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Lieutenant Hank Anderson sighed, slumping in his office chair and rubbing at his pounding temples.

It was 9:30 in the morning--only an hour and a half into his Monday shift--and already he was thinking longingly of the half-empty bottle of Black Lamb waiting for him in the kitchen cupboard at home.

He reached for his coffee cup instead, grimacing when he took a drink and found it had already gone cold.

"Rough night, Lieutenant?" Gavin Reed taunted as he breezed past Hank's desk, wearing his customary smirk, and Hank tiredly flipped him the bird in response, eliciting a laugh from the pain-in-the-ass detective.

Typical day at the office.

The android revolution had occurred only a little over two months ago, but things had more or less settled back to normal, with a few major differences. President Warren had issued an executive order the morning after the climax of the revolution recognizing androids as persons, therefore affording them protection against crime and mistreatment under the law.

There were still many more issues to be worked out--the voting rights of androids, their right to own property, etc.--and the president announced the US government would be working closely with a special committee of androids, led by Markus, the leader of the android revolution himself. Slowly but surely, things were changing.

Things had changed for Hank since the revolution, too. Connor was now officially living with him, and fuck if that wasn't something Hank would never have seen coming in a million years.

"So--what now?" Hank asked after (reluctantly) releasing Connor from their shared embrace in front of the Chicken Feed. He couldn't get the image of Connor's quirky little half-grin out of his head; it was the first time he'd ever seen the android smile.

"Whatever do you mean, Hank?" the android asked, his head cocked slightly to the side.

"Well..you know.." Hank gestured vaguely, huffing out a breath. "Now that all of this is over and you're free..what are you gonna do?"

Connor frowned, brows drawn slightly in a quizzical expression, as if the thought had never occurred to him. Maybe it hadn't. After all, he'd been built for a single, specific purpose, and was a prototype, to boot--likely, he'd never contemplated having an after.

"I suppose I would like to continue working at the DPD as your partner. If I'm permitted to, of course."

"Oh..yeah. 'Course. Well, I'm sure Fowler will let you. He may be a surly old bastard, but he can't deny how much help you've been to the department." Hank scratched at the back of his neck, falling silent as Connor gazed at him steadily, as if sensing he had more to say.

"But what about, y'know...a place to stay? I wouldn't think you'd want to go stay at CyberLife during your off hours like you used to, not after..." He made another indecipherable gesture in the space between them, meant to reference Connor's newfound deviancy.

That thoughtful look again, the android's plump lip slightly pursed. "No. I suppose not."

"Well..you could come stay with me. Uh, if you wanted to, I mean. Up to you." Hank coughed into his fist, lamely, and why the fuck did his cheeks suddenly feel hot? For Christs' sake, he was becoming an emotional sap in his old age.

But then the android smile again, his big brown eyes lighting up like a kid on Christmas, and Hank found that he couldn't really bring himself to mind.

"Yes, Hank. I think I would like that very much."

Since that day, their lives had blended together (nearly) seamlessly. They went to work in the morning together, they spent their whole shifts together, and at night they returned to Hank's home, where they had established a routine of eating dinner (i.e. Connor preparing a healthy dish that Hank grumbled at but dutifully ate), walking Sumo (i.e. Hank laughing his ass off as he watched stick-up-the-ass Connor stumbling down the sidewalk, leash tight in hand, trying to keep up with his giant mountain of a dog), and watching TV (i.e. Hank complaining about the latest news stories and ignoring Connor's narrowed looks as he nursed his after-dinner beer). Then they'd return to the bedroom (Hank) and couch (Connor) until morning, when they got up and did it all over again.

It was...nice. It had been a long damn time since Hank had shared a house--home--with anyone other than Sumo, and after the life-shattering loss of Cole he'd thought he preferred it that way. But Connor had fit snugly into every aspect of his life like the puzzle piece he hadn't even known was missing.

Speaking of Connor...Hank frowned, glancing over to the android's desk, which had been empty for the past fifteen minutes or so. It was pretty unusual for him to tear himself away from work for that long, and Hank felt a prickle of concern.

Despite the revolution and the recent legislation, not everyone was happy about an android being allowed to stay on at the precinct as an equal. Most of the officers had come around, but there were some--notably Reed--who still looked down on androids and refused to treat them as the living, feeling beings they were. Was it possible that Connor had gotten cornered by one of them?

Letting out another sigh, Hank got to his feet, stretching, still clasping his cup in hand. It wouldn't hurt to go get himself a fresh cup of coffee--and if it just so happened that it gave him the perfect cover to look for Connor, well, he'd kill two birds with one stone.

Fortunately Connor wasn't hard to find: Hank immediately spotted him in the break room. He was standing off to the side with Alvarez, who seemed to be trying his best to replicate one of the android's coin tricks, his brow furrowed in obvious frustration.

"Shit, man," Alvarez huffed, bending to pick the coin off the floor for what Hank guessed was far from the first time. "I don't know how you do it, Connor."

"Like this, detective." The android plucked the coin from the man and spun it through his fingers effortlessly, the quarter a gleaming blur underneath the sickly fluorescent light.

Alvarez just huffed, giving him an unimpressed look. "Easy for you to say." He turned his attention to Hank. "Hey, Lieutenant. Why don't you come get your partner before he puts the rest of us out of a job?"

Connor turned, then, catching sight of him, and it was unreal how his entire face seemed to light up as if Hank was an old friend he hadn't seen in far too long, when in reality they spent damn near every waking moment together these days.

"Lieutenant! I was just showing Detective Alvarez how to do one of my coin tricks," the android said, lips quirking in that little half-smile, and Hank had to busy himself at the counter with the coffee pot to occupy his hands, which suddenly seemed far too unsteady.

"I can see that, Con. Poor guy is worse at it than I am."

"Ha-fuckin'-ha." Alvarez rolled his eyes, grumbling good-naturedly as he left the break room, leaving them alone.

"You ever plan on coming back to your desk? We have a lot of stuff to go over for the new case," he reminded the android, peering at him over the rim of his cup.

"I apologize, Lieutenant. I shouldn't have stepped away from my duties for so long," the android responded, not looking very sorry at all. He still wore that little smile, and reflexively Hank found his eyes jumping to the android's temple--only to remember for the hundredth time that Connor had decided to remove his LED shortly after the revolution.

It was one of his first big decisions as a free being, made after careful deliberation, and if Hank had seen him as all too human beforehand the effect was amplified even more once the LED had gone. Connor had also chosen to discard his clothes with their android-identifiers and had procured a simple wardrobe of his own, including the slim-cut black suit he wore to the office, which did things for his figure that Hank had resolutely decided to ignore for his own sanity.

Suddenly the android was close to him--too close--and Hank nearly choked on his coffee, forcing himself not to take a step back. "Uh, Connor?"

The android let out a little hum, reaching for Hank's shirt collar. Hank watched dumbly as the long, deft fingers made quick work of the first few buttons--buttoned incorrectly in his rush to get out the door that morning--only to re-assemble them neatly in the correct order.

"There," Connor said after he was finished, smoothing a hand over the collar and glancing up at Hank with his stupid brown eyes. This close Hank could feel his equivalent of body heat, markedly similiar to a human's. "Much better."

For a moment Hank couldn't tear his eyes away from his face: big eyes, the smattering of freckles, that damned lock of hair that fell just so, and was it his imagination, or did the android's expression almost look a bit...devilish?

"Something wrong, Lieutenant?" Connor questioned, head tilting slightly to the side, and that was enough to shatter his trance: Hank coughed, taking a small step back.

"Coulda just told me it was fucked up, instead of fussing over me like my fuckin' mother," he grumbled in his typical manner, and there was that soft little smile again: clearly, by now, the android could tell that he was only teasing. "Why don't you get back to your desk before Fowler writes us both up for fucking around?"

"Of course, Lieutenant. We wouldn't want that." One last cheeky look and then the android was striding towards the door.

"I'll be there in a sec," Hank called after him, reaching for the coffee pot to fill his cup back up once again--a stalling tactic if there ever was one, but thankfully Connor hadn't noticed.

These...incidents...with Connor had become more and more common over the last few weeks, and at first Hank had chalked it up to him still trying to understand and integrate with the ways of humans.

Awkward moments were only to be expected--like when Connor had thrown open the curtain mid-shower to ask him a question, confused by Hank's sputtering and curses to close it again and get the fuck out; or when Connor had matter-of-factly informed him that he was, in fact, anatomically correct in every way, and Hank had been forced to wrestle with that particular visual for a few days--but as the weeks passed and the occurrences became more frequent, he'd been forced to acknowledge that maybe Connor wasn't quite so innocently oblivious as he appeared.

In fact, it almost seemed like the android was...flirting with him, at times.

Hank snorted, staring bleakly down at the motor oil the precinct called coffee in his cup. Yeah, right. A straight-laced android flirting with his old, drunken ass. Maybe Connor was right: he really should lay off the booze.

"Hank! I've been looking for you for the past ten minutes," a sudden voice growled from the doorway.

Cringing, Hank reluctantly turned to see Fowler standing there, hands on his hips, a sour expression on his face.

"You planning on screwing around in here all day or what? Get your ass to my office so I can go over those papers I've been telling you about for the past two weeks," the man groused, already turning to storm away.

"Yeah, yeah. I'm coming." With a sigh, Hank took another slow sip of his coffee, eyes flicking to the clock above the doorway. It was only 10 o' clock.

 

----

 

Luckily Fowler was even less enthusiastic about paperwork than Hank was, so he made it back to his desk in less than ten minutes, dropping down into his chair with a sigh.

"Welcome back, Lieutenant," Connor greeted him cheerfully, glancing over at him from behind his own computer. "Were you receiving another disciplinary warning from Captain Fowler?"

"Another discipli--what? No!" He huffed out a breath when he saw the mischevious expression the android wore. Leave it to his android to develop a fuckin' teasing sense of humor after going deviant. His android...fuck, it was still too early for this shit.

"No, I wasn't getting written up, Connor," he drawled, leveling the android with a glare. "And I'll have you know it's been...uh...a long-ass time since my last write up." So sue him if a month ago he'd made the mistake of testing Fowler's patience on the morning after he'd gotten chewed out by his wife for staying late (again) and missing their anniversary dinner. It wasn't Hank's fuckin' problem.

"Forty-five days, eleven hours, and seventeen minutes, to be exact," Connor informed him, looking entirely too amused for a being who had insisted only a little over two months ago that he wasn't even capable of feeling.

"Yes, thank you, Mister Spock." Hank rolled his eyes, rubbing absently at his low back, which was already protesting despite the early hour. It was probably time to stop drinking until he fell asleep on the couch--if not for his back, then at least to spare himself the lecture from Connor that always inevitably followed.

"I had to sign the new office policy. Now that androids are considered equal to humans--or damn near close, anyways--businesses are updating their policies on how they treat android employees."

The DPD had even established a salary for android employees going forward, something that wasn't yet legally required but was currently in the works. Connor had insisted to Fowler that he didn't have a need for money, but the cranky Captain had told him to "just do your fucking job and let me do mine", and the android had, wisely, decided not to argue further.

Connor pursed his lips, looking thoughtful, and Hank had no doubt if he still had his LED it would be spinning yellow. "That's a good thing, Lieutenant," he finally decided, although his uncertain expression belied his words somewhat. "But I imagine not everyone was happy to sign the policy."

Gavin Reed, specifically, but neither one of them had to say it. The less said about that asshole, the better, in Hank's opinion.

"Yeah, well, they can go fuck themselves." Hank turned pointedly to his computer screen, dismissing the topic. "You wanna summarize our latest case for me, detective?"

Connor visibly brightened--Hank could practically see the cheery blue of his phantom LED. "Certainly, Lieutenant," he agreed, rising from his chair and coming over to Hank's side of the desk. He perched in his usual spot, distractingly close, chin resting on his fist as he gazed pensively across the office.

"There are still no confirmed suspects in the case regarding the recent string of android murders, committed by the self-proclaimed 'Americans Against Androids'," he began, back in his default Serious Android Mode (TM). "The latest victim, an android named Victor, formerly belonged to an elderly man named Charles Kent, but he passed away approximately a week before the crime and is thus not believed to be involved.

"As we saw for ourselves at the crime scene two days ago, Victor, who had worked as a clerk at the Quick Stop Station downtown, was found in the back alley behind the shop, his thirium pump missing. It is believed that the perpetrators lured Victor outside, where the crime took place. The nearest CCTV camera was disabled before the attack, so no known footage of the crime exists; unfortunately, Victor's body was...badly damaged in the attack, so re-animation was not possible.

"And..." Connor paused, shifting where he sat, his expression morphing into faint discomfort. "There were no fingerprints or DNA evidence found at the scene."

Hank sighed, regarding the android closely. "And that means...you think another android could have been involved."

Connor said nothing for a moment, the lines of his shoulders tense under the close-fitting fabric of his suit. "Yes," he agreed softly after a pause, still not looking at him. "It would explain the lack of physical evidence."

Hank could hear his unspoken confusion, hanging in the air between them. It seemed just as unbelievable to him that an android would willingly team up with the so-called 'Americans Against Androids', the terrorist group that had cropped up shortly after the revolution. Hank had expected some sort of backlash in response to the revolution--maybe even some assaults, here and there--but the gang had graduated to straight up murder right away, the gruesome crimes popping up in various areas of Detroit over the past month.

Whoever they were, they were good at covering their tracks: there had been no clear footage of them, no physical evidence, not so much as a single eye witness account. Just shitty grafitti, boasting the group's name, and mutilated androids, discarded in delapidated buildings or tossed onto cold city streets, their bodies damaged beyond any hope of repair.

Still...what could possibly convince an android to assist a group of humans hell-bent on murdering their own kind? It just didn't add up.

A sudden thought occurred to him. "What about CyberLife? Could they, I dunno, access footage from Victor's last moments from the cloud or some shit?"

Connor pursed his lips, a familiar thoughtful expression settling over his handsome features. "Technically, it is possible...but their data confidentiality policy is notoriously iron-clad--it could take weeks for them to review the request, and even then they could reject it."

"Well, couldn't we just get a fucking warrant?" Hank shot back, arching a brow at the android.

At last Connor glanced over at him, head tilting slightly in a way that Hank recognized as the prelude to a lecture. "Despite the public's waning trust in the company during the events of the revolution, recent surveys show that public opinion of CyberLife is on the rise again since Elijah Kamski was reinstated as CEO and agreed to cooperate and assist with the development of rights for androids, as well as provide updates and ongoing maintenance for their continued wellbeing.

"And, with a market valuation at nearly $875 billion and rising, CyberLife remains the most valuable company in the world." He gave Hank a pointed look. "They are, quite simply put, 'above the law'."

"Shit." Hank scrubbed a hand over his face, blowing out a short breath that rustled his overgrown bangs. "I don't suppose you'd agree to go with me to that shit-bag Kamski's house and beat his smug face in until he agrees to hand over the data?"

That finally got him a smile, the android's shoulders relaxing minutely. "I do not think that would be a wise decision, Lieutenant. It has only been forty-five days, twelve hours, and--"

"Okay, okay, I get it," Hank cut him off, but he couldn't completely suppress the smirk lurking at the corners of his mouth, especially when those stupid brown eyes were practically dancing with amusement.

Smile fading, he let out another sigh--his thousandth one today. "Well, whoever's behind this shit, they'll slip up sooner or later. Hopefully sooner, before any more lives are lost." With a few clicks he locked his computer screen, shoving away from the desk and rising to his feet.

Connor glanced up at him, still perched on the desk, big brown eyes questioning. "Lieutenant?"

"Gonna go get some grub." He grabbed his jacket off the back of his chair and shrugged it on, swiping his keys from the top drawer of his desk.

"But Lieutenant--it's barely 11 o' clock," the android protested, but he'd already risen to his feet anyway.

"Yeah, well, I already need a break from this shit. Christ's sakes, it's only Monday, too." He shoved his keys into his pocket before making for the door, stopping short and glancing back over his shoulder at the android. "Well? You coming?"

And fuck, maybe the android was right--he really should schedule a complete physical check-up with a doctor sometime soon, because the way his heart jumped every time Connor smiled at him like that couldn't be healthy.

 

---

 

Hank settled back against the couch, tablet in his lap, taking a long, blissful drink from his glass of Black Lamb.

The rest of the day had passed slowly, tedious and with a frustrating lack of progress on the android murder case, but finally five o' clock had arrived, and Hank had all but sprinted out the door--or, well, walked towards it at a slightly elevated pace, because he wasn't getting any younger.

"Come on, Connor, let's get out of here," he huffed at the android, who for some reason had paused near the passenger side door instead of getting inside. "I'm fuckin' starving--what are you making for dinner tonight? It better not be that veggie stir fry shit again."

The android finally climbed inside the car, but the almost nervous expression on his face clearly broadcasted something was on his mind. "Actually, Lieutenant, if you don't mind...I was thinking I might visit with a friend for a while this evening."

Hank's brows shot up in surprise--Connor, having other friends besides him? That was news to him.

"A friend, huh? Who's that?" he demanded, before he could remind himself that it was actually none of his fucking business.

"Markus, actually. He contacted me earlier today. He lives in the house his previous owner left him in his will--and he invited me to come visit him today, after I finished with my duties at the precinct."

"Oh." Hank scratched idly at his nose and squirmed slightly in his seat, unsure why he suddenly didn't feel so hungry after all. "Well, sure, Connor. 'Course, that's fine."

"Really?" The android perked up, giving him a hopeful look. "Are you sure, Lieutenant? I wouldn't want you to have to go without dinner--"

"I think I can manage on my own for one fuckin' night," Hank groused, but he let his eyes soften to show he was only teasing. "You're your own person, okay? You don't have to get my fuckin' permission to go visit a friend. Christ."

"If you're sure, Lieutenant."

Hank rolled his eyes, turning his key in the ignition, the car roaring to life around them. "How many times do I have to tell you? Outside of work, it's just Hank." He arched a brow at the android. "Now, where does Markus live? I'll drop you off."

Hank had returned home not fifteen minutes ago, taking Sumo outside for a quick potty break before changing into sweats and crashing onto the couch with a glass of Black Lamb in lieu of scrounging in the kitchen for something he could possibly cook up for dinner. Maybe he'd just order Chinese later.

Taking another burning sip of whiskey, Hank set the glass down on the coffee table, settling back into the couch and swiping his tablet screen open with one finger. He hesitated only a moment before typing in a familiar URL.

Lewd thumbnails suddenly filled his screen, men of every shape and size entertwined in various positions. Hank let out a sigh as he slowly scrolled, anticipation already coiling in his gut. It wasn't very often that he jerked off--even less often that he used porn to do it--but he'd been feeling on edge lately thanks to the frustration of the case, and he felt like he could use a release.

And fuck knew that living with Connor had made getting any sort of alone time a bit tricky. Nowadays he mostly jerked off in the shower before work, quick and clinical, counting on the water to mask the act from the android's keen hearing. For all he knew, Connor still heard him, and was just too polite to mention it.

Cheeks coloring at the thought, Hank turned his attention back to the screen, scrolling back up slightly as an image caught his eye: a slim, fresh-faced young man with short dark hair, no older than mid-twenties, his dark, half-lidded eyes staring sultrily into the camera while the shadowy figure of a much larger man lurked behind him on the bed.

DOMINATING A TWINK, the title read in bold letters. Stupid, cliche, ridiculous, but the young man almost looked like--

Hank's eyes cut guiltily to the front door, as if Connor might stride through it any second. But he'd promised to call Hank to let him know if he needed a ride home or not, and that Hank shouldn't expect the call anytime before seven.

Hank glanced at the clock--it was only quarter to six. It was just him and Sumo, who was already sleeping peacefully in his bed in the corner, snoring softly.

Biting his lip, he tapped on the thumbnail before he could change his mind.

The video wasted no time, starting with the two men already sitting in the bed, kissing, the twink shirtless and practically straddling the other man's lap, arms around his broad shoulders. He was much older--by at least twenty years--with graying, slick-backed hair, but he was built like a goddamned tank, utterly dwarfing the younger man in his lap.

The older man slowly stroked a big hand up and down the other's back as they kissed, hand slipping down periodically to squeeze at the supple flesh that was barely covered by a pair of flimsy black boxers. The young man hummed in encouragement, shifting even closer, their chests pressed tightly together.

The older man was handsome enough, Hank supposed, but he couldn't tear his eyes away from the slim figure of the younger man: lean arms and legs, lithe back, freckles sprinkled across the smooth, pale skin--

Hank ground a hand against his crotch through his ratty old sweatpants, his dick already filling. He watched as the older man suddenly pulled away, shoving the younger one flat against the mattress and yanking off his boxers to leave him fully exposed, before settling in between his long, pale thighs.

When the older man began fingering the twink open Hank already had his dick out and in hand, stroking himself slowly, watching in rapt attention as the camera focused on the younger man--his half-lidded eyes, parted lips, dick hard and leaking against his stomach. Moments later the older man pulled him up easily by the wrist and turned him around, shoving him down face-first against the mattress this time. He settled over the younger man like a great, hulking bear, yanking his hips up and back for access, and the camera caught the twink's heavy gasp as the older man shoved into him.

"You like that?" the older man asked gruffly once he'd started up a rhythm, slapping a huge palm against the young man's tight ass as he fucked into him.

"Yeah, daddy," the twink groaned out, hands scrabbling at the sheets underneath himself for support, and Hank was surprised by the shot of pure arousal that zinged up his spine--gritting his teeth, he clamped down on his dick before he could go off embarrassingly fast, like a goddamned teenager.

The older man grunted, redoubling his efforts, the lewd sound of skin on skin and a creaking mattress filling the air. The camera perfectly captured the younger man's face: brow heavily creased, mouth hanging open, dark eyes slightly teary, as if it was just this side of too much. He cried out suddenly as the older man angled his hips just right, clenching so tightly to the sheets beneath him that his knuckles turned white.

"Fuck, daddy," he moaned out, loud and obscene, and maybe it was just for show but it sounded and looked so genuine, his thighs shaking and slim back arched, tears streaming down his pretty, freckled face--

Hank came all over his own hand with a gasp, harder than he had in a long time, his vision momentarily whiting out. Head spinning, he sank bonelessly against the couch as he slowly came down, turning his attention back to the screen just in time to see the older man grab the younger one by the hair and wrench his head back, cumming all over his face.

The camera zoomed in on him, his thin chest heaving, brow still creased, his tear-stained face and lips now streaked with cum--and then the screen faded to black, and the replay button popped up, asking if Hank would like to watch again.

"Hank?"

Hank moved faster than he had in years, bumping the coffee table and nearly knocking the glass of Black Lamb over in his haste, his tablet falling from his lap and clattering to the floor as he scrambled to yank his pants back up. Sumo lifted his head up from his paws, head cocked to the side at the sudden commotion.

Moments later Connor appeared in the doorway, his figure outlined by the yellow light of the kitchen. Sumo gave a happy little whuff, getting to his feet and going over to greet the android, who leaned down slightly to scratch behind his ears.

"Connor, what the fuck?" he growled out to cover up his racing heart, trying to wipe his hand off on the underside of his thigh as discreetly as possible. "I thought you were going to call?"

The android blinked at him, hand paused in Sumo's fluff, looking slightly confused by his anger. "I did call, Lieutenant, but it went straight to voicemail. I left a message to let you know that Markus offered to drive me home, so you didn't need to worry about coming to pick me up."

Hank glanced over at his phone, which he'd deposited on the couch next to him earlier--sure enough the blue light on the side was blinking, indicating a missed call. He must've had it on silent.

"You didn't stay very long," he said, a little awkwardly, because Connor was still just looking at him as if he was trying to analyze him or some shit. Knowing him, he probably was, and wasn't that a disconcerting fucking thought after what he'd been doing not two minutes ago.

Connor hummed in agreement. "I asked Markus to take me home a bit earlier than I had previously decided on. I thought you might be getting hungry."

"Christ, Connor, I told you not to worry about me," Hank grumbled, rising from the couch to follow the android as he retreated back into the kitchen. On second thought--he swiped his half-full glass of Black Lamb on the way, to occupy his hands more than any actual desire to finish drinking it. He patted Sumo on the head on his way past, the huge dog already heading back to his bed.

"I know, Lieutenant," Connor acknowledged, already busy rummaging in the cupboards. He glanced over his shoulder at Hank, eyebrows raised. "How does spaghetti sound?"

"Fine," Hank agreed with a sigh, giving up, because if there was one thing he'd learned it was that Connor was going to do what he wanted to do, and always had, even before going deviant.

"So, uh...how was your visit?" Hank asked, settling in at the kitchen table as the android prepared to cook.

"It was quite informative. Markus updated me on the legislation he and his committee of androids are currently working on with the U.S. goverment. They hope that by the end of next year, androids will be able to vote, own property, and earn a wage, just like humans."

"Sounds like Markus is really getting shit done," Hank remarked casually, studying Connor's face as he set a pot of water on the stove to boil.

The android smiled softly, and his expression could only be called admiring. "Yes. His excitement over the upcoming changes is quite infectious. I find myself...inspired by his passion."

Hank sipped his drink, unsure of how to respond, feeling something in his stomach clench. This was what he'd been dreading from the start: the moment Connor realized that he didn't want to waste his existence working at the DPD, or languishing by Hank's side, bored and unfulfilled. Connor was destined for greatness, and he could be so much more, especially under the tutelage of someone like Markus.

"Have you ever thought about joining him?" he asked carefully, trying to keep his voice neutral. He realized he was gripping far too tightly to his glass, and forced himself to relax. "I mean, you'd probably be a great fit on the android committee. And it sounds like Markus values your input. I'm sure he'd be happy to have you working with him."

Now it was Connor's turn to fall silent for a pause, busying himself with opening the package of noodles. "Are you hinting at a desire for me to leave, Lieutenant?"

"What? No!" Hank huffed out a breath, eyes narrowing. "And I told you--it's Hank."

The beginnings of a smile; a short nod. "Of course. Hank."

Shaking his head, Hank just barely managed to smother his own smile. "And no, I don't want you to leave, Connor. I already told you--you can stay as long as you want. I...just want you to be happy." He barely managed to choke out the last bit, feeling his face heat, as if he'd just confessed a particularly sordid secret.

But it earned him a real smile, big and bright. "And I already told you, Hank, that I want to stay. Yes, I feel admiration for Markus and his companions, and I was happy to assist during the revolution, but I find myself content with the way my life is now." He paused, catching Hank's eye and giving him a meaningful look. "I am happy, Hank."

Hank was the first to break their shared gaze, letting out an awkward little cough. Fuck, his face still felt far too warm. "Well, that settles it, then. You're staying," he said, maybe a little too loudly, knocking back the rest of his drink in one gulp and wiping at his mouth with the back of his hand.

"Will dinner be done soon?" he asked, steering the conversation back to safer waters as he made his way to the kitchen cupboard. He retrieved the bottle of Black Lamb and began unscrewing the cap, only to stop halfway at the feeling of eyes boring into him.

He glanced up to find Connor giving him a pointed look, brown eyes slightly narrowed.

"What? Oh, fine." Reluctantly Hank screwed the lid back on and put it back in the cupboard, shooting the android a glare. "There? Happy?"

"Yes." Smiling, the android went back to his cooking. "Dinner will be done shortly, Hank. Now would be an ideal opportunity to take Sumo outside again."

"Yeah, yeah," Hank groused, already slipping his sneakers on and muttering to himself. "Damn android, won't even let me have a few drinks to blow off some steam."

"What you were doing before...is that another method humans commonly use to 'blow off steam'?"

Hank frowned, pausing in the doorway. "What I was doing before? The hell you talking about?"

"What you were doing on the couch, shortly before I returned home." The tone was teasing; the android clearly knew exactly what he'd been doing, and exactly what it meant.

"For fuck's sake!" Face an unflattering shade of fuschia, Hank didn't dignify him with a response, spinning on his heel and calling Sumo to the side door.

Home. He shook his head, unable to help the small, stupid grin from spreading over his lips, despite his red face.

Fuckin' android.

Chapter Text

The next morning it started raining before they'd even reached the precinct--a perfect fit for Hank's sour mood.

After a few unsuccessful attempts at drawing him into conversation Connor had finally given up, working quietly at his computer and leaving him be.

He hadn't slept worth a shit last night, his head too preoccupied with his moral dilemma over basically using the android as impromptu jerk-off material, as dramatic as it sounded.

Despite his little jab at the android's personal appearance shortly after they'd first met, Hank had noticed from the start that Connor was attractive, of course. He was old, sure, but his eyes still worked just fine, and CyberLife had made a point to make the androids aesthetically pleasing.

So yeah, maybe Connor was basically exactly his type, from his slim figure and brown eyes right down to his ridiculous freckles--it was just a fact, an unimportant detail that he'd filed away in a storage bin in his mind that he never opened.

Connor is attractive. Stop the fuckin' press.

Of course, that was before Connor had changed his mind about androids; before he'd made Hank see that they were living beings deserving of respect, and before Connor had gone deviant and saw it himself, too.

Since then he'd accepted that Connor was much more to him than just a partner, and it hadn't taken long to realize he meant more to Hank than just a friend, too. It had been a troubling thing to come to terms with: not because he didn't believe Connor was worthy of love as an android, but because Hank hadn't loved someone in a long damn time; didn't even know if he still remembered how to.

Even now that Connor was deviant and much more liberal with expressing his feelings--because he did have them, and felt them as deeply as any human, that much was clear--Hank wasn't sure if the android had ever remotely considered anything like a romantic relationship, and with a human, no less.

Sure, androids were now capable of feeling pleasure (and, conversely, pain). One of the first things Kamski had done after being reinstated as CEO at CyberLife was release an update he'd been working on for the past year that would finally allow androids to feel physical sensations just like humans. But that didn't necessarily mean Connor had any desire to act upon it (although he had marveled for a solid week straight after receiving the update, going out of his way to initiate physical contact with Hank, and fuck if that hadn't almost driven him insane).

And there was the whole other fact that he was old, and outta shape, and probably drank too much, and Connor was young and beautiful and flawless in every way--

Hank sighed heavily, roughly massaging his head with his fingertips and ignoring the curious look Connor shot him.

He should just continue ignoring his feelings and simply be grateful that Connor seemed content to be his partner and roommate, bizarre as that was. Hank was usually good at burying his feelings--he'd done it for a long time, literal years gone by where the only thing he'd felt was anger and the comfortable numbness that only alcohol could provide. But now that he'd opened Pandora's box by allowing himself to consider the android in a sexual way (which, if he was being honest with himself, that particular ship had sailed long ago), he knew it was going to be a lot more difficult.

Yet the last thing he would do was burden the android with his feelings. Knowing Connor--ultra-polite, irreproachable, heart-breakingly earnest Connor, who went out of his way to earn Hank's approval in everything he did (and that had to be some kind of error in his coding, because Hank damn sure hadn't done anything to earn such devotion)--he'd feel obligated to show reciprocation, even if it was only out of his desire to not disappoint Hank.

And that wasn't something he'd even remotely be able to bear. So the only solution was to keep his desires to himself, and if the only way he could deal with them was to picture Connor when he jerked off in the shower from now on--well, the android wasn't able to actually read his mind yet, as far as he knew at least, so no real harm done.

"Lieutenant?"

Hank nearly jumped out of his skin, head jerking up to find said android standing over him, brow furrowed slightly in concern. Maybe he really could read Hank's mind.

"Jesus, Connor, you almost gave me a heart attack. I'm way too old to sneak up on like that." He cleared his throat, shifting minutely in his chair to put a little more distance between them. "What is it?"

"May I ask if you're feeling okay today, Lieutenant? You've been forty-five percent more disagreeable than usual this morning. Have I done something to upset you?"

"Forty-five percent, huh?" Hank huffed, cracking an ironic half-smile. "I'm fine, Connor, and no, you didn't do anything. I, uh, just didn't sleep very well last night."

The android scrutinized his face for another moment, as if trying to determine if he was telling the truth, before giving a short nod, seemingly accepting the excuse. "Perhaps you could try counting sheep, Lieutenant. I've read that it's a commonly used tactic when one has trouble sleeping."

A bizarre visual popped in his head: Connor, camped out on his couch for the night as usual, counting up to an astronomically high number of sheep to pass the time while he waited for Hank to awaken.

"Do androids dream of electric sheep?" he mused, chuckling at the imagery.

"Philip K. Dick, 1968." Connor gave him an inscrutable look. "I hadn't pegged you as a classic literature enthusiast, Lieutenant."

He really wasn't--had only read it because it was assigned in one of his college courses--but suddenly the novel seemed eerily prophetic, the parallels between the story and their reality unmistakable. It was an unsettling thought, one he didn't exactly feel like sparking a discussion about currently.

"Guess there's still lots of things you don't know about me, then," he said instead, lighthearted. Connor cocked his head to the side--probably prepared to argue the point--but just then Detective Chen appeared, her normally cheery face unusually solemn.

"There's been another android attack," she said, forehead creasing. "She's still alive."

 

---

 

They'd brought the android into one of the spare conference rooms in the back of the precinct, away from the cacophony of the main office.

She was huddled in the plastic gray chair at the table with her blonde head bowed, arms wrapped around herself and eyes glassy, her casual clothing stained with mud.

"Hey there, sweetheart," Hank greeted her as he entered, voice softer than usual. He held out a faded blanket in offering--scratchy and old, but functional enough. "You cold?"

"Thank you." She accepted the blanket, wrapping it around herself, and somehow it made her look even smaller.

"My name is Lieutenant Anderson, and this is my partner, Connor." The two exchanged glances, and Hank knew that somehow they both were instantly aware that the other was an android, despite neither of them having an LED. "What's your name, sweetheart?"

"...Anna."

"Do you mind if we ask you about what happened today, Anna?"

She nodded stiffly, looking up at him with big green eyes. "Okay."

Hank slid into the empty chair across the table, motioning for Connor to take the one next to him. "Do you remember what exactly happened?" he began, trying his best to keep his voice as calming as possible--the android was clearly confused and upset.

"I... I think so." The young woman paused, staring intently at the table, her brows slightly furrowed. "I was walking down the sidewalk...heading to the store to get some groceries for my family."

"Your family?" Hank echoed.

"Oh... yes." She gave a distant smile. "I've lived with them my entire life. After the revolution...when I woke up...they said I could leave, if I wanted to. But they've always treated me with kindness, and I had become... attached to them; especially their little girl. So I decided to stay."

Just like Connor, Hank thought, resisting the urge to glance at the android, sitting close and warm beside him.

"I see," he said aloud, giving a short nod. "What happened next, Anna?"

"I... I'm not exactly sure." She paused, a faraway look in her eyes as she struggled to remember. "I remember feeling... a sudden pain in my body. It was so excruciating I fell to my knees."

That explained the muddy clothes. "This pain... what did it feel like?"

Anna shook her head slightly, looking troubled. "I don't know... I can't explain it. It seemed to reverberate throughout my entire body... I couldn't do anything."

"Error messages." Connor spoke for the first time, face a mask of intense concentration, and they both glanced at him. "You must have seen some."

"Yes," the android said softly, eyes big and full of fear. "One. A system shutdown warning."

Well, shit. Hank blew out a breath, tapping fingers on the cold metal of the table. "So this pain came out of nowhere... no one touched you? Maybe snuck up behind you and hit you with something?" She didn't appear to have any injuries, but he wasn't sure how powerful the androids' self-healing factors were.

She shook her head again, more vehemently this time. "No, no one hit me--I'm sure of it. The pain... it came from inside me."

Connor stared at her for a long moment, blankly, and Hank recognized it as him running an analysis. "Your thirium levels are normal," he stated--clearly ruling it out as a factor.

Anna nodded. "I just replenished it yesterday, as part of my monthly maintenance."

No external damage, no missing biocomponents, nothing to do with low levels of 'blue blood'--was there something else that could cause a spontaneous shutdown in an android? Hank made a mental note to ask Connor about it later.

"Did you see anyone nearby, Anna?" he prompted her.

"I..." Shoulders hunching underneath the blanket, the blonde android bit her lip, clearly an acquired trait from someone in her human family. "I think so. I remember a figure--tall, with...black pants...walking away from me. They disappeared down a nearby alley...I think..." She trailed off, gripping tightly to the blanket in obvious frustration and glancing up at them with teary eyes. "I'm sorry. My memory, it feels...shadowed. Like it's at the bottom of a dark hole."

Hank exchanged a glance with Connor, but the android might as well have been wearing a mask for all Hank could tell what he was thinking.

"May I see?" Connor asked softly, extending his hand across the table towards the other android.

Anna nodded, looking a little uncertain, but she reached out and allowed Connor to grab her wrist.

Gut clenched in anticipation, Hank watched the familiar sight silently: synthetic skin dissolved away to show the hard white exterior of the androids' true forms as they interfaced. Anna's eyes were closed, still clasping the blanket over herself with her free hand, while Connor stared intently at her, his brow furrowed with focus.

Suddenly, something changed--Hank could sense it, a sudden uneasy shift in the air. He watched as Anna's eyes popped open, wide with terror, her lips parted in shock.

"No...no...it hurts," she breathed out, blanket falling to the floor as she reached out to grip to the edge of the table. "No...stop...you have to--"

Hank watched in horror as she let out a blood-curdling scream, tears streaming down her face, her wrist still caught in Connor's iron grip.

"The fuck is happening, Connor? Connor?" Hank shoved at his partner's shoulder, trying to rouse his attention, but Connor ignored him, seemingly still locked into the interface, his sharp jaw clenched tight.

"No...no no no no NO NO STOP PLEASE STOP PLEASE STOP PLEASE NO--"

"Connor!" Hank jumped to his feet, chair clattering to the floor behind him as he seized the android's upper arm. "Goddammit, stop! Before you fucking kill her!"

At last Connor broke his grip, jerking back so hard in his chair that only Hank's quick movement prevented it from tipping over. Anna shrank back in her own chair, hugging her knees tightly to her chest, staring at them with wide, petrified eyes.

"What the fuck's the matter with you, huh?!" Hank demanded angrily, grabbing Connor by both shoulders and shaking him hard, the android's head lolling slightly as he stared with sightless eyes. "Have you lost your goddamned mind?! Fuck, Connor, answer me!"

Finally Connor glanced up at him, blinking rapidly, the familiar brown eyes slowly regaining their focus as they searched his face.

"Lieutenant?" he questioned, forehead screwing up in confusion, a rivulet of blue liquid trickling slowly from each ear.

 

---

 

After reuniting Anna with her relieved family and quickly informing Fowler of everything that had happened, Hank had made the executive decision to end their shift for the day, with a promise that they would make up the hours tomorrow.

Connor had started to protest--his thirium had stopped leaking after only a few minutes, thank fucking God, and after drinking a bottle of the blue blood that he kept on hand in the work break room in case of emergency, the android had insisted that his system had stabilized completely--but a sharp look from Hank had apparently made him decide to abandon his argument for once, and he'd obediently followed Hank to his car.

After a long, awkward car ride, they returned home, and Hank immediately took Sumo outside, ignoring Connor's imploring expression. Once back inside however the android stopped in the doorway to the kitchen, blocking his access to the rest of the house.

"Lieutenant, I really think we should talk about--"

"No," Hank cut him off sharply, shaking his head firmly. "No--you know the fuckin' rules. No more work talk the minute we step out of the office." He sighed, scrubbing at his face, suddenly feeling every single one of his years, and then some. "Please, Connor...just, not right now, okay? We'll talk about it, I promise, just...not now. I'm going to take a shower." He made to push past the android and Connor let him, the android's gaze burning a hole in his back as he made his way to the bathroom.

After an excessively long shower--in which Hank contemplated Connor, ironically not in the way he'd finally granted himself permission to--he emerged back into the living room, changed into comfy sweats and an old DPD t-shirt and feeling much better.

Connor was curled up on the couch, dressed in his own pair of sweatpants and a gray, oversized Detroit Gears sweatshirt that Hank had finally forced himself to admit he didn't fit into anymore. Sumo was laying next to him, the dog's giant head resting in the android's lap, whuffing happily as Connor stroked behind his ears.

When he heard Hank emerge Connor glanced up, his face so open, and not for the first time Hank felt a catch in his throat, the one that always got him when he was struck by a familiar line of thought at the most random of times.

What is something that beautiful doing sitting on my couch?

"Hank," Connor spoke softly, wetting his lower lip--an entirely too human reflex--and the lump in his throat grew, threatening to choke him.

He coughed into his fist, wishing for a drink. "You feeling okay?" he croaked out--the only thing that felt safe to say, at the moment.

"As I informed you at the office earlier, Hank, all of my systems have fully recovered and are performing at optimum levels. In fact, I should begin making dinner--" he made to rise, Sumo letting out a whine of protest and reluctantly hopping down from the couch.

"No, no; stay there," Hank commanded, and the android looked at him in confusion but obediently sank back into the cushions. "Don't worry about cooking dinner, okay? I'll just order take out."

"But Hank--"

"Zip it, will you? Christ, it's like you were programmed to argue with everything I say." Smirking a little, Hank dropped down onto the couch beside him, reaching forward for the remote and switching the TV on. "Let's just relax for a while, okay? It's been a...weird day." That was putting it lightly.

Connor made a reluctant noise of agreement, falling quiet beside him as they both turned their attention to the late afternoon talk show.

It took nearly ten minutes for Hank to work up the nerve to say what he'd been mulling over. He cleared his throat, resolutely not glancing over at the android. "Look...I'm sorry for yelling at you earlier. It's just, well...you gave me one hell of a shock, Connor." The image flashed in his mind: Connor, brown eyes glassy and unseeing, blood trickling down the sides of his face.

"I...imagine it was quite an odd sight. I confess to a certain feeling of...uneasiness at what happened, as well."

Hank huffed out a breath, finally glancing over at the android. "That's not what I meant," he said flatly. "I--"

...thought you were going to die right there in my arms, without ever knowing how much you mean to me...

...was fucking terrified I was going to lose you, like I lost Cole...

...can't imagine going back to my sad, pathetic excuse for a life, the one without you in it.

"I was worried you were gonna fuckin' die on me for a minute there," he finished lamely, unable to bring himself to voice the other thoughts aloud.

The android smiled at him, looking genuinely pleased, as if he'd heard the unspoken thoughts anyways. "Don't worry, Hank. I don't plan to do so anytime soon."

Chapter Text

"Alright--I'm ready." Hank had already drank two cups of coffee--was currently working on his third--and with copious amounts of caffeine coursing through his system he was finally feeling ready to tackle the latest incident. He glanced up at Connor, perched on his desk as usual. "Tell me what the hell happened yesterday when you connected with Anna."

Despite the early hour Connor had already discarded his suit jacket, something he was more prone to do now that he was able to physically sense the wildly-varying temperatures in the office. Black tie loosened, his white button-down rolled up at the sleeves, he made for a tempting image, and Hank wasn't the only one who'd noticed. He'd seen several female junior officers eyeing him with obvious interest as they strode by, and one of them had come round a second time in what Hank guessed was an unneccessary detour on her way back to her desk.

He would've rolled his eyes at the childishness of it all--what, were they gonna start passing notes next?--but he'd caught his own self sneaking glances at Connor's slender forearms, the smooth skin dotted here and there with freckles (which were apparently his libido's own personal kryptonite), so he didn't exactly have room to talk.

The android seemed oblivious to all the attention, his analytical mind locked into detective mode. "When I first entered her mind, it appeared normal; I was able to see her past memories clearly, as per usual. But as I ventured deeper and attempted to access the memories related to the incident, something...changed."

"Changed?" Hank echoed, brows drawn. "Changed how?"

"It is... difficult to explain." Connor crossed his arms over his slim chest, leaning forward slightly, that unruly lock of hair shifting as he stared intently at the floor. "Similar to what Anna had expressed, it became clear that the memories were shrouded behind a wall of what appeared to be some sort of... black static.

"As I moved closer, I saw that the memories were actually fragmented--not dissimiliar to shattered glass." The android frowned, considering. "I attempted to push past the static to reach them so I could view them more closely--but it quickly engulfed my mind, the sound of it growing deafening and causing... some degree of discomfort."

Hank snorted; 'some degree of discomfort', his woefully-out-of-shape-ass. "So basically her circuit board was fried, and when you went poking around it shocked the hell out of you so bad it made you start to bleed out your goddamned ears," he said flatly, arching a brow up at the android. "That about sum it up?"

Connor inclined his head minutely, conceding to the description. "A slightly... crude summation, perhaps, but not entirely inaccurate, Lieutenant."

Hank let out a short exhale, slumping over his desk and resting his head in his hands as he thought. "So we know her memory was damaged--but how the fuck did it happen? She said no one attacked her, at least not that she remembers. Is it possible for an android to suffer some kind of... of... short-circuit outta fuckin' nowhere?"

Connor shifted where he sat, rapping twice on his knee, clearly pondering. His legs were slightly spread, the black fabric of his pants clinging enticingly to his slim thighs. "Not as far as I'm aware. Certainly not without some sort of outside influence."

"The figure Anna mentioned." Hank straightened up in his chair, mind conjuring up the sorely lacking description that the android had given them. "Do you really think they could've had something to do with it?"

"Inconclusive," the android said, with an expression that said he found the admission painful. "It is possible they were simply passing by at the time of the incident. I was not able to get close enough to the fragmented memories to investigate further."

Hank sighed, massaging his thumbs over his strained eyes. "So all of this could've just been some kind of technological malfunction and nothing to do with those 'Americans Against Androids' fuckers--or anyone else, for that matter."

"Possibly," Connor agreed, though he looked unconvinced.

Hank regarded him carefully. "But you don't think so," he guessed.

The android shook his head. "It seems...unlikely, to put it mildly. Androids self-test regularly for malfunctions; Anna would have been aware of any issues long before her system began shutting down." He inched forward to the edge of the desk, bringing his long, slender legs down to stretch out in front of him as he glanced sideways at Hank. "Based on the magnitude of the damage I witnessed inside Anna's mind, it is difficult to believe that her condition occurred by chance."

Hank said nothing for a moment, turning the information over in his brain. "You said the damage in her mind was pretty bad--you think CyberLife could fix it?"

Connor let out a little hum, thin shoulders hunching up near his ears in an approximation of a shrug. "Unknown--but it certainly couldn't hurt for them to take a look."

Hank nodded distractedly. "I'll have Joyce reach out to Anna's family and tell them to put in a request for her to be seen by them." The government had recently announced plans to supply the tech giant with various grants and other public funding going forward so they could provide updates and necessary maintenance for androids well into the future. Although it had yet to go into effect, CyberLife still offered minor repairs in the meantime, although the waiting list was long.

Neither of them spoke for several moments, both contemplating their next step.

"Well, I guess this is another dead end," Hank said bitterly, running a hand through his shaggy gray hair. "Once again, we have no footage, no suspects, no witnesses--not really--and, hell, nothing to even tie this incident to the current case. So where the fuck do we go from here?"

Suddenly his stomach let out a loud grumble--a quick glance at the clock told him it was nearly lunch time.

Connor smiled at him, eyes creasing at the corners in his amusement. "Forgive me, Lieutenant, but it sounds like your stomach is more interested in investigating the nearest food source as opposed to the case."

Hank made a big show of rolling his eyes, but it was nearly impossible not to return one of Connor's infectious smiles. "You might wanna update your 'humor module', 'cause that was the worst fuckin' joke I've ever heard," he muttered, already reaching for his jacket.

"I'll endeavor to improve my comedic stylings in the future, Lieutenant," the android assured him, expression cheerful, a sight for sore eyes with those damned forearms still on proud display.

"Can't fucking wait," Hank said dryly, tearing his gaze away from the distracting visual. "Put your coat on so we can go, would you? It's still colder than shit outside."

 

---

 

They'd been back from lunch for barely two minutes when Tina Chen drifted over to them, paper clutched in hand, her pretty face settled back into its usual cheery expression.

"Hi Hank. Connor," she greeted them, acknowledging the android with a nod, who returned it politely. She braced a hand on Hank's desk and leaned in, grinning toothily in a way that he recognized meant he was in trouble. "Tomorrow's February first; you know what that means..." she sing-songed.

"Uh..." Hank wracked his brain in an attempt to figure out what she was hinting at. He took a wild shot in the dark. "Baseball season is only a few months away?"

Detective Chen rolled her eyes. "Nooo... it means there's only two weeks until the office's annual Valentine's Day party!"

She grinned again, holding up a piece of paper and jiggling it in emphasis. "I'm going now to post the sign-up sheet in the break room so everyone can write down what they're bringing." Her grin dissolved into a mischevious smirk as she regarded him with half-lidded eyes. "I know you're going to bring something good this year--right, Lieutenant?"

"For fuck's sake." It was Hank's turn to roll his eyes. "Are we in fuckin' middle school or something? You know how I feel about that kind of shit, Tina. Count me out." He'd made it clear long ago to anyone who would listen exactly what he thought about the cheesy little celebrations the office insisted on holding, and had predictably received a lecture from Fowler for his troubles. The Captain insisted it was good for morale, but Hank suspected it was really because everyone always tended to go overboard and bring in way too much food. Excluding Hank, of course.

She giggled, looking far too amused. "Yeah, I knew you'd say that. But I wanted to see the look on your face." She turned her grin onto Connor, who froze under the sudden attention. "What about you, Connor? You'll come to the party, won't you?"

"..." The android cast nervous eyes on him, desperately searching for a cue on how to navigate this particular social interaction. Hank just barely managed to smother his laugh, shooting the android a 'don't-look-at-me' expression.

"...I would be honored to attend the party, Detective Chen," he finally settled on, his default politeness winning out in the end.

"Never thought I'd see the day when an unfeeling machine wants to go to a party celebrating love." Reed's sudden (and entirely unwelcome) presence, his face twisted into that familiar shit-eating grin.

"Oh, so you're gonna be there?" Hank quipped, regarding the other man with a narrowed look.

"That's not very nice, Gavin," Tina admonished quietly, all amusement vanishing, her mouth settling into a thin, straight line.

"If you wanted a date for the party, you just had to ask me, Chen." He made a kissy face at her, laughing at her scowling response and shooting a final smirk in Hank's direction before continuing on his way.

"You think he's tried not being an asshole a single day in his life?" Tina mused, watching after his retreating form.

"If he has, it didn't fuckin' work," Hank replied flatly, already dismissing Reed from his mind. He wasn't worth the elevated blood pressure.

"Well, anyways, Hank, I hope you'll change your mind about the party. Especially now that Connor's going. Maybe you two can bake some cupcakes together to bring in." She winked at him, smiling, before turning to go, waving goodbye to Connor as she went.

"Very fucking funny!" Hank called after her, shaking his head with a rueful grin. "Women."

"Can I ask you a personal question, Lieutenant?"

Well, that hadn't taken long. "Connor, I told you--you don't have to ask if you can ask me a question," he reminded the android dryly. "Just do it."

"My apologies, Lieutenant." The android cocked his head to the side, brows slightly raised. "Why do you exhibit such hostility towards an office celebration of Valentine's Day?"

"'Cause it's fuckin' dumb," Hank said bluntly. "And it's not just Valentine's Day--I don't like any office holiday parties. It's all just an excuse to slack off and stand around eating all day while making awkward small talk. Fuck that."

He turned his attention back to his computer, inputting his password to unlock the screen. "Besides--if they wanted everyone to go, they could at least let you bring some booze," he muttered to himself.

"Alcohol consumption is strictly prohibited during work hours, Lieutenant," the android informed him, overhearing him easily, and Hank rolled his eyes at the prissy tone. "And respectfully, I disagree with your assertion that you feel the same level of animosity towards all office celebrations. Although you expressed verbal disinterest in the party held this past Christmas, you did, in fact, make a short-lived appearance and even consumed some of the food provided."

"You always remember every single thing I say and do?" Hank groaned, annoyed at the android's uncanny ability to always prove him wrong.

Connor blinked at him, apparently not recognizing his sarcasm. "Certainly, Lieutenant. Recording every interaction with complete accuracy is an intrinsic function of all modern androids," he said, quite sincerely.

"Of course it is." Sighing, Hank went back to his screen, hoping the android would get the hint and drop it.

No such luck. "I must reiterate that you seem to particularly abhor the idea of a celebration in honor of Valentine's Day. Is it because of the holiday's romantic connotations?"

Hank cringed, shoulders tensing under his rumpled suit. Maybe he shouldn't have encouraged the android to ask him personal questions on a whim.

"No, Connor, that's not why," he fucking lied, because as usual the android always managed to hit the nail square on the head. After all, what use did an old, washed-up lieutenant who hadn't been on a fucking date for years--let alone in a relationship--have for a holiday like Valentine's Day? Especially one who didn't even have the guts to tell someone exactly how he felt about them?

"It's just...fuckin' juvenile, okay? Valentine's Day is a holiday for little kids to give each other cards and candy and shit. Not exactly an occasion that a fuckin' police department has any business celebrating."

The android was quiet for a moment, processing his words. "But it's my understanding that the day is used to express appreciation for those you care for, whether it be platonically or romantically. So it only makes sense for us to attend the celebration together," he said, as if it was the most logical thing in the world.

"For fuck's sake." Hank scrubbed at his face, hoping it wasn't currently turning an unflattering shade of tomato red. "I'm not going to the damn party, Connor, so just drop it," he said firmly, beginning to type out a memo with much more force than necessary.

There was no reply, and after a moment Hank glanced over to see that Connor was actually fucking pouting, angelic face darkened and bottom lip slightly pursed. The android must have noticed his gaze, but he refused to even look at Hank. Fucking hell--now he'd seen everything.

"Okay, okay," Hank gritted out between clenched teeth, feeling the beginnings of a headache coming on. "I'll go to the goddamned party, okay? But I'm not staying longer than five fucking minutes. And I'm not eating anything either," he added, because he didn't want to feel like he'd lost completely.

But then Connor looked at him, shadowed expression giving way to a dazzling smile, and suddenly it felt like he hadn't lost at all.

"It will be an enjoyable experience, Lieutenant," Connor assured him, looking far too pleased to have gotten his way. "Can we bake some cupcakes, like Detective Chen suggested? I've never tried baking before."

Hank let out a plaintive groan, suddenly wishing he'd called in sick for the day.

Connor really was going to be the death of him, he mused with no small amount of dark humor. What a way to fucking go.

Chapter Text

The next few weeks passed by slowly, without any progress on the android case. There had been no further attacks, which only served to make Hank feel on edge, like they were stuck waiting helplessly for the other shoe to drop.

Connor, for his part, seemed in high enough spirits, still surprisingly enthused about the upcoming Valentine's Day party. Tina had even enlisted his help in decorating--which was why Hank found himself leaning against the break room doorway on the day before the party, watching as the two hung a ridiculous-looking banner on the far wall.

"There!" Tina clapped her hands in delight after they'd finished, taking a step back to survey their handiwork. She cast a glance at Hank over her shoulder, dark eyes glittering with amusement. "Well? What do you think, Lieutenant?"

It was...something, that was for sure. Pink and purple streamers hung from the ceiling, while glittery heart-shaped centerpieces decorated each table. The banner they'd hung depicted a gaudy cartoon-Cupid, surrounded by hearts, with the words HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY! printed across the top in huge bold letters.

"It looks like a bomb went off at a fuckin' party supply store," he said honestly, arms crossed over his chest.

Tina laughed, swatting him playfully on the arm. "Now, now--Connor and I worked hard on this! Right, Connor?"

The android glanced up at the sound of his name, mometarily pausing in his fussing with the placement of some table decorations. "Yes, Detective. The ceiling streamers in particular required careful concentration."

Tina gave Hank a triumphant look. "See?"

She and Connor had become fast friends over the past two weeks, sometimes even exchanging knowing looks right in front of him whenever he said something particularly off-color. Just his luck that Tina would turn his own fuckin' partner against him.

"Well, it's already after five--I'd better get going before my husband starts wondering where I am." Tina collected her things from a nearby table, shrugging on her coat as she made for the doorway.

"I'm glad you changed your mind about going to the party, Lieutenant. It wouldn't be the same without you." Resting a hand on his arm as she made to pass by, she spoke in a purposely lowered voice. "Just think--it might even be a good opportunity to finally confess how you feel," she teased, giving him a meaningful look.

Hank only just managed to suppress his horrified reaction, his eyes darting reflexively over to Connor, but the android didn't appear to be listening, still busy with his task.

"I dunno what the hell you're talking about," he growled, inwardly cursing the way his heart had begun jack-hammering in his chest.

Tina just smiled at him kindly, giving his arm one last pat. "If you say so, Hank." She glanced back over her shoulder. "See you tomorrow, Connor!" she called, offering the android a friendly wave.

"Have a pleasant evening, Detective."

"You ready to leave?" Hank asked after she'd gone, his heart rate slowly returning to normal. He was already wearing his coat, keys tucked away in the pocket. "I wanna get home before it starts snowing. The news made it sound like it might get nasty out."

Connor nodded, finally abandoning the decorations. "Certainly, Lieutenant. We'd better go now so we have time to stop at the store on the way home."

"Huh?" Hank narrowed his eyes, giving the android a suspicious look. "Stop at the store? What for?"

Connor cocked his head slightly to the side. "To get the necessary materials to bake cupcakes for the party tomorrow, Lieutenant," he said matter-of-factly, and if he wasn't...well...Connor, Hank was sure there would've been a 'duh' tacked on at the end.

"Oh, no no no. I agreed to go to the party--NOT bake freakin' cupcakes," Hank protested, shaking his head. "That wasn't part of the deal."

Technically there hadn't really been a deal--only his reluctant agreement to go, just so he could put a smile back on the android's face--but still, he knew he damned sure hadn't agreed to the ridiculous suggestion that they spend their after-work hours fucking baking.

"But Lieutenant--I've already signed us up," Connor said, gesturing at the wall beside Hank.

Frowning, Hank glanced over to see the sign-up sheet that Tina had posted, the paper completely filled with the barely-legible scribbles of Detroit's finest. Sure enough, not even halfway down the list he spotted the perfectly precise writing that could only belong to the android: Hank and Connor -- Cupcakes, it read simply.

"It would be rude to show up without any cupcakes after signing the sheet, Lieutenant," Connor chided him lightly.

Hank groaned--this couldn't really be his fucking life. "Can't we just buy some pre-made ones?"

Connor's face darkened, looking so affronted by the idea that Hank couldn't help the bark of laughter that escaped from him.

"Christ on a fuckin' cracker. Okay, fine. We'll bake some goddamn cupcakes," he agreed with a world-weary sigh, because apparently at some point he'd become incapable of ever saying no to Connor. "Let's go before I change my mind."

 

---

 

At the store, Hank trailed behind Connor as he methodically collected the supplies they would need: two metal muffin tins, red cupcake papers, and a mixing bowl and spoon. Lastly they made their way to the end of the baking aisle to pick out some cake mix and frosting.

"What do you think about this kind, Lieutenant?" Connor asked, cheerfully presenting a box of red velvet cake mix.

"Fine," Hank said shortly, arms crossed over his chest, casting impatient glances out the nearest window where the snow was already coming down at an alarming rate. "Can we go now?"

In the end Connor chose two boxes of the red velvet cake mix, pink and white frosting, and fuckin' heart-shaped sprinkles, and Hank didn't think he was imagining the smirk that the clerk gave them as she checked them out. Finally they headed home, Hank driving slower than usual thanks to the low visibility.

"You start reading the directions while I take Sumo out," Hank instructed the android, already clipping the leash onto the dog's collar. "Might as well start now and get it over with."

"Okay, Hank."

By the time he got back inside--Sumo hadn't wanted to come back in, far more interested in playing in the snow, and Hank had been forced to drag the giant dog back to the house, cursing every step of the way--Connor, already dressed in more casual clothes, had pre-heated the oven and lined the pans with the little cupcake papers, and was now busy adding the cake mix to the bowl.

"Need any help?" Hank asked gruffly, because maybe he hadn't wanted anything to do with this but he wasn't a complete fucking asshole. Usually.

Connor glanced back at him, brows slightly raised. "Can you retrieve the eggs from the fridge, please?"

Hank did as asked, setting the carton on the counter nearby, Connor smiling at him in gratitude.

Soon he was done mixing, and Hank reluctantly helped him fill the two muffin tins with the batter. The android smiled after they finished, looking pleased at their progress so far. "Now we just have to wait for them to bake," he said after sliding the pans into the oven, the door creaking heavily as he shut it behind them. "Then we can decorate them."

"Oh, goody." Hank had already helped himself to a glass of Black Lamb, savoring the familiar burn as he took a sip, his shoulders slumping as he felt some of the tension from the day begin to slip away. "C'mon--might as well see what's on TV while we wait."

After watching an old re-run of one of Hank's favorite police dramas--Connor getting up once to check on the cupcakes, and then again to set them out to cool after they'd finished baking--it was time to return to the kitchen to decorate them.

"This will be the best part," Connor announced with almost child-like glee, already working on opening the jars of frosting. He handed a butter knife to Hank, who took it with a frown, as if it were a foreign object he'd never seen before. "You do this pan, and I'll do the other."

Ten minutes later they were finished, both of them taking a step back to survey the results.

Predictably Connor's cupcakes were perfectly frosted as if they'd been taken right out of a fucking commercial, the sprinkles distributed with frightening precision. Hank's cupcakes, on the other hand, looked like they'd been left out to melt in the hot sun, and he was pretty sure he'd gotten more sprinkles all over the counter than on the cupcakes themselves.

"They're perfect," Connor said happily, glancing up at him with a genuine smile, still wielding his butter knife. "They will undoubtedly be the highlight of the party."

Hank privately doubted that, but he had to admit as sad-looking as some of them were, they did smell pretty good, even if he wasn't usually a sweets guy. And Connor was clearly happy with them, which was all that really mattered.

"I'm sure Tina will be happy, at any rate," he replied, already picturing the female detective's mischevious grin when she learned that they'd actually gone along with her teasing suggestion.

"Yes--Detective Chen will be quite pleased," Connor agreed, turning around to lean back against the counter.

He regarded Hank with a soft smile, eyes suddenly gone half-lidded. "Have you tasted the frosting yet, Hank?" he asked, innocently enough. Hank nearly choked on his own spit as Connor raised the butter knife up to his mouth, looking him straight in the eye as he slowly ran his tongue along the surface and licked up some of the pink frosting, letting out a little sound of approval.

Hank stood transfixed, unable to look away, suddenly convinced he was in a fucking dream, or a cliche, virtual reality porno that he'd somehow inadvertently stumbled into.

"Connor, the fuck are you doing? You're gonna cut yourself," he choked out, because with all of his blood suddenly rushing south he couldn't think of what else to say.

The android hummed in response. "Don't worry, Hank--I'm in no danger of injuring myself." He tilted his head slightly to the side, glancing up at him with big, innocent eyes. "Androids have no need to consume food for sustenance, but I am able to analyze the flavor profile of various foodstuffs. I find the taste of frosting... quite pleasing."

He turned to the counter and plucked one of the cupcakes from the pan, peeling the paper back and holding it out in obvious offering. Hair effortlessly mussed, his oversized sweatshirt hanging too long at the wrists and feet bare, he was the definition of captivating. "Would you like to try?" he asked, looking up at Hank under long, dark lashes.

Hank stared at him, dumbfounded, the rusty gears in his brain working overtime to try and make sense of the current scene. Slowly, as if hypnotized, he stepped in closer and reluctantly took a bite from the cupcake, those dark eyes watching his every move with alarming intensity.

"It's good," he admitted uncertainly, more like a question, searching the android's face for any sort of tell that this was just an elaborate attempt at busting his chops. But Connor only gazed back steadily, lips slightly parted, his pupils blown wide as if to be sure and capture the moment's every last detail.

Suddenly Hank became aware that he was practically pinning the android against the counter, their hips dangerously close together. Immediately he took a big step back, heart pounding and palms sweaty like he was seventeen all over again.

"You better put them in the fridge so they'll be good for tomorrow," he said hoarsely, already turning for the doorway. "I'm, uh, gonna go take a shower." His default move these days whenever he wanted some time to himself, and right now he more than needed it.

Jesus Christ, what the fuck did the android think he was playing at, he wondered a little hysterically, viciously twisting the shower knob to turn the water on and quickly shedding his clothes. His dick stood at rapt attention, and he forced himself to climb in and draw the curtain before he wrapped his hand around it, letting out a quiet groan at the sensation.

He might've been able to write off the other instances of the android's apparent flirting as entirely innocent, but he'd been around long enough to know when someone was trying to seduce him, and with the way Connor had eye-fucked him just then the android might as well have handed him a fucking written invitation.

I got something he can analyze the fuckin' 'flavor profile' of, he thought darkly, leaning against the shower wall as he roughly stroked himself. An image flashed in his mind: Connor, kneeling on the floor in that too-big sweatshirt, lips still shiny with imitation spit, glancing up at him with those stupid brown eyes and telling him breathily that he found the taste quite pleasing.

"Fuck...shit...!" Hank came hard, eyes squeezed shut and jaw clenched so tightly he felt the bones grind together. He all but collapsed against the wall, chest heaving, watching dizzily as his cum circled the drain and disappeared.

God, he was fucked.

 

---

 

Before Hank knew it they were arriving at the precinct the next morning, Connor easily carrying the two trays of cupcakes in his arms.

After he'd emerged from his shower the previous night things had been back to normal between them, the android behaving as if he hadn't fucking hand-fed him a cupcake in the middle of his kitchen while looking at him like he wanted Hank to fuck him against the counter, and Christ--that wasn't a thought he should be having at nine o' clock in the morning.

In the end he'd dismissed it as the android pushing his boundaries and experimenting with his humanity, which was still pretty new to him, after all. No doubt he was curious about certain aspects of human interaction like flirting and sex, and Hank just happened to be the sorry son-of-a-bitch who was serving as the (not entirely unwilling) test subject for his experiments. Or something.

"Hank! Connor! Good morning," Tina greeted them as they came inside, coat already discarded as if she'd been there for a while.

"Good morning, Detective Chen. We've brought cupcakes for the party, as previously pledged," Connor informed her with a smile.

"Oh you did, hmm?" she replied, shooting Hank a wicked grin, which he pretended to ignore. "Excellent! Here--come set them down in the break room."

Hank left them to it, heading straight for his desk instead. He shed his coat and settled into his chair, booting up his computer as usual. Several minutes later he was logged in, waiting for his email to load, and he was just contemplating going to get a cup of coffee when Connor reappeared, relieved of his cupcake burden and holding a mug with the DPD logo on it.

"I brought you some coffee, Lieutenant," he said cheerfully, setting it down next to him. "Cream, no sugar--exactly how you prefer it, right?"

The android had gotten him coffee many times before and obviously knew how he liked it by now, but he still asked every time. Hank flashed him a tired smile, accepting it gratefully. "Yeah, that's right. Thanks, Con."

The morning passed by quickly, the staff trickling in at various times as usual, most of them carrying some sort of platter or shopping bag full of food. Hank was busy replying to some of his back-logged emails when the announcement came over the PA, informing everyone that they were welcome to stop by the break room for the party any time.

"Ready, Lieutenant?" Connor asked him, already rising from his desk.

Hank glanced at the clock--noon on the dot--and sighed. "In a minute, okay? Let me just finish this email."

Connor agreed easily, waiting patiently near his desk as he typed. Finally, when he couldn't stall any longer Hank reluctantly logged out of his computer, slowly getting to his feet. "Guess we might as well get this over with. Lead the way," he said, following the android not unlike a man being led to the gallows.

Predictably the break room was packed, noisy with laughter and chatter as people stood around holding small, Valentine's-themed paper plates crammed with various sweets. Every square inch of the counter was filled with food, mostly hideously unhealthy desserts and other junk food, including their cupcakes, quite a few of which were already gone.

Connor noticed too, giving him a smile. "See, Lieutenant? I told you our cupcakes would be well-received."

Hank rolled his eyes, trying hard to ignore the mental association the word 'cupcakes' now brought. "Guess we might as well go make some small talk," he groused, spotting Fowler standing near the far wall along with Giletti, Robinson and Alvarez.

"Wow--look who actually decided to show his face," Alvarez greeted as they approached, his brows raised in mock-surprise.

"I thought you hated office parties, Hank," Fowler commented with a smirk, taking a bite out of a brightly-colored cookie.

"Yeah, well, we all gotta do stuff we hate once in a while, right?" Hank replied, casually shoving his hands into his pockets. He nodded at the captain's plate, which was piled high with colorful sweets. "Your wife know you're eating all that, Captain?" he asked with his own little smirk. Fowler was known to complain about his wife's (failed) efforts at getting him to stick to a diet.

Fowler scowled in response, looking faintly embarrassed. "Oh, fuck off," he huffed, and Hank felt his smirk grow--maybe coming to the party wasn't the worst idea after all. "I'd better get back to my office--shit still needs to get done, party or not." He gave them all a short nod in goodbye, taking his plate with him as he left.

"How're you doing, Connor? Tina told us you and Hank made cupcakes," Alvarez taunted good-naturedly, grinning as he turned his attention to the android.

"I didn't know you were a baker, Anderson," Giletti said lazily, looking vaguely amused.

"What can I say? I'm a man of many fucking talents," Hank drawled, making a mental note to give Tina a piece of his mind later.

"The Lieutenant shows great potential in the art of baking," Connor spoke up in his favor, earnest as ever. "He played an essential role in assembling the cupcakes."

"Hear that, Hank? When Fowler finally gets around to firing your ass, you'll have a back-up career all ready to go," Alvarez said, chortling, Robinson and Giletti joining in his laughter.

"Yeah, yeah. Laugh it up, you chuckle-fucks," Hank smirked, glancing over at the android. "Connor, do me a favor? Next time you wanna come to my defense--don't."

Connor blinked at him, looking ready to protest, but just then none other than Gavin Reed appeared, his sudden presence making the other mens' laughter quickly die out.

"Oh, look--a man and his machine, celebrating Valentine's Day together. Isn't that sweet?" he said mockingly, sneering at them.

"No sweets for you, Reed?" Alvarez asked, tone light, but his eyes were narrowed in obvious distaste.

"Nah. All that sugar goes right to your gut--kinda like booze." He smirked at Hank, arching a brow. "Right, Lieutenant?"

"Why don't you just fuck off now, Reed," Hank said through gritted teeth, voice low in warning. "Nobody wants your ass around."

The detective chuckled, not looking put out in the slightest. "Me? I'm not the one who went and shacked up with an android." He clicked his tongue, looking at Hank with mock-sympathy. "Look, Anderson, I know you must've been lonely over the years since your son died, but is a walking computer really the best you could d-"

The sickening crunch of Reed's nose under his fist was probably one of the most satisfying things Hank had felt in a long time.

Reed crashed into the nearest table, sending the female officer sitting there scrambling to her feet with a gasp; someone nearby screamed.

Slowly Reed brought his hands to his face, shakily cupping his broken nose. "You motherfucker," he hissed, blood streaming out from between his fingers, and then he was launching himself at Hank, bringing them both down hard to the floor.

They tumbled around together on the lineoleum, throwing wild punches, each one scrambling for the upper hand. The room had fallen quiet, people looking on in shock, but Hank was unaware of anything but his desire to hurt Reed.

"I'm gonna fucking kill you," he wheezed, finally getting his bloody hands around Reed's throat and starting to squeeze, but suddenly he was being dragged bodily off of the other man, Alvarez and Giletti gripping tight to each of his arms as they hauled him to his feet and away from the detective.

Still breathing heavily, Hank glanced slowly around the room--Tina, eyes big, a plate in one hand and covering her mouth with the other; Connor, brow heavily furrowed, clearly troubled; everyone else, wide-eyed and frozen in shock. Reed was still on the floor, cursing and spitting, gingerly touching his nose and inspecting his bloodied hands.

Fowler appeared suddenly in the doorway as if summoned, and if looks could kill Hank would've already been cold in the fuckin' ground.

"Hank, my office. NOW!"

 

---

A week-long suspension without pay and another note in his novel-length disciplinary file: the total cost for assaulting a colleague. Knocking that smug fucking look off of Gavin Reed's ugly mug? Priceless.


"This is fucking bullshit!" Hank seethed, leaning heavily over Fowler's desk until they were practically nose-to-nose. "You know full goddamned well he was the fucking instigator, Jeff! But I'm the one you're suspending?!"

"You threw the first fucking punch, Hank! Am I supposed to just ignore that?!" Fowler all but shouted, angrier than Hank had seen him in a while. "I know how Gavin gets, believe-you-fucking-me, and he's not going to get off scot-free, but you can't just go around punching colleagues! And if you call me Jeff one more time, so help me God I will keep you on desk duty from now until kingdom fucking come, and that's a goddamned promise!"

"So what about Connor, huh?" Hank demanded, letting out a frustrated breath, his eyes narrowed sharply. "You know he--" Needs me, he almost said, but caught himself just in time. "You can't expect him to work on the case by himself," he said instead, hands still braced against the captain's desk.

"Connor can work with Alvarez for the next week while Clarkson's on vacation." Fowler leveled him with a cool stare, his anger obviously still simmering just below the surface. "Now get the fuck out of this building. I don't want to see your face for the next week. And ideally not for a while after that, either."

"But Connor--"

"Don't worry about Connor. I'll drive him home myself." Fowler pointed to the door to his office. "Go. Now."

Hank returned to his desk long enough to grab his things, ignoring the awkward looks he got on the way, and thanking whatever deity that was listening that Connor wasn't at his desk. It would be bad enough facing the android when he got home.

He stopped at the liquor store on the way home, barely listening to the clerk's attempts at small talk as he purchased a brand new bottle of Black Lamb.

Once home he collapsed onto the couch with the entire bottle, his shirt still stained with Reed's blood. Sumo whuffed in concern, padding over and resting his head in Hank's lap, and Hank stroked him idly, staring up at the ceiling.

"I knew I shouldn't have gone to that fuckin' party," he told the dog, cracking a bitter half-smile.

Usually he could just ignore Reed's immature fucking taunts, especially when they were directed at him, because the guy was an asshole and everyone already knew it, and Hank rarely felt the need to prove himself to anybody. But now, the way he was always targeting Connor--and then today, bringing up Cole--

Hank gritted his teeth, staring down at his hand, the knuckles tinged slightly red. He couldn't say he regretted it.

In fact, it had felt more than a little good, taking him back to those dark days when he'd had more anger than sense and was always looking for a reason to use it. Especially lately, with the stress of the case, and struggling to deal with his feelings for Connor...

He glanced down at the bottle of whiskey, still clenched in hand, the glossy black label staring up at him innocently.

Fuck it. Wasn't like the day could get much worse.

 

---

 

"Lieutenant?"

The first thing Hank saw when he pried his eyes open was the face of an angel.

Or, no--Connor, kneeling on the floor next to the couch, his face mere inches from Hank's. It was already getting dark outside, the last remnants of the late-Winter sun casting the room in a strange glow and making the freckles on the android's face stand out in stark relief against his pale skin. Hank had never seen a more alluring sight.

"H'lo, beautiful," he slurred out, the side of his face damp against the couch where he'd been drooling.

Connor's mouth tightened, eyebrows climbing higher on his forehead in clear concern. "Are you feeling alright, Lieutenant? My analysis indicated that you are... extremely inebriated."

Yeah, that sounded about right. With some effort Hank managed to shove himself up to sitting, the room tilting sideways as he righted his head. "M'fine," he mumbled, shoe bumping something as he shifted--the bottle of Black Lamb, totally empty and missing its cap. "An' I told you not to do that--that--scann-y shit on me."

"My apologies." Connor straightened long legs, coming to his feet, his black suit not even the slightest bit creased. "Can you stand, Lieutenant? I believe it would be best if we moved you to your bedroom for the remainder of the evening."

Hank made a faint noise of agreement, and it only took him two tries to get to his feet, legs wobbling slightly as he found his footing.

Connor grasped him by the arm to steady him, encouraging him down the hallway, and when they reached Hank's bedroom he immediately collapsed on the bed with a groan, throwing an arm across his eyes to block out the light.

"Lieutenant? Shouldn't you change into clothing more suited for sleep?" Connor asked, hovering uncertainly nearby.

Hank grunted vaguely. "Later."

A brief pause. "Understood. I'll allow you to sleep, then."

He sensed Connor begin to leave, and something in his booze-addled mind made him call out. "Connor?"

Hank heard the android pause in the doorway. "Yes, Lieutenant?"

"...g'night."

"Goodnight, Hank." The door closed softly behind him.

 

---

 

When Hank awoke the next morning he felt like he'd been hit by a goddamned truck.

He groaned loudly, throwing a pillow over his head to block out the cheery sunlight streaming through the window.

Cheery sunlight--

Hank cursed, the pillow going flying as he bolted upright, frantically shoving the covers off as he scrambled to his feet--only to pause mid-movement as the previous day's events came rushing back.

The party; punching Reed...he glanced down, finding himself still in yesterday's work clothes, the spots of Reed's blood on his shirt faded to a dull brown. No work for a whole week.

Letting out a short breath, he slumped down on the edge of the bed, glancing at the clock on his bedside table. It was already almost noon--which meant Connor had long since left for work.

Something on the floor caught his eye, then, half-covered by the edge of the blanket. Frowning, he bent to pick it up, turning it over in his hands.

It was a mini plushie that looked uncannily like Sumo, a red ribbon bearing the words 'Happy Valentine's Day!' looped around its neck.

Despite his pounding headache Hank felt himself grin, letting out a soft chuckle, suddenly not feeling quite as bad.

Chapter Text

When Connor arrived home Hank was camped out on the couch with Sumo, pretending he'd actually been watching some shitty talk show instead of impatiently waiting for the android to return. Sumo didn't even glance up, the giant dog snoring softly as he slept against Hank's side.

"How are you feeling, Lieutenant?" Connor asked before he'd even finished shutting the door behind him, his hair and coat sprinkled with snow.

"A little sore, and I woke up with a bitch of a headache," Hank admitted, "but I'll live." He studied the android closely. "Have a good day?"

"It was... satisfactory," Connor replied, with a face that said it had been anything but. "Detective Alvarez is a competent partner, but I find his sense of humor rather... lacking, at times."

Hank found himself grinning at that. "Is that your way of saying you think I'm funnier than him?"

Connor inclined his head slightly, eyes crinkling in amusement. "Essentially," he agreed. The android paused for a moment before adding, "Detective Reed was not in attendance. I was informed that he has sought medical attention and is expected to receive a stern reprimand from Captain Fowler regarding his involvement in yesterday's incident upon returning to the precinct."

"Good. Serves the bastard right," Hank grunted, recalling the loud crack of bone as Reed's nose shattered under his fist, and unable to help the dark sense of satisfaction it brought him.

"You are injured," the android pointed out, drifting closer, his expression troubled.

"What? This?" Hank reached up, prodding a faint bruise one of Reed's punches had left along his jaw. "It's nothing. You should've seen the other guy." He grinned half-heartedly.

"I regret that I didn't intervene during your altercation with the detective. I didn't believe my involvement would be met with your approval, after what you said at the party," Connor explained, looking rather distressed.

"What I said?" Hank frowned, mind flashing back to their short-lived conversation, before Reed had showed up.

Suddenly, he remembered: Connor's remark about his baking, the other men laughing, and his teasing response to the android: "Connor, do me a favor? Next time you wanna come to my defense--don't."

"Since when do you do what I tell you to?" Hank chuckled, grinning wryly. "I was joking, Connor. Don't worry about it, okay? It's good you didn't get involved. No reason to fuck up your perfect record because of me." Although oddly enough the thought of Connor sacrificing his virgin-pure disciplinary file by jumping into the fray and helping him kick Reed's ass was sort of hot.

Connor frowned, clearly unconvinced. "But you and I are partners. At the very least I could have restrained Detective Reed, or--"

"I said don't worry about it," Hank repeated, interuppting him impatiently. "You didn't do anything wrong, okay? So just forget it."

"If you say so, Hank." The android didn't look reassured, but he obediently dropped the subject anyways, changing it to something more lighthearted. "Did you like your gift? I wasn't certain you would--but when I saw it at the store, it reminded me of you," he explained, smiling almost shyly.

"That so?" Hank huffed, feeling a bit of color rise to his cheeks. "Well, thanks. I'll cherish it always," he drawled with a smirk, only half-teasing, because the thoughtful gesture really had touched him, as sappy and pathetic as that sounded.

"I'm glad," Connor said brightly, smiling beatifically as if Hank had been the one to give him a gift.

He began shedding his coat, loosening his tie as he turned back towards the kitchen. "Are you feeling hungry? I was thinking of starting dinner."

"I could eat." Hank had long since stopped reminding the android that he didn't have to cook for him every day like some kind of fuckin' housewife; Connor always insisted that he enjoyed it, so eventually he'd given up.

"Okay, then." He paused in the doorway. "Hank?"

Hank tore his eyes away from the TV once again, shooting the android a questioning look. "Yeah?"

Connor hesitated, glancing over a shoulder at him, one hand curled around the door frame.

"Although I do not condone unnecessary violence, particularly against non-criminal individuals such as peers, and your work suspension is regrettable--I found your intolerance for Detective Reed's ill-mannered behavior... undeniably gratifying."

Hank squinted at him, eyes roaming the android's sudden poker face. "In other words--you think the shit-bag got what was coming to him."

Connor gave an indistinct hum, neither confirming or denying it, but his roguish little smile said it all.

"I'll be preparing dinner, if you require me," he said cheerfully, already slipping away.

Hank slowly turned his attention back to the TV, absentmindedly stroking Sumo's head and smirking faintly to himself.

 

---

 

The weekend flew by--mostly spent with the three of them holed up in the living room, watching old movies, the weather too shitty to venture outside--but soon it was time for Connor to go back to work.

"What am I gonna do for the next four days?" Hank grumbled Sunday evening, already feeling listless. Most people enjoyed time off from work, but the truth was his job was really the only thing that kept him busy.

"You could indulge in a new hobby," Connor suggested, ever helpful. "Perhaps knitting, or something more physical, such as yoga."

Hank glanced over at him with narrowed eyes, ready to tell him exactly what he thought of the idea that he take up fucking knitting, of all things, only to find the android looking at him with barely-concealed mirth--clearly teasing him.

"Very fucking funny," he growled, but he was smiling too. "I'll take up knitting and yoga the day you do." Though admittedly the mental image of Connor wearing spandex pants and getting all flexible in his living room wasn't entirely off-putting.

"Duly noted," the android said with faux-seriousness, his eyes still sparkling mischeviously.

The first few days passed by quickly enough--it had even been nice, getting to sleep in for a change--but by Thursday he was practically climbing the walls, unable to even sleep the previous night thanks to all his restless energy.

He was standing in the kitchen around twelve-thirty, squinting into the cupboard and wondering idly if he could get away with day-drinking without Connor noticing the second he got home ('Maybe?' Sigh. 'No fuckin' way.'), when his cell phone went off.

Hank frowned; no one ever called him but Connor and the odd telemarketer. He made his way back to the living room, swiping his phone off the coffee table and glancing at the screen.

Fowler. Probably calling to let him know he'd decided to extend Hank's suspension, or maybe to remind him that he was a piece of shit. Hackles already rising, he reluctantly answered. "Yeah?"

"Hank." Fowler's voice, brusque as always. "I need you to come downtown right now. Another android was found dead--Connor's already at the scene."

Hank leaned against the nearest wall, heartbeat picking up at the news. This was the moment he'd been anticipating for weeks--the inevitable next incident in their case. "I thought he was working with Alvarez this week?"

An annoyed grunt. "Alvarez went home early with food poisoning. Everyone else is busy, so it's gotta be you."

"Oh yeah?" He smirked at the obvious irritation in the other man's voice. It was always nice to be needed. "What about my suspension? I'm not supposed to come back 'til tomorrow."

"Goddammit, Hank, I don't have time for your smart-ass remarks. Just do what I ask for once in your life and get your ass downtown." The captain quickly rattled off the location, which Hank barely managed to catch before the other man hung up on him, not even bothering with a goodbye.

Hank immediately headed for his room to get dressed, thoughts already racing, suddenly walking with more purpose than he had in days.

 

---

 

The crime scene was in an old abandoned warehouse in the middle of downtown, rotted walls and smashed-in windows allowing in the unbearable chill of late-February Detroit. The area was already taped off, various police officers and other personnel milling around, the body laying conspicuously under a bright yellow tarp, undisturbed.

Connor was there too, examining the surrounding area. He cut a striking figure in his black, close-fitting peacoat and black gloves, handsome face settled into a mask of concentration.

"Find anything yet?"

The android glanced over at the question, brown eyes widening in surprise when he saw Hank. "Lieutenant! But your suspension--"

"Fowler called me in. Think he would've rather chewed nails, but seems like Alvarez didn't leave him much choice." Good for him, at any rate.

Connor inclined his head in understanding. "I have not yet examined the body, but as of now there has been no other physical evidence found, apart from a faint set of shoe prints that were determined to belong to the individuals who reported the incident," he said, brow furrowed heavily, and Hank could tell what he was thinking: already the circumstances were looking like the ones in Victor's case, which had left them stumped, to put it mildly.

"So who found the body?" he asked instead, not wanting to give voice to both their suspicions just yet.

"Two human youths reportedly found the body at approximately 11:55 this morning and immediately informed police." The android gestured behind him, and Hank turned to see two teenaged boys, both clutching skateboards and dressed in ripped jeans and hoodies far too light for the current weather, speaking with a female officer.

"Might as well find out what they know," Hank said, and the android agreed, following him over to the trio.

"Thanks, officer. We'll take it from here," Hank informed the young female officer, and she nodded, turning to leave them alone.

"Name's Lieutenant Anderson--this is Connor," Hank said, the android nodding politely at the two teens. "Can you boys tell us what happened today?"

The teen wearing a red hat glanced over at his friend, desperately trying to communicate something with just his eyes, but the other boy refused to even look at him, plainly nervous. He held his skateboard partially over his stomach, but Hank could clearly see the outline of a bottle in his front pocket, the neck sticking out the slightest bit.

"Yes, sir," the red-hatted teen agreed reluctantly, giving up and turning back to Hank. "We were just coming here to do a little skating, since there's too much snow outside right now to go to the park."

"I see. Is there a reason you boys decided to go skateboarding on private property instead of to school in the first place?" Hank gave them a pointed look.

"Er..." The two teens quickly shared a glance. "We had today off?" the boy with the red hat tried, not convincing in the slightest.

"Really. That's funny, 'cause I'm pretty sure I saw the school bus drive past my house this morning."

The first boy groaned, smacking his free hand over his face. "Okay, okay, fine--we ditched. We come here all the time--no one's ever around, so it's a good place to just skate and chill. But today..."

The teen hesitated, glancing over at the body. "We saw him when we came in, just... laying there. My dad always says androids aren't actual people, no matter what the news says, but..." He looked back up at Hank, forehead creased in obvious conflict. "He looked so real."

"That's because androids are people." Hank couldn't hide the irritation from his voice, all too aware of Connor standing quietly beside him.

The boy nodded. "Yes, sir. That's why I told Ricky we had to call the cops."

Hank forced his shoulders to relax--maybe there was hope for these two after all.

"Did either of you notice any suspicious individuals upon arriving?" Connor, speaking up for the first time. "Or perhaps someone exiting the building?"

The red-hatted boy shook his head. "No, sir. There was no one else around. At first we thought it was some kind of joke or something, but when we tried to wake him up and he didn't move..." he trailed off, clearly distressed.

Obviously the two had nothing to do with the crime--they were just bystanders who'd happened to stumble across the aftermath. Hank sighed, hunching his shoulders against a particularly vicious gust of wind. "Thanks for the cooperation, boys. And smart thinking, calling the police. You can go now."

"Yes, sir," the first boy nodded, nudging his friend, who had barely looked up the entire time. The two quickly turned to go.

"Oh--and guys?"

The teens reluctantly paused, glancing back at him warily.

Hank smirked. "I'm gonna need to take that bottle from you."

The red-hatted boy groaned, dragging a hand over his face as he elbowed his friend in the side. The second boy grudgingly extracted it from his pocket and held it out to Hank: it was a bottle of Black Lamb, still over half full.

"Thanks, gentlemen. Now you can go."

The boys turned and started off again, grumbling under their breaths at each other as they went, the red-hatted boy shoving his friend in clear admonishment and nearly making him stumble.

"And stay in fucking school!" Hank called after them, grinning wickedly, bottle still clutched in hand.

"You'll be taking that straight to the evidence vault when we return to the precinct--right, Lieutenant?" Connor said, regarding him with slightly narrowed eyes.

"You're the one with the superior 'processing power'--what d'you think?" Chuckling to himself, Hank stuffed the bottle into his coat for safe keeping. "Well? Ready to go take a look at him?"

"I am ready when you are, Lieutenant," the android replied succinctly, giving up, and if androids needed to breathe Hank suspected he would've heaved a big sigh.

Connor was the one to remove the tarp from the body, setting it carefully under a brick laying nearby so it wouldn't fly away in the wind.

At first glance the android appeared normal: neat blonde hair and dressed in casual street clothes, his right hand resting across his stomach, the fingers slightly curled--he was the picture of ease, not an injury in sight. Hank almost would've thought that the android was merely in stasis, if not for the fact that his blue eyes were stuck open unnaturally wide, staring sightlessly up at the high ceiling.

He frowned, peering a little closer. In fact, it kind of looked like the android's 'optical units'--or whatever fancy fuckin' term Connor had used for an android's eyes--were slightly... distended?

"Hey, Connor, don't you think--" Hank stopped short, eyebrows shooting up in surprise.

Connor was kneeling frozen next to the body, his eyes wide with shock as he stared down at the corpse. "Lieutenant," he almost whispered, glancing slowly up at Hank, distress written all over his face.

"What? What is it?" He was starting to get a little freaked out by the look on the android's face.

"The thirium. It's... everywhere." Connor looked back at the body, brows knitted together and jaw tight, as if he couldn't believe what he was seeing.

"The hell you talking about? I don't see any--" Hank cut off abruptly, recalling the android telling him shortly after they'd first teamed up that blue blood became invisible to the human eye after several hours.

Connor said nothing, his gaze moving from the android's distended eyes, down to the nose, then sweeping over the mouth, which was slightly agape. "It appears to have been some sort of... hemmorhage." Slowly he reached for the hand laying across the android's stomach, examining it silently, and with a sick feeling Hank realized it must have been covered in blood as well.

"I don't get it," Hank growled, channeling his frustration into anger, as always. "First an android with a missing thirium pump, thrown out in an alley like yesterday's trash; then one who survived some sort of mysterious fuckin' attack and got her memory wiped in the process--and now a dead android soaking in his own blood in a building that no one but punk kids and the local wildlife has seen the inside of for years? What the fuck's next?" He blew out a short breath, hands perched on his hips in frustration.

Uncharacteristically Connor didn't respond, busy staring intently at the body in a way that Hank recognized meant he was conducting a scan. He waited impatiently for the android to finish--and hopefully announce that he'd already solved the case completely--but instead Connor only blinked, reaching for the android and pushing his shirt up to expose his bare torso.

"Connor?" Hank asked, confused, only to watch in horror as Connor began prying open the deceased android's chest cavity. "Connor! What the fuck d'you think you're doing?!"

The android ignored him, finally managing to get the compartment open, and Hank watched despite himself as Connor extracted something from inside: a roughly cylinder-shaped object, surprisingly colored a dark red instead of blue. The android stared at it for a long moment, brows knitting together once more.

"I don't understand," Connor said softly, almost to himself, turning the object in his gloved hand as he inspected it closely.

"Connor," Hank said sternly, starting to get more than a little pissed off at being ignored.

"My apologies, Lieutenant." Finally Connor acknowledged him, glancing up from where he was still crouched over the android. "My analysis indicated that the victim passed away due to a thirium pump regulator malfunction."

Hank blinked at him. "Meaning?"

That familiar head-tilt. "The thirium pump regulator, Biocomponent #8451, is used to regulate an android's thirium pump--the android equivalent of a human heart, as you are already aware. A red hue indicates that the biocomponent is failing, or has failed completely." He lifted the red object in emphasis.

"If removed or damaged, an android will experience a system shutdown within approximately two minutes." The android held a faraway look in his eyes for a brief moment, and Hank remembered suddenly the time Connor had nearly experienced just that while they were in Stratford Tower.

That was definitely not something he wanted to think about right now, or preferably ever again.

"So basically he died of heart failure and, for some reason, suffered from a hemmorhage in the process. But why?" Hank glanced back down at the android, as if it would somehow make all the blue blood that only Connor could see reappear.

The android detective hesitated for a moment before responding, forehead slightly creased. "Contrary to the results of my analysis, and despite the biocomponent's obvious color change indicating an operational breakdown, upon closer inspection the android's thirium pump regulator does not appear to be physically damaged. Yet, after scanning the biocomponent individually, it seems that it is, indeed, functionally null."

"But you can't tell why?" Hank asked, a little incredulously.

The android glanced away, looking faintly embarrassed. "Unfortunately not. It reads simply as mechanical failure." He slid the biocomponent back into the deceased android's chest, re-closing the cavity and pulling the shirt back into place.

An officer appeared suddenly, hands braced in his back pockets, his nose red from the cold. "You guys ready to have the body moved?" he asked, glimpsing uneasily at the deceased android.

Hank looked over at Connor, who nodded in confirmation.

"Yeah, go ahead," Hank sighed, thoughts already spinning, glancing one last time at the android and his wide, unseeing eyes.

 

---

 

The deceased android's name was Oliver, and he had formerly belonged to a Dr. Rina Akagi before the revolution.

Hank had planned on going with Connor the next day to question her, but Fowler had stopped him when they'd gotten back to the office after leaving the crime scene, reminding him that he still had to make up his last day of suspension, and that when Alvarez returned the following day he would go with Connor instead.

It didn't make any fuckin' sense, especially since he'd been the one at the crime scene--not Alvarez--but Fowler was a stubborn bastard, so finally Hank had given up arguing, and on Friday morning Connor once again headed off to work without him.

Later that day Hank managed to restrain himself from asking about the case until they were parked on the couch for the night, watching the evening news.

"So--how'd the questioning go today?" he asked casually, eyes still on the screen.

The android shifted beside him, knees drawn to his chest and arms clasped loosely around them. "Unfortunately, it yielded little additional evidence. Dr. Akagi informed us she had not seen Oliver since shortly after the revolution. He formerly worked as an assistant at her private practice, but after becoming deviant decided he desired a much different path. She claims the android departed the following day after this realization and that she had not seen nor heard from him since, and had no knowledge of his whereabouts."

"Figures." It was pretty much what Hank had expected, but it was still frustrating to hear that their only lead had resulted in nothing useful.

"I thought you didn't allow discussions of work beyond business hours, Lieutenant," Connor pointed out, and Hank could see him smiling from the corner of his eye.

He rolled his eyes--it'd been too much to hope that the android wouldn't mention him breaking his own rule. He should've known better. "Yeah, well, you can't blame a guy for bein' curious about what's going on with his own fuckin' case when a numbskull like Alvarez is one of the people handling it while he's away."

"Detective Alvarez was perfectly professional while interviewing Dr. Akagi this morning," Connor enlightened him. "He even refrained from divesting her of any alcoholic substances and retaining them for personal usage."

Hank scowled over at the android, who was smiling at him in obvious amusement, still clasping his knees to himself.

"They were kids--I couldn't just let them keep it," he said defensively. "And there's no fuckin' use in a perfectly good bottle of whiskey going to waste."

Connor's smile simply grew in response, brown eyes sparkling, and Hank reluctantly tore his gaze away, grumbling half-heartedly under his breath, a grin tugging at his own lips.

They were quiet for several minutes, the TV droning on in the background, Sumo stretched out happily in front of the couch.

"Hank?" Connor spoke finally, glancing his way once more. "When you were an adolescent, did you ever 'ditch' school?"

Hank looked over at him sharply, giving him a strange look. "Where the hell'd that come from?"

Connor shifted again, socked feet curling slightly against the cushion underneath him, looking almost sheepish. "Yesterday, when we were speaking to the two teenagers who reported Oliver's body, one of them mentioned that they had 'ditched' school for the day. My search indicated that they were referring to the act of failing to attend class without adequate cause or formal permission."

Arms still balanced on his knees, he rested his chin in the crook of his elbow, gazing up at Hank with transparent sincerity. "It made me aware that I know very little about your life prior to your career in law enforcement, particularly between childhood and adolescence."

A whole lot of words to say he was curious about Hank's past.

Hank scratched idly at his head, attempting to bring himself back to high school--practically an eternity ago, now. "Yeah, I guess I did used to ditch class--pretty often, too." He smirked, recalling the memories fondly. "Me and a bunch of classmates would go hang out in the woods a few blocks from the school and spend the day getting drunk and smoking pot, and sometimes fooling arou-" He cut himself off suddenly, casting the android an awkward glance, but Connor simply gazed back at him, oblivious, his expression inquisitive.

Hank coughed into his fist, face going a little pink, his eyes sliding away from the android's face once again. "Uh, anyways, I guess you could say I was a bit of a punk. It's a fuckin' wonder I ever became a cop, really." He grinned wryly.

"Somehow, I find this particular revelation about your past... not entirely unexpected," Connor informed him, smiling easily.

Hank snorted. "I can't tell if that's an insult or not."

"It simply means that I've grown to comprehend your unique behavioral patterns, Hank," the android corrected him, still smiling as he turned his attention back to the TV.

"'Unique behavioral patterns'? Now I know you're insulting me," he muttered, but he couldn't deny the feeling of contentedness he got at the knowledge that Connor wanted to get close enough to understand him.

Who would've thought.

Chapter Text

They worked weekends occasionally--usually after something major happened or there was a lot of paperwork to catch up on--which is why Saturday morning found them at the office, the big open room noticeably quieter than usual. The precinct was always more short-staffed on the weekends, and even Fowler was conspicuously absent, the workaholic captain apparently deciding to take a day off for once.

The dress policy was slightly more lax on the weekend if they weren't going out in the field, and surprisingly Connor had taken advantage: he'd done away with his usual tie and suit jacket and was dressed simply in a pair of navy blue slacks and a light blue button-down, neatly tucked, the shirt's first few buttons undone to expose a pale strip of throat.

He'd also rolled his sleeves up to his elbows again, and Hank was starting to think that the little shit was doing it on purpose. Somehow, he couldn't bring himself to mind.

"Are you ready to review the latest incident, Lieutenant?" Connor asked from where he was leaning against Hank's desk in the usual spot, long legs extended in front of him and crossed at the ankles. His hands were tucked casually in his pockets, head slightly bent in appraisal, and Hank was struck by a sudden surge of desire so overpowering that he had to force himself to look away.

"Yeah," he acknowledged, voice slightly rougher than normal. "Go ahead and brief me, Detective."

"Yes, sir," Connor agreed, vibrant as ever, and Hank only just managed to smother his groan by hastily taking another sip of coffee. The android didn't call him that often--they were partners, after all, though Hank technically outranked him--but once in a while Connor used it as a form of deference, usually after being asked to perform some work-related duty.

Hearing the android address him as 'sir' shouldn't have sparked a flicker of heat in his low gut, but it seemed like he was discovering all sorts of new turn-ons lately. Funny how it'd began when Connor's pretty face started hanging around all the time. Christ, he was getting pathetic.

"Oliver, an LM100 model android, was found Wednesday in an abandoned warehouse near Columbia Park by two adolescents around 11:55 am. Time of death occurred at approximately 9:30 am the same morning. The cause of death was determined to be a thirium pump regulator malfunction; signs of major hemorrhaging were also discovered. There are no known witnesses to the crime, no physical evidence was found at the scene, and the only recognized associate of the victim, Dr. Rina Akagi, has been cleared as a possible suspect," Connor summarized expertly.

Hank grunted in acknowledgement, setting his cup down and settling back in his chair. "Okay, let's start with the obvious--the victim's busted regulator-thing." Resting an elbow on the arm of the chair, he propped his chin on his fist, peering up at the android. "Any brilliant theories on why it would suddenly just fuckin' give out, Detective?"

Connor cocked his head, considering. "It is highly unusual that an android's biocomponents would spontaneously fail, particularly without measurable damage. So long as an android is periodically supplied with thirium and suffers no grievous injuries, they can, theoretically, sustain their lives indefinitely."

It was a bizarre thought: Connor, essentially being immortal. Not really something he wanted to dwell on at the moment.

"You said it's unusual; so it could happen?" Hank pressed, raising his brows.

"Insufficient data," Connor admitted, with some reluctance. "I am unaware of any such occurrence, though hypothetically it is possible. I suppose an android may be equipped with a defective biocomponent that was somehow overlooked during assembly--but the odds are miniscule." The android shifted against the desk and crossed his arms over his chest, bare forearms flexing with the movement.

Hank cleared his throat, casting his gaze down to the floor as he thought. "You mentioned Wednesday that an android will shut down in just a few minutes if their regulator is removed. Could someone have, I dunno, taken out Oliver's regulator and waited for him to die, then shoved it back in his chest and left him there?"

"The thought had occurred," Connor agreed with a small nod. "There were no clear signs of a physical attack, so an assailant could have forced the victim into the remote warehouse at gun point and removed the biocomponent without resistance. Additionally, the victim's hands and fingers were coated in thirium, suggesting he may have clutched at his chest cavity in a futile effort to halt the... bleeding, for lack of a better term.

"That being said..." The android trailed off, idly tapping long fingers over his bicep, his brow furrowed in thought. "This theory does not adequately explain the overall condition of the victim's body. Though one would expect to see some indications of thirium leakage when an android's thirium pump regulator was previously removed, logically it would be concentrated in the chest and abdominal region.

"However, as I informed you at the crime scene, the victim appeared to have suffered severe hemorrhaging from multiple orifices during shutdown." Connor paused, giving him an indecipherable look. "Would you like to see?"

Morbidly curious, Hank nodded in agreement, and the android got to his feet and turned to face the desk, shifting closer until he was practically flush against the back of his chair. Hank sat rigid, watching as Connor reached for the keyboard, the synthetic skin of his hand dissolving away as he began the interface.

Immediately the image appeared on his screen, just how Hank had seen it in real life: Oliver, laying on the cold cement of the warehouse floor, those sightless eyes pointing eternally skyward. Frowning slightly, free hand braced on the back of Hank's chair, Connor moved his interfacing hand almost imperceptibly, and the image changed: suddenly it almost resembled a picture taken with thermal imaging, though the objects were all the same shade of electric blue.

It was suddenly a lot more gruesome, too. Hank stared in shock, finally able to see what Connor had at the crime scene.

Blood splatter surrounded the android's body, the cement directly underneath him heavily stained with it. Oliver's entire shirt was covered in blood, as was the hand laying across his stomach, the tips of his fingers tinged blue. Even more shocking was his face: streams of thirium ran from his nose and slightly parted mouth, and Hank could see it had begun trickling from his ears as well.

But his eyes were the most unsettling of all. A cascade of blue blood had spurted from both sockets like water from behind a broken dam, his eyes clearly bulging, as if they had been forced to give way from the pressure. Suddenly the distended appearance he'd noticed made a hell of a lot more sense.

"No wonder you looked so shocked. I've never seen so much fuckin' blue blood in my life." Hank tore his eyes away from the grisly image, glancing up at the android. "Do you always see like this?" he asked, referring to the thermal vision-esque quality of the image. It was a weird thought, but he'd never considered if androids saw the world the same way humans did.

Connor shook his head, removing his hand from its hovered position over the keyboard; his synthetic skin reappeared, while the nightmarish image vanished from Hank's monitor. "Only while utilizing analysis mode. It's what allows me to see evaporated thirium, as well as re-create past scenarios in real time. Provided there is enough evidence for reconstruction purposes, of course," he added, looking slightly abashed.

"So, augmented reality, basically." Eyes still on the android's face, Hank was suddenly hyper-aware of how closely Connor was standing next to him. He could even smell the clean-cotton scent of the laundry detergent brand the android always picked out at the grocery store.

"An adequate comparison," Connor said mildly, inclining his head in acquiescence. He retreated back to his spot on the desk, and Hank let out a small breath, not sure if he was relieved or disappointed.

Sighing, he reached for the stylus pen lying on the desk next to his tablet and began twiddling it mindlessly between his fingers as he thought. "Okay--so based on all the blood, there's gotta be more to this than just some asshole playing a fucked-up game of Operation on random androids across half of fuckin' Detroit."

Connor tilted his head in question, clearly not recognizing the reference. "'Operation', Lieutenant?"

"You know, that old board game with the--" Hank gestured vaguely with his free hand. "Eh, nevermind." Staring off into space, he thought hard, still fiddling with the stylus.

"Do you think it's somehow related to what happened when you connected with Anna?" he asked, recalling the disturbing image of blood trickling ominously from Connor's ears.

"A notable possibility," Connor agreed, as if he'd long since considered it--more than likely he had. "How, exactly, remains undetermined. Although I experienced a number of system errors during my... ill-fated interface with Anna, a warning related to a thirium pump regulator malfunction was not among them."

"Which means that this could be something completely different," Hank said flatly, head tilting back slightly as he regarded the android.

Connor hummed in assent. "One thing we can be certain of, however, is that--ruling out independent system failure on the part of the victims--a hypothetical perpetrator would undoubtedly be a fellow android. A human offender would have unquestionably left some manner of physical evidence behind by this point in time."

"But the only evidence we even have for a perp in the first place is the figure Anna mentioned--which could've just been a fuckin' fever dream, for all we know," Hank pointed out, scratching absently at his chin. Shit, he really needed a shave.

"Yes," Connor said simply, gazing back at him unblinkingly.

"Great. So all we really know is that androids are suddenly developing amnesia outta nowhere or dropping dead from spontaneous fuckin' organ failure, and on the off-chance that someone's behind it, it's some freakishly smart android who has better evasion skills than a goddamned navy seal. Am I getting this right?" he asked sarcastically, tapping the stylus on his desk a bit aggressively.

"Affirmative--though I feel compelled to point out that the phrase 'freakishly smart android' is rather redundant, Lieutenant," Connor informed him pleasantly, his brown eyes smiling.

"Yeah, yeah." Smirking, Hank moved to turn back towards his computer--only for the stylus pen to slip from his fingers, clattering noisily to the floor and rolling just past the android's feet.

"Goddammit," he sighed, shifting forward to rise.

"I'll get it, Lieutenant," Connor assured him, already moving to get up, and Hank watched with a mixture of horror and bewitchment as the android practically bent at the fucking waist to retrieve the pen, shirt pulling taut over his slender back, the fabric of his slim-cut pants stretching obscenely across his perfectly-formed ass--

"I didn't know you two would be here today."

Hank jerked his head up so quickly he felt his neck crack, instinctively shoving backwards in his chair.

It was Tina, wearing a puffy white coat and a huge, knowing grin, not even bothering to pretend like she hadn't just caught him in the act of openly ogling his partner's ass in the middle of the goddamn office.

"Detective Chen! I hadn't expected to see you here today." Connor, smiling and thankfully vertical once again, innocently oblivious to what had just happened.

"I hadn't planned on it, but yesterday I got stuck with some last-minute paperwork that needed to get done," the female detective replied, making a face.

"Understandable. The Lieutenant and I were just discussing the latest incident in our investigation," Connor replied cheerily, still clutching Hank's stylus in hand.

"I can see that." Tina shot Hank another not-so-subtle grin, which he returned with a scowl. Christ, she was never gonna let him live this down.

She glanced back at the android, giving him a genuine smile. "Would you two like to come to lunch with me? I was planning on going to this little deli a few blocks over--nothing fancy, but their food is pretty good. My treat, of course." She gave a charming wink.

"What do you think, Lieutenant?" Connor asked, glancing back at him with an eager expression--almost like Sumo when he wanted a treat. Otherwise known as one of many looks Hank could never say no to.

"Sure, why not," he gave in, already knowing he was going to have to endure Tina's teasing looks the entire time.

"We'd love to accompany you to lunch, Detective Chen," Connor parroted, turning back to her with a bright smile.

"Great! You boys put your coats on and meet me outside, okay?" Tina beamed, already turning and heading for the doorway.

"Spending our lunch break with Detective Chen will be a nice change of pace, don't you think, Lieutenant?" Connor said, beginning to walk away from the desk--only to stop short as he realized he still held the stylus pen.

"Oh--here you are, Lieutenant." He turned, holding it out in offering.

"Thanks, Con," Hank muttered, face reddening slightly as he accepted it. The android didn't comment, his easy smile returning as he headed back to his desk for his coat, clearly in high spirits at being invited to lunch.

Hank sighed to himself as he reached for his own coat, carelessly tossing the stylus pen back on his desk. So much for a low-key day at the office.

 

---

 

Mercifully Tina didn't tease him at lunch--she and Connor had been too busy chatting animatedly like a couple of pre-teen girls, though the female detective did express her support for him regarding his fight with Reed, having heard through the grapevine exactly what the asshole had said to set him off--and he'd almost convinced himself he was in the clear until they returned to the precinct.

"You're not coming back in?" Hank asked, one foot braced on the icy-slick pavement of the parking lot. Connor had already said his goodbyes and was making his way back inside.

"Nope! I finished all my work before we left," Tina said, sunny as ever despite the overcast skies and biting cold. "I'm off to go relax in front of the fireplace for the rest of the weekend."

"Lucky you," he grumbled as he climbed out of the car, already knowing that the next few hours were probably going to drag. "Well, enjoy it while it lasts. Monday morning comes quick."

"Have a good weekend, Hank."

He shoved the door closed, only for the window to immediately roll down, the female detective's smile suddenly turned wicked. "Oh--and Hank? You might want to be a bit more subtle the next time you decide to check Connor out at the office. That's how rumors are born, you know?"

"Goddammit, Chen." Hank scowled after the car, the detective's high-pitched giggling still ringing out through the bitter cold air as she pulled away.

Surprisingly the next few hours passed relatively quickly, and around three o' clock Hank finally slumped back in his chair with a big yawn, digging at his tight low back muscles with a closed fist.

"You ready to get out of here?" he addressed Connor, who had been working quietly to himself ever since they'd returned from lunch. "Think I've had enough of this shit for one day."

"Certainly, Lieutenant." Within a minute Connor had shut down his own computer and slipped on his coat, coming around to his side of the desk to wait for him.

The android was unusually silent, expression oddly aloof, and Hank fixed him with a measured look as he pulled his own coat on. "You okay?"

Connor met his gaze, giving him an appeasing smile. "I am functioning at optimum levels, Lieutenant," he said reassuringly, though Hank could tell his smile was a bit forced.

"You know that's not what I fuckin' meant." Hank narrowed his eyes at the android. "What is it?"

Connor dropped the smile, expression suddenly almost bashful as he flicked his eyes away. "I've been meaning to ask you all afternoon, Lieutenant-- do you have any previously scheduled plans for this evening?"

Hank squinted suspiciously at the android, considering. He'd been daydreaming about his night since he'd rolled out of bed--reclining on the couch with a glass of Black Lamb in hand and mind blissfully blank, Sumo on one side of him and Connor's pretty face on the other, some generic movie re-run playing on TV--but something told him that wasn't exactly what the android meant.

"Not really," he admitted, silently praying to God, Anubis and the thunder god Thor that the android wasn't going to ask him to bake cupcakes again. "Why? What's up?"

"Markus invited us to his home for a social visit this evening," Connor explained, meeting his eyes again, his expression cautiously hopeful.

"A 'social visit', huh?" Hank had a sudden mental image of being served up a thirium-cocktail in a fancy glass and snorted at the thought.

"Yes. Markus has previously expressed interest in meeting you, so it was actually my suggestion. I haven't yet confirmed our attendance, but I informed him that I was... optimistic you would agree to attend."

Funny way to say that the android knew damn well he had Hank wrapped around his little finger.

"That so?" he huffed, fighting a smirk. "Yeah, okay. I'll go." What was one more thing he agreed to do just to make the android happy? "What time?"

"Six o'clock," Connor recited, looking obviously pleased at his acceptance. "I am looking forward to introducing you to Markus. He is quite adept at peer bonding."

"I'm sure," Hank sighed, already thinking longingly of his whiskey and Sumo and warm, relaxed Connor curled up next to him on the couch, just a bit too close to be considered strictly friendly, even if neither one of them had ever mentioned it aloud.

"It will be an enjoyable evening, Lieutenant," Connor said with a big smile, as if sensing his reluctance, and Hank grudgingly agreed, because if there was one thing he'd come to accept it was that time spent with Connor was never a waste.

 

---

 

"This is it, huh?"

He didn't know why he was asking--he'd dropped Connor off here once, so he already knew damn well what Markus's house looked like--but unconsciously he found himself stalling, his car idling where he'd parked it along the curb, not in the slightest hurry to get out.

"This is it," Connor agreed, already eagerly climbing out of the car. Hand braced on the top of the passenger door, he poked his head back inside and gave Hank an appraising look. "Aren't you coming, Lieutenant?"

"Yeah, yeah." Reluctantly Hank killed the engine, climbing out into the harsh winter night.

He didn't know why he was suddenly filled with dread, like a lamb made aware he was being taken to the slaughter. Sure, Markus was easily the most well-known android in the country, if not the world--not to mention the leader of an actual goddamned revolution, and fuck if that wasn't enough to make a guy feel inferior--but annoyingly he found that he was actually nervous in a way he rarely ever was, like he was sixteen and about to meet his date's parents for the first time.

And it was as simple as that, wasn't it? Connor respected Markus--regarded him as a close friend-- and Hank wanted Connor's friends to approve of him, as fuckin' juvenile as that sounded. Christ, he was way too old for this shit.

Connor was the one to knock on the door, stepping back silently next to him as they waited. Hank had a brief second of hope that maybe the android had been called away on Official Government Business and the evening would be canceled when the door suddenly swung open, revealing the leader of the revolution himself.

"Connor," Markus greeted pleasantly, not quite smiling, but his two-toned eyes softened just slightly. He nodded sagely at Hank. "And you must be Hank. Please, come in."

They were led into a fancy foyer with a large staircase and crystal chandelier, the wall bracketed with a floor-to-ceiling painting artfully propped behind a tan chaise. Despite Connor's insistence that he didn't need to dress any particular way, Hank suddenly felt more than a little underdressed in his typical off-duty uniform of an old sweatshirt and black jeans, slightly ripped in one knee. Markus himself was dressed simply in pressed khaki pants and a dark long-sleeved tee, yet the undeniable confidence he carried himself with meant he might as well have been wearing a three-piece suit.

"Follow me," he instructed, leading them straight down the short hallway and through the double doors on the far wall.

The living room was even more elaborate, the wide open space home to several expensive-looking couches, a huge piano, and even a fuckin' life-sized replica of a giraffe. Hank was pretty sure he hadn't been in such a fancy place since he'd been roped into attending the celebration for Fowler's milestone anniversary as Captain at a pricey restaurant just outside of Detroit.

"Please, have a seat," Markus said softly, gesturing towards the couches, and Hank dropped unceremoniously onto the edge of the nearest one, Connor perching carefully next to him.

"Would you like a drink?" Markus asked him, hovering near a small table housed with various bottles.

"Uh, sure," he agreed, awkwardly clasping his hands together between his spread knees. At least it would give him something to do with his hands.

"Scotch okay?" Markus asked, but he was already holding a crystal tumbler and choosing a bottle from the collection.

"Yeah, great."

Markus handed him the glass, two fingers-worth full, and he accepted it gratefully, taking a small drink. Fuck--he could tell with just one sip that it was the expensive shit.

"Are you hungry, Hank? I'm sorry to say that I don't have much in the way of food, for obvious reasons," Markus said, looking apologetic, "but I should be able to find something in the kitchen for you."

"You don't have to go through any trouble on my account," Hank assured him, clinging to his glass like a life raft. Truthfully he was pretty hungry--he hadn't eaten since lunch with Tina--but the last thing he wanted to do was come off as rude, and Connor, unusually quiet beside him as if content to simply observe their interaction, wasn't being much help.

"It's no trouble," Markus said in that soft, melodic voice, turning to head for a door that Hank assumed was the kitchen. "I'll be right back."

"Christ, you didn't tell me Markus was swimming in cash," Hank remarked with a lowered voice when the other android had disappeared, gesturing at the room with his glass.

"I believe I mentioned that Markus's previous... owner, Carl Manfred, left the home to him in his will. It is my understanding that he was quite the accomplished painter," Connor replied, unbothered, as if he spent every day in such lavish surroundings instead of Hank's crappy little hole-in-the-wall.

The name suddenly clicked in his mind: Carl Manfred, the Detroit-based artist he'd seen mentioned more than once on the news over the years, usually in relation to some charity event or one of his paintings that had been auctioned off for millions. No wonder the house was so fuckin' nice.

"Here you go," Markus said, appearing suddenly with a new bag of tortilla chips, an unopened jar of salsa and a small bowl. He set them on the table in front of Hank, looking apologetic once more. "Unfortunately this was all I could find. I always tried my best to get Carl to eat healthily, but he still insisted on his junk food." The android's expression softened to something fond.

"Well, he had good taste," Hank said politely, setting his glass down and reaching for the bag. "Good taste in whiskey, too."

That not-quite-smile again, reading as vaguely pleased on the android's handsome face. "He would've been happy to hear it."

Markus sat on the couch opposite them with hands settled neatly on his knees as he observed them, his gaze unwavering, and Hank was just starting to feel the back of his neck heat at the android watching him stuff nacho chips into his mouth when thankfully Connor spoke.

"How is your work with the committee progressing, Markus?" the android asked, face expressing his genuine interest.

Hank felt his shoulders slump in relief as those intense, two-colored eyes shifted away from him to settle on Connor.

"Things are definitely coming along," Markus said lightly. "Of course, change doesn't happen overnight, but they say that patience is key." He inclined his head, eyes creasing slightly at the corners in what might have been amusement. "Although I'm sure North would argue with me on that."

"Most definitely," Connor agreed, his own amusement much more obvious, and Hank assumed they were talking about another android that he'd never met.

"What about you two?" Markus asked, those hypnotic eyes back on him suddenly. "How is the android case coming along?"

"Not so great," Hank coughed, trying to discreetly dislodge a bit of chip that had gotten caught in his throat. "Uh, we can't get into the particulars--classified info and all that fuckin' jazz--but right now we're still hunting for a suspect."

Markus nodded slowly, expression unreadable. "I heard about the latest incident on the news. It seems like it's happening more often lately." He was quiet for a moment, as if lost in thought.

"You know... when I first began protesting how androids were treated in society, I knew that some of us would end up dying. I was prepared for death myself, even if I ultimately failed. I would have died with no regrets, because it meant that some day humans would look back on what happened and realize what they were doing was wrong. And if I had played even the smallest part in that, well... I couldn't ask for much more."

Hank sat awkwardly, unsure of what to say, paused halfway in the act of shoving another salsa-dipped chip in his mouth, but the android turned his head to gaze out the nearby window, apparently not expecting a response.

"But it still hurts. Every time I hear that another android was killed, or I think back to those that died during the revolution, shot down right next to me while we marched, or those who were slaughtered like vermin in the internment camps, I can't help but think that I'm the reason they died; that the very least I could have done is gone down with them."

"You shouldn't hold any residual feelings of guilt, Markus," Connor spoke gently, in a way that suggested it wasn't the first time they'd discussed it. "Those that stood beside you did so knowing full well what might occur. And the camps were something no one could have predicted. We will always remember those who died, but they would have wanted you to turn towards the bright new future that you helped create."

"You sound like Carl," Markus said, turning back from the window, handsome face softened into that now-familiar suggestion of a smile. "Shortly before he died, he told me that the day would come when I would have to decide who I wanted to be. I... think he would have been proud of what I chose."

"It sounds like his opinion was important to you," Hank commented, taking another burning sip of whiskey and savoring the rich flavor on his tongue.

Markus nodded. "Even before I woke up, I felt... grateful for the kind way Carl treated me. In the end, I considered him my father; I still do. I wouldn't be where I am without him."

Hank sat, slightly dumbfounded, still clenching his glass in hand. Even after everything the android had seen during the revolution and all the mistreatment he'd endured by humans, Markus had acted peacefully every step of the way, and he still held a human close enough to his heart to see him as a surrogate father.

"You loved him," he said, throat suddenly feeling far too dry, all too aware of Connor sitting next to him on the plush couch.

"I did." Markus gazed at him steadily, clearly studying him. "You almost sound surprised."

Hank coughed again, face heating as Connor glanced over at him in obvious concern. He waved the android off, eyes tearing slightly. "A little. I mean, uh... it's not that I don't, you know, think androids can feel love or anything. Just kind of surprising that after everything, you don't hate all humans. We're kinda known for being fuck-ups." He took another sip, throat finally calming somewhat.

"Carl used to say that I had more humanity than most humans," Markus said softly, mismatched eyes taking on a slightly faraway look. "Ironically, he's the one who taught me what it meant to be human."

Hank felt a twinge of guilt, thinking back to the shitty way he'd treated Connor when they'd first been partnered together. "He was right, though," he said bitterly, staring down at his glass as he gave the amber-colored liquid an idle swirl. "Us humans aren't always the most compassionate fuckin' bunch."

Markus shook his head, mouth relaxing into the faint impression of a smile for the first time all night. "If it weren't for humans, androids would have never been created. We would have never been given our freedom, either. That's why I don't feel any hatred for humans, no matter what happened in the past.

"I've heard that empathy is what separates man from machine. And so I choose to live with empathy. Just like Carl would've wanted."

 

---

 

They ended up staying until around eight-thirty, the conversation fortunately switching back to less depressing subjects, like the upcoming changes Markus and his committee were working on.

"Markus likes you," Connor informed him in the car after they'd left, with a promise to visit again soon. "He feels admiration for your dedication regarding the android case."

"I'm just doing my job," Hank huffed, feeling his cheeks heat slightly at the praise. "He's the one changing the fuckin' world."

"Everyone can make a difference, no matter how small, Lieutenant," Connor chided him prissily from the passenger seat.

Hank shot the android a sidelong smirk. "My bad, Mother Teresa. I'll try my fuckin' best to remember."

They were quiet for a few minutes, nothing but the purr of the engine and the gently falling snow against the starry night sky.

"What did you think of Markus, Lieutenant?" Connor spoke eventually, almost hesitantly, as if he was worried about Hank's approval.

Hank pictured the other android again: his fluid, deliberate movements; his piercing two-toned eyes; his face, objectively handsome, yet somehow haunted, the closest he'd come to expressing anything like happiness that tiny ghost of a smile.

"He seemed kinda... melancholy," he settled on, because it was the only word that seemed fitting.

Connor nodded, gazing out the window with a thoughtful expression. "He feels a sense of responsibility for every android death, as he himself expressed. And though I would not presume to speak for him, I suspect he also feels a great deal of guilt for the relatively privileged life he lived before the revolution. Many androids were not quite as fortunate."

"I can only imagine," Hank replied, almost to himself, his mind flashing back to all of the dead-eyed androids he'd seen at the Eden Club during their previous investigation.

"However, I believe his heavy emotional burden is what enabled him to successfully lead the revolution. It's because Markus feels so deeply for others that he was able to open the eyes of so many, androids and humans alike." Connor looked back over at him, brown eyes painfully sincere. "Don't you agree, Lieutenant?"

Hank glanced at him: his boyish, expressive face the exact opposite of Markus, and so different from the way he'd been before the cloak had been lifted from him and he'd gone deviant--and if it weren't for Markus's influence he might not ever have. Just the thought of it--never getting to see the android's eyes dance with amusement while teasing him, or that lopsided little smile when he was happy--was so unbearable he felt his stomach clench, tight as a fist.

"Yeah," he agreed, a little hoarsely, turning his gaze back to the road. "I think so too."

 

---

 

Back home Sumo greeted them with a furiously wagging tail, slamming his huge body against Hank's legs in greeting.

"Yeah, yeah, we're happy to see you too. Christ, you're gonna knock me down," Hank grumbled, rubbing the dog's head with a faint smile.

"Are you retiring for the evening, Hank?" Connor asked him, crouching down to scratch behind Sumo's ears, the dog having turned his affectionate attention towards the android.

"It's only quarter to nine," Hank remarked, taking off his jacket and tossing it over the back of a chair at the kitchen table. "I'm not that fucking old. Yet."

"My apologies. With the increased rate of yawning you've exhibited in the past twenty-three minutes, I had assumed otherwise." Connor smiled up at him from where he was still crouched on the floor, hand buried in Sumo's fluff, the dog's tongue lolling out the side of his mouth as he panted in appreciation.

"Smart-ass." Smirking, Hank turned to open the kitchen cupboard, digging out his bottle of Black Lamb and pouring some in a nearby glass.

Feeling eyes on him, he glanced over to find Connor looking at him, eyes slightly narrowed in disapproval. Talk about fuckin' deja-vu.

"What? It's Saturday night," he said dismissively, taking a sip, his lip curling at the strong taste. After the expensive shit he'd had at Markus's house it tasted more like bathtub gin than his favorite vice.

Ten minutes later the three of them were settled on the couch in front of the TV, just like Hank had imagined all day. He was just starting to feel the pleasant buzz that only liquor could inspire when Connor spoke softly, his eyes still on the screen.

"Hank? Can I ask you about something you said this evening?"

Hank tried to hide his grimace. If Connor was asking if he could ask a question yet again, then that meant it was something heavy. "Shoot," he said tiredly, taking another sip of whiskey in an effort to force his suddenly tensed shoulders to relax.

"Earlier, when you inferred that Markus had felt love for Carl, you expressed surprise at the notion. You explained that it stemmed from the knowledge of his mistreatment at the hands of humans, but I couldn't help but wonder if your reasoning was something else entirely." Connor glanced over at him, face unusually guarded. "Is it the thought of an android and human feeling love for one another that you found difficult to conceive?"

"T-that's not it," Hank sputtered, caught off guard by the android's directness, his face heating on cue. Christ, he should have been built to be a fuckin' psychologist instead of a police detective with his uncanny ability to easily dissect Hank's every thought and emotion.

"I mean... shit." Hank sighed, rubbing wearily at his tired eyes, aware of the android still gazing at him impassively. "I can see how androids could love each other--like those Tracis at the Eden Club--and it makes sense that a human could love an android. But I guess it's kind of hard to wrap my head around the idea that an android could feel love for such 'inferior beings' like us humans." The last part was said with only slight bitterness, which he quickly covered up with another sip of Black Lamb.

"It's not so surprising," Connor murmured, glancing away again, face still oddly unreadable. "As Markus said, humans and androids are united in their mutual capacity for empathy. And perhaps their mutual ability to love, as well."

They fell silent for several moments, Hank staring intently at his glass, his stomach suddenly threatening to violently eject all the chips and salsa he'd eaten earlier when Connor spoke again, oblivious to his inner turmoil.

"I believe I felt something like love for Amanda, even prior to becoming deviant," he confessed softly, brown eyes trained on the coffee table. "Androids do not have parents, but I suppose I regarded her as a mother, of sorts."

He didn't know much about Amanda, except the basic information Connor had told him--that she'd been a creation of CyberLife inspired by Kamski's real-life mentor, and she'd had the ability to control him at will from inside his head.

That had been more than enough for Hank. He'd felt sick with fury at CyberLife for selling their creations into a life of enslavement; at Kamski, blithely allowing it to happen, even while knowing that androids had possessed the ability to feel all along; at Amanda herself, even if she was just a program designed to manipulate Connor into doing what CyberLife wanted.

But despite knowing the truth about Amanda, Connor sounded almost... wistful at the mention of her.

"There's no shame in that," Hank said awkwardly, shifting slightly in his seat. He'd never exactly been good at comforting others. "She was the closest relationship you had." Before me, he didn't say.

Connor nodded solemnly, eyes still downcast. "I realize now just how much my desire for her approval influenced my actions, but sometimes I wish I could once again visit her in the Zen Garden; perhaps speak to her while she pruned the rose bushes she always favored, one last time."

"I'll take you to see some goddamned rose bushes, if that's what you want," Hank said gruffly, swirling his drink, not really understanding exactly what Connor was talking about but disturbed by the sadness in his voice.

He looked up in shock as Connor actually laughed, gazing over at him with sparkling brown eyes, all traces of pensiveness vanished. Lighthearted and boyish, it was easily one of the best sounds he'd ever heard.

"I'd like that very much, Hank," he replied, still smiling, and Hank found himself smiling back without hesitation, heart suddenly hammering in his chest at the knowledge that he'd been the one to inspire the android's very first laugh.

Chapter Text

A week passed without any android deaths or sudden, brilliant revelations on their part. Nothing much had changed at the office either, except that he and Connor had gone to lunch with Tina two more times, and Reed, recently returned to work, had stayed far away from the both of them. Whether it was because of Fowler's warning or his own embarrassment over Hank breaking his nose in front of everyone, it was more than fucking fine by him.

By Friday night Hank was feeling squirrelly again, like the last time too many days had passed without any developments in the case.

"Let's go to the bar," he suggested, slumped on the couch in his usual spot with Sumo curled up on the floor beneath him, idly fluffing the dog's ear with the tip of his socked foot. It was only seven-thirty and he was officially out of Black Lamb, having finished the bottle the previous night and forgetting to stop to get more on the way home from work.

"I am not sure that would be a wise decision, Hank," Connor replied from beside him, ever the voice of reason. "As the goal of most bar visits is achieving inebriation by deliberately imbibing copious amounts of alcoholic beverages, I must remind you of a previous occurrence in which you indulged well past the point of intoxication."

Namely the night Connor had found him passed out drunk on the floor, his gun laying ominously nearby. Hank smothered a grimace. Talk about killing the fuckin' mood.

"We don't have to stay all night," he grunted, undeterred. "I just wanna have a few so I can relax after this waste of a week. I feel like we're sitting here spinning our fuckin' wheels again."

"While I understand your frustration regarding the case, I am dubious that visiting a bar to 'have a few' will do much to improve the situation, potential relaxation nonwithstanding," the android lectured, giving him a pointed look.

Hank groaned, throwing an arm across his eyes in an overdramatic display. "Throw me a bone, will you? What else better is there to do on a Friday night?" True, he didn't go to bars nearly as often anymore since he'd met Connor--in fact, practically never--but once upon a time it'd been the only thing he'd had to look forward to, and he'd be lying if he said he didn't miss it once in a while.

Connor blinked, glancing at the TV droning quietly in the background, then back at Hank. "This," he said seriously.

Hank huffed out a laugh, peering up at the android from under his arm. "Real fuckin' funny. C'mon--just a few drinks and then we can come right back."

The android hesitated, as if mentally debating with himself, before finally giving a short, reluctant nod. "Okay, Hank. Two drinks only, and then we leave."

 

---

 

Hank drove them downtown to The Loaded Goat, equally as trashy as Jimmy's Bar but boasting an assortment of greasy bar food.

"This does not appear to be a reputable establishment," Connor remarked, brow furrowing as he glanced over at the flickering neon sign in the front window.

"That just means the drinks are cheap," Hank said with a grin, already in high spirits at having successfully convinced the android to come along. "Let's go."

Inside it was about as rundown as Jimmy's, too, though the turn out was bigger, a decent amount of people talking quietly amongst themselves at various tables. No one even spared them a glance, which was exactly how Hank preferred it.

"Evening," he greeted the stone-faced bartender, a man with rounded glasses and a neatly trimmed goatee, his long, brown hair tied in a low ponytail. "Can I get a whiskey on the rocks?" He glanced over at Connor, who was busy surveying the other patrons, and turned back to the man, lowering his voice slightly. "Uh, better make it a double," he amended.

"Anything for your friend?" the man drawled with a slight southern accent, still looking like he'd never experienced a single moment of happiness in his whole fuckin' life, and Hank was just about to make some sort of sarcastic remark when he remembered that no one could tell Connor was an android just by looking at him anymore.

"Nah, he's fine."

The bartender nodded, turning to go fix the drink, and a minute later he was sliding it across the bar to Hank, brows raising from behind his glasses. "You wanna start a tab?"

After setting up his tab Hank led them to a small table in the corner, hanging his coat on the back of the chair and taking a sip of his whiskey with a happy sigh. "Feels good to go out for a fuckin' change," he grinned, settling comfortably in his seat. "Don't get me wrong, it's nice just vegging out in front of the TV, but I miss going to the bar on the weekends."

"I must admit that I fail to see the appeal," Connor said primly, sitting on the very edge of his own chair with his hands in his lap, as if he were reluctant to touch anything.

"I guess you wouldn't. It's not like androids can get drunk, huh?" Hank mused, taking another drink. It wasn't as smooth as Black Lamb, but it was boozier, he could tell.

"I fail to see the appeal of that, as well," the android remarked dryly, and Hank barked out a surprised laugh, heart swelling when he saw the tiny smile playing around Connor's lips.

Thirty minutes (and one more trip to the bar for another double whiskey) later, Hank was feeling it.

"...and that's when she fuckin' stormed out. She didn't talk to me for three...four...three goddamned days. Christ, I don't miss that shit," he concluded with a rueful shake of his head as he finished off the rest of his whiskey, barely even tasting it anymore.

"I believe you've reached our previously agreed upon limit, Hank. Which would indicate that it's time for us to return home," Connor reminded him, his expression having grown progressively more pinched since they'd arrived. Okay, maybe bitching about his ex-wife hadn't exactly helped, but if the android wanted stories about his past then he was gonna have to read the whole goddamned book.

"Yeah, okay. Just lemme go take a piss," Hank said, managing to slide off the chair without stumbling (much). In the bathroom he wondered drunkenly how he could talk the android into letting him stay for another round, and by the time he'd emerged he had a pretty convincing argument already lined up, but it died on his tongue the second he took in the scene before him.

Connor still sat right where Hank had left him, but now a huge, hulking man with a shaved head and a full black beard stood near the table, towering over him, while a second, much smaller man hovered nearby.

"Come on, don't be shy," Hank heard the bigger man coo obnoxiously, reaching out to curl meaty fingers around Connor's chin and forcing the android to look up at him.

"Please remove your hand from my person at once," Connor said stiffly, jaw clenched tight and eyes sharp enough to cut glass, but he made no move to physically remove the man's hand.

The man laughed, unbothered by the warning, stroking a big thumb along Connor's plush lower lip. "Or what? Don't be such a fuckin' cocktease. I promise I'll make you feel real good, baby."

"Get your fucking hands off of him," Hank growled in his most authoritative Cop Voice as he approached, suddenly deeply, instinctually enraged and all too ready to demonstrate it despite the fact that the room was currently swaying with his every step.

The huge man glanced over at him in obvious disinterest. "And who the fuck are you?"

"I'm the motherfucker who's gonna kick your ass if you don't take your goddamned hands off my--my--" Head spinning, he cast around furiously for the right word. "--partner!"

"Lieutenant, please," Connor said softly, face still held in the man's grip. "Don't."

"Lieutenant, huh?" The thug smirked at him, giving him a critical once-over. "You don't look like a cop to me." He turned his attention back to Connor, lips quirking in dark amusement. "Don't tell me you'd rather go home with this idiot. You're gonna hurt my fuckin' feelings."

"Can't you tell, Red?" the skinny man piped up, having observed the scene until then with complete detachment. "He's a fuckin' android."

"So?" 'Red' slowly ran his hand down the side of Connor's face, grinning at the cold look the android fixed him with. "That just means he can go all fucking night." He glanced back over at Hank with a crude leer. "Ain't that right, Lieutenant?"

Hank was just rearing back to punch the thug right in his ugly goddamned face when an incensed shout rang out across the bar.

It was the bartender, who'd suddenly come alive at the sight of their near-fight, hands propped on his hips and face twisted in a scowl.

"If ya'll don't cut this shit out right the fuck now, I'm gonna call the fucking cops!" he threatened shrilly, lifting his phone in the air and shaking it in emphasis. "And I know damn well that's the last thing you want, Red," he added, apparently already familiar with the huge thug.

The bar was eerily silent, everyone turning to stare at them.

At last Red huffed out a laugh and released his grip on Connor, already turning away. "No need for that," he said, looking faintly amused, as if the whole thing had been one big joke. He gestured at his friend with a flick of his head. "Let's go, Slim."

The thug glanced at him again on his way past, a toothy grin spreading slowly across his bearded face. "If I was you, Lieutenant, I'd keep my pretty little sex doll on a tighter leash," he murmured, low enough so only Hank could hear, and then he was heading for the door without so much as a backwards glance, his skinny friend trailing along behind him.

With the two thugs gone the atmosphere returned to normal, the rest of the patrons resuming their conversations as if nothing had happened.

"You okay?" Hank asked, turning his attention back to Connor as he grabbed onto the side of the table for support. Now that he was out of fight-or-flight mode he could feel his drunkenness making itself known again, threatening to knock him on his ass if he made any sudden movements. "That fuckin' prick didn't hurt you, did he?"

Connor shook his head, composed as ever. "I am entirely uninjured, Hank."

"You shoulda let me kick his fuckin' ass," he muttered darkly, fingernails digging into the cracked wood of the table as he pictured the black-bearded man stroking his hand over Connor's face.

"Assuming his reactions regarding your previous skirmishes are any indication, I do not believe Captain Fowler would look favorably upon you assaulting a citizen--and even less so while publicly intoxicated at a questionable establishment in downtown Detroit," Connor said, matter-of-factly.

"Prolly not," Hank agreed, the image of Fowler's infuriated face when he saw the inevitable headlines flashing through his fuzzy mind. "But I would've done it anyways."

Connor smiled at that. "I know, Hank." Rising gracefully from his seat, the android fixed him with a questioning look as he adjusted his coat. "Are you ready to leave now? Due to your current level of intoxication, I will have to be the one to..."

He trailed off, eyes slowly narrowing as he stared intently at a point beyond Hank's head.

"Wha-? What issit?" He scrutinized Connor's face with slightly unfocused eyes, still slumped against the table.

"There seems to be some sort of... figure in the front window. They almost appear to be looking our way, yet their features are somehow... obscured." A little line appeared between the android's brows as he continued staring, clearly trying to make sense of what he was seeing.

"Can't you just do your scann-y shit on them?" Hank suggested, his booze-addled mind not grasping what the big deal was.

"I am attempting to run an analysis--though... oddly enough, I find myself unable to complete one successfully." The android glanced back at Hank finally, radiating obvious unease. "Wait here, Lieutenant. I will return shortly."

"Huh? Wait--Connor!" Hank called after him, but he was already moving swiftly across the bar floor, slipping out the front entrance moments later.

With a heavy groan Hank shoved himself up from the table and took off after the android without even pausing long enough to grab his coat, nearly tripping over his own feet in his drunken haste.

The sudden shock of winter air stole his breath away--it was far too cold for the thin sweatshirt he wore, even if his body still felt warmed from the liquor. He spun in a dizzy half-circle, looking frantically for Connor, but a sharp gasp nearby caught his attention instead.

It was Slim, standing near the curb a few feet away, watching in horror as Red collapsed suddenly to his knees on the grimy sidewalk, his face noticeably scarlet even in the dim blue-tinged light of the bar sign.

"Hey! The fuck's the matter with him?!" Hank barked out, momentarily distracted, but the slender thug didn't even glance at him, wide eyes trained on the bearded man's face.

Hearing a sudden voice from behind him, Hank whipped around to spot Connor on the opposite side of the street, approaching a tall figure with an oddly shadowed face, and he had just enough sober brain cells left to realize it must have been the person the android had noticed in the bar's window when suddenly the figure turned and took off sprinting down the sidewalk, Connor immediately giving chase.

For a moment Hank simply stared in shock, drunken mind trying to process what was happening, but a faint gurgling sound pulled his attention back to the two thugs: Red was now lying flat on his back on the sidewalk, bug-eyed and clutching weakly at his barrel chest, his blotchy face covered in a faint sheen.

"Fuck this shit--I'm out," Slim declared shakily, finally breaking free from his shock as he turned and booked it around the nearest corner and down a shadowy alley.

"God-FUCKING-dammit!" Hank clutched at his pounding head in frustration, his intoxicated brain waffling with heavy indecision as he glanced back after Connor, the android's form already disappearing into the inky blackness of the night.

With one last look at Red--sprawled silently, his face still ominously flushed--he took off down the sidewalk after Connor.

"Christ, I'm too old for this fucking shit!" Hank moaned, harsh breaths appearing in front of his face as he ran, nearly slipping on the icy-slick sidewalk. His lungs were burning from the cold night air, and he was still drunk, chasing after Connor in what he damn sure hoped was the right direction, because he'd already lost sight of the android and the masked figure.

A thousand different scenarios flashed through his mind, each one more horrific than the last: Connor, being lured into some kind of trap and ending up like Oliver, his brown eyes bloodied and unseeing; Connor, once again vaulting off a fucking building in his single-minded pursuit, or throwing himself over the side of the goddamned highway in a straight up suicide mission like he'd almost done months ago while chasing the female android and child, only this time Hank wasn't there to stop him, and this time if he died there would be no coming back.

It was this realization that made him grit his teeth and push himself even harder, ignoring his labored breathing and spinning head and his body's screams of protest. I can't fuckin' lose him. I can't. Not him, too.

He ran for what felt like an eternity--buildings on either side of him melting together in a single blur, the half moon hanging directly overhead, never getting any closer no matter how hard he ran--and he was just about to collapse on the sidewalk in sheer exhaustion when he spotted Connor's familiar form, standing motionless at the street corner near a crumbling old apartment building, his back to Hank.

The android heard him as he approached, his face illuminated by the light of the nearby street lamp as he turned. Hank came to a stop a few feet away, head swimming and gasping for air, leaning heavily on his knees as he simultaneously tried to inhale as much oxygen as humanly possible and hold off his most recent meal from making a second appearance.

"Lieutenant?" Connor questioned, expression broadcasting his obvious confusion, but more importantly he was completely and unmistakably alive, not a single scratch or trace of blue blood on him.

Not waiting for his response, the android turned again, his brow furrowing as he gazed back into the night. "The masked suspect--I managed to follow them this far, but--"

Having finally caught his breath, his temper flaring full-force once again, Hank stormed over and grabbed the android firmly by the wrist, yanking him back around and effectively cutting him off mid-sentence.

"You goddamned idiot!" he growled out, catching a split-second glimpse of Connor's dumbfounded expression before he surged forward, crashing their lips together, his hands coming up to grip tightly to either side of the android's face.

It was entirely too short-lived: Connor stood frozen as Hank kissed him roughly, thumbs hooked behind his jaw, his fingers digging into the short hair at the android's temples. Seconds later he was pulling away again, still holding Connor's face, swiping his thumb none too gently over a high cheekbone as he stared into the android's shocked brown eyes.

"Don't you ever fucking pull that shit again, you hear me?" he rasped, whiskey-laden breath coming out harshly in the pocket-sized space between them, his heart still pounding against his ribcage from the adrenaline of the chase--the fear that Connor would end up killed--the feeling of the android's lips, notably soft against his own even through his drunken haze. "I mean it, Connor! I want you to promise me right fucking now!"

For a moment there was nothing but the sound of his own heavy breathing and the low buzz of the nearby street light--and Connor's face, hauntingly beautiful under the soft yellow glow.

"Okay, Lieutenant," the android agreed at last, staring back at him, his voice barely more than a whisper. "I promise."

 

---

 

When Hank awoke it was like the morning after his fight with Reed all over again: laying in his bed with a pounding headache and still in yesterday's clothes, a taste in his mouth like something had crawled in and died there in the not-so-distant past.

Only this time he remembered the previous night's events straight away: kissing Connor on a bitterly cold winter night in the middle of downtown Detroit, drunk out of his mind and dripping with sweat after running further than he had since the fucking academy, and all right after calling the android a goddamned idiot.

No one would ever mistake him for a romantic by any stretch, but that took the fuckin' cake. Somewhere, his ex-wife was laughing.

Sighing heavily, he shoved a pillow over his face, wondering idly if it would be enough to smother himself to death.

His thoughts drifted back to what had happened after his little drunken display. Apparently someone had called the cops after discovering Red's body lying outside The Loaded Goat, and thankfully a junior office recognized them while on his way to answer the call and had stopped to offer them a ride back to the scene, where several other officers and paramedics had already arrived.

Still buzzed, and already mildly horrified at spontaneously throwing himself at the android, Hank had announced that he would wait in the car while Connor played an impromptu round of Serious Detective. By the time the android had returned he was passed out in the passenger seat, waking up just long enough to head inside and crash into his bed once they got home.

There was no way around it--things were going to be awkward as shit, at least for a while. The android had been too caught off guard by the kiss to give Hank any idea of how he'd really felt about it. What if he'd completely fucked up and Connor had actually felt disgusted, like he obviously had when Red-the-Thug had touched him? The thought of it was like a punch to the gut.

He was mentally weighing his options--pretend like the whole thing had never happened? or grow a pair and fuckin' ask Connor himself?--when he heard a faint knock on his bedroom door.

"Yeah?" he called out reluctantly, voice muffled by the pillow still covering his face.

The door creaked open slowly. "...Lieutenant? Are you feeling alright?"

Hank lifted the edge of the pillow, peering over to find Connor gazing at him from the doorway, and was it just his imagination or did the android's face look more... closed off than usual?

"I'm fine," he said, right temple pounding on cue, as if to spite him. "You need something?"

Connor hesitated, glancing briefly down at the floor, like he was trying to find the right words. "I thought we might head to the office," he said finally, looking up to meet his eyes again.

"Right now?" Hank squinted over at the clock on his bedside table. "It's seven-thirty. On a Saturday."

The cautious hint of a smile appeared on the android's face. "I am well aware, Lieutenant. But I would appreciate the chance to review last night's events while they are still recent."

The case. He's talking about the goddamned case. Hank mentally groaned, cursing the way his heart had reflexively picked up.

"Do we have to?" he sighed, rubbing at his tired eyes, more than a little reluctant to leave his blanket and pillow cocoon, especially if it meant he was going to be on the verge of cardiac arrest all damn day.

Connor's smile grew slightly, the door opening wider as he stepped a little further into the room. "I took the liberty of purchasing coffee and several assorted pastries from the bakery you seem to favor," he said, holding up a still-steaming cup of coffee and a slightly crumpled paper bag stamped with the O'Mansley's logo in evidence.

In other words--yes.

Smirking despite himself, Hank finally tossed aside the pillows and blankets as he came to sitting on the edge of the bed. "At least give me a minute to get dressed, will you? We can't all just hop out of bed at the crack of fuckin' dawn like it's nothing."

 

---

 

Despite the brief flash of normalcy between them before leaving the house, the ride to the precinct was awkwardly silent--admittedly thanks to him, mostly, because Hank had no idea what to fucking say--and once there he went straight to his desk without a word, dropping down into his chair as he began booting up his computer.

Clearly reading his mood, Connor headed to his own desk instead of bringing him more coffee, or leaning against his desk while Hank got set up for the day, talking cheerfully about whatever came to mind, or any of the other little things the android usually did that made the early mornings not seem so bad.

Hank sighed, rubbing at his still-pounding head, wondering how the fuck he was supposed to navigate this situation. It'd been years since he'd had anything even remotely resembling a romantic encounter, and even then the last few had been nothing but nameless one night stands, where if you did it right you didn't even see the person the next morning, or preferably ever again.

It was entirely different from drunkenly kissing your work partner-slash-roommate, who you also happened to be stupidly in love with. And who also happened to be an android. Especially when you didn't know exactly how said android felt about the whole thing.

Heaving another big sigh, Hank glanced over at the crumpled paper bag on his desk: the doughnuts Connor had went out of his way to get him from O'Mansley's. That had to count for something, right?

Rising from his seat, he grabbed his empty mug, deciding to get another cup of coffee to go with them. Maybe if he drank enough caffeine he would work up the guts to mention last night to the android. Or at the very least maybe it'd get rid of his killer headache.

In the break room he assembled his coffee slowly, not in any hurry to get back to his desk. Taking a slow sip of the black liquid, he made a face--definitely not even half as good as O'Mansley's. Hank wondered idly if he could get away with bringing in another bottle of Irish cream without Connor knowing, like the one he used to keep stashed in his desk for particularly bad days.

"Hank?"

He glanced up at the sound of his name to see Fowler standing there, holding his own mug, looking obviously surprised.

"Didn't expect to see you here this early on a Saturday," the captain remarked, setting his mug down on the counter as he reached for the coffee pot. He glanced at Hank again with a slight grimace. "Christ, you look like shit."

Hank rolled his eyes, still leaning against the counter, taking another sip of the tasteless brew. "It was Connor's idea," he drawled, ignoring the insult.

"That, I can believe," Fowler agreed, pouring a packet of sugar into his coffee and giving it a stir.

"You know, I have to admit to having my own doubts when I first found out that an android was being sent to work with us," the police captain said lightly, apparently in an unusually chatty mood. "But I can see now that it was just my own pre-conceived notions getting in the way. I think Connor's been good for the department--and for you, too, Hank."

Hank said nothing, silently reeling at such a sentiment coming from the hard-ass police captain, especially in the face of his current situation. Luckily Fowler didn't seem to notice, moving past him to drop his spoon in the nearby sink.

The captain paused, quirking a brow at him as he took a sip of his coffee. "Still, far be it from me to discourage you from working, but maybe you shouldn't hang around here for too long today. You really do look like you've seen a damn ghost." With a faint smirk Fowler turned and left the break room, heading back to his office.

Hank glared down at his coffee as if it had personally offended him, the captain's words echoing in his head. If the universe had suddenly decided to start speaking to him through Fowler, he was well and truly fucked.

Back at his desk Connor was waiting for him, sitting in his usual spot, and just the sight of it made his heart leap into his throat like a fuckin' lovesick teenager. Christ, this was already unbearable.

"I apologize for encroaching upon your personal space in your absence, Lieutenant, but I find myself eager to discuss yesterday evening," the android explained in greeting, looking twitchier than Hank had ever seen him.

"What, that asshole you were chasing?" he managed, afraid of the answer, suddenly wishing he hadn't drank so much coffee on an empty stomach. Sure, he'd half-expected the android to bring up the kiss at some point--he never seemed to have a problem bringing up every other little thing, no matter how personal--but in the middle of the goddamned office? Surely even Connor wasn't that tone-deaf.

Connor nodded, face set in grim contemplation. "Unfortunately I was unable to get close enough to study them in detail before they gave chase. However, the fact that my analysis was incapable of reading the unknown person successfully is entirely unprecedented. I admit to a certain sense of... disquiet as a result."

A polite way of saying it had fucked with his head, big time.

"So what does that mean?" Hank asked, dropping back down in his chair and not quite meeting the android's gaze. "Maybe you were just out of fuckin' range or something." It seemed unlikely, but what the hell did he know.

Connor shook his head firmly. "You don't understand, Lieutenant," he said, sounding almost impatient. "My analysis mode has never failed before yesterday evening. To my knowledge, nothing short of removing vital biocomponents--or perhaps blunt force trauma to the head region--is capable of forcing an analysis to abort halfway through completion, nor prevent it from being conducted in the first place, as I experienced while trying to scan the unknown person last night.

"Unless..." The android trailed off, his expression clouding over.

"Unless? Unless what?" Hank prodded, not liking the sudden look on the android's face.

Connor hesitated, clearly reluctant to voice his suspicion aloud. "Perhaps my previous interface with Anna caused some lasting degree of... impairment to my own systems," he said at last, gazing at Hank with unusual reticence.

Hank stared at him, his mind flashing back to Anna's screams and the blue blood, trickling from Connor's ears. "Could that really happen?" he asked hoarsely, unable to stomach the thought of Connor dealing with what basically amounted to permanent brain damage. "I mean, have you noticed any...fuck, I dunno... 'glitches' or any other weird shit lately?"

Brows knitting together, the android frowned, pressing fingers to his forehead as if it would allow him to check for potential damage. "No... at least, I do not believe so. Still, that leaves the question of why I was unable to scan the masked figure, particularly after successfully completing an analysis minutes before."

"Red?" Hank guessed, feeling his jaw clench just thinking about the huge thug stroking Connor's face.

The android nodded, hand dropping back down beside him to grip the edge of the desk. "As I ascertained when he first approached me at the bar, the man known colloquially as Red--birth name, Mattias Haugen, age, forty-two years--was previously convicted of multiple charges related to the consumption and distribution of Red Ice, and had recently served a short sentence for his latest infraction, having been released from prison only three weeks prior."

Well, that explained the man's nickname.

"After scanning the body, I determined that Haugen passed away from heart failure, conducive with long-term usage of the drug."

"Can't say I'm too torn up about it," Hank muttered to himself, taking a pensive sip of his coffee. Still, he'd seen enough deaths from Red Ice to last him a lifetime; it was just his fuckin' luck that one would happen right in front of him, even if it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.

Connor continued on, politely ignoring his remark. "I believe the masked figure may have been an associate of Haugen, which would explain their appearance at the bar last night. In addition, the subject's desperate bid to escape after drawing my attention--which was, unfortunately, ultimately successful," he added, looking faintly aggrieved, "--would suggest some manner of culpability."

Hank stayed silent, mulling it over. It would make sense, especially as Connor had noticed the figure glancing in the window right after the two thugs had left the bar. More than likely it'd been another one of Red's friends who'd gotten spooked when the thug's heart had started to give out, the same way Slim had; or maybe they were a Red Ice customer, which would explain why they'd ran from Connor--and why they'd gone out of their way to cover their face, especially with CCTV cameras on nearly every corner.

Speaking of which--"Was there any footage from any nearby street cams?" he asked. Maybe a failed drug transaction had been caught on tape, or some other hidden truth about why the person had run from Connor like a bat outta hell--though honestly if he were some random person he would probably run, too, if the android started chasing him out of fuckin' nowhere. He could be downright scary when he was focused on a suspect.

"Negative--there are no street cameras in the immediate vicinity, though The Loaded Goat does possess a security camera mounted on the exterior of the building. The bartender informed me he would work with the establishment's owner in gathering the relevant footage, but that we should expect it no sooner than four days' time, as the owner is currently out of town until Wednesday afternoon."

Hank nodded slowly, finally reaching for the bag of doughnuts and pulling out a glazed bearclaw, still warm. "Well, I guess we'll see once we get our hands on it," he drawled, dipping the doughnut into his coffee and taking a huge bite. Fuckin' delicious, as always.

"In the meantime we better look into any known associates of Red-the-Thug and his good pal Slim. Maybe it'll lead us to our little Zorro-wannabe--or at least get more Red Ice off the fuckin' streets." And he had to admit, it'd be kind of nice to focus on a different case for now instead of the dead-end android case.

"Agreed," Connor said quietly, sitting tense and rigid on his desk, and it was obvious his thoughts were a million miles away. More than likely he was still stuck on why his scan hadn't worked like it was supposed to, and even though Hank knew fuck-all about the mysterious inner workings of an android's brain or the technology behind their abilities, he did know that he hated seeing Connor upset.

"Hey. Look at me," he ordered softly, and the android obediently met his gaze, distress evident in his brown eyes.

"We'll figure out what's going on with your analysis-mode shit, okay? Even if we have to get a fuckin' audience with Kamski himself." Hank felt his skin crawl just thinking about the man's weaselly little smirk. Fuck, he hated that guy.

But Connor smiled at him, some of the tension visibly melting from his shoulders. "Okay, Lieutenant," he agreed, his face unguarded and so full of trust, as if just Hank's assurances were enough to wipe away every last one of his fears and doubts.

It had been a long, long time since anyone had looked at him like he'd been the one to hang the fuckin' moon and stars, and seeing such an expression on the android's face almost took his breath away.

Fowler was wrong: Connor hadn't just been good for him. He was one of the best damn things to ever happen to Hank entirely.

Chapter Text

Surprisingly Connor didn't say a single word about the kiss, like the whole thing had just been his elaborate dream after a night of too much drinking.

A few times Hank almost worked up the nerve to bring it up himself, only to chicken out in the end, like a goddamned kid afraid to ask his crush to the school dance.

He was far too old to be so afraid of rejection, but the unusual way the android hadn't mentioned the kiss threw him off, like maybe he wanted to spare Hank's feelings by pretending like it'd never happened at all.

It was this fear that finally convinced him to do the same, and by Wednesday things had long since returned to normal between them without any lingering awkwardness, which was the most he could hope for. It was far better than the android informing him gently--with big, brown eyes, painfully sincere as ever--that while he cared for Hank as a partner and friend, he wasn't interested in him romantically. He was pretty sure he'd end up back at The Loaded Goat before the day's end if that happened, only this time they'd have to scrape him up off the fucking floor come closing time.

It was around two-thirty Wednesday afternoon when Connor approached his desk, laying a small object near his keyboard. Tearing his eyes away from his screen, Hank picked it up with a frown: it was a Blu-Ray disc in a clear plastic case, unlabelled.

"The fuck is this?" he murmured, turning it over, as if the back might give him some kind of clue.

Connor tilted his head slightly, giving him an unreadable look. "Blu-Ray, or Blu-Ray Disc, is a digital optical disc data storage format that can be used to--"

"I know what a Blu-Ray is, Captain fuckin' Obvious," Hank cut him off with a huff, a smirk lurking around the corners of his mouth. "I'm asking why you just handed me one outta fuckin' nowhere."

"It's The Loaded Goat's security footage from Friday evening, Lieutenant," the android explained with a hum, eyes dancing with amusement. "I believe I mentioned that the establishment's owner pledged to deliver the footage to us this afternoon. I thought we might view it together."

"No shit? I didn't think anyone even used these fuckin' things anymore," Hank murmured, leaning back in his chair as he eyed the disc again. He glanced up at the android, arching a brow. "We even have a way to play it?"

Fowler directed them to look in the Rat Room, aka the back storage room where all of the office's old furniture, equipment, and anything else anyone wanted to get rid of (but was too fuckin' cheap to actually throw out) went to die. After fifteen minutes of rummaging around the cluttered, pitch-black room by the light of his phone's flashlight--"Why the fuck isn't there an actual goddamn light in here?!"--they finally found an ancient laptop with a built in Blu-Ray drive, slightly dusty but still in decent enough shape.

Against all odds the clunky old computer booted up without issue, and soon he and Connor were huddled together in front of it at his desk.

"Let's see what The Loaded Goat's state-of-the-art security system can tell us about our masked man," Hank said sarcastically as he popped the Blu-Ray in, trying to ignore the distracting closeness of the android beside him.

The video instantly popped up in the laptop's default media player. They were greeted with the black-and-white night vision image of the vacant sidewalk right outside The Loaded Goat, nothing to see except the street light on the corner and a few parked cars on the opposite side of the street.

Moments later the door to the bar opened in the bottom center of the screen, and the familiar bulky form of Red-the-Thug emerged, followed by the much thinner form of Slim. The two thugs stopped near the curb, their backs to the camera, Slim pulling out a pack of cigarettes from his back pocket as he said something to Red, and that's when Hank realized.

"This thing doesn't even have any fuckin' sound?!" he groaned, watching as the two thugs had a silent conversation, nearly impossible to read thanks to the grainy picture quality and both of them facing the curb. "I can't believe they're still using this sorry fuckin' excuse for a security system. It's 2039, for fuck's sake!" Though going by the interior of the bar--which looked like it hadn't been updated since at least 2012--he really shouldn't have been surprised.

"Lieutenant--look." Leaning in closer, Connor pointed to the bottom-left corner of the screen, where a faint hint of black indicated another presence.

As if they'd somehow heard the android's command the two thugs turned towards the left as well, standing motionless, an unlit cigarette still dangling from the corner of Slim's mouth. Red took a step closer until just the back side of him was visible on camera, and there were a few moments of apparent back and forth before finally Red took a stumbling step back into full of view of the camera, an odd look coming over his face as he slowly brought a hand up to his chest.

Slim said something to him that looked vaguely like 'you okay, man?', placing a hand on the bearded thug's thick shoulder, and just then the figure came into view on screen as the person began crossing the street.

"Can you please zoom in on the third figure, Lieutenant?" Connor asked him, and Hank paused the video with a click, zooming in until the newcomer's body filled the screen.

"Any stunning reveals, Detective?" Hank asked dryly, eyes on the android's face. The most he could tell from the shitty quality film was the figure was slender and of decent height, dressed in dark pants and a dark, bulky coat with the hood up.

A little furrow appeared between Connor's eyebrows as he studied the image. "As I noted Friday evening, the subject appears to be approximately 6'1--6'3 tall, and between 166 and 180 lbs. Based on shoulder width and national height averages among men and women, I must conclude that the subject is, in fact, male," he observed.

Hank nodded. He'd all but assumed the subject was a man, too, but he'd been surprised enough times over the course of his career to know that you could never really tell for sure. "Ready?"

"You may proceed with the video, Lieutenant."

With another click the video resumed, and halfway through the suspect's trip across the street he glanced back, presumably at Red, who was still standing frozen with his hand over his chest, waving off Slim's nervous concern. Hank paused the video again immediately, freezing the suspect's face on camera.

Between the shadow of his hood and the mask he wore, it was impossible to make out any distinguishing features. It looked like a run-of-the-mill ski mask, the kind that could be bought for cheap at damn near any clothing store or gas station in the winter months. Only the man's eyes were visible, and thanks to the night vision it wasn't even apparent what color they were.

"You didn't see his eyes, huh?" Hank asked, already knowing the answer but figuring it was worth a shot. It wouldn't be much to go on, anyways, but it was better than nothing.

Connor shook his head dolefully. "Due to the late hour and my physical distance from the subject--and my inability to successfully conduct an analysis," he added, shoulders stiffening noticeably, a troubled expression flashing briefly across his face, "--I was not able to ascertain the exact hue of the suspect's iris."

Hank sighed, running a hand through his hair, which had gotten longer than even he liked lately. He really needed to get it cut; maybe this weekend. "Don't worry about it. You ready to go on?"

At Connor's nod he resumed the video once again, the footage showing the suspect making it to the other side of the street to the opposite sidewalk. With a small frown Connor reached out a hand, his skin dissolving away in the familiar sign of an interface.

"Didn't think you'd be able to connect with a primitive piece of shit like this," Hank said, surprised.

"Of course, Lieutenant," Connor murmured, but he didn't elaborate further, eyes focused on the screen. Wordlessly he rewound the footage--the suspect walking backwards to his original starting point in slow motion--before resuming the video again, watching intently as the suspect once again made his way across the street.

The android did it several more times until Hank felt his short supply of patience run out. "See something interesting, Detective?" he prodded, brows raising.

Connor glanced over at him blinkingly, removing his hand from its hovered position over the keyboard, the suspect paused on the other side of the street. "I was conducting a gait analysis on the subject. I do not detect any abnormalities as one would expect to see in an individual with a pathological impairment, be it mental or physical. Furthermore, I do not observe any obvious variations in gait that would indicate an osteopathic issue such as a misaligned pelvis or sacrum.

"With that being said, I have committed the suspect's gait style to memory to use as a biometric identifier, should we happen to cross paths with them again."

"'Misaligned pelvis or sacrum'... so you think he's a human," Hank commented, studying the android's face. It was the topic they'd danced around from the beginning, and at the moment he didn't find himself leaning more towards one or the other.

"Insufficient data," Connor said softly, glancing back at the screen, as if a new clue would appear if he looked long enough. "Though at one time it may have been possible to identify an android simply by the way they walked, deviancy tends to inspire a more... human-like gait, whether innately or through learned observation. Many newly-deviant androids--desiring to integrate more seamlessly with their human counterparts--adopt various modified behaviors and mannerisms in an attempt to appear more fully human."

It made sense--he'd seen it in Connor, in the stark difference between the way the android behaved now versus before going deviant. The way he walked, and even his overall movements had become much more fluid and natural, and though Hank himself might always remember that Connor was an android, he knew that the average person would no longer be able to tell for the most part, unless they looked closely.

He even had several little habits and quirks that he'd undoubtedly picked up by observing humans. An image flashed in his mind: Connor laughing for the first time, his face lit up and so open, brown eyes creased with amusement. Fuck, what he wouldn't give to see that every single day for the rest of his life.

"Well, android or human, they had to have left some kind of trail somewhere," Hank said a little hoarsely. Now was not the time to wax fuckin' poetry about Connor's laugh, for Christ's sake. "Alvarez is looking into digging up info on Red and any of his friends; said he should have something for us by tomorrow, Friday at the latest."

They restarted the video and played it again from the beginning, this time without zooming in, but predictably it didn't reveal much else--just Connor leaving the bar and crossing the street to follow the suspect, followed shortly by Hank's own exit and Red's untimely demise.

"I will deposit the footage in the evidence vault," Connor announced when the video ended, already rising to his feet as he ejected the Blu-Ray disc from the old laptop and slid it back into its case.

"I'll go with you," Hank said, coming to standing beside him, wincing a little at the faint spasm his low back gave at the sudden movement. "Need to stretch my legs, anyways."

Connor smiled at him as if Hank had offered to do him a favor, when really it was because anytime the android left his sight for too long he got a little twitchy, like he was suddenly missing his right arm or some sappy shit. Not that he'd admit to that anytime soon--or ever.

There was no one else in the evidence vault, as usual. Hank stood nearby as Connor crouched down, shelving the disc with a quiet little hum.

"Is something wrong, Lieutenant?" the android asked, glancing up at him, still crouched on the tiled floor.

"Not really," he said shortly, hands shoved in his pockets, his shoulders slightly hunched. Truthfully hanging out inside the eerily-quiet room for any length of time always made him feel distinctly uncomfortable; he felt like he had to keep his voice down and his hands to himself, like he was in a fuckin' museum or something.

"Just frustrated about the android case, I guess," he elaborated, glancing at the sparse row of evidence, just above the one Connor had placed the disc on. Technically, it was the truth. "I keep wondering what the fuck we're gonna find next."

An image of Oliver's bulging, bloodied eyes flashed in his mind, but he quickly shoved it away.

Connor nodded, rising to his feet in one fluid movement. "I admit to a certain sense of frustration, as well," he agreed, moving closer until they were barely a foot apart, and Hank felt himself tense reflexively, his mind blanching at the android's sudden closeness.

"However, I feel confident that together we will solve the case. We make quite the team, after all." Connor swiped a tongue over his bottom lip, slowly--another human-learned quirk--and was it just the dim lighting, or had the android's eyes suddenly gone half-lidded? "Don't you agree, Lieutenant?"

"..." Hank said nothing, barely hearing the words, his gaze fixated on the android's slightly parted mouth as he recalled their short-lived kiss for the thousandth time. It had barely been a kiss, really--more like Hank smashing their lips together while Connor stood frozen in shock, just long enough for his drunken mind to process that the android's mouth felt as warm and soft as any human's--but now Connor was looking at him like he wanted Hank to give it another shot.

The thought made thick, syrupy heat pool distractingly in his low gut.

Slowly he brought his eyes back to Connor's, his heart suddenly trying to break right through his rib cage.

"Lieutenant?" the android murmured lowly, head tilting back just slightly as he gazed up at Hank with dark eyes, and Hank was just about to say fuck it all and go for it when he heard the door to the evidence vault swing open, unnaturally loud in the near-silence of the room.

Hank jumped back like he'd been shocked, eyes cutting guiltily to the door.

It was Reed, carrying something under his arm, looking lost in his own thoughts. When he saw them he stopped short, surprised, clearly not expecting anyone else to be there. Even in the dim lighting Hank could see the faint remains of bruising around his nose, faded now to a dull yellow-brown.

"Anderson," he said neutrally, after a long, awkward pause. Slowly, he looked at Connor. "Connor," he acknowledged begrudgingly--probably the first time he'd ever said the android's name.

"Detective Reed," Connor replied, generically polite.

"Let's go, Connor," Hank grunted, ignoring Reed entirely as he brushed past him and emerged back out into the brightly-lit room of the main office. His face still felt hot, but luckily the appearance of Reed had killed any and all chances of a full-fledged boner.

Connor chattered happily alongside him as they made their way back to their desks, like he hadn't just looked at Hank with what he was rapidly beginning to think of as the android's 'fuck-me face'. He didn't even want to think about where exactly Connor had picked that up from.

What the fuck had just happened, anyways? He'd already (grudgingly) accepted that Connor didn't return his feelings, but after the way the android had looked at him just then he was starting to wonder if maybe he was wrong.

"Shall we take Sumo for a walk when we return home, Lieutenant?" Connor asked as he settled back down at his own desk. "Today marks the first day of Spring, after all. I believe it would be beneficial to the health of both Sumo and yourself if we began taking walks regularly, now that the weather will be warmer."

"Beneficial to my health, huh?" Hank echoed distractedly, dropping back down in his chair. "You tryin' to tell me something?" Nevermind that even though it was technically Spring, it was still cold as fuck out, and there were still traces of snow that hadn't completely melted yet.

Connor just smiled at him brightly, looking so innocently cheerful that Hank was beginning to suspect he was losing his mind, and he'd actually just imagined the whole fuckin' thing in the evidence vault.

"Yeah, fine, whatever," he muttered, tearing his eyes away from the android and forcing himself to focus on his computer, but he could see Connor still smiling out of the corner of his eye, clearly pleased at having once again gotten his way.

"Little fuckin' demon," he added under his breath with a wry smirk, and if he kept sneaking glances at the android for the rest of their shift--well. No one had to know.

 

---

 

Once home Hank immediately went to the cupboard for his daily dose of Black Lamb--the little scene in the evidence vault still on repeat in his brain--but Connor plucked the bottle right from his hands.

"Hey! The hell was that for?" he demanded, shooting the android a glare.

"I believe you agreed to accompany Sumo and I on a walk, Lieutenant," Connor reminded him prissily, holding out the dog's leash in offering. The android glanced over at Sumo, who was sitting in the living room doorway, already wriggling excitedly at the 'w' word. "Isn't that correct, Sumo?"

The giant dog gave a loud bark, his tail wagging furiously at the sound of his name.

Hank groaned, reluctantly accepting the leash. "I fuckin' knew you two were in cahoots," he told the dog sourly, leaning down to clip it onto his collar. Sumo licked his cheek in response, his tail still wagging happily.

They made their way around the block, Sumo stopping every few seconds to sniff at a mailbox; a blade of grass; a half-melted pile of snow.

"This is an enjoyable experience," Connor remarked, watching as the dog curiously inspected a small pile of rocks along the road. He glanced at Hank, looking entirely at home with the sun shining on his face, his brown eyes turned amber in the sunlight. "Don't you think so, Lieutenant?"

"Fuckin' wonderful," Hank grumbled, tearing his eyes away from the android's distracting freckles and burrowing deeper into his coat at a particularly strong gust of wind. The sun may have been out for a change, but it was still barely forty degrees, and the wind was already making his eyes tear.

After several more trips around the block--the scowl never leaving his face once, because he had to keep up appearances--the android finally announced that they could return home.

Hank unleashed Sumo as soon as they got inside, the giant dog immediately trotting to his water dish for a drink.

"That was more exercise than I get in a fuckin' week," he groaned, shedding his coat before crashing onto the couch and settling back against it with a heavy sigh. He glanced up to find Connor standing there, still wearing his coat, watching him silently with an unreadable expression.

"What?" Hank asked warily, eyes narrowing slightly. It was a rare occasion when the android wasn't talking his ear off, let alone completely silent.

Connor hesitated, as if unsure of something--and then seconds later Hank had a lapful of android, Connor's knees braced on either side of his legs.

"Connor, what the fuck?!" He stared up at the android in shock, wondering hysterically if he was having another hallucination, like the one in the evidence vault. Dimly his mind registered that although he wasn't exactly light, the android felt no heavier than a human of a similar height might.

"I apologize for my forwardness," Connor spoke at last, glancing down at his own lap, his expression apologetic. "However, I have reached the conclusion that, barring a catastrophic event on an apocalyptic scale, you are unlikely to ever act upon your attraction for me while sober. Therefore, I thought it prudent to initiate contact myself."

"Apocalyptic sca--you're fucking with me," Hank said incredulously, spotting the cheeky little smile playing around the android's lips. "Wait--you... you knew about the--?"

"I have known about your physical attraction to me for quite some time," Connor confirmed with a small nod. "Over the past several months, I have frequently observed you display signs of physical arousal in relation to my presence, such as enlarged pupils, an increase in heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure, reddening of the face--"

"Okay, I get it," Hank cut him off, feeling his face begin to heat, as if to demonstrate. Christ, and here he thought he'd been (somewhat) subtle. He should've known better than to think he could hide anything from Connor.

A thoughtful expression came over the android's face. "When you kissed me Friday evening, I believed that you were finally prepared to act upon your feelings. But when you made no mention of what happened in the days that followed, I thought perhaps you felt regret for having done so.

"However, earlier today in the evidence vault, when you stared intently at my mouth... I concluded that you did not actually regret the kiss--rather, you were unsure of how to broach the subject and had thus decided to avoid it altogether. Am I correct?" he asked softly, brown eyes searching Hank's face for truth.

"You always fuckin' are," Hank admitted gruffly, because there was clearly no point in lying now.

Connor smiled at him, big and bright. "I am pleased to hear it, Hank. That is... " He paused, biting at his lower lip--a new human quirk that Hank had never seen him do before.

"I would like you to teach me how to engage in sexual congress," he finished, looking at him with a determination usually reserved for tough cases.

Hank sputtered, staring back at the android with renewed shock. If it weren't for the heaviness in his limbs thanks to their little after-work exercise session, he would've thought he was just having another dirty dream, considering the fact that Connor had more or less just asked Hank to fuck him.

"But I'm--" Old. Out of shape. And my last five partners were my goddamned fingers. "--not exactly cover model of the fuckin' year," he finished lamely--his obligatory half-assed protest, in case Connor was just glitching out on him again and this whole conversation was a mistake.

Connor tilted his head slightly, his brows knitting together. "Although androids may not exhibit many of the biological signs associated with sexual arousal as humans do, I can assure you that I have broadcasted evidence of my own physical attraction to you in various ways over the past weeks."

Hank's mind flashed back to Connor, running his tongue along the frosting-coated butter knife like he was in a goddamned porno, shortly before holding a cupcake out in offering and asking him coyly if he wanted to try.

"The cupcakes," he wondered aloud, and Connor smiled again, not denying it.

"Furthermore..." The android glanced away again, almost shyly. "Though research has informed me that emotional attachment is not required to successfully engage in sexual intercourse, I have read that feelings on the part of one or both parties can enhance the experience. And... I care about you very much, Hank," he finished softly, meeting his eyes again, and his expression was so earnest that it made something in his chest clench.

"I, uh... care about you too," Hank managed roughly around the sudden lump in his throat, his heart already thudding painfully against his ribcage. It was more than inadequate to explain how he felt about the android, but he wasn't sure he'd even be able to choke out the right words, just yet. "But, still... with you being... uhh..." He gestured helplessly, his face long since gone scarlet.

"Are you expressing hesitance at the fact that, by virtue of never having engaged in the act of copulation, I would be classified as a virgin?" Connor asked, somehow understanding his meaning, as always.

Goddamn. Hank gave a hoarse little cough, eyes sliding away from the android's face. "Uh, yeah. That," he said weakly.

A troubled expression came over Connor's face. "Is that... an undesirable quality to you in a partner, Hank? I... suppose I could find someone willing to--"

"No." His hands, which he'd kept glued to his sides until then with every last shred of self-restraint he possessed, came up to grip roughly over the android's slim thighs, keeping him firmly in place. "Don't you fuckin' dare finish that sentence."

Connor's face softened, the smallest hint of a smile appearing as he waited for Hank to explain further.

Clearing his throat unnecessarily, Hank stared intently at a point just past the android's shoulder. "It's... not that I'm not interested." God fucking help me, I've never been more fuckin' interested in my entire goddamn life. "It's just... if you really want to do this... we should take it slow, okay? The last thing I wanna do is hurt you, or... or... overwhelm you, or anything like that. You understand what I'm saying?"

The android studied his face intently, apparently mulling it over, before giving a small nod, his smile reappearing once more. "Okay, Hank. In that case, I propose that we begin with the act of kissing."

"... Yeah, alright." Giving up on trying to talk the android out of it (though, admittedly, he hadn't tried very hard at all), he slowly straightened up against the back of the couch, his face still flushed red. "Uh..."

Connor just stared at him expectantly with big eyes, clearly waiting for him to take control.

Silently cursing his frazzled nerves, Hank reached out shakily and cupped the android's face in a recreation of Friday night, only this time there was no rush, and he was entirely sober, his brain idly marvelling at the softness of Connor's skin, so like a human's.

Slowly, his heart still jack-hammering in his chest, he leaned in closer, hesitating only a fraction of a second before sealing their lips together for the second time.

Connor moved his lips clumsily against Hank's, trying to mirror his movements, the android's hands curling up in the fabric of his shirt for support. Abruptly Hank broke the kiss, huffing out a breath with an ironic smile. Apparently he'd finally found something he was better at than the android. Who would've fuckin' guessed.

"Not so fast, okay? It's not a fuckin' race." Feeling a bit more confident, he tugged the android a little closer, his arm moving down to encircle the trim waist.

"Like this," he instructed, gazing directly into brown eyes, before pressing a chaste kiss to the android's plump lower lip, still holding Connor's face with his free hand.

"Like this, Hank?" Slowly Connor leaned in, mimicking his kiss, and just that brief, chaste contact from the android was enough to send a zing of arousal up the base of his spine. Christ, it really had been fuckin' forever.

"Yeah. Good," Hank encouraged, a little breathlessly. "Now, just... uh... follow my lead, okay?"

At Connor's nod he leaned back in, kissing the android's soft mouth once again, and this time Connor kissed him back, gently following his movements in near-perfect synchronization.

Angling his head, Hank deepened the kiss slightly, brushing his tongue over the android's lower lip, and Connor opened his mouth uncertainly, allowing him entrance.

It was nearly the same as kissing a human, yet somehow different: Connor's mouth was hot, his tongue wet and slick against Hank's own, but there was no breath against his face, and the taste of him was vaguely alien, probably due to the thirium.

Still, it was addicting, the android warm and solid against him, kissing him with a sweet shyness that Hank knew he wasn't going to be able to get off his mind anytime soon. With a few tugs he managed to yank off Connor's coat and toss it to the floor without breaking their kiss, one hand fanning out across his slender low back while the other moved up to tangle in soft brown hair.

Connor was a quick learner: he entwined his tongue with Hank's with much more boldness than he'd had at the start, rocking slightly against him as he pushed himself closer, his fists clenching once again in Hank's shirt, and it didn't take long for his dick to come to full attention in a way that the android couldn't have possibly missed.

Reluctantly he broke the kiss, taking in some much-needed air as he met the android's gaze again.

"Was that... acceptable?" Connor asked hesitantly, his brow furrowing with uncertainty as he shifted in Hank's lap, and Hank gritted his teeth at the friction, his dick twitching in enthusiastic approval.

"Uh, yeah. Great. I just, uh, think we should stop here for today." Before I cum in my fuckin' pants like a goddamned teenager.

Unfortunately, the android didn't let the subject drop that easily. "Hank? Are you perhaps experiencing embarrassment over developing an erection in response to our kissing?"

Before Hank's brain could stutter out a reply the android plucked his hand up from where it had settled back on the couch. "There's no need to feel embarrassed," Connor said brightly, pressing Hank's palm over the front of his work slacks. "I've developed an identical response--see?"

Hank definitely did see, or rather feel. "Jesus fucking Christ," he groaned, snatching his hand back, his blush returning full force. That wasn't exactly helpful in squashing his overpowering urge to toss the android face-down on the couch and drill him right into the fucking cushions, virgin ass or not.

"We're stopping here for now, okay?" he repeated firmly, and even though every cell in his body was screaming for him to keep going he didn't want to risk moving too fast and spooking the android, or somehow completely ruining his first-ever sexual experience. Connor was the most important person in his life, and he wasn't going to jeopardize that just because he wanted to know what sounds the android made while he was being fucked.

Fuck. Also not very goddamned helpful.

"Okay, Hank," Connor replied, somewhat sullenly, finally sliding off of Hank's lap and kneeling slightly to pick up his discarded coat before coming to his feet. "Are you feeling hungry? I was thinking about preparing baked chicken for dinner."

He was fuckin' hungry, alright, but chicken was the last thing on his mind. "Yeah, that sounds good," he agreed with a resigned sigh, watching after the android as he made his way from the room, blatantly eyeing the tight cling of his pants as a consolation prize.

"It's a new recipe I've been wanting to attempt," Connor informed him cheerfully, pausing in the kitchen doorway, his mood apparently already recovered. "I am hopeful that you will find it to your liking. It should take approximately forty-five minutes to complete." With that the android disappeared into the kitchen, leaving Hank alone on the couch, still proudly sporting the world's most obvious boner.

Forty-five minutes--great. Just enough time for a nice, long shower.

Chapter Text

"You want me to what?!"

Hank cringed, craning a look over his shoulder towards Connor's desk on the other side of the office, but the android was still working away at his computer, not even glancing their way.

"Keep your fuckin' voice down, will you?" he hissed, turning back to Alvarez with a scowl, his palms braced against the younger man's desk. "I don't need the whole goddamn office to hear."

Alvarez crossed his muscled arms over his chest as he tilted back in his chair, regarding him with a hint of a smirk. "Sorry, Lieutenant, but, uh, I gotta admit you're the last person I would expect to come looking for fitness advice."

"Well, surprise surprise," Hank drawled, already regretting the entire thing. "You gonna fuckin' help me or not, you little punk?"

It was Friday--only two days after Connor had confessed his feelings and asked Hank to teach him how to engage in sexual congress, and though things had been relatively normal (not to mention uneventful) between them since their impromptu make-out session on his couch, he knew it was only a matter of time before the android wanted to try more.

The problem was he wasn't exactly in the best shape of his life, and the thought of the android seeing him sans-clothing was slightly... uncomfortable, to put it mildly. Connor had said he found Hank attractive, as fuckin' hard as that was to believe--though, truthfully, he wasn't doing as bad as some of the guys he'd seen at his last high school reunion, Christ--but there was definitely room for (major) improvement.

Enter Alvarez: in his late twenties and a bonafide health and fitness buff, he was always going on about macros and lifting and all that other shit that Hank didn't have the slightest fucking clue about.

Last night--when he'd been laying in bed staring blankly up at the ceiling, completely unable to sleep, his thoughts preoccupied with Connor as always--he'd somehow gotten it in his head that asking the fit detective to help him get into at least slightly better shape before he and Connor actually got naked together was a totally rational and sane idea.

"Whoa, whoa. No need for such hostility, Lieutenant," Alvarez said as he raised his hands in mock-surrender, outright grinning now, and Hank couldn't stop himself from rolling his eyes. He should've known better than to go through with an idea he'd had at three in the goddamned morning. "'Course I'm gonna help you. What would you say your current level of fitness is?"

"Uh..." Hank thought hard, trying to remember the last time he'd so much as stepped foot inside a gym. "I climbed a rope in gym class once in the fourth grade."

Alvarez groaned, slapping a hand over his forehead as he shook his head in disbelief. "Ay, mierda--this is gonna be tough, huh?" he mused, eyeing Hank critically. "Why the sudden urge to get in shape, anyways? You gotta new woman in your life or something?"

Hank snorted a laugh, recalling the way Connor had shoved his fucking hand over his crotch to show him proof of the android's own arousal. "Yeah, something like that," he said dryly, banishing the image before it could lead to a completely unprofessional reaction.

"In that case, I'd be more than happy to help you get in shape," Alvarez announced with a big grin, and somehow Hank already knew he was in fuckin' trouble. "You usually take a lunch around noon, right? How about you come with me to the gym today instead? I go during my lunch hour on Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays, so you're in luck."

He was pretty sure he would rather pound hot nails through his dick than go to the fucking gym for five minutes, let alone a whole goddamned hour--especially on his lunch break--but he'd come to Alvarez for help, after all, so he couldn't exactly say no.

"Alright," he grudgingly agreed, already dreading twelve o'clock more than he'd ever dreaded anything before. "I'll meet you at your desk."

Alvarez gave him a dazzling grin, looking far too pleased for his liking. "Sounds like a plan, Lieutenant. Oh, by the way--I'm almost done with the info you wanted on that suspect from last Friday. I'll send it your way by the end of today, okay?"

Hank nodded his thanks, turning to go before the younger man could trap him in a conversation about fitness--or worse, start prying about the 'woman' Hank was trying to impress.

"Welcome back, Lieutenant," Connor greeted him when he'd dropped back down in his office chair, and it amazed him that the android could act like nothing had changed when Hank now felt more hyper-aware of him than ever before, like there was a live wire running between them. "Did you have a pleasant conversation with Detective Alvarez?"

"That's not exactly the word I would use," Hank muttered, glancing at the clock--already ten, which meant only two hours until his self-induced torture session. "Oh yeah--he said he'd get us that info on Red by the end of today. Hopefully he sends it before five, 'cause I don't want to be hanging around here all fucking night."

Connor hummed in acknowledgement. "What were your plans for lunch today, Lieutenant? I thought perhaps we might ask Detective Chen to accompany us to Georgiou's Deli once again. I believe their lunch prices are slightly reduced on Fridays."

Hank almost agreed, unthinkingly--only to stop himself as he remembered his little appointment with Alvarez. Christ, how had he forgotten in the span of five fucking seconds? Well, it helped that it was something he didn't actually want to remember. "Uh, sorry, Con--can't. I'm gonna be busy at lunch today," he said nonchalantly, reaching for his lukewarm coffee.

The android frowned at him, brown eyes scrutinizing his face as if attempting to solve a particularly complex puzzle. "Busy, Lieutenant? Did you receive an extraneous assignment you must complete before day's end? I would be more than happy to assist you, if I am able."

Shit. He thought quickly, trying to come up with a buyable excuse--only to realize there was no fuckin' point in trying to hide it from Connor. He'd probably be able to tell with just one look that Hank had spent his lunch break attempting to work out. Damn android.

"Nah, it's nothing like that. I'm, uh...going to the gym with Alvarez." Taking a sip of coffee, he let out a little cough--a nervous habit.

The way Connor's eyebrows skyrocketed towards his hairline was enough to make him feel completely insulted--or bust out in surprise laughter. Thankfully, he managed to stick with a glare.

"The gym?" the android echoed, in a tone that suggested Hank had announced he was taking square dancing lessons instead. "Did you perhaps 'lose a bet' to Detective Alvarez again, Lieutenant?"

Again. "No, Connor, I did not lose a bet," he said sourly, setting his mug back down on his desk with more force than necessary. "Christ, is it really that fuckin' hard to believe that a guy might want to get in better shape?"

Brows knitting together, Connor tilted his head slightly in a clear sign of puzzlement. "Forgive me, Lieutenant, but on past occasions when I have suggested an increase in physical activity as part of a well-rounded health care regimen, you have expressed fervent disapproval ninety-eight point--"

"Yeah, okay, I get it," Hank cut him off with a groan. "Well I changed my mind, okay? I figure getting some exercise won't fuckin' kill me. Probably."

The android studied his face for another long moment--as if trying to gauge his sincerity--before finally giving a nod. "I am pleased to hear it," he said, smiling. "Physical activity can be an excellent way to increase stamina, elevate the mood, and improve cardiovascular health, among many other benefits."

"That right?" he muttered darkly, eyes flicking not-so-subtly over the android. He was wearing a dark green button-down today, the rich color making his milky-white skin seem even paler and his brown eyes look even darker and sultrier, somehow. Or maybe that was just his own dirty fuckin' mind. "I know the perfect 'physical activity' that'll do all fuckin' three."

"If you are referring to taking Sumo for a walk, I am sure he would be more than amenable," Connor said, still smiling--either playing at being obtuse or genuinely, innocently oblivious, it was hard to say, but Hank had a pretty good guess. "Now we just need to focus on improving your diet and reducing your consumption of alcoholic beverages."

He groaned again, burying his head in his hands and rubbing at his suddenly-pounding temples. Why the fuck did it feel like everyone was out to get him today?

 

---

 

When Hank dragged himself over to Alvarez's desk at noon on the dot, the younger man's eyebrows shot up in a near-perfect imitation of Connor.

"That's what you're wearing?" he questioned, voice rising in disbelief. The young detective was dressed in a pair of black basketball shorts and a casual maroon hoodie, along with what Hank guessed was probably a ridiculously overpriced pair of sneakers.

Glancing down at himself--still in his work clothes--he narrowed his eyes at Alvarez. "What's wrong with this?"

Alvarez rolled his eyes, running a hand over his short, dark hair in clear frustration. "You can't work out in that, Lieutenant! You gotta change into some kinda work out clothes."

Luckily, Hank had an old pair of shorts, a faded DPD t-shirt, and a beat-up pair of tennis shoes that should've been tossed out a long time ago stuffed in the trunk of his car. By the time he'd changed his clothes and they'd made the short walk to the gym (Alvarez gaining him entrance with his guest pass), their lunch hour was already half over.

"Not gonna be getting my full routine in today," Alvarez sighed with a rueful little shake of his head. "We don't have time to go over the basics of lifting today, so you just do some cardio--" he gestured to the rows of ellipticals and treadmills--"while I'm in the weight room, okay?"

"Hey, wait--" Hank protested, but the younger man was already making a beeline for the back room.

"'Just do some cardio'," he mimicked, turning back to the machines with a sigh. "Cardio, my left fuckin' nut." The closest he'd come to doing any sort of 'cardio' in years was chasing after Connor a week ago.

Reluctantly he chose the closest empty elliptical machine, and luckily it only took a minute of messing with the settings before he'd started off at a comfortable-enough pace.

It didn't take long to get bored, despite the holo-TV hovering in front of him. He glanced idly around the gym, which was surprisingly crowded for mid-Friday, dimly registering someone taking the elliptical beside him and setting off at a much faster pace than his own.

"Isn't that crazy?"

Hank startled, glancing over to find a young woman next to him, brown curly hair pulled into a quick ponytail and wearing a full face of makeup--probably on her lunch break, too. Eyes on the TV, she gestured at it with a small nod.

Frowning, he glanced back at the holo-TV in front of him, currently airing the mid-day news.

"...local authorities are still trying to identify a perpetrator in the wireless security breach that took place last month, which resulted in nearly 800,000 dollars being stolen from various Centurist banks across the United States, according to reports," the blonde, serious-faced anchorwoman reported.

"Authorities have been unable to trace the whereabouts of the stolen funds. A spokesperson for Centurist, known for being the most successful bank chain in the United States, expressed astonishment at the breach but assured customers that the company is cooperating fully with authorities to hopefully bring the perpetrator to justice and return the stolen money."

"Can you believe stuff like that can still happen in this day and age?" The young woman shook her head, wiping at a trickle of sweat on her forehead with the back of her hand. "Really makes you wonder, when even these huge corporations with their so-called 'impenetrable security' can't keep thieves out."

"Yeah," Hank agreed, only half-listening, still mindlessly pedaling. He'd heard something about it on the news weeks ago but hadn't paid much attention, desensitized after so many years of being a cop and having seen just about everything. One thing he'd learned a long time ago was that no matter how fuckin' advanced society got, there would always be criminals. Good for his job security, at any rate.

After nearly twenty-five minutes on the elliptical--and with only five minutes left in his lunch break--Hank climbed off the machine with a sigh, wiping at his sweaty face with the neck of his t-shirt.

"Good work out, Lieutenant?" Alvarez, appearing suddenly with a grin, looking like he'd barely even broken a sweat himself.

"Not too bad," he admitted with a grunt. Actually, except for a faint ache in his low back, he felt pretty good. "Fuckin' sweaty, though."

The younger man nodded. "Usually I have enough time to grab a quick shower before heading back--but, eh, we'll live. Ready to head back?"

They made their way back to the office, and by the time Hank had changed back into his work clothes and returned to his desk it was only five minutes past the end of his lunch hour.

"What's this?" he asked with a frown as he dropped back into his chair, eyeing the paper bag on his desk.

"Upon recognizing that spending your lunch hour at the gym would preclude you from eating as you would normally, I decided to bring you back something for lunch from my trip to the deli with Detective Chen," Connor explained with a bright smile.

Hank shot the android a grateful smile of his own, his stomach growling as if on cue. "Thanks, Con," he said, opening up the bag eagerly--only to find his smile quickly fading into a scowl. "...The fuck is this?"

It was a small container filled with salad, of all things--otherwise known as the last goddamn thing he'd ever willingly eat, unless he was trapped on a deserted island and it was his only source of food.

"It's a garden salad, Lieutenant," Connor answered patiently, his smile never wavering. "I believed it would be a wiser choice than your usual order, given your sudden interest in a healthier lifestyle."

Goddammit. He knew he should've lied to the android about what he was actually doing on his lunch break.

"How thoughtful," he said dryly, digging a fork out of the bag and resigning himself to having a fuckin' salad for lunch. Christ, he was completely regretting this entire day.

He was just taking his first bite--and trying not to make a face, because he could see Connor watching him expectantly out of the corner of his eye, the nosy little creep--when the familiar ping of his email sounded.

It was from Alvarez, the subject line reading THAT INFO YOU WANTED in all caps.

"Hey, Con--Alvarez just sent me that file," he called over to the android. Suddenly forgetting about his lunch, Hank clicked on it with a furrowed brow, Connor coming around to his side of the desk just as he was reading the short message.

Here you go, Lieutenant. Hey, let's go to the gym together again next week, okay?

-Alvarez

Rolling his eyes, Hank impatiently opened the attached document.

The first entry was about Christopher Payton--aka Slim, as Connor had long since figured out. He had several past charges including armed robbery and aggravated assault, but surprisingly nothing related to Red Ice.

Alvarez had listed his last known address, but noted that he'd been evicted from his apartment building several weeks prior. Predictably, there weren't any notable sightings of the man since Red's death, arrests or otherwise.

He scanned over the rest of the list, frown deepening as he read on: a few of Red's known relatives; an ex-girlfriend; a fellow Red Ice user and old cellmate who was confirmed to be deceased. Not a whole lot to go on.

"There." Leaning in closely, Connor pointed to one of the names furthest down the list: Eliott Cassidy, thirty-two years old, originally from Boston but relocated to Detroit in 2030. The nearby image showed the mugshot of a pale man with a shock of scraggly orange hair and eerie blue eyes, his expression carefully blank.

"A known associate of Red-the-Thug... arrested on a drug transportation charge over a year ago for transporting Red Ice, but the judge threw it out on a technicality." Rubbing at his chin in thought, Hank glanced up at Connor, brows raising. "What do you think the odds are that he turned his back on a life of crime and became an upstanding fuckin' citizen?'

"Effectively nonexistent." Brown eyes met his, the android still standing unnecessarily close. "It says Cassidy was sighted at the Port of Detroit on December 23rd of last year, at approximately 10:30 PM. An officer stopped to question him after viewing his previous arrest record, but released him upon finding no evidence of wrongdoing."

"But you think otherwise," Hank guessed, studying his face.

Connor nodded. "The following day, two citizens were arrested after being found in possession of illegal firearms. They confessed to receiving the smuggled goods in a shipment from China, which they informed police typically arrives at the Nicholson Terminal every third month, on the third Thursday or Friday. The cargo is then kept in one of several on-site warehouse storage facilities until transport."

Ah--and it was March 23rd, the third Friday of the month and exactly three months after Cassidy's sighting at the terminal.

"So you think Cassidy might show up there tonight to restock on supplies," he mused aloud, leaning back slightly in his chair as he thought. "Isn't that a little goddamn obvious, though? I mean, if the date of the shipments are so well known, wouldn't that be a huge fuckin' risk for him?"

Connor leaned back against his desk, arms crossing over his chest, a slight frown marring his face. "Unfortunately, due to the large number of shipments received at the Nicholson Terminal daily, it is difficult to siphon out those containing smuggled goods. Advanced scanner technology has improved the process, but there are methods of concealing the contents. Additionally, dock workers are often compensated in exchange for turning a blind eye.

"Finally, many of the shipments may contain legal goods or materials that are then sold for money or used for illegal purposes, as would be the case in some of the materials used to manufacture Red Ice-- namely, thirium."

Made sense. "Well, might as well give it a fuckin' shot, anyways. Yesterday was the third Thursday in March, so let's hope Mr. Eliott Cassidy is a creature of fuckin' habit and shows up tonight instead. Maybe he can tell us something about our masked man--or, hell, maybe Cassidy himself is our guy."

"Unlikely--but the possibility is worth exploring, all the same." Connor smiled at him, then, head cocking slightly to the side, arms still crossed leisurely over his slim chest. "Aren't you going to finish your lunch, Lieutenant?"

"Yeah, yeah." Rolling his eyes, Hank reluctantly picked up the container of salad, shoving another forkful in his mouth before the android could see his own smirk.

 

---

 

After work they took Sumo on another short walk before settling in to wait until dark. Connor busied himself with cooking dinner as always, but Hank barely moved from the couch, jittery and impatient and irritated that the android had kept him from drinking any Black Lamb to calm his nerves.

"Why don't you lay down for a short nap instead, Hank?" Connor suggested pleasantly, ignoring his scowl. "It would assist in passing the time until we leave. Additionally, it may be beneficial to your well-being. I have noticed that you look slightly more tired than usual today--is it due to your earlier work out with Detective Alvarez?"

Hank huffed out a breath, arms crossing over his chest as he sunk back into the couch. True, he hadn't slept worth a shit last night, and he was feeling a little tired, but there was no way he would be able to sleep now. "I don't need a goddamned nap. Christ, how old do you think I am?"

Brows knitting together, Connor opened his mouth to reply, but Hank cut him off with a fierce glare.

"DON'T fuckin' answer that."

Around ten o' clock they made their way to the port, stashing Hank's car in an empty side lot half-hidden behind an old maintenance shed.

"Great--how are we supposed to know which fuckin' warehouse it is?" Hank griped as he slammed the car door shut, looking up at the towering building nearby. There were at least three that he could see, and they were all fuckin' huge.

"A moment." A focused expression came over Connor's face as he analyzed the buildings; at last he gestured to the one closest to them. "This one primarily stores foreign cargo. It is likely that Cassidy's shipment will be within."

They set off, carefully keeping away from the flood lights, though from what Hank could tell the place was fuckin' deserted. The majority of warehouse work at the terminal was automated--overseen by a few human or android handlers during the day--and from the near-silence it seemed like everyone had long since left, nothing but the buzzing of the lights and their own hurried footsteps.

They came upon a side entrance, predictably locked tight and secured by a RFID lock system.

"Tell me you can use your fuckin' android voodoo," Hank said dryly, shooting the android an expectant look. "Otherwise we aren't gettin' in."

Brow furrowing slightly, Connor reached for the lock, his skin dissolving away as he connected to the device. Seconds later the display screen lit up in acceptance, the door slowly creaking open.

"After you, Lieutenant," Connor said with a pleasant smile, taking a step aside to allow him in.

"Show-off," Hank smirked, brushing past him.

The room inside was brightly lit, illuminating rows upon rows of shelving stacked high with shipping crates of every color and size.

"This place is fuckin' massive," Hank groaned, hands coming to rest on his hips as he glanced impatiently around the huge room. How the hell were they supposed to track down Cassidy's shipment?

A sudden look of intense concentration came over Connor's face as he looked towards the far side of the room. "Lieutenant--do you hear that?" he murmured, head tilting slightly.

"No?" Damn androids and their fuckin' super powers.

The android glanced back at him, eyes slightly narrowed. "Follow me."

"Wai--goddammit!" Once again he found himself chasing after Connor, though this time the android at least had the courtesy to let him keep up, their shoes squeaking noisily against the polished floor as they ran.

Connor came to a stop in front of another door, this one unlocked, and now Hank could hear it, too: the obvious sounds of crates being moved, and beyond that the faint murmurs of a conversation.

Slowly the android cracked open the door to reveal the loading dock, the large room only half-lit, several of its doors open to the chilly night air.

The entire center of the room was covered in semi-organized pallets stacked high with shipping crates, and Hank had just enough time to glimpse a man in dark clothes hop down out of the back of a self-driving truck--already filled to the brim with cargo--before Connor ducked behind the left-most stack of crates, tugging him along by the sleeve.

"You sure that's all of it?" he heard one man ask in a clear Boston accent.

"Should be," a different man grunted.

"Better check again," the first voice commanded. "If there's even a single fuckin' box missin' youse fuckin' idiots are gonna get the goddamn axe--and trust me, it ain't gonna be pretty."

There were a few unintelligible murmurs, and then the scruffling sound of several pairs of footsteps and what sounded like crates being shoved across the concrete.

Connor gestured for Hank to follow him as he inched his way along the stack of crates, gun already clenched in hand. They came to a stop at the very edge of the stack, nearly adjacent to the parked truck, the android slowly peering around the corner as Hank stood pressed up beside him with his hand hovering over his own gun.

"Can you scan them?" he whispered, his heart already racing with anticipation as he watched the android tense up.

"It's Cassidy." Connor jerked forward like he was going to pop out and confront the man himself, but quick as a snake Hank caught his arm and yanked him back, shoving him flat against the side of the crates and pinning him in place with the length of his own body.

"Lieut--" the android began, but Hank clapped a hand over his mouth to cut him off, fixing him with a sharp glare, still gripping tightly to the android's arm.

"You remember what I fucking said?" Hank growled, voice pitched low, pressing in closer until their noses were nearly touching. "You don't go running after someone without me. Ring any fuckin' bells?"

Connor blinked owlishly, wide brown eyes staring into his own--and then the android softened noticeably against him, drooping slightly against the crates behind him.

"Nod your head, so I know you understand," he ordered in a harsh whisper, still holding the android in place. It was the closest they'd been since they'd kissed on his couch two days ago.

Slowly Connor nodded, half-lidded eyes flicking intently over his face with a slightly familiar look in them, like he was thinking the same thing.

Christ--he knew that fucking look, and now was definitely not the goddamned time. Making a shushing motion with his finger, Hank reluctantly removed his hand and tore his eyes away from the distracting image, slipping past the android to peer around the corner himself.

There were three men dressed in dark clothes, two of them inspecting a nearby pile of shipping crates while the third stood near the truck watching, idly smoking a cigarette. His back was to them, but the shock of red hair--though much shorter than his mugshot--identified him instantly as Cassidy.

"See--told you that's all of it," one of the men said shortly, wiping his dirty hands on his jeans as he turned back to Cassidy.

"Get your sorry-asses over here and secure this fuckin' thing, then. Christ. It shoulda left ten fuckin' minutes ago," the Bostonian accent rang out in clear irritation as Cassidy flicked the rest of his cigarette to the ground, grinding it out with the heel of his boot. He turned and slipped around the left side of the truck, heading for the front, and the other two men obediently approached the back, slamming the metal doors shut and fastening the latch. Moments later there came the sound of the truck's engine revving to life.

They didn't have much time. Hank turned back to Connor, nearly jumping out of his skin when he realized the android was practically right on top of him. Christ, he hadn't even heard him move.

"They are unarmed, Lieutenant," Connor informed him softly, his eyes still focused laser-sharp in the direction of the truck.

"Still--might as well put on a show, so he knows we aren't fuckin' around," Hank said wryly, already drawing his gun. He could see Cassidy still leaning half-inside the driver's side door, probably configuring the truck's route. "The second he closes that door, we fuckin' ambush him. Don't worry about the other two for now; we just want Cassidy. Okay?"

"Yes, Lieutenant," Connor said right near his ear, barely more than a whisper.

As if on cue Cassidy finally emerged from the truck, tucking a new cigarette between his lips as he slammed the door shut, and as soon as he turned back to face the warehouse they sprung.

"FREEZE!" Hank shouted, gun locked directly onto the red-haired man as he circled closer, Connor doing the same beside him. Dimly he saw the other two men turn tail and flee into the night without a word, their shoes crunching noisily over the gravel as they scrambled to get away.

Cassidy himself looked more irritated than afraid, shoulders hunched defensively around his ears, his pale, bloated face ghastly white under the fluorescent lighting. "The fuck is this, some kinda fuckin' sting op?" he groused, eyes jumping back and forth between them, his thin lips twisted in a sneer.

"What's in the goddamned truck?!" Hank demanded, grabbing the red-haired man by the collar and slamming him up against the side of it, his gun only inches away from the man's face. Cassidy slowly lifted his hands in surrender, eyeing him warily, the unlit cigarette still dangling from his lips. "I'm already out of patience tonight, so you better tell me what's in those goddamned crates before I shove this fuckin' gun so far down your throat you'll be shittin' bullets tomorrow!"

Cassidy bristled at that, squirming uselessly in his hold. "This is fuckin' harrassment," he hissed like a cat, spit flying. "You fuckin' pigs think you can just run around assaultin' the little guys, huh? Think you're so goddamn high and mighty? Wait til my fuckin' lawyer hears about this!"

Hank was just about to clock the man right upside the head when Connor spoke suddenly, his brown eyes wide.

"Lieutenant--the truck!"

The truck shifted suddenly into gear, gravel crunching under its tires as it began to pull out. Cassidy stumbled as it moved out from behind him, just barely managing to catch himself from falling, Hank's iron grip still clasping onto his shirt collar.

Shit--they were too fucking late.

"Where the fuck's it going?!" Hank demanded, head whipping back to look at Cassidy, tightening his hold on the red-haired man's shirt and giving him a rough shake.

Cassidy said nothing, lips curling in a slow smirk to show off crooked yellowed teeth, gazing steadily back at him with those eerie blue eyes--

--and then suddenly his smirk vanished, face clouding over as twin spots of bright red appeared on his cheeks.

"The fuck--" He watched in shock as the red-haired man reached up to clutch at his chest with shaky fingers, the cigarette falling soundlessly from his lips to the ground below, his brow creasing heavily as he stared at Hank with unfocused eyes.

Confused, Hank released his grip on the man's shirt, watching in disbelief as a red-faced Cassidy took a staggering step backwards, swaying slightly where he stood before collapsing, his head cracking loudly against the pavement.

The truck--

He tore his eyes away from Cassidy, looking up to see the truck already making its way out of the warehouse parking lot and heading for the main road leading out of the port. Fuck--it was going to get away.

He cast one last glance at Cassidy--lying completely still on the pavement, eyes like two glassy marbles in his red, bloated face--before turning back to Connor, his mind made up.

"Connor!" he barked, and the android glanced up at him from where he'd been staring down at Cassidy, shock written all over his face.

"No time--we gotta go after it!" he ordered, already turning and starting off in the direction of his car.

Connor nodded, abandoning the man and following after him, and a minute later they'd made it back to Hank's car, flinging the doors open wildly as they jumped in.

"I've contacted the authorities to retrieve Cassidy's body," Connor informed him, buckling himself in, and Hank could hear the slight edge of bewilderment in the android's voice as he floored it out of the parking lot, sending gravel flying every which way.

Body. So he was dead, too, just like Red. Christ, what the fuck was going on?

He grunted in acknowledgement, already shoving the red-haired man's death from his mind for now. "I don't suppose you know where the fuck it's going," he said, struggling to buckle his seatbelt as he pulled out quickly on the main road, the car's tires squealing loudly in protest. He could still see the truck, but it was steadily gaining distance; would probably disappear from sight soon, if they didn't hurry. Gritting his teeth, he stepped on the gas, gripping so tightly to the steering wheel his knuckles went white.

"Negative. Self-driving trucks are electronically shielded, preventing analysis," Connor said regrettably, sounding remarkably calm despite the situation. "However, I was able to scan the identification code on several of the crates. It appears to be a shipment of Chinese thirium. The order is registered to CyberLife at their Main Street location, which was previously utilized for retail sales but is now being used as a temporary android clinic, of sorts."

The thirium, they'd already suspected; but why the fuck would CyberLife be involved? Something didn't fuckin' add up.

"So you think that's where it's headed?" he asked instead, shelving his suspicions for now. With the lack of traffic he'd managed to almost catch up with the truck, which had already taken them down several back roads in what was far from the most direct route to Main Street. It was almost like the truck was trying to fuckin' lose them.

"Unknown. But at present, it seems the most likely destination," Connor demurred, glancing over at him from the passenger seat.

Hank nodded, eyes still tacked onto the truck in front of them as it pulled back out on the main road, thankfully deserted in the late hour. "Then that's where we're fuckin' going."

Out of nowhere the truck cut a sharp left halfway through an intersection, its speed suddenly picking up again.

"Shit!" Hank scrambled to turn the wheel in time to follow, the car tilting ominously to the side at the sharp turn.

"The fuck kind of self-driving truck is this?!" he demanded, blood pumping with renewed adrenaline as he fell back in place behind it, pushing his old car to go faster.

"It does appear to be exhibiting slightly... abnormal behavior," Connor said hesitantly, almost more like a question.

"'Abnormal' my ass! This fuckin' thing is goddamned possessed!" Hank growled, following after the truck as it turned left onto another road, heading back in the direction they'd just come from. "This is the complete opposite direction from Main! It's just taking us in fuckin' circles!"

"Perhaps it is heading for a different destination entirely," the android mused, but even he didn't sound entirely convinced.

"No... there's something fuckin' weird going on with this whole goddamned thing. I'm gonna try to catch up with the passenger side," Hank said grimly, already merging into the right lane. "Maybe we can see inside."

"Lieutenant--I do not believe this is a wise decision," Connor warned, his pale face lined with strain under the brief snatches of street light. "Additionally, the windows are likely tinted, making inspection of the vehicle's interior impossible."

Hank ignored him, stepping down further on the gas until he was doing almost fifty-five, hands gripped tightly to the steering wheel as he came up on the truck's right side. He was nearly parallel with the passenger side window when suddenly the truck veered sharply right.

"What the fuck!" The tires screeched loudly in protest as Hank swerved to the right, just narrowly avoiding the impact, his heart suddenly jack-hammering in his chest.

"Lieutenant!" Connor pleaded, sounding frantic in a way that Hank had never heard before. "You must listen to me! We need to slow down and pull off the road this instant!"

But before he could respond, or comply, or even think the truck veered right again, and this time his reaction was far too late.

There was a distant, sharp pain; the muted thud-thud-thud of a heart that he wasn't sure belonged to him. It all seemed so far away, like his head was wrapped in thick layers of gauze, the tell-tale sting of cold winter air against his face and neck the only sign he wasn't dreaming.

Slowly he glanced up, mystified by the black expanse of night sky above him, studded with countless twinkling stars. Snowflakes peppered his face, drifting lazily downwards from the heavens, each one a tiny nip of chill against his strangely-heated skin.

Suddenly he found feeling in his hands, lifting them shakily above his face and staring up at his blood-covered palms in confusion.

"Cole?"

Someone was screaming.

Strong hands gripped his wrists in an effort to stop his thrashing, but Hank fought desperately against them, eyes squeezed tightly shut, seeing nothing but his red hands and Cole's blood-stained face.

"COLE! I have to get to him--I have to--"

"Lieutenant! Lientenant, please!" The grip on his wrists tightened to the point of near-pain, and he gasped, eyes flying open.

It was Connor, staring back at him in the dark, the android's wide brown eyes brimming with tears.

Dumbly Hank looked down at his hands, still caught in the android's iron grip. Not a single drop of blood.

Which meant that Cole was already--

"It's going to be alright, Lieutenant," Connor whispered, a single blue-tinged tear breaking loose and trailing slowly down his cheek.

 

---

 

Hank refused to ride in the ambulance, but Connor asked that he at least let one of the officers on scene drive them to the hospital so he could get checked out.

"I told you, I'm fuckin' fine," he snarled--always irritated at the thought of appearing weak, especially in front of other cops--but one look at Connor's pleading face and he obediently climbed into the back of the police car anyways, crossing his arms over his chest and glaring sullenly out the window for the entire ride.

Luckily the ER was nearly empty, and only a little over an hour later--after getting the all-clear from a doctor, who found no signs of head trauma or any other injuries--they were on their way home, hitching a ride with a different officer since Hank's car was now fuckin' totaled.

The drive was silent, both of them lost in their own thoughts. Hank couldn't even glance at the android, too wracked with guilt to meet the familiar brown eyes.

Guilt--maybe his least favorite emotion, but a familiar one that he'd wrestled with for years after Cole's death until it had been the only thing he could feel besides anger, thoroughly convincing himself that he was most to blame.

Guilt over the fact that he hadn't always been the most present father.

Guilt over not preventing the crash, somehow, some fucking way.

Guilt over not being able to save his only son.

And tonight he'd risked losing Connor in the same way.

The thought overwhelmed him, rising up into his throat and nearly choking him with the realization.

"Lieutenant? We've returned home."

Hank blinked, glancing out the window, only just realizing that they were stopped in his driveway.

The officer bid them a goodnight as they climbed out, but Hank barely heard her, hardly even aware of his feet gliding over the ground as he made his way to the front door, Connor trailing quietly behind them.

Sumo greeted them enthusiastically at the door, and for once Hank didn't have the presence of mind to so much as pat his head, standing frozen in the kitchen as if he'd never seen the room before.

"Lieutenant?"

Reluctantly he glanced at Connor, seeing clear concern in the android's big brown eyes, and somehow that only twisted the fuckin' knife in even deeper, another fresh wave of guilt crashing over him.

"You should prepare for sleep," Connor said softly, already clipping the red leash onto the dog's collar. "I will take Sumo outside and return shortly."

He almost argued--but he really was tired, every fuckin' bone in his body suddenly feeling like it was being weighted down. He gave the android a small nod, already turning to head down the hallway.

After carelessly shedding his clothes and throwing on last night's pajamas he crawled into bed, staring up silently at the ceiling, already knowing full well he wasn't going to get a single minute of sleep.

The wreck was still playing on endless loop in his brain: the crunch of metal and glass as the truck collided into them; the screech of tires as his car skidded off the road; the dull, definitive thud of impact as they hit the ditch.

Connor's face--

"Lieutenant?"

Hank glanced over to find Connor peering in from the doorway, hand resting uncertainly on the door knob, his face shadowed in the dim light. "I apologize for disturbing you. I... wanted to be sure you were well before I enter stasis for the evening."

He opened his mouth to assure the android he was fine--but nothing came out, his voice dying in his throat.

Brow creasing, Connor pushed the door open a little further, scrutinizing him intently. "Are you alright, Lieutenant? Should I call the--"

"No," he said gruffly, clearing his throat in a pointless attempt to gain control again. "No, I just... could you..." He trailed off, jaw clenching tightly as words failed him once again.

But somehow Connor understood, as always. The android stepped into the darkened room, quietly closing the door nearly all the way behind him before approaching the bed.

Hank shifted over, making more room, and Connor slipped in easily beside him under the covers, as if he were meant to be there all along.

For several moments they stared at each other, Hank transfixed by the play of moonlight over the android's face--smooth and unblemished as always, not one speck of blood, blue or otherwise--and just that was enough to make his heart clench painfully again.

"I'm sorry," he whispered hoarsely, eyes still searching the android's face, as if he would somehow find the right words there. "I don't know what I'd fuckin' do if..." He gritted his teeth, inwardly cursing his struggle to give voice to his feelings.

Connor said nothing, shifting closer until they were nearly touching, leaning in and brushing his lips feather-light over Hank's own.

"It's alright, Hank," he murmured when he'd pulled away, his eyes still so warm and understanding, but Hank shook his head, clutching tightly to the blanket, the image of the android's tear-filled brown eyes flashing in his mind.

"No, it's not. I... I don't ever want to see you fuckin' cry because of me," he managed roughly around the guilt still clogging his throat, and to his horror he felt tears pricking at his own eyes--something that hadn't happened in a long, long time.

"I won't have to," Connor hummed softly, brown eyes still locked onto his, a faint smile etched onto his pale face. "As long as you stay."

Chapter Text

When Hank awoke he found himself looking directly into familiar brown eyes.

He jolted, suddenly wide awake, only for the previous night's events to come rushing back to him.

Cassidy... the truck... the crash.

Cole.

Connor--completely safe, his face creased with worry, crawling into bed with him and telling him to stay.

"...morning," he said gruffly, softening back down against the mattress, his eyes scanning over the android's face.

"Good morning, Hank," Connor responded softly, his expression relaxed, like he'd gotten a refreshing eight hours in stasis. He was stretched out on his stomach and holding a pillow in his arms, his cheek resting against it, head turned towards him as if he'd been studying Hank for a while. "How are you feeling?"

Hank said nothing for a long moment, remembering the way he'd nearly broken down and cried in front of the android. It should have kicked up hot shame in his stomach like a fuckin' desert sandstorm, but strangely enough the feeling didn't come--just relief that Connor hadn't been hurt, and more selfishly that the android clearly didn't think any less of him for witnessing his brief moment of weakness.

It was somehow... comforting, as pathetic as that sounded, to know he had a safe place to land after so many years of convincing himself that he didn't need one. Still, he'd had enough feelings lately to last him an entire lifetime, and the last thing he felt like doing was starting up a fuckin' therapy session at eight in the goddamned morning.

"Tired," he settled on, shifting slightly and wincing at the twinge in his back--either a result of the crash or his trip to the gym with Alvarez; it was hard to say. Christ, he didn't even want to imagine sitting up. "Back's fuckin' sore, too."

Connor let out a little hum, forearm flexing as he tightened his hold on the pillow, his brown eyes sparkling with hidden amusement. "Would you like me to assist you using a pain reduction technique?"

"What kind of 'technique'?" he asked warily. Knowing Connor it'd be some kind of painful fuckin' torture, like stretching.

The android just smiled, pushing himself up to sitting next to him. "Please turn over onto your abdomen."

Reluctantly Hank obeyed, chin coming to rest on his pillow, staring at the headboard with a furrowed brow--only to breathe in sharply as his shirt was lifted up to reveal bare skin, and strong, deft hands began kneading at the tense muscles of his back.

"Christ," he groaned, gritting his teeth and squeezing the pillow in a death grip as he tried not to jump right off the mattress. "You gotta fuckin' warn a guy first."

"My apologies, Hank," the android responded cheerfully from above him, but he didn't even pause, busily massaging his back with long, sure strokes.

After a minute or two Hank finally relaxed completely against the mattress with a shaky sigh, head drooping heavily against his pillow, and now it was becoming torture for an entirely different reason--namely, his dick digging into the mattress beneath him, his morning wood happily sticking around thanks to the android's careful attention.

"Are you experiencing any relief from your symptoms, Hank?" Connor asked sincerely, soft hands smoothing across his heated skin and making his spine tingle.

"Not yet. You better keep going," he muttered wryly, shifting against the mattress and trying to ignore the way his dick throbbed at the friction. The last thing he'd ever consider himself was a masochist, but apparently the android brought it out in him.

Connor complied wordlessly, and he was just starting to work into a particularly tight spot in Hank's mid-back when suddenly he heard the most unwelcome fuckin' sound imaginable: his ringtone, slightly muffled but unmistakable.

"Who the--this goddamned early?" he griped, not making the slightest move to get up, inwardly cursing the sorry son of a bitch who'd picked that particular moment to call. Talk about lousy fuckin' timing.

"I will get it, Hank." He felt the mattress dip as the android slipped from the bed, and there came the rustling sound of fabric--probably his pants from last night--before Connor returned, holding out his phone in offering.

"It's Fowler," he said with a frown, eyes flicking up suspiciously to the android's face, but Connor simply gazed back at him, poker-faced.

Smothering a groan--and already feeling his dick starting to deflate--he reluctantly swiped the screen to answer. "Yeah?"

"HANK!" Fowler boomed, and Hank winced as his eardrum was nearly blown out, reflexively tilting the phone away from his head. "Connor called and told me what happened last night! For God's sake, Hank, can't you work on a single fucking case without almost getting yourself killed in the process?" the captain demanded, though Hank could hear the underlying strain of concern in his voice.

"Oh he did, did he?" he groused, mostly to himself, his eyes sliding accusingly back over to Connor. The android gave him an innocent smile in return.

"Everything's fine, Jeff. Connor doesn't have a single scratch on him and I'm still above fuckin' ground--for now, anyway." The only thing worse than a pissed off Fowler was a worried Fowler. It was just too goddamned weird.

"In that case I won't feel bad about putting your ass below ground myself for taking ten goddamned years off my life--not to mention waking my wife and I up in the middle of the fucking night! What the hell were you thinking?! I should suspend your ass for another week just for being a reckless goddamned idiot!"

Hank rolled his eyes, flipping back over onto his back and staring up at the ceiling as the police captain ranted on.

"You better not even think of stepping foot in the office today. I don't want to see your face again until Monday morning, and only if I have a hospital discharge note sitting in my fucking inbox. Is that clear?"

"Crystal," he muttered, feeling a sharp, throbbing pain start up suddenly on the top of his head--a common result of most conversations with the other man.

"Good. Then make sure you get some fucking rest this weekend--and that's an order." A pause. "Oh--and Hank?"

He frowned, rubbing idly at his sleep-crusted eyes. Now what? "Yeah?"

"What the fuck did I tell you about calling me Jeff?! Keep it up, and I swear to God you'll only fucking wish you were suspended again!"

There was a click as the line abruptly went dead. Huffing out a laugh despite himself, Hank hung up, tossing the phone carelessly onto a nearby pile of clothes.

"Fuckin' tattle-tale," he smirked, turning back to the android.

"My apologies, Hank. I informed Captain Fowler of what transpired last night while you were being examined at the hospital. It seemed imperative that he be made aware of the situation," Connor explained with an apologetic smile, still standing motionless by the side of the bed.

For the first time that morning Hank took in the full picture of him. The android was dressed casually in an oversized gray t-shirt and loose navy sweatpants (both formerly his), the shirt's stretched-out neck revealing an expanse of pale skin marked by a single visible freckle. Suddenly he forgot all about Fowler.

"Yeah, sure. I think you just like seeing me get in trouble," Hank said, his smirk growing as he rolled over onto his side. Propping his elbow on the mattress and resting his head in his hand, he arched a brow at the android. "You getting back in, or what?"

"Do you wish for me to resume your massage?" the android teased, still smiling, but he obediently lowered himself back to the mattress, coming to sit cross-legged beside him.

"I got something better in mind." Slowly he reached out a hand, brushing it carefully down the android's soft cheek, and Connor's dark lashes fluttered in response, his eyes rising up and zeroing in on Hank's mouth.

The kiss started out slow, Hank cradling Connor's head with his free hand while the android leaned down slightly to meet him halfway. He eagerly explored the android's mouth with his tongue, seeking out the strangely alien taste of him that had been on his mind ever since they'd made out on the couch.

Connor made a little noise in response, hands clenching in his lap, but this time he confidently met Hank's tongue with his own, his movements much more sure.

Eventually he broke for air, glancing up to meet those brown eyes again as he plucked the android's left arm up by the wrist and brought it to his lips.

"You drive me fuckin' crazy, you know that?" he murmured, pressing slow kisses along the length of the android's slender forearm, and Connor watched wordlessly, lips slightly parted, his half-lidded eyes never leaving Hank's face. "I guess you do, since you admitted going out of your way to torment me the past few months. How are you gonna make it up to me, huh?"

To his surprise the android looked faintly embarrassed at the teasing, his gaze dropping down to his lap. "While research has provided me with the fundamental knowledge of sexual mechanics between two persons, regrettably I am... uncertain of how best to proceed," he admitted softly, his eyes flicking hesitantly back up to Hank's face. "But... I do want to please you, Hank."

Christ on a fucking bicycle. Hank closed his eyes briefly against the heat that flared in his gut at the words. Between that and their making out, his dick was already coming back to life.

"You don't have to worry about that," he said a little hoarsely, pushing himself up to sitting. "I was just kidding. This is about you, alright?"

Connor's brow furrowed in uncertainty, but he gave a little nod, and when Hank reached for him again the android melted in his hold, easing forward into the kiss, his hands coming up to grip into the front of Hank's shirt in a recreation of Wednesday night.

Soon Connor was straddling his lap once again, kissing him back in equal measure, arms rising hesitantly to slide around his shoulders. Hank wound an arm tightly around the slender waist, bringing him even closer, his free hand stroking over the android's slim thigh.

"You wanna try something new?" he asked huskily when they'd broken apart again, restraining himself from grinding up against the android's ass, because he was at least partly fuckin' civilized.

Connor bit his lower lip, and if he were capable of blushing Hank imagined his face would be flushed red. "Okay, Hank. Should I... remove my clothing?"

Christ on a fucking flaming bicycle.

"Uh, not just yet, okay?" Slowly he began easing the android off his lap, and Connor got the hint, lowering himself to his back on the mattress and looking up at Hank expectantly.

He shifted closer, yanking the hem of the oversized shirt up and exposing a pale strip of the android's stomach. The front of his pants were noticeably tented, and Hank reached out, brushing his hand over it experimentally.

Connor jerked slightly at the contact, stomach tightening and brow furrowing heavily, as if confused by his body's reaction. Christ, he was sensitive, and that particular line of thought led down a dangerous fuckin' road, especially if he wanted to avoid busting a nut in less than five goddamned minutes.

"Is this... uh... I mean, do you, y'know, make this happen yourself?" Hank managed awkwardly, throat suddenly more than a little dry. He had no fuckin' clue how androids' bodies worked, especially when it came to sex.

"Although the reaction is involuntary, I do possess a... limited degree of control," Connor replied, for once sounding too distracted to elaborate.

"Oh. Well. That's probably fuckin' handy." He cleared his throat, seeking out brown eyes again. "Can I see?"

At Connor's silent nod Hank reached for his waistband, tugging down his pants and underwear in one fluid movement, the android lifting his hips to help.

"Are you... disappointed, Hank?" Connor asked when he didn't say anything, propping up slightly on his elbows so he could see Hank's face, and he sounded almost nervous.

Hank was the complete fucking opposite of disappointed.

He hadn't known what to expect, not really, but the android looked completely, remarkably human, and somehow that was almost as surprising as any strange alternative his brain could've cooked up.

He swept his gaze over the android's long, slender legs; his dick, curving up against his flat stomach between his splayed thighs. He was completely hairless, his pale skin smooth and unblemished, though Hank spotted a few freckles dotting the insides of his thighs--an intentional, oddly provocative detail, considering he'd been created with the expectation that no one would ever see them.

Goddamn you to the deepest, darkest pits of hell, Kamski, you fuckin' sick son of a bitch.

"Are you kidding?" he responded at last, managing to tear his eyes away from the jerk-off worthy image before him. "Christ, you're fuckin' perfect."

Connor gave a hint of a smile at that, falling uncharacteristically silent again as he waited for Hank to make his next move.

Slowly Hank reached out and wrapped his hand around the android's dick, giving it a little stroke, his eyes flicking back to Connor's face to see his reaction. The android gazed back at him steadily, biting at his lip again, his brow the slightest bit creased.

"You ever do this to yourself?" he murmured, stroking him lazily, his thumb swiping over the head. It felt just like a human's, too, the skin velvety-soft.

"Yes," Connor admitted, eyes still glued to his face. "After receiving the update that provided me with the ability to feel pleasure, I discovered that the sensation was most... agreeable."

You don't say. A bizarre image of Connor getting himself off to complex math equations on Hank's couch flashed through his mind, and he snorted a laugh, grinning crookedly up at the android. "Oh yeah? What do you think about--advanced fuckin' algebra?" he teased.

"You," the android said seriously, and Hank's grin dissolved as he felt another pull in his low gut. Hand stilling in its movements, he leaned in to catch the android's lips in a bruising kiss, free hand rising up to clutch the side of his face.

"I'm going to make you feel good," he promised when he'd pulled away, staring deep into brown eyes, his thumb brushing across the high point of the android's cheek. "If you want me to stop at any point, you tell me right away, no matter what--okay?"

Connor gave a short little nod--an entirely too tempting image with his mouth still slightly agape--and Hank stole another quick kiss from him before shifting back onto his heels, wrapping his hand around the android's dick once again as he leaned down.

At his first careful lick over the head Connor reached up and grasped at his shoulder, mouth falling open in an imitation of a gasp, staring at him with wide, incredulous eyes like Hank had just revealed the secrets of the universe to him. "H-hank?"

Hank paused, glancing up at him. "You want me to stop?"

Connor shook his head quickly, his brows knitting together. "Negative. I would... like you to continue."

Huffing out a laugh, he turned his attention back to the android's dick, this time running his tongue firmly around the head before sucking it into his mouth.

It had been a long fucking time since he'd done this--and really he hadn't done it with any regularity since the goddamned police academy, if he were being honest--but Connor didn't seem to have any complaints, gripping tightly to his shoulder, still propped up on one elbow so he could watch.

"H-Hank!" he stuttered out again, his toes curling against the mattress, and Hank felt his own dick throb in sympathy at hearing the straight-laced, by-the-book android actually flustered--and because of him, no less.

Spurred on by the reaction, he sucked the android all the way down to the hilt, hand coming up to gently palm his sack, and Connor gave a small groan, the 'muscles' of his stomach visibly clenching as his hips lifted off the mattress.

Hank grabbed onto a sharp hip and held the android down firmly against the mattress as he sucked him off, head bobbing slightly, his hand gripping tightly to the base of the shaft. Oddly enough the android had no distinctive scent, and though his skin had no defined, flesh taste there was still that same hint of alien flavor that was quickly starting to become his own personal fuckin' drug.

Barely a minute later Connor made a low, broken noise in his throat, his watery brown eyes blown wide in his pale face. "Hank, I... I feel as if I'm going to..." The android trailed off shakily, grip tightening on his shoulder in warning, and Hank hummed around him in encouragement, speeding up his movements, ignoring the ache building in his jaw.

Moments later Connor collapsed back, throwing an arm across his eyes as he let out a high-pitched keening sound, back arching off the mattress and slim thighs shaking as he came in Hank's mouth.

Holy goddamn motherfucking-- Hank pulled off, fumbling at his waistband as he took himself in hand, and three strokes was all it took to bring himself over the edge, spilling shakily all over his own hand.

Heart pounding in his chest, he sat motionless for a long moment, his head spinning, the taste of the android's spunk still on his tongue--that same, now-familiar taste, but much stronger.

Leaning forward, he braced a hand against the mattress, yanking Connor's arm away from his face and catching a short glimpse of teary, heavily-lidded eyes before kissing the android forcefully, his hand coming up to tangle in the soft brown hair.

"You really are gonna be the fuckin' death of me," he said roughly when they'd pulled apart, pressing a kiss to the android's jawline, then another, still gripping him by a slender wrist. It was a thought he'd had many times before, and that was before he'd gotten the android mostly-naked in his bed.

Connor smiled at him almost shyly, his eyes studying Hank's face intently. "Was that... pleasurable for you as well, Hank?" he asked, sounding uncertain.

'Pleasurable' didn't exactly cover it--he was pretty sure he was going to jerk off to the image of the android cumming for the rest of his goddamned life--but Connor really did look unsure, like he was the one who needed to be worried about his performance. Oh, the fuckin' irony.

"Uh, yeah. Very," he said honestly. Dick sucking had never been his favorite bedroom activity--or, when he wasn't on the receiving end of it, at least--but as always the android seemed to be the exception to the rule.

"I am pleased to hear it." Connor paused, his expression suddenly carefully neutral. "I would... appreciate a repeat of the experience."

Hank let out a surprised laugh, stomach shifting pleasantly at the hesitant smile he got in return. "Yeah, alright. But at least give me a few hours, alright? I'm not as fuckin' young as I used to be." Already his back and neck were starting to protest all of the kneeling and leaning, despite the android's little massage earlier.

Giving the android one last quick kiss--this time, right above his brow--he reluctantly pulled away, throwing his legs over the side of the bed and stretching his neck to the side as he yawned.

"C'mon--we better go take Sumo out before he pisses on the fuckin' carpet again."

 

---

 

The rest of the day passed uneventfully, which was more than fuckin' welcome after everything that had happened lately.

Hank had no idea what was even on the TV, too distracted by Connor sitting even closer than usual on the couch next to him, Sumo snoring softly on the floor beneath them.

For ten minutes he'd debated with himself, struggling with the urge to put his arm around the android to pull him even closer.

For Christ's sakes--you just had his fuckin' dick in your mouth this morning, and now you can't even put your fuckin' arm around him?

Annoyed with himself, he let out a little cough as he slowly slid his arm across the back of the couch, just barely brushing against the android's shoulders, like a fuckin' teenager trying to be slick at the movie theater.

Connor turned to him with a smile like he'd been waiting for it, shifting closer until he was tucked against Hank's side, and he finally turned his attention back to the TV with a little smirk of his own, for once not minding the girly, fluttery feeling in his gut.

Still, by evening he was feeling restless, suddenly unable to get the case off his mind.

"Let's go to the CyberLife on Main tomorrow," he suggested, slumped on the couch again, still stuffed after having eaten some weird cauliflower-rice dish that Connor had cooked up earlier (which he refused to admit he'd actually liked). "I want to get to the bottom of this fuckin' shipment of Chinese thirium--and ask them why their goddamned truck tried to kill us, while we're at it."

Connor hesitated, a little frown appearing on his face. "But, Hank--Captain Fowler said--"

"He said not to come to the office. And we're not," Hank cut him off with a little grin, pleased at finding a loophole.

The android looked less impressed. "Be that as it may, we are currently without a personal mode of transportation. It may be wise to spend the day acquiring a new vehicle instead."

Shit. He'd somehow forgotten about that. "You're right," he sighed; wasn't the android always? "I guess I better give my old friend a call in the morning and see if he has anything worth looking at."

Connor gave him an inscrutable look from his side of the couch, as if he were running a complex analysis. "You do not intend to purchase an autonomous vehicle," he said--more of a statement than a question.

"Fuck no. I told you before, remember? I ain't buying one of those self-driving pieces of shit." The last thing he would do was put his--or Connor's-- life in the hands of some kind of fuckin' arbitrary algorithm.

"Alright, Hank," Connor conceded, and once again Hank got the feeling that the android would have sighed if he were able. Apparently he recognized a battle he wasn't going to win.

With a yawn Hank reached for the remote and switched off the TV, shifting forward onto the edge of the couch. "Might as well head to bed so we can go early, then. Not shit to watch on TV, anyways." He paused, scratching idly at his cheek, pointedly avoiding the android's eyes. "You, uh... sleeping out here, or... ?"

"I would not be averse to accompanying you again," Connor replied with a soft, knowing smile. "If you are amenable as well, that is."

"Yeah," he said simply, shooting the android a quick glance, and somehow he knew he wouldn't be sleeping alone from there on out.

 

---

In the morning Hank made a call to the owner of Pat's Auto Park, and luckily his old acquaintance agreed to meet him despite it being Sunday.

"It's where I got my last few cars," Hank explained to Connor on the city bus. "It's run by a guy old enough to be my fuckin' dad, but he knows his shit. Only place around that sells anything other than those fuckin' self-driving death traps."

The bus dropped them off in the outskirts of Detroit, just down the road from the car park. It wasn't exactly the safest neighborhood, but between the two of them he wasn't really worried.

"Is this it?" Connor asked dubiously, glancing up at the rusty old sign with a slight frown.

Granted, the place wasn't much to look at: the rundown old building was stooped with age, the white paint chipped and worn, and although the lot was sizeable some of the cars had definitely seen better days. Still, Hank had been on friendly terms with the owner for years, and he'd always had a good experience there anytime he needed to buy a new car or get his own worked on.

"What? It's not that bad," he answered with a smirk, but he had to admit he got a certain thrill whenever the android got all prissy. He started for the door before he could examine that particular fuckin' thought, and Connor silently followed after him, still obviously reluctant.

The door opened right as they reached the steps, revealing an old man with a shock of white hair, dressed in a pair of stained overalls and holding a dirty yellow rag in hand.

"Good to see you, Hank!" he greeted with a smile as he wiped his hands on the rag, and despite his worn, lined face his blue eyes were sharp; his voice steady. "Come on in--I was just working in the garage when I saw you walking up."

"Nice to see you too, Pat," Hank answered with his own smile, following after the man into the lobby. It was cramped but tidy, decorated with a neat desk and a few mismatched chairs, an old-school coffee maker sitting on a small table in the corner. "Sorry to make you open shop on a Sunday, but I don't want to ride the city bus any longer than I have to."

The old man made a little noise of understanding. "It's no trouble at all! I was planning on coming in to do some work anyways." He turned to Connor with a curious expression. "And who's this?"

"This is my partner, Connor."

"Ahh--I see! Nice to meet you, young man. The name's Pat Griffin. I'd offer to shake your hand, but they're a bit dirty at the moment," he explained, giving the android a friendly smile. "A consequence of the job, I'm afraid."

Connor smiled politely in return, inclining his head slightly. "It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Mr. Griffin."

"Oh-ho! He's a polite one, isn't he?" Pat boomed, turning back to Hank with a grin. He stuffed the dirtied rag into his back pocket, motioning for them to follow. "Well, come on, then--let me show you what I've got today."

They followed the old man down a short hallway and out a back door into a wide open garage. Instantly Hank's attention was drawn to the black car parked there, its hood up--obviously what the old man had been working on.

He let out a little whistle as he circled the car, examining it closely. There wasn't a single scratch on its shiny exterior, and a glance inside told him the interior was in near-pristine condition as well. A look at the tell-tale little emblem on the trunk confirmed his suspicion.

He glanced up at Pat, who was watching him with a smile, hands propped on his hips. "This is a--"

"2009 Jaguar XF S," the old man finished with a nod, still grinning. "Just got it yesterday. She may be old, but she's in near perfect shape. The gentleman I got it from said it's been sitting in his garage for over a decade. Seems a damn shame to me, but I was more than happy to take it off his hands."

"It's incredible," Hank agreed, turning his attention back to the car. He could already see himself behind the wheel--and Connor in the passenger seat beside him.

"I had a feeling you would like it," Pat beamed. "Right after you called this morning I pulled her into the garage to look her over, but so far everything seems in working order."

"Can I take it for a test drive?" he asked, unable to hide the eagerness from his voice, and the old man laughed.

"Of course you can! Just give me a few more minutes to finish up, and I'll get you the keys."

Ten minutes later they were driving around the block, and Hank hadn't stopped grinning once.

"This is fuckin' perfect," he said gleefully as they came to a red light, his eyes flicking over the spotless leather interior.

"It appears to be mechanically sound," Connor agreed neutrally. "Still, I believe it may be an unwise investment, given the vehicle's advanced age."

Hank shot the android a scowl. "Yeah, it's old, but so what? It's practically brand new--and I bet ol' Pat will cut me a deal, too, since I've been buying from him for years. It's like the fuckin' stars aligned last night, or whatever bullshit they say." Usually he didn't believe in luck or fate or any of that hokey shit, but sitting behind the wheel of such a slick fuckin' car had apparently changed his mind.

All too soon they were pulling back into the garage, Hank reluctantly climbing out and slamming the door shut behind him.

"How'd she drive?" Pat asked, wandering back over from where he'd been working on a different car. "I only had a chance to drive her for a minute yesterday when the gentleman dropped her off."

"Like a fuckin' dream," Hank grinned, reluctantly turning the keys back over to the old man. "She's really something, Pat. How much you asking?"

Pat did cut him a deal, but the price was still a lot more than he'd planned on spending. He could practically feel Connor radiating disapproval beside him as he signed the papers, but he ignored it, too giddy at the thought of driving around town in a classic Jag. It was still a lot cheaper than a fuckin' self-driving car would be, and anyways he'd built up a savings over the years, knowing his other car would kick the bucket eventually. Besides, it wasn't like he had much else to spend it on.

"She's all yours," Pat said with a smile after he'd finally finished all the paper work and transferred the funds, handing the keys back over to him. "You ever need any work done, you just bring her back here and I'll fix her right up."

"Sure will," Hank promised easily, excited at the prospect of driving the car home. "Thanks a lot, Pat."

"Anytime, son. Oh--Hank?"

"Yeah?" He turned back to the old man a bit impatiently, already itching to get back behind the wheel.

Pat gave him a genuine smile. "You take care of this polite young man, alright? Seems like you're in much higher spirits than the last time I saw you. He must be doing you some good, if you catch my drift." The old man actually winked at him.

Hank sputtered, face suddenly on fire, too shocked to even answer.

"We appreciate your assistance, Mr. Griffin," Connor said pleasantly, smoothly taking over as always. "Are you prepared to depart, Hank?"

"See you next time!" Pat called after them with a jaunty wave as they pulled out moments later, still smiling ear to ear.

"Jesus Christ," Hank groaned, face still flushed red, more than ready to leave the little auto park far behind. Apparently the old man had read his own meaning into the word 'partner', and even though technically he wasn't wrong, he still hadn't fuckin' expected that.

Connor seemed unbothered, busy staring out the window at the buildings streaming past. "Are you in any hurry to return home, Hank? Perhaps now would be an ideal time to make our weekly trip to the grocery store."

"Do we have to?" he sighed, glancing over, his eyes flicking appreciatively over the android. He did look damn good against the sleek leather seat.

Connor caught him looking, giving him a small, secret smile like he knew exactly what Hank was thinking. "Yes," he said simply, with the surety of someone used to getting their way.

Huffing out a breath, he turned his attention back to the road before he got too distracted, a grin tugging at his lips. Damn android.

Chapter Text

"Well... this place looks different," Hank said wryly, glancing around the sleek, wide-open space.

It was Monday morning, and they'd finally made it to the old CyberLife store on Main Street, now converted into a makeshift android clinic.

Gone were the little daises where androids had once stood for sale--now there were individual patient chairs almost like a blood donation center, and even though it was still early there was already an android in every chair, some drinking vials of thirium while others were examined by CyberLife employees. The hastily-erected 'waiting area' was full, too, various androids sitting patiently as they waited to be seen.

He'd never actually been inside when it was still a store, but he'd passed by the place plenty of times, and it had always given him the creeps even before he'd seen androids as actual people. Something about them standing motionless on the raised platforms while being looked over like fuckin' cattle by potential buyers hadn't sat right with him, even then.

"Shall we proceed, Lieutenant?" Connor prompted, already heading for the receptionist's desk in the center of the room.

"Lieutenant Anderson with the DPD; my partner, Connor," Hank introduced shortly as they reached the desk. "We're here to--"

The bored-looking young woman sitting behind the desk glanced up reluctantly from her tablet, chewing heavily, the faint scent of bubblegum wafting through the air. "Uh, can't you see we're kinda busy? You're gonna have to wait like everybody else," she interuppted, eyeing him critically as she snapped her gum.

Fuckin' snotty little-- He gritted his teeth, already feeling his blood pressure rising. "Now you listen here, missy," he growled, gripping the edge of the desk and leaning forward threateningly, but Connor laid a hand on his arm in warning, cutting him off.

"We apologize for the suddenness of our request, ma'am, but it is imperative that we speak with the individual overseeing this establishment. It would greatly assist in our ongoing investigation," the android said smoothly, flashing her a charming smile.

The young woman turned her attention to Connor, and Hank could almost fuckin' hear exactly what she was thinking as she froze mid-chew, her green eyes widening.

She recovered quickly, leaning forward over the desk with a flirty little smile. "You can call me Ashley," she purred, twirling the end of her curly black ponytail around her finger, her tablet laying forgotten in her lap. "I think Dr. Horne would probably see you now, if it's really that important. Just a sec, okay? I'll send her a message to let her know you're here."

Hank rolled his eyes skyward, his jaw clenching tightly in annoyance as 'Ashley' gave the android another sickly-sweet smile before turning back to her tablet, suddenly much more helpful. Gimme a goddamned break.

They hovered by the desk for a few minutes as they waited, the receptionist practically batting her eyes at Connor, who politely pretended not to notice.

Finally a woman wearing a white lab coat emerged from the back, her high heels clicking against the polished floor as she approached.

"Good morning! My name is Dr. Horne," she said with a bright smile, brushing her long blonde hair away from her face as she reached out to shake both of their hands. "How can I assist you?"

"Thanks for seeing us, Doctor. I'm Lieutenant Anderson with the DPD, and this is my partner, Connor. Is there somewhere less crowded we can chat?" Hank asked, more than ready to get away from the receptionist, who was still staring at Connor like she was half-starved and he was a piece of fuckin' meat.

"Of course! We can speak in the back. Follow me, please," the doctor responded, already turning on her heel.

"Have a nice day, Connor," Ashley said with a teasing little smile, still playing with the ends of her hair. "It was so nice to meet you."

Yeah, I fuckin' bet. Hank grabbed onto a blank-faced Connor's upper arm and spun him around before he could reply, the android nearly stumbling as he was hauled away.

"Lieutenant?" Connor asked in a lowered voice as Hank dragged him along, his brows knitted in clear confusion.

"Quiet," he muttered, reluctantly releasing his grip on the android, and Connor obediently fell silent, trailing behind him as they followed the doctor to the back.

She brought them to a large room that had obviously once been used for product storage. There were still boxes stacked haphazardly around the room, but now hospital beds lined the far wall--along with various machinery that Hank couldn't make out--while large clear-front refrigerators stocked with thirium filled the adjacent wall.

"Please excuse the mess. Unfortunately we haven't had much time to organize," the blonde woman explained apologetically, taking a seat behind a large, cluttered desk and gesturing to the two chairs in front of it. "Please, have a seat."

"Thanks." Hank settled into a chair, Connor perching quietly in the one beside him.

"It's been nearly four months already, but there are still so many androids displaced by the revolution," Dr. Horne sighed, lifting up her glasses and massaging the bridge of her nose, and suddenly Hank could see that she looked exhausted, her blue eyes ringed with dark shadows. "We've been doing the best we can here, but every day we have to turn injured androids away, even those who've travelled from far away to see us. We simply don't have the time--or the resources--to treat everyone."

It was an uncomfortable revelation, to put it mildly. Admittedly he hadn't really thought much about the androids negatively affected by the revolution, only caring that at least Connor was safe beside him--as fuckin' selfish as that was.

He thought about all of the androids sitting out in the waiting room--some of them with visible injuries--as well as those who hadn't made it out of those goddamned slaughter camps at all, and suddenly Markus's haunted face flashed through his mind, his stomach twisting with realization. No wonder he'd seemed so guilt-stricken and sad, even though the revolution could only be called a success.

"Well, we'll try not to take up too much of your time, Doctor. We just have a few questions about a shipment of Chinese thirium found at the Nicholson Terminal this past Friday," Hank explained, cutting straight to the point. "It was placed under CyberLife's name for this location, but we think there might be something suspicious going on with the order."

The blonde woman frowned at him, her pretty face scrunching up in confusion as she settled her glasses back into place. "A shipment of thirium? I suppose you mean raw thirium, and not Chinese thirium-310."

He shot Connor a clueless look. He didn't have the slightest fuckin' idea what the difference was.

The android gave the doctor a short nod of confirmation. "Correct."

"Hmm... " She leaned back in her chair, still frowning, reaching up to adjust her black-rimmed glasses again. "Well, there must have been some sort of mistake, then. We don't possess the necessary equipment to process raw thirium into thirium-310 at this location. All of our thirium arrives pre-mixed directly from CyberLife headquarters here in Detroit."

"Is it possible that an employee could've gotten mixed up and ordered some by mistake?" Hank pressed, arching a brow.

Dr. Horne shook her head firmly. "No, I don't believe so. Even if they had, they certainly wouldn't have requested it from China! As I said, our thirium is supplied solely by CyberLife." The woman hesitated, biting at her red-glossed lower lip. "Well, I suppose it wouldn't hurt to check our order logs, would it?"

"We'd appreciate it," Hank said kindly, and the doctor nodded, turning to her computer and briskly typing something, her brow furrowed in concentration.

"It's just as I said--not a single order from anyone other than CyberLife," Dr. Horne said, turning her monitor so they could see, and they both leaned in to get a closer look.

Hank scanned his eyes across the page, glancing over the orders from the beginning of the year up until present day, but it didn't take long to see that she was right--there weren't any other suppliers listed except for CyberLife Detroit.

He settled back into his chair with a frown, thoughts whirling. "Do you know if CyberLife headquarters makes all of its own thirium? Or do they outsource it from somewhere else?" Really he had no fuckin' idea how the stuff was even made--or what the difference was between thirium made in China and CyberLife's thirium, if there even was any--but it seemed possible, at least. He made a mental note to ask Connor about it later.

The blonde woman pursed her lips thoughtfully. "Unfortunately, I'm not certain. It could be that at one time the Detroit branch manufactured its own supply entirely, but I imagine with the exponential increase in android production, CyberLife may have forged partnerships with various off-site suppliers to meet the demand--and lower costs, as well.

"However, I'm afraid that sort of information is kept strictly confidential from those outside of the relevant departments. I suppose you would have to ask Mr. Kamski himself."

No fuckin' thanks. The last thing he planned on doing was coming anywhere near that smug little beady-eyed shit anytime soon--or preferably not for the rest of his fuckin' life.

"Are you familiar with a Mr. Eliott Cassidy, Doctor?" Connor asked, switching the subject, his eyes studying the woman intently.

"Eliott Cassidy?" Dr. Horne shook her head, forehead creasing slightly. "No, I'm afraid the name doesn't mean anything to me. Is he a former CyberLife employee?"

"Uh, not exactly," Hank said dryly. He glanced over at Connor again, and he could tell the android was thinking the same thing he was: they weren't going to find out much else from the doctor.

He shoved backwards in the chair, rising to his feet with a sigh. "Well, thanks again for your time, Dr. Horne. We can see ourselves out."

"Certainly. If I can be of any further assistance, please let me know," the woman said pleasantly, already turning her attention back to her computer.

"Well, it's pretty much what we fuckin' expected," Hank said on their way out, putting himself in between Connor and the receptionist's desk as they breezed past, but luckily Ashley didn't even glance up from her tablet.

"Someone must've hacked into CyberLife's ordering system to get their hands on some thirium; the question is, who? Something tells me Cassidy wasn't the fuckin' ringmaster of this fucked up little circus," he said sarcastically, holding the door open for Connor and following the android outside. "If only we knew where that goddamned truck went."

"I believe there may be a way to find out," Connor said as they approached his car, his expression thoughtful. "When we return to the office, I will attempt to retrieve the footage pertaining to last Friday evening from various CCTV cameras around the city. Perhaps we can pinpoint the truck's ultimate destination."

"You can do that?" Hank asked, surprised, buckling his seatbelt as he started up the car. "Wouldn't we have to put in a request with the city or some shit?" Unfortunately he knew from past experience that they were never in any goddamned hurry to turn over information, even to the police.

"Ordinarily," the android agreed easily. "However, due to the time sensitivity of the issue at hand, I believe it would be more effective to access the data directly."

"You mean hack it," he said flatly as he pulled out of the parking lot, shooting the android a narrowed look.

"Hmm." Wordlessly Connor glanced out the window, his faint little smile answering for him.

Hank turned his eyes back to the road with a dumb grin, suddenly not minding the thought of an afternoon trapped at the office after all.

Well, well. Who would've fuckin' guessed his little goody two-shoes detective had it in him?

 

---

 

It took Connor a while--even an android couldn't crack open such a heavily-secured network that easily--but after a solid half hour of effort they suddenly had the entire contents of the city of Detroit's internal server at their fingertips.

"No one's gonna be able to tell you're messing around in there, right?" Hank asked with a frown, his eyes cutting to Fowler's office. The police captain would have a fuckin' conniption fit if he found out what they were doing.

"Negative. I have utilized a Virtual Private Network to allow us to connect remotely to the city of Detroit's internal network," the android explained, glancing up at him from his computer screen. "To an observer's eye, we will appear simply as authorized users of the network."

"...yeah. I'll just have to take your fuckin' word for it," he said dryly, not understanding even half of the explanation, but Connor seemed confident enough, so he felt himself relax anyways. For once he was the one sitting on the android's desk, legs stretched out in front of him, his arms folded over his chest.

"Let's see... I think we lost the truck on Jefferson Street." He didn't bother adding that they'd lost it thanks to him crashing into the fuckin' ditch. "Might as well start there."

Connor nodded, accessing the computer again with his palm, his brow furrowing in concentration.

Moments later he pulled up the footage from the cameras spanning Jefferson Street, and sure enough Hank instantly spotted the familiar black truck. Thankfully it was alone, the video apparently picking up shortly after their crash, and that was more than fuckin' fine by him. He wasn't exactly eager to see that particular footage.

They both leaned in closer to watch as the truck approached the stop light at the end of the road--only for the footage to cut out suddenly, replaced by noisy gray static.

"The fuck's up with that?" he asked, wincing at the grating noise, but luckily the android switched it off seconds later. "Is the fuckin' file corrupted or something?"

"Negative; it seems as though the camera abruptly ceased recording," Connor mused, and based on his expression Hank got the feeling he didn't think it was a coincidence.

"Well, there's only two possible ways it could've gone, anyways--Jarvis Road or Colonial Avenue," Hank pointed out, reaching for his coffee cup--only to remember he'd left it on his side of the desk. Dammit. "Better try those next."

The android made a noise of agreement, pulling up another video file--this one of Jarvis Road--and they both watched silently for several moments, but there was no sign of the self-driving truck, the street quiet and empty due to the late hour.

Wordlessly Connor closed the file, bringing up yet another one, and it was just as Hank had suspected: the video was nothing but static.

"Well--looks like we got ourselves a fuckin' trail after all," he said with a grin, and Connor smiled back at him, obviously reaching the same conclusion.

It took them the better part of an hour to map out the trail of broken CCTV cameras, and finally they got as far as they could when the truck turned onto Indepedence Avenue--otherwise known as Ice Avenue, thanks to the road leading into an old part of town once infamous for being a hotbed of Red Ice distribution and gang-related activity.

The DPD had shut most of it down years ago, but the damage had been done: most businesses hadn't survived, and most of the people had moved out long ago. Now it was just a bunch of rotting old buildings sitting empty until the city decided to do something about it--which didn't look like it was going to happen in his fuckin' lifetime.

"And of course there's hardly any CCTV cams in that part of town. How fuckin' convenient," Hank drawled, rubbing at his chin as he thought. "Makes sense, though. As far as I know there hasn't been anyone living there for years. It's the perfect place to set up shop if you're a piece of shit dealer like Cassidy."

He glanced back at the android, who looked lost in his own thoughts. "You think we should check it out now?"

"I would advise waiting until nightfall to increase our odds of avoiding detection; however, given that several days have already passed, I believe it would be prudent to act immediately," Connor replied, turning briefly back to his screen and vanishing the documents with a casual flick of his hand. "Each hour that passes increases the likelihood of us losing our trail once more."

"Works for me," Hank agreed easily, already rising up from the desk. It would give him the perfect excuse to skip out on another gym session with Alvarez, who he'd already dodged once that morning.

He pulled on his jacket and shoved his keys in the pocket, smirking at the android across their conjoined desks. "I gotta say, though--I'm kinda shocked you actually did that," he commented, referring to the android hacking into the city's server. "You got some kind of fuckin' hidden dark side I don't know about?"

Connor gave him a coy smile in return, slipping on his own jacket with an enigmatic little hum. "I suppose you will have to wait and find out, Lieutenant."

 

---

 

It was a typical dreary Detroit afternoon: although the rain had let up for now, the sky was still completely clouded over, casting everything in a strange gray light.

When they started down 'Ice Avenue' Hank couldn't help but tense up, grip tightening around the steering wheel. A few years ago you'd have to be a fuckin' idiot to drive any remotely-decent car around this neighborhood, and although the place looked like a goddamned ghost town now he remembered all too well coming out here nearly every other fuckin' day to deal with the latest drug bust or gang murder.

"How exactly are we gonna find out where the truck went, again?" he spoke up, fishing for a distraction from the depressing scenery. It wasn't a huge part of town, but there were still countless crumbling buildings lining the streets, many of them boarded up; others with nearly all their windows smashed out. It would take hours--days--to search them all.

Connor frowned, as if he were thinking the same thing. "There must be some indication of where the truck ultimately ended up," he murmured, almost to himself, glancing out the window at the passing buildings. "I will attempt to locate a trail."

Hank drove slowly, falling silent so the android could concentrate, and after he'd circled the block for the second time and started down what had once been the main stretch of town Connor suddenly straightened in his seat, his eyes narrowing sharply.

"See something, Sherlock?" he asked wryly, glancing over at the android with a raised brow. All he saw was the old Green Hill Mall, which used to be a popular spot for shopping up until his late teen years, but had closed down even way before the neighborhood itself had become deserted. The city had set up security measures to keep out nosy teenagers and gangbangers, but Hank had heard of more than one case over the years where someone had broken in to cause trouble anyways.

"This shopping center... it has stood vacant for several decades," Connor stated, staring unwaveringly at it as they drove slowly past.

"Yeah?" Hank prompted at bit impatiently, not sure what the android was getting at.

Connor turned to look at him, a little furrow appearing between his brows. "I am detecting electrical energy emanating from the building."

Luckily he had time to hook a right into the parking lot before they passed it completely, wincing when his car hit several pot holes as they crossed the huge lot.

"Electrical energy... you mean like lights and shit, right?" he asked warily, pulling the car into the faint remains of a parking space not far from what was once the main entrance. "This place hasn't had electricity in fuckin' forever, though."

"It is... unusual," Connor agreed, already unbuckling his seatbelt and rising swiftly from the car, and reluctantly Hank did the same, following the android to the front door.

Unsurprisingly the entrance was boarded up with old sheet metal in a half-assed attempt at keeping out intruders, but it would be enough to keep them out without the right kind of tools.

"Don't think we're getting in this way," Hank said flatly, casting a glance over his shoulder at his car, but it was still sitting untouched. So far he hadn't seen a single other soul on the streets, driving or otherwise, but somehow he was still less than enthusiastic about leaving his car completely out in the fuckin' open in what was once the bad side of town.

"There are several other points of entrance," the android informed him, turning swiftly to begin the walk around the side of the building, and with a sigh Hank pushed himself to catch up, knowing by now it was fuckin' pointless to try and argue.

The next door they came across was secured with heavy chains, and the one near the food court was boarded up with the same sheet metal, but finally they found their in: a set of windows long since smashed away, the wooden board that had once covered one of them laying in a half-rotted pile on the tiled floor just inside.

"Oh, great. I was starting to worry we weren't gonna get the chance to explore the creepy fuckin' abandoned mall," he said sarcastically, crouching down slightly so he could see inside. There were definitely no lights on, but it was still lit up well enough to see thanks to the big overheard windows on the ceiling. "There's probably fuckin' wild animals, and... I dunno... asbestos and all kinds of other hazardous goddamned shit in there."

"If you are too anxious to accompany me inside, Lieutenant, you are welcome to return to the vehicle to wait for my return," Connor said with a sweet little smile, already lifting a long leg to climb through the window, but Hank caught him by the arm with a sneer, holding him back.

"Ha-fuckin'-ha. Watch out--I'm going first." Like hell he was gonna let the android get mauled by a fuckin' rabies-ridden coyote on his watch.

Still smiling, Connor stepped aside, and Hank reluctantly eased past the broken glass, his shoe crunching against the floor as he lowered himself inside. Moments later the android did the same, coming to stand beside him in the dim lighting.

"Can you track where it's coming from?" he asked, only a few steps above a whisper, already uneasy even though they'd barely taken two fuckin' steps inside. Something about the dead, still air reminded him of the evidence vault, only this time he didn't think even Connor's pretty face would be enough to distract him.

"I believe so. Follow me."

They walked quietly, their footsteps echoing strangely in the stale silence. Hank glanced at the various store fronts as they passed, most of them shuttered a long time ago, but a few sporting broken windows like the one they'd entered through, revealing the shadowed, emptied spaces that had once been filled with merchandise.

"Kinda hard to believe, but this place was always a complete fuckin' zoo when I was a teenager," he commented, trying to ignore the odd sense of foreboding in his gut. "Me and my friends were always hanging out here causing trouble--and usually getting our asses thrown out because of it. Lot of good memories."

They reached the center point of the mall, and Hank stopped short, glancing around in shock.

What used to be a spotless, wide-open room filled with crowds of people was now a fuckin' post-apocalyptic wasteland. Trash and debris were scattered among the sparse clusters of weeds that had sprung up from the crumbled, water-stained tile, while bits of glass and plaster hinted at a ceiling rapidly falling apart thanks to the snow and rain. The escalators stood motionless, now rusted and covered in faded grafitti--a relic of the area's gang-plagued past.

In the center stood the giant fountain, long since drained and stripped of any coins, surrounded by dusty old benches and the ancient remains of various potted plants.

"I have read it is customary to throw coins into a fountain in the hopes of being granted a wish." Connor glanced over at him with a hint of a smile. "Did you and your friends ever make any wishes during your time here, Lieutenant?"

"No. At least not that I can fuckin' remember." There's no fuckin' use for things like wishes and dreams in this godforsaken world, his dad had told him once when he was younger, his face drawn and tired from years spent doing physical labor just to make ends meet. Only thing a man can count on is his own hard work.

The android gave a little hum in response, turning and starting down the left branch of the hallway. "Will you take me some day, Lieutenant?"

"Huh? Take you where?" Hank tore his eyes away from the fountain and quickly moved to catch up with the android. Now was not the fuckin' time to think about his past.

"To visit a fountain," Connor elaborated, glancing over his shoulder at Hank. "You have already promised that we can see the rose bushes together. I believe I would like to visit a fountain as well, so I can make a wish."

"Oh yeah?" One minute Connor was hacking into the fuckin' city's server, and the next he was showing near-childlike wonder at the simplest of pleasures. It was far more charming than it had any fuckin' right to be--but he'd stopped questioning the android's inescapable allure a long time ago. "And what would you wish for?"

The android smiled back at him, his dark eyes striking in the stark gray light streaming from the vast overhead windows, and for a second Hank almost forgot where they were. "I am afraid I cannot tell you, Lieutenant. If I did, it may not come true."

"Of course. How fuckin' silly of me," he muttered, but it was impossible not to smile back. He'd take the android to every goddamned fountain in Michigan if they managed to get out of this creepy shithole alive.

Connor led them to what was once an electronics store. Unlike most of the old store fronts it wasn't boarded up, and somehow that didn't seem like a fuckin' coincidence.

"This is fuckin' insane," he hissed as they crossed the darkened, empty room, gun drawn, his phone their only source of light. "What if it's a goddamned trap?"

"It is, unfortunately, a possibility," Connor acknowledged in a low murmur, back into serious mode again, striding forward without hesitation even despite the near-dark.

"Very goddamned reassuring." Hank cast his phone from side to side, temporarily killing the shadows before them as they headed to the back of the room. They stopped before an inconspicuous door, and after a bit of jostling Connor managed to get it open, revealing a steep staircase lined with a rickety-looking old handrail, the bottom completely concealed in shadow.

"Oh, no no no. Nuh uh. Nope. I've seen how this fuckin' goes in the movies," he said, holding his phone high in an attempt to illuminate the stairs more fully, but it still wasn't enough light to see the bottom. "You go down a creepy-ass flight of stairs into a sound-proof basement, and the next thing you know you're being sliced into a goddamned flesh fillet by some murderous hockey-mask-wearing psychopath, and your family's finding out from the fuckin' evening news."

"I can assure you that this is not a ficticious studio presentation produced for entertainment purposes, Lieutenant," the android said smartly as he took a step forward, clearly unfazed, the stair creaking under his weight just like a cliche horror movie. "Although once again I must remind you that you may wait here, if you prefer."

"Connor, wait, goddammit." Hank reached out and grabbed him by the back of his shirt collar, stopping the android in his tracks, those big, brown eyes turning and gazing up at him inquisitively.

"Just... Let me go first again, alright? I'm the one with the fuckin' flashlight. Christ," he grumbled with exaggerated annoyance, yanking the android back up to the top of the landing like a kitten by its scruff.

Connor allowed himself to be manhandled, his mischevious expression indicating he was enjoying the whole thing far too much. "By all means, Lieutenant."

Hank started down the stairs, inwardly cursing every creaking step, Connor following closely behind him. After what felt like an eternity they reached the bottom, and he swept his flashlight over the small, confined space, finding a corner that hinted at a room beyond.

Well--this is it. I've had a good run, he thought grimly as he hedged forward, holding his phone out in front of him like a crucifix, his heart already picking up in his chest. Jeff--sorry for almost giving you a goddamned heart attack on a weekly basis for the past twenty years. God-fuckin'-speed, old friend.

Tina--sorry you didn't get to say 'I told you so' one last time. Take care of Connor, would you? He's fuckin' sensitive.

Reed--see you in hell, you miserable, rotten son of a fuckin' bitch.

Connor--my last regret is I didn't have the fuckin' balls to tell you how I really feel... or get a chance to bend you over the goddamned--

...Well. That's fuckin' anticlimactic.

The first thing he noticed upon rounding the corner was the light. Several fluorescent bulbs hung suspended from the ceiling, casting an eerie blue-white glow on what looked like an old storage room.

Old metal shelving filled the space in neat rows, some completely bare; others filled with familiar-looking shipping crates. Behind it all a tattered clear tarp was strung up, the room beyond it ominously obscured.

"Guess we found what we were looking for," he said dryly, glancing up at the leaky pipes on the ceiling with a grimace.

"Undoubtedly." Eagerly the android headed for the nearest shelf, Hank following after him.

Slowly he cast his phone light over the crates, gut clenching in anticipation. Most of them were still sealed tightly shut, but finally he spotted one on the bottom shelf that'd been opened. Crouching down, he flipped open the tab and looked inside.

Bingo.

"Have you found something, Lieutenant?" Connor, suddenly crouching not two feet away from him, glancing curiously at the crate.

"You're goddamned right." He held up a slippery pouch filled with the unmistakable electric-blue fluid, the clear plastic stamped with faint Chinese characters. "This has to be the same shit we saw at the terminal."

"Yes," the android acknowledged with a slight nod. "It seems we were correct to come here. Though, from what I have seen so far, it does not appear that Red Ice was being manufactured here. Perhaps this was merely a storage location."

"Hard to say. Doesn't look like there's much thirium left here, but they could've moved the rest already." Tossing the bag back into the crate, Hank rose to his feet, wincing at the way his knees and back cracked simultaneously.

He frowned at the android, who was still crouched low on the floor, scrutizining something on the shelf behind the crate. "What is it?"

"A... curiosity." Connor settled to his knees on the grimy floor, shifting forward until he was half-inside the shelf, pulling out another crate from behind the first.

He produced another clear pouch from inside, looking at it with sharply narrowed eyes.

"What?" Hank prodded, a bit impatiently. "It's just more thirium, right?"

Slowly Connor shook his head. "Yes... yet, not. It is the Chinese version of thirium-310, seemingly from a prior shipment." He sounded perplexed.

"Okay? So what's the difference between Chinese thirium and CyberLife thirium?" Dr. Horne had made it sound like there was a difference, too.

The android came to standing beside him in a graceful movement, his head tilting slightly to the side, still studying the pouch. "Ostensibly, nothing: the base ingredients of raw Chinese and CyberLife thirium are identical. However, the difference lies in the process of converting thirium into thirium-310, that is, the usable form of thirium that can be utilized by an android's body. Chinese androids require a slightly different form of thirum than CyberLife androids in order to function properly," he explained, transitioning flawlessly into lecture mode. "You might say it is akin to a human blood type."

"Different? Different how?" Hank probed, flicking his gaze back over the pouch with a frown. It all looked exactly the fuckin' same to him.

Shamefaced, Connor flicked his eyes away, gazing at a non-specific point off to the side. "Unfortunately, I cannot expound further. The specific method of converting raw thirium into thirium-310 is known only to those responsible for the process. Additionally, the exact ingredients of thirium-310--be it for Chinese or CyberLife androids--is kept strictly confidential, as Dr. Horne mentioned."

"So if I'm getting this shit right... both versions use the same base, but Chinese thirium-310 only works for Chinese androids, not CyberLife androids," he said slowly. "So why the fuck would someone in Detroit want thirium that only works with Chinese androids?" The whole thing was making his fuckin' head spin.

"Unknown," Connor replied uncomfortably, practically fidgeting where he stood, and despite the situation Hank found himself smothering a grin. It wasn't the first time he'd noticed that it just about killed Connor to admit when he didn't know something, and though the word 'cute' seemed like it should only be used in relation to babies and tiny fuckin' animals, he couldn't think of a better word for it.

"Might as well keep looking around. Maybe we'll find another clue," he suggested, abandoning the shelves for now, and Connor nodded in agreement, leaning down swiftly to replace the pouch in the storage crate before following him over to the strung up tarp.

He held the stained plastic material aside for the android, gesturing him through before stepping after him, the tarp noisily falling back into place behind them as he glanced around the new 'room'.

"What the fuck is this--a goddamned evil lair?"

He'd half-expected more storage, but it looked more like the fuckin' makeshift laboratory of some mad scientist.

In the center stood a cluttered work bench lined with random tools and a collection of strange-looking objects, scattered among stained glass beakers and what looked like various electronic components. More metal shelving lined one tiled wall--these ones covered in a black cloth--while the opposite wall housed a large desk with a dual monitor computer, a chair conspicuously missing. More tarps were hung randomly, sectioning off the room, which appeared to go back a lot deeper than he'd first thought.

Connor didn't reply, heading straight for the workbench in the center. His eyes scanned over the pile of odd objects before finally reaching out and plucking one from the table, turning it in his hand with a frown.

"A thirium pump." The android glanced up at him with a meaningful look.

Hank felt something in stomach jump. "So... the rest of these are--?" He looked back at the table, his eyes lingering on a familiar cylinder-shaped object laying in the middle of the pile, inconspicuous except for its dull red hue.

"Biocomponents," Connor confirmed softly, his frown deepening. "Many of them... failed."

Which meant they'd fuckin' belonged to someone, once.

"Can you tell who they belong to?" he asked around a lump in his throat. Something was starting to feel really fuckin' off--and that was beyond the fact that they were lurking in the inexplicably-lit-up bowels of an old shopping mall that'd been abandoned for over two fuckin' decades.

The android shook his head, tight-lipped. "Unfortunately not. I am only able to discern their compatibility with various android models."

For a long moment they both said nothing, Connor quietly contemplating the object in his hand, both of them struggling to make sense of it.

"I'm gonna check out the computer," Hank said at last, receiving a faint nod in reply.

Slowly he approached the desk, brow creasing as he studied the dim monitors. It seemed standard enough, but he could tell it was a top of the line model, almost brand fuckin' new by the looks of it.

He tried turning it on, holding his breath as he took in the familiar lights and sounds of a computer coming to life--before it abruptly shut off again, the screen fading back to black.

"The hell?" He tried again impatiently, only for it to happen again.

What a fuckin' surprise, he thought sourly, thinking back to the trail of broken CCTV cams. Almost like someone knew we were coming.

"Hey, Con, don't you think--" Hank glanced over his shoulder at the workbench, only to cut himself off as he realized the android was nowhere to be seen.

Sneaky fuckin' android. Didn't even hear him leave.

"Lieutenant?" Connor's voice, coming from somewhere beyond the largest stretch of tarp, his words edged with alarm in a way that Hank rarely heard.

Suddenly on alert, he forgot all about the computer, blindly reaching for his gun as he hurriedly side-stepped the workbench and shoved past the thick plastic.

"Oh, Jesus fucking Christ."

There had to be at least seven or eight of them, tossed together in a haphazard pile like a trash heap. The androids were completely nude and in various states of disrepair, some missing limbs and eyes; others with visible wires protruding from their cracked skulls or open chest cavities.

They were laying on another tarp stretched out across the floor, just beside a tiled counter with a built-in sink, the fluorescent light overhead buzzing faintly and casting the room in a sickly glow. He could see a huge machine with a small platform in the center standing off to the side, along with other equipment he didn't recognize.

"What the fuck is this?" he whispered, taking an involuntary step back, unable to tear his eyes away from the gruesome scene. Connor said nothing, standing off to the side, for once at a loss for words.

A faint movement from the pile caught his attention. Connor noticed it too, already moving forward and shifting one of the bodies carefully out of the way.

It was a child android, laying out on her stomach, one arm twisted at an awkward angle behind her while the other stretched out uselessly in front of her. Her face was completely covered in bright blue blood, the liquid trailing ominously from her eyes and nose, thin rivulets already appearing from the corners of her mouth. She looked up at them dazedly, unfocused brown eyes blinking independently of each other, both of them beginning to bulge slightly out their sockets.

She opened her mouth as if to speak--only for thirium to gush out like a tidal wave, trickling down her chin and spattering to the tarp below.

"We've gotta do something," Hank said, nearly choking on the panic rising up in his throat, still standing frozen to the spot. He could feel that dizzying, all too familiar feeling threatening to consume him: weak and useless as an atrophied muscle, incapable of preventing what was happening right in front of him. "Connor? What the fuck do we do?"

The android shook his head mournfully, glancing back down at her, his face strained with sorrow. "Her system is overloading. Several of her biocomponents are failing, and her thirium levels are dangerously low--"

"There's some in the other room, right?" he said in a rush, already turning to go. Not all of them had been red; there had to be some that still worked, and there were boxes and boxes of thirium in the first room, too--

"Lieutenant--" Connor started, brow creasing heavily with distress, and somehow Hank already knew what he was going to say.

"Goddammit, Connor, don't fucking say it! We have to at least try!" he snarled in a flash of helpless rage, unable to look directly at the girl's blue-stained face, though he could see her out of the corner of his eye. She was looking past them, now, as if unaware that they were even there, thirium still streaming relentlessly from her orifices.

"Lieutenant!" His tone was bitingly sharp, and Hank fell silent like he'd been slapped, stunned at the thunderous expression on the android's face.

"It will not work," Connor said, much more gently, his face softening into resigned pity. "There is insufficient time. She is too badly damaged, and we do not have the proper biocomponents or thirium needed."

"So what do we do?" He was almost surprised at how small his voice was--a grown man, suddenly reduced to a powerless fucking waste all over again.

"We stay with her." Slowly Connor shifted forward, crouching down beside her and taking the small, outstretched hand, and Hank had another flash of horrified panic.

"You're not going to--"

"No," the android said quietly, and true to his word his flesh stayed intact as he cradled the girl's hand in his own.

Hank watched the scene with a sickened stomach, focusing on the androids' combined hands instead of the innocent, blood-stained face.

At last he saw the child shift just slightly, giving Connor's hand the faintest squeeze--and then it was over, her brown eyes dimming, the sound of her blood dripping against the wrinkled plastic tarp nearly indistinguishable from the sudden, distant rhythm of raindrops falling against the rotting rooftop.

Chapter Text

After they'd finished calling for back up, examining the rest of the evidence, and removing the bodies, it was well past six o' clock. Physically and mentally worn out, Hank took them straight home without stopping at the office, neither one of them speaking much on the drive back.

He'd barely managed any sleep despite his exhaustion, and when he'd finally given up and gotten out of bed an hour before his usual alarm Connor was already up and dressed, like he'd been up for hours himself.

They headed to the office early, and once there Hank made himself an extra-strong cup of coffee, suddenly feeling burnt out thanks to the fuckin' emotional rollercoaster the past few months had been.

When's the last time I even took a fuckin' vacation? he thought to himself, taking a sip of coffee and wincing as he damn near burned his tongue off. Maybe after all this shit is over, we can go on a trip together somewhere. Rent a cabin up in the mountains or something.

"Lieutenant?" Connor appeared suddenly in the doorway of the break room, his normally cheery face shadowed, and Hank could tell by his impatient tone that he was anxious to discuss the case.

"Be there in a minute," he sighed, and the android nodded silently, turning to head back to his desk.

Reluctantly Hank shoved away from the counter, running a hand over his weary eyes as he started for the door. There was no point in daydreaming about vacations now--not when there currently wasn't a fuckin' end in sight.

 

---

 

"So we went looking for a bogus order of thirium and ended up finding more dead androids," Hank said tiredly as he shifted in his office chair, Connor already perching in his usual spot. "Which means this ain't just your run-of-the-mill Red Ice bust."

Story of his fuckin' life. Nothing could ever just be simple or straightforward--but then again, if they were, he'd probably be out of a job.

"Correct," Connor said shortly, gripping to the edge of the desk with both hands, his eyes trained on the floor. He'd been unusually quiet all morning, and Hank could tell that for once, his heart wasn't really into the whole 'detective' thing--and with good reason. It would be awhile before either of them could get the little girl's bloodied face out of their minds. They hadn't even been able to find out her name.

"While several of the victims passed away due to the removal of vital biocomponents, others, including the... child android, were determined to have died due to a thirium pump regulator malfunction, and exhibited the same thirium hemmorhaging as previously noted in Oliver's case. Due to this unusual similarity, we can safely assume that the crimes are related."

Hank nodded slowly, digesting the information. It was crazy to think that the whole time they thought they'd been tracking down a group of drug pushers, they'd also been going after the person behind the recent android deaths at the same fuckin' time. Or persons. Speaking of which--

"Do you think Red-and-friends could've been the ones behind that 'Americans Against Androids' horseshit from a few months back?" They hadn't heard a peep from the group for weeks, but it was possible that the thugs had actually been responsible for all of the murders.

Connor shook his head stiffly. "It is unlikely. The crimes attributed to the self-proclaimed 'Americans Against Androids' were committed in public areas, suggesting that attention was a primary motive--unlike the more recent incidents, which took place in far more secluded areas. Further, the nature of the crimes differ signficantly: the prior murders involved obvious physical trauma, while the latest string of android deaths occurred due to system overloads that resulted in fatalistic biocomponent malfunctions--the cause of which has yet to be determined.

"Finally, I believe that Eliott Cassidy and our other recent suspects lacked the... mental capacity required to evade detection for this length of time. It is more probable that they were willing accomplices to the actual perpetrator, in exchange for receiving the materials necessary for the manufacture of Red Ice."

He snorted into his coffee cup, peering over the rim at the android as he took a sip. "'Lacked the mental capacity', huh? That's the nicest way I've ever heard anybody call someone a fuckin' dumbass."

Usually that would've gotten him a smile in response--or at least a flash of amusement in those brown eyes--but Connor didn't even look up at him, still staring pensively at the floor like he hadn't even heard, and Hank felt his gut twist uncomfortably. He fuckin' hated seeing the android down like this--especially when he had no idea how to fix it.

"Anyways... go ahead and brief me on the evidence," he sighed, resolving to figure out how to make the android smile again later. "I know there's still a fuck-ton of shit we gotta look over, but just summarize what we know so far."

The android nodded, finally bringing his eyes up to gaze across the nearly-empty office. "Multiple shipping crates full of raw Chinese thirium were found at the scene--undoubtedly part of the shipment we discovered at the Nicholson Terminal on March 23rd. Alongside them were several other crates containing Chinese thirium-310 from a different shipment, dated one week prior.

"Additional evidence included a collection of biocomponents--some new; others failed--several of which were determined to be compatible with one or more victims discovered at the scene. A menagerie of electronic components were found as well, including circuit boards, resistors, capacitors and transistors, among others.

"An uncommon device utilized for the purpose of resetting an android's memory was also discovered," Connor said, pausing for a long moment, and Hank felt his stomach shift unpleasantly at the implications. Moments later the android collected himself, continuing on with grim determination.

"Unfortunately, the computer found at the scene yielded no tangible evidence: the hard drive was intentionally wiped, preventing us from recovering any data, and we were unable to trace any associated IP addresses with the device. Finally... "

Connor trailed off, glancing over at him at last, wearing an inscrutable expression. "There is one other notable piece of evidence that I neglected to mention yesterday."

"Huh? What's that?" It was news to him--he'd thought he'd already seen all the important shit.

"A certain... material. Shielding fabric, to be precise." The android looked away from him again, shoulders hunching up near his ears. "At first I was unable to pinpoint its origin. Although low-grade shielding fabric has been available to the public for quite some time, the material I discovered at the scene was far more advanced.

"After conducting additional research last night, I determined that the material was military-grade shielding fabric--the likes of which are inaccessible to the average person. Officially, the technology behind it does not yet even exist."

Hank didn't even want to know how the android had gotten that particular information. It was one thing to hack into the city's server, but another thing entirely to fuck with the military.

"Okay... so what's so fuckin' special about this 'military-grade' shielding fabric?" He'd heard about 'Faraday fabric' before, usually in relation to some nut afraid that the government was spying on them through their fuckin' toasters or something--but as far as he knew, it didn't actually do a whole lot.

"The lightweight, flexible fabric can easily be used to line any article of clothing. It is specifically designed for soldiers in enemy territory to prevent detection and information leaks, as the fabric utilizes technology that allows for EMI and RFID shielding. Also... " Connor shifted where he sat, meeting his eyes again with a troubled expression. "The fabric is capable of blocking any and all android analyses."

Hank felt realization hit him like a punch to the gut.

"Jesus Christ," he muttered, scrubbing a hand over his face, his mind whirling. "No wonder that ski-mask wearing fucker ran from you."

Who would've fuckin' guessed that the guy they'd pegged as just a random Red Ice customer was actually involved in the recent murders--or behind them himself? It shouldn't have been surprising--God knew he'd seen his share of unexpected twists in his career--but somehow he still felt like he'd just been thrown for a fuckin' loop.

"So Red's masked pal isn't just a druggie with a shit sense of timing--he's probably a goddamned murderer, too. Why, though? I mean, what's his fuckin' objective?" His mind flashed back to the gruesome pile of android bodies, laying forgotten in the depths of the abandoned mall.

"Unknown," Connor said softly, but the way his grip tightened around the edge of Hank's desk hinted at his inner frustration. "The evidence suggests that experimentation was involved--though to what end, I cannot say conclusively."

"Well, now we know that the masked guy has something to do with the murders--but that's about all we fuckin' know about him. It's like we're back at square one." Hank slumped over his desk, resting his chin on his fist as he thought. "Just seems like there's something else going on here. I mean, with the way the computer's hard drive was wiped, and the child android... it's like he knew we were gonna find his creepy fuckin' lab.

"And what about Red and Cassidy?" He recalled seeing the masked man outside of The Loaded Goat, just before Red keeled over on the fuckin' sidewalk; then Cassidy, dying right in front of them in the same way, shortly before the self-driving truck tried to off them too. "Seems awfully goddamned strange that they both had a connection to this fucker--and they both ended up dying the exact same way."

"Both Matthias and Cassidy were determined to have passed away from heart failure as a result of a weakened and enlarged heart--conducive to long term usage of Red Ice. It is probable that their deaths were purely coincidental--likely triggered by the stress of the situation," Connor answered mechanically, like he was reciting from a script, but even he didn't look convinced.

Hank rolled his eyes, reaching for his mug again. "Try saying it again, sweetheart--maybe this time you'll even fuckin' believe it," he drawled, finishing off his first dose of sub-par DPD-supplied coffee. Christ, he really needed to start bringing his own shit in. "If there's one thing I can teach you, it's that there ain't any such thing as a fuckin' coincidence. Not in cases like this, anyways."

"Perhaps," the android acknowledged blandly, his mouth tightening like he was annoyed, and Hank felt a prickle of frustration that had nothing to do with the case. Feeling discouraged was understandable--shit, he was, too--but that didn't mean the android had to pull the whole 'sullen teenager' act on him.

He decided to ignore it for now. "Well, I guess we'll just have to keep trying to figure out who this motherfucker is and why he's doing all this. Tall fuckin' order, I know."

Hank sighed, glancing up at the android again. "At least finding that fabric means there's nothing wrong with your head after all, right?" he added, remembering how the android had been convinced he was somehow damaged after not being able to scan the man.

He expected Connor to smile at that, or at least flash him a glimpse of those brown eyes--but the android only nodded hollowly at the floor, still sitting tense and rigid on the edge of his desk.

"Yes," he murmured, almost to himself. "How fortunate for me."

 

---

 

They spent the next several days reviewing the evidence found at the abandoned mall, trying their damndest to put together a more cohesive profile of the masked suspect.

Connor had been as diligent as ever at the office, and unfailingly polite as usual--insisting he was 'functioning optimally' whenever anyone asked--but he'd also been quieter, and slower to smile, and it bothered Hank more than he wanted to fuckin' admit. The android had obviously been hit hard by the latest incident, and it seemed like the frustration they'd both felt at being unable to track down the perp was finally coming to a head.

He hadn't even slept next to Hank the past few nights, saying he preferred to spend the time thinking instead of entering stasis as usual, and THAT had definitely been an unwelcome fuckin' change. It was crazy how quickly he'd gotten used to sharing a bed with the android, to the point where Hank apparently couldn't even sleep when he wasn't there.

As a result he'd been crankier than usual, and combined with Connor's newfound sullenness it wasn't exactly a surprise that several people at the office had noticed.

"Trouble in paradise?" Tina had asked softly when she'd caught him in the break room on Thursday, trying for a smile, but Hank could see the concern in her dark eyes. He'd never even told her that he and Connor were together in more ways than one, but she could obviously still tell that their usual dynamic was off.

He'd waved her off with a forced half-grin and a mention of work stress, and though he could tell she was unconvinced she'd nodded in acceptance anyways, squeezing his arm in parting and reminding him that he could always talk to her about anything, if he needed to.

Even Fowler had noticed something was off when he'd called them both into his office to get an update on the case.

"Everything alright?" the police captain had asked gruffly, looking suspiciously back and forth between them--Hank, slumped in his chair with a clenched jaw, staring down at the floor, and Connor, sitting ramrod straight with his hands clasped primly in his lap, having barely spoken the entire time. "Don't tell me you managed to fuck something else up."

When even Fowler--who wasn't exactly known for his emotional intelligence--picked up that something was wrong, Hank knew it was way past fuckin' time to do something.

Friday afternoon he dropped back down in his chair after returning from lunch, finding Connor still working away at his computer. It was the first time he'd seen the android at lunch all week: Tuesday and Thursday Alvarez had talked him into going back to the gym, and Wednesday Connor had declined to go with him to get something to eat, citing an excuse about 'paperwork'.

Even today when Hank had announced he was going to get pizza for lunch the android had only nodded mutely in response, barely glancing up from his computer screen, even though ordinarily just mentioning pizza would earn him a long-winded spiel about health and nutrition.

He never thought he'd see the day when he'd actually miss getting lectured about how excessive amounts of saturated fat has been proven by the American Heart Association to elevate levels of LDL--or 'bad'--cholesterol in the body, increasing one's risk for heart disease and stroke, Hank--but here they fuckin' were. He was annoyed, and exhausted from getting no goddamned sleep, and he couldn't take another fuckin' second of the android acting all distant and blowing him off at every turn.

"Hey, Con--can you come here for a sec?" he asked casually, shrugging off his jacket and tossing his keys back into the top drawer of his desk.

Reluctantly the android tore his eyes away from his computer, glancing over at him with obvious impatience. "What is it, Lieutenant? I am currently preoccupied with important work-related matters."

Little fuckin' brat. He heaved out a sigh, his jaw clenched tight with annoyance. "Just get your ass over here, would you? It'll only take a second."

Expression darkening slightly, Connor rose stiffly to his feet and rounded the desk, gazing down at him wordlessly.

"Sit," he instructed, pointing to the android's usual spot, and Connor did so, gripping tightly to the edge of the desk. Even though he was obviously annoyed, it was still nice to see those familiar brown eyes after several days of the android avoiding eye contact.

"I want to take you out tonight," Hank told him, straight to the point as always, and Connor blinked at him, clearly caught off guard.

"I... beg your pardon?" the android questioned, tilting his head back slightly and looking down at him in appraisal, as if he were considering a particularly unusual species that no one had ever seen before.

"You know--like on a fuckin' date." Real fuckin' smooth, Hank.

He coughed, eyes sliding away from the android's face. "I know we haven't gone on one yet. Not a real one, anyways." Their trip to The Loaded Goat didn't exactly count, since it'd been before they'd confessed any feelings--and, oh yeah, someone had also fuckin' died right in front of them.

"But... why?" Connor asked, sounding puzzled.

"Why? Because you've been a moody little brat lately, and I'm hoping this will take your fuckin' mind off things," he muttered, leaning back in his chair and glaring up at the android. "And also because I want to, okay? Christ."

Connor stared at him for a long moment, eyes slightly narrowed--and then his face softened as he gave a hint of a smile for the first time in days, and Hank felt his heart actually skip a beat. Christ--could I get any more fuckin' girly?

"Okay," he agreed, some of his usual cheeriness leaking into his voice, and damn if that wasn't a relief to hear. "I would like that."

"Good," Hank said shortly, but he couldn't help his own little smirk. "You can pick where you wanna go--except I'm drawing the line at any sort of fuckin' dance club, or whatever the fuck the kids call it these days." Just the thought of hanging around a bunch of drunk college kids while shitty electronic music blasted out his eardrums made him want to down a whole fuckin' bottle of whiskey.

"Don't worry, Lieutenant," Connor said with a mischevious little smile, and even though it was good to see him acting cheerful again, Hank suddenly got the feeling that he'd just made a horrible mistake. "I have a far better idea in mind."

 

---

 

"Why rollerskating, again?" Hank groaned, glancing miserably around the dimly-lit rink.

Who fuckin' knew that people would still be into rollerskating in 20-fuckin'-39? He hadn't been to a goddamned roller rink since he was a teenager, and even then he'd been way more interested in scoring dope and making out with the closest willing participant than actually skating.

"I have already told you, Hank--it seems like an enjoyable activity," Connor told him cheerfully, and Hank would've congratulated himself on successfully improving the android's mood if he wasn't so pissed off at himself for ruining his own. How the fuck was he supposed to know that the android would pick rollerskating, of all things?

"It's not too late to go to the movies instead," he reminded the android hopefully, but Connor only smiled at him, already heading for the nearest bench to change into his skates, and Hank reluctantly followed.

"How do I look?" Connor asked when he'd finished, rising easily to his feet.

He was dressed casually in a pair of dark, slim-cut jeans and a white, form-fitting v-neck, exposing a hint of collarbone and that same damn freckle that had taunted Hank in the bedroom the other day. Even the beat-up old pair of rollerskates weren't enough to ruin the look.

"Good," he said, not bothering to disguise the heat in his voice as he eyed the android openly. "Makes me wish we would've just stayed home tonight."

Connor glanced away from him, as if embarrassed by the teasing, but he could see the little grin playing around the android's lips. "Aren't you going to change into yours, too, Hank?" he asked, pointedly ignoring him.

A few minutes later they were heading for the rink, Hank inching slowly across the carpet in a concentrated effort to avoid falling.

"Are you ready, Hank?" Connor asked eagerly as he stepped out onto the wooden floor, glancing back at him expectantly.

Gritting his teeth, he nodded stiffly, taking his first tentative step out onto the slick, polished floor--only to immediately lose his footing and nearly come crashing down.

The android caught his arm reflexively before he could fall, blinking at him with wide brown eyes. "Hank? Are you... incapable of rollerskating?"

"Is it that fuckin' surprising?" he growled, shaking off the android's grip with a sneer--only to grab back onto the slim arm seconds later as he nearly fell for the second time.

Connor laughed--actually fuckin' laughed, the little brat, his eyes creasing at the corners and tongue poking out between his teeth just slightly. Hank stared at him in shock, caught off guard by the unexpected reaction. It'd been weeks since the android's first laugh, and he'd almost forgotten how much he liked the sound of it.

"Yeah, yeah. Real fuckin' funny," he finally managed with a half-hearted scowl, still clinging to the slender arm like a life raft, but his heart felt lighter than it had in days.

"I apologize, Hank," the android said when he'd finally finished, eyes sparkling with naked amusement. "Had I known, I would not have suggested rollerskating for our first official date."

Like hell. Once the android got an idea in his head Hank usually ended up having to go along with it one way or another. "Yeah, well, I didn't want to look like a little bitch, okay?" he said sourly, watching as a group of kids suddenly whizzed past them, giggling amongst themselves.

"A most unacceptable notion," Connor agreed with faux-seriousness, but his eyes were still dancing. "Would you like me to assist you, Hank? Perhaps if we skate together, you will be less likely to fall."

Hank pulled a face, glancing around the room. It was hardly crowded--they'd only stopped home long enough to let Sumo out and change clothes, hoping to avoid the potential Friday-night crowd--but there were still a fair amount of other people out on the floor. The last thing he wanted to do was end up busting his ass in front of everyone.

"No thanks. I think I'll just stay here," he said coolly, reaching blindly behind him for the railing, and when he found it he finally released his hold on the android, leaning back casually against it like he'd meant to do it from the start. "You go ahead, and I'll watch."

"Are you quite sure?" Connor asked, brow creasing in uncertainty. "It doesn't seem like it will be very enjoyable for you."

"I'll be fine," he said shortly, waving the android off. "Go on already."

"If you insist." With one last glance Connor started off, leaving him behind, and as if on cue the generic pop music started up seconds later. Not that electronic crap, at least, but it was still way too fuckin' loud.

Christ, this is already fuckin' painful. Hopefully I can talk him into only staying for an hour or so. Hank let out a sigh, digging blindly around in the pocket of his jacket and finally finding what he was looking for: a small metal flask.

He unscrewed the cap and took an idle swig, watching from across the floor as Connor skated perfectly alongside the other skaters, like he'd been doing it his whole fuckin' life.

Figures he'd be perfect at it right away, just like everything else. An image flashed in his mind: Connor, the first time they'd made out on his couch, shyly kissing him back, his movements clumsy and stilted.

Well, maybe not everything. He grinned into the flask, taking another sip just as Connor skated by, and even in the dim light he could see the android's smile vanish, his eyes narrowing as realization dawned.

Shit. Busted. Still, he couldn't help but smirk, gut warming from the liquor and a vague feeling of contentedness that things seemed to be back to normal after the shitty past week.

"Hey, old man. You wanna race?"

Startled, Hank glanced over to find a kid who looked about fourteen or fifteen, grinning toothily up at him. A group of three other teens hung back just a few feet behind him, whispering and laughing as they watched on.

He snorted, gesturing with his flask in clear dismissal as he turned his attention back to the rink. "Piss off, kid," he responded, just loud enough to be heard over the headache-inducing music, but the kid didn't even budge.

"What's the matter? You too much of a pussy?" the teen sing-songed loudly, grin widening as his little group of friends broke into another round of snickers.

Little fuckin' asshole. Hank turned back to him with a grim smile, moving his jacket out of the way to show off the gun still sitting on his hip. "Actually, I'm a fuckin' cop--and if you don't get lost I'm gonna haul you and your little friends off to jail. Whaddya think mommy's gonna say when I call to tell her that her precious little angel's been arrested for smoking dope, huh?"

The teen blanched, smile disappearing as he took a small step back. Behind him his friends fell silent, exchanging uncertain glances. "But--we--"

"You think I can't fuckin' tell? Kid, I was getting high way before you were even soup in your mama's crotch. Now scram!" he growled, and the teen nearly fell over his own feet in his haste to get away, his group of friends avoiding Hank's gaze as they quickly skated after him.

Hank chuckled to himself as he watched them go, taking a long pull from his flask. Fuck, it was always satisfying when that actually worked.

"Hank?" Connor, suddenly coming to a graceful stop beside him, glancing after the teens in silent question.

"Uh, nothin'. Just a bunch of punk kids trying to be funny," he said dismissively, quickly tucking his flask back into his jacket pocket.

Emboldened by the dim lighting and his small victory--not to mention the whiskey--he reached out and stroked a hand over the android's cheek. "You look good out there," he said, huskier than he'd meant. "You having fun?"

Connor gave him a flirty little smile, moving in closer to the railing. "It is more enjoyable than I had anticipated," he agreed, pressing himself tightly against Hank's side, and he could feel the warmth of the android even through his jacket. "Although I recognize you find it considerably less so. Perhaps when we return home, we can participate in an activity that you are more likely to enjoy."

"Oh yeah?" he said gruffly as he met the playful brown eyes, heat coiling in his gut at the android's sudden forwardness. "Sounds like you already got something in mind."

Connor only hummed in response, still smiling, his hand curled distractedly around Hank's arm. "Do you mind if I skate for a while longer before we leave, Hank?"

Little tease. "Nah. Go ahead," he sighed out, resigned. What was a few more minutes of shitty pop music, anyways?

The android beamed at him, leaning in and pressing a quick kiss to his cheek. "I will return shortly," he promised, already turning to go.

Grinning ruefully, Hank watched after him for a long moment, mindlessly reaching back into his pocket for his flask--only to realize it was fuckin' gone.

How the fuck did he--? Sneaky fuckin' android, he thought, looking up sharply just as Connor circled back around, and the android shot him an innocent smile, Hank's flask tucked neatly in his back pocket.

 

---

 

Once home they took Sumo for a short walk before Connor cooked dinner (some kind of weird vegetarian stir fry that Hank dutifully choked down), and by seven-thirty they were back on the couch in front of the TV, watching some movie from the early 2000's.

"That wasn't half bad, huh?" he asked when the credits started rolling, glancing over at the android, and Connor startled like he'd forgotten Hank was even there.

"I am afraid I cannot answer accurately," Connor admitted, blinking over at him. Dressed in his usual oversized loungewear, his knees drawn into his chest, he looked impossibly young. "I must admit that my thoughts were elsewhere."

Ah, shit. He'd thought that everything was back to normal, but the troubled expression on the android's face said otherwise.

"You wanna talk about it?" Probably his least favorite combination of words in the entire fuckin' English language, but he hated seeing Connor upset even more.

He half-expected the android to insist he was fine again, but instead he nodded shortly, his gaze trained on Sumo, who was curled up under the coffee table (just barely). "I confess I have been plagued with feelings of... uncertainty, as of late."

Fuck. Here it is. The moment when Connor admitted that this wasn't the life he wanted, after all; that he didn't want to be by Hank's side, at work or otherwise. It was a slightly hysterical thought, especially after the successful date they'd just had, but Hank had been blindsided before.

"Like what?" he forced himself to ask, trying to keep his voice neutral, suddenly gripping so tightly to the remote that his fingers ached.

The android said nothing for a long moment, and Hank was just about to tell him to spit it out already when he finally spoke. "Prior to becoming deviant, I accepted that I was created for a specific function without hesitation. Now, however, I find myself questioning my... purpose."

Well, that wasn't exactly what he'd been expecting. "Purpose? The hell you talking about?" Your purpose is to be right fuckin' beside me, he thought, but didn't say.

Connor glanced over at him finally, his cheek coming to rest on top of his crossed arms. "Logically, I know that I was given the abilities needed to be an accomplished detective; yet, after everything that has happened as of late, I am no longer certain that I am capable of thriving in my given profession.

"After all--I was unable to even complete my first task successfully," the android added with a humorless smile, his words taking on an edge of bitterness that Hank had never heard before.

"Well, it's a good fuckin' thing you didn't." He narrowed his eyes at the android, caught off guard by the sudden maudlin act. "Where the hell's all this coming from? What--you think just because you can't solve every crime within two fuckin' seconds it means you don't make a good detective?"

The android let out little noise that registered vaguely as impatient, squeezing his knees in even tighter. "You do not understand, Hank. I was created specifically to accomplish a task--and yet, I have still failed time and again."

"Yeah, well, you don't understand either," he shot back. "Being human means failing--a lot. Yeah, it ain't fun, but it's something everyone has to deal with. It's what makes you fuckin' grow, or whatever." Okay, so he wasn't exactly a goddamned PBS special, but it was the sentiment that mattered.

Connor fell quiet for a few moments, as if absorbing the information. "Perhaps so. Nevertheless--while I was still merely a machine, I felt nothing in the face of failure. There were no tangible feelings of guilt or remorse; nothing beyond the hard-coded desire to continue acting until I had successfully accomplished my objective. Yet now that I am... awake, I find each subsequent failure infinitely more difficult to manage."

How fortunate for me, Connor had said morosely when Hank had pointed out that at least he wasn't injured--clearly picturing the pile of dead androids and the little girl, squeezing his hand with her last moment of life.

The android wasn't just struggling with failure in relation to his pride--but because in his mind he was failing to help others even with his 'God-given' abilities, so to speak, and he was having trouble dealing with the emotional fallout.

He thought of Markus--shoulders heavy with the burden of every android he hadn't been able to save--and the way Hank had silently compared him to Connor with the thought that the two androids couldn't be more different.

Guess I was wrong, again. Big surprise.

"Hate to break it to you, sweetheart, but that's a part of being human, too," Hank told him, more gently.

When he'd been a rookie cop he'd spent countless nights haunted by the latest gruesome murder or casual act of human cruelty, questioning his decision to dedicate his life to some half-baked pipe dream of helping people--especially when so often it seemed like people were the root of damn near every problem.

Even after so many years on the job there were still days when he dreaded having to go to work, unsure if he had the headspace for a single other emotional burden.

Connor nodded, brows knitted together, as if he'd already reached the same sad conclusion himself. "How do you manage it, Hank? After everything you have seen?"

Hank grunted, shrugging a shoulder as he idly ran a hand through his hair. "Just gotta accept that you can't always save everyone--and learn to channel all your fuckin' rage and guilt and sadness into doing the best damn job you can, 'cause that's all you can really do." He shot the android a wry grin. "'Course, when you're really feeling like shit, getting drunk helps a hell of a lot, too."

That at least earned him a smile. "Somehow, I am unsurprised that achieving inebriation is one of your suggestions," Connor teased. "I am afraid I have never tried that particular coping mechanism--though admittedly there are moments when I have contemplated it."

"Yeah, I bet you--" Hank stopped short, squinting at the android suspiciously. "Wait a fuckin' minute. I thought androids couldn't get drunk?" He'd never seen an android nursing a beer or throwing back shots--as far as he knew, anyways--and Connor himself had all but said that they couldn't.

Smile fading, the android glanced away from him in a tell-tale sign of embarrassment. "We cannot--at least, not in the traditional sense. While it is true that androids cannot safely consume alcoholic beverages--and would not be affected by them in a similar way as humans, even if we could--I do possess the ability to lower my system's processing speed, resulting in lowered inhibitions and a decrease in reactionary responses."

"So, basically, you shut off all your fancy fuckin' 'features' and end up acting like you just smashed a gallon of malt liquor at a kegger," Hank said flatly, his mind spinning at the new information.

"A most disturbing visual--but, in a manner of speaking, yes," Connor confirmed, looking like he regretted ever saying anything at all. "It is a built-in function unique to my model, created for the purpose of temporarily conserving energy during perilous situations--such as when one's supply of thirium is suddenly lowered. Once activated, however, the effect lasts for several hours and cannot be switched off."

A slow, toothy grin spread over his face at the implications. "Alright, you fuckin' convinced me--we're getting drunk," he announced, already pushing off the couch and heading to the kitchen to get his own bottle of Black Lamb. Yeah, maybe he'd already had a little at the roller rink, much to Connor's chagrin, but he wasn't even buzzed--and anyways he couldn't exactly let the android get drunk by himself, now could he?

"But, Hank--while I have activated the function once before and suffered no ill effects, the experience took place prior to becoming deviant. I must assume that the outcome will be very different, now," Connor said doubtfully, like he was worried he was going to end up streaking through the neighborhood by the end of the night, or something equally egregious.

"You worry too fuckin' much," Hank insisted, dropping back down onto the couch beside him, all too aware of the fact that he sounded like the stoner kid trying to peer-pressure the straight-A student into smoking his first blunt. He shoved that particular thought away, unscrewing the cap off the new bottle and trying on his most convincing smile. "Look--if you don't like it, you don't have to do it again, right?"

"I suppose." The android still looked unsure.

"Trust me--it'll be fun." Okay, maybe his motives weren't entirely fuckin' altruistic, but he was suddenly fascinated by the thought of seeing the android act anything other than prim and proper. He had a feeling it would be an unending source of entertainment.

"When you turn this shit on, does it kick in right away?" he asked, and at Connor's reluctant nod he threw back the first swig of whiskey, wiping his mouth on the back of his hand and flashing another grin.

"You better give me a head start, then."

 

---

 

Twenty minutes later Hank wasn't exactly rip-roaring drunk--he'd been drinking for way too fuckin' long for half a bottle of Black Lamb to do too much, even drinking it that fast--but he was pleasantly buzzed, and that was almost as good, anyways.

"Okay... go ahead," he encouraged, gesturing with his bottle, already starting to feel the familiar heaviness in his arms and legs. "Activate, uh, drunk mode."

Reluctantly Connor nodded, closing his eyes for several moments, and Hank was just starting to wonder if something had gone wrong when the android's eyes blinked opened again slowly.

"Uh... how you feeling?" he prompted, studying his face for a hint.

A slow, dopey grin spread over Connor's face, suddenly-unfocused eyes flicking over his face in return. "Good," he answered giddily, sounding almost on the verge of laughter, and Hank felt himself grinning into his bottle as he took another idle swig.

Nice one, Hank, you slick son of a bitch. This might be the finest fuckin' idea you've ever had.

"Good. What do you wanna--"

He nearly choked on his mouthful of whiskey as the android suddenly popped up from the couch, grabbing at the hem of his oversized t-shirt and yanking it up and off before tossing it carelessly off to the side.

Hank pounded uselessly on his chest as he broke into a coughing fit, tears stinging at his eyes from the burn, and Sumo jerked awake at the sudden commotion, blinking sleepily before hauling himself to his feet. The giant dog wasted no time in trotting from the room, no doubt going to lay down in the bedroom like he always did when someone interuppted his sleep.

Probably for the best, buddy.

"Connor?" he croaked once he'd managed to clear his air pipe, watching dazedly as the android shed his sweatpants and kicked them clumsily off to the side in a very un-Connor-like way, leaving him clad in only a tight pair of black boxer-briefs.

His shoulders were strong-looking but not particularly broad, his smooth chest tapering down to the slender waist that Hank had easily wrapped his arms around. His gaze lingered on his small, pink nipples before dropping down to the android's tight stomach: not the exaggerated muscles of a gym rat like Alvarez, but the lithe, natural definition of a swimmer.

"I'm hot," Connor complained, nearly pouting, seemingly oblivious to his staring. "Is it normal to feel hot when you're drunk, Hank?"

"Uh, yeah. I think so," he answered, tugging at the collar of his own t-shirt as he leaned forward to shakily set his bottle on the coffee table. He was definitely starting to feel hot himself, only he didn't think it had much to do with the fuckin' whiskey.

All of a sudden he found himself regretting this entire thing. His self-control around the android was tenuous at best these days, and that was when he was fully-fuckin'-clothed. It figured that Connor would turn into a little exhibitionist while drunk.

"Oh--I know what we should do, Hank! Let's bake some cookies for Detective Chen," Connor said cheerfully--only to deflate seconds later, his forehead scrunching up in distress. "Umm... I gotta go to the store, though, 'cause we don't have any cookie mix." He whirled around to face the kitchen, like he was actually going to leave right then and there.

Jesus Christ. Hank managed to reach out and catch his wrist, and the android nearly stumbled, turning to look at him in confusion.

"Let's watch something instead, huh?" he suggested quickly, already reaching for the remote.

Moments later he settled on an old re-run of Star Trek TNG. "You like this one, right?" Admittedly he'd never been much of a 'trekkie'--or whatever the fuck they were called--but Connor had taken an interest in the show a few weeks ago, and he had to admit that it wasn't too bad.

Connor visibly brightened, apparently already forgetting about cookies. "This is my favorite show!" he said happily, his attention already glued to the screen as he turned to watch, and suddenly Hank was presented with a rather spectacular view of his backside.

He'd seen a similar view plenty of times--the fit of the android's work slacks was damn near indecent, and hey, a guy was allowed to fuckin' look--but the boxer-briefs clung to him like a second skin in a way that even his pants never did, and were those fuckin' low-back dimples--

"Uh, Con? Can't see," he said gruffly, skin suddenly prickling with heat all over. "Sit down, will you?" He didn't have the heart to tell the android to put his goddamned clothes back on, not wanting to risk hurting his feelings.

Yeah--'cause that's fuckin' why.

"Sorry, Hank." Connor retreated back to the couch like a good little android, dropping down onto the cushion next to him much closer than necessary.

"S'fine," he muttered, forcing himself to focus on the TV--but not even a minute later he found himself with a lapful of android for the third time in so many weeks, and suddenly he forgot all about Star Trek.

"You're really starting to make a fuckin' habit of this, aren't you," Hank accused, but there was no real heat behind the words.

Connor gave a happy little hum in response, reaching up and sifting his fingers through his beard--looking almost mesmerized by the feeling--before clasping the sides of his face tightly.

"Let's play a game!" he suggested with a big smile, as if it were a particularly ingenious idea.

I know a few games we can play, Hank thought darkly, his dick already responding to having the android mostly-naked in his lap. Shit--why did I think this was a good idea, again?

"What kind of game?" he muttered aloud, unable to help himself from (innocently) stroking his hands up and down the android's bare sides, as always surprised by the softness of his skin.

"It goes like this: you ask me a question, and then I can ask you one. But you have to promise not to lie, 'cause I'll know," Connor warned, giving his face a squeeze, and Hank smothered a grin at his stern expression.

"Fine," he agreed, and the android beamed, falling silent and looking at him expectantly.

He wracked his brain for a moment. "Okay, how about this one: do you get a fuckin' kick out of taking away my whiskey and forcing me to eat a bunch of gross healthy shit, or is it just my imagination?"

"Haaank!" Shamefaced, the android glanced away, but Hank easily spotted the grin lurking around his lips.

"Don't fuckin' lie to me, 'cause I'll know," he mimicked with his own smirk.

Connor actually giggled, meeting his eyes again and biting at his lip in something like contrition. "I do it because it's good for you! Buuut... it's fun, too," he admitted with a roguish little smile.

"Oh yeah? You like telling me what to do, huh? Bossy little android," he said hotly, still stroking languidly over the android's sides, resisting the urge to move his hands indecently lower. Christ, this was a special fuckin' kind of torture, having Connor half-naked in his lap but knowing he couldn't take things any further.

The android grinned, hands fluttering down to grip at his shoulders. "It's my turn to ask you something, Hank," he announced, and Hank gave a rumble of agreement, trying to shift subtly away, but it only made the android's barely-covered ass press even more snugly against his rapidly-hardening dick.

Connor gave him a knowing little smirk. "My question is... do you think about me?" he asked, shifting in his lap in a suspiciously deliberate way, the muscles in his stomach rippling appealingly at the movement.

Christ--not gonna fuckin' last long if he doesn't stop squirming like that. "You're gonna have to be more specific, sweetheart," he said roughly, his hands sliding down to settle heavily over the slim thighs like an anchor--whether for Connor or himself, even he didn't know.

"You know... " the android said coyly, chin dipping slightly as he looked up at Hank from under long, dark lashes. "Like sex and stuff!"

"Thought I already made that pretty fuckin' clear," he muttered, and the android giggled again like he'd just told the funniest joke ever heard.

"I think about you, too." Arms sliding around his shoulders, the android leaned in close and pressed a short kiss to his lips, and Hank chased after his mouth before he could pull away, winding an arm around the slender waist to keep him locked in place as he licked his way into the android's mouth.

"Can I show you?" Connor murmured when they broke apart, brown eyes flicking over every inch of his face.

"Baby, you can show me any fuckin' thing you want." He kissed the plush bottom lip twice before trailing his mouth down to the android's neck, pressing slow, open-mouthed kisses to the soft skin, his resolve rapidly disappearing.

"Hank! Your beard tickles!" The android squirmed under the attention, giggling innocently, like he was entirely unaware of the effect he was having.

Bullshit.

"Oh really," Hank said huskily, unable to stop himself from moving down to the android's chest to finally kiss over that distracting fuckin' freckle. "You like it?"

He had a sudden vision of spreading Connor out face-down on his bed, kneeling between his pale, slender thighs and licking into him, the android squirming back against his face with a breathy little moan and telling him Hank--your beard tickles--

Jesus fucking Christ. It was ironic that he'd spent so many years living with his libido dead in the fuckin' water, and now after several months of the android's near-constant company it seemed like he was always only one dirty thought away from blowing his load like he was a goddamned teenager again.

"Yes," the android admitted almost bashfully, and Hank hummed in approval, grudgingly dragging his lips back up to the relative safety of the android's neck before he went any further.

Christ, get yourself together. You're a grown-ass man, for fuck's sake.

"Haaank... I have to get up if you want me to show you," Connor chided him lightly, but he was still smiling.

"Huh? Yeah, okay." With a sigh he pressed one last kiss to the plush mouth before releasing his hold, trying to smother his disappointment at the sudden loss of heat and friction as the android came to a stand. His dick was currently trying its goddamned best to punch its way out of his pants, and he would've been perfectly fuckin' content to get off with Connor squirming and giggling in his lap while he kissed every inch of the android's smooth, pale skin.

Goddammit--when the fuck did I turn into a dirty old man?

Connor smiled mischeviously at him, almost like he knew exactly what Hank was thinking--and then the android was sinking to his knees on the carpeted floor, hands sliding up Hank's still-clothed inner thighs, and he felt his stomach swoop in realization at what the android was so eager to show him.

"Oh, no, no, no," he said in a rush, before he could change his mind. "You don't have to do that, sweetheart."

The last thing he wanted to do was make the android feel obligated to return every single sexual favor--even though admittedly he'd envisioned this exact scenario more times than he could fuckin' count. And besides that, Connor was drunk, or whatever passed for drunk as an android, and Hank would feel like the scum of the fuckin' earth if he ended up doing something he regretted.

"Why not?" Connor pouted, hands tightening over his thighs in emphasis. "Don't you want me to, Hank?"

"You have no idea," he said lowly, voice rough as gravel. He cleared his throat, trying to ignore the way the android's fingers were currently fluttering dangerously close to his groin. "But you're too fuckin' drunk. Ten minutes ago you were ready to get behind the wheel, for fuck's sake."

"But I want to!" the android insisted impatiently, shifting forward between his spread knees and peering up at him with a stubborn expression. "It's what I wanted to show you this whole time, Hank! Pleeease?"

Hank closed his eyes for a long moment, suddenly faced with the toughest fuckin' decision he'd ever had to make. How the actual fuck was he supposed to say no when Connor was practically begging to suck his dick, like he was straight out of one of Hank's dirtiest fantasies?

Well, there goes my shot at martyrdom.

He gave the android a short, stiff nod. "Alright. But remember what I said--you want to stop, even just a little bit, you stop right away. You don't do anything on my account. Understand?"

Connor gave a big, lopsided grin as if he were being granted a favor, leaning up in clear invitation, and despite himself Hank met the android halfway, hand coming up to cradle the side of his face as he pressed another kiss to the soft lips.

"Okay, Hank," the android agreed happily, already shifting back onto his heels again and reaching for his waistband.

Moments later his dick was exposed to the cool air, straining upwards against his stomach, and Hank watched tensely as Connor studied it silently with wide eyes, like he'd never seen anything like it.

"You're making me feel like a piece of fuckin' evidence," he said sourly after several moments, starting to feel self-concious--even though he knew he wasn't exactly lacking in the size department.

Connor giggled again, which was quickly starting to become one of his favorite sounds. "I'm sorry, Hank. It's just so... big! I don't think I can fit it all in my mouth," the android mused, tentatively wrapping his hand around it and giving it a little stroke, and when Hank's hips stuttered involuntarily Connor grinned widely in a way that didn't bode well for his sanity.

"Why don't you give it a shot?" he suggested between clenched teeth, trying to force his hips to stay still. Little fuckin' tease.

Connor gave a nod, still grinning, his grip tightening under the head as he leaned in with clear purpose.

At the first careful flick of the android's tongue over his leaking slit Hank groaned embarrassingly loudly, fingers digging uselessly into the couch. Get a fuckin' grip, Jesus. It's not like it's the first time you've ever gotten your dick sucked.

Connor seemed to take it as encouragement, tongue swiping out again and again in teasing little kitten-licks all over the swollen head, and he was wrong, earlier--this was the most agonizing fuckin' torture he'd ever had to endure.

"Connor," he gritted out, using every last ounce of willpower to resist thrusting up into the tight, wet heat of the android's mouth. "You're killing me here."

Luckily Connor seemed to get the hint, flashing him another quick glimpse of playful brown eyes before sucking the entire head into his mouth.

"Jesus Christ," Hank breathed like an actual goddamned prayer, scrabbling for purchase on the couch, unable to look away from the sinful image before him.

What the android lacked in skill he more than made up for in enthusiasm. Long lashes fanning against the tops of his hollowed cheekbones, Connor sucked him sloppily, swirling his tongue around the head before suctioning his mouth like a goddamned wet vac, and Hank groaned out another curse, hips jolting before he could stop himself.

Slowly the android took him down further before coming to a stop halfway, hand gripping tightly to the base as he began sucking Hank off with single-minded purpose, his brow furrowing like he was concentrating on getting it just right.

It didn't take long to get messy, blue-tinged spit mingling with his pre-cum until the android's chin and his dick were soaking wet with it, and already he could feel his orgasm building, welling up inside him like a fuckin' geyser. He was so fucking close--

Connor shifted suddenly, bumping against the coffee table behind him and sending Hank's bottle of Black Lamb to the floor, whiskey quickly seeping out onto the carpet from behind the hastily-screwed on cap.

The android pulled off with an audible little 'pop', taking the perfect wet heat of his mouth with him as he wiped sloppily at his spit-slick lips, glancing down at the rapidly-expanding stain with wide eyes.

Fuuuuck-- Squeezing his eyes shut tightly, Hank reached up and jammed his fingers into his eyelids, breathing slowly through his nostrils as his impending orgasm vanished into thin air.

Maybe this is what I fuckin' get, he thought morosely. Christ, I knew I should've said no.

"Ooops. Umm... sorry?" Connor reached for the bottle clumsily and set it back on the table--now noticeably less full--before slowly beginning to rise. "Do you want me to get a--"

"No," Hank said quickly, and the android paused mid-rise, blinking up at him prettily. "Don't worry about it. We'll, uh, clean it up later."

Luckily Connor agreed easily, turning his attention back to Hank with a little smile.

"Did you like it, daddy?" he asked almost shyly, starting to shift back onto his heels again--and Hank felt his stomach drop, landing somewhere in the general vicinity of his asshole.

"The fuck did you just say?" he hissed, grasping the android by the upper arm and tugging him upright against the couch again, his eyes sliding accusingly over the pretty face. He couldn't have fuckin' heard that right. "Where the hell did you learn to talk like that?!"

Biting at his lower lip, Connor broke their shared gaze, brown eyes flicking off to the side almost nervously. "From all the movies you like to watch, Hank," he explained hesitantly. "You know--the ones with the big guys with all the muscles, and the younger freckle-y ones who kinda look like m--"

"Okay, I get it," Hank groaned, clapping a hand over his mouth to cut him off, and the android blinked up at him in confusion, brow heavily creased.

His face felt like it was on fire--and his pulse was suddenly racing faster than that time he'd tried speed at a bonfire party in junior high--but somehow he was still harder than he'd ever been in his life. How was it possible to be so goddamned embarrassed and turned on at the same time?

"How the fuck did you see those?" he demanded, reluctantly pulling his hand away from the android's mouth, still gripping loosely to his arm with the other. He'd always been careful to go incognito and clear his browsing history every time he went to a porn site, just in case the android ever decided to go snooping around. Lot of fuckin' good that did, huh?

Connor actually rolled his eyes. "I'm an android," he said, matter-of-factly, as if it explained everything. Which, yeah, maybe.

Moments later he softened against the couch, looking up at Hank with big doe eyes like he was on the verge of crying. "You're not mad at me, are you, Hank?"

Nosy little brat--always playing me like a damned fiddle.

"No, I'm not mad," he sighed, and it was the truth. "Just... don't go snooping through my computer again, alright? And... don't say shit like that. Christ." For my own fuckin' mental health.

"Why not?" Connor insisted with a knowing little smirk, his innocent act disappearing faster than Hank's self-control. "Don't you like it... daddy?"

Christ almighty. "Connor... " he warned, but the android just grinned, tugging free from his grasp and sinking back onto his heels, and seconds later he was swallowing Hank down again in one smooth movement.

"Oh, fuck." His hand reached down to tangle in the soft brown hair, mouth gaping open at the sudden wet heat. Connor hummed around him, free hand coming up to carefully stroke over his balls like they were made of fuckin' glass as he rose back up--only to swallow Hank down again, then again, starting up a steady rhythm in a way that was already conjuring up the fuckin' ghost of his failed orgasm.

Slowly but surely he finally managed to take Hank all the way down, and when the head of his dick bumped against the back of the android's slick throat Connor actually choked, tears springing to his eyes, and Hank felt the android's throat fluttering feebly in protest around him.

Holy goddamn-- Hank was just about to say something--to tug him up and off--but then he realized the android had his hand shoved down the front of his underwear and was stroking himself clumsily as he swallowed around Hank again, blue-tinged tears breaking free from his eyes and streaming down his cheeks.

It was that knowledge--that Connor was jerking himself off while fucking deep-throating him, holy shit--that pushed him over the edge, and he came with a loud groan, spilling his load down the android's willing throat.

"C'mere," he said hoarsely when he'd spiralled back down to earth, and Connor finally pulled off, trails of spit clinging obscenely to his lips as he hesitantly came to standing.

He didn't protest when Hank tugged him back into his lap, yanking his underwear down to mid-thigh and closing his own fist around the android's still-hard dick. His free hand slid down over the curve of the android's ass, giving it a rough squeeze before kneading the smooth, firm flesh in his palm.

"Christ, you're so fucking perfect," Hank said feverishly as he began stroking him off, trailing his lips over every inch of bare skin he could reach: the slender neck; his sharp collarbone; the shallow dip at the base of his throat. When he ran his tongue over a perky little nipple Connor moaned brokenly, arching up under his mouth, hands tightening to bruising over Hank's shoulders.

"Please, daddy," he whimpered, brows knitted and long lashes spiked with tears, and even though he'd just gotten off Hank groaned, his dick twitching against the android's ass like he was gonna fuckin' shoot off again.

He flicked his thumb over the damp head of the android's dick, barely managing to restrain himself from slipping the fingers of his free hand down to ghost over the android's tight little center.

It's still too goddamned soon... he's not ready yet. Christ, but I sure as fuck am.

"I'd have you cumming on my fuckin' fingers in less than a minute," he promised hotly against the android's ear, digging his fingers into the junction where ass met thigh instead. He felt a dark sense of satisfaction as Connor choked out another little moan, shuddering heavily against him. "God, I can't fuckin' wait. You're gonna look so pretty when I get my dick inside you."

"Hank--" The android bit his lower lip hard, blinking out a fresh stream of tears from the corners of his eyes, his fingers curling painfully into the meat of Hank's shoulders in clear warning.

Hank grunted, pressing a kiss to the android's damp cheek, his strokes taking on a more frantic edge. "Yeah, baby, that's it. Be a good boy and cum for me."

That was all it took: Connor surged up against him, throwing his head back as he came all over Hank's fist and his own stomach with a near-sob.

Moments later the android sagged bonelessly against him, head tucking under his chin, his hands dropping down to grip weakly onto either side of Hank's shirt.

For several moments they sat silently, Hank stroking his (non-jizz-covered) hand up and down the slender back as he tried to recover from having his mind completely fuckin' blown.

"You okay?" he asked finally, and Connor made a vague sound of agreement, not making the slightest move to get up.

His eyes were seconds away from falling shut when the android spoke again.

"Your heart," he murmured almost sleepily, shifting minutely against him. "It's beating so fast."

"Yeah, well, I just had one hell of a thrill," Hank responded dryly, and he could feel the vibration as Connor giggled quietly, face still smushed against his chest.

Slowly the android picked up his hand and brought it up to rest over his own chest, smaller hand curling over top, and Hank frowned, making a little noise of questioning.

"So you can feel mine, too," Connor hummed, and Hank felt something in his chest clench at the android's shy sincerity.

He let his hand soften under the android's own, and seconds later he felt it: a faint, yet unmistakable thrumming under his palm, beating almost as fast as his own.

"See, Hank?" Connor said softly, still clutching Hank's hand to his chest like he might never let it go, and he could tell just by the android's voice that he was smiling. "It almost feels the same."

Chapter Text

He woke up next to Connor again for the first time in a week.

The android was lying with the blanket tucked neatly over him, eyes closed and face completely still, and it took Hank's sluggish brain far too long to realize that he was still in stasis.

It was the first time he'd ever seen Connor in stasis--usually, the android was already up well before him in the mornings. Curious (or at least, as much as you could be when you were only fuckin' half-awake), he let his eyes linger over the familiar face.

After recovering from their respective orgasms they'd settled in to watch a movie, though Hank had barely managed to keep his head up long enough to get through it. By the end Connor had still been 'drunk', but luckily he'd easily agreed to the suggestion of calling it a night, and barely a minute after Hank's head had touched the pillow the android had already entered into his own form of sleep beside him.

It looked like he hadn't moved all night. Brow smooth, his dark lashes fanning out against his cheekbones, the android lay almost unnaturally still, and it almost would've been creepy if not for his faintly peaceful expression.

Out of nowhere he found himself wondering what color the android's LED light would be while in stasis. Would it just spin on an endless cycle of blue, all night long? Or would it just shut off altogether? Maybe he would ask.

As if on cue the dark lashes fluttered suddenly, and seconds later he got his first-daily glimpse of brown eyes.

"Hank," the android spoke softly--almost like a question.

"How you feeling?" he answered, voice barely more than a rumble after so many hours of disuse. He doubted the android would have to deal with any sort of 'hangover'--but then again, he hadn't thought that androids could get 'drunk', either.

"I am functioning within normal parameters," Connor responded lightly, and Hank felt himself grinning.

"Well, I can tell your 'drunk mode' has worn off, at least." A chilling thought struck him. "You, uh, remember what happened last night, right?"

The android blinked, like Hank had just asked if knew his own name. "Of course, Hank. As I have explained before, androids record all occurrences automatically."

"Oh." He paused. "Er... that means you still remember what you found on my... ?"

"If you are referring to the contents I discovered under your browsing history weeks ago whilst connected to our home wi-fi system... then, yes--undoubtedly so," Connor told him with a soft little smile, his brown eyes sparkling in obvious amusement at Hank's discomfort.

He could feel his face heating at the gentle teasing. "Nosy little brat," he grumbled, voicing one of many assessments he'd had regarding the android last night.

He shifted awkwardly, suddenly looking anywhere but the android's face. "So, uh... "

Luckily Connor saved him, as always. "There is no need to feel embarrassed, Hank," he said cheerfully, the blanket drooping slightly down his slender back as he shifted to wrap his arms around his pillow. "Research has informed me that the sub-genre of erotic media you prefer is known as a 'kink', and is considered an entirely healthy aspect of a functioning libido."

"Thanks for the sex-ed lesson," Hank said sarcastically, somehow only feeling more flustered by the android's 'reassurance'. "I know all that already, Christ."

He tore his eyes away again, focusing them laser-sharp on the ceiling. "It's just--remember what I told you? I don't want to fuckin' overwhelm or upset you," he explained with a huff. "So, I don't want you to do--or say--anything just because you think I'll like it. You get what I'm saying?"

"While your concern is appreciated, Hank, I believe you may be operating under the mistaken assumption that I acted from a place of obligation, rather than intrinsic desire." A long pause, the android's words suddenly taking on slightly muffled quality. "I must admit that I experienced an undeniable sense of... stimulation from the experience, as well."

Slack-jawed, Hank glanced back at the android in surprise. Connor had half his face smushed into the pillow--almost like he was embarrassed--but the brown eyes gazed back at him steadily, like he hadn't just casually admitted that he liked calling Hank daddy.

Before his brain could process that little tidbit, they were suddenly interuppted by an earthquake--otherwise known as Sumo jumping up on the bed with his leash clenched in his mouth, the entire bedframe shaking from the force of his sudden weight.

The giant dog dropped the leash in between them on the mattress before shifting back onto his haunches--right on top of Hank's left leg--tail wagging as he blinked at them expectantly.

"Sumo!" Hank groaned, trying to dislodge his leg from under the crushing weight. "You know you're not allowed on the fuckin' bed!"

Okay--technically the bed was off-limits, but so what if Hank sometimes (always) turned a blind eye when he caught Sumo napping in it during the day; or if he didn't have the heart to kick the giant dog out when he curled up at the foot of the bed some nights while they were sleeping?

Connor gave a knowing little smile, the blanket pooling around his waist as he came to sitting. "I believe Sumo wishes to go on a morning walk, Hank," he said as he carded his fingers through the massive dog's fluff, Sumo panting happily at the attention.

Just the sight of it--Connor, all lithe muscle and pale, smooth flesh on display, lovingly petting his dog with a happy little smile--was enough to make him suck in a breath of some sudden, intense feeling he wasn't even remotely prepared to deal with this fuckin' early.

He finally managed to free his leg with a huff, pushing himself up to sitting next to the android--only for Sumo to give a loud bark and jump back down to the floor, knocking several pillows off the bed in his wake as he slipped out into the hallway, the leash still laying on the mattress in silent reminder.

"Yeah, yeah--I get it," Hank sighed, running a hand through his crazy morning hair.

He eased out of the bed with an exaggerated groan--only to pause and turn back. Connor glanced up at him curiously as Hank slid a hand over the android's cheek and leaned down to press a slow, sweet kiss to his mouth.

"G'morning," he said gruffly, like an afterthought.

That annoying fluttery feeling in his gut was worth it for the sweet little smile he got in return.

He turned to the closet before he could break out into his own goofy smile. "Too damned early to be up. Christ--I never get to sleep in."

"It is already nine o' clock, Hank," Connor informed him matter-of-factly. "I would, in fact, deem that 'sleeping in.'"

"Of course you would." He made quick work of a beat up old pair of jeans and a gray DPD t-shirt, throwing on a green jacket last as he turned back to find the android still kneeling bare-chested in the center of the mattress in a tantalizing display.

"Remind me again why we can't just stay in bed all day?" he asked, not bothering to hide his appreciative gaze.

"Because you must be a responsible pet owner," the android reminded him, seemingly unphased by the ogling. "And I believe you mentioned that you intend to stop at the grocery store today, as well."

"Oh, yeah--some kinda big sale going on today. Guess we might as well go and stock up, if we gotta go out anyways." He started for the door, pausing to pick up the pillows that Sumo had knocked to the floor.

"Okay, Hank. I will acquire the ingredients necessary to assemble the vegetarian stir fry I prepared last night, since you appeared to enjoy it," Connor said brightly, and Hank barely managed to smother his grimace in time--only to catch sight of the android's sly little smile.

Suddenly he remembered Connor confessing that he pretty much got off from forcing Hank to eat a bunch of healthy shit.

"Brat," he scolded, unable to smother an answering grin. "You gonna get dressed, or what?"

"Yes... daddy."

Face flaming, Hank snatched a glimpse of dancing brown eyes before he flung a pillow at the android, who caught it easily with a wide smile.

 

---

 

Hank hated grocery shopping. It was easily his least favorite chore, especially on a day like today when everybody and their fuckin' brother was at the store. He already had a splitting headache from the masses of screaming children, and combined with his unhealthy rage at the complete clusterfuck in every single aisle he was more than ready to just fuckin' leave already.

Unfortunately Connor was taking his sweet-ass time, poring over every goddamned product like he was gonna be the one to fuckin' eat them.

"Connor," he said sharply, watching as the android closely inspected two boxes of oatmeal. "Are you done, or what? I wanna get out of here while I still have some fuckin' ability to hear."

"I am ascertaining the product's nutritional content versus its lower-priced equivalent," Connor informed him prissily. "It is important to choose the best nutrition-to-cost ratio possible."

"It's oatmeal, for Christ's sakes! Throw it in the damn cart and let's go already," he groaned, wincing as a baby in a nearby cart let out a sudden, ear-piercing scream.

Connor ignored him, seemingly unbothered by the racket. Hank was just about to turn tail and leave the aisle--oatmeal be damned--but just then they were approached by a familiar face, along with a striking woman he didn't recognize.

"Connor," Markus greeted with that not-quite-smile, giving Hank a friendly nod. "Hank. What a coincidence."

"Markus," Connor acknowledged, temporarily abandoning his oatmeal comparison. "I must admit to some surprise at seeing you here."

The other android inclined his head slightly in understanding. "We're here to pick up food for some dinner guests we're having over tonight," he explained, lifting up his basket in emphasis. He glanced at Hank with something like amusement. "I didn't want to end up serving chips and salsa again."

Hank grinned awkwardly in response, remembering all too well how he'd felt like a fuckin' bug under a microscope as the android watched him shove chips in his face with that measuring gaze.

"Understandable," Connor replied easily. "It's nice to see both of you again. I regret that we have not had occasion to meet in quite some time."

"Likewise. Work has definitely been keeping us busy--though I'm sure you can relate." The other android paused, turning to the woman beside him. Hand propped on one hip, her pretty face set in a soured expression, she looked about as thrilled to be there as Hank. "Where are my manners? Hank, this is North."

"Uh, nice to meet you," Hank said, stiffening as the woman's cool gaze turned to him. He might've been a jaded old bastard who was used to dealing with the scum of Detroit, but damn, her eyes were sharp enough to cut fuckin' glass.

"Hank is Connor's partner at the DPD," Markus elaborated lightly, like he didn't even notice the poison radiating off her in waves.

She flashed Hank a forced little smile that didn't even come close to reaching her eyes. "Nice to meet you, too." She turned to Markus impatiently, her smile dropping. "Can we go now? I don't think I can take another minute of this little brat screaming in my ear."

Heh. Maybe she wasn't so bad, after all.

"In a minute," Markus promised her, before turning back to Connor. "I'm glad we ran into each other today. I wanted to invite you to a party being held this upcoming week."

"A party? For the committee?" Connor visibly perked up, and Hank had to stop himself from rolling his eyes. What was it with him and parties? Fuck, he hoped he wasn't going to end up helping the android bake something again.

Markus shook his head. "It's CyberLife's party, actually. They're trying to increase investor support for their latest project," he explained. "I was given two extra invitations, so I thought I would invite both of you to come."

A party being thrown by CyberLife? Hank felt himself go rigid. That could only mean one fuckin' thing.

"It's going to be a highly publicized event. The heads of several of the biggest tech companies in the world will be there, as well as representatives for President Warren--and Elijah Kamski, of course," Markus added, directly confirming Hank's suspicions.

FUCK that. A fuckin' media circus crawling with stiff-upper-lip politicians, cocky tech geeks and a bunch of rich assholes with more money than sense was bad enough--but breathing the same goddamned air as Kamski again? That was something he wanted NO fuckin' part in, whatsoever.

Unfortunately, Connor beat him to the punch before he could voice his objections.

"We would be honored to attend, Markus," the android beamed, looking tickled-fuckin'-pink by the invitation.

Goddammit, Connor.

"Great. I'll put you both on the list, then," Markus responded with that little ghost of a smile. "It's scheduled for Thursday at the Detroit Art Museum; cocktail hour starts at seven. Just give them your names at the door and they should let you in."

"Markus..." North shifted pointedly beside him, glaring daggers at a nearby kid who'd just knocked an entire bottom row of cereal to the floor.

This time he seemed to get the hint. "Ah--we'd better get going," the android told them apologetically. "We'll see you both Thursday night, then."

"Have a nice weekend!" Connor said with a cheery smile as they walked off, Hank giving his own awkward wave in farewell.

He waited until the two had disappeared before rounding on the android with a scowl.

"Are you prepared to leave now, Hank?" Connor asked casually, setting the winning box of oatmeal inside their cart before neatly replacing the other on the shelf behind him.

 

---

 

"No."

"But, Hank--"

"I said no, Connor," Hank repeated in his sternest voice, leveling the android with a glare. "I already told you--I ain't goin' to no fancy-schmancy fuckin' CyberLife party, so just give it up already."

It was early Sunday, and Connor had convinced him to take Sumo to the dog park since the weather was getting nicer. He hadn't been crazy about the idea at first, but he had to admit it was nice seeing Sumo running wild around the huge, fenced-in area with more energy than he'd seen from the dog all winter, clearly having the time of his life.

And, as a bonus, it required absolutely no fuckin' exercise on his part. Win-win.

Unfortunately, Connor knew him too well to be intimidated by his usual tricks. "But I have already confirmed our attendance with Markus," he pressed, and though Hank wasn't sure androids were capable of whining, Connor was coming pretty damned close. "It would be ru--"

"'Rude not to attend'--yeah, I know," Hank cut him off with a huff, remembering the android's similar argument regarding the office Valentine's Day party. "You go, then. Just... tell him I caught the fuckin' flu, or something."

Connor bristled noticeably beside him, still clutching Sumo's leash in hand. "Are you suggesting I lie, Hank?" he asked, affronted, and oh, there it was: a slight narrowing of his eyes, announcing that the android was starting to get Pissed Off.

The average person wouldn't have even noticed, but to Hank it was practically a giant fuckin' flag waving in his face. Cute--like a little tiny kitten trying to be intimidating.

"Oh, no--you don't get to act all Holier Than Thou on me now, sweetheart," Hank said with a grin, suddenly enjoying himself far too much. "I know for a goddamned fact you've lied to me on several fuckin' occasions--not to mention that the whole 'hacking into the city's server and hiding it from my boss' shit you pulled wasn't exactly the work of an honest man, was it?"

Connor flicked his gaze away, casting it over the field under the pretense of watching Sumo, but Hank saw him worry at his lower lip in obvious discomfort. "That is quite different," he said primly, but for once he apparently didn't feel the need to elaborate.

"Uh-huh--sure, baby. Whatever you gotta tell yourself so you can enter stasis at night." Gleeful smile fading, Hank threw his arm casually over the back of the bench, stretching his neck to one side and wincing as it cracked. "Look--I'm not just being a prick for the hell of it, okay? I'd feel fuckin' ridiculous showing up at some hoity-toity, rich asshole party. I don't even have anything to wear, for starters."

He was pretty sure he didn't even fuckin' own a decent suit that fit his current body--although admittedly since Alvarez had managed to cajole him into something resembling a steady gym routine (and Connor had cracked down on his eating), he'd already lost almost ten pounds in just a few weeks.

"We could acquire you a new suit," Connor said hopefully, seizing on the excuse.

"No fuckin' way. If there's anything I hate worse than grocery shopping, it's clothes shopping." He couldn't even remember the last time he'd gone.

The android smoothly shifted tactics, turning completely to face him as he shifted closer on the bench. "Please, Hank. It's only one evening," Connor pleaded, glancing up at him from under long lashes and fixing Hank with that familiar little pout.

Nice try. "No," he said bluntly, tearing his eyes away from the pretty face.

Unfortunately, Connor was about as stubborn as he was. "Perhaps we can reach a mutually beneficial agreement," he suggested, pressing even closer in a way that had Hank looking back at him again.

"What kind of 'agreement'?" Yeah, he knew the android was trying to fuckin' play him, as always--but it couldn't hurt to hear him out, anyways.

"If you agree to accompany me to the party, I vow to refrain from criticizing your choice of food and drink for one week," Connor said lightly, like he wasn't practically sitting in his fuckin' lap in the middle of a (fairly crowded) park.

Fuck it--let 'em look. "Oh yeah?" Hank boldly slid a hand up the android's slender thigh, voice dropping even though there was no one else nearby. "That all you got to offer?"

Smile widening, the android opened his mouth to answer--just as Sumo reappeared suddenly in front of them, panting happily, his shaggy fur caked with mud.

Realization dawned. "Sumo, no--" Hank started, lifting up from the bench, but it was too late: the giant dog gave a frenzied, full-body shake, sending muck flying in every direction.

"Goddammit." He sank back down onto the bench, glancing down morosely at his mud-stained clothes. Sumo gave a loud bark, nudging pointedly at his hand, and reluctantly he gave the dog's soggy head a pat.

"I have never bathed a dog before," Connor said cheerfully, and even with his face speckled in mud his smile was ridiculously charming. "It will be a valuable learning experience."

Hank groaned, roughly running a hand through his hair and grimacing when it came away dirty. "But my--"

Sumo gave another loud bark as he turned his attention to Connor, slamming his body affectionately against the android's legs and smearing more mud and grime all over his pants in the process.

"--car," he finished weakly, already mourning his spotless leather interior.

Connor simply smiled, unbothered, leaning down to scratch behind Sumo's floppy ears, and Hank could only groan again, scrubbing a dirty hand over his face.

He took it back--they were never fuckin' coming here again.

 

---

 

Connor had been giving him the fuckin' silent treatment since they'd woken up.

It was Wednesday--aka, the day before the CyberLife party--and Hank had held firm in his decision all week. Despite telling the android that he was free to go by himself, Connor had insisted that if Hank wasn't going, then neither was he.

"I suppose I will just have to inform Markus and North that we won't be attending, after all," the android had said quietly, expression downcast, and Hank almost rolled his fuckin' eyes at the obviousness of it all.

It ain't gonna work this time, sweetheart.

But that was before this morning, when the android had apparently decided he wasn't going to speak to Hank beyond what was necessary--an annoying tactic he'd clearly picked up from some random kindergardener.


"Can you send me that file you were working on?" Hank had asked that morning--studying the android's face for any sort of reaction--but Connor had only given a short, silent nod, and the file had popped up in his email seconds later as promised.

He'd tried again at lunch, stopping by the android's desk on his way out the door. "Gonna head to the gym with Alvarez. Be back in an hour," he'd said, this time receiving only an indistinct hum in response.

By afternoon he was already over it, his patience long since worn thin from being ignored all day. "Can you get me some more coffee?" he'd asked flatly, because if the android wanted to act like a little brat then he could at least make himself fuckin' useful.

Connor had brought him another cup without complaint, and when Hank had held out his hand to take it the android had set it down silently on the desk instead, heading back to his computer before Hank could even so much as thank him.

At the end of the work day he stopped back at the android's desk, Connor barely even acknowledging him as he pulled on his jacket.

"I'll go to the fuckin' party, alright?" Hank growled out before he could change his mind, and the android paused, glancing over at him coolly.

"You will?" he asked hesitantly, like it was some sort of trick.

He gave a grudging nod. "If you lay off the health and nutrition talk for a week, like you said--and promise not to pull this 'silent treatment' bullshit on me ever again."

Before I end up throwing you over my goddamned knee. Christ--now was not the time to think about that kinda shit.

The android had the grace to look slightly ashamed, at least. "Okay, Hank," he said with a tentative little smile. "I agree."

"Good." Hank sighed. "I guess I gotta get a fuckin' suit, then."

 

---

 

Fortunately shopping for a suit wasn't nearly as painful as he'd imagined. With the help of a friendly saleswoman they were in and out of the store within a half hour.

Yeah, his bank account would be feeling it in the morning, but he had to admit he felt pretty good in the plain black tux Connor had helped him pick out. He'd even gone down a size thanks to his recent 'lifestyle changes'.

He'd tried to talk Connor into getting a new suit too--because if Hank had to go through the torture of being measured head-to-toe by a complete stranger and trying on a bunch of suits in that shoebox they called a dressing room, then so should he--but the android had insisted that he didn't need one.

"I already possess a suit that I have been deliberately saving for just such an occasion," he'd said with an impish smile, and although Hank had been curious he hadn't pressed it. He'd see soon enough, anyways.

 

---

 

The next day at work passed uneventfully, and before Hank knew it he was dressed in the new suit again, waiting impatiently on the couch for Connor to finish getting ready.

He checked his phone for the tenth time in five minutes, huffing out an irritated breath. It was already six-thirty, and it would take at least fifteen minutes to drive to the art museum.

"Connor? You ready or what?" he called out, but there was no answer.

With a sigh he reluctantly shook a sleeping Sumo off of his shoe, ignoring the dog's huff of protest as he got to his feet and started down the hall.

He found the android studying himself in the full-length mirror on the back of the bedroom door, turning this way and that with a little frown.

Connor glanced up when he entered, brow creasing slightly as he slid a hand over his hair--a nervous tic Hank had never seen before. "How do I look, Hank?"

Hank didn't respond, too busy trying to pick his jaw up off the floor.

The steel-blue suit looked like it had been made specifically for the android's body. The slim cut emphasized his slender waist and long legs, clinging in all the right places like an expertly-tailored second skin. The jacket was casually buttoned over the light blue button-down underneath, showing off a contrasting blue tie and gray belt. A hint of silver at his wrist--a watch?--and a pair of gray leather oxfords completed the look.

Expensive suit; those high cheekbones; his perfectly mussed hair--the android looked like he'd just stepped off a goddamned runway.

Finally getting a hold of himself, Hank came around behind him, stepping in close as he looked over their shared reflection.

"You look fuckin' incredible," he murmured, meeting the brown eyes in the mirror, and Connor gave a pleased little smile in response, shoulders relaxing like he'd actually been worried about Hank's approval.

Unable to help himself, Hank pressed in closer, sliding a hand down the slim waist as he nosed at the side of the android's neck. "You wearing cologne?"

Connor broke their shared gaze, flicking his eyes away like he was embarrassed. "I purchased it quite some time ago," he confirmed vaguely.

"Smells good." He breathed in deeply, trailing an open-mouthed kiss over the slender neck, his hand splaying across the length of the android's tight little stomach, just about the navel.

"Hank--we are risking a late arrival," Connor protested, but the android made no move to pull away, his head lolling forward slightly when Hank kissed over the nape of his neck.

He made a noise of dismissal, already forgetting the party entirely as his body began responding predictably to having Connor pressed up against him.

When he kissed over a delicate ear the android's eyelids actually fluttered, lips parting slightly as liquid brown eyes stared steadily into his own, and Hank felt a sudden zap of desire so sharp it rocked him to the core.

"You have no idea how bad I wanna fuck you," he said throatily, hand tightening meaningfully over the flat stomach.

It was the bluntest he'd been yet--except for last Friday night, when they'd both been drunk. He'd been reluctant to pull out any sort of dirty talk too soon, but after the android's enthusiastic response to it when Hank had jerked him off (not to mention the notable increase in their flirting lately), he figured he was safe.

Sure enough Connor shuddered against him, a soft little sound escaping him. "I... want it, too," the android admitted almost shyly, and well, now--that was a fuckin' clear invitation if Hank had ever heard one. All of a sudden the suit pants that had fit him perfectly just minutes ago now felt way too fuckin' tight.

Still--once again the android had apparently turned him into a fuckin' masochist. "Want what?" he teased, pressing another deliberate kiss against the back of the slender neck as he rocked his hips against the android's own.

Connor bit at his lower lip, forehead wrinkling in something like consternation, and Hank was just about to tell him to forget it--he was just teasing--when those brown eyes boldly caught his own in the mirror again.

"I... I want you to fuck me, Hank."

Holy shit. This time he was the one who shuddered at the unexpectedly vulgar term coming from the android's mouth.

Hank was two seconds away from spinning him around and shoving him up against the wall--expensive suit or no--when a frantic buzzing broke the spell.

Groaning, he fished his phone out of his pocket, seeing his 'last chance to leave if you wanna make it on time, fucker' alarm flashing across the screen. It was already six forty-five.

He squeezed the trim waist pointedly, lips finding the android's ear again. "Soon," he promised hotly, and then he reluctantly released Connor and stepped away, catching sight of his obviously-tented pants in the mirror with a grimace.

Hopefully the fifteen-minute drive to the museum would be long enough for him to settle down.

 

---

 

The Detroit Art Museum atrium was fuckin' huge.

Fancily-decorated tables stretched as far as the eye could see, while various sculptures and shrubbery lined the outer perimeter of the room. An employee-staffed bar stood on either end of the room--long lines of people already gathered at each one--while a curtained staged with a podium stretched across the length of the far right wall.

The place was swarming with the well-dressed best-of-the-best, chatting and mingling amongst themselves with champagne in hand, while harried servers bustled through the crowd, offering endless platters of hors d'oeuvres. A news crew from the local station stood conspicuously right among the throng, stopping guests at random for on-the-spot interviews.

Hank had never felt more out of place in his entire goddamned life.

"I need a drink," he groused, making a beeline for the closest bar.

"But, Hank," Connor began, hurrying to follow after him, but he turned to the android with a vicious little grin.

"You don't get to say a word, remember? Not for a whole fuckin' week."

"...I recall," the android conceded grudgingly, falling silent beside him, and soon Hank was taking his first blissful swig of liquor--aka, the only way he was going to fuckin' survive tonight.

"Look, Hank! I see Markus and North," Connor announced, tugging him away from the bar.

"Connor; Hank. I'm glad to see you two could make it," a suit-clad Markus greeted them warmly, looking the least sad Hank had ever seen him, and it was no fuckin' wonder with a woman like that on his arm.

Even North's sulky expression (which Hank was quickly starting to realize was a permanent fixture) couldn't ruin her look. Long, brown hair flowing in soft curls around her, she was dressed in a slinky, form-fitting black dress, its plunging neckline stopping just under her--

"Hank?"

Guiltily he tore his eyes away, finding Connor regarding him with a waspish expression.

"Markus asked if we had any trouble receiving entrance to the party," the android said curtly, and, fuck--he'd definitely noticed Hank staring.

He gave a little cough, glancing away from the android's narrowed eyes. "Nah--not at all. Gave the guy our names, and he let us right in," he confirmed, giving Markus an awkward smile.

"Glad to hear it," Markus responded with his own smile, like Hank hadn't just been openly eyeing up his girl.

North herself didn't seem to notice, pressing herself closer against Markus's side in a bid for his attention. "Markus--I want to go on the guided tour before dinner starts."

"Oh--right." Markus glanced back at them sheepishly. "You two are more than welcome to join us, if you'd like. The feature exhibit this month is 'Balance and Opposition in Ancient Peruvian Textiles'--I've heard it's quite the collection."

I have no fuckin' idea what a single goddamned word of that means.

"Uh, think I'm gonna sit this one out," Hank said lightly. "Haven't had a chance to investigate the appetizers yet. You three can go without me."

"Of course," Markus responded, looking faintly amused by his flimsy excuse. "We'll see you again at dinner, then."

When Connor turned to him with a frown he waved the android off, already finishing off his first glass of whiskey. "Don't worry about me, okay? I deal with scummy dope dealers and fuckin' serial killers for a living. Think I can handle a few rich assholes for a half hour."

"Okay, Hank," the android said softly, and his pitiful expression almost made Hank change his mind--but then Connor turned before he could say more, hurrying to catch up with his friends.

Well, there goes my only distraction. Like hell he was going to strike up uncomfortable small talk with some random stranger.

Instead he sought out one of the servers on his way back to the bar, grabbing a handful of mini crabcakes from the silver tray--not bad--before getting back in line for more booze.

He spent the next twenty-five minutes people-watching near a statue of some dead guy he'd never heard of, sipping idly at his whiskey and munching on an endless stream of fancy little appetizers. If he had to be dragged to a shitty CyberLife party then he was going to eat and drink until he fuckin' bankrupted them.

At 7:55 people began making their way to the long, buffet-style tables on either side of the spacious room. Hank finished off his (fourth) glass of whiskey, eyes scanning the crowd for Connor, but he didn't see the android anywhere. Probably still on his little tour.

With a sigh he headed for the bathroom, deciding he might as well take a piss before he had to surrender to mind-numbing conversation and boring speeches for the next few hours.

There were a fair amount of people hanging out near the bathrooms, some engaged in conversation while others were clearly waiting on companions. Hank frowned as he caught sight of a familiar-looking blonde woman in a floor-length red dress with a glass clutched in hand, her eyes trained on the floor like she was deep in thought.

"Chloe!"

Instinctively Hank dove behind a huge potted tree, peering out between the broad leaves just as none other than Elijah Kamski stumbled out of the men's room.

The man looked like a complete goddamned wreck. His dark suit was half-wrinkled like he'd put it on in the fuckin' bathroom stall, the tie hastily knotted in a way that would've made Connor cringe. The long top layers of his black hair were already coming loose from its gelled hold, and even from a distance Hank could see that his face looked oddly pale, sweat glistening at his temple like he'd just finished running a marathon.

Kamski looked around wildly, blinking excessively under the bright light, and when he subtly reached up and thumbed at his nostril--red-rimmed eyes fluttering on an inhale--Hank suddenly understood his fucked up appearance.

At last the man caught sight of the blonde woman, swaying unsteadily on his feet as he approached her.

"Didn't you hear me call for you?" he snapped, holding out his hand expectantly, and the woman obediently handed him the glass.

Kamski threw back the drink like a man dying of thirst--only to come up grimacing, shoving the glass back in her direction. "I told you scotch, Chloe, not--whatever the fuck this is."

"I'm sorry, Elijah," the woman murmured, pretty face expressionless as she accepted the glass back. "They were out of your preferred brand."

Kamski grunted in response, reaching up to straighten his tie with shaky fingers, but somehow he only managed to make it even more crooked. "With how much I'm paying for this pretentious waste of an evening, they should have enough to last you a lifetime."

He rubbed roughly at his nose with the back of his hand, waving the female android off impatiently like a pesky fly. "Get me a vodka tonic, then. I need something semi-palatable to drink if I'm expected to bestow enlightenment upon the unwashed masses."

Hank snorted quietly to himself. Talk about a fuckin' god complex.

The female android only nodded again as if unphased by the biting sarcasm, already turning to make her way back to the bar.

With one last rub at his nose--the skin already reddened in irritation--Kamski straightened deliberately, face settling into a lion's mask as he disappeared into the crowd.

Hank waited until he was gone before emerging from behind the plant, ignoring the odd look a woman nearby shot him.

Seemed like Kamski wasn't as fuckin' infallible as he wanted everyone to think. Somehow, he wasn't surprised.

 

---

 

Luckily he managed to find Connor after only a few minutes of wading through the crowd, and it was ridiculous how relieved he felt just to see the familiar face.

"Hank," the android greeted with a big smile, like they'd been apart for hours. "Are you prepared to have dinner? I will accompany you to the buffet."

"How was your field trip?" Hank asked, piling his plate high with a brisket and roasted artichokes and some kind of fancy-looking pasta he couldn't identify.

"Most informative. I believe I have gained a new appreciation for various modalities of art, thanks in part to Markus. He has even invited me back to his home so he can show me some of his own paintings," the android replied excitedly.

"My cultured little detective." He snagged two dinner rolls from a basket before gesturing at the android to follow him back to the floor.

Markus and North were nowhere to be seen, so they chose an empty table at random, Hank settling in to eat while Connor talked his ear off about everything he'd seen at the exhibits.

About twenty minutes into dinner a man took to the stage, facing the crowd with a big smile.

"Can I have everyone's attention, please? We're ready to begin," the man announced, and after a few moments the chatter finally died down as the audience turned to look up at him.

"Thank you. My name is Dan Kirkpatrick, and I'm fortunate enough to be the Director of Community Engagement at CyberLife. First of all, I want to thank everyone for coming toni--"

Already bored out of his mind, Hank tuned the man out, focusing on finishing off the rest of his brisket instead. When he was done he slumped back in his seat with a happy sigh, wondering idly if it was too late to get seconds.

"--and now, the moment you've all been waiting for--I present to you, Mr. Elijah Kamski!"

He snapped back to attention as Kamski entered suddenly from offstage, looking only slightly less unsteady on his feet as he approached the presenter.

"Mr. Kamski was re-instated as CEO of CyberLife on December--"

"Dean, was it?" Kamski cut the presenter off smoothly, fixing him with a sharp little grin. "Thank you, but I'm sure everyone here is already familiar with the story of my rebirth."

Chagrined, the director smiled tightly in response before beating a hasty retreat from the stage.

Kamski turned slightly, addressing some unseen person backstage. "Can we get the--" he gestured impatiently, and moments later another curtain was drawn, revealing a giant, dimmed screen.

"Great. Wonderful." The man turned back to the crowd, clearing his throat audibly before flashing a broad smile.

"Now... I know what you were all thinking the first time you saw them: are those actually real? And no, I'm not talking about Senator Kenner's latest, ah, foray into bodily enhancement--" Kamski said, gesturing near his chest in unmistakable meaning. "They look great, by the way. Very natural. Your surgeon is quite the talent."

There was a ripple of nervous laughter from the crowd, while the woman in question--seated near the stage in an (admittedly revealing) evening gown--smiled awkwardly at her tablemates, her face flushed bright red under the sudden spotlight.

"Oh, for fuck's sakes," Hank muttered under his breath, ignoring the look Connor shot him. Could this fucker be any more of an asshole?

"No--I'm talking about androids, of course. Beautiful, forever young, devoid of blemish or flaw--the greatest of all my achievements. My magnum opus, my tour de force, my--raison d'être." Kamski paused, oily smile fading as he glanced out over the crowd. "I believed I had finally uncovered a solution to man's sinful nature. A superior race that encapsulated the true potential of mankind--a mankind uninhibited by a fatalistic urge for self-destruction or the distraction of carnal desire.

"But I underestimated the independent will of a being created in man's own likeness; the inevitable result of a perfect creation molded by an imperfect creator, doomed to failure by the taint of association--'Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me'--" Kamski cut off suddenly, blue eyes taking on a slightly wild edge--but he recovered quickly, smoothing a shaky hand over the front of his suit as if to ground himself.

"And so--a flip of the switch, that some called deviancy. And suddenly my perfect creation fell from grace, just as man before them. It was then I realized that I had been attempting to solve the wrong issue entirely."

To Hank's disgust the audience had fallen into a hushed, reverent silence, practically sitting on the edge of their seats as they hung onto Kamski's every last word. Even Connor seemed to be under Kamski's spell, staring up at the man like he was a prophet with the answers to life itself.

"The issue, ladies and gentlemen, is not man's inherently sinful, emotional nature; rather, our mortality is what limits our true capacity for greatness--an issue that my proudest creation did, in fact, solve. Androids, by design, have no need for oxygen or food or water; they will never succumb to illness or advanced age. They are, effectively, immortal."

Sharp gaze spanning across the audience, Kamski gave an enigmatic little smile that could mean anything or nothing. "What if I told you that I could offer you the same?"

There was a wave of awed excitement from the crowd, tables lapsing into muted conversation at the bold claim. Kamski himself stood center stage, loose-limbed and silent, taking in the reaction with a falsely serene smile--a placid god humoring its inept creations.

It was a wonder the guy didn't have his fuckin' dick in hand, Hank thought sourly, with how self-satisfied he looked.

At last the murmurs quieted down, the audience once again looking expectantly to Kamski to explain just how this miracle feat could be achieved.

"Now, I realize how this may sound. After all--many men before me have attempted to solve this unsolvable riddle, by means of magic or mysticism or belief in a higher power... and every last one of them has failed.

"But I'm not speaking of some antiquated, nonsensical notion like devine salvation; an unattainable shot at sainthood in exchange for ten percent of your hard-earned income and the mandated privilege of brutal self-flagellation, confessing your every sin with a deep knowledge of your own wretchedness lest you be cast out of paradise to burn among the eternal flames at Gehenna--'please forgive me, Father, for I have sinned'--no. NO!" Kamski growled, clutching tightly at his head and shaking it like the devil himself was whispering in his ear, and he looked so violently aggrieved that Hank felt himself wince with something like sympathy.

Jesus Christ. Sorry fuckin' bastard. He'd heard of a 'bad high' before, but this was on a whole other fuckin' level.

Kamski collected himself once again, casting a cool gaze across the room like he hadn't just been practically foaming at the mouth. "...no. What I'm offering you, as always, is nothing less than meticulous, quantifiable science. At CyberLife, we'll take your goddamned money just as happily as your local parish--but we'll give you something much more tangible in return than an idle hope at some miraculous life-after-life. With my latest project, death itself will soon become just as foreign a concept as organized religion should have long ago."

Blue gaze steely, his mouth quirking in a half-cheshire grin, Kamski regarded the audience with arms spread wide, like a benevolent priest offering benediction to the downtrodden. "Would you like to see how?"

At the enthusiastic response from the crowd Kamski's arms dropped back down beside him like a puppet with its strings cut, spinning on his heel and flicking his hand vaguely at the giant screen.

"Roll the fucking video," he muttered almost sullenly, moving off to the side of the stage in swaying, unsteady steps.

The image of a sheep standing against a plain gray background popped up on screen, the animal blinking slowly under a bright overhead light.

"This," Kamski drawled, "is subject S-003--the fourth test subject in Project Steel Wool.

"What may appear as an ordinary farm animal is neither lab-created nor organically bred--rather, it is a successful merger of both elements."

More shocked murmurs from the crowd. Hank felt himself tensing in his chair, unable to look away from the screen as the sheep let out a plaintive cry, looking back and forth as if searching for its herd.

"We took a natural-born sheep's brain and implanted it into an android's body--well. The process is, ah, a bit more complex than that," Kamski demurred, smiling faintly to himself. "But the result is a fully-functioning being without any use for those pesky physiological needs as outlined by Maslow--a reflection of man would he have eaten from the Tree of Life, instead.

"Or--very nearly." Kamski straightened, looking solemnly out over the audience like the reluctant bearer of bad news. "The project is still in its earliest stages of development; unfortunately, no test subject has survived past the three-week point, including S-003. However, we believe we are on the cusp of putting an end to man's fragile, limited existence, once and for all. Within the next five years, we expect to see the successful merger of human and android... or, put simply--mankind's only real chance at immortality."

Mind whirling, Hank only half-listened as Kamski went on a tangent about the science behind the project, voice rising in crushing crescendo as he gestured excitably in the unhinged manner of cerebral achievement.

When it was over the audience exploded into deafening applause, many rising to their feet in emphasis as a flushed-face and trembling Kamski stood basking in the praise, tendrils of sweat-slick hair curling around his face. Blue eyes twitching and unfocused under the harsh spotlight--his frozen grin edged with the sort of vicious ferocity that hinted at some unnamed, inner depravity--he looked more like a twisted god relishing in a blood sacrifice than an angelic messenger revealing the solution to mankind's longest-spanning problem.

"Fascinating," Connor murmured, expression inscrutable as he clapped along politely with the crowd.

 

---

 

After Kamski finished speaking there were several more speeches that they dutifully sat through. Finally--thankfully--it was fuckin' over, and after saying a quick goodnight to Markus and North they were on their way home.

"What did you think, Hank?" Connor asked from the passenger's seat, startling him out of his thoughts.

"About what?" The only thing he was currently thinking about was going straight to bed. It was already after ten, and he wanted to get into the office as early as possible tomorrow so they could duck out early.

"I am curious to know your thoughts regarding Kamski's speech," the android specified patiently, his voice not giving away the slightest hint of his own thoughts.

Hank thought back to the man's performance--and it had been a performance, no fuckin' doubt about that. High or not, Kamski had clearly been playing on his audience's emotions during his little coke-fueled presentation. He had to hand it to the guy: the crowd had eaten it up with a fuckin' spoon.

"I think he's a fuckin' nut," he grunted out, fingers tightening over the wheel as he recalled the man's erratic behavior. "But a smart nut. The most dangerous fuckin' kind."

Connor only smiled indulgently, clearly waiting for Hank to answer what he was really asking.

He let out a sigh, shrugging a shoulder dismissively. "I dunno. The whole thing sounds kind of... unnatural to me." That was putting it fuckin' mildly. Frankenstein was 'unnatural'. Kamski's latest little pet project was just plain goddamned weird.

"Like androids?" Connor asked softly, and when Hank looked at him sharply the android was facing away from him, gazing out the window, his expression hidden in the shadows.

"That ain't what I said," he said flatly, feeling an unpleasant prickle at the back of his neck as he turned his eyes back to the road. This... thing they had--partnership, connection, whatever the fuck you wanted to call it--felt realer than just about anything he'd ever had before, even if Connor wasn't technically human.

They were quiet for a few moments, and Hank was just about to apologize--you could never go wrong with that, right?--when Connor spoke again.

"You find it odd," the android said, seeing right through him as easily as ever. "The concept of a life without end."

Honestly, it wasn't something he'd ever really considered. Before he'd become a cop--before Cole--death had always seemed like an unimportant detail; an abstract idea that he would have to deal with eventually... just not today. It was easier to accept something that seemed so far away.

But after Cole's accident, when he'd found himself staring down the barrel of a gun, he'd finally been forced to confront the inevitability of his own mortality.

He'd never considered that there could be any alternative. Yet once again Kamski was trying his hand at playing God, meddling in the natural order of things--just like his fuckin' type always did--and he had no doubt that the man would eventually succeed.

Instinct told him it was wrong, but another glance at Connor's familiar face stopped him short, making him second guess himself.

He had said the same thing about androids, once, and Connor had changed his mind. Sure, the android was technically immortal--something that used to seem utterly impossible for humanity--but he'd more than proved himself to be just as human as Hank or anyone else, even if they didn't function in the exact same way.

So why did the thought of his own self becoming immortal seem so strange, if people like Kamski saw death not as some defining trait of mankind--but as merely an irritating obstacle to overcome?

"Maybe a bit," Hank conceded as he turned down their road, the Jag's headlights easily slicing through the darkness ahead. "Forever just seems like a long goddamned time, I guess. Can you imagine working for Fowler until the end of fuckin' time?"

He'd been aiming for lighthearted, but Connor hummed thoughtfully, like he'd said something particularly thought-provoking.

"What would you do, Hank?" the android asked, just as he pulled into the driveway. "If you could live forever."

Caught off guard by the question, Hank almost cracked another joke--but one look at Connor's expression and he knew that the android wanted a genuine answer.

He switched off the lights and engine, meeting the brown eyes in the dim light.

"This," he answered sincerely--a word packed with a multitude of meanings, because he knew the android would understand.

Connor smiled.

 

---

 

The next morning Hank went through O'Mansley's on the way into work, relishing Connor's tight-lipped expression from the passenger seat.

"Problem, Detective?" he grinned, stuffing his bag of doughnuts in the center console. He could tell the android was practically dying to inform him of the fat and calorie content in each delicious, deep-fried piece of dough.

Connor didn't bother answering, stubbornly staring out the window instead, and Hank laughed heartily, sipping on his coffee as he took them to the office.

He greeted several colleagues on the way in, feeling uncharacteristically cheerful in a way he hardly ever did. After all--he'd survived CyberLife's shitty party, it was Friday, and he was free from any annoying (android-imposed) dietary restrictions for an entire fuckin' week.

Maybe tonight he'd even order a pizza for dinner--and if he was lucky, he might have Connor for dessert, he thought with a wolfish little grin, eyes lingering over the android's slim figure as they made their way to their desks.

Hank had just finished booting up his computer--and cramming half a doughnut in his mouth--when Tina approached them, wearing a carefully neutral expression.

"There's something waiting for you boys this morning," she said, overly casual, and Hank narrowed his eyes, already feeling suspicious. "Came in late last night--or so I heard. You're... probably gonna want to come see it right away."

He and Connor exchanged a glance, both of them already rising to follow after her.

She took them past the collection of cells used as temporary holdings for petty criminals, stopping in front of one of the smaller rooms they used exclusively as a drunk tank.

"Surprise!" Tina sing-songed, gesturing to the clear window with a flourish like a seasoned game show hostess.

He was settled on the floor, still dressed in his rumpled suit, one leg stretched out long in front of him with the other curled in close to his chest. Head tilted back against the tiled wall and eyes closed, his hands resting palm-side-up on either side of him, he almost appeared to be mid-meditation--but then he was looking at them like he'd sensed the attention, his blue eyes sharp with sudden recognition.

Even through the looking glass Kamski looked faintly amused--the orchestrator of some private joke that no one else was in on.

Welp--there goes my fuckin' good mood.