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In Other Words, I Love You

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“Thank you, for all of this.” Hank sighs as he moves to get under the covers. He and Connor had just brought Cole home only a few hours ago, and he was now fast asleep in his bassinet. As soon as he was out for the count, the bone deep exhaustion hit Hank like a train.

Hank had always wanted a child, even if he had to raise one on his own. It took years of attempts, both he and his doctors had feared it would no longer be possible. But 9 months ago, against all the odds, he’d received the best news of his entire life.

It was terrifying at first. As excited as he was to finally have the kid he dreamed of since he was a little boy, it wasn’t going to be easy to do alone.

Luckily, he had the most amazing best friend anyone could ever ask for. He’s known Connor since he first joined the force, nearly a decade ago. They had an instant connection, quickly bonding over being the only two trans guys on the force. When he confided in him about how badly he wanted a child despite the difficulty of being a single dad, Connor immediately pledged to help him with whatever he needed. After all, he wanted to be a dad too someday.

So throughout the pregnancy, all the way up to the birth, Connor was always there. Whenever Hank was struggling with morning sickness, or maybe just needed some emotional support, he hopped in his car and drove over to his house without question. At some point he began accompanying Hank to his doctor appointments; It just felt natural at that point.

Connor stayed over at Hank’s house in the week leading up to the birth. It was a scheduled c-section, so everything went as smoothly as it possibly could. Connor even held his hand through the entire procedure. They both cried when they laid their eyes on little Cole for the first time; He was absolutely perfect in every way.

Connor sits on the edge of the bed and flashes a tired smile at Hank; He’d barely been sleeping these past two days.

“It’s the least I could do.”

Hank scoffs. “Christ Connor, you gotta give yourself more credit. You’ve gone above and beyond. I don’t know how I would’ve done this without you.”

Connor shrugs. “I know how important this was to you. I just wanted to be a good friend.”

Hank shakes his head. “You’re too humble for your own good, you know that?”

He shrugs again. “Maybe. But we can talk more about this later, I feel like I’m about to pass out.” He chuckles.

He stands to leave the room; He’d been sleeping on the couch given that the only other bedroom in the house was naturally reserved for the nursery.

“Hey, wait a minute! You’ve been on that shitty couch all week, why don’t you sleep in here tonight?” He blushes when he realizes the implications of what he just said. “I-I mean, only if you want of course.” He stammers.

Connor’s mouth gapes in surprise, but he quickly corrects himself. “I… Yeah, that’d be great actually. As long as you don’t mind.”

Hank smirks. “Wouldn’t have offered, if I did.”

---

But of course, they have a newborn in the house. It’s only been a few hours before they’re woken up by Cole’s shrill crying. Hank is just about to hop out of bed when he feels a hand grasping his bicep.

“I’ll take this. You need the rest.” Connor whispers.

Hank is ready to protest when a large yawn rips through his system, fatigue already dragging him back to the world of sleep. He relents, and as soon as his head hits the pillow he’s out like a light.

---

The next time Cole awakens Hank, he has the decency to do it when the sun is rising at least. He glances to the right to see Connor is fast asleep, likely too exhausted to even register the noise. The image of waking up next to him in bed is shamefully something Hank had thought about in the past, but it still managed to strike incredibly strong feelings buried deep within himself. He’d crushed pretty hard on Connor years ago, but he was over that. It must be the damn hormones digging this shit up.

He sighs and shakes the impure thoughts from his head. Connor is his friend, and he always will be, as much as the concept causes a pang in his chest.

But attending to Cole was the much more pressing matter at hand. He tiptoes up to the bassinet, not wanting to make any extra noise that could risk waking up Connor.

“Hey, bud.” Hank croons as he approaches his son. Cole is bright red and throwing a full blown tantrum, and Hank can smell exactly why. He hums softly as he goes about changing the diaper, trying to comfort Cole through the process.

“Ah, there we go.” Hank whispers as he swaddles Cole in a soft dog pattern blanket that Connor had bought for him. With a fresh diaper, it doesn’t take long for him to calm down, now staring wide eyed at Hank and idly sucking his thumb.

Hank smiles down at him as he sneaks out of the bedroom and seats himself on the couch. He holds Cole to him tightly, gently rocking him as he hums Fly Me To The Moon. He’d play a lot of his old Frank Sinatra records during the pregnancy. Connor always accused him of trying to influence Cole into becoming an “old soul” like him, and maybe he was onto something there.

The memory fills his heart with warmth. He and Connor had already been close, but the pregnancy undeniably made them inseparable. He’d never shared such a strong bond with anyone before.

He doesn’t know how long he’d been sitting there cuddling Cole when he hears footsteps. He glances back towards the bedroom door, where Connor is peeking out with a groggy smile plastered on his face. His hair is a curly mess from just waking up, and Hank tries not think about how adorable it is.

“How’re you feeling?” Connor rasps, voice still rough from a deep sleep.

“Alright. A little sore, but nothing I can’t handle.”

“That’s good. I was planning on making breakfast, you in the mood for anything specific?”

“Connor, seriously. You’ve done enough. Go back to bed and I can order something for the both of us.”

Connor shrugs. “Sun woke me up, I won’t be able to sleep again for a while. How do pancakes sound?”

Hank snorts. “You’re a menace. I think I got some of the chocolate chip mix in one of the cabinets.”

Connor beams and bounds towards the kitchen cabinets. Where he was able to summon random bursts of energy, Hank would never fully understand. The kid was able to pull an ungodly amount of all nighters in a row if duty called.

---

The next few days feel like a blur. They take turns tending to Cole’s diapers, feeding, and cooking meals for the both of them. Hank notices immediately how naturally parenting comes to Connor; He always seems to know exactly what to do, from which lullabies to sing to help Cole sleep, to the perfect amount of tummy time he can handle before he gets cranky.

It only encourages Hank’s infatuation to grow. The more he thinks about it, the more he realizes he never really stopped liking Connor. At some point he tried to make peace with himself that it wasn’t ever going to happen, and the crush became background noise. It certainly didn’t help that Connor was very affectionate, so he touched and hugged Hank quite often. And now, whether it was the damn hormones, the result of years of hopeless pining, or maybe a combination of the two, Hank can’t help but think of Connor staying permanently.

He’d used most of the vacation days that he’d built up over the years just to help Hank, and eventually he would have to leave. Go back to his own life. But seeing how he is with Cole, the way they wake up to one another each morning… It’s easier to picture him as a father as opposed to an uncle.

Fuck, he's in a lot deeper than he initially thought.

“Hank, are you okay?” Connor’s snapping his fingers just in front of Hank’s eyes.

He startles and feels himself be pulled back down to reality. Right, they’d been eating some of Connor’s incredible homemade shepherd's pie.

“Yeah, yeah. Just tired.” Hank sighs. Why now, did this shitty crush have to bubble up to the surface? Taking care of a newborn was a monumental task on its own, but complicating things with his co-parent made things far from easier.

Connor gives him a suspicious look but lets him off the hook. He’s a damn good detective for a reason, but Hank can only hope this was a case he can’t crack.

Hank clears his throat. “So uh, how much longer are you thinking of staying?”

“Well, I have another week off. I’m sure I could request more time if you think it’d be necessary, though.”

“No! No, your help is invaluable but you’ve done more than enough, Con. I know how much you love working, I’d hate to keep you cooped up longer than needed.”

Connor frowns. “I like it here, though. I love spending time with you and Cole. If you think it’d be best for me to stay longer, you wouldn’t be upsetting me in the slightest.”

Hank desperately wants to assure Connor he could stay until the day he dies, but he isn’t sure how platonic that would sound.

“I’ll let you be the judge of that, then. I love having you around too, but I don’t want you to feel obligated or anything.”

Connor grins. “That sounds reasonable.”

---

It’s been a week since Cole was born when the house seems to have a calm moment. He’s fast asleep in his bassinet while Hank and Connor watch some late night talk show together one the couch. They’d been having a hushed conversation which soon came to a lull. When he glances over at Connor, he notices him nodding off.

Over the course of the week, he’d quickly learned looking at sleepy Connor was a huge mistake, because the way his eyes droop and how raspy his voice gets is immeasurably cute to the point Hank has to physically tear his eyes away.

He turns his focus back to the TV, where the host of the show is cracking some joke about politicians. He tries his best to pretend Connor isn’t even sitting there, but that gets harder when he leans over and rests his head on Hank’s shoulder.

Hank is frozen solid, not daring to make a move. His heart is pumping so fast, he’s surprised that hasn’t woken Connor. He dares to crane his neck to see the young man fast asleep, lips parted with a dribble of drool dripping onto Hank’s shirt.

Most people would be disgusted, but for Hank this is one of the most beautiful events he’s ever had the privilege of observing.

The moment is quickly shattered once Cole begins crying once more. Hank cringes in preparation for the inevitable fallout as Connor begins to stir.

He mutters a few indiscernible words and slowly sits up, dazed and groggy. He wipes his mouth with his sleeve and then jumps when reality finally sets in. His eyes flick up to Hank’s in fear.

“I…” He’s blushing up a storm, mouth gaping wide.

“Uh… You were tired, I just thought I’d let you rest.” Hank tries to keep his voice steady.

“Right…” He breathes.

It feels like he’s ruined everything. Must be scary to wake up to your creepy old man friend watching you sleep.

“I-I’ll go take care of Cole.” Hank stutters much too quickly, scrambling off the couch.

“Hank, wait-” Connor tries to plead, but he’s already entering the bedroom.

---

He pretends he’s asleep when Connor comes in for the night. Thankfully, he still slips into bed next to him after some hesitation. Maybe not all is lost.

---

Hank wakes up to the smell of scrambled eggs wafting through the house. He had always been a bit of a catastrophizer, so there was a moment where he thought Connor would be gone. It was irrational, of course. You don’t throw a decade long friendship away because you accidentally fell asleep on your pal.

Hank ambles out into the kitchen, and that now familiar site of Connor in an apron makes his heart ache. Connor turns his head towards Hank with a worried smile.

“How are you doing?”

Hank isn’t even sure how to answer that at this point.

“Good, fine. Sorry to uh, bolt on you like that.” Hank mumbles as he takes a seat at the kitchen table.

“It’s fine I just… Does me being close to you bother you or?” Connor cocks his head with a somber look on his face.

“No, of course not! I was just worried I scared ya is all.”

Connor nods. “I was a little startled, it’s not a big deal.” Hank knew his friend long enough to pick up on the hurt straining his voice.

“You’re right, it’s not! Just these hormones, making me act a little dramatically is all.” It’s a terrible lie but he can only hope it sticks.

Connor sighs. “If that’s what you say, then I believe you.”

Hank swallows thickly. He doesn’t know what Connor is thinking, but it can’t be good.

“You know I really care about you, Con. Right?”

Connor smiles weakly. “I know.”

---

It’s a little awkward at first, but things seem to fall back into place. Connor seems a little more distant with Hank, which he probably deserves. Still though, he's just as attentive to Cole as always. Every time he sings Cole to sleep, he sees how his eyes are bursting with love. He couldn’t have picked a better person to co-parent with.

But then on a calm evening, with Cole sleeping soundly, Connor drops a bombshell.

“Tomorrow is my last day before I need to go back to work. I don’t think I’ll extend my leave.” Connor says quietly.

Hank feels the exact moment his heart shatters. “Why?” He croaks.

Connor frowns. “You said I could use my judgement here. I think this is what will work best for everyone.”

Hank swallows thickly. “Connor… We’re still friends, right?”

He seems taken aback by the question. “Of course… I just think we both need some space, you know? We’ve been together 24/7 for two weeks now.”

Hank’s breath hitches. “Right. Wouldn’t wanna trap ya here.”

---

It’s the morning of Connor’s last day when he realizes he needs to do something. There was a shift in their relationship and he wanted to find out what it was.

Connor feels even more distant than he had been earlier that week. He focused on taking care of Cole, but whenever he wasn’t he was just sitting on the couch watching TV. Anxiety prickled in Hank’s gut, fearing the worst.

That evening, though, he decides to stop being a coward. Their relationship was already damaged, there wasn’t much left to lose at this point.

He walks into the living room with an agenda.

“Hey, do you mind if I put on some music?”

Connor doesn’t glance up from the TV and simply shrugs.

Hank sighs and shuts the TV off, and moves to put on one of his many Frank Sinatra albums. He plops down on the couch and turns towards Connor.

“Can we talk about… This?” He vaguely gestures to the space between them.

Connor locks eyes with his. “What do you mean?”

Hank scoffs. “Don’t play dumb with me. I did something to fuck things up and I was hoping we could talk about it.”

Connor sighs. “I told you it was okay.”

“Clearly not, since you’ve been so damn distant. You weren’t even like this when we first met.”

He frowns. “Have I?”

Hank stars at him incredulously. “Uh, yeah.”

Connor worries his bottom lip. “I guess I didn’t notice. I’m sorry, Hank.”

Hank sighs. “It’s fine, I just want to know why so I can fix this.”

Connor gives him a look as if he knows the answer but won’t let himself say it.

“Connor… Do you really want to leave, or do you feel like you have to? You know I’d be happy to have you here for longer.”

He shrugs. “It’s just… After Cole was born, you’ve been progressively more distant yourself. We used to be really affectionate with each other, but now whenever I so much as pat you on the shoulder you flinch. And then with the sleeping thing… You seemed disgusted, I was worried I’d made you uncomfortable.”

The admission shocks Hank; He never realized he had been pulling away, but it made sense. It was a subconscious effort to protect himself from inevitable pain. With all his focus being on Cole, it was difficult to also think about covering his reactions up like he did in the past.

“Well Con, looks like we’re both bad at this self awareness shit. I’ve had a lot on my mind, I never wanted to make you feel that way.”

Connor gazes at him intently. “What’s been on your mind?”

Hank takes a deep breath. There’s so much at stake here, but no secret was worth hurting Connor.

“I’ve been thinking about… How I feel about you.” Hank murmurs.

Connor cocks his head, encouraging him to continue.

He sighs. No use beating around the bush. “I’ll just say it. Connor, I am in love with you.”

Connor gasps and his jaw drops in an almost comical manner.

He swallows hard before continuing. “I’ve loved you for a very long time. I thought I could push the feelings down but… The way you’ve taken care of me, and seeing how you are with Cole… I can’t push them away anymore. And I understand if that fucks things up between us, but you deserve to know.”

Connor lets out a noise akin to a squeal and covers his mouth. His cheeks are flushed and his hands are trembling.

“You’re… You’re being for real right now?” Connor stammers.

“Yeah. And I know you don’t feel the same way, so I don’t want you to feel guilty about that. I just don’t want to keep pushing you away, that’s unfair.”

Connor scoffs. “Hank… You can’t be serious.”

He frowns. “I already told you I am.”

“No, I mean about me not reciprocating. I sincerely thought I was obvious.”

Now it was Hank’s turn to gape like a fish. Connor smiles and takes Hank’s hands in his.

“I am in love with you, Hank. Do you seriously think I would’ve done all this for just anybody?” He chuckles.

“I… I just thought you were a nice guy.”

Connor shakes his head. “You’re an idiot.”
Before Hank can protest, he leans in to capture his lips in a soft kiss. Hank wishes it could last forever, but unfortunately Cole has other plans when he hears that telltale cry from the bedroom.

They break apart from the kiss laughing, still holding each other close.

“I’ll take care of him.” Hank says before pecking Connor on the cheek.

He giggles and looks up at Hank, beaming. “I’ll call Fowler.”

---

1 year later

Hank and Connor sit cuddled up on the couch together, watching some 80’s movie. It’d been only a few days since Cole’s first birthday party and that was a raging success. Connor buries his face in the crook of his neck as he keeps a watchful eye over his son. He turns away briefly to plant a kiss in his hair.

Connor smiles and opens his eyes. He looks at Hank briefly before he shifts focus, and his lips part in shock before quickly pushing himself up.

“Hank! Look!”

His eyes snap back to Cole, who’s walking all on his own for the first time.

“Holy shit!” Hank scrambles to get his phone as Connor moves to get on his knees a few feet in front of Cole, holding his arms out wide.

He fumbles with his phone but is luckily able to open the camera app and start recording a video. Connor whispers praise and encouragement the entire time.

Cole manages to walk the entire distance, collapsing in Connor’s waiting arms. He hugs him tightly and kisses his forehead, continuing to shower him in praise.

Hank stops recording and bounds over to join them, hugging them close. He can’t stop joyous laughter from bubbling up, completely overwhelmed with love and elation. He thinks about how lucky he is to have the family he’d always dreamed of; How lucky he was to have Connor walk into the precinct that fateful day a decade ago. It was a long journey to get to this point, but Hank wouldn’t change any of it.