When the first body had been found, Hank had been ready to pass it off as another red ice tragedy. The set up was the same as he'd seen too many times to count; the pipe, the scattered crystals, the expression of mixed euphoria and terror. Another life wasted, cut short by the ever-present fistful of powder. Then Hank had gotten close. He'd seen the trails of blood that ran from the nose, blue instead of red.
After that, new cases sprung up every week, the body count—human and android—steadily increasing. It had been three months now since the first incident, the death toll rising as the DPD scrambled to get to the source, to cut off the supply that wormed through the streets of Detroit, spreading like an ink stain.
“Okay, so we finally managed to get a name out of our dealer.” Gavin Reed cracked his knuckles, a scowl on his face. He paced the length of the briefing room the Black Ice task force was using as their base of operations, Hank turning to watch his path. “Didn't do us any fuckin’ good.”
Hank sighed, sitting back in the uncomfortable chair. The Black Ice epidemic was wearing on him, keeping him at the precinct for hour after hour and draining him of sleep. Today he’d been running late for the first time in months and had arrived to find that Connor had rushed off on another lead without him. It threw Hank, the loss of his partner’s presence making him restless and irritable. He pressed his fingers to his temple, massaging the growing ache there as he listened to the rest of the Task Force’s findings.
A taller figure stood frowning, watching Gavin as he paced before folding his hands behind his back. “A quick database search revealed that the name given to us was that of a gentleman who was incarcerated several years ago and is now deceased.” Richard's expression was one of controlled frustration, a counterpoint to Reed's clenched fists and rising voice.
Gavin waved a hand. “So Nines here—”
“My name is Richard.”
“—whatever. He did some of that detective-bot magic, put a little more pressure on the guy, got us an address instead.”
“That’s good,” Hank said with a nod in Richard’s direction, a small smile on his lips. Richard simply nodded back, expression unchanging; so different from the easy smiles Hank was used to seeing from Connor these days. He had to remind himself that despite the similarity in appearance, Connor and his “upgraded” counterpart were very different people. Connor definitely smiled more, for one thing; shyly at first, but increasingly often now.
“It’s a laundromat,” Gavin said, jolting Hank from his musings on Connor’s smile, “some little old lady runs it.” He raked his fingers through his hair. “Something tells me she’s not supplying Ice on the side.”
“You should know better than to judge by appearances, Detective Reed,” Richard said, “after all, people might see your badge and presume you’re a competent detective.” His lips curled up in a teasing smirk; a rare display of emotion that Hank couldn't help but notice was directed only at Reed. He rolled his eyes.
“If you're done flirting, then this laundromat is better than no lead at all,” Hank said, folding his arms. “Have we got the warrant to search the place?”
Richard's LED flashed red, his eyes widening briefly at Hank's comment. He blinked a couple of times—the same action Hank recognised from when Connor was trying to clear his mind—before the LED spiralled back to yellow. “It seems that the warrant request is still processing.” It flashed again. “I've requested priority status. Also, RK800 has arrived.”
Hank instantly felt his mood lift and glanced over his shoulder towards the door.
“Sure, now you're awake.” Reed leaned against the table, picking up his coffee cup and wincing as he gulped it down. “Ugh, fuckin’ cold.” He glanced at Richard.” Hey, Nines, you wanna—”
“I'm not getting you coffee.”
Gavin grumbled, slumping down into a chair, muttering to himself. Hank resisted the urge to roll his eyes again, then pulled himself upright as the door swung open at the other end of the room.
“Good morning, everyone.” Connor was smiling, a steaming coffee cup held in each hand. He nodded to Richard, their LEDs flickering for a moment—some private android conversation, Hank figured. “Lieutenant, Detective, I brought you both coffee.”
“See, that's more like it,” Gavin said, taking the cup and glaring pointedly in Richard's direction.
“Thanks, Connor,” Hank said, taking the cup, feeling the cool length of Connor’s fingers brush against his own. “Any luck on your lead?”
Pursing his lips together, Connor shook his head. “I'm afraid it turned out to be a dead end. We had reports of a warehouse that had potentially been used to manufacture Black Ice, but when I checked it out there was no evidence to support that had been the case.” Connor’s eyebrow arched, his lips curving in what could almost be called a smirk. “Although, from my analysis, we may have found the location of the counterfeit passport operation that Officer Chen was tracking down. So not a total loss.”
“That's great!” Reed said, sarcasm dripping from each word. “Now how about something that helps our investigation?”
“Good job, Connor. Ignore that son of a bitch.” Hank said, patting him on the shoulder and narrowing his eyes at Gavin. “Richard got us a possible lead at a laundromat, wanna go check it out?”
“Of course!” Connor adjusted his cuffs and tie. “I'm ready when you are.”
Hank felt a smile creep up his lips. “We don't wanna arouse suspicion,” he inclined his head, “you might wanna lose the DPD jacket; we're going plainclothes for this one, nice and casual.”
“Oh, of course.” Connor shrugged his jacket off, a small crease between his brows. “I'm not sure I have anything that could be considered ‘casual’, though.”
“I'm sure Nines has a black turtleneck you can borrow,” Gavin interjected, “he's been here three months and I don't think I've ever seen him in anything else.”
Hank watched as Richard's LED flashed yellow and he reached up to run his fingers over the high collar of his shirt. He blinked, taking Gavin's half-finished coffee from the table. “If you need to borrow something, Connor, you can.” Moving to stand by Gavin's chair, he calmly pulled the lid from the cup. “However, we really should go soon,” expression unchanging, he upended the cup, pouring the cold coffee into Reed's lap. “Gavin needs new pants.”
The laundromat was situated on a grubby corner downtown, paint peeling from the window frame. Faded letters on the window announced it to be ‘Mae's Home Laundry’ though the flicker of fluorescent lights within made it look far from homey.
“So, what's the plan?” Reed grumbled in Hank's earpiece. “You want Nines and I to scout around the place?”
“Yeah, just keep an eye out,” Hank replied, “see if anything around the place seems off. Me and Connor will check out the inside.”
“Got it. We'll call if we find anything.” There was a brief click and Gavin's voice cut off. Hank sat back and glanced at Connor, who sat in the passenger seat, scanning around. His LED was covered by a black beanie, his usual pristine shirt and tie exchanged for a simple t-shirt.
“Well, guess we're doing laundry,” Hank said.
Connor nodded. “I brought some of my own, to help with the charade.” He held up a bag and Hank raised an eyebrow; inside were two perfectly folded white shirts that—to his eyes—looked absolutely spotless. He nodded, unable to help the smile that twitched at the corner of his lips.
“Good job, Connor. Just toss them in with mine.” He jerked his thumb to the back of the car where a much fuller bag sat propped against one seat. “We'll stick it in, I'll talk to the owner and you can scan the place, sound good?”
Connor nodded, moving to adjust his tie in preparation, a small crease appearing between his brows when he found only the collar of the t-shirt. He glanced at Hank, who caught his eye and smiled. “C'mon,” he said, “let's see if we can find something new.”
As they entered the shop, the front desk was empty and Hank glanced around, searching for anything that seemed out of the ordinary. He knew that Connor would be doing the same thing—though his ability to scan for information was a lot more comprehensive. Faded photos of what looked like tropical beaches hung on the one wall that wasn’t occupied with washers or dryers and the smell of detergent filled the air, making Hank want to sneeze.
“I guess I’ll put the laundry in,” Hank said, when nothing out of the ordinary was immediately apparent. He reached for the bag, only to have it snatched out of his hands by Connor.
“I’ll do that, Hank. You have a bad habit of not separating your colours, and while I am confident in how I present myself, I’d rather not have my shirts dyed pink.”
A female voice floated out from behind a beaded curtain at the back, cackling with laughter and a woman appeared, clapping her hands together in a miniature round of applause. “You tell him, son.”
She was maybe a foot and a half shorter than Hank, wiry curls of silver pulled up into a black scarf, loose spirals of hair escaping around a well-lined face. “I never let my Louis do the laundry when he was alive,” her hands landed on her hips and she cocked her head at Hank, “guess that’s why he bought me this place.” Her dark eyes narrowed. “I don’t think I’ve seen you in before. You new around here?”
“Um, yeah. The washer packed in at home and this was the first place we saw.” Hank said, taking in the woman’s clothes—simple grey jeans and a blue shirt—her relaxed posture despite the folded arms, and the expression of wry amusement on her face. He spread his hands out and shrugged. “Repair guy won’t be free ‘til Wednesday.” He smiled, glancing to where Connor was dividing the laundry into different machines, head turning as he continued subtly scanning the room. “You’re the owner here, then?”
“Mae Bozzolo, nice to meet you.” She stuck out her hand and Hank took it, noticing a faintly faded watercolour tattoo of a cocoon on her forearm.
“Henry,” he said, “nice ink.”
The woman raised an eyebrow, a smirk sliding up her lips. “Thanks, you got any yourself?”
“Nothing I can show in public,” Hank said, brushing his hand over his chest, a wince of self consciousness flaring inside him. He’d been so in shape when he’d first got his tattoos, and look at him now. Shaking his head slightly to clear his thoughts he turned back to Mae, ready to get questioning. “Do you get a lot of business around here?”
“Oh, enough to get by. Got a couple of contracts with some hotels in the area, y’know? And there’s always the locals.” Mae folded her arms, gaze following Connor whilst he finished separating the laundry, quarters rolling over his knuckles as he started each machine in turn before turning to Hank with a smile.
“We’re all set.”
“Thanks, Connor,” Hank said, returning the smile, noting the way Mae’s brow seemed to arch as she looked between them. He turned back to her, striking up a conversational tone, “So, what are ‘the locals’ like? Any horror stories?”
“Nah, nothing too bad, the usual mishaps and sex stains, but I’m sure you’ve had your fair share of those with that pretty young thing, eh?” Hank winced as a bony elbow jabbed into his side and felt his face flush with colour.
“That’s really...we’re not…” he fumbled, shoving his hands into his pockets and dropping his gaze to his shoes as Mae cackled. “Maybe I’ll just go sit down.”
He slid onto one of the hard plastic seats that faced the washers, making sure to keep a few chairs away from Connor. The thought that he...that they...Hank could feel his pulse racing with embarrassment; Connor could certainly do a lot better, he knew that much. He sighed, watching his reflection in the soap-sudded door of a washer and ran a hand through his hair. Behind him, he watched Mae’s reflection pick up a book and settle behind the counter. So far he’d seen nothing that indicated the place had anything to do with the Black Ice supply and his heart sunk at the thought of yet another dead end. In the corner of his eye, he could see Connor, sat as he was, still steadily scanning around. His slim fingers kept up the usual array of tricks, the light glinting with every pass of the coin over his knuckles. He needed to check in with him, to see if he’d found any sort of evidence that human eyes so easily missed.
As Hank watched, he noticed Connor’s eyelids flicker in a rapid series of blinks and straightened up; Connor was talking to someone—Richard most likely. He took another quick glance at the counter, seeing no sign that Mae was paying them any attention.
The instant Connor’s erratic blinks stopped, Hank stood up and stretched.
“Well, I don’t know about you, Connor, but I don’t wanna sit on my ass this whole time. Let’s go find some coffee.”
Nodding, Connor rose to his feet. “Good idea. I need, um, fresh air. Let’s go.”
Hank tilted his head at Mae, watching them from over her book. “We’ll be back soon.”
“Sure, but I’m not putting anything into the dryer for you.” She gave a dismissive wave of her hand. “There's a coffee place just down the block.”
“Thanks,” Connor said with a brisk nod, holding the door open for Hank.
The instant they were out of view of the laundromat's main window, Hank grabbed Connor by the wrist, raising his eyebrows. “Okay, where are we going? I know you got a call.”
“Not far. Gavin and Richard found someone.” Connor frowned, a deep crease appearing between his brows. “It sounded bad.”
“Okay, lead the way.”
Connor’s path led them through the back streets and into the shadows of a burnt-out building, where they found Gavin, leaning against the soot-stained wall. He jerked his thumb towards the narrow alley, littered with trash. “Down here.”
Eyes adjusting to the dim light, Hank could see two figures, one standing, posture perfect, spine unnaturally straight, the other slumped against a dumpster, their limbs twitching spasmodically. He took a deep breath, patting Richard gently on the shoulder as he came up alongside him.
“What's the story here?”
Richard’s lips were pressed together in a tight line, the yellow light of his LED spiralling rapidly. “We were scouting the area, as instructed, when my scans registered this AP700. He seemed to be behaving erratically so I alerted Connor as we followed him to this location.” His fingers clenched into a fist. “He collapsed against that dumpster thirty seconds before you arrived.”
“Okay, okay, you did good.” Hank gave another quick shoulder pat, striding forwards, Connor at his side. “Did you get his name yet?”
“I...didn’t think to.” The tone didn’t change, but the halt in Richards voice told Hank that he’d been caught off guard. A quick glance to one side confirmed this as Richard’s LED showed another spiral of yellow, flickers of red starting to bleed into the bright light.
“I’m not even sure he can talk,” Connor said, kneeling by the slumped android, head tilted to one side as he looked him over. “My readings are a little messed up.”
Hank crouched beside him, wincing at the stiffness of his knees. “Not surprising,” he reached out, wiping a smear of blue blood from beneath the twitching android’s nostril, “they kicked up the thirium content for Black Ice, strong enough to amplify every electrical impulse in the android body. This guy’s mind is probably racing right now.” He peered at the glazed over expression on the android’s face, jolting back as a delirious giggle escaped his lips.
Catching him by the shoulder, Connor leaned in. “Hello? Can you hear us? My name is Connor, we’re here to help you.”
Lips curling into a grin too wide to pass as human, the android giggled again. “Why would I need help? I feel amazing!” He stroked a finger down his own face, gaze unfocused. Another slow stream of thirium seeped from one nostril and Hank felt Connor’s grip tighten. He waved a hand over the android’s eyes, getting no reaction.
“You might feel good now, but you have to let us help, otherwise you’re gonna fall apart pretty quickly.” A bead of thirium was welling up in the corner of the android’s eye, a bubbling tear of blue-black that made Hank’s stomach twist. “Just tell us where you got the Ice, we’ll make sure everything is okay.”
“I’m fine. It’s fine.” The android’s smile was starting to falter, his voice taking on a grating, mechanical edge. “It’s just a little bit of help, y’know. Makes it easier. Makes me feel alive.”
“You are alive,” Hank said and felt Connor’s fingers press into his shoulder once more, a thin smile just visible in the corner of his eye. The android’s head drooped to one side, the tear of thirium welling over and streaming down his cheek. Still he smiled.
“I may be alive,” he said, voice dulling to a near-whisper, “but this makes me feel human.”
The twitching stopped, the android crumpling to the ground with a muffled thump, the light of his LED going dark. Hank leapt forward, Connor at his side, hauling the android upright by the collar.
“Shit! What the— Shit!” Hank could hear Gavin’s running footsteps approaching and glanced to Connor, meeting his eyes. “Is he—”
Connor nodded. “He’s gone, Hank. I'm calling for backup to pick him up, they can take him in to the labs and find out if he can be fixed.” He shook his head and Hank swore he could see a tremor run through the tense line of Connor’s shoulders. “This seems to be a particularly potent strain, judging by the darkness of the blood.” His brows drew together. “I doubt he can be helped, his processors have been overloaded from the inside out.”
Hank winced, noticing for the first time that Connor’s hand still lay gently on his arm, barely pressing, just there, solid and reassuring. He cleared his throat, letting go of the android's limp body and setting him back on the ground as softly as he could. “Can you get anything from him, any clues at all?”
“Let me check.” Connor said, looking the android over, analysing.
Hank nodded. “Good, I'm gonna see if Richard noticed anything when they were following him.” He rose back up, hearing his knees pop, and turned, finding Richard at the mouth of the alleyway, his head bowed, mouth tight, and Gavin muttering in a low voice.
“—y'know, you are allowed to feel this shit now. You don't gotta play the stone cold robot thing all the time.” He unfolded his arms, one hand reaching forward, as if to take Richard by the arm.
Clearing his throat, Hank approached, watching with interest as Gavin immediately snatched his hand back, crossing his arms over his chest. “We lost him,” he said, “Connor’s called the guys from the lab to see if they can take him in and find anything.” He turned to Richard, whose forehead was still creased in concern. “I wanted to check if you'd noticed anything else when you were tailing him.”
“Nothing of note,” Richard said. His voice was low, pitched just a shade deeper than Connor’s, but Hank recognised the same slight waver that manifested when Connor was upset.
He tilted his head, trying to meet Richard's gaze. “You okay?”
“Fine.” Richard's tone was as steely as his eyes, though, by his side, Hank noticed his hand balled into a tight fist. “I…regret not finding this individual sooner. We may have been able to get more information.”
“Lieutenant, I have something here.” Connor called, rising to his feet beside the dumpster and brushing himself down. He held a small card in one hand, passing it over to Hank, who peered at it, taking in the embossed lettering and the black-purple smear on one corner that could only be Black Ice.
Detroit's most exclusive couples-only hotel
“What do you make of this?” He held up the business card between two fingers, watching as Gavin read over it, his nose wrinkling.
“Could be something. You think we should check it out?”
Hank let out a heavy breath. “I'm willing to check out anything at this point, we need something.”
Gavin nodded, gaze flicking over to where Connor and Richard were still stood in silent conversation. “It's on the other side of town, though, and that poor bastard down there shot up somewhere nearby. Nines and I should probably keep searching around here a little longer, see if we can track where he came from.”
Hank nodded approvingly. “Yeah, the hotel thing can wait. Connor and I should probably get back to the laundromat, too.” He folded his arms over his chest, unable to keep the rising exasperation from his voice, “Although I think that might be as much a bust as everything else so far.” He jerked his head towards Richard and Connor. “You okay to hang here until they pick this guy up? Nines seemed a little,” he fumbled for the right word, “distressed.”
Gavin's mouth twisted in a faint grimace. “Yeah, I dunno, I think he's still getting used to feeling emotions and shit.” He shrugged. “If he was a human partner I'd just take him out and get him drunk ‘til he gets out of his funk, dunno what helps with androids, though.”
“You'll figure something out,” Hank said. He patted Gavin roughly on the elbow. “Nice to see you're looking out for him.”
Gavin spluttered, obviously trying to find a retort as Hank turned out of the alleyway, a slight smirk on his lips. “Connor, we need to get back,” he called.
They quickly returned to the laundromat, grabbing coffee on the way to maintain their cover, Hank tasking Connor to pull whatever information he could find on the Hotel Ephemera.
“Not much I can find, I'm afraid,” he said after a few silent seconds, “their website lists their facilities and allows room bookings, but aside from that I can only find a few guest reviews.”
“Anything with those?” Hank said, shoving the door to the laundromat open and giving Mae a brief nod as she appeared from behind her book to blink at them.
“They were very short, but positive. Apparently it is indeed an ideal place for couples.” Connor shrugged, immediately heading to pull their laundry from the machines.
“Thinking of taking a vacation?” Mae piped up from behind her desk. She raised an eyebrow, a salacious grin spreading over her lips.
“Um, yeah, sure. Know much about the Ephemera?”
Mae's eyes lit up and she nodded slowly. “Oh yeah, they’re one of my contracts. Nice place, no kids, no pets,” she leaned over the counter, voice dropping to a hushed whisper, “and it doesn't say it on the door, but no androids.”
“Really,” Hank said, the vague warmth he'd felt towards the old woman dissipating in an instant. “Ain't that something.” He shoved himself away from the desk, a wave of disgust rolling in his gut. The back of his neck prickled with irritation as he slumped down next to Connor, eyes fixed on the beanie that covered his forehead, hiding his LED. He sighed, throwing his arm around Connor's shoulder and pulling him close.
Feeling Connor tense, Hank leaned into his ear and whispered, “She thinks we're a couple, just go with it.”
Connor blinked in understanding, seeming to consciously relax his posture, placing a hand on Hank's knee and whispering back, “Did you find something?”
“I'm not sure yet, but it seems that hotel doesn't like androids. Something in my gut says we should check it out.” Connor’s hand was solid and steady on Hank's knee, not as warm as a human touch, but more than enough to distract him.
“I'll make some calls,” Connor said, and then, slightly louder, “I just want to get this finished and get home.” Raising his other hand, he stroked his fingers through Hank's beard, catching and tugging slightly. The sensation sent a jolt through Hank's stomach, a swooping excitement that was not helped by the heavy-lidded gaze Connor was levelling at him as he swiped his tongue over his lips. Were they always that pink and pouting? Hank couldn't think.
“What are you doing?” he hissed out between clenched teeth, seeing Connor’s expression shift immediately back to neutral.
“Just trying to make it convincing,” he murmured, a note of hurt in his voice. “I'll stop.”
“No, no, it's okay, I just wasn't expecting it,” Hank said, keeping his voice low. “Didn't know you were such a good actor.” He adjusted his arm around Connor's shoulders, feeling fingers tighten and release on his knee, acutely aware of every point they were touching. Something was squirming in his gut, familiar and unfamiliar and Hank wasn't entirely certain he wanted to explore what that was. He settled back on the hard plastic seat, hoping the dryer wouldn't take too long. The sooner they got out, the sooner they could stop touching, and Hank wouldn't have to face that stir of excitement that so often came from Connor being near.
Just this mission, and then he could forget it.
“Undercover?! As a couple?!”
Hank shoved his hair from his face, incredulous. In the corner of his eye he could see Reed's shoulders shaking with suppressed laughter. He leaned over Fowler's desk, trying not to seem too much like he was pleading. “Seriously, Jeffrey, why us?”
“You've already had contact with someone who may be involved, and though we don't know what that connection is, it's the best we've got. We've been completely unable to dig up anything else. You just need to be there for a weekend, do some recon, see if there really is anything we should be concerned about.” Fowler's tone was matter of fact, but Hank could see the twitch at the corner of his lips.
“Did Reed put you up to this?” he asked, jerking his thumb in Gavin's direction.
“The fuck?” Reed sat up in his chair, a grin spreading over his lips, his palms held wide in placation. “Hank, I wish I could take credit for this one, I really do.”
“I suggested it, Hank, ” Connor said quietly. “I thought ingratiating ourselves into the informal setting would make people more forthcoming with information. The woman at the laundromat already mistook us for romantic partners, if there is a connection between the two then it at least keeps continuity.” He folded his arms, raising an eyebrow at Hank. “It really does make the most logical sense.”
“I dunno, Connor, you heard what that woman said. Something tells me android and human couples aren’t their usual sort of clientele.”
Connor brought his fingers to his temple, brushing over his LED. “I won't be an android, I'll play human. I'm sure I can be convincing enough for a few days.”
“Connor, last week you spent an hour with a magnet on your face because it tickled. Are you sure you can do this?”
“It felt nice.” Connor’s lips curved in a small pout before he brightened once more. “Anyway, I'll have you helping me,” he said with a smile, “I'm definitely sure.”
“If Connor can't, I am also willing to step in,” Richard said, expression unchanging, “I believe I am more than capable of passing as human.”
There was a moment of silence stretching out and Hank glanced towards Gavin, who looked incredulous. The corner of Richard's mouth twitched up. “That was a joke. RK800 is far more convincing.”
Gavin snorted, reaching out to slap Richard on the shoulder. “Good one, Nines.”
“So, what? This is our plan?” Hank said, pressing his fingers to his temples, trying to massage away the headache that was starting to creep in. “We go in, snoop around, report back if we find anything?”
“Nice and simple,” Gavin said, still grinning. “Enjoy, what did the brochure say again, Nines?”
“The intimate surroundings and sensuous atmosphere of an environment designed exclusively for lovers,” Richard quoted, though Hank swore he could hear a quiver of laughter beneath the deep monotone.
“Yeah, thanks.” said Hank, crossing his arms over his chest and glaring at Fowler. “When are we supposed to start this bullshit?”
“Well there's the good news,” Gavin said, clapping his hands together, “Nines and I got you all booked up for next weekend.” His eyes shone with amusement. “Call it a honeymoon gift.”
Richard nodded, the corners of his mouth twitching up in a definitive smirk. “I'm sure it will be very enjoyable. Saturday is ‘Lavish Luau’ night.”
Connor’s brows creased in the smallest of frowns and he turned his head to meet Hank’s eye, the look on his face giving the distinct impression that he was regretting his suggestion. Hank shrugged, shaking his head to himself. It wasn’t the worst undercover assignment he’d been given, and sure, he enjoyed spending time with Connor. As long as they made sure to set some boundaries, they could pretend to be a couple. The swooping feeling in his gut was just nerves, nothing more.
Hank cleared his throat, “Okay, I guess we’re doing this. What do we need to do to prepare?”
“Not much, there isn’t a whole lot of information about hotel management or who owns it, so we’ve got people looking into that.” Fowler sat back in his chair, pressing his fingertips together. “Anything we get, we’ll give to Reed and Richard and they can inform you. They’ll be your main contact since Connor and Richard can communicate undetected.” He gave Hank a nod. “Just get in there and find out what you can.”
“Can do,” Hank said, rising to his feet and turning for the door, “guess I gotta give up my swingin’ bachelor lifestyle, eh, Connor?”
“I’ll order up the wedding rings right now.”
It was a few hours later, just as Hank was considering what food to pick up on the way home, when Connor appeared, perching on the edge of his desk, concern written in the delicate lines around his eyes.
“Hank, I was wondering if I could discuss some concerns I have about our mission.” He leaned in close, his voice low, “In private, if possible.”
Hank sighed, feeling himself tense up. “I was just about to head home, but if it can’t wait then I guess you can come with me.” He reached for his coat and smiled. “Sumo’ll be pleased to see you.”
Connor’s expression softened, a small smile creeping up his lips. “I look forward to seeing him, too.” He hopped off Hank's desk, following him to the car, posture seeming to loosen and relax the further they got from the precinct.
Sumo was, as predicted, extremely happy to see Connor, bouncing up on his hind legs and planting his paws on his chest in a move that normally disbalanced Hank, but Connor bore easily. He barked in greeting, slobbering down the unblemished white of Connor’s shirt.
“Aw shit, let me get you a clean one,” Hank said as Connor ran his fingers over the damp spot, an eyebrow raised, “and don't fucking sample it, that shit's gross.” The bag of laundry from the other day sat in the hallway and Hank was certain that Connor's shirts were still mixed in with his own clothes.
“It's fine, Hank,” Connor said, wiping his fingers back down his shirt. “I can change later, Sumo needs a walk first.” He tilted his head towards Hank as he said matter-of-factly, “Exercise is very important for dogs his age.”
“Okay, yeah, I get the hint,” Hank shook his head to himself. “You're not subtle, Connor.” He smiled despite himself, it was nice that someone was looking out for him. He pulled Sumo's leash from the hook behind the door. “Come on then. We’ll go along the canal and you can tell me what’s bothering you about the mission.”
The evening was cool, the warmth of Spring not quite set in yet, the faintest of chills just starting to tinge the air. Sumo happily panted, straining ahead on his leash, which was held tight in Connor’s grip. Hank smiled, knowing that the tug was normally enough to make him stumble—he always forgot how strong Connor actually was. He pulled his coat a little further around himself against the growing cold. Connor’s artificial breath was just visible in the rapidly dimming light, the streetlights along the canal path blooming one by one into life. Every so often, he glanced aside to Hank, a quick movement in the corner of his vision. Hank waited, knowing that when Connor had collected his thoughts, he’d say something.
Eventually, fingers twitching on Sumo’s leash, he spoke, “I’m a little worried that I’m going to blow our cover.” He stopped, turning to meet Hank’s eyes, frowning. “I’ve never had a relationship, so I’m not completely sure how to act.”
Warmth bloomed in Hank’s chest, a rush of affection sweeping through him. He laughed softly. “Well, there’s nothing to worry about, it’s just me. You don’t need to pretend to be something you’re not.”
“I do, though, Hank. I need to pretend to be human.”
Hank shook his head, reaching out to pat Connor roughly on the shoulder. “We’re just going to check things out there, no one is gonna be asking us to, I dunno, make out in front of them. We’ll figure out a story and stick to it. Nice and simple.”
Connor’s mouth twitched up in a smile. “You make it sound so easy.” He glanced up. “It’s about to rain, we should head back.”
Hank felt the first wisp of light rain hit his cheek and smiled, tightening his grip on Connor’s shoulder. “If you were human, you wouldn’t know that now, would ya?”
Connor’s face fell. “Shit. You’re right.” His hand balled into a fist around Sumo’s leash. “Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.”
“Hey now, it’s not so bad,” Hank said, his desire to comfort Connor overruling his skepticism of the mission. “We have time. Maybe you could, I dunno, stay with me, and I can help you out a little.”
The rain was really starting now, the steady patter drowning out the rest of the sounds around them, blanketing them in white noise. Hank could feel his hair starting to soak and turned back towards the house, Connor and Sumo following suit. Concern rolled inside him, frustration at himself for making such a ridiculous offer; Connor was already stuck spending a weekend with him, why the hell would he want to be in Hank’s company any longer than that? Sure, they were friends—at least Hank thought so—but there was only so far that would go.
“I’d like that,” Connor said, the smile he gave Hank a bright spark in the pit of self-pity he was already digging himself into. “I think it would be an excellent way to familiarise ourselves with living together as a couple.” He increased his pace, letting Sumo lead the way back. “We can figure out how we met, how long we’ve been together, and any other details that might come up in conversation. Great idea, Hank.”
Fifteen minutes later and they were back in Hank’s house, Hank scrambling to find enough towels for himself, Sumo, and Connor. He rubbed over his hair, watching as the droplets of rain seemed to cling to Connor’s own—still resolutely styled—dampening it, but not quite soaking in. Connor seemed to be holding himself completely still, glancing around in concern at the puddle forming around his feet. Hank pressed his lips together in mock irritation, handing over a towel.
“Guess we can start getting used to staying together now, huh?” Hank smiled, trying to ignore the swoop of excitement that rose unbidden in his belly. “Why don’t we get your stuff dried off, I’m sure I have something you can borrow.”
“That would be very much appreciated, Hank. Thank you.” Connor continued standing stock-still, waiting patiently as Hank dug out some sweatpants he’d long grown out of, and a faded t-shirt that probably wouldn’t be too baggy on Connor’s narrow frame. He passed them over, Connor smiling in thanks and slipping into the bathroom as Hank slumped onto the couch, already changed into his own dry clothes.
A few moments later, Connor joined him, his hands folded in his lap as he sat. “I put both our clothes in the dryer, Hank, they should be fine by morning.”
“Great.” Hank sank back, raising his eyebrows at Connor, tilting his head. “You might want to work on looking at least a little relaxed, buddy. You look like you’re waiting for a job interview.”
“Oh.” Connor’s shoulders lowered a fraction and he shuffled back, leaning a little further into the couch. “Is this better?”
“Um, not really.” Hank huffed out an amused breath and turned, waving his hand in a scooting motion. “Little further back, you want to put all your body weight on the cushion, maybe cross your legs, or pull them up, or something.”
“Noted,” Connor said, folding one leg underneath him and stretching his arm along the back of the couch, leaning towards Hank. “How about now?”
“Much better,” Hank said, settling back. “We’ve got plenty of time for you to practice, so don’t worry.”
Connor’s LED was spinning yellow, processing, his expression pensive. Hank let him be, switching on the tv and idly contemplating what leftover takeout was safe to eat in his fridge. He pulled his own legs up, bare feet brushing against Connor’s thigh and seeming to startle him.
“Oh! I hadn’t considered that.” Connor sat bolt upright again, gaze fixed on Hank, who frowned.
“Contact. If we’re to be playing a couple, we should probably be more comfortable with close proximity to each other, at least enough so we seem familiar with it.” Connor’s eyes were wide and earnest, sending a jolt of warmth through Hank’s chest. “It’s important that we seem convincing.”
Hank swallowed, apprehension rising within him. “So, what, like, holding hands and shit?”
Connor nodded. “Yes. Human couples have a lot of subtle intimate gestures when they’re together. We should practice that.”
A groan threatened to escape Hank’s lips, barely held back by the tiniest thread of what felt suspiciously like anticipation. He sat up, meeting Connor’s gaze. “What did you have in mind?”
Connor’s gaze flicked demurely downwards, his lips pressed together in a thin line. When he spoke, his voice was soft, almost hesitant. “A hug would be nice.”
Well okay, fine, Hank could do that. He’d hugged Connor before—several times in fact—so why did this feel so much like stepping over a precipice?
Hank breathed in, holding his arms out loosely. “C’mere then.”
Connor’s lips flicked up in a small smile before he leaned in, wrapping his arms around Hank’s chest and pressing his face against one shoulder.
Hesitating for only a moment, Hank let out his breath, holding Connor close, running one hand in circles over his back, feeling the hard, unyielding plastic beneath soft synthskin. He inhaled, catching only the scent of his own fabric conditioner and a tinge of something like ozone that seemed to come from Connor himself.
There was a soft vibration against Hank’s chest, a low hum of contentment escaping Connor’s lips that he couldn’t quite hide. Hank swallowed, willing away that same excited thrill that had come from Connor’s hand on his thigh the other day. He let his eyes slide closed, though, holding tight for the moment.
It was for the good of the mission after all.
Another few days, a few more attempts at wrenching the stick from Connor’s programming, countless hugs, and one or two arguments that felt far too close to actual married bickering for comfort, and Hank was ready to admit that something was brewing inside him that he’d been trying to hold back for a while now.
Connor’s insistence for ‘subtle intimate gestures’ had spilled into the precinct, his fingers brushing over Hank's knuckles when he handed over files, leaning a gentle hand on Hank's shoulder as they looked over the same evidence. Every time, it brought a stir of heat to Hank's guts, and an aching desire for more.
Hank, of course, brushed it off. It had been so long since he'd had contact with someone that wasn't Sumo, it was probably just his body reacting to stimuli. He ignored the fact that he’d been feeling this way since before the Black Ice case had even arisen.
That night, Connor joined their hands together on the couch as they watched TV, curling into Hank's side in imitation of the couple in the movie they were watching. It felt almost natural. He was solid and reassuring, core temperature risen to match Hank's, bathing him in a warm contentment that Hank hadn't felt in a long, long, time. Connor’s LED shone in a bright, calming blue and, moving without thinking, Hank pressed his lips to it, feeling Connor tense up in his arms.
“You worried about having to take this out?” Hank asked, fumbling for some way to cover up the impulsiveness of his action. “Mission starts this weekend.”
“I—” Connor pursed his lips together, sitting up into what Hank recognised as his default posture, rigid and poised. “I'm not sure. So many androids have already removed theirs,” he turned to Hank, “I'm not sure I want to.”
“Well it's only for a few days. Once this is done we can stick it right back in, sound good?” Hank raised his hand, giving in to another impulse, stroking his thumb over Connor’s cheek, holding his breath as Connor’s eyes met his.
Connor nodded, gaze flicking downwards to his own hands, fingers twisting in his lap. His lips pressed together in a thin line before he reached up, pressing his fingers to his temple, pale, freckled skin melting away to grey and white plastic beneath Hank's fingertips. He tilted his head, showing the yellow circle of his LED. “I want you to take it,” he said.
“Connor…” Hank smoothed his thumb over Connor's cheek once more. His face was familiar yet unfamiliar, the same structure, but not quite the Connor he knew so well. Hank found himself wondering how many people had actually seen this face, if this was a privilege only he had been granted. He gently tilted Connor's chin in his hand. “Are you sure? I'm not exactly qualified for this.”
“I trust you, Hank.” Connor gave a wry smile. “Just try not to damage it, please.”
“Okay,” Hank breathed deep, “okay.” He circled the delicate little light with his fingers, feeling the slight gap around it, just enough to slide in a fingernail and gently prise it forwards. “It doesn't hurt, does it?”
“I don't feel pain, remember, “ Connor said, his gaze fixed upwards on the movement of Hank's fingers, “but I appreciate your concern.”
Hank nodded, feeling the circle of Connor’s LED loosen beneath his fingertips. He pulled it free, noting the little divot in the plastic where it usually sat. “Will you be able to put it back in?”
Connor’s skin spread back over his face, his temple looking unnaturally bare despite the freckles that dusted the spot. He took the LED from Hank's fingers, scrutinising it. “It looks perfectly undamaged. Thank you, Hank.”
“So, um, where are you gonna keep it while we’re on the mission?” Hank asked. The question felt oddly personal.
“I have an idea,” Connor said, rising to his feet to retrieve something from the small suitcase that had appeared in Hank's hallway the day before—it seemed Connor’s clothes went beyond the two spare shirts now. “I was going to wait until we started, but there's no reason not to get used to these, too.”
He returned with a small black box, settling back down next to Hank as he opened it. Inside sat two simple wedding bands, one slightly larger than the other. “If we put these on now, my LED can be safely stored in the box.”
Hanks chest clenched as he stared down at the rings, memories of his divorce bubbling to the surface. Connor looked so hopeful, though, beaming at Hank and pulling the larger ring out, holding it forwards. “May I have your hand please, Hank?”
Wordlessly, Hank reached out, feeling Connor grab him gently by the wrist, holding his hand steady. He swallowed, feeling his heartbeat start to speed as Connor gave a soft smile, slipping the ring onto his finger. A perfect fit.
“Okay,” Hank breathed out, fighting against the twisting excitement in his stomach, “your turn.” He took the other ring, watching as Connor gently placed his LED in the box and set it aside. “Ready to be my fake husband?”
“I'm looking forward to it,” Connor said, offering his hand, his fingers twitching slightly as Hank took it. His smile had widened, his eyes shining brightly when Hank brought the ring to his finger, sliding it on with only the slightest hesitation. Hank glanced up to meet Connor’s eyes, hand still held in his own. He cleared his throat.
“Guess that's that, then.”
Hank's stomach still twisted itself in knots; the whole situation fell off, unfinished somehow. The last time he'd put a ring on someone's finger, he'd kissed them almost immediately afterwards. But he wasn't going to do that here. He didn't need to. He didn't want to kiss Connor.
He just needed to keep telling himself that.
It was going to be a long weekend.
A few days later, dressed in sunglasses and a leather jacket that was at least thirty years older than his partner, Hank stood outside the Hotel Ephemera, glancing upwards at the glowing sign. He turned to Connor, trying not to lose focus at the sight of sinfully tight jeans and a shirt that left very little to the imagination.
“You ready for this?” he asked, hefting their suitcase in one hand and gesturing towards the door.
Connor shook his head, lips pressed tight together. “Not really, no, but we don’t have a choice.” He held his hand out, the white gold of his wedding band glinting in the early afternoon sun. “Shall we?”
Hank gave a wry smile and took his hand.
Despite the advertisements claiming a ‘chic Art Nouveau interior’ the hotel seemed to be built along more neo-classical lines, a fact which irritated Connor—false advertisement, it seemed, was something humans just couldn’t avoid. For all that the Ephemera claimed to be, his initial scans showed much room for improvement.
The floor was a checkerboard of polished marble—fake—the ceilings dripped with glittering chandeliers—also fake—and the reception desk was a deep, shining, mahogany—surprisingly real—though as they approached, Connor could see the chips and dents in the enamel.
Hank's hand held tight on his own, a soothing, reassuring pressure that helped combat the calculations in Connor’s eyeline that determined his likelihood of success.
«chance of success: 58%»
“Lemme get us checked in,” Hank said, letting go of Connor’s hand.
«chance of success: 52%»
Connor frowned to himself as the numbers dropped, an unpleasant prickling current running through his thirium channels as they did. That couldn't do. He followed behind Hank, stepping up beside him as he leaned over the reception desk.
“Two to check in, please.”
“Name?” The woman behind the desk didn't look up from her screen. ‘Beth’ her name tag said and from a quick scan Connor determined that she was twenty-three years old, working to pay off heavy student debt, and hadn't slept in twenty-two hours.
“Anderson,” Hank said, “Henry Anderson.”
“And Connor Anderson,” Connor said, looping his arm through Hank's and feeling a surge of warmth as he did.
«chance of success: 60%»
Beth's tired expression softened then, and she smiled to herself. “Okay, here are your room keys. We have a breakfast buffet every day until 11.30 but room service is 24 hours. We have a couple of events on this weekend if you're interested?”
“Oh yes,” Connor said, “my, um...brother mentioned a luau or something?”
The roll of Beth’s eyes was not subtle and she gave a terse smile. “Yeah, word is the hotel owner has a bunch of business partners in town and wanted to throw them some kind of party. All guests are welcome, of course.”
“You don’t sound too impressed,” Hank said, raising one eyebrow. Once more he pulled his arm from Connor’s grasp, causing the success percentage to drop. It was a momentary aberration though, as Hank slipped his arm around Connor’s waist instead, holding him close and causing a flurry of new data to spark through his sensory processors.
“It’s nothing really,” Beth said with a dismissive wave, shaking her head, “but they only announced it a couple of weeks ago. We’ve been so busy setting up for our Easter Ball on Sunday that it was a little short notice to organise another party on the same weekend.”
“I’m sure they’ll both turn out great,” Hank said, giving the young woman a reassuring smile.
Connor glanced sidelong at Hank, his success percentage ticking up by another point as he matched his smile. “Do management often arrange events at the last minute,” he asked, setting his tone to conversational rather than interrogative.
“Not so much management, it’s the owner. Every so often we’ll be told that her partners are coming for a visit and we need to plan something.” Beth crossed her arms over her chest, voice dropping to an almost-whisper, “They don’t even pay for the rooms while they’re here. I don’t know how they can afford it,” her lips tightened in a grimace, “probably by paying me minimum wage.”
Connor nodded, hoping his expression was sufficiently sympathetic. "That...sucks," he said, noting the way Hank's lips twitched at the term; he'd been encouraging Connor to utilise more colloquialisms.
"Yeah, it does," Beth said with a sigh. Her gaze fell on the hotel entrance and she hissed in her breath, sitting up straight, a rictus grin suddenly plastered to her face. "So," she said, voice louder and imbued with a false cheerfulness that made Connor’s auditory processors buzz unpleasantly, "you're all checked in. Please let me know if there is anything else I can do to make your stay at the Ephemera more enjoyable. Have a pleasant stay Mr and Mr Anderson."
Connor could feel Hank's fingers tightening on his hip and he glanced around for the source of this sudden change in Beth's behaviour.
An older woman stood in the doorway flanked by two humans of TR400 proportions. Her dark hair was swept back from her forehead, her face mostly hidden behind wide sunglasses which obscured her eyes but didn't quite cover her faintly pockmarked cheeks. She grinned, her brightly lipsticked mouth splitting apart like a wound as she surveyed the lobby, her dark gaze finally landing on Connor and Hank.
“That’s the owner,” Beth whispered under her breath, her false smile not wavering for an instant.
Connor’s facial recognition software was failing him, tripped up by the sunglasses. His neural net attempted to fill in the blanks but nothing it produced seemed to be a recognisable human face. Connor frowned to himself, feeling a prickle of frustration at the limits of his software. He caught Hank's eye and saw a flicker of recognition.
"Just go with this," Hank murmured as the woman approached, giving Connor no time to respond. He stepped away, breaking all contact, his arms spread wide in welcome.
"Olga, so nice to see you, you look wonderful."
A single eyebrow arched above the dark glasses—an impressive feat given their size—and the woman's smile seemed to falter.
"Do I know you?” Her nose wrinkled and she reached up, sliding the sunglasses to the top of her head, revealing piercing blue eyes rimmed in eyeliner and narrowed in uncertainty.
Olga Marchetti Connor’s database supplied, born November 12th, 1980, no criminal record. Former wife of Jacques Marchetti (deceased) aka 'Jack Frost', charged with multiple counts of red ice manufacture and trafficking.
The information flashed in Connor’s eyeline in an instant. Olga's husband had been arrested by Hank's task force several years ago, he'd been imprisoned and subsequently found dead after a visit from his mistress; heart failure, something deemed accidental at the time.
Hank's smile was wide and welcoming and Connor couldn't help but be impressed at his deception skills.
"Oh, you know, I did a job or two with Jackie back in the day. He never mentioned me? Henry? The boat guy?” Hank's lips were curled in a confused smile as Marchetti looked him over, expression unchanging.
"Well anyways," Hank waved a dismissive hand, "one of my guys mentioned you were throwing a shindig this weekend so I thought I'd see what was going on." He winked. “Gotta keep up with my contacts.”
“I’m not your contact,” the woman said with a sneer. Her voice was rough and harshly accented. “But since you are here, I may see if there is something we can work out.” She turned her steely gaze on Connor. “I’m sure you will have a pleasant weekend nonetheless.”
“You know it,” Hank said. “C’mon, sweet thing, let’s go check out our room.” Connor kept his expression neutral, masking the discomfort that came with the term of endearment. He knew it was for the sake of their cover, but he didn’t like it.
Sidling closer, Connor almost jerked in surprise as he felt a broad hand land on his backside as they turned away, his automated blink mechanism flickering in response. Warmth seemed to rush through his thirium channels independent of his internal temperature regulator, filling him with a bubbling sensation not unlike what he’d previously categorised as excitement. He looped his arm through Hank’s once more, heading for the elevator, scanning the faces of Marchetti’s bodyguards as he did. Unsurprisingly, both had criminal records, assault mostly, and had made bail every time they had been charged. Connor filed their names away for later when they could talk freely, and focused his attention on Olga, still watching them from the reception desk, a visibly strained Beth behind her, grinning uncomfortably.
“You know her?” Connor murmured, pressing the button from the elevator.
Hank gave the smallest of nods, leaning in to whisper in Connor’s ear, “We’ll talk upstairs, right now we just gotta look like we’re on our honeymoon. She still watching?”
“Mm-hmm,” Connor reached up, twirling a strand of Hank’s hair around one finger, running potential preconstructions that would optimise their believability. He glanced up at Hank from beneath his eyelashes, one idea in particular springing to mind. It wasn’t the most logical choice, but for some reason it was the most appealing option to Connor. He ran his fingers through the scruff of Hank’s beard, a shiver of sensation running through him as the rough hair scraped over his sensors. Gently, he tugged Hank down and brought their lips together.
Connor saw the briefest flash of surprise before Hank’s eyes slid shut and he leaned into the kiss, his arm looping around Connor’s waist to draw him in close. He was pressed against the soft warmth of Hank’s chest, their lips slotting together in a way that felt completely right.
Statistics and probabilities evaporated. The mission, passing as a couple, Black Ice, they all wiped themselves from Connor’s list of objectives. Marchetti’s reaction didn’t matter. Connor’s entire processing power was focused on one thing and one thing alone: kissing Hank.
He’d never felt anything like this before, Hank’s lips rough and chapped against the—surprisingly reactive—sensors of his own. His analysis software was already running diagnostics on Hank’s breath, a function that Connor quickly disabled, it didn’t matter. He pressed in harder and felt Hank gasp, his teeth catching at Connor’s lower lip to scrape over the synthskin, sending sparks through Connor’s entire body. He could feel his thirium pump speeding, trying to compensate for the onslaught of sensation. Hank’s hand was spread across the small of his back, holding him in place, warm and secure and for the briefest of moments Connor was struck with the image of Hank sliding it lower to squeeze at his ass again.
A curl of heat was rising within Connor’s core and he tightened his grip on the rough hair of Hank’s beard. He felt him pull away to draw a breath and mimicked the action, wondering how Hank would react if he deepened the kiss; the thought was particularly appealing right now.
There was a loud ding as the elevator arrived, Hank pulling away fully at the sound. His cheeks were flushed, his breathing a little faster than usual. Connor’s analyses popped back into his field of vision as they both stepped through the gold-inlaid doors of the elevator.
«chance of success: 64%»
Connor smiled to himself, noting the rise in Hank’s body temperature and pulse rate and feeling a brief thrill of accomplishment at being the one to cause that reaction. He could see Olga, still at the reception desk as the doors slid closed, her attention now fixed on Beth instead.
“I hope that girl will be okay, she seemed very nervous,” Connor said, brushing himself down. He could still see a flush of colour on Hank’s cheeks and cleared his throat. “I’m sorry, I really should have warned you I was going to do that.”
Hank ran a hand through his hair and shook his head, giving Connor a somewhat dazed smile. “That’s— It’s all good...I shoulda, yeah, shoulda realised we’d need to do that at some point.” He brought his fingers to his lips distractedly, not meeting Connor’s gaze.
“So,” Connor prompted, “Olga Marchetti?”
“Right, yeah, okay.” Hank glanced up, looking at the corners of the elevator. “This place isn’t bugged, is it?”
“I wouldn’t have brought her up if it was,” Connor said. It was odd, he wasn’t touching Hank any more, yet his success meter seemed to be staying at the same point, numbers unchanging. He supposed it might be because they were not currently under observation. He took Hank’s hand again anyway, just to be sure.
Hank swallowed, glancing down at their joined hands. “Okay, so you know I was on the Red Ice task force back in the day?”
“Of course, it’s why you are perfectly suited to be heading up the current investigation,” Connor said with a smile, feeling Hank’s grip tighten ever so slightly. His face was still faintly flushed, though his breathing seemed to have returned to normal. Connor resisted the urge to check his pulse through their joined hands. “I understand you arrested that woman’s husband as a result.”
“I didn’t,” Hank said, “not personally, anyway. I was undercover on that particular sting. What I told her back there was true, I knew the guy, I worked with him.” He shifted his grip on their suitcase, visibly uncomfortable. “Not for real, you know, I was getting the dirt.”
Connor nodded. “Of course, like we are now. I understand.” He raised an eyebrow. “Henry the boat guy?”
“That’s all they ever knew me as,” Hank said with a shrug.
“That is probably a good thing.” Connor watched the lights for each floor blink as the elevator slid up, a question tickling at the back of his mind, unpleasant, like something trapped between his access panels. He wrinkled his nose. “Hank? May I make a request?”
“Sure,” Hank tilted his head, “what’s up?”
“Please don’t call me ‘sweet thing’ again. I wasn’t fond of that particular term of endearment.”
“Oh...yeah, sorry about that, Connor.” Hank pulled his hand away, scratching at his beard. “I don’t wanna make this more uncomfortable than it already is.” The blood was rising to his cheeks again, something which never failed to fascinate Connor. “I probably shouldn’t have grabbed your ass, either.”
Connor dropped his gaze to his shoes, feeling that odd warmth bubbling in his thirium channels once more. “I didn’t really mind that part,” he mumbled.
The elevator slid to a halt before Hank could respond, the doors opening onto a long hallway, wood-panelled and thickly carpeted, bellflower shaped lights hanging at intervals to cast a cosy glow.
"Oh, there'sthe art nouveau part," Connor said, gesturing to the lights. "And they're real."
Hank's brows creased in confusion but a small smile still twitched at the corner of his lips. "Didn't take you for an interior design guy, Connor."
Connor shook his head dismissively, an odd squirming wave of sensation coiling through him at the sight of Hank's soft smile. "It's nothing important." He tore his gaze away, scanning over the hallway. "Which room is ours?”
"1901," Hank said, flicking the key card out between his fingers. "It ain't the honeymoon suite, but I guess we'll make do."
Connor smiled, glancing around and quickly finding the right door. "Over here." He quickly analysed the lock, finding it completely inadequate, he wouldn't even need a key card to open it. The skin retreated from his hand as he held it over the mechanism.
Hank's hand smothered his own, pulling it away from the lock, the pads of his fingertips scraping against the bare plastic and making Connor shiver. His voice was low and rough as he hissed, "You're human, remember?”
Connor glanced around, seeing only the empty hallway. “There's no one to see," he hissed back, Hank's admonishment making him bristle with annoyance.
"Hey, you're the one who was worried about slipping up," Hank said pulling his hand away as Connor’s synthskin slipped back over his fingers. "I'm just looking out for you, for both of us. If Olga Marchetti is anything like her husband then she has people everywhere."
Connor pursed his lips, gaze dropping to the floor as Hank slipped the key card into the door. His scans told him that Hank was the only human within a 50ft radius, but it couldn't hurt to be cautious. "You're right, I'm sorry, Hank," he said.
"Nah, it's cool. Just gotta look out for each other on this one, it's just you and me here."
Connor smiled to himself: just he and Hank was exactly how he preferred things. It made no logical sense, of course. Since RK900 had joined, investigations were completed 42% faster, and even Reed was helpful now. Still, if Connor had a choice, it would be just himself and Hank, every time.
Hank swung the door open and caught Connor’s eye. "Want me to carry you over the threshold?” he said with a grin. “It's traditional."
Connor gave another cursory scan, again he and Hank were the only people around; there was nothing to be gained from this action, no onlookers to deceive.
"Okay," he said.
It was a giddying sensation, being swept off his feet, and Connor let out a gasp that was entirely involuntary as Hank scooped him up almost effortlessly. He looped his arms around Hank's neck, holding tight and feeling his thirium bubble with warmth once more.
Stooping for a moment, Hank grabbed their suitcase, somehow managing to juggle both it and Connor. He kicked the door shut behind them, letting out an impressed whistle as he took in their room, his breath tickling against Connor's cheek. "This is nicer than I expected," he said.
The room was bright and airy, light streaming in between waving curtains of pale blue. Double doors led out to a small balcony and Connor felt a shiver run through him, he hadn’t realised that they were up so high. He tightened his grip on Hank, the solid, steady embrace of his arms helping to ground him somewhat.
“Everything okay, Connor? You’ve kinda tensed up.” Hank gently lowered Connor back to his feet, his hand still resting on the small of his back. That point of warmth was enough to chase the lingering fear away and Connor let out a sigh.
“My first model was destroyed through falling off a roof,” he said, the memory of Daniel, of throwing Emma to safety, flashing before his eyes. “It was when I was first activated, before we met. I guess the memory transfer left a trace.” He glanced towards the balcony. “I think I may have developed a slight fear of heights.”
“Oh,” Hank said, sliding his hand from Connor’s back to his shoulder, a trail of warmth and security, “I didn’t know that.” He gave a brief squeeze and turned towards the rest of the room. “Well, we don’t need to go out there or anything.” He stepped over to the bed, running his hand up the ostentatious four-poster. “Guess we should unpack and figure out our next move.”
“I can do that, Hank.”
“Nah, you packed, it’s only fair.” Hank unzipped the case, throwing it open. His smile faded, morphing into a look of deep confusion.
“The fuck? Connor, why is this here?” He pulled out a large bottle, gingerly sitting it on the bedside table. “Why did you pack lube?”
Connor tilted his head, surely Hank was more worldly than that?
“Well, we are playing a married couple, and couples generally engage in sexual intercourse. It seems logical then, that we would bring what we needed to facilitate that. As we don’t know which staff may be involved in the Black Ice operation then I thought it appropriate subterfuge.”
Hank was still frowning in his direction and Connor folded his arms, continuing, “You see, Hank, when two people want to participate in anal sex—”
“For fuck’s sake, Connor!" Hank spluttered. “I know how to get it on with other dudes, you do not need to give me instructions. Believe me.” He raised his hand to his temple, massaging it with his fingertips. “I just didn’t realise you’d put as much thought into this.”
“Of course I did.” Connor didn’t feel the need to mention exactly how much thought he’d given it. Those preconstructions had been extremely vivid.
“Yeah...of course you did.” Hanks cheeks had reddened, a human response that Connor was becoming increasingly fond of. It was nice to see that his input had brought about a physiological change. It made him feel oddly proud of himself. “Anything else I should be on the lookout for in here?”
“Not to my knowledge.” Connor sat on the opposite side of the bed, as far from the balcony as possible. He reached for the case, helping Hank to unpack. “We should probably go back downstairs once we’re done here. If this woman has ‘business partners’ staying then it might be an idea to identify and tail them.”
“That’s a solid plan, Connor,” Hank said, “I know there were a few guys we didn’t get when the Red Ice operation went down”—he slammed his fist into his palm—“if we can get them this time…”
Connor nodded. “We will,” he said, reaching out to cover Hank’s hand with his own.
There was no one to see, Connor knew that. His success meter seemed to be holding fast at 64%, but touching Hank felt like an imperative, one he didn’t want to ignore, it seemed important. “I am sure we can get to the bottom of things here.”
Hank glanced down at their joined hands and cleared his throat. “Yeah.” He seemed to have paused in his unpacking, turning his hand over and lacing their fingers together. “This-uh…this physical proximity stuff, is that still all good with you?” His brow was creased and Connor was struck with the momentary urge to run his fingers over the soft lines, to try and soothe away Hank’s distress.
“I’m fine with it, Hank,” he said, feeling his thirium pump seem to speed at the admittance. “Are you still concerned about putting your hand on my butt earlier?” Connor raised an eyebrow. “Because I feel my kissing you was equally as unexpected.”
“Well, yeah,” Hank said, “you know we’ll probably have to do that again,” he cleared his throat once more, “keep up appearances, you know?”
“Of course,” Connor smiled softly, he was looking forward to it, if he was honest with himself. He wasn’t going to tell Hank that, though. Instead he said, “I have reason to believe that public displays of affection make many humans uncomfortable. It might be useful to remember that.”
Hank swallowed audibly, taking his hand from Connor’s grasp and stretching his arms out. “We’ll just do what we need to,” he said. “Promise me you’ll tell me if something makes you uncomfortable though, ‘kay?”
“Likewise.” Connor tutted as Hank wrenched the pyjamas he’d packed so carefully and shoved them under one of the pillows. He stood back up, tilting his head towards the door. “Shall we explore the hotel a little? You can tell me if you recognise anyone and I’ll let you know if I pick anything up on my scans.”
“Sure,” Hank said. “Lead the way.”
As well as two restaurants, the Ephemera boasted three separate bars; one in the lobby, glittering with polished wood and mirrors, one by the spa area, surrounded by greenery and one on the rooftop, the glimmering lights of the city visible in every direction. Hank kept his arm tight around Connor as they toured that one, much to Connor’s relief.
They wandered the hotel arm in arm, scoping out both restaurants, the pool, the gym and the main ballroom before, as they were crossing the main lobby, Hank froze, leaning in close to Connor’s ear.
“I recognise that guy there, Adrian Molina, he definitely had dealings with Jacques back in the day.”
Connor glanced over to see an olive-skinned man deep in conversation with two other people. The dark waves of his hair fell in front of darker eyes, his teeth gleaming as he grinned at something one of his companions said. A quick scan revealed them to be Zayn Rose; local nightclub owner, three counts of drunk driving, and Gunther Kovats; banker, aggravated assault. Connor caught a suspicious glance in their direction and leaned in closer to Hank, simulating a giggle and running a hand down his chest.
Connor felt a swoop of excitement as Hank scooped him up with little effort, sliding into one of the lobby's plush armchairs with Connor in his lap. "There we go," he said, leaning close, "a little less conspicuous."
“Is there any chance Molina might recognise you?” Connor murmured in Hank’s ear, continuing the slow strokes over his chest, feeling the hint of muscle still evident beneath the softer outer layers of his skin. “Did you ever run into him before?”
"I only saw him once, in passing. I dunno if he'd recognise me now." Hank was still leaning close, his breath a whisper over Connor’s neck, sending pinpricks of sensation down his spinal column. "Can you tell what they're saying?”
Connor narrowed his eyes, trying not to make his gaze too obvious. His lip reading program could be a little glitchy and inaccurate at times. He caught a few scraps of conversation, dinner plans, it seemed, nothing more.
"Nothing important," Connor said. He tilted his head back, letting Hank nuzzle into his neck, still watching for any information that might be useful.
"—dunno, the boss said we're waiting for—”
Connor hissed in a breath, irritated; Kovats had moved, his white-blonde hair disrupting Connor's line of sight. He could only see Rose's lips now, could only catch his part of the conversation.
"Even so, you need to have the right market." His lip curled in a sneer, dark eyebrows sliding together at whatever Molina's reply had been. His gaze flickered between the other two men, his posture tightening as he folded his arms over his chest. Eventually he nodded.
"Yes, okay, yeah, I understand." He stretched his arms out, rubbing at the back of his neck. "This shit stresses me out. I'm gonna hit up the spa."
Connor dipped back down, bringing his lips close to Hank's ear, relaying all he'd managed to pick up. He felt Hank’s fingers tighten as the three men split up, each heading in a different direction. Rose passed the closest to them, not giving a second glance, the shining curtain of his ponytail swinging in time with his pace.
"We could follow them," Hank said. "If we split up we can at least trail two of the three."
Connor was still running his hand over Hank's chest, the sensation distracting him somewhat. He could feel something heavy settling within his core, not a physical sensation, but there nonetheless. He frowned in consternation, not wanting to be apart from Hank, logical as the idea may be.
"We wouldn't have our cover," Connor said, the words feeling hollow. It was a flimsy excuse and he knew it, but his desire to stay close to Hank was overriding all his other objectives, something which both unnerved and excited him. "Maybe we should pick one to focus on and get everything we can before moving on to the next person."
"Hmm," said Hank, the puff of his breath warm against Connor’s neck, "maybe you're right." He shifted, still holding Connor tight on his lap. "Who do you suggest?”
“Zayn Rose seems to be the most apprehensive, judging by my limited observation, we should start with him. We know where he'll be."
"Okay," Hank said, letting out what sounded like a sigh as Connor slid from his lap, and rose back to his feet. "We're going to the spa, then?”
Connor nodded. "I'll need to get my bathing suit."
After a quick trip to their room, Connor found himself in the locker room of the spa, looking over himself and hoping there was nothing unusual about how he looked whilst wearing so little. He peered into the mirror, taking in his reflection.
His hair was looser—deliberately so, it would be less noticeably water-resistant that way—falling in soft waves over his forehead, which still looked unnaturally bare without the LED on his temple. Connor ran his fingers down his torso, brushing over the darker skin of his nipples and shaking his head; some of the design decisions for androids really made no sense to him.
His stomach was flat, skin contouring to the vague musculature of his chassis with a faint trail of hair leading down from his—entirely pointless—navel. Connor raised his arms, redirecting some of that hair growth algorithm, lips quirking into a smile when he was satisfied with the result. It was true that many humans chose to remove the hair from their bodies, but Connor felt that it helped his human disguise better.
He could hear Hank grumbling to himself from behind the next stack of lockers and took a deep breath, tightening the drawstring on his extremely baggy, shark-patterned swimming trunks.
“Are you ready, Hank?” Connor said, stepping around the lockers and freezing in his tracks.
Hank’s back was turned, giving Connor a good look at the broad planes of his shoulders. He stretched out his arms, muscles tightening beneath his skin, a few faint, silvered scars shifting with the movement. Connor could feel a steady thrum in his thirium pump, his breath simulation catching when Hank turned, pushing his hair from his face.
Heat flooded Connor from head to toe, with no discernable source. He could feel a coiling pressure deep within him and paused for a second, deliberately dialling down his physiological sensitivity; he had a mission to do, he couldn't let himself get distracted.
What a distraction, though. Hank stood before Connor, arms folded over his chest, silver curls covering the faded lines of a large tattoo that stretched almost shoulder to shoulder. Another tattoo was just visible beneath the leg of Hank's grey checked shorts and Connor had the momentary thought of running his hand up one thick thigh to see just what it was.
Connor seemed to be malfunctioning, his only input parameter seemed to be a single word: big.
Hank's stomach was rounded, soft looking with an even softer looking trail of grey leading down from his navel that Connor wanted desperately to run his fingers through. A few more scars stood out on Hank's rapidly flushing skin, jagged against the soft lines of his body. Connor swallowed, his mouth suddenly registering a distinct lack of lubrication. He could still see the play of muscles under Hank's skin: strength and softness in one imperfectly perfect human package. He wanted to reach out, to touch, to press himself against every inch of Hank, anything to alleviate the pressure steadily building inside him.
Cheeks faintly reddened, Hank's gaze seemed to be fixed on his feet, flicking over Connor every so often. He gave a small cough. "So, um, you look…good. Very, um, very human."
"Thank you," Connor said, shifting from side to side when Hank made no move to leave the locker room. "I have armpit hair," he said, unable to think of anything better, and held up his arm.
Hank snorted, a little of the tension that had settled between them fading. "So you do, that's great." He jerked his thumb towards the locker room door. "What's the plan, do you wanna look around for this guy?”
Connor shook his head, he had accessed the spa computer as they had arrived. “No need, according to the booking system he should be finishing up a massage appointment in approximately five minutes time. We should be able to observe him then."
"Cool, so…" Hank's voice trailed off and he waved his arm vaguely towards the door, "hot tub?"
Connor had never bathed, his skin and hair were self-cleaning, replenishing itself constantly. His chassis was never exposed long enough to get dirty, and even so, was easily wiped down, so the hot tub was an entirely new experience. He slipped into the water, gasping involuntarily as his temperature regulators kicked in, speeding his breathing simulation in an attempt to cool his thirium to more manageable levels.
"You okay, Connor?” Hank asked, one eyebrow raised in concern. “You are waterproof, ain't ya?”
“Mostly," Connor said with a nod, "the temperature is a little higher than optimal, but I can deal with it."
"Okay, as long as you're sure." Hank leaned back against the edge of the tub, sighing in contentment, the muscles in his shoulders visibly relaxing.
Connor smiled, it was good that Hank was relaxing. Even if they did have a mission, it couldn't hurt to enjoy it, he slid in a little closer, letting their knees bump together under the bubbles of the water. The touch was reassuring, Hank a solid pressure by his side. Connor sat back as well, switching off a few of his more unnecessary input sensors—the closest he could get to relaxed.
They sat in silence for a few minutes before the sound of voices had Connor glancing around, spotting their target emerging from one of the side rooms attached to the main spa area. Rose’s hair was tied back in a long ponytail, exposing the faint lines of a tattoo on his neck, though Connor couldn’t tell what it depicted from their position. He felt Hank’s hand land on his thigh, sending a jolt of electric warmth through him despite his lowered sensitivity.
"Is that him?" Hank murmured beneath his breath, not turning around.
"It is," Connor glanced behind himself again, seeing Rose settle on one of the loungers behind them, pulling out his phone. "He's behind us."
Hank turned under the pretense of pushing Connor’s hair from his face, taking a quick look over Rose. His brows drew together and he whispered, "What kind of asshole brings his phone to a spa? People are trying to relax here."
There were only a few others in the vicinity; a group of women in their late 20's sipping cocktails by the pool, and another couple in the steam room indulging in some very heavy petting—at least according to Connor’s scan, he wasn't completely sure. The heat was throwing him off.
"I can attempt to access his phone," Connor said, "but I don't want to be too obvious."
Hank swallowed, teeth scraping over his lower lip in a way that brought all of Connor’s attention to that single point. He shifted, fingers tightening on Connor’s knee. "I've got an idea, if you're okay with it?”
Connor nodded, a thrill of excitement bubbling in the pit of his stomach as Hank slipped an arm around his waist, pulling him close. “Get on my lap," Hank said.
Turning his sensitivity down another notch for good measure, Connor complied. He tried to make it look like a natural motion, something he'd done hundreds of times before, spreading his legs and straddling Hank's thighs. His temperature controls were misfiring again, sending heat coursing through his thirium channels and making Connor want to squirm. He kept his eyes low, focusing on the faintly faded lines of Hank's tattoo as broad hands landed on his hips, just skimming the waistband of his swimming trunks.
"You got a decent view?" Hank asked.
Connor glanced up, seeing Rose stretched out on the lounger, still tapping at his phone. He nodded.
"Okay, I'm gonna kiss you now," Hank said, his voice a low murmur.
Connor nodded again, lowering his head to accept the kiss and jerking as Hank's lips found the hollow of his throat instead.
"Oh!" Connor gasped, involuntarily arching into the press of Hank's mouth. He slid his eyes closed and tangled his fingers in the damp strands of Hank's hair, holding him in place.
His beard was rough but his lips were soft, his tongue sliding over Connor’s skin with every open-mouthed kiss along his collar bones. Hank squeezed at Connor’s hips shifting him closer, his chest and stomach pressing against the length of Connor’s body, soft and warm. Pinpricks of sensation ran through Connor with every slight movement, the hair that covered Hank brushing against his skin in a way that made him shiver.
«chance of success: 63%»
Connor snapped his eyes open, a rush of shame coursing through him as the number dropped. He was letting himself get distracted, reducing their likelihood of success. If the mission failed it would be all his fault. This wasn't the time to enjoy this new sensation of skin-on-skin contact, this was the time to work. He refocused on Rose, who was now speaking with someone on the other end of the phone. Switching his lip-reading mode back on, Connor watched.
"Yeah, give it a few more days, they're waiting on word from the boss, some problems with manufacture," Rose said. He looked bored, slowly scanning the spa area, gaze briefly alighting on Connor and Hank.
Connor slid his eyes closed once more, tilting his neck to allow Hank to trail another line of kisses—soft, wet, warm—up the length of his throat. He could feel Hank’s thighs between his legs and squeezed, a low pressure building inside him that he knew for a fact would be near-overwhelming if his sensors weren’t deliberately dampened. He tightened his grip on Hank’s hair, tugging slightly, the action making Hank groan. The low rumble vibrated against Connor’s throat, almost a growl and Hank pushed Connor back, dislodging him from his lap. Connor flinched; his distraction was costing them time, clearly Hank was getting impatient. He turned his gaze back to Rose, catching a little more of his conversation.
“—kitchens. Once everything is set up there then it’s a matter of days. Just relax.” He rose lazily to his feet. “Yeah. I’ll call you when we have a deal.” Setting his phone next to his drink he stretched out his arms, sauntering towards the hot tub and seeming to reconsider when he saw Connor and Hank. He veered off to one side, giving Connor a tight-lipped smile as he passed, heading for the steam room instead.
Sliding from Hank’s lap, Connor pushed his hair from his face. He kept one arm around Hank’s shoulders—for appearances sake. “He mentioned something about the kitchens, maybe we should check them out next?”
Hank nodded, though Connor noticed the tension that seemed to have crept back into his posture. “Is everything okay?” he asked. “I’m sorry I couldn’t get much information, it can’t have been pleasant, having to have your mouth on me for so long.”
Hank’s brows slid together. “What the hell are you—”
“Oh for fuck’s sake!”
Rose’s yell echoed through the mosaic patterned walls of the spa and Connor and Hank both turned to see him storming back towards them. The door to the steam room was wide open, billowing clouds preceding a ruffled looking young couple, hand in hand, giggling to each other. Rubbing a hand over his temples, Rose passed by Hank and Connor once more, muttering to himself as he did.
“Everyone’s getting laid but me.”
Glancing back to Hank, Connor caught his eye and smirked, a matching smile spreading over Hank’s lips in return. There was a fluttering in Connor’s chest, something warm and exciting, growing and spreading with every glance he and Hank shared.
«chance of success: 65%»
“So, kitchens next?” Hank said, towelling his hair, his skin still faintly flushed from the heat of the spa.
They had stayed a little longer after Rose left, not wanting to draw suspicion by leaving immediately. Hank had indulged in the sauna as Connor lay back by the pool, correlating what little information they had gained so far. He had decided that keeping his physiological sensitivity dialled down was probably for the best, it was too easy to get distracted otherwise.
“Yes, although it is getting close to dinner time, so the area is likely to be busy. Maybe we should wait until morning?” Connor suggested. He heard the distinct gurgle of Hank’s stomach and raised an eyebrow. “We should probably eat as well,” he said.
“Well, I suppose you’re right,” Hank said, rubbing his hands together. “What’s the use of staying somewhere as fancy if you can’t enjoy the food there?”
They left the spa, Connor scanning the other guests as they made their way through the hotel, searching for any of their targets. He saw none of them, though did identify Marlowe O’Hara, a suspect in a Red Ice trafficking ring who had slipped the DCPD’s grasp. Connor made a note to track their movements as well, to see if there was any crossover with he and Hank’s current targets.
They were just approaching the elevators when Hank paused, turning to Connor with a faint frown, worry lining his eyes in a way that made Connor want to reach out and touch, smooth everything that was bothering Hank away. He lay a hand on Connor’s shoulder, lowering his voice.
“We didn’t cover eating, Connor. Is that something you can fake?”
Connor felt his own eyes widen; he hadn’t factored eating into his simulations. It was something so basic, so intrinsically human, and he had missed it. He glanced up at Hank, disappointment with himself coursing through his thirium channels, quashing all the warmth that had been lingering there.
“I don’t know. I didn’t think,” Connor admitted. “I might be able to ingest a little.” He pursed his lips tight together. “I’m sorry, Hank.”
“Hey, hey, don’t worry about it.” Hank tightened his grip on Connor’s shoulder, squeezing gently. “I’m sure no one will be watching to see what we do or don’t eat.”
“I hope so,” Connor said, placing his hand atop Hank’s and holding it there. It was reassuring, and he wanted to hold on to that feeling for as long as possible.
The elevator dinged and Connor turned as the doors slid open, finding himself face to face with his own reflection, looking faintly surprised in the lenses of Olga Marchetti’s enormous sunglasses.
“Oh look, Henry the Boat Guy,” she rasped, ignoring Connor completely. “I wonder if you are busy?” Her lips parted in a gleaming smile. “I was just mentioning logistics to my associate,” she gestured behind her and Connor saw Adrian Molina, a sly smile of his own on his face, dark eyes lowered as he looked Connor up and down before winking.
“We may need someone,” Marchetti continued, folding her—extremely toned, Connor noticed—arms, “someone trustworthy. Can you be trusted, Henry the Boat Guy?”
“I know how to keep my mouth shut, if that’s what you mean,” Hank said with a shrug.
“Good,” Marchetti said. “You will come dine with myself and some friends.” She smiled sweetly at Hank. Her tone made it clear that there would be no argument.
“Um, sure,” Hank said, with a glance towards Connor, “we’d love to join you.”
Marchetti didn’t say another word, she simply swept away, leaving Hank and Connor behind her. There was a brief cough from Molina, who waved his hand in that direction. “You really should follow the boss,” he said.
Marchetti led them to the main dining room, an elegant space of midnight blue and low lighting. Candles glimmered at every table, reflected in the chandeliers above. Connor kept one hand on Hank’s elbow, though they were unable to talk with Molina so close behind them. He could see Marchetti ahead, seating herself at a large table which already held Kovats, Rose, and unsurprisingly, O’Hara. She removed her sunglasses, her eyes cold and steely even in the warm candlelight. The chairs to her right and left were empty and it was to the left one that she gestured, pointing at Hank.
“Where should I—” Connor began, only to be steered away by a hand in the small of his back. Stopping at a smaller table of four women, Molina gave Connor another wink. “You’ll be here, sweetpea. The main table’s just for the big boys, y’know?” He patted Connor on the ass and slipped away, sliding into the chair on Marchetti’s right at the next table.
Connor stood, his processors taking a moment to catch up with the unexpected turn. He glanced back at Hank, whose heart rate had increased, but looked otherwise relaxed before turning to the occupants of the table.
“You must be Adrian’s new trophy twink,” said a woman with gleaming chestnut hair, holding out a hand dripping in gold rings. “Welcome to the trophy table, I’m Vanessa.”
“I’m...I don’t…” Connor’s social programming was failing him, making him stumble over his words. Vanessa raised her eyebrows, a look of pity on her face.
“Come on, sit down, have a drink.” She slid a large cocktail glass towards Connor, who took it, taking a sip that spread across his tongue, the various alcohols splitting into their component parts in Connor’s eyeline as he automatically analysed it.
At the next table, Hank was shaking hands with some more people; Eva Frykholm: banker, fraud; Darius MacDonald: hotelier, Red Ice possession, and Louis D'Alessio: lawyer, no criminal record. Connor caught his eye for the briefest of seconds and was given a small smile that told him that Hank felt confident, even if Connor wasn’t.
“You okay, sweetie?” One of the other women gave Connor a brittle smile. “Don’t worry about them, they’ll just be talking business for a while, they’ll have a few drinks and then, if you’re lucky, be too drunk to try anything when you get to your room.” She quirked an eyebrow. “Although, Adrian’s pretty hot, so maybe you don’t want him to have too many, huh?”
“Leave him alone, Sofia,” Vanessa said, before turning to Connor. “Ignore her, she’s just mad because Marlowe dragged her here when they were supposed to be going to Cancun. What’s your name, hon?”
Connor blinked, his processors finally kicking back into functionality. “I’m Connor, Connor Anderson,” he took another sip of his drink, judging it the best way to blend in, if the number of empty glasses at the table were any indication. “I’m not with Molina, actually,” he said, “I’m married...to um, Henry...the uh...boat guy.” He waved his hand, showing the simple ring and wiggling his fingers.
“Oh,” Vanessa said, leaning over to catch a glimpse of the other table. “Is that the old guy? You poor thing.”
Connor frowned, a burn of emotion that he distinctly recognised as anger sparking within him. “Hey!" he snapped. That’s my husband." He gripped the glass hard, taking a gulp this time, pouring the alcohol into the recess where his thirium top ups were usually absorbed; he’d flush it from his system later.
“Aw, ain’t that sweet, you actually like him.” One of the other women at the table leaned over, peering drunkenly at Connor. “You’ll learn,” she said, “I felt the same about Darius when we started dating.”
“That’s Allie,” Vanessa whispered, “and the other girl is Morna, she lives with Eva.”
“And who are you with?” Connor asked, still keeping his awareness tuned very much in Hank’s direction.
“Gunther,” she said with a sip of her own drink, “he’s like the next in command after Adrian, and he’s not so bad.” She glanced over to the other table where food was already being served and sighed.
Connor could feel a tightness inside him as he looked over each woman in turn. They were all underweight, almost dangerously so, and their blood alcohol levels far higher than he expected for the number of glasses on the table. It saddened him.
“Are any of you happy?” Connor asked, genuinely curious. He could see no reason why someone would attach themselves to another if the relationship only damaged them. He admittedly had no real experience, save his current ruse with Hank, but what little he had experienced so far had only increased his eagerness for them to spend more time together.
“I’d say so,” Vanessa said, “I’ve got money, Gunther is very generous.” Behind her Sofia nodded, not so subtly adjusting the diamond bracelets that twined like ropes around her wrists. “We knew what we were getting into. Didn’t you?”
Connor pursed his lips, not wanting to contradict anything Hank might be saying at the next table. He shrugged. “This is the first time I’ve seen him with any of these people, they’re…fancier than his usual business partners. I think he worked with Olga’s husband or something years ago, though.”
Vanessa waved over a waiter, ordering another round of cocktails before leaning into Connor and whispering. “Word to the wise, do not let the boss hear you talking about her husband, okay?”
“That bad?” Connor asked. He already knew the police records of Jacques Marchetti, but hearing the other side might be useful to him, all information was good information after all.
“Well, you know she murdered him, right? Made it look like an accident, and then once he was out of the way she took everything: his empire, his contacts, his mistress, everything.”
Sofia shook her head, waving her straw in Vanessa’s face. “No, she took the mistress first, then killed him. She got the mistress to poison him on a conjugal visit and make it look like heart failure.” She narrowed her eyes at Connor. “Your man better know what he’s getting into, because that woman is vicious.”
“I’m sure he already knows that,” Connor said, still stealing glances at the other table. He could see Hank steadily sipping at his own drink, though his analysis revealed that the liquid level never went down, something which caused a flutter in the region of Connor’s thirium pump. Hank was keeping his wits about him, and so would Connor.
As the dinner at the other table went on, the cocktails continued flowing at Connor’s table, as did the gossip, very little of it useful, though. He couldn’t imagine that knowing the personal details of Marchetti’s inner circle would help their investigation in any way. He could only hope that Hank was having better luck.
Time ticked on, the waiters finally arriving with a pair of garden salads for the table, Connor’s companions idly picking at the limp leaves. He figured their intoxication level was sufficient enough that they wouldn’t notice him not eating. The conversation was dwindling and Connor found himself wishing more and more for Hank’s company. An irrational part of him felt abandoned, though logically he knew Hank was only doing what was important for the mission. That didn’t stop the faint twist in the depths of his body, unpleasant when paired with the excess alcohol swishing about inside the hollow parts of his chassis. He leaned back in his seat, letting out a sigh to catch Vanessa’s attention.
“How long do these dinners usually go on for?” Connor let his eyelids droop a little, mimicking the effects of intoxication he had seen on Hank in the past.
“Too long,” Vanessa said, her own dark eyes dull and tired. “I just wanna sleep at this point.”
“Why don’t you?” Connor said, pointing at the other three women, slumped back in their chairs and on the table. “They did.” He pushed out what he hoped sounded like a drunken giggle, the noise making Hank’s head turn in their direction.
Vanessa took ahold of Connor’s arm, hugging it close. “I don’t wanna leave without Gunther,” she slurred. “He’s a dick, but he’s my dick, y’know?”
There was movement from the other table and all of a sudden Hank was standing by Connor’s side. “Hey, sweetie,” he said, voice low and husky, sending a shiver up Connor’s spine, “we’re about to wrap up here. What do you say I take you to bed?”
Peering up at Hank, Connor let himself waver a little in an imitation of drunkness. “I’d say ‘yes please’,” he said, gently nudging Vanessa onto her own chair and patting her on the shoulder.
“Wow, you really did get a good one,” Vanessa said, draining the last of her cocktail and staring up at Hank, eyes narrowed. “You rail him good, old man,” she said, raising her empty glass in a toast before slumping onto the table, head resting on her folded arms.
“O...kay,” Hank said, sliding his arm around Connor’s waist and heading for the door. He nodded to Marchetti as he passed. “I’ll think about what you’ve asked, just gimme a day or two to speak to some people, okay?”
“A day or two is all you have,” Marchetti replied. “I will tell you when you are needed.” She gazed disdainfully at Connor, still feigning intoxication, loose and pliable in Hank’s arms. “I see your boy-toy has had fun at the trophy table.”
“Hey! He’s not a—”
Marchetti waved her hand, turning away, a smirk on her red-smeared lips, voice low and dangerous, “Our conversation is over, Henry the Boat Guy. I advise you to leave before you say something you regret, I have other people willing to transport for me, you know.
“Yeah, sure,” Hank mumbled under his breath, holding tight to Connor’s waist and leading them from the restaurant.
The instant they were in the elevator, Connor snapped upright, adjusting the collar of his shirt and smoothing down his hair. “So, he said, “what information did you get?”
“There’s a big supply of something coming in the next few days. They want me to transport some of it with my boats.” Hank took a deep breath rubbing at his eyes. He was tired, Connor could see it in the slump of his shoulders. “They wouldn't say what, but I know it's Ice." Hank yawned widely before fixing Connor with a tired smile. "Man, I am glad I read up on boats and shit though, they asked a lot of questions. What about you? Get anything good from those ladies?”
“There is nothing good going on with them,” Connor said. “I feel bad that they chose unfulfilling relationships for the sake of financial gain.”
“That’s the key word there, Connor, ‘chose’,” Hank rubbed at the back of his own neck. “As much as you might not like it, being human means making your own stupid decisions, too.”
“I’m glad I chose you,” Connor murmured, leaning his head on Hank’s shoulder.
There was no one around to hear him, no audio surveillance in the elevator, no one but Hank would hear those words.
Connor wondered if maybe that was the reason he had said them.
«chance of success: 67%»
“Fuck.” Hank said, turning to see Connor, flat on his back and stiff as a board, looking entirely too like the corpses Hank had the misfortune of seeing in the coroner’s office. His breathing simulation was running though, a gentle rise and fall just a little too slow to be human. It was oddly comforting, knowing that even with all his advancements and advantages over humans, Connor still slept, in his own way.
The morning sun highlighted every freckle on Connor’s pale face, outlining each delicate eyelash in a line of shadow. His lips were pink and pouting, drawing Hank’s eye and setting a swarm of butterflies loose in his stomach.
“Fuck,” Hank repeated, softer this time.
The proximity was bad enough, bringing feelings to the surface that Hank had been trying to quash for months now. But the act, the act was so much worse. To have Connor, to hold him, to touch him and hug him and even kiss him, was more than Hank could have ever wished for.
But it wasn’t real.
The mission was important, finding the Ice and taking Marchetti down was so important, for both humans and androids. Hank couldn’t afford to wait until Marchetti called on Henry the Boat Guy. He needed to find everything he could to take her down as soon as possible. The longer he and Conner were forced to keep up this act, the more Hank would get used to having something that he never could in the real world.
He pursed his lips together, prodding Connor in the side, unsure how to wake him out of whatever weird sleep mode he was in. “Connor,” he murmured, “I’m not gonna have to slap you awake am I?”
Connor’s eyes slid open and his body seemed to lose some of its stiffness, relaxing into the mattress a little. He was wearing striped pyjamas of all things, having changed into them after their little dinner party the night before.
Despite the buzz of conversation that had flown around the table, Hank had gleaned very little information. Only that a very large supply of something was coming soon and Marchetti’s associates were here to split it and move it on, Henry the Boat Guy included.
Hank groaned, scratching at his beard and watching as Connor stretched out, rolling onto one elbow to face him. “How did you sleep, Hank?” he asked, voice as bright as the morning sun outside.
Pulling the covers a little tighter around himself, Hank smiled. “Pretty well actually. I guess it helps not having a hundred-and-seventy pound dog clambering all over you begging for food at six am.”
“I can imagine that is somewhat distracting.”
“Yeah,” Hank said, “I just hope Sumo’s okay. Even if I’m on a case I’m usually home by now.”
“I can check in with RK900 if you like,” Connor said, “I believe he and Detective Reed were planning on alternating feeding and walking him.”
Hank groaned, burying his face in the pillow. “Fuck, please don’t tell me you gave Gavin the keys to my house?”
“No,” Connor said, his expression almost alarmingly close to a pout. “I gave the keys to Richard. I’ll check in with him now.” He sat upright in the bed, staring into the middle distance.
Despite the absence of Connor’s LED, Hank could still practically see the little light spinning. The flicker of Connor’s eyelids told Hank that he was connected to the other android and though he couldn’t hear any words, he trusted Connor to ask the right questions. He would make sure Sumo was in good hands.
Roughly shoving his hair from his face, Hank rolled out of bed with a groan. He grabbed a handful of clothes from their suitcase and stumbled to the bathroom, which was filled with the sickly sweet scent of too many cocktails. Connor had been forced to access the excess thirium storage within his own chest, emptying out the alcohol that he’d poured in there in pretense of drinking. Hank was just glad he hadn’t attempted eating yet; that was less easily disposed off, but they would deal with that problem when they got there.
After a quick shower, Hank roughly brushed his hair into a short ponytail, hoping to keep it from his face. He and Conner were going to be checking out the kitchens, searching for whatever links they could find between Marchetti, her group, and the Black Ice epidemic. They were definitely wrapped up in something illegal, but all Hank and Connor had to go on so far were words and plans, nothing solid. They needed evidence.
When he returned to the bedroom, Connor was already up and dressed, the short sleeves of his shirt showing off toned arms and far more freckled skin than Hank was used to seeing with the usual full length sleeves and jacket. Even Connor’s jeans seemed tighter for fuck's sake.
Hank cleared his throat, shaking his head to stop himself from staring. "You look good," he said and Connor smiled, making his stomach flip.
"Thank you, I did a little research into fashion before choosing my clothes for this mission. I think they make a good impression."
"And yet you packed me the same old shirts," Hank said watching in fascination as Connor’s hair seemed to style itself in a light wave over his forehead.
"Your shirts are perfect for the"—Connor's nose wrinkled in distaste—“'luau' tonight. Though I can't say I'm expecting much in the way of accuracy there."
Hank reached out, patting Connor on the shoulder. “We'll deal with that when we come to it. Let's go scope out the kitchens, see what we can find."
"You should eat breakfast first, Hank," Connor said, a look of mild reproach on his face, enough to make Hank snort.
"You're really taking this married thing seriously, ain't ya?”
Connor’s eyebrows twitched in a faint frown and Hank shook his head, sliding his arm completely around Connor's shoulders. “I didn't mean it's a bad thing. It's nice. Been a long time since I've had someone looking out for me." He held Connor tight, for no reason other than it felt right, natural. “Okay, breakfast, then investigation," he said. "How does that sound?"
Connor reached for his hand, lacing their fingers together as he led them to the door. "Sounds like a good plan. Let's go."
The handholding, Hank discovered, was for the benefit of the other guests in the hallway. A few other couples were heading for the breakfast buffet and Hank and Connor followed, picking up snatches of conversation.
"Luau tonight and a ball tomorrow, you picked the best weekend, sweetie."
Hank felt his lip curl. Of course Marchetti had made sure the hotel was full, easier to hide in the crowds. He glanced at Connor, the faint lines between his brows indicating he was probably thinking along similar lines.
"So, what did Richard say, how's Sumo?” Hank asked as they stepped into the elevator.
"Oh," Connor said, blinking at the change of subject. "He's doing well, eating the recommended amount and has a regular defecation schedule."
Hank dropped Connor's hand, staring at him, incredulous. "What the fuck?"
Connor shrugged. "I'm just telling you what he said." The corner of his mouth twitched up. "Although he did tell me something else that might amuse you."
"Go for it," Hank said, shaking his head to himself. Nines had some strange priorities when it came to assessing Sumo's wellbeing.
"He mentioned that both he and Gavin took Sumo for a walk yesterday evening and he didn't listen to Gavin at all." Connor smiled softly to himself. "Richard thinks Sumo likes him better because he looks like me."
"That makes sense, that dog loves you." Hank said, folding his arms over his chest and feeling a familiar warmth bubble up inside him as Connor's smile widened, his eyes shining.
"You really think so?” The elevator reached their stop on the second floor, quickly emptying as the other guests headed for the buffet.
“Sure, Sumo has good taste," Hank said, trying to resist the urge to push Connor’s hair from his face and kiss him. They were alone in the hallway now, though, no need for the act. "So what, was Sumo a dick to Reed?”
“Not so much, but he did spot a squirrel and drag Gavin off his feet and into the mud. Richard sent me a picture, would you like to see?”
"Sure," Hank glanced around, seeing Connor do the same before holding his palm up to display a picture of Gavin Reed on his ass in a puddle, mud spattered up his face. Hank snorted, feeling oddly proud. "Good dog, Sumo, that's my boy. I’m glad he's keeping them on their toes."
“I think Richard enjoyed taking him out,” Connor said, “he sounded happy.”
Hank’s lips twitched up in bemusement and he shook his head. “Something about Nines and happy in the same sentence just feels odd to me.” Admittedly, he paid far less attention to him than Connor, but he could probably count the number of times he’d seen Richard smile on one hand.
Connor raised his eyebrows, a look of mild reproach on his face. "It shouldn't be too surprising, Richard is deviant.” he caught Hank’s eye and gave a wry smile. “Probably less obviously than myself, I'll admit."
"You know,” Hank said, taking Connor’s arm as they entered the main breakfast room, “it really doesn't surprise me that you're the impulsive one."
Connor caught Hank’s eye once more. “I think I’m going to take that as a compliment,” he said and winked.
Hank’s stomach flipped, his focus suddenly wavering. It was only thanks to Connor maneuvering him that he avoided bumping into a table. It was ridiculous, he thought, fifty-fucking-three and completely disarmed by a guy winking at him.
Well...not just any guy, Connor. There was a difference.
Thankfully, Hank didn’t recognise anyone in the breakfast room. None of Marchetti’s acquaintances were anywhere to be seen as he wandered around the buffet, selecting things he hoped Connor wouldn’t give him shit about eating. They were able to find themselves a table in the far corner, where Connor’s lack of eating would hopefully go unobserved.
They sat in silence as Hank sipped his coffee, Connor idly drumming his fingers on the tabletop. Hank simply rolled his eyes, a fond smile creeping up his lips; he was used to Connor’s fidgeting by now.
As the tables around them started to empty, and Hank’s stomach was filled, he turned to Connor, who was twirling a butter knife in his fingers. He stopped at the sight of Hank’s raised eyebrow.
“Any idea where we should start today?” Hank asked. “Or do we just slip through an ‘Employees Only’ door and hope for the best?”
“Well, I have been scanning the layout of the hotel and have identified a number of points that may be useful for access.” Connor glanced around, watching as a number of staff cleared the tables in a continuous, efficient stream. “I believe that there will be a lot of activity in preparation for tonight’s event, so we should make the most of the distraction.”
"Okay, lead the way." Hank held out his hand for Connor, who took it without hesitation: another thing that Hank was getting far too used to.
Connor led them up a few floors, stopping just outside the gleaming doors that led to the fitness suite and peering through the window. He seemed to be waiting for something.
"The next block of classes should be starting in approximately one minute," Connor said, pulling back from the door, still holding tightly to Hank's hand. "Which means there should be no one to observe us going through that door." He inclined his head towards a door at the far end of the hall, a numbered keypad by the handle.
"You think you can unlock it?” Hank asked, only to be met with a raised eyebrow and an expression of disbelief.
"Hank, please, I should think you know my capabilities better than that by now." Connor’s tone was teasing, though there was still a faint line of concern between his brows. Hank rolled his eyes, giving Connor’s hand a squeeze, hoping it would reassure him.
"Yeah, okay smart ass, you're awesome, how's that?”
They waited just a few seconds longer before Connor nodded, dragging Hank by the hand to the end of the hallway. He unlocked the door with a simple swipe of his palm and caught Hank's eye, smirking.
"Yeah, yeah, good job Connor," Hank said, reluctantly releasing Connor’s hand and glancing around.
The back hallways were a lot simpler than those in the guest areas, plain white concrete lining them on both sides. It was cold and sterile, the fluorescent strip lights casting an unpleasant glare that made Hank’s eyes ache after only a few minutes.
“So where do we go from here?” he asked, watching Connor steadily scan from side to side, twisting his fingers around his wrists, adjusting cuffs he wasn’t wearing. True to his word, there didn’t seem to be anyone else around.
“This is the midway floor between the two restaurants, so the kitchen should be in the general vicinity, somewhere easily accessible to the two. It would also make sense to be on a lower floor for the ease of deliveries, so we’re going to start here and work our way down.”
“Makes perfect sense,” Hank said with a nod. “Let’s go.”
The first few floors were a maze of hallways, storage closets and cleaning stations, the rooms they passed filled with nothing more than spare chairs and conference supplies. Still, they searched every room as thoroughly as possible, even when the rising dust told them it had been years since anyone had even entered. Connor was scanning every inch, looking for anything that might help them. Hank could feel his growing frustration, he could see it in the tight line of Connor’s lips and pushed aside the part of him that told him to kiss it better.
"We'll find something, I know it," Hank said as they pushed open the door to the emergency stairwell, the scent of cooking quickly rising to his nostrils. "Looks like the next one might be our floor."
Connor visibly brightened, even as his steps slowed. "It will be busier here, we need to be careful," he said.
Hank nodded, he could already hear the hum of voices and the clatter of activity that came from any working kitchen. He followed Connor, trusting that he'd be able to tell if someone was coming. They paused by some large double doors, peering through the small, porthole-like windows to see gleaming metal ovens and cookertops, clouds of steam rising from pot after pot of food. A number of staff were arranging what looked like canapes onto silver trays, dashing through another door on the far side.
The sound of voices was louder now, as two of the chefs shouted and swore over the top of one another, both arguing that the other had fucked up the menu. Hank and Connor shared a glance, slipping unseen past the main doors and into another branching hallway. A door at the far end opened and Hank caught a glimpse of one of the waitstaff, their back thankfully turned away. He and Connor backed up the opposite hallway, Hank frantically glancing around for somewhere to hide and spotting a cleaning closet a few paces away. The voices were coming closer now.
"Hey, Lisa, are you okay to run a few more bottles of rum up to the roof bar?"
"Sure, I'm heading up there anyway.” There was a pause. “Everything seems to be coming along for tonight. It’s a miracle.”
“Well, it’s going as good as it can with the short notice and the lower kitchen out of commission,” the first voice sounded tired. “We’re making it work, though. What else is new?” There was a burst of laughter and the sound of approaching footsteps from around the corner. Hank felt Connor’s hand on his arm and he was jerked sideways into the cleaning closet, his leg colliding with a mop bucket and slopping water over both their feet.
“Sorry, Connor, I didn’t mean to—” Hank’s words were muffled as Connor’s hand closed over his mouth and he leaned in, listening for footsteps in the hall. Hank could feel the steady thrum of Connor’s thirium pump against his chest, the faint warmth of his artificial breath tickling across the skin of his cheek. Heat bloomed inside him in a burst of sudden, insatiable want, making his breath catch against Connor’s palm. Hank’s hands were on Connor’s hips and he tightened his fingers, digging them into the hard plastic hidden just beneath Connor’s synthskin in an effort to ground his thoughts.
The footsteps grew louder, coming closer and Hank gritted his teeth only to relax as they quickly passed, receding down the hallway.
Connor pulled his hand from over Hank’s lips with an apologetic smile. “I’m sorry, Hank. I didn’t mean to surprise you like that.”
Hank swallowed, feeling his cheeks starting to warm. They were still pressed together in the closet, his heart hammering in his chest at the proximity. “What makes you think I was surprised?” he hissed, fumbling for the door handle.
“Your heart rate increased. I could feel it.”
Embarrassment curled through Hank’s chest in a tight coil. He was being ridiculous, letting himself get so worked up. Brushing away Connor’s hand, he turned back towards the kitchens. “How many times have I told you not to fucking scan me?” he said, voice halfway between a whisper and a growl, his anger at his own unchecked feelings making him tense.
“I couldn’t help it,” Connor said, his voice small, “it is an automatic process. I’ll try to shut it off in future.” His lips were pressed together in a tight line and Hank had the distinct feeling that had his LED been visible, it would have been spiralling yellow. Fuck, now he’d gone and upset him.
“Never mind,” Hank said, resting a hand on Connor’s arm, trying to reassure him. “Did you hear what they said about the lower kitchen? I’ll bet that’s where we need to go,” he jerked his thumb back behind him. “The only thing they’re cooking up here is food.”
Connor nodded. “Okay, let’s just keep making our way down.” He took a quick glance around and pointed. “There should be another stairwell just down here.”
“Lead the way.”
This set of stairs was dimmer, the bulbs on the walls flickering with an unpleasant buzzing noise. Their footsteps seemed to echo on the metal stairs, making Hank tense with every movement they made. He kept his hand on Connor’s shoulder, keeping an eye on the stairs above them as Connor scanned those below.
A door slammed somewhere on one of the floors above and Hank flinched, freezing in place. Waiting, he kept his eyes on Connor, who relaxed after only a few seconds. “It’s fine,” he said, “we can keep going.”
They made their way slowly, creeping down, trying to avoid making any noise.
The air was still, the bustle of the hotel seemingly cut off by the solid concrete walls and Hank swore he could hear his own heart, beating just a pace or two faster than the low thrum of Connor’s thirium pump, just on the edge of hearing.
There was another slam, below them this time, the sound of voices floating up the stairwell towards them. Hank glanced around, searching. There were no closets, no alcoves, nowhere for them to hide. He saw Connor’s eyes widen for the briefest of seconds before he grabbed Hank by the collar, pulling him forward and backing up against the wall. Hank’s arms landed either side of Connor’s face, pinning him in, his eyes seeming to darken in the low light.
“Someone’s coming,” Connor hissed, “quick, Hank, put your hand down my pants.”
“I don’t— But—”
“No time,” Connor said, tugging Hank forward by the beard and shoving his tongue into his mouth. He swept his finger down the front of Hank’s shirt, opening it in one fluid motion without a single button popped. Grabbing Hank’s wrist, Connor pushed his hand downwards, hurriedly unzipping the front of his jeans and hauling Hank closer, one hand landing on his chest and squeezing hard.
Hank groaned without thinking, the onslaught of sensation too fast for his brain to keep up. Connors fingers were circling his nipple, his other hand still pulling at Hank’s beard, urging his mouth open.
It wasn’t so much a kiss as an onslaught, Connor’s tongue far slicker and smoother than any human’s, carrying with it a taste that Hank couldn’t place, yet still wanted more of. He leaned into the kiss, striving for control, flicking his tongue against Connor’s own and feeling a hitch in his breath. The voices were growing louder and, with a mental apology, Hank shoved his hand into Connor’s pants.
He was expecting a flat, smooth surface, something bare and plastic, like a doll. Any deactivated androids Hank had seen in the past had been like that.
Connor was not.
Hank’s eyes flew open as his hand brushed over a familiar shape, soft and warm, distinct despite the underwear covering it. An electric jolt of arousal lanced through him, a whole new world of possibilities opening up in his mind. That was a dick.
Connor’s fingers tightened on Hank’s chest, squeezing, the hard press of his lips softening into something that felt a lot more natural, mouth moving gently in tandem with Hank’s own. He gasped against Hank’s lips, the hand beneath his chin sliding up to graze over one cheek in a touch far gentler than Hank would have expected. Connor’s palm was soft against his cheek, cool on his flushed skin, with the faintest layer of static sending sparks through him.
Hank could get used to this, he really could.
The sound of conversation floated up towards them and Hank felt Connor’s fingers twitch on his chest once more. He recognised the clipped tones of Zayn Rose, his voice rising in pitch as he complained.
“I just don’t see why she made it a couple’s hotel. Do you know the number of people I have walked in on in the last day alone? Fucking unreal.”
“You need to relax. We’re here for business. Leave those guests to their pleasure and stop complaining.”
“Yeah? Tell that to the boat guy. You know I saw him and that twink of his in the spa the other day? Take it from me, do not use the hot tub.”
Hank paused in his movements, feeling Connor do the same. His hand was still pressed between Connor’s legs, as gentle a touch as Hank could manage given the tightness of Connor’s jeans. Their lips were still joined, though the kiss had stopped, both Hank and Connor listening intently.
“Funny you should say that,” the second voice said, sounding bored, “Molina has the room next to theirs and seems to think their love life isn’t much of anything, though why that pervert is listening to other people in their room is beyond me.”
“Oh, you know Adrian, the younger guy is just his type. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had his eye on him.” Rose’s voice was fading, the echo of footsteps descending downwards, away from Hank and Connor, who pulled apart, Hank taking a deep breath that he hadn’t realised he’d needed. He glanced down, seeing traces of his own saliva on Connor’s lips and swallowed against the rising tide of irrational jealousy that was slowly seeping through him.
"I thought we were doing well," Connor said, clearly irritated. His hand was still pressed to Hank's chest, trailing idle circles that brought goosebumps to Hank's skin. "My readings are measuring our chance of success at 69%." He pulled away, refastening his jeans with his jaw set. "We'll just have to do better."
“Better…” Hank repeated, brushing his fingers over his lips. “Sure.” He trailed behind Connor, who was continuing down the stairs, shoving roughly through the door Rose and his companion had arrived through.
“They came from this way, let’s go.” There was an undercurrent of anger to Connor’s voice, his hands balled into fists by his sides. He marched ahead of Hank, tension visible in every line of his body.
Sighing, Hank rubbed his hand over his forehead and slowly rebuttoned his shirt. Of course Connor was a perfectionist, but he hadn't expected him to take someone questioning their relationship so personally. He jogged up to his side, catching him by the hand.
"Connor, hey, you gotta relax a little, you're doing great. You know the only reason Molina is questioning it is 'cause he wants in your pants, right?” The statement made Hank's stomach twist with an unpleasant burn of jealousy. Connor turned to him, his eyes wide.
"Really?” He frowned. “Why?”
"Well…I mean, uh," Hank could feel his cheeks burning, more now than when he'd had his hand in Connor’s pants. "You're...you’re pretty cute."
"Cute, huh?" Connor raised an eyebrow. "Not goofy looking?” He glanced sidelong at Hank, a teasing sparkle in his eye, a little of the tension leaving his shoulders.
"Oh, fuck you, Connor,” Hank groaned, “you know you're hot." He dropped Connor’s hand, giving his shoulder an affectionate shove. Their eyes met, a gentle smile slipping over Connor’s lips that Hank just had to return.
"So, uh, speaking of getting into your pants," Hank said, clearing his throat and rubbing his hand over the back of his neck, "sorry about back there. I didn't realise you were, uh, anatomically correct." Truth be told, Hank had never let his mind turn in that direction. On the fleeting occasions his thoughts had ventured below the belt he'd chased them away with whisky and cold showers.
"Oh, yes," Connor’s gaze dropped to his feet and Hank could swear he heard a tinge of embarrassment in his voice. "I was made to be fully functional in that respect, though I'm not entirely sure why. Some components of my design really make no sense." He shook his head to himself before turning to Hank saying, "You know they gave the RK series nipples?”
Hank swallowed, suddenly regretting the turn their conversation had taken. "Yeah," he said, "I saw."
"Why would they do that?”
"I really couldn't tell you," Hank said, blood rising to his cheeks once more. Of course he'd seen, he couldn't exactly miss them when Connor was on his lap, his chest pale and freckled and perfectly molded, nipples pink and right in front of his face. Of course Hank had noticed. He could feel a steady heat building, the first stirrings of arousal low in his gut and glanced around, desperately searching for some way to change the subject.
"Is it just me or is it warmer down here?” Hank said, fanning at his face with one hand. It couldn't just be the flush of his cheeks, the heat was definitely rising around them.
"Possibly," Connor said, looking chagrined. "I've been having a little trouble with temperature regulation since the hot tub the other day. I've turned down a lot of my sensitivities." He took a few more steps before snapping his fingers together, whipping around to grin at Hank, his eyes shining. "That's it!”
"What? Have you found something?" These hallways were as bare as the last and Hank glanced around, searching for whatever had caused Connor to brighten up so quickly.
"No, nothing like that. I just figured out why I have been so unconvincing as a romantic partner." Connor’s smile was entirely too wide and Hank shook his head, murmuring to himself.
"Coulda convinced me."
If Connor heard him, he ignored it, drumming his fingers together excitedly. "I've had my sensors turned down, I haven't been reacting like a human usually would. I'm going to dial them back up to human levels now."
Nothing about Connor seemed to change save his posture, which relaxed maybe a fraction of an inch. He beamed at Hank, looking pleased with himself. “I think this will help."
"Um, okay, sure."
"We should test it out,” Connor returned to Hank's side, “will you kiss me again?”
“I—” Hank swallowed, hating the way Connor’s request made his stomach flutter. “Right now?"
“Unless you'd rather wait until we need to deflect attention again." Connor glanced around. "Although there doesn't seem to be anyone around at present." He slid his hand up Hank’s arm to rest on his shoulder, squeezing gently. “I'd prefer to check right now, if that's okay?”
Hank took one look at Connor’s face, his eyes wide and earnest, and nodded. It was for the good of the mission after all. “Okay," he said, voice far breathier than he'd expected, “I'm gonna kiss you now."
Connor hooked his fingers into the neck of his shirt, pulling it to one side to expose the pale column of his throat. "Here, please."
"Oh for—” Hank muttered to himself. Connor had to know what he was doing to him, surely. He took a small step, closing the distance between them and sliding his hand around to rest in the small of Connor’s back.
Pressing a line of open-mouthed kisses down Connor’s neck, Hank felt him gasp.
"Oh, that feels very different. Oh!" His fingers tightened on Hank's shoulder as Hank sucked gently at the juncture of his neck, sliding his tongue over the faint static of Connor’s skin. There was no taste, no hint of sweat, nothing more than slight elasticity over solid plastic, cool against Hank’s lips. There was nothing human about it; this was all Connor, and all Hank wanted.
It would be so easy to give into his desires, to push Connor against the nearest wall and bring their lips together once more. Hank wanted to kiss him senseless, find out just how sensitive Connor could be. Instead, he pulled back, raising an eyebrow.
“Did you get what you needed?”
Connor didn’t reply. He stood, fingers still hooked in the corner of his shirt, his lips parted in a silent gasp. There was a whirr: Connor’s breathing simulation kicking up a notch before he blinked, seeming to come back to himself and register Hank’s words.
"I— Yeah, got it." Connor ran his fingers through his hair, pushing it from his face, still looking faintly dazed. "Let's, uh, let's keep looking. They came from here."
Leading them to the end of the hallway, Connor seemed to be scanning the area, his head barely moving in slow sweeps back and forth. "You're right Hank," he said, "it is warmer on this floor.” He was fidgeting with his collar, adjusting and readjusting—obviously compensating for his lack of cuffs to fiddle with.
There was only a single door at the end of the hallway, a faint rumbling seeming to emanate from behind it, the sound catching Hank behind the teeth in a low vibration. He nudged Connor aside as they approached, pressing his fingertips to the bare wood and feeling the door move easily. Nodding to Connor he murmured, “Better stay behind me, just in case.” He patted for his gun but didn’t draw it, nudging the door with his foot and peering through.
Shelf after shelf of crisp white linen met Hank’s gaze, the air of the room tinged with the scent of detergent and fresh laundry. The noise was louder here, a row of dryers creating the vibration Hank had felt. He slipped through the door, feeling Connor close behind him. There was no sign of anyone else, though Hank kept his movements slow, glancing around for anything unusual, trusting that Connor would do the same. He could feel the sweat starting to bead on his forehead, the temperature increasing within the confines of the laundry room.
The shelving spread like a maze around them, packages of sheeting blocking any further view into the rest of the room, stack after stack, a solid wall of white. “You getting anything unusual here, Connor?” Hank asked, glancing behind him and seeing Connor’s gaze already fixed on him. “Connor?”
“Hm? Yes?” Connor blinked distractedly. “I haven’t noticed anything. Maybe they just came though this way to get to the lower floor.” Hank couldn’t be certain, but it felt as if Connor was standing just a fraction closer than usual, leaning towards him with an unreadable expression.
“Right. We should make sure this place is clear and then head down, too,” Hank said, peering around the next stack of shelves. He ran a hand across his forehead, wiping the sweat from his brow and feeling the heat rising from his own skin. Connor’s closeness wasn’t helping the matter at all and Hank was on the verge of asking him to search the other side of the room when his thoughts were interrupted by the sound of voices and a door opening somewhere on the other side of the tangle of shelves.
He and Connor moved at the same time, cramming together in a corner behind the shelving. Hank could feel the hard press of Connor against his chest and wrapped his arms around him, pulling him close. Connor immediately did the same, all but plastering himself to Hank as the sound of laughter and idle chatter floated between the shelves.
“Sounds like a good night, count me in.”
Hank didn’t bother listening to the conversation, too caught up in the sight of Connor’s face, inches from his own. He could kiss him, Hank supposed, but the voices weren’t coming any closer, there was no need to fool them. Still...he could kiss him.
Connor’s lips were softly parted, his dark eyes fixed on Hank’s own. Hank could feel the soft tickle of Connor’s breath on his skin, his heart speeding in a mixture of adrenaline and anticipation. He slid his hands over Connor’s back, holding him as close as he dared, trying not to think too hard about all the places they were pressed together, Connor’s thigh so close to nudging between his legs. It was far too hot, Hank could feel his pulse speeding and scraped his teeth over his lower lip in frustration.
Connor drew in a breath that sounded closer to a gasp, his fingers tightening on Hank’s shoulders. He leaned in, eyes sliding closed, tilting his head up towards Hank.
Fuck it, Hank thought, and leaned in.
The door slammed. The voices left as abruptly as they’d arrived and Connor jerked back, smoothing down his shirt where Hank’s fingers had dug into the fabric.
“I don’t think there is anything else worth checking here,” he said, his voice sounding somewhat strained. “Let’s go to the next floor.”
“I— Sure. Okay.” Hank swallowed against the disappointment coursing through him, shoving his hair back from his face where it had escaped the ponytail. He must have been imagining it, Connor couldn’t have been leaning in for a kiss. He was getting himself worked up over nothing. Again.
Connor led them back out of the laundry room and into the stairwell, his lips pressed tight in an expression that Hank knew was congruent with a spiral of yellow on his—currently absent—LED; something was bothering Connor, and Hank could only hope that it wasn’t him.
“Okay, they exited on this floor, there has to be something here,” Connor said, not meeting Hank’s eyes as he shoved open yet another door into the bare back corridors of the hotel. This time, a series of metal doors lined the corridor, the small windows giving Hank a glimpse into a secondary kitchen, as clean and shining as the one upstairs. This one, however, was stark and silent, completely empty.
“No one in there. Guess we should have a look around.” Hank raised his eyebrows at Connor, who still seemed agitated, running his hand over his eyes, fingers twitching at his sides. Hank sighed, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a coin. “Here,” he said, “you’ve obviously got something on your mind, this should help.”
Connor’s lips flicked up in the briefest of smiles and he took the coin. “Thanks, Hank.” In a flash, it was dancing over Connor’s knuckles, a little of the tension leaving his face. “My scans aren’t detecting anything in here either.” A fine line had appeared between his brows. “I’m wondering if we missed something.”
“We just gotta keep looking,” Hank said, “we’ll find something.”
They found nothing.
It was with a heavy heart that Hank returned to their room that evening, Connor trailing behind him, equally as frustrated. Their searches had proved fruitless, with nothing more illicit than some half-finished bottles of vodka in one of the staff areas and the remains of a single joint in the stairwell. Hank was exhausted, blood pounding in his temples and making his head ache. He wanted nothing more than to hole up in one of the bars and drink until he slept. This mission was going terribly. All he had managed to do so far was feel up his partner and be forced to confront the fact that maybe, just maybe, he had feelings for him.
“Do we really have to go to this stupid Luau thing tonight?” Hank asked with a groan.
“Only if you want to keep up the rapport with Marchetti.” Connor perched on the end of the bed, deliberately facing away from the balcony. “I feel that is probably the best course of action, since our searches today didn’t get us anywhere.” His arms were folded across his chest. “I understand you’re probably tired, but we need something.”
“Yeah, we do. I know.” Hank slumped onto his side of the bed, burying his face in the pillow. “Can you just let me nap for like, a half hour or so? Then we can get on with this stupid theme night.”
He felt Connor pat gently at his shoulder. “I’ll wake you when it’s time to go down.”
Hank nodded against the pillow, hearing Connor stand and feeling the mattress shift. He drifted off into a half-conscious daze, hearing Connor hum tunelessly to himself as he rummaged through their bags, doing who knows what while he waited.
It felt like no time at all before Connor patted his shoulder once more, the whisper of his breath playing across Hank’s ear as he murmured, “Hank, it’s time to wake up now, we have a party to go to.”
“Mmph,” Hank mumbled, his mouth filled with the fabric of his pillowcase. He rolled over, blinking at Connor, who was standing by the bed. His outfit different from when Hank went to sleep, the sight making his brain short-circuit.
Connor was wearing shorts, slung low and showing off narrow hipbones that dipped and curved in a delicate arch. His stomach was exposed, exposing the faintest hint of abs that Hank wanted nothing more than to run his tongue over. He’d never imagined Connor in a crop top, and the rush of blood, both high and low, told him exactly why. The whole ensemble was completed with a loose striped shirt, which Hank instantly recognised.
“That’s my shirt, isn’t it?”
Connor turned, tilting his hips in a way that made Hank glad his body was still waking up. “I thought it would work quite well for the beach theme, don’t you?”
Hank swallowed. “Y-yeah, it works great. I’m gonna feel underdressed now.”
“That’s why I packed this one for you.” Connor bent down, retrieving another shirt from their case with a smile on his face. It was blue, with a repeated pattern of—somewhat grumpy looking—crabs covering the surface. “I thought you might like it, because you’re crabby, get it?”
Hank looked Connor in the eyes, nonplussed. He raised his eyebrows, trying to keep his expression as unimpressed as possible. Connor’s smile didn’t waver for an instant and he shook the shirt gently in his hands, making the crabs dance. “Get it?” he repeated.
“Yeah, okay, I got it Connor,” Hank said, a smile cracking through. He shook his head, taking the shirt. “Thanks.” He reached up to take the tie from his hair and heard a small noise of disappointment slip from Connor’s lips.
“Your hair looks nice like that, I think you should keep it that way.”
“Oh,” Hank could feel his cheeks flushing—embarrassing really, reacting to a simple compliment like a teenager—and retied the ponytail, tilting his head to Connor for his approval. “Like this?”
Connor nodded, a pleased smile on his face. “That’s perfect, now hurry up and get changed. We don’t want to miss anything important.”
The main ballroom was already crowded when Hank and Connor arrived downstairs. The walls were covered in streamers, inflatable palm trees standing unsteadily against the walls whilst a number of hotel staff dashed back and forth with trays of brightly coloured cocktails, complete with umbrellas. Connor snagged one as they passed, smirking as Hank was lassoed by another staff member, a bright orange lei looped around his neck.
“Cocktails again?” Hank said, raising an eyebrow above the sunglasses Connor had insisted he wear ‘to complete the look’.
“People seem to trust me more when they assume I’m inebriated,” Connor said with a shrug. “I’m hoping I can get away with pretending to drink, though. I don’t want to have to manually flush my systems again.”
“I’ll keep an eye out for you,” Hank said, nudging Connor in the side. “Maybe keep your voice down, though, it looks like our friends are here.”
At one table, past a buffet that seemed to be mostly pineapple, sat Marchetti and her cronies. She had made little concession to the theme of the evening, still dressed entirely in black, though the sunglasses remained, a little more appropriate in this setting. The rest of the group had made slightly more effort, an array of colourful Hawaiian shirts on display, though no one at the table seemed pleased about it.
“I suppose I’ll go find Vanessa or someone, see if I can scout the area a little whilst I ‘socialise’,” Connor said with a sigh. “You should talk to Marchetti, get any information you can. We need something, Hank, anything.”
"Gotcha. I'll come find you soon," Hank said, snatching his own cocktail from a passing tray and taking a sip. He winced at the sweetness, wishing there was whisky instead, though it was probably better he keep his head clear.
"Hey," he said, sidling up to Marchetti's table, "nice party you've got going here."
Kovats rolled his eyes, murmuring into his own drink, "Many expenses were spared."
"It keeps the hotel full while I am busy," Marchetti said, dismissively waving her hand. "Everything is going according to schedule. Our delivery arrived today. I will have need of you tomorrow, Henry the Boat Guy."
"Sure, but I gotta know a little more about what I'm getting myself into." Hank folded his arms. "We ain't even talked cash yet."
"You will be paid once the shipment is delivered, no sooner." Marchetti pushed her sunglasses onto the top of her head, icy blue eyes drilling into Hank. "And if you keep asking questions, I will have your tongue cut out." Her hand snapped out, red talon-like nails digging into the meat of Hank's arm. She drew aside her skirt to reveal what looked like an ice pick strapped to one well-muscled calf. "I don't see your husband anywhere about. You really should keep an eye on him, if you know what's good for you."
Swirling her drink, Marchetti grinned at Hank, raising her eyebrows pointedly. "Do as I ask, get paid. Or keep asking questions and see what happens when you get on my bad side." She released Hank's arm. "You haven't earned my trust yet, Boat Guy. My husband put his trust in the wrong people and it got him busted." A low, unpleasant chuckle bubbled from her lips. "That worked to my advantage, of course." She reached up to pat Hank on one cheek. “Just remember, I had no trouble killing my own husband, why would I give a single fuck about yours?”
Hank swallowed, a tremor running through him and making him shudder. He knew Connor was more than capable of taking care of himself, but the glint of madness in Olga Marchetti’s eyes had his confidence wavering. “I’ll keep that in mind,” he said.
“Good.” Marchetti glanced towards Molina, who was leaning back in his chair. One stiletto-heeled foot whipped out, kicking the legs from under him. He caught himself just in time, dark brows furrowing as Marchetti’s lips split in a wide, red grin. “Adrian,” she said, “go find something else to do, I want to talk to the boat guy some more.”
Hank caught a flash of annoyance as Molina shoved past him, muttering something under his breath that Hank couldn’t quite make out. Marchetti simply rolled her eyes and pointed to the newly vacated chair. “Sit,” she said. “I want to know a little more about the work you did with my husband.”
Hank nodded. “What exactly do you want to know? He brought in Ice, I shipped it out. I imagine you want me to do the same for you.”
“Are you fishing for details again? You know I don’t like that.” Marchetti tapped her nails against the rim of her glass, the wine inside as rosy as her lipstick. “I want to know why you weren’t taken down with the rest of them, hm?”
“I was out of the country, luckily.” Hank could feel the hair rising on the back of his neck, glad that his eyes were hidden by his sunglasses. Marchetti’s gaze didn’t waver for an instant, cold and solid, bringing a chill to Hank’s stomach. He’d never felt particularly threatened by Jacques Marchetti in the time he had spent around him; Olga was another matter entirely. There was no way of telling if she was amused by him or two seconds away from smashing her glass into his face. She smiled, as sickly sweet as the cocktails.
“Yes. That was very lucky.”
Mentally steeling himself, Hank tugged off the sunglasses, meeting Olga's eyes with a level gaze. "Look," he said, voice low and calm, "I've been in this business a long time, and I've done that by keeping my head down and staying out of trouble. The more information I have, the better I can do my job, that's all." He took a sip of his cocktail, more for effect than any desire to drink. "I'm not gonna ask you any more questions, I know you don't trust me. Honestly, I couldn't give a fuck. I'm here for the job, make a little money and then we part ways. But," Hank gave a terse smile, not breaking eye contact, "any one of your goons so much as thinks about touching Connor, they'll regret it."
Logically Hank knew Connor was more than capable of looking after himself—probably more so than Hank, for that matter—but something about Marchetti's threat brought out a protective instinct inside him.
Olga simply smirked, gesturing towards the far side of the dance floor with her glass. "It seems that Adrian is already doing more than thinking about it."
Jerking his head around, Hank saw Molina wearing a slow, lazy smile, his hand resting on the bared skin of Connor’s waist. Connor looked unamused, his expression reminding Hank more of Nines, blank and closed off. He rose to his feet, nodding to Marchetti. "Excuse me a moment."
She let out a small laugh and slid her sunglasses back over her eyes. "Go. Mark your territory, Boat Guy. Adrian needs to stop thinking with his dick anyway."
Hank grimaced, pushing his way through the crowded ballroom and the laughing couples, a burning frustration in the pit of his stomach. He could see Connor leaning away from Molina's attentions, lip curled in undisguised disgust.
Molina, somehow, didn't seem to have picked up on Connor’s body language, or was purposefully ignoring it. He still leaned in, a lascivious grin on his face, and as Hank approached, he could hear the last of his words.
"—pretty thing like you can do better than getting dicked down by some old man. Let me show you a good time."
Connor folded his arms, looking unimpressed. He glanced over Molina's shoulder and caught Hank's eyes. "Are you done?” he said. "Because my husband is here and I'm far more interested in spending time with him that listening to any more of your bullshit." He smiled brightly as he circled around Molina to take Hank's arm. “Come on lovemuffin, let’s get something to eat. You know, I heard pineapple makes semen sweeter, you should have some.”
Choking back a snort of laughter, Hank caught Molina’s eye and smirked. “I will if you will, babe.” He slung his arm around Connor’s waist, leading him away. Knowing that Molina was probably watching, he slipped his hand down, sliding it over the curve of Connor’s ass and giving a brief squeeze with a murmur of, “Sorry.”
“It’s okay,” Connor murmured back, “I would have if you hadn’t.” He caught Hank’s eye and winked. “He’s still watching.”
“Guess we should give him something to watch, then.” Hank felt a tremor of guilt. He was just looking for excuses to touch Connor now. Connor, to his credit, didn't seem to mind, probably just eager to improve his chances at appearing human. He smiled at Hank, something almost teasing in the curve of his lips.
"Yes, we should."
"Okay," Hank said, stooping for just a second to hook his arm under Connor’s legs and lift him into his arms. For all Connor’s own strength, he weighed surprisingly little and let out a small laugh as he looped his arms around Hank's neck. "Gonna kiss you now," Hank whispered.
Connor leaned in as Hank did, raising one hand to brush his thumb over Hank's cheek and sending a shiver down his spine. This kiss was soft and gentle, almost familiar in a way. Connor’s lips slid against Hank's, barely parted, the faint sweetness from his drink light on Hank’s tongue.
Hank groaned to himself, deepening the kiss to brush his tongue over Connor’s own, part of him wondering if Connor would analyse him like any other evidence. Connor simply sighed, running his fingers through Hank's beard, the fingers of his other hand tightening on his shoulder. His tongue flicked out, teasing over Hank's and swirling around it in a way that was slightly too inflexible to be human. The sensation sent sparks through Hank, the simmer of arousal that had been ever-present throughout the day rising just a little further. He drew Connor’s lower lip into his mouth, catching it with his teeth and gently scraping over it, feeling the harder curve of plastic beneath softer synthskin.
Connor’s breathing simulation seemed to catch; a good effect, Hank thought. If he didn't know any better he would have thought it a genuine reaction. He pulled away, the thought dampening his mood a little. He was letting himself get carried away; he and Connor were partners, nothing more, and they had a mission.
Reluctantly lowering Connor back to his feet, Hank breathed deep, forcing his mind to refocus. “Well, that keeps that creep away.” He said, giving Connor a wry smile. “Marchetti isn’t talking, but we can maybe try to tease some information out of her other cronies while we’re here.”
Connor nodded, taking a step back. “Oh, yeah, sure,” he said. Hank couldn’t be certain but there seemed to be a rougher edge to his voice, something he couldn't identify creeping into the usually even tones. He took Hank’s arm, pulling in close enough for Hank to feel the faint thrum that came from Connor’s thirium pump. "I'll stick close, if that's all right. It would seem unusual to make a big public display of affection and then immediately split up, don't you agree?”
Hank nodded, holding Connor close, grateful for the excuse. "Good thinking," he said, pressing a kiss to the point of Connor’s temple where his LED belonged. It was still unusual to see, but thankfully, Hank knew enough to discern Connor’s moods without the little light to aid him.
The rest of the party was something of a fruitless endeavour, the conversations Hank and Connor found themselves in giving them no further insight into their mission. Hank allowed himself a single glass of whisky, if only to get him through the half hour of questions about yachts that Zayn Rose subjected him to. Connor, at one point was dragged onto the dance floor by his dinner companions from the night before, the sight almost sending Hank back to the bar: no one's hips had any right to move like that. Eventually though, they said their goodnights somewhere around 1:00am and headed for the elevator back to their floor. As the cacophony of music and conversation dwindled, Hank found Connor taking his hand, sliding their fingers together and holding tight.
"Our chance of success has risen again," Connor said, his voice low, "though I can't quite extrapolate why. We have no further evidence and our only knowledge is that something has been shipped into the hotel for distribution tomorrow."
"Yeah, whatever shit's going down, it'll be tomorrow." Hank gave Connor's hand a gentle squeeze. "Maybe get our backup on standby, ready to go as soon as we find something."
"Got it. I'll inform Nines right away."
They rode the elevator in silence, still hand in hand, the last echoes of the party falling away with every floor they passed. Hank sighed, circling his shoulders. “I guess we’ve got nothing to do tomorrow other than hang around. I don’t think searching the place again is gonna do us any good.”
“You’re right, I think our best idea is to—” Connor paused as the elevator slowed, his brows furrowing. Hank glanced through the small window, a frown forming on his own forehead when he spotted the problem. Molina stood in the hallway, phone to his ear, pacing back and forth.
“Oh come on, not this asshole aga—”
Hank’s back hit the elevator wall, making it shudder. Connor’s mouth was on his, hard and unrelenting, the opposite of the kiss they’d shared earlier. He gripped tight at the edges of Connor’s—his—shirt, holding on as Connor grabbed for his beard, tugging him out of the elevator, walking backwards, his other hand wrapped around Hank’s wrist.
Hank didn’t protest, simply letting himself be led towards their room, their lips still joined in a sloppy approximation of a kiss. He could feel the coiled strength in Connor’s slim arms as he was pulled along, the knowledge that Connor could easily move him exactly where he wanted sending a jolt of heat straight to Hank’s core. He fumbled for the keycard to their door, cracking an eye open to see an unimpressed-looking Molina glancing sidelong at them before shaking his head and slipping into his own room next door. Hank could feel Connor’s hands all over him, pressing him against the door, which clicked open after a few shaky swipes of the keycard. They pulled apart seconds after stepping inside.
Hank ran a shaking hand over his forehead, unsure exactly what Connor had planned. He didn't seem to know himself, standing awkwardly to one side and glancing back and forth towards the bed, lips pressed in a tight line. Connor caught Hank's gaze.
"I did not preconstruct this well enough."
"Yeah, no shit," Hank flung his arm out, waving towards the wall that joined their room and Molina's, "you know he thinks we're gonna fuck."
Okay, wrong word choice. Hank didn't need to think about that. He wasn't going to think about that.
Connor’s eyes widened for the briefest of seconds and he tapped his fingertips together, fidgeting. "Is that something we can…fake?”
"Gonna have to," Hank said with a sigh. The alternative was just to go ahead and...nope, not going to follow that train of thought.
He stepped over to the bed, taking one bedpost in his hand and giving a shove. It gave a slight creak, to Hank's relief; he could shake the bed for a while, throw Molina off the scent.
Connor, it seemed, had decided on a different approach entirely. He stepped up to the bed, glanced at Hank for a second, and threw himself onto the mattress with a loud, exaggerated moan that sent a lance of heat straight to Hank's core.
"What are you doing?” Hank hissed. He'd never heard Connor make a noise quite like that before. Much as he hated to admit it, he wouldn't mind hearing it again.
Connor sat up on his knees, bouncing a little. “I just imagined you would want to throw me onto the bed," he whispered, "every conversation I have overheard has given me the impression that they all see me as the receiving partner in our intercourse. I was trying to act that."
Hank could feel heat slowly starting to creep up his cheeks, his brain helpfully supplying him with a mental image of that exact scenario. He covered his face with his hand, groaning, this couldn't be happening.
"Good," Connor said, "but you might need to be louder for him to hear you." He bounced again, the mattress springs audibly creaking. "Now while I haven't actually experienced sex with another person before, I believe I have obtained more than enough theoretical knowledge online to sufficiently convince Molina that you are, to use the colloquial, 'wrecking' me."
Connor smiled encouragingly, moving his hands in an upwards motion, still gently bouncing on his knees. “Louder.”
Hank gritted his teeth, sitting on the edge of the bed, as far from Connor as possible, not daring to look him in the eye. He gave the bedpost another half-hearted rattle, his fingers tightening on the bedsheets when Connor moaned once more, long and loud.
The back of Hank's neck was prickling, embarrassment making his skin feel too tight for his body. He didn't want to think how red his cheeks were, the heat only rising when Connor let out an honest to God whimper.
"Hank, please." His voice was tinged with desperation, yet when Hank took the chance to glance over, Connor’s expression was placid. If anything he looked bored.
This was excruciating. Hank rubbed at his temples with his fingertips, there was nothing he could do. Connor was determined to act this out and Hank was stuck listening to him make noises that would be lodged in his brain for a long time to come. He groaned, louder this time in a vague attempt to sound like he was at least participating.
"Good. More." Hank's stomach jolted with a white-hot flash of arousal; how could Connor sound so breathless when he didn't even need to fucking breathe. He tightened his grip on the bedsheets, steeling himself against the mental images Connor’s sounds were conjuring. Squeezing his thighs together, Hank tried desperately to will away the stir of sensation causing his cock to twitch in interest. He was not going to get hard over this. He wasn't.
"Oh, Hank, give it to me, please."
It was supposed to be an admonishment, but the combination of frustration and embarrassment at his rapidly filling erection twisted Hank's voice into a low growl, undisguised desire resonating through the single word.
"Yes, just like that!” Connor seemed to be getting into the spirit now, turning to face the headboard and shoving it against the wall in time with his bounces. A wicked little smile had appeared on his lips, small and mischievous: he was enjoying this. His moans were getting louder, too, cries of pleasure that were far too realistic. God, what Hank wouldn't give to draw those sounds from Connor for real.
Hank squeezed his eyes shut, turning away in a fruitless attempt to escape the images that filled his brain; Connor bouncing on his lap, tugging at Hank's hair every time he bucked his hips; Connor’s back arching as Hank slid inside him, his hands gripped tight on those slim hips; Connor spread out on the sheets, desperate and wanting, dragging Hank down to bring their lips together.
It was too much, Hank couldn't stand it. He chanced another look in Connor’s direction and found him staring, an expression of mild concern on his face.
"I would appreciate a little feedback here," Connor whispered. "Although we have already passed the average duration for sex I’d like to keep this up a little longer before faking climax."
Hank held his head in his hands, his groan of frustration deliberately loud in the hopes it would keep Connor off his back and stop him from scrutinising Hank too closely. Fucking android would probably know he was hard just by looking at him. The noise, however, seemed to placate him and Connor resumed his bouncing.
“C’mon baby, more, I wanna feel it.” His voice was ragged, sounding—exactly as Connor had promised—completely wrecked.
Hank was fully hard now, and eternally grateful for the bagginess of his shorts. He wasn’t concentrating at all, responding to every fake moan of Connor’s with one of his own. He could only hope that it wouldn't be much longer. Connor's bounces were speeding, his moans increasing in pitch, every second sweet torture on Hank's ears. He kept his gaze on the floor, trying as desperately as possible to stay out of his own mind and the images that lay within.
"Oh yes. Oh God. Oh, Hank!” Connor’s voice broke and relief flooded Hank's body. It was over.
Knowing that Connor was expecting a response, Hank turned his head towards the wall with a final growl of, “Connor, oh fuck." He breathed deep, gazing up at the ceiling.
Blood pounded through Hank's veins, heat filling him from head to toe. Sweat was beading on his forehead and his cock was resolutely hard. Hank swallowed, glancing over one shoulder to see Connor looking pleased with himself, a pillow held in his lap, fingers twisting around the linen of the pillowcase. "I think that went well," he said, voice low.
"Yeah, sure," Hank grunted. He needed to get away, he couldn't get ready for bed like this. "Look, I need a shower, I can still smell fuckin' pineapple. Then I'm going straight to sleep, 'kay?”
“Of course," Connor said, "showering after sex is a good practice. I'll get changed for bed, too." He made no move to get up, simply blinking owlishly at Hank, still holding tight onto the pillow in his lap.
"Right," Hank said, grabbing the t-shirt and shorts he wore to bed, holding them strategically in front of him as he shuffled awkwardly to the bathroom hoping Connor wasn't analysing him as he went.
Turning the shower a few degrees colder than he preferred, Hank stepped gratefully under the cool spray, goosebumps instantly prickling on his skin. He took a deep breath, letting the water wash over him, hoping it would douse the heat that rushed through his veins.
A few minutes later and Hank was no less hard. No matter how hard he tried, the sound of Connor moaning his name continued to resonate inside his skull. God, Hank wanted to hear that for real. He grimaced, taking himself in hand, feeling a twinge of guilt that Connor was right there in the next room.
It didn't take long as Hank worked his cock hard and fast, wanting to get it out of his system as quickly as possible. He came with a grunt, the streaks of his come quickly washed down the drain. Hank turned off the shower, shoving his hair from his face and catching a glimpse of his face in the mirror, still faintly flushed. There was no way to deny his attraction to Connor now.
Hank sighed. With any luck, the mission would be over the next day, then he could at least take the time to figure out his options without the distraction of pretending to be married to Connor. He needed to know where Connor stood, was it all just a mission to him?
Quickly drying off and towelling down his hair, Hank dressed for bed. He hesitated for a moment, hand on the doorknob, his ears catching the faintest of sounds. It sounded like Hank's name again, an echo of earlier. Hank frowned, unsure if he was imagining things, leaning towards the crack of the door to ask, "Connor, did you say something?”
“No, no, I'm uh, I'm okay." Connor’s voice was muffled through the door and Hank shrugged.
"Okay, cool, I'm just gonna get dressed and brush my teeth." He turned back to the mirror, glaring at himself. Great, now you're hearing his voice, you are fucking whipped.
When he emerged from the bathroom, Connor was already beneath the sheets wearing his perfectly pressed, stupidly cute striped pyjamas. He smiled softly at Hank, the smile not quite meeting his eyes. "It all happens tomorrow, doesn't it?”
Hank slid beneath the covers, still too embarrassed to look Connor directly in the eyes. "Seems so," he said, "not the most relaxing mission, huh?” He flicked the switch on the bedside lamp and lay back into the pillows, sighing.
"I don't know," Connor said, shifting somewhere in the darkness beside Hank, the mattress dipping as he moved, "there have been a few high points."
"Really? Like what?” Hank turned, finding Connor facing towards him, his face in shadow, the smallest slivers of moonlight creeping through the window to highlight the curve of his cheek.
Connor just smiled, rolling away.
Connor frowned, doubting that cuddling into hard plastic would do Hank's muscles any good, as nice as Connor might find it. He shifted, sliding his arm around Hank: that would at least reduce the likelihood of neck pain when he woke. He lay back, blinking at the ceiling and attempting to preconstruct the day to come, though the number of variables made it a fruitless task. Hank's fingers twitched against Connor’s stomach, drawing his attention, his preconstructions quickly devolving into thoughts of what might happen if he kissed Hank awake.
Connor knew that he really should have turned his sensitivities back down after the party, but being touched by Hank sent a giddying thrill through him that he didn't want to lose. There was a heavy feeling inside him, the creeping desire for so much more.
Connor had given in the night before, glad for the excuse to relieve his tensions whilst Hank had showered. He didn't touch himself often, but Hank groaning his name had just been too much and he'd given in to his desires, imagining Hank touching him as he'd gotten himself off as quickly as he could.
Connor glanced down, filled with the sudden irrational fear that Hank knew what he was thinking and found him fast asleep still, shaggy hair falling over his forehead. Connor smiled to himself, brushing the errant locks of hair to one side. Warmth filled his chest, catching beneath his thirium pump and Connor hesitated for a moment before reaching towards Hank once more. He drew back the synthskin from his hand, the bare white plastic catching the reflection of the morning sun.
Tentatively, Connor brushed his fingers down Hank’s cheek, feeling the change in texture, from skin to stubble to beard, it brought a pleasant shiver down his spine. He trailed the sensitive pads of his fingertips over the delicate lines that normally creased around Hank’s eyes, relaxed now in sleep. Smiles and frowns, joy and sadness, all were written into Hank's skin and Connor felt a momentary twinge of jealousy; this was being alive, or at least a sign of it that Connor would never have.
«chance of success: 76%»
Hank’s hand slid over Connor’s stomach as he shifted once more, the length of his body pressed to Connor’s side. He was warm and soft and Connor pressed his lips together before giving into temptation once more and resting his palm on Hank’s chest. He could feel the solid beat of his heart and the broad muscles that lay just beneath Hank’s softer outer layers. Hank’s stomach was a gentle curve against Connor’s side and Connor moved his hand once more, taking a moment to press his fingers into the rolls that he knew Hank hated. He was so wonderfully human, so perfectly imperfect, and now more than ever, Connor wished he had a single clue about what to do with his feelings.
Sighing purely as an output for his frustrations, Connor lay back. He wasn’t going to keep touching Hank, much as he wanted to. At least not until he had figured out where their relationship lay. He was sure he had seen it: flashes of interest, arousal, shared smiles that went on for slightly too long, but had no idea what to do with the data. The mission complicated things; Connor had no way of knowing which touches or smiles were even real, whatever moments he might have interpreted as intimate may have all been part of the act. Soon though, the mission would be over, and Connor could start figuring out where they stood. A pang of disappointment rose within him; there would be no excuses for casual touches once the mission was over, and Connor was definitely getting used to the closeness.
It was 10:45am and Hank showed no signs of waking. He hadn’t yet reached the optimum recommended number of hours of sleep, so Connor was content to let him lie. It had been a late night and he had other matters to attend to before he needed Hank awake—not to mention, the weight of him against Connor felt nice, he saw no reason to disturb him.
//Requesting Connection: RK800 #313 248 317-52 >>> RK900 #313 248 317-87//
RK800, how can I assist?
Connor rolled his eyes, he could practically feel the rigidity in Richard’s voice.
How many times do I need to ask you to call me Connor?
My apologies, Connor. What do you need? If you are checking in on Lieutenant Anderson’s dog, then I can report that he is fine. We took him out this morning and will do so again before we come on duty this evening.
That’s good to know, thank you. I just wanted to confirm that our backup is on standby. We feel like there may be some major movement today, most likely this evening.
The DPD has three units on rotation in the immediate vicinity of the hotel, if you give the word, they will immediately converge on your signal.
Good, that’s really good to know. Connor tightened his grip on Hank’s shoulder, tensing himself. Hey, um, Richard? Can I ask your advice on something?
Of course. Although you have been activated far longer than I have, my lack of experiences may not count for much.
That doesn’t matter, I just need to talk to another android, someone who knows what it’s like.
Well we do share 81.97% of our programming, I believe that should be sufficient.
Yeah, sure. Well… Connor pursed his lips, trying to preconstruct the right words to explain his predicament. I find myself...compromised...by this mission.
In what way? Richard’s voice had changed, it seemed that his interest had been piqued.
I believe I may have developed feelings for Lieutenant Anderson. Connor frowned to himself, no, that wasn’t quite right. Or maybe I am being forced to acknowledge feelings that I had before. That seems more accurate.
And you are unsure if the close proximity required for this mission is affecting your interpretation of the data?
Something like that. I get the impression that my feelings may be reciprocated, but I wonder if my data could be skewed due to the behaviours we've adopted to keep up the charade of being a couple.
Have you kissed? Richard was definitely interested now, his voice tinged with curiosity.
Well, yes, but none of them were real kisses. Connor felt a twinge of disappointment deep within his processors. I want them to be real. I just don't know how to broach the subject.
Ask him out. Richard's advice was simple and to the point. Wait until the mission is over and then ask him on a date.
What if he says no? Uncertainty rose unbidden in Connor’s throat, he didn't want to jeopardise the relationship he already had with Hank, and he told Richard as much.
I highly doubt he would be so callous. Richard's reply was almost disdainful before his tone changed again, softer as he said, He obviously cares about your feelings.
There was a moment of silence.
Connor, may I ask you a personal question?
Connor felt a wave of apprehension and wondered briefly if this was what Hank felt every time he asked the same thing. Sure, go ahead.
What does it feel like? Kissing a human?
Connor glanced towards Hank, still fast asleep, face pressed to Connor's chest. His lips were parted softly, his breath warm where it washed over Connor’s skin. It's nice, Connor said. Really nice. He smiled slyly to himself. You should try it some time. I'm sure you can find someone who wants to kiss you. Did you have a particular person in mind?
I— No! I wasn't asking for any real reason, I just—I mean…
Connor smirked. Nines was an android of very few words at the best of times, but rendering him speechless still felt like a victory. He was so much better than Connor, upgraded in almost every way—except for the social programming. It seemed Connor still had a slight advantage there.
I’m just teasing, don’t worry. And thank you for your advice.
It’s not advice, it’s just logic. You wish to pursue a romantic relationship, therefore, you should ask him out. Simple.
Connor silently disagreed with Richard’s assessment, but he didn’t say so. What he did say was, I’m glad the mission will be over soon, pretending to be human is very demanding.
I can imagine. It must be difficult, pretending to be something you are not.
It really is, and the worst part is that I’m treated more like an object now than I am as an android. Connor could feel the frustration rising inside him and ran his fingers over Hank’s hair in an effort to soothe himself. If I'd known I'd be treated like this then I might as well have left my LED in. Then at least I'd feel like myself.
Well, if you and Lieutenant Anderson are correct then you will have your evidence this evening and we can bring down the Black Ice operation once and for all.
I hope so. I’ll contact you the instant we have something. You and Detective Reed have fun with Sumo this afternoon.
Oh, yes! We’re planning on going down past Riverside since the weather is starting to improve, Gavin says there’s a… Richard’s voice trailed off as he seemed to realise the enthusiasm he was projecting. I mean, thank you, Sumo is in good hands.
Connor huffed out a breath in amusement. I’m sure he is. I’ll be in touch soon.
Connor sighed, stretching his hand towards the ceiling and watching the glinting light of the sun play over the shining white plastic. He gently disentangled himself from Hank’s arms and sat up, catching sight of his reflection in the glass doors that led to the balcony. He looked almost exactly the same as he ever did, his hair maybe slightly more mussed—he usually went into rest mode sitting upright—but there was something missing.
Letting his skin drop completely, Connor raised his fingers to his temple, brushing over the divot where his LED should be. It was such a small thing, not even an integral component, but Connor didn't feel right without it. So many androids had removed theirs after the revolution, and while Connor had considered the option in the past, he had firmly decided now: he was keeping the LED. The uniform, the armbands, all the rest had been scrapped, but Connor would keep this one piece. He was an android, and proud of it. Thankfully, this was the last day he'd have to hide.
Hank shifted behind him, his voice muffled against the pillow, "Connor? Everything okay?”
"I'm fine, Hank." Connor raised his hand to switch his synthskin back on. He was stopped by Hank taking his bare hand and running his fingers over it, the calluses of his palm sending pings of sensation through the delicate sensors of Connor’s fingertips.
"I don't see this side of you often," Hank said, sitting up to peer at Connor’s uncovered face. “It’s different.”
His gaze was cool and steady, a sparkle of faint amusement hidden somewhere within the pale blue and Connor felt something catch within his chest. His breathing simulation sped to compensate, thirium pump thrumming faster as Hank raised that same hand to brush over the grey sections of Connor’s cheeks, gently stroking up towards the serial number on his brow.
“Good different or bad different?” Connor asked, successfully resisting the urge to lean into the touch—barely.
Hank shook his head, his hand still on Connor’s cheek. “Just different, that’s all.” He smiled softly. “It’s still you.”
Connor frowned, that same ripple of dissatisfaction running through him. “I don’t really feel like me at the moment. Being human is a lot harder than I thought.”
“Heh, tell me about it.” Hank stretched his arms out, his shoulders audibly popping. He shifted a little closer, the mattress dipping next to Connor as Hank slid up next to him. Their thighs brushed together and Hank slid his arm around Connor’s shoulder. “Hey,” he said. “Are you sure you’re okay?”
Connor breathed deep, feeling his shoulders slump under the weight of his own expectations. “I just...I don’t know how I feel right now. I think I’m doing well pretending to be human, but at the same time, I feel like I’m betraying something. Androids fought to be seen as people, and yet here I am, pretending to be something else. I know it’s just for this mission, but it bothers me. The android we saw, the one that took the Black Ice. He said it made him feel human, like humanity is still something we have to strive for.” Heat was rising inside Connor, an anger that he didn’t know had been building, held in check by the comfort of Hank’s arm around him. “I mean, what’s so bad about being an android?” Connor’s breath huffed out and he murmured, slightly embarrassed, “I miss my LED. I want to look like me again.”
“You do, Connor, but I get it, you wanna be proud of who you are and what you are. You don’t wanna hide anything." Hank's arm tightened around Connor's shoulder and he smiled softly. "For the record, I wouldn't change a thing about you."
“Really?” Connor quirked his brow as if to raise an eyebrow, before realising that with his current appearance, he didn’t actually have any. “Not a thing?”
“Sure.” Hank shrugged. “Look, no one is perfect, but that’s all part of being alive, ain’t it?” He raised his own eyebrows, catching Connor’s gaze and holding it steadily, a smile playing about his lips. “Okay, yeah, maybe you could be a little less of a smartass, but that’s all part of your charm.”
Connor smiled, his mood lightening. “Guess that’s why you married me,” he said, waving his fingers, white gold on white plastic.
The afternoon was spent much the same as the day before, searching through the back corridors in the attempt to find anything that linked Marchetti and her hotel with the Black Ice problem. Today they took the higher levels, once more finding nothing, and worse, there wasn’t even anyone around to walk in on them and give Connor an excuse to kiss Hank again. Tension was rising within him, like an electric current beneath his synthskin.
«chance of success: 74%»
“Fuck,” Connor cursed as yet another storage room provided absolutely no clues. Their success percentage ticked steadily down the longer they searched, moods only worsening as time went on. Connor could see the taut muscles in Hank's shoulders steadily getting tighter, the line between his brows etching itself deeper and deeper.
"We are getting nowhere here," Hank muttered as they slipped back into the public side of the hotel. "At this rate I'm gonna have to wait until the Ice is in my hands before we take 'em down."
"As long as we get them, I don't care when it is." Connor scanned around the area, feeling a faint tremor of discomfort. They had emerged right next to one of the many great, glass-panelled balconies that dotted the upper floors. The city spread out below them and Connor felt a lurch in his stomach region, as if he were falling.
Swallowing down the lump that had risen in his throat—though his sensors told him there was no blockage—Connor gently twisted the wedding ring on his finger, hoping that the dexterity calibrations would help redirect his mind from the quiver of fear that crept through him. There were two people on the balcony, stretched out on sun loungers. Connor instantly recognised Gunther Kovats and Vanessa and nudged Hank with his elbow, tilting his chin in their direction.
"Should we talk to them?"
“Can’t hurt,” Hank said shoving the door to the balcony open and faltering for a second when Connor hesitated. “You gonna be okay?” He held out his hand, which Connor took gratefully, the solid grip steady and reassuring. His stomach still lurched at the patchwork stretch of streets sprawled below them, but Hank was right there, it was fine.
«chance of success: 79%»
“Nice day, ain’t it?” Hank said as they approached the other couple. “You guys have fun last night?”
Kovats raised an almost translucent blond eyebrow. “I’ve had worse nights,” he said simply before sitting back in his lounger with a sigh. “Though we both know this entire weekend is a distraction.” He gave Hank a smile as cold as his eyes. “You’re a businessman, I can tell, you want this farce over, we get the Ice, we get our cut and go.”
Connor felt Hank’s hand twitch in his own, though his expression betrayed nothing. “It’s definitely Ice then? Olga wasn’t too forthcoming on that part.” He shrugged. “Not that I’m surprised, y’know?”
“The woman is paranoid, we all know what business we’re in,” Kovats scoffed before turning to Connor and Vanessa with a smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes. “At least it has its perks.” He patted at Vanessa’s hand. “I spoil you, don’t I?”
Sour distaste rose within Connor, though he kept his expression neutral. He could see a nerve twitching beneath Hank’s eye, a telltale sign of his own frustrations. So many people had died because of Ice, and these people were here, not a care in the world. Connor smiled back, hoping it didn’t look as obviously fake as it felt.
“Oh I know, I’ve made Hank promise to take me to Hawaii for real after last night.” He rolled his eyes, which drew a snort of laughter from Vanessa.
“I know, babe. Once this job is done, I promise.” Hank raised their joined hands, brushing a rough kiss over Connor’s knuckles. “Any idea when we can finally get this operation started?” he asked Kovats. “‘Cause apparently I got a vacation to pay for now.”
“Tonight, during the Easter Ball. The supply is ready, it will be divided tonight and we will move it along to where it needs to be. Just make sure to be in the ballroom between 8:00 and 9:00pm, you’ll know when it’s time.”
“Gotcha,” Hank said. “A ball, huh? Guess I gotta pretty myself up, eh, Connor?”
Connor gave a wry smile and leaned over to kiss Hank on the cheek. “We can only try.”
«chance of success: 83%»
“Well, we won’t intrude any longer,” Hank said, nodding to Kovats. “Guess I’ll see you tonight.”
“See you tonight, Connor, I’ll save you a spot at our table.” Vanessa settled back onto her lounger, her gaze flicking over Connor and Hank’s still-joined hands, her lips curving in a soft, sad smile. She glanced towards Kovats and Connor felt a wave of pity; he and Hank’s marriage may not be real, but their relationship was certainly more genuine.
They slipped back inside, away from the balcony’s sheer drop, much to Connor’s relief. He turned to Hank, who was smiling.
“Well, looks like we’ve got a timeframe. D’you wanna call the squad and put them on standby?” Hank said, glancing around to make sure there was no one within earshot.
“Already done,” said Connor, who had transmitted the message as soon as Kovats had mentioned a time. “Though we still don’t know where in the hotel the Ice is being held. We searched the empty kitchen and there was nothing there.”
“I guess we could have missed something.” Hank was frowning, though the lines weren’t quite as deep as before. “Doesn’t matter, we’ve got confirmation, we’ve got a time, and we’ve got our backup ready. All we gotta do now is wait.”
There were only a couple of hours left before the ball began. Connor had already had suits for himself and Hank messengered over, he’d reconfirmed everything with Nines, everything was as ready as it was going to be. Why then, did his systems flicker with what could only be nervousness?
Even Hank seemed to notice—though it was hard to miss—as Connor paced in their room, continuously twisting the wedding band around and around his finger.
“Connor, seriously, chill. We’re almost there. I’ve done stings like this before, we’ll be okay. This’ll all be over soon.”
The words sent a needle of cold through Connor’s sensor array. Part of him really didn’t want it to be over. If it were then he and Hank would have to go back to being nothing more than partners, he wouldn’t be allowed to touch him, to kiss him, to hold his hand for comfort when things got a little too much. Unless, of course, he took Richard’s advice, which opened up a whole new world of potential unpleasantness: rejection, embarrassment, the loss of the first friend Connor had ever had. Maybe it was better to say nothing and be grateful for what he already had. How much could he possibly gain from asking for more? He didn’t need to investigate further.
Connor flinched involuntarily as the red message flared in front of his eyes. It seemed that his programming disagreed with his internal thought processes. Of course they did: he was an investigation unit, he was designed to follow things to their conclusion. He pursed his lips, blinking away the error message.
“Everything okay, Connor?” Hank said, “I can tell when you’re overthinking something, you know.”
“It’s nothing,” Connor lied. “I am just considering possible scenarios for this evening.”
“Good call, you can never predict how things are gonna go when you confront people. Well...I know you kinda can, but we gotta be alert. Don’t let your guard down.”
“I won’t.” Connor tapped his fingers together and sat down heavily on the bed. “Hank? What will we do once we catch them? I mean, it will be odd going back to our usual routines after we have spent so much time in close proximity to each other.”
“Jeez, Connor, we’re still gonna be working together, and you know you’re always welcome to come over if you wanna hang out. Sumo likes it when you’re about.” Hank didn’t meet Connor’s eyes as he sat down next to him. “As for once we’ve caught them?” He sighed. “Paperwork, lots of paperwork.”
Connor smiled. “I’ll start filing what reports I can now, then we should probably get dressed.”
“Sure, I guess I’ll shower and stuff,” Hank said. “Hey, um, Connor…” His fingers twitched on the duvet, inches from Connor’s own. Hank’s hand slid closer for a second before he pulled it away with a mumble of, “...never mind.”
Hank stood and stretched, shaking his hair from his face, which Connor noted was faintly flushed. His heart rate was elevated as well, a fact which Connor pointed out.
“It’s nothing, just the adrenaline starting to flow for tonight.” Hank’s mouth curled into a grin. “We’re gonna take these fuckers down.” He stretched out his arms, his back popping as he did. “Look, you’re faster, so get ready and go on ahead of me, see what you can get from the room, positions and the likes, keep the team informed in case shit seems to be happening. I won’t be too far behind.”
Connor nodded. “Don’t forget your gun,” he said. “We’ll probably need them.”
“Gotcha.” Hank turned, a quizzical look on his face. “Just out of curiosity, what are you measuring our success at right now?”
Connor blinked, bringing the little indicator into his field of vision.
«chance of success: 85%»
“Currently, our chance of success is at eighty-five percent,” Connor said, though at this point he was unsure if his systems were measuring their likelihood of mission success, or of maintaining their cover as a couple, everything was getting a little muddled. He wasn’t sure he could trust his assessment.
Hank nodded to himself. “That’s pretty good, I’d take worse odds.”
“Are you sure about that, Hank? Do you remember back during the Deviant case, when you were pushed off a roof?”
Hank nodded. “Yeah? You pulled me back up, I remember. It was the first time I thought you might have something else underneath all that Cyberlife programming of yours.” He smiled. “And I was right, you did.”
“Yes, well, at that point you had an eighty-nine percent chance of survival, even if I hadn’t assisted you. Now imagine how unhappy you’d have been if I’d gone with the numbers and just kept chasing that WB200.” Connor glanced up, meeting Hank’s gaze. “All I’m saying is that numbers aren’t everything. We need to be careful.”
Hank took a few steps forward, resting his hand on Connor’s shoulder and squeezing tight. “I get it,” he said. "We will be.”
His touch lingered for a moment and Connor could feel the desire to kiss Hank rising within him, his thirium pump speeding at the thought. Just a few more hours, he thought to himself. Then the mission would be over and he could sort through his feelings without distraction. “I’ll meet you downstairs, then,” Connor said. “Let’s finish this.”
When Connor stepped into the ballroom, it had been transformed. The gaudy decorations and inflatable palm trees of the previous night were gone. Instead the room was bathed in soft golden light, the crystal chandeliers reflecting candles that glowed like the setting sun. The polished mahogany of the dancefloor shone, reflecting the few couples that were already upon it, hand in hand, lost in each other as the soft strain of violin strings floated through the air. A number of tables were scattered around the room, though as he scanned over them Connor could see none of Marchetti’s associates present—yet.
Connor adjusted his cuffs and tie, feeling much more like himself in his pale grey suit, and stepped over to the bar.
“Here alone?” a voice said, and Connor turned to see a woman with short red hair looking him up and down.
“Waiting for my husband,” Connor said, his sensors registering a thrill of longing at the words, “and you?” His facial recognition informed him that he’d seen the woman before at one of the bars upstairs.
“Thought I’d sneak in after my shift and see what the fuss was about. See if anyone cute wanted to buy me a drink.”
Connor nodded, deliberating if he should offer and deciding not to. “That’s nice,” he said, “good luck.” He turned away, searching and scanning, finally spotting Adrian Molina as he entered the ballroom, glanced quickly around, and then pushed through the doors that led to the kitchens.
Connor could feel himself frowning. He and Hank had searched those kitchens and found nothing. They had definitely missed something, possibly while he’d been distracted, something that had become increasingly common the more aware of his feelings he got.
“Well, hello there, daddy.” The woman at the bar spoke again, her voice a low purr that made Connor’s auditory processors ping. He snapped around to see Hank, leaning away from the woman, who had her hand on his lapel.
A fizz of electric sensation burned through Connor and he strode forwards with a loud, “Oh there you are, my love.” He snatched at Hank’s arm, grabbing him by the tie and dragging him in for a kiss that was more forceful than Connor had intended.
Hank, as always, adapted swiftly, his arms wrapping around Connor in an instant. His tongue slid over Connor’s own, dragging an involuntary gasp from inside him. They were pressed together, chest to chest and Connor felt his stabilisers wobble, the sensation crashing through him almost enough to throw off his balance. Thankfully, he was in Hank’s arms, the only place that mattered right now. Something pinged inside Connor; he couldn't give this up once the mission ended, not when it felt so right.
When they pulled apart, breathless on Hank’s part, the woman was gone, and Connor got his first glimpse of Hank all dressed up. His hair was tied back, much like the previous night, and Connor wondered if it was because he’d said he liked it that way. He ran his hand over Hank’s tie—grey, to compliment Connor’s suit—straightening it from where his eager fingers had pulled it loose.
“You really do clean up well, Hank,” Connor said, trying to keep his voice light and teasing. “Maybe you should dress up more often, change your wardrobe a little.”
“You trying to tell me you don’t like my shirts, Connor?” Hank’s eyes shone in the glowing light, his voice low and warm, setting a similar glow somewhere within Connor’s chest region.
“I would never say that.”
On the far side of the room the main doors opened and Marchetti swept in, closely followed by a few more of her associates. They split apart, some crowding around the buffet, others crossing to the bar. Marchetti herself was seated at a table by the kitchen doors, steadily scanning the room. Beside her, Molina seemed to appear from the shadows, whispering something that had Marchetti’s face splitting in a wide red grin.
Connor smiled and leaned into Hank’s body to inform him of Marchetti’s arrival, taking the chance to rest his head on one shoulder, allowing himself to relax into the embrace for the smallest of moments. “They’re here. Not long now.”
«chance of success:89%»
Hank nodded, taking Connor’s hand. The music had started up once more, more couples crowding onto the dancefloor. Connor felt a tug on his wrist. “C’mon, this seems like a good way to keep an eye on the whole room. You can dance, can’t you?”
It was the work of a moment to download the patch he needed so Connor nodded. “Of course.”
“Then dance with me.”
Connor was pulled into Hank’s arms, fitting against his chest as if he belonged there. One big hand pressed into the small of his back, warm and reassuring. Connor let out a breath that he hadn’t known was within him, holding tight, the heavy line of Hank’s gun a reminder that this wasn’t something to be savoured, much as Connor wanted to.
“Hey, you still doing okay?” Connor could hear the concern in Hank’s voice and felt something swell within him, making his movements falter and his breath catch.
“Part of me just really wants this to be over,” Connor said, moving in time with Hank’s steps. He neglected to mention the part of him that never wanted this to end. It felt as if he were standing on a precipice, that same fear rushing through him as when he was somewhere high. It felt as if he were already falling.
“Hey, you’re still doing amazingly, Connor, believe me, I mean, that whole jealous act back there.” Hank jerked his thumb towards the bar, a wry smile on his face.
The light from the chandelier glinted in Hank's hair, silver and gold. His eyes were as warm as a sunlit blue sky and Connor felt a tightness in his chest that had nothing to do with biocomponents.
He pursed his lips. This was the moment. He had to say something. There was no way he could wait until the mission was over, the weight of his feelings was just too much. They rose like a tide within him, a continuous pressure that threatened to burst if he contained it any longer. He tightened his fingers on Hank’s back, bracing himself.
«chance of success: irrelevant»
“Hank, I— that wasn’t an act.”
“What?” Hank’s brows furrowed. “I don’t get it.” His voice was cautious, tinged with disbelief, though Connor could feel his pulse increasing beneath his fingertips.
Connor glanced up, meeting Hank’s eyes with his own. “You’re a detective, Hank,” he whispered. “I think you can figure it out.” He reached up, pushing back a loose strand of Hank’s hair, letting his thumb trail over one cheek.
“Yeah, but maybe you can spell it out for me, just in case I’m actually dreaming this.” Hank’s smile was soft, his arms tight around Connor, holding him close, his breath barely brushing over the microprocessors of Connor’s lips.
Connor leaned in, his physiological sensor array lighting up at every point they were pressed together, making his breath simulation catch. “Maybe I should just show you.” He could see the bob of Hank’s throat as he swallowed, anticipation rising through his thirium channels in a rush, like bubbles in champagne.
Connor leaned in.
A broad hand landed on Hank’s shoulder, jerking him back and pulling them apart. Adrian Molina stood between them, a gleaming smile on his face.
“Gentlemen, it’s time.”
"Oh, uh, sure." Hank caught Connor’s eye and smiled apologetically. He squeezed tight on Connor’s hand. "To be continued?”
Nodding, Connor reluctantly let go. Conflicting priorities flashed before his eyes in a jumble of static, personal objectives and mission objectives blurring together only to be swept aside as Hank strode towards the kitchens leaving Connor behind.
"I guess I'll go find Vanessa and everyone and wait," Connor said to Molina who was still stood next to him, bright smile not leaving his face for an instant.
Molina's hand came to rest in the small of Connor’s back, pushing him forward, guiding him towards the doors that Hank had just disappeared through. "You'd think that, wouldn't you?” He stepped behind Connor, pressing something hard into his spine, which Connor’s databases quickly identified as the muzzle of a gun. "No, sweetpea, you're gonna stick with me. Boss doesn't trust that old man of yours so you're gonna be our insurance." He brushed his lips over the back of Connor’s neck making his sensors shudder. "You just be good and stay quiet, got it?”
“Got it." Connor said through clenched teeth. He'd already calculated eight different ways to disarm Molina, but he wanted to make sure Hank was safe before he made his move. Nines was on alert, ready to set the backup squads into action the instant Connor had the Ice in his sights.
"Good boy." Molina pressed flush against Connor, his breath a creeping heat over the back of his neck. "Though I kinda hope he does try something. I think I could have some real fun with you." Connor felt a hard line against his backside that definitely wasn't Molina's gun and a wave of revulsion rushed over him.
"You're disgusting," he muttered.
"Guilty as charged," Molina said, running his tongue in a wet stripe up Connor's neck, "you really have no idea, sweetpea."
Connor’s hand tightened into a fist as he narrowed down the methods of disarming Molina into the ones that would cause the most pain. He was shoved ungracefully into the main kitchen area, catching a glimpse of Hank standing by Kovats' side at one of the stainless steel workstations, arms folded. His back was turned and Connor quickly decided that keeping quiet was the best course of action for the moment. The gun was still pressed against his back, though Connor was confident enough in his own abilities that it wasn't too much of a concern.
The room was filled with Marchetti's partners, though the woman herself was nowhere to be seen. Connor busied himself with preconstructing the maximum number of people he could incapacitate in the vicinity.
///Open Channel: RK900 #313 248 317-87: Connor? What’s your position?
Fourth floor kitchens, next to the ballroom. No sign of the Ice or Marchetti. All other targets present. At least one suspect confirmed armed, proceed with caution.
Copy. We are on site. Ready to go on your signal.
Understood. Stand by.
Connor pursed his lips, scanning the room. Nine targets, including Marchetti’s overlarge bodyguards, who were standing too close to Hank’s side of the room for comfort. Connor could only hope that the element of surprise would be to their advantage. The faster he got to Hank, the better.
Movement on the far side of the room had Connor turning. Marchetti had appeared from the door that Connor knew led to the stairwell. She was followed by another one of her huge bodyguards whose arms were full of the packaged sheets from the laundry. Behind him was another woman, who Connor instantly recognised.
Mae Bozzolo stood, her arms folded, a cautious eye on the laundry sheets. "D'you wanna hurry this up?" she said. "I've got my van downstairs and about twenty plastics waiting for their next fix. Fucking inhuman freaks."
Connor tensed as he heard Molina snigger behind him, the smiles on most of the others' faces indicating this was a shared sentiment. What little he could see of Hank's face looked thunderous, his lip curled in barely concealed disgust.
"Patience, dear. We have plenty to distribute." Marchetti smiled, nodding to her bodyguard, who dumped the package onto the counter top. "You will all receive two bundles, each contains two and a half kilos of the purest Black Ice with a street value of two hundred thousand dollars. Your cut is fifteen percent, I expect the rest of the money within two weeks." She turned to Hank. "Except for you, Boat Guy, you have four packages to ship across the river, and one week for the money." She waved a hand towards Connor. "We'll be taking care of your husband until then."
Hank twisted around, face darkening as he saw Connor, Molina's gun pressed into his side. His fists clenched. "What the fu—Connor, are you okay?"
"I'm fine, Hank," Connor brought an artificial tremor to his voice, "I don't know what's going on." He redirected a little internal coolant to his eyes to produce mock tears, Marchetti's smile only growing wider as they started to trickle down Connor’s cheeks.
"Oh dear, he seems distressed." The sunglasses were off now, Marchetti's steely glare fixed entirely on Hank. "You'll have to do a good job then, won't you?"
Hank’s lips twitched, fury radiating from every line of his body. He moved as if to step forward and Connor gently shook his head.
///Transmitting: All units go. Twelve targets. Ice supply confirmed in fifth floor laundry room.
"What are you gonna do with him?” Hank growled, folding his arms and slumping back against the countertop between Kovats and O'Hara, both of whom were watching with disinterest.
"Nothing, providing you prove trustworthy." Marchetti spread her hands wide, as if to emphasise her own benevolence.
"I know what I wanna do with you," Molina whispered in Connor’s ear, tightening his grip and cementing Connor’s decision to break at least one of his bones.
"Enough of this, can we just get on with it? The old lady isn’t the only one with people waiting.” Zayn Rose leaned over the countertop, slapping a hand onto the sheet package. “You can play games with this fucker all you want afterwards, but I am here for one reason: business.”
Marchetti’s eyes flashed dangerously, her lips curling into a snarl. Moving faster than Connor expected, she snatched something from beneath her dress, stabbing down in one swift motion.
The ice pick quivered between Rose’s fingers, his dark skin turning ashy as he swallowed, shrinking back, his gaze cast to the floor. “Sorry, boss,” he mumbled.
"Any other interruptions?” Marchetti asked, glaring at each person in turn. She wrenched the ice pick back out with a smirk of cruel satisfaction as Rose immediately shrank away. A scatter of purple-black crystals tumbled from the punctured sheets, Connor’s first glimpse of Black Ice itself. He looked up, catching Hank's eye and giving a brief nod. Hank blinked in acknowledgement, slowly backing up, his fingers creeping towards the inside of his suit for his gun.
Connor's scanner pinged with Nines' location as the sound of footsteps filled the hall. He twisted in Molina's grip, shouting and broadcasting at the same time.
"Detroit Police! Nobody move!"
The main kitchen doors burst inwards and Connor spun into action. Grabbing Molina's wrist in both hands, he twisted, feeling it crack. He snatched Molina's gun as it dropped, swinging around in a wide arc to slam the butt of it into the base of his skull. Molina's breath left him in a burst of pain before Connor hooked a foot around his ankle, wrenching his feet from under him. He grabbed Molina's hair in his free hand and slammed him downwards, face-first into the stainless steel countertop, blood spraying across the surface as his nose broke and he crumpled to the ground, unconscious.
A voice yelled out, "It's the fucking cops!" and the room descended into chaos.
The group scattered like rats from a sinking ship and Connor caught a glimpse of Hank taking one of Marchetti's bodyguards by the collar and driving his fist into his face. Masked officers were streaming in through almost every entrance, and Connor spotted Nines slapping handcuffs onto a visibly enraged Mae Bozzolo. On the other side of the room time seemed to slow as Connor saw Marchetti, her eyes wide and white, screeching as she scrambled towards Hank, the ice pick tight in her grasp.
Connor moved, pushing past anyone that stood in his way, cops and suspects alike. He vaulted over the countertop, shoving himself between Marchetti and Hank just as the ice pick swept down, slicing through the air in a flash of silver.
///Structural damage: left shoulder joint. Thirium loss detected///
Connor grinned as Marchetti's expression morphed from rage, to triumph, to confusion, and finally, to understanding as bright blue Thirium seeped out around the weapon, staining the pale grey of Connor’s suit.
"Sorry, Olga," Connor said, "but your hospitality leaves a lot to be desired." He gripped the handle of the ice pick, wrenching it out and dropping it to the ground. "Just come quietly, it's over."
A shot rang out, echoing through the kitchen and Connor felt Hank's arms around him, dragging him behind the workstation for cover. Marchetti was still standing and with surprising agility, jumped onto the counter top to kick one of the armed officers square in the throat. Connor scrambled to his feet, Hank at his side, both their guns drawn. Marchetti's red lips curled in a snarl. "I should have known."
"I'm sure your husband thought the same thing," Hank said, flinching back as another shot was fired somewhere in the maze of hallways outside. Marchetti's face twisted in a mask of loathing, her gaze flickering all around before she twisted, leaping down and dashing for the door to the stairwell, elbowing Kovats out of the way as she did.
"She's heading for the stairs," Connor yelled and heard Reed's voice answer back.
"Stairs are covered, we've got people on three and five."
Connor nodded, following Marchetti's path, skidding through the door with an alert flashing in front of his eyes.
///Thirium loss 18%: repair recommended///
Quickly shutting off the thirium supply to his left arm, Connor kept running. He wouldn't have use of the arm, but he probably wouldn't need it. Hank was right behind him and the corridors were filled with their backup. Most of Marchetti's group were already being cuffed, though a few shots could still be heard in the distance; someone wasn't going down without a fight.
They rounded a corner and something barrelled into Connor’s side, knocking him into the wall and rattling his equilibrium sensors. One of Marchetti's bodyguards had him by his useless left arm, almost jerking it from its socket. Before Connor could preconstruct his escape he was wrenched to one side, his feet leaving the floor as he was thrown into Hank's path, knocking the breath from him.
Connor tried to scramble to his feet before a high-heeled foot swung out of nowhere catching him in the chest, the heel punching a hole in his synthskin and sending him tumbling backwards.
"In here," Marchetti's screeched, spittle flying from her lips, the whites of her eyes visible all around the iris. "They want Ice, we'll give them Ice."
Connor felt himself lifted by the collar and thrown once more, the soft weight of Hank landing atop him. He caught a single glimpse of Marchetti, silhouetted against the hallway before a door slid shut and they were plunged into darkness.
///External temperature: -20°C///
Temperature Regulation Recommended: Danger of Freezing
“What the fuck? Are we in a freezer?” Hank pushed himself up, patting his way up Connor’s body, his fingers trailing over the gash on his shoulder; he didn’t seem to have discovered the hole in Connor’s chest yet, though the blue blood was probably staining his entire front now. “You okay? She got you pretty good.”
“Better me than you.” Connor sat up, trying to adjust to the darkness. “I can be fixed with a quick patch up, you can’t.”
///Thirium loss 24%: repair recommended///
He felt Hank’s fingers brush over one cheek, a shiver of sensation running through him at the touch.
“Still,” Hank said, “you put yourself in harm’s way for me.” His breath quavered in an exhale somewhere around Connor’s ear. “Thank you.”
“It’s nothing,” Connor said, catching the echo of yet another gunshot in the distance. “We should probably get out of here.” He stepped towards the door, trailing his hand over the inside, searching for the handle that would let them out. His schematics told him that all industrial freezers were built with such an emergency escape. After a few seconds of searching he found it, wrenching hard, ready to continue chasing Marchetti.
The door didn’t budge and Connor frowned, giving another tug. It rattled, sticking tight, Connor’s analyses telling him that something was jammed in the handle mechanism, keeping them where they were.
“I think it’s stuck, Hank.” Connor said, feeling a hand at his elbow. “I’ll call Richard to come let us out.
///Connection Lost: Reconnecting…
Error: Connection not found///
“Shit,” Connor muttered, “there’s something blocking the signal.”
“Great,” Hank said, sarcasm dripping from his voice. “Can you hear anyone out there who can let us out? It’s fucking cold.”
Connor leaned against the door, listening intently. There were voices in the distance and the sound of running footsteps, nothing nearby. He pulled back, feeling something catch as a scrap of synthskin was torn from his ear, frozen solid on the freezer door.
///Thirium loss 27%: repair strongly recommended///
“I can’t hear anybody nearby,” Connor said. “Try not to touch anything, your skin may bond to it in the cold.”
“Tongue on a lamppost, huh?” Hank said, shifting somewhere in the darkness by Connor’s side. “So what do we do?”
Connor pursed his lips, considering. “I’d say the main priority is to prevent hypothermia, since we don’t know how long we’ll be stuck here.” He reached out to find Hank’s shoulder, pulling him close. “Come here, please.”
Increasing System Heat
He felt Hank’s arms slip around him and shook his head, knowing that Hank couldn’t see it. “Keep yourself as compact as you can, put your hands under your armpits. We want to keep as little of your skin exposed to the cold as possible to prevent frostbite. I’ll hold you.”
“You’re a regular space heater, eh, Connor?” Hank’s voice held a tinge of amusement, though Connor could hear the shivers working through him. He was shaking and Connor kicked his internal temperature up another few degrees, pulsing more thirium through his system.
///Thirium loss 31%: repair strongly recommended///
Connor ignored the error message. Anything wrong with him could be fixed. Hank mattered more. He was so fragile compared to Connor, and yet he was probably the strongest person Connor knew. The contradiction was such a wonderfully human thing. It was no wonder Connor had fallen so completely.
As if Hank had read his thoughts, he cleared his throat. “So, um, about what you were saying on the dancefloor back there?” He was pressed tight against Connor’s chest, stooping slightly to rest his head on his undamaged shoulder. “I don’t think I really got the chance to say anything.”
“You don’t have to,” Connor said, wincing as he felt his thirium pump pulse a little more blue blood from the wound in his chest.
///Thirium loss 35%: conserving power, lowering system heat///
Connor gritted his teeth, overriding his own system commands. He needed to keep Hank warm. Rescue would come soon. He hoped. All attempts at contacting Nines or anyone else on the squad was met with the same error message. He could only hope that when it was over, their absence would be noted. If nothing else, Nines could follow the thirium trail from his shoulder wound.
“Yeah, I know I don’t have to say anything,” Hank said, voice muffled against Connor’s shoulder, “but maybe I wanna.” He let out a shivering sigh. “Look, I don’t wanna jump to conclusions. Fuck knows, this mission has kinda shifted some boundaries, but I just wanted to make sure that, y’know, it isn’t just the mission. These situations can make you think you feel things you normally wouldn’t.”
///Thirium loss 40%: internal temperature errors, repairs urgently required///
Connor’s sensors were misfiring, filling his mind with static, muffling Hank’s words. He needed to pay attention, though, this was important. Hank had to know it was real. He opened his mouth to speak and found the synthskin of his lips frosting over. His voicebox crackled with a tinny echo.
“Hank, I care about you. As more than a partner.” He winced as a stream of error messages flooded his eyeline.
///Thirium loss 50%: repairs essential///
Core temperature unstable
External temperature below recommended limits
«System Shutdown Likelihood: 89%»
“We can talk about this once we get out of here, okay?” Connor said. He could hear the steady drip of his own thirium hitting the floor, crackling as it turned to ice. “I need to focus on keeping you warm enough.”
Hank’s head moved against his shoulder in a silent nod. “I’m plenty warm. You holding up okay?”
Warning: Increase in thirium consumption
///Thirium Loss 65%///
«System Shutdown Likelihood: 94%»
“Absolutely fine, Hank.”
“Good, ‘cause for the record, I care about you, too.”
«System Shutdown in 03:29»
Connor smiled to himself, shutting off every non-essential system he could in an effort to extend the amount of time he could keep going. He didn’t need to see, it was already dark. His breathing and blinking were switched off, his analytical software suspended, all Connor kept was the heat inside him, his auditory processors, and the smallest fraction of touch, to feel Hank pressed against him.
“Hey, you know, I think I can hear someone coming.”
Hank’s voice was fuzzy, his words losing definition.
///Thirium Loss 72%///
“Looks like they found us.” The faint spot of sensation that was Hank pulled away. “Good job, Connor.”
Biocomponent #2811h critically damaged
System Failure: Shutting Down
And here we are! Massive thanks to everyone who has been following along and commenting/leaving kudos, you are amazing and I love you.
Special thanks as always to my partner Leemorry for all the support and for keeping me motivated, I couldn't have done this without you <3
Cold droplets clung to Hank’s hair: the last vestiges of the frost that had settled upon him. It trickled down the back of his neck making his skin prickle, though he doubted he could feel any colder inside. His fingers were laced together on his lap, the harsh fluorescent lights of the hallway glinting on the cold metal of the wedding ring that still encircled his finger. He really should take it off, but he couldn’t bear the thought, not when it might be the only link to Connor he had left.
The DPD was a buzz of activity, triumph suffusing the atmosphere; the bust had been deemed a complete success, all traces of Black Ice seized and every suspect on their way to processing.
Hank hadn’t needed to provide any statements, not yet. He kept himself apart, lurking in the back hallways near the android repair suite that had been added to the station not long after Connor and Nines and the other android officers had been officially hired to the DPD.
The chair he sat in was cold and uncomfortable, metal screeching against the floor with every movement. Hank could feel his eyelids drooping, the adrenaline of the bust long worn off. Now his limbs felt as heavy as his heart, exhaustion running through every inch of him. Blood pounded in Hank’s head making black spots bloom behind his eyelids, he wanted to sleep, to lie down and let the tiredness overtake him, but he couldn't, not when he didn't know what was happening with Connor. He had to be okay. He had to.
Connor had been carried out of the hotel on a stretcher, as stiff as a board, Hank following close behind. There was an ambulance on site: a few gunshot wounds needing patched up as well as a very bloody Molina, groaning and holding the swollen mess of his nose. Hank couldn't even feel a twinge of satisfaction at that, not when he was so uncertain of Connor's condition. Marchetti had seen them leaving, cackling as she was bundled into the police van, triumph gleaming in her eyes even as the doors slammed closed.
Soft footsteps echoed down the hallway and Hank snapped his head up, joy bursting in his chest only to be immediately doused. The face may be the same, but the posture and the expression told him that it was Nines, not Connor who stood before him, his fingertips pressed together at his front.
"Anything?” Hank asked, not daring to meet the cool grey of Richard's eyes in case they showed some hint of a possibility he didn't want to consider.
"Maybe," said Richard. "You should come through."
Slowly nodding, Hank rose to his feet, feeling his muscles ache in protest. Richard's posture gave nothing away and his expression was as blank as ever, making the anxiety inside Hank spike.
"You gotta tell me something, Nines. Ain't you worried about him, too?"
"I am worried," Richard said, voice cool and even, "but I am focusing my processing power on finding a solution. My emotional reaction will be processed later." He pushed open the door to the repair station and Hank steeled himself.
Connor lay on the steel work bench, his eyes wide and blank, staring unseeing at the ceiling, the faintest of smiles frozen on his lips. His shirt was open, the white plastic of his chassis visibly patched in places—android scars, Hank thought. He stepped over, drawing in a shaky breath, resting his hand next to Connor’s, not quite touching. He didn’t have the nerve. Nausea rose within him, he couldn't see a single spark of life.
"All damage to Connor’s thirium network has been patched, as have the puncture wounds. His temperature regulation biocomponent was completely burned out and has been replaced." Richard stood at the other side of the table, hands behind his back as he recited the extensive repairs Connor had undergone.
When he had finally finished the list Hank raised his eyebrows, gesturing over Connor’s still body. “Okay, but if they fixed all that why isn't he awake yet?" He saw the corner of Richard's lip twitch and leaned over, his voice hardening. “Nines, what aren't you telling me?”
A flash of uncertainty flickered over Richard's face for the briefest of seconds and Hank saw his fists clench by his side.
"The technicians think that the systems failure has corrupted Connor’s power core. They can't tell for sure without removing it, which would reset everything, including personality matrix and memories." Nines grimaced, rubbing his hands together in a familiar fidget that made Hank's stomach clench. He continued, voice softer now, "As the, um, 'closest relative', I persuaded them not to go down that route. Not yet." Nines rocked back on his heels, gaze fixed on his own shoes. "It was an emotionally motivated decision. I don't want to lose this Connor, he's my friend."
Hank felt the corner of his mouth twitch up in a ghost of a smile. "Emotional decision or not, it was the right decision," he said. "So what other solutions are there?”
"There is memory transfer, though that would mean acquiring a new body, and I don’t know where we would find one of those. I believe the remaining RK800 units are all active and going about their lives." Richard's fingers danced over the metal of the table in a brief staccato. "Or I could try something, but it may not work. I am still preconstructing the likelihood of success."
"What are you thinking?” Hank could feel his heart rate speeding. If there was anything that could bring Connor, his Connor, back, then he was willing to try it.
“Well, I thought could attempt to transfer some power from my own core into Connor’s."
"Like a jump-start?”
Richard's expression softened. "Exactly like that. Though if it works it will drastically decrease both our battery lives." A small smile crept over his lips. "However, I feel that another ninety years would be more than enough to live a full life, don't you think?”
"Most humans seem to manage it," Hank said feeling a little warmth starting to return to him. "But this is your call."
Richard stepped back, rolling up his sleeve, the synthskin quickly receding from his hand. "It's actually a very easy decision," he said. "You should be aware that I will also go into an unresponsive shutdown state. I anticipate no more than ten minutes."
Hank nodded, his stomach fluttering with nerves. "Okay, and you're sure this is gonna work?"
"Ninety-six percent certain," Richard said. "Connor may take longer to power up and there will be some temporary memory corruption, around the last two hours or so before shutdown.”
Two hours? Hank thought back, trying to remember just how long it had been between the point they had been pulled from the dance floor and that stomach lurching moment when he’d seen Connor, still and frozen as light flooded into the freezer. Was there a chance Connor might not remember what he’d said, what they had both said? He put his face in his hands and groaned.
There was a light pressure on his shoulder and Hank glanced up to see Nines looking uncomfortable, his arm outstretched. “I am told this is a gesture of support,” he said.
The faintest flicker of warmth rose in Hank’s chest. “Thanks man, I’m just a little...there were some things said, and I really hope Connor remembers them.”
“I am sure he will. He cares very much for you, Lieutenant.”
“Oh yes, he has for a long while.” Nines’ statement was blunt and to the point. “I’m sure.”
Hope sprung up, a brightness in the cold, dark pit of Hank’s chest.
“I suggest you discuss it with Connor when he wakes up.” Richard said, giving Hank another awkward shoulder pat and looking visibly uncomfortable. “This really isn’t my area of expertise.”
Hank let out a small laugh. "You're doing just fine," he said. "You need me to do anything to help with this power transfer thing?”
"Just make sure I'm not interrupted." Nines arched an eyebrow. "The repair technicians may not have officially signed off on this solution. I'd prefer not to let them know."
“You got it,” Hank said, stepping back to stand by the door, “and Nines?”
“Thank you. This is a pretty great thing you’re doing.”
Richard shrugged. “Why develop a sense of self if you can’t use it to be selfless?”
Hank shook his head, incredulous. Androids would never fail to surprise him it seemed. He opened the door to take a quick glance down the hallway and spotted Reed, his hands in his pockets, looking distracted.
"Hey, Hank, you seen Nines anywhere?”
Hank jerked his head to the side. "In here. He's gonna try something to help Connor out. You wanna come in?”
“Nah, I'm good, don't wanna interrupt. I just wondered where Nines was is all." Gavin's lips twisted in a grimace. "Listen, I'm sorry about Connor, but if anyone can fix him up, it's Nines, that fucker is the smartest guy I know."
"Nice of you to admit it," came a voice behind Hank. Richard stood just inside the doorway, his arms folded, the faintest of smirks on his lips. "Lieutenant, I think we're ready. Power transfer should only take a few minutes. Once it is complete I will shut down."
"You'll what?!" Reed's head snapped up in alarm and he shouldered his way into the room, standing toe to toe with Richard, panic written all over his face. "What are you doing?"
“I am helping Connor restart.”
Gavin slapped a hand on Richard's shoulder, voice rising in pitch, "Nines, think about this. You can't just kill yourself, even if it is for this guy."
Hank reached out to take Reed's elbow. "Gavin, you—”
“No, fuck you, Hank. We'll find some other way to get your boyfriend fixed." Gavin shoved Hank's hand away, turning back to Richard. "You can't shut down, we need you here. I…" his voice trailed off, spots of colour high on his cheeks.
Richard raised an eyebrow, though his usual stony expression had softened. "Gavin, while I'm glad to know you care about me, I think you can survive for the ten minutes I'll be offline."
"T-ten minutes?” Reed's face was a mask of scarlet now, the scars that crossed the bridge of his nose a stark white in contrast. His eyes were wide, gaze darting from Nines, to Hank, and back.
"I tried to tell you, man," Hank said, trying to keep the amusement from his voice. He glanced towards Richard, who seemed to be close to smiling.
"It is merely a temporary reboot," he said, catching Gavin's eye, his expression quickly returning to its usual neutral state. "I'm presuming you have no objections to that?”
“Good. Then I’ll begin.”
Richard reached down, his uncovered fingers gently opening one of the panels of Connor’s chest and exposing a shining array of mechanisms that Hank couldn’t identify. He winced and turned his head, feeling a strange sense of intrusion as Connor’s inner workings were exposed.
"Ah, here it is."
A glance showed Richard's fingers wrapped delicately around what looked like a ball of dull blue glass, veined with silver. His skin receded completely as his eyes narrowed in concentration, his voice crackling, "Initiating power transfer."
Hank saw Reed's knuckles whiten as he clenched his fists and found himself doing the same thing. The air seemed to be charged with a heavy static he could feel on his lips, so thick he could taste it. The hairs on the back of his neck were starting to rise, his skin prickling with both electricity and anticipation.
Richard's eyes slid closed and Hank heard Gavin draw in a breath, though he didn't move from his spot. Hank gritted his teeth, his gaze not leaving Connor for a second, watching, waiting for something that told him Richard’s plan was working.
For what felt like forever, nothing happened, both androids frozen in place as the atmosphere continued to thicken with static. Richard was still, silent, the barely audible thrum of his thirium pump the only thing Hank could hear besides his own heartbeat pounding in his ears. Reed's lips were pressed together in a tight line when Hank glanced over with the realisation that they were both holding their breath.
Then, a sound, a low sigh that had Richard's shoulders relaxing. His hand tightened on Connor’s core and Hank saw a spark of light, a faint blue glow that flickered like a firefly in Richard's cupped palm.
Hank's fingers tightened in the fabric of his jacket and he leaned forward, unable to take his eyes from the soft light: hope for his own heart as well as Connor’s.
The flicker became a pulse, steadily growing brighter until finally, with a click, Connor’s breathing simulation powered on and his wide eyes slid closed. He could almost be in rest mode now. Hank’s stomach clenched as Richard pulled away, gently placing the core back into Connor’s chest cavity and sliding the plastic panel of his chassis closed. His lips twitched in a smile as he caught Gavin’s eye.
“I’m going to temporarily shut down now, okay? I’ll be back online soon. Will you wait?”
Gavin gave a shrug that was anything but nonchalant. “I mean, yeah, if you really want me to. I can’t exactly say no now, can I?”
Richard shook his head, the hint of a smile still ghosting over his lips. He stepped away from the table that held Connor and pulled out a chair, sitting down, posture perfect, his hands on his lap. Moments after his eyes closed, Richard’s head lolled to one side, a position familiar to Hank, who had seen Connor go into standby sitting up more than a few times. He turned to Reed, clearing his throat.
“Don’t say anything, Hank.” Reed’s cheeks were still flushed and his gaze was fixed on Richard’s still form. “Let’s just wait for them to wake up, okay?”
Hank nodded silently, reaching down to twist at the wedding band encircling his finger. Connor still wore his, and it was that point Hank focused on, time and silence stretching out around him.
After a few minutes Hank heard a relieved inhalation of breath and glanced over to see the synthskin creeping back over Richard’s exposed plastic, his LED cycling in a steady yellow. Gavin stepped forward, crouching next to the chair to peer at Richard’s face, his voice low as he asked, “Nines? You okay?”
Grey eyes slid open. “My name is Richard,” Nines said, raising an eyebrow, “but I suppose I can make an exception sometimes.” He got to his feet. “I believe that was actually closer to five minutes,” he said, a faint smirk crossing his lips. “I didn’t want you to worry yourself, Detective Reed.”
“Hey! Now I—”
Nines ignored Gavin’s protests and returned to the table, looking Connor over. “My sensors indicate that it should be another seven and a half minutes for a full restart,” he said, nodding to Hank. “The power transfer was a complete success.” He stepped towards the door. “Connor will be happy to see you when he wakes up. We’ll leave you alone.” Opening the door, he gestured for Reed to go ahead. “Come on, Gavin, I’ll buy you some coffee.”
Reed reddened again, spluttering something Hank didn’t catch, but he followed. The door swung shut behind them both with a click, leaving Hank and Connor alone.
Taking a deep breath, Hank stepped up to the table. The cloying static had left the air, leaving a faint chill that sent a shiver down Hank’s spine. He leaned over, watching the gentle rise and fall of Connor’s chest. A thread of fear still ran through his mind, the fear that Richard was wrong, and Connor might not wake up. Hank knew from experience that Nines—Connor too, for that matter—was practically never wrong. The real fear came from the unknown; how much memory corruption would there be, and how long would it last? Would Connor remember it all eventually? Hank certainly hoped so, he didn’t want to start a relationship without both he and Connor on even footing.
Connor’s fingers twitched on the tabletop, drawing Hank's attention. The synthskin was slowly trickling up his arms, bare chassis shifting to bare chest, little clusters of freckles bursting into existence before Hank’s eyes. His eyelids seemed to flicker and Hank leaned in with a whisper of, "Connor?"
Swallowing back his fears, Hank pressed his hands to the table, closing his eyes and breathing deep. There was nothing to be gained by panicking. The full seven minutes or whatever hadn't passed yet. He kept his gaze on Connor’s face, waiting, trying to be patient.
"C'mon," Hank murmured, more to himself than Connor. "You're okay, you gotta be okay." He felt something twist in his chest, his eyes unexpectedly welling with tears. Hank sniffed, brushing them away with the back of his hand. "Fuckin' android. I don't know what I'd do without you."
Connor’s eyelids flickered again, his lips parting with a distorted rush of static that sounded like a ragged sigh. His fingers twitched on the table once more, flexing and releasing, knuckles moving in a familiar flutter: the same flourish Connor always used when playing with that damn coin of his. Hank slid his hand over next to Connor’s but didn't dare touch, his stomach swooping in nervous anticipation.
There was a click and a whirr somewhere in Connor's chest. Every limb seemed to tense, a furrow appearing between Connor's brows. Without warning, he sat upright, one hand clutching at the spot where Hank now knew his power core to be. Connor’s eyes snapped open.
His chest heaved, little shivers working their way down the length of his back. If Hank didn't know better, he'd say Connor had just woken from a nightmare.
“Hey, I'm here." Taking Connor’s hand, Hank squeezed tight, a relieved smile on his lips. “How do you feel?”
Connor didn't answer with words, instead tugging Hank close, wrapping his arms around him to bury his face in one shoulder. Hank could feel Connor trembling and held tight, pressing him to his chest, one hand gently stroking circles on his back.
"It's okay," Hank murmured. "I've got you."
Connor’s voice was a whisper, muffled against Hank's shoulder. "I didn't know where I was. What happened?" He pulled back, eyes widening as he looked Hank over. "Is that my blood?”
Hank glanced down at his chest. The thirium that had soaked the front of his shirt had dried, invisible to his own eyes—but of course Connor could see it. Hank winced, realising that the entire time he’d been speaking to Nines, he’d been covered in Connor’s blood and hadn’t even realised it. He nodded slowly, giving Connor another gentle pat on the shoulder. "You got hurt pretty bad," he said. "Nines said you might have a little memory loss, temporary though. What's the last thing you remember?”
“The ballroom. You asked me to go ahead.” Connor’s arms were still loosely wrapped around Hank and he seemed loathe to let go. His eyelids fluttered, some sort of information coming though. “I’m getting a lot of updates on the mission. We got them, right?”
Hank could feel a smile tugging at his lips. “Yeah, we did. Marchetti, Molina, the whole gang, they’re all being processed as we speak.”
“Oh, well that’s good news,” Connor said, though he sounded disheartened. “My system is working on restoring the corrupted memory files, though it gives no indication when they will be complete.” His brows slid together in a small frown. “I don’t like this feeling. I know I was part of this takedown, but I don’t remember a thing about it.”
Hank nodded in sympathy. “Well, if you need me to tell you anything, just say so.”
“Thank you, Hank,” Connor said with a small smile that didn’t quite meet his eyes. “I guess I don’t like not having all the facts.”
“That’s understandable,” Hank said, pulling Connor into another hug, grateful for the excuse to hold him. “It’s kinda built into you.”
Connor seemed to sag into Hank’s arms with a small sigh. They stood together in silence for some time before Connor pulled away, fiddling with the buttons of his shirt. "We really should change. We're both covered in thirium." He glanced down at his chest, nose wrinkling. "It seems that a major channel was punctured during the…fight? Can you tell me how that happened?”
"That one was Marchetti herself actually, both that and your shoulder." Hank reached for Connor’s hand, giving it a gentle squeeze. "You jumped in front of an ice pick for me, and then you burned yourself out to keep me warm in that freezer." He smiled. "You know, one day you really gotta let me save you instead."
Connor’s gaze was fixed on their joined hands and the corner of his mouth twitched up in a flicker of a smile. "What else are fake husbands for?” he said. He plucked at his shirt with his free hand, swinging his legs down from the table. "I have no spare clothes here, should we go back to the hotel to retrieve our things?"
Hank shrugged. "Sure, it’s closer than my place. I don't think they'll need us here just yet. We've got some time."
Connor hopped down from the table, taking Hank's arm as if they were still trying to prove themselves a couple. "Let's go," he said.
After a quick confirmation that they wouldn't be needed until morning, Hank and Connor headed back to the hotel. The night was as still and as quiet as it could be in the middle of Detroit. Streetlights slid by in streaks of orange, painting stripes over Connor’s face as Hank leaned back in the seat of the taxi. He could tell Connor was deep in thought; he was wearing the expression Hank always associated with a yellow spiral on his LED.
"Hey," Hank said, nudging Connor’s knee with his own, "what's on your mind?”
Connor blinked, jolted out of whatever preconstruction he was working on. "Oh," he said, "I was going over my mission reports while I wait for my memory to restore itself."
"Still nothing, huh?”
Connor shook his head and Hank felt the smallest flicker of disappointment. Yes, he knew Connor had feelings for him, that his own feelings were reciprocated, but it didn't feel right to broach the subject whilst Connor was still missing even the smallest fraction of the time they'd shared.
"It is progressing at a reasonable rate," Connor said, though the faint strain in his voice gave Hank the impression that he was getting a little impatient. "Seventy-three percent of my memory has been restored, though I cannot access it until the process is complete."
"Well just tell me when you get to the part when you kick Molina's ass." Hank said with a grin. "That was so fuckin' satisfying, and I was on the other side of the room."
Connor smiled to himself. "Well that is definitely something to look out for." He straightened in his seat as the taxi pulled up to the doors of the Ephemera. "Back again," he said.
Hank nodded. “Back again.”
He recognised a few members of the narcotics team as they passed through the lobby, giving them a brief wave. A number of areas were cordoned off, uniformed officers taking statements and waving confused guests back to their rooms. The place bustled with activity despite the late hour, though the elevators were empty when Hank and Connor reached them.
Hank leaned back against the wall of the elevator, trying not to think about how it had felt to be pressed against it as Connor kissed him. Instead he straightened his jacket and loosened his tie, running his fingers over the invisible bloodstain that covered his shirt. "Guess this'll need to be cleaned." He caught Connor’s eye and smiled. "Shame our favourite laundromat turned out to be a front for Ice supply."
"Hm, yes," Connor said, voice dry. "Such a shame." He stood straight, fingers twisting at his wedding band. He seemed preoccupied and Hank was content to ride the rest of the way to their floor in silence. His skin prickled with awareness, the space between Connor and himself seeming to stretch out between them, a rubber band, stretched to breaking point and ready to snap.
The key card for their room was still in Hank's pocket and as he fiddled with it he saw Connor stop in his tracks, pausing completely, as still and rigid as he had been in the freezer. His mouth fell open and he breathed deep, exhaling with a soft, "Oh."
"You okay there?” Hank asked, swinging the door open and ushering Connor inside.
"I'm good, thank you." Connor said, sounding suddenly breathless. He stepped over to their suitcase, pulling out the little black box that had held their wedding rings. "I'd like to be completely me again now," he said, opening the box and tipping the blank ring of his LED into his palm. “Could you help me again, Hank?”
“Of course," Hank said, taking the delicate component in his fumbling fingers and stepping in, raising his hand to Connor’s cheek. "Just click it back in, yeah?”
Connor nodded, letting the skin slip from his face and tilting his head to the light to show Hank the dip on his temple where the little light belonged. Hank breathed deep, trying to keep a steady hand as he pushed the LED into place, feeling it settle with a small click.
Swirls of blue and yellow light cycled, the colours playing over Hank's skin. He kept his hand on Connor's face, sliding it down just a little to caress one grey and white cheek. "How does it feel?” he said.
Connor’s gaze met Hank's own and he smiled softly. "This feels right," he said. "Hank, you should know something."
"Yeah?” Hank's stomach was filled with butterflies. He kept his hand on Connor's cheek, rubbing his thumb over the bare plastic.
“My memory restoration worked. I remember everything now.”
Hank felt his breath leave him in a sigh of relief. “Okay, cool.” The corner of his mouth twitched up in a smile. “So we're both on the same page now, right? You're into me and I'm into you, nice and simple."
Connor nodded, a soft smile playing about his lips and his eyes shining. He fiddled a little with the band on his finger, the faintest tinge of embarrassment in his voice as he admitted, “I really enjoyed being your husband, Hank.”
“Yeah, it was nice," Hank said, sliding his hand up to brush over the bright pulsing blue of Connor’s LED, "but you know, I think I prefer this ring. It's a little more you.”
Connor smiled, the curve of his lower lip as appealing as it ever was, synthskin or no, and Hank leaned in with a soft murmur,
“Okay, I’m gonna kiss you now.”
Connor’s arms wrapped around Hank’s neck, the warmth of his artificial breath playing between their lips for the briefest of moments before their mouths joined.
It was both familiar and entirely new, simpler and softer than the hard kisses they had shared for appearances sake. Connor’s lips slid against Hank’s almost tentatively, a small noise of surprise leaving him as Hank slid one arm around his back, pulling their bodies together, not leaving an inch of space between them. Connor tilted his chin up, drawing Hank's lower lip into his mouth to run his tongue over it in a brief swipe.
Hank smiled, feeling a slight tingle before finding his fingers tangled in Connor’s hair, which sprouted from nowhere as the synthskin flowed back over his face. Gently tightening his grip, Hank tilted Connor’s head, deepening the kiss further and feeling Connor respond with enthusiasm. His tongue slid against Hank's in a smooth sweep, his fingers gripping tight to his shoulders—not enough to bruise, but still a solid reminder of Connor’s wiry strength.
Hank ran his hand up Connor’s back, feeling the line of his spine through the thin fabric of his shirt and holding him close, mirroring their position inside the freezer. Hank felt his breath catch and pressed Connor closer to his chest. Even with all his strength and biocomponents and whatever the fuck other android shit, he was still fragile, he could still be hurt, and a burning heat in Hank's stomach wanted to make sure that never happened again. He kissed Connor deeply, trying to let his actions say more than he had the words for. If Connor would have it, Hank never wanted to let him go again.
Pulling back for a second, Hank caught his breath, only to find Connor chasing his movement, surging back in the instant Hank had air in his lungs, his tongue teasing at the seam of Hank’s lips. The odd, slightly sterile taste of Connor’s saliva was nothing but an afterthought as Hank curled his tongue around Connor's own, heat bursting through him as he did.
Connor’s hands were moving, from Hank's shoulders to his chest, gently squeezing, sliding down his front and around his back, never stopping in one place for too long, as if Connor wanted to touch every inch of him at once and couldn’t decide where to start. Hank felt a bubble of laughter well up inside him and pulled away, trailing a line of kisses from Connor’s lips to his LED. “It’s nice to be able to kiss you for real,” he said.
Connor smiled, nuzzling into Hank’s neck. “It does feel a little odd that there’s no one around to convince.”
“Well, I ain’t trying to convince anyone of anything,” Hank said, stroking gently at Connor’s hair, “this is all real.”
“Yes it is,” Connor agreed, reaching up to tug at Hank’s beard and pull him in for another soft kiss, slower this time. It was relaxed and unhurried, a languid slide of tongues and shared breath that set a simmer of heat low in Hank’s gut. He groaned as Connor squeezed at his chest again. Unthinking, Hank slipped one hand lower, brushing over the curve of Connor’s ass, barely a caress, but enough to have Connor gasping out.
“I’m guessing you’ve got all your sensitivities turned on?” Hank said, feeling a rush of pride as he pulled back to see Connor’s eyes half-lidded and his teeth scraping over his lower lip. “I don’t remember you reacting like this when we had to make out in that stairwell.”
Connor gave a slow, wicked smile. “You’re right. I’m feeling everything just as strongly as you are.” He pushed his hips closer and Hank felt a distinct line of hardness pressed against him. “You should definitely put your hand in my pants again, though."
Hank wet his lips, his cock stirring at the thought. He pressed forward, just a little, enough to have Connor hiss in a breath at the sensation. “Least I know what to expect this time.”
Connor’s hand was still at Hank’s chin, fingers idly combing through his beard. "Did it surprise you?" He rocked his hips again, pressing the line of his erection against Hank, as if to illustrate his meaning—something completely unnecessary.
Hank pursed his lips. "Well…yeah, a little.” A flash of uncertainty seemed to cross Connor’s face, a small crease appearing between his brows that Hank quickly chased away with a kiss. “But to be honest,” he said, “you could have anything...or nothing, I'd still be into it, it's you I wanna be with."
Connor’s LED quickly cycled from yellow to blue and he smiled widely. “I want to be with you, too, Hank.” He stepped backwards, taking Hank’s hand and gently tugging him towards the bed. “We should celebrate that.”
Hank’s lip twitched up in incredulity. "You know, we can take this slowly."
"That’s very true,” Connor said, his gaze flicking in a sidelong glance towards the door. “We are technically still at the crime scene.” His eyes were wide, almost reproachful. “It would probably be inappropriate to have sex right now."
Lips curving in a smile, Hank raised his eyebrows, meeting Connor’s gaze. "You really wanna have sex?”
“Right now. Yes.” Connor unlaced his fingers from Hank’s own, gently taking him by the wrist and stepping closer. He led Hank’s hand between his legs, stopping just short of the visible line of his cock, his voice husky as he asked, "Would you like to touch me, Hank?"
“I— yeah. Fuck.” Hank’s thought processes seemed to give way, heat surging through him as he wrenched Connor forward by the collar, crushing their lips together.
Connor’s fingers found his hair, dragging it from the ponytail, strands falling over Hank’s forehead. He circled his hips, pressing himself to Hank’s palm, hot and hard and heavy. He gasped into Hank’s mouth as Hank’s fingers found the button of his pants, flicking it open with a twist of the wrist and lowering the zipper.
“The bed then?” Hank said when they pulled apart once more to let him catch his breath. Heat was starting to rise on his forehead, but Connor remained the same as ever: not quite as warm as a human partner, but just as sensitive it seemed. He arched into Hank’s touch as Hank trailed his fingertips over the faint trail leading up from the waistband of his underwear, his fingers gripped tight in Hank’s hair.
“I’ve got you, Connor.”
Their lips were joined as they reached the bed, Connor gently nipping at Hank’s lower lip before scooting up to lean against the pillows, a bright smile on his face. He patted the spot next to him on the mattress, grabbing Hank’s tie and pulling him down.
“God, you’re impatient,” Hank said as Connor pushed his jacket from his shoulders, fingers immediately working on the buttons of his shirt. He pressed his hand to Connor’s chest, gently urging him back. “Let me make you feel good.”
Bringing his lips to Connor’s neck, Hank nipped gently at the synthskin, feeling the slight give and the faint scrape of plastic beneath. He trailed a row of feather soft kisses down the line of his throat, opening Connor’s shirt as he went, every button undone revealing more and more faintly freckled skin. Connor’s fingers tangled in Hank’s hair and he groaned out.
“I’ve been thinking about this for a while, of course I’m impatient.”
Hank’s cock twitched at the words and he smiled, flicking his tongue against one newly-exposed nipple. “What did you think about?” he asked, his fingers following his lips, tracing circles on Connor’s chest and steadily moving lower.
“You,” Connor replied, his fingers clenching in Hank’s hair with a slight tug. “I want to try everything with you, Hank.” His hips rocked up, thrusting against nothing. “When you were in the shower the other night, I masturbated imagining you inside me.”
Hank groaned, his erection nudging against Connor’s thigh, the faint pressure sending a flush of sensation through him. He kissed back up and over Connor’s collarbones with a murmur, “We gotta work on your dirty talk.”
Connor peered down, a smirk on his lips. “Your level of arousal says otherwise.”
Hank simply huffed out a breath of laughter, sliding his hand into Connor’s underwear and taking hold of his cock. It was warm in his palm, a pleasant weight that throbbed slightly with the thrum of Connor’s thirium pump. He gave a slow stroke, squeezing the base and feeling Connor let out a little hum of pleasure.
Pressing a trail of kisses along Connor’s jawline, Hank whispered “You touch yourself like this, huh?” before deliberately scraping his beard over Connor’s neck to feel him shiver.
With another cut off moan, Connor rolled towards Hank, his mouth wide and panting. He slipped his hand down to palm at Hank’s erect cock through his pants. “More like this,” he said, his eyes sparkling as Hank let out a ragged gasp of his own.
Hank rocked into the touch, aching for friction while simultaneously trying not to let it distract him. He pumped at Connor’s cock, feeling the synthskin slide just like human foreskin, warm and silky smooth within his grasp. Connor’s mouth was against his once more, panting between sloppy, broken kisses.
The heat was rising, the sound of speeding breath and muffled moans starting to fill the air. Hank could feel the arousal starting to coil in the base of his cock, a warm simmer of sensation that only promised to build. Connor was quickly unfastening his pants and Hank hissed in a breath as the pressure was lessened on his straining cock. With a quick glance around, Hank spotted the lube on the nightstand, pulling his hand from Connor’s pants and hearing a whine as he did.
“Hey, I’m not going anywhere,” Hank said, circling his hips to grind against Connor’s palm. “We might need this, though.” He leaned over to grab the lube, dropping it at the end of the bed. “Only if you wanna, of course.”
Connor’s reply was to squeeze Hank’s cock harder, kissing him until he was breathless. He pulled back, voice husky as he ran his tongue over the shell of Hank’s ear. “What about you, Hank? What do you want?”
Hank wet his lips, propping himself up on one elbow to look Connor over. His shirt was open, the bare skin of his chest showing no evidence of the bites and kisses Hank had given him. His hair was dishevelled, though, pale chest heaving, thirium pump thrumming louder than usual and Hank felt a swell of pride. He wanted to see more.
“I have one idea.”
Hank kissed over the flat planes of Connor’s stomach, hooking his thumbs into the waistband of his underwear and pulling it down just enough to free Connor’s cock. It sprang free and Hank pressed his lips to the tip, circling it with his tongue.
It had been a long while since Hank had sucked anyone’s dick, but the way Connor moaned as he hollowed his cheeks told him he was doing something right.
Closing his eyes, Hank felt Connor’s fingers return to his hair, combing through it, tightening and releasing with every bob of his head. He wrapped one hand around the base, squeezing and stroking in time with his own movement.
Moaning Hank’s name, Connor’s hips jerked forward, the hard length of his cock heavy on Hank’s tongue. There was no taste of sweat, no scent of pheromones, there was only the faint hint of static, and a slightly sweet fluid, just starting to leak from the tip. Hank lapped it up greedily, flattening his tongue against the head of Connor’s cock and dragging over it with the next pull of his lips. The sparse curls of Connor’s pubic hair tickled at Hank’s nose as he pushed himself, taking Connor to the root, swallowing as he did and feeling a surge of pride as Connor swore.
Smiling around Connor’s cock, Hank repeated the action, rutting against the mattress as he did, needing some sort of friction now that Connor’s hand was no longer on him. He held Connor by the hips, gently guiding the shallow thrusts, trying to bob his head in time. Connor’s voice was getting higher, his pants increasing as more fluid leaked steadily from his cock, giving Hank a very good idea of how Connor’s come would taste.
A jolt of arousal burned through him at the thought and Hank increased his pace, hollowing his cheeks and taking every inch of Connor’s cock in his mouth. He felt fingers grip tight on his shoulders and hummed in satisfaction, wanting to make Connor lose control.
Connor gasped out, urging Hank up and away. “Hank, please, I don’t want to finish yet.”
Reluctantly pulling away, Hank pursed his lips in a mock pout. “Aw,” he said, reaching out to brush his fingers over Connor’s cheek, “I kinda wanted you to come in my mouth.”
Connor’s grip tightened, his cock twitching at the words, another dribble of precome trickling over the head of his cock as Hank watched. He took Hank’s face in both hands, kissing him deeply, tongue sliding into Hank’s mouth as if he wanted to analyse his own fluids. “That sounds good,” Connor said, a hint of trepadition in his voice when they pulled apart once more, “but maybe another time? There is something else I really want to try, if that’s okay.” His lips were pressed together in a thin line, as if he were waiting to gauge Hank’s response.
“Sure, whatcha got?” Hank settled on his side, running his hands over Connor’s chest, toying with one superfluous nipple, something which, unfortunately, seemed to produce no reaction.
Connor breathed deep before pushing Hank down onto his back, hands working on his still-buttoned shirt. “I want to fuck you, Hank,” he said, voice low. “I really want to fuck you.”
Hank felt his breath speed and his cock twitch, dampening his boxers. “Well damn,” he said. “You know how to get a guy going.” He pulled Connor down for another kiss, not stopping until his lungs protested the lack of oxygen.
Connor smiled, almost shyly, when they parted. “You have no objections, then?”
“Why the fuck would I object?” Hank sat up on his elbows, helping Connor slide off his shirt. “That sounds amazing.” He hissed in a breath as Connor dragged off his trousers and underwear in one go, leaving him in just his socks, his cock hard and leaking against the curve of his stomach.
“I just presumed you might prefer penetrating me,” Connor said, his gaze roving over Hank’s body, his teeth scraping over his lower lip. “It is the scenario we were acting out the other night.”
Hank chuckled, taking his cock in hand and giving it a slow stroke, enjoying the way Connor’s eyes widened at the sight. “Hey,” he said, “I’m good with that, too. No preferences here.” He pumped his hand in a loose fist around his cock, feeling the coil of heat tightening inside him. Hank spread his legs either side of Connor’s knees; he was still mostly clothed, his undone shirt hanging from his shoulders, the pink head of his cock rising above the waistband of his underwear. “Fuck, you look good,” Hank said, his breath catching in his chest.
Connor sat up, settling between Hank’s thighs, leaning forward until their foreheads’ touched. “So do you,” he murmured. “I love the way your body looks, Hank.”
Hank rolled his eyes. “This old thing?” He caught Connor’s eye and smiled. “There’s no accounting for taste, I suppose.”
A tiny line appeared between Connor’s brows and he pursed his lips. Hank recognised the determination in his eyes and felt a shiver of anticipation. That look was the one Connor wore when he had a mission, and it was directed entirely at Hank.
Connor leaned in, gently taking Hank’s wrist and pulling his hand away from his cock before bringing their mouths together.
The kiss was firm, but yielding, Connor’s mouth opening like a flower when Hank ran his tongue over the seam of his lips. His hands were on Hank’s chest, rubbing in circles and squeezing, every sweep over his nipples sending shivers through Hank.
Not to be outdone, Hank wrapped his arms around Connor, gently running his nails down the length of his back. He could feel Connor’s clothed thighs between his own and squeezed, sliding his hands beneath Connor’s pants to knead at his ass—silently offering his thanks to whoever had sculped that particular part of the RK800 model.
Connor’s lips were moving lower now, mimicking Hank’s earlier actions, kissing down his neck and over his collarbones. His hands were still on Hank’s chest, fingers combing through the grey mass of hair and tugging, making Hank hiss in a breath. He kissed lower, flicking his tongue into Hank’s navel and making him squirm. Hank’s breath was starting to become ragged and he could feel his cock pulsing with every beat of his heart. Connor pulled back, sitting up to watch the path of his own hands, circling and squeezing at Hank’s belly and thighs, a look of absolute contentment on his face.
Hank could feel a shiver running down his spine that had nothing to do with his state of undress; Connor was gazing down at him as if he were the solution to some great mystery that he’d finally unlocked, and when their eyes met, Hank felt his heart skip a beat.
Smiling, Connor settled himself between Hank’s legs, hooking his knees over his shoulders. He kissed up the inside of Hank’s thighs, a line of wet, open-mouthed caresses with his lips.
Hank’s cock was twitching in the empty air, though Connor seemed to be ignoring it, focusing instead on Hank’s ass, taking one cheek in either hand and grasping tight. He wet his lips, glanging up and catching Hank’s eye for a split second before swiping his tongue over Hank’s balls. He nuzzled at each in turn, pressing his nose into the creas of Hank’s thighs and kissing at the sensitive skin, making Hank squirm.
Hank could feel his breath speeding in anticipation and closed his eyes, arching back against the pillows. He tilted his hips in an attempt at encouragement before feeling Connor’s nimble fingers spreading him apart.
Hank bit his lip, spikes of heat building as Connor’s mouth dropped lower. His tongue lapped gently across Hank’s perineum, making him swear, “Shi—”
The word was cut off as Connor swiped his tongue over Hank’s entrance in one broad stroke. He settled down further, repeating the motion, holding onto Hank’s hips when he tried to arch into the sensation. Connor kissed over the tight pucker and Hank let out a sigh, relaxing into it. He could feel Connor’s togue circling his hole, smooth and slick and ever so slightly more rigid than any human tongue—something that worked to Connor’s advantage as he gently circled Hank’s rim.
Hank moaned out. It felt as if a current was flowing through every part he and Connor were joined and he drew in a shaky breath, reaching down to where Connor’s hand lay on his hip. Hank grasped for it, threading their fingers together and holding tight. With a faint jolt of surprise, he heard Connor moan and the synthskin melted away beneath his touch, leaving bare plastic. Hank squeezed tighter as Connor’s tongue breached him, gasping out encouragement.
“God, yes. You feel so good, Connor.”
Connor hummed in response, the faint vibration making Hank shudder. He could feel Connor’s tongue circling, sliding in and out of him in long smooth strokes. Every movement only increased the burning heat in Hank’s gut, that rapidly tightening coil of sensation, ready to overflow.
“C’mon, give me more, I can take it.” Hank arched up as Connor pushed his tongue as far as it would go, still circling, teasing Hank open, bit by bit.
There was a brief click and Hank opened his eyes to see Connor fiddling with the lube, easily opening it with one hand and slicking his fingers. He groaned, cock twitching at the sight, his hips moving unconsciously, thrusting uselesly into the empty air.
Hank could feel his impatience building, and as Connor tentatively slid one finger into him, he thrust back. “Connor, I know it has been a while, but I’ve been fucked before, I know what to expect. You’ve got me good and relaxed so you don’t need to tease me open or any of that shit.”
“Got it,” Connor said, peering up at Hank with a wicked smirk. He slid both his middle and index fingers in, circling for a second before sweeping over Hank’s prostate in a teasing stroke. “Is this better?”
All Hank could manage was a groan, “Y-yeah, right there.”
“Good.” Connor squeezed gently at Hank’s fingers. “You should know, given my state of arousal, I may not be able to last long once I’m inside you.”
“Fuck,” Hank moaned, the thought of Connor completely overwhelmed almost too much to imagine right now. He grabbed a pillow with his free hand, sliding it beneath his hips and spreading his legs a little wider. “What are you waiting for?”
Connor let out a soft moan, pulling his fingers from Hank and unclasping their hands. “Okay,” he said, flicking the lube bottle open once more. Hank sat up on his elbows, watching as Connor shoved his trousers and underwear to his knees before slicking his cock, his eyelids fluttering closed at his own touch. He swallowed down, his mouth feeling suddenly dry.
“Are you ready, Hank?” Connor’s voice shook as he held his cock in one hand, sliding the other over Hank’s length, lube-slick and warm, every slow stroke drawing Hank closer to the edge.
“Fuck yes,” Hank gasped. He reached up to brush a stray lock of hair from Connor’s forehead, meeting his gaze and feeling a sunburst of affection bloom within his chest. Four months ago, he’d thought his life was over, and now the world had changed in so many ways. There were things inside him that he’d never thought he could feel again, though it was still a little too soon to put words to them. He pushed up, needing to kiss Connor, more than anything else.
Connor sighed into the kiss, pressing himself to Hank’s chest. He reached one hand up, cupping Hank’s cheek, the bright light of his LED shining even through Hank’s closed eyelids. He stroked a thumb over the scruff of Hank’s beard, pulling back to press their foreheads together.
Hank could feel the head of Connor’s cock brushing over his hole and groaned. He was getting so close already and Connor wasn’t even inside him yet. He arched up, his lube-smeared cock sliding between them, pressed tight against Hank’s belly. Connor leaned back again, lining himself up and meeting Hank’s gaze as he slowly pushed in.
Hank drew in a shaky breath, adjusting to the thick length. He hooked his legs over Connor’s hips, urging him deeper. “Yeah,” he murmured, “just like that. You’re doing so good, Connor.”
Connor gasped, a fluttering hiccup of a sound, wrapping his arms around Hank completely and pressing his face to the crook of his neck. Slowly but surely, he sank into Hank, letting out a moan that sounded more like a sob.
Pressing fluttering kisses to the top of Connor’s head, Hank murmured, “I’ve got you, baby. You feel so good.” He shifted his hips, and felt Connor shiver as he filled Hank completely. “You’re amazing, Connor.”
Trembling, Connor raised himself up, bracing his hands on Hank’s chest. His mouth was wide and panting, his expression one of undisguised want. He surged down, kissing Hank before pulling back just a little and sinking in once more.
Electric sensation rushed up Hank’s spine as Connor’s cock brushed over his prostate. He gasped against Connor’s lips, sliding his arms around his neck, moaning out with every gentle thrust.
They rocked together, arms around each other, slow and steady, Connor’s pace gradually increasing. His thrusts became smoother, his cock withdrawing almost completely before sliding back into Hank, making his breath catch each time. Hank could feel the pressure building, a simmering pool of heat ready to burst, coming closer and closer to the edge with every stroke of Connor’s cock.
Arms braced either side of Hank’s head, Connor gazed down at him, the thrum of his thirium pump a steady vibration against Hank’s chest. His hips rocked, balls slapping against the meat of Hank’s ass with every thrust. His gaze never left Hank’s face for an instant and when their eyes met, Connor groaned.
“Hank, I’m getting close.”
Hank’s cock twitched at the words and he clenched around Connor, biting his lip as his eyes squeezed closed and a moan left his lips. He circled his hips, matching every movement and knowing there would be hell to pay with his back in the morning: it was worth it. “Let me see you, Connor,” Hank groaned, reaching between them to take his cock in hand and hissing in a breath at his own touch. “You wanna come in me?”
Connor moaned, his hips snapping forwards in a staccato beat of thrusts that made Hank’s body quiver and his stomach jiggle. He couldn’t bring himself to care. Connor’s face was a mask of ecstacy, his perfect lower lip caught between perfect teeth as he fucked into Hank with perfect precision. Every stroke had Hank moaning as he worked his cock in time, knowing that he couldn’t last much longer.
“Fuck, Connor, you’re gonna make me come.”
At Hank’s words, Connor’s movements faltered, his cock thickening and pulsing. He held tight on Hank’s shoulders, his body shaking as his hips jerked. Hank felt a shudder and a rush of warmth, moaning out as Connor filled him. He tightened his grip on his cock, and after only a few more strokes, followed Connor over the edge.
Connor slumped onto Hank’s chest, his LED a solid ring of yellow. He was trembling and Hank wrapped him in his arms, trying not to shift too much. He wanted to keep Connor inside him just a little longer. He pressed a kiss to the glowing light, combing through Connor’s hair with his fingers and sighing in contentment.
“I gotta say,” Hank said after a few minutes on contented silence had passed and he had finally caught his breath, “when this whole Black Ice thing started, I did not see anything like this coming.”
Connor shifted, resting quite happily atop Hank’s chest. “I know, my preconstructions did not stretch this far. Maybe I have my limitations, after all?”
Hank winced, feeling Connor pull out. He finally stripped himself of the rest of his clothes before settling back on top of Hank. Hank slid a hand down Connor’s bare back, idly tracing circles. “I dunno, I think we did pretty well,” he said.
Connor smiled softly. “You’re right. We did.”
They lay together a few more minutes, Hank stroking over Connor’s back as Connor followed the lines of his tattoo with one finger, as if he were trying to memorise the shape through touch alone. Hank could feel himself starting to doze off and sighed. “I suppose we should head home or something. It’s back to work in the morning.”
Connor paused in his tracing, tilting his head, a small smile curving up his lips. “Technically we have the room until then, it’s still our honeymoon, we don’t need to go anywhere.”
“Oh, well that’s cool.” Hank stifled a yawn with one hand. “I’m gonna get some sleep. You wanna be the little spoon?”
Connor’s LED flashed in a burst of yellow before he answered, “Yes. I like it when you hold me.”
Hank chuckled. “Yeah? Well now I plan to do it a lot more often.” He gently rolled Connor from atop him, turning over to flip off the light. As he settled into the pillow, he heard Connor say his name.
“I know this is probably a redundant question, given our…prior activities, but now that we are no longer married, would you like to go on a date with me?”
Hank sat up on one elbow, gazing down at Connor in amazement, unable to keep the fond smile from his lips. He could still feel the slick slide of Connor’s come between his cheeks and dipped down to press their lips together. The room brightened as Connor’s LED cycled in a happy burst of yellow, lighting the smile on his face.
“Yeah,” Hank said, “I think I’d like that.”