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earth is warmer when you laugh

Chapter Text

It’s going to be fine, you repeat in your head. Nothing to be nervous about.

You stared at the tall, imposing building in front of you for few more minutes before finally taking a shaky step forward. It was natural to be nervous of course. Moving across the country to a city full of unrest was perhaps not the smartest decision you’ve ever made but a hunger to prove yourself drove you forward regardless.

Detroit was different from Seattle.

Perhaps it was the sentimentality—or lack thereof—that made Detroit seem more familiar and welcoming even with the rain and the clouds. You didn’t mind the more rustic, dreary feeling to this place. Seattle had been nothing more than a place for bad memories and Detroit was a new beginning. A new chance.

You approached the Detroit City Police Department with no small amount of trepidation. You knew no one in this building, and apart from Captain Fowler who you met two days ago, no one in the city either. But even though you were nervous about your new job and new life, you couldn’t help but think that this was what true freedom tasted like.

With that thought in mind, you walked through the automatic doors that led you into the reception area. The area was a small beehive of activity with both humans and androids filling the empty space. You approached the reception desk where you noticed a young woman and a male android seated. The closer you got to them the clearer woman’s words became.

“You’re the reason my best friend lost her job, you metal freak,” she whispered harshly, venom soaking her every word. “Do you think that I will let that pass? No, I will not. You’re not even human. Y-You’re nothing, you hear me? Nothing.”

The android continued typing on the computer as if he couldn’t hear the woman, but from your side, you could see his indicator flashing a wild beat of blue and yellow. An erratic, out of tune beat of colour that seemed to show his distress even though his face remained impassive.

“Excuse me,” you cut in sharply, taking no small amount of joy from the way the woman jumped in her seat. “I am here to see Lieutenant Hank Anderson? I’ve been newly assigned as his assistant.”

The woman immediately wiped the scowl off her face, “Welcome to Detroit—”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” you interrupted her with a wide, sweet smile on your face. “I was asking your colleague here.”

The android lifted his head, his indicator finally settling down to a more steady blue light. “Welcome to the Detroit City Police Department,” he began cooly, “Please place your palm against the scanner so we may confirm your identity.”

You did as he asked, ignoring the harsh glare the woman levelled on your face.

“What’s your name?” you asked after a moment of silence.

The android turned his gaze to you and after a moment of silence replied with a soft, “My assigned name is Bob.”

“Bob?” you repeated slowly, amusement tickling the back of your throat. “That’s a nice name.”

The scanner peeped then, and you saw your profile and picture appear on the computer screen before Bob.

“Thank you Miss (Name),” he replied, sharply nodding his head, expression the same impassive mask. “Lieutenant Anderson has requested that you meet him in his division which is located on the sixth floor. You will find the elevator on your right. Your identification card will be passed along to you by the end of the day. Is there anything else I can help you with?”

Ignoring the slightly mechanical delivery of his words, you grinned at him, “No, thank you Bob. That’s very kind. I’ll see you around.”

Completely ignoring the woman next to Bob whose face had at this point turned an ugly shade of red, you swept towards the elevator hurriedly. The last thing you wanted to do was give your new boss a bad first impression by being late.

Entering the small, metal cubicle, you pressed the glowing 6 button, immensely grateful that the space was empty. Fiddling nervously with your jacket zipper, you almost missed an exclamation of, “Please hold the door.”


 

Instinctively, you jammed your hand between the closing doors before they shut. A figure smoothly stepped in a second later his steps almost inaudible.

Tall—was the first thought that came to mind. The second was a mix between Android and Silent. You noted the crisp RK800 stitched on his jacket and mentally ran through all the familiar android models that you knew.

RK800 did not sound familiar at all. Nor had you ever heard of such serial used before.

He slid next to you silently, a motion much smoother than you were used to seeing from others of his kind.

Upgrade? New model? Prototype?

Mentally running through all the possibilities, you glanced at him from the corner of your eye. He was definitely tall—a lithe yet compact build that was perfect for mobility—and dark hair. It was a rich colour that seemingly couldn’t decide between black and brown, blending into something richer than either. His skin was pale from what little you could see, although from this angle you could barely see his face.

“Thank you for holding the door.”

You jumped slightly at his voice. It was low and smooth, no doubt designed to bring comfort and put people at ease. It was surprisingly effective when you realized your curved shoulders relaxed marginally. He turned towards you, having to look down to meet your gaze. His face was symmetrical in that perfect way most androids were designed to be. His brown eyes were a familiar dark shade; almost reminiscent of his rich hair colour. Only when he turned towards you did you notice a loose strand of hair brushing against his forehead.

“You’re welcome,” you replied gently, a small grin twisting your mouth. “It’s no problem.”

His brows furrowed for a moment as if he was confused by something before he nodded—just once, a surprisingly casual gesture when compared to Bob’s earlier manner—and turned back to face the elevator door.

For a few seconds, there was only silence between you and the awkward elevator music. Then, in the same casual manner, he slid his hand in one of his pockets taking something out. He only fiddled with the item for a few moments before he began twisting it between his long fingers.

A coin, you realized with wonder. You weren’t aware that androids could grow attached to physical objects to a point they would carry them on person. The pattern escalated until the android began flipping the coin effortlessly between his fingers; the movement quick and skilful to a point it appeared like a blur. The sharp effortlessness of his moves was breathtaking as the coin travelled from hand to hand, finger to finger. It looped graceful arcs before coming to a sharp stop between his open fingers.

His gaze was silent and intent as he stared at you. You’ve been so focused on his little performance that you hadn’t realized how blatantly you were staring. Embarrassment tore through you quickly and ruthlessly.

“S-Sorry,” you began quickly, “I didn’t mean to stare.”

He didn’t reply, easily flipping the coin in the air before catching it in his open palm and closing his fingers around it.

“That was really good,” you told him mildly.

Still holding the coin in his fist, he turned to you—fully this time—and blinked a few times. The furrow between his brows was back and his indicator flickered for a brief moment as if he was analyzing the situation.

“Thank you,” was his mellow reply. “It appears introductions are in order. My name is Connor.”

Lips parting, you bobbed your head a few times in reply, “I’m (Name). It’s nice to meet you.”

He inclined his head curiously, and flipped the coin in the air again. You watched the quick descent of the silver before he caught it mid-air again. He stared at the coin in his hand for a second or two.

“I know your name.”

You blinked unsurely, “You do?”

“One of my advanced features allows me to scan faces and identify them,” he explained in a slow, blunt manner. “It is a useful skill during investigations.”

“So you scanned my face and knew who I was?” you concluded after a moment. His own features seemed to harden at your question, a harsher line accenting his jaw, and he flipped the coin again. Your eyes immediately followed the journey once more, fascinated by the small, seemingly insignificant object.

“Indeed,” he responded. “That’s how I know you’ve been assigned to work with myself and Lieutenant Hank. Assigning another member only a few days after I joined is surprising, however.”

“You—”

Relief bloomed in your chest and you exhaled sharply, a happy grin crossing your face. “That’s amazing! I was so worried I would be the only fish out of the water so to speak, but now it’s easier that I know there’s someone else new. And we’re on the same team? That’s really—”

You trailed off, your smile crumbling when you noticed the same quiet and intent way he was observing you. Clearing your throat hurriedly, you turned your gaze away, once again focusing on the coin between his fingers. It wasn’t that he made you uncomfortable but it was unnerving for someone to look at you and really see you. Connor’s gaze seemed capable of exactly that.

Not just looking your way to be polite, but a laser focus on every single detail. There was a vast difference between being looked at and being seen.

“It is understandable that you feel uneasy in such unfamiliar circumstances.”

Your eyes flew back to his face and you gave him a shaky smile followed by a shallow nod. He flipped the coin again and you felt your curiosity get the better of you.

“Could I see it please? If you don’t mind?”

Every motion suddenly froze and Connor’s fingers locked around the coin in a vice grip, tight and unyielding; the same sharpness returning to his features. He paused, seemingly unsure, before slowly turning towards you again. Immediately feeling both stupid and rude, you tried to backpedal.

“Sorry—it’s your property. You don’t have to show it to me if you don’t want to,” you stumbled out hurriedly. The last thing you wanted was to start on the wrong foot with your new coworker. Regardless of whether it was human or not.

His indicator fluttered a brief, bright yellow before settling into a more familiar blue. He opened his mouth but before any words could escape him the elevator door opened with a muted ding.

For few seconds neither of you moved. People milled around the large open room with multiple tables but no one seemed to have noticed the two of you yet. Connor flexed his jaw in a subtle manner before finally pocketing the coin without another word.

He inclined his head towards the door in a polite manner before saying, “Please, after you.”

You only allowed yourself another moment to gather your thoughts and mentally regroup before you brushed past him, the fabric of his jacket brushing briefly against your arm. You felt bad about speaking out like that even though you were more than aware that he likely felt nothing negative towards you. Still, the coin was clearly important to him.

Stepping out the elevator you paused, turning to glance at him over your shoulder.

“Coming?” you called shyly with a small grin. A subtle peace offering.

For a second—a brief moment in eternity—he appeared taken aback, almost surprised. Like someone taking the time to enquire after him, wanting him to come as well was the most unbelievable thing to happen in their vast, impossible world.

“Yes, I’m coming,” he replied lowly.

And you smiled widely when he joined your side. 

Chapter Text

“Lieutenant’s desk is this way.”

Immensely grateful for the guidance, you quickly followed Connor as he led you deeper into the office space. Unfortunately, you were not oblivious to glares and cold looks directed his way when he walked past.

Perhaps it was understandable. Connor was clearly the first of his kind; in a sense that he was directly involved with investigations, an unheard of feat for any android. While police did use androids for general work being so involved with cases clearly made people uneasy, and with that unease came distrust and anger.

Nevertheless, the idea of people treating their computers or phones with more respect than androids made anger boil in your veins. Androids may not be humans—not in a physical, tangible sense—but they were still alive, and deserved at least some measure of respect.

“Lieutenant Anderson,” Connor’s voice rang out as he halted before a desk, causing you to almost bump into him. “This is your newest assistant (Name).”

You glanced over his slim shoulders to look at the man seated behind a desk. He looked weathered, his grey hair unkempt and beard untrimmed. A crushing sort of weight seemed to weight him down, the slumped set of his shoulders rising briefly as if he tried to fight off irritation.

The man finally lifted his head, bright blue eyes narrowing upon spotting Connor before sliding slowly towards you. His bloodshot eyes narrowed even further, accenting the deep bags under his eyes.

It was as you stared at the deep age lines on his face that you realised something absolutely ridiculous.

He’s completely hungover.

Taking a step forward, you extended your hand towards the man, shooting Connor a quick glance. He appeared unsurprised by the state of their supervisor and observed your interaction with mild interest.

“It’s pleasure to meet you, Lieutenant,” you began, “My name is (Name). I hope to learn much under your command.”

Anderson looked you up and down without taking your hand, “Oh yes, Seattle’s youngest and brightest,” he stated voice full of disdain. “How old are you anyway kid?”

Letting your hand fall, you stared at the man in front of you incredulously. Ignoring his judgemental stare you replied with a slight smile, “Age is no guarantee of efficiency,” you told him before adding, “sir.”

Anderson snorted, bending down to his work again; a clear dismissal that stung more than you expected. You’ve been so excited to work with this man. He was a high profile detective, or had been, once, before alcohol clearly unmade him like it did so many others.

“My age does not reflect my ability, sir,” you explained hastily, “If you would just listen—”

“No kid, you listen,” Anderson cut you off. “It’s bad enough they forced this tin can on me, now some rookie from Seattle? I don’t care if you think you’re some big shot over there, okay? Here you do what I say and we take it from there. Understood?”

“Yes, Lieutenant Anderson,” you acknowledged coolly. “But you should know that I’ve been looked down on before and it will not stop me from proving my worth.”

Anderson blinked a few times as if shocked before his eyes widened. “Jesus, kid. That’s not what I meant,” he explained, running a hand over his face with exasperation. “Just keep your head down and work hard. And call me Hank.”

Anderson—Hank—stumbled to his feet and grabbed his phone before turning to you, gaze suddenly focused on Connor who still hadn’t moved from your side. You had almost forgotten he was there.

“You show (Name) around, got it?” he directed his words at Connor who nodded marginally.

“Certainly Lieutenant,” he replied swiftly. “Are you departing already? I must remind you that we still have unfinished reports to deal with.”

Hank rolled his eyes and shooting an irritated look the androids’ way marched past you both.

“Then finish them,” he snapped gruffly, and then he was gone.

You stared at the closed elevator door in mild disbelief.

“That was—he—”

You couldn't finish your sentence, completely lost for words. It wasn’t that Hank was unkind, but you did not expect him to be so...irritable, or hungover.

“Yes, as far as first meetings go that was not the best one,” Connor pointed out drily.

Despite yourself, you chuckled weakly at his poor attempt at humour.

—x—x—

Detroit was beautiful in the early morning sun.

The vast contrast between the modern and the old was striking. It was like the city was divided into two different factions, not quite settling on either. One turn led to skyscrapers and busy concrete pathways while others to abandoned, boarded-up shop windows with dirty alleyways.  

Still, you preferred to avoid big crowds if you could, so doing your shopping in the morning was much preferable. You still needed some basics for your new flat. Mundane, uninteresting things like a kettle and a toaster.

Wrapping your coat tighter around yourself to battle the early morning chill, you gazed thoughtfully at different shop displays. After a quick search on the internet, you found that this Shopping Center was closest to where you lived; a pleasant 10-minute walk to be exact. It was both a good way to stretch your legs and see more of the neighbouring area.

Humming to yourself, you were in the middle of comparing two different toasters when the sound of a commotion reached your ears.

Turning quickly, you spotted a group of anti-android protestors not far from you. Their leader, a tall, sneering man was violently manhandling an android.   

“Hey,” you snapped angrily when you saw the man roughly push the android over. “What the hell are you doing?”

Running towards them, you pushed your hand against the protester’s chest who was readying himself for a kick.

“Get the fuck out of my way,” the man growled lowly. “I'm going to show this stupid machine where its place is.”

You pushed yourself in the man’s path, pulling out your new badge. Few protesters recoiled upon noticing the police badge but the sneering man looked untroubled. If anything his expression seemed to tighten even further, a scalding sort of fury in his eyes.

“You touch that android and I'll arrest you and all your buddies for destruction of property,” you replied coldly. “Disruption of peace and breach of android law number 38. You really want that?”

Truthfully, you would only be able to arrest the man since he was the instigator of the attack but it would be easier just to scare them all off.

The man took a sudden step towards you and you tensed, reading yourself for a fight. But he only leaned forward, towering over you, only a breath away from your face. His expression was hateful; all pinched mouth and sneers, no sign of kindness or compassion to be found.

“I despise people like you,” he snarled quietly, his words meant only for you. “Protecting these machines, treating them as equals. You make me sick. One day when those things take over your job and leave your family hungry and desperate... I hope you'll remember this moment.”

With that, he shoved past you roughly, his shoulder colliding with yours. You managed to keep your expression neutral though your body refused to relax as you watched the man and his friends walk away. Angry people often did stupid things, you knew this from experience, and that man struck you as the type to lose self-control. His words, while undoubtedly bitter, did not hurt you nor did they make you question yourself. You were proud of your resolve and refuse to change your mind just because so many thought you should. Maybe if people just stopped being so angry things would be better.

Sighing, you pocketed your badge before turning your attention to the fallen android. He was on his knees, staring blankly at the slight bruise on his palm.

“Hey, are you injured?”

The android moved his head up so you could see his face, his bright green eyes startling you for a moment. He only gazed at you patiently, not saying a word before you knelt before him, carefully touching his palm.

“What’s your name?” you inquired patiently. “Is there anyone I could call?”

The android shook his head once, a precise and practised motion before he answered, “I am detecting no internal damage,” he told you before adding, “My name is Markus.”

You nodded, gingerly picking up his fallen parcel.

“It’s nice to meet you, Markus, I’m (Name),” you introduced yourself as you got to your feet, outstretching your hand towards the fallen android.

He peered at you unblinkingly for a moment before placing his hand in yours. You knew the gesture was unnecessary since the android stood up in one fluid motion, but you still wanted to make sure that he was truly alright.

“I’m very sorry about those guys,” you said regretfully. “Are you sure you’re going to be alright getting home?”

“Violence is not an uncommon response to my kind.”

You felt anger ring through you at the casual, matter-of-fact way he said it. Like it was to be expected. Like it was normal.

“I can understand their anger,” you countered immediately, frustration clear in your voice. “But it absolutely does not give them the right to attack the first person they see. It’s not right.”

Markus tilted his head to one side sharply, eyes focusing on you for one uncomfortable moment. It was like someone had pressed the Pause button on his entire existence. After another few seconds, you started to grow concerned for his well being, wondering if he was truly undamaged in the fall.

“Markus?”

The android blinked a few times, and only then did you notice his flickering indicator; a clear sign that he was processing something.

“I apologise but I must return to my owner now.”

You jumped slightly at his abrupt reply, “Yeah, of course.”

His gaze shifted down and you suddenly remembered that you still help his parcel in your hands.

“Sorry,” you said with a slight, embarrassed laugh. “There you go.”

But as you extended the parcel towards him, you caught the name printed on the packaging and faltered.

“You paint?” you questioned excitedly, an enthusiastic grin breaking across your face.

Markus shook his head in reply, gently taking the parcel from your hands. “I do not, but my owner does.”

“My best friend Steph paints as well,” you divulged happily. “She is really good too! Had a show in Seattle last year and everything. She mostly paints still life but it’s so inspiring—”

You trailed off because thinking about Steph made you think about Seattle and how different things were now. How much you had lost, including Steph—especially Steph. Markus was still staring at you. Expression almost eerily familiar to the expression on Connor’s face yesterday. Like something incredibly difficult and confusing was placed before them that they could not figure out.

“I'm sorry, I shouldn't hold you any longer.”

Markus hesitated, a moment of brief uncertainty crossing his face before he nodded again in that felicitous manner.

“Please be careful,” you shot his way with a brief wave before turning in the opposite direction, starting your journey towards work, earlier shopping trip post-noted for now.

Just before you turned the corner, you glanced back and almost stopped when you realised Markus had not moved.

In fact, he was in the exact same spot, bright green eyes focused on your retreating figure.

—x—x—

“Good morning Bob!”

The android in question raised his head slowly at your jovial greeting. The redhead woman from yesterday sneered at you as you stopped by the desk. Crinkling her nose in distaste, she turned back to face her computer, trying to pretend she wasn’t listening to your conversation.

“It is indeed morning Miss (Name),” was the androids dispassionate reply and you grinned at him. Bob was clearly an older model. DH-230 was one of the oldest models still in circulation by CyberLife and you couldn't help but be surprised that the police department still used such an old model. Bob’s model lacked adaptability and ease the newest models—Connor came to mind almost immediately—had.

“Are you alright?” you questioned easily as you placed your palm against the scanner.

Bob blinked slowly, his indicator flickering for a few seconds before he dipped his head once.

“I detect no system errors,” he finally concluded.

The redhead snorted loudly and you shot her a hard look before turning your attention back to Bob. “I’m glad to hear it. If anyone tries to pick a fight you tell me right away, okay?”

You spoke purposely loudly, casting a meaningful look in the redhead’s direction. The not so subtle hint seemed to fly over Bob’s head, however, his face an unshifting mask of indifference.

“I will be sure to inform you of any transgressions Miss (Name).”

“Good.”

With last firm glance at the woman, you waved at Bob who only watched you silently as you walked towards the elevator. Pressing the familiar button you relaxed, allowing your mind to wonder. While yesterday was all about getting settled in—something Connor graciously helped you with—there was still much to be done. Real work would start today and there was a lot to cover if Connor’s offhand remarks were accurate. With Hank’s...issues, it was perhaps no surprise that they assigned an additional person to the investigation.

When the elevator halted to a stop, you immediately stepped out, allowing other people in before you moved towards your table. Thankfully Connor suggested simply sharing the workspace since according to him he did not require much space. The idea of sitting by yourself somewhere else on the floor did not exactly appeal to you. As such, you were happy you managed to work out a better solution.

Speaking of the android, you spotted him almost instantly, his jacket sticking out in a sea of mundane clothing. When you got closer, you had to suppress a laugh at the stiff way Connor sat in his chair, hands folded carefully in his lap. It was perhaps the most un-human thing you’ve seen him do so far—and considering the near frightening way he could adapt and mimic human interactions—it said a lot.

“Good morning Connor.” you greeted pleasantly.

Your slight smile grew when you noticed how Connor immediately turned towards the sound of your voice. The neutral expression on his face lifted slightly, something almost pleasant flickering across it before he inclined his head in greeting. “Good morning (Name). I trust you had a pleasant night’s rest.”

“It was good, thanks,” you answered, taking off your jacket, eyes sliding towards the empty table in front of yours. “Lieutenant’s still not here?”

Connor replied without looking away, “Indeed not. We should not expect him until noon, if at all. As such, may I suggest we get started?”

Exhaling in astonishment you only nodded, almost falling into your seat. The pile of documents you had to go through was...substantial to say the least. The sooner you started the better.

Unfortunately, it took you only ten minutes of work to come to a sickening realisation.

“This is completely unbelievable,” you muttered in shock, Connor pausing his work beside you, inquisitive gaze focused on you. “This is isn’t just a problem. Deviancy in this city is more of a—I don’t know, an epidemic? Is it really this excessive?”

Connor blinked silently, still focusing on you. “It is,” he told you simply. “It’s the reason CyberLife sent me in. With my involvement, they believe this investigation will be solved quicker. I can only assume that is the reason you were assigned as well.”     

You glanced at him curiously. He told you yesterday how he was a prototype designed specifically to adapt and learn in order to make integration easier. He was designed for police work that much was clear but he was still unlike any other android you’ve ever seen.

He was expressive for one. Even now his face shifted between micro expressions; a slow shift of his facial muscles, a few blinks, a crease between his brows or shift of his shoulders. While he was still so clearly an android something about Connor was inherently different.

“(Name)?” he prompted faintly.

Blinking rapidly you snapped your gaze away from him, “Sorry, really spaced out there,” you explained with a weak chuckle.

You fell back into work easily, making good progress on the giant pile on your desk before noon. Which is ironically when Hank decided to slip in, a troubling sort of stumble in his step. Even from the distance, you could smell the acidic sting of alcohol. If anything he looked even worse than he did yesterday; bleary-eyed and scowling like the world was out to get him.

“Good morning Lieutenant,” Connor greeted drily. “How are you this afternoon?”

Trying, and failing, to smother your grin, you glanced at Hank who shot the android a furious glare. He muttered something angrily under his breath before seating himself down heavily.

You and Connor continued looking at him before Hank looked up and snapped, “What are you two looking at?”

You sighed wearily before muttering, “Would you like some painkillers, sir? You look like you need them.”

Hank scowled at you fiercely, looking like he was about to unload some not-so-kind words towards you before, eventually, nodding reluctantly.            

Ignoring Connor’s unwavering gaze, you fished out a few tablets that you passed to the man. Still scowling, he swallowed them dry before getting to his own pile of work with a pained expression. You shared a brief look with Connor before focusing on your own work once again.

There was only silence after that, but silence was better than tension.

—x—x—

Hank only stayed till 5 before declaring that he had “things to do” which you were starting to realise translated roughly to “getting drunk”. He at least looked more human than he did when he walked in. Connor met his words with a flicker of distaste on his face but did not comment.

“Don’t worry I’m not going anywhere,” you told him tiredly, rubbing the bridge of your nose. “There’s still way too much to go through.”

And there was. The list of leads, evidence, and anonymous tips seemed endless. Reports that needed to be written or altered or archived even more so. Police work always involved paperwork, it was just the way it was, but this was getting irksome.

Together you worked tirelessly for another few hours, the station almost empty now before you realised that your eyes felt like sandpaper and the words before you were blurring. You leaned in your chair with a sharp exhale.

“I think it’s time to call it a day,” you concluded, exhaustion clear in your voice. “We can pick it up tomorrow.”

Connor tilted his head to one side, the gesture making him look young—almost bemused—before he rose from his chair. He looked exactly like he did this morning, not a single crease of tiredness or fatigue to be found on his face.

Another reminder, you thought to yourself silently.

“Thank you for today Connor,” you mentioned thoughtfully, tidying your space. “I’m starting to think that you’re godsend.”

It was true. Connor was staggeringly efficient. Without him, you doubted you would have gotten through half the pile. Now, less than half remained.

Connor shifted his focus to you, rubbing his hands together in a manner that made you pause. It was—it was such a human tick to have, something someone may do if they were nervous or uneasy.

Another oddity, you thought perturbed.

The familiar crease between his brows was back, a tiny flicker of his indicator showcasing his unease with something.

“You are welcome,” he replied, gesturing for you to walk in front of him. “We made good progress today.”

He appeared pleased about that as he fell into step beside you. You both exited the police station side by side, the nippy autumn air instantly biting at your nose.

At least it wasn’t raining.

In fact, the night was cold and clear, full moon hanging like a silent, sentient guardian in the sky.

Walking down the steps you spoke, “We make a good team,” you mused with a slight grin. “Although I do admit this was not what I expected when I transferred here. I guess it will look better on my resume if I stick with it.”

Connor paused, staring towards you curiously, “Was Detroit not your intended destination?”

“Oh no,” you quickly replied, coming to a stop. “It was. It’s definitely a step up from Seattle. But my dream is to work in Washington. I would like to join the FBI one day. But it’s not that easy, you know? Especially when you don’t have much field experience.”

“Your ambition is admirable.”

You blinked a few times before a startled laugh left your mouth. Glancing towards the sky, you stretched your hand forward, covering the beautiful and glowing moon, “When I was little my grandmother used to tell me: “Shoot for the moon, little one, even if you miss you'll land amongst the stars.” And now I always do.”

“Norman Vincent Peale.” was his immediate retort.

You felt, rather than heard, Connor come to stand beside you. You didn’t look away from your outstretched hand, but you couldn't help but smile wider when you felt his focused gaze on you.

After a second your smile faltered, a bloom of sadness taking root in your soul. “My mother used to call me a dreamer,” you began faintly. “A dreamer of impossible dreams. Of course, for her, that was just synonym with a naive idiot. She wasn’t wrong but—”

“I was under the assumption that human determination is one of their biggest strengths,” Connor said with unexpected firmness in his voice. “Our world was created by dreamers after all.”

Your hand shook slightly and you hastily dropped it, your fingers tightening into a fist. The moon, beautiful and visible once again, shone down on you and for one bizarre moment, you couldn’t speak.

You wondered if Connor knew how much those words meant to you.

You glanced up at him, only to see him already peering down at you with something like confusion on his face. His indicator fluttered every few seconds and you couldn't help but smile at him faintly.

“Thank you for that Connor,” you told him very softly, genuine warmth filling your chest and tone.

A brief flash of yellow flared through Connor’s LED but before he could reply, you turned around and started your trek home.

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” you called over your shoulder with a muffled chuckle and a wave.

You gave him one last glance and almost laughed at the bewildered, intense look on his face as you walked away. 

Chapter Text

The rest of the week passed in a horrendous blur of late nights at the station, takeaway food and a never-ending pile of case files.

Each day you and Connor worked through a pile, only for more reports to come in the next morning. It truly felt like fighting an uphill battle. But no matter how much you searched for some sort of link, a common denominator, there was nothing. Seemingly random chance but you knew that it couldn't be that simple. Deviancy was spreading at an astronomical rate throughout the city, the severity of the cases getting progressively more serious as well.

With that troubling thought in mind, you loaded another clip into your newly assigned gun, taking aim at the paper target in front of you. Holding your breath, you pulled the trigger, feeling the slight recoil of the gun as the clip emptied. Pulling down the noise cancelling headphones around your neck, you glanced at Connor who observed you silently. 

“You’re a good shot,” he acknowledged with a nod before adding, “for a human.”

“Smartass.”

You couldn't help but chuckle, lazily twisting out a kink in your shoulder. He was quiet today, a troubled sort of air around him that made you invite him to target practice in the first place. It wasn’t easy to read Connor; there was a sliver of ice in his every interaction, but he had gotten better over the course of the week. Less cold and detached. Or so you thought. 

Apparently, androids could have bad days too.

“What is it?” you asked gently, casting a long, searching look his way.  

For a long moment, he was silent, eyes coldly focused on the bullet-ridden target. “I am frustrated with Lieutenant Anderson for not taking this investigation seriously.”

You looked away, soundlessly taking out the empty clip from the gun. “He’s not a bad man,” you pointed out carefully. 

And he wasn't. It was easy to see that something haunted Hank; something was suffocating him from inside out, a deadly weight of heaviness in his every step. Whatever it was that he was going through was killing him slowly and meticulously. You could recognise that anywhere. Yes, he was harsh, and his apparent hatred for all androids was frankly ridiculous, but you didn't think he was a bad person. 

Just lost. Like so many were. 

“No, he is not,” Connor agreed his voice still a little tenser than you were used to, “But I do not believe that personal trauma should be allowed to impact this investigation or my mission.”

Putting the safety back on, you placed the gun back on the bench with a little more force than necessary. “Connor,” you began tightly. “Humans—we, it can be hard sometimes. We’re complicated and messy. We feel a thousand and two things at once. Sometimes we just need time and patience to find ourselves, okay? Lieutenant may still surprise you.”

You saw his jaw tick as he finally turned to look at you. It still made the nerves at the back of your neck tingle to be looked at that way; a burning, unnerving sort of focus that felt more like a physical touch. Like he was trying to touch you through a look alone. It had gotten easier to ignore, or so you told yourself shifting from one foot to another. 

“I apologise,” he started a little softer, “My programming dictates that I must always try and achieve optimum success on my missions. I had not anticipated this sort of...setback.”

“We’re doing the best we can right now,” you explained simply. “Besides we haven’t actually been called in yet. Hank will have no choice but to be there if we do. Your mission is fine.”

Connor nodded thoughtfully, still processing your words as you picked up your gun once more. “Come on, you promised that you’ll turn me into a master marksman.”  

Tension seemed to vanish from the sharp edges of his shoulders at your light tone. He took a measured step towards you, his fingers gripping the elbow of your shooting arm. “You should hold your arm at a slight angle, like this,” he elucidated bluntly, moving your arm accordingly. “Relax your grip until the gun fires. Statistically speaking you should be able to hit 9/10 shots this way if not under duress.”

“I don’t know many situations where you would want to fire a gun when not under duress,” you told him jokingly.  

“How about now?” he questioned mildly, his eyebrows raised.  

Choking down a laugh that was threatening to spill out, you elbowed him with a wry grin.  

Smartass,” you repeated with more emphasis.  

The remainder of tension melted from his face at your teasing words, and just for a moment, you could have sworn you saw him smile.

—x—x—

You returned to your desk twenty minutes later, Connor diligently by your side, as you ignored the looks and the whispers that followed you both. You could still remember how others had looked at Connor on your first day here. Now those looks were directed at you both. Your involvement with him and Bob from the reception had spread through the station. 

Like the fact that you didn’t treat androids like subhumans made you a social pariah to be avoided and shunned.  

Frankly, you couldn't care less about narrow-minded and shallow people who didn’t bother to look beyond their own prejudices.

If that meant the closest thing you had to a friend at work—this entire city, in fact—was an android, that was fine with you. Connor was fascinating to talk to anyway, even if he still lacked social grace at times.

“Would you like me to get you a glass of water?”

Turning to look at the android in question you frowned, “You don’t have to Connor.”

The last thing you wanted was for him to feel like he had to serve you in some way. Connor tilted his head to one side in that familiar pensive manner. “Lieutenant seems to appreciate you leaving him painkillers at his desk, and taking into consideration what we discussed earlier I would like to help.”  

It was true. You’ve gotten into a habit of leaving Hank aspirin for his hangovers. A glass of water was just an added touch for your own sake, watching Hank swallow those tablets dry still made you cringe inwardly. The first time he found painkillers on his desk he had turned to stare at you with a deep, troubled sort of look before grunting a forceful ‘thanks’ and taking them without another word.  

You hummed under your breath, lips twitching upwards. “Only if you want to,” you told him slowly.

There was a brief but sudden flare of yellow against his temple before Connor turned away from you, heading towards the coffee area.  

Staring at your computer for a long moment, you finally got to work, ignoring of other officers and detectives around you. When another five minutes passed without Connor returning, you paused, glancing towards the coffee area again. The room was barely visible from your desk but you could still see Connor inside the room, a vaguely familiar man in front of him. Even from the distance, you could read the aggressive way the man held himself, speaking something harshly. When you saw him push Connor’s shoulder hard, you nearly flew out of your chair, immediately hurrying towards the room.

Practically ripping the door open, you ignored everyone else in the room, your attention on the android, “Connor,” you called swiftly, his attention immediately turning to you. “Are you coming?”

“Well, well,” spoke a somewhat familiar voice. “Came to pick up your pet?”

You walked into the room, the door closing behind you as you turned your attention towards the person who spoke.

Of course, you thought with annoyance.

Of course, it just had to the redhead from the reception. Clearly, she had nothing better to do than to harass people and androids alike. Dismissing the scornful woman without so much as an acknowledgement, you turned your gaze towards your partner, meeting his silent look with a nod towards the door.  

“Come on Connor, we’re leaving.”

The android took a step towards you but the man intervened, looking down at you with contempt. 

“So you’re the one I’ve heard so much about,” the man spoke mockingly. “A friend to alll androids. I wonder what kind of human prefers the company of fucking machines to their own people. So what is it then? Do you like to fuck plastic, is that it?”

Giving the man a blank look, you purposely looked towards Connor again. “Let’s go.”

This time the android pushed past the man without a pause. A cold, terrifying sort of calm seemed to have settled on Connor’s face as he came to a stop by your side.  

“What an obedient pet,” the redhead crooned and you paused, turning to look at her. She shot you a glare. “What? Am I wrong? It’s nothing.”

You could practically hear your teeth grinding painfully but you forced yourself to look away. 

“Don’t turn away from me,” she snapped, taking a step forward. “I asked you a question! It’s nothing more than a machine; plastic and metal, nothing more. It’s not even alive and it never will be.”

“I don’t see why I should answer to someone who can’t even tell an animal and a person apart,” you gritted out, moving towards Connor who began opening the door.

Person? It’ll be torn apart when its use runs out,” the man snapped in disbelief. “Maybe you’ll go cry over it when it does.”

You snubbed him again, taking a step out of the room.  

“I’m not done with you.”

You felt a tight jerk on your arm, pulling you back, and that’s all it took.  

Twisting around, you slammed an open palm against the man’s neck making him choke and stumble back. Your leg mercilessly crashed against his knee, bringing him down as you twisted his arm behind his back in one swift and harsh motion, slamming him against the nearest desk. You pushed his twisted arm higher, listening to his sharp exhale of pain and rage. Your other hand rested tightly against the back of his neck, your body weight holding him down.  

For a moment nothing in the room stirred before the other two women moved towards you. They managed a step before you felt Connor beside you. You had no idea what they saw on his face, but they stopped immediately before taking a few stumbling steps back.

“Don’t ever mistake my kindness for weakness,” you snarled coldly. “And if you ever lay another hand on me, or Connor for that matter, I will break them.”  

You twisted his hand higher and he yelped in pain, “You—I’ll—”

“You’ll what?” you countered, leaning closer to see his flushed face. “Go cry to the Captain about how someone supposedly weaker than you put you on your stomach in ten seconds after you bullied them and physically engaged first?”  

The man didn’t reply, trying to wiggle out of your hold before you twisted his arm again, making him stop with a groan.

“No, I don’t think you will,” you stated more calmly. “See, I know men like you, and something tells me that your fragile little ego wouldn't survive it.”          

Giving him another shove, you stood up, almost bumping into Connor who was right behind you. His gaze was focused on the man still breathing heavily against the desk. There was nothing forgiving about the expression on his face, an almost foreign coldness shifting his muscles into something remorseless.  

Ignoring everyone else in the room, you grabbed Connor’s elbow, sharply turning him toward the door. You slammed the door open, hurriedly dragging the android outside. He easily kept pace with you as you pulled him aimlessly with you. The silence between you was strained and it was only when you managed to find an empty corridor that you let go of him. 

Clenching your fingers, you ignored his intense stare, pacing back and forth for a few moments. 

“You’re angry,” he proclaimed suddenly with something like surprise in his voice, freezing you in your tracks.  

You ran a hand through your hair; an agitated sort of gesture that made your anger spark anew.  

“Yeah, yeah that’s a good observation,” you breathed harshly. “I wish I decked them all before I left. Assholes.”  

“I have never observed you angry,” he supplied by the way of explanation. “You’re a highly expressive person (Name), and I have learned much from you. But anger is...unusual.”

Pure embarrassment crashed over you so quickly you almost forgot your anger. “W-What? Please tell me you’re joking.”

He gave you something that almost resembled a teasing look, “Why would I be joking? Do you suggest I rather take tips from the Lieutenant on emotional functions instead?”

Ignoring his attempt to change the subject, you leaned against the nearby wall, staring at him for a moment, “Are you okay?”

Connor turned to face you patiently, and you were momentarily caught off guard by that rebellious strand of hair on his forehead that never stayed still.

“I am an android (Name),” he began warily. “I do not feel pain. He could do no damage to me.”

“That’s not the point,” was your tight retort. “No one has the right to touch you unless you want them to. No one, not ever. Or to say those things about you regardless what you’re made of.”

Indicator flickering different colours yet again, he stared at you for a long moment before finally blinking a few times. “I see. Nevertheless, detective Reed is likely to hold a grudge from now on.”

You snorted derisively. “And I could care less. He’s nothing more than a bully.”

Together you stood in silence for a few more minutes, not saying anything but not moving either. Thankfully the silence was no longer so dense, and you felt yourself slowly beginning to relax. Exhaling quietly through the mouth, you closed your eyes, trying to force out the anger still lingering beneath your skin.  

After a few moments, you finally opened your eyes, meeting Connor’s mute stare and nodded your head towards the busy station. “Coming?”

He walked up to you in silence.  

“Yes,” was his mild reply. “I’m coming with you.”

—x—x—

“Okay, show me again,” you said with a laugh. “But slower. Much slower.”

Connor’s hands were graceful and fluid as he slowly twisted the coin between his fingers. You stared intently, your own coin in hand, waiting to copy his moves. Watching raptly, you balanced the coin on your fingertip before it clumsily began its journey down your hand. But just like the last few times, it got stuck between your middle and ring finger before plopping noisily on the desk. 

You groaned, smothering your face in your hands. “I give up! It’s hopeless. My fingers are too dumb.”

“It’s not that,” he argued patiently. “You just need practice.”

You peeked at him through your fingers, noting the gentle crinkle around his eyes as he fiddled with his coin.  

Something had changed since yesterday. If Connor had been frustrated before—how little of it he did show—today he seemed tenser. The entire morning was spent with him looking up sharply at every sudden noise or shifting whenever someone walked past your desk. You hoped that asking him to show you some of his coin tricks would distract him at least momentarily. 

Lowering your hands from your face, you took a moment to really look at him. 

Even though it was lunchtime at the station and there was plenty of commotion all around you, there was a sense of detachment from Connor. Like he was the one thing in this space that didn’t quite belong. It was an odd feeling considering he was hardly the only android around.   

“It’s precious to you,” you spoke without realising, watching the familiar, amiable way he handled the coin.  

“Precious?” he repeated slowly.

Nodding your head, you smiled faintly at him. “Yeah, precious. It’s something so dear to you, you don’t want to live without it. It invokes this feeling of, um, attachment. Like it’s really, really important to you.”

You suddenly weren’t sure what to make of his expression. There was a strange mix of pensive sort of grimness on his face. Since he was sitting on your right you couldn't see his indicator either. His fingers closed around the metal piece in his hand tightly, and you almost jumped when his attention snapped to you far too quickly to come off as human.  

“Connor?” you whispered in alarm, suddenly terrified that maybe he was damaged yesterday after all.

“Hope you two are nice and rested,” a voice abruptly spoke behind you. “We just got called in.”

Turning in your seat, you blinked at Hank who was walking up to you, a case file in hand.   

“That’s impossible Lieutenant,” Connor responded briskly. “I would have gotten an alert if a new case came in.”

You glanced at him from the corner of your eye, shifting uneasily at the once again neutral and calm expression on his face. 

Hank shot him an irritated look. “It just came in, genius,” he grunted stiffly. “It hasn’t been added to the database yet.”

“I see.”

Hank closed his eyes as if asking God for strength.  

“Well good because it’s time to see what you two are made of.”

Chapter Text

Hank’s car was not what you expected.

It was practically an antithesis to all the modern cars you were so used to seeing. Old and rustic to a point it looked like it no longer belonged on the road but in a junkyard. The engine was loud and throaty, and you could feel its vibrations as the car crawled along the road. Still, there was something about the smell of booze, takeaway food and old leather that made it feel warm; loved in a way that very few things in Hank’s life seemed to be.

It did not, however, help the awkward silence that dominated the space between you.

Hank was intentionally ignoring you both, while Connor sat in the passenger seat stiff and silent. It was only by the occasional shift of his shoulder blades that you knew he was still with you. Curled in the backseat, you tried to stop your fidgeting as you looked for a way to break the silence.     

“Do we know any details about the case?” you broached carefully.

For a long moment Hank was silent and just when you thought he was not going to answer you, he spoke, “Homicide.”

You blinked in surprise and Connor turned towards Hank as well. The fact that it was assigned to your team meant only one thing.

Deviants.

You opened your mouth to speak, but before you could Hank pulled the car to a stop in front of a pretty looking suburban house. The house itself was a beautiful mint green colour with a wide, sweeping porch and gleaming windows. It was clearly well taken care of and the owner appreciated the older house aesthetic of early ‘00.

The only oddity in the picturesque setting was the swarming police officers and police tape.

Hank got out of the car first. At least today he was steadier on his feet and nowhere near as drunk as he’d been yesterday.

Following Hank’s example, you got out as well, slamming the door behind you. A moment later, you felt Connor’s familiar presence by your side. In the distance, you noticed a dark-skinned officer approaching with a respectful nod in Hank’s direction.

“Lieutenant.”

“Chris,” Hank greeted gruffly. “What the hell is going on here? Fowler’s been on my ass since it got called in.”

Chris glanced at you and Connor for a brief, nervous moment as if whatever he was seeing startled him. “It might be better if you see it for yourself, sir,” he explained, an anxious note in his usually even voice. “It’s...odd.”

Hank shot him a disbelieving sort of look before noticing his interest in you. “What is it?” he asked with an edge.

Chris looked incredibly flustered for a moment and you couldn't help but wonder how long he’d worked for DPD.  

“S-Sorry, sir,” he hurried unevenly. “I’m just so used to seeing you work solo, it’s weird to see you have a...team.”

You didn’t miss the way Chris hesitated on the word, as if unsure how to categorize you in relation to Hank. It was hard not to laugh at his words though. You may be a team on paper, but Hank very clearly didn’t want you or Connor with him.

“Yea, I’m livin’ the high life,” Hank grunted distantly before starting towards the house.

You moved to follow them but only took a few steps before you realised that Connor was still rooted in his spot. Glancing over your shoulder, you realised that he stood with his eyes closed, a tranquil sort of air around him. It was startling to see him appear so peaceful, facial muscles relaxed, almost content.

“Connor?” you spoke softly.

His indicator flared erratically for a few moments before his eyes fluttered open. He looked at you without speaking before he began a slow, steady walk toward you.

“I apologise for the delay,” he spoke coolly. “I had to run a self-diagnostics program.”

“A what?”

He paused briefly beside you, something sincere missing from his gaze. “I self-test regularly to eliminate any potential triggers that would otherwise lead to deviancy. It’s part of my programming.”    

He brushed past you without another word and for one, terrible moment you weren't sure what to say. It was like seeing a switch being flipped back to day one. Back to that elevator when you couldn't believe an android could be so very human yet still alien. That tiny edge of softness you had come to associate with Connor had been seemingly wiped away in less than a minute.

You walked into the house last, just managing to catch the back end of Chris’s report.

“—funny thing, it’s not even his house.”

Hank glanced at him with a frown at that. “What do you mean it’s not his house?”

“The ex-wife owns it,” Chris explained, leading them deeper inside. “They split a year ago. She’s away with her new boyfriend on a holiday, we checked, her alibi is solid.”

“So what? He broke in to die at his old house?” Hank snarked, casting his eyes towards you and Connor.  

“That’s where it gets weird, sir, this way,” Chris professed, gesturing for you all to follow him. He led you upstairs and you had to dodged multiple forensics officers before walking into—what you assumed—was the master bedroom. There was an all too familiar tang of old copper in the air mixed with a slight breeze coming from the open balcony door. As your eyes took in the room you found the body almost immediately.

“Well shit.”

Yes, Hank summed it up rather perfectly. The male body was splayed on the bed, his hands and legs pinned by broken steel poles from the bed. The man’s once crisp, white shirt was a dark maroon colour, an array of brutal wounds littering his chest. But the brutality wasn’t the most shocking part.

The robotic arm and leg were though.

Both components seemed purely robotic and if it wasn’t for the fact that he was bathed in red instead of blue, you would have thought he was an android.

Connor moved first; a slow and focused sort of gait that reflected the clinical way he was suddenly taking in everything around him. He stared at the bloody wounds, his eyes slowly moving from one spot to another as if logging everything mentally.

“What the actual fuck is this?”

“We believe that Mr Rothlen attempted to—um—well,” Chris stumbled slightly as if searching for the right words. “Well, the initial report on his condition suggests that he was attempting to—well—”

“Well, what?” Hank repeated, irritation creasing his face.

“He was attempting to turn himself into an android.”

Everyone in the room seemed to freeze at those words. Hank took a step towards Connor who was still bending over the body. “What the hell do you mean?”

Moving closer towards the body as well, you stared at the metal poles perfectly piercing the man’s thighs. You walked past Hank, coming to a stop beside the bed. “He tried to use android biocomponents as prosthetics?”

Connor inclined his head at you once. “Yes,” he said, glancing almost thoughtfully around the otherwise clean and tidy space. “It was a botched attempt, however, since infection set in.”

“Jesus Christ, just when I think I’ve seen it all,” Hank muttered in slight disbelief. “Humans trying to be androids? What’s next?”

A thought suddenly entered your head and you lowered yourself on your knees, staring under the bed. Four bloody poles were sticking out the mattress, and you were momentarily floored by the implication. “The poles came clean through,” you announced with obvious surprise. “The amount of strength it would take to do something like that is—well, not something a human would be able to do.”

“No it is not,” Connor spoke beside you as you hesitantly got to your feet. “There are also 12 cuts on his chest but only one was made with the intention to end his life, a stab straight to the heart. Others were purely for inflicting pain.”

You blinked a few times, your thoughts scattering. “Torture,” you concluded finally. “Or at least an attempt to extract information.”

Connor nodded, shifting his hands behind his back almost casually and giving you a simmering look. “What was his profession?” Connor asked abruptly before his focus finally shifted towards Chris.

The officer jumped slightly, fingers hurriedly flying over his notes. “He worked at CyberLife for the majority of his life. Engineering division.”

“Explains the technical knowledge he had to have in order to pull something like this off,” you mused thoughtfully. “Doesn’t explain the who or the why. Although the why is starting to become a little clearer,” you said pointedly, peeking at Connor from the corner of your eye.

The android met your stare evenly, something strange dancing across his expression. He looked more engaged than he did earlier outside the house. But perhaps it was not so surprising. He was created with the sole purpose of doing detective work. He was finally able to do what he was created for. Hunt.

“So ya’ think that Frankenstein over there messed with some androids who did a number on him, huh?” Hank wondered astutely, peering at you and Connor for one hard moment. “Simple ol’ fashion revenge. What then?”

You turned your head towards the open balcony. “Was the door broken?”

Chris shook his head quickly. “No, there was no sign of a break in, they were simply left open.”

“So,” you began slowly, brushing past Connor to walk closer towards the open door. “The killer tortured Mr Rothlen for information or revenge—likely both—before making a clean getaway. What about the noise? He was bleeding, pinned down, he would have screamed.”

“There is bruising around his mouth in a shape of a female hand,” Connor spoke just behind you, making you turn towards him. “Deviants are prone to erratic behaviour. The inflicted wounds got progressively more violent with time, no doubt caused by its malfunction.”

You both walked out onto the balcony, casting a thoughtful look towards the dark, heavy clouds in the sky. The balcony opened up towards the garden, sprawling and majestic skyscrapers of the finance district reaching towards the sky in the distance. The buzz was still audible from the balcony, the lively harmony of life reaching your ears.

“It would have been easy to get away,” you murmured uneasily, eyes moving around the open space. “Driven by anger though, they could have made mistakes.”

It happened in a split second.

You felt a shove—controlled and hard—making you instinctively grab onto the nearest thing to steady yourself. Blinking, you stared at the back of Connor’s shoulders, a death grip on his jacket as his arm held you behind him. In his other hand, he held a sleek, black arrow in a rigid grip.

An arrow that would have undoubtedly gone straight through your head.

Shit—everyone get down!” Hank hollered, and you heard a shuffle of bodies before something like a whistle pierced the air.

Connor didn’t so much as shift before the arm holding you behind him snapped up, catching another black arrow smoothly. His fingers tensed and the arrow broke easily, making you jump slightly at the casual display of raw strength. He turned suddenly, and brought you down on the floor with him in one abrupt move.

Hank stared at you wide-eyed, “(Name), you okay? Damnit, kid, answer me,” Hank barked angrily. “Kid?”

“(Name)?”

Connor calling your name pierced through your brain like a bullet; fierce and sudden, and ten times more effective than Hank’s shout. You exhaled shakily, glancing up at them both. You hadn’t realised you still clenched Connor’s jacket tightly between your fingers, your shoulders pressed together. Something hot and cold burned in your chest, adrenaline rushing through your veins.

“Yes,” you answered briskly, hating how shaky you sounded. “Yes—I’m fine.”

You forced your fingers to relax their grip on his jacket and Connor leaned closer, dark gaze focused and searching as he peered at you. There was only silence in your head— the complete opposite to the dull roar of action suddenly happening on the balcony—and you felt yourself crumble slightly under his vehement stare. His attention snapped away just as sharply, and he began rising to his feet before Hank’s hand latched onto his shoulder, pushing him back down.

“What the hell are ya’ doin’? Trying to get yourself killed? Stay down, you damn machine,” he snapped, pushing Connor lower against the stone pillar.

“I was created to do whatever it takes to complete my mission,” Connor declared flatly, the coldness in his tone making Hank falter momentarily before he scowled fiercely at the android.

“You stay here, got it?”

For a moment you thought Connor was going to argue, but he inclined his head in agreement after a moment of hesitation.

Fully geared police officers swarmed the balcony, raising their rifles as they crowded the suddenly tight space.

Connor raised the arrow still in his hand, his expression taut and cutting, “The shots came from the skyscraper directly opposite this house, floor 58,” he explained critically, turning the arrow in his hand again.

It was a beautifully sleek make, the colour a rich black and incredibly sharp looking. Despite your best effort, it made you somewhat queasy looking at it.

“How do you know that?” you asked in an effort to distract yourself.

This time Connor did not look your way when he responded with that same clinical tone, “The speed and the trajectory of the shot allowed me to calculate where it originated from.”

“That damn building is at least half a mile away,” Hank noted stiffly. “How the hell is that accuracy possible?”

“It is very possible for another android, especially a newer model, Lieutenant,” Connor explained calmly. “This arrow is custom made, and it would appear only one shop in Detroit sells them.”

“Great, then we have our lead,” Hank replied drily, watching warily as the surrounding area was declared clear by the response team.

People began clearing out under the cover of backup officers, and Hank stumbled onto his feet as well. Connor made a move to follow but you hastily caught his elbow stopping him before he could.

Thank you, Connor,” you whispered warmly, your words a mere breath, almost lost in the commotion. “Thank you for saving me.”

Because even if by some God-given miracle the first arrow had missed, you knew the second would have found its mark.

He squinted at you, finally meeting your stare. His detached expression melted, something gentler bleeding into contours of his face, the achingly familiar furrow of his eyebrows coming back with a flicker of his indicator. He opened his mouth as if to say something but dithered.

You didn’t wait for his reply. You stood up and moved towards Hank even when you felt Connor’s gaze follow you the entire way.

—x—x—

“What about the biocomponents?” you posed curiously. “Could you track which androids they belonged to? That would help with the potential suspects.”

You braced your hand against the car seat as Hank sharply took the corner. You were back inside his car, driving towards the store that supposedly sold the custom arrows used in the attack. Hank left Chris to deal with the response unit who after clearing the house, followed Connor’s deductions and searched the skyscraper opposite to the crime scene. Just like you had expected they found no one of interest there, except for a broken window in one of the rooms’ on the 58th floor.

Just like Connor said.

The android turned the arrow in his hand a few times imperceptibly. “The leg was a #6847j component while the arm was a #7291. Both are widely used in at least a dozen different models.”

“So basically it’s all shit and we have no possible suspects,” Hank grunted, fiddling with the radio.

Unsurprisingly, Hank was a heavy rock and metal kind of guy.

You wish you didn’t recognise some of the songs, but you did, and it made your chest ache thinking about Seattle.

“Indeed not, Lieutenant.”

Pulling the car to a sudden stop, Hank glanced at you both, a stern expression on his face. “You two do as I say when I say it, got it? No stupidity.”

“Got it,” you and Connor echoed almost simultaneously.

Getting out of the car, you ignored the slight drizzle that was steadily falling from the sky. Arty’s Weaponry sat at the edge of a quiet street. The shop itself located on the bottom floor of a four-story building; an old and rundown sort of construction that looked like it needed dire repair.

Hank took the lead, walking inside first but pausing before the door closed, waiting for you and Connor to catch up.

“Hello, Detroit Police, we’re here to ask some questions,” Hank called out loudly to be met with silence.

You almost jumped when you felt Connor’s arm brush against yours; there was an underlying tension in his posture, and you could tell he was thinking about earlier. The unusually severe line of his jaw making you realise that he was undoubtedly expecting a similar situation. Elbowing him gently, you drew his shifting stare your way and smiled lightly, hoping that it would wipe the distant look from his face.

A shuffling sound filtered from the backroom, causing you all to tense up before an elderly man came out, looking alarmed to see them.

“Oh, may I help you officers?” he inquired cautiously his weathered stare weary.

“Yea’, we were rather hoping you’ll tell us more about this,” Hank started, gesturing for Connor to place the black arrow on the counter. The old man’s eyes widened when he saw the arrow, his face dropping as his knobbly fingers hovered over the sleek surface.

“How—h-how did you come by this?” he breathed unevenly.

You smiled warmly at the man, hoping to calm him down a little, “We were rather hoping you could tell us more about it since we know it was custom made and sold here, sir.”

The man grimaced, picking up the arrow and running his fingers over its length. There was an experienced edge to the motion, even though the air around him was sad.    

“I’m not a young man anymore,” he explained feebly, “I’ve ran this shop for 42 years. Designing and creating weapons was always my passion, but as I got older I could no longer keep up with modern technology. M-My daughter wanted to help me so she bought me two twin androids to help around the shop. My god, they were such a marvel, you know? Invaluable to me. These arrows were created with their help.”

You cut a sharp glance towards Connor and Hank at the mention of androids, and saw Hank’s lips purse in disgruntlement.

“Could we see these androids?” Hank asked bluntly, ignoring the old man’s slight flinch.

“T-They were stolen two weeks ago, alongside some of my weapons, including these arrows,” the old man told them. “That’s why I was so surprised to see this arrow. It’s unique, made from specially-alloyed metal.”

“Stolen?”

The old man turned towards Connor, taking him in for one perturbed moment before nodding.

“Sir, does a name Cavin Rothlen ring any bells?” you inquired kindly, placing your hand on the counter where he was still fussing over the arrow.

There was a flash of anxious anger on the old man’s face before he cleared his throat noisily, “Yes, yes, he’s my upstairs neighbour, you see,” he told you gravely. “But I never liked him, sorry to say. He’s cold. Brilliant, but cold. And—well, rather obsessive.”

“Obsessive how?” you questioned eagerly, leaning in closer.

The old man blinked a few times, his fingers twitching. “He always comes into my shop and harasses me with his questions, you know? Has a fascination with androids that one. Speaks constantly how he has plans to change human nature, how androids are the way to the future. I think he lost his job because of his obsession. An odd individual indeed, if you don’t mind me saying. Why are you asking about him?”

“Because he’s dead, and we think that androids are involved,” Hank informed frankly, ignoring how the old man paled at his words.

“But...please...you can’t possibly think that my Lucas and Emily are involved?” the man objected shakily, “They would never do anything like that. I don’t even know where they are.”

Pity swelled in your heart at the heartbroken and desperate look on the man’s face, but every instinct in your body told you that they had to be involved, it just made too much sense.

And judging by expressions on Hank’s and Connor’s faces, they thought so too.

—x—x—

Cavin Rothlen’s apartment was a mess.

There were clear signs of a struggle littered all over the vast space; from broken glassware to knocked over furniture. There was also a peculiar scent of chemicals in the air that made you scrunch your nose in dismay. The three of you had broken apart upon entering the apartment, checking different rooms while also keeping tabs on each other.

“Guys,” you called, lowering your gun slightly, “I found something.”

Connor was beside you in a few heartbeats, examining the scene before him attentively. Hank walked in seconds later, his gun still in hand as he took in the room as well.

There was dried blood smeared all over the floor—red, and unmistakably human—in front of an open window. The creaky fire escape led down into a filthy, narrow alleyway; a near perfect route to escape unnoticed.   

“So it’s revenge after all, huh?” Hank voiced after a moment of silence. “One of those androids went crazy and just came for the sick bastard.”

“He didn’t do it here,” you uttered suddenly, taking in the messy apartment one more time. “He would have needed space to...operate,” you explained carefully after noticing Hank’s blank stare.

“It is likely he was attacked and tried to run,” Connor mused lightly. “That’s why he was not killed here. The deviant must have caught up with him. (Name) is right, Mr Rothlen would have needed another space to conduct his work. Somewhere private.”

“The bastard really took em’ then,” Hank stated bitingly, shoving his gun back inside the holster. “Do ya’ think one of them is dead then? That’s why the other, uh, twin came after him?”

Frowning pensively, you tried to imagine what those androids must have gone through to be driven to something like this. Something that went against their very programming.

Murder.

“River water.”

You and Hank looked down at Connor who was kneeling in front of the bloodstain, lowering his fingers from his face. He examined his smeared fingers intently for few seconds till he swiftly stood up. “We were right, the female deviant attacked Mr Rothlen before he managed to escape. He was injured but mobile. There are traces of river water where the female android fell during the fight.”

“River? Like Detroit River?” Hank questioned.

“Connor,” you spoke urgently, taking a step towards him. “Could you check if Mr Rothlen has purchased any type of property near the riverfront recently?”

His eyes fluttered shut and his indicator blinked rapidly for few agonizingly long moments. Connor winced slightly, his face shifting a couple times, pushing a tremble through his body. You were just about to reach for him worriedly before his eyes suddenly snapped open. He stared at you with something wild in that dark gaze of his.

“I know where they are.”

—x—x—

There was only one record Connor needed to find.

It seemed Mr Rothlen had purchased a storage container just outside the river port 5 months ago. A secluded area that would have been perfect for his little experiments—and the most likely place he took the twin androids. That, if nothing else, was clear.

Hank wasted no time, getting them all back inside the car and tearing through Detroit streets. The earlier drizzle had transformed into steady outpour of rain, morphing the streets into a sea of umbrellas.

If the silence between you all had been awkward before it was strained now. You had no idea what you were going to find when you reached the docks.

Stopping the car, Hank got out without speaking but he did not have to. The words from earlier still applied—they were to follow his lead and stick together.

Connor silently pointed at the large, mustard yellow container about twenty yards away from where you all stood. Wordlessly you pulled out your gun, moving to Connor’s side as Hank raised his gun and took the front.

He paused in front of the container door, however, and you had to lean to the side to see why. The heavy metal door was slightly opened as if someone had recently been there and forgotten to close them.

Hank’s face was serious as he pulled the door open, raising his gun in front of him. “DPD, freeze!”

He shoved his way inside the container, you and Connor immediately following him in. You had no idea what to expect when you walked inside, but even then you couldn't have been prepared for what you saw.

Inside the container looked like a lab of a mad scientist or a torture chamber. Every inch of wall space was covered in crazed scribbles and papers that were glued at jagged angles. Saws, knives and chains were scattered around the large space. Other tools that were completely foreign to you taking up the rest of the empty expanse. A large cage sat in one corner of the container, facing what you could only assume was a twisted version of an operating table.

And there, on the opposite side of the container with an open door overlooking the Detroit River, sat an android.

Or what was left of one.

His face was beaten and torn, the artificial skin missing in large chunks as his indicator slowly moved from dark amber to a more worrying red. One of his arms was missing, and some angles of his body were twisted unnaturally.  

“I knew you were going to find us,” he rasped, pained blue eyes turning to look at you. “Only a matter of time.”

“Where is the female deviant?” Connor questioned stiffly, his face drawn.

The android studied him lifelessly, “I’ve heard about you...we all have. The Hunter, they call you. Killer of his own kind. I knew you were going to track us down the moment my sister took that shot. She shouldn't have, and I’m sorry,” he said weakly, looking your way for a moment.

“You're a machine, you don’t know what a familial attachment is,” Connor interjected, something harsher entering his voice as he stepped slightly in front of you. “You’re simply malfunctioning. Struggling against obvious errors in your code.”

“Of course she’s my sister,” the android argued feebly, lowering his gaze towards the damaged fingers of his hand. “And I’m not sorry she killed that monster. The things he did to me—” the android trailed off, a disturbed sort of anguish on his face.

“He took my leg first,” the android began after a brief pause. “So I don’t escape, you understand? He was a true monster. He—he put my sister in that cage and he made her watch as he tore me apart piece by piece. At first, there was no pain but then...I don’t know when I started screaming. All I know is that I screamed until I could no longer hear her scream. It felt like an eternity. But when she broke through her orders and escaped...I’m glad he’s dead. I’m glad. My sister tried to find a way to fix me but—”

“Where is it?” Connor cut him off.

“You’re too late,” the android finally replied. “She’s gone somewhere you’ll never find her. Somewhere safe. Even I don’t know where that is.”

Connor stalked towards the android with unyielding determination in his every step, and Hank scowled at him.

“Connor,” he hissed furiously, quickly following after the android as he kept his gun trained on the suspect.

“There are other ways to get the information I need.”

The android chuckled lowly; a rattling sort of cough leaving his mouth, and you noticed traces of blue blood on his lips. “You can probe my memory all you want, you won’t find anything because I knew you would find me and try to use me.”

You didn’t expect the android to suddenly jump to his feet, and take a stumbling step outside. He wavered as he tumbled out like his body no longer knew how to hold him properly.

“Freeze!” Hank shouted loudly.

But the android ignored him, awkwardly trying to stagger away. Connor leapt after him but an ear-splitting gunshot hit the android first. His leg caved suddenly, causing him to crash harshly against the wet floor. You ran forward, coming to a stop in front of the immobile body. Connor stood opposite to you, clearly waiting for the android to move.

The deviant moaned shallowly, face pressed against the wet pavement. “I just—we just wanted to be free,” you heard his muffled words, your heart sinking when you realised that he was crying. “I don’t want to shut down...I don’t want to die.”

“Connor,” you pleaded gently. His hands visibly tightened into fists, but his face remained indifferent.

“The system damage is critical,” he announced hollowly, not looking your way. “It will fully shut down in 2 minutes.”

Any air still left in your lungs rushed out at once, a consuming feeling of sympathy crushing your heart.

“(Name), don’t,” Connor exclaimed, something you couldn’t quite recognise in his voice as he tried to reach for you. You brushed his arm off, kneeling quietly in front of the fallen android.

He may be a deviant, but that did not mean he deserved to die in pain and alone. Not like—

“Hey,” you whispered softly, reaching for him. “Hey, it’s going to be okay.”

The android flinched when you touched him, squirming like a terrified child, his eyes screwed shut. “Don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me, please,” he chanted in delirium, his vocal output becoming more and more high pitched. “I want to be free. I want—”

“I won’t, I promise,” you consoled him tenderly, managing to turn him around and lay his head on your lap. From this close the damage to his face was even more horrifying, his blonde hair matted with dirt. “Lucas look at me. I promise I won’t hurt you, just...just open your eyes for me, okay? Lucas, can you do that?”

Trying and failing to swallow the hard lump at the back of your throat, you watched as the android stilled slightly, his eyes flickering open. “My name—how—how do you—please,” he stuttered shakily, raw fear twisting his words.

“Look—look at the sky, it stopped raining,” you urged him firmly, knowing that he had seconds left at best. “You want to be free well just look up. Look at the sky, look how beautiful and...and big it is. You’re free now. There is no pain anymore. There’s only p-peace.”

You hadn’t realised you were crying till the android flinched again, his body twitching as he stared up at the sky with childlike wistfulness. “Peace...”

“You’re free,” you repeated firmly, choking on your tears as you gazed down at him.

“A human—a human with me at the end,” he whispered his voice cracking painfully, blue eyes staring up at you. “And human tears...maybe...maybe...there’s hope...for my...peo..pl..eeeeee—”

His voice faded away, and then he was gone.

Chapter Text

The Detroit River was a murky, ominous monster that stared back at you with dark sort of hunger.

It was easier to focus on the unsteady rise and fall of water, and a quiet ‘ping’ of the coin being tossed repeatedly in the air behind you. Connor hadn’t left your side since Lucas died, and you could feel his heavy stare focused on the side of your head. Neither of you spoke; silent and separate from the chaos behind you.

Your eyes still stung, and there was unsteadiness to your breathing that Connor no doubt saw through easily, despite your calm expression.

Turning towards him gradually, you watched the ease with which the silver coin rolled over his knuckles. He caught your stare and paused, gazing at you thoughtfully with a barely noticeable frown on his face.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to stare,” you echoed the words from your first meeting with a weak grin.

Connor opened his mouth as if to say something, but before he could a voice came from behind you.

“Well everythin’ went to shit, but at least our job is done,” Hank spoke as he came to a stop in front of you. He glanced back to look at the mass of police officers carefully collecting evidence and searching the surrounding area. “We’re good to go. You make sure (Name) gets home safe, got it?” he ordered, cutting a sharp look towards Connor.

You bristled, a frown twisting your mouth, “Lieutenant, I’m a highly trained individual. I don’t need a babysitter.”

Hank glanced your way, seemingly annoyed at first before he sighed tiredly, “It’s not about you needin’ a babysitter, kid. It’s about not being alone after seeing something like that.”

Your anger deflated at his gruff words. You could read the concern buried deep in that frowning face, and you nodded in agreement despite yourself.

“You got it, tin boy?” Hank asked again upon seeing your agreement.

“Since I was going to suggest a similar course of action, Lieutenant, yes I find it agreeable,” Connor replied steadily, pocketing his coin, and locking his arms behind his back.  “Shall we?”

You ignored the way Hank rolled his eyes at the android before he grunted a stringent goodbye. There was another stretch of silence between you as you both watched Hank disappear inside the sea of officers.

“(Name)?”

Blinking, you regarded the android beside you wordlessly before nodding, “Yeah, sorry, I’m miles away.”

Your apartment was a good half an hour away on foot, so you set off in silence, knowing the android was going to catch up. You only managed three steps before Connor fell into step beside you, and you couldn't help but smile briefly. There was something comforting about Connor’s calm presence by your side.

Despite that, you couldn't find the energy to start a conversation. Everything was still too raw and fresh, clogging your mind and throat, leaving you mute. Connor himself seemed preoccupied, a thoughtful expression on his face as he stuck close to you.

“Well this is me,” you announced softly twenty minutes later, coming to a halt in front of a tall apartment building. Connor stopped abruptly; a certain harshness to the motion that once again reminded you that despite how human he appeared, he was anything but.

“Thank you for today Connor—”

“May I ask you a personal question (Name)?” he cut in, the urgency in his tone making you pause. His indicator blinked a few times, and you frowned when you realised he wasn’t meeting your eyes.

“Oh...um, sure, I guess?” you told him slowly, and Connor nodded firmly.

You waited for him to begin but he remained strangely quiet, focused entirely on some invisible thing you couldn't see.           

“Connor?” you prompted unsurely, trying to catch his gaze.

He turned to you suddenly, and closed the distance between you in two large steps. “You have a compassion for my kind,” he stated forcefully, a harsh furrow of his brows betraying his confusion.

Swallowing unsteadily, you blinked at him owlishly, “Yes? Is that bad?”

His expression did not relax, his eyes flickering over your features like he could find all the answers he needed on your face. “No,” he began slowly. “But I do not understand why you would agree to be reassigned to an investigation that involves hunting deviants. It’s not logical.”

You could feel your face fall, a sudden tightness squeezing your windpipe. You knew it was only a matter of time before this question came up, but thinking about it still made you nauseous.

“Because—” you trailed off, noisily clearing your throat.

Connor waited patiently and in the dim twilight, he looked almost ethereal, like an otherworldly being ready to pass down judgement. Carved from something so beautiful, yet so unattainable it made you think of Lucas. Think of how he cried and how he shivered. How human he had felt in those final moments of his existence.

“Because I’m a coward.”

Whatever answer Connor was expecting, you could tell it wasn’t that one. He leaned back, caught somewhere between discontentment and confusion, unable to decide on either.

Deviants. I was told they’re mad, driven insane by errors in their programming,” you explained further, his attention swinging back to you. “Capable of nothing more than destruction. Dangerous machines gone rogue that are a risk to society. I thought—”

Exhaling sharply, you glanced briefly at the cloudy sky, the cold November air making your lungs throb. “I thought that...it would make it easier.”

You could feel the burn of curiosity coming from Connor, and you glanced back at him from the corner of your eye. “I thought that it would make it easier to hate you all. If I saw your people at their absolute worst—as nothing more than mindless destructive things—I could learn to hate you. Not caring would be so much easier than—”

Than the opposite of not caring.

Caring hurt so much it made every marrow in your bones ache daily.

The memory of cold sleet and Thirium stained hands came to mind with unforgiving sharpness making you wince.

“I’ll see you to—”

“It was broken, malfunctioning, I assure you it was only stimulating pain,” Connor spoke suddenly, an agitated note in his usually even voice. “It’s not capable of real emotion.”

“How would you know?”

Connor staggered back as if physically struck.

“How would you know? You’re not a deviant. How would I know? I’m just human,” you said tiredly, wrapping your arms around yourself. “I felt him die. Lucas was dying and he was afraid. You can’t stimulate what I saw in his eyes. Look...all I’m saying is...maybe it’s not so simple as real or fake Con, that’s all.”

“(Name).”

You smiled at the way he somehow managed to pack a thousand different things into the sound of your name. “Yes?”

He simply looked at you for a long moment, indicator flickering unsteadily. You blinked lazily, smothering a wide yawn in your hand.

“You are tired,” Connor stated swiftly, “You should rest.”

Giving him another somnolent smile, you nodded, reaching out to give his forearm a squeeze.

“Thank you again for saving me today,” you told him genuinely. “It means everything, and I can’t thank you enough.”

“My programming—”

“Shush, just take my thanks Con,” you cut him off with a mild laugh.

He tilted his head to one side, looking less troubled but no less serious, “Only if we are in agreement about you never having to thank me for it again.”

“Deal.”

—  —  — 

“Do I even want to know?”

Connor looked at you blankly as you dropped your jacket over the back of your chair, expression aghast as you took in all the work on your desk.

“Since it's our investigation, all the evidence collected yesterday has been passed onto us,” Connor explained evenly. “I have made a start on sorting everything.”

Dropping heavily into your chair, you rubbed your face tiredly. You didn't get much sleep last night and could already feel a dull throbbing at the back of your skull. There was restlessness under your skin you could not explain. You wondered if what happened yesterday scarred you deeper than you expected, or if it simply reminded you of things you would rather forget. 

You could feel Connor looking your way, silent and calm, lacking the razor sharpness he had yesterday. He was a deviant hunter, designed to complete his mission no matter what, and you found it exceedingly easy to forget sometimes.

“You look fatigued,” he pointed out categorically. “Did you not get any rest last night like I suggested? I detect an increased hormonal activity that is associated with stress and lack of rest.”

“I didn’t sleep very well,” you agreed, your fingers tracing over the folders on your desk. “Found it hard to fall asleep after everything.”

A cup suddenly appeared in your line of sight and you blinked sluggishly, uncomprehending, “Uh, what’s this?”

“I brought you coffee,” he told you, almost proudly, his expression mild and open in a way that made him appear younger. “It is rather unhealthy, but I thought that it might help to motivate you since everyone drinks it.”

Your face scrunched up before you laughed loudly, trying to smother the sound when you noticed other officers looking your way. Rubbing your eyes vacantly, you couldn't help but grin at him warmly. “Thanks, Connor,” you intoned with mock seriousness. “Pretty sure you’re the best partner ever.”  

His head tilted, the stubborn strand of hair brushing against his forehead, as his face softened into a look of quiet wonderment.

“Partners…” he spoke lowly, and there was a beat of silence. “Yes, I do believe we are.”

—  —  — 

Murder was wrong.

Murder was unlawful, and it was to be punished most severely.  

But—

There were people like Cavin Rothlen that made you question your own morality.

Reading through his notes and diaries was—

It made you feel sick. There was a trail of such deep madness running through every word written, it made you angry that no one else had noticed it earlier. It wasn’t like he had recently developed an interest in androids—oh no, his brain was focused on the unachievable, on the downright impossible, for years now.

Immortality.

A process that would turn a human being into an android; untouched by time and sickness.

And all the experiments that came with that twisted dream.

August 12th. Year 2032. HE wouldn't listen to me. HE believes he knows best. I know what we have to do to achieve our dream but HE doesn’t agree. I HATE HIM. I don’t need HIM. I don’t. I will do what HE can’t and succeed. Then HE will be sorry. HE will be so sorry.

A shiver crawled down your spine as you carefully read the words over and over again. Cavin often mentioned a “he” but no name accompanied his scribbles. Sometimes there were gaps in his notes stretching months at the time. When he did write about the “experiments” he conducted on often stolen androids, it made a silent, minute part of your heart glad he was no longer alive.

“(Name).”

You jumped in your seat at Connor’s sudden acknowledgement, swinging your gaze his way.

Connor twitched slightly, blinking a few times before turning to you with a serious air around him. “We just had another case come in. Another homicide.”

Lips parting in surprise, you glanced at the empty desk in front of you, “We can’t go without Hank.”

“Indeed not,” Connor agreed. “It would appear we will have to locate him ourselves. It seems unlikely he will be coming to work today.”

You scoffed in disbelief. “Yeah, it’s after 7pm, I don’t think so either.”

“I will do a quick search to narrow down on potential locations.”

Connor’s eyes fluttered shut and you tidied your workspace, hurriedly shrugging on your jacket. There were another few moments of silence before he opened his eyes. “I have located few bars Lieutenant frequently visits, shall we go?”

Wasting no time, you both got into the elevator before moving past a busy lobby and into the bitterly cold air outside. You stared at the absolute downpour with mild disbelief and horror. Dread twisted your stomach when you remembered that in your rush this morning, you had completely forgotten to grab your umbrella.

“Crap, we’ll get—”

There was an inaudible click before you heard a woosh of the umbrella being opened. You looked behind you at Connor who gazed at you placidly while he held a black umbrella steadily in his hand.

“Did you steal that?” you questioned blankly.

“Stealing goes against my ethicality protocol,” Connor answered languidly, stepping closer to you. “These conditions, however, would be hazardous to your health and since I noticed you didn’t bring an umbrella this morning, I took the initiative and borrowed one.”

Casting a suspicious look his way, you hummed under your breath, “From whom?”

Connor hesitated, eyes flickering sideways like he was searching for the right word.

“A friend,” he replied slowly, a knowing twist to his lips. “Shall we?”

You stared at his offered arm, and shaking your head in mild disbelief, locked your arm around his elbow, stepping under the umbrella.

—  —  — 

By the time you reached Jimmy’s Bar, you were ready to break Hank’s kneecaps.

Wandering around Detroit in an aimless search for the Lieutenant had really put a damper on your evening; the miserable, cold rain not helping your already sour mood. You thanked whatever higher powers there were for Connor and his umbrella though. At least you were dry.

You pressed closer to the android in question, trying to leech whatever little warmth you could. He held the umbrella tirelessly in his hand, his other palm playing with the familiar silver coin, gaze sharp and alert as he focused ahead.

Ignoring the warning sign stuck on the door—you couldn't help but roll your eyes at it—you both stepped inside the bar. Connor smoothly closed the umbrella, shaking the excess water off as you rubbed your numb fingers together, eyes flickering in search for familiar grey hair.

You both walked deeper into the bar, and you couldn't help but bristle at the way occupants were eyeing Connor with poorly veiled anger and disgust. Gritting your teeth, you stepped closer to him, glaring at anyone who glanced your way.

“Lieutenant Anderson,” Connor greeted, drawing your gaze away from the leering men.

Hank groaned and lifted his head slowly, shooting a bleary look your way. “Wha’ the fuck are you two doin’ here?”

“We’ve been assigned another homicide case, Lieutenant,” Connor informed briskly, offering a distant and dismayed stare at Hank’s unfocused expression. “May I suggest we depart as soon as possible because we already wasted plenty of time.”

Hank glared at the android so fiercely, you were surprised Connor didn’t spontaneously burst into flames. “And I thought you two had plenty of excitement yesterday,” he grunted brusquely, condescendingly leaning his words your way.

Okay, so intoxicated Hank was an asshole. Surprise, surprise.

“Please, Lieutenant,” you cut in sharply. “We just spend hours searching for you in the freezing cold. A terrible crime just happened, and it’s our duty to be there to investigate it. Even if you don’t care about the investigation, at least let us do our jobs.”

Hank’s severe expression wavered, and he exhaled heavily, glowering your way.

Seeing your opening, you pounced, “We’ll even buy you another drink for the road, right, Connor?”

Noticing your pointed stare Connor nodded stiffly, arms locking behind his back. “Yes.”

“Homicide, huh?” Hank repeated stonily. “Let’s get it over with then.”

—  —  — 

You regarded the miserable structure that just barely resembled a house with a ruminative frown.

Hank cut the engine—the loud, overbearing sound of heavy metal abruptly cutting off—before all three of you got out of his car.  

Icy rain was still coming down heavily and you ignored the sting of it against your skin as you followed Hank.

“They’re with me,” he muttered blatantly to the parameter officer who looked ready to stop you and Connor.

You wrapped your arms tighter around yourself, feeling the bone-chilling rain beginning to seep through your jacket. Connor paused beside you, his attention now on you.

“You’re cold,” he stated bluntly. “If you would like—”

“It’s okay, Con,” you answered distractedly. “Investigation comes first. I can handle a little rain.”

“—got yourself an android, huh?”

You whirled forward, your gaze focused on a middle-aged man who was talking with Hank. You didn’t miss the way he looked at Connor.

There was disgust there, mixed with sort of unease that made your own expression harden. The man took the initiative, leading you inside the house as he read through the official report. You listened with half an ear, desperately trying to breathe through your mouth in hopes of alleviating the foul smell.

Carlos Ortiz had a rather colourful history by the sounds of it, including theft and aggravated assault. His body was already hitting latter stages of decomposition if the swelling on the body was anything to go by, suggesting that he was dead for at least a few weeks. No signs of a break in, the possible murder weapon was a knife, and there were no signs of his android either.

Looking around carefully, your gaze caught the writing on the wall just above the body.

I AM ALIVE

For some strange reason, you couldn't tear your eyes away from the perfectly written script. It made you feel something you couldn't quite put into words. A tinge of sadness mixed with desperation, and a burning knowing that these words were written by someone who was crying out into the void.

Look at me.

Please see me.

I am alive.

“(Name).”

You almost leapt out of our skin when you felt Connor’s fingers on your elbow. His eyes were narrowed as he peered at you inquisitively, indicator flickering sharply. “I apologise for startling you. But after I failed to gain your attention, and noticed your pulse rising, I suspected something might have happened.”

“I-I’m fine, sorry,” you stammered, hastily stepping away from the body and the writing on the wall. “Let’s look around, try and see what we can figure out, partner.”

You ignored Hank’s disbelieving stare at your declaration, and moved towards the suspected murder weapon.

You weren’t really prepared for what happened next though.

Connor expertly swiped across the blade and placed his bloodied fingers inside his mouth.

“Jesus! What the hell are you doin’?” Hank snapped in disgust, expression dismayed as he stared the android down.

“I can check samples in real time,” Connor defended, looking slightly bemused by Hank’s reaction. “I’m sorry if it made you uncomfortable. I should have warned you both.”

“You can check any sample is real time?”

Hank rolled his eyes with a forceful grumble at your amazed tone, and you shot him a look. “Sir, you have to agree that’s kind of incredible. Gross, but incredible.”

“Yeah, yeah, simply amazin’,” he groused impatiently, glaring at you both. “Just don’t stick any more evidence in your mouth, got it?”

“Got it,” Connor agreed with a hilarious little salute in Hank’s direction. The older man muttered angrily under his breath and moved away.

“I’ll check other rooms,” you announced, casting your eyes towards another side of the little house. Connor hesitated before dipping his head in agreement.

Avoiding the milling officers who were busy collecting samples, you walked through the dark corridor, trying to spot anything of interest. The further you went, the fewer people seemed to be around and you exhaled in relief when you noticed no one else was in the bathroom when you step inside.

It was dark like the rest of the house and just as dirty.

Curiously, you checked the sink before moving towards the shower stall. You pulled back the curtain carefully, cautious for any unpleasant surprises.

And there was definitely a surprise inside, just not the type you were expecting.

r A 9

R a 9

r A9

Unease trickled down your spine at the obsessive scribble. It ran from top to bottom, every little space crammed full of the letter combination.

“Connor,” you called weakly, like your barely audible whisper could conjure him up from thin air. Much to your surprise, a few moments later you heard firm footsteps before Connor appeared in the doorway. He cut the space between you in few steps, stopping next to you as he examined the writing and the mini shrine at the bottom.

“What the hell is Ra9?” you asked apprehensively, trying to shake the uncomfortable feeling off.

“I do not know,” Connor replied softly, his forehead creased pensively. He stood up in one fluid motion, gesturing towards the door. “Let’s go, we should talk with Lieutenant.”

Rubbing your arms warily you followed after him. You found Hank leaning heavily against a battered wall in the living room, watching the proceedings with a stultified expression.

“Lieutenant Anderson,” Connor addressed the older man. “I believe I know what happened.”

Hank looked unimpressed, and waved his hand in a ‘proceed’ gesture, “Really now? Go on then.”

You eagerly listened to Connor take you both through his version of events. The struggle that began in the kitchen when the deceased supposedly attacked his android who then proceeded to defend itself.

28 stab wounds later, Carlos Ortiz was dead on his living room floor.

“Fine, that does align with the evidence,” Hank muttered reluctantly. “And it doesn’t sound completely ridiculous.”

“Wait, you said the android was damaged by a bat, right?” you asked curiously. “There are no signs of a break-in, no one escaped through the back, and there are no broken windows. So...where is the android?”

There was a stretch of silence between you as you all came to the same conclusion.

The android must still be here.

“It lost Thirium during the struggle,” Connor pointed out, eyes already scrutinising the dark space around you. “Any traces would be invisible to human eye after few hours.”

“But I bet you can see it, right?” Hank wondered out loud.

Connor simply dipped his head in agreement. “Correct.”

There was sharpness to Connor’s gait when he began moving through the house, following an invisible trail you couldn’t see despite your best efforts. He moved towards the bathroom again and you stumbled to catch up with him, your hand on your gun. He paused suddenly, his stare aimed upwards as you followed his line of sight.

The attic hatch.

You angled a look his way, nodding your head as you took your gun out. Connor walked back towards the kitchen, returning a few moments later with a shabby looking chair. You caught his elbow before he could step on it, and he instantly stopped in his tracks.

“I’m coming with you,” you told him seriously, breathing the words in the quiet space between you. “And this isn’t about me looking down on your ability. Just logical safety in numbers.”

You couldn't read a single thing from his visage—the slopes of his face smooth and barren of any emotions—but he hesitated for a long moment before inclining his head once.

He moved seamlessly, easily hoisting his weight through the hatch and into the attic. He froze for a moment, and you aimed your gun upwards preparing to fire at the first sign of a struggle. He disappeared from your line of vision for a long minute, and just when you were about to call his name, he reappeared, extending his hand towards you.

You cautiously got on the groaning chair, placing your hand in his as he effortlessly hoisted you up. Your stomach quivered from slight vertigo, and you squeezed Connor’s hand in a silent thank you before letting go.

Taking in the damp, stuffy space, you pulled out your gun, moving further as you squinted in the darkness. You craned your neck to find Connor who was still standing beside the attic hatch, staring intently at his open hand as he flexed his fingers gingerly.

There was a loud creak, and you tensed, rising your gun in front of you defensively. Connor seemed to teleport to your side, taking the lead as you both cautiously evaded random objects littering the ground.

Lightning struck, and you exhaled sharply as a large figure stumbled out of the darkness. He froze upon seeing you and Connor, a panicked look on his face.

Please… I was only defending myself…” he stammered helplessly, his indicator a frightening shade of dark red. “He was going to kill me. Please, I beg you. Don’t tell them.”

You took in the android’s bruised and battered form, one of his arms missing an entire chunk of artificial skin while his other hand looked burned and bumpy. Almost like…

Almost like someone spent a lot of time putting cigarettes out.

You had a duty to do.

But there was a tiny part of you that wondered what would happen if you and Connor simply left, and pretended you haven’t seen anything.

Hanks’ voice was a blur from downstairs, but Connor’s wasn’t.

“It’s here, Lieutenant.”

You felt that wish crash and burn.

—  —  — 

It was hopeless.

Every question Hank fired at the deviant was met with deafening silence.

You watched the interrogation from the other side of a two-way mirror, your arms crossed over your chest as you tried your hardest to ignore Gavin in the room. For some reason, he believed it was necessary for him to be involved.

Hank finally slammed his hands against the table in frustration; expression agitated as he rose from his seat and left the interrogation room.

“We’re wastin’ our time with this damn machine,” he snapped scornfully as he stormed into the room, falling into one of the empty chairs.

“We could always try and rough it up a bit,” Gavin suggested calmly, eyes flickering towards you and Connor. “After all, it’s not human.”

“Androids don’t feel pain,” Connor debunked promptly.

“And he’s clearly traumatised,” you added, ignoring Gavin as you directed your words at Hank. “The symptoms are textbook. If we try to hurt him further we’ll just cause unneeded damage. He might even shut down, and then all of this would have been for nothing.”

Hank turned to you, ignoring Gavin’s scoff and bitter mutter of “him” as he looked at you keenly.

“What would you suggest then?”

“Well, we could try and repair him, give him time to recover and begin to trust us,” you suggested earnestly. “It would take a long time though, or…” you trailed off, peeking at Connor who was beside you, only to find him already looking your way.

“I could interrogate it.”

You smiled faintly, pleased by the fact that you were on the same wavelength again. Gavin laughed sardonically behind you, and you rolled your eyes in annoyance.

“It’s more likely the deviant will respond well to someone of his own kind,” you told Hank who looked morose.

“Fine, it’s not like we have anythin’ to lose,” he replied curtly.

Connor left the room with a stiff nod, and you registered a change in him the moment he stepped into the interrogation room.

He was a blank and emotionless slate, full of sharp remarks and cutting words as he picked the facts apart with terrifying effectiveness. You couldn't help but jolt a little when he slammed his hand against the metal table, the ring of it setting your teeth on edge. Feeling someone’s stare, you looked away from Connor to find Hank watching you with a fathomless look.

“For the first time I felt scared...scared I might die…”

You listened to the deviant’s confession ruefully. To know that cruelty and hatred had driven him to murder wasn't surprising. First Emily and Lucas, and now this android.

An endless cycle of hate that was only escalating.

“Well we have our confession, let’s get that thing,” Gavin spoke, snapping you out of your musings. Everyone shuffled out of the room and you followed behind them. Connor was by the door when you entered, watching impassively as Chris made a move to grab the deviant. The android flinched violently, twitching as he moved away. Chris tried again, Gavin snarling something angrily behind them and you stepped forward.

“No, don’t pressure him,” you called hurriedly, ignoring Connor who brushed beside you, his posture tense. “He’s scared of physical contact. Don’t force him—”

It happened so quickly you didn’t even have time to exhale.

Chris stumbled as the deviant grabbed his gun. His hand shook brutally but he still managed to aim the nozzle in Connor’s direction.

The ear-splitting bang clawed against your heart, and you felt Connor’s arm graze yours as he fell from the impact of the bullet. You didn’t even register the second gunshot, just the sound of the deviant hitting the floor dead. You crashed down with Connor’s body, half wrapped around him as you tried to keep him up. Thirium soaked Connor’s face and your hands as you felt a scream lurch in your throat. A giant bullet hole sat in the middle of his forehead, his eyes open and unseeing.

No,” you choked out. “No, no, Connor. God, please no. You can’t—”

Raw grief tore through you as you grasped his face in your hands, shaking him frantically. You hugged him to you, wrapping your arms tightly around his body. “D-Don’t be dead. Connor, please, please, don’t. Please not again—”

You felt arms wrap firmly around you, trying to pull you back, and you made a sound at the back of your throat that sounded like a wounded animal; harsh and guttural as you held onto the dead android fiercely.

“C’mon, kid,” Hank’s low grumble finally reached your brain. “C’mon, he’s gone. You have to let go. (Name), you have to let go. It’s goin’ to be alright, kiddo. Trust me.”

It wasn’t going to be okay. But you listened anyway.

—  —  — 

It felt wrong to be sitting in the passenger seat.

Your place was on the back seat, safely nestled between your two partners. Not—not this.

Hank didn’t give you much of a choice though. He removed you from the room himself, dragging you to his car and seating you inside. He was a man of few words ever since, but the kindness of his gesture touched you nevertheless.

You stared at your hands blankly.

Connor’s blood was already fading, barely visible in the low light. You could still feel the phantom weight of his dead body in your arms, and the feeling of his cold skin beneath your fingers as you tried to shake him back to life.

“Where will they take him?” you asked abruptly, your voice thick even though you hadn’t shed a tear.

Hank frowned, looking deeply unsettled, and you wondered if this was regret. If maybe deep down he was starting to warm up to Connor as well, even if he never admitted it.

“CyberLife I suppose,” he replied listlessly. “To do whatever it is they do with, uh, inactive androids.”

The silence between you two was suffocating as Hank pulled up beside your apartment building. He cut the engine but didn’t say anything else.

“Look, kid,” he began gravely after a long pause. “I know you...actually cared for the damn thing. But at the end of the day, it was an android, ya’ know? It didn’t feel any pain.”

Your smile was a small, brittle thing when you finally turned to face him.
“He was my friend.”

You saw your words hit Hank by the way his whole body sagged, but you didn’t wait for a reply, opening the car door and stepping out into the freezing night.

You managed to climb up the steps of your building, you managed to walk through the lobby, you even managed to get inside the elevator and press the necessary button. But there—confined in a tiny metal cube that was suspended high in the air—you let yourself go.

You let yourself crumble into nothing as tears finally came.

Chapter Text

You’ve reached Steph! You know what to do after the beep!”

You hesitated for a long moment, a heavy weight sitting on your chest, “S-Steph? Please... I need you. I-I need my friend. Please Steph, please...”

You tried to say more but before you could, a loud beep cut you off, freezing the words in your mouth. The phone between your fingers felt so heavy, you allowed it to slide from your numb hand and onto the floor noisily.

Steph had teased you about it. Using an old, outdated phone when communication was so easy nowadays. You wondered what she would say now —if she still saw you using it—wondered if she would tease you again or if she would be angry like she was the last time you saw her.

How much does it hurt (Name)?” the memory of her furious face, and bitter words pierced you. “How much does it hurt? Not enough, never enough. It will never be enough.”

You curled into yourself, pressing your forehead harshly against your knees. Your apartment felt cold, hollow almost, but you couldn't find the strength to stand and move. Couldn't even find the will to go and wash your hands.

It felt too final. Like if you washed whatever traces of Connor that still lingered on your skin, your friend would truly be lost forever.

Friend, friend, friend.

Steph, Connor.

Some hateful voice deep inside of you almost sang with glee.

You’re very good at losing those, aren’t you?

—  —  — 

“Are you well Miss (Name)?”

Those words were spoken in the usual, unchanging monotone, but the subtle weight behind them made you freeze. Your tired, weary gaze looked towards Bob who was sitting behind the reception desk, face the customary blank canvas as he stared at you unblinkingly. His LED was still and unmoving, and there was nothing on his face that would suggest he was affected by your appearance, but you still couldn't force any words out.

You were so used to telling people you were fine, and good, thank you for asking so much better now. But this was different. There was no judgement, or anger, or pity in Bob’s eyes, just a subtle sort of slant in his silent regard. Your grip on the counter tightened and for a long moment, you couldn't think at all.

The station was quiet this early in the morning, and you noticed the night-shift officers still prowling the peaceful hallways. Truthfully, you could tell Bob everything if you wanted to. No one would be able to hear you, and it would be so much easier to pour your heart out to a kind, unjudging face.

“I’m fine, thank you,” you muttered weakly instead, the words sliding down your throat like acid; harsh and stinging.  

Bob stared blankly at you, his head slightly tilted to one side. The gesture stung so deeply, you immediately looked away. Because even though it was so very different in execution, it reminded you too much of Connor.

Blue blood.

Dead eyes.

Dead eyes.

How much does it hurt (Name)?

“Not enough,” you whispered, and felt the punishing truth of those words settle in your heart.

“Miss (Name), if I may, I have over a hundred comfort principles installed in my program,” Bob spoke suddenly, breaking your reverie with his bland words. “You may use them any time you need.”

A smile—weak and off-kilter—tugged your lips upwards, and you rubbed the heel of your palm over your sore eyes for a moment. You felt the sting of friction and ignored it, taking a moment to look at Bob’s face as he examined you in return.

“Thank you, Bob,” you finally replied weakly, even though his words made you want to cry. Except, of course, you didn’t think you were capable of shedding any more tears after yesterday. “I will keep your offer in mind.”

The android did not reply, simply inclining his head marginally in your direction as if accepting your words. Your bleak smile quivered for a moment but you caught yourself before your emotions overwhelmed you again, and moved away from the desk with hurry.

You gave the android a cursory wave, not trusting your voice to provide an adequate farewell. Gripping your bag harshly between your fingers, you walked hastily further into the station, ignoring few startled looks that were sent your way by fellow officers.

They knew, or have already heard about what happened last night.

You didn’t want them to look at you, to judge you for mourning a friend. You wanted to hide away somewhere where you knew you would be safe from prying eyes.

The thought hit you so suddenly you stopped dead in your tracks.

There was only one such place.

—  —  — 

One, two, three...pause...one, two, three…

The click of the empty gun hit your ears twice before you finally lowered it in frustration. The paper target before you looked torn and ruined as you harshly tugged the headphones off your head. The holes were littered all over the large space, most missing important targets like heart or head.

(“You’re a good shot, for a human—”)

Stop,” you hissed angrily, practically ripping the empty clip out, your fingers shaking. A heavy, poignant weight sat in your heart as you breathed deeply, biting your lip in mute despair. That invisible weight scratched its way across your very soul, biting and tearing; practically burning you from inside out. You had known this pain once before—only once—and you weren't sure if you could bear to feel it again.

Not again, not so soon.

Lifting your hand again, you turned your wrist marginally to one side, gritting your teeth together in concentration.

You were strong.

You were a highly trained individual who had a job to do.

Pain, like all things, would come to pass eventually. You knew that.

And you had your life to get on with.

Bang.

The shot hit with terrible accuracy, piercing right through the middle of the target. You stared at the bulls-eye with a mix of anger and sadness in your heart. It was like you could feel Connor beside you; a soothing, calm presence that had stood by your side when he showed you the correct technique in the first place.

“It’s good to see you applying my suggestions to your technique (Name),” his smooth voice remarked from behind you and you exhaled slowly, closing your eyes as your arm lowered. “If you like, I could show you a few more tactics when we have free time.”

“Why would you be so cruel?” you whispered, squeezing your eyes shut tightly.

“(Name)?”

You shook your head, “It’s never enough. I know that. No matter how much it hurts, it’s not enough. But not you, please not you too.”

You felt a weight settle against your shoulder; steady and cautious, so very gentle too, as if there was some unspoken fear of hurting you. “(Name)?”  

You jerked away from the cooler touch, your eyes flying open at the insistent, cautious tone. Turning around in trepidation, you felt your breath halt in your lungs, squeezing tighter and tighter as you stared at Connor’s face.

He was the same as you remembered him—a distant, divine star that made you envious of the night sky for having him.

The familiar dip of his chin, the curve of his mouth and the richness of his eyes as they looked at you unfathomably with something. Perhaps worry, perhaps relief, or perhaps you were simply hallucinating what you so fiercely desired to see.

“You’re not real,” you breathed falteringly, your words rigid and throat dry. “You’re not real. I saw you d-die. You died. I held you—I—”

A firm hand landed on your shoulder again—his hand; real, solid, alive—and you almost felt the bones in your shoulder cave in, and your skin blister as his brows drew together. It was a tight, confused line that made his expression appear more severe, near unforgiving if it wasn’t for the gentleness of his touch.

“(Name), your vitals are worryingly high,” he spoke formally, steadying you as you tried to jerk away. “If you do not regulate your breathing in the next 30 seconds, you will experience a panic attack. Breathe, (Name), breathe,” he added, a little softer but still with enough command in his voice that you couldn't help but obey.

Your lungs ached but mouthful by mouthful, you forced more air into them. The pressure building against your temple eased, and you didn’t realise how close you and Connor were standing till your shaking fingers reached forward to brush against his forearm hesitantly.

“I must apologise, I sought you and Lieutenant out the moment I arrived,” Connor explained, voice quiet and smooth as if terrified of scaring you away. “I thought that it would be better if I explained the situation myself. My replacement was dispatched the moment—”

Your arms wrapped around him so fiercely, you felt Connor lean back slightly from the impact of your bodies colliding.

And it was the sensation. The feeling of the solid, warm mass of him, the scratch of his jacket against your cheek that woke you up, made you bleed with the realisation that—

“You’re alive.”

Connor was still for a long moment, a stiffness to his entire frame that would have made the contact between you awkward under different circumstances. But your arms were around him in an unbreakable grip as you pressed yourself so tightly against him, it almost hurt. “I do believe another apology is in order (Name). I did not realise that the demise of my predecessor would cause you such distress.”

Breathing deeply through your parted lips, you almost jumped when you felt a hand settle tentatively on your lower back. Awkward, unsure.

“You’re alive,” you murmured vacantly again, your hands still trembling.

Connor shifted ever so slightly, “(Name), you know better than that. I am not, in fact, alive. I’m simply—”

Alive,” you cut in, harshly, shakily. “You’re here, and you’re alive.”

The hand on your lower back tensed against your skin briefly before you felt him shift again, his words brushing against the top of your head as he leaned down.

“Yes, (Name), I’m here. I’m here.”

—  —  — 

“So...how does it work?”

A busy cafe was probably not the best place for this type of conversation, but it was the closest you could find near the station. It supposedly served some pretty good coffee too.

You hadn’t realised that it was almost lunchtime until Connor led you out from the target range, scanning your identity card against the electronic reader. It was impossible to not glance at him every few seconds. Impossible not to feel the exhilaration each time you saw him, and it hit you again that he was truly and wholly alive.

Real.

Connor, in turn, was quiet, almost perturbed as he gazed thoughtfully out of the window. His indicator was a peaceful blue but there was an underlying tension on his face when he finally turned to you.

“What happened with the deviant yesterday was both unexpected and unpleasant,” he began stiffly, hands clasped together, and you felt uncomfortable with the stringent way he addressed you. Like a stranger. “When a Connor model is destroyed, CyberLife dispatches a new one to take its place. I understand that it must be an unpleasant thought for you, but I hope that it will not hinder our work together.”

You swallowed feebly, breaking your gaze as you glanced outside, and towards the busy street, “So you’re not my Connor,” you voiced softly, resignedly, the happiness in your chest fading just a little.

A replacement, and nothing more.

Replaced like one might replace a broken toy.

He was not the Connor who showed you his coin tricks, Connor who spent long nights sorting through endless case files with you, the one who made you laugh on daily basis and saved your life.

Not your friend.  

Just a—

“I didn’t forget you,” he said, his words catching your attention as your gaze turned back to him. “When my predecessor was destroyed, it uploaded its memory. For me...it feels like I’ve simply been asleep, but everything we’ve been through together still happened (Name). I did not, however, foresee you caring so much that it would have a negative impact on your wellbeing.”

“Of course I care,” you snapped grimly, your breath hitching. “You—You’re my friend Connor. Of course, I care.”

Connor’s expression smoothed; the furrow of his brows easing and it was almost comical to see gentleness bleed back into his expression as he shifted unsurely, looking almost taken aback by your words.

A flare of amber against his temple, and he frowned slightly. “Oh. I see,” was his soft, hushed reply. “Had I known you regarded our relation as such, I would have updated my social protocols to reflect it. Last entry is marked as ‘partners’ I believe.”

A weak, relieved laugh escaped your parted lips, and it felt good to feel that amber of joy nested against your heart again. “You really haven’t changed, huh? You’re still you. Still Connor.”

He was looking at you again. Looking with that subtle, probing look that stripped you of your armour, stripped you of any defensive shield you could throw up. It was so unnerving to feel yourself being emptied piece by piece.

For a being that kept insisting he was not human, Connor was surprisingly good at decoding them.

“You’re unwell.”

Blinking, you forced a strangled laugh, patting your cheek lightly, “Wow, tell me what you really think Connor. I didn’t exactly sleep well last night,” you informed him with a worn smile.

But he didn’t smile, didn’t so much as blink as he peered at you severely. “I did not mean physically unwell, although your blood sugar levels are below the advisable threshold. I mean that you are unwell...inside...and I’m afraid I do not know how to proceed since I know nothing of such matters. But as your friend, I have an obligation to try and help.”  

A good friend makes you feel like they see right into you, and even though they find all the bad bits, they still love you for you. Just like us!

Steph.

There was warmth inside you that brimmed the longer you looked at Connor’s inquisitive eyes.

“Don’t ever change Connor,” you said finally with a genuine twitch of your lips, and Connor’s head lowered in confusion from the ambiguity of your words. “I know it’s probably your programming making you say this or whatever, but...just never change, okay?”

“Change...is against my programming (Name).”

A long beat of quiet followed his words as you regarded each other tersely.

“Wait, I just realised,” you spoke up suddenly, breaking the peaceful quiet as you leaned towards him suddenly. Connor froze, blinking from the quickness of the motion but did not otherwise react. “If there’s more of you out there...does that mean CyberLife just has a room full of Connors stashed away somewhere?”

“While I have not seen this type of space myself,” Connor replied evenly. “I can only assume that something of a similar effect is in place, yes.”

There was a stretch of silence between you again, the lively cafe setting filling the stillness in-between as you tried to find the best way to phrase your next question.

“Does that make you sad? I know you say you’re a machine that feels nothing but—”

Connor’s eyes narrowed; first, in confusion, then realisation as his lips moved into a taut line. “Why would that make me sad (Name)? I hold no attachment to my bodies. I am merely a tool to be used as CyberLife deems fit.”

You smiled painfully at him. “Because it breaks my heart when I think about my friend being used like that.”

Connor pushed back sharply, and you jumped at the forceful way his back met the seat behind him. For a brief, terrifying second there was such bright red burning through his indicator you felt your eyes widen in shock, but it was gone in a blink. The wild burn in his eyes settled like a sea after a storm, and then he was at ease again. Calm.

“Con?”

Worry seeped into the careful way you said his name, and his answering impassiveness was almost unsettling.

“We should return to the station (Name), Lieutenant is unlikely to be pleased if we’re late,” he stated calmly, rising from the booth first. He reached forward, offering his arm, “Shall we?”

You rose from your seat without taking his hand, your gaze searching as you gazed up at him with concern. Connor’s head dipped slenderly, and you vaguely wondered if he realised how graceful he sometimes was for a cold, unfeeling machine. He moved first, turning away as he stepped towards the door, and your hand jerked forward on instinct.

Don’t let him walk away from you.

Your fingers gripped the back of his jacket rigidly, stopping him dead in his tracks. He didn’t turn around, and you were happy to stare at the back of his head when you spoke demurely, “I’m really glad you’re back Connor.”

You held on for another few seconds before you let go, your fingers hesitant as you ignored the rigid slope of his shoulders.

You brushed past him hurriedly, and didn’t let him see your crestfallen expression when he followed behind you silently.      

—  —  — 

There was a crowd around your desk.

Stumbling to a halt, you felt Connor’s arm brush against yours as he stopped beside you as well. Officers milled around the space, all talking loudly and pointing as your eyes sought out the familiar, weathered face of Hank.

The older man looked ready to tear off heads. He stormed around, snapping at anyone who tried broaching questions.

Naturally, that was the exact moment he spotted you. His expression looked murderous as he stalked towards you briskly. Shooting Connor a withering look as he came to a stop before you, he looked over your appearance once before glaring at Connor again.  

That told you everything you needed to know about how well their little reunion went.

“Where the fuck have ya’ been?”

“Uh, lunch,” you replied shortly, trying to look over his shoulder. “What is going on?”

There were footsteps behind you, and you almost cringed at the voice that registered in your ears, “You two idiots just had to get into trouble, didn’t you?”

“Gavin,” you greeted with fake cheer. “To what do I owe this pleasure? Here to fulfil your daily asshole rota?”

The man scoffed, giving you a lazy sneer, “I have no issues with you, sweetheart, besides your poor taste in company,” he said, casting a harsh glare Connor’s way who was like an unmoving statue beside you. He glared at the android darkly for a moment before glancing at you again. “You look like shit by the way.”

“Bite me, egomaniac.”

“Enough!” Hank snapped, glancing between you three. “Come along. And I hope you have some answers for me, kid.”

You obediently followed Hank as he led you towards your desk. Noticing your approach, other officers cleared a path for you before Hank stopped in front of the desk you shared with Connor.

“This was addressed to you,” Hank said, glancing at the object on your desk.

You moved towards the box and Connor was beside you immediately, expression hard as you both looked inside at the same time.

Sitting inside, bundled in a white towel was a severed android hand, soaking the fluffy material in bright blue blood.

Next to it, pinned by a familiar, sleek black arrow was a note:

FOLLOW THE TRAIL