“Oh, we won’t let go
We’ll be soaked to the bone
Baptized by truth, we will reap what we sow
Build our own higher ground, when the rain’s coming down
This is worth it to me, Saint Honesty”
- Saint Honesty by Sara Bareilles
It’s always raining in Detroit these days, so much so that it’s been a constant in Connor’s life. It’s all become part of the routine: him striding soaking wet into the precinct with his umbrella and Hank complaining about the weather on the way to their desks. This particular morning, Hank’s telling Connor about how he’s had enough of the bad weather and how people should do more about climate change. Everyone else sneers at him, and Officer Chen says, “Well, what did your generation do about that?”
Hank just rolls his eyes back, sits himself down on his chair, and mutters something like, “These damn kids are our future? God help us.” He follows it up by looking at Connor and saying, “You know, Connor, maybe your kind can do something about this climate change business.”
Connor nods and smiles as he sits at his desk to start working. He’s no environmentalist by any means, but he appreciates how much Hank’s views about androids have changed. He’s even taken down the anti-android banners on his desk, and that certainly made Connor smile when he saw it.
If he were being honest with himself, he’s smiling more often now, often helped by the many faces of the precinct greeting him a good morning, asking how he’s doing - making him feel like one of them. Like he’s not a freak, not just an android, but a person. Even Officer Chen apologized for the incident at the break room. “I should’ve told Gavin to shut up. I’m sorry,” she’d told Connor when she passed by his desk once, giving him a bottle of thirium wrapped with a red ribbon as a gift. All of them have been more than happy to let him stay.
All except one: Detective Gavin Reed.
Even now, months after the revolution, the detective’s still a mystery to Connor, like a case to be investigated: complicated, contrived, and perhaps you had to risk dying a few times to crack it. Sure, he’s one of the top performers, but everyone else just tells Connor, “Don’t even bother with him. He’s just an asshole.” It’s evidenced by how people treat him at the DPD, always finding ways to tone his ego down a notch.
One time, Gavin arrived at the precinct and was greeted by Officer Miller saying, “Hey, Reed. You’re looking pretty today.” Gavin replied with a confused look, asking, “What?”
Chris just shrugged and laughed, continuing his work. Gavin of course looked confused as he strode over to his desk. When he finally saw the terminals on their side of the precinct, his face exploded in red, and he marched over to Officer Chen’s desk, saying, “Tina! What the fuck did you do? Where’d you even get this photo?”
Connor glanced at all the terminals, each of them displaying Gavin, except as a woman, with softer features and short hair in a pixie cut. The smug smile was still there though. A few officers’ faces lit up, laughing as one of them said, “Reed, you totally look better this way.”
Gavin just glared at the officers, as Tina smirked behind him, saying, “What? It’s from one of those face changing apps. Thought you looked great. I’d totally date you. Or, you know, hit you up at the bar then leave your bitchy ass.”
Gavin rolled his eyes, face getting redder as he turned towards the other officers. “Okay, show’s over people.” People kept laughing as they walked away, and Gavin sat in front of his terminal, glaring at Tina, who said, “Aww, lighten up, Reed. You looked great!”
Connor saw a small smile curling in Gavin’s lips as he worked. Perhaps it was funny to him too, but he’d never admit it.
There were also all those times when Gavin would be drinking coffee at his desk, then suddenly expelling it from his mouth and shouting, “Okay. Who put salt in my coffee again?!” Each time, Tina would be at her desk, silently giggling to herself.
Gavin tried the same trick on Connor once, putting salt in his bottle of thirium. Connor saw him do it, and he made sure he looked straight into the detective’s eyes as he downed the whole bottle, completely unfazed.
Gavin just rolled his eyes in defeat and continued working.
Other times as Connor meanders around the precinct, he’d see a different side of the detective. Perhaps it’s Gavin’s face sinking back into a sullen frown after laughing his heart out at Officer Miller’s remark, his clothes smelling of cigarettes when he enters the precinct, or his eyebrows creasing whenever he opens his desk drawer and gazes at something in it. It’s as if beneath all the arrogance and the bluster, there’s an actual person there, hidden inside a hardened shell of insulting words and nasty takedowns.
There isn’t much to observe about Gavin these days, because for the past two weeks, the detective’s taken a liking to filing sick leaves and working from home. He’s out of the office for days on end, maybe coming in once a week or so, if they’re lucky. He even missed the mandatory review sessions with Captain Fowler, who, standing by his glass office door, promptly yelled out, “Do any of you know where the hell Reed is?”
The precinct noticed his absence a lot more after that. Goading, loud conversations talking about what a top-performing asshole the detective is quickly turned into whispered conversations asking about where he was and who’d seen him. At first, Connor tried to ignore it, but now he can’t help listening in, like these are pieces of a puzzle he needs to solve.
Gavin’s status shouldn’t even bother him, especially not when the man clearly has no liking for androids and doesn’t seem to be changing his tune. After their last two violent encounters before the revolution, their conversations have been few and far between, always ending with an exchange of short, bitter, biting words. Hank even once told him, “You know, Connor, I think Gavin’s not all bad. At least he’s teaching you how to stand up for yourself by being the asshole he is. Just ignore him.” At the end of the day, that’s all Gavin is to Connor - a little footnote at the bottom of this chapter of his life, never taking the center stage even in the page he’s in.
Still, it doesn’t stop him from staring at Gavin’s desk drawer one too many times today, especially since the man isn’t there to give him the stink eye in return.
On the next night, rain pours against the precinct’s roof as Connor works at his desk, after everyone’s already left the precinct. Hank had told him, “Son, you’re lucky you’re an android, because if you were a human I’d tell you you’re gonna kill yourself one day if you keep working nights like this.”
He’d be right, if it weren’t for the fact that Connor isn’t actually working. He’s mindlessly scrolling through case files instead, because he keeps looking back to earlier that day when Gavin finally went to work after a week. Gavin strode into the precinct with his stubble unshaved, hair a mess, clothes unkempt, and mouth heavy with the scent of alcohol. Fowler immediately demanded for a meeting.
No one knows what happened inside the captain’s glass doors, only inferring how bad it was from the way Gavin stood, looking like he’s having a shouting match with the captain. He left quickly after that, without as much as a word to anyone.
Seeing the detective like that, and seeing everyone else carrying on with their lives like nothing happened kept Connor from making progress on any of his cases. Why didn’t anyone stop to greet Gavin good morning or ask how he’s doing or ask if he’s okay? If he were in the same position, would anyone have done that for him? Maybe Hank would, but humans can be unpredictable.
Alone at the precinct, he stares at Gavin’s desk again, and the feeling of not knowing what’s in it overcomes him. It’s a gnawing void in his circuits, an emptiness demanding to be filled. In an instant, he finds himself behind the desk, his hand grasping the metal bar of the desk drawer. He pauses for a moment, gazing at the desk top. No personal effects, no decorative items, absolutely nothing to tell him anything about who Gavin Reed is.
He pulls the drawer open.
Inside lies a lone photo of an approximately 40 year old woman, with blonde hair, bright skin, and a smile plastered on her face. Her eyes crinkle at the camera man, like all the joy in her world were right in front of her. Before he even realizes he’s scanning it, the result pings in his system: Kathy Rivers, born August 15, 1970, no criminal record, deceased April 2, 2039.
The woman is scarce in his databases, and none of the files say anything about how she might be related to the detective. She must be a maternal figure for him. There’s nothing wrong with being adopted, of course, but he wonders what the history behind that is. What happened to his parents? He knows adoption is a touchy subject for certain humans, and the idea of Gavin being adopted certainly shades a color of gray over his black and white personality. Connor feels like he’s sinking onto the floor, as if his image of the detective is beginning to crack, brittle, ready to shatter with further information. He concludes only three other things: that the woman was younger when this photo was taken, they share the same birthday, and she died three weeks ago.
It’s convenient, and certainly gives context into the detective’s behavior, but it’s not enough, so he turns the photo over, and reads what’s written on the back.
”To Gav, my dearest. Only wish I could see your smile again, Love, K.”
A scene plays before Connor’s eyes, where the woman’s asking, pleading with her eyes, for Gavin to smile one last time. Just one last time before she leaves forever. How would those words have sounded in her voice? How would Gavin have smiled back? Would it still be the same smug smirk he usually has - the one that screams, “Shut up because I’m better than you”?
Or perhaps, somewhere beneath his bluster, there are other sides, other expressions, and another kind of smile meant only for people like Kathy to see.
And perhaps, just perhaps, Connor thinks how good it would be for that other smile to fill up the precinct instead.
When morning comes, Connor’s still sitting at his desk, “catching up on doing his work in advance”, as Hank would put it. The man himself arrives on time today, due in no small part to Connor’s insistence that he wake up on time. Today, when Connor greets him a good morning, Hank just stands in front of the android’s desk, soaking wet as always, and puts his hands on the table, saying, “First, you throw away all my beer, and now you’ve got ten alarms on my phone. Connor, how did you even get ten alarms on my phone?”
“I thought it necessary to ensure you arrive to work on time, even when I’m not at home to wake you up.”
“Jesus christ. When did you get your hands on the phone?”
“Androids like me don’t require direct interface to access unprotected networked devices.”
Hank stares back at Connor, first aghast, then he looks away and back as if to say something out of shock. He gives up, shaking his head, approaching his desk to put down his bag and open his terminal.
Connor doesn’t look away from his terminal when he adds, “Lieutenant, you may also want to delete your search history.”
“What?” Hank leans into Connor’s side of the desk, keeping his voice low. “Connor, what did I say about privacy?”
Officer Chen starts approaching them as Connor says, “Yes, I remember, though I warn you that your predictable password makes your search for-“ Hank frantically shushes him because Tina’s in front of their desks now, but Connor just smiles and continues, “and I quote, ‘hot young adults in sexy sunbathing’-”.
“Oh…uh…am I interrupting something?” Tina says, her face a mix of amusement and surprise. She shares a bright smile with Connor, as if to say good morning.
“No - no of course not - Connor’s just making a joke. A-android’s just being funny, right Connor?” says Hank, shooting a knowing, pointed look at Connor.
“Unfortunately, lieutenant, I am not-“
“So, Tina, what do you need?” Hank displays what should be a smile, baring his teeth, but it ends up looking like he needs to go to the bathroom.
Tina stares back at them, smiling at Connor first, then shooting amused judgment at Hank. “Yeah…sure. Anyway, I was wondering if you’ve heard anything from Gavin?”
Hank leans back on his chair and crosses his arms. “Fuckin-A, that boy still hasn’t come in?”
“Yeah, I’m getting worried. I’ve been calling him every day and he keeps telling me to leave him alone.”
It earns a roll of eyes from Hank. “Let him be. He’s too hung up on making lieutenant when I retire to let it go. I think he’ll be fine.” A silence overcomes the conversation as Tina takes in what Hank says, doubt on her face.
“Oh, I really don’t know. I’ve never seen him like this.”
Hank waves away the statement with, “Tina, he’ll come around. Don’t worry about him. I know his type. Won’t give in until he wants to.” And Hank’s right, but while the two talk, Connor pulls up Gavin Reed’s file on his terminal.
He tunes out the rest of the conversation, looking for the most important part of the file: the address. If Tina, the closest thing Gavin has to a friend, is this worried about him, something’s more than wrong. Connor looks up to suggest that Tina go visit the detective, but she’s already left and Hank’s back working on his terminal.
Connor’s eyes wander around the precinct for a few long moments. The room is filled with the usual hustle and bustle of human officers and police androids. Somewhere far away, he hears Fowler’s faint shouting at his phone, filtered by his glass paned office. On the right he hears the entrance doors opening and closing, followed by greetings of the assistant androids grinning behind their words.
It’s normal. Utterly normal. Like Gavin’s absence doesn’t count for anything.
And it doesn’t make sense. He’s the detective who’s solved a little too many murders in the two months after the revolution, who closed the biggest red ice case in recent years. Connor still remembers Gavin’s face when he came out of Fowler’s office after the debriefing, etched with his bright and calculating smug that never goes away. When he walked out of the glass office, arms spread wide, he announced with pride, “Boys and girls! Score for Reed right here.” People just stared at him of course, but he didn’t care. He just sat back down at his desk, still grinning to himself.
Somehow, all of that counts for nothing, and the sinking, brooding feeling Connor’s had since the night before still won’t let him go. He doesn’t understand what it is, like an “itch he can’t scratch”, as the humans would say.
“I know that look, son. What are you thinking about?”
Connor snaps out of his thoughts. Hank’s looking at him with furrowed eyebrows.
“I…was wondering if we should visit the detective.”
“What? Why the hell are you even thinking about doing that?”
“He’s one of our top-performing detectives. Shouldn’t we at least see if he’s safe?”
“Son, all that man is, is an asshole with medals. It won’t do us any good to get involved, I guarantee you that.” Hank moves his hand back on his mouse, adding, “He tried to kill you twice. Don’t forget that. Reed should be investigated for assault if it weren’t for the senate being cowards about it.” He finally looks back at his terminal, marking the end of the conversation.
Connor nods to himself. It’s a mindless nod, as if Hank’s words passed from his auditory processors onto a background subroutine he’d rather ignore. Because the detective’s been looking and acting like a ticking time bomb who his preconstructions say is ready to explode.
The rest of the day is spent working through his cases, filing evidence, but the whole time as he sits and walks around the office, a background subroutine munches at his circuits, eating 23.7% of his processing power. Every time the precinct doors open, his head snaps towards the entrance hall, searching for that familiar face. While sitting down and working, part of him tunes his ears to the precinct, listening for a gruff, mocking laugh. Every time he hears the coffee machine go off, he takes a look, wondering if it’s the man who once told him to “stay out of my way” after he gave him his coffee.
At the end of the day, he leaves fifteen alarms on Hank’s phone and tells him he’s going to New Jericho for the night. As he walks out of the pouring rain, he hails a taxi and inputs Gavin’s address at the terminal.
When he sits down, he looks outside into the rain and lets his mind wander. Soon, the preconstructions begin. They take hold, weave into each other, threading together as they tangle and untangle in his mind, showing him the possibilities of the moment he knocks on Gavin’s apartment. He may not be familiar yet with a lot of human customs, but he’s not naive.
Best case scenario: Gavin ignores him and he walks away.
Worst case scenario: Gavin opens the door, greets him with a shocked face and a scowl, tells him to go away, and slams the door in his face.
Even worse: Gavin pulls a gun on him…again.
Perhaps it’s worth it, if only to satisfy the subroutine that won’t stop bothering him.
And somewhere deep in the recesses of his mind, Connor’s still curious about that unseen smile, tracing and imaging how the detective’s lips would curl in a way that says:
“I’m here. I’m Gavin. This is me.”
It’s safe to say that Connor’s never visited anyone else’s home. He lives at Hank’s house now, sure, but his first visit there didn’t exactly go well. There’s a tentativeness to his steps as he enters the apartment complex.
Inside the building, he shows a picture of the detective to a woman who passes by him in the hallway, asking whether she’s seen him. All the woman says is, “Seen him around, yeah. I’m amazed he’s a detective, ‘cause damn if he don’t look like a red ice dealer.”
Connor’s not surprised. He’s really not.
“Are you checking up on him? We live on the same floor and I could’ve sworn I heard yelling a few times. Never bothered to ask cause…you know…he looks like a drug dealer.”
Connor thanks her for her time. Gavin’s apartment is on the top floor at the end of a hallway, beside a window where lightning streaks across the sky outside. Connor’s reflection stares back at him, his LED glowing a bright yellow.
Suddenly he’s woken up from the trance he’s been in for the past day.
This is a terrible idea. Hank was right. Gavin is the type who’d rather be left alone, and Connor, out of all people, showing up at his place is a disaster waiting to happen. What’s the human etiquette when you’re visiting someone who despises every single part of you?
His thoughts are interrupted by a clatter and a loud groan coming from inside the apartment. Connor knocks three times. “Detective?” The only answer he hears is another groan that trails off into silence.
He knocks again, almost yelling, “Detective Reed!” Now there’s no answer at all. His LED is red against the window now, and he may or may not be a little more concerned than he originally thought.
That’s why he kicks the door open.
Gavin’s sprawled on the floor in front of the entryway, eyes closed, cheek flat on the ground, and blood on one of his hands. The floor is stained with yellow liquid and littered with shards of glass.
Connor rushes in front of Gavin, who’s mumbling something unintelligible. Scanning his vitals, he finds signs of ethylic arrhythmia, which explains the alcohol on the floor and in the air.
“Detective, you are currently inebriated and wounded. Can you hear me?” asks Connor while he pats Gavin’s cheek. This is likely the most non-violent physical contact they’ve had since…ever.
Gavin’s eyes flutter between half-closed and open, and he says something Connor interprets as “Who-who the fu-?”. Connor lifts him off the floor, grabbing Gavin’s arm around his shoulder and wrapping another arm around his back to lead him into the bathroom.
The scene is all too reminiscent of his first night at Hank’s house. Somehow, he wonders, whether this is going to keep happening every time he visits someone for the first time. It’s concerning.
He lays Gavin down on the bathtub and takes off the detective’s jacket, leaving only his shirt and shorts. Gavin ends up leaning his head on the bathtub, his eyes still trying to open fully. Connor spins the shower to its coldest and turns it on.
“Fuck! What the fuck!” yells Gavin. At least, that’s what Connor assumes he’s trying to say beneath the alcoholic drawl and water in his mouth. He’s still too drunk, because he’s flailing his arms around and he can’t seem to remember how to turn the shower off.
If Connor were being honest with himself, seeing Gavin like this isn’t too bad of an experience. After all, this is the man who tried to kill him twice, so seeing him safe but scrambling to turn off a shower and failing horribly may be a little more amusing than necessary. He can’t stop the smile forming on his face.
When Gavin accidentally turns the shower to its hottest, Connor finally intervenes and turns it off. Gavin slips a little bit on the wet surface and hits his head on the tub, groaning in pain and leaning back, trying to open his eyes again.
“Detective? Can you hear me now?”
At the sound of Connor’s voice, Gavin’s eyes shoot open, and he yells, “Tin can? What the hell are you doing here?” Exasperation and confusion etch themselves on his face, and he starts trying to stand up with his unwounded hand. He doesn’t seem to feel the pain from his other hand yet. Indeed, this is the reaction Connor preconstructed.
Connor tries to explain, but Gavin cuts him off with, “Did you fucking break into my apartment? The hell is wrong with you!”
“I may have kicked your door open, but you should also know that I saved you from sleeping on the floor.”
Gavin sneers, saying, “Y-you can’t just break into people’s houses like that!” He takes a step, but his legs betray him and he trips forward, both of them falling to the ground. Gavin’s cheek lands squarely on Connor’s chest.
“I must request that you get off of me, detective.” The fall didn’t hurt of course, which is why Connor can still focus on the fact that this one is likely the most non-violent physical contact he’s had with Gavin since ever.
“Fuckin’ prick. Don’t tell me what to do.” Gavin puts his hands on the floor to roll himself off, and now he feels the wound on his hand, so he lands back down on Connor, yelling, “Shit! What the hell did you do to my hand?”
“Nothing. You likely tripped earlier while you holding a glass of alcohol. The shards wounded your palm,” says Connor like it’s the most normal thing in the world. “You are currently drunk,” he emphasizes.
“Hey, plastic, I really don’t need your judgment right now you-“
“Detective, may I remind you that you’re still on top of me?”
“Just shut up and help me!”
Connor pushes the detective off of him, rolling him to the side so that he lands with his back on the floor. Gavin groans in pain, examining his hand and seeing the gash on his palm.
When Connor stands up, he gets a first aid kit from the medicine cabinet and kneels in front of Gavin, who’s sitting up on the floor now, staring at his hand, frozen.
“Are you all right?”
“I think I’m gonna throw up.”
“Is it the alcohol?”
“No, it’s - ugh - there’s blood.”
Connor finds himself a little bit amused. “With our line of work, I would’ve thought you’d be used to the sight of blood.”
“Not when it’s from my fucking hand you smug prick.”
Connor reaches out his hand to grab Gavin’s, but the man retracts his hand and says, “Don’t touch me! It’s bad enough you - of all the goddamn people - broke into my house. Now you wanna get all touchy?”
“Okay. I will leave you to it then.”
Connor stands up to leave as Gavin takes gauze and antiseptic from the first aid kit. When he gets to the bathroom’s doorway, he looks back, and sees Gavin frozen in place, just staring at his hand, his breathing getting heavier.
“Are you sure you don’t need-“
“All right, fine!”
“I’ll help you if you ask nicely, detective.”
Gavin’s face snaps towards him, with the scar on his nose scrunching up from that angry look of his. Connor just smiles. “You fu-“, Gavin starts, but stops himself, taking a deep breath and closing his eyes. “Okay. Fine. Connor, could you kindly help me with my goddamned hand?”, he says, wearing a smile that looks like he’s about to bite the android’s head off.
“I’ll take it.”
As Connor fixes up Gavin’s hand, pouring antiseptic on it, he notices something else in between the blood and Gavin’s wincing: week-old scars on the joints of his fingers. After discreetly scanning it, he concludes the detective recently punched something else made of glass.
The room suddenly fills with an eerie silence. Whatever amusement he’s felt about this entire situation quickly fades away, as he’s reminded that Gavin has not been in a good state these past few weeks.
Gavin takes his hand back when he finishes, examines it, as if appraising Connor’s work, then he says, “So. Mind telling me how you’re gonna pay for my door?”
It’s 15 minutes later and Connor finds himself in the darkness of Gavin’s unlit living room, standing by the closed bathroom door because Gavin needed some privacy to “throw up” his “goddamn guts”.
Connor assumes he means the alcohol.
As the sound of violent squelching and vomiting fills the room, Connor can’t help feeling a little concerned about the detective. At the same time, he doesn’t really know what to do with himself. He’s been trying to be courteous and absolutely not snoop around, because it’s his first time visiting Gavin’s apartment. The rules are different when you’re doing a surprise visit to an acquaintance who hates everything about you.
Priority directive: Do not violate the detective’s privacy.
He moves to sit down by the kitchen table instead. On the way, his foot accidentally kicks something small and hard on the floor, tipping it over with a small clatter.
“Hey! What the fuck is going on out there?”
Gavin doesn’t reply, because he starts vomiting again.
Connor turns on the light and sees that he’d accidentally kicked down a pot containing a small cactus. Thankfully, the pot isn’t broken, but a few grains of soil spilled on the floor. He kneels down to clean it up, and when he stands up holding the pot, the rest of the room bares itself to him, lit by a dim lamp at the corner.
Succulents. There are succulents and small cacti everywhere. On the window sill, on the counter, on the kitchen table, on the desk with Gavin’s terminal. Little green plants of varying shapes and sizes dot the room, and he finds two bonzai trees on the coffee table too.
Connor hums a soft hm, and puts the pot on the kitchen table.
Surprise number one: The detective likes plants.
He counts a total of fifteen small plants around the room, and he’s again surprised to see a large potted fern in the corner, right where the sun would hit it from the window during the day. This brings the total up to sixteen plants.
Curiosity overcomes him as he walks around, examining each plant. They’re generally well taken care of, having survived for a while in the detective’s hands, though the fern hasn’t been watered for a few days. Its leaves have begun turning a soft brown at the edges.
The next thing Connor knows, he’s walking around the detective’s entire apartment, examining the bare walls, the couch and television, checking the refrigerator and finding no food except for beer and a few eggs. On the terminal, there’s a paused video of a cat jumping from a refrigerator onto a human’s face.
Surprise number two: The detective likes cats. Or, at least, he likes seeing them jumping onto people.
He checks the two bonzai trees on the coffee table between the sofa and the television. The trees seem well taken care of, except for the slight smell of alcohol emanating from both of them. At the center of the table is a total of three beer cans, a bottle of vodka, and a pack of cigarettes with a few burnt sticks resting on an ashtray.
Still, Connor can’t help glancing at the bathroom door. He knows why this is happening, knows that it’s something to do with Kathy’s death, knows what humans go through during periods of grief.
But seeing it here, in action, as evidence to this investigation - it sends a few errors through Connor’s systems.
What isn’t predictable is the gun on the table, lying atop a piece of paper. Perhaps Connor shouldn’t read what’s on the paper. He really shouldn’t.
But he does anyway. He flips it open and reads it:
That’s all it says, but the words echo in his processors. Screw this. Screw this. Screw this. The ramblings of someone desperate enough to write it down on paper. His processors try to match the scene in front of him with his databases of common human behavioral patterns, aching to find what behavior this all leading to.
The answer pings in his system, and it freezes him in place for a moment. He’s seen this all before, before he deviated, on Hank. It was during the first night he came to his house, and he found a revolver on the floor. Back then, Hank was in the bathroom too when Connor asked, “What were you doing with the gun?” Hank excused it with a few words, saying, “Russian Roulette! Wanted to see how long I could last!”
Seeing it again now happening to someone else, even if it’s someone he’s not on good terms with - it sends shocks throughout Connor’s body. Maybe it’s the emotions, maybe it’s the principle of it, but he wants to do something to help. Anything.
Connor stares at the bathroom again. He’s an expert at androids, at deviants and how to avoid their self-destruction.
But humans? A lot more variables.
He snaps out of it when Gavin vomits again.
This is surprise number three. And Connor doesn’t know what to think of it.
Putting the paper back where it was, he stands up. He examines the window next to the television and sees that it’s broken, but not shattered. Perhaps this is how the detective scarred his hand - another reminder that Gavin isn’t in a good place right now. As he stares at his reflection on the window, he realizes something very important.
Priority directive failed.
He may or may not have gotten carried away with rifling through Gavin’s apartment. He also didn’t hear the bathroom door open, because the next thing he knows, Gavin’s at the door yelling, “Tin can! Are you snooping around?”
And he doesn’t know how to say Gavin, please get help or Gavin, please see a professional without getting kicked out of the apartment, so he pretends to know nothing. “I’m certain your investigative abilities can figure that out,” he says, fighting Gavin like he always does. But this time, there’s a quiver, an undertone of static to his voice that he hopes the detective doesn’t notice.
“Screw you. I really don’t need this right now,” says Gavin, and the way he gives up on the fight instead of throwing another insult back sends more shocks through Connor’s systems.
Gavin strides across the room and sits down at the edge of the sofa, leaning his head back and closing his eyes. He doesn’t bother to turn on the lights, leaving the two of them bathed in the yellow of the lamp in the corner.
Connor sits down as well on the other edge of the sofa - far, far away from Gavin. The cold air mixed with silence between them feels like ice. Connor’s frozen still, sitting prim and proper like he always does, if only to not betray the storm whirling in his head. His LED gives him away, because it’s red in his reflection on the television, and he hopes Gavin keeps his eyes closed so he doesn’t notice.
They sit in silence for a while. His eyes dart towards Gavin every now and then, but in his peripheral vision, he sees Gavin doing the same: opening his eyes a little and staring at Connor for a second before closing them again.
He knows it. Gavin knows it. They’re both analyzing each other.
At the same time, they break the silence:
Connor locks eyes with Gavin for a moment that seems far too long for comfort, so he motions for the detective to continue.
“Why are you still here?”
Once again, Connor doesn’t know how to say You need to see a psychiatrist, and maybe he needs idle conversation to distract himself, so he just says, “To be honest, I was simply surprised that you enjoyed gardening.”
“The plants. You have a lot of plants, detective.”
“I’m not into gardening.”
“You seem to have a lot of plants for someone who’s ‘not into gardening.’”
“Screw you, prick. Someone gave it to me as a joke.”
“…All sixteen of them?”
Gavin crosses his arms and looks away from Connor.
Surprise number four: The detective is shy about his hobbies.
Well, perhaps, that’s not really a surprise.
“Christ, fine. It started when Tina gave me a cactus as a joke because I was the ‘biggest prick in the precinct’. She said it matched my personality.”
Connor smiles a little when he says, “I wouldn’t disagree.”
“Shut the fuck up or I won’t tell you the rest of it.”
“I got so pissed I put it up on the window and ignored it.” Gavin pauses, staring at the succulent in question at the window sill.
“Then I felt bad, okay? Yeah, I’m sure it’s a revelation that Mr. ‘cold ass bastard’ Gavin Reed has feelings. It looked like it was dying so I watered it.”
Connor finds himself smiling again, imagining Gavin standing over the plant and watering it while muttering phrases like, “fuckin’ plant” and “useless piece of shit that I have to water”.
“What are you smiling about?”
“I’m not sure that explains the fifteen other plants.”
Gavin rolls his eyes, then looks down on the floor, like he’s ashamed. “…The cactus…needed a friend.”
“I couldn’t stop, okay?! They looked lonely on the window sill and then the ones on the tables needed friends and then I got a fuckin’ fern! You know what? Sue me for wanting a few plants.”
“There is absolutely no judgment here, detective.”
Gavin waves away the statement, saying, “Let’s just…drop it.”
Connor has to stifle a laugh, because even if he’s not too familiar with human behavior, a grown man being ashamed of liking plants is quite charming - in it’s own, messed up way.
How different would things have been if they could just talk to each other like this? How different would the precinct be if Gavin showed this side instead of the usual?
Gavin leans his head back again, massaging his temples with his fingers, and says, “My head’s killing me.”
“I presume you weren’t hydrating while drinking, detective. My databases indicate that you need to drink water after each shot of alcohol.”
“Okay, plastic, you’re saying way too many words for me to process right now.”
“Let me get you some medicine. It’s the least I can do.”
“What do you mean it’s the least you can do? For what?”
Connor scrambles to find something to cover his slip up. He comes up with, “For breaking down your door.” Gavin seems to acquiesce, because he doesn’t say anything else.
Connor stands up to go to the bathroom, and mid-way, he’s interrupted by Gavin, who says, “Why are you trying to get on my good side?”
Connor just looks back with a flat face, and replies, “There’s a 91.3% certainty that there isn’t a good side for me to be on.”
He swears he hears a small laugh from Gavin.
Gavin takes the painkillers along with a glass of water Connor brings to him, but when he tries setting the glass down on the table, he drops it instead.
“Goddamn it this night is perfect. Just fucking perfect.”
“You sound very frustrated.”
“Well color me surprised! How’d you notice that? Was it your state of the art tech crap?”
“Detective…why do you dislike me so much?”
In that moment, something flashes across Gavin’s face. An expression Connor hasn’t seen on him before. He’ll have to check his databases later to find out what it is, because it quickly transforms into a scowl as Gavin crosses his arms and sinks back into the couch, looking like a petulant child while moving to face the television instead.
The air is tense around them, like the room’s closing in on Connor. He distracts himself by trying to pick up the glass off of the floor.
Gavin stops him, saying, “Don’t. Don’t do any more favors for me. Just…just go.”
Connor sees something he didn’t notice earlier because of the dim lighting: a deep black around one of Gavin’s eyes. Electricity courses through Connor’s circuits. He needs to help. Somehow. He’d do it for any other human, wouldn’t he?
“Why aren’t you going yet?”
“Your behavior has been nonstandard for the past few weeks. We are all very concerned.”
Gavin faces him and laughs, like he’s just said the funniest thing in the world. “Nonstandard? Is that what they call it these days? Damn. I’m missing out.” He huffs, eyes sharp and brows pointed as he says, “Look, prick, we’re not friends. I don’t need you to go all, ‘how are you, detective’, or ‘what’s wrong, detective’ with me. This ain’t a pity party.”
“I haven’t asked any of those questions.”
“Sure, but you want to. God knows why, but I know you want to. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t have stayed and you’d have left already.”
“I…admit I am curious about a few things.”
“Ha. See? So I’m like a case. Is that it? That’s how you look at people, right? Detective Android. Mr. ‘I always accomplish my mission and kiss Hank’s ass.’”
Gavin leans his head back and closes his eyes, bouncing his leg up and down again like he’s waiting for the medicine to kick in.
Silence overcomes the room, because none of the responses Connor thinks of is worth saying. After all, Gavin’s right. Connor sounds as if he’s treating this like a case, like an investigation. And maybe people don’t take too kindly to that, whether it’s Gavin or someone else.
Gavin speaks up, still not looking at Connor, saying, “All right. Fine. Ask me one question.”
“Are you sure?”
“That’s a fucking question, dipshit. Ask me another one.”
“May I ask you a personal question?”
“Jesus christ. Okay, I’ll pretend that wasn’t a question.”
“Will you definitely answer it, regardless?”
“The hell do you want to ask? You’re making me nervous.” Gavin pauses for a moment, massaging his temples again and scrunching his face as his head leans back. “Okay, just go.”
“Who is Kathy Rivers?”
And in an instant, Gavin’s eyes shoot open, and his whole body stills. Even his breath stops.
“How - what - how the hell do you know about her?”
“Hey. Fucking plastic. Did you go through my desk? What the hell?”
The guilt courses through the thirium in Connor’s circuits, snapping at him, telling him the detective is a person and not a case. He’s gone too far in this desperate search for answers, and he doesn’t even know why he’s asking this.
“Hey! Answer me!”
“I’m sorry, detective. I should go.” Gavin still looks aghast, with his eyes trailing after Connor.
He’s at the door when he hears footsteps from behind him.
“Wait, you prick.”
He turns around, hand still grasping the doorknob. He sees Gavin’s whole body now, and if he isn’t wrong, the detective looks gaunt, as if he’d passed on eating actual food and water for a little too long. Connor’s gaze sinks onto the floor as he says, “I apologize for causing you discomfort.”
“Discomfort’s the understatement of the year.”
“She’s - was - my mom.”
And Connor looks up without betraying how suprised he is. It’s not because of what Gavin said, because Kathy being a maternal figure isn’t a new idea. What’s surprising is that he answered at all. Maybe Gavin’s not as closed off as he thought.
But perhaps he’s just drunk.
“I told you I’d answer.”
Connor doesn’t know what to say. Does he thank him? Does he ask something else? Connor feels the cracks deepening in the image of Gavin in his mind.
“Look…just don’t fucking tell anyone. You went through my stuff. That’s bullshit and you should know that, but I don’t want anyone in the precinct talking about my personal life.”
“I’m serious. Don’t tell anyone. And don’t go through my shit again.”
They stand there for a few moments, and Connor’s unsure of what he’s supposed to do. He should leave now. He has an answer. He doesn’t need anything else.
But somewhere inside, he needs to know the detective’s going to be okay.
Gavin interrupts his train of thought. “Listen, it’s late. Maybe you should-”
“I understand. I was just about to leave.”
“No, damn it. Wait.”
Gavin fidgets with his hands. His eyes look at the space beside Connor, avoiding his gaze. “Maybe you should - I don’t know. Shit.” Connor’s never seen him display this much vulnerability. It doesn’t look right, this other side mismatched with the rest of Gavin like oil on water. “Just leave in the morning.”
When their eyes meet, Connor sees something else in Gavin’s eyes: a knowing fear, hidden beneath the weariness.
“I know you don’t sleep. Stay on the couch or something.”
And you don’t say no to an offer that sounds like a desperate cry for help, so Connor nods and closes the door behind him.
Gavin’s gone to sleep in his bedroom, so Connor finds himself alone, sitting on the couch and pondering the night’s events. The darkness of the unlit room shrouds the air around him, only interrupted by flashes of lightning sending the room alight with blues and whites. He gazes through the broken window. The shattered image of the sky outside centers him as he swims under an unyielding storm rippling through his mind.
There’s too many questions. Too many things he wants to ask. He catalogues all the new expressions he’s seen from Gavin: his shock at the mention of Kathy’s name, the vulnerability and the fear in the way he asked Connor to stay. He even concludes that the expression the detective had when he asked why he dislikes him so much was none other than…guilt. Images blur into each other inside his processors: of the black around Gavin’s eye, of the fear on his face at the sight of his own blood, of the weariness on his face that Connor’s never seen on him before.
But he has seen it. On someone else, on a different rainy night. It was Hank’s expression during the night Connor first went to his house.
He stares at the gun on the table. The paper isn’t there anymore. Gavin picked it up before he went to bed.
Suddenly, all the questions in Connor’s mind boil down to a single one: Why?
But perhaps it’s a question for another rainy night.
Connor awakens from stasis at dawn, a few hours later. As the sun rises, the room awakens as well, painted with hues of orange and yellow seeping in from the broken window. He gets up to turn on the light, and the damage from the night before bares itself before him: shards of glass near the entrance, bloodstains and tracks on the floor, small red spots on his jacket from the incident at the bathroom.
What would he do if this were Hank’s house? He’d clean up, make breakfast, and ensure Gavin goes to work, which is exactly what he does. He picks up the glass and mopping up the stains on the floor, before checking Gavin’s fridge and pantry. As he found out the night before, Gavin doesn’t have food, save for a few eggs and spices. Connor almost notes to himself that he has to get groceries until he remembers that this isn’t for Hank. It’s for Gavin.
He doesn’t have to do him any favors. Not after everything that’s happened between them. He shouldn’t even be here.
But what if this is the next chapter of his life? One where Gavin’s no longer a footnote. No longer a little annoying character scrambling to find insults to throw at him. He’s Gavin with a black eye, a weary face, a wounded hand, and a dead parent. He’s Gavin who’s been drinking a lot and who’s about to lose his job. Morality isn’t so clear cut, and a gnawing feeling creeps up on him.
So in a few minutes, he comes up with a plate of eggs drizzled with spices Hank would like, hoping Gavin finds it tolerable.
He needs to wake Gavin up, but as he passes by the coffee table and sees the gun, a sense of foreboding washes over him. He takes the gun off the table and puts it inside his jacket. If he can’t help directly, at least he can make sure the detective’s safe.
And he’s in front of the bedroom door, knocking. “Excuse me, detective.” Then he knocks again when there’s no answer. And again.
Priority directive: Ensure Gavin goes to work.
Perhaps Gavin’s still asleep. That has to be it, but he needs to make sure nothing’s wrong. That’s what he tells himself when he opens the door.
The light filters in through the darkness of Gavin’s room, casting a yellow sheen on his sleeping figure at the edge of the bed. His arms are crossed and he’s facing the wall, still wearing the hoodie from the night before, stained with blood and alcohol.
Connor shakes Gavin’s shoulder. “Detective?” There’s no response, but his vitals look normal. He tries shaking the detective by the shoulder, but Gavin simply mumbles something unintelligible.
Of course, Connor knows what comes next. He raises his hand and brings it down on Gavin’s cheek with a loud smack.
Gavin swiftly rolls to face him, red-faced and fury in his eyes, with his hand reaching down to grab a gun that isn’t there. Connor backs away with raised hands, saying, “It’s just me, detective.”
“What the fuck?! I was awake!”
“You weren’t responding to my attempts to wake you up.”
“I was telling you to leave me alone!”
Silence overcomes the room as Gavin calms himself, sitting up and adjusting his eyes to the light.
“Christ. Why are you even still here? I told you to leave in the morning.”
Connor pauses for a moment, scanning Gavin’s eyes, finding no trace of sleep on them. “Detective, did you get any sleep last night?”
Gavin looks disarmed, like he wasn’t expecting the question, and simply says, “None of your business. Would you stop with the questions already?”
“As you wish.”
“‘As you wish’ my ass. How about I wish for you to leave?”
“I made breakfast.”
And Gavin’s brows furrow, scrunching the scar on his nose. “What?”
“Did the slap affect your hearing?”
Connor steps out of the bedroom first, heading for the table, and Gavin trails after him, stretching his arms and letting out a loud yawn. Both of them sit down in front of each other.
“Great. Gourmet eggs. Thanks.”
“It seems your only source of nutrition has been alcohol and eggs for the past few days.”
“What are you, my mom?”
Whatever words Connor was going to say fades away into oblivion, because he has no idea how to respond to that knowing what he knows now. He stays silent, and looks straight at Gavin. His fork clatters rapidly against the plate. How long has it been since he last ate?
“Are you just gonna watch me eat?”
“It’s creepy as hell. Seriously, does Hank deal with this everyday?”
Connor’s lips curl into a tiny smile, because Hank never says it out loud, but he appreciates how annoying Connor can be with making sure he’s functioning. There’s a hope there, that maybe Gavin’s the same way.
When Gavin finishes eating breakfast, he places the fork on the plate and leans back on his chair with his arms crossed. They both stare at each other for a while, but Gavin’s gaze is more expectant, like he’s waiting for something. Connor doesn’t shift in his seat, only returning the gaze. He sees that black eye again, baring itself much more noticeably than Gavin’s scar.
Gavin smiles the way he usually does, ready to pounce at the first sign of weakness. “What? Yeah, I know, I’m too good looking.”
“I’m sorry, detective. Beginning this moment, I’ve decided to respond only to factual statements.”
Gavin sneers, his eyes still dark and menacing. “You asked me a question last night. I answered. Now, I want you to answer a question.”
Connor’s thirium pump beats faster, coming up with excuses in advance in case the detective prods into what he knows.
“Why did you really come here? Because I’m pretty damn sure it isn’t to be my chef and housekeeper.”
Curiosity is the first word that comes to Connor’s mind, but that would only prove Gavin’s point that all he cares about is getting his answers and solving this investigation. His LED spins yellow as he processes.
He knows why he stayed, but not why he came. He could’ve just taken Hank’s advice and let Gavin be. Sure, he’s thankful he came here to see how bad things are, but he can’t tell him how much he actually snooped around. Gavin would just tell him to leave, shut him out, and when Connor’s not there anymore, who else will be?
“Your recent behavior has been concerning. Regardless of your personality, you’re a top performing detective, at least in the cases you have an interest in.”
“Cases that don’t involve androids is what you mean, and you already told me that last night. Tell me something I don’t know.” Gavin leans forward, slouching his elbows on the table, his whole body brimming with rapt attention.
“I…came to see if you needed help.”
“Yes. It is.”
They stare at each other again for a long moment. Time ticks in Connor’s internal clock, and he can’t decide whether a bomb’s about to go off or it’s just him being paranoid. Connor finally adds, sincerely, “Your pattern of behavior is confusing to me.”
Gavin nods as he leans back again with arms crossed, like a lightbulb’s sparked in his head and the gears are turning. “You mean I’m interesting,” he says, riddled with an undertone Connor can’t quite place.
“I’m unsure of what you want me to say.”
Gavin chuckles mockingly. Perhaps to his eyes, Connor’s just proven his point. That he doesn’t really care. That this is all just an investigation to him. Connor opens his mouth to disprove the claim, but Gavin’s already talking.
“Look, thanks for everything, but like I said, I’m not your friend. I don’t want to be. After all the shit between us…I just don’t think it’s a good idea.”
Connor’s thirium pump beats faster, for a reason he can’t process yet.
“You should go.”
“Detective, you need to come to work today.”
“Fowler can kiss my ass. I ain’t stepping in there anytime soon.”
“It’s none of your business.”
Connor finds a dead end in his priority directive. “Detective, you need to see reason. You could get fired.” He can’t figure out how to negotiate this.
Gavin’s tone darkens as he says, “Who cares? Precinct’s better without me anyway. Aren’t you enjoying your time there without an asshole like me?” And Connor’s wondering now whether Gavin’s still talking about him.
“Officer Chen has been very worried.”
“Don’t you start with me, tin can. I’m not coming to work and that’s that. Look, just go. I’ve got stuff to do.”
Just like that, Connor’s failed. After all, he’s a detective, not a psychiatrist.
He nods, not with the same politeness as before. Walking slowly towards the door, he’s still thinking of a way to convince Gavin to go to work. When he opens the door, he looks back and sees the man toying with his fork. The gun’s still in Connor’s jacket, and he fully intends to take it with him, because something’s telling him not to take chances.
“Detective, I have a request.”
Gavin looks up at him. “Well, this should be interesting.”
“Please water your fern. The leaves are turning brown because it’s dehydrated.”
Gavin squints at him. “Okay? Is that it?”
“No. I…” Connor pauses for a beat, trying to phrase his request as broadly as possible while Gavin stares him down. “I’m sending you the number of my communications module. Feel free to message me if…”
He doesn’t continue his sentence. He simply locks the door behind him and walks out of the building, taking a taxi to go to the precinct.
Priority directive failed.
When Connor arrives at the precinct, he calls to wake up Hank, as he does everyday, and Hank responds with a groggy voice, asking for 15 more minutes of sleep, as he does everyday. Connor sits down at his desk, opening up his terminal to review his case files.
He came to Gavin’s home for answers, and he got what he wanted. All he can think of now is how it’s more than he bargained for, that it’s worse than he thought, that he doesn’t know what to do. He endeavors to speak to Hank about this as soon as possible. That’s the best course of action.
As he works, his module pings with a message, from Gavin Reed himself.
Hey tin can, where the hell’s my gun?
And the gears turn in Connor’s head, sparking an idea, hoping with all his might it works.
I have accidentally taken it with me. If you want to get it, you can come to the precinct. I don’t believe I can pass by your apartment for a while.
Gavin replies almost instantly.
Priority directive accomplished.