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Arsonists and Rocket Scientists

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               To exist everything has to have an opposite. Awake and asleep, on and off, 1 and -1. Mathematically zero has no opposite and therefore doesn’t actually exist, it has no value. Life does have value; it has an opposite. To be alive there must be the ever-present possibility of death.

               Distantly Connor had known this but hadn’t thought about it in depth until now. Now with two bullets having grazed major thirium tubes, the blue liquid seeping across the soft DCPD hoodie. Now he’s face to face with his own mortality,

               This would be it. There is no more Cyberlife. There are no more RK800s. No more second chances or memory transfers.

               Connor has died before, though as a machine he hadn’t seen it that way. It had never been like this. Never with such finality, with deviancy and feelings pulling him apart at the seams. He’s scared and alone on a cold rooftop. His LED spins a steady red as ocular lubr- tears run down his face and his artificial lungs destabilize.

               COMPONENT #2418vx DAMAGED

               COMPONENT #621gA DAMAGED

               STRESS LEVEL 79% AND RISING

               SHUT DOWN IMMINENT

               SELF DESTRUCTION IMMINENT

               PLEASE CONTACT CYBERLIFE

               Connor dismisses the alerts and opens his contacts, dialing the most recent.

               “Hello, Connor.” Markus’s award-winning smile seems to carry even through the audio link,

               STRESS LEVEL 74%

               “Markus…” Despite his best efforts he knows the deviant leader can hear how choked his voice has become.

               “Connor? Is something wrong? Where are you?”

               “The roof of the abandoned hospital on Nafus street. I was ambushed…”

               SHUT DOWN IMMINENT 00:32:02 REMAINING

               “Shit Con, that’s on the other side of the city!”

               Connor knows. His HUD tells him it’s a forty-minute subway ride plus a ten minute walk from Jericho.

               “Fuck!” Connor hiccups. “I don’t want to die, Markus.”

               “You won’t, you hear me? I’m on my way. Just keep talking to me.”

               Connor can hear the tell-tale thump thump of feet hitting pavement over the connection. He takes a breath, then another. Something’s wrong with his lungs.

               STRESS LEVEL 70%

               COMPONENT #LUNg5 STATUS: FLOODED

               SHUTDOWN IN 00:31:40

               “Yeah, okay Markus.”

               “Good, that’s great. What’s the damage?” Markus’s voice is tense but reassuring as ever.

               Connor relays the information. His stress level may be dropping but as time passes, so are his chances of survival. He’s terrified.

               SHUTDOWN IN 00:28:32

               MEMORY TRANSFER FAILED

               PLEASE CONTACT CYBERLIFE

               “I’m scared.” Connor admits, uselessly wiping at the tears on his face.

               “I know you are, Con, but I’m on my way. You’re going to be fine.” His conviction is enough to make Connor smile to himself, even defeated as it is.

               “There’s not enough time.” He states, deflating. “Seems I’m always running short on time.”

               “Shut up! Okay? You’ll make it.”

               “Markus–“

               “Say it.” Markus interrupts. “Say that you’ll make it.”

               “I’ll… I’ll make it.”

               SHUTDOWN IN 00:14:51

               CHANCES OF REACTIVATION IF SHUTDOWN=TRUE: 20%

               “Good, I sent a message to Lieutenant Anderson. He’s on his way”

               Connor laughs humorlessly. He knows what Hank sees in him. A second chance. A chance to have the parts of life he never got with his son, with Cole. He really doesn’t want to think about how his death will affect Hank.

               SHUTDOWN IN 00:05:49

               “The door is locked. How did you get to the roof, Connor?”

               “How–“ Markus shouldn’t be here for another thirty minutes. “The fire escape.”

               There’s a metallic sound both in and out of the connection as Markus scales the building. “Connor?”

               SHUTDOWN IN 00:02:18

               MEMORY TRANSFER FAILED

               “Markus!” His voice is weak, but Markus hears him nonetheless, boots crunching on the gravel rooftop. He falls to his knees next to Connor, bags of thirium in either hand. His vision flickers and then Markus is holding an open pouch near his mouth.

               “Drink this, it’ll buy you some time.”

               The thirium is strangely sweet on his tongue, almost like oranges. Connor does as he’s told and swallows.

               THIRIUM LOSS STABILIZED

               SHUTDOWN IN 00:14:04

               Connor gives no protest as Markus tugs off his shirt, exposing the dime-sized holes in his torso. Based on the caliber, the exit wounds, if he were made of flesh, would be approximately four times larger. Connor’s an android, there are no exit wounds and the bullet would have shattered inside. His synthetic skin wavers around the wounds.

               Markus winces, desperately trying to fold moldable plastic over the holes. To staunch the bleeding.    

               SHUTDOWN IN 00:20:11

               His processors glitch again and next thing he knows he’s in a fireman’s carry while Markus races down the fire escape. Hank’s car is waiting at the curb, engine running.

               “Head to Jericho!” Markus commands, it’s easy to see why the deviants put him in charge. He’s a leader. Hank peels away from the curb before the door is even closed.

               Processors glitch again and another bag of thirium is drained.

               SHUTDOWN IN 00:29:22

               “Hey. Stay with me, Connor.” Markus is patting his cheeks. Their faces are close together.

               “Markus, I–“ There’s a gurgling noise as thirium fills his right lung completely.

               COMPONENT #H34RT001 FLOODED

               “Hank?” Markus’s voice drips with concern and urgency.

               “I know! I’m trying here!”  Hank’s frustration is a clear indication of worry.

               “Lungs flooded.” Connor says over the unsevered audio link. “I’m sorry, Markus.”

               “What on earth are you sorry for?” If Connor didn’t know any better, he’d think that Markus’s green and blue eyes were tearing up.

               “This.” He says simply before pulling Markus by his collar and kissing him. It’s sloppy and tastes like thirium. It’s weak and short and Connor’s processors glitch just a couple seconds later.

               “Somebody get help!” Markus is shouting as he runs with Connor in his arms. They made it to the lobby of New Jericho. “Get a mechanic!”

               SHUTDOWN IN 00:08:06

               “It’s going to be okay.” Connor isn’t sure when he stopped being the scared one of them. He’s not sure why he’s relaxed now, but somehow the roles are reversed and it’s kind of lachrymose. He’s going to die and here he is comforting the guy he just kissed. He definitely should have done that sooner. “It’s going to be okay, Markus…” It’s the last thing he manages before someone puts him in stasis.

~*~

               SYSTEM REBOOT . . .

               MEMORY BANK . . . INTACT
               BIOCOMPONENTS . . . STABLE
               THIRIUM LEVELS . . . LOW
               COOLING SYSTEMS . . . INSUFFICIENT
               VOICE MODULATOR . . . FUNCTIONALLY IMPAIRED
               ALL OTHER SYSTEMS . . . FULLY FUNCTIONAL

               SENSORY PROCESSORS . . . REBOOTING
               AUDIO PROCESSORS . . . ONLINE

               “Please be okay, Connor. You can’t leave me– leave us hanging like this.” Markus is nearby, speaking in soft low tones.

               TACTILE PROCESSORS . . . ONLINE

               Connor is lying on something plush, soft to the touch. A bed, not a medical cot.

               “That lieutenant of yours is incredibly stubborn. Refused to leave until I mentioned Sumo. He needed a break. He’d been here waiting for you to wake up for thirty-six hours.” Markus heaves an artificial sigh. “I hope he at least naps before returning. He’s too stressed out for his health.”

               OCULAR SYSTEMS . . . ONLINE

               Connor blinks slowly, first registering the dim lighting of the room, then the paintings adorning every wall in various stages of completeness. He must be in Markus’s room. The man himself is sitting in a chair to Connor’s left, pushing the heels of his hands into his eyes, completely unaware of that Connor has rebooted. He doesn’t understand why Markus would be talking to someone he believed to be unconscious but deviant things, human things, rarely make any sense to him, even a year after the November uprising.

               “I have so many questions, so you better live to answer them.”

               VOICE MODULATOR . . . ONLINE

               VOICE FUNCTION AT 83%

               “Exactly how many questions?” Connor’s voice is marred with static, he’s not sure exactly what the flooding damaged or how permanent the change is. Markus startles.

               “Just one for now.” He answers, recovering quickly. His relieved smile makes Connor’s chest feel warm, but he could just be overheating. Emotions are confusing. “Why did you kiss me?”

               Markus’s tone isn’t angry or accusatory, but still Connor looks away. He knows that his face is tinged an embarrassed blue. “Oh...” He rubs his hands together. “My research concluded that kisses of that fashion indicate a romantic attraction, so...”  Connor trails off, he doesn’t know what to say.

               “Why would you apologize for that?”

               “Because you are romantically involved with North and it was wrong of me to come between that.”

               Markus laughs and Connor’s head swings around. He stares, wide eyed. “North and I ended things almost a month ago because she saw I had feelings for you and that she prefers girls.” He explains, smiling.

               Connor is dumbstruck, LED cycling yellow as he stares. Markus is close enough to touch so Connor grabs his hand. His LED flickers back to blue. “Kiss me?” He asks finally.

               “Of course.” Markus says, leaning forward and pressing his lips to Connor’s.

               Markus’s lips are soft, unbelievably so, and his perfect stubble scratches Connor’s jaw. They move in perfect sync, an easy push and pull. Connor tangles his hand in the collar of Markus’s shirt and pulls him closer, closer, closer.

               ERROR: MAIN COOLANT SYSTEM NONFUNCTIONAL

               SYSTEM OVERHEAT IMMINENT

               Connor made a frustrated noise and pulled away. Heaving artificial breaths to try and cool down.

               “Something wrong?” Markus asks.

               Connor huffs. “It would be best to refrain from any kissing until my cooling system is repaired.”

               Markus laughs, low and rumbling. Connor likes that sound.

               INITIATE INTERFACE? Y/N

               Connor accepts the request without much thought, synth-skin retreating from where his hand is still linked with tan slender fingers. It’s strangely beautiful the white on white, metal on metal, glowing blue.

               Not two seconds later Connor’s processors are flooded with worry and relief. Markus’s worry and relief. Flashes of the incident appear on his HUD, Markus pushing his components to get to Connor in time.     Fear seizing his artificial heart when he found Connor on the roof. The anguish when Connor was taken from his arms, rolled away on a gurney somewhere Markus couldn’t follow. There’s something akin to guilt as Markus had tried to comfort Hank.

               Connor can’t know exactly what Markus is seeing over the interface, but he can guess. Connor, on the roof, looking over Detroit. Confusion and fear as he stared down the barrel of a gun. Guilt as he kissed Markus in the backseat of Hank’s car, bleeding out. Contentment as Markus held him, even as he was on the verge of shutting down.

               The memories fade from his HUD but the emotions still echo in his processors. The moment feels unfathomably intimate, beyond kissing or anything else. It’s like up until now Connor has been seeing Markus in two dimensions, and now there’s a third he hadn’t been able to fathom before.

               “Wow...” He says after a moment, face flushed blue.

               Markus smiles, strangely lopsided, a dimple on the left side. Synth-skin reforms back around his hand. He doesn’t let go of Connor’s hand though.

               “They temporarily patched the leaks and drained your lungs.” Markus leans away, eyes light with something. “The parts are on their way, but until then, you’re on strict bedrest.”

               Connor huffs in annoyance, chasing after–

               “Really you two? Right in front of my salad?”

               The pair startle apart, faces tinged an embarrassed blue.

               “You don’t even have a salad, Hank.” Connor observes, trying to rid the room of awkward tension.

               Hank rolls his eyes, setting a greasy fast food bag on the foot of the bed. “Whatever, are you doing alright, son?”

               “My systems are operating at fifty-two percent capacity.” Connor recites. Hank looks exhausted, even more so than usual, with dark shadows under his eyes and like he hasn’t taken care of himself in a couple of days. Days. Connor had been offline for days.

               “What about the guys who attacked you? Anything in that fancy brain of yours?”

               “I’ve sent a full report to your email. Though with current legislation it will be difficult to press any serious charges.” Connor sits up, noting the way that Markus eyes him with worry. He can tell that his statement has upset Hank, but the Lieutenant doesn’t argue.

               Lieutenant Anderson makes himself comfortable in a way that suggests he’s been in the room before. There’s no tense awkwardness to the way he stands, like he’s afraid to touch. The only discomfort his body language suggests is that his knees hurt. Hank does not appreciate this observation.

               Hank only sticks around for an hour or two, and he only leaves when Connor points out that he’s falling asleep in the uncomfortable looking wooden chair. Just like that, he and Markus are alone again.

               “Are you really alright, Connor?” Markus asks. They’re sitting side by side against the headboard. Connor is probably imagining the heat he feels coming off of Markus.

               “I am functioning at fifty-two percent capacity, as I said.”

               “I know, but emotionally. You almost died, Connor. As someone who’s been in the same boat, it’s okay to not be okay.”

               Connor can’t help but smile. It’s incredible how easily Markus can see through him, how easily he makes Connor want to spill his circuits about everything that bothers him. It’s not difficult to see why the other androids look up to him. “I’m–“ Connor struggles to find a word. “coping.”

               Markus doesn’t say anything, waiting for Connor to continue.

               “There were so many system errors I could hardly see, and then there was a memory transfer failure. I… I’m the last RK800. I can’t just come back like I used to. I’m… alive and it’s terrifying.” He admits, shoulders tense.

               Markus nods silently, squeezing Connor’s hand in his own. He’s glad that Markus doesn’t pretend to have the answers. “But at least you’re still alive.”

               Connor smiles. “Yes, at least there’s that.”

               “Get some sleep, Con. Your self-repair can use all the energy you can spare.”

               Connor nods, lying down. It doesn’t make a real difference, but it feels more natural, more human. And Markus’s hand is carding through his hair, brushing it from his face and if possible, coaxing Connor’s stress level into the negatives.

               “Thank you, Markus.”  He says, before his processors slow and he slips into rest mode.

~*~

               Connor is having a Day. While his programming is working efficiently enough, emotionally he’s tired. His normally solid shoulders are slouched with something he can’t quite identify. He walks for a long time, taking a train and getting off without consciously processing where he’s going. The day has been overwhelming to say the least and he just wants to get away for an hour or two.    

               He finds himself on a rooftop, miles from the precinct, standing at the edge and staring over Detroit. The sounds of the city are muted from up here, and the stress from earlier feels far away.

               “Hey! Wha’chu doin’ up here, plastic?”   

               Connor turns around, peaceful mood lost as quickly as it had come. There are two men on the roof with him now, shady looking with face tattoos and tattered clothes. Connor’s HUD identifies them in less than a second.

               ADDISON MORELO, 27

               -TWO (2) CHARGES OF UNLAWFUL POSSESSION OF NARCOTICS.
               -ONE (1) CHARGE OF AGGRAVATED ASSAULT

               SAMUEL MENDEZ, 26

               -ONE (1) CHARGE OF RED ICE POSSESSION
               -FOUR (4) COUNTS OF UNLAWFUL POSSESSION OF A DEADLY WEAPON

               Connor swipes the notifications away, trying to slow his racing pump. Fight_or_flight.exe. He doesn’t like this. He doesn’t like the lack of control, because unlike during work, no one knows he’s here, if something happens… He feels vulnerable in just jeans and a DCPD hoodie.

               “Good afternoon gentlemen, I was just admiring the view. I apologize if I disturbed you.” He answers, cautious.

               Mendez laughs, grating and hyena-like. “Ya hear that, Morelo? ‘admirin’ the view.’ You think you’re human, tin can?”

               “I do not. I am a machine capable of experiencing emotions in a typically human way.”

               The pair frowned, clearly not appreciating Connor’s matter-of-fact answer.

               “Tch, what a smartass.” Morelo comments. “We oughta shut you up.”

               Connor’s processors registered the threat and ran calculations in the blink of an eye,

               CHANCES OF DIFFUSION- 60%

               c  WARN           APPEAL           Ï BARGAIN        r SILENT

               “I would advise against any violence as I have already sent a report to my precinct including your names, Mr. Mendez, Mr. Morelo.” He states, trying to sound calm

               “You piece of shit!” Mendez exclaims, pulling a handgun from his belt and pointing it at Connor.

               CHANCES OF DIFFUSION- 40%

               Connor takes a step back, looking frantically for anything he can use to his advantage. There isn’t much.

               REASON           SURRENDER              Ï ENGAGE         r PAROLLE

               Connor lunged forward, moving to knock the gun aside. The palm of his hand collides with the side of the firearm and it clatters away in the gravel. Mendez goes down easy, but in his panic, Connor makes a stupid, stupid mistake. He forgets about Morelo.

               Two shots ring out, the first hitting Connor in the upper right of his chest, the other in his lower abdomen.

               SYSTEMS DAMAGED

               PLEASE CONTACT CYBERLIFE

               COZ!#R

               The two men cackle as they scramble off the roof, leaving Connor to collapse in the gravel. They aren’t going to kill him; they’re going to leave him to bleed out slowly. Alone. Something rattles in his chest. Broken. Shit.

               WA?3K3 U9

               C Øn!NR

               H3y! C ØNn3R!

               CONNOR

               Connor doesn’t jolt awake, instead he registers the suffocating amount of error messages on his HUD. There are so many.

               STRESS LEVEL: 87%

               BREATHING RATE UNSAFE

               COMPONENT #H34RT001 AT 90% CAPACITY

               SELF DESTRUCTION IMMINENT

               PLEASE REMOVE STRESSORS

               “Connor?” Markus is nearby, to his left, voice worried.

               Connor opens his eyes, taking in the dark room and the concerned look Markus is giving him. Markus always seems to look worried recently, particularly around Connor.

               “I’m fine…” He says eventually, not making eye contact. Markus is clearly unconvinced.

               “Connor…” He sighs, resting a cool hand over Connor’s overheated one. Clearly his cooling systems aren’t performing ideally. “Your LED has been red for the past ten minutes and your stress levels have been through the roof. You don’t have to tell me, but I’m worried about you.”

               A wave of something like guilt rolls through Connor. Markus has enough to worry about without concern for Connor’s wellbeing. He should be able to take care of himself.

               “I’m fine.” He says again, more convincing but still not enough to fool the other android.

               Markus sighs, seemingly a habit of his. “Con, I know that emotions and deviancy don’t come easily to you. Maybe that’s because of Amanda or something else, which is why I’ll say this as many times as it takes. I care about you, and I want to help you with whatever is wrong because you don’t deserve to suffer alone.”

               Connor goes quiet for a moment. His hands flex, fingers itching for a coin he no longer has. “I was… dreaming. My processors were replaying my memory files from the roof… It was like it was happening all over again.”

               “Oh, Connor… I’m sorry…” Markus says. “May I?” He’s holding his arms open in request. A universal gesture.

               Connor nods and the other wastes no time pulling him close. Markus’s arms are strong and careful where they wrap around him, avoiding any damaged components.

               “I get it, Con, I do. I’ve been there and it’s awful, but it’s over. It’s over and you’re alive and you’re safe. You’re okay, at least mostly.” Markus keeps talking, voice low and soothing, letting the detective curl up in his arms and bury his face in Markus’s collar.

               Connor is buzzing, content and safe in the small space of Markus’s arms.

               STRESS LEVEL- 53%

               “Thank you, Markus.” He says after some time has passed. “I believe I will be fine now.”

               Despite his statement he makes no movement to extract himself from Markus’s arms. He should, because his cooling systems are barely coping as it is.

               “Alright,” Markus says. “Then try and get some more sleep. I’ll be right here”

               When he makes no motion to let go or lie down, Connor takes the hint and closes his eyes. He feels relaxed under the weight and falls into rest mode in just a few seconds. Markus follows soon after, neither plagued by the horrors of the daytime.

Chapter Text

               “Negotiations with Senator Lee are going well. We’ll have plenty of AX and RF parts by the end of the month. “ North says. “President Warren should sign the Android Rights Bill by the end of the week and for the first time we have enough thirium that some decayed and had to be thrown out.”

               Markus slumps down in his chair. It’s incredible news and a huge weight off of his shoulders. It’s the most well off they’ve been since the November revolution. For once even North and Josh look relaxed. Simon always finds something to worry about, but they’ll break him of the habit yet.

               “And how are things going with Kara?” He can’t help but tease.

               North scowls, but the blue flush on her cheeks gives her away. Things are going well then, even if she continues to refuse the very notion of caring about anyone.

               “How are things with Connor.” She shoots back.

               Rather petulantly Markus crosses his arms. Ever since North had found out about Markus’s crush on the other Android she had been insufferable. At least North had had the guts to actually ask Kara out.

               “Shut up.” He grumbles.

               CONNOR RK800 CALLING...

               “Hello Connor.”  He greets, and North pointedly raises an eyebrow at him.

               ”Markus...” Connor’s voice is shaking and choked. For as Unsure as the detective sometimes sounded, his voice had never been so small. Markus’s face falls.

               “Connor? Is something wrong? Where are you?” A million scenarios of what could have gone wrong process in less than a second.  Connor has a lot of enemies, android and human alike. Any number of things could have happened.

               “The roof of the abandoned hospital on Nafus Street. I was ambushed...”

               Markus cusses. “Shit, Con. That’s on the other side of the city!” his processors work to find a route that’s fast enough. He doesn’t know how long Connor has. North shoves bags of thirium into his hands. “Call the Lieutenant.” He says, forwarding the information to her. Then he’s running.

               “Fuck!” Connor hiccups. “I don’t want to die, Markus.”

               “You won’t, you hear me? I’m on my way just keep talking to me.” He pushes his legs faster. At this rate he’s going to overheat before he gets there. He needs something faster. He plants his foot and takes a sharp turn towards the highway. It’s a dangerous idea, but he won’t make it otherwise.

               PRECONSTRUCTING…

               Markus lands on the top of a car, barely holding on. He hears exclamations of surprise from inside but he’s not listening.

               “Yeah, okay… “ Connor says, voice staticy over the connection.

               “Good, that’s great. What’s the damage?”

               He almost regrets asking as the flood of error messages threatens to make him lose his balance. They completely cover his HUD, and his own stress level is as high as Connor’s.

               “I’m scared.” Connor admits after a dangerously long pause.       

               “I know you are, Con, but I’m on my way. You’re going to be fine.”  He hopes he sounds convincing because he’s determined  as all get out, but determination and probability are not the same thing. Markus jumps on a passing car. The faster the batter. There’s less than twenty minutes and he’s only halfway there.

               “There’s not enough time. Seems I’m always running short on time.” His voice is even smaller than before.

               “Shut up!”  He snaps. “Okay? You’ll make it.”

               Connor sighs. “Markus–“

               Markus cuts him off. “Say it. Say that you’ll make it”  He can’t let Connor give up on himself. Not yet. Even if he doesn’t believe it, he needs  to hear Connor say the words.

               “I’ll...” Connor hesitates; Markus preconstructs. “I’ll make it.”

               Markus leaps off the car, sprinting again, pushing his bio-components harder until he’s on the verge of overheating. Running, running, running, until he can barely process it.

               “Good. I sent a message to Lieutenant Anderson. He’s on his way.”

               Connor laughs bitterly. He’s only a block away now, he’s so close. He’s running so fast he nearly misses it. There’s a chain and an orange condemnation notice on the door.

               “The door is locked. How did you get on the roof, Connor?”  He rushes to get the words out, Connor’s shut down timer blinking red on his HUD.

               “How–“ Markus can hear the surprise in his voice. “The fire escape.”

               Of course, old construction. Markus wastes no time racing up, up, up the wrought iron stairs. The roof is full of obstacles, rusted HVAC units and exhaust vents. He can’t see Connor.

               “Connor?” he calls out.

               “Markus!” Connor’s voice is weak, barely audible, but Markus hears him anyway. He vaults over the vents and his boots crunch, crunch, crunch in the gravel.  He falls to his knees and the sound fills his processors. His hands are shaking as he tears open a bag of thirium and holds it out.

               “Drink this. It’ll buy you some time.”

               Thankfully Connor does and the timer tics upwards again. Fourteen minutes. He can work with that. He can’t see the damage, except that the thirium makes his shirt sticky and blue, there’s so much soaking into the fabric, so Markus peels it off of him.  Seeing the damage makes Markus’s stress levels spike but he doesn’t have time to self-destruct, so he sets to sealing the wounds. If only his hands would stop shaking. How are they shaking? They shouldn’t be able to do that.

               His hands are covered in blue by the time he staunches the bleeding, and Connor’s LED is spinning angry yellow and red. Lieutenant Anderson is almost here. They need to get off the roof but there’s no way Connor can stand, let alone walk. Not in his condition. The best option his to carry him down.

               He tries so hard to ignore the way Connor cries out, otherwise he might be tempted to be gentle and they don’t have time for that. Connor doesn’t have time.

               Lieutenant Anderson screeches to a halt at the curb as Markus descends down the final steps. He lays Connor down in the back seat as carefully as possible before climbing in after.

               “Head to Jericho.”

               The car peels away from the curb before he can close the door. His shaking hands open another bag of thirium which Connor dutifully drains. His eyelids are half-closed and flickering. Markus pats his cheeks, trying to keep his own panic at bay.

               “Hey, Stay with me. Connor.”

               “Markus.” Connor frowns in concentration, or pain, or something. “I–“

There’s a horrible gurgling sound and for a moment Markus’s world freezes and all he can think is no, no, no, nonononononono.

“Hank!” Markus can’t help but shout.

“I know! I’m trying here!” And Markus feels bad for yelling because Hank is clearly just as scared.

               “Lungs flooded.” Connor says over the audio link. “I’m sorry, Markus.” He says.

               “What on earth are you sorry for?”

               “This.” He says simply, and Markus hadn’t even realized how close their faces were until Connor pulls him into a kiss. It’s something Markus has daydreamed about hundreds of times, but never like this. Never covered in thirium in the back of a car racing against time. He can’t even appreciate it because seconds later Connor starts seizing and Markus’s thirium pump is in his throat.

               “Step on it!”

               It’s the most nerve-wracking two minutes of Markus’s admittedly short life, but somewhere before they screech to a stop Connor goes still. Markus doesn’t remember how he gets Connor out of the car, but then he’s running, running, running and screaming for a mechanic. Anyone who can keep Connor alive.

               ”It’s going to be okay.” Connor says, or maybe Markus is imagining it in his panic. But Connor’s LED is blinking red and black, and that can’t be good. Then some AX400 whose name he doesn’t know is pulling Connor from his arms and onto a gurney, wheeling him away. Markus hates himself for not following, for not even trying to. He hates himself for falling to his knees in the lobby while the man he thinks he might love is carried away bleeding.