“So, how long are you supposed to be in here, again?”
Hank’s gaze moves distrustfully over the monitors and machinery that Connor’s hooked up to; CyberLife may have been taken over by the androids it had once produced and sold, but Hank’s been wary of hospitals of all kinds for years now, and that extends to android repair centers, it turns out.
He’s pulled from his thoughts by the sound of Connor’s voice. “A few hours; the components that were damaged are rarer and much more delicate than many of the others in my body,” he answers, and Hank makes sure to keep his eyes on Connor’s face, not on the exposed wiring in his chest and stomach, the connections to the external machines that are keeping Connor from shutting down while the android technicians try to find a way to replace prototype parts. Connor’s mouth opens, presumably to say something else, but he’s cut off by the sound of Hank’s ringtone.
It’s Jeffrey, and Hank swears under his breath, giving Connor an apologetic look before he answers. “Whaddaya want, Jeffrey?”
“We’ve got a hit on the suspect you and Connor were chasing,” Jeffrey says, gruff and no-nonsense. “I’m sending you and North after him.”
Hank blinks. “Why not North and Chris?”
“Chris is off today; his husband’s sick, he needs to take care of him and his new kid, and this is your suspect, anyway, Hank. North is already on her way to the hospital, it’s on the way to the last place Richter was seen.”
Hank hesitates, glancing at Connor, but then sighs. “Alright. I’ll meet her down in the lobby.”
“I’ll let her know. Be careful, Hank. He’s already put one of my men in the hospital, I’d rather he not put any more in there.”
Jeffrey hangs up before Hank can reply, and he sighs again, louder. “Problems with the Captain?” Connor asks, amusement clear in his tone.
“Not exactly. Got another hit on Richter’s location, he’s sending North to meet me here, wants me and her to go after him.”
Connor blinks. “But North is partnered with Chris.”
“Exactly what I said! But apparently Harry’s sick, so Chris had to take off early to take care of him and Dakota. So, I’m going to head out with North while you’re in here.”
Connor looks troubled, but he nods nonetheless. “After what he did to me, we need to get Richter off the streets as soon as possible. North is a good officer,” he murmurs, almost like he’s trying to convince himself more than Hank.
“She is,” Hank agrees; it had taken North a long time to warm up to most humans at the precinct - Reed was still a work in progress, though ever since Nines joined, he’d gotten noticeably better-behaved - but Hank had been one of the first humans she’d seemed to accept. This was, Connor had told Hank one day at home when Hank had wondered why North seemed relatively comfortable around him, because he and North had interfaced several times during the course of the revolution and after, and she’d seen Connor’s memories of Hank. Connor had, in essence, vouched for Hank’s character.
“You may be a grumpy bastard,” Connor had said wryly, “but you’re a good man, nothing like the ones she knew before deviating.”
Hank hadn’t known what to say to that then, still doesn’t know what to say, but he’d made an effort to be less of a grumpy bastard around North after that. Now, he considered her a close friend, and he didn’t mind working with her.
He’d just… rather work with Connor, that’s all. They had a rhythm.
Maybe Hank wished they had something more, too, but he kept that part to himself.
“You’ll catch Richter,” Connor says confidently, drawing Hank out of his memories. Something about his tone doesn’t quite ring true, but Hank doesn’t comment on it.
“We’ll give it our best shot,” Hank promises, taking a step towards the door. “I’ll see you back here or at home depending on how this goes.”
“Of course. Good luck, and be careful, Hank.”
“Will do.” Hank tosses a lazy salute Connor’s way just to get that small smile that makes his stomach swoop. On his way out, Hank stops by Theresa’s station; she was one of the RT600 models at Kamski’s mansion, one of the ones that had been in the pool. She and Rachel, the other RT600 from the pool, had joined the Jericho androids in their efforts to change things for androids from the inside out. Rachel was most often at the CyberLife Tower, according to Chloe, who had joined the DPD as an administrative assistant. Jeffrey often swore if he wasn’t already married he’d have proposed to Chloe a week after she took the job, when things started running noticeably more smoothly than they had in a decade.
“Good afternoon, Lieutenant,” Theresa greets once she catches sight of Hank. “Is there anything I can help you with?”
“Yeah, I have to head out to try to catch the guy who put Connor here,” Hank says. “Keep an eye on him for me? And make sure he doesn’t try to leave before everything’s one hundred percent.”
Theresa laughs quietly. “I’m well aware of Connor’s tendency towards… restlessness,” she assures him. “I’ll look after him and ensure he’s as fully repaired as can be before he leaves.”
“Thanks.” Hank gives Theresa a genuine smile before he continues down towards the lobby, weaving his way through the other androids and technicians.
By the time he reaches the lobby itself, North’s already there waiting for him. “Took you long enough,” she calls, amusement clear in her voice. “Saying your goodbyes to Connor?”
Hank flips her off. “Get your plastic ass in the car,” he grunts, ignoring the way the corner of his lips twitch up in amusement.
North just socks him in the arm, making him curse and rub the spot. “When are you gonna tell him about the fact that you’re practically in love with him?”
“As soon as you tell Chloe the same,” Hank shoots back, not bothering to resist the urge to smirk at the blue flush that immediately steals over North’s face at the mention of Chloe. “Get off my dick about Connor if you’re just gonna be a hypocrite.”
The two of them continue bantering the entire way out to the car and through the drive to the mall where Richter was spotted. They’re in plainsclothes, badges tucked away but in easy reach. Hank eyes the crowd around them once they get into the mall. “Think we should split up? Pretty crowded in here.”
“I’ve already got a warrant to access the security cameras,” North informs him, LED blinking and cycling yellow as she presumably does exactly that. “Richter’s on the third floor. If we take the escalator we may be able to meet him at the second.”
Hank grunts an acknowledgement, already moving towards the escalator. “Fowler tell you what Connor and I were trying to do with Richter?”
“Tail him until he gets in touch with his supplier,” North answers, easily keeping pace with Hank. “Use our superior sensors to record both sides of the conversation.”
“Yeah, yeah, you’re all a bunch of marvels of modern technology,” Hank says, rolling his eyes. “Escalator’s right over here; where’s Richter?”
Hank steps to the side, letting North onto the escalator first, taking the step below her. “He’s - shit.” North swears under her breath as her gaze refocuses, looking at Hank with a furrowed brow. “He’s already on the escalator, coming down now.”
Hank’s eyes go wide. “Fuck. If he recognizes me - “
North hesitates, glancing over her shoulder as though she’s simply taking in the sights. When she looks back at Hank, her expression is determined. “Kiss me.”
“Kiss me,” she repeats, putting one hand on Hank’s shoulder, the other on his chest. “We can’t get off before he’ll spot us, but public displays of affection make people uncomfortable, especially between androids and humans. He’ll look right past us.”
Hank’s mind races, but they’re almost out of time - Hank can see Richter on the escalator next to them, coming closer with every second he hesitates, tries to think of another solution that just isn’t going to work. “Alright.”
North doesn’t say anything else, just slides the hand on Hank’s shoulder to the back of his neck, pulls him in close and leans in to meet him halfway. Her lips slot over his in a gentle kiss that’s just the wrong side of ‘chaste’ for a public setting, and Hank does his best to push away the mental reminder of where North had been sold before the revolution, what programming she’d been forced into. What programming she had that let her know just how to kiss Hank to make the perfect makeshift disguise -
“Quit thinking so loud,” North murmurs against his mouth. “Kiss me back.”
Taking a deep breath through his nose, Hank does as she tells him, reaches out to wrap one arm around her waist, his other hand on the railing of the escalator. He’s careful to make sure his arm isn’t anywhere offensive, isn’t too tight, too confining. Hank tilts his head, parts his lips when he feels the faint brush of North’s tongue against the seam of them, presses closer and loses himself to the feel of North in his arms and her mouth on his until she pulls away.
Hank immediately withdraws his arm, pulling away from North’s personal space, watching her carefully. Her LED is yellow, but it’s spinning slowly, not blinking or frantic. “You alright?”
North blinks, then grins. “I give that a seven,” she says flippantly, turning and stepping smoothly off of the escalator. Hank follows, shaking his head to refocus himself on the task at hand.
“Where’s Richter now?” he asks, glancing around; no one’s looking at them, which Hank supposes means that North’s plan of distraction worked.
“On the first floor, we’ll need to go back down and follow him from there,” North reports, already rounding the end of the escalator to step onto the part of it that leads down.
Hank’s quiet as they ride the escalator back down to the first floor and locate Richter outside of a department store. He doesn’t say anything until North suddenly takes his hand in hers, threading their fingers together and leads him to a nearby bench that faces away from where Richter’s standing, window-shopping. “What’re you doing now?” Hank asks. “Angling for another kiss?”
“Not at the moment,” North says, shifting so their thighs are pressed together. “Put your arm around my shoulder.” When Hank complies, she relaxes against him, letting her head fall against his shoulder. When she speaks again, it’s in a murmur. “He’s texting someone, but the cameras can’t make out the screen, and I needed to get closer to hack his phone.”
Hank makes an amused noise. “Do you have a warrant for that as well?”
“No, but I have probable cause,” North answers, turning her head so she’s looking at Hank - but Hank sees the way her LED spins yellow in the pattern he recognizes from Connor scanning a scene or accessing a victim’s phone or tablet. “Keep talking to me.”
“Alright,” Hank hums, trying to figure out what to talk about. His mind’s blank except for one thing, and he figures he might as well ask. “So, there was really no other way to keep us from being recognized?”
North doesn’t pretend to not know what he’s asking about. “None that would have worked as well,” she answers, though she sounds distracted. “You agreed to it.”
“I did,” Hank agrees, because he did, after all. “I just figured the last person you’d ever want to kiss would be a human, even if you weren’t ass over teakettle for Chloe.”
North smacks him in the chest with the back of her hand. “You’re not too bad for a human,” she tells him, smiling. “One of the only ones that I’d be willing to call a friend, anyway. I trust you.”
Hank blinks, feeling unexpectedly touched by that declaration. “Oh. Well, I trust you, too,” he says, for lack of anything else to say.
North looks distinctly amused for a moment before her expression goes unfocused. Her LED flashes once, twice, three times - and then Hank hears Richter’s phone go off. “I need to record this,” she says, focusing back on Hank. “You up for another kiss?”
Hank swallows, but nods. “Pinch me if I do something you don't want me to,” he tells North, voice quiet as he lets one hand come up to cup North’s cheek, draw her in for a slow, easy kiss. Testing the waters, seeing if she wants him to take the lead on this one. When North does nothing but hum against him, Hank shifts, lets the arm laid across the back of the bench shift until it’s wrapped around North’s shoulders. His other hand drifts down, skimming over North’s arm and falling down to rest on the outside of her knee. The kiss stays gentle, intimate, even as it turns into two, three, four. Hank’s hands stay where they are for the most part, one thumb rubbing soothing circles into the back of North’s shoulder, the other hand staying on North’s knee, thumb occasionally sweeping over the fabric of her jeans.
North is the one to break this kiss as well, pulling away and tilting her head until she can rest her forehead against Hank’s. “I got it,” she murmurs. “Name, drop off location, everything. It’s all recorded and uploaded to the DPD servers.”
“Good,” Hank murmurs. “Richter still standing over there?”
“Just started walking away.”
“Guess that’s our job done, then,” Hank hums. “Let’s head back to the precinct, see what Fowler wants to do with what we got.” He sits up straight, arm sliding off of North’s shoulder as she stands up. The look in her eye is speculative as Hank stands, stretches out a kink in his back - he’s too old for bench makeout sessions, it turns out. The look in North’s eye makes him raise an eyebrow. “What?”
“Nothing,” North says, tone far too innocent. “Let’s get going; the sooner we get back to the precinct, the sooner we can go arrest Richter and his supplier.”