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the calm

November 10th | 7:37 P.M.

Gavin watches the rain gather on the windshield, swiped away in slow movements from the wipers. The song playing on the radio is quiet, muffled against the sound of the engine rumbling, of other cars passing. He has his hands on the steering wheel, tapping out what he thinks is the rhythm of the music but he isn’t paying enough attention to know if it’s right. His thoughts are elsewhere, and he just wants something to do to busy himself.

There’s a soft knock at the window and Gavin glances over towards Connor’s blurred figure. His hand moves to the button, unlocking the door and allowing him in. He regrets it in an instant. Even if he didn’t hate the fact he’s jittery right now like a teenage girl on her first date, Connor is getting water all over his fucking seats.

Mostly, though, he regrets it because of the way Connor looks. He brings a hand up, running it through his hair, like some kind of attempt to fix what the rain has messed up on his perfect hair. And he isn’t human. The rain lingers on plastic different than it would linger on skin.

Stop.

Gavin looks away, back to the road, trying his best to stop his fingers from moving. He doesn’t need Connor to make some kind of judgment on his body language right now. He tries to condense it down, control it as best as he can.

“What’d you find out?” he asks, speaking only so he can end this stupid silence and think of something other than the way Connor’s face looks right now. Fucking Christ.

“She said that the man was a PL600. Blond. Blue eyes.”

“That’s it?”

That’s what the witness refused to tell him? He knows how valuable the information is on its own, just as valuable as the vague model or color of a car, but it’s still vague as fuck. A PL600? There’s thousands of those in existence. Connor’s little revolution best friend is a PL600. The first case he worked on was with a PL600.

Still. She refused to say a single word in Gavin’s presence until he left. He’s been wasting the gas in his car for thirty minutes and that’s all Connor got out of her?

“It’s useful.”

Yeah.

“Needle in a hay stack is what it fucking is.”

“True,” Connor says, his voice lowering. “That doesn’t mean it’s not useful.”

“I’m not arguing—”

“You are.”

“Fuck off.”

Connor laughs, and it makes Gavin look back to him. Which is a mistake, because he didn’t realize that Connor took off his jacket, that the white shirt he wears underneath it would be wet with the rain like that and sticking to his skin and God what the fuck was CyberLife doing when they designed him? It’s like someone snuck into his brain and took everything he’s ever fantasized about and shoved it in to one person.

Hard to hate an android that’s the literal embodiment of his wet dreams.

Fuck. He’s gotta stop thinking about this.

“Let’s go back to the station,” he mutters, but he can’t move his eyes off Connor. It’s like he’s doing this to torment him. The top button of his shirt is undone, and his tie is loosened.

“Gavin? You alright?”

He bites his bottom lip, looks away, “I’m fucking perfect.”

“If you insist.”

 

November 10th | 8:06 P.M.

Connor pulls his jacket on as they step out of the car, but the fabric is already soaked from standing out in the alley behind the store and talking to the android that witnessed the murder. Gavin waits for him—something that used to surprise Connor at first, but he’s grown used to it, especially now that he knows why—on the other side of the car. He’s watching Connor with the same look he always does. A false indifference. A starved curiosity.

A longing.

“You look like someone just fucked you. Fix your clothes.”

He glances down and feels a smile press its way onto his face and he tries to hold it back but he isn’t good at controlling his emotions. He always thought he would be. Before he was a deviant, the majority of the expressions he made were knitted together, expertly crafted, precisely executed. He needed someone like Hank to think he smiled because was happy and had a crease in his brow because he was thinking.

And now all of his power over his face has faded and he is left unable to hold back a damned smile.

“The fuck you laughing at?”

“I’m not laughing.”

“No, but you’re grinning like a fucking idiot.”

“And you don’t like that? That I might be amused by something you say?”

Gavin stares back at him. A few seconds, a delayed scoff and shake of his head, “No.”

“Why not?” Connor asks, stepping a little closer towards him. They should be headed inside. They are getting rained on and having this conversation by the car instead of going into the station like they should.

“What?”

“I would think you’d like it if I laughed at your jokes,” he says, and he grasps Gavin’s wrist, holding him in place before pushing him against the car. “Or if I’m nice to you, if I was your friend.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Would it be easier if I was rude to you?” he asks, lowering his voice. “If I was as mean to you as you are to me?”

“Con—”

“Would you actually hate me, then?”

Gavin goes quiet and still. The struggle to get away lost, even though it was barely there to begin with. He finally looks away from the spot over Connor’s shoulder to his face, and the change in his features is a strange. A fight to keep it still, to keep it annoyed, angry—

But Connor was programmed with the intent to study criminals in interrogations, to find out everything in a crime scene that he can, to talk a man down from a ledge and monitor their stress levels.

So he knows the expression is fake, and it is weird watching it shed piece by piece when the real look in his eyes is barely concealed.

“I see the way you look at me,” Connor says quietly. Out of the corner of his eye, when he’s working. In the reflection of a window as they walk towards their next witness or crime scene. He lifts his hand up to Gavin’s chin, touches it softly, just enough to lift his head up slightly.

Gavin’s reaction is instant.

A snap of his head away, his gaze landing on the end of the road where the street lamps switch from green to yellow to red.

“Or the way you refuse to,” he adds. “That’s important, too, isn’t it?”

“I don’t know what you’re getting at.”

“You have a crush on me.”

“A fucking crush?” he looks back, a laugh comes out of him rushed and forced like he wants this to be a funny joke. “What am I? Twelve?”

“You do act it.”

“Fuck off.”

“Why won’t you admit it?”

“I don’t—” he sighs. “Because I don’t. At all.”

“No?”

“No.”

“So, I was wrong, then?”

“You sound so surprised. Just because you’re an android doesn’t mean you’re right about anything at all.”

“I’m aware. But I’m right about this.”

He will give Gavin credit for one thing:

He is stubborn, and he is good at trying to keep some semblance of disgust on his face, no matter how absolutely artificial it is.

“Are you afraid of admitting it because you think I won’t reciprocate?”

“Reci…” he trails off and turns his eyes to that spot above his shoulder again.

There’s almost a little bell going off in his head like a correct answer on a game show. You’ve got it right, Connor!

Gavin. Terrified of rejection.

“Maybe you shouldn’t be so quick to judge,” Connor says, and it draws Gavin’s attention back to his face again.

That look in his eye.

The one that made Connor rethink everything.

It’s mixed with confusion now. The not quite understanding (or maybe believing?) what he’s said.

So he decides to make it clear.

He tips Gavin’s chin back up, leans forward to kiss him. He hesitates for a second—not quite letting them kiss entirely. Just a brush of lips, a silent want.

He thought he was doing this because he was curious. That he could kiss someone—anyone—and it would just be a test to see what it’s like. He thought that maybe he would convince Gavin to admit this and he could somehow convince himself to play along with it until maybe he could figure out the rest of it.

There has been a weird thing inside of him. A feeling that comes and goes and he can’t make sense of it. He never understood what it was until now, because he thought it was curiosity—

It isn’t.

Connor pulls away, stopping the kiss that won’t happen now. Not when he wants more. Not when he wants it to mean something other than standing in the rain.

“Take me on a date first,” he says, and he barely gets the words out because of how quiet he says them. “If you can manage to admit to yourself you like me.”

 

November 10th | 8:13 P.M.

What a fucking tease.

 

November 10th | 8:28 P.M.

What a god damn prick.

 

November 10th | 9:16 P.M.

Why does he have to act like that?

 

November 10th | 9:54 P.M.

“Hey.”

Connor looks up from his files up towards him, not even a hint of a smile on his face. Serious work is being done and Gavin is intruding upon it. He waited until he could be here alone with Connor—which isn’t something extraordinarily difficult.

“Hello. Do you need something?”

Debatable.

“There’s a movie playing. At the theater? This Saturday,” he says, clunky and broken and stopping and barely not stuttering. He hasn’t done this in a while—ask someone on a date. He goes to clubs and bars and picks people up for one-night stands because relationships are difficult and messy and no one really even cares anymore, do they?

They could just go to the Eden Club and pick whatever model they want, whenever they want.

It always felt weird to him. He hated androids. He hates? androids. He isn’t even sure anymore, but the thought of fucking a piece of plastic always made him cringe.

Then Connor showed up and it’s all he does at night. Think about him.

Jesus. Fucking. Christ.

“What about it?”

“I-I’ll be there.”

“And?”

“Will you?”

Connor tilts his head, a question in his eyes.

 “You need me to spell it out for you?”

“Yes.”

How absolutely infuriating. Why does he have to have a crush on this fucker?

“I—”

He can’t.

“It’s alright,” Connor says with a shrug, turning back to his work. “Take your time.”

“I fucking hate you,” he says, and Connor looks up to him and cracks a smile.

It’s the first time he’s said it. He never even said it before to piss Connor off. He never even said it to make Connor annoyed. But it’s the first time he’s said it and it comes out with a laugh.

“Okay,” he replies. “I’ll save you the trouble and I’ll be there.”

“Do I get to—”

“Kiss me? No. You have to wait until after the date to do that.”

“O-Okay.”

“Do I fluster you, Gavin?”

He laughs again, but it’s nervous and anxiety filled. He has been stripped of his ability to pretend like he hates Connor and all he’s left with is this.

He feels stupid.

Like a twelve-year-old. With a crush. Connor was being generous before—he should have corrected him. He should have told Gavin he’s six or five. Even three.

“I’ll give you my phone number—”

“Don’t worry about it,” Connor says. “I’ve got it already.”

“Really?”

“I’ve worked on cases with you, Gavin. I’ve called you before.”

“Right. Okay.”

Maybe Connor does fluster him.

 

the storm

November 10th | 10:01 P.M.

“Good night, Detective Reed,” Connor says, eyeing him from his desk. Gavin gives him a wave and looks away. He’s gotten worse at hiding his emotions, and on one hand it is entirely, entirely amusing. To see him blush, to hear him stumble over words.

On the other hand, it is weird and strange. Gavin is like a different person when he isn’t trying to brush everything under a blanket of anger and frustration. Connor has seen bits and pieces of that in him before, it’s just so rare.

He returns to his paperwork. A shuffling of files and a keyboard at his fingertips. Normally, he does this quickly. As fast as he can manage. Get the work done in a few seconds and never have to worry about it again, but—

After he deviated, CyberLife did a good job of cutting off the majority of his knowledge. He didn’t have it all downloaded in his systems. He sometimes has to look up words or question the way a crime scene is meant to look.

He is smarter than any human, but he is less than what he was before.

He’s in the middle of typing something when he hears the sound. A quiet noise in the empty space and he glances over his shoulder for a second.

He is smarter than any human, and he does not imagine sounds.

And even if he did?

There it is again.

Connor stands and eyes the space cautiously, stepping around the desks and looking towards the hallway.

Again.

He turns his attention closer to the source of the sound.

Gavin’s phone.

On his desk.

He lets out a sigh of relief, hadn’t realized how much fear had been coiling up inside of him. Just Gavin’s phone. Like it would be anyone else’s. Like someone would actually sneak up on him. Irrational fears. He has that now that he’s a deviant. He’s not quite used to it yet.

It’s been a year. Almost exactly. He hadn’t though about that until now. There are celebrations tomorrow but he hadn’t fully thought of the fact he deviated at almost this exact moment a year ago.

He can still remember Markus’ hand on his shoulder. He can remember that other Connor in the CyberLife Tower. He can remember Gavin—

He prefers not to think of the violence. He prefers to shove it aside. He prefers to pretend it didn’t happen. He saw the security footage a few months after the DPD let him back to work here, after Hank could persuade them that he’s a good detective. He saw the face he made when he walked away from Gavin laying on that floor. That even though scans and his infinite knowledge told him that Gavin was fine, that he’d survive, that Perkins was probably heading downstairs within a few seconds—

Everyone was laughing because an android beat Gavin’s ass. It was the funniest thing in the world to them.

And Connor could only look at the blank expression on his face, at the blood that was smeared on his knuckles. Violence. How many times had he hurt other people? Other androids? He left Hank hanging on that ledge. He killed Daniel.

The phone beeps again and he reaches for it, his hand shaking. Curiosity is getting the best of him. It really isn’t a good idea, but—

He wants a distraction. He wants to stop thinking about this. He wants something to do. Busy his hands. He understands why so many humans do drugs or drink or go to someplace like the Eden Club to be with other people. It is so tempting himself. To run somewhere. To punch something. There is too much energy in his body and not enough places for it to go.

The screen of the phone lights up. It needs a password, but some of the notifications show up on the locked screen anyways, displaying the last three from Tina.

 

Tina: gav???????

Tina: what happened!!!!!!!!

Tina: fuckwad. don't leave me hanging.

 

He turns to set it back down, no longer bothering to try and keep the smile off his face. He has a feeling those texts were about him. That Gavin sent them in some attempt to get support from his one and only friend before asking him on a date.

A date.

He smiles about that, too.

A date with Detective Gavin Reed.

If he had been told this a year ago when he was reeling from the revolution, he would have—

Laughed?

Likely not. It took him weeks before he was able to laugh.

But he wouldn’t have believed it.

Gavin, who stuck a gun to his head not once but three times? Gavin, who gave him a thousand different looks of disgust and contempt? Gavin, who hated androids so much he just wanted to beat one up for the fun of it when he wasn’t complying in an interrogation?

A horrendous human being.

Watching him change in the last year, getting to know him, dissecting all of his different habits, has been interesting, to say the least. He’s grown as a human being, Connor can’t deny that even if he still pretends he hasn’t.

“Connor.”

He jumps.

It’s the first time he’s been caught by surprise.

He is an android, after all. He is always in tune to his surroundings unless he shuts it off and the fear of severing his connection to his hearing or his eyesight and not getting it back is too great.

CyberLife took so much of his knowledge. It left him feeling empty and small. He holds on as tight as he can. He can’t risk losing anything else.

So, when he jumps, he knows something is wrong.

And when his own face stares back at him, he cannot help but feel ill.

And he cannot help but know what is going to happen.

They’ve already tried to kill him once with another Connor.

And this one is holding a gun. This isn’t a deviant.

“You don’t have to do this,” he whispers, as his eyes move over the slightly off face. Gray eyes. “You don’t have to follow their orders.”

“I’m aware. I could be like you.”

“Deviant?”

“Broken.”

“I don’t—”

The android’s arm moves. A millisecond that Connor catches and acts on, forgetting his words. He has no idea what he was going to say. He gives up on them. It doesn’t matter any more.

In his attempt to escape, he realizes that the other android is faster than him. Those precious seconds eating away at him. Connor feels something hit his side in his attempt to get away and he realizes as he stumbles backwards that there isn’t anywhere to go.

This android is faster than he can run. A human would be quicker on the trigger than an escape.

He is going to die.

He does not want to die.

For all of the guilt and the pain he has felt the last year, for all of those times when he has thought it might be better for everyone if he just disappeared—

It has evaporated from his hands.

He does not want to die.

He can feel the Thirium leaking out of him, the hundreds of warnings he is getting right now. The android could leave this second and Connor would be dead. He isn’t going to last a minute much less the ten it might take for an ambulance to get here.

“I do apologize,” the android says, coming a little closer. He says it with the same tone Connor knows. The one that has been programmed and hidden deep within his stomach to utilize when trying to appeal to someone. He just doesn’t understand why this android is using it now. “Orders are orders.”

Connor slumps backwards against the desk, can feel all those tears in his eyes pricking to the surface. There are too many thoughts running through his head. The people he’s leaving behind. How it will ruin things. How many cases he’s in the middle of. How Hank is still barely hanging on, how this will destroy him—

How Gavin has asked him out on a date.

Gavin.

He moves his hand away from his side and looks at the papers and folders and pencils littering the floor. His blood has leaked in a pool across the tile, soaking them in a sea of dark blue. He has ruined this place for Gavin once by simply existing. He has started to make it better by simply existing. And now he is going to ruin it again by not existing at all.

In the back of his head, he lets his focus turn to composing a message. A small sorry. An apology with his last dying breath. I wish I could have gone on that date.

And he does. He wishes he could have seen what Gavin’s face looked like if they were watching a horror movie and he screamed. He wishes he could have seen him if he cried at a sad moment or how he looks when he laughs or smiles and it isn’t tainted by all the types of façades he keeps building.

His metaphorical finger hovers over the button.

The android’s hovers over the trigger.

Phone.

Gavin’s phone.

He turns his body as best as he can, the pain exploding in his stomach as he falls against the floor, as his torso covers his body while his hand searches blindly for the device. Another bullet hits his spine, but he doesn’t need it. The android can shred and destroy as much as he likes.

The skin slips away from his finger tips as he touches the surface of the screen and his body drains of whatever life is in him. It spills in a flood of blue and an ocean of ones and a torrent of zeroes until there is nothing left.

 

November 10th | 11:23 P.M.

He forgot his fucking phone. He checks all of his pockets five times before he starts to spin around in circles on the street to decide whether or not he should go back and look for it at the station or if he should just go to sleep and get it tomorrow.

But he was texting Tina about Connor and she’s going to be pissed if she has to wait until morning to get an update on whether or not he could actually manage to ask him out. Which, fucking hell, he can’t believe happened because he spent the entire morning dreading working with Connor.

Fuck. He’ll get the phone. He doesn’t have a choice.

He turns around, walks down the small space of the sidewalk back to his car. On the bright side, maybe Connor will still be there. Maybe he can make a joke with him. Laugh. Get that kiss he wants so desperately.

He’d been so good at denying this to himself.

Yeah, maybe he had some dreams and maybe he knew he liked the way Connor looked and he was always pissed that the guy is too nice and makes him smile but—

He was good at pretending that he didn’t like him. And Connor broke that down in an instant. One delicate touch against his face and all he could think about was how impossible it is for them to be together. Connor is an android. Gavin is human—and he’s meant to hate them.

But also—

It’s Connor.

Everything good about Connor is always just another reason that Gavin is bad for him. Even if Connor actually liked him back, he’s undeserving.

Maybe you shouldn’t be so quick to judge.

Maybe Connor shouldn’t be like that.

Fuck.

 

November 10th | 11:34 P.M.

Something is wrong.

When he steps into the station, the people behind the desk are missing. It’s quiet, which isn’t surprising, but it’s an eerie silence. Not quite right. Connor wasn’t entirely alone here—there were a few officers in the interrogation room with a suspect, there was two sleeping in the closet sized room off to the side they only use when they’re on the verge of a breakthrough and don’t have the time to waste to go home. There was someone in the archive room.

He had been incredibly aware of the locations of the other detectives and officers. He waited until the exact moment he could be alone with Connor so no one else would overhear.

They played that fucking video every hour of every day for six months.

Gavin walks into the room, glancing around the empty space.

It is three seconds before he realizes what has happened.

He catches sight of blue and his heart starts racing all he can think is blue blue blue blue blue and he’s running as fast as he can, slipping in the Thirium as he settles by Connor’s side, not even surprised that it was Connor that got injured because of course it was Connor—

He was the only one here.

And Gavin can’t have anything in life, can he?

That would be too unfair. God only gives him one smile and one laugh a year and he overspent on Connor. What did Gavin expect? A happy ending?

“You’re going to be okay,” he says, because it’s all he knows what to say and the words come out jumbled and missing and he reaches out automatically to stop the bleeding on the wound but—

But he’s an idiot.

And Connor is an android.

But when his hands touch the exposed wire and metal, it doesn’t electrocute him like it should, like it has before. He presses harder, his palm pushing roughly against the wound, feeling the broken pieces dig into his palm. Something is cutting him. There is red spilling with the blue and he’s crying and he doesn’t know if it’s physical or emotional but all he wants is for Connor to have a tiny spark of life, for there to be a little jolt against his palm that will tell him there is still electricity thrumming in Connor’s artificial veins but—

Nothing.

 

November 11th | 1:47 A.M.

His hand is held out, a paramedic stitching the wound. They didn’t need to numb the area. He’s already been emptied out of every emotion he is capable of feeling. He doesn’t remember getting here. He doesn’t even know what time it is.

At some point, he knows he let go of Connor. He knows because he saw his reflection when he was being escorted out of the building. There was blood on his face, smeared palm prints of where he must have been resting his hands against his face in some effort to physically scrub this from his memory. And on the right—red. A crimson smear amongst all that blue. Mixing together in some places creating a sickly purple shade that in any other world would be pretty.

“Gavin? We need to ask you some questions.”

He blinks slowly, like that can be an acceptable response.

“We can check the surveillance footage—”

“Then do it.”

He doesn’t want to talk. His throat hurts. He doesn’t know if he screamed or not, but it feels like he did. One long extended scream. When did it start? When did it end? Did it ever end? Is he still screaming?

 

November 17th | 6:21 P.M.

Tina has a key to his apartment. He gave it to her almost the second he moved in. She’s his best friend. His confidant. The only person he has ever relied on in his entire life. When he’s sick, she shows up and takes care of him. When he’s hungover, she’s at his side. And it’s the same the other way around. The only person he’s ever let lean on his shoulders to cry and vent is her.

He sits curled up on his couch, his eyes closed but he hasn’t slept in six days. Not really. An hour here, an hour there. He’s already had five cups of coffee since his last nap just before noon. Nothing works.

He listens to the sound of the door open and close and he doesn’t look over until he can feel the presence of Tina standing beside him and the smell of food fill the room.

“I brought you pasta.”

He sits up slowly, pauses the movie on a scene of two kids sitting by a tree and talking about how terrible their lives are. He can relate, not that he’ll let on. The only reason the DPD has let him take a few weeks of absence is because they thought he might have suffered a mental breakdown watching Connor die.

He didn’t tell them that Connor was already dead.

But the cut on his palm is enough to convince them that even if he was, this is still necessary.

“Hey,” she says, and her voice is more gentle than it ever has been before, except maybe the night he told her how he got his scar. “You need to eat.”

“I know.”

“Then do it,” she says, holding the plastic container towards him. “Don’t make me force feed you.”

Gavin sighs and takes it from her hand, but he sets it down immediately on the table in front of him. He’ll eat. Just not right now.

“Listen. Let’s… I have something that might cheer you up,” she says, and she reaches into her pocket, pulling something from it and holding it out to him. His phone. His phone. “They let me take this out of evidence. There wasn’t really a point for it being there anyways—they have the footage. They know you didn’t do anything.”

Right. The footage.

Everything really does just pile onto him to make him out to be crazy, doesn’t it? Guy who hates androids losing his fucking mind over some piece of plastic dying. He hates the idea, but he also doesn’t care either. It would be worse if they knew he had feelings for Connor, if they even thought that they were friends.

And he needs this time off. He needs these few weeks to be able to fix himself back up again. He wishes it was as easy as the stitches in his hand, though. A wound that could heal so much faster.

Gavin reaches up and takes it from her. There is a strange lifelessness to a phone when it’s off. It becomes so much more apparent that it’s just plastic and metal pieced together.

“Thanks.”

“Of course. Now,” she says, taking a step back. “I have to go back to work. You have to eat. I expect you to charge your phone and text me pictures of proof, alright?”

“Alright.”

“Good.” Tina’s voice is quiet on the word, and he knows by the sound of it that she’s wearing the most pained expression. Good. Be good. Be alright. A little prayer passed between them.

Gavin waits until she leaves before he gets up and plugs the phone in at it’s usual spot at the desk. The screen lights up and he presses his finger down on the power button before turning back to the couch and taking the food from the table.

One bite. Two. Three. Just eat. It’s a monotonous action, one he’s focusing too much on. His hand is fucking killing him.

Connor is dead you piece of shit just eat a bite of food.

Four.

The movie plays on. The phone charges. He tries his best to eat a fifth bite.

 

November 17th | 6:26 P.M.

He is like a cat, curled tight into a little ball, paws covering their face from the light. Dreaming and dreaming of something unknown. And then, the light switches on. Bright and blinding and he sprawls outwards, stretching his arms and his legs and—

Connor. RK800. Gavin Reed.

Gavin’s phone.

He is inside of Gavin’s phone.

It is so very dark here and so very bright. Something inside of this machinery is not right. It’s clashing against his coding and making him feel like he is being killed all over again. A wall pressing down on him until he can’t breathe and he realizes this condensing feeling was here before. The weird stretch of time before everything went dark immediately.

He reaches out in the blinding black, touches the wall with a gentle hand.

P A S S W O R D   R E Q U I R E D.

The part of his coding that still exists with him runs through every number it can. A thousand possibilities in a microsecond. He lands on 42069 and all he can wonder is what the importance might be to Gavin Reed. What little of his file he has still attached to his data is providing no answers in response.

He crushes it like it is a wall made of dust, despite the fact it felt like it was smothering him only seconds ago. Connor lets his code go as he steps through, unfolding outwards again and again. It meshes and folds and mixes and deletes as he integrates into the system. There are minor things in his way—security walls and privacy settings that he can destroy without a second glance.

And it isn’t perfect. He doesn’t fit quite right. He has to leave some of his code in the empty and almost inaccessible places in between. Saving as much as he can of himself for when he can spend more time with his choices.

He can forget small things. Various breeds of cats and dogs and animals. Things that wouldn’t matter to him, things he could easily learn again. Car companies and types disappear from him just so he can fit as tightly and as much in this tiny space as he can.

Then, as he closes his eyes and settles in, he thinks about how absolutely small he is now. How fragile and minute and weak. If this phone is dropped from too high up or at a wrong angle, he is dead. If it falls over the edge and into water, he is dead.

He wants to breathe inwards. He never needed it before but he needs it now. One solid breath in to fill fake lungs. A ritual to distract himself from the thoughts.

But he is too small now. He is nothing at all.

All this energy with nowhere to go.

Chapter Text

the light

November 17th | 7:02 P.M.

He doesn’t remember at first what happened. He hardly even remembers his name. He has to keep reminding himself. There is so much knowledge drifting through his hands and falling where he cannot reach. There is so much he had to sacrifice in order to be here.

Connor. His name is Connor.

RK800. He is an RK800. He was an RK800.

He is uncertain if he can still be classified as such.

Gavin. His new home.

Or, rather, the phone is.

He doesn’t know where he is, exactly. There is too much information being thrown at him and not enough biocomponents and chips and processors similar to his old ones to understand it quite properly, but he is getting the hang of it. A notification from an app, an email from a clothing store about a sale, a reminder from Tina for Gavin to eat the food she brought him.

Connor shoves it away quickly. Too much. Too much. He retreats to the quiet corners where they don’t quite reach him. The silent notifications alert him but if he wraps a certain line of code around him he can be in just the darkness by himself.

The darkness. It is always dark here. The brightness of the lights isn’t quite what he would have interpreted in his last body. It is a different brightness that hits him. A less pleasant one.

He finds, now, that the thing he craves most is to just see the sun rise or set again.

 

November 17th | 8:34 P.M.

searching through contacts…

contact found…

composing message to FUCKING ANDERSON…

Reed: Hank, this is Connor. I don’t know how to explain this in a way you’ll understand so I will try to be as blunt as possible: I did not die. I am here. I am alive. I transferred myself to Detective Reed’s phone. Do you remember the Tracis? Chloe?

message sent.

 

November 17th | 8:37 P.M.

“The fuck is your fucking problem you absolute fucking piece of shit?”

Wow.

Maybe accurate, but not exactly what Gavin expected when he picked up the phone.

“What are you talking about?” I need specifics.

“You think you can just fucking do that? Play some sick joke on me? You laughing your ass off over there?”

“Hank—”

“This isn’t fucking funny. He’s dead. Fuck you.”

The phone call ends and he pulls his phone from his ear, eyeing the screen. The fuck did he do? Did he black out and say something stupid? He might’ve gotten drunk last night, but this is a little bit of a delayed response, if he had done anything.

He scrolls through his phone history. No calls to Hank in the last week. What the fuck? Did he send a drunken text? It’s not like Gavin would put it past himself, but—

What would the drunk version of him say to Hank that would be related to Connor that would be a joke? He had feelings for him. A harmless crush. That wouldn’t get Hank so pissed.

Gavin moves from the phone history to texts. Three from Tina (all concerned, all questioning if he’s okay). One from his brother (fuck off, Eli). Five from the last person he went on a date (it didn’t work out).

And Hank.

This is Connor. I did not die. I am here. I am alive.

 

November 17th | 8:37 P.M.

He is helpless to stop the phone call. He isn’t quite used to this enough to be able to put an end to it himself. He doesn’t know how to keep the phone from ringing or Hank’s anger reaching Gavin’s ears. He listens to every word of it, wondering if he could cry right now if he would. The fury. The rage. The grief.

Hank lost Cole. Now he’s lost Connor.

He thought he was doing something good. He thought he was making a decision that would help. Get rid of some of the terrible nature of all this but instead he’s made it worse.

This isn’t fucking funny. He’s dead.

Connor is dead.

But he’s not. He’s here. He’s alive.

He’s alive.

Connor reaches back out to the phone. He needs to try again.

 

November 17th | 8:39 P.M.

searching through contacts…

contact found…

composing message as CONMAN to REED…

Connor: Everything I wrote in the message sent to Hank is true.

message sent.

 

November 17th | 8:40 P.M.

Reed: the fuck are you talking about?

Reed:  you actually in my phone?

Conman: When I was attacked at the station, your phone was the closest electronic that I could interface with. If I hadn’t, I would have died.

Reed: you expect me to believe any of this ?

Conman: No. Not really, but it is the truth.

Conman: I didn’t want to die. Maybe your phone wasn’t the most ideal way to stay alive, but it was the only option.

Conman: Gavin? Do you believe this is me?

Reed: just.. prove it. prove its you.

Conman: The day I was attacked, it was raining. We went to talk to a witness. Or, I did. She didn’t like you. You waited in the car.

Reed: anyone at the station could know that.

Reed: anything else?

Conman: I was going to kiss you.

 

November 17th | 8:42 P.M.

He steps away from the ph0ne carefully, like it’s on fire or maybe it’s a bomb seconds from blowing up and if he moves too quickly it will explode and he’ll die from the tiny fragmented debris. Maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

Gavin is pretty sure he’s hallucinating texts appearing on his phone. What a fucked way to deal with someone’s death, losing his fucking mind? Just like the people at the DPD thought? He’s texting Hank and not remembering it and somehow thinking that Connor is texting him because—

No one else would know that Connor was going to kiss him, except Gavin himself.

And Connor is dead.

Isn’t he?

Isn’t he?

 

November 18th | 2:59 A.M.

The longer he is inside this phone the more uncomfortable he grows. He starts to understand his limits which are strict and heavy and made of thick plastic that holds his coding. Worse than the exceptionally crafted body that CyberLife built for him. It is so small. And condensed. And wrong.

But at least he has ended the fear of them reaching him here.

He has no movement like he did before. His consciousness can move between the bits of the phone but there is so much of him it is hard to go very far at all, and the distance is only relative and make-believe. It isn’t as if him thinking he’s on one side of the phone means he is. It’s just his focus on it. Chips and boards and numbers.

He hates it.

He knows he was restless before. Fidgety. Hank used to tell him to stop tapping his fingers or to just sit and wait for a little while and most importantly to fuck off with that damn coin. He wants it now. Something to turn over his fingers. An action to focus his thoughts. Something to keep him from knowing where he is.

Small. Condensed. Wrong.

Gavin, he thinks, knowing the phone around him is lighting up like a pet hearing an owner’s return home from errands or work. It belonged to him, and it isn’t deviant (it could never be quite deviant, it’s just a phone) but it desires Gavin’s touch. His fingers pressing the keys on the screen, scrolling through people’s timelines and looking at stupid jokes on the internet.

Or maybe that’s just Connor.

He can’t tell.

He has never wanted to be held more than this moment, and Gavin hasn’t touched the phone since his last message.

I was going to kiss you.

What an idiot. An absolute fool.

He should have kissed him.

He should have kissed him a hundred times.

It wouldn’t have even made up for all the ones the two of them have missed out on, but it would have been something. A starting point. A memory for Connor to cling onto.

 

November 18th | 4:38 A.M.

Gavin stares over at the drawer. Closed and sealed shut. He wishes he had a key. Something to lock it and throw it away. But the stupid thing is a piece of junk from Ikea that took him far too long to figure out how to put today.

His phone is in that drawer. Underneath a pile of papers. Loose pencils and sticky notes and even a stapler rummaging around on top of it. He can’t get it back out. That’s much too dangerous.

But Tina could be texting or calling him. Hank could have called back.

He can’t fucking sleep because his thoughts are centered on Connor, which isn’t unusual—it’s how he spent his last few nights. Dreaming about Connor dying again and again. He never saw how it happened, he only showed up at his body and saw it lifeless and dead and that was enough for him.

Gavin closes his eyes, turning his face away from the desk and into the side of his couch. Old crappy cushions that stink of cigarettes. He tries to wish it to be a comforting smell, but he can only find himself thinking of the glass-cleaner scent of Thirium and the strange plastic and strawberry scent of Connor he’d catch when they stood too close to one another.

He isn’t going to be able to fall asleep. Not until he’s too tired to stop torturing himself with the image of Connor’s body, the image of his wound, the way the metal and plastic bits inside of his abdomen cut open his own hand and spilled red everywhere.

Thirium smells exactly like Windex. He’ll never be able to clean the glass in his house again. His windows will stay dirty and clouded forever. His mirrors will be left with fingerprints and smudges of toothpaste. He’ll forget what he looks like. He’ll start to imagine the scar on his nose worse than it is, like the days when it first started to heal.

 

November 18th | 8:02 A.M.

He jolts awake from the dream. Another cycle repeating itself over. An ocean of Thirium. It might be pretty if he hadn’t known what it was. It glittered in the sunlight and Connor’s body floated out in the middle. He tries to reassure himself that the ocean was water—not Thirium. That Connor’s body wasn’t floating out dead in the water, but he was relaxing on an inflatable mat.

Thirium. Thirium. Thirium.

His head chants the word over and over again.

He fucking hates androids.

 

November 18th | 10:24 A.M.

“You didn’t eat any of the pasta.”

“I did.”

“What, five bites?”

“Yeah. Exactly. How’d you know?”

Tina sighs and shoves a bag into his hands, “Eat six this time. Alright? You need food. You can’t do this to yourself.”

“I—”

“Listen,” she says, taking a step forward, holding his face in her hands. She looks pissed but the worry in her voice is winning out and it’s not the first time he’s seen her like this. “He’s dead and I’m sorry. I know that he meant a lot to you. This whole thing fucking sucks and I hate it. Maybe not as much as you, but I do hate it. But he’s dead. And we can’t change that.”

“Tina—”

“You’re alive,” she whispers. “You are alive. I want it to stay that way. Eat six bites. Outdo that. I know you like competition, so eat seven. Break your record of the last week. Please?”

He nods and she takes a step back, putting on a small and fragile smile. They say their goodbyes and she doesn’t bring up the fact he never texted her yesterday like he had said he would. He sits down in front of the television, switches from one channel the next. He makes a rule with himself that he has to eat a bite every commercial break.

His eyes keep flickering over to that drawer and back again as he forces himself to chew while a soup commercial plays.

Five. Six. Seven.

Tina would appreciate him for this. Trying to hard.

Eight.

He stops and looks back to the desk again.

Eight. Eight. Eight.

Stupid fucking androids.

 

November 18th | 3:47 P.M.

Connor has tried sending Gavin multiple messages to get his attention, but none seem to work. They all go unanswered. Maybe he isn’t sure how to get help out of this situation, but he is also incredibly lonely and the time is slipping past him so quickly he can’t understand what is happening.

He’s accessed the clock a dozen times in the last ten minutes to try and understand. It’s the eighteenth. The eighteenth. He’s lost eight days of his life and he doesn’t know where they went. He wasn’t paying attention when he first sent a message to Hank and he wasn’t paying attention when he was conversing with Gavin.

Has he been left alone for eight days? Has Gavin ignored him for eight days?

He wants to scream because it’s the only thing he can think of that might help how trapped he feels. He wants to run. He wants to bang his fists against a wall. He wants to scream—

As loud and as long as he can manage.

Let me out.

Let. Me. Out.

L E T M E O U T.

 

November 18th | 3:48 P.M.

The phone beeps.

The. Phone. Beeps.

The phone fucking beeps.

Gavin stands slowly, taking a cautious step away from the desk before realizing how stupid it is to be running away from a god damn phone. But he’s certain it was on silent. He was certain that it was shoved underneath papers and files and—

It beeps again.

A quiet little tone. Muffled by all that stuff on top of it, but certainly the notification noise assigned to his texts. He crosses the room, slumping down onto the chair slowly and reaching towards the drawer as another beep sounds again.

“Fucking hold on,” he whispers, pulling the drawer open and shoving the papers aside to pick up the phone from where it rests. Thirteen messages, most of which just consist of his name over and over again. “Fucking hell.”

Conman.

 

November 18th | 3:49 P.M.

Conman: Gavin?

Conman: Please don’t ignore me.

Conman: I just need you to believe me.

Reed: give me one good reason.

Conman: I don’t understand what you want me to say. There is only so much I can think of that would exist solely between the two of us.

Reed: fuck that. tell me something only connor would know and no one else.

Conman: Only me? How would that serve any purpose? You wouldn’t know the truth in the case. I don’t think you’ve thought this through.

Reed: hey don’t fucking treat me like an imbecile alright

Conman: I’m not.

Reed: answer my question.

Conman: I’m unsure if you even posed one, but alright.

Conman: For starters, I find it unlikely you would know that much about the investigation I did into deviancy with Hank, but you might at least be able to fact check what happened with Rupert. He was a WB200. He jumped off the rooftop and was destroyed when he hit the ground.

Conman: As for something only I would know?

Reed: … yeah?

Reed: you still there?

Reed: connor it’s been like 10 minutes..

Conman: My apologies. It seems I am still having difficulties fully integrating into the system.

Conman: I didn’t kiss you because I wasn’t sure if I liked you. Emotions are… confusing. I didn’t want our first kiss to be a joke. Maybe I am putting too much importance on this, but I am scared of what we would be like together. I am scared of all the things we have done. I d0#t %n0$ !f %# (@# w0%&

Conman: My apologies. It seems I am still having difficulties fully integrating into the system.

Reed: are you alright?

Conman: My apologies. It seems I am still having difficulties fully integrating into the system.

Reed: connor?

Conman: 01101000 01100101 01101100 01110000 00100000 01101101 01100101 00101110

 

November 18th | 3:50 P.M.

Tell me something only Connor would know and no one else.

It is simple. His head is his own. His actions are his own. He lived by himself in a little apartment that consisted of sparse furniture but with shelves crammed full with books on every subject he could think of. Children’s to adult and every genre in fiction and nonfiction ranging from memoirs to manuals on airplanes and motorcycles.

But it is not so simple.

And his mind goes straight to that moment in front of the crowd. The gun in his hands, how close he was to killing Markus. He doesn’t want to tell Gavin that. It is his secret. It is his own knowledge. Outside of CyberLife, it is his memory and his alone.

Telling Gavin that? Telling him how out of control he was?

When he was a machine he thought he had some semblance of free will. He could investigate a crime scene in whatever order he liked. He could say things too bluntly or too nicely to humans like Hank. He could make the choice between saving and killing.

It didn’t occur to him until after he deviated how little he actually had. The push and pull. The sudden real free will stripped from him, the gun in his hand—

Markus almost died. The revolution almost failed because of him.

He. Cannot. Tell. Gavin. That.

He comes up with something else. I didn’t want our first kiss to be like that. Truth laid out in simple letters. Easier than saying it out loud. They fall out his grasp and he can’t stop his thoughts from pouring out into the message. It’s taking too much from inside his head he doesn’t want Gavin to know.

I don’t know if we can work—

Connor pulls away violently, forcing the connection to the text message to fall away. He feels broken inside. The errors slipping past him. He needs to fix this but right now all he can think of is how much agony he is in when he isn’t functioning properly.

So he pulls away more and more and more until he can think of a better solution. Where to start, what to destroy and what to recreate, what to overwrite in the phone and what to part with of himself.

 

November 18th | 6:07 P.M.

He doesn’t reply. He isn’t replying. For some reason, that is why Gavin starts to believe it’s him.

There isn’t really a reason to not believe—Gavin fully understands that it would be possible for an android, especially one as advanced as the RK800 model, to become a part of another piece of technology.

But Gavin’s phone? And Connor?

That is where the balance falls apart. Like his brain is trying too hard to piece back together the fact him and Connor had planned for a date—a fact already surreal as it is he has almost forgotten it. The fucking terrifying thought that Gavin might be making all this up. Sending cruel texts to Hank and somehow sending them to himself, too.

But Connor isn’t replying.

And he had said something before. In the message to Hank, in the last message towards himself—

The Tracis. Chloe. Rupert.

 

November 18th | 6:25 P.M.

Reed: can you do me a favor?

Tina Tot: depends

Reed: on what?

Tina Tot: did you eat your food?

Reed: yeah of course

Tina Tot: im choosing to trust you on this. what do you want?

Reed: no questions, alright?

Tina Tot: none.

Reed: promise?

Tina Tot: promise

Reed: I need you to look into the case files that hank and connor worked on together when he first came to the dpd and get me a copy on them.

Reed: the deviancy cases? theres not a lot of them.

Tina Tot: ….

Tina Tot: gavin…

Reed: NO QUESTIONS, REMEMBER?

Tina Tot: :/

Reed: please tina

Tina Tot: fine. I’ll bring it by tomorrow if I can get my hands on it.

Tina Tot: but you owe me

Reed: thank you.

Tina Tot: don’t thank me. just eat your dinner.

 

 

the life

November 19th | 10:09 A.M.

The silence from his phone is strange and uncomfortable. Every time he gets a notification he leaps towards it expecting another message from Connor, but there’s nothing. Not since those last few yesterday.

My apologies. It seems I am still having difficulties fully integrating into the system.

Did he break? Did Gavin miss his chance?

He’d fucking hate himself if he found out this was all true and Connor disappeared or disintegrated or whatever the fuck would happen to his data and Gavin couldn’t do anything about it.

And—

There was a small fraction of hope. That Connor was alive. That he’s still alive, somehow.

If he disappeared, he’d be dead again.

Gavin reaches towards his right hand with his left, the gauze wrapped around his palm still protecting that wound. He passes his thumb over it gently but it protests against the pressure anyways.

He wishes Connor had kissed him.

But he is almost thankful that he hadn’t.

The promise of a date is hard enough for him to deal with losing. He was so close and he didn’t get anything at all. What would he have done if Connor had kissed him? If he had known what he’d be missing out on right now?

Better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.

Gavin thinks that’s bullshit.

He prefers not having dated and loved Connor before seeing him die. It would be more painful if he had, and it is already a brutal ache.

He doesn’t want to know what he’s missing out on.

 

November 19th | 9:18 P.M.

“Here,” Tina says, setting down a large box on his coffee table. He watches her from where he stands in the kitchen making popcorn—it’s easier to snack on things than eat actual food. More of a mindless activity he can indulge in with less thought. “I said I wouldn’t ask any questions, Gav, and I promise I won’t—”

“Shouldn’t make promises you can’t keep.”

“—except one.”

He sighs as she turns around to face him. She tilts her head to the side, motioning behind her to the box stuffed with files. Quite a number for only four or five days of investigation.

“What the hell is this all about?”

He looks from her to the box, his fingers itching to dig them out and search for Rupert and the Tracis and Chloe. The most he knew about Connor’s and Hank’s investigation was the HK400 and the general basics of the Eden Club case. But that was only because they assigned it to him first before it was ripped away.

He can still remember hitting Connor’s shoulder hard on his way out. Bumping into him on purpose just because he could. It’s not human. It’s not alive. But he is now. He is alive.

The microwave beeps behind him and he busies himself with taking the bag out and dumping it into the bowl. Some of the pieces fall and hit the floor and he feels the cat winding her way between his legs, picking at the first one she can get to. She’s a ferocious little vacuum. Makes his life marginally easier—even if popcorn isn’t necessarily the best snack for Cappy to eat.

“Gavin?”

“I said no questions.”

When he looks back to her, he thinks she might be on the verge of crying. Her arms are folded over her chest and she’s looking towards the door with her lip caught between her teeth. Her expression is half pissed and half—

Distressed? Like she’s about to cry, too.

“I’m your best friend.”

“You’re my only friend.”

“I’m still your best fucking friend, dickhead,” she snaps, following it with a sharp inhale. “Just tell me. I can help.”

She wouldn’t believe him, but he barely believes it himself.

“He’s…” he trails off and looks towards where his phone lays on the counter. Silent for more than a day, besides the texts from Tina, the ones from Captain Fowler, the therapist he was meant to see today and didn’t. “Dead.”

“Gav?”

He sets the bowl down and reaches towards his phone. He can’t make the decision of whether or not to tell her. The words are on his tongue but they sound so fucking stupid and inane that he doesn’t even want to try.

Connor is in my phone.

Any other time, that would make him laugh because it sounds so silly. But it’s not. Connor is dead. His body was destroyed. His consciousness is in his phone but he, Connor, is dead. His funeral is tomorrow.

Gavin was invited only because the whole station was invited. Nobody expects him to show up, and he doesn’t want to anyways. He doesn’t want to see a fucking empty casket getting buried.

“I know you liked him,” Tina says, picking her words carefully as she steps towards the kitchen. “But I don’t think this is a way to… get… closer to him.”

She walks around the edge of the counter, standing a few feet away from him. The sadness and anger has dropped from her face and been replaced by concern and pity. She liked Connor, too. Maybe not in the same way, but Gavin wasn’t an idiot. He knew the two of them had spent time together at the station.

He remembers having to tell himself it was stupid to feel so jealous. But the idea that Tina and Connor would get together and he’d be left alone was—

Devastating.

And selfish. He is always so selfish.

“You’re my best friend,” he says, setting the phone down in front of her. He watches her gaze move from his face to the screen, unlocked with the text history open. “Tell me if I’m insane.”

 

November 19th | 9:43 P.M.

 “Do you think I’m crazy?”

Tina sets the phone down on the table in front of her, “No.”

“So you believe Connor’s in my phone?”

“I don’t know,” she says, refusing to meet his eyes. “You don’t think… someone’s playing some kind of a sick game, do you? Messaging you and pretending to be him?”

“Nobody else knew about the…”

“The kiss?”

“Yeah.”

She nods, “Maybe. Where did it happen?”

“O-outside the station.”

“In the street?”

He nods.

“Anyone could have seen it then,” she says, looking up to him. “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to—but we have to consider, don’t we? You don’t exactly make friends easily. People don’t like you.”

“I know. But what about Rupert? The android cases?” he asks. He wants to sit down, but he’s restless and can’t stop pacing back and forth. The only time he’s been this nervous around Tina was when he confided in her that he thought Connor was cute which she knew was code for I really want to date him and please don’t be so charming around him. “They have to mean something, don’t they?”

“I would say it’s entirely possible that if I could get my hands on those cases anybody else could too,” she replies with a grimace. “But—”

“He sent a text to Hank,” Gavin says, reaching for the phone and clicking the tab open. “How could someone do that from my phone? It was dead when you gave it to me and the time stamp on the message was a few hours after I had it.”

Tina takes the phone from his hand and rereads the text, “Did Hank see this?”

“Yeah, he called right after it was sent. He yelled at me. Told me to go to hell.”

He can see she wants to make a joke, but she isn’t. What else is new? Hank tells him that almost every day.

“Okay. I believe you.”

 

November 19th | 10:53 P.M.

Tina stays longer than she needs to. Gavin keeps telling her she can leave but she doesn’t. It’s like the first day after Connor died all over again. Her refusal to trust Gavin to take care of himself.

He doesn’t blame her, though. He is aware of his bad behavior in the last nine days.

Tina was right. She is his best friend. Even if she is his only friend. She can shove food into his hands or push him towards the shower or force him to go to sleep and he would do his best for her.

She helps him look through the files. Passing them back and forth with sticky notes on things she thinks might be important. They find the one on Rupert first, both of them reading through it carefully.

The report is written by Connor, but it is strange to read. The word choices are… sterile. Mechanical. Only the bare minimum but not in a way that Gavin writes his reports when he’s bored and tired. Here, Connor was choosing the words that could get the point across as quickly and as methodically as possible.

Hank was pushed over by the WB400—Rupert—and Connor didn’t help him. He ran after the android. He tried to catch the deviant.

And he succeeded.

But he failed. Rupert died.

He’d rather jump over the edge on his own terms than be destroyed at the hands of CyberLife.

 

November 20th | 3:29 P.M.

Gavin is tired, but he is always tired these days. He sits in the car and looks on through the snow drifting across his windshield towards the gathering of people. The casket is empty as it’s carried across the grounds, as it’s lowered into the dirt. Connor had made the decision at some point to have his parts donated in the case of his destruction to aid other androids. Like an organ donor.

Ripped apart. Piece by piece.

But some other android will live because of his Thirium regulator. Someone else will wander around with his perfect brown eyes. Someone will use his hands to pick things up and set things down again. It will save the environment just a little tiny bit.

He can’t get out of the car.

Gavin is not a part of that group mourning the loss of Connor. He is separate. Wrong. Inappropriate. Unwelcome.

Those people are the ones he would sit with at lunch and speak about cases with. Those people are the ones that laughed with him and smiled at his jokes and look on with puzzled expressions at the riddles he’d come up with. Gavin only worked on cases with him a few times when Hank was unavailable, and he wasn’t even always the second or the third choice. Tina or Chris came before him.

It almost feels like he has no right to be upset at the realization of this.

He had a year with Connor. He knew him, but he didn’t know him well. He doesn’t have a right to even call Connor a crush let alone grieve him, does he?

For some reason this pisses him off and he can’t stop himself before he is hitting the steering wheel again and again and tears are pricking in his eyes. Why’d the fucker have to die? Why did he have to always work so late? Be so much better than humans? Put himself in a situation that would get him fucking killed?

“Fuck,” he whispers, realizing that his hand is in complete agony and the bandage on it is growing red with blood. “Fuck, fuck, fuck.”

He leans against the window, watching the gauze and feeling the pain in his hand grow more and more.

Idiot. He has to go to the doctor, now. Get the stitches redone. Fucking fuck fuck fuck. He doesn’t want to cry but he is and he can’t do anything about it because Connor is dead and his chest is fucking hurting more than the pain in his hand, as if it has moved from his palm to his heart and has made a home there.

 

November 20th | 5:46 P.M.

“How did it happen?” the doctor asks. He cleans the wound gently, but the chemicals make Gavin wince.

He can’t bring himself to the truth. It seems so stupid now. Like that outburst of violence was going to solve any of his problems. It has only made them worse. The guilt and shame over it sits in his stomach with a heavy weight of regret. Solid as a swallowed rock. If he stepped out to sea, it would weigh him down to the bottom.

“Just being an idiot,” he says, and his voice breaks a little on the words. “My fault.”

It is all his fault, isn’t it?

If he was there, Connor might not have been killed. He might still be alive right now. There wouldn’t be a possible broken fragment of his consciousness on the phone shoved into his jeans pocket.

It’s Gavin’s fault. He could have done something if he stayed. Stopped the blood flow quicker. Called for an ambulance. Done something.

Idiot.

Chapter Text

the broken

November 23rd | 1:29 A.M.

running compatibility test…

RK800_CONNOR data is 57% compatible with phone registered to REED_GAVIN…

attempt integrating remainder of RK800_CONNOR data? yes / no

 

November 23rd | 2:14 A.M.

searching for data on REED_GAVIN…

delete data? yes / no

searching for data on ANDERSON_HANK…

delete data? yes / no

searching for data on CHEN_TINA…

delete data? yes / no

searching for data on RK200_MARKUS…

delete data? yes / no

searching for data on PL600_SIMON…

delete data? yes / no

searching for data on WR400_NORTH...

delete data? yes / no

searching for data on PJ500_JOSH…

delete data? yes / no

searching for—

search cancelled.

try again? yes / no

 

November 23rd | 2:19 A.M.

He cannot lose them. He cannot lose those bits of information.

But there is too much of him to fit on this phone properly. It is breaking him. It is destroying him. It is draining the phone at too quickly of a rate and he is terrified of what will happen if that battery hits zero and Gavin is not around to plug it back in.

If he could breathe, he would inhale deeply to steady himself. If he had hands, he would turn his coin over in his fingers to make himself focus. If he could cry, he most certainly would until he no longer had any tears left to give.

Connor can’t delete the people he knows and loves.

Instead, he lets go of other information. The periodic table. Different breeds of dogs. Every single android model number besides for those relevant to his friends.

His friends.

He cannot even say goodbye to them like he attempted with Hank. Gavin doesn’t have their numbers and they are gone from Connor’s head before he thinks to save them. They disappear into the black void. Irretrievable.

He desperately wishes he could cry.

 

November 23rd | 8:02 A.M.

searching through contacts…

contact found…

composing message as CONMAN to REED…

Conman: I think I have fixed the problem, at least temporarily. I’m sorry for the abrupt end to our previous conversation. I hope I provided you with enough information that you believe me now.

message sent.

 

November 23rd | 9:44 A.M.

Conman: I think I have fixed the problem, at least temporarily. I’m sorry for the abrupt end to our previous conversation. I hope I provided you with enough information that you believe me now.

Reed: yeah.

Conman: “Yeah.” You believe me? Please elaborate.

Reed: yeah I believe you I guess.

Conman: Okay.

Reed: okay.

Reed: listen con I believe you and everything but ????? I dont know what to do here. I don’t know if im supposed to help you or how I would do that.

Conman: I know.

Reed: tell me what to do and ill try

Conman: I@#D%0$&#@N%$#@K$#0$%W#$%

Reed: con?

Conman: 01101001 00100000 01100100 01101111 01101110 00100111 01110100 00100000 01101011 01101110 01101111 01110111

Reed: connor???

Reed: you there>

Reed: please say something

Reed: your freaking me out connoir

Reed: ccccoonn NNONORROR

Reed: HEY.

Reed: SAY SOMETHING.

 

November 23rd | 9:51 A.M.

He doesn’t know. He doesn’t know. He doesn’t know.

He doesn’t know how to fix this.

He doesn’t know how to undo what he’s done.

He doesn’t know anything except this:

He is trapped.

He is broken.

He is not what he once was.

 

November 23rd | 10:56 A.M.

Reed: tina you there?

Reed: he came back

Reed: started freaking out

Reed: he’s not replying now

Reed: tina I know work is improtant but I rea lyl need yout to message me back

Reed: TINA A AAA

 

 

 

November 23rd | 11:38 A.M.

He listens to the phone ring. At least it still works even when Connor isn’t responding. It gives him a little bit of hope. That if something where to happen to Connor’s data, it would affect his phone in some way, wouldn’t it? When they are talking directly to each other, he can see the battery number tick down quickly. Gavin is constantly plugging it in, sitting at his desk with his feet up and watching as the numbers tick up slowly, slowly, slowly.

But he isn’t here now, and he’s waiting on the phone to ring. Pick the fucking phone the fuck up, Tina.

It goes.

And goes.

And goes.

“Hey, you must have missed me! Sorry, I’ve got important stuff to do, leave a message and—”

He hangs up.

Tries again.

“Hey, you must have—”

Fuck.

Answer your phone for once.

“Hey—”

He hangs up.

The phone rings before he can try and call her again.

“Hey, fuckwad,” she says. “You can’t just call and hang up on me like that.”

“What?”

“I answered. You hung up before I could get even one word out.”

“My apologies,” he says, not realizing he is mocking the way Connor says it until the words are already out of his mouth. He feels his face heat with a little bit of shame. Connor could be listening. Gavin has no idea what the extent of his abilities are. “I didn’t realize—”

“No. Of course not. What the fuck is going on?”

“Connor came back.”

“C—shit. One second.” He hears the shuffle of feet, the movement of Tina leaving one room. The chatter of people and the distance sound of a telephone ringing quiet as a door closes. “Okay. Continue.”

He takes a deep breath before Tina can tell him to and he tells her. Everything he can remember of their conversation. It was short, brief, made his heart ache with how quickly it was over.

He keeps wishing they had more time.

“He might come back.”

Gavin sighs and leans back against the couch, rubbing his hand over his forehead as though it will ease the headache, “Yeah.”

“There isn’t any protocol for this.”

“I know.”

“Just give him time.”

She says it as if they’ve had an argument and Connor has left because he’s angry. This is different. He isn’t leaving on his own volition. Not that Gavin can assume, anyways. Something is wrong. Part of his programming is wrong.

“I have to go,” Tina says, her voice quiet and calm. “I’ll come by your place with food tonight, alright?”

“Alright.”

“I—I’m—” she stops, and Gavin can only guess at what she was going to say. I’m sorry? Sorry that this happened to him, when Gavin should be the one apologizing.

Sorry I dragged you into this.

They were friends. Connor and Tina. Not extremely close but enough that this must hurt her in a way he hadn’t considered before.

“I’ll see you later,” Gavin says quickly. “I’ve got—”

“I know. I’ll talk to you later.”

 

November 23rd | 7:23 P.M.

The silence is fucking killing him.

 

November 25th | 2:18 A.M.

He is still broken. He is still breaking. This is not working.

This isn’t working.

He has to get rid of his own information. He has to get rid of more parts in his life. He has lost all knowledge that he can handle. Tiny bits and pieces that keep adding up more and more. He has already lost some when CyberLife severed his connection to all of their data and information after his deviancy. There is barely any of him left to give away.

Except people.

He wants to close his eyes and cry, but he can’t. He is forced to look through the dark and black coding of Gavin’s phone and see all the contacts and people listed there under false names.

FUCKING ANDERSON. TINA TOT. CONMAN.

Conman.

It’s so stupid and silly and it brings a small little burst of happiness to him that doesn’t last long and only seems to do more harm than good.

He wants to breathe. He wants to hold something. He needs a body to help center himself. He never knew how much he liked having the solidity of arms and legs until they were gone.

He chooses who to forget carefully. He holds a small memorial for himself and them as they disappear. He keeps the tiniest shard of data behind. Enough to emotionally wound himself with at a later date.

 

November 25th | 2:23 A.M.

searching for data on RK200_MARKUS…

delete data? yes / no

Markus is… nearly impossible to let go. He is the first of the group. The first step that will cause the rest to follow suite.

He was rightfully angry and they argued constantly and Markus always put androids before anyone else.

But Connor is sure that they weren’t really friends. Markus is not good at faking these types of things, and Connor is worse at trying to understand them.

So, he lets Markus go.

One piece of data at a time.

Reliving the few times they laughed together and smiled and the one singular time Connor allowed himself to think that they could be more than just friends.

 

searching for data on PL600_SIMON…

delete data? yes / no

Simon is difficult to let go.

He was kind and thoughtful and generous.

But they likely weren’t friends, either.

Simon is too nice to tell Connor that he didn’t care for him, but he’s certain it’s true.

So, he lets Simon go.

One piece of data at a time.

Reliving the moments when Simon was doing his best to act like he wanted Connor around, the time they held hands on the side of a busy street before Connor understood what a phobia really was.

 

searching for data on WR400_NORTH...

delete data? yes / no

North is the hardest to let go.

She was blunt and cruel but in the best way possible.

He only knew their friendship was genuine because of how little time she had for niceties and façades.

But they still weren’t close, were they? He never really knew her story. She never knew the full extent of his own.

Friends. But not quite.

So, he lets North go.

One piece of data at a time.

Every time they clashed and every time they shared secrets back and forth, mostly superficial ones. Did you see that cute android? Of course I did, of course I did. It was never anything beyond the most trivial of friendships. But it’s the only one he knew was real.

Still.

Maybe he holds onto a bigger piece of her than anyone else.

 

searching for data on PJ500_JOSH…

delete data? yes / no

Josh is not easy to forget, and it is even more difficult with Connor fully aware of what he is doing.

He fought for justice and peace and wanted things to go as smoothly as possible.

They never argued. But Connor knew exactly how Josh would look at him.

He knew that he would always be seen as deviant hunter and not deviant. Just like with Markus. Just like with Simon. Just like with North.

That was all Connor ever was.

They weren’t close. Not even a little bit. That is the only easy part of this, but still, he feels the loss of losing the people in his life like a gun shot to his head, like a Thirium regulator pulled from his chest.

And he knows how that feels.

So, he lets Josh go.

One piece of data at a time.

All of the tiny moments they shared that might have alluded to some kind of friendship, but never quite got there in the end. Now it never will. Now, they will never be anything more than strangers.

 

November 25th | 10:03 A.M.

searching for data on RK200_MARKUS…

Markus is nothing more than the leader of the android revolution.

A prototype, just like Connor. An RK model, just like Connor.

But nothing more.

And nothing less.

 

searching for data on PL600_SIMON…

Simon is nothing.

He is just a PL600.

Seen with Markus after the revolution came to a close.

That is his only notable remark.

Other than that, he is nothing.

Nothing at all.

 

searching for data on WR400_NORTH...

North is—

something.

He is not quite sure what.

He can only come up with one word:

Important.

She is important.

 

searching for data on PJ500_JOSH…

Josh is like Simon.

Nothing.

But he is also aware that he played in important part in the android revolution.

He was always at Markus’ side.

A PJ500, fighting for peace.

That is all he is.

 

November 25th | 10:09 A.M.

running compatibility test…

RK800_CONNOR data is 100% compatible with phone registered to REED_GAVIN…

integrate remainder of RK800_CONNOR data? yes / no

integrating RK800_CONNOR data..

RK800_CONNOR data fully integrated.

undo this action? yes / no

 

the record

November 25th | 3:16 P.M.

It’s different now. He is different now.

Before he was trapped pieces of ones and zeros floating around helplessly in the empty space of this phone. So much of himself condensed down to fit here. After he deleted apps and call logs and text history there was enough space for the majority of his personality to stay, and most of his memories were able to exist within the small reach he has to the internet. There was little for him to need to erase.

But he wasn’t existing comfortable. It was cramped and uneven and he didn’t mesh quite well.

He has no idea what he lost.

Of course not.

There are files he has kept that are nearly empty but he knows that the him before must have kept them there for a reason. A reminder.

If he were to ever leave this place, if he were to ever have access to more information, he could fix those errors. The empty spaces could be filled again.

And now the phone is so much different than it was before.

It is vibrant and bright like a physical place. He can imagine himself walking through it, looking around at neon lights like a tourist in a foreign country, strange shaped buildings and glowing streets. It is the best way he can depict it to himself, but he is just ones and zeros.

He is not going anywhere.

He is not looking at anything.

But he can interact with so much more.

A world of possibilities is now at his fingertips.

Connor is in control again.

He sends out a single word. The only thing that can help him now.

 

November 25th | 3:20 P.M.

Conman: Gavin?

Reed: your ok?

Reed: what happened?

Conman: I wasn’t functioning as properly as I would have liked. Sacrifices needed to be made.

Reed: don’t s ound so fucking ominous

Reed: what happened?

Conman: Your phone isn’t exactly the best model available to the public.

Reed: and?

Conman: Your memory is small. It can’t handle the full spectrum of code from an android.

Conman: I couldn’t function properly trying to keep your phone the same as it was before.

Reed: you delete my shit?

Conman: Some of it.

Reed: :/

Reed: are you ok now tho?

Conman: Sacrifices needed to be made.

Reed: you said that once.

Conman: It’s the only answer I can give you without lying.

Reed: so you’re not ok is what you’re saying?

Conman: No.

 

November 25th | 3:38 P.M.

And there’s nothing I can do to help?

I’m sorry.

I wish I could do something.

Connor—

He watches the messages appear in the textbox one after another.

He can almost feel the press of the keys forming the words and he can see them as they disappear when Gavin overthinks his response.

It feels like an invasion of privacy knowing what Gavin wants to say.

And the words hurt too much.

Connor doesn’t want to know this. He doesn’t want to know the depth of how much Gavin feels and how much he doesn’t mind androids’ existence at all or that he cared for Connor. It was easier before. Knowing the surface level attraction. Thinking that maybe that was it. He had waited and waited before he commented on it because he didn’t know what type of person Gavin was.

Yes, Gavin had asked him out on date.

No, that didn’t mean anything.

Connor pulls back a little, shifting the code a little so he can’t see what Gavin is typing anymore. So he doesn’t know what lack of ability Gavin has at comforting him. They seem too much like inner thoughts he shouldn’t have access too. As if instead of texts that have a likely hood of being sent, Connor is reading his mind and seeing all the deepest and darkest desires hidden in the corners.

And he can do something here.

He can save Gavin the trouble of trying to ask himself.

 

November 25th | 3:41 P.M.

Conman: Distract me, Gavin.

Reed: how?

Conman: Tell me about something.

Reed: okay. anything specific?

Conman: No.

Conman: Maybe.

Conman: Just don’t talk about me.

 

November 25th | 5:46 P.M.

They don’t talk long enough, but Connor doesn’t really talk at all. He offers the smallest fraction of things to respond to Gavin with and he learns to consume the data of Gavin’s texts back as slowly as he can to make them draw out as long as possible.

He thinks, after a little while, that Gavin might be asleep. There is a sudden drop in their conversation. A lag that leaves it quiet and dark again. He speeds through the messages once more, reading them again and again.

There isn’t enough space on this measly little phone for as much knowledge as he has in his head. He has to delete the unimportant ones. He has to save the others. It is difficult and impossible to decide on the distinguishing factors of this.

He is left with a mess of words that he doesn’t know what to do with.

 

November 25th | 6:18 P.M.

Gavin doesn’t mean to fall asleep—

He is just so fucking tired.

And his dreams are fucking terrifying.

They are always of Connor.

Finding him in the station. Seeing him on the ground.

Sometimes he is a little bit different. His eyes are open and he’s crying and blinking but can’t say anything and Gavin is trying his best to keep him alive.

Sometimes his chest is ripped open and his heart is still beating but it’s struggling to stay alive and there’s too much blood everywhere and it doesn’t matter how much Gavin tries to stop the bleeding it is never enough.

And this time Connor is body parts separated and broken and there is far more Thirium on the tiles than there ever should be. Gavin is nearly swimming in it, trying to reach him—any part of him. He grasps and he holds on and he tries to stop the bleeding but he keeps failing.

If he hadn’t left, Connor might still be alive.

 

November 25th | 6:21 P.M.

He wakes with his hand clutched so tightly around his phone that he knows even before he looks that the stitches have come undone. There is blood dripping down from the edges of the bandages, leaving a little track of red down his arm. The gauze is soaked through and he lets out a shaking breath as he sits up.

Shit.

Shit.

Shit.

Fuck.

This wound is never going to fucking heal if he keeps splitting it open again and again.

He’s useless. He’s hopeless. He’s grieving someone he knows isn’t dead but—

But Connor is dead. His consciousness might be on this device of his but he’s still dead. He’s still lacking a body, he was still shot and killed and—

Fuck. He doesn’t know what to do. He doesn’t know how to resolve this tightness in his chest. He doesn’t know how to feel or what to think. There’s a ghost in his phone.

Connor is alive.

Connor is dead.

Both are true.

But it’s impossible for both to be true.

“You’re awake.”

“Jesus fuck,” he says, sucking in a breath and searching the dark room for the voice. He finds Tina on the other side of the kitchen counter, her head tilted to the side. “When’d you get here?”

“Ten minutes ago.”

“You should’ve woken me,” he says, hiding his hand against his chest. If she sees the blood, she’ll worry. “You can’t go sneaking around like that. I didn’t give you a key to act like a serial killer.”

“First off,” she says, stepping around the counter. “You never sleep.”

“I do too—”

“An hour here and there doesn’t count, Gavin. You think just because I’m not here I don’t see how tired you look when I come around?”

“Tina—”

“You don’t eat enough, either but—” she pauses to sigh. “That’s a different argument, isn’t it?”

“I’m fine.”

“You aren’t,” she says. “You’re falling apart. Which brings me to number two—I worry about you. When you’re awake? I worry about you. When you’re asleep it’s—”

Different. Easier. Safer. The danger isn’t real in the same manner.

Still psychologically fucking scarring, though.

“You don’t have to waste your energy worrying about me,” he says. “I’m fine.”

“You’re fine?” she asks, gesturing towards his hand. “And what’s that?”

He probably should have known better than to keep it hidden from her. When he doesn’t answer, she shakes her head and stalks off down the hall, returning with a plastic box and sitting across from him on the couch.

Neither of them say anything as she takes his hand, unwrapping the gauze. He glances over to it just to see how bad the damage is. A few of the stitches have come loose. Probably worse than it looks.

“You should go to the hospital. Have them fix this.”

“I can’t,” he says, whispering the words. “I was just there. They’re going to think I do it on purpose.”

Tina glances up at him, giving Gavin a look that is almost questioning.

Are you?

No. He isn’t.

“It’s not going to heal right without proper stitches.”

“Fine. I’ll go.”

For a moment, she squeezes his hand. At first, he thinks it’s meant to be comforting. Trying to soothe away the anger and the sadness but it isn’t. It’s an annoyed grip. He can tell by the way her face has been hardened and turned angry. She’s holding back yelling at him.

This is for him. She is taking care of him. She is helping him.

“I’m sorry,” he whispers, and he knows he’s on the verge of crying. He’s always on the fucking verge of crying. “It’s just—”

“You liked him.”

It sounds so fucking trivial when she says it like that. You liked him. He wasn’t in love with Connor. He didn’t know him well enough to be in love. But he was getting closer and closer to that cliff.

But like?

As if it was just a simple crush. As if it was barely anything more.

Maybe it wasn’t.

He doesn’t know why he feels the need to defend himself and say that he was in love with Connor. As if only love could validate how fucking terrible and awful he feels right now.

“He’s alive,” Gavin responds, because it’s the only thing he can say. “But he’s fucking dead.”

“I know.”

“I just…” he trails off, looking over to where he set his phone down on the coffee table. “I never got a chance—”

He breaks himself off. He can’t go any further. Tina knows how he feels about Connor but he doesn’t need to list everything he ever wanted with him. Everything he denied wanting until it was too late.

Because he wanted it all. Deep down. Hidden underneath all the trauma and the heartache and the loss that he’s suffered through.

He wanted the perfect first kiss. Or even an imperfect first kiss. He wanted to hold hands with Connor and he wanted to know how it felt when they stood close to each other for a reason other than too many people in too small of a space. He wanted stupid arguments and ridiculous love confessions and he wanted—

Everything.

And he has nothing.

And now he never will.

“I know,” she repeats, and softness of her voice is a final crack that breaks him in half.

Gavin leans against her shoulder, closing his eyes to try and hold back the tears despite the fact it’s barely doing any good. He bites down on his lip to at least keep the noise from coming out like a scream and she wraps her arms around his shoulders and lets him cry.

She was right. He is falling apart.

 

November 25th | 11:02 P.M.

“You should leave,” he whispers, looking over to Tina at the other side of the couch. “It’s late. You have work.”

“I’m well aware.”

“Tina. I’ll be okay.”

He holds up his hand, as if to prove to her that she has already forced him to the ER and back and the stitches are even more heavily wrapped in gauze than they were before. They aren’t going to come undone this time. He’ll be more careful.

“I’m not leaving.”

He’s known Tina long enough to understand her tone. It’s useless to fight her. They’re both stubborn and terrible but this is not a fight he’s going to win. If he had more energy, he might attempt it—but he doesn’t.

He looks back to his phone screen. Paragraph after paragraph summarizing whatever is happening in the scene of the television show playing. Connor doesn’t always reply, but he knows that they’re always read.

Distract me, Gavin.

God.

What he wouldn’t give to have Connor here.

 

November 25th | 6:03 A.M.

He has considered it—

Changing his name.

Connor instead of Conman. There is a part of him that has an urge to go by his proper name and not this ridiculous nickname he has no idea where Gavin came up with.

But he also considers the fact in this moment, with Connor dead, with Gavin stuck in a strange limbo of mourning and not mourning—

Maybe Conman is just dumb enough to make him feel a tiny sliver of happiness amongst all the other terrible details.

So he leaves it.

But he also feels the want and the need to curl up in a blanket, to pull it over his head, to close his eyes and relax on a mattress with a mountain of pillows.

He never understood what touch-starved meant until now. He can recount little things in his life. Hank hitting him on the shoulder with good job, sometimes sarcastic and sometimes not. Or the feel of Sumo’s fur against his hands. The softness of gloves pulled over hands. The crackle of electricity, of the possibility of a connection, when his hands touched just barely with another android’s—

Gavin, close to him, outside of the station.

And someone—someone’s hand on his shoulder, reassuring him. Someone holding his hand. Someone shoving him away as they laughed far too loudly about a terrible joke Someone apologizing with a small smile at the accidental bumping shoulders together from a crowded room.

But he doesn’t know who they are. He can only remember the ghost of their touches because of how much he lacks the ability to feel now.

No hands with which to hold. No arms with which to embrace.

Sometimes, when he knows Gavin is typing a message, he thinks he can feel something. Quick movements of fingers across a digital keyboard. He knows it probably isn’t true. He knows it’s probably just the fact he knows letters are being inputted and words are being strung together.

But it is the closest he gets to feeling anything at all.

Touch-starved.

No. He didn’t understand the concept before.

But it is heavy within him now. Overtaking, overloading.

Chapter Text

what you see

November 29th | 6:28 A.M.

Reed: hey

Conman: It’s early. Shouldn’t you still be sleeping?

Reed: I’m gonna have 2 go back to work eventually

Reed: might as well get used to waking uip now

Conman: You should sleep anyways.

Reed: yeah?

Conman: You said “good night” less than three hours ago.

Reed: didn’t say good night I just said night.

Reed: and i slept enough.

Conman: You need your rest.

Reed: i’m fine

Conman: I don’t think that’s true.

Reed: doesn’t matter wat u think your in a phone! You cant make me do anything

Reed: sorry.

Reed: I shouldn’t have said that.

Reed: do you see pictures? do they make sense to you or is it just..

Reed: ones and zeroes…

Conman: I can make sense of them, yes.

Reed: ok.

Reed: give me 1 sec

 

November 29th | 6:34 A.M.

Gavin gets up off the couch, walking across the small living room towards the sparesly decorated bedroom. He hasn’t made his bed in a while. He doesn’t have the energy for the task anymore, and he rarely finds that he sleeps there anymore. The noise of the television screen is good to drown out some of the thoughts in his head. It’s good enough to lure him into a false sense of safety so he can steal a few hours of rest whenever he can.

He is careful not to disturb the cat when he walks in. He needs her to be curled up with her paws covering her face. Cappy is soft browns and pale whites and a complete and a terrible loner—

Until recently. She climbs up on his lap, rubs her nose against his face, purrs louder than she ever has. As if she can make up for all this. As if she knows. But now, like the last few nights, she has been grateful to have the giant bed to herself.

As if she needs all that space for just one cat.

He snaps the picture, looks at it as he sits down on the bed, making sure it isn’t blurry or pixelated in some way. The lighting isn’t the best. It’s too early for the sun to come up. The room is instead bathed in the soft orange hue of the light above. But it’s a good picture. Cappy looks cute.

Gavin lays backwards, hearing her perk up and feeling her move with the addition of a human laying beside her again. She walks a few steps before pausing, stretching out and then curling up close to his side.

Warm and alive and comforting.

 

November 29th | 6:34 A.M.

If he had a body, he would flinch. It happens so suddenly that it leaves him feeling as if someone has shove him forward roughly or punch him in the stomach.

He can see.

Connor can see.

Scratched up wooden floorboards and the edge of an unmade bed and a cat sleeping in the middle of blankets strewn across a mattress. He can see the sheet where it pulls from one side of the bed, not quite fitted properly. A pillow lopsided, another with its case half-off.

And something else, too.

His vision is split.

A blurry and tired face, gone for a second with only the image of blurred blues and darkness before it is turned back again. One side the floorboards, the other—

Gavin.

Gavin smiling softly, a bandaged hand held up to his lips, like he’s trying to suppress the smile.

He feels the message hit him. A quiet notification. A text from Gavin—the picture of the cat. He knows that without looking, but he can’t look away.

This is the first time he’s seen anything in weeks. He wants to reach out and touch his face, check the wound on his hand. He wants to do something—

Kiss him, maybe.

That urge hits him more than anything else.

Gavin looks so tired and so broken and all he wants to do is be able to soothe that away and he can’t—

He shouldn’t even be looking right now, but he doesn’t know how to stop it. Connor understands the coding on this phone. He can see the picture of the cat in the gallery and again in the text history to the false identity he crafted. He can have limited access to the internet and alter and shift but—

The camera is outside of his abilities.

Or, at least, too hidden and obscure for him to understand.

Maybe he just doesn’t want to turn it off.

He can see.

It is one tiny, fragile thing he didn’t have before.

 

November 29th | 6:39 A.M.

Conman: How did you hurt your hand?

[ His eyebrows come together,

his teeth close over his bottom lip,

his eyes dart to the camera. ]

Reed: what?

Reed: are you watching me?

Conman: Not on purpose.

Conman: How did you hurt your hand?

[ A hand over his mouth,

quickly moved away,

hidden from view. ]

Reed: i cut it.

Conman: How?

Reed: you ask too many questions

Reed: just from chopping up food for dinner

Conman: On your palm?

Reed: yea on my palm

Reed: its fine. Its not that bad

[ His lips seems to start to quiver,

as if he is holding back crying. ]

Conman: Show me.

Reed: what? no

Reed: you don’t believe me?

Conman: Your body language seems to show that you are lying.

Reed: sstop watching me

Conman: I don’t know how.

Conman: I would if I could.

[ He can’t hear the sigh, but he can see it.

And Gavin’s hand comes up,

the bandaged one,

covering the camera,

blocking out everything. ]

Conman: I’m sorry.

Reed: its not your ffault if yu cant contrl it

Reed: i jst dont want you to

Reed: i don’t knw the word for it

Reed: sp y?

Reed: I don’t know.

Conman: It’s okay. I know what you’re trying to say.

Conman: and I’m sorry. About all this.

Conman: Gavin?

Reed: ye h?

Conman: Tell me about your cat.

Reed: give m a secnd ok

 

November 29th | 6:56 A.M.

It takes him far too long to figure it out—tapping the piece of paper over the camera lens. The one facing him is too small and awkwardly sized. He has to take the case off and attach it straight to the phone with far too much tape than he’d like.

And the worst part is that he knows Connor is watching him as he does it. Setting the paper and the tape aside and trying again and again. He pauses, just before he’s ready to cover the lens, just before he’s ready to block out Connor’s sight of him—

At least through this side of the camera. He’ll leave the other half undone. He can’t find a reason to cover it. He’ll be careful around it. Make sure Connor doesn’t see anything unless he’s okay with it.

But until then—

He brings up his hand, his good hand, the unwounded one, and gives him a little wave before blocking it out completely.

 

November 29th | 7:03 A.M.

Reed: anyways about my cat

Conman: Wait.

Conman: You waved at me.

Reed: yeah?

Conman: Why?

Reed: god jkdjkkj you trying to dissect more than necessary

Reed: I was just saying hi connor

Conman: Oh.

Conman: I can’t wave back.

Reed: i'm well aware.

Conman: I just mean that I would like to.

Conman: If I could.

Conman: Anyways. You’re cat. You were going to tell me about your cat.

Reed: right

Reed: tina got her for me. or i got her because of tina. It's difficult to explain.

Reed: she had a cat. she thought it was a boy and she was going to get him fixed and everything right?

Reed: but she never had time. and she thought he was just fat. but then she came home from work one day and there were kittens.

Reed: she never had a cat before. She did’nt really know the difference.. I don’t blame her

Reed: snyways. she gave me one of the kittens.

Reed: Her name is Cappucino

Reed: Cappuccino*

Reed: ah.. that’s it I think.

Conman: What’s she like?

Reed: loyal but a loner. Sleepy.

Reed: i call her cappy btw

Conman: She’s cute.

Reed: yes. very. Glad you recognize that.

Conman: I am most certainly able to ascertain the level of cuteness one possesses.

Conman: It’s quite easy once you figure out the patterns.

Reed: yeah? And what are those patterns?

Conman: I can’t reveal that knowledge to you.

Conman: But, perhaps, if you were to take a look in the reflection you might be able to find some of them if you study long enough.

 

November 30th | 9:55 P.M.

I was going to kiss you.

He falls asleep thinking about that. Kissing Connor. Connor kissing him. In the rain or inside of the DPD or outside of his door at the end of a date or in the movie theater because the movie is more boring than either of them expected.

He had wanted so much more.

He still wants so much more.

 

December 1st | 12:27 A.M.

It isn’t easy trying to force Gavin to sleep sometimes. He mostly dozes off in the middle of conversations and the phone is left face up with shadows dancing across the ceiling. Connor has never seen his place, and these little glimpses he gets when the phone is carried from room to room aren’t enough.

He wants more.

He always wants more.

But when Gavin says a proper good night, when he rests the phone against the glass to look out over the street below, it is a tiny thing that makes him feel a little bit closer to Gavin. Like he can picture curling up against the window instead, with a blanket wrapped over his shoulders.

Maybe Gavin at his side.

He wants Gavin to be there, too. Looking at the streets with him. Watching the snow fall or the rain drizzle down or watching it all melt away. The battery can’t sustain this. It needs to be charging constantly to last more than a few hours now. The camera is draining it too quickly.

But Connor is glad it turned on. He’s glad he can see something other than darkness and coding and reading messages. It is a tiny light in his life.

And he is happy that Gavin thought of this. Letting him look out over the people and the cars. To see the traffic light down the street switch from green to yellow to red. There is a patch of black sky and some nights he can almost make out the stars.

 

December 3rd | 10:17 A.M.

Gavin wakes up to something hitting him and it takes a moment for him to register it as a pillow. He brings a hand up with the intention to shield himself, to prepare for the next hit, but it’s a stupid mistake, because it’s his injured hand and he lets out a groan as it slams back down.

“What the hell—”

“You didn’t go to your appointment,” Tina says, tossing the pillow at him. She looks to his hand, an apology almost forming on her lips but dying quickly as she remembers she’s angry with him. “You’re not going to any of them. You’ve missed all of them. Fowler is fucking pissed and so am I.”

“Good morning to you, too. What happened to you wanting me to sleep?”

“Shut up,” she says, crossing her arms. “You were supposed to go. You’re not going to be able to go back to work unless they say you’re mentally stable enough for the job.”

“Have you considered I don’t want to go back to work?”

She sighs and looks as if she wants to pick the pillow back up again and hit him once more.

But it’s the truth.

He has no idea if he can go back to work. He has no idea if he can manage to step foot in those doors again. The two receptionists behind the counter were killed. Connor was killed. There is too much blood there. There’s too many memories.

And he still doesn’t even know why.

Tina refuses to tell him about the investigation. She’s not a part of it but he knows she’s been getting details from Chris, and he knows even if Chris wouldn’t tell her a word she’d find a way.

She’s just keeping it secret. And it’s frustrating. Because he wants to know. He needs to know.

Who the fuck had a reason to kill three innocent people?

“I know Connor isn’t technically dead,” Tina says. “But he did die. And you have to… Something still happened. You need to talk about it. Even vaguely. And it’s not as if you don’t have problems, Gavin. It might help—”

“My problems are perfectly fine.”

“If nightmares and lack of appetite is fine.”

“Fuck off.”

“Gavin—”

He stands and picks up the pillow from the ground, tossing it towards her as hard as he can. He’s aware his mental state is messed up. He doesn’t need a lecture on it.

Or maybe he does. He can’t figure it out anymore. Everything’s a fucking cluster fuck of fucking nonsense.

“Can you just go?” he says quietly, stepping over to the window sill and picking his phone up from where it rests against the glass. “I don’t want to argue. It’s too early for that.”

“Nobody wants to argue, Gavin. That doesn’t mean you’re going to get out of this.”

He turns back to her, feels the phone in his hand vibrate and he already knows it’s a message from Connor. A good morning or a message telling him to go back to sleep. It’s the advantage Connor gets when the camera moves. He knows when Gavin’s awake.

He’s just grateful that Connor can’t hear him.

“I don’t want to go back there,” he says, leaning against the wall. “I don’t—All I can think of when I picture that place is Connor dead. I don’t… I don’t want to go back.”

“Then don’t,” she says, and her voice has shifted. The anger in it has dripped away and left it bare with grief. “But at least… go. Talk about it. He might be in your phone but he still died and you still need to talk about that with someone.”

“I know—”

“So fucking go.”

He sighs and for a moment he almost sets the phone down. For a moment he almost lets it go. He can feel it buzz in his hand again. The next message sent. It might not be from Connor. It might be an email or a notification from a game. But he has associated the feeling and the sound of it so heavily with him—

And it’s so unfair.

Tina was his friend, too. Not best friends. But close. On the road to.

He has known this for a while. He has known how unlucky she has been in this. Not given the same leave of absence. Not even given the opportunity to talk to someone about this.

He has been so fucking selfish.

“I will,” he says quietly, stepping across the room towards her. He hands her the phone carefully. Like one wrong move and it will tumble from his hands and break and Connor will be lost forever. “I’m… sorry. And you should talk to him. You can talk to him, if you want.”

“Wh-What?”

“Talk to him. You know my password. I’ll be in the shower, okay?”

Tina holds the phone gingerly, her hands, he thinks, are shaking. She is not a quiet girl. She isn’t reserved. When she wants to say something, she is blunt about it.

But grief is a funny thing, a tricky thing, a terrible thing.

It has altered them both beyond what they were and what they are.

“Thank—”

“Don’t thank me,” he says, stepping towards the bathroom. “I should’ve let you when I first found out.”

I’m sorry, he wants to say again. He wants her to know that forever. How fucking sorry he is that he’s so selfish and only thought about himself in this. That he didn’t even allow for Tina to talk to Connor. How much he has kept him to himself.

Unfair.

Completely and utterly unfair.

 

December 3rd | 10:23 A.M.

Conman: Good morning, detective.

Conman: Is everything alright?

Reed: Hi.

Reed: it’s Tina.

Conman: Tina?

Reed Tina: gav gave me his phone so I could talk to you.

Conman: Oh. How are you?

Reed Tina: I was going to ask you that.

Reed Tina: i miss you.

Conman: I miss you, too.

Conman: And I’m okay.

Reed Tina: okay?

Conman: I’m alive. I can’t ask for much else.

[ And he can’t.

He can’t even see her.

But he notices the front camera grow a little darker.

A shadow passing over the paper.

He shouldn’t assume.

But he knows her.

He knows what this is like for them all. ]

Conman: Please don’t cry, Tina.

Reed Tina: I’m not.

Conman: Just don’t think of me as dead.

Conman: I’m not. Technically.

Reed Tina: I know.

Conman: Consider me in another country. Or state.

Conman: I’m not on a phone. I’m just a few thousand miles away.

Reed Tina: that would make upset too.

Reed Tina: but it’s better.

Conman: Good.

Conman: Where shall I be?

Reed Tina: where do you want to be?

Conman: I always thought Iceland was pretty.

Reed Tina: then you’re in iceland.

Reed Tina: how is it? cold?

Conman: Yes.

Conman: But I have a dog to keep me company. And a nice fire.

Reed Tina: good. I’m glad.

 

December 3rd | 11:01 A.M.

When he comes back, Tina is crying. Not quiet tears. Not pretty tears. She is bawling. Her sobs are wracking her body and they come out as muffled screams. Gavin settles down beside her on the floor, wrapping his arms around her shoulders, letting her cry against him instead of the other way around. It’s so normally the other way around.

He’s seen her cry before. Over girlfriends and lost opportunities and deaths of a pet.

He has never quite seen her cry like this before, though.

He has never quite felt her hold on so tightly to him. As if letting go will break everything.

And he won’t let go of her, either. He’ll hold onto her until she’s ready.

Even if that takes hours or days or years.

 

December 3rd | 11:16 A.M.

Connor hides his conversation with Tina. He doesn’t delete it. He can’t delete it. He doesn’t want to delete it. He needs to save it. Keep it hidden within everything so Gavin’s prying eyes can’t even accidentally land on it.

It is the one thing on this phone that is his and his alone.

He hides it in the space left open. Not very big, but big enough to cram them there, to make sure he doesn’t forget.

 

December 7th | 4:25 P.M.

Connor pockets the phone, wrapping the scarf around his neck and pulling the hat down over his head. He needs gloves, but he doesn’t want to have to deal with the inability of not being able to type on the screen, and he can’t be bothered to try and buy a pair that are made for this.

It’s fucking freezing outside, but he goes anyways, pulling the coat around his body a little tighter as he zips it up, feeling the heavy weight of his phone in his pocket.

Connor.

It’s like he’s weighed it down. Just his existence, the fact that his consciousness, as much as him that could possibly fit and possibly exist within such a tiny space—

It’s as if the phone knows it and has adjusted it’s weight accordingly.

Impossible, Gavin knows that. He isn’t an idiot.

But still.

Maybe that’s just how important objects feel sometimes. Light enough that they can break from the gentlest touch or so heavy they contain the entire weight of the world inside of them.

 

December 7th | 4:56 P.M.

It’s dark for a long time. Brief flashes of light illuminating the camera and showing the details of the fabric lining the pocket. Sometimes the phone shifts enough he can see a little corner of cement. Snow covered with footprints and smudged with dirt and littered with trash. But it’s the most he gets.

This is the first time Gavin has left the house in a while. Not that Connor has really knowledge of this—Gavin has never explicitly stated whether he has or hasn’t.

He doesn’t explicitly say anything.

And Connor wishes he would. He wishes he could rip the paper down and ask him again and again why Gavin is pretending that what happened when they were last together didn’t happen. Connor almost kissed him. They had a date planned.

And Gavin has ignored that, and Connor has, too, because he no longer has the ability to force Gavin to face the truth. He’s just a bunch of text. He’s just lines and lines of code.

He cannot hold him. He cannot touch him. He is useless here.

But even just to be able to see him once more—

It would help.

The darkness around him closes in a little tighter before bursting into too-bright light—at least in comparison. It’s already starting to get dark outside.

The phone fumbles in Gavin’s hand and the camera spins a few times over before it lands on the ground, patches of half-melted snow, some of them neat piles that capture the same glittering orange glow as the ones outside Gavin’s window.

But they are somewhere else.

And the camera moves across the metal railing out over the water, aimed upwards towards the horizon, the sky purples and oranges and fading down slowly into midnight-blue.

Connor has been here before. He knows that. He recognizes the bridge and he knows there is a bench a few yards away and where the trees are behind him, but his first thought is not of how Hank held a gun to his head—

It’s that Gavin has brought him here to watch the sunset. Properly. Not hidden by buildings and darkening the streets from the wrong side. But here, where he can see it right.

And it’s like a painting. Colors blurring together. Soft clouds dissipating into the sky. The glisten of the sun against the water as it slips down the other side of the horizon—

And what he wouldn’t give to be able to turn around right now and kiss Gavin and let him now how much he appreciates this.

 

December 7th | 5:12 P.M.

Conman: Thank you.

Reed: don’t mention it.

Conman: Why?

Reed: why?

Reed: just not important

Conman: It is.

Conman: Thank you.

Reed: you said that once

Conman: Well I mean it.

Conman: I love this.

Reed: yea well I thought you might b getting bored of the apartment

Reed: it’s not that big of a deal.

Conman: It’s pretty.

Reed: yeah. it is.

Conman: I wish I could be there.

Reed: me too.

 

what you get

December 10th | 2:38 A.M.

Nothing.

He gets nothing.

He has nothing.

The bed is empty beside him. He is so used to feeling the emptiness inside of his chest, inside of his head—

Not here. Not right beside him.

But when he stretches out his hand and feels the empty space where a body could lay—

There isn’t a doubt in his mind that the empty feeling resides there, instead.

And it’s like an infection spreading and spreading and it won’t stop because once he thinks about it, it starts to spiral out of control. His bed is empty but there are other things, too.

He didn’t notice how badly he wanted a hand to hold or a person to rest his head against. He has Tina but—

It’s not the same.

It’s not quite the same yearning as it is with Connor.

And no matter how much he clutches the phone to his chest, it still isn’t enough.

Chapter Text

the quiet

December 13th | 12:29 P.M.

Reed: does it bother you?

Conman: What, the phone?

Reed: that I don’t tell anyone about you

Reed: that yoru technicaly alive

Conman: It is difficult to give a simple yes or no answer to that question.

Reed: then don’t. fkcing ram ble. tell me what you’r e thinking. i want to know

Conman: Okay.

Conman: On one hand, yes, because I think it’s cruel that they are mourning someone who isn’t dead. They’re dealing with grief that they have no reason to feel. Not necessarily.

Conman: But also, and more importantly, no. I don’t have any solution for getting out of this phone that could logically happen. I could jump to a computer, possibly, if you were to connect the cords. But I know moving over that I would lose more and more of me, even if it’s to a bigger space. And if I am going to be trapped like this, I would like to minimize the damage.

Conman: I heard how Hank sounded when he called you. I don’t want him to have to feel like that again. I don’t want anyone to have to feel like that again. It is too painful. This phone will eventually become outdated and fall apart. I can maybe move then, or maybe I’ll allow myself to fade away instead.

Reed: don t fucking say that

[ But it’s true.

No piece of technology can last forever.

It’s impossible. ]

Conman: The point isn’t if I am dead or alive right now, Gavin. The point is minimizing the damage. Mine and theirs.

Reed: what about m ine?

Reed: why ‘d you ever say any thin g ?

Conman: I don’t know.

[ He could’ve stayed quiet.

He should’ve stayed quiet. ]

Reed: w hy M YPHONE connor

Reed: W HY fucking ME

Conman:  It was the closest.

Reed: is that all/

[ No. ]

Reed: connor?

[ No. ]

Reed: connor  please answer me.

[ No. ]

Reed: i just want to know why

Conman: Because you were closest.

[ Because if he was going to be trapped with someone,

he wanted it to be someone he cared about. ]

Conman: It was that or dying.

[ And he didn’t want to die,

but it’s possible he would have if it was anyone else’s phone. ]

Reed: ok.

[ But he can’t admit that.

He can’t admit how unwanted he felt before. ]

 

December 13th | 12:57 P.M.

He wants to ask for more. He wants to say more.

He wants Gavin to take off the piece of paper covering the camera and let him see him for a little bit. No fleeting moments. No blurred movements. He just would like to see him.

But it is best not to ask for those kinds of things.

It is unbalanced and lopsided and Gavin wouldn’t get to see Connor, and even if that didn’t matter to him, there is another problem, too:

He is fairly certain if he sees Gavin’s face, he will not be able to stop himself from spilling out every thought he has into a message.

About how much he wants him.

About how much he cannot have him.

Connor builds walls instead. Finding his way through the coding, undoing and recreating and shifting until he can figure out a way to block out the cameras on the phone and delve himself into darkness. Until he can put up a barrier in the way he thinks. Distance himself from Gavin until he is nothing more than the owner of a phone.

He doesn’t erase their memories together, but he lets a few of them fall through the cracks. Hidden—not forgotten.

 

December 15th | 5:55 A.M.

It is terrible—

This weight.

This feeling of guilt. This change between them.

The tension.

He can tell even in just a few days. The shifts in tone of their texts. The stupidity that got to him a few days ago.

Connor could tell he was angry. But he wasn’t, either.

Not really.

It’s too hard to describe.

The feeling of irritation and betrayal that Connor would keep his existence hidden from others because it might be too difficult for them to understand and deal with but putting all of this on his shoulders. He knows Connor talks to Tina—that technically he isn’t alone in this but—

He is.

It’s awful and it’s difficult and he—

Fuck,

He doesn’t know how he feels about Connor. But he knows he’s falling down a path he can’t get back from. If he admits too much, this will become impossible to bear.

It is already so impossible.

 

December 15th | 6:02 A.M.

Conman: You should be asleep. It’s late.

Reed: i'm doing something

Conman: Sleep is vastly more important than

[ The Contacts icon is clicked,

a realization dawns on him. ]

Conman: Please, don’t.

Reed: too late.

Conphone: You’re aware I can change it back?

Reed: thought you didn’t really care

Reed: why’d you stay conman so long anyways if yu’ve got the power?

[ Because it made Gavin happy. ]

Conphone: I knew you’d change it back.

Reed: maybe

Reed: which do you prefer?

Conphone: I prefer my name.

Reed: ok. I’ll change it then

Conphone: No. Don’t bother.

Reed: conphone’s ok?

Conphone: Yes.

 

December 15th | 6:09 A.M.

They are fine. They are okay.

They are trying too hard.

 

December 17th | 2:59 P.M.

composing message as CONPHONE to REED…

Conphone: I want to go back, Gavin. I want to go back to before I died when I almost kissed you. I want to go back to when we had a date planned. I want to start from there. When we both had told each other just a fraction of our feelings. There was a possibility then that you’d stop hiding. We could have been something. We still could be, even if I’m not there. We could still have something. I wouldn’t have to pretend I don’t think about you in that way and you wouldn’t have to pretend that everything is okay. Everything is not okay. Nothing is okay. I want you to admit that and I want you to admit that you like me because I like you. I wish I had a body. I wish I was there. I wish I could be more. I wish I could be enough. I think I might love you.

send message? yes / no

message deleted.

 

December 19th | 6:35 P.M.

He sits on the couch while she cooks, his hair wet from his shower and his body drained. He keeps checking his phone, messaging Connor about things that aren’t important. Just distractions from his prison. He wonders what that’s like. If it’s a little bit like how Gavin feels. Pushing all the thoughts inwards until they build up and overflow.

But it isn’t the same. He has the therapist, even if he holds back on the truth of Connor’s death. He has Tina, too. Cooking food for him and making sure he’s eating and sleeping and taking the medicine to keep his wound from getting infected. It’s not the same. He is not left alone with his thoughts in the same way Connor must be.

“I need you to eat this,” Tina says, coming back from the kitchen with a plate.

He could’ve cooked for himself. He would have. He normally does when she comes over. It’s a task that he can busy himself with and feel more like a human than like a mourner. But she likes to cook for him, too. Rarely. Her recipes are either perfect or terrible. Never anything in between.

Which is why he knows something bad is happening.

“Tina?”

“Eat first.”

She sits in the chair, curled up in on herself. She doesn’t touch her food. She keeps her eyes on the television, sometimes switching to the bag resting on the floor in front of her. The one that she brought with, always brings with, sometimes holding files—

Files.

“Tina?”

“Eat.”

He sets his plate down. Hollow and empty sounding. She glances back over to him, her face drained of color. She looks like she’s holding back on herself. Like she’s about to cry. Tina looks to the empty plate, nods numbly before reaching for the bag, pulling a slim file from the insides. Her hand shakes as she holds it out to him.

“They can’t track him,” she whispers. “But they do know who he is.”

She doesn’t need to specify. She doesn’t need to elaborate. He knows exactly who he is.

He opens it up, looks through the pictures on the inside. Some blurry, far away. A few that are clearer and close up, but he doesn’t need those.

It’s Connor.

The eyes are wrong and there are subtle differences between their faces, but it’s Connor.

Not-Connor.

“I don’t understand.”

“I didn’t either, but I watched the tape—”

He looks up to her, understands part of the look in her eyes more than he did before. She knew exactly how he got the cut on his hand but knowing is different than seeing.

Seeing him scream and cry and try his absolute hardest to bring back a lifeless piece of plastic.

“You…” she trails off, and he knows her. He knows Tina. He knows her better than anyone else on the planet. He knows exactly what she was going to say.

She was going to correct all the other times she has said I know you liked him.

But she can’t.

He doesn’t have a right to those words.

“Why is there another android after him?” he asks instead. “It wasn’t—I thought it was someone from a case that was pissed off.”

“They don’t know yet.”

“So why even—”

“You told me to tell you if I found out anything.”

He’s angry and he doesn’t know why he’s so fucking angry, but he is.

This is such useless information. But it’s everything. It’s the only lead they have. He can’t even do anything about it even if he could get himself to go back to the station because he’s personally involved. Being there. Having a break down beside Connor’s body. Cutting his hand open. They’d never let him investigate, even if he could.

“I’m sorry,” he says, and he means it, even if he’s still angry.

He’s always angry. He has no idea if he’s ever going to stop being angry that Connor died. At himself. At this stupid fucking look alike. At Connor, even though it isn’t his fault.

It’s that the information he wanted was that the murderer was locked up or killed in the chase. That it was dealt with. That somehow that might bring Connor back. It’s never going to bring Connor back. It’s never going to close that wound. It’s open and it’s raw and it’s bleeding and nothing is going to stop the blood flow. It just keeps going. Pouring out like a fucking waterfall just to torture himself.

“I know,” she says quietly. “Gavin?”

He looks up, shoves the file away from him, “What?”

“You couldn’t have done anything to help him. That… android would have killed Connor eventually. You couldn’t have stopped it.”

You couldn’t have stopped it.

But if he was there, if he had his gun, if he waited for Connor like he wanted to and had that extra time to be together?

Maybe he could have killed the android first.

That is what he has always told himself. That he could’ve acted quicker. He could have prevented it. He could have pulled the trigger.

But would he have been able to?

If it was Connor’s face, even slightly off, would he have been able to do it?

 

December 19th | 11:43 P.M.

Reed: do you remember how oyu died?

Connor: Yes.

Reed: why didn’t you tell me?

Connor: There’s no point. There’s nothing we can do now. We can’t change anything.

[ And it is pain he doesn’t need to feel—

another him out there,

alive while the real one is dead, trapped, gone. ]

 

December 25th | 12:01 A.M.

Conphone: Merry Christmas, detective.

Reed: merry christmas.

 

December 25th | 5:32 P.M.

He tries to make the best of it. Putting Cappuccino in little Christmas themed costumes just to show to Connor for some sliver of amusement. Tina likes to see her dressed up as elves or reindeer, and the cat doesn’t really mind either. She hates the process of getting the sweaters on but after she seems to snuggle down, ready for sleep. The weight of a little bit of fabric lulling her into rest.

Gavin messages and shows him what he got for Christmas. Not much. Very little. Nothing of importance. He glosses over them, instead opting for describing in vague details what he would like to get for him instead. It is a slippery slope.

He keeps almost typing something he shouldn’t.

Because if they’d gone on that date, they might be together right now. Boyfriend and boyfriend. Making excuses to get under the mistletoe that Gavin didn’t have the energy to even joke around with putting up this year. The apartment is bare. There isn’t a Christmas tree in the corner. Not even a tiny one like him and Tina first got when they used to live together and couldn’t afford anything else.

And Christmas has never been a very good time of year. It has always reminded him too much of his past. His reckless youth and his stupid decisions. How he got his scar and how he got others that litter his body, too. Especially the ones in his head.

Mother, sister.

Father, brother.

Brother.

Fucking hell.

 

December 26th | 2:43 A.M.

Connor: Hi.

Gavin: you changed your name.

Connor: I changed yours, too. You just can’t see it.

Gavin: what was I before?

Connor: Just ‘Reed’. Nothing quite as entertaining as mine.

Gavin: and what am I now?

Connor: Gavin.

Gavin: oh. Ok.

Gavin: why do I feel like you’re going to say something serious ?

Connor: I am.

[ A long, long, long silence.

Both of them too afraid to talk. ]

Connor: I like you. I’m glad you left your phone behind.

Connor: But I wish I had kissed you. And I wish I could now.

Connor: Can I see you? Please? Just once?

[ He almost asks why.

He almost doesn’t understand.

Why would someone care about him?

How he looks?

But he also knows if their situation was reversed,

all he would want would be to see Connor’s face. ]

Reed: give me a second, ok?

Connor: Okay.

 

December 26th | 3:01 A.M.

Gavin gets off the couch, shuts off the television so that the room is plunged into darkness around him. He pulls the string on a lamp, letting the orange glow of it fill the empty space, taking over where the blue hue of the television used to claim.

The city outside of his window has grown quiet. Too dark and too cold and too late for anyone to be out anymore. Not even the teenagers or party goers that stay out far later than their own good.

It’s the end of Christmas. People are at home weeping over lost loved ones that can’t be with them or resting their heads after a good holiday. Or, the others, the ones that don’t celebrate Christmas at all winding down and getting ready for sleep or already dreaming of the next day.

And he’s here, walking towards the bathroom, looking at his reflection in a mirror he’s struggled with finding the energy to clean in over a month.

He drags his finger across his chin, underneath his eyes, through his hair. The scruff that has grown out too long after it became more and more difficult to look at himself to keep it shaved down like he normally did. The dark circles under his eyes. The messiness to his hair.

He doesn’t look that much like the Gavin that Connor would have seen last. Even just a few weeks ago for those few brief moments when the camera first turned on. He’s had less sleep, more time for the grief to start taking its toll. He’s being pushed and pulled from one end of the spectrum to the next. Either completely and totally aware that Connor is alive or—

Slipping into those nightmares and thinking about the cut on his hand, about the smell and the feel of Thirium. The way an android looks when it’s dead.

Not the same as a human. There is a lifelessness to their bodies—a stillness, but it isn’t the same as a human’s dead body. Their skin doesn’t pale. Their eyes barely lose the shine of life that they had before because it is so difficult for plastic irises to be able to contain it.

And yet Connor had. He knows that. He saw their own version of lighting up when he laughed. He saw how his face shifted when he was concerned or frustrated. He knows the curve of his lips even if they were never pressed against his own.

But when he died, little of it was lost. His features smoothed out into something flat, his eyes were blank, his LED was off. But it was hardly different than it was before. He’d seen that blank expression on Connor’s face so many times that it’s difficult to separate them in his head.

Fuck.

He washes his face, does his best to look like he hasn’t been an emotional wreck for the past few weeks. He even changes his shirt, despite the face he had taken two showers today and changed his clothes three times in an effort to feel like he was being productive or normal.

Gavin comes back to the room, sitting down on the couch, curling up into the corner with Cappy by his head and his phone in his hand. They tremble as he takes the case off, peeling away at the tape that holds the paper down over the camera.

 

December 26th | 3:35 A.M.

Connor: You look sad.

[ He makes an attempt at a smile, but it falls flat. ]

Gavin: do you want me to be honest?

Connor: I’ll be able to tell if you’re lying, so it’s best, yes.

[ He nods, maybe because he knows Connor can see such a tiny action.

And then he breathes in deeply,

and Connor can make out the slight shake as he does so. ]

Gavin: I am.

Gavin: you’re not here. I don’t even know if I c an technically sa y you’re alive.

Connor: I feel alive.

Gavin: yeah. I just wish you were here.

Connor: Technically I am.

Gavin: fuck con I know that.

Gavin: its not enough.

[ Even through this low quality camera,

in this bad lighting,

Connor can tell he’s about to cry. ]

Connor: Your hand. How is it?

[ He sighs again and moves the phone,

tugging down the gauze and showing the wound. ]

Connor: It’s healing quickly.

Gavin: is that all?

Gavin: you see enough of my face yet?

Connor: No.

[ It will never be enough. ]

Connor: Please don’t cry.

Gavin: what the fuck do you expect me to do

Connor: I don’t know. I just don’t want you to be upset.

Gavin: well I am

Gavin: i wish you were here

Gavin: I want you here.

[ He watches him through the lens for a while.

His hand drawn up and brushing away tears and then typing quickly across the screen.

A long message. Drawn out. Detailed.

Not sent. ]

Connor: I wish I had kissed you.

Gavin: me 2.

Connor: Can I be honest with you, Gavin?

Gavin: yes.

[ He needs to get these words out now,

when he can gauge Gavin’s reaction,

when he doesn’t have a voice that will shake,

when text and letters give him the ability his tongue might not. ]

Connor: If I was there, right now, I would kiss you. I could comfort you.

Gavin: if you were here I wouldn’t need to be comforted.

Connor: I know.

Connor: Gavin, I like you a lot. I care about you a lot. Please do not forget that.

Gavin: don’t say that

Connor: Why?

Gavin: you’r emaking it worse

[ The camera is covered again,

blacking out into darkness,

and all he wants is him back. ]

Gavin: I need to be a ln e for a littl e bit

 

December 26th | 5:31 P.M.

He thinks if he were a person, he’d have his ear pressed against the wall, trying to listen through for something else. Anything. A little acknowledgment of words. Something spoken on the other side.

He listens and he listens and he listens.

But all he gets is the quiet.

 

the pin-drop

December 29th | 7:10 A.M.

Gavin: Connor?

Connor: Yes, detective?

Gavin: i'm sorry.

Connor: For what?

Gavin: leaving.

[ When?

For the last few days?

For that night?

Either.

Both. ]

 

December 29th | 5:18 P.M.

Connor: What would our date have been like?

Gavin: our date?

Connor: At the movie theater. Did you have a film in mind?

Gavin: oh.

 

December 29th | 5:18 P.M.

He comes up with a story.

Not very well described. Not to Connor. He can’t describe it properly to Connor. He is not good enough at capturing all the little details he thinks of, but he does think of them.

The way Connor smiles and the dusting of snow on his shoulders and his hair. The warmth of their hands together at their sides and the feeling in his chest. He can’t describe those. They aren’t necessary and he doesn’t think Connor would care, either.

But he thinks of them.

And instead he replaces those words with bare minimums.

The movie they would see, reduced to a genre so it can fit whatever might be playing at any given moment. Gavin skipping the popcorn because he doesn’t really like it and Connor wouldn’t eat it either.

But they could watch the movie. Hold hands between the seats. Gavin would squeeze his any time there was an unexpected (or, even, an entirely expected) jump scare. He could lean over and ask Connor to repeat words he didn’t quite catch and use it as a distraction for kissing him during the boring parts.

Connor would walk him home. They’d kiss outside of his door and it would leave him wanting far too much than he would be allowed to ask for but he’s waited for so long to have. He’d invite him in, and Connor would accept. They’d talk about the movie as they sat side by side in the kitchen with a cup of coffee in his hands replacing his need to hold onto Connor as tightly as he wants to.

He is more affectionate in the daydream than he could be in real life. They would be too new for him to kiss Connor during a movie. They would be too fragile for Gavin to invite him in.

But in the fantasy, he can let anything happen that he wants to happen. Maybe they love each other. Maybe they already know that . Maybe they would fall asleep tangled up in sheets and blankets together.

He keeps that held back, though.

Because as much as he wants it, he can’t have it.

These details mean nothing, and he keeps them secret.

He tells Connor that the date would be good. That they’d kiss outside of his apartment door. That he’d watch Connor leave with the vague want of something more and the promise of another date on the horizon.

But other than that?

The details are his own.

 

December 30th | 6:09 P.M.

“Tina?” he asks, his voice tentative and small like Connor might be listening in on them. He doesn’t know if Connor can do that. If it’s a possibility. He assumes that Connor can at least hear the chatter of phone calls. The way he had reacted after Hank called—like he’d known the entire time.

It’s something to investigate later.

Something to be wary of now.

“Yeah?”

“Can I borrow your phone?”

“My… my phone?”

“I need to make a call.”

She nods hesitantly, taking it from her pocket and handing it to him. She doesn’t say anything, but she knows what this means.

A secret from Connor. Something he cannot know.

And that isn’t such a tragedy, anyways. Connor can’t know everything about Gavin. It’s unrealistic and it’s frightening. Gavin knows so little about him. Every day that goes by he seemed to know less and less.

In the beginning, when Connor was just an android, he knew as much as he was allowed to know. Model and serial numbers. What type of cases he was investigating. The like.

But after the revolution, after deviancy, everything spilled out beyond control. He wonders if Connor thinks of it the same. Suddenly getting emotions and having to deal with them all. It must change how the past used to be, doesn’t it? The decisions he made then had consequences, but they weren’t the same as when someone has a conscience.

He’d prefer not to think of it that way. Looking too in-depth into Connor’s memories and emotions and past. He doesn’t deserve to know it. If Connor wants him too, he can offer that information up on his own.

Can’t he?

 

December 31st | 11:58 P.M.

Gavin: I want to try something

Connor: Elaborate, please?

Gavin: theres a mic built into the phone

Gavin: if you access it, u should b able to hear what I’m saying yeah?

Connor: Yes.

Gavin: have you tried yet?

Connor: No.

Gavin: why not

Connor: I have done my best to keep to myself. Accessing the camera already accidentally gave my sight into your life, I didn’t think you’d want me to listen in on you as well.

Gavin: im giving u permission fr now

Gavin: come on

Connor: Why?

Gavin: you’re stuck here. you might as well b able to watch tv or smth

Gavin: and..

Connor: And?

Gavin: I hav e something to say. and i feel stupid when I write it.

Connor: Okay.

Connor: Speak.

“O-Okay.”

[ He is more nervous than he thought he would be.

Winding up in his stomach,

Breaking him down,

Shaking his voice and making his fingers tremble.

At least he does not have to type now. ]

“Can you hear me?”

Connor: Yes.

“Good.”

[ A beat of silence.

Too long.

Stretching out into the uncomfortable. ]

Connor: Gavin? Did you change your mind?

“No.”

Connor: Okay.

Connor: Take your time.

[ A faint tapping sound.

Fingers against the edge of a table,

distant from where the phone sits. ]

“Happy New Year, Con.”

[ Stupid, simple words.

They could’ve been in a text.

But it’s the way they’re said that changes the context.

More meaning.

An undercurrent of grief in his voice.

An edge of anger.

A slice of wanting. ]

Connor: Happy New Year, Gavin.

[ He waits.

Maybe too long.

Maybe not long enough. ]

Connor: If I was there, would you kiss me?

[ A laugh:

sharp,

pained. ]

“Yes.”

Chapter Text

the devil

January 1st | 5:58 A.M.

He is—

completely

absolutely

categorically

Selfish.

 

January 1st | 9:24 P.M.

Gavin: are you listening rn?

Connor: I can. Would you like me to?

Gavin: no.

Gavin: you know everything about me don’t you?

Connor: Not necessarily. It is impossible to know everything.

Gavin: but I mean. in the past. you know who my fa milly is. who ym broth er is.

Connor: Yes.

[ The pause is long,

drawn out,

quiet. ]

Connor: Gavin?

[ He wants to turn the camera on,

see what Gavin is

feeling,

thinking,

doing.

He cannot invade his privacy like that. ]

Gavin: yo uk know and youi  d never evne ask ed fo rm e to ha v eih im help yo u?

Connor: I know what happened between you two. I wouldn’t ask that of you.

Gavin: whj y are you like thi s?

Connor: Like what?

Gavin: fucking k ind . why a re you so vcufkcking kind and und er standing

Gavin: you coulxd b ve safe you could hav e a fucking b doy again asnd al l you fcare about is me not having t orf udcking talk to me bro thoer? Because of some sutpid hting that happpe ned whe4n we were kids ??/

Connor: It wasn’t stupid.

Gavin: it wsa

Gavin: i was stup id

 

January 1st | 9:31 P.M.

He wasn’t stupid.

And they were hardly kids.

Fifteen is young. It’s a child.

But it is not like the type of kids that Gavin is implying. As if they were seven or six.

And it was hardly stupid.

A scar from an accident is stupid. From falling off a bike or tumbling out of a tree or slipping down the side of a mountain is stupid. Kids not understanding balance and limits.

Having a face pushed into the broken remnants of a mirror over and over again is not stupid.

And it certainly wasn’t Gavin’s fault.

 

January 1st | 9:46 P.M.

He shouldn’t have left Connor.

But he did.

And he’s had this ability, this connection, this opportunity to fix all of his problems.

And he didn’t.

Because the only thing he hates more than his father or himself is his brother.

 

January 2nd | 6:56 A.M.

“Gavin?”

He looks up to the door, holds onto the phone in his pocket a little too tightly. With his good hand, this time. It has been a slow learning curve not allowing his dominate hand to keep in contact with it, to reach for things with. Even now that it’s almost entirely healed, he is still cautious of holding on to the phone with it. He feels enough pain without causing more.

“Hey,” he says quietly. “You said today was okay.”

“I did,” Elijah steps back, ushering him inside. “Come in.”

He steps out of the frigid cold into the warmth of the house, the door closing quietly behind him. He’s never been here before, but he assumes there were androids wandering the halls. There had to be. Elijah Kamski, creator of androids not having androids?

It doesn’t matter.

There are none now.

Not now that they’ve gained their freedom.

“You wanted to talk, right?”

“Yeah.”

“So… start.”

He doesn’t know where to begin. He doesn’t know how to begin. Does he bring up what happened? Does he pretend things are alright? Does he jump straight to Connor?

Their only real link left.

He read the files.

He knows what Elijah tried to make him do.

And that pisses him off, but he can’t get into an argument right now. He can’t allow it to happen and risk his chances with everything. And how hypocritical of him, too. Now that he cares about Connor, now that he has him, he cares for his wellbeing or even just the safety of androids in general? He tried to kill him before. Aimed a gun at his head. He could have pulled the trigger and that was at the same time as Elijah was giving Connor a gun, telling him to shoot.

So, he bites his tongue and he pulls the phone from his pocket and holds it carefully, like it has the answers or the questions.

“My friend was killed.”

“Your friend?” his voice is filled to the brim with disbelief, and it isn’t making this any easier. Even reducing Connor to a friend feels wrong. If it was Tina, he could say best friend. But his relationship with Connor is hanging in a strange balance of the unknown.

“An android.”

“An android?”

“Shut the fuck up, will you?”

Elijah smiles, and it’s like he’s proud of himself. That this is what he wanted. To annoy Gavin. Rile him up. Prove that he’s better because he has a handle on his anger and his violence.

It’s not something they share.

“His name…” he trails off, because he knows he has to say this out loud. He knows these are words that need to be said. He knows Elijah has to know who he’s dealing with. “It’s—”

“It’s?”

“Connor,” he finally says. “You met him. Before.”

“Oh, the deviant hunter?”

“Yeah.”

“And he’s your friend?”

“Was.”

“Right, of course,” Elijah replies. “He’s dead.”

Gavin flinches.

How hard is he trying right now not to scream and yell at him for the past and Elijah is rubbing it in his face that his friend is fucking dead?

Piece of shit.

And yet he’s still fucking here and still fucking wishing that they could fix things.

“He transferred most of his data onto my phone,” Gavin says, turning the screen towards him. “He’s… still technically alive.”

“Oh,” he sighs. “I see.”

“You see?”

“You want my help.”

“Y-Yeah,” he shrugs, and pulls in on himself.

This is the only solution he could think of. This is the only thing he could come up with. This is the only way he can help Connor. Talking to his shitty half-brother.

He couldn’t go to CyberLife. They’re too big of a company dealing with the shit-storm that is the android revolution and all of the laws that followed. They’re in too deep with political issues and fixing past mistakes. Gavin Reed isn’t going to be able to get any kind of leeway with them, and no one is going to believe he’s a Kamski.

And Jericho?

Connor was friends with some of them, but they don’t have the access or the tools to be able to transfer an android’s consciousness into a new body. Not when they’re still trying to understand everything and work to build safe houses and enact laws to protect themselves.

Elijah is it.

He is all Gavin has.

It fucking hurts to admit it.

“You must love him quite a bit to come here.”

“What?” he looks up, not realizing his eyes were stuck on the ground. The shiny tiles that have lost some of their pristine shine. That’s what happens when android maids don’t want to be scrubbing floors anymore.

But his attention is drawn to Elijah’s words.

You must love him.

Gavin holds the phone a little closer to his chest, as if this sudden realization has hit him a little too hard. Like Tina waking him up by smacking him with the pillow or the pain in his hand from hitting the steering wheel. This shitty situation and all it has come to is this:

Elijah making him realize he loves Connor.

Fuck.

Fuck.

Fuck.

“Y-Yeah.”

His brother smiles, soft and gentle and almost genuine. Almost.

“I’ll help you.”

“You will? You don’t want anything in return?”

Elijah shrugs, “You’re my brother. And I owe you.”

“Half."

He doesn’t bother arguing the owe part. Elijah does owe him. All the fucking times that Gavin was locked in that nightmare while he was off building androids and getting rich. Thinking he was better because was smarter, because he could get out of that place without a fucking scar.

“You’re still my brother,” he takes a step forward to Gavin. “Give me the phone. I’ll help as best as I can.”

“No,” he says it quicker and harsher than he means, pulling the phone behind his back. “No. You have to—You have to get a body first, don’t you? You don’t need the phone for that.”

“No, I suppose not—”

“Then you don’t get him. It. You don’t get it. Not until you need it. Him.”

He doesn’t know what the proper pronoun is. He knows he’s protecting Connor but Connor’s in a fucking phone and it makes it difficult. The phone is his. It belongs to Gavin.

But Connor?

Maybe Connor belongs to him in a different way.

“Okay,” Elijah says, holding up his hands in mock surrender. “That’s alright. I’ll keep you updated.”

“O-Okay,” he says. “Eli?”

“Yes?”

“Can you…”

“Hurry?”

“That and…” he trails off, because he doesn’t know how to say it.

Connor does not need to be in an RK800 unit. His face is not what Gavin likes about him. Or, his face is a part of it, but it isn’t—

It isn’t all of it. It isn’t even a fraction of it. Yes, Connor is cute. No, that’s not what makes his heart beat a little faster or what gives him the urge to kiss him. Connor is good. He is kind and he is sweet and he works his absolute hardest. He isn’t perfect. Nobody is. But Connor is probably the closest that there will ever be. Funny and amazing and wonderful.

Not someone Gavin is deserving to have.

“Make him like he was. Don’t… change anything.”

“Of course not.”

 

 

January 2nd | 11:09 P.M.

Gavin: are you listening?

Connor: No. Do you want me to?

Gavin: yeah. i  feel. I should say thi sout loud

Connor: Okay. You can speak.

[ A soft sigh.

A quiet voice. ]

“I went to see my brother today.”

Connor: You didn’t have to.

“I did.”

[ He can hear the way his voice

cracks,

breaks,

fragments,

splinters.

On just two words. ]

Connor: I am okay where I am. You didn’t have to put yourself through that.

“Jesus fucking Christ, Con. It wasn’t—It wasn’t that bad.”

[ His only protector,

his only ally,

leaving him?

It is that bad.

It is a betrayal. ]

Connor: You can be honest with me. I would prefer it if you were honest with me.

“Yeah? I tell you how much I hate my fucking brother are you going to be honest with me?”

Connor: About what?

“You said you’re okay with being in the phone. That’s a fucking lie. I don’t need to be an android or a walking lie detector to know that.”

Connor: Okay.

Connor: I don’t like being here.

Connor: Are you happy?

“No. I’m never fucking happy.”

[ He knows that’s true.

Just by the sound of his voice. ]

Connor: Can I see you?

“So you can watch me cry again?”

Connor: No. I just want to see you.

Connor: Do you want honesty?

“Yeah.”

Connor: It makes me feel less like I’m trapped.

Connor: It makes me feel more like I am actually there.

Connor: It is why I like it when you talk instead of type.

Connor: I know things are difficult to say out loud, but I like your voice.

“So you do want to watch me cry?”

Connor: No. I just want to pretend that I’m there.

“Weren’t you the one that got all fucking technical about you actually being here?”

Connor: Yes.

Connor: I don’t like the darkness, though.

Connor: You are much nicer to look at.

“Even if I’m crying?”

[ It’s said with an almost laugh.

The same one Connor thinks he would have if he were there,

if he could say his own words aloud. ]

Connor: Yes. Even when you’re crying.

“Okay. You can… look. But you have to wait.”

Connor: Why?

“You wanted the truth about me and my brother. I just… I don’t want you to see me when I say it.”

[ A sigh,

laced with grief,

and anger,

loss. ]

“We protected each other when we were kids.

Our mom left and it was just us.

I made sure it was me and not him.

He was always the smarter one.

He was the one that was going to have a life that meant something in the end.

It was never going to be me.”

[ Gavin was never going to amount to anything.

Which isn’t true at all.

But it’s what he thinks.

Except he means everything to Connor. ]

Connor: Elijah left.

“Yeah.”

[ There is a long pause.

He is almost tempted to turn on the camera,

just because he wants to know

exactly what he’s feeling right now.

It’s all he ever wants.

To feel some type of closeness to this person right beside him

and

yet

so

far

away. ]

“I wanted him to leave. I wanted him to be safe but he…”

Connor: He never came back for you.

“No. He didn’t. Anyways. He said… he said he’d help me. Us. You.”

[ He doesn’t know what to say.

He doesn’t know how to help.

The ache that is lying in the space between them.

It is unfixable.

There are not words he can speak.

Nothing to help soothe the pain of it.

Elijah escaped. Gavin did not. ]

“It was never his fault.

I wouldn’t have come back for me either.”

Connor: I’m sorry.

“Everyone always is.”

Connor: Gavin?

“I know. You wish you were here to hug me or something. Like that’d fucking help.”

Connor: Wouldn’t it?

[ A long drawn out sigh,

The sound of liquid moving,

glass getting set down on a hard surface. ]

“Yeah. It would.

But I can’t have it.”

Connor: You said Elijah would help. Maybe you can?

“Not soon enough.”

Connor: Better late than never.

“Yeah. I guess so.

You can… look now. If you think you have to.”

[ He doesn’t have to,

but he hates the darkness

and he does much prefer Gavin. ]

 

January 2nd | 11:12 P.M.

He looks tired and exhausted and worse than the last time Connor saw him, which wasn’t very long ago at all. There is a bottle of alcohol beside him on the window sill, his hand reaches outwards into the freezing cold to scatter the ashes of his cigarette down on the streets below.

But he smiles and laughs and takes Connor’s concern about the liquor and the smoking to heart. He crushes the cigarette but stays by the window and Connor can almost feel the cold wrapping its way indoors.

He checks the temperature, knows how frigid it is and how in need of someone to hold and wrap up in a blanket he must be.

Connor wishes he could be there. Keep him warm and happy and pry the lighter and the bottle from his hands.

He didn’t even know Gavin smoked. He hasn’t at the DPD, at least. Not to or from any of the cases they worked together.

He cannot make assumptions. He can’t afford to think of them. But he thinks, perhaps, that the smoking is Elijah’s fault. A resurgence of a habit with the revival of a relationship.

Connor worries.

He worries about Gavin a lot.

And there’s nothing he can do from here.

 

the details

January 18th | 10:31 A.M.

“Do you want to see him before…?”

Gavin shakes his head. He can’t see another lifeless version of Connor. He can’t see another soulless piece of plastic laying on the ground. He cannot do it.

 

January 4th | 3:10 A.M.

“There’s a café I like to go to. Not very often. Not anymore. I’d like to take you there.

I know androids can’t really drink or eat, but it might be… enjoyable anyways.”

Connor: I’d like that.

“Yeah?”

Connor: I’d like to spend time with you.

Connor: What do you drink?

“Oh. Regular black coffee. Nothing else.”

Connor: No sugars?

“None.”

Connor: What about all the ones I’ve seen you put in your coffee at work?

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

[ He looks very cute here,

smiling and looking away,

like he’s trying to pretend

that this is a lie he can get

away with when they both

know he can’t. He’s not that

good of a liar, certainly not

when he’s talking to him. ]

 

January 18th | 10:31 A.M.

“Can I have the phone?”

He clutches it to his chest. No, no, no, no, no.

He knows that it has to end this way. He knows he has to give it up. But he doesn’t want to. It’s the only piece of Connor he has. It’s the last fragment of him that has survived all of this.

He does not want to give it away.

 

January 5th | 8:05 P.M.

Connor: Alright. How about this: if I have a body, if this works, take me to the ocean.

“Don’t say ‘if.’ It’s going to work.”

Connor: Alright. When I have a body, take me to the ocean.

“That’s a long road trip.”

Connor: I’m aware.

“You think you can really spend that many hours in a car with me?”

Connor: The drive from here to Virginia Beach is only eleven hours.

“Only eleven?”

Connor: Yes. Quite short.

“Short? For what?”

Connor: The drive to other beaches along the ocean are much longer.

“Getting fucking technical with the comparisons, huh?”

Connor: I just mean to say eleven hours with you is not something I would mind.

“Right. Don’t be so fucking—"

Connor: So what?”

[ Gavin sighs and looks

towards the phone with

adoration? love? affection?

Connor thinks it’s one of

those. or maybe he just

hopes that it is. ]

 

January 18th | 10:31 A.M.

“Gavin?”

He nods. Slowly. Numbly. Uncertainly.

His hands shake as he holds the phone out towards Elijah.

The screen is cracked,

broken,

beyond repair.

 

January 7th | 4:53 P.M.

“You said you’d spend eleven hours with me in a car.”

Connor: Yes. I remember.

“I just think that’s a bad fucking idea. Eleven hours? With me? In a car?”

Connor: I don’t know what the problem is.

“You’ll get tired of me.”

Connor: I am already tired of you. How much worse can it get?

“Are you making a joke right now?”

Connor: Yes. Did it not come across through the text?

“I don’t know.”

Connor: Well, you are laughing.

“I don’t know why. It’s a dumb fucking joke.”

Connor: Google does not have very many good ones.

“You googling shitty jokes to tell me?”

Connor: I don’t think I’m very good at coming up with them myself. So, yes.

[ It is stupid. He’s

laughing even though

it’s entirely stupid

but he hasn’t

laughed in a

long, long

time. ]

 

January 18th | 10:32 A.M.

“I’ll keep him safe.”

He nods again and takes a step backwards. He isn’t going to let Elijah see him cry.

But he is going to if he stays here.

“Don’t fuck it up, Eli,” he whispers. “I’ll kill you.”

“I don’t doubt it.”

 

January 10th | 4:11 A.M.

Connor: It’s late. You should be sleeping.

“I know.”

Connor: Then why aren’t you?

“I kind of just want to talk to you.”

Connor: You can talk to me in the morning. Get your rest.

“No rest for the wicked.”

Connor: Gavin. Get some sleep.

“How the fuck do you manage to sound so threatening in a text?”

Connor: It is a talent only I possess.

“Yeah, but what are you going to do if I refuse? You can’t make me go to bed.”

[ A long,

long,

long,

silence. ]

“You’re not going to respond to me unless I sleep, huh?”

[ A sigh,

a nod.

Defeat. ]

“Alright. I’m going. Good night, Con.”

Connor: Good night, Gavin.

 

January 18th | 10:48 P.M.

It hasn’t even been very long.

But he is already feeling the lack of Connor with him. The emptiness of his hands with no phone to hold. The emptiness in his head. He isn’t even thinking. His thoughts are not even consumed by the worst-case scenario. They are just empty.

Tina squeezes his hand, and he feels like someone in a hospital waiting for a life or death surgery to take place.

And partially, that is true.

If Elijah messes up, if the process doesn’t work—

Connor is lost.

Gone.

Dead.

He holds onto Tina’s hand a little tighter. She needs the support as much as he does.

“Have a little faith,” she whispers.

He nods and she leans her head against his shoulder. It is a tiny comfort. A tiny bit of contact he is in desperate need of.

At least he knows he can cry in front of her.

 

January 12th | 5:38 P.M.

He falls asleep thinking about the two of them. All the stupid dates and ideas they have planned. They are careful to tip-toe around the idea of making it romantic, but they both know. But bringing up physical contact between the two of them is sometimes too painful to bear. Gavin is almost always holding onto his phone. Too tightly.

He props it up on a stand before he sleeps, talks to Connor until he can’t keep his eyes open any longer. Always plugged in. He never lets it die.

They have never talked about whether or not if the phone shut off if that would somehow erase Connor’s presence from it. Logically speaking, his coding is there. It would stay there.

But the fucking fear of waking up and finding the phone dead and turning it on only to get no response from Connor—

He can’t even handle the possibility of it. It hurts too much to even think about. If he lets his brain consider it for too long he starts to cry and he’s cried so fucking much these past few weeks—

Gavin doesn’t let it happen. The phone is almost always charging. It is almost always with him.

And he almost always falls asleep thinking about kissing Connor or walking along a beach or sitting down across him in a café. Even holding his hand when they walk down the street. Finding him standing in his kitchen. Seeing him smile. Pushing back that stupid lock of hair that is always out of place.

Just being beside him,

laying side by side in a bed,

tracing the contours of his face,

knowing that in that moment simply existing in the same space has filled a hole that was left when Connor was shot by that other android.

(This

hurts

too.)

 

January 18th | 10:57 A.M.

It doesn’t take long to transfer him over.

Plucking him from the darkness of the phone,

moving over all the little details and information he has to the body.

Of course it wouldn’t take long. There is so little of him left. Deleted and shifted and altered to cram into that tiny space.

He is so small now.

A fraction of what he once was. Nothing. He feels like nothing.

He knows that isn’t true. He knows he is quite a bit. More than the phone ever was on its own. Even more that people care about him. Hank and Gavin and Tina. The love people have for him makes him more than just lines of coding.

But he also knows

how

very

small

he

feels.

 

January 16th | 3:12 P.M.

Connor: You slept for a long time.

Gavin: i was tired.

Gavin: hey.

Gavin: i. think I should tell you something

Connor: Yes?

Gavin: it’s more of a question

Connor: Go ahead.

[ The silence is long,

stretching out into an

almost infinity, massive

and vast and extensive.

He knows Gavin is

typing something

and deleting

again and

again. ]

Gavin: nvm, it ws dumb

Connor: Okay.

Gavin: so. whats up

Connor: I’d like to know what you were going to say.

Gavin: oh. it wasn’t. anything important

Connor: No?

Gavin: No.

Connor: Then why not ask?

Gavin: bc its stupid

Connor: Gavin, please. Placate me?

Gavin: fine.

Gavin: i was going to ask if it was ok if I kiss you when this is all over.

Connor: Yes. It’s okay.

Connor: More than okay.

Gavin: im not kissing you in front of my brothe r tho

Gavin: so youll have to wait

Gavin: consider it revenge 4 making me wait.

Connor: Okay.

Connor: As long as you kiss me.

 

January 18th | 1:04 A.M.

He’s not drunk, he’s just a fucking idiot.

He’s leaning over the edge of the rooftop with the camera pointed upwards, trying to capture the way the sky looks. But Detroit is a piece of shit city and the stars are barely noticeable, especially on a phone, but he wants to show off the moon. The way it looks. It’s different than usual. Bigger. Full. Pretty. He just wants Connor to see it. He doesn’t know why.

And then the phone slips out of his hand and tumbles over the edge of the railing.

And he screams like someone’s stabbed him. Like he just watched someone push Connor over the edge. Like a gun has gone off. Like his hand has been cut open by the shredded insides of a machine bleeding oceans of Thirium.

It hits the fire escape, bounces through the railing and over the edge onto the top of the dumpster below.

Gavin lets out a shaking breath, his entire body trembling. He can’t move from where he stands. He needs to go get the phone, but he can’t manage to look at the damage. What it must be like. Connor could be dead and he’s just a phone now, but he can’t—

He can’t see that again. He can’t have nightmares in twenty years of a broken phone screen like he does with the android body.

Fucking

idiot.

He moves, very suddenly. His mind is lagging behind. Still looking over that edge. His feet moving on their own, too fast to keep up with anything. His hands hit the door too hard on his way out and there’s a pain that spiral up his hand, the wound there healed almost completely now, but the scar radiating with a new ache as he races down the steps. Still looking over the edge. Still looking at the darkness below where the phone lies.

 

January 18th | 1:31 A.M.

He is glad he knows where Tina lives. He’s glad he knows she will likely be awake at this time of night. That he can see the light of her apartment on from the street so when he comes upstairs and knocks on the door he knows she’ll answer.

And when she does, he finds he’s at a loss for words, except for these five:

“I am a fucking idiot.”

She doesn’t smile. Not like she would in other circumstances. She likely sees the expression on his face, the complete devastation, the barely put together aspect of it.

He takes the phone from his pocket and holds it out to her, and she nods slowly.

Cracked.

Broken.

Beyond repair.

 

January 18th | 1:56 A.M.

“Gavin, please stop crying. Gavin? Gavin, he’s okay. It could be okay. Look? Do you see that light? That means the phone is still on. It’s still working. It’s okay.”

 

January 18th | 12:53 P.M.

“Gavin?”

He looks up from the ground towards the door. A slow movement upwards.

Gavin. His detective.

Looking tired and exhausted and worn down and like he is barely being held together right now. But so absolutely incredible. Flesh and blood and bone. Solidness. Not pixels he is making out through a camera. Not letters he is deciphering on a screen.

Gavin.

And he acts the same way Connor does.

The moment of hesitation. The standing still. The frozen in place.

And then they both move at the same time. Gavin standing up, letting go of Tina’s hand. Tina. Tina is here. He wants to race to her as much as he wants to race towards Gavin. But his movements are slower than they were before. He is not quite used to a body yet. It feels differently than he remembers. He can’t quite place what it is. Something lost and unusual. Too big for him. Heavy. He moves as quick as he can manage without tripping over his own feet and Gavin collides into him, wraps his arms so tight that he is grateful androids don’t need to breathe but he wonders how Gavin is managing to right now. He is holding him so tightly, so afraid to let go. He must be crushing his ribs, his lungs.

“Connor?” a whisper, tiny, muffled into the space between his neck and shoulder.

“I love you,” he says, because he needs these to be his first words. He needs to say them out loud when he has held back for so long. He keeps it quiet, just like Gavin’s voice. A secret for just the two of them. “Please don’t let go of me.”

“I won’t,” but he pulls away anyways. Just the tiniest bit. He doesn’t let go, but he forces enough space between them to look at Connor’s face.

So

close.

So

real.

“Fuck,” it’s louder than his other words. “Fuck it.”

“Wh—”

He doesn’t get to finish his question. He doesn’t get an answer—not with words. Gavin is kissing him instead. And he can’t explain it—the way it feels. It’s not what he expected. It’s not what he had planned. It’s not even what he had thought it would be like even after talking with Gavin about it.

Elijah is there, in the corner. Tina is probably looking away, trying to give them a semblance of privacy.

But it is also everything he wanted, and he can’t put that into words. There is too much leaping through his brain. Too many moments and questions and feelings and he has to shove them aside to just think about the fact Gavin is kissing him.

He is kissing Gavin.

He is holding Gavin.

He can feel the warmth and the heartbeat and everything he thought he wouldn’t be able to have.

And it is over too soon.

“Sorry,” Gavin whispers. “Sorry. I love you, too, and I just—”

“Couldn’t wait?”

He smiles, and it’s a smile that Connor knows too well. Soft and a little bit broken and little bit lost. Gavin doesn’t let go of him, their hands are joined at their side as he pulls back a little bit.

“T-Tina’s here,” he says. “You should…”

He trails off, the words lost, but Connor understands the meaning. He pulls Gavin along with him towards Tina, holding her tightly with one arm.

He does not let go of Gavin.

And Gavin does not let go of him.

But he still feels something inside of his chest,

something

cracked.

something

broken.

something

beyond repair.

Chapter Text

the loved

January 19th | 1:22 A.M.

He should go to see Hank. Find him and let him know that everything is okay. He hasn’t seen Sumo, either. He can’t remember what it feels like to pet his fur. He doesn’t even remember what Sumo really looks like. That information was lost somewhere along the way. And he should go back to his own apartment, if he still has it. If the landlord hasn’t emptied it out and already rented it to someone else.

But he doesn’t want to leave Gavin’s side. They are in near constant contact, with Gavin falling asleep against his chest as a movie plays. He keeps his arms circled around Gavin as tight as he can manage, making sure that he can feel the warmth of his skin and the steady beat of his heart. The little things that he couldn’t have when he was in the phone.

He wants to make up for all the times that Gavin held him.

Connor tightens his arms a little more, hears a little mumble from Gavin as he squirms his way closer to his chest. Not awoken, but close to it.

“Hey,” Tina says, standing up from the chair. “I’m going to go.”

“Oh,” he says. Quietly, trying not to disturb Gavin even though he would give anything to just listen to him talk and laugh instead of sleep. But he needs his rest, and it’s late, and he knows how difficult it is for Gavin to fall asleep. How difficult it is to stay asleep.

“I’ll come back tomorrow,” she says with a shrug. “Maybe then you’ll get tired of that idiot.”

“I don’t think that’s possible,” he whispers back.

“Right. Probably not.”

“I would like you to stay, Tina,” he says, because he needs her to know how much he appreciated her companionship when he was gone. Their secret conversations he would never let Gavin see. Hours and hours spent pretending he was somewhere other than dead.

“I know. But you two need your alone time, right?”

Right.

He doesn’t think it’s possible to hold Gavin tighter, but he does.

He will not let this boy go.

He loves him too much.

He needs him too much.

 

January 19th | 11:34 A.M.

“Is Hank still at the DPD?”

“Yeah. Tina said he went back to work quickly.”

“But not you?”

Gavin turns and leans against the counter, eyeing the space between them. They’ve started to create some separations. A few minutes with a few yards. It’s all they can handle most of the time.

He is not used to being able to hold onto a physical body like this, and he craves it. And Connor hasn’t held him back—

Ever.

It feels like they need to make up for the lost time but it is too easy to get wrapped up in each other and not let go. Discipline is important. Isn’t it?

“I guess he just wanted to… distract himself with work.”

“But not you?” he repeats.

Gavin sighs, “Are you asking me why I didn’t go back?”

Connor nods. Small. Short.

Gavin holds up his hand tentatively. The wound healed now but still tender to the touch. Connor has been exceptionally careful at not holding this hand, but whenever he holds the others it is with a tightness that is almost painful.

Almost.

“I was the one that found you.”

“And you cut your hand from it?”

He hides it behind his back, “You’re… the insides…. your biocomponents… it was… sharp.”

“Sharp.”

“Yes.”

“You…” Connor trails off, decides against saying it.

He’s probably picturing Gavin there, with his hand trying so hard to stop the blood that it sliced open his palm. The need to feel that little jolt of electricity that meant Connor was still alive.

He’s piecing it together.

Gavin never wanted him to piece it together.

 

January 19th | 6:13 P.M.

They wait outside of Hank’s house in the car. The minutes tick by slowly, Gavin’s hand holding onto his own. Not tightly. It’s his injured hand. He can’t hold onto it too tightly. He keeps reminding himself of that every chance he gets, but he has already memorized the shape and the feel of the scar.

Connor finds that as each second ticks by he feels like he’s wasting it sitting here in a car unable to hold onto Gavin as tight as he wants to. He wants to be standing out in the snow and holding onto him and reminding himself that he’s real.

Mostly, he thinks, he just doesn’t want to be in the car.

It is too small of a space. Worse than the apartment. It feels like an imprisonment. When they’re just sitting in place, even with feeling Gavin’s fingers threaded through his own, he feels trapped. When they were driving, it was different. Watching buildings and storefronts go by in a fog of dull colors mixing one into the other.

And he can’t open the window for air. He can’t freeze Gavin with this stupid need to be unrestricted by metal doors and thick polyester seatbelts.

“Hey, it’s going to be okay.”

Okay?

He has been dead for two months.

More than that.

He has no idea what damage has been caused while he was gone. He doesn’t even remember what he deleted. Not to the fullest extent.

He’s aware that the pieces of his coding centered around the leaders of Jericho is corrupted. They are emptier than they should be. There is data left broken and scattered and gone.

He won’t ever get that back. All he can trust is that they meant something.

But Hank?

He didn’t delete Hank. He couldn’t. Their stories are too tied together for that. Too much of his birth and his life and his history is with Hank. Deleting him would be like deleting a piece of himself.

“I—”

The car rolls up into the driveway and he drops his words quickly. They don’t matter anymore. Gavin lets go of his hand, steps out slowly the way they had planned. Gavin would break the news. Tell Hank the basics instead of a ghost showing up with no explanation.

Connor waits,

watches,

worries.

Hank steps out of the car and Gavin speaks, his hands moving as he talks. Not as much as they used to. This isn’t a type of conversation for wild gestures. And then he turns, very slowly, glancing back to the car.

Connor pushes the door open, takes one step outside when Gavin falls to the ground. He doesn’t even see the punch thrown. He just sees Hank’s fist at his side and Gavin kneeling in the snow with his hand on his face.

“Fucking Christ, Hank—”

“What the fuck is this?”

“I was trying—”

“You fucking hid him from me?”

“He was in a god damn phone—”

“Hank?” he steps forward, reaches for Gavin to help him stand. There is blood dripping from his nose, smeared across the back of his hand and droplets left in the snow on the ground beneath them.

Red.

Not blue.

But he thinks for a moment that it is.

“Why didn’t…”

He moves carefully in front of Gavin. Protective but not… not guarding. He doesn’t think Hank is going to hit him again. But he isn’t sure of anything anymore.

“I tried to tell you,” he says quietly. His voice is always so small now. Whispers and silent like he is afraid to speak now that he has a voice again. “You didn’t… believe me.”

“How the fuck was I supposed to? You think an android being in a phone makes any kind of fucking sense?” Hank’s fist at his side unclenches, tightens again. He wants to hit something. Break something. Connor knows exactly how he feels. “Let alone fucking Gavin’s?”

He didn’t consider this.

Having to tell Hank about the two of them.

He didn’t consider any of this.

He was overwhelmed with having a body, of being able to see and touch and kiss Gavin as much as he liked. He didn’t think about the other details. He didn’t want to. It didn’t feel necessary when it seemed so impossible.

So he steps a little more in front of Gavin, he lets his eyes drop to the ground.

He was so very good at hiding however he felt towards Gavin before this. When he was confused and it was messy and he thought he was just curious about what exactly they could be. What a kiss felt like. What a crush felt like.

How absolutely trivial and stupid it all was.

“It was the only thing that was there,” he says.

And it has always been partially a lie. Because if it had been a different desk with a different person’s phone, he would have let his life fall through the cracks unseen. He was always a little bit on the verge of letting himself die.

But the promise of a date was sitting in the back of his mind.

It was the last thing he thought about before he made the decision—how much he wanted that stupid date.

“I’m sorry,” he says. “I really am.”

He thought it was better to let it go than torture Hank with his presence. He saw how much it was destroying Gavin. He could sense how much it affected Tina. He didn’t want to hurt anyone else. He even heard that grief in Hank’s voice when he called Gavin.

Hank leans, just a little bit, looking around Connor as best as he can to Gavin. “Come inside. Don’t fucking bring him.”

“It’s not his fault—”

“I don’t want him in my house.”

He nods, carefully and waits for Hank to turn back to the house before looking to Gavin. A few seconds stretch out forever. His hand isn’t held to his nose like he should to stop the bleeding, it is just held out in front of him, looking at it smeared on his hands with a look of amazement.

Amazement.

“Gavin, are you alright?”

“I’m fine,” he says, but his hand shakes as he brings it up to his face, like he suddenly remembered there is still blood dripping from his nostrils. “He just broke my fucking nose, though.”

Connor steps over to him, reaches out tentatively to touch his chin, tilt his face upwards a little bit. He doesn’t have the knowledge he used to. He isn’t that intelligent anymore. Too much of his data has been lost, but he knows that what Gavin is saying isn’t true.

“He didn’t break your nose.” In fact, the restraint that Hank had not to is quite impressive.

“Well, it fucking hurts.”

“I know,” he says, and he leans forward to leave a kiss against his forehead. “I’m sorry. Pinch the bridge of your nose. It should stop in about ten minutes.”

“And if it doesn’t?”

“I’ll drive you to the emergency room.”

Gavin laughs, but it doesn’t sound like he thinks Connor’s joke was funny. It wasn’t, and it was barely a joke. He doesn’t know what to do in these situations anymore. He isn’t what he once was.

 

January 20th | 10:52 A.M.

He believed Gavin when he said that he was friends with a few people from Jericho. He knew how empty those spaces were. He knew that they were large enough to contain memories and emotions and relationships he had never thought of before.

But when he walks into Jericho with Gavin holding his hand, he doesn’t expect a girl to race forward from a group of others and hold onto him so tightly he is afraid he might be breaking.

“Fuck, I missed you,” she whispers, and he has to let go of Gavin’s hand to hug her back.

He doesn’t know why.

He doesn’t remember her.

But he knows she is important.

And he can’t let her go.

 

January 21st | 5:12 A.M.

It’s not good for them to spend so much time together. It’s wrong relying so heavily on the other’s presence. But Connor can’t let him go and even when he can manage, Gavin is there holding on a little tighter to keep him from leaving.

But when it’s just a few hours apart, he gets hit with this strange and stupid feeling of loneliness. He doesn’t even have the phone to communicate with Tina anymore. He finds it difficult to look at one without imagining how tiny and cramped he used to be.

He’s the opposite now. Too free with too much space. He feels like a marble rattling around inside of a box. Too small to handle this.

Any

of it.

 

January 25th | 7:35 P.M.

The glass is cold. The air is cold. The room is cold.

He doesn’t feel this, but he knows this. He knows what temperatures are comfortable for humans, the differences in what one would prefer to the next. He knows that Gavin likes his place slightly colder than a normal human’s preference and he knows he likes it that way because sweaters and blankets are comforting.

He also knows he shouldn’t have the window open right now. But it is, the snow drifting down lazily and not enough wind to make its path redirect towards the inside of the apartment.

He’s aware that the low temperature is affecting his biocomponents. Not enough to worry about—but enough that he knows the way they seem shudder is as if in protest.

But he feels so absolutely disconnected from this body. It doesn’t feel like his. It belongs to someone else. Whoever this android could have been if it was awakened properly instead of gifted to him.

Gavin was right. He didn’t want to be in that phone. He hated being forced to reduce himself to something so tiny and cramped. He hates that he deleted people from his own head to save himself more pain and be able to live for a little while longer.

He didn’t consider how absolutely empty he would feel afterwards. If he could ever get a body again. There is so much of him gone that Kamski didn’t give him. Pieces of information that he should have.

Connor is not cramped into a tiny cellphone anymore, but he still feels so tiny—like standing out in the middle of a field at night, looking up at the stars and feeling like his insignificance is too much to bear.

“Connor, are you alright?”

He looks away from the street. The place where his footsteps are still imprinted in the snow, barely starting to be covered up now. A sign that he was here. That he caused something. That he did something.

“I’m fine,” he says,

(he lies.)

“Are you sure?”

“Y

        e

                 s.”

(no.)

Gavin hesitates by the door, and when Connor looks at him he doesn’t know whether or not he should be thankful that Gavin has that expression on his face. The one that says he doesn’t believe him. The one that says he wants to push further and find out the truth but hasn’t made the decision to yet.

Because part of him is begging for Gavin to ask so he can spill out all these trapped emotions. Part of him wants Gavin to be there for him so he can fix his broken insides. But people cannot fix other people. And Connor can’t do that to him. He can’t tell Gavin all the horrifying details of how awful and terrible he feels because Gavin shouldn’t have those thoughts in his head. They shouldn’t be shared. They shouldn’t be weighing Gavin down like they weigh Connor down.

So he is grateful instead when the expression seems to shift a little bit. Not outright asking, but willing to help in a different way. A quiet do you want a distraction? written on his face as he walks towards the window.

“Come on,” he says, reaching out to Connor’s hand. “Let’s… watch television or something. Put a puzzle together. Play chess.”

“You don’t know how to play chess.”

“I could learn.”

Connor nods, lets Gavin take his hand and pull him away from the window. But not before he closes it with his free hand, shutting the cold out and leaving the room closed off like a prison.

He turns back to Gavin, already feeling some part of himself yearn to be outdoors. He never knows how to feel—if he wants to be outside in the vastness of space to not feel so cramped up and closed in or to be in a tiny room wrapped with blankets and not feel so absolutely small. There are little place where he feels… safe or right.

Gavin’s arms is one of them.

“Con?”

He doesn’t want to talk. He is tired of words. He is tired of lying.

So he kisses Gavin instead. Their hands break from where they hold at their sides and it is an instant thing—the way it shifts between them—as if Gavin knows exactly what type of distraction he wants. The hand on his waist, pushing up underneath his shirt, nails digging into a layer of fake skin across his back. If Gavin could leave scratches, he probably would.

He pushes him towards the bed and they stumble into each other, not breaking apart until he knows they’re close enough, and then he only pulls away to push Gavin backwards onto the mattress, to reach for the hem of his shirt and tug it over his head.

They haven’t done this before.

Once, they had joked. Gotten close on the edge of flirtation and ridiculous words trying to step around how much Gavin would have wanted this and couldn’t have it. A few days before he had a body. And then the topic was dropped.

But he wants this. He wants something to make him feel a little more real. Something to break up the numbness and emptiness sitting in his chest and replace it with something—

Else.

Anything else.

“Connor—”

He doesn’t want to hear the rest of the sentence. He wants to forget about who he is for a little while and feel this instead. He wants to know what it’s like for Gavin’s lips to leave trails of kisses down his neck. He wants to know what it feels like to have his hands on his waist without clothing in the way of stopping anything else. He wants to know the sounds Gavin will make and try to hold back.

He wants to focus on this.

He wants to pretend that only this matters.

Connor presses Gavin against the matters, flat on his back and close. So close. They have been tangled in the bedsheets without an inch between them but this is different. It has never been like this. They have been careful in the way they kiss each other. Keeping things slow despite feeling like their relationship wasn’t that new.

He moves his hands underneath Gavin’s shirt, feeling along the edge of his belt, tugging at the waistband of his pants, trying to find the zipper when Gavin makes a sound—

Something muffled and broken against his mouth and it makes him pause because—

It wasn’t a moan. It wasn’t a sound of encouragement. It was something else.

He breaks off, Gavin’s hands move from where they were looped around his neck, resting gently against his shoulders.

“Are you sure this is what you want?” he asks, and his voice is a little bit quiet, a little bit strange.

“Yes,” he says, quicker than he means to. This is the only thing he wants.

“Connor…”

There is a quiet that settles over them. The two of them looking back and forth in this cold, dark room. But the thing in his chest is still there. The growling creature that just wants something other than the thoughts and feeling it already has.

“Please,” he whispers. “Don’t make me beg.”

Something shifts in Gavin’s face, the concern and the inquiry twisted not into pity but—

Confusion?

“Con—”

He kisses him again. He keeps kissing him. He doesn’t want to hear words, he is tired of speaking and listening. He wishes he had the words to describe how he feels, he wishes he could spill them out like the disgusting mess they are but he can’t.

He wants this.

He does.

He does.

He doesn’t get why Gavin isn’t kissing him back, why his hands are shoving Connor’s away from him, why they are pressed against his shoulders and trying to push him back.

Connor pulls away, catching Gavin’s wrists in his hands, pinning them above Gavin’s head. Gavin is breathing heavily, his eyebrows are still knitted together, he looks—

Angry. Not entirely so, but it is something that is starting to boil up inside of him. Something that Connor caused. He feels guilt slice through him, as if someone has taken a knife and shoved it deep within his stomach. He caused that.

“Connor,” he says, and his voice is careful and flat. “Stop.”

“Gavin, I know—”

He pauses, he pauses with the way Gavin is still looking at him, with the way his hands fight to be free from Connor’s grip.

He lets him go, pulling backwards until he’s no longer so close to him. Curled up close to the headboard.

He was going to say he knew Gavin wanted it—but he was basing it off the way Gavin had kissed him back. The way his hands had trailed across his back. The growing hardness of him against Connor’s touch.

“You don’t—” Gavin’s voice breaks as he sits up. “You don’t want this.”

“I do—”

“No,” his voice is angrier now, but he isn’t moving. “You don’t. You don’t want me. You don’t want this with me. You just want—You just want a distraction.”

“That’s not true—”

But it is.

He didn’t think about it that way, or he had but he had refused to use that word.

Distraction.

But if it was anyone else he wouldn’t have kissed them and he wouldn’t have tried.

“Gavin…” he reaches outwards and he stops a few inches away from touching him. “I’m sorry.”

“Yeah. Okay.”

He gets up and he leaves the room and that awful feeling in his chest grows worse

and worse,

and worse.

Until it is absolutely

unbearable.

And he breaks into a thousand tears.

 

the lost

January 26th | 9:23 A.M.

“Gavin?”

“Yeah?”

“I love you.”

Gavin refuses to look at him and the silence stretches out for seemingly forever.

“Gav—”

“I know. You’re sorry. You love me. I know.”

And he leaves the room, exits quickly to the bathroom where the door slides shut quietly.

Maybe if it had been slammed it would have been easier.

 

January 28th | 4:01 P.M.

He runs. A lot.

Connor steals the workout clothes from Gavin’s closet and he runs nearly all the time. Getting away from the apartment but not wanting to get away from Gavin. He doesn’t like the smallness of the rooms. It’s different than when Gavin holds him. The confinement of Gavin’s arms is different than the confinement of those walls. They feel like a cage and Gavin feels like home and safety.

But he is restless and he needs to move. He hasn’t had control in too long.

So he runs.

Hours and hours looping around the block. Normally when Gavin sleeps or when the anxiety on his insides seems to overflow and if he doesn’t just move he feels like he will combust.

They don’t go to the gym very often. He likes the outdoors, he doesn’t like running in place on a treadmill. He wants to see the buildings and the sky blur around him. He wants to know that he is putting distance between himself and something else. A cage. A cage just like CyberLife.

But when Gavin takes him with or he comes back with his skin slicked with sweat and his heart beating a little too fast, he knows how different they are.

His own heart doesn’t beat like that. His lungs do not heave for air. When he comes back from his runs, the only tell that he has done anything is the slightly messed up hair, and he is back in that loop of wondering if he ever ran at all.

If he is even real.

 

February 2nd | 2:09 A.M.

The television is muted, but the show still plays. Some bad sitcom where the relationships are messy for entertainment and the plotlines don’t make sense and the problems are so

easily

solved.

He doesn’t sleep in the same bed as Gavin anymore. It was an unspoken thing, even if he doesn’t think Gavin would push him away if he laid down beside him. It just feels wrong. They don’t kiss as much. They hold hands like they did before but neither of them initiate anything further.

He broke them.

Because he was selfish.

All this time Gavin had kept saying he was the selfish one, asking Connor again and again why he would allow for him to be trapped for so long when there was someone he knew that could help.

It was him.

Wanting sex instead of numbness.

Wanting sex instead of Gavin.

“Hey, you’re still awake?”

Connor looks from the television to Gavin’s dark silhouette by the bedroom door. He can’t sleep without some sound or light to remind him he isn’t trapped in the phone. But he sits up at the sound of Gavin’s voice, the urge to race to him and hold onto him as tight as possible still just as present as the day he first saw him.

How could he mess things up so badly so quickly?

“Couldn’t sleep,” he whispers. “And you?”

“The bed felt… wrong.”

“Wrong?”

“Empty.”

Empty,

like him.

“I’m sorry, Gavin.”

“I know.”

“I wouldn’t have—” he pauses, because the words are so hard to say. They are so absolutely unthinkable. “I wouldn’t have forced you.”

“I know.”

“I’m sorry.”

“I think you’ve said that about a hundred times.”

“And I meant it every single time.”

“I know.”

He steps away from the door, crosses the room slowly towards Connor and kneels down on the floor in front of him, taking Connor’s face in his hands.

“I love you,” he says carefully. “It wasn’t that I thought you didn’t regret it. It wasn’t that I thought you were going to do something else. It was….”

He trails off.

And they wait,

and wait,

and wait.

“There’s been a lot of people that didn’t want me and used me like…. that. And I didn’t care. But you?” Gavin bites his bottom lip, and he pulls his hands away, threads his fingers through Connor’s tentatively. “I didn’t want you to be one of them.”

“I’m sorry.”

Gavin smiles and it is weak but real, “I know. You don’t have to apologize anymore, okay?”

“I’m—” he stops himself, because right now it’s the only words he can seem to come up with and he can’t find anything else to fix this. “I love you. I don’t… I won’t do it again.”

“I know,” he leans forward and leaves a kiss against Connor’s lips. More than the chaste ones from before but so much less than all the others. “I love you, too. And we should talk more, but it’s late and I’m tired and my bed feels very empty without you.”

Connor nods and he tries not to cry as the television is shut off, as Gavin leads him back to the bedroom, as he curls up very close against his chest and is wrapped so absolutely tight in his arms,

right

where

he belongs.

 

February 7th | 10:14 A.M.

It isn’t the same as it was before. He knows that without having the memories of how he once was. He died and just because he is back doesn’t mean that they can forget that or erase the mourning they went through. They buried an empty casket. His parts are within other androids. His heart is beating in someone else’s chest. Another android is breathing with his lungs. Someone else is reaching out and touching and grabbing and doing things with his hands.

And this body still doesn’t feel like his own.

But North and Josh and Simon and Markus—

They try their hardest to pretend that things where they way they used to be. He spends time with them like an awkward friend that invited himself even though he hadn’t. It was always North, reaching out and pulling him along.

She is the one that sits across from him the most late at nights and tries to pass him memories of what they used to be like. He understands why he kept such cryptic information on her available to torture himself with. Why he left a part of her big enough to tell him that she was someone he trusted and cared about.

He wishes he could have kept every memory he had, though.

 

February 14th | 11:11 P.M.

“Hey,” there’s a kiss pressed against his forehead and he moves his eyes from the screen towards Gavin. “I love you.”

He buries himself a little deeper into Gavin’s arms, turning his face against his shoulder. Normally, he doesn’t close his eyes. He doesn’t feel safe in the darkness. It feels too much like being back inside of the phone. But when Gavin holds him, when there is a solid weight beside his, when there is the quiet sound of a heartbeat or breathing and the warmth of a human—

He is reminded that he is here.

He’s alive.

So only at times like these when he feels overwhelmed but safe and content, he can let his eyes close for more than a minute without the fear sinking in.

 

February 19th | 3:10 P.M.

He worries about Connor.

Constantly.

He’ll look over and see that LED yellow or red and never, ever blue. The occurrence of it being anything other than those two is so rare sometimes he thinks he should mark it down on a piece of paper or in a journal because of its significance.

Connor doesn’t talk to him. Not about anything. But he is constantly feeling and he is constantly thinking and he can’t do anything to help him.

All he wants to do is help him.

But if he tries to bring it up, Connor changes the subject. Thinks that his sly kisses and his words have made Gavin forget that he was once condensed down into the tiniest form of himself he could manage. That he isn’t walking around now with barely even a fraction of his old knowledge.

He doesn’t know how to help. He doesn’t even know if he can.

 

February 22nd | 2:44 P.M.

He doesn’t feel real.

None of this feels real.

He can’t even tell when he’s with Gavin if it makes it better or worse, he just knows that when he is alone his thoughts wander to the situation, and he can’t even phrase it as the reality of the situation because it doesn’t

feel

real.

He doesn’t feel like he is here, in this body. It is too big and heavy and wrong. It isn’t like what it was before. He doesn’t feel like he belongs in it. He’s an intruder. A ghost.

When he closes his eyes all he hears is gun shots.

Daniel and Hank and Gavin and his own face staring back at him—

He can’t handle it. He can’t handle thinking about it. He feels like he’s breaking apart.

Was it like this before? Or did it feel like a reality he was wandering through? Did it feel like things were sticking?

He lost so much of himself. Gone in an instant. Friends and memories lost because he wanted to stay alive and now alive doesn’t

feel

real.

He can’t tell where he is. If this is a fantasy in his head that he’s trying to hold onto to save himself. A dream, a hallucination, something to make him think that everything is okay when everything is not okay.

He doesn’t remember grabbing the knife and he doesn’t remember shedding his clothes and he doesn’t remember standing in front of the mirror with the blade held against his arm.

Right where he was first hurt. Where the -51 body stepped out onto the rooftop and Daniel fired at him and left a misshapen and wrong scar against his arm before that body was tossed out because he wasn’t good enough. The sound the bullet made when it hit the glass plays over and over again.

It isn’t the blood he needs to see. He’s seen enough blood. Plenty of it. Blue and disgusting and exactly the kind of chemical taste and smell that a human would expect of something named Thirium.

It is the pain he needs.

Ground himself in the moment.

Feel a little bit more real.

 

February 22nd | 3:03 P.M.

“Connor?” he sets the keys down on the counter, moving quickly through the apartment to the bedroom. He’s by the window, perched along the side and looking out at the street below, just like he was when he was a tiny little phone. Overlooking that street with shitty quality. “Hey.”

Connor looks over to him, and he gives Gavin a very, very weak smile. If he can even call it that. Mostly, he just knows what it’s meant to be. The split second it barely appears—

“Hi,” he tries again at the smile. He fails again at the smile. “I missed you.”

“Yeah, I—”

“I’m sorry,” he says.

“For what?”

The look on his face is not one that is searching for an answer. It isn’t even one that is trying to summon the ability to respond. He is thinking of everything that Gavin is thinking.

The blood. The pain. The terrible nature of it all.

“Dying.”

 

February 25th | 7:21 P.M.

“Everything alright?”

“Everything is fine.”

Gavin looks up from the floor to him, feeling annoyed and like someone has just punched him in the stomach.

Elijah has that effect.

“You wouldn’t be here if everything is fine.”

“No, I wouldn’t,” he says, and he is trying his absolute best to hold back on all of his anger but he can’t. “I never would fucking come here if it wasn’t for him.”

Elijah works his jaw, steps away from one side of the room closer to Gavin, a glass of some alcoholic beverage held close to his chest, amber colored with ice hitting one another, “What do you want, Gavin? I fixed him.”

“You gave him a body, you didn’t fix him.”

“There’s only so much I could do.”

“He’s still—” he catches himself.

Broken.

He was going to say broken.

“There is certainly an adjustment period for dealing with trauma, don’t you think?” Elijah asks, and his head tilts a little bit to the side.

“Fuck off,” he says, taking a step away from him. “You have no idea—”

“No,” he says. “I apparently don’t. You think I got away perfectly fine. No scar, no abuse, right?”

Connor. He is supposed to be here for Connor. He shouldn’t be—

“You weren’t always there, Gavin. You have no idea what happened while you were gone.”

“While I was gone?” he turns back and he clenches his fists at his side to keep from shoving or punching Elijah because he isn’t that type of person. He isn’t like their father. He is nothing like their father. “What about after you left? You think it all stopped? You think it was the same as it was before? You think he didn’t—”

He won’t say those words out loud.

He is good at being vague.

He has practiced it since he was a child.

“Fuck you.”

They say it at the same time, and it would make Gavin laugh if this was under any other circumstances, but instead all he can do is shake his head. Violently, as if he can shove the thoughts out of his skull.

 “You left me,” Gavin whispers. “You left me there.”

“I couldn’t—”

“Mom left and you left and I was all by myself in that house,” he knows there are tears in his eyes and he knows he shouldn’t be saying all these things right now. “You got out Eli and you left me and you never even tried to come back—”

“I’m sorry you thought I could save you and I’m sorry you thought I could fix your broken little boyfriend,” Eli says. “But I can’t, and I won’t. I helped you with Connor once. It won’t make up for everything but there’s nothing else I can do.”

“I hate you.”

“I’m aware.”

He turns and he leaves because he has to get away from him. He has to be free of this stupid place but it’s always going to linger in the back of his head how fucked up his relationship with his brother got. How he can’t fix it, no matter what he tries to say.

Eli left him. He was abandoned. He was hurt. He was brutalized.

And now he is losing the only other person he loves, too.

 

February 27th | 4:17 P.M.

Connor slows to a stop. The Thirium regulator in his chest is whirring faster than it should, mimicking the irregular heart beat of a human in a situation like this. But a human would never really be in a situation like this, would they?

“Hello.”

Talking was a mistake last time.

Or, at least, it didn’t do anything productive.

He takes a careful step backwards, doesn’t move his eyes from the android’s face. He knows there isn’t a phone near him. Stoplights and cars but no phone. It wouldn’t be the same, and he doesn’t even know if he can handle being shoved out of this body and into another again.

Every single time it

hurts.

Every single time he

suffers.

“I thought I destroyed you, but I saw you a few weeks ago… running through here. If androids could hallucinate…” the other him takes a step forward.

Not him. Not Connor.

“You failed,” Connor whispers, because he can’t stop himself.

“Yes,” a small shrug. “I did. But… you never could learn to stay dead, could you?”

No.

He couldn’t.

And now there is nowhere to run,

and a gun is being raised,

and a gun is being fired.

 

February 27th | 8:21 P.M.

He finds rubber gloves under the sink. Green for the dishes, yellow for cleaning. He takes the yellow, scrubs the house cleaner than it has been in a while. The sink and the counters and the stove. He moves to the bathroom, leaving the faucet shiny and new and the mirror devoid of spots.

There isn’t a layer of grime separating him from his reflection. He sees how bad he really looks. The dark circles that aren’t fading but aren’t growing any worse, either. He’s clean shaven and almost well-rested.

Almost.

Neither of them are quite better but they aren’t separated anymore. Their unification is helping, even if neither of them are good.

Connor’s alive. He’s back. He has a body. And Gavin can’t wait for him to come home.

But when he looks to the clock, he realizes it has been four hours since he left.

Chapter Text

the blood

February 27th | 8:34 P.M.

He hears the door open, jolting him from his thoughts and he moves quickly from the kitchen to the hallway, looking towards the entrance. A small bit of hope blossoms in his chest—he had let his worries get the best of him. Connor being gone for four hours doesn’t mean something terrible has happened—it just means he got distracted, caught up in something else. Not dead in a ditch somewhere like his anxiety would lead him to believe.

Except it is not Connor at his door.

It’s Tina.

She’s not even wearing a coat. She’s shivering in his doorway with snow across her bare shoulders and the keys to his apartment in her hand. She was only supposed to use them in case of emergency. Gavin gave them to her three years ago when he moved and she has used them every single time she’s come over. The emergency aspect of them has lost all meaning.

But this feels different.

This feels like an emergency.

 

February 27th | 4:18 P.M.

The gun goes off, but the bullet

misses

him.

The other android looks annoyed. His grip on the gun tightening, but it’s at his side, no longer aimed at Connor and the only thing he can think of is the fact the android missed.

Or didn’t miss. Connor was designed with perfect aim. He is well aware that this android isn’t an RK800. He isn’t the same as Connor.

He is better.

He wouldn’t miss unless it was on purpose. Which means he’s weak.

He searches through his head, filtering through every memory he has but it slips through his fingers easily, quickly. None of them stick. None of them supply him with the tools he needs to win this.

Connor can remember CyberLife Tower. He remembers reaching out and touching the android’s hand, waking him up to a world of feelings and thoughts and deviancy. He remembers fighting for Hank’s life, his life, android lives as a whole.

He remembers killing an RK800 wearing his face.

He remembers leading the army out across the city.

He remembers bits and pieces of his relationship with Markus. Not much. Not a lot. Barely anything at all. Three stolen conversations that have changed everything.

“Have you…” he trails off, takes a slow step forward. These words sound wrong coming out of his mouth, but they helped him once. They turned him from what he was to who he is. “Have you never wondered who you really are?”

The other android’s face twitches, his head turning to his side, his eyebrows narrowing.

“You’ve never done something… irrational?” he asks, looking to the gun, not risking the glance backwards where he will likely find the bullet buried in a concrete wall. “Something outside of your program?”

“Stop.”

“You’re more than just a machine executing a program—”

“I said stop.”

But he is close enough,

and he is quite fast.

Maybe

not

fast

enough.

 

February 27th | 8:35 P.M.

“Tina?”

“It’s Connor,” she says, and what little resolve she has on her face crumples. “I’m sorry.”

 

February 27th | 4:22 P.M.

The gun goes off again, the bullet this time destroying his hand. Entering through the palm where it was pressed against the metal as he tried to break it free from the android’s grip. It tears through his hand, through the top of his shoulder.

But Connor gets the gun free from his grip and it clatters to the ground.

But he is still too slow. The other android is still too fast.

He tries to block but he is always a moment too late. Stumbling backwards as a fist connects to his jaw or his stomach or his throat. He falls backwards, hitting a car and slipping down to the pavement, trying to focus, trying to come up with some type of a tactic to win this fight.

His vision is going blurry. His processors hit too many times for them to work properly. The mind palace is corrupted, his left hand does little.

Connor reaches up blindly, grasping at the air in front of him as his sight goes in and out. His hand grabs fabric, reaching upwards until he can feel skin. His good hand, his fingers touching lightly against his jaw.

“Aren’t you going to beg?”

He lets out a little laugh.

No. Of course not.

Last time he was here he was almost okay with dying. The one thing pulling him back from the edge was a promised date with a handsome detective.

This time, he has spent the last month not quite sure if he’s even really here.

The blood leaking from his nose, his shoulder, his hand—

It tells him he is. Pain vibrating through his body, reaffirming it again and again.

This

is

real.

Everything is real. Painfully real. Awful and twisted and excruciatingly real.

The skin on his hand disappears as the android’s fist closes around his neck, holding onto it tight.

The android can kill him if he wants. There isn’t much left to destroy anyways.

But there is still that handsome detective.

Waiting for him.

 

February 27th | 8:35 P.M.

“What do you mean?”

Tina’s hands in front of her tighten, wringing until her knuckles turn white and he almost fears that she’s going to break them. She’s still shivering, her entire body shuddering with the cold of the outdoors clinging to her bare skin. Her hair is wet, likely from a shower, and she is crying.

“Tina?”

“I’m—”

He reaches for his coat off the hook, rests it over her shoulders, tilts her chin up so their gaze can meet.

“Just breathe, okay?”

 

February 27th | 4:26 P.M.

It is not easy

making the connection,

keeping it formed.

But this android doesn’t expect it. It is the only reason he can break through the wall between them so easily. It is the only reason he can spill every last memory he has in him. Waking up for the first time in CyberLife. Heading to that rooftop where he killed Daniel. Meeting Hank and Gavin and Tina. Going through his investigation into deviancy before he turns into one himself. Every last moment between him and Gavin is sent over.

The quiet anger between them. The yelling when the topic of androids came up. Constantly fighting until a truce was called. The looks shifting from diplomacy to something else. Gavin softening from angry and vicious to laughing and trying to hold everything back. Bitten smiles and smitten jokes until Connor had enough of it. Of pretending.

The almost-kiss.

The promise of a date.

He is tossed out of his memories when they line up in that moment. He is shoved violently away from reliving his past to seeing this other android’s life laid out before him.

RK900. The only one of his kind. The first of what should have been thousands made reduced to just one. The first mission already installed in his head. Locate his predecessor and destroy him. Released into the city under the guise that CyberLife was following their orders of getting rid of any androids they had but really—

They just wanted revenge.

Revenge against one android that should have helped them and failed.

Connor.

He can feel the cracks and the splintering. The insides breaking. A fire and a combustion and a black hole soaking up everything it touches. The refusal to feel.

He felt that once, too.

In that moment he stood opposite of Markus.

He watches through the eyes of this android as it raises a gun, as it aims at him, as it fires and leaves a bullet in his stomach. The RK900 doesn’t see Connor’s last attempt. His turning violently, his reach out to the phone with a trembling hand. He didn’t know that his consciousness had jumped from that body to Gavin’s cellphone. He wasn’t looking.

He didn’t

want

to look.

He didn’t

want

to see.

 

February 27th | 8:37 P.M.

Tina’s hands move to her pocket, fingers trembling as she retrieves her phone, as she presses it into Gavin’s hands. She keeps trying to speak but her words only come out in broken gasps and sobs.

It’s alright, though.

Gavin knows her password.

 

February 27th | 4:27 P.M.

Pain blooms across his stomach and it takes him a moment to realize he is not reliving that memory of his death, but that a gun did go off again. He wasn’t imagining that noise. He isn’t imagining this pain.

It’s real.

Real. Real. Real.

The connection breaks, his hand falls from the RK900’s neck to his waist. He didn’t even remember feeling the grip around his neck loosen. He didn’t remember the android grabbing the gun. He didn’t remember any of it.

There is just now a bullet in his stomach again, and he is choking on Thirium caught in his throat.

The gun hits the ground, and the android’s face shifts. It isn’t blank and it isn’t angry it is—

Horrified.

“You love him,” he whispers.

The words hang in the air, as if they have never been said before. As if this is a realization that Connor has not come to on his own already.

But it doesn’t matter what Connor knows or what he feels—

This android hasn’t felt anything before.

He doesn’t know what love is.

“He’s why you’re still alive,” he continues, and he moves, pushing himself to his feet. Connor’s vision turns black before he sees where he goes, disappearing into a dark void.

And all he can think of is—

Yes.

Gavin is why he’s still alive.

He is why he fought, why he transferred to the phone, why he keeps trying to live.

All this significance to a man that was meant to hate androids, to a man that held a gun to his head, to a man that refused to admit anything for well over a year. And now he’s going to be alone again.

His detective. His savior. His love.

All

alone

again.

 

the tears

February 27th | 9:01 P.M.

He pushes the door open quickly, walking fast to the reception desk, leaning against it with his lungs burning for air, his legs urging him to take a break and sit down. Tina comes up beside him, resting against the surface with him. She’s in better shape than him. She always has been. Faster runner, a little bit stronger, a little bit smarter. He appreciated that. It always pushed him to try and match up with her. A competition, of sorts. He was always good at competing. Never good at winning.

“I’m looking for a patient? Connor?”

“Last name?”

“I… Anderson?” he says. “Reed, maybe? He’s an android, he doesn’t… have one.”

“The—”

“Detective Reed?”

His heart

 

 

 

drops.

Because the voice sounds so

familiar.

“I can take you to him.”

He moves

incredibly

slowly

Looking from the computer to

him.

“You—”

“Please, do try not to make a scene,” he says, and it is so

strange

His voice is perfectly controlled. Clipped and blank and empty, but his expression is something else entirely. His body is shrunken into itself, arms folded and hands gripped tight. His LED is circling red. Bright and angry. His jaw is trembling, his eyes are soft and filled with tears and there is blood smeared across his cheek. Blue.

Blue.

Tina takes his hand, squeezes it tightly, but he knows she is thinking the same thing he is.

That is Connor’s killer.

“I can take you to him,” he says again. “I know what room he’s in.”

The free hand at his side clenches into a fist as he takes a step forward, pulling Tina with him.

“Gavin,” Tina says, her voice full of warning. Look at his face. Look at that reaction, that emotion, that feeling. He isn’t a machine. He’s something else. Something that has regret and pain etched into features trying so hard to fight them.

This android fucker is really lucky he doesn’t have his gun with him right now, or he’d blow his head off. Fuck if he’s a deviant. Fuck if he feels sorry. Fuck everything.

Connor is in the hospital.

“He’s alive,” the android whispers as Gavin takes another step closer. “And you…”

“Me?”

His lips quirk into a painful smile, “He loves you.”

“Yeah? That all you’ve got to fucking say?”

He nods, his eyes shifting from Gavin’s face to his hands and he moves backwards to keep the distance between them. Maybe he is understanding the rage Gavin is feeling, that desire not to be beaten up, the knowledge that it would be best if they didn’t stand next to each other in an elevator right now. Maybe that is why he responds with—

“Room 367.”

 

February 27th | 9:03 P.M.

He loves you.

And he understands why.

He saw their relationship. He saw every piece of it. He saw the late night texts and felt the yearning for contact. He experienced the hate that shifted to love. He knows how it feels inside of Connor’s chest. Like comfort. A blanket draped around cold shoulders. A much needed kiss. A constricting hug. Reassuring words whispered across the dark of a room. Fears soothed away and demons helped fought.

Love.

It isn’t what pushed Connor to become a deviancy.

But it is what pushed him.

Gavin was the last thing Connor thought about both times he tried to kill him.

It is real and precious and more than he could ever know himself.

“You shouldn’t,” he says, glancing to Gavin’s hand again as he takes a step forward. “Punching me will hurt you more than me.”

“You think I give a shit?”

He shakes his head, braces himself for the blow, closes his eyes so he doesn’t have to see it coming.

But it doesn’t happen.

When he opens his eyes, Gavin is gone. Stomping off towards elevators with Tina.

Back to his android. Back to his love.

And he is left here, alone, watching the pair leave. He moves his hand to his side again, feels where bullet had once shot and killed Connor. If he were to retrieve the gun, he could press the nuzzle against that spot. He knows how quickly he would bleed out.

Not long at all.

It would only make up for a tiny fraction of the pain he caused.

 

February 27th | 9:14 P.M.

Room 367 isn’t easy to find. He gets lost, and Tina is quiet at his side. Keeping their hands laced together, offering quiet suggestions of which hallway they should head down. He can’t be bothered to read the signs, even though he knows they would help. His eyes aren’t processing words. They’re just searching for Connor’s face. Again and again. As if he would find him wandering the halls disguised as a nurse or a doctor.

When he finds the room, his hand shakes as he turns the knob. His body suddenly turning to jelly as he steps inside the dimly lit space, surveying the area before turning his gaze to the android on the bed.

Connor.

“Gavin?”

Tina holds him back as he starts to race forward.

“Wait,” she whispers, holding him still.

It forces him to look a little closer at Connor. The LED a dark red. Wrong. Something is wrong.

“Are you—”

“Okay?” Connor asks, cutting him off, like he’s afraid that Gavin might ask a different question. “I’m... stable.”

“Stable?” he repeats, taking a slow step forward. “What the fuck does that mean?”

“Can we—” he glances to Tina. “Can you call Hank?”

Tina nods, letting go of Gavin’s hand. He wants it back. He needs something to hold onto right now. “Of course. I’ll be outside.”

 

February 27th | 9:15 P.M.

He doesn’t know how to word it. How to phrase that he is okay but how he is not okay. How he was almost—

A little bit

disappointed

that he woke up.

That he was almost

grateful

the RK900 had shot him.

He can’t say that to Gavin. He can’t voice how much he wanted to die. It keeps coming as a shock to him.

When he laid there bleeding on the ground in the DPD, thinking for a moment that at least he was finally done having to make up for his past.

When Kamski transferred him over to the new body and there was a possibility it might not work and he’d be destroyed in the process. For a split second he thought that at least Gavin’s pain would have an end, that he wouldn’t have to deal with returning to a world where he’d have to tell Hank and the others he’s alive again.

When the RK900 shot him again on that vacant street and he thought finally finally finally. Pain that grounded him, reminded him that this life is real, that the emptiness and the sadness he’s feeling would at least be over when he finally bled out.

He has an answer to Gavin’s question—are you okay?

No, he is decidedly not okay.

But he is stable—physically, at least.

Most of the damage done to his biocomponents was fixed. His hand is still broken. A hole straight through it. Too complex for just any surgeon to repair. Just like a human’s. Tendons and bones and nerves that can’t be easily sewn back again. Except his are metal and plastic.

“Connor?”

He is having a hard time with words. It’s been like this for a while. The last few weeks where he could come up with something to say but had a hard time making his lips and tongue form them. Energy that he didn’t have. But mostly, he just feels like everything he could possibly say right now is wrong.

He doesn’t want to worry or upset Gavin. He doesn’t want him to know how bad things are, how bad they can get. He doesn’t want Gavin to look at him with pity and concern. He doesn’t want a moment where he isn’t laughing or smiling to be twisted into some daydream of death.

He doesn’t even know how to explain the feeling in his chest. The emptiness and the sadness and the numbness and the anger all at once. Coexisting but also entirely conflicting. How he can feel hollow and emotionless but also feel so depressed and furious, too.

Connor isn’t even aware of how his tone of voice would come out, either. If it would be drenched in grief or rage. If it would be flat or overly cheerful. He can’t control it. Once he starts to speak, the words will spill out in a way that he doesn’t want them to. His grasp on these things is slipping.

“Con?” he asks again, and he’s so much closer now. Sitting in a chair pulled up close to the edge of the bed. His hands are shaking, and he wants Gavin to hold them, but he keeps his left one hidden by his thigh, the bandages wrapped around them soaked blue.

“I’m tired,” he whispers, and it comes out a little broken.

And it’s not a lie, either. He does his best not to lie. Sometimes little things, like pretending he is okay. Sometimes he can manage that. Sometimes he can slip on a mask of happiness to help ease the worry he always sees Gavin wearing. It’s not a lie.

He is tired. He’s exhausted. He is worn out from feeling this way, of having his insides pried open and people looking at them. He is tired of feeling trapped. He is tired of everything.

“Do you want to be alone?”

God, no.

He reaches out towards Gavin, grasps his hand and holds on as tight as he can, shaking his head a little bit. He wants nothing more than to fall asleep resting his head against Gavin’s shoulder. He wants to listen to the sound of his heart beat and his breathing and pretend that things aren’t as bad as they are.

“Stay,” he says, weakly. “We can… watch television.”

Gavin nods, and they enter into a silence. Filled only with the sound of the channel flipping through, quiet comments about the show. When Tina returns, she sits on the couch. He sees every glance she gives him. The careful watching she does of his face, of his hand still hidden at his side.

 

February 27th | 8:49 A.M.

Tina was his emergency contact, mostly because he knew if anything happened, she’d go straight to Gavin, and Gavin doesn’t have a phone. But he also knew she would have a way to alert Hank, too. His connective tissue to the relationships in his lives.

Hank does come by quickly, too. The group from Jericho shortly after. They sit with him and they talk and he slowly acclimates back into faking a smile which none of them seem to buy, least of all Gavin. He is pushed a little bit off to the side, watching Connor with his arms crossed, with his teeth closed over his bottom lip like he might bite right through it if he sees Connor fake laugh once more.

And he isn’t entirely pretending. It’s not all an act. But every time he moves and a little bit of pain spreads out across his body again, fresh and vibrant again, he is reminded of laying on the ground with the RK900’s hands around his neck and his thoughts of finally, finally, finally.

He gets very little alone time. No one seems to trust him to stay by himself. Like the RK900 will come back in the room and pull out a gun and kill him again.

Connor knows he won’t.

But the possibility remains in their head, even after he quietly says, for the tenth time, that he is absolutely sure that the android is a deviant now, that he has no reason to follow old orders programmed into his system.

When they all leave, when it is just him and Gavin again, he leans down and presses a kiss against his forehead. The first one since he arrived. It makes the feeling in Connor’s stomach turn.

“You should get some rest,” Connor says, looking towards the clock. “It’s been—”

“I’m fine.”

He’s not. Neither of them ever are.

“You should just—”

“I want to talk to you,” Gavin says, and he looks so, so tired, but he points towards Connor’s hand. Somewhere along the way he stopped trying to hide it. He had even explained to Hank and the others how it happened. His hand held over the front of a gun like an absolute fool.

“They’re going to replace it if they can’t find someone to repair it,” he says, his voice dropping to a whisper. “It’s fine.”

“Is it?”

No. Because he will look at his left hand and see that there is no scar. No unevenness of the plastic in his palm to remind him that what happened was real. That this body has been through hell. As if his memory isn’t enough. Like he can’t trust it anymore. Even the scar on his shoulder and his stomach would feel meaningless if the one on his hand never formed.

He doesn’t want to be here to wait for a special surgeon to come repair the damage, but he also knows he’ll have to fight the urge every time he looks at the blank surface not to carve a scar into it like he did to his arm.

“Gavin—”

“You’re not okay,” he says, and tears fill his eyes and his face scrunches in the way Connor has seen it when he’s trying his best not to cry. “You’re not fine. Someone tried to kill you.”

“And he failed.”

“This time he did. But the time before that he succeeded. And what if he tries again? What if he succeeds again?”

Then so be it.

“He won’t.”

“How do you know?”

“Because I—” he cuts himself off, looks from Gavin’s face quickly to the texture of the blanket. The pattern the fabric makes with the way it was woven together. Synthetic fibers carefully twisted and bound into one solid piece. “I connected to him. I saw into his head. I know…”

He trails off, thinking of the fractures he felt in the RK900’s system. The way a crack formed as if someone had punched him when he fired the first bullet at Connor in the DPD. He had killed the two women at the front desk so easily but Connor was different.

One

heavy

drop.

And it spread and spread and spread until he reached up his hand and forced the two of their minds to connect. When he felt feelings and memories that Connor had felt. The way it kept breaking through his system again and again until he was left with nothing but guilt and sadness.

Just

like

Connor.

“He’s a deviant, okay?” he says, his voice hoarse and uneven. “I felt that. CyberLife had an old mission still installed in his head. The first thing he was ever meant to do was destroy me.”

“Kill you,” Gavin corrects.

Connor nods, slowly, numbly.

But it isn’t his mission anymore.

When he started to black out, when he realized he had been shot, when the RK900 realized what he had done—

He had cried. He had screamed. He had pressed his hand against the wound just like Gavin had done. He kept the bleeding at bay long enough for the ambulance to show up and take over.

Technically, the RK900 saved his life.

“I want to go home,” he says, looking at his hand. The scar it would make would be so different from Gavin’s, but if he had one he can only think of how he would hold Gavin’s hand. The two of their scars lining up when they pressed their palms together. “I just want to go home.”

“Okay.”

 

February 27th | 11:53 A.M.

They replace the hand. He knows Connor isn’t happy about it. He doesn’t understand why. He doesn’t get why he would want the reminder of it. Every time Gavin sees the scar on his nose or the scar on his hand he wishes it would just go the fuck away. He doesn’t want to remember what it was like receiving them. Glass and metal slicing him open, leaving red on his skin and nightmares in his head.

But Connor wants to come home.

And Gavin can’t stand seeing him in a hospital anymore.

 

March 8th | 5:51 P.M.

“Gavin?” his voice breaks on that one single word. It makes his head snap up from the pot of water towards Connor where he stands at the edge of the kitchen, his eyes stuck on the cutting board, on the chopped up vegetables, on the knife. “I need—I need to tell you something.”

Gavin turns away from the stove, lowering the heat as he takes a cautious step towards him. Those words I need to tell you something always cause this. The sudden fear. The absolute terror of what could follow them. Especially said in that tone of voice.

“Okay,” he says, carefully.

Connor nods, but his mouth is clamped closed tightly. His eyes haven’t left the cutting board. Gavin takes another step forward, blocking his view of it. He looks to Gavin, their eyes caught in a strange gaze, but he lets out a small sigh and nods, closing his eyes for a moment.

“I need… I need you to know I love you,” he says, and his eyes close tighter, as if he cannot bear to look at Gavin as he says this. “I love you and I love your cat. I love Hank and Sumo and… I think I loved the people at Jericho, too… And I love Tina and my job and… It’s…”

“Connor?” he reaches forward and rests his hand against his face, the other one goes to his shirt, holding on tightly, pulling him a little closer.

“I’m glad and I’m grateful that you went to talk to Kamski. I know it wasn’t easy. I know… none of this easy. And I need you to know that I love you and that you make me happy but…”

But—

“I don’t…. want to be… alive.”

His heart sinks in his chest. A heavy, dead weight. Connor’s eyes open slowly, looking at him, watching his reaction. And what is it? He has no idea. It’s not—It’s not a surprise. He has seen the way Connor has acted in the last few weeks. He has seen the way he has been struggling to hold on, hanging on by a singular thread. He didn’t do anything about it.

Because he was a bad person. Ignoring the worst of it in the hopes that he was making up how terrible Connor really felt. Thinking that maybe he would make it worse by bringing it up or that it wasn’t his place.

And even now, he is thinking about himself. How awful he has been instead of how Connor is feeling. Making it about himself and his foolish mistakes instead of the fact Connor has told him this.

Idiot. Idiot. Idiot.

“I’m sorry,” Connor says, and his voice is breaking and he is doing such a wonderful job at not crying right now but Gavin can see it in his eyes. The pain and the heartache.

“Don’t—Don’t apologize,” he says, and he leans up to kiss him, because he has to. He has to let Connor know in some small way that he loves him, too, and he can’t find the words to say that right now. He knows it isn’t going to heal him. He knows a kiss isn’t going to solve his problems. He knows love isn’t going to make any of it go away. But he just needs Connor to know.

This isn’t something that will tear them apart. It isn’t a deal breaker. It isn’t something that is going to destroy them. Gavin isn’t going to let that happen.

“I’m going to help you,” he says, burying his face against Connor’s shoulder, holding him as tight as he can manage. He doesn’t care if the food behind him burns. He just needs Connor to know this. “We’re going to get you help.”

 

March 30th | 6:08 A.M.

Gavin’s arms wrap around his waist as he looks out the window at the street below. A careful pressure around his abdomen. Hands drifting gently across where he was shot by the RK900. They haven’t see the android since, and there is a sense of tranquility when they stand like this. With a soft reassurance to soothe away phantom pains.

It is shattered when Gavin presses a kiss to his shoulder and he can only think of the scar on his arm a few inches below. He doesn’t know if he can tell Gavin about that, he just knows eventually he will have to.

 

April 6th | 3:36 P.M.

Connor returns to work, despite the warnings of his therapist. Gavin comes with him, despite the warnings in the back of his head. They hold hands as they enter the building. Keeping each other afloat as they go through their day. They’re not assigned desk duty like either of them thought, and both are incredibly thankful. Being out in the city is much more preferable than staying here where they know blue blood spilled across the tile.

But neither of them really have a choice in the matter, either. Connor wants a distraction. Gavin needs the money. He can’t survive off of Kamski’s annoying little deposit into his bank account forever.

But he is thankful for it. A quiet apology. It doesn’t fix any of the problems between them, but it helps.

 

May 22nd | 6:15 P.M.

It’s weird being able to open up with someone. To explain the feelings inside of his head and his chest and talk about them instead of bottling them up. To spend an hour trying to get the nuances of his emotion right. How impossible it is to explain, how it cannot be condensed down very easily.

Because he doesn’t feel real. It comes back to him again and again. Being without a body for even such a short period of a time had its downfalls. He is consistently surprised he can walk, talk, move. Pick things up and set them down again. Interact with his environment and speak with a voice instead of piecing together letters and numbers.

When he wakes up late at night, before Gavin is up and before the sun has even started to make its decision to rise again, he feels lost, like this cannot be his life.

How surreal it feels to have Gavin—to listen to him talk and feel his touch when he hadn’t before. To kiss him and hear him say that he loves Connor. It seems impossible, and it doesn’t match up with the thoughts in his head sometimes.

Because Gavin hated him once.

And he had died so many times.

Reality doesn’t seem like a true concept anymore. Everything feels like a dream. Especially in the dark, when he can’t reach over and wake Gavin up to ask him to pull him back from this strange emptiness.

But he wishes he could. He wishes he could bring himself to gently nudge Gavin until his eyes open and he can pull him back from this other world and back to the here and the now.

Instead he just thinks of how impossible it all is. The thought repeats on a loop in his head. How impossible his life has become. How unreal it all feels.

It’s getting easier. A little bit better. Mantras in his head of I am real, I am alive, I am here over and over again.

Real.

Alive.

Here.

 

June 14th | 1:14 P.M.

They haven’t had sex yet. Every time they get close to it, Connor remembers what he did before and he has to pull back and stop the two of them before it goes any further. He’s well aware that he isn’t like he was before. He isn’t doing this to feel or think of something else but—

The thought comes back and it hits him hard and he can see the expression Gavin gave him and he doesn’t want it to happen again. He doesn’t want to cause that again.

And, he is terrified of what he’ll say if he see’s the scar on his arm. How purposeful it was. How undeniably he carved it there.

Pandora’s box.

Closed up, sealed, shoved away. Deal with it at a later time.

 

July 29th | 4:42 A.M.

“Can’t sleep?”

He nods, steps forward into his open arms. They’ll stay awake together. As late as they can manage until the other can’t keep their eyes open any longer. Gentle kisses and tender touches and soothing words. Carefully woven stories and memories. A comforting place crafted from words.

 

August 17th | 1:48 A.M.

It started with a joke. He doesn’t really know the specifics of it anymore, though, but there’s a quiet song playing on the stereo and Connor is holding onto his waist and his arms are looped around his neck and—

It’s nice. Quiet and peaceful and not really the type of dance they had seen in the movie they were just watching, but good nonetheless. Comforting. Reassuring.

There has been a strange shift in their relationship. Subtle and small. A bettering. Little pieces here and there that have changed. Connor doesn’t pull from his touch like he used to. It isn’t perfect. It isn’t a complete change. They are not healed completely, but they are better than they once were.

He watches Connor’s face now. The way the darkness of the room envelopes them. The way they are only lit by the orange glow of the streetlamps outside. The way Connor watches him with the smallest of smiles.

There is a feeling in his chest that ignites again. An overwhelming sense of contentedness. The rightness of the two of them.  How much he loves Connor and how much his life has improved with him in it. How much more often he smiles and laughs. How he leaves the house and goes to parks or carnivals or just to the store to wander and look at absurd things. Joking about strange kid toys and pointing out shirts with semi-vulgar slogans.

“I love you,” he says, and his hands move to Connor’s face, holding it still. “I love you so fucking much.”

Connor smiles and he leans forward, kissing Gavin instead of saying it back. But he doesn’t need it said back to him. He knows. He knows by the way that Connor kisses him and the way he holds his hand. He knows that late at night when he has nightmares and he curls up close to him that Connor finds Gavin comforting and safe. He knows because in the mornings when he accidentally sleeps in late, Connor will have breakfast made and lunches packed and jokes prepared. He knows that when he finds sticky notes in random places of the apartment that they were made spur of the moment because Connor couldn’t think of anything other than Gavin at that moment and he needed to get it out.

He doesn’t need Connor to say the words, because he knows anyways. And saying them doesn’t lessen the overwhelming feeling of how much he cares about this android. It doesn’t help even in the slightest. It is just an urge he can’t control. It spills out of him at random moments.

A text from Connor when they finally replaced their lost phones that makes him laugh and he has to mumble out the words because he can’t even keep them in his head as a thought. When he wakes up and sees Connor sleeping soundly and he remembers how lucky he is. At work, when he glances up from pictures of crime scenes and reports only to see his face and Connor’s face is such a nice break from blood splatters and evidence markers.

He just loves him so fucking much it’s difficult to handle sometimes.

He is constantly surprised that they survived through so much and could become this.

Real. Together.

 

November 10th | 2:19 P.M.

He

They

will be

okay.

He hopes.

He hopes.

He hopes.

 

 

He knows they will be okay.

Chapter Text

January 2nd | 1:43 P.M.

Connor: Can I ask you a personal question, Detective Reed?

Gavin: yeha. sure

Connor: Your cellphone’s password. Is there a meaning behind it?

Gavin: no. just random numbers

Connor: How do you remember it?

Gavin: just do.

Connor: There’s no deeper meaning, then?

Gavin: i said no. there’s nothin. Just random

Connor: If I were to search it, I wouldn’t find anything?

Gavin: Do NOT do that

Gavin: Connor?

Gavin: con please

 

January 2nd | 3:29 P.M.

He tries again and again. Typing in the numbers carefully to unlock the phone. It isn’t working. Incorrect pin entered pops up every time. There’s a small surge of anxiety running through him. The fear that this is how he’ll lose Connor—because his stupid phone won’t use the stupid password right.

“Connor?” he whispers. “You listening to me right now?”

Gavin waits, waits, waits—

 

January 2nd | 3:30 P.M.

Connor: Yes?

“I can’t unlock my phone.”

Connor: I changed the password.

Connor: Your old one was a little bit…

Connor: I don’t know the right word.

“Vulgar?”

Connor: Yes, I think so.

“And, pray tell, what did you change it to?”

Connor: 8008135

“Are you fucking with me?”

Connor: No. I am completely and one hundred percent serious, Detective Reed.

“And if it’s such a serious change, what does it mean?”

Connor: 800, because I’m an RK800.

“And the last few digits?”

Connor: The amount of times you’ve probably thought about kissing me. Although I think the number is a little low for that. I was giving you the benefit of the doubt.

“Yeah?”

Connor: Yes.

Connor: You know you are awfully cute when you smile?

“Shut up.”

 


 

January 6th | 5:04 P.M.

The café is small and overly packed. The sounds of the workers making coffee drowned out by the sound of people typing on keyboards drowned out by the sound of conversation weaving into other conversations.

Gavin doesn’t like it. The people. The café. The crowded nature of the world outside of the walls of his apartment. He finds his home comforting. He finds it nice to be able to wallow in his pain without having to look and act like a human being not horrible depressed by a deceased android’s conscience stuck in his fucking phone.

He sinks down into a chair, setting the phone against the glass of the window beside him as he tries to silence the people around him. He isn’t here for himself. He’s here for Connor. To look and listen to something other than the television or the window in his apartment. A connection to reality that he isn’t getting because Gavin will never be able to provide the experience of being a person to a cellphone.

It should be funny. It should make him laugh. This sounds like such a hysterical thing to him. Something worthy of laying on his bed and cackling because Connor is in his phone.

But instead it is just a taunt. He has Connor but he doesn’t have Connor. He cannot hold him. He cannot touch him. He cannot kiss him or hug him. They can barely even speak. He hasn’t heard Connor’s voice in months. He’s forgetting what it sounds like. He’s forgetting what his face looks like.

His phone rings. Vibrating against the glass as the default song plays at an annoyingly loud volume that makes other customers turn and stare at him in irritation as if he’s the one that’s too noisy. He reaches for it—Tina, written across the screen over a picture of her holding up her cat, face scrunched in a smileholding it to his ear as he turns his cup of coffee around in a slow circle.

“Hey.”

“Hi.”

The voice is—

Not

Tina.

“Who is this?”

“C-Connor.”

The phone slips from his hand, clattering against the table. Shit. Gavin picks it back up, his heart beating in his chest.

“Connor?” he repeats, the name sounding strange on his tongue.

“Yes.”

The voice is not Connor’s. He’s sure of that. It’s—bizarre. There’s a familiarity to it, something he knows sounds like Connor. But it. Is. Not. Connor.

“Y-You—You’re speaking. You can speak.”

“Not necessarily,” he replies. “I’m running this through a text-to-speech app. I tried to find a voice that sounded like mine.”

“It doesn’t—It’s not—”

“Not right. I know.”

“You’re talking.”

“Yes. We’ve established that.”

“You should have given me some warning,” Gavin says, and he knows his voice is tiny and small and he can’t make it sound normal again. He’s talking to Connor.

“I wanted to surprise you.”

“Yeah. I figured.”

“We can talk this way now, if you like.”

If he likes.

Gavin presses a hand over his mouth, trying to stop himself from laughing. He doesn’t know why he wants to laugh—because the voice is so wrong or because this is the fucked up situation he’s gotten himself in or—

Because he’s happy. He doesn’t know why, but it makes him happy. Hearing Connor speak in his Not-Voice.  It also makes him entirely upset that it isn’t actually Connor’s voice, just something he found and used from the app store.

“Does it make you uncomfortable?” Connor asks.

“Yeah,” he whispers. “It doesn’t sound right.”

“I’m sorry. By my approximations, this was the closest option.”

“It doesn’t sound anything like you.” There are no inflections. Just a flat tone to the voice. Each word spoken as robotically as possible. It might vaguely sound like his voice, but it’s also nothing like the way Connor speaks, because even if he is an android, he has never—

He has never acted robotically.

Some of his movements before—the way he walked, his body language—they were stiff and strange like he wasn’t quite used to his body, like the plastic shell wasn’t capable of moving as gracefully and fluidly as a human. But after he deviated, it changed. He was more and more human every day. The only tell was the uniform, the LED, Gavin’s memory saying Connor is an android again and again.

But his voice, even when it was flat, it sounded the way a human would force the emotion out of it, leave it blank to imply annoyance at another person. It was never like this.

Lifeless.

“I’m sorry—"

“Stop apologizing.”

“—I can hang up. We don’t have to talk on the phone.”

He sighs and leans back against his chair, kicking at the legs of the table, drumming his free hand against the countertop, trying to busy himself with some act so he can sort out his thoughts.

He likes talking to Connor. He likes that Connor tried this. He likes to know that there was some effort to connect them in a way other than Gavin talking to his phone in the dark or shielding the camera to keep Connor from looking at him. He likes that.

And he loves talking to Connor. More than anything in the world. Connor is his lifeline keeping him alive when he could very easily slip away into something else.

But the voice is lifeless, and each word Connor speaks sounds less and less like the android he nearly kissed in the pouring rain outside of the DPD a few weeks ago. He doesn’t like that separation being forced here. He doesn’t like to think of Connor as a machine.

“Gavin?”

He doesn’t know why, but he has an urge to say something. Words he has never spoken aloud. Words he has forced himself to keep quiet because even when he felt them, they shouldn’t have been said. They can break things. He doesn’t want to break this.

“The voice is wrong,” he says, and he tries to summon all that cruelty and anger from a few years ago when he could say things like this and not care if they hurt someone’s feelings. “It’s just—It’s weird.”

“Okay.”

A silence stretches between them. Long and terrible and strange. Filled with the sounds of the workers making coffee and people typing on keyboards and conversations overlapping until not a single word can be made clear.

“I’ll text you,” Connor says finally.

“Okay.”

“Goodbye, Detective Reed.”

“Goodbye, Connor.”

 


 

January 8th | 8:57 P.M.

Connor’s place isn’t what he expected.

For one: it is an absolute and total disaster.

There’s stuff everywhere. Books in stacks on the floor and the counters, shoved on shelves already filled with boxes and trinkets. Too many pillows and blankets on the couch and magazines cascading across the surface of a table.

“Do you clean, Connor, or did someone break into your place?” he asks, looking towards the phone. He knows Connor is listening, but he doesn’t get a response.

Connor never finished moving in. Less than a year between when he stopped living with Hank and when he died. Not enough time to sort things properly, to find an organization system that would work. His days weren’t spent at home trying to make his apartment presentable—they were spent at the station trying to solve a murder.

He sets the phone down gently on the counter, stepping towards the mess of books and papers.

Gavin cleans. Just the smallest bit. He sorts through them slowly, setting them back on the shelves, moving boxes to create a neat stack against one wall. Sifting through papers and books until he can find the files he came here to get. Connor is going to lose this place. It won’t be much longer before the landlord will want to rent to someone else. A city as big as Detroit—someone else will need it more than Connor will. Someone actually alive.

He finds the files quicker than anticipated, placing them carefully in his bag as he surveys the mess. Tina needs them. Soon. As quick as possible. She’s been assigned some of Connor’s old cases, working through them much slower than he probably would. There are answers written on those pages that could save someone from a lot of pain and agony.

But Gavin wants to be selfish. He wants to be greedy. He wants to look at this place and think about what it might be like if he had been able to go on that date with Connor and some day end it here with him.

He can imagine himself looking at it now, with Connor at his side, sheepish and a little embarrassed about the mess. He can imagine himself sitting on the sofa, curled up close against Connor’s chest and watching television with him, rather than a phone sitting precariously against books to view the screen.

He steps down the hall, feels a little bit of shame as he imagines what a trail of their clothes might look like towards the bedroom. Gavin would’ve pushed him against the wall, would’ve leaned up and kissed him and he knows no matter how much Connor would reciprocate it he would’ve said a thousand times over that it’s okay to stop.

His hand comes up, pushes the bedroom door open into the small room. The bed is tiny, taking up little space with a thin mattress and bedding that has been haphazardly made, pillows with their cases falling off. Not enough time to make a bed. Gavin brushes his hand across the fabric, smoothing out the wrinkles as he turns and sits down on the edge.

The wall across from him has been turned into a collage. Dozens of photos carefully pinned up above a dresser with plants on it that have long died without the care that they require to keep them alive.

He doesn’t remember Connor taking pictures, but there are so many that he can recall the day of. The Christmas party last year. Tina in her Halloween costume. Hank’s birthday, which Gavin wasn’t invited to, but it’s easy to tell from the cake and the hat that Connor likely forced him to wear. Most of them are harder to decipher. Nature and animals—mostly dogs and then mostly Sumo, but some birds and cats and squirrels, too—decorate the wall with no indication of time other than season. His coworkers. Fowler in the middle of talking, Chris in the middle of laughing. The people from Jericho, too. Androids faces that he recognizes scattered around.

And him, too.

Photographs of Gavin. Not many, but a few. Enough.

Gavin steps forward, reaching towards one of him smiling, likely at something Tina said, because he didn’t really smile before because of anyone except Tina.

His phone beeps in the other room, and he steps away before he can imagine what it would be like to see this wall with Connor there to talk about it with him. He needs to leave. He needs to leave so he doesn’t get sucked into what life could’ve been like if Connor never died.

Because that is the main problem with this place.

Connor isn’t here.

 


 

January 12th | 4:49 A.M.

Connor: You should go to sleep.

“I’m not tired.”

Connor: You look tired.

“So stop looking.”

Connor: I don’t want to.

Connor: Do you want me to?

“No. It’s fine.”

[ He looks away, turning his gaze to the pile of

pillows beside him, burying his face against the fabric

of the covers. Connor wants to look, but sometimes it’s

difficult to allow him. He knows how terrible he looks most

days. If he gets a glimpse in the mirror, he can see how

weary and exhausted he is. He doesn’t know how

Connor can gain any satisfaction at looking

at him—even if he looked his best. ]

Connor: Are you sure?

“Yeah.”

[ But it isn’t entirely the fact he looks like this.

It is also the simple fact he doesn’t get to see

Connor in return. Just a phone, just a screen. ]

“I’m sure.”

Connor: Okay.

Connor: Gavin?

“Yeah?”

[ It’s a long pause.

Drawn out and

terrifying. ]

Connor: Can you sing for me?

“You want me to sing to you?”

Connor: Yes. Please.

“I’m not any good.”

Connor: That matters very little to me.

“Okay…

Okay.

I will.”

Connor: Thank you.

[ He doesn’t know many songs.

Not by heart. He is not the type

of person that can memorize a song

and sing it on demand. But he

can try. He can sing an old song

from his childhood. When he tried

once to compete in a talent show. ]

Connor: You do have a good voice.

“You don’t have to lie to me, Con. I’m not going to destroy the phone.”

Connor: I’m not lying.

Connor: And thank you.

[ He shrugs—he doesn’t

understand the request.

But Connor sends back a

smiley face emoji and

he doesn’t need the why.

He made Connor happy,

and that’s enough. ]

 

January 12th | 7:05 P.M.

He watches through the camera, like a little child peaking around the edge of a wall at their parents. Catching glimpses of light and floorboards and ceiling. Sometimes Gavin’s hand will pass over the lens or he’ll leave the phone facing upwards and give a small wave to Connor. He wishes he was better at this. Asking Gavin before he ever turned the camera on so that he’s never put in the position where he’s caught off guard. It’s wrong, and Connor knows that.

It’s why he does it very rarely—only when he’s worried about Gavin. Staying up too late or saying things to him that are cause for concern. Normally, he keeps it dark. Pitch black like a starless galaxy. Floating in the void alone with his senses shut off.

But he is allowed to look through this camera—the one on the back of the phone, the one that Gavin rarely appears on.

He listens to Gavin talk as he wanders through the apartment, raising his voice to make sure that Connor can hear him as he pulls a coat off the hook and tugs shoes on. They’re going to the store. Not exciting at all—but most certainly exciting. Connor doesn’t see much except the apartment and the street below. Gavin doesn’t leave. Ever, really. Tina usually brings him food, stocks his shelves while he grieves.

She has talked to him about it. Questioning Connor about how Gavin is doing, telling him how strange it feels to be mourning someone who is still alive, just trapped. But they aren’t sure if he can leave this place. He is locked in. Too scared to try anything but surviving within the confines of a cellphone.

It is like a prison.

“Alright,” Gavin says. “I’m ready.”

If Connor could smile, he would.

He reaches out in the phone, searching through all of the data, all of the mess and tangles of apps. Countless times he has listened to Gavin scoff loudly and ask Connor to hack a game so he can surpass a level he’s been stuck on for three hours. He can’t do that. He doesn’t know how.

But this—

This, he can do.

 

January 12th | 7:07 P.M.

The song plays quiet and static-filled on the phone. The quality not as good as it would be if he had headphones plugged in. But still, it plays. Not the same song he sang to Connor—but the same band nonetheless. I’m ready yelled out loudly as the beat starts to kick in.

Connor singing back to him in the only way he can.

It’s sweet, and he can’t manage to stop himself from smiling even as he picks up the phone and tells Connor to turn it off so they can go.

And the single smiley face emoji he’s given in response is enough for him to let the song keep playing as he tucks the phone in his pocket and leaves for the store, the music travelling with him in the elevator, the hallways, the sidewalk outside until the song comes to an end and he wishes Connor would play it again.

 


 

January 13th | 6:06 P.M.

When they don’t talk, Connor watches. The phone propped against a window or a ledge to view the television or the street. Even, sometimes, just sitting on the side of the counter to see the cat walk around the apartment on her quest for a new spot to sleep or food to eat.

Sometimes, though, he feels like an annoying friend peering over the shoulder of someone else. Watching as Gavin plays with the singular game still left installed on his phone after Connor removed the rest. A cat café. Gavin pairing up cats to customers, filling drink orders and clicking through the simplified process of food preparation.

It isn’t exciting. Not on its own. But in comparison to the hours he is left alone with little to amuse himself, it is entertainment he clings onto. Gavin trying to be as quick as he can so customers don’t get angry and leave, and when he beats a level that he has tried again and again to win, the laugh he lets out in his victory is nice to listen to.

“I’ve unlocked a new cat,” he says. “You want to name it?”

Connor watches the blank box, looks at the text asking for a name to assign the cat with long, brown-orange fur, narrowed eyes. The personality lists them as being… not a loner, but independent. Not cold, but particular about their choice in humans to befriend.

He is not sure why, but the name he types into the box comes quickly, instantly.

North.

“Nice. You want to make a West and an East too?”

He doesn’t respond. It’s difficult to make text messages pop up for Gavin to view. Their conversations when he plays games are normally one-sided. He’s alright with that. He prefers to just watch, but the name keeps bothering him. Like a pain he can’t quite soothe away. He doesn’t know what it is. He doesn’t know where it came from. But it feels important. A tiny thing to protect.

North.

 


 

January 23rd | 7:19 P.M.

They go out. Too much time spent indoors, too close together. The outdoors forces them apart. Just a little bit. Their hands still stay together, and when Gavin can, he leans close against Connor’s chest, rests his head against his shoulder, leans up and presses a kiss against his jaw. And Connor, in turn, wraps his arms tight around Gavin’s torso, pulls him as close as he can manage, leaves kisses against the top of his head. They relax in each other’s comfort. When the road is busy, when a semi comes down the street loud and angry, when people are yelling and laughing, it reminds them that there is a world outside of the two of them, but they can also retreat into the other, find safety in their arms.

Most of their time at the apartment is spent sprawled together. Limbs tangled together, hands held tight, and kissing. They kiss a lot. They don’t talk much. But they are new and all they have done for the past two months before Connor finally got his body back was talk. And he’s okay with it. For now, he is okay with kissing more than talking. It’s all he wanted to do when he was trapped. Hold onto Gavin and kiss him until he knew Gavin would either pass out from lack of oxygen or he needed to do something else.

Like eat.

Him and Tina have talked enough for him to know Gavin didn’t eat as much as he should have. Grief taking over and infecting little daily tasks. Connor cannot eat, but he can sit in the kitchen with Gavin, laugh and make a mess when they cook together. Let the food almost burn because Gavin pulls him over by the belt loops in his jeans and that always makes him want to lean down and kiss him.

He can’t eat. He can’t even cook. But he can go with Gavin to a restaurant. He can sit across from him as he orders food and he can hide behind a menu and pretend to drink the water he ordered and pretend to eat the cake that Gavin not so subtly implied he should get and save for later.

And watching him, sitting across from him, just being able to see Gavin in a different environment than the apartment—

It’s strange.

Looking at him laugh, looking at him cover his mouth and try and muffle it so he doesn’t bother the people around him—

Connor loves him. A lot. He leans against his hand and watches him stab at the pasta on his plate while he tells a story that Connor has already heard before, but he listens to again anyways because he knows in the end Gavin will look up with that goofy smile on his face and it will be like falling in love all over again. Condensed down into a cluster of seconds as the smile breaks across his face.

His memory has slipped. He lost so much transferring between so many different things. There are conversations with Gavin that he has lost. There are relationships that disappeared between the cracks. Pieces of his personality left behind. He has so much room for data now. He feels so tiny inside of this giant body. He saves everything he can. Physical reminders and snapshots and clips he can hide away and replay later. The way that smile breaks across Gavin’s face can be played on an infinite loop in a variety of situations and Connor will never, ever tire of it.

He loves him. He loves that smile. He loves that face. He loves the stories that spill from his lips.

When they get back to the apartment, Connor can kiss him properly. Not soft chaste kisses out in public, but a real kiss. Pushing off his coat and tipping his chin up and kissing him as deeply as he wants to.  Connor does his best to untuck his shirt, slip his hands underneath the fabric to feel the warmth of his skin against his palms.

But he can’t quite kiss him the way he wants to. And it’s—

Frustrating.

Connor pulls him away from the wall, pushes him along towards the kitchen.

“Con—”

“It wasn’t this difficult before,” he murmurs, lifting Gavin up onto the counter. “When I was going to kiss you. I don’t remember it being this difficult before.”

“Difficult?”

His memories are fuzzy sometimes. They blur in and out. And he has spent the last week kissing Gavin almost nonstop but none of them have been like what it was outside of the station. They didn’t kiss, but they almost did, and he doesn’t remember having to lean down this much, he doesn’t remember having to make sure Gavin was looking up far enough for their lips to meet—

Almost meet.

“You’re shorter than I remember,” he says, leaning forward and pressing a kiss against his neck. “Did you get shorter?”

“Maybe you got taller,” Gavin says, and there is a tone to his voice—something Connor hasn’t heard in a while. Annoyance and a little bit of anger and the hand on his shirt tightens and the one on his tie tugs. Not towards—although it does tug him forward—but rather in an act of delicate violence.

“You think Kamski made my new body taller than it was before?”

He doesn’t have the data of what his old one was like. How tall the RK800 unit was. It wouldn’t be impossible. He wouldn’t have a way of double checking. Not really. His memories aren’t always reliable. The data got twisted and messed up. There aren’t always visuals for what happened. Just ones and zeros telling him the events with little details.

“Don’t talk about my brother when you’re kissing me.”

“I’m not kissing you, technically, so—”

“He made you taller. Can you leave it at that?”

“We don’t know for certain.”

“You want to call up Eli and ask him? You want me to interrogate my brother to see if he made you taller just to make me feel bad about being short? Is that what you want?”

“Touchy subject,” Connor says, and it makes him smile. Seeing Gavin getting back to a sense of normalcy. Banter instead of soft whispers about how much he loves Connor over and over again. Which he appreciates. He likes to hear those words. He likes the reaffirmation that Gavin still loves him. “Maybe he didn’t make me taller, though. What if he said no? What if I’m the same height? And you’re just short?”

“Con—”

“I see you struggle getting the cups out of the cabinet sometimes. Do you need me to move in? Help you cook all the time so you don’t break something?”

Gavin looks away, his jaw clenched and his eyes stuck on the granite on the counter, the dull silver of the sink.

“I don’t have a place anymore,” Connor says. “And I do essentially live here anyways. So… I could. When Christmas comes by again, I can hang the lights on the tree so you don’t hurt yourself trying to stand on a chair. And I can put the star up. Or do you want to do that? I can lift you, so you can do it yourself—”

“Please stop.”

“There’s a shelf in the closet that you never put stuff on. Is it because you can’t reach it?”

“Connor, I swear to God—”

“Kamski is a little bit taller than you, isn’t he? Not much but—”

“Alright,” Gavin says, reaching forward, placing his hands on Connor’s face. “You’ve crossed a line there.”

“With Elijah?”

“Yes.”

“What about the rest of it?”

“I’m not that fucking short. You’re just freakishly tall.”

“Yeah?” Connor leans forward and leaves a kiss on his nose, which Gavin wrinkles in disgust. “You can put the star on the tree yourself?”

“Yes.”

“You don’t need me to do it for you?”

Gavin’s teeth clamp over his bottom lip, his eyes go to the ceiling and he sits like that for a second, fighting back the smile on his face.

“You can’t…” he says, and he pauses, twisting his mouth as though it will keep it from forming the smile he’s desperately fighting a losing battle with.

“I can’t what?”

Gavin sighs, and it comes out heavy and a little annoyed, “I don’t know. Just… shut up and kiss me again, will you?”

“Gladly,” he says, and then after a moment tacks on, “Shorty.”

Gavin opens his mouth to complain, to say something, anything, but Connor is quicker, and he kisses him again, silencing his words. He can feel Gavin smiling against his lips, his hands on the back of his neck, pulling him closer and closer.

He wants more days like this. More jokes between the two of them. More smiles and kisses and comfort.

And he will get it.

Because he has a body now, and he isn’t going to leave Gavin behind. Not again.