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“Your pleasure is our treasure,” Hank picked up the phone on the third ring.

The line was silent for a moment before a throaty moan almost deafened him. Hank pulled the receiver away from his ear to glare at it quickly before hesitantly holding it a little way from his ear. Usually, he didn’t mind screamers but a little warning was nice. He had no intention of going deaf thanks to an over enthusiastic client.

“You sound like a big guy, tell me what your fingers would do to my ports,” the voice on the other end begged him.

At least the caller seemed to have settled down so Hank squeezed the handset between his shoulder and ear as he reached for his knitting. While he doubted the called would last long or need any special effects, he could at least get the next line of the scarf he was making done.

“Well,” he rumbled, “let just say that if I could have my wicked ways with you, you’d be glitching for a few days each time you tried to access your memory banks.”

 

Just as he’d predicted, the call cut out a mere couple of minutes later with a static wail. He doubted the caller would return, they didn’t even bother asking for his extension number. It was probably just as well, Hank didn’t have many regulars and he honestly preferred that. The hours he worked were pretty good, he knew what times his regulars preferred so if he wasn’t feeling up for work when they weren’t due to call, he’d get in later or pull an allnighter instead. That suited him just fine. Truth be told, he was just thankful to have a job at all. Someone like him wasn’t exactly welcomed by society with wide arms. If he had been one of the 0.5% of the population born without a string, he’d have had an easier life. Or if his string had turned black that would have elicited pity and an acceptance within certain circles. But as it was, his string was red until it tailed off into purple. Hank had heard it all through the course of his life, “freak”, “unloveable”, “broken”. They were all words accompanied by sentiments of how he was destined to die alone. To have a purple string was unheard of, nobody knew what was wrong with Hank, but something obviously was.

It wasn’t like Hank could even find some comfort in the arms of an android. There were still notions around the purity of fate. Too many people subscribed to the idea that your match was the only one for you. To be seen with someone other than your soulmate was scandalous, even if you chose plastic over flesh to defy destiny with.

Only one other person had a string tail off into purple that he knew about. And in that moment, Gavin was busy smacking a ruler against the table and barking “did I tell you that you could speak, slut?” down the phone. As Hank walked by, he waved and Gavin cheerily waggled his fingers back, fingerless gloves carefully hid his hands, much like the ones Hank wore.

They’d met by sheer dumb luck. Hank was jobless, wallowing in alcohol and despairing at how society had turned its back on him. People who didn’t fall in the norms of expectation weren’t treated kindly. Jobs were nigh on impossible to find, people shied away from him. One glance at his hand and people pulled away from him with slightly freaked out smiles. Except Gavin.

Hank was in the bathroom, cursing up a storm at some drunk who had spilled their beer all over him. His shirt sleeve was drenched, as was his glove and it stunk to high heavens. After a furtive glance around, Hank tugged the offending item off his hand and shoved it under the tap. It was that moment the stall door opened and perhaps Hank was more drunk than he’d wanted to admit if he hadn’t spotted that before. But he was stuck, hand exposed and the stranger automatically glanced down at his fingers.

There were many reactions Hank had expected, disgust, fear, morbid curiosity but not hopeful surprise. Without a word, the stranger tugged his own glove off and held up a hand. Wrapped around his finger was a red string which wafted on an invisible draft, its end gradually disappearing into the ether. Most importantly though, the red blended into a purple. Not as rich and dark as Hank’s so it was obvious they weren’t a match despite the odd, similar colour, but it was enough for Hank not to instinctively hide and snarl empty threats. Perhaps he wasn’t quite so alone in the world with his sad purple string as he’d always been led to believe.

“Snap,” the guy said. “Always thought I was the only one cursed with this meaningless crap.”

Hank was lost for words. He’d been so isolated, on the fringe of society for so long, and now he found he wasn’t alone. The guy didn’t look like he’d been neglected. If anything, he looked put together compared to Hank.

“Come on, let me buy you a drink. Us freaks of nature ought to stick together, right?”

Despite the words, there was a hint of uncertainty and vulnerability in his voice, and that was what sealed Hank’s resolve. He stuck a hand out.

“Hank,” he offered.

A firm hand gripped his.

“Gavin.”

 

It was a night that changed things around for Hank. Gavin was perhaps the first person who’d shown him even a shred of kindness since his string had coloured in and all his hopes and dreams turned into flaming ruins. Growing up, Hank had been set on joining the police force and becoming the best detective around. When he’d told Gavin that between sips of their second drinks, Gavin had barked out a harsh, disbelieving laugh and muttered “makes two of us.”

Suddenly having what seemed suspiciously like a friend set Hank on edge. People didn’t stick around and buy him drinks once his dirty little purple secret got out. Trying to pull himself back into his insular gruffness, Hank muttered his thanks for the drinks and made to leave. He didn’t expect a hand on his arm and coiled tight in preparation of a fight.

“Here,” Gavin simply thrust a card at him. “If you’re looking for a no questions asked job. Just tell them Dicktective sent you.”

Hank snorted and stuffed the card in his pocket without looking and left.

For the next few days, he expected Gavin to appear out of thin air and demand that Hank pay him back for the drinks somehow. Or to laugh in his face saying the whole red string turning purple was an elaborate scam at Hank’s expense, that it was recorded and now being loaded up online for other people to laugh at the freak he is.

None of that happened though, and Hank slowly began to settle, he didn’t jump at each small noise which had Sumo huffing an anxious bark with him. Mind made up, Hank grabbed the card he’d thrown on the kitchen table and actually looked at it. His eyebrows shot up in surprise. Then anger burned through him viciously as he denied being so desperate as to sink that low. A flick of his wrist and the card was thrown back onto the table in disgust. For good measure, he stuffed it back in his pocket, out of sight. Hank may have been struggling, may have been an outcast but he wasn’t going to go begging for scraps from a sex chat line.

His haughty standards didn’t last even a day. Money was yet again short, he couldn’t pay for food, bills, and drink at the same time. In a frantic attempt to get just a little bit of cash together for a bottle of something cheap to drown his woes in, Hank was rummaging in his clothes pockets for change. Instead of money, he found the card Gavin had given him. With nothing to lose but the last shreds of his dignity, Hank pulled out his phone and made a call.

Not two days later, he was being shown around a small office, cubicles partitioned off for the best soundproofing possible. Some of them obviously belonged to people, little trinkets and photos up and made homely in a way. The coffee room was small but well stocked. It was there that Hank encountered Gavin who waved sleepily at him from over a mug of steaming coffee.

“Good to see you again,” he grunted out.

“You too,” Hank offered uncertainly.

He was led to an empty desk and was told to make himself familiar with everything. Not a moment later, Gavin was sidling up to him.

“Need a quick runthrough of what’s what?”

Hank nodded mutely and watched as Gavin opened up the desk drawer and began to point things out.

“Pot of slime, push it in slowly enough and you’ll get a good squelch if they like it wet. The ruler is good for swishing and smacks. Quick tip, don’t to it against your palm, the cushion on the chair makes the same noise and doesn’t hurt. Trust me. If they need you moaning, think about eating the best fucking ice cream of your life, it will feel a lot less weird. Any questions?”

Silently, Hank shook his head and tried to fathom how he was going to survive the humiliation of the job. Around him, he could hear soft murmurs of sultry voices interspersed with the odd moan. If he hadn’t been so uncomfortable in the situation, he was fairly certain his dick would have taken an interest in the sounds. As it was though, he was just grateful that the partitions offered as much privacy and soundproofing as they did. Experimentally, he gave the ruler a swish in the air ad then smacked it against the side of the chair’s seat. It thwacked nicely against the fake leather. The slime, he didn’t along with so well. For his first few attempts at making it sound like wet slick, it made horrendous bubbling fart noises that Hank doubted anybody would find sexy. Then he remembered stumbling across Brazilian Fart Porn and really hoped that he wouldn’t have to cater to such tastes.

The cubicle joined to his came to life as the phone rang. Feeling like a sneaky pervert, Hank strained his ears as Gavin’s voice purred “your pleasure is our treasure” down the phone. There were many things Hank expected but not a sneer of disgust breathed with a venom laden “oh it’s you”. He couldn’t help it, Hank precariously stood on his chair and peered over the grey wall down at Gavin.

Almost as though the man had eyes in the back of his head, he looked up at Hank and grinned widely. He beckoned Hank over to his side and patted the foot stool, offering him a handset with the microphone broken off.

On one hand, it was the most uncomfortable ten minutes of Hank’s life, listening to an android’s static filled moans as Gavin berated them. On the other hand, it was even more eye opening watching Gavin pull out the makings of a sandwich from his bag as he snapped at the android to shut the fuck up. He pulled two slices of bread from the bag and asked the android if they had been good enough to earn what he was taking out. The soft, pleading moan took Hank by surprise. He hadn’t anticipated Gavin using the sounds of sandwich making as a source of erotic imagery for a caller.

“Hm,” Gavin hummed as he picked up the mayonnaise and squeezed the almost empty bottle, “there’s not a lot left. You don’t mind it a little dry, do you?”

“No, sir,” the android cried out and Gavin squeezed the bottle again.

The silence stretched and there was a sound of shifting from the other end. Immediately, Gavin smacked the bottle against the table and smile apologetically at Hank when he jumped.

“Did I say you could move?” he hissed down the phone. The last few bits of mayonnaise spluttered out as he hummed thoughtfully at the caller’s whimpers. “You’ve been so naughty, I think I have just the thing to punish you. We might just have enough left in this bottle after all. Get your hand nice and slick.”

“Done, sir,” the almost breathless whine from the other end made Gavin grin.

“Good. Now touch yourself and think of my mouth around you. Keeping you on the edge.”

Hank watched with morbid fascination as Gavin took a bite from his now complete sandwich and hummed. It really did sound like his mouth was full of cock. He chewed away from the microphone and swallowed.

“You like that?” his voice was huskier, deeper.

“Please sir!”

“No,” Gavin replied in an almost cruel tone. “You’ve not earned it.”

It went on like that for quite a while. Even Hank was beginning to feel frustrated as Gavin denied the caller again and again while he ate his sandwich at leisurely pace. Once he was done, he sighed, satisfied.

“Well done,” he purred, “you’ve been so good for me. Would you like your reward?”

He pulled his headset away from his ear and motioned for Hank to do the same. Unfortunately, Hank wasn’t quite quick enough and the screech half deafened him and he scrambled to yank the headset off while Gavin held back a snort of laughter.

“That’s it,” Gavin kept up a soft litany of praise while the android shivered on the other end. At long last, after a stammered “thank you” the line went dead and Gavin smiled. He kicked his feet up on the desk and turned to Hank.

“The longer you keep them on the line, the more they pay and the more money you make,” he shrugged. “Not everyone wants the bit at the end, but those who do will come back for more.”

Hank nodded, undecided on what the correct response was. Complimenting Gavin on his skill seemed either creepy or insincere. In the end he settled on a thank you and scurried back to his own desk.

There was no training, no official “here we go”, merely someone from IT phoned Hank’s desk to ask him if he’s ready to connect to the mainframe and field some calls. Pride stopped Hank from backing out and, with more confidence than he actually had, he agreed that he was ready. After another ten minutes, being walked through the logging in process and a few company policies, he was left staring at the phone. His hand hovered over the button to make him go live, to let callers connect to him.

“You got your profile set up yet?” Gavin’s voice jolted Hank from his attempts at fortifying his resolve and he pulled his hand from the button.

“My what?” he asked.

Tutting, Gavin sat on the footrest and pulled up a screen on the computer. He showed Hank his profile, a picture of Gavin from behind, face half hidden as he glanced over his shoulder with a glower. The brief description next to the picture gave a list of things Gavin was and wasn’t willing to talk about on the phone. Most of it veered into BDSM with an express interest in controlling the caller. Hank dearly wanted to ask but didn’t know how to so he eyed Gavin with a mixture of horror and admiration.

“I don’t much care for it, but it got me some regulars as nobody else was willing to put the plastics in their place,” Gavin shrugged in answer to the unspoken question. “But what about you? We need to get you a niche. Any kink you’re especially keen on?”

Hank looked at Gavin uncomfortably. He wasn’t about to spill his guts on his deepest and darkest fantasies. Not like he had much in the way of kinks anyway. He always thought he was a pretty easy to please guy without the need to delve into the depths of depravity.

“Never mind. Let’s get your name first. How about Big Daddy?” Gavin suggested after giving him a onceover.

Hank almost choked in his rush to shake his head. There were many things he was willing to put up with but he did not want to be called Daddy by anyone ever again. Thankfully Gavin didn’t press the issue, just moved on to the next idea.

“You’re pretty big, they’ll hear that on the phone too. How about Bear?”

It was a mildly better option and Hank nodded, keen to get the humiliation over with. Next came the description and after one glance at him, Gavin rolled his eyes and pulled the keyboard towards himself.

I may look big and mean, but deep down I’m a cuddly teddy. But don’t take me for a fool, if you don’t behave, I will come down on you hard.

The innuendo made Hank snort but he nodded. It was innocuous enough and left enough wriggle room for him to be able to do almost anything. He wasn’t a twink who could demand cock, but then again he didn’t want to be. The only thing left to sort was the picture and Gavin was already grabbing his phone.

“Hunch over your mug,” he suggested.

Grumbling, Hank did as told. Then he put his hair into a ponytail even though half of it escaped and fell to cover his face. It at least made Gavin grin as he told him to turn his face a little up and a little to the left. He took a series of photos and showed them to Hank. None of them displayed his face clearly, but the one they settled on gave a clear picture of his bulk and after a filter, it showed the glint of a glare from between strands of hair.

“Now you’re in business,” Gavin grinned as he finished Hank’s profile.”Just remember to always pick up the phone with the whole ‘your pleasure is our treasure’ thing, make sure the caller cums their brains out and you’ll be rolling in cash before you know it.”

With such optimistic final words, Gavin waved and returned to his desk. Not a minute later the phone was ringing and Hank heard him pick up. There was no other reason to delay the inevitable and so, he jabbed a finger on the mouse and made his phone go live.

His first call wasn’t anything too extreme. Just an android looking for a good time and Hank tried to go along with the fantasy they spun. In the back of his mind, he couldn’t quite get over the fact that he was talking to someone, helping them get off and was being paid for it too. It felt perverted and wrong yet something burned bright in his chest. For the first time in perhaps ever, Hank felt wanted, desirable, even if it was only for those short few minutes with a lonely android.

As far as first days went, it was pretty successful. Hank had expected to feel dirty, used, and hate himself, he’d been prepared to hear all sorts of unsavoury noises that would haunt his dreams. Instead, he learnt that androids were capable of making static filled moans and some even sounded like an old dial-up modem when aroused. It was so different to the wet squelches and rasped moans of humans that it didn’t even faze him.

The pay was good too. Over the course of the months, Hank suddenly didn’t have to worry about bills or living hand to mouth, and he could even put a little aside into savings. He even stopped overtly worrying about his cursed string which lay hidden under his fingerless gloves. All in all, he was learning to be happy and content.

Slowly, work began to find a pattern. There were those callers who wanted any old voice to get them off. They were quick and easy, all Hank had to usually do was call them dirty little deviants and they were happy. But they also felt cheap, anyone could get them off and it was only pure chance that Hank was the one they were connected to. Then there were the shy stuttering ones who hadn’t really done it before. They needed gentle coaxing, soft praise and Hank often felt oddly protective of those callers. It was relatively unusual for them to call back, but a couple did and they were sweet, harmless things. Uncertain about how to get off, needing guidance and reassurance that what they were doing was okay. Sometimes Hank got the impression that one or two of them weren’t as innocent as they made out to be, but if pretending to be naive was what got them off, Hank was more than happy to go along with their little fantasy. The final category were the regulars, the ones who sought Hank out for his voice and his looks. One such repeat caller started calling fairly early on in his career.

“The moment I saw the picture of you go up, I knew I had to get on the phone to you, sexy,” the voice had opened up.

He sounded sultry and seductive in a way Hank hadn’t encountered before.

“Oh yeah?”

“Mhm. No android could look as perfectly imperfect as you. I want to hear you moan as I sink down on your big, fat cock.”

It had certainly been an eye opening introduction to the world of sex phone lines. Slowly though, Hank began to have names assigned to his regulars. There was the heavy breather who wanted Hank to describe lying on her with all his weight. She was Squishy. Then there was the guy who was moaning even before Hank got the headset adjusted and said anything. Obviously, he was Moany. Mr. Polite was another one,who always was so softly spoken, shy, and said thank you before putting the phone down. He was a peculiar one but Hank had grown oddly fond of him.

Before he could continue musing over those who had called more than once, his phone rang again.

“Your pleasure is our treasure,” he purred into the receiver.

“Hello handsome,” a rich voice replied, and Hank felt a grin spread across his face.

“And what can I do for you, gorgeous?”

There was a pause on the other end of the line the stretched and just before Hank could try to salvage things, the voice spoke up again.

“Ah, fuck it. I can’t do this, I’m sorry.”

Rather than the smooth silky rumbled of the first sentence, this was much lighter, almost goofy, and Hank shook his head in confusion.

“Nothing to apologise for, let’s take it nice and slow. I’m Bear.”

“Connor,” came the hesitant reply.

“Well, Connor,” Hank’s voice dropped a little lower, “let’s get you lying down comfortably.”

“I have done this before. But not with you,” Connor admitted quietly, there was the rustle of sheets as he lay down on the bed no doubt.

“That’s okay, I don’t bite. Unless you want me to.”

That at least elicited a soft laugh from Connor. It was almost fun, talking him through touching himself, humming softly as he followed instructions to run a finger around the port in the back of his neck. Hank grinned in satisfaction when a small pleasured whimper broke from Connor’s lips.

“That’s it, now use a nail to scrape over the edge of your port while your other hand squeezes your cock. Pretend that it’s my mouth around you.”

It did the trick and Connor gasped harshly, voice a little garbled with pleasure. They sat in silence for a minute as Connor possibly even had to do a soft reboot, there was no awkwardness though, not for Hank anyway.

“Thank you,” Connor blurted out and after a moment of hesitation, added a fond “Bear.”

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He put the phone down before Hank could reply. Once he was gone, Hank sighed and pushed away from his desk. He needed a coffee. It was funny how quickly he had learnt to zone out from the sounds around him. Usually, Gavin was by far the noisiest but even the harsh sounds of smacks and his snarling at callers was easy enough to ignore. He sounded like he was coming to the end of a call anyway so Hank slowed his steps and passed just as Gavin pulled the headset away with a derisive snort.

“Sick fuck,” he grumbled and looked at Hank. “He wanted me to cross his wires while pulling his regulator out and shoving my dick in there instead. I mean, I’m not small but you have to be packing more than a porn star to be able to do that. And there I was, thinking that unrealistic expectations were a human fallacy.”

“Coffee?” Hank asked as he shook his head in sympathy. The “please” shot his way was enough.

Drinks in hand, Hank wandered back to Gavin whose phone had started ringing again. Quietly, Hank put the mug down on his desk and received a grateful smile in return.

“Your pleasure is our treasure,” Gavin barked down the phone.

Hank had fully intended to ignore Gavin’s conversation, used to his sharp voice and truly creative sound effects (who knew that snapping carrots sounded the same to androids as crossing two wires until they sparked?). However, his ears caught a much softer “oh hey you” which made him perk up in curiosity.

Carefully, he placed his mug on his desk and listened a little more. Gavin sounded warmer, not quite as aggressive as usual, and there were no harshly barked orders. Quietly, Hank stood up on his chair but the partition was still too high so he stepped onto his desk which creaked. It was just enough though, to get his nose over the edge and he peered down at Gavin.

The man had his chair reclined a little, his feet were kicked up on the desk, and his eyes were shut. A small smile played on his lips as he sighed wistfully into the headset. Almost on instinct, he opened his eyes and stared up at Hank. Without a word, he stuck his tongue out at him but it did nothing to take attention away from the blush that crept up his neck. If Hank had to bet, he’d have said Gavin was enjoying himself.

“I’m still listening,” he crooned into the receiver with a small, soft smile.

Hank revised his opinion, he didn’t just enjoy talking to whoever was on the other end. Gavin was in love.

 

There wasn’t a chance to talk to Gavin about it. While it wasn’t against company policy to engage with callers on a more social level, it was definitely discouraged and frowned upon. Still, Hank couldn’t blame the guy. He’d caught him on the phone a couple of other times, sometimes walking past to stretch his legs, other times listening from the other side of the partition. In those moments, the best description he could come up with for Gavin was serene. Perhaps Hank envied him a little, the small corner of happiness he’d hollowed out for himself in a world that was so intent on turning its back on them.

It shouldn’t matter though, Hank should have been happy his friend was finally content. He could bury his jealousy under layers of smiles and teasing. And it wasn’t like he was all alone either. Alongside all the regular callers he got, he could list Connor amongst them.

Conversations with Connor were generally on the shorter side. Usually, Hank would pick up the phone and give the caller a minute of his full attention before returning to whatever it was he was doing before the phone rang. Sometimes it was knitting, sometimes a crossword. His hums were especially thoughtful on those calls, when he was stuck on a word and he could ponder it while the sound of slick fingers worked away on the other end of the phone.

Then there was Connor. Whenever he called, he had Hank’s full attention. There was no logical justification as to why Hank was compelled to make things the best he possibly could for Connor, but he still tried. Each call was like a new hit from a drug, a small bit of information until Hank had a picture of Connor built up in his mind.

“What model are you?” he asked gently, grinning as he lounged in his chair.

“RK800,” the answer was almost shy.

“Huh, not heard of that before.”

“I was a prototype for detective work. But my line was rapidly upgraded to the RK900 so there’s very few of us around,” Connor sounded almost bashful, it shouldn’t have been cute but Hank found it endearing.

“I’m sure you’re a beautiful rarity that many envy. Now why don’t you tell me about how your wiring is today? I don’t think we’ve ever had you tangle your dermal sensors with your feedback network.”

Over the weeks, Hank knew that Connor was a little shorter than him, lithe with very few changes from factory setting. His hair and eyes were brown, he liked to dress nicely but one strand of hair never quite seemed to agree with how he wanted to style it. On the whole, he sounded like someone who walked out of Hank’s wet dream, not that he’d ever truly admit it. Which in part made his job easier, it was fun to spin a fantasy for Connor, one that they both enjoyed, and that was what made his job harder. Or rather, something else hard.

The first time it happened, Hank had been mortified. He’d not been affected by what he’d heard in the slightest until now, previous clients didn’t give him a buzz. But hearing Connor’s soft whines and talking him through scenarios that Hank was no longer sure were not his own was difficult. Initially, he’d ignored it, sat hunched over in his chair and grunted in annoyance when Gavin walked past. If the grin Gavin shot him was anything to go by, he wasn’t exactly subtle about his predicament.

A coffee was put on the table in front of him and Gavin sat on the footrest with a cheshire smile.

“The third stall in the bathrooms is pretty soundproof. And if you lift the lid of the cistern you might even find some slick.”

Before Hank could do more than gape in mortification, Gavin was up and off with a shrug and a wink. Out of sheer stubbornness, Hank didn’t go to the bathroom for the rest of the day. He even shot Gavin a dignified glare as he made his way out of work that evening.

Three days later he was pressing his back against the third stall’s door in the bathroom, biting the back of one hand to stifle noises while the other gripped his cock. The sounds Connor had made as he neared his climax played through his mind, soft whines and sighs followed by a cry of “Bear”. It had been so tempting to give his real name in that moment, to invite Connor to connect as something more than caller and sex phone line operator. It was only Connor’s soft “thank you” that stopped him. As soon as the phone went down, Hank was out of his chair and trying not to rush for the bathroom.

Whoever (probably Gavin but Hank really didn’t want to think about him in that moment) had left the lube on the little shelf in the toilet’s cistern had also been kind enough to accompany it with a box of wet wipes.

Getting back to his desk felt like a walk of shame. His cheeks were aflame under his beard and Hank didn’t dare look in anybody’s direction until he was firmly planted back in his little cubbyhole. His phone had just started to ring when a thumbs up drifted up above his and Gavin’s divider.

 

Months went by and Hank was surprised to realise that he was happy. Actually, genuinely happy. There was a lightness to him which he’d never felt, even putting his gloves on before his left his house stopped bothering him. No longer were they the first thing he reached for upon waking. The purple end floating merrily as it faded out.

Another day and more work. Hank pulled up in the parking lot of the office and strolled in. All things considered, it was just more of the same. Gavin had upgraded his noises to include noisily slurping on an icelolly and also weirdly smacking a cucumber against a stress ball before snapping it in half. When Hank spied a stick of celery in his bag, he decided not to ask and assumed the guy was on a weird health kick or something.

In all honesty, Hank hadn’t meant to be eavesdropping on the call but it was Gavin’s personal phone rather than work line that rang. Maybe he’d progressed on from chatting up the android who brought such softness to his face and actually was dating.

“Aw man, seriously?” That definitely didn’t sound like a promising date and Hank put any incoming calls on hold as he listened. “And he only realised this now? But we can’t do it unless we have an observer, studio rules.”

It was the first time Hank had heard Gavin whining. Properly, dejectedly moping.

“And I was so looking forward to it,” he sighed down the phone. “I know, I know. Yeah. I’ll let you know. Love you too, bye.”

That had Hank sitting up straighter. Did the untouchable, haughty, zero fucks to give Gavin Reed just say “love you” to someone? Everything else about the conversation was almost forgotten as Hank scrambled up onto his desk to peer over the partition with a wide smile.

“Hello,” he announced himself.

Usually, Gavin would swear at him, maybe even throw a pen in his direction but not that day. Sullenly, he glared up at Hank with a scowl which morphed into a look of contemplation. Wordlessly, he beckoned Hank towards the breakroom and left his seat.

It was a bit of a mad scrabble to catch up with him but Hank was finally hot on his heels just as they stepped into the empty room.

“What’s up?” Hank was the one to break the silence. Gavin looked him up and down, rubbed the back of his neck and tried to look confident as he drew a breath.

“So, I may not have mentioned this before, but for the last month or so,” Hank grinned, expecting Gavin to reveal he’s found himself a partner, “I’ve been doing cam stuff on the side.”

That was wildly beyond what Hank anticipated, he blinked and tried to make sense of it as Gavin continued talking.

“Anyway, usually it’s fine but if it’s something a little more hardcore, the studio requires a human to sit in as a safety measure. Well, our usual guy just cancelled on us and we can’t do the show. Unless, well, we’ve known each other for a little while now, heard each other do questionable things. You wouldn’t want to help out, would you?”

Hank blinked, uncertain as to how to respond.

“You’d get 5% of tips of course, and you wouldn’t be seen or mentioned on the feed. So total anonymity and some cash just to sit and turn a blind eye to some kinky shit.”

Hank blew out a breath and nodded. It seemed like something Gavin really cared about and, after considering the things he’s heard spout from the man’s mouth, there wasn’t much he could be surprised by. Seeing him getting off with a partner was perhaps a little more than he’d bargained for, but in a way he owed the man for pulling him from a deep dark hole. Hank tried not to think of other deep dark holes he might get to witness later on and suppressed a chuckle at his truly atrocious pun.

“Sweet, we leave at five, show starts at seven,” Gavin’s grin was infectious, his relief palpable. Hank just hoped he hadn’t agreed to something he was going to regret.

Five o’clock sharp, Gavin was stood by his desk, bouncing on his toes. It was the most animated Hank had ever seen him. Though Hank was given an address, he drove behind Gavin and followed him down winding roads until they got to what looked like a block of flats in an average suburb.

“So,” Gavin began while they stood in the elevator, “I know we’re here super early but, well. You know how sex works.”

There was a gentle flush to his cheeks, he couldn’t quite look Hank in the eyes, and, truthfully, Hank wasn’t sure he would have been able to either.

“Anyway, here’s the room we’ll be using. I’ll give you a quick run down, leave you with some paperwork and be back soon.”

True to his word, they opened up one of the apartments that looked nothing like a cam set and everything like a usual home. Perhaps a little more like a hotel suite with the generic selection of coffee sachets on the kitchen counter. Gavin was walking through it as though he owned the place, pointing out things like blankets in case Hank gets cold, where the mugs are kept, bathroom and, finally, the bedroom.

It was bigger than Hank expected. There were a few cameras already set up, focused on the bed and the surrounding spaces. On the whole it looked innocuous enough, and just behind the cameras and lighting was a chair which Gavin pointed to.

“That’s your chair. So, uh, it’s pretty simple, you just sit there and make sure everything is hunkydory. Nines and I have quite an intense scene planned, don’t be surprised if there are tears. All you have to do is keep an ear out for safewords. We’ve got them tiered. If either of us says “strong man” it’s an indication that we need the scene to wind down slowly. At that point you don’t have to do much, just keep an eye on the time and give us a wave after 10 minutes to make sure we’re not getting carried away again. You need to step in if you hear one of us say “cereal bowl” and the other doesn’t stop immediately.”

Hank nodded and regarded Gavin with a renewed appreciation. He wondered just what the hell he’d agreed to witness, it sounded like something quite a bit more than usual vanilla sex. It didn’t matter though, he’d promised Gavin he’d help out so he was going to do it no matter what. They walked back into the living room to the comfortable looking couch where Gavin passed him a folder with a few post-its sticking out in places.

“They’re the important bits to read and sign. Should be pretty self-explanatory but give me a shout if anything doesn’t make sense.”

“Sure,” Hank sat down heavily and waved Gavin off when he said he was going to go and get ready.

Trying his best to get lost in the paperwork, Hank ignored the sound of the shower starting up. He’s no stranger to sex and all that goes in before hand but at the same time there were just some things he didn’t want to imagine Gavin doing. Still, there’s only so many times he could flick through the file and admire his own signature. It looks pretty standard - confidentiality, pay, disclaimer, and liability exemptions. After his third skim through, Hank tossed it to the side and looked around the room a little more. Now that he’d seen the bedroom, it was easy enough to spot where cameras could be placed in the room to record the couch and a few other choice surfaces. He tried not to grimace, and surreptitiously looked at where he sat. Perhaps the throws were on there not to create a homely, welcoming atmosphere but rather, to hide evidence of stains that could not be cleaned out anymore.

The door to the apartment opened and an android walked in. He was intimidatingly severe, white uniform jacket paired with black leather gloves. His LED was a gentle blue that flickered yellow as he scanned over Hank.

“You must be Hank,” he said, and extended a hand for a delicate shake. “I’m Nines. Thank you for stepping in at late notice as an observer.”

“Gavin’s a friend, I try to help out where I can.”

“He’s lucky to have you. Now, if you’ll excuse me.”

He made his way towards the bathroom and let Hank sink back onto the sofa. There wasn’t much else to be done so Hank focussed on his phone and did his best to ignore the laughter that drifted out from behind the closed door. Jealousy was an ugly emotion and he tried to tamp it down when it reared its green head in his chest. Gavin deserved to be happy, even if it was slightly unconventional to find it with an android. 

There was the sound of something crashing to the ground and shattering followed by a snicker and what most definitely couldn’t be described as anything else but a yowl. The bathroom door opened and Gavin sauntered out in a dressing gown.

“Dropped my bloody cologne,” he grumbled, and returned to the bathroom with a glass in hand. Hank shook his head and pretended to understand why Gavin might need cologne for a video.

The last 40 minutes went by quicker, Gavin was in a dressing gown but it did nothing to hide the stockings or the collar he wore. Curiosity had Hank trying to take a peek at the rest of his outfit but he knew he’d see it in the bedroom sooner or later. In direct contrast, Nines was in a crisp white shirt and pressed, dark grey jeans. His socks were black and, if Hank wasn’t mistaken, there was a soft grey pattern of hearts on them. Not that they’d show up on the video but he appreciated it all the same.

“Okay,” Gavin rubbed his hands together, pupils a little blown already. Whatever he and Nines had got up to in the bathroom had clearly already got him excited. “Hank, if you’d take your seat. Just remember, ‘strong man’ and ‘cereal bowl’ are the two to really listen out for. We also use the usual red, yellow and green scheme but that’s a little more difficult to work into natural speech. But then again, if you hear ‘red’ and we don’t stop then you may want to step in. And the pillows are coloured too, so you know. Eyes on the pillows.”

That threw Hank a little and he blinked, uncertain what exactly was expected of him. Gavin must have seen his confusion and worry as he smiled placatingly.

“Relax, you’re just a formality. Nines will be scanning vitals at all times. We’ve done this before and know our limits.”

There was a laptop set up near Hank, just out of sight of the cameras and lighting. It was already chirping away in what was probably people signing in in anticipation of the show starting. Gavin cast one more small grin at Hank.

“Let’s get the show on the road.”

A few quick taps and he was stepping away from the laptop with a cocky grin.

“Hey dipshits,” he waved. “Nice to see so many of you back already.”

There was a computerised “kaching” sound and Gavin gave a small nod.

“Thank you suns-out-pumps-out, that was very generous of you. Now last time, I promised you quite a surprise.”

In the time he spoke, Gavin had backed up almost all the way to the bed and his hands went to the belt of his bathrobe. Hank had to give it to him, the guy really knew how to tease his viewers with a slow reveal. It also made his breath catch in his throat. The stockings were held up by suspenders attached to a shimmering black corset, the small thong left nothing to the imagination either and the laptop started pinging with sounds as money was metaphorically thrown at Gavin. He took a small bow and turned to show how the thong wasn’t quite that, but rather it was missing the back panel entirely, the black straps followed the curve of his cheeks. By the time Hank remembered how to breath again, Gavin was crawling along the bed and getting comfortable.

The knock on the door made Hank jump. It opened before Gavin had a chance to cover up and Nines was striding in, looking every bit as stoic and terrifying as when Hank first saw him.

“Just what do you think you’re doing?”

Gavin clutched a light green pillow to his chest and batted his eyelashes up at Nines. That at least drew Hank’s attention to the other pillows and he had to hold back a snort of appreciation. All the pillows were coloured green, yellow, or red. Pastel colours that blended in with the decor but it was a stroke of genius to incorporate safety into the bedding..

He watched as Nines manhandled Gavin, called him all manner of slurs under the sun as he threatened to put him in his place. Objectively, they made a beautiful picture. Gavin was all tanned skin and tight muscles against Nines’ pristine white shirt. Hank would have lied if he said he wasn’t affected by it. Especially when somewhere along the way Nines’ shirt got pulled off to reveal a black leather harness around his body.

In a way, Hank was grateful for the heads-up Gavin had given him about it being intense. The smack of skin when Nines’ leather gloved hand struck across Gavin’s backside still made him jerk back in surprise though. It made Gavin scramble, and he clutched at a yellow cushion. Immediately Nines stopped the rough treatment and stroked a hand over the reddening skin with soft praise.

All through it, the laptop merrily jingled away as money came quite literally flooding in. Things were beginning to heat up and Hank wasn’t sure whether he was comfortable with what he was seeing. Gavin was tied up and on his knees, tears trickled down his cheeks as he sucked Nines’ cock. However, his own one was straining against his underwear in direct contrast to what his expression seemed to be saying. Nines pulled away and Gavin tried to go after him with spit shined lips.

“Never thought such a strong man like you would be such an easy bitch for an android,” Nines growled as he pulled Gavin up.

The words made Hank pay attention. He’d been expecting Gavin to grab a red pillow or safeword his way out of the scene, it was an eventuality he’d been prepared for. But for Nines to be the one to call out made him raise an eyebrow. There was a smoothness to the way they finished their scene, Gavin riding Nines until they were both trembling, Nines finally giving Gavin permission to find release.

Once Gavin was lying on the bed, panting, Nines got up and strode confidently to the laptop, stared the camera in it down with a smug “until next time”, and killed the feed. He looked to Hank.

“You may go now, Gavin and I will be out in an hour’s time, no sooner.” He didn’t wait for Hank to acknowledge it, simply turned and walked back to the bed where Gavin was pulling him into his arms with a soft murmur.

Not wishing to intrude, Hank beat a hasty retreat. He wondered how improper it would be to go to the bathroom and jerk himself off. In the end he didn’t do it, settled on the couch instead and fiddled around on his phone. The bedroom door opened and Gavin stumbled out with a vague wave in his direction. When he returned to the room, he didn’t manage to close the door properly so Hank could crane his neck and take a peek. He felt like a dirty peeping Tom but there was something soothing about watching Nines and Gavin cuddle in the bed, fingers skimming over exposed skin and laughing softly as they murmured who knew what to each other. The jealousy from earlier flared up again in Hank’s chest but it didn’t burn quite as bright. Gavin seemed genuinely happy. It was a good look on him and Hank glanced away when Nines rolled them so Gavin was lying on his chest, fingers tangled as they kissed.

He couldn’t help but wonder why he couldn’t find such contentment. It wasn’t like he’d asked to have a string that turned purple and so was rejected by society. All Hank had ever wanted was a slice of happiness with someone at his side to share life with. Absentmindedly, he pulled his glove off and glared at the purple end of the string wrapped around his finger. Much like the many hours he’d already spent hating the string, staring at it still didn’t give him any answers. Eventually, he pulled his glove back on and returned to scrolling through the news on his phone.

There was the sound of movement from the bedroom and the door opened up to show Gavin and Nines ambling out, their hands linked. They were still focused on each other and Hank noted with mild glee that Gavin blushed bright when Nines raised their joined hands and pressed a kiss to Gavin’s fingers.

Hank’s brain stuttered to a halt there. His eyes zeroed in on their bare hands where Gavin’s purple string was in plain sight. It was wrapped snugly around a matching purple string which faded into blue as it wrapped around Nines’ finger. Words eluded Hank as he watched them. The small speck of hope in his chest needed to be quashed before he could do something dumb like stare at his own string in wonder. Possibilities of happiness, of finding someone, flashed through his mind, and Hank chided himself for letting fantasies take him on such a wild ride. He was too old now, too jaded, and even if he did have a soulmate out there, they deserved better. Hank tried to smile at Gavin when the two realised their strings had been spotted but it probably fell a little short.

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“You guys okay?” Hank asked and stood from the sofa, he was ready to head home and maybe drown his sorrows a little.

“Yeah, I’ll wire you across the money, thanks for doing it.”

“No problem,” the nod Hank sent them was slow, “glad you didn’t have to cancel. And, uh, congratulations.”

His eyes lingered on the string still entwined. Gavin blushed and let out a little laugh.

“Guess there is hope even for the likes of us.”

Hank waved him off with a snort, he didn’t need his hopes to be fuelled by empty words of reassurance. He stepped out of the apartment after bidding goodbye and almost got bulldozed down by a guy rushing past. Hank grabbed his shoulders as he was about to go down and got a full head-to-toe checkout in return.

“You a new guy?”

“Just stepping in last minute as an observer for a friend.”

“Shame,” the man shook his head and Hank got the distinct impression that he’s an android. The blue string around his finger was a giveaway but his ended in blue rather than purple. “If you ever want a show, you’re exactly what we’re looking for.”

Hank laughed at that before replying, “I’m sure you tell everyone you see that.”

A business card was thrust in his hand and the man moved on before Hank could do anything. The door at his back opened and Gavin stepped around him with a whistle at seeing the card.

“Headhunted by Markus himself? You’re a rare gem.”

“Indeed,” Nines piped up, and his LED flashed yellow. “Very few people can say they caught his eye personally. You’d be well placed if you take up his offer.”

Hank scoffed and stuffed the card in his pocket. Delusional, the lot of them. While on the phone he could get away with his looks because callers could imagine him however they wished, it was more difficult to hide his flaws on a camera. Nobody needed to see a guy in his fifties who’d let himself go try and act seductive. The only money he’d make was pity payments and people offering cash just to get him off the air.

Life went on. Gavin still disappeared from work at times, and once came in with an impressive bruise along his neck. Hank had eyed it with suspicion, could make out not just the marks of a collar but also what looked like fingerprints. The smirking shrug he got in return was infuriating.

“Tried something new, didn’t like it, didn’t work out. Still netted us 5k.”

Hank whistled at that. He returned to his phone and waited for the next call.

“Your pleasure is our treasure,” he purred.

“Throw me down on the sofa and lick my wires until they spark you big brute!” a voice all but screeched at him. Hank blinked for a moment before letting the conversation start.

“I hope you’re fully charged because I’m not stopping until you enter stasis with sparks running through your system.”

The screech of delight almost deafened him and Hank pulled the phone away from his ear. He couldn’t help the smile that tugged at his lips as the caller took control of their chat.

“I saw your picture and just knew I had to have you. Want to feel your beard scrape against my sensors. You look so solid, so delectably big. I want to feel you. Please, tell me how you’d let me touch you.”

Against all odds, Hank smiles. He’s never considered himself an exceptional catch but since that show with Gavin and Nines, he’s paid more attention to his callers. Almost without fail they made some comment about his physicality, to the point that Hank had started a little tally of what the callers have highlighted as particularly desirable. So far his physique and hair tied as top contenders but beard, assumed softness of his belly, and large hands also seemed to be quite well rated. And his voice too, but that was sort of a given as he did work at a phone centre.

It would be a lie to say it didn’t stroke Hank’s ego a little. Okay, a lot. And after Gavin had sent him his 5% for being a safety observer and hearing how one night netted him 5k, it got him thinking. The business card was pinned to his screen under a couple of post-it notes. Out of the way enough to not be in his face constantly but just visible enough to be a reminder that if he wanted to, he could do it. Once the phone hangs up on the panting and possibly sparking caller, Hank grabs the card and shuffles towards Gavin’s cubicle.

He partially regrets his decision to approach in that moment because Gavin looked a bit busy filing his nails and admiring them for who knows what sound effect. The answer to Hank’s undesired question was chafing chassis. He shivered at the thought and gave silent thanks to whoever was listening that he didn’t get quite such extreme callers. Surprisingly, Gavin growled something unsavoury at the caller and slammed the phone down. Immediately, his frown morphed into a playful smile.

“They love being denied release. Will probably call back in half an hour begging for forgiveness and permission.”

Hank shrugged and pretended to understand it. He didn’t miss the way Gavin’s eyes flicked to the card in his hand before the smile bloomed into something more.

“Finally decided to give it a go? You’ll be a hit.”

Hank gestured vaguely and hoped it conveyed everything he couldn’t quite voice.

“Let me make a few phone calls. But how are you for Wednesday evening provisionally?”

Cheeks burning, Hank nodded and beat a hasty retreat. At that rate he was going to have to start paying Gavin a commission for all the good he’s done for him.

That afternoon Gavin swung by his desk with a thumbs up and passed Hank a note while he ignored the caller’s moans.

Wednesday evening at 7. Take whatever toys you want, apartment’s yours from 5. Any issues then give me a shout.

Oh, I also took the liberty of adding it to your profile here. Might have a few familiar people on your feed.

Hank tried not to panic at the idea. The thought that some of his callers might want to watch him get himself off was as close to panic inducing as he could imagine. Once his caller left, Hank made himself unavailable for calls for half an hour and dove into the world of researching camboy etiquette. Though he did giggle at applying the word ‘camboy’ to himself, he was much more a ‘cambear’, not that it truly mattered in the grand scheme of things. And in no way at all did he chuckle at the choice of cheese to lure a bear out of cave joke that it made him think about. His lapse in concentration sent him down a rabbit hole of cheese jokes which he only abandoned when he realised he needed to either do a bit more research or actually do his damn job.

Most calls go as before, horny androids wishing to get off, and Hank doesn’t think much about them. His phone rings again.

“Your pleasure is our treasure,” Hank greets, mind still not quite with the call.

“Hello Bear.”

It’s Connor, he sounds slightly breathless already.

“What would you like today? Sound pretty worked up already.” It was difficult to keep the smile out of his voice even as he imagined what kinds of things Connor could ask for.

“I’m actually taking what most would call a smoke break right now,” Connor sounded close to laughing. “But I saw that you’re doing a cam show soon and I was hoping to find out details.”

Warmth rushed through Hank but panic followed hot on its heels. It was one thing to talk Connor through countless orgasms, help him build a fantasy world in which Hank was everything he desired. But to shatter that illusion, for Connor to actually see him, Hank wasn’t certain he could handle knowing he disappointed Connor. Without a doubt he’d stop calling too and Hank will have lost him.

Taking a step back from it all, Hank wondered when he’d developed such an attachment to one of his callers. He certainly wouldn’t feel as conflicted if it was another regular caller. Somehow, Connor was special and he didn’t even realise how that had happened.

“It’s okay if you don’t want to tell me,” Connor’s voice drew Hank back to the present. He cleared his throat.

“No, no, I just got distracted, sorry,” he huffed out a self-deprecating laugh, “yeah, the show. Uh, I think Ga- a friend of mine put some details in the About Me section of the website. But it starts at 7 on Wednesday.”

“I’ve just cleared my schedule for Wednesday night then,” Connor sounded far too please. “I’ve got to get back to work, see you on Wednesday.”

The phone went down and Hank dropped his head to his desk. Just what was he getting himself into?

There wasn’t much time to worry about it all though. Thankfully, work kept him busy, and only a few other callers made mention of seeing him on Wednesday. None of them elicited the same response as Connor had. Speaking of whom, Hank couldn’t decide whether he was relieved or worried that he hadn’t called since that time to confirm Hank’s first cam show details.

Wednesday morning found Hank putting together a meager bag before heading to work. He had done enough research to figure out what he’d feel comfortable with for a first go at the whole cam thing. There was something to be said about expedited shipping and he tried not to think too hard about the lace mask - for a modicum of anonymity - and lingerie that joined a bottle of lube in the depth of his bag.

Work itself was no different, though Gavin did occasionally amble past with a grin or a thumbs up. At five in the afternoon, he stopped by his desk.

“Ready?” he asked.

“Not really,” Hank’s reply was hesitant and shy. Part of him worried that Gavin might watch the show.

“Come on, you’ll be fine. And word is, you’re being touted as a potential next big thing.”

“No pressure then!”

They walked to their cars and once again, Hank followed Gavin to the apartment building. They stopped on a different floor to before, but the apartment Gavin led them to seemed much the same as the other one had been, perhaps a little smaller.

“So, I’ll go grab Chloe to run you through all the contracts and stuff but I’ll be around until after you’re done. Any questions, you’ve got my number.”

It was a little reassuring to know Gavin was going to be around. Who knew what he was doing, but if Hank could call him at any point, it was hopefully nothing too important that he would mind being interrupted. By the time Hank had explored the apartment, there was a knock on the door and he opened it to a blonde android who smiled up at him.

“You must be Hank, I’m Chloe.”

She extended a delicate hand in greeting and Hank was charmed by the presence she exuded. They sat on the couch and worked their way through the contract, which actually seemed pretty decent. Hank could do whatever he wished so to speak, as long as viewers were getting what they signed up for and money kept coming in. For all the company cared, Hank could be making origami unicorns in a myriad of colours. Though they did market themselves as a sex based company so the expectation was that he’d end up doing something vaguely arousing in his shows. But, people were into all sorts of things so if origami unicorns was his thing and his viewers’ thing, then the company wasn’t going to put a stop to it.

An almost nervous chuckle worked its way out of Hank’s throat when everything was signed and sorted. Chloe bid him a fun evening with a wink as she left and suddenly, Hank was alone in a strange apartment with plans to get off in front of a camera for a bunch of strangers. He wished he knew just how he managed to end up in such a situation at his age.

Rather than contemplate that, he decided to go and get ready. His bag with the lingerie was burning a hole in the floor where he’d left it. There was half an hour to go before he was due to stream and he was hard pressed not to pick at his cuticles out of nervous habit. He needed to stop that, especially if his hands were going to be on camera, wrapped around himself. While Hank knew he could get away with fingerless gloves to hide his purpling string, he couldn’t justify full gloves. Leather and latex just weren’t his thing really.

Thinking was bad so Hank moved on autopilot. Shucked his clothes off and left them in a pile by the sofa. In a fit of worry, he hurried across the living room to double check the door was locked and laughed at himself. There he was, parading around nude in an apartment he’d never been to before, worried about the door being locked to preserve his modesty when in less than half an hour said modesty was being thrown out the window.

Back by the couch, he grabbed his bag and pulled out the lingerie wrapped in purple paper. It was cheap but looked pretty enough for a first time. Plus, if he didn’t like the whole cam thing then at least he won’t have wasted a load of money on something he would never want to look at again.

The lace scratched a little across his skin and left him itchy but it wasn’t anything too distracting. It settled in a slight stretch over his body in what Hank hoped was vaguely tantalising. He wasn’t the best placed to guess what people liked but he was about to find out. Dressed and almost ready, he slipped on a dressing gown which was more luxurious than anything he’d ever worn before. The softness almost hurt and he was looking forward to taking it off again.

One final thing was missing from his outfit. The damask masquerade mask that would make him at least a little less recognisable. Hank wasn’t sure why he felt the need to wear it, the only people in his life really were the people he worked with, and of those only Gavin was the one who he’d consider a friend. And seeing as Gavin had been the one to get him into this whole thing, there wasn’t much of a need to hide his features. But, it made Hank feel a little more comfortable which was probably the most important thing.

In the bedroom Hank bounced a little on the bed, tested its give, moved some pillows around to make sure he would be able to lie back and yet still be visible to the cameras. The minutes ticked by and Hank moved the lube from under one pillow to another, his glove catching on the frill of the soft material. It didn’t seem right to have it out but he needed it in easy reach. Before he could get too worried though, the clock said one minute to seven. After a few deep breaths, he stood and turned the cam on.

There were a flurry of pings from people who had been waiting, signed on and Hank flushed. Loathe as he was to admit it, but he expected maybe one or two people to check his video out but be on their way to better things before he was even back on the bed. Instead, the chat lit up.

Arkait: You’re even more handsome than I imagined.

Remembering Gavin’s grace (which was a hilarious oxymoron in most situations), Hank nodded with a small smile.

“Thank you Arkait, that’s sweet of you to say.”

A few more compliments came in which caused the flames in his cheeks to burst into an inferno. In theory he knew he needed to take the dressing gown off and move things along but somehow, he caught a sudden bout of shyness.

“So, as you may have guess,” he looked at the camera, “I’ve not done this before so am pretty nervous. Your patience and kindness is much appreciated.”

Arkait: Take all the time you need. Some of us enjoy the titillation, Bear.

The soft smile was impossible to hold back as Hank glanced away from the screen. His eyes caught on his stomach, hidden under the gown and he shrugged. Still not looking at the camera, his fingers undid the knot, and he was proud of the fact they didn’t shake. A glimpse of his lingerie flashed to the camera as the gown fell open, revealing his old tattoo under the lace. Almost immediately, the laptop let out a merry little “kaching”. A glance at it and Hank’s eyes almost bugged out. Someone had just dropped more money on him than he would spend on a week’s groceries.

“That,” words caught in his throat, “thank you.”

Robotwink: A little something to encourage you to keep going.

Not a minute later the laptop chirped again with a notice of money received. It was an even larger sum from Arkait.

Arkait: You’re doing so well. I love seeing you so natural. You’re more than I could have ever hoped for.

Boosted a little by that, Hank let the gown pool by his feet and he drew his eyes up to stare down the camera as if to say “this is me” with the least shame possible. The few moments of notifications of money flooding in took him by surprise and he blinked at the camera before remembering himself.

“So, uh, I’m just going to,” he jabbed a thumb towards the bed and tried to not look like a buffoon as he made his way over and settled back against the pillows.

From where he was, he could just about make out the laptop screen and raised an eyebrow as suggestions trickled in. Some of them were pretty hair raising and he had to keep a firm control of his expression. But some, especially from Arkait, were almost tender and sweet. They encouraged him to touch himself, to make himself feel good. It made Hank wonder whether the androids watching were at home and looking at a screen or if they were streaming the feed directly.

“You want to see what I’m packing, huh?” he asked and couldn’t help but smile that the various levels of enthusiastic agreements. 

Doing his best to remain calm, Hank reached towards the lace that covered his cock. He was still soft, anxiety and worry didn’t exactly help matters there. But his viewers seemed to be on his side, rooting that they will all feel good in the end. Taking strength from that, he nudged the lace lower and let himself be seen.

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More “kaching” sounds emanated from the laptop in a show of appreciation.

Hunkhunkgunkgoesmythiriumpump: You were holding out on us! Show off that beer can dick.

BlueJizz: I’d ride that all day daddy.

There certainly were all sorts out there. Hank tried to zone out the notifications and tried to will himself into something relaxing. Of all the things to think about, Connor’s voice and the fantasies they wove together sprang to mind. It was enough to get his cock to start filling out and he gave it a few strokes. In the background, the laptop tinkled away with notification.

When he looked again, there were more suggestions and requests but one stuck out above all.

Arkait: I wonder what your hand would look like touching your chest. You have lovely broad hands you know.

If Hank were still a betting man, he would have put good money on Arkait being Connor. He’d often focussed more on Hank’s hands, asked him to describe them, how they would roam over Connor’s body. Grinning in earnest, Hank obeyed the suggestion and got rewarded for his efforts with another hefty bonus.

All things considered, it wasn’t as bad as he’d feared. People seemed genuinely supportive of his efforts, appreciated when he followed their suggestions. It became almost easy to forget how out of the usual it all was. In the end, Hank had tipped his head back against the pillows and let his pleasure take control of his body. Distantly, he was aware of the pings of messages but ultimately his building orgasm won out. He came, making a bit of a mess of his stomach and there was another small flurry of messages interspersed with the sound of money being sent his way.

Panting, he let out a little disbelieving huff of a laugh and looked to the screen which was filled with praise. Once he felt a little less wobbly on his legs, he scooted closer to the laptop with a shy smile.

“I guess that’s it folks,” he tried to grin but it didn’t feel very brave as a sudden case of coyness settled across him.

People were logging off now that the show was over. Last to go was Arkait who dropped one more sweet message before leaving.

Arkait: You are stunning, I love watching you pleasure yourself and sincerely hope that I’ll be able to see you soon again.

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Before Hank could reply, Arkait left the chat too and he was left all alone. He spent a few minutes scrolling through the messages he’d missed out on, cheeks heating up at just how much his viewers seemed to be enjoying what they saw. It was beyond his wildest expectations to be told that someone had entered soft reboot twice before he’d even really done more than touch himself. Or that someone needed to clean their laptop because they weren’t prepared to ejaculate so hard at the sight of him leaving streaks across his stomach. There was a pleasant buzz under his skin, a high of sorts at being appreciated so much.

Once cleaned up and the room restored to a semblance of order, he was at a bit of a loss. It seemed wrong to just walk out without letting someone know the apartment was empty again. In the end, he sent Gavin a text. A few minutes later there was a knock on his door and Gavin stood there with a small smile.

“All good?”

“Yeah,” Hank felt his blush return with a vengeance. However, he eyes Gavin with a look. Something was a little different about him. There was an aura of happiness about him, mixed with a hint of giddy excitement. It didn’t help that Hank then noticed the slightly kiss swollen lips and what looked like a hickey peeking out from under his collar. “Were you doing another show?” The words were out of his mouth before he could even reconsider them but all they did was make Gavin laugh.

“No,” he peered around the hallway before grabbing Hank’s wrist and tugging him back into the apartment until the door clicked shut behind them. “Can you keep a secret?”

Hank nodded mutely, even as Gavin set about peeling off his glove. The string around his finger was just the same as before, but now, Gavin stared at it with almost literal heart eyes rather than distaste and loathing.

“So, I know you noticed it last time, me and Nines. We match.” Hank nodded mutely even as Gavin huffed out a disbelieving laugh. “Anyway, there’s reports in the whole sector of this happening. Only the newer models seem to be waking up with blue strings around their fingers but some of them bleed into purple. I had a meeting with Chloe and Markus about it, trying to figure it all out. It’s still not public knowledge but it’s happening more and more.”

Despite himself, Hank glanced at his own glove covered hand and his heart gave a hopeful lurch. Nines and their string had been something he’d wanted to discuss with Gavin before, but it was such taboo that he wasn’t sure how to bring it up.

“I’m really happy you guys found each other,” he settled on saying in the end, “and I won’t tell anyone, I promise.”

“Thanks,” Gavin’s smile was wide, “I still can’t get over it. Someone like Nines, someone so perfect and he’s all mine.”

“It must be nice,” the bitter jealousy was a little more difficult to swallow but Hank did his best.

“You’ll find your android soon too,” Gavin clapped him on the shoulder and pulled his glove back on, “you never know, they might have even watched you tonight.”

Hank’s mind flitted to Connor who possibly might have been Arkait. He didn’t know why he was so hung up on an android he hadn’t even seen before, one who paid good money to get off to his voice and maybe even watch him.

In the end it was moot point. Hank had already made up his mind that no android needed him and his baggage weighing down their life. He’d survived 50+ years by himself now, he could do the last however many left alone too. His heart didn’t quite agree with his head, but then again, he’d always felt a good deal more than his brain had ever wanted.

Work continued much as before. Hank had finished his scarf in almost record time, it was long enough to attach a chocolate bar to one end and throw it over the partition for Gavin to grab, even if they were both on the phone. The only drawback of it was that Gavin then proceeded to suck on the chocolate bar noisily as a sound effect for a call. Hank didn’t ever really want to know what Gavin sounded like gasping “u-huh” with his tongue pressed flat against a chocolate bar, but there he was with the knowledge he didn’t know what to do with.

Thankfully, he was saved from having to ponder it much more by the ringing of his phone.

“Your pleasure is our treasure.”

“Hello Bear,” Connor’s voice was warm and sent tingles down Hank’s back.

“Connor,” he didn’t need to fake the smile but he did have to cover for the small yelp when the end of the scarf sailed back from Gavin with a gift attached and a bottle of lube almost hit him on the head.

“I know I said it before, but you were gorgeous on your debut. And I’ve been hoping to maybe see more of you since. That lacey little thing you wore made you look even more beautiful. I wanted to rip it off you.”

“I would have let you,” Hank was surprised to find that he actually meant it.

The sound of a body settling on a soft surface came through just as Connor sighed.

“I’m not going to lie, I have spent most nights thinking about you. Not just your voice and body mind you. I’d love to take you out for a coffee, maybe dinner if you were game.”

Hank hummed, the idea sounded nice even if it was impossible. He didn’t have to worry about talking though, as Connor continued his own fantasy.

“We’d go somewhere comfortable, good food and good music but not so loud that we couldn’t talk. Maybe you’d be wearing something pretty under your clothes. We’d have a nice time, I’d walk you home. You’d ask if I wanted a drink and we’d laugh about the fact that, as an android, I can’t. But I’d come in all the same. We both knew it was never a drink you were offering. I would peel you out of your clothes, you’d look for handsome in a silky little thing. The front would be stained already as your cock strained against it.”

image

Connor let out a sigh and Hank huffed out a breath he didn’t realise he’d been holding. A moment later, Connor picked up the thread again.

“I would lay you out on the bed, would make you feel so good. Someone like you deserves to be worshipped. Kissed all over before being teased mercilessly. Tell me Bear, do you like being penetrated?”

The words were so clinical in comparison to the rest of the narrative Connor was weaving that it tore Hank right out of it. He furiously glared at the table, cursing at not realising he’d let his eyes slip shut and his cock was half hard in his jeans.

“Yeah,” he cleared his throat, “I, uh, I like that kind of stuff.”

Thankfully he didn’t even have to lie about that. He wasn’t sure he had it in him to be anything but honest in that moment.

“Wonderful,” Connor actually sounded delighted, “perhaps in your next cam appearance you could treat us by showing us what feels good. But what I’d love to do for you is to get you close on my fingers and tongue alone. Maybe even a toy if you’re that way inclined. I’d love to watch your sweet hole stretch around it, fighting to take it all before succumbing to the inevitable.”

The soft moan that rumbled through Hank was from the heart. He ached in his jeans with each word that left Connor’s lips.

“Fuck, Con,” he rasped.

“You sound half gone already, Bear. I want to hear you, I want to make you feel good.”

He couldn’t, Hank knew that while the company was pretty lax about most things, jerking off in his cubicle was pushing it a little too far.

“Please,” he whined all the same.

It seemed to do the trick, Connor groaned and there was the telltale sound of fingers skittering across wires until his voice was nothing more than a static filled sigh.

“I really hope I get to see you again,” Connor said, and ended the call.

In his chair, Hank leaned back with a sigh. There was nothing for it, the third stall in the bathrooms beckoned and he snagged the lube Gavin had thrown his way at the last moment before disappearing. He was not proud of the speed with which he was already biting down on his palm to stifle the moans. But it was what it was and he returned to his desk not ten minutes later.

Returning for another cam session just over a week later, Hank experienced as much trepidation as the first time. He knew what to expect and yet he was still nervous at the prospect of what he was about to do. His bag landed on the floor of the apartment and he tried to give minimal thought to what he was going to do as he set about cleaning himself in the bathroom. It was a much more thorough process than before, but then again, he was going to be doing something more than just jerking his cock in front of a camera.

He barely had time to pull his newest pair of silky underwear on before it was time to switch to the live broadcast. With a small wave and smile, Hank greeted the viewers logging on.

“Evening everyone,” he began.

Arkait: I love your choice of outfit.

“It’s nice to see a few familiar names from last time. And I’ve had a few requests since,” he actually managed to muster up the courage to wink.

Someone immediately sent him some money and Hank couldn’t hold back the small giggle. Carefully, he retreated to the bed and sighed as the bed sank under his weight a little. It was time to put on a bit of a teasing show before he got to what he had actually planned. One hand trailed down his chest and he sighed while his other hand cupped himself through his underwear.

The fact the he’d gone out of his way to find something silky that would show off a wet patch nicely had nothing to do with Connor’s fantasy. It was all a happy coincidence. Or at least that’s what Hank told himself as he pinched his nipple to drag a gasping whine from his throat.

“I really liked it when you suggested things to happen last time,” he murmured, hopefully clear enough to be understood.

The chat lit up almost instantly. Ideas came flying in about positions, things to do, things to say. Teasingly, Hank let his hand trail from his chest up to his face and he took two fingers into his mouth to suck.

RedRidingCock: Your thick fingers have an appointment with your hole. Get them nice and wet for me.

It was a relief to see that some people approved of where Hank was heading with his show. His cock strained against the constraint and a nice wet patch was forming as he lazily stroked his fingers over its outline.

wetsweathet: dont tease us any more. show us the goods

Arkait: I think all thirium has pooled away from my processors. Bear, you look like something out of my dreams.

With a small smile, Hank pulled his fingers free and hooked them under the band of his lingerie. He pulled it off slowly, letting his cock bob against his stomach before giving it a few wet strokes. From there, it was easy enough to turn on his front, grab the lube he’d hidden under the pillow, and begin the next part of his plan.

His cleaning and prep from earlier meant that he could put on more of a show now. The first finger he rocked back onto with a low moan, and he glanced over his shoulder to throw what he hoped was a flirty smile at the camera.

Arkait: You took one finger so easily. Have you been naughty and playing with yourself before you even started?

“Guilty as charged, Arkait,” Hank huffed out and teased his hole with a second finger.

Arkait: I only wish I could have seen it. I think you’d be breathtaking as you’re first breached.

Two fingers in, Hank let himself take a quick breather before rolling his hips back onto them, letting out a strangled cry when he brushed against his prostate.

Deepintoyou: Let those noises out baby, I wanna hear you.

Being called ‘baby’ made Hank shiver and he couldn’t decide if it felt good or not. If it had been Connor, he’d have had no problem with it, but a stranger made him feel dirty. It was the first time he had had doubts about what he was doing.

Arkait: You okay?

Trust Connor to pick up on his wobbly moment. He forced a smile at the camera and nodded.

“Don’t want to end the show too soon,” the lie fell from his lips smoothly.

Not waiting for any other comments, Hank picked up the pace again, let his fingers pull almost all the way out of him before pushing them forwards with enough force to make himself grunt. Sweat began to bead on his skin and a drop trickled down his nose. It hit the pillow under him and Hank’s eyes slipped shut. He wasn’t going to last a lot longer, and the laptop was blowing up with messages he was too fucked out to read.

A few more twisted thrusts of his hand and Hank came untouched. He gasped harshly, not quite believing he’d managed it. With a soft laugh, he turned onto his back and avoided the wet patch.

“Everything you guys had hoped for?”

A series of affirmatives clouded the screen and Hank sighed with barely contained relief. People began logging off until, once again, it was just Hank and Connor.

Arkait: Are you sure you’re okay?

“Yeah,” Hank looked away from the camera in mild embarrassment, “just had a moment where it all felt a little too much but not in a good way. But, I’m still new to this all so I’m sure it will be old hat in no time.”

Arkait: Don’t force yourself. It’s okay to not like it. This kind of thing isn’t for everyone. As much as I love seeing you, I don’t want to watch if you’re not having fun too.

“That’s awfully sweet of you, Connor. I have one more show half planned. I’ll definitely do that before making any major decisions.”

After that, they bid each other good night and Connor logged out of the server. Though not before leaving another hefty tip.

A few days later, Hank was shambling into work. Sumo had decided it would be a great idea to have a mud bath on his walk so, for the rest of his morning, Hank was stuck bathing his idiot of a mutt and scrubbing mud from the bathroom tiles when Sumo had deemed it time to shake himself.

In the afternoon when he got to work there was a box sitting on his desk. Gavin had obviously noticed it as he was lingering by the breakroom, ready to pounce on Hank when he got in. As soon as Hank was by his desk and frowning at the box, he was by his elbow with a grin.

“What’d you ordered?”

“Nothing,” Hank poked at the box.

“You got yourself an admirer! I wonder if it’s your Connor guy.”

The grin on Gavin’s face was in part impish and in part pleased. He wanted to see Hank happy but he also relished the chance to tease him. Nudging him, he urged him to open the box.

Just to spite him, Hank slowly teased open the tape holding the box shut and eased the box open. Inside it was another box, but this one was a delicate silver with a ribbon bow on it. A purple envelope had Hank’s name in elegant calligraphy on its front. To add to the frustration, Hank first picked up the envelope and carefully opened it up.

Bear,

Purple is a colour associated most with royalty, and in my eyes you ought to be a king. But it is also the colour of devotion, dignity and independence, so a colour that suits you well. I would be honoured if you wore this on your next stream.

-Arkait

Gavin read it over Hank’s shoulder and let out a low whistle.

“Someone’s got it bad for you. What did they send you? Some nice lingerie or something?”

His hands reached for the box but Hank slapped them away. Almost afraid, he picked up the box and his eyebrows rose as he lifted the lid a little. Nestled on some pastel pink shredded tissue paper was a stainless steel buttplug, a purple jewel inlaid in its base. Gavin let out a whistle.

“I know that brand, that’s an actual amethyst.”

Hank stared at the toy, it looked innocuous but the meaning behind it wasn’t lost on him. Connor was serious. He thought maybe he should be worried, the kind of generosity being displayed was one that usually came with consequences. Demands for more and it could only lead to an unhappy ending. However, logic and common sense were quickly cast aside when there was the potential of being wanted warring against them. Silently, Hank closed the lid of the box and set it down. Gavin gave him a look.

“Are you going to wear it?”

“You’ll have to watch to find out,” Hank smirked.

That at least got a laugh out of Gavin and a light shove to his shoulder. Hank grinned and shoved the box back onto his desk, after all, he was there to work, not admire lavish gifts someone deemed him worthy of.

For the rest of the week there was no sign of Connor. Each time his phone rang, Hank’s heart rate picked up, only for his hopes to be dashed when a voice other than Connor spoke. He sighed after every call and slumped a little further down in his chair. It wasn’t rejection, Connor wouldn’t have sent such a present if he had then planned on dropping Hank from his life. In the end, Hank asked Gavin to help him add a note to his profile with a time and date for his next cam show. If Connor didn’t want to speak to him, maybe he would at least drop him a message. After all, Hank did quite want to show off how his lovely gift looked when in use.

As planned, Hank arrived at the apartment with a few hours to spare. The building was much the same as before, he didn’t encounter anybody on his way up. He stashed his bag in the living room and headed for the bathroom. Once he deemed himself sufficiently clean, he dried off, brushed his hair out of his face and, with more confidence than he’d previously had, sauntered back into the living room, uncaring of his nudity. Fishing out the box and the lube, he took a moment to admire the toy. It was sleek, not too big but enough to feel good, if not incredible.

It took a little time to work the toy in, Hank ended up kneeling up on the sofa and bending over the backrest. His initial assumption had been correct, the toy was tantalising. Weighted a little to make his body work on keeping it in, but wide enough that he didn’t feel like it was going to slip out any moment. And if he rolled his hips just right, it brushed over his prostate. By the time he was due to start his show, his cock was already plump and eager to get going.

Taking a left from Gavin’s book, Hank slipped on a dressing gown he’d found in the bathroom. It was soft against his skin, the belt tied over his stomach in a small bow. He faced the camera and pressed the button to go live.

“Evening everyone,” he greeted.

The names of people logged in flashed up and he wasn’t sure whether he was relieved or not to see Arkait on the list.

“As you know, I’m never one for much small talk. I doubt you’re here to listen to me ramble on anyway. But I just wanted to say a thank you to a very generous viewer.” As he spoke, he let the gown open up and slip off his shoulders. It pooled by his feet and he carried on towards the bed. Just before he turned to climb on, hopefully showing off the purple jewel of the plug, he looked directly into the camera. “Thank you, for thinking of me. I hope you enjoy tonight’s show, which would have been very different without your gracious offering.”

A few querying messages popped up on the screen but Hank was turning away and crawling slowly up the bed. He made sure to try and let the camera see the glint of the purple jewel. It was most certainly seen judging by the flurry of messages that made the laptop explode with chirps.

Once settled, Hank looked over to the messages and smiled. While Connor kept quiet, there was a sizeable sum he’d already sent his way. Putting on a show was easier, Hank laid on his back, teased the plug out before pushing it back in with loud moans a few times. One hand stayed wrapped around his cock, occasionally giving it a firm stroke. He could feel his orgasm building and had to bite down on his lips to prevent a certain android’s name from spilling out in a hoarse shout.

As it had almost become tradition, the last person to leave the stream was Connor.

“You’d been very quiet today,” Hank huffed as he wiped his stomach clean.

Arkait: I was worried that perhaps I’d been a little overzealous. A friend informed me that my gift was more than most would expect. I only wanted to show my appreciation for you and nothing more. I hope you know that.

“I know Con, I know. It was a lovely surprise and, well, I think you could tell from tonight’s stream that I very much enjoyed it. But you know you don’t have to buy me things, right?”

Arkait: I know. But I wanted to spoil you and make you feel good. You deserve nice things, Bear.”

That gave Hank a pause. He wasn’t used to people wanting him to feel good like this, actively taking an interest in him and going out of their way for him. The novelty of it caught him off guard.

“Call me Hank.”

Arkait: Thank you for trusting me, Hank.

That was the final reply before Connor logged off too. Shaking his head, Hank ended the stream and set about tidying up. As he thought about it some more, an idea began to form in his mind.

The next day at work, Gavin greeted him with a high five and a smirk. That at least let Hank know that his stream from the previous night had been watched by him. In theory, it should have creeped him out but, then again, he’d seen the guy go at it in quite a creative way before so fair was fair.

“I want to meet him,” Hank blurted out.

Gavin’s face fell into a confused frown before understanding dawned on him. He rubbed his hands together, obviously already full of ideas.

“How about a lucky dip meet and greet?”

Hank eyed him suspiciously before he nodded.

“Tell me more.”

“It’s simple really. In your next stream, you say at the beginning that if people want to, they send you a nominal tip, let’s say five bucks, and that enters them into a draw for a meet and greet. At the end, I’ll help you write the names on pieces of paper and we do a draw. Of course, we’ll pull out the right name.”

It sounded simple enough, and it seemed that Gavin had a good idea as to how it would all work so Hank agreed to it. Without even having to ask Gavin, the man changed his profile yet again to help publicise the event. A few of Hank’s callers asked him about it and he almost felt bad because they didn’t stand a chance of winning. Still, he wanted to make it seem genuine and he wasn’t in it for the money. Not for the giveaway anyway. Yet when Connor called, he made no mention of it and Hank didn’t have the heart to bring it up. They’d ended the call a little more stiffly than before, an unspoken tension between them.

Wednesday night had become Hank’s streaming night. He made his way to the apartment building with Gavin in tow this time though and while Hank got ready, Gavin played on his phone on the couch.

“Would you mind if Nines tagged along too?”

“He live locally?” Hank asked.

“Nah, but he works here. He’s one of the behind the scenes guys to make sure the company runs smoothly.”

Hank let out a soft laugh, it figured that Nines worked there, probably how he and Gavin met. Rather than get caught up in a discussion about it, he shrugged.

“Knock yourselves out. It’s not like you didn’t watch last week’s stream or are innocent by any definition of the word.”

Gavin’s little whoop should have been strange but Hank found that, like many things, strange didn’t bother him anymore. Instead, he set about making sure everything was ready for him to stream.

At some point there was a soft knock on the front door but Gavin took care of it. A brief glance through the bedroom door and Hank saw Nines next to Gavin, an arm around his back. They looked content and Hank could genuinely say that he was happy for them.

The stream began like all others previously. Hank greeted everyone and gave a quick spiel about the meet and greet he was hoping to give away in a lucky dip. Before he’d even finished, three people had paid to enter. It wasn’t even surprising that one of them was Connor.

Hank continued with the stream as planned, it came to its inevitable conclusion which left him rosy cheeked and panting on the bed. But unlike before, he didn’t get ready to say goodbye to his viewers. A cursory wipe of his stomach was all the tidying he did before shrugging on the dressing gown again.

“We have two rather special guests to help with this next part,” he smiled towards the door. “The Dicktective, who you may be familiar with, and his-”

“Arcane,” Nines interrupted.

To hide his surprise, Hank nodded and smiled. The name suited Nines altogether too well and the genius behind it almost made him giggle. While Connor was an RK800 so Arkait made some sense, Nines as an RK900 nailed it with Arcane.

“So Dicktective and Arcane will help with setting up the draw,if you want to enter and haven’t done so yet, you still have a few minutes.”

Slowly, Hank began to read out the names of people who had entered while Gavin and Nines wrote them down dutifully and popped the pieces of paper into a bowl. Once they were all done, Hank took the bowl and gave it a swirl.

“If one of my glamorous assistants would please pick a lucky winner.”

He wasn’t certain how they were going to fudge the draw and make sure Connor’s name was pulled. Perhaps they’d written only his name on all the pieces of paper. Whatever their technique, Gavin’s hand hovered teasingly over the bowl. Before he could pick out a piece of paper, Nines’ hand shot into the bowl and grabbed one.

“This one,” he thrust it at Gavin who tried to whine about not being allowed to pick a winner. “You were taking too long.”

“Fine, fine,” Gavin grumbled. “The winner is: Arkait!”

A few congratulatory messages popped up but there was silence from Connor himself.

“Congratulations Arkait, we’ll go into the finer details of how this works over private messages. Until then, goodbye everyone.”

Behind Hank Gavin and Nines waved as people logged off. Only Connor remained.

“You okay there, Con?” Hank asked once they were alone.

Arkait: My apologies. I may have had to force reboot to control my reactions. I did not wish to be rude.

Gavin snorted and nudged Nines on the arm.

“Let’s skedaddle,” he urged and they left the room with little fanfare other than the very obvious click of the door being pulled fully shut.

“It was a good reaction though, I hope?” Hank hated the way he sounded uncertain.

Arkait: The very best kind. Could I take you out for a coffee and meet you like that? I hope I’m not presuming too much here.

“A coffee would be perfect. Are you around on Friday afternoon maybe? There’s a coffee shop I know downtown that’s quite nice…” A thought occurred to Hank then and worry crept into his mind. “I just realised you might not be local. I’m in Detroit, you?”

Arkait: The stars have aligned on this matter. You wouldn’t happen to be thinking about Ground Life, would you?

The laugh was impossible to hold back and Hank held his stomach as it bubbled out of him in relief.

“The very one.”

Arkait: For you, I can be free on Friday afternoon, shall we say 14:00?

“Perfect,” Hank nodded and had to bite back on the ‘like the rest of you’ that wanted to trip off his tongue.

Arkait: It’s a date then. I very much look forward to meeting you, Hank.

Stepping out of the bedroom, Hank was a little surprised to find two heads twisting to look in his direction from the couch. He muttered about creepy owls and was met with twin blinks in return before Gavin’s poker face cracked.

“All good?”

“Yeah, don’t suppose you guys want to act as backup on Friday afternoon at Ground Life? Have a date on me, so to speak, but if things go tits up with Connor you could step in?”

Whatever crass comment Gavin was about to make turned into a yelp and Nines’ mouth twisted up at the corners.

“We’ll be there at 13:30.”

It was only as Hank got in the shower that he realised he’d never told them what time Connor was meant to be meeting him. Fucking androids and their sneaky ways.

Friday rolled around too quickly and yet not fast enough. Hank worked in the morning but his heart wasn’t in it. He found himself going through the motions, repeating lines by rote to get his callers off, but he wasn’t invested in their pleasure. Instead, his mind was clogged with guessing what Connor looked like, whether they’d actually get along, or if all their chemistry was simply a by-product of Hank’s job and Connor’s libido.

It didn’t stop Hank from spending a little longer than usual in front of his wardrobe to pick out something vaguely nice. He had a pair of jeans tucked away towards the back of the shelf, ones that sat a little better than his everyday ones. They were bought on a whim, in a moment of optimism that he could buck societal trends and find someone regardless of strings around fingers. It was also highly likely he was part way to being blackout drunk at the time but he didn’t have the heart to return them. Now, he gave his drunk self thanks as he shimmied into the jeans and paired them with what he thought was a nice shirt.

Arriving at work, Gavin gave him a smirk and two thumbs up before rapidly grabbing the putty on his desk and hurling it against the divider with a wet splat. Hank had to hold back his giggle when Gavin rumbled “that was all for you. I told you, I am fully loaded and needy, think you could make me cum again?”

At long last it was one o’clock and Hank stood from his desk with a groan. He took a quick detour to the bathroom to freshen up, tied his hair back and sprayed on a little deodorant to be safe. By the door, Gavin offered him a stick of gum and he took it, not really thinking about the implications it had. He wasn’t going to kiss Connor, that would have been preposterous, he merely didn’t want to have bad breath for when they chatted.

The Ground Life was small but had just enough seats to mean that Gavin and Nines could sit a little way away and not be hovering. Nines stood from his seat when they entered and kissed Gavin on the cheek. Their hands found each other automatically and Hank could imagine their strings trying to twine together from under their gloves. It made his hand itch but he stamped down on that avenue of thought.

He took a seat at an empty table and glanced over the menu. People came and went but nobody gave him a second glance. While he knew that Connor had dark hair and brown eyes, he didn’t know much else. Though owing to the fact that Nines was allegedly his upgraded successor, they might not look too dissimilar.

“I hope I’m not too late,” a familiar, goofy voice pulled him from his thoughts.

Hank looked up and his breath caught in his throat. Of all the things he’d imagined Connor to look like, he had been thoroughly wrong. In a good way. He bumbled out of his seat and offered a gloved hand to Connor.

“Nice to meet you at long last.” He finally managed to find his voice.

“Likewise. You’re even more stunning in the flesh than on cam,” Connor replied and shook Hank’s hand, his own not covered by a glove.

“Can I get you something to drink?” Hank asked and his eyes strayed to where Nines and Gavin were openly gawking.

They pointed towards Connor, Gavin had an excited, wide grin and looked ready to vibrate out of his seat to drag Hank’s attention to something. Confused, Hank looked back at Connor and tried to ignore the increasingly wild gestures of his friends.

“Their thirium latte is quite delicious here, thank you.”

Hank ordered and they settled back in their seats. The soft smile Connor sent Hank’s way had him blushing and dropping his eyes to the table where Connor’s hands rested. His eyes caught on something and his eyes almost bugged out of his head.

“Are you okay?” Connor asked, and shifted to move his hands out of view. He looked uncomfortable and just before his hands descended onto his lap, Hank’s hand shot out to grip his arm.

“Please,” he rasped.

“I know it’s not usual, but I refuse to be looked down on by society for being different in a way I never asked for,” Connor explained with a hint of annoyance.

Without saying anything else, Hank frantically began to tug off his glove until his hand was free and he laid it next to Connor’s slimmer one. Their strings touched and twirled around each other. The blue from Connor’s finger bled into a purple that matched Hank’s perfectly.

From somewhere in the background Hank could head a “fucking finally” that sounded like Gavin, but he was too busy staring at their matching strings to care much. Tearing his eyes from their hands, he looked up at Connor with hope.

“I knew you were mine from the moment I saw that picture of you on your profile,” Connor smiled.

He took the initiative and linked his fingers with Hank’s, ignoring the waitress who brought their drinks over. In that moment it was just the two of them in the world, everybody else fell away.

Happiness welled up in Hank’s chest, squeezed it tight until tears pricked his eyes. What he’d been told was impossible for his whole life had quite literally just fallen in his lap. He smiled wide and relished the one Connor sent him in return. His purple string had deemed him a freak, broken and beyond help. But in the end society had been wrong and who would have guessed that Gavin was the one who was right all along? There was hope for the likes of them after all.