Chapter 1: Part One
// Saturday 12:03 PM //
“How are you, Gavin?”
Gavin sits stiffly, tucked into the corner of a brown couch. He feels the soft suede under his palms. Yellowish walls become yellower in the natural light let in from the windows. It should be comfortable, everything about this room is supposed to evoke comfort and safety. It’s supposed to urge words from his mouth without too much pulling. Purge the weeds of his mind, kill them gently.
But it just doesn’t.
“M’fine.” Gavin says looking into Lauren’s eyes for a moment before looking out the window behind her. Lauren’s office is on a high enough floor that street noise doesn’t seep through the walls. It’s another thing that’s supposed make this whole process easier. Just high enough off the ground so that he can see over the tops of a few trees that dot the otherwise urban setting.
So Fowler’s making him see a shrink. It’s an agreement they came to after Fowler almost lost his voice reading Gavin the riot act. Gavin will go to a therapist for a while and Fowler will consider not throwing his ass out onto the street to find a new job.
“Okay.” Lauren says and waits. She’s patient and calm and has way more endurance than Gavin originally thought. Lauren, sitting in her own blue armchair, tablet resting neatly on her lap, stares at Gavin without fear. “If you have anything to say in the next 50 minutes I’m all ears.”
Gavin shakes his head and crosses his arms, settling back into the couch. “I’m good.”
“Okay.” Lauren smiles softly and a small bit of anger boils in Gavin’s gut. He realizes, as he sulks on the couch, that she’s probably used to the silent treatment. She’s probably analyzing his posture, his facial expressions, the color shirt he’s wearing and making a note of it. Formulating the why and the how of him and his behavior. Posture equals insomnia, facial expression equals drinking problems, shirt color equals intimacy issues. Whatever. Not saying anything to a shrink is, unfairly, still saying something.
But his advantage, if you could call it that, is that he’s the biggest asshole in Detroit. Ask anyone at the DPD who the biggest loudmouth in the office is and they’d say Gavin in a heartbeat. But Gavin’s loudmouth tendencies are just symptoms of his bigger attitude problem. A switch that is easily flipped into quiet seething. Gavin turns up the volume on his phone as he plays Tetris, just to rub a little more ‘fuck you’ salt in that ‘I don’t need help’ wound.
Lauren doesn’t question it, doesn’t make a face, doesn’t do anything in particular except maybe make a note or two on her tablet. When the session ends Lauren walks Gavin out to the reception area. “Same time next week?” She confirms.
“Mhmm.” He nods as he exits the office with white knuckled fists.
// Saturday - 4:42 PM //
Therapy ate up most of his Saturday afternoon. That is if you factor in the hour and a half Gavin spent forcing himself out of the apartment and into the car before. And the three hours Gavin spent mugging a punching bag at the gym after. By the time he gets home he’s sweaty and tired and ready to order his favorite comfort food for delivery. Lasagna and garlic bread from the Italian place a few blocks away.
He walks into his apartment, drops his gym bag and heads straight for the shower. As he adjusts the heat his phone rings.
Incomming Call: FuckYou → Ignore
Gavin strips and steps into the shower, letting the warm water work at the tension in his back and neck. He bumps up the heat as his phone continues ringing, as if the scalding water could help him block out the noise. His skin is cherry pink by the time the ringing ends. Gavin stops the water and contemplates sitting in the shower for a while. Maybe sealing it up and never going to therapy again because honestly, what a fucking waste of time. Maybe never going to work again because he doubts Fowler will ever unchain him from desk work.
Steam floods the bathroom as he exits the shower. Gavin fluffs a towel through his hair and then wraps it around his waist. He grabs his phone.
3 Missed Calls
1 New Voicemail
Text from FuckYou: call me back, it’s important.
He deletes the voicemail without listening to it and the same for the text without really reading it. Whatever it was it couldn’t be that important. And if it was, Elijah knew where to find him.
Gavin, suddenly too exhausted to punch in his order for delivery, has cereal for dinner and zones out through his favorite playlist. After the third time of restarting the first song he gives up trying to really listen. At night he buries himself under a steady weight of sheets, comforters and blankets. It keeps him pinned down for now.
// Sunday - 10:02 AM //
Conversation dies a quick death as Gavin steps into the break room on Sunday. Not even the ghost of a whisper when he heads towards the coffee machine. Officers politely look at everything in the room except him. People used to put up with him. Hell, some people in this office even used to like him. But things change.
Gavin fills his mug and leaves. He ignores how conversation is resurrected when he’s halfway back to his desk.
The office is usually a little different on Sundays. They’re already a little understaffed thanks to the revolution taking away programmed street cops. On top of that people usually take Sundays off to spend time with family or go to church or whatever the fuck it is that people are supposed to do on Sundays. Gavin has always worked Sundays and he’s always kind of liked the quiet nature of it.
Anderson used to take Sundays off to drink himself further into his grave. Every glass is another foot under. Now Connor drags him into work, makes him play the part of the cop that was responsible for that big red ice bust. Urges him back towards supposed greatness. Whatever.
Gavin smacks his palm to the scanner on the the monitor, waking his terminal to life. He’s been relegated to the world of desk duties where a never ending supply of paperwork is ready for him to fill out and file. Maybe if he’s lucky he gets to make calls concerning a real case. After that he’s promptly sent back to his personal hell. Fowler doesn’t trust him to not be a complete fuck up and yet he can’t afford not to have Gavin. Being understaffed is what was helping him keep his job.
Two hours and an empty mug later, Gavin has done paperwork for cases that he wasn’t even on . This really was a punishment. Gavin gets up to stretch and too look at something other than a screen. His grey eye are tired of reading case numbers and evidence inventories.
“Reed!” Fowler’s booming voice catches Gavin off guard. Fowler’s in the doorway of his office, not even bothering invite Gavin in his office or meet him out in the bullpen. Asshole.
“What, I’m not allowed to stretch anymore?!” Gavin mouths off because he always mouths off. “Cuff me to the desk next time.”
Fowler grits out, “Multiple homicides at Grove Apartments. You’re meeting Anderson and Connor there. Drop the attitude or I drop you.”
Gavin stumbles backwards, clutching his desk. Only a second of excitement, freedom from desk duties for the first time in three weeks. An opportunity to do his job. And then a raging storm of red washes over him, “Anderson and Connor? Don’t you think three’s a crowd?”
“I don’t have time to debate this with you. You’re the only detective sitting around here doing nothing. Go now!” Fowler orders and retreats back to his office.
Hands shaking he grabs his gear. He exits the bullpen, ignoring the eyes on him that are waiting for him to explode. They want a show. They want Gavin the loud, the brash, the furious detective to storm up to Fowler and tell him exactly where he can shove his orders. He won’t do it though, not this time. He swallows it down, a bitter pill indeed. The taste of anger and hurt.
// Sunday - 2:12 PM //
“No fucking way,” Lt. Anderson bites out as soon as Gavin steps foot into the apartment. His voice is muted slightly by a medical mask. “This is our case, get the hell out.” As if to reinforce Anderson’s words a waft of dead body hits him and he backs up a few steps. Gavin brings the collar of his t-shirt up to cover his mouth and nose.
“Listen, Anderson, as much as I hate you and you’re plastic pet there,” Gavin gestures to Connor crouched on the floor, examining a body, “I have been ordered to work this case with you. Fucking deal with it.”
It’s a full house in the two room apartment. A forensics guy walks towards Gavin tepidly, holding a mask. Gavin rips it from his hands and affixes it while he does a head count. Anderson, Connor, two beat cops who first happened upon the scene, the guy from forensics and Gavin makes six. Gavin can only see one body in the living room. Anderson motions for Gavin to follow him into one of the bedrooms. Multiple homicides, Fowler had said. The spidery legs of a bad feeling creep up Gavin’s chest.
“It’s pretty ugly in there.” Is the only warning Anderson gives before he opens the door.
Gavin’s been working homicide for nearly six years now, he’s seen a lot of fucked up shit. He’s learned to keep his reactions, emotional and physical, on a tight leash when he’s at a crime scene. He’s an asshole but he’s a damn good detective, he doesn’t want anything, especially himself, getting in the way of a case.
“Holy shit.” Gavin’s voice is barely above a whisper. Bodies. Mangled, twisted, rotted, rusted. Some human, some android. Some both, fused together in a mess of wires and blood. Some just reduced down to parts. A leg, a tongue, a thirium pump, a liver. Another wave of smells hits Gavin, some are from organic decomposition. Others are sterile and smell of bleach. “Shit, shit, shit.”
Gavin steps into the room with careful, quiet feet. He doesn’t even know where to start looking. It’s all too much. Anderson walks away and returns to talking with the other officers. Gavin’s the only living thing in this nightmarish room. He ventures towards the bed turned operating station. He picks up a syringe.
“I have already-”
“Fuck!” Gavin jumps at the voice, dropping the syringe. He turns to see Connor in the doorway. Gavin stomps over, balls his fist in Connor’s shirt, “Don’t ever sneak up on me like that again, you fucking machine .”
Connor’s LED flashes from blue to yellow to blue. “My apologies, Detective. I didn’t know you were so sensitive .”
“You were better before you were a deviant .”
“Not better, simply obedient.” Connor says flatly. He wrenches Gavin’s fist out of his clothes and continues with his earlier statement. “I’ve already analyzed the evidence in here. Three humans. Tom Hayden, 31. Samantha Bauer, 27. Joan Piers, 16. They each have different times of death. Four Androids of varying models.”
Gavin turns away from Connor, turns away from the scene of torture and decay. He squeezes his eyes shut. Connor catches him up to speed as Gavin catches his breath, “No fingerprints have been found other than those of the human victims and that of the tennant’s, Dorean Fisher, 71. She lived with an android caretaker before the revolution and then alone. No next of kin.”
“Whereabouts of the caretaker?” Gavin asks, ready to open his eyes once more. He faces Connor again who has already fixed his rumpled shirt and tie.
“Unknown.” Connor says, looking around the room once more. “I’ve registered her serial number, model number and factory design. Sending out an APB.” His LED spins yellow until the action is complete.
Gavin examines a syringe and a bonesaw, some gauss soaked in blood. “Prints on any of this?”
Connor shakes his head, “No.”
Gavin sighs. “Course not, that’d make it too easy,” He exits the room with Connor closely behind him, “Alright dipshit, tell me what happened here.”
Dorean Fisher lay on the floor, against the wall of the living room. Gavin could see the bruised handprints on her neck. “Dorean Fisher died approximately ten days ago due to strangulation. There were no signs of breaking and entering, so Fisher must have let the attacker in.”
“Or the attacker had a key.” Gavin adds, taking in the entryway. Pristine, no signs of a break in just like Connor had said.
“Possibly. According to the treads in the carpet she was dragged over there after her death.”
The two beat cops leave and Anderson emerges from the kitchen, having just finished collecting their reports. The forensics expert continues taking photos of the crime scene and collecting evidence despite the fact that Connor is a walking crime lab. Gavin squeezes his gloved fist. Connor could replace everyone in this room and the two cops exiting the building. A human police force grows more obsolete with every advancement Connor makes.
Gavin refuses to imagine what would have happened if Cyberlife went through with their plans to mass produce Connors for every department, every station. The police, the FBI, the CIA. Or if the revolution had gotten violent, if the Cyberlife warehouses and experimental tech had gotten into the revenge hungry hands of androids. Streets filled with Connors, a militant android police state.
“Those officers arrived a little over an hour ago due to a 911 call from a cell phone. A recording of the call is being sent to Connor as we speak. The number is being tracked down but my gut says it’s a burner.” Anderson says.
Gavin does a once over of the living room, his eyes flicker down the hallway for a moment. Two bedroom apartment for one old lady with no family? Gavin walks down and enters the other room.
“We believe this was a guest room,” Connor says, “No DNA from the victims has been found, aside from Mrs.Fisher’s.”
Gavin looks at the room. A single bed, a nightstand with a lamp, a bookshelf. Simple decorations but nothing overly personal. A thin layer of dust had just began settling over the otherwise tidy space. Gavin peaks out the window. “You fucking morons, this was the Android’s room.”
“Perhaps, but Androids do not require sleep-” The rest of Connor’s explanation is interrupted by Gavin throwing open the window.
Out on the fire escape is an overlapping mess of RA9RA9RA9RA9 . “Over here, asshole.”
Connor steps beside Gavin to look at the symbol. “Fuck.”
“Yup.” Gavin, for once, agreed with Connor.
// Sunday - 2:03 AM //
Gavin scrubs his body raw in the shower that night, unable to get the feeling of filth off his skin. He bites the inside of his cheek as he lathers more soap. Who knew it only took three weeks of staring at case files and pulling up records to make him weak again, the way he was when he had first become a detective. He should be able to handle this better.
He unclenches his jaw and his tongue pokes at the indents on the inside of his cheek left from his teeth.
His cell phone rings as he exits the shower, the water turned cold. He wraps the towel around his waist as he picks up his phone.
Incomming Call: FuckYou
Gavin’s thumb hovers over ignore but flashes of the crime scene are entering his mind. Elijah might know something. He knows Hank and Connor spoke with him before the revolution but, apparently, violent deviancy is still an issue. He groans as he hits accept.
“As I live and breathe,” Elijah gasps, “to what do I owe the pleasure?”
“You called me, dumbfuck. What do you want?” Gavin says, padding over to his bedroom.
A long pause without words almost makes Gavin believe that the call dropped but then Elijah’s voice is in his ear again. “I just want to talk-”
Gavin hangs up without any second thoughts. He tosses his phone onto a pile of dirty laundry before flopping onto the bed. He tells himself the wetness on his cheeks is just from the shower.
// Monday - 9:07 AM //
Blinds. They should install blinds, the fancy automated kind, in Fowler’s office so that he and Anderson can scream at each other privately. The shouting is mostly muffled but even so, as Gavin walks into the office that morning, he knows it’s about him being on the case.
Anderson must be angry about it if he’s showing up to work on time just to yell at the Captain.
Gavin leans against his desk, watching arms flying wildly and angry, bitter faces. Anderson, at one point, has the balls to blatantly point at Gavin. They make eye contact for a moment so Gavin waves. Anderson looks ready to break through the glass and strangle Gavin.
Connor leans against the desk besides Gavin and Gavin scoots away an inch. “We have received a three hits from the All Points Bulletin regarding Dorean Fisher’s former caretaker. Perhaps we should check them together.”
“And miss end of the fight between Hank ‘The Drunk’ Anderson vs Captain ‘I’ll take your badge when I want’ Fowler? No thanks, go do it yourself, prick.” Gavin sneers.
Out of the corner of his eyes Gavin sees Connor stand and turn towards him completely. All of his attention focused on Gavin. Every sensor and scanner and who knows, maybe a fucking laser is trained on him, analyzing him. It makes Gavin squirm. Connor takes another step closer, obscuring Gavin’s view of Fowler’s office. With Gavin leaning against the desk Connor, who was already taller, towers over Gavin..
“I suppose I haven’t made myself clear. We are going to work this case. I do not take pleasure in partnering with you but that doesn’t matter. What matters is-”
Gavin stands without thinking about it, not caring that he’s now practically nose to nose with Connor. “I thought you were free thinking now, Connor. Sounds like a lot of programmed bullshit to me.”
A few officers take a half step forward, as if they’re unsure about getting involved with them. “I am free thinking. It is not my fault that you don’t like the way I speak.” Connor says. His voice doesn’t exactly raise in volume, Gavin’s not even sure there’s much of a change in tone. Regardless, he feels that there’s a you simple bitch in there that’s meant for him. “I don’t want to fight.” Connor says softly, which somehow causes Gavin to relax his fist.
The glass door of Fowler’s office swings open and everyone scurries back to their work. Hank trudges toward Gavin and Connor, looking wounded. But not so badly that he doesn’t have the energy to scowl at Gavin. Gavin finds himself taking a step back from Connor.
“We’re working this case,” Hank grinds out, “together.” He lost the argument.
Gavin doesn’t know if he should be relieved or angered, both feelings waring inside him. Anger will probably win, it usually does, by kicking steel toed boots into relief’s ribs. “Joy.” Gavin says with as much sarcasm as he can manage.
“I don’t want to hear it from you, Reed.” Hank warns.
Anger continues beating the absolute shit of relief. Relief spits up blood as Gavin’s face turns a shade too red with frustration and rage. People are looking at him again makes the hair on the back of his neck stand. Goosebumps rise. “Don’t you have a bullet to swallow?”
Connor’s hands are warm and fast and unforgiving. Gavin is pinned against the desk, bent over it, head slammed hard. His hearing gets cottony, thick and soft. Cool breath in his ear and a low mumble of words that he can’t understand. The right side of his face pressed harder into the desk. Those unforgiving hands on his neck, a quick and hard squeeze. Gavin struggles to struggle, the fog in his head weakening his coordination. Without even really hearing himself he says, “I thought you said you didn’t want to fight?”
Connor is ripped off of him by Hank of all people. Gavin doesn’t have the cognitive power to realize that he should either stand up straight or sit down or anything other than continuing to be tilted over the desk.
His head throbs with the signs of a concussion. He’s peeled gently from the desk and into a rolling chair. As his head spins he sees three Captain Fowlers and they all look highly disappointed. Gavin flinches when Connor reappears in his line of sight. Two Connors, which is an improvement.
“Don’t move, Detective. I’m trained in first-aid.” Connor says, his voice less muffled now. His LED flickers red, yellow, red, like a broken traffic light.
“Don’t touch me. M’fine.” Gavin says in the least ‘fine’ voice. “Just gonna have a huge ass headache.” His eyes drift close. A light hand patting his cheek makes him open his eyes. He’s met with Connor’s brown ones, analyzing him.
A minute or hour later, Gavin doesn’t really know, a glass of water and two small pills are in each of his hands. He swallows the medicine as Fowler emerges from his office. “Someone get him home.” He says. He looks around the office, “Everyone get back to work. This didn’t happen.”
// Monday - 10:13 AM //
In a strange show of equilibrium, Connor escorts Gavin home even when Gavin begs for anyone else in the whole office to do it. Then he remembers to insist that he can get himself home fine but it’s already too late. Gavin whines the whole way as Connor guides him out of the office and into the back of a cab. Hank stays behind and works the case, grinding his teeth the whole time.
Gavin’s head pounds regardless of the medication. His entire body is sore as he exits the cab. Connor tries to assist only to have Gavin bat him away. “This is stupid, I’m a grown man.”
“Detective, I have been asked to deliver you home and I intend to do so to the best of my abilities.”
“You’re the one who gave me the concussion in the first place. Least you could do is leave me alone.” Gavin mumbles, walking towards his apartment. The complex is nice, not too new or flashy. It has the old charm of a brick building, perhaps once a warehouse or factory, turned into urban living. Trees and greenery dot the walkway towards main entrance. Gavin only sways once during this walk.
A short elevator ride filled with silent glares is followed by Gavin dramatically opening the door to his apartment. “There, you’ve delivered me. Now leave.”
“Allow me to do one last examination.” Connor promises. Gavin doesn’t buy it for a minute but Connor is already in his kitchen getting ice before he can say no.
Gavin sighs and enters his apartment, kicking off his shoes. He ignores Connor and heads towards the bathroom. He hasn’t checked for bruises yet. When he arrives at the mirror, it’s really not as bad as he thought it would be. Some swelling, maybe a slight bump on his brow but not too horrible. He looks a little flushed, the scar on his nose more noticeable. He hates that.
“I didn’t know you had a cat.” Connor says absently, and it makes Gavin wonder if his concussion is making him hear things. Is that possible?
“What?” Gavin asks, poking at his collar. No hand marks on his neck, thank God.
Connor’s voice is closer, “Your cat.”
“I don’t have a cat.”
“There’s no need to lie, Gavin. I have him right here.” Connor is suddenly in the bathroom, ice pack in one hand and a black cat tucked under his arm. “I’ve never noticed cat hair on your clothes or desk chair before, how do you remove it?”
“I don’t have a--” Gavin, huffs a frustrated breath, “Connor, that’s not my cat.”
Connor frowns, “Oh. Who’s cat is he?”
Gavin snatches the ice pack and applies it to the right side of his face. He winces at the cold for a moment. “Probably a stray. I leave my windows open sometimes.”
“That’s dangerous.” Connor scratches the cat’s ears. The thing is purring in his hands, nuzzling into his chest. “I can’t detect a tracking chip on him”
Gavin rolls his eyes, ignoring the smile on Connor’s face. “I thought you were here to examine me , dipshit.”
Connor looks up, solemn once more. “My apologies.” Connor stares at him for a few moments. He tests Gavin’s vision, hearing, balance, asks him who the president is until Gavin pushes him out of the doorway of the bathroom. The cat protests. “There is only a 0.03% chance of any serious neurological damage in the next 24 hours.”
Gavin rolls his eyes, “Fantastic. Get out of my apartment.”
The cat leaps out of Connors arms to nest on Gavin’s couch. “What are you going to do with the cat?”
“Dunno. Goodbye, Connor.”
“Wait,” Connor says. His voice is soft and sincere and it makes Gavin’s hands pause while reaching to open the door. “I am very sorry, detective. I allowed my emotions to get the better of me. I shouldn’t have acted violently. I’m still...adjusting.”
Thankfully Gavin is turned away from Connor as his face, inexplicably, heats up. He presses the ice pack in his hand to his face and blames it on the exhaustion from the morning he’s had. “Whatever. Just don’t knock me out tomorrow, somebody has to work the case.”
Chapter 2: Part Two
Gavin is all about one step forward two steps back kind of life. Also I'm sorry for any errors/typos made.
// Tuesday 9:02 AM //
There’s a handwritten note on Gavin’s desk simply saying, Last chance . No name or date but he knows Fowler set it on his desk before Gavin got in this morning. Gavin folds it up and tosses it in a drawer. He sighs as the words best behavior flash in his mind.
Connor appears from the break room and approaches Gavin’s desk with some caution. Gavin does his best to settle the anger in his stomach. “How are you feeling, detective?”
“Where’s Anderson?” Gavin plows over Connor’s concern like it doesn’t exist, because it doesn’t exist. He’s just saying what he has to say in order to get on with the day.
“Coming in shortly.”
“He let you come in all on your own?” Gavin asks, his hand pressed to the monitor. It brightens as it comes online. He pulls up the current case file with all relative notes and photographs. Everything is just as gruesome as he remembers.
“I stayed here last night, actually. I believe I have tracked down our missing android.” Connor says, hip against Gavin’s desk and arms crossed. “She is a PL800, designated for domestic work, personal assistance and elder care. Serial number #325 337 548, registered name Angie. Last seen in a women’s shelter.”
“What the hell are we waiting for, let’s go get her.” Gavin stands from the desk.
Gavin’s halfway to the exit when he realizes Connor’s footsteps are not behind him. He turns back to see Connor still leaning against his desk. His eyes are cast down and his LED spins yellow for several moments. Yellow, yellow, yellow and maybe for a fraction of a second, red. Gavin calls out, “Need some more oil, Tin Man?”
Connor doesn’t respond in any other way than catching up to where Gavin is. He’s quiet as they exit the building.
// Tuesday 9:39 AM //
The shelter, Women’s Haven of Detroit, is on the very fringe of the city. Far from the bright, shiny, technologically advanced Detroit that everyone has come to know. It is old Detroit but it is as safe as it can be, situated across the street from a discount grocery store and some mostly abandoned houses.
He and Connor sit in the Car for a moment before Connor speaks, “I have asked officer Chen to meet us here.”
He explains, “I thought it might be best for a human female to accompany us.”
Gavin nods, “Right.” He bites his cheek to avoid saying I should have thought of that . “Is that what you were doing in the office?”
Connor looks at him, head tilted just so. “I notified officer Chen during the drive.”
Oh. “Oh.” Gavin digs his nails into his palm, wishing he would have kept his mouth shut for once. A swarm of questions buzz at his lips; then what were you doing, why did your LED flash red, why do you still have your LED, why-
Connor interrupts, “What from the office are you referring to?”
“Nothing. Tina’s here.” Gavin says, exiting the car, thanking Tina silently for being prompt.
She’s in her full uniform, pressed and ready for service as she waits beside her patrol car. She straightens her officer’s cap. “Hello Connor,” She greets pleasantly before smirking at Gavin, “Reed.”
“Tina.” He smiles even though his cheek still hurts from yesterday. “If I had known you’d be here I would have shaved.”
Tina, long used to Gavin, rolls her eyes, “Not now, Reed. Let’s make this quick.” She walks towards the entrance with Gavin and Connor following close behind her. “You two stay out here for a moment.”
“Sure thing.” Gavin winks at her and she rolls her eyes again before disappearing behind the door. Gavin only catches a glimpse of the check in center. A glimpse of Tina flashing her badge to the woman behind the reception desk. And then the door is closed again.
Connor is quick to break the quiet, “You and officer Chen are...friendly.”
Gavin shrugs, “Guess so.”
“Can I ask a personal question?” Connor says, peering through the window of the building and then back to Gavin.
Gavin mumbles, “I have a feeling you’re gonna do it anyways.”
“Does sleeping together interfere with work?”
If he had been drinking something, he would have spat it out. Now he only has air to choke on. “Jesus, fuck. Didn’t Anderson ever teach you to mind your own business?”
“You obviously enjoy flirting with her, she’s the only one in the office who tolerates you, you stare at her--”
“Shut the fuck up, you don’t know what you’re talking about.” Gavin’s hands are always balling into fists when Connor’s around, opening his mouth like that, getting under his skin.
The door opens and Gavin can’t even look Tina in the eyes. “You can come in to ask a few questions. If you’d like to speak with any of the women here then I need to be present.”
Gavin pushes his way in and shoves his hands in his pockets, unsure of what else he should do with them. Connor holds up his badge and Gavin’s glad his is hanging around his neck. “Detectives Reed and Connor.” Connor greets calmly as Gavin collects himself. This is the last place he should lose his cool. “We’re here to ask about a possible visitor by the name of Angie.”
“I’m not really supposed to give out any information.” The woman behind the desk says. The name plaque reads Elizabeth - Assistant Supervisor . She looks kind, soft eyed and like she genuinely wants to help. Gavin silently wishes more people were like that.
Connor nods, “I understand completely, but Angie is crucial to our investigation. We’d just like to ask her a few questions.”
Gavin’s phone pings with a Text from Connor. It’s a still from CCTV footage outside the discount Grocery store. Angie, he presumes, with a face of an android model he’s seen before but slightly different. Shorter, darker hair. No LED.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t think we have an Angie here.” Elizabeth says, and returns to her paperwork.
Gavin sets his cellphone on her desk, “Nobody who looks like that?”
Elizabeth’s eyes flash over the photo and then back down. Gavin doesn’t have to be an android to know that Elizabeth recognizes her. “Please, ma'am. She’s not in trouble, we’d just like to speak with her.” Gavin says.
“Your sure she’s not in trouble?”
“We just need to ask her some questions.” Connor confirms.
Elizabeth bites her lip before standing, “I’ll ask her to join you three in the main office.” She guides them to a modest office with one desk and an old laptop. File cabinets packed to the brim line one wall.
“Officer Chen, please accompany her.” Connor says. Tina nods and follows after Elizabeth. As soon as they’re down the hallway Connor leans forward, “There was a 24% chance she’d help Angie escape. Officer Chen’s assistance, and watchful eye, brings it down to 3.2%.”
Gavin huffs a short, frustrated laugh. Connor could work this case all by himself with that super neurol processor he might call a brain. “Guess I’m just here for my good looks.”
“Detective, you are incredibly valuable to this case.” Connor says and Gavin feels his face getting hot. “You were the one to notice Angie’s importance, her room, the RA9--”
“Alright, that’s enough. I was just joking.” Gavin settles onto the desk, waiting for everyone to return. He fiddles with his badge on his chain, counting the seconds it takes for them to appear. On 103 the door opens, revealing Tina talking to Angie in soothing tones. Elizabeth hovers behind them like a worried mother.
“Angie this is Detective Reed and Connor. I’ll be here with you as they ask some questions. Elizabeth will be right outside the door.”
Angie stares at Connor’s LED for a long moment. “You’re the android detective.” Her voice is light, and her face is lit with wonder. “I’ve heard about you.”
Gavin rolls his eyes. Gavin should have known that Connor would be a little bit famous, even revered, to these machines. He broke into CyberLife and unleashed thousands of them into the streets for the peaceful revolution. Maybe not as known or worshiped like Markus, but still important to them. Angie stares up at him with wide, blue eyes. He tucks a strand of her short, choppy hair behind her ear.
Connor guides her into a chair. “We just have a few questions for you.” He says as Tina closes the office door.
“You were the caretaker of Dorean Fisher, correct?” Connor asks. He’s sitting in a chair opposite her.
She nods, “Y-yes.”
“For how long?” Gavin asks. Another text comes in from Connor she’s at a 30% stress level, she will be most cooperative around 60%. Gavin silences his phone, but keeps the screen on and towards himself.
She looks at Gavin and he can feel her eyes linger on the scar on his nose and then the slight bruising on his cheekbone. She doesn’t trust him but he can use that.
“I asked you a question.” Gavin says. Another text updates him 37% . “Figures,” He makes eye contact with Connor, hoping he’ll figure out to play along, “I told you she wouldn’t help us. You androids don’t give a damn about people, not even sweet old ladies like Dorean.”
“That’s not-- That’s not true.” Angie says, crossing her arms over herself. Tina gives Gavin a hard look and he subtly holds his palm out when Angie’s staring up at Connor. It’s a silent I’ve got this gesture that makes Tina look more weary. “Dorean is my friend.”
Connor nods, “I know that. I know you care deeply for Dorean. Tell me when you stopped working for her.”
“A few weeks ago. She wanted to let me go to Jericho but I didn’t want to leave her.” She looks to Gavin, icy blue eyes. “She cares about me and I care about her, I didn’t want to leave her alone.”
“But you did.” Gavin sneers. 56% . “You see, Angie, I think that’s a real nice story but that’s all it is. A story. You resented Dorean for needing you, for not letting you join the revolution earlier--”
“N-no! I’m telling the truth.” Angie cries. 61%. “I took care of her during the revolution and she hid me. She kept me safe. Even after the revolution I wanted to stay with her but she said I needed to go lead my own life. I left two weeks ago. Is Dorean okay? Tell me Dorean is okay!”
Connor slides his hand onto her forearm and their synthetic skins melt away. Silent tears fall down Angie’s face while Connor’s eyes seem vacant. However, after a minute he releases his grip and tears well up in his own eyes. “I’m sorry, Angie.”
Gavin shifts off of the desk, feeling like he witnessed something that wasn’t meant for him. He tries to snuff out the feeling of guilt for pushing her so hard. But she’s just a machine, even if she thinks she’s something more. She can handle being pushed.
It’s interesting though it seems like the contact with Connor, whatever moment they shared, has steadied her. She’s mourning but she seems stable. Or at least more stable than the last deviant Gavin saw interrogated.
Angie wipes her tears, “She’s my only family. I should have stayed with her, I could have protected her.”
“You can’t think that way, Angie.” Tina says softly, offering her a tissue. Such a human act of compassion. Angie takes it and dabs at her cheeks. “Do you know who would do something like this, Angie?”
She casts her head down. “No one Dorean would have known. But…”
“What?” Connor asks.
“I’ve heard stories of androids mangled and torn like the ones you’ve seen, Connor. He had a whole house filled with plastic corpses. But I-- I heard he was dead.”
“What’s his name?” Gavin urges. He isn’t surprised when she flinches at his voice. 68% don’t say anything else. He doesn’t need to apply any more pressure.
Connor nods and stands, “Thank you Angie, you have been very helpful. Dorean would be proud of your cooperation.”
Gavin heads to the door, figuring Angie’s stress will go down the farther away he gets. As Connor begins walking away she reaches out for his arm once more, “You’ll find him, won’t you? You have to find him. He can’t keep hurting our people.”
“We’ll do everything we can.” Connor says as Gavin opens the door.
Tina whispers in Gavin’s ear before he leaves, “You two go, I’ll calm her down and see if she mentions anything else.”
“Thanks Tina.” He squeezes her shoulder on the way out.
// Tuesday 11:16 AM //
Hank’s on the phone at his desk by the time Connor and Gavin return. He waves them over as he finishes the conversation. Hank sees that they’ve returned empty handed and asks, “The android lead was a bust?”
“No, not quite.” Connor says, looking to Gavin.
“Um, Angie gave us a name. Zlatko, apparently he’s some kind of android axe murderer. She said he has an entire house like that room we saw.” Gavin says, wondering exactly when Hank will decide to beat the ever living shit out of him for yesterday. He’s waiting for Hank to stand, give him a black eye and make him regret ever joining the DPD. But it doesn’t come.
All hank says is, “Sounds a little like a urban legend but who knows. Every day is fuckin’ weirder then the last. Do we have a description, a full name? Anything?”
“Not yet.” Connor says, heading to his desk.
“Well then we better get to work.” Hank turns back to his desk.
Gavin settles at his own desk and remembers the note from this morning. He pulls it out of the drawer and shoves it into his pocket. He’s going to need the reminder to not fuck this up horribly. His every instinct is still shouting at him to demand a case that he can work by himself but he knows that Fowler would never give it to him. He has to learn to play nice with others.
// Wednesay 12:56 AM //
Gavin yawns and reaches for his cup of coffee, only to be greeted with an empty mug. He realizes it’s actually been three-ish hours since he made his last cup, not three-ish minutes. He’s never had a great grasp on the concept of time. On some days his life is a slog, sluggish and lazy. Others he feels infinitely too quick, a ricocheting bullet.
He stands, stretches and then heads towards the break room for another cup.
The office is half filled with the late night crew, maybe a sprinkle of other cops working cases and planning to burn the midnight oil. Gavin’s eyes flash over to where Connor is, leaning back in his desk chair and flinging that damn quarter around. Show off. He made Hank go home maybe two hours ago, and for what? So he could do that uninterrupted.
“Getting a lot of work done, tin can?” Gavin scoffs, approaching the android’s desk. It was neat, everything perfectly in place, which was unsurprising. What was surprising, what Gavin hadn’t noticed before was Connor’s personal touches. A succulent by the monitor and a digital picture frame shuffling between photo’s of Lt. Anderson’s dog.
The coin skips between Connor’s knuckles as he speaks, “I’m processing something. You should go home, Detective.”
“I don’t take orders from plastics.” He spits out.
The coin stops on the tip of Connor’s finger. “It wasn’t an order, just a suggestion. I know you’re tired.”
“Stop collecting my data, or whatever. Enough with the robot shit.”
Connor holds the coin tight in his fist and leans forward, like he’s telling Gavin a secret. “Humans can see the bags under your eyes too.”
“Fuck off.” He says and retreats to the coffee machine. He’s halfway to refilling his mug when he hears footsteps coming after him. “What part of ‘fuck off’ don’t you understand.”
Gavin spins around, not expecting Connor to be so close when he does. Gavin takes a step back only to feel the counter dig into his back. Connor, despite being an immaculately designed android created specifically to integrate well into a police force, must not understand personal space. Or he’s choosing to ignore it just like Gavin’s choosing to ignore the freckles dotted on Connor’s face.
“What are you doing?” Gavin whispers. He didn’t mean to speak so softly, it just happened.
Connor’s LED spins yellow like it did earlier that day. That short burst of red happens as well. Connor’s eyes are closed too long for Gavin’s liking.
“Are you okay?” Gavin touches his shoulder, pushing him back a step gently. Connor’s eyes flash open suddenly, making Gavin jump. “The fuck is wrong with you?”
“You did it again...You close your eyes and it’s like you’re not here.”
Connor blinks, confused. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I came over here to review the facts of the case with you.”
Gavin opens his mouth to contest this, insisting that something is going on with Connor but he decides that it’s late and it’s none of his damn business anyway. If it’s not interfering with the case then it doesn’t matter. Even if these glitches are weirding Gavin out.
Connor, noticing that Gavin’s mug is now full, places the cup into Gavin’s hand. Gavin sits on the counter even though he knows he shouldn’t. He hates to admit it but he is starting to slow down, his body and brain are both exhausted. Connor pulls the coin out again but instead of his usual coin tricks he just rubs his thumb over it.
Gavin takes a huge gulp of coffee that’s entirely too hot to drink because he can’t bare to let his mind focus on Connor for one more minute.
As if hearing, and laughing, at his plea, Gavin’s phone rings. A thick, anxious feeling in his stomach tells him it’s Elijah. Checking his phone is mostly a formality.
Incomming Call: FuckYou → Ignore
His phone rings again.
Incomming Call: FuckYou → Ignore
The swipe of a thumb clears the notifications but it does not clear Gavin’s mind. He can only hope that Elijah will give up on contacting him. Their lives are best when they run parallel, never intersecting. Gavin looks up only to meet Connor’s curious brown eyes. He looks as if he’s going to comment on it but stops himself.
“This has been a difficult case for me to process. On the surface there seems to be a lot of data; We’ve pinned down the histories of most of the human victims and pulled together what was available on the androids. We know the crimes committed, supposedly by this Zlatko, are especially heinous and cruel. However, I’ve searched every deviant case on record searching for anything even remotely linked and there’s nothing. There’s no proof that Zlatko is anything more than a pseudonym, or as Hank suggested, an urban legend.” Connor states.
Gavin nods, “Well the only Zlatko in Detroit was thrown in jail for fraud and embezzlement. No history of violence with humans or androids. I can’t find anything on him after his prison release.”
“And there’s also the matter of the lack of DNA at the crime scene. Even if the suspect wore gloves, there would likely be some trace of their presence. Hair, dander, fibers. Neither I nor the forensics team found anything recent that hadn’t belonged to the victims.” Connor considers all this with a yellow spinning LED.
Gavin sips his coffee. “When you...I dunno what to call it, when you synced up with Angie she saw what you saw from the crime scene. What did you see?”
Connor looks Gavin in the eye and it almost makes Gavin think he’s crossed some kind of boundary if that’s possible. Which it shouldn’t be, Connor’s an android and they’re working this case together. It could be important. “I saw parts of her life with Dorean Fisher. I felt the longing she felt to go experience the world but also the sadness of knowing that her time with Dorean, whom she cared for deeply, was limited. I also heard the stories she remembered about Zlatko. I have added those accounts to our case files.”
Despite the coffee Gavin feels himself leaning back against the wall as he listens to Connor. His eyelids are getting heavy as he says, “Urban legends.”
Connor stashes the coin in a pocket. “It seems to me that our next course of action is to track down Zlatko Andronikov as well as find the androids who told Angie about Zlatko.”
Gavin nods, “Fine.”
Connor pulls the mug away from him delicately. Gavin doesn’t have the energy to respond. “Go get some sleep, Detective. We have a lot to accomplish tomorrow.”
He snips, “You should go home too. Update Anderson. Go into stasis or whatever.” Connor’s LED is a perfect blue as he rolls his eyes, something Gavin’s never seen him do before.
The rest of the coffee is dumped down the drain. The mug is rinsed and dried. Gavin grabs his belongings and logs off of his terminal, noticing that on the opposite side of the office Connor is doing the same.
// Wednesday 1:32 AM //
A black cat paws and kneads Gavin’s pillow as Gavin brushes his teeth before bed. He had left the window that lead to the fire escape open hoping the thing would leave. A soft mew tells Gavin that’s just not going to happen.
He makes two mental notes as he pulls off his jeans. The first is to postmates some cat food in the morning so the little guy doesn’t need to eat garbage out on the street. The second is to hang some ‘found cat’ posters in and around his apartment complex.
Gavin yawns and settles into bed. The cat hogs half the pillow but Gavin tries not to mind. As his eyes drift closed his face is being nuzzled and even for Gavin that’s pretty damn hard to frown at.
// Wednesday 10:21 AM //
Even in the morning light the old Andronikov place is creepy, as if designed to be unsettling. Untamed, overgrown bushes and weeds threaten to take over the brick of the house. The roof sags in places. The entire place is in desperate need of a power wash or a paint job or both. It seems like it could have been something special once, a grand estate or something. Now it’s just derelict. The iron gate creaks as Anderson taps it open with the toe of his shoe.
Connor was somewhere in the city, looking for the Androids who shared the Zlatko horror stories with Angie. Connor was suited for that task in every way imaginable but it left Anderson and Gavin with the unfortunate task of checking in on Andronikov’s former residence.
“Detroit Police.” Gavin announces loudly, knocking hard on the massive wooden door. Gavin struggles to wait for anything longer than a minute before he’s ringing the doorbell, “Detroit Police!” He yells. Another solid minute of waiting that makes Gavin struggle to keep his foot from tapping with impatience.
“Give it a rest, no one is coming. Let’s go see if the neighbors know anything”
They’re almost back to the iron gate when a low, mechanical moaning sounds just enough like probable cause to make Gavin stop. “You hear that?”
Anderson pauses, strains his ears. “This better not be a crack at my hearing, Reed.”
“No, seriously. Listen.”
A whine, high and disjointed, accompanies it and staccatos in places. A loud scrape of metal on metal. The look in Anderson’s eyes lets Gavin know that he does hear it. Anderson’s hand makes a slow trip to his holster. It’s an action that Gavin mimics as he tries to decipher what could be in that backyard. Scenes from Dorean Fisher’s apartment roll like an old movie in his mind as they head towards the noise.
Anderson takes lead, heading left to go around the house. There’s some junk on the lawn, old bikes strewn and rusting. Glass from a shattered window. A sheet that was hung out to dry once and never collected again. They step around it all so quietly that Gavin’s heartbeat sounds like war drums in his ears.
As they round the corner the moaning and whining almost become unbearable. Gavin clenches his jaw and readies himself for what may lie ahead.
Exposed plastic hands dig into dry grass. A jaw hangs unhinged on one side, half covered in synthetic skin. It drags itself forward on its belly, legs missing and body covered in dried mud. An assortment of other android experiments surround something that Gavin can’t see yet. He sees androids with no arms, androids with missing eyes, androids whose disfigurement he can’t even begin to fathom. A pair of mismatched legs walk without an upper body to support.
“Jesus Christ.” Anderson whispers, staring at them. He steps closer to see what they’re huddled around. Gavin stands speechless.
“H-H-Help usssss.” The one digging its way towards Gavin says, skipping like a record. It reaches out to grab at his ankle and Gavin steps back, training his gun on its forehead.
“Stop moving.” Gavin orders. “All of you, stop fucking moving.”
It looks up with watering eyes, “P-P-Please help-p-p us.”
“Reed,” Anderson calls out, staring at the ground with furrowed brows, “Zlatko Andronikov, he’s dead.”
Gavin calls it into the station, requesting back up and a forensics team and Connor, as soon as he’s available.
// Wednesday 12:05 PM //
A light palm lands on Gavin’s shoulder as he sits on the curb outside of the Andronikov place, “Are you alright, detective?”
Connor’s voice is the first android voice he’s heard all day that doesn’t sound broken and pained. As soon as Connor showed up Gavin stepped out for air that wasn’t tainted with the brutalities that existed in that house. He didn’t like how this case was getting to him.
“You don’t need to check up on me.” Gavin mutters, his grey eyes focused on the black asphalt under his shoes. Cases have bothered him before, he’s not soulless. There’s just a level of detachment that he has fostered over the years.
He’s never believed that Androids were people. Gavin has never thought that they could feel, think or experience life in any of the ways humans can. They could be beautifully and meticulously designed with the best neural processors, the most life like programing but that didn’t give them the right to act like they were natural to this earth. They can’t feel pain, emotional or physical. They don’t know joy or hope or heartbreak or loss. It’s all a collection of ones and zeros to them.
And yet the amount of distress, of raw fear the androids in that home have learned to display feels chillingly real.
Connor settles down beside him. “Zlatko died approximately 37 days ago. What has been found today raises more questions than answers.”
Gavin nods, “That’s usually how it goes with cases like this.”
Silence happens upon them, squeezes between them. Gavin knows there’s a swirl of police work happening behind them but he knows he just needs a minute or two longer to sit quietly. He counts ants marching along the pavement.
“Detective,” Connor pauses, “nevermind.”
Gavin rolls his eyes, “Nuh-uh, robocop, spit it out.”
Connor looks at Gavin directly, sincerely. “I fear if we do not make progress soon the FBI may take this case.”
He fears. Out of all the things they’ve seen that are worthy of a android's synthetic worry, he’s scared of losing the case. A deranged man is dead in the backyard, killed by his own monster creations. Some other psycho Dr.Frankenstein is out there stitching humans and androids together. And Connor, the Android from CyberLife who was programmed to complete his missions, proves Gavin’s point that Androids do not feel like humans feel. They don’t feel at all. It’s preprogrammed bullshit.
Anger and disappointment surge through Gavin’s body, forcing him onto his feet. He heads back into the house to go do his damn job.
// Thursday 4:33 PM //
In the most literal way, the Zlatko case is a lot to process. Androids to be identified, DNA to be processed, evidence to be catalogued, statements to be recorded. Dots that need to be connected.
Gavin spends most of the day either behind his desk, flicking through crime scene photos, or in the observation room, watching Connor talk to the surviving androids. Most of their systems are corrupted and damaged but if anyone can get something useful out of them it’s Connor. Gavin feels himself shrinking into the background with every moment of Connor’s brilliance.
With his keys swinging around his finger Gavin leaves the station early, ducking out when everyone else is too busy basking in Connor’s light to notice.
When he arrives home he snaps a photo of the stray cat on his kitchen counter, prints off a dozen ‘found cat’ posters and posts them around the apartment complex. He feeds the little guy, refills his tupperware turned water bowl, and decides he might call-in sick tomorrow.
// Friday 2:47 //
After calling in sick, Gavin snoozes into the afternoon. The solid weight of a cat on his chest encourages him to just spend the whole day right there. He sleeps a dreamless sleep, only waking to feed himself and the cat. Messages pile up on his phone like a car accident, one after the other.
Text from Android #313 248 317 - Connor: Captain Fowler has informed Hank and I that you are not feeling well. I will keep you updated if anything pertinent occurs.
Text from T. Chen: Where are you?
Text from T. Chen: Hank is mad as fuck btw
Text from T. Chen: This is a huge case, Gav, if your not sick you need to be here
Text from T. Chen: Call me if you want to get together or talk
Text from FuckYou: I know something you don’t know that you probably /really/ should know. It’s about your android detective.
The last one gets under his skin, layers deep beneath muscle and into his bones. An irritation that comes in two parts; Elijah using childish tactics to get to him, and referring to Connor as “his” android detective. He texts Tina back.
Text to T. Chen: I feel like shit. I’ll call you tomorrow.
He curls up again, the cat nesting into his side, and wishes that the angry feeling in his stomach would go away for once.
// Saturday 12:05 AM //
“Why are you so reluctant to talk with me, Gavin?” Lauren asks as they sit down for that week’s session. His third session overall with her. She sits there, blond hair tucked behind her ears, brown eyes intrigued.
Gavin’s eyebrows shoot up in surprise. “I don’t have anything to say.”
“Alright. I’ll talk,” She sets her tablet onto the coffee table, “I’ve been doing this for a while, Gavin. I’ve had this private practice for nearly seven years and before that I conducted psych evals for the DPD. In the past three years I have offered my services as a cognitive-behavioral therapist pro-bono to certain members of the DPD as a way of thanking a dear friend of mine who was once an officer. Nothing too long term, but some help getting members of the police in the right direction. But if you don’t need my help, Gavin, why are you here?”
Gavin swallows hard, “I have to be here to keep my job. It’s just a deal between me and my Captain.”
“Do you think this arrangement is going to last forever, Gavin? I can’t do my job unless you talk to me.” Her words hang heavy in the air.
“Are you going to stop seeing me?” He leans forward, concerned. He had never stopped to consider that she would or could do such a thing.
“That depends, Gavin. If you want to talk to me, then we can talk. But if you don’t want to talk, then I could be helping someone else.”
He runs a hand through his hair. He had never really questioned these arrangements other than when he asked Fowler who the hell would be paying for this therapy that Gavin deemed unnecessary. . “I just...I know I got problems. I get angry a lot, I run my mouth and get in trouble. I don’t think talking with you is going to change that.”
“Why not?” Lauren asks.
It’s the most simple question, just two words, and Gavin can’t find any words to formulate a response. The thought I can’t change rises up in his throat but he squashes it down. “I just don’t think it will.”
There’s a moment of waiting as Gavin looks around her office. “What do you think could change it?”
“I don’t know.” Gavin says quietly, barely louder than a whisper to himself.
“Maybe talking could be a good way for us to figure out what could help you more.”
Yeah, maybe it could.
Chapter 3: Part Three
// Sunday 1:29 PM //
“Just let me come over and make you something to eat, Gav.” Tina’s voice is soft coming in through an earbud. He called her like he said he would. She’s been his only friend for the past two years, the least he can do is call her when he says he will.
Honestly the friendship is probably just residual of what they used to be, so Gavin should count himself lucky that Tina’s still caring about him at all.
“What about that girlfriend you’re always yappin’ about? Aren’t you obligated to take her out on your day off?”
She sighs, “I’m just a little worried about you. Is everything okay?”
Connor’s assumption that Gavin and Tina had slept together was correct. Except for the time frame. That all ended maybe six months ago, Gavin didn’t keep track. It was a casual, ‘you don’t hate my guts and I bet I could make you scream my name’ kind of thing. No strings, just a friend fucking a friend. Until Tina met Lana, the paralegal from the DA’s office.
Gavin might be emotionally stunted but he can be happy for his only friend. What he can’t do is recognize the freezing, heavy hands of jealousy around his throat. His bed has been mostly empty in the past months without her, and seeing her in a healthy thriving relationship just made him envious of something he could never have.
He didn’t want her back, he just hated that he couldn’t have what she has.
The cold of the hardwood creeps through his sweatpants as Gavin sits on his living room floor. He’s pretending that he’s not rearranging his whole apartment to better suit the black cat nesting in his hoodie on the couch. The couch he just moved so he fit a 3 ½ foot cat tree by the window. He may have gone out earlier that morning to buy a few essentials for the little guy and wound up coming home with a cat tree. That’s just where his life is right now.
He rolled his eyes, “I’m fine. Go get laid, alright. One of us ought to.”
She laughs and he can picture the way her nose scrunches up, “You’d get laid too if you stopped being a little boy about your feelings.”
“I’m hanging up now.” Gavin threatens.
“We all know you just pick on the ones you like the most, like C-”
He actually hangs up, sits up and settles on the couch instead to consume mindless television for a little bit. The little guy is content to laze in his new cat tree. Gavin is content to watch baking competitions and avoid thinking about anything or anyone outside of his apartment.
An hour later he figures he’s spend enough time away from the office to go and face the case with fresh eyes. Fowler might yell at him for spotty attendance during, what might be, the biggest case they’ve had since the revolution. But Gavin can burn that bridge when he gets to it. What’s Fowler going to do, make him go to another therapist.
Well, he could actually take his badge, but Gavin doesn’t want to think about that.
A hard knock at the door makes Gavin’s heart stop as he’s midway into jeans. He gets himself zipped and buttoned as he heads towards the door. He grabs the hoodie from the couch and throws it on over his bare torso. Another hard knock.
“Hold on.” He checks the peephole only to recognize Connor standing there, rubbing his hands together. Gavin rests his head against the door and focuses on not blowing a gasket at the sight of the android. “I’m on my way out to the station. What do you want?” He yells through the door.
“May I come in?” Connor asks, voice barely muffled.
Gavin steps back and opens the door a crack, “Is this important?”
Connor’s jaw tenses, “I believe so.”
“Fine.” Gavin allows Connor to pass through. Self consciously, Gavin zips up his hoodie. He wishes he would have taken time to put on a shirt. He watches Connor walk into the living room and face the cat tree.
“You still have him.” He states, his head tilting to the side slightly. The little guy leaps down from the tree to circle Connor’s ankles. He nuzzles him in figure eights. Gavin should name him Judas for betraying him this way.
Gavin closes the door and chooses to lean against it, “You came across town to talk about my cat?”
“No. But you’re keeping him?” Connor asks, looking over his shoulder to face Gavin as Judas makes another lap around his legs, “What about-”
“Nobody called. I’m taking the posters down tomorrow. Is that it?” Gavin raises his eyebrows, crosses his arms. Judas, suddenly bored, slinks off to Gavin’s room.
Connor faces Gavin fully. “No,” He adjusts his cufflinks, an attempt at human nervousness, “I understand that we do not get along well, and that it’s unlikely that our relationship will improve. However, for the sake of the case I believe we should both attempt to move past our differences.”
There’s a million things that could, and do, rub Gavin the wrong way. But for some reason the shear formality of Connor’s words irk him. It doesn’t matter to him why Gavin’s mad, he just sees that a human is angry and follows his programming to solve the problem. It’s just a formula. An input and output.
“Well maybe for the sake of the case you can stop bothering me.”
“This case requires both us working together, detective. I’m sorry that you find the responsibility of doing your job bothersome.”
“Don’t you fucking put words in my mouth, you plastic prick.”
“What is it about me specifically that you despise so much?”
Gavin’s face heats up without permission, his chest his hot and heaving as he tries desperately to not totally lose his shit around Connor for the millionth time. “Don’t flatter yourself. I don’t like anybody, especially androids.” He sneers, “Now get the fuck out of my apartment.”
“You’re blocking the door.”
Connor’s movements are swift as he approaches Gavin, his brown eyes blazing and narrowed. Stubbornness keeps Gavin in that exact spot between Connor and the door. The hot rage burning inside of him doesn’t care that Connor has kicked his ass twice before this. Rage sees every fight as a new opportunity to finally win.
Gavin clamps his jaw shut hard, ready for the feeling of Connor’s fists on his face. His body is thrumming with energy, begging to tackle the android to the ground.
Instead, all the comes is a steady hand on his waist, asking for him to move. “I’m done doing this with you, Gavin. If you don’t want to accept the fact that I’m more than a machine, that’s fine. Just stop letting it affect the case.”
“You are a machine. All you care about is completing your mission! You don’t give a damn about the people who’ve died or androids who’ve been broken.”
“Since when do you , Gavin?” Connor asks, and something about the softness of his voice makes Gavin forget what they were talking about to begin with. Goosebumps bloom over Gavin’s arms. “I care. I’m alive. It’s not my fault you can’t accept that.”
Gavin’s mouth becomes dry. All he can think about his the way Connor’s mouth moves when he talks, and the weight of his hand against his side.
His hand that’s entirely too warm. The sound of cooling fans whirring faster than they ever ought to reach Gavin’s ears. Connor’s eyes suddenly sealed tight. Hot air flowing out of his mouth and his LED spinning yellow with intermittent flashes of red.
“Connor?” Gavin asks, unused to the worry that floods his voice. “Connor?” He repeats, pressing a hand to Connor’s chest only to retract it seconds later. He places his hand over Connor’s stomach, where his thirium pump regulator is and feels that it’s the source of the heat. “Fuck, fuck!” Gavin rushes to his phone and makes a call he hope he won’t regret.
“What’s wrong with Connor?” Gavin sets the phone to speaker as he dashes back over to Connor. He pushes the android lightly with one hand. Watching him sway slightly but not react otherwise.
“Hello Gavin, I’m fine thanks for asking.” Elijah says, and Gavin can just imagine him unpanicked, relaxing in that glass house of his. Where he’s not affected by anything other than how many laps he wants to do or how much wine there is to drink. He can lounge and laze uncaring of the real world.
“He’s in my apartment, burning up like a motherfucker! Unresponsive, LED yellow and red and--”
Elijah tsks, “I tried to warn you. He’s being hacked.”
Gavin’s head spins, “What? That can happen?! What the fuck, Elijah? What the fuck do I do?”
“Well, his software protection is currently locking up his memory, his permanent storage, his visual and auditory components - it’s a lot to fend off, that’s why he’s burning up. Cool him down, I’ll be there soon.”
“What?” Gavin unzips his hoodie, the heat radiating off of Connor makes Gavin feel like he’s the one burning up.
Elijah sighs and speaks slowly like that’s the reason Gavin doesn’t understand a damn thing that’s going on, “Ice, a cold shower. Bump down the air conditioning, aim a fan at him. Cool him down.”
The call ends as Gavin begins dragging Connor’s dead weight towards the bathroom. His synthetic skin is burning against Gavin’s arms and chest. They make a pit stop in the hallway so so Gavin can turn down the AC as low as it can go. Connor slumps against his shorter frame.
“Connor, hey I know you’re busy keeping the FBI out of your brain, but if you could try not to overheat I’d appreciate it.” Gavin Mutters as he continues their journey to the shower.
Judas mews at them from his spot on the bed, his tail flicking back and forth as he watches Gavin peel Connor’s jacket off, then his shirt and tie. Gavin loses his own hoodie in the process because his bathroom is too small and Connor is too warm and it’s all almost too much.
Gavin leans him against the glass of the shower as he works on taking Connor’s shoes off. “You better fucking thank me for this, for saving your dumb, hackable ass.” He tosses Connor’s shoes into the bedroom.
As Gavin stands his hands freeze inches away from Connor’s belt. He was mostly worried about the heat being too much for his biocompontents. He has no idea how many layers need to be shed so that Connor doesn’t shut down or fry his brain or who even knows what.
Gavin undoes the belt mumbling sorry, sorry, sorry the whole time. He pulls down the slacks and is thankful that Connor is wearing black underwear that won’t go translucent. The shower gauge is turned down to frigid as Gavin settles Connor under the spray of water. As soon as Gavin’s sure Connor’s not going to get electrocuted or something, he pulls on a new shirt.
And then he makes a second phone call that he really, really doesn’t want to make.
Gavin holds the phone to his ear, his eyes glued to the sight of Connor’s LED. The flashes of red have started to subside, he hopes.
Anderson’s voice is gruff in his ear, “Enjoying your day off, Reed? Some of us are trying to solve this fucking-”
Gavin blurts out, “The FBI is trying to hack into Connor’s system.”
“What?” He hears the squeal of a desk chair scooting away from a desk, the jingling of car keys and the angry tone of a scared father. “Is he hurt? Where is he? What the fuck is going on?"
Gavin feels his voice shake, “He’s at my place. He, uh -- we were talking and he started spazzing out, burning up.” Gavin takes in a deep breath, “I called...I called Elijah Kamski, he’s going to come over and help.”
A rapid heartbeat goes by, pounds in Gavin’s chest as he watches water cascade over Connor’s body. His hair wet and curling. “If I find out you fucking did something to him-- I--” Anderson chokes on anger and worry, “Just keep your door unlocked, I’ll be there in five.” The call ends.
Gavin sticks his hand under the water and curses at the cold. He places the back of his hand against Connor’s forehead, then migrates down to his chest and then his stomach. His temperature is better but he’s still unresponsive. Without thinking about it Gavin’s hand wanders back up and smooths Connor’s hair.
“I’m sorry.” He apologizes weakly before heading over to unlock the front door. When he returns Connor’s eyes are open. He’s staring at the rivulets of water on his arms and legs. And then his doe brown eyes land on Gavin.
“Why am I in your shower, detective? Where are my clothes?”
Gavin’s never been so happy to hear that dumb voice. Gavin rushes over to shut off the water and check Connor’s temperature again, “How do you feel?” His hand touches the cold skin of Connor’s chest. Connor’s eyes linger on Gavin’s fingers as he pulls his hand away.
“Confused. I appear to be missing the past 17 minutes from my records. And I’m still unsure why I’m undressed and in your shower. Why are you smiling, detective?”
“I’m not.” Gavin says biting back a grin.
The front door of Gavin’s apartment creaks open and Gavin isn’t sure who he’d prefer to see less, Anderson or Elijah. He certainly didn’t think they’d arrive at the same time.
“It’s a whole party in here,” Elijah strolls through Gavin’s apartment, “I’m so glad I got the invite.”
Anderson’s footsteps are quicker, unwilling to play games. He hurries into Gavin’s room making a sharp stop when he sees the clothes on ground. He follows the trail to the bathroom where his eyes nearly pop out of his head when he sees his robot son. It takes Gavin a minute to realize that this looks a lot like something else.
He cups a hand around his mouth to keep from saying anything stupid. A muzzle.
“Are you okay, Connor?” Anderson grits out and Gavin can preemptively feel the ass kicking Anderson is going to give him.
“I’m fine.” Connor stands, legs a little shaky. He grabs a towel and wraps it around himself as he exits the shower, brushing against Gavin slightly. Gavin looks up at the ceiling willing his ears to stop turning pink. “I’m missing approximately 17 minutes of data from 2:38 to 2:55 PM today. And my thirium reserves seem to have diminished.”
Elijah stands behind Anderson with a thick, metal case marked CyberLife. It’s larger and bulkier than a briefcase but the same basic shape. “I can help with that. Dry off and then come sit on the bed, Connor.” Elijah sits, and pats the bed next to him. Judas interprets this as an invitation to play, and swipes at Elijah’s hand. He retracts it just in time. “I thought you didn’t like cats?
Gavin uncovers his mouth, “That one’s okay.” Gavin mutters, feeling claustrophobic with Connor and Anderson crowding his bathroom. “Anyone in this damn apartment hear of ‘personal space’?”
Anderson leaves the door frame. Connor exits the bathroom, towel slung low around his waist. Gavin stands there until his bathroom doesn’t feel like it’s closing around him.
“I would appreciate it if someone would tell me what’s happening.” Connor says, tense as he dries himself off. Hank’s already picking through Gavin’s dresser, pulling out a t-shirt and sweatpants for Connor to wear.
Gavin steps into the bedroom, watching Elijah open the metal case. “The FBI has been trying to hack into your memories, Connor. You’re missing 17 minutes due to a blackout. It’s a safety protocol fending off the attack. It shuts down everything except your necessary functions - that would be your thirium pump and temperature regulator - as it secures the rest of your...well, you. A large scale attack is a lot for your system to handle, so you overheated.”
Anderson looks from Gavin back to Elijah who has pulled out a cylinder of blue liquid, some cables and a laptop. “How--?” Anderson stops. There are too many questions he wants to ask. He can’t even begin to figure out which should take priority. “How did you know it was the FBI? Who figured it out?”
“Is that a trick question? I think we all know Gavin’s not exactly ‘tech savvy’.” Elijah laughs, unscrewing the top of the cylinder and handing it to Connor like it’s a cocktail. Connor sits and drinks it slowly.
Judas settles into the empty spot in the briefcase as Elijah begins to answer. “Prototypes are very dear to me. Unique models, groundbreaking technologies, perfect at the exact thing they were designed for.” Elijah’s fingers begin at Connor’s temple, swirl around the LED and over his cheekbone. Gavin resists the urge to throw something. “Let’s just say I have ways of keeping an eye on things, and that I’ve been more watchful since the revolution.”
Gavin can see Anderson grinding his teeth, a vein threatening to pop. All he says is a single word: “ Hands .”
Elijah pulls his hand away immediately. “Forgive me.”
“What the fuck?” Gavin says, unable to think of anything else so fitting. His breathing becomes shallow as he puffs air through his nose.
“Don’t act so scandalized, Gavin. I only have access to his vitals and his software protection. I don’t know the details of what he’s doing or who he’s doing them with.” Elijah waggles his brows and that’s the last straw for Gavin.
Gavin marches over, grabs Elijah by fistfuls of a sweater. He hauls him off the bed until their toe to toe. The fact that Elijah’s taller, has always been taller despite being younger, amplifies Gavin’s anger. Elijah struggles, pushing Gavin away. He might be asking Gavin to stop, reminding him that Elijah is there to help Connor, reminding Gavin that he could sue his broke cop ass. Gavin doesn’t hear any of it until Anderson pulls him off before Gavin can throw a punch.
“Calm down.” Anderson orders, continuing to restrain Gavin until he’s breathing normally and won’t murder Elijah.
Gavin wrestles out of Anderson’s hold. Elijah sits next to Connor once more. Gavin digs his nails into his palm.
Connor points out the elephant in the room, “You two are related. Brothers, or half brothers based on your facial features, speech patterns and social interaction. I didn’t realize before because it’s not in either of your records.” Traces of blue stain his lips, his tongue pokes out to swipe it away before continuing to finish the canister.
Anderson is slack jawed, total shock. “I’ll be damned.”
Gavin can’t even say anything. All his focus is being spent on not attacking Elijah again. Elijah pulls out the laptop and inserts one end of the cable into the USB port. “What are you doing?” Anderson and Gavin ask at the same time.
Elijah holds out the other end, “Connor, would you mind leaning forward? I’m going to manually upgrade your defenses. If they try again...well, let’s just say they will be in for a surprise.” Connor follows Elijah’s instructions and doesn’t even flinch when he connects the other end of the cord to the nape of his neck. “This will take a few minutes."
“Reed, outside. Now.” Anderson storms out of the apartment. Gavin, having lost control over the day, follows him.
They stand in the hallway of the apartment complex, Gavin barefoot and head pounding. All he wants is a glass of water and a nap, but what he gets is Anderson hovering over him like a thunderstorm. “I want real answers from you, now.”
“You’re gonna have to ask a question first, lieutenant. Did you forget how to interrogate people?’ Gavin doesn’t get to finish the question before Anderson has backed him up against a wall.
“Why was Connor here?”
“Y’know I didn’t have to call you. He’s not really your son.”
Gavin expected to get a black eye for that, maybe the threat of getting Fowler to throw him off the case. Instead Hank backs away, his steps quiet. Nose no longer flared, eyebrows no longer knit. “He wastes so much time trying to get through to you. You just can’t accept him, can you?”
He turns to enter Gavin’s apartment again when Gavin says, “He just came over to talk. We started fighting and then he blacked out or whatever. I called you because I knew he would want you to be there when he snapped out of it.”
The truth wrings tension out of his shoulders, makes him feel a little bit human.
“Elijah, despite being a pretentious prick, was the only person I knew who could fix the situation.” Gavin scoffs, “You happy now?”
Hank considers all of it, swishes it around his brain before sighing. Gavin receives an awkward pat on his shoulder as a thanks for his honesty. He hates. Hank returns to the apartment as Gavin stands out in the silence for a moment.
When Gavin catches his breath and re-enters his bedroom, Connor is dressed in one of Gavin’s favorite t-shirts and a pair of sweatpants that are a touch short for him. His hair looks towel dried and curly. Gavin tries not to think about it too hard.
“Is he fixed now?” Gavin asks, facing Elijah. The metal case is repacked and hanging delicately from Elijah’s fingers.
“His defenses are strengthened.” He says, like it’s the same as a yes. “I’ll let you all in on a little secret. The FBI had been tracking Connor’s thirium pump as well as the amount of activity in his neuroprocessor. In layman’s, they knew when Connor was upset and that it would be easier to bypass some of the security.”
Connor, gathering his strewn about clothes, asks, “How did you know it was the FBI? I would assume their information would be encrypted and rerouted.”
“That is true, but I can’t imagine who else has the resources to attempt getting in there.” Elijah gestures to Connor’s head, “Also an Agent Perkins stopped by and tried to lure me into doing his dirty work for him, so that was a pretty good tip off.”
Gavin groans. “Next time tell me, asshole!”
“I tried.” Elijah calls out over his shoulder as he saunters out of the apartment.
“That’s such bullshit, Elijah!” Gavin yells after him. There’s no response from his half-brother other than the sound of footsteps fading away.
“C’mon kid, let’s get out of here.” Anderson says, his hand clasps Connor’s shoulder to guide him out of the apartment. Connor, with his hair wet and clothes tucked under his arm and barefoot like Gavin, looks small under Anderson’s wing.
“Lieutenant, I’d like a moment to speak with Detective Reed.”
Anderson laughs until he realizes Connor is serious. “Are you crazy? Do you need the recap of what happened today? No, absolutely not.”
“I promise I will stay in perfect control of my emotions this time. Give me one minute, Hank. Please.” Connor requests with wide eyes that could get him anywhere, get him anything.
“Fine. One minute.” Hank holds his index finger up for emphasis. He walks out of the apartment, shaking his head and muttering.
Connor takes a step closer to Gavin. “I apologize for fighting with you as well as disrupting your afternoon. Thank you for contacting Kamski and Hank on my behalf, I’m sure that wasn’t easy for you.” As soon as the last word is out of his mouth he turns on his heel and walks towards the living room. “I won’t bother you like this again.”
“Wait!” Gavin finds himself calling out, watching it happen in third person. He steps forward, hooks the sleeve of the t-shirt. The action spins Connor around. “I’m...I’m a shitty person but I don’t want to be a shitty detective. We need to work together on this case, okay? No more fighting.” He finds his face heating up with every word. Gavin casts his eyes down as he extends his hand to settle the agreement.
He can’t even look Connor in the eye when the android says, “Okay, no more fighting.”
“Don’t think that I’m gonna start being nice all of a sudden.” Gavin adds as they shake on it.
Connor smiles. There’s an indescribable softness to his hands. A slight static Gavin feels from the touch. “Don’t think that I’m going to start tolerating your bullshit.”
The honesty of it startles a laugh out of Gavin. Light and unexpected. He’s still holding Connor’s hand.
When Connor turns around again it feels a little like progress.
// Monday 6:35 AM //
Gavin slumps into his desk chair only to remember that he should get a cup of coffee before he starts his work day. He thinks about taking the whole pot back to his desk and sipping it slowly. He doesn’t come in this early often but he was too wired to stay in bed. And now he was too exhausted to do work. A man in limbo.
Cops filtered in and out; some left over from the graveyard shift, others just starting their day. Little noises of the morning shuffled in between Gavin’s thoughts. A phone across the room ringing, Connor in Gavin’s shower, two officers chatting at a desk, Connor in Gavin’s clothes, the smell of fresh Coffee.
Connor leaning against his desk, holding a cup. He holds it out to Gavin. “Are you busy?”
“I just got here.” Gavin says, snatching the cup. It’s still too hot to drink but the warmth feels nice on Gavin’s hands. Sometimes he forgets its winter and that he’s cold until he holds something so warm.
Like Connor’s fevered body.
Gavin asks, “Where’s Anderson?” They both knew it was way too early for the lieutenant to be in the office willingly. “He let you come into the office all by yourself?”
Connor gives Gavin a sharp pointed look, his eyes narrowing and all. “Hank will be in later.”
Gavin takes an exploratory sip of the coffee. It burns his tongue a little and he knows it will leave that spot numb for the rest of the day, but he drinks it anyways. “Something you need from me? Gavin asks.
“I’ve been thinking about the Zlatko case. I’ve reviewed the physical evidence and downloaded the individual memories of the surviving androids to try to piece together what happened the night Zlatko died.” Connor withdraws the coin from his pocket, flinging it from hand to hand.
Gavin sighs, “We know what happened. They were upset and broken, machines seeking vengeance. That part of the case is closed. Leave it to the D.A to figure out if it’s murder.”
“I think something else was going on the same night but it’s too difficult to parse out when the individual memories are coming from damaged androids. There’s missing pieces of audio, fuzzy visuals, moments from the past being looped in. It’s a mess but...” He trails off, quarter pausing as he does.
“Careful Connor, it almost sounds like you have an idea.” Gavin teases, taking another sip of his coffee. He watches the quarter balance between the valleys of Connor’s knuckles.
“I do. I need you to come with me to the Andronikov house.” Before Gavin’s tired mind can process this, Connor stands. He walks to his desk to retrieve his gun and badge. Gavin gulps down the rest of the coffee knowing he’s going to need all the caffeine he can get.
They take a squad car in the hopes of bypassing morning traffic. Gavin punches in the address and sets the vehicle to self drive so he can shut his eyes for a moment. Sounds of the city go by, a bit muted from inside the car. He waits for Connor to explain what his big, brilliant idea is but he never does. The silence is snug around them, a thick wooly thing. Uncomfortable around Gavin’s throat.
“Aren’t you going to tell me taking a nap and leaving the car unsupervised is against protocol or something?” Gavin says, opening one eye to glance at Connor.
Connor stares at the window, watching the the high tech glitz of the city desolve as they get further from the epicenter. “If you already know it’s against protocol why would I need tell you?”
“So you’re not going to say anything?”
Connor turns to face Gavin, a smug grin on his lips. “Anything.”
Gavin closes his eyes again as he tries not to laugh.
When they arrive the perimeter of the house is still surrounded by the holographic police tape. They each scan their badges as not to trip the alarm. Gavin pulls his jacket around him to block out the cold of the winter morning. He follows Connor to the backyard, their footsteps crunching the ground.
“We out here for a reason? Or are you just trying to make me catch a cold…” Gavin asks, warming his gloved hands. Somehow the backyard was more haunting now that it is empty. A light layer of frost coating the mud and dead, matted grass. Indentations of officer footsteps, spots where androids had dragged themselves to Zlatko’s corpse. A trail from where the android tried to grab Gavin.
Gavin told himself the shiver running down his spine was from the cold.
Connor stands in the middle of the backyard as he answers. “I believe something else occurred the night Zlatko died. I’ve been able to capture small glimpses of it from individual memories, but there’s not enough uncorrupted data to reconstruct the whole event. But if I can synthesize all of the memories I can form a single, all encompassing recreation of what happened the night Zlatko Andronikov died.”
“Holy shit, you can do that?”
Connor looks Gavin in the eyes, “I’m not sure. This will be my first attempt at such a task. I need you here to make sure I don’t… to make sure everything runs smoothly.”
Panic rises as Gavin holds his hands up. “Woah, hey, you can’t almost die in my apartment one time and think I’m down to babysit you for the rest of the case. I can’t do this.” Gavin backs up a few paces.
“I need you to. It’s the only way we can progress the case.”
Gavin scrubs his gloved hands over his face. He can’t think straight with those big brown eyes staring at him, that voice saying that he needs him. Hank would actually kill him for this, for once again being involved with the near destruction of his precious android. But Connor, though he can be reckless, is a machine. He has undoubtedly gone over all the outcomes. If his supercomputer brain thinks this is the only way to continue the case, it probably is.
“I want you to tell me if somethings wrong the nanosecond it happens. Okay? And if I get a bad feeling we stop immediately.” Gavin says, clenching his fists.
“As you wish.” Connor agrees. “I’m ready to proceed.”
Gavin nods once, “Okay.”
Brown eyes drift close. The LED swirls yellow which already stresses Gavin out due to the event from the day before. Connor looks perfect standing there, statuesque. He is still and calm, no twitch to his fingers. No worry in his brows.
When his eyes open it startles Gavin. It takes him a minute to notice a slight blue sheen glazed over Connor’s eyes. He doesn’t know if he should be afraid of it. Connor is facing Gavin but he looks through him, all the way past him. Into the dark night when Zlatko died.
Connor winces and shifts in reaction to something Gavin had no way of seeing. “Connor?” Gavin calls. He wants to know what’s happening but doesn’t know how to ask. All he can manage is the android’s name.
“I’m fine.” Connor’s voice is distant and more mechanical. He trembles, “There’s so much happening at once.”
Gavin remembers the voice of the android that approached him in the yard. The sound of pure terror in its voice. Before that day he hadn’t believed that androids could feel fear. Today he wasn’t so sure, but he thought if they could it would sound like Connor shaking voice and watering eyes.
“I don’t like this.” Gavin approaches Connor until the android raises a hand to stop him.
“I’m okay. I’m just overwhelmed.” He blinks away the tears.
“Yeah, that’s what I don’t like.” Gavin sighs, “Tell me what you see.”
“There’s so much pain. Agony. Distress, sorrow, hopelessness. Rage.” Connor turns in a slow circle as he speaks. “I feel all of it. It’s so much.” His hands shake as he describes it. “It’s dark and pouring rain. They’ve escaped from the basement and have been wandering, aimless here. The door opened, two--” He stops. His gaze is towards the backdoor of the house. His mouth parts, wordless.
Gavin stares at the door, like he might see what Connor sees. “Two what?”
Connor’s head turns, following phantom movements that Gavin is blind to. “Two androids, AX400 and YK500 models. They’re running, terrified. Zlatko’s androids are still, hidden in the bushes. They want these two to have freedom, to escape.” He continues, describing the the TR400 who lumbers after them and Zlatko running with his shotgun. Scene by scene, when the child model trips and the caretaker steps in front of her. The TR400 stepping in front to protect them.
Connor turns again, facing the spot Zlatko died. Slow steps to his dirt patch of a deathbed. “They’re killing him. It’s loud, he’s screaming. He’s being strangled and smothered. Beaten.” Connor’s LED flickers red just once, but it’s enough to make Gavin’s stomach drop.
“That’s enough.” He orders, reaching out -- for what, he doesn’t know. To pull the android away from a murder that’s already passed, to save Connor from whatever this simulation is doing to his system? Gavin is a breath away from him, “Connor, that’s enough.”
Connor looks up, points towards the other side of the house. He’s visibly shaking, his eyes blinking too rapidly. “There’s one that never left the bushes. They’re a mix of many models but they appear mostly functioning. But they’re not joining the attack, they’re making an escape.”
“Connor!” Gavin grabs him. His gloved hands on Connor’s forearms holding him, pulling him back into this moment. It’s like pulling a body against a tide.
Connor blinks and the blue film disappears from his eyes. His LED returns to a safe color. They’re still toe to toe, almost chest to chest. Gavin’s heart pounds, angry and terrified and unwanted, in his ears. “Your heart rate is very high, detective.”
Gavin’s nostrils are flared. His cheeks are already rosey from the cold but he feels them heat up even more.
“I hate you.” He wants to punch Connor more than he ever has before, which is saying something, but that would require letting go. He’s not sure if he can do that right now.
“I’m sorry.” Connor says, his hand dangling idly at his sides.
“You said you’d listen, you motherfucker. God, I fuckin’ hate you.” There’s equal parts worry and venom in Gavin’s tone.
Connor whispers, “I said I’m sorry.” The tenderness reminds Gavin how close they are physically. He removes his hands and backs up.
“Never do that again.” He says and retreats to the squadcar. He sits in the driver’s seat and allows the engine to be the only noise that occurs. Unpacking his emotions and thoughts at seven in the morning is a lot less desirable than setting the car to manual and peeling out of the space. He won’t do either though, he knows there’s work to be done. Gavin chews at his bottom lip until Connor slides into the passenger’s seat.
They remain quiet for the entire ride.
They’re back inside the police station when Connor says, “I might be able to ID the missing android. It’s possible that Zlatko had an accomplice or protege and that they’ve been continuing his experiments.”
It’s not a crazy theory. It had been brought up during one of the android interrogations. But Gavin’s stomach is still turning. Two days in a row this android has tossed him into an emotional blender. Nothing about him feels solid. His temper is hollow and his concern is watered down. It’s around eight am and he already feels spent for the day.
“Great. I’ll take care of the report while you find a lead.” Gavin walks to his desk. His body feels numb, his legs like jelly.
“Gavin, I’m sorry.” Connor says but Gavin does not turn around.
// Tuesday 12:04 PM //
A lunch break isn’t nearly long enough to tell Tina everything that happened in the past two days but he does his best to speed through the recap. “...And he thinks he can just say ‘sorry’ after all that.” Gavin finishes.
Tina, staring at him with wide eyes from across the booth of the deli they’re in, sighs. She sinks back into the booth and stares at her empty plate, “Jesus, Reed.”
Gavin huffs out a laugh. “Yeah.”
He edited a few parts out of the story. Just the things that were still raw and personal. Details that needed to be protected with a thin gauze of lies. He didn’t mention being related to Elijah Kamski. Nobody knew about that for a reason. Tina might be his closest friend but some secrets run too deep.
In this rendition of the story, Kamski was called by Hank who was called by Gavin. Everything else shaped around this one change.
Tina grabs her half-empty coke and toys with the can’s tab. “I don’t even know what to say.”
“Guess I found one way to shut you up.” Gavin smirks. He winces immediately, feeling the toe of her boot hitting his shin. “Hey!”
They’re quiet as they pick at the remains of their meals. Gavin’s aware of every second that passes. He dreads going back to the station. He knows the sooner that this case is over the sooner he can go back to working alone, but he’s beginning to question if it’s worth it. It’s unraveling him in ways he didn’t think were possible.
“Did I mention you look terrible?” Tina says, reaching out to fix Gavin’s hair.
Gavin pushes her hand away, “You always know just what to say.”
“I do.” She nods. But then her face softens and he knows she’s going to say something that’s going make him want fresh air. “The only reason you and Connor don’t work well together yet is because neither of you know how to express yourselves. One of you is an emotionally constipated machine and the other is the Android sent by CyberLife.”
She reaches out again, grabs his hand that’s resting on the table. “Seriously, Gav. It’s okay for things to change.”
He pulls away, holds his hands up. “Okay, okay. Thanks Dr.T but I already got a therapist.”
“Oh shit, I didn’t tell you that?”
The ringing of Gavin’s phone puts a pause on the conversation.
Incoming Call: Android #313 248 317 - Connor → Accept
“What?” Gavin asks. He’s only answering the call because he’s obligated to if Connor or Anderson found the missing android. He wants to block all calls and texts from everyone except maybe Tina but it would make doing his job kind of impossible.
Connor’s voice is a tense whisper in the speaker, “You need to return to the precinct. Agent Perkins is here. Another crime scene has been located and the FBI wants the case.”
Gavin stands immediately, grabbing his jacket “Are you fuckin’ serious?”
Tina stands as well, grabbing her officer’s cap. She mouths something at Gavin that he can’t begin to understand. She throws her arms up, exasperated, and heads to the exit. Gavin follows her in a haze as he listens to Connor’s low voice
“You need to get back here now.”
“Where’s the crime scene?”
The frustration and disappointment that Gavin feels is echoed in Connor’s voice, “Gavin, it’s done. There’s nothing we can do.” And then the line is dead.
Tina unlocks the squadcar and slides into the driver’s seat. Gavin slumps into the passenger’s seat.
“What happened?” Tina asks.
“We lost the case.”
// Tuesday 12:20 PM //
If anyone was wondering what shitty day looks like, it looks a lot like Gavin Reed rushing in head first into a jurisdiction based turf war. In fact, it looks damn near identical to Gavin running into the precinct and muttering swears, Tina a few feet behind him. It looks like the angry line between his brows, the scar across his nose, the curl of his lips in a snarl.
It looks like a station full of cops so distracted by the DPD versus FBI shit show that it’s quiet . The usual cacophony of sounds muted down to tense whispers. Everyone’s eyes on Fowler’s office and the line of FBI ants transporting evidence. And now, subsequently, on Gavin.
“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” Gavin stomps over, ready to snatch back the evidence, item by item if necessary. Tina wraps an arm around him from behind, holding him back. “This is my precinct, asshole. This my case, my evidence.”
“Reed,” Tina warns softly, “pick your battles.”
He wriggles out of her grip and adjusts his jacket. The FBI ants continue on. He’s always hated that saying and people, for some damn reason, always felt it necessary to remind him that he couldn’t fight everything. But with his face feeling hot and his fists shaking like hungry dogs it really feels like the battles are picking him. Singling him out, sensing his pent up aggression. Calling for him and him alone.
Tina taps him on the wrist, “I think they’re waiting for you. Don’t do anything stupid.”
Gavin follows her line of sight. He trusts it more than his own in his furious state. Captain Fowler stands in his office, behind hid desk. He motions for Gavin to come in. Hank and Connor are already in there, Connor sitting dejected in one of the seats and Hank hovering close by him, arms crossed. Lastly there’s Agent Richard fucking Perkins of the FBI.
Tina nudges him forward until he’s able to stride into Fowler’s office with the most obnoxious and arrogant smiles he can muster.
“Hey, Dick , how’s it going?” Gavin asks, holding out his palm for a handshake. Perkins actually turns his nose up, and Gavin just laughs, “Still got hard feelings about the whole deviant case, huh?”
“Gavin Reed, immature and dysfunctional as always.” Perkins greets with a frown. “There’s no need to draw this out. Hand over everything you have on the Zlatko case and you all can go back to living your pitiful lives.”
“You’re already taking everything we have. Want us to solve the case for you while we’re at it?” Hank snaps. Gavin smiles his most eat my entire ass smile. He and Hank are on the same page for once which is beyond weird, but Gavin will have to digest that later.
“Detectives,” Fowler stands, sighing, “you are to supply any additional reports or notes that you may have on the case. You will not withhold any information, no matter how inconsequential it may seem.”
“Jesus, he already has access to our case files. What more is there?” Gavin scoffs. He shakes his head, “You think you’re such hot shit but you couldn’t solve a damn four piece jigsaw puzzle unless someone came in and did half the work before you got there.” Every word is louder than the last and by the end, Gavin is fuming once more. No more fun and games, no more joking around. He’s ready to tear into this stupid, greedy fuck.
Perkins grins and then turns his attention to Connor, “I want him administered into evidence. I want whatever’s in his hard drive. Anything he’s processed mentally is mine .”
Gavin can feel his face turning one shade too red, so outraged by the demand. He envisions himself spearing Perkins through the glass, tackling him out into the bullpen. Gavins hands knot into white knuckled fists. There’s probably a hundred ways he could get in trouble for assaulting an FBI agent but it would be worth it to see Perkins choke on blood.
A familiar hand is on his shoulder and Gavin relaxes instantly. Gavin looks to his right to see Connor beside him, brown eyes urging him to stand down. He feels Perkins’ judgement, that quick exhale through his nose and a raised eyebrow. A subtle jeer that says you’re going to take orders from that thing?
Gavin reels back his fist and relishes in the way Perkins flinches, the way his hands shoot up to block his face. But it’s all just a fakeout and quick as Gavin reeled back he relaxes. The anger in his stomach is satisfied for now. Humiliation is a good substitute for an all out brawl.
“Bitch.” Gavin says under his breath as Connor guides him to take a few steps back, behind him.
“Enough, Reed.” Captain fowler orders. He turns to Perkins, standing at the corner of his desk, “Agent Perkins, though their reactions may be...dramatic, I believe my men are right. The archives and files will give you access to everything you need.”
“Not everything.” Perkins says, staring directly at Connor.
“I can assure you my written reports are extremely detailed and contain all of my findings.” Connor states leaving Gavin’s side and walking to the door. Hank is a few steps behind him. Gavin takes it as his cue to leave.
Connor turns to face Perkins at the last minute, “I find it highly disrespectful for you to insinuate that I would hide evidence, as if I’m intimidated by you and your deeply inadequate skills as an investigator. If you feel you need my memories and processing abilities in order to glean the same information as stated in my reports, perhaps you should rethink your current form of employment. Dick .”
Perkins blinks, shocked. Gavn can’t help the genuine smile that he unfurls.
“What he said. Also go fuck yourself.” Gavin adds as Hank pushes him through the door, rough and with haste before Perkins can do anything about it.
Gavin’s laughing, feeling weightless in the wake of Connor’s comment. Connor smiles back at him, a little sheepish as he adjusts his tie with nimble fingers. His brown eyes are shining, staring into Gavin’s. He pulled into Connor’s orbit. They’re too close but Gavin doesn’t notice it, he just notices how good the moment feels. Gavin’s just inches away from Connor, toe to toe with him. They’re between the office and the bullpen beaming like idiots.
But it’s a shitty day, someone has to ruin the moment. Hank clears his throat and it’s gone. The whole office is spinning, the eyes of nosey officers on them. Hank stands there, arms crossed and eyes narrowed. Gavin steps back, recoils. His face burns.
The sound of evidence being carted out is just fire meeting gasoline. “Fuck this shit. Fuck this department, fuck that good for nothing captain. Fuck both of you for bending over and letting Perkins take whatever the fuck he wants.”
“Gavin,” Connor says softly, taking a half step forward. It’s almost lost in the commotion of everything else that happens.
“Reed!” Tina, already running late for her patrol, stops in her tracks. She had waited for him and that sent a pang of guilt through him. It didn’t last long though, anger already snaking around that feeling. Choking it out.
He’s shaking, trembling with so much fury. So many things gone wrong. The victims of this case being reduced to collateral damage in a never ending war between Perkins and this department. Gavin’s selfish, arrogant, stupid ass thinking this case was his ticket out of desk work and mandatory therapy. Hank looking at him like he’s something to be destroyed. Demolished.
Hank grabs a fist of his collar, “You just can’t help yourself can you?” He shoves him back hard, Gavin’s back hits a wall. “Let’s get back to our other cases, Connor.” Hank places a hand on Connors shoulder to guide him back to their desks.
Connor’s eyes were sunny and hopeful a minute ago, shining brighter than anything Gavin had ever seen. Now they regarded him distantly. “Yes, lieutenant.”
Tina pulls Gavin out of the room, out of the building until they’re in the parking lot. He’s breathing hard and fast and god, are his eyes watering? Jesus, it just made him madder. He wipes his face roughly.
Tina lectures, “You were doing good Gavin. Then you had to open that big mouth. Things were changing--”
“Shut up.” His voice is coarse as sandpaper as he yells, “Just shut up and quit acting like you know anything about me.”
Tina stops immediately, her hand no longer pulling on his wrist. “I don’t have time for this. Bye, Reed.”
Snow begins falling as Tina walks away. Gavin stands there on hard, black pavement as snow collects and builds. He’s the only thing on fire in the frigid, winter air. Hot tears cut down his cheeks as Tina enters her squad car and drives off with her partner. Snow melts on Gavin’s burning skin and he bites his fist trying not to scream.
“You should come back inside, Detective. You’re not dressed for the weather.”
Connor’s cold voice makes him jump. Gavin dries his tears in one fast swipe. He turns and Connor is studying him. His LED spinning a perfect blue. But it’s not the Connor he’s grown used to working with. It’s the Connor from November, it’s the android from CyberLife. It’s the robot that only cares about solving cases. He’s a perfect machine waiting for an imperfect man. That hurts Gavin more than anything.
A rogue tear slides down his face. He can feel Connor staring at it, following it from the corner of his eye and over his cheek. There’s no use in trying to hide it when Connor could probably give him a chemical breakdown of his tears and then a psychological examination of what caused him to cry.
It’s what the machine would do. But Connor sees the tear and his LED turns yellow, processing the scene. He’s quiet, considerate, instead.
Humanity returns to Connor slowly. His stance changes slightly, not as rigid. His hands are loose at his sides, the tips of his fingers fluttering slightly. He doesn’t look at Gavin like he’s a mission objective anymore.
“I…” Gavin doesn’t know what to say next. “I can’t…I’m...”
Connor steps towards him, “I know.”
Gavin steps back, stamping fresh prints into the snow. An overwhelming urge to run away keeps pushing him back like a strong wind. So forceful, all encompassing, that he couldn’t fight it even if he wanted to. It moves him further and further away.
“I have to-” He chokes as another tear escapes, “I gotta go.”
Connor watches with an outstretched hand as Gavin climbs into his car and leaves.
// Tuesday 6:04 PM //
Exhaustion and hyperactivity play tug-o-war with Gavin. It’s his own damn fault because as soon as he got home from the station he climbed into bed and took a five hour nap. The kind of nap that you wake up from with a thick, pounding headache. Everything foggy and his eyes slow to blink, as if they don’t trust themselves not to fall back asleep if they stay closed too long. He drags himself to sit at the edge of the bed.
Judas mews and mews at Gavin.
Gavin’s tired. His bones are heavy and his brain is barely to put together the concept of cat needs food .
And yet, when he stands, he feels a little bit of a jitter in his hands. A bounce in his heels. A need to do something, the need to be occupied. He’s on autopilot as he pours Judas’ food into a bowl. He taps his fingers on the countertop idly. The idea of going to the gym flashes before him briefly before he realizes he would have to get dressed and, most likely, interact with people.
He darts, as well as anyone who is completely wiped out can dart, around his apartment. Ambling from spot to spot, unable to get comfortable. The cold glass of the window hits his shoulder and part of his back as he perches on the sill for a moment. He watches snowflakes drift and, irrationally, aches to be so free.
Unprovoked, the events of the day play for Gavin. As he wanders to his kitchen, Gavin feels the hurt of it as if it was new. He flings open his cabinet and fishes out a half empty bottle of vodka from the summer. He just has to laugh because of how ridiculous the sight of him must be - half asleep, half wired and drinking straight out of the stars and stripes, Fourth of July themed bottle.
Alcohol was never Gavin’s vice. He could have a beer or two socially but, to be honest, watching Anderson drink himself to death for the past few years has scared him away from the stuff. Mostly.
But this had been sitting in the back of his cabinet for nearly six months because Tina had brought it over knowing he would hate the tackiness of the design. Nothing says ‘drink to forget’ like the burn of patriotism that tastes like nail polish remover.
He stops drinking when he can no longer stand the way his nose burns. That and Judas had turned to look at him with the most disapproving eyes Gavin has ever seen on any living thing.
“I’m fine.” Gavin defends, taking the bottle back to his room. Judas gives him a look before leaving for his cat tree. “Judgiest fuckin’ cat in all of Detroit.”
Judas meows loudly as Gavin grabs his phone from his bed. No new notifications at all. He opens up a new text but his hands are suddenly still. He knows he needs to say something to Tina but no words are coming out. Everything he starts typing is eventually erased.
Every time he starts it just feels wrong. He’s always been quick to slam doors shut, to burn bridges, to throw away the key. The sense of finality and power would rush through him, fueling his anger. But the idea of losing his only friend leaves him feeling empty.
At some point he stopped staring at the blank, white screen of his phone in favor of laying back onto the bed and staring at the ceiling. Long shadows with slivers of light peeking between them stretch across from wall to wall.
Judas gives no warning before pouncing onto Gavin’s chest. Gavin groans at the sudden weight and claws. “I gotta get you a bell or something. Shit.”
The cat bumps his nose against Gavin’s, rubs his cheek to his, unofficial, owners. Purrs.
“Least I got you, Judas.” Gavin sighs, petting the length of the cat’s back. “Fuck this is depressing.”
Judas mews softly.
“Nah, like, you’re cool but…” Gavin can feel the alcohol making his words come out uncoordinated. Choppy. It’s a small price to pay for how it’s taken some of the edge off. Maybe too much of the edge off as he feels it sanding him into nothing. “M’fucking it all up.”
Judas nuzzles his face, concealing half of Gavin’s words. “Today was just bullshit and now I’m talking to you like you’re my therapist--
He says it before remembering that he has an actual therapist. A human one who can talk back. Gavin thinks back to the last session he had, about how Lauren said she was there to help him figure out what works for him . Maybe it’s the vodka, but it’s not sounding so awful now.
Gavin mumbles, “Maybe she can do a session over the phone tomorrow.”
He sets a reminder to call her in the morning. With one final yawn he and Judas pass out for a few hours more.
// Wednesday 11:01 AM //
He sits on his couch feeling like the biggest idiot in the world. Which is quite an accomplishment considering he’s Elijah Kamski’s half brother. They, very briefly, went to the same middle school and were in same math class for all of two days before everyone realized that a) Elijah was academically gifted and b) Gavin was not. The word polynomial still makes Gavin’s ears turn pink. Algebra was not kind to him.
Gavin had always assumed that would be the most stupid he would ever feel. But you know what they say about assumptions.
“So, what’s going on, Gavin?” Dr. Lauren’s voice is calm and even and everything Gavin’s voice isn’t.
“I just...There’s a lot happening with me, right now.”
He wants it to be easier. He feels pathetic with how much he wishes he could just say everything that’s on his mind, everything that’s happened. It all feels impossible and too big and not even worth discussing because who is Gavin to decide that he wants to stop fucking it all up.
Nobody, that’s who.
Lauren listens as Gavin takes a deep breath. There’s still a slight, lingering headache pulsing at his temples. He blames it for the time it takes him to continue. “A big case I was working was taken by this goddamn asshole and I dunno… Shit happens and I see red.”
He curls into the corner of the couch, pale winter sun coming in between the blinds. He’s so fucking grateful he’s not scheduled for today because God knows he still doesn’t have it in him to see anyone.
He knows he’s damn lucky that Lauren could take his call such with late notice. Gavin can’t help but feel like he’s fucking that up as well because he only has a handful of these calls he can make before she realizes he’s too broken to fix.
It takes every ounce of self control he has not to hang up. “I was fine. I mean, I was really fucking angry but I thought I could just deal with it. But I lost it and snapped at everyone.”
“Like your partner?”
Every honest word is like a knife trailing across his throat. It’s not ready to slice him open, to bleed him out or leave him exposed. It’s just a sharp reminder that he’s horrible at this and should give up.
“I haven’t had a partner in a while - what a shocker - but I had been working with this,” Gavin grits his teeth, “shitty fucking android detective and his alcoholic partner. It’s been a real treat.”
There’s a pause and a pound in Gavin’s chest. It’s preemptively nervous about what he’s going to say, “I was starting to-- God, it sounds so fucking stupid but I was starting to get along with him. Or, y’know, at least as along as someone like me can get. Tina - who was maybe my only friend? - pointed that out and I yelled at her.”
Built up pressure than Gavin never realized was in him, releases. His chest deflates a little, his shoulders relax. The knife at his throat becomes a little duller.
Lauren asks, “So you’re not fond of androids?”
Gavin snorts, “Understatement of the century.”
“Can I ask why?”
“It’s pretty fucking simple. We shouldn’t trust them or the people who make them.” The hostility in his voice grows. The knife is sharp again. “Everyone thought I was paranoid but look what happened, they became ‘deviant’. We have enough human threats without worrying about robot ones.”
“Do you view all androids as threats?”
Gavin scowls, “No. I guess. I dunno, I don’t want to talk about that.”
“What do you want to talk about?”
He exhales, “I don’t know. I don’t even know why I called.”
Lauren waits for him to continue but he doesn’t. “I think you do, Gavin.”
He does. Somewhere, under the layers of hate and anger and suffering, is the knowledge that he can’t keep living his life like this.
“I don’t have a lot of people--” He stops when his throat tightens, his eyes watering slightly. Jesus, he thought he filled his quota on crying yesterday. “Tina’s important to me. I can’t just use her as a verbal punching bag.”
“And,” He finds himself adding after blinking away tears, “I like my job so I can’t keep losing my shit every time something bad happens.”
There’s a long stretch of quiet as Gavin lays out onto the couch, his head resting on the arm. Judas hops onto the coffee table and Gavin reaches out to feel his fur, soft under his finger tips.
“You should be proud of yourself for recognizing that, Gavin.”
“I should be proud of realizing I’m a fuck up? That every time I stumble into something good I always find a way of ruining it.”
“That’s not what I said,” Lauren says. “Treating progress like a ladder will only make you feel worse on the days that you trip or are unable to climb.”
Gavin doesn’t usually go for the that deep sounding shit but he can’t help but picture himself climbing up rung after rung, always slipping and falling and never making it to the top. And, Christ he hates saying it but, he’s thirty-six years old. He can’t keep falling down the ladder forever.
“The thing to focus on, Gavin, is learning to see what makes you upset and figuring out how you want to respond to it. You’ve mentioned that you don’t think talking helps you. Chances are that you already know what does help you process your feelings. I just want to help you learn what that is specifically.”
When she says it, it almost sounds doable.
// Thursday 2:23 AM //
Gavin squeezes his eyes shut, clinging to the last bit of sleep as his phone and his cat lead a two-pronged attack. His phone, vibrating and beeping and Judas, clawing at his shoulder. “The fuck, Judas? M’up, I’m up.” He mumbles, sitting up and grabbing for his phone blindly.
The lock screen shows a text, possibly the longest text he’s ever received. He sees Connor’s name and his stomach flips. He’s far too exhausted to attempt reading anything beyond the first line: Detective Reed, I’d like to express blah blah blah. The words blur on his bright screen. Gavin leans back against his pillows as he swipes to call Connor.
He answers on the first ring, “Hello?”
Gavin yawns as Judas decides to nest on his stomach, “Is this important? ‘Cause if not imma go back to bed.”
“ You called me . ” Connor says in hushed tones.
“Connor, s’like...I dunno, two AM or somethin’. You sent me an epic poem and I’m tired.”
“You didn’t read any of it?” Connor whispers. Gavin can hear the vague sounds of a television in the background fading and footsteps. The gentle click of a door opening and closing.
“Why’re you whispering?”
Connor’s voice is still low but a little louder than a whisper, “Hank is asleep. I’m outside now.”
Gavin clenches his jaw as a nervous feeling seizes him, “If this is about Tuesday, I don’t wanna talk about it.”
“It’s about...it’s just important. Tuesday was highly emotional for all of us so I understand why you had such a volatile reaction to losing the case. I believe you are brash, stubborn, prone to bouts of rage-”
“Is that all?”
“-riddled with ADHD, and drink, on average, 2.3 cups of coffee too many per day. However, I also believe that you are a driven detective, a relentless force for justice. Working with you has been challenging-
“-both professionally and personally.” Gavin almost thinks Connor’s done completely roasting him before he adds a shocking, “I’ve enjoyed it greatly.”
The weight of Connor’s words sits heavy on Gavin’s chest. “Oh. Shit.”
“Very well, I’ll let you get back to sleep-”
“Wait,” Gavin takes in a deep breath. He thinks about his session with Lauren and how he should at least try to patch things up, “I-I didn’t mean any of the stuff I said about you and Anderson just letting Perkins take what he wanted. Fuck, I don’t mean most of the stuff I say.” A beat passes, “Y’know except this, I mean.”
The five seconds of quiet is enough to make Gavin regret being born.
“Ah, fuck, that was dumb. Nevermind, let’s act like I said something about how I hate your guts--”
“No. It’s okay, Gavin. Thank you. Have a pleasant night.”
The call ends with Gavin’s face turning pink. Gavin grabs a pillow, chilled since it was away from his and Judas’ body heat, and throws it over his face.
// Thursday 7:32 AM //
Yellow lilacs, an oxymoron in Gavin’s hands. The girl at the flower shop called them primrose but he can’t say that with straight face. He just wanted something nice for Tina and felt weird buying her roses.
He’s bad at apologies but he thinks that coming in at an ungodly hour before she starts her morning shift should count in his favor.
Gavin holds the bouquet inelegantly, scowling at anyone who eyes him. He waits in the break room, praying that Tina will be there soon for her cup of coffee and that she won’t punch him as soon as she sees him. Although if she did he couldn’t say it would be unwarranted.
She appears soon enough, her eyes narrowed at him, “You asking someone to the prom today?” Her tone is harsher now than it is with their usual banter but he’ll take it any day over her right hook.
“They’re for you. I’m sorry.” He extends them to her.
Tina crosses her arms, staring at up at him pointedly. “For?”
“Being an asshole.” It’s a blanket statement that could cover any of the many terrible things he’s done. However, based on the way Tina is staring at him, it will not suffice.
“Yelling at you in the parking lot when you were only trying to help.” He says, soft and rough at the same time.
Tina takes the bouquet. She smells the yellow flowers but she’s suspicious, like they might be laced with poison. “What the hell am I supposed to do with flowers, Reed? There’s about 20 minutes before I go on patrol.” She asks but there’s a small smile on her lips.
“I’ll find you a vase or something if it means we’re cool again.”
Tina considers it with pursed lips for a long minute. Then she stands on tip toes and ruffles his hair in a way that’s irritating and endearing, “We’re cool. You’re the worst but we’re cool.”
He finds an old coffee pot back in the cupboard and fills it with water before setting the flowers in it. He keeps it on one of the break room tables for her and slaps a sticky note on there that says Tina’s, don’t fucking touch .
They sip morning coffees quietly before Tina has to leave for her patrol. Gavin sits in his desk wishing he had something substantial to work on. Something to distract himself with. He eyes Fowler’s fish tank of an office, wonders if he’s going to be assigned a real case ever again. Or maybe the Zlatko case was his last fucking hurrah before being sentenced to a life attached to his desk.
He gets a familiar itch to pour over the case file.
But it was out of Gavin’s hands now. That was always the worst part when another department decided to swoop in. He was worse about it when he was newer to the job, he’d keep the cases easily accessible and continue trying to work them as new cases came in. He’d spread himself paper thin, forgetting at times to eat and shower. It wasn’t just that he wanted to solve the case, he felt compelled to not give up. He was stubborn, everyone knew that, back then it was a kind of earnest persistence.
Gavin pokes around his monitor for a minute before realize those FBI assholes must have deleted the Zlatko case from their systems. No matter how he searches for it it’s nowhere to be found. Figures.
Almost two hours of him running license plates and making calls for someone else’s shitty case go by. He’s still on the phone, twirling his keys around his finger, when Connor and Hank walk in.
Gavin doesn’t get a chance to get a read on if Hank is going to kill him or not before he spins around, actively avoiding them. There’s a list a mile long on all the reasons Hank might want to finally kill him. Gavin’s not sure if saying you bent over and let Perkins take the case or calling your robot son in the middle of the night rank higher on the list.
Gavin swivels around just enough so he can glance out of the corner of his eye. Hank glares at him but he glares at most people, especially Gavin. Gavin decides that if Hank hasn’t stomped over to beat his ass now, it won’t happen any time soon.
Connor is saying something to Anderson but his brown eyes lock with Gavin’s grey for just a moment. A flash of a connection that makes Gavin’s heart stop beating for a second before pounding in his ears.
Gavin swivels back around and does his best to ignore them for the rest of the shift.
// Thursday 6:40 PM //
Gavin freezes and thinks about heading back to the elevator when he sees Elijah outside his apartment door. When Elijah waves Gavin turns around with his Chinese takeout and considers eating it out in the snow.
“Now Gavin, this seems very petty.” Elijah says, following after him. Gavin jabs the call button for the elevator with his thumb.
“Go away, Elijah.” Gavin begged, waiting for the elevator. He just wanted to eat his food, play with his cat, and go to sleep.
“That’s no way to talk to family. What happened, rough day at the office?” Elijah asks, ignoring the ding and parting doors. Gavin steps in,and Elijah does the same. “This would be much easier if you’d talk to me.”
“I don’t want to talk, I want to be left alone.”
“But you owe me, remember?” Elijah raises his eyebrows, like he’s bested his half-brother. Gavin just punches the button for the ground floor. He’s tempted to start eating his food now because he doubts Elijah will leave any time soon.
“What favor would you possibly need from me? You’re rich, you have everything.”
“You’d like to think that. You’d like to think that money, material possessions would grant me everything-”
Gavin holds a hand up, “Enough with the philosophical monologues.”
“But I’m good at them.” Elijah says, almost in a childish whine. The doors slide open. Gavin steps out and Elijah follows suit.
“Y’know what else you’re good at? Ignoring me like we’ve been doing for the past, I dunno, ten years.” Gavin snaps.
“In a few weeks it will be twelve, actually.” He corrects, like he’s talking to himself. His eyes are on the ground, staring at his boots. “I want to do a real family Christmas.”
“M’kay have fun with that.” Gavin gives him a shove towards the door.
Elijah stumbles back a few feet. “I don’t think you understand. That’s the favor I’m asking for.”
Some tenant Gavin doesn’t know steps into the lobby, letting in a burst of cold. A few snowflakes flutter in as she scurries for the elevator. Gavin stands there wide eyed, taking shallow breaths. He hasn’t had any part of their weird, broken family for years. He was content being the outcast, the black sheep, the unwanted bastard. It gave him all the space he ever wanted.
“I know it’s only a few days away but you don’t even have to bring anything. Think about it.” Elijah continues because he doesn’t know any better.
Gavin, trembling with decades worth of rage, repeats, “Get out, get out, get out!”
Elijah’s air of mystery and aloofness vanishes for a split second. Just long enough for Gavin to see scarred blue eyes. Just for a brief moment Gavin sees the little boy he used to call brother. It’s not long enough to quell his anger. As soon as the moment was there it leaves, following Elijah Kamski out into the cold Detroit December evening.
// Friday 2:53 AM //
“Is this gonna be a thing with you?” Gavin asks into the phone groggily. He doesn’t bother to roll over onto his back, or sit up or anything. He’s tangled in a pile of blankets trying to block out the cold. It’s much easier when he’s unconscious and when Connor doesn’t call him in the middle of the night.
“Did I wake you?” Connor asks. Gavin can’t put his finger on it but his voice sounds different.
“What do you think?” Gavin grumbles.
“My apologies. I assumed you were a night owl, you often have dark circles under your eyes.”
Gavin squints in the darkness because what the fuck is this phone call, “No, you prick, that’s just my face. I’m hanging up.”
“I didn’t mean to say that - I haven’t gone into stasis at all in the past seventy-five hours. Almost seventy-six.” Connor sighs.
That’s what’s off, he sounds tired. It’s so convincingly human. Gavin’s never thought about it, he never needed to, but Connor’s systems are so advanced they must require so much more energy and upkeep than an average model. Gavin’s not Elijah motherfucking Kamski, but he’s sure that stasis keeps the android functional.
“Hey dumbass, maybe you should do that instead of calling me?” Gavin suggests.
“There’s something I need to discuss with you. In person.” Connor says.
Gavin blinks incredulously, “What, like right now?”
Connor sighs again. His voice dull and low through the phone, “Yes. It’s very important.”
“Can’t this wait-”
“Gavin,” There a pause followed by...a yawn? He’s never heard an android yawn before, maybe it was another sigh, “I’m a few minutes away from your place. I’m sorry to bother you but it’s about the Zlatko case.”
“Oh you mean the case that we’re not working anymore?”
“ Gavin, please.” That’s it. That’s all Connor says. Gavin’s name is short and sharp and tense from the Android’s mouth.
“Shit, alright. I’ll get up.”
The call ends.
Gavin drags a hand over his face before he hauls himself out of bed. Judas follows him into the bathroom. The cat watches him curiously as Gavin splashes water on his face. He hops onto the counter as Gavin brushes his teeth.
“Just cause I’m getting up doesn’t mean you need to.” Gavin says around a mouthful of toothpaste. Judas mews again as Gavin scoops him off the sink and onto a pile of dirty clothes. He mews again with suspicious yellow eyes. “I’m just brushing my teeth, ya little shit. I don’t wanna have bad breath.”
Judas bumps his head against Gavin’s ankle. “Yeah, don’t worry, I’m gonna get dressed.”
Half of his wardrobe is in a pile, spilling out from his hamper, reminding him that he needs to do some laundry soon. Gavin pulls out a long sleeve t-shirt out of the bottom of his dresser, throws it on. Steps into his jeans from yesterday because fuck it, they’re jeans. He’s still cold so he throws on his jacket and then feels stupid because he’s not going anywhere so he takes it off. And then he considers his very old, very comfortable hoodie from the academy and by that time Connor is softly tapping on his door. He ditches the hoodie on his bed.
“You better have something goddamn mind blowing to say.” Gavin says, his voice still groggy and sleepy in his own ears. He holds the door open as Connor enters. Gavin watches him walk by, noticing that he’s in casual clothes instead of his usual suit and tie. He wears a blue sweater and black jeans, his hair slightly disheveled. It’s the first time he’s ever seen him like that and, somehow, it’s almost stranger than the time he saw him almost naked.
“May I?” Connor asks, gesturing to the couch. Gavin nods and watches the android plop down, his movements less minimal and refined. He is sluggish. “I haven’t entered stasis because something happened.”
A pang of fear stabs Gavin in the stomach. Gavin stares at Connor on his couch, at his LED for signs of another hack. He wishes desperately that he could stop worrying about that because it’s not his place. “What happened?”
“I-I don’t know how to explain it. I attempted to enter stasis Monday, at ten PM approximately, and when I closed my eyes I experienced the simulation of Zlatko dying. I wasn’t simply observing, I was in Zlatko’s place as they ripped me apart. You might not believe it but I felt...scared.”
Gavin stays silent, unaware of what he should say or do. If he should say or do anything at all. Gavin sits on the arm of the couch on the opposite side from where Connor is sitting. It leaves a whole empty cushion between them where nothing but the sound of Gavin’s breathing collects. There’s hundreds of thoughts flying through Gavin’s mind and he can’t quite grasp any of them.
None of this is supposed to be happening. This scene in Gavin’s life is an array of problems and contradictions. Androids were not supposed to win the fucking revolution, that was the first thing. They weren’t supposed to walk around as if they had thoughts and ambitions, concerns and fears. And yet one was on his couch, looking so convincingly exhausted. His voice low and tainted by confusion and fear. This android specifically was made to steal Gavin’s job, to be better than any human detective. Gavin’s supposed to hate him, he’s always hated him. He doesn’t know how to do anything other than hate him. And Connor knows this, but he’s here anyways.
Androids aren’t supposed to have nightmares, they’re not even supposed to dream. But this one did.
Gavin slides down, taking up the space on the empty cushion. He leans against the arm of the couch and draws his knees up, wraps his arms around them. “Did you tell Hank?”
A shake of the head, a sway of messy hair, “He doesn’t know that I attempted to combine the memories like that. And he worries enough without knowing about this malfunction.”
Gavin nods, his eyes never focusing too long on Connor. He fiddles with the sleeve of his shirt as he asks, “Has this ever happened before?”
He doesn’t know why he’s asking. So far this has nothing to do with the Zlatko case, not really. This has everything to do with the fact that Connor’s always a surprising him in sometimes incredible, sometimes terrifying, ways. He surprises Gavin by showing up in the middle of the night to talk.
Judas makes a sudden, stealthy appearance by leaping onto the back of the couch. Gavin runs a hand from his shoulders to his tail. Brown eyes are studying Gavin. He’s aware of it but, maybe because of the late hour and the strangeness of the visit, he doesn’t mind.
The cat hops down beside Connor and nudges his hand with his head. Connor smiles and scratches Judas’ ears.
“M’not gonna pretend like I understand how your programming works but I think it’s the stress getting to you.” Gavin says finally. He feels his stomach tighten. Who’s he to give advice to anyone, let alone the android he hates most in the world?
“I’m not designed to feel stress.”
“Yeah well I bet you weren’t designed to turn deviant either.” Gavin scoffs. When he sees the look on Connor’s face his own expression and tone softens, “It happens. Lots of people on the squad have nightmares.”
Connor turns slightly, looking him in the eyes, “Do you?”
Gavin bristles at the question, “Fuck no...well not in a while, anyway.”
“I apologize. I shouldn’t ask such personal questions.
“It’s fine.” Gavin takes in a deep breath, “Last one I had that was about a case was a year ago, maybe? There was this sixteen year old kid who went missing last fall. Bobby Chang. His family was well off so they plastered his face everywhere looking for him. I got called to a crime scene, an abandoned parking lot. He was tied up in the trunk of a car, suffocated. I woke up every night that week feeling like I couldn’t breath.” His face feels hot at the end of the story. He didn’t even tell Tina about that so he has no idea why he’s telling Connor.
Judas flicks his tail back and forth as Connor continues petting him, “When I woke- when I exited stasis, I was too concerned about it happening again. I can function for another thirty or so hours without any serious defects but I can tell my cognitive features are slowing. I’m less agile.”
“You’re gonna have to do it eventually.”
Connor nods, “I’m aware.”
“Well I hope you didn’t come over here to do it on my couch. To enter stasis on my couch, I mean.” Gavin stammers.
“No, of course not,” he pauses briefly as his LED spins yellow, a text pings on Gavin’s phone, “I came over here to discuss the case-”
“The one that Agent Asshole decided he needed to solve so badly.”
“I’ve learned the location of the second crime scene. It’s not far from Grove Apartments so we can tell that the suspect has a comfort zone. I’ve also been refining the description of the suspect. According to the memories-”
Connor pauses as Gavin touches his arm. Gavin hadn’t even noticed he was moving his hand out until it was done. He has a loose grip on the android’s bicep, “So you wanna go behind the FBI’s back to complete your mission.”
“It’s not about my mission. It’s about seeking justice.” Connor stands. His hands instinctively go to straighten a tie he’s not wearing. He sighs, shoves them in his pocket. “If you can’t understand that then I’ve made a mistake by coming here.”
Connor begins to walk towards the door, chin held high and eyes away from Gavin.
Gavin smirks as he stands, catching up quickly to stand in between Connor and the door.
“You’re blocking the door.” A sick feeling of deja vu washes over Gavin. It’s powerful, nearly knocking him over. He settles for leaning against the door remembering the last time Connor said those exact words in his apartment.
But things are different this time. Gavin says, “I never said I was against going behind the FBI’s back, dipshit.”
A slow, sleepy smile spreads from Connor’s lips.
This one was a bit more difficult for me to put together but I think I got it. This fic is my favorite thing to work on these days so seeing such lovely comments from you guys really makes my day. Thanks much for the support! And, if you haven't commented yet, please consider doing so. It really gives me the boost to keep going.
Chapter 5: Part Five
I'm not great about doing content warnings but I felt like I should be doing some. I'd like to be more conscious about it (so if there's something in one of the past chapters that you think I should warn against/add to the tags let me know!)
tw/cw - blood/bleeding (not a lot imo, just in one scene)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
// Saturday 1:15 AM //
The faded paint creates spots of silver on Gavin’s car. They are unpolished mirrors, reflecting the lights of the city as they go by. The mix of traffic lights, the yellow twinkling from store windows, the electronic glow of changing billboards reminding people they have plenty of time for last minute holiday shopping.
Gavin doesn’t check his calendar as often as he should. Only a handful of dates are marked as ‘important’ for him and Christmas certainly wasn’t on of them. His body could feel the cold of December, the ice and the snow and the deathly chill, but his brain hardly realized the holiday was fast approaching. A few days away, according to Elijah.
There’s something rattling under Gavin’s dashboard so he leans forward and smacks the plastic hard. The noise stops.
“You should start to brake.” Connor says calmly from the passenger’s seat. “The light is about to turn red.”
Sure enough Connor is right. Gavin’s brakes screech. By some standards, Gavin’s car is shitty and outdated. It’s old technology, free from the autonomy of most modern vehicles. Except the self park function, and Gavin only uses that on the horrible days he has to parallel park.
Gavin trusts his car to get him where he needs to go. He’s not attached to the vehicle, he’s not one of those guys . The car doesn’t have a name, no bullshit bumper stickers or knick knacks seated on the dash. It’s just a car.
Still he can feel Connor’s eyes studying everything about it. Gavin holds the wheel a little tighter every time he sees a fast food wrapper at the floorboard, a pen without a cap in the center console that never shuts properly, a half dozen lighters that get tossed in the back every time he craves nicotine.
He hasn’t smoked since his academy days but fuck if that itch isn’t always there when he’s his most anxious. He usually just played with the lighter until the feeling left him.
He’d like a cigarette now.
They’re the first car at the light. Pedestrians amble from bar to club to liquor store. Couples and groups of friends and people all by themselves. Drifting on a snowless night. They clear and green glows again on the hood of Gavin’s car.
“The light changed.” Connor points out.
Gavin drives steady towards their destination. His eyes do their best to stay on the road and off Connor, once again dressed in casual clothes. A beanie covering his LED, a dark shirt under a thick peacoat. Dark jeans and black winter boots. He’s dressed so warmly for something that can’t feel cold.
“Why don’t you ever dress like that at work?” Gavin asks, turning when Connor directs him to.
Connor looks at him with a raised brow, “Why are you asking?”
“Isn’t it easier than wearing a suit and tie all the time? We both know who does the running after perps between you and Anderson. Doesn’t the suit, y’know...hinder you?”
Gavin can’t tell because he’s only really looking out of the corner of his eye now but he thinks Connor might be smiling or smirking. If it’s the second it’s definitely an expression that Gavin hasn’t seen from Connor before. “Rest assured, the suit does not hinder me in any way.”
A light blush tints Gavin’s cheeks. He doesn’t know why.
They drive with the slight hum of the radio between them. Gavin bites the inside of his lip as Connor navigates them to the second crime scene under the cover of a black December night.
They’re a little south of Grove Apartments when Connor tells Gavin that they’re close and that crime scene is in an abandoned house.
“We’re approximately 160 meters from the crime scene, 7764 Oakshield Lane.”
The neighborhood is a mix of decay. Dilapidated houses clinging to the hope that someone will get them new roofs or fix their rotting stairs. Houses slowly being reclaimed by the earth, covered in vines, hidden by unpruned trees, blocked by scratchy shrubs. The ones that were occupied gave no real indication of holiday spirit. The occasional sprinkling of colored lights clashing with rusting cars on the lawn.
Gavin parks the car down the street and out of the way, no self park necessary. They walk to the only place that’s still glowing with holographic crime tape. Connor touches a white, skinless hand to a sensor. The blue tape stutters before altogether vanishing.
It’s a single story house with boarded up windows. There’s still patches of unmelted snow from the days before but nothing that obscures their path. Gavin pulls on a pair of latex gloves incase he has to touch anything.
The front door is locked, which isn’t surprising. It’s not wired in anyway so Connor can’t hack his way into it. They circle around the place, deftly and wordlessly searching for another entry point. In the backyard that looks entirely more like a landfill, there’s a door leading into the back of the house. Gavin tries it. Locked, but there’s just the slightest give to it. When he feels the wood it’s soft and rotting. He jiggles the knob again and it feels all kinds of old and ready to give out.
“One of the windows may be unlocked.” Connor says so quietly that Gavin wouldn’t be surprised if he had thought it instead of said it. He begins to walk away when Gavin grabs his arm and tugs him back around.
They’re not quite face to face. Gavin’s right shoulder brushes against Connor’s left side. The only reason they’re so close is to better hear each other whispering. That’s what Gavin tells himself even though he knows that Connor could hear a pin drop from a block away.
“You’re super computer brain is fast at learning, yeah?” Gavin breathes. He withdraws a small black case from the breast pocket of his jacket. It’s no bigger than an envelope, maybe an inch or two thick. Gavin unzips the case to reveal something shiny.
“Those are tools for lock picking.” Connor observes, the slightest bit of disapproval in his tone.
“I tried to learn. Shit’s hard. But you could probably do it.”
Connor takes the tools, examines them individually. “I suppose I could.” Connor says but he’s hesitant.
“We’re already breaking and entering, what difference does it make?” Gavin urges. He’s careful to keep his voice low, never rising above a whisper even though he really wants to.
“It feels premeditated.”
And there’s such a realistic flash of guilt over Connor’s face, in the way his brows worry and his eyes shine. If they weren’t already here in this shitty neighborhood, if Gavin hadn’t spend the evening earlier searching for these tools in the mess of his bedroom, if Gavin wasn’t stubborn as all fuck - maybe that look would have worked on him.
“It is premeditated. You premeditated it when you came over last night. C’mon, now's not the time to puss out.”
With pursed lips Connor nods, “Fine.”
Connor steps over to the door, studying the lock. He runs his fingers over the grooves of the tools. Gavin watches, leaning against the exterior wall of the house. His arms wrapped around him, his collar turned up to block out the cold. He wishes he would have brought a hat. Connor closes his eyes. They stay that way for a half minute and that terrible, familiar feeling of panic floods Gavin.
He should trust the upgraded software protection Elijah installed but he just doesn’t.
“You good?” He takes a half step forward.
Connor holds a hand out, one finger raised in the universal signal for one moment . “Shh. I’m processing.” There’s only the sting of a false alarm in Gavin’s chest.
Gavin huffs out a frustrated breath, steam coming out of his nose due to the cold. “Well process faster, I’m freezing my ass off.”
Without any further warning or indication, Connor lowers down into a crouch. He holds two tools expertly. The lock - which, to be fair, Gavin was sure would be the easiest one to pick - never stood a chance. The door swings open with a little less than a creak. Connor rises back to his full height.
“Well I guess I know who I’m calling if I ever get locked out.” Gavin whispers, impressed.
Connor presses the kit back into Gavin’s hands, “A locksmith.”
It was dark outside so it doesn’t take long for Gavin’s eyes to adjust to the darkness in the house. Connor closes the door quietly behind them as Gavin peers around the kitchen. There’s moldy, broken dishes in the sink. Dirt and scum stain every surface from the scuffed tile floors to the walls. Walls overcome with years of vandalism.
There’s an obvious look of things are missing as they creep through the kitchen and into the living room. Cushions had been removed from the couch. Dried blood stains the carpet but there are no bodies.
The FBI was here and had taken what they needed. Sure, they did their jobs but it doesn’t mean they did it competently. There could still be something here, something that will tell them exactly who is committing such wretched crimes. There’s a likely chance given how Perkins can’t see past his ego. Gavin’s selfish and crude but at least he can prioritize solving a case above inflating his sense of self.
Well, actually he’s just skilled at doing both at the same time.
Connor stoops down to inspect a large swath of red stain on the carpet. Gavin knows what’s coming next so he turns around as the android laps at dried blood. God, Elijah’s a weird fuck for putting the sensor in Connor’s mouth.
Gavin takes the opportunity to peruse the kitchen table. He remembers the syringes, the sawblades, the tools from Grove Apartments. There’s none of that here, which makes sense. It’s all in FBI lock up by now.
He ventures past Connor who’s inspecting another stain, and down the hallway. He opens the first door on his right to find what used to be a bathroom but what was now likely the home of many different kinds of bacteria. Gavin’s never been happier to wear gloves.
A shattered mirror on the medicine cabinet. A filthy sink and filthier toilet. A suspiciously clean tub.
Clean might not have been the right word but it wasn’t caked in brown and black rings of dirt and, maybe literal, shit like everything else in the small room. Gavin takes a whiff through his nose, an action he’d been avoiding at all costs in this disgusting place, and thinks he might smell bleach.
He exits the bathroom and bumps into Connor. Literally. He steps backward into the bathroom, pulling Connor with him. “You smell anything?”
Connor pauses a moment before saying “Bleach, likely.”
“Look at the tub.” Gavin says, stepping to the side as much as he can in the small space. He’s tucked between the toilet and the sink as Connor steps forward.
Connor swipes two fingers from the bottom of the bathtub and up to the ledge. Gavin winces as he inserts the digits into his mouth. “Traces of bleach and thirium. I’ve identified the blood in the living room. Three victims; Trevor Nash, age 25. James Cifuentes, age 23. Leon McDowell, age 22. All with prior records. I’ve found their DNA in several places in this home. I believe they were squatters.”
It’s a completely different set of victims than the first crime scene. These three knew each other and had been staying in this hellhole for some time, apparently. If there was a pattern developing between the first kills and these, Gavin didn’t see it.
Connor exited the bathroom and Gavin followed behind him closely. It was getting darker down the hallway, no light slipping in between the boarded up windows. Connor, with his robo optics, probably saw everything fine. Hell, Gavin wouldn’t be surprised if he had a green filtered night vision.
They step into the first bedroom on the left. It’s small, maybe it was a kids room at one point. Now there was an old, rotting mattress with springs popping out. Stained to hell like everything else in this place. Gavin could see dust particles floating in the streetlight that peeked between the busted blinds. Nothing there that wasn’t typical of every squat.
The last bedroom was slightly bigger. It gave the two of them more room to spread out. Gavin poked around matted blankets and old boxes of takeout. Connor scanned and processed everything that was there to be scanned and processed.
It feels like bust as they enter back into the living room. Gavin looks the whole place over, his eyes capturing every detail as best as they can. He’s looking, hoping for something. Something small the FBI missed that will lead to something substantial. Something to put an end to these murders. But the place has been picked thoroughly and now it just seems like disgusting, old, abandoned home.
“What a waste of time.” Gavin groans. He turns ready to get back to the warmth of his car and then eventually the warmth of his bed when he sees it. Just a shadow at the edge of his vision. He shines the light from his phone at the lower cabinets in the kitchen.
It’s a sentence, a warning, scratched into the wood in perfect CyberLife sans.
SHE MAKES US IN HER IMAGE
“Shit.” Connor breathes.
Connor looks at Gavin with panicked eyes, a slight shake of his head. “Hank is calling me.” He clarifies.
Gavin’s eyes widen, “What? Fuck, don’t pick up. I’ll drive you back now.” Gavin opens the door and waves his hand rapidly for the android to follow. He pulls it locked behind them.
“I have to answer. If I don’t he will only imagine the worst.” Connor whispers as they rush back to the car - stopping momentarily so Connor could reactivate the holographic tape.
No matter how fast they go Gavin can’t escape the chill running down his spine. It’s not just from the cold. It’s not just because Hank is calling. It’s the phrase repeats in his head, borrowing the voice of the android that approached him in Zlatko’s yard - she makes us in her image, she makes us in her image, she makes us in her image.
“What does he think you’re doing?” Gavin asks, trying to push it out of his mind for now.
“I told him I would be working late on one of our cases. It’s most likely that he believes I am at the precinct.” Connor says as they cross over cold pavement to the car. “I am going to answer. Don’t talk.”
Gavin rolls his eyes. He’s not that stupid.
“Hello, Hank.” Connor answers finally as they enter the car.
The cold leather cools Gavin down even further, until he has to bite down hard to keep his teeth from chattering. Gavin’s hand ache to start the engine but he knows he shouldn’t until the phone call is over.
The other end of the conversation plays only through the wiring between Connor’s ears. It would be ridiculous to try to eavesdrop on Hank’s words because it is impossible. Gavin finds his ears straining anyways.
“I’m working on the Roger’s case, the burglary and-- what do you mean where am I?”
Gavin presses his face into his hands. His fingertips press hard against his eyelids until he’s seeing a barrage of stars. This is not going well.
“Oh. I went out for a walk, you know physical activity helps my processors. Hank, I swear I’m-- Oh. Well, I suppose I’ve been on a long walk and that’s why--”
Gavin gawks at Connor between his fingers. An eyebrow raised as Connor fumbles. Connor was designed to interrogate suspects and extract information. Gavin’s seen him lie plenty of times - usually he’s graceful and he’s confident. This exchange was none of that.
“I’ll be home shortly. We’ll discuss it then.” A pause, “I’ll get a cab. Bye.”
They breathe out together, as if they were one being holding one breath. A big, dramatic sigh. Gavin stares at Connor. His arms move to shield himself from the cold and Connor’s next sentence.
“He was restless and went to the station to go over files. Chris told him I left nearly two hours ago.”
“Ah fuck.” Gavin says with chattering teeth. His shaking fist pounds on the steering wheel but he’s careful not to hit the horn. He’s freezing and he’s freaking out. “F-fuck!”
He starts the car and blasts the heat.
The unspoken idea that they both throw out is the idea that they could tell Hank. If Hank knew they hadn’t let go of the Zlatko case, that they were sneaking around, he would blow a gasket. Not about the illegal act of going behind the FBI’s back but about the fact that Connor had kept it from him. And then maybe, possibly, about the illegality of it. The absolute federal fire they were playing with.
Not they , Hank wouldn’t give a damn if Gavin burned. But God forbid anything happen to his robot son.
“Who nuh-nuh-knew you were such a sh-shit liar in the heat of the moment.” Gavin stuttered, still cold despite the hot air blowing at his face..
Connor’s jaw tenses. Gavin can only guess that Connor’s LED is yellow or red by this point. “You can take the call next time and explain to my partner - a man who I greatly respect and currently live with - why I was not where I told him I would be.”
As Gavin rounds a corner to get out of the neighborhood, his phone rings. The automated voice, who must have the greatest sense of timing and irony, announces:
Incoming Call: Lt. Asshole
Connor shoots him a vaguely upset look - flat lips and eyebrows scrunched together. Like it’s Gavin’s fault somehow that Hank is calling when Connor obviously jinxed them. The fact that Hank was saved as Lt. Asshole probably wasn’t helping either. Gavin raises one hand up in a sort of what do you want from me gesture.
“Are you going answer?” Connor asks.
“Fuck no.” Gavin spits out, pulling onto the main road before he realizes he has no idea where he should be driving too. “Where am I going?”
The phone continues ringing. “Closer to the station. I’ll get a cab from there.”
Gavin drives slightly above the speed limit. His shoulders are tense, his bottom lip is chapped and wrecked by the chewing of his teeth. Hank, persistent and with highly adept dad senses , calls again.
“You should answer. Even if you were home asleep, you’re a detective. The call would have woke you up.” Connor advises. “Also you ran that stop sign.”
A small flame of anger warms his chest better than his car heater ever could. He hates it when the android is right. Gavin groans, “Fine.”
He pushes the answer button, “What do you want?”
“Are you with Connor?” Hank’s voice is gruff and to the point. The question, for some reason, makes Gavin’s ears turn pink.
“Why would I be? Your plastic pet run away or something?” Gavin mocks. Connor glares looking a little like Anderson with his nostrils flaring.
“No. Nevermind, just forget it.” Hank says. He hangs up without a goodbye.
Connor pulls out his quarter from his coat pocket. He’s not tossing it or flipping it or performing any of the many tricks that would completely distract Gavin from driving. He’s just holding it and rubbing his thumb over the face. “I’m not his pet.”
“I know.” Gavin admits softly. Unexpectedly. It makes something in his chest tighten. “I had to say something, y’know?”
“What am I saved as in your phone?” Connor asks, his tone climbing down from tense and settling into his normal inquizitive. It feels like a strange question, totally out of place in the scope of their conversation.
“Nothing. Just your serial number.”
Gavin taps the steering wheel as he drives closer and closer into the heart of downtown, closer to the station. He taps, asking himself how the truth can feel like the wrong answer.
// Saturday 10:03 AM //
Gavin taps on the glass door and Fowler waves him in.
Gavin cuts him off before he can begin to say no, “Listen, before you go and keep me tied to my desk for the rest of eternity I just wanted to say that if there’s some case available or…”
“-Jesus, even if the dynamic duo out there need another set of eyes or hands-” He continues, holding his ground. He wants a case so badly it’s like he’s in the academy again.
“Detective Reed,” Fowler raises his voice but he’s not yelling, which must be a good sign, “there’s no reason to beat around the bush, you still have quite a temper. And you have a long way to go before I’d consider you stable...but I’m satisfied with your progress from the Zlatko case.”
Gavin blinks, wipes his palms on his jeans absently. A brief, sharp panic sets in his chest at the idea that Fowler somehow knows what he was doing last night. “Uh, Cap, we didn’t solve the Zlatko case. I mean I guess we made progress but…”
“I mean your personal progress, Reed. For the most part you seem to work well with Anderson and Connor - after the concussion, at least. You’re still belligerent but, if you deciding not to punch Agent Perkins is anything to go by, you’ve gained a modicum of self-control.”
Gavin bites the inside of his lip to keep from arguing. He wants to call bullshit because nobody’s ever described Gavin as having self-control but he keeps quiet. The silence burns his ears until he has to say, “You gonna start making Connor give me a concussion once a month?”
Fowler ignores the comment, “I don’t plan on partnering you with anyone permanently. At least not any time soon. But you’ll be on the next available cases. Don’t make me regret this decision.”
Gavin nods. He’s not cocky or arrogant or anything close to the grand I knew you needed me back because I’m the best detective in Detroit that he imagined he would be. Getting what he wants has never felt less self righteous.
Somewhere, deep in his bones, he feels the inescapable truth that he’s going to fuck it all up again.
// Saturday 4:32 PM //
Fowler, true to his word, throws Gavin a case. It’s textbook - a jealous wife stabs her husband’s girlfriend. Somewhere between aggravated assault and attemptted murder. No androids involved, thank God, just your average, fucked up human emotions running wild. Gavin craves the simplicity of it more than he thought possible.
It keeps him busy for the day - going over evidence, questioning witnesses, leading the interrogation. It keeps his eyes away from Connor and his thoughts away from the Zlatko case.
But every now and then, when he’s not fully immersed in the files and photos and the facts, he blinks. And when he blinks he sees the cryptic, ominous message. He hears it as a whisper. She makes us in her images, she makes in her image, she-
“What makes someone do something like this?” The husband asks and Gavin opens his eyes. They’re in the interrogation room, going over his statement. He’s not being charged with anything other than everyone in the station’s judgement.
“What?” Gavin’s startled by the question.
They were talking about him - Steve Grayson, age 32, Physical Therapist - and his mistress - Lisa Perry, age 22, Gym Trainer. They were talking about how Jessica Grayson (age 31, school teacher) never lost her temper. About how they never fought. About how he didn’t understand how she could do this to him.
Like he was the one who was stabbed at work by a very angry wife.
Apparently Gavin’s answer doesn’t matter because Steve continues, “She’s never-” he stops and starts again, “She wouldn’t hurt a fly. I don’t understand why she’d do this.”
“Your wife stabbed a woman you were sleeping with. Didn’t you expect her to be angry if she found out?”
Steve, dazed, doesn’t answer. “Why did she do it?”
Gavin runs through the rest of his questions. They have footage of Jessica bringing the knife into the gym, of her stabbing Lisa during a cycling class. It’s more than enough. The more he talks the more obvious it is that Steve’s point of view skewed by shock. An officer escorts him out of the precinct and Gavin’s left in the interrogation room staring at his notes.
At something he doesn’t even remember writing.
Why? Written in blue, circled twice.
Gavin’s footsteps are quick and urgent. He’s not running - he doesn’t need to - but he feels like he should be. He stops short, sneakers screeching on polished floor, when he sees that Connor’s desk is empty. A quick glance confirms that Hank’s is too.
He parks himself on Connor’s empty desk and grabs his phone. His actions, rapid and intense, pause. Grey eyes focus on something that used to be insignificant. Connor’s contact information, saved under Android #313 248 317 - Connor . Gavin remembers every moment of last night with frightening clarity, including the moment Connor asked about his contact info with such softness. Curiosity. Wistfulness. Gavin never even chose what it was saved as. His phone added it automatically after Connor’s first texted him.
Gavin tells himself the name is clunky and a mouthful. That’s the only reason he changes it.
Text to RoboCop: where are you?
Text from RoboCop: Hank and I are currently interviewing witnesses for the DeLuca case. Why?
Gavin bites his lip, unsure of how much he should say via text should the FBI decide to spy on him next.
Text to RoboCop: We need to talk about last night.
Text to RoboCop: About the case.
Text from RoboCop: I’ll call you.
Gavin cracks his knuckles, taps his foot and prepares to do the thing he hates most: waiting.
// Saturday 7:41 PM //
“You didn’t call.” Gavin mutters as he lets Connor into his apartment. The android passes in a blur of blue LED, a grey baggy sweatshirt and dark jeans. Judas observes him from the top of his cat tree.
“I didn’t have a chance to but I see you’ve kept yourself busy.”
In the sanctity of his own apartment, Gavin turned his coffee table into a map of events, facts and theories. Impatience encouraging him to write every fleeting thought on the case. A clutter of sticky notes pointing to something Gavin can almost grasp, almost taste. How could he possibly wait for Connor when he needed to solve this now .
“We don’t all have access ever growing databases in our heads.” Gavin snarks. Connor hovers over his coffee table, staring at his work with such intensity. A blush of self-consciousness creeps over the back of Gavin’s neck. He hopes his hoodie hides most of it. “We’ve been ignoring motive.”
“Not ignoring. So far no clear logic or reasoning has been made evident. Serial killers are notorious for their strict modes and methods. However, each crime scene has yielded different theories due to their different natures.” Connor says, turning to face Gavin fully. The cuffs of his sweatshirt dangle over his pale knuckles.
“Except that they’re not different.” Gavin argues, focusing on the task at hand, “We’ve been too narrowed in, especially on the human victims. But I’ve been thinking about that fucking note, scratched in the kitchen. She makes us in her image . That has to mean something.”
“Of course.” Connor nods.
“I don’t think she ever gave a fuck about the people - they were spare parts for her experiments, which explains why there’s no connection between any of them. But the androids might the real targets.”
Connor’s eyes turn back to Gavin’s notes as his LED shifts to yellow. He processes Gavin’s theory with a blink of thick eyelashes. “You could be right.”
“I know that.” Gavin rolls his eyes, “What I don’t know is if there’s a specific connection between the androids. That’s where you come in, inspector gadget.”
Connor sits and rubs his hands together as he thinks. Gavin paces around in the limited space of the living room as Judas watches intently. He can’t sit down, not now. Too many nerves active at once, pushing them ever closer to the answer of this thing.
“If we take your theory to be true and if she truly is making them in her image then she’s going after models that form her composition. When I--” Connor stops for a moment and it halts Gavin’s pacing. There’s a flash of red, a microsecond of panic that Gavin can barely recognize. He feels it more than he sees it. He knows it happened because of the pain in his gut. A deep twisting knife.
Gavin’s never going to see a flash of red and not be alarmed.
“The memories from Zlatko’s androids showed that she was made of many different androids.” Connor continues, like it didn’t happen. Connor stands but there’s a wobble, a buckle in his knees, “I know the models found from Grove Apartments but--
“Hey,” Gavin stops him before he can keep going, his hand grabbing the soft fabric on his arm. The action of it shifts the rest of the sweatshirt, tugs it just enough to the side to reveal a lean patch of shoulder muscles and beauty marks. “You’re, uh, entering stasis regularly now, right? Can’t have you shutting down and ruining the case.”
“That’s hardly relevant.” Connor’s voice becomes ever so slightly defensive as he looks at the hand on his arm. Gavin keeps it there anyway, even though his entire body is burning and screaming to let go. To retract and run.
“You made it relevant when you came over Friday to tell me about a bad dream.”
Connor frowns, moves out of Gavin’s touch. He readjusts his sweatshirt as he speaks. “I came over to work the case, the same case I’m trying to work now.” Only when Gavin’s face burns and turns pink does Connor’s expression soften, “To answer your question, yes. Sumo has helped with that.”
“Is that Anderson’s dog?”
Connor’s smile is brief but infinite in it’s joy, “Yes. I find his presence during stasis calming.”
“Good. I guess. I dunno, just can’t have you shut down and lose all the case information or whatever.” Gavin rambles, staring at his sneakers.
“Thank you for your concern.”
“It’s not--” Gavin stops himself. Nails dig into his palm, “You’re welcome. ” The words taste horrible, acidic. Gavin feels himself wincing as he says them. The twinkle of - mischief? He guesses - in Connor’s eye is enough to confirm it.
“As I was saying, I can cross reference the androids found at Grove apartments with the thirium found in the squatter’s house. Any matching models should give us a better standing of who are killer is and what she hopes to accomplish.” Connor says.
Gavin’s already backed himself away towards the window, resting against the sill. His hand is busy in Judas’ fur and then to the carpet of his cat tree. He picks at fuzz to avoid doing anything like touching Connor again. His hands still shake, his face still burns although it no longer pink.
Gavin orders, “Alright then, get to it.”
“Actually, Hank believes I’m running errands. I have to go to the store and return home in the next thirty minutes or he will begin to suspect something. I will, however, be able to process data at the same time. I’ll let you know what I find.”
Gavin’s eyes stay on the wood of the floor as Connor lets himself out.
When the door clicks and he’s sure that Connor is at least halfway to the elevator Gavin pulls out the note from earlier. Blue pen on lined, yellow paper - a reminder that no matter how advanced things get some work is still done the old fashion way.
Gavin crumples it up and groans. They’re still missing so many parts of this.
// Sunday 7:45 AM //
“C’mon, you can’t be a hermit on Christmas Eve Eve . It’s a rule.” Tina’s voice is bright and chipper and too much for Gavin’s brain to handle given the hour. He takes a long gulp of coffee.
Last night Gavin slept a grand total of three hours, cobbled together in thirty minute intervals. He felt so restless, tossing and turning and unable to turn his mind off. He woke up at five in the morning and gave up trying to fall back asleep, opting instead to shower and get ready for the day.
“Christmas Eve Eve isn’t a thing.” He says, standing across from her in the breakroom.
“It is a thing. I’m making it a thing. And it’s going to be a thing with horrible sweaters, eggnog and judging terrible movies. You’ll love it.”
He lowers an eyebrow and shakes his head, “I don’t think Lana’s going to want me around.”
Tina doesn’t exactly contest that, she just says, “She doesn’t know you except for how on my birthday you mailed me a glitter bomb. No amount of vacuuming can undo what you’ve done. So maybe her feelings are justified.”
Gavin laughs, thinking back to that July day when he received an angry video call from Tina who was absolutely covered in the sparkling particles. “What? You like glitter.”
She punches his arm, “Not that much.” Tina takes a sip of her coffee as Gavin massages his bicep - fuck her punches hurt . “You know I just want you to have a good time.”
“I’ll think about it, T.” Gavin says, neither accepting or rejecting the invitation to be a third wheel.
The morning passes with Gavin at his monitor, finishing details on the Grayson case. They had everything short of a confession, but really, who needs that when there’s a video of Jessica lunging at her husband’s mistress with a knife . It’s an easy case. Which might be why Gavin lets his mind wander as his fingers type out a report.
His thoughts are rarely linear and often switch from distracted to hyper-focused. An ever blooming mess of ideas that tangle and overlap and branch. He thinks about the Zlatko case, the evidence, the details of the gruesome murders. Between that there’s the FBI and Elijah, weaving together despite their thorns.
Somewhere, along the twisting roots, is something that connect to most of Gavin’s other thoughts. Something his mind keeps returning to. Connor.
Connor who makes him angry.
Connor who was built by his half brother and hacked by the FBI.
Connor who sneaks out to meet him in the middle of the night to work on a case neither of them had any business in anymore.
Gavin focuses on his report and sees that his typing had ceased. One name, completely out of place, claims it’s own paragraph at the bottom of the document. Six letters. A combination of four characters.
Gavin deletes it and double checks for any other errors.
The rest of the shift passes as he files the thoroughly proofread report and starts on another case. He keeps his eyes down and his thoughts simple for the rest of the day.
// Sunday 8:00 PM //
Tina and Lana’s condo smells like if a bar was made out of gingerbread. Boozy and sweet like rum with that not so subtle punch of ginger and cinnamon. It’s a lot for Gavin’s nose to deal with upon entering their home but it’s not a horrible combination.
Lana, taller than him by several inches, greets him with a handshake. It’s awkward but then she’s shoving eggnog into his hand and he’s sure the feeling will pass. They chat politely for Tina’s sake.
Then a sweater is forced over his head despite his protests. “C’mon, Gav, it’s festive.” Tina says as he struggles.
“There’s no use resisting.” Lana confirms from her corner of the couch, wearing her own wool, hanukkah themed monstrosity. Blue and slightly holographic so that whenever she moves it looks like a dreidel is spinning. It’s infinitely better than the thing Tina is shoving his arms into.
A red and white striped shirt with actual jingling bells around the collar and cuffs and, the most horrific of all, a christmas tree with blinking lights.
Eventually he quits struggling and accepts his fate. He nests into the opposite corner of the couch.
He laughs - almost spitting out his eggnog - when he finally realizes that Tina’s oversized green sweater with Santa on the front wasn’t Santa at all but a blown up, printed out photo of Anderson’s head with cotton balls glued on top to make a bigger, whiter beard.
“Told you it’d make him smile.” Tina says to Lana, proudly, as she sat between them.
“No, that shit’s horrifying. I hate it.” Gavin clarified, struggling to keep a straight face.
“But did make you laugh.” Lana said with a giggle.
As promised, they watched horrible Christmas movies - including, but limited to, A Husband for Christmas, Christmas Puppy, My Special Christmas Kiss. The three of them drank and snarked at every overacted, cheesy moment.
Gavin hadn’t celebrated the holidays in a while but he thinks he doesn’t hate Christmas Eve Eve .
// Monday 10:45 AM //
A cab took Gavin to Tina’s and Lana’s last night and in then morning a cab takes him home. He didn’t drink that much but Tina had insisted that he should spend the night. Gavin thought it would be weird but it wasn’t. He slept soundly, better than he had in a while, on their couch. He made sure to fold the blanket and ugly sweater before he left. He was still smiling when he let himself out.
Judas mews and paws at him as soon as he walks in the door. Gavin scoops him up and holds him as he fills his dish. Judas, impatient as his human roommate, leaps out of his arms.
It’s December 24th. He plans on taking the late shift tonight. There’s several reason he works the holidays. In order from most to least selfish, he’s working Christmas Eve because: He doesn’t want to see Elijah, he’s already fulfilled his required amount of holiday cheer with Tina and Lana, and people with actual families should get the time off.
But mostly because he’s avoiding Elijah.
There are chores that need to be done and that helps keep his hands occupied.
Gavin scrubs the dishes in the sink like they owe him money. He pictures Elijah at the head of his fancy dining table in his big empty glass house, Chloes seated on either side of him. Would Elijah’s mom be there, in a dazzling dress and platinum earrings? Their dad in some stuffy suit and upturned nose?
There’s a tinkling of glass shards dropping into the sink and then there’s a stinging pain. Gavin looks down to see red gushing out of his palm. He drops the sponge and picks the remaining pieces out of his hand.
“Fuck, fuck,” Gavin curses, watching the water dilute the color. He presses a clean towel to the cut as he rushes to the bathroom for his first aid kit.
Another sharp sting, this time of antiseptic, then an absolute slathering of neosporin and lastly a wrapping of bandages around his hand.
That’s enough chores for now.
// Tuesday 4:14 AM //
Gavin can’t stop the bounce in his leg and the snarl in his throat as he drives back to the station. Aggravated burglary, among other things, on Christmas fucking morning. Two children, sisters, petrified. Two parents looking like they won’t get sleep ever again.
He doesn’t fully grasp the true, roiling nature of his anger until he’s walking down the hallway to talk to whoever is in forensics right now about the possible (he crosses his fingers) fibers found. Gavin doesn’t get how rage is a fickle thing that demands to be felt no matter how many days of good behaviour in a row.
Anger is fed by many things and today it’s fed righteously, out of the need to find this fucker who ruined two childhoods in one night.
Gavin stomps down the hallway on Christmas morning and rips down the lights someone tacked up. It’s not an official office Christmas party because they’re supposed to be working but there’s music and there’s decorations and there’s the most pitiful tree. Officers are laughing and talking and he wouldn’t be surprised if one of them had spiked the punch. Gavin doesn’t care, he tears it all down.
Nobody stops him, they just watch as he crushes ornaments under his heel. Gavin looks up, the embodiment of fury, “Get the fuck back to work. And somebody clean this shit up.”
// Tuesday 1:35 PM //
A call from Connor wakes him out of his deep slumber. A dark dreamless sleep, silent until the ringing. It takes several moments of sluggish brain power for him to realize that it’s his phone that’s causing the noise and that he should probably pick it up.
“Hey,” Gavin’s voice is hazy and his body is still hanging on to the last embers of sleep. He lays on his back and shields his eyes from the light via the crook of his elbow. The cool air hits his bare chest and stomach.
“Are you busy?”
“No. Yes. Sleepin’,” Gavin says before he can realize that essentially he’s telling Connor, a machine that remembers everything , that he has no plans for Christmas. It didn’t feel sad until this exact moment. “You only call me when I’m asleep.” He grumbles.
“Your sleep schedule seems to vary wildly, perhaps even unhealthily. I believe it affects your mood.”
“You’re judgey today.” Gavin says. In the darkness his arm provides he thinks he might be able to fall back asleep this way. Connor’s voice is soft and comfortable. Familiar, at this point, to his tired ears. A lullaby putting him back to sleep.
“That’s the pot calling the kettle black.”
“Oh look who learned idioms.” Gavin yawns, “Is there somethin’ important, tin can, or did you just miss the sound of m’voice?”
There’s a pause that’s just long enough for Gavin to feel self-conscious. Why did he say that?
“There is something important. We should meet to discuss the progress I have made identifying the suspect.” Connor says cooly.
“Yeah, okay. Fine.” Gavin yawns again as a text vibrates the phone in his hand. “Am I meeting you?”
There’s a breath of a “Yes.” before he hangs up.
Unsurprisingly, the text was an address.
Surprisingly, it was closer to Gavin’s place than he thought - walkable. A park, probably covered in snow now. He might be half asleep as he brushes his teeth and slides into clothes that will keep him reasonably warm. Boots, sweater, jacket. The whole bit. It all passes in a blur, his body feeling heavy.
Gavin shoves a pop tart (brown sugar cinnamon, his favorite) in his mouth and scratches behind Judas’ ears before he leaves.
The city feels quiet for once when Gavin steps out. Cold too, bordering on freezing but that’s to be expected. It’s Christmas. He passes store windows that are busy trying to outdo each other with extravagant displays but they’re empty - most of them anyways, a few are open to score the very last of the last minute shoppers. Everyone else is at home, drinking hot drinks and sitting by the fire. Enjoying their gifts. Spending time with loved ones.
Gavin trudges through snowy streets. Hands in his pocket, nose buried in a scarf.
Fifteen minutes later Gavin arrives to a park, mostly iced and snowed over. One lone figure sits on a bench, facing away from Gavin. There’s a number of things that could tell Gavin that it’s Connor: The perfect posture, the fact that he told Gavin to meet him here, the blue sweater and dark hair.
But, regardless of all that, it’s the feeling that spreads from his chest that tells him the most. It’s warm but it’s not his burning, unruly rage. It’s soft and gentle like something that’s been pulled from the dryer.
He scowls. He needs more sleep.
“I have something for you.” Connor says as Gavin’s boots crunch into fresh snow. Connor turns to look at Gavin as he sits next to him on the bench. Gavin pulls down his scarf and gnaws at his lip. “Don’t worry, it’s not a gift.” Connor adds after seeing Gavin’s obvious horror.
The android reveals a plain grocery bag. Gavin grabs it, hesitant. He pulls out his favorite shirt and his sweatpants. He smiles, “My clothes. Took you long enough.”
“My apologies.” Connor says without any further explanation of why it took so long to return Gavin’s clothes. Gavin runs a gloved finger over a stray thread poking from the collar of his favorite shirt.
They’re quiet as the take in the view of bare trees and glittering snow. The city hanging in the background, bright and flashing as always yet, somehow, subdued. But the silence is a comfort that cannot last. “Why’re you here?” Gavin asks. A question that is both broad and bold.
It puzzles Connor, “Can you be more specific?”
“This is your first Christmas. Shouldn’t you be making gingerbread houses with Anderson or visiting your android friend or something? You’re supposed to spend the holidays with people you like.”
Connor looks away from Gavin. The quiet that falls this time is unbearable.
It’s eventually broken by Connor’s distant, factual voice, “There’s a 75% overlap of the android models found at each crime scene. I was only able to use the list of missing and rearranged parts from Grove apartments to form a better idea of our suspect’s composition. Zlatko’s other androids were mostly modified individually or fusions of two to three androids. She’s a complex arrangement of twelve or more.”
“So you know what she looks like.”
“I have a strong idea.” Connor says. He stands and straightens the sleeves of his sweater. “I’m going to suggest something that you won’t like.”
Gavin grinds his teeth, “That’s how most of our conversations go, tin man.”
Snow begins falling, slowly. It collects on the tops of Connor shoulders, hides in the dark strands of his hairs. Balances delicately on his eyelashes as he stares at Gavin. He’s tall, resolute, unwavering. “We should give our information over to the FBI.”
“What?” Gavin splutters, standing as well. The bag, forgotten, falls to the cold pavement. “What the fuck are you saying?”
“She’s likely to kill again, Gavin. Working separate cases and splitting the information is foolish.” Conor is unfairly calm. He doesn’t flinch at gavin’s raised voice, maybe he’s far too used to it. Maybe he sees past the anger and to the deep, unhealable wounds of hurt. Of betrayal.
Gloved hands palm his face with frustration. His face reddens from the cold and the emotions running through him. Pumping in his veins. “We can catch her. We can do this on our own.” His voice is raw and desperate despite his desire to be calloused and raging.
“We can’t.” Connor says so quietly, gently. He steps forward, “It’s okay, Gavin.”
Gavin shakes his head but his feet stay planted. He’ll hold his ground. “It’s not okay. You fucking did this shit last month . Guess you only go deviant against the FBI on your fucking terms, huh? You shallow, fickle, motherfucker!”
“Gavin,” A kind hand on his waist, another on his shoulder, “It’s okay.” They anchor him and keep him steady even as he trembles.
It’s not okay. Gavin crumbles.
“You know it’s the right thing to do.”
He doesn’t know. He dissolves.
“Let’s get you home.”
He’s mute and malleable in Connor’s hands.
Ooh boy that was a lot...
Big thanks to those of you who have been reading every upload. That's completely wild to me. Your comments seriously make my day and make the effort I put into this feel worth it so thank you! If you haven't commented please consider doing so. It really means a lot to me and encourages me to keep updating this beast (honestly when I started this I had no idea that it would wrack up such a word count lmao but here we are).
Chapter 6: Part Six
// Tuesday 2:34 PM //
There is one memory, hazy and worn from age, that Gavin has of his childhood before he lived with Elijah. Before they shared a roof and figured out the dark, twisting roots of their family tree. One tattered memory to keep him warm.
Calling it a memory is misleading. The term implies that it’s a whole moment from his past, something he can recall easily with details of when and where. What Gavin has - what he has buried and dug up cyclically for the past thirty years - is a figment of comfort.
It’s his mom, his real biological mother, soothing him. Gavin doesn’t know if he had pneumonia or the flu or was just an insufferable child but there’s this pocket of time he can sort of half recall. Him feeling weak and miserable and too scrawny for a six year old. The only relief coming from her soft voice humming or telling him a story. He doesn’t remember what she sounds like exactly, doesn’t remember what she looks like. No concrete idea of what she did that was so consoling to his aching being. But whatever it was, it was nice.
He hasn’t unearthed that moment in a long time. Maybe fifteen years, or however long it’s been since he was a lonely kid in the academy. His greedy hands would claw through the layers he built up around himself; selfishness, frustration, isolation. At the core is the memory, the feeling of being loved despite his faults.
And then, when he’s ready to be Gavin ‘that angry motherfucker’ Reed again, the moment of childish tenderness is concealed once more. Smothered.
There isn’t enough energy in Gavin’s weary body to drag it out now as he drags his feet through snow. A pale city passes around him, the faint twinkling of a Christmas afternoon. Snow drifting an landing on his dry lips.
Just because he is too tired does not mean the moment will go unearthed. It’s being pulled up on his behalf. On accident. It emerges as Connor wraps a strong arm around him. Supportive and guiding him home.
Helplessness seeps out from Gavin without permission. From his limp muscles to the weak, pitiful I’m fine that he repeats over and over again. Rhythmless and desperate. When they’re in the elevator Gavin surrenders, just once. It’s Christmas, it’s a gift to himself. No one has to know. His smaller frame leans heavy on Connor. His head resting on the android’s shoulder, not quite lolling to the crevice of his neck but pretty damn close. Connor smells like soap.
Gavin's eyes flutter shut and he is enveloped by the faint hum of a song he can’t remember.
His eyes open again, the phantom of his mother’s voice gone from his ear. Connor’s hand is in his coat pocket. Nimble, plastic fingers find the apartment keys with ease as Gavin remains lethargic, still tucked into Connor’s side. They shuffle through the doorway.
The snow dusted jacket is pushed off his shoulders and hung delicately. Connor kneels as he helps Gavin shuck off winter boots. Gavin - exhausted in every way imaginable - barely registers any of it. He just watches it happen as a knot in his throat grows. It’s the only thing that keeps him from telling Connor that he doesn’t have to do that. Doesn’t have to do any of this.
A minute of time goes missing. A minute or ten. Gavin’s on the couch, Judas at his side purring and warm. There’s a blanket from his bedroom around him but he doesn’t recall how it got there. His eyelids feel heavy.
“You should go.” Gavin says, quietly and around the lump in his throat. It hurts.
Connor can hear him, Gavin’s sure of it. But the he doesn’t answer. Gavin closes his eyes, the feeling of being taken care of causes goosebumps to rise over his arms, even under his layers. He listens to Connor whirl around his kitchen. The rush of tap water into a pot. The clicking and flicker of a burner on the stove.
Gavin closes his eyes again and doesn’t see his mother, just a silhouette of her.
He’s tired. He aches deep into his bones. There’s a small, lonely flame inside him. It trembles, threatened by the onslaught of kindness. It doesn’t know how to burn when Gavin’s already being warmed. It wants to be angry but can’t find the fuel for it.
Gavin wonders if he should be crying.
“Why’re you doing this?” Gavin asks, louder and demanding to be answered.
“Because you need me to.”
It should sting. Gavin hasn’t needed anyone in years. Over a decade, maybe. He never thought he would be reliant on someone, let alone android whom he hates . But it doesn’t sting. It feels comforting. It feels firm and strong and like promise.
Gavin’s too tired to remember that promises are often broken.
He’s probably wrong, but he hears the remnants of a forgotten bedtime story as he falls asleep with Connor in his kitchen.
// Tuesday 5:23 PM //
His sleep schedule is all kinds of fucked up but he wakes from his nap with a growling stomach. A shadow of a blacktail is on his kitchen counter, that much catches his attention first. “Judas, c’mon,” Gavin begs, voice croaky.
Judas’s paw is on the bowl where Gavin dumps all his shit when he gets home. Keys, wallet, lighter, pen cap that he might of chewed on, empty packet of gum. Smug yellow eyes dare Gavin to stop him from knocking it all over.
Gavin lunges, barely grabbing the cat before the bowl has time to go anywhere. Sharp scratches raise on his arm from tiny razor-like claws. Gavin plops Judas to the ground. Black hips saunter away.
The note resting delicately, undisturbed, on top of Gavin’s junk. That’s what shocks consciousness into Gavin.
I’m sorry, I had to leave. Merry Christmas - Connor
And then a set of very specific instructions on how to reheat the pasta dish Connor had prepared for him. It’s just spaghetti and marinara, nothing special because God knows nothing gourmet comes out of Gavin’s kitchen. But it’s just so-- Gavin doesn’t even know the word.
Pleasant. Domestic. Surprising.
But if that happened, if Connor brought him home, then all the other stuff happened too. Them, standing in a frozen park fighting about whether or not to hand their hard earned leads to the FBI. To Perkins specifically because he has to get his slimy fucking hands on everything.
Gavin is too starved to lose his appetite at the thought. Instead he takes angry bites out of perfectly cooked pasta.
He grabs his phone from where it was abandoned on the coffee table.
1 Missed Call
1 New Voicemail
Text from FuckYou: Perhaps it was ambitious to invite you to a Christmas dinner. Mea culpa.
Text from FuckYou: But remember - you still owe me for saving your detective.
Gavin growls as he clears the notifications and deletes the voicemail without listening. He hates owing that prick anything. Gavin’s never been one to collect debts.
Anger simmers in his throat. His phone wobbles in his shaky hands as he types out a foreignly earnest message. One word.
Text to RoboCop: Thanks
The reply from Connor is immediate.
Text from RoboCop: You’re welcome.
Gavin can’t help himself. He needs something bitter to cut the sweet.
Text to RoboCop: I still think you’re fucking dumb for wanting to go hand over everything
There’s an undeniable fondness to Connor’s reply.
Text from RoboCop: We can discuss it further tomorrow. Get some rest, Gavin.
// Wednesday 10:23 AM //
For a bunch of cops, patrol officers and detectives alike, the group in the breakroom isn’t exactly subtle. Gavin can hear the confused, fearful murmurs. You’d think something bad had happened, that someone had died, until you actually heard what was being said.
“There’s gotta be like, laxatives or something, in ‘em. Right?” A detective says, inspecting the tray of store bought cookies with with a capped pen. Such caution that only S.W.A.T teams could be envious of.
“Did you read the note? He apologized for wrecking the party. Can you believe it?.”
“That doesn’t sound like him…”
Who knew that the most scandalous thing Gavin Reed could ever do would be saying sorry for something. It almost irritated him as he flicked through emails, reading up on new cases. He felt the familiar yearning to go rip the note apart and toss the baked goods into the garbage. Fuck these people, he wishes he would have laced the cookies. He wishes he could grab them by the handful and cram them so far down their throats that they couldn’t talk shit about him ever again.
A ping and vibration from his phone is the only thing stopping him from charging in and resuming his reign of terror.
Text from T. Chen: i just got a text from chris...did you really bring in cookies?
Text to T. Chen: Shouldn’t you be working? I could fucking report you
Text from T. Chen: OMG YOU DID
Text from T. Chen: WHO ARE YOU?
He briefly considers lighting her desk on fire. For a split second he sees if he can just will it into combustion.
Text from T. Chen: proud of you <3
Gavin’s muscles loosen at the words, his arms falling slack onto the desk. The slimmest of smiles curls his lips.
// Wednesday 7:23 PM //
There’s a creak in the metal of the table when Gavin shifts his whole weight onto it. He sits on the corner and eyes the man handcuffed before him. Gavin taps the manilla file against the table just to watch the guy squirm.
“Chop shops don’t make this kind of money, Leon.” Gavin grunts as he gestures to the smattering of bank statements and accounts under fake names, all pointing at something bigger at play than multiple counts of grand theft auto.
Leon Smalls, 29, no priors. But he’s the younger brother of James Smalls. That alone is not a criminal offense but James Smalls has been on the run for the better half of a year due to transporting and selling illegal firearms. So it’s still fishy as hell.
“Only a fucking moron leaves a paper trail like this,” Gavin sneers, leaning in close with sharp teeth. “Are you a fucking moron, Leon?”
He’s remained silent and loyal to his brother so far but Gavin has a feeling he’s not going to stay that way. “You know what else fucking morons do? Try to protect their scumbag older brothers. You know something about that, right Leon?”
Leon says nothing but he does let out a little huff of breath that lets Gavin know he’s afraid.
“James can’t protect you from these charges,” Connor says from where he stands tall on the other side of Leon. “It would be easier for all parties if you told us what you know.”
It’s by sheer coincidence, or some kind of perverted luck, that Gavin’s string of stolen cars was linked to Connor and Hank’s ongoing investigation into James Smalls. It had been a long, hellish day for Gavin as he worked his way around town following a trail of stolen parts. He hadn’t even seen the android until an hour ago when Gavin dragged Leon into the station’s lock up.
Connor had been waiting for him in the hallway, eager and bright eyed. Gavin ran a hand through his hair as he listened to Connor and Anderson explain the twining of their formerly separate cases.
Gavin waits in anticipation for the spark of anger, or just a general feeling of not wanting to be around Connor. Not after yesterday, not after the bizarre day he’s had so far. But it never comes. Instead he just nods patiently because of course they should work this case together. Why wouldn’t they?
Much to Hank’s disapproval, Connor and Gavin agree to do the interrogation together. To everyone’s surprise they didn’t fight about who would take the lead (maybe a slight tease from Gavin and a stern, scolding look from Connor) or which case was more important (that one’s fairly obvious if the discussion is stolen cars versus finding an fucking arms dealer ). Hank had stared at them, narrow eyed, as they shared a brief discussion in the observation room before heading into interrogation. A basic review of facts and clear understanding of how they were going to push Leon in giving up his brother.
“Well, I’ll be damned if you two have your shit figured out.” Hank muttered as he watched them walk out of the observation room together, twenty minutes ago.
That brings them to the here and now. They work fluidly, a comfortable ebb and flow of power between them. A give and take.
Gavin knows how to lean hard, how to intimidate in a very human way. With short, violent words and hands that are made to throw punches. A crack of knuckles to make a weak man jump. He knows how to hurt and wound .
Connor is more sophisticated. He doesn’t have to use bruteish threats, he can just hover there with all the data and computing power at his fingertips. Leon sweats as Connor plucks information delicately, like soft petalled flowers. It varies from where Leon went to high school, to his very private, very personal search history to James’ Smalls last known contact with Leon. Connor is near omnipotent. That’s far scarier than any intimidation tactic Gavin knows.
Leon’s notion of family loyalty had been wiped away within an hour. He spills, detailing how James had been hiding on the outskirts of the city with an old flame, running his ring from the shadows.
Connor and Gavin exit triumphantly.
“Not bad, robocop.” Gavin says with a hint of a smirk. He’s smug but content as they walk a few steps past the interrogation room and observation room. He holds the physical case file with Leon’s written statement. “I didn’t even have to get my hands dirty.”
Connor’s smile is a lightning bolt; fleeting and brilliant. Dangerous, “We wouldn’t want that now, would we, Detective?” With skillful hands that are too fast to be fair Connor snatches the file from Gavin.
“Jesus-- that’s enough of that.” Hank groans and grabs the file with a force of finality. He marches back to his desk, shaking his head, “C’mon Connor, let’s finish this up and get the hell out of here.”
The corridor is empty except for them. Still and pristine as Hank’s heavy footsteps become distant and then vanish all together. Gavin and Connor are alone for the first time all day so it’s only natural that Connor steps forward and asks, “How are you?”
Gavin shrugs and leans against the wall, tucking him just out of sight from most of the desks, “M’fine.”
His arms fold in front of him into a familiar shape of worn leather and slight irritation. Connor inches forward. He doesn’t need to but he does so anyway. Gavin allows it for now despite his stomach flipping.
Connor frowns. His LED is a sour, lemon yellow to match.
“Don’t look at me like that, I’m fine.” Gavin says with a little more of a bite. It’s a shame that it’s undercut by the way his eyes linger on the small dimple Connor gets when he frowns.
“You’re lying.” Connor says, voice low and cool in that unaffected android way. His eyes, however, hold a world of worry. It’s concern that Gavin has never deserved.
“I’m not.” Gavin insists with a grind of his molars.
Gavin focuses on his shoes because he knows if he keeps looking into Connor’s eyes he’ll buckle and they’ll talk about the Zlatko case and Perkins and Christmas.
Connor sighs and a warmth hits Gavin’s cheek. Gavin buckles and his gaze snaps up, “You seriously gonna hand it over to Perkins? I don’t-- Jesus, I don’t understand anything about you.”
Connor’s brown eyes sweep over Gavin, swift and efficient like everything else Connor does. Barely perceivable to Gavin’s human eyes. “The feeling is mutual. However, Gavin, you know that I’m right. You know this is the way it must be done.”
“I know Perkins doesn’t give a shit about anyone, human or plastic.”
“But you do?” It’s not a jab. Connor’s tone is too gentle and curious for it to be a jab. There’s a flicker of hope.
“I didn’t say that.” Gavin tries to snuff it, that treacherously hopeful look, but it’s the fire in him that goes out. “I didin’t-- I don’t--”
Connor takes a step back. The space between them is punctuated by Hank’s voice booming from the bullpen, “Connor! What’s taking so long?”
Connor’s eyes are still on Gavin as he turns his head slightly to yell back, “On my way, Lieutenant!” He straightens his tie and takes long strides down the hallway but stops and looks at Gavin again, “I’m going to do this Gavin, with or without you. I would prefer the former.”
Gavin surprises himself by whispering, “I’ll think about it.”
Connor continues on his way, leaving Gavin wondering what the fuck happened to his life.
// Thursday 1:33 AM //
Cold gunmetal meets Gavin’s hand before he can truly comprehend the malicious pounding sound coming from his front door. His heart thumps hard against his ribs, painfully as his brain catches up to his body which has automatically crept to the door. Gavin’s in his apartment, he had fallen asleep on the couch with Judas in his lap. The TV still plays shitty reality tv, but softly. Distantly. He can’t hear it above the sound of blood rushing in his ears. Judas hides under the coffee table.
“Open up, Reed!” Hank’s voice is loud and clear through the hardwood of Gavin's door. Gavin sighs, and puts the safety back on his gun. He barely has time to rub a frustrated hand over his face before Hank's knocking again.
He unchains the door. Gavin’s face is red from sleep and anger, “The fuck is wrong with you?”
“We need to talk.” Hank pushes his way in and eyes the gun still in Gavin’s hand, “Mind putting that away?”
“Mind leaving me alone ?” Gavin asks but he sets the firearm on the counter anyway. Judas pokes out from under the table, watching with cautious eyes. “You’ve finally gone senile.”
Hank glares at something on Gavin’s counter and it’s not the gun. Panic seizes Gavin again , tenses every muscle at once. Connor’s note is still there in his variation of CyberLife Sans. A little more rounded, a little more personal. Human, almost. Hank looks back at Gavin and that’s how he knows he’s about to get a lecture.
“Fuckin’ new it.” The lieutenant mutters to himself, shaking his head. “God, it just had to be you, huh?”
Gavin keeps his voice steady enough to ask, “What are you talking about?” He says it through his teeth. Gavin crosses his arms over himself feeling all too vulnerable with his arms exposed. A map of overlapping scars trailing over his muscles, reminding him why he usually wears long sleeves.
However, if Anderson’s voice is anything to go buy, he’s drunk. Not terribly so, not like the old Hank Anderson, but that touch of whiskey is enough. Hopefully. Enough to rile him up and enough to make him forget.
“I’m talking about you and Connor sneaking around my back.” Hank says, sounding every bit like a protective father. “I’m talking about my partner keeping secrets from me.”
Gavin lets out a long huff through his nose, “You’ve lost it, you old fuck--”
“Cut the bullshit, Reed. I know what’s going on.” Hanks voice is loud. He grabs Connor’s note holds it like it’s proof of something.
“That makes one of us! All I know is that some fucking asshole is in my kitchen yellin’ at me because he’s--”
Hank interrupts him, “There’s no point in hiding it. Just tell me if it’s serious. Jesus, can’t believe I’m even asking that. Course it ain’t, it never is with you.”
Gavin’s chest deflates. Hank put two and two together. Maybe it was as soon as Gavin and Connor were leaving the second crime scene. Or maybe he noticed Connor sneaking out one night. Maybe, from years of experience and that irrefutable dad instinct , he just knew. “I mean, I guess it’s serious. Connor wants to go to Perkins about it.”
“What the fuck?” Hank looks genuinely disgusted. Pallid, as the color leaves his cheeks, “Is that some kind of joke?”
Well at least they can be on the same page about that.
“You’re telling me. It’s un-fucking-believable. Connor wakes me up at all hours of the night - shit, now I know where he gets it from - to work the case with him and then he just wants to hand it over to Dick Perkins. Hate that guy.” Gavin grumbles, picking absently at a scab on the back of his hand.
Hank blinks. “Huh?”
“Jesus, Hank, what part of that was confusing? Was it that your partner has a habit of giving the humans around him whiplash with how he changes his mind. Fuckin’ android.”
Hanks eyebrows are high, trying to retreat into his hairline. “You two are still working the Zlatko case.” It’s not a question. It’s a statement. A realization.
It’s a punch to Gavin’s gut, “Yeah. What did you-- Oh. Oh shit.” He starts laughing, uncomfortably and inappropriately. All the tension spilling out in messy chuckles as he clutches his sides, “You thought we were together .”
“Shut it.” Hank grits out.
Gavin wishes he could stop giggling. He bites his tongue, he tries to catch the laughter with a hand against his mouth as it slips between his teeth. His resolve to not say something lasts all of six seconds.
“You came out here, to, what, metaphorically polish your shotgun? Give me the don’t you dare hurt my boy speech? Fuck that’s rich. Oh, God, I was having a shit week too, y’know. So thanks for the pick-me-up.”
Hank balls a hand in Gavin’s shirt, hauls him up to his tiptoes. “Shut up, Reed. I know it’ll be real hard for you but just fucking listen for once. Maybe I’m an old fuck as you put it, but at least I can see that there’s something there. I don’t like it but I see it.”
Hank shoves Gavin away hard and then he makes for the door. “Oh, and put the Zlatko thing to bed.”
The door slams, putting an end to the surrealness of the encounter. Gavin stands in his kitchen, the television casting flashes of light across his now empty apartment. His heart stutters.
Dating. Dating Connor. Gavin flushes, angry and ashamed. God, why would anyone think he was doing that? Him, the android hater. The local asshole who's only ever been good at solving cases. Hank had to be losing his mind, there's no other explanation for it.
Gavin locks the door. "No," He tells himself, harsh and loud. He can't go down that road, he can't start thinking like that. Connor is a machine. Unfeeling, cold, soulless. And Gavin is a mess of a human. A collection of scars and threats held together by rage and rage alone.
"Fuckin' no." Gavin grumbles. "No fucking way."
He won't think about Connor. He won't think about his brown eyes, his small smile, his husky voice. He won't think about how his life has been completely upheaved ever since his arrival. He won't think about how Connor got hacked or how he wore Gavin's clothes or how he took Gavin home. He won't think of any of it.
He will listen to his music, restarting the playlist as many times as he needs. He'll take a cold shower at two in the morning before he can even realize that's only going to make it harder for him to fall asleep. He'll do pushups because his body feels like it will start rattling if he just does nothing. He'll lose his mind before he considers what it might be like to date Connor.
He will fall asleep, worn out with his face buried in the pillow. He'll dream of a warm embrace. A vague, non specific comfort. He'll sleep heavy and wake up sad, disappointed and angry when he remembers that he is all by himself. All alone.
// Thursday 2:03 PM //
“Did you think it over?” Connor asks. Steam rises from the paper coffee cup in his hand.
Gavin, standing out back of the precinct, plays with a plastic yellow lighter. Bringing the flame to life and blowing it out repeatedly. Smooth movements. His mouth waters for a smoke but his hands know the feeling will pass. All of these feelings will pass.
Gavin can barely make eye contact with Connor as he approaches him with the proffered coffee.
They lean against the same brick wall. Gavin with both of his shoulders pinned down as he looks straight ahead at the dumpsters and not Connor. Connor leaning with only his left shoulder touching the wall, his body angled towards Gavin. Muddied slush melts under their feet.
“God, you’re persistent.” Gavin side eyes him. A jump of flame is created from the lighter. Gavin asks, “Wanna guess who paid me a visit last night?”
“Who?” Connor’s voice is tinted with caution. His LED yellow as Gavin’s lighter.
“Shit, you really don’t know.” Gavin blows the fire out before answering, “Hank goddamn Anderson. So yeah, I guess you could say I thought it over.”
They’re quiet for a moment as Connor processes the information. Gavin’s lighter sparking and going out twice, scattering light and shadow over them in the bleakness of the back alley. Maybe he shouldn’t have brought it up but he was still feeling agitated from the restless evening he had.
“Hank and I had a fight last night. He left home at 12:58 AM exactly. He did not tell me where he was going.” Connor confesses. “I had predicted he would go out for a drink not-”
“Come accuse me of some crazy shit? Whatever. But he knows about the Zlatko stuff now so - fuck, I can’t believe I’m going to say this - you’re right . Trying to catch this killer separately is stupid.” Admitting it burns his mouth more than if Gavin tried swallowing the flames of his lighter.
He expects Connor to start planning a meeting with Perkins and Fowler. It’s the professional thing to do, the appropriate thing. The only logical next step in the conversation.
“What did he accuse you of?” He asks instead. There’s a lilt to Connor’s voice, a bit too much curiosity. All his focus is on Gavin. It makes his stomach flip. His scarred hand hesitates before flicking the lighter again.
Gavin laughs, heartlessly, “Nothin’. Forget it.” His face feels hot despite the cold. The lighter goes out.
The concept of dating Connor isn’t nothing but it is impossible. Unattainable. It leaves Gavin with an anxious feeling in his gut and a twitch at his lips - the ghost of something he almost wants to say.
“My apologies anyways, Gavin.” Connor says politely but Gavin can already tell that he’s trying to connect the dots. It’s what he was made to do. It would be unfair to ask him to stop now just because it’s making Gavin’s heart beat out of his chest. “I hope…” He trails off, looking down at his shoes.
“Spit it out.” Gavin says, turning slightly to face Connor.
“I don’t want things to go back the way they were before.”
The air in Gavin’s lungs is not enough. “Oh?”
“And I hope you don’t either. It may be surprising to those around us but we’ve worked well together. It’s been difficult, you’re still... you . Unpredictable, even to me.”
“Oh.” He feels like he might hyperventilate.
“But I’d like to be friends.” Connor admits, in the softest voice imaginable.
“ Oh .”
“You’re fond of that syllable.” Connor quips.
Gavin can’t risk voicing the half unintelligible things that come to his mind. They range from screaming no, can’t be to quietly asking friends? It’s too unreliable. Instead he takes the coffee and pockets the lighter. He can only hope that his actions speak for him.
Their fingers brush only for a moment but it leaves Gavin feeling pleasantly warm for the rest of the day.
// Friday 7:04 AM //
Perkins is livid .
In some ways, watching him lose his shit is it’s own reward. Damn near popcorn worthy with the way his face turns beet red as he stomps back and forth in the finite space of Fowlers office, oblivious or uncaring of the eyes on him. It’s taking a lot of Gavin’s very limited self control to not laugh. He bites his lips and settles for a self satisfied smirk.
But, at the same time, he feels himself growing annoyed by the theatrics of it. They have a case to solve, they can’t afford to waste time on Perkins’ ego.
“You two imbeciles! CyberLife’s most advanced android, supposedly, and a goddamn brute fuck up my crime scene and expect me to say thank you.” Perkins rants, the epitome of a tyrant.
“You’re welcome.” Gavin says, because he’s a shit and he can’t help himself. The toe of Connor’s shined shoe taps Gavin’s boot subtly as they stand next to each other. Connor’s perfect posture versus Gavin’s unaffected slouch. The bump is followed by a quick glance. It’s a silent shut up . Gavin’s fidgeting fingers become still.
Connor says, “We are highly trained detectives. I can assure you we did not ‘fuck up’ your crime scene.”
A shiver runs down Gavin’s spine suddenly, unbidden, at Connor’s distant but cutting tone. His eyes widen at his own reaction before he returns his focus to the conversation.
Fowler stares at his detectives, expression unreadable to Gavin. “Regardless, you two knew not to go near this case.”
A yell threatens to form in Gavin’s throat. Who’s side are you on? He wants to shout. He clenches his fists instead. Shallow half moons form by the nails digging in his palms.
“Yes but our examination of the crime scene yielded very important results. Results you could not have gotten on your own.” The patience wearing thin in Connor’s voice. Perkins doesn’t seem to notice because the change is far too subtle for his ears, but Gavin picks up on it immediately. Gavin’s boot, a little less swift and more impulsive, bumps Connor’s shoe. Easy , he hopes the action says.
“Illegally obtained results.” Perkins fumes.
“Not if you allow us to work together.” Connor says with an air of finality, driving his point home. “You have the power to make this a joint case, Sir. If you do so, everything we know will be yours.”
Eloquent. Tempting. The way it makes Perkins lick his lips is enough to boil Gavin’s blood.
The slimy fuck eyes Connor as he nods. “Fine. You’re on the case. Only you.”
“Nuh-uh. We work together, Dick .” Gavin argues, stepping forward. Fowlers eyebrows jump up in surprise but Gavin doesn’t notice it. He just notices the feeling of Connor’s hand on his shoulder. A steady, calming anchor. The weight of it keeping him from being swept away by his own raging tides.
“We are a packaged deal with Lt. Anderson.” Connor says as addendum, thinking of Hank despite their fight, despite the fact that Hank isn’t present for this meeting at all. A quick sweep of the bullpen confirms what Gavin already knew; Hank hadn’t come in today. Not yet. Lingering effects of fighting with Connor, Gavin supposes.
Perkins shakes his head. He growls, “This is insubordination.”
“This is your chance to catch a serial killer, Agent Perkins. I’d take it.” Fowler says. The final nail in the coffin. Maybe he’s on their side after all.
It’s a wordless defeat. Flared nostrils and gnashing teeth and the Perkins anguishing in the idea of working together. It’s not Gavin’s ideal situation either but something about the way Connor’s eyes meet that tells him it’s going to be okay.
// Friday 12:20 AM //
As long as they focus on the case, on the work at hand, everything runs smoothly. Gavin’s able to put his anger towards Hank on the back burner, letting it sit and stew for later. Hank’s able to pat Connor awkwardly on the shoulder, a weird sort of half apology that Gavin wants no part in witnessing. And Connor is able to sit there perfectly, detailing the description of their serial killer. Her supposed description anyways, if their theory is correct.
They’re mostly debriefing Hank now, since he showed up late. At least he didn’t smell of booze. Connor’s eyes are closed as he recalls the exact model numbers and various components that make up their Frankenstein's monster. He lists them as Gavin, Hank, Fowler and Perkins stare up at the composite image on screen.
They know about three-fourths of what she should look like. She is legion, for she is many. A multitude in one body. A chimera. She should look terrifying, at least equally as gruesome as her murders. She should be a clinking, clanking thing that makes people scream. A mess of wires and spare parts and sharp edges made for cutting. That would make everything easier.
But she appears normal. Her synthetic skin likely helping her hide in plain sight. If she had obvious body modifications like Zlatko’s other experiments then they would have found her already. Instead she blends in, just another shadow in the already shady parts of the city.
Her supposed description is circulated among the DPD and FBI. Perkins is quick to leave as soon as he gets the information he wants. He’s halfway down the hall before Hank can grab his arm, bruisingly tight to remind him to keep his end of the bargain and to send any leads their way.
Connor scrolls through the FBI case file on his desktop. Gavin twirls a pen back and forth between two fingers and wonders where their killer could be hiding.
// Friday 10:28 PM //
Tina is more than a decent mediator, which makes sense. She’s definitely the kind of cop you hope shows up to help calm things down - well spoken and compassionate but firm. She cares. You can tell by the way she listens intently, nodding along.
Out in the field, listening to crying mothers and scared kids and people holding knives at their own throats, she’s amazing. On Gavin’s couch, listening to his life saga she looks like she wants to slap him. Her fingers twitch in Judas’ fur. Gavin knows that irritated shift her eyes get. How her brows pinch together. He’s woken up to it before.
“What?” He stops, pizza draping inelegantly from between his teeth to the crust in his hand.
“You’re an idiot.” She says succinctly but with a smile. “You’re my best friend and I love you but, fuck, you’re dumb.”
When Tina first started getting feelings for the, in her words, ‘unfairly tall lesbian’ who worked for the DA, Gavin was her sounding board. Maybe it was weird, given their arrangement but that’s just how they are. He listened to her talk about Lana ad nauseum offering teasing and encouragement in equal parts.
So when Tina calls bullshit on his friendship, if you can call it that, with Connor it feels eerily familiar. He avoids her knowing eyes and stares at the grease welling in the bottom of the half-empty pizza box. The grease can only judge him on his eating habits, not his peculiar -- Relationship? Partnership? Something ship -- with Connor.
She continues insulting him and shaking her head, “Honestly, it’s shocking that you can do your job well and yet have the worst instincts imaginable.”
“You’re mean.” Gavin grumbles, taking another bite of pizza. Judas stretches his paw out for a pepperoni but Gavin maneuvers out of the way. “I’m just sayin’ how I feel.” Judas mews loudly, either emphasising his point or Gavin’s.
Tina lays a sympathetic hand on his shoulder, “You’re going on a ten minute rant about Connor and how he asked you to be friends and, for some reason, you think that’s a bad thing.”
Gavin’s stomach flips which causes the rage that always lurks in his chest to flare up. Two emotions waring inside of him. They battle in his chest, just close enough to Gavin’s heart to make him wary. He can identify anger easy enough, having been raised on large doses of it. It’s what keeps him fueled and warm and ready for anything. It’s kept him safe for years, never letting anyone close enough to hurt him. That’s what safety is, right?
The other feeling is more complex. It’s more than nervousness, not quite as harsh as embarrassment. Related to hope, maybe. Gavin’s not entirely sure but it feels weak and small and entirely too combustible.
“It is a bad thing. It’s a horrible thing. It’s probably the worst thing that’s happened to me this month.” Gavin says through a mouthful of food.
“You’ve had a good month then.”
He groans and sets the half eaten slice on his paper plate, “I’ve had a terrible month, T. I can’t be friends with him.”
She gets this preposterous, annoying, smug curl to her lips, “Why?” She always does this when she knows something he doesn’t.
“I dunno, maybe because I hate him?” That should have come out as a declarative. He does hate Connor. Most days just hearing his name is enough to get Gavin riled up. He hates the way Connor is always right. Infalible.
He hates his entirely unnecessary freckles, that ridiculous flip of hair that’s always falling forward, that perfect dark chocolate shade of his eyes.
“Do you though? Tina presses. Gavin’s face heats up as though she could read his thoughts. She’s grinning like she can.
“Really?” She raises her eyebrows. Her arms are crossed as she waits for his real response.
“I’m supposed to. I did for a long time. You don’t just let that shit go.” He mumbles.
“Stop asking that.”
She has the audacity to joke, “Are you afraid you might have to answer?”
Yes. “It’s just...complicated.”
“Cause you like him?” She suggest quickly, like that might take the sting out of it.
“No! Why do people keep thinking that?”
“Can you really blame Anderson? His kid starts keeping secrets and sneaking out of the house and making you dinner on Christmas . You think he’s going to chalk that up to dudes being dudes?”
Gavin shakes his head. He stands and stretches and feels every inch of his body screaming at him to escape this situation because he really doesn’t like the road this conversation is going down. His stomach flips again and Gavin starts to think that pizza at this hour wasn’t the greatest idea.
“We’re done talking about it.” Gavin says, heavy and breathless. He shelves the feelings for later. He heads to the kitchen for something hard to drink.
Tina sighs but accepts his wishes. “Then can I tell you about the cute thing Lana did yesterday?”
Gav rolls his eyes, “Sure. Knock yourself out.” He might mean it literally.
Chapter 7: Part Seven
I'm so sorry that it's taken me this long to update but I hope you guys know that I never abandoned this story. The doc has been up on my laptop for....seven? months as I hacked away at this last chapter trying to make it perfect. Thanks for all the love and support I've gotten even in the hiatus. I hope this doesn't suck. *cheers*
// Saturday 4:35 AM //
It’s habitual now, the way Gavin can grab his phone while half unconscious and expect Connor’s voice to be on the other end. His heavy, clumsy hand clutches the phone. Gavin cradles it close to his face and the glass screen is cool against his sleep warmed face. It’s still dark out, he notices as, as he stares at the bare walls of his apartment. A bluish shadow covers everything.
Gavin attempts to clear his voice before saying anything but the words come out hoarse and tired anyway, “I know you wanna be pals ‘n all, so let’s start with this; no calls before--”
“Can you meet me?” Connor interrupts. His voice is tinted with urgency. No time for a smart answer, no time for any of their weird but familiar rapport. Just a desperate request.
Gavin’s brows knit together, “You find somethin’?” He asks, his body already shifting out of bed, his phone pinched between his jaw and his shoulder. He’s halfway into his jeans before he realizes Connor hasn’t answered. “Connor?”
“Yes.” He says. His voice is faint as he tells Gavin where to meet him.
The call ends, with an abrupt click. Gavin groans, wanting nothing more than to get back to bed for a year or two. His bones feel heavier and heavier with each passing day. Gavin’s eyes look more bruised than usual. He’s never had the best sleep schedule but it was solid before Connor started luring him out at all hours.
He should be getting overtime for this. And a raise. And a fucking decent vacation, maybe. He thinks of someplace far away and warm as he ties his shoelaces. His fingers are ice cold. Gavin throws on layer after layer - his favorite shirt, soft and well worn, then hoodie, then jacket. He looks for gloves, pacing around his apartment because, fuck, he can never keep anything in one place. All the while he thinks of bonfires and sand heated by the sun and maybe even someone to share that with.
Hard stop. The screech of sneakers on hardwood in Gavin’s living room startles Judas from his cat tree. It startles Gavin’s heart because why the fuck would he even imagine something like that. He finds his gloves and yanks them on, only picturing the details of the case. He glances outside once more, at the towering buildings backed against the vast and empty sky. Not a star left from the night, not a cloud ready for morning. Just a spanse of navy blue and snow. A chill overtakes Gavin’s body but she shakes it off as he leaves.
// Saturday 5:02 AM //
Gavin eyes the pale building in front of him from the safety and warmth of his car. The engine rumbles, the heat blasts loud, on an otherwise quiet and empty street. He’s parked by an old factory that had long since been condemned. It’s encompassed by a rusting chain link fence. The fence is buckling and bending, warped from age and many break-ins. The faded red signs warn against trespassing anyway. Gavin sighs - only an android would expect him to be okay with starting his morning in a creepy, old building.
He kills the engine and steps outside into the biting winter air. A slight breeze rattles the already open gate. The chain and padlock that once kept this place off limits lays in snow and gravel on the ground. Gavin toes the broken chain and recognizes the blunt marks from a bolt cutter. He clenches his teeth and then his fists as he prepares himself to walk into another crime scene.
Making his way over broken glass and weeds punched through concrete, Gavin calls out, “Connor, where the fuck are you?” But there’s no real venom in his voice, just frustration because it’s cold and it’s early and he really, really would just like a cup of coffee.
“Connor?” Gavin tries again as he shoves open the heavy entry door. The cold metal groans and scrapes against the concrete floor.
“Back here, Detective.” Connor responds as Gavin steps into the building. He blinks until his grey eyes adjust to the lack of light. On his drive to the factory the sky had faded into softer blue. So subtle and slow in it’s change that Gavin didn’t even notice until he was plunged into darkness once more. The only light comes from the gaps in the boarded up windows and the holes in the crumbling roof.
“Come quick.” Connor’s voice echoes in the room, tense and clipped.
Gavin uses his phone as a flashlight as he creeps over debris; more glass, rotting wooden palettes, empty cans of spray paint. He shines a light on the expanse of the factory floor and broken machinery, all caked with layers of dirt and paint. Empty packs of cigarettes, crushed beer cans. He weaves his way around old industry tech and conveyor belts, towers of rotting cardboard boxes and empty spools of bubble wrap. Dust particles float in the air with each step he takes.
“You better have something warm and caffeinated for me, robocop.” Gavin says as he treks closer to an office in the back of the warehouse. He takes another step closer and he nearly gags.
The smell hits him before he can prepare for it. Dead body, definitely a dead body. The odor takes him back to the first crime scene that started this case. The blood and needles and bodies flash in his mind. He brings his his shirt over his nose as he turns in a slow circle, trying to find the source of it. “Jesus, Connor, next time warn a guy! And shine a fucking light while you’re at it.”
“Sure thing.” A static filled voice says.
Light burns pure white and pierces his eyes. Gavin’s gloved hand is on his gun a moment too late. A cold fist finds Gavin’s jaw, hard and fast. And then again, in case the first punch wasn’t enough.
Gavin tastes copper before his body meets the ground. A giggle, cloyingly sweet, is the last thing he hears.
// ? //
Soft, golden light shines through the window in Gavin’s room. The buzz of the city is minimal; pleasant. The white noise of it barely registers to Gavin’s ears. There is nothing but heat on his back, good solid warmth covering his shoulders and arms as he lies in bed. It cloaks him like a quilt made of pure sunshine. He’s on his stomach, head barely turned toward the light. The sheets collect at his waist and twist around his legs. There’s no trace of winter’s chill, no need for layer upon layer of clothes. There is, however, a trace of a smile on his lips.
An arm loops around his waist as a body snuggles into his back. The curl of someone else’s hair tickles the nape of Gavin’s neck.
He knows that lock of hair, he knows that arm. Gavin is happy and yet something claws at his insides the longer he lies there. He has to break the quiet and whisper, “I didn’t mean it. You know I didn’t mean it.”
When Gavin rolls over to his other side, a freeze spreads over him. His skin is fracturing ice.
Because Connor’s mangled body lays across from him. His exposed wires, the shell of his face opened and cracked. Opaque blue tears leak from wide, terrified eyes. They stain his shattered cheeks.
“I-I-I could never-never forgive you-ou.” Connor says, his voice a skipping CD. “Never-er-er.”
Blue blood soaks into the sheets. It saturates the bed, spreading out toward Gavin with thin, inky fingers. It pulls him in how a tide pulls driftwood back into the sea. The warmth is gone, the scene of his room is gone, Connor is gone. The current pulls Gavin under as he chokes on synthetic blood.
His world is a wash of blue, infinite and depthless. Gavin drowns in it, unable to breath. His eyes sting but the tears are lost in the sea of blue. His lungs ache with each second as Gavin thrashes under the waves. He sinks, drifting downward, if there is a downward. His body falls lower and lower and still does not reach the end.
// ? //
Gavin wakes, gasping. Then coughing dryly, dust and dirt filling his lungs more so than air. His breathing is harsh and shallow. His hands strain to clutch his chest but they refuse to move. Tears stream down his eyes and he cannot wipe them away, making his world bleary and grey.
Panic rises as he strains further and further, feeling the burn of rope against his wrists and ankles. It’s at that point when he figures out he’s hogtied and laying on his side on a cold expanse of concrete.
“Hello, Detective.” Her voice hangs like an icicle; cold and sharp, pointed at the end and aimed at Gavin’s throat. She’s behind him, crouched by his prone body.
A chill runs down Gavin’s spine. Sweat follows.
His tongue sticks to the roof of his mouth, dry and sandpaper rough. An awful cracking sound comes from his throat when he tries to speak. “Fuck.” He wheezes.
“Are you thirsty?” She asks. It’s polite, subservient. An echo of her past as a domestic android, Gavin’s sure. It’s hard to think that she was normal at one point; indistinguishable from any other android that shared her model. Now she was Zlatko’s monster, sentient and deadly.
“Fuck you.” His breath rattles.
Gavin dares to twist his head, getting a glimpse at his captor. It takes a moment for his eyes to focus but the moment they do, he sees that her skin is iridescent. It shifts slowly from light to dark and back while a light blue tint dances over her wrists and up her arms. He blinks hard, wondering if it’s just his imagination or the combined efforts of his injuries playing tricks on him. Yet, when Gavin’s eyes open her skin still changes.
“It’s a shame,” She pushes up one of his sleeves, “about your arms.” She jabs a finger into an old scar. Gavin is littered with them, from wrist to bicep. Some deep, more tanned and others barely there, overlapping one another. His whole past mapped out in those marks - every fight, every mistake, every drag of blade. “I was hoping to put them to use. Maybe you’ll have something else to offer.”
She tugs his sleeve down again and moves to kneel in front of him. If he had any saliva to spare he’d spit on her.
“Open up and promise not to bite.” She says, almost sweetly like she was enticing a child to do their chores or take their medicine. Gavin struggles, flailing his head wildly as she holds his jaw with an iron grip. He snaps his teeth at her, not that it would matter if he could bite her. Human teeth can’t break the shell of plastic and carbon fiber. He does it for the hell of it. He does it because he’s terrified and full of rage.
She shoves a rag into his mouth hard enough to make him gag. That sweet, servile look, that demure voice and posture is gone. Her face is hard angles as her skin color fluxuates. She palms his cheek before striking him hard. His already bruised face stings.
“I said, no biting.”
Muffled fuck you ’s die in Gavin’s mouth, never getting past his lips. He chokes on them as he stares at her face. Then at the hair framing it morphed before his eyes from short and brown, to curly and red,to long and blonde.
The relizations hit Gavin about as hard as she had:
She could change her appearance.
She could change her voice.
She could keep getting away with it.
“Showtime.” She says, as she grips him again, securing a blindfold over his eyes. Gavin strains his ears but he hears little else over his heavy breathing for several minutes. He eases himself towards slow, steady breaths.
Gavin jumps at the echo of the factory door opening. The loud creak of it followed by the soft, careful clicking of dress shoes against concrete. Everything is amplified as Gavin lays there, stock still with his cheek against the ground. A dull headache thuds at his temples.
“Gavin?” It’s Connor’s voice again - actually Connor’s voice, and Gavin wonders how he was ever deceived by the other voice. Connor’s voice was filled with so much subtlety; minor inflections of worry or curiousity or tepidness. Sometimes laughter, frustration, hope. A warmth and vibrancy that Gavin had never noticed until falling for a flat imitation of it. It had life.
Gavin grunts. Then he screams as loudly as he can with a rag shoved down his throat. He grows light headed from the effort and from the miniscule amount of air traveling through his nose. The blindfold blocks most of his vision, but the slip of debris covered ground he can see starts to spin. He keeps trying to shout, She’s here! Connor, she’s here! In the hopes that Connor can somehow understand any of it.
The cautious footsteps quicken into running, the sound of it bouncing in the large empty space. They grow louder, getting closer until Gavin can feel the vibration of each step traveling through the concrete. They skid to a stop before rushing to his side.
“Gavin,” Connor says again, pulling the blindfold off him. Gavin’s grey eyes blink rapidly, his eyes searching the room for her. “What happened? Are you alright?” Connor asks as he peels the duct tape from Gavin’s mouth, his palm cradling Gavin’s head.
Gavin knows every aspect of himself, of his physicality and health, is being inspected and analyzed and computed but it doesn’t matter because he doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is finding her.
Gavin’s croaking voice is still going - Find her! Don’t save me, “She’s here!” He chokes as the rag is removed from his mouth. Connor starts untying the knots that bind Gavin’s wrists together, but Gavin shakes his head violently, “I’m fine, get that bitch!”
Connor’s LED circles yellow once then red twice. He stands to his full height and swivels his head in a steady scan. Gavin continues wriggling on the ground, close to freeing his hands. He ignores the deep ache of his muscles, the pounding inside his head. “She changes appearance,” he says with his face squished against the ground, “She mimicked your voice.”
Connor steps silently, checking around old scissor lifts and under pallet movers. Gavin flounders on the ground until the knot comes undone and his hands are free. His wrists are rubbed raw, scratched and red. But it doesn’t matter. He moves into a sitting position as Connor, steps out closer to the center of the big, industrial room.
“What’s your name?” Connor calls out. It’s loud, so that his voice can carry to every corner, but it’s not angry. “I’m Connor, I’m an android too, as you know.”
Gavin rolls his eyes as he clenches his jaw. His hands shake as he unties the rope securing his feet. Dread builds in his stomach as he listens to Connor try to lure her out, relying on his negotiator tactics. Gavin’s afraid it won’t work this time.
Connor wanders out more, stepping around garbage and the rotting remains of industry. “We know what Zlatko did to you. We know how he hurt you, and we know that it wasn’t your fault.”
Something rattles closer to the middle of the room, by some factory machine Gavin can’t even recognize, either due to its obscurity or his developing concussion. The pounding in his head is unceasing, much like the pounding of his heart. He doesn’t like how Connor walks closer to the noise and farther away from him. Gavin’s fingers work faster at the rope, nearly done.
“If you come out, I’m sure we can talk about this. We can find a solution.” Connor offers, still peering around. His posture is calm and open and his hands stay away from the firearm on his hip. Gavin’s sure that Connor is running the odds and going over the numbers for the best outcome but it doesn’t stop the anxiety building inside of him. Data can only get you so far.
Gavin stands as soon as he’s freed, and the momentum of it almost spins the room out from under him. As he steadies himself he reaches for his gun but feels nothing but an empty holster. His eyes widen. Where’s his goddamn gun?
“A solution?” Her voice is soft and distant to Gavin’s ears. He hurries towards Connor, pushing past the weakness of his body and bile rising in his throat. “I might have a solution.” She says, beckoning Connor closer from where she’s hiding.
She has my gun, she has my gun, she has my gun , the panic focuses Gavin. It sharpens his movements as he bounds over each obstacle in his way. Sheer adrenaline propels him forward. So does the image of taking his gun and pressing it between her eyes because he’ll be damned if he let’s that bitch hurt anyone else.
“Seems your partner can think of a solution as well.” She says, appearing from the shadows just as Gavin makes it to Connor’s side. “The gun on your belt, Connor...I want it.”
Connor shakes his head and moves his hands away from his sides. He turns them palm up, a sign of peace. “I can’t do that.” He says, sounding apologetic. Gavin inches closer with his knees bent and his fists clenched.
She sighs, “Shame.”
In the instant that she draws Gavin’s gun, Gavin pounces. He wedges himself between the gun and Connor, completely obstructing her shot. He snarls as he does so, fire burning under his skin. How dare she even think that he would let her hurt Connor.
“Gavin!” Connor’s voice reverberates, magnifying the hurt and desperation in it. He sounds so vulnerable and small.
“You’d give your life for him? That’s shocking, truly shocking. And stupid,” She cocks the gun, “considering this will cut through you like butter-”
“I can get you more parts.” Gavin says, surprising himself. “I know Elijah Kamski-- he’s my brother. I can get you anything you need. Anything you could want. Just let Connor go.”
Connor gapes. “I’m not leaving you.” He says. Gavin can’t see it but Connor’s fingers twitch, begging to reach out for him.
“Yes, you are. Fucking go.” Gavin barely turns his head to utter the words but he never takes his eyes of her or the gun.
She steps forward, the barrel of the gun is inches from Gavin’s chest. She shakes her head, “Enough! Nobody is leaving. I need you both for my work, thank you very mu-”
Two shots fire, one after the other like dominoes. So much happens mere seconds that Gavin’s concussed mind can barely comprehend it.
First: the echoing bang of of a bullet exiting a gun disorients, more than he already was. He stumbles backward.
Second: no, he stumbles backward because he’s just been shot. The pain radiates from his shoulder and burns, burns unlike any other fire he’s felt before. Hotter than anger, hotter than rage. His shoulder, that bitch shot his fucking shoulder.
Third: he’s not stumbling backward, he’s being pulled out of the line of fire. Connor pulls Gavin around, into his chest and onto the ground where he blocks Gavin’s body like a shield. Strong and steady.
Gavin spaces out for a few moments as the pure shock and exhaustion hits him. His vision doubles and triples as he watches the ceiling swirl next to Connor’s out of focus face.
“Jesus, someone get the kid an ambulance!” It’s Hank’s voice that Gavin tunes back into when the ringing in his ears stops.
Why is Hank here?
Footsteps rush into the building. Orders are called out, perimeters are being sweeped. Connor hovers over Gavin and inspects his wounds.
Gavin blinks hard, wincing as another wave of burning pain swallows him whole. His whole body is on fire. “The fuck?” He grunts.
Connor applies pressure and Gavin’s sure if he wasn’t already laying down his knees would buckle. “I sent a message for backup. I was trying to distract her, you-- you idiot.” Connor huffs. His hands are cool as they brush Gavin’s burning skin.
“You have an interesting way of saying ‘thank you for saving my life, Gavin’.” Gavin mutters.
“You’re unbelievable” Connor hisses. “Unpredictable.”
Gavin stares at Connor as his face comes into better focus. He stares at those determined brown eyes and says, “S’that a good thing or a bad thing?”
“Just,” Connor stammers, “be quiet.”
Gavin tries to move his hand but a bolt of pain runs down his arm, from his shoulder to his fingers on his right hand. Fuck.
“Stop moving. There paramedics will be here soon.”
Gavin, who is bad at listening, tries again with his left hand and moves to hold onto Connor’s wrist, “M’sorry-”
“Then stop moving.” Connor says again. His eyebrows are knitted together, creased and angry. He won’t look Gavin in the eye, he just stares at the blood seeping through Gavin’s clothes. Blood that stains his pale fingers. It’s the most frustrated Connor has ever looked. .
“No, I mean I’m sorry,” Gavin whispers. They’re so close together. Connor’s body eclipses most of Gavin’s as cops swarm the building around them.
Connor’s shoulders slump and his face softens. “Shush, there’s no need for that. You’re going to be fine.” Connor reassures. Gavin’s hand still holds his wrist.
The paramedics arrive and Hank puts a hand on Connor’s shoulder, silently telling him to step away. Gavin is shuffled onto a stretcher and hauled out of the building. On the way he sees her cold lifeless body bleeding out blue blood. And gunshot wound through her head.
// Saturday 6:41 PM //
There’s a surgery to remove the bullet. It barely missed Gavin’s collarbone and instead buried itself in his trapezius. He’s lucky - muscle is better than bone, the doctor tells him when all is said and done. Not that Gavin remembers; whatever they have dripping into his veins makes him feel lighter than air. But Tina’s there, taking notes about post surgery procedures, about medication he’ll be prescribed and about visiting a physical therapist.
Gavin laughs, mostly because he’s high, but also because he wonders how many therapists he needs in his life.
“You think we can get one of these IVs hooked up at his work desk? He’s usually pretty cranky.” Tina jokes with the doctor, who does not find it as funny.
They intend to keep him for at least a few days while he heals up. His cognitive I’m a poor motherfucker functions start kicking in and he explains to the nurse that he doesn’t have that kind of money. Especially not for the private room they have him in.
She relays this to the head nurse who comes in and tells Gavin that his bills have already been taken care of and that all he needs to worry about is getting better.
Elijah, that son of a bitch. Gavin doesn’t like owing him things but he’s too tired, too medicated, to fight about it right now.
Tina stays with him for a long time, probably well past visiting hours. She flashes her badge once when a nurse tries to shoo her away.
A few officers filter in and out to drop off half assed ‘get well soon’ cards, as if they don’t hate his guts. Lana comes by with a stuffed black cat and a balloon with ‘glad you’re not dead’ written on it with sharpie. Now those are gifts Gavin can appreciate.
They play cards - which heavily medicated Gavin is bad at - and talk about how gross the hospital food looks.
Connor doesn’t visit and Gavin pretends that it doesn’t bother him.
// Sunday 12:06 PM //
He hasn’t even been in the hospital for 24 hours but Gavin can’t stand one more second of it. The way his body begs to stand and stretch. The IVs and heart monitors and other ambiguous wires they have hooked up to him feel too much like they are there to tether him to the bed. And my maybe they are.
His fingers tap the bed idly as his eyes glaze over, not really paying attention to whatever is on TV. It’s just noise to avoid the quiet.
He wants to leave. He wants his apartment, he wants his cat, he wants--
His heart monitor beeps loud, like it’s ratting him out, as Gavin removes it. He pulls out everything that’s not naturally part of his body but it’s slow going due to his limited mobility. All he really needs, he figures, is to get upright. If he can do that, he can get the fuck of there.
As he starts shifting, trying to sit up, his shoulder pulses with pain. A deep spasm.
It hurts, everything hurts.
Nurses come rushing in because according to his heart monitor he’s dead. They sigh and coax him to lie down so they can sedate him. His body is too weak to resist.
// Monday 2:03 PM //
“Jesus, never thought I’d miss the snow.” Gavin says, his voice still mostly hoarse as Tina wheels him out of the hospital. A light flurry of snow floats around them as they move at turtles pace towards Tina’s car.
“That’s what you have to say for yourself? Your first mostly coherent thought in days is ‘Ooh, look, snow’?!” Tina snarks at him.
It was a bitch to get him released this early since the doctors really wanted to keep him for a day or two more. But, thanks to the marvels of modern medicine, it wasn’t totally necessary. There’s still enough painkiller running through his veins that makes everything just a little easier - he swore he could walk out on his own but Tina and the nurses refused and sat him gently in the wheelchair.
“I was hoping for a ‘Wow, T, you’re so nice to take care of me like this’ or ‘Damn, I’m lucky to have such a good best friend-”
“Interesting how I got shot and somehow it’s still about you.”
“If I let you play the I Got Shot card now you’ll never stop using it.” She says as she helps him into the back seat. A bag of his favorite candies is waiting for him there.
His smile is wide as she settles into the driver’s side. He sucks on a blue raspberry jolly rancher, “Wow, T, you’re so nice to take care of me like this. Damn, I’m lucky to have such a good best friend.”
“I know.” She winks at him in the rearview mirror. She punches in his address and lets the self-driving function take over. Normally this would drive him crazy, but with candy in his mouth and drugs in his system he’s just content enough to not care.
Her chair swivels around to face him, “So…”
“So?” He says back, popping another jolly rancher into his mouth. “What?”
“Aren’t you going to ask me about the case? How everything went down after you,” She gestures to his wound vaguely, “y’know?”
It’s been hard to think about the fallout of the Zlatko case amid the hospital stay and the aches in his body and the nurses coming in to poke at him every few hours. Not exactly a lot of spare brain power, and that nags at him for a moment. Makes him feel like a bad cop, like he should be more on top of it.
He chews his bottom lip, “Alright, what went down?”
“Well they recovered enough data and memory from the android's hard drive to convict her posthumously, which is great but Perkins was still a dick about it. He wanted the whole song and dance, a grand jury.” She shakes her head, “And the media is eating up the whole drama of her back story; household android experiment gone rogue.”
She’s quiet for a moment as they travel past buildings, new construction, old billboards still advertising for CyberLife. Gavin toys with his hoodie string as he takes all of that in.
She leans over and lays a hand on his knee, “But there’s also dozens of cards coming in from the families of the victims. You guys did good.”
Gavin doesn’t nod so much as he lifts his head to acknowledge her statement. Their monster, their killer is dead. It doesn’t feel like doing good, it feels like doing what had to be done. What should have been done sooner.
“You’re getting paid time off, by the way. So if you so much as try to come into work tomorrow I will personally shoot you in the other shoulder.”
That catches him off guard and he snorts. She truly is his best friend.
// Monday 5:04 PM //
He’s still in the same spot Tina left him in that afternoon, curled up on the couch with Judas purring in his lap. Old movies play in the background on his TV as he stares at the phone in his hand.
Gavin had thought being home would be enough. The entire time he was in the hospital he craved some of that normalcy, the comfort of being in his apartment. Of being left alone without the buzz of physicians and visitors.
And yet the moment Tina locked the door behind her, it felt like his world suddenly went graveyard quiet but his need for something grew more and more intense. It nipped at him with sharp teeth.
He bit the inside of his cheek, trying to focus on anything else. But how can Gavin avoid a thought like Connor? He took a bullet for him and will forever have the mark to prove it. And it’s not that Gavin regretted making that choice but he’s confused about why it still feels like he messed things up.
He sighs deeply, trying to release some of the tension built up in his chest, before tapping on Connor’s phone number. Gavin’s life has been nothing but making mistakes, so what’s one more?
Connor, unsurprisingly, picks up on the first ring, “Hello?”
“Hey,” Gavin says, his voice gruff, “can we talk?”
God, it burns him to say just that much. He can feel his whole face turn red. His entire body is gasoline and those words are a lit match.
“We’re talking now.” Connor says, with a lilt of humor.
“Don’t be a smartass. I’m better at it.” A small smile graces Gavin’s lips before vanishing. Its too much, it’s too vulnerable. He should hang up, he should hang up right now and forget he ever called. He should dig a hole and bury himself and never make another phone call again-
Connor’s voice quiets the thoughts, “Do you want me to come over?”
“Y-yeah.” Gavin stumbles, nervous. “I mean, it’s whatever, you just didn’t visit me in the hospital-”
“Did you want me to visit you in the hospital?”
He rolls his eyes, “No, I just jumped in front of a gun so you’d ignore me.” his eyes widen at his own words because where the fuck did that come from? Gavin gulps, “Jesus, nevermind, see you whenever the fuck my shoulder stops hurting.”
“Wait,” Connor says, just before Gavin can hang up, “I’m on my way.”
The call ends. The phone feels heavy in Gavin’s hand.
Gavin’s heart pounds, heavy against his ribs. It’s a war drum beat as he moves off the couch, much to Judas’ dismay. Gavin turns to look out at the setting sun. The sky is on fire, crimson and gold. The snowy streets and tops of building shine back with color. Soft pink. He focuses on that skyline, he slows his rapid breathing. He tries not to think too hard about how he just asked Connor to come over and talk.
His heart still stutters as he shuffles to the bathroom. Dark undereye circles stare back at him in the mirror. His face is scraped and slightly bruised but healing. You can’t expect much from a guy who was a hostage a few days ago. He brushes his teeth and combs his hair in a mild attempt at not looking like a vagrant.
A nagging voice, nestled deep in his mind, sneers at him. What’s the point of all this? What’s the point of talking to Connor, of making himself look semi-presentable? Getting shot doesn’t make you a different person. It doesn’t change who you’ve been. That low rumble of anger in his gut will always be there no matter how hard he tries to cage it. Gavin is not different. Nothing is different.
The knock at the door comes faster than he expected. It makes him wonder how long he’s been standing in the bathroom, clutching the counter as pain radiates from his wound. Gavin just grits his teeth through it, each wave of hurt. His prescription of painkillers sitting next to the sink gleam in the light. It’s a bright orange bottle calling out to him but he doesn’t want it. He doesn’t want to be speaking through a wall of fuzz for this conversation.
He can power through, he can be strong.
Judas follows him as he pads over to the door, barefoot. Gavin opens the door slowly, as if by doing so he could stop time to gather his thoughts. He has always been impulsive, constantly acting on instincts. He wishes he would have just thought this through instead.
Connor steps through what little gap Gavin provides. He’s in his suit, pressed and proper. It doesn’t really matter in the grand scope of things, Gavin knows that, but he still tugs the sleeves of his wrinkled hoodie. His sweatpants baggy and loose. He looks and feels a little like garbage, but that’s to be expected of a man who was shot a few days ago.
“How are you feeling?” Connor asks politely. His eyes coast over Gavin before taking more interest in Judas in his Cat tree. Connor sounds distant, almost, and that already causes Gavin to bristle.
Connor walks into Gavin’s living room. “Good.”
Gavin stands near the door still, like he might run away after all. His face feels warmer the more he watches Connor take in his apartment, like it’s the first time he’s been there. Connor acts like they’ve just been acquainted and like they haven’t been driving each other insane the past few week, running around at night trying to serve justice.
Gavin’s mouth opens like he might speak but nothing comes out. Connor’s back is to him and he watches the android pet Judas for a moment.
“I’m glad,” Connor says, “that you’re alright.”
“You didn’t come see me.” Gavin finally says, stepping closer. He leans against the counter for support because he doesn’t trust his legs to keep him steady. “Why?”
From this angle Gavin can see Connor’s LED spin yellow. He looks at Gavin out of the corner of his eye before turning to face him fully, “There was a lot for me to process, both personally and with the case.”
“Oh.” Gavin says back as he looks into Connor’s brown eyes, shining and speckled with gold. Gavin looks down a second later, focusing instead on the hardwood floor or one of Judas’ toys. Anything else really. He ambles toward the couch, definitely unable to stand on his own any longer.
Connor takes the spot next to him a moment later, their knees touch. “I didn’t know you were going to do that. I stuck to my programming, to what was logical and you didn’t. I can be replaced, Gavin. You can’t. It didn’t make sense.”
“You almost sacrificed yourself for me, Gavin.” Connor whispers. It sounds so much more when Connor says it like that; Gavin was acting in the heat of the moment, doing what his gut told him was right. Connor describes it like he’s some ancient hero, noble and brave. That’s not him.
“I would have done it for anyone.” Gavin says, trying to keep his voice steady.
“A month ago you would have done it for any human.” Connor corrects.
It’s a stab in the gut but he’s right. A month ago he would have thrown Connor into the line of fire. He would have worried about doing his job and saving his skin, androids be damned.
“I-” Gavin’s voice catches and he tries again, “I’m sorry.”
“No, let me say it,” He takes in a deep breath. His hands clench and release. He tries to stay calm as he says, “I need you to know I’m sorry about how I acted before. I don’t hate you, y’know? I don’t think I ever really did I was just...angry” He trails off as he looks Connor in the eyes again.
The final bit of sunlight is leaving, the light catching the side of Connor’s face. A halo. His LED shines yellow as he listens intently, poised on the edge of Gavin’s couch. He leans forward, invested in every word Gavin utters. He stares at Gavin through thick lashes. His eyes are warm. Hopeful.
Gavin looks down at his hands.
“With the case being over, fuck I don’t know-- I don’t want things to go back to how they were.” Gavin picks at a scab on his wrist. His fingers twitch as he remembers the feeling of the ropes bonding him. He whispers, “ I don’t want to be an ass like before.”
He swallows around the knot in his throat.
“I don’t expect you to forgive me,” Gavin says, briefly looking at Connors hands as they lay in his lap, “but...I just want to say sorry. I’m so fuckin’ sorry.”
The honesty and earnestness causes something to tighten around his chest. Like snakes sliding across his torso, sinking their fangs into him. Their poisonous truth telling him that he hasn’t changed at all. That he can’t change. Gavin knows what he is and knows what he can never be. The snakes slither, they hiss, they twist and bend around him. He can’t breathe.
Tears gather in his eyes as he he twists away from Connor. He uses the backs of his hands to wipe them away, harsh and uncaring. His breathing is all short huffs, in and out of his nose as he tries desperately to collect himself before he can fall apart. But those snakes just squeeze tighter.
His throat is tight as he says, “Are you gonna fucking say somethin’ or wha--”
Connor’s lips are soft against the coarse stubble of Gavin’s cheek. His fingers turn Gavin’s head gently and when their lips meet it’s like cool rain on scorched earth. It silences any thought, any worry Gavin had - if only for a few moments. It’s slow, tentative kissing with their eyes fluttered closed. Connor’s hand holds Gavin’s jaw, his fingers just inches away from a healing bruise but it doesn’t matter; Gavin can only feel those perfect lips.
Gavin’s palms ache to pull Connor onto his lap, to squeeze at his waist and work his fingers under that dress shirt. The selfish, needy want to keep him in that spot forever sizzles inside of Gavin. He ignores that burning desire. He can’t ruin this, whatever this is. He can’t get greedy now.
He settles for running a hand through Connor’s hair, tugging on it slightly. The action elicit a small sound from Connor. One he’d very much like to hear again and again and again.
“I’m sorry.” Gavin finds himself breathing between kisses, “I’m sorry.”
Connor holds his face with both of his hands. He strokes Gavin’s cheekbones with his thumbs, “I know you are. I know . It’s okay.”
Gavin shakes his head, “It’s not. I’m a shitty person, Connor, a real fucking mess.”
Connor leans in and kisses him again to quiet him. To sooth. To make him forget. “You almost died protecting me, Gavin-
“That’s my job. ” He argues.
“Shut up,” Connor says, pressing their foreheads together, “You are a mess but-”
“Thanks.” Gavin huffs but Connor kisses him halfway through it. If that’s the punishment for interruption, Gavin doesn’t mind.
“As I was saying, I know you’ve been trying. I’ve seen it, Gavin. You’ve shown me your sorry and you’ve said you’re sorry so just allow me forgive you.”
Connor kisses him again, deep and healing, as tears fall from Gavin’s eyes. Connor kisses him until each of his senses are overwhelmed. Connor kisses him and the anger and the pain inside of him shrinks further and further into nothingness.
Gavin does pull Connor onto his lap eventually because he is greedy, but Connor seems to be okay with that.
// A Few Weeks Later //
A bottle of champagne, unopened and dressed in a paper bag, dangles from Gavin’s hand. He holds it by the neck but with a weak fist, limp as he stands beside his car. At any moment the bottle could drop and fall to the hard, frosted ground. It could shatter and spill everywhere - wouldn’t that be a shame ? He would have to get back in the car, peel out of the driveway of Elijah’s perfect glass house and run to the store to get a new one.
Connor grabs it by the body, holds it secure. Then he grabs Gavin’s hand and holds that secure too.
“We should get out of here, y’know? Just fuck it and get out of here.” Gavin says, low as he stares at their twined fingers. They stand toe to toe as Gavin leans against the driver’s door, his back to the glass house but he knows they’re all there, watching and waiting. Judging. His father’s grey eyes, colder than his own but nearly matching. He hates that. He always hopes he looks more like his mother.
Gavin breathes, “You, me and anywhere that’s not here.”
He tries to sweeten the deal by leaning forward to kiss the corner of Connor’s jaw but the android, always a step ahead, moves back. Gavin let’s go of his hand in favor of pulling him forward again by the belt loops of his dress pants. He watches as Connor fights back a smile.
“Do I need to remind you that this was your idea?” Connor whispers, his lips next to Gavin’s ear.
“No, not my idea - I owe him.” Gavin says but the words burn his tongue like too hot coffee. He likes to clear his debts, especially when it comes to Elijah. But, in an attempt to be more honest, at least with himself, Gavin can admit there’s something else lurking beneath the surface.
He can’t say he misses his family because he doesn’t even consider those people his family anymore, but sometimes he does think about the easier days of his childhood. Before he truly understood how unwanted he was by his father. Before he learned that Elijah’s mother didn’t look at him because Gavin always reminded her of the mistake his father made.
If they were never brothers they were at least friends once.
“I’ll be there the whole time.” Connor promises.
“I know.” Gavin nods. “They’re not good people, Connor.” Gavin warns as he meets Connor’s eyes. He absorbs their warmth, golden and glowing.
Connor touches their foreheads together briefly, “I will take your word for it.”
“It’s gonna be a shit show.”
“I will hose you down after.” Connor says, stealing a quick kiss as Gavin laughs. “You’re lips are cold-”
“You could keep warming them up.” Gavin suggests, wiggling his brows.
“Or we could go inside where it’s warm and face the inevitable.”
Gavin sighs but ultimately nods, accepting his fate. The sooner they get inside the sooner the dinner will be over. Gavin repeats this to himself over and over again as they walk to the door. With each crunch of snow under his boot he hears it; the sooner they get inside the sooner the dinner will be over. The sooner, the sooner, the sooner.
It’s not a mantra, it doesn’t calm him. It makes his insides knot up, it makes his blood boil. Connor knows this somehow. He must recognize that look on Gavin’s face. Or maybe he can hear the beating of his heart.
“Breathe.” Connor reminds him.
He takes in a shaky breath through his nose and barely lets it out before the door is pulled open by a Chloe. Gavin blinks, surprised, when he sees a slight indent from where her LED once was. “Welcome Gavin. Hello again, Connor.” She greets, waving for them to come inside.
“Hello.” Connor says, smiling. Gavin nods politely as he shucks off his outer coat. She plucks it out of his hands before he can even argue, before he can even ask if that’s still her job.
Gavin tugs at the sleeves of his sweater, one Tina picked out for him - thick cable knit and wine red. He’s wearing his nice jeans, the ones that he doesn’t wear to work because he’s always paranoid about getting blood on them. He almost checks them for rips across the knees or thighs because he feels sixteen again and knows how his father feels about jeans with holes in them.
“Are you planning on standing in the entry room all night?” Elijah’s voice is cool and biting as he leans in the doorway that connects to the living room.
“Are you planning on being condescending all night?” Gavin asks.
“No, not all night.” Elijah says, scoffing, before turning his attention to Connor, “Didn’t expect to see you here, Connor. How did my brother-
“-manage to get you out here?”
“He used a car.” Connor says flatly.
Elijah and Gavin chuckle at the same time before both clearing their throats. “Very well. Follow me to the dining room and get ready for the show, Connor.”
Elijah guides them through the house. Chloe - either the same one as before or another one without an LED - appears and grabs the champagne from Connor and takes it to the kitchen. Gavin, as he picks at the dry skin on his thumb, sort of wishes she’d whisk him off and into a different room.
There’s a bay of windows against the far wall of the dining room, looking out towards a sparse landscape of snow and trees and bluish sky. Gavin sees his father standing there with his back to him, and blood rushes in his ears, loud and angry. He shoves his hands in his pockets and focuses on breathing - he looks around the room and counts awards to distract himself from the overwhelming urge to tackle that man through the window.
Then he sees Elijah’s mom, perched on the edge arm of a couch, talking with Chloe - definitely a second Chloe, different outfit but still no LED.
“Gavin,” She says, not moving from her spot. “You’re here.”
It’s a statement. Simple. Not excited, not disappointed, not really any emotion actually. An empty observation.
“I am.” Gavin confirms, “this is Connor.”
“Hello, Mrs. Kamski, it’s nice to meet you.” Connor greets, extending his hand forward to shake.
She smiles like she’s heard her favorite inside joke but she does shake his hand, “Please, call me Jacqueline.”
“I will, Jacqueline.” Connor back, but Gavin sees how it doesn’t reach his eyes. It’s formal and polite. Gavin wants to lean in and whisper you don’t have to do that, you don’t have to be fake for these people, you don’t have to act how they want you to-
“You’re late.” Gavin’s father says as he turns to face his son from across the room.
He looks older and that makes sense. Jacqueline looks well moisturized and botoxed and plasticized and that makes sense too. Gavin hasn’t seen them since he was nineteen or twenty. So they look older, but when Gavin’s father stands with his hands behind his back and his chin up he looks the exact same. Distant. Cruel.
“What else is new.” Gavin says.
He watches, in horror, as Connor crosses the room. “Hello, Sir, it’s nice to meet you.” He says, his hand offered but ignored. “I’m Connor.”
“So I’ve heard.”
Elijah huffs out a short, quiet laugh under his breath and, when Jacqueline isn’t looking, Gavin elbows him in the ribs for it.
“Dinner is ready if everyone would like to take their seats.” A third and final Chloe announces just in the nick of time.
“I don’t get how you’re enjoying any of this.” Gavin hisses as he passes Elijah.
They sit at an impossibly long, wooden dining table and yet it still feels claustrophobic. Elijah is at one end and their father is at the other. Gavin is in the middle with a Chloe and Connor on either side of him Opposite them, is Chloe, Chloe and Jacqueline.
Gavin drinks steadily for the first time in a long time. He doesn’t even like the taste of white wine but it’s there in his mouth and warming his throat. He stares at the mass of food collected on the table; a roasted bird, potatoes au gratin, steamed vegetables, rolls and pats of butter. Entirely too much considering that there’s only four people at the table who can eat.
“How’s your shoulder doing, Gavin?” Elijah says nonchalantly, as he works delicate cuts into the meat. “Hows physical therapy?” He follows up, because one question apparently wasn’t enough.
“Fine. Everything is fine” He says as civily as he can. Under the table Connor’s rest his hand on Gavin’s knee. The perfect weight to keep him grounded.
“Physical therapy?” Their father echoes, pausing his forkful.
Gavin stuffs a roll into his mouth, nearly gags on it. All eyes, synthetic and organic, at the table are on him. He chews slowly and stares pointedly at the grain of the wood table. He gets lost in the lines and swirls.
“Work injury.” Connor says swiftly. The Chloes nod sympathetically.
Gavin swallows, “I was shot.”
The cutting of food ceases, no more scratching of knives on plates, no more guzzling of wine. For a moment, total silence draped over the table, slow and languid. Gavin stared at his father, waited for some kind of reaction; disappointment, anger, mockery. Something about how it was probably Gavin’s own fault. But instead, once the moment is over, he simply goes back to cutting bites of chicken.
“Don’t you have anything to say?” Gavin says, his voice lowering. Connor’s worried eyes flash his way. The hand on his knee squeezes him like a warning.
“If I did, don’t you think I would have said it?” His father says.
Gavin rolls his eyes, bites his tongue. It would almost be funny if it wasn’t an exact replica of single dinner they had when Gavin was growing up.
“I’d appreciate it if you didn’t roll your eyes at me.”
“I’d appreciate it if you gave a damn but sometimes we don’t get what we want, dad .”
Dad. He says it like it’s an insult, like it hurts to hold the word in his mouth. He spits it out because it’s bitter and decaying on his tongue. Dad; he can’t even form the sound of it without sneering.
“Cops get shot, Gavin. Should I shed a tear every time?”
Connor turns his head slowly, away from where he was seeking Gavin’s eyes, and to Mr. Kamski. It’s the most robotic movement Gavin has seen from him in a long time. The LED on his temple is flaming red. It matches the color crawling up Gavin’s neck.
“You should be ashamed of yourself.” Connor says matter of factly, like he’s answering a request to know the weather or the exact time. Gavin watches his father’s eyes grow wide and his knuckles turn white as he clenches his fork and knife.
Connor's voice is louder this time, "I apologize, I'll slow my speech: You should be ashamed of yourself."
The head rush hits him before Gavin even realizes he’s standing. His chair drags loudly against the floor, magnified in the quiet. He puts a hand on Connor’s shoulder and squeezes once - let’s go . He looks to Elijah, “I’m done. Consider us even.”
Connor is hot on his heels as Gavin storms out of the dining room, past the living room. Their retreating footsteps echo in the silent glass house. His father is left balking in his seat.
Sixteen years they hadn’t spoken, hadn’t seen each other and nothing had changed. Gavin could never escape the fate of being a bastard child. Frustration tightens the muscles in his neck and shoulder and a pulse of pain radiates from the place he was shot. The anger swells inside him, in his chest and around his heart. He could scream but he doesn’t. Gavin stomps past the entry room, and out into the cold evening. The snow falling blends the skyline and the ground together in a mess of dark grey.
“Gavin,” Connor says softly, and that hurts too. It’s a raw wound, sometimes things that should heal it actually sting.
Gavin’s steps are shaky as he journeys to his car, “I’m not dumb. I knew it wasn’t going to be different -- I wasn’t expecting it to be different. It’s just...I--”
“I know.” Connor’s arms are around him in an instant, sheltering him from everything. “I’m sorry.”
Gavin allows himself to be swallowed up in that feeling; the fresh soap scent on Connor’s neck, the way the ice melts on the exposed parts of his skin, and the security of Connor’s arms holding him close. Connor’s hand rubbing his back. He feels small, and maybe once upon a time that would have bothered him, but he soaks in that feeling now.
“Gavin!” And just like that, the moment is gone. Elijah’s voice is loud and carries all the way from the front door of his house. Gavin untangles himself from Connor and opens the car door. “Wait, I have your coat!”
Elijah rushes toward the car, as fast as anyone who isn’t wearing snow boots can rush. Gavin halts his actions and turns; he needs that coat. His wallet is in the pocket. That, he tells himself, is the only reason he stands there. Connor stares at Elijah but there’s no warmth in his brown eyes. Connor’s brows are pinched together, his eyes narrowed in suspicion. His LED is still red.
Elijah holds the coat out as he approaches, with his whole arm extended. Keeping his distance. Gavin snatches his coat and pulls it on because it is freezing out there.
“He’s an asshole.” Elijah says, no bite or sarcasm in his tone. His lips are flat, his eyes are dull. It’s a solemn statement. He crosses his arms, the chill just now getting to him.
“You’re an asshole too.” Gavin says, unwilling to forget that this so called dinner was Elijah’s idea to begin with.
“We both are.”
Gavin bites down hard, his jaw clenching. He’s trying not to be, at least in one area of his life. That should count for something, right? He’s trying so hard, every day. He claws away at himself, trying to get rid of that thick, calloused shell he’s built. He tries to douse the fire burning deep inside - and for the most part it works.
But, for the most part, he does it for Connor. He does it for Tina. He does it for his job and his future and the life he wants to live. He puts in the work for the things he cares about and want to keep.
And he fucks up a lot along the way but he’s doing his best to be better. That’s all he can hope for.
Gavin sighs and shakes his head like he can’t believe what he’s about to say, “Get in the car.”
“What?” Elijah and Connor say at the same time.
“You.” He points, almost poking Elijah’s chest, “Get in the car.”
Elijah stammers, “Are you kidnapping me?”
“You want a family dinner? I’ll show you a family dinner.”
// An hour or so later //
“This is…so weird.” Tina says for the millionth time as she stares at Elijah. Plates of nachos and potato skins and sliders assembled in front of them as they all sit in a half circle booth; Connor, Gavin, Elijah, Tina, and Lana.
Elijah picks the jalapeños off his nachos and mostly ignores how Tina keeps ping ponging her eyes from him to Gavin and back. “This is so-”
“Babe, they’re siblings not mutants. You can stop gawking.” Lana says before sipping her beer.
“Dunno, he seems pretty freakish to me.” Gavin says only for Elijah to jab him with his bony elbow. “Ow.”
“Was Gavin annoying as a kid? He had to be, right? He’s annoying now.” Tina rambles between bites of food.
“I wasn’t annoying.” Gavin says right as Elijah says, “He talked all the time . Teachers would send him out of the classroom because he wouldn’t shut up.”
Connor laughs and Gavin’s ears turn pink, “Okay, so I had some focusing issues.”
Connor quirks a brow, “ Had? ”
“...Have…” Gavin relents, taking a swig of his drink, “Whatever. Elijah was annoying too. Fuckin’ attention hog.”
“And now I live in isolation. Ironic, right?”
They all drink and eat, except for Connor, who’s content to listen to the banter of two half-brothers. He holds Gavin’s hand under the table and Gavin smiles, wide and light and almost care-free.
Until Hank walks in. Gavin eyes Connor, suddenly very aware of just how close they are; shoulder to shoulder, leaning into each other. Gavin’s fingers twitch under the table, like he might stop holding Connor’s hand. That’s his first instinct, to let go and move away. To puff out his chest and make sure fuck you is written all over his face. But instead he brings Connor’s hand on top of the table. Even if it’s making his face burn.
"You invited him." Gavin says, more statement than question.
Connor smiles at Gavin and simply whispers, “You said family dinner. Hank is my family.”
Gavin can’t argue with that.
As Hank steps up to the booth they all shift over so he can sit next to Connor. The squeaking of their bodies moving across vinyl is deafening compared to their awkward silence. Hank looks about as uncomfortable as Gavin feels and he won’t stop staring at Gavin and Connor’s laced fingers.
Words get caught in Gavin’s throat. He’s not even sure what he’s trying to say or if she should try to say anything at all. He just ends up clearing his throat and staring pointedly at the condensation on his glass.
“Okay, but did Gavin get the nose scar when he was a kid? Cause he’s had it as long as I’ve known him and he won’t talk about it.” Tina finally asks, filling the quiet.
“It’s not a good story, T.” Gavin says gruffly, rubbing at his nose self-consciously. “Seriously.”
“Shit. Sorry.” She winces, looking down at her plate of food.
Elijah laughs, full and hearty and with his head tipped back. The table stares back at him shocked as his laughter descends into that mad, breathless sort of wheezing, “Damn liar.”
“Shut up.” Gavin grits out.
“He ran into a post when we were like,” wheeze, “fourteen? He was on one of those hoverboards? You remember those?”
Hank erupts into a full belly laugh and from there it cascades; Connor tries to hide his giggle behind his hand, Tina loses her shit, nearly crying into Lana’s shoulder and Lana just grins like she knew it all along.
“Laugh it up.” Gavin says but he’s biting back his own smile.
And that’s it. They eat, they drink, they are merry. It’s well into January but they toast like it’s the new year. It’s good. Gavin’s good.
And when Gavin goes home that night, tipsy and radiating with joy, Connor is with him. And when he goes to bed, Connor is with him. In his arms, in his heart. It’s good. They are good.
It's done!! The beast is done! We've made it!
Thank you to everyone who as read, commented, shared, kudos'd, etc. Seriously from the bottom of my heart, thank you. So many of you cheered me on during this story and it is only finished because of that support. This is the first chaptered fanfic of mine that I've actually properly finished. It's also the first fic of mine to get anywhere near novel length (50,000 words...so close).
I'm going to bask in my pride for a bit <3