“Someone’s got a hot date.”
Hands stilling on the buttons of his favorite button down, Markus glanced over at the other android on the couch. Green and blue eyes narrowed, but North shrugged off the mediocre glare.
“What?” North continued. “Don’t tell me you plan to seduce politicians on a Friday night. It’s for the human, right?”
“Chris,” Markus supplied curtley.
“So it is a date.”
North shifted, her lithe arms draping across the back of the couch like a queen on a throne. Red tinted lips morphed into a good natured smirk.
“This makes, what, date number six? It’s getting pretty serious.”
Markus had to stop himself from commenting. Instead, he turned back to the mirror, hands methodically finishing the buttons.
Truthfully, Markus was unsure if ‘dates’ would be the right term. The young police officer and he had gone on many outings. The park, a movie, and several bars. These were all typical ‘date’ locations, that much Markus knew. But their situation was anything but typical.
“As much as I hate to agree with North, she has a point,” Simon's voice called teasingly as he entered the room.
His tone was soothing as always, and the furrow that had formed on Markus’ brows relaxed.
“You two agreeing? Pinch me,” Markus muttered, walking towards the couch. He leaned over the back, opposite side of North. She reached over to him, making to grab at his arm before Markus quickly lifted it away not.
“ Not an invitation,” he grumbled, but found himself smiling nonetheless.
“Could have fooled me,” North answered, returning his smile.
Simon came up beside Markus, hand grabbing his arm and squeezing gently. “We just want to make sure everything’s...okay. This is new territory for all of us.”
Right. There wasn’t exactly an ‘Android-Human Relationship Advice for Dummies’ readily available.
“I appreciate the concern,” Markus said. “I enjoy Chris’ company. And I believe he enjoys mine. Beyond that, it’s difficult to say what he thinks this is.”
North frowned. “What do you think it is?”
“Or what do you want it to be?” Simon countered.
As an android, Markus was programed to recognize many human emotions and discomforts. That included, but was not limited too, the signs of attraction. Chris had displayed many of these during their time together.
Dilated pupils, elevated heart rate, outward nervousness and warming skin. Chris smiled when they were close, especially when he didn’t think Markus was looking at him. Markus didn’t have to look at Chris to examine him, though. His android senses were always working and processing.
During their last ‘date’ Chris had brushed his fingers against Markus’ while they walked down the street. At first, Markus had assumed the contact accidental. The look of defeat that marred Chris’ face only minutes later said otherwise.
Markus should have tried something. Perhaps attempt to return the gesture, grab Chris’ hand? He hadn’t, fear holding him back, and soon they’d parted ways. Chris needed sleep for the next day and Markus would be busy in Washington D.C. for a while.
They tiptoed around each other so much it was infuriating.
Markus did not want to push himself onto the man in any way. Some humans still regarded androids as dangerous, and although it might be ridiculous, Markus couldn’t help but worry that Chris held that same fear deep down.
Why wouldn’t he? Their first interaction had verged on violent and traumatic. Even if they’d made peace with that, it was something that Markus replayed over and over again in his memory files.
At the same time, Chris was incredibly guarded. Getting a straight answer out of him seemed impossible. Oh sure, he freely gave small bits of information out during their time together. His favorite music. What he liked to do on weekends. Cute family drama even.
But getting real answers on the possibility of an 'us'? On what Chris truly wanted from Markus? Not a chance.
Yet Markus knew that Chris thought about it. He could practically see his mind overworking when Markus leaned close to him, or placed a hand on this upper back. He’d pause or let himself melt into the touch for half a second. Then he’d move away, maybe crack a joke.
Markus could detect the yearning in Chris’ form, though. How Chris’s skin warmed and he tripped up on his words. So why did he pull away? Why did he keep calling Markus to go out? It was perplexing.
An alarm popped up in his field of vision, halting his thoughts.
The reminder to leave shined in bright blue, and Markus turned away from his companions. “None of that matters if I’m late,” he joked, grabbing a coat that he didn’t explicitly need. It was snowing, though, and the humans would give him a strange look if he went out without one.
North groaned, but Simon merely gave him a soft smile.
“You two should just stop being babies and talk already,” North yelled out to him.
“Let us know how it goes, Markus.”
Markus nodded back to them before leaving through the front door. Carl’s house was a good distance from the place Chris had recommended. Plenty of time to be alone with his intrusive thoughts. Great.
Chris was a complete and utter coward.
Five ‘date but not dates’.
Five ‘two bros hanging out together and really wanting to kiss each other but not dates’.
The sad thing was Chris only knew the second part applied to him. He couldn’t say the same for Markus. And he couldn’t see if it was even mutual because he was, again, a coward.
Every time he made some semblance of a move he only got half way before freezing. Holding hands while it was cold outside? Failed. Kissing Markus’ cheek when they were close enough to hear each other through the loud music? Failed. Asking to see him again in any way besides over text? Failed five times.
And tonight would, more than likely, be another failed attempt.
Why did Markus even bother with him? Surely there were others lined up at the android rebellion leader’s feet. There had to be a plethora of people, humans and androids alike, wanting to date Markus.
People better than Chris. Smarter. Better looking. Someone at Markus’ level.
Still, Chris looked forward to every second of their meetings. Being in Markus’ presence was euphoric. Everything felt easy with him, even if Chris’ stomach was a mess of nerves.
He liked the way Markus laughed. Soulful and smooth. He was so playful. Chris wasn’t sure everyone else knew that about the android. He certainly hadn’t until they’d started spending time together.
Markus did have an aura of authority and confidence, but that didn’t take away from his sweet nature. Chris had yet to see him angry or raise his voice. Even when Markus had been fighting for his people, everything had been calm, firm, but ultimately peaceful.
Chris wasn’t like that. His emotions were a mixture of highs and lows. He prided himself on doing his job, but tough cases or patrols still affected him.
Markus could feel negative emotions, Chris knew that. He just...hadn’t seen it. Not really.
Even as Chris finished getting ready for their meet up, guilt riddled his mind. Markus shouldn’t waste time with someone like him. He should be with another android, if anything.
Shutting his locker door, Chris glanced down at his hand. His painfully human hand, littered with scars and slightly dried skin.
Dark eyes narrowed and he quickly pulled his hand away. Putting on his coat, Chris walked out of the officer locker room with a frown on his face.
This wasn’t the best mindset to be in going on a ‘date but not a date’. He needed to get himself together. Enjoy his time with Markus. Even if it might be over soon.
Stopping by the shared kitchen area, Chris went in to make a quick cup of coffee. It was cold out, and the warm drink might help retain some heat. Besides, he was dragging and he didn’t want to seem tired in front of Markus.
“Good evening, Officer Miller.”
The voice knocked him out of his sluggish thoughts, and Chris turned to see Connor in the kitchen. Hank was there as well, sitting at a small table near the corner.
Connor smiled at him, hand holding a steaming coffee cup. Probably for Hank. Though Chris had caught the android dipping his finger tip into the coffee once or twice. Taking a ‘sample’ he would say.
Vaguely Chris wondered if there for be updates for androids to eat soon. What would Markus want to try first? Would Chris be around to see it?
Realizing he hadn’t answered Connor yet, Chris coughed, shaking his thoughts away to focus on the present.
“Good evening, Connor. Late night?”
“We have a suspect being brought in for questioning. I believe it should not last longer than twenty-three minutes, if things go according to plan,” Connor responded.
Hank moved out of his seat, coming to join the little polite conversation. He grabbed his coffee out of Connor’s hand, the android looking slightly bashful in return.
“Yeah, you know how well that goes,” Hank muttered.
Connor frowned (pouted), but Hank simply waved him off.
“It’ll be fine. Don’t throw those puppy eyes at me.”
“I’m not sure what you mean, Hank,” Connor quipped.
“ Sure you don’t.” Hank glanced over at Chris over the rim of his cup, finally taking in the other man.
“Going somewhere fancy, Chris?” he asked.
Chris paused, regarding his clothes quickly. Was it too much? He thought a nicer outfit was required for where they were going but maybe it was overkill if even Hank was bringing it up. Great.
“Sort of,” he replied. “There’s a piano bar downtown. T-shirts don’t really cut it.”
“Are you going to meet with Markus?” Connor pried, the barest hints of a smile quirking up on his otherwise innocent face.
Butterflies fluttered in his stomach at the mention of the rebellion leader. Ah, yes, back to crippling nerves then.
“...Yeah, I am. He likes to play piano so I thought he might enjoy listening too.”
“Ugh, you kids are disgusting with this cutesy shit,” Hank grumbled, a chuckle accompanying his words.
Chris felt himself warm at the lieutenant's comment. Connor tilted his head to the side slightly, that little constant curl coming in front of his face. His gaze landed on Connor, and he spoke before he thought about it.
“You’re one to talk about cutesy things, Lieutenant, considering who your boyfriend is.”
Oh. Oh shit.
Hank’s eyes widened in disbelief. Connor’s lips opened to speak, but no sound came out. He appeared embarrassed.
They had never talked about that before. What if they weren’t together? What if he just ruined a perfectly good partnership because of his stupid mouth?
“I’m sorry, I assumed-”
“You assumed right.” Hank cut him off.
Chris bit his lip, looking between the two. Connor turned his focus to Hank, apparently just as surprised. He also seemed unbearably proud. His brown eyes lit up, a fond smile blooming.
Hank sighed, placing his coffee cup on the counter. “We don’t talk about it because it’s nobody’s business. But we ain’t ashamed of it either.”
That was fair. Gavin would probably have a field day of harassing the two of them if he knew. Even if Chris has seen Gavin ogling the new RK900 hire just a few days ago. Now wouldn’t that be an interesting relationship?
“I understand,” Chris said. “Sorry, that was low of me to say earlier.”
“It was, but that’s fine, Chris. Connor’s more goofy looking than cute.”
“I seem to recall you labelling me as beautiful last night, Hank,” Connor spoke up matter-of-factly.
Hank flinched, turning to glare at the android. “ Connor , what the hell?” he seethed.
Chris laughed. It released some of the tension in his shoulders. “I was wrong, you two are both cute.”
Hank rolled his eyes, pale cheeks reddening as he shrugged his shoulders with a mumbled ‘whatever’.
Chris looked between the two of them, unable to keep the smile off of his lips. He had so many questions.
How did they make it work? Chris always let his mind think about the hardships that would happen in an android-human relationship. Yet they made it look so easy. There had to be problems of course, but they were still together.
They’d figured it out. Maybe...maybe Markus and he could too?
“Don’t you have a date or something?” Hank grunted.
Chris quickly looked down at his watch. Right. He needed to get going if he wanted to be on time.
“Yeah, I should get going,” he confirmed, moving to leave the kitchen. So much for coffee.
“Hey, Chris,” Hank’s voice stopped him. “I’m not one for relationship advice but if you ever want to talk about...stuff like this...I’m all ears.”
“Oh,” Chris started. That was unexpected. “Thanks, lieutenant. That would be nice.”
“Yeah, well, I might be one of the few people who know what you’re going through right now. And it’s a hell of a ride. Trust me.”
Hank shuffled a bit, sparing a look at Connor. The android got that fond look in his eyes again. Hank’s eyes and posture softened instantly.
It was sort of beautiful.
Markus arrived exactly two minutes after their scheduled time. He usually made it a habit of arriving earlier if possible, but the conversation with his companions had distracted him.
The bus ride hadn’t helped his conflicting thoughts. No matter how many situations he came up in his processor, nothing seemed right. Chris was a wild card, and the emotions he had developed towards the man clouded his judgement.
Markus stood at the entrance of the piano bar, already hearing the sounds of music softly behind the doors.
Mismatched eyes glanced around, searching for Chris. Apparently they were both late.
Before the worry of rejection could surface, Markus caught sight of the human fast walking towards him. Chris looked nice. Put together and handsome with his button up shirt, slacks, and black coat. The police uniform suited Chris, but there was something about seeing him out of it that really caught Markus’ attention.
Although it wasn’t possible, Markus swore he could feel heat rising in his chest.
Chris inhaled deeper than normal when he caught up to him, breath white in the cold air.
“Sorry, got caught up at the station,” Chris greeted.
The android nodded his head, placing a hand on the man’s shoulder and squeezing slightly. “It’s fine. I wasn’t waiting long.”
Chris smiled up at Markus, lifting up his arm to brush his fingers over the other’s hands. Markus’ grip tighten, and he indulged himself in a smile of his own.
“We should get inside,” Chris said, “I’m freezing out here.”
“Really? I don’t feel cold at all. My sensors are off,” Markus teased. Chris rolled his eyes, turning away from Markus to walk through the doors.
“Ha-freaking-ha. The android’s got jokes and a built in heater.”
Markus snickered, following Chris inside.
Early on in their little ‘hangouts’ Chris would have been too nervous to make jokes like that. He still fumbled with his words at times, at what was and wasn’t appropriate. But they had gotten better at knowing those lines with each other.
Markus relished with Chris said things like this. It made him feel...well, not more human per say. He would never be human. But he was alive. He was a being who deserved respect, who could be joked with and included in social activities.
It was a subtle form of acceptance, and Markus soaked it up everytime.
The bar inside was dimly light, muted with dark blues and gold from the limited lights. Most of the light focused on the stage towards the middle of the building, highlighting two sleek, expensive pianos.
A singular musician played at one of the pianos, the tunes delicate and smooth. Her fingers glided over the keys with ease. It was relaxing, and the tension in Chris’ body seeped away slightly.
The two men found an empty table and two chairs closer towards the front of the stage. While the place wasn’t too crowded yet, Chris doubted it would stay that way considering the review . For now, it was nice. Breathable and open.
Sinking into the chair, Chris closed his eyes briefly, listening to the music. It wasn’t a song he recognized.
“Hey, do you-”
“Les Nouveaux Riches, composed by Ossie Woods,” Markus supplied.
The android had the gall to appear embarrassed right after he spoke. Chris stared at him for a second before laughing softly.
“Thanks. It’s pretty, don’t you think?”
“Yes,” Markus answered. “The pianist plays it well.”
“She does. The way she plays makes it sound,” Chris paused, searching for the right word. “...Bittersweet?”
“I thought ‘melancholy’ suited it.”
“Could you play that?” Chris asked.
Markus chuckled, turning towards Chris. His mismatched eyes half lidded and at ease “I can play anything Chris. My internal music library is incredibly extensive.”
“But would you want to?” Chris pushed.
Chris did that a lot. When he asked Markus questions, it seemed to primarily be about what he wanted to do, rather than what he could do.
Did he like painting? Did he enjoy wearing blue? Did he prefer rain or sunshine?
Beside Carl, Markus couldn’t remember anyone asking him such simple yet wonderful questions. And what surprised Markus more was how much he liked answering them.
Markus hummed, closing his eyes and leaning back in his chair. He listened to the steady, slow rhythm. The swell and fall of the melody.
“Maybe,” he said. “Perhaps when I’m feeling upset. Or frustrated.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you be either of those things,” Chris joked.
Markus opened his eyes at that. It was true, he only wanted to show his best to Chris. He wasn’t sure how much he could confide in the other man yet.
“I don’t like people seeing me unhappy. Especially you.”
Chris tensed, surprise flashing through his dark eyes. He sat up straighter, brows furrowing. “Why?” he asked. “You don’t have to put up a front with me. I’m not a world leader or a police captain. I’m just...me. You can let loose if you want.”
Markus clenched his jaw, unsure of how to respond. Chris wanted him to be negatively emotional? That didn’t seem right. Humans still had a hard time accepting that androids had emotions at all. Yes, Chris was better than most, but Markus still worried. One day he might show too much. Might push Chris away with everything that laid inside of him.
Before he could respond, a waiter came to the front of their table. Small blessings, he supposed.
Chris took care of their orders, smiling politely. Markus couldn’t consume food or drinks, but sometimes he still ordered something anyway. It made him feel normal, even if it usually went to waste.
Tonight, he didn’t bother, and watched as Chris asked for an old fashioned. A bit stronger than usual, Markus noted.
The waiter chatted a minute longer than strictly necessary, barely sparing a look at Markus. The android frowned lightly, observing the exchange.
Raised heartbeat. Warmth gathering on the cheeks and back of the neck. A posed stance meant to open up and show strength. The waiter was behaving very…
Open body language. Prolonged eye contact. A smile and laugh that was just a bit too friendly.
Oh. He was flirting. With Chris.
Without a second thought, Markus leaned closer to his companion. He placed a steady hand on Chris’s thigh, gazing at the waiter all the while. He smiled, but it didn’t reach his eyes. It didn’t feel like a smile at all.
“I think we’re good with refreshments. Thank you,” Markus said pointedly.
The waiter hesitated, looking between the two of them before nodding his head and promising to be back with Chris’ drink.
Chris looked down at the hand on his thigh. He appeared frozen, eyes widening and body tensing. His body temperature had risen, Markus noticed. Conflicting signals.
Markus slowly removed his hand, placing it on the back of Chris’ chair. He liked the limited distance now.
Chris eventually gazed up at him, giving a small, nervous smile.
“So...my sister has a birth date now. Lucky kid’s going to have a summer birthday.”
The change in topic was obvious, but Markus felt relief. “I assume that’s better, somehow?” he asked.
“Two words: pool parties.”
Markus chuckled. Their conversation stayed within the realm of simple and light. He liked it. Laughing with Chris was easy.
He never felt the need to entertain or lead too heavily. Conversation flowed between them naturally. True, it had taken time for Chris to speak this openly to him, and he still felt walls surrounding the man at times. But it was an improvement.
He barely noticed the waiter place down Chris’ drink, too enraptured listening to a childhood story about trying to swim in a pool in the dead of winter. It hadn’t turned out so great, unsurprisingly.
Chris laughed when telling the story, lips against the glass taking a sip every so often. Markus watched the motion with a fascination that almost caused him to get lost in the tale being told.
It was subtle, but Chris began to lean in more. His shoulders relaxed, face now always turned towards Markus.
When Markus returned the attention, Chris didn’t try to break the eye contact nearly as much as he use too. Now, it seemed, he enjoyed it.
Markus wondered what else he could get Chris to enjoy with him.
“Being an uncle is going to be strange.”
“You will spoil the kid rotten,” Markus countered, smirk morphing on his lips.
Chris snorted, but didn’t deny the accusation. “As much as a cop’s salary allows, yeah.”
“Excuse me, gentlemen.” Markus didn’t exactly glare at the sound of the waiter’s interrupting voice, but he certainly didn’t smile.
The waiter locked eyes with Chris, “Would you care for another drink, sir?”
“Yeah, sure. It’s the weekend,” Chris replied, shrugging and smiling politely.
“I don’t mean to pry, but I overheard your conversation coming over. You’re a cop?” the waiter asked. Markus frowned. Where was this going?
“Oh uh, yeah, I am.” Chris appeared thrown and a little on edge, understandably.
“I bet you look great in uniform.”
The compliment spiked an unfamiliar emotion within Markus. His systems alerted him to an increase of heat, fingers clenching into fists.
Chris looked stunned, recovering quickly to laugh off the obvious flirtation.
“...Ah, thanks. It fits okay..”
Markus happened to know the uniform fit Chris quite nicely. Information the waiter lacked. So why did he suddenly feel so...inadequate?
“Cute and modest,” the waiter continued.
Markus stood up from his seat. Others near them glanced his way, but he didn’t care. He towered over the waiter, who backed away instantly.
“Please refrain from doing that,” Markus stated, tone eerily calm for the rage that swelled inside.
“Markus, it’s okay-” Chris began, getting up as well.
“So is the machine your boyfriend or something?” the waiter asked, incredulous. “Is that even legal? I thought he was just here to help bring you home.”
That had been a pretty common practice for some people with androids, but laws for androids were changing every day. Not everyone liked it, of course, and it was obvious what side the waiter was on.
“He’s not...he’s…” Chris attempted, but kept trailing off.
Markus held the waiter’s glare, faltering with every second that Chris remained unsure.
This would happen again if they continued this way. Chris was young, attractive, and friendly. He would be hit on and approached. Yet Markus wouldn’t be able to deter any advances because he still had no leg to stand on.
He wasn’t Chris’ boyfriend. They couldn’t even say if they were dating. They were both too frightened to talk about it, to address the unknown and all the problems that would come with a relationship between them.
They would face people like this. Disapproving. Disgusted.
Chris shouldn’t have to deal with that, Markus decided. Although he didn’t want Chris to end up with the waiter, he wanted him to be with someone like him.
It would be easier. It would make sense. It wouldn’t be wrong .
Markus turned away so suddenly he even surprised himself. His movements were hurried and stiff as he walked away without a word.
He heard the waiter sputter at the retreat.
Chris remained silent. Markus’ chest clenched.
Markus didn’t stop until he was once again outside. The snow that fell from the sky had increased, wind blowing harder than before. His shoes crunched the snow underneath, the sound oddly deafening to his audio processor.
Chris’ voice stopped him cold. He could hear the man pant as he ran to catch up with him.
Markus finally glanced over his shoulder. Chris was flushed, breath white in the cold air. Chris made to reach forward, but stopped when he made eye contact with him. Markus doubted his gaze was as...calming, as usual.
He was hurt. And that surprised him. He didn’t know it was possible to be hurt in such a way. Especially from someone he’d become deeply fond of.
“Markus...why did you leave like that?” Chris asked, placing his hands at his sides.
“I am not unfamiliar with the prejudice of humans. Your silence, however, was new.”
Chris flinched. Perhaps it was too harsh, but Markus could not hide his feelings. They’d stepped around each other for too long and it was all coming to a head.
“I didn’t...I was going to-”
“To what? Lie to him?” Markus interrupted. His voice did not raise, but a certain heat laced his words.
“I”m not your boyfriend. I’m not sure what I am to you at all, actually. And if your response tonight is anything to go by, you do not know either.”
“That’s not fair,” Chris rebuffed. Dark eyes glared, taking a step towards Markus. “You just admitted that you wouldn’t have been able to answer too. So why are you upset?”
“Because I’m terrified.”
Logically, it couldn’t happen, but Markus felt cold.
The moment those honest words left his lips, he desperately wished to take them back. It was too much. Too vulnerable.
Markus let his eyes fall to the ground. Chris remained rooted to the spot, speechless it seemed.
“...There is a lot against us, Chris. I had known that outside forces would make a relationship hard. But this is harder, and I am unprepared for how to handle it.”
“What’s harder?” Chris asked, whispered words nearly drowned out by the wind.
“Falling for you and not knowing if you’re falling with me.”
Markus looked away from Chris, gaze going out towards the snowy street. Fear washed over his synthetic frame, but he would not run again. No matter how much he wanted too.
He could hear Chris shuffle his feet a bit in the snow. Nervous. Unsure. It did nothing to quell Markus' anxiety
He shouldn’t have said anything, but it was too late now. They couldn’t go back. They would either go forward or end before they had really ever begun.
“I fell for you the day you spared my life.”
Markus turned sharply at the soft words. Chris stared at him, not looking away even though Markus could scan the trepidation in his very bones.
“Everytime I see you I fall harder. It scares me how much I like you. You’re awe inspiring and people worship you and I’m just-”
Chris cut himself off, looking at the snow covered ground. He shivered in the cold, but Markus had never felt warmer.
Chris liked him.
Chris had fallen for him.
“...We should discuss this someplace warmer,” Markus finally murmured, voice and gaze softer than before. He stepped closer to Chris, lifting his arms before hesitantly placing them on the human’s shoulders.
Chris looked up at him, dark eyes wide and body tense. He didn’t push away, and Markus barely refrained from pulling him closer.
“Yeah…” Chris agreed. “I’m cold.”
“I know.” Markus let his hands slide up and down Chris arms soothingly, increasing the heat in his fingers.
“...My apartment isn’t far from here. We can talk there.”
Markus nodded. It was difficult, but he removed his hands from Chris’ shivering body.
Chris hesitated only a moment before attempting to walk past him. As if on instinct, Markus’ hand reached forward, grabbing onto Chris’ own. Chris stilled, eyes settling on their linked hands.
Perhaps it was too bold a gesture, yet doing nothing felt impossible. Markus waited, fingers twitching minutely.
With a released, warm breath, Chris gently laced their fingers together. A small smile reached his lips. “This way,” he muttered, pulling Markus softly down the street.
Markus willfully followed, the sounds of the lush piano music drowning away as they walked side by side.