Have a good day at work, honey,” Connor said as he came up beside Hank and kissed his cheek.
The man made a sort of grumbling sound, but a smile smirk graced his lips and he kissed his fiancè back. “Have fun at the party, tell the girls I love ‘em.”
He watched Hank walk out to his rusty, old car, and as it drove away out of the quiet neighborhood. There was still a bit a time before North would pick him up, so he padded to the bedroom with Sumo in tow to finish wrapping the gifts.
The registry that Tina and Nina had set up was understandably thorough. Officer Chen never thought she would every have kids, but her and the ST300 from the front desk of the precinct had hit it off quickly after the revolution. They had a small ceremony, not long after Connor had confessed his feelings to his grumpy Lieutenant. And now, many months later, they were happily expecting a little girl of their own.
Tina had been on desk duty for a little while, which meant that her usual partner Chris Miller was with the newbie. Everyone had been impressed by the WR400's progress; Echo was a quick learner, and Connor helped her when he could.
The larger gifts they had bought, a bedding set for the crib and a milk pump, were already nearly wrapped in pastel purple paper. Connor had gone out the night before, while Hank was at Fowler's for poker night, and picked up a few more outfits, accessories, and books, which now needed wrapping too.
He didn't want to do it in front of Hank, he seemed uncomfortable enough helping choose the registry items. And Connor couldn't blame him, there was a raw, and bittersweet reason why.
The books were first, and as soon as he started cutting the matching wrapping paper, he got a message from his ride.
“Hey, I’m early. Can I come in?” North’s voice came through clearly and eager.
“Of course,” he invited, “ You can distract Sumo while I finish.”
The front door opened, “It's not like you to put things off to the last minute.”
Sumo gave a loud, excited bark, and went dashing to the living room to greet one of his new favorite treat-giving friends. “Not too many,” Connor warned, carefully folding the paper around Touch and Feel: Farm Animals. “He has to sit for it.”
Cooing, North vaguely acknowledged his request, praising Sumo for his cuteness and fluffiness. “I got your favorite bacon treats!”
“His farts will stink for days…” Connor muttered to himself, making a note to warn Hank. With the small stack of books done, he moved on to clothes. With no ability to properly predict how big their child will be, he made sure to get a variety of sizes.
Tiny socks and mittens, onesies with amusing phrases or cute graphics. His favorite was a light blue one, the side of which had a bunny in a disproportionately small space ship, waving carelessly and lacking proper protection. Nina had expressed her love her for the series Star Trek that Tina had insisted they watch, so it seemed appropriate.
“Geez, Connor… they are having a baby, not three.”
“It is customary to gift a wide assortment of clothing. I have included fifteen receipts if they feel it is excessive,” he assured. “What did you get them?”
North shrugged, “Well, you know Markus and Simon. They insisted that Josh and I go in on stuff together, so we collectively bought all the nursery furniture.”
“Oh,” Connor raised his eyebrows. “Even the rocking chair?”
She shrugged again, “I dunno, Simon handled it. I just transferred the funds over.”
“How is Josh, by the way? I haven’t had time to correspond with him more,” Connor admitted, frowning with guilt has he wrapped the last little bundle of clothes.”
“He is fine, I'm sure he gets it, though. You and Hank have been working extra hours lately with that big case, right?”
Connor sighed, “Yes, it has been difficult.”
About a month back, right before the invites went out for the shower, they were called out just before dawn about a multiple homicide. One of the victims looked like they had committed suicide, but after a reconstruction with Nines's help, they determined it had been set up to make it seem like they had been the one to put bullets into the skulls of the three other victims, two were androids.
While he had more or less been able to disconnect from a case emotionally, something about it had shaken him to the core. Hank insisted that they handle the case, but Connor grew weary of looking for leads for it.
“I look forward to having my attention focused elsewhere this afternoon,” he said, and placed one last strip of tape on the little packet. “Could you help me carry some of this to your car?”
It was a fairly quick drive to their house, just a few exits down the expressway, and there were already a few cars parked out front. Purple balloons knocked into each other where they were tied to the mailbox, and the garage door was wide open for guests to enter.
“Heeeeeeyyyyy lovebirds!” North called out as she pushed herself through the side door.
“Hi North! Gifts in the dining room, help yourself to thirium punch!” Nina appeared from the kitchen. “Hey Connor, thank you for coming!”
He smiled, allowing her to help with his large load of gifts. “Thank you for including me, even though it's not particularly customary.”
“Eh, gender shm-ender. You have been such a good friend, and you could use an excuse to come to a party without clinging to Hank's arm.” She gave a chuckle, but noticed Connor's embarrassment. “Hey, I get. And I'm glad you're happy. But… you are kinda like a lovesick puppy sometimes. It’s super cute, don’t get me wrong, but you deserve some time for yourself, too.”
“I’ll keep that in mind when we start planning our wedding,” Connor replied, sticking his tongue out as they set down the gifts. “It will be an entire day of us being
adorable and you aren’t allowed to complain for one second.” His quip was received with a warm chuckle, and he felt a little more relaxed.
Nina nudged his shoulder, “Yeah, you win.” They both looked out over the sea of gift bags and beautifully wrapped boxes that covered the table and part of the floor. “You are so cute together, ya know? I was wondering, if you don’t mind if I ask, do you think you’ll have kids one day?”
The question caused a stutter to his thirium pump, his LED flickering to yellow and even red for a moment or so. “I, uh- I haven’t brought it up. Hank has…” Shaking his head, he extended his arm to have a quick interface with her. Some things were too hard to talk about outloud, especially at an event like this.
When Nina received the data, her mouth fell open. “Oh… Tina didn’t tell me about that. Poor Hank,” she frowned, but gave a sympathetic squeeze to Connor’s forearm.
“It’s been a long road of recovery for him, there are still some bad days,” he admitted, checking the other room to see Tina and the other guests chatting away and admiring her baby bump. “I haven’t asked because I don’t think he would want that.”
“But, what about what you want, Connor?” Nina asked.
Before he could say another word, North appeared with a paper cup with a familiar, thick blue liquid for each of them. “Hey, we’re waiting for you two so we can start with these dumb games! I got my eyes on those gift bags, Nina.”
“Coming, North,” Nina replied, giving Connor a small smile. “Let’s go, I’m sure Tina’s eager to introduce you to her family.”
The were ushered with warmth into the living room, and Nina pulled up a chair beside her wife, kissing her cheek sweetly. An elderly Asian lady sat on the corner of the couch, and beside her was the only open seat left, so Connor happily took the spot and introduced himself.
“You must be Tina’s grandmother? My name is Connor, I work with her at the precinct.”
The woman bares a half-toothless grin, “What a sweet young man! Tina has mentioned you,” and gives him a wink. “You’re the one dating that ol’ hunk Anderson, ain’tcha?”
His mouth hung open, “Uhh…”
She pulled out her phone from her pocket, flipping through a few pages slowly until she found one. “I used to work at the precinct, processed expenses for decades before I retired.” She handed Connor her phone, showing him a picture of a calendar picture from 2020, and he swore a circuit jumped upon seeing the photo. “They did a charity calendar, and
wanted Sergeant Anderson to take part. He was such a charmer, that one.”
The photo, appropriately September for Hank’s birth-month, showed him sitting in the lifeguard chair at the local YMCA, in nothing but a pair of swim trunks and water glistening across his body. His sandy-blonde hair was a little wet at the tips, clinging to his neck and a thin layer of stubble covered his jaw.
“Whoever says that man is passed his prime is a damn fool, you’re a lucky little android to rope up that one.”
Blushing, Connor returned the phone to her. “I’m very proud of him, and it makes me glad to see him happy.” He said, and thanked her quickly as Tina stood up to hush the room.
“Who’s ready for some games?!”
There was a mix of replies as Nina brought out some supplies, but every passed them around with giggles and smiles. “We’ve had to get creative with some of these so that the android participants can’t use their fancy analyzing stuff…” Tina said, wrinkling her nose at her partner. “So first, we’re going to give everyone some plain onesies to decorate!”
A few little buckets of fabric markers were handed out, as were different-sized rompers to each person. A few lap-tables were given out as well, and the cheerful banter between the various guests started back up.
“So, Tina, have you two thought about names yet?” Echo asked, taking a sip from her cup and starting to color in blue stripes on her onesie.
The two expecting mothers exchanged smiles and small nods, “Well, for a first name we were thinking of Mei, for Tina’s aunt,” Nina explained.
“We’re still thinking of a middle name, though. There are just so many to choose from!” The other exclaimed, “Maybe that should be one of the games?”
“Ooooh!!!” North raised her hand, “What about something local related, like some famous person who is from Detroit?”
Ripple giggled, “Madonna is from Detroit, wasn’t she?”
“ ‘Mei Madonna Chen’ is a bit of a mouthful,” the woman beside Connor chimed in. “What about something for Judy Greer, or Selma Blair?”
Shrugging a little, Tina scarfed down one of the baby bottle-shaped cookies, “I dunno, I’m not too attached to either of those actors. Besides, mostly I just wish there was some way we could incorporate something for Nina, ya know?”
“Ohhh…” Nina hummed thoughtfully. “That’d be nice, but, I’m not really sure that’s possible.”
While he had aimed to stay relatively silent on the matter, and idea crossed his mind. “What about Ella?”
“For Ella Fitzgerald?” Tina asked.
“Well, for that, but also for Ella Bully-Cummings, who was the first female Chief of Police for Detroit.”
“Wasn’t she involved in a slander lawsuit?” One of the other ladies, Connor guessed a friend of Tina's, pointed out.
“True, however she was not very directly involved, and she did retire because of the incident. I believe her accomplishments are of great merit, and she serves as an inspiration.”
North agreed, “Yeah, and if people ask you can just say it's for Ella Fitzgerald.”
“I kinda like that,” Tina said. “What do you think, Nina?” The android nodded, biting back tears until Tina leaned over to kiss her. “God, you're so sentimental. I love you, babe.”
They kissed, and a resounded “awww” flooded the room, followed by some applause.
“Well, I know what I'm going for my onesie!” Chloe giggled, starting to outline the decided name in cursive.
There were a few more little activities, such as quizzing everyone on Tina and Nina’s relationship and interests, discussions about the nursery, and then eventually Nina and North began to pile up the gifts beside the two mothers’ chairs in the living room.
The furniture was first, of course, since it was the biggest. After they unwrapped the large boxes, Connor carried the large boxes to the nursery room for them while they called Simon, Markus and Josh to thank them.
On his way back, he heard a few knocks by the side door, and rounded the corner to see Captain Fowler, Hank and Gavin all standing just outside the door.
“We wanted to surprise the girls with a gift, if you think they’ll let us come in for a moment,” Jeffery explained, holding a large card in his hands.
Gavin coughed from beside him, “Plus I want some of those fuckin’ cookies I helped Tina bake.”
He pointed to the living room, watching Fowler and Reed be swarmed with greetings, and happily lingered in the kitchen with Hank. “This is a nice surprise.” Connor said, pressing Hank gently against the wall for a kiss, and his pump beat rapidly as he felt Hank’s fingers stroke his hair.
“Mmm, well, it was Fowler’s idea to get a collection going for the moms-to-be. I should probably go say hi to Tina, huh?”
Connor murmured, leaning in for another peck, “In a minute. I’d like to be selfish and have you to myself for a moment.”
“Are you okay?” Hank asked, “They’re not excluding anything or-”
“No, no…” the android admitted. “I just missed you,” he snuck a sloppy kiss on Hank’s neck before pulling him to the living room where Fowler was presenting Tina with the card.
“We’ve had a little collection pool going since you made your announcement,” Jeffrey began as they opened the envelope. “And since you decided on cloth diapers, we got you a gift certificate to the cleaning service that my wife and I used. They are great about pickups and deliveries, and I hope it’ll take a little bit of the stress off of having a newborn. Congrats, you two.”
Tina jumped from her seat, squishing Fowler in for a hug, and then grabbed Gavin to join. “Thank you fellas, this means so much to us!” Joining in too, Nina smiled and wrapped her arms around the little cluster, and then waved over the Lieutenant.
Hesitating, but eventually giving in, Hank got his own hug from Tina. “Proud of you, kid,” he said to her softly, ruffling her hair a little.
“All right, boys, now out !” She said loudly, jokingly slapping Gavin’s back and pushing them out of her living room.
Reed stole a cookie as they walked out, and Hank stole one last kiss upon Connor’s cheek as they left. When he returned to the couch, still a little worried about the hesitance in Hank’s face, Tina’s grandmother gave him a wiggle of her eyebrows.
“He looks so much better from the last time I saw him. You’re keeping him well fed, huh?”
Pride warmed Connor’s circuits, and soon enough they were back to opening gifts. Dozens of little outfits, silly themed bibs, and so many itty bitty socks that Connor couldn’t help feeling fairly envious as the afternoon crawled by.
To create and mold a young life, to raise a tiny person to come into their own, watching them go through the various stages of life… it sounded fascinatingly incredible. The commitment that Tina and Nina were making, before it was just the promise to each other, but now there was an entirely new life in the mix, too.
“Ohhhh Connor!” Tina squealed, pulling him out of his thoughts. She held up the space bunny onesie, delighting the congregation around the room. “Oh my god, I love it!”
Nina smiled, “Goodness, you and Hank were so generous. Thank you!”
He nodded, still a little caught in his daydreaming, but gave them a wide smile and further congratulations. It seemed to take ages for them to finish opening all of the gifts, and his mind wandered back into the familiar topic.
Could he handle that kind of pressure? Could he truly share such deep love for both Hank and whatever child they could have together?
But… a thought occurred to him. If they did have a little one of their own, he’d still have a piece of Hank when he passed on. He didn’t like thinking about the inevitable, Hank still had plenty of years ahead of him as long as Connor could protect him and keep the man healthy.
“Thank you everyone!” Tina eventually said, hugging each of the guests alone with Nina, until they began to file out one by one.
Connor leaned over to North, “I asked Hank to pick me up when his shift ends, so you are welcome to leave whenever you are ready.”
“Thank rA9,” she snickered. “I think I’m pretty partied out once I get my goodie bag.”
While the younger ladies and androids mingled, Connor escorted Tina’s grandmother out to her car, letting her lean upon him out the door to the curb. “Well, I hope to see you again when the little trouble-maker has some birthday parties. Never thought I’d live to see a great-grandchild after all the hell Tina put me through when I raised her.”
“I’m sure she’ll be rebelliously calm compared to her mother,” Connor jokingly assured as he opened the driver’s side door. “It was wonderful meeting you, Mrs. Chen.”
The little old woman nodded. “I better get an invite to your wedding to the Lieutenant,” she warned with her finger pointed out, and then slid into the car seat. She revved the engine a little, and waved to Connor as she drove off, and he took a moment to breath in the last warm days of autumn before returning inside.
“Tina?” He asked, looked around the crowd for her. “Tina, would you like some help cleaning up?”
“Sure thing! Start with wrapping the leftovers, I’ll meet you in the kitchen!”
He smiled as she was bombarded with more questions and well-wishes, and got to work cleaning out the living room. The paper plates and cups were disposed of, and the platters were set down in the kitchen as he fished out tupperware containers to put it all away.
Connor waved to each guest as they left through the side door near the kitchen, but focused on completing the task at hand before Hank would arrive. It seemed that they were just about all gone by the time Tina joined him, and tugged on his arm.
“Hey, take a break for a minute. She’s kicking a little bit, wanna feel?”
Before he had a chance to decline, not that he would have, Tina placed his hand at the top crest of her belly, shifting it to the side a little to where the movement was coming from.
He froze, diverging a large portion of processing power into the sensations coming through his hand.
A small lump pressed up against the roundness of Tina’s bump, shifting slightly, he could feel the growing baby move and wiggle. “Oh… oh wow,” is all he can manage to speak as he soaks in as much data as he can before the movement settles. “T-Tina… thank you.” Connor pulled his hand away slowly, giving his colleague and friend a shy smile.
“It’s so weird so days, even after all these months. They’re going to be a little trouble-maker just like ma,” she snickered, nudging Connor away from the counter. The sound of a rumbling car pulling up to the house sounded through the side door, “Sounds like the Lieutenant is here. Hey, I’ll finish up, see you at work.”
“Enjoy the rest of your afternoon, Officer Chen,” Connor waved as he steps out of the side door, smiling when he sees his partner was waiting at the edge of the driveway. But, it’s short-lived when he notices how tense Hank looks. Worry lines creased his forehead, eyebrows creased uncomfortably in a way that was probably not purposeful.
Connor climbed into the passenger seat, buckling in just before Hank shifted into reverse with a heavy-sounding sigh. There was a heavy feeling that fell over the car, and the android wasn’t sure what he could do or say to lighten the mood.
He was wary of causing any further distress, so it wasn’t until they were home, inside, and comfortably settled on the couch that Connor asked, “Hank, are you all right?”
The man grumbled, and Connor caught him distantly glancing to the cupboard where the half-full bottle of whiskey was hidden away. He didn't stop Hank from a shot or two when he had earned it, but his stress levels were incredibly high.
“I'm so goddamn happy for Tina,” he admitted, voice heavy with guilt. “Why do I have to feel so fucking out of place about all this?” Carefully, his partner snaked a hand into his lap, and clutched his hand. “I'm just the sad, failed parent who is there to remind everyone else to hug their kid a little tighter at night, or to forgive every tantrum because you miss them when your little baby is taken from-”
He choked and his stuttered breath, and Connor pulled himself closer. “You are right to be upset, it's okay.”
The heavy weight of Hank's head crashed into Connor's shoulder. “This shit isn't fair to you, either. I mean, I don't know if you want… that.”
“Want… a child?”
Hank huffed, “Or the plural of that, one day.”
“Hmmm,” Connor considered his words carefully, trying to process the mass amounts of data on the subject compactly before giving an answer. “Even if I would, one day, there are a multitude of reasons why I am not interested in the prospect presently.”
Taking Hank’s chin to lift his eyes up to look at Connor's, the android gave a relaxed smile. “For one thing, you are not ready for that. And I care much more deeply about your well-being than a yet non-existent child,” he explained, continuing as he watched Hank's face fall a little.
“But also, to have a child, or adopt, or any option of the kind, would mean a large amount if devotion toward their experiences and life. And, as I have only been ‘living’ for a comparably short amount of time, I have much I wish to experience that would be difficult with a child in the mix. Perhaps it is selfish, but, another life is not something I take lightly now.”
“I’m just… I’m just really fuckin’ sorry, Connor,” Hank mumbles into Connor’s chest, body still shaking as he lets himself sob.
Connor’s fingers weave through his hair, he lets his skin fizzle away so he can feel every single hair, the natural oils analyzed by the tiny sensors on the pads of his fingers.
Remind Hank to take a shower before bed
“Why are you sorry?”
The question caused about hiccup as his partner inhaled, breath struggling to even out to speak again. “Because I can’t-” he heaved a sigh. “After Cole, after the divorce, I got my fuckin’ tubes tied just to be sure. And even then I… i could never do that again, I know I can’t.”
“And that’s okay,” he held on a little tighter. “It’s okay, my love.”
“Are you sure?” Hank reiterated with a desperation that made Connor ache inside. “For some people it's a deal-breaker, and I want you to be happy and-”
“Shhhh,” his partner hushed. “I still love you, Hank. That won't change because of this.”
The man hummed a little uncomfortably, unsure.
A few months later…
Hank grumbled as he sat down at his desk with his second coffee for the day, they had another hour before a quick lunch break, but the lieutenant was pretty sure he would fall asleep right at his desk if he didn’t get some fresh air soon.
Some commotion stirred from the front entrance to the bullpen, and he just sipped at his steaming cup until Connor turned toward the chatter with a smile.
Then, a little, high-pitched cry echoed across the floor, and Hank’s eyes widened.
A small crowd of officers were gathered around Tina, who looked ecstatic and exhausted. He remember that feeling all too well.
One the buzzing had settled, Chen brought little Mei over in the convertible car-seat carrier. Connor instantly cooed, getting up from his desk to give Tina a hug and admire the wiggling baby.
“She’s beautiful, Tina,” he commented, waving to the tiny little girl. When Hank looked up, he saw the bright little eyes, and the toothless grin as she looked up at the android. “How are you feeling?”
She set the carrier down, stretching her shoulder and arms, “I could nap for a decade. But we’re good! She has a doctor’s appointment so I wanted to bring her in to meet everyone.” Collapsing the top of the carrier, she lifted the little tot out, “Wanna hold her? I gotta run to the bathroom for a minute, anyway.”
“Oh-okay,” Connor held his arms out to receive the baby, and gently sat himself at the chair beside Hank’s desk. By now, the man had turned away from his work fully, and looked in awe at his partner holding little baby Mei. “”Hello, my name is Connor,” he greeted, looked at her with wonder. She giggled for a moment, waving her arms as much as she could in excitement.
When Connor turned, he finally saw Hank staring warmly at the two of them, and something between surprise and awkwardness fell over his face in a blush. “She’s stronger than I thought she would be.”
Smirking, Hank gave a big exhale as he hauled his office chair closer. She was a very cute baby; didn’t look much like Cole did, it helped him a little bit. “You’re doing good holdin’ her like that, but watch the head,” he advised comfortingly, and Connor turned in the seat a little so she could get a good look at the source of the low, scruffy voice.
Another little noise came out of her, and Hank’s heart melted like a chocolate bar on a hot, summer day. “Wow…” he hardly noticed as it passed through his lips. The tiny hands reached up at him, the bitty fingers trying to grab at him.
“You know, I’m sure Tina wouldn’t mind if you held her.”
Hank nodded, biting his lip as the small babe was passed into his arms. Despite the pressing sadness that burned in his gut, it was overshadowed by that warmth in his chest. He gave her his best smile, tooth-gap and all, and the Mei made the most excited little squeal in delight.
It was echoed by a little chuckle from his partner, sweet and good and wonderful like the rest of him.
Not yet, and not soon, but maybe some day… they would both be ready.