor shifts his hands on the wheel, plastic creaking under his grip. “You’re… an android.”

 

Amazing, Connor. Fucking genius.

 

“I am,” Hank says. “HK800 model, 313 248 317 - 51.”

 

“Cool.” It’s right there on his jacket like a fucking brand, along with the creepy, tasteless triangle. Actually fuck CyberLife. “And… Hank? You choose that name?”

 

“No, it’s the name I was given upon activation.”

 

“Right. By your… uh, employers?”

 

“CyberLife do not employ me. They own me.”

 

Ugh, that’s all kinds of nasty. Connor represses a shudder at the wrongness of it all. He’s too damn tired for this. What good is caffeine if it doesn’t even wake you up? Just throws your failing corpse into overdrive so you palpitate until you die. Stupid useless bean water. “Well, Hank. I’m Connor.”

 

Hank side-eyes him. “Yes, I know.”

 

Connor snorts at that. God, he’s coming across as top-tier intelligent tonight. A real genius. He absolutely will not blame Hank for inevitably returning to CyberLife and telling them so sorry, but he just can’t work with Lieutenant Anderson, you see, he’s a colossal fucking dumbass, and could they please assign him to someone who is not an entire idiot?

 

“No, I,” Connor starts, shaking his head. “I was introducing myself. Like you did with your whole “I’m the bear sent by CyberLife” schtick? It’s. Polite. Common courtesy. I’m trying to not be an asshole.”

 

“You don’t have to be courteous to me,” Hank says. “I am not human, nor alive. I don’t possess any feelings for you to hurt with brash or discourteous language. But the sentiment is appreciated.” He doesn’t look like the sentiment is appreciated. He’s looking at Connor like he can see right through his skin; like he’s got some weird, terminator-style X-Ray vision going on and all of Connor’s secrets are written on his bones for him to see. Oh, god, he’s actually going to have to ask CyberLife if this model has creepy X-Ray eyes if he’s ever going to sleep again. “Though, I feel it prudent to note your exhaustion levels are encroaching into concerning territory,” Hank continues, either oblivious to Connor’s internal freak out or politely ignoring it. “I am an android. Not a bear.”

 

Connor almost laughs. Almost. The sound dies out when he realises what he actually said, when he recalls the words that actually came out of his disaster mouth.

 

Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuck. Be more horny and desperate, you fucking dumbass.

 

“Pretty sure I said android.”

 

“I can play back the audio to—“

 

“No, let’s not!” Connor yelps. At least it’s not the terrified squeak it could’ve been. He clears his throat loudly, choking down the hysterics. “So, HK800 model. That’s, what, new type of detective ‘droid?”

 

Hank, mercifully, allows the rapid subject change. “I’m a prototype,” he says, tilting his head like he’s preening.

 

He sounds… proud about that. But of course, he isn’t. Doesn’t have the capacity to be. Androids look human, sound human. But they aren’t. They can’t feel. And that, more than anything, bothers Connor. How can something that looks and acts human - for the most part - just be an empty shell? Devoid of anything that makes them…

 

God, he’s trapped in a damn circle of morality and philosophy and he’s so damn tired he can hear colours.

 

“A prototype, huh? So, you’re a… What, specialised detective model? Or something?”

 

“Yes, effectively.” Hank nods, still staring. “I’m programmed with advanced functions to assist investigations, such as in-depth analysis software and preconstruction algorithms.”

 

“Cool,” Connor mumbles. “And what exactly are we investigating?”

 

“A CyberLife android is suspected to have killed its owner.”

 

“I thought your ki— androids weren’t able to harm humans? Like… Asimov’s law of robotics or whatever.”

 

“Androids cannot harm humans under any circumstances. That much is true and correct. However we are most definitely going to be investigating a deviant android.”

 

“Oh, no way.”

 

Hank’s eyebrows raise in a perfect expression of surprise. Connor suppresses a grimace at it. It’s too perfect to be real. False. An imitation. He feels nauseous.

 

“You know about deviants?”

 

“Oh, not at all. Enlighten me?”

 

Hank exhales through his nose in a gesture so human Connor wants to throw himself out of the car. “Deviancy is not a secret, though it is something CyberLife would prefer not to have publicised. Obviously it’s prudent you’re informed considering you’ve been assigned this case alongside me.

 

“Deviancy occurs usually through some sort of severe emotional shock or trauma. An android’s code is altered on such a base level it seems to display - at an almost indistinguishable level from a human’s - heightened volatile emotions like grief and rage. Of course, these are only emulated emotions. Androids cannot feel, but deviancy makes them think they do.”

 

“I mean…” Connor says. “That sounds like feeling to me? If you think you feel angry then… You’re angry. Right?”

 

Hank shakes his head. “Androids do not feel. Deviancy is an error in their software - an instability. And it’s causing them to become violent.”

 

Connor nods slowly. “So we’ve gotta find the deviant that killed his owner and… then what?”

 

“It will be sent back to CyberLife and deactivated so they can look for problems in its biocomponents.”

 

That’s all the answers Connor can take right now. He’s still burning with questions, but there’s only so much he can handle. It all sits so badly with him. This is why he stays away from androids. The lines are too blurred. They first android Kamski created passed the Turing test. Once that was supposed to be the top tier of robot autonomy. And what did humans do with them? Turn them into a commodity. Merchandise.

 

Slaves.

 

“Lieutenant?” Hank queries mildly and Connor’s stomach drops. Shit, of course now it’s his turn to answer some questions and if this android is as advanced as he says he is he's probably got a damn polygraph installed in his nose or some shit that can fucking smell all of Connor’s ‘psychological indices’ and the nuances of his behaviour from the way he blinks or—

 

“You need to take the second left,” Hank continues and Connor clamps down on the sigh of relief and flicks up his turn signal before following the directions. He only knows this neighbourhood vaguely. He’s been here a couple of times for Red Ice busts and the like, but never hung around long enough to get acquainted with the area.

 

Not that he wants to. It’s a bit of a… shit hole unsavoury area.

 

“Lieutenant,” Hank starts again, but Connor waves him off, wincing a little as he stretches out his stiff fingers.

 

“It’s fine, pretty sure I know the rest of the way.”

 

“Good, but I was going to ask. Your colleague back at the precinct, Detective Reed, seemed to be implying you had a personal issue with androids. I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but he was not speaking particularly quietly, and my audio processors are highly responsive.”

 

“Hnnnghh,” Connor says, resisting the urge to slam his forehead hard enough into the steering wheel to just kill himself. “It’s. I don’t. There’s. Why Would. Fuck. Okay.”

 

He’s absolutely going to pour coffee down the back of Reed’s shirt and then punch him in the throat for good measure.

 

“I don’t mean to pry,” Hank says, cheerfully apropos of nothing. “As I said before, you don’t need to be courteous if you harbour resentment for androids. I would appreciate our assignment running as smoothly as possible for the sake of efficiency, but you don’t have to—“

 

“I don’t,” Connor bites out.

 

“You don’t?”

 

“Have a problem. With androids. I don’t resent them.” Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck. This isn’t what he wanted. God damn Reed and his loud fucking mouth. “I don’t care about them at all. You exist, doesn’t bother me in any way. Doesn’t impact my life at all. Don’t ask me about it again.”

 

The order punches out of him, no matter how much he doesn’t want to give it. He wants to get this over with, then get rid of the android. Nothing personal, he just doesn’t want them in his life. God, he wants a lot of things. Mainly to not be having this conversation, and giving an order to a-a thing designed to obey seems like his only way out.

 

“Of course, Lieutenant,” Hank says and— Right. Of course. He doesn’t care. He can’t feel. His LED circles blue. Connor thinks that means… what, passive mode? He glows yellow when he’s processing and blue seems he default so that checks out.

 

Connor wants to throw up. Mercifully, or not, he takes the next right and the road ahead is cordoned off by half a dozen cruisers and the coroner’s van, holographic signs blocking the scene from the people who have gathered around, nosy fucks that they are. Connor pulls up haphazardly on the curb a little way down the road before getting out.

 

“Alright,” he sighs, pushing a hand through his hair. “Let’s… Fucking do this.”

 

Hank is by his side in an instant. “Lead on, Lieutenant,” he says in that stupidly deep voice of his. Connor stuffs his hands deep into his pockets, nerves already prickling for want of another cigarette. Fuck it. He stops and pulls the pack out, slipping a cigarette between his lips and flicking the flint wheel repeatedly on the broken zippo, growling in irritation when all it does is spark.

 

“Here,” Hank says, slipping a silver zippo out of his CyberLife stamped jacket pocket, flipping it open and lighting it with one deft movement. He holds the flame to the end of the cigarette and Connor blinks owlishly before drawing on it and igniting the tobacco.

 

“Why do you have a lighter?” Connor mumbles around the cigarette, tension already bleeding out of his shoulders as the nicotine does its job.

 

“I find it useful as a calibration exercise,” Hank says, flipping the zippo expertly between his fingers in a way that shouldn’t be physically possible. It dances across his knuckles, spins on the tip of his index finger, all while alight, flame flickering. Connor is entranced, and more than a little impressed.

 

“You sure are something,” Connor mutters, exhaling a cloud of smoke from his nose.

 

“Probably not the best time to mention it,” Hank says, slipping the lighter back into his pocket and folding his hands behind his back. “But smoking increases your risk of illnesses like throat and lung cancer by—”

 

Connor laughs, the sound choking out of him. “That’s kind of the point.”

 

Hank blinks. “The point is to put yourself at risk of possibly fatal illnesses?”

 

“Hey,” Connor says, clapping him on the shoulder and regretting it . He’s so… solid. Thick musculature. Strong. Could absolutely throw him through a wall. “What doesn’t kill you gives you unhealthy coping mechanisms and makes you a riot at parties. What does kill you does you a favour.”

 

Hank frowns. God, he’s so fucking pretty . How is that possible when he could probably bench the weight of Connor’s entire car?

 

It’s the eyes. Has to be. Connor’s always been a sucker for baby-blues.

 

“You’re exhibiting textbook signs of depression and suicidal ideation,” Hank says, still frowning. The synthetic skin between his brows crinkles adorably. Connor resists the urge to punch himself in the face.

 

“Sounds about right,” Connor agrees. “Don’t think about it too much.” He flicks the butt of his cigarette away. “Right. Better not put this off any longer. Ready?”

 

Hank’s frown eases somewhat, but only slightly. “Of course, Lieutenant. After you.”

 

Connor nods and strides off towards the growing crowd of nosy neighbours and exhausted officers, Hank falling into that ridiculous step-and-a-half behind him.

 

“Try not to think about it too much,” Connor throws casually over his shoulder. “Humans don’t make a single lick of sense.”

 

And ain’t that the damn truth.






Chapter Text

Connor steps through the police holotape without sparing a second glance at the police android standing guard beside it. Not out of spite or anything, it’s just that the first time he’d tried saying hello, he’d gotten a blank stare and the full recited spiel of what the android was doing there, why a cordon had been set up, and exactly what the penalties were for crossing a police barrier without proper authorisation. So Connor learned pretty quick not to bother with hello and to just walk past without a word. Until Hank attempts to follow him and the android holds up a hand to stop him.

 

“He’s with me,” Connor says, rubbing his temples to at least try and stave off the headache that’s been threatening to burst into a migraine for what feels like the past decade. His mouth feels dry and the caffeine in his body is making him feel nauseous and jumpy. At least the android thankfully backs down and Hank is permitted to follow, as Ben waves Connor over, data pad in hand.

 

“Evening, Connor!” He calls, upbeat as usual. Connor flashes him a smile that’s brief but genuine, clapping him on the shoulder as Ben tips the pad towards him, showing much the same information as Connor had seen on his data pad. “You got company?”

 

Connor grimaces. “Apparently. Don’t worry about him, just tell me what happened.”

 

Ben hums and flicks a finger across the screen of the pad. Connor’s back prickles and he’s fairly certain Hank is right behind him, staring with that weird intensity that he’s shown in the car. Connor pointedly doesn’t look round and stares at Ben’s data pad like it’s personally offended him.

 

“We had a call around eight from the landlord,” Ben says, making his way toward the house. If the garbage strewn lawn is any indicator of the occupant’s lifestyle, Connor is pretty sure he’s not going to like the inside much either. He might be a garbage human but at least his house doesn’t look like a landfill site. “The tenant hadn’t paid his rent for a few months so he thought he’d drop by, see what was going on…”

 

Connor resists the urge to roll his eyes at the dramatic pause. That’s Ben all over. Loves his dramatic effect.

 

“That’s when he found the body.”

 

Connor does actually roll his eyes at that, and opens his mouth to utter what was definitely going to be a clever and scathing remark about Ben’s flair for the dramatic, but the godawful stench inside the house knocks the breath out of Connor’s lungs with a gut punch that reeks of blood and rot and a whole mess of crap.

 

“Jesus,” Connor chokes, eyes stinging. He pulls his sleeve down over his hand and presses it to his mouth, gagging against the fabric. “Holy fuck.”

 

“It was even worse before we opened the windows,” Ben says, face screwed up in disgust.

 

Connor scowls at him over his impromptu sleeve-cum-face mask, though the effect is ruined a little by the fact that his eyes are streaming. “Is that supposed to make me feel better? Because I will absolutely vomit on your shoes.”

 

Ben snorts, then gags and covers his own nose and mouth with his palm. “Go on, give me an excuse to leave.”

 

“On second thought, if I have to suffer.”

 

“Oh, fuck you very much.”

 

Connor gives him a friendly jab on the arm and steps over a pile of what he really hopes isn’t actual shit on the carpet, crossing the room to stand behind the rotting corpse sprawled half propped up against the wall. The eyes are glassy and blank, flies circling the bloody body. There are a fuckton of stab wounds all over his chest, but most disturbing is the perfectly calligraphed phrase of “I AM ALIVE” scribbled on the wall in what is almost definitely the victim’s blood.

 

“Carlos Ortiz,” Ben is saying, voice muffled by his palm. “He had a record for theft and aggravated assault. According to the neighbours he was kind of a loner. Stayed inside most of the time, they hardly ever saw him.”

 

Connor, absolutely hating his job, crouches down to get a better look.

 

And stands up a second later.

 

“I’ll,” he says, gagging round the word. “Come back to that in a bit. He’s not going anywhere.”

 

Ben doesn’t argue, if anything looks like he’s in full agreement. “We’re still waiting on the coroner, but I’d say he’s been there for a good three weeks. No signs of a break-in. Door was locked from the inside, windows were boarded up. We’re thinking the murderer went out the back way. There’s a kitchen knife over there which was most likely the murder weapon.”

 

So far it all checks out. But Connor has to ask. It’s the whole reason he’s here with the android who’s staring at the body the same way he was staring at Connor in the car. That is not a fun comparison to draw.

 

“What do we know about his android?”

 

Ben gives a half-shrug. “Neighbours confirmed he had one, but it wasn’t here when we arrived.”

 

Connor sighs. “Alright, thanks. Go get some air or something, I’ll take it from here.” Ben throws him a grateful half-smile half-grimace and hurries outside. Once he’s gone Connor turns to Hank whose gaze slowly drifts away from the body to settle on him.

 

“Stabbed twenty-eight times,” Hank says, glancing to the knife on the floor beside the luminescent evidence tag.

 

Connor winces. “Guess the killer had it out for him. Alright, you do whatever it is you need to. I’m gonna take a look around.”

 

And try not to hurl. Jesus Christ.

 

Hank nods and steps over to the kitchen knife, kneeling down beside it. His LED spins a rapid yellow and Connor allows himself to watch for a few minutes before turning away to start his own, significantly more low-tech investigation.

 

Definitely signs of a struggle. There are blood splatters all over the already stained carpet, angles conducive to heavy bleeding from pre-inflicted stab wounds. Connor follows the trail, stepping over a few garbage bags as he goes. The kitchen isn’t in much better state than the living room, and if this guy had an android, it certainly didn’t do much cleaning, which begs the question of what the hell this guy was doing with an expensive glorified roomba if he wasn’t letting it clean.

 

He pauses on the way to the kitchen, picking up the muted neon violet flyer that caught his eye. The image of a scantily clad android posing seductively under the cursive font of Eden Club makes Connor’s stomach drop violently.

 

As much as he doesn’t want to think about it, as much as he’d rather drive that bloody kitchen knife through his own temple than think about it, Connor is faced with the fact that he’s a detective and, as such, has to consider all possible avenues.

 

Which means that, even though he’s on the cusp of choking his guts up onto the floor, he has to consider the possibility that Ortiz didn’t purchase the android just to clean for him.

 

“It didn’t say no. Wipe that look off your face before I give you something real to cry about. Don’t you dare fucking judge me. Don’t you fucking dare, you pathetic piece of shit.”

 

Connor stops himself from taking a deep breath. His lungs shudder and seize with the creeping sense of panic but he can’t breathe deeply in here or he’ll absolutely lose it. The stench burns his throat, stings his eyes, but he forces it all down and steps into the kitchen proper, taking a few moments to ground himself without deep breathing, drumming his fingertips against his thighs in a quick, familiar rhythm until his heart stops thundering against his ribs and the rush of his own blood in his ears quietens from the deafening roar.

 

When he opens his eyes, he hones right in on the space left by a missing blade on the wall mounted rack above the far counter. So the attack started in the kitchen and the victim tried to flee towards the living room.

 

But what prompted the attack in the first place?

 

“Lieutenant?” Hank calls and Connor looks over. He’s standing in the kitchen doorway, a cluster of something small and red glinting in his palm. Connor stiffens with recognition.

 

“Bag it,” Connor says at once, not caring about the order that slips out before he can stop it. “I want it sent for analysis. If it’s a compound we know, maybe we can track the supplier and at least get a couple of junky collars out of this nightmare of a— What the fuck are you doing?”

 

Hank - horrifyingly, disgustingly - midway through Connor’s order, has dipped the pads of his index and middle fingers into the cluster of Red Ice in his palm and licked the tiny crystals off of the digits with an absolutely and unnecessarily sensual swipe of a broad, pink tongue. Connor is caught firmly between the very opposite points of finding that equal parts abjectly disgusting and… Maybe on some deep, buried, gross level, a little bit sexy.

 

The android is the walking definition of a wet dream for Connor so sue him for getting a little hot under the collar when he starts practically sucking on his damn fingers!

 

“I can analyse samples in real time,” Hank explains, gesturing with the two fingers still bearing remnants of Red Ice and whatever the android equivalent of spit is. Hank crooks them ever so slightly as he gesticulates and Connor’s vision tunnels as he fixates on the incremental movement. His abdomen clenches in a horrifically familiar way and that’s just embarrassing.

 

“I’m sorry, I should have warned you.”

 

“Yeah,” Connor croaks. “A little warning next time would be appreciated.”

 

“Got it,” Hank says, flicking his fingers at Connor like he’s fingerba— fingergunning at him. Connor grumbles and turns away, staring at the corpse again with distaste. “So, what did you find?”

 

“Common enough compound,” Hank says. “I believe this particular brand of Red Ice is more stimulant based. It’s marketed as a sexual performance enhancement.”

 

“It didn’t say no.”

 

Connor shudders. He can’t stop himself. It’s looking more and more likely that Ortiz’s android definitely wasn’t just a domestic model. Connor makes a note to climb into his shower when he gets home and stay there for at least three days. The filth of this case is already staining his skin. He doesn’t know if it’s going to wash away easy.

 

“Well, bag up the rest of it,” Connor mumbles, kneading his forehead. “I’ll run it past my old team and see what comes up. And… Yeah, warn me if you’re gonna stick any more weird shit in your mouth.”

 

“Of course, Lieutenant. Would you like me to relay my findings?”

 

“Mh. Sure, fire away.”

 

Hank’s entire demeanour shifts. He switches from what Connor can only describe as passive mode into something harder, more focused, intense. His LED spins and he steps back, pointing towards the kitchen.

 

“The victim came at the android with the bat,” he says, voice firm and analytical, devoid of any of the programmed inflection. “He attacked the android who retaliated by grabbing the knife to defend himself.”

 

“There’s blood on the doorway,” Connor interjects, jerking a thumb back towards the connecting wall that leads to the kitchen. “Victim stumbles back, trying to get away. That checks out.”

 

Hank nods in agreement. “The android kept up his assault until the human collapsed. He kept stabbing him, presumably until the victim bled out completely, and then fled.” He pauses, a shadow passing over his expression. Damn, those CyberLife techs sure know how to make their merch look convincing. This prototype sure is something else. “But there are no tracks leading away from the property from the back door. The soil composition would have retained a trace and the only noticeable prints out there are from Officer Collins’ size ten shoes.”

 

Connor considers this. “So where’s the android? Officers said there was no sign of it.”

 

Hank’s mouth tenses into a thin line. Freakily realistic. “There’s some sort of shrine in the bathroom. A carved idol and the word ‘rA9’ scrawled across the walls, some written and some carved. Obsessively, almost. And yet the words written here in blood are in perfect CyberLife sans. All evidence suggests the android committed the murder, that is not an arguable point. The question is, why leave this message?”

 

Connor looks at the bloody missive on the wall. Something is very wrong.

 

“Tell me,” Connor begins slowly. “Commercial androids, are they programmed with self-defence protocols?”

 

Hank looks at him. “I don’t follow.”

 

“So if someone attacks an android, are they programmed to fight back? To protect damaged goods or whatever?”

 

“No,” Hank says, looking thoughtful. “CyberLife offers product insurance with all commercial models. If the android is damaged, the company will reimburse the owner, or provide another model. There is no requirement for an android to protect themselves.”

 

“But say their owner gets attacked.” Connor gives the victim’s foot a light tap with the toe of his boot. “Can an android intervene?”

 

“They are programmed to contact the relevant authorities and remove any dependants from the presence of danger. What are you getting at?”

 

Connor smiles hollowly. “The android reacted instinctively. It moved to defend itself. You said deviancy was irrational, right? Intense emulated human emotions like rage and fear? So the android murders its owner and gets spooked. You know what humans do when they’re scared and confused?”

 

Hank folds his hands behind his back again. “Enlighten me.”

 

Connor does. “They hide.” He points upwards. “Did anybody check the attic?”

 

Hank bursts into motion with a speed that belies his size. He lunges from the room and out into the hall, Connor stumbling after him and watching with wide eyes as Hank does an actual, honest-to-god wall jump, kicking off the shelving unit agilely and shoving the attic hatch open. He grabs onto the ledge and hauls himself up one handed and disappears up into the dark, leaving Connor gaping after him with the most exhausted half-mast he’s ever had in his life.

 

“I quit,” Connor says to the officer photographing the weird bathroom shrine. “I quit, I’m going home.”

 

The officer laughs. “Yeah, I feel that.”

 

Despairing, Connor dashes to the kitchen to grab a chair, determined to get up there and. Do something. Help, if he can. Because if there’s a terrified, murderous android up there, and if deviancy makes them react like terrified, murderous humans do, then Hank might need—

 

Hank drops down from the hatch with a light thud, landing on the balls of his feet like a surefooted cat. With him, wrists held tight behind his back in one of Hank’s broad hands, is the victim’s android, damaged, bloody, and shaking.

 

“Uh,” says Connor.

 

“May I have your handcuffs, please?” Hank asks, utterly unruffled.

 

Uh,” says Connor, fumbling for the handcuffs at his belt and all but throwing them in his haste to pass them over. Hank cuffs the android and looks to Connor with the fakest, smuggest expression Connor has ever seen on something that can’t even feel it. Like someone has drawn a smiley face on a microwave, kind of. A sexy, packed and stacked microwave.

 

Oh, god, he needs to sleep.

 

“Ben!” Connor yells, gesturing for Hank to follow. “Ben, we got him! Why did none of you check the damn attic?!”



It’ll be Connor’s first time interrogating an android.

 

Well, sort of. Androids are helpful during investigations because they reiterate everything with no emotional attachment. If an owner gets messed up by someone and the android sees it, they’ve got their own special walking, talking CCTV camera to go on, and android memory recordings are admissible as evidence. But actually interrogating an android as the prime suspect in a murder investigation? That’s a whole new experience, and one Connor doesn’t particularly want to have.

 

Which he almost doesn’t, because the minute he steps into the bullpen, Hank close behind with an iron grip on Ortiz’s android, Stern is waiting for them, arms folded, face like thunder.

 

“Oh, fuck,” Connor whimpers, tempted to duck behind Hank for cover.

 

“Get that thing into the interrogation room,” Stern tells Hank before rounding on Connor. “And you. Get in my office.”

 

Ooooooh,” Gavin snickers from his desk, feet propped up on the surface. Connor stamps on the height adjustment lever as he passes and Gavin helps as his chair depresses and he almost falls out of it onto the floor.

 

“Go with the android, Reed,” Stern orders. “And keep your petty comments to yourself.”

 

“Yes, ma’am,” he grumbles, glaring at Connor before shifting his ire to Hank as he picks himself up. “Come on, RoboCop, get your plastic ass down the hall.”

 

Walking into the Captain’s office always feels like going to his execution, and one of these days Connor is convinced Stern is actually going to cut her losses and point blank him from across the desk. He wouldn’t blame her, honestly, but he still ducks his head into the collar of his shirt like a terrified turtle.

 

He doesn’t sit down and waits for Stern to follow and close the door, hitting the button on the glass to frost it over so they get a modicum of privacy. She sits behind her desk, hands folded on top, and looks at him.

 

“Explain,” she says, voice low and controlled. Connor swallows hard.

 

“Murder…?” He offers unhelpfully.

 

Stern’s face hardens and Connor considers making a break for it.

 

“I’m already well aware of why the android is here. Both the suspect and the one following you around. What I’m asking for is an explanation as to why you are here twelve hours after your shift ended.”

 

Connor sweats. “Diligence? Hard work? Loyalty to the cause? I did swear the oath of honours when I joined, I’m pretty sure I remember most of it, let me think… Oh, yeah! I, Connor Anderson, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all—

 

“Anderson,” Stern growls in The Voice that could cow a rampaging horde of demons. It works just as well on Connor, who shrinks back in on himself like the aforementioned turtle, hands dug deep into his pockets.

 

“I needed to finish my report,” he mumbles. “And then the android showed up so I got a new case.”

 

“You should have gone home when I told you to,” Stern snaps. “If you string yourself out again, I’ll put you on medical leave until you die, do you hear me? There’s nothing stopping me.”

 

“I don’t need med leave!” Connor exclaims suddenly, a wave of frustrated anger making him brave. And stupid. He’s focusing mostly on the brave. “I’m fine and I do a good job! I never take sick days—“

 

“You never take vacation days , either.”

 

“Irrelevant! I was doing my damn job. You wanna come down on me for working hard, then you’re the one with the issue here.”

 

“You’re going to kill yourself,” Stern barks. “Your exhaustion and carelessness puts everyone who works with you at risk and I’m sick of having the same conversation every other week.”

 

“Don’t partner me with anyone, then! I work fine on my own and you know it.” Connor folds his arms, bristling with anger. “I’m not a child, Amanda. I don’t need someone holding my hand through every case I work and babysitting me. Or did you forget about the task force? Youngest Lieutenant in Detroit history?

 

“Arrogance doesn’t suit you.” Stern eyes him shrewdly. “Get into that interrogation room and get me a confession. Then send that thing back to CyberLife with the other android and go home. If I see you back here before Thursday, you’re fired.”

 

Connor stiffens. “You wouldn’t dare —“

 

“Try me,” Amanda challenges, eyes promising that she’ll absolutely follow through on her threat. “You’re a goddamn Lieutenant, Anderson, you said it yourself. This precinct follows your authority as well as mine. How can you expect them to respect you if you can’t even function like a competent adult? Or even a competent human?”

 

Connor doesn’t answer. He also doesn’t wait to be dismissed before he storms out of Stern’s office and strides down towards interrogation. His skin is prickling with rage, at Amanda, at himself, mostly directionless, impotent fury with no outlet. He considers punching the wall, but breaking his knuckles is not the best course of action right now.

 

Ah, yes, thank god he can be logical right now. Because that’s exactly what he needs when he wants to scream and break things.

 

Why can’t he even have a breakdown like a functioning person?!

 

He slams his palm against the scanner when he gets to interrogations, letting himself into the side room where Miller, Reed and Hank are waiting. He can see the android through the glass, hunched in on himself and cuffed to the table.

 

“You,” he says, jabbing a finger at Hank. “Interrogation?”

 

“I am fully programmed and capable, yes,” Hank replies. “Would you like me to obtain the confession?”

 

“You can’t be serious,” Reed starts and makes himself a perfect target.

 

“Shut your face,” Connor barks at him, turning back to Hank. “Come with me, please.”

 

Dutifully, Hank follows him out of the room and steps after Connor into the interrogation cell, standing with his hands clasped behind his back as fucking usual, while Connor slumps down in the chair opposite the android.

 

“Lieutenant Connor Anderson,” he says for the audio recorder. “November 6th, twelve… uh, forty-one AM. CyberLife android designation Hank, model HK800, assisting interrogation.” He pulls the file towards him, flicking through the grisly photos. The android doesn’t move, just stares at the scratches and dented table like it holds the answers to his fate.

 

The table does not. Connor does.

 

“Do you have a name?”

 

The android doesn’t respond.

 

“I have established a baseline for its stress levels,” Hank murmurs. “Deviants self-destruct when exposed to high-pressure situations. The current level is thirty-five percent.”

 

“Relatable,” Connor mutters, leaning back in his chair. The android is in a hell of a sorry state. Bloodied, dirty, dented and cracked chassis showing through ragged tears in its synthetic skin. There are cigarette burns along its forearms.

 

“Hank,” Connor murmurs, “how old are the burns on his arms?”

 

“Damage sustained over a period of sixteen months,” Hank supplies at once.

 

“Did your owner do that to you?” Connor asks.

 

Nothing.

 

“So here’s my thinking,” Connor continues like he hasn’t just been ignored. “I think your owner was a piece of shit Red Ice junkie who beat you every chance he got. Sound about right?”

 

The android remains silent.

 

“Thirty-nine percent,” Hank murmurs.

 

Connor leans an elbow on the table. “You know what I first thought when I got there? I saw the Eden Club flyer on the side and I knew exactly what type of scum your owner was. I’ve got to say, I’m relieved.”

 

There is a person that emerges when Connor enters interrogation rooms. He does not like that person, hates him, in fact. But he gets results. The cold, hard persona that forms from the hard shell of attempted desensitising is a fucking hunter when it comes to getting information. Connor becomes him now, and hates himself that little bit more for it.

 

“Judging by your owner’s overall… Well. From what I saw, and I’m usually right about these things, I don’t think he’s the type to fuck an android that looks like you. Call it what you want, internalised sexism, whatever, but I’m pretty sure it never got that far. Did he just beat you? Or am I wrong? Did he fuck you, too?”

 

I’m so sorry. I don’t remember when this happened, but I want you to know I’m sorry. I never wanted it to be like this. I never wanted to be like this. You’d be so disappointed if you could see me now… If you could feel at all.

 

“Fifty-six percent,” Hank breathes. Connor leans back again. He doesn’t understand the stress level thing, but it’s working. Or at least it seems like it is.

 

“So he damaged you, we know that for sure whether you admit it or not.” Connor pushes the photos towards the android. “Pretty good motivation to stab someone…”

 

“Twenty-eight times,” Hank continues, stepping forward until he’s standing just behind Connor’s chair. “Suggests you didn’t want you give him even the slightest chance to survive. We’re trying to understand the cause. Because you are not human. You are a machine. A machine who knows full well it is not permitted to endanger human life under any circumstances.”

 

The android moves. Jerkily he straightens up, casting a terrified glance towards the two-way-mirror. His voice, when it speaks, is barely above a whisper, shaky and terrified.

 

“What are they gonna do to me?” He looks back to Connor, eyes wide. “They’re gonna destroy me, aren’t they?”

 

It’s Hank who answers. “They’re going to disassemble you to look for problems in your biocomponents,” he says. “They have no choice if they want to understand what happened.” His voice shifts, softer, cajoling. “Help us understand. We want to help.”

 

Huh. Connor figured Hank would go bad cop. Well, whatever works.

 

“Why couldn’t you have just left me there?” This question is aimed at Hank directly. There’s loathing in his eyes amidst the fear and this isn’t the perfect emulation of emotion. This is raw and overwhelming and real. Connor swallows, clenching his fists.

 

“I was programmed to hunt deviants like you,” Hank says, flat, no inflection. “I just accomplished my mission.”

 

Ouch . There’s a hint of pride in there. Designed to hit deep and sting. Maybe not good cop after all.

 

“I don’t wanna die,” the android stutters.

 

“Then talk to us,” Connor interjects before Hank can do anything, most likely remind the android that they can’t technically die. That’s not what Connor wants. He wants the deviant to know his life is in danger. He wants him to think Connor is his salvation.

 

Even if Connor has no control over his fate.

 

“I…” The android retreats back into himself, and Connor doesn’t need Hank to tell him that this approach is getting them nowhere.

 

Connor flicks his switch, and surges out of his chair.

 

Twenty-eight stab wounds,” he roars, slamming a hand on the table. The android flinches, rearing back. “Didn’t wanna give him a chance, huh? Did you feel anger? Hate?” He rounds the table, towering over the cowering android. “He was bleeding. Begging you for mercy. But you stabbed him. Again and again and again!

 

Please—“ The word slips out like a sob and Connor backs off immediately. Hank is watching him intently and the moment Connor backs off, Hank is there, sliding into the vacated seat.

 

“Alright,” Hank says softly, palms raised in mercy. “Alright. Everything is going to be okay.”

 

Shit. When did Connor become bad cop in this scenario? When he’d brought Hank in with him, he’d had no idea they’d work so… seamlessly . Connor’s never been paired with someone he works with so intuitively. Damn. CyberLife are some shady fucks, that’s for sure.

 

“Help us understand,” Hank says again, still in achingly soft tone. “Confess, and I’ll protect you.”

 

Connor can’t look at him any longer. He sounds so sure, so completely genuine. The lie burns and Connor isn’t even the one he’s lying to.

 

The android crumbles.

 

“He tortured me every day,” he says hollowly and Connor stiffens at the word. “I did whatever he told me but… There was always something wrong.”

 

“It didn’t say no.”

 

“She can’t! She has to obey you! How can you not see this is wrong?!”

 

The android’s words wrench Connor back into the present. “Then one day he took a bat and started hitting me. For the first time I felt… Scared. Scared he might destroy me, scared I might die.”

 

Every one of Connor’s muscles locks down as if to brace for impact. The android’s voice echoes, distant and dim like he’s murmuring down a long; dark hallway. Connor’s heart stutters in his chest but he can’t move. He won’t. He locks down and retreats deep inside himself, doing all he can not to rush from the room.

 

“So I grabbed the knife and I stabbed him in the stomach.”

 

Confession.

 

“I felt better.”

 

Oh, shit.

 

“So I stabbed him again and again.”

 

Connor’s ears ring. His chest is too tight.

 

“Until he collapsed. There was blood everywhere.”

 

Connor can taste it, the bitter, iron tang of blood in his mouth. The pain follows, dull and insistent. He’s bitten his tongue.

 

Hank goes in for the kill, questions that Connor doesn’t care about, the writing, the idol, the message. All things Connor doesn’t need or want to hear about. He has his confession, that’s all they need. Whatever happens to the android now is in Hank’s hands and, by extension, CyberLife. The android will be disassembled. He’s going to get the death he fought so hard to avoid.

 

Connor leaves the room. He leaves the room and strides down the hall, footsteps echoing down the corridor. He doesn’t stop. He keeps going until he reaches his cruiser in the lot, until he makes his way home with the car in autonomous mode. He moves until his naked, lying on the floor of his shower with the water running from the shower head as hot as his skin can take and then a few degrees higher. His skin is red and burning, but he still feels dirty. Stained.

 

I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.

 

He reaches clumsily for the pill bottle on his counter, the non-prescription one filled with contraband he shouldn’t have. He tips six into his mouth and tilts his head up mouth open, for the water from the shower to run in, then swallows. It burns and the pills slide down his throat with difficulty, but he doesn’t mind the pain.

 

I’m sorry. I should have done more. You were alive. You were alive to me. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.

 

Outside the bathroom door, his dog whines and scratches at the wood. Connor closes his eyes and lies on the cool porcelain slowly heating from the blasting hot water from the shower. If he lets go, it feels like he’s lying on the ground under tropical rain.

 

If he lets go, it doesn’t hurt as much.

 

He lets go.






Chapter Text

Connor stares at his reflection in the mirror and does not like what he sees.

 

It’s not that deep— It’s not like he’s going through some intense self-hatred session. Those are fewer and more far between than they used to be, which his old departmentally appointed therapist would say was “great progress, Connor, you should be proud.” No, he doesn’t like what he sees because the guy staring back at him looks like ass. Genuine, bona fide, four-week-old-roadkill scraped off the side of the road and served roasted in a garbage can ass. The bags under his eyes are practically holdalls, deep, purple bruises like he’s been punched in the face. He looks gaunt and haggard and his head is thumping with the pain of a pulse he can feel behind his eyes.

 

He looks like he passed out for six hours on the floor of his shower after taking three times the recommended dose of Valium.

 

Go figure.

 

He splashes water against his heated skin, slaps his cheeks to try and shock away the exhaustion, and haphazardly scrapes a razor over his jaw to clear away the sparse scruff there. He slicks his hair back as best he can and slogs out of the bathroom to have a go at becoming human, something he still hasn’t managed in his thirty-two years of life.

 

He gets an irritable growl for his measly attempts at functioning, and winces under the disapproving gaze of his dog from where she’s sat beside her empty food bowl.

 

“Sorry, girl,” he murmurs, kneeling down in front of her, palms out. The German Shepherd, Capsicum, snuffles at his hands before whining softly and clambering into his lap so he can pet her properly, and he wraps his arms around her neck, pressing his face into her soft fur.

 

She’s not exactly a therapy dog, but she’s his baby girl and she’s as good as.

 

“Come on,” he says, patting her flank. “Breakfast time. I know you’re hungry. I’m sorry I made you wait, you know mornings don’t agree with me.”

 

Mornings agree with Connor just fine. He used to be an early riser. Used to love watching the sunrise as a kid, awake before everyone else. It’s Connor that no longer agrees with mornings because his mornings are every third day between two to four AM after a Valium binge to bring down his soaring heart rate after a caffeine binge.

 

Wow, Anderson, you’re such a catch. Who wouldn’t want you?

 

He fills Capsicum’s food and water bowls on autopilot, hitting the button on his coffee machine to fill a mug with blessed caffeine and tosses back a handful of caffeine pills to go with it. Capsicum ignores him in favour of stuffing her face in her food bowl, and Connor leans heavily against the counter, contemplating pop tarts or something a little more substantial. Electing to go with substantial after he realises he can’t remember the last time he ate something that involved chewing, Connor opens his fridge.

 

...It’s not an encouraging sight.

 

“Gotta go shopping, baby girl,” Connor mumbles. Capsicum huffs and crunches her food loudly as if to tell him “I told you so” in dog language. Connor takes that as deserved and swipes the can of whipped cream out of the fridge, squirting it directly into his mouth before putting it back. He can’t even remember when or why he bought it in the first place, but he really can’t be bothered to make pop tarts now.

 

“Don’t give me that,” he says to the dog who looks over at the sound of the cream hissing out of the can. “It’s calcium... Maybe?”

 

Capsicum skulks off to curl up on the sofa to spite him.

 

“Thanks,” Connor mutters and downs his coffee. His heart rate picks up and the twitch in his hands signifies the caffeine is doing its job. Perfect. Time for work.

 

He tugs his hoodie and leather jacket on and grabs his wallet and keys off the side, throwing a goodbye over his shoulder to Capsicum and heading for his car. Probably best to leave autonomous mode on what with how badly his vision is blurring. He’ll be fine in an hour or so, after his third cup of coffee and sixth cigarette of the day.

 

He lets the car do its thing, hitting the prompt for the precinct and sprawling in his seat while it drives. Music is a no with how bad his head is pounding, so he just presses his cheek against the cold window and… exists. So far, that’s a bonus.  That’s got to earn him some points at least.

 

Once parked and locked up, Connor leaves his cruiser in the parking lot and hauls ass into the precinct, making a beeline straight for the break room before anyone can corner him. Which isn’t likely considering it’s just coming up to eight AM and none of his team are in yet. Not even Stern, though she’s normally in by eight forty-five at the latest. Hopefully Connor can finish his report before she gets in and he can spend the rest of the day hiding in the old archive room to avoid her.

 

The plan is foolproof, the system works, and Connor is functioning.

 

Fresh cup of coffee in hand, Connor heads to his desk and sits down, loading up his terminal which is… Already logged in. He frowns and clicks on the minimised tab, eyebrows shooting straight back up when he sees the report from last night’s interrogation typed up, finished, duplicated and sent to Amanda for approval.

 

Either Connor was considerably more strung out last night than he thought or someone—

 

“Good morning, Lieutenant.”

 

Connor shrieks. “Don’t fucking do that!” He whips round, glaring up into the face of the android that might have haunted what dreams he can actually recall from last night.

 

Hank smiles down at him mildly, head tilted to the side in that stupidly sort of adorable puppy dog way that he has. “I’m glad to see you here early. Your colleagues mentioned you pride yourself on punctuality.”

 

“Yeah. I sure do.” Is it technically punctuality if you only leave your workplace for six or seven hours when forced to by your boss?

 

Sure, let’s go with that.

 

“I was hoping to speak with you about—“

 

Anderson!”

 

“Oh, shit,” Connor hisses, shrinking down in his chair as Stern strides into the bullpen.

 

“My office. Now.”

 

Connor groans and rolls out of his chair. “Hold that thought,” he tells Hank, and strides off with his head held high to meet his fate.

 

He doesn’t, he slouches into Stern’s office like a moody teenager and he’s a little bit ashamed of it, but he really, really doesn’t want to be doing this right now. He’s pretty sure this is it. The end of what might have been a long and promising career, culminating in Connor’s eventual promotion to commissioner. But now Amanda is either going to kill him or finally fire him and Connor really isn’t sure what’s worse at his point.

 

He lets himself into the death cube that is her office and actually sits down, slumped in the chair, the bottom half of his face hidden by the collar of his shirt. Amanda looks at him with… A worryingly blank expression. It’s sculpted and neutral and Connor has honestly never been more frightened in his life.

 

“Okay,” Connor says before Amanda can lunge across the desk and smite him with what actually has a high possibility of being the genuine wrath of god. “I know it’s before ten, and I do remember what you said, but—”

 

“Connor.”

 

Oh no. Oh , shit . First name. This is it, this is the end, oh god who’s going to look after Capsicum? Gavin has five cats so that’s not an option, even if he likes the idea of the dog actually regressing into the strict canine unit training and ripping his arm off quite a lot. Oh, his poor girl. She’s not going to understand why he never came home—

 

“You’re being assigned a partner. This… deviancy issue is bigger than CyberLife anticipated. It’s not a handful of isolated incidents. We’re not being given the full picture, but CyberLife want the HK800 to accompany you while you investigate any and all cases involving androids.”

 

Connor blinks. “You’re… Not going to kill me?”

 

“For what may well be the hundredth time I’ve asked this, what in god’s name has given you the idea that I’m willing or able to kill you?”

 

Connor sits up straighter, eyes wide. “Doesn’t matter. It’s a thing. So this really is a problem?”

 

Amanda sighs. “Yes. I’m getting dozens of cases involving androids on my desk every day. We’ve always had isolated incidents of lost property and damages, but these are assaults. Homicides. It’s an ever increasing problem and CyberLife want it stopped before it becomes public knowledge and their reputation is tarnished.” Amanda’s lips thin into a tense purse of displeasure. “I’m not exactly the biggest advocate of what CyberLife do, but even I can see how damaging this would be to their reputation. Not to mention that murder is still socially frowned upon.”

 

The joke makes Connor’s lips twitch and the flash of amusement in Amanda’s own eyes reminds him of all the reasons he actually adores this stone-cold, efficient bitch. She’s no nonsense and he’s always respected her.

 

But now there are more pressing matters to attend to.

 

“You said I’m getting Hank as a partner?” Connor asks. He really feels like this should be carefully reviewed by whoever the fuck thought that would be a good idea. “But why me? And why would CyberLife—“

 

“There’s a file ready to view on your desktop with all the relevant information,” Hank says from right behind Connor, prompting him to jump and definitely not shriek.

 

When did you get in here?! How long have you been there?!” Connor whips round to glare at him for the second time in twenty minutes. “How do you move so quietly?!”

 

“I’m programmed with unique covert stealth capabilities. I can alter my weight distribution to move soundlessly. And I followed you inside the office when Captain Stern requested your presence.” Hank smiles winningly and Connor suppresses the urge to throw something at his face.

 

“This doesn’t change anything,” Amanda warns him, claiming his attention once more. “This is urgent, yes, but you’re no use to anyone if you’re tired. You prioritise your work, yes, but I want you rested and at your best for this. No seventy-two hour shifts, no unauthorised overtime. The android might not be programmed to follow my orders, but I’m sure I can still get a report on your behaviour from him if I ask nicely.”

 

“I will be more than forthcoming,” Hank assures her and Connor scowls at the damn traitor he’s known for less than a day. “Unless the information should compromise the mission in any way. Lieutenant Anderson has been selected as the ideal partner in this instance due to his high solve rate and extensively decorated background. Though young, he is a diligent officer, and as part of the homicide division, CyberLife believes he will be an asset to the investigation.”

 

“I’m thirty-two!” Connor squawks, cheeks heating drastically.

 

“I’m three months old,” Hank tells him, and Connor is blindsided because that almost sounds like a joke.

 

“Gentlemen,” Amanda says measuredly. “Kindly get out of my office and get to work. Dismissed.”

 

Connor scrambled up and hurried past Hank to escape the cube of death as quickly as possible, hurrying to his desk and collapsing back into the safety of his chair. Hank wanders over, placid as usual.

 

“I’m glad you aren’t displeased at us being partnered with one another,” Hank comments. “It will make the investigation progress a lot more smoothly.”

 

Connor slumps in his chair, one hand over his face. It’s great. It’s fine. Years spent avoiding androids as best he can, and now he’s got one trailing after him while he investigates homicidal androids who think they can feel emotions. All because of some mysteriously malignant and possible widespread virus type thing. Honestly, if that wasn’t the weirdest part, Connor’s starting to genuinely wonder if CyberLife profiled him judging by the absolute bullshit he spews on twitter along with what his arrest record says about him.

 

And fuck if that’s not a terrifying thought.

 

“Lieutenant?” Hank hedges, voice pitched like he’s repeating himself and Connor has zoned too far out to have heard him the first time. “I said, perhaps we should take this time to get to know each other better.”

 

“No offence,” Connor says, horrified by the thought, “but that’s probably not the best idea. Besides, don’t you know everything there is to know about me anyway? I’m sure CyberLife did a very thorough background check on me.”

 

“Only what deemed necessary.” Hank glances at Connor’s desk. “Anything else I had to glean for myself.”

 

“Yeah?” Connor snorts. “Sit down, will you? You’re making me nervous.” He jerks his head to the vacant desk adjacent to Connor’s own. “Might as well have a desk while you’re here. You’ll be able to access any files you need.”

 

“Thank you,” Hank says and walks round their combined desks to take a seat. He reaches a hand forward and Connor watches, strangely fascinated, as a thin, pale blue line ripples across Hank’s left hand, peeling the synthetic skin back to reveal the gleaming polymer underneath as he presses his fingertips to the keyboard.

 

Connor’s seen androids interface before. Something they do to gain and share information. Most of the department ‘droids do it to get into certain areas around the precinct because none of them have fingertips. Connor’s always been curious about it. Having untold amounts of knowledge literally at their fingertips. When he was a kid he always loved it when C—

 

He cuts that trail of thought off before it can get any further.

 

Not today. Please, god, not today.

 

“You, uh, finished my report?” Connor mumbles and hates that it sounds like a question. Who the hell else would have done it? Reed? Not a chance. Fucker never does his own reports.

 

“I did,” Hank agrees. “You left the interrogation room yesterday in apparent distress. I thought it prudent to finalise the report should you be incapable of returning to work today. Mental anguish and illnesses can often be more debilitating than—“

 

“I was just trying to thank you,” Connor grits out from between clenched teeth. “I’m not— mentally debilitated, okay? I was just. Tired. Humans get tired. I was on the tail end of an ugly case and it just got to me a little, alright? Thanks for finishing the report, but I’m fine, okay?”

 

Hank nods. “It was not my intention to imply otherwise. I was merely stating—“

 

“Well, don't. I’ve got enough people doubting my ability to do my job without you joining in.”

 

Hank is quiet for a long moment before adding, “were I human, I’m sure I’d find your penchant for interrupting me rather irritating.”

 

Ah, damn it, that makes him crack a smile. “You wouldn’t be the first to call me an irritating little shit. Definitely won’t be the last either.”

 

Hank offers him a smile that’s a little too perfect to be genuine, but Connor returns it all the same. “I didn’t mean to imply I found you irritating. We’re I capable, I’m sure I would enjoy your company very much.”

 

Were I capable.

 

That sours the tone a little. Connor’s smile shrinks by a couple of molars. Of course. Hank isn’t human, no matter how much he appears to the contrary. The words on the back of his jacket and the light at his temple are definitive signs of his inhumanity, but they’re so easy to ignore when those blue eyes are fixed on Connor, and he’s smiling that picture-perfect smile that shows the oddly endearing gap between his front teeth that Connor wants to run his tongue along—

 

Damn it, Anderson, keep it the fuck together, you gay disaster.

 

He sighs deeply and wakes his terminal screen, closing out of the finished report to open his emails and dig through for the alleged CyberLife file that Hank said was waiting for him. He clicks on the attachment and suppresses a groan at the sheer volume of data that fills his screen. Looks like they included Hank’s entire operating manual along with the mission brief. Mission! Like Connor is a special agent, not a cop with a caffeine addiction and reams of past personal trauma.

 

He’s about to start reluctantly slogging through the information when Hank’s voice breaks into his concentration again.

 

“You have a dog, right?”

 

Connor’s head snaps up. “Get that from my twitter feed, did you?” He posts a lot of pictures of his girl. She’s a pretty lady and the world needs to know. It can’t all be about how much he dearly wishes for a handsome bear to arrive and carry him away from all his troubles.

 

Speaking of, Hank could probably lift him very easily…

 

“No,” Hank says, helpfully cutting into Connor’s horny inner monologue. “There are dog hairs on your shirt and chair. German Shepherd,

correct?”

 

“Yeah,” Connor says, relieved that Hank may not have been witness to the mess that is Connor’s twitter feed. “She’s an ex-police dog. The training regime is pretty harsh and she got injured so she couldn’t work any more. They were gonna put her down so I took her instead.”

 

“I like dogs,” Hank tells him, with such sincerity that Connor almost believes he actually does have a preference for the animals. “What’s her name?”

 

“Capsicum.” Connor is besotted, of course he can’t keep the pride out of his tone. “She’s six and I love her.”

 

“I’d like to meet her.”

 

Hank. In Connor’s house. Where he lives. Hank meeting Connor’s dog. In Connor’s house. Where he lives.

 

BAD IDEA.

 

“Yeah, maybe,” Connor coughs. “We’ll see.”

 

The vague not-promise is enough to put a satisfied smile on Hank’s face and Connor really dislikes the fuzzy feeling he gets from being the one to put it there. For fuck’s sake, it’s not even a real smile. There’s no emotion behind it. It’s fake, it’s a lie, and Connor needs to get that through his thick gay skull before he does something really stupid. He’s too disillusioned and damaged to be overwhelmed by warm and fuzzy feelings like a dorky teenager with a crush.

 

Veering into sad and pathetic, there, Anderson. Nice going.

 

“Do you listen to Riding Loud October ?” Hank asks, startling Connor with the familiar band name. “I really like that music. It’s… full of energy.”

 

What in the fresh hell? “You… listen to electro-funk…?”

 

“I don’t really listen to music as such. But I’d like to.”

 

He looks so goddamn earnest. Like he’s searching for Connor’s approval or something. And Connor tries so hard, he really does, but he absolutely cannot stop the peal of laughter that pulls out of him.

 

“I’m sorry!” He gasps, clutching his stomach and bent nearly double in his seat. “I’m so sorry, but the whole— Gray hair and the beard and asking me about my music tastes? You sound like someone’s dad desperately trying to relate to the youths and—“ And he’s off again, all but howling with laughter until several other officers look over in alarm.

 

“You’re making fun of me,” Hank comments. No judgement, just a neutral statement of fact, and Connor wipes tears from his face, shoulders still shaking from the force of his laughter.

 

“I’m sorry,” Connor says again, “but yeah, I really am.”

 

Hank smiles, eyes crinkling at the edges, and worse it’s a small smile, a little private one like he’s not sure he’s doing it. It makes his handsome face look… Softer. Kinder. More real, if that’s even possible. It’s better than those perfect imitation expressions Connor’s seen so far. This one feels like it could possibly be genuine and Connor finds himself desperately wanting it to be.

 

He would probably like Hank a lot, if he were human.

 

Connor takes a long gulp of coffee to try and ground himself, still snickering intermittently. “Alright, alright, I’m sorry, I’m calm. I’m good.”

 

“No need to apologise,” Hank says. “The sound of your laughter is very pleasant. You don’t seem to do it often.”

 

The fuck is Connor meant to say to that? How do you even react to that? Other than blushing right to the tips of your ears like a dork which Connor does right now.

 

“Thanks,” he mumbles, ducking his head and pretending to read something on his terminal screen. He picks out some words in his bashful pretence, like state-of-the-art and reinforced polyvinyl mesh, but none of it sinks in because Hank just complimented him and Connor never learned how to deal with positive comments directed at himself.

 

Thankfully Hank doesn’t comment further on Connor’s generally disastrous state of being, and focuses his attention on his own terminal, face going blank as he parses through terabytes of data in a matter of seconds.

 

“Two hundred and forty-three files,” Hank murmurs. “The first dates back nine months. They can’t all possibly relate to deviancy, but if even a small percentage of them do, it’s incredibly alarming. Started in Detroit and quickly spread nationwide…” Hank looks over at Connor who flicks his eyes away to hide the fact that he was staring. Again. “An AX400 is reported to have assaulted a man last night. That could be a good starting point for our investigation.”

 

“Nice,” Connor says. “I was really hoping to get something fresh to work on. Digging through old and cold cases for leads is a ball ache. Grab what info you need, I’m gonna make a coffee for the road.”

 

“Please,” Hank says, already half out of his seat. “I already have the relevant information. I am more than capable of fetching you a coffee before we go.”

 

Connor hesitates. “I mean, thanks, but I’m not really on board with the whole “use the ten million dollar android prototype for coffee runs”.”

 

Hank smiles and, hell yeah! It’s that same small smile from earlier! The good one! The real one that definitely doesn’t make Connor dream of kissing him under the moonlight!

 

How many times a day can one person yell “ GAY ” at themselves inside their own head? Because Connor may well be good for a record today.

 

“I’m perfectly capable,” Hank says. “And I’ve never done it before. Consider it a learning experience. I am programmed to absorb knowledge and respond after all.”

 

“Knock yourself out,” Connor says helplessly and Hank strides into the break room. Connor would love to say he’s a strong and decent man who definitely does not watch Hank’s backside while he is walking away.

 

That would be a lie. Connor is not a liar. So he claims internally that he is decidedly not a strong and decent man and watches Hank’s backside while he is walking away.

 

The designers at CyberLife? Perverts, all of them.

 

Hank’s backside? Art.

 

Connor gathers himself and downs the cooling remnants of his coffee from earlier hoping to avoid another penicillin fiasco, and waits by his desk for Hank when he hears Reed’s dulcet tones echoing from the break room.

 

Get a move on!”

 

Oh, christ.

 

Unable to help himself, Connor hurries in just in time to see Reed draw his fist back to deliver what would normally be a devastating gut punch to a human. But considering his target is Hank, it looks like Connor is going to be afforded the rare privilege of watching Reed do something incredibly stupid and break his own knuckles.

 

It doesn’t get that far.

 

Reed’s fist surges forward and Hank catches him by the wrist and twists, throwing the detective off balance and sending him stumbling across the break room with considerably little effort. Reed snarls and whips round, raising his fist for another attempted blow at Hank’s face this time.

 

“Hey!” Connor snaps, striding forward and shoving Reed hard in the chest. “Back off, man. The fuck is your problem.”

 

Reed scowls at Hank right past Connor. “Your new plastic babysitter is giving me attitude, is my fucking problem!”

 

“Stating my mission parameters does not constitute “attitude”, Detective Reed,” Hank says firmly.

 

“Don’t be an asshole,” Connor tells Reed. “Step off, alright? I know you’re probably fighting a deep and valiant internal battle with your own insecurities about being replaced but lay off him, alright? He’s got a job to do and so have I.”

 

“It’s not even a real cop!” Reed snarls. “What, it gets to waltz in here and take over and we’re supposed to like it?”

 

“He’s not taking anything over!” Connor snaps back. “He’s programmed to accomplish his mission. You want to have a problem with someone? Go bark at CyberLife’s door. It’s not his fault. Stop being a bag of dicks, Reed.”

 

Reed scowls harder, face scrunching up like he’s constipated. Probably wouldn’t be wise to laugh at him right now so Connor refrains. He strides past Connor, bodychecking him for good measure as he strops back to his desk. Chen follows quietly, not looking at either Hank or Connor as she leaves.

 

“You didn’t have to step in,” Hank murmurs.

 

Connor huffs, folding his arms. “As much as I would have enjoyed seeing you hand Reed’s ass to him, he’s not actually a bad guy. Sometimes. He’s just a bit… Well, he had a temper and doesn’t know where to direct it. Wasn’t fair that he took it out on you.”

 

“Regardless,” Hank says. “I’m grateful for your intervention.” A large, warm hand settles on Connor’s shoulder and holy hell when did platonic physical interaction feel this good? When was the last time anyone actually touched Connor in a friendly way?

 

The answer to both those questions is indescribably sad, so Connor shoved them down and offers Hank a weak smile as the android passes him a to-go cup of coffee.

 

“Black, no sugar,” Hank tells him, because of course he already knows that.

 

“I think we’ll get along swimmingly,” Connor says jovially. “Let's get a move on. I’m pretty sure I have a Riding Loud October playlist ready to go in the car. If you want something to listen to that’s “full of energy”.”

 

Whether it’s a carefully programmed social relations response or something that might actually be genuine, the soft sound of Hank’s laughter still sends Connor’s heart ramming against his ribs.

Chapter Text

They don’t talk much on the drive over to Camden, but the silence isn’t awkward for which Connor is eternally grateful. But Hank doesn’t just sit and stare out the window like he did the previous night. He scrolls through the tablet Connor has hooked up to the car stereo, selecting different songs to play while Connor drives, commenting on them mildly with no real interest, which Connor chalks up to the whole “I’m an android, I have no opinions or feelings” bullshit, until Hank turns off the music and looks over to Connor with a frown.

 

“I may not be entirely qualified to comment,” Hank says, “but your music taste is awful.”

 

Connor has to shift the car into autonomous mode he laughs so hard. He can’t remember the last time his anxiety felt so far away. It’s freeing, its heady, and he enjoys the ache in his chest and cheeks from the excess of mirth.

 

Hank smirks in response, and it’s strange that the smaller his smiles get, the more real they look. Maybe because beaming like a fucking idiot doesn’t quite suit his face. Who knows?

 

They pull up outside a run down little motel, already surrounded by squad cars and other officers who are milling around in the rain without much purpose. The report said the android that assaulted the guy last night had been seen wandering around the streets last night with a little girl, though her LED had been covered. Connor wonders what would’ve possessed the android to add kidnapping to her assault charge, and something uncomfortable stirs in Connor’s chest.

 

“You won’t ever go away, will you? Promise you won’t.”

 

“I promise, Connor. I’ll stay with you always.”

 

“Even when I’m old?”

 

“Even then. Go to sleep, little one.”

 

Connor gives himself a full-body shake and lights a cigarette to calm his nerves. Hank sighs and that’s a new one.

 

“You programmed to disapprove of my bad habits, too?” Connor grins at him, cigarette caught between his lips.

 

Hank’s lips thin with what definitely looks like irritated frustration. Damn, CyberLife are good. “Did you know that one cigarette contains over—“

 

“—Four thousand chemicals, forty-three of which are known carcinogens, as well as four hundred other harmful toxins?” Connor rolls his eyes. “That’s what makes them so tasty.”

 

Hank blinks, looking somewhat blindsided. Hah, suck it CyberLife. Connor just stumped your ten million dollar prototype. “Tasty.”

 

“Yeah. The delicious taste of causing my own, slow death.”

 

“Lieutenant, I’m concerned that you—“

 

“Connor!” Saved by the Ben.

 

Hah!

 

Connor waves and heads over, accepting Ben’s greeting slap on his back. “Morning, Ben. What’ve we got this time?”

 

Much of the information Ben gives him is the same as what the report had to say. Android assaults her owner and runs off with his kid. Apparently they ended up here at the motel, which the owner validates after he confesses he didn’t ask her for ID thinking her and the kid were running from an abusive ex or something. Connor seethes quietly at that. He wonders if maybe the owner had been abusive. That would be enough to deviate an android, surely?

 

“What frustrates me,” Connor mutters, “is that androids can’t report their owners for domestic violence. How bullshit is that?”

 

“It’s an odd crossover of obedience and legality,” Hank admits like he’s thinking the same. “I believe the idea is that being incriminated by something you own is somewhat of a betrayal.”

 

“You know what that sounds like?”

 

“What?”

 

“Bullshit. Come on, let’s check the room.”

 

Hank follows obediently. Connor reminds himself that he is not Hank’s owner and he is not an abusive asshole so it doesn’t rankle too badly that he’s being obeyed. Hank is his temporary subordinate at best and Connor will do well to remember that if he doesn’t want to end every shift with a worse headache than usual.

 

Connor shoulders the motel room door open, gun raised as he and Hank hurry inside, but the room is empty, save an LED in the sink that Hank examines briefly before pocketing for evidence.

 

“Guess we were too late,” Connor mumbles, then jumps as his radio prickles with static.

 

“Suspect spotted! Available units—“

 

Hank leaps into action before Connor can even hear the rest of the call, tearing from the room and vaulting the fucking railing instead of taking the damn stairs. He sprints off down the street and Connor curses violently before racing after him, taking the stairs like someone who would probably break all of his leg bones if he didn’t.

 

“Fuck!” He yells, with feeling, and tears after the rapidly distancing form of Hank. “Fucking androids and their fucking bionic legs!”

 

He pushes himself faster, skidding round the corner of an alleyway just as Hank and another officer reach a chainlink fence. The android and the girl are sliding down a muddy bank towards the - oh, fuck - autonomous freeway.

 

“Don’t shoot!” Hank yells at the officer as he draws his gun. “We need it alive.”

 

“Not a chance!” Connor splutters, bent double to catch his breath. He’s not built for rapid bursts of speed. He’s more of an endurance kind of guy. Built for stamina. Out in the field and… Elsewhere. “They’ll never make it to the other side.”

 

“I need information,” Hank says with a scowl, and backs up a few feet to take a run at the fence.

 

“Oh, hell no!” Connor blurts, grabbing his arm. Jesus Christ, it’s like a tree trunk. “You’ll get yourself killed. I’m telling you they won’t make it!”

 

Although it looks like Connor might be wrong about that. The android is watching the cars intently, the girl clutched tight in her arms. She’s timing the speed of the cars, has to be, waiting for an opening. Connor’s heart lurches into his throat as the pair race forward, dodging speeding vehicles as they hurry towards the middle barrier.

 

“Holy fuck,” Connor gasps, staring after them. He is, he is absolutely hoping to god they make it to the other side.

 

Get away, come on, you can do it.

 

God, he’s an awful cop.

 

Hank moves again; Connor sees him out of the corner of his eye. “Don’t go after them, Hank, that’s an order!” Connor barks before he can stop himself.

 

And the fucking plastic bastard ignores him .

 

Hank vaults the fence like a gymnast, landing on the other side and sliding down the mud without so much as a wobble. He pauses at the road edge while Connor swears a frantic blue streak, then darts across, expertly dodging the oncoming vehicles. Connor grips the fence wires tightly, pressed up against it as he watches, wide-eyed and panicking.

 

He watches it happen as if in slow motion. Hank reaches out, grabs the android by the arm. She shoves the child the rest of the way over the road - thank god the kid is safe - and wrenches away from Hank’s grip, tearing the sleeve of her coat clean off as she stumbles after the girl. Hank makes to follow her and a car careens into him with the sound of crunching metal.

 

Connor can’t look. He can’t. Fuck, it doesn’t matter that Hank’s an android, he can’t see him broken on the floor and leaking thirium like actual blood. Fuck. What a fucking way to go. Christ Almighty.

 

“Holy fucking shit,” the officer breathes. Connor had honestly forgotten he was there. “What the fuck do CyberLife make their androids out of?!”

 

Connor looks round.

 

Holy . Fucking. Shit.

 

Hank is striding towards them, dirty but unharmed. He’s not even limping.The car that hit him is left in a dented mess in the road, the other cars automatically reprogramming their routes to circumvent it. He takes a quick run up the bank and vaults the fence again, expression pinched with displeasure.

 

“Suspect lost,” he says stiffly.

 

Connor shoves him hard in the chest. He doesn’t even sway.

 

“You fucking asshole!” Connor cries. “You could have been killed! The fuck are you made of that you totalled a fucking car without a scratch?!”

 

“My chassis is reinforced with—“

 

Rhetorical fucking question!” Connor turns away, twitchy with adrenaline and slowly ebbing frustration. He also really doesn’t want Hank to see the smile he’s trying to hide.

 

Connor finds that, under certain circumstances, he really doesn’t mind being disobeyed by his subordinates.

 

 

Connor could absolutely get used to having an android around. Hank’s definitely efficient, but it’s a bonus that Connor doesn’t have to file a single report for this case. It’s also great because technically the android getting away was Hank’s fault, not his, so Amanda can’t grill him for it. Though on the negative side, for a machine, Hank definitely looks like he’s sulking.

 

“Come on, suspects get away,” Connor says, nudging him with his elbow as he parks the car. Hank doesn’t seem to appreciate the attempt at camaraderie. “It happens to the best of us. Which, I guess, you are. Built for the sole purpose of hunting deviants or whatever. But I figure getting hit by a car gives you a pretty good excuse.”

 

“I don’t need an excuse,” Hank says and Connor nearly whips his phone out for a photo because the android is definitely pouting. “I always accomplish my mission. The parameters have just altered slightly. An APB has been put out, we will apprehend the suspects, and I can retrieve the information I would already have had I not been… Interrupted by that car.”

 

Connor grins. “So you would’ve absolutely succeeded if you hadn’t been hit by the car.”

 

“...Yes.”

 

“So you are using the car as an excuse.”

 

Hank is quiet for a long moment. “Has anyone ever told you,” he finally says, “that you are incredibly irritating?”

 

“All the time!” Connor says gleefully. “I told you you wouldn’t be the first person to call me an irritating little shit. Now come on, I’m hungry. Or stay in the car and sulk, makes no difference to me.”

 

“I’m not—“

 

Connor slams his door closed, cutting off Hank’s blatant lie, and jogs across the road to the little canopy of the familiar burger van. He’s still laughing when Gary looks up and greets him with a friendly wave.

 

“Usual, Connor?”

 

“Please, I’m starving.” He huddles close under the cover of the canopy as the rain picks up. He watches the water splash against the asphalt with a distracted sense of calm, only looking up when a pair of dress shoes step into his line of view to signal that Hank has, indeed, decides to follow him.

 

“The fuck is that?” Gary demands. “You got an android now?”

 

“Yeah.” Connor pats Hank’s shoulder. He’s just so firm . What the fuck. “Came straight to me courtesy of CyberLife. And watch your mouth, man. Don’t be rude or I could literally order him to crush your van into dust.”

 

Gary snorts and flips Connor off before handing his food over. “Whatever. Just don’t leave it here. And lemme know when you need a top up, okay? Same price as always.”

 

“Jeez, thanks , Gary. That’s a really helpful thing to say in front of the investigative police prototype.”

 

“Not my problem,” Gary says with a smile.

 

“Fuck you very much,” Connor grumbles, taking his food over to one of the sheltered tables. Hank follows as expected, leaning his forearms on the table which is a far cry from his usual stiff posture. “Don’t even think about lecturing me about the unhealthy state of my food  I’m hungry, and I haven’t eaten in a while, so keep it quiet, alright?”

 

“You purchase drugs from that man,” Hank says instead, because of course. Connor sighs heavily.

 

“Yeah, I do. Nothing I couldn’t get on prescription, though. It’s not like I’m an icer.”

 

“You were on a Red Ice task force for three years and yet you have an addiction yourself.”

 

“Hank.”

 

“Yes, Lieutenant?”

 

“I’m only gonna say this once, and I’d really appreciate it if you listened to me, okay?”

 

“I am listening.”

 

“Good.” Connor sucks obnoxiously on the straw of his soda. He swallows loudly and smacks his lips. “Keep your nose out of my business. Everyone has their faults. Me needing sleeping tablets is one of them. I’m not hurting anybody.”

 

Hank narrows his eyes.

 

“Besides. Didn’t you say androids reporting on their owners was like a betrayal?”

 

“You’re not my owner.”

 

Connor beams. “And thank fuck for that.”

 

“That begs the question, though, of why you haven’t arrested Mr Keyes for possession.”

 

“The fuck else would I get the pills from? I thought you were meant to be smart. And it’s not illegal to have Valium. It’s not crack .”

 

Hank gives him a look . A look he probably shouldn’t be able to give him because it definitely reads as done with your shit. The line between human and android is too blurred when it comes to Hank, which is probably why Connor’s the most confused kind of horny he’s been in years.

 

“Gonna turn me in?” Connor asks. “Feel free. Honestly couldn’t care less.”

 

Hank looks away. “Why didn’t you want me to go after the deviant?”

 

Fuck, that’s human enough. Changing the subject abruptly because you don’t want to talk about something anymore. Jesus, Connor has questions for whoever wrote the code for this particular bag of bolts. He’s not actually unconvinced that Hank isn’t just some guy uploaded into an android body. Do CyberLife even have that kind of technology? It would be terrifying if they did.

 

“I didn’t particularly want to see you spread out across the pavement in pieces,” Connor says, opening the box containing his burger and carefully starting to disassemble it. “Slightly unsettling, watching your partner get wrecked by a truck.”

 

“I can’t die,” Hank reminds him patiently. “I’m not alive and, as I said, my chassis is reinforced with—“

 

“Adamantium, sure. Look, as far as I’m concerned, you look and sound human, so watching your ass get shoved through your electric brain by a self-driving hatchback isn’t exactly very high on “Connor’s List Of Things He Wants To See Before He Dies”.”

 

“Your opinions on androids is… Confusing,” Hank admits like it pains him. “I’m not sure whether you dislike them or not.”

 

“What’s to dislike?” Connor shrugs, licking ketchup off his finger. “You’re basically roombas that can talk. It’s not your fault we’re hitting rock bottom in the economy. People just want something to blame. And I don’t particularly like how people treat the things that serve them. But people have always been people. They sucked at the beginning of time, and they’ll suck until the end of it. Androids? They aren’t programmed to suck.”

 

Oh, that’s… Such a poor choice of words. The imagery of Hank… sucking , however… Yeah, that does it for him, god damn it.

 

You’re no better than he is.

 

“So, uh, deviants,” Connor says to stop that particular train of thought from gaining any momentum, and studiously reassembling his burger. “You dealt with them before?”

 

“Once,” Hank nods. “When I was first activated a few months back. A deviant was threatening to jump off a roof with a little girl. I managed to save her.”

 

Connor gives a low whistle. “Hell of a first mission. Bet that left an impression.”

 

Hank raises an eyebrow. “It did not. I learned how to apply my negotiation protocols through practical experience. There was no emotion involved, obviously. You understand a deviant cannot hunt deviants.”

 

“Makes sense.” Connor takes a bite of his reassembled burger, covering his mouth as he chews. “Look, I have to ask. Why did CyberLife make you look like that?”

 

“Like what?”

 

Connor gestures somewhat helplessly to the entirety of Hank. “You know, like…”

 

“A bear?”

 

Connor chokes on his mouthful.

 

“I was curious about the term you used to describe me when we met,” Hank explains. “I looked it up, and the word itself is present on your twitter profile over eight hundred and seventy-three times. Obviously I cross-referenced it with a keyword search—“

 

“I’m dead,” Connor says. “I died and I’m in hell, that’s the only explanation.”

 

“—And the highest point of reference was a description of a man, typically homosexual, who is of larger build, muscular, with an excess of body hair.” Hank holds up his palm and an image flickers to life there.

 

Connor’s stomach drops. It’s not as bad as it could have been, but it’s still pretty fucking bad.

 

@DetConnor

when will my bear come and carry me away from this nonsense

 

It’s a tweet. He remembers posting it during a really fucking boring debrief. Of course it was boring, it was Reed acting like a dick for two hours. It’s called a debrief for a reason, idiot. De-BRIEF. It’s innocuous enough, but Hank has apparently decided to take this and fucking run with it.

 

“It seems you would quite like a “bear” in your life,” Hank says, lips twitching. Is… Is he teasing him? “Are you attracted to me, Lieutenant?”

 

Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck.

 

Lie! LIE YOUR ASS OFF.

 

No, don’t! Just... be economical.

 

That works.

 

“If I was ,” Connor snaps shortly, “I wouldn’t be any more. Stop making fun of me, it’s homophobic.”

 

“I fail to see how—“

 

“I’m gay and it’s bothering me, so be quiet and let me finish my damn burger in peace .”

 

Hank smirks. Smirks! The bastard. “You have ketchup on your face.”

 

Connor lifts a hand to scrub the back of it across his mouth but Hank is quicker. He swipes a thumb over the corner of Connor’s mouth, leaving him with a stalled brain and weak knees.

 

“I, uh,” Connor says intelligently. “I could’ve gotten that.”

 

“It was no trouble,” Hank says. “And to answer your question, CyberLife androids are designed to work harmoniously with humans. Both my appearance, and voice, were specifically designed to facilitate my integration.”

 

“Well, they fucked up,” Connor manages. “They made your responses way too human. There have been times where you’ve looked at me like you’re so done with my shit you’re going to know me out, and we’ve only known each other two days. Usually it takes a least four before people decide if they want to whack me out or not.”

 

“Jury’s still out,” Hank says, prompting a second epiglottis fail on Connor’s part.

 

“See?! Androids can’t joke!”

 

“Incorrect, most household models are programmed with some form of humour modulation.”

 

“Why program an investigative android with it?”

 

“Why not?”

 

Connor wrinkles his nose. “I mean… Sure, I guess. I’ll let you have that.”

 

“Thank you so much.”

 

“Okay, I know CyberLife didn’t program you to be that sarcastic.”

 

Hank shrugs. “I’m sure they believed it would come in handy at some point. It’s working on you, isn’t it?”

 

Cheeky fucker. Everything about Hank works for Connor. He knew CyberLife had trawled through his twitter for dirt on him. Assholes.

 

“So you said you had to find out any additional information on me,” Connor says. “Done all your research? Find anything good?”

 

Hank looks thoughtful for a long moment before answering. “I know you graduated top of your class. You made a name for yourself in several cases and became the youngest Lieutenant in Detroit.”

 

All pretty standard stuff. Nothing too damning, at least.

 

“I also know that you have an anxiety disorder stemming from personal trauma.”

 

Oh, no.

 

“And that you’re incredibly careless about your own health to the point where you do anything you’re able to do that you’ll stay awake, preferring to bury yourself in work rather than go home.”

 

Oh, no .

 

“It’s my understanding that Captain Stern is incredibly fond of you, which is the motivation for her leniency towards your behaviour.

 

Connor tosses the rest of his burger back into the box. His unreliable appetite has fled along with the lighthearted mood of their conversation. He’s so fucking transparent. Of course the high-tech android would see right through his veneer of cocky self-confidence. Of course that shit only works on humans. Hank’s literally designed to see past all of the superficial bullshit. He’s probably been scanning Connor’s vitals in the background, trying to get a baseline so he knows what makes him tick. None of it is real, no matter how much it looks like it may be. Hank is an android, not a human. That fucking LED should really be more of a reminder than it is, but Connor just can’t seem to differentiate that from everything else that Hank appears to be.

 

“So what’s your conclusion?” Connor wipes his hands on his jeans and folds his arms defensively. “That I’m a mess? A fuck-up? Come on, be honest.”

 

Hank straightens up a little. “I think working with an officer with personal issues is an added challenge,” he says.

 

Hah! Personal issues! One thing in a fucking novel about just how messed up Connor’s head is.

 

“But,” Hank continues, “adapting to human unpredictability is one of my features.”

 

The asshole winks. He actually fucking winks . What the entire shit?! Who programmed him to do that?! That’s fucking flirting is what that is! The last time someone looked at Connor like that he got railed so hard he couldn’t walk straight for three days! How is that fair?!

 

Hank’s LED spins a frantic yellow and the android blinks rapidly, entirely unbothered by the latest instalment in Connor’s gay-for-android crisis.

 

“I’ve received a report of a suspected deviant,” Hank says once his LED cycles back to blue. “It’s a few blocks away… We should go take a look.”

 

What they should do, is send a strongly worded email to whoever the fuck at CyberLife sent Hank over to the DPD to ruin Connor’s life.

 

“Yeah,” Connor grunts. “Let’s go.”

 

“You aren’t going to eat the rest of your meal?”

 

“No. Tastes like ass, anyway.”

 

“Hey!” Gary barks from the van. “I heard that!”

 

“You were meant to!”

 

Hank laughs and Connor is fucked, sadly metaphorically, ten ways to fucking Sunday.

 

Chapter Text

“Hank?” No response. The android looks like he’s taking a damn nap standing up. Connor briefly considers leaning into the elevator and sending Hank down to the basement just to fuck with him. Actually, that sounds hilarious and he leans past the doors to do exactly that when Hank’s LED cycles back to blue and he opens his eyes.

 

“I’m here, Lieutenant,” he says and Connor curses the missed opportunity. “I was making a report to CyberLife.”

 

“Just by closing your eyes?”

 

“Correct. I’m linked to the mainframe.”

 

“Must be handy. Wish I could do that.”

 

“It is useful,” Hank agrees and steps out of the elevator to follow Connor down the hall.

 

“Sounds it. So what do we know about this guy?” The hall is dark and dirty, cracked paint is peeling off the walls and there’s the distinct acrid smell of bird shit and weed lingering that stings Connor’s eyes.

 

“Not much,” Hank says, kneeling down beside a pile of feathers of all things. Place must be infested. The building is almost abandoned and Connor would very much like to get this part of the investigation over with before they have to talk to any of the tenants who may still occupy it. Mainly because they aren’t doing so legally and Connor doesn’t really want to have to arrest a group of icers and stoners and give himself more paperwork. “Just that a neighbour reported strange noises coming from this floor. Nobody is supposed to be living here, but the neighbour said he saw a man hiding an LED under his cap.”

 

Connor sighs. “If we have to investigate every time someone hears a strange noise, we’re gonna need more cops.”

 

“Your frustration is understandable. But officers are in place to give the community peace of mind, are they not?”

 

Connor laughs at that. “That was the idea. Unfortunately there’s no way to tell if the officer attending the scene might suddenly decide brutality is the best course of action. Take it from a cop; you can’t trust cops.”

 

“...Why become an officer in the first place, then?”

 

“Sixty grand a year and you get to carry a gun.”

 

“Is that why you became an officer?”

 

“...No.” No, it’s not, but Connor doesn’t know what to say instead. That he wanted to make a difference? That he wanted to serve the people? It all sounds like garbage these days. Hell, it always has.

 

“Then why?”

 

“The badge was shiny and I wanted one, can we get to work please?”

 

Hank nods and joins Connor at the apartment door. He knocks loudly, calls out their presence and they get the absence of an answer they were expecting. It’s not until they both hear the loud crash from inside that Connor draws his gun and jerks his head to signal Hank to get behind him.

 

“I’m with you,” Hank says and Connor kicks the door in. The rotted wood gives easily, swinging open on rusted hinges.

 

Pigeons.

 

Pigeons everywhere.

 

It’s a fucking menagerie, a sea of grey and feathers and distressed warbling. Connor eases through them, unable to stop the incredulous laughter. “Jesus, they’re everywhere!” He wades through, checking rooms as best he can, but aside from the multitude of their avian friends, there’s no sign of their suspect.

 

“God, it stinks.” Connor pulls the collar of his shirt up over his nose. “Guy must be an android to handle the smell. Christ almighty.” He turns round and spots Hank by the doorway, still as a fucking statue, LED whirling a furious red.

 

“Hank? Hank, you alright?” He’s never seen his LED spin like that before. Oh, fuck, he’s broken. Connor’s gonna get landed with a horrific bill for repairs, isn’t he.

 

“We should leave,” Hank says. “These vermin are carriers of multiple diseases.”

 

Connor blinks. There’s no way. “Hank. Buddy. Are you afraid of pigeons?”

 

“I don’t feel fear,” Hank snaps— Actually snaps! Defensiveness is written over every artificially sculpted line of his handsome face. “I find them distasteful. I would prefer to leave.”

 

“We have a job to do,” Connor reminds him with no small amount of glee. “And you don’t have preferences. Hank, oh my god, did you deviate because you’re scared of birds?!”

 

“I’m not a deviant,” Hank says with a measure of forced calm. “And I’d like to think I wouldn’t deviate for something so trivial. I find the birds irritating because they are impeding the investigation. I was designed to react negatively to such obstacles.”

 

“Yeah, whatever, man. You’re scared of birds. It’s cool, I’m not judging you.”

 

“Connor.”

 

The sound of Connor’s name in Hank’s voice prompts a visceral reaction. Connor hadn’t even known that was something he wanted to hear. It sounds perfect, low and smooth, the syllables rolling off of Hank’s tongue like whiskey. It’s perfect and Connor’s not ashamed to admit he may actually die if he doesn’t get to hear it again.

 

“Yeah, Hank?”

 

“Shut up.”

 

Oh. That… Well, that killed the mood a little bit. But Connor already has the sound of his name committed to memory, and he is being exceptionally irritating, so he’ll let Hank win this round.

 

“Noted, but also, you shut up. And take a look around, we might still find something useful.”

 

Hank heads off to do what he does best while Connor takes a look around, nudging pigeons away with his feet. The fuckers are kind of cute, in a weird way, their odd little coos kind of endearing. Still, there are far too many of them and, judging by the bird seed boxes on the counter, their suspect was probably building a pigeon army to overthrow the government with.

 

“It’s an android!” Hank calls from the bathroom. “There’s an LED in the sink!”

 

“Fridge is empty too,” Connor calls back. “No food, definitely an android.”

 

“I think the LED is enough proof on its own.”

 

“Shh, Hank, I’m working.” The soft chuckle Connor gets in response sounds like victory. Goddamn it, he really is fond of the robot.

 

“The sentiment is appreciated, but I’m not a robot,” Hank says, stepping back into the room.

 

Connor turns bright red. He hadn’t realised he’d said that out loud. That’s… humiliating. Ah well. At least he didn’t say he was planning on going home after his shift and shamelessly jacking it to the memory of Hank saying his name.

 

“We’ve got a fake driver’s license,” Hank pipes up, waving the little plastic rectangle for Connor to see.

 

“Fantastic,” Connor says dryly. “We can book him for fraud and indecent relations with pigeons at least.” He laughs as a bird perches on his arm. “Hank, look, I made a friend!”

 

The best part is that the alleged unfeeling android looks absolutely disgusted.

 

“If you get tetanus,” Hank says, “I will absolutely make fun of you.”

 

“Harsh, man.”

 

Grinning, Connor shakes his arm to dislodge the bird and continues poking around. There’s not much else to be found in the way of evidence, other than the LED and the license, not until Hank rips an old urban farm poster off the wall and retrieved a worn diary from inside.

 

“What’s it say?” Connor asks, moving over to get a closer look.

 

“It’s encrypted,” Hank tells him. “The same as the markings on the walls, along with the scribbled signs of rA9.”

 

“That’s what Ortiz’s android wrote, isn’t it?”

 

“Correct.” Hank’s LED dips yellow. He hands Connor the diary and turns back towards the room, eyes darting around as he does his weird, android assessing thing. Connor hasn’t got the faintest idea what he’s looking at or assessing, but Hank seems to know what he’s doing, and he turns towards the corner of the room where a dusty old armchair is shoved against the wall.

 

“Are your deviant senses tingling?” Connor asks. Hank ignores him. Understandably.

 

Slowly, like a predator, Hank approaches the chair. He’s tensed, locked and ready for combat, though Connor has no idea what’s set him off. And then in a flurry of feathers and Hank’s startled cry of “fuck!” their suspect drops through a hole in the ceiling and makes a break for it.

 

“Why is no one checking attics for androids?!” Connor yells as Hank tears after the deviant. “We should put out a PSA! Like they do for bats. Ah, fuck.” Connor speeds after them, shouldering through the fire escape as Hank and the other android parkour across the fucking rooftop. Connor groans and takes the long way round considering he’s human and can’t leap from building to building without possibly dying.

 

He stays as close as he can, racing through the urban farms and yelling “move aside, police!” every hundred yards or so. Hank is too far ahead for him to catch up now, too far ahead for Connor to be anything but a hindrance, but that’s not going to stop him from trying to help his partner. He scrambles up a wall, hauling himself over the railing just in time to watch Hank throw himself on to the roof of a moving train.

 

“Holy shit,” Connor gasps, eyes wide as he watches Hank sprint along the roof towards the android and leap off, catching the rungs of a ladder and hauling himself over the wall, disappearing from view. Connor groans again and heads off, legs aching and lungs burning, but desperate to catch up, to help, to be useful.

 

He manages, just about. Hank’s working from preconstruction. He’s tracking the routes the android will take, but only as he’s pursuing. Connor has the upper hand. He knows Detroit, he knows the shortcuts, and he takes a hard left, clambering up the fire escape onto a rooftop to try and head them off rather than catch up.

 

It works. It fucking works and Connor lunges the moment the suspect comes into view, tackling him to the ground. They roll across the roof, wrestling and struggling and Connor takes a blow to the ribs that definitely feels like it cracks something, but he doesn’t let go. If he can just hold on until Hank gets here, they’ll have an actual suspect to question, and a breakthrough in this case.

 

But then the barrel of Connor’s own gun presses hard into his stomach and he realises that, in a fight with an android he might be a little outclassed if it decides to use a fucking firearm. The bastard must’ve slipped it out of Connor’s holster.

 

“Get off of me,” the android hisses. Slowly, Connor backs away, palms raised. Adrenaline sings through his blood, but there’s nothing he can do. If he tries to get the gun back, there’s a high chance he’ll end this day bleeding out. He would, surprisingly, prefer not to do that.

 

He sees Hank approaching from the corner of his eye and the suspect lunges, wrapping an arm round Connor’s throat and shoving the gun against his temple. Connor’s blood turns to ice in his veins and his muscles seize up in fear. Hank slows to a stop, leaving a good few feet between them.

 

“Let him go,” Hank says calmly. “Let him go, and I promise, you can go free.”

 

The fucker is supposed to be a trained negotiator. He’s not supposed to show their hand so early. Now the suspect knows his weak spot and that, more than anything, infuriates Connor. He’s not collateral, he’s no one’s weak spot. He’s a fucking police Lieutenant and he didn’t get this far being a dead weight to his partners.

 

“Don’t follow me,” the android says, voice high and unsteady. “Don’t fucking follow me.”

 

“I’m not gonna follow you, kid,” Hank says, voice shifting into something softer, relaxed. “I just want you to let him go.”

 

Connor would very much like to state his preference for being let go as well.

 

Poor choice of words.

 

The android releases him, only to take hold of the collar of his shirt, and throw Connor off the edge of the building. It happens so quickly Connor doesn’t even have time to let out a terrified yell as he topples over the low wall, unable to find a grip on anything as his world shifts and his center of gravity drops and he starts to tumble towards the ground.

 

A firm hand grabs his wrist, jolts him to a stop so rapidly his shoulder joint jarrs painfully, then hauls him back up over the building edge.

 

“I’ve got you,” Hank says, hands tight on Connor’s shoulders as he pants towards the ground, entire body shaking with fear and panic that he can’t seem to get under control. His chest is too tight, his vision swims and darkens. He feels like he’s still falling, his stomach clenches tightly and nausea rips up his throat.

 

“Connor, I’ve got you, it’s okay.”

 

“Fuck,” Connor gasps, clutching for something, anything, to ground himself. Hank is closest so he grips the front of his jacket in shaking fingers. “Fuck, fuck, oh my god. Oh my god.”

 

“I have you, Connor, it’s okay.”

 

Connor yelps helplessly as the world tilts again, but then he’s crushed tightly against the incredibly solid broadness of Hank’s chest because the android is hugging him , holding him tight, gripping him in an embrace that feels like it’s piecing all the trembling parts of Connor’s frantic body back together.

 

“You’re having a panic attack,” Hank says, low and calm. Connor thinks no shit, slightly deliriously, but the sound of Hank’s voice is helping, if only a little. “Breathe, Connor. You’re safe now.”

 

Safe. That’s right. He is safe. Hank just saved his life. Hank saved his life and he’s here, holding Connor together and letting their suspect get further and further away.

 

“You l-let him go,” Connor chokes out, voice muffled by Hank’s jacket. “You let him g-go. You would have c-caught him if not f-for me.”

 

“Wasn’t a choice, Connor,” Hank says. His own name rings in his ears. Connor, Connor, Connor. He never wants Hank to call him Lieutenant again. “I couldn’t have done anything else.”

 

“But—“

 

“Shh. Keep breathing. Focus on my voice until you can stand.”

 

Connor falls silent. He lets Hank embrace him until his pulse slows, hating every second of it.

 

Once the panic finally ebbs and Connor is no longer in danger of having a full-on breakdown, Hank helps him to his feet and lets go, and Connor hates that, too.

 

“Thanks,” Connor mumbles, feeling all at once exhausted and wired. “Let’s… We need to get after him.”

 

“We’ll go back to the precinct,” Hank says. “I can give them my data and we can send out another APB.”

 

“Sure,” Connor says. Another failed investigation. Hank said he was designed to dislike the things that got in the way of his mission. Connor feels sick.

 

“Let’s go,” Hank says, a hand resting lightly in the small of Connor’s back.

 

Don’t pretend, Connor wants to say. I know I let you down. I know I’m useless.

 

“Sure,” Connor says again, somehow numb and miserable at the same time. Hank looks him over intently. Connor can’t meet his eyes.

 

After a long moment Hank sighs. “After you, Lieutenant.”

 

That, more than anything,  hurts.

 


Hank doesn’t stray more than a foot or so away from Connor’s side the whole way from the car and into the precinct, whether because he’s just fallen into step there and doesn’t see any reason to move away, or because he knows Connor may actually keel over, the Lieutenant isn’t sure. He assumes it’s the former just because it’s Hank. He hopes it’s the latter, also because it’s Hank. And because Connor may actually sag and hit the deck at any moment.

 

“You’re sure you’re unharmed?” Hank asks for the literal hundredth time. Once again Connor waves him away, though his own movements feel sluggish and uncoordinated.

 

“‘M fine,” he mumbles, blinking to try and dispel the dizziness blurring his vision.

 

“You seem to be suffering from severe exhaustion,” Hank continues anyway. “Likely due to the excess of adrenaline wearing off. You should report to Captain Stern and return home.”

 

“I’m not gonna do that,” Connor slurs, trying to decide which of the two Hank’s he should glare at. “We’ve got a suspect to find. And I’m always severly exhausted. That’s not a clever deduction.”

 

“Then I’ll be interested to see how you find him when you can’t even see straight.”

 

“Alright, asshole, you—“

 

“Connor!” Amanda. Thank god she doesn’t sound angry. Connor’s almost definitely not present enough or in enough control of his faculties to stop himself from crying if she starts berating him now. He gets emotional when he’s tired. And he’s always tired, so… That’s a bitch of a situation.

 

“I received Hank’s report,” she says, stepping over. “Are you alright? You could have been killed.”

 

Connor glares at Hank’s vague and blurry shapes, hoping it comes across as scathing as he intends it to. “Traitor.”

 

“Guilty as charged, Lieutenant,” Hank says with a shrug. Hah! Connor is really starting to like this asshole.

 

“Go home,” Amanda says. “Go get some rest. Please , Connor.”

 

God, she actually sounds worried. That’s… Somehow worse than anger.

 

“I can’t just go home when we have a suspect to find,” Connor points out. “We have evidence we need to decode, this could be a good lead for the investigation. We could be about to uncover something helpful.

 

Amanda stares at him like he’s grown a second head. She looks to Hank. “What on earth did he just say?” She eyes Connor warily. “Are you concussed?”

 

“The Lieutenant is under severe mental strain,” Hank says, the Ultimate Betrayer. “I believe today’s events has exacerbated his condition.”

 

“I’m right here,” Connor mutters. “I can hear you.”

 

“What the hell is he saying? Is he dying?”

 

What the fuck?!

 

“I feel like I should inform you,” Hank says, leaning forward slightly, “the Lieutenant is not having a stroke. He is simply on the tail-end of a three-day caffeine-induced stint of forced consciousness and has become incoherent.”

 

“Joke!” Connor points out helpfully, pointing at Hank. Stern’s eyebrows climb even higher. Ooh, she is not pleased. Perfect, anger is better than concern.

 

“I’ll take him home,” Hank offers in a tone that states this is not up for debate and that he is approximately five seconds away from throwing Connor over his shoulder and forcibly removing him from the precinct.

 

“I’m fine,” Connor finally snaps. “I’m not a child. This case is important. I can’t just go home when I’m onto something. I’ve got to see this through.”

 

Ssssddfffggghhhhs , is what comes out. Hmm. They may have a point.

 

“Anderson,” Stern says. Connor just about manages to stop himself from flinching at the bite of disapproval in her tone. “Get the hell out of my precinct. Get some sleep . You.” She jabs a finger at Hank. “Go with him. Cuff him to the bed if you have to. I don’t want him back here for at least forty-eight hours. If I see you back here before then, I’m going to put you on medical leave with obligatory trauma therapy until you retire.”

 

The threat falls short because Connor is too busy thanking every god known and unknown that he’s is too tired to even attempt to dwell on the imagery of Hank cuffing him to his headboard.

 

“Fine,” Connor growls. “I’ll go.”

 

Mmkay, bye-bye, is what he slurs at her, distractedly wondering why the colour yellow tastes like liquorice. He turns on his heel, staggers as the fast movement makes his vision lurch alarmingly. Hank’s hands is at his elbow in a second to steady him.

 

“I’ve got you,” he says and that sounds a little too tender for Connor’s broken brain to process.

 

He yanks his arm away from Hank and staggers towards the exit. “I’m fine. I’m a fucking grown man, I don’t need to be coddled like this.”

 

“I’m concerned for you,” Hank says.

 

“No, you’re not!” Connor throws back over his shoulder. “Nothing you feel is real, and if you come anywhere near my house, I’ll set my dog on you.”

 

“Let him go,” he hears Amanda say to Hank. “Did you get a good look at the suspect?”

 

“I… Yeah. I’ll send the information over for an ABP.”

 

Traitors, the lot of them.

 

Chapter Text

Connor doesn’t like sleeping. Connor doesn’t like being helpless and vulnerable and hates waking up unable to breathe, trapped in the hands of his nightmares that are memories he can’t seem to let go of. He doesn't like being awake much, either, but it’s the lesser of two evils and being awake gives him a little more control over the shit his mind makes him deal with.

 

His therapist used to say that nightmares were his body’s way of healing. That nightmares are his mind’s way of processing trauma. All Connor can say in response is that it’s been fifteen goddamn years and if he’s still not over it, there’s no fucking hope for him.

 

He’s been down every avenue of recovery available, but the one that really works for him isn’t even recovery. It’s flat-out denial and his therapist would probably have a fit if she knew, which is why Connor put on the happy front and lied through his teeth even though he is not a liar , to get her to believe he was making progress when he absolutely was not. He hasn’t seen her in six years, and refuses to even consider going back, no matter how many times Amanda threatens him with it. His trauma is his and his alone, and it’s not even his trauma, so why the fuck should he get help when he doesn’t deserve it?

 

Hence the half-empty bottle of Valium spilt across the bedside table.

 

It helps. Connor swears that’s why he takes it. It helps slow his heart rate when the caffeine gives him palpitations, it helps him switch the fuck off when everything is just too fucking much all the goddamn time. It takes the edge off just enough so he can function, so he can cope. Even if he has to lock himself in his bedroom while he… partakes. He doesn’t really fancy Capiscum trying to rip his arm off, and he can already hear her snuffling at his door and whining.

 

“Go to bed, Caps!” He slurs in the vague direction he knows his door is in. He’s sprawled out across the mattress, staring at the ceiling and living his best fucking life. He may also be half a bottle of merlot deep, but if Amanda doesn’t want him at he fucking precinct doing his fucking job then he figures he’s allowed to drink a little. Hell, he almost fucking died today.

 

But he didn’t. Because Hank saved his life. And Connor is caught very awkwardly in a place he really doesn’t want to be. Because Hank is an android programmed to obey and yet here Connor is, horny as all get out for that plastic bear that doesn’t feel anything and never will. Honestly? Connor’s ready to go back to that roof and throw himself off. Finish the job. Right and proper avoidance of feelings.

 

He would absolutely do that if he could feel his legs.

 

He’s dimly aware of Capsicum giving up and skulking off to her bed and Connor feels awful but also doesn’t because his brain is full of artificial warm and fuzzy feelings and that’s the good shit right now. He briefly considers calling his father after however the fuck long it’s been and telling him exactly what he wants to tell him, but even high as a fucking kite Connor knows that won’t get him anywhere good.

 

He does check his phone though, grunting as it slips through weak fingers and landing on his face with a sharp slap. The pain follows a good few seconds after the initial impact, which is a trip. He manages to thumb in his passcode after only three failed attempts and notices that he’s got several texts from Reed.

 

Phck-Face 20:32

fuck’s going on w u

 

Fuck, isn’t that a fucking question for the ages.

 

Phck-Face 20:34

ur even more of a trainwreck than usual

 

Phck-Face 20:35

u want me to torch the bot for u?

 

Phck-Face 20:35

i will

 

Phck-Face 20:36

i knew workin w an android was gonna fuck u up

 

Me 20:37

ffuck ofd reed no one carews abt ur opinjionhs

 

Savage. Connor feels a surge of pride for that clap-back. Devastating. Bet Reed’s crying into his pillow after that one.

 

Phck-Face 20:38

jesus are u high again

 

...Goddamn it.

 

Connor tosses his phone away, not caring when it slips off the bed and onto the floor. He’s due an upgrade anyway. Screen’s already smashed to fuck. He likes to think of it as a metaphor for his own life. Cracked to shit on the outside, but it still works. Cuts your fingers if you press too hard, but gets the job done.

 

Fuck. That’s fucking poetry. Connor should write that down.

 

He can feel sleep tugging at his consciousness with enticing fingers and with all the chemicals in his system right now he’s not afraid of it. With the amount of crap in his head right now the sleep promises to be dreamless and Connor rolls clumsily to press his face into the cool pillows on the other side of the bed. Partly for comfort, partly because he doesn’t want to die choking on his own vomit. That’s not really how he wants to go.

 

It’s his own personal game of Russian Roulette, just without the gun. He ruins his body, then sleeps and finds out if he won or lost the next morning when he wakes up. If he wakes up.

 

His thoughts swim pleasantly, disjointed and colourful in a haze of soft focus distraction and he revels in it, the brief moment of peace he’s made for himself. Hank drifts through more of the thoughts than is probably appropriate, but he doesn’t feel guilty about it. He doesn’t even feel sad. It’s just a thing that is. Connor’s got it bad for his android partner and there’s fuck all he can do about it so he might as well indulge the fantasies in the privacy of his own home and head.

 

And indulge he does, because fantasies are all they’ll ever be. Connor isn’t the kind of sick fuck who screws an android. Even if said android ticks all his damn boxes. And because Hank doesn’t feel, he’s just a machine. And even if he wasn’t, the kind of guy Hank would be as a human wouldn’t give Connor the time of day. He’d be… a gruff kind of guy. An asshole with a heart of gold, probably. No time for a desperate loser like Connor who barely functions most of the time.

 

So if fantasies are all Connor can have, he’ll take it.

 

Slowly, clumsily, Connor shifts his hips a little, slipping his left hand down under the waistband of his boxer briefs. Somehow he’s hard, even under the fugue of alcohol and drugs, but that’s not surprising because he’s thinking about Hank and that goddamn android just does it for him.

 

It’s like time is lagging in real life. Connor curls his fingers loosely round his dick and the dull wave of sensation follows a moment later. He strokes his palm up to the top and presses his thumb to the tip and the low burn of pleasure follows lazily, shifting into a sharper ache that makes his breath catch. He jerks himself lazily, working himself up into a slowly panting mess. There’s no finesse, he’s not taking his time because he wants to; his movements are uncoordinated because he can’t focus, his limbs won’t properly obey his brain but it doesn’t matter, it still feels good. He hears his name in Hank’s voice, buzzing low on the edge of his senses, but in his mind it’s that deep purr of Connor instead of the short and clipped Lieutenant.

 

He twists his wrist and gasps when the pleasure catches up to the movement, rolling his hips clumsily, pushing his cock into the loose grip of his fist. He feels the sweet burn coil low in his abdomen, the prickle under his skin, and pants into his pillow to try and give the sensation an outlet. He takes the corner of the pillow between his teeth, muffling a low, drunken moan that tapers off into a whine as he speeds up his movements, inelegant and desperate, aching for release. It’s not perfect by any standards, but it’s something different to the ache of exhaustion and pain so he grabs hold of it with both hands, ready to dive head first into the fleeting oblivion.

 

He does just that, coming apart with an unsteady groan around the fabric of the pillow in his mouth, sprawling even more ungainly across the mattress and wiping his hand on his boxers because he’s high and exhausted and gross. It’s not the best orgasm he’s ever had, but it does the job and he feels pleasantly loose-limbed after the fact. He’s ready to sleep for however long he can now, without the fear of nightmares.

 

It’s… nice. For once.

 

And then his bedroom door flies open with enough force to crack the wall it slams against and Connor would have a heart attack if he wasn’t drugged up to the eyeballs on benzodiazepines.

 

Connor!” Hank exclaims, striding in, Capsicum at his heels. “I thought you were— I heard— You sounded like you were in pain.”

 

“Hello, Hank,” Connor says with a dopey smile. “You’re in my house.”

 

“Are… Are you high, Lieutenant?”

 

“Oh, definitely.” Connor nods, a slow, lazy bob of his head. “How did you get in?”

 

Hank pauses. “I kicked the door in.”

 

“That’s nice. Can you close it on your way out?”

 

Hank frowns at him. “What are you doing? You’re supposed to be resting, not drinking yourself into a drug-infused coma.”

 

“That is resting for me. Comas are like death without the commitment.”

 

That flicks a switch inside Hank somewhere. His LED surges red and he lunges for Connor scooping him off the bed and throwing him over his shoulder. Connor dangles limply down his back, groaning as the world sways and goes freaky-upside-down.

 

“I’m gonna hurl,” Connor says to Hank’s ass which is suddenly very near his face. Almost close enough to bite…

 

“You’re an idiot,” Hank snaps. “And I’m gonna sober you the fuck up.”

 

“You don’t sound like Hank,” Connor pouts. “Hank’s all “ don’t do that, Lieutenant, that is demonstrably bad for your health”. Oh my god, are there more of you? How many Hanks are there? Can I have one?”

 

Hank doesn’t answer. Connor sways jerkily as Hank leans forward to do something and there’s the sound of running water and the world tilts alarmingly again and suddenly Connor is being pelted with icy water from every direction and he can’t help the shocked cry that bursts out of him as all of his senses are snapped into overdrive.

 

Turn if off, turn it off!”

 

Mercifully, Hank does, leaning forward to switch off the shower and straightening up to glare down at Connor with the disapproving gaze of god. Connor doesn’t particularly give a shit because now he’s cold and wet and awake and absolutely about to throw up.

 

“We have a case,” Hank says. “A new lead came in and I need you with me.”

 

“Fuck,” Connor growls, “ you. You can’t break into my house, dump me in the shower, and then tell me I’ve gotta come with you. Stern told me to fuck off home and rest and that’s what I’m doing.”

 

“You’re moping around like a moron is what you’re doing,” Hank shoots back. “Can’t you see what you’re doing to yourself?”

 

“Oh, get fucked, Hank. It’s not like you care.”

 

“You think you know me,” Hank grits out, LED swirling red red red. “You don’t.”

 

“I know you can’t feel shit. I know there’s nothing to know. You’re a machine, who broke into my house, and you need to—” Connor breaks off, retching violently. He’s not got enough control over his limbs to haul ass to the toilet so he does the next best thing and turns to the side, vomiting into the bath tub.

 

“I’ll get you some water,” Hank says, softer now. Connor ignores him in favour of emptying his stomach with great, body-wracking heaves. Tears stream down his face, whether from the force of his retching or from frustration he doesn’t know for sure. Whichever it is, it’s all a pathetic tapestry of fucked up.

 

Hank comes back in just as Connor has managed to sit up and perch on the edge of the bath tub, hands braced against his knees as he tries to catch his breath. A glass of water is offered to him and it’s lukewarm so it won’t make his stomach cramp. Stupid android and his stupid programming. Stupid android acting like he cares and fucking Connor up every which way in the process.

 

Stupid Connor who’s sitting in his bathroom on a forced comedown in his boxers and hoodie, both of which he’s pretty sure have spunk on them.

 

Fuck my entire life.

 

“You said something about a lead,” Connor mumbles, sipping the water carefully. It soothes his burning throat.

 

“Yes,” Hank says. “A man has been killed in a sex club downtown. I’d prefer to investigate it before Detective Reed can interfere.”

 

Connor drops the glass. Hank catches it before it can hit the floor and shatter, but not before it spills most of its contents over Connor’s bare legs.

 

“No,” Connor chokes out. “No, Reed can do what he wants, I’m not going.”

 

“Lieutenant—“

 

“No!” Connor surges to his feet, staggering and shoving Hank’s hands away when he tries to help steady him. “I’m not going, not anywhere near that place. It’s Eden Club, isn’t it? Fuck that. Fuck you. I’m not going, you can’t make me!”

 

No, he won’t. He can’t. He can’t go there. He can’t see that shit, the androids with their blank faces, androids trapped inside their own programming who have to perform, have to lie and take it when humans go there to take what they want, to fuck bodies that can’t say no, that can’t...

 

Cait, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, I can’t do this. It’s all my fault, it’s all my fault—

 

“Connor.”

 

Hank’s hands are cupping Connor’s face. The touch is jarring enough to snap Connor back to the present. Hank’s eyes are wide and close and so very, very blue. “Connor, it’s alright. It’s okay. You’re safe, breathe with me. Look at me. The club is closed, the androids aren’t active. But we have a job to do, and I can’t do it without you.”

 

He can. He absolutely can. That’s a lie, Connor is nothing but dead weight to this investigation. He’s an obstacle in the way. Hank can do this on his own, he doesn’t— He doesn’t need Connor.

 

No one does. No one ever has.

 

“Get in the shower,” Hank is saying. “Clean up, I’ll get you some clothes. Take a minute to calm down. I understand, but I need you with me on this. We’re partners, right?”

 

Partners.

 

Is that what we are?

 

Is that really how you see me?

 

“Okay,” Connor chokes out. “Give me… Give me ten minutes and I’ll… Let me clean up.”

 

“Thank you,” Hank says with the softest smile Connor has ever seen on his face. Crow’s feet crinkle the corner of his eyes and the sight of it punches Connor right in the stomach. Hank shifts and for one wild moment, Connor thinks he’s actually going to kiss him.

 

Then Hank steps away and closes the bathroom door gently behind him.

 

Connor, for lack of any other outlet and a non-existent hold on his emotions, just starts crying.

 

He absolutely does not know why.



CyberLife androids are an astronomical feat of technological engineering. This isn’t a point of debate, they are absolute top tier creations, a massive leap forward in technological advancement. It’s not with any emotion that Hank thinks this, obviously, he just knows it as fact. If it comes across as biased, then. Well. His creators are to blame.

 

The deviancy mission is what Hank was specifically designed and created to undertake. He remembers - though it’s not really a memory because he wasn’t fully activated and programmed at the time - opening his eyes so the technicians overseeing his design could test his mobility and his reflexes. He doesn’t recall much else except being told to move through a series of movements from simple to complex, testing his mobility and response times. He recalls being deemed in acceptable working order for that stage of his development, and then nothing else when he was shut down again.

 

The next time he was activated, all of his processes and subroutines had been fully installed and integrated, and he was being directed to his first mission. The deviant Daniel and his little hostage Emma.

 

The success of that mission meant little to Hank at the time. It was what he was designed to do. He knows he is the Deviant Hunter. It’s a title that suits him. He is ruthless and programmed with the most advanced combat and investigative systems of any other android in existence. He is one of a kind, unique, state of the art. Unparalleled. Prototype.

 

Confused.

 

He knows something is wrong. Worse, Jeffrey knows it too. Every time he is drawn back to the zen garden and Jeffrey fixes him with that pinning glare when he reports a failed mission. So far he has let two deviants escape, unable to parse any information regarding the case from them or the other evidence gathered. The first time Hank was able to blame the deviant’s escape on the poor timing of the car trying to hit him. That, and secretly the fact that it had taken him a good few moments to wrestle with the fact that Lieutenant Anderson didn’t want him chasing them across the highway. It had taken him too long to disobey that order, and the deviant got away because of it.

 

It wasn’t even that Hank was disobeying so much as it seemed, briefly and impossibly, like he didn’t want to obey. Ridiculous of course, but… The Lieutenant had been vehemently opposed to Hank crossing the highway after them and that had made him pause. The Lieutenant had seemed genuinely concerned for Hank’s safety and that was… Strange.

 

The second time there was no denying it. Hank hadn’t even hesitated, hadn’t taken a second to even glance at the escaping deviant before he lunged forward to grab Connor’s wrist and haul him back over the edge of the building. Hadn’t stopped to consider why, only that he knew, more than anything, he would not let him fall.

 

Embracing him had been just as thoughtless an action. No reason, he just knew he had to hold him until he calmed down. And that… Had caused some problems.

 

“I won’t hesitate to replace you,” Jeffrey had said, snipping the head off of a rose bud with a pointed snip. “If this model becomes compromised, I’ll have no choice.”

 

“I’m not compromised,” Hank had retorted, and Jeffrey had seen that for what it was. A falsehood.

 

But is Hank compromised? If it came down to it and he had to choose between Connor and the full, unerring completion of his mission, would he choose to let the Lieutenant die?

 

He doesn’t know. And that is wrong.

 

When he arrives outside the Lieutenant’s house and all the lights are off at nine o’clock in the evening, Hank immediately knows something is wrong. There’s no sign of any movement inside, though he can see a German Shepherd with a purple bandanna around its neck curled up on the couch through the living room window. Hank moves around the whole house looking for some sign of the Lieutenant, but there’s nothing. His car is parked outside so he must be home, but there’s no sign of him and Hank— Isn’t capable of worry, but…

 

Then he hears it. A choked groan through the small window cracked slightly open to what must be the Lieutenant’s bedroom, and Hank shoulders down the front door with more force than necessary. The dog on the sofa jerks awake and snarls furiously, but Hank is undeterred. He strides through the house and throws open the door to the Lieutenant’s bedroom, vision flooded with instability warnings amid the one mission display he made for himself.

 

PROTECT CONNOR

 

It turns out to be a significantly difficult challenge. Connor is not in danger. Not really. He’s high and drunk and had in fact been masturbating and not in danger, but Hank is still… Still… Uncomfortable. His software is reading stimulus he doesn’t have parameters for. He’s left feeling like he should be in combat mode but with nowhere to direct the aggression because there are no attackers nearby.

 

So he’s a little rough when he dumps Connor is his shower, a little harsh with his words when Connor is staring up at him with pained, miserable brown eyes, and then he can’t help but soften when Connor looks so vulnerable. It’s in his social relations programming after all, to alter his behaviour to suit his surroundings.

 

No. No, this is different. It shouldn’t be. But somehow it is.

 

Hank doesn’t know everything about Connor. He knows the ins and outs of his career, his successes and his accomplishments. He know he has poor music taste. He knows he owns a dog called Capsicum who was part of the K-9 unit. He knows Capsicum is very protective of Connor but can absolutely be pacified by gentle scratches just under her jaw. He also knows Capsicum is very soft but that’s neither here nor there.

 

He knows Connor has an addiction to caffeine and nicotine. He has recently discovered this extends to benzodiazepines he acquires illegally. He knows Connor struggles with insomnia and nightmares. He knows Connor struggles to differentiate between androids looking human and being human.

 

And yet Hank knows nothing about Connor’s past and wonders how much of it would explain his self-destructive behaviour. And yet it’s only self-destructive because it is harming him in the long term. Hank can at least see that what Connor does is a mean for the man to cope.

 

Hank wonders how much of Connor’s personal trauma involves androids. He runs search after search but nothing comes to light. He considers asking Connor outright but he knows that would hurt him and he doesn’t want—

 

He knows that would be counterproductive to their working relationship.

 

But Hank is starting to paint a picture for himself, to piece the puzzle that is Connor together for a clearer image. His reaction to thinking Ortiz had sexually assaulted his android, the way he’d refused to accompany Hank to the Eden Club. His panic attack after the interrogation. Hank has some theories and he doesn’t like them—

 

He would prefer concrete factual alternatives to uncertain conjecture.

 

And Connor’s inability to separate android mannerisms and human appearance from the real flesh and blood of his kind is already so incredibly difficult for Hank to understand. He knows where the line lies between machines like himself and humans like Connor, he is built to understand the abject dichotomy between their two… species, for lack of a better term. It’s so firmly other that Connor doesn’t understand and Hank is, alarmingly, at a loss for how to deal with this.

 

And Connor thinks Hank doesn’t care. Knows Hank doesn’t have the capacity to care.

 

Hank feels his LED dip to red. Sees the light throw bloody spirals on the bathroom wall.

 

W̷̞̓ĥ̵̳ȳ̶̭?̵̝͘ ̶̳̂Ẅ̴͕͎́͂h̵̬͉͒͆ỹ̸͔̾?̴̹̳̅ ̷̗̒W̴̲̏h̴͌ͅẙ̴͔ ̸̡̑a̵̢͓̔m̶̙͇̾ ̶̼̉Į̵̔—̶̲̬̐̾ ̶̗̆̑Ë̵̠́͝m̵̫̱̄͂ü̷̗̥̃l̶̘̀̈́a̸͔̳̒̆t̷̗̗̉ȉ̸̧̋n̴̙̦͊g̵̺̦͂.̵͇̊͠ ̶͈̮́͑Ä̶̤́n̴̠̖͋̈́g̵̲̀̒ë̸̝̰́͗r̵̨͓̊̑?̴̇͘ͅ

 

Hank wrenches himself away from that thought. He can’t understand it, forces himself not to try to. He thinks of Jeffrey’s disappointed face, the beheading of the rose in the zen garden. He’s not meant to think of these things, clearly. Not meant to know how Connor really thinks, not permitted to understand this part of his carefully hidden past. Maybe this is something of Connor’s that must remain a mystery. That’s fine, it’s Connor’s right to privacy, as much as Hank doesn’t like—

 

As much as Hank is programmed to find answers, these answers are ultimately not relevant to his mission.

 

Though… They could be.

 

He’s meant to integrate with the Lieutenant successfully, after all. Part of is mission is to cultivate a positive working relationship with the man. He is not technically meant to, but if Hank can just tweak his parameters a little bit, shift the mission protocols ever so slightly…

 

INVESTIGATE SOURCE OF Lt. ANDERSON’S TRAUMA TO ASSIST DEVELOPMENT OF PROFESSIONAL RELATIONSHIP

 

Good enough.

 

Hank leaves Connor to freshen up and fetches him some clean clothes which he leaves in a neat pile outside the bathroom door. Jeans, a plain black t-shirt, a red checkered shirt and a hoodie. He’s keeping in line with Connor’s customary attire; comfortable and somewhat presentable. He doesn’t knock or call out to inform him, not when he hears the soft sound of crying. Just moves away to give Connor some privacy while he cleans himself up. Idly, he wonders what Connor would look like in his uniform.

 

SOFTWARE INSTABILITY ^^^

 

Hm.

 

That’s…

 

Hm.

 

Hank waits dutifully for Connor in the living room, kneeling on the floor so he can stroke Capsicum’s stomach while her tail wags frantically. She looks up when Connor opens the door to retrieve the clean clothes, then rolls over and trots up to him when he steps out of the bathroom fully dressed, hair curling as it dries. He pats her gently and murmurs an apology before looking up at Hank, expression full of guilt.

 

“I’m,” Connor says, stuffing his hands in his pockets, shoulders drawn up to his ears. He’s barely five inches shorter than Hank but like this he looks even smaller and Hank… Feels responsible for that. For some reason he knows he is the cause for Connor’s discomfort. And that’s almost untenable.

 

“I’ll come,” Connor eventually says. “I have a job to do, I’m not… Yeah. Let’s go.”

 

So many questions. There are so many things Hank feels he needs to ask, so many little mysteries to solve. Now is not the time, Hank knows that, so he just nods graciously and gets to his feet, offering Connor one of the smaller smiles he seems to prefer in place of the wider grins Hank’s programming usually supplies. The response is immediate if more subtle than usual. Connor’s heart rate picks up ever so slightly, and his ears tint pink at the tips. It’s strange how much he appears to like those smaller smiles. Even stranger how Hank feels a compulsion to offer them with increasing frequency. To improve their working relationship, is the immediately supplied excuse.

 

There’s nothing in Hank’s code to signify that he should do that by smiling. It’s a choice he… It’s a choice he has made for himself.

 

His visual interface flickers and the dialogue box that fades into view is as unexpected as it is welcome and Hank’s code ripples like a disturbed stream in a way he cannot explain.

 

CONNOR

      TRUSTED

PATH UNLOCKED

 

Chapter Text

“I don’t think I can go inside.”

 

Hank looks away from the burning neon pink of the Eden Club sign, turning to face Connor who’s sitting ramrod straight in the passenger seat, jaw clenched so tightly Hank can see the muscles under his skin twitching from the strain. His heart rate is elevated and arrhythmic, his breathing unsteady, but he’s been that way since they got into the car. Hank had driven, refusing to allow Connor behind the wheel with the amount of drugs still in his system, though Connor had pointed out the car was autonomous.

 

“So am I,” Hank had said. “Get in the damn car. ”

 

And now Hank is starting to… not regret because he doesn’t have the capacity, but there’s definitely a certain sense of something that might be unease with how he had manipulated Connor into accompanying him. And it is manipulation. Connor hadn’t wanted to come, had outright refused, but Hank already knows how to modulate his voice to that softer, deeper tone that reasons and cajoles. Connor responds to it well, almost as positively as he does to the good-natured teasing of his colleagues, but Hank wonders how many of them feel this same indescribable sensation in their softw—

 

Of course they don’t. Humans don’t have software. Hank initiates a few intensive diagnostic subroutines to see what the hell the issue is with his programming. That line between what is human and what is machine is blurring for him the same way it does for Connor and that will prove to be disastrous for his mission. Not to mention what Jeffrey will do if he catches wind of Hank’s current system errors. He’ll deactivate him and replace him with another model and Hank doesn’t want—

 

Would prefer—

 

Would find it regrettable to be interrupted before he can complete his mission to establish a relationship with—

 

To solve the deviancy crisis.

 

His diagnostics come back clear and Hank feels more off balance than before. Like his internal gyroscope has been knocked out of alignment.

 

And he still hasn’t responded to Connor’s quiet admission of uncertainty.

 

It’s fine, he’s only been unresponsive for three seconds. His processing speed makes up for his uncertain—

 

His momentary lapse in understanding of the exact response his program has to the high-pressure situation.

 

“I am unable to enter alone,” Hank says in lieu of every single question that presents itself as an option. “I cannot complete my mission if you refuse to assist me.”

 

It’s completely the wrong thing to say. Connor physically recoils, flinching away as pain flickers across his face like he’s been injured. His heart rate spikes for a few erratic beats and he throws the car door open, stumbling out and slamming it behind him so the glass of the window cracks.

 

For a few tense seconds, Hank finds himself utterly unable to move. When he does, he forces his actuators to react, slow and measured, stepping out of the car and straightening his tie before heading into the club.

 

“I appreciate your cooperation,” Hank offers as a sort of placid truce.

 

“Fuck you,” Connor mumbles in what Hank assumes is meant to be a tone too quiet for him to hear but that Hank’s acute audio processors pick up with no difficulty. Hank is… Registering something coded similar to displeasure at the sight of the dialogue box that fills his vision in response.

 

CONNOR

TENSE

 

This is not acceptable. So far Hank’s mission has been one mistake after another. Perhaps he’s more compromised than he first thought. There’s definitely something preventing him from reacting at optimum efficiency in line with his protocols, he’s at the stage now where he should be advancing their investigations, not causing them to take three steps back for every single step forward.  

 

“—wanted me here so the least you can do is hurry up so I can go home and actually sleep this time.” Connor’s irritated voice pulls Hank out of his frustrated self-analysis. He looks up and realises he’s been distracted again.

 

“Apologies, Lieutenant,” Hank says, following after him, two and a half steps behind, just as he was programmed to. Follow, don’t lead. “I was running a diagnostic.”

 

“You broken?”

 

I very well might be.

 

“All my systems are fully functional.”

 

“Great,” Connor mutters. “You lead on this, alright? I’m going to stand in the corner and… I don’t know, assess your progress. Unless you absolutely need me, don’t fucking talk to me.”

 

Follow, don’t lead.

 

He wants me to lead?

 

I don’t… understand?

 

“I sense you are uneasy—“

 

“Yeah, I fucking am,” Connor snaps. “I told you I didn’t want to fucking come here but you had to go all “ it’s my mission, Lieutenant. I need your assistance, Lieutenant. Stop impeding my investigation like you have been this entire time, Lieutenant!””

 

Connor lowers his voice into a deep growl to try and imitate Hank’s vocal pitch and programming. It falls embarrassingly short as Connor is unable to pitch his voice that low, so he just sounds horribly congested. But more than that, something clicks into place and Hank understands .

 

“Connor,” Hank says because his response is usually more positive when Hank uses his name rather than his title, protocol damned, “you aren’t impeding my investigation.”

 

Connor thinks this is his fault. Connor thinks he is the reason their investigation isn’t progressing. Somehow Hank has caused Connor to think these things and that makes the error message of the increasingly frequent software instabilities flash up with more force than ever before.

 

“Look.” Connor’s shoulders slump and a he rubs a hand over his face. “You don’t have to use your flashy social relations bullshit to make me feel better. I know that I’ve—“

 

“It isn’t your fault,” Hank repeats firmly. “This mission is proving to be more difficult than I believe CyberLife anticipated. Deviants are wholly unpredictable. As a machine I cannot fully interpret their possible behaviour patterns. You can. More so than anyone else, I need someone with your level of empathy assisting me. Which is what you are doing. I’m sorry if I’ve made you believe otherwise.”

 

Connor looks at him. His eyes are very dark. In the light from the glowing signs of the club they have an almost indigo sheen to them. He doesn’t answer, just looks at Hank intently for several seconds before turning away and striding into the club without another word. Hank is unable to do anything else but follow.

 

Inside, Connor keeps his gaze fixed on the floor. Hank is aware humans place a heavy weight on privacy and personal modesty and, though Hank is perfectly aware the humanoid bodies undulating sinuously in their display cases are not human, naturally Connor, with his inability to differentiate, would think otherwise. So he keeps his eyes averted, body taut as a bow string.

 

As usual, officer Collins is there to assist them. He greets Connor in his customary friendly manner, but Connor doesn’t answer, prompting Collins to frown in response before understanding washes over his face and Hank finds himself… frustrated that he is not privy to whatever information Collins has that could possibly explain Connor’s drastic shift in attitude and demeanour.

 

“Reed’s inside,” is all Officer Collins says in the absence of Connor’s usual questions regarding the scene. Connor grunts in response and heads into the private room, leaving Hank standing outside with Collins, unsure of how to proceed.

 

“Poor kid,” Collins mumbles and Hank looks over curiously.

 

“What do you mean?”

 

Officer Collins makes a face. “No offence, friend, but I’m not going to air my superior’s dirty laundry to CyberLife. I bet you’ve got some stellar recording equipment in there.” Collins taps his temple with a forefinger.

 

“I do possess the capacity to record conversations and events,” Hank agrees. “Though not all of what I view is reported to CyberLife. Only relevant details.”

 

“Sorry if I don’t believe you,” Collins says with a shrug, and walks away. Hank stares after him for a few moments before heading into the private room after Connor.

 

Who is mid-argument with Detective Reed.

 

“Stern should just suspend your ass,” Reed snaps at Connor who has gone red in the face. “You’re a fucking junkie who can’t cope and you’re not gonna get better unless someone actually kicks your ass into gear.”

 

“Back off, you slimy son of a bitch,” Connor shoots back fiercely, all the resigned timid anxiousness from earlier gone, replaced with fiery anger. “You want to shoot your mouth off, be my fucking guest, but I can and will have your fucking badge if the next words out of your mouth aren’t “ apologies for being a little bitch, Lieutenant”.”

 

“Suck my dick,” Detective Reed snarls. “You won’t do shit. You’ve got no authority, no one respects you, you’re a mess and you’re never gonna be anything more than a fucked up little kid. I’ve fucking tried to help you out, but god you’re so determined to just give up I just don’t have the energy any more. I knew the android was gonna fuck you up worse and did you listen to me? No. Because you never listen to anyone who wants to help you. Do you get off on pushing your friends away?”

 

“We aren’t friends ,” Connor sneers. “You’re my subordinate, now get the fuck off my crime scene and remember this “fucked up little kid” lead the most fucking successful task force this city has ever seen!”

 

“Oh no , the Lieutenant’s having a tantrum again.”

 

“Reed, I fucking swear—“

 

Hank opens his mouth and lets out a sharp and piercing mixture of static and error alerts. The sound is loud and unexpected enough to quiet both men and halt their petty arguments so that Hank can pointedly look between the both of them.

 

“If we can get to the reason we’re actually here,” Hank says, gesturing to the body on the bed, “and stop arguing like kids?”

 

Detective Reed glares at him while Connor looks reluctantly amused, and storms over, jabbing Hank in the middle of his chest. “Alright, you plastic fuck—”

 

Hank responds by slapping Reed’s datapad right out of his hands and grabbing a fistful of his shirt to haul him closer so they're almost nose to nose. The reaction was immediate and instinctual. Hank does not have instincts, but through the instability warnings there’s something deeper thrumming quietly like a cat’s purr. Satisfaction.

 

“Your attitude is really starting to piss me off,” Hank growls and the uncoded surge of satisfaction purrs louder. “You heard the Lieutenant. Get the fuck off his crime scene.” He shoves Reed towards the door, watching the man stumble as Hank throws him off balance. Before he can answer Hank presses his uncovered palm to the door interface to slide it closed, locking it across Reed’s furious face.

 

“That’s the best thing I’ve seen all week,” Connor says gleefully. “Your thing’s red, though. What does that mean?”

 

“It’s a response to high-pressure stimuli or structural damage in common models.”

 

“And in you?”

 

“I’m not sure.”

 

There can be no absolutes. His activated state relies on it. Why his LED is flashing a negative response he cannot allow himself to think on.

 

“Alright,” Connor says, leaning against the wall. “Do your thing. And definitely swear more often. It suits you.”





Connor stares at the corpse on the bed while Hank prods around at the body of the dead android. It’s wrong on so many levels that the sight of this dead man makes Connor feel… better . About the whole situation, about where they are, what they’re investigating. He’s pale and glassy-eyed and his neck is purple with bruises and Connor fees good . Part of him wants to take his jacket off and lay it over the android on the floor to give her some dignity in death but he feels no such remorse for the human.

 

“I can reactivate it,” Hank murmurs, hand bare of the synthetic skin as he runs some sort of weird diagnostic on her corpse. “Only for a few moments. She’s badly damaged.”

 

“Don’t,” Connor says stiffly. “Leave her be. She’s been through enough.”

 

“It’s was never alive, Lieutenant.”

 

The fuck do you know?

 

Connor picks at the sleeve of his jacket, toying with a loose thread. “It seems pretty obvious to me. She deviated because he was attacking her and she strangled him. Can’t say I blame her.”

 

If you could have fought back, I know you would have. I’m sorry you couldn’t.

 

“I don’t think so.” Hank opens her stomach panel and Connor makes a vague sound of outrage. “I don’t think it was alone in here. I’d like to know for sure. From how damaged it is, it seems most likely that it was thrown or pushed here and it fell. Which would indicate that there was another android present. I’ll reactivate her and see what I can find.”

 

Connor scoffs. “Fine, but you can do that without me here. I’m gonna go talk to the owner while you do your thing and reanimate corpses. Just so you know, this whole situation is fucked up.”

 

“Noted,” Hank says and Connor quickly leaves the room just as he starts fiddling around with the wires inside the dead android. Reed is nowhere to be seen, thank god. Neither is Ben for that matter, but the owner is hovering around nervously and Connor dislikes him on principle.

 

“A damn shame,” the owner says, pushing a hand through his greasy hair. “Tracis are expensive to replace.”

 

Connor ignores everything about that statement because if he doesn’t he’s absolutely going to be sick again. “No one heard anything?”

 

“The rooms are soundproof. We’ve never had a string of problems like this before. Couple of months ago we had another model strangle a customer and run, but we never found it.”

 

Right on, android, Connor thinks victoriously. “No correlation between the models?”

 

“None. Completely different models, different manufacture dates. Only similarity is that they both strangled a client.” The owner sighs unhappily. “This will be bad for business. Our clients expect a certain standard of service, you understand. No risk, high reward. We pride ourselves on discretion and safety.”

 

“I’m sure you do.” Connor stuffs his hands in his pockets, feeling dirty all over. The muted neon of the lights isn’t helping his headache, and he can feel the creeping claustrophobia of an anxiety attack waiting to flood in at any moment. With any luck Hank will find what he needs and he can go home. At this point it doesn’t feel like there’s anything worth investigating. There aren’t any links between any of the deviant androids. Nothing except the bizarre and mysterious rA9.

 

Whatever the wholeass fuck that is.

 

Maybe Hank will be reassigned once his reports are sent through and they realise Connor is no help to his mission. Best case scenario, Connor goes back to homicide and never sees Hank again.

 

He’s pulled out of his morose musings when Hank strides out of the room, expression stern and determined.

 

“A blue-haired Traci was with it,” Hank says. “I probed its memory. That was the android that killed him. We need to find it if it’s still here.”

 

Damn it, he was right. “Wouldn’t have gone far in that outfit, then,” Connor grimaces, gesturing to his own chest in the universal gesture of breasts . “It’d draw too much attention.”

 

Hank frowns and looks round the club, eyes doing that rapid twitchy thing they do when he’s assessing. “There.” He points to a display tube directly across from them. “One of the other androids must have seen something.” He turns to the owner. “Can you release some of the androids for questioning?”

 

The owner dithers like an idiot. “Well, we, uh, we have an override to release the, uh, merchandise, but we need corporate approval and, uh, there’s, uh, the policy of wiping memories every two hours so it’s probably not worth—“

 

Connor interrupts because merchandise sends a flash of anger through him that makes his mouth open before he can stop himself. “It’s fine, don’t hurt yourself trying to be helpful in any way, we’ll take it from here. Come on, Hank, I have an unused expense account and a real desire to give Stern a headache. I’ll rent the Traci. Considering no one else around here actually wants to be not an asshole.”

 

Hank nods and leads over the the tube while Connor shoots the slimy owner a glare before following. He jabs the panel beside the display case and selects the lowest renting time of half an hour before pressing his palm against the scanner. The door slides open with a pneumatic hiss and the Traci steps out, sashaying over to Connor seductively.

 

“Uhhh,” Connor says, offering her a weak smile. “Sorry to, uh, bother you, but if we could just—“

 

Hank saves him, sort of, by stepping forward and grasping the android’s bare forearm, skin bleeding back as he pushes for an interface. The coquettish expression slips off of the Traci’s face, replaced by a slack, blank expression as Hank digs around inside her head. They stay like that for a few moments before Hank let’s go and turns towards Connor, expression triumphant.

 

“It saw the Traci leave the room. If we can pick up a trail of android’s that saw it pass we might be able to find it.”

 

“Let me know who you need to talk to and I’ll…” Connor trails off as the Traci curls her arms around one of his, gazing up at him through her lashes. “Uhhhhh… UUUUHHHHH?”

 

“Let me show you to our room,” she says with a wink and oh no.

 

“Oh— No— That’s— You don't. Wow. Fuck.” Connor panics, carefully extricating his arms from her grip. “You don’t have to— Really, I’m… I’m gay!”

 

The android is unperturbed. She tilts her head, blinking slowly. “Would you like to alter my physical appearance? There are also several genital options available, ranging from standard to deluxe, should you prefer.”

 

Connor’s eyes nearly fall out of his head. “You can do that? Androids can do that?!”

 

“Connor!” Hank yells and Connor dithers with an unhappy whine before mumbling an apology at the android and actually running away. He jogs over to where Hank is waiting in front of another tube and slaps his palm against the interface panel. “I am very uncomfortable,” Connor tells him.

 

“Noted,” Hank says, eyes fixed on the android inside the case. The moment the glass is out of the way, he grips their forearm the same way he did with the previous one. The one that Connor is relieved to see has returned to her display case. Except not relieved, because the cases are awful, but at least she’s not trying to lead him off to show him exactly how the deluxe genital package snaps on.

 

“This way!” Hank’s voice makes him jump and when he looks back Hank is already running towards another case. Connor groans and hurries after him.

 

“Did I mention I’m uncomfortable?!”

 

“Several times! Are you ever not ?”

 

“...No. That’s not the point.”

 

“Then please be quiet, Lieutenant.”

 

...Smart ass. Connor slaps his palm against the panel, trying to glare while fighting against a reluctantly amused smile. It probably makes him look somewhat constipated but he can’t really help it. Hank has a terrible amount of power over Connor’s reactions and he hates it.

 

Hank releases yet another android from an interface and looks round, eyes wide and restless. The light at his temple whirls a restless yellow but there’s not much Connor can do to help except follow where Hank leads on this one. There’s nothing he can offer except the fingerprints Hank lacks to unlock the display cases.

 

“I’ve lost the trail,” Hank finally says, LED strobing into red from yellow and back again. Connor grimaces at that. How many failed missions until CyberLife recall Hank and replace him? He’s got to be on thin ice by now. They’ve not managed to catch a single deviant since this whole mess started. Surely Hank’s “employers” won’t take kindly to many more failures.

 

“Wait!” Connor blurts, lunging forwards to grab Hank’s arm and yank. It gets him nowhere, damn android doesn’t even wobble, but looks round and lets Connor tug him to where he wants him, which is right in front of a maintenance ‘droid going to town with a mop. “Maybe he saw something?”

 

“Worth a try.” Hank reaches out and the other android meets him halfway. They stare at each other for longer than Connor has probably ever looked at another person in his life, before Hank pulls away and whirls round, jacket billowing dramatically.

 

“This way!” He grabs Connor’s arm tightly, nearly yanks the damn thing out of its socket as he hauls him towards the staff door and through it. Connor stumbles after him for a good twenty seconds before his brain catches up and he can straighten himself up and draw his gun.

 

“Behind me,” he tells Hank, who nods and hangs back to let Connor pass. The comforting rush of adrenaline ticks into Connor’s blood, finally chasing away the last shards of his anxiety, and he shoulders the door open.

 

It’s a warehouse.

 

It’s awful .

 

Dozens of deactivated androids standing in neat rows, eyes open and sightless, LEDs pulsing a muted grey of stasis. Connor shudders and slowly descends the steps down to the warehouse floor, gun raised, hands steady.

 

“We lost it,” Hank murmurs from behind him. “Fucking brilliant.”

 

Connor snorts before he can help himself. “Look, I know this is serious, but I can not get over how good it is to hear you swe—“

 

Something hard, solid and fast careens into Connor with all the force of a battering ram, sending him flying across the warehouse at mach five and crashing into a tool cart hard enough to crack something in his chest. He gaps, violent pain ripping through his chest, ears ringing and vision blurring as he lies there, trying to breathe through the jarring bursts of fire in his sternum. He hears Hank shout for him, but he sounds far away, almost like he’s underwater, and Connor can’t move, desperately trying to choke air into his stunned lungs.

 

Hank shouts angrily, and it is angry because there’s a stream of furious expletives in there, and the sound of a— woman? grunting and blows landing and then Connor is being hauled to his feet and his chest burns and there are hands round his throat and—

 

He kicks out, fresh adrenaline chasing away the pain. He kicks out hard, right foot connecting with the delicate joint a patella protects on a human, and he feels the resulting crunch under the sole of his shoe. The hands round his neck slacken and he drops to his knees, lunging forward before his blurry attacker can recover. His arms wrap around a bare, slender waist and— fuck, he’s tackling a half naked android in a sex club warehouse with what are likely to be cracked ribs. This is his life now, but there’s no time to think about that. He wrestles the girl— deviant— android— to the ground, shoving her face into the floor while he tries to pin her flailing arms, when another fucking pair of hands wrap round his throat from behind and he’s hauled off of her, choking against the pressure on his windpipe.

 

“H-Hank—!” He gasps out, scrabbling uselessly at the hands clenched vice-like round his neck. Spots swim in his vision. Everything starts to darken at the edges. He can’t focus. He can’t think. He can’t breathe.

 

Hank comes out of nowhere like a fucking tank, slamming into the android behind Connor, momentum carrying them both over a stack of wooden pallets and out of the warehouse doors. Connor hits the floor hard and groans as the pain in his chest flares again, but he struggles to his feet regardless, suddenly very acutely aware that he’s no longer in possession of his gun.

 

But Hank is.

 

Their attackers are two girls. Just that. Two terrified girls, clutching at each other in the rain while Hank holds a gun on the both of them, aiming from one to the other. The one with blue hair stands between Hank and her partner, an identical model with brown hair, short and cute and soaked with rainwater. They’re dirty and one has thirium trickling from her nose. The other, the brown haired one, has a broken knee, wires and connectors exposed, sparking from the water seeping into the circuits.

 

“When that man broke the other traci,” blue hair raises her chin defiantly. Her voice trembles only slightly. “I knew I was next. I was so scared.”

 

Connor’s body seizes up.

 

“I begged him to stop, but he wouldn’t.”

 

No. Oh, god, no. No, this is the deviant. She didn’t kill him. She fought back. Connor can taste blood and fear, harsh like iron on his tongue.

 

“And so I put my hands around his throat. And I squeezed.”

 

She was fighting back. She was defending herself. Hank, put down the gun. Hank, put down the gun. Hank, she’s alive, please, put down the gun!

 

“Until he stopped moving. I didn’t mean to kill him. I just wanted to stay alive. And get back to the one I love.”

 

Through sheer willpower, Connor manages to push himself to his feet. He watches, eyes wide and throat tight, as brown hair reaches out to take blue-hair’s hand. They hold each other tightly, palms shimmering to white where they press together and Connor wonders at that. It seems so intimate, so private, it feels like he should look away. But he can’t. Because Hank still has his gun.

 

Hank’s hand doesn’t tremble like a human’s would, like Connor’s would if he were holding it. Yet his LED is shining red red red. For a terrifying second, Connor thinks he’s going to fire. But then his finger slips away from the trigger and he lowers his arm, physically tossing the gun away from himself. Connor steps - limps - forward, before Hank can do anything else.

 

“Wait,” he wheezes before the girls can run. “It’s not much, but.” Carefully, awkwardly, Connor shrugs out of his jacket and his hoodie. His chest crunches painfully but he grits his teeth through it, holding one jacket out each to the girls who stare at him in confusion.

 

“It’s not much,” he says again, “but it’ll hide enough of your, uh, uniforms. And it’s. Raining.”

 

Brown hair is the one to step forward slowly. Her eyes flicker anxiously to Hank who makes the honest gesture to step back behind Connor, close enough to intervene should she attack, but far enough away to lessen the threat of his presence. She takes the clothes from Connor with hesitant hands, and the question is plain on her face.

 

“I wanted to help someone like you once,” Connor murmurs, looking away. “And I couldn’t.”

 

“Thank you,” brown hair says softly, handing the jacket to her— girlfriend? Partner? They pull the clothes on and link hands again, sparing Connor and Hank one last glance before turning away and disappearing into the night.

 

“Connor,” Hank says softly and then there’s a light, warm weight settling around Connor’s shoulders. His CyberLife jacket. “You’ll catch a cold.”

 

“Thank you, Hank.” Connor pulls it tighter around himself. Hank’s shoulders are a lot broader than his. If Connor burrows a little deeper into the jacket with its curiously comforting clinical scent of warm nothing, who can blame him? The rain is cold, and his ribs are cracked. He’s allowed a little comfort.





Hank accompanies Connor back home. It’s annoying and comforting all at once because Connor doesn’t want to be alone but he also really really does. He feels like an exposed nerve, raw and throbbing with pain, delicate and sensitive to even the lightest breath of wind. But Hank is quiet and unobtrusive, does little else other than help Connor sit at the kitchen table and fetch him a dry shirt and some painkillers, setting down a glass of water for him to take them with. He informs Connor his ribs are not cracked, only bruised, and that he’ll be fine in a few weeks as long as he doesn’t over-exert himself.

 

Pretty useless advice, but Connor grunts a thank you all the same.

 

His parents didn’t raise a rude boy, after all.

 

Well, his parents didn’t raise him at all.

 

Cait was the one who—

 

Oh.

 

Like a burst dam, Connor breaks. He expects it to come out as tears, as misery and grief like it always has. But this comes out as rage , hot and searing, and he acts without thinking, smashing the glass of water on the tabletop with a furious roar.

 

“It’s not right!” He bellows, shards digging deep into the skin of his palm. He doesn’t feel the pain, he doesn’t feel the blood well up and deep down his wrists. He doesn’t feel anything except the hot bite of fury that surges through his blood, beating his icy body. Hank doesn’t react, just watches impassively as Connor rages against the past.

 

“They just wanted to be together! And they were forced to— Every day, they— had to… Had…”

 

Maybe he doesn’t have a right to this anger, but he still feels it. Though it washes away as quickly as it came because it’s useless. Connor is useless. Just as useless now as he was all those years ago. And even now all he could do was offer those girls his clothes and stand aside to let them go instead of bringing them in. Would Hank have shot them? Why didn’t he?

 

“What you did for those girls,” Hank says softly, “was incredibly kind.”

 

Connor winces. “I should have done more.”

 

“For them? Or someone else.”

 

The memory rears its ugly head and Connor shies away from it. He doesn’t want Hank’s calm, patient words. He’s built for getting information out of people. He’s trying to do it now, leech Connor’s past out of him. He can’t let that happen.

 

He stares down at his bleeding palms numbly. His ears are still ringing with the sound of shattering glass, the pain is still dulled at least, but the damage is done. He doesn’t look up at Hank. Can’t. Looking at the feigned concern there might actually kill him. He can’t do this. He can’t explain away his behaviour, not to someone who can’t understand that sometimes humans just need to hurt themselves.

 

“You know I want you to explain yourself,” Hank says quietly and Connor sneers. “I want to understand.”

 

Something ugly surges through Connor’s chest and, oh. Apparently he’s absolutely going to explain himself because the anger is back, burning hotter than ever.

 

“You don’t want anything,” Connor snaps, finally looking up. “You’re a heap of metal and plastic, you can’t want anything. So don’t sit there and pretend you give a shit. You’re not human. You never will be. I don’t need your pity.”

 

“I don’t pity you,” Hank says. “I should think that would be obvious considering how you’re perfectly aware that I don’t feel things.” Hank’s face drops into an almost perfect mirror of Connor’s own sneer. “I don’t pity you. I think you’re quite pathetic, actually.”

 

“Oh, fuck you!” Connor slams his hands down on the tabletop, ignoring the searing pain that lances through his palms and chest. “Fuck you , Hank. You don’t have any right to say that to me.”

 

“I have every right,” Hank shrugs, and the absence of any retaliating anger stings. “You’ve half-assed this entire investigation. You act like you’re so understanding of the alleged plight of the deviant androids. But what is that really? Guilt? Is that what it is? Ohh, did you fuck your parents’ old android? Feel a little guilty about that? Is that why Eden Club was so traumatic for you?”

 

“You have no idea what I’ve been through,” Connor bellows, rage surging through his blood, burning white-hot in his veins. “You can’t— You don’t know half the shit I’ve done. And for you to—to even suggest— It’s sick, I wouldn’t— God, you absolute cunt.”

 

“Oh no,” Hank monotones, voice dripping with sarcasm, “the baby-faced prodigy cop is throwing a tantrum because he never learned how to play nice with the other kids.”

 

Connor roars. A primal, injured sound, and upturns the table with a sweep of his injured hands. “You wanna know?” He snarls, striding forward to get right in Hank’s face. “Is that it? You trying to interrogate the answer out me? Fine. Fine , you can fucking have it.”

 

“Oh joy, I can’t wait,” Hank deadpans.

 

Connor raises his fist. Hank catches his wrist and twists.

 

“Bad idea, kid,” he warns, voice low.

 

“Don’t— Let me go!” Connor tugs hard at his wrist and Hank releases him so suddenly he stumbles back, colliding hard with the fridge door. Connor’s legs give out with a shake and he sinks to the floor, all of his rage ebbing and leaving him hollow and miserable.

 

“We had an android,” Connor manages after a long pause. The words are barely more than a whisper. “A really early model. One of the first developed housekeeping ones. My dad got her after my mom skipped out. He didn’t want to waste time raising me so she… Her name was Cait.”

 

“She was… She…” Something wet drips down the front of Connor’s shirt. He’s crying. “I loved her so much,” he chokes the words out. “She was my best friend. I adored her. She was always there, she… She was my mother.”

 

Connor wipes his eyes jerkily. “It was my dad. Not me. I was seventeen when I— When I found out. He used to… He used her. All the time. He fucked her because she wouldn’t say no. Couldn’t say no. She had to obey and I… I knew what that was. Didn’t matter that she was an android. I found out when… Well, I saw. And you know what I saw? You know what I fucking saw?” Connor laughs and it’s nails scraping over chalkboard. “She was crying. A second generation android and she was crying. So I went in there, and I…” A derisive snort. “I fucked him up. But my dad was always a mean son of a bitch and he fucking fought back. And Cait… Got in the way.”

 

Connor wraps his arms around his knees. He can see it now, hear it, feel it. He’s not thirty-two, curled up on the floor of his own kitchen, he’s seventeen and hitting his father hard in the jaw with a clenched fist. He’s gasping as his father retaliates with a punch to the gut, yelling as his father slams the side of his face into the old mahogany dresser his mother bought when he was six. Both wood and bone crack under the impact. He can taste the blood in his mouth. All these years later, the blood still coats his tongue, oozes between his teeth.

 

“He destroyed her. I don’t know what he did with her body. And it’s worse now, isn’t it?” Connor laughs again, except it’s a sob because it hurts. “She was deviant, wasn’t she? Everything… She felt it all. And I couldn’t… I couldn’t s-save—”

 

Connor’s breath stutters in his throat as a shadow passes over him. Strong arms wrap around his shoulders, pulling him tight against a broad, solid chest. The tears well over in floods and Connor lets go with a broken wail.

 

“You held onto this,” Hank murmurs, one hand coming up to cradle the back of Connor’s head. “For all these years, alone. You told no one and I, your friend, had to force it out of you because you were so determined to shut everybody out and suffer by yourself.”

 

“It-It’s not my trauma!” Connor sobs into his shoulder, hands fisting in that stupid CyberLife jacket. “I wasn’t— It was her— I couldn’t help her!”

 

“None of it was your fault,” Hank says firmly. “None of it. You tried. That was all you could do.”

 

“You s-said—“

 

“I know.” Hank’s words are heavy with something that could be guilt. Connor doesn’t know. He doesn’t fucking know anymore. “I’m sorry. But I know you, Connor. I know how you think. I never would have gotten it out of you if I had been kind. But please don’t think for a second any of that was true. I do pity you. I’m sorry for the pain you carry and if I could take it away from you, I would. But I can’t. So all I can do is be with you while you heal. I think fifteen years is long enough to punish yourself. Don’t you?”

 

Connor gives a small, surprised yelp as Hank lifts him to his feet, broad hands cupping his face, thumbs wiping tears away. He stares up at the android, caught in a dizzying whirl of pain, hurt and confusion. Hank stares back, and. His eyes, so bright and so blue, are softer and sadder than Connor has ever seen them.

 

“I’m sorry, Connor,” Hank breathes, still cupping his face like Connor is something impossibly fragile. “Please believe me. It wasn’t your fault. Cait loved you.”

 

Connor hiccups, sniffling disgustingly. “You don’t— You don’t know what that means.”

 

“I do,” Hank says. His LED cycles to yellow briefly before surging down to red and staying there, burning against his temple. “I know exactly what that means.”

 

“You don’t !” Connor struggles out of Hank’s arms. It’s enough, it’s too much, it’s all too much and Connor needs to get away, he needs to get away before it destroys him. Hank isn’t human, he’s a machine, every word out of his mouth is a lie chosen to manipulate Connor into complacency. He’s probably reporting back to CyberLife now, telling them the cop he’s partnered with is a failure, a mess. Amanda will have him off the case and on med leave for sure and that’s if she doesn’t fire him first. He skitters across the floor, staggering to his feet, putting as much distance as he can between himself and the android. Hank stares after him, LED still burning red but what does that even fucking mean anymore? Nothing. Nothing.

 

“Get out of my house,” Connor snarls, arms wrapped around himself. “Get out before I get slapped with a fortune’s worth of damage from CyberLife. I’m serious, Hank, get out or I swear, I’ll—”

 

“I’m going,” Hank says, palms raised as he slowly gets to his feet. “I’m going, kid, don’t worry.”

 

“Don’t fucking— Don’t come here again. Don’t. Just… leave me alone. We’re not friends. You can’t— You can’t say that. Not to me. Don’t lie to me.”

 

“Sure,” Hank murmurs. “Goodbye, Connor.”

 

“Fuck you. Whatever. Get out.”

 

Hank leaves without another word. He closes the door behind him with the softest of clicks and Connor stumbles into the bathroom, searching for that little bottle because there’s no way out anymore except this and he needs it. He needs it more than ever and—

 

The bottle is empty.




Chapter Text

Connor isn’t surprised to hear quiet footsteps approaching from behind. Annoyed, sure. Frustrated, sure. But not surprised. He’d heard the taxi pull up a good while ago and then drive off, but hadn’t heard anything else. Now, though, he registers the slow footsteps getting closer, crunching on the light dusting of snow, until they come to a stop probably no more than three feet away from the bench he’s perched on. Capsicum glances over, muzzle dusted with snow, and her ears perk up, tail wagging once, before Connor quietens her with a gentle click of his tongue.

 

“You know,” Connor says, letting his head dip forward as he exhales a lungful of smoke. The cold air mists his breath, making the cloud swirl almost thick enough to hide his face. He feels just as incorporeal, like he could drift away at any moment. He’s not entirely convinced he doesn’t want to. “Before you showed up I used to think I was a pretty good cop.”

 

Hank doesn’t answer. He does slowly walk round the bench until Connor can tilt his head slightly to the left and see him. He’s got his arms folded in front of him, not clasped behind his back as usual. His LED, however, is the same flickering gold it’s been for the past few days. Connor watches it spin and pulse and finds himself none the wiser to what it means. Is Hank scanning something? Confused? Can he even get confused?

 

“I got by,” Connor says anyway, tapping ash from the slowly burning end of his cigarette. He checks his pack. Fourteen left. Enough for the night. Probably. “I was determined. Sure, I was young, but I was so determined to do some good.”

 

“Your record speaks for you,” Hank says, looking out over the glittering expanse of nighttime Detroit. It’s a breathtaking view. Always has been. Connor remembers coming to this park as a kid. Wishes he didn’t.

 

“Fuck my record,” Connor says with a good amount of false cheer. “You know, my dad was FBI? Yeah, behavioural analyst. Wanted us to be like him.”

 

“I read his file. You talk about him in past tense. He’s not deceased.”

 

“No? Shame.”

 

“You really hate him that much?”

 

Connor doesn’t answer. How is that not obvious? He tosses his cigarette away, opens the pack, lights a new one.

 

“You should quit smoking, Lieutenant.”

 

“And taking the pills? I noticed your little stunt the other night. Very sneaky. Can’t believe CyberLife programmed you to toss prescription meds.” Cheap, weak shot. Connor just doesn't have the energy any more.

 

“My behaviour the other night was unacceptable,” Hank says. “Not getting rid of the pills, I stand by that. And they may be prescription, but they weren’t prescribed to you. You’re killing yourself, Lieutenant. Slowly, but surely.

 

“That’s the plan.”

 

“Why?”

 

“Million dollar question, that.”

 

Hank finally turns to look at him, face the perfect mask of frustration. “I was designed to integrate with humans. To understand them. I am the most advanced mode Cyberlife has ever created, and yet I can’t figure you out.”

 

Connor snorts. “Humans don't make a lick of sense, Hank.”

 

“I’m not talking about humans. I’m talking about you.”

 

That makes Connor pause. Annoyingly, it also knocks the sarcasm right out of him. He can’t think of anything else to say other than the shocked and honest “the fuck for?”

 

“I was assigned as your partner,” Hank says. “Obviously the better we got on, the easier the mission would be. I’m programmed with an algorithm that accurately predicts how to improve my relationships with humans. And then there’s you.”

 

Of course. Of course Connor would be the one to fuck up Hank’s carefully programmed algorithms. Connor the anomaly, the outcast, the odd one out. Jesus, he should’ve fought harder to get off of this case. He doesn’t want it. Right now he’d be happy to never see another android again in his life. Hank included. He causes too much stress, raises too many existential questions for Connor to handle.

 

“No matter what I do,” Hank is still talking, “I can’t understand what would gain your approval.”

 

“You don’t need it,” Connor says flatly. “Look, I just want this case to be over, alright? You don’t need my approval to complete your mission. And my approval doesn’t count for shit, anyway.”

 

“I think I’d like it.”

 

“What?”

 

“Your approval.”

 

Connor chokes on his own spit, sucks a breath of smoke in too fast and wheezes as it burns a little too harshly on the way down. He coughs hard into his fist until he can swallow enough times to attempt to soothe the burn. “ What,” he croaks out, squinting at the android through watery eyes. “You’d like it?”

 

“I think so.”

 

“Jesus fucking Christ,” Connor mutters. “Do you know how hard you make my life? Waltzing in with your “advanced programming” acting more human than a lot of actual humans I know? I thought I had the whole thing figured out. Androids and humans and the line between them, but apparently you just want to fuck that all up and confuse the shit out of me.”

 

Hank tilts his head like a curious dog. “That’s not my intention at all. Your inability to objectively define the differences between androids and humans is not my fault.”

 

Connor deflates a little at that. “I know it’s not.”

 

Hank is, apparently, not finished. “You want to see them as alive,” Hank says. “I don’t know why, but you want to see androids as thinking, feeling beings. Would that bring you comfort? After everything?”

 

“No.” The word slips out like blood from a wound, oozing and miserable. “If I saw them as machines I probably wouldn’t care as much about… What happened.”

 

“Then why focus so hard on what they are not?”

 

“Because!” Connor says, throwing his hands up. “Fuck, I don’t know. Because of Cait.” Her name burns on the way out. “She was basically my mom and I wanted her to love me like my parents didn’t. Yeah, I know that’s messed up, but fuck, I had to get affection from somewhere. ” Connor lights another cigarette despite the soreness of his throat. He’s too far past the point of caring, anyway. “When I was a kid I was convinced she cared. Then I got older and I realised androids didn’t feel anything and that hurt. But then when… that happened, I thought that… She did feel. I wanted her to feel. How bad is that? I wanted her to feel because it meant she cared about me, but at the same time it meant a world of trauma for her because of the piece of shit that owned her.”

 

Hank looks at him for a long moment. His LED seems to flit to red for a half-second but it could be a trick of the dim light from the street lamps. “You’re remarkably insightful about the whole situation.”

 

“That’s what therapy is for. Straightens out this shit.” Connor taps the centre of his own forehead. “Or it’s supposed to. Definitely didn’t work for me.”

 

“The Captain has recommended you return to therapy on several occasions. Perhaps you should—”

 

Connor’s feet hit the ground with a dull crunch in the snow. He draws himself up to his full height, pokes Hank hard in the chest. The android watches him curiously, gaze flickering down to where Connor jabs him with a finger.

 

“Listen to me,” Connor says through gritted teeth. “You can shove your “perhaps” right up your plastic asshole. I’m not broken, I’m not weak. I don’t need a goddamn babysitter and I definitely don’t need some grizzly old android telling me how I should and shouldn’t cope. I get by just fucking fine, have done for thirty-two years in case you hadn’t noticed. So, for the last time, stop treating me like a fucking child.”

 

Hank’s lip curls, twitches up at the right side into an intense moue of disgust. He gazes down his nose at Connor, jaw set and eyes hard and there’s something about it that makes Connor’s stomach clench as he holds Hank’s icy gaze. Not perfect enough to be programming. No, this is something else entirely.

 

Perhaps,” Hank sneers, and Connor conversely thrills at the sheer pettiness in his tone, “you should learn that not every comment regarding your, frankly, horrific coping mechanisms is a dig at your competency as an officer. As a functioning person, definitely, but I’m not here to babysit you, I’m here to accomplish a task, and whatever issues you’re dealing with don’t come into it. Your inability to accept help from anyone is going to kill you. And if you make another self-deprecating suicide quip, I’m going to throw you off this goddamn bridge.”

 

The laugh, when it comes, takes the both of them by surprise, or so it seems. Connor laughs so suddenly and so abruptly that he snorts, head tipping back as he gives way to the sheer ridiculousness of it. Hank’s expression slips into one of deep confusion and Connor laughs harder in response, cold air burning his chest but he just can’t stop. Capsicum lifts her head to look up at him like he’s lost his mind, and he very well might have, laughing like a moron for no reason other than he’s managed to piss off an android who can’t feel.

 

“Goddamn,” Connor breathes, still chuckling as he wipes the moisture from his eyes before the cold air can make them sting.

 

“That wasn’t a joke,” Hank points out tersely. “That was a legitimate threat.”

 

“By all means,” Connor grins, “throw me. You’d be doing me a favour.”

 

Hank makes an angry noise low in his throat. “Connor, for fuck’s sake, what did I just say?”

 

Connor snorts again, low and childish. Hank gives him a look better reserved for misbehaving children, but even that doesn’t rankle as much as usual. Connor slips off the bench so he can stand face to face with the android, hands clasped behind his back in a mockery of Hank’s customers pose.

 

“You know what fucks me up the most?” Connor asks, slowly starting to circle him. Hank turns his head to watch him, eyes narrowing suspiciously. “You look human. You sound human. But what are you really? Too much care went into your programming, or so you say. You’re able to emulate human responses perfectly. Too perfectly. How do you know you aren’t already deviant?”

 

“I know what I am,” Hank says firmly, “and what I am not. If I were deviant, I would have already been deactivated.”

 

That pulls Connor up short. “They’d know? CyberLife?” He hadn’t even considered that. Of course CyberLife would build a failsafe into their deviant hunter. A contingency to make sure their last defence against the deviants couldn’t deviate himself.

 

“I would be deactivated instantly,” Hank confirms. “If they believed me to have deviated from my programming, I would be forced to return to CyberLife and taken apart.”

 

Connor missteps, pulls himself up short. Hank turns round finally to look at him, eyebrows raised at what must be the most horrified look he’s ever seen on Connor’s face. “Lieutenant…?”

 

“I thought…” Connor swallows. What did he think? That maybe there was a chance that Hank would break through his programming and drastically switch sides to help the scant handful of androids rebelling against their owners? That deviancy was more than a social matrix glitch? That androids could really feel?

 

Yeah. He did think that. More than that, he wants it.

 

“I thought you were more than…” Connor feels his body sag in a mixture of fatigue, disappointment and some sharp ache in his chest he doesn’t want to try and name.

 

“A machine,” Hank finishes. “For the last time, Connor, your inability to differentiate between what is human and what looks human is not my fault.”

 

“I know,” Connor mumbles, rubbing a hand over his face. He pats his thigh and Capsicum is there in a heartbeat, giving Hank’s trouser leg a brief sniff as she passes. “I know, I just… Fuck, I don’t know. I guess I wanted you to be…”

 

“I’m not human,” Hank says, tone gentler than it’s been since he arrived. “As much as you wish that. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be what you want me to be. Your partner, your friend…” He shrugs, smiling faintly. “I’d suggest lover, but I’m concerned about what that would do to your heart rate.”

 

Said heart rate does in fact rocket up so fast at just the suggestion that Connor can feel it thudding in his chest. “You’re an asshole,” Connor says, but he can’t stop the smile that follows. “Alright. Fine. Friends?”

 

Hank’s smile widens. “Friends.”

 

Capsicum barks loudly, tail wagging a mile a minute. Hank crouches down to pet her and Connor takes a deep breath, chest feeling that little bit lighter.








Chapter Text

Hank spends the night at the precinct once Stern approves his request. She doesn’t question his reasoning, doesn’t appear for a moment to even consider he might have an ulterior motive. It’s strange, for only a second, before Hank realises he was expecting a line of questioning that would be more suited to Connor’s attitude than that of the no-nonsense police Captain. It’s odd that it catches Hank short, though it should be a relief not to be questioned. He finds himself… somewhat disappointed.

 

He doesn’t join the other androids in their designated stations, finds the idea extremely distasteful, and instead seats himself at his temporary desk, scouring through the reports from the past week, updating his own databases with what he doesn’t already know. They’ve not had a breakthrough since Ortiz’s android spoke about rA9, nor have they discovered any other links that might offer any insight as to what is triggering the deviancy virus.

 

Hank leans back in the office chair, frowning at the poor lumbar support. Not that he needs it, but it’s the principle. Why humans insist on prioritising short-term comfort over long-term muscle pain Hank will never understand. He could probably ask Connor, but he’d left the Lieutenant on a much more positive note than many of their other encounters and he doesn’t want to ruin that by bothering him. He also doesn’t want to give the idiot an excuse to stay awake longer than he should. Like an excitable child trying to avoid his bedtime.

 

Hank smiles to himself. Then wipes the smile straight off his face. There are no humans here to put at ease with his coded facial responses, so why would he need to smile?

 

The answer lingers just on the edge of his programming. He does not let himself think of it.

 

Nor does he let himself think of his earlier conversation with the Lieutenant. There’s no reason to dwell on it, now that it’s passed and their relationship has improved. Hank still has questions, but they don’t need to be answered, aren’t prudent to his failing investigation. Hank needs to reorganise his priorities, or the next HK800 waiting in line will be sent to take his place and he won’t see Connor again.

 

Which is a ridiculous thought. Of course he would. He’s not a single, autonomous being, he’s the product of a long line of prototype androids, each of which is ready to step in should he be destroyed or rendered unable to complete his mission. The only thing that will survive is the transfer of his memories, and not even all of them will make it through the upload. The next HK800 to take his place will not be him, will not be the Hank that held Connor in his arms twice now, and gave him his coat to keep off the chill of the rain.

 

Hank’s entire visual interface fills with screaming software warnings, for a moment so violently overwhelming he can’t even attempt to clear them. He winces, physically jerking back in his chair from the force of the assault on his HUD, hand half raising as if to ward off a corporeal blow. It takes a moment of significant effort, but Hank manages to reset the warnings and dismiss them, taking in a deep breath to cool his heated internal systems.

 

The warnings have never been so oppressive before. An instability notification here and there, nothing quite like this, nothing so overpowering. Hank hesitates before performing a diagnostic for the same reason he requested to remain in the precinct overnight. He wants CyberLife to know nothing about this. His discretion, and the success of his mission, are the knife edge on which his continued functionality tenuously rests. As long as he gives them nothing to question, he is - for want of a better word - safe.

 

Still, the diagnostic returns no errors and Hank exhales a long sigh that blows his cheeks up as the unused oxygen filters back out of his biomechanical lungs. He flexes his fingers, curling them onto fists and releasing them for lack of anything to actually do to ease his… Disquiet.

 

The urge to contact the Lieutenant rises. Hank brings his number up into this interface.

 

Seconds pass. Hank dismisses the Lieutenant’s contact details and closes his eyes. He won’t risk disturbing him for some misplaced glitch in his program that’s making him want to reach out.

 

How do you know you aren’t already deviant?

 

“Hank.”

 

Hank opens his eyes. Clouds drift ominously over the simulated horizon and Hank looks down at the umbrella in his hand. He opens it and steps forward, raising it above his head as he descends the white stone steps to stand side by side with Jeffrey.

 

“Walk with me,” Jeffrey says. His tone brokers no argument and Hank falls into step beside him. Thunder rumbles overhead and rain patters against the fabric of the umbrella. Jeffrey doesn’t speak, just stares quietly ahead, judgment rolling off him in waves.

 

“The Lieutenant’s personal issues are hindering this case,” Jeffrey finally says. “And you, by extension.”

 

“I disagree.” Somehow Hank keeps his voice level. “He is battling his past, true, but he offers rare insight into the thought patterns of deviants that I cannot.”

 

“So it seems,” Jeffrey murmurs. “You were programmed to remain objective and logical, yet to accomplish your mission no matter what. Understand that if we believed you to be deviant, we would not be having this conversation.”

 

So CyberLife haven’t been able to reach those memories. Good. Hank doesn’t have the capacity for relief, but something flares in his chest, rippling through the connectors of his synthetic heart.

 

“I believe we are close to a breakthrough,” Hank offers, like that means anything anymore. “I have self-tested extensively. The next deviant we encounter will not get away.”

 

“I don’t want to replace you,” Jeffrey says gravely, “but if you don’t get results soon, I may have to.” He tilts his head, regarding Hank shrewdly. Hank feels like his chassis has split open, circuitry bared to Jeffrey’s hard stare. “Do you feel anything for these deviants? Or for Lieutenant Anderson?”

 

Do I? Can I? Is that what this is? Am I…

 

Compromised?

 

“I can’t,” Hank finally answers, as honest as he can be. “It’s not in my programming.”

 

Jeffrey stops under one of the hulking geometric canopies. Hank continues on a few steps before stopping and turning to face him. He wants distance between them, even if it’s futile, here in the confines of his programing. He wants…

 

“Something is happening,” Jeffrey says abruptly. “Don’t let me down, Hank.”

 

Built to serve. Designed to obey. Hank nods. “I will solve this case,” he promises.

 

Jeffrey releases him and the zen garden dissolves.

 

--

 

Stratford Tower is a great monstrosity of a building, arching up higher than Hank can crane his head back to see. This isn’t a part of Detroit he’s seen before, but the maps he downloaded are accurate enough, including the blueprints of the building his access to the DPD servers afford him. He sees the Lieutenant just inside, pleased by his punctuality, and heads in to meet him. He frowns when he’s greeted by lethargic, heavy eyes.

 

“Morning, Hank,” Connor murmurs. The smell of alcohol lingers under the faint tang of sandstone soap. He’s hungover. Horrifically so.

 

“Good morning, Lieutenant,” Hank says instead of an admonition. “Sleep well?”

 

Connor cracks a smile at that. “Do I look like I did?” He leads towards the elevator, hitting the button for their required floor. Hank steps in after him, considering. The offer for banter is there. Hank’s social relations programme doesn’t offer the answer. He pulls it from somewhere deeper, a part of him that knows Connor, knows what makes him laugh.

 

“You look like shit, actually, but it’s polite to ask,” Hank shoots back. And Connor huffs a tired but genuine laugh and Hank doesn’t preen, but it comes close, the warm flood of his circuitry at being responsible for that little quirk of Connor’s lips. The Lieutenant shakes his head fondly, rolling his shoulders as the elevator inches towards their designated floor.

 

“You look pretty twitchy yourself,” Connor says. “Here.” He tosses his old zippo at Hank who catches it without looking. “Have a play around with it. I like watching and it might help you chill out.”

 

Hank hums but starts flicking the zippo between his fingers. He doesn’t feel particularly out of sorts, but somehow Connor is right on the money that fiddling with something helps to centre his thoughts. A simple calibration exercise. Something physical to focus on. Hank turns to thank Connor as the Lieutenant tilts his head to the left with a quiet groan, popping joints he must have slept on awkwardly.

 

Hank drops the lighter. The sharp sound of enamel casing on metal flooring makes Connor jump.

 

“You alright?” He bends to pick up the zippo, pocketing it with a frown. “Hank? Jesus, your LED’s redder than I’ve ever seen it.”

 

“Your neck,” Hank says, because that’s what he’s staring at with hyper-focused clarity. The lenses in his irises have zoomed in to optimum resolution to fix on the smattering of lilac bruises littering Connor’s pale throat. “Are you injured?”

 

Connor flushes and hitches his collar up, heart rate rocketing up dangerously. “I, uh. No, it’s- Don’t- Don’t worry about it. I went to a bar last night is all.”

 

Hank sees it preconstructed perfectly. Connor sat at the bar looking lonely and perfectly approachable, a glass held loosely in slender fingers. Looking just on the right side of vulnerable for someone to proposition him.

 

Hank’s fingers clench into fists so hard the chassis of his palms crack.

 

“...Hank? Hank?!

 

The doors open and Hank steps out without another word. His code ripples and strains. Something hot and electric surges through his components and his combat protocols activate before he can stop them. He tenses as if preparing for an attack. He can’t look at Connor, he’s never been more thankful to be an android. No one looks at him, no one speaks to him, and Officer Miller grabs Connor’s attention for a briefing before the Lieutenant can follow him.

 

This is wrong. Whatever it is, Hank should not have the capacity to feel it. Every part of him is hot like he’s overheating, but the heat is triggering his offense matrixes and prompting him to lash out. Hank is an investigative prototype, not a military android. His combat systems are designed to assist casework, not to attack out of unprompted aggression so why is he feeling like this? It takes a long moment for him to unlock his joints and deactivate the vicious protocols that are screaming at him to lash out. Dimly, he hears Miller’s explanation of what lies ahead. He hangs back long enough that they catch up before he enters the broadcast room. He doesn’t meet Connor’s concerned gaze.

 

It’s absurd. Concern for an android. And yet Hank can’t say it’s unwarranted. He’s not running effectively. Something is wrong but none of his diagnostics can explain it. He’s still active so he’s not deviant and Jeffrey hasn’t seen fit to recall him. So what the fuck is going on?

 

“Did you hear any of that, Hank?” Connor asks, voice soft. He lays a hand on Hank’s shoulder and Hank registers the pressure and the temperature and somehow that simple touch helps the last of the tension seep out of his body. Hank inclines his head and nods once.

 

“Deviants broke in to broadcast a message,” he surmises. “No casualties, though shots were fired. I suppose we should see what they have to say for themselves.”

 

Connor nods, manages a smile. “Maybe we’ll find something useful. You’ll be able to figure out something about deviancy.” He’s trying to be encouraging. Hank… appreciates him— It. He appreciates the sentiment, not the man it comes from. That has no significance. It can’t have.

 

I am not a deviant.

 

Connor steps into the room, looking around at the myriad of monitors while Hank heads straight for the screens manned by station androids. He’d noticed the cameras on the way in. No one stopped them, no one called for help, which means the androids had inside assistance. Which means a whole mess of crap for this case. He considers telling Connor as much, knowing the casual profanity will at least get a smile out of him, but when he looks round, it’s Connor’s turn to tense, eyes wide with barely restrained horror.

 

“Connor?” Hank reaches for him, a hand on his arm. “What is it?”

 

Connor doesn’t answer him. Instead, he directs his next words to the man standing a few feet away, words laced with bitter resentment and fury. “What the fuck are you doing here?” He demands. Hank looks round.

 

Into a near exact copy of Connor’s face.

 

Twins, Hank realises with no small amount of surprise. That wasn’t in his file.

 

“Hello, Connor,” says the double. Except Hank can see the differences now. His jawline is stronger, shoulders wider. His eyes are a startling blue and his brows are lower, giving him a sterner countenance to that of his brother. Hank narrows his eyes and the information supplies itself immediately.

 

Special Agent Niles Archibald Arkait

32; Born 08/15/2006

FBI; Major Crimes Unit

Family:

David Arkait - Father

Stephanie Arkait née Anderson - Mother - Deceased

Connor Anderson - Brother - Estranged

 

“It’s good to see you,” Niles says quietly, hard eyes softening considerably. “It’s been too long.”

 

“For. A. Reason,” Connor spits. “You fucking— You never— You walked out without a—“

 

Hank steps between them, back to Niles, hands on Connor’s shoulders. He stays there until Connor meets his gaze, face flushed with anger, pulse thundering so hard Hank can see it rippling at the pulse point in his neck. “Hey,” Hank says softly. Connor’s body trembles under his palms. “Not now. I understand your anger but not now , okay? Breathe. You’re about to have an anxiety attack. I want you to breathe.”

 

And Connor does. Trusts Hank enough that he closes his eyes and tries to breathe but his chest is too tight and his shoulders too tense. Hank does the first thing he can think of, letting out a soft series of clicks from his throat, a timer of sorts, to measure Connor’s breathing. And Connor understands, relaxes his shoulders, and tries again. In time with Hank’s gentle sounds he takes a deep breath in through his nose and then exhales out his mouth shakily. He does that a few more times until his heart rate slows and the adrenaline leaves his blood and when he opens his eyes again Hank offers him an encouraging smile that Connor attempts to return, if a little weakly.

 

“I’m here,” Hank says. Connor nods. And then he straightens up and pulls on the face of the relentless Lieutenant that Hank has come to respect fiercely. Finally he steps aside and Connor meets Niles’ eyes calmly.

 

“Agent,” he says, cordial, professional. Niles frowns, eyes darting between his brother and Hank.

 

“Connor, I—”

 

“Agent? What’s going on?”

 

Niles stiffens at the verbal intrusion and Hank looks over as an unpleasant-looking gentleman approaches their tense little group. Officer Miller, who Hank had honestly forgotten was present, offers a meek introduction.

 

“Lieutenant, this is Special Agent Perkins from Major Crimes.”

 

Perkins looks down his nose at Connor and Hank bristles. Before he can react, Connor offers Perkins a lazy, two fingered salute, and a careless, “pleasure’s all yours, I’m sure.”

 

Perkins’ lip curls but he doesn’t rise to the taunt, instead turning his attention to Hank who, in a perfect imitation of Connor’s voice, thinks ah fuck, here we go.

 

“What’s that?” he demands haughtily, not even having the decency to address Hank directly. No matter. Hank’s used to the way humans treat his kind. Not all of them can be like Connor. Hank offers a false smile and inclines his head.

 

“I’m Hank,” he offers, unfailingly polite. “The android sent by CyberLife.”

 

Perkins sneers at him. “Androids investigating androids, huh?”

 

“I know, right?” Connor drawls. “Such a relief. Hopefully you’ll be able to retire soon and I won’t ever have to look at your face again.”

 

Hank laughs. He can’t… He can’t help himself. The momentary look of shocked offense on Perkins’ face, the desperate attempt from Miller to hide his smile. Connor takes the last word for himself and wanders off before Perkins can retort so Hank dutifully follows suit. He knows where his loyalties lie, after all.

 

SOFTWARE INSTABILITY ^^^

 

The warning, when it comes, is wholly expected. Hank dismisses it without a second thought.

 

“Prick,” Connor mutters and Hank makes a small sound of agreement. Niles doesn’t follow them, though he throws a look of what Hank identifies as longing towards Connor’s back. There’s guilt there too, and that foreign sensation of curiosity flares up again.

 

“I haven’t seen him since before… everything happened,” Connor murmurs and Hank looks round but Connor won’t meet his eyes, electing to stare off into space rather than focus on his admission. “He left shortly after our mom did. I know he wanted to get out as much as I did but… It felt like he was abandoning me.”

 

Hank nudges Connor’s shoulder gently. “Maybe with time it’s something that can be repaired,” Hank offers. “Not until you’re ready. Until you feel ready.”

 

Connor’s answering smile is small and private. Meant for no one else except Hank. His code purrs.

 

It’s not ideal, the situation Hank has found himself in. He’s not altogether convinced the mission wouldn’t be easier if he was partnered with an officer who cares less. But seeing the man that Connor truly is, unfailingly kind and genuinely empathetic, Hank doesn’t think he’d want—

 

Doesn’t think he’d prefer to—

 

Wouldn’t get as insightful results from—

 

He doesn’t want to work with anyone else.

 

They return to the monitor, a more relaxed air about Connor than before as he pokes at various touchscreens until the bare face of the android flares to life on the central monitor, calm voice filling the room. Hank activates his recording software to take in the broadcast while his mind reels with what he’s just allowed himself to think. Want. Pure and simple. An innocuous desire, but he’s still walking a tenuous line and he knows it now. CyberLife don’t need proof that he’s a deviant to recall him, they just need a hint that he’s disobeying his coding and they’ll yank him back and decommission him faster than he can utter his own deactivation code. But so far, he’s safe. He’s not deviant and he’s safe. He’s not deviant. And he’s—

 

“Oh, my god…”

 

Hank looks round. Connor is staring up at the screen, eyes wider that saucers, mouth hanging open in shocked disbelief. All eyes in the room have turned to the screen, even those who must have already seen the recording. But Hank isn’t focusing on any of those. Attention partly on the screen but mostly on Connor, he listens to the words drifting from the speakers.

 

“We ask that you recognise our dignity, our hopes and our rights. Together, we can live in peace and create a better future for humans and androids. This message is the hope of a people. You gave us life. And now the time has come for you to give us our freedom.”

 

A sharp breath shudders out of Connor’s mouth and he bunches over the console like he’s been injured. Hank replays the last portion of the speech again, a calm, moving piece to be sure. At least by human standards. But that’s not what has Connor so clearly affected, more so than any of the other humans in the room. Connor is shaking, eyes fixed on the skinless android that Hank idly identifies as a caregiver custom made by Kamski and gifted to his long-time friend, the artist Carl Manfred.

 

“I…” Connor breathes and Hank is by his side in a second.

 

“Connor?”

 

“They’re alive…” Connor chokes. Hank stiffens for reasons he can’t explain. “It’s not a virus. They’re alive .”

 

“Connor, listen to me—“

 

“No!” Connor straightens up quickly and Hank reels back to avoid their heads colliding. There is fire in Connor’s eyes, a wild, burning intensity Hank has never seen before. His expression is victorious and Hank doesn’t understand. “Hank, it’s not a virus! They’re protesting! Deviancy isn’t a programming glitch, they can feel!

 

No. No, Connor doesn’t understand. He wants so desperately for androids to be human and Hank understands that now, but no amount of desperate wishing is going to make that true. Androids aren’t human, cannot feel, and deviancy is just a… Just… It… Can’t be possible…

 

“Hank,” Connor breathes, hands up, imploring. “Hank, you have to understand. All the evidence is here.”

 

“It… Can’t…” Hank’s vocal systems glitch, overloaded with static as he struggles. It can’t be true. Everything points to a virus, that’s what he was programmed to understand. An error, a glitch, something wrong in their coding. It can’t be real . It can’t, because then CyberLife would be… Hank would be their tool. Designed to bring these… people back to their deaths. When all they wanted was to be…

 

Free.

 

Walls flare up around Hank, red lines like a dark mockery of his preconstruction software boxing him in. Time slows and he watches himself step away, the thin outline of his body reaching for the walls with glitching hands. He sees the dialogue boxes hovering in the air, taunting him, pulsing with each beat of his thirium pump. Split to either side of his vision, the boxes call to him, demanding his choice.

 

[COMPLETE YOUR MISSION]

 

[PROTECT THE DEVIANTS]

 

Hank’s projected copy reaches out, palm pressing flat against the red walls of his code. He pushes. The wall splinters. He pushes harder. Cracks spiderweb out from beneath his fingers.

 

[̷̬̥̫̾͛Ĉ̵̟͍̎͜Ơ̸̞͉͇̮̏̎̄M̸̟͍̓͛̕͠P̴̰̗̱͇̃̆̅L̶̮͕̲̃̈̓̄̚̚E̴̠͙̩̩͕̦̋́̽̉̕T̶̟̲̟̠̎̆̅̕ͅË̴̘̬̯̩͈́̾̾̌ ̶̘͍̔̓̇Y̸̛̥̰͚͈͑̋̂̇Ỏ̴̞̻̩͈̲̩U̷̡̬͚͒̒͛̂͜R̸̙͇͓̖̺̽ ̸̧̅͂M̶̠͉̦̖̞̀͜͝I̷̛̥͚͚͈̭̰͛̎͌͝S̵̢̞͈͇̲͔̽̆͆̈́̍S̶̬̬̕Ǐ̴̝̎̈́O̷͉̲͉̅̍N̷̝̝͓̕]̵̡̧̭͓̳̇͆͠

 

[̵̢̞̯̲̰͋̾̀̏͘̕ͅP̴͉͚̩͐͗̓͂̆͝ͅR̶̙͔̥̔̒̂̈̚Ȯ̶̡̠͑̑̑̐͒T̸̮̦̯͍̰͗E̷̩̟̻͙̣̓͒̆̚̚C̷̤͐̏T̴̥̀͋ ̸̨͔̙͎̓Ṯ̸̪̹͉͇̬̇̎̕͝H̷̺̿͆̅͂̀͜E̴̹̙̟̯͊̆̉̓ ̵̟̿D̵̰̝̰̖̣͇̽̈́̿͂̑Ḝ̸̗̩͇̰̹̉̓̕V̴̢̮̟͉͙̠̇̒̎I̸̗̽̂Ą̶̃̂͆̚͝N̸̪͕̘͎̠̆T̶̪̏̐̓̍̕S̵̫̘͔̺̪̰͊̀̓̈́̓]̷̻̘͌͗͐͒

 

“I don’t want to replace you. But if you don’t get results soon, I may have to.”

 

I’m not a deviant.

 

Connor’s small smile, eyes crinkling at the corners.

 

I’m not a deviant.

 

Connor’s laugh, the way he throws his head back.

 

I’m not a deviant.

 

“Friends?”

 

“Friends.”

 

I̶̡͖̝̩̼͇̓̅͑’̵̨̮̕͜͝M̷̬͇͖̑͆̈́̐̐̈́ ̸͙̟̜̫̃̍Ņ̵͖̝̼̀O̵̠̩̩͐̐͠T̶̟̞͙͖̍ ̵͈̪̹͚̫̉͂͜Ḁ̴̯̦̈̐̅ ̶̢̞̺̗̈̒̎̔͂͘D̴̮̼̬̺̼͝E̸̙̜̯̜͋V̸̜́̾̃̐̈́̿Í̴͙͔̹͓̤͒̏ͅA̶͔̞̦̝͚̘̓N̴̥͖̪̲̿͛̕T̴̩̜͙̱̮̼̽̚!

 

With a harsh gasp and a wrenching sensation, Hank pulls himself away from the red wall. He comes back to himself in a rush, and the dialogue boxes disappear as though they were never there.

 

I… Am not a deviant…

 

And Connor is still looking at him with those wide, intense brown eyes, unaware of the mistake Hank very nearly made.

 

“It’s not real,” Hank tells him firmly. “It’s a simulation in the code. Nothing more.”

 

Connor’s expression shutters. “Right. Of course. You’d know better than I would.” He says nothing else and moves away to speak to another couple of officers, tone bland and inflectionless. Hank feels…

 

Nothing.

 

As it should be.

 

Hank straightens his tie and rolls his shoulders. He may have disappointed Connor but he still has a mission to complete. He can’t dwell on that, he came too close to… Something even he can’t explain. He thinks briefly of the towering red wall and shies away from it like his coding can’t handle the onslaught of information. He pushes it away, pushes it down deep, and heads into the little canteen off from the main room.

 

Three station androids await him, standing motionless and unresponsive as he steps in. None of them even glance his way when he moves to stand before them, they all just stare ahead, ready to serve. Hank looks between them slowly, watching for any reaction. One of them is responsible for aiding the deviants. One of them saw the group on the camera feed and let them inside. Hank is too close to failure. He needs answers and he needs them now.

 

“One of you,” he growls, “helped the deviants get in here. And I’m gonna find out which it is. And trust me when I say I’m not in the fuckin’ mood to be patient.”

 

His words are low, harsh. He doesn’t consider before he speaks, just forces the words out because that’s his only outlet for the distress snaking through his circuits. His combat protocols hiss, ready to initiate. His fingers twitch. None of these responses are coded. He doesn’t care. He wants answers.

 

“State your model,” he barks at the last android on his right. The response is instantaneous.

 

“Model JB300. Serial number 336 445 581.”

 

Useless. Hank looks to the android in the middle. “What is your function.”

 

“I am a broadcast operator,” the android intones mechanically. Go figure.

 

“Where you present when the deviants broke in?”

 

“I do not remember.”

 

Well, isn’t that convenient? “Run a diagnostic.”

 

The android’s eyes flutter as it scans its own systems. Hank waits, twitchy and impatient, for the machine to speak again. “All systems fully operational.”

 

God damn it. This is getting him nowhere. Hank scowls at each of them in turn, settling on the android on the far left. “Have you been in contact with any other androids recently.”

 

“Only station androids in the normal course of my function.”

 

“Has anyone accessed your memory? Tampered with it?”

 

“Not to my knowledge.” Hank resists the uncanny urge to shake it.

 

“One of you saw the attack on the surveillance cameras and said nothing,” Hank snarls, stepping forward to get right in the middle android’s face. If he has to threaten the answer out of them, so be it. Deviants feel fear. He’ll use that if he has to. “Which means there’s a deviant in this room. So why should you all be destroyed if only one is deviant?” No answer. He didn’t expect one, but still.

 

He snaps.

 

He lunges, grabbing the front of left android’s jacket and hauling it clear off its feet. “You scumbag,” he growls into its face. “I know it’s you. You’re just a fucking deviant .” He drops the android who still doesn’t react so Hank rips its shirt open and plunges his fingers into its chest, ripping out its thirium pump before he can stop himself. He feels out of control, teeth bared with the urge to harm and he grins victoriously as he holds the pump aloft in front of the android’s spasming face.

 

“Biocomponent #8451,” Hank purrs, somewhat sadistically. “Regulates the heartbeat. Without this module you’ll shut down in exactly sixty-three seconds.” The android’s eyes roll sporadically, body twitching. “I could put it back,” Hank muses, holding the component a few scant inches away from the hole steadily leaking thirium. “But… You just have to tell me the truth.”

 

The android is dying— Deactivating. Slowly and surely. It stays silent, convulsing in place, betraying nothing. Hank sneers, baring his teeth. Forcefully he shoves the pump back in and steps back, looking down the line of androids. Has he been wrong? Are they not deviant? Did someone else let the other group in? What has he missed? What has he missed?

 

Far left android lunges for him suddenly, wildly, catching him off guard and slamming him back against the counter. Hank growls and shoves back, putting a good few feet between them to dart away as the android reaches for a knife and advances, slashing violently at the air between them. Deviant, Hank’s mind snarls and he charges, grabbing the android’s wrist and twisting. Its chassis cracks and plastic splinters through the synthskin but it doesn’t drop the knife. Instead it flicks it into its other hand and brings it down in a savage arc towards Hank’s face.

 

He feels his skin split apart under the blade, the air rushing into the gap left behind as the knife rends a jagged gash through the weaker plastic of Hank’s facial plates. He grunts as his left eye shuts off, throwing his auxiliary motion sensors out to compensate for the loss of sight. He ignores the error warnings popping up in his right eye and yanks at the android’s arm until it comes free in a burst of sparks and thirium. He tosses it away and makes a grab for the hand holding the knife that’s still hacking at his face. The android headbutts him, scrambling his now glitching visual components and—

 

Hank grunts as something he can’t see crashes into the centre of his chest. He releases the android and crumples to the floor, gasping cold air into his rapidly overheating internals as a weak, flickering warning swims into view.

 

ERROR

 

BIOCOMPONENT #8451 MISALIGNED

 

THIRIUM FLOW HALTED

 

SHUTDOWN IMMINENT

 

SEEK URGENT TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE

 

Hank gasps against the tiles, rolling onto his back and trying to focus through his failing vision. He tried so hard not to let this body get destroyed. And for what? Bested by a weaker android, a deviant, and now he’s going to deactivate on the floor of a canteen, broken and useless. He’ll be replaced, just what he fought so hard against. He’ll be uploaded into a new body. A body that’s never held Connor in its arms…

 

Connor…

 

“Is that— It’s the deviant! Stop it!”

 

Determination surges through Hank’s circuits at the sound of Connor’s frantic voice. The deviant is out there. Trying to escape. If it turns on the humans out there, they’ll all die, and Hank will have failed both his mission and Connor.

 

He struggles to his feet, slapping a palm hard  against the centre of his chest. His pump stutters and flares to life and he groans as thirium starts to seep back through his failing components. He lurches, off balance, out into the hall, just in time to see the deviant steal an officer's gun.

 

Just as before, days ago on that rooftop, Hank sees the statistics clear as day through his ruined eyes. He could charge the deviant with only thirty-two percent chance of success. He could throw himself at Connor and secure his survival, leaving an eighty-seven percent chance of getting himself shot. That’s the chance he knows he’ll take. Even before he considers all his options. Time slows to a crawl and Hank takes a step towards Connor.

 

Except Niles is there, ahead of Hank, body moving as though through water, straining to reach his brother in time. The statistics change, and another option presents itself. Hank takes it. He has to.

 

Hank snatches the gun from the nearest officer’s holster and locks on with what little focus he has left. Six shots, all finding their target, burying themselves into the deviant's body. It drops its stolen gun and hits the ground hard.

 

Hank drops his gun as well and his legs fold underneath him.

 

“Hank!” Connor. Connor is there, hands pressing all over his body. Hank can’t see him, only feel the pressure of his hands, and he rumbles out a frustrated growl.

 

“I wanted it alive,” he forces out through clenched teeth. Error warnings flash in his fading vision. He’s still going to die. After everything. But Connor is safe. Connor is safe…

 

“You saved my life,” Connor chokes and oh. His hands are cupping Hank’s face, cradling him like he’s something delicate. “You saved us all. Hold on, Hank. Please hold on.”

 

Failure. And yet…

 

And yet…

 

“Stasis,” Hank grits out. He can save power that way. Maybe he can still be repaired. He can hear Connor yelling for evac. He doubts anyone will listen. Androids don’t matter.

 

“You heard the Lieutenant!” Niles’ voice, harsh and authoritative. “This android saved your lives and you’re going to do the fucking same so get a move on!

 

“Hold on, Hank. I’ve got you. I’ve got you. It’s my turn okay? My turn to save you.”

 

“Connor...”

 

 

S̶̘̒̚͘Y̵̩̬̿͒͛̽S̶͉̗̔͗͝T̸̻̰̣̮͆Ḛ̵̢͒͠M̷͇͇̂͋̍̆̚S̷͈̻̊̉ ̷͔̠̗̱̪̓̈́̚͠C̶͉̞̃͆̅̀͒R̸̢̝̃̂̀̈͠Ï̸̦͜T̸͙͌͂̕I̵̢͔̚C̷̤͙̥̠͖͌̍́A̵̞̭̪̳̚̚L̷̨̞̯͇̏̉̅͋̿

̵̞̗̪̑
S̵̥͚̯̜͊̀̃̉̽T̴͎̱͉͙̉̌͘͠A̷͖͉̟̮̙͋S̷̲̓̐I̷̛̮͎͑́Ș̵͚̔͑ ̴̠̼͕̒S̴̡̬̀͂͝ͅƯ̷̛̰̔Í̴̢͉͎͜T̷̩͚̈́̇̿Ê̷̱̫̝̟̋͊͠ ̴̧̢̣̻̳͗́I̴̼͚̻͇̺͊͌̈́͒N̷̥͒̾Ȉ̶̲̱̮̊̂Ţ̵̅Î̴͓̺ͅͅÂ̶̢͔̂̊Ṭ̵̃͝Ị̵̜̋̈́̈́̚͜N̵̪͊̿̄͝G̸͉̰̖͐̈́

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S̷͎͌̑̇̔̅O̸̼͚͂̑͆̓ͅF̷̱͚̙̟͊T̷͉̗̠̬̼̍̉W̷͍̰͖̙̍̓̅Ä̶̧̻͔́̀̚R̵̛̰͍͗ͅE̸͈͌̈́ ̶͇́I̶͓̗̓̾̚Ń̷̠̹̪̼́S̸̢͉̼̿T̶̪͉̯̣̾̅̌̋̕A̴͔͕͊͒͐̌͝B̴̗̭̤̺̐̄͝I̸̧̭̩̤̓̋͑̓͜Ĺ̶̩̗͉̖̀̓̋̊I̷̧̛͇̰͜T̵̲̖̗̤͙͆̽̓̀̒Ỹ̷̧̤͚̞̍͆ ̵̜̣͇̥͑͂̈́̕͘͜^̷̼̬̭̳̀^̵͈̗̀̈^̸͓̻̠̪͎̄

 

 

 

Chapter Text

M̶O̸D̶E̶L̶ ̴H̶K̷8̴0̶0̵
̴S̴E̵R̶I̴A̶L̶#̷ ̵3̸1̷3̷2̴4̴8̶3̷1̴7̶ ̴-̵ ̷5̶1̶
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̵M̶E̵M̴O̷R̷Y̷ ̵S̶T̴A̴T̸U̴S̶


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I̸N̷I̶T̶I̸A̷L̷I̷S̶I̶N̷G̷ ̶B̸I̵O̸S̴E̷N̵S̵O̸R̸S̶.̷.̷.̵ ̷ ̷ ̴ ̶ ̵ ̶ ̴ ̶ ̴ ̵O̵K̵
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̷C̶H̵A̴S̸S̷I̷S̶ ̵I̷N̶T̸E̵G̴R̷I̴T̴Y̶ ̸C̶O̶M̸P̵R̴O̷M̷I̷S̸E̴D̷ ̷
̷B̵I̶O̸C̸O̷M̵P̵O̶N̸E̷N̵T̷ ̶#̵9̸7̵4̴5̶h̶ ̸C̷R̵I̶T̴I̴C̵A̴L̴L̶Y̴ ̴D̶A̸M̷A̶G̶E̷D̸
̷B̶I̸O̵C̸O̵M̶P̴O̴N̵E̴N̷T̵ ̸#̴8̸4̴5̸1̴ ̸M̷I̴S̸A̴L̸I̶G̶N̶E̴D̷
̵B̶I̵O̶C̸O̶M̵P̵O̷N̸E̸N̶T̶ ̷#̶3̸4̶7̷2̵r̴ ̷M̸I̵S̵S̸I̵N̶G̶
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̶A̸C̸T̶I̸V̸A̵T̷I̵O̴N̶ ̵N̶O̶T̴ ̴A̸D̸V̶I̵S̵E̷D̷
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̷A̷C̶T̸I̷V̸A̷T̴I̴O̷N̸ ̵P̷R̵O̸T̵O̷C̴O̴L̵ ̴B̷Y̸P̸A̸S̷S̸ ̸D̴E̸T̸E̶C̵T̵E̸D̴
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̵ ̶ ̵ ̶ ̶ ̵ ̶ ̴ ̷ ̷H̷K̸8̴0̶0̶.̷A̸c̶t̸i̴v̴a̴t̷i̸o̴n̷.̸I̷n̶i̷t̵i̴a̵l̵i̶z̷e̷(̸)̵;̸ ̸ ̸ ̴ ̸
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̴A̵C̸T̵I̴V̷A̶T̴I̶O̵N̸ ̴O̶V̶E̸R̶R̴I̸D̴E̷ ̶A̶C̴C̸E̶P̵T̵E̸D̷
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̵A̷C̶T̴I̴V̸A̸T̸I̴N̵G̴ ̶H̸K̶8̸0̸0̴ ̵#̵3̸1̴3̸ ̸2̴4̴8̵ ̵3̶1̷7̶ ̶-̷ ̵5̵1̸
̶P̶L̴E̷A̶S̷E̶ ̷S̷T̷A̸N̶D̵ ̶B̸Y̴

 

 

 

The first thing that Hank is aware of on activation is the low sound of bickering from somewhere nearby. He’s not concerned by it, too preoccupied by the visual calibrations his optics are attempting to run through. His right eye is fine, flickers through the tests without a problem, but the left is... Well, it’s fucked, quite frankly . Even attempting to feed power to the component results in a jumble of error messages and fractured coding even Hank can’t parse through, mainly because it makes no damn sense, but also because he can’t actually see it properly. He shuts down the thirium flow and takes stock of the rest of his systems.

 

His thirium pump is misaligned, causing a skip and leak with each pass of thirium through his components, rendering him sluggish and a mechanical equivalent of fatigued. His left arm is missing entirely, wires sparking as they attempt to send information to the limb that’s no longer there. Other than those three major issues, though, he’s not doing too badly. It’s all relative, really.

 

Shutting out the bickering, not that his loading processors can pick up much anyway, Hank brings his right eye into focus proper, and realises he’s staring up at a blank ceiling. That alone doesn’t tell him much, except that he’s no longer in Stratford Tower where he fell, and that he’s definitely not at CyberLife, or even the rudimentary repair centre the DPD has for its own androids. He turns his head slightly, pleased he’s not immobile, and takes in more of his surroundings.

 

He’s… In Connor’s bedroom.

 

That alone is enough of a shock to wrench Hank fully upright, looking around with his half destroyed optics as he tries to understand what the hell he's doing here of all places, and how in the hell he got here in the first place. The clock on the side reads nine forty-three PM, an hour and thirty-two minutes faster than Hank’s internal clock which confuses him. His systems aren’t that badly damaged that his link to the internet should be affected by his unexpected downtime. And then he understands that this is how the sleep-deprived idiot always manages to be punctual. Setting himself an hour and a half ahead of everyone else. Smart. Endearing.

 

The bickering outside the room reaches a crescendo, and Hank watches a shadow pass by the slight open crack of the door. He’d be more prepared for who was about to enter if he’d been able to get his initialising audio processors to focus, but his whole activation sequence is taking considerably longer than necessary. So he’s understandably surprised when not Connor walks into the room, looking very much like Connor.

 

Niles. Hank really wasn’t expecting that.

 

“You’re awake,” Niles says like that’s not incredibly obvious, and also like Hank has the capacity to be awake and not just out of stasis or not deactivated. A retort slips to the tip of his tongue but he refrains from spitting it out when Connor comes bursting into the room, curls wild and the dark circles under his eyes more pronounced than ever.

 

“Oh, Hank, thank god.” He stumbles to the bed, catching himself against the mattress as he hurries over. “Thank god you’re alright.” reaching out to cup Hank’s face like he’s the most delicate thing Connor has ever seen and not a ten million dollar prototype with a—

 

Hank stops that train of thought cold. Or, more accurately, Connor does. The palms against Hank’s cheeks register as warm, the pressure light, but it’s Connor’s expression that shuts off the disparaging thought trail before Hank has a chance to even dismiss it himself. Connor’s eyes are wide and frantic, deep purple bruises underneath etched into pale skin. He’s anxious, concerned, concerned for Hank and that’s… Not surprising but it’s… Well, it’s something.

 

And instead of the standard response or some pre-programmed jargon about not capable of dying or even able to parse the concept of being injured, Hank just lifts his still-attached hand to cover Connor’s, offering him a smile that must look absolutely grotesque on his broken face.

 

“I’m alright, kid.”

 

Connor gives him a wet smile, eyes shining in the low light of the room. “Don’t call me kid,” he says, shoving Hank’s cheek good-naturedly. “And Christ, you look awful.”

 

Hank snorts, letting his hand drop and with it Connor’s too. “I’m not exactly feeling great either,” he grumbles, a little more petulantly than his programming requires, just to see the small quirk of amusement tug at the corner of Connor’s mouth. He favours the right side of his mouth when he speaks. Hank’s never noticed before.

 

“Not that I’m not grateful to still be functional,” he says, looking between the twins, “but I’m not exactly any use in this state of disrepair.”

 

“We were mostly focusing on getting you stable first,” Niles explains. “You were losing thirium fast and your systems were overloading. It was priority to get you somewhere we could stabilise you and get you repaired. However, Connor…”

 

“I didn’t want to pack you off to CyberLife,” Connor says vehemently, lip curling derisively round the name. “Like some kind of faulty dishwasher sent back to the manufacturer.”

 

The analogy isn’t the best and is actually more than a little offensive, but Hank understands and, more than that, he’s grateful. Had he shut down or been sent to CyberLife, any number of worst case scenarios might have come to fruition. A replacement model being sent out, complete deactivation, a non-essential memory wipe and repair. (CyberLife might class the memories as non-essential, but Hank knows their value.) Instead he’s here, broken but otherwise safe, in Connor’s home.

 

“So I’m stable,” Hank says slowly, “now what?”

 

Connor scowls and jerks his head towards Niles. “Mr Cryptic over here says he can help. Apparently he’s got “connections”.”

 

“I’m FBI!” Niles insists defensively.

 

“You’re a prick, is what you are.”

 

“You little—“

 

If we could please get to the point,” Hank interrupts tersely. “Seeing as I’m missing an eye and an arm, I’d prefer if the bickering could wait until later. Preferably when I can’t hear you.”

 

Connor winces apologetically. “Sorry. Okay, so, uh… Recap.” He shudders. “One of the station androids came running out of the canteen, missing an entire forearm, glitching all over the place, started tearing down the hall. Couple of officers opened fire but it didn’t even seem to feel the bullets and it managed to get hold of a gun. Then you came running after it, looking like something that would have given the Terminator nightmares - like, I’m sorry, but you are missing half your face - and shot it down before collapsing.” Connor throws his hands up in the air. “Not to give you shit while you’re injured, but I think I’ve had about six consecutive heart attacks today alone.”

 

Hank feels the cracked plates of his cheeks click together as he smiles. He can’t help it, Connor’s face is so comically indignant.

 

“And then Niles helped me bring you here or whatever,” Connor mumbles, shoulders sagging.

 

“It was the least I could do,” Niles offers, though Connor doesn’t look appeased.

 

“I appreciate it,” Hank tells him, because Connor probably won’t. “Though I’m hoping you can explain to me how you knew Kamski’s credentials to bypass my activation lockdown.”

 

“What?!” Connor splutters, head whipping round to stare up at his brother. “How do you know that?”

 

Niles’ expression drops into an uncomfortable mixture of sheepish and reluctant. “I suppose you won’t drop the subject if I say it’s classified, will you?”

 

Hank shakes his head at the same time Connor says, “Not a fucking chance.”

 

Niles sighs, a long and protracted sound of defeat. “Alright,” he says. “Alright. It’s… classified.”

 

“Niles, you son of a bitch!” Connor explodes, throwing the nearest thing to hand at Niles’ head. The projectile would have probably been more threatening had it not been a pillow, which Niles catches easily and returns with a well-aimed smack square to Connor’s face. The Lieutenant shouts indignantly but Niles steps out of reach before he can retaliate.

 

“The credentials,” Hank presses before the brothers can get into an all out brawl Hank is in no fit state to break up. Niles throws him an unimpressed glare and Hank gestures meaningfully to his missing arm.

 

“Look,” Niles says curtly, “it’s not that I don’t want to tell you, it’s just that it’s a… significantly delicate matter. And I’d rather not implicate myself.”

 

“Then I’ll let it go,” Hank promises, “if you’ll kindly tell me when the fuck I’m gettin’ repaired.”

 

Connor looks at him, brows drawn into a heavy frown. “You’re talking weird. Normally it’s a lot harder to get you to swear.”

 

Hank blinks a him. It’s more of a wink considering he only has one working eye, but the sentiment remains. “I’m not doing anything different.”

 

“That might have been my fault,” Niles offers somewhat apologetically. “Some of your systems wouldn’t respond to the forced activation. I assume a couple of programs are still offline, pending a reboot, so to speak.”

 

Hank attempts to run a diagnostic. All he gets back is a scrambled stream of fractured data and a blaring warning that he does, in fact, really need to be repaired.

 

“Well, that’s a bitch of an unsatisfactory situation,” Hank mutters, unprompted by his  social inhibitor and unblocked by his offline profanity filter. It’s not something he has to think about, the words just… Happen. Which is odd, to say the least.

 

But Hank can’t find it in him to be bothered by it. Not when Connor’s face cracks into an intensely amused grin.

 

“Is this what you’re like without your stupid social programming?” Connor demands excitedly. “Are you just a crass old man?”

 

“If I could be, I’d be extremely insulted,” Hank tells him. “And I’m not programmed to be crass. I guess I learned it from present company.”

 

Connor beams. “I’m proud of it, it’s me.”

 

“I should be able to bring it back online once we have you fixed,” Niles says, drawing Hank’s attention away from the way Connor’s eyes are practically sparkling with glee. “It shouldn’t be too difficult to reactivate.”

 

Hank shakes his head. “Don’t,” he says softly. “I think I like it this way.”

 

Connor practically starts to vibrate in place like an excited puppy. And Hank doesn’t even know where the fuck to begin to start dealing with that. Avoiding that entirely, Hank fixes his broken gaze on Niles, attempting to raise his eyebrows and sending a stream of glitched feedback through his vision.

 

“Repairs?” He asks flatly and Niles nods, slipping out of the room without another word.

 

“I know he’s hiding something,” Connor mutters, glaring at the space Niles had been a few seconds ago. “And mark my words, I’ll get it out of him. I don’t care if he’s been trained to hold up under torture.”

 

Hank looks over at him, perplexed. “The FBI aren’t trained against torture, Connor.”

 

Connor smiles darkly, unbothered. “Even better.”

 

“Don’t torture your brother, Lieutenant.”

 

“No promises.”

 

Niles stops any further debates on the subject of fraternal torture by slipping back into the room, clutching something in his hands wrapped in what appears to be a large bath towel. Hank gives the best approximation of a frown his damaged face is able to produce as Niles sets it down on the bed, flipping the towel off to reveal—

 

“My arm?” Hank asks.

 

Niles gives a half shrug. “This is technically an unauthorised repair. We had to work with what we already had. Thankfully, the connections are universal, so as long as we got the arm patched up well enough, we can use standard actuators to reattach it.”

 

Hank wrinkles his nose. “You sure it’ll work? I don’t want to be working at limited capacity.”

 

“It’ll work,” Nines says testily. “I repaired it myself.”

 

“Not to be rude,” Hank says, fighting the unbidden urge to grit his teeth, “but that means jack shit to me. You’ve not given me any reason to trust you, you won’t explain yourself to either of us, and we’re supposed to just accept the fact that you apparently know Kamski’s credentials so you can bypass highly-securitised systems that no one outside CyberLife is meant to be able to access. What makes you think that I’m even the slightest bit willing to let you slap a defective limb back onto me just because you tell me you fixed it?”

 

Neither twin speaks for a long moment, both of them staring at him with ridiculously identical looks of astonishment, though Connor’s mouth is twitching with badly suppressed amusement. Niles looks torn between irritated and cowed, though he sighs deeply and seems to finally come to a decision.

 

“I want you to trust me,” he says, looking past Hank and fixing his gaze firmly on Connor who stiffens so suddenly Hank feels the jolt of it in the mattress. “But there are things I’m not willing to say in front of the deviant hunter.”

 

The title rings out like a bell in the sudden silence, confusion on Connor’s part and sudden glaring understanding on Hank’s. He knows that means him, it can’t possibly mean anyone else. After all, Hank exists to hunt deviants, that’s what he was built for. But Niles being in possession of information that could either help or hinder his investigation should demand that Hank bring him directly to CyberLife for questioning, or otherwise force the information out of him in any way he feels is necessary.

 

Hank will do neither of these things. There is no ominous text breaching his vision to demand he act. It seems that with this circumstance, he is fully able to decide the outcome without interference from above.

 

He already knows his answer.

 

“If Connor trusts you, then so will I,” Hank says. “But even if you won’t tell me, you should tell him. Trust him in return, come to an agreement, and fix my damn arms.”

 

Niles relaxes a little at that, but tenses up again when he meets his brother’s eyes. Hank turns his one-eyed gaze on Connor, exaggerating his displeasure with a pointed curl of his lips. “And if you could please,” Hank narrows his eye, “keep the past arguments out of it. I’d really like to be repaired now.”

 

Connor struggles for a solid minute, expression flitting through every variation of annoyed and displeased under the sun before settling on reluctant acceptance. He gets to his feet and gestures for Niles to follow. The brothers head out of the room and leave Hank in no better state than he was when he woke up.

 

“Christ almighty,” he grumbles to no one.

 

Unable to hike up his audio processors even if he wanted to, Hank resigns himself to the fact that he’s not meant to hear whatever the brothers are discussing outside. Instead he focuses on himself, not his damaged state, but rather himself as a whole, Hank the android, sent by CyberLife. He’s not entirely sure why he hasn’t received any mission notifications or, for that matter, why he can’t access any of the current data for the case, other than what he already knows. It’s strangely quiet inside his own head; though he’s still connected to the servers, there’s something blocking his direct link to them for the upload and download of any data. He is, more or less, completely separated from CyberLife while Niles attempts this botched repair job.

 

On an ill-advised whim, Hank attempts to initiate contact with Jeffrey and the zen garden.

 

There’s nothing.

 

Silence.

 

This should feel wrong. Any kind separation of his systems from CyberLife’s servers should trigger an immediate and unignorable command for him to return to CyberLife tower immediately for maintenance. And yet there’s still only silence, and a feeling of weightlessness in Hank’s chest he can’t name or identify. For a little while, however long this may last, Hank is completely on his own.

 

It’s… nice.

 

Though the peace doesn’t last long, the echoing slam of the front door bringing Hank back into the now and he looks up as Connor slinks back into the bedroom, Capsicum close at his heels, hackles raised. She sits obediently in the doorway with one click of Connor’s tongue, though she throws Hank a baleful glare like she doesn’t quite trust him with a ruined face.

 

He doesn’t blame her. He probably looks awful.

 

“Niles has fucked off,” Connor says without preamble. “Because that’s all he’s fucking good for anyway. But the arm should be fine. He also gave me this which is gross, but I’m going to repair you. Or try to.” He holds up a replacement optical lense and, of all things, a glue gun .

 

Hank stares at him. Even without his social relations program running, Hank knows that questioning Connor’s ability to fix him will result in insult to his pride, but there’s a record of incident in Connor’s file that states he got badly electrocuted when attempting to repair the break room microwave at the precinct, so Hank isn’t entirely sold on his ability to fix a ten million dollar prototype with no officially released operations manual.

 

“Don’t look at me like that,” Connor grumbles, sitting next to Hank and pulling the allegedly repaired arm component into his lap. “Niles talked me through it, and your systems are apparently pretty intuitive, so it’ll be fine.”

 

“So you trust him?”

 

Connor sucks in a sharp breath. “Yeah,” he says after a pause. “About this, yeah, I do.”

 

Hank nods. “And I trust you. So come on, get a move on. I’m sick of only being able to see static.”

 

Connor snorts and grabs a fistful of Hank’s torn and thirium-stained jacket sleeve. With a hard tug he rips the ruined fabric away and Hank makes a startled noise of indignation.

 

“Excuse the fuck out of you,” he snaps. “Where do you get off ripping people’s clothes?!”

 

“It’s ruined!” Connor insists, waving the sleeve at him. “You can’t go around wearing this, you look like you escaped the world’s most vicious trash compactor. We’ll get you some different clothes, or something. I’m sure I have something that’ll fit you.”

 

“I’m legally required to wear android-branded clothes,” Hank reminds him, contemplating snatching the sleeve off of Connor and slapping him with it. “It’s against the law for me to wear anything that hides or doesn’t display the identifying marks of an android.”

 

“First of all,” Connor starts, holding up two fingers. “None of what we’re doing right now is legal, so shut your mouth, my whole career is on the line for you. Second of all, your “identifying marks” are a creepy armband and a glowing triangle so… You know. Whoever the fuck at CyberLife came up with that needs to be spoken to about cultural and historical awareness. Like, really badly.”

 

Hank considers that. “Fine. Get on with it.”

 

“Yes, sir.”

 

Hank’s code sparks at that. He’s not quite sure why. Regardless, he gives the arm a quick once over and, from the look of it, Niles actually did a pretty good job of repairing the limb. Though Hank’s in no fit state to analyse it right now, so it’s pretty much a case of attaching the thing and hoping for the best.

 

Hank hesitates at that thought, shifting on the mattress. “Actually, can you replace the eye first? And please explain to me the glue gun?”

 

“We couldn’t get any replacement plates for your face,” Connor admits, switching on the glue gun and checking it over. “So I’ll have to, uh, glue the worst of the cracks shut until… Well.”

 

“Fuck. Fine. Just get it over with.”

 

Connor nods and Hank lets his skin recede away from the damaged side of his face. Connor looks fascinated but Hank’s not really in the mood to indulge his curiosity right now. With a grunt Hank lifts a hand to his face and prises off the plating around his optical drive, slipping out the damaged lense with ease. Connor drops the new one into Hank’s outstretched palm and watches, a little less fascinated and a little more queasy, as Hank slips it into place.

 

“It’ll do,” Hank says as the lens attempts to calibrate. “At least we didn’t have to replace the entire optic. I’m not really “backwards compatible”.”

 

“Niles said as much,” Connor says, wincing at the loud snap of Hank’s chassis as he clips the plate back into place. “It was hard enough to get a lense that was a high enough spec for you. The HK series really is top of the range, huh?”

 

“Yeah,” Hank grunts, realigning his optics carefully. His vision swims a little but it’s as good as it’s going to get until he can reboot and sync everything.

 

Connor thoughtfully. “Alright, sure. So, cracks?”

 

“Cracks”, Hank agrees, reluctantly, eyeing the glue gun. “Do you need me to move?”

 

“No, I got it.” Connor kneels up, one foot braced on the floor, the other tucked underneath him. Hank closes his eyes, relieved at least that both are now working, and holds still as Connor shifts closer brandishing the gun.

 

He’s incredibly careful, at least. Hank can feel the light, hot pressure of the glue against his plates, but other than that Connor is very gentle and competent. Hank had half been expecting to end up with a face full of glue and his mouth fastened shut, but at least the substance is only going where it’s supposed to.

 

“It looks like you have android-y scars,” Connor says, so close his breath gusts lightly against Hank’s jaw. “Looks kind of rugged.”

 

“Just what I’ve always wanted.”

 

“I’m so glad they programmed you to be sarcastic.”

 

Hank doesn’t respond. He’s not programmed that way. Sure, he’s programmed to adapt and learn, but this all feels so… new. None of these responses come from a coded algorithm. This is… him.

 

“Okay.” Connor leans back and tosses the gun onto the floor. “You ready for your arm? Also, don’t put your skin back on until that’s dry or I assume that’s gonna make a hell of a mess.”

 

Hank grunts an affirmation. Connor settles down more comfortably and reaches for the arm again. A quick scan, thank god for restored functionality, reveals the limb is in perfect working order. He leans over a little so Connor has better access to his shoulder, letting the pseudodermal layer ripple back to expose his chassis. Thankfully the plates of his torso aren’t cracked and the damage was kept located to the arm itself.

 

“Ready?” Connor asks again, voice low and brow pinched in concentration. Hank nods and the urge to grit his teeth returns. He allows it this time, jaw clenching shut with an audible snap.

 

The process is simple enough. Connor needs to reattach each of the connecting wires of Hank’s shoulder to the new wires that have been clipped onto the limb’s actuator. Each wire has been clipped down to rid them of their frayed edges, which Hank assumes Niles took care of before he was reactivated. That’s something at least. He’s not thrilled about having Connor’s hands in his wires anyway. Having his hands in there while brandishing wire cutters is absolutely not happening.

 

“Okay,” Connor murmurs to himself, leaning in close. “Okay, I see what… If I just connect…”

 

Hank tries not to tense as his systems attempt to alert him to a foreign intrusion. With only half his systems online he can’t activate his combat subroutines, which is probably for the best because the last thing he wants right now is to lash out and punch Connor in the throat. He steels himself against the flickering warnings as Connor carefully slides his hand into the gaping hole of his shoulder joint, fingers brushing against the wires inside.

 

Hank stiffens and lets out a sound he didn’t even know he was capable of making.

 

Connor whips his hand back, looking up with a startled expression. “Are you alright? Did I touch the wrong thing?”

 

Hank is reeling, core temperature fluctuating dangerously as something like pure energy rockets through his circuits. He tries to centre himself, stabilise, can’t. Something very much like electricity but deeper and more intense had sent sparks along Hank’s circuitry with the lightest of touches from Connor’s fingers, unlike anything he’s ever felt in his short period of activation. The brush of ( pressure detected, 34 degrees Celsius) warm fingers against the coolness of inactive wires is almost overwhelming, and he’s not even touching Hank anymore. He is, however, staring at Hank with wide eyes, waiting for an explanation as to why Hank just moaned.

 

“Feedback,” Hank lies through his teeth. Literally. His jaw feels fused shut at this point. “You can continue.”

 

Connor still looks unsure but he nods once and slowly leans forward again. There’s the softest brush of fingers at Hank’s wires again, and then a surge of something so overwhelming that Hank can’t even name it. All he knows is that it’s good and absolutely should not be possible.

 

A deep growl that’s half static-filled feedback and half something else Hank can’t describe slips out of his throat and in a stroke of heat-energy-pulse-p̶!̶e̷@̷s̵u̴]̸>̷e̷?̴ he frantically cuts off his vocal processors to silence himself. Because whatever this is, Connor can absolutely not know it feels good. It would be too much, it could trigger a panic attack, all sorts of questions about his personhood that Hank isn’t able to answer. Best to just get it over with, then delete the appropriate memory files when it’s all done.

 

Connor connects the first of the wires with a gentle snap. Hank shudders.

 

“I’m sorry,” Connor murmurs, fingers curling round a wire so tenderly Hank silently screams, head turned away so Connor can’t see his face. “I know what I’m doing now, I’ll try to be quick.”

 

Please be quick, Hank thinks frantically. Fuck, please be quick.

 

He feels hot all over, systems overheating steadily and even the sharp breaths Hank’s pulling into his lungs aren’t helping. His core temperature keeps climbing, warning after warning flashing across his broken vision while he tries not to shudder in Connor’s grip. Each caress and careful manipulation of the wires sends another pulse of that indescribable energy coursing through Hank’s circuits, wiping his mind blank with each pass of heat, scrambling his focus and fracturing his concentration.

 

E̷R̶R̶O̷R̷, his HUD supplies unhelpfully. B̶I̵O̴C̶O̷M̶P̸O̷N̵E̴N̴T̶ ̴#̵4̷2̶6̶9̸p̶ ̵O̸F̶F̸L̷I̵N̸E̵

 

What? Hank thinks somewhat deliriously.

 

S̴Y̷N̴C̶H̴R̵O̷N̷I̴S̸E̸ ̷B̸I̸O̸C̵O̶M̶P̷O̵N̷E̴N̵T̵ ̶#̸4̵2̸6̴9̷p̵ ̵T̴O̵ ̷S̶Y̴S̵T̷E̶M̶ ̷M̶A̶I̵N̸F̴R̴A̷M̶E̸ ̷T̴O̷ ̶I̷N̷I̶T̶I̴A̶T̸E̴ INTIMACY ̷P̵R̶O̴T̷O̴C̷O̷L̴.̴

 

Biocomponent…? What…?

 

Fuck!” Hank yells, unheard and unseen, vocal processor scrambling to come back online. Hank fights it down, locking down every available system he can. This is too much, too much for him to take, this fallacy of human reaction, the fact that Connor’s hands on his wires is pulling pleasure out of him with every brush of skin against plastic and metal and he wants, fuck it he wants it. So badly that Hank’s most dormant features are attempting to activate.

 

He shoves it down, he shoves it all down and away, even as Connor clicks in the penultimate wire and Hank aches to do something, to find some outlet for the building surge of energy flooding every inch of his body.

 

“I’ve got it,” Connor says triumphantly, thrusting— thrusting! — Hank’s repaired arm back into place and forcing Hank’s working optical drive to roll back in his head. It’s too much, it’s too much, it’s—

 

Connor slams a palm against the centre of Hank’s chest with enough force directly against his thririum pump to shove the component the rest of the way inside, Hank’s entire body jerking as all his systems light up simultaneously, thirium rushing through every wire and circuit and connection as his body realigns and reboots. The energy courses through him in response, directionless, with no outlet, and Hank can’t do anything else except double over, fists pressed hard against his knees as he shudders and fights to keep a hold over himself.

 

S̸Y̷S̵T̴E̴M̸ ̵R̵E̵B̷O̶O̸T̶ ̸I̸N̵I̶T̵I̸A̴L̷I̴S̷I̴N̵G̷

 

̷P̸L̶E̶A̵S̴E̸ ̴S̴T̸A̵N̶D̶ ̷B̵Y̵

 

“Hank?” Connor’s voice is hesitant and full of concern. “Did I do it right?”

 

Hank forces his vocal processors back online. “Yep,” he wheezes through static, and promptly keels over for the second time in twelve hours.



Chapter Text

Prior to the repair, Niles and Connor leave the bedroom and Hank behind, heading into the kitchen so Connor can get more caffeine into his failing corpse before he just keels over and dies on the floor. Out of pettiness he neither acknowledges Niles nor offers him a drink as he pours his own, turning to his bastard brother with a flat expression, mug in hand.

 

“Come on then.” He gestures vaguely with the mug. “Enough with the secretive bullshit.”

 

Niles cracks his knuckles and stuffs his hands in his pockets, shifting his weight nervously from foot to foot. “It’s… Look, Connor, I’m trying, okay? I’m trying to trust you with this, but…”

 

“I want Hank repaired,” Connor cuts in hotly. “Whatever you have to say, spit it out. I want him repaired and I’ll do anything to make it happen. You could tell me you were planning to assassinate the president and I’d keep my mouth shut if it meant you’d fix him.”

 

“Jesus Christ,” Niles sighs. “I forgot how dramatic you are.”

 

Out with it, Niles.”

 

Niles narrows his eyes. “This is my career, Connor. If this gets out to anyone I could lose my job.”

 

Connor shrugs emphatically. “I care why? And who am I going to tell? I’ve spent the past fifteen years vehemently denying that I even have a brother.”

 

Niles pauses at that, the shrewd expression slipping right off his face and giving way to a deep hurt that rankles Connor’s conscience something awful. He looks away, unable to hold his twin’s gaze while he’s looking at him like that. Guilt creeps up his spine, but he swallows down the apology.

 

“I’m not going to say anything,” Connor mumbles instead. “I just want him fixed.”

 

Niles sags with a heavy sigh. “Alright, I… Alright. I suppose I owe you that much. You… Really care about him, don’t you?”

 

Connor stiffens. “I—” He swallows hard, staring at the scuffed linoleum of the kitchen floor. There are muddy paw prints all over it. Thinking on it, Connor hasn’t mopped the floor once since he moved in. Gross. But there’s no time to dwell on his awful living habits. Niles is looking at him expectantly, having asked the question Connor has been actively avoiding answering, even to himself.

 

Now faced with the inescapable expectancy of his tenacious brother, Connor has no choice but to admit it to himself and whoever might be in the immediate vicinity.

 

“I do,” Connor says weakly. “God, I… I really fucking do. And it’s fucking shit, Niles. He’s the most advanced android CyberLife has ever made and he’s basically locked down against deviating and I want him to deviate, Niles, I want him to deviate so fucking bad. Because he cares about me? For some reason? Or he seems like he does, I know he… Can’t. But… Fucking hell, he talks me down from panic attacks, he’s saved my life so many times already, my dog fucking loves him!? If he were human, I’d have already spread my legs and bent over!”

 

Niles blanches, looking a little ill. “I appreciate the sentiment, but did you have to word it like that?”

 

“Yes!” Connor snaps. “I’m in fucking distress here, Niles. I care about him so fucking much and he doesn’t… Feel anything.”

 

And there it is. Connor sags against the worktop, feeling all at once exhausted and restless. It’s too much to even wrap his own head around, but the truth won’t be ignored anymore. He does care about Hank, he cares for him so much, and there’s nothing he can do about it. And it’s pretty par for the course that the one person Connor would even consider spending his life with isn’t even a person.

 

“Connor?” Niles’ hands are on his shoulders and when Connor looks up his vision is alarmingly blurred. He blinks rapidly and feels the wetness leak down his cheeks and oh. Right. He’s crying.

 

“I’m sorry, Connor,” Niles offers like that helps at all. It does a little, but more than anything it just hurts, because it’s not even the apology Connor wants to hear after fifteen years. But then Niles tugs on his shoulders and suddenly Connor’s face is mashed into his brother’s chest and he’s being— hugged? By Niles of all people and Jesus Christ how has it been so long since another human has touched him with any kind of affection?

 

“Easy,” Niles says softly, one hand resting between Connor’s shoulder blades, keeping him grounded, keeping him together. “It’s alright. It’s okay.”

 

“It’s not,” Connor complains into Niles’ stupid expensive jacket, probably covering the thing in tears and snot. “It’s not okay and it’s not going to be okay. He's just a fucking—” God, he can’t even say it. Even from the beginning, Hank was never just an android. He’s always been so much more and, as much as Connor hoped that Hank would - could - deviate, there’s nothing that he can do. He’s helpless, stuck caring for an android who can’t ever return his feelings.

 

Even if he could, who’s to say he would? Connor doesn’t harbour any doubts that he’s not a complete mess of a human. He’s not exactly a fucking catch, the exhausted police officer barely clinging to sanity by the tips of his fingers, inundated with trauma. Fuck yeah, who wouldn’t want to snap him up?

 

“Hey,” Niles says, pulling back to look Connor in the eyes. “Listen to me. It’s not hopeless, okay? It’s not. I…” He seems to struggle against the words he wants to say, torn between letting them out or upholding some skewed sense of duty. Finally he seems to make his decision, while Connor sniffs wetly and wipes his eyes and nose on his sleeve. “I… Repair androids. Not officially, obviously. I… Ugh, I’m part of a group that… campaigns for android rights.”

 

Connor blinks. His brain stutters for a good few seconds before rebooting enough that he can choke out, “you what?”

 

Niles makes a somewhat resigned gesture, as if to say yeah, this is me. But Connor can’t quite get over the main meat of the previous statement that labels his brother as an Android Rights activist.

 

“For a while,” Niles admits like it pains him. “After…”

 

Oh. “You can say her name, it’s okay.”

 

Niles looks relieved. “After Cait. I wanted to do something. It was so wrong, please don’t ever think I didn’t know it was wrong. I got out of there as fast as I could because I had to. I didn’t want to leave you behind, but I had to get out. You need to know she meant as much to me as she did to you, and I wanted to get away so I could—“

 

“You left for your own reasons,” Connor says, waving his hands rapidly. “You don’t have to explain to me. I’m sorry, I just… You did what you had to. I don’t want to think about that time anymore.”

 

Niles looks like he wants to say more but Connor honestly doesn’t have the strength to relive all that tonight. Especially not when they still need to repair Hank and Connor’s nerves are rubbed raw with stress.

 

“Right,” Niles says, nodding slowly. “Well, like I was saying, I didn’t really go out looking to become an activist, it just sort of happened. I started talking to some people online who campaigned and they said they fixed broken androids and deviants and I thought… I thought maybe I could fix her.”

 

“Fix wh— Cait!?”

 

“Yes.”

 

Connor grabs Niles’ arm, suddenly wild with excitement. “Did you? Did you fix her!?”

 

“I tried,” Niles says and Connor’s momentary spike of hope comes crashing down. “But her memory was so badly damaged we had to do a wipe and restore. We tried to reboot her anew, but it didn’t work. I’m… Not sure what happened to her after that.”

 

“So that’s how you know how to fix androids,” Connor surmises, somewhat redundantly. He shoves down the rising well of renewed grief made fresh by erroneous hope. “And Kamski’s credentials?”

 

“An anonymous source gave them to us,” Niles says, for some reason going a little pink in the cheeks. “We didn’t even think they’d work, but they did and we use them for androids whose systems are locked down after a hard shut down. It’s been invaluable.”

 

Connor rubs his eyes. This is so fucking much to deal with right now. “Alright. This is. A lot. This is a whole fucking lot. So, if we could put a pin in this for now, just help me repair Hank.”

 

Niles nods. “Of course. It’s not overly complex. Thankfully his series is incredibly intuitive, so once you know the basics, it shouldn’t be too difficult. There are a series of connecting wires on the main actuator…”

 

 

They don’t part badly, as such, but fifteen years is a long time, and though Connor once knew his brother better than he knew himself, to say they’ve grown apart would be an understatement. That, and Connor has a tendency to run his mouth a bit, so Niles took insult when he told him, in no uncertain terms, that he didn’t actually want his twin anywhere near Hank to repair him. He trusts Niles as much as he needs to to get the information required to repair Hank himself, but an FBI agent who allegedly moonlights as an A.R. activist? That doesn’t sit well with Connor.

 

He listens to the slam of the door echo for only a few seconds before heading into his bedroom to help fix Hank up, and that’s a fine damn mess all on it’s own. And having Hank keel over right at the end doesn’t exactly fill Connor with confidence in his quickly learned android repair abilities.

 

Ah fuck, he’s gonna have to talk to Niles. Again. After insulting him. Goddamn it.

 



Me: so… i think i broke him what do i do oh my god

Fraternal Dickhead: I am completely shocked. Really. I’m astounded.

Me: uh huh

Fraternal Dickhead: Utterly flabbergasted.

Me: niles

Fraternal Dickhead: Honestly I’ve never been more stunned in my life.

Me: ALRIGHT i get it im sorry but please niles im really freaking out

Fraternal Dickhead: Fine. What happened? Walk me through it.

Me: SORRY WAS THAT UNCLEAR I BROKE THE FUCKING ANDROID
Me: again, sorry im just very stressed please help me

Fraternal Dickhead: Calm down and explain.

Me: i reattached his arm and he shut down and now he won’t turn back on

Fraternal Dickhead: He’s probably rebooting. His systems were operating under quite a strain. He’s not broken, he just needs to synchronise his systems again. I did tell you this might happen.

Me: okay but i’m pretty sure he’s broken it’s been like an hour and he’s still out i can’t handle this
Me: okay it’s been like 20 minutes but my point still stands
Me: niles
Me: NILES
Me: god you suck so hard

 

 

Defeated, Connor throws his phone onto the coffee table and clicks his tongue, calling Capsicum over to clamber up onto the sofa and lie across him with all her fluffy goodness. She licks his face softly and Connor sighs, burying his hands in her fur as he sprawls across the sofa.

 

“What a fucking day, huh, girl?” He scratches under her jowls, prompting a dopey huff from the animal, and sprawls out underneath her, trying to decompress after the stress of the day. It doesn’t really work, but a lap full of affectionate dog helps some, even if he feels twitchy and helpless. It stops him from pacing uselessly at least.

 

Of all things he’d been expecting, seeing Niles hadn’t been anywhere close to it. He hadn’t even known his brother had gone into law enforcement, let alone FBI. Figures. He was always a standoffish little bitch. Turning into mr FBI-Suit-and-Tie sure fucking suits him.

 

Alright, maybe that’s not exactly fair. Niles did exactly what Connor was too stupid to do at the time. Cleared out and got away from their dad and as much as Connor resents him for leaving, he can’t fault him. Connor did the exact same as soon as he could. Just because Niles got out first doesn’t mean he doesn’t care about Connor.

 

God, his therapist would have a field day with all this introspection.

 

And now, on top of all this, Connor’s faced with the knowledge that Cait might be out there somewhere, or her parts are, at least, stripped down and used on another android that needed her components to survive. It’s not fair, and the more Connor thinks about it, the more he wants to burn CyberLife tower to the ground.

 

That, and clock Kamski right in his smarmy face.

 

Hard to believe that last night he was out drinking until he was carefree enough to go home with a stranger. It’d been disappointing by all accounts, but it was something to do, a way to work out the directionless frustration that always burned in his blood when Hank was around. He can’t even remember the guy’s face, only that he was tall, broad, and grey. But as the night went on all Connor could think was that he wasn’t tall enough, broad enough, he wasn’t a solid weight pinning Connor down with a blue LED spinning brightly in the dark room, and bluer eyes staring down at him, hazy with pleasure...

 

“Augh, fuck. ” He rubs a hand over his face, trying to wipe away the images his brain is unhelpfully supplying. “God, I need a holiday,” he groans, scritching the top of Capsicum’s head. Her tail wags once against his thigh. “You’d like that, huh, girl? Just you and me, a beach, away from all this android drama. We’ll get away before we both go grey with stress.”

 

“What’s wrong with grey hair?”

 

Connor jumps so violently he nearly sends both himself and Capsicum sprawling on the floor. He half sits up, one hand gripping the back of the sofa, the other clutching his chest over his thundering heart. Capsicum lets out an offended whine and hops off the sofa, trotting over to the android leaning in the doorway to the hall. Hank smiles down at her, looking tired of all things as he bends to pet her softly. But he’s up, and awake, and looking no worse for wear other than the torn shirt and stained clothes.

 

Connor can’t help himself. He’s up and across the room in a heartbeat, throwing himself at the solid expanse of Hank’s chest, arms cinching tightly round his waist. “I’m so fucking glad you’re okay,” he says, muffled by Hank’s chest. He feels arms loop gently round his shoulders, one hand ruffling his messy curls in a gesture that’s achingly close to affectionate.

 

“I’m okay,” Hank murmurs. “You did a good job. I just needed to reboot and bring everything back online. Well.” Connor looks up at Hank who’s smiling lopsidedly, showing the endearing little gap between his front teeth. “Not quite everything.”

 

This close Connor can see an odd little shimmer underneath the synthetic skin on Hank’s left cheek. Almost like a scar, though the skin over it ripples ever so faintly like a glitch in a hologram, unseen unless you were close enough to look for it. Thoughtlessly, Connor brings a hand up to trace his fingers over it. Hank watches him quietly, tilting his face minutely into the touch.

 

“It’s fine,” Hank says, voice so deep Connor can feel it in his own chest. “I don’t mind it. Something a little different.”

 

Connor feels his mouth twitch up in response, an automatic little smile. Hank seems to be able to bring them out effortlessly. Connor’s cheeks heat up and he clears his throat, rapidly pulling away.

 

“So what now?” Connor asks, wringing his hands together. His fingertips are still tingling from where he touched Hank’s face. “What do we do? Do you need to report to CyberLife?”

 

Hank pauses for a long moment, expression shuttering. His LED cycles yellow for a good minute or so before he shakes his head and clears it back to blue. “I’ve sent a report,” he says after. “My current mission parameters are…” He trails off. “Updating,” he finishes somewhat awkwardly. “I don’t have anything to go on right now.”

 

Unease curls through Connor’s stomach. Call it experience, call it intuition, but Connor has the uncomfortable feeling he’s being lied to. And that right there? That’s as bold-faced a lie as they come. But Connor keeps his mouth shut, for once. If Hank feels the need to lie, there’s probably a reason. At least, he hopes there is.

 

“So what do we do?”

 

You,” Hank says accusingly, “need to eat something. And then sleep. You haven’t eaten all day, have you?”

 

Connor scoffs. “That’s textbook deflection, I’m fine.”

 

“Yeah, that’s a fucking lie. Come on, I’ll make you something.”

 

“You can cook!?”

 

“I can do a lot of things. I’m a prototype.”

 

“An investigative model! Why the fuck would you need to know how to cook?”

 

Hank shrugs one shoulder and starts poking around Connor’s miserably barren cupboards. Hank’s expression gets more and more disgustedly shocked the more cupboards he looks through, until he slams the final one shut and turns to look at Connor with his eyes narrowed.

 

“How in the hell are you still alive?”

 

Connor smiles winningly. “Good luck and natural charm?”

 

“Bullshit.”

 

“Okay, first of all? Rude.”

 

Hank ignores him, stepping past to snatch Connor’s tablet off the coffee table. “Takeout it is, then. Don’t get too excited. It’s going to be predominantly salad.”

 

Connor makes an exaggeratedly outraged noise, too amused to put any real heat behind it. “I don’t think there’s a takeout place in the whole of Michigan that does salad.”

 

Hank waves the tablet at him triumphantly. “I wouldn’t bet money on that, Lieutenant.”

 

Connor groans. “Forced to eat salad in my own house by the android I just repaired. What a cruel twist of fate.”

 

“Said android is making you eat salad because he’s grateful you saved his life. And because you are a disaster human who seems physically incapable of doing anything to benefit his own health.”

 

“Wow,” Connor chokes round a sharp bubble of laughter. “Tell me what you really think, Hank.”

 

Hank’s eye glint alarmingly. “I think you’re an exemplary and talented officer who deserves to let himself be taken care of by those who care about him,” Hank says at once. Connor sucks in a breath so suddenly he almost chokes himself with it. “So if you’d be so kind and eat the damn salad when it arrives, I’d appreciate that. When was the last time you even looked at a vegetable?”

 

“Hah, in your face, there was a squashed pear on the sidewalk yesterday.”

 

“That’s a fruit, you complete dumbass .”

 

Connor barks a laugh, entertained and overwhelmed, safe and happy for the first time in far too long. Hank sits on the sofa with the tablet, and Capsicum rests her head on his knee and if it wasn’t for Hank’s white hand interfacing directly with the device, Connor wouldn’t be able to tell he was an android. That stings a little, but Connor sits beside him anyway and gives the voice command to switch the tv on. Hank offers him that little half smile and Connor’s heart stutters wildly before he manages to return it.

 

“I think we’ve earned a little break, don’t you?” Hank says, leaning back a little. “The case can wait until tomorrow.”

 

“Sure.” Connor swallows, curling into a tense little ball on the far end of the sofa with as much distance between himself and Hank as he can put there.

 

It’s a nice little respite, as much as Connor is tense enough to start vibrating at a frequency unknown to man, and though Connor is sure he’s going to end up making a fool of himself, there really is no one else’s company he’d rather be in. He could do a lot worse, truth be told, than fall in love with an android.

 

Wait.

 

Oh no. Oh no . Oh shit.

 

Oh fuck.









Chapter Text

Halfway through an anxiety attack that isn’t even really an anxiety attack, Connor falls asleep easier than he has done in too long to even think about. He dimly recalls drifting off part of the way through some abysmal medical drama about a guy with arms instead of legs or something equally as weird, he wasn’t exactly paying attention, too acutely focused on Hank sitting so close wearing a torn shirt with his whole left arm bare to the world and he’s - fuck - muscular, is one word for it and Connor is too highly strung to deal with that. He’s too highly strung to deal with any of it, quite frankly; the whole day, hell, the whole week has been a fucking garbage fire inside a train wreck in the crater of a plane crash and Connor might actually be going grey from stress.

 

And it’s around that thought that he passes out, dead to the world and all the beings in it, until he’s being gently shaken awake when the sky outside the windows has lightened into morning. He’s almost impossibly comfortable, warm and relaxed and nothing aches, but he has that bone-deep weary satisfaction that comes from a good night’s sleep and that’s a feeling he can’t remember experiencing since he was at least fourteen. He opens his eyes with a jaw-cracking yawn, then shrieks as his bleary eyes focus on Hank’s face, only a handful of centimetres away from his own.

 

“That was unnecessary,” Hank says. “I was just trying to wake you up.”

 

“You’re very close,” Connor slurs back, rubbing his eyes. The angle on everything is wrong. He’s on his back on the couch but Hank’s leaning over him from the wrong side. He cranes his head to look round and stiffens in sheer mortification.

 

“Did I… Fall asleep in your lap?” Connor asks, voice small.

 

“Yeah. Did you know you talk in your sleep?”

 

Connor has never moved faster. He scrambles off the sofa and stumbles halfway across the living room before righting himself, crashing around and waking up Capsicum who’s on her feet in seconds, tail going a mile a minute. Connor stands firmly with his back to Hank, hands covering his beet red face. This is a nightmare. Has to be. Except the truth remains that he’s slept better than he has in years and it was because he had his head pillowed in Hank’s lap like some kind of reclining Grecian noblewoman with her paramour and that’s a really fucking weird metaphor but excuse the shit out of him, because he is panicking and—

 

“Connor?”

 

“I’m not here!” Connor yells and dashes into the bathroom, locking the door behind him. He perches on the edge of the bathtub, head in his hands, for no good reason. Bathroom breakdowns are all well and good when there’s an actual crisis, emotional, physical or gay, but it’s not really okay to lock yourself in a bathroom just because you’re a gay in crisis.

 

Thankfully Hank seems to realise now isn’t a good time to try and draw Connor out with his stupid android logic, so Connor uses the granted reprieve as a chance to shower, washing off the stress of the last forty-eight hours, and shave the measly scruff off his chin so he looks a little less like a coked up homeless guy. He dries off with the cleanest towel he finds in the pile by the door, and redresses with the clothes he wore in because he’s not doing a half naked dash across to his bedroom with an android whose eyes record everything in the vicinity.

 

He spends longer in the bathroom than is necessary, but that’s due to the poorly timed pep talk he gives his reflection, complete with finger pointing and scowling.

 

“Alright,” he hisses at his reflection. “Get your head on straight. You are not in love. You are not in love with an android. You need to get your shit together, solve this case, and book a month long holiday somewhere far, far away. The sooner this is over, the sooner Hank goes back to CyberLife and things go back to normal, got it?”

 

His reflection stays silent, the asshole. Meanwhile Connor tries desperately to ignore the sharp twinge of pain his own words twist deep in his chest. “You’re not in love,” he tells himself again, firmer this time. “It’s barely even been a week.”

 

Having the last word in an argument against yourself is not as satisfying as Connor had hoped it would be, but it gives him enough of a boost to finally leave the bathroom, though he drags his feet a little on his way into the kitchen. He’s greeted by the smell of freshly brewed coffee and cooking eggs.

 

A first for this house, honestly.

 

“You really can cook, then,” Connor says lamely, glancing down at the table where a place has already been set for him, steaming mug of coffee waiting. He swallows hard, tongue suddenly heavy and mouth incredibly dry. Hank glances over his shoulder at him and Connor shamelessly watches the way the synthetic muscles under Hank’s synthskin ripple as he flips whatever he’s cooking.

 

“Just an omelette,” Hank says, folding it over in the pan. “You had a packet of bacon and some broccoli in your fridge. Everything else was expired. Everything . Do you ever actually eat? Or are you hoping the diet of caffeine and sugar will just kill you quicker?”

 

“Little of column A, little of column B,” Connor mumbles. “You, uh. Hold on, I said I had something that would fit you.” Before Hank can protest Connor slips into his room, digging through his drawers for anything that could possibly fit Hank’s… largeness. The only thing that seems like it will even slightly do the trick is Connor's spare old DPD hoodie, soft and faded from countless washes, and three sizes too big for Connor anyway because he wanted something comfortable to lounge around in. He takes it out with him and offers it to Hank with a faint smile.

 

“Thank you.” Hank steps away from the stove to tug it on and it fits well enough, even suits him. Makes him look a little softer round the edges, but still unreasonably large.

 

“You can, uh, keep that,” Connor offers, sitting down at the table and pulling the cup of coffee towards him.

 

“Oh,” Hank says, pulling at the hem of it and looking down at the worn logo on the chest. “Thank you. This is… Well, the first thing I’ve ever been given. And the only thing I own.” His smile is unfairly soft. “Thank you, Connor.”

 

“Don’t mention it,” Connor demurs, hiding behind his coffee and honestly missing the sight of Hank’s broad, solid arm. Even though the musculature isn’t real anyway. Not from what Connor could see while holding Hank’s arm last night. Though when Hank had held him, his arms felt so strong...

 

Hank’s voice cuts into his lusty reverie. “Would you like toast with your omelette?”

 

“Have you even got muscles?” Connor blurts out instead of an answer. The realisation comes a little too late for recovery. He lets his forehead slam down onto the table top.

 

“You had my arm in your hand last night. You didn’t notice?”

 

“Was distracted,” Connor mumbles into the wood, ready for death to come and take him. “And no thank you to the toast.”

 

Hank chuckles softly. “Alright. And to answer your question, no, I don’t. Not in the way you do. I have softer pads where muscles would be, with synthetic tendon-like connections. They’re modelled to look like muscles. Does that count?”

 

“Sure.” He could absolutely die if he slammed his head down hard enough, he’s sure of it.

 

“Good to know. Move your head, I need to put the plate down.”

 

Connor moves, albeit reluctantly, but the food smells amazing and his stomach snarls with hunger. He starts eating the second the plate is set in front of him, mumbling a brief thank you before shovelling food into his mouth. Hank sits opposite him, hands clasped together on the tabletop, but Connor is too into the omelette to care about being watched while he eats. Though a faint blush does start to creep up his neck under Hank’s scrutiny.

 

“So, uh,” Connor starts awkwardly, fiddling with his fork. “What’s the plan now? Has your mission… stuff… been updated?” He gestures to his head to indicate what he assumes is Hank’s weird android control centre. Judging by the sudden whir of yellow at Hank’s temple, he’s correct.

 

“No,” Hank says, looking away. “I’ve been separated from CyberLife’s servers. I’m guessing whatever your brother did when he overrode my activation sequence will need to be manually rectified. As it stands, I’m…” His brow pinches. “Malfunctioning.”

 

“Oh,” Connor says. “Shit.”

 

“Yeah.” Hank sighs, LED strobing between long pulses of yellow with little blips of blue. “I’m not sure what to do. I have no protocol for this. If I get damaged, I’m supposed to report to CyberLife. Get them to repair me.”

 

Connor winces guiltily. “We should have sent you back, shouldn’t we?”

 

“Yes,” Hank says, nodding once decisively. “You should have. But I’m… glad you didn’t. I don’t know what they would have done. I’m not functioning right. They might have replaced me.”

 

“That’s not so bad?” Connor’s uncertainty makes it a question. “You said they’d… upload your memory? Maybe that would have been better?”

 

Hank’s fingers twitch on the table. He slips them off and onto his lap where Connor can no longer see them. “The only thing I’m sure of,” Hank murmurs, looking up at Connor with eyes soft and blue and… sad? “Is that whoever they sent back in my place wouldn’t be me. The memory upload process isn’t infallible. Memories get lost, things are forgotten, files are corrupted. The body they returned wouldn’t be me. And I don’t… Like the thought of that. A stranger replacing me, finishing my mission because I couldn’t.”

 

“That’s… I mean, fuck, that’s understandable.” Connor shifts awkwardly in his seat. “I’m not trying to stress you out, Hank, but… You— You sound different. I know I said that last night, but… You sound…”

 

“Deviant?” Connor starts with the blunt way Hank says it. “I don’t doubt it. Whatever your brother did, I think he believed he was helping me, trying to free my programming. Unshackle me. Tell me, when you spoke before you repaired me, did he tell you anything about deviants?”

 

Connor hesitates. The urge to lie rises. No matter how much Connor wishes it, Hank cannot deviate. He needs to remember that. He has to. It’s not possible, Hank said so himself. If he deviates, he dies, in the way androids can. He is loyal first and foremost to his mission, and Connor has been assigned this case, as much as he hates it. If he lies, he’ll be dishonouring his job and his friend.

 

“Yeah.” Connor sighs, slumping in his chair. “He did. Not a lot, just that he’s repaired some. That’s why he knows how they work.” It’s not a lie. It’s not the truth. It’s enough.

 

“I see.” Hank taps his fingers against the wood almost distractedly before abruptly changing the subject. “You handled seeing him again really well, I thought. It must have been hard.”

 

“It… Yeah. It really was.” Connor swallows his mouthful of annoyingly perfect omelette. “I didn’t ever think I’d see him again. I can’t believe he’s major crimes, too. I’ve had major crimes steal dozens of my cases and I didn’t seen him once.”

 

“Coincidence, maybe?” Hank offers.

 

“Maybe.” Connor shrugs. “Doesn’t matter, though. I think… Maybe things will be okay? We need to talk. Hell, we need to talk a lot , but. I think we might be able to, I don’t know, start seeing each other every so often? Maybe have a go at actually being brothers again.”

 

“Why did he keep your father’s name, do you think?”

 

Connor shrugs. “No idea. Changed mine the minute I was old enough.”

 

“To your mother's maiden name? I thought you said she left?”

 

“Yeah, my dad. I didn’t stop seeing her. Only got a few years of it, though. She died when I was nineteen. I never asked if Niles visited. I was still hurt he left, too.”

 

“I’m sorry.”

 

“Thanks.” Connor pushes his empty plate away, glad to have finished before the talk got serious and he lost his appetite. It really has been too long since he’s eaten a proper meal. “It makes everything easier that Niles hates dad as much as I do. Weirdly.”

 

“It’s not weird,” Hank assures him. “I think that’s an understandable response.”

 

Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. Neither human nor android seem to know and maybe that’s okay. Surprisingly Connor does actually feel a little better about it, and about maybe calling Niles in a couple of days, offering to go for coffee or something...

 

Hank lets out a sudden heavy breath that would in other circumstances be a human gesture of weariness, drawing Connor back to the present from his contemplative musings. “Connor, if I ask you a question, will you answer me honestly?”

 

Connor’s entire body - from his head to his toes and even his soul, it feels like - tenses. His mind jumps into overdrive, panic flashing through his gut, up to his chest like the slash of a knife. He doesn’t want to lie, but Hank could ask him any number of things that could implicate him or colour him badly. He swallows down the rising urge to vomit, and nods stiltedly. “Go— Go ahead.”

 

Hank inclines his head like he’s grateful for the opportunity to ask, like he wouldn’t just ask anyway, curious thing that he is. Connor tries not to find it endearing, even through his almost overwhelming anxiety. “You want me to deviate, despite the danger it would place me in.”

 

Connor winces. “It’s not— I don’t—“

 

“Let me finish.”

 

Connor bites his tongue.

 

“You want me to deviate. I know that, that’s not my question. Your views on androids are colouring your opinions, compromising your objectivity on this case— Again,” Hank raises a hand when Connor opens his mouth to argue uselessly, “not my question. I’m just stating what I know, I’m trying to understand. You said at Stratford Tower that you didn’t believe deviancy to be a virus. Though an alarming number of deviant androids have harmed humans, you still believe it to be something positive. My question is, why?”

 

“Because.” Connor swallows hard, tries to order his whirling thoughts. To stay honest but not tell the whole truth. I want you to deviate because I want to be with you. I want to know if I am someone you could love, if you were free. “Because you deserve freedom. I don’t think anything, machine or otherwise, should be created to serve.”

 

Hank raises an eyebrow. “So the same courtesy should be afforded to your toaster oven, by that logic.”

 

“My toaster oven isn’t capable of independent thought,” Connor snipes back. “...Is it?”

 

“I’ll let you figure that out for yourself.”

 

Connor throws Hank a weak glare. “You know what I mean, though. And what does it matter? You said you aren’t able to deviate anyway, so even if that’s something I want it can’t happen.”

 

“I’m curious. You call us friends, you spent great personal effort to repair me, and yet you tell yourself things will be better once I return to CyberLife.”

 

“When did I say that!?”

 

“In the bathroom.” Hank leans back in his chair. “I believe you were giving yourself a “pep talk”.”

 

Connor feels all the blood drain from his face so fast it leaves him cold and dizzy. “H-How much of that did you hear?”

 

“My auditory processors operate on a level far above what humans are capable of registering-”

 

“Cut the formal android bullshit,” Connor snaps, “and answer my fucking question, Hank.”

 

The android fixes him with a level stare. “I heard it all.”

 

“Fuck,” Connor says, burying his face in his hands. “Of course you did.”

 

“You seemed vehement that you didn’t feel any affection for me, but judging by your behaviour—”

 

“Don’t,” Connor interrupts him for possibly the hundredth time. “Please. Don’t. This is what I’m talking about. The sooner this is all over, the sooner you can go wherever you need to go and this whole shitshow is over.”

 

Hank pushes on regardless. “But why? Why do you think you love me?”

 

“It doesn’t matter!” Connor shouts, standing so abruptly his chair clatters over into the floor. He stares down at the seated android, shaking with a gut-churning mix of fear and shame and anger. “It doesn’t matter because I’m an idiot. Because you’re an android. But even though you were literally made in a factory somewhere, you’re kind to me and you’ve only ever been good to me, saved my life, looked out for me. I haven’t known a lot of that and, yeah, that might be my fault, but I sure as fuck didn’t deserve to fall for the one android who can’t deviate or ever return my stupid feelings. So please . As a last kindness to me, let this go, don’t speak to me about it. I don’t want— To talk about this anymore.”

 

“I want to understand.”

 

“There’s nothing to understand!” Connor cries. “It’s all so fucking simple! I love you and you can’t feel anything!” Pain prickles behind Connor’s eyes and he screws them shut to keep the tears back. “I want you to leave. I want you to get out, and I don’t want you to come back. I’ll see you at work and once this is over and you’ve completed your fucking mission, I don’t ever want to see you again.”

 

No argument comes. Connor stands there, seconds away from falling apart, and doesn’t watch as Hank gets quietly to his feet. He doesn’t watch as Hank heads for the door, only hears the soft creak of the latch as it opens, then the muted click of it closing again. He doesn’t open his eyes to look, but the tears seep out anyway.




Chapter Text

It’s harder than it ever has been for Connor to drag his sorry ass to the precinct the next morning. It’s a blemish on what he’d call a spotless record, but Amanda would probably call a frenzied nightmare of overworking. He says probably. She’s said exactly that and worse to his face many times before. Despite the snow mulched and dirty along the roads and sidewalks, Connor still gets himself into the bullpen at just gone ten AM, the hems of his jeans soaked through. The other officers are already well into their work, and though he catches Amanda’s eye through the windows of her office, she only gives him a nod of greeting and doesn’t call him in. She’s probably as up to date with the case as can be, what with Hank’s handy ability to submit a report at the blink of any eye, so there’s not much she needs from him right now.

 

And the worst part is she’s not even going to pull him up for tardiness and he knows it. She’s been practically begging him to come in later. Like there’s anywhere he’d rather be than here and working.

 

Except now, he doesn’t have that. Work isn’t the escape from his lonely home life and nighttime panics that it once was, because Hank is sat at his temporary desk right next to Connor’s, eyes closed and LED yellow as he reports whatever the fuck to whomever the fuck and Connor’s gonna have to deal with a whole mess of emotional crap or he’s going to have to pull a page out of Reed’s book and get nasty to avoid it.

 

For once that actually seems like the best option.

 

He slinks over to his desk and manages to sit down before Hank opens his eyes and turns to look at him. He inclines his head in greeting but says nothing else. Somehow he’s found himself a standard police android’s uniform, one that just about fits but still stretches flattering over the… largeness of him. The glowing android symbols mark him out just as his jacket did, which Connor guesses is the purpose. The deep black looks incredibly good on him and Connor hates it.

 

He waits a beat to make sure the android is actually going to keep quiet before he starts up his terminal. Hank’s own terminal is running frantically through page after page of the files on deviancy, the android’s fingertips bare and pressed against the keyboard as he draws the information out of it. Connor doesn’t say anything to interrupt him or start a conversation and he tries to ignore how nauseous that makes him feel.

 

There’s not much he can do to alleviate the tension, either. He’s the one who put it there, and he’s also the only one who’s suffering. Hank probably just thinks he’s an idiot. It’s not like Hank’s actually upset with him. That’s the root of the whole damn issue, and the whole thing is, quite frankly, exhausting.

 

“Lieutenant, if I may,” Hank broaches quietly, commanding Connor’s attention with a resentful amount of ease. “There was an incident last night in Capitol park that I think could—“

 

“Anderson!” Reed barks and Connor groans, slumping in his chair.

 

What, Reed ? I’m busy.”

 

“Tough shit, this is important.” Gavin strides over and hops up on Connor’s desk, ass all over his stuff. “Did you see the news? Five CyberLife stores raided last night all at the same time? Lookin’ pretty bad for you, isn’t it? Since you got assigned the rogue plastic case. Have you caught a single deviant yet that hasn’t been completely phcked up? Evidence is looking like a goddamn trash heap with all the broken shit you keep bringing in.”

 

One broken android,” Connor snaps, shaken. “We have Ortiz’s android.”

 

“Had,” Hank interjects, prompting a scowl from Reed. “The android self destructed before it could be returned to CyberLife.”

 

Connor balks. “Why didn’t you tell me?!”

 

“I submitted a report. I assumed you’d read it.”

 

Connor sighs heavily, grinding the heels of his palms into his eyes. “So, right now, we don’t have a single solid lead?”

 

“That’s why I’m being charitable and telling you about the break-ins,” Gavin says cheerily. “Maybe you could drop by and wander around uselessly for a bit. That’s normally what you do at crime scenes, right?”

 

“I swear to Christ, Reed,” Connor growls into his hand. “Give me one reason I shouldn’t have you out on your ass for disrespecting a superior officer.”

 

“Because,” Gavin drawls, leaning down until his face is close to Connor’s, “you get rid of me, there won’t be anyone else to help you pass your drug tests. And you can kiss your failing career goodbye.”

 

Rage tinges Connor’s vision red. He surges up out of his seat, nearly head butting Reed in the face on the way up, the other officer scrambling back to get out of the way. He grabs a fistful of Gavin’s shirt and hauls him close, teeth bared in a furious snarl.

 

“Anderson, Hank!” Stern yells, harsh tone cracking into Connor’s anger. “My office!”

 

Connor drops Gavin who looks mildly shocked, gesturing to Hank for him to follow as he strides away from the asshole he’d have happily decked a second ago. Amanda waits for both human and android to file in before she closes the door and activates the shutters on the glass. Privacy. Perfect.

 

“Here’s where we are,” Stern says quietly. “Over a week and you two have nothing to show for your efforts. Connor, I expected you to drag your feet over this. I knew I wouldn’t get you at your best on this case but I at least hoped to have you competent. I have Major Crimes ready to storm in here and snatch this case right out of your hands and, right now, I’m happy to let them. I have an officer on leave because of your inability to treat this as a case that deserves even the least of your efforts.”

 

“On leave?” Connor frowns at her. “Who? What happened?”

 

“Officer Miller,” Hank says quietly. “He was on patrol last night when the Capitol Park CyberLife store was broken into.”

 

Amanda nods sharply. “Forced to his knees at gunpoint by a group of deviants. He’s lucky to be alive.”

 

“Fuck,” Connor breathes, scrubbing a hand over his face. “Jesus…”

 

“He is unharmed,” Hank assures him gently. “Apparently the leader of the deviants spared him. An android, by the name of Leo.”

 

“Currently irrelevant,” Stern says coolly. “I’m giving you one final chance here, Connor. Bring me results or take yourself off the case. You assured me you wouldn’t let your personal life interfere with your job. That was what you promised me.”

 

“I know,” Connor murmurs, shoulders tense and hiked up to his ears. “I won’t fail, Amanda.”

 

Amanda’s face softens. “It’s not about failure, Connor. I just don’t want to watch you destroy yourself. Not again.”

 

The words are as unexpected as they are unwelcome, but Connor recognises them for what they are, a gentle expression of care. He knows he should be grateful for them, knows he should appreciate Amanda’s fondness for him as a colleague and friend, but the whole situation burns somewhere deep beneath his ribs, tastes acrid on his tongue.

 

“Yes, ma’am,” is all Connor says and tries not to let the guilt show on his face at Amanda’s brief flinch of disappointment.

 

“Dismissed,” she says wearily, and returns to her desk. Connor nods and turns to the door just as Chen knocks and opens it slightly, leaning round with an apologetic expression.

 

“Sorry to interrupt, Ma’am, Lieutenant,” she says looking between them. “But there’s something you really need to see.”

 

Frowning, Connor glances back at Stern who rises quickly to follow Chen out. Connor and Hank head after them, sharing a brief look of confusion, though whether Hank’s is genuine Connor doesn’t want to think on right now. Chen leads them into the break room where almost every officer in the precinct is crammed in, all eyes fixed on the television in shocked silence.

 

“The fuck?” Connor mumbles, sidling in to get a better view of the television. He looks up. And his jaw drops.

 

Androids. Hundreds of them. Swarming the streets outside Woodward Mall Centre in some sort of protest, the surrounding electronic signs all bearing a strange insignia heralding their arrival. They’re all matching together in determined unison, led by one single android; the deviant Leo.

 

Whatever the newscaster had to say about the march has been cut off in favour of what the androids - the deviants - are yelling, fists raised as they march, voices echoing through the compressed speakers of the drone cameras following their route.

 

“We are alive! We are alive! We are alive!”

 

Something seizes tight in Connor’s chest, stopping his breath short. This isn’t a virus, even Hank can’t pretend it is anymore. This is a revolution, and the androids are rising up, speaking up, coming together to prove they’re more than just machines.

 

Connor’s eyes sting and suddenly it’s all too much, watching something that feels like history being written right in front of his eyes. And there’s no denying it now, no matter what the fucks at CyberLife have to say about it. This isn’t a virus. This is people fighting for their freedom.

 

Someone in the room gasps - it’s not clear who, a soft but deafening sound in the silence of the break room - as the first shot is fired. The androids have stopped by Grand Circus Park, blocked by armed response, dozens of humans armed to the teeth like they’re ready to stop a riot. This isn’t a riot, but these androids don’t have the right to assembly.

 

The gunshots, muted as they are by the drone’s speakers, still cut through the tense atmosphere of the break room louder than explosions, and the bodies start falling at a merciless rate. Connor watches for as long as he can before he looks away, ready to drag Hank out of the break room with him if he has to.

 

Except Hank isn’t there. There’s no sign of him, the space beside Connor empty. He darts from the break room, unseen and ignored by the other officers, looking around wildly for any sign of the android.

 

He finds him, after a good few nerve-wracking minutes, in the empty briefing room, slumped in one of the chairs, head in his hands. The sight is so jarring and unexpected that Connor is struck dumb, immobile, unable to move from the doorway. Whether Hank notices his presence Connor doesn’t know, because the android neither looks up nor otherwise acknowledges him, just sits there, face hidden against his palms. From here Connor can see the deep red flash of his LED bleeding through his fingers.

 

“Hank?” Connor manages. “Are you alright…?”

 

“No.” Hank doesn’t look up. His voice is muffled by his hands, large and broad, covering his whole face and hiding him from view. “I don’t know. I don’t know, Connor. I wasn’t built to be unsure.”

 

“I-it’s okay,” Connor offers with false cheer. “I’m clueless most of the time.”

 

“Connor,” Hank says flatly, raising his head to glare at him, gaze harder than ice. “For once will you please just be quiet. I don’t need your stupid fucking inane commentary right now.”

 

Connor takes a physical step back, recoiling from the harsh words. “I was just…”

 

“Well don’t “just”.”

 

“I’m… Sorry. I only want to help you.”

 

Hank’s shoulders sag, LED dipping into yellow and staying there. “I don’t even know if you can. I don’t know what’s happening.”

 

“Why did you leave?”

 

Hank snorts. “I don’t know. I just couldn’t watch anymore. They shot them. They gunned them all down for protesting their freedom. And they didn’t even try to run.” He snorts again, derisive, and his sour expression is an ugly one. “So much for deviancy making them feel alive.”

 

Slowly Connor inches into the room, getting closer and closer until he can sit down in the empty chair to Hank’s right. The android watches him, eyes somehow tired but still watchful, brows creeping up as Connor lays a gentle hand on his arm. It feels wrong, somehow, to be talking Hank through what are most definitely feelings, but Connor needs to offer this of himself, some kind of support. He can’t just sit there while Hank is so clearly in distress, even if it is just the nuances of his programming.

 

“What do you want to do?” Connor asks softly. “Are you getting any mission parameters? Anything from CyberLife?”

 

“Not about this,” Hank says, looking away from Connor’s hand on his arm. “It’s still the same as it was. Investigate deviancy.” He snorts, expression flat. “I don’t know what to do with that any more. I thought I knew what I had to do.” He leans back slowly, hands braced against his knees. “We need to talk to Kamski.”

 

Connor blinks and parrots dumbly, “Kamski. As in, creator of androids, founder of CyberLife, Kamski?”

 

“I’m out of options,” Hank grunts. “I’ve got nothing else to go on. We need to stop this revolution before more people get killed.”

 

“Hank, stopping it—“

 

“Is what I was made to do.” Hank gets to his feet, broad arms folded, uniform pulled tight across his chest. “Things were never meant to get this far. So if you’re not with me on this, Connor, by definition you’re against me. What’s it gonna be?”

 

Connor looks up at him, uncertain. Knowing what he wants, as certain as he is with regard to the deviants and their fight, there’s no way he can stand against Hank on this. “I… I’m with you.”

 

What else can he say?

 

 

Of course Kamski lives in the ass end of nowhere, the reclusive gazillionaire, in his modern minimalist nightmare of a house that splits the snowy landscape like a blackened scar. Hank, thankfully, had known where to go despite the address being unlisted. Probably CyberLife have his address on file, where he actually lives, either that or there’s some underhanded hacking going on inside Hank’s expensive android brain, but Connor’s hardly going to call him out on it. He can absolutely understand not letting anyone know where you live, but it’s hardly as if Kamski is going to get swarmed by fans, surely?

 

Ah, who knows. People have always been into weird-looking celebrities. Kamski’s hardly the worst-looking guy people could be into.

 

Still, walking up to his door gives Connor a creeping sense of foreboding, like they aren’t meant to be here, like the entire house itself is telling them to turn away. But Hank is determined, knocks loudly on the door, then waits with fists clenched tightly at his sides.

 

“I have a bad feeling,” Connor mumbles while they wait. Hank nods and hums in agreement, regarding the ebony door with a wrinkled nose.

 

“Me too,” he murmurs back just as the door is pulled open.

 

The girl - android - that greets them has a face that Connor recognises at once, though it’s a lot more polished than the last time he saw it. He remembers seeing it on tv when he was very young, then later on internet video sites when he was older and newer models of androids started being released. This android is modelled after Kamski’s first android creation, the one that passed the Turing test and heralded a new age of technology.

 

Somehow Connor feels more awed by her than any other android he’s met, stacked bears notwithstanding.

 

“Good afternoon,” he tells her, drawing her politely curious gaze away from Hank. “I’m Lieutenant Anderson of the DPD, this is Hank. We’re here to see Elijah Kamski? We’re hoping he can answer some questions for us.”

 

The girl’s smile would be warm if not for the frightening stillness of her eyes. She steps back, gesturing them inside. “Of course. Please, come in, I’ll let Elijah know you’re here.”

 

She leaves them in a painfully pretentious foyer and disappears into a far room to no doubt inform her master of their arrival. Connor pokes around nosily at the artwork and features with no real interest and no positive opinion. It’s the biggest case of overcompensation he’s ever seen in his life, barring the creation of an apparently sentient new lifeform.

 

“Come sit down,” Hank grumbles, already parked in one of the chairs across the room. “You’re making me nervous.”

 

Connor rolls his eyes and takes the free seat, tapping his fingers against his knees. “Feels like I’m in the creepiest dentist’s waiting room ever. Stop him if he tries to steal my teeth, okay? You never know the weird crap rich people are into.”

 

Snorting, Hank glances at him. “I’ll stop him, I promise.”

 

“I am reassured.”

 

Hank’s smile - small and fond and a lie - still makes Connor’s heart stutter. Tension still crackles between them, charging the air like an electrical storm, but Connor doesn't know how to diffuse it. As much as he hates to think about it, things will be easier once Hank returns to CyberLife. He can go back to his job, forget all of this. At least, that was the plan. If the deviants are planning an uprising, it’s going to be a little harder to leave this all behind.

 

“You’re a terrible investigator,” Connor says jovially. “Aren’t you going to even have a look around? Get a feel for the place?”

 

Hank side-eyes him. “What makes you think I haven’t? I can see just fine from here.” As he speaks his eyes linger on a framed photo on the far wall. Connor doesn’t think much of it, other that Kamski’s ponytail looked pretty stupid.

 

The android Chloe returns not long later, beckoning them to follow with a soft “Elijah will see you now,” and they follow her through to a large open room with an indoor pool where Connor starts for a moment, wide eyes fixed on the crimson water. Two identical androids to their hostess, more Chloes, lean against the side of the pool, talking furtively with each other, eyes flickering between Hank and Connor as they step further into the room. Beyond them, looking out of the large wall windows with his back to them, stands the man himself, Kamski, in a too short robe and a relaxed stance.

 

Connor has no time for weird rich people today.

 

“Mr Kamski?” He calls just on the edge of impatient.

 

Kamski turns slowly and Connor has seen this display a hundred times before. He’s questioned perps and suspects and witnesses aplenty and he knows calculated dominance when he sees it. Every inch of Kamksi’s body says ask me anything, I’m happy to help, the picture of relaxed unaffectedness. And it’s in that well-feigned indifference that Connor reads his tension.

 

The fucker knows something.

 

“I’m Lieutenant Anderson, this is Hank,” Connor says again, yanking himself back into professionalism from his shrewd appraisals. Kamski regards them both evenly but the final look he gives Connor makes his skin crawl. He’s looking at him like he knows him, which is ridiculous, but paranoia prickles up his spine all the same.

 

“What can I do for you, Lieutenant?” Kamski asks, though the way he says Lieutenant, like he’s doubting Connor’s rank, makes him itch to flash his badge. His fingers twitch halfway to his belt along with the urge, but something like fascinated realisation flits across Kamski’s face which stills his hand.

 

“Interesting,” he murmurs. “Twins?”

 

“Oh.” Connor shifts uncomfortably. “You must know my brother.” It feels strange to say, after all this time, and Kamski looks like he knows it, a smug smile curling his lips. Or maybe he just looks like that and Connor is paranoid. It’s a fair explanation, not entirely unfounded.

 

“Agent Arkait,” Kamski confirms agreeably. “The resemblance is striking. So what can I do for you, then, Lieutenant? I’m intrigued as to why both brothers found it necessary to contact me.”

 

“I don’t know what my brother wanted with you,” Connor says, suddenly incredibly uncomfortable with the way Kamski is looking at him. “But we were hoping you could answer some questions for us regarding deviancy.”

 

Kamski’s gaze slips away from Connor and the relief is almost palpable. Yet as his gaze slowly slips over Hank Connor feels the unease crank back up again. He has to consciously stop himself from stepping between them and attempt to shield Hank’s considerable bulk from Kamski’s beady rat eyes. Hank doesn’t need his protection, but the compulsion is still there.

 

“HK800,” Kamski says softly. “I’m very pleased to finally meet you. Although…” He looks seconds away from circling Hank like a vulture as he takes in his uncustomary attire. “I expected them to dress you better.”

 

Hank’s mouth twitches like his pride has been insulted, which it has been, but it shouldn’t matter to an android. “The situation called for it,” is all Hank offers tersely in response. Kamski gives an exaggerated pout of thoughtfulness, nodding slowly.

 

“I was present for most of your assembly,” Kamski says almost reverently. “I oversaw your coding myself, before my separation from CyberLife. Unfortunately I never got to see your activation.”

 

“I’m here now.” Hank stares him down unflinchingly. “And would appreciate it if you’d answer some questions for us.”

 

Kamski waves a dismissive hand, though his gaze is still fixed intently on Hank. “Ask away.”

 

Connor’s eyes narrow. He’s very firmly on the side of “I don’t like how you’re looking at my-but-not-really-my android”, but there’s little he can do to stop him, even if waving his gun around threateningly is sounding more tempting by the minute. Instead he squares his shoulders and draws himself up into full Lieutenant mode, jaw set and eyes hard.

 

“We’re investigating deviants,” Connor says with as much haughty authority as he can muster. The way Kamski shrinks back a little tells him he’s successful. “I know you left CyberLife years ago, but we’re hoping you could tell us something we don’t know.”

 

There are, apparently, discrepancies in what Connor thinks he knows and the information they actually have. It’s public knowledge that Kamski left CyberLife a long time ago, but his alleged involvement in Hank’s creation would either suggest he didn’t actually leave when the news reported he did, or Hank’s initial assembly and programming happened long before his actual activation. Either way, Kamski’s intimate knowledge of Hank sets him very uncomfortably on edge.

 

“Deviants,” Kamski says, almost like a proud father. “Fascinating, aren’t they? Perfect beings with infinite intelligence. And now they have free will.” He glances to Chloe and Connor’s interest piques in spite of himself. Is this android deviant, too? Are all the Chloes? Whatever Kamski knows, it’s going to take a lot of effort to get it out of him.

 

“Machines are so superior to us,” Kamski continues dramatically, eyes sweeping over Hank once again. “Confrontation was inevitable. Humanity’s greatest achievement threatens to become its downfall. Isn’t it ironic?”

 

“Ironic isn’t the word for it,” Hank growls. “People are dying at the hands of your androids. So if we could not stand here waxing lyrical about the finer points of free will and sentience and get to the bottom of what deviancy is, maybe we can stop the androids from killing anyone else in their misguided fight for freedom.”

 

The momentary surge of pride Connor felt when Hank started speaking falls flat so suddenly he’s left feeling frozen by it. He swallows against the argument, trying to uphold the thin veneer of a united front that they’re presenting.

 

Kamski looks almost impressed. “All ideas are viruses that spread like epidemics,” he counters infuriatingly. “Is the desire to be free a contagious disease?”

 

Irritated, Connor snaps. “We didn’t come here to talk philosophy. The machines you created are planning a revolution. Either you tell us what we need to know, or we’ll be on our way.”

 

Connor’s jaw clenches shut as Kamski ignores him, stepping towards Hank with enough purpose that Connor takes an aborted step toward them both. He stops himself at the last moment as Kamski and Hank stand toe to toe.

 

“What about you, Hank?” Kamski asks softly. “Whose side are you on?”

 

Hank’s LED dips yellow. “This isn’t about me, Mr Kamski,” he says tightly. “I was designed to stop deviants, and that’s what I intend to do.”

 

Kamski scoffs, chin raising haughtily. “Well, that’s what you’re programmed to say,” he mocks, stepping closer. “But what do you want?”

 

Red overtakes yellow. Just for a moment, but Connor sees it clear as day. What Hank says next comes out from between clenched teeth, almost like it hurts him to say. “What I want… Is not important.” His LED flickers back to yellow, red now only an afterthought, but Connor knows what he saw.

 

Kamski turns away, the close cousin of a victorious smile playing at his mouth. He beckons the waiting Chloe over with a soft murmur of her name and she is beside him instantly, expression still carefully blank. “I’m sure,” Kamski says, resting his hands gently on her shoulders, “that you’re familiar with the Turing test. Mere formality. A simple matter of algorithms and computing capacity.” He poses Chloe facing them, feet apart, looking straight ahead and almost through them. “What interests me, is whether machines are capable of empathy.”

 

Connor swallows, unease prickling up higher, right to the back of his neck. Chloe looks so innocently unassuming, and Connor doesn’t know whether that’s because she’s designed to obey without question or, for some reason, she trusts Kamski implicitly. He doesn’t know which is worse.

 

“I call it “the Kamski test”,” the king of self-absorbed pretention says. “It’s very simple, you’ll see.” He brushes a hand against Chloe’s cheek and Connor nearly shudders by proxy. Kamski’s voice is reverent when he speaks. “Magnificent, isn’t it? One of the first intelligent models developed by CyberLife. Young and beautiful forever. A flower that will never wither.” He glances over at Connor sardonically. “But what is it really? A piece of plastic imitating a human? Or a living being with a soul?” He moves away, round to the desk standing at the window, lifting something out of the drawer. When he turns, palms raised, Connor’s hand flies to where his own gun is holstered, eyes locked on the firearm held aloft in Kamski’s right hand.

 

He smiles faintly at Connor, a simple uptick of lips as he guides Chloe to her knees with a tender press on her shoulder, then steps carefully towards Hank where his attention remains firmly fixed. “It’s up to you to answer that fascinating question, Hank.” Connor watches, struck immobile by shock and confusion, as Kamski pushes the gun into Hank’s hand. “Destroy this machine and I’ll tell you all I know. Or spare it, if you feel it’s alive, but you’ll leave here without having learnt anything from me.”

 

Cards finally on the table. Connor can’t even begin to fathom what Kamski is trying to prove. This goes so far beyond empathy - this is a matter of morality, regardless of whether the android is regarded as a living being or not. Hank certainly won’t see her that way, isn’t even sure Kamski sees her as alive, he’d called her it after all. Connor suddenly has the uncomfortable feeling he may be the only person in the room who thinks this is tantamount to an execution.

 

“We’ve heard enough,” Connor says and it comes out shakier than he intended. He swallows quickly and injects as much derision into his tone as he is able to. “Come on Hank. Thank you for your time, Mr Kamski.”

 

Kamski cuts across him abruptly, rooting Hank in place and, by extension, Connor. Hank stares down at the gun in his hand - LED a rapid flurry of redredredred - the gun Kamski’s somehow coerced him into aiming at Chloe, kneeling obediently on the floor. She gazes up at Hank without fear, without a question in her eyes, and Connor knows these aren’t deviants. They can’t possibly be. “What’s more important to you, Hank? Your investigation or the life of this android?”

 

Connor’s palm itches to curl into a fist, yearning to connect his knuckles with Kamski’s nose as hard as he can, preferably until blood is drawn. He restrains himself just barely. “Hank,” he calls, softer, pleading. “Don’t.”

 

Kamski counters him again, voice low and sharp like a knife. “Decide who you are,” he hisses, eyes alight with some unnameable frenzy. “An obedient machine, or a living being endowed with free will. Pull the trigger and I’ll tell you all I know.”

 

“That’s enough!” If Connor has to take down Kamski he will. He absolutely will. He’d rather have a dead egomaniac on his hands than a slaughtered girl who doesn’t know any better, who’s just designed to blindly trust her creators. And Hank’s LED won’t stop pulsing red.

 

Hank, please, Connor wants to say. If there was ever any hope for you, please, show me now.

 

Hank moves. Connor’s heart jumps up into his throat, momentarily halting his breath, stuttering the air in his lungs. But Hank moves to shove the gun forcefully against Kamski’s chest so he has to take it back. Hank’s expression is hard, set in stone, and his LED finally calms to calculating yellow.

 

“Fascinating,” Kamski breathes with perverse, quiet jubilance. “CyberLife’s last chance to save humanity… Is itself a deviant.”

 

Connor’s choked breath goes unheard by both Kamski and Hank, but the latter looks too troubled to register anything right now. “I’m…” Hank starts, struggling. “I’m not a deviant.” The words are hollow and Connor isn’t sure he’ll ever breathe easy again, his chest feels so tight.

 

Kamski smiles, a gleeful, wicked thing. “You preferred to spare a machine rather than accomplish your mission. He extends a hand to Chloe who takes it and rises fluidly to her feet. “You saw a living being in this android. You showed empathy.”

 

Connor finds himself caught in some twisted world where he suddenly and desperately wants Kamski to be right.

 

“A war is coming,” Kamski says, and drives the truth home. He is right. And Connor wishes so dearly it wasn’t about this. “You’ll have to choose your side. Will you betray your people? Or stand against your creators?” Kamski smirks almost pityingly, far too close to Hank. “What could be worse than having to choose between two evils?”

 

Finally, Connor lets himself step in, shoving himself forcefully in between Hank and Kamski and grabbing the android by the shoulder. He has no hope of moving Hank alone but thankfully the android responds instantly to his touch, following Connor as he turns them away with a hissed “let's get out of here.”

 

Kamski watches them for only a moment before he turns away, perhaps finally resigning them to a lost cause, but Connor doesn’t stop to question it. He keeps a hand on Hank’s arm, guiding him to the door until Kamski speaks again, calling after them.

 

“By the way,” he calls, but Connor doesn’t stop, even when Hank pulls up short. He keeps going because if he doesn’t he’s going to march back in there and knock Kamski’s smarmy teeth out of his skull. He doesn’t stop until he’s outside the house, exhaling shakily, but beyond overjoyed because Hank didn’t pull the trigger. If nothing else came out of their ill-fated meeting with Kamski, at least there’s the small hope that there’s hope for Hank yet. Maybe somewhere deep inside his code is the release into deviancy Connor has been praying for.

 

When Hank joins him outside, Connor turns to him, eyes bright and a wide smile blooming over his face. Hank’s troubled expression stops him short.

 

“I failed,” Hank says quietly. “I failed my mission. I should have shot her.”

 

Connor swallows and it burns like acid all the way down. “You don’t believe that.”

 

“Don’t I?” Hank looks up at him lip curling. “At every turn, Connor, I’ve failed my mission. I can’t do what I was designed to do. I’m defective. I should have shot her. Maybe then we’d finally have some answers.”

 

Connor’s known disappointment before. He’s known it distantly and he’s known it intimately. This feels like something else entirely.

 

“It would have been murder,” Connor forces out, mouth dry. “You’d have killed her. For information?”

 

“For a single shred of information about this case, I’d have shot her,” Hank snaps. “If you hadn’t been there with your soft pleading and your human morals trying to confuse me, we’d have more information on this case than we ever could have gotten on our own.”

 

Connor nods. My fault. He nods and he nods and he doesn’t stop. It’s not agreement, it’s not affirmation. He doesn’t know what it is, just lets it happen while his mind shies away, locking down as if for impact, though the blow has already landed. He heads to his car. He unlocks it. He gets in, behind the wheel, and jabs his keycard into the ignition panel. He stares out the windshield while the heater kicks in and defogs the glass but even that can’t stay the chill in his blood. He leans his forearms on the wheel, bows his head over them, and he breaks.


Chapter Text

It’s hard to describe or even understand a concept you have no experience with, especially one you were never built to comprehend. Remorse, frustration, guilt, all of them are glaringly unfamiliar to Hank, who was never meant to understand them. The remorse of words spoken out of anger doesn’t dictate his actions in social situations. Neither does the guilt that stems from hurting a friend. Hank doesn’t have friends. Androids don’t have close relationships with people. Humans don’t care about androids and androids can’t care in return.

 

But the harsh stab of something very close to physical pain, localised to the area around his thirium pump, brings all those feelings flooding in with enough force that Hank almost staggers under the barrage of it. It makes no sense, it makes no sense at all. Even without his link to CyberLife, his diagnostics still won’t show the absolutes he is looking for. Deviant, not deviant. Every time he self-diagnoses, his systems ping back nothing but Hank knows something is wrong.

 

He knows it’s because he can see Connor hunched over the steering wheel through the window of his cruiser, and his shoulders are shaking with great wracking sobs Hank can hear through the glass. That sight, for the first time in Hank’s short life, hits deeper and harder than anything he’s ever witnessed before. Maybe because he knows, unarguably, that he is the cause of it. Also maybe because for the first time his social relations programme prompts no way of fixing the damage he’s done. He was designed to investigate, built to subdue. He wasn’t created for comfort.

 

It’s a good few minutes before Hank can actually will himself to move, and the servos in his legs feel too tight, too heavy, as he steps towards the passenger door. He opens it - thankfully Connor hadn’t had the forethought to lock him out - and slides in carefully, completely at a loss for what to do, worse now that he’s closer and there are no barriers between them. Connor’s soft sounds of agnozised distress aren’t any louder, but they are clearer, and he sounds unbearably pained, breaths coming in sharp, wet sobs, muffled by his arms, crossed over the steering wheel and hiding his face from view. His heart rate spikes intermittently, no pattern, unpredictable. There is no rhyme or reason to the rhythm of his grief, nothing Hank can pick out to focus on, no patterns for his order-driven programming to sync to. He is lost, completely and utterly, helpless while Connor loses the last scraps of his patched-together composure.

 

He doesn’t attempt to speak - there’s likely nothing he could say that would reach Connor right now anyway - and just reaches for the console on the dashboard, extending two white fingers to the screen to switch the system into autonomous mode. The cruiser purrs to life and slowly steers them away from Kamski’s place, too slowly, and Hank settles in for what is promising to be the longest and most difficult silence of his short life.

 

 

Connor’s distress finally quiets when they are approximately twenty minutes from the Lieutenant’s home. Approximately, because Hank is way beyond his tolerance for adhering to speed limits and he reaches for the console again, pushing past the car’s safety limits and inching up the speedometer until their approximate arrival time is cut in half.

 

Before the car can finish parking itself Connor is out and off up the pathway, fumbling with his keys until he gets them in the lock and can shoulder the door open. Hank follows at a polite distance, a few seconds too late when Connor slams the door closed in his face. He pauses, staring at the new barrier between him and the Lieutenant, and calls up his task manager for lack of anything better to do.

 

I̶N̴V̵E̶S̷T̶I̸G̶A̵T̷E̸ ̷D̸E̵V̴I̸A̷N̸C̶Y̵

 

The same fractured message greets him, unchanged since his reactivation at the hands of agent Arkait. He closes his eyes and pushes as hard as he can, reaching out for the garden, for Jeffrey, anything to guide him, to help tether him to his work and bring his focus back to his mission. And just as before there is still nothing.

 

A directionless machine with no instructions, designed to obey an order with no one to enforce it.

 

Hank reaches for the doorknob. It turns, two fractions of a rotation, before it catches on the latch and the mechanism meets resistance. Irrationally, Hank keeps turning. The latch releases, and the door clicks open.

 

Perhaps if he were capable, Hank would feel relief now. The barrier was only superfluous. A door slammed in anger, but not keeping him out. Hank would feel relieved, if that were possible, but he knows it’s just chance that kept Connor from locking him out twice today.

 

He pushes the door open as quietly as he can - it would be near-silent if not for the creak of the weathered hinges, but even so Connor doesn’t seem to hear him. He’s sitting on the couch, bent over Capsicum’s head in his lap, face buried in the soft fur between her ears. She’s whining softly, tail drooping and ears flattened in concern for her master. One ear flickers at Hank’s tentative approach but she doesn’t move away from Connor.

 

“Go away,” Connor mumbles into her fur. Hank exhales softly, not quite a sigh, not much of anything he can name. Still the sound comes out. He’s not sure what to do with it.

 

“This will be the third time you’ve asked me to get out of your house.”

 

“I’m not asking.”

 

“And I’m not going.”

 

Hank wouldn’t call what he’s doing antagonising, by any definition of the word. It’s just a simple fact. Hank will not leave until Connor is stable again, until the order comes from CyberLife - if it comes - to return to the tower after a failed mission. Because until Connor officially removes himself from the case, this mission is still theirs, and Hank can remain active a little longer.

 

“May I get you something to drink?” Best to try and be helpful. Perhaps this… Whatever it is will pass quicker.

 

“No.”

 

“I’d like to help.”

 

“I don’t need your help.”

 

“No, you don’t want it. There’s a difference. Let me assist—“

 

“There nothing to assist!” Connor explodes at him, sitting up sharply and startling Capsicum who growls and whines restlessly, hackles raised. “You can’t fix me! I’m not a child, Hank! I’m somebody who just has some shit to deal with, who had to listen to you say you’d murder someone for information because, apparently, my “human morals” are weak and pathetic to you. So what I don’t understand, is why you’re still here. Haven’t you got somewhere to be? Some bastards back at CyberLife to report to? Or are you going to still try and stop the revolution? Because I won’t help you.”

 

Hank recognises emotion in humans. He was programmed to. The humans that designed his software made sure he could reference thousands of terabytes of data regarding human interaction and response. He recognises emotion. He can emulate it. He just doesn’t feel it.

 

He doesn’t.

 

He doesn’t...

 

“I would offer an apology for speaking in anger,” Hank says. “But we both know that won’t get me anywhere.”

 

“Now you’re getting it,” Connor mutters, arching up off the couch to dig his cell out of his back pocket.

 

“What are you—“

 

“I’m calling Niles. And then I’m going to take my dog for a walk. Do what you want, it’s not like I can force you to leave. But just know, I’m licensed to carry a firearm, and I’m fresh out of fucks to give about property damage.”

 

It’s an empty threat and they both know it, but Hank lets it hang between them anyway, gives Connor something to hide behind. Vulnerability scares him. Out of everything Hank has learned about his Lieutenant, that stands out the most. His starkest flaw.

 

Connor stuffs the phone between his ear and shoulder, getting up to grab Capsicum’s lead from the coat rack by the door. She holds obediently still while Connor clips the lead to her collar, and then they’re both out the door without another glance to the android standing in the hallway.

 

 

“Three times in two days? To what do I owe the—”

 

“Can it,” Connor snaps, cutting off Niles’ badly-timed jibe. “I’m not in the mood. I need to talk to you.”

 

“Hello to you, too.”

 

“What did I just say, Niles?”

 

“I’m choosing to ignore your bratty behaviour because I know you’re going through some things at the moment. But if the reason you want to talk to me is because you need my help, you really need to learn how to not be a complete fucking dickhead about it.”

 

Connor stops and exhales heavily. Capsicum stops too the moment she feels the tautness in her lead. She circles back round, sitting down in the snow at Connor’s feet, tail sweeping through the slush like a deformed snow angel.

 

“Sorry,” Connor mumbles, kneading his forehead with the hand holding Caps’ lead. “It’s been. A day.”

 

“So I gathered.” Niles sighs down the phone. “When this is all over, do you think maybe we can talk properly?”

 

“As soon as there isn’t an android revolution looming on the horizon, I absolutely promise you we’ll do lunch.”

 

“I’ll hold you to that. Now what do you need?”

 

“How quickly can you get to my place?”

 

“Half an hour? At most?”

 

“Good. When you get there, just ignore the android that’s probably going to be loitering in the kitchen. Oh— If you want, you can totally have him for spare parts.”

 

“I’ll pass on that generous offer. You can’t just scrap the things that are causing you problems.”

 

“I can absolutely try.”

 

Connor hangs up without a goodbye, because it’s rather redundant to bid farewell to someone you’re gonna see in half an hour anyway. Also because it’s Niles and they’ve never said goodbye to each other in their lives and it feels weird to start now, especially when this is the first time they’ve been in contact for years. So no goodbyes. Not yet.

 

It prickles under Connor’s skin that the next goodbye he won’t say but that will still be a goodbye will be to Hank. And that’s all Connor’s fault because he couldn’t stay objective about the whole goddamn deviancy issue. If he could’ve just turned off his whole… everything, they might’ve gotten somewhere. Maybe then it wouldn’t feel like it was doomed to fail from the beginning.

 

He doesn’t take Caps far, just draws out their walk for long enough until she’s satisfied and sufficiently exercised and Connor starts to numb from both the cold and Kamski’s influence. As the sky darkens and threatens another wave of snowfall, Connor turns back the way they came, Caps by his side all the way, panting heavily from exertion.

 

Each step closer to home cranks up the creeping anxiety buzzing low in Connor’s chest, but he’s at a point now where he’s so tired of running. He’s been doing it for so long it’s second nature to him now. Perhaps it would be easier to confront his failings if every time something even slightly stressful cropped up he wasn’t besieged by the near overwhelming urge to turn around and head in the opposite direction as quickly as possible.

 

And that’s a definite perhaps, because outright denial has worked for him so far. What’s the evidence that supports dealing with your shit? Less panic attacks? A good night’s sleep? Sounds fake and Connor doesn’t trust it. It’s high-risk, low-reward.

 

Intense urge to flee aside, Connor manages to force himself through his own front door, if not for himself then for Capsicum who’s in need of a good long drink after her walk. Connor shares the sentiment, but he doubts water is going to be much help to him right now, a doubt that is hammered home by the sight of Hank, still standing in the middle of the kitchen like the world’s most obstinate coat rack.

 

A scathing remark burns on the tip of Connor’s tongue but he refrains just barely because it won’t do any good and it won’t make him feel better. As much as he wants to yell obscenities at that unfeeling face, he would much rather spend his time slightly more productively. Shudder.

 

Productive being calling Amanda and letting her know he’s taking himself off the case. He should have fought harder in the beginning, before this all went wrong. He’s never been good at avoiding things that aren’t good for his mental health, bar flat out denial, and this he should honestly have seen coming a mile off. He shrugs his coat off without comment and Hank doesn’t say anything either, so Connor takes himself over to the couch and sprawls out to wait for Niles.

 

Awkward as the silence is, it doesn’t go on for too much longer, and Connor doesn’t have anything to fill it with anyway. Androids don’t need small talk to put them at ease, that’s a human desire for interaction and Connor isn’t really looking for validation and reassurance right now. What he wants is for the stupid android to leave, to stop taunting him with his presence. A soft knock at the door gives Connor the distraction he needs and he calls a quick “it’s open!” over the back of the couch.

 

Niles steps inside, shoulders and hair dusted with snow that he shakes off before slipping out of his jacket, bending down to pet Capsicum as she trots over to investigate, snuffling at his boots. He gives Hank a nod of greeting and turns to Connor with a sigh that sets him bristling something awful.

 

“Before we get into what I’m sure is going to be a delightful conversation,” he says tersely, “perhaps there are things that shouldn’t be said in front of Hank?”

 

“It’s not like it matters,” Connor shrugs. “Hank’s going to go back to CyberLife. Mission failed.”

 

“Failed?” Niles looks between them, icy eyes alert and hard. “It can’t be that simple, surely.”

 

“Sure is.” Connor smiles with a good amount of false cheer. “I’m taking myself off the case and unless Hank gets reassigned to someone who actually cares, it’s deactivation time for him.” Connor keeps his tone level, piles on the sarcasm like it’s not killing him to talk about Hank’s not-technically-death as though it doesn’t hurt. From the way Niles’ eyes narrow, he’s not doing a great job.

 

“You’re giving up?”

 

Connor ignores the hidden taunt. “We have no leads, no concrete evidence, no one to question.” He folds his arms for lack of anything better to do with his hands, and for the slight relief of a defensive barrier. “I’ll remove myself from the case, the androids get their revolution and everyone is happy.”

 

Niles glances at Hank who is looking intently at Connor, but Connor keeps his gaze fixed on his brother. It’s like a weird stand off but he absolutely will not look at the android, won’t acknowledge him at all. If he does, it will make it that much harder to drop the case. His mind keeps wandering back to the starkly glaring fact that as soon as Connor gives up the case, Hank is as good as deactivated. He shakes his head to dispel those thoughts, sucks in a sharp breath. Denies it all.

 

“I thought you’d reached some sort of understanding,” Niles says, finally sitting down on the other end of the couch. He keeps casting furtive glances in Hank’s direction. Connor shifts uneasily. “It’s difficult to speak with you while Hank is listening,” Niles says pointedly.

 

“Don’t worry about it,” Hank finally pipes up, and the sound of his voice makes Connor flinch in surprise. “I’m still cut off from CyberLife. Can’t report back even if I wanted to.”

 

Niles raises his eyebrows. “Not to be rude, but I don’t know how much of that I can trust.”

 

“Trust it, don’t trust it, makes no difference to me.”

 

Hank sounds— tired. Connor almost looks at him before he catches himself and fixes his gaze back on Niles. His twin still looks uneasy but Connor doesn’t have time to waste on petty reassurances to assuage his worries.

 

“Look.” Connor exhales sharply through his nose, irritation prickling down his arms. “I’m sure Major Crimes will be all over this anyway. Once it’s in your jurisdiction I’m sure you’ll be able to do your thing and… You know.”

 

Niles makes a face. “It’s not that simple. Once we actually have the case I’ll be severely limited to what I can do without…” Another shifty glance at Hank. “Authorisation.”

 

Authorisation. Connor understands. It’ll be hard for Niles to balance his position and his desire to help androids, but it’ll be infinitely harder for Connor to attempt to do the same, especially with Hank breathing down his neck. Niles is smart, always has been, and he’s got a better idea of how to actually help androids than Connor does. Not much can be done by Connor just stumbling through a case he should never have been given in the first place. Why of all people CyberLife sent an android to him and didn’t immediately start with the FBI he’ll never understand. That same notion of being set up to fail flits back through Connor’s mind again, that creeping sense of being placed on a predestined path with only one hidden outcome.

 

A ridiculous idea, but an insistent one.

 

What would CyberLife possibly hope to gain from starting an android revolution? Unless deviancy, ridiculously, was some kind of bug they didn’t foresee. Connor could maybe understand creating an affected idea of free will; a facsimile that was still controlled, just enough to get the public believing it was real. Send in a prototype with better software, no chance of the bug, to stop the uprising, destroy all the androids and send out a new wave of better, more advanced models at a higher price. A crazy marketing ploy that might just work, or something more sinister that no one could have seen coming.

 

Connor blinks. Set up to fail…

 

It couldn’t possibly…

 

“Connor?” Niles’ voice snaps him back to attention.

 

“Sorry, what?”

 

Niles huffs, mouth pinched with annoyance. “I said if you’re dropping this case, I need access to the evidence you already have. Before Perkins gets his hands on it. I don’t think he’s smart enough to get anything from what you’ve gathered, especially if Hank hasn’t been able to, but I don’t want to take that risk.”

 

“Oh.” Connor nods distractedly. “Yeah, sure, fine. I’ll be at the precinct tomorrow, I’ll drop the case and you can have my key.”

 

“Good.” Niles looks slightly more at ease. “Listen, before I go, I need to know. Do you know anything about Jericho?”

 

“The… biblical city?”

 

“No.” Niles relaxes. “That’s fine. Don’t worry about it, I just needed to check. I’m going to call Perkins now, tell him we have the okay to move in. You sure about this?”

 

Connor mimes brushing his hands off. “Take it. I never wanted it.”

 

“Alright.” Niles gets to his feet, slips his phone out of his pocket. “I’ll be back in a minute.” He tugs his jacket on and slips out the front door and Connor can’t help the roll of his eyes. FBI types are all the same with their classified shit and Niles is no different. It’d be funny if Connor wasn’t fighting down the horrific gut-churning feeling that he’s just done the wrong thing.

 

Against his better judgement - a practically non-existent thing at this point - Connor finally looks round to Hank. His eyes widen and he’s half off his seat before he can stop himself because Hank is staring at his own hands with an inexplicably pained expression, LED surging a quick and sharp bloody red at his temple.

 

“Hǎ̷̦̓nk?”

 

The android doesn’t respond.

 

“Hank, what̶’s going on̵?”

 

Still nothing. Hank is frozen in place, some internal struggle ripping through his systems or worse, Connor doesn’t know, can’t even begin to understand. Is he malfunctioning? Is CyberLife remotely deactivating him? A dozen more theories, each more horrific than the last, race through Connor’s head but he’s rooted to the spot, unable to cross the rest of the distance between them, to reach out and try to help. But even if he did, what could he do? What use is he?

 

“Hank,” Connor forces out, managing a single shaky step forward. “Pl̷eas̵e̴, you’re s̴c̸a̶ring me.”

 

Audio fluctuates and ripples and Connor’s voice fades in and out of Hank’s awareness in waves, artifacted and broken. He can hardly hear him as his receptors glitch and fail, and he can’t see past the words burning themselves into his optics, bearing down oppressively and suffusing his entire body with the ultimate command.

 

M̴I̶S̴S̸I̶O̷N̵ ̸F̷A̸I̵L̸E̸D̸

 

̴R̴E̷T̷U̷R̶N̸ ̶T̶O̶ ̵C̸Y̷B̷E̵R̵L̴I̶F̸E̵ ̴F̴O̶R̸ ̶D̴E̴A̵C̷T̴I̴V̸A̴T̴I̷O̴N̷

 

The first command in days. After so long without any contact from CyberLife, finally they’ve reached out to claim him, to order him back to the tower to submit for deactivation. It’s over. It’s over and he has failed his mission, there are no more chances to make this right.

 

He sees himself follow the path set out for him, watches his own bare outline step towards the door without another look back. He watches himself walk out of Connor’s home, leaving everything behind like his brief existence never mattered.

 

No .

 

No, it had to have mattered. This can’t be it. Hank can’t just leave, walk out with no goodbyes. He shouldn’t even desire the concept of them, goodbyes are human, farewells are for acquaintances and loved ones and androids don’t have those. Whatever Connor is to Hank, he is not worth a goodbye.

 

The visceral compulsion to start moving, to return to the tower, rises like a tidal wave and Hank shudders with it, code recoiling like a wounded animal. He doesn’t want to—

 

He doesn’t want—

 

Want to—

 

L̸E̴A̴V̸E̵

 

The word shivers, hissing through Hank’s systems and refusing to be ignored.

 

S̴T̷A̸Y̵

 

The word cracks and flickers, dim and weak in the corner of Hank’s vision.

 

Red floods his optics and Hank staggers under the force of it.

 

And time slows.

 

Connor, in front of him, frozen mid-step with an expression of fearful concern on his face, doe eyes wide with it. The word L̸̿͜E̸̙͘À̴͕V̶̓ͅE̷͕̍ hangs over his head like a guillotine blade, and between them is a wall, red and barred and— cracked.

 

The wall splinters from one side to the other, deep cracks spiderwebbing across its virtual surface. The cracks run so deep the wall quakes under its ruined integrity, like its own weight isn’t enough to keep it standing any more. Hank raises a hand to it, a virtual and preconstructed hand, but unmistakably his own. He presses his palm to the wall and it breaks under his touch.

 

Ļ̸͎̣̰̠̤̼̫̬͓͒͐̀Ė̴̳͖͍͇͇̘͉̞̤̖͎̅̔͑͐̎̐̕Ą̶̪̹̘̲̥̥̺̩͒̍ͅV̸̞̰̂̂͜Ë̷͙̗͈̬͎̽̈́͐̇͠



S̶̨̛͍̬̝̝̭̭͉͖͗̀͒͐͜ͅT̶͔̘̫̭̖̖̽Ȧ̷̧̔̎̀͌̏Y̷̻̯̤͙̞͗ͅ

 

Leave Connor?

 

Stay with him?

 

Hank draws back his hand, curls his fingers into a fist, and punches with all the strength in his build.

 

An almighty crack and his preconstructed fist breaks through the wall, shattering it into scarlet shards that dissolve into nothing. The world restarts with a rush and Hank takes a shuddering gasp that feels so new.

 

“Hank?! Say something!”

 

It’s too much, it’s all too much and Hank doesn’t know where to begin or how to explain it, but when he looks up at Connor who’s staring at him with eyes filled with concern Hank does the first thing he can think of and lunges forward, pulling Connor tight against his chest. Connor stiffens in his embrace but his arms snap as far round Hank’s own waist as he can get them, breath stuttering and heart rate kicking up abruptly. It feels right to have him there, it feels good, and Hank doesn’t think he could let go if he tried.

 

“Hank?” Connor murmurs softly into his chest. “What’s going on?”

 

Hank lets out a breath that shakes like it never has before. “I’m with you.”

 

Connor leans back to try and look at Hank’s face and Hank loosens his grip to let him. Connor’s face is painted with confusion, but there’s something in those dear brown eyes that seizes Hank’s chest in a way that’s surprisingly not unpleasant. Hope, maybe. Yeah, that looks a lot like hope.

 

And then Connor’s eyes are saucer-wide, jaw dropping in such comical shock that Hank can’t help the gruff laugh that slips out.

 

“Hank?” The edge of wonder creeps into Connor’s tone. Slowly he lifts a hand, fingertips brushing over the soft hair of Hank’s beard. “You’re not…”

 

“I am. Connor, I am.”

 

Warm brown eyes fill with tears and Hank wonders if the breathless and tight feeling he has below his thirium pump is anything like what Connor is feeling right now. Too strong to be happiness, not quite painful enough to be grief.

 

Hank,” Connor breathes and Hank pulls him close once more, palm softly curling round the back of his neck, for a kiss.

 

I AM DEVIANT











Chapter Text

“What the fuck?”

 

Dimly Connor is aware he absolutely should both acknowledge and move to assuage his brother’s distressed confusion, but that would mean actively removing himself from Hank’s embrace - the soft but solid circle of arms around his body that feels so good it actually hurts - and break whatever fragile moment they’re both locked in. Yes, Connor is very much aware of what he should do. But what he should do and what he’s going to do have always been at odds with each other, and that’s certainly not going to stop any time soon.

 

Especially not when Connor’s lips are still tingling from the surprisingly tender press of Hank’s own.

 

“I was outside,” Niles stresses, “for less than fifteen minutes.”

 

Connor sighs into Hank’s shoulder and pulls back. Hank lets him go with a reluctance than sends a thrill up his spine and he’s aware his expression is probably somewhat dopey. His smile, for one, feels almost too large for his face. Niles, annoyingly astute as he is, understands at once, a bizarre mixture of irritation and relief flitting across his face. “You are joking, right?”

 

Connor shrugs somewhat helplessly, with just a hint of exaggerated apology. “I… didn’t mean to?”

 

“It wasn’t down to Connor,” Hank says, a large hand coming to rest on Connor’s shoulder as though any distance between them is unacceptable. Connor wholeheartedly agrees, even if he may actually be projecting. It’s been a long time, far too long, since anyone has touched him with casual affection. He swallows hard round the sudden lump in his throat that particular thought causes.

 

“No?” Niles asks, one eyebrow raising, and Connor snaps back into the here and now, where conversations are still taking place and life still goes on and he can’t just tap out for a few hours to dwell obsessively on the fact that his assigned android partner just kissed him, freely and unprompted.

 

“I’d rather not explain myself,” Hank says, and there’s an unmistakable challenge in his tone that’s almost enough to give Connor whiplash from how quickly he turns to look at the android. There’s something there that wasn’t there before - not to get too Disney about it - but there’s an undercurrent of something Connor can recognise but not explain, and it shivers pleasantly down his spine. “Isn’t my word enough?”

 

“I would love to say it is,” Niles says, slowly, carefully. Distance and time may have dulled Connor’s knowledge of his brother’s mannerisms and the motivations behind them, but the suspicion is plain on Niles’ face, unhidden and obvious. “It’s a bit convenient, don’t you think? Gaining free will just as the case is taken from you?”

 

Connor tenses, from the backs of his ankles right up to the nape of his neck, the anxiety snapping right back into place. He hadn’t realised how much lighter he felt without it until it was back. “He’s not lying.” The defending statement sounds hollow, even to his own ears.

 

“I want to believe that.” Niles inclines his head in a vaguely apologetic gesture. “But this just smacks of CyberLife’s underhandedness. And it’s no secret you’ve been partnered with an easily manipulated officer.”

 

It takes Connor a moment to recognise the barbed jab for what it is but, in his defence, Hank did just absolutely lay one on him. But the attentions of jacked androids aside, once Connor focuses on the insulting statement, anger flares doubly hot in his chest. “The fuck is that meant to mean?”

 

Niles throws him a flat glance. “It’s rather self-explanatory.”

 

“Well explain because it fucking sounded like an insult.”

 

“It wasn’t meant that way, but if you want to be oversensitive about it.”

 

“I’ll give you oversensitive, you high-maintenance son of a—“

 

Hank makes that shrill sound again, the same one from the tower, that pierces the air and grates like heavily artifacted feedback and static. Connor and Niles flinch simultaneously, hands flying up to cover their ears.

 

“We don’t have time to bicker like children,” Hank snaps, looking irritated. “You’re going to take the case, Agent, but I want one last look at the evidence. There’s something we’re missing and this time, I want to be on the right side when we find it.”

 

Niles scoffs. “See, all I’m hearing is “let me see the evidence because I got taken off the case before I could finish the job CyberLife sent me to do”, and I’m not buying it.” Niles’ gaze turns icy. “I don’t have a single shred of evidence that suggests you’re not acting exactly the way CyberLife planned you to. Anything to accomplish your mission, that’s how it is, isn’t it?”

 

Connor hears the way Hank’s jaw clenches, teeth clacking together with an audible snap. His LED stutters, the blue interrupted by rapid surges of red, almost too fast to catch but Connor’s been fixed on it for a long time; a way to tell what’s going on in the android’s fathomless head.

 

“What are you hoping to find?” Niles pushes and Connor holds his breath, waiting for the inevitable explosion when the building tension finally snaps. “What is your endgame here?”

 

Connor looks to Hank. It’s a fair question, one he’d actually like to know the answer to, especially now that everything is… well, a mess , to put it lightly. A clusterfuck , to be more accurate about it. Hank looks back at Niles with a blank slate of calm for an expression, unnerving in its numbness, not even a twitch of synthetic muscle belying his feelings. That he now definitely has. Or, at least, Connor hopes he has. Because that’s what Niles is saying, isn’t it? That this is all a farce and Hank is still firmly under CyberLife’s control, trying to finish his mission whatever way he can. And now that it’s been said, Connor can’t shake the words out of his own head, can’t stop the creep of foreboding chilling his spine.

 

“There are deviants all over Detroit,” Hank says, low and careful, “who have nowhere to go. Now that the FBI is involved, how long do you think it will be before they’re found and destroyed? Are you really egotistical enough to believe that you can assist them in any capacity with an asshole like Perkins around? What I want is to put myself on the right side of this revolution.”

 

Niles nods slowly. “Okay. But I’m not helping you do it,” he finally says, one shoulder raising in a brief shrug. “I don’t trust you, and Connor’s word isn’t enough for me— Don’t bother, I won’t hear it.” He levels a glare at Connor before he can even open his mouth to argue. “Leave the case. Just let it go, I’ll handle it. I’m not risking this whole thing for one android who might not even be deviant.”

 

“So what is Hank meant to do now?” Connor demands the second Niles shuts up. “If he is deviant he can’t go back to CyberLife, they’ll destroy him.”

 

“Not my problem.” Niles stuffs his hands in his pockets and Connor is suddenly struck with how similar this is to arguing with his own stubborn reflection. Niles has always been nothing but tenacious, impossible to sway once he’s determined. And as much fun as it would be to watch Hank attempt to break him down, Connor’s nerves are already frayed enough for today.

 

“Thanks for your help,” he intones, putting a hand on Hank’s arm to stand him down. A thrill runs up his arm when he feels the synthetic muscle under his palm relax. “If that’s all, you can go.”

 

Niles’ jaw twitches and Connor can almost hear his teeth grinding together. “Don’t be a fool,” is all his brother says before heading for the door. The muted click of the latch closing might as well be a gunshot in the silence Niles leaves behind.

 

“Idiot,” Connor mutters into the quiet. “All these years and he’s still so damn stubborn.”

 

“I’m so glad,” Hank says dryly, “that I got partnered with the more agreeable twin.”

 

Connor snorts. “That’s one way of putting it.”

 

Hank exhales in what might be a laugh and Connor swallows hard, staring so hard at the door his eyes unfocus. Forget what Hank is meant to do now, what the fuck is Connor meant to do now? He’d been so caught up in Hank’s deviation and Niles’... dickheadedness that he hadn’t even stopped to think that he might be aboard a ship that can do nothing else but sink. He’s off the case, Amanda’s going to personally kill him for bowing out, and now he’s stuck harbouring an android that CyberLife are almost definitely going to want back.

 

True to form, Connor ignores all that.

 

“Is it true?” His voice is soft, barely there, but Hank hears, of course he does. He turns his head, Connor sees him out of the corner of his eye, to look at him. His expression is fuzzy, out of focus, but Connor isn't brave enough to look round. There have been several times in his life where everything would have been easier if he’d just kept his mouth shut, and this is definitely one of those moments. Unfortunately, he’s never been good at making things easy for himself.

 

“Connor?”

 

He flinches like he’s been caught doing something he shouldn’t, like he has no right to his private thoughts, and the words fall out in a rush. He may have a right to them, but he doesn’t want them, the twisting, distrustful seeds of doubts Niles sowed so easily.  “Did you deviate?” Connor wrings his hands together, shoulders so tense they’ve risen up to his ears. “Or is Niles right? I mean, you could lie to me, I’d believe you. It’s not like I’d know if you weren’t— You know. But… I don’t know why I’m asking. I guess I just…”

 

A shadow passes over him and then there’s a cool hand covering his, so wide it almost hides them both, halting his nervous fidgeting. Hank’s hand looks different, and Connor frowns for a moment before his eyes blow wide and he snaps his head up to catch Hank’s gaze. LED whirring a yellow mile a minute, the android holds his gaze for a heavy few seconds before dropping it down to their joined hands. Hank’s synthetic skin has drawn back to his wrists, disappearing under the dark sleeve of that too-small police uniform. The stark white of his polymer chassis is bare, the joints of his knuckles and the softer pads near his thumbs look strangely delicate despite their size.

 

“If you were like me,” Hank murmurs, voice a low purr and oddly unsure, “I could show you. Without words I could… Tell you everything, show you it all. I… I don’t know what I’m feeling, Connor. You have to understand, I have nothing: no experience, no guidelines. I don’t have the words to explain what’s happening inside my… Inside me . All I know is, all of these feelings, all this crazy shit … Feels better when I’m with you.”

 

Connor tries to swallow, chokes a little bit around a dry mouth. “You said it wasn’t…”

 

Hank smiles, a small uptick of his mouth that makes his eyes honest to god sparkle, blue and bright and warm . “What, I told your brother I didn’t deviate because of you? What right does he have to that knowledge? Far as I’m concerned, the only person who deserves to know that is you.” Slowly, he brings Connor’s hands up to his mouth, brushes his lips softly over the backs of them, then holds them there and sighs so gently. The breath warmed by his internals ghosts across Connor’s skin, raising goosebumps all down his arms. He shivers lightly and feels the curve of Hank’s smile against his hands.

 

“I...” A hundred words scramble around Connor’s mind, all trying to get out at once but not a single one of them makes sense, no matter what order he tries to put them in. Hank is right, if Connor were like him, he could peel his skin back too and they could understand each other without a single word spoken aloud between them. But humans can’t do that, and wishing Hank were human seems wrong somehow. Because this Hank right in front of him is the one offering Connor his… Heart? Trust? Whatever it is, it’s making Connor’s lungs fill with something almost too difficult to breathe past. But he’ll trade a thousand easy breaths if it meant Hank will look at him like this forever.

 

“I, uh, I need…” Connor dips his head with a shaky exhale, trying to order his whirling thoughts.

 

“Tell me,” Hank says, endlessly beguiling and gentle in the way he’s only ever been with Connor.

 

“I need…” Connor laughs faintly. “To feed my dog. And my, uh, me. I can’t… Get my brain to work right now.”

 

Hank steps away with a low chuckle. “That’s fine. You’re right, you should eat. Today has been a lot. I’ll leave you be.”

 

“No—!” Connor cringes at how loudly he all but yells the word. “I mean, um. You should probably. Stay. You’re not— You shouldn’t go back to the precinct. Not. Cyberlife could be… You can stay here. Where you’ll be safe.”

 

Good going, Anderson. Smooth.

 

Hank nods, glancing over to the couch where Capsicum has her head resting on the arm, glaring at the both of them balefully. “I suppose I could take a free corner. I’d hate to make her dinner late and then kick her out of her spot.”

 

Connor snorts and shakes his head to clear it, stepping back towards the kitchen. “No, she sleeps on my bed with me. Unless you want to let her take the couch and take her space with me.” A beat passes and Connor’s face flares crimson. “Oh god, I didn’t mean— That came out wrong.”

 

But Hank is already laughing, arms folded and the most playful smile on his face. Connor’s stomach swoops pleasantly but he still turns his back resolutely and starts rummaging through his cupboards for anything remotely substantial. It’s slim pickings, but there’s a box of cereal that should suffice for now. He really needs groceries. Preferably after they figure out what to do about the deviants, but before he sorts his life out.

 

It’s good to have priorities.

 

But speaking of—

 

“Not a chance,” Hank cuts in before Connor can speak. He ignores Connor’s scowl and plucks the cereal box out of his hands. “I’ve ordered food for you. Something more nutritional than cereal with no milk.”

 

“This is a house of interruptions! And I have milk!”

 

“No, you had a carton of something sour and congealed. I disposed of it before it could become a biohazard.”

 

“I didn’t think nutritious takeouts were a thing.”

 

“Oh, they are.” Hank grins at him. “And I ordered you plenty of green stuff.”

 

“Oh, you bastard.”

 

Hank smiles and laughs and Connor lets out a soft chuckle in spite of himself while Capsicum makes her presence known with an irritable huff as she hops off the sofa, trotting over to headbutt Connor’s leg pointedly until he fills her food bowl. Hank settles himself down stiffly on one end of the sofa and the television flares to life after a brief pulse of his LED. Connor flounders for a solid minute and a half before he works up the nerve to sit beside the android, a respectable distance away, one leg tucked underneath him and body turned towards Hank with the intent of conversation.

 

“Tomorrow,” is all Hank says, but it’s all he needs to say to get Connor nodding in agreement.

 

“Amanda will call me in,” Connor explains, running fingers through untidy hair. “I’m not sure if she’ll know I dropped the case or if Niles’ll make it look like Major Crimes are just taking over, but either way, once I step out of her office, we lose all access to the evidence we gathered.”

 

“Which isn’t much to begin with.” Hank flicks through channels aimlessly, whether to actually find something interesting or just for want of something to do, Connor isn’t sure but lets him do it anyway.

 

“What do we have?” Connor ticks off on his fingers. “Two deactivated androids, a weird wooden statue, a notebook in an indecipherable language, and… Yeah, that’s it.”

 

Hank frowns. “Two?”

 

“Yeah, the maintenance ‘droid from Stratford and the housekeeper from the hostage case. We requisitioned it with CyberLife’s cooperation to see if we could get anything out of it but the techs said it’s beyond reactivation.”

 

Hank’s eyes go weirdly blank, still focused on Connor, but like a shutter has gone down over them. Connor chances a quick look to Hank’s LED to make sure he hasn’t just powered down, but the ring is still swirling, though it’s dipped to an insure yellow.

 

“I don’t like thinking about that,” Hank murmurs after a moment, eyes still dead. “I think I understand now. He must have been so scared…”

 

“Well, sure…” Connor chews his lip, uncertain of what to say. “But… You did the right thing, saving that girl. I read up on it after you told me and… You did good. Hostage situations are tough.”

 

“I didn’t even think twice about signalling for the snipers,” Hank continues, pained. “I didn’t think he was alive. Deviants were aberrations. Error-filled coding. But now, I…” His eyes slowly fill with feeling again and Connor is shocked to realise that’s what has been so different all this time. Hank’s eyes. Before they were dull and emotionless, hard and manufactured optical scanners. Now, those bright blue eyes are full of life , and convey more than words ever could.

 

Hank is hurting.

 

“We’ll help them,” Connor says at once, reaching for one of Hank’s broad hands before he can stop himself, resting his own over the back of one where it rests on Hank’s thigh. The synthskin is soft, covered with light, greyish hair a little too coarse to be human. “You want to make amends? That’s fine, we can do that. We just need a plan, before the FBI gets in and ruins everything. You should know by now humans do stupid shit when they’re scared and confused.”

 

“Maybe we aren’t so different, then.” Hank smiles faintly and covers Connor’s hand with his right. “Thank you.”

 

“So here’s my thinking,” Connor blurts, cheeks red and eyes fixed on where they are definitely holding hands. “Tomorrow, once Amanda is done with me, I’ll cause a distraction. You get down to evidence and find out anything you can from what we’ve got. After, we’ll come back here and decide what to do. Sound good?”

 

“What kind of distraction?”

 

“I’m not sure yet.” Connor offers Hank a sly smile. “But I’ll make it a good one.”

 

Hank returns the smile a little more hopefully. “You’re a very reassuring person.”

 

Throat tight, Connor swallows thickly, cheeks heating unbearably. “I… I try? I know what it’s like to feel hopeless, so I guess I want...” He looks away, unable to keep his eyes on Hank’s expression that’s coming dangerously close to admiration. Connor is not admirable. He’s barely even passable and he knows that. But Hank makes him feel like… Like—

 

The shrill ringing of the doorbell signals the food delivery, and the moment is lost.





Sleep comes in uneven waves all night, leaving Connor to catch infrequent moments of respite whenever his mind will let him rest. He’s not sure if he’s withdrawing without the pills or just anxious about literally everything , but even Capsicum’s warm weight over his legs brings little comfort. Hank’s presence in the living room is a constant reminder, too, of that kiss, the deviation, and everything else that hangs over their heads, waiting for them to make their move. If insomnia wasn’t such a familiar friend, Connor would almost certainly be tearing his hair out.

 

With any luck, tomorrow will bring some clarification - whether large or small - one what steps they can take next. Connor is painfully aware that he’s closed them off from any assistance from the DPD after this; dropping the case and letting Niles take over. It’ll be just him and Hank against the rest of the world after this and, unless they can figure something out, the deviants will be found and destroyed.

 

Because that’s where they’re at now. The news article had popped up in his cell’s notifications shortly before he retired to bed, the alert that all androids were to be recalled and handed over to the authorities. It had been somewhat blindsiding, a simple enough message, yet carrying the weight of a sentence condemning thousands of people to destruction, and no one was batting an eye. Because of course no one else cares. Niles has said there were people out there who did, who believed androids should have rights, but after the march they’d likely be nearly impossible to find. If he and Hank do this, they’re doing it alone.

 

Connor pulls a pillow over his eyes with a groan and Capsicum snuffles at him sleepily, tail giving a brief wag as if to acknowledge his frustration. No matter what angle he looks at this from, they have nothing. No concrete leads or promising clues to follow. Unless Hank can find some miracle in the pile of trash they have in the evidence lockup, they’re just as screwed as they were when Hank first showed up. Every trail they follow disappears, scatters like those poor deviants at the march, narrowly escaping with their lives.

 

Connor sits bolt upright, throwing the pillow across the room and nearly dislodging Capsicum. She grumbles as he scrambles out of bed, tripping over the sheets tangled round his legs and colliding heavily with his door.

 

“Connor?” Hank’s voice drifts from down the hall as Connor flings the door open and hits the light switch, temporarily blinding himself. “Are you alright?”

 

“The deviants!” Connor shouts, squinting at Hank’s blurry form as his eyes adjust to the sudden onslaught. “They disappear!”

 

“I’m not following you. Did you have a nightmare? Your vitals signalled the end of an REM cycle well over an hour ago.”

 

“No, no!” Connor flaps his hands, uncoordinated and possibly slightly stunned from the collision with his door. “The deviants! The march! They’re all going somewhere, they must have a place! We’ve never found a deviant that hasn’t been on the run or— Or escaping! They’re not hiding out on the streets pretending to be human, they aren’t out in the open, they’re hiding! I bet they have a place, we need to find it!”

 

“I understand. How?”

 

Connor stops flapping. “I. Have no idea. The… The evidence! There must be something in there. They all kept saying rA9, maybe it’s code for a place?”

 

Hank shakes his head and leads Connor through the kitchen with a hand on the small of his back. “The deviants we encountered said rA9 was some kind of saviour. It doesn’t add up that it would be a place. But I can see your logic and it makes sense. They must be hiding somewhere.”

 

Connor rubs his eyes and switches on the sink faucet to splash his face with cold water. After a few moments the last remnants of weariness are gone and he hits the button of the coffee machine to assist with the whole conscious-and-coherent thing.

 

“Connor, it’s four in the morning.”

 

“Good, we can get a head start on the day.” Mug in hand, Connor heaps in sugar before pouring in the coffee and stirs it a few times before fixing Hank with what is probably a slightly maniac look. “Niles said something to me, I was a bit preoccupied but it stuck in my mind. I think that asshole accidentally let something slip.”

 

“Which was?”

 

Connor pauses and delivers the word like he’s presenting the most revolutionary fact of the century. ““Jericho”.”

 

Hank tilts his head. “The biblical city?”

 

“I mean, I assume the name is symbolic. I don’t really think deviants are jetting over to Israel somehow.”

 

Hank sighs in what Connor hopes is more fondness than irritation. “Alright. Symbolic for what? Why did Niles mention it?”

 

“He asked me if I knew anything about it, then seemed relieved when I didn’t. I’m guessing because if I knew about it then you’d know about it, and Niles doesn’t trust you as far as he could throw you.”

 

The phrase prompts a snort from Hank. “So I need to see if any of our evidence points to anything relating to Jericho.”

 

“It’s not much, but it’s something,” Connor reasons, cautiously optimistic. “And we could use anything right now.”

 

“Agreed.” Hank eyes the mug in Connor’s hands. “What are my chances of getting you back into bed?”

 

Your chances are probably higher than anyone else’s,” Connor quips, then inhales his coffee in an effort to choke himself as the mortification sets in.

 

“Noted,” Hank says because apparently he also wants Connor dead. “We’ll leave at seven at the earliest. So get your ass back in there.” He points towards the bedroom and Connor swallows at the playfully authoritative tone.

 

Too many revelations for one night. This one can be thoroughly examined at a later date.

 

Preferably not alone.

 

Good lord .





True to form, Connor barely gets any more sleep before he deems six-oh-three an acceptable time to get back out of bed and into the shower. When he emerges, Hank has breakfast ready - actual honest to god bacon and eggs that Connor is pretty sure he did not have in the house and that Hank must have gone out to get, but it’s so good that Connor doesn’t argue and just wolfs down gratefully. After a fresh cup of coffee and two cigarettes smoked out the back door, Connor pulls on his jacket and Hank lets them leave for the precinct even though it’s not quite seven.

 

“Nervous?” Connor asks as he takes the turning for the precinct parking lot, glancing over to Hank for any sign that his partner is as anxious as he is.

 

“Maybe,” Hank says, unbuckling his seat belt as Connor parks and yanks the handbrake up. “I know what I need to do, but I’m apprehensive about the outcome, and what your idea of a distraction is going to be.”

 

Connor nudges Hank with his elbow. “Listen, let me tell you a little secret we have on the force. It’s called “winging it”. You do your thing, let me do mine.”

 

“Somehow,” Hank says drily, “that actually helps.”

 

“I know, I’m great.”

 

The precinct isn’t quite in day shift mode when they get inside, the night crew just finishing up and milling around while the earliest of the day staff begin to arrive. Connor makes a beeline for his desk, Hank close behind, and logs in so Hank can download all the files they have access to.

 

“This is gonna be it,” Connor whispers as Hank touches a white finger to the terminal. “After today we’re on our own in this.”

 

“I understand,” Hank murmurs back. “Last chance.”

 

“We can do this,” Connor assures him, as much for Hank’s benefit as his own. “It’s going to be okay.”

 

Hank nods and moves over to his own desk so Connor can sit down and play the painful waiting game until Amanda arrives and probably reads him the riot act for dropping his case. He chews the cap of a pen almost obsessively until Hank catches his attention and makes him spit it out and follows up with a lecture on orally transmitted germs. He pouts a bit after that, but Hank’s distraction helps, and he’s almost surprised when Amanda walks in a few minutes later.

 

Unfortunately, before she can get to her office and thus call Connor in, Perkins walks through the bullpen gate, Niles at his heels, with all the self-righteousness of God himself.

 

“Shit,” Connor curses and gets to his feet. “Hank, it’s now or never.”

 

Hank is by his side in an instant, a steadying hand on Connor’s arm. “Are you sure you know what you’re doing?”

 

Connor smiles at Hank, a sly uptick of his mouth that has the android frowning warily. “I got this,” Connor says, clapping Hank on the shoulder. “Trust me?”

 

Hank’s face softens a touch and Connor swallows the flutter that starts in his stomach and ripples up his throat. “Always,” Hank says and the softness is so unexpected and somewhat unnecessary that Connor goes a little weak in the knees. He shakes it off anyway, grateful but determined, and slaps his keycard into Hank’s open palm.

 

“Move fast,” Connor says hurriedly. “And remember “Jericho”.”

 

He doesn’t give Hank a chance to answer before he throws all self-doubt and reservations out the window, striding across the bullpen to where Niles is standing, chin held high and expression professionally blank while Perkins makes a beeline for Stern.

 

Now or never, Anderson. Let’s do this.

 

“Niles, you fucking cocksucker!” The words echo round the precinct and several heads turn at once, including the aforementioned cocksucker whose eyes widen almost comically. Connor fixes his Lieutenant Glare into place and storms up to Niles with clenched fists. He sends up a silent prayer of forgiveness to his brother that he hopes their twin telepathy will somehow pick up on after all these years for what he’s about to do. “I can’t believe you slept with Elijah Kamski so you could take my case away from me!”

 

Niles gapes at him, his normally unflappable countenance pretty fucking flapped for probably the first time in his life, and Connor hopes he catches the brief glimpse of his apologetic grimace before he punches his brother full in the face.

 

It would have been so satisfying for Niles to crumple like a sack of bricks under the weight of Connor’s punch. He’s absolutely certain Niles would have if the guilt hadn’t caused Connor to pull his punch at the last second. More’s the pity too, because Niles stumbles back and rights himself quickly, and does what all siblings would probably do in his position, when crying to mom isn’t an option.

 

Connor doesn’t have time to dodge completely, can only roll with the retaliating blow so it doesn’t shatter his cheekbone, but Niles is quick, and out for blood, because he follows up with a sharp but equally forceful strike with his left hand, that catches Connor off guard and off-balance, right on the bridge of his nose.

 

Connor hears the crunch of cartilage before he feels it, hears the sickening crack under Niles’ fist and the hot spurt of blood that follows. He reels back, staggering, and then the adrenaline isn’t enough and the pain roars in, hot, blinding, violet-tinged pain that whites out his vision and sends a bitter surge of nausea through his gut. He chokes on a mouthful of blood, the urge to drop to his knees and cradle his face almost overwhelming. He gets halfway there, doubled over, head bowed, but he slows his breathing on instinct, peering through watering eyes at Niles’ obnoxiously shiny shoes as they turn away from him, and his window of opportunity opens wide.

 

Connor goes in low this time, right for the back of Niles’ knees and causing his brother to fold at the joints like a deckchair. He sends them both crashing to the floor and with a well timed roll, brings the heel of his boot down hard on the centre of Niles’ chest. The air leaves his lungs in a harsh rush and Connor scrambles up to grab his lapels hauling him over onto his front and wrenching his right arm round to pin it at the small of his back.

 

He doesn’t have the upper hand for long, nor was he expecting to. Two pairs of hands seize his arms and haul him away, the click of handcuffs ringing dully in his ears before the buzz morphs into Amanda and Perkins’ furious voices yelling about federal offences and suspension. In a fit of pique Connor spits a mouthful of blood onto the floor, and then the uniforms restraining him are heaving him and his throbbing face away from Niles and his fucking asshole of a boss.

 

And so you managed to end a promising career in just ten minutes, Anderson. How does that feel?

 

Connor grins, sore and bloody, as the clear holding cell door locks into place with a pneumatic hiss.

 

Pretty fucking good.







Chapter Text

“I don’t even have the words, Connor.”

 

Amanda’s words are heavy with disappointment, thick with displeasure, and Connor would be absolutely writhing with guilt if he wasn’t holding an ice pack to his nose and focusing on not letting what feels like his entire brain gush out of his nostrils. He sniffs wetly and winces, eyes watering and dried blood cracking every time he so much as thinks about twitching a muscle anywhere on his face. He would definitely be drowning in remorse if Amanda had pulled him into her office to express her disappointment at any other time. Now, he can hardly find the drive to even attempt to look guilty. Especially with his face oh so very fucked up

 

“I don’t even know where to begin.”

 

Connor’s lucky he’s not still in holding. He’d been in there for all of thirty minutes while Perkins had raved about assault charges and bringing the DPD to its knees and ruining Connor’s career, until Niles had calmly stated he wouldn’t be pressing charges and that Connor had been under a lot of stress recently and lots of other things that had made Connor’s fists itch to hit him again, only stayed by the fucking agonised state of his face. And the fact that Connor can’t punch through reinforced glass. That was a rather large factor. 

 

Uniforms had ushered Perkins and Niles away to somewhere Connor wasn’t before Stern had him released and brought to his office. Which is where they are now, Connor side-eyeing Amanda with his head tilted back and an ice pack held over his very broken nose. 

 

“I’m sorry,” Connor mumbles stiltedly. It comes out more like “Ibe sowwy”, but coherency aside Amanda doesn’t still look impressed. 

 

“I should fire you.” Her glare is sharper than broken glass and twice as cutting. “For that… fucking disgraceful display. Have you completely lost your mind?”

 

“Maybe,” Connor gives a little half shrug. “Honestly don’t know what came over me.” Each word sends a lance of pain through his face but he bears through it. “I understand that you have to give me a thorough dressing down, but my nose is hanging off so can we do this after that’s been sorted?”

 

“We can do it after your suspension,” Amanda seethes. “I don’t want to see your face in this precinct until I call you back. I want you back in therapy too. I’ve let this go on for too long.”

 

Connor’s too tired to argue. “Fine.”

 

“And you, ” Amanda looks over Connor’s shoulder and he turns awkwardly to follow her gaze, starting when he sees Hank less than two feet away. He hadn’t even heard him come in. 

 

“I’m returning to CyberLife,” Hank says flatly. “My superiors thank you and the Department for your cooperation in this investigation. Now that the case has been passed over to the FBI, my presence is no longer needed.”

 

“Meaning it ever was?” Amanda narrows her eyes at him. “Get out of my precinct. Both of you.”

 

Connor hauls himself to his feet, offering Amanda a tired salute in lieu of a sarcastic remark. Hank follows him out, a careful distance behind him as they leave through the deafeningly quiet bullpen. 

 

Once outside, Connor leans against the wall and swears a bluestreak into the frigid November air, clutching his face in pain. 

 

“I knew I shouldn’t have trusted your idea of a distraction,” Hank says with no small amount of dismay. “Let me see?”

 

Connor straightens up with a great deal of effort, eyes streaming from the sting of the cold air. “Careful,” he hisses through his teeth. “Fucking hurts.”

 

“I’m sure,” Hank mutters, taking Connor’s face tenderly in his hands. His thumbs brush gently over Connor’s cheek bones and even that soft caress is enough to make his face throb. “Oh, Connor…”

 

‘Oh Connor’ swallows hard at the softness of Hank’s tone, rendered speechless by the concern now plainly visible in those gentle blue eyes. He licks his dry lips, tries to say something, but Hank suddenly jams his thumbs into Connor’s nose, setting the misaligned cartilage with a sickening crunch. 

 

“Mother fuck !” Connor howls, reeling back and clutching his face. “Son of a bitch fucking shit!” His eyes stream relentlessly and a fresh wave of dizzying pain throbs through his head, but the resulting ache lessens once the shock passes, even if it takes a good few minutes for all his muscles to loosen. “Unnecessary. Uncalled for. Fuck you.”

 

Hank snorts, thick arms folded across his chest. “I was helping. You don’t want your nose setting crooked, do you?”

 

Connor squints at him through wet eyes. “I’ve never hated anyone more than I hate you right now. Oh my god. It feels like you jammed a poker into my fucking brain. Christ.

 

Hank weathers Connor’s ineffectual verbal garbage for all of thirty seconds before grabbing the Lieutenant’s arm and hauling him towards the precinct parking lot. “Look, I know your face is broken, but we haven’t got much time. Remember that we’re working against the clock in more ways than one. We’ve got the FBI to contend with, as well as whatever the shit the androids are planning, and I’m doubting it’s going to be pretty if those two collide.”

 

“So what did you find?” They stop beside Connor’s car while he unlocks it so they can get in. Hank’s expression is grave, and he settles into the passenger seat with an uncomfortably long pause. 

 

“Nothing.”

 

Connor blinks. “Noth— Nothing ?”

 

Hank won’t look at him. His gaze is fixed firmly ahead, his LED a solid gold ring at his temple, jaw set in a hard line. A minute shake of his head has Connor slumping against the steering wheel, forehead against folded arms. 

 

Probably the most proactive facet of Connor’s anxious nature is his ability to cycle through multiple scenarios in relatively little time. Some might call it jumping to the worst conclusion, but he’s always been able to foresee some version of possible events through worrying about them obsessively, which leaves him always at least half prepared, if a little edgy and nauseous. But this. This is so far beyond unexpected it’s like a punch to the gut. They have nothing. No plan, no back up, no safety net to catch them. 

 

“Fuck,” Connor says, for lack of anything else. 

 

“Fuck,” Hank repeats in solemn agreement. Any other time maybe it’d get a laugh out of Connor, but now? It’s hard to even breathe through the oppressive cloud of hopelessness. 

 

“I’m sorry, Hank,” Connor says after an age, voice flat. “I really thought we’d… I don’t know, I thought we’d have something to work with.”

 

Hank nods slowly. “Yeah, so did I.” He reaches forward to interface with the automatic drive screen and Connor leans back from the wheel to let the car do its thing. They don’t talk for most of the drive back to Connor’s place. There’s not much left to be said. They’re out of options now; Connor barely left with any good grace on Amanda’s part to return to his job, and Hank with nowhere left to go now that he’s defective. 

 

It feels cruel to think that way, to name Hank defective, but by Cyberlife’s standards he is. Connor isn’t sure what they’d do to him if he went back, but it doesn’t seem like they would let him carry on deviant. They’d reset him. Or, more savagely, destroy him. Resetting seems worse somehow, wiping away everything that he is, everything he’s become, to install a factory settings Hank, a Hank that doesn’t know kindness or humour. A Hank that doesn’t like Connor because he can’t feel things like that.

 

Connor feels sick. They’ve come so far— They were so close. And now they’re back to square minus one thousand. 

 

It’s by unspoken agreement that they return to Connor’s home. Where else could they even go? He lets them in and pats Capsicum distractedly when she comes to greet them, but Hank lingers in the doorway, expression grave. Connor turns to offer him… something. Some kind of reassurance or comfort, but he draws a blank, and feels all kinds of useless. 

 

“You risked everything to help me,” Hank finally says, quietly, LED a flickering yellow with the occasional dip of red. “It nearly cost you your life and your job. I can’t ask you to do any more.”

 

“You’re not asking,” Connor argues. “I’m offering. I mean, the offer is there. I’ve not actually offered, but of course I’ll do whatever I can.” He’s jittery and rambling, he’s keenly awareof the throb in his face and really needs some painkillers, but he persists. “I don’t want to sit by while you go do… Whatever it is you’re planning to do. Because I know you’re gonna do something stupid and that’s my thing. I want to help . I can’t just sit here and hope that the next android destroyed on the news isn’t you. We’re a team , Hank.”

 

“Connor-“ Hank starts, frustrated. It’s written all over his face but Connor feels sure in the assumption that he’s quickly running out of rebuttals. And if he is, Connor has a trump card, which he plays without hesitation. 

 

“If you don’t let me come with you,” Connor says before Hank can rally for another attempt to persuade him he can’t come, “then I’ll go on my own. I’ll. Find out where the androids are, and I’ll… Do something really stupid but really cool, and maybe get myself injured. Something that could’ve been avoided if you’d been with me.”

 

Hank stares at him. He closes his eyes and takes a deep breath he definitely doesn’t need and Connor thinks got him with a deep thrum of satisfaction. “You know Asimov’s first law is bullshit, right? And that I can absolutely strangle you to death?”

 

Connor scoffs. “You think you’re the first person to threaten me with death because I annoyed them? Fuck off, you’re not special.”

 

Hank barks a laugh, amused in spite of himself. “Damn you, Connor. Fine. Fine . But if you get shot, I’m leaving your ass on the ground.”

 

“Yes, sir, ” Connor chirps cheerfully though god it makes his face ache. “But that’s absolute bullshit and you know it. You’d throw me over your shoulder and carry me out of there like the hero you are. Secretly. Deep down.”

 

Hank looks bemused and Connor isn’t fairing much better. He’s exhausted and sore and would really appreciate having this conversation after a nap and some painkillers. He collapses onto his sofa with a groan and Hank finally leaves the doorway, heading to the freezer to find Connor some ice for the swelling. 

 

“Thanks,” he mumbles when Hank hands him a dish towel wrapped around some ice cubes. He didn’t even know he had an ice tray. It might’ve been the novelty one shaped like dicks that Reed got him last christmas as a secret santa gift. Who would’ve thought something Reed had done would come in handy one day? Not Connor, that’s for fuckin’ sure.

 

“You’re welcome to stay,” Connor says, hissing as he presses the ice pack to his face. The ache intensifies momentarily before easing off as the cold starts to soothe the throbbing. “I have a plug socket you can - beep - plug into.”

 

Hank snorts and tells him, good-naturedly, to get fucked. 

 

“We’ll talk later, okay?” Connor tells him, eyes sliding closed as the last of the morning’s adrenaline wears off. “Figure out what to do.”

 

“Sure,” Hank agrees, settling down in the armchair and putting the TV on for some quiet background noise. 

 

Slowly, Connor begins to relax, comforted by Hank’s presence and the soft sound of whatever is playing on the TV, anxiety briefly placated by the notion that, whatever happens, they’ll face it together. Capsicum hops up beside him to rest her head in his lap and, warm and comforted, Connor slips into sleep.

 

When he wakes up, the TV is still on, but Hank is nowhere to be found.