It took a lot for Hank to get here. Not physically, the mall is less than thirty minutes away from the house, but mentally. Emotionally too, he supposes. After his intervention— where his friends (including his ex-wife), his therapist, and his teenage son gathered around him to explain how much they love and value him. And how much they wanted him to take care of himself, when he really wasn’t. He’d been just going through the motions for a while, getting caught up in work and trying to take care of the others in his life. Especially Cole, making sure he was okay after the divorce.
He forgot himself, and it’s worn on him. And no matter how much of a fuss he made when they confronted him, he had to admit at the end of it that they were right and changes needed to be made. He’s done quite a few things already, but he’s finally not been able to fend off the smaller things Cole wants for him anymore.
Hank still complains to himself inside his head all while he putters around the mall. He walks around and mourns not going into his usual stores. He gets himself a hot pretzel to prolong not going to the destination set for him. But he strays by it while brushing salt crystals and crumbs from his jacket. There’s no music able to be heard blasting from the store like some of the others, and the lights aren’t starkly bright or leaving Hank thinking the place isn’t even open with how dim it is. It looks very nice, unassuming.
Hank walks in and immediately is washed over with all the mingling scents. It's not bad, just overwhelming and not entirely expected. There's so much for him to look at, he doesn't know where to start or even what everything is. But he doesn't want to turn tail and run, he promised Cole he would get something.
Lavender. Vanilla. Lemongrass. Bergamot. Sea salt. Tangerine. He rubs the back of his neck, knowing he looks out of place all awkward. The only other customer leaves the small store after getting rung up at the register, and that puts him slightly at ease. He can look like a bumbling old man in peace.
That is, until the employee comes around the register and smiles at him. "Hello, my name is Connor. Is there anything I can help you find today?"
Hank fumbles with a bottle of body wash, hastily setting it back down, "Uh. I've never been in here before."
Connor has such a kind smile. The warmest brown eyes and soft, freckled skin. He even smells incredible, but that shouldn't surprise him. Connor works here, with all the smells. Maybe getting his help wouldn't be such a bad idea. Hank feels more pressure, he really doesn't want to mess this up now. Connor sounds excited, "That's not a problem, we love new customers. Where did you hear about us? If you don't mind me asking."
"My son. He told me I'm not allowed to come home unless I bring something back." That gets a light chuckle out of Connor.
Hank shakes his head, "For me."
Connor seems to brighten, looking him over like he can sense what Hank could want. Hank sure hopes he knows because he's got no fuckin’ clue himself. "Let me help you today. Um...?"
"Hank." Connor's voice makes his name sound warm. God, he can't think that. This guy's cute, he can't embarrass himself. Connor hums, "Okay, Hank. Tell me what you'd be interested in. Any scents specifically? Are you looking for something from a bath or shower standpoint?"
"I'm really not sure. I have a big bathtub I never use." Hank watches Connor's eyes light up, then follows him around to another display. Connor seems to enjoy his job.
"I suggest a bath bomb, then. It reacts with water to fizz, releasing oils and cleansers. Even color." Connor picks one up for Hank to smell. Too floral. He finds another. It smells spicy in a warm way, he likes that.
"And all those are good things?" Hank asks, nodding to the one in Connor's hands.
"It will condition and soothe your skin. I wonder, is there anything specific you'd need in skincare?" Connor puts the bomb in a little bag.
Hank looks down to the dry skin on his hands, "Maybe."
Connor leads him around the store, being conscious of Hank's questions and concerns. He gives Hank tips on products to use and Hank asks him to write it down, saying he'll need it to show everyone up.
"Cole's sixteen. He told me I've never smelled any different in his entire life," Hank grouses as he explains, "I buy my soap, I know my soap. I get by, I got more important things to think about than soap... No offense."
Connor smiles brightly, "None taken."
Hank shrugs bashfully and rubs the back of his neck. "I guess everyone thinks I need some more, y'know, self care..." He feels embarrassed admitting it. He gives a sigh, trying to sound lighthearted. "Or just that I look shitty, whatever."
"I think," Connor starts, finding his gaze with a soft look, "Even just coming in here to try is a good step. I know it can be difficult to change something familiar suddenly."
It comforts him, the way Connor says it so genuinely. It draws a smile out of him. "Uh, thanks. That's real nice of you."
Connor hums, casually adjusting a few things on the display. "I do think they're being a bit hard on you, though."
Hank groans in relief, finally someone sees that too. "Thank you!"
"You're very attractive to begin with, Hank."
Hank knows he's as red as the organic ruby lipstick on display the entire rest of his shopping trip. Connor looks pleased by the fact, eyes always lingering. They find him a few more things for his bath and some moisturizer for after. Connor writes the instructions for him after ringing everything up.
He hands them over to Hank in a neat little stack of recycled paper bags. "I hope it goes well for you, Hank. If you like it, maybe you'll come back in."
"Is that a ploy to get me to spend an ungodly amount of money here?" Hank jokes, chuckling as he takes his bag.
"I'd like you to tell me how it made you feel." Connor says, maybe a little bashful himself.
Hank shuffles his feet, trying to think up a response. "Maybe I will. You never know... Thanks, for helping me out. And y'know, listening to an old man ramble on."
"It was my pleasure, Hank." Connor tells him, sincere.
Hank feels his face heat again as he leaves. The smells of the store and the vibrancy of Connor’s smile linger on him all the way out of the mall. He treats the bag delicately, putting it in the passenger seat for the drive home.
Hank shows off his bag of goods as soon as he’s in, lining each item up on the coffee table while Cole's stretched out on the couch with a video game, "I got this and this, and this pear thing, and this for bubbles, this for my face and— Hey! You listenin'? I can't rub it in if you're not."
Cole snorts, giving him a look. "I'm listening, Pop."
"Good! Now look, I self-care'd! You can even tell Jeff. I did it, I did the stuff." Hank tells him, shaking his new bar of soap.
"You also have to use the stuff, y'know."
He huffs, starting to put things back. "I was planning on it. Get myself a beer and my book, and have a grand time!"
Cole grins and slowly sets his game down on his stomach, "Does that mean I can order pizza? You're gonna be so busy!"
Hank squints at him, knowing full well that Cole had pizza yesterday for lunch. "I can still cook."
"I wouldn't dream of making you do that!” Cole slaps a hand to his chest dramatically, acting straight from his theatre class. “You work on you, I'll call it in. Self care. Pops, you enjoy."
Hank grunts but fishes his card from his wallet. "You little shit. Get me pizza, too."
"Yes!" Cole kicks his legs in victory, snatching up the card. With everything back in the bag, Hank gets himself off the couch and heads towards the hallway, thinking he'll put off using all this stuff if he doesn’t start now. Cole pipes up just before he reaches the bathroom. "Hey dad? All jokes aside, I'm proud of you. For trying."
And if that doesn't hit him at home. Knowing his son is proud makes all the stress worth it, makes getting himself together worth it.
"Thanks, kid. Always proud of you, too."
Hank makes some time and is true to his word. He gets his beer, his book and his bath bag— then takes over the bathroom.
And he swears he's in a different world.
He never realized his bathtub was this deep, or this luxurious. The water is a deep blue, swirled with teal, purple, magenta. It's a strong but inviting scent, the glitter is a surprise. The mint makes his everything tingle. He breaks up some dessert-looking thing and it makes a ton of bubbles, up past his head. It smells like roses.
His skin has never, in his damn life, been this soft. He has the deliriously happy thought that he feels like a seal. This must be what seals feel like, no wonder they have that look on their faces. He feels a tinge of regret for acting out so badly during his intervention— everyone was right. He should've been doing things like this for himself a long time ago.
Hank spends a long time sipping his beer, reading his book, and rubbing his soft belly under the water. He tries to remember a time he was this self soothed, but he's coming up blank. The water is a little hotter than it needed to be, he knows he's pink all across his body. It's made a wonderful heat to soften the skin on his face, per Connor's instructions.
He knows he'll follow all those instructions, he'll just do them a bit later. When he's ready. He easily abandons his book to stare at the beautiful water, taking it as far as to shift around and admire his body. It's made his skin look great, the glitter and bubbles cling to him and he finds he likes the way he shimmers.
It's like he's been dunked in honey. His movements are slow, his mind is thankfully free of running thoughts. It's like time has slowed and he's floating with less aches in every sense. Are baths this good all the time?
He's submerged his neck without trying to get his hair wet and he’s rubbing at his tender knees when there's a knock at the door, “Pop?”
Cole's voice brings him back center. He blinks while he gains awareness again. “Yeah?”
“You okay? You've been in there almost two hours.”
Hank didn't think it'd been that long. He slowly sits himself up, feeling heavy in a really nice way. “M’good! Be out soon. Save my ass a seat on the couch.”
“You have an assigned seat.” Cole snickers, and Hank barks out a laugh deep from his belly, completely from surprise.
Washing up with new things is an experience. Especially like this, with the packaging and nature of the products, it requires him to be present. The smell is all around him, warm and deep, cleansing. It feels good when he rinses it out. And washing his face… he almost doesn't believe he's doing it right. But Connor's instructions wouldn't lie, he follows them to the perfectly printed letter.
He doesn't scrub hard once and when he gets out, gently mourning the loss of all the nice water down the drain, his skin looks bright. He feels good. But Connor's instructions don't end there. Taking his things into his room, he pats himself ‘mostly dry’ - Connor's words. This is important. He's supposed to apply his moisturizer while he's still warm and damp. So that's what he does
It's also got a nice scent, much softer than anything else so far, and he sits on his bed, in front of his mirror to make sure he doesn't miss anything. He gets a little in his eye but curbs his bitching— radically accepts that for a good bath, lotion eye can get him.
There's a little too much left in his palm so he just rubs the rest down his neck and chest, over his tattoo. Into his hands and the last dregs even into his hair as he combs his fingers through. He feels a little like a full day spent at the beach. Over-warm and water heavy and something like sunscreen on his skin. It's not a bad feeling. It's a feeling he knows will carry him into sleep.
He tugs himself into clothes, old shorts and his robe. Past his room and bathroom, he can now smell the pizza Cole got delivered. His stomach clenches and growls angry at him, drawing him in. He grabs Cole’s ankles and moves his legs so he can sit with him on the couch, settling his son's feet in his lap. He whines dramatically, “Huuungry.”
Cole snorts at him, leaning over to grab a pizza box and give it to Hank, “Eat fooood!”
Hank flips it open and sighs, food still warm. He pulls off a slice and folds it, taking a big bite. The smell of pizza and the products soaking into his skin is an odd but incredibly indulgent combination. Damn. He likes this, does he?
Cole chuckles at him, leaning over the couch to bring back a can of his favorite soda. He hands it over, “Hey, Pop… you know you're covered in glitter, right?”
Hank looks down and - yeah. It looks like his tattoo is made out of glitter pens. He pops his can open thankfully, “Is what it is.”
“You look like a sleepy gay cupid.”
“I'm a voluptuous bisexual cupid, what can I say?”
Cole giggles and curls onto his side, reaching for his game controller again. Hank feels himself sink back into the couch, content and happy.
It takes Hank almost a week to go back into the store. Work and home took up his time, he only managed one more bath last night. Connor looks the same as last time, with the addition of some blue around his eyes and a very sharply ironed shirt of the same color. He looks so nice and put together, smiling at customers and ringing up items. Hank gets in line seeing as he's the last one, waiting as anticipation builds in the pit of his stomach.
Stepping up to the counter, he watches Connor lean to recycle a receipt before looking up at him. His face brightens, recognition sparking, “Hank!”
Connor even remembered his name. It makes Hank feel some kinda way. He rests his hands on the marble counter, feeling an easy smile pull at his lips, “Connor. You wanted me to come back.”
“I did. I…” Connor comes around the edge of the counter, leaning close to Hank. His eyes wander over Hank's face and hair, then his body— the flash of chest hair thanks to undone shirt buttons. “If I can, you look wonderful.”
That feeling grips Hank tighter, making his shoulders shiver. “Ah, thanks to you. You gave me the best bath of my life!”
Connor blushes, his smile getting bigger.
Hank stumbles to correct himself, but he doesn’t have it all together, “I mean! Uh— like, you didn't… god, I realize anything I say…”
Connor's expression doesn't change.
Hank goes red. Why does this happen? He feels himself getting more and more flushed. “…It's just gonna sound dirty. Shit, I should've thought this through.”
“I asked you to come back.” Connor says, gently touching his arm to calm him. He looks inviting but also teasingly pleased, like the last time Hank got flustered around him. “I asked to know how it made you feel.”
As if Hank could forget.
Connor chuckles softly, “That could have been taken… oddly, at best.”
“I think ‘at best’ was a little better than that.” Hank finds himself grinning. He’s here, after all. He lowers his voice a little conspiratorially, “It was amazing, Connor. I didn't think stuff like that could be so enjoyable. I was in there for two hours and barely noticed…”
Connor brightens at that, a look of interest blooming there. He keeps rambling excitedly, enjoying that look, “I like stuff that makes the water soft. And the rosy bubbles were nice. I was like a seal at the beach, Connor.”
The amused pinch in Connor's brow gives him pause and he sputters trying to explain himself. Connor visibly looks to be holding back a laugh and Hank is dying from it, no matter how nice Connor looks. But Connor shrugs and pats over his apron, a little bit of fragrant powder escaping up out of his pocket. “Well, I always thought it was like a mermaid.”
Hank snorts, a little dumb with surprise. “Of course you’d think mermaid, you could be one.”
“Only on the weekends." Connor preens, pushing the little flyaway back off his temple only for it to slip back down. The thought blooms in Hank’s mind, if Connor's hair is as soft as his own felt after he washed it with all his new products. Probably even better, really. He realizes he's been staring when Connor gives him that pleased look again. “Did you like everything you bought?”
“Yeah! It was all really nice…” he meets Connor's eyes, earnest. “And I followed all your instructions, and read them over again when I needed them. It was thanks to you.”
For some reason, Connor blushes hard. He bites down a smile and ducks his head, laughing softly. He even stims lightly with his hands mostly hidden at his sides. “Hank, I'm… I'm glad!”
Hank feels so happy to be making this guy smile. It’s such an almost overwhelmed smile, like he’s still learning how it can fit on his face. “There were a few too many bubbles for my style because I kept wanting to look at the water, but it was the best.”
Connor gives him a slightly confused look, “How much of the bubbles did you crumble in?”
“…The whole thing?”
To his surprise, Connor snorts loudly. “Hank! You should've used maybe half!”
Hank blooms with a little flush of embarrassment and laughs, leaning forward on the counter, “I didn't know!”
“You used a whole bath bomb and crumbled three baths worth of bubbles in. No wonder you were a seal.” Connor turns away, wiping a tear from his eye. “I'm so sorry, I should have written it down for you.”
Hank runs his hands through his hair and smiles brightly, feeling so light. “I had fun. It was a lot of fun. That also means… I need a few more things.”
Connor takes a few deep breaths and smiles, looking increasingly excited at the prospect of giving Hank another new experience. “Really?”
He feels his smile widen, even turn giddy while he nods and follows an almost bouncing Connor to the cozy smelling rows of bath products.
Cole is just biting into a sandwich when his father comes back home. He meets him there in the kitchen, seeing the starry-eyed look on his face. “Have a good day?”
Hank hands him the receipt from the bath store and he hums at the price, trying to figure out what he bought this time. After getting a hand flapped at him, he turns it over.
There's a series of numbers on the other side— ‘Msg me!’
Cole grins up at his father’s bright red face, knowing he’ll be stuck like that a while. “Oh Pops, fuck yeah!”
Hank stares at the perfectly printed numbers on the back of that lavender smelling receipt again, 313 248 317 51… he's so nervous. Connor had been sweet, voice bright as he spoke about instructions.
Connor had rang him up, a special new bath melt the star among items. Hank picked out a hair styling product all by himself, and Connor had swiped his personal discount, loaded him with little samples. Hank must have been gawking into his bag when Connor wrote down his number.
He sighs, running his fingers through his hair. He should just say hello and not be all awkward about it. He's talked to Connor before. He's flirted with Connor. And now he can't text?
“Are you yearning like a sad old bi, Pops?” Cole drops down onto the couch next to him and uses Hank’s leg as a pillow. He pulls his homework out of his backpack.
Hank grunts at his son's skull slamming into his thigh, frowning down at him. “Ugh. Maybe, don't gotta call me out.”
“Just text him! He'll get it, that's his serial number.” Cole pokes at his tablet to bring it to life, “You know what that means.”
“What does that mean?” He's about to get gruff if Cole learned something shitty from someone at school.
“It means he doesn't have a phone. Or,” Cole looks up at him, grinning. “He gave you the number to his head because he likes you.”
Hank melts, throwing an arm over his face as his head falls onto the back of the couch. “Shit. Come on!”
“You come on! He obviously likes you!”
“I— I know! I'm just nervous!”
Cole scoffs, taking the phone and receipt from Hank's hand. He presses in Connor's number and starts off the conversation,
#H: Hey it's Hank, thanks for thinking I'm attractive. I think you're hot, too
“Connor's hot, right?” Cole asks as he tosses it back.
“What? I—yeah, I mean.” Hank glances at his screen and almost has a heart attack, “Cole Ambrose Anderson!”
Cole laughs and rolls off the couch dramatically, over the coffee table. He scatters magazines as he goes and Sumo barks with all the excitement, wanting to join in playing whatever game Cole’s just started.
Cole shouts back as he’s catching his footing, “You gotta believe in yourself!”
“I believe I'm gonna kick your ass!” Hank shouts back, hauling himself up from the couch.
He does indeed kick Cole's ass, but at that point there's no strength in it since they're both wheezing with laughter. He's chased Cole around the kitchen and living room, both of them swatting at each other. Cole brandishes a dish towel and launches an assault. Hank lifts him bodily off his feet and spins him, deposits him upside down on the living room chair.
He drops himself back onto the couch with their laughter still tapering off. Sumo clambers to lay on top of him and he hugs the dog close, “Oof. Big lump.”
When he checks his phone, there is a reply from Connor.
#C: Hello, Hank! You're very welcome, I do find you attractive. Thank you, Hank. I'm quite glad you feel the same. I'm happy you contacted me!
#H: Ah, Connor. Shit, I'm sorry. Cole sent that first message. I am really happy to hear from you though
#C: Oh! I apologize then on the misunderstanding. You don't feel that way?
Hank sweats, hastily replying.
#H: No! Wait. I just. Didn't want to make you uncomfortable.
#H: I mean I do!
#H: Feel that way!
#C: You're very kind, Hank. I'm very glad your son contacted me. With accurate and… wonderful information.
Hank blows out a deep breath, heart pounding. He can almost smell the store just from associating it with Connor in his mind. He thinks about that teasing amusement Connor can wear, his soft smile, his bright eyes.
#H: I can see that smug face from here, I swear
#C: If you could, then I'd see your redness.
Damn if he's not 100% right. He hasn't known Connor long but every interaction and thought of Connor has been good. And it's made better by the fact Cole's supportive. He's encouraging Hank to go after someone romantically, and Hank feels supported and safe in that. Like he’s not committing some parental sin. Knowing Cole's chill with Hank interested in someone that isn't his mom is good, and that they can talk about shit like that.
Brighter and brighter. Shooing Sumo off him, he pulls himself up from the couch and tries to push his luck even more, “Hey kid, you wanna help me cook dinner?”
“Is it pizza?”
“You're a pizza gremlin.” Hank snorts, but smiles as Cole hauls himself up with a dramatic sigh.
#H: You know some about me. Tell me about you, Connor. How bout it?
#C: I have so much to say.
Brighter and brighter.
He and Connor text for weeks. Hank can't make it back into the store to see him as an intense murder case picks up. He's spending every free minute from work he has with Cole, making sure he's good. It's not as heavy of a process as it used to be, he doesn't feel as strung out and shitty.
Connor tells him it's the balanced meals and sleeping. Cole says it's Connor and the lavender lotion. Either way, Hank thinks it's a pure damn miracle. His therapist listens to the details while he stuffs his face with chicken salad because he doesn't have the time separately. Cole fills him in with the latest from school and friends. Connor trades stories and sweet conversation. He balances things well. It helps that Connor tells him to go to bed at 11pm on the dot.
Hank finds three hours to himself while Cole's out with friends on a Friday night, and immediately takes the opportunity. He slips himself into a bath with half his bath melt, watching the low fizz. The color and softening oils spread, and he indulges himself with half a bath bomb too. It erupts with intense color and the smell of peach washes over him.
His phone chirps, signaling another message. He's gotten accustomed to the noise more often, enjoys it now because of Connor.
#C: I do enjoy food, Hank. 900 and I eat pizza, almost exclusively.
Hank chuckles. Of course, pizza. He and Cole would get along so well… that's not a bad idea, actually. Is it weird their first date could be making pizza here at his place?
#H: God you're a pizza fiend too. So is Cole. Why pizza?
He slides down deeper into the water, letting it coat his shoulders and soothe his aches.
#C: They have a lot of pizza in Italy. 900 planned the trip for my activation anniversary.
#H: He took you to Italy for your birthday for pizza with your new stomachs?
#C: I was never technically born, Hank. But yes. I loved the experience.
#C: Tell me about your favorite dessert, Hank.
Hank smiles, grabbing one of the little tubs on the table close to the bathtub.
#H: Oh man… ice cream. Berry cobbler with ice cream on top. Y'know maybe I can't choose.
He sets his phone aside to open the little cardboard tub and scoop out the pastel blue gunk for a mask. He slathers it on with a little difficulty, some drops on his chest but he just rubs it in like everything else. After he rinses and dries his hands again, he sees Connor's text. He reads them twice, the soft scent and calming weight of the mask on his face pleasantly distracting.
#C: I've never had ice cream or cobbler. I'll have to try them.
#C: Hank… can I divulge a personal thought?
#H: Of course you can. You always can.
#C: Talking with you every day fulfills me greatly and I'm very happy you are here with me.
Hank feels his chest stutter and the blush blooms over his face hot. He has to turn his head away for a second— because god, that's tender. And at his heart, he's a hopelessly tender old man.
"Oh my god. Oh jeez." He feels restless without Connor here to hug, to release the flustered and thankful energy that’s thrumming through his bones.
#H: Oh Connor
#H: You don't know how over the moon I am about that
#C: Tell me how much.
#H: I wish I could see you. Today. Now. Just to see you
#C: I wish the same, frequently.
He closes his eyes and lays his head back, wishing this case was over so he could. So he could finally ask Connor to meet up, finally see how he looks in a relaxed environment.
#C: Hank… can I see you now? In a photo. As an incentive, I will return the gesture.
He can feel his stomach flutter with the anticipation of sharing with each other, of getting to see Connor. He’d have a photo of him to keep, and that means a lot to a guy like Hank. He can be too sentimental for his own good sometimes. He never told Connor that he was in the bath, though… but he's taken worse selfies before, right?
#C: I look very nice right now, Hank.
Well. He can’t say no to that, can he? He switches to his camera and flips the lens before he snaps a photo of myself, covered in suds and a bright face mask. He sends it off to Connor and adds on his reply,
#H: I'm sure you look like a dream, Con
Connor replies almost immediately, a rush of four texts that makes Hank laugh.
#C: Oh Hank!
#C: You're in the bathtub.
#C: You're using your mask.
#C: You look beautiful!
The messages are accompanied then, by a photo. It’s Connor, in the reflection of a mirror with pink cheeks and a soft lopsided smile. He's wearing a chunky sweater with big buttons and it falls almost to his knees. He's not wearing pants; at least not that Hank can see, the sweater’s too big. The photo is taken right from his eyes and Hank doesn't even find it odd. He just looks… incredible.
#H: Oh Connor…
#C: Forgive me being so dressed down. I am very comfortable.
#H: Connor, you look breathtaking. You're wonderful.
#C: Oh! You think so?
#H: Hell yes, I do.
#C: Thank you, Hank! That makes me very happy.
#H: I like when you're happy, Con.
#C: You make me happy, Hank.
Hank swears his heart is always hammering in his chest whenever he talks to Connor, because of simple things like that.
With all the power of all the heavens, there is finally a break in the case. After weeks of his regular hours and admittedly some overtime. It takes Hank two straight days of being at work, sleeping fitfully on the lumpy sofa in the upstairs lounge, missing meals and time to make that break. Being Lieutenant, he sends others to make the arrest because he cannot stand missing more time with his son. He drives home slowly in the hour before dawn, eyes heavy, and drags himself through the door on the fumes of his last pot of coffee.
Sumo is delighted to see him, demanding he lay all over Hank but can't stay still through the excitement, so he really wiggles in Hank's arms while whining his head off. When he's allowed to get off the floor, he gets himself out of his shoes and coat, stores his gun away in the lock box. He slinks towards the kitchen, but Cole’s bedroom door swings open lazily, his son shuffling out barely awake. The moment he sees Hank his pace picks up dramatically.
"Pop." He beelines down the hall with outstretched arms and lands against Hank heavy with sleep. Hank cradles his son's head and sighs, weary and long.
"Hey, bud. I'm back now, case closed." He squeezes Cole and rocks them, sleeplessness strangling his heart. It's so good to be home he could cry. "You just get up? You want breakfast?"
They both know it's too early and Cole would honestly enjoy face planting back into his pillow, but he nods anyway. "Yeah. Maybe… French toast?"
"You got it." He lands a kiss to Cole's forehead and lets him shuffle off to the bathroom. In the kitchen he puts all the concentration he's got left into making them both a few good stacks of French toast. It's pretty haphazard and looks like shit, but Cole barely opens his eyes when he plate is slid in front of him anyway.
They barely talk to each other more than Cole mumbling a thank you and a few little grunts back and forth, but their presence together is really what's needed. Cole drenches his toast in too much syrup. Hank gets some in his beard when he misses his mouth. Cole seems surprised to learn the drink is his glass is milk because he doesn't even look at it, and Hank forgot to even get himself a drink. They share the glass of milk.
"You gotta be getting back to sleep soon, you got school." Hank says, trying to blink wide to see the clock on the wall.
"It's Saturday." Cole mumbles with a full mouth.
Hank sits with that for a moment, Cole takes the milk from him. "No shit."
His son gives an agreeable hum. They clear their plates, only sticky syrup pooling at the bottom. They don't even clean up the table, Hank just ushers Cole up and steers him towards his room. He hears him flop into bed. He gets to his own bed and just crawls in, too tired for even pajamas. Undoes his belt and pants because he's full, and Sumo clambers up after him. He sends a text to Connor, sleepy and misspelled.
#H: Case /done, Sleep vow. Miss you, Con
Hank falls asleep with his phone in his hand and Sumo as his blanket.
There's a text from Connor in the morning (afternoon) when he wakes up. Sumo isn't there anymore and he really regrets sleeping in the same clothes, but he slept like a rock and that's what he needed.
#C: I miss you as well, Hank. I'm proud of you for finishing the case. I'd like for you to rest now.
Hank smiles dumbly and drags himself out of bed. He gets himself into the shower and scrubs up, happily covering himself with a lavender mint lather. Just the scent of it now is comforting, it centers him to be ready for the day. While washing his face he realizes he hasn't really trimmed his beard in a while— or his hair, for that matter. He can recognize that's something nice he can do for himself, that he should do it so he can feel his best. The beard, anyway. He can go to his barber for the rest, or even Cole, who's gotten into taking stabs at artistic endeavors like that. That sounds like a good idea.
As he's getting out of the shower he hears the front door open and close, Sumo's nails clicking as he skids into the kitchen. Cole's voice, bright and happy, "There ya go. Good boy!"
He smiles to himself, leaning over the sink to tame his beard with his little scissors. He's always worried he takes too much off, but he waits so long between trims that it kind of has to be that way. He stops fussing with himself when he hits that stage, knowing he can continue to stare in the mirror or go get himself dressed.
It's Saturday, he remembers, so he slips into sweats and his old Detroit Gears sweatshirt before padding out into the living room. Cole's on the floor leaning against the coffee table, pouring over a digital book while his laptop plays some video into his headphones. Hank knows he's concentrating just fine despite all the input. "Hey, kid. Good walk with Sumo?"
Cole looks up while pushing one headphone off his ear, "He found a new stick. I had to help him get it through the door."
He chuckles and makes his way to the kitchen, finding Sumo there with a fallen tree branch and looking so pleased with his new toy. He rubs his dog's head on his way to make a sandwich, "Damn! 'Stick' is a bit of an understatement."
"He did good!"
Hank sighs happily to himself. After a few slathers of peanut butter and finding the milk among the other food in the fridge, he settles in on the couch to flip on the TV, keeping the sound low. He's more preoccupied with eating and finding Connor's text again, wanting to reply.
#H: Slept like a rock, weird dreams. Do you dream, Connor? If yes, I hope they're good ones. Like premium grade A
Connor doesn’t reply right away but Hank pays it no mind. He gets wrapped up in finally sitting at home, eating his peanut butter sandwich with Cole swiping page after page as he reads. He finishes his breakfast and watches three segments on the news; the weather for the week, more android quality-of-life upgrades rolling out, and the rise in funding for art programs at local schools.
He turns off the TV after that, not wanting to hear about his case coming up next. He puts on a record and goes to find the book he'd been working through, detouring to crouch on the floor and scratch Sumo's belly, drag his hands through all the thick fur while he coos at his big ol puppy. Sumo basks in the attention like love from Hank is the best thing in the world. He follows Hank back to the couch and lays over his owner’s lap while he reads.
Cole eventually tires of reading himself and saves his spot on the tablet before his headphones come off. He coaxes Hank into a card game, slumping against Sumo as they use his back for a table to keep the cards. Sumo falls asleep there happily.
"Hey, kid." Hank starts, as Cole starts another game, "How would you feel about giving hair cutting another try?"
"I was just gonna ask when you were gonna get it fixed." Cole grins, setting up the discard pile again.
Hank snorts and pets Sumo’s head when it lifts up after the noise. “You can just tell me when I look scruffy.”
Cole laughs softly, laying down a new card. Hank lays one down after him and he groans at the change in color. He had his best card stocked up for next turn. “You look scruffy, Pop. You really want me to do it?”
“If you want, it’d be fun.” Hank tells him, “I like seein’ you be artistic.”
“…And if I wanna dye your hair?”
“I’m not allowed blue hair at the station, but whatever else.”
His son snorts loudly, shaking his head. “You’re supposed to be crotchety and say no!”
“I’d take a hot red! It’s all about you being creative.” He explains. He knows he’s more willing to let Cole do a variety of things. Especially if it’s to do with being creative. He’d let Cole do his own hair and Hank’s hair any way he wanted, he picks out anything he wants for his own clothes. He’s let Cole paint his nails before, his kid’s got a steady hand. They’ve been talking about painting classes.
“You’re more a pastel pink.” Cole makes sure to tell him, laying down another card to give himself two turns, “…I’ll do it, though.”
“If—” Cole’s down to his last three cards. “you meet up with Connor sometime.”
Hank sputters, fumbling with the card he’s going to lay down, “Hey!”
“Those are my terms!” Cole points a finger at him, starting to grin. “You talk about him all the time.”
“Well, I mean…” He smiles to himself. He could ask Connor out, there’s nothing stopping him from doing it. He’s been meaning to anyway, not that anyone has to know about that. “I… Yeah, I guess I could. I’ll ask him.”
“Then okay!” Cole pulls a double turn again and wins the game, a triumphant look spreading on his face. “I’ll get the buzzer!”
Cole shoots up from the couch, heading for the bathroom. Hank starts to clean up the cards, petting Sumo for being so good at being still. It hits him belatedly— “The buzzer?”
He hears a heavy click and then the whir of electric clippers. Cole’s going to get very creative, then.
Soon Hank finds himself sitting on a kitchen chair in the bathroom while Cole trims up his split ends and then goes to dive in with the clippers. He only feels a mild sense of hesitation for change, but he keeps his head where his son puts it and scrolls through his phone. “So, do we know what we’re going for?”
“Yeah!” Cole shifts his hair around and Hank blinks it out of his eye. “We’re taking off the whole back.”
Hank makes a confused sound— “What, though?”
“I’m ruining you. Don’t worry about it.” Cole says offhandedly, and then Hank feels the clippers connect and a section of his hair fall away.
“Well, that’s fun.” Hank dips his head when Cole pushes, and continues squinting at his screen. He still hasn’t gotten anything back from Connor. He thinks the android must be busy, maybe with his RK900. Another pizza night, probably.
He looks to the side where thick pieces of hair are falling onto his shoulder, so solidly gray now. It doesn’t take much longer, Cole takes the time to trim around his ears and stare scrutinizingly at the evenness. Goes around Hank in circles to make sure he’s done everything he needs to. Then he smiles, “Okay, Pop. I think we’re good.”
“No pink?” Hank grins, taking the towel from around his shoulders carefully as he stands up. He steps in front of the mirror and shakes his damp hair with his fingers. It’s still long on top, looks the same more or less, just better. But it’s shorter in the back, tamed around the ears. It feels incredibly soft when he runs his hand over it and Cole holds a mirror up so he can see.
“I don’t have any pink.” Cole chuckles, brushing off his father’s shoulder, “Yet.”
Hank shakes his head with a good natured grimace, smoothing his hair back. He likes the way it looks, and he feels lighter. He reaches for a cloth to clean up any stray hairs on his neck and face. “Hey, thanks for this, kid. It really helps me out, and you did one hell of a job.”
Cole shrugs, dusting off the clippers before grabbing the chair, “It’s cool, I like doing it. I’m glad you like it.”
“I’m proud of you!” Hank calls while Cole shuffles down the hallway. He grabs the broom behind the bathroom door to start sweeping up all the hair.
“You, too!” Cole calls back, as always.
The three of them go out later for groceries and essentials, Sumo’s tail wagging excitedly even as he stays on the job. Once his little vest is on, he knows it’s work time. Hank and Cole both throw some of their favorites into the cart, Hank makes sure he gets extra veggies when Cole loads up on pizza supplies again. They talk about dinners for the week, and Cole has the confidence to say he’ll be eating alone at least once because he’ll be seeing Connor. Though Hank’s cop senses kick in with some of Cole’s other food picks.
“Didn’t think you liked soy beans.” He says casually as Cole drops in a bag of frozen edamame in the cart. Cole shrugs, looking for his favorite ice pops now. “I could swear. Who liked…? Wasn’t it— ah, it was Milo, wasn’t it? That kid you always hang out with… Are you—?”
“No thanks.” Cole insists, face going red. He keeps his back to Hank for a bit, looking harder than he should into the frozens’ section, “Pops, really— uh, he’s… No cop vision.”
Hank softens at that. He was only teasing, but he’ll respect that. When Cole’s ready, he’ll talk about it. They walk for a bit in silence, Hank gets a slice of meat at the deli for Sumo. He bumps Cole’s hip while they’re both having a piece of cheese, “You wanna get more hair dye? Touch up your ends for when you see him?”
Cole gives him a little thankful smile and nods.
He checks out a display close by while Cole deliberates on the exact shade of dye he wants. They’re stuffed animals, and while Sumo sits there perfectly still, Hank can tell he’s looking at the plush ladybug at height level. Cole’s been out of stuffed animals for a while, but it makes him start to wonder - not for the first time - about androids. What they hold onto when they don’t have a childhood, unless they’re a child model. He thinks about what they’d like as gifts. He thinks about if Connor was here, would he want one? There’s a dalmatian plush he’s eyeing, he knows Connor adores dogs.
Still no text from Connor. But Hank’s thinking of him, and after a bit of that thinking, he picks the stuffed animal out of the display and puts it in the cart. He peers at Sumo from the corner of his eye as he reaches out for the ladybug too, cooing when Sumo lets out a small huff of excitement, “Steady.”
Sumo stays put so well. He offers the toy over after giving it a safety glance, and Sumo slowly opens his mouth so he can carry it. “That’s my good boy. Let’s go get Cole.”
At the mention of Cole, Sumo starts leading the way back to him expertly. Hank follows, he always lets Sumo do his job. Cole’s debating between two colors that are pretty much the same, and Hank picks the brighter one when asked for an opinion, knowing his son will sit thinking about it too long otherwise. They head to the checkout after and Sumo knows where they parked, walking a few feet ahead while his humans trail close behind with all the bags.
He and Cole make pizza for dinner; pepperoni, onions, peppers, and topped with greens and spice. Cole talks about the pottery thing they’re doing in art class at school, how the clay is messy but in a good way, that it calms him to mold it. He remembers the one-line drawings they did that drove Cole’s motor skills nuts, so he’s happy they’ve got something that works out.
Hank talks about the new coffee shop he heard was opening soon in the long empty building they always walk past when they go to the park with Sumo. He beats Cole to a joke about a cop knowing the nearest coffee shop and Cole doubles down with asking if there’s artisan donuts. Hank has to tell him there will be, which sends his son into a fit of laughter that he knows that tidbit of knowledge too.
Cole goes to play video games with his friends after dinner and Hank talks on the phone with Jeffrey for a while, the two of them catching up on home life stuff and gushing about the most recent Gears game. Jeff's got a new little cactus that he's trying so hard to keep alive. Hank knows he's really putting his heart into it when his best friend talks about how he meticulously measures the water out and uses a whole six step method for watering and sunlight. He asks about Hank's self care and how it's going, Hank talks about his haircut and beard oil and his plan to ask Connor out.
"Damn, Hank. Didn't think you had it in you." Jeff chuckles into the receiver, and Hank feels the flush rising to his face.
"I haven't even done it yet, hold on… God, I haven't been on a date in years. I don't even know if Connor would want to go to a restaurant, y'know?" He sinks a little more into the couch cushions, rubbing his fingers over the buzzed back of his hair.
"He can eat, right?" Jeff asks, sounding unsure. "I talked to a woman at the farmer's market getting four watermelons— like, like she tucked them under her arms like it was nothing. I joked how she must like them, and she said she didn't have a stomach."
Hank snorts softly at the awe in Jeffrey's voice over the strength of this random woman. "Nah, Connor got his for his birthday. His friend took him to Italy just so they could eat pizza. All he eats is pizza, Jeff."
"Sounds like your son." Jeff laughs, and Hank joins in too.
"They'd make a great damn pair, huh? I'd be talked into pizza every fuckin’ night with those two!"
Another round of laughter, and then Jeff sounds like he's still smiling when he asks, "Is Connor someone you'd introduce to Cole?"
Hank feels his heart lurch. It takes him a minute to make words and not just open and close his mouth. "I… I don't know. I talk about them to each other sometimes, mostly about Cole to Connor. You know me, I can't shut up about how cool my fuckin' kid is." he says, looking down at where he's picking at a thread on his sweats.
"I know, Hank." Jeff answers, softer. Coaxing, but patient. He knows Hank isn’t done.
"I mean— Yeah. I'd like to. But not yet. Not until I know more, you know? I'm not the type to just bring people around my kid. Cole's been… positive, about the whole thing. He wants me to get out there." He smiles to himself, "I think he sees being in Connor's orbit makes me happy."
"We've all seen you, Hank. You really jumped the damn hurdle on taking care of yourself. We see it. I'm proud of you." Jeff tells him, making Hank choke back a little heaviness in his throat. "I'm impressed, too. You went through the divorce and moving house, you bring up Cole—"
"Ah hell, Jeff. Come on." He says bashfully, he doesn't need the list his best friend's trying to give.
"No, you let me finish— You do your job and you care about it, you got the dog, you're taking care of you now along with all the mandated stuff. And on top of it, you got all the game in the world to pick up a guy by accident!"
Hank barks out a laugh, covering his face while he really sinks into the cushions now. "Goddammit."
"It's true!" Jeffrey's working through his own laugh, "Old saying, but your glow up, Hank! You've really outdone yourself."
Hank feels so much warmth for his best friend. He doesn't think he can say how much it means to have Jeff say it, even if they both have touched on it before. He swallows back a fond lump in his throat and tries to be funny instead, "Just thought to myself, y’know, wellness… 'I think I'm just gonna bust in, no ticket required’."
Jeffrey wheezes with laughter, Hank knows when he takes the phone away from his ear because it almost turns 3D with him waving it around. "Fuckin'—! How old is that damn joke?! Hank!"
Jeff's laugh makes him laugh, and the rest of their conversation is them trying to outdo each other on how well the other person is doing. It goes into stories and plans to get together sometime. When Hank hangs up with a stay safe and I love you, he gets the same in return. He feels happy, content. Sumo comes in from his doggy door and ambles on up to Hank, sensing his good mood. Hank pets his cool coat and then treats him to a few biscuits with a good brushing.
He checks in on Cole, listening to him congratulate his teammates and get excited when he lands hits. He tells him only a few more games and then to wind down for the night. Cole gives a thumbs up over his shoulder, "Okay. We've won twice, you know!"
"Great job. Goodnight, kid. Love you." Hank leaves his door cracked again after gently turning down the ceiling light.
"Night, Pops! Love you, too!" Cole calls back through the furious mouse clicking. "—What? Yeah, I love my dad. Yeah— the team loves you too!"
Hank snorts, "Love them. So proud!" He goes into his room and shucks off his sweats before crawling into bed. He gets comfortable against all his pillows and sighs, feeling his body melt - and crack profusely while doing so - right into the mattress.
Before he goes to sleep, he sends off another text to Connor.
#H: Didn't do too much resting today but it worked out. Missed you today, you must be busy too. My turn to tell you to rest. Wanna ask you about something soon, when you’re free. Let me know
The next morning while Cole sleeps in, Hank does up the laundry so he’ll have more options when his friend comes over. He makes sure Cole’s favorite outfit is in there. He indulges and makes a bunch of bacon with his scrambled eggs and blend of broccoli and potatoes. A nice Sunday breakfast before he has to go back to work, even if he’s almost always on call anyway. He sits down on the couch with Sumo and they share breakfast, Sumo’s bowl even brought up and Hank giving him little bits of bacon.
“We’re gonna go on a walk soon.” he coos, Sumo looking up at him with those big puppy eyes. He sing-songs as he scrapes up more egg, “Walkie time, we’re gonna exercise, because we’re under orders to do it.”
Sumo boofs quietly and licks soft kibble off his mouth. When they’re ready, Hank pulls on his sweats from yesterday and his running shoes, gets Sumo on his leash. They walk around the neighborhood and the street near the park. Hank lets them in so Sumo can get a drink from the doggy fountain and sniff his favorite tree.
Cole isn’t awake yet by the time they get back so Hank does his twelve sit-ups and covers up the food so it’s there for Cole later. He takes his meds, switches over the laundry, and changes his sheets. He sits on his bed to retrieve his phone from the charger, seeing a text from Ben needing an approval for evidence lockup. He sends his confirmation code over with approval. There’s also a text from Connor, which gets his heart pumping.
#C: Hank, I apologize for not speaking yesterday. I have contracted a virus and my communications were down.
Hank feels some worry spring up. He doesn’t know too much about android issues, he wonders about the severity of Connor getting a virus. There’s an android wing now in the hospital, Connor could go there. Does he have a car? Is the RK900 with him?
#H: How bad is a virus? Are you okay? If there’s something you need, you gotta make sure you get it. Do you have reliable transportation?
#C: I’m okay, Hank. A virus is… I would equate it to the human flu? That's what the technician told 900. I’m only mildly miserable, I promise. The anti-viral program and wellness patch were given to me today, I’m going to run them soon. Don’t worry, I’m going to be fine.
#H: What happens during that patching stuff?
#C: I will have to rest, like any human would. Minor glitches will still happen while I’m being repaired, but I will feel much better when it’s done.
Hank sighs, feeling the nervous energy drain out of him. Then it’s not anything terrible, Connor’s just a little under the weather. That’s not the worst, it sounds like he’ll be back on his feet soon enough.
#C: I don’t feel well at all. I keep getting uncomfortable glitches and my motor servos don’t like cooperating. I’m sorry if you’ve ever been sick, Hank.
#H: I’ve been sick plenty of times, it’s never fun. Do you need anything?
#C: I wouldn’t know, I’ve never been sick before. I would like never to be again.
His heart aches. He remembers the first time he got the flu, six years old and thinking it was the end of the world. His head fuzzy, all sweaty, his body shaking. He remembers crying about it and just making the headache worse. Connor sounds miserable just like him.
#H: I know I don’t know too much about android needs, but what if I dropped off some stuff for you? A long shot, but it might help.
#C: Hank… that’s so kind. No one has done that for me before. I would like that, if you’re not busy. And if you don’t mind seeing me in such a state.
#H: I wouldn’t mind seeing you in any state, Con
#C: I don’t know… I look a bit odd during repairs… with my wires hanging out of my chest...
Hank snorts. He loves that Connor's text jokes come with so many pauses, like he's leaving Hank room to anticipate how funny it'll be at the end.
#H: That’s the weirdest joke I’ve ever heard. Gimme a half hour, I’ll be there.
He tosses his phone aside to grab some clothes to wear, then goes to gently knock on Cole’s open door. Cole’s just waking up, scrolling through something on his phone. “Mornin’, kid. You uh, you remember when you told me to see Connor?”
Cole nods groggily, voice a little croaky from sleep, “Yeah?”
“Well,” he says, a little sheepish, “he’s sick right now, and I’m gonna bring him some stuff to help him feel better.”
“Aw, man.” Cole smiles, shaking his head. Seeing his dad look so nervous over something like this, he feels he's gotta give a little push, "Are you gonna go dressed like that?"
Hank sputters, glancing down at himself, "No. No, I'm gonna shower. I just…"
"Want me to be okay with it? You'll be helping clean up his snot. It's not, like, an ideal first date but. Eh, you're weird." He shrugs, unlocking his phone again.
"Cole…" Hank's shoulders relax. He knows he doesn't need the approval, but it sure means a hell of a lot more that he has it.
"Father." Cole looks over the top of his phone at him, "Go. Go clean up his snot for him."
“Right! Go. I’m going.” He heads towards the bathroom, “Right, okay. Wait— does Connor even have snot?”
He lets his shower be quick because he really wants to get to Connor, and the idea pops up that he should go to the store beforehand. He scrubs his body, suds up, leaves himself a little red. He knows there’s new products for androids coming out all the time, there’s gotta be something for Connor. He gets himself into the clothes he set out, and grabs his duffle bag from the closet. He packs in a blanket from the spares in the closet, the plush dalmatian he got for Connor the other day. He crosses back into the bathroom to add a few things from his bath stash; some lotion, a bath bomb and the last half of his crumbled bubble bar. These things have comforted him, maybe they can comfort Connor too. He doesn't know if it'll help much, but he raids the sick kit; vaporub, tissues, cough drops.
While he’s there, he stops at the mirror. He has that little tub of hair product he hasn’t actually used yet. But with this new haircut, it makes him want to. He has to read the instructions again and warms the product in his hands, then rakes it through his hair, scrunching to help his damp curls hold better. The product smells like sweet almonds and it’s so nice. He makes sure his shirt isn’t wrinkled and picks up the duffle, heading into the living room to get his shoes on.
Cole is in the kitchen now, piling breakfast onto a plate with a cold slice of pizza from last night. Hank smiles, “I did your laundry. It’s in the dryer and still warm. Be good, alright?”
“No, I’m a terror.” Cole’s mouth is full of bacon already, bringing his plate and the almost empty half gallon of milk into the living room. He stops at the couch and swallows his food, “Thanks for the clothes.”
Hank grins and gets his coat on, making sure he has his wallet and phone. Keys and duffle bag in hand, he comes over to lay a kiss to the top of Cole’s head and rub Sumo’s ears before he heads out, “Love you! Be back later.”
Cole’s response is muffled but Hank hears it all the same.
He heads to the nearest store he’s sure has android essentials and looks through the aisles almost timidly, weaving around a couple talking about strawberry Thirium. He squints at the little print on the array of choices, realizing that most of it is the same thing only flavored, but there are higher grade options for more medicinal consumption. He grabs one of those, one original with a nozzle opening, and a peach flavored variant that looks like a stylized juice box. On his way to the checkout, he sees some gummies near the candy and grabs a few packs of those, too.
The cashier smiles at him as she rings everything up, “What model are you?”
Hank doesn’t know why he blushes. “Oh, I’m not— it’s not for me.” he fumbles to get his card out, “My friend has a virus. I thought, y’know, maybe this stuff would help?”
She appraises the items anew now, turning one over to look at it, “If their supply is low, it could help them very much.”
Hank swipes his card and puts in his pin, feeling some worry he didn’t know he had start easing away. “Thank you.”
She gives him a soft smile and they both wish each other a nice day. Back in his car he shoves the bag in the duffle and rechecks Connor’s address before he heads out again. Six minutes later than he promised he’d be there, he finds Connor’s apartment in the rows of identical light gray doors on the ninth floor. He knocks and waits for an anxious half minute before the door is swinging open, and a very broad Connor stands in the doorway.
The blue eyes and bigger frame throw him off, and the authoritative voice even more, “Hank Anderson.”
“Yes!” Hank says, when he snaps out of it. This big Connor just looks at him. “Is— Does Connor live here? Connor, uh, 313—”
“Yes, Connor is here. Come in.” the bigger Connor says, stepping aside so Hank can get through the door.
Hank takes a moment to look over the apartment. It's immaculately cleaned, well decorated with stylish furniture, plants, photo frames. There's a bright fish tank. The only thing out of place is a… well, a kind of raggedy looking couch. It's plaid and lumpy and doesn't mesh with any of the other pristine furniture. The glass coffee table, plush rug and wall mounted TV complete the out of place look for it.
There are a lot of photos on the walls. Hank squints at one; Connor and Mr. Big Connor at a dimly lit restaurant, a large pizza sitting between them on the table, Connor's hands holding big Connor's arm as he looks excitedly at the camera. There's smatterings of confetti on the tablecloth. The realization kicks in, "You're 900, Connor's 900."
"Yes, I am." There's a hint of pride in 900's voice as he says it. "Well done, Lieutenant Anderson."
"He talks about you all the time. He really loves you."
900 shifts, stoic face cracking softly with a fond look. "So he tells me, incessantly. He made me deviate."
"Shit, really?" Hank can't keep the awe and surprise from his voice.
"He saw me standing still in my packaging when he was going to leave the facility, and he couldn't leave me there." 900 says, head tilting softly, "I woke up deviant. The first thing I ever saw was his smile."
Hank thinks that would be a very good way to wake up. But he doesn't have the chance to say so when there's a shuffle from the hallway, a little static laced voice that says, "900? Is that Hank at the door?"
Connor doesn't appear too sick at first glance. He should've known that much, really. His face isn't pale, his eyes aren't sunken in. He's got that healthy flush he always does. But his eyes carry a painful squint and the way he holds his body is so familiar; leant forward like his stomach hurts, shoulders curled in like his body aches, arms wrapped around himself protectively. Hank goes to him immediately, giving a soft smile as his heart hammers, "Hey, Con. How are you feeling?"
Connor gives him a weak smile even as his eyes light up, "Still sick. You've changed your hair."
Hank blushes, starting to grin, "Yeah, I—"
"It's so curly." Connor breathes, reaching up to touch him. His hands seem unnaturally hot and he sways lightly.
900 comes closer, holding Connor at one side, "800, you should not stay upright for an extended amount of time."
“You’re beautiful, Hank.” Connor tells him, in such a soft voice. He leans into 900 as he’s led back to his room, Hank trailing behind all smitten.
“Take a rest, Connor.” He watches 900 put Connor back in bed, fluffing up his pillows covered by colorful cases. His blanket his lacking somewhat, a thin and almost hospital-reminiscent thing. He unzips his duffle and digs out the quilt he brought along, holding it out. “I brought this from home, I thought it might help.”
900 turns to look at the blanket with a kind of flat, curious expression. Then he takes it in hand and unfolds it elegantly, laying it over Connor instead of the other blanket. Connor smiles, taking the edge of it in his hands and pulling it up to his chin.
“This is so nice. Thank you.” Connor gives him a smile as 900 coaxes the blanket back down around his waist to make sure he doesn’t overheat. He eyes the bag on Hank’s shoulder, “Did you… You have more?”
“Yeah!” Hank springs into action, dipping into the bag and wrestling with the reusable bag the store gave him. He picks out each Thirium pack one at a time, “Yeah, I got this. And this one, it’s medicinal— at least that’s what it says. And this thing, it’s peach. And-And these, I don’t know what they’re supposed to be, but…”
He offers them over in both hands. Connor takes each item, 900 snags one of the gummy packs to examine it. Connor looks entirely in awe. His hands shake - another glitch, and his voice is pitched with more static, “You did this for me?”
900 reaches to smooth Connor’s hair, sensing his emotion. Hank nods, patting Connor’s knee over the blanket, “Yeah, ‘course I did. I want you to feel better.” he reaches back into the bag, fingers curling around the dog plush, “And I got, uh…”
Connor gasps when it’s revealed, hands opening for it immediately. Hank watches him gently touch the covering of synthetic fur and hold it close. He sighs, eyes welling with tears, “Y-You know I love dogs.”
“I do. I saw it and thought of you.” Hank coos, squeezing gently at Connor’s knee. He knows Connor gets love and care from 900, but it seems like Connor doesn’t get this kind of ‘thinking about you’ gifts. 900 shows his love in other ways, and it’s made clear by the way 900 brushes away a tear just before it falls and Connor’s hand goes to his, skin melting away to touch with bare chassis. Hank’s barely ever seen it before. He knows it’s significant.
“You know I can’t.” 900 tells him when his skin doesn’t come away to connect, much much softer than he spoke to Hank.
“I know, I just can’t help it.” Connor whispers, wiping at his tears when he lets go. He turns to Hank, looking sheepish as he hugs the plush to his face, “This is so kind, Hank. I don’t know what to say. My heart feels better. I’m just very vulnerable at the moment.”
Hank chuckles fondly, “You be vulnerable all you want, it’s alright. I’m just glad I could help, Con. Is there anything else you need?”
“He’d like you to stay with him.” 900 says, standing up straight again, “Please take off your shoes. We have food suitable for you if you need it.”
Hank feels himself flush with color, brows shooting up, “Oh! Hey, yeah, I can…”
“Only if you want to, Hank.” Connor adds softly, starting to curl onto his side with a painful pinch to his brows. He makes a soft, hurt noise and Hank wouldn’t even think of leaving.
900 moves towards the door, his steps silent. “I will get the pain blocker, stay here.”
Hank drops the duffle bag at the side of the bed before he’s shucking off his coat and shoes at the same time. Connor looks miserable, he’s making small movements like it hurts to stay still. “What can I do, honey?”
Connor frowns and reaches out for him without a second thought. He comes around to sit in the space Connor’s curved body makes and Connor’s back is overly warm when he starts to rub circles. The sigh the contact produces lulls Hank somewhat, that’s something androids and humans have in common then. Touch is healing.
“It’s like you have a fever.” He comments softly, not wanting to be too loud. He wonders if it’ll be easier or harder to break an android fever.
“It’s heat in my systems, my internal components are under stress.” Connor sighs, resting his hand on Hank’s leg, “Please… will you come closer?”
Hank’s timid, but he lets Connor direct him to lean up against the headboard. He feels something soft and fragile in his chest when Connor hesitantly settles against his side. His arms draw Connor in close, letting him know he's welcome, and Connor almost collapses.
"There we go." He coos, rubbing along the width of his shoulders, guiding a Thirum pouch towards Connor's hands. "I got you."
Connor tucks the plush under his chin to help keep his head up, voice breaking, "Thank you."
900 glides back into the room, wearing gloves with a small circular device in his hand. He doesn't give much pause at the rearrangement, only comes around the bed to sit nearest to Connor, pulling at the back of his shirt. "I'm here, I've got it."
900's hand taps Hank's, enlisting his help in holding the fabric up out of the way. His fingers skim Connor's skin for a moment, pressing down like he's looking for something. He pauses at Connor's lower back near his hip. He angles the underside of his wrist to touch Connor's skin, and it melts back predictably. 900 settles the device there with a small click and Connor's skin moves back into place as if nothing happened. Hank gently settles his hand against Connor's upper back, feeling him shiver as if Hank's cold. Maybe he is, in comparison. 900 runs his knuckles along Connor's spine, pointedly not taking the gloves off so Connor doesn't try for a connection.
"It won't take away all of the pain, but it will help." 900 says, guiding Connor's shirt back down. "Rest now. I will be a room away."
Connor nods, shakily unscrewing his Thirium to take a sip. 900 gets up, giving Hank a scrutinizing look as he goes to the door. Hank understands - Connor may know him well, but 900 doesn’t. Before he leaves, Connor looks up at him, "I love you, 900."
900 freezes for only a fraction of a second, then his shoulders drop a little tension. "And I, you."
Hank resumes rubbing slow circles on Connor's back when 900 leaves, smiling softly to himself, "I think I like him. Even if he doesn't like me."
"He doesn't dislike you, Hank. He's like that with everyone."
"Not with you."
"No. Not with me." Connor smiles, curling so his leg brushes Hank’s, "He's my best friend. My favorite connection."
Hank squeezes him softly, giving a little chuckle. “I can understand that… I think? Connection like, uh…?”
“Yes. Like in my head.” Connor tells him, fingers stuttering softly at Hank’s side.
He reaches over to recap the Thirium and slowly guides Connor’s arm around him, “It sounds real special, Con.”
“You’re special, too." He whispers, burying his face into Hank's side. There's a pause, where Hank can't find the words to reply, but evidently Connor hears it anyway. "Your heart is so fast, Hank."
"Don't worry about it. It's fine." Hank hums, feeling how Connor is relaxing against him. The pain blocker must be working.
"Can I still listen to it?" He lets his eyes slip closed, feeling safe and cooled down next to Hank. "I like the sound."
Hank feels his chest ache, his stomach get all warm. He rubs along Connor's shoulders and lets out a deep breath, "You go ahead, I don't mind."
Connor gently holds the fabric of Hank's shirt over his belly, and lets himself relax until he's in a light stasis. Hank gently takes his phone from his pocket and texts Cole that he might be a while, he'll have to fend for himself for a bit. Cole just texts back a bunch of okay hands and a double heart.
He reads on his phone while Connor rests, giving light, warm touches when he starts to fuss. Connor has a few glitches while he sleeps, the muscles in his back twitch and tense, making him wince. Hank rubs them soothingly to try and coax it away. Another is a fluid leak, he cries softly into Hank's shirt, and Hank runs his fingers through his hair to keep him calm. 900 looms in the doorway to check on them, eating the pack of gummies he took while giving Hank a cold stare.
Hank gives an uncomfortable smile, "He's doing the glitches. Is that alright?"
900 looks at him for a long moment, then to Connor. "He'll be fine. He's a very advanced model, one of the best."
His smile slips into something more fond, "Is he?"
900 looks almost offended. "Yes. Did you not look through his specifications?"
"No?" He glances back to Connor, who's subtly pushed his nose against his love handles. "Was I supposed to?"
900's brows creep upwards and he tilts his head. "Lieutenant Hank C. Anderson. Age 60. Employed at the Detroit Police Department. Commended for work during the Red Ice outbreak, and advocating for androids during the Revolution. Reasoning given—"
"An android saved my son's life. Yeah, okay, I get it. You looked me up." Hank waves a hand, he knows his own life.
"I had to make sure Connor would not be in any apparent danger when he took to favoring you." 900 tells him, and Hank… understands that. He checks the parents of new friends Cole makes, among other things. Connor makes a soft whimpering noise in his sleep and 900 looks almost pained for a moment, stepping into the room.
Hank watches him thread his fingers through Connor's hair. "You really love him."
900 doesn't speak for a while, but when his voices comes it's only a soft, "Yes."
"I won't hurt him." Hank whispers, feeling like any volume more would shatter the bubble they're in.
"You won't." 900 says, both like he believes Hank and like Hank had better not.
He just gives 900 a nod.
Connor stirs about an hour later, breath immediately hitching. Hank looks down at him, where Connor's twitched down the bed enough to have his head pillowed on Hank's leg. He moves the curls off Connor's forehead, "Hey, what's goin' on?"
"My… my skin hurts. My body hurts." Connor's slurred voice croaks with sleep. He's getting more tense by the second, not knowing what else to do.
Hank puts his phone away and sits up slightly, "Is it sharp pains? Aches? Dull throbbing?"
"Aches." Connor whispers, almost confused. Hank tries rubbing at the back of his neck and he flinches, making a pitiful noise, "Everything's… so much."
Hank makes his touch lighter, as much as he can. "900 said the patch is around a third of the way done. He checked it a little bit ago. You're doin' good, Con."
"Thank you." He sighs, the ache so deep in his chassis every movement he makes. "Hank, the bed hurts."
"You wanna get up? 900 made up the couch." Hank shifts him gently, laying him completely on the bed so he can get up.
"I don't know if it'll hurt, too."
Hank looks him over, feeling so sorry for him. He reaches to gently touch Connor's shoulder. "Well… I don't know if you're up for it. But I brought some stuff… I could make you a bath? They help with my aches and pains."
Connor's soft brown eyes gaze at him, a little glassy with sickness. "You, you brought things for a bath?"
He feels his face heat with mild embarrassment, wringing his hands as he tries to explain. "Well— y'know, I didn't really know how to help. I grabbed all the stuff I thought could do something."
"Hank," Connor whispers, gently touching his knee. "You are so kind. I would enjoy a bath, so much."
Hank looks at him for such a long, fond moment. Then he gives Connor his best smile and cups his cheek, "Okay. Then let's make you one, huh?"
Connor sits up slowly and Hank helps him out of bed. He grabs the duffle and they take the steps slowly towards the bathroom, with Connor leaning against him. The bathroom is neat; white tiled floors and cream walls, not so much as a toothbrush out of place, and an almost display-like show of fluffy white towels. Connor has products from work on shelves, on the sink counter. He chuckles softly as he helps Connor sit on the closed toilet seat.
"Smells like that lemongrass soap you showed me." He says, gently pulling back the deep blue shower curtain to reveal the tub. It's about as big as Hank's and he leans over to switch on the water.
"I get to try everything the store puts out." Connor smiles, trying to rest against the counter while he watches Hank.
"Feels familiar." He brings the duffle up onto the counter and Connor pillows his head on the end of it as he takes things out. "Reminds me of you."
"I like that a lot, Hank." Connor whispers, letting his eyes close for a moment. He hears Hank’s pleased hum and looks over to watch him break up the soft bubble bar under the faucet. It blooms a warm, rosy scent and Hank rubs his hands together to feel the smoothness the oils give. He carefully takes out the bath bomb next and lays it into the water, watching for a moment as it foams and sputters. He rakes his fingers through the water to encourage more bubbles.
He wipes his hands on his jeans, looking pleased with himself. He hovers near, offering his hands to Connor to help him up. “Here we go, Con. It’s all ready for you.”
Connor smiles softly at the tub and reaches for Hank, “I’m wondering if… maybe I’m asking too much.”
“What do you mean?” Hank coos, rubbing Connor’s forearm. Connor fiddles hesitantly with the hem of his shirt, looking towards the tub and back again.
“Would you join me, Hank?” He looks so honest and open, genuinely just wanting Hank there. “In the bathtub. It’d be nice to lean on you again… and they’re your things, you should be able to enjoy them.”
Hank pauses. Past his own hesitation and anxious worry, he wants to do it. He likes the intimacy they have together, the care they’ve grown between them. It’s something he wants, to be close to Connor physically, and Connor asking just makes him feel more secure. He gives a bashful smile, feeling his cheeks flush up hot. “Yeah, honey. I’ll be your big pillow.”
Connor’s eyes widen with concern, “That’s not why—”
“Shh. I’m just being funny.” He cups Connor’s cheek, leaning down to give a kiss to his overwarm forehead. Connor sighs and relaxes into it, any tension brought forward melting away.
Connor uses the counter and Hank’s arm to help him stand, then takes the hem of his shirt to pull it over his head. “I like you. I want to be close to you.”
Hank’s heart flutters, a smile jumping to his face without the ability to control it. He looks at the freckled expanse of Connor's back and feels an almost giddy sense of being wanted. "Connor…"
"You're a good man. I like listening to you talk. You're very handsome and I enjoy that. I'm proud that you're doing your best." Connor tells him, continuing to explain even if Hank said he was joking.
Hank hides his face in the t-shirt he's just taken off. God, Connor's relentless in this. It's even more when it's said to him instead of reading it through a message. Connor's hands find his arms, guiding his hands away. He's taken off the rest of his clothing - just the sweats he'd had on, and brushes some hair behind Hank's ear. "Don't hide your redness. I like that, too."
He sputters softly in the face of that amused smirk rising to Connor's lips. Connor takes the shirt from him, leaving it on the counter. His eyes track over Hank's tattoo and his fingers skim it distractedly. His shoulder starts to glitch again, muscles spasming and Hank lays a hand over the area as he guides Connor towards the tub. "You're too good to me, Connor."
"It seems like kind of the opposite at the moment. Who came over to whose apartment, to give them a bunch of things and then stayed to take care of them?" Connor turns to him, staying close while Hank undoes his jeans and slips the rest of his clothes off. Connor has him go first, settling into the hot water with a heavy sigh. He hasn't had a bath with anyone in a long time, he tries to find the best position to sit in.
Their differences are a little stark. Hank and his abundance of groomed gray hair along his body, curled and now properly conditioned. Connor with fine hair at his chest and below the absence of a bellybutton, all dark against pale skin. Connor stares down at him in the tub, over his soft belly, between his legs and the definition in his thighs. His eyes snap to Hank's face with a pretty flush and he gently steps into the tub, lowering himself between Hank's legs. The water is silky and the heat bites pleasantly at his aching chassis. Hank coaxes him slowly back against him, a soft warbling sound leaving his mouth.
“Hurt?” Hank asks, not wanting to touch too much until he’s comfortable.
He sighs, feeling a little dizzy. He slips onto his side against the swell of Hank’s belly, twisting a little bit so he can lay against Hank almost like he did in bed. Gently pillowing his head on Hank’s chest, his arm slips around Hank’s back. “This feels good.”
Hank’s heart is a little fast, the surge of trust and comfort just fluttering around in his chest. “There ya go.” He uses his hand to scoop up colorful water, drawing it up Connor’s back. Connor arches, pressing his face into the softness of Hank’s chest.
“That feels good.” He whispers on the end of a sigh. Hank does it again, and again.
Voice a little bashful, Hank runs his fingers up and down Connor’s spine, rubbing in the soft perfumed water. The bubbles escape from between his fingers. “I’m glad I can help, honey.”
Connor hums, “I like when you call me that.” Hank watches him tilt his head up, and it’s easy to lean down and give his forehead a kiss. His eyes cross to see it happen, pulling a chuckle out of Hank. He blinks slowly, returns the smile. “Will you do that for more of me?”
His heart hammers. Connor lays his head back down and he continues to filter water up along Connor’s back. “I might.”
He likes the soft noise Connor makes in response. They both slowly relax more and more as the water softens them up. He checks Connor’s forehead for his temperature a few times and Connor preens into his hands, letting Hank get his hair wet. Connor rubs gently at his chest, then at his side when he gets a little more bold. He traces a little surgery scar near Hank’s bellybutton and a few stretch marks by his hip, mumbling about how wonderfully human Hank is.
Hank leans over to snag a washcloth off the fancy bath ottoman, dipping it into the water to squeeze it out over Connor’s shoulders and neck. “What was that?”
Connor blows a little raspberry, all but melted into Hank’s body. He thinks the fever is coming down. “You’re just… so nice.”
He gives a small chuckle, picking a hunk of blue soap up from the dish at the side of the tub to foam against the cloth. “I try?”
“You must. You have a great shape.” Connor says, admiring him so openly. He softly rubs at the hair on Hank’s thigh, gasping softly in delight at the resulting twitch.
“I—?” He smiles even as his brow pinches. Connor says stuff like this in the sweetest tone, or blankets it with exclamation points and emojis. Hank never knows what to do with it, but he’s learning to put them all in a special place. Connor enjoys his ‘soft aura’. Connor says his voice ‘buzzes nicely in his receptors’. Connor likes the sound of his heartbeat, really likes his ‘redness’, Hank’s company ‘fulfills him greatly’. He thinks Hank is beautiful. And now Connor likes his ‘great shape’. It’s all given to him so genuinely, it makes Hank feel confused and giddy and… well, loved. He presses the cloth to Connor’s shoulder blade and kisses his hair, “You’re somethin’ else, Connor. Thank you for being so sweet.”
“Mm.” Connor smiles, rubbing circles into Hank’s knee. He closes his eyes and gently shifts as Hank starts sudsing him up with the cloth. He endures it for maybe a minute before tilting his head back, speaking into Hank’s chin, “Hank, it’s too rough. Will you use your hands?”
Without thinking twice, Hank removes the washcloth and starts coating his hands, “Is it another glitch?”
Connor nods softly, letting out a little ‘oh’ when Hank’s hands slide down his back. “My pain feedback is high.” Hank presses another kiss to his forehead and he smiles, closing his eyes. “Oh, I’m healed. I can feel it.”
Hank snorts and rests his head against Connor’s, “Cheeky little shit.”
A soft laugh bubbles from Connor’s throat, warm between them. He massages the soap into Connor’s skin with soft circles, feeling the little shift of muscle as Connor moves. He runs his palms over Connor’s arms just to feel the definition there, liking the pleased sound he gets for his curiosity. He holds Connor’s arms and slides down a little deeper in the tub, the water sloshing around them. Connor just hums and repositions himself with Hank, turning slightly to lay his head on Hank’s shoulder.
Hank gives him a soft smile, gently running his hand up along Connor’s ribs. “This okay?”
“Yes, so much.” Connor nuzzles against his neck, drawing water up Hank’s chest and belly like Hank had done for his back, “Is this okay for you?”
Hank rests his head back, stomach fluttering. “Yeah, it’s good.”
Connor hums, feeling along his skin in a curious, appreciative way. It’s hard not to feel a bit exposed, naked with Connor and being touched and admittedly, lightly prodded at. But it’s not at all uncomfortable, he hasn’t tried to hide from Connor and Connor hasn’t tried to hide from him. If anything it’s the opposite, as Connor gently guides his hand to his chest, drops of water rolling off his fingertips onto Hank’s wrist.
“Why does your touch help me like this?” Connor asks, soft, fingers skimming along Hank’s forearm. Hank’s hand splays wide on his chest, over the little ring of his regulator pump. It hums against his skin instead of a thumping beat like he thought, though he supposes Connor’s actual heart does that bit. If he’s lucky, maybe he’ll get to find out.
“Like what, Con?” He rubs slow, minute circles and feels the heavy rise and fall made as Connor sighs.
“It’s good feedback.” Connor tells him, like even he is surprised by it. Hank raises a brow, letting his hand smooth up and down instead of the circles. He feels the android’s smile against his collarbone. He presses his thumb down around the center of Connor’s chest, above his regulator, rubbing to ease away any tightness there. Connor makes a noise that sounds like relief, sagging against him. “Hank, if you wouldn’t mind… not stopping that for a while…”
Hank chuckles, shifting to draw along his collarbones, “I gotcha.”
He uses both hands when he’s sure Connor can handle the pressure, slicking his hands up from the soap bar to coax away all that pain and tension held in Connor’s chassis. He goes quiet while Hank works, only making the occasional sound of approval or relief, making Hank feel like he’s really doing something special. Hank moves all along his back, over his chest, down to the surprising softness of his flat belly. It makes him snort, his knees reflexively twitching, “My stomach’s in there, Hank.”
Hank makes a small sound of realization, especially when the rest of Connor is a bit dense under the skin. He gives the hollow of Hank’s throat a soft kiss. Hank pays special attention to the muscles in his back, shoulders and chest - and knows to go gently around his abdomen now. Hank hesitantly touches his hip and he smiles, “Anywhere is fine. Your hands feel good.”
“Connor.” Hank whispers, bashful. “That sounds like more than just what you’re sayin’.”
Though, Hank’s hands don’t stop. He just rubs the tip of his nose back and forth over Hank’s neck. “No, I mean it.” Hank’s heartbeat increases in speed and he huffs out a soft laugh. He adds, belatedly, “I’m sorry I don’t have any genitals attached, you’re the odd one out with yours.”
Hank sputters wildly for a moment and he likes the way it moves Hank’s chest. “Connor— Fuck’s sake, I’m-I’m— I don’t mind. You’re— That’s not—”
He shifts softly, bringing both hands up to cup Hank’s face. He settles a kiss just short of Hank’s mouth, giving a little chuckle. “I’m being funny.”
A big sigh rushes from Hank’s lips and his arms circle Connor’s waist. “You’re killin’ me.”
“I’d say you’re very much alive right now.” He smiles, wider when Hank’s hands slip down his back towards his ass.
“You’re feeling better.” Hank tells him with a playful bite to his tone. Connor laughs and settles his arms around Hank’s shoulders to relax. He gives Connor’s ass a light squeeze in both of his big hands and blushes through Connor’s next delighted laugh. “Alright, alright. You want your hair and face washed up?”
“Mm.” Connor doesn’t move for a long moment, like he doesn’t want to leave this closeness. But then slides his knees up under Hank’s spread thighs and sits up. Hank’s face is so soft and open, it’s delightful. He covers his hands with more soap and admires the glitter in the water clinging to Connor’s body. When his hands cup the sides of Connor’s neck, softly rubbing at the tendons and dips behind his ears, Connor sort of crumbles in the absolute best way. “Oh, Hank…”
“Yeah, Con?” he teases, not able to hide his smile. Connor’s hands brace against his thighs and he marvels at the give of them for a distracting moment.
Connor blinks slow and shakes his head, lips parted and eyes soft. He looks so sweet, and so tired. “I like you, Hank.”
He cups those soft cheeks and gently rubs the product over his face, coaxing his eyes shut, “I like you too. How are you feeling?”
“Better.” Connor sighs, leaning into all of Hank’s touches. It makes it a bit difficult for Hank to get his whole face but it’s endearing nonetheless. “My stomach hurts, I’m hungry and can’t shut it off. And my limbs feel… slow. But that may just be from you.”
Hank takes his hands away so Connor can rinse his face. He thinks for a moment, then dries his hands to lean for his jeans. “How ‘bout we get you something hot to eat?” Connor makes an inquisitive noise, eyelashes dark and clinging together now that they’re wet, intensifying the dark brown gaze he settles Hank's way. Hank pulls his phone from his pocket and opens up his favorited delivery app, “Yeah, tell me what you want. We’ll get it.”
He gives Hank a thankful, tenderhearted smile as he rubs one of his tired eyes, “Hank…”
“Come on.” Hank eases, fingers curling around Connor’s hip, “Tell me what you wanna have.”
The decision is thought over for a long moment, paired with a gaze so admiring Hank turns a healthy shade of red. Connor’s eyes flick away and then widen slightly, a brightness to them. “Berry cobbler. With ice cream.”
Hank feels his heart clench happily, pulling up desserts on his phone, “Oh, honey…”
“I still haven’t had it.” is Connor’s soft reply. Hank adds a hearty slice of the cobbler from the local diner, as well as a scoop of churn style vanilla ice cream on the side. He puts in a pizza order too while he’s at it, to be nice to 900. Maybe he can win him over that way. The order confirms, saying the driver will be around in less than twenty minutes. Tossing his phone back onto his jeans, he reaches for Connor, who is fiddling with adding more hot water into the tub.
“All done. It’ll be here soon.” he says, sitting up more to bring the android back to him. Connor melts, back curving comfortably against him.
“Thank you.” Connor whispers, tilting his head towards Hank’s. He gets a kiss to his hairline for the effort.
“Want you taken care of.” Hank mumbles into his temple, giving him a soft squeeze before pulling back to wash his hair. There’s a small pitcher on the ottoman that he uses to soak Connor’s hair and then chooses a shampoo at random from one of Connor’s many.
The slow massage against his scalp has him shivering, wiggling around at the tingles it sends down throughout his body. It's different than when he does it himself. It’s more of a stimulating experience than a relaxing one, but he likes it all the same. “I-I feel taken care of. I feel a lot of things…” he rests his hands heavily on Hank’s thighs, twitching, “Oh— that’s…! Hank, there’s so much there.”
"You okay, honey?" Hank rumbles, watching Connor's neck as he drops his head back for him.
"The sensor network on my head is lighting up like fireworks." Connor breathes, excitement jittering under his skin. He feels like he's floating but at the same time he's anchored by the nice overstimulation of Hank's hands.
"Is that… good?" Hank asks, leaning forward to press along Connor's back again, to draw his hands down his neck. One smooths down his chest and the other uses a feather light fingertip to trace around Connor's adams apple. It bobs under his touch and Connor's mouth opens on a hitched sigh.
"It's amazing. It's new. I like it." He lets Hank dutifully rinse his hair, the glide of his fingers as the water rolls over his head is an experience Connor hopes will save uncorrupted so he can always go back to it.
“I’m glad I could help.” Hank whispers, something deep and amused in the current of his words. Connor leans back into them, letting Hank pet his hair as he settles back against his body and braces his feet at the end of the tub.
Hank’s hands smoothing down his shoulders make him shiver, it’s like he’s coaxing the virus from his body with touch. He lets all his weight rest on Hank again, humming in encouragement of the light kisses Hank lands to his neck, “Mmh. More, more of those.”
A soft huff of laughter brushes against his wet skin. Hank tucks against his neck, giving little whiskery kisses as his hands trail down Connor’s arms. He massages his biceps and listens to Connor’s low breaths. Their hands slot together and he tests brushing the tip of his tongue over Connor’s skin with his next few kisses. He smiles at the shiver that rises up, but then he feels something shift against his palm. He tilts his head to look and sees the skin melting back on Connor’s hand, all bare white chassis. Some kind of feeling hits him in his gut, making him almost completely snap out of his daze.
“Connor?” he murmurs, turning their hands over. He thumbs the softly pulsing blue glow along the planes of Connor’s palm. “Is this…? Well, you did this with 900. This is important, right?”
Connor makes a thoughtful noise, fingers twitching as Hank touches him. “Ah… I do. It um, it is. I can’t connect with you, but it…”
“It feels good?” Hank tries, a growing sense of affection and excitement thrumming through him. “You said you couldn’t help it, earlier today.”
He nods, head shifting against Hank’s shoulder. He flexes his fingers between Hank’s, holding on tighter. “I reach out to 900 all the time, for his comfort, his companionship. For his love.” he wiggles lightly in the water, “I’m… I’m relaxed enough to ask the same of you. I’m sorry.”
Hank shakes his head, pressing a lingering kiss behind Connor’s ear. “Don’t be sorry if it’s something you want.”
Connor makes a soft, almost hurt noise and squeezes his hand. “I do, Hank.”
He curls his arms around Connor and takes that bare hand in both of his own. He caresses those sleek fingers and gently massages into his palm, seeing that glow pulse brighter. Connor gasps and he gives a reassuring squeeze, speaking into his ear, “I got you, Connor. Don’t you worry one bit.”
Connor brings Hank’s hands to his chest, and Hank holds on with his heart thudding hard in his chest. He holds Connor there with him for several silent minutes, Connor's hands laid over his like he's basking in the presence Hank gives. He thinks Connor might be following along to his heartbeat again. The only other sounds in the room are their breathing, and the light sound of the water with any movement they make.
Hank almost thinks Connor is nodding off when his voice chimes, quiet and soothed. "I do dream."
He feels his brows draw together, but it's a mild thing, "Do you?"
Connor catches on to his confusion easily, realizing he's just spoken out of the blue, "You asked me, once. When I couldn't reply. You said you hoped that I had good dreams. I do."
Ah. That jogs Hank's memory better. He finds a smile on his lips. "Well, I—"
"I dream about you."
Hank feels his heart stutter, his face heat. He didn't expect that. He's had a few dreams with Connor in them, in one role or another, all sweet and knowledgeable. Connor's fingertips gently go to his wrist, pressing to his pulse point to let Hank know that he knows.
"Lately." he adds, as if that lessens how romantic the sentiment is. There's another moment of quiet, but then Connor sounds amused. "You're red, Hank."
Hank lets out a low laugh, skimming Connor's knuckles with his thumb, "You didn't even look at me."
"I didn't have to… though I do like to frequently." Connor's voice turns even more playful, "Hank, that's very red."
"Yeah." Hank huffs, thoroughly flustered. He's not used to someone looking at him like this anymore. And Connor's not even actually looking! He ducks his head and hides his face in Connor's neck, "You do this to me way too much."
"I enjoy it too much to stop." Connor slips one hand out of their mutual hold and reaches up to run his fingers through Hank's hair. Hank groans and presses a kiss to a freckle near his jaw. Even though he can feel an ache settling back into his chassis, he turns in Hank's arms until they're face to face. The lovestruck look Hank gives him is so much more powerful than he thought it would be.
"Connor…" he whispers, cupping one of his cheeks. The water has pruned his hands but his touch is still soft. He wants, in so many ways. Connor's eyes are lidded, he looks tired still but he's focused on Hank. He looks so beautiful, in a way Hank could come home to.
His phone, still laying face up on his jeans, dings and lights up with a notification. The delivery is here, and on its way up. He steadies himself with a deep breath but the words still fall shaky, "Time to get out."
Connor's smile is so easy, his eyes crinkle at the corners and he exudes warmth. He doesn't speak, just carefully gets himself up with Hank's help and steps out. He gets a towel from the neatly folded stack and Hank follows him, wanting to dry himself off and get back into his clothes before he leaves the room. There's vague sounds of a conversation at the front door.
He's drying off his chest when Connor's hand wraps around his wrist, creating a pause where Hank meets his eyes. Connor doesn't hesitate, doesn't linger. He leans up and presses his mouth to Hank's with such ease it's like he's done it a hundred times. Connor won't tell him he has, in daydream preconstructions, about as many times.
Hank's mind blurs everything but where they touch, Connor's long fingers around his wrist and Connor's soft mouth barely moving over his. He leans into it, down so Connor doesn't have to strain the mere inches, and parts his lips to taste the inside of his mouth. Connor must think he wasn't going to be treated to that, because he inhales deep and arches into it.
He reads every point of contact with Hank; the strong joint of his wrist, the press of his mouth, the slow swipe of his tongue. He enjoys every bit, even the brush of Hank's fringe near his closed eye and the tip of his nose against his cheek. He's the one to pull away, excess examination fluid flooding his mouth in response to the samples of Hanks saliva and the texture of his tongue. Another glitch, exciting and embarrassing but easy to remedy. He gives Hank a bright smile and rubs a circle around his pulse, gently brushing Hank’s beard with his chin. "I didn't want to wait anymore. I'd been waiting."
Hank is such a beautiful shade of red. He licks his slick lips and smiles just as big back to Connor, tongue poking between the gap in his teeth. "That's understandable, I suppose."
"Good." Connor's voice has that smug quality to it and Hank ducks to pick up his clothes.
With his towel around his waist, he can sort everything out and then get dressed, but Connor is guiding him towards the door. "Connor? I'm not dressed."
"I know, your great shape isn't hidden by all those fabrics." He says, opening the door. He hasn't even covered up, just still has the towel around his shoulders.
"Oh, you little…" Hank shakes his head, quickly checking that the hall is clear before he lets Connor usher him out of the bathroom. It's not far to the bedroom but he thinks he'll die if 900 sees him.
Connor must read the apprehension in his body. "You don't have to be covered up, Hank. Androids are different about modesty. At least, 900 and I don't mind."
"Clearly. You're…" he can't help looking down at the way Connor's butt moves while he walks.
"Mm. 900 walks around without his skin sometimes. It's my favorite, I can see him." Connor shuts his bedroom door once they're inside. He sits on the end of his bed and puts his towel over his head like a hood.
Hank drops his clothes down next to him and lays his hands on the towel with an amusingly big put-upon sigh, "Well, if it's like that… I guess a few more minutes of my 'great shape' can happen while I dry off that mop."
Connor's hands find his belly blindly and Hank laughs, starting to dry Connor's hair without agitating his waves. He seems to like it, Hank feels him lean into it and has a sense that he's smiling. He rubs softly at the hair on Hank’s belly, like it soothes him to feel. “Hank? Would it be too much to ask… for you to stay for dinner?”
Hank smiles, leaning down as he takes the towel back enough to kiss Connor’s forehead. “Kinda hard to say no to dinner when it’s already here.”
Connor looks up at him, a little tinged with worry. “I like that. But, what about Cole? Don’t you have to get back to him? I don’t want to take you from him, Hank.”
“Connor, I’m honestly half sure he’s on a date right now.” He smooths the wrinkles on Connor’s forehead, placing the towel around his shoulders again as he moves over to get himself dressed.
“He is?” Connor looks up with bright eyes even if his face is taking on that sickly tension again. Hank feels a bit bashful now that they’re out of the water, but he takes off his own towel and sits to dry his legs. Connor inches back up to the pillows, laying back to shamelessly watch him.
“Think so. There’s this one kid he hangs around all the time. They go out to the mall together, the movies, Cole always goes to his track tournaments. They’re at each other’s houses all the damn time.” He glances over as he pats down his thighs, Connor looking back at him with such interest for his words and appreciation for his body— spread out on his bed with soft specks of glitter adorning every inch of him, just like all his freckles. He realizes belatedly that he’s staring. “He gets this… look.”
The smile Connor gives him is indulgent, that small lopsided one. He tilts his head toward one shoulder and hums, “I see. He must get it from you.”
He doesn’t understand at first but then his face floods with warmth. He’s been staring with a fond, swept up expression thinking about how beautifully alive Connor is, how he makes Hank feel dipped in honey. He turns away and huffs, grabbing for his shirt, “Connor. Come on…”
Connor laughs, a little hiccup while his nose scrunches up. “I like it, Hank. You’re so beautiful.”
Hank chuckles bashfully, getting up to put on his boxers. He wonders if he left a sock in the bathroom. “You’re the only one to call me beautiful since I was a baby.”
“That’s not fair.” He slowly sits himself up, feeling a dizzying little glitch in his left eye. He tries blinking it away and reaches out for Hank as he gets up. Hank’s hands circle his forearms to steady him and he leans into that warmth, “You should’ve been told again and again.”
He ducks his head into Connor’s hand when it comes to rest on his cheek, fingertips fidgeting like he can read the exact temperature of his blush. “You should be told, too.”
Connor smiles at him lazily, tucking some hair behind his ear, “Then tell me.”
“You look beautiful, Connor.” He leans close, brushing their foreheads. Connor’s eyes flutter. He brings his fingers along Connor’s collarbone and slowly up the tendon in his neck. “You gotta get dressed, food’s waitin’.”
“Oh.” Connor’s brows heighten like he’s remembering he has to put on clothes. He smiles and pats Hank’s chest, “It’ll will make you comfortable, I’ll do it for you. Would you like a sweater?”
He gives an amused hum, turning while Connor walks so he has a few extra seconds to hold him, “You’re a bit smaller than me, if you didn’t notice. I don’t think your clothes will fit… even if I like the thought.”
Connor dips into his closet, picking one of the woven cardigans from the hanger. He holds it out for his companion to slip into, and Hank catches the size on the tag. It’s a size larger than he wears. He slides his arms into it in a sort of specific romantic haze he’s never fully experienced before. Connor leans up as his arms wrap around Hank’s middle, settling a kiss to the back of his neck, “These are a luxury I take. I like being wrapped up, warm.”
Hank feels himself shiver despite all the warmth, looking down to watch Connor fasten one, then two of the porcelain buttons. When his hands slip away and his body leaves, Hank turns to see him pull a pair of shorts from the closet shelf. “Connor…”
“Yes, Hank?” He wobbles slightly when he lifts one leg to get into his shorts and Hank steadies him with hands on his back. He gets himself covered without much fuss and looks up in time for Hank to catch his mouth in a slow kiss. The surprise of it is sweet and he finds the sturdy, soft handholds of Hank’s sides to keep him close. He feels it deep in his bones, the slow drag of Hank’s softened lips and the wet slide of their tongues. The way Hank holds him, cradling his cheek and the back of his neck like he wants to hold Connor closer than he is.
Hank pulls away like he doesn’t want to go, and steps sideways to take another sweater off the hanger. He wraps Connor in it and smooths back his hair, that one curl dropping back into place. He moves to get his jeans back on and Connor gently touches his waistband of his boxer-briefs like he’s lamenting the loss of Hank showing skin.
Connor pulls the blanket from the bed and they both head out towards the living room. 900 is inspecting the delivery with a confused pinch to his brow, but straightens and smooths when they walk in. "A man brought this to the door. He said 'sweet turtleneck'."
Hank holds back a snort and Connor walks until the bulk of 900 stops him, spreading his arms with the quilt outstretched, wrapping 900 up with him. He tucks his head against his double's collar, "It is a very sweet turtleneck."
"How can a turtleneck be sweet, 800?" 900 asks as Hank picks up the boxes of Connor's food and brings them over to the kitchen counter.
"When a sweet android wears it." Connor replies happily.
Connor's relentless open love to 900 is so bright it's almost blinding. It's nice to see he can be that blunt with everyone, Hank thinks. 900 seems to stall for a moment, then he hums. "You wore my clothes recently?"
While finding utensils in the bag, Hank glances up to see Connor's confused frown. "Hm? 900, I…"
900's head tilts, and Hank realizes he must be smiling. Because Connor's eyes light up and he smiles so wide, bouncing in place on the balls of his feet, "I like your joke!"
Something in Hank's heart gives little tug. He doesn't know if he's meant to see softness like that, but he's finding it somewhat easy to navigate here in their home. He opens up the container with Connor's cobbler inside and appreciates the steam that rolls off it, the golden crust and deep blue filling. While the androids delve into conversation, he assembles Connor's dessert, gently sliding in the scoop of ice cream from its separate container - thankfully barely melted by the drive. He sticks the spork into the top of it and rounds the counter to deliver it, adding to the coaxing of getting Connor onto that old couch.
Connor sighs as he hits the pillows, immediately sitting back up with a little grimace. "There needs to be room for all of us."
"He can sit on the floor. Humans love floors." 900 coos, trying to cover him up with an extra blanket.
"His knees, 900!" Connor sighs, pushing pillows to the floor to make room for Hank.
900 nods placatingly, "He has them, yes."
"Grew 'em myself and everything." Hank adds along just because he can, settling into the spot made for him. 900 comes around the coffee table to push the pillows onto Hank, to cushion Connor still. Hank is just simply there.
"Impressive." 900 says without much interest. Connor leans against Hank and all the pillows, shaking his head with a happily long suffering smile.
Hank grins back and settles the food into Connor's hands. The little gasp Connor gives as he feels the warmth through the container is adorable. "My stomach hurts just looking at it."
"Is that good?" He asks, seeking out that flat belly with his palm. There's a little 'oof' when he makes contact— the heat of his hand like the food container, drawing noises out of Connor.
"I want to eat the whole thing at once, Hank. It smells so good." He says. 900 settles at the other end of the couch and draws his legs into his lap. He tilts his dessert to show him, "It's fruits and sugars."
"It looks like Thirium composite." 900 offers, which must be an approval because Connor seems to enjoy it.
Connor's first bite is him completely diving in head first, a full mouth and long thoughtful hum. Hank watches him hold it in his mouth maybe a few moments longer than a human would before swallowing. "You okay, Con?"
With a few stuttering blinks, Connor nods with some reverent look in his eyes, "This is delicious, there's so many contrasts. Tart and sweet, crisp and yielding, hot and cold. It makes me happy."
"Connor has advanced analytic processing in his mouth. He knows the values of the food down to their base now." 900 informs, hands on Connor’s calf and ankle.
Hank starts to smile, then almost chokes on his own spit. Connor has special stuff inside of his mouth? So, when he kisses Hank… has he logged everything about Hank’s mouth? He clears his throat, brows high. “Is that so?”
Connor looks at him with full cheeks and syrup on his mouth. He sees Hank’s pointed glance at his mouth and flushes a soft pink. He gives a little nod and Hank swipes his thumb over the corner of Connor’s mouth, wiping away the berry syrup. Connor’s eyes lock to his mouth as he sucks his thumb clean.
“Mm.” Connor swallows and shovels in another bite distractedly, so happy to have something reaching his stomach and the man he’s been thinking about for so long finally next to him. Even if the bad feeling of sickness is looming over him, he’s so happy. Even more, with the sensory information coming in as Hank rubs his sore belly and 900 rubs his aching ankles. “I am so lucky, and very happy.”
The hums and soft murmurs of approval given back to him only makes it better.
Hank slips his phone from his pocket to check in on Cole. The reply back takes a few minutes, but Cole assures that he’s fine - watching movies, took Sumo for his walk, picked up some ice cream. He says ‘we picked up ice cream’ and Hank thinks he’s not talking about Sumo. It makes a soft chuckle bubble up.
Connor reclines his head a little to see him better, “Is that Cole? How is he?”
“Oh, I think he’s livin’ it up while I’m gone.” He smooths Connor’s sweater and slips his fingers between two buttons to touch his skin. “Movies, dog walking, ice cream…”
“He lives an exciting life.” Connor remarks sweetly, scooping up a bite of cobbler to give Hank. It’s bashful, but Hank opens his mouth for it. “Is he with the friend you mentioned?”
“I think so.” Hank mumbles around the cobbler, giving a little nod. He looks content in their home, reclined back against the couch wearing Connor’s clothes, touching him like he’s familiar. He smiles at Hank, halfway through devouring his dessert, feeling warm in his bones.
900 peers over the container to see Connor’s progress, then shifts and gestures towards the pizza box, “Is he to eat this too, Lieutenant? You realize he does have a limited capacity in his stomach.”
Even though Hank didn’t know that, but it seems like common sense reasoning, he flushes anyway. Maybe he should look up Connor specs. He shakes his head, “Not unless he wants to. I got it for you… you like pizza, and new types of ‘em. Connor said so.”
“I do.” 900 says carefully, looking back towards the pizza box with a renewed sense of curiosity, maybe even some apprehension. He flips open the box and leans over to look, “This… is for me?”
“It’s bacon, sausage, peppers, onions… Garlic crust, sauce is marinara mixed with bbq, marinated spinach there on top. I get it with Cole, my son, all the time.” He explains, a little worried the longer 900 stares at it. “We argued back and forth for half an hour to get that combo, so it’ll be a new experience, right?”
900 looks at Connor for a moment, some kind of silent conversation where Connor chuckles and waves his hand at the pizza. Then 900 tilts his head, sliding the box closer, “Yes, it will be. Thank you, Lieutenant. I’m still not accustomed to gifts.”
Hank smiles and lets himself relax, “No problem, I just hope you like it. And call me Hank, if you want.”
900 picks up a slice of pizza, glancing back at him a few times. “…Hank.” He takes a slow bite of pizza and holds the food in his mouth like Connor had, but without the furious blinking. He seems to like it, the little uplift at the corner of his mouth is telling.
He glances to Hank again, then grabs the pizza box to rip off the lid. He breaks off three slices and uses the lid as a plate, holding it out. “Take this. You need to eat as well.”
Hank says a small thank you and gives Connor a delighted, triumphant look. A step towards 900’s good side. Connor smiles brightly at him and ducks his head, laying against his shoulder.
Hank stays for a few more hours. He and 900 get Connor back into bed when he starts complaining of aches and queasiness. He opens Connor’s sweater and smooths vaporub over his chest when he says something about his respiratory system feeling tight. 900 checks him after to actually help while tucking him in. Hank walks back in from washing his hands to see 900 swipe some of the ointment from Connor’s chest and then put his fingers in his mouth.
It’s a worrying moment for Hank to see someone eat chemicals, and evidently a worrying moment for 900 as well because, “This will have no effect on him, Hank.”
“I guessed as much, but… I thought it would be at least soothing.” He runs his hands through his hair to shake away the last of his surprise.
“It does smell intriguing.” Connor hums, tugging the quilt closer against his body.
900 gives a small hum of assent, petting Connor’s hair back before he stands. “Intriguing taste as well.”
Hank makes an almost distressed noise and he swears the little huff of breath as 900 passes him is a laugh. Connor guides him into bed by strong, insistent hands. “Hank, will you stay? Until I fall asleep?”
He feels warmth curl in his stomach, he’s already settling down into the mattress. “I do have to go home sometime… but a little while longer won’t hurt.”
Connor hugs Hank close with a soft hum, liking the way Hank melts against him. He lowers his voice to a whisper, “Thank you. I realize I might be… slightly needy.”
“I haven’t been held in years, Con.” Hank closes his eyes, silently reveling in having arms around him, the line of Connor’s body against his own. It makes him a little tender, honestly, he wants to tuck into it and stay. “It feels the same for me.”
It’s quiet for a long moment, his hand rubbing soothingly along Hank's belly. Then it slides up his chest. "Can I kiss you again, Hank?"
The hot flush that runs through Hank at the question is exquisite. He twists in Connor’s arms and their mouths meet blindly, with a lazy heat as their tongues seek each other’s mouths at the same time. Connor’s laughter puffs softly against his wet lips and he coaxes Hank’s tongue into his mouth with little flicks of his own. The low hum that rumbles from Hank’s chest is wonderful for Connor to feel against him. He holds Hank’s face between his hands and rubs at his cheeks and beard, an experience of reverence.
His leg curls around Hank’s hip and he makes a soft, surprised noise as Hank’s kisses veer gently off his mouth— adorning the corner of his mouth, his jaw, cheeks, nose, with the shape of his lips. He takes Connor’s hand in his and his mouth presses to Connor’s fingers, his palm. Against Hank’s closed eyes, he sees a new source of light bleed into view. The texture under his lips changes, all smooth and sleek. He chuckles quietly against the warmth of Connor’s palm, giving another slow whiskery kiss. He brushes their noses together, feeling Connor’s fingers slot through his.
Hank smooths the soft locks of his hair back and meets his heavy eyes. He feels himself slip towards sleep while Hank’s thumb strokes along one of his brows. Blinking slowly, he finds his voice and recalls a moment he wanted to sink into. “What did you want to ask me?”
Hank is so relaxed, he just brushes their lips again. He accepts Connor will remember better than him and think on a different, wonderful wavelength. The questions are just par for the course. “What do you mean, Con?”
“Your text. You wanted to ask me, when I had the time.” He lets Hank draw their hands apart and lead him to hold on again. He slips his hand under Hank’s shirt, bare hand skittering along his skin. At Hank’s lower back, be pulls them flush together. “I have time now. I’m so curious.”
There’s a long moment where Hank has to wrack his brain for the information he’s being asked for, distracted by the warmth and weight and feeling of Connor. But then he does remember, and it seems so far away from right now. He rests their foreheads together, loving the gentle caress of fingertips along his spine. “I wanted to ask you on a date, that was it.”
Connor’s smile is blissful and sleepy. “Oh, I like that.” he tucks closer into Hank’s body and hums as his eyes slip shut. “This was a wonderful date, Hank. The best one I’ve ever had.”
Hank doesn’t think Connor fully understands, but he can’t blame him for it, not when he’s so worn out. He cradles him close with a soft huff, fluttering with something tender on the inside. “Ah, honey…” Connor doesn’t say anything more and Hank drops a kiss to his head, whispering into his sweet smelling hair, “We’ll have more, better and better.”
He dozes with Connor for maybe an hour, sleeping light as he gets used to laying with another person again. He learns that Connor's fingers twitch in his sleep, but he's not sure if that's normal or the virus. Either way, it's a tidbit he takes with him when he carefully pries himself from Connor's embrace. He looks even softer while he's asleep and Hank's heart aches just a little, partly wishing he didn't have to go. Or more like, he wishes he could go home, but he'd take this with him. This sweet man and the whole of his mattress, every pillow and blanket, every touch sustained with the lingering smell of cocoa butter and rose, the vulnerability he feels wide open on display in this dark room.
He gets his shoes and coat back on, and gently takes Connor's hand in both of his, pressing one last kiss to his knuckles. The shift of his skin to bare himself even in sleep is so tender Hank almost lays back down. But in the end he retrieves his nearly empty duffle from the bathroom counter and quietly makes his way towards the front door.
There's a lone light on in the living room, 900 perched in a chair with a tablet in his hands. He raises his gaze when Hank walks in, "Not saying goodbye?"
He smiles softly, shaking his head. "He needs the rest. The virus will clear up soon, right?"
"Yes. By tomorrow, he should be running optimally again." 900 sets the tablet aside to stand, his dark clothes blending in with all the shadows.
"Good, good." Hank adjusts his bag on his shoulder. "Thank you, for letting me into your home. It was kind of you, and it was nice to meet you."
900 tilts his head just so, something almost like fondness, or acceptance. "It was nice to meet you as well, Hank… to see who Connor wouldn't stop talking about for months now."
Hank goes a little pink, ducking his head. "Hope I lived up to it."
900's piercing gaze narrows somewhat, like he's evaluating. Then to Hank's surprise he reaches out to touch Hank's hand in reassurance, a small squeeze. "You did."
He doesn't know why - maybe it's exhaustion, maybe it's his heart going through the stress of adoring Connor, but Hank feels like he could cry from those two words. He doesn't know what to say. The most important person to Connor is giving him a green light. He swallows roughly and lays his hand over 900's, "That's— thank you. I'm just glad I could help."
He realizes with a start that 900's skin comes away with the touch, too. Just a minor ripple when Hank squeezes and then he pulls away, giving a light nod. "Goodnight, Hank."
He returns the goodbye quietly and leaves the same way, sort of floating on some kind of feeling. Thinking it through. Connor's bare touch felt drastically different than 900's. With Connor it was like openly yearning for connection, like wanting to be embraced. With 900 it was resigned, quick but significant still. Like he's been marked with approval, or… deemed worthy. Like when his ex mother-in-law gave him a late night slice of cake the first Christmas he spent with them. 900 let him know he finds him worthy of Connor with a deliberate, accepting move. Shit.
He makes the trek home easily, the traffic at this time of night dwindling into almost nothing. The lights are off at home, except for the one overhead at the front door that Cole left for him. Inside, the TV is streaming reruns of old cartoons for the idle light and noise. Sumo is in his bed but trots over lazily when Hank stretches out a hand, greeting him softly. Peering over the back of the couch, he finds his son and friend fast asleep.
They look like sleep won out, slumped laying together, arms around each other. Hank takes the blanket off the back of the couch and drapes it over them, and blatantly ignores the mess the coffee table has become. There's nothing Sumo can easily get into so he just heads for his room and leaves the door cracked for the dog. He realizes while getting out of his shoes and coat that he kept Connor's sweater on. He makes a mental note to give it back while holding tight to the piece of Connor he still has. In bed he tugs his pillows close and looks forward to any dreams that may come to him.
#H: I can't wait for more dates with you, Con.