Hank goes out to run an errand on a Sunday and never comes home.
It happens very quickly at first, just heat and light and the briefest moment of registering pain before his brain decides to do him a solid and cut out. He has no way of understanding what happened, or where he is, or where he is going. Red, blue. Red, blue. A deep, bothersome feeling across the back of his body, sometimes creeping up to pain but always fading out before he could come to understand it. At some point, he starts to hear beeping, and somewhere in his cloudy, drugged, shocked brain, he connects the beep-beep-beep to heart monitor, and heart monitor to hospital. He is in the hospital. Very interesting, if he could possibly hold a train of thought long enough to figure out why he’s in the hospital.
It’s very frustrating, to the point of Hanks existence essentially consisting of brief periods of anger that break up a long, dark unconsciousness. It sucks.
He thinks, maybe, that Connor is there. Sometimes he hears voices, and although they’re mostly just noise his dying brain can’t interpret, he can recognize his partners lilting, soft tone. The way he emphasizes certain words to sound like someone’s weird artificial idea of what human speech is. Technically, that’s exactly what it is, but it's also just Connors voice, as he's always known him. Hank thinks it matches his methodical, careful and informed approach on the way he does things. None of that matters now, though, because it's nothing Hank could bring to the forefront of what's left of his mind. He just allows himself the comfort to feel glad that he can recognize a presence. That Connor being there is something he can cling to as he dies.
Then, one day when Connor seems to be mumbling to him more actively than usual, there’s a dull feeling of pressure in his brain. It’s briefly uncomfortable, followed by a noise; A loud, buzzing tone that seems to shake through his whole body, like sitting on one of those big racks of speakers at a concert. It grows louder, louder, until boom, pow, a bright flash of light that reminds him of how this all started. And then he isn’t reminded of anything at all because he’s not thinking anymore.
Hank dies in early May, the year of 2049, at only 64 years old.
There are words. The first thing he sees, after months of quiet and uninterrupted darkness, is stupid fucking words. He can also think, now, to an extent that allows him to be confused as to why it says Start-up Process in Progress, Please Wait along the backs of his eyelids. Numbers run down the left in a quick little trail that he doesn’t bother trying to understand. Sometimes, when life decides to throw random bullshit at you, it’s best to just sit back and watch it play out.
Initial Start-up Process Completed. Diagnostics Completed. No Errors Found.
His eyes open, and huh, wow, okay. He’s alive.
That comes as a bit of a shock to him, as he was pretty convinced some bad thing had happened and he had died in the hospital, or somewhere very similar to a hospital, and ceased existing. A case closed kind of moment. Which is very interesting, now that he can see things again, because he figures he was just A-Okay with the whole being dead thing. There’s always time for that later, he supposes, so he blinks a few times, squints at the horribly bright light of the ceiling above him and sits up.
He calms down a little as he gets a better look at where he is, not even realizing he was scared in the first place. He makes sense of the environment he’s in, white walls and floor in an empty room, and focuses himself on the familiar form he recognizes as Connor. Connor is there. He is okay, as long as Connor is okay, he guesses. At the very least, now Hank realizes that maybe he can get some answers to the most pressing of his questions, like where he is, why he is, if he was really dying and why, suddenly, he appears to be physically perfectly okay.
“Connor,” He chokes out, and he can’t feel it. He doesn’t feel the breath moving past his lips or the need to take in air. His vocal cords don’t rasp together in his throat.
“Hank…” Connor says, and it distracts him again. “You’re okay.”
It sounds more of a reassurance for himself, rather than Hank. It comes out with a relief that rarely is found within Connor, a tone reserved for only the most intense investigations. Only for when Hank was in danger and came out (against the odds, usually) okay. It kind of scares him. And then he refocuses on the task at hand, at remembering the beep-beep-beep, heart monitor, hospital, pain, bright flashes and red-blue lights. Most importantly, Connor’s voice rising and falling in lilting, meaningless mumbo-jumbo that somehow cut through that thick and heavy darkness like a knife.
“Am I in the hospital?” He asks. Connor shakes his head. His brows twitch in that way that tells Hank he’s thinking. His LED blinks fast, yellow to red and back to yellow again. He is considering, with the careful way that Connor considers things, what to say next.
“No.” A pause. “You were. You went out to get coffee grounds and a newspaper on April 16th, at 10:22 AM. A bomb planted by an anti-android organization went off as you were leaving the café.”
Hank looks down at himself. At his hands. They look fine, not even a scorched hair. Hardly the skin of someone who was in the hospital over an explosion.
“There have been 3 more attacks on the city since the café. I was supposed to be assigned to the investigation, but,” His lips waver like there is more to say. “but I couldn’t.”
Hank almost says something, in the brief silence that follows, but his partner beats him to it. He has never seen Connor look so forlorn, not in the nine years that he has known him. The years that they have lived together in Hanks little house. Connor is very close to him, and only now as things begin to slide into place does Hank realize that his hand is clutched into the slate-gray fabric of the sweatshirt he had woken up in.
“You were going to die, Hank, I couldn’t….” Blink, blink of his LED. Still red. “I could not let that happen. I found a way and I had to do something.” He finishes by looking Hank in the eyes, damp and sad and regretful. Not exactly what he would expect Connor to look like after his miraculous recovery from actual death.
As Hank's mind spins, grasping for more pieces to fit together in this weird puzzle he has woken up in, his eyes narrow. Connor is quick to grab his hand, gently, and guide it backwards. His own fingers graze the small of his back, feeling where the sweatshirt is bunched up around something he hadn’t noticed. He leads his hand over to it, fingertips grazing across cool metal. Something bad. Something in his back, in his spine, something not supposed to be there. He feels his self-preservation kick up a notch, telling him that there is something deeply wrong, and then Connor pulls without warning. Pulls it out of him. There’s a hollow, jolting, bad feeling that he can’t make sense of. Certainly not pain, but something that reminds him of what he felt in the hospital. A numb tingle, deeply upsetting.
Instinctually, he feels the area where the intrusion was. There is still cold metal, circular, hard, inorganic. A hole. A port. He can feel panic begin it’s lengthy and miserable crawl up his abdomen, and Connor holds out the metal cylinder. It reads Cyberlife in big, engraved letters along the side.
Hank has been in the police force for many years of his life. He is decorated. He was considered one of the brightest officers in Detroit, once upon a time. He is naturally gifted at putting together pieces to create a picture, even when that picture is the exact opposite of what he wants to see. He has a pretty good fucking idea of what picture is being painted for him and it makes the phantom heartbeat he feels rocket, as though there might be anything real left in his chest.
Connor grabs his arm. Peeling. White, plastic.
Suddenly, he understands. Understands it, sees Connor by the side of the hospital bed where what was left of him lay covered in rolls and rolls of bandages. Sees the stupid, annoying heart monitor. Applications to Cyberlife, Scans of him from their first meeting. Prototype technology. The metal thing, the needles, the pressure. Another him, untouched and slack and lifeless but uninjured on a cold table. Plugging in. Transfer, on. Fifteen thousand dollars of savings slipping out of Connors account like nothing, like it was never there at all. He supposes that this is Connor letting him into his memory, spitting images between their minds like the most vivid, instant and detailed conversation.
And then he is back in the present with Connor avoiding his eyes. He is…. Well, he’s mad. He’s angry. In an instant, after all the dark and quiet and frustration of the past god-knows how long, he wakes up to this. To the last thing he expected would ever happen to him at the end of his natural life.
He is code. He is programs, protocols, data, numbers. Electrical components surrounded by blue surrounded by plastic. It is the rawest, most painful feeling he has ever experienced, which briefly registers with him as ironic considering he is in better condition now than he had ever been in his entire life. It feels like some close approximation to death. A waking death, or something similar. An invasion of himself, of the parts that he knew made him who he was (wether he liked it or not). It's like a vulnerable, vital part of his own mind has been taken from him, ripped to pieces and danced on. He knew that Androids felt, that they thought and made decisions and were, by every possible means, alive. But never had he asked to be in their position. To be them. So yes, yes he is very angry.
“What the hell, Connor, what-“ He pauses. He is horrified. “What the fuck did you do?”
A rhetorical question. He knows exactly what Connor did. He knows every little tiny detail, visually, about what Connor did. He just doesn’t understand why.
The metal thing that was in his spine, a Cyberlife prototype technology offered for a pretty penny. Custom android creation. Consciousness digitization into complex lines of code that could then be transferred. Transferred into who he is now. Oh, the wonders of technology, he thinks, bitterly.
Connor, himself, doesn’t look shocked. Like he knew Hank would feel like this, but had gone through with it anyway, and Hank doesn’t understand. He just can’t understand why Connor would waste money just to do this, to bring him back against everything he’d told Connor about how he felt about death. It’s a crushing, sad lump in his chest that seems to constrict him, and while that white-hot flash of anger is diluting itself he is still mad. Disappointed that Connor would go against him like this, would bring him back and for what? So he could continue being reminded, every day, of everything that had gone wrong in his life? What was the point of any of this?
He wants to think. He knows he needs to sit and think and maybe sleep until he couldn’t sleep anymore before he even began to approach this from a reasonable angle. There is no time for him here to process, to understand, to even begin to break this situation into little, digestible pieces that he could sort through with any kind of organization. Numbly, in the back of his mind, he also figures he is probably in shock. Shock, from his experience in the police force, makes it really hard to do a whole lot.
Connor is saying something, but Hank reverts to old habits and cuts it off, severs the communication, shrinks back into his feelings of betrayal, hurt and anger. Sadness, maybe, but that is buried far too deep in his subconscious already. He wants to feel all this horrible stuff and doesn’t want to waste his time and energy on excuses or explanations, which he can sense Connor calculating and piecing together in that methodical way he approaches conversations. His partner feels more like a robot to him now than he had since they had met. Years ago. It makes him churn in some sort of sickness, which he knows is just a cheap, mechanical approximation to human feelings.
He tells the sad little visage of Connor that stands across from him to get him out of this room, to get him home, and then to get out of his sight. For a while. The anger he feels pulsing through him is scary, in some ways, and he wants to examine it and peel it apart in the familiar comfort of being completely and utterly isolated.
Connor, being Connor, does exactly what Hank tells him to.
A bit shorter of a chapter than the last one, but I just couldn't find a way to extend the narrative without having to cut it off at an awkward point. Maybe this being the second chapter in one day makes up for that. I hope it doesn't feel rushed or incomplete! Let me know your thoughts.
Content warning for allusions to suicidal thoughts/attempts, mentions of alcohol, and even more talk about death and loss.
And that's all I got! Thanks to everyone who has commented on the first chapter. A lot of what you guys had to say has really gotten the ideas turning over in my brain. Though, I promise this is really going somewhere! It's all planned out, just has to get written down.
See you later!
Hank takes great pleasure in slamming the door in Conner’s face after he gets home. Enough so that he stands, jaw clenched almost as tight as his grip on the doorknob, and listens to his fading footsteps on the concrete step outside. Then he listens to the silence of his house, the wind whistling through a cracked window he vaguely remembers opening some distant time ago, and the quiet little creak of the floorboards beneath his feet.
It’s been a long time since he’s been here, he realizes. Inexplicably, he knows the date to be May 5th, despite not asking Connor or checking his phone, which he finds long-dead on the kitchen table where he tends to leave it. He also knows the date of his last night spent in this house to be February 9th. He supposes he can know whatever he wants now whenever he wants. It makes him vaguely sick.
It takes the will of a thousand men to get Hank moving again, and while his body feels fine, ready for the world to toss him around however it so pleases, he wants nothing more than to go to sleep and stay asleep. He always thinks clearer when he wakes up. After some time has passed.
So, he takes the bombshell of information in his mind and buries it about 20 thousand leagues under the sea. Somehow, he’s in the bedroom now and he crawls into the blankets until he’s sufficiently covered, though it makes no difference to his temperature. He hasn’t felt any fluctuation in body heat since waking up, and while that thought tries to worm into the forefront of his thoughts, he shuts it down lickety-split. He has to stop, now. It’s time to sleep.
It doesn’t work. Honestly, Hank kicks himself for being so naive, as someone who has lived with an android for 9 years he knows they don’t sleep. That he doesn’t sleep. His eyes are open in bed and this isn’t exactly helping, he doesn’t really feel any better now that he’s lost his second-best distraction technique. But maybe he’s not so angry anymore, like he can control his thoughts a little better without just getting so mad about it all. It reminds him of working before he met Connor, trying to chip away at cases but being consumed by the anger they fed into him. They all seemed too personal.
Besides, there’s no better medicine than draping oneself inside a pile of blankets when sleeping and drinking aren’t options anymore. It feels childish. He feels childish.
Hank decides to approach this like he would if he was trying to wrap up an investigation, as that is pretty much the only concrete and functional thing about him anymore. This starts with him running through what he knows. He knows he isn’t human by his own definition anymore, in every sense besides the fact that he can still think and move and make decisions. He knows that he has no idea how to navigate any of this. He knows that Connor made a choice for him, one that he would’ve inexplicably denied, and that that choice has completely changed everything about his life. And his afterlife, whether that be something or an absence of everything.
It’s a lot, a string of complicated problems that are far more in the realm of philosophical thinking than he’s ever been faced with before. Usually, he tends to avoid these trains of thought. They are often dangerous, often lead to the opening of the cabinet next to his fridge, often lead to him worse for wear at his kitchen table. Lady luck would sometimes spare him by making him pass out before he let himself slip farther. Other times had been worse.
Hank stirs, flipping from one side to his back. He’s still wearing the weird sweat-suit combo he had woken up in, with the little Cyberlife logo stitched over where his heart would be. It’s not getting him anywhere, waxing philosophical about the implications of what it means to be human, where he could’ve gone if he’d been let go. If…
No. Not helpful at all. For now, there’s only one issue he can deal with on his own. It certainly isn’t an easy one, at that, but he doesn’t have a lot of easy options available to him right now. His eyes drift across the speckles and ridges of his ceiling tile, to the fan lazily circulating above his head, wafting air onto his exposed cheeks. At least that is something he can still feel, even if it doesn’t make him shiver in the spring air anymore.
Connor had decided, against what Hank assumed he knew was right (Connor certainly was the perfect picture of guilt earlier, quiet and tense and incredibly downtrodden), to drain his savings on an experimental technology that had no guarantees to work. Connor, who would live an indeterminate amount of time, who could've so easily continued as an officer, met others, and moved on. Who could have left Hank in peace and made a life of bigger, better things. He’d left everything to Connor in the will, anyway. The house, which had become steadily more organized, clean and liveable under his influence. All of Hank’s own accounts, his assets, his car. A life insurance policy he had forgotten about until Connor had moved in. He should have died and Connor should have taken it all.
But those words have weight, don’t they? The dreaded, be-all-end-all concept. The ultimate test of humanity. Moving on.
There’s a stutter in his mindless mental trail of being mad and disappointed in Connor.
How could Hank think that it was so easy? That anyone can just forget and let the people that leave them slip by, no biggie, no problem. He hadn’t. The five bottles of various hard alcohol he could find in his kitchen were a testament to that. Foggy memories of Russian roulette, staring spaced out at the tile of his floor. Days spent with headaches, standing under cold showers, closing the blinds and locking the door. He hasn’t moved on at all, if the definition he knew of moving on was anything to go by.
He has spent nights, long nights, awake and red-eyed and obsessing. He is all about the what-ifs.
Hank knows where this is all leading, then. He knows what the connecting theme is in all these meandering thoughts, each tiptoeing around the central conclusion that he continued to do mental acrobatics to avoid.
If he’d had this option, If he could have waved his magic wand and wallet to avoid the pain of losing, he would’ve.
He has to take a quiet, dark moment to be still. To allow himself to commit to the thoughts he is thinking, that they are real and true and there.
Hank concludes in a cascading, rushed wave of thought that yes, he would’ve committed Cole to the body of an android if it meant he didn’t have to get hurt. He would’ve whisked his own son away from humanity, from mortality, from the afterlife. In a heartbeat, in fact. He wonders if he would need even a moment of consideration.
Hank curls his blankets around him tighter. If he could still sigh, he imagines he’d have quite the big one right about now.
Maybe it’s not so incomprehensible. Not incredibly out there, as far as possibilities go, to think that for once Connor didn’t know what to do. To think he could’ve been desperate. And sad. If there’s one thing Hank knows about, it’s sadness. He also knows what it’s like to be scared. And alone.
He ponders it all for a few minutes. Maybe half an hour. At least until the blinds in his window start letting in that dull, blue breed of sunlight that just hints at the suggestion of morning.
It’s quite anticlimactic, in Hank’s opinion, to spend your first night resurrected from the dead curled up in a sad little heap of blankets.
The good thing about Connor being an Android is that he never has to carry a phone. He also can’t easily avoid a call if Hank finds it particularly vital to get a hold of him. And, you could say, this is on the important side of things, so he has no plans on relenting if Connor doesn't pick up on the first ring.
Hank remembers where his phone charger is, plugs it in, lets his cell sit for just long enough to turn on. Then he pauses, only slightly scared out of his wits, and calls.
He guesses that if he really wanted to, he could probably make the same call without a phone. Just with himself. He has no desire, however, to test that hypothesis, and he tells himself it’s because that damn phone was way too expensive to go unused. Ironic, considering he himself now costs over fifteen grand.
Apparently, all of Hanks fretting over Connor picking up is for naught, because it doesn’t even get through half a ring before they’re connected.
“Hank.” He says, before Hank himself can even begin to spit anything out.
“Connor.” Is his reply. How poetic. He closes his eyes. “You’re a fucking idiot.”
He lets that hang in the air for a moment. It’s a little cruel of him because he can imagine what Connor is probably thinking, that Hank has called him just to pass on further reprimands. So, he speeds it up a little.
“Now get your ass home.”
This one was a doozy to get through, but here we are!
I just wanted to briefly thank all of you guys for the lovely comments! It's so encouraging, especially considering this is my first posted work ever. I hope it's not too annoying that I keep clogging up the comments with my own replies, but I can't help it! As another side note, thanks for 1000 hits! Woo-hoo!
Content warnings for this chapter include, of course, death mentions and vague illusions to anxiety. Also a sad android. Scratch that, two sad androids.
See you later!
Hank leaves the door unlocked after he hangs up on Connor. He needs a little time to direct his thoughts and get his feelings about all this back on track. He meanders around the house for a minute or two, aimless movement from one room to the next, surprised at how hard it is to keep still. It feels as though his body is bristling with potential energy, like a foot resting pre-emptively on the gas pedal. Essentially, it’s the exact opposite of the brick he’d had wedged onto the breaks when his heart was still beating. It’s almost funny, if he thinks about it, because he’d given a lot of shit to Conner for pacing through the house over the past decade. Maybe he can understand that a little better, but It doesn’t help the fact that Hank finds it disconcerting to be this miserable and still feel like he could take on the world.
As he’s chasing this thought, he pauses. He’s in front of the bathroom, whose door is cracked just enough for the light from his hallway to paint itself along the tile floor. The corner of the sink is visible, and, Hank knows, the mirror above it. There’s a stutter in him, in his chest, in his mind.
A mirror. He hasn’t seen himself yet, after all. Hanks hand acts on its own accord (good to know it can still do that) and raises, his fingertips brushing lightly against his right temple. He can’t feel anything there, which quells some of his anxieties. But, then again, he doesn’t know if LEDs are raised, or textured, or detectable at all through touch. He hasn’t exactly made a habit out of going around and feeling up android’s faces. Either way, he knows he should look. He should see what has happened to him, what he looks like, what he is now. A part of him, the part that’s been directing his mind away from complete and utter panic, creeps up his chest with a resounding no.
But Hank has never made it a habit to listen to the instincts that protect him from himself. Instead, he blinks a few times at the open cavern of his bathroom and pushes the door. It creeks, the first noise besides his own soft footsteps that he’s heard in a while, and it makes him jump. He runs his fingers up the wall before they catch on the light switch, which he only hesitates on for a moment before flicking upwards.
All his things are still there as though it’s an average morning, toiletries lined up in a neat little procession in the shower, his razor and toothbrush on separate sides of the sink, the soft little bathmat with a goldfish bowl on it that Connor had come home with one weekend. Something about it all is deeply unsettling, seeing everything that has stayed a constant while he has not. Hank feels like a ghost, looking at his useless little possessions, and maybe that isn’t too far off.
He wonders what Connor would have done with it all if he’d never come back.
Hank shakes his head. He’s being stupid with all this stalling over nothing. He steels himself and rolls his shoulders, not unlike what he would do before stepping into a crime scene, and crosses the threshold. His feet are nearly silent on the tile, as he hadn’t been wearing shoes when he woke up.
His eyes flick upwards to the mirror, still surrounded by the little square post-its that Connor loved to write, discard and scribble on. The Hank that looks back at him is like looking at a photograph and it gives him that little skipping feeling again.
It’s his visage, clearly and unmistakably. It has every detail of him, every nuance, his symmetries and asymmetries. It wouldn’t be so primally wrong if it hadn’t been his exact image from nine years ago. The lines he is so accustomed to that marked his face are now lighter, still present, but not those of someone in their sixties. His hair is longer, from before Connor had convinced him that it would be optimal to avoid it getting into his eyes if he had it cut. He turns his head to both sides, watches as the gray shifts gently from right to left. There is no LED, he recognizes in a flash of relief. Just what appears to be skin, solid, not broken up by a ring of blinking red. It was a little foolish to expect one to be there, after all, as they haven’t been standard on Android models for at least 6 years, but it doesn’t make him feel any less grateful that it isn’t there.
His hands are gripping the counter top, he realizes, and he forces himself to relax his fingers. He places his hands flat on the cool sink surface, palms registering the temperature drop without him actually feeling it. It seems as though nothing he can do feels normal, feels like things should, like every action he takes only pushes him farther into crisis. Edges him towards a cliff, whose rocks used to be familiar to him in the form of knocking back his feelings with alcohol, but are now unknown. He has no coping mechanisms left to offer him comfort. Nothing to remove himself from that sick stuttering in his chest and the endless stream of thoughts throughout his mind.
Hank stares himself in the eyes, brow furrowed, leaning over the sink like proximity to his own reflection somehow holds all the answers. Connor knocking on the door scares the shit out of him so badly he bonks foreheads with his double image in the mirror, strings together a list of meaningless expletives, and has to put his head in his hands for a few solid seconds to get himself back down to earth.
God damn Connor, the door had been left unlocked and everything but this time he just so happened to have the good nature in him to knock.
The light coming through the windows in his Livingroom has gradually warmed, now resting at a sweet honey-tan color. It pools on the carpet and couch as Hank slowly passes by, following the course from his bathroom to the front door. He blinks through the peep-hole, as if anyone came to this house besides Connor, but feels better at the reassurance that it’s his partner out there before he swings open the door to just anybody.
Connor looks sad. Sad in the unique way that Connor conveys sadness, with it painted all over his face while somehow hardly moving a muscle. His hands are clasped behind his back, as presentable and purposeful as always, but there’s something to the way his shoulders curl inwards rather than his usual parody of immaculate posture. It’s surreally human in a way that still surprises Hank after all this time.
Leaning back from the door, Hank turns the knob gently and pulls, letting in a draft of cool, fresh morning air. Connor doesn’t make a move to enter at first, just blinks up at hank (with his eyes and his LED, now stuck at yellow) and takes him in. Hank knows that he’s judging his expression, his posture, his stance. Analyzing every little detail he can get to try and formulate the best way to approach this mess he has made. It’s very cool and calculated, but very Connor. It’s his way of navigating both his own emotions and Hank's simultaneously.
Somehow, it doesn’t feel right to move. Connors whispy little forehead curl is doing its thing, waving gently in the breeze. He’s faintly damp, and Hank can smell the dew of rain even though the droplets are hardly big enough to see.
“I’m still mad at you.” He rasps out. His hand Is now clutching the doorframe.
There’s a beat of silence.
“I figured as much.” His voice is resigned, quiet and low. Conner quirks his head to the side, ever so subtly. His gaze flicks down, fixing somewhere along the surface of Hank's chest. “Listen, I-“
Hank lifts his free hand, palm out, and it silences Connor immediately. Part of him hates it when Connor obeys him without thought, eyes watchful and laser-focused on what someone else wants him to do. He should be doing what he wants to do. But, this time, Hank lets it slide.
“Correct me if I’m wrong, but you were about to apologize a hundred times, keep looking at me like I just kicked a puppy, and then expect me to toss your stuff out the front door. Like some kind of vengeful ex-mistress.” It comes out a tad more bitter than Hank intends. “Eh, Connor? How close am I?”
Connor looks like he’s getting ready to explode. It’s odd, how expressive his face is without any of his control, how he’s currently conveying quite an unattractive mix of confusion and sadness that leaves his lips pursed in a tight, thin line.
“Are you saying you don’t want me to apologize, Hank?” He asks, genuine and perplexed. His hands unfurl themselves from each other and slowly drop to his sides. “….What do you want me to say?”
Hank can feel his jaw clench. That’s a good question, isn’t it? What does he want Connor to say? Somehow that’s one of the hardest questions of the night, which is quite the fucking achievement.
“I wanna know why, Connor.” He decides, although it’s only half the truth. He has a pretty good idea why already, but somehow hearing it from Connor’s own lips will make it real. Solid. “That’s it.”
Connor nods, slowly and carefully. The gears are turning, it seems, as he pulls together all the thoughts he needs. It’s like watching someone try and do a jigsaw puzzle in sixty seconds flat. Hank wonders if he’s ever seen that LED blink faster before. The answer, he thinks, is no.
“Because I couldn’t-“ A pause, Connors mouth open and shaking. He’s struggling with this. “I couldn’t… do it, I couldn’t…”
The silence is louder than their words, by far,
“I couldn’t just sit there and watch you die.” Connor looks him in the eyes as he finishes, and Hank honest-to-god shivers. He seems to have found his ground again, some purchase in his own thoughts that brings him back into confidence.
Hank has no idea what to say to any of this.
“Even though I knew you wouldn't want me to, I found a way and I couldn’t let it go." A brief pause. "And before you stop me from saying it I’m sorry.”
The bubble breaks and Connor seems to slip back into his thoughts again. He closes his lips, tight, as if to keep in all the words that threatened to spill out. Even now, in this moment, he knows that Hank likes things short, concise and to the point. So he keeps it that way. His gaze falls back down to some indeterminate point below Hank’s shoulders.
Another loud, offensive beat of silence.
“Connor.” Hanks says.
“Connor.” He insists.
Finally, Connor's eyes are back on his, steady and thoughtful. If Hank had any resolve left in him, those eyes could sweep it away like dust on a shelf.
“Come inside. Get outta the rain.” He says, finally stepping back enough for Connor to slip through the door. The drizzle is picking up, pattering on the shoulders of Connor’s shirt.
Hank is buzzing with more energy than he’s had in years as he closes the door, locks the deadbolt and checks the knob, but he has only ever felt this tired once before. Somewhere, dimly in the back of his mind, he’s glad Connor got home fast enough to miss the worst of the rainfall.
Well, here we are! I meant to get this chapter out yesterday but I had some trouble getting it to a point where I felt it was worthy of posting. I hope you guys enjoy it, for what it's worth.
Content warnings are pretty light on this one. I don't have anything to explicitly mention here, and I assume if you've made it this far there won't be any issues.
See you later!
Two weeks is not a long time. Factually, it’s three-hundred, thirty-six hours, which equates to twenty-thousand, one-hundred and sixty minutes. One million, two-hundred and nine thousand, six-hundred seconds.
However, suddenly having about twice the amount of free time as you’d had in your previous life makes two weeks feel a little longer. A lot longer.
Hank has hardly sat still the entire time, moving from one little thing to the next, throwing away all the food in his fridge, tapping his hands on his lap, compulsively switching the records he constantly has turning away. There is something so startling about the complete lack of exhaustion that he just can’t seem to relax. He hates that he’s never felt better, hates it with such malice that it translates to restless, nervous energy. Hank hasn’t been anxious since he was in high school.
Today is a rare break in the rain of spring, overcast but brighter than its been in a long while. Occasionally, little streams of light break through the cloud covering and ghost across the lawn. Someone else would consider it a lovely day to spend outside. The farthest Hank will go is to open the windows. Currently, he has decided to plant himself on the couch. A jazz record swoons with highs and lows from the corner of the room, which he taps his foot to unconsciously.
Little things have kept making themselves known to him over the past fourteen days, and its taken all his resolve to let them roll through his mind without a complete meltdown. Actual, honest-to-god command prompts across his vision. Highlighted silhouettes. Somehow, yesterday, he accessed his bank account and found out what his balance was in about five seconds, all just because he briefly wondered if Connor had spent any of it while he was gone. He hadn’t. All in all, Hank felt like a glorified Wi-Fi router, or possibly Google itself reincarnated with arms and legs. At least, bitterly, he knows how to use his smartphone much more efficiently even though he doesn’t have a use for it anymore.
Despite all of this, he keeps drifting back to Connor. It’s probably a lame attempt at a distraction, trying to make sure Hank doesn’t start up the mental loop-de-loop of questioning his own mortality and the complexities of the afterlife. Unsurprisingly, he’s okay with that. Although he can feel it building, stronger every day, getting ready to split him at the seams, he’ll just keep thinking about Connor for now.
They hadn’t really talked about it. Hank isn’t stupid, necessarily, and knows that they should have. That they still should. But it also feels safer to dance around it, somehow, to corner the issue and isolate it and then promptly ignore it. As though it’s a dam that, once broken, will bring a tidal wave of god-knows-what that neither of them are prepared for. After all, Hank has always been cut off, cold, quiet, alone. He knows that better than anything, how to distance himself from the things he feels even when they’re worn on his sleeve. Connor is still just trying to understand, even after nine years, how. Connor hadn’t not felt things before, he’s familiar with emotions and how they work. Communicating, though, is different now that there isn’t a goal he’s trying to work towards, something to direct what he says in a clear, linear path that depends on his dialogue. The familiarity of knowing what his objectives are and using words to bring himself closer to those objectives. Now that he doesn’t have that, he often finds himself lost. Hank figures Connor is probably just as lost as he is.
Across his eyes, mid-thought, appears a box. Slender, translucent. White letters.
Check on Connor
A breeze tousles Hank’s hair, stirring it slightly out of place. He can feel it ghosting his bare arms and neck, ruffling the ends of his t-shirt. He’s not wearing shoes, but the grass is soft and pliable under his feet.
A sizeable shed stands erect in the corner of the backyard, nestled under the awning branches of a red oak tree that reaches over from the neighbour’s place. A window is propped open, and soft music lulls out into the wind. It’s offensive, how pretty of a picture it paints for Hank as he walks steadily towards it.
He knocks once, twice on the doorframe to avoid startling Connor, but doesn’t bother waiting for a reply and opens the door with a soft click. He feels the stiff fabric of the doormat underneath his socks.
The shed isn’t big, but it isn’t small. The record player spins contently from its place atop a stack of dresser drawers in the far corner, filling the space up with soft piano melodies. The walls, painted a deep blue, are lined with shelves which protectively hold trinkets, plants, tourist gag-gifts, snow globes and picture frames. A small cluster of delicate ceramic animals. A coffee mug, unused, that reads kick-ass cop in red lettering. It all centers around Connor, who is sat at a simple black desk. Papers are spread around him in neat stacks from corner to corner, crowding the terminal whose screen has gone into sleep mode.
Connor looks up at Hank as he enters, eyes and LED blink-blinking gently at him, the ghost of an unsure smile on his lips. He gently reaches, placing the charcoal pencil he had perched in between his fingers in a designated aluminum cup.
He’s quite the image, peering up at Hank, loose strand of hair out of place. There’s that stuttering in his chest.
The box again, highlighted in blue, Check on Connor, disappearing. Hank blinks the imprint it leaves away, like he can ignore how unsettling and real it feels.
Connor falters a little, after a moment. Hank has been standing there for just a beat too long, quiet and unmoving. The smile that had tugged at the corners of his mouth disappears.
“Is everything okay?” He asks, head tilting to the side. The fingers of his right hand fiddle idly with the corner of the paper he had been drawing on. The sound of his voice brings Hank back into orbit.
“Yes, yeah, it’s okay.” Hank pauses, suddenly unable to scrape up anything to say. He’s not sure what he came out here for. A heart to heart? If that was it, the words are far too stuck in his throat to be dislodged so easily. “Gotta go get some laundry detergent. If you wanna come.”
He’s not sure why that’s the first thing he can think of. He blurts it out before he has a chance to consider anything else. Connor leans back in his chair, straightens out his posture, clearly relieved. His hand slides down the paper and he taps gently on the plastic desktop. Hank’s own hand grips the doorframe.
“I did laundry two days ago, Hank, and the remaining contents of detergent were well above empty.” He says, cool and collected but full of attitude and purpose. He’s got Hank backed into a corner over one little fib and he isn’t about to let an opportunity to tease him fly over his head.
Hank gives up immediately.
“Yeah, okay, asshole, maybe I just want to leave the fucking house,” Hank says, eyebrows raised in indignation. He shifts his position, leaning his weight from one leg to the other. “You coming or not?”
Grocery stores are unpleasant places. They’re loud, busy, smell like floor cleaner and body odour. Screens perched on the ends of every aisle showcase discounts, sales, deals and more, all in ultra-4K HD. It seems, though, that despite such technical advancements, they still use those piercing fluorescent lights that rub Hank just the wrong way. Plus, the whole concept seems a little dizzying now that Hank has no business here. Certainly won’t be making his selection of potato chips or debating between two packs of ground beef anymore.
What he does need is hand soap, and that’s enough of an excuse for them to be here. He may not have a stomach anymore, but he is the proud owner of a pair of hands. Connor trots along beside him, basket handles slung over his arm, LED blinking happily away. He looks out of place and perfectly content to be so.
With Connor, Hank can almost pretend that grocery stores aren’t hell incarnate.
“Have you attempted entering Stasis yet?” He asks, out of nowhere as Hank inspects a bottle of cucumber-melon Softsoap. It kind of breaks his concentration.
“I thought we were here for soap.” Hank says, matter-of-factly, glancing over at Connor from the bottle in his hands.
“We are.” He says back. “I’m making conversation.”
“Hell of a conversation to have in aisle three,” Hank mutters, switching cucumber melon for fresh linen. “No, Connor, I haven’t.”
Connor hums, hand brushing against his jawline as he considers the wall of soaps.
“You should. You would probably find it enjoyable.” He reaches forward, grabs a bottle and holds it out to Hank in one smooth motion. “I prefer Cucumber Melon. It has a fresher scent.”
They get both.
Hank finds out that he knows how to enter Stasis. Somehow.
Connor convinces him that it’s important and that he should at least give it a shot. It’s described to him as being something like human sleep, which is all the convincing he needs.
He lays on top of his sheets, suddenly not feeling like being trapped underneath them. He keeps the ceiling fan on, finds the breeze it creates to be comforting. It’s not weird to be laying like this while the sun comes up. He’d drank himself well into the morning before, anyway, and sleeping to the rise of daylight is the most familiar part of this whole situation.
Eyes closed, he focuses. Hank is very good at focusing, at pouring all his attention in one area until he gets what he wants. It’s all a part of the job, of pulling apart cases and piecing them back together until pictures start to appear, and then having to connect all those pictures into a concise idea to follow. So, although he is currently surrounded by personal chaos, he keeps his damn eyes closed and focuses.
And then it’s there. Like nothing. Simply popping up because Hank wants it to, without a direct command. Just an incomprehensible part of him, like walking only by knowing you want to move.
Biocomponents: 100% Stability
Software: 100% Stability
Damage Assessment: No Damaged Components Detected
All programs prepared for Stasis. Enter?
Y / N
White, pristine words flicking across the backsides of is eyelids will continuously freak the hell out of him, he knows. It’s not as jarring as the first thirty times, certainly, and Hank considers them carefully. There isn’t any time for him to be unsettled.
Y? He guesses that’s what he wants.
Hank shouldn’t be surprised that thinking about his answer is all it takes for the letters to drift away, one by one, like little ghosts.
The next thing Hanks sees, after some indeterminate amount of time, is white. He doesn’t recall opening his eyes at any point, yet he has to blink away the brightness that seems to bury itself deep in his brain. Hank relates it to waking up in the morning and looking straight out the window. It takes a few seconds for him to adjust, squinting into his surroundings.
There are no hard angles. No determinate floor or ceiling, other than the fact that he’s standing on solid ground of some kind. No breeze, no sound. A whole ‘lotta white. It feels like walking through a haunted house.
Hank sighs, pleasantly surprised that he can even do that.
Although it’s not the best trade-off, because he can’t seem to get his body to move forward. Or backwards. His legs, while he can feel him, are uncooperative with any kind of direction. It’s not pleasant, surely, and Hank feels that bristling panic shake its way up his spine again.
His mind feels fuzzy, suddenly, like someone kicking an old antennae-TV out of its signal. Hank feels like the breath has been sucked out of his lungs all at once, as though his chest has collapsed in on itself. Like stepping out of a rocket into the atmosphere of space. The white seems to press in on him, boring itself into his senses.
Fuzzy, it hurts. Silent static, pins, tingles.
He can’t move and he can’t breathe, the pressure on his chest is-
Stasis tasks status: 100% complete
Good morning, HANK ANDERSON.
Hank opens his eyes.
Two chapters in one night! Hope all of you night-owls enjoy this update.
Content warnings include minor injury (of the android variety) and use of the word blood.
P.S. Thank you for 2000+ hits! It means the world to me that you guys are enjoying my little story.
The second and third time Hank enters Stasis there are no dreams. The white landscape is gone, replaced completely with darkness. It’s considerably more enjoyable this way. Connor hadn’t been too far off when he’d compared it to sleep, but it most definitely wasn’t the same. The maximum time he’d stayed in Stasis, for example, was just over two hours, a period that had hardly felt like ten minutes. But it’s dark, quiet and thoughtless. A nice mix.
As with every nice thing in Hank’s life, there are catches. It doesn’t feel like sleep. It doesn’t relax him. There’s a protocol that doesn’t allow him to enter Stasis if his systems decide he doesn’t need to. And, apparently, tonight he doesn’t need to.
It’s been a while, now. A few nights since his attempt at a conversation with Connor that ended in them shopping for soap together like suburban housewives. The sun, which had so kindly shown its face that day, has remained in hiding. Thick, black rainclouds continuously spit onto their home. A metaphor, or an analogy, or something literary-related hangs on in the back of Hank’s mind when he thinks of how the weather is dully reflecting his outlook.
It’s late at night. Hank can hear Connor fussing around the living room, the gentle hum from the vacuum cleaner, from his place in the kitchen. He can’t remember how Connor had talked him into doing any kind of reorganizing, as reorganizing falls distinctly into the category of housework, but here he is. In his kitchen with a cardboard box. He’d long since brushed away the Collect Dishware objective.
He places the box on the countertop, pushes it to the side and listens to it shift against the laminate. He reaches up, opens the cabinets, peers into them dejectedly.
There are rows of glasses, mugs and plates. Not a huge collection; Hank was a single man living alone, followed by a single man living with a person who was incapable of eating or drinking. That kind of lifestyle doesn’t really demand a lot of dishes to go around.
He pulls down the stack of plates first, at a grand total of four, and places them gently in the box. The sound of them clinking together makes Hank grit his teeth. They’re all uniform and white, the final surviving members of some set he had bought fifteen years ago. The bowl is next, a steadily remaining soldier after many battles with Hank’s drunken clumsiness. In the box it goes. Two mugs, four glasses, a lone teacup buried in the farthest, darkest corner.
The silverware drawer isn’t really any better. Mostly forks, a spoon or two, a butter and steak knife. He was never much of a cooker anyway.
Hank is prepared to tape the box up for storage before his eyes catch on the countertop. Tucked back, under the shade of the cabinets above, is a stout little glass, smooth with a rounded bottom. Perched next to it, like a proud father, is a bottle of bourbon.
One of the oddest feelings that Hank has dealt with throughout this entire ordeal is addiction. Dependency. A reliance on a high that he couldn’t physically get anymore. And while it’s true that his body doesn’t need it, hasn’t had a single physical withdrawal symptom, there’s something in his consciousness that still clings to humanity. To drinking. To the concept of needing to drink to stay alive. It itches, like having a specific word on the tip of your tongue and being wholly incapable of remembering it. It’s the kind of thing that could drive you crazy. That is driving him crazy.
Having it so close yet so far away is infuriating. Hank thought he was over this phase; over the meaningless anger and frustration over change. But, he guesses, maybe he’s giving himself too much credit.
It rolls through him like thunder, or a wave crashing against a sandbank. He can’t do anything about it, can’t escape, can’t run. It’s right there, hardly a foot away, and he can’t drink it even though his mind screams at him to do so. It’s not fair.
Hank can be impulsive at times, with the words he says or some of the actions he takes. It’s served him well about as often as it had dished out bad consequences. So, he lets himself fall into one again by grabbing the little whiskey glass, running his thumb over the curve of it one last time, and smashing it down onto the countertop with his palm. As much force as he can muster up, squared directly onto one delicate, breakable little object.
Obviously, it shatters. Glass jettisons from every angle under his hand, clattering to the floor, skidding across to clank against the wall uselessly. Little particles dance around the back of his palm briefly before settling. Broken glass is beautiful.
Connor, being Connor, is in the room the second he hears the crash. Hank doesn’t look up, looks down at the glass instead. The pieces. There are a lot of them.
Connor steps closer with urgency, with worry, with fear. He can paint a pretty clear picture of what happened just by the look on Hank’s face, which deceives him with its expressiveness. The fragments that litter the countertop glitter in the ceiling light, catching it and bouncing it at different angles.
Before the distance closes between them, in a moment of pure synchronicity, they spot a drop of blue.
Single, isolated in the wreckage, it blooms outwards. The softest little plink, plink noises are made as more join its ranks. Glass has pierced Hank’s hand and he is bleeding.
It doesn’t hurt. Not at all, actually, but a dull feeling of pressure has replaced what would have once been a sharp pain. Sensors that indicate damage built to bring attention to wounds while not causing any discomfort. The top right corner of Hank’s vision blinks at him; a little red exclamation point, simple in design, signifies a class-A damage scenario. No immediate action needed, but recommended. How cute.
Hank slowly turns his hand over. He sees the glass first, a shard standing upright and at attention in the centre of his palm. It’s gruesome, it makes his head spin, it makes that vague sickness rush across his body. The blue is next, pooling around the intrusion, streaking down in little lines to the points it had dripped from. There are a few other, smaller little pin-pricks, welling like little beads, from smaller cuts.
The blue throws him for a loop. The skipping in his chest. The pure, surreal dissociation from seeing the wrong colour spilling from his own body. It simply doesn’t feel real, like this moment will be the final push that makes Hank wake up from a terrible, long and vivid night terror. He knows that’s not true, but the thought is nice enough.
There’s a hand on his shoulder, and Hank can’t properly identify the emotion that floods through his body but it’s a welcome change to existential dread. Connor is next to him, always gentle, always purposeful. He grabs Hank’s arm, slowly as if not to startle him, and pulls it over so he can get a better view. The glass doesn’t bother him, neither does the Therium. He is bothered because the Therium belongs to Hank, and the glass is in Hank’s hand. If the expression on his face is anything to go by, he is mortified. The hand he is holding is shaking, and more blue falls to the ground.
“Hank.” He says, slow and quiet, this time not to startle either of them. “We have to get this wrapped tightly to stop the bleeding.”
Always a problem solver.
“Hank,” He insists, after he is ignored. “Please just walk with me.”
That, at least, seems to get them moving. Connor guides them to the bathroom, sits Hank down on the edge of the tub. The shard is easy enough to remove with hardly more than a gentle tug, but Therium still leaks from the hole it leaves behind. A cloth will have to do, he supposes, although he hates to ruin perfectly good linin. He snatches a clean one from under the sink then wraps once, twice, and pulls it tight. Hank registers that if he could feel any of this, the tug Connor just gave on his fresh cut would’ve hurt like a bitch.
Damage to Biocomponent detected
Full systems analysis required
Approx. time required: 2 hours, 32 minutes
The words that appear next to the sink pull Hank out from his mental turmoil just enough. Stasis, while still another inhuman, uncomfortable and unnatural function, sounds like the best thing in the world right about now.
“Connor,” He says, eyes tearing away from his hand. “I’m going to bed.”
He stands, legs shaking. Connor looks like he just heard the worst news of his life.
“Are you sure? I should perform basic maintenance to ensure no further damage is-“
“Connor.” He insists, interrupting. “I am going to bed.”
Connor backs off. He removes the hand he’d placed on Hank’s shoulder, who hadn’t even registered it as being there.
“Okay,” A pause. “Okay.” His voice is quiet and defeated. Worried out of his mind.
Hank feels only partly like the bad guy, because he is still only just holding his panic at bay.
“I can finish up the kitchen. While you do that.” The little head tilt comes back yet again. “You should lay with that arm above your head to limit Therium loss. It’ll be easier on your pump regulator.”
Hank doesn’t bother trying to scrape up enough mentality to respond. He moves past Connor, out into the hall, across to his bedroom. The bed itself is inviting, unmade, a tangle of green sheets and white pillows. It’s hardly anything he has the time to bother with. Instead, he opts for just laying down, arm above his head as he had been told, and initiating Stasis in as quick of a succession as he can manage.
Connor watches, hands restlessly tugging on the strings of his hoodie, from the bathroom door.
Now is not the time for this, Hank thinks, briefly, as the darkness of Stasis fades to white, seamless space. There is air in his lungs again, and instinctually he takes a long, deep breath. He pushes it out through his nose in an attempt to ground himself.
He waits for the horrible, bone-crushing pressure again. He waits for the TV-static. None of it comes, even after he feels as though he’s been waiting for a considerable amount of time. He wants to walk, to move around, to look in his own direction, but can’t. While this feels so different from last time, his inability to move has stayed much the same.
As he looks uselessly around, waiting for something he surely knows will be bad, he hears a sound.
It’s the first sound that he’s been aware of in this space, something that he is both glad and scared to hear. It takes him a moment to connect the new tapping noise to footsteps, but when he does he is automatically concerned. They are coming from behind him, out of his range of vision, and he doesn’t have the ability to turn his head for a better look.
“Would you look what the cat dragged in?”
The voice comes from behind him, from the source of the footsteps. It blooms a fresh sense of fear up throughout his abdomen, and every cell in his body wants to turn around and see the source. More so because the voice itself is familiar in a way that no other voices should be. It is his.
“Hey there, Hank. Not looking so hot.” So close, right behind him. Words spoken only feet from his ears.
“Been trying to get a hold of you for a while,” His voice says. “Nice to see you made it this far.”
Then, out steps himself into Hank’s line of sight. The clothes don’t match the surroundings, that much is certain. He’s wearing that brown jacket that had been destroyed in the explosion. One of many numerous button-up shirts with rolling patterns. His hair is shorter, after Connor cut it. This is Hank as he had been when he died.
“You really fucked up with that glass shit. Scared Connor half to death,” Other-Hank pauses, looking him up and down. There’s a little shake to his head before he continues. “He cares enough about your sorry-ass to bring you back from the dead. You should think about that.”
Hank will have to remember that for later, because he’s currently a little perturbed to see himself monologuing across from him in a white abyss. There’s a stutter, suddenly, and Hank feels the static begin to form inside his brain. If it wasn’t so uncomfortable and unwelcome it would almost be a relief, as it means that this whole acid trip of a nightmare is concluding.
“Shit,” Other-Hank sighs out. “Running out of time. Bull-shit, if you ask me.”
He doesn’t actually seem angry, just a little disappointed. There’s a wry smile on his face.
“Same time next week? Could make it a date.” The fuzzing is worse, almost crowding out the words other-Hank is saying. “Catch you on the flip side, dip-shit.”
Crushing pain. His lungs, empty, desperate for air.
Stasis tasks status: 100% complete
Systems analysis completed
Non-extensive damage located and analyzed. Minor surface repairs required. Please visit a qualified Cyberlife repair technician at your earliest convenience.
Good Morning, HANK ANDERSON
Welp, here we are again. I quite like how this chapter came out and I hope you guys do, too.
Content warnings are brief, just mentions of android injury and some allusions to repairing that I suppose are similar to medical processes.
See you later!
When Hank opens his eyes and sees Connor next to him, it’s not as startling as it probably should be.
Connor has obviously been in his room before. Has even spent a few hours on top of the sheets in Stasis, occasionally, after Hank had given him permission. Honestly, Hank was relieved when Connor had agreed to actually lay down once in a while, as seeing him sitting straight up on the couch with his eyes closed made his back ache sympathetically. Not that Connor could actually get stiff or sore anyway. But, as they say, it's the thought that counts.
Waking up next to him, though, is a little different. A bit more in unfamiliar territory.
Maybe it doesn’t scare him because he can still feel the last waves of fear in his chest creeping in from his dream. Or vision, maybe, whatever. Hank hadn’t really expected to be capable of anything close to a dream, now that there’s no biology within him to support it. Code doesn’t dream. Connor, at least, has never said anything about dreaming, and he’s pretty much his only source of experience.
Speaking of Connor.
They’re laying parallel to each other on top of Hank’s sheets. Hank himself had gone into Stasis while on his back and wakes up in the same position, head turning gently to the side after noticing the presence next to him. Connor had decidedly stayed alert, for lack of a better term, and seems a little more surprised by the whole situation. He must have lost track of time, Hank figures, had probably intended to stay while Hank was in stasis and then silently slip out before he woke up.
“I’m sorry, Hank,” He says. “It’s probably not desirable to have me uninvited in your bed.”
There are brown eyes looking into his. Bright, attentive, hiding about a thousand different things behind them. His hands are tucked up under his head, laying on his side facing inwards. Connor is always a striking image, never wearing, never tiring. Someone that, no matter how many times he sees him, Hank always has to consider for a quiet moment. Consider with allusions to thoughts that he will never say out loud. He ignores the apology Connor offers, instead scrunching up his brow. Connor is clearly watching his face closely, calculating.
“The hell are you doing in here?” Hank asks quietly. It seems like it could be malicious or annoyed in tone, but it’s not. They’ve known each other long enough that he’s sure Connor will be able to tell the difference, recognizing it as the genuine question it is.
There’s a slight shift in Connor’s expression.
“I wanted to ensure your Therium levels didn’t drop too low during Stasis,” A pause. Connor looks very considerate, like he is thinking deeply about something or another. It’s not an unfamiliar expression for him, but it being directed at Hank is rare these days. Connor blinks, long and slow. “And I wanted to be here when you woke up.”
Not what Hank had been expecting. He’s not really sure what that means, what connotation he should take away from such a simple sentence, but it makes that shaking feeling grow in his chest, bright and hot.
They are still. They look at each other for a moment, listening to the crickets chirp-chirp outside the bedroom window and the rustle of the ceiling fan.
“…You’re something else, Connor.” Hank says, finally and slowly. There’s a tone of disbelief to his voice, maybe a little bit of relief. He’s not sure what, exactly, he’s relieved about.
He shifts his head back so that he’s looking up at the ceiling. A familiar sight. The pressure sensation is still tingling the palm of his hand, which is also still raised above his head. He’s confident Connor will be able to fix it when they’re ready. Much like Connor has always fixed his stupid little mistakes.
“I’m not sure I understand what you mean.” Connor offers, his voice lilting and soft.
“Yeah,” Responds Hank, feeling a little deflated without knowing exactly why. “I know.”
There’s that little shft shft sound of the sheets as Connor readjusts himself. Wind whistles in steady beats through the cracked window. The sky is fading to blue, slow as ever.
“I have to be at the station by seven,” Connor says. Hank knows the current time to be a quarter to five. “You should let me look at your hand before I leave.”
Connor is always interesting in everything he does. He moves in a way that is completely unique to him and makes decisions based on that uniqueness.
For example, the hands that are currently delicately picking through a case of tiny repair tools are the very same hands that had literally slapped Hank out of a drunken stupor on multiple occasions.
Connor is considering the repair kit with a careful eye, looking from the tools laid out on the kitchen table to Hank’s damaged hand and back to the tools again. He picks a few out from the row, seemingly at random to Hank, and lays those out into their own little organized cluster. Nonverbally, he signals for Hank to scoot closer, which he does, injury laid out flat so Connor could access it. Now that Hank has been up and moving around, small rivulets of blue are rising out from the jagged little hole. It is still dizzying.
“Close your eyes, please, Hank.” Connor says, looking over at him, completely earnest.
Hank considers that for a moment. He hums thoughtfully.
“Good idea.” He says, all the trust in the world placed on Connor's shoulders. His eyes slide closed.
There’s a cool pressure. The numb tingling. Plenty of sensation, certainly, but not even the faintest inkling of pain. It all makes Hank glad that he can't see what Connor is doing, not sure he would be able to process the disconnect of someone tending to a wound without any of the normal unpleasant and uncomfortable feelings.
There’s a gentle tugging, followed by more of that cool pressure. Connor is pressing something along his palm. Then a hissing sound, warm, and silence.
“Open.” Connor says. He does.
Where there was damage is nothing but the smooth curve of his skin, solid, life-like and uninterrupted.
“That easy, huh?” He says, distractedly, as if there isn’t a sinking, spinning feeling in his core. He lifts his hand gently towards himself, inspecting it cautiously as though he’s expecting it to pop back open. There are faint smudges of Therium down his fingers that have yet to dry.
“That easy.” Connor rebuts.
“Hey, Connor,” Hank says, gaze having drifted away from his own hand. Connor's fingers are all stained blue, smudged in lines and shapes along his skin. Somehow, there's a fingerprint of it on his cheek. “You could use a shower.”
“That won’t be necessary. You know well enough, Therium dries clear to prevent- “
“Connor. Humour me.” Hank says, raising his eyebrows at Connor. A familiar expression saved for personal conversations and teasing. “You’re looking a little dusty over there anyway.”
“Dusty,” Connor responds, indignation painted across his face. “I ensure you I’m not dusty.”
“I beg to differ.” Hank pulls his hands off the table, leaning back, placing them in his lap. He doesn’t particularly want to look at them right now. “Why so early?”
“Hm?” Connor says, busy putting away all his little intricate tools.
“Your shift. We never had early shifts like that. What’s the deal?” Hank elaborates.
Connor looks, again, to be carefully considering his words. Hank thought he’d asked a pretty simple question.
“I have a few meetings to attend. And paperwork to submit.” Connor decides on, zipping up the toolkit. “I can tell you about it when I get home. It’s…. important.”
That will have to be good enough.
Hank is spread across the couch, pinching an old, worn book by the spine when the jingle of Connor’s keys in the door breaks his concentration. He looks up from the words, subconsciously logs the page number he’d left off at, and tosses the novel onto the floor right next to the tv. Some mindless garbage, pulpy, filled with spies and girls and explosions. He can pretend to enjoy it well enough.
“You’ve got some stuff to tell me about, don’t you?” Hank states as Connor slips through the door, closing it quietly behind him. He flicks the deadbolt, checks the knob, and turns to face the Livingroom.
“Always straight and to the point,” Connor responds, hanging his keys on the little hook on the wall. A colourful little coin hangs from them, a tacky souvenir that reads Detroit: City of Liberation! over an engraving of the city’s skyline. They go right next to Hank’s spare set. “Yes, Lieutenant, I did promise some news.”
“Oh wow, you’ve got your business voice on and everything,” Hank says, sitting up and straightening out his old DPD sweatshirt. Connor only calls him that when he’s being sarcastically prim and proper. “Sit down, lay it on me.”
Hank pat-pats the couch next to him, an open invitation, before crossing his arms. Connor, being Connor, walks across the threshold and sits down. He pulls his work bag, a brown, leather messenger, up onto his lap. He folds his hands over it.
“I’ve been in talks with the DPD,” Connor says. “The chief of police, specifically.”
“Oh yeah?” Hank offers. “And what’s all the dazzling conversation about?”
“I’m…” He pauses, blinking, LED circling yellow. “I’ve been advocating for your return. To work.”
Hank does miss the station. He misses his desk. He misses case files, Connor reading them out while he listened intently. He misses late nights pondering over evidence, pouring nips of scotch into his coffee while Connor had his back turned.
At the time, three years ago, he hadn’t really felt the same. When he had retired he had been ready to retire. Tired, not getting any younger, sore, slow. Not exactly the best runner anymore. Couldn’t really keep up with Connor (as if he ever could to begin with, in all honesty). He just hadn’t felt good enough to keep a place there, holding tight to a desk that some young up-and-comer could so easily do better with.
Plus, he didn’t want to hold Connor back. There’d been enough situations where cases or suspects had slipped from their clutches because Hank was just too slow.
But now? Now he feels fine. He feels great. That restless energy that seems to build up under his skin aches for some kind of release, and he can only walk around the house aimlessly so many times a day. It’s getting a little old. He wonders if it’s even possible to un-retire after being legally pronounced dead and brought back as a different species. He figures that if Connor had been able to score meetings with the chief there must be some hope, some small little possibility.
“Okay.” Hank says, after some silent consideration.
“Okay?” Connor repeats.
“Yeah, okay. What are you, my personal parrot?”
Connor just smiles. That little, indistinct expression that tugs at the corners of his lips. The kind that sucks Hank in, makes his world bend, makes the lamps burn brighter around them.
“To clarify, that means you’re interested?” Connor asks, tapping his thumbs together on top of his bag.
“Yeah, you could say that,” Hank responds. “Going more than stir crazy in this damn house. Ran outta things to do two weeks ago.”
But Connor’s little smile is faltering. There’s a moment where he averts Hank’s eyes, letting his gaze dance across the arm of the couch.
“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you that I’ve been doing this. I should have.” He explains, much to Hank’s disbelief. “I… didn’t want you to know I was trying in case it didn’t work out. I didn’t want to disappoint you.”
“Jesus, Connor, no. What?” Hank can’t even try to hide his disbelief. “Are you seriously apologizing for getting me my job back? Christ, you’ve gotta stop with all this guilty shit.”
There’s another pause. Connor still doesn’t look relieved. Hank needs to step it up if he wants that smile back.
“Listen, Connor, I get it. Believe me. I don’t, uhm,” Hank really, really wishes he could sigh right now. “I don’t have a history of taking bad news very well.”
That, most certainly, is no lie.
“Okay.” Connor says. His eyes are back on Hank’s now.
“Okay?” Hank, this time.
“Okay,” Connor finishes. “I’m not sorry.”
The smile is back. Cheeky bastard.
“Fuck you,” Hank says, filled only with fondness. He can't help but smile, too. “Tell me about work.”
This instalment is a bit longer than most, but somehow one of the easiest to write so far. I had a lot of fun with this one.
P.S. Thank you all so much for the hits, kudos and comments! There's nothing more rewarding to me than reading what you guys have to say about this strange, complicated little story.
No content warnings I can think of.
See you later!
Work. An odd concept.
The more Hank has thought about it, the weirder it feels. It’s not like a new job after so many years previously on the force, but it’s not going to be the same, either. It’s exciting, but exciting in that scary, pit-of-your-stomach way. It reminds Hank of walking down the aisle, so, so many years ago. But this way he will at least have something to do with himself.
So, he wakes from Stasis at eight in the morning on a Tuesday in June. He pulls himself over to the side of the bed, plants his feet on the ground, stands. Straightens out his shirt. He’s going back today. To the station. To the DPD. Surreal simply doesn’t cut it.
For the sake of following a routine, Hank decides to shower. He can still do that, at least, thanks to Cyberlife for advancements in waterproofing technology. Of course, he has no natural body oil or odour to get rid of anymore, but dirt certainly can still get on him. So it’s not as though it’s a bad idea to shower. Plus, it still feels nice. He can recognize it as being hot against his skin, sensors politely relaying his external and internal temperatures. Every little drop of water feels like a separate, gentle tap on his back and it’s relaxing in a very primal, human way. He lets himself soak it all in for a while, washes his hair, steps out onto the little goldfish bathmat.
He dresses quickly and automatically like he always did. Hank strategically bought all his clothes to be cross-compatible with each other so that it takes the least amount of mental energy as possible. Today his shirt is blue, covered in little squares of various other, lighter blues. He quite likes this one.
Hank really does enjoy driving, most of the time. He likes the windows cracked in the summer, the breeze blowing around his hair. He likes listening to the shitty little stereo, drumming his fingers on the steering wheel along to the guitar. The way the sun glints off his hood, or how raindrops trickle down in tiny rivers onto the pavement. There’s nothing more satisfying than driving, fast, through a deep puddle and hearing it spray off the back tire.
He thumbs through a little booklet of CDs, flipping between them. He’s in the driver’s seat, waiting for Connor, who’s in his shed. Taking his time picking a tie for the day, getting the knot perfectly right, surely. Today, Hank decides, calls for something on the rougher side of things. He slips out a CD, black and red, zips up the case and pops it in the stereo. There’s that little vzzt sound as it disappears into the console of the car. Hank taps his fingers on the bottom of the wheel out of habit to the drum beats, loud, all sharp symbols and snares. Perfect for such a peaceful morning.
And then Connor is rounding the side of the house, bag over his shoulder, smiling up at the sun. His hair reflects the rays back into the sky. He opens the door, slides in, closes it behind him. His hands curl together on top of the brown leather.
“Red stripes today?” Hank observes, turning the key in the ignition.
“Yes,” Replies Connor, hands drifting up to adjust the tie in question. “I thought the color and pattern were appropriate.”
Hank has no clue what that means, so he doesn’t ask. Instead, He pulls out onto the street while Connor smiles distantly out the dashboard.
The station looms in front of them. To Hank, it looks daunting. Connor isn’t bothered, instead exuding confidence and excitement like he’s exactly where he wants to be. It’s mildly annoying.
As they have gotten closer, the pit in Hank’s stomach has opened like a cavern, waiting patiently for them to drive off into it, landing on sharp rocks fifty feet below. Because Hank has literally come back from the dead. His name is on a list of victims being investigated by the people that he is now going back to work with. The case involving the person that killed him is being picked apart in the building he is about to enter. Daunting is a very, very mild way to put it.
Connor had assured him on the way over that the situation had been explained to everyone. That they won’t all start screaming ghost and pointing fingers once Hank walks through the doors. Hell, he’s not even going to see most of his colleagues today, anyway. Essentially, he's here to sign a novel's worth of paperwork before he can legally reclaim a desk or even think about opening a case file. He’s a walking nightmare for everyone in charge, that’s something he can be sure of.
Fowler has been gone for a few years. He’d left just months before Hank had. Stole his fucking thunder, if you asked him. Not that he’d wanted a big hoo-rah anyway, but the dual “retirement party” had felt a little cheap.
Maybe that’s for the better. Maybe the new guy won’t be so far up his undead ass.
“Hank?” Connor's voice shakes him out of his thoughts.
He realizes he’s standing, not moving, staring through the front doors. He has stopped walking towards them.
“Hank.” Connor insists.
“Yeah,” He clenches his jaw. He is fine, this is nothing, he’s been through bigger shit before and come out just peachy on the other end. “Yeah, I’m coming.”
This time he moves and keeps moving.
The whole place is like he remembers it, from the desks to the Captain’s office to the little glass cells. The break room, stout and small, still smells like old and bitter coffee. Coffee he’s never going to get to taste again. Is that really a loss, though?
Connor leads them in this time. That on its own is weird. He’s used to being followed, being the example, being the familiar face that people recognized even if they didn’t like it much. Now that’s Connor’s role. Connor is the one that everyone knows, that has a purpose here, that has drive, that walks through these doors most days of the week. Hank just has to pretend he feels the same way.
At least it’s all familiar. He knows these floors and walls, could walk them with his eyes closed. Could probably navigate the whole place just by his sense of smell if he needed to.
“Shall we go straight to the Captain’s?” Connor asks.
“Sure as all shit. Speed it up.” Hank responds. They’ve closed the distance between them a little, abandoning single file for shoulder-to-shoulder.
As they walk up the little steps into the glass box of the Captain’s office, he refuses to look around and see who got stuck with the early shift this morning. He needs his nerves for the Captain, doesn’t want to destroy them by seeing how everyone else feels.
“Connor,” Says Mr. New-Guy, pleasantly. “Good morning.”
He’s short, a little stocky, not exactly an intimidating figure. Dark hair, curled. Connor smiles down at him and they shake hands firmly. Hank pulls the door closed behind them.
Another man stands in the corner, hovering behind the Captain’s desk. He himself is thin, tall, vaguely snake-like in a dark pinstripe suit. A lawyer if Hank has ever seen one.
“Lieutenant Anderson,” Directed at him. His attention shifts back to the Captain. “A pleasure.”
Hank shakes the hand being held out to him. The little placard on the desk and the engraving on the glass door had read Cpt. G. Mercado. A good enough name as any.
Mercado’s left hand reaches out. A black ballpoint pen is pinched between two fingers.
It’s a lot of signing. A lot of legal talk. He has a good grasp over it all, but there aren’t really a lot of existing protocols in place in regard to returning from the dead to un-retire from your job, so they have to find loopholes that they can exploit. The lawyer, who later introduces himself as Sam Bishops, is damn good and has managed to amass a collection of pretty convincing legal mumbo-jumbo. In a nutshell, Hank now has his job back starting next week.
So, that was the easy part. Papers signed, hands shook. The new Captain seems well enough of a guy, but Hank hasn’t been able to get a good read off him either way. He seems quick to usher them out of his office which is mildly suspect.
Other than that, there are a lot of looks. Some people he recognizes, though he’d never been buddy-buddy with them enough to be greeted with open arms now. Some people he doesn’t recognize, and they don’t give him a second glance. Miller is around, though he’s switched desks. He looks up, spots Hank, looks back down again like he’s just been slapped across the face. It makes Hank feel like he’s walking through a horror show.
The worst is only yet to begin, he realizes, because Hank can spot Reed from a mile away. Anyone could; the second he walks into a room it’s like the air is sucked out into a black hole. To put it even blunter than that, he’s not a nice guy.
Of course, like everybody else, he’s had to adjust. Nine years is a long time, post-revolution, for a people to get a grip on society. Androids were granted basic constitutional rights. Began earning pay for work. Could rent property. Could sue with legal grounds, eventually. Could open bank accounts and swipe debit cards and walk down the beach just because they wanted to see the sunset over the lake. To put it in more concise terms, if Gavin Reed picked on the wrong motherfucker he could have a lawsuit shoved so far up both his and the department's ass he wouldn’t know what hit him.
But you can’t erase some people, not ever, no matter the human rights in place. So, when Reed spots Connor, plastic detective, and Hank, back from the robo-dead, he swarms like a shark that smells blood in the water.
“Mother fucker, would you take a look at that.”
His is not a voice that brings back a lot of pleasant memories for Hank. He’d hoped to slink by into the freedom of the day but they’re stopped short. Reed is leaning against the doorway into the break room, arms crossed, looking like the world belongs under his shoe sole. Hank is pleased to see there’s gray worming its way through the hair on his temples now.
“Did you two not fucking hear me?” He says, standing up straight. Hank feels like his eyes are going to roll out of their sockets.
“No, how about you say it again?” Hank hardly cares to raise his voice higher than a mumble.
“When I heard you were coming back I hoped they’d make you an obedient little robot,” Reed spits. “Guess It’s not my lucky day.”
Hank doesn’t want to get angry. Really. He doesn’t want his first time stepping back in here to end with a certain someone getting their lights punched out. He is an angelic image of self-restraint when he clenches his jaw shut.
“Lieutenant Anderson, we should be going now. I have errands to run later and I’ll need the car.” Connor offers, trying to buy them an easy out. Hank can’t say he isn’t grateful because it pulls him out of that anger just enough to nod and start walking again.
But life is never that easy, is it?
“Ah- I get it, I get it,” Reed says to their backs as they try to leave. “You’re only programmed to take orders from your little plastic boy toy.”
Hank turns. He’s passed a point of livid so strong it feels like it’s going to boil out of his mouth if he doesn’t punch something now. And he is so ready to that he starts his descent like a steam locomotive, feet moving on their own accord.
But he doesn’t make it there in time.
Connor grabs Reed by the front of his jacket, fingers squeaking on leather, pulls him to the side and smacks his back into the wall. It makes a thunk that sounds at least mildly painful.
“Hey- you get your fucking hands off me-“ Reed spits, but doesn’t get very far, trying to pull (uselessly) at Connor's arms.
“I have to remind you that this station has a zero-tolerance policy for discriminatory behaviour, the definition of which has included protection of Android rights since 2044.”
“And I’m reminding you to back the fuck off- “
Connor raises his voice again, overpowering.
“I will not hesitate to report your behaviour to the Captain and I will pursue a lawsuit against you for unlawful harassment and discrimination in the workplace.”
Reed is quiet. Glowering, furious, absolutely livid, but quiet.
“I hesitate to let you off with anything less than a warning, Detective Reed,” Connor finally lets go of Gavin, stepping back coolly as if nothing had occurred at all. “But today is your lucky day.”
Hank can’t even feel angry anymore because he’s too busy feeling an emotion he can only call holy shit, Connor.
“Lieutenant, shall we?” Connor says, sweet as ever, smiling at Hank like he just won the jackpot of a billion dollars.
Before he can answer, Reed pushes past Connor, shoulders smacking together. He sulks further into the station but Hank sure as shit isn’t watching him.
He’s watching Connor, always Connor, whose hair isn’t even out of place, who meets his eyes and winks.
The second they step out into the sun, Hank is laughing. Laughing because he doesn’t really have any words to fill the silence after seeing something so damn baffling with his own two eyes.
“Jesus, Connor,” He says, shaking his head. “You’re ridiculous.”
“I take it from the jovial tone of your voice that you mean that in a good way.” Conner adds, stepping gently down the stairs, red-striped tie bobbing in the wind.
“Yeah,” Hank sticks his hands in his pockets, trotting down the stairs after him. “I guess I fucking do.”
He considers his words for a moment as they head for the car, speeding up his pace so that they continue on shoulder-to-shoulder.
“You just saved us a whole bunch of trouble, Connor,” There’s a genuine smile gracing his face. “I was ready to punch his lights out. Probably not a good comeback gift, if you ask me.”
Connor hums, adjusting the sleeves of his shirt, white and crisp. Hank presses the FOB of his car keys and unlocks the doors.
“I’m not willing to say that he wouldn’t have deserved it,” He responds. “But it’s of more importance to ensure you don’t get fired before your first shift next week.”
Hank rolls his eyes as they split, on separate sides of his old beater of a car, and slip into their respective seats like they have so many times before.
“I don’t know where you learned this attitude, but zip it before I send you through the windshield.” Hank threatens emptily, only with good intentions.
“From the best.” His partner replies, clicking in his seatbelt.
Connor’s smile makes Hank’s head spin.
Have been a bit busy the past couple of days so this one took a little longer than usual. Sorry about that!
Brief content warning for talking about death in this chapter. Nothing we haven't seen before.
Also, did you know that Hank is short for Henry? I had no idea.
See you later!
He’s reading. Intently.
Still reading. Mid-helicopter chase scene.
There’s a shuffling of pages as Hank slaps his book down on the couch cushion next to him.
“Connor,” He relents, squinting over in his direction. “What?”
“I’ve decided to take on a new responsibility.” Says Connor from beside the TV, hands clasped behind his back.
“Great,” Replies Hank. “Why is this more important to me than my book?”
There’s a pause of hesitation. Connor blinks, looking from the carpet to the couch to the television.
“Because I want an aquarium and have no spare room in the shed. I wanted your permission to set it up in the Livingroom where we can both enjoy it.” He smiles.
“An aquarium. Like a fish tank.” Hank says, officially distracted from his novel.
“Do you know how to do that?”
“Are you gonna clean it?”
“Do I gotta come with you?”
Hank has no idea why he lets Connor do these things.
Pet stores also stick with those buzzy fluorescent lights, much to Hank’s displeasure. Unlike the grocery store, however, it feels like a ghost town. Apparently, not many people have an urgent need for dog food or hamster bedding at eight PM. It makes Hank feel more than stupid to be here so late at night for actual, honest-to-god fish. It doesn’t help that he has to shake the feeling of sadness worming its way through his chest at the sight of all the merchandise. He misses his dog. Sumo. He misses Sumo, who has been gone for just under five years. Now isn't the time for that, though, and he moves on.
The tanks themselves are surprisingly pleasant. They glow blue and green, dancing across laminate floors and tile ceilings. Little darts of colour dance around inside of them, circling. It’s peaceful in a way that Hank doesn’t fully understand.
Connor is enamoured. It’s always interesting to watch him, to see his reactions and dispositions to various things in his environment. It draws Hank in, more interesting than television, than his shitty collection of action-packed novellas. The little blue LED reflects gently into the glass as he peers into a tank filled with tetras. They dance around the water, back and forth, and Connor’s eyes follow them. There’s the faint impression of a smile on his lips, distracted but pleased. It makes Hank want to watch him forever, wondering how in gods name he’s supposed to pick out fish when the lights are dancing so gently across Connor’s features. It’s impossible.
“I like these,” Connor says, tapping his finger softly against the glass. “They’re full of colour. And energy.”
Hank crosses his arms, squinting at the little blue and red fish.
“Sure,” He replies, turning his attention elsewhere. The wall of tanks is a bit overwhelming. “Those are good.”
Connor stands, prying his gaze away from the water. He turns his head, looking over at Hank. The expression on his face is bemused.
“I get the impression that you’re not very invested in this process.”
Hank crosses his arms, frowning.
“Wasn’t my idea,” He offers in explanation. “I don’t get fish. Can’t touch them. Can’t play with them. What’s the point?”
Connor tilts his head a little, looks from Hank’s face back to the rows of tanks. He steps forward after a moment of consideration, raises his hand, dips his fingertip gently into the water’s surface. The little cloud of fish approaches timidly, swirling. A few brave soldiers dart forward, nipping experimentally at Connor’s finger.
He looks up, pleased, to Hank. The smile on his face is what comes up under smug in the dictionary. Hank can only roll his eyes, bewildered, and take a step back.
They get two baggies of fish, various colours, patterns and shapes. A third bag holds a plant, bobbing in the water, reflecting green. Connor picked most, but Hank insisted on one. White, slender, speckled with black dots. A little smile on its face. It reminds him of Connor.
Now, in the car, they look fragile. Vulnerable. Darting back and forth in disorganized lines, their images warped through the plastic as Connor holds them protectively in his lap. Despite Hank claiming not to care about something as insignificant as fish, he finds himself carefully avoiding potholes and hard stops to make sure the water doesn’t slosh around too roughly.
He carries the tank in for Connor when they get home, vocalizing that he’s still most certainly not going to help with setting it up.
It’s a thirty gallon, sizeable, that goes on top of a useless wood table that’s just aching to have a purpose in the back of Hank’s living room. Hank sits sideways on the couch, peering over the back, resting his head in the palm of his hand. He watches Connor start fiddling with the supplies, the boxes, the bag of orange coloured rocks. Hank’s favourite colour.
He doesn’t know how or when he enters Stasis. He didn’t think it could just happen, figured it required him to go through the usual command prompt process. But, here he is. Stasis.
It’s dark only for a few moments. Peaceful and quiet. Hank takes a second in this silence to relax and soak all the nothingness in. Then he crashes his own party.
Black fades to white, bright and hot on his senses, and he sucks air into his lungs. Blows out through his nose. Angry. Stupid. This time he doesn’t have to listen for footsteps, because other-Hank is already there, standing across from him with his arms crossed. He looks nervous.
“I know what you’re thinking,” Other-Hank says. “So I’ll just get right into it.”
Hank doesn’t believe that, taking another deep breath. No one, not even himself, could know the mental spirals he’s running through in his mind. He feels like he’s shaking but has no way to tell if that’s true or not.
“Don’t believe me, eh? Could have expected that.” Other-Hank looks off into the white. “Doesn’t matter.”
Hank is scared, and he doesn’t really understand why. It’s the opposite of peace, of dark, of quiet. His body screams at him to move but, as per usual, he can’t
“Listen to yourself for once, okay? Don’t have a lot of time here.”
“You probably think I’m just some crazy dream. You were right the first time, though, code doesn’t dream. Ask Connor, he knows. This,” He gestures to the negative space around them. “Is all real, Hank. I can talk to you here if I try really damn hard.”
Hank tries to say something. Tries to make the words choke their way out of his throat, but he can’t. He can only breathe, hot and rough and panicked.
“I’m dead. I mean, you know that,” He waves his hand in dismissal “Only difference between us is I ended up in some kind of afterlife. You didn’t. Don’t know why. I got about as much information as you do.”
Hank feels like he’s going to shake apart. It’s not that static feeling, but it’s close. It’s physical, all across his body. It reminds him of being fever-sick as a child. He’s listening, but the information is making him feel like he’s sinking into a cold, dark lake.
“It’s important you understand that,” He looks himself in the eyes. “A fucking part of us ended up… moving on, or something. I won the coin toss, you got left behind.”
Other-Hank shifts, sighing, uncrossing his arms with a shrug of his shoulders.
“Wish I could tell you why. I just don’t know.”
The static pops, suddenly, in Hank’s head. It feels like someone turning on an old TV in the middle of the night, full volume, while he sleeps peacefully. It hurts, stings, pain he doesn’t get to feel anymore when he’s awake.
Other-Hank’s face drops, disappointed, sad. His lips are parted like words hang there, but they struggle to make it out.
"Tell him I miss him." Hank hears, briefly, as the explosion between his temples increases.
The white snaps away like it was never even there.
He wakes up, jarringly, without the usual morning greeting. The pain is gone but the ghost of it lingers, tingling, like feathers inside his head.
Connor is hovering above him, looking down, hands curled anxiously together.
“Hank,” He says, looking him in the eyes. Hank has to blink away the last impressions of the dream. “You were talking. In stasis.”
Connor looks scared, concerned, cautious. A mix of conflicting emotions. It makes Hank feel bad for putting those feelings there, for making Connor anything less than happy. After everything, he still just wants him to be happy. He sits up.
“I’m fine,” Hank says, half for himself. “I’m fine.”
He’s not so sure that that’s completely true.
Connor turns, walks, and perches himself next to him on the couch. There’s the faint squeak of old springs. Hank himself sits still, thinking, palms splayed wide on the cushions on either side of him. He’s working hard to process such a sudden intrusion into his life, the information, trying to decipher what is true and what is not. What he believes. The afterlife, he’d said to himself. The afterlife that he had made it to, while the current Hank sits in fear on his old couch. It’s dizzying, a mixture of thoughts that seems to overwhelm him from all angles. Like being wrapped in a thick, hot blanket, pressing in heavily on every inch of his skin. Maybe that’s why Connor's cold hand ghosting the top of his own scares him so badly.
Hank pulls away like he’s been burned, clutching his palm to his chest. Connor raises his own hand, taken aback, sorrowful. When Hank’s brain catches up to his body, he looks over and sees his partner looking like he’s just been slapped across the face.
Again, the guilt is overwhelming, swamping, thick in the air around him. He just hadn’t been expecting touch, had been sucked so deep into his own thoughts that he forgot about the world around him. It had startled him.
Hank would do anything to make Connor stop looking like that. So, he reaches impulsively, grabs the hand that hovers next to his own, pulls it down to the cushion between them in one shaky motion. Their hands are cool, fingers slotted together. When Hank is expecting it, this time, it slows him down. Turns the flurry of thoughts rushing through his head to molasses.
His grip is tight, but Connor doesn’t seem to mind. There’s such sweet relief on his features that makes Hank never want to let go.
“Sorry.” He says, voice wavering.
Connor smiles, so bright, so enthralling, even though it’s hardly a quirk of his lips. The worry is still there, but with none of the hurt.
The aquarium is impressive, much like everything else Connor does. The plant glows a peaceful green as the lights dance through the water, reflective, shimmering. The fish do their little lines and circles, happily stretching their boundaries in a new space. They both sit on the floor and watch them, leaning against the back of the couch, heads angled up. The ceiling lights and lamps are all off, painting the rest of the house in darkness. Hank spots his Connor-fish, swimming from right to left. It turns, reflecting light off a single scale.
“I think you were right.” Hank says, distractedly. Connor turns his head to face him.
“I don’t know what you mean.” He replies, voice quiet.
“About this,” Hank gestures towards the tank, the fish, the clouds of moving colour. “It’s nice. Would be nicer if you could pet them, but nice.”
It draws another smile out of Connor, which Hank watches and soaks himself in. It seems to light up the rest of the house in a cool, calm glow.
It scares Hank, deeply in his chest, how content he would be to sit here forever.
I started this chapter without the intention of making it the last. However, it all seemed to flow together (accidentally) and I ended up with this amalgamation. I don't want to add any filler, so I'm letting this be the final instalment.
Of part one!
There will be a second part to this story. I am brainstorming it as we speak. I just can't seem to let this narrative or these characters go, so be on the lookout for that.
Thank you all so much for getting this to where it is now. Without your comments and encouragement, I never would have made it this far. I hope you enjoy this temporary little finale and I look forward to continuing this with you all very soon.
“It’s been a month.”
Connor’s words, sudden and quiet, draw Hank’s attention. They’ve pulled out some dusty old puzzle from the back of his bedroom closet and the pieces are dumped haphazardly on the kitchen table.
“Yeah,” Hank replies. He has a corner piece pinched between his fingers. “Guess it has.”
His eyes dart up to Connor, briefly distracted from their project. He looks uncomfortable, fingertips drumming against the table, gaze averted.
“A contract was signed with Cyberlife,” Connor says. “When you were…”
He waits a few seconds for Connor to finish. He doesn’t.
“Right. Okay, what contract? What does that mean?”
“The nature of the prototype technology means that Cyberlife is invested in its performance,” He finally mutters, shoulders turning inwards just so slightly. One of Connor’s many little quirks that Hank deciphers like a unique language. “They require monthly data reports for their analysis. To further understand how it's working, if there are errors or inconsistencies. How you’re… adapting.”
“What do you mean, Connor, what kind of report?” Hank presses, urging Connor onwards.
“Electronic. You can send them yourself.”
There's a beat of silence between them.
“…You said data. What does that even mean? My memories?” Hank asks, not sure he wants the answer.
“No, not really,” Connor shakes his head, looking forlorn. “More like physical data records. For example; temperature readouts, Therium regulation and emotional reports. Starting with when you were first initialized.”
It makes Hank angry again. He understands the basic premise, that Cyberlife could make a shitload of coin with this whole consciousness-transfer bullshit for people that actually want it. That they would want to ensure that it's working correctly. But he isn’t some data-mine for them to look through. This isn’t some test, some experiment. It’s him. He is him, as he has always been, whether he’s collecting data now or not.
Hank doesn’t want anyone else to see through his own eyes. He doesn’t want anyone, especially some scrawny tech-nerd in some lab, to know him like that. It makes him sick.
“You said contract.” Hank says, dropping the little puzzle piece he’s holding onto the pile.
“Yes.” Connor replies.
“Legally binding? I have to do this?” He asks. There’s a dread deep within his chest.
Silence. The tap-tap of Connor’s fingers on the table.
“To the best of my knowledge, yes. They wouldn’t let me go through with it otherwise.”
“And, out of curiosity, what happens if I say fuck no?”
“I don’t know,” Connor pulls his hands back, places them in his lap. “I’m sorry.”
Hank leans back in his chair. It creeks sadly beneath him.
“That’s it? That’s all they want? Don’t wanna hear it from me face to face, would rather have some fucking lines of code to pick at?” The words boil out of him like an unwatched pot.
“Yes,” Connor says. His face changes, just slightly, something shifting in his eyes and jaw that Hank doesn’t recognize. A new word added to the lexicon of Connor. “They just want the data.”
He looks mad. That’s what it is. Genuine upset, anger, something so rare for Connor that it has actually thrown Hank for a loop.
Somehow, it’s a relief. It makes Hank feel better, that Connor recognizes this as the bullshit it is, can understand to some extent how impersonal it seems. It makes him feel well enough that it pushes the next question out of his mouth.
“How?” He asks.
“How?” Connor responds, eyes connecting with his briefly.
“I don’t know how,” Hank says, shrugging, still angry. But relenting. “You do.”
Connor just nods.
“I do,” He reinforces. Something about him looks uncomfortable, like he’s bracing for an impact. Hank hopes he’s not the source of that impact. “Can I show you?”
He holds out his hand. The skin is pale, freckled, creased. So real.
Hank knows what that means. He has seen Connor do this with other Androids many times like its no big deal, and each time it's surprised the hell out of him that something like that is even possible. Now it’s being directed at him, an open invitation. He remembers, fleetingly, when he had first woken up and Connor had shown him everything. So fast.
He reaches out and connects their hands, palm to palm. Briefly, he sees white creeping across their fingers. There’s a spark in his chest, sharp, and then… wow.
Hank can feel Connor in his own mind. He can feel a prodding, a searching, a presence secondary to his own consciousness. His code being thumbed through, faster than he should be able to keep track of. Flashes of numbers, colours, symbols. A single set of lines that don’t mean much to him until they’re highlighted, bright yellow across black, taking up his vision.
He interprets it, somehow, knows what all those little numbers correlate to. It’s how. He knows how.
Connor retreats, and he can feel everything fall back into place. Can feel information being brushed by, some touched, some ignored. And then he’s back to being him, alone. It leaves him empty.
Their hands slip apart, slowly. Unfortunately, Hank has to watch as his skin returns in a rippling wave, running over his knuckles, curling across his fingertips. It’s a blessing that he’s so distracted, otherwise it would be much harder for him to process.
Now Hank knows where that minuscule line of code is, doesn’t have to look for it, just picks it out of that highlighted spot in his mind. The yellow is fading but he can remember it for himself now.
“Connor?” He says, though his voice feels far away.
“That was fucking insane.”
He follows the code. Follows the instructions. Runs it through his programming. If he’s going to do this he’s going to get it over with ASAP.
Cyberlife Report Completed
Thank you for your Cooperation
The puzzle is finished within twenty minutes. It’s startlingly easy with two Androids using their programmed spatial recognition skills.
Hank doesn’t feel as lost as he once had.
The sun feels different on his back, warming through his shirt, but pleasant. Much like everything has been so far, all different from how he remembers it being but still there. Like looking through a pair of sunglasses. The lights are duller, but they hurt him less.
He never really was the kind of guy to spend time outside when he could be indoors. Often times it was either too hot, too cold or too bright on his pressing hangover. Now he doesn’t have to worry about any of those things. A freak snowstorm could blow through Detroit and he wouldn’t feel much different than if he went sunbathing in Los Angeles. Besides that creeping tingle, some internal recognition of hot and cold, he is always perfectly comfortable.
So, he follows Connor outside when he decides to plant some little flower seeds in the backyard. It’s his day off, and Connor never sits still, so he makes his own projects and endeavours around the house. Hank can’t say he minds; it’s nice to have someone around that gives a shit about what the property looks like. It keeps him in check.
They don’t even have lawn chairs out back, no use for them. So, it means Hank has to sit down on the grass, but he doesn’t really mind that, either. It tickles the undersides of his palms, which are pressed to the ground behind him to hold himself up. He kind of wishes he could still smoke. Now would be the kind of time he would pull out the wrinkled little pack from under his bed.
“What did you say those were, again?” Hank asks.
Connor is kneeling down over a patch of bare dirt, holding a little cultivator, dragging it through the soil. Aerating it in preparation for plants.
“They’re Astilbe flowers. Of the purple variety.” He responds, switching out the tool for a bowl of brown, rooted masses. Bulbs, as Connor had called them earlier.
Hank knows nothing about gardening, but he nods along anyway as Connor does his thing.
In general, even though Hank hesitates to admit it to himself, he feels okay. Maybe even pretty good, right now. A rare thing even when he was still alive.
He has his first shift tomorrow. Starts at 8. Earlier than he’d ever been scheduled to come in in the past fifteen years, but it’s not such a big deal anymore. He has nothing to hold him at home for hours, struggling to get out of bed, fighting through his own psyche. Time hardly has a meaning anymore without sleep, just dictating when stores close and when the sun comes up.
Hank flexes his fingers in the grass, looks up at the sky, whose light doesn’t burn his eyes. He blinks. There are clouds creeping in from the left, hinting at rain. He hopes Connor’s flowers will be okay even if they get poured on so soon. Not that he cares, of course. Not at all.
Connor suggests to him that they should both enter Stasis before tomorrow. That it will help ensure that Hank reduces stress to his systems and can perform general maintenance so that he will run optimally during the day. It all blows directly over Hank’s head as he decidedly doesn’t listen to a word of it beyond enter Stasis.
It did, in fact, end up raining, and the cool air wafts in through Hank’s open bedroom window. There’s the faint pitter-patter of raindrops on the grass outside. The bedsheets and crisp, blue, and freshly laundered. It all makes Hank feel like he should be tired. The closest he can get is calm, and he is certainly very calm.
Connor had followed him into the bedroom despite never asking or mentioning his intentions to. That’s just fine with him, though. It feels nicer to know that there’s someone to wake up to. Stasis is a little nerve-wracking now. He never knows what to expect from it.
So, they lay on the bed. Hank is in the sheets, pulled up to his chest, arms bare so he can feel the breeze through the window. Connor isn’t, opting to lay across the bedding, watching the ceiling tiles that are severed by lines of moonlight. There’s a clattering noise, the sound of the blinds tapping against each other.
Hank goes. He enters Stasis with his fingers crossed, tightly, on both hands. He just wants to be in the dark.
But he is not a lucky man. He has never been a lucky man.
The white is a little less sharp, this time, doesn’t quite cut into his head like it had previously. As per the usual routine, he takes a deep breath, savouring it, feeling the air deep in his lungs. He misses breathing, in some weird, forlorn way.
Other-Hank looks apprehensive. It’s so weird to see himself, just standing there, arms crossed. How Hank thinks he should look. The Hank that he expects, sometimes, to see in the mirror, but never does.
They stand in a tense, white silence. It feels cold here, this time. It makes Hank shiver, deep and to the core. He wishes he had his sweatshirt, and realizes that’s a silly thing to be thinking about in this moment. There are certainly more pressing issues to attend to.
And, suddenly, other-Hank looks up. Connects their eyes. It feels like he’s looking right through him, through them both, through himself. His irises are such a bright, brilliant blue; a blue his eyes had never naturally been.
“Cole's here.” Other-Hank says, simply.
Now he’s afraid. Now he’s shaking again, like last time.
“I know you don’t like thinking about him,” He says, still looking with those piercing blue eyes. “But eventually I had to say this. You deserve to know.”
The saddest, smallest smile.
“We were right,” He says, shrugging. “There’s something here after all. Cole went to it. My part of us did too. Or whatever, like I said, fuck if I know how any of this works.”
Hank has so many things pressing inside his throat. He has questions. Many, many questions. None of them can be said, and instead just well up like a hot, iron rod in his chest. It hurts, deeply, burning.
“Maybe that’ll give you some closure. Maybe not. I hope so, at least. Last time I’m gonna get to talk to you here, so you better think about that long and hard.”
There’s another heavy pause. It feels like there’s a vice crushing Hank’s entire body.
“I got one last thing for you, Hank, before you go,” He shifts his weight from one foot to another. “It’s about Connor. Probably not a big surprise.”
Other-Hank steps closer. His shoes make no noise against the white floor. He doesn’t cast a shadow behind him as he walks. There’s hardly a foot between them by the time he stops his advance, and he seems to bring that heavy weight along with him. It’s so strong Hank feels like he’s going to snap and collapse in on himself in one big, final moment. A moment that kills him for real.
“No matter what, we’re not happy. We aren’t… I don’t know, destined for happiness. Connor ruined it,” He is smiling, though, as he says this. “Because I miss that son of a bitch. Bad. So think of it this way; I get to be here. I get to be with Cole. You don’t, and that sucks a shitload, but you get Connor.”
Other-Hank prods his chest, which he feels.
“You’ve got a responsibility here,” There’s a beat of silence. Other-Hank looks off into the nothingness, like he’s thinking carefully about what words to say. “There’s a lot I regret. You know that. You don’t know what I’ve figured out about those nine years with Connor, though. So I’ll just tell you this,”
He takes a deep, long breath. It comes out smoothly, slowly.
“I wish we’d used those nine years better. Didn’t think that was all we were gonna get. Now you, you plastic prick, you get to make that right. Better not disappoint me.” He steps back silently, the faintest ghost of a smile on his face.
Again, a long, deep silence fills the space around them. Hank doesn’t think that this weird, other incarnate of him can even feel it.
“I’m gonna go be with our son now, Hank.” He says. He is smiling, this time, for real. “You live up to your part of the deal. You go be with him.”
There is no static. No loud intrusion, no pain, no discomfort. Just a slow, gradual fade, the whiteness dimming, going out like a candle that’s burned down to the bottom of its wick.
He watches his own face as he leaves, smiling, with sadness just beyond his eyes. Blue eyes.
And then he is awake.
If Hank thought that the last dream was a shock to his system, then this one is like sticking a fork in a toaster.
Unknown System Error
Please Perform a Systems Diagnostic to Scan for Inconsistencies
Hank shakes that away, doesn’t matter, he doesn’t care. His skin is tingling all over, like he’s just been thrown into a bucket of ice.
He has no idea what to do. No idea how to process anything anymore. He feels raw, open, empty, cold.
There are hands on him, on his arm, and he doesn’t pull away this time. Instead, he just sits up, slowly, bracing himself on the fresh sheets. He looks over and, obviously, Connor is there. He’s perched next to Hank, legs folded beneath himself, worried. His hair is out of place, falling loosely to one side. A strand sticks up in the back, endearing, imperfect. There’s a red blinking on his right temple.
“Hank,” He says, lip wavering. Another expression in the Connor vocabulary, definition; worry. “What happened?”
Maybe it’s the fear, The pseudo-adrenaline running through his systems, but Hank doesn’t stop the words that fall from him. Doesn’t even try, doesn’t even care if they make sense.
“Do you dream?” He asks. Connor looks perplexed, but answers.
“No. I can’t.” Is the response. It only makes Hank feel worse, even though he already knew.
They get ready together in the morning. Connor hovers, watching, clearly apprehensive. He’s worried about Hank, despite Hank’s insistence that he was and is okay. Again, he’s not sure if that’s true or not.
A few hours is a long time to think, though, and Hank feels a little more grounded now as he’s picking out his shirt. He goes for stripes, three different shades of green. A classic.
He doesn’t know how to feel. He still isn’t sure if the white room is actually a reality or his own projections, but for all intents and purposes, in this moment, it feels like it happened. He has a gut intuition that even his own damaged psyche isn’t capable of whisking up something so convoluted.
Hank thinks about Cole. Maybe, if there really is some version of himself that gets to see his son again, then that’s okay. He’s always going to miss him, always going to ache with that loss. There’s no way around it. But if Cole doesn’t have to miss him, if it’s all true, then maybe that ache doesn’t have to be so sharp. Maybe he can take solace in that for what it’s worth. What choice does he have, anyway?
He has to wrap it all up, though, because It’s about time for them to head out. He enjoys the feeling of the damp air on his arms where he has rolled up his sleeves, as per usual, as they step out the front door. He is so glad that he can still feel. Experimentally, he tosses his keys from one hand to the other, judging the weight of them, listening to the jingle of metal-on-metal.
Hank looks over his shoulder at Connor as he locks up the house. His profile, the line of his jaw, his eyes, bright and warm. He looks at him and thinks that, maybe, it’s okay. That he would miss the hell out of Connor. That there is something grounding him here, calling to him, an unfinished business that nestles in his chest.
That he isn’t ready to leave Connor behind.
They drive to work together, tires splashing rain-puddles behind them, to music that Connor picks out from their collection of outdated CD’s, and it is nice.
Hank thinks that, in their own ways, they both lost the coin toss, because he can't imagine going somewhere that Connor couldn't follow.