Chapter 1: connections
Minor characters mentioned or seen in this chapter:
Simon, North, Chloe, Sumo, Cole Anderson
Hank looks beautiful in the morning sun. Golden light spreading across his body, hitting the column of his throat, down the still open buttons of a bright shirt. Warm chest hair and lines of ink. Over his bare forearms, and large but gentle hands as they take a coat from the hanger. They're at the front door, sun shining in from between the blinds on the windows. The way the light bounces and reflects, the room is blanketed in warmth, in color. Cozy. There's a faint smell of coffee in the air. Movement grabs his attention. Hank turns to him and steps forward, the light like a halo around him. It's stunning, feels almost in slow motion. They're going somewhere, routine, but this moment stretches on.
“Connor?” His voice is rough in every right way, word soft on his tongue, curious and tender. Familiar. Comfort in just the call of his name. Hank smiles slow, a small one, quietly pleased, fond . The little gap in his front teeth noticed, adored. All these little details. He leans forward slightly and tucks some of his freshly washed hair behind his ear. Smells floral. Some strands are curling. The detail is paramount. It’s healthy. Hank is healthy again, his hair is healthy.
Again . Again? Why that word?
Hank speaks once more and it takes up all the space in his head. “Hey… What are you looking at, huh?” He sounds amused, his face brighter by the attention. It's… beautiful. His eyes, such a striking blue, pupils large in the shadow of morning light - pleased immensely by what he's seeing. He’s seeing Connor.
A hand reaches out for him, so warm it's almost like a brand. It feels good. It feels good. It feels… numb. Movement. Pressure. Dull. Slipping away. What is this man’s name?
Error. Parameters not found.
Inquiry, find…? “Sunshine” “Light” “Coffee” “Warmth” “Rose oil” “Ink” “ Hey… What are you looking at, huh? ”
No search results found.
Search: “Coffee” “Warmth” “ Hey… What are you looking at, huh? ”
Data retrieval failed
Memory cascade in progress…
#________ K800 ? Attempt c____ /////
Hardware damage. Expand for more information +
)Defensive Protocols _ Activate ? _Cancel
)Matrix Upload //: Unavailable
)Request *—%# ___ ???# ///// ×
ERROR! DAMAGE DETECTED
MEMORY CASCADE IN PROGRESS _
INCOMPLETE. RETRY? INCOMPLETE. RETRY.
RETRY. CONNOR. C0NNOR. C_____ ///,,? STAY AWAKE . STAY A____>>>//#:*
LOSS OF DATA. ERROR. ERROR—@×
Activation request received.
The light is too bright. Cold. Connor's sensors slowly come to, he does not remember going into stasis. His processes feel sluggish as they tick one by one online. Why is he running this way? It feels awful.
His voice box crunches with hoarseness, “Help…”
A soft hand finds his own, but it feels abrasive somehow, like ice. A level voice from above him, on his left side. Left hand, left side. Above. Why is he laying down? “Simon, go get them.” Blinking through the brightness of the lights, he sees heterochromatic eyes staring back at him. “Connor. It's alright.”
Nothing feels alright. His diagnostics aren’t working; when he tries to run one, it fizzles inside his head instead of running. He shifts, feeling something tug against his head. Is he connected to something? Fear strikes low in his stomach. He tugs his hand away, “Don’t— What…? What is…?”
There are more people in the room than just the man next to his bed. Three more filter in. One pings off as an android, Connor recognizes him only because they have almost the same face. He doesn’t know why, but it brings a level of comfort. Almost safe. Almost. Another man; pale, hair drawn up in a tight bun, an expensive look about him, and has no issue coming close to the bed and activating a touch screen so far to Connor’s side he can’t see. He doesn’t want to argue even if the man acts like he owns the room. Connor’s eyes land on the third man.
The machines connected to Connor all make noise. Warning messages, alerts, Thirium pump suddenly too fast. It shocks Connor how his body reacts, and he’s so dizzy. He doesn’t understand. The man looks absolutely distressed, gruff voice pointing at the expensive man, “Kamski, what the fuck is that? What’s wrong with him? Do something, damn it!”
A hand levels on Connor’s chest. Kamski looks down at him, although he seems lost in thought, “Run the executable package.” Connor’s about to ask what package? when it delivers itself from the wires he’s connected to. He realizes he’s cut off from any networks, the internet, any databases. He doesn’t like this. He doesn’t know where he is or if he’s in danger or not. He pushes a hand off of him yet again and reaches up to grab for the wires at his head. They won’t come off, hard connected. They have bolts.
Connor’s hands shake as he lets them slip away from the wires. He can’t scan the room, but he can see where the door is. He can’t properly say what he wants, the queue for his speech program dropping the words. He’s frustrated that all he can say is, “No. No. I don’t—like…”
“Your speech isn’t properly connected. Connor, please do as he says.” A tall, dark-skinned android - Connor sees his LED is gone but he has a kind face - comes to the side of the bed, having been looking at the monitors. He can see Connor’s apprehension and goes to reach out, until he realizes Connor’s flinching away from it. He pats his own chest, “Hey… It’s me, it’s Josh. It’s alright.”
The name doesn’t register, but Josh seems to know him. He wants the safety of his defense protocols, he feels blind like this. Josh tries again, “It’s just a patch. It’ll help you speak, clear up the clutter. I promise. I’m a technician, after all. I always make sure you’re repaired. Right?”
“Connor, he is right. Run the patch, it will help you.” says the man who looks like him, with no room for debate. He doesn’t like it, but he can’t make a break for the door without being caught, he knows the success percentage without needing to calculate it.
He does as he’s told and watches as the programs run, approves progress updates as they come to him, and starts to feel a little more like himself. More secure. He immediately tries to access his memory to see how he got here, but the machines bark again. His head quakes and wrenches him to sit up. Kamski’s voice is sharp, “Connor, wait—”
It’s not exactly outright pain and he doesn’t understand why it churns his stomach, but it definitely throws him off balance. Disorientation takes him like a too big wave out to sea and he hears a chorus of voices all sound off at once, shoes squeaking on tile. Heavy arms circle him before he can tip over and off the bed completely, and his face is against the rough canvas of a jacket, feeling words rumble. “Fuck’s sake… It’s okay. It’s okay, I got you.”
Connor sags against the man, he has no other choice. Kamski is typing away and tapping at the diagnostic screens, Connor feels him tinkering around like an itch. He’s never liked this, though it does help him. It clears up some of the fractures, slots his perception back into place so the world isn’t so off. Once he feels well enough, he looks up at everyone. Every single person that is in the room has rushed towards his bed, at the foot of it, at the sides. The man who looks like him is closest, at the side of his bed reaching out. But not as close as the big man holding him. Connor looks up, and—
This man looks down at him with the brightest blue eyes Connor has ever seen. Flushed face, long nose, wrinkles, hair messy. His expression is full of worry, brows pinched, mouth open slightly. When he sees that Connor is looking at him, his whole face changes. It seems to smooth, the fold between his brows disappearing, eyes going softer. It’s a large shift, even in the uplift of the corners of his mouth. Relief. Connor’s not sure why he would be having such a reaction, but he chocks it up to the man being human.
His hand lifts to cradle the side of Connor’s face, and the heat of his hand is extremely noticeable. Everywhere it touches, Connor’s sensors light up dutifully - it shows on the monitors, increased usage of his limited processing power. It makes his temples pound taking in all this extra. And when the man speaks, it’s deep and has a roughness to it that taxes Connor even more with taking it in, “Hey… I was so worried about you. How’s your head feel?”
“I… I’m having trouble with my core processing. My head feels… fragmented.” Connor feels confused, his scanners aren’t working properly. “You were worried about me?”
“Of course I was, you idiot! You take damage like that and expect me to just waltz on with my day? Jesus, Connor. You scared the hell out of me.” The man has an expression Connor can’t read, but he’s too distracted to try.
Hearing his name from that man’s voice shorts out something, files desperate to categorize. All he can say is, “I’m sorry.”
“Lieutenant Anderson,” A short blond android speaks up at the corner of his bed, her voice soft, “Please let Elijah continue Connor’s diagnosis.”
Something clicks in Connor, “Elijah Kamski. Creator of androids.”
The room turns disturbingly quiet.
Elijah turns to him fully, expression slowly accumulating more confusion, “Yes?” Connor’s blank face must convey something, because it dawns on him, “Connor… Did you not know my name?”
Connor feels a pang of guilt, “I don’t know your face.”
The arms around him tighten, yet the hand on his face slips away. It feels cold, and he tries to pull away. It’s reluctant, but he’s allowed to slump back against the bed. The man’s arms hang there for a too long moment before they drop. Elijah exchanges looks with a few other people in the room, spares a long glance at the monitors, then walks to the man that looks like Connor. He wears his hair slicked back, a deep navy turtleneck to his chin, and his back is almost completely straight now that he’s not leaning over the side of the bed with his hand hovering over Connor’s ankle.
Elijah settles his hand on his look-a-like’s shoulder, which is immediately, discreetly shrugged off. He raises a hand to indicate him, “Do you know who this is?”
“I know he looks like me.” Connor provides, because it’s all he has.
His look-a-like’s face dips slightly, a barely there frown, “I’m an RK900. You call me Nines. You are my predecessor.”
Elijah goes around to a woman with long red hair, her face hard set. She’s worried but trying to look strong instead. He gestures to her, “And this woman?”
“I… Is she a nurse?” Connor takes a stab in the dark, and immediately knows he’s wrong when everyone’s body language sags. “I’m sorry. I don’t know, I’m sorry.” He tries to make more inquiries to his memory files, but it’s not responding. He doesn’t like this.
“North.” she gives, sadly. He silently promises he’ll try his best to remember, so he’s not so lost. “It’s alright, Connor.”
Everyone is very still while Elijah comes around to the man that was holding him - Lieutenant Anderson, that’s a title and name. His hand settles on the man’s back and his voice is even more serious, “Alright, then. And him?”
Connor’s eyes flick to the blond woman, “Lieutenant Anderson, she said.” He looks to the Lieutenant, and his face has completely fallen. The fear is back.
“His first name?”
Connor opens his mouth to disappoint, but the Lieutenant’s voice stops him, tone hitched with hurt, quiet— “You don’t recognize me?”
He feels incredibly embarrassed, it crawls up his neck like a vice. These people obviously know him, and he’s been distrusting. They act like he knows their names, and they certainly know his. He feels himself flush, ducking his head as he looks at his hands. “I’m sorry.”
The looks on the faces of the people around him make him feel wrong, the acrid feeling of failure boiling in his gut. People start talking amongst themselves, the Lieutenant and Kamski having a hushed, aggressive conversation. Kamski starts rooting around in his coding again. He doesn’t know how familiar he is with these people, it makes him worry. He doesn’t want to be unintentionally rude, he’s very much at a loss.
The man who held his hand when he first woke touches him again, both hands finding his one with a light squeeze. Connor doesn’t pull away now, this person obviously uses touch to connect. “Connor… Things will be alright. I’m sure you can be repaired. Elijah will work on you. Josh, too.” He smiles reassuringly, a soft thing. It puts some ease in Connor now and the man sees it. “My name is Markus. You and I are good friends.”
Connor nods, there’s not much else he can do at the moment. He has some learning to do.
The man’s first name is Hank.
Connor lives with Hank. He’s surprised by this. Being discharged from the hospital, he has to wear a monitoring device, clipped to the top of his spine. He has to travel to see Elijah again, to see if they can fix the big problems. Critical memory failure, a collapse in his ability to retain information and secure storage. He hasn’t been told too much about the accident yet, so he doesn’t try to overwork his memory fighting for the files anymore. He’s been told to focus on his home life, comfort, rest. A mission he will try his best with.
He’s taken home in an old car, he intakes the smell of the leather and bump of the tires. Music blasts through the speakers before Hank hastily turns it down and apologizes for the volume. Hank tells him that Connor had picked that song, when they went to work together the morning of the accident. He’s surprised again by this, because it means he has a say in something small and incredibly human in Hank’s car.
The autumn wind whips at Connor as soon as he steps out of the car, and he wraps his arms around himself quickly, realizing the cold is paralyzing. It takes his breath and forces an emotional response he doesn’t understand. Hank is there immediately, wrapping his own coat around him. It’s warm from his body and he tugs it tight around Connor, “Hey, come here! Sorry I didn’t have a blanket, I washed it but I didn’t put it back. I should’ve, I should’ve gotten you a coat. Fuck—I know you hate this.”
Connor breathes out slowly, shoulders relaxing somewhat with being protected against the wind, “It’s alright… How did you know?”
Hank guides him towards the front door and fiddles to find the right key, “You told me a while ago— had to pull it out of you, actually.”
Connor’s about to ask why, when Hank opens the door and ushers them inside. He barely gets two feet in before there’s a scuffle and his legs are being knocked against hard. It startles a gasp from him, immediately moving him back to collide with the corner of the wall and door. His defensive protocols try to preload to engage. He looks down to see what’s after him with wild eyes, so caught off guard.
“Shit, Sumo! Down!” Hank grabs the huge Saint Bernard by the collar and tugs him from trying to put his big paws on Connor’s knees. He’s seen Connor’s distress and guilt wells up in him. He forgot. “Jesus, I’m sorry. I should’ve fucking warned you.” He leans down to rub at Sumo’s head and neck, grip firm on his collar so he doesn’t go after Connor again, “I know you’re excited, big guy. You missed him, but he’s not feeling like himself. Go on, go lay down. Good boy.”
Sumo chuffs and nuzzles closer to Hank, pawing at his leg for the attention. Hank kisses his head and pats his side, then stands up. Sumo tries to turn back to Connor but Hank shoos him away again, “No, leave him be. Go on.”
Connor takes deep breaths as he powers down his defenses, Thirum pumping hard through his veins. He still doesn’t fully have his scanning capability back, but he feels he should have known. He feels stupid for not realizing someone like Hank would have a pet. Hank turns to him, hands finding his shoulder and his waist, gently pulling him from the wall as Sumo ambles away. Connor’s red LED blinks and spins to yellow. “You okay? I’m so sorry. He hasn’t seen you in almost three days. You usually greet him at the door, I didn’t even think …”
“I’m fine, Lieutenant. It’s alright. I just didn’t expect the dog. He’s a big dog.” Connor smiles softly, trying his best to calm down. Hank’s aid in moving Sumo did help him, and his care. Hank seems like he wants to help and soothe him, it’s very admirable.
Hank huffs, shaking his head with a smile, “Yeah, he’s a big boy. Thinks he’s still a puppy sometimes, especially with you. You like cradling him.” He squeezes Connor’s shoulder before letting his hands slip away, stepping back to toss his keys down and kick off his shoes.
Connor follows suit; finding the coat rack to hang Hank’s jacket, crouching to unlace his shoes and neatly settle them beside Hank’s. He looks around the room, then scans the room, even if his program is fractured. He sees half-things, and it makes his head ache to do it. Jazz records. Updated light bulbs in older glass, Connor can interface with them when he’s capable again. Hank’s shirt, cotton/rayon blend. Photos on the wall, framed. Connor steps closer to the wall and looks at the frames. There are photos of some people he knows from the hospital, and some he does not.
There’s a photo of Markus at a piano, the sun streaming over the instrument and his knowledgeable hands. He doesn’t appear to know his picture is being taken, he’s concentrating, following digital sheet music.
Another shows Connor at a ceremony, wearing a police uniform and standing tall. Proud. He’s graduated? He has a badge. He wonders who’s taken his photo, and when it was taken.
The next photo is of Nines, he’s not sure if they call each other family, not sure of their relationship, but he’s sitting demurely on a velvet sofa with a drink in his hand. While Connor is behind it and him, headphones on, singing into a microphone. The photo is tinted somewhat pink from atmospheric lighting. There are photos of Sumo, old and new. Even older photos of a family, some crinkled at the edges or originally folded. One is an old Christmas photo card. Others are landscape photos.
In a collage frame, there’s several photos of a young boy. Blond hair, bright eyes, a big smile. Some teeth are missing in a few photos, different ones in each. One of a beach almost obscured by sunlight, the boy is showing off a sandcastle. One of the boy in the snow, wrapped meticulously in a puffy jacket, two scarves, a hat and earmuffs. His nose is pink but he’s smiling very wide, standing next to a snowman. The carrot for the nose is in his mitten covered hands. Two photos of the boy in a school setting, one in front of a yellow school bus, another with a painting of what Connor assumes is Sumo and… Hank? The human-like painted figure doesn’t have a neck and has less grays, but it seems like Hank. The next photo gives him more reason to believe it is Hank, because it’s Hank and the boy at a birthday party, both wearing cardboard party hats. The cake says ‘Happy 6th Birthday, Cole!’ in purple icing. The last photo is a baby photo, the boy - Cole. Five pounds, six ounces. Wearing a yellow cap and in the arms of a man he believes is Hank.
In the last photo on this stretch of wall, it’s set in Autumn. Hank is laying in a pile of seasonal leaves, with a red flush over his nose and cheeks. There’s a leaf in his beard, on the left side. His gray hair is hiding beneath a red beanie, although some has fallen out around his face. He’s smiling widely, looking up the camera. With closer inspection, there are knees at either side of Hank’s ribs and a gloved hand almost out of frame on his stomach. Hank looks well. Happy. Not that he doesn’t look happy now, as Connor’s seeing him, but it looks easier on Hank’s face in the photo.
“Do they, uh… Do they help you remember?” Hank’s voice is curious, but also a little anxious. Connor turns to see the matching face. There’s hope there. Connor does not want to disappoint this man, decidedly.
“They give me some context into you, into the others I met in the hospital, even to myself. Am I a police officer?” Connor indicates the photo of himself on the wall, and Hank doesn’t look disappointed as he steps forward.
“You’re a Detective for the Detroit Police Department. That’s the day you graduated from the academy.” Hank shuffles Connor out of the way and opens the drawer to the table nearby, taking out a badge. “Here, it’s yours. You’re uh… You’re my partner.”
Connor holds the badge in his hands like it’s precious. He has a job. A profession. He was made for investigation and decided to put his skills to use after he deviated. That’s good to know. He holds the badge to his chest and smiles at Hank, “A Detective. Your partner. I… I think that’s sufficient. I like that.”
“Sufficient, huh?” Hank chuckles and shakes his head. He reaches up to touch Connor again, but his brow furrows and he seems to catch himself. He gestures towards the hallway instead, “Listen, bedroom’s that way if you wanna get dressed in something other than, you know, that.”
Connor looks down at the long-sleeved undershirt they gave him, and the jeans and dress shoes he assumes he wore for work attire. His shirt was probably lost in the accident, or at the hospital. He nods and looks for a place to set his badge, ends up settling it on the table. “Thank you, Lieutenant.”
“Hey,” He waves his hand at Connor, “Hank.” When Connor’s smile warms around the crinkles of his eyes, Hank huffs and turns to head into the kitchen. “Get comfortable, they said you gotta rest.”
Connor walks down the hall, taking in the feel of the house. It’s a cozy place, with light clutter, warm lighting. The bedroom has black out curtains on them, heavy to keep out the cold and the light. The bed is big and the sheets are made, in soft light blue sheets and a dark, heavy comforter. One bedside table has a book and an empty glass on it. The other has a tablet and a small stuffed animal of a dog wearing a bandana. This must be Connor’s room. It’s a more lived-in room than he would have thought he’d have, but he does like it.
He checks the closet first, opening it to see neat sets of hanging sweaters, shirts, more dressy clothes. Connor spies his police uniform here. He runs his fingers over the fabrics of all the clothing, feeling all of the different materials. It’s odd to see colorful patterns in his closet, but obviously he doesn’t know himself as well as he would think.
He chooses a knit maroon turtleneck, chunky and feeling soft. He lays it out on the bed and closes the closet door, goes to another door for the wardrobe to find himself pants. He grabs socks while he’s there, plain black. It makes him happy to see neckties folded and precisely placed. In a lower drawer, he finds a pair of sweatpants with cinched ankles. He dresses efficiently and finds a clothes hamper to take care of his old clothes. His sweater is way too big for him, and the socks seem a little loose, but he’s comfortable.
Back out in the living room, he slows as he passes the dog watching Hank in the kitchen. Sumo turns his giant, fluffy head to look at him. Connor looks into his big eyes and gently reaches his hand out. Sumo makes it the rest of the way, pushing his head up into Connor’s palm. His fur is soft and Connor gently runs his hand over his head a few times. “...Good dog. Sumo. Your name is Sumo.” The dog nuzzles closer and closes his eyes, and Connor… likes this. He likes dogs. He starts a list of things he likes.
Hank comes in from the kitchen, pushing his hair out of his face. He’s balancing a tray in his hand and pauses a moment to look Connor over, eyes dragging up and down. His face goes a little pink and he gestures towards the couch, “That better? Come on over, I got you somethin’.”
Connor settles onto the couch politely, sitting at the end up against the arm of it. Hank places the tray on the coffee table to get Connor a blanket and lay it over him. Connor appreciates the gesture, it makes him feel more comfortable. Hank then settles the tray over his lap and it gives him pause, “Hank, I’m an android.”
“What, you think I forgot?” Hank smiles at him, does that thing where he goes to touch him again but stops himself.
“No, I…” Connor looks down at the tray, the warm food and drinks. His stomach curls and growls, the smell of it activating a response. He doesn’t think much of it. “I don’t eat.”
Hank crouches down in front of him and picks up his spoon, swirling it in the cup of Thirium tea to make sure it’s all mixed, “You got the upgrade, maybe… last year? Yeah, last year. You wanted to eat cake.” He smiles at the memory and taps the spoon off before setting it back down, “These are your favorites for a cold day, when you need comfort. You made me a list.”
Connor feels his face heat in embarrassment, “I made you a list? I’m so sorry, that sounds… picky.”
Hank tips his head back and laughs, finding Connor’s knee over the blanket and squeezing. He shakes his head, “No, you’re not picky! You put a lot of shit in your mouth as it is, and food wise, you try everything once. Nah, you’re good, Connor. Go on and eat.”
There’s a feeling of warmth in his chest as Hank walks away, leaving him assured and with a tray full of food to eat.
Connor goes into stasis that night in a bed that seems too big and pillows that smell foreign. Sumo comes to lay in the unoccupied spot next to him sometime in the night.
Chapter 2: the first memory
Connor learns a few things over breakfast, and Hank brings him into work in an attempt to jog his memory. Nines has something to share.
Minor characters mentioned or seen in this chapter:
Sumo, Cole Anderson, Gavin Reed
(Cole's death is talked about in this chapter)
“Hank, I cannot believe you wouldn’t tell me. Why did you do that? I knew that bed was too big for me.” Connor berates heavily, for Hank letting him take up space not meant for him. He’s found Hank sleeping on the couch instead of in, what Connor assumed, was his own bedroom. Connor now knows it’s Hank’s. He gasps, feeling scandalized and embarrassed at another potential fact, “Oh n— Are these your clothes?”
Hank’s exhausted. His back aches from the couch something fierce. His back aching was the core of the fight, which led into Hank mistakenly saying Connor took the bed, which led into… this. He hasn’t even had his morning coffee yet and his face is red at being called out, “Uh…” he glances at Connor’s outfit again then looks away, running his hands through his hair, “The pants aren’t.”
Connor is so flustered he puts his head in his hands. He’s wearing Hank’s clothes, he took from Hank’s closet. He slept in Hank’s bed because the man was too polite to tell him no. “Hank!”
“Hey, don’t ‘Hank’ me! Come on! It’s… Just let it be.” He lifts his gaze to Connor, an early morning black hole unfurling in his chest. If Connor doesn’t remember, he doesn’t remember. And he won’t push... They just got home, he can’t fight Connor’s memory, for god’s sake. Connor opens his mouth to argue, but Hank puts a finger up to stop him. “You just got home from the hospital, Con. This is your home— all of it. You’ll relearn all the specifics as you get your memory back. Don’t worry about it for now. I don’t mind. ”
Connor’s shoulders droop as he deflates from the argument, letting go of a long breath. After a moment of looking like he wants to argue further, he nods. “Fine. All I ask going forward is that you don’t let me take your favorite items of clothing.”
“All my favorites are what you wear.” Hank mumbles to himself, pulling himself up from the couch. His back pops and he hisses in pain, feeling it ache and pull along his spine and shoulder. It’ll be easier once he starts moving around but for right now his muscles are tight from not being in his bed.
Connor’s brow pinches, reaching out for Hank’s shoulder. His voice sounds firm but his hand is gentle, “And you will sleep in the bed. At your age, you shouldn’t be fitting yourself onto a couch for your entire sleep cycle.”
“Damn, insulting my age, too? You’re such a peach in the mornings, Con.” He digs the heel of his hand into his lower back and makes himself stand up straight, walking towards the bathroom.
“A joke, Connor.” Hank waves him off, “…You are a peach, though. I’ll make breakfast.”
Connor watches after Hank until the bathroom door closes. He’s not sure what to do with himself for now. He strides into the kitchen and looks around, categorizing what’s there as well as he can. He checks the cupboards, learns where the mugs are, where the plates are. He finds the coffee in the cupboard near the coffeemaker, so he takes two mugs down and starts the machine.
He watches the drip for a while, the smell of coffee going from only a hint to slowly filling the room is comforting somehow. He thinks about getting to drink it as soon as he’s able, then remembers he’s capable of eating with his morning coffee. He flips through the list of items he saw in the in his sweep and goes for what catches his eye, rifling through the cupboard for pancake mix not a minute later. He follows the instructions on the side of the box, mixing with the bowl held against his chest.
Sumo clicks down the hall, having gotten out of bed after hearing his people wake up and start their day. He mozys his way into the kitchen to look at Connor, expectant for things Connor doesn’t remember. When Connor acknowledges him but doesn’t start their routine, he has to turn back to the early days of their interactions. He moves towards the door and settles in front of it. Then scratches at it. Then boofs for attention and scratches. Connor catches on with a quiet ‘oh’ and pulls on a sweater from the back of a kitchen chair before letting Sumo out. He stands on the concrete in his socks, watching him waddle around, taking in the area. When they head back inside, Hank has taken his place at the kitchen counter, already a pancake in and another cooking up.
“You don’t have to do that, Hank. I was only gone a moment with Sumo.” Connor pushes up his sleeves and washes his hands before handling anything again. He quickly sees Hank’s not going to budge.
“I said I’d make breakfast.” Hank tells him with a shrug, watching the pan with spatula in hand to make sure the pancake is perfect. Connor moves away so he thinks he’s accepted breakfast is taken care of, that Connor will go rest. Then there’s a rustle in the cupboard, Connor almost hip to hip as his hands hover over the pan. Hank watches him drop chocolate chips into the still uncooked batter. He’s looking at Hank with a confident yet uneasy look. Like a ‘try me’ but ‘don’t be harsh if you do’. Hank smiles slowly, “Hey, that’s cool with me. You almost never let me have chocolate chip pancakes.”
It makes warmth spread over Connor’s face, how easily Hank rolls with things like this. First his clothes and now his breakfast. Hank glances towards the bowl of batter and inclines his head towards it, “Tip the rest of the bag in there.”
Connor does, with an absolutely delighted smile. They make the rest of the pancakes together, Connor is impressed by Hank’s pancake flipping skills. Hank hands the spatula over for when he desperately needs coffee and he makes Connor a cup, too. It’s comfortable, and they spend most of the time in companionable silence. Connor is not the best at flipping pancakes but he’s told that’s just fine, soothed nice and easy in a way that shows Hank lives with a perfectionist. He feeds bits of the first, chocolate-less pancake to Sumo while Connor makes plates.
As they eat across from each other, Connor doesn’t say anything about Hank having syrup with chocolate and butter. He takes it as a small victory until he remembers Connor doesn’t know any better. He sighs into his cup. His happiness is boosted again by watching Connor take his first bite, the way his eyes close and his lips turn up in the littlest smile, like he’s never had this before. And Hank guesses he doesn’t remember having it, it’s all new again. He feels fondness warmly crackle in his chest, “Good?”
Connor licks the syrup from his lips and shoots him a close-mouthed smile, cheeks puffy with food, “Amazing…” he picks up his coffee and takes a long sip to clear his throat and mix the flavors, “I didn’t think food could be this good.”
“You got a thing for sweets.” Hank leans closer across the table conspiratorially, “You have candy in your drawer by the bed.”
The look on Connor’s face is priceless. His eyes sparkle, they shift covertly towards the hallway, knowing a stash is now waiting for him. Hank’s favorite is how his lips part like he’s surprised that’s a trait he has. He grins and Connor’s smile immediately matches it, hunkering down like they’re discussing a big secret, “Do I share it? Or are you not supposed to know?”
Hank laughs into his coffee, eyes scrunching up, “I wasn’t supposed to know, but I caught you. You had your stomach for three days. You had your birthday party, Markus had his art exhibit - where he unveiled that big, grand painting of you. There was a chocolate fountain there.” He smiles fondly, dipping into the happy memory. His face is so gentle, and Connor notices it so closely that he takes a photo and saves it before he’s realizing it. Hank carries on, “Then the next day, you bought candy and smuggled it into the house. Don’t think I would’ve noticed if it hadn’t been for the smell of those cinnamon candies you’d been sucking on.”
Connor smiles, watching Hank finish off his coffee, “I like that. It sounds… nice. Do I share it all? With you? Oh! With the boy? Hank, is he coming home anytime soon? Cole.”
The mug slips out of Hank’s hand. He grabs the edge of the table to stabilize himself, wishing he hadn’t stood up. The mug smashes apart on the floor, pieces scattering, and Connor pushes out of his seat to reach for him. “God.” It isn’t so much a sharp stab of pain anymore, hearing Cole’s name. It’s more surprise than anything, hearing Connor ask about Cole like this, ask about him coming home .
“Hank, are you alright?” Connor steps around the shards of porcelain to grab Hank’s bicep, dipping forward to try and see as he covers his face. Connor takes his other arm too. “Hank? I can’t scan you for medical anomalies, please speak to me.”
Hank pulls in a deep breath. It shudders slightly. “Connor…” He takes another breath, dragging his hand over his face, scratching through his beard, “He, uh. No.” Connor squeezes his arms, trying to move him, no doubt thinking Hank’s having a heart attack or something. Hank takes his shoulder, shaking his head, “He’s not— He’s not coming home, Connor. He… passed away a few years ago. It was an accident.”
Connor goes still, and only slowly straightens his back the same time Hank does. They stand there clasped together at the arms, Connor trying to process. He’d been excited to welcome Cole home, thinking he’d been at a friend’s house while Hank had been with Connor in the hospital. He wasn’t ready for the option of that not being true. His stomach dips, breakfast not settling all too well while he desperately tries to recall loss. Tries to remember how the look on Hank’s face feels, the deep-set hurt of it. “I’m… sorry, Hank. When? …Was I there?”
“You didn’t know him.” Hank says, slowly pulling himself together. “Uh, you came into my life later… saved it, actually. The pictures, I…” he gestures to the many frames spanning the walls, “When you decided to stay with me, I wanted to make this place a home. I wanted to put the pictures of him back, with ones of you, of… everyone else.”
Connor feels hollow. He had been thinking about how he’d interact with Cole, how he’d explain he didn’t remember him, but he’d like to. Now he has to scrub that from his upcoming objectives bar and the action twists unhappily inside him. He can only imagine how it feels for Hank. He knows his expression carries something wrong, because Hank looks at him and immediately cups his face, assures him, “It’s okay, Connor. You just caught me by surprise… I’m sorry about the mug, you bought that one.”
“The mug is unimportant. I’ve brought up a bad memory, because I couldn’t remember. Or run a scan to relearn this information. I’ve… I’ve harmed you. Hank, you have to know how deeply sorry I am.” Connor looks up at him, fingers digging into his arms, like he’s compelling Hank to see how sorry he is if he just connects. He feels his eyes become a little blurry. He’s harmed the one person who has taken him in, who obviously cares for him enough to let him stay in his home, to make it feel like a home. Hank has been nothing but compassionate to him since he’s woken up and he cheerily brought up his dead child.
Hank’s face softens, a different look of hurt crossing his features. “Connor—” He tugs Connor closer to him, against the breadth of his chest, into the curve of his neck. “Shh, come on. I know you didn’t mean to. It’s not your fault.” Connor opens his mouth, voice cracking on his first word and Hank shuts it down with a squeeze around his shoulders. At his temple, his LED, Hank rubs slow circles with the spongy pad of his thumb. Connor’s surprised when a feeling of calm washes over him— when he inquires access is denied. But it feels better than a clenched throat. Hank’s voice is firm in an assuring way, “I mean it. Not your fault.”
They stay there for a long moment, Connor doesn’t even keep track. He aligns his breathing to Hank’s and feels Hank’s arm around him relax when he does. The whole house is quiet. It still smells like pancakes. Connor, eventually, pulls himself away. His voice is level, if more soft, like he doesn’t want to cut through the silence. “I will clean up the remains of the mug.”
Hank smiles softly at him, “Thanks. I think I’ll get myself into the shower real quick. Remember to get dressed, alright? Chloe said it would help to put you in familiar places, so even if you’re still on medical leave we’re going in to work.”
Work? The police station. Connor feels a bloom of anticipation through unease - he’ll get to see where he works.
The anticipation holds Connor tight, all the way to the station. His fingers fidget, he keeps adjusting his jacket, he takes out his badge to feel around all the edges. He’s gotten dressed in something that feels most familiar, something Hank said was like “a funky factory reset”. He put on a button up shirt, white but patterned with small purple grape bunches. A deep purple tie that sits perfectly straight. Dark, fitted jeans that cuff at the bottoms. Smart shoes appropriate for the office. And his Cyberlife jacket, that now says ‘CONNOR, Detroit Police Department’ instead of ‘ANDROID, RK800’ on the back across the width of his shoulder blades, over and under the glowing badge. He likes the change, it just gives him more information about how much pride he takes in his job.
When they walk inside the building, Hank sees his expectant scan around the room and steers them to their desks. Connor immediately sees which desk is Hank’s and which is his own, happily unlike the bedroom situation. Hank’s desk is more cluttered; an old coffee cup, an empty donut box, headphones, photos and articles pinned to his cork board. There’s a print out of a news article, surprisingly with a photo of Markus and some of the others he met at the hospital. A little photo of Connor is in the brackets, snowflakes whipping around him. It’s circled in red marker.
Connor eyes his own desk, noting it’s very tidy. A coffee cup also sits on his desk, “#1 Partner” on the side of it in rainbow font. He has a framed photo on his desk next to his terminal. It’s Sumo, slobbery and smiling for the camera. Connor immediately smiles too, picking it up to fondly see it closer. It makes him… happy. When he sets it down, he spares a glance to his cork board. A copy of his graduation certificate is pinned up, as well as a photo of himself and Nines, standing shoulder to shoulder. They’re wearing the same outfit. There’s a letter from a girl named Alice, covered in dog stickers that says she likes Canada very much, and congratulations on his graduation. The letter states that the stickers are the reward for doing well, because she gets them from her mom and dad all the time. There’s a small news clipping next to that, the headline congratulating the youngest Lieutenant in Detroit for his promotion. The man is circled in red marker. Looking closer, he learns that man is Hank.
“Eight-hundred.” A voice not too unlike his own pulls him from reading, and he turns to see Nines standing in front of his desk, hands held professionally behind his back. Nines smiles just so, a small movement of his mouth, “I’m glad to see you look better.”
Connor smiles back. It seems not only does Nines like him, he’s given Connor a nickname based on his RK designation. It seems fond. He wonders again. “Thank you. I feel better than I did, even if I can’t remember just yet. I apologize if that causes any misunderstanding.”
Nines tips his head in acknowledgement. “Maybe we could interface, so I could better fill you in. I arrived quickly when you were damaged, I retained some of your memory files… I couldn’t take them all before your forced shutdown, but I’m holding them for you.”
The thought hits Connor a bit hard. Firstly that some of his memory is held safely somewhere outside of him, so he didn’t damage it. Part of him kept safe. Secondly, that Nines must care about him enough to risk himself in a transfer with an in-distress android. Nines’ eyes flick up to his LED, spinning yellow. His LED shifts to match, brows drawing together. Connor slowly sits down in his office chair, knees together, hands in his lap, “I… I didn’t know that.”
Nines tilts his head; no doubt analyzing his posture, his expression, his mindset. He comes around Connor’s desk and sits himself on the edge, which seems out of character for someone as steely-looking as Nines. But his eyes soften and he reaches down to touch Connor’s wrist, not initiating an interface but offering a comforting touch, “Connor. You didn’t need to know until you were stable enough to be informed. You are stable now.”
The way he says it, you are stable now , like he’s assuring Connor he really is okay. His voice resolute. Connor finds himself nodding, LED slipping back into a smooth, rolling blue. Nines’ LED skips to match. His face changes, back to what it was - rigid, placid - but Connor feels that’s just for him to rest. “You don't have to take your memories back right away, you can get more in tune with your surroundings first. They are safe with me. Perhaps after you see Kamski next, for your check-in.”
“He sent me an email inviting me to his home tomorrow, he wants to repair my scanning and networking. I confirmed my arrival time.” Connor informs, watching Nines pull away from him and leave his hands in his lap, giving an approving nod.
“Do you have anyone to accompany you?” Nines asks.
Connor didn’t think he’d have anyone that would want to go with him. But he thinks to the hospital, with all the people at his bedside. “I haven’t asked anyone.”
“I would enjoy going with you.” Nines informs him promptly, “Lieutenant Anderson and I. We will be your support.”
Fondness grows in Connor’s heart, “Are you always like this to me?”
Nines isn’t expecting the question, brows pinching, although he answers anyway, “Yes, of course. You are my predecessor.”
Connor feels something twist oddly in him. Like he’s not understanding. “What does that mean, exactly? I'm sorry but… Wouldn’t you be, well… unhappy? That I’m your predecessor, but I’m still here. By what I’ve gathered already, it seems you haven’t taken my place.” He’s figured out some information; he’s been Hank’s partner for a while, perhaps years. They live together, they’re close.
He thought Cole was someone he also cared for— I thought he was my child too , Connor’s brain impulsively says, though he doesn’t know why he thought it. Except maybe he does. He and Hank are closer than regular colleagues, Hank does not wear a wedding band, just a chunky ring on his index finger - so Connor assumed with no one else in the house, he’d be a second adult presence. His chest aches distantly.
And Nines. Nines works at the station, but not in Connor’s place. There seems to be no rivalry between them, no anger or resentment. He and Nines seem to have a relationship of some kind. Nines is with him, not replacing him, so the word ‘predecessor’ doesn’t seem right with deviancy.
Nines has been quiet this whole time, gone very still, face… constipated. Connor tries again, lost, “I want to understand you. You haven’t replaced me. But you're here. You haven’t succeeded me, but you’re my successor.”
“I’m—” Nines sounds incredibly strained. To Connor’s surprise, his LED blinks red. He reaches out with his hand again, skin drawing away automatically in Connor’s vicinity, up the lines of his fingers, like Connor’s personal space is a physical presence. He doesn’t touch, just hovers over Connor’s chest like he wants to connect.
Connor watches his face, Nines watches his own hand. Watches Connor’s chest rise and fall. “I’m… part of your unit.” Nines’ hand turns over, showing Connor an image of his own face. Blurry and fractures of code at the edges, with light in a halo around him. “You found me. I’m your family.”
Family . That word can stand for so much, all based in love and togetherness. Connor brings his hands up and cups Nines’, skin peeling away, asking to be shown. Nines thankfully knows exactly what he means and only shows him this one memory.
Connor realizes this is Nines’ first memory.
Opening his eyes, seeing pulses of code at the corner of his vision, errors and warnings that make his Thirium pump fast. He doesn’t have a mission, all too garbled to make out. His body is locked. Uncertainty crawls up his throat. He feels fear, visceral and alone and trapped. It could be terrifying, neverending. Then… it all goes away. And there’s a figure coming into focus. There’s smoothness to the jarring experience, there’s a hand in his, a bare touch, a connection — You’re safe. Wake up. Connor’s face in Nines’ view, kind brown eyes, curious to see someone different but the same. Optimistic. His presence cuts through the too bright lights and when he sees Nines has recognition, he smiles. It's the most beautiful thing Nines has ever seen. He doesn’t understand. And then he does. You’re alive .
The memory fizzles away and Connor is pulled back into the present moment. Hank is touching his face. He realizes he’s crying, and Hank’s pushing the tears away. Nines is holding his shoulder, soft eyes betraying a set face. He felt it all, everything Nines felt, the significance of it. The lost feeling. Their connection. The assurance. The togetherness. Connor pushes up out of his seat and forces himself to move forward, wrapping both of his arms around Nines’ shoulders. Nines barely budges, arms slowly finding Connor’s waist. Nines lets him hold on, both of their hands still white and glowing. “It’s alright.”
“I—” Connor chokes, errors popping up on his HUD, vision flickering and blurry. He feels so much, emotions so heightened. His first connection with fragile systems. It’s a moment of clarity. But he’s also finding it incredibly hard to keep himself composed.
“Connor, hey. You okay?” Hank’s voice is hushed, leaning towards them in concern. His hand lays heavy over the back of his neck and Connor rests his head against Nines that much more.
“We interfaced and shared the moment of my activation. He… This is his reaction.” Nines explains, letting his palm smooth up and down Connor’s back.
Hank’s face tightens disapprovingly, “You interfaced with him a day after he’s outta the hospital? Nines, fuck—”
“He asked. He can handle it, he’s an advanced model.” Nines defends, holding Connor tighter against him, not minding tears on his coat.
Hank grunts. Connor feels his hand squeeze on his neck and his fingers brush his nape, dragging prickly through the close hair and over the monitoring device at his brainstem. Nines’ hand is a heavy weight on his back, heat radiating through noticeably. Nines has turned his temperature up to comfort him. Connor takes a deep breath and mumbles against Nines’ coat, “I apologize.”
“Do not.” Nines tells him, movements not stilling. He lets Connor stay where he is until he’s ready and pulls away.
When Connor sniffs and reaches up to wipe at his eyes, Hank’s there to push a handkerchief into his hand. He uses it to dry his face and forces a smile when Hank still looks concerned. “I didn’t think it would overwhelm me like that. I’m fine now.”
“You sure?” Hank asks, hand still on him. A broken scan makes Connor’s LED spin and his head throb, but it reveals Hank’s heartbeat fast and heavy in chest. He’s worried.
“Hank.” He returns Hank’s touch, laying a hand on his chest, “I am. I’m okay now. Thank you.”
A man he recognizes from the back of his hospital room squeezes his way in between Nines and Hank, arm first, holding a to-go cup of coffee, “Of course he’s alright, stop being gay. Move.”
“Gavin.” Nines says warningly, but he does step aside so Gavin doesn’t bump him so much.
Hank has stepped away too, because Gavin’s slid along his body while wiggling his way in front of Connor, “Reed—” Gavin waves a hand at them and scrunches his face up, holding out the cup. When Connor doesn’t take it from him, he grabs Connor’s hand and places the cup in it. Connor’s fingers are still white and pulsing blue and Hank’s voice bites, “ Reed—! ”
“He’s fine .” Gavin drags out the sentence, but he doesn’t touch Connor’s fingers until the skin is back on them. He looks over Connor’s face, gives him a little nod, “See? Just fine. Tin can’s got it all under control, don’t treat him like he’s running on Windows 95.”
Connor looks into Gavin’s eyes, over his face. He sees firmness, but it’s not malicious. Gavin nods to him again, like he’s confirming Connor’s alright, confirming Connor understands him. He thinks he does. He smiles slowly and nods back, bringing the cup up to his lips and taking a sip. It’s a Thirium-based coffee with organic honey. It warms Connor’s throat and he can feel his body separating the Thirium to use. “Thank you, Gavin.”
Nines grabs the back of Gavin’s hood and forces him to turn away, leaving him tripping back towards his desk the way he came. “He’s sucking up to you, eight-hundred.”
“Oh!” Connor gives him a bright smile. “That’s odd. Why?”
Hank snorts and pats Connor’s back, leading him along, “How about we go meet Jeff?”
As he’s invited up the steps to the big glass office, he feels much less alone.
Chapter 3: #__/%*@ rem@|n calm
Nines and Hank accompany Connor to the home of Elijah Kamski.
Minor characters mentioned or seen in this chapter:
Gavin Reed, Chloe, Amanda, Daniel (the PL600 on the rooftop), Markus, Kara, Alice, Connor RK800-60, Cole Anderson, the Tracis, Ben Collins
(This chapter deals with events from the game and Connor's PTSD over those events, hence all the mentions)
The ride to Kamski’s house is pleasant. Hank warmed the car up first, and put a dryer-warm blanket across Connor’s body after he buckled up. Tucks him in up to his chest, even if he’s wearing appropriate Fall clothing, comfortable as Kamski requested. A turtleneck and sweatpants, tucked into a pair of boots. They drive to Nines’ apartment and pick him up. He’s brought Hank two muffins and Connor a micro SD with a soothing fish program on it. He compliments Connor’s turtleneck and is wearing one to match.
Hank lets Connor pick the music that plays in the car. He doesn’t know any of the songs, so he picks at random. Hank taps his fingers on the steering wheel in beat to every song, even hums and then softly sings along to the words. Connor watches him, intrigued by it. Nines watches on from the middle of the backseat.
Elijah Kamiski’s house is big and sleek, almost cold and uninviting. His assistant Chloe is a warm presence, wearing a deep green dress with sheer long sleeves. She’s not wearing any shoes and her steps are silent while the dress flows and trails behind her. She’s greeted them so kindly, shook Hank and Connor’s hands, interfaced passingly with Nines as a hello. She leads them to a large room that serves as a proper workspace with a modern twist; computer terminals, bundles of connecting wires, a plush pale rug, a padded chair to run android repairs. Connor knows that’s where he has to sit.
Kamski is dressed in pants and a mostly zipped up hoodie. No shoes, hair drawn up again, glasses. He smiles tightly at them as they come in, obviously sleepless, “Hello again, all of you. Please make yourselves comfortable. If you’d like something to eat or drink, Chloe can guide you to the kitchen. I’d like to think you all know my home by now,” He spares a sympathetic glance to Connor, “I—Well, most of you.”
Nines takes Connor’s coat and blanket for him and Hank is quick to drag one of Elijah’s chairs towards where Connor will sit. Elijah opens his arms and Connor lets himself be held by the shoulders as he’s looked over. “Thank you for the work you’re doing, Mr. Kamski.”
“‘Elijah’, please.” Kamski smiles, squeezing him. “You’re special, Connor. Working on you myself is like… tending to family.”
“Don’t let Gavin hear you say that.” Nines says offhandedly, rolling up the sleeves of his shirt in perfect folds.
Elijah chuckles and shakes his head. He moves around Connor to check the device on his neck, taking a small tool from his pocket to do it. “Connor, I’m going to have you take off your shirt and clear the synthetic skin on the back of your head and neck. I’m going to be connecting you when you sit.”
Connor nods, stepping closer to the chair before pulling his shirt over his head. He runs his fingers through his hair to smooth it down, then folds his shirt as he settles in, laying it on his lap. He closes his eyes and lets his skin deactivate where Kamski asked, feeling it draw away to the curve of his jaw, behind his ears. He hears Hank make a quiet noise in his throat. He glances over, “Does it make you uncomfortable, Hank?”
“What?” Hank brings his eyes to Connor’s, cheeks still pink from the wind outside. He shakes his head softly. His eyes trail slow, distracted, over bare chassis again, “No, no. I’m used to it.”
Connor wants to ask how. But then Elijah lays a hand on his shoulder to brace him before he starts connecting a dozen magnetized connecting wires to Connor’s head and neck. He sees each connection as it comes in - a small click against his skull, an alert telling him he’s set up with bigger computers. One fizzles on his neck, it makes his nose and left eye twitch. He goes to speak up to have it fixed, when Hank reaches over and disconnects the wire before he can.
“Ain’t a good spot, remember?” Hank tells Kamski, moving the wire to just behind and below Connor’s ear. It feels a lot better.
“Right, apologies.” Kamski squeezes his shoulder and Connor gives a soft nod in return.
He looks over at Hank without moving his head too much, voice an almost awed whisper, “Thank you, Hank.”
Hank’s smile is familiar and messages ping off on Kamski’s big leftmost monitor.
Detecting… Muscle movement
>> #%:’]]] Facial expression
>> Emotion *?>..///
>> … // Warning: Processing power too low!
)Categorize emotion ? _Yes
>> … Warm
)Positive. Positive. Positive. Good. Good. Success. Success?
Hank’s face goes red and he looks away. He starts shrugging out of his coat with a huff.
// >>> Movement detected.
>> Complexion change
Extract exact hexcode _ ? ??? [
>> Movement }” muscle
>> Movement ^* fat
>> Heart BPM: 6\?...Err.
>> Hair c0lor, hex#___
“Connor.” Kamski calls to him, squeezing his shoulder to distract him away from using his processing power. “Try your best to relax. I’m going to lay you back just a bit.” He adjusts the wires to feed them through the slot in the headrest of the chair. Then he holds Connor’s head and guides him back. The chair leans backward less than a foot and Connor does try his best to relax as asked.
He watches his HUD and sighs uncomfortably at feeling his files gone through, his subroutines, programs, protocols. Kamski gathers information from him. He even goes through his cosmetic interface. Takes all information to look over again. Then he starts to delve into his scanning/analytics and networking, as promised.
“You’ve been using your scanning software. It says it causes a feedback loop trying to provide information to empty gaps…” Elijah looks away from the monitors to fix on Connor, “Doesn’t that cause you pain?”
“Yes.” Connor answers, no use in lying.
“Why would you do it, then?”
“It’s part of me.”
Elijah sighs but doesn’t argue, he just nods and carries on. Connor tries to stay still during all of Kamski’s work, not to overthink, not to analyze. When it’s needed, Nines puts a coin in his hand and he goes through the calibration, smiles softly to have something familiar to occupy him. He passes the test. He’s told to go into a semi-stasis, with awareness that’s muted and body relaxed. He can feel the pressure of information in his brain, construction and repair. Finalizing changes, he grunts lowly as those parts go offline to reboot with the new data.
When his pump regulator lowers to a steadier rhythm, Nines sends him a request for communication. He accepts, because now he can. The connection click on, feels strong, maintainable and clear.
'Would you like to interface?' Nines asks into his head, and it feels so good.
'Hello! Yes. Thank you.’ Connor answers back. He can feel Nines’ amusement at how happy he sounds inside his own head. He is. A part of him feels restored.
He feels Nines’ hand slide into his a moment later, and he sees… So much. It’s not all clear, not everything is there, he feels it. But there’s an incredible amount of information.
File Transfer in Progress //
Incomplete files! Transfer not advised.
)Terminate Connection _Cancel
)Continue ? _Yes
The smell of roses, distant and far away. People in suits looking upon him. His arms still being attached to his body with muted clicks. No modesty, no need to be.
“RK800, register your name.”
"My name is Connor.”
A coin flipping back and forth between nimble fingers, success in the way it dings off in his head like a drug. Keeps him on track.
Mission: Hunt Deviants.
ERR>000]] — Amanda Stern. No, Amanda Stern’s AI. The Zen Garden. — Objective: Don’t Disappoint Amanda. Be liked by Amanda.
Simulations. Simulations. Passed. Success. Granted field work, access to the world.
Subrank given: Hostage Negotiator.
MISSION SUCCESS: Deviant PL600 (Given name: Daniel) Neutralized.
!! Attention. Incomplete files. Reconstruction failed.
)Try again? _No
)Next memory, loading…
Assignment Received: Work flawlessly with Detroit Police. Find Lieutenant Hank Anderson.
Amanda’s words echoing in his head, “Don’t disappoint, Connor. This is crucial. Complete your mission. Make me proud.”
Objective: Make Amanda Proud. Be liked by Amanda.
Hank huddled on a barstool, the stench of whiskey in the air, aware of the ‘NO ANDROIDS’ sign on the bar door, “Just be a good little robot and get the fuck outta here.”
Failing to interact seamlessly with humans. Hunting deviants. They’re getting away. The first taste of unease. Kara AX400. The Eden Club. He lets them go. He’s sure.
Software Instability ^
Amanda’s mounting disapproval.
Dread churning in a stomach he doesn’t have.
! Attention. Incomplete files. Reconstruction failed.
)Try again? _No
)Next memory, loading…
//E:%r0— “What about you, Connor? …You look human, you sound human, but what are you really? ”
“I’m whatever you want me to be, Lieutenant.”
Hank pointing a loaded gun to his forehead. Is there a heaven for androids?
Error /// >
Incomplete files. Reconstruction failed.
)Try again? _No
Elijah Kamski. The feeling of a gun in his hand, not for the first time. Showing empathy. Chloe walking away with a blank face.
“By the way. I always leave an emergency exit in my programs… you never know…”
?‘’’#’)) Why didn… …” “—I couldn’t!” “... Maybe you… … r////ight thing.” __nk^— ERROR//> Stratford Tower. Markus RK200, identified. Speech saved, hopefully hidden. He’s attacked by a deviant, a JB300. He feels… helplessness.
BIOCOMP&NENT #8456w MISSING.
"Hank… Hank! I need help.”
)Try again? _No
“Connor! Connor, are you okay? ” Hank grabbing his arm and pulling him up. Panic in his voice.
Software Instability ^
Warning! Corrupt Files! Continue? _Accept
Action not recommended. Continue? _ACCEPT
)Thirium pump regulator BPM increased.
)Stress level ^
)Try again? _No
#__/%*@ REM@|N CALM
/ / / / / / / /
There have been so many mistakes.
Amanda’s voice, “Don’t let Anderson, or anyone else get in your way.”
Hank’s voice, “What if we’re on the wrong side, Connor?”
Markus’ voice, “Have you ever wondered who you really are?”
Kamski’s voice, “Decide who you are.”
He tears at the walls inside of his own head. Feeling it crack and splinter under his fingers.
His own voice, “What I want… is not important.”
He doesn’t want to shoot Markus.
His own voice, “I’m not a deviant.”
“I’m not a deviant.”
“I’m not a deviant.”
I’m not a deviant.
I’m not a deviant.
I’m not a deviant.
The world shifts into focus in a pulse of blue. He’s able to lower the gun.
I am deviant.
)Try again? _No
Find Hank Anderson.
Be part of the revolution.
RK800 #313 248 317 - 60 with a gun at Hank’s head. It fills him with a visceral flash of fear — “I have access to your memory! I know you’ve developed some kind of attachment to him.”
Cole. Dead at six because of a human doctor too busy getting high. Connor burns inside retelling the story to Hank, to be heard in a last ditch effort. Every word feels like he’s choking.
)Try again? _No
Marching in the snow, all androids following his steps exactly. The stage as Markus speaks.
The bitter cold of his mind palace, calling out for Amanda. Shock. He’s so cold. He’s so scared . To come all this way, to feel , and he’s going to die here.
“I always leave an emergency exit in my programs…”
The squeezing feeling of everything that makes him Connor being frozen to solid ice. The emergency exit burns against his palm, the gun feels too heavy in his hand as he’s able to take his finger off the trigger again. The fear remains.
A figure, in the morning sun. Snow glittering on the ground. H___///>,,err#^
)Try again? _No
Waking up to smell of pancakes he can’t eat yet. Walking Sumo with Hank. Getting to go back to work, to have a choice not to. Markus calling in the dead of night on the tail end of January 2039. A Cyberlife facility sent to his GPS. Intelligence reports found. RK900. One last prototype. He runs to the car in his pajamas.
Nines, shaking in fear inside of a pod, inside of flashy packaging like property. Taking Nines’ hand in his own and seeing bright pale eyes meet his in recognition. His voice, talking sweet and slow, meaning it with his whole being, “You’re safe. Wake up. You’re alive.” Machine to person to family in the span of hours. Connor tells him happy birthday a minute before the day is over, on a windy January 27th, in the basement of a seized facility.
Hank’s eyes as he pours liquor down the drain. A small bouquet of flowers from E. and R. Traci on his desk when he graduates the police academy. Work days that go by with happiness, stress, success, loss. His own voice singing loudly in Hank’s car.
A party with confetti he’s going to have to clean. A cake; white, bavarian creme, whipped frosting, raspberries, Happy Birthday Connor. Closed eyes, breath on his mouth, the taste of butterscotch, shivering anticipation.
Analyze ? _Yes
UNAVAILABLE. Retry? _Yes
UNAVAILABLE. Retry? _Yes
UNAVAILABLE. Retry? _Yes
)Try again? _Yes
)Try again? _Please
)Try again? _+>#??@((^&__
Connection terminated by RK900. ‘Remain calm, Connor.’
“RK900, disconnect.” Elijah’s voice sounds underwater to Connor’s ears, underlined with urgency.
“I have.” Nines answers, hand twisting to slip from Connor’s harsh grip. Not his fault.
Connor is so overwhelmed that his thoughts are overlapping. Markus, the quiet reassuring man who’d held his hand - a revolution leader. Nines, his first emotion fear and he doesn’t like people touching him, but he allows Connor with no issue. Amanda, his handler, his source of dread and indecision when he acted a little too human. Leaving him cold in the snow. Hank, his first friend, so much between them that he feels his stomach drop with echoing, slanted memories.
Hank drunkenly shouting at him to get out of his house, Hank’s voice spitting “fuckin androids...” All the times since the hospital that Hank had started to show comfort, only to pull away at the last second, as if remembering something. Has Hank been putting up with him because of the accident? What did Connor do to him?
Connor heaves in a shuddering breath, neck arching up, eyes opening wide like he's come out of a fitful sleep. He has, in a way. Power running so low he can't properly move. He can't relax, can't lift his arms without feeling they're a hundred times their normal weight. His temples tingle like static, ears closed off, he's swimming but he's made of lead. Hank's voice sounds far away, “Hey, what the fuck does that mean?”
Nines eyes the monitors, “He's not doing well with the gaps in his recall. He was made to investigate, his system is still trying reflexively.” He starts reaching out again, pulling up his sleeve, “What if I gave him something of mine, of him? That would clear a block.”
“No, that's not safe.” Elijah spits, clipped. Fingers rapidly typing, trying to keep ahead of Connor's panic in ones and zeros to cut it off. “He can barely handle his own information. Right now, he’d try to fill in your life around that one data packet like he is with his own. Don't touch him.”
Nines’ face shifts to something incredibly unhappy before forcefully neutral. His voice is still defensive, “I gathered everything I could. Who are you to tell me—?”
Hank looks at Nines, concern etched in his features, “You did your best.”
“You saved his life.” Nines gives, looking from Hank to Connor again, analyzing his every move, “Help him again.”
“I don't…” Hank watches Connor struggle; muscles clenched tight, eyes shifting blindly, breaths light but fast through his open mouth. His LED is solid red. Fear churns Hank’s gut. He scoots his chair closer and leans so Connor can see him better, “Connor?”
Connor's eyes don't meet him. They keep twitching, uplink taxing. Out of the corner of Hank’s eye, he sees a warning for Connor's Thirium pump. He immediately reaches out to put his hand over the regulator. His body is so rigid it feels more like immovable plastic than it ever has. “Connor, hey. Hey, that's enough. You gotta relax, now.”
Connor can't speak. Half formed words go into a queue and disappear, not enough space to hold them. Reconstruction software failures, endless retries, the need to know. This isn't enough, what Nines has shared with him. He doesn't blame him. There's no room if he wanted to. His brain loops the sequence again, trying to make sense of it, trying to make sense, trying to make sense—
“Connor!” Hank’s hand lands hard on his chest as a critical alert flashes, and he tugs Connor's arm towards him. It's like turning a car with no power steering, he has to fight it.
It startles Connor so much that his defensive protocols become top priority. Connor's clenched white knuckles press to Hank's chest, Hank keeps him there. The protocols cut through the endless loop and gives Kamski the in he needs to dump that cached process. Connor's eyes meet Hank's, he feels Hank's chest move against his hand as he breathes. Hank’s fingers tighten on his hand, “Jesus Christ. Stop fucking scaring me. Let it go, Connor.”
Kamski settles the files into a folder and drops the notifications of them being incomplete, forcing Connor's system to accept them as is. Connor’s body slumps heavily against the chair, then immediately begins to tense up again, ready to defend himself. Kamski takes care of that too before Connor can. He feels like a visitor in his own head. He grunts as his body relaxes again, head falling to the side. His eyes close and his system does the equivalent of flinching as Kamski tries to examine more. Poking and prodding. It's too much.
Request from Connor, RK800:
#Request for primary user
)Reinstate Connor, RK800 _Accept
)Disconnect Elijah Kamski _Accept
“To the point, as always.” Elijah comments as he safely ends his interface with Connor's brain, terminates the connections from the wires. When Connor doesn't want to be examined anymore, he always promptly says so.
Hank looks at Connor's sluggish form, feels the pump under his palm going from noticeably too hot to cooling back down to body temperature. “Is he alright now?” He adjusts his hold on Connor's limp hand, shaking it slightly, “Tell me you're okay. Con? Connor?”
Connor looks haunted. The moment Hank reaches to unhook the wires, he wrenches out of his seat and falls to his hands and knees on the floor. His body can barely hold itself up. The emotional impact is making his ears ring. Just because his systems aren’t blaring doesn’t mean he’s okay. He’s stammering quietly when Nines kneels down to hold his biceps, “Connor? Look at me.”
“Markus led the revolution. Markus. He was so quiet and soft at the hospital. He led them, and I hunted them. I hunted them.” Connor feels like his chest is restrained, like he can’t get the breaths in to cool down. Nines tries to pull him from the floor but he scrambles up, pushing towards the door. He wrenches it open and runs, with no idea where he’s going. Hank’s calling for him in the distance. Elijah too, more insistent.
He goes through the images of all his friends, of all he knows, beating at the walls inside his head that tell him no as he staggers into real walls. He was part of the revolution, he tore away from everything he’d been made to do. Connor, the man that eats too many sweets and cries uncontrollably over one shared memory and squishes Sumo’s floppy face between his hands. That man is a killer, a condemner, and yet, everyone came to his hospital room. Markus, a man he hunted, held his hand and told him he’d be okay. Hank, the person to take him in, to keep him close, had a gun to his head because of Connor. Kara and Alice ran through traffic to escape him, and he almost went after them. They would be dead and torn apart if he’d had his way. A sob rips through his throat and echoes throughout the hall. He’s losing his balance when he faces a collision, and he looks up to see Chloe’s concerned face, her gentle voice asking him if he’s alright.
He holds her arms as he slips to the floor at her feet, voice cracking, “I almost shot you. I had the gun in my hand. My finger was on the trigger, I calculated the pressure. I almost shot you.” Despite that, she holds his arms in return.
“You didn’t,” she says as he makes ragged and alarmed noises, reliving the moment in shocking bursts. Everyone is racing down the hall to them. “You saw me, and you didn’t shoot. It's alright, I’m here for you. It’s alright.” She meets Elijah’s eyes as they come to a stop, “He’s in a stage one traumatic shock. He needs help, Elijah.”
Hank is the first one to act, moving to bring Connor into his arms, “Connor…” He’s immediately shoved back as Connor wails and tries to get away, never quite making it upright. He falls into the side of a coffee table and curls up where he lands, arms covering his head like he’s protecting himself. “Jesus christ…”
Hank, of all people. Hank, trying to pick him up off the floor. Hank, who can barely stand to touch him otherwise. Was it the revolution? Was it 60? Was it something he did after? He curls in on himself, voice nothing but a terrified whisper, “I damaged it. I damaged… I'm damaged. Help. Help.”
Nines stops Hank with a forearm braced against his chest. He shakes his head slowly, keeping steady until Hank gets the idea not to advance. Elijah knows better than to get in Nines’ way at all. After a moment, Nines takes slow, precise steps towards Connor’s crumpled form. He settles down quietly on the floor, making sure Connor knows his presence before carding his fingers through his hair. Connor makes a pitiful noise.
“Amanda. I didn’t want to disappoint Amanda.” Connor’s words shudder through his tears, through the constriction of his throat as he tries to keep breathing. “I was scared. She was, she was going to…”
Nines stops him before he can go on, knowing it’s only working him up more. “I know. She was with me, too… Connor, you’re scaring Lieutenant Anderson. I’d—”
“Nines.” Connor’s whole body wracks a sob, reaching blindly to find Nines’ body. Nines guides his arm around his waist and Connor curls his fingers into the back of his shirt. “I made so many mistakes, you could’ve been hurt by them, you…” He drags in a huge breath, fear striking him, “The other Connor could’ve deactivated you, killed you. He could’ve killed Hank. Because of me. Because of me. He had a gun against Hank’s head. I had failed, and you all would've been the cost…”
Nines watches him dissolve into small sobs. He takes Connor in his arms, shaking his head, “He could have, yes. But he didn’t. You didn’t fail, you escaped control. I… I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for you and I don’t want you to think you failed.”
Connor says nothing, so Nines keeps going. “I’d like you to do something for me. Look at the memory again, of me. Do you remember what you told me?”
It takes all of Connor’s concentration to replay the memory, because he owes Nines this at least, his words echoing his head and out through his mouth. “You’re safe. Wake up. You’re alive.”
“And now you are, too.” Nines tells him, resting his cheek against Connor’s head. All the breath pours out of Connor in a large sigh. His body slumps tired and defeated. Nines nods, “Yes… Good, eight-hundred. I’m going to bring you somewhere more comfortable now. You will be safe there as well.”
Nines finds optimal grip before standing, bringing Connor down halls and through rooms where he's settled on a wide, black couch. It's in an open plan room, kitchen visible and the windows floor to ceiling. The sun is there but he feels cold. Chloe drapes a blanket over him, high enough that it muffles his hearing. He stares blankly ahead, every breath easier but feeling sickening. He feels broken. Maybe he wasn't mean for this. He was meant for a job and then to be discarded.
Nines kneels in his vision, holding a soft cloth to gently swipe the tears away from Connor’s face. “Eight-hundred,” he whispers, “You may rest, and when you wake up, I’d like us to eat. I will even eat with you, I know you enjoy that.”
Connor lets his eyes slip closed, feeling Nines’ fingers smoothing the wrinkles on his forehead and hearing far away conversations.
He wakes up later to hands shuffling his blanket around, tucking him in more securely. He opens his eyes blearily to see Hank standing over him, a full frown and his eyes red around the edges. He sees Connor waking up and gently touches his shoulder, “Hey… You alright? Is… do you need anything? Remember anything?”
Connor's speech program is slurred, system slow from the stress. He turns his head towards Hank, throat feeling sore, “I want a fish.”
Not exactly what he meant to say, truthfully. He likes fish. The fish he returned to the tank at the Phillips’ home was a beautiful fish. Hank looks at him oddly for a long moment, then smiles with relief, “A…? You remember the fish?” he huffs, shaking his head, “Hell. Connor, after all that, you can have whatever you want.” Connor gives a tired smile despite himself. Hank smiles, too. “How about I get you a drink?”
Hank doesn’t wait for him to respond and it’s just as well, because he wouldn’t know what to say. He holds the edge of the blanket between his fingers, stimulating the sensors there to keep himself grounded. He hears muted footsteps and then Nines is settling onto the rug in front of the couch, giving Connor a kind look. “I’m glad you’re awake.”
Connor pulls his tired body up, curling himself in the blanket while he wonders where his shirt ended up. Nines sets aside the bowl he’s brought along to reach for Connor. He remembers this, that he leans forward enough for Nines to hold him, like he's cradling his head in his hands. He does just that and Nines’ face softens, “I apologize for the difficulty you’ve gone through.”
Connor shakes his head, Nines’ thumb rubbing against his cheek, “You’ve given me so much, don’t apologize.”
Nines sighs, reaching over for the bowl again. “I wish I could have done more.” He holds up a warm cookie to Connor. “I made you this. Please activate your stomach.”
“I’m under the impression you did all you could have. Nines—”
“Time to eat now.” Nines insists. Connor gives in only because he’s groggy and the smell of the food turns on his stomach automatically. He takes a bite of it as soon as it’s in his hand, identifying an excess of butter and brown sugar, chocolates and cinnamon. Nines takes a small bite of his own cookie to fulfill his promise of eating with him.
“Thank you.” Connor mumbles through chewing. He lets his eyes drift into the middle distance as he thinks about his memories, willing the twisting, ugly feelings not to come back again. He tries to focus on positives. Within the load of information he received, he’s still missing so much. Some things he figures he’d be better off not knowing. But some… some nag at him, especially day-to-day things he feels silly not knowing.
Things like if he talks frequently to Markus, with their roles in the revolution. If he’s good at his job, and not just as the machine built for it. Where Traci and her wife live. How Hank likes his coffee. If Ben Collins ever visits outside of work. Why Hank and himself are on bad terms. If anyone has any needs he should know about. Who it is that he’s felt so close to him in the dark. He has no other data other than that sensation, intimacy. Worry clenches in his gut.
“Eight-hundred, you look lost.” Nines’ voice brings him back into focus somewhat, a little pinch between his eyebrows. “Are you alright?”
He hangs his head, cinching the blanket tighter around his frame, “I’m still trying to figure all of it out. I’m confused, still. But— but thankful.” He makes sure to add that on quickly, so Nines doesn’t think he’s ungrateful.
Nines only tilts his head, LED swirling. “Elaborate.” Connor smiles tiredly and relays his thoughts, leaving out the part about Hank. He doesn’t think talking about it would be wise with the man in question around. But Nines must know, he and Connor are close. Nines listens with all his attention, chocolate melting into his fingers as he forgets about his snack. He nods and answers the questions promptly, “You talk to Markus often, a few times a week. You are very good at your job, past predetermined expectations. You talk with people, you make them comfortable in a way I haven’t quite learned yet myself. The Traci’s live at the edge of Detroit, I have their address if needed. Sadly, I don’t know how the Lieutenant enjoys his coffee… he even knows how I enjoy mine, when I have it.”
His mouth almost turns into a pout thinking about that fact, a little confused. But he gets back on track quickly, “Detective Collins enjoys visiting you and I alike. We like Detective Collins.” Nines lowers his voice to a whisper, and Ben’s voice comes out of his mouth, “Connor! Connor! I got a new recipe for strawberry cookies. We’ll meet at five? ”
A laugh bubbles from Connor’s mouth, and Nines shares in it. So, his sweet tooth is indulged greatly. That’s very kind of everyone. Nines’ LED flickers yellow, thinking about the last in his queue of Connor’s questions. “Connor, what do you mean by ‘am I intimate with anyone’?”
His shoulders slump. He’s shoving another mouthful of cookie in while he runs the memory again, all fragmented and near empty. “You returned something to me that’s only sensation markers and bits of information. Not even a reconstruction possibility. I… I didn’t expect to have those sorts of relationships. So the memory is… concerning.”
Nines’ LED spins red. Connor feels immediate alarm, reaching out for his shoulder. His eyes look far away for a long moment, expression shockingly neutral as he processes. Connor’s about to ask him what’s wrong, when Nines finally speaks, “You… You’re concerned you don’t have more information on this memory, and what it could mean for you?”
Connor nods, squeezing his shoulder, “Yes, correct. It…” he tries to find the right words, “It felt human. And humans get upset when things are forgotten. They-They feel hurt, especially if it’s in an intimate context. I don’t want to have anyone upset with me.”
Nines’ face tightens, and he nods. His tone is a little strange. “Do not worry on it now. You have been through an extreme trauma, you will be understood.” He tosses his snack in the bowl and pulls himself up from the floor. “Excuse me, I need to speak to Lieutenant Anderson.”
Connor’s arm drops away from Nines’ shoulder, a little dumbfounded. “Oh. Of course.” He watches Nines walk as far as the kitchen before he turns back to his own thoughts. He picks up Nines’ cookie from the bowl and takes a bite from it, letting the rest of the world fade.
Nines curls his fingers in the back of Hank’s shirt, tugging him by the fabric to get his attention. Hank stumbles, looking back at him with irritation edging in his tone, “The fuck are you doing?”
He points a finger in Hank’s face accusingly. His voice has bite. “How could you not tell him? How dare you not tell him?”
Hank’s body goes tense with unease, unhappy instantly. He’s glancing towards Connor to make sure he’s preoccupied, before whispering back both parts furious and tired. “Fucking christ, Nines. Why do you think? He didn’t remember me at all. You know how he gets with guilt.”
“That is not a viable excuse. He should know his relationships with those around him, he has a right to know. That’s vital information about his life and his being.” Nines argues, voice low and angry on Connor’s behalf.
“Yes, that is a fucking viable excuse,” Hank growls, pointing his spoon in Nines’ face, “You saw today, look at that example. You also saw how he reacted when you showed him how he found you. On the ride home he talked about how he couldn’t believe he’d forget you like that. You, his family.” Nines softens somewhat, sadness looming in his features. Hank nods, “Yeah. He feels bad when he can’t fix things. He can’t fix not knowing, and I’m not about to put that on him.”
“This is not a good idea. Things won’t add up. He’s an investigative model, he’s curious in nature. Hank—”
“No.” Hank says firmly, looking Nines’ in the eye. Then, he deflates, loss clenching in his chest, “No. No, we’re not going to tell him. His focus should be on getting better and making it through, not worrying about me, for fuck’s sake.”
Hank pushes his shoulder against Nines’ hand and huffs as it falls away. He drops another spoonful mini marshmallows into Connor’s hot chocolate and stirs it, then slides past Nines, “Connor is top priority. That’s it.”
Chapter 4: designations
Connor visits Markus at the Manfred home, and has a revelation. Then another, and another.
Minor characters mentioned in this chapter:
North, Simon, Carl Manfred, Sumo
(Mentions of Hank's depression and alcohol abuse, guns)
The Manfred home never ceases to amaze Connor. Clean, organized, stylized. But filled with things. Books, trinkets, the giraffe in the corner of the living room. Even more things with Carl inviting Markus back home, along with Josh, Simon and North. Carl has more inspiration with all his new family around, painting abstracts of them in vibrant colors. Markus takes Connor into the studio. He settles him into a comfortable chair and undoes two of the buttons on his shirt, then picks up a brush. It feels calm, eases Connor to listen to the soft scraping of the brush against the canvas.
“Go on, then. Tell me how you’re doing.” Markus smiles at him, giving him attention even if he doesn’t need to look at Connor to paint him.
Connor smiles back and slips his coin from his pocket, lazily flipping and tossing it between his hands, “I think I’m doing well.” He chuckles softly, shrugging, “All things considered. I feel better. My analyzation programs and wireless networking are back online and working at full capacity, there’s no more pain or failure when I utilize the programs. Which makes me happy.”
Markus hums and shifts slightly as he mixes a yellow. Connor looks at the two exact branded shades, watching it become something new. He files it away with care and carries on. “The memories I have back have helped me feel more at ease and at home. Like knowing my address, feeling Nines’ wireless connection, remembering how kind your eyes are. Did you know I don’t have my own bedroom?”
Markus pauses for a moment with a bashful smile, but doesn’t look away from the canvas. Then he gently starts blending again, “Yes, I did know that.”
“It’s very nice of Hank to take me in, but he keeps giving me the bed. At his age he should be utilizing the memory foam and taking proper care of his back.” Connor explains, coin dancing across his knuckles, “Perhaps I can remind him I don’t need the comfort during our next meal. He wants to make a… a meatloaf.”
“You love meatloaf.” Markus says cheerily, giving a smile.
“Do I? That’s something I didn’t remember.” Connor smiles reflexibly brighter and sits up a little more, “I feel even more excited for dinner than I was before. I like food.”
Markus chuckles softly and nods, “I know. The last time you came over, you and Carl ate twelve different kinds of imported cheeses.”
“Oh, cheese.” Connor leans back, trying to remember what cheese tastes and feels like.
Markus seems pleased. There’s a knock on the open door to the studio and Josh leans in with a warm smile, “Hello. Does Connor have a minute?”
“He’s only indulging me.” Markus gestures as invitation. Josh slips into the room, followed close by Simon with a small smile and a folded blanket in his arms. They exchange small hellos, and Connor knows what Josh wants. He gives access to his systems after Josh has perched on a stool behind him.
“It’s so nice to see you again.” He tells them quietly, feeling much more at ease in this setting than he did at Kamski’s. Simon lays the blanket over him, weighted and warm from a dryer. It grounds him. “Thank you.”
“I wanted to bring you some comfort.” Simon answers with a soft shrug and calm voice. His programming is still a vital part of him, he likes to care for others. He even steps over and runs his hand up along Markus’ back, whispers that his painting looks beautiful so far.
Josh’s hands are warm and gentle as he assesses the monitoring device, then opens a connection through a tablet so he’s not interfacing with Connor directly. It still feels slightly intrusive being looked at from the inside out, but he can feel the care Josh takes. He doesn’t push open Connor’s memories, doesn’t intrude too much, runs a couple of diagnostics and takes technical information. Something there spurs on a memory and he lets it run,
Hank sagging heavily into the couch with a big dramatic sigh, head falling back, “Fuck’s sake, Connor. What, and I can’t stress this enough— the fuck , is that?”
Connor holds a stack of technical manuals in this hands, offering them to Hank. “After taking my advanced first aid classes, I had a thought. I know you inside and out. Perhaps you’d like to know me the same way. It might feel a little less awkward and unbalanced.”
“You got an explanation for everything, don’t you? Never stop thinking.” Hank shakes his head, then pushes his hair out of his face. He looks amused, and takes in the look of him for a moment, then shakes his head again. “Connor…”
He sits up and pushes forward, grabbing the corner of his laptop on the coffee table and turning it to reveal the screen. There’s a document open, Connor scans the paragraphs and learns it’s about his model. There’s pictures, parts, wires and other important pieces that make Connor up. There’s even a tab open for purchasing repair tools. A feeling stirs in Connor’s chest, warm and heavy for a moment, then lighter than ever. Hank reaches up and grabs him by the collar, laughing undoubtedly at the look on his face as he pulls him down on the couch. The manuals slip from his hands but he doesn’t mind. Hank looks pleased with him, “You know I’m more a visuals man. Come here, you bastard.”
Connor blinks as the memory fades, the present sliding back into his view. Markus is glancing to him with fond eyes as he continues painting. Connor intakes the smell of the paints as he breathes in deeply. Josh is smiling next to him, his voice carrying the warm feeling Connor felt, “Thank you for that. It was nice, and hopeful.”
“It was, wasn’t it?” Connor feels a flush rising up his skin. He sighs and smiles, “I mean, of course. Yes. Thank you, for the compliment.”
Josh chuckles softly and gently takes the rest of the information he needs while Connor feels his shoulders relax. He dips into a lull of thinking over that memory, of idly hearing the conversation between Simon and Markus, the tones of their voices more than their actual words. The swish of turpentine as Markus gets paint off a brush. It’s an odd smell. Something tries to resurface in his head, as if he’s searched for better smells in his directory. It’s right there but he can’t experience it, can’t name it. He knows it would be wonderful.
He thinks of Hank and why he has so many conflicting shreds of memories, but how he cares so much for Hank. How he catalogues things about Hank that he doesn’t impulsively do with other people. The composition of his clothes, his height and weight, his temperature in the times where he actually touches Connor. The wrinkles on his face and the millimeters of space between his two front teeth. The levels of alcohol on his breath (low to none) and the way his eyes shift when he tells Connor about a memory. The exact hue of his eyes and hair. The size of his clothes and how they feel against Connor’s skin when he wears them. The shape of Hank’s mouth.
Connor’s shoulders tense up and he presses forward in his seat. His coin drops and skitters across the floor, “Oh.”
Markus pulls his brush from the canvas, brows coming together with concern, “Connor?”
Search: Hank Anderson
// External Search Results:
LT. HANK ANDERSON, DETROIT POLICE
Contact information for Hank Anderson +
Hank Anderson, Facebook
Article: Detroit Police Dismantle A Network Of Red Ice Dealers (February 3rd, 2028)
Article: Detective Anderson Promoted To The Rank Of Lieutenant (August 22nd, 2029)
Article: New Record Seizure Of Red Ice In Detroit! (November 23rd, 2031)
Obituary: Cole Anderson 9/23/29 - 10/11/35
Article: Lt. Hank Anderson Speaks On Android Revolution (December 13th, 2038)
Photos: Detective Connor RK800 seen out with Lt. Hank Anderson
// Internal Search Results:
Date of Birth: September 6th, 1985
File > Photos > Hank ![Missing files]
File > Pressure Points > Hank ![Missing files]
File > Reconstructions > Hank ![Missing files]
)55 years old
MORE INFORMATION -
)Skin texture +
)Eye color +
)Average /BPM +
)Color pigmentation +
)))Error! Missing files. Closed files. Access not permitted. Empty Files. Corrupted Files. Missing files. Try again ? _Cancel
“Connor, hey. Talk to us.” Markus’ voice is closer now, kneeling in front of him with a hand on his shoulder, watching his LED roll yellow-red-yellow. His three friends are looking at him with worry, and he sucks in a breath slumping forward, bracing his forearms on his knees.
“Markus,” he chokes out, eyes having widened, “Markus, as my friend, I need… I need confirmation of information. In confidence, as well.” He receives three nods. “Am I in love with Hank?”
It’s almost deafeningly quiet, his friends in front of him all looking at him with a mix of worry and confusion. Markus’ face twitches with concern. Simon’s does next. Then Josh, too. Like they’re tied together without him. Connor clenches his fists and hangs his head with the beginnings of panic. Markus shushes him softly, dipping to meet his eyes as he slips his hands over both fists, “Careful, it’s alright. Yes, Connor, you are. You are in love with Hank. You have been for some time now.”
It makes so much sense to him now. He knew Hank was special. Connor wouldn’t have so much extra space carved out for him otherwise. And he can’t even see all of it, he doesn’t even know the whole extent. His profiles on everyone else (that he can see, anyway) are not as large as Hank’s. His body pinpoints things about Hank like muscle memory, like routine. To a degree he wouldn’t do for an acquaintance or a friend. Everything personal he has on Hank is stored locally, within his body. Keeping him close.
Their tension is his fault then, it must be. And it’s not to do with androids in general, it’s Connor himself. Connor as a person. Hank must have found out. Connor wasn’t careful enough or fast enough or strong enough, and Hank learned about Connor’s feelings. And he disliked them. Maybe he found out from Connor slipping up and saying something. Or from catching Connor doing something inappropriate. Or from RK800-60, in Cyberlife Tower. It could be this, or a number of things, but this is new damning information. There are so many possibilities popping up in his head, spiraling rapidly. He pushes them all away, the how doesn’t matter now that it’s happened, now that he’s caused Hank discomfort.
His friends are still looking at him. They’re all internally communicating, Connor can see it in the way their eyes seem a little far away, an undercurrent of energy he senses around them. He relaxes his hands in Markus’ and squeezes them reassuringly, “Thank you for being honest with me. Thank you, this… it gives me so much clarity. It makes so much sense.”
“You didn’t already know this? As in, Hank didn’t tell you?” Simon asks, because the others won’t.
“He did not. But I… I understand why. I should’ve been better about this.” He lets go of Markus’ hands. He starts to get up and they part to move out of his way. “Please, continue. With the painting.” He says as he retrieves his coin from the floor and ambles back to his seat. He tries to seem relaxed again, but his mind is fogged with ways he can smooth this over with Hank. And to get Hank to stop doting on him so much, even if he likes it. Markus gravitates back towards his canvas while Simon says a quick goodbye after hearing the front door open and close. North and Carl are home, Connor can hear them talking.
Josh sends a disconnect notification and Connor accepts it. Before he goes, he rubs Connor’s arm and tells him quietly, “You really do love him. The way you would talk about him, how your memory showed; he wanted to learn about you… You’d say how much he means to you, how simple things he does give you regulator alerts in the best way. You just… You do. To wrap it up easy, he’s a good man. Things will be fine.”
“Thank you, Josh. That puts things in perspective and… it feels nice to hear.” Connor manages a smile even as it makes his chest ache. He talked about Hank that way to his friends, it wasn’t just a passing feeling as he came into his personhood.
He decides to let himself just breathe for a bit while Markus finishes his painting. He idly plans his ride home, an interaction with Sumo, and a conversation with Hank. Markus talks to him off and on about things going on, about their weekly dinner coming up. Connor says he’d like to be there, Markus tells him he always says that and he, Hank and Sumo are always wanted here. He’s already invited Nines so Connor doesn’t have to remember to extend the information.
When Markus is finished, he steps back and does a small turn to the side, tilting his head slightly to look at it from a different angle. Then he smiles at Connor and extends his hand to the canvas. Connor knows that’s the okay to inspect. “You’re always so still for me. Except for your hands.”
“I think I recall being told I sit like I have a rod up my ass.” Connor grins cheekily, pocketing his coin as he stands, liking the way Markus smiles big and turns away to chuckle. Connor steps up and takes in the painting.
There’s a heavy use of purples in this piece, all around Connor’s likeness. He’s been flawlessly recreated, smooth glides and blending. The tones of his skin, the pink that sometimes lingers high back on his cheekbones, the warm browns of his eyes. They reflect something in them and it’s not made to be able to make out, but there’s hints of purple there, too. Markus even added all of his moles and freckles, shined the sun on him, outlined the edge of his jaw in a striking royal purple streak. The same with the hollow of his throat and collarbone. Connor notices his LED is a golden yellow, like the light hitting the other side of his face.
Soft light with strategically chosen sharp lines, blots of beautiful color, flowers nestled in the open V of Connor’s unbuttoned shirt that fade into just color. Under it, there’s a faint blue glow that he knows Markus hasn’t seen now, but has recalled from memory. The glow of his Thirium pump, backlighting the flowers so they don’t disappear within the other strokes of paint. Connor is always quiet for a while after seeing art, especially Markus’. He knows each piece comes from Markus’ heart, his soul, it shows how he sees the world or how he would like to. He captures the image with his eyes and then saves it, stores it away.
“I like this.” He says finally, which he knows is much less than all the other artists and curators Markus speaks with, but Markus’ face goes so warm at the expression. He knows Connor so well. “You manage to make me look… like something so different, but incredibly familiar and welcoming. Thank you for that.”
“You’re one of my favorite subjects.” Markus praises, “For how keen you are on finding details, you miss that you relax and take on a shape that… looks like this.” He gestures to the painting with a thoughtful look.
Connor doesn’t know what to say. He smiles instead and ducks his head, stepping closer to the painting to see the indents left behind by the bristles of the brush. Markus lets him look for as long as he wants to. “Thank you.”
Markus’ hand settles on his shoulder, rubbing soothingly, “The same to you.”
His ride home is quiet in the back seat of an autonomous cab, heated seats toasty and radio turned off. He thinks he remembers where Sumo’s treats are and plans to give him one, he sends Chris a meme in their private text chat (which is mostly other soft hearted memes), and checks his email. It gives him more insight into his life, what he’s subscribed to - weekly news and updates on android-run Cyberlife upgrades, a subscription to a dog care service, two fashion newsletters, a sex toy newsletter, and a culinary magazine with food ordering services.
He’s both surprised and then very not surprised with these things. He has his stomach, he would have to know about updates to it. He loves Sumo, he’s sure half the toys and treats around the house are from him because of the service. He thinks he’s nicely on trend clothing-wise, fashion does aid in fitting in and he can’t be expected to wear the same clothes all the time. He supposes anything sexual is out of curiosity, or if he’s purchased anything, it’s… it’s to poorly emulate sensations of Hank. He wonders idly if there’s anything compatible to give his blank plate some pleasure. If not, the food service almost certainly has lifted his mood. Some of the recipes say he’s purchased them before. He wants to think on this more, but the cab has reached home and he has to get out.
A quick shuffle to the door and laughing while he shoos Sumo out of the way to close it behind him, and he’s successfully inside. “I’m back!” He calls into the house, hearing Hank’s muffled ‘hey!’ down the hall. Shoes, coat and scarf taken off then sliding his fingers through Sumo’s fur as he walks further into the house, “Yes, hello. Hello, Sumo! I’m back, I told you I wouldn’t be gone long. Would you like a treat?”
Sumo boofs and whines excitedly, nails clacking on the floor as they cross into the kitchen. He stops and sits at the exact cupboard Connor thought of, and Connor sits down with him, “You are so smart, you know. You’ve helped me relearn a handful of things. Like our routine, and this cupboard, for example.” He reaches in and retrieves the bag of treats. Sumo snorts and his tail swishes wildly, then he goes still while Connor opens the bag.
“Good boy.” Connor praises, smiling brightly as he holds out the treat and Sumo slobbers all over his hand to chow down. It makes him so happy to see Sumo excited, it takes away some of the anxiety from earlier.
Hank rounds the corner, rolling up the sleeves of a cardigan as he pads into the kitchen. He goes to the stove where he leans to look in the window, “Hey. How was your visit with Markus and the gang?”
Connor looks up at Hank, pump beating faster to see him in soft clothes with cow and dinosaur oven mitts. His hair tucked neatly behind his ears and he’s bending over to poke a knife in the meatloaf on the center rack in the oven. Connor realizes he hasn’t said anything and Sumo has taken another treat from his slack hand without sitting still first. “Oh, um. I— It was fine. Josh took a look at my systems, Simon brought me a blanket. Markus painted me, it was a beautiful piece.”
Hank slides the mitts off as he closes the oven with his hip, “Oh, I bet. You get a picture of it? I’d love to see.” He tends to the softly boiling pot on the stovetop, the smell and froth tells Connor it’s peeled potatoes. His stomach clenches with distant hunger.
“I did. I would enjoy showing you, if you’d really like to see.” Connor tells him, making himself look away and have Sumo turn in a circle to earn his last treat. Sumo does it flawlessly and licks Connor’s face before he takes the treat. Connor digs his hands into Sumo’s fur, scratches and rubs and presses his face into that big fluffy neck.
“Ah, of course I do. You…” Hank’s voice trails off as he watches Connor and Sumo. It feels like normal, like the accident didn’t happen. Like once Sumo is done drooling on Connor’s shoulder, Connor will come over and Hank can kiss him while he undoes the buttons of that now dirty shirt. Hank feels it so deeply his fingers tingle, he feels it in his chest and stomach and throat like a heavy thing. It hurts how beautiful it could be. It’ll be okay, Hank tells himself, he’ll remember and we can have that all we want again. He turns back to the stove to check the potatoes again, then moves over to fill another pot for the green beans from the farmer’s market.
The shuffle of Connor getting up off the floor, moving towards the sink. “You didn’t finish your sentence… Do you still want to see the painting? You can say no, it’s alright.”
He looks to Connor again, face soft and shoulder damp, and smiles, “Hey, of course I do. Sorry, I just… I got caught up in thinking. I do that.” He clicks on the burner and sets the pan down. Connor turns the water back on to wash his hands and when he’s done, Hank waves his hand at them, “Uh, go on. Show it to me.”
Connor looks over his face for a long moment, then gives a little smile. He brings his hands together, palms up. There’s nothing for a moment, then his skin flickers, showing white for barely a second. It makes Hank’s heart jump. Connor’s hands recoil, that makes Hank sure he’s heard it. He still waits expectantly, and soon the painting is displayed just as Connor had seen it earlier. He leans in to see it better, making an appreciative noise, “Oh, wow. That is nice. Beautiful, I mean. He always gets you perfect.”
Connor feels his face start to heat even if the nice things said aren’t directly related to himself. He lets Hank look at the painting a moment longer before he deactivates the image and steps away, “He does, doesn’t he? He’s very talented, and he makes me feel very calm.”
Hank smiles and nods, his hand twitches as Connor moves away from him. His heart is still going a little fast, and Connor allows himself a moment to map Hank’s wrinkles, to watch Hank’s eyes move over him, to gauge each beat of his heart. They stand in silence for a few too long moments before Connor pulls himself out of it, unnecessarily clearing his throat, “Uhm… Right. Hank? I think we need to talk.”
“Yeah? What a coincidence, I gotta talk to you, too.” Hank says to him, turning back to the stove, “But we can do it during dinner, it’s just about time. I know how you get. Set the table, would you?”
Connor feels his stomach twist. Hank wants to talk to him? He didn’t think of this possibility. He swallows down the unease and finds the silverware. He makes two place settings across the table from each other, the water rings on one side of the table give him exact placement of the plates and silverware from the glasses. He repeats it on the other side, and makes sure Sumo has food and water as well. He waits patiently while Hank finishes up dinner, not wanting to get in his way.
Hank sets the food around the plates and they both sit down. Then Hank immediately stands back up and walks to the coat rack, rifling through his pockets until he digs out a white envelope. He sits back down with it next to him and just smiles when Connor looks confused. He reaches to cut the meatloaf while Connor helps himself to green beans. It's a quiet time and usually Connor thinks it would calm him. The small sounds of life - humanity, Hank clinking his fork around as he gathers his plate, uncaps his beer, coos at Sumo who comes to sit under the table in case they drop any scraps. But now it's all just buffer while he tries to think of what Hank will say to him. Is this where he lays down ground rules? Where he says he's at his wits end and it's time to tell Connor the truth he now already knows? Connor already wants to apologize. He even opens his mouth to do it.
“I hope you still like this.” Hank says to him before he can muster up words, looking down at his own plate. “I made the healthy kind, with the uh… the special peas? That turn into paste if you mash them? Chickpeas? Yeah. Yeah, those.”
Connor pulls up recipes on their meal, sees all variations of it, some healthier than others as Hank eluded to. He must have been helping Hank eat differently if he's mentioned this, so Connor gives him a smile, “That's very good of you, Hank. Thank you, I'm sure it's delicious.”
Hank looks up to watch him take his first bite, and it truly is good. It has a good texture and Connor can pull every ingredient used and give percentages. He likes the onion. It must show, because the line of Hank's shoulders relax with a slow breath out. He starts to eat after that, and they’re quiet while they do. Hank tries to start a conversation, talking idly about work and how he thinks the receptionist is getting together a ‘get well soon’ card. Connor asks if he knows them well, Hank says he makes a point to know and be friendly with everyone in the office.
Halfway through dinner Hank puts his fork down. He takes a slow gulp of his beer and looks at Connor with intent. “Alright…” Connor tenses up, slowly putting down his silverware. He rests his hands under the table so Hank can’t see him fidget. Hank swishes his beer lightly, thumbing at the condensation, “I know it’s been hard for you lately. You know, you’ve had to deal with not knowing anyone, or events in your life, or even where your home is.”
“It has been very difficult.” Connor says in a small voice, hoping he doesn’t look as much a deer in the headlights as he feels.
Hank sets the bottle down and wipes his hand on his jeans as he leans back. “Yeah…” He looks down and away, a flush creeping up his neck, “I—Listen, so. I thought maybe you needed something you didn’t have to think on.” He reaches for the envelope now and slides it across the table to Connor. He notices the way Connor’s hands shake as he picks it up. “You deserve something nice, y’know?”
Connor opens the envelope and slips his fingers in, pulling out two passes to a nearby aquarium. His body sags against his chair, not sure what he thought was going to be in here. “Oh. Hank, this…”
“I just—You said you wanted a fish, back at Kamski’s. And we can’t get a big fish tank now, I’d have to move stuff around in the house first. But I thought, you know, this was the next best thing.” Hank tries to clarify the reason for his gift, feeling slightly embarrassed by Connor’s unhappy expression.
Connor gently slides the tickets back into the envelope. Hank’s trying to be nice again, accommodate him again. It churns Connor’s stomach because he wants it, he wants the kindness and the experience Hank’s offering. But it feels wrong. He sighs, setting the gift back down, “Hank, you don’t have to keep doing this for me.”
Hank’s face falls. He looks confused, then his face heats in full embarrassment, in the feeling of rejection, “What? What do you mean?”
He’s not prepared for this. He doesn’t want things to change but it’s not alright, he can’t keep Hank doing things like this when Connor’s done wrong. “I mean…” He shifts in his seat, making himself sit up straight, hands folded tightly in his lap, “You’ve been so kind to me. You’ve shown me compassion and understanding, even with all my misunderstandings. Comforting me when I woke up and lending me your clothes, for example.”
“Wh…? Of course I’m nice to you. Why wouldn’t I be nice to you? You live here, you’re my—my partner, we work together. You just got out of the hospital—”
“Yes. I had an accident and because I live with you, you are the one taking care of me. You’ve been incredibly kind and accommodating, but I know more than you think. You don’t have to keep this up. I apologize that you thought you had to do this for me, though I am thankful for the comfort it provided.” Connor looks over his face, makes himself stop monitoring his heart when he realizes the distant sound of it is in his head.
Hank is thoroughly confused. “Connor, what the fuck are you talking about?”
Connor sighs, steeling himself for it, “Hank. I know we don’t get along.” It hurts to say and he knows it shows on his face. He just wants Hank comfortable again, not putting on a show. “I don’t know specifically how it happened, but I think that my attraction to you has made you uncomfortable. I’ve noticed the way you pull away when you go to touch me, the awkward tension, the two of us not communicating completely. I apologize for this, and please, don’t force yourself to stay near me when it makes you unhappy.”
Hank stares at him for a long moment, and Connor doesn’t even think he’s breathing. Then he inhales deep and leans forward on the table, “I’m sorry? What…? Connor, in what goddamn dumpster fire did you fish that conclusion out of? Where in the hell—?!”
“Hank, please…” Connor pleads tiredly, voice soft, trying to let Hank know it’s okay.
“No. Did someone tell you that?”
“Markus confirmed that I’m in love with you. With your obvious awkwardness over me, I have reason to believe it’s unwanted affection. That, paired with the… unpleasant memories of your behavior towards me. I—”
“Wh— Unpleasant memories?”
“I… I recall you shouting at me to get out of your house. My saying… I could be whatever you wanted me to be, and then looking down the barrel of a gun.”
Hank feels a knot form in his throat and he pushes up from the table, shaking his head, “Holy fuck…”
“If I did anything else to upset you, if I was aggressive before I dev—”
“No. Don’t. Do not…” Hank holds his hand up to stop him, shaking his head, “Fucking shit. No. I was the piece of shit here. I was—I was anti android. Because I let my trauma make up my mind for me. You changed that… you changed everything. You did everything in your power to support me and help me get the job done.”
Hank swears he’s not getting enough air in his lungs. He hasn’t felt this bad in a long time, this filled with worry and sinking. He reminds himself he took his medication, that he’s here, he can get through if he just explains. Connor’s looking like a deer in the headlights and he can’t believe he’s done this to him. “I was angry, Connor. Filled with survivor’s guilt and drowning in my goddamn addiction. I was ready to end it— But that’s not an excuse, how I acted was fucked up and inexcusable. And you forgave me, you had more compassion than anyone.”
Hearing Hank talk like this hurts. It makes Connor feel like his chest is burning and collapsing. He runs a diagnostic just to make sure there’s no actual damage, because it feels physical. He watches Hank start to pace, if he had an LED it would be spinning bright red. “I’m sorry, I wish I remembered more. I’m sorry I can’t remember.”
Hank sighs, hands dragging over his face in frustration, “Nines was right. Jesus, Connor, I’m sorry. I’m the one that’s sorry. I should’ve told you the truth.” He looks at Connor, heart hammering in his chest. He has to fess up now, because Connor’s grasp on this is all wrong. Guilt is heavy and buzzes in his ears. “Connor… We’ve been together for two years. Like, as in, romantically together. There’s a reason you don’t have your own room, how I know about all the upgrades you’ve gotten, why I let you wear my clothes.”
Connor’s LED spins yellow, flicks red twice. His mind is starting to spin faster, trying to make sense of what Hank is saying with how sure he was of the opposite. “What?”
“You don’t sleep on the couch, we share. I know you inside and out, every upgrade. I made a list of them! We share the closet, you used to like my clothes so you’d take them.” Hank explains, talking a lot with his hands. It’s obvious he’s trying his best. Connor is stock still as he takes in the information.
Hank groans and puts his head in his hands. Sumo whines from under the table, coming out to push against Hank’s legs. He sighs heavier and rubs at Sumo’s head, “The uh… me not wanting to touch you. I didn’t want you uncomfortable. Every time I did more than, y’know, friends would do, I thought I’d done too much. You didn’t know me when you woke up, you didn’t see me as anyone. I didn’t want to burden you with this.”
Connor feels like he’s burning up. Besides Hank’s distress over the situation, his heartbeat is truthful. All of Connor’s detection programs are firing online, searching Hank’s face and hands and internal tells. He thinks back to when he first woke up, Hank’s concern for his well being, Hank’s touch holding him in place. “It wouldn’t have been a burden. My whole entire being reacts to you in ways I don’t prompt. You’re an authorized user in my system, Hank… Why do I have those bad memories?”
“I’m sorry.” He whispers. The redness of Hank’s face is spreading down his neck, and he looks stalled for a moment by Connor’s admission. He sucks in a ragged breath, “It’s my fault. The memories, the gun, I… We kept losing the perps. You kept telling me you were made to hunt deviants, but every time… You kept losing them. To help me, of all goddamn things. You didn’t run after the girls on the highway because I told you not to. You pulled me back from dangling off a rooftop while bird boy got away…”
He paces from the threshold of the living room back to the table, steps shaky and breaths labored. Then he looks to Connor again, voice breaking while he can’t meet his eyes. “Even as a machine, you felt things. It wasn’t part of your mission to help me, or even really follow my orders. But you did it.” He pushes a finger to his own chest, past disgust filling his mouth like venom, “And I put a fucking gun to your head and accused you of being defective. Like I couldn’t believe anyone would choose me over anything without it being a damn error. I needed to see what you’d do…”
It’s like he deflates, arms dropping to his sides. Shame easily shown in the way he holds his body, like he doesn’t want to be seen. “…And you were afraid. I won’t ever forget it. You showed emotion. You were alive, and you didn’t even know it yet.”
Connor perks up at that, pump thudding heavy in his chest. “Wait. You knew I was deviant? Back then, everyone believed deviants were incredibly dangerous. Unstable, violent, destructive. That’s why I was made, Hank. And you just let me go?”
Hank says it so simply, like it’s the most obvious thing in the world. “Yeah.”
Connor feels an almost delirious huff of laughter leave him. Hank cracks a smile at that, then his face settles back into an anxious frown. He glances towards the kitchen windows with a wary look. “With the other thing, I think…” Connor gets up to follow him to the windows, where Hank yanks up the blinds. One window looks older, installed with the last renovation of the house. The other is new, especially seen by the stark white of it against the gray of the windowsill and wall.
“You broke the window and jumped through it. You came over to investigate the Eden Club. You needed me to be allowed to go, and you found me passed out on the floor.” Hank tells him, gesturing to the spot he’d been in near the table, “I was drunk, again. You tried helping me, and I told you to get out… You never listen, so you sobered me up by shoving me into the shower and cranking the cold water. You’ve always been persistent.”
Connor reaches his hand out to touch the windowsill. He’s shaking, fingertips cold. He tries so hard to remember what Hank’s saying; how it felt physically and emotionally to go through it. His chest is too tight and now his head rings like someone’s taken a hammer to it. His eyes squeeze closed when they start to twitch, brain trying to connect and reconnect. LED flaring red. There’s a moment where he can see nothing, then errors - access to corrupted files denied, again again again. Then—
Goosebumps tingle as they spread rapidly over his body.
Hearing his name, Sumo shuffles over to nudge against Connor’s knees. Connor pushes his hands into his fur and when he turns slightly, he hears the creak of glass under his feet as if he’s still wearing his shoes. He crouches down and rests his head against Sumo’s, feeling his happy panting breaths.
Hank levels himself near the floor too, anxiety growing into panic deep in his stomach at Connor absolutely still, but his hands trembling. Connor’s LED spinning too fast. He’s afraid something is very wrong, medically— or technically. His voice trembles, reaching out to curl his hand over Connor’s shoulder, “Con? I’m sorry. Say something… please.”
“This is where I met Sumo.” It takes a moment to open his eyes, but when he does he looks over Hank’s face, memory still running on a loop to catch all the information his mind can. His mouth works for words before he can provide them. “The glass, I… I was on broken glass, and he was here. I knew his name.”
“You remember that?” Hank sounds astonished and it makes Connor’s LED trip back to yellow.
“Not clearly. But the more I think about it, the better I see it.” He explains, and the way Hank looks at him, with pride and relief, eases his frantic state. He pulls Connor in and crushes him against his chest for a hug, and Connor reads everything his body is saying in only a moment. Good feedback rings in his ears through static, and his body melts against Hank’s. “It doesn’t feel real.”
“It is. Connor, I promise it is.” Hank’s voice rumbles against his chest and it feels like all of Connor’s sensors are lighting up from the inside out. Another reaction to Hank he doesn’t prompt.
“Us, too?” He asks in a low voice, and Hank pulls back to look at him.
Hank’s body is still buzzing with emotion and he’s quick to let Connor be mad at him. He feels he deserves it for the stress he’s caused. “I swear. But you don’t have to forgive me. For the bad memories, for not telling you the truth. Any of it. You don’t have to, you don’t—”
Connor touches his beard, fingers feeling each rough slide of the strands over Hank’s chin. He takes a moment to categorize it all, because he knows he can now, and Hank is so quiet. Looking at him like Connor’s the entire world. His voice feels raw. “I want to.”
For the first time since waking, Connor sees Hank’s whole body completely relax. His shoulders fall in a good way and his face goes warm with ease. Connor’s LED spins back to blue just seeing it happen, pulsing bright for a few seconds and then to its regular calm glow, “This was part of my life. You are part of my life. I’d like to know all about it. I need this information, I… I want these feelings. I didn’t think I’d be able to have them. I want to know, Hank.”
Hank smiles at him, and Connor notices it’s a little shaky. Hank’s tearing up. “Yeah. Yeah, okay. I can never say no to you.” He leans up to tentatively kiss Connor’s forehead, “God, right. I’ll tell you anything. What do you want? I could… Well— you know what?”
He makes to get up, realizing they’ve been kneeling on the kitchen floor and spewing feelings like some crappy tv movie. It’s ridiculous enough to make him laugh. His knees radiate a sharp ache as he stands but he ignores it, helps Connor up to hold his hands more than Connor needing the aid. He leaves Connor there to duck into the bedroom, to dig through Connor’s drawer. He takes a moment there to steady himself. Breathes in deep and wipes at his face, then exhales. When he comes back, Connor’s closed the blinds and he’s standing deep in thought, eyes twitching at the corners.
“Connor,” he says quietly to bring him out of it, stopping himself before he pulls away. He lays his hand on Connor’s bicep and runs it down to his elbow. Connor meets his eyes with a sweet, tired smile and steps a little closer at the contact. “Hey.” he whispers. It feels like he’s talking to his crush for the first time. Granted, it’s kind of like that.
“Hey.” Connor whispers back, looking up at him with those big brown eyes, voice just like honey. Hank feels joy curl in his stomach to be talked to like that again. He lifts up the velvet box he retrieved from the drawer and Connor takes it from his hand, pressing it open.
Nestled inside is a ring, silver with a thin blue line along the middle. The underside of the ring is all a deep sapphire as well, everything shiny and polished. Connor recognizes immediately that it’s like the ring Hank wears on his index finger. The only difference is where Connor’s is silver and shiny, Hank’s is black and matte. Connor’s simulated breath catches in his throat.
It only feels right to give it back to him, it was significant. Hank holds the box for him when he takes the ring out, “Hey, listen. Listen now… We’re not—” Glancing up at Hank shows he’s blushing again, “We’re not married. I would’ve told you that from the start, you can’t hide when people call you ‘Connor Anderson’. But—”
“I like that.” Connor says quietly, almost to himself. It sounds nice to his ears.
Hank sputters but he doesn’t miss a beat, “I know you do. We’ve talked about it.” He helps Connor remember which finger he slides the ring on, guiding it to his left hand’s thumb. Hank feels his heart pick up at watching Connor inspect his hand fondly, turning it over to see the ring glint in the light. “It’s more of a… we’re committed, kind of thing. It was a mutual idea, because you’re more than just a boyfriend. You’re a life partner. I remember… you were excited because, and I quote… ‘I’d like everyone to see it on your finger and know it’s a connection to me.’”
“It seems like I was very proud to be with you, Hank.” He smiles, leveling his hand next to Hank’s to see the match. It makes sense, Connor’s body is full of connections regarding Hank. Putting one on Hank regarding him sounds… pleasing. “Evidently, I talked to friends about you. About how much I loved you… about the errors in my pump regulator that happen because of you.”
Hank goes even more red, the color flushing up on his face almost immediately as his eyes fix on Connor’s chest, “That the same thing as my heart skipping a beat?”
Connor grins slowly, a playful excitement blooming in his chest. It happens to Hank too, then. “Yes.”
Hank huffs bashfully and looks away, pushing some hair behind his ear, “Alright, alright…” Connor laughs softly and presses his fingers over the back of Hank’s hand. His sensors feel over the wrinkles and collect information from his veins. Hank snorts and shakes his head, “Okay. Put the ring in the box, so I can run back to the bedroom to escape your laughter.”
Connor presses his lips together to hold another laugh at the amused and embarrassed tone of Hank’s voice. “Wait, why do I have to take it off? You wear yours. I’d like to wear mine.”
“You don’t like wearing the actual ring because of how it feels on your bare hand, and you’re afraid of losing it during work.” Hank explains as he slides it off Connor’s thumb and sets it back into the box.
“It felt fine on my hand.” His brow pulls in confusion.
Hank gives him a look, “Your bare hand, Connor.”
“My—? Oh.” Connor looks back to his hand, and the synthetic skin slowly melts back to show his chassis, “My bare hand. Right. I um… You say that very acceptingly.” The thought of it makes Connor feel warm, “Like looking like you is just another layer, like clothing.”
Hank rubs his thumb over the ring before snapping the box shut, “Because it is sometimes. That’s you, Connor.” He gestures to the white and gray of Connor’s hand, “You told me that sometimes keeping the skin on is literally feeling at home in your skin, and then other times it’s like wearing a… a suit, for instance. It’s pretty and formal. But just another layer.”
Connor’s breath stutters lightly. A pump regulator alert pops up in the center top of his vision and it feels good. His hands instinctively lay over his chest, holding in that feeling. “...Thank you, Hank.”
Hank has the most fond look on his face, but he shrugs and reaches for Connor’s skin covered hand, “Nah, don’t thank me. I’ve had my dumb moments too with all this, don’t think I’m so suave. You have stuff about being exposed and I learned.” He presses a tiny storage drive to Connor’s palm, “Here. This should be safe to slot in, I think.”
Connor is already undoing his cuff to roll up his sleeve, to get to the port in his forearm, “What’s on it?”
Hank watches him reveal part of his chassis again and gently slip the drive into the side of his wrist. “You don’t like the way the ring feels, but you still wear the ring.”
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)Use As Storage ?
)View/Download Contents ? _Yes
! Attention: New aesthetic parameter found. Install ? _Yes
Connor looks down at his hands and sees his ring materialize on his thumb, looking as real as the one in the box had. His face spreads out in a smile. “Oh. I see.” He tests pulling back all the skin on his hand again, except for where the ring sits. It takes up a negligible amount of CPU like this, so even if Connor had to turn off his skin for any reason, this could stay. A command pops up with an option to set that part as a permanent priority, asking if he wants to use the same settings again. He ticks the box for yes.
“My system says I used to keep this parameter as a permanent fixture in my appearance.” Connor informs with a touch of pride. He ejects the card and hands it back to Hank, where it goes side by side into the ring box. He likes the way Hank’s eyes watch the flow of skin back over his forearm and hand.
“Ooh, guess that means you really like me, huh?” Hank grins at him, turning to take the box back to the bedroom.
Connor’s voice comes when he’s almost in the hallway, incredibly sincere, “Yes.”
Hank stops in his tracks, feeling his heart pound. So much love rushing through him. Just one word from Connor does it to him. He’s such a goner. Connor reads the difference in his BPM and laughs in delight. He points at the table without turning around, already starting to walk away, “Eat your meatloaf.”
File > Photos > Hank ![Missing files]
File > Pressure Points > Hank ![Missing files]
File > Reconstructions > Hank ![Missing files]
)Update Status ? _Yes
// Partner, Hank
// Family, Hank
)Confirm ? _Yes
Chapter 5: ...darling
While Hank is at work, Connor does a little exploring on his own. He meets Hank later, wanting to do something nice for him.
Minor characters mentioned or seen in this chapter:
Sumo, Gavin Reed
In the morning, Connor wakes just in time to see Hank off to work. Sleeping beside Hank, the bed felt just the right size. Hank’s weight and warmth next to him, his hand outstretched to hold when Connor asked. He was given the softest blanket and Sumo laid on his calves while he ate candy and a movie played that he won rock-paper-scissors to pick. Hank fell asleep with their hands clasped and Connor felt the beat of his heart through it all night, even while he dreamed. He woke to an empty bed and left it to see Hank shoving toaster waffles into his mouth as he tries to find his keys. “I’m gonna be late, I stayed in bed too long letting you sleep.” Hank says, hair wild, mouth full, ducking under the coffee table to check.
Connor’s pump works delightfully harder in response to the words as he does a scan around the room for the ring of keys. It being in Hank’s jacket, a muffled sound and movement in his left pocket, makes it that much easier to stop Hank for the purpose of touching him. Smoothing Hank’s hair back slowly, eyes fluttering at the strands through his fingers, and Hank’s pleased hum as he leans closer into the touch. Connor’s knuckles brush his mouth as they drift in passing over his beard. “Good morning, Hank.” He plucks the keys from Hank’s pocket and holds them up. “I hope you have a good day at work.”
Hank grins, takes the keys, and leans in halfway before hesitating. His eyes on Connor’s mouth. He closes his eyes and brings his forehead to rest against Connor’s, touching the side of his face with such a warm palm, “Good morning… Thank you.” He lingers, head tilting, lips brushing Connor’s LED. It flickers bright blue at the attention. “Wish I could stay…”
When he leaves, Connor watches him happily, tasting the ghost of maple off his knuckles.
Now being alone in the house, takes a moment to fill and switch on the coffee maker, noticing Hank skipped it today. Then he moves back to the bedroom and instead of getting dressed in new clothes, he bundles up over the pajama pants and thermal shirt he wore to bed. Two pairs of socks and a somewhat faded police academy hoodie (found next to one less faded but chosen anyway). He retrieves Sumo’s leash and slides into his pair of work boots, and by then Sumo knows what’s going on. He pants happily and taps his front paws on the floor while he looks up at Connor lovingly, and Connor clips the leash onto him easily. He shrugs on a leather jacket that vaguely smells of seawater and takes Sumo out onto the street.
Sumo immediately starts to lead Connor instead of the other way around. It makes him smile. “We do this often, then. That’s good. I enjoy time with you, Sumo. You are my favorite dog I’ve ever seen… I don’t recall seeing many, but you are the favorite.”
Sumo boofs and hops excitedly as they go, happy to have this early morning treat. Connor only usually can do it for him every Thursday, when Hank sleeps in and they don’t have to be at work as early. Connor holds the leash steady and allows Sumo to bring them down certain streets, pausing to sniff and sit and pee whenever he wants to. They go over crosswalks, around a whole block in a circle, and stop in front of a small market store. Sumo sits and looks up at Connor, expectant. Connor doesn’t understand at first, but he decides this must be part of the routine.
“Alright, I will be right back.” Connor tells him, securing his leash to a designated post. Sumo moves to sit on a crate in front of the shop window. Connor heads inside the store and walks aimlessly through the aisles, always checking back to Sumo. The dog just looks on happily. As he browses, recipes pop up past food sections, healthy doses and care instructions on medications, sugar content in soft drinks. There’s an abundance of fresh fruit from a local farm and for lack of any better idea, Connor picks up a cantaloupe.
He brings it up to the checkout counter, to a woman with blond hair to her shoulders and a big smile that dimples her cheeks upon seeing Connor. She’s wearing a bright blue shirt with a dog on it and he wants to ask where she got it. Her LED blinks and spins a happy blue, “Connor! I thought you’d gotten lost, haven’t seen much of you lately.” she looks to the window and waves to Sumo, “And Sumo, too! Hey, sweetpea!”
Sumo’s tail wags and he barks, raising one paw as if waving back. Connor knows this is routine now, and smiles wider, liking the way the slight of her southern accent sounds as she praises Sumo. She starts ringing up his purchase, finding a paper bag to put it in. “Thank you…” his eyes flick to her nametag, “Cassidy. I apologize for my absence, I had an accident during work and was damaged. My memory suffered.”
She pauses, frown forming, “Oh. I’m so sorry. Are you doing alright now? Is your partner alright?”
He even talks about Hank to acquaintances in the routine of his life. He chuckles softly, nodding, “I am. He is, too. We’re both very well now.” He looks down, a bit bashful, looking along the rows of candy bars and trinkets on the counter. He picks up a chocolate bar and adds it to his purchase. There are dog treats, cartoon bone-shaped biscuits in a glass jar. Like hearing his thoughts, Sumo barks from outside. Connor glances to him, then back at the jar. He lays his hand on the top, and nods his head to it, asking silently if that’s what Sumo wants. Sumo whines and his whole body wiggles. Connor plucks one from the jar and adds that as well. Sumo knows how all this goes, down to the treat he gets every time. Maybe that's the whole reason.
Cassidy chuckles quietly, nodding as she rings them up. She doesn’t bag either of them, it seems she knows the routine as well. “I’m glad for that, and that you’re back in one piece.” She folds the paper bag down and sets it with his two treats, “Confirm payment, darlin’. Don’t think Sumo can wait much longer.”
Connor looks to Sumo with a smile, then closes his eyes with a light twitch to pay. He puts the chocolate in his pocket and picks up the bag and treat, “Confirmed. Thank you.”
They share pleasant goodbyes and Connor takes Sumo’s leash back into his hands. He breaks off a third of the treat and crouches down to give it to Sumo, loving the excited whine before there’s slobber on his hand. They start up their walk back, Sumo leading him along even though Connor knows the route now. With home in sight, Sumo stops for another piece of his treat which is easily given to him with scratches and a kiss to his head.
Back inside, Connor’s happy to be out of the cold and after the leash is off, Sumo bounds to his water bowl. Connor puts the things he needs to away, refills both of Sumo’s dishes, and makes himself a cup of coffee. The cold still clings to his cheeks and fingers, so he takes his coffee and candy into the bathroom. He fills the tub and strips, saves the hoodie on the counter and settles into the water. It warms him immediately and he relaxes, runs a diagnostic. He opens his chocolate and eats it slowly as he goes through his emails and answers text messages from Nines and Markus. He has fun analyzing the roasted beans, cream and every other ingredient that makes up his coffee, enjoys the taste that coats his tongue. He sips and eats half of his chocolate bar before putting it away, liking the way it makes him feel.
He reaches up and reads the backs of the soap bottles, smells each of them to know which he likes. He sees some Cyberlife brand cleaning bottles but they don’t carry a lingering scent, it’s more just for sanitizing. But there are too many bottles for them all to be Hank’s so he decides one is his and after his coffee cup is empty, he washes up. He even washes his hair, just for the feeling of it.
When he’s done, he moves into the bedroom. He dries off and looks at himself in the mirror, does a small turn. He knows what he looks like, but this time he thinks of what Hank would see. His drying hair with the curl already dropping into place. The lines of his face, the way his forehead wrinkles, the blunt edges of his teeth. The way his neck arches as he moves, the bob of his adams apple, the dip of his chest. He touches over his pump regulator, wonders if Hank has touched him here, seen what’s inside him in practice instead of just manuals. He wonders about Hank’s touch.
He keeps moving down, over his stomach and the points of his hip bones. The smooth plate between his legs and the muscles in his thighs, the bend of his knees. Just as well, he turns and looks at the shift of his shoulder blades, the line of his spine, the curve of his backside. He faces the mirror again and kneels down, leaning close. He preens a bit, pushing back his hair and feeling along his collarbones. He touches his LED like Hank does, with the smooth pads of his fingers. He closes his eyes and thinks of Hank when he kissed his LED this morning. How good it had felt, how calming. He runs his fingers over his own lips. He wants to do something nice for Hank.
He stands and goes to the closet, dressing himself in light jeans, a patterned button up not unlike Hank’s various shirts, with purple and black and blue. He tucks it into the jeans and rolls up the sleeves instead of buttoning the cuffs at his wrists. He slips on socks with a muted deep rainbow pattern, not sure who they belong to but they’re soft so now they’re his. He decides, while striding into the kitchen, that he’ll make Hank lunch. It’s something that can be intimate, especially if he brings it to the station. He sends Hank a text message while he looks through the fridge.
Hello, Hank. Have you eaten lunch?
Hey you. Nah, haven’t. Probably gonna skip it, can’t leave work. Don’t worry
Also, left the heater on high for ya. Turn it down around noon?
Thank you for thinking of me. I will turn it down at exactly noon.
You’re a peach. Thanks
Connor covers his face, all heated up. Hank called him something sweet, for the second time now, it’s only right he give one back. He hopes that’s something they do. He tries not to feel too bashful and instead focuses his attention to raiding the kitchen and letting recipes pop up rapidly while he looks at ingredients. He doesn’t want to make anything too unhealthy or liable to make him tired. He needs fuel for work. Connor settles on making a sandwich, Hank seems like he’d enjoy sandwiches, if the specialty bread is anything to go by. In the end, he collects ingredients to make the sandwich.
He spends time cutting carving board turkey while cooking up two slices of bacon, that he cuts into pieces. He cubes cherry tomatoes and guts an avocado, piling it all onto the bread with cheese and a light tangy dressing he found on the door of the fridge. He samples everything he puts in the sandwich as he layers it all structurally sound, then toasts it in a pan on the stove in a very light butter with a touch of garlic. He makes it with care and adoration, wanting Hank to be full and happy.
Sumo trots over at the smell of food and Connor pats his head, feeds him a scrap or two of the leftover turkey on the counter. Then he has to lean down and kiss Sumo’s big head because he really loves him so much. “I’m going to go see Hank soon, but I’ll come back. I will try to find you a stick to play with.”
He washes his hands and flips the sandwich, then thinks what more he could do. He thinks of the cantaloupe he put in the fridge, goes through the category of fruits he collected on his initial sweep. He takes them out one by one; a pear from a bowl of four, a small carton of blueberries, pineapple chunks in a half empty container, less than a handful of dates, the cantaloupe. He makes a fruit salad, dumping everything together after peeling unnecessary parts and slicing up some into smaller pieces. He drizzles a small amount of honey over with a bit of pepper and cinnamon, mixes it up, then settles a portion of it into a container to bring to Hank. The rest goes into the fridge.
By then the sandwich is done and Connor wraps it up to keep it warm and crisp while he takes care of everything he used. Without knowledge of a cooler or lunch box, he slides Hank’s lunch into the paper bag from the store. He turns down the heat at Hank’s request and refills Sumo’s water, adds a few ice cubes. He calls a cab as he puts on his shoes and leather jacket, then kneels down to give Sumo more affection. “Do you have anything you’d like me to tell Hank? I’ll tell him you were a good boy on our outing today, and that you love him.”
Sumo boofs softly and sets his paws on Connor’s shoulders, licking him. Connor moves just in time for it to get his cheek and not the middle of his face. He laughs and rubs Sumo’s ears, wiping his face as he moves him off and stands. His cab is pulling up out front and he makes sure to take his ring of keys, pin his badge to his front jeans’ pocket, and to hold Hank’s lunch close. “I’ll… tell him that, then. Be a good boy, Sumo. I’ll be back soon.”
It’s an easy ride to the station, Connor mostly looks out the windows. He has the route mapped from when Hank brought him. The cab uses a few different streets than Hank but the destination is the same. He likes the feeling he gets when he sees the DPD come into his view, it’s like he can’t get out of the cab soon enough. He waves hello and shares a few words with the receptionist, then walks into the bullpen. Nines notices him first and concern floods his face. He makes to stand up, probably to ask why Connor’s here, but Connor smiles and waves his hand at him, sends him a message, ‘I’ve brought Hank lunch. I missed him.’
Nines relaxes, settling back into his seat gracefully, ‘I see. I’m happy you’re here. We will have to speak later.’
Connor smiles brightly and nods, and Nines gives a more subtle smile in return. Hank is hunched over his desk, brow scrunched as he scrolls through information on a case. He doesn’t notice Connor until he’s right at his desk, and his expression is surprised before turning warm and sweet, “Connor, hey. What are you doing here? You alright?”
“I’m well, thank you Hank… I wanted to see you.” Connor settles the paper bag on his desk, pump thudding harder at seeing Hank’s face, hearing his voice. “I made you lunch and brought it along, you said you were going to skip it. I wanted to do something nice.”
Hank’s voice glides over Connor’s systems like sugar syrup, “Oh, Connor…” he smiles and shakes his head, scoffs like he can’t believe how lucky he is. “That what you got up to this morning? I promise I was going to eat a big dinner. Pull up a chair, come here. You can stay, right?”
Connor feels warmth spread in his chest. “I can stay with you, Hank.” He moves around their desks and wheels his chair around, all the way around until he’s almost behind Hank’s desk with him. He sits and rests his elbows on the top, hands clasped as he looks at the pink blotching up Hank’s cheeks. “I did a number of things this morning, not only this. Although I did devote a quantity of processing to it.”
Hank pulls the bag closer and opens it up, taking the napkins and fork out first. “All that processing power for me? Mm. Tell me about what you did today, go on.”
Connor watches him take out the fruit salad with a smile, opening the top to give it a smell and pleased hum. “After saying goodbye to you, I made myself warmer and took Sumo on a walk. Well, more accurately, he took me on a walk. He knew a route, what streets to cross, even the store where I would buy him a treat.”
“He’s got you trained as much as you’ve trained him.” Hank laughs. Taking the sandwich out of the bag, he sighs at the warmth of it through the foil. He unwraps a portion and doesn’t wait to take a bite, groaning at the texture and taste, the way the heat settles in his stomach. “Oh, Connor… God, this is good. The bread, the cheese…”
“You like bread and cheese.” He smiles, success pinging off inside his head at the pleasure on Hank’s face, the knowledge that he’s taking care of him.
“You’re damn right.” Hank hums and reaches over for his coffee, popping off the lid to take a sip before diving back into his sandwich, “Thank you. Mm, keep goin’. Your morning.”
Connor relaxes a bit more against the desk, resting his chin on his hands, “I purchased the cantaloupe in your salad at the store, and I re-met a friend while there. The clerk, she was nice.” He eyes the coffee on Hank’s desk, LED whirring, “Then, we came home. I’d bought a chocolate bar at the store too, and I ate most of it with a cup of coffee while I took a bath.”
Hank’s eyes meet his and then they trail over his body. Then he immediately looks away. Connor smiles. “It was very satisfying. I… I took my time dressing, and then our conversation took place. I made you lunch. Spoke with Sumo. He loves you, and he was a good dog today.” Connor’s fingers fidget as he turns nervous. Hank takes another bite of his sandwich and Connor leans over, branching into Hank’s space to press a kiss to his cheek. His sensors fill him with information, from the hormones in Hank’s skin to the brand of his moisturizer. The warmth of his body and the way his heartbeat increases on contact. Connor knows it’s not work appropriate to linger, so he doesn’t. He pulls back and settles into his seat again, sorting the information he’s taken on. “...From Sumo. I asked if he had anything to tell you that I could carry on.”
The way Hank’s looking at him makes a regulator alert pop up in his vision. A mix of surprise and attraction, and then his face goes incredibly pink as his eyes drop to Connor’s mouth. “Connor.” he reaches out and takes Connor’s chin, tilting his head down just slightly. His thumb shakes lightly as it lays over Connor’s lips. There’s a surge of information, every dip of Hank’s fingerprint, and Connor realizes the skin around his mouth has faded away. “Goddamn…”
His face floods with heat; bashful, embarrassed. He corrects himself and looks away, taking a deep breath to rid unnecessary heat from his systems. Hank’s hand settles around his wrist, but he doesn’t try to move him anywhere. Hank leans in towards him, a glance around the room assures no one is even looking. “Beautiful, Connor.”
“What?” Connor looks back to him, not sure he’s heard right. It’s Hank’s turn to look bashful.
“You heard me.” He shifts in his seat, thumb rubbing back and forth over Connor’s wrist, “You know I’ve seen you without it, you know I accept it.” He looks down to where they touch, Connor can feel his hand starting to sweat. His voice goes even more quiet, “I like it, Connor.”
“Oh, Hank.” Connor smiles softly, looking over Hank’s face, seeing the blush crawling down his neck. His mind is idly analyzing Hank where they touch, and the results make him go still. The truth of his pulse, the nerves, the arousal. “Oh.”
Hank sighs, taking his hand back and grabbing for his coffee to take a big gulp. “God, I’m sorry.”
Connor watches him try to steady himself, to figure out what to do now that he’s given Connor that information. He watches Hank silently for a moment, fondly. It stirs something in him to know Hank likes his body that much. It sparks thoughts that he pushes away to be analyzed at a later time. “Don’t apologize, Hank. I think… I like it.” His eyes track Hank’s hand as he sets his cup down and finally reaches over, dipping his fingers into Hank’s coffee. He presses the tips of his fingers into his mouth, letting it coat his tongue, analyzer coming to life.
Substance Detected. Process ? _Yes
Almond milk, filtered water, cane sugar, vitamin D2, natural flavors, artificial flavors, pressed cocoa powder, brewed espresso, sea salt— // Pause analysis. Minimize. Gather relevant information.
>Four (4) sugars
>#4a3200 hex code
Saved as “Hank’s preferred coffee”
Hank looks at him with his mouth hanging open slightly, a little flushed. “Fuck. Okay.”
Connor smiles, licking his lips. He’s pleased. “Okay.”
He presses his fingers to Hank’s wrist, guiding the hand holding the sandwich back to his mouth. Hank eats obediently. He even reaches over and picks up the fork, taking bites of the fruit salad. Connor feels comfortable to touch Hank more easily, to rub his arm and learn information on the fabric of his shirt, trail over the hair on his forearm. Hank keeps humming low in his throat, showing a small sign of his approval. He enjoys that they can sit quietly like this, how Hank doesn’t say anything about him just blatantly watching as he eats. Maybe he does it, or used to do it more often before he had his stomach installed.
Hank smiles at him while working on his salad, swallowing and licking his lips. Connor follows the movement. “I’m glad that you found a use for the rest of the pineapple. Didn’t know what I’d do with it, I was over eating it outta the container in front of the TV.”
Connor likes the sound of his voice so much. He wants to feel it, to know it better. He brings his hand up to Hank’s neck, fingers brushing the edge of his beard, “It made sense to use it. Keep speaking, Hank.”
Hank chuckles softly, popping a blueberry into his mouth, “What do you want me to say?”
“Anything. The content isn’t as important.”
“Not important? What are you trying to do?” He sounds so amused. His eyes flick to Connor’s hand as well as he can, but he just sighs and gives in, “Alright… Well, uh. We got plans, now. For the week and weekend. The aquarium, Markus’ weekly dinner, back to Kamski’s place. Sumo needs a bath, too. Can’t forget that, he’ll weasel out of it any chance he gets.”
Connor feels the vibration against his fingers as Hank speaks, the shift of his throat and bob of his adams apple when he swallows, even the faint thump of his pulse from here. It thrums throughout his hand in such a pleasant way. His fingers shift to Hank’s beard, rubbing his fingers over the well-kept strands. Hank fits a piece of pear into his mouth and huffs a small laugh. Connor hums, “Interesting. Thank you.”
“Mm.” Hank unfolds his sandwich a bit more and casually tilts his head, kissing the tips of Connor’s fingers. Connor blinks rapidly, LED rolling yellow in between blue, brightening and softly flashing. Hank feels a little smug.
Footsteps from behind them fall through the bullpen, Gavin coming back from Archives with an evidence bag and a tablet, “What smells in here?”
“Lunch. Get over it.” Hank says around another bite of his sandwich, grinning closed mouthed with full cheeks when Gavin groans at him.
He inspects Hank’s food while he walks past, the nice look of it. “The fuck? Damn, why do you get such a good lunch? You’re making my espresso and jerky look bad.”
“I finally have a house and my avocado toast. Let me fuckin’ live, Reed.”
Chapter 6: it’s more real than you think [nsfw]
Connor gets swept away by a dream. Hank tells him what it means when they touch without Connor's skin.
Minor characters mentioned or seen in this chapter: n/a
Somewhere between coming home after lunch with Hank and planning to find a movie to watch later tonight, Connor falls asleep on the couch. He had sat down to think and pet Sumo, and he slipped easily into stasis after thinking it would be a good idea to lay down. His systems still aren’t all repaired, he needs more points of rest to process all the input and information he’s gathered.
He dreams. He knows it’s a dream, he’s aware and can control his own body. He’s in the police station, but every desk is empty. He’s alone here. Stepping forward, he realizes he’s barefoot but the tiled floor isn’t cold. When he reaches out, his arms are bare chassis. He walks over to Hank’s desk and easily picks up the headphones laying on top. They’re already playing music and he slots them over his ears, the beat soothes him as he walks along at a relaxed pace. At Nines’ desk, there’s a steaming cup of liquid that he picks up. It’s a warm thirium drink and he brings it to his lips to take a sip, feels it coat down his throat and warm his chest. He carries it with him while he walks towards the break room.
It’s dark. The lights weren’t off a second ago, but Connor doesn’t pay it too much attention. He feels relaxed and won’t let a few lights ruin that. He wonders if this is a real thing he’s seen before, the bullpen dark, or if this is his mind supplying him with new interior now. He moves to the counter with the coffee machine, eyeing a tablet as he takes another sip of his drink. He can’t read the words, in English or Binary, and the photos of people are void of faces.
The faint footsteps over the music are the only thing to give Connor any warning before there are hands sliding up his sides, pushing up under his shirt. He braces both hands to the counter as he’s pressed up against it, cup making a mess as it spills. The hands are heavy and rough, dragging along his skin and making him arch into it. It feels good. A body presses up against his back and heat bleeds through their clothes, into his skin, warming him to the core. One hand wraps around his waist to keep them flush, thumb circling his bellybutton. The other hand starts on his bare bicep, connecting with plastic, sensors lighting up with pleasure as the hand drags down slow. Fingers gripping and rubbing - all enthusiastic, like their pleasure is Connor’s pleasure. Like they know his chassis is incredibly more sensitive than his skin. He moans low, head tipping forward as the hand eagerly slides over both of his.
A mouth presses to the back of his neck and he shudders. His fingers tangle with the ones holding his hands. The glow from Connor’s palms is starting to illuminate the space around them. He pushes one side of the headphones off his ear. He recognizes that hand, with the ring on the index finger. “Oh…”
“God, Connor.” Hank’s voice scratches against his audio processors and a shiver works over his body, connections firing and pinging in his head. He shouldn’t be this affected, but maybe the dream has more over him than he thought. He deliberately runs a small calibration test with his free hand, touching the tips of his fingers to his thumb one at a time. He can hear Hank’s breath easier. The headphones are gone, but the music stays, distant like the song is in the ceiling. It’s an odd feeling. Hank’s mouth slowly closes just behind his ear and starts sucking, and a broken sound catches in his throat.
He tilts his head back until it meets Hank’s shoulder, neck on display, “Hank… This—This isn’t real.” He shakes as he brings their hands to his chest anyway, and Hank’s hand detaches from his to eagerly touch his body.
“Does that matter?” Hank drags kisses along his neck, nosing and rubbing his beard against him. His breath warms Connor’s cheek and ear, gives him such a sense of security.
Connor takes a deep breath that warps into a moan, body sagging into Hank’s, “It does not.” He twists his upper body and grabs for Hank’s chin, tugging him into a kiss. The whole world goes dark the moment their lips meet, and the groan that Hank makes into his mouth has a surge of desperation rippling through Connor’s body. The sound of Hank’s pleasure is physical for him, zinging through his body.
He has enough presence of mind to let Hank breathe after a long moment, ready to feel his breath on his wet lips, but Hank flicks his tongue into Connor’s mouth deliberately. Like he’s tasting him. The thought strikes Connor so much for the sole reason that he’s tasting Hank, too. Saliva and chapstick and butterscotch candy. He doesn’t know if the detail is a real occurence or just his subconscious adding stray details. It must be real, it must be Hank. Hank’s voice is a hum against his lips, “You make all that blue stuff taste so sweet, Connor.”
Connor feels his LED pulse because he knows it’s blinking. Hank’s hands move over his body, left hand playing with his chest, dragging over his nipples and squeezing what softness he can gather in his palm. His right hand traces patterns on Connor’s stomach, nails digging in as he scratches up then soothes it by rubbing his palm back down. His tongue slips into Connor’s mouth as his hand continues lower, past the waistband of his sweats. A guttural groan drops from Connor’s mouth, feeling Hank’s whole hand cover the expanse of his groin. The hand cups and shifts against him, and Connor feels sparks under it; over his crotch, along his inner his thighs and up through his spine. The callouses, notches of fingerprints and creases of his palm make Connor’s hips stutter up into his grip, so much texture for him to rub against.
“H… Hank. Hank.” His voice is so unsteady. He’s guided to face away again so he can lean fully back to front against him. He feels supported but like he’s floating, Hank’s warmth is the only thing keeping him connected to the world. Hank’s fingers move slightly down his chest, and he’s startled to feel the ridge of his pump regulator casing bare, like a livewire at the attention. Hank taps against it and it tugs a moan from him every time, his whole body twitching.
“Love it when you glow like this, honey.” Hank’s voice is so low, rough, slightly strained. His hips roll against Connor’s lower back, and Connor is continuously starting to shake.
He blinks a few times and he sees the blue light of his own hands over Hank’s forearms, the faint glow of his pump beating through his chassis, and the brighter outline of his regulator through his shirt. The sight of Hank’s hands on him makes him ache. With the light from his body, it encourages the lights of the room to fade back on so slow he doesn’t even realize it.
A cat jumps onto the counter, it’s now the counter from home but they’re still in the station, he’s sure of that. The cat doesn’t pay them any mind, just licks at the Thirium drink spilled over the counter. Connor feels concern flood him, starting to lean forward, “No—”
“Eight-hundred, you know the feline isn’t real.” Nines’ voice tells him as he appears, hand reaching out to run over the cat’s gray fur. It sheds. Connor looks at his controlled face, the light of his eyes, remembering he is right. Nines isn’t even real, he knows he’s telling this to himself. He looks back to the cat, and it’s lapping at spilled milk.
Both of Hank’s arms are around his waist, leaned forward with him. His mouth brushes Connor’s hairline and it makes Connor shake. His head is swimming. “Hank, please…”
“Hey, shh… “ Hank’s voice sounds far away when it shouldn’t.
“Connor, Connor… It’s alright. Shh.” Hank’s hands are still around him but he feels rubbing at his chest. The world starts to tilt even with Hank there, and he feels himself tense up and jolt.
> Good morning, Connor
Connor blinks blearily as he wakes, the dream still clinging to him, using up processing power as he tries to keep the details. It’s such a show of his condition, the files recall and save so slow. He takes a few deep breaths. His hands are shaking.
“Hey, there you are.” Hank is seated on the couch with him, illuminated by the soft warm light from a nearby lamp. The television is on, a basketball game. It’s dark outside the windows; night. Connor scans the room slower than usual. Hank’s hand is on his chest, rubbing slow circles over his button up in a soothing motion. “It’s alright. You’re home, you’re on the couch.”
“Hank…” He can still feel his body thrumming with pleasure, with feeling. Like in his dream, his skin is gone from his arms, white chassis disappearing behind his rolled up sleeves. His hands are pulsing a dull blue. He knows his chest is bare too, but thankfully that’s hidden, as is the light it creates. He fell asleep in his day clothes but now there’s an addition of a blanket over his lower half, the deep red one that usually stays over the back of the couch. His legs are pulled close to his body and that allows Hank to sit up against him. He can feel Hank’s thigh against his feet, warm and human.
“Yeah. I’m right here… Got home a few hours ago. You seemed peaceful so I let you sleep.” Hank looks over his face with a kind of concerned fondness that makes Connor ache in a different way. His eyes skirt over Connor’s bare arms, but he deliberately doesn’t touch him there. “You started fussing, a little bit. You kept calling out to me.”
Connor feels heat bloom on his face and he shifts slightly, “I was having a dream.”
“Wasn’t bad, was it?” Hank asks, hand slowing to an eventual stop but not leaving his body. It gives a reminder of what he felt inside his own head, even if the placement isn’t perfectly over his pump regulator.
“No.” He answers, maybe a little too quickly. Hank glances at his chassis again. He swallows hard and lets his skin cover his chassis slowly. It draws back onto his body in a cascade, rippling like a blue-edged wave. Hank’s watching. It’s so interesting the way his eyes follow along. He lays his hand over Hank’s as he abruptly stops the skin at his wrist. Hank turns a little red. “Ah… It wasn’t bad. I was aware, I had the knowledge it was a dream, but… I got swept away, anyway.”
Hank’s voice is soft, “That happens to you. You don’t get many dreams where you’re just experiencing it. Were you okay?”
Connor nods, willing himself to relax all the way. It’s difficult when his body wants different. His voice is measured and his eyes stay on their hands, “I was at the police station.” Hank takes in a slow, deep breath. He’s watching Connor’s face, fingers twitching, pulse quickened. Connor watches him breathe in to speak but opens his mouth before Hank can, “You were there.” His fingertips almost timidly move over Hank’s knuckles, then over the metal of his ring, “Can I ask you a personal question?”
Hank gives an amused huff, “‘Course you can, Connor.”
He filters through his dream again, every word that the dream Hank had said. The glow of his hands intensify. His eyes twitch slightly, LED yellow for one rotation. “Earlier today, before I met you for lunch. We had a text conversation. You’ve called me ‘a peach’ more than once… Do we usually exchange fond nicknames?”
Hank relaxes into the couch, sighing with a light smile, “That’s not what I was expecting. So, that’s what that ‘darling’ thing was about.” Connor nods, and Hank chuckles. “Yeah, we do. It’s not usually those specific ones, but we throw them around sometimes.”
“What do you call me?” He asks eagerly, fingertips gliding slowly over Hank’s two first fingers, wrinkles and notches of knuckles and an old faded scar. It’s good data.
Hank licks his lips, smile widening. “I usually call you ‘honey’.” He raises his hand out from under Connor’s slowly, to not startle him away. “You liked saying ‘my love’… Connor, you sure you wanna touch me like that?”
Connor blinks rapidly for a moment. The nickname confirmation makes his pump beat faster, but the question gives him pause. “I wouldn’t if I didn’t want to. Why do you ask?”
Hank shifts, their fingertips brushing, “You uh… You told me it was an intimate thing. After your deviancy, and realigning some sensor stuff, you-you said you wanted it to be a show of intimacy. With Nines, as a private unit thing. With me… privately in a different way. That’s why Gavin doesn’t touch the plastic.”
Connor doesn’t ask for more information, he has a regulator alert in his vision already. “Oh. I think I understand.” Connor wanted sharing his body to be more special than used as a tool like it used to be. He swallows thickly and offers the palm of his hand to Hank, “... What do you think of it, Hank?”
“I love it.” The answer is immediate, Hank’s face washed in the soft blue of his hand.
Connor saves the image, feeling a hot shiver run up through his body. “I would enjoy touching you with my bare hands. Please.”
Hank’s smile is so warm. He gently cradles the back of Connor’s hand, leaning over to press a small kiss to the middle of his palm. Connor’s sensors go wild at the contact. He gasps and his legs twitch, muscles clenched as he sits up. Hank looks a little surprised at the movement but he doesn’t shy away. He brings his other hand up to cup Connor’s cheek, rubbing his thumb over the heat there. “Hey, it’s alright. It’s alright…” He guides Connor’s hand to his face, sighing at the feel of smooth fingers against his skin. “It’s alright.”
Connor brings both of his hands to Hank’s face, holding him so gently, touch slow and light and trembling. He rests his forehead to Hank’s, breathing with him, feeling him with such reverence. He shivers, closing his eyes as he glides his fingers over Hank’s cheeks, into his beard, over his mouth. Hank kisses his fingers with tenderness. Connor gasps raggedly and his fingertips buzz against Hank’s lips. He presses his mouth to Connor’s fingers more eagerly, knowing Connor’s getting information and feedback. He basks in the hitch of Connor’s breath.
“H-Hank…” Connor feels his body thrumming and he pulls himself away, realizing he’s starting to react more intensely. He’s starting to vibrate from making himself stay so still. “I should um… Maybe I should…”
“What do you need?” Hank’s voice has dropped with a slight rasp. He runs his fingers through Connor’s hair, watching his eyes slip closed and his head tilt back.
“I think uh… I think I should shower… find a change of clothes, perhaps. Wake myself up. I planned a movie.” Connor nods, keeps nodding to himself. He sounds dazed. He’s slowly pulling himself from the blanket, fumbling with it. Hank chuckles and helps him get free.
“That sounds good to me, Con.” He rubs Connor’s side as he stands and fidgets with his hands. He’s hesitating. “What else? Tell me what you need, I’ll get it for you.” He scoots to the edge of his seat, “How about I pick out your clothes? Find that movie. Make popcorn. Yeah?”
“Yes.” Connor’s shoulders relax and his knees go a little weak. He doesn’t want to think about anything that comes before or after getting into the shower, his processing power is strained. “Yes, thank you, Hank.”
Hank smiles and pats his side, sending him off to the bathroom. As soon as he’s closed the door behind himself, he’s tugging at his clothes to get them off. He breathes deep and tries to cool his systems, preparing for his shower on autopilot. He intakes information on the thread count of the towels, the temperature of the water, the faint noise of Hank moving around outside of the room. He climbs into the shower and pulls the curtain closed, gasping as the water hits him. He immediately leans his forearm against the wall and hangs his head as the water runs over him. His synthetic skin reacts to the water droplets, covering him up because it feels too abrasive. He makes his hand stay bare. He can’t believe he’s panting just from the memory of a dream and feeling Hank’s mouth.
He slides his hand down roughly over his crotch. The touch makes him ache almost to the point of pain, pleasure radiating intensely in time with a hard shiver. It drags a pathetic noise from his throat, shoulders bunching and knees shaking. His fingers twitch and once he can stabilize himself, he’s rubbing and rocking against his hand like Hank had done in the dream. His hands aren’t as textured but it still feels incredibly good. He delves back into the memory, dropping other cached processes when popups alert him to his high levels. All in favor of finding the approximation of Hank’s hand and reconstructing it on his own. His hand presses down hard as his sensors flood with information, twisting it into pleasure and shocking it up through his brain. He muffles a choked moan against his bicep. Every movement feels like too much but he chases it nonetheless.
He gets lost in the sensation, hips rolling and pivoting like second nature, gasping in air for his temperature warnings. The thought occurs he maybe should have made himself a more controlled environment for this, and then he immediately imagines Hank's bed, their bed. He grunts and presses his face harder against his arm, digging his fingers into his skin. The gasp that punches from his lungs when his skin melts away under his hand is loud, giving way to a breathless sob with his plate bare, connections right under the material sparking and fizzing at the touch.
// Stimulus Detected…
57% of capacity used
Action recommended -
)Attachment of Biocomponent_A
)Attachment of Biocomponent_B
)Attachment of Biocomponent_C
Configured panels cannot be accessed.
Use installed component ? _Yes
Run compatibility ? _Yes
Using saved settings [flat_genital_plate]
// Sexual Protocols working 94% efficiency
>>Processing power low
Connor squeezes his eyes shut harder, whining against his arm. He has other biocomponents for this. He tries to preconstruct himself on their bed while Hank tests each one, but he doesn't have enough power to do it. He thinks of Hank in his ear, praising him, calling him honey, Connor soaking up the warmth from his soft human body. He wants it, he feels the want curl low in his abdomen and stay there like a physical weight. He has to turn down the temperature of the water to keep himself from overheating. Both of his hands are trembling and the friction is getting more addictive. He drags his fingers heavy over the plastic and presses down with the heel of his hand, and his thighs shake. Another alert pops up. He pushes it away. His artificial hair is standing on end and from behind his eyelids he sees the bathroom light flicker. His ears pinpoint the buzz of the bulb and then, another room away, Hank's low “fuck…” as the smart bulbs in the bedroom flicker too.
That's what does it.
Connor’s mouth falls open and he muffles most of the trembling moan into his arm, whole body shuddering as he comes. It rolls over him in intense waves, hand still and gripping, pressure but no friction. He can't handle more. Thirium pounds in his ears and he's lighting up the shower tiles as his skin deactivates in one place and reappears another. His hearing cuts off to make space for the feeling, but he feels himself saying “fuck, fuck, fuck…”
He leans more heavily against the wall, resting his head there, tucking his free arm close to his pounding chest as the initial waves slow, as he’s left twitching and rolling his hips in little jerks. He breathes in deep as the water rolling down his back slowly becomes more available to his overworked sensors. He blinks his eyes open with a small hum, sees his HUD in complete disarray. He lets it sit for a moment as he enjoys the buzz in his head, the glow, his body slowly getting control of itself.
New Objective: Find Hank
His hearing clicks back on and filters in at a safe pace, and he sighs to the objective dreamily, “Okay.”
! Action recommended
)Intake Thirum packet
)Install biocomponent from collection
He cleans himself up in a daze, knowing he doesn't really need to work hard on it with no sweat or body oils and having had his bath that morning. It all just feels like a balm on his sensitive skin and help recalibrate his systems, especially smell as he coats himself in the scents of sandalwood, oats and vanilla. He makes a point not to analyze it further than enjoying, he doesn't need another run of information.
Getting out of the shower, he finds his towel and sits on the edge of the tub. He takes a deep breath and rubs the towel over his hair and face, then lays it over his back. He leans over as much as he can, letting himself slump as he runs his fingers through his hair and thinks about how warm he feels. Hank's out there, waiting for him. He said he would be, with clothes and a movie. He basks in knowing there's good things waiting for him, then it urges him gently to his feet, patting down the rest of his body before he secures the towel around his waist.
He walks from the bathroom to the open bedroom, seeing Hank fixing the blankets on the bed with his back turned. There’s a large bowl of hot popcorn on the nightstand, a tablet with movies at the end of the bed, and Hank has brought down the projector screen over the closet again. A light pile of folded clothes sits on the bed, uninterrupted by Hank moving the blankets all around. Connor feels a pleased smile pull at his lips. There's a slight creak in the floor as Connor steps in the room, and Hank turns to see him.
His eyes do a once over, attracted to every point of Connor's body. He's already been blushing. Hank knows what he did. “Connor…” The sound of his own name feels like a hello, I missed you and I feel you all at once. He watches Connor’s eyelids flutter and reaches out for him, “Come here, honey.”
The invitation makes his fingers tingle. He crosses the floor like the warmth of Hank's body is gravitational and presses his face home in Hank's shoulder while they hug. His objective completes on contact and shifts closer with an eased sigh. Hank's arms squeeze him with an uptick to his heartbeat, and his hands run up along Connor's back. His dream hadn’t gotten them completely right, a bit of texture and a two degree heat difference. He could say he's never been happier to be wrong, but that happened yesterday. He melts against him. “Hello, Hank.”
“Hey. You good?” Hank asks with a soft low voice, and the way he does feels familiar in his mouth. He hums softly with the smell of Connor up close, nose brushing his shoulder, “You used my soap… I like that.”
Connor can't find it in him to be embarrassed. He nods and runs his hand slow over Hank’s shirt covered back, feeling his shoulder blade shift as his hand moves down to Connor’s lower back. “I’m good, thank you.”
Hank kisses his hair, “I got you some clothes right here, and all the good stuff to watch a movie. And—” In the living room, there’s an uplifting mechanical chirp. “And your heating blanket is charged.”
“You do so much for me.” Connor whispers, feeling the warmth of Hank’s chest and belly against his own. It keeps him at a good temperature as he starts to cool off from his shower.
Hank lets him go slowly and rubs over the back of his shoulders, showing him to the clothes, “You do a lot for me, Con.”
“I do?” He leans to pick up the blue sweatshirt Hank’s picked out, unfolding it and smoothing the layer of fleece on the inside. Hank’s hand slides down his back and he hums.
“You love me.” Hank tells him like that answers it easily. And for Hank, it does. Connor does a lot of other things to take care of him, but that sums it up. He sees Connor gearing up to get dressed so he steps away to go get his blanket in the other room.
Connor doesn’t want Hank to go but lets him anyway, taking off his towel to settle on the bed. He pulls the sweatshirt over his head and tugs it down when it bunches up. His movement almost knocks his bundle of socks off the bed so he grabs those and puts them on next, stretching out his legs after they’re on to make sure the hems are perfectly aligned.
Hank comes back in after a moment, fiddling with the digital settings on the blanket. He looks at Connor’s face, then down his legs. He walks around the bed with a smile, “They’re pretty even, Con. You got it.”
Connor’s face brightens and he slides on the shorts Hank left for him, standing to pull them up. He thinks about how Hank didn’t give him any underwear, then it occurs to him that without his sexual components installed, he doesn’t need it for more than aesthetics. Hank knew what he had on, then. So he must have seen the rest?
They climb into bed, leaving the door cracked for Sumo. The blankets get situated, Connor leans into Hank’s body and Hank adjusts in favor of him like he does it all the time. Connor likes that thought. He gets a pack of Thirium that’s branded stylishly and has an attached straw tossed in his lap, along with a few packets of Thirium gummies. The bowl of popcorn on Hank’s lap, and Connor turns off the smart bulbs with an easy mental flick. He blushes when Hank lets out a pleased chuckle.
“Hank?” He asks before the movie is started, while taking the straw off the pack and stabbing it into the opening.
“Yeah, honey?” Hank says it so easily and fondly it gives Connor an alert.
He takes a drink before answering. “You… know I have attachable biocomponents, don’t you? More intimate ones, I mean. Do you know where they are?”
Hank processes for a moment, then a blush starts to work up on his cheeks. “They’re in there.” He points over to Connor’s drawers beside the bed, then rests his arm around him again. “I uh, I calibrated every one of them myself.”
Another regulator alert pops up and his LED blinks brightly, “Oh.”
“Oh, yeah.” Hank nods; a little bashful, a little smug. He rubs Connor’s side and smiles wider when he curls close, sipping his drink continuously. He looks back to the tablet and starts up the movie, resting his head closer to Connor’s as the opening credits start on The Shape of Water. Connor hasn’t seen it yet and was hounding Hank for it. It reminds him to mention in a whisper, “The leading lady’s mute. I know you like translating things more accurate and faster than the subtitles.”
Connor brings up his ASL translator. He talks around his straw, “Got it.”
Hank has seen the movie before, when it first came out. Connor brought it up to him about a week ago, from Gavin making an old joke about it. It caught Connor’s interest. He knows this is something Connor will appreciate, and he’ll be preoccupied using most of his brain power analyzing the communication and non-verbal language in the film. His investigative, social and physiological programs will be on and running, and Hank loves watching him work. He just presses some popcorn into his mouth and spends most of his time focused on Connor.
Connor translates all of the sign language for him in a soft voice even though the subtitles are there, makes comments on the colors of the film, the makeup and the connections made by characters. He takes a few pieces of popcorn at a time and smiles, “He likes eggs. Do I like boiled eggs?”
Hank chuckles, holding around Connor’s belly as he squeezes him closer. He rubs his cheek against Connor’s hair, “You’ll have to find out. I think we got eggs.”
“Filing it away to learn later.” Connor hums, reaching blindly for his gummies and splitting the package open. He shoves one into his mouth with wide, happy eyes set on screen. Hank smiles and dips down, gently nosing at Connor’s ear before kissing the shell. Connor’s LED blinks, taking in the sensation. He tilts his head to encourage the behavior, though he does get an alert for low processing, running his detective protocols and intaking information about the food he’s ingesting. Now Hank’s sensory input. But it feels good, and it’s Hank’s touch, so he wants to continue.
Hank trails the tip of his nose around the shell of his ear, then gently tongues the lobe into his mouth. He sucks lightly, drawing a low noise from Connor’s throat. He rubs slow, soothing circles against Connor’s belly as he kisses the hinge of his jaw. Connor squirms and presses another Thirium gummy into his mouth, still needing the replenishment. His hand finds Hank’s thigh under the blanket to stabilize himself. He’s not doing well running multiple priority tasks like he is, he’s starting to pay less attention to the intricacies of the film and take more information on about the wet warmth of Hank’s mouth. His breathing feels good against Connor’s skin, and the way he scoots down to brush his lips against Connor’s neck like he’s asking permission to do it. He slides his hand up to Hank’s belly and squeezes, hand curling in the fabric to pull him closer.
When Connor doesn’t stop pulling, Hank moves the popcorn bowl away and braces his hand on the bed to move closer, whispering into his neck. “Connor…?”
“Yes. Please hold me, Hank.” Connor whispers back, eyes closing for a long moment as Hank sighs against his jaw. Hank moves closer but Connor decides it’s not close enough, so he shuffles forward slightly and glances back. He holds his snack between his teeth and gently guides Hank’s leg closer to him, before lifting himself over it.
Hank’s legs spread for Connor settling between them, and he pushes a pillow behind his back as Connor rests happily against the soft curve of his stomach. He slips both of his arms around his android and feels him melt at the contact, a shiver move up his spine. He drops a kiss to the back of Connor’s neck just above his monitoring device, then tucks his head just to the side of there, holding him like it’s his sole purpose. Like it’s home.
Connor feels so warm. He goes back to eating his snack, at ease as he turns back to the film. He enjoys the feeling of Hank’s breath, the fullness of his touch, their contact. After a small stretch of time, he realizes Hank hasn’t moved and isn’t keying up to move. He asks around a full mouth, “Hank?”
“Mmh.” Hank’s mouth at the base of his neck. He feels Connor’s skin ripple like goosebumps.
“You’re not looking at the movie?”
“Mm-nm.” A light shake of his head in a no, and his beard rubs freckled skin.
Connor smiles at the movie screen, even if his brow pinches in confusion. “Why?” Hank’s arms squeeze around him as he burrows closer, a deliberate move, like that’s all that needs to be said. Connor, after a moment, realizes. His request to be held is more important than the satisfaction of seeing the film. A blush tints his cheeks. “Oh.”
Hank hums deep and low that reverberates his chest, and Connor feels it in his shoulder blades. He lays his head against Hank’s with a small shudder, pulling his blanket up higher and wiggling his hand under it, resting over Hank’s arms. He’s so relaxed against him, feels contentment in his bones. The movie progresses, and his processing power shifts back to prioritize it as Hank’s care moves into a specialized background thrum in his mind.
As the movie goes on, Hank’s grip goes a little slack, and at intervals Connor notices his vitals calm. Hank lean back further against the headboard and he easily goes with him. An almost automatic check provides the percentage of Hank slipping into REM sleep and it makes him happy. He eats popcorn and lets his hand wander, feeling over Hank’s leg. Over his soft, strong thigh covered by sweatpants, to squeeze the fat and muscle. Over his knee where Connor’s skin comes away to diagnose the ache in Hank’s bones. He pinpoints the pressure and misses a full minute of the movie focusing on it, then it’s easy to massage and tend to idly. Hank groans in his sleep and shifts lightly, and Connor hums in return, like a ‘you're welcome’ to Hank’s ‘thank you’.
Connor, at the end of the movie, decides he likes it, and that it's good. As the credits roll, he picks up the remains of his snacks and sets them inside the bowl with only popcorn kernels left. He deposits it on the bedside table and gently moves out from against Hank's body. He puts his heating blanket on the floor, having switched it off a while ago, and then turns to look at Hank. Still asleep, the angle not good for his neck, but looking so handsome and at peace as he rests.
He situates the blankets and plants his knees, carefully using his strength to move Hank down the bed. He brushes the hair from his face with fondness, and Hank grunts as Connor’s trying to adjust his head on the pillows. He opens his eyes groggily, “Connor?” The rasp of his voice is calming, and he rolls onto his side to grab for him.
Connor moves his arm away and pulls the blankets up over him, tucking him in. Then he maneuvers himself over Hank’s body to crowd against his back, wanting to hold him this time. Hank just about purrs, trying to reach back for him. “Go back to sleep, Hank. Dream.” He wiggles his arm under Hank’s head and around his chest, feeling Hank’s sleep heavy hands clasp at his own. Connor presses both hands to his chest like Hank wants him to.
He nuzzles hair out of the way to press a warm kiss to the back of Hank’s neck. He doesn’t want to use his voice again, because it seems to stimulate Hank’s mind into fighting sleep. He brings his hands up to sign the significant line from their movie, “You and me. Together.”
Hank gives in and lets his tired eyes close, smile already scrunching his eyes enough as it is. He recognizes it. He guides Connor’s hands back to his chest and presses his face into the pillow, “Yeah…” He chuckles dreamily, vitals already leveling out again, pulling him back under. “Yeah, that’s it.”
Connor allocates all the energy he has left into holding on to this feeling. Internal and external feeling, sensations, the way his breathing syncs up with Hank’s without him even trying. He slips into stasis when it takes him as naturally as it can, and in his dreams he can feel Hank’s heartbeat on his chest.
Chapter 7: home away from home
Connor and Sumo go to visit Nines for some quality time. Connor discovers something about his past.
Minor characters mentioned or seen in this chapter:
Sumo, Ben Collins, Gary (owner of Chicken Feed)
Fingerprint analysis: Hank Anderson
>> Synthetic hair movement
)Remove ? _Cancel
)Save sensation information_Confirmed
Suspending stasis for Authorized User
//… Good morning, Connor
“Connor. Time to get up, honey.” Hank’s voice hums in his ear, his breath ghosting over Connor’s skin. Connor shifts with a little grunt. He smiles, “Hey, you. Run that wake up program, you got breakfast waiting.”
Connor rolls over slow, blinking his eyes open and registering Hank’s adoring face. He leans his head into the hand petting through his hair, “Breakfast?”
Hank snorts, nodding, “Morning to you, too. Yeah, there’s breakfast, come on.” He goes to move away and get himself off the bed, but Connor’s fingers gently curling in the front of his shirt stop him. He settles back down and a little closer when he’s not let go of. He can feel the mood shift into something softer.
Connor takes a long moment just to look at him; all the lines of his face, the depth of his eyes, the curl of his hair. Healthy. Hank looks healthy, and warm. He brings his hand up and holds Hank’s cheek, thumb over his crows feet, fingers curling to brush hair behind Hank’s ear. Connor’s LED rolls bright blue, slow, then fast blinks. Hank turns a little red over the ridges of his cheeks. Connor’s voice is so quiet, slow as honey, “Good morning, Hank.”
He feels like he’s fallen in love again just from the absolutely soft look on Connor’s face. The way he looks at Hank almost in a calm awe, like he’s laid eyes on something special, genuine to the point where it almost breaks Hank’s heart how openly Connor sees him. He lays his hand over Connor’s and leans into his touch, closing his eyes. Connor’s other hand joins, pushing his hair back. Hank sighs deeply and drops his head down on Connor’s chest, needing a moment to prepare himself to move away. He hears a soft sound and hands keep petting his hair, his cheek. His breath is slow and relieved as he exhales.
Connor rests his head back on the pillow and runs a morning diagnostic, enjoying Hank’s weight and feeling while he goes through routine things. He enjoys the quiet for what it is, comfortable and still, but with something slightly exciting. He licks his lips before he speaks, “Hank?”
Hank rubs his face against Connor’s chest for a moment, like he’s procrastinating having to leave it. It makes Connor wiggle. Picking his head up, Connor’s hands caress down the sides of his face. “What?”
“Can I wear something of yours today?” He looks at Hank almost sleepily, still relaxed.
Hank reaches up and brushes Connor’s hair back from his forehead, watching the way the signature stray piece wants to bounce back into place, “Of course you can, don’t even gotta ask. What’s mine is yours, and all that.”
Connor smiles bashfully, “Thank you.”
Shaking his head with a snort, Hank pulls himself up from the bed and Connor misses the closeness as soon as it’s gone. He moves his way out of the blankets and follows Hank to the kitchen, giving Sumo’s head a rub as he passes by him. He stops in his tracks when he sees breakfast set out, two small plates and a bowl. Standing in front of his spot at the table, he looks up at Hank with wide eyes, face brightening by the second. He signs excitedly, “Egg.”
Hank laughs free and loud, from his belly. Connor’s happiness lights up the whole house, he swears it. He nods, setting his identical breakfast down; two slices of buttered toast, a peeled blood orange, and a bowl of boiled and shelled eggs. “Yeah, egg. Go on.”
Connor feels his pump work harder, pure delight filling up his body. Hank remembered. He gets to try eggs and see if he remembers them or not, and more simply if he even likes them. He sits down and scoots in immediately, taking the middle egg in the bowl to inspect it, programs already booting up to prepare for him to eat. He gently opens it up and watches the steam rise, smells it while looking at the solidified yolk. When his program is ready, he’s ready, and he takes an eager bite.
From the other side of the table, Hank watches him with a lovestruck look as he takes a bite of his own toast. Connor’s LED is blinking a bright and lovely blue, and it whirls with yellow as he experiences his food. He’s still for a long moment, just holding the food in his mouth while looking far away. His eyes twitch like he does when he’s processing a big amount, then he looks down at the egg and a surprised little laugh leaves him as he swallows. Hank tilts his head forward, brows arching up, “Well, Con? What do you think?”
Connor smiles at him, holding up the egg, “I don’t like this.”
“No?” Hank frowns a bit, even as Connor looks chipper as ever.
“No.” He nods, looking back down at the egg. He’s so delighted to know this information. He picks at the yolk, then gently works it away from the egg white, “I don’t like this part.” He sets it down in the gap between all the other eggs in the bowl, then takes another bite of the egg white, “This is good.”
Hank snorts, shaking his head, “Of course you’d like the healthiest part of the damn egg.”
Connor’s eyes scrunch with a smile of contentment, leaning on the table to enjoy the meal. They settle into a comfortable quiet, Connor mentioning his like for the orange, Hank sighing about having to go to work soon. Sumo rubs up against Connor’s legs for attention. Connor moves over to the counter and gives Sumo the last piece of his treat from the other day, then spends a long minute brushing and petting him.
Request from Nines, RK900:
# Request for communication
)Allow access ? _Accept
)Message: Hello, 800. I miss you. Good morning.
Connor smiles. He’s happy to hear from Nines and replies immediately, ‘Good morning, 900. I miss you as well. How are you? ’
He can almost feel Nines’ delight at being replied to so quickly, ‘I’m well, thank you. Today is my day off. I wonder if you’d like to visit my home? ’
‘I would like to, very much. Please send directions. Maybe I could bring Sumo, if that’s alright? He’s very knowledgeable about the city.’ Connor squishes Sumo’s face between his hands as he asks, Sumo’s tail wagging fast and delighted.
The response is immediate, ‘Yes. Bring the dog. If you take a taxi to the park and pass the fountain, he will know the rest of the way. Bring the dog.’
Connor chuckles and pats Sumo again before getting off the floor. He checks the directions Nines has sent him, color coded for taxi rides and walking distances. He passes around Hank, fingers running over his wide shoulders, and scoops up his empty coffee cup to make him another. “Hank, I’ve just spoken to Nines. I’m going to visit him today.”
Hank makes a pleased noise around half an egg, “I’m glad. You’d go there a lot. Make sure you wear your comfy shoes.” At Connor’s confused look, Hank chuckles, “He got you loafers for Christmas. He likes when people take off their shoes at his place, you like keeping yours on when you’re not at home. Compromise.”
“Ah. Thank you.” He nods in understanding, he’s sure he saw the shoes in the bedroom and would like to wear them. He stirs the coffee before coming back over, settling the cup back down on the table, “Hank, I was thinking I’d bring Sumo with me. Would that be okay?”
Hank picks up his cup to take a thankful sip. His voice is a bit louder, “You want to take Sumo on a walk?” Sumo’s head whips around with a sputtering boof. Hank tries not to smile. “You want to take Sumo on a trip to see Nines?” Sumo huffs and wiggles with his whole body, obviously excited. Hank looks up at Connor with a smirk and a wink. Connor smiles so bright, that’s definitely a yes.
Connor puts his plates in the dishwasher and then heads down to the bedroom to set out clothes for himself and Hank. The fabrics feel odd against his hands, like they haven’t before. Troubleshooting tells him to recalibrate Subsystem A again, even if he only did it last night. He sighs, but shrugs it off. He can do it again. He readies himself for another shower, thinking he’ll recalibrate as he did last night, with all the soaps and bubbles. He could probably do without it, but he has the time and knows it will work. It feels nice, and human… and maybe he wants to smell like Hank some more, too.
So he undresses, climbs in and lets the water flow over him. He makes it a little hotter than he really needs to, but he likes the warmth and likes seeing the idle analytical information pass by. He takes a while rubbing the soap between his hands to enjoy the feeling before running it through his hair. It’s working like a charm, Subsystem A is 89% recalibrated. When he’s lathering himself completely in body wash, the smell of Hank all around him, there’s a small knock at the cracked bathroom door.
“Connor?” Hank gently pushes the door open some more, peeking in, “I’m gonna head off to work.”
Connor opens the shower curtain modestly, enough to see Hank but not let any water onto the floor. Hank is wearing the clothes he set out. He smiles, covered in suds and conditioners, “Have a good day at work, Hank!”
Hank’s eyes roam with appreciation, dumbfounded for a moment. He shifts his weight to his other foot and nods, “Uh. Right, yeah. Thanks. You have a good time with Nines.”
Connor nods, wiping soap from his forehead as it starts to drip from his hair. “I will… I’ll also miss you, Hank.”
The way he’s looked at makes him feel a little weak in the knees. He can’t help but smile stupidly, fiddling with his keys. “Ah, Connor… Jeez.” He chuckles bashfully, “Same.” They look at each other for a few lingering moments, then Hank sputters before averting his eyes and going to close the door.
Connor rubs over his chest, feeling his regulator humming in a way that feels good.
He finishes his shower in a slow but methodical way and pats himself dry back in the bedroom. The silk of Hank’s shirt feels soft and cool against his clean, heated skin. He’s chosen underwear this time, but hesitates before he puts them on. He decides, in the end, to take the sleek gray Cyberlife box from his bedside table and choose a more human look than his blank plate. He turns the white-gray phallus from the ‘Biocomponent A’ cushion over in his hands, and wonders which one was his favorite. He intends to find out.
The replacement is easy, if the reinstallation a little taxing. He has to sit in bed for a few minutes just enduring. But the saved settings take over and he spares a moment to look in the mirror after he can have the processing power back to stand, and preens a bit because he enjoys the way he looks. He finishes getting dressed and has to recalibrate his walk to accommodate the way his component rests against his leg. But after that, he can make sure his hair is pristine, layer on things for outside, and get Sumo ready to go.
Sumo is panting with excitement by the time Nines’ apartment is in sight. He almost breaks into a run, which Connor supports with a little more leash and a jog alongside. Going up the stairs and into the building, Sumo knows the buttons to hit on the elevator. When they find Nines’ apartment, it takes only a knock and then Nines is answering the door, looking stoic as ever. His eyes immediately lock onto Sumo and he says, “Canine.”
Sumo snorts and wiggles, tugging on the leash now that he’s being shown attention. Nines sounds increasingly excited - for Nines, of course. “Hello, canine. Sumo. Sumo!” Sumo boofs and to Connor’s absolute surprise, Nines breaks out in a big smile. “Yes, good! Celebration. Here, now.”
Nines pats his chest and then opens his arms, and Connor lets the leash slip so Sumo can bound over, pushing up on his hind legs to be as tall as Nines. Front paws on Nines’ shoulders and Nines rests their heads together, scratching Sumo’s neck and telling him a number of things like ‘you are a good dog’ and ‘your hip is doing well, i see’ and ‘you are very soft and I do understand the human weakness’. When Sumo drops back down and trots away to look around, Nines’ face has gone back to its usual neutral expression.
Connor smirks at him, amused but tight-lipped as he switches his street shoes for the loafers from his backpack. “You like dogs.”
Nines brushes dog hair off his high-collared sweater, “I do not.”
He offers his bare hand to Connor and they greet passingly as he enters. Connor stumbles somewhat while taking it in. He sees Nines’ morning; the colors of the sky as the sun rose, the feeling of a warm cover on chilled skin, Sumo’s droopy face a moment ago, then layered over Connor’s memory of meeting Sumo. Nines experiences eating eggs, a rinse in the shower, the feeling of Hank’s head on his chest.
‘I don’t like dogs. I like Sumo, because you liked Sumo first. I’m glad you had a pleasant morning.’ Nines tells him, having enjoyed the secondhand feelings.
Connor smiles and waits until his informational process slows to reply, ‘The same for you. Is that from uploading my memory in your production? ’
‘Not quite. It was residual, underlying preferences and memories from being scrubbed, after you succeeded in deviating from Amanda’s last attempt to assume control of you. I’m fond of Sumo. I’m fond of Hank. I attacked Gavin when I first met him. I feel close to Markus. Although I am closer to North, now.’
A feeling twists in Connor’s gut and he steps closer to run his hand up Nines’ arm, “You were scrubbed?”
‘In an attempt to reset me to the… factory default, yes. To be a tool without a mind of my own. But as you can see, it didn’t take. I enjoy making decisions for myself, that I like, and knowing they would make her angry… makes them all the more better.’ Nines lays his hand over Connor’s and there’s a bit of pride there, Connor can hear it in his head like an echo. He smiles just a little and leads Connor further into his home, arm coming around him. He must sense Connor needs comfort. ‘I take after you, because I’ve always known you. Even before we met.’
Connor switches back to speaking across their connection, still concerned, ‘You don’t mind it? Liking things I do.’
‘You don’t mind me being attracted to Hank? ’ Nines answers playfully.
Connor gasps out loud. ‘Oh! Do I? ’
Nines snorts and it’s audible enough to make Connor laugh.
They head into the sitting room, somewhat sparsely decorated. White walls, two white cushioned chairs and one white couch, part of a matching set. A plush, gray rug. The only colorful things in the room are one woven tapestry on the wall that’s a mix of blues, greens and whites. There’s a crocheted blanket of all colors of the rainbow laid across Nines’ favorite chair, like he uses it frequently. And on the wall, there’s a section of framed photos. Some of Connor and himself, one of Hank, of Chris asleep at his desk, of North in sunlight, Chloe and her bright smile. There’s also a photo frame with just the stock photo inside, of a gray cat.
Nines moves the titanium coffee table out of the way and they lay on the very comfortable carpet. Nines puts their heads side by side then activates a little holographic device he puts on his chest. The device shows the image of a coral reef above them. He reaches for Connor’s hands and they interface. Connor can tolerate it fine because it’s a base program inside the device and it’s also filtered through Nines himself.
“What is this?” Connor whispers to the quiet room. Sumo comes over to nuzzle Nines’ head and then lay down on top of Connor. His weight is welcomed, calming.
‘It’s a program about the coral reef I wanted to take you to. We were planning a trip.’ Nines tells him, and coaxes them both to close their eyes. The image surrounds them in full, Connor can even hear the water, feel the sea air on his face. Nines has the control and he plunges them into the ocean. The experience is full, like he’s actually going into water. The sensation of it on his bare hands, the pressure on his body, the weightlessness. The only difference is he can breathe normally. He can feel Nines next to him. ‘Continue to breathe and lock your limbs, so you won’t disturb Sumo while you move. I am here with you, I will not let you drift away.’
Connor does as he’s told. He’s noticed Nines doesn’t prefer to verbally speak when he doesn’t have to, so he switches fully to their connection. He doesn’t think Sumo will mind the quiet, he’s watching the leaves on Nines’ balcony plant sway in the breeze out the window. Now fully inside his head, he can look around. Nines is there, his hand clasping Connor’s, and they float for a moment to get their bearings. Nines smiles at him, ‘Would you like to have the added weight of your diving equipment?’
‘I’ll try it.’ A moment later he feels an extra 34.3lbs attach to his body. He dips slightly in the water but doesn’t feel afraid. Nines still has him.
‘Are you alright?’
‘I am. Tell me more about this trip.’ Connor says, turning his eyes to the reef, eager to see closer.
Nines makes good on that, telling him of the initial want to see something different, go somewhere different. Connor loves the ocean and Nines enjoys seeing colors, even if his apartment would hint to otherwise. He found them lodging right on the shorefront, explains that Hank would come along. Ben, too. Both Josh and Chloe expressed interest in taking care of Sumo while they were gone. Nines made multiple lists of things they would need, including when their humans would need to eat. Connor likes that, it shows how Nines cares.
They take in the reef, Connor can touch things like he’s really there, hands gentle and eyes wide. He mostly touches the sand and rocks, the reef is to be admired from a distance. Fish swim past and he looks on in awe. He pets the top of a jellyfish very gently, so it knows his love but he doesn’t disrupt it. Nines tries to do the same but he’s curious and tries to cup it in his hand to show affection, to let it rest. He lets out a surprised mechanical chirp when he’s stung, taking his hand away. Connor holds his hand to inspect it, seeing the skin has pulled back with the shock. There’s no damage of course, and Nines looks at him with a smile, ‘I think it was saying hello.’
Connor doesn’t have the heart to say otherwise, because Nines looks so happy. He smiles so much more in this simulation, maybe it’s easier for him.
When they leave the ocean, it’s to a boat. It’s there to regulate their senses before leaving the simulation, but Nines has customized the program. Hank is there with his hair up, pink sunglasses, and a hideously patterned shirt with equally hideously patterned shorts that don’t go together. He has his feet up and he’s reading a book, looking very tourist-y and carefree. Ben is there was well, in an old fashioned one-piece swimsuit, stripes and all. Socks and sandals. He’s slathered in sunscreen with the biggest sunglasses Connor has ever seen. Nines obviously can edit the program to his wishes.
As they leave the simulation, Connor slowly opens his eyes, enables his voice and limbs again. Nines squeezes his hands before letting go of one, turning off the holo device. ‘Are you alright?’ he asks, even if he could connect deeper and know for himself.
‘That was enjoyable! Thank you for showing me. I didn’t expect it to be so lifelike, or for Hank to be there.’ Connor replies, reaching to pet Sumo with a smile.
‘I thought perhaps you would need a comforting presence if you didn’t handle the water pressure well.’ Nines explains, and then adds a little fondly, ‘His model was fun to dress up.’
‘He looked ridiculous.’
‘And he doesn’t actually?’
‘...He does have shirts like that.’
‘Like you’re currently wearing.’
Connor blushes, ‘They’re comfortable…’ He can feel Nines’ amusement, no doubt having felt Connor getting flustered. He decides to change the subject. ‘And what about Ben’s attire? Do you wish to speak on that?’
Nines goes very quiet, and he feels a tinge of embarrassment across the connection. Connor bites his lip to hold onto a laugh, but it slowly bubbles up out of him the more he can feel Nines’ processors whirring for an excuse. Nines lets go of his hand and rolls over, dropping his forehead on Connor’s shoulder with his body planked. The response is bashful, ‘He confessed to me once he enjoyed the ‘strong man’ aesthetic… He’s sweet, Connor.’
Connor chuckles and pats his head, just before Sumo shuffles up to lick his hair, “I agree with your assessment… Have you told him this?”
Nines scoffs out loud, then ‘Not often.’
“Perhaps you should… if you want him to wear that outfit. I’ve placed an order.”
Connor laughs at the almost distressed noise Nines makes.
Later, while they’re talking over Thirium tea in the kitchen, a text message from Hank arrives. Connor reads it during a lull in the conversation.
Hey honey, are you free for lunch??
Yes, I am free. I would love to have lunch with you.
Chicken Feed? Meet around 1:20-1:30?
That sounds nice. I will see you then, my love.
Nines smiles softly at him and he realizes he’s been smiling too. ‘Was that Hank?’
“Yes.” He chuckles softly, looking down into his blue-filled cup.
‘I could tell.’ Nines smiles a little wider, a little more fond before his expression calms again.
“He asked me to lunch. At the Chicken Feed.” He takes a moment to bring up a map, eyes twitching.
Nines gives an interested look, taking a drink before saying out loud, “You better calibrate your stomach for grease.”
Stepping out of the taxi, Connor takes in his surroundings as he pulls his collar closer towards his neck. The taxi has stopped at the corner of the street, its map not knowing the exact location of the food truck. As he walks, he can see Hank’s car already parked across the street, and Hank is chatting with the cook inside the truck. He can pinpoint some of the conversation.
“—Yeah, I accidentally put it in my new machine. Whole thing of Thirium, in the damn ice cream machine. I start emptyin’ it, telling myself I’m a fuckin’ fool, when one of the customers asks what it is. I tell ‘em what, and they want some! They told their friends, and now I got Thirium Freeze on the menu.”
“Can’t believe you had the luck to turn a fuck up into profit, Gary.” Hank snorts, shaking his head. It’s marked out on the menu as a new item in blue chalk with excited lines to draw the eye, right above ‘OMG’s Lemonade’. “Hm… Maybe Connor would like it.” He puts a hand on his hip and shifts, catching Connor’s figure walking up. His face splits into a grin, “Connor!”
Connor’s eyes scrunch with the force of his smile, nearing the truck and seeing Hank excitedly closing the distance between them with eager steps. He sighs at the rush of Hank’s cologne he gets with the breeze, and Hank takes his hand in both of his own, pressing a lingering kiss to his knuckles. He wants to lean into his warmth. “Hi, Hank.”
“Hey, you.” Hank holds Connor’s hand to his chest, running his fingers through the side part of Connor’s hair, smoothing it down and cupping his face. He feels his heart melt a little when Connor leans into it, eyes fluttering. “You hungry?”
“I think I’m always hungry when my stomach is active.” Connor tells him with a light chuckle.
Hank nods empathically, “That’s a mood. Come on,” he laces their fingers as he turns to bring him up to the truck, “Gary’s got this new Thirium thing you might like.”
Connor goes easily, feeling light on his feet with Hank holding his hand. He takes a look around as he’s brought closer, taking in the music and smells coming from inside the food truck. His attention catches on the area in front of the truck, the sidewalk. Something in his HUD catches there, again and again when he looks away and looks back. He slips his hand from Hank’s to investigate, walking closer to the point. His program runs a scan, and glitching shoe prints appear outlined on the ground.
“Con?” Hank turns around to see where he’s gone, brows pulling together, “What is it?”
“There’s something here.” Connor steps into the prints. It activates the option for a reconstruction. He reaches out for it, accepting the prompt to begin.
“Connor, are you seeing—” The rest of Hank’s words don’t make it to him as the reconstruction starts, the process becoming priority. There’s a humanoid outline standing a few feet away. Then walking closer. The reconstruction becomes more unstable with each step, and Connor’s head pulses with pressure. Things start to go dark around the edges.
Detecting issue in software
Reconstruction not advised
… Memory files not available!
>> Processing power low!
POWER: LOW_\\ - CAUTION ADVISED
```URGENT ASSISTANCE REQUIRED
Request Assistance at nearest Cyberlife repair facility
ERROR in pr0cessing///////[ Unknown — help needed#
Connor feels himself losing balance. He forces the reconstruction on for three more seconds. He sees a grainy image of Hank nearing him, snowflakes clinging to his hair and coat. He feels the ghost of arms pulling him in.
He hears Hank’s voice as he hits the ground, “Holy shit, Connor!”
SHUTDOWN IN_ PR//OGRESS…
]Critical error in processsing
Extremities not.! respoNding
Abn_0rmal electrical#@ activity Found
_Forced standby protocol initiated_ !!
>> to protect vital system components/*/-/
“This is Lieutenant Hank Anderson, DPD. I’m calling in an officer down! I need an ambulance! He’s—God, I think he’s having a seizure.”
Chapter 8: tired blue heart [slight nsfw]
Connor experiences more and more errors. Hank realizes what it was like for Connor that morning after the revolution. They grow closer, and try to stay afloat together.
Minor characters mentioned or seen in this chapter:
Gavin Reed, North, Chloe, Sumo
Warped voices. Close and far away, fading and almost crystal clear, before slipping away. His audio processor fizzles with little crackling noises. “Explain in detail again, now that you’re calm.” Nines. Nines’ authoritative voice.
“He,” a clearing throat, “He showed up at the Chicken Feed by taxi after leaving your place. He was fine. He walked up the street fine. He was fine.” Hank’s voice. Hoarse, croaky. “We went up to the truck but he pulled away. He said he saw something.”
“What did he see? Did he tell you?”
“He didn’t get the fuckin’ chance.” Hank’s voice bites, then a sniffle, a ragged breath. “I think… I think he might’ve seen a memory. Like, like your reconstruction shit. But it was just the damn spot on the ground.”
“In front of the truck. Where we met the morning after the revolution… Where he said he ‘became human’. In my arms.” Hank huffs a humorless, choked laugh. “Jesus Christ, remembering was supposed to help him, not hurt him!” A brief pause. Wet breaths. Connor’s hearing spits more garbled sounds at him, then nothing, silence, then— “and he started shaking, he wasn’t responsive… I turned him on his side like you’re supposed to, I—God, Nines, he—”
“It… It’s okay, Hank. Shh.” Nines’ voice turns softer, less clinical. Hank cuts off a sob, it sounds like it hurts. Nines carries on. “You did all you could. He is here now, under care. He arrived in record time.”
A voice not recognized speaks up, “Did he injure his head when he hit the ground, Lieutenant?”
Hank clears his throat again, “I-I don’t think so, doc. He mostly hit his shoulder. I stabilized his head, and tried to keep him place without hurting him or letting him hurt himself. Is he gonna be okay? He’s never done that before. This is because of his head, isn’t it?”
Elijah Kamski’s voice filters in, his presence not in the room but coming through speakers, “This incident could be directly linked to his first injury, and even worsen the effect. We’re trying to access his recent memory files. They’re all locked down, unfortunately.”
“Fuck, Eli. Don’t gotta say it like that.” Gavin sighs, feet shifting.
“I…” A moment. Elijah sounds tired. “I'm sorry, you're right. Okay. Something locked that data in place. We can't touch it.”
Gavin, “You can't bypass it?”
“It’s locked. I made him and I can’t even get to it. We don’t know what it is.”
Connor feels the pokes and prods of others in his head. He doesn't like it, but he relies on the connected computers like a crutch to respond. His head is swimming. He can’t do much, but he manages four letters over the readings on the screen.
H A N K .
“Uh… guys?” Gavin’s voice moves closer, there’s a bump at the end of the bed.
Connor holds it as long as he can before he has to stop, screen glitching back into his electrical activity, Thirium levels, other monitoring information. There’s silence besides the tapping of keys, breathing. Connor internally grits his teeth and does it again, feeling his hearing in one ear completely crackle out with his effort.
H A N K .
“Fuck!” Hank sounds panicked and his shoes squeak on the tile floor, then Connor’s feeling his weight close to him, feeling his body heat over him. “Connor. Connor?” A hand cups his cheek. So warm. His LED pulses. The letters pulse on screen. “Jesus. Kamski? He’s in there! Do somethin’, damn it.”
“I can’t do anything but watch! We’re locked out, Lieutenant. I can’t do anything.” Elijah tells him, sounding distracted, no doubt trying anyway.
Connor can’t hold the word. It glitches away. Hank drags in a ragged breath, Connor feels a drop of wetness land on his neck. Hank’s crying. He taps at Connor’s LED, seeing it dim, “Hey! Hey, don’t you leave me. Don’t leave me. Don’t do that, don’t do that with your light!”
Nines’ voice is suddenly close, “Connor, please.” His hand encircles Connor’s wrist, skin instantly melting away. Nines forcibly connects, and Connor’s response is automatic, on instinct. He takes the charge right from Nines’ body like a virus, not checking from where or for what, any process is up for grabs. Nines’ heart and lungs and brain are up for grabs and Connor can’t choose. It shocks Nines’ entire body, jerking him away like he’s been electrocuted. This is the second time Nines has put himself at risk interfacing with a damaged android, and he falls limply to the floor for his trouble. The sound his body makes is heavy and sickening.
“Shit! Nines! Nines, you stupid fuck!” Gavin hisses, rushing over to him. Dropping to his knees and pulling Nines — red LED, body slack, skin completely giving way to bare plastic — bracing him against his legs.
“RK900!” Elijah sounds reprimanding. “What did he do? Gavin, what did he do?”
“He just touched him. He… He did the interfacing thing. The skin thing.” Gavin rambles, cradling Nines’ head. Nines groans and shifts lightly, at least he’s not unconscious.
Connor tries again, it’s all he has. He owes it to Nines now. He could scream for how irresponsible Nines is, for how he can feel Hank’s hands shaking, hear the fear in Gavin’s voice, the lost way Elijah prods at his brain trying to get in. He feels desperation sinking in.
H A N K .
“What is it, Connor? I’m here, I’m here. What is it? Please… tell me what to do.” Hank whispers, sniffling, running his fingers through Connor’s hair, “I’ll do anything you want, I swear.”
“He’s trying.” Nines’ voice is scattered mechanically, it sounds terrible. His words grate like something’s dislodged. “He’s trying.”
Gavin lays a hand on Nines’ forehead, trying to soothe how Nines can’t stop blinking and twitching his eyes, how his LED pulses in distress. He looks up trying for better, but Hank looks just as bad, inconsolable. “Hank? Hey, listen!” He barks, cutting through Hank’s cries. He grimaces at the doctor trying to remove his hands from Nines. “Hey, didn’t you… didn’t you say to me that you’re a user in Connor’s system? Huh? Some lovey-dovey fuckin’ shit, and you’re an authorized user? Right?”
“What? Wh… yeah. Yeah, why?” Hank croaks, breaths wet and heavy. His face twists as he tries to concentrate.
“Well, maybe he is trying. Maybe it’s you.” He’s grasping at straws but he turns his head towards Elijah’s screen anyway, “Eli, try exactly what he’s telling you. Maybe he’s giving you the fuckin’ passcode.”
Connor feels Hank’s harsh breathing on his face, calloused fingers stroking his cheeks, his chin, his forehead. There’s a moment of silence while Elijah works. Hank smooths his thumb over Connor’s eyebrow, Connor can feel the tickle of Hank’s hair against his cheek. “I love you.”
Request from Elijah Kamski:
# Request for primary user
>> Unable to complete request
# Override for primary user
)Instate Elijah Kamski _ Force
)Connor, RK800 made secondary user
>> No action taken.
Elijah Kamski now primary user.
Unlock System ? _Accept
Connor gasps like he’s choking.
_Access Granted. Running…
Unlocking primary and secondary systems…
All the screens, including Elijah’s, cut out. Flickering to black and then static layered on static, a view of the autumn sidewalk in front of the Chicken Feed. Connor’s hand reaching forward, interacting with the prompt to start the reconstruction. The barest outline, rendering more and more into Hank before an overlay just kicks in. Another, deeper view - snow on the ground, Hank reaching out for him with a smitten smile, blocks of lost pixels at the corners of his HUD.
A wall of red spanning Connor’s vision, making him hesitate to step to Hank. His own heartbeat floods his ears. He reaches out for the wall but Hank’s hand on his shoulder brings him right through it into his arms. The wall breaks apart like snow, fluttering away into nothing. The visual cuts off in a crackle of code and broken pieces. It fades back with Connor’s view from the ground from only a few hours ago, Hank rushing to him. Shutdown warnings taking up the screen, a glare of words and numbers and glitches. Hank’s voice, “—God, I think he’s having a seizure… Jesus, Connor, stay with me.”
Then it’s over.
Elijah and the medical information filter back onto the monitors. It’s quiet for a long moment in the wake of what they’ve witnessed, and Connor’s eyes flutter open. Everyone is looking at the screens, and Elijah looks stricken. Like he’s not sure what to do. Luckily, the connections to Connor’s head are automatic, and are giving him the power to process things again while his own systems cope, now without restriction.
“I saw you.” Connor croaks brokenly, looking up at Hank with blurry eyes. His HUD is completely gone, so he misses that he’s crying. Hank’s head whips to meet his gaze, to cradle his face again. It makes him shake and he tries to reach up for Hank too, but his arms are so heavy. He can’t help but babble in nothing more than a whisper, “I saw you, Hank. You were there with me, you saw me.” The real him. Behind the wall. The final wall, the last shred of a machine preparing for use. Hank saw Connor. Simply standing there, his equal, on that snowy sidewalk. Connor the person, the man who’d never been touched unless he was being hurt, and brought him into the protection of his arms. And Connor woke up.
Hank rubs at his temples, trying to calm him. “Connor? Shh, it’s—”
“You knew! You saw me and…” He grabs at Hank’s arm, breathing uneven, “Y-You knew, you knew what I needed.”
Hank’s head dips as fresh tears well up, “Because I needed it, too… God, but I didn’t know it was like that for you . I didn’t know it looked like that, I didn’t know it was that.” He sucks in a ragged breath and pushes Connor’s tears away, “I—”
“Hank…” His fingers waver but they push Hank’s hair back, wanting him to smile again, wanting him to be okay. Connor feels alive in his arms and Hank never deserves to cry with agony again.
Hank’s chest stutters and he leans down, holding Connor’s head between his big hands while he presses their lips together. Connor feels the most secure he’s ever felt, cased here with what wires he’s aware of singing at the contact, the show of love. It takes a moment for him to close his eyes but then he’s leaning up into it, shivering from head to toe. When Hank pulls away, he realizes he can’t save this moment away, he doesn’t have the power or access to do it. He can only live in the moment, remember in a base way without a complete sensory file, and he stares up at Hank with his lips tingling and his heart pounding. He tries to analyze but it’s immediately cut off.
He takes a shuddering breath, watching Hank lick his lips. The realization dawning on him that, for Connor, this is their first kiss. He rests a hand on Connor’s chest and opens his mouth to speak, but the words get caught somewhere in his throat.
Nines grabs the bed for leverage while Gavin helps him up. He brushes off Gavin and the android doctor alike to get a look at Connor. When he sees he’s alright, his tense shoulders drop in absolute relief. Connor reaches out for him with a shaky hitch to his breath, and Nines goes so easy. He plans to lean, but then his spine won’t support him this way, so he crawls onto the bed to collapse as gently as he can. Connor wraps both arms around him, blinking back new tears, “I damaged you.”
“Incorrect.” Nines’ voice still sounds like tin and his bare chassis brushes cool against Connor’s chin, where he lays protective and exhausted on his chest. It concerns Connor that his skin hasn’t come back yet, it should be.
Hank’s hand rests over Connor’s while he turns to look at Elijah on screen, “Is he gonna be alright?” He rubs at his face with his sleeve, sighing heavily.
Connor can feel Elijah rooting around, checking things, disconnecting and reconnecting internal sensors. It’s uncomfortable when he starts manipulating fragmented data to clear it from the system. Elijah pauses a moment, “I believe he should be fine. This is just a setback. Although… I’ll be honest. Seeing this event, his impulses here, his transmitters… I’m still not sure how to restore his memories. The original problem still stands and knowing a memory did this to his systems, I don’t know how to proceed.”
“What?” Hank’s voice turns dark, unbelieving. Connor’s never heard it like this. Hank steps closer to Elijah on screen, his hand slipping away. Cold and colder.
“You created him. You even joke about being his father. You goddamn bastard, if he’s your kid, then you fuckin’ find a way to proceed. You hear me?” The line of Hank’s back is tense, making him look more imposing.
“Hank,” Connor’s voice is soft calling out to him and Hank’s body sags almost instantly with it, as if Connor’s activated a subroutine within him. He reaches out, and Hank turns to look. His words are measured, “I’m sure Elijah will do all he can. As you said, he created me. Come here… I miss you, Hank. I’m tired. I prefer your presence when I sleep.”
Hank’s aggression crumbles and moves back over, taking Connor’s hand in both of his, dropping a reverent kiss to his knuckles. Nines’ body shifts from Connor, thinking perhaps he should move so Connor’s human can have his attention. He knows Hank needs it. Connor holds him firm where he is, “Rest, nine-hundred. Please.”
Tugging a chair closer, Hank settles into it. He leans on the bed, keeping Connor’s hand close to his lips. He’s so burned out he feels gravity’s constant pull on him deeper and deeper. “You need anything, Con?”
Connor looks over his bloodshot eyes, the deep-set lines on his face that come from recent, hard crying. He presses his fingertips to Hank’s lips and there’s an immediate kiss given. “Say what you said before. When you were close. You told me something important. Something… I like the sound of.” He sees Hank think back, then his cheeks bloom a little more red, now more soft than angry in nature. He looks to Gavin over Nines’ shoulders, seeing him rubbing gently at Nines’ ankle, “Gavin? Would you perhaps get yourself and Hank a cup of coffee?”
Gavin nods, “You got it.”
When he lays his eyes on Hank again, there’s so many emotions he wishes he could categorize. Connor pushes away another swell of feelings, ones forming a lump in his throat. “Call me the nickname too, Hank… please.”
“Connor.” Hank looks away, feeling worn to the bone. He closes his eyes and presses another kiss to Connor’s hand, and it’s more like he’s resting there until he tucks Connor’s hand under his chin, meeting his eyes. His voice is a whisper, “Honey, I love you. I love you so much.” He chokes Connor up by kissing over his ring.
Connor sends a wired message to Elijah through his connection.
I don’t want to die.
And I’d rather you didn’t, either. Please get some rest.
Elijah meets his eyes and gives a small sigh, one nod of his head. Then he ends the call.
Gavin comes back with coffee and Hank is encouraged to drink. Despite the caffeine, Hank crashes soon after finishing it, leaning his upper body on the edge of Connor’s bed. Gavin nurses his own coffee and tries to get Nines to have some too, but Nines says his stomach is offline for the time being.
Connor stays awake for a while, stroking Hank’s unkempt hair and rubbing Nines’ back. Gavin mills around the room, leaves a few times to make calls but never strays too far. Elijah does more work before giving him partial primary user access and leaving him alone in his head for the time being. He slips in and out of stasis. Hours pass. He vaguely remembers the doctor from before coming back to check his vitals and his shoulder from when he fell. He sees the pooling of blue showing under his skin from a piping break. They leave the skin there at an opacity where the staff can keep track of his body recovering the Thirium, leeching it back where it can.
He wakes up next and Nines is gone, Gavin too. Hank is awake. He sees Connor looking around blearily and comes over, kissing his forehead and making him take a few sips of water and Thirium. He can feel things being rifled through in some subsystems and lets Hank’s hand rubbing his chest lull him back to sleep. Even later, Josh and North are there. Their visit is blurry, North giving Hank a bag of food, Josh’s soft hello. North talks to him while Josh runs diagnostics. He’s not the best conversationalist but she mostly talks and then asks him the odd question here and there to keep his attention. When his system wants him to go back into stasis, he’s not one to argue.
When he wakes up again, Hank is in the chair next to the bed with one of Connor’s shoes in his lap. He’s loosening the laces, has already done it on the other shoe, and has Connor’s shirt and jacket laid across the end of the bed. Hank brushes his hair out of his eyes and looks up to see Connor conscious again, soft smile taking over his features, “Hey, honey. How’re you feeling?”
Connor hums sleepily, “I’m okay.” He watches Hank set the shoe aside and stand up, his eyes flutter as Hank smooths his hand over his forehead and back through his hair.
“They said I can take you home. Do you want to get going?”
He thinks of home and immediately nods, wanting to feel its comforts and see Sumo. “I would like to. Please, take me home.”
Hank untucks him from bed and helps him sit up, swinging his legs over the edge for him when he notices Connor’s trouble doing it. He’s been disconnected from all wires and IVs so it’s easy for Hank to unclasp the gown the staff put him in to get him back into his shirt. He pauses seeing Connor’s shoulder, fingers very gentle when they brush over it. Connor can’t feel that part of him, and all the rest of his sensors are dulled while he’s running a patch. That’s blocking out most other things, it’s acting almost like pain medication.
Connor still likes the feel of silk on his skin and he watches Hank’s hands as he does the buttons up, then grunts when Hank kneels down to put his shoes on for him. “Hank, your knees.”
“You’re such a mother hen.” Hank snorts, then squeezes Connor’s ankle, “I’m fine. Don’t worry.”
“You have aches in your knees, I know that much. Hank, I don’t like it.” Connor can’t keep the slight whine out of his tone.
“I get on my knees enough to know how to hold myself, come on now.” Hank replies easily, lacing up Connor’s shoe. He grins a bit to himself, then it dawns on him what he’s said and he whips his head up with a mortified expression, “Con—”
“Is that… a true statement, my love?” Connor raises his brows, feeling a little thrill at Hank’s expression, at the information of something more intimate between them. It’s a glimpse of their life no one else can tell him about.
Hank blushes deep, a ruddy hot flush of color, and licks his lips. He sounds less playful, more flustered. “Yes.”
Connor hums as Hank puts on his other shoe and adjusts the cuffs on his jeans. He watches Hank stand. “You can tell me more about it later.”
With a little huff and smile, Hank gets him into his jacket, “Oh, yes sir.”
Hank slings Connor’s backpack over his shoulder and makes him stay seated while a nurse ushers in a wheelchair, going to help get it situated. Connor sighs, “I don’t need a wheelchair, Hank. It’s fine.” He pushes off the bed to help him stand, realizing during the first step forward that he’s not going to be able to hold himself up, “Oh. You know, I might have lied?”
Hank grabs him before he can try and grab himself. With him stumbling to find balance, Hank hefts him into his arms so Connor doesn’t have the opportunity to fall again, “Why don’t you ever do as you’re told?”
With a barely suppressed gasp Connor clings to his shoulders probably way too hard, words anxious, “Now you’re going to aggravate your back. Hank…” He knows he’s heavier than he looks, his skeleton was meant to withstand a lot without bending and breaking. And after these years, Hank must know that, too.
“I’d rather aggravate my back than yours.” Hank acts like he weighs absolutely nothing, bringing him over to the waiting wheelchair. He sighs as he leans and settles Connor right into the seat, staying for a moment as Connor’s bruising grip on him loosens.
“Please don’t.” Connor says softly as he’s given his backpack then Hank takes over for the nurse, giving a small thank you before they’re underway.
“You’re supposed to say ‘then perish’, but okay.” Hank takes him out to the car and helps him into the passenger seat, Connor insisting he at least try to get in as independently as possible.
The movement from hospital bed to car has worn him out and he doesn’t like it at all, but there’s not much he can do besides buckle up and try to rest comfortably in his seat. He registers Hank climbing in next to him after a minute, then the ride home is a slight blur of soft rumbling from the road. A few stops and starts poke at his awareness again and again while he drifts. And again, when Hank’s opening the passenger door in the driveway of their home.
Connor moves on weak legs and Hank’s aid, trying to blink the weariness from his eyes. His heart jerks a little when they’re in the entryway but he’s not almost being bowled over by a mound of fur, “I want to see Sumo.”
“He’s probably sleeping.” Hank says as he brings Connor down the hall, trying to calm the break in Connor’s voice, “You left him with Nines, remember? So you could make lunch, and they could spend more time together. He brought him home a few hours ago, after he left the hospital.”
That soothes Connor somewhat, and he does remember. They turn into the bedroom and as promised, Sumo is there on the bed, lifting his head up when they enter. Hank feels his heart clench at Connor’s little noise of relief over just seeing the big lug. “See? There he is. Your best friend, he kept the bed warm.”
“He did. Sumo…” Connor reaches for the dog as soon as he’s seated, sliding down to lay his head on Sumo’s side and bury a hand in his fur, “Good boy. Good boy, Sumo.”
Hank watches Sumo sniff at Connor’s hair to try and know where he’s been and his heart just squeezes a little more. He kneels and gets Connor’s shoes off him, then stands and leans on the bed to start undoing Connor’s belt, “You doin’ okay?”
“Mmh.” Connor doesn’t move more than to scratch gently at Sumo’s fur. He sounds sleepy. Hank gets his jeans off him, then grabs some pajama pants and gets him into them. He has to pull Connor up to slide him out of the jacket and Connor’s face scrunches in protest, “I’d like to lay back down.”
“You can when you’re dressed for bed.” He tells him, then kisses the crease between his brows. It smooths out. He works Connor’s jacket off him one arm at a time. “Wanna keep that shirt on?” Connor shakes his head so Hank unbuttons it and slips it off, too. Connor declines a new shirt by laying back down.
Hank just gets himself ready for bed and then coaxes Connor up to the pillows, and with a weak call from Connor, Sumo’s doing the same. Hank turns him a little more onto his side and then crowds against his back, pulling the covers up. Connor holds Hank’s hand while his other rests on Sumo’s back, “Hank?”
“You okay, honey?”
“Yeah… I was wondering if Nines was okay. I hurt him, during the interface.” He feels Hank’s hand rub at his belly, slightly numb.
“He’s just fine. They looked him over, and Markus is staying the night with him to make sure he stays fine. You don’t have to worry.”
“I don’t want him to do that again.” Connor remembers hearing him fall, hearing his voice, knowing he could’ve seriously damaged him in that interface.
Hank’s lips brush his shoulder as he speaks, “I don’t think anyone can stop him from trying to help you, Connor. He loves you. I’m pretty sure if it came to protecting you or betraying the entire world, he’d do it for you.”
“And I’d do it, too.”
Connor goes quiet, taking a soft shuddering breath.
“You don’t have an answer for that, do ya?”
He shakes his head, pushing his face into the pillow. “…No.”
Hank kisses behind his ear and settles more into the crook of his neck, “Then just sleep, Connor. It’s all okay. You’re home, I got you, you’re safe.”
There’s a long moment of Connor just taking in Hank’s words, his breathing, what he can feel of him against his back. He whispers, on the edge of more sleep, “I feel safe. Here.” He squeezes Hank’s hand.
Hank takes a shaking breath and forces himself to go to sleep, too.
In the morning, Connor wakes slow. Alone in bed, he takes his time to just lay there and run diagnostics. He runs over reports, all the broken code copied into the monitoring device to keep record, the footnotes of repairs made remotely by Elijah, Josh, and Chloe (under Elijah’s credentials, though she signs her name). She must have taken his seat and worked while he took breaks. Thankfully following Connor’s instructions. Connor pushes his head more into his pillow and sighs, wishing he could take an extra stasis cycle.
His body still has some numb spots when he shifts against the bed, but more unhappily, he aches. He curls in on himself, feeling a sickly ache prominent in his head, in his shoulders and knees. Like someone froze his joints, and it hurts while they’re thawing. He focuses on breathing and trying to see into a protocol that would relieve the shaking tension. He doesn’t realize he’s drifting until he comes to with the bed dipping, Hank crawling in behind him.
His hands immediately smooth over the pain in Connor’s side. He’s wearing some kind of gloves that crackle against Connor’s skin, and it hurts, but in a way that feels like a release. He makes a low sound, hands clenching and then relaxing as his body accepts the feeling.
Hank adjusts to wiggle his other hand under Connor. His voice is a whisper, “Came as soon as I could. You okay?”
It takes Connor a moment to speak. “I… I woke up and my body feels damaged. It hurts.” Hank’s hand squeezes over his synthetic ribcage and he sucks in a breath, “How did you know?”
“You were messaging the laptop, the one we use for repairs. I had it open and lines started running - twenty, fifty of ‘em. You kept saying something hurt and that you were tired.” Hank moves one hand to Connor’s, kneading at his palm. Connor’s skin slips away with a little surprised ‘oof’. “So I got your pressure gloves, we’re gonna recenter you.”
“Those are repair tools? They’ll help?” His eyes slip closed again, head tipping back. He feels Hank’s fingers running over his wrist and up his arm.
“Mhmm, they are. Routine maintenance. You lay yourself out, I put on the gloves, and I spend fifteen minutes to an hour calibrating your sensors. It’s usually before we do your sealant treatment.” Hank explains, shifting a little closer. He lets Connor stay on his side while he runs his hand up his spine, hand heavy. Connor is so relaxed that the weight of Hank’s hand rolls him mostly onto his front.
“You conduct my sealant treatments?” Connor’s voice is muffled into the pillows. Hank lets out a gruff chuckle.
“Yep. I do most of your maintenance these days, you like to keep it in house.” He scrapes the palm of the glove up over the back of Connor’s neck, where he squeezes. The ticks and fluttering under his fingers says the calibrations are working. The side effect is Connor’s synthetic skin draws away where he touches. Maybe not so much a side effect, more a privilege, Hank has to get to chassis for most of the work to sink in for the full effect. He rubs at the casing covered pistons in his neck, they have some give like real tendons do. Connor’s breath stutters. “Hurt?”
“Yeah.” Connor says, mouth hanging open slightly. It was like a rough dig in and then total bliss. Hank’s hands start to draw away and he gasps, “No, I mean! It-It was good.”
Hank laughs softly and keeps moving his way down. Where neck meets shoulder, down over his shoulder blades. More pearly white-gray revealed, more crackling against skin. He pauses at the injury on Connor’s shoulder, just a few fingertips grazing the edge of it. He leans down and presses a light kiss over the blue and meets Connor’s eyes as his head lifts up. He ducks away bashfully at Connor’s sleepy soft, fond face.
Connor lays back down and stretches out with a soft whine while Hank’s hands press into his back. He rolls completely onto his front, feeling Hank put weight into it. He makes a choked noise, something in his body popping when Hank presses down on his lower back. “Oh! Fuck…”
“Oh, that was a good one, wasn’t it?” He sounds pleased with himself, letting out a light chuckle.
“It was…” Connor pants lightly through the incredible relief flushing through his body, “They must have missed it at the hospital. The way I fell or was handled probably pinched some wires against my spine… God, Hank…”
Hank hums, the sound fond and low. He likes hearing his name like that. Connor squirms, practically begs, wanting that feeling again. “My shoulder. It should have retrieved the Thirium by now.”
Hank gently dismisses him, taking his arm to roll him onto his back, “I’ll go in on your shoulder to check, gimme somethin’ else.”
He sighs and adjusts his head on the pillows, then eagerly reaches out. He brings Hank’s big hands to his chest, placing them with fingers spread. Hank shifts a knee between Connor’s legs to keep balance, admiring the freckles and hair on Connor’s chest before his skin melts away under Hank’s hands. He rubs his thumbs back and forth over the plates of his chest, seeing the blue glow of Connor’s heart beating in the spaces between his fingers.
“Okay,” Hank whispers, testing the pressure he puts on him, “We can do this, we’ll give you some relief.”
Connor hisses softly, looking up at Hank as the gloves calibrate more of his redundant, tired tactical sensors. It feels like spring cleaning and intense massage and Connor keeps registering blooming pain and then absolute elation. The continous tense and release feels so good, he focuses on it so much he doesn’t realize the noises he’s making. Small mostly breaths that twist into low whines and grunts on every exhale. He only hears himself when Hank’s hands pause around his ribs, thumbs just brushing the circle of his regulator. He can feel his face flush. Hank’s putting pressure on him, slow pressure, to ease him back into relaxing and not moving with his hands.
He can feel Connor hard up against his thigh and clears his throat before he speaks, words like a balm, like the sweet slide of sealant on banged up polymer, “You’re alright, just keep breathing through it. I shoulda done this sooner when you were hurt.”
Connor blows out a steadying, embarrassed breath, “I understand why you didn’t.” He settles a hand on Hank’s side to ground himself, bare hand taking in the warmth through his shirt. He looks down at Hank’s hands, shivering at the visual they make.
“Do you want to stop?” Hank asks him, tentative and supportive.
“No!” He blurts, a little too fast. If he had a choice, he’d like this to go on for a long while more. If this could be his entire day he would say yes, yes please, Hank. As it is, Hank chuckles and nods, whispering about how Connor’s wish is his command and all he has to do is sit back and relax.
So he does, although he can’t keep a few twitches and shivers from happening. Especially when Hank’s hands skirt around his stomach and lower. Hank nudges his leg straight, then dips lightly under his clothes to curl his hands around Connor’s hips. He adds pressure, pressing down a few times to loosen the tension Connor’s holding. Then he moves away and Connor’s head whips up, missing his human already, “Wait—”
“Hush, hush.” He snorts, moving the blankets the rest of the way off him, “We still got legs. You run way too much for us not to do the legs.” Connor lets his head fall back with a satisfied hum.
Hank shakes his head with a fond smile. Connor looks so much better than he did when he woke up, silently saying how much he was hurting and staying curled in on himself. Now he’s laying on his back, more or less having melted into the bed, synthetic skin on his cheeks flushed pink. His body, a little scuffed and more dingey than normal, but still pearly white and shiny grays. Hank has long since gotten over being embarrassed about the excitement he feels at seeing Connor pulse blue, at seeing him glow. God, he’s so far gone for this man. All the skin on Connor’s body that’s visible, besides his head, is now gone. And Hank still has more to go. He gently holds the waistband of Connor’s pajama pants, “You okay with these coming off?”
Connor breathes out a quick ‘yeah’ and moves to press up to help, but Hank just supports under his lower back and lifts him a few inches to work his pajama pants down. His wrist brushes the tent in Connor’s boxer briefs and he bites his tongue on any encouragement he wants to give Connor’s ragged gasp. He settles him back down and slides the fabric off his legs, making sure they don’t tangle at his ankles. He takes off his socks while he’s there and just dumps the clothes off the side of the bed. The tips of Connor’s ears are red but through how flustered he is, he gives Hank a shaky smile.
He returns the smile, knowing he’s red in the face himself, as he fits himself between Connor’s calves. He lays his hands on Connor’s thigh, covering a lot of area and feeling the give of his hair and skin before it draws away. The quiet crack and tick the gloves make, paired with Connor’s sigh, fills Hank with a sense of calm. He knows he’s doing good, and once he’s completely done, Connor will get one of those pleasing ‘objective complete’ thrills. All the more better, in Hank’s opinion.
Connor’s hands feel restless splayed out on the sheets, twitching a bit or smoothing the fabric under him. He brings them to rest on his stomach, noticing a little scuff above where his belly button would be with his skin on. He thinks it’s probably from the accident. He rubs over it and his eyes flick to Hank’s hands, so big and warm and familiar with touching him. A shiver runs through his body as Hank kneads the gray, more muscle-like polymer. It has more give and Hank digging his fingers in knocks a shaky noise from his throat.
“Good?” Hank asks, a little quick, hushed and quiet. His hair has fallen into his face a little bit, cheeks flushed. Connor thinks of his type , of what he finds attractive and how he must have developed it so long ago beyond appreciating aesthetics. Hank is very much his type. Connor thinks to himself, that he has very good taste. Hank is big, he’s strong, his eyes are bright, his beard is full and the way a curl of his hair sways into his face is beautiful. Hank is beautiful and Connor is lucky and it stops Connor cold.
Hank feels the way Connor’s leg slackens in his hands and he leans forward a bit to see him better, patting his leg, “Connor? Hey.”
He blinks rapidly, lifting his head up a bit, “Oh, Hank…” He licks his lips out of idle habit and sighs, dragging his hands over his face and up into his hair. He lets his head fall back and arms stay above his head. “Yes, I’m fine. I’m sorry.”
“You go too far into a subroutine or somethin’?” Hank watches him for a moment before going back to covering area, giving attention to Connor’s knee because he knows they’ve been under stress with Connor’s falls.
“I was caught off guard by the reminder of your beauty and capability.” Connor tells him in a soft, easy voice and Hank’s fingers stutter on his calf.
It still trips him up when Connor says stuff like this. It’s so genuine and said so plainly, it heats Hank up from inside out. He brings his hands down along Connor’s calf and curls one hand fully around his ankle, “Really, now?”
Hank brings his foot closer and angles to press his thumbs into Connor’s arch. He knows he doesn’t really need it, but it’s a courteous thing to do and Connor’s always appreciated it before. It’s a way to show care. Connor’s bare leg shifts a little more relaxed, curled loosely around Hank. “Yes. I—” Hank’s hands switch legs and press to his upper thigh. He can’t help but gasp, “Yes.”
A low laugh rumbles up from Hank’s chest. “Okay, honey.” He works his hands down Connor’s leg with the same treatment he showed the other, pleased at Connor’s little flustered ‘okay’. Pressing on his thigh, more attention on his knee, down his calf. Hank notices something off while he’s rubbing Connor’s ankle, the way he holds his leg is less relaxed than the other. He runs through what he knows on the connections of Connor’s legs while he massages, then puts his hand back on Connor’s thigh, “I just need another second and then we’ll see your shoulder, okay?”
“Mhmm.” Connor’s eyes are closed and he’s turned his head to the side, palms of his hands pulsing slowly with blue. Hank straightens his leg as much as he can, knowing it’s not perfect like it normally is. He leans over and prods around lightly at his outer thigh, shifting the leg of the boxer briefs up. Connor hums but otherwise doesn’t say anything. It seems like it’s just misaligned, and Connor probably hasn’t noticed from the other uncomfortable things going on.
Lifting his leg with one hand on the back of the knee, and other hand resting on the same side’s hip, Hank shifts himself a little closer. Connor’s breathing picks up lightly. He presses down to keep Connor’s hip level the same moment he hitches his leg forward, and there’s a dull click as it slots completely into place. The connectors fire online and Connor’s hands fly to cover his mouth, a surprised moan bursting out of him as his body jolts. His voice even breaks, “Hank! ”
Hank braces the back of Connor’s thigh on his chest to pull off the gloves, then rubs where it regained connection, “It’s okay, it’s okay.” He sets his free hand on Connor’s chest, rubbing to soothe, “I didn’t think it’d be that much. You alright?”
Connor takes a deep breath, hands dropping over Hank’s while he runs through the fixed connection. He blinks through the notifications and rocks his hips, feeling his range of motion is better, the uncomfortable feeling is gone. A light and far off success pings in his head and runs through his spine, making him sigh. “I’m… I’m okay. Thank you.”
“You sure?” Hank watches his body shudder, feels his legs twitch. Hank’s bare fingers keep tracing a slight crescent along the curve of his regulator casing and it’s addictive.
Connor pants softly and then presses his head back against the bed on a silent moan. He flattens his hands over Hank’s, stopping him, “It’s just a little overstimulation, Hank.”
“Oh.” Hank looks down at their hands, blotchy pink creeping down his neck, “Oh. ” He looks a little embarrassed and pulls away, gently maneuvering Connor’s leg back down to the bed, “Sorry, honey. I’ll let you…”
Hank gestures to him vaguely as he crawls off the bed. He collects the gloves so he can return them to the kit, but he wants to get out as fast as possible and try not to think about his hands all over Connor in a different way. He looks gorgeous sitting up on the bed, briefs clinging tight to the curves of his body, the only skin left on him trembling at his chin like it wants to melt away too. Dark brown eyes fixed on Hank’s retreating form, a glowing hand reaching out for him.
“I don’t want—” His brow furrows, like he doesn’t know what he’s trying to say. He doesn’t want Hank to be so far from him, doesn’t want the distance. Hank comes closer to gently take his outstretched hand, asking his name so he’ll finish. He gets up on his knees and holds Hank’s hand in both of his. “I don’t want to be away from you today. Is that okay?”
Bringing his free hand up, he cups the side of Connor’s face and feels him tuck into it, his skin melting away under his hand. His heart aches and he takes another step closer, thumb rubbing back and forth over Connor’s sleek cheekbone, “Of course that’s okay. I’m not going anywhere, I’ll… I’ll do whatever you want.” Connor pushes his face against Hank’s hand, turning his nose to nuzzle over the creases in his palm. He wants to lean down and kiss him stupid, but what comes out of his mouth is, “If you’re up for it, we could do something together. We’ll make sure you’re feeling okay, and then… Con?”
“Hm?” Connor looks up at him with soft eyes and soft heart. Gazes at him the way that makes his knees go to jelly.
“Would you do an old man the honor of going on a date?”
Connor gasps softly and Hank can see his hands pulse with light. Then he’s pressing his face into Hank’s belly and his arms are weaving around his middle. He grins when he feels Connor’s breath aligning with his. “That a yes?”
“Yes!” Connor puffs excitedly, rubbing his face against him. Hank laughs, rubbing down over his shoulders just to return his touch. He circles lightly over his blue stained shoulder.
“You still want me to take a look here?”
Connor nods. Hank sits on the edge of the bed and prods at a panel just below Connor’s collarbone until it clicks loose. He leaves it on the bed and leans over to grab a skinny flashlight from the bedside table. Flicking it on, he peers in with an expression that says he’s done this so many times before. Connor looks at him, feeling a little astonished to see it firsthand despite his knowledge of Hank handling him this way.
Hank shakes his head before angling the light up and pressing his fingers in. Connor turns off his voice box the moment Hank nudges by a wire. It sparks a whole mess of sensation that radiates all the way to his fingertips. Alerts pop up in his vision about foreign objects that he has to swat away by telling his systems he’s receiving maintenance. He thinks turning his head away would be best but he can’t resist looking down at Hank’s hand, fingers getting coated in Thirium as he feels around. Hank runs through the checklist in his head; wires, connectors, ports. No clogs or bent supports. He pressed upward into the inside of Connor’s shoulder and finds a hairline crack along the inner casing. The Thirium had bled in and gotten caught between layers. A little more looking and there’s a thin wire getting pinched between that crack.
“Jesus, Connor.” Hank breathes. He wraps his finger around the pinched wire and pulls it forward slowly. It’s dripping small amounts of Thirium from a little tear and Hank presses his thumb down over it to cut it off. Connor gasps and turns his head away. “You cut this wire with a crack in your shoulder, honey. But I’m gonna fix it, don’t you worry.”
Connor shivers watching the blue blood all over Hank’s middle and ring fingers, his thumb and slowly rolling down his palm. Hank gets up from the bed and says he’ll be back in less than a minute, and Connor just nods dumbly. Once Hank’s around the corner he takes a deep breath, blinking rapidly as he goes through subroutines to stop the climbing stimulus input from overwhelming him. He reaches down to adjust his biocomponent with a hitched sigh. He’s more comfortable then.
With toolkit in hand, Hank settles back onto the bed. He picks a pen-like tool and takes the wire gently hanging from the opening in Connor’s chest, sweeping away the blue blood to find and seal the break. He talks softly throughout the repair, telling Connor what he’s doing as he does it. He gets another tool to route the pooled Thirium into a reservoir and then uses another to seal the crack. Holding the light between his lips and settling the pieces correctly into place, he finishes up easily, flipping the tool and using a UV light to set the sealant in place. He puts Connor all back together and rubs over his upper arm with the back of his hand, needing to wash his hands. “There we go. You’re all done up. How’s it feel?”
Connor’s voice creaks in his throat for a moment, engaging again. “Much better now. I can’t thank you enough, Hank.”
He chuckles softly and shakes his head, dipping to kiss Connor’s shoulder, “Your health’s enough.” He gives the reservoir tube of Thirium over before getting up and washing his hands in the bathroom sink. He keeps the doors open so Connor can keep a line of sight on him, remembering that Connor needs him today more than others. He watches Connor swallow down the Thirium and set things away back in the toolkit as he dries his hands.
He helps Connor out of bed, happy when he can stand on his own steadily. Connor asks questions about this date, about where they’re going so he can dress appropriately. Hank nudges a few items of clothing at him, telling him not to worry because he’ll look gorgeous anywhere they go. That makes Connor’s cheeks flush up pink. Connor takes his time getting ready for Hank’s sake, and Hank’s never more than a room away, getting himself ready as well. There’s talk of breakfast, but Connor declines, wanting to get where they’re going.
He’s excited. This is his first date, and he gets to go on it with Hank.
Chapter 9: salt water, cream
Connor and Hank finally go on their date to the aquarium. They both get each other to try new things. Connor tries to see himself in a new light, different from the look Cyberlife planned out for him.
Minor characters mentioned or seen in this chapter:
Sumo, an android from Cyberlife tower, Gavin Reed
An early update for ya'll! I hope you enjoy 💕
With Sumo settled they get into the car and head out. Connor looks like a dream, not at 100% but enthusiasm makes up for it. Dressed in one of Hank’s baggy long sleeved henleys under a cashmere sweater of all things, with a pair of jeans and shoes he usually uses for work. After the suit was gone, Connor always tried to look his best— and he did. It’s just sometimes, his pretty face and confidence made 85% of the outfit. He still looks put together, perfectly done up in a casual way, just some more inclined to fashion would gawk at Connor putting a $200 sweater with Hank’s two sizes too big, closet ridden undershirt and shoes he’s gotten crime scene fluid on. That said, Hank gazes lovingly at him every stop light as Connor’s specially configured curls bounce with the bob of his head to the music.
Just about there, Hank reaches over and balances the almost forgotten envelope on Connor’s knee. Connor lifts it to check inside and his face lights up in remembrance, “Hank! If you told me, I would have worn my fish shirt.”
Hank snorts and takes the next turn onto the roundabout that leads towards the aquarium parking lot. “But you look so good already.”
“Hank.” He says bashfully, looking away out the window as he bites down on a smile. Hank huffs something about it being true and before he can go on, Connor gasps at the big octopus statue on top of the building’s main entrance, “Hank! Get a look at this.”
“Definitely looks fun.” Hank feels some happiness bloom in his chest as Connor gets more animated while finding a place to park. He’s obviously itching to get out with the promise of new experiences, and Hank finds a space not too far away. Connor lets him get out first to come around the car, thankfully, and he holds the small of Connor’s back until they’re almost at the door, just to make sure everything’s steady. Connor scans their passes one by one, Hank grunts and grumbles when the machine beeps at him for not moving through the holo entry bar fast enough.
Connor watches the ruddy embarrassment flood to his cheeks and he thinks it’s nice. Even as all the people and colors and every sensory ping wants to grab his attention to the fullest, he gently reaches for Hank’s hand instead. Hank looks at him with surprise and then turns even redder as he laces their fingers. Connor can feel his regulator stutter. He leans into Hank’s arm with a bright smile.
Hank watches Connor as they go out into the big main hall. The high ceilings hold a large recreation of the sea floor; corals, glittering sand, and assortments of undersea life. Artfully made lights shimmer over it and down onto the floor they walk, like ocean waves seen from under the water. Connor’s eyes are filled with wonder as the light drifts over his soft face. Hank squeezes his hand. They take it slow, making their way down a light slope into a slightly dim room filled with huge, illuminated tanks. Colorful fish swimming and seagrass swaying. There’s a tank filled with seahorses that Connor gasps at, kneeling down and pressing his hands to the tank. Hank watches him stare, eyes darting all over the place. Then Connor reaches up and tugs on his hand excitedly, “Hank. Hank, look.”
Crouching down next to him, he puts a hand on Connor’s back to stabilize himself, “What is it?”
Connor points against the glass. He has to lean his head next to Connor’s to see where he’s wanting the attention. Connor smiles excitedly, “That one is pregnant. He’s going to have over a thousand offspring in sixteen days.”
Hank whistles, watching the seahorse bumble around enjoying life. “Lotta babies to take care of.”
Connor chuckles, shaking his head as he looks at the others in the tank, fascinated by the way they move and act, “They don’t nurture their young, Hank.”
“Ah, the fuckin’ deadbeats.” Hank jokes, then notices a mother give him the eye as she ushers her children past. Connor laughs though, so it doesn’t matter to him.
They move on, looking at an exhibit of turtles. They’re above water for the time being, and the two of them get to watch an attendant feed the turtles strawberries. It’s a special treat to see and Connor wonders aloud if he likes strawberries too, since the turtles are so enthusiastic. Hank promises he’ll get him some before they go home for the day. Connor’s stomach flutters with excitement for that experience. As they walk by, he hears a child asking his mother to go see the starfish at the touch tanks. He looks up at Hank with big eyes and then Hank is pulling a u-turn, using the signs to lead them to those tanks.
He can’t help himself when he takes out his phone there, snapping a photo of Connor after he’s rolled up his sleeves and leaned down to gently pet a starfish. They’re wide, shallow tanks with different sea creatures to safely touch. They’re made more for children but nothing says Connor can’t enjoy himself. He assumes the data must be fascinating. The attendant talks about the different species and interesting facts, instructs Connor on how to touch the animals. Connor talks with her and asks questions, flashing a big smile at Hank when he’s allowed to ‘shake a starfish hand’.
“Not everyday you meet a starfish, hey Con?” He chuckles, coming closer to take another photo. He sends it off to Nines, he knows he’ll appreciate a Connor smile. “So professional with everyone.”
Connor chuckles, he’s been smiling so much that his cheeks are a little pink from the effort. “Are you going to touch one?”
“Nah, I’d rather watch you.” Hank shakes his head, but he steps closer anyway. He’s overjoyed to see Connor happy again, it loosens a pressure somewhere in his heart.
The attendant has a cheery smile, “It’s alright, anyone can touch and it’s entirely safe. Nothing bites.” When Hank gently dismisses it, she nods, “That’s fine. Parents don’t usually interact.”
Hank hasn’t felt that sickening squeeze in his gut in over six months. “He’s not my kid.”
Connor glances up, looking between the two of them. He sees and hears how uncomfortable Hank is with the assumption, and that guards something in him. It’s an impulsive decision he makes. He still has access to his cosmetic interface and it’s easy to change out where his ring sits on his hand, from thumb to ring finger. He holds his hand up, “I’m an android. I’m his husband.”
“Oh! Oh, I apologize. I didn’t realize.” she says, obviously embarrassed. Connor stands up with a calming wave of his hand, giving a kind smile. He reaches over and presses on the hand sanitizer dispenser, thoroughly rubbing his hands clean. Then he steps around to take Hank’s hand.
“It’s no problem. Thank you for informing me on starfish. Come on, Hank. I read there was a coin machine nearby.” He presses a kiss to the back of Hank’s hand and his arm slips around Hank’s waist as they walk away.
Hank looks a little shell shocked. “I, um. Connor—”
“I’m not sure why she assumed like that. We’re not related. I’m perfectly autonomous… Well, mostly right now, anyway.”
“It’s because you look so young, Connor. And because I… don’t.” Connor’s hands don’t let go of him yet and Hank lets himself lean into it for the time being.
“You’re not old, Hank.” He says, resisting the urge to roll his eyes. The life expectancy of humans has gone up with advancements in medical science, Hank has many, many years ahead of him. Hank sighs, and Connor feels as though it’s long suffering. He slows as they walk, stepping back to look over his face, “Hank… has this happened before?”
Hank shrugs, looking down at their hands. “Yeah, few times. Not lately.” He rubs his thumb over Connor’s, where the ring used to sit. Connor switches it back then and there. He likes it on his thumb better, maybe because of a sentimental feeling for a forgotten sentimental feeling.
“I see.” He says quietly, nodding. Gently, he starts pulling Hank’s arms around his waist, meeting his eyes and stepping into his space. “Hank, I…” He pulls a hand up to guide Hank’s head onto his shoulder. Hank melts. “I think we look very good together. See here; an incredibly handsome, well-built, beautifully made man with incredible warmth, and a frankly soft configuration of curls— good skin, a newfound vibrant smile, the perfect hue of red on his cheeks… and with just some android he found in a bar.”
Hank laughs so loud it echoes in the arch they’re standing under. Connor laughs with him, wrapping his arms around his shoulders and squeezing. Hank pulls him close and lifts him off the ground a few inches, muffling another laugh into the side of Connor’s neck.
Biocomponent #8456w function behaving strangely
>> 15 other recorded events logged
Connor slides away the notification like all the others. It tells him what he already knows, Hank makes him feel the happiest he can ever remember feeling. Hank sets him back down, still giggling under his breath, “I thought you were talking about you.”
“No, it’s you!” He feels his face flushing, another alert popping up right away. He shakes his head, running his fingers through Hank’s hair, “We both know I had to change two, two subroutines for my hair to look nice today. You’re just… perfect, Hank.”
Hank feels his heart break in the best way, and he smiles so hard he can’t see. He hugs Connor close again, burying his face into the crook of his neck. He feels arms squeeze his shoulders and rub across his upper back. “Honey, I—”
“If you begin to argue with me on my definition of you, remember I am an advanced, state of the art supercomputer.” Connor says, squeezing tighter, knocking a little air out of him. He’s reminded of just that, that no matter how sweet and soft and even damaged as Connor is right now, he’s capable of squeezing the life out of him.
He sighs dreamily, feeling the cashmere against his cheek and Connor’s artificial pulse at the tip of his nose. “I was gonna ask… Did you really want to see the coin machine, husband?”
“Oh.” Connor sounds equal parts surprised and flustered, letting go of Hank to fiddle with the cuffs of his sweater. “Oh, I didn’t expect…”
Hank smiles reaching into his pocket for change. He finds a penny easily, a nickel that he shoves away again. One quarter in his jeans and the other in his jacket, he presses them into Connor’s palm, “Come on, you.”
Connor shakes himself like a bird with ruffled feathers, keeping his smile below the threshold of pulling at his cheeks. He deftly swipes the coins around between his hands, balancing and juggling all three as they move down the hall to where the machine sits. Hank glances at his hands with a grin, “Alright. Coins go here in the slot. Then you crank the lever, and get yourself a shiny new flattened penny.”
He aligns the coins and shifts the mechanical slot to pay and deposit the penny, “This is an antique.”
Hank chuckles, “Mom used to do it with a penny and a train speeding down the tracks. So I’d say this is better than that. Plus, it’s gonna give you a design.”
“I like designs.” He says approvingly, putting his hand on the lever. He moves half a rotation and then glances to Hank, putting a little pinch in his brow. “Hank? Will you assist me?”
“Is it really that hard?”
The way Connor tilts his head and subtly pouts out his lip always has him giving in. He steps up and curls his hand over Connor’s, then they both rotate the crank. “Hm.” It’s not difficult to move and the penny clatters softly as it slides into the metal basin. Connor lingers holding the crank, liking the way their fingers rest over each other. But he leans down to grab the penny, inspecting it happily.
He turns it around and holds it between both index fingers, looking excited at the etched design, “It’s a stingray, Hank!”
“That’s sweet as hell, honey. Hold it there.” Hank brings his phone up and Connor smiles big and bright for the picture.
They move along, passing exhibits for anemones and eels, pausing whenever Connor wants. Hank listens to everything he says and they wander down a ramp, where they head into a tunnel. Instead of just another wall of tanks, it’s two walls and the ceiling, the habitat curling around them. It’s beautiful, clean water and plants, sand and even decorations. A man made shipwreck nestled near a rock, fake skeletons, a glittering mermaid grotto, chests of buried treasure. All just accents for the various colorful sea life.
Hank turns his head and startles as a shark swims by his face. He ducks down to take a deep breath. Connor ducks with him even if he isn’t six-foot-four, reaching for his hand to soothe him. He can’t help his grin, though. “It’s just a hammerhead, Hank.”
“Just a hammerhead.” He sighs, rolling his eyes. Connor steers him closer to his side as they walk and Hank thinks he points out the names of the sharks to make Hank less afraid. Connor has no problem getting close to the glass, he only holds his hand at full arm's length away so Hank is comfortable.
As they leave the tunnel, the path brings them along into an exhibit about jellyfish. Along the walls are informational posters about life cycles, natural habitats, dietary habits. Hank squints at some jellyfish flipped over, wiggling into the floor of their enclosure. Connor tells him they’re Upside-Down Jellies and he snorts, “They look like dirty cauliflower, Con.”
An android attendant is standing by an open display, watching them with slight amusement. He looks like the androids Connor woke in the basement of Cyberlife Tower, his name tag says his name is Brad. They make their way towards him while they go through and listen to him talk about the tiny jellyfish glowing in the tank. He’s very passionate about it and goes on at length.
“Moon jellies are very common, and very sweet.” Brad says after most of the facts are out of the way, with fondness in his voice. He brings his hand to the tank and lets his skin recede on one finger. It glows like the jellyfish do and when he rests it in the water, one of the animals wiggles over to bump against his fingertip. “You can pet the top of their heads with two fingers, you won’t be stung. You’re welcome to, they enjoy it.”
Connor looks like he has stars in his eyes. He lets his skin melt away too and gently rubs two fingertips over one of the jellyfish, gasping soft and alarmed when it bobs deeper into the water at the added weight. Brad assures him it’s alright. Hank notices between Brad and Connor, the glow under Connor’s chassis is dimmer. He pushes past the worry of that and gives in when Connor asks if he’ll touch the animals. He pets one that seems to be happy staying relatively still, holding back a laugh over how intently Connor watches.
They sanitize their hands after and thank Brad before they wander out through an arch. Connor gasps, arms outstretched as he walks towards the wall of jellyfish. The tank is massive, nestled into an alcove along the hallway. The lights and backdrop of the tank wash the whole corridor in a deep pink, blocked in by little walls with mirrors on either side. The jellyfish are beautiful, long ribbon-like tendrils that move as delicate as lace in the water. It’s relaxing and almost otherworldly, and Connor looks incredible as he stares on in wonder.
Standing in front of the tank with him, Hank leans on the small railing and reads the plaque, “Japanese Sea Nettles. Can travel a mile in a day, tentacles can grow up to ten feet long… Huh.” He looks back up into the tank, gazing at the soft way the animals move, “Some of them in there are androids.”
Connor perks up, looking from the plaque back to the tank, standing on his tiptoes with excitement, “They’re like me.”
Hank smiles, rubbing Connor’s back. “Yeah, they are. And they’re just part of the pack. I can’t tell the difference, but maybe because I don’t wear my glasses.” Connor hums, squinting at the tank. His LED flickers yellow though Hank can barely see it through all the pink. He tilts his head to look at Connor closer, “Are you trying to scan them?”
“I’d like to know!” Connor says, then turns to look at him. His LED shifts back to blue, looking over every feature of Hank’s face in deep magenta. Gray hair tinted soft pink, cheekbones and nose highlighted, mouth so vibrantly dark. Connor’s eyes track to each beauty mark on the side of Hank’s nose, against his cheeks, the one right at his hairline by the part of his hair. His mouth parts and his forehead wrinkles, and Connor realizes he’s been staring too long. “Take a picture with me, Hank.”
Hank offers his phone over with a nod, letting Connor turn them facing away from the tank. Connor has to adjust the balance on the camera for low light, then he slides closer to Hank to get them both well in frame. Hank leans into his space, tucking towards Connor in a way that shows how familiar it is to him. Connor feels the word ‘home’ resonate. They smile and Connor snaps a few pictures. Hank leans up and presses a kiss to his LED for one of them. He feels warmth spread from that point of contact all the way down to his toes.
“You know,” he looks up, Hank’s eyes soft and round, “I remember and… also don’t remember you kissing me. In the hospital.”
Hank’s expression twists, eyes cast down, “Oh, uh. Honey, I—”
“Wait, I don’t mean… That’s not right.” he sighs, “I remember you with me, how it felt, how I felt. But I don’t remember it like other things. With analytics and tactical information. Your temperature, your heartbeat, the-the details that I take for important reasons, I… couldn’t save that part.”
“It’s… it’s okay, you know. You don’t gotta sweat it.” Hank isn’t sure what to say, on either side of the fence to whether Connor’s saying he didn’t want the kiss or not. “It’s uh… What do you mean, ‘for important reasons’?”
“So I can relive it, again and again.”
Hank feels his heart jump. “…Oh.”
“I could’ve skipped all that, I realize. Hank, I’m asking you to kiss me again.” He clarifies with his chest humming and fingers gently curling around Hank’s lapel. Hank breathes in deep, searching his face with an almost surprised expression. Connor tilts up more for him, “I want to remember it. Will you?”
Hank shifts closer to him, hand sliding around Connor’s back. He feels nervousness churn in his gut with how gorgeous Connor is, asking to be kissed like he used to, and his heart hurts. He wants this so bad it hurts. “I’ve wanted to the entire week.”
Connor’s lips part so softly and Hank dips to capture the shape of them. He’s as warm as ever and pressing up into the feeling, his fingers pushing into Hank’s beard in such a gentle way. He opens his mouth more under Hank’s, tongue lightly brushing his lips before he can pull away and the chance is missed. Hank hums and brings his hand to Connor’s, guiding him from his face to his chest. Over his heart, where it’s beating faster because of him. Connor’s heart quickens in response, filing away every moment he can while Hank gently sucks on his tongue. A soft noise slips from his throat and he pushes up on his tiptoes, the skin on his hand melting away between Hank’s hand and chest.
Hank pulls away slowly, looking at Connor’s slightly dazed expression, red cheeks and shiny lips. He glances down to Connor’s hand and brings it up to his lips, gently kissing his fingertips then each set of knuckles. Connor’s eyes flutter and he smiles so sweetly. Hank’s sure the uptick of his heartbeat is filed away inside Connor’s head. “Was that good for all the info you needed?”
Connor nods with a small elated laugh, smoothing Hank’s mustache with his thumb, “Yes. And it felt very good, and made me very happy.”
“Love when you’re those things.” Hank grins, rubbing his back in slow circles. He’s a whole live wire right now, feeling invigorated from just one of Connor’s kisses. He squeezes around Connor’s waist and glances down the hall, “You ready to go?”
Connor nods and they leave the pink tank hallway, but the feeling they share stays with them. They wander around to other exhibits, Hank’s arm staying looped around Connor as they walk. The gift shop is around the corner but Connor pulls Hank towards a grotto. There’s a plaque about stingrays and Connor looks so excited when it says the animals like to be pet and yes, it’s very encouraged.
After the jellyfish, Hank feels more comfortable joining in. They both kneel on the floor at the edge of the rocks to the habitat, the stingrays going around in circles and gliding up as much as they can to the surface. One comes around so excited for visitors that the flap of its body splashes Hank with water. Connor laughs, pushing up his sleeve to reach out and touch. His hand glides over one’s fin, the feeling like sleek velvet. Another comes by and it’s a little bumpy along the back and by the head. They vy for Connor’s attention and then Hank’s when he puts his hand out, too. Surprised laughter bubbles out of Hank, “I didn’t think they’d feel like this.”
“They’re surprisingly soft.” He smiles, letting his fingers run along the shape of one’s fin. The repetition of the route the stingrays take and the feel of their bodies is very soothing for Connor, like it is when he pets Sumo. It must be that way for Hank too, because they stay there a while, sharing little comments of how enjoyable it is.
It’s been a few minutes of silence when Hank breaks it, “Hey, Con? I uh… I think we can buy them food.” Connor’s head whips up so fast, mouth open. He nods, “We could feed ‘em.”
Hank points out the attendant at a small desk, with a mini fridge behind them. Connor leads Hank over and they greet the attendant. He immediately puts his dry hand on the scanner to pay and the attendant laughs softly putting the little trays of tiny fish into Hank’s hands. Connor takes the safety gloves and they go back to the edge of the water. Gloves on, Hank follows Connor’s lead to lay a fish over his hand and sink it into the water. “Their mouths are on the bottom, Hank. Be careful when you lean down.”
The animals swarm a little realizing there’s food and it honestly reminds him of Sumo. He feels a stingray nibble on his fingers before sucking the fish out his hand. He pets it after, grinning to himself, “There you go, big guy. You’re actually cute, aren’t you?”
Connor watches him, feeling so much fondness stir in his chest. Hank feeds a different stingray and gives it the same soft treatment, pets and kind words. He doesn’t notice Connor’s looking at him until he turns to check in on him. A blush prickles his cheeks and he hands Connor his tray of remaining fish. Connor brightens as he gets to feeding all the others. Hank takes a few pictures, laughing at Connor laying over a rock to get his whole arm into the water, to pet every animal that goes past.
They return the gloves and recycle the trays, and Hank pats down Connor’s arm with an old napkin from his pocket. They sanitize and they’re on their way. Connor’s starting to feel tired so they move towards the gift shop, enjoying the light music and seeing all the branded items. Hank likes the snow globes but cringes at the shark teeth. Connor gravitates to the stuffed animals, hefting a big stingray plush from the pile. He squeezes it between his hands, looking at the smiley face on the underside and feeling the soft gray material. It makes him smile.
“You find something you like?” Hank strolls over with a gentle, knowing smile.
He hums softly, “Just looking, Hank.” He spares another squeeze to the plush before setting it back down. “I think we should go soon. The strawberries.”
“I remember. You don’t want the stuffed animal?”
Connor reaches for his hand with a shake of his head, “It’s an inefficient use of funds.”
Hank squints at him but doesn’t argue, even when Connor glances back to it. He takes the car keys from his pocket and sets them in Connor’s palm, leading them from the gift shop, “Alright. You start up the car, I gotta piss before we leave.”
Hank kisses his forehead before heading off for the bathroom and Connor smiles. He leaves the building after saying goodbye to the staff at the front desk, climbing into the passenger seat of the car. He leans over and sticks the key in, the old vehicle starting up after only a little fuss. He reaches for the tablet and searches for a set of songs he can play on their way to the store, knowing Hank will appreciate it.
When Hank comes back to the car, he’s grinning from ear to ear. He leans in the view of Connor’s window, tapping on the glass until the window is rolled down. Connor’s eyes scrunch up with smiling back, halfway to complimenting him on how happy he looks, when he shoves the mass of gray plush through the window to stop that process.
Connor blinks down at the gift, squeezing the fluffy stingray in his hands again. He turns his wide eyes up to Hank, who’s absolutely glowing at the building excitement on Connor’s face. “Hank, you didn’t! This was expensive. I don’t need—”
“No, no.” Hank waves his hand dismissively, “None of that ‘I don’t need nice things because I’m an android’ spiel. It made you smile, and that’s good enough for me.”
Connor feels his heart tremble and leans up out of the window to press a quick kiss to Hank’s lips. He hugs the stingray to his chest, smile so warm Hank swears he feels the weather bump up a few degrees. “Thank you, Hank.”
Hank comes around and gets in the car, situating himself before backing out of the space. As they’re getting back onto the main road, he shrugs. “Besides… all the money goes into protecting wildlife and the coral reefs, anyway.”
Connor’s loud gasp makes him howl with laughter.
The trip to the store goes easily, Hank running in and coming back with two bags. At home Sumo is greeted with a lot of love and told to keep Connor company. Hank makes them chicken and rice with broccoli and cheese for a late lunch, humming with a strut to his step in the kitchen. Connor lays on the couch, watching Hank cook while Sumo lays all over him. They eat curled up in front of the fireplace, the television playing old reruns of Jeopardy. Connor dozes against Hank’s shoulder until he’s woken by some gentle nudging, being told it’s time for strawberries.
Connor eats one on its own, enjoying the juice and way the tartness coats his tongue. They sit at the table where Hank encourages him to try the strawberries dipped in sugar, in yogurt, with a piece of chocolate. Connor files them all away eagerly, even popping an almond into his mouth with a bite of strawberry, the crunch exciting to his sensors. Connor’s eyes light up when Hank brings a can of cream from the fridge and has him try a strawberry that way, too.
“I think that’s my favorite.” His mouth is still full, fingers hovering close, just waiting to lick the excess cream away. He does it after he swallows and then leans over to kiss Hank even if he’s just taken in a mouthful of cream straight from the can. He rubs Hank’s cheeks, looking him over in the warm hue of the overhead light, “This has been the best date ever.”
Hank didn’t realize Connor thought their date was still going. He swallows the cream thickly and licks his lips, Connor relaxing back into his seat with a pleased look on his face. He reaches over and laces their fingers, “Anything else you want, or need?”
Connor thinks for a moment, shoulders sagging as he sighs, “You know? I think I’d like to just change and get ready for bed. My programs are lagging behind.”
“Sounds good to me, honey.” He feels that in his bones, it’s been an eventful day. He starts to clear the table and Connor joins him, easily working around each other. Hank switches off the fireplace and television while Connor gets the lights, leaving one in the kitchen on for Sumo. Hank presses a kiss to Connor’s temple as they split in the hallway, “Gonna take a shower, you get comfy.”
Connor takes his time finding clothes to sleep in, debating on how warm or cold he thinks it’ll be in the night. Sleeping next to Hank makes the bed so much warmer, so he chooses shorts but opts for another one of Hank’s henleys for the long sleeves. He puts everything in the clothes hamper, except for the sweater that he lays over the chair kitty-cornered by the window. He gets dressed with the addition of new socks and glances at himself in the mirror.
He takes a closer look.
He settles on the floor in front of the mirror, thinking about his appearance, how he presents. He was specially made, his looks calibrated down to the structure of his face and the way his hair is parted. He lets his hair shift back to its original configuration, curls smoothing out. He inspects his own face, looking at the light pink flush over his cheeks and nose, the curve of his upper lip, how kind the line of his brow is. He’s made to be warm, so people will want to trust him. He sighs.
He wonders what people would think if he were different, if Cyberlife’s calculations really meant that much. He takes all the freckles off his face. A bit blank. Keeps going with any mark or blemish, even the barely-there shadow on his chin and jaw. He looks like a clean slate, more inhuman. He lets his cheekbones and high points on his face shimmer like the people at the Eden Club. Very inhuman. Humans are supposed to have texture and inconsistencies and that makes them wonderful. He configures new freckles that form near his nose and eyes, brings back his pores and tint to his skin, getting rid of the shimmer in the process. Then he intensifies the redness. It looks like he’s been out in the cold. He gives himself darker eyelids, dark circles. For once, he looks as tired as he feels. He brings his original beauty marks back, for a more set control.
He turns and tilts his head, seeing the way shadows look on his face. He gives himself a scar like Gavin, he gives himself a bruise at his hairline, he gets rid of his eyebrows, he changes his flush from red toned to blue to suit his blood. All one in exchange for the other, always coming back to the dark circles and cold weather cheeks. He bleeds more color into his skin, like he’s been kissed by the sun. He sucks all the color away and grimaces, the sickly paleness making his stomach churn. He shifts back in between the two, leaning his head in his hands for a moment. When he looks back up, he sees that tired, reddened version of himself and scoots closer in.
He remembers the conversation from earlier in the day, the uncomfortable pull of Hank’s face when their aesthetic differences were brought up. Connor knows he was made to look like a human in their thirties, and whoever had the final say went for a controlled, sleek version of that. He knows he looks younger than Hank.
He’s deepening the lines in his forehead before he’s even really thinking about it. Around his mouth, between his brows, and at the corners of his eyes where it already wrinkles when he emotes. He can’t make his face sag or dynamically change the structure, but it’s… different. He mimics the complexion he’d have ten years down the road if he were human; another spot here, a change in pigmentation there. He squints at himself in the mirror, the wrinkles pull and settle. He shifts his hair color, the strands shimmering between blonde, ginger, pink, green. He lightens the hair by his temples. He tilts his chin up and starts hair growth there; five o’clock shadow, building scruff. He puts his hand over his LED, hiding it from view even if the light of it peeks through his fingers.
He comes to the conclusion that he still looks kind. He likes that.
The door squeaks quietly as Hank opens it the rest of the way. Done with his shower and holding a towel secure around his hips, he looks at Connor with a soft tilt of his head. Connor meets his eyes after his roam over Hank’s wet body, his flushing still enabled so it looks like he’s bordering on a sunburn. “I uh… I didn’t think you’d be done so quickly. I didn’t set out any clothes for you.” He thinks it would’ve been nice to do.
Hank shakes his head, still taking in Connor’s appearance. “It’s alright. You look like you’re busy.”
“I look…” He trails off, shifting his attention back to the mirror as Hank walks towards the closet. “I… I was thinking about what I looked like. What do you think?”
Hank comes into view behind him, holding a pair of boxers. He wants to get dressed so he can better tend to Connor, but he’s needed now. Part of Connor hopes he doesn’t get dressed. “You look tired, which makes me feel kinda funny. And red, like you’ve been drinking… How old is that supposed to be, huh?”
“Ten years older than normal.” He meets Hank’s eyes through the mirror, “I wonder what people would say if they saw us together now.”
“Ah, Connor…” Hank runs his fingers through Connor’s hair, tilting his head slightly to see while he rubs over the artificial grays. “I…”
“It’s okay, Hank.” He whispers, reaching up to take his hand so he can press a kiss to his palm. Hank rubs his thumb against the wrinkles at Connor’s eye.
“No, I mean…” He sighs, hand on his hip while he takes a hard look at Connor in the mirror, “I guess they’d say, y’know. Look at that handsome, dignified—” He cups Connor’s chin when the android snorts and tries to slap him away, grin pulling at the corners of his mouth, “Downright stunning with his soft red cheeks and spots you just wanna kiss… that sweet way his eyes wrinkle up when he laughs, all the time and effort he puts into looking nice… with just some lucky motherfucker he found in a bar.”
Connor sighs, resting his head back against Hank’s thigh with his eyes closed. He stamps down a smile, shaking his head. “Hank.”
“You know what I mean. You look any way you want, Connor. It isn’t for me or anyone else, it’s for you. That’s the bottom line. Got it?” Hank looks down at him, waiting for his eyes to open.
“Got it.” He looks up past the swell of Hank’s soft belly with a little smile.
Hank nods. He rubs over Connor’s beard as he turns away, “This is cute, though.”
Connor presses his face close to the mirror again, inspecting. He lets all of the changes fade away, but feels a little lost in that. He glances in the mirror at Hank’s back, breathing in hard as the towel comes away. He swallows down some excitement and squints back at himself, bringing back less than half the additional flush and even less of the dark circles. He wants to look tired when he feels tired, but he’s also too tired to write a subroutine to do it automatically. He rubs over his jaw while he configures the shadow of facial hair, a small addition of what he had in the first place. He probably won’t keep it, but for tonight he’d enjoy Hank touching his face and it’s a nice encouragement piece. He tints his lips a little more red for himself, looking like he’s just been kissed. He wants to always feel like that, too.
He lifts himself easily from the floor, turning on his heel and steering right into Hank’s warm back. He lays his cheek on one broad shoulder as Hank cancels his plans to put on a shirt, Connor’s arms circling him. “How’s it goin’, honey?”
Connor rubs his stubble against Hank’s skin.
“It’s like that, huh?” Hank smiles, laying one of his hands over Connor’s.
“Mm.” He squeezes Hank against his body, liking the little noise Hank makes. He rocks them gently forward and back, kissing away a drop of water that falls from Hank’s hair. “I forgot you had tattoos, Hank.”
For some reason, Hank laughs. Low and quiet, and Connor knows he’s missing something. He turns in Connor’s arms, pausing whatever he’s going to say to take in the new look. He’s not even that much different, he just looks… good. He rubs his thumb over Connor’s chin and a far off ping in Connor’s head rings success. “They’re just a bunch of color.”
“With my skin on, so am I.” Connor argues, even with his eyes slipping shut. Hank huffs, kissing his forehead.
“Huh, you got me there.” He takes Connor’s arm and starts encouraging him towards the bed, “So, I’ll make you a deal, to appreciate all those colors. Tired android lays down, tired human keeps his shirt off. Hm?”
“That’s a very good deal, seeing as it favors me twice.”
“Well then, aren’t you lucky?” He gets Connor into bed and finally towels off his hair properly, before climbing in with him. Connor doesn’t shut off the bulbs so he hits the button on the remote.
“Yes.” Connor breathes, as Hank’s body meets his, arms coming around him secure. He opens his eyes to the breadth of Hank’s chest and brings his fingers up through the hair there, looking over the lines of ink.
Hank tugs the blanket further up over the both of them, the top of Connor’s head brushing his lips. Breathing out deep, he nods. “Yeah. Me too.”
Chapter 10: 11th
Connor wakes from a nightmare, to learn Hank is going through a waking nightmare of his own.
Today is the anniversary of Cole's death.
Minor characters mentioned or seen in this chapter:
Cole Anderson, Sumo, Ben Collins, North, Simon
(This chapter contains grieving over the loss of Cole, and Hank's fear of losing Connor. It touches on loss and addiction and depression. Hank is comforted and seen using healthy coping mechanisms. That part of the chapter has a bittersweet conclusion, there's no danger involved. Just a warning, everybody stay safe.)
“This is a dream.” Connor tells himself. It doesn’t echo in the big room like he thought it would. His voice doesn’t echo, his shoes don’t echo. The long, long hallway is washed in neon blue, the light so vibrant that it actually darkens the room. The gun in his hand is very heavy.
He doesn’t know what else to do other than walk forward, so that is what he does. There’s a squeezing at his chest that’s very uncomfortable, he takes off his jacket to try and alleviate it. It doesn’t help, his lungs still clench and his ribs ache distantly. His legs and feet feel like he’s not walking the path that he is.
There’s a breeze on his face. His gun vibrates in his hand. A voice, far away behind him. “Connor!”
“Hank?” He turns around but he’s met with only the wall, like he hasn’t walked anywhere at all. There’s a loud buzz of white noise that catches him like a physical presence, weighing him down. It’s easy to go to the floor. His mouth tastes like Thirium, thick and heavy and hot. It drips off his tongue.
His stomach drops suddenly and he curls in on himself, a ragged gasp ripping from his throat. A little bit of fear seeps in, he doesn’t like this. Are his dreams normally like this? Red starts to flash over top the blue, starting at the ceiling and slowly descending towards him. He knows it's coming for him.
He feels music more than he hears it, the beat and bass thumping underground. Hands grab frantically at his arms, shaking him. It’s Nines. He looks so scared, blind fear written across his entire face. He doesn't emote like that. “Connor! Connor, no. You can’t, not yet. Remain calm.” He closes his eyes, everything feeling so loud. Nines continues to yell, voice breaking with static and terror. “Connor, please! Please! I’m scared! Stay awake! This isn’t fair!”
“Nines!” The moment Connor reaches out for him, he’s gone. The ache of his hands linger as Connor rolls onto his back, seeing the red light getting closer and closer. Why does he feel so trapped? He curls his arms against his chest. “It’s just a dream. This isn’t fair, it’s a dream.”
The side of his head feels cold, exposed. He feels tears building in his eyes. “I’m scared.” He can’t look at the red as he comes down on him, turning his face away. Oh the ground next to him is the cat from his other dream, with the same gray fur and bright blue eyes. It only looks at him, then laps lazily at thick blue liquid pooling on the ground from a tipped paint can. He feels so much concern it floods his throat, chokes at his chest. “No, don’t—”
> Good morning, Connor
>> Diagnostic Advised
Stress level at 74%
He reaches out but his hand is trapped, and when he opens his eyes, he’s home. Under a mound of blankets in his and Hank’s bed, with the smell of Hank’s soap still lingering on his pillows. He takes slow, deep breaths. His throat tight and head pounding with pressure, he unravels himself from the blankets Hank must have used to keep him warm. He stumbles out of bed, the need to make sure in the forefront of his mind as he moves immediately to the bathroom.
He leans against the sink and looks at his face, configured how he left it last night. But the ghost of a chill has his skin phasing away so he can inspect the casing on the right side of his head. He squints at the shape of gray following the lines of his face, the circle of his LED, the manufacturing indicators. He realizes this whole piece of him has been replaced. It’s newer than the other pieces, the shine on it noticeable and the magnetic ID confirms his hunch. Even his LED is not original.
He was hurt here.
He smooths his fingers over it, not being able to shake the feeling of being exposed. His skin moves to cover him up in an attempt to make him feel safe. He sighs at his reflection and forces himself to go out into the hallway, in search of his two favorite comforts. He finds them both in the entryway. But he sees quickly that something is very, very wrong.
Hank is standing in front of the door, his coat and shoes on. He’s facing the rest of the house but his eyes are far away, and he’s been crying. He still has tears in his eyes. Sumo is sitting at his feet, looking up at him as Hank’s unmoving hand rests on his head. He just looks frozen. Connor comes around the corner and gently reaches out for him, half afraid he’s still asleep. “Hank? What’s wrong?”
Sumo whines. Hank doesn’t respond until he touches him, like he’s realizing Connor’s there, that he’s there himself. He looks shocked for a second but then his face softens, tears still threatening to spill. “Connor.” His voice is raspy, breaking as he speaks, “Connor, hey. You okay?”
Connor glances at the things in Hank’s other hand, tucked to his chest. They’re worksheets on emotional regulation; Distress Tolerance Skills, My Needs Pyramid, Mindfulness Meditation. There’s a baggie with a set of three rocks, a coin with evaporated Thirium on it, a photo of Cole, and a photo of Connor and Sumo. He feels his gut twist even more harshly now, hands gently gripping Hank’s lapels, “No.”
Hank places his things on the table and wraps his big body around Connor. He feels the comfort but Hank is shaking. He leans up and holds onto Hank tightly, feeling the cold that’s still on his coat. He feels Hank rubbing his back and it makes him so sad. He’s obviously hurting but he’s trying to comfort Connor. “Are you? Are you okay?”
The shudder that goes through Hank’s body is almost violent. “It’s Cole’s anniversary.”
His stomach drops. October 11th, he didn’t even realize. This is something he should have known, something he should have remembered. “Oh, Hank. I’m so sorry.”
“I’m back from therapy. The taxi didn’t have its radio working and I was just sitting in the silence and…” He shakes his head, burying his face into Connor’s neck, “I’m sorry, I just got caught up.”
Connor runs his fingers through Hank’s hair, shushing him softly, “No. No, don’t be sorry. I should have known. What… what do we usually do today?” He pulls back to look at Hank’s face, his heart breaking while he pushes away his tears. “Do we do something for him? Something symbolic or spiritual? Do we go and visit his grave?”
“No… No, I don’t drive today. We visit him on his birthday.” Hank’s sob catches in his throat and he hangs his head, holding Connor’s shoulder as he gets himself together. Connor starts undoing the buttons of his coat for him, getting him out of it.
“It’s okay. It’s okay. Let’s get you comfortable. I can make you something for breakfast.” He soothes, rubbing Hank’s chest.
“I should be taking care of you. You need rest.” Hank tries to argue but it’s like all the fight has been sucked out of him.
“I prefer when we rest together.” He hangs up the coat and moves to the kitchen, glancing back to see Hank taking his shoes off and kneeling to pet and hug Sumo. He gets a glass of water and sets it out on the counter. “We’ll have something warm to steady us, we’ll create a space where we can relax. We can, um…”
“Release balloons for Cole. We do that.” Hank follows him to the kitchen, gravitating to the water to take sips of it. He feels so sick to his stomach after his morning, he wraps his arms around Connor from behind. “Don’t make me anything, alright? Stomach’s fucked, and I got a blinding headache.”
Connor uses the electric kettle so he can at least make them tea. “Then let’s make a nice spot for ourselves.” Hank agrees and wanders towards the bedroom for blankets. Connor puts the kettle and everything needed on a wooden tray, to bring it all to the living room table. He turns on the fireplace how Hank showed him the other day and smiles encouragingly at Hank with both his large arms full of every blanket from their bed.
They pad one end of the couch and Hank makes him lay down, making sure he’s comfortable. Connor beckons him closer before being covered up, adjusting himself on the cushions, “I’m in an optimal position, lay down with me.” Hank hesitates so he adds on, “You would be more beneficial than a blanket to me. I like you better. I want you more.”
Hank goes red, running his fingers through his hair, “Ah, jeez… Connor, you lay it on so thick.” He settles himself down on top of Connor and some of the tension melts from his body with his head pillowed on Connor’s chest.
“I know I’m composed of hard materials but I really do enjoy feeling you this way.” He helps Hank put a blanket over them anyway, pulling it up to Hank’s shoulders. He smooths his sweaty hair back, letting his bare fingers feel each strand. “I like your warmth and your weight and how you breathe against me.”
“You deserve to be told.”
“I feel the same things about you.” Hank turns his face against Connor’s chest to feel the warmth of him against his tired skin, soothing how much he rubbed it raw with tissues and his sleeve. He hears Connor’s regulator hum a little louder and he closes his eyes, the sound of it so damn important to him it threatens more tears. “I love the sound of you.”
Connor gathers Hank’s hair up and moves it aside to massage his neck, “You do?”
Hank sighs, staying still to bask in Connor rubbing over his tense muscles. He knows the sensation of Connor’s bare hands so well by now, it’s a good feeling. “Yeah… It’s comforting. The sound of you being alive, and happy. I know those by heart now.” Fingers find a pressure point near the base of his skull and work it into submission. He wishes the same could work for the lump in his throat. “I uh— All the hospitals lately… they hit me even harder for today. I didn’t realize how much it had worked me up. Every time something happened to you, I’d remember the feeling of being helpless to save someone I love. And then I can’t help thinkin’ of how much he would’ve loved you. You would’ve been the greatest thing he’d ever seen.”
Connor’s chest pulls tight at the sound of Hank’s pain, at the readings of wetness seeping through the front of his shirt. He brings a hand down to squeeze Hank’s shoulder. “I would have loved Cole too, very much. When I… first thought he was still here, I assumed he was mine too. I prepared myself to greet him, to take care of him.”
“Oh, god.” Hank squeezes his eyes shut tighter, covering his face while he curls closer. He forcefully constricts a wail into a strained wheeze, feeling loss claw open his chest and his throat burn. He imagines Cole jumping up and down excitedly while watching Connor do a coin trick. Connor scooping Cole up and running around the front yard with him. The three of them on Christmas. The talk Hank would’ve had with Cole about buying Connor a ring and what that means. “Oh jesus, Connor.”
His arms envelope Hank, feeling so much worse for telling him. “I’m sorry. That was the wrong thing to say. I shouldn’t have said that.”
“No.” Hank croaks, working on his deep belly breaths so he doesn’t work himself up harder. He sniffs and shakes his head, flaring his headache. “Tell me. Talk about him, tell me what you woulda done.”
Connor hesitates this time, in case Hank wants to take it back. But Hank nuzzles against his chest like he’s trying to get comfortable, so he assumes it'll be okay. He glides his fingers through Hank’s hair, looking over to the picture frames covering the wall. “I would have welcomed him home in the way he was accustomed to, making sure I was presentable and non-threatening. If he enjoyed touch, I would’ve warmed my skin to provide additional comfort.”
“He’d barrel into your legs like he was going a hundred miles per hour.” Hank mumbles, staring at the steam that rolls out of the kettle. A faint, sad lift at the corner of his mouth. “And then he’d climb like you were his own personal jungle gym, ‘cause he’d want a hug.”
“I would have let him. My skeleton is able to withstand, he would’ve found it remarkably easy. And I enjoy hugs.” He adjusts his head on the arm of the couch, trying to stay relaxed as Hank cries. “I would have explained that I didn’t remember him, but I would like learning about him again, making a point to say that he's important. I’d ask what he liked to do in school, a hobby of his, if he’d given me a nickname. I would have welcomed it.”
“He liked to read books. I swear he zipped right through ‘em.” Hank blinks through tears, sighing as he remembers Cole’s determination sounding out words. He would whisper them to himself to surprise Hank that he had read a whole page, announcing it with a big flourish of turning to the next page. “He loved the ninja turtles.”
Connor has to look up what Hank means but then he hums in understanding, “Cartoon turtles. That is engaging.” he smiles softly, “… Do I enjoy reading?”
Hank huffs, rubbing Connor’s side when the muscles there tense with lifting his head. “You can read like, 400 pages in fifteen minutes. Twenty if you’re using your imagination.” He sniffles again and Connor reaches over to give him a tissue. He mumbles a thank you before wiping his eyes and nose. He’s not out of the woods on tears but talking fondly of Cole instead of someone saying sorry for his death feels less like a punch to the gut. Sharing his memories of Cole, and of what Connor’s forgotten about himself, it’s a world away from drinking himself sick and locking himself away. Connor has a way of opening up his heart.
He wiggles his arm under Connor’s waist, getting his hand under the nightshirt. He spreads his fingers against warm skin and rests , so worn he can feel it down through his spine. He knows his voice sounds broken but there’s nothing he can do about it, “Connor? Stay with me for a bit, okay?” He feels Connor shiver against his palm and knows he’s holding back. “I… It’s okay, you can do the thing.”
Connor closes his eyes, regulator warming. He lets his skin melt back where Hank is touching him, having felt the urge the moment Hank’s hand settled. “I’m here, my love.”
Hank shudders a wet sigh at the nickname. Connor knows he’s very fragile right now, and it’s good when he settles down quietly for a while. He reads information from Hank in small increments, what he can currently handle. Hank’s level of stress, hormonal variations in his body, the composition of his tears, the thump of his pulse. His own stress comes down while Hank’s does. He breathes soft and even with Hank on his chest, the weight of his body providing a great comfort. When Hank stirs, clearing a sore throat, Connor reaches over and makes a mug of lemon tea. Hank sits up on an elbow to take a sip and looks up to watch Connor do the same.
A sharp, straining pain fires off behind his eyes at the motion. He winces and lays back down, “Ah, fuckin’… headache.”
Connor sets the mug down with a muted thunk. He doesn't say anything right away, his warm fingers find Hank's forehead. He counts Connor's breaths as a self soothing technique. His voice is soft when it comes, “Would you like me to help?”
“I don't want you to get up for pills.”
Connor shakes his head, “I don’t wish to. I just researched treatment, and there's a method I can provide, if you'd like.” Hank gives an agreeable hum and he nods, gently starting to maneuver them onto their sides. “I need better access to your face.”
Hank makes a funny noise, “What are you gonna do?” He situates himself against the back of the couch, both of them pretty tangled in each other like this. Connor easily adapts, legs over and under Hank's, arm pillowing his head. He knows Connor's thigh is okay under his.
“I can route a small series of electrical impulses in a rhythmic way, mostly to your trigeminal nerve. It will help cure your headache. It'll lessen your pain.” The skin draws away over his fingers, softly pulsing blue. Hank's eyes look pretty reflecting the light.
“You sure you're okay for that?” he asks, holding back on the urge to just slump against Connor. “It won't eat up your processing to do it?”
“I'm okay. It shouldn't hinder me at all.” he promises, tone sure to comfort his human. Hank seems to believe him, so he relaxes his tense shoulders and gives himself over.
“I trust you. In your hands.” Hank shuts his already drooping eyes, so damn tired. A moment later he feels Connor's lips on his forehead. He can almost feel the oxytocin releasing into his brain. “Oh, I'm cured.”
Connor's soft breath on his face as he laughs is wonderful. “Shh, Hank.”
Calculating the spots with the aid of a manual is easy enough, calibrating his hand to put out the frequency correctly. The pads of his fingers press gently to the center of Hank's forehead and allows the pulse in a dull beat. Hank gasps, flinching somewhat. Connor's stomach twists worryingly but Hank clarifies, “Wasn't ready. “
He whispers a soft apology and uses the next time to slowly build up to the pulses. Hank responds better, sighing as it radiates through his head. It's weird, for lack of a better word. Not uncomfortable but not entirely soothing either. It's controlled electricity, stimulation coaxing the pain back. To his credit, Connor is very gentle as the pulses go on, and moves so slow along his skin. Forehead mapped, then a little past his hairline, sweeping over to his temple. Down between his brows is easily the best wash of relief, low groan falling easily from his lips.
Connor hums in soft agreement. He shifts just enough to access behind Hank's ear, being very careful of placement. The tightness starts ebbing away, muscles relaxing. “Baby…” Hank rubs his thumb back and forth on the small of Connor’s back. “That feels so good.”
He presses his lips to Hank’s hairline, skin melting back to his wrists like the tide at hearing the term of endearment. Going back for his temple, Hank’s voice wavers with a drawn out “ah”. He shivers at the sound, holding Hank closer to his chest, kissing his forehead and the bridge of his nose. Hank sighs and tilts his head into it, feeling so safe in Connor’s arms. Connor kisses gently over both his closed eyelids, drawing a line back to Hank’s forehead with his fingertips. The softest noise falls from Hank’s mouth and Connor’s systems flush with the sound of it, tilting to brush their lips.
Hank reacts positively, eeking out another soft sigh as he opens his mouth under Connor’s. He kisses like he’s in a haze, unhurried by how eagerly Connor responds. Like he’s basking in the press and drag of Connor’s lips against his, adding the barest hint of tongue. His hand settles on Connor’s side, fingers shifting under the fabric to caress over his skin. He’s so incredibly gentle even when pulling Connor closer to his body. He needs the touch, the connection, to hold someone he loves and to be held. He’s so tenderhearted with Connor’s body leaning heavily into his.
“Hank.” That voice soothes him to no end, indulgent and raspy and so affectionate. He hums in acknowledgement, exhaustion weighing him down but preening quietly at the attention. Connor’s hand has stopped the pulses and now just pets back his hair. “Does your head feel any better?”
“‘Lot better.” Hank gazes at him with lidded eyes, thumbing circles just below his synthetic rib cage. “Thanks, honey.”
“My pleasure.” He whispers, deeply enjoying the way the closeness feels. His own head throbs with a little disorientation as a connection comes in. He tips his head up so he can feel Hank’s breath against his neck, “Rest for a while now. I’ll be right here.”
Request from Nines, RK900:
# Request for communication
)Message: Hello, 800. I do not want you driving today as you may have considered. I’d like to offer bringing anything Hank or yourself requires, to your home.
He closes his eyes and lays his head on Hank’s. ‘Today is a bad day, 900.’
‘I know. Allow me to make an attempt at easing the pain.’ Nines answers back immediately. ‘I’m aware of the balloons I’ll have to purchase. Do you need anything else? ’
‘I’m very thankful for you, 900… we may need more tissues. Some sort of fluids in case Hank becomes dehydrated. I’m frustrated that I don’t know what could soothe him.’ He feels Hank’s breath stutter against him even as he sends the message.
‘I can feel him through your connection. You are soothing him.’ Nines feels Connor’s embarrassment, shutting that part of the connection without knowing it was activated in the first place. ‘I will arrive in twenty minutes. Do not worry.’
Connor sighs and Hank’s hands press him closer.
Nines is unlocking their front door twenty-two minutes later, looking to where both of them are still huddled on the couch. The knocking had pulled Hank from sleep and they untangle themselves as Nines walks in with Ben on his heels, grocery bags in both hands, balloon strings wrapped around his wrist. Hank comes around the couch blearily, rubbing his eyes and trying to appear presentable, knowing it’s pretty much a lost cause. Ben skirts past to settle things down in the kitchen. Nines assesses the two of them, making an effort for his face to be open and welcoming. He holds up a large ceramic pot, sealed with a steamed over cover, “I prepared you an entire chicken.”
Hank’s shoulders droop and he gives a watery smile. Nines may not know exactly how to gift things, but he does know human plus food equals continued living. It’s the thought behind it that counts, that he cares. “Ah, Nines.” He opens his arms and Nines sets down the chicken in time to return it, allowing the big bear hug. “I’m—”
“It’s alright. Hello, Hank.” Nines’ voice has that softer cadence as he rubs Hank’s back, pressing a kiss to his temple. His LED spins yellow, processing the readings from it. He holds Hank and looks over his head at Connor, before reaching a hand out for him. Connor slots their hands together and feels comforting flashes of his day; the heat of an oven as he cooked, the shift of a new sweater on his body, the wiggle of a stray cat’s ears under his palm, the yearning of wanting to kiss Connor’s head too.
Connor raises his brows as they disconnect. Nines flushes blue with embarrassment, letting Hank go to carry the chicken into the kitchen. Connor leans close as he follows, “Would you like to elaborate?”
“No, thank you.” Nines answers quickly, but the corner of his mouth pulls up.
In the kitchen, Ben is cooing to Sumo as he provides lots of pets and attention, but straightens up to give Hank a quick hug, an additional squeeze and all, “Hey there, Hank. Hangin’ in?”
“Fine, Ben. Thanks.” Hank nods even if he’s shivering. Connor takes the sweater from the back of one chair and drapes it over his shoulders. He stares at the vibrant balloons tied to a dowel of the other kitchen chair, the ones he knows they’re letting go for Cole. “I uh, you know I’m not good at…”
“You’re welcome, as always.” Nines tells him, sounding like he’s told him this before. He passes a slim bottle of soda to Connor - pineapple passion - and gets a thankful smile thrown his way.
Hank runs his hands through his hair and nods, “I… Yeah. Thank you. Both of you— All of you.” His voice is still rough and weak, but he’s pushing through his anxieties and urge to isolate to let everyone in. Every year, it’s still hard. Connor brings him a glass with the softest smile and his chest tightens with another cry queuing up. He pushes a lingering kiss on Connor’s LED, voice a whisper, “Thanks, Con.”
Ben uses the counter to lean up to Nines’ ear as well as he can manage, whispering to him briefly. Nines opens his mouth to respond but then Ben murmurs something else, and he flushes pastel blue. “If you need anything,” it’s directed at Connor, “don’t hesitate to contact me. For now, we’ll let the two of you relax.”
Connor dips his head in acknowledgement, holding back a smile as Nines steps forward and cradles his head. There’s a slight interface there where Nines checks the monitoring device. He glances to Hank, “Eat the chicken. Lower stress. Practice self care.”
Hank snorts at the somewhat blunt list, shaking his head. “Yes, dear.”
Nines brightens deliberately just to make Hank and Connor smile, “A lovely nickname.” Hank scoffs and moves towards the table for the chicken anyway. Nines gives Connor an amused look and whispers, “Contact me later with how you’re doing. I miss you when you are not around.”
> Contact Nines, RK900 at a later hour
>> Inform of feelings and system status.
Connor gives Nines a warm smile and a nod, feeling calmed by his presence yet again. Ben pets Sumo one more time before he and Nines exit quietly, leaving Connor and Hank alone in the kitchen.
Hank glances to him and then reaches out for his hand. He guides Connor to sit at the table, taking the sweater off his shoulders to give to him. “You hungry? Let’s get you something.”
“I’m okay. Perhaps I should make you something to go with it, so you can have a balanced meal.” He tries, wanting to provide something for Hank. He can see the way sorrow still clings to him, especially in the way he moves around.
Hank shakes his head, picking at the chicken and shoving a piece into his mouth, “I’m okay. That’s not something you have to do for me.” He pulls the other chair over and doesn’t mind slightly burning his fingers to eat Nines’ impeccable cooking. “Listen, I… You’ve been so good to me. Today’s a hard day, but it’s not all about me.”
Connor gives him a look like he wants to argue. Past his own need for rest and recalibration, Hank needs extra support today. Hank needs him today. He pushes away the thought that Hank needs the old Connor, before he was hurt. He opens his mouth but Hank carries on. “I know you’re not looking for me to carry you through, but doing things for you isn’t past me.”
“Honestly,” Hank adds, “It would be really fulfilling for me. Doing something for my sweetheart.”
Hank knows he has him just from the way his mouth works for words that won’t come out. Connor squirms a little in his seat, feeling very much that he’s gaping like a fish. Sweetheart . He snaps his mouth shut stubbornly tries to keep it a straight line in the face of Hank’s slow growing smirk.
“Sweetheart.” Hank emphasizes. He can see Connor’s LED flaring yellow even when he kicks in the Neutral Facial Expression. “Come on. Anything you need today? Time to talk? A… A special meal? A hot shower? Uh, a new VR program, maybe?”
Connor flushes. He thinks of each of those things, all the feelings he’d get from them, the way Hank would absolutely do them with love and care. He pushes up from his seat, feeling his regulator heating. “I need some air.”
Hank watches him go for the door, “Cold out there, you still got your shorts on.” Connor opens the door enough to press his face out and Sumo tries to wiggle his way between Connor’s legs to get his face out the door, too. Hank shakes his head and wipes his hand on his sweats before getting up. He remembers the papers sitting on the entryway table and grabs for Sumo’s leash. He doesn’t feel like it, but he’ll push himself anyway. “Hey… How about a walk?”
Sumo is obviously excited at the word, even more with seeing Hank with leash in hand. Connor turns back to look at him as he gently shuts the door. “Are you sure?”
Hank nods, clipping Sumo in, “Go get that perky ass dressed.” He forces a smile as Connor passes down the hall, “You’ll give the neighbors a heart attack if you run around like that.”
“Not you?” Connor calls from the bedroom.
He snorts, rubbing at his eyes. “Hell yes, me.”
They both slip into their shoes and coats, then Sumo’s leading the way across the street. Hank knows he won’t pull on the leash so he feels fine in using only one hand, so the other can go for Connor’s. There’s a soft hum as Connor presses his own fingers between his. They walk a lazy route out and around the block, pausing when Sumo needs. Hank checks his mindfulness worksheet to make sure he’s following along correctly, using his walking meditation skills.
He takes in everything around him one at a time. The sky with its light gray clouds. Halloween decorations already in one family’s yard. The way the wind ruffles the orange leaves clinging to the trees. Someone’s baking pumpkin pie, the smell all cinnamon and warmth. Sumo’s collar jingles softly as he trots along. Connor’s hand heavy and warm in his. The flashback of Connor’s hand cold and limp floods his thoughts. Cole missing trick or treating again follows. He blows out a deep, deep breath and focuses on remembering where he is. He’s not picking out costumes with Cole pulling at his sleeve, and he’s not back in that alley clutching Connor’s lifeless hand.
“We don’t do that anymore.” He whispers to himself sternly. He won’t let his own damn mind and trauma take away from right here. From this goodness, this calm with Connor and Sumo. He does not overwrite the good things happening now, by thinking of the shitty things that have happened before. He focuses on the repetitive feeling of his feet against the sidewalk.
“Hank?” Connor sees the pinch in his brows, his cheeks looking flushed from the wind.
“M’okay.” He murmurs as he brings their hands up, brushing his lips to the back of Connor’s hand. He welcomes Connor leaning towards him. “You doing alright?” He guides Sumo back towards home instead of down the store path Connor takes him on.
He gives Hank a soft smile and a nod. “Just a little cold. But I like that you’re with me.”
Request from Markus Manfred:
# Request for communication
)Message: Connor, I hope your day is calm and you’re feeling alright. Hank, as well. Get back to me when you can. Sending love.
Connor gets a feeling of warmth and sureness from the message. He thinks it’s absolutely from Markus himself. He can feel the ghost of hands and kisses on his face. Definitely something Markus is feeling or has felt recently. Josh, North, Simon. It’s like a message from all four of them. ‘Hello! We’re getting through today, thank you. I feel as if, somehow, I know you’re all doing very good.’
He feels Markus’ amusement at his own teasing tone, ‘You’d be very right. We usually share this way. I also wanted to tell you, there’s a drone bringing a package to your home. A gift, nothing too much. I hope you enjoy them.’
“We’ll get you a heavy blanket back at home.” Hank notices his fond scoff and head shake as they round the corner, home coming into view, “Connor?”
“Markus.” He explains, “He sends us love. And gifts, apparently.” Even as he says that, he looks up to see the drone hovering towards cozy 115 Michigan Drive. Sumo barks as they near home, excited for the drone because it usually means his treat and toy box. They get to the doorstep at the same time the drone does and it scans Connor.
“He spoils us, I swear.” Hank says as Connor raises his arms and the drone gently sets the white box in his hands. “Tell Markus thank you.”
‘Hank says thank you.’
‘Tell him every RK series is very fond of him.’
Connor laughs softly, watching Hank call a little ‘thank you!’ to the drone as it flies away. “Markus wishes for me to remind you every RK series is very fond of you, Hank.”
Hank sputters, letting Sumo’s leash go as they move inside. “Oh, hell. You three flatter me enough, my old heart can’t take that!”
He sends a recording of Hank’s reply straight to Markus, feeling the joy that comes back through their connection. Hank comes over after giving Sumo more water, the strings of the balloons wrapped around his hand. He gives a little smile before Connor can get out of his shoes, “I know you’re cold, but…”
Connor smiles back, leaving the box balanced on the back of the couch. He pulls the zipper on his jacket up higher and reaches for a string, “I want to give him the yellow one.”
The look Hank gives him fills him with warmth. Enough of it to take Hank’s hand and lead him back outside, standing on the firm grass of their front lawn. He looks at Hank to lead him now, not sure of the etiquette or tradition of this. Hank’s eyes are fixed on the sky, the sway of the balloons in his grasp.
There’s so much he could say, but he knows most of it isn’t useful. He doesn’t want to state the years Cole would’ve had, or say how he would’ve been growing up well. He knows these things, and Cole wouldn’t want to hear them anyway. He’d want to hear— “Oh, kid… Nines brought the goods this year, seven whole balloons. Swear I won’t keep one for myself… I know today you’d rather I went and did something fun. Like the arcade or the swimming pool. I promise I’ll do one of those next year. I promise.”
Connor lays a gentle hand on his arm, hoping it’s helpful to speak up. “You went on a walk, Hank. With Sumo. That’s fun, right?”
Hank turns to look at him, like he’s leveling it in his head. It’s easy that Connor’s right, over the shitty part of his brain saying he only pushed himself to do it so he wouldn’t slink back to bed. He cups Connor’s cheek, giving him a shaky smile. “You’re right. Absolutely. I had fun on my walk, taking Sumo around and holding my favorite android’s hand. I did do something fun.”
“I had fun, too.” Connor whispers, touched that he’s included even if Cole didn’t know him and wouldn’t have any basis for him.
Hank turns his gaze back to the sky, slipping his arm around Connor’s shoulders to hold him against his side. “You ready, Con? On three…”
He follows Hank’s count, letting the string go at the right time. All the balloons float up into the sky, swaying and bobbing with the light wind. He leans against Hank’s side as they watch the balloons get smaller and smaller in their view, which ones group together or how they spread out. Connor thinks Cole would like their gifts, and that gives him a pleasant feeling.
When the balloons are dots in the sky only Connor has the vision to see, Hank lets go of him to head back into the house. Connor watches for another moment, then follows. It’s much warmer inside and he wants to curl up in front of the fire, but he wants to ensure Hank’s comfort and check Markus’ package first.
Slipping out of his jacket one arm at a time, he reads over the information on the box. It has a label of their names and address, and Connor notices his name ends with Anderson, too. He breaks the seals easily and lifts the top to brush away the white speckled tissue paper. Hank shrugs out of his coat and leans to sneak a peek, “What is it?”
Connor lifts a large, fluffy white robe up from the box. Gravity unfolding it for him, it’s long enough to almost reach the floor, plush and incredibly soft under his fingertips. He smiles at the red ‘H’ embroidered onto the left breast. “‘H’ for Hank?”
Hank whistles, shaking his head before he reaches out for it. “Oh, man. Little shit makes fun of my old one, then gives me a new one so I’ll change my ways.” He chuckles, knowing his threadbare blue robe with the hole in the pocket has seen better days. He rubs his thumb over the red letter, “Aw… that’s real sweet.”
“We’ll have to get him a gift in return.” Connor reaches back into the box and delves through more tissue paper on the opposite side, bringing up the second robe. It’s the same as Hank’s in fabric, softer than expensive towels and such a bright white. It’s stitched beautifully with a royal blue ‘C’.
“Yeah. Like a fruit basket, or somethin’. Even though he only eats apricots.” Hank raises his brows, watching Connor set his robe down and pull his shirt over his head. “What are you doin’?”
“Putting it on, of course.” He slips each arm through the sleeves and feels the brush of it against his skin, so indulgent. He overlaps the opening and ties it comfortably snug around his tiny waist. It feels almost like a blanket, a towel, and a hug all together. He can’t help how big he smiles, LED blinking. ‘Thank you, Markus. It’s… wonderful.’
‘I expect pictures!’ Markus sounds happy.
“Ah, look at you.” Hank lays his robe over his arm so he can hold Connor at the waist, both hands fitting on each side. “Feel less cold now?”
Connor kicks his shoes off backwards towards the door before stepping closer into Hank’s space, “Yes, it actually comforts me a great deal.”
“Markus is like that.” Hank nods in agreement, just taking in how lovely Connor looks. His face may still look tired, those damn dark circles, but he’s bright through it.
“I meant your hands too, Hank.” He says in that soft, genuine way that makes Hank’s heart melt. He lays his hand over that heart, eyes scrunching happily at the flutter beneath his fingers.
Hank ducks his head as a blush kicks in, giving a small pull to bring Connor against him. He kisses his forehead and then down over his lazy rolling LED. His voice is distinctly softer, “I can’t tell if you remember that’s how you’d say things, or if it’s just a natural thing with you.”
“I feel as though it’s as natural as I can be.” Connor tells him, something just over a whisper. It’s so easy to tilt himself up and press his mouth to Hank’s, feeling the brush of hair against his cheek, sensing the salt water dried into Hank’s beard. Hank knows he’s probably not the best to kiss right now but he lets Connor anyway because it just feels so good. Especially with the way Connor’s hand comes up to cup his cheek, to hold him gently, caress his skin while their lips part under each other.
After a moment, when Connor goes for a little more tongue, Hank has to ease himself out of the kiss. “Oh, you’re killing me here. I can’t be pretty good to kiss right now, I probably taste like chicken and depression.” He brings his hand up to Connor’s, pressing a kiss to his palm before dropping it. “Let me go take a shower, huh? Put myself together a little, then we can kiss.”
“I enjoy you just fine,” Connor smiles at Hank’s groan, “but I understand.”
Hank gives him a little smile before turning towards the hallway. Connor takes care of their coats and moves the now empty box to the chair. He lays himself back onto the couch and burrows into the warmth there, wiggling of his shoulders hiking the robe up around his ears. It’s very cozy and he flicks on the television to find something to watch. He finds a nice science program to settle in with and grabs the mug not used earlier to make himself a hot cup of tea. He pulls the blanket close and relaxes, hearing the pipes rattle as the shower starts up.
Connor thinks about things like that not for the first time. The sounds of life in this house, his home. Hank’s shuffling around, footsteps and light clacks of items being moved around on the bathroom counter. The soft hum of the television probably only he can hear, the fireplace that doesn’t crackle and pop, the drone of the refrigerator. Sumo’s soft breaths, the little metallic noise his tags make from clicking together when he moves around. Even the groan the couch gives when Sumo climbs up onto it with him, laying right on his feet.
This is his home. He doesn’t know if he’s actually thought that yet, if he’s realized non-intellectually that this is his home. Because he feels it now, emotionally, as he lays spread out on the couch with Sumo soon about to snore and Hank cleaning up even more handsome just a few rooms away. He feels heavy in his heart, in a good way. He pushes his fingers into Sumo’s fur and breathes deep, “I’m home.”
Sumo basks in the attention, rolling over enough to get Connor to pet his face and head instead of the back of his neck. His tongue hangs out of his mouth and Connor smiles at him, scratching at his ears, “I’m home, Sumo… I love you, you know. You’re a very good dog. My favorite dog.”
He laughs softly at the way Sumo ‘owh-ow’s as if talking back to him. He nods and pets his head while he listens, until Sumo settles back into the cushions as he rumbles in contentment.
# Request for communication
)Message: Hello, 900. I’m updating you on my condition. I am feeling… good. At home. I’m home, 900. I miss you. I think you may be something like home, as well. I like that feeling.
After he sends that off, he watches maybe half the program on tv, getting his belly full of warm tea. Sumo falls asleep easily, stays asleep even when Connor sets his mostly empty mug back on the table. His hands are hot from the ceramic and he pats his cheeks to transfer the feeling. As warm as it is, he could be warmer.
He could be so much warmer.
Chapter 11: see me bare [nsfw]
Hank had said, “Come on. Anything you need today? Time to talk? A… A special meal? A hot shower? Uh, a new VR program, maybe?”
At the time, Connor had said no them all. He changes his mind about the shower.
Minor characters mentioned in this chapter: n/a
The companion piece (and my way of apology) for the last chapter.
He could be so much warmer.
Sliding his feet out from under Sumo is no fuss at all. He pads down the hallway, sounds of the living room fading as he nears the bathroom. He knocks enough to be heard over the rush of the water, “Hank?”
Walking in brings a whoosh of steam over his face and he welcomes it gladly, shutting the door behind him. He can see Hank’s round silhouette behind the shower curtain and it notches his temperature up. He takes a hot breath and steps up to the shower, “Hank.”
“Hank.” It takes a moment for Hank to realize his full attention is needed. Connor’s regulator works overtime as the curtain pulls back, Hank wet being something that sends a warm thrill to his gut. He reaches to unknot his robe, slowly pulling the tie free. “I… Changed my mind on wanting a shower.”
Hank’s eyes widen and he pushes away stray hair sticking to his face, feeling himself flush hotter than the water, “Connor.”
“Would that be alright, my love?” He holds the opening of the robe in his hands, slowly trailing downward to feel the fabric against his palms and fingers.
The shower curtain crinkles under Hank’s grip. A hard shiver runs down his spine and his voice dips low, “Yeah. Take it off.”
Connor’s eyes drift closed at the sound of Hank’s approval. His hands catch at the waistband of his jeans, fingers working them open. He glances back to Hank as he draws the zipper down and works everything off his lower body in one go. He leaves it all crumpled on the floor and steps up to the shower, goosebumps rising while his robe slides off his shoulders. He shivers and wets his lips, keeping the soft fabric in such a loose hold as he breathes in deep. His skin starts to melt away, starting from his collarbones and the tips of his fingers. It fades until all that’s left is bright chassis, Connor bare and softly glinting in the light when he rolls his shoulders.
Hank’s mouth has dropped open, “Oh, Connor…” He preens under the honey-thick sweetness of Hank’s voice, stretching up on his toes and pressing his chest out to enjoy the moment. He deposits his robe on top of the hamper and reaches to lay his hand over Hank’s, guiding the shower curtain back so he can climb in. Hank’s eyes never leave him.
With the curtain shut, he feels encased in warmth. He knows his LED pulses yellow taking in the full of Hank’s body. All the wet skin, covered in hair and scars and marks that he can’t process through fast enough. He steps into the spray with him, water pounding against his chest, feeling the heat of Hank’s body. The wideness of his chest and the soft curve of his belly, that Connor knows he’ll meet first and melt into if he sways any closer. His eyes draw to Hank’s cock, soft against his hairy thigh. He wants to feel Hank’s thighs on him again, the weight and give, the power of muscle. Hank’s gentle hand cradles the side of his head, thumb brushing his LED in question, “Connor?”
“I’m so attracted to you.” He breathes, fingers trailing up the bulk of Hank’s arms, onto sun-freckled shoulders. Hank’s eyes are so vibrantly blue with the green tiles behind them. He tucks some wet hair behind Hank’s ear, letting a full-body shiver run over him when he presses them together.
Connor’s bare casing never ceases to be so special, or the feel of it to be so good. The way Connor glides smooth against his wet skin, always a little cool to the touch to start off but warms with his body heat. He slides his hand around Connor’s back to hold him closer and opens his mouth, but all he can do is moan into Connor's mouth as he's kissed like their first time all those years ago. Curious and eager and with heat simmering to the surface. He dives in completely and Hank follows him, body singing at the contact, not realizing how starved for his touch he was until now.
Connor holds Hank’s face between his hands, pushing up taller, tilting his head to flick his tongue into his mouth. His shoulders bunch up through the onslaught of information he can't fully process, the noise Hank makes in his throat, the one he shakily echoes back. Hank's hands drag up his back, over closed panels and bare sensors and he starts to glow in the paths taken there. The spray of the shower hits him in the face as he backs Hank up against the tiles, the little ‘oof’ he gets for it makes him cradle the back of Hank's head so he doesn't have a chance to hurt himself. He makes a low noise at the feeling of Hank drawing his tongue over his own, like he knows what the sensors will do for him. He presses his other hand against the tiles near Hank's head, feeling the slide of their bodies as he settles back fully onto his feet.
Hank dips down to follow, startling a gasp from Connor's mouth as he sinks his teeth into the plush polymer of his bottom lip. Connor's hand stutters in his hair and slides down to dig into his bicep. It flexes under his grip and Hank sneaks a hand up and over the smooth roundness of his head. So many sensors fire up there and it has him shuddering. Almost curious moans bubble up in his throat, Hank pulls back to breathe and laugh.
Connor tries kissing him again but Hank deflects, panting softly against his face while adorning him here and there with little kisses. “I gotta take a breath, honey.” he coos, and Connor melts at the sound, head dropping onto Hank's shoulder. He reaches over for the body wash that'll make Connor shiny and rubs some between his hands. “What made you give me a gift like this, huh?”
“Ah—” Connor arches softly at Hank's extra slick hands on his back. He wraps an arm around Hank's shoulders, turning to whisper into his neck, “I wanted to feel warm… home.”
Hank's heart thunders in his chest, Connor starting to suck gentle kisses into his skin. “You… you are home. I promise.”
“Right here.” His voice is almost firm, hand finding a soft spot to hold on Hank's side. He slots a leg between Hank’s, lips brushing his ear. Home here in this house. Home here with Hank, laid bare. “Here.”
Hank's hands fall to Connor's hips, arousal swooping low through his stomach at the buzz the word makes in his mind. He manages a soft “yeah” while his hips roll against Connor's offered thigh, not hard yet but the interest is very much there. Connor holds his chin in his palm, keeping him close while his other hand skirts over a scar and collection of stretch marks, “I want to make you feel good, Hank.”
“God—” Hank chokes out, flushing deep. He parts his lips with a small, expectant sound and it's enough for Connor to kiss him again, to steal the breath right out of his lungs because Hank would give it all to him. He fumbles blindly for the soap again to get some control over himself, spilling it over his palm to rub into Connor's chassis, into his chest and shoulders and throat. He wants to kickstart Connor feeling good before they focus on him. The pleased sighs and satisfied hums spur him on like they always have, the little moan as Connor's lips drag against his. He rolls his hips again, hardening slowly but surely.
“Just like that.” he whispers, hearing Connor's stuttering approval and the returning firmness at his own thigh. He sweeps his hands down Connor's shoulders, down one arm to catch his wrist before he touches him.
“What do you want me to do?” Connor urges, all breathy against Hank’s beard.
He brings Connor's hand up to his mouth, “Let me hear it.” He slides two of Connor's fingers into his mouth, watching the way his eyes lock intensely and a shudder works through his body. He works his tongue against them in such a familiar way he's sure he could do this in his sleep, free hand coating Connor's chest with soap. His fingers skid over the regulator casing and Connor groans like he's been punched. His eyes flutter.
Connor pushes his chest into Hank's big hand, blinking past his fingers building a schematic of the inside of Hank's mouth to actually see how the real thing looks. It's— God, it makes him run hot. Hank's red lips closed over his knuckles, cheeks hollowing and drawing another noise out of him. The slightly hazy look in his eyes pins him, spikes of his arousal correlating to how Connor expresses his own pleasure. Hank gets off on him enjoying himself. He wiggles his fingers and Hank groans, sucking with more vigor to press them against his tongue. Connor moans for him, feeling sensation ripple through his forearm. “Hank.”
He shudders, easing Connor back against the wall while his fingers slip free. “You wash my back, I'll wash yours.” With the water rinsing the soap away, Hank can eagerly kiss over Connor's neck.
“Is that literal, or—?” Connor presses his head back to the tiles, groaning. He arches into Hank's hands slipping down his stomach, “Oh.” His head spins with Hank’s large, calloused hands grabbing at his thighs and pressing into his hips, tracing lines etched into his body and hitting spots that feel good.
Hank’s laugh rumbles against his throat and he tilts his head to give him more room. Hank starts suckling drops of water off his chassis between neck and shoulder, the sensation of his mouth and hint of his teeth make him ache. His hands scrabble over Hank’s shoulders, voice crackling, “What—What do I do?”
“Mm?” Hank pulls back to look over his face, cupping his cheek to rest their foreheads together. He smiles at the way Connor’s hands bracket his face so lovingly. It makes his whole body thrum with affection. “What do you wanna do?”
“Take care of you.” He thumbs at the wrinkles at the edge of Hank’s eye, breathing in sharp at the feeling of Hank’s fingers skirting the crease of his thigh.
Hank brushes a kiss to his cheekbone, legs feeling a little like jelly with Connor’s sincerity. He licks his lips and nods, running the backs of his fingers over Connor’s cheek, “You’re takin’ good care of me, Con.”
“Tell me where to touch you.” That gets a big spike in Hank’s readings and he leans up to peck his lips, “Or at least let me help you finish your shower. I want to be close to you.”
“Oh, sweetheart… You’re gonna take me apart.” Hank closes his eyes. He leans into the next kiss, then pushes to deepen it for a long moment, feeling his head swim. When he pulls back, he rubs his hands up and down Connor’s sides. “How about… you help me finish up my hair,” he meets Connor’s gaze and adjusts their footing, then starts slipping to his knees, “while I do something for you. Hm?”
The look on Connor’s face is priceless, nevermind the gasp when the tip of his dick brushes Hank’s jaw. His stomach does little flips seeing Hank on the floor like that; skin a little red from the hot water, the shape of his spread thighs, the bob of his cock as he shifts. Even the line of his back and the way the muscles move has Connor blinking back a few alert messages. He can barely hear his own voice over the sound of the shower, “Oh god, Hank…”
“Yeah?” He leans in to kiss the dip of Connor’s hip, humming at the pulse of blue light his touch stimulates. His mouth is watering thinking of treating Connor so good, of feeling him inside his mouth again.
“Yes!” Connor nods frantically, breathing kicking up faster, “Yes, Hank. I’d like that, yes.” He knows his flush isn’t visible but he still feels the prickle of it, knowing he’s too over eager. Hank’s little smile confirms it but he’s quick with his consent so Hank can touch him how he wants. If it makes Hank feel good to give him pleasure, he’s not going to argue… until later, for Hank’s pleasure.
Hank lands a smooch over the absence of Connor’s bellybutton before he can’t hold himself back anymore. He nuzzles against the soft padding the biocomponent gives like a little amount of fat over Connor’s pubic bone, and suckles a kiss to the base of his cock. Connor’s hands brush his hair back with a soft gasp, caressing strands between his fingers while watching Hank with big eyes. Hank opens his mouth and draws his tongue along the side of Connor’s cock, watching the wet line he leaves flush blue, a nice dull glow that fades away. He laughs in delight. Connor didn’t have this certain feature all over before, so he assumes it had been a conscious thing he’d turned off. Probably for Hank’s comfort, when Connor was already showing an inhuman fact about himself. But that’s misplaced and he’s going to enjoy this while he has it like the fucking freak he is.
“God, that’s hot.” He whispers excitedly, rubbing Connor’s inner thigh as he tongues the smooth head between his lips. He’s not very textured bare like he is and Hank revels in how easily he slips in.
He shudders in a breath and it comes out as a pathetic whine, hips arching forward. His cock just continues to slide into Hank’s mouth with no resistance, Hank even opening wide so he sees as he glides on his tongue. “Hank…” he groans, hand coming up to cover his own mouth. Hank closes his eyes and moans, a blissful sound that shivers up his spine. “Hank, baby—”
Hank makes a noise in surprise. He feels his cock jump with interest, precome pooling in direct response to Connor’s words. He suctions his mouth around Connor tightly, earning a raspy shout and Connor’s hands tightening in his hair. Goosebumps raise on his back and arms, tingling all the way from head to toe. He grips one of Connor’s hips, fingertips curling around just enough to squeeze into the softness of his ass. The other spreads out with his thumb hooked in the crease of Connor’s thigh and when he waves his fingers across his skin, he lights up such a sweet blue. Hank swears he could bring himself off just like this.
Connor won’t take his eyes off Hank, no matter how much he wants to close his eyes and give into it. He forces his mouth to work, pushing him to investigate, “Is that what I call you, Hank? Is that what you like?” He shakily pets his fingers through Hank’s hair, remembering that he was supposed to be doing something in return for this. “Baby? Does it make you feel good?”
A muffled grunt and Hank’s head bobbing eagerly enough to make slurping noises is all he gets in response. “Hank, baby. Hank— too much, ah, careful…”
Hank thankfully slows, looking up at him with dazed, hungry eyes. He tugs on Connor’s hip to let him choose the pace, groaning weakly as he sucks. His hips grind against air pathetically, seeing the blue pulse as Connor twitches on his tongue. Connor fumbles for the bottle of conditioner, panting softly while he just warms his cock with Hank’s mouth. He pushes in slow and Hank just takes it with a soft hum. He glows faintly through the seam of Hank's lips. “Fuck…”
Hank moans low in his throat and preens as Connor's hands work conditioner through his hair, caressing, gently tugging at the ends. Hank is soaking up any touch he's getting and it makes all of Connor quake. He makes a soft noise, blinking away a percentage in his sexual protocols. He feels such a need to praise Hank, to tell him anything good. “You look so handsome. You’re making me feel so good… Did I ever tell you I hold a percentage for pleasure?” he rocks his hips and Hank twists his tongue, “Oh, that's— Mhmm. A yes, then.”
“Would you like to know how high it is? How good you are at touching me, Hank?” he runs his fingers through Hank’s hair, gathering it up to curl his hand at the back of Hank’s head. He tries to push down a moan as Hank’s eyes flutter shut and he presses forward to swallow around his cock. “Ah— ! God, Hank… Now it’s at 73%.”
He shudders as Hank pulls off, laughing hoarsely against his stomach while he drags kisses over his chassis. “Fuck me, Con…” he smiles blissfully, “You're a menace.”
Connor's ears perk and he blinks rapidly, starting to push Hank towards the spray of water, “I will do that. Hank, I'll do that, just rinse off.”
“Mm, do what?” He leans his head back and lets Connor work the conditioner out of his hair. He's gently moved away when he goes for his cock again.
“I'll fuck you.”
Hank gets a rush so intense he almost feels dizzy, hand shooting down to grab his dick and squeeze. “Connor! Holy shit, I wasn't…”
“I'd love to feel inside you.” His hands are less steady than he'd like, a preconstruction trying to run but it keeps getting caught by his admin restriction. Efficiently rinsing Hank's hair, he cards his fingers through it, then gently caresses Hank's forehead, “Would you like it?”
Hank tilts his face up to Connor's hands like he's worshiping. He gives himself a few strokes with a shaky, backwards hand. His voice so earnest it's like he could cry, “Yeah…”
Connor eases him up from the floor, cooing soft noises and words to his chin and mouth when he groans about his knees. He braces a hand on the tiles and kisses Connor hungrily, feeling some easy android strength as he's maneuvered around so the water can be shut off. Connor gets out first and reaches for his hand, “I'd like to be with you in our bed.”
Hank clasps their hands to see him light up, heart pounding as he's given a towel, “You're killin’ me, sweetheart.”
Connor slips his robe back on, smiling while Hank squeezes out his hair, “If anything, it's the other way around.”
Hank never even gets the towel around his waist, he only dries off just enough to be acceptable before Connor's getting him into bed. He dims the smart bulbs and leans over Hank, fanning his hair out over the pillow with love in his eyes. They kiss while Connor situates Hank almost on his side, stuffing their body pillow under him to support the position. “Oh, now you're fussing over me.”
“I'm placing you how I want.” Another pillow goes under his hips and Connor lays against him, straddling the leg closest to the bedspread. He grinds like that, smearing a little bit of precome onto Hank's soft thigh.
Hank wraps his arm around Connor's back, keeping him close. He feels like he's riding a high, so far away from the rest of the world. But he does find a twinge of nervousness while Connor pets the hair on his stomach, “You didn't… you weren't scanning, right?”
Connor kisses his chest, glancing up to him as his bare fingers gently squeeze Hank's love handles, skim over his thigh. “Hm?”
“You didn't scan to know I was… cleanin’ up, right? That I was gonna, uh, entertain myself… ‘cause I thought you'd fall asleep on the couch, and I didn't wanna pressure you.” Hank flusters his way through, face reddening.
He needs a moment for his brain to catch up that he can't aggressively preconstruct Hank in bed touching himself. His LED trips red and his cock gives a little jump at the thought, “Oh, Hank… Mm, I didn't. I went to the bathroom to selfishly dangle myself in front of you.”
Hank drapes an arm over his eyes, embarrassment tingling the base of his spine, “Oh! Alright… fuck.”
Connor wraps his fingers around Hank's cock, curiously watching the way he can slip the foreskin back and forth over the wet tip. Hank groans shakily, thighs twitching. He can't manage more than a whisper, “I'm overheating at the thought…”
“God, Connor.” Hank shifts his hips, looking over to see Connor's gaze already on him. He brings him close by a hand on the back of his sleek head and kisses him deep, feeling Connor's whole body lean into it. With the open robe, their chests brush and Connor gasps softly before rubbing more deliberately, enjoying the rasp of Hank’s chest hair, even the soft drag of Hank’s nipple against his featureless chest. Hank squeezes him closer, grabbing a handful of his own chest while he moans into Connor’s mouth.
Connor thinks they must have lube somewhere so he leans up and over Hank’s body, tugging the bedside table drawer open a little too hard and blindly picking through it. Hank pushes his hips up to grind his cock against Connor’s, their groans mingling together. He pulls back to messily suck and kiss Connor’s neck, then shoves at his robe to get to his collarbone and shoulder, “Connor—”
“I’m here, Hank.” He whispers, even as he moves away to sit up. He pushes the robe off of one shoulder, getting his arm out of it before he’s spreading lube over his fingers. He shivers at the sensation of it, lips parted while he rubs it around. “Feels good…”
Hank trails his hands from Connor’s hips to chest, gazing at him with something like awe. He traces his fingers around the regulator casing, growling low in his chest watching Connor arch and sway his hips. “Feels real good.” He whispers back. Connor whines and pushes his hands away, settling back onto his elbow half on top of Hank, urging his thigh open with the back of a hand. He gasps, Connor’s fingers brushing his balls and smearing slick over his hole. “Ah, fuck. Yeah. Yeah, yeah…”
“Thank you for your consent.” Connor whispers— honey-sweet, soft. His fingers are notably warm and Hank easily relaxes for him, finger sliding in slow. They both gasp, leaning on each other as they settle into the feeling. Connor’s hands are so sensitive like this. It makes him think back to waking up dazed and aroused from his first dream, and the way Hank touched him, the emphasis on his bare sensors. Hank encourages him now with a small ‘mhmm’ and shift against him. He pushes in deeper, nosing at Hank’s cheek, “You feel good, Hank.”
“So do you.” He tightens around Connor’s finger, listening to him whimper. He feels a heady surge of satisfaction, letting his legs fall open wider. Scratching his fingers lightly down Connor’s back and turning his head for a kiss, he gives a low whisper, “Please, keep going.”
Connor shivers, easing Hank’s rim to stretch with slow rolls of his finger as he leans to kiss him. He likes the way Hank relaxes into his touch, body hot and open just for him. Hank lets him feel around, start really fingering him at his own pace, basking in how Connor’s hips move with the motions of his finger. He reaches down to wrap his hand around his own dick, groan catching in his mouth beside Connor’s eager tongue. He gives himself a few good strokes and huffs when Connor pulls his mouth away, but Connor’s caught sight of his soft chest jiggling while his arm moves.
“Fuck, Connor.” he rubs over the tip, watching Connor nuzzle and bury his face in his chest. “Yeah, that’s— that’s a good spot, go on.”
Connor leaves reverent kisses against his chest, tongue sliding over his tattoo. Hank rubs up and down his back, then traces a panel below his shoulder blades with a shaky noise. He gently pulls out of Hank and maneuvers enough to pour more lube over his hand, working two fingers into him while he sucks Hank’s nipple into his mouth. Hank’s breath catches and he moans loud and open, a sound that reverberates in Connor’s chest down through his entire body. He shivers and Connor kisses the goosebumps raised on his skin, hiding his soft grunt of pleasure.
Fingers pressing in deeper, stroking against his walls and Connor glides his fingers over his prostate, gasping as he finds it. He immediately puts all attention there, hitching his fingertips right on it. Hank is not ashamed to say he loses his cool, head thrown back and a ragged drawn out groan shaking from his mouth. He hasn’t been treated to this recently and he’s sensitive. Connor is eagerly trailing his mouth over Hank’s belly, bending to make sure as much of Hank as possible is adored with touch. He pushes his face into the softness and nips near his belly button, getting a shuddering “Ah!” out of him.
Connor leans up to pepper sweet kisses to his face, not sounding too unaffected himself, “So good. Hank, my love— baby. Baby, it feels so good… All of me is resonating with you.” He sounds awed, whispering into Hank’s ear. “I-I can feel you so well. Everything is so good. You are so good.”
He’s long since stopped touching himself, just weakly resting his hand over his crotch. He’s leaking onto his stomach and starting to tear up with Connor’s praise and relentless touch. “Oh, fuck. Oh fuck, Connor—”
“You’re gorgeous, Hank. I’m so lucky.” Connor whispers shakily, thrusting his fingers, fucking into Hank. He whimpers and bucks his hips, the double sensation making him dizzy.
“God, I love you. I love you. Connor,” he feels the tears well over but he cups Connor’s cheek anyway, pressing frantic kisses to his lips and chin and cheeks, “I got perfection right here. Look at you. So good to me, so smart and strong and precious to me.”
“Hank—” Connor scrambles up over him, he can’t stand to be even an inch away. He can read the way Hank’s tensing up, twitching more and more, getting ready to come. Just the information pushes Connor’s own release further towards the end, a cascade of information, capacity reaching its height. He’s letting out little moans on every breath, the small amount of processing he has left is confirming the press of Hank’s prostate under his fingers. Hank takes them both in hand and he can’t stop the glitched sound that bubbles up. His voice is laced with static when he whispers, “I want you. I want you to finish like this, I want to see you do it. Please, Hank, I’m right there…”
Hank kisses him desperately, thighs starting to shake as he fucks up into Connor’s fingers and Connor’s cock throbbing against his own in the crease of his palm. His own cock jerks and when he trembles over the edge, it’s to Connor stuffing another finger into him and the little zap as their tongues glide together. He holds on tight because Connor doesn’t stop, only stutters messily in his movements and that makes it all the more better. He needs to breathe even if he misses Connor’s mouth the moment he pulls away, sobbing while he spills between their stomachs. Connor’s breaths cease for a long moment, then he’s coming too, making a mess of them with a loud groan and uncontrolled hips.
Connor can’t see for a period of three seconds, input entirely too much, but he still milks Hank for all he’s worth. He locks onto Hank as soon as his vision is back, pushing away any and all errors and alerts to see Hank’s beautiful red face, to kiss the already drying tears from the corners of his eyes. He shivers and loses sensation in one of his legs, softly returning Hank’s oversensitive grunts with small moans, then coos, then whispers of how stunning he is.
When Connor slows and gently slides his fingers out, he takes deep breaths that waver at the edges. He looks up at Connor with his sex dazed softness and a slowly rolling red LED, and guides him to his chest, rubbing his back with a comfortably heavy hand. “Oh, god… you’re somethin’ else, I swear.”
Connor hums. “An android.”
“I was gonna say angel.”
Connor’s laugh is soft and blissful. He lays a kiss to Hank’s chest, lingering there. He’s fighting stasis to relax here with Hank, not wanting to let him go. They rest in silence and Connor doesn’t know how long it is, he’s so tired. His HUD is recommending stasis, then firmly advising it as a critical action.
“You know…” Hank starts, only getting a little grunt from Connor. “You don’t even call me baby.”
He forces his eyes back open even if he doesn’t look anywhere else, blinking slowly, “No?”
“No.” Hank smiles, fingers running up and down along the curve of Connor’s head, “You’ve never said it before, and then you did— and I don’t think I’ve been so needy in a long time.”
Connor feels a shiver of pride wash over his shoulder blades, “Oh, Hank…” The satisfaction of making Hank lose himself is incredible, knowing Hank was fully in his hands… it makes his biocomponent twitch and his HUD start blaring that he doesn’t have the power necessary to run another time. He whines sleepily, “My penis wants you but my systems say no.”
Hank snorts, kissing the top of his head. “I’m good. You’re overdue for stasis. Sleep, honey. I’ll clean us up.”
“Are you sure?” He does his best to sit up and feels one of Hank’s whiskery kisses land at the corner of his mouth. He hums and parts his lips, searching it out. The little sound the brush of Hank’s beard makes on chassis is different than his skin, and he finds himself sleepily latching onto the sound, rubbing his face against beard while Hank tries to get to his mouth.
With a soft laugh, Hank takes him in his arms and rolls them over, laying Connor against the mattress. He slides their mouths together slowly, feeling the lag on Connor’s side. He presses a warm kiss to his chin. “Yeah, I’m sure. Go on, beautiful. Time for you to rest.”
Connor just gives a soft sigh before sleep takes him.
Hank pulls himself up from bed and shuffles back to the bathroom, cleaning himself up with a warm, soapy washcloth. He spares a look in the mirror, his hair a bunch of wild, mostly dried curls that don’t smooth when he runs his fingers through. He’s got that post-orgasm flush and revels in that. He can almost still feel Connor’s mouth on him, especially looking at the reddened marks he’d sucked into his skin. Mostly peppered around his neck, one at his jaw where his beard ends. And— he flutters a little giddy at the ones on his chest. There’s even one on his stomach and he prods at it gently, a stupid smile overtaking his mouth.
He brings back a warm washcloth for Connor, feeling so much love seeing him peaceful and recalibrating while he sleeps. He promises himself he won’t cry again even when he knows he easily could, so many emotions flooding him today. He cleans Connor up gently, taking care to buff in places and glide in others. He makes a point to kiss Connor’s fingers after he’s cleaned them, knowing in a sense Connor can still feel it. He rubs his stomach too after he’s done, just because it feels good to be close to him. It must feel good for Connor too, because his stomach panel opens up at his touch.
Hank blushes, shaking his head as he eases it closed again with a chiding whisper, “No, no, no. Not gonna do that tonight, he’s been through enough.” He huffs a chuckle to himself as he tosses the washcloth at the hamper, “Damn authorized fingerprints.”
He has to retrieve a blanket from the living room and while he’s out there, he takes a detour to chug a glass of water and eat more of Nines’ chicken, before putting it away in the fridge. He just takes the heaviest blanket and retreats to the bedroom, scooting close to Connor and tucking them both under it. He feels sleep weigh down his shoulders and easily gives in, pushing his face into Connor’s chest and letting the thump of his heart soothe him under.
Chapter 12: error.??$8z
Connor's condition takes a nosedive, urging not only Hank, but the Jericho crew into action. They get closer to finding the root of the problem, hoping to fix whatever it is and return Connor to better health.
Minor characters mentioned in this chapter:
Chloe, Sumo, Simon, North, Carl Manfred, Amanda
We're getting down to the wire, here! Just one more chapter and an epilogue to go! 💕
Sunlight streams warm and golden along the planes of Connor’s back, seeping into his skin. His body pulls a light amount of solar energy from laying here, something he sorely needs. He’s running on low power mode, his awareness fuzzy. His ear, though repaired, ticks with static when he shifts his head. He sighs, sinking into the bed further, wondering if he could justify staying here all day. Or at least until the sun has moved off him.
His awareness is drifting, internal systems taking more of a priority on which programs to keep running, booting up standbys on others he may need. The largest portion of power is going to sorting data. He can’t access any of it. It should’ve been done by the time he woke, and that worries him slightly. He just has to endure until it’s completed. Maybe it’ll make him feel better at the end.
There’s a dull sensor anomaly that blinks at the edge of his conscious mind, only because it blocks some of the sunlight he’s using. He grunts softly. It takes him a moment to analyze because he’s lagging so far behind, but he registers a low hum and then the feeling of lips pressing over his spine.
He goes incredibly still.
Who is touching him?
His internal fans whir as his defensive protocols fire online, giving him just enough strength to push himself out of bed. He realizes he’s naked as an afterthought, head pounding and distorting his vision as he takes from systems that need the processing. He whips around even while he collides into the wall with his momentum. Through his warbling eyesight, confusion and fear strike low in his gut. There’s a man in his bed.
Who is this man?
“State your name. I’m a police officer.” He barks, blinking rapidly as his facial recognition fails to identify this person.
“Connor?” the human asks, shakily getting up onto his knees in bed. He would be naked as well, if it weren’t for the open robe on his body. Connor easily calculates all the areas he can harm this person; lighting up over his throat, nose, outstretched arms, stomach and genitals. He steps forward but he’s off balance, his hand comes up just in time to catch himself against the closet door. He still stumbles enough to scatter his vision.
“That’s… not your name.” He says slowly, overwhelmed by adrenaline and a sickly feeling weighing him down so much it feels like he’s moving through molasses. He’s scared, he’s in trouble. It chokes at the back of his throat, knowing he’s not prepared. He’s leaning heavily on the closet door now, even as his arm comes up to a protective stance. “That’s my name.”
The man looks frightened, Connor realizes. His wide eyes, heavy breath, the way his heart is pounding. He can’t preconstruct a way out of this, but perhaps the fear in the man’s eyes gives him an advantage. A twinge hurts his chest.
He doesn’t want to see this man scared. It hurts. It hurts. Why does it hurt?
“Yeah, that’s your name. You’re right, you’re right.” the man tells him, trying to soothe him. “Honey—”
“Why are you hurting me?” He can’t believe how broken his voice sounds. He doesn’t understand. He shakes his head and tries to take in information. The man’s face, his hair, those big blue eyes. The tattoo on his chest. His own hands on that face, his mouth on that chest. The man’s hands holding him, not hurting him.
Search sensor data
> Run analysis on acquired target
>> #Target_ ?
>> Not a target
>> AUTHORIZED USER://01_Hank_Anderson detected!
>> // Warning! Processing power low!
Danger! Defensive protocols engaged. Locked on: HANK
Self-initiated reminder (made 11/11/38, 2:41am)
[ Hank is not an enemy. Do not hurt Hank Anderson. ]
)Stand down defenses? _Yes
“Hank.” He breathes, his vision pulsing an secure outline of Hank in blue to confirm safety. It washes away the red points indicating where he could’ve potentially killed Hank. He feels sick to his stomach. He didn’t remember.
Hank still looks terrified, nodding frantically. “That’s right! It’s me, it’s Hank. You’re safe, I promise. I… I would never hurt you.” he shudders in a breath, wanting to go to him but not daring to move. He doesn’t want to corner him. “Con, are you okay?”
He nods, hating the way his eyes are tearing up, “I’m sorry. I’m— so sorry.” his legs feel disconnected but he moves towards the bed anyway, “Hank, I’m sorry, I didn’t remember.”
Connor stumbles onto the bed and reaches out for Hank, being brought into the welcoming weight of Hank’s arms. He collapses back against the headboard, blowing out a deep breath, “But you do now, right?”
“Yes. Yes, I do.” Connor rubs at his eyes, guilt pulling him down. “I remember last night, the last ten days.”
“Good, baby. Good. It’s okay.” He rubs Connor’s back and drags the blanket up over them. His heart is still going a mile a minute. They both take a long moment to breathe and process, gathering some semblance of control.
“I take on data every day, it-it forms in memories and preferences and a lot more. I have to rest more frequently now to process all the input and information I hold onto.” Connor sighs, having to shut down some sensors and all advanced analytics so he can function without feeling increasingly unstable.
Hank rocks him lightly back and forth, loosening the tightness in Connor’s shoulders. “That’s why you fall asleep a lot, I know. Kamski told me you’d be tired.”
“Last night, I took on so much information. I was—” he’s embarrassment to admit it, “losing connections and having minor malfunctions towards the end. Like my eyesight and—”
“You couldn’t see? ”
“It was three and a quarter seconds. And while I was ejaculating, Hank. It’s a very sophisticated process.” He defends with a huff, deciding not to tell him about his leg or how his systems pushed for critical restoration time. “I was also subject to a vast amount of stimulation. Even now, my brain is still trying to process everything, as if I didn’t complete enough time in stasis. My processing is hindered… I don’t feel well.”
Hank squeezes him soothingly, “Was it my fault for waking you up?”
“No, I was already waking up.”
“Do you want to go back to sleep?”
At the thought of forgetting again, Connor tenses up, “No! No, I don’t want to.”
“Woah, woah.” Hank sits up, rubbing at the nape of Connor’s neck. He shifts to meet Connor’s watery eyes. “It’s okay. You don’t have to. You can just rest.”
“I don’t want to lose you again.” He leans his forehead to Hank’s. Heavy, shaky hands reach to hold Hank’s face, knowing the details are stored somewhere but needing to touch.
Hank holds his wrist and turns just so, to press a kiss to his palm, “You won’t. Don’t talk like that, you won’t.” He sighs, closing his eyes for a moment to collect himself. “I’m here, Connor. I-I woke up early. I opened the blinds, I made breakfast… I came back to bed thinking I’d, y’know, be a little sexy and wake you up nice. I shoulda just let you rest.”
“I told you, it wasn’t your fault.” He sniffles, rubbing softly over Hank’s cheeks. He thinks for a moment on Hank’s care of the morning, for himself as well as Connor. He wanted today to be a better day, he even wanted to be romantic.
Hank shifts back to pull the cuff of his robe over his hand, gently patting away Connor’s tears just as they roll over. “I touched you and scared you. Come on, Connor.” He gathers the blanket further around Connor’s body, tucking him in. “You even said I hurt you. Can you just let me apologize?”
Connor pushes at Hank’s hands covering him up, surging forward to wrap his arms around Hank’s neck. He hugs tight, feeling clumsy when he starts to lose balance, but Hank is there to keep him steady. “It hurt to see you frightened. To see you upset. I didn’t realize why for a moment there. I hold to the belief that you deserve to be happy.”
“Please. I’m sorry for disrupting your morning, that I would have thoroughly enjoyed you sharing with me. I’m sorry for scaring you again. ” He shoves his face into his own arm, taking refuge in Hank’s warmth. “Please tell me about breakfast and why you came back to bed.”
Hank heaves a big sigh. Connor holds him closer. He rubs Connor’s back and his shoulders droop, “I made crepes. I was gonna kiss you… on every freckle on your back. ‘Cause you like that attention.”
“I love your attention.” Connor clarifies, nodding in agreement. Hank huffs and moves to settle him back onto the bed, with care and solid arms. It feels like a reminder of last night.
“You’re sweet, Connor.” Hank presses a kiss to his cheek and lays a hand on his chest, “But now you tell me what you need. What’s going on in there? Don’t lie to save my feelings.”
A frown pulls at his mouth, but he understands. “I can’t run anything successfully until the data blocks are finished sorting. My body isn’t responding correctly, I feel… slow, and heavy. My head hurts.” Hank’s fingers push gently through his hair and he lets his eyes slip shut, “I’m very close to a low power warning.”
“Okay… Shit, okay, uh. I’ll get the laptop. I’ll get the laptop and you’ll be hooked up to more RAM.” Hank nods, thinking of ways he can help. He tugs his robe around himself and ties it off, pulling himself from bed. “You stay right there, don’t get up without me. You can stay in bed all day if you want, I’ll bring you anything you need.”
Connor gazes at Hank in the morning sun, feeling something bloom in his chest, a thought on the horizon of his mind. It slips away, but he nods anyway. “Thank you, Hank.”
He’s back in record time, propping up the laptop on Connor’s bedside table and putting a packet of Thirium into his hands. He looks so pleased when Connor opens a connection to the laptop, diagnostics running and Connor using the banks. “Good boy.” He leans and kisses Connor’s forehead. “You need anything else?”
“Your wonderful cooking?” Connor asks, looking at Hank with a relaxed, lidded expression. He shifts his head on the pillow, tilting slightly to the side. “I’ve activated my stomach, Hank.”
Hank smiles, brow pinching in fond confusion, “Why is that sweet?”
Connor shrugs, soft grin wrapping around the nozzle of his Thirium pack. Hank squints at him, but moves around the bed to head back to the kitchen. Connor closes his eyes and clears his mind while he waits, shutting down taking more information until Hank returns. He can’t help the sinking feeling that furls in his chest, wondering… is this how he’ll have to live? Clumsy, needing to be assisted by loved ones and machines, never remembering the full breadth of his life? He tries not to work up tears again but it doesn’t go very well, punctuated by the way Hank’s face falls when he walks in the room.
He sets the tray on the bed after he’s settled, a plated stack of crepes surrounded by bowls of fillings. “Connor?” he says softly, brushing back the strands of his lover’s hair, “I even got the strawberries.”
Connor smiles distantly and opens his eyes, preparing himself for the information. “My favorite. You’re a gift to me, Hank.”
“Ah, come on.” Hank grins, shaking his head. He helps Connor sit up, packing pillows behind his back and neck. He thinks the most he can get Connor to relax will help with what he’s going through. “Tell me what you want on this and we’ll serve it up for ya.”
“The strawberries, obviously.” Connor hums, getting a laugh out of Hank. “Whatever else you choose.” He can’t focus on too many things, so he turns his attention to one thing. He watches those wonderful, big hands move so gently to make him a meal. Gentle in how he spoons strawberries and mascarpone onto one of the crepes, then skillfully folds it over itself with the ease of someone who knows what they’re doing. Hank slips a smaller plate out from under one of the bowls and uses a fork to start cutting the crepe for him.
“Here we go.” He lays a pillow over Connor’s lap and sets the plate there, hands him a fork that’s uncoordinated when taken. Connor can see the concern in his eyes. But he gives a smile and dollops each bite-sized piece with cream. “Breakfast in bed with my favorite android. Makes me wanna call in from work.”
It’s an opening for Connor to tell him to. He gives Hank a soft look, stuffing a bite into his mouth, “Nines is coming to bed for breakfast?”
Hank sputters with laughter, “You smart ass! Yeah, that’s why Nines wears a ring I bought him.”
“Oh? He only showed me the seven gold necklaces you bought him.” Connor jokes, grinning as he chews a chunk of strawberry and sips his Thirium. He eyes the ring on his thumb fondly.
“Damn, I’m such a good sugar daddy.” Hank sighs dreamily, making himself a crepe with banana and honey. Thirium drink spurts from Connor’s mouth when he laughs unexpectedly, and Hank pats it away with the edge of the blanket, through his stomach clenching so hard it hurts with a new round of giggling.
Hank presses a kiss to his temple, panting softly as they settle down. It’s easy to go back to breakfast, Connor working on his crepe and watching Hank make himself a few more. He gets caught up on Hank’s hands again, wishing they’d hold him again, wishing again again again… He gets caught in a loop of thinking, of longing even if Hank is less than a foot away. But he feels he can’t reach out, stuck somehow, his mind is so full he can’t hold on.
This isn’t the way it should be. There should be so much room for Hank, for the way Connor wants to take him in. There should be room for Connor himself to think and feel and not be trapped within a consciousness growing tighter to breathe in. Too many processes he can’t access, can’t stop, can’t handle. Weighed down so much he can’t even reach out for his lover.
“Hank.” his fork drops from his hand, numb and shaking, “Something isn’t right. I feel sick.”
Hank moves his plate and fork away, shifting to get a better look at him. Connor with wide eyes and expression twisted in unease. Hank goes pale with fear as Thirium starts to pool at the corner of Connor’s mouth. He grabs for him, dragging him across the sheets to get him up from bed. Taking him blanket and all, he hauls Connor across the hallway to the bathroom, just in time for breakfast to forcefully empty from Connor’s stomach.
“It’s okay… it’s okay.” he tries to soothe, rubbing slow circles on his tense back hunched over the toilet. He’s never seen Connor throw up before, and it’s not like a human would. Connor is all locked up, he would be still if not for the almost violent shaking. He doesn’t retch so much as gurgle sickly, but Hank knows he’s struggling to breathe. “Get it out, you’ll feel better.”
Connor spits and drags in a shuddering breath, sobbing, “Hank—” his exhale is too heated, telling the status of his processors and internal biocomponents. Another round of vomiting comes, but there isn’t much in his stomach anymore so it just hurts, trying to expel conversion fluid that’s meant to be there. He coughs raggedly, clutching the blanket around him, “Some— Something’s wrong. Something’s wrong.”
“What is it? Deep breaths, take a sec.” Hank moves over to wet a washcloth at the sink, kneels down to cup Connor’s cheek and wipe at his mouth. Connor’s LED is stuck red, his eyes looking weary and slightly far away. Hank’s blood runs cold but he braces himself. He has to be a sturdy place for Connor to lean. “Tell me what you need.”
“I need to be better than this.” He reaches for Hank but doesn’t make it, hands falling before he can feel the warmth of his body. It feels like ice. “It’s like… the garden. I’m being taken away.”
“What? No one’s taking you away from me. No one.” Hank holds him close when Connor can’t hold himself up.
“There’s not enough space left.” He whispers, needing to close his eyes. Exhaustion clings to every wire in his body. He’s not even aware when Hank takes him back to bed.
Hank reaches for his phone almost the moment it starts to vibrate, already intending to call someone. He goes to the closet while he answers, digging for clothes. “Chloe, hey. I—”
“There’s something wrong with Connor.” Chloe cuts in, worry strengthening her usually soft voice. “What’s happening? I know you’re with him. His readings are erratic.”
“He couldn’t move very well. He threw up. He’s…” he spares a glance back at Connor, borderline catatonic on the bed. “He said ‘there’s not enough space left’. You know what that means?”
“… I may. His corrupted memories aren’t staying dormant. They’re still trying to process.” she sounds distracted, “Years of information… that’s a toll on him no one was prepared for.”
“What do I do?” Hank asks, pushing down a flurry of questions. This is the only question that should matter.
“You should bring him here.”
“On our way.”
Chloe speaks just as he’s about to hang up, “Hank… this isn’t your fault.”
“Tell that to the damn memory of me that broke him open.”
Hank tosses his phone onto the bed and gets himself dressed quickly. He shows more care when he has to dress Connor, whispering to him that he’s here and it’s going to be okay. He wraps Connor in the blanket again and then gets his own shoes and coat on, leaving the front door wide open so he can open both passenger side doors of the car.
“Sumo, car ride!” He points out the door as he stomps back in, collecting Connor from the bedroom while Sumo bolts outside. He holds Connor to his chest and brings him outside, gently laying him down across the back seat. Connor looks like he doesn’t even know he’s been moved, vacant and asleep in a non-peaceful way.
Hank locks up the front door and gets them all secured in the car, Sumo boofing as they get on their way. Kamski may not like animals, especially not in his home, but he’s going to have to suck it up. He sighs and glances to Connor in the rear view, no change. He talks to Sumo to fill the silence, knowing dogs can sense when something’s off, “We’re gonna go see some friends, boy. How’s that sound? They’re gonna take good care of him.”
Sumo sniffs at an old burger wrapper and then pants up at him, laying his head on the passenger seat. Hank’s mind is running way faster than he’d like, gripping the steering wheel hard. It usually takes him a day or so after Cole’s anniversary to drive more than five under the limit, all waiting and careful turns. He can’t do that today, that’s not a luxury he really has. He goes faster and even thinks about turning on his hazard lights to get around people, all while pushing down the sick feeling roiling inside his stomach.
They pause at a few lights along the way and that’s when Connor starts coming around, groaning as they stop at another red. Hank watches him blink and squint at the sun on his face, the confusion that overtakes his features. He brow furrows and his LED spins an aggressive crimson, eyes blinking rapid and twitchy like it’s through pain. His voice is cluttered with static and distortion, “Han..k? …Wh-at’s going onn? Wher-r-re are we going?”
“Shh. It’s alright.” Hank tries to sound calm, but he knows his tone has a tightness to it. The light turns green and he takes the turn. Connor’s trying to sit up on his elbow, reaching for the front seat but having to give up. He curls in on himself, LED flashing trying to access his missing time. Hank’s fear skyrockets when Connor loses his breath and starts seizing again. He looks more aware this time, squeezing his eyes shut as he tries to hold onto the seat. “Oh, fuck. Connor! Connor, hold on.”
Sumo barks, shuffling up onto the seat and watching Connor a moment, before urgently scrambling into the back seat. “Goddamn it!” Hank yells, hitting the steering wheel. He knows they’re not going to make it all the way to Kamski’s. He punches at his phone and holds it to his ear, speeding slightly to get into the correct lane. “Markus. It’s Connor, he’s not doing so hot. Chloe wanted us to go to Kamski’s but… he-he’s not gonna make it. We’re five minutes away, I need—”
“Hank.” Markus’ voice is as calm as ever, getting up from his piano and reaching for Simon to relay what’s happening. “Say no more. Just get here safely.”
Hank glances back at Connor frantically throughout the drive, especially when Sumo whines or barks. He doesn’t know what’s happening inside of Connor, he doesn’t know if this is all for nothing, if he’s losing Connor right now and he’s wasting his time driving instead of pulling over to hold him in the back seat. God, he can’t do that again. He can’t do that again. He feels his stomach churn even as Connor goes still, swallowing down the lump in his throat, “Honey, talk to me if you can. Tell me you’re okay.”
It takes Connor forever to reply, shutting off his limbs for the ability to speak. Only a soft, shaky “Okay.”
Pulling up to the Manfred house can’t come soon enough. Hank slams into park and then he’s out of the car, coming around to shoo Sumo out and get Connor. Markus is meeting him as he steps onto the walkway, swiftly taking Connor from his arms without a word. It gives him time to close the car door and corral Sumo inside, as if he wasn’t following after Connor with distressed noises already.
Inside, it’s a bustle of people. Through the main entryway and into the living room, Simon is taking handfuls of wires and connectors Josh deposits into his arms, ferrying them to the studio. Carl is telling North where to “just throw that anywhere, it’s alright!” to make room for where they’re going to put Connor. She makes adequate space on a metal table, dragging it over near a plush chair and footstool from the living room, where Simon has been dumping their equipment.
Processors and generators and data banks, and even more shit Hank can’t really understand. He holds Sumo’s collar and tells him to stay after Markus has laid Connor in the chair, moving to help him peel the blanket away. Josh comes over with a taped section of thick wires and Markus starts untangling them, “Hank, will you get his shirt?”
Josh kneels down to plug in the wires Markus is working on, his voice trained like a true lecturer, “Can you tell me how long he’s been like this, Lieutenant? As specific as you can.”
Hank gets Connor’s arms out of the holes of his shirt and gently works it over his head, cupping his cheek after. He forces a smile when Connor looks at him blearily. “Like this, less than an hour. He had uh, a seizure in the car. He threw up his breakfast. He woke up this morning and didn’t know who I was for a solid minute… He was gonna attack me, I’ve seen the look.”
Josh can’t stop the look of concern from flooding his face. Hank feels almost faint, wringing Connor’s shirt between his hands, “Even I know that’s all bad, especially for him. But how bad? Is he gonna bounce back, like last time? Or— holy shit, is he gonna shut down? Josh? Is this—?”
Is this the end?
Markus settles a hand on his chest, “Hank…”
“He’s been here three fuckin’ years.” Hank can’t help the bite in his words, but it’s not for Markus and they both know that. “He should be more secure than this. He’s one of the most advanced people ever made, and one accident can take him here? That’s bullshit.”
“I agree. It’s bullshit.” Markus matches Hank’s lower tone, patting softly at his chest to reassure him, “Let us check him over.”
Hank sighs wetly, stepping back to give them space, “Just. Tell me what you find out as you get it.”
Markus nods, and then rejoins the others in setting up. Hank feels so lost, any of this is beyond his level of understanding and his skill. He can just watch as they all work, watch Connor potentially slip away. Sumo is at the door to the studio, gently whimpering and trying to look at Connor, upset when someone moves in the way. Hank reaches out to pet his head.
Carl quietly finds Hank’s side, gently resting a hand on his forearm, “Hank. You want a drink?”
Hank almost sobs, finding the strength to hold it back and nod, “Yeah. Yeah, fuck, thank you.” Carl moves into the living room with a small nod. He situates Sumo around to see Connor unobstructed so he quiets down, “Sit. Stay. Good boy, just let ‘em work. Connor’s okay. Your best bud’s okay.” He presses his head to Sumo’s and breathes for a moment.
When he joins Carl in the living room, there’s a very small glass of whiskey and a comfortable couch waiting for him. His instinct is to down the glass in one go, even raises it to his mouth to do it. Hands shaking, he remembers himself. Remembers Connor could need him. Remembers to hold the glass between two hands and sit down. Remembers Carl won’t give him any more. Remembers he doesn’t need this, but fuck, he wants it.
He exhales a slow, deep breath and leans back against the cushions. Carl’s regarding him with some kind of look, swirling around the liquor in his own glass. “If anyone can help him, it’s my kids. Elijah may be the… all mighty, stick up his ass creator, but they’re smarter than us. Sturdier than us too, Hank.”
He nods longer than he should, trying to find words. He feels like he should be doing something, but he knows in all honesty that he’s just not useful enough to do anything for Connor now. “I keep… I keep trying to remember when he told me all about himself. Faster, stronger, more resilient… My Connor, worth a fortune and running like he damn well knows it, too.”
“Sounds like a young man who’ll get through anything.” Carl tells him, taking a slow sip of his whiskey.
“Doesn’t it?” Hank looks at him, a sort of humorless smirk on his face. That’s what it was supposed to be. He always knew Connor wasn’t indestructible, knew there were limits, knew after the fact that there had been bodies in case Connor was damaged, no fixing up required. Shiny and goddamn new. Not an option after deviation. There’s only one Connor, one to experience the world and live and be loved by him. He just thought… they’d have longer than this. That Connor would get through anything, only his nightmares telling him the dirty truth. Seeing Connor on the edge of that rooftop making him face the facts he never wanted to consciously think of again. He finds himself looking into the middle distance, then at his glass. Softer now, “I can’t even think of what I’d do without him.”
Carl’s voice comes at him sharper than he thought it would, the man leaning forward in his chair, “Then don’t.” he pins Hank with a look, “‘Cause you’re not without him. He’s a room away and you love him with everything you got. Don’t you?”
Hank feels heat prickle at his skin, lungs squeezing as his body takes a sudden fight or flight over self-pity. He’s slamming down his glass because it’s the only thing in his hand, liquid sloshing but not spilling. “Of course I fuckin’ do. What’s that supposed to mean? You know how much I love him. For a while there, I loved him more than life itself. I’m gonna spend the rest of my life with the fuckin’ prick and fuck you for questioning it.”
He pushes up from the couch and moves around the furniture to stomp back towards studio. Who is Carl Manfred to insinuate he doesn’t love Connor? To ask him such a stupid fucking question like that? He’d give Connor a lung, a kidney, straight from his body if he needed it. He’s stepped out of his comfort zone a hundred times for Connor and he’d do it a hundred more times. He’s going to love Connor every single day for the rest of life and only wish he’d done it sooner. He’s going to marry Connor one day and make him so happy he could burst. He’s going to.
It’s a sobering moment he wasn’t aware he even needed. He slows to a stop after rounding a chair, shoulders dropping like a puppet with his strings cut. He’s going to. Not he would, because Connor isn’t somewhere he can’t reach. He’s going to, because… Connor is a room away and Hank loves him with everything he’s got. Doesn’t he?
Past the embarrassment that sears like a brand at the back of his neck, he turns just enough to lay his hand over Carl’s shoulder, heart hammering in his chest. He knows he owes more but it’s what he can voice. “… Thanks, Manfred.”
Carl eyes Hank’s untouched whiskey on the coffee table, grinning softly, “It’s what friends are for, Anderson.”
The detail doesn’t pass over Hank, either. The absence of it on his tongue even if minutes ago he wanted it like nothing else. He takes a breath and heads into the studio, shucking his coat to toss it over a few cans of paint. They’ve set up a whole network of machines on the table and floor, hundreds of wires splayed out, some bunched in groups and tied together. Markus is opening Connor’s stomach panel while Simon waits nearby with a packet of Thirium. North is configuring wires into a connector and Josh testing their strength with a tablet.
Hank rubs his hands together, “Okay, guys. What can I do?”
North shifts her gaze to him, hands not pausing. She runs three strong connections and one weak. “What do you mean? You should relax.”
“I know I’m old, but I know a thing or two. Give me a job.” He looks over all the equipment, over to Connor mostly unconscious propped up in that seat.
“Hank,” Simon holds up the packet in his hands, “Do you know how to set a direct Thirium line?”
Connor’s only ever needed it once before, after working three days nonstop on a tough case. Hank did it for him then too, hands drenched but happily so. He nods, coming over to take the packet and kneel down, “Yeah, I’ve done it for him before. Let me take that off your hands.”
“Do you want gloves?” Simon moves around the chair, already picking up something else to do.
“Nah. What’s a little blood between loved ones?” He forces a little smile, happy he has something to do and the knowledge to do it. He reaches into Connor’s belly with familiar ease, searching out a Thirium line. Markus’ hand joins his on the other side, snaking upwards into Connor’s chest cavity with a few wires. Hank hears clicks but focuses on opening a line, twisting the working connection closed before it can spill Thirium over his hand.
“You can barely see inside and you know what to do.” Markus comments, probably to make conversation for Hank’s comfort. It sounds almost fond too, like a compliment.
He thinks to last time he did this, coaxing Connor to relax and let Hank take good care of him. Connor had just wanted to keep working himself ragged until he made a breakthrough, but he sweet talked him, fingers pushed in deep, stroking his wires and tubes. All to make Connor moan and give in while he hooked him up like he is now, to get him back up to speed. He shrugs, guiding the packet’s nozzle to the line and screwing it in with care. “I know my way around.”
Connor’s body starts intaking the Thirium quickly, showing how much he really needs it. He moves his fingers over to encourage a few wires away from interfering with Markus’ hand. Markus takes a bundle of thick wires and begins attaching them to central power ports, “It’s admirable that you learned so much about him, when human partners sometimes won’t even do it for each other.”
“If you don’t know the ways you can help and comfort your partner, then why would you be in a relationship with them in the first place?” Hank levels with another shrug, nagging thought getting the best of him to reach up and check the steadiness of Connor’s pump regulator. It burns his fingers but he waits to feel the whirring, the rhythm he knows by heart all irregular. It feels visceral, the way it twists him out of shape so easily. He drags his hand back with a frustrated sigh. “What’s gonna happen next?”
“These are hooking him up to power on a more streamlined level. We get enough sustaining him, it might ease his suffering. I’m going to initiate an interface with him when he’s coherent, to see into him.” Hank inhales but Markus carries on before he can speak, “I know the risk. I spoke to Nines. That shouldn’t happen here, we have conduits for him to take from, whereas Nines made himself the conduit.”
Josh leans over to inspect the remaining wires in Markus’ hand, “Connect seven-A to the junction on twelve-B, and eighteen-W to Connor’s third inner port.” he watches the tick of Markus’ fingers following along, “North’s calculating the strength needed, we’re just about ready.”
“Ready now.” North says, straightening her back and looking away from the connector. She barely gives them a glance, going for the startup sequence so they don’t shock Connor’s body. The machines whir quietly, especially the generator, and she pairs with Josh to route the power to Connor.
Connor doesn’t move for a long moment. Hank starts to really panic up until Connor gurgles and adjusts his neck more comfortably, head rolling around to look at them through the slits of his eyes. Hank rubs Connor’s thigh with his clean hand, voice tender, “Hey, sweetheart.”
A soft hum leaves Connor’s throat, blinking slow at him. Markus’ hand slips into Connor’s, skin slowly peeling away, “Connor, will you share with me?”
“Mm… Markus?” his voice crackles, sounding like he doesn’t understand. “Where’m I?”
“You’re in my home.” Markus tells him, rubbing his thumb back and forth over Connor’s hand. He’s not connecting yet, his skin hasn’t even phased away.
“What?” he looks increasingly disgruntled, confused and realizing enough to be upset. His surroundings are coming to him fast and it’s too much. He shudders in a breath, gazing down to see his stomach open, “I’m… I’m cold. Why am I open? Markus, I’m cold.”
Hank grabs for the blanket, wrapping up Connor’s legs again. Markus stands up and pulls off his thick sweater, giving it to Connor without a second thought. He’s careful while putting it over his head and Hank helps him get Connor’s arms through, “Shh, it’s alright. You’re well taken care of. You’re on a direct line for Thirium and power, that’s why your panel is open.”
The ribbed wool of the sweater is heavy against him, warm from Markus’ body. He feels comforted, knowing he’d be shaking if he was able to. He tries to breathe steadily, “Am I dying, Markus?”
“No. No, you’re fine.” Markus soothes him, kneeling back down to take Connor’s hand, “Will you interface with me? Can I see you?”
Connor closes his eyes and his skin melts back, letting Markus in. Almost as soon as the connection clicks on, Markus reaches back for Josh with his free hand. Josh furrows his brow and nods, relaying the information, “Connor had to shut down use of his arms and legs. He’s having trouble communicating. His body is starting to malfunction at the absence of sustainable brain power… Oh.”
“Oh?” Hank asks, still trying to process the other things said. “That sounds like a bad ‘oh’. What’s worse than him losing his arms and legs?”
“The problems are spreading to the safe function of his Thirium pump.” Josh finishes hesitantly, running down notes on his tablet.
“It’s affecting his heart?” Hank chokes out. He instinctively reaches up and lays his hand over Connor’s chest. “Connor, christ.”
“He can hear you. He knows you’re here with him, it comforts him.” Markus tells him quietly, letting go of Josh’s hand.
After his long observation, Sumo whines softly and finally pads over, nudging Hank’s arm. He scratches his fingers through Sumo’s fur and their dog lays his head on Connor’s limp arm. “Yeah, we’re right here.”
“And Sumo.” Markus says, but the dog has no care other than his troubled owner. He’s quiet for a long moment, then gives a soft amused sigh. When he speaks again, it’s with Connor’s voice. “Sumo. You’re a good dog. I’m okay. It’s okay, boy.”
Sumo huffs and wags his tail, happy to hear Connor speaking to him, putting him at ease. Hank is past thinking android quirks like this is odd, although he doesn’t know if it’s Connor himself or Markus just speaking what Connor would say. Markus wades through Connor’s mind like deep water, valiantly making his way through even as it laps at his throat. What’s awake and aware inside of Connor is being squeezed into one corner, piled under all the errors and old information he doesn’t have the strength to process. He should, but there’s something holding him back, keeping him under.
He tries to access some himself but Connor starts to panic, process weighing down heavier. He doesn’t understand and initiates a diagnostic, searching through file after file. He shakes his head, sifting through temporary junk, clearing it for him. One won’t delete, creates fifty other instances of spam. “A stray error, and it’s using up all the power it takes to run his consciousness.”
“What is it?” Hank asks, not realizing Connor can’t feel him touching him on the knee while making an attempt to soothe him.
“It’s just a junk file. It’s even compressed. Filename begins with ‘stern’… Josh, can you see it?” He feels the confirmation come through even while Connor tenses up. He feels the panic as if it’s his own.
“N-No. No, no, no.” Connor forces the words, his stomach panel trying to close up. It can’t, the wires and Thirium pack acting as stoppers.
“Did you say Stern?” Hank confirms, almost incredulous.
“Yes?” Markus disconnects, feeling too uncomfortable and not sure the circumstances why. “Do you know what that is?”
“Jesus…” Hank leans up to cup Connor’s cheeks, seeing his bleary fearful eyes, “Connor, it’s alright. Breathe, don’t freak out. You’re right here with us.”
“Not this. Anything but this. Not her.” Connor whispers, voice static. This can’t be it, she was supposed to be gone. He got rid of her program, the garden was gone.
“Hank?” Markus urges, taking his arm to get his attention, “We need to know if we’re going to help him.”
North comes around the table and flicks Hank’s hands off of Connor, replacing them with her own. She holds Connor, fingertips brushing his jaw. Looking down at him, she sends comforting pulses and warmth through her hands to calm him. Her voice is smooth and just firm enough, carrying the perfect tone, “Connor. That’s enough, you know it’s not good for you. Relax now, everything’s going to be okay.”
“It’s the woman he told us about.” Hank says, taking Markus by the shoulder, “Amanda. The— I guess not the woman, technically? The program? The one in his head, Amanda. Her name was Amanda Stern.”
Markus’ face softens with understanding, then furrows in concern, “Oh. Oh, I see.”
“There’s gotta be something you can do. Right? Can’t you get her outta there?” Hank looks back to tears spilling from Connor’s eyes, but he’s completely quiet, breathing along with North.
“We have to try.” Markus nods. “But we might need help.”
Chapter 13: hello, who are you?
Connor finally knows the accident that damaged him, and the reason he couldn't regain his memories.
Minor characters mentioned or seen in this chapter:
Chloe, Echo Traci (the blue-haired Traci), Ripple Traci (the red-haired Traci), Amanda
This is the last chapter before the epilogue! I hope everyone enjoys this 💕
Within the next hour, Chloe and Echo have arrived, diving into the work immediately. They’re fine-tuning equipment while others mostly pitch in where they can. Hank stays in his corner, attaching a new packet of Thirium to Connor’s direct line when he needs it, holding Connor’s hand and holding it up so Connor can see when he kisses it. Simon has cooed after Sumo enough to coax him out of the room, no doubt to make him drink some water and have a walk.
Echo crouches in front of Connor with a kind smile. Her hair is still blue, pushed back from her face and cascading in an intricate braid. She wears less makeup than Connor remembers and tightly laced combat boots that are heavy against the floor. Connor knows wherever she is in the room and he’s so happy just to see her. She unfolds a tool while she speaks, “I’m going to detach your monitoring device. It’s just an accessory at this point.”
He nods, watching as she walks around him, “I can’t… remember. How are you?”
“I’m good, Connor. I got married, I got a house. I work mostly from home. Rip’s at home right now, tending to the bunnies.” she tells him, rolling his head forward so she can work on the mechanisms attaching the device.
Connor recalls some of it, eyes twitching as she pries at the device. “What do you do for work?”
“I’m a systems engineer.” the device comes away in her hand and she watches his skin glitch as it covers him back up. She chuckles softly, patting his cheek, “That’s why I’m here helping you.”
“Thank you.” he says, quietly, as he lays his head back again.
Echo smiles easily, “It’s what friends are for.”
Connor takes a shaky breath, thinking of all the kindness and care he’s been given. All his friends coming around him, wanting to help him. He looks to Hank, feeling his heart ache. “It seems like I have a lot of friends.”
Hank smiles and presses another kiss to his knuckles. It takes some time for the team to pinpoint the exact file through all the junk and decoys it spits at them. Like it’s malicious. No, like it’s protecting itself. They latch onto it after having to almost aggressively tax Connor’s systems, trying to forcefully delete it. It blinks out of existence only to show up in another place, as another file, and only retain the name ‘stern.??$8z’ after it’s settled.
By the second time they try, Connor’s sobbing. It’s all too much for him and he starts spilling apologies when it makes them pause their attempts. He pinpoints Hank’s voice through everyone and everything else, choking wet shuddering breaths as Hank holds him and he can barely feel it. Hank soothes him, resting their foreheads together, gray hair like a curtain for a moment of privacy. He brushes away the wells of tears, even catching one just before it falls, “It’s okay. It’s okay, Connor. You… How about you rest, huh? Go into stasis. Let them all figure it out while you put your feet up for once.”
“I-I couldn’t. I don’t want to leave you. I can perform efficiently for the rest of the time, I can.” Connor hiccups, looking like he very much can’t. He’s scared, and he won’t admit it. It hurts, and he won’t admit it.
Hank gives him a smile he hopes isn’t as broken as it feels, crooning to Connor so sweetly, “I know you can. But I also know how much you like to nap. Remember that nap we took, before the trees started changing color? We kept the windows open, and you’d just put fresh sheets down.”
“I don’t. Hank, I’m sorry.”
“It was the best damn nap we’d had in ages. You kissed me ‘til I was asleep, I remember. Think about it… you go to sleep and you think about it for me. You’ll do that for me, won’t you?”
Connor’s eyes flutter as he pulls up a stasis protocol, speaking slower while trying to take in the exact blue of Hank’s eyes, “You’ll stay with me? I like when you stay with me.”
“Of course I’ll stay with you. Wouldn’t dream of going anywhere. Go to sleep, honey. I’ll be here.” Hank encourages, willing back the lump in his throat while he rubs Connor’s cheeks. He watches him go, his eyes shut slowly and his face relaxes. He swallows hard and rests Connor’s head back against the chair. He knows there’s a good chance Connor may not have the strength to wake back up.
He buries his head in his hands, “Oh, god.”
Connor isn’t sure where he is.
He promised Hank he would go into stasis, but it doesn’t feel like it.
It’s a beautiful day.
He’s walking down the street, shoes against even pavement. The sun is shining, hitting his face with warmth when not hidden from things like trees and building canopies. He preens subtly in the sun every time, and next to him Hank laughs. And he gets swept up in it all so easy.
“Focus with me, Con.” he snaps his fingers to gravitate Connor’s attention, reading off a scrap of paper, “Place is up ahead. I know we’ve got the information but… you wanna be bad cop?”
“You play to my strengths, Hank.” He smiles, loving the way his head feels so clear, loving the way the sun filters through Hank’s hair. He wants to hold his hand but they’re officially on the job, so he easily saves the urge for later.
“I sure do, Lieutenant Connor.” Hank elbows him, giving a sly smile and a wink.
“I just made Detective five months ago, and only because I was working before. I’m not up for promotion that soon, please.” he rolls his eyes but smiles anyway, appreciating Hank’s confidence in his work to such a degree, “Nines isn’t even Detective yet, not until after he finishes the academy.”
“How’s that going for him?” Hank asks again, he always asks about it. He’s taken Nines in almost as easy as Connor had and it fuels Connor’s heart.
“It’s going well. Considering he was technically born ten months ago and demanded a job at less than two.” Connor feels pride well up in his chest. Even now, Nines is maybe ten blocks away, inquiring about their case because he was eager to help.
“You RKs, so efficient.” Hank says, his fingers brushing Connor’s as they walk.
Connor hums, basking in the compliment. “Oh, the ‘E’ word. Hank, not in public.”
Hank snorts, leaning close as they pause before the front steps of their destination, “I’ll save all my compliments for later tonight, then.” His eyes dart to Connor’s lips as he licks his own but he doesn’t lean in. Instead he walks up the steps and Connor stamps down his smirk to follow.
Hank’s fist connects heavy on the door three times, then he grimaces at the old, peeling paint he has to brush off his hand. It takes so long that Hank raises his hand to knock again, but then the door creaks open, their witness’ hazy blue eyes peeking out. Connor’s facial recognition confirms; Brendan Deers, age 32, charges for cocaine possession.
“Mr. Deers, I’m Lieutenant Hank Anderson. This is Detective Connor. We heard you might have some information on the shooting and car chase that took place three days ago. Got anything you can tell us?” Hank tucks his coat back slightly to flash his badge, voice light and easy going. The guy already looks spooked and sleepless.
“Uh.” Brendan starts, having to clear his throat. Hank’s tone works though, he opens the door slowly and holds the frame as he tries to maintain eye contact. “Yeah, I saw most of it? Uhm, was watching the game, came outside when I heard gunshots, watched the chick run to her car and book it out… she hit a mailbox.”
Connor keeps his voice firm, “It would do well to be specific, Mr. Deers. I believe you saw more than that.” Brendan Deers is a potential suspect, though a witness first. Connor can find a stress level, a pressure point, if he just presses down in the right way.
Brendan seems as though the heightened sound of Connor’s voice pains him, or at least annoys him. He grimaces, “Look, man, I don’t know what you’re talkin’ about. I was, y’know, startled when I heard the shots. I know my neighbors, I was worried one of them was hurt. I saw her—”
“Who?” Connor presses.
“The— Adison. Adison, uh…” Brendan struggles, swaying lightly. Hank glances towards Connor pointedly.
“Miss Williams?” Connor finishes for him, his hand coming up to display the woman’s mugshot.
Brendan nods eagerly, pointing, “Yeah, that’s Adison.” He blinks rapidly, then rubs at one of his eyes. “She uh— Miss Williams, she ran to her car and jumped in. Then—”
“She ran from where? Another car? A building? A backyard?” Connor leans forward in a calculated way, but this time Brendan doesn’t shy away. He seems more than annoyed, pulse steadily ticking up.
“Jesus, fuckin’ android man…” he bites, turning away slightly as he rubs at his eye with the heel of his hand. “Listen…”
“What game were you watching?”
“On the television that night. You said you were watching ‘the game’.” Connor reminds him.
Brendan lets out a frustrated breath, swallowing with difficulty, “The uh, the… the Gears.”
Connor gives Hank a look, and Hank starts for his cuffs. He eyes Brendan, “The Detroit Gears weren’t playing three nights ago, Mr. Deers.”
“Make this easy, step outside and we’ll get to the bottom of this.” Hank says, beckoning him out.
Brendan has his head down but when he looks up, he fixes Connor with a sharp look. His pale complexion has only flushed paler, and the white of his eye has filled with blood. Connor only sees the flood of blue as it starts. Brendan bares his reddened teeth and the veins in his neck pop. “Don’t. Walk the fuck away.”
“He’s overdosing on Red Ice.” Connor says, starting to pull preconstructions up as he verifies Adison Williams’ account of Mr. Deers being an addict and dealer, who she was seeing the night she committed her crimes.
Brendan doesn’t have anywhere to go, so he makes himself a place. He barrels forward and Connor’s preconstructions fizzle as the man goes for Hank. He reaches out to keep Hank from harm but gets elbowed in the chin, slammed back against the bannister of the stairs. Brendan rushes down the front steps with the help of his high and knocks Hank down them as he goes.
Hank tumbles down the concrete steps after unsuccessfully grabbing for the rail, knocking his head on the sidewalk when he reaches the bottom. Connor recovers quickly and his first priority is to confirm the safety of his partner.
But Hank flails a hand at him, getting purchase on the stair rail, “Go after him! Go! I’m alright.”
Connor doesn’t think twice about it. He turns and breaks into a sprint after their criminal, keeping eyes on him as he dodges a few people on the sidewalk. He can easily construct the right turn Brendan’s going to make from his gait, hits the same turn moments later, shoes skidding from the speed of his run. The drugs push Brendan’s body to the limit, making him a faster runner than he usually would have been. The high causes him to knock into people, makes him stumble. He almost gets hit by a car as he runs across an intersection. Connor follows, bellowing, “Detroit Police! Stay clear!”
Brendan frantically scales a fence when he sees a potential place to hide or evade Connor. It’s a three story building, some kind of business with wide doors for loading trucks. People exclaim as Brendan runs past, hopping up the loading platform and into the building. Connor flawlessly makes the hop up as well. His feet pound heavy on the ground as he works harder to gain on him. “Police! Mr. Deers, stop!”
The chase takes them through pallets of indistinct boxed product. Brendan topples boxes over to trip Connor up but he jumps over the remainder of them with ease, gaining space. Through a set of doors takes them into a stairwell and Brendan takes them two to three at a time, jumping wildly as he escapes up and up. Connor can hear him pant, and sees where he spits blood on a landing. The Red Ice is targeting his lungs. Connor can surely get to him.
With the end of the stairs in sight, Connor draws his gun as Brendan breaks through the roof access door. There’s nowhere for him to go and Connor steadies himself now as he slows, turning the safety off and pushing the door open. The sun bleached roof is spread out before him, heating and air conditioning units obscuring the flatness of it. His lungs feel the chase too, working to cool his components with all the adrenaline coursing through him.
He walks out onto the roof, trying to pinpoint footprints, possible hiding spots or means of escape, the heating units rule out thermal detection. The autumn breeze is cool on his face up high like this.
He only hears the steps a moment too late. He’s kicked from behind, sending him stumbling forward. He’s able to catch himself and swing his fist, connecting with Brendan’s cheek. They end up face to face, Connor opening his mouth to try and diffuse the situation. Mr. Deers looks terrible. His face is red but almost sickly translucent. His mouth is foaming slightly, the Red Ice has damaged something in his stomach. He looks at Connor with wild eyes, but Connor cares more about the gun in his shaking hand.
Brendan shoots almost the same moment Connor does, the gun vibrating in his hand. Pain tears through Connor’s chest and stutters his processes. He grits his teeth, looking down at the blue that splatters over his shirt as his vision pops red in damage assessments. It’s not going to kill him, but it’s significant damage that shocks down his arm and forces him to drop his gun. He looks back up at Brendan, who is shocked at his own bullet wound, growls taking up his breaths.
“Put your hands on your head, you’re under arrest.” Connor tries, but it looks like the words aren’t even registering. He blinks away a pump error, wires disconnected, loss of Thirium. It can wait.
Connor knows he’s in trouble when the growls from Deers grow into a full scream and he’s charged at, not enough time to get fully out of reach. Connor’s knocked right off his feet. His back hits the ground hard and he brings his hands up to shield himself as the full rage of Red Ice rains down on him, Brendan’s fists in a blind fit, not caring even when he hits the concrete roof beside Connor’s head. Connor takes the punches, pushing away alerts as each one pounds against his body, drags skin away from his face and arms. He calculates and finds a place to strike, jabbing his attacker in the ribs. He knows he cracks them. With Brendan’s howl of pain and distraction, Connor’s able to slip out from under him and stumble through errors to find his gun.
The problem is he never fully finds his footing. His arm is inoperable, hand with no motor function. He forces himself to move, just within reach of his gun at the edge of the roof. He hears Hank’s voice down on the street below, loud and out of breath, “Connor!”
He’s about to call back to him, he is.
Deers’ wretched screech drowns him out and he barrels into Connor like a linebacker with the last dregs of his high corrupting his mind and body.
They both fall from the roof.
Connor isn’t aware of the impact. He isn’t aware of much for a while. Then he’s blinking up into the blinding sun, tinted red by his glitching, pulsing vision. Hank is kneeling over him, white as a sheet with fear. His hands are covered blue when he reaches for Connor’s head. White noise bursts over his sensors, fuzzy and disorienting. He coughs and Thirium floods his mouth, “H… Hank?”
“Stay with me, Connor.” Hank barks at him, voice wavering. He thinks Hank’s hands are shaking.
He gasps for breath, something’s blocking him from getting air, something’s loose. His biocomponents are heating too quickly. The world is getting dim. “Hank…” The fear starts to set in. He’s badly damaged. He hit the ground from three stories up while already wounded. He can feel the breeze again - the cold sears him now, slices at him like a knife on the side of his head. Terror clutches at his thundering Thirium pump.
There’s another figure suddenly at his side and he looks up with wide, frightened eyes. Nines. A police car has rolled up, the blue and red light washing across Nines’ face as he tugs off his jacket. The movement disrupts his gray sweater, pieces of feathery fabric dusting up into the air. Doesn’t he know a cat with the same color fur? The same big, blue eyes? Nines presses his jacket towards him to halt the blood flow, aggressively reigned in panic on his face, “Connor. Can you hear me? Remain calm.”
He knows what this is now, what all those other dreams were failing to show him. He knows what this is. He just can’t stop reliving it. This is where he died.
“I’m scared.” He chokes, hands twitching, wanting to move. He doesn’t like where he is and he wants to go, he wants to run away from this. This isn’t fair. This can’t be what takes him away from his family. They just had Hank’s birthday last month. Nines isn’t finished the academy. He has promises to maintain, he has things to do. He can’t go now. He can feel his higher brain functions shutting off, a visceral feeling of loss. “Nines— Hank. I… I’m…”
Nines brings his hand to his mouth, fingers coated in Connor’s blood. Concern flutters Connor’s chest, wanting to tell him not to do that, he shouldn’t be doing that— No . Nines analyzes it and his face goes forcefully neutral, pressing harder on Connor’s head, “It’s brain fluid, too.”
“Jesus christ. Connor!” Hank’s started to cry as he presses down on the bullet wound but Connor can barely see his face, barely feel his hands. “Honey, please hold on. Please.”
Nines looks over them both, and makes his decision based entirely on emotion. He reaches with one hand to take Connor’s, pressing into an interface. Connor can’t help the stream of panic he sends Nines’ way, the love and apologies, he doesn’t have that kind of control anymore. Nines dips into directories as fast as Connor’s mind can get them to him, copying the data into himself. It starts well enough, but some connections degrade halfway to upload, leaving them both gasping. Nines tries his best. Connor feels with Nines’ entire being the unspoken feeling of ‘If I could take you with me, I would’.
Memory cascade in progress…
#________ K800 ? Attempt c____ /////
)Matrix Upload //: Unavailable
)Request *—%# ___ ???# ///// ×
MEMORY CASCADE IN PROGRESS _
RETRY. RETRY. RETRY. RETRY.
‘Connor,’ the feeling of Nines is so distant, ‘Connor! Connor? Stay awake! Stay awake…’
LOSS OF DATA. ERROR. ERROR—@×
The light is too bright. But it’s warm on his face and he leans into it. There’s a buzz of voices that comes to gradually, his hearing not at full capacity. He doesn’t open his eyes, he feels there isn’t a need to.
It’s Josh, he thinks. That’s the first voice he registers. “We got it. She’s locked in, there’s no escaping to a different file again.”
Hank’s voice feels like a balm against his ears, soothing some static. “Are you sure this time?”
“We have it pinned.” Echo’s sharpness informs. “This is the source of his inability to process. It’s taken over his corrupted memory like the junk files - like it can hide behind them. It’s using all the power it takes for him to run, by stalling his processes like that.”
Amanda. Amanda’s program. They’ve got her? He can’t feel anything. It’s like he’s floating on nothing, only tethered by the warmth of light on his face and their voices.
Markus sounds urgent, “Get rid of it. As long as it’s there, he can’t recover.”
Now he feels a buzz in his skull, but it doesn’t concern him. Chloe sighs, “We’re trying. But it’s not coming quietly. It’s deeply rooted in him; I mean, it’s kept his brain continuously attempting to load all three years of his life to correct the memory issue, just so it could hide. It’s stubborn, it doesn’t want to be deleted.”
Connor doesn’t know where he finds his voice, feeling the flutter of it in his throat, “M… Move her somewhere else.”
His fingers twitch, it feels like static on a television screen. “Please. Quietly… Move her away. She doesn’t belong.”
There’s a hushed conversation, it almost makes him sad. There’s too many voices to pick words from so none of it makes sense. Then there’s Hank’s voice, loud and frustrated, “Put her in a damn USB stick for all I care! He wants her out, I don’t care how you do it!”
The next feeling he can register is a large weight being lifted off of him.
Then thousands of processes cascading behind his eyelids at once.
It’s a blackout of all sensation, everything gone for a furious, reeling minute. He loses consciousness and comes back with a startling shock to his chest. A heavy hand is nestled over his heart, stray hair brushing his face.
Hank looks beautiful in the mid morning sun. It paints his skin warm and golden, eyes like the clearest ocean where he can see for miles unhindered. The curve of his mouth and the slope of his nose, the marks dotted into his skin and the gap between his two front teeth. Connor feels every part of him resonate on a frequency he can’t comprehend an end to. All these little details.
“Connor?” Tender. Longing. Connor preens, comfort in only the call of his name. The stray curl of Hank’s hair tickles his cheek.
“Hank.” he says, voice just a whisper. Hank shudders, nodding encouragingly. He basks in the look of him, meeting those soft eyes. His words come through slow, “Hank Anderson. Age fifty-five… loves rocky road ice cream, and is… afraid of birds. Sings to jazz records, even the instrumentals. Is… of an average talent.”
“Holy shit.” Hank’s breath catches.
The backs of Connor’s fingers brush Hank’s cheek, the warm texture of his skin. His own skin comes away without thought and Hank leans into it like he’s never been touched before. His heart swells. “Has a dog. Has an android… That’s me. I love you… I’ve never wanted to tell you as much as I do at this moment. I love you, Hank.”
Hank’s lip trembles and he turns to hide against Connor’s hand. He feels Hank’s tears roll down his chassis, in the crease of his thumb. He feels that heart, his favorite sound, beating so fast and strong. When Hank looks back up, his face is so bright, so pleased by what he’s seeing.
He’s seeing Connor.
Chapter 14: epilogue [nsfw]
Life goes on, happily.
This is the end!! Technically last chapter was, and this is a very smutty end to show that they're back to normal, and in love, and things are well.
Thank you to everyone who read this, and enjoyed it, and left comments. Every interaction was wonderful! I didn't think this fic would have such a supportive and wonderful response, I'm very excited that you guys are excited about it and the potential of more! 💕
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
As far as things go, it’s a symphony. A rustle of sheets, their jazz record still playing. The blood rushing in his ears, his heartbeat so thrilled he swears it thumps loud enough to be heard. His heavy breathing almost drowns it out, hitched sighs and groans as he twists on their bed. And Hank’s breathing, the shameless wet suckling noises he’s making down between Connor’s legs. He pitches forward to grab at Hank’s hair, propped up shaky on an elbow while his thighs tremble. Hank just sucks in pulses, dragging the flat of his tongue against him again and again, a moan tumbling out of his mouth that says he’s enjoying this as much as his lover.
Connor’s breath catches on a broken noise, thighs clamping down on Hank’s head as he shakes apart for the third time. His stomach clenches from the intensity, falling back against the bed with a loud grunt as his hips uncontrollably roll and grind. Desperate for the friction and slide of Hank’s mouth to the very end, pleasure tingling from head to toe in heavy waves. Hank doesn’t stop for anything, completely lost in it, groaning as he rolls his head to the side and sucks a faux mark into the crease of Connor’s thigh. Connor makes a softly wounded noise.
With his body pulsing like he’s run a mile, he comes down slow, panting up at the ceiling while both arms flop out against the bed. He swears Hank’s going to blow one of his circuits some day. He hisses at the scratch of Hank’s beard, his spit-slick lips and hot tongue as Hank eagerly works him into overstimulation. He whines and tries to wiggle up the bed but Hank’s tongue follows, flicking against his sensitive skin. His voice pitches up through gasps at the overwhelming, sharp pleasure that wracks his whole body, caught between too much and wanting to bear down into it just a little longer. He squeezes his thighs against Hank’s head and gets a foot under Hank’s arm, jostling him roughly as he rolls onto his side. He growls down at the shape of him under the blanket and Hank laughs as he admits defeat, resting his head against Connor’s thigh with his arm caught.
When Connor’s thigh relaxes and he’s able to move again, he’s tearing the blanket off of them with a hazy grin. He gazes up at Connor, stupidly in love and red faced, mouth and beard wet with his own spit. His voice is like gravel but his tone is upbeat, “Happy Revolution day, honey.”
“God.” Connor pants, rolling his eyes even with a big smile splitting his face, “That was appreciation.”
“Mm. A great big devotion to you being alive, again again.” He punctuates the last words with two more kisses to the sensitive, wet expanse of Connor’s bare mound.
“You devote yourself more every year.” Connor chuckles, reaching down to smooth Hank’s wild curls back.
“Sometimes a guy’s gotta bury his face in his android’s plates to remind him he’s worshipped.” Hank shrugs. He snorts out a laugh when Connor slides back all embarrassed and covers Hank’s eyes from seeing it, “Oh, sweetness! Having a little blush malfunction? Is it going down your chest? Further?”
Connor grunts a stifled chuckle at him, wiggling around to use up the pent up energy. He adores this one human to bits and it’s got him filled with butterflies. Hank laughs again, hand sliding up Connor’s belly, “Oh, it’s real bad, then!” he knocks two fingers near Connor’s bellybutton, “Why don’t you open up? Let me take a look, get my hands dirty.”
Connor’s skin almost phases away with the want to let Hank in. But he shakes his head and opens his legs, grabbing for Hank’s arms to pull him up, “No, you’ve serviced me enough.” Hank’s weight settling on top of him feels like heaven, the hot press of Hank’s cock along the seam of his thigh making him dizzy. As Hank whines and kisses over his regulator pump, Connor thinks of the word insatiable. He grabs for his discarded shirt and rubs away some of the spit from Hank’s beard, heart singing at those bright blue eyes looking down at him with love and patience. They share a small, slow kiss and Connor grins, “I think it’s your turn, Hank.”
Hank blushes. He presses his face into the crook of Connor’s neck makes an agreeable noise, basking in the feeling of Connor under him for a moment. Then he’s brushing Connor’s ear with his lips, “And how did you wanna do that, sweetheart?”
He draws his fingers across the expanse of Hank’s back, leading down the line of his spine, pressing his hands against muscle. They slide all the way down to grope the softness of Hank’s ass, shamelessly spreading and dipping in between his cheeks. Hank chokes and jerks his hips forward. He can feel the heat on the apples of Hank’s cheeks against his skin as Hank gently rolls back into his touch, shuddering a soft sigh. With precise accuracy, he spreads his fingers to catch on the base of Hank’s plug, get to where he has a grip to play with it.
“With my cock.” He whispers back like it’s obvious, smiling as he eases the plug out until the thick bulb teases Hank’s rim. The shaky ‘aah, ah’ it pulls from Hank’s mouth is beautiful. “The strap or the attachment, it’s yours to decide.”
Hank sucks a kiss into Connor’s neck, letting the plug be settled back in before he pulls himself up on his hands and knees. He looks down at Connor’s crotch, curling his fingers around his hip. “God. Gimme that plate.”
Connor laughs, turning his head away as he gives in to that request. The skin draws away over his groin and he unpairs his flat plate from his body. It clicks with the mechanisms unlocking and Hank takes it in hand, sparing a glance at all the fluttering lights and sensors underneath before stumbling up from bed. Connor yanks the blanket up over himself to combat the loss of Hank’s body heat, arching his head back to watch Hank excitedly go through his biocomponent box.
“I know what you’re thinking.” Connor sing-songs, seeing Hank stall. Hank just blushes deeper along his chest. He chuckles and reaches an arm out of the blankets, “You can play with my vagina after this, it’s your turn.”
“I get off whenever you get off.” Hank says, picking up Connor’s dick and leaving his blank plate on the nearby chair to get cleaned later.
“You don’t climax every time. You just like being told you’re good.” Connor teases, squinting at Hank but loving the way he looks so thrilled to be bringing the biocomponent over.
“Am I good?”
Connor melts at the soft, simple question. He takes the blankets away as Hank lowers onto the bed again, “The best, my love.”
Hank’s eyes flutter and he hums, feeling Connor’s earnest tone all the way into his bones. His stomach is tied up in excitement, arousal, all pent up and on edge. He spreads Connor’s thighs a little wider to lay back down between them, sighing as his cock drags against the sheets. He’s made a slightly damp spot by rutting into it earlier while bringing Connor off the first few times. Connor watches him level himself with his crotch, adoring the soft panting and intensely steady hands, the way Hank looks when he knows the cock he’s installing with his own two hands is the one he’s going to have inside him. He loves watching this happen every time.
He sighs as Hank curls a finger around his connection tube, guides it out just enough to snap and twist it into place at the base of his cock. Then he gently settles the base against his body, clicking it into place. Connor greenlights the interface and pairing sequence, and Hank’s pressing a wet kiss to his soft cock even before the skin can flow over it. He snorts and threads his fingers through Hank’s hair, “Won’t waste a second, will you?”
“Nu-uh.” Hank mumbles, dragging his lips against Connor’s inner thigh. He tucks his thumb under Connor’s balls and glances up while he lays a sloppy kiss against his sac, then up at the base of the shaft. Connor’s already getting hard, all those sensors still active even if the attachment is switched. “I’m slutty, Connor. You know that by now.”
Connor can’t help but tease, gathering hair into a fist at the back of Hank’s head, “Oh, say it again.”
Hank flushes and tries to stamp down a grin, “I’m slutty, sweetheart.”
Connor laughs and guides Hank back up again, shaking his head just before he pulls him into a kiss, “I love hearing how you describe yourself, my love.”
“I’m not kidding! I used to take slutty photos and everything in my day.”
He nods between licking into Hank’s mouth, kissing his swollen lips. “Mhm. Mhmm…” He reaches down and takes Hank’s cock in his hands, gently working the foreskin and massaging the base. Hank’s fingers dig into the sheets and his thighs quake, goosebumps rippling over his arms.
“Mm— No, I swear! It-It was me in a shitty apartment, but I had a big bay window. Perfect light for showing off my nipple rings. Even posted some online.”
Connor stalls. He looks up to Hank’s face and immediately starts his search. Hank whines and rocks his hips into Connor’s hands, desperate for touch now that he’s getting it. He sees Connor’s LED flicker yellow and taps his finger against it, “Hey! Hey, don’t go looking now. Connor. Connor, honey…”
“You should have your piercings put back in, Hank.” Connor tells him, eyebrows high and mouth hanging open. He twists his grip, the wet head of Hank’s cock rubbing along the soft crease of his thumb. He eyes Hank’s chest hungrily, wondering wildly what kind of jewelry Hank once had.
“You think so?” He moans, hips gyrating. He drops down onto his elbows and Connor gasps over the tickling brush of his belly.
“Absolutely. I’ve inquired about appointments.” Connor breathes, feverishly kissing Hank’s cheek and neck.
He sputters and feels Connor’s cock twitch and leak against his lower belly. “God. Baby, just fuck me. Can you just…? Connor, fuck me—”
Connor purrs deep in his throat and tightens his hand, stroking Hank right at the sensitive tip. Hank almost buckles under the sensation and he grins, stretching up to kiss him sweetly, “I can do that for you now, yes.” He drops Hank’s cock and wiggles his hands out from under him, taking hold of his hips.
Hank sits up and reaches back, eagerly working the plug out of himself. He tosses it off the bed and lands with a soft thump onto an old shirt. He presses his knees to either side of Connor’s hips, bracing a hand on Connor’s belly to balance himself. Connor grabs for the lube across the bed and spreads some over his fingers, shivering in warm anticipation. He slips his hand between their bodies and finds Hank’s loose hole, sinking two fingers in full.
Hank throws his head back and groans, rocking down into his hand. His torso shudders as he drags in breath, thighs widening instinctively while Connor directly presses on his prostate. “Ah, fuck…”
“Yes, Hank?” Connor whispers, eyes lidded while he watches his lover get caught up in pleasure. Moments like this don’t happen often, Hank tries to always have some balance of control over himself. Connor cherishes each time he can make Hank give in and let himself feel without making sure Connor’s feeling the fullest extent too. He thinks he might be testing his luck on breaking the moment when his hand glides up Hank’s body, getting a handful of his chest. But he can’t help himself.
“You know.” Hank whispers back, strained. His own hand comes up to cup the side of his chest Connor isn’t, taking deep breaths. “Ah, god, that’s so good.”
Connor slows for a moment to push a third finger in, Hank’s body closing around him tight before relaxing again. He can better pressure Hank’s prostate for more like this, shivering with the image of Hank spread out for him. “You look gorgeous, baby.”
Hank blushes dark and shakes his head, shakily laughing, “Goddamn it.” Slightly wild eyes search out the lube and he lifts himself off Connor’s fingers, hands shaking now that he’s so keyed up. He’s going to be embarrassed but immensely satisfied if he comes as soon as Connor’s cock is in.
Connor sits up on an elbow, thinking he’ll slick himself up and they can get the show on the road. But Hank takes care of it for him, drenching his cock in lube and stroking him with a nice tight hand. It’s entirely too much lube and it slips over Connor’s hip, down between his legs. He holds back an amused huff, barely. “Hank!”
“Don’t care!” Arousal shudders through his pelvis and anticipation thunders in his chest. He lines Connor’s cock up with greedy hands and guides him in, breath catching at the amazing stretch. The tip slides in fully and he closes his eyes, taking a long moment to stay there and try not to be too loud when he moans, drawing out all his words. “Oh my god… Connor…”
“Mm, I’m right here.” Connor squeezes his forearms and draws his hands up his biceps, across to squeeze and teasingly pinch at his chest. He lays his head back against the mattress, giving a soft moan with Hank clenching around him, gyrating his hips. “Take it slow. You feel so good.”
Hank grunts, pleasure tingling up his spine as he slips heavier onto Connor’s lap. All the lube and previous prep has him taking Connor’s cock smoothly, only hitching when it feels too good and he has to pause. When he’s fully seated he braces his shaky, slick hands on Connor’s chest and sighs. Connor’s hands knead at his thighs, soothing him while stimulating his own fingertips. He works up enough to brush Hank’s cock and he whines, fingers stuttering on Connor’s chest, “God— don’t. I’m gonna come, hold on.”
“I will stimulate you for hours.” He wraps his fingers around Hank’s cock anyway, tightening his grip just enough to keep Hank steady. As an afterthought he cradles his balls too, leaving Hank to gasp and squirm.
“Honey, I’m—” He moans, squeezing Connor’s chest enough for the skin to melt back. His fingers dip into the indent of his regulator and Connor forces his hips to stay against the bed. Precome drips down onto Connor’s lower belly and his skin comes away there too, stopping just above his pelvic bone. Connor shudders hard. Hank groans, leaning over him, “Oh fuck, you look so pretty.”
“So do you, my love.” Connor flushes, smiling while he takes in Hank’s red cheeks, the light sweat gathering at the back of his neck. The darkness in his eyes and face mostly slack in pleasure, except for the pinch between his eyebrows. He admires Hank’s bashful expression as Hank cups his cheek, then he's being kissed, both of them breathing a heavy sigh at the change in angle. Connor revels in his arms being trapped under the weight while Hank’s tongue explores his mouth, coaxes slow moans from his throat.
He arches his hips up against Hank at the sensation of teeth against his bottom lip, hearing his human whine right into his mouth. “Hank,” he whispers, accepting the kiss that isn't much more than their lips brushing haphazardly. “I want you to feel good. I want to see you. I love you, go on.”
Goosebumps rise over Hank's skin and he drops his head into the crook of Connor's neck, nosing at his collarbone, “I love you. I love you.” he puts one hand in Connor's hair, loving the texture of the strands between his fingers. He takes a deep breath, that has Connor moaning, and slowly rolls his hips, grinding back on Connor's dick.
“Yeah…” Connor encourages, pressing his face into Hank's messy hair, “That's good, Hank. You're so gorgeous, you know.”
He feels joy shudder up his spine, lay a blanket of warmth over his neck and shoulders, pool in the bottom of his gut. He smiles, squeezing his eyes shut while he huffs, “Sweetheart.”
“I can never have enough of you.” Connor whispers, thinking back to when he barely had scraps of Hank to hold onto. It gives new perspective on Hank's place inside of him, inside his heart.
Connor sounds so reverent, every praise and token of love twists him up in the best way. It works into him like nothing else can or ever really would. He pushes up from his elbow to look at Connor's face, his soft face, those dark brown eyes he always falls into. God, he’s so far gone. They both are. They both know it. He runs the backs of his fingers over Connor's cheek before he sits up, and Connor's lips press to his fingertips.
He groans under his breath, Connor's hands adjusting on his dick to give him a good squeeze. He takes him by the wrists to move him off, slotting his fingers between Connor's. He wants the anchor of both Connor's hands clasped in his own when he moves his hips. It feels like heaven, gently working himself on Connor’s cock, seeing the way Connor’s face goes slack with bliss. It works him up too easily, knowing he’s making Connor feel good. It only increases his enthusiasm and has him gasping as he allows himself to land a little heavier on Connor’s body.
“God, yes.” Connor whispers shakily, pushing his hips up just in time for Hank to press him back down into the bed. He groans and squeezes Hank’s hands, meeting Hank’s eyes with so much love. “That’s good. So good. Hank, is it this amazing for you, too?” Hank drops down onto his dick, forcing Connor against the bed as their skin slaps together. “—Oh, fuck!”
“Like that, honey? There?” Hank pants, seeing the skin on Connor’s hands give way to bare chassis. Connor’s hips tilt and Hank gasps at the unexpected slide directly over his prostate, “Connor! God, fuck…”
“I want you to come.” He says firmly, like he's already decided when and where and just how he's going to do it. And Hank knows, he probably has. He bears down and rocks his hips, leaving Connor shuddering at the combination of sustained weight and warmth. When he pauses to let himself breathe, Connor starts working his hips, fucking up into him with soft pants and grunts. “Hank…”
Hank’s thighs squeeze his hips, hand coming away to brace against his lower belly. He can feel Hank’s fingerprints perfectly against his chassis. His thundering pulse is all around him, he wants to see Hank come so badly. He knows it's going to be a good one. He reaches up and presses his hand over Hank's heart, rolling his hips up with a shivering moan. He trails his hand down, giving a pinch to his chest and rolling his left nipple. Hank gasps and his body coils in such a delicious way. He scratches softly along the hair on Hank's belly and rolls his hips, coaxing a groan out of him.
He brings their hands up and presses a kiss to Hank's knuckles, before he sinks all ten fingers into Hank's love handles and presses him down on his cock. Hank wails, quickly covering his mouth, “Connor! Fucking shit!”
Connor moves Hank’s hips for him with ease, laughing as he presses his head back against the sheets, “You're so good, Hank. You're so good.”
“Ah, fuck—” Hank scrambles to hold Connor's arms, moaning loudly as his orgasm rushes over him. It has him quaking in Connor's lap, cock pulsing and then spilling over Connor's stomach. It's intense and he rolls with it, the tough grip of Connor’s hands just making it that much better. He knows he's loud, moaning on every breath and stuttering on those breaths. He almost gives himself a leg cramp tensing up his thighs.
Connor hisses softly, turning down his sensors a few degrees to enjoy the full scope of Hank's orgasm. He thinks it's beautiful; the lack of control and feeling the way Hank's body contracts around him, how Hank's eyes flutter and his breaths go deep but strained. The flush down his chest, the heat coming off him, the way he twists with primal, pleasure seeking instinct. Connor loves it all. Hank's grip on his forearms loosen and his hands trail up as his body comes down. He shivers in anticipation of Hank's weight settling on top of him.
Hank's hips hitch and stutter in small, unconscious circles, blanketed over Connor's front with him still buried inside. He sighs, Connor's hands squeezing his hips, down over his ass, and kneads the backs of his thighs. It feels so good, he lets out a weak moan and turns his head to land a smooch on Connor's shoulder. Connor's hands trail up his back, pressing into muscles, “Oh, that was beautiful, Hank.”
“Mm.” He settles his face into the curve of Connor's neck, tired and bashful and feeling sweetness curl in his gut while sleek bare hands dig into his shoulder blades.
“Exactly what I wanted.” Connor sighs dreamily, gathering Hank's hair up at the back of his head. He makes a fist and holds it all secure, getting a little whine out of his lover. He grins to himself and holds around Hank's back, hips close as he rolls them over on the cool side of the bed.
Hank makes a squawking noise and shivers at the change, the sheets against his back like a cool wave breaking over him. He feels euphoric completely relaxed under his lover, panting softly as he gets his bearings, “Oh fuck, I’m dizzy.”
Connor hums, pressing lingering kisses to Hank’s slack mouth. He cradles Hank’s head and rubs his cheek with glowing fingertips, “It was a good one, wasn’t it?”
Hank’s giddy smile makes his heart sing, the soft nod and gentle hands brushing his sides fuel him with warmth. He dips down and kisses over Hank’s heart, slowly sitting up. He trails his hands over the curves of Hank’s body, wanting to say so many loving words. Ones that he knows Hank will laugh and turn and twist away from, all too bashful. He settles on giving a soft moan and rolling his hips, gently shifting his still hard cock. Hank gasps, eyes rolling back. He leaves his legs open and Connor shivers, starting to shallowly thrust into his body. He turns his sensors back up but still focuses on Hank, moving to stimulate him.
He goes slowly, gives time until Hank’s breathing has evened out again to grasp for his almost softened cock. He stays gentle and glides himself against Hank’s prostate, both hands working his cock while Hank whines, “Connor, jesus. Fuck me, you—”
“I am, my love.”
Hank huffs, clenching down. It only squeezes Connor against his walls and makes it feel better. He groans, tucking his chin to his chest to see Connor's body, “Yeah! I just mean…”
“I want you to orgasm again.”
He says it so breathy but firm enough that Hank feels his whole body tingle, like he always does when Connor wants something from him like that in bed. Because Hank always wants to give it to him. It’s always reasonable and good and Connor may have a thing for praise but goddamn, so does Hank. He growls low and it tapers off into another whine while Connor plays with his balls and dips low to rub at his rim. “Baby, I-I don’t know if I got it in me.”
Connor turns those big brown eyes on him, letting his soft wet lips part on a quiet groan as he buries himself to the hilt. “Baby, I know you do.” he whispers, feeling Hank twitch in his hands, “I remember you’re always so enthusiastic when I build it up the second time. I love how your body works.”
Hank drapes his arm over his eyes and slowly cups his own chest, fingers seeking out a nipple. It makes Connor wait with bated breath until Hank’s voice comes low and indulgent, “I’m such an old fool for you. Fuck me, come on.”
Connor doesn’t need to be told twice. He adds more vigor with his hips, meeting Hank's thighs every time he thrusts. It feels so good, his back arches slightly while his hands fumble to give Hank all their attention. He probably won't get Hank past being half hard but that doesn't matter, he can still come. He just wants to work one more out of him, their whole night catered to Connor because of the holiday. But Hank deserves a little attention too, and a very good night's sleep. He uses a gentle grip to stroke him, careful not to overstimulate, but to work him up slow so when he's close he's close, past the point of no return. He craves it more than his own release.
Hank reaches for him, guiding him into a deep kiss. It's slow and Hank moans quietly into it, sounding above the clouds. Connor can't help but smooth his hair back, to kiss over Hank's red cheeks and closed eyelids while he catalogs every point where their bodies are meeting. The heat when their mouths brush. Hank’s arm squeezing around his shoulders, telling him he's right where he's wanted. Being held on top of Hank's chest, each of them feeling each other's heart beating. The soft wiggle of Hank's belly against his own, the hair making the equivalent of goosebumps run over his circuits. Hank settled in his lap, hips tilted up for the best angle they could manage. His cock buried inside him and his hand rhythmic in the small space between them, switching up the pattern the moment Hank settles into it. It's working him up again, each twitch coming with an almost indignant moan, like he's not supposed to feel this good this soon.
“I love you.” Connor whispers against his cheekbone, hips starting to lose pace. He's not perfect, approaching a fourth climax will do that to a man. Hank doesn't seem to mind, moreover, it spurs him on.
“I love you, too. Connor, so much…” He pants softly, hands shaking where they smooth down Connor's sides. “I wanna be in you.”
Connor slows, only a little, nuzzling his beard, “How, baby?”
Hank huffs bashfully at the name, then tries to shove his hand between them, “The panel.” he leans up to brush their lips, groaning into it, “Please? Let me touch you.”
Connor almost loses it there. Hank, so tentative when he asks, always encouraging Connor to show as much of his inhuman self as he wants. Hank will be there with searching hands and a soft heart to learn and love every part. He sits up and Hank hastily wipes come off his belly for him, then his own hand on the sheets. He closes his eyes for this, letting the motions and anticipation hold him.
>> Fingerprint identification confirmed
> Opening configured panel
// Stimulus detection: high ^
Connor shivers, his body opening up for Hank so easily. He’d be embarrassed if he didn't find it so stupidly tender and arousing. Hank's fingers press into him slow, and Connor answers his shuddering moan with one of his own. “Oh, Hank…”
“I love you.” Hank whispers, stained as his hips twitch. His fingers are jostled slightly with the movement of their bodies but he knows it's not going to take much. His fingers seek out feathery-thin wires, the nice neat bundles in rows next to each other. He bumps numerous others on his way, stroking his fingertips on a connector port, gliding some sheathing with the back of his hand. Connor chokes on a yelp, fingers digging into Hank's inner thigh as he fucks him harder, percentage ticking up drastically.
“That's it.” Hank murmurs, losing his breath again and again at the dizzying stimulation. His body feels tense and loose together, head spinning as Connor sloshes Thirium onto them from his open panel. “Fuck, honey. That's hot… Almost there…”
He's up to his wrist and he finds his mark, rubbing against the line of wires like guitar strings. He knows Connor likes that, but he also likes when he adjusts his hand just a little, so his knuckles brush a sensor net nearby. Connor writhes and Hank drops his head back, feeling his body clench down hard. “Oh, fuck— Oh, shit. Connor…”
“I love you.” Connor's trembling almost as much as he is. “I wouldn't be here without you. I wouldn't be deviant without you. I love you.”
He pushes himself up on his elbow to be able to kiss Connor, softly declaring all his love between his lips. They shake when they come, Connor first with an almost sob against his cheek. His body rolls and his voice glitches when he groans, his insides tingle against Hank's fingers. Hank follows immediately after feeling Connor inside him, choking on a “fuck” as he comes mostly dry but intense enough to fuck up the feeling in his legs. He shudders against Connor for a long second even after the hand is off his dick, and they both collapse.
Hank gently wiggles his hand out of Connor, shushing away his soft whimper as he follows the panel shifting closed with his fingers. In turn, he makes a broken noise when Connor slides out of him and receives small hums and kisses to quiet him. Connor slips off to the side with a heavy thump against the mattress, hand gently coming to rest on Hank's messy belly. All of Hank is really a mess at this point; sweat and come mixing with a gush of Thirium on his lower belly, dripping down between his thighs where he's completely wet with lube and more come, all smudged by Connor's body. Hank undone is a piece of art Connor always longs to see.
He smooths some of Hank's wild hair back, the feeling of a far off shiver through his entire body at the way Hank tips warmly into his touch with closed eyes and a blissfully soft face. Like his touch is a solace. Hank's hand gently finds his knee, fingers walking along his skin. He's still catching his breath, “Connor.”
“Happy Revolution day… Happy anniversary, of the day I came home.” Connor murmurs, lips pressing soft to Hank's brow.
Hank opens his eyes, seeing the gently strobing light of Connor's LED as he comes into focus. The darkness of his loving brown eyes. He leans up to press a kiss to his lips, slowly rolling onto his side. “Mm. I'm so happy you came home. So happy you came home.”
Connor flops back and smiles, idly licking the Thirium from Hank's fingers. He spins Hank's ring on his finger. “Well, you're in luck, Hank.”
“Oh boy, don't I know it.” He presses a kiss to Connor's bicep, “But go on. Why?”
“I'm going to come home every time.” Connor smiles, seeing Hank return it beautifully in the glow from his LED. He melts with him into the mattress and Hank's thumb rubs at his chin. He brings it up to his lips and he can feel the beats of their bodies as they gradually sync.
I feel like, after some feedback, it seems like I might be writing more for this AU. So I'm going to put this fic in a series, and people can subscribe to that to see any spin-offs or sequels or what have you. 💕
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