He is having a bad day, he decides. He is having, as Hank would call it, an off day.
He sits in the car on the way to the precinct and runs his coin across his fingers, over and over, digging it into the grooves between his knuckles and scraping his fingernails along the serrated edge, focusing on the deep rumble of the car’s engine. It sounds like a large mammal. It sounds like Sumo when he is very happy.
The day outside is grey and wet, though not a bad sort of wet. It’s the sort of rain Connor likes, a gentle pattering rain, one which prickles on the pavement and turns the sky dark and clean. The air smells good, or at least it did in the seven seconds it took him to make the journey between the door and the car, so probability dictates it will still smell good when he gets out the car again. He’s not wearing a raincoat (“Just make a run for it, Connor,”) but he doesn’t mind about getting wet as much as humans seem to. It helps that his hair and skin is synthetic. And that his clothes are waterproof. And that he likes the rain anyway.
His coin has grown warm with the friction from his hands, despite the fact that he emits no body heat. He can smell the metal. Its smell is strong and bad, and catches in the back of his throat like the smell of human blood. Likely due to the high iron levels in human blood, and the fact that his coin was manufactured when iron was still used in the production of currency.
He puts his coin back into its special pocket and taps his hands on his knees instead.
They have a case, a good one, an interesting one—two homicides within a week of each other within the same 0.7 mile radius. Both human victims, male, first victim twenty-seven years old, second victim thirty-four years old, stab wounds to chest puncturing left lung of first victim and right lung of second victim. Both occurring at precisely the same time (four thirty-seven A.M.) with the space of five days separating them. No known connection between the two cases. They have already been to both crime scenes, he has sampled the blood and identified the murdered individuals, and Hank has questioned the three witnesses they have collected from the combined cases. One female, fifty-seven years old, human, living opposite the alleyway where the first murder took place, who happened to be looking out her window at the time; one male, sixty-one years old, human, who passed the alleyway where the second murder took place; one male, one year and seven months old, android, who had been—
“Yes, Lieutenant,” he says immediately, turning his head to meet Hank’s eyes; then, “Eyes on the road, Lieutenant.”
Hank makes an amused sort of grunting sound and settles his hands more comfortably on the steering wheel, his eyes flicking back and forth between Connor and the almost deserted road. “Hank. Not Lieutenant. We’re not at work.”
“We are on our way to work, Hank.”
“Yeah, but you don’t have to call me ‘Lieutenant’ until we’re in the actual precinct. Come to think of it, you don’t need to call me ‘Lieutenant’ at all, we fucking live together.”
“My databanks show that humans feel an increase in confidence and contentment in their work if they are treated with respect by their subordinates. This includes the use of specific reference to rank when addressing—”
“Connor. If you really wanna call me Lieutenant, go nuts. But if you call yourself my subordinate again, you’re sleeping in the dog shed.”
“…Got it, Hank.”
They don’t talk again until they reach the precinct, though he can sense Hank’s eyes moving to the side of his head every few minutes or so. It makes him feel nervous, which is what Hank has told him he is likely feeling when his stress levels are between ten and twenty percent. Connor had made Hank come up with a word for every ten percent (Hank had resorted to using a synonym website for the last three) and had later written them down in a list which he attached to his wall. He already had them committed to memory, but it felt comforting to have the list visible in neat CyberLife Sans.
Hank brings the car to a halt in the staff parking lot and turns off the engine, tucking the keys into his pocket. For a moment there is silence, except the steady drumming of the rain on the roof and Connor’s hands still beating a quiet rhythm on his legs.
“You doing okay, kid?” Hank asks, after approximately nine seconds. He has one arm resting on the steering wheel and has turned in his seat to look at Connor, who suddenly wants his coin back in his hands very much.
“I am operating at full capacity, Hank,” he says, succinctly. It’s not strictly a lie, but he is very glad that Hank can’t see his LED from this angle.
Hank continues to look at him. His eyes are very warm and very gentle, and Connor suddenly wants to be back at home with Hank and not have to go into the precinct. He wants to go into stasis, because he hasn’t been in stasis for seven days despite the recommended amount of time out of stasis being two days, perhaps even thirty-six hours for a model of his calibre. The sound of the rain hurts his ears.
“You know you can tell me if there’s something up, Connor,” Hank says, and Connor’s fingers ache for his coin. “I’m not good at all that—personal shit, but you can tell me anything at all. You know that, right? Anything at all.”
Connor nods, once, a programmed down-and-up. Hank nods too, and pats Connor briefly on the shoulder before opening the car door and climbing out. Connor waits for approximately three seconds before opening his own door and following Hank into the building.
The office is busy, despite the supposed ‘evacuation’ of Detroit still being in progress—although, from Connor’s perspective, very little seems to have changed since the revolution other than more androids populating the streets than before. In the four months since the android uprising, crime has increased by a little over twelve percent, which Connor deems fairly reasonable given the circumstances, yet he remains the only android detective in the Detroit Police Department. According to Hank, this is a good thing, who refers to Connor’s role with a strange amount of pride. Connor is just relieved to still have his job. The strict adherence to routine, enforced by his work hours, is a relief in the confusing disorder of post-revolution Detroit. He also feels vaguely that he ought to prove himself, to show Captain Fowler that he was not mistaken in permitting Connor back onto the team, as several of the other officers in the precinct seemed to think he was. His hours are long, but he doesn’t mind. He works hard, and it feels nice, and he gets to see Hank all the time, as well as a few of the other officers with whom he has had some pleasant interactions. All things considered, Connor thinks he is doing well. ‘A-OK’, as Hank would say. All things considered, Connor thinks he is doing A-OK.
“Oh, fuck off,” Hank says loudly as they arrive at their desks. “How much fuckin’ paperwork can two homicides make? Jesus.”
Connor sits down at his own desk and listens to Hank continue to grumble, trying to decide whether or not to take his jacket off. Normally he doesn’t mind the rain, even on his clothes, but today the dampness against his skin makes a bad feeling run all over his body. Removing his jacket would mean changing his outfit, however, and he has one very specific outfit which is his only work outfit and cannot be altered in any way. He has not yet removed his jacket whilst at work and has no intention of making today the first time he does so. Detroit Police Department policy dictates the uniform regulations for its officials, and while Connor would not be going against any official legislation by removing his jacket—he has read and reread the specifics multiple times—something about the idea feels wrong. He decides to keep his jacket on and ignore the damp feeling, reminding himself that he does not technically have a nervous system, and that these synaptic responses are merely measures put in place by CyberLife to keep him informed of possible damage to his epidermis. His tie also feels very tight today, although he knows it is no tighter than it was yesterday as he has not changed his outfit for several days and has been in no circumstances in which his tie would be tightened. He is very aware that people keep moving past his desk, carrying folders and papers, and that multiple times they come within a foot of his chair. The noise seems to be getting louder, although he knows that this is the normal level of volume for the precinct, perhaps even quieter than usual as it is a Wednesday and ten percent less staff are required at the—
“Yes, Lieutenant,” Connor says for the second time in twenty-three minutes, looking up from his desk to make eye contact with Hank, who has not yet sat down.
“Are you gonna do anything?”
“I’m afraid I don’t understand.”
“You’ve just been sitting there for five minutes,” Hank says. He’s frowning slightly. Connor wishes he would look away and stop talking to him; then he immediately feels bad and pulls his coin back out its pocket to run it across his fingers. Stress level: thirty-four percent. Anxious.
“I was…thinking about the case,” he says, untruthfully.
“You are a truly shit liar, Connor.”
“I was programmed to be an excellent liar,” Connor says. The coin feels very hot in his hand, and he is finding it very hard to maintain eye contact with Hank. “I was given the most advanced technology in deception and manipulation in order to improve my success as a negotiator. I also have an inbuilt lie-detector programme which can be manually activ—”
“Well, they fucked up,” Hank interrupts, sitting down heavily at his own desk. He gestures at Connor’s head with a lazy hand. “Your LED thingamabob goes haywire before you tell a lie. Bit of a giveaway.”
“I appear to have lost a degree of my covertness since I became a Deviant,” Connor says, trying not to sound defensive.
Hank snorts and begins sifting through the papers on his desk, rubbing his hand across his forehead. “Sure, kid.”
Connor tries as hard as he can to lose himself in his work. He keeps his hand pressed to the computer terminal, running through the information from the crime scenes, building and rebuilding the scenarios until his head feels full and exhausted; he drafts reports that follow his thought processes exactly, page upon page of cataloguing and conjecture, interspersed with the statistical and factual details he manages to pull out of the short list of actual evidence. He wants to go home and recharge, but they are in late today, covering an afternoon shift to make up for an officer lost in the evacuation. He thinks about how long they have left until they can leave—seven hours and forty-eight minutes—and feels an indefinable sense of panic which he quickly suppresses.
Stress level: forty-five percent. Upset.
At 12:25 P.M., an officer walks past with a box of folders and accidentally drops it next to his desk. The sound is very loud, unnaturally loud, and Connor feels himself flinch, his hand disconnecting from the terminal. It takes his audio and visual units 0.08 seconds longer to come back online than they normally would, by which point the officer has given a careless apology, gathered up the fallen folders and moved on. Connor notices Hank watching him from across his desk. His expression is concerned.
“You jumped out of your skin, Connor,” he says, carefully.
“Not only is that impossible, Lieutenant, I do not technically have skin,” Connor responds, keeping his voice as level as possible. He is being casual. “I was merely startled.”
Hank watches him for another moment, then returns to his paperwork, a slight frown furrowing his forehead. Connor reconnects with the terminal, running his coin back and forth across his knuckles as fast as he can. Stress level: fifty-seven percent. Distressed.
At 13:56 P.M., Captain Fowler summons Hank into his office. He does so by roaring “Anderson!” through the closed door, a call which Hank obeys by rising irritably to his feet and stamping over to the glass-walled room, muttering indistinguishably under his breath as he goes. Hank is still Anderson, no matter the circumstance, although technically Connor is also Anderson now. Hank’s insistence that he adopt his own name had been apparently due to the necessity of having a surname on his ID, although his persistent gruffness in bringing up the subject had made Connor sceptical of its true motivations. He likes his little Connor Anderson nameplate as well, which sits at the corner of his desk, next to the small cactus he has placed there. Captain Fowler seems comfortable still with addressing him as Connor or Detective depending on the formality of their interaction, although his occasional usage of ‘Detective Anderson’ always gives Connor a warm feeling around his thirium pump.
Connor remains in his seat as Hank moves away. The absence of Hank is a bad feeling, even though he can see him through the walls of the Captain’s office, and he tries to return to his work. He manages to concentrate for a hundred and thirty-four seconds before a hand touches his shoulder and he jumps, jerking backwards in his chair, static splitting his vision as he pulls his hand away from the computer terminal.
“Oh, shit, sorry, Connor,” says Officer Wilson, holding his hands up in guilty apology. “Didn’t mean to make you jump, man.”
“That’s fine,” Connor says; and then again, jerkily, “That’s fine. That’s fine.”
“I was just—wondering if you needed to have a look in the evidence locker,” Wilson said, still looking faintly embarrassed. “We’ve got a bulk load coming in for the android rape case, don’t wanna be in there for hours if you need to have a poke around.”
“No,” Connor says quickly, then says it twice more in the same inflection to make sure. “No. No. I have examined all the evidence I need, thank you, Officer Wilson.”
“Alright, cool,” Wilson says, smiling uncertainly. “I’ll let you get on, then.”
“Thank you, Officer Wilson,” he says again, and waits for a few seconds as Wilson walks away to give his thirium pump a chance to return to its normal rate. The spot on his shoulder where Wilson touched seems to burn, and he wants very abruptly to crawl under the desk and enter stasis. He flexes his hands on his legs and waves them up and down briefly, liking the feeling of the air on his palms and the movement of his wrists. His thirium pump rate is taking a very long time to return to normal, although he has not been performing high-adrenaline activities. He reconnects with the terminal, ignoring the notification that flickers across his vision. Stress level: sixty-six percent. Overwhelmed.
“You wanna go get a coffee or somethin’, kid?” Hank asks at 15:12 P.M.
“I do not need to eat or drink,” Connor says, lifting his fingers from the screen and allowing his skin to flow back over the white endoskeleton.
“Yeah, but your LED’s been on yellow for the past half hour,” Hank says, putting down the sheaf of notes he’s been sorting. “If you don’t need anything yourself, you can go get me a coffee. You need a break, Connor, you’ve been working for six straight hours.”
Connor stands up reluctantly and straightens his tie, then sets a course for the kitchen. He wants to go home and sit with Sumo and bury his hands in his fur, and perhaps let Sumo lie on top of him so the weight of the dog makes him feel like he’s been compressed into the floor. He skips his coin along his knuckles, trying very hard to will his LED back to blue so nobody will notice.
The process of making coffee for Hank is so familiar he hardly needs to think about it at all. The comfort of routine is nice, and he feels his stress levels drop, very gradually, as he collects Hank’s mug from the cupboard (‘FUCK THE POLICE’) and fills it at the machine, still rolling his coin across his hand. Its pressure on each of his fingers is so familiar that its sudden absence makes his processes falter for a brief moment, his eyes flicking down to his vacant hand and then back up to the new person who is abruptly and alarmingly very close to him, much too close, flicking Connor’s coin up and down in one hand.
“So, Barbie,” Detective Reed says, a smirk pulling up one corner of his mouth. Smirk: pejorative. A smug, conceited, or silly smile. “This your pocket money, huh? Did daddy Anderson give you your daily allowance?”
Connor stares at Reed’s hand, trying to force his vocal processor back into functionality. He feels odd. Lightheaded. He wants his coin back.
“Detective Reed, I would appreciate it if you would return my coin.”
The words sound staticky, mechanical, and he becomes aware of a low buzzing from the coffee machine which drills into his ears and makes his head hurt. Reed laughs, though Connor didn’t say anything intentionally funny, and turns to look over at the small cluster of officers grouped around the table.
“Aww, little plastic Anderson wants his pocket money back,” he says mockingly, still flipping the coin in one hand. Then, turning back to Connor, he drops it into his pocket and meets Connor’s eyes, a slight smile still curling his mouth.
Stress level: seventy-four percent. Agitated.
“If you want it,” he says, lifting his hands and pulling an innocent expression, “you can come get it.”
Over the ringing in his ears, Connor distantly hears one of the officers at the table say, “C’mon, lay off, Gavin.”
“No, no,” Reed says, taking a step closer to Connor. Red starts to glow at the corners of Connor’s vision. It’s too bright. The light hurts.
“Please,” he says. Static.
Stress level: eighty-nine percent. Panicked.
“Listen to this!” Reed says delightedly. “We’ve got our resident Robocop begging! What else can you do, huh, plastic? What’s the red light for, huh? Does it mean you need your daddy?”
“Jesus, Gavin, leave him—”
“It,” Reed says loudly, “It’s an it, aren’t you, plastic?” And he puts his hand on Connor’s shoulder and shoves.
The mug falls from Connor’s hand and smashes on the floor. The sound reverberates across the room like a cannon blast, like the sound bites he has heard of old wars, like the deep, tearing metal sounds from within Jericho as it was blown apart from the inside out, like a scream. Connor is vaguely aware that he is malfunctioning. He has sustained damage to his chest cavity and cranial component, and his audio and visual processors are offline. There is pressure on his head, and it takes him several seconds to realise that it is coming from his own hands, his fingers digging into his scalp, his arms locked tight across his face. He is sitting down, or kneeling, or doing something on the floor, because he can feel himself rocking backwards and forwards, and there are noises coming out of his mouth although he can’t hear them because he can feel his vocal module vibrating, aching, hurting. Androids can’t feel pain.
Stress level: ninety-six percent. Meltdown.
He wants Hank, very badly, he wants to hold onto him and be held like the pictures of children and their parents he was shown during his educational briefings on human integration at CyberLife, crying children, frightened, going to their parents for comfort and support. There are noises around him, distant through the static, but he can feel the reverberations in the floor from people moving, walking, someone running. Something touches his arm and he lurches backwards, squeezing his arms tighter around his head, trying to stop the shaking that is making his whole body rattle. There is more movement, sounds picked up by his audio receptors that don’t translate into speech, people all around, too many.
“Hank,” he says. He can’t hear himself. His voice is disconnected from his body. “Hank. Hank.”
And then he can feel someone beside him, not too close, a human, he can hear their heartbeat, fast and panicked, and their breath, smelling faintly of alcohol, the scent of lavender soap that they bought together at the grocery store, and their warmth, not touching him, just there, close enough for him to reach out for. He channels all his energy into his audio receptors, straining to translate the sounds he can hear over the hiss of static, feeling the cold in his legs, the warmth beside him, the exhaustion in his eyes and voice and body and brain.
“I’ve got you, son, I’m here, I’ve got you, I’ve got you, I’m here, son—”
And he reaches one hand out from his protective shield and grasps Hank’s hand like a lifeline, like he’s pulling him back up from the ledge again, holding on tight and feeling the heat of Hank’s palm, dry and calloused and rough like sandpaper, squeezing back just as tight.
It takes several minutes—he estimates eleven and a half, although he does not yet trust his systems to be operational enough to give him a reliable approximation—before his visual processors come back online and he unfolds slightly from where he is crouched in the corner made by the cabinet and the wall to see Hank kneeling beside him, still holding his hand tightly in his own, looking at him with so much worry and fear and love in his eyes that he wants to break down. He wants to cry. Instead he says, without meaning to, with his systems still focused on the image of the frightened child being held by its comforting parent: “Dad?”
Hank’s embrace, when Connor leans forward into it, is tight and warm and good. He can feel Hank’s hand at the back of his head, cradling the nape of his neck like a baby, and he grips onto the back of Hank’s jacket and presses his face into his shoulder and breathes.
It takes a long time for his stress levels to drop enough for him to regain motor function in his limbs. When they eventually do, Hank guides him to his feet, and puts his arm around his shoulders, and they leave the precinct together through the empty office. Connor finds out later that Captain Fowler had ordered the staff out of the main lobby while they left. This fact fills him with the familiar warmth that he is becoming more and more accustomed to.
They go home, and watch a terrible film about ants, and Sumo lies across Connor’s entire body like a very heavy blanket and Hank keeps his arm around Connor’s shoulders even after he goes into stasis. Upon his return to work—Captain Fowler insisted he take the next day off, which Connor spent reading about ocean sunfish and cooking spaghetti Bolognese for Hank—he receives a slightly bewildering apology from Detective Reed, which is mostly comprised of, “Jesus, I’m sorry, man, I didn’t mean to—I didn’t know you were—Christ. I don’t know what to say, man. I’m sorry, Connor. I was a real dick.” He accepts Detective Reed’s apology and his coin back, and his gift of a new mug to replace the broken one (‘POLICE OFFICER BECAUSE BADASS MOTHERFUCKER ISN’T AN OFFICIAL JOB TITLE’).
It takes them another three days to solve the case. They catch the murderer in the act of his third crime, but manage to save his final victim. He goes out to Jimmy’s with Hank to celebrate, along with the rest of the team, and he feels good. He feels happy.
Stress level: three percent. Calm.
All things considered, Connor’s doing A-OK.