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The Shepherd Returns

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As Hank unlocked the door, Connor got Sumo out of the backseat, holding tight to his collar so he wouldn’t run out onto the road. This proved wise as the moment Sumo was out of the car he darted to the door, dragging Connor along with him as he barked.

“Whoa hold on Sumo, I’m happy to be home too.”

Once Hank opened the door and stepped in, Sumo lunged, propelling Connor into the living room as he released the loud beast. Connor straitened, about to ask Hank why he had stopped in the middle of the doorway, when he noticed the figures standing in the living room. Connor’s pump fluttered, his stress levels peaking as one of the figures walked into view.

“Cunningham...how-”

Hank cut Connor off as he stepped in between the two. “What the hell do you think you’re doing in my house.” Hank demanded, voice low and threatening.

Cunningham interlaced his fingers, staring in a matter of fact way. “I heard you were in possession of one of my assets.” He looked back to Connor, who was frozen in place, vision swarming. “Such a shame Connor, I thought you knew better than to run away from home. You had become such an obedient boy in the last few months. I’ll have to punish you when we get back.”

Hank heard a small whimper escape Connor’s lips and glanced over at him. His eyes were wild, his whole body rigid. He looked like a deer caught in headlights. Hank went for the gun on his hip, the men with Cunningham mirroring the action. There were too many of them to take on by themselves. Especially with Connor this shook up. Rightfully so.

“I wouldn’t do that detective. No one needs to get hurt, I just want all this business put behind us.”

“Yeah and I’d like to put a bullet in your head, but we can’t all have what we want. Why don’t you make it easier on me and draw your weapon.”

With Hank’s threats ignored, Cunningham nodded to the guards. They moved on Hank, who reluctantly allowed his pistol to be taken as the other closed the front door. They roughly moved Hank into the middle of the room. “The guns won’t be necessary. By the time this is over, Connor will willingly go back with us.”

“Like hell he will.” Hank spat as two large hands forced Hank to sit on the sofa, the other shuffling Connor in front of Cunningham. He smiled up at the clearly terrified android.

“Search him.”

Connor closed his eyes in resignation, knowing exactly what they would find. He cursed himself for not leaving the remote with Markus. He could have trusted him with it. Instead, in a moment of weakness he opted to take it. It was foolish needing the security of having it on him. It’s not like Markus would hurt him or let anyone else even touch it. No, Markus would have sooner died than gave the remote up. Not when he knew, saw exactly what it could do to him.

The guard patted Connor down, retrieving the coin and remote from his pocket. He handed it to Cunningham who chuckled, turning it over in his hands. “Smart of you to take this with you when you left. It was one of the only ways I could ensure your return.” He waggled it in front of Connor, taunting him. “It has a surprisingly long range. With just the push of a button,” Cunningham hovered his thumb playfully over one of the buttons on the remote, causing Connor to flinch in anticipation, “I could have had you running back to us, pleading to make the pain stop.”

Connor had gotten so close to freedom, enough so that he could finally feel relaxed in a sense of security, and now Cunningham had ripped that away too. In a way this was more painful than the torture, to have the taste of the love and happiness Connor so desired, only to have it ripped away once he had accepted it. Cunningham chuckled again, running a hand up Connor’s arm, up to his face. Connor flinched his head then, a tear escaping his watery eyes. Cunningham enjoyed that. The look of utter brokenness Connor expressed, knowing that he was the cause.

Hank watched as Connor’s expression subtly moved from fearful, to broken, to resigned. His heart broke, but he continued watching, transfixed on the far away look in his dark eyes. He silently begged Connor to look this way, so that he might be able to reassure him just enough to not give up hope. Hank’s compassion turned to rage as he watched Cunningham lick the stray tear from Connor’s cheek. Each flick of Cunningham’s eyes over his partner, lingering a little too long on all the wrong areas, made the revulsion build up inside him even more. This was the man that had been hurting, torturing, raping his son for months. He was here. In his home. Connor’s one safe space, and he was hurting him again.

To Hank’s surprise, Connor spoke up. His voice was small, but calm. “You should go.” Connor whispered, “you have broken into the house of a DPD detective and threatened the lives of two officers. If you don’t wish to be persecuted of anymore charges then depart from this residence immediately.” Connor somehow found the strength to place command in his words, meeting Cunningham’s eyes with determination.

Cunningham looked around with feigned concerned. “Oh, well then you’re right. We should go.” He was mocking him. His face straightened, tilting his head as he met Connor’s eyes. “We will leave this house, your precious partner unharmed, but not without you.”

“I’m afraid that is impossible. I am a material witness in an ongoing investigation and must stay in Lieutenant Anderson’s custody at all times.” Connor wanted nothing more that to alert the DPD, to alert Markus of what was happening. He felt so helpless without being connected to the network. He felt alone again. He needed to calm down, preconstructing movements was next to impossible with his stress levels rising this high. His mind swarmed as he tried to think of a way he could get himself and Hank out of this situation.

As Cunningham continued, he balled his fists hard enough that it threatened to draw blood, hoping the pain would help ground him. Cunningham frowned. “Such a shame. All this mess could have been avoided if you had been obedient, and you were such a good boy too. Only been a few days and they’ve already broken my control.” Cunningham caressed Connor’s face, “It seems I’ll have to not be so gentle with you next time.” He grazed Connor’s face once more before slapping him hard enough for Connor to stumble.

“You do not say no to me boy,” he hissed, suddenly grabbing Connor’s jaw with surprising strength. Connor braced himself on the end table behind him, the lamp teetering at the sudden shift, causing the light in the room circle about. “Perhaps I should just freeze you and have our men throw you into the car, or perhaps you need a reminder of why you don’t disobey me.” Connor whimpered, he knew which one Cunningham would choose, despite Hank’s presence. The bastard would get off on the power play alone.

True enough, Cunningham held up the remote, reveling in the fear Connor expressed in his eyes at the sight. Connor weakly pleaded, “You don’t have to do this. It will only be worse for you, we have enough evidence to shut CyberLife down. It’s over.” Another tear escaped Connor’s fluttering lids, his eyes still transfixed on the remote.

“If you rescind your statement, and Markus dies, all this will go away. You can thank being prototypes for that.” It was true, the case would be dragged out in the tangled grey area these laws provided for them. Even in this moment all Hank would be able to charge them with is a B&E and threatening an officer.

“If you hurt him Cunningham, not even the law will be able to protect you from me.” Hank growled from behind them. Connor’s eyes met Hank, wide as Cunningham smiled, his thumb pressing down on one of the remote’s settings. Immediately Connor was overcome with pain, reeling back, colliding with furniture as he collapsed onto the floor. The screams alone froze Hank in his place, the high pitched sound piercing his ears. His blood ran cold. He had only heard blood curdling screams such as this a few times in his career, and each forever imprinted into his memory like an unforgettable nightmare. Connor curled in on himself, his hands gripping the carpet with such intensity that it was ripping in places. Cunningham stooped over the android, his face blank as watched the android writhe in anguish.
Recovering himself, Hank bolted from the couch, screaming out as the two guards tried to hold him in place. “You bastard, I’ll fucking kill you! You hear me?! I’ll fucking rip your head from your body if you lay another hand on him!”

Cunningham ignored the threats from the older man, instead kneeling beside the boy, connecting with the androids broken eyes. “All this can stop Connor. Just say you’ll be good and come back home and we can forget about this silly endeavor.”

Tears flowed from Connor’s eyes, he grit his teeth hard enough that he accidentally cut his tongue, thirium filling his mouth. That’s when he remembered Markus. He needed Markus. If only he could call him, feel the warmth Markus offered, just a taste. Just enough to give him strength. It was so hard to calculate through all this pain. He just wanted it to stop. He glanced at Hank, hoping for any sort of comfort or distraction. Hank held his gaze, his expression helpless and filled with sorrow. Connor tried to hold back the screams, he didn’t want to scare Hank. His voice box popped and crackled with the strain, his body convulsing with the painful ripples. Connor closed his eyes as Cunningham turned to the detective.

“Perhaps you need more convincing.” Connor’s eyes darted up as he watched Cunningham draw his gun, aiming it at Hank. “You can leave, knowing your friend here is still breathing in this world, or,“ Cunningham cocked his gun, “the lieutenant here gets caught in a terrible accident where a burglar broke into his house and shot him to death. Which would you prefer?”

Connor struggled to look up, perching on his elbows. “Stop...please...please don’t.”

“I need to hear you say it Connor. Once you do, the pain will stop.” Cunningham stepped forward. “How about I give you to the count of three.”

Connor dropped his head to the floor. “Leave him alone, don’t hurt him! He has nothing to do with this!” There was a heavy moment of silence before Connor felt his sensors shut off. The pain vanished from his body, causing Connor to slump to the floor. Connor heaved in relief, his body shaking with the exertion. Confused, Connor glanced up to see Cunningham holstering his gun.

“You’re right. Killing him would be too much for you.” Cunningham hated that Connor continued to prove logical even in this situation. If Hank died he would lose all leverage, but if Hank was kept alive, even after Connor was taken back, he could be used as leverage to keep him there. Cunningham’s eyes roamed Connor’s limp body. He would have to get Connor to submit another way. The man grabs Connor’s arms, placing them behind his back as he attaches the nanofiber cuffs.

“What are you…?” Before Connor can finish uttering, Cunningham interrupts. What he says leaves Connor with a horrified expression.

“Does Hank know about your Eden Route yet?” Cunningham’s hand roams Connor’s neck, his chest, gliding past his shuddering pump and over his belt. Connor’s lip quivers as he tries to look anywhere but at Cunningham. Or Hank. He doesn’t want to see the way Hank will look at him. He can’t take seeing the disappointment or disgust if Cunningham has his way with him. He inhales sharply once Cunningham palms his crotch, squirming as Cunningham continues to rub him. Connor is unsure how high his stress levels are with the cuffs dampening the read, but he is sure that if it weren’t for them, he would have broken by now.

“Keep your filthy fucking hands off him!” Hank bellows as he elbows one of the men. He manages to reach out to Connor before one of the men clock him with the butt of their gun, causing Hank to crash to the floor as the other pins him. Connor’s eyes finally meet Hanks as blood drips from his temple.

“Sit up.” Cunningham orders as he retrieves his hand from Connor’s limp dick. When Connor doesn’t move, Cunningham lifts him up by his scalp, Connor desperately pleading to Hank with his eyes. Cunningham violently pulls Connor’s hair, forcing his gaze from Hank to him. Connor reluctantly turns his focus from Hank to Cunningham, a cold wave washing over him as he recognizes the anger shadowing his face. “You’re lucky I’m not deranged enough to activate your Eden Route right now. I could take you over the table here and force your good old dad to watch. Would you rather I did that as your punishment? Or would you rather wait to see the surprise I have for you at home.” Cunningham watched Connor’s Adam’s apple bob, a few more tears threatening to fall.

Cunningham groans at the face Connor makes, groping the front of his pants. With his hand still firmly placed on Connor’s scalp, he grinds into him. Connor can feel the hardening bulge on his cheek and panic wracked him. No. Not here. Not in front of Hank. Anything but this! Connor’s thoughts are interrupted by Cunningham’s voice, laced with arousal. “I’ve missed you, Connor.” He kneels down, pulling Connor’s head to the side as he whispers into his ear. His breath was heavy and hot on Connor’s neck. “I’ve missed the way you look at me with those pleading eyes, the way you feel around my cock. The way you shudder underneath me.” He placed a hand on Connor’s waist, turning it to grope at him. Connor gasps as a sob escapes him. Cunningham’s hand moved lower to cup his ass as he continued. “I can’t wait to experience that again.” Cunningham licks Connor’s ear as he stands, leaving his trauma stricken face in full view of Hank.

The flood of memories from the last six months overwhelming him. He could feel Cunningham’s fingers roaming his body, prodding him, violating him. He could hear his dirty words in his ears, feel his hands around his throat, the pulsing of his member inside him, tearing him as he cried out over and over and over again. How dirty he felt, the endless pain, the absolute powerlessness he experienced whenever Cunningham ripped away his free will with just a single command. The entire room fell away as the memories consumed every part of him.

“Connor, Connor! Don’t listen to him, I won’t let you go back with him, I promise you son. Please, Connor, just look at me. I’m right here!” Hank tries to reach out a hand to the android. His words weren’t reaching him, he needed to try something else.

“I think we’re done here.” Cunningham motioned to the guards. One of them left Hank for Connor, roughly jerking the android to his feet. Connor obeyed, his expression never changing. Cunningham turned one last time to Connor as he gripped his throat, forcing their eyes to connect. “I want you to say it kid. Say you want to go home, say you’ll never leave again.”

A few tears silently dropped onto the carpet bellow him. His eyes blinked several times as he choked out the words. “I want to go home.” I want to go home to Markus. I want to embrace him. To feel the warmth of his arms around me as his soft voice comforts me. I want to wake up from this horrible nightmare knowing that you’re gone and can never touch me again. Connor had just gotten used to Markus’ touch, enough to welcome it, to crave it and this man was ruining those memories with his cold hands.
Hearing Connor give in left a pit in the man’s stomach. Hank leaned forward, yelling at his defeated partner, “Connor don’t! You can’t- you can’t go through this again!” Hank knew. He knew that if Connor walked out his door he would never see the android again.

“That’s it kid, you made the right choice.” Cunningham purred as he uncuffed Connor. He made his way towards the door, the guard and Connor following suit. “This time we’ll put you somewhere not even that snake Kamski can find.”

In one swift motion Connor reached over the guard, grabbing the gun, shooting him as he stepped back. Connor trained the gun at Cunningham, who eased his hands up in response. Hank took this opportunity to kick the guard behind him in the knee, causing him to collide with the ground. Hank then straddled him, wrestling for the gun. He managed to turn the gun around in the guard’s grip, firing twice into the man’s chest.

Connor cocked the gun as Cunningham opened his mouth, shooting him in the knee. “Not another word.” Cunningham quickly closed his mouth, stifling a cry as he clutched at the wound, knowing full well that Connor could get a bullet out before he could finish uttering the word freeze. “You’re going to finally answer for what you did. What you did to me,” Connor swallowed as his voice cracked, “and I’m going to sleep soundly knowing you will never be able to lay another finger on me!” Hank’s heart constricted at his words. He wasn’t sure if it was Connor’s emotions or his strained voice synth causing the break, but it hurt just the same.

Cunningham watched as Hank checked the guard’s pulse before standing, making his way over to them. His eyes swept from his two dead guards to Connor’s own. Even if he managed to get out of this, the media drag alone was severely corrupted their sales, his company. His reputation. Connor had taken everything from him. He would sooner die than let this robot have a happy ending while he rotted in jail. “You’ll never be free, Connor.” Cunningham sneered. “You can shoot me, send me to jail, run to the arms of your friends, but you’ll never escape me. Years from now I’ll be haunting you in your dreams, in every stray touch of a man, in every intimate moment you have your lovers. You’ll never be able to have a normal life. I’ve made sure of that.” Connor’s grip faltered, unable to pry his eyes away, even as Hank begged him to look at him, to not listen. “Does Markus know that every time he’s with you all you can think about it me? His touches are my touches. I can imagine the hurt you must cause him when you pull away from his hand. I wonder how much he can take before he becomes sick of you. Before he realizes how disgusting you really are. You think he’ll still want you?”

Cunningham laughs as another tear escapes Connor’s eye. Connor can barely hear Hank yelling for him to shut up, that he’s wrong, that Connor is all that Markus cares about. “Don’t be a fool, Connor, of course he won’t. Sure he showers you in praises now but once his patience with you runs out he’ll drop you like hot rock and move on to someone who can open up their legs without crying. I’m sure there’s plenty of people waiting to take your place. Plenty of people who aren’t as defective as you.”

It’s then that Connor lets out a ragged breath. “You’re right, Hank.” Hank’s shoulders relax in a moment of relief. “I can’t go through this again. I’m not strong enough.” Connor moves the gun from Cunningham, placing it firmly under his jaw. The room is silent. Hank outstretched an open hand, desperately trying to reach his son.

“Hey, hey I know. It’s okay. You don’t have to be. You can stay here with me and Sumo. We can go through this together, okay? You’re not alone Connor.” Hank gently places a hand on Connor’s shoulder, “Me, Sumo, Markus, the others, we all love you Connor. Nothing this man does or says will change that. Nothing you do or say will change that.” Hank tried his hardest to keep his voice light, his eyes swelled as he held back a flood of emotions. That is until he saw the tears fall from Connor’s eyes. Hank whimpered as he watched Connor’s finger move to the trigger. Hank couldn’t hold his own after that. “Connor listen, I’ll even eat more vegetables and- and I’ll throw out all the booze in the house. I’ll even exercise twice a week if I have to! Alright? How does that sound?” Connor never took his sights off of Hank. There was fear in his eyes, but Hank couldn’t tell if it was a fear of death, or fear never being free from Cunningham’s horrors. Perhaps it was both. All Hank knew was that he was dangerously close to losing another son. And he’d do anything to stop that from happening.

“We love you so much, son, we’re not gonna leave you. Markus would be so heartbroken if you were gone. S-So would I. Connor I couldn’t live with myself if I lost another son. Broken or not I’d rather have you.”

“Do you…do you really mean that?” Connor whispered, hesitating as he shifted his grip on the gun.

“Of course Connor, I wouldn’t lie to you...” Hank shook his head, his voice breaking as he finished, “not to you.” Hank slowly moved closer, gently placing his hands around Connor’s as he moved it away from Connor’s jaw. “I’ll tell you as many times as you need to hear. As many times as it takes for Cunningham’s voice to disappear from your head.” He gently unwrapped Connor’s fingers from the pistol, throwing the gun away as he cupped his son’s soft face in his large hands. “There’s no doubt that Cunningham will be prosecuted now. After the trial you’ll never have to see him again.” He kissed Connor’s forehead as he continued to shower Connor in the loving words he so desperately needed to hear, wiping away every tear that fell. Once Hank felt it was safe enough to leave Connor with his thoughts, he cuffed Cunningham and made a few phone calls.

By the time Markus arrived, the police were already there. He sprinted from the taxi, pausing momentarily as he spotted the man who caused all this in the back of one of the cruisers. They locked eyes briefly, a rage stoking inside Markus like he had never known. He fought the sudden urge to break through the window of the car and strangle the man until the life left his eyes. Before he could decide whether or not he should give in to those dark desires, Hank called to him from the doorstep. Markus ripped his eyes from the man and joined Hank. He passed two officers zipping up one of the dead guards, taking in the scene with increasing dread as he spotted the remote in Connor’s hand. He knelt beside him, his focus fully shifting to the man curled in on himself by the sofa.

“Connor…” Markus hesitated, aborting a hug as he eyed the android. “I should have been here. I shouldn’t have let you leave my side. Connor please look at me. I need to know you’re okay.”

Markus steadily raised his hand to Connor’s face, knowing that Connor could pull away if he didn’t want anyone to touch him. Instead Connor leaned into his palm, sighing shakily at the warmth.

“Did he… Did he hurt you?”

Connor bit his lip. It was a stupid question but Connor knew what he meant. Markus scooted closer as Connor thumbed the remote.

“Connor please, talk to me, or show me. I don’t know what happened but the way Hank sounded on the phone…” Markus can’t remember Hank ever sounding so distraught. Markus, it’s Cunningham, he was waiting at the house. He messed with Connor, messed with his head. I can only do so much for him, he needs you right now. I’m afraid of what he might do. What he might do to himself. Markus didn’t hesitate to drop everything.

“I’m sorry, Markus. I’m sorry you have to keep dealing with me like this.” Connor’s words were small, but they pulled Markus back to the present. “Do you…Do you even still want me? Even…Even if I can’t love you the way you want, even if he’s all that fills my head when you touch me? Even if I’m broken and these nightmares never go away?” Connor couldn’t look at him. He just stared at the remote in his hand as he bit back tears.

“Oh, Connor…” Markus’ expression softened, “No matter what anyone else tells you, I will always love you. Connor, it doesn’t matter to me if you’re broken. Even if there’s nothing left I will still love you. I want to be there for you no matter what. You mean the world to me Connor, and I will spend every day for the rest of my life showing you if that’s what it takes.” Words weren’t enough. Markus had to show Connor what he felt. He moved his hand to Connor’s, his skin retracting to connect with him. Connor allowed him in, letting Markus see what transpired in their home, letting him hear all the words Cunningham fed into his mind like poison, knowing which phrases would cause Connor to break. Markus retaliated with words of his own. Rebuking the harsh ones with words of affirmation. Connor tried to pull away and Markus could feel the sense of guilt and shame. Connor thought he didn’t deserve this. Instead Markus pushed harder, latching on as he fed every warm feeling he has in him into Connor. He wants to fill Connor’s entire being with love until Connor is brimming with an overwhelming feeling of safety and calm. He wants to show Connor how he sees him, how he has seen him, and how he always will see him. Vibrant. Strong. Compassionate. Thoughtful. Beautiful. I love you. I love you how you are Connor, scars and all I wouldn’t trade you for the world. He made the words repeat in Connor’s head a thousand times over, only severing the connection when he was sure that Connor was left with nothing but warmth.

Hank returned to check on them, the two had their eyes closed, embracing each other like it was their last. He watched Connor smile as he cried into Markus’ arms, causing Hank to hang back and smile with him. He had almost lost Connor again. Hank had almost forgotten what that smile looked like. It had become dangerously close to being just a memory in Hank’s mind. Hank felt an overwhelming sense of gratefulness for Markus. There was no doubt in Hanks mind, only Markus could help undo the damage Cunningham inflicted on his family. It would no doubt be extremely hard for Connor in the future, but he was certain with Markus by his side, he would overcome it. One day at a time.