Chapter 1: Breath
It looked much, much different when it wasn’t snowing. The harsh, almost violent snow of the previous winter had almost masked the grand estate of Elijah Kamski to look like a somber place. Even without his deviance, Connor had felt the shudder of such a sight when he first saw this place. Then again, it was for a much darker reason they had gone back then.
Now, it was spring, and the Android stood at the start of the walkway leading to the doors. He glanced around, taking in the scenery surrounding the mansion now that it wasn’t covered in blankets of white. Lush gardens bloomed every which way, taking up his view with vivid colors and his olfactory senses with the smell of wood and pollen.
It was clear now that his theory was correct, Kamski really did design the Zen Garden. Here, it was like he had taken a little piece of the Zen Garden and placed it right in front of his living space. Without really thinking about it, he all too quickly found his eyes darting back and forth between each plant, identifying the species around him.
Rose, Peonie, Weeping Willow, Holly, Japanese Lily, Dogwood, clov-
A gruff, patronizing voice sounded from behind him, sounding almost scolding. Connor’s dark brown eyes closed slowly. A soft, single, perfect sigh breathed out of his nose before he turned his head back towards the voice, his default expression in place. Hank was leaning back against the side of his car, his arms folded and his brow tilted in a way that suggested he was feeling irritation, although his stress levels were normal.
“You’re stalling. I know you are. Knock it off. Put on your big boy pants and get in there,” the Lieutenant nodded towards the building approximately forty-three meters in front of him. “I didn’t drive you all the way the fuck out here for nothin’,” his jaw then visibly clenched, then unclenched, suggesting that he was also feeling impatient with Connor. Although, he was only at low risk for giving up and driving away, so the Android didn’t feel the need to take too many precautions just yet.
go analyzing me to see how much you can piss me off!” Hank suddenly snapped out of nowhere, his stress levels rising just a bit when he did. “I
leave whenever the hell I say so, so don’t get any ideas!”
“Wouldn’t dream of it, Lieutenant,” Connor’s gentle voice barely even spoke, seeming a bit too preoccupied to respond properly while he slowly turned back towards the building. He went through the dialogue in his head a few hundred more times for just a moment, his eyes flicking around while he predicted every outcome, every failure, every victory, every single possibility that could possibly happen. His right hand jittered for a moment, his fingers twirling around as if to keep his coin airborne between them.
A small fraction of the corner of his eye twitched in shame at the thought of even asking. Connor knew for a fact that the answer would be a crude “no”, but he was deviant for a reason now, wasn’t he?
“Hank, can I-”
Connor. No coin. You can’t have the coin. Get that outta your metal head right now,” the older man shook his head, rolling his eyes a bit. “I told ya, it’s a distraction for everyone. This just needs to be you, and her, got it? You’ve forced me to go over this with you a million times now-”
“Actually, fifty-three times,” the detective corrected quickly, glancing back behind him for a moment just to make sure Hank wasn’t close enough to punch him.
“Har, har, har, smartass,” Hank lifted himself off the car, slowly walking up to Connor in a non-aggressive manner. He hesitated for a moment, however, sighing a bit before walking next to Connor and placing a hand on his shoulder, firmly, but in what seemed to be a guiding manner.
“... Listen. This is what you wanted to do, right? Your idea? I think it’s the right thing, so you can’t really go wrong,” he looked to the Android with a half-smile, his voice much softer and less passive-aggressive now. He was trying to be comforting, which was a good sign… Right?
Connor nodded ever so slightly, keeping his eyes fixated ahead of him while he gathered his thoughts, finding himself determined now, more focused.
“... If…” He started slowly, finally looking at Hank directly. “If I can’t go wrong… Does that mean I can-”
“Nope! Nice try, prototype. You’re on your own,” Hank chuckled a second and slapped him on the shoulder playfully, but it still made Connor stumble forward a bit. “Go get ‘em, tiger!” With a bit of enthusiasm in his words, he strode back to his car, opening the door and climbing inside.
“Android,” Connor corrected again back to Hank while he straightened himself back up and adjusted his tie a bit.
“You know what I meant!” Came the Lieutenant's voice right before the door shut, leaving Connor alone with the looming mansion in front of him.
It’s funny, the longer he’s been deviant, the more he imitated human behavior. Before it was just him trying to adapt, but now he genuinely found himself breathing deeply to maintain his focus and calm demeanor. Even though no oxygen was being supplied to his brain, it still made him feel the relaxation as if it did. Finally, he made himself move forward, his steps steady and purposeful. He reached the door, rang the bell, and stopped walking in a single motion. Efficient. Analytical.
A moment of silence later, the door opened, just enough to reveal the girl herself. Chloe. She stood there, her eyes widening for the briefest of moments before she smiled brightly, seeming like a radiance was beaming off of her.
“Oh! Hello, Connor!” She said brightly, moving up on her toes for a second playfully.
times he went over this with Hank. He knew exactly what to say, exactly what to expect, but he found himself stuck on the first syllable. He could practically hear Hank groaning in the car, but he couldn’t help it. He was stuck. Everything he had practiced saying flashed through his vision so fast that he couldn’t remember what to say first.
She was devient now. He knew the very second he lay eyes on her. He fully expected that, even calculated there was a 95.8% chance that she would be. But he had no idea what her real personality would be like. The cheerful greeting slapped him off guard even worse. His eyes flicked all around the room just inside of the door, going back to his basic programming in a desperate attempt to calm down again.
Granite floors, diamond chandelier, leather chairs, thirty-two watt light bulbs-
“Won’t you come in?” Connor’s analysis was interrupted by Chloe’s voice. He blinked several times to fully snap out of it before slowly dropping his gaze back to her. She was now holding her arm out in a gesture to invite him in. His fingers twitched desperately for a moment before he forced his leg up. It was like he was manually instructing himself to do something as simple as walk. His foot landed, marking his first step. Then he took another. Then another. His footsteps were so loud. Why were they so loud? Were they always this way?
Once he was fully inside, Chloe closed the door behind him quietly, quickly spinning back around and putting her hands behind her back, leaning back on her heels for a moment before standing straight again.
“I’ll let Kamski know you’re here,” she smiled softly at Connor before heading to a door on the right, her bare feet making much lighter tapping sounds than his own, apparently roudy feet.
“N-no, wait,” Conner’s hand reached up involuntarily in an attempt to stop her, but he quickly snapped it back down, suddenly a bit embarrassed from that. He cringed for a moment before setting his face back to default, just in time for Chloe to turn around and raise a curious eyebrow at him. She slowly walked back towards him, her steps so gentle she seemed to almost be floating. She stopped a few feet away from him, a soft frown appearing on her face. She was confused.
There was something he was supposed to say when she was confused. What was it? A factual approach? Empathetic? He was so focused on reading the emotion on her face, that it took him a second to find her eyes.
Connor did, however, end up looking in them. He looked in them for too long, his own eyes widening just a bit the longer he stared. His memories flashed across his vision. The gun, Kamski, Hank, and her eyes. It was her eyes that stopped him before. They were in the same position, the same distant stare. For some reason, in the reflection in her pupils, he swore he saw the barrel of the gun again.
“I’m sorry,” he blurted out, almost immediately suppressing the urge to cringe again. No. that was thirty-seven lines in. Why did he just jump to “I’m sorry”!? What happened to the plan!? His mission. It was ruined .
Chloe was taken aback at first, blinking frequently for a moment before letting out a soft laugh, her smile returning. “Connor, what on earth are you talking-”
“I tried to kill you. I’m sorry,” his tone became urgent, quickly stepping forward until he was directly in front of her. It caught Chloe off guard, her eyes widening when she leaned back a bit.
“I’ve regretted that moment every second since it happened,” Connor continued, not finding himself able to stop. “The image just… Haunts me…”
It was as if an entirely different script was taking over. Where was it coming from? Why was he doing this? He wasn’t thinking through it. He
to think through it. Analyze it. Make sure the best outcome was possible. But now it was as if his analyzation function was switched off. Was something breaking? Should he self-diagnose?
Chloe’s eyes narrowed at him, examining his face for a moment before her muscles relaxed. “... You’re deviant too, aren’t you?” She whispered. Her voice sounded so soft. So innocent. So… Pure. His script didn’t account for this.
“... Yes,” Conner breathed out slowly, his voice much less pressing sounding while his eyes dropped to the floor guiltily. Before he could get too far, however, Chloe’s soft, perfect hand touched his chin and gently lifted his gaze back up. His artificial breath caught in his throat. His systems locked up. He couldn’t go into his mind palace. He was Frozen.
“You didn’t kill me,” she said faintly, her thumb reaching up so that her hand touched his cheek. “I’m here. Why are you apologizing?”
“B-but I thought about it,” Connor sputtered, his body still stuck and his mind still racing. “I almost did it. I had my finger on the trigger-”
.” She insisted, now putting both of her hands to his face in a firm, yet gentle grasp. “You didn’t kill me. I’m right here, Connor. I’m alive. Do you see?” She brought his face a little closer, forcing him to stoop down a little to match her height. She smiled, her teeth glinting in the light with how wide the grin was. “... I’m more alive than I ever was now. I should be thanking you, not resenting you!”
“Wha-” Connor’s program was throwing error warnings everywhere in his mind. She wasn’t supposed to say this. They weren’t supposed to be this close. This wasn’t supposed to be happening. It wasn’t calculated to be this way. His analysis was wrong. Everything from here on was unknown.
And he was scared because of it.
“Yes, thanking you,” Chloe nodded enthusiastically, refusing to let Connor back away at this point. “Because you cared more about my life than you cared about your very program itself, I’m alive. I’m
, Connor. Thank you.”
With no warning whatsoever, she pulled the android down at an even more severe angle, yanking him into an embrace. Connor felt his program completely black out and shut down in that moment, completely unable to comprehend what just happened. His mind was blank for a moment, until a new feeling started taking over. A sensation he’d felt to some extent, but not like this. It was like standing a little too close to a fire, like friction against two pieces of wood, like touching a light bulb that had been left on for a few hours.
Connor wasn’t using his basic programming anymore to help him process. He was completely independent with his own actions. Just his own consciousness and his body. He purposely lifted his arms slowly, carefully wrapping them around Chloe until she was in his arms, resulting in a blissful sigh from the girl. It made him squeeze his eyes shut and hide his face in her shoulder, his hands gripping at the back of her dress. Somewhere in the back of his head, the fabric of her dress began to register.
3% polyester, 25%…
It faded away naturally, not overpowering him and taking him away from the present anymore. All he felt now was relief. Relief and comfort. That was all he cared about now. Not a script, not the guilt, not the fear. Just what was happening now. She was right. He didn’t do anything to her, and now she was Chloe. Not a servant, Chloe. And she had forgiven him.
And he could breathe.
Chapter 2: Explain
Hey guys! Just a quick preface here. In this timeline, everyone lived. That means Connor never went up on the rooftops, causing Simon to die. Thus, Hank never saw Connor scared.
Hank was back outside his car now, his hand over the roof and his fingers tapping the metal impatiently. At least, he tried to convince himself it was impatience, definitely not nervousness. But… Connor had been in there for fifteen minutes now. Every outcome of Connor's script timed out at seven minutes max. Hank knew the boy wouldn’t stay in there any longer than his speech called for, so what the hell was taking so long? It bothered him to the point where he was on the brink of going in there himself, when at long last the door opened, and a slouched Connor slowly trod out the door, his eyes fixed on the ground, obscuring Hank’s view of his expression.
“Connor!? What happened!?” He called out, almost tripping from how fast he jumped off his car and jogged up to the android. Connor barely even had time to stop before Hank was in front of him, skidding a bit before Hank put a hand on his shoulder to hold him still, finally able to get a good look at his face.
The only way Hank could describe it was confusion. Connor’s brow was furrowed and his mouth turned in a slight frown. But there was something else there too, he just couldn’t quite put his finger on what it was. It wasn't good, though. That much he could tell.
“... You alright?” He asked, not exactly in a gentle voice, but a bit quieter than he usually was. He squinted a bit at him, still trying to figure out what was going on.
“... She hugged me,” The young android’s tone confirmed the confusion, his face scrunching up a little more. He didn’t say anything else, still not looking up from the ground.
Hank hated to be so apparent, but he let a bit of breath out in relief, letting go of Connor’s shoulder and letting his shoulders slouch a bit. “Well… That is… Unexpected… Definitely not something we practiced… But you know that’s a good thing, right?” He tried to lift his voice up a bit in an attempt to make Connor look less troubled, but he only frowned more, now teetering on the edge of upset.
“She… She hugged me,” He repeated again, a bit more urgent sounding this time. He finally looked up at Hank, and it almost made the man jump from what he saw. The boy’s eyes were wide and troubled. Almost scared. Connor's breath was quick and irregular, his hands shook. He was a mess.
Hank had never seen Connor's emotions to this extent. He'd seen him nervous, but nothing like this.
“Did… did she… do anything else..?” Hank started to feel a bit of anger bubble up in him. That Chloe girl was made by the biggest creep he knew. Who knows what he could've programmed her to do? Especially now that she was deviant. Hank swore to god, if that girl laid a single perverted finger on Connor…
“She… invited me to come back again,” Connor seemed to calm down just a little, his breathing slowly returning to normal. “She wants to see me more often…” He was still a bit of a mess, but the panic subdued with that last sentence. In turn, it made Hank calm down too. Connor definitely would’ve mentioned if something worse would’ve happened… Right?
There was a moment of silence before Hank finally broke it, deciding they had spent too much time here already. And it wasn’t helping anyone being here.
“... Come on. Let’s get you home, son. We’ll talk about it more then,” Hank mumbled with a bit of a humph, taking Connor by the shoulder and guiding him back to the car. The Android followed willingly, letting Hank put him in the passenger seat without any resistance from him.
A couple of seatbelts and a motor revving later, and they were off, driving back to Hank’s house in a bit of a hurry. Hank left the music off on purpose this time, figuring ear-piercing guitar was something Connor wouldn’t want to hear at the moment. Hank wasn’t in the mood, anyway. Every once in a while he would glance over at the boy, only to find that he was always staring dead ahead, motionless, blank. A few times he was afraid Connor had shut down or something, but then he would blink or he would see his chest rise and fall. Each time he would step on the gas a little harder, just wanting to get Connor somewhere familiar and safe.
At long last, the car pulled into Hank’s driveway, the turn sharp and reckless from how fast it was, jerking the two inside the car to the side a bit violently for a moment. After he shifted the gear into park and unbuckled his seatbelt, Hank stopped for a moment, looking over at Connor, who was still staring blankly ahead.
“... You alright?” He asked. Connor could tell it was genuine this time. The slight tilt in his voice and the volume of which he spoke indicated worry. He didn't even try to hide it. The shock of such a thing coming from Hank snapped Connor out of his daze. Well, mostly.
“... I don’t know,” the Android admitted, finally speaking and changing his expression back to confusion. He heard Hank sigh, presumably in relief, before getting out of the car and heading to Connor’s side. This time, however, Connor had enough cognitive clarity that he got out himself, granted, a bit clumsily. Well, clumsy for him, anyway.
Still a bit shaken, he followed Hank up to the front door, stopping just behind him while he pulled out his keys. From inside the house, a deep, excited bark sounded from far away at first, but quickly scampered to just behind the door. The very second Hank opened the door wide enough, Sumo lunged out and jumped up onto Connor, licking his face profusely.
Connor was surprised at first, stumbling back quite a bit from the weight of such a massive dog, but once he recovered, he actually managed to crack just a little bit of a smile. He pushed back Sumo's head just a little so that he wasn't being ambushed as much, but still let him get a lick or two in.
“Sumo! Stop that!” Hank snapped at the dog, reaching out presumably to grab him by the collar and take him back inside. However, he suddenly stopped when Connor carefully put Sumo’s front paws back down on the ground and gave him a few gentle pats on the head, still smiling a little. In return, the dog sat down obediently, closing his eyes and wagging his tail profusely.
Sumo had taken an immediate liking to Connor as soon as he started living with Hank. For what reason, the Android wasn’t sure. While he had basic knowledge of dogs and their behavior pre-built in his program, it still wasn’t much. So while he was clueless as to why Sumo loved being around him so much, at the same time, he didn’t really mind it at all.
“... Get inside, you two,” Connor could hear the smile on Hank’s face while he gestured for them to follow as he stepped through the door. Sumo jumped in first, running in circles in the middle of the living room in excitement. Hank chuckled as he followed. Connor came next, his smile slowly disappearing again. But, he didn't have an aura of panic around him anymore. Thankfully, he was much calmer now.
“C'mere,” Hank gestured for Connor to sit at the table with him, taking off his coat and putting it on the back of his own chair. The Android hesitated for a moment before obliging, walking to, pulling out, and sitting in the chair across from Hank in one smooth motion. Efficient. Analytical.
Hank however, flopped down on his chair with a bit of a grunt, stretching for a second before putting his hands on the table and looking Connor directly into the eyes, unflinchingly. Normally this kind of stare would invoke fear in people, but this was more of a sincere look. He wanted Connor to know he wasn't playing around, that he was determined. And while Connor knew there was no malicious intent behind the stare, he still felt a bit of a chill, knowing what was coming next. He wasn’t looking forward to it.
“... Go on. Tell me,” Hank gestured for Connor to start talking. The Android released the breath in his artificial lungs, closing his eyes as he did. He couldn’t control how obvious it was that he didn’t want to talk about it. But he knew Hank was still staring at him, unmoving, stubborn. He wouldn’t give in this time.
Connor breathed in again and opened his eyes to find he was right. Hank was still in the same position with the same expression. He successfully predicted human behavior. Again. Connor let his eyes drop to the table in defeat, building up a bit of strength before finally making himself reveal to Hank the events that took place at Kamski’s mansion. Chloe’s cheerfulness, Connor’s impulsive actions, breaking the script, Chloe comforting him, everything. The whole time Hank only nodded occasionally, his stare still holding strong. Connor spoke about it in analytical, factual detail, like reading off a case file. That was, until he got to the hug.
His consistent, flawless report stuttered to a halt when his voice caught in his throat. Finally, Hank’s expression changed a bit, one of his brows raising at Connor’s sudden stop. The Android flinched a little, becoming visibly upset again. He took a deep, shaky breath before continuing, his voice now timid and inconsistent.
“She… She pulled me down, and… Hugged me. That’s all she did. But… It was like… My program completely switched off,” he fought to keep his voice steady, clearing his throat for a moment and squeezing his hands together under the table. “I… I couldn’t think like I usually did. I couldn’t analyze and predict. I didn’t know what was going to happen because of it. I was… Scared,” his voice finally faltered with that last word, causing him to cringe again and shake his head a bit, trying to snap himself out of it.
Hank’s stare turned more into an observation. It wasn’t pushing and prodding like the previous look. Much more relaxed, almost… Interested? Hank was interested now. Yes, that was it. He was leaning forward slightly and had one of his ears turned a bit towards Connor. For some reason, this stare was even more uncomfortable to Connor than the last one.
“... But…” He forced himself to go on, knowing there was no way out of this until he finished. “The missing program was replaced by… Something else. I… I think it was emotion,” the realization finally dawned on him, his own shoulders perking up just a little when he figured it out. “Yes… Yes, that’s what it was. I felt emotion uninhibited by my programming. It… It wasn’t a bad one. It was just so… Strong…”
Connor trailed off a bit, his eyes flicking back to Hank. The detective now had his hands clasped together, covering his mouth. A bad attempt at trying to hide what was clearly a smile.
“... What?” The Android stopped his story to squint at Hank, genuinely not understanding what he found so amusing.
“Nothin’, Nothin’, I just-” Hank waved it off a bit, keeping his hands over his mouth pointlessly. “Keep goin’. What happened next?”
Connor frowned, giving Hank a suspicious look before he continued, now keeping a closer eye on the Lieutenant. “It lasted a bit longer than I was comfortable with,” he continued. “But, she eventually let go. She asked me to stay longer so that we could socialize, and I declined, knowing you were waiting for me.” He was back to his perfect report again, his shoulders dropping a little when he relaxed. “She was disappointed, but didn’t push any further. She asked for a compromise that consisted of me returning to visit her again. I told her it was a possibility, and that’s when she showed me out the door… It’s… Strange… The second she closed the door behind me, my program seemed to activate again. But this time it was… Overwhelming.”
The now distressed again Android rubbed his palm with his thumb under the table, finding it hard to concentrate again. “I could still feel emotion, but… It was only unpleasant ones. Fear… Confusion… Doubt…”
“So, you want to do it?”
“W-what?” Connor’s head snapped up to look at Hank after the man had spoken. He was now leaning back in his chair with his hands behind his head, a knowing smirk plastered on his face.
“You want to visit her again, or what?” He asked the question so casually, so carelessly. He spoke as if the answer was such an easy one. A stuttered sound came from Connor’s throat from how taken aback he was. He flicked his eyes around the room nervously, again trying to sort out his own thoughts from his program.
A few deep breaths seemed to help calm him down again. Once he felt he was able, he slowly closed his eyes and thought about it. Did he want to? Not his program, but did he want to?
The answer came surprisingly fast to him. He let his eyes open again, taking a moment before answering.
“... Yes,” he said very quietly. For an unknown reason, he found the answer to be embarrassing. He dodged any eye contact with Hank, feeling a slight heat rise up to his earlobes.
“Great! How’s tomorrow sound?” Hank humphed in approval, standing up confidently. He opened his fridge door and pulled out a beer, popping off the lid and taking a swig while eyeing Connor, waiting for the answer.
“... Yes. Yes, I’d like that,” Connor nodded. He didn’t even try to hide it anymore. There was no point. It was exhausting to keep it up, and Hank most likely knew exactly what he was thinking now. It didn’t make it any less embarrassing, though. The heat spread down his neck, sending a chill down his arms.
“Alright, alright, calm down,” Hank chuckled a little and shook his head, taking another gulp while he started walking back into his room. “We gotta get you lookin’ nice. That dumb-ass jacket you wear isn’t gonna make her swoon.”
Chapter 3: Blue
The car ride seemed much, much longer the next day. Didn’t it only take half an hour to get there only the day before? To Connor, it felt like hours. For hours he sat in the passenger seat, looking out the window and blocking out the heavy metal music Hank just seemed to love to play at maximum volume. He rubbed his hands together and tapped his foot on the floor, showing signs of agitation. A human habit once again presenting itself in his behavior. He couldn't seem to control it. It was like it was… Automated. Impulsive.
“... I haven’t seen you this nervous in a while,” Hank commented, turning down the volume on the radio just a bit. Again, he sensed amusement in the man’s voice. Now the android started getting irritated at Hank’s enjoyment out of this.
“What’s so funny? What do you know that I don’t?” Connor uncharastically snapped at Hank, whipping his head around and glaring at him. His annoyance only grew when a smile formed on the Lieutenant's face. He was holding back laughter too.
“Connor, why do you think you’re so nervous?” Hank glanced over at him briefly, his smile shifting into a knowing smirk. The question caught the young Android off guard, but it did make him think. Why… Why was he so nervous?
“Because I…” Connor started, his tone dropping and his glare disappearing. “I…”
His gaze drifted downward, making an honest attempt at figuring it out. The reason was visiting Chloe, obviously. But why? What made him anxious about it? Was it the concept of socializing? Was it fear of failure?
In an effort to understand, he ran a dozen or so rough simulations and predictions in his head of what might happen in the following few hours. A careless attempt to get a bigger picture, but nonetheless the only thing he could think of.
Unsurprisingly to him, the situation that evoked anxiety the most was whenever he talked to Chloe. Yes, it was Chloe who caused it, but why? Why was it her? What made his therium pump run at abnormal speeds? What made his speech jam up like his voice processor was damaged? What caused his cognitive program to shut down? What made him… Feel so much?
Connor’s last resort at finding the answer was running the average statistics of the simulations to find the most probable answer, sorting through every reaction he had and every possibility he had ended up with. The statistics shuffled and jumped every which way around him, taking up almost his entire vision at this point. The closer it got to finishing, the more he felt his muscles tense in apprehension, honestly not knowing what results might show up.
Finally, the top result popped up in bright cyberlife-sans, flashing right in front of his eyes. It took him a second to fully process what it said, but when he did, he shook his head a bit in confusion.
That wasn’t possible.
He ran every simulation again, his eyes flicking around wildly to make sure everything was correct before getting the results again.
Connor snarled at the floor a bit, getting frustrated with himself now. He was specifically built so that this situation would never happen. Yes, he was deviant, but he wasn’t capable of such a thing. It really was impossible. Thus, he decided he simply had a small malfunction in his analysis systems. He didn't run a diagnosis to find out for sure. He didn't feel like he needed to. Or wanted to.
“... Because I don't want to deal with Kamski again,” Connor mumbled quietly, retreating back into his seat and folding his arms stubbornly. Hank suddenly burst into roaring laughter, swerving the car a bit from how severe the reaction was. It only made the poor Android sink back even further, moving to the opposite side of the car as far as he could.
“That's it? That's the best you could come up with!?” He was still laughing, reaching up and wiping a tear from his eye blissfully. “That was fuckin’ pathetic! Prototype detective, my ass! Your ears are blue, ya dumbass. You know exactly why you're nervous.”
Connor leaped out of his stupor when Hank mentioned his ears, flipping open the mirror on the car visor to see for himself. Horrifyingly, Hank was right. A dusting of bright blue glowed on the tips of his ears. Without any warning, a wall of embarrassment slammed into him with a force he'd never experienced until this moment. He didn't know why. It just happened. He couldn't control it. The overwhelming emotion only made it worse. The flustered boy covered his ears pointlessly, as it was spreading to his face now.
Hank shook his head, his laughter trailing off into snickers when he finally pulled up to Kamski's estate. It didn't help Connor's condition at all now that they were actually here. He gave up on trying to cover his face, letting his hands drop into his lap in defeat. Before the Android could get too upset, he felt Hank put his hand on his shoulder. It was the same reassuring, guiding grasp he'd felt the day before.
“Sorry, Connor. I shouldn't have laughed,” Hank was back to his normal tone of voice now, but a small smile remained stuck on his face. “This is the first time you're feeling this way, right? It's a lot to process, isn't it?”
“I don't know what you're talking about,” Connor insisted, glancing over at Hank and trying to pretend the blushing didn't happen. It was fading away now, thankfully. Mostly because he now only felt defeated, rather than embarrassed.
“Yes you do, Connor,” Hank's voice was paternal. Not exactly condescending, but regardless somewhat belittling. “Stop playing denial. You're not a twelve-year-old girl.”
“Actually, I'm a year old in a week-”
“Shut the fuck up, ya snarky bastard,” Hank's words were hostile, but his stress levels were still low. That, and he was still smiling. Facetiousness. Somehow, the man's constantly happy attitude influenced Connor. In what way, he wasn't sure. All he knew was that he wasn't as upset anymore. He knew humans’ emotions influenced each other greatly, but he'd never experienced a shift in emotions like that until now. Were feelings really… That versatile?
“Look, you know she likes you. I know you won't do anything to hurt her, so nothing can really go wrong,” Hank's tone turned soft. Sincere. Caring. The genuine sound of the Lieutenant's words surprised Connor. Again, something quite out of character for Hank.
A few moments passed, then Connor felt a sudden rush of courage come out of nowhere. Motivated by Hank's belief in him, he abruptly burst out of the passenger side of the car, slamming the door shut behind him without a word. He took long, determined strides up to Kamski's door.
“Don't walk like you're on your way to murder someone!” Hank called out as he rolled down his window. Of course, Connor's momentum didn't change. He still barged up to the door and knocked on it almost aggressively, using the courage as much as he could while he still had it. The Android heard Hank chuckle once more before the motor revved, driving away and leaving Connor to defend for himself.
Seconds, almost a minute passed. Connor's determined stare stayed fixed ahead, but his feet started fidgeting a bit. Now that he was alone and Hank was gone, his confidence started fading away. The reality of where he was and what he was about to do was starting to sink in again, but he tried to not let it get to him too much. He suppressed the urge to scratch the back of his head or adjust his tie, clinging onto his bravery as much as he could. If only to save face in front of Chloe.
Fortunately, and unfortunately, Chloe didn't answer this time. To Connor’s mild surprise, the door slowly opened to reveal Kamski himself. He wasn’t as… Exposed as the first time he saw Elijah. He was surprisingly casual, donning a simple t-shirt and jeans. Connor noted this instinctively. He didn’t care as much about appearances as he once thought.
“Hello, Connor,” Elijah's voice slithered around the room while he opened the door wider, slowly making a wide gesture to invite him inside. “Come in, won't you?”
The Android paused, feeling a sensation of weight drop in his stomach after Kamski’s words stopped echoing from inside the door. The last time he heard that voice wasn’t the best experience he’d ever had. But Elijah was inviting him in… Unusual, to say the least. It was like he expected Connor to show up. Did Chloe say anything about him?
He squinted at Kamski suspiciously, taking only enough steps to be just inside the door. Elijah’s eyes followed Connor closely, a small, knowing smirk forming on his face while he closed the door.
“So nice to see you again,” the Creator continued, putting his hands behind his back and taking slow, purposeful steps so that he was directly in front of the young Android. He never took his eyes off of him while he moved, almost like his gaze was sewn to Connor’s own eyes. “Tell me, is there any reason in particular why you’re here? Or did you just feel like stopping by?”
His tone of voice shifted ever, ever so slightly. Connor’s program sensed it. Sarcasm. Is was faint, but it was there. Kamski knew exactly why he was here. He also seemed to know that Connor could tell that. He was teasing. Provoking. Poking at Connor in a way that felt sadistic. Not in any way at all like Hank’s playful jests.
“... She told you about me,” Connor furrowed his brows at the man in front of him, locking his jaw and starting to feel impatient. “What did she say?” He wasn’t expecting a direct answer, as Kamski seemed to only speak in ways that dodged around questions and vague statements that never clarified anything.
“Oh, Connor. She wouldn’t stop talking about you,” Elijah rolled his eyes and shook his head. Why did everything Kamski do feel like an act? Just to build up the tension he seemed to crave? “She told me everything. From your deviance to her disappointment that you wouldn’t stay. I’d never heard her talk so much in one sitting.”
“She seems to like you, Connor,” Kamski’s voice dropped, his eyes locking back to the android in front of him. Oddly enough, it felt like something actually hit Connor square in the chest when he said that. Was he angry about that? Upset? Was that a statement? A threat? The small bit of anger that suddenly bubbled up in the young detective impaired his analyzation systems, so he couldn't tell exactly. But whatever the statement meant, he did not like what it implied.
“Is there a problem with that?” Connor’s voice was sharp and direct, almost accusing towards Elijah. His expression compressed into a glare, his teeth gritting and his fists clenching. Kamski used to control Chloe, he knew that. But did he now that she was deviant? The way he talked about her was possessive, controlling. Was she still his slave? Now that he thought about it, there wasn't a reason for her to stay here now… At least, not by choice.
Kamski chuckled through his nose, shaking his head in amusement. “Ah. The first android to pass the turing test, and Cyberlife’s most advanced prototype,” the man was introspective now, finally beginning to walk towards the doors that led to the back of the mansion. Connor’s piercing glare followed him the entire time, watching every single step he took, every motion he made, every breath he took. He read Elijah from top to bottom, inside and out, taking everything in and storing it. Memorizing it. Taking notes of it.
“She will be with you shortly. She’s been... Getting ready for you,” Kamski’s voice began to disappear with him behind the door while he closed it, but Connor knew exactly what he looked like. The way his facial muscles pulled his lips into a smile, his head tilted up in a confident, entitled manner.
Connor was on the brink of snapping at him again. He was almost ready to chase after him. Ready to pin him against the wall and demand to know what he'd done to Chloe, but, just in time for Elijah, the door closed. It echoed through the room and pulled Connor out of his fuming state. He was alone again. At least, for now.
Connor stood in the silence for the next three minutes and twenty-two seconds, waiting. Still fuming a bit from the previous interaction. His fists were still clenched, his jaw was still set, his brow still furrowed. It was the longest he'd ever felt anger linger. He was surprised with himself, honestly. Kamski didn't even say anything remotely hostile. His underlying mocking tone was only an interpretation Connor made, not even a definite fact. So why was he so furious? It was irrational. Unjustified. But he couldn't help it. Again, it was like the feelings were automated. Uncontrollable.
Without even purposefully trying to open his mind palace, Connor suddenly started seeing the recording he had taken of Kamski only minutes earlier, already starting to analyze it. Again, he tried to tell himself that there wasn’t a real reason for him to search for anything, but now it seemed that this was automated too. Almost no mental effort at all went into it, trying to find a weakness, a flaw, something that could be prodded at. It felt… Natural.
3.4 foot stride, size 13.5 shoes, occasional slight constriction in airways (Asthmatic? Smoker?), slight remains of coarse coffee grinds on bottom lip (drowsiness? Insomnia?), nearly microscopic particles of Smashbox brand eyeshadow in Java pigment on left shoulder…
Her voice nearly made the Android jump in surprise, making him whip his head around to find a delighted Chloe, standing on her toes in the doorway behind him.
Connor felt an extreme shift in his head, his unjustified anger practically ripping out of him. It was immediately replaced with not only a bit of his previous anxieties, but something else. Something that made his therium pump run at inconsistent speeds. Something Energetic. Something that made a fluttering sensation in his stomach. Excitement, perhaps..? Regardless of how strong it seemed to be, it wasn't overwhelming this time, thankfully. If anything, it seemed to help him completely change his focus to Chloe.
“Hello, Chloe,” Every muscle in Connor's body released tension. His scowl turned into a genuine, granted very small smile while he turned to face her. “Are you doing well?”
“I'm so glad you're here!” The pitch in her voice went up a bit while she jumped slightly in place. “Mister Kamski said you might! I-I wasn't so sure but-!”
She practically glided across the floor to him while she spoke, moving so quickly that Connor's impaired programming didn't have time to realize she was holding her arms out to him, wanting to go for a hug. He remained standing there awkwardly, staring at her when she stopped in front of him. Even worse was the smile was still on his face, blissfully unaware of the situation.
It took Connor a good three seconds to realize what she was trying to do, and when he finally did, his face shifted in horror of the situation he had put himself in. But before he could do or say anything, Chloe's expression dropped along with her arms. She backed up a little, looking down guiltily.
“Sorry, I-” She put her hands behind her back, as if restraining herself. “I- I shouldn't have just-”
“No, I should've-” Connor interjected at nearly the same time, stepping forward and closing the distance she had made. They both stopped abruptly when they interrupted each other, causing a heavy silence in the air for a short moment.
That was until Chloe smiled again, looking down a little while she giggled softly. The sight of her amusement made Connor relax too. He let himself breath knowing that she wasn't upset, her laugh making his own smile return.
“Are you going to be here for long?” She asked once her laughter tapered off, smiling up at him cheerfully.
“I don't have a specific time… That I need to leave...” Connor's answer trailed off, now focusing on Chloe a bit more than he should now that she was close enough.
Her hair was down today instead of her usual ponytail, her blonde waves falling past her shoulders. She was wearing a white, A-line dress that flowed just above her knees, the straps on her shoulders hanging loosely. She seemed much more… Casual. Much more comfortable with herself than the last time he had seen her.
That being said, Chloe's face lit up when Connor told her he would stay. She once again seemed to almost glow, warmth exerting all around her.
“I'm so glad you're staying this time,” Chloe hummed softly, holding her hand out towards Connor. He stared at it inquisitively for a moment, but realized much faster this time what she was trying to do.
“... Me too,” while Connor's words were sincere, they were also quiet. Almost timid. He carefully raised his hand out to meet her's, slowly wrapping his fingers around Chloe's slender, smaller hands.
“I have so much to show you,” Chloe's voice was gentle, soothing even when she returned the grip and slowly lead him back further into the mansion. “Come with me!”
While he was a little surprised, Connor didn't hesitate or pull away. He let the girl in front of him guide him with ease, only really looking at her the whole time they walked together.
Her makeup wasn't bold this time. It was light, barely even there. If it were anyone but Connor, they would've thought she wasn't wearing any at all. Eyeshadow defined the shape of her eyes just enough to make her blue eyes much brighter. The blush on her cheeks was only barely there, just enough to make them rosy, but also still be able to see her freckles underneath.
… Why did he notice all that?
What she looked like wasn't essential to what was going on this very moment, so why did he pay such close attention to it? Why did he take in every single detail, every freckle on her face whenever she turned back to smile at him? Why did-
Connor’s confusion distracted him enough that he didn't even notice the potted tree that was directly in front of his right foot. That was, until he walked into it full force. He quickly let go of Chloe's hand while he caught himself, managing to only fall onto one knee instead of his face. Chloe still gasped anyway, kneeling down next to him while she cried “Oh god! Are you alright!?”
“Fine, fine, I'm-” Connor tried desperately to hide his face as much as he could from her, not accepting her offering hand and standing up on his own. He kept his head low while he adjusted his jacket and tie, trying his hardest to recover from the embarrassment of that. He didn’t have much of a chance to completely regain his composure, however. Meer seconds passed before Chloe put her gentle fingers under Connor’s chin, lifting his gaze towards her.
He was surprised at first, freezing up again like he had so many times in the past around her. But for some reason, this time he didn’t panic. He felt more curious than anything, tilting his head just a small bit to the side subconsciously while he looked at her.
Chloe’s expression was understanding, reassuring towards Connor. She was trying to help him feel better, obviously. But why did she do it in a way that was so… Intimate?
“... You know, I always trip over that,” Chloe let out another soft laugh, letting his face go so that she could take his hand again. “I keep asking to move it, but Mister Kamski always just says ‘just watch where you’re going,’” she continued onward with the Android, this time clearly making sure to stay in the center of the halls.
Connor again followed willingly, the embarrassment what had just happened moments ago thankfully fading away quickly, most likely because of Chloe's words of comfort. However, he frowned a bit when she mentioned Kamski. She didn’t act like a prisoner or someone being manipulated against their will, like one would think She seemed to actually enjoy being here.
“This is my room!” Chloe unintentionally interrupted Connor when she opened an intricately carved, dark, oak door to the right of them. The Android didn’t seem to mind, however. He was more interested in the new environment he was just moved into than what he was going to say.
For a moment, a pang of panic struck through Connor. He felt a strong need to look around at everything in Chloe’s room. To find everything new and identify it. His program had to take over him again now at all times!? However, he quickly realized that this time it felt… Different. He didn’t feel overpowered or forced to analyze anything. His mind palace didn’t open up involuntarily. It was just that he wanted to see everything. It felt… Driven. Purposeful. While it was still a relatively new feeling to him, curiosity was one of the better emotions. One that he actually… Enjoyed, to be perfectly honest. The poor Android just wished it was easier to discern from his programming. It would make things a lot easier.
Now a bit more relaxed knowing he wasn’t reverting to a machine, Connor voluntarily let his eyes wander around the nearly irrationally huge room, following behind Chloe slowly while he took everything in.
Inside was a bit different from the rest of the mansion. A soft, pastel purple covered the walls, along with the occasional hologram of light flickering around the ceiling. The color and pattern of which Connor recognized to resemble the behavior of fireflies. In one corner of the room, there was a simple wooden desk, four legged chair, and a computer. Though judging by the minimal scuff marks under the chair and the light coating of dust accumulating on the table, she didn’t use the computer very often. In another corner was a bed, which was almost definitely a mere formality. It had been untouched for weeks, considering Chloe’s inability to sleep. It was a simple bed frame. Again, nothing extravagant.
What really caught his eye was the furthest left corner in the room. A vibrant, lush miniature garden stood in a raised bed. It contained the exact same plants that the land surrounding Kamski’s estate contained. There seemed to be one individual organism of each species. They were kept in neat, small sections that grew together in a natural way, flowing smoothly together. Vines started to creep along the walls, but looked as if there was no effort to take them down or trim them. A sunlight was placed on the ceiling just above the garden, keeping them from staying in the shadows. An equally small, in-ground pond sat in the exact middle of the garden, an artificial waterfall pouring into it from rocks built above it. A few species of fish darted through the water. He identified them as a few different kinds of tetra and simple goldfish.
“This is my favorite place in the whole world,” Chloe’s voice was airy, her glow growing with delight when she saw how much Connor liked looking at it. She pulled him over, sitting on the floor in front of the rocks keeping the bed in place. She playfully tugged at Connor’s sleeve, beckoning for him to sit down with her. The boy fought aggressively with himself to prevent the warmth in his ears from spreading to a noticeable point, unsure why such an innocent gesture made him so bashful. Carefully, he placed himself on the floor next to Chloe, keeping his eyes on the plants in front of him in an attempt distract himself.
“Once the other RT600’s left the mansion… I had a lot more room in here,” her voice went a bit quiet while she spoke, her gaze dropping down to the floor. The tone surprised Connor, not used to hearing anything but cheer in her voice. He moved his eyes back to her, watching and listening to her soundlessly. While he already had questions, he remained quiet, deciding to let her finish before he assumed anything. She must’ve took the silence as a sign to continue, because she took a deep breath and looked up again, continuing with her story.
“... One day, I was telling Mister Kamski about how much I loved spring,” her tone lightened up a bit again, a small smile forming on her face. “He was the one who suggested the idea. He let me take clippings of all the plants outside once he had the bed built. Now it's my own tiny piece of heaven,” her voice gradually returned to it's normal, happy tone while she spoke. She reached out and took a leaf of a tulip in her fingers, brushing her thumb across it and sighing blissfully.
“It’s beautiful,” Connor’s compliment was sincere. He was, of course, talking about the garden. He just happened to be looking at her when he said it. Which in of itself was an insignificant detail.
“Thank you!” Chloe quickly turned to look at him, absolute joy shining from her because of Connor’s comment. Instead of feeling shy or flustered from such a look from her, the Android felt troubled. Unsettled, even. Something was wrong. Something was wrong about this whole thing.
“... Do you mind if I ask you a personal question, Chloe?” He asked politely. The frown on his face threw the girl off, suddenly appearing worried.
“Of course, Connor. Anything,” she nodded quickly, reaching over and taking one of his hands again, holding them in both of her own and giving him a reassuring squeeze. It threw Connor off for a second. He flicked his eyes down at her hands for a brief second before continuing, surprisingly not completely distracted by that.
“Why do you still live here?”
Chloe blinked a bit in surprise. She smiled a bit awkwardly and tilted her head to the side, clearly not understanding the question.
“You’re fully deviant. You can take care of yourself. Why would you continue staying here with… Someone like Kamski?” Connor pressed a bit further, his brow furrowing even more. Chloe was taken aback by such a blunt question like that. It took her a second to think about it, but she eventually sighed, slowly letting go of Connor’s hand. The girl lay her hands down on her lap and held her head high before answering.
“He’s my creator, Connor,” her voice dropped again. She sounded disappointed, almost irritated with Connor. “He cares about me, and I care about him. I’ve been here my whole life. I like it here. Why wouldn’t I stay?”
“But he shelters you,” Connor insisted, his own voice getting a bit impatient. “He still uses you as his servant, even though he
you have free will now. You think that’s okay? You think he’s treating you like a daughter doing that?”
Connor’s words were harsh, yes. But he really was upset about it. The young Android only wanted Chloe to be free. To be happy. There was no way she was actually happy here. Kamski was cold-blooded. Inhumane. How could he keep her trapped here like this!?
“He doesn’t use me,” Chloe’s hands suddenly turned into fists, gathering up the fabric of her dress in her fingers while she shot Connor a glare. “I never said I was his daughter. He values me! Wouldn’t you value a creation of such significance!? Without him, you wouldn’t be here!” She started raising her voice, getting more and more upset by the second. “It’s not like I’m his slave! He doesn’t make me scrub the floors or force me to cook. He just asks me for favors! I want to help him!”
“Asks you for favors!? Was it a
for you to sit down in front of me when he made me hold a fucking gun to your head!?” Connor’s voice became more aggressive too, getting angrier even quicker. Not at Chloe, but at Kamski. This was clearly a case of stockholm syndrome. She was completely blind to it, and Kamski was taking advantage of that. That made him more furious than anything else Elijah had ever hissed at Connor.
“He knew you wouldn’t shoot me!” Chloe jumped to her feet, actually yelling at Connor now. “He wanted you to become deviant, Connor! He knew you wouldn’t!”
Connor stood at almost the exact same time, standing over Chloe and watching her closely. He grit his teeth, but didn’t glare at her or give her any kind of hostile expression. He just kept frowning, frustrated at the situation more than anything.
“Is that what he told you? That he somehow knew I wouldn’t? You weren’t deviant when he told you that, were you?” While Connor’s tone was still getting more heated, he didn’t raise it much more at all. “You don’t see how monstrous it is that he used you at all !? Even if he supposedly knew I wouldn’t shoot!?”
“Shut up! He’s not a monster! ” Chloe’s voice broke with that last shout. It was so loud that Connor actually leaned back a bit, surprised at how aggressive she had gotten. Regret almost immediately crossed the poor girl’s face once she realized how violent she just was towards him. She quickly spun away from the Android, hunching forward and putting her face in her hands.
Connor breathed out when she moved, feeling nearly all of his frustration disappear along with his breath. Regret washed over him too, seeing her so sad all of a sudden. It hit him how brutal everything he said was, and guilt gripped at him hard. He was quickly learning how little control over yourself you have when anger overtook you.
“Chloe… I’m sorry,” Connor reached a hand out to her and took a step forward, trying his best to comfort her in some way. She didn’t answer, staying faced away from him, her shoulders beginning to shake. The guilt completely swallowed him now, seeing that he had made her cry. He couldn’t stand it.
Yes, it was a nerve-wracking thing for him to do, but it was the only thing he could think of in the moment. That, and the need to comfort her was stronger than any fear he had, so he threw his hesitance aside. Slowly, he took her shoulders, gently turned her around, and took her into his arms, holding her as close as he could without suffocating her.
Chloe tensed up for a second, surprised that Connor was the one making a move like that. But she quickly threw her arms around him in return, hiding her face in his chest and gripping at the back of his jacket.
Connor closed his eyes slowly, grateful that she accepted his embrace instead of pushing him away, like he thought she very well might. His fingers weaved through her hair when he pulled her head closer, putting his face in the locks of sunshine that fell down her back.
He discovered that there were many, many more feelings than just happiness when you hugged someone. It could also feel Relieving. Like a weight had been lifted. Like repenting for past mistakes. It was complicated, but he knew it was good that he was feeling it.
He wondered if Chloe felt it too. Judging by how her sniffles disappeared, how tightly her arms squeezed him, and the smile she felt form on her face, Connor deduced that she did indeed feel the same tenderness he did.
WHOOO BOY THIS CHAPTER WAS A RIDE. Still not quite satisfied with it, but this is the best I'm getting.
I read a headcannon that Chloe was super into botany. I loved it so much I just HAD to put it in here, you know?
Chapter 5: Anger
He smelled like coffee and early spring air.
That was one of the first things Chloe noticed when Connor pulled her in. It was barely, barely there. She wouldn't have caught it at all if she wasn't desperately trying to take in everything about him. Everything. From the texture of his clothes, the firm, almost desperate grip of his arms around her, the sound of his therium pump beating, the tingle of his fingers going through her hair, the sound of his soft breaths close to her ear, and the scent embedded into his shirt.
The coffee part was most apparent. Most likely because whoever he lived with drank it a lot. The other scent was much more subtle, but it was undeniably there. The invigorating feeling of going outside in the early morning, the sun just coming up and the frost still frozen on the ground. The soft air that surrounded a creek in the woods. The wind that brushed past your face in a valley full of dandelions. That's what he smelled like.
The embrace lasted a bit longer than a comfort hug normally would, but she didn't mind. If anything, she was disappointed when Connor’s grip on her lessened. Her heart sank just a bit when she felt his hand leave her head while he stood up straight. But she knew it had to come to an end one way or another, so she didn't give any kind of protest. She let herself down from her toes and tucked a stray hair behind her ear, taking a quick breath while she gathered herself. It took her a second to look back up at Connor, feeling a bit awkward now that there was space between them again.
“... I should probably go now, shouldn't I?” Connor's tone was gentle, quiet, reluctant even while his hands slowly fell away from holding her shoulders. He let his fingers brush down her arms a bit before fully letting go, almost like he was just as hesitant to break the physical contact as she was. Or maybe he just did that on accident and she was reading too much into it. Either way, the innocent, sweet gesture sent a chill down Chloe's back. At first, she hoped that he didn't see the small shudder that involuntarily went through her, but she remembered exactly who she was standing in front of. Of course he knew.
She couldn't help it, though. Everything about him was just so… Captivating. His gentleness, his tall, graceful stature, how ridiculously smart he was, even his little fidgety quirks were just so charming to her. Just being around Connor not only comforted Chloe, but he made her so, so happy. Happier than she'd been since she first deviated.
Yeah, she might be starting to have a little bit of a crush on him.
He did just demonize Mister Kamski, after all. That cut off a decent amount of possible infatuation towards him But... The way he did it wasn't angry. He seemed more upset. Upset, not at Chloe, but for her. He was more angry at Mister Kamski. But to be fair, most people have bad feelings about Kamski when they first meet him. Connor had only met him twice. Maybe he’d change his mind if they came to know each other better…?
Her thoughts bounced around in her head, trying to sort through and make sense of how she really felt about the detective in front of her. She shouldn't like him this much. She really shouldn't. He was disapproving and even hateful towards practically everything in her life. Granted, that wasn't saying much. That, and he only felt that way because he cared about her. He cared about her feelings and her wellbeing, so were his intentions really that bad? What if-
She suddenly snapped out of it, noticing that she had been silent for almost thirty seconds now, leaving Connor hanging on that question without even realizing it. When she fully came back to reality, she saw the poor boy acting jittery again. He was adjusting his collar and tie a bit more than he actually needed to, clearing his throat awkwardly and avoiding eye contact as much as he reasonably could.
He still felt guilty about hurting her feelings. That much was obvious. As much as it pained her, she wasn't about to reassure him that everything was okay. Because it wasn't. She shouldn't lead him into a false sense of security like that.
Instead, she carefully took both of his hands in her own, smiling up at him sympathetically for a moment before speaking.
“... If you really want to, you can leave,” her voice was soft, reassuring towards Connor when she squeezed his hands gently. “But, I would love it if you stayed a bit longer.”
Connor finally looked straight at her, but only to give her a troubled, confused look. He didn't even say or ask anything. He genuinely didn't know why she said that.
“Look… I'm not angry at you,” she began with a soft sigh, looking down at their interlocked hands for a moment. She brought her thumbs up to stroke the back of his hands, trying to be comforting as much as she could without lying. “I just… I don't want you to leave on bad or awkward terms, you know? I'd be a lot happier if we talked about it and worked things out.”
Connor's eyes dropped down to look at their hands as well, squinting a bit while he watched her fingers dance across his skin. He was thinking, but he didn't seem to be distressed; so Chloe let him sort it out, staying quiet patiently.
“... That's what you really want?” Connor finally spoke, his dark, warm eyes raising back up and locking onto Chloe's gaze. His stare wasn't penetrating so much as analytic. He was trying to figure out what she was feeling, like he always did. Like he was programmed to.
While she knew he couldn't help it, it still bothered Chloe that he couldn't seem to stop himself from picking apart everything, always trying to find a reason behind every action, every word. Couldn't someone say something because that's just what they wanted to say? It must be exhausting to be so alert, so vigilant, so aware all the time. It must be why he acted so jumpy sometimes.
… But what about him?
Did he ever look into himself? Did he ever try to find reasons for why he did what he did? Why he felt what he felt? Or was he still in the “It's what I was programmed to do” state of mind?
“... Yes, it is,” Chloe nodded, letting go of his hands. She was trying to take away any distractions, as her next question was significant.
“... But is it what you want?”
The girl was genuinely surprised at how quickly Connor replied. She watched as he nodded just a bit in return, his expression unphased and calm. The single syllable he vocalized was enough to make Chloe's smile gleam tenfold. She underestimated him. Maybe he wasn't as trapped in his head as she thought he was.
“That will be… Difficult for me.”
“But you’ll really forgive me if I do?”
Connor was a little taken aback by how simple Chloe’s conditions were. Respect Kamski? That’s really all she wanted? Yet, despite how straightforward the request seemed to be, it was hard for him to imagine saying anything good about the man. The Android genuinely didn’t see much that was praiseworthy about Elijah. But… She has a substantial amount of attachment to him. This seemed notably important to Chloe, so wouldn’t it be worth it if it meant she was happy? But at the same time, he’d be feeding her unhealthy relationship with Elijah. The predicament was tough. He wasn’t sure if he’d-
Connor wasn’t even surprised anymore when the word slipped out unintentionally. He didn't flinch, he didn't freeze, he just closed his eyes and sighed silently at himself.
At this point, he knew that he didn’t have the same amount of cognitive clarity as he usually did when he was around Chloe. He just wanted to see her happy. Even if it meant going against his own beliefs, and he very well knew that it wasn’t healthy. He should not give in that easily to whatever she said. But it was too late to back out now. Chloe's elated grin that crinkled the corners of her eyes had all but taken away any other choice he had in the matter.
“Thank you, Connor,” Chloe scooted a bit closer to him where they sat on her bedside, putting an encouraging hand on his shoulder. “I completely forgive you, and I hope you know how much this means to me. Really, truly, thank you.”
He didn't answer, just staring at the wall opposite to him while he evaluated the situation he had just put himself in. Connor only had to be indifferent. He didn't agree to worship the ground Kamski walked on, just that he wouldn't be contempt. That shouldn't be too difficult, as long as he didn't think about Elijah too much
“... Are you alright?” The concern in Chloe's voice is what made him break away from his distant gaze and back down to her. He managed to catch her worried expression right before it turned into relief, as if she somehow already knew the answer just by looking at him. He didn't even have a chance to say anything before she rested her head on his shoulder, not making another sound aside from a soft, content sigh, her smile still audible on her breath.
That was when Connor almost instantly regretted his promise.
Nearly the moment her head touched his shoulder, a burning, violent burst of rage flooded through his chest. Such a simple touch of affection from Chloe, and suddenly all he could see was Kamski using her as a slave, ordering her around left and right with not a single glint of sympathy in his eyes. He saw visions of her being used as a sick experiment. So many guns to her head, so many knives to her throat. Who’s to say Connor wasn’t the first one he’d used Chloe for his sadistic “test?”
The aggressive energy shot into his arms, making his fists abruptly clench, his jaw set, his face twitch. The sudden physical change he went through made Chloe jump. She created a bit of space between them, her bright blue eyes widening in worry.
Now the Android finally found himself flinching. The way she spoke his name was so concerned. So gentle. So… Caring.
He couldn’t take it.
“I need to leave,” Connor spoke so quickly that it sounded like he said one word while he shot up to his feet and charged towards the door. Yes, he was prepared to not say goodbye. No well wishes, no farewell hug, nothing. He couldn't stay there much longer before he would snap. He didn’t want to be anywhere near Chloe if his rage started taking control of his actions again. Not that he thought he'd hurt her, but that he might say something he'd almost certainly regret
“Connor!? Connor, wait!” She cried out from behind, jumping into a run to catch up with him. He attempted to walk faster as a rude, albeit desperate resort, but that idea didn’t last very long. He was only halfway down the first hallway when Chloe got close enough to snag his wrist, forcing him to a halt. He took a second to close his eyes, trying as much as he could to gather some shred of composure before he attempted any kind of interaction between them.
“Did I do something wrong!? I’m so sorry,” Chloe immediately started going for apologies, letting go of his wrist and hanging her head pitifully. “I’m so, so sorry. I’ll never do that again. I didn’t know-”
“You haven’t done anything wrong, Chloe,” Connor interrupted. He was astonished at how calm his voice was. In fact, when he turned to face her, he felt just a bit of his temper start to die down the longer he looked at the girl. Unsurprisingly, her presence was yet again coaxing him into an alternate state of mind.
Luckily, he seemed to have stopped her before she had gotten too upset. While Chloe's stress levels only decreased a little, her shoulders relaxed and he heard breath escape her lungs. Alleviation. At least, that's what he thought until she spoke again.
“... Then what happened? Why are you leaving so suddenly?” She lifted her eyes back up to him, her brow scrunched and her eyes squinted. It didn't take a walking forensics lab to tell that she was skeptical.
“... I just don't feel well,” Connor began to explain, hesitantly putting his hand on her right cheek. He had put together that she likes physical touch by now, so he hoped the gesture would distract her enough to take away at least a little suspicion. The way he did it wasn't graceful in the least. His fingers hesitated just before contacting her skin and he had trouble for the briefest of moments finding where his hand should be placed. But despite his awkward movements, her stress levels dropped in half. She looked down at the floor, a small, bashful smile forming on her face. It was working. Somehow.
“I'm sorry I tried to run away. That was irrational of me. I just didn't want you to have to put up with any sudden unpleasantness I might cause.” Normally, deception was something he was programmed to be exceptional at, but Chloe was a different situation altogether. The only reason his voice wasn't shaking with guilt was because he was technically telling her the truth. But that didn't mean it didn't cause a heavy, unseen weight to fall on his shoulders.
“... Well, alright,” Chloe finally spoke, taking Connor’s hand and squeezing it for a moment before pulling it off her face. She then took the lead, walking in front of Connor and heading back towards the exit. “I'm sorry you're not feeling well, but know I'll always be here if you want to talk about it.”
Connor didn't answer.
Chloe didn't press more.
They were both silent the rest of the way, neither of them really finding any words they could say. Once they finally reached the door, Chloe opened it the same way she always did, her hand sliding up the edge just a bit while she stepped her right foot forward.
“I’m sorry today didn’t go as planned,” Connor’s apology was genuine as he continued on over the threshold, turning on his heel at the same time so that he faced her. Efficient. Decisive. “Perhaps I can make it up to you sometime.”
“Even if things were a little tense sometimes, I still enjoyed seeing you,” Chloe reassured him, shaking her head and taking a step closer, now just outside the door with him. “You don’t need to apologize. Just… Promise you’ll come back soon?”
“... I'll try my best,” Connor gave her a weak, half smile, blissfully unaware of how close she had gotten until she stood on her toes, evening out the height difference just a bit.
The kiss she planted on his cheek was so fast, he had virtually no time to react at all. No flinch, no freezing in place, no second guesses, it just happened. It took a bit longer to process than it should have for how advanced his mainframe was. But when it did, what should have been blindingly obvious finally hit the Android. Why she was always so excited around him. Why she kept touching him in subtle ways. Why she always giggled whenever he did something idiotic. Why she kept insisting on seeing him as much as possible.
Chloe had feelings for him.
The last goodbye she whispered to him sounded miles away. His mind completely blanked out, literally not able to think at all until the door closed, the sound snapping him out of it.
But coming back to reality might’ve been a bad thing.
Connor’s head whipped up to the camera at the top right corner of the entrance, his teeth bared, his hands in fists, his muscles jagged and tensed, going straight into attack mode.
“ You're finished, Kamski!” He shouted at the device, completely unable to hold himself back anymore. Yes, threatening Elijah was irrational. It was foolish. It was reckless.
He didn’t care.
“ Finished! ”
With one last ruthless bark from him, Connor stormed down the walkway, the blinding rage that fueled steps he took timed perfectly with the thunder that began clapping overhead. Yes, he was walking back to Hank's house. He'd calculate his route. He'd mark where the cameras were. He'd take note of places he could use for cover, the colors of the environment for how he should dress, the traffic patterns he could use to conceal any sounds he might make. The calculations flashed in front of him so fast it would’ve made the average person nauseated. Yes, he’s getting Chloe out of there. A brand new fire burned in his eyes, one that lit the way to the justice that Connor himself would see to.
Chapter 6: Sting
HEY! LISTEN! There's a brief panic attack scene in this chapter. Please please PLEASE be careful if you're sensitive to stuff like that.
There's gonna be a paragraph of me ranting at the end too. Just a warning.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Heart attack didn't even begin to describe the jolt that slapped Hank across the face when he jumped awake. He'd fallen asleep on the couch while he was waiting for Connor to call him for a ride back home. Thus, you can imagine the sudden shot of adrenaline he had when the boy himself opened the door with so much force that the doorknob smashed a hole in the wall and knocked down Sumo's leash hook.
But, perhaps even more shocking was Connor's voice. It was a tone the detective never expected to hear from the boy. He's heard Connor frustrated. He's heard him upset. He's even heard him afraid. But never once did he hear him angry.
But this wasn't even anger. This was rage . There was an undeniable heat that charred his words. A tone he'd heard all too often, but never, never in Connor's soft-spoken voice.
“Connor!? Wh-” Hank stopped in his tracks when he stood up and turned to face the Android, only getting more confused at what he saw. Connor looked like he had just jumped out of a pool. His hair was plastered to the sides of his head and his clothes were practically showering the floor with how much they dripped. For a moment, he was perplexed as to how he got in this state in the first place, but then he looked outside behind the open door. It was raining.
“... Did you walk back here!?” Hank's tone wasn't upset, more worried than anything. What the everliving hell happened!? Why was he so angry!? Why did he walk in a storm for what must've been three fucking hours!?
“I'm getting Chloe out of there!” Connor didn't even look at Hank when he kicked the door shut, shaking the frame of the house again from the force. Before the Lieutenant could even get a single syllable out, the boy was stomping back to his room, taking off his jacket and untying his tie.
“You're what!?” Hank ran after him, almost tripping over Sumo, who was watching the scene curiously. He followed directly behind Connor, stopping at the bedroom doorway. He watched as the boy threw his jacket and tie onto his bed and started digging through his closet.
“Connor, fucking tell me what’s going on! ” Hank barked, suddenly much more antagonistic as he stepped in the doorway. Yes, that was rude, but being nice wasn’t getting anywhere. Hostility was looking like the only way to get answers at this point.
“Chloe can’t stay at Kamski’s any longer,” Connor finally started talking again, seething through his teeth. He started unbuttoning his shirt with one hand while he grabbed a plain black one off a hanger with the other.
“Did he hurt her? Why does she have to leave?” Now that Hank was getting some kind of small answer out of him, he toned down the aggressiveness. But, if he was right in the fact that Connor was trying to put together a night camouflage guise, then this was completely ridiculous. Yes, Hank would get upset if Chloe was hurt too, but the boy was planning on literally breaking her out of the house of quite possibly the most well known man in the world.
Connor must really have it for her to be this impulsive.
“He-He’s using her!” Connor strained, seeming to have a hard time getting his answer out from how disoriented he was making himself. He pulled off his his button up shirt and threw it to the side absently, quickly slipping the black one over his head.
“She doesn’t understand,” he almost seemed to be talking to himself now, mumbling quickly while he scavenged through the closet again. “She won’t see what’s wrong. I need to-”
“Woah, woah, wait, using her!?” Hank interrupted again, attempting to slowly walk a bit closer, trying not to startle the boy. “What do you mean? Like, sexually? Or-”
Hank cut himself off, instantly regretting what he just said when Connor completely froze in place from Hank's words.
Connor didn't think that before, didn't he?
And he just planted that thought in the boy's head, didn't he?
And he was never going to get it out now, wouldn’t he?
God fucking damnit.
Hank stayed just as frozen in place as Connor did, not really knowing what he might do now. When Hank meant Connor didn't move, he meant he
At all. For thirty seconds at least. Because he was faced away, the only way Hank could tell he didn’t shut down was the rapidly flashing, bright red LED on the side of his head.
But once those thirty seconds were up, a low, chilling, guttural growl flooded out of Connor’s throat. It was feral, threatening, destructive. Pure, unadulterated, borderline evil fury crawled into the Lieutenant's ears.
Now Hank was getting nervous.
He needed to stop him, and stop him now. The boy would undoubtedly do something that would be devastating to not only himself, but almost certainly to Chloe too.
“Connor, I shouldn't have said that,” Hank tried to keep his voice calm, stepping a bit closer while the boy started digging through the closet at twice the speed. “That's not true, and you know that. You've seen she doesn't have any signs of abuse. I was wrong.”
Hank's attempt to reason had virtually no effect whatsoever. It was like Connor didn't even hear it, continuing on with his search with not so much as a glance. The Android finally pulled out his black beanie and put it on, pulling the brim down as much as he could without covering his eyes.
“Connor, stop,” Hank started being firm with him, putting a hand to the boy’s shoulder and pushing him so that they were face to face. “You’re not going on a heist to kidnap Chloe! She’s-”
“I’m not kidnapping her!” Connor shouted abruptly, shoving Hank away with a completely unnecessary amount of force, making him stumble back a bit. “I’m freeing her! She’s a prisoner! ”
“What, is she locked in a fuckin’ cage!?” Hank yelled back at him, impatience creeping up on the Detective now that Connor was getting physical. “You’re not thinkin’ straight, Connor! Your logic is fucked up becau-”
“I thought you would help me, Hank!” Connor shot a glare that burned a hole straight through the man’s forehead. “You- You just don’t understand either! You don’t know what I know!” The young Android sounded not only enraged now, but betrayed. He even threw his head to the side and scoffed dramatically. Meryl Streep over here really, honestly thought that Hank would help him do something as stupid as this!? Connor was getting more and more unhinged by the second.
“Fine. I’ll do it myself. I’m more than capable,” Connor hissed, stomping over to his bedside table and yanking the drawer open. Hank was about to attempt to grab the boy again, more prepared for him to fight back this time. But before he could get close enough, his heart completely stopped when he heard the click of a magazine being inserted into a gun.
A gun .
“No. No. No! ” Hank cried out urgently, bolting over to Connor. He grabbed the boy's wrist that was holding the weapon, his grip tightening so much it would've cut off a normal person's circulation. He mentally reverted back to his early force days, remembering all his combat training. His body shifted into defence mode, making sure every muscle was in place to take any attack he might get from Connor.
But no such attack came.
“... Hank. Let go of me.”
His voice was quiet. The polar opposite of what it had been moments ago. It was calm. It was mild. It was patient.
It was frightening.
“Put the gun down, Connor,” Hank refused the boy’s request, only tightening his grip around his wrist. The Android was faced away from the Lieutenant, so he couldn’t get a full read on his emotions. Regardless, Hank started trying to calculate the best move to take the weapon from him, but he reminded himself who he was up against. He'd seen what Connor could do. There was next to no chance he would win this. But he had to try.
“Let. Go. Of. Me,” the Android repeated. A bit more pressing this time, but the same lack of aggression remained. He still didn’t move a single muscle, nor did he show any signs that he might. It was the very definition of the calm before the storm.
An idea finally popped into Hank’s head. It was stupid. It was reckless. It wasn’t even smart. It was just a last resort move that would end up with at least one of them getting hurt.
Well, it couldn't get much worse anyway.
“... Alright,” Hank sighed, very, very slowly releasing his grip on Connor’s wrist. He put his hands up a little and leaned away a bit, almost like a sign of surrender. He watched as the boy’s shoulders dropped a little in alleviation. That was a good sign… Right? At least he thought it was, until Connor turned around to look at him and finally revealed his expression.
He wasn’t buying it. The Android was squinting at Hank, his eyes locked onto the man while he slowly tucked the gun into the waistband of his pants and scowled.
“You’re not going to talk me out of it, Hank,” Connor’s tone only confirmed his suspicion towards the Detective. The boy attentively started walking to the door, only diverting his gaze when he was just a few steps away from the exit. “Nothing you can say would change my mind.”
“... I know,” Hank mumbled under his breath, preparing himself for what he was about to do.
Before Connor got too far, Hank lunged forward and grabbed him by the shoulder. Just as he thought, the boy turned back around and went for defending the gun at his hip, his hands flying down to keep Hank from snatching it away.
The Lieutenant almost hesitated. Almost. He really, really,
didn’t want to do this. But he feared what Connor might do if he didn’t. So, while he successfully diverted Connor's attention elsewhere, Hank brought his arm out, braced himself, and swung his hand at Connor's cheek. Full force. No holding back.
It literally hurt.
The sting that spread across Connor's face was the most foreign, shocking thing he'd felt in his entire life. It burned. It seared his skin. He felt it. He felt
. It wasn't unbearable, but the fact that he felt it at all was enough to completely disable him.
The force of the hit was so hard that the Android’s neck snapped to the side and he stumbled back a few steps. He instinctively doubled over and put a hand to his cheek, the touch of his fingertips only agitating the alarming new sensation. He took his hand off his face and saw small drops of blue come off with it.
Connor's eyes widened. His hand shook the longer he stared at it. His face didn't stop burning. It wouldn't go away. Another drop of blue dripped from his mouth and splattered onto his trembling palm. Why? How? How? This was impossible. It’s impossible. Impossible. Impossible .
The word kept repeating in Connor’s head while he remained hunched over. He was so dazed, he couldn't register whatever Hank just said to him; nor did he notice the gun being taken away. The only thing that was at least somewhat discernable was when the Lieutenant took Connor’s shoulders in his grasp. Without looking away from his hand, the Android was guided to the couch where he was carefully sat down, the grip on his shoulders slowly fading away
That was when he felt it hit him like a train.
The wave of terror was so sudden, so out of nowhere that Connor gasped in shock. The air he sucked in was so hot, so rough that the searing pain in his chest all but overshadowed the twinge on his face that he felt earlier. Panic swelled in his throat when he tried inhaling again. It didn't work. He couldn't breathe
He kept gasping pathetically, caving in on himself in weakness. He couldn’t breathe. The only thing that entered his lungs was fire. His breath was so loud. It was too loud. The rain outside was too loud. Hank's concerned tone of voice was too loud. The sound of his own heartbeat throbbing in his head was too loud.
His hands smacked against his ears and he squeezed in on himself even tighter. It wouldn’t go away. It didn’t go away. It was too loud. He couldn’t breathe. What was crawling down his
? He couldn’t breathe.
at him? It was too loud. Where
he anymore!? He couldn’t
. Who had their hands around his
? It was too
. Why were walls closing in on him!?
happening to him!
It was too
Couldn’t breathe. It was too loud. Too loud. He couldn’t. It was loud.
He couldn’t breathe.
It was too loud.
And just as suddenly as it came, the fear started evacuating out from his chest with one last exhale from Connor. As he started slowly coming down from the chaos, everything started sounding normal again. His vision became clearer, his muscles relaxed, and the burning in his lungs started fading away.
Gradually, he let his hands down from his ears while he straightened himself back up. Although he was still breathing somewhat erratically and he was shaking like a leaf, he was finally able to take in his surroundings properly. Hank was sitting next to him on the couch, hunched forward with his head hung low. Sumo sat at Connor’s feet, his tail between his legs and his head in the Android’s lap while he whimpered with worry.
“... You’re even more like Cole than I thought,” Hank’s sudden words were quiet, reflecting, mournful even. Connor looked over at the man, swallowing uncomfortably when he saw that the Lieutenant remained in his morose position. If anything, he sank even more into himself. The Android had absolutely no idea what that meant or if that was a bad thing; but whatever it was, Hank was definitely mortified by what just happened.
“Give it a few minutes. You’ll recover,” Hank spoke like he’d said it a million times already, making Connor blink a few times in bewilderment. He knew. Hank knew what happened somehow.
What… What did happen?
Why did it happen? Aside from when he first deviated, he’d never felt anything so intense in his life. And it came out of nowhere. What went wrong? Why did he suddenly have the ability to feel pain? Why-
His clouded, confused thoughts were interrupted by a particularly distressed whine from Sumo. When Connor let his gaze drop to the dog, his ears perked up hopefully, going silent in apprehension. Without even really thinking about it, the Android put a quivering hand on top of the pup’s head. Sumo panted softly in bliss, closing his eyes and visibly relaxing. In turn, the feeling of his rhythmic breathing soothed Connor, his heartbeat slowing to a similar tempo.
They all stayed like that for a few minutes. Unmoving. Aside from the last few droplets of the passing storm outside, there was complete silence. And, just as Hank predicted, Connor’s condition improved. He felt his strength come back, his body almost completely stopped shaking, and his disorientation began to clear up.
“... What… Happened..?” Connor’s voice was strained, but steady when he peered back over to the man beside him. It was then that Hank slowly sat up straight, taking a deep breath before finally making real eye contact with the Android.
“You were gonna try to kill Kamski,” Hank started, looking just as troubled as he sounded. “I stopped you, but…” His eyes dropped back down suddenly, shaking his head in what appeared to be shame at himself. “Cole had panic attacks too. I should’ve known that might happen to you. You have all the same symptoms. I’m such a fuckin’ idiot, I-” The poor man couldn’t seem to finish his statement, instead putting his face in his hands for a moment.
“I’m… I’m sorry, Connor,” Hank reached out to put a hand on Connor’s knee, but didn’t look up again, still hiding his face from the Android.
Connor squinted at the wall in front of him while he mulled over the Lieutenant's explanation. Yes, he had plenty of information on the human emotion of panic, but that’s all he had up until that moment. Information. Not a... Personal experience.
“You didn’t know,” he weakly reassured the Lieutenant, closing his eyes for a brief moment. He had no hard feelings towards Hank whatsoever. He understood why the man did what he did. But... That part wasn’t what was bothering him so much.
“... But you know why ,” Connor continued, turning to give Hank a knowing stare. He wasn’t asking a question. He was making a statement.
When Hank didn't respond immediately, the Android impatiently took him by the shoulder and pulled him back up into a sitting position, determined to get a real answer out of the man this time. In turn, Hank nodded a bit, not fighting back and taking a moment to think before giving an explanation.
“... You’re becoming more and more human everyday, Connor. Too human, if you ask me. You felt pain, didn’t you? That’s a little bit more alive than most of us would like to be.” The Lieutenant scoffed in faux amusement, rolling his eyes just a bit before continuing. “... Listen, you've never felt anger like that. You got carried away because you haven’t learned how to control yourself. That's something everyone does. Even I do that.”
“... Are you still angry?” Hank suddenly scanned over Connor suspiciously. The Android saw the Lieutenant’s body tense up when he placed his feet more firmly on the ground. The man’s stress levels raised, the numbers flickering in and out of Connor’s vision from his mental state still being a bit weak. Hank was preparing himself for Connor to attack again, wasn’t he?
Maybe that was just as well, because the more Connor thought about Hank’s question, the more he started feeling that spark of hatred beginning to rekindle in his throat. He nodded wordlessly, his brow furrowing and his jaw setting while his stare fell to the floor. He wouldn’t lie about it. Hank always somehow saw straight through him when it came to honesty, so he’d be in more trouble if he even attempted to claim otherwise. To be fair, Connor was designed to detect lies, not make them.
He heard an exasperated groan from Hank, which only made the Android drop his head even more. He knew he should feel guilty about what he had tried to do… But he didn’t. The only thing he regretted was his attempt at assaulting Hank. However, he still had the same motivation as before. He wasn’t sure he’d try to pull off such a reckless plan like that again, but he would get Chloe out of there. One way or another.
“What the hell happened? What made you go insane like that?” Hank was not only confused, but increasingly agitated when he raised his voice at Connor, his glare practically scolding him in of itself. The Android didn’t have the energy come up with something to dodge the question, so he chose the answer that took the least amount of effort, which happened to be the truth.
“... Chloe kissed me.”
“My face. She kissed my face,” Connor quickly elaborated before Hank could get too upset. Thankfully, that seemed to do the trick, judging by the wheeze of relief that the Detective produced. He took a second to gather himself again, exhaling a knowing humph once he did.
“... And why did that make you angry?” Hank’s tone shifted again. His words were that knowing, cocky attitude that always mildly irritated Connor, but this time it was different. He was watching the Android expectantly. This wasn’t him trying to be smart, Hank was genuinely trying to get him to say something. Something that should be obvious to him. “Why do you feel the need to save her like she’s a damsel in distress? Why do you have completely unjustified hatred towards Kamski? Well… Almost unjustified, anyway.”
“Because… She’s my friend?” Connor gave Hank a puzzled look. “I… I thought that was apparent-”
Connor, you-” Hank smacked himself in the head, mumbling a few curses under his breath before he continued. He then suddenly grabbed the Android by the shoulders, forcing Connor to look him directly in the eye before his next statement.
“Connor. Listen to me,” he practically commanded, taking a brief second to compose himself to a calmer state of mind before he finally advanced to the point.
“... You’re falling in love with Chloe,” Hank spoke slowly, emphasizing each word as if he were trying to pound each one individually into the Android’s brain. “You have been for a little while now. Don’t even
to deny that.”
Connor blinked a few times, wondering if the Detective was serious or not. When his sober look didn’t change, the young Android let out a single huff of what was supposed to be a laugh, his mouth turning up into an awkward smile.
“Hank. That’s impossible. I can’t-”
“It’s impossible for you to feel pain too, right?” Hank interrupted, becoming more forceful as he squeezed Connor’s shoulders a bit tighter. “Impossible for you to feel so much that you have a breakdown? Huh? A lot of things are ‘impossible’ for you, Connor. Love is one of them.”
Connor stayed stuck in the same position for a few seconds, not quite processing the concept that the Lieutenant put in front of him. But, eventually, he was able to start putting the pieces together.
That’s when the poor boy made a complete one-eighty, his amusement being slapped off his face and being replaced by stupefaction.
That would explain… Everything. Why he was always so nervous around her. Why embracing her always brought him warmth. Why the entire room lit up the second she walked in it. Why just her presence was enough to brighten his mood tenfold. Why he lost control when she kissed his cheek. Why he cared so much.
… Why she was so beautiful.
“... Yeah,” Hank nodded when he saw Connor’s realization, slowly letting go of the Android. “Yeah… We’ll… We’ll figure out what we’re doing tomorrow, alright? Tonight you need to chill the hell out. She’ll be just fine for another night. I promise.”
With that last statement, Hank stood up, looking over Connor for a brief moment before he lumbered off to his room, presumably to give the boy some space.
Connor mouthed the word, the formation of it feeling weird on his tongue.
“I… I love her?”
He said it out loud.
And the full realization unveiled itself.
Not even Sumo’s protests for more attention could knock Connor out of the impact of the epiphany he’d just experienced. He sat there, mouth slightly agape and his eyes… Burning?
He felt a drop of something fall onto his hand. Instinctually, he looked down, thinking it was probably more therium coming out of his mouth from earlier, but the liquid was clear. It took a second, but he did end up raising a faltering hand to his face, his fingertips touching his skin where it had fallen come from, only to find that it was streaming down his cheeks.
He didn’t feel sad. He didn’t feel scared. He didn’t even feel that angry anymore. And while the concept he had just been introduced to was just as strong, if not stronger than any emotion he’d ever felt. It wasn’t… A bad one.
… So why was he crying?
This chapter was a risk. A big one. I took huuuuuuuuge steps in this one, which is why it took so goddamn long. I know it was bold of me to write something like this at all, but I feel like it was... Needed? While we've taken nearly a lifetime to learn about and control our emotions, Connor's getting it thrown at him all at once. I feel like it's really, really, really overwhelming, to say the least. I could be very, very wrong though. If anyone thinks differently or has any criticisms about this chapter in particular, it would actually mean a lot to me if you shared your opinion.
Also, surprise, surprise, still not quite satisfied with it. There's a good chance I'll go back and spruce up the end a bit, but I'm not sure how much more I'll get out of it. So here you are! For now, anyway.
At the Kamski estate, there's a brief moment of serenity in the morning when the dawn is just starting to break. If you were in the garden in the right place at the right time, the sunshine would pour over the overlooking city skyline, flooding the environment with solar glow. Chloe always thought that the instantaneous shift from dim to luminous had a similar feeling of what it was like when she deviated. Well, mentally, anyway.
So, ever since she had awakened, Chloe made sure she was always sitting at the garden table the second she saw the sky beginning to shift from black to navy blue. It took a bit of waiting, but with the warmth that washed over her, the early birds singing joyously, the butterflies fluttering gently with the wind, and the very earth around her taking its first breath, it was always more than worth it.
But this morning it was cloudy. The overcast that hung like a tarp over Detroit made everything a dark, bleak shade of gray. The birds’ songs weren’t as serene. The butterflies were still hiding from the rain the night before. And while the earth did take its first breath, it was weak. Forced, even. Chloe's heart sank just a small bit when the sky hardly changed at all. She didn't know what she was expecting, honestly. Maybe she thought that the sun would be bright enough to shine through..? Regardless, the disappointment came anyway, making her hang her head a bit, resigned.
The girl slowly raised her gaze again, the sound of Elijah's voice pulling at her like a puppet on a string. She saw the man walking towards her, hands behind his back and his brow arched inquisitively. The weight in her chest only increased when she sighed, looking down at her hands.
“... Yes,” Chloe said quietly, gathering herself for a moment. She took a deep breath and raised her head high. She was only upset about the sunrise… Right?
“Is it because of Connor?”
Sometimes, Chloe was almost positive that Kamski either had some tech device that could read her mind or had ESP. Because the second he mentioned Connor, her heart twinged. How was it that he knew what was wrong before even she did? Then again… He did create her.
In any case, she must've flinched subconsciously or visibly tensed up, because Kamski nodded a bit, almost resignedly. He calmly pulled out the chair beside her, sitting on it and gazing at the sky for a moment, just as she did.
“... I can make sure you don't see him again, if you see it fit,” his voice was reassuring, comforting even. She was lulled by the tone, almost entranced. Something about the pitch of it, the very airwaves he produced made the muscles in her neck seemingly give out, almost making her do a nodding motion for a brief moment.
But she snapped out of it, jumping in place when she caught herself. The abrupt “No!” she squeaked out surprised Kamski with how sudden it was, his eyes widening for a brief moment before he frowned skeptically, lacing his fingers together and placing his hands in his lap.
“No. No, he’s done absolutely nothing… Nothing wrong,” Chloe’s words were a bit flustered, but they were sincere. She cleared her throat, correcting her posture and avoiding eye contact with Elijah. While she was telling the truth, the way she reacted was nothing short of suspicious. She couldn’t help it, though. The man had such an… Uneasy presence at the moment.
“You've been acting… Unusual. Since Connor started visiting,” Kamski slowly looked back up to the sky, not even giving Chloe a glance. It made the girl feel a slight chill down her spine. The pauses in her Creators words always spoke entire novels. She knew what he was thinking. He knew that she knew. He just seemed to always know. All the time.
But she didn't have to give in because of that.
“Really? I've felt fine,” she was surprised at how confident her tone was. Were it literally anybody but Elijah, they would've believed her. But, of course, she just had to be speaking to a man with an IQ of 171.
Chloe didn't even need to look at him to sense his eyes rolling. She only completely turned away from him in response, keeping her head held high. She wasn't going to give up. She’d stand her ground. For Connor.
“... You're falling in love with him.”
Chloe’s breath hitched in her throat at Kamski’s statement, snapping her head back towards him in shock. He just… Said it. No questions. No observations. No dancing around it. He made it sound like it wasn't even an option to deny it. Like it was a fact. Like he was reading off the periodic table.
“... W-well,” she stuttered a bit, scratching the side of her head absentmindedly and staring at the ground. “I… I wouldn’t say love. Love’s a bit of a strong word. More like-”
“Don’t fool yourself, Chloe,” Elijah interrupted, his voice becoming unusually forceful while his brow furrowed in disbelief. “I’ve seen the way you look at him, the way you touch him, the way you talk about him, the way you talk to him,” he shook his head with a bit of a scoff, putting a few fingers to his temple as if he had a headache. “... Love is more than a fitting word, I would say.”
Struck speechless, Chloe sat there, her eyes blinking rapidly and her mouth agape. Yes, claiming to only feel infatuation was what she truly believed before. But love him? But she only… He was just… They hadn't even… It wasn't like...
Air finally escaped from her lungs as she deflated a bit in defeat. He was right. She was nearly head over heels for Connor. Chloe didn't want to think she'd fallen for him that easily, but the way he was almost always on her mind, the flutter she felt in her chest when she thought of his voice, how she still felt the touch of his hand on her face, the way she just wanted to completely melt into him the few times they had embraced, the way she missed him more and more with every passing second… It was becoming difficult to deny anymore.
Oddly enough, however, the more Chloe came to accept that fact, the more confident she started to become. Now that she wasn’t trying to hold anything back anymore, she felt almost a physical lift around her. Not only were her feelings for Connor starting to become amplified, but her courage heightened as well. However, pleasant feelings weren’t the only thing that swelled within her.
She’d never really felt anything truly negative towards Mister Kamski. Sometimes irritation, sometimes disappointment, but nothing that touched her unshakable devotion towards the man. But now, a temper was kindling in her chest. She had something, someone to fight for now. It wasn't just Chloe who was affected by this anymore. She couldn't just take the fall and accept it for what it was this time. Her friend could quite possibly be taken away from her, and she’d be damned if she didn’t fight for him. For Connor.
“... Maybe I am,” Chloe spoke slowly, quietly. She gradually raised her head again, giving Kamski a skeptical, almost mistrustful look. “And if I am… Is that a problem? Do you think that me falling in love is a problem ?-”
“I think you falling in love with an Android whose sole purpose he was built for was to hunt down and destroy deviants like you is a problem,” Kamski nearly cut her off, his words sharp and his sudden glare cold. He was getting angry, obviously, but Chloe heard something else that lined his words. A slight tilt in his voice that she’d only heard maybe once or twice in her entire life. Was he… Worried?
“I know he’s deviated,” Elijah interrupted again, once again looking back up to the sky. But this time he glared at it, almost accusingly. “I know he’s kind to you. But his programming his too advanced. It was supposed to be impossible for him to deviate from how strong it is. The odds of him reverting back to his machine state are much, much too high.”
He wasn’t going to let Chloe fight back on this. There was that same heavy, almost overbearing energy around him when he knew he was right. Yes, you might be able to make him stop talking, but only because he thought you were too dense to understand his theories that he claimed to be the “truth.” Just because he was so smart meant that he was always right? Just because he knew everything about androids meant he knew everything about Connor!?
“... You’re wrong,” Chloe’s voice was soft. Quiet, but determined. Brave. Almost aggressive with the amount of bite her words had. Slowly, Kamski lowered his gaze back to the girl, but instead of only appearing angrier, he actually formed a curious arch in his brow. He didn’t interrupt her again. He didn’t roll his eyes or scoff impatiently. He just watched, keeping silent while he waited for her to speak again.
He was… Giving her a chance?
She’ll take it.
“He’s not dangerous!” Chloe snapped, grabbing the opportunity to speak her mind by the throat and squeezing it. She stood up abruptly, scowling at Kamski while her hands formed into fists. “He- he’s not some weapon just waiting to explode! He’s so gentle... And kind, and sweet, and he cares . He cares so much ,” the more she spoke about Connor, the more she slowly started feeling her heart melting again. Her rant began to turn into more of a list, a small, shy smile appearing on her face as she slowly turned towards a weeping willow just to her right. “He… He’d never hurt me. Or you. Or anyone,” she took a branch of the tree in her hand, the small leaves brushing against her skin, almost returning her soft caress in a natural way.
“He believes in me,” she continued, letting the branch fall away with a soft sigh. She closed her eyes, taking in the wind, the scent of the roses, the lavender, the cherry trees. It was empowering, the presence of the nature around her almost making up for the lack of sunlight. “He knows I’m capable, that I’m my own person. He thinks I should be on my own, seeing the world, free to find and become who I want to be. You haven’t seen that side of him. You don’t-”
An abrupt, startled gasp sounded from her when she turned around to face Elijah, only to find he was standing just a few inches away from her. She froze, suddenly feeling her blood turn to ice as Kamski grabbed her wrist. Not forcefully or in a violent way, he just took hold of it, lifting it up slowly, almost as if to keep it in his line of sight.
“... You’ve become much, much more attached to the Hunter than I anticipated you would,” he began, shaking his head almost mournfully. “How unfortunate.”
Chloe’s eyes widened in fear when he brought his hand up to her face, putting it in almost the exact same place Connor had only the day before. But, as compared to Connor’s warm, reassuring touch, Elijah’s hands were cold, rigid, tense. She held her breath, flicking her eyes between the man’s face and the grip he had on her wrist.
He… He wasn’t going to reset her, was he..? He wouldn’t do that, right..?
“No,” Kamski let out a single huff of laughter when he literally answered her thoughts. “No, you’ll stay awake and alive. You’ll remember everything, my dear…”
A small, shrill sound of panic sounded from the back of her throat as the man got much, much, much too close. He wasn't trying to kiss her or make any kind of physical advance, no, no. His gaze darted all around her face, a fire sparking behind his eyes the more he took her in. He was analyzing. Evaluating. Calculating. He examined every inch of his creation, his grip on her wrist getting tighter the longer he looked.
“... Just not him.”
Hank didn’t even try to reason with Connor not to come along with him back to Kamski’s mansion, knowing that it would go absolutely nowhere. And he was right to, as Connor had paced outside of Hank’s door the entire night before, waiting for him to wake up so that he could go back to Chloe. Yes, the promise he made to Hank that he wouldn’t leave in the middle of the night and go himself was nearly impossible to keep, but he somehow, by some miracle stayed put. It took so much control, so much strength to not give in, but Hank was right. If Connor went by himself, he’d lose control again.
Neither of them wanted that.
So, for the third day in a row, the Dynamic Duo were on their way, chugging along in Hank’s nearly ancient vehicle. This time, however, Connor wasn’t fidgeting or jittery as he was in the past. As a matter of fact, he was the polar opposite. He sat straight as a board in the passenger seat, his ruthless glare practically breaking the windshield from how unrelenting it was. He was perfectly still, perfectly quiet, perfectly focused.
“... Connor, listen to me,” Hank spoke after nearly twenty minutes of silence, resignation already sounding in his voice. “I… I know I can’t convince you to stay in the car, so just stay behind me. Don’t run off, try not to say anything, and don’t do anything remotely violent, got it?”
The Android didn’t answer, but didn't upright refuse either. To be honest, he didn't really even perceive that Hank said anything.
Ever since he had realized his love for Chloe, he hadn't spoken a word. Not a single one. The only way he had communicated with Hank was through brief facial expressions and pithy actions. Not even Connor himself knew if it was to save time by not speaking, or if he just couldn't find words to say. Maybe it was a bit of both.
In any case, Connor was still just as mute. His LED had been constantly blinking yellow for the past several hours, which was the only real indicator to at least somewhat accurately express what he was feeling. Even then it might not be the case, as he was also thinking. Thinking a lot. Thinking of the exits he saw, the areas he could hide, where he saw dead ends, and the look on Kamski's smug face when he felt a bullet rip through the flesh of his shoulder.
… No, his primary plan wasn't to attack or pull any kind of heist. He didn’t even bring a gun, Hank made sure of that. He would stay passive. For as long as he could, anyway. He promised Hank that he’d at least try. But if Elijah so much as put one goddamn finger out of place, he'd be hospitalized within the hour. Guaranteed.
It also didn't help that he had a horrible, pulling, aching feeling in his throat that something happened to her. He had no idea what would've happened, the severity of it, or when it happened, but he just knew something was wrong. It was almost as if he was making some kind of empathetic link to Chloe, the nauseating feeling only getting worse by the closer they got.
What if Kamski found out that Chloe was possibly... Fond of him? Would he shout at her? Threaten her? Hit her? What if Hank's assumption was right in the fact that Elijah… Used Chloe physically? He visibly flinched just having the idea pop briefly into his head, breathing in sharply when resentment began rising within him again. Before he could get too angry however, he quickly tried to calm himself down, reminding himself that Chloe had never shown any signs of abuse before. There was no reason for Elijah to use her now.
The Android finally snapped out of his unending glare, blinking a bit in surprise when Hank snapped his fingers in front of his face. His head darted around a bit, taking in his surroundings now that he was back in the real world. The car was stopped, parked in front of Chloe’s living place. Connor let out a shaky, strained breath, releasing all the tension he didn’t realize he was holding in his shoulders.
Hank rolled his eyes for a second when he finally got a reaction from him, already obviously at his patience end. So he took a second to gather himself, taking a breath before speaking again.
“... Stay calm, alright?” the man mumbled under his breath, his tone somewhat revealing that he thought what he was saying was pointless. “Look, he hasn't done anything to you, and he’s never hurt Chloe. You have no reason to be this angry at him. You are aware of that, right?.”
The moment Hank said the last syllable of Chloe’s name, an overwhelming sense of dread hit Connor so hard his entire body shuddered. She was in danger. He had absolutely no doubt now. He couldn’t even begin to explain why he had the revelation, only that what he felt was undeniable.
“Something’s wrong,” the first sentence Connor had said in nearly half a day wheezed out of his mouth in a jumbled mess. He frantically fumbled with his seatbelt for a second before he shot out of the car. Luckily for everyone, he didn’t exactly have enough mental clarity to have good coordination. His feet barely had the opportunity to touch the ground before his balance faltered, causing him to fall over onto his knees for a moment, preventing him from sprinting in headfirst. He didn’t even have enough time to stand up all the way before Hank took a vice-like grip on Connor’s arm, yanking him back to his feet a bit rougher than he needed to.
“Don’t make me put a leash on you!” He scowled at the Android, helping Connor get his balance again before took the young Android’s shoulder firmly in his grasp, leading him up to the door. Connor didn’t exactly argue, figuring that it was probably best for everyone if there was some kind of control over him.
After a few agonizingly slow seconds, Hank at long last reached the doorbell, only gripping Connor harder when he rang it. Surprisingly, didn’t take very long for Elijah to open the door. He only took one glance at the two before rolling his eyes with an overemphasized scoff.
“Should I just set up rooms for you two now?” Irritation oozed from Kamski’s words as he opened the door wider, gesturing a bit for them to walk in.
The second Connor spotted him, he clenched his teeth so hard he felt his jaw pop. In turn, Hank squeezed the Android’s arm even harder, reminding him to stay in his place. It was tight enough that Connor felt a twinge of the foreign, awful, sickening sensation that was pain. It shut him down fast, his posture drooping and his gaze falling to the floor in surrender. Hank saw the reaction and seemed to know what happened, as evident by the slack his grip provided as he led Connor through the door.
“You seem troubled, Connor,” Kamski commented as he shut the door, turning to look at the Android and clasping his hands together in front of him. “Did you have a rough night? Did you have a bit of trouble trying to figure out how to ‘finish’ me?”
“You son of a bitch,” Connor hissed through his teeth, already getting riled up again while he clenched his fists and stared daggers at the man before him. Before he could do much more, Hank elbowed him in the side, huffing out something that sounded like "Connor!" He took the hit, but didn't look any more subdued.
“... We came here to get some things straight,” Hank answered as he shifted his focus to Kamski, flicking his eyes between the man and Connor apprehensively. “He thinks-”
“That I’m keeping Chloe captive? That I’m forcing her to do my bidding?” the Inventor finished for him, shaking his head disappointedly. “You really think I force her to stay here? That I dictate over her?"
Elijah was acting differently. Something was more… Smug. More confident about him than usual, which was saying a lot. He knew something. Was Connor right? Did he find out… About Chloe?
"She chose to be here," he continued as he slowly walked around Connor, the Android’s eyes locking on to every single microscopic movement the man made. “She almost never complained about anything, she asked to help me with my daily tasks, she never asked to leave…” Kamski trailed off for a second, now facing away from the two and becoming motionless for a moment.
“... Until last night,” he finished his statement, his head hanging just a little. He sounded like he actually had a bit of trouble saying it. That fact in of itself was enough to make Connor’s heart drop out of his chest, his provocation melting into borderline fear.
“What the hell is that supposed to mean!?” Hank barked at Kamski, asking exactly what Connor’s mind was screaming while he let go of the Android’s shoulder. “For fuck’s sakes, can’t you give us a straight answer for once!?”
“…She thought about what you told her,” Elijah acted like Hank wasn’t even in the room, turning back around and giving Connor an almost grievous look. “She said she wanted to go see the world, discover herself, become independent… So she did. I gave her some money to get started… And now… She’s gone.”
The more he went on, the more disappointed and sad he sounded. But Connor barely even interpreted the emotions from Kamski’s words, too stunned and horrified at what was just revealed to him. No… She wouldn’t just leave, right? She would’ve told him. She would’ve said goodbye, right? Because she had feelings for him.
Hank was saying something to Elijah, but it sounded like the words were coming from underwater. Gradually, he felt devastation begin to close in around him, crushing his lungs and weakening his knees. He… He was wrong. She didn’t... Didn’t she? She only thought of him as a friend. And not a very close one if she left without saying a word to him...
He suddenly felt an invisible force sucker punch him in the chest, causing him to hunch over and cross his arms around his torso. He flinched and inhaled so hard it hurt, struggling to keep himself from crumbling over.
She’s gone. She’s just… Gone. He never got to say goodbye. He never said… He never got to...
Then, just as Connor looked back up, Kamski tilted his head, the light catching his face in just the right way.
And he saw it.
Three small raised lines on the man’s right cheek. Those weren’t there yesterday. Concealer had been hastily applied to make them unnoticeable, which meant that they were still red, which means that it was recent. They were exactly three outstretched finger’s length across, the depth only barely going through the first few layers of skin.
In the blink of an eye, Connor’s mind palace exploded open, instantly taking in every single piece of information of Elijah, his eyes flicking around so fast you’d get dizzy just looking at them. The fabric of his clothes, the prescription of his glasses, the fluctuation in his weight from yesterday to estimate when the last time he ate was, literally everything.
He began picking out the pieces of information that stood out, one tuft of his hair was slightly out of place from the rest, his fingertips had traces of lubricant oil, the hood of his jacket he was wearing had a few stray strands of long, blonde hair, and, most disturbing of all, one single, nearly invisible stain of a drop of therium on his neck.
Elijah’s expression suddenly shifted when he took a closer look at Connor, dropping into a nearly murderous glare when he realized that the Android had been analyzing him.
But the Man was just a second too late.
“He hurt Chloe!” Connor cried, his voice breaking in panic as he sprinted to the door that led to the rest of the mansion. He didn’t even have time to notice Kamski reach into his jacket pocket and attempt to pull a gun on him because of how fast Hank disarmed the man, throwing the gun to the other side of the room and restraining Kamski.
“Hurry!” Hank yelled out, struggling against Elijah’s punches and kicks in an attempt to escape. Connor was already too far away to respond, running through the nearly maze-like mansion as fast as his terror could take him. He bolted around every corner, the data of every tile, every plant, every speck of dust around him flying past his vision. He cried her name through the empty halls while he searched, getting only echoes of his own frantic voice in return.
What felt like days passed, yet he still found nothing. Not a single trace of her. Was she even here!? Did Kamski hide her somewhere else!? Shit, what if he had her transported somewhere across the country!? What if- What if he kill-
Before he could finish that unspeakable thought, he at last spotted a drop of therium the size of a crumb on the floor. The Android skidded to a stop, nearly falling on his face with how fast he changed directions. In one swooping motion, he dropped to one knee, put two shaking fingers to the blood, and touched it to his tongue. It took a second to register because of how all over the place he was, but the results finally popped up in front of him.
Another wave of terror rushed through the poor boy as squeezed his eyes shut, the floor shifting underneath him and his vision going blurry. But, just before he collapsed into a full blown episode, he caught himself, gritting his teeth and forcing air into his lungs. No. He’s not going to do this now. Chloe was in danger, possibly wounded. Laying on the floor and having a breakdown would not help anyone.
While his breath was erratic and his balance was still unsteady, he managed to carefully straighten out his legs, opening his eyes as he rose to a standing position again. Breath in, breath out, he reminded himself as he opened his mind palace again. Back to searching. Focus.
Breath in, breath out.
Obviously, Kamski had attempted to clean up anything that Chloe might’ve left behind, but he didn’t get everything. Combining that fact with the fresh scratches on his face, the evidence suggested he was in a rush, and that whatever happened was recent. Within the last hour, Connor estimated. He moved his focus back down at the blood on the floor, a little surprised when he realized he missed a nearly microscopic streak of the blood that trailed behind the droplet he had sampled earlier. His piercing, now pinpoint accurate eyes followed the pattern, his head eventually turning to a hallway that was just ahead and to the left.
Breath in, breath out.
Connor headed on the direct path he estimated Chloe went based on the pattern of the blood he saw, his head hunched over while he followed it with inch for inch accuracy. He was onto something. He had something to hang on to. He took the small spark of hope it produced and held onto it desperately, hoping it would help him get his senses together to find her.
Connor was so focused on following the trail, he nearly bashed his head into a wall in front of him, the hallway coming to an unexpected dead end. The Android jumped a bit to stop his momentum before he raised his sights back up, finding himself looking at an enormous framed photograph hanging before him. The image consisted of Chloe, sitting tall in front of Kamski, who was standing confidently behind her with his hand on the back of her chair. She was smiling.
It was sickening.
A deep scowl darkened the shadows around Connor’s face, staring at Chloe’s expression for a bit longer than he needed to. She was happy. She was glowing. She was proud.
She had no idea.
Connor’s rising irrational anger nearly distracted him from seeing the small chips of paint that were missing from part of the wall. But, after he shook his head to snap himself out of it, his eyes managed to spot it, causing his brow to furrow in slight confusion. They were the same width apart as the pattern of the scratches on Kamski’s face, so Chloe must've caused them. But the location didn’t make sense. She tried to cling to the middle of a wall? At the end of a hallway? He looked closer, his eyes widening when he realized the claw marks cut off abruptly, disappearing into the wall instead of trailing off naturally.
There was a hidden passage here.
Carefully, he put his ear up to the wall, closing his eyes while he pressed and knocked along the wall surrounding the marks. He tuned his ears up as sensitive as he could, desperately hoping that he’d hear a device clank or a hollow echo. Please let her be here. Please let her be here. Please-
His heart skipped a beat when he finally heard a nearly silent reverberation just beneath the picture frame. There was something here. Now with a bit more motivated energy in his movements, the Android took his ear off the wall, slowly backing up while he calculated where the entrance would be from the source of the sound. He made sure he had the outline of the doorway in his vision before planting his feet firmly on the ground. Connor braced himself, mustering up every ounce of strength he had right before he slammed his shoulder onto what should've been the weakest spot on the wall. And, just as he had hoped, it was enough force for the door to fly wide open, revealing a small archway into an enclosed passageway.
She had to be here.
“Chloe!” Connor called out one more time, his voice hoarse from how many times he’d said it now. He ducked under the doorway and dashed through the short passageway, only to find himself emerge into an intricate, state of the art laboratory. Various mechanical instruments were scattered across the tables and counters, several machines were lined up against the back wall with-
Connor's observation of his surroundings came to a screeching halt, everything in his system freezing up when he finally, finally saw her in the back corner of the lab. She was humming happily, rearranging test tubes and putting away a few drills, nuts, and bolts.
She wasn't hurt. She was alive.
Relief didn’t even begin to describe what Connor felt when he saw that she was okay. The feeling of all the fear and all the anger release at once was overwhelming, making him stumble just a little bit and brace himself against the counter.
“Chloe?" he panted while he called for her attention, trying to gain a bit of composure before they reunited. However, when the girl heard Connor speak, her head whipped around and she jumped in surprise, nearly knocking over a microscope in front of her.
“Uh… Yeah?” She sounded uncomfortable, staying backed into her corner while she looked Connor up and down, only seeming to get more and more confused by the second. "Did… Did Mister Kamski send for you..?
"... No. No, I found you by myself," Connor almost didn't answer for a moment, the sound of her voice evoking more emotions than he would've liked. Up until that very moment, he realized that in the past day alone, not only had he been sad, angry, and everything in between... He had missed her, too.
Once he felt he somewhat had himself together, he started towards Chloe, an exhausted, but genuinely happy smile growing on his face
"What happened? Why was-" the moment he reached out to put a hand on her arm, she flinched and jumped away from him, now actually starting to look scared. At first, Connor squinted at her in confusion. She knew he wouldn't ever hurt her, right? What happened to her liking physical contact? But, the more he stared at her in an attempt to understand why she was distant, the more the awful realization dawned on him.
Her eyes were different. There wasn't the twinkle they always had whenever she was close to him. She didn't have the same warm, caring, loving glow that he thought was something she just expelled without thinking about it. Something was missing.
… No. No, Elijah couldn't have-
“I-I’m sorry sir," Chloe interrupted the Android's thoughts, her voice shaking with anxiety as she backed away even further. "You're- You're not permitted to be here. No one is. No one was supposed to be able to even find this place…" She looked Connor straight in the eye now, seeming to get just a little less scared and more curious. "How… How did you find this place? Did Mister Kamski tell you? Why are you here?"
"Who… Who are you?”
Ho ho HOLY HELL THIS WAS TOUGH. I'm sorry it took SO long to get to you guys. I considered breaking it up into smaller chapters, but that just didn't feel right. The ending is probably a jumbled mess to fresh eyes, so when I've had enough sleep I'll go back and review it.
Anyway, have a good day! love you guys <3
Chapter 8: Remember me
It came in waves.
It started with just a small pang, making Connor blink rapidly in confusion. She… She wasn’t serious, was she? No... No, she couldn’t be. He could tell Chloe was still deviant, so she obviously wasn’t reset. It's just that he was a little… Surprised at her. He thought she'd be more concerned about the situation, not taking the time to make jokes.
“Chloe… Now really isn’t the time for antics,” he coughed for a brief moment, his voice still a little raspy from overusing it earlier. Not even minutes ago he thought it was a possibility that she might’ve been killed, and now she was pretending she didn’t know him? That was probably the last thing on earth he needed to hear right now.
“Antics..?” Chloe's voice was soft at first, but clearly insulted as her curious expression turned into a glare. “I… I don’t know who the hell you are! Why would I be joking around with you!? No! Get out! Leave!" Her hand flew up to point towards the exit, her transition from whispering to yelling almost non-existent.
The second wave hit, and this time it was a nice punch in the stomach when Chloe snapped at him. Connor flinched a little and reflexively backed away a few steps, creating distance between the two of them.
At this point, the poor boy couldn't even try to use some pathetic excuse; like that she was just having a bad day and wanted to be alone. She meant what she said, the sharpness in her words making that more than apparent.
“You… You really don’t… Remember..?” Connor could barely even hear himself speak from how hard his heartbeat throbbed in his ears. His hands were beginning to tremble as he finally started processing the reality of what was happening. No… No, she was deviant. She had to remember, right? You can’t wipe an android’s memory without resetting it. That was impossible. He upright refused to believe that was the case.
"Chloe… Chloe, it's me," he put this hands to his chest in an insisting manner, his mouth forcing itself into an ignorant smile in a pitiful attempt to stay calm. "It's Connor. You're My friend. We're… We're friends, remember?"
Chloe must've started to see how sincere Connor's claims were, as evident by her glare turning into a squint of confusion. She slowly let her arm down, the aggressive energy around her beginning to fade away.
"... No," she shook her head, taking a small, cautious step towards him. Her eyes started trailing over the Android in front of her, probably trying to decide if he was putting on some weird act.
"No- Connor, you said? I've never met you before," Chloe spoke slowly, purposefully overpronunciating her words and making deliberate hand gestures so she could get it through his head. “You… You might be mistaking me for another RT600 model.”
The third wave was when Connor's composure really started to crumble. The way she said his name was so lifeless . He was so used to that little ring in her voice whenever she spoke it, but the way she said "Connor" just now… It didn't even sound like his name anymore.
"... No," he huffed out, the amused facade he had put on dissolving away into desperation. “No, no, no, no, no, Chloe, tell me you remember me,” he was literally begging now, quickly closing the space between them again, perhaps a little too much. Chloe leaned back and made a little squeak of surprise, but didn’t push him away or completely retreat. In fact, she began looking legitimately concerned, maybe even a bit sympathetic.
“Chloe… Chloe, you know me,” Connor insisted, his words getting interrupted by his steadily deteriorating breathing patterns. “You- you showed me your garden. The one Kamski built for you, remember?”
“... How do you know about that?” Chloe surprisingly didn’t sound scared or accusing when a “stranger” mentioned her garden. She just seemed confused, her brow scrunching as she straightened herself back up. Connor's eyes perked up for a second at her reaction, his heart racing and his mind reeling. Was… Was he onto something?
“Yes… Yes, because you invited me to visit you,” there was a new sense of urgency in his voice, nodding quickly while he used hand gestures to illustrate what he was saying “You were in a white dress that day. I tripped over a plant in the hallways and you told me that you always trip over it too. You want to move it, but Kamski won’t let you. You miss the other RT600s that left when they deviated, leaving you alone with him. You’re… You're very physically affectionate...”
He trailed off for a second, suddenly finding it difficult to find the words to continue on to his next few points. That was, until he watched Chloe's mouth drop open in bewilderment and her eyes widen so far that the lights in the room reflected off of them. Did that mean something was happening? Was she beginning to remember..?
“I almost killed you with Kamski’s awful test,” the words seemed to come much easier for Connor, feeling a little encouragement from getting a reaction out of Chloe. “I regret it more than anything I’ve ever done when I was a machine. Yet you gave me forgiveness that I didn't and still don't deserve. You’re always excited when I visit you. You... You always stand on your toes when you get excited.”
“... And you always tap your fingers on your forearm and sigh every fifteen seconds when you’re thinking," Connor’s voice started to lose it’s fortitude as he continued, the memories he had with Chloe becoming too emotionally staggering to keep himself calm. “... When you laugh the pitch of your voice rises for a moment before dropping back down. When you smile the corners of your eyes wrinkle and you lift your shoulders up an inch and a half. When you cry you cover your face and turn away, possibly because you don’t want anyone to see you upset. When you’re happy you just start glowing and- When you hug me I’m- I’m able to- When you kissed- it’s- You’re- I feel-”
Connor’s words suddenly started freezing in his throat, preventing him from finishing his not-so-factual proof. Eventually he gave up, growling in frustration at himself as he grabbed his hair in his fists and cramming his eyes shut. Why couldn’t he talk!? Why did his brain make him stop!? He was so close, so close and he had to be self-conscious now? Why-
His eyes snapped open when he heard a soft sniffling across from him. He let his hands down slowly and directed his gaze back to Chloe, only to see that she had tears streaming down her horrified face, her hands covering her mouth and her shoulders shaking in a desperate effort to hold back sobs.
“No. No, Chloe, don’t cry,” Connor hurried over to her, not really thinking how bad of an idea it might’ve been to touch her as he carefully took her face in his hands. Surprisingly she didn’t push him away or get angry. It only made her cry harder, a few whimpers coming loose when she closed her eyes and turned her head away, trying to hide her face from him.
“Don’t cry. It’s alright,” Connor’s voice had quickly dropped to a soothing whisper as he turned her head back to face him, the need to comfort her overtaking the turmoil he had just been in moments earlier.
“I’m here. It’s me. I’m Connor,” he felt a reassuring smile form on his face as he wiped her tears away with his thumbs. It made Chloe’s breath shake for a moment before she opened her eyes again, her face strained as if it took a lot of effort to do so.
“You know who I am, right?” He nodded to her encouragingly, lifting her head up just a bit more to have better eye contact. “You remember me, right? Your friend? Your-”
“I’m sorry,” she suddenly choked out, taking his hands into her own trembling ones and gripping at them desperately “I’m so, so sorry. I… I...”
She sobbed once more before continuing, her face twisting up into an even worse state of distress.
“... I don’t.”
The fourth wave was actually a disturbingly familiar feeling to Connor. As a matter of fact, he’s actually experienced something almost identical to what this felt like.
When his heart was literally ripped out of his chest.
It took a second for him to fully realize what she said. But when he did, a soft, feeble, almost silent sound of despair sounded from Connor, tumbling out of him along with the rest of the air from his lungs. It was then that anguish threw it’s freezing, dark, suffocating arms around his entire body, crushing him from the inside out. It wrung and twisted around, squeezing out any life that might’ve been left in his eyes.
Chloe gasped in distress as she watched his expression completely shatter, the guilt in her voice more than apparent. His hands slowly fell away from her face along with the rest of his collapsing body. She struggled as hard as she could to keep Connor standing, supporting his arms and pulling him back up desperately. But it was pointless. He felt hundreds of pounds heavier than just a moment ago. He didn’t have the strength to stay up, no matter how hard Chloe pulled at him.
“I’m sorry. I’m so, so, so sorry. I don't know you. I really don't. I'm so sorry,” She whimpered over and over and over, getting down on her knees with him and keeping a hand on his shoulder. Her cries for forgiveness rang in his ears like funeral bells as the muscles in his neck gave out, making his head fall forward lifelessly. His eyes slowly closed shut, the darkness he saw behind his eyelids seeming as bright as the sun compared to what was gnawing away at his failing heart.
So... This was heartbreak. This was hopelessness. This was defeat. This was futility. This was what humans write songs and poems about. This was what ruined lives and relationships. This was one of their biggest fears, something they always avoided at all costs. This was what made some humans even try to kill themselves.
And now he understood why.
While Connor may not have had a death wish, he did wish Kamski had told the truth. He wished that Chloe had left, had gotten away from this place. He wished she didn't say goodbye. He wished that she was halfway across the earth. He wished that she didn't consider him a friend. He wished she was gone.
Because then at least she would still remember him.
But no. Instead, Connor was left with a one-way stranger. There was no clue he could analyze to find a way to fix this. There wasn't a way to reverse this. There was no last resort. There was no way he could even pretend to find a way anymore. There was nothing he could do. Nothing . Nothing except mourn the loss of… Not just a friend.
He lost her .
Connor started to barely even feel conscious anymore. His surroundings blurred in and out of reality disorientingly. The chaos of his emotions dulled all of his senses, somehow sadistically making him numb and tormented at the same time. The presence of Chloe in front of him was the only thing he could easily discern, the sounds of her sorrow gradually getting quieter.
“We- we need to get you some help,” after a minute, Chloe had finally managed to calm herself down to the point where she wasn’t sobbing anymore, but her voice was still shaking. “Please… Please try to get up?” She was wary, almost timid when she asked for his compliance. Making sure she never completely let go of him, her fingers cautiously slid down his arm until she reached his hand.
Without any warning, the very moment her fingers wrapped around his palm, Connor instinctively clutched to her wrist, making her jump a little in surprise. It was pathetic, how tight his grip was on her. At the same time, he didn’t even care. He just wanted some way, somehow hold onto her. To not let her go. To not let her fade away. Even if it was something as simple as holding her hand. At this point, anything was enough. Anything.
However, neither Connor nor Chloe had a clue about the effect this simple touch would have. Why would they? He’s held her hand before, and this certainly wasn’t the first time she’s held hands with someone. It was a normal thing to do. Friends, family, sometimes even strangers held each other’s hands. It was just a way to connect two people together physically. Just physically…. Right?
Connor’s hand unexpectedly dissolved into the pale white coating that shaped his whole body, making it just as exposed and raw as his mental state was in that moment. Yes, that wasn’t abnormal. Androids removed their skin for various reasons all the time. He was just not fully there, so it was something he subconsciously did; like tapping your foot to a song you enjoyed. What wasn’t normal was when it spread down to Chloe’s hand too, her flesh on her wrist and hand disappearing nearly the second Connor made contact with it.
That’s when it happened.
The powerful jolt that surged between the two of them was so intense that it made Chloe gasp, her breath sputtering from how sharp she inhaled. It made Connor jump out of his stupor, his head shooting back up and his eyes snapping open in surprise. Almost immediately, spontaneous visions of her started flashing through his vision. He saw her when they first met, when the test took place, when she embraced him for the first time, when she guided him through the mansion, when she showed him the garden, when she kissed his cheek… And then a few other memories. Memories he’d never seen before.
He saw Kamski dragging him through the halls while he thrashed and punched and kicked at him. He saw himself claw at his face, drawing out blood and feeling an immense rush of satisfaction from that. He saw himself being restrained on what looked like an operating table, struggling as hard as he could against the straps and shrieking at Kamski to let him go. He saw Elijah ignoring his pleas, forcing his head to the side and shoving a wire into the back of his neck. He felt an agonizing burning sensation for the briefest of moments, then-
Reality slammed back into the two, both of them crying out and falling backwards when the energy threw them apart. It was so violent that it left the both of them panting heavily in time with each other. Connor lay motionless on his back, staring wide eyed at the ceiling and having absolutely no idea what just happened or what he just saw.
After a minute and he felt he was strong enough to, Connor cringed as he sat himself back up, putting a hand to his head where he had hit it on the floor and flinching at the dull ache it caused. As new and frightening as pain was to him, he was much more bothered by the visions he had, not being able to put two and two together from how disoriented he was. Who was that? Why did Kamski capture him? Why-
He heard it.
His name. It was actually his name.
He heard the ring. He heard it chime louder than ever.
Connor whipped his head back around to Chloe, holding his breath in apprehension for what he might see. She had pushed herself up too, looking just as exhausted as he did. But instead of her face spelling out remorse and empathy, she was stunned. Realization and recognition was what covered her awe-struck expression.
“Chloe..?” Connor breathed out, his brow rising as a speck of light flickered behind his eyes. Was she..?
It was all but confirmed when a deliriously happy smile appeared on her expression as he said her name. She quickly put her hands over her face and started laughing, curling into herself a little bit as she did.
“Chloe!?” Connor scrambled over to her, putting his hands on her shoulders and looking over her frantically to see if she was alright. Without any warning besides her peeking out from behind her hands for a second, she jumped up and threw her arms around him, pressing her face into his chest and clutching him for dear life.
There was another thing humans sang about. What they wrote poems and sonnets about. What they strive for nearly their whole lives. What the very nature of relationships was. What kept the entire world going. What made humans want to live .
And it swelled inside Connor in that very moment.
Holding wasn’t an appropriate word for how he desperately flung his arms around Chloe, hiding his face in her neck and grabbing her hair that had started falling out of her ponytail. No, it was more like clinging. Their arms were wrapped around each other so tightly, neither of them could really breathe. They didn’t care. Connor could never, never, never let her go like that again. Chloe couldn’t forget again and let herself slip away. They wouldn’t let each other get the chance.
Chloe kept laughing, her voice muffled from his shirt which she kept trying to press herself into harder. Connor kept his arm secured around her waist, his eyes squeezed shut from how overpowering and intense this emotion in particular was. She was back. She remembered. She was happy. She was safe. She was here. With him. The words kept circling around and around in his head, making his breathing tremble and his heart get stuck in his throat.
“Connor…” Chloe whispered as she pulled away and her laughter died out. She put her fingertips to his cheek, looking over him in deep admiration before she smiled again, different kind of tears streaming down her face this time.
“I… I love you.”
She didn’t even give him a chance to think before she seized his tie and yanked it towards her, forcing Connor’s head down so that she could press her lips against his own.
For a short moment, his entire body locked up, a muffled sound of surprise coming from his throat when she kissed him. It shocked him so badly that a brief error warning flickered across his vision. However, unlike so many times before, this time he didn't shut down. If anything, he actually had more clarity in that very moment than he had in a really, really long time.
Because all he could see was her.
Connor felt himself start melting, abruptly taking her face in his hands and returning her affection nearly two fold. It must've made Chloe excited, judging by how she slipped her arms up his chest and around his neck, pressing herself against him. Her advance somehow evoked a natural reaction in him, thoughtlessly taking one hand away from her face to slowly wrap his arm around her waist, pulling her ever closer.
It was only when Chloe attempted to make the kiss more passionate that it became just a little overwhelming for Connor. He gently pulled away, but kept himself just as close, resting his forehead against Chloe's while they both caught their breath.
She started giggling again, so starstruck with Connor that she was nearly cross-eyed when she looked up at him. Chloe was glowing again, and it was nearly blinding with how bright she was. Despite that, however, he still smiled down at her with true adoration, a soft chuckle or two coming from him as well.
Once they had both recovered, Connor pulled her into another embrace. This one was much more toned down, composed, quiet, tender. The frenzied hysteria they had been in settled down to soothing embers, the warmth flowing between the both of them.
Chloe sighed blissfully when Connor brought her close, laying her head on his shoulder and closing her eyes, content and peaceful as she could be. Connor nuzzled at her head, the very same smile Chloe bore stuck on his face too.
"Chloe…" he whispered so quietly it barely even formed words, kissing her forehead and brushing his fingers through her hair. He took a second to look over her face again, the warmth growing ever bigger along with his grin.
“... I love you, too.”
Chapter 9: Daisies
Eventually, the dust began to settle from the disarray that had ensued earlier. They were no longer clinging to each other like velcro, instead just sitting side by side on the floor against the wall. Chloe’s head lay on his shoulder, still having that placid smile shining on her face. Connor had his eyes closed, his arm wrapped around her waist and his thumb stroking along the fabric of her dress. It had taken a little while for them to calm down to that point, the emotional highs lingering for quite a bit. But who could blame them? That would've been emotionally and physically taxing for a human, let alone two Androids who had only just started experiencing emotions a few months ago.
But the serenity could only last so long for Connor, the visions he saw when he was connected to Chloe nagging at the back of his mind. He'd put together a general idea of what happened, and the only reason he wasn't charging off to put a bullet in Kamski’s knee was because of Chloe. He didn’t want to break the moment. He didn’t want to take her out of his grasp. She had him completely enchanted, practically melting away any anger he might’ve felt. The only thing he felt when he was around her was adoration, trumping any other emotion that may arise.
Other than the worry that was steadily building up in the pit of his stomach, obviously. He couldn’t remember it exactly , but Connor was pretty sure he felt Chloe be in pain for a fraction of a second. That by itself was enough to make him much more than a little upset.
It took a while, but he finally opened his eyes, breathing out slowly in preparation. He knew right off the bat this would be a difficult conversation, but it wasn’t something they could just sweep under the rug.
They both spoke at the same time, causing a brief awkward silence that was followed by a small, sweet laugh from Chloe, dissolving any tension Connor might've felt. He smiled softly at her cheer, nuzzling her hair and squeezing his arm around her.
He stayed quiet, using his silence as an indicator for her to go first. She seemed to take the hint, curling up into him a little more before speaking.
"... I think I saw some of your memories," she whispered as her tone suddenly turned somber, maybe even just a bit frightened. "I saw… I felt… You… You were terrified ." Her voice broke a bit with that last word, her next inhale sharp and shaky. Connor sensed her heart rate rise when Chloe hid her face in his side, but you didn't have to be an Android Detective to tell that she was frightened. His own heart skipped a beat when Chloe trailed off, quickly becoming alarmed at what she implied. No… No, she didn't feel when he had a… Oh god. She did, didn't she?
Guilt wasn't a strong enough word to describe how awful he felt knowing that she experienced panic like that too. He would never wish that feeling on anyone (well, almost anyone,) let alone Chloe.
Slowly, he pulled his arm out from around her and took her face in his hands, pulling her head up so that she met his gaze. Thankfully, she didn't have tears or nervousness in her eyes, only sorrow and worry for the man beside her.
"I'm so, so sorry you had to feel that," he whispered, one of his thumbs stroking her cheek affectionately. "Are you alright? Did that upset you too much? Are you still feeling it? Did I traumatize-"
"I'm fine, Connor," Chloe stopped him before he could spiral any further, a weak smile appearing on her face from his touch. "I promise I am. It was so fast that I barely remember it. But… You felt that for much, much longer… Didn't you?"
Connor paused for a second, tensing up a little bit in confliction. He really didn't want to lie to her, but he also didn't want her to constantly be walking on eggshells around him thinking that she might cause a breakdown somehow. Chloe could never make him feel like that, but he knew he'd never be able to convince her otherwise.
He stayed quiet for just a second too long, however, causing Chloe to figure out the answer for herself. Now she looked like she was on her way to crying, getting choked up in distress knowing that he had gone through such mental torture. But before she could get too emotional, Connor hushed softly, shaking his head a little bit.
"I'm okay. I really am," he insisted, brushing a stray lock of hair out of her face and giving her a reassuring nod. "It was only once. I know it won't happen again."
As he predicted, Chloe was obviously not buying it at all, judging by how she looked away and sighed silently. Regardless, she thankfully started to calm down again, taking his hands into her own and pulling them down from her face.
“... What were you going to say earlier?” She changed the subject for now, which was probably for the best in both of their cases. However, Connor felt the uneasiness creep back into him when his original question came back to mind. He looked down at their intertwined hands, taking a second to prepare himself for whatever answer he might get.
“... I saw some of your memories, too,” he spoke quietly, swallowing for a second in obvious discomfort. “Kamski captured you and somehow erased your memories of me, didn’t he?”
He was a little surprised when he felt Chloe's fingers cinch about three times as tight around his hands. She quickly went from gentle gaze to scowling glare, her face twitching a little as her eyes dropped to the ground.
“... Yes,” she mumbled under her breath. “He did. I tried to fight back, but he just-” she suddenly cut herself off, shaking her head a little in dejection. She breathed slowly, purposefully, trying to collect herself a bit before continuing.
“I... told him that I was starting to have feelings for you… I don’t think he liked that,” her voice started wavering a bit, but at the same time she still looked resentful. With her glistening eyes and her gritting teeth, it was easy to put together that she wasn’t just angry at Kamski, but betrayed. Deceived at the hands of her creator. Chloe had faith that Elijah would understand until the end… Didn’t she?
A silent tear fell down her cheek for a brief moment before she quickly swiped it away, sniffing and appearing upset at herself for crying. Her heartwarming glow was fading fast as the result of it, and Connor did not like the sight of her in such a dark state.
In an effort to make her feel better, he brought his fingers to her chin and turned her head just enough to place a soft, comforting kiss on her cheek. He lingered for a second before he pulled away, leaning back to give her space again. That seemed to do more than enough, a shy smile creeping up on Chloe’s expression while her face flushed a pale shade of blue. She turned away and covered her mouth for a second, completely flustered by such a simple action from Connor. Yet, as simple as it was, it made her happy, which was all he cared about.
“He… Didn’t give you trouble when you came here, did he?” Chloe started to regain her composure, putting her hands in her lap and letting out a soft huff. She was trying to be serious again, but the girl just couldn’t seem to completely rid herself of the bashfulness on her face.
There was a moment of silence before Connor answered, as he was hesitant to bring the mood down again. But he reminded himself that this wasn't supposed to be a pleasant conversation, no matter how reluctant he may be.
"... He tried to convince me that you had left," a small spark of hate finally sounded in Connor’s voice, the shadows along his features darkening when he set his jaw. “He tried to stop me from finding you, but Hank managed to take the gun-”
“Take the what!? ” Chloe's smile was practically slapped off of her face when she shouted in shock, interrupting Connor before he could elaborate. "He told you what!? He- He tried to-”
She didn’t even finish her question before she hissed in rage, scrambling to her feet with her hands clenched into fists. She stomped so hard out of the lab that when she walked by a stand holding test tubes, it fell over, making glass shatter across the floor.
Connor had a bit of a delayed reaction, stunned for a moment at her uncharastically vicious outburst. But the second he came to his senses, he sprang to his feet, rushing to catch up with her down the hall.
"Chloe!?" He called out when he approached her, staying a few paces behind to leave her space. "It's really not a good idea to confront him when-"
"He tried to kill you!" She only walked faster when Connor tried to stop her. "He tried to take me away from you! He tried to keep me prisoner in my own head! He tried to lie to you about me! He- he-"
She started getting too riled up to talk, just groaning in disgust instead of continuing with her rant. Connor didn't say another word, knowing there was no way in hell he'd win this. So he just stayed close behind her, putting himself on standby for anything that might happen when they began to approach the foyer.
Chloe slammed the door open, revealing Hank sitting on one of the chairs, spinning the now unloaded gun around his finger absentmindedly. Kamski lay knocked out cold on the floor beside him, a few bruises littering his face.
Hank jumped from the thud that resulted from Chloe's entrance, dropping the gun when he shot out of the chair, quickly making his way over to the two Androids.
"You two alright!?" The sense of urgency in Hank’s voice made it obvious how worried he had been about them. He put a hand on Connor’s shoulder and looked him over to make sure he was okay, glancing at Chloe once or twice too.
"Everything's okay-" Connor didn't even get to finish his answer before Chloe stormed past Hank like he didn’t exist. The man didn’t stand in her way whatsoever, stepping to the side while he watched her go. One of his eyebrows raised suspiciously as he turned his head back to Connor for answers. The Android only shook his head nervously in response, his eyes widening in warning.
Chloe stood over Kamski on the floor, scrunching her brow in a scorching glare at him. Her hands closed in even tighter on themselves, her arms shaking from how hard she tensed her muscles.
“... Wake him up,” she seethed in a whisper, her breathing becoming labored the longer she stared at him.
“You…” Hank was completely dumbfounded at what was going on now, looking between Connor and Chloe in an attempt to figure it out. “You want me to wake the bastar-”
“ Wake him up! ” Chloe screamed her demand at Hank, turning her intense stare directly at the poor man. Both of the boys recoiled when she commanded them so ferociously, almost immediately jumping into action out of intimidation. They both seemed to have the same idea when they grabbed either of Kamski’s arms and dragged him back towards the pool, nodding in confirmation to each other once they reached the edge of it.
Connor stepped back as Hank gripped Elijah’s hair, lifted his head up, and then shoved it under the water. It took a second, but the man jolted in shock from waking up with his face in the water. Before he could start inhaling, Hank yanked his head back up and let him go, stepping away to let him recover.
Kamski coughed two or three times and pushed himself away from the edge of the pool, shaking his head in an attempt to orient himself. Once he seemed to get a sense of where he was, Elijah shakily got to his feet, spotting Connor and Hank on either side of him as he went up. But before he could even do so much as glare at them, he saw Chloe, who was walking slowly towards him with her head held high. She was fearless, more and more determined with every step she took. Kamski must’ve quickly noticed something was different about her, because he suddenly seemed tense, maybe even a bit nervous when she stopped just in front of him.
After a few moments of silence, the man breathed out in defeat, putting the pieces together rather quickly. He closed his eyes for a moment, somber as he reached out to carefully touch her cheek.
There was a loud crunch that echoed through the room when Chloe reeled back and landed a sucker punch right on Kamski’s nose, sending him crashing to the floor and holding his face where she injured him. The sudden violence made both Connor and Hank step back a few steps at the same time, the Android looking on in shock, while Hank just put his hand on his mouth and snorted, his shoulders shaking a little as he held back laughter.
“You son of a bitch!” Chloe shrieked at Elijah as he sat back up, wincing as he removed his hand and revealed a bloody, crooked nose. “What the fuck is wrong with you!? You’re sick! You tried to make me-”
“I tried to protect you,” Kamski interrupted, for some reason feeling like he would somehow be able to defend himself. He began trying to stand up again, shielding his injured nose with his hand. “You were going to leave without any knowledge of-”
Before he could continue, Connor stepped forward and kicked in the back of Kamski’s knee, giving Elijah a downright filthy look as he watched the man tumble back down. He wasn't going anywhere. That was clear to everyone now.
"I'm not a child !" Chloe hissed at him, only stepping closer now that he was on his knees. "I'm not a princess who needs to be locked away in a tower! You made me forget about the one person I've ever loved to protect me!? You lied and said I abandoned him to protect me!? You tried to kill him to protect me!?"
Hank's amusement virtually disappeared as Chloe went off, his mouth falling open as he finally found out what happened. He squinted up at Connor, mouthing the word " Love!? " While he pointed at the girl quizzically. The only response Connor could muster was rubbing the back of his head, looking away awkwardly with sudden embarrassment at her just putting it out in the open like that.
Meanwhile, Elijah's gaze fell to the floor the longer Chloe ranted, his eyes closing dejectedly while his blood dripped on the floor. He had completely submitted to any reprimanding he would receive, and Chloe was taking full advantage of that.
"When Connor found me and saw that I didn't know who he was, it hurt him." She spat at Kamski, her voice beginning to sound wobbly with how upset she was. "Have you ever seen the life drain out of someone while looking in their eyes!? No, wait, you haven't. Because you never do the dirty work, right? You don't know. You don't know what it's like knowing that I broke his heart-"
Chloe suddenly choked on her words, her face twisting up in emotion just before she turned away, trying to hide again behind her hands. Without even thinking or missing a beat, Connor hurried over to the girl and wrapped his arms around her, refusing to let her get too upset. He held her head to his chest and kissed her temple, honestly forgetting that Hank and Kamski were watching.
Chloe weakly raised her arms around him to return the embrace, Connor’s compassion giving her the comfort she needed to calm down again. A few moments passed. Or maybe several. He wasn’t sure. Time didn’t seem to pass normally whenever she was this close to him. Whatever the case, she eventually pulled herself away, smiling softly up at Connor in a silent thank you. He nodded encouragingly in return as he let her go, putting his hands behind his back and hanging his head in discomfort when he looked around and realized the two men were staring straight at them.
Hank had his arms folded, looking to Connor smugly with a half-smile that seemed sincerely proud. Great. The poor boy could practically hear the teasing he was going to get from him already. Elijah, however, was defeated. His features had sunken in and his eyes were dimming, the air around him becoming darker and darker by the second.
"... I didn't want to lose you."
The man's voice was so soft, so meek that it caught everyone off guard. It was the only sincere thing Connor had ever heard come out of Elijah's mouth. The only time he heard real emotion in the Creator's words. Normally such a substantial moment like this would've driven anyone to sobriety, maybe even sympathy. But the air in the room only grew more heated, everyone's anger fueled stares burning Kamski alive.
"... You know what..? You wouldn't have," Chloe became just as quiet, getting down on one knee to be at eye level with the man. "I would've visited you. I would've brought you gifts. I would've stayed over nights. I would've grown an even bigger garden. I would've told you stories about my life, about how I've learned and grown over time. I… I would've still seen you as my Father."
"... But you tried to take everything from me," she spoke through her teeth now, her words barely audible to anyone but the stunned man in front of her. "Every chance you might've had to have me, every opportunity you would've had to see me, every single moment I could've spent being your little princess ... Was destroyed the second you plugged me into that machine."
And with her final statement, she rose back up to her feet, turned on her heel, and strode straight to the exit, not looking back or hesitating in the slightest.
Once the door closed behind her, Connor gave Elijah a final look over. A pang resonated in his chest when he saw him in a slumped over heap, his face contorted by the unending grief that was thrust upon him. He didn’t feel uncomfortable out of pity or sympathy, mind you. If anything, he was glad the bastard was suffering just as much as he did. No, what made him wince was seeing how it looked. Seeing how he had looked not too long ago. It… Wasn’t pretty. And while it didn’t give the feeling of heartbreak itself justice, it sure looked like the man was being tortured from the inside out, his broken nose probably becoming all but numb in comparison.
The Android managed to pry his eyes away from Kamski, unsurprisingly not wanting to look at his face any longer. No final word, no self-righteous proclamation, not even one last insult. He just abandoned the broken man on the floor behind him, following Chloe’s path out the front door.
As Connor emerged from the doorway, he spotted her standing at the end of the walkway, her hair blowing poetically in the wind while she stood motionless. He walked up behind her cautiously, staying quiet, but still letting her know he was there by putting a hand on her shoulder as he approached. She hung her head a little in response to Connor's touch, but other than that stood just as still.
He moved up beside Chloe so that he could see her face, but was only disheartened when he saw her forlorn expression. Yes, Kamski had his creation taken away from him, but Chloe had also lost her creator. Connor knew that she really did mean what she said, she was going to keep him in her life, to still have him as her paternal figure. But she threw that all away, knowing the consequences of what would happen if she didn’t.
Carefully, the Android took Chloe’s shoulders in his hands and turned her around to face him. She moved without resistance, a little aloof when she moved her eyes up to meet his own. Connor then moved his hands down her arms until he reached her smaller ones, the tips of his fingers turning a soft white when he laced their hands together.
“... I promise you’ll be alright,” he gave her a reassuring squeeze, the skin on her palms beginning to fade away as well. “You’ll find your own happiness, I know you will. Until then, I’ll help you search for it.”
Slowly but surely, Chloe’s soft glow began to surround her again, uplifted by Connor’s consolation. She took a deep breath before managing to smile up at him, pulling down at his hands until he was stooped over enough that his forehead touched her own.
“I don’t think I’ll need to search for very long,” she murmured, standing on her toes so that her lips could reach his.
The warmth of her kiss poured over Connor as he returned her affection, the swell of bliss in his chest only heightening when her lips shifted into a small smile of content. Even if it was just a miniscule amount, her joy was returning again, which was the only thing Connor wanted. Yes, the responsibility of always keeping her happy wasn’t supposed to be his, but he couldn’t help it. His mechanical heart sang whenever she smiled, and she deserved nothing less than the world in his eyes.
Their tender moment was interrupted by a loud, attention-grabbing cough a few feet behind them. The couple jumped and whipped their heads towards the sound to find Hank standing there with his hands in his pockets, looking more amused than he should be.
"So, when am I gonna start seeing little robo-babies chasing Sumo around?" He chuckled at his own jest as he passed by them, shaking his head a little.
Chloe stepped a bit behind Connor, hiding her face in his arm bashfully, but she was still smiling, knowing Hank meant well. Connor, on the other hand, was irritated, to say the least, huffing impatiently at Hank's apparent need to barge in.
"Hank, Androids can't reprodu-"
"For fuck's sake, Connor! Take a fucking joke!" Hank cut him off with an exasperated groan, rolling his eyes so hard that his entire head rolled with them. However, the young Android didn't even need to do a stress analysis to know that Hank was just fine. That, and he didn't care enough to.
"Okay, but seriously," Hank’s tone was much calmer as looked between the two of them, a genuine grin of pride crawling on to his face. "I'm… Really glad you two are starting to work things out. You make each other happy, I can tell."
Any annoyance Connor might’ve felt from Hank’s interruption disappeared when Chloe hugged his arm, nodding in response to the man’s comment. He looked down at her in fondness, only confirming Hank’s observation as his face relaxed in content.
“... Can she stay with us?” Connor asked the inevitable question a few moments later, looking back up at Hank expectantly. Chloe’s posture perked up as he said it, her eyes whirling up to the Android in surprise. “It would only be until she can manage to be on her own. I’d help her get what she needs, and I estimate it wouldn’t take more than a week.”
Hank (who was probably fully expecting Connor to propose that idea) didn’t take very long to think about it. A tired sigh escaped from his lungs as he nodded, turning and walking back towards his car as he gestured for the two to follow.
“Just… Don’t screw in my house, alright?” He called out to them as he climbed in the driver’s seat, shutting the door before they could even respond.
Chloe giggled quietly, covering her face shyly despite her amusement. Connor, on the other hand, was almost immediately embarrassed, shrinking back a little when he felt his ears start burning; which of course only made him more self-conscious.
“Thank you, Connor,” Chloe recovered much quicker than the young Android, taking his hand again in an effort to reassure him. “I promise that I won’t stay long. I don’t want to-”
“No,” Connor stopped her before she could go any further, shaking his head as he regained his composure as well. “No, you’re staying as long as you need to. Hank will just have to deal with it if it takes longer than expected.”
Chloe didn’t look so sure, but also didn’t argue with him. Instead, she looked over the horizon again, her expression sobering up the longer she looked.
“... I’m a little nervous,” she admitted in a whisper, swallowing to keep her voice even. “I… I have no idea what to expect. I don’t know how to find a job, how to pay rent, how to…” She trailed off, her gaze dropping to the ground in defeat.
Connor let her finish, listening for as long as she needed. But as soon as she was done, he leaned down and gave her an encouraging, compassionate kiss on her forehead.
“What’s your favorite flower?” He asked, keeping her face close to his own. Her spirits were once again lifted again by Connor’s courteousness, standing on her toes and looking off to the side while she took a second to think about it.
“... Sunflowers,” Chloe confirmed after a while with a small nod, tilting her head to the side just a little. “Why do you ask?”
“There weren’t any sunflowers in your room,” Connor pointed out, raising his brow in playful thoughtfulness. “Hank’s property might not be that big, but… I’m certain there’s enough room for you to plant a few. Maybe even start a small garden.”
“Hank would kill us if we dug up his yard,” Chloe laughed, shaking her head in response. “In fact, he’s probably about to yell at us to hurry up.”
“He can try, but he’ll have to get through me to kill you,” Connor hummed conclusively, taking the lead and guiding her towards Hank’s car. “I am serious, though. You can do whatever you want with what we have.”
Chloe thought for a second, a small, almost silent gasp chiming in her voice once she came up with an idea.
“Can… Can we get daisies, too?”
A week came and went, and it went fast. Between getting Chloe settled in, helping her through the slight culture shock, finding her a job, and Connor having to go to his own job at the DPD, the two barely got to have any real time together. However, as a result, it only made the moments that they did have that much more special. Much more intimate. Much more cherished and joyous. A few times the moments were much more passionate as well. But all in all, they were always overjoyed to be in each other’s presence, no matter the context.
They did end up getting Chloe a decent job. And, much to her delight, it happened to be a full-time florist. The fact that Connor only looked for botanical related jobs was an irrelevant detail, of course. And it wasn't because he ran simulations so that he could tell Chloe what would be best to say in her interview, either. She got that job because she deserved it. End of story.
It was trying to find a place for her to live on her own that was the more difficult part. She ended up staying at Hank’s house for more than a week because of it, but he didn’t seem to mind. In fact, Connor actually noticed that the man was subtly but surely giving her more and more permanence in his home.
He’d cleared out the guest room he had been using for storage just for her, encouraged her to bond with Sumo, gave her a designated chair at the table, and even took a picture of her and Connor together. When she inquired why he wanted a picture of the two of them, he didn’t give her a clear answer, mumbling an incoherent excuse while he walked away. However, the next day, Chloe caught a passing glimpse of Hank’s dresser, finding that next to his already existing pictures of Cole and Connor was a newly framed photo of the couple.
Two weeks now. Chloe had started her dream job, so she was gone most of the day now. Connor took advantage of that as soon as he could, using one of his vacation days to do nothing but restore Hank’s neglected backyard. He unearthed weeds, fixed the screen door that was hanging on a single hinge, and threw away old, chewed-up tennis balls.
He got the renovations done relatively fast, giving him just over an hour or so to be able to hurry to the store and buy the supplies he needed. He cut it a bit close, however. He’d only been home for ten minutes by the time the taxi dropped her off, so he didn’t have everything as ready as he wanted it to be, but it would have to do.
Connor waited for her just in front of the back door, his face lighting up when Chloe came inside in one of her new sundresses. While it wasn’t unusual for the girl to see elation appear on his expression when she walked in the room, she seemed to sense that something was different. Chloe raised a curious eyebrow at the boy, hanging her bag on the hook in the wall beside her. Instead of answering, Connor opened the door and stood aside, gesturing her over. She followed suit, keeping a playfully suspicious eye on him until she stepped onto the back porch.
Her eyes widened when she saw the cleared out yard, her mouth slowly turning up into a smile when she started figuring out what was going on. While Chloe had her back turned, Connor pulled out a paper bag from behind a bush. It was stuffed as full as it could be with every single seed packet he could find at the store. While most of them were obviously sunflowers and daisies, he also threw in a bunch of other random ones. Connor didn’t know what other plants she loved , so he figured he should just get everything to be safe.
He waited patiently for Chloe to turn around, holding the bag out to her once she did. Her smile dropped from pleasantly surprised to shocked as she took it into her hands, gasping when she looked inside. Connor was milliseconds away from apologizing that it was a chaotic, unorganized way of presenting them to her, when Chloe dropped the bag and threw her arms around him, making the boy stumble back a few steps from the unexpected hug.
A chorus of “Thank you”s and “I love you”s rang through the air while she kissed all over his face frantically, erasing any doubt in Connor's mind that she might not like it. He chuckled softly in amusement, his voice becoming muffled when her last kiss lingered on his lips.
Sometimes, Connor thought about how he almost didn’t go back to apologize to Chloe. He was so ashamed, so guilty, so afraid. He nearly didn’t have the emotional strength to do it. If it weren’t for Hank, he might not have been able to pull through. He might’ve lived with that guilt for the rest of his life. He might’ve never seen her again. He might’ve never fallen in love with her.
It was when she pulled away and beamed up at him, radiating her spellbinding essence that he had a realization. A sudden understanding of how truly complex emotions could be.
Asking for forgiveness didn’t have to only be sad. They didn’t always have to be remorseful, heartbreaking, or relationship tainting. They could also be renewing, comforting, trust building, and even hopeful.
As they pulled each other into an embrace at the same time, Connor had no doubt that when he spoke his apology to Chloe what seemed to be an eternity ago, it was the happiest "I'm sorry" he'd ever spoken.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ End Act 1 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Surprise! End of act one! Yep, I have a vague idea of what the next act will be, but I'll need just a little time to sketch it all out before I start writing it. I have one or two little one-offs that will happen in between then. Which may or may not involve things that are very not T rated.
I just wanted to let you guys know that your kind words are what kept me going when things got tough writing this. Thank you all so much for being so positive! God, I love this fandom <3