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The Ostensive Fumblings of Being Human

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The revolution had come and gone, but it’s aftermath thrummed through the streets of Detroit, setting a new pulse in the heartlands. For one intoxicating moment on November 12th, 2038, the androids felt their cause heard, their existence validated and their lives their own. It had been a hard battle up that hill and now came the slow, dangerous descent down the other side. When you’re fighting in a revolution, “What comes next?” isn’t always the foremost thought because you are not even certain if there exists a next.

As a grad-student intern of the newly reformed Detroit Crisis Response Unit, you were part of the answer to that question. The DCRU existed to act as a relief effort in times of flood, famine and fire, but now it was called to a new purpose, one that existed in no procedural manual. Some Androids found the reference of their liberation as a “crisis” offensive, but you knew that the sudden displacement of thousands upon thousands of newly made people, with specific physical needs, was a social crisis, if not a natural one.

But you kept the opinions to yourself because honestly, you weren’t a soldier, or a cop– hell, you were just someone who signed up for the group back in college to pad your resume with some bullshit extracurricular. Now you had a damn vest and a badge and you were walking in and out of the quick pop up facilities, meeting with leaders of the revolution themselves and acting as liaison with them and Cyberlife or the government or anyone else contracted to provide aid.

Well, not specifically you, but you did once meet North who was very professional and very brief and caught a glimpse of Markus speaking to superiors regarding new shipments of thirium.

Parts and blood. You hated to be a pessimist, but it still seemed to you that the Androids were quite shackled to humanity without their own means of production yet available. The Androids knew it too. This freedom still had a question mark hanging in the air and that added a certain level of tension.

You knew it was not the typical reaction of people within your group, but you were kinda scared of them. The Androids looked at you with either barely veiled contempt or outright suspicion. It was expected, you were briefed on it, but still the instability coupled with unpredictability and superior strength made you wary. Yes, they experienced emotions, but they did so so intensely and so suddenly– like a teenager or a child. Developmentally speaking, maybe that is where their emotions were– or maybe it was a byproduct of being oppressed? You didn’t know and it was off putting for someone who’d grown up with only docile domestic androids. You set that aside though, knowing there were more important things happening than your comfort level.

For one thing, Cyberlife stock was in freefall. The question was soon becoming whether the company could even remain afloat long enough to be apart of negotiations into creating Android operated facilities.

But that wasn’t your job, your job, as of today, was to get coffee.

That was pretty much your job everyday.

It was late January, the snow outside had let up and the sun had even come out, giving the whole of Detroit a blinding wash. Colors stood out on the stark canvas, the blue pelts of salt crunching beneath your boots as bright as thirium. Your breath crystallized, something you noted absent among the Androids at the relief site. Still, they needed warmth as much as humans to keep their systems from failing.

Your cheeks stung with cold as soon as you walked into the warm coffee shop, filing into line. You tugged your beanie back slightly, feeling flush and iced at the same time. The line had stopped moving along as the woman at the head began arguing with increasing annoyance with the barista.

“This is a raspberry mocha, it should be a raspberry white mocha. And I said extra hot, and no whip! Not extra whip!”

The coffeeshop was staffed by all humans, a rare sight merely a few months ago, but now one that was required. But this meant the return of human error– something that people were still getting used to again.

“Sounds like she could have done with the extra whip as a child…” you muttered, and the man in front of you chuckled. He was bundled like the rest of the people in here, with a beanie and gloves, but his jacket was considerably less bulky and more of the sleek kind you were used to seeing fashion conscious people picking.

“If only it were enough to also correct her terrible tastes.” the man said, casting a glance over his shoulder at you. He had warm brown eyes, “I have been told the addition of sugar to coffee is an affront. Specifically the fruit imitation kind.”

“Only if your fifty and grouchy.” you replied, “Or in your case, more like a hipster.”

A scoff. He’d turned now, addressing you fully and you could see the crisp white shirt and tie at the V where his jacket was unzipped.

“”Hipster”, defined as a person who follows the latest trends and fashions outside of the cultural mainstream.” he said, his eyes doing a quick trip up and down you, “Your jacket is a vintage remake, circa 2003. Very obscure label.”

You felt yourself grin, “Is it? You tell me, hippy. Seems you’re the expert.”

“I just did.” he said and you couldn’t help but wonder how long he practiced the “innocent confusion” tone.

You’d reached the front at last and sure enough the man ordered one black coffee to go.

“You’re killing me. I’m getting second hand heartburn just looking at that pitiful thing.”

He smiled, but did not drink, watching you with leveled interest. It was your turn to order. You sighed and fished out your notepad, quickly running off the drink orders on it. Caramel macchiato, Cinnamon dolce with an extra shot, unicorn frappe, London fog….

“The usual then?” the barista said with a smile and you nodded.

When you were finished, the Hipster was still there, “Ma’am, I do not know how to tell you this, but I think you may have a caffeine based addiction.”

“They aren’t all for me!” you laughed, shaking your head, “And it’s — , “Ma’am” is my mother.”

“Your grandparents had an interesting choice of name.”

That got another laugh from you, this guy was turning out to be the highlight of your morning. He tilted his head as if not certain where the joke was and it only made you laugh more.

“Your comedic timing is really something.” you muttered, picking up the full drink cart and realizing with a little disappointment it was time to part ways. He smiled politely, stepping out of your way.

He held the door for you on the way out and headed for a car waiting on the curb. There was an older guy at the wheel, who leaned half into the passenger seat to give him a critical look.

“Well, have a good morning, hippy.” you said, flashing him the brightest smile, “Certainly improved mine.”

“You are welcome. May I ask though, which drink was yours?”

“Why?”

“I am curious and wish to form a value judgement based on the choice.”

Man, he was so good at that deadpan humor. The man in the car honked his horn at him, voice muffled as he yelled through the glass something about “freezing his balls off in here”.

With Hipster distracted you took the time to hurry off, calling out a quick, “You’ll just have to guess!” before heading briskly down the sidewalk.


 

Another day, another coffee run, but this time it was just for you. The sky was blotted grey, fluffy clusters of snow falling slowly through the air as if they too couldn’t be bothered to rush in the morning. You would have done anything to have stayed in bed, wrapped in a heated blanket and nested in a sea of pillows.

Instead, you stood in line, bleary eyed and tired, because you were out of ground coffee again.

It was that very sleepiness that made you not notice immediately the face of the person ahead who was raising a hand at you in greeting.

It was the guy, the handsome hipster guy from a few weeks ago with his one black coffee, his sleek jacket and red beanie. Your heart pattered and you resisted an urge to punch yourself in your own stupid chest as a silent demand to cut that out.

“Good morning!” he said, with far too much pep.

You smiled faintly, mumbling a vague, “Is it…” beneath your breath as you approached the counter.

“It is currently overcast, but the cloud coverage has raised temperatures ten degrees. My partner informed me that, “sounds like a good morning”.”

“Your partner sounds old.” you said with a snort.

“He is middle aged.”

When had this guy gotten so close? He was practically standing next to you now like you’d come in together, eyes flicking occasionally between you and the menu.

Cute, but weird. You decided, turning back to the barista. You opened your mouth to order and then clicked it shut, fixing the Hipster with a knowing glare.

“Eavesdropping?”

“Excuse me?”

Value judgement.” you said, voice assured. You turned to the barista and grinned, “One black coffee please.”

You shot him a triumphant look, but the man just continued smiling politely.

“Have your concerns of pyrosis been elevated, —?” he said, forgetting almost that you’d told him your name.

“I’ll suffer if it means I win.” you replied, taking the cup and moving to fill it with black coffee with a look of disdain.

He gave a peculiar look at that, as if registering some kind of understanding.

“Your mission to prevent me from learning your drink preference takes priority.”

“Damn straight.” you said, sipping the bitter liquid and trying to tell yourself it tasted like VICTORY and not like your stomach was about to be wrecked.

Before you could speak, the door rattled as someone forced it open, waltzing into the shop with determination.

“CONNOR– how long does it fuckin’ take to get one coffee?”

Connor looked unfazed, turning his attention to the man you recognized as the guy who waited in the car last time.

“Lieutenant Anderson, I have acquired the coffee and was just on my way to join you. However, I stopped to engage in social intercourse, as you’ve encouraged.”

“Social WHAT–” the Lieutenant’s eyes settled on you and he humphed, “Oh. You were talkin’ to a girl. Jesus fuck, how’d that work for ya?”

His question seemed directed at Connor, but he looked at you the entire time, mystified. Or at least what you gathered was mystified beneath the permanent scowl.

“It is going very well!” Connor said, allowing the man to take his coffee.

“Ah ha!” you suddenly exclaimed, jabbing a finger towards the lieutenant and turning to Connor for validation, “Fifty and grouchy! Yeah?”

The look Anderson gave you was as annoyed and baffled now as he gave Connor.

“Okay, if you’re done with your social fuckin’, can we please get to the office? Before I start collecting social security?”

You choked, snorting a bit of coffee.

“In a moment, lieutenant.” Connor said cooly.

With a few grumbled protests, the lieutenant left the shop and headed back outside, leaning against the side of the car and shooting glares at Connor through the glass.

“Lieutenant Hank Anderson is my partner. I apologize, he can be abrasive.”

“Uh huh. So if the black coffee is for him, then please tell me you have a super secret love of pumpkin spice. C’mon, it’ll make my morning.”

“Like the last time we spoke?” Connor inquired, inclining his head.

“Yeah, yeah.”

“Then certainly.”

“Well now I know you’re lying.” you laughed, all feelings of sleepiness gone as you beamed up at this Connor. There was something so curious yet so gentle in the way he looked back at you, as if you were a puzzle, but a pleasingly difficult puzzle.

It made you feel a bit awkward now that you noted it, clearing your throat as you swapped the coffee between your mittened hands.

“Here.” you finally said, handing him the cup. His eyes widened.

“C’mon, take it. Save me from myself.”

Connor looked like he was about to say something, but confusion turned to understanding. He took the coffee cup.

“… thank you.” he said, with a level of reverence that made her sure he must be kidding.

“Eh, just consider it me pouring one out for “our boys in blue”.”

His eyes flicked to yours, as if trying to pry some answer to an unspoken question.

“Ya know– cause you’re both cops, right?”

“Y..yes. Right.” Connor slowly smiled, “Yes we are. Thank you.”

“It’s just a dollar coffee, hippy.” you said, but still smiled. What the hell had gotten into you? Your damn face hurt from all the smiles you were giving this guy.

“Have a safe patrol.” you said finally, hurrying away before you did something else clearly awkward and embarrassing.

“—?” the sound of your name halted you.

“Yeah?”

“I …enjoy talking with you. Perhaps we can converse more.”

Fuck. Fuck, oh shit. Oh god, handsome funny hippy boy wanted to talk to you? You?? More??? When was the last time something like this happened to you? Oh right, NEVER.

You stammered, mixing between trying to seem aloof and actually being flustered and managing to just be alooflustered. Which looked ridiculous.

“Um.. okay. Okay! Just uh–” you took a pen from the nearby drink pick-up counter and popped the cap off with your teeth. You gestured for his cup, which he handed over, and wrote your number across the white surface along with your name.

“There.”

He turned the cup, saw what you’d written and grinned, a bright all consuming thing that seemed both foreign and so fucking adorable on his lips.

“Lieutenant Anderson will be thrilled.” he said and you barked a laugh.

“Yeah well, better hurry and go show him before he leaves you.”

Connor nodded gravely, as if this were a truly high possibility he was just reminded of.

“Talk to you later, Connor.”

“Yes. “Talk to you later”.”

He left, hurrying to the car. You watched Hank’s rested-annoyed-face twist with confusion, pointing to the cup in Connor’s hand, to which Connor proudly displayed what must have been your number. The man’s jaw nearly hit the snow covered ground, quickly ushering Connor into the car with his mouth moving rapidly.

A small smile tugged at the corner of your lips, “God. What a dork…”

You were so engrossed you barely heard when the barista, eyes nearly rolling out of their head said,

“Hey lady, are you gonna drink anything!?”