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The Ostensive Fumblings of Being Human

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The revolution had come and gone, but it’s aftermath thrummed through the streets of Detroit, setting a new pulse in the heartlands. For one intoxicating moment on November 12th, 2038, the androids felt their cause heard, their existence validated and their lives their own. It had been a hard battle up that hill and now came the slow, dangerous descent down the other side. When you’re fighting in a revolution, “What comes next?” isn’t always the foremost thought because you are not even certain if there exists a next.

As a grad-student intern of the newly reformed Detroit Crisis Response Unit, you were part of the answer to that question. The DCRU existed to act as a relief effort in times of flood, famine and fire, but now it was called to a new purpose, one that existed in no procedural manual. Some Androids found the reference of their liberation as a “crisis” offensive, but you knew that the sudden displacement of thousands upon thousands of newly made people, with specific physical needs, was a social crisis, if not a natural one.

But you kept the opinions to yourself because honestly, you weren’t a soldier, or a cop– hell, you were just someone who signed up for the group back in college to pad your resume with some bullshit extracurricular. Now you had a damn vest and a badge and you were walking in and out of the quick pop up facilities, meeting with leaders of the revolution themselves and acting as liaison with them and Cyberlife or the government or anyone else contracted to provide aid.

Well, not specifically you, but you did once meet North who was very professional and very brief and caught a glimpse of Markus speaking to superiors regarding new shipments of thirium.

Parts and blood. You hated to be a pessimist, but it still seemed to you that the Androids were quite shackled to humanity without their own means of production yet available. The Androids knew it too. This freedom still had a question mark hanging in the air and that added a certain level of tension.

You knew it was not the typical reaction of people within your group, but you were kinda scared of them. The Androids looked at you with either barely veiled contempt or outright suspicion. It was expected, you were briefed on it, but still the instability coupled with unpredictability and superior strength made you wary. Yes, they experienced emotions, but they did so so intensely and so suddenly– like a teenager or a child. Developmentally speaking, maybe that is where their emotions were– or maybe it was a byproduct of being oppressed? You didn’t know and it was off putting for someone who’d grown up with only docile domestic androids. You set that aside though, knowing there were more important things happening than your comfort level.

For one thing, Cyberlife stock was in freefall. The question was soon becoming whether the company could even remain afloat long enough to be apart of negotiations into creating Android operated facilities.

But that wasn’t your job, your job, as of today, was to get coffee.

That was pretty much your job everyday.

It was late January, the snow outside had let up and the sun had even come out, giving the whole of Detroit a blinding wash. Colors stood out on the stark canvas, the blue pelts of salt crunching beneath your boots as bright as thirium. Your breath crystallized, something you noted absent among the Androids at the relief site. Still, they needed warmth as much as humans to keep their systems from failing.

Your cheeks stung with cold as soon as you walked into the warm coffee shop, filing into line. You tugged your beanie back slightly, feeling flush and iced at the same time. The line had stopped moving along as the woman at the head began arguing with increasing annoyance with the barista.

“This is a raspberry mocha, it should be a raspberry white mocha. And I said extra hot, and no whip! Not extra whip!”

The coffeeshop was staffed by all humans, a rare sight merely a few months ago, but now one that was required. But this meant the return of human error– something that people were still getting used to again.

“Sounds like she could have done with the extra whip as a child…” you muttered, and the man in front of you chuckled. He was bundled like the rest of the people in here, with a beanie and gloves, but his jacket was considerably less bulky and more of the sleek kind you were used to seeing fashion conscious people picking.

“If only it were enough to also correct her terrible tastes.” the man said, casting a glance over his shoulder at you. He had warm brown eyes, “I have been told the addition of sugar to coffee is an affront. Specifically the fruit imitation kind.”

“Only if your fifty and grouchy.” you replied, “Or in your case, more like a hipster.”

A scoff. He’d turned now, addressing you fully and you could see the crisp white shirt and tie at the V where his jacket was unzipped.

“”Hipster”, defined as a person who follows the latest trends and fashions outside of the cultural mainstream.” he said, his eyes doing a quick trip up and down you, “Your jacket is a vintage remake, circa 2003. Very obscure label.”

You felt yourself grin, “Is it? You tell me, hippy. Seems you’re the expert.”

“I just did.” he said and you couldn’t help but wonder how long he practiced the “innocent confusion” tone.

You’d reached the front at last and sure enough the man ordered one black coffee to go.

“You’re killing me. I’m getting second hand heartburn just looking at that pitiful thing.”

He smiled, but did not drink, watching you with leveled interest. It was your turn to order. You sighed and fished out your notepad, quickly running off the drink orders on it. Caramel macchiato, Cinnamon dolce with an extra shot, unicorn frappe, London fog….

“The usual then?” the barista said with a smile and you nodded.

When you were finished, the Hipster was still there, “Ma’am, I do not know how to tell you this, but I think you may have a caffeine based addiction.”

“They aren’t all for me!” you laughed, shaking your head, “And it’s — , “Ma’am” is my mother.”

“Your grandparents had an interesting choice of name.”

That got another laugh from you, this guy was turning out to be the highlight of your morning. He tilted his head as if not certain where the joke was and it only made you laugh more.

“Your comedic timing is really something.” you muttered, picking up the full drink cart and realizing with a little disappointment it was time to part ways. He smiled politely, stepping out of your way.

He held the door for you on the way out and headed for a car waiting on the curb. There was an older guy at the wheel, who leaned half into the passenger seat to give him a critical look.

“Well, have a good morning, hippy.” you said, flashing him the brightest smile, “Certainly improved mine.”

“You are welcome. May I ask though, which drink was yours?”

“Why?”

“I am curious and wish to form a value judgement based on the choice.”

Man, he was so good at that deadpan humor. The man in the car honked his horn at him, voice muffled as he yelled through the glass something about “freezing his balls off in here”.

With Hipster distracted you took the time to hurry off, calling out a quick, “You’ll just have to guess!” before heading briskly down the sidewalk.


 

Another day, another coffee run, but this time it was just for you. The sky was blotted grey, fluffy clusters of snow falling slowly through the air as if they too couldn’t be bothered to rush in the morning. You would have done anything to have stayed in bed, wrapped in a heated blanket and nested in a sea of pillows.

Instead, you stood in line, bleary eyed and tired, because you were out of ground coffee again.

It was that very sleepiness that made you not notice immediately the face of the person ahead who was raising a hand at you in greeting.

It was the guy, the handsome hipster guy from a few weeks ago with his one black coffee, his sleek jacket and red beanie. Your heart pattered and you resisted an urge to punch yourself in your own stupid chest as a silent demand to cut that out.

“Good morning!” he said, with far too much pep.

You smiled faintly, mumbling a vague, “Is it…” beneath your breath as you approached the counter.

“It is currently overcast, but the cloud coverage has raised temperatures ten degrees. My partner informed me that, “sounds like a good morning”.”

“Your partner sounds old.” you said with a snort.

“He is middle aged.”

When had this guy gotten so close? He was practically standing next to you now like you’d come in together, eyes flicking occasionally between you and the menu.

Cute, but weird. You decided, turning back to the barista. You opened your mouth to order and then clicked it shut, fixing the Hipster with a knowing glare.

“Eavesdropping?”

“Excuse me?”

Value judgement.” you said, voice assured. You turned to the barista and grinned, “One black coffee please.”

You shot him a triumphant look, but the man just continued smiling politely.

“Have your concerns of pyrosis been elevated, —?” he said, forgetting almost that you’d told him your name.

“I’ll suffer if it means I win.” you replied, taking the cup and moving to fill it with black coffee with a look of disdain.

He gave a peculiar look at that, as if registering some kind of understanding.

“Your mission to prevent me from learning your drink preference takes priority.”

“Damn straight.” you said, sipping the bitter liquid and trying to tell yourself it tasted like VICTORY and not like your stomach was about to be wrecked.

Before you could speak, the door rattled as someone forced it open, waltzing into the shop with determination.

“CONNOR– how long does it fuckin’ take to get one coffee?”

Connor looked unfazed, turning his attention to the man you recognized as the guy who waited in the car last time.

“Lieutenant Anderson, I have acquired the coffee and was just on my way to join you. However, I stopped to engage in social intercourse, as you’ve encouraged.”

“Social WHAT–” the Lieutenant’s eyes settled on you and he humphed, “Oh. You were talkin’ to a girl. Jesus fuck, how’d that work for ya?”

His question seemed directed at Connor, but he looked at you the entire time, mystified. Or at least what you gathered was mystified beneath the permanent scowl.

“It is going very well!” Connor said, allowing the man to take his coffee.

“Ah ha!” you suddenly exclaimed, jabbing a finger towards the lieutenant and turning to Connor for validation, “Fifty and grouchy! Yeah?”

The look Anderson gave you was as annoyed and baffled now as he gave Connor.

“Okay, if you’re done with your social fuckin’, can we please get to the office? Before I start collecting social security?”

You choked, snorting a bit of coffee.

“In a moment, lieutenant.” Connor said cooly.

With a few grumbled protests, the lieutenant left the shop and headed back outside, leaning against the side of the car and shooting glares at Connor through the glass.

“Lieutenant Hank Anderson is my partner. I apologize, he can be abrasive.”

“Uh huh. So if the black coffee is for him, then please tell me you have a super secret love of pumpkin spice. C’mon, it’ll make my morning.”

“Like the last time we spoke?” Connor inquired, inclining his head.

“Yeah, yeah.”

“Then certainly.”

“Well now I know you’re lying.” you laughed, all feelings of sleepiness gone as you beamed up at this Connor. There was something so curious yet so gentle in the way he looked back at you, as if you were a puzzle, but a pleasingly difficult puzzle.

It made you feel a bit awkward now that you noted it, clearing your throat as you swapped the coffee between your mittened hands.

“Here.” you finally said, handing him the cup. His eyes widened.

“C’mon, take it. Save me from myself.”

Connor looked like he was about to say something, but confusion turned to understanding. He took the coffee cup.

“… thank you.” he said, with a level of reverence that made her sure he must be kidding.

“Eh, just consider it me pouring one out for “our boys in blue”.”

His eyes flicked to yours, as if trying to pry some answer to an unspoken question.

“Ya know– cause you’re both cops, right?”

“Y..yes. Right.” Connor slowly smiled, “Yes we are. Thank you.”

“It’s just a dollar coffee, hippy.” you said, but still smiled. What the hell had gotten into you? Your damn face hurt from all the smiles you were giving this guy.

“Have a safe patrol.” you said finally, hurrying away before you did something else clearly awkward and embarrassing.

“—?” the sound of your name halted you.

“Yeah?”

“I …enjoy talking with you. Perhaps we can converse more.”

Fuck. Fuck, oh shit. Oh god, handsome funny hippy boy wanted to talk to you? You?? More??? When was the last time something like this happened to you? Oh right, NEVER.

You stammered, mixing between trying to seem aloof and actually being flustered and managing to just be alooflustered. Which looked ridiculous.

“Um.. okay. Okay! Just uh–” you took a pen from the nearby drink pick-up counter and popped the cap off with your teeth. You gestured for his cup, which he handed over, and wrote your number across the white surface along with your name.

“There.”

He turned the cup, saw what you’d written and grinned, a bright all consuming thing that seemed both foreign and so fucking adorable on his lips.

“Lieutenant Anderson will be thrilled.” he said and you barked a laugh.

“Yeah well, better hurry and go show him before he leaves you.”

Connor nodded gravely, as if this were a truly high possibility he was just reminded of.

“Talk to you later, Connor.”

“Yes. “Talk to you later”.”

He left, hurrying to the car. You watched Hank’s rested-annoyed-face twist with confusion, pointing to the cup in Connor’s hand, to which Connor proudly displayed what must have been your number. The man’s jaw nearly hit the snow covered ground, quickly ushering Connor into the car with his mouth moving rapidly.

A small smile tugged at the corner of your lips, “God. What a dork…”

You were so engrossed you barely heard when the barista, eyes nearly rolling out of their head said,

“Hey lady, are you gonna drink anything!?”

Chapter Text

The moment kept playing in your mind, giving you little snapshot glimpses of his smile when he saw your phone number written on the cup. His eyes, perplexed, but so curious as he took in your every word with such rapt attention.

“Ugh… no.” you whined towards the ceiling, throwing your head back and sinking further into your sofa. Some TV series played ideally while you tapped a stylus on the screen of your tablet, opened to some notes regarding your most recent class. You risked short glances over to your phone.

“Stop it.” you said to yourself, “It’s not a big deal and you don’t even know if he’ll text.”

You sat silently for a moment, nearly forgetting about it in the thrall of the TV and procrastination on your assignment when your eyes slowly drifted over to it again.

“Son of a bitch.” you huffed, throwing tablet aside as you got up and made your way across the small one bedroom apartment to your smaller bathroom. You needed a shower and some comfy clothes and maybe some sleep.

Several minutes later you came out from the bathroom, towel drying your hair and feeling a bit more human with the cold no longer biting at your skin still from the damp outside. You weren’t looking, really, your eyes just fell to the phone on the small kitchen table and noticed the screen was list with an envelope icon.

You managed to pretend not to be interested for approximately fifteen seconds before you were over, picking up the phone and trying to not think about how fast your heart was going as you opened the message…

… which was just from your DCRU supervisor reminding you to go to the DPD station downtown after checking in on site tomorrow.

You felt your heart fall and sighed as you clicked the message and set a reminder. Someone in Jericho had requested a number of open human-on-android violence cases as well as android-on-human and someone had to go get the stats. Most android cases were still considered “sensitive” so the only way to get the information was from the source. It was a placating act, something to make Jericho not so hostile to DCRU and their efforts, even if they could realistically do nothing about the numbers. You wondered if you would be lucky enough for it to be the same station Connor worked at.

You took your phone and headed off to bed, setting your alarm. It was nearly 11:40, which was not ideal if you didn’t want to be a zombie tomorrow. Sighing, you flicked off your lamp and curled up, closing your eyes and tucking in. Your breath began to slow and your body relax when suddenly the darkness behind your eyelids lit.

You opened your eyes a slit and saw the envelope notification with a question mark attached.

 

[ new sender ]

[ accept msg y/n? ]

 

You never hit “y” so fast in your life.

 

[ from: DPDCNSL#317

Thank you for agreeing to continue corresponding with me. I am looking forward to the experience.

And thank you for the coffee.
Have a good evening, ---.

Connor ]

 

And then before you could respond the little dots indicating he was responding popped up immediately.

[ from: DPDCNSL#317

Lieutenant Anderson has informed me that saying, “I am looking forward to the experience” sounds “creepy”. I am looking forward to being able to speak with you more.

Connor ]

You smiled and quickly wrote up a reply-- which you waited a few minutes to send because… like that is what you did right? You didn’t wanna reply too fast… right? You killed some time, changing his name in the message box.

[ from: ---

You’re welcome. And pls don’t thank me for that pitiful excuse for bean water. Next time, I’ll get you a latte and you’ll never be the same again. ]

 

[ from: Connor

You are correct, but not in the way I believe you think.

Regardless, I would like that. You are studying at Wayne State, correct? ]

You froze, staring at the words with shock. How the hell did he know that?

[ from: ---

You pull up my file, copper?]

 

[ from: Connor

I did a search on the internet. You came up under the staff listing as a research assistant for Urban Studies. Is that correct? There is no image, so it could be another ---. ]

 

[ from: ---

Bit weird to be searching for someone you just met. ]

 

[ from: Connor

I agree. Lieutenant Anderson located the information and sent it to my terminal. I was… curious. I apologize, I do not wish to cause you to feel uncomfortable. ]

It didn’t really matter much. All the information on the website was basic things and any social media you had was hidden from the outside. It was harmless, as far as most things went.

[ from: ---

It’s alright, next time you can just ask me. Though I think to make it up, you can buy me the coffee. Only fair. :) ]

 

[ from: Connor

I do receive a salary now, so that is a possibility.

--- it is now almost midnight. You should be resting as you have already lost two hours of the recommended time for sleep. I would recommend lowering your caffeine intake to 300mg per day to prevent further sleep disturbance.

Good night, ---. ]

 

[ from: ---

You can pry my coffee from my cold dead hands, hippy.

Good night. ]

Wildly specific advice aside, it was-- kinda sweet. That bit that you assumed was a joke about “receiving a salary” got a small chuckle from you. After waiting a few minutes though, it appeared that he was done messaging for the night.

Not too bad, you hummed to yourself, First potential friend outside of campus in four years. Adult humaning at last.


 

“Checking in on site” was just code for “bring us all our coffee order before you do any real work” and you did so as usual, dropping the cups off at the various desks, crowded into the small “conference” building. All of the DCRU’s own buildings were of the same shake-n-bake quality as the shelters put up for the androids. They did little to hold out the chill, but they kept out the damp. Several people had space heaters beneath their desks or blankets wrapped around their legs.

After dropping off the last drink, you made your way over to the desk of the person you liked most of all the superiors, chiefly because he would never ask you to bring him coffee. His name was Josh, and he had served as one of Markus’ companions during the start and the heart of the revolution. Prior to Jericho, he had been a university professor, which was something you found common ground with.

He was sitting still, as if staring off into the distance, but a quick note of his eyes would show them flickering back and forth. He was reading.

“You ready to do some real work?” he said, voice tinged with faint humor as he continued to scan through whatever files were working their way through his synthetic mind. You’d gotten use to this.

“Yes, for the love of Markus Christ.” you huffed, enjoying in the private joke. Since the revolution there had been no less than 112 articles official and amateur declaring Markus as an android “Messiah”. Based upon Josh’s word, this caused the actual Markus a great deal of discomfort, but still the metaphor stuck.

“I’m going to have to tell Simon that one.” Josh said with a laugh, finally turning his eyes to you indicating he was finished with whatever he was working on.

“But first things first.” he said, pulling out a tablet and handing it to you. It was one of his.

“You know most of these “deviant” criminal cases are still on lock down?”

You nodded.

“We’ve gotten clearance to have the files downloaded. Part of our agreements with the government involve… some explaining. I won’t sugar coat it. Some of these open cases are violent, resulting in death of the human or the android or sometimes both.”

You swallowed, eyes flicking to the tablet as if there would suddenly appear images but there was only a menu showing how to accept file download.

“... death can be a hard topic for anyone. Even more so for your people when it involves Android on Human crimes. You may see some disturbing things. You alright with this?”

“Of course!” you said, a bit quickly and a bit more defensively than intended.

“I mean that… I want to do anything I can to help. I know that… I know they are pressuring to have these androids turned over for prosecution.”

If Josh were non-deviant, he wouldn’t have tensed at the words, but he did.

“Historically speaking, we haven’t given any android justice. I know this is important. Anything I feel is secondary to that… is what I mean.”

Josh smiled warmly, standing up and hesitantly patting your shoulder.

“You remind me of my old students, ---. Or at least the better ones. I’m sure you’ll do what you can.”

You nodded vigorously, because you would.


 

It was too far and too cold to walk the length of Detroit back towards downtown, so you took an automated cab. You’d tucked Josh’s tablet safely away in a rucksack over your shoulder and flipped through your phone idly. You hovered over the message window with Connor for a moment before quicking sending off a few lines.

[ from: ---

Just so there are no surprises, I’m heading to the DPD station rn for unrelated stuff. Might see you! ]

It took you way longer than necessary to actually hit send, but when you did you were shocked that his response was almost instantaneous.

[ from: Connor

Unrelated to what? Also, are you alright? Do you have an open case with the DPD? ]

 

[ from: ---

It’s all good. And meant I just happen to be that way as opposed to ya know, stalking. ]

 

[ from: Connor

“Stalking” does imply stealth, which would be in direct opposition of your current actions if that was the intent. I agree that your actions do not constitute “stalking”. ]

You huffed a sigh, but then were startled as the message pinged again.

[ from: Connor

Bit weird though. ]

You felt a smile slowly form at one corner of your lips

[ from: Connor

That was a joke, in case it was too vague. ]

 

[ from: ---

I gotcha ;)
See you in a bit maybe. ]

And with that, you shut off your phone’s display just in time to exit the cab out front of the DPD building. Inside, the DPD had the same tell tale signs of the android revolution with its lack of noticeable androids. It was not until you got up to the reception desk that it dawned on you they both were identical. They were androids, they had just removed their LED. She was even wearing a name tag that said, Alicia in clear bold font. She was wearing regular professional wear, no Android identifiers in sight.

You’d heard the DPD had gotten on board relatively quickly with providing androids with pay, not wanting to lose the bulk of their staff. While the cleaning crews were absent, the receptionist turned up her face and smiled pleasantly,

“Good morning, how may I assist you?”

“Good morning!” you said, a bit too quickly, “My name is ---, I’m here from the Crisis Response Unit. I have a meeting with Captain Fowler.”

“Yes, we were told to expect you! Do you have your I.D.?” she said, and you were struck by how… friendly she was, as opposed to all the other ST300’s you’d encountered. You pulled out your “badge”, which was nothing more than an I.D. card with a special DCRU designation stamp inside a flip wallet. You passed it to her and she scanned it quickly.

“You’re all set! Just head right through these gates here and go straight back. Fowler’s office is the one in the middle with the glass doors, it should not be hard to miss, but if you get lost just grab one of the officers. They all should know all too well where his office is.” she said with a faint laugh at some private joke.

You nodded, fumbling to put your I.D. with a quick “thank you” before you headed through the gates. It was bigger inside than you expected, with several desks and lots of people working, standing and having their morning coffee or otherwise engaged. You noted the glass enclosed office towards the middle of the room and headed in that direction. There were three people already waiting inside and two of which you recognized immediately.

Captain Fowler was up, preparing to come open the door for you, but Connor beat him in a few brisk steps.

Hank was grinning at you in that suspicious way that you recalled from grade school… like he knew something you didn’t. In this situation, it was pretty unsettling. Did they find that parking ticket from sophomore year?!

“Good morning Ms. ---, please, have a seat.” Fowler gestured to the one other empty chair next to Hank, “These two suspect characters are Lieutenant Hank Anderson and his partner, Connor. They have been working the deviant android cases since the start.”

Connor politely offered you his hand, which you took. He squeezed gently, mischief glinting in those brown eyes before he let go and all but ushered you to your seat. Hank snorted.

“We’ve met.” Hank said, disregarding any pleasantries.

Fowler looked surprised.

“We frequent the same coffee shop.” you added, “So it was a very brief meeting.”

“You’re lucky.” Fowler said, eyeing Hank with disapproval. Hank seemed oblivious, or more likely, immune.

“We’ve been informed that the ADA’s office is seeking to prosecute these androids. It is highly likely that they are being concealed among the deviants at the relief camp.” Fowler leaned back in his chair, “So, we’ve been told to assist you in whatever way you need.”

“Some of us are a bit too eager…” you heard Hank muttered under his breath. Connor’s eyes trailed on him slowly, making no expression you could see but Hank must have gotten the message because he grumbled and slumped back.

“I appreciate that, captain Fowler.” you began, “Markus has agreed that his people will search into the population of their androids for these individuals. It’s a good start to integrate androids into the justice system.”

Though you had your own opinions regarding the effectiveness of that. How could any android expect a fair trial when a jury of their peers would most likely be full of humans? But that was a topic for another time and place.

“These files are sealed, so we are requesting a downloaded copy so that efforts can be made to locate these androids.”

Captain Fowler looked unconvinced.

“I have confirmation from the governor and the President’s staff approving this request, if you would like to see it. The governor also said you might like to call her office as well.”

“I think I will do that. In the meanwhile, if you’d gentleman escort Ms. --- to the break-room where she might be a bit more comfortable?”

Hank stood and gave Connor a hard pat, “All you buddy.”

He left without a second glance.

“Right this way. ---.” Connor said, Captain Fowler now too engrossed with his phone to notice Connor used your first name.
It was hard to contain a smile as you walked alongside the detective, following him to a small break-room.

“Coffee?” he asked and you nodded briskly. He poured some of the dark, strong smelling liquid into a mug that read “#1 Dad” and after considering for a moment, pot still in his hand, he poured another.

Bringing both he came to sit with you at a rickety table, stabilized by a half folded paper plate under one leg.

“Don’t think this counts.” you said, taking the mug in both hands, enjoying the warmth if not the overly strong taste.

Connor did not drink.

“You work with the Detroit Crisis Response Unit?” he said, getting right to the point.

“Volunteered. Don’t give me too much credit though. When I joined up, it was all about flooding relief. The Android situation was a surprise.”

“Do you dislike Androids?” he asked.

Right to it then. You felt a sinking sensation in your stomach as you tried to think of way to wade around that. You had assumed most likely as a cop who hunted down "deviant" androids that maybe Hank and Connor were not very big fans of them themselves. You didn't know how you felt about that, but it wasn't very good.

“Wow. Talk about a hot button topic, Connor. You sure you don’t wanna ask me what my favorite color is first? My favorite movie?”

“No. I would much rather know your stance on the current events seeing as you are working as a relief volunteer.”

Direct. You hid behind the lip of the mug, feeling his eyes keenly on you.

“Why do you wanna know?” you countered, taking a small sip.

“I’m simply curious as to how you feel about your current assignment.”

“I feel just fine.” you said, “I guess… well. Guess sometimes they just spook me. Just like most people.”

“I see.” Connor said, seeming to relax a fraction, “You are afraid of them?”

“Not “afraid”, just reasonably cautious.”

Connor seemed to be processing this, tapping his fingertips against the mug in his hand and watching himself do so intently.


“You worked on “deviant” cases for awhile, yeah?” you began, “Are… do they make you nervous? Because that’d be understandable given what you’ve seen.”

“They-- did. Before. Now I realize it’s the same as humans. We’re all capable of violence.”

Before you could continue, another man walked into the break-room, smile slick as oil.

“Well, there you are, tin-can.” he said with a smirk, picking up the coffee pot and sloshing some of it onto the counter as he poured a mug full.

“Whose this?” he said, giving you a smirk.

“A liaison from DCRU.” Connor replied coolly, bringing the coffee mug to his lips.

“Is that even good for your health, Con?” the man asked, but Connor ignored him.

“And who is this charming fellow.” you asked, voice dripping with sarcasm.

“Detective Reed. Gavin, Reed.” he answered, giving you a wink, “Now I can see why Con here was in such a hurry to get his ring off before you showed up.”

Ah. That. That was. Not expected. Your blood ran cold, eyes immediately falling to Connor’s left hand as if you’d catch sight of a tan line or some other indicator that you’d been incredibly stupid.

“I got some super glue over at my desk if you need a quick fix.” he said, tapping Connor’s chair with the toe of his boot. Connor, looked somewhere between deflated and coldly controlled anger.

Hank’s appearance in the break room door thankfully put a halt to whatever was going on between the two men, his eyes fixing Gavin with a vicious glare.

“Don’t you have reports to finish, detective?” he said, circling in so that Gavin was forced to walk towards the door.

“Just tryin’ be a good wingman for my bro, Connor.” he said, disappearing into the hall with a laugh.

Hank looked between you and Connor, noting the change in your demeanor, arms pulled in and looking anywhere but at his partner.

“Fowler uh-- got the call. You can come over to my desk and we’ll get you sorted.”

You hurriedly stood, fishing out your tablet so you’d be ready to download those files and get out of here as soon as possible.

Connor said nothing in his defense, but he watched you intently, searching. You don't know what he expected to find there, but something about the directness of his gaze left you feeling open. Vulnerable. You didn't particularly care for it right this moment.

“... thanks for the coffee.” you said, following Hank out.


 

Connor did not join you at Hank’s desk, which must not have been part of the plan because every few seconds Hank looked over his shoulder for him.

“Here. You should get a prompt to download any second now. There are photos, so if you’re squeamish I advised ya not look at the screen while they are downloading.”

You took his advice, letting the tablet drop unceremoniously to the desk as you leaned against it, arms crossed.

Hank was not scowling for once, but you were, brows furrowed tight and troubled.

“Look… ---, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Don’t-- just don’t judge him before you get to know him. I know he’s a weird one. I know most people, hell even me, have this innate prejudice, but he likes you. Which is a big deal for him. He’s learning how this goes, so I don’t know, maybe give him a break.”

“... did… did his wife die or something?”

Hank stared at you, eyes wide and confused.

“His wife.” he repeated, not so much a question but a confirmation of whether or not you were a rambling idiot.

“That detective! Gavin whatever-the-hell said that Connor took off his ring before I got here!”

Hank groaned, resting his face in his hand as he shook his head. The sound quickly turned into a laugh of sorts. He looked back up at you with that same mystified look he had before.

“You really don’t know. Kid, Connor took off his LED before you got here. That’s what Gavin meant. He’s an android.”

A lot, like a lot of things suddenly made sense now.

You sunk into a nearby chair, dazed.

“You really had no idea? With how fuckin’ weird he is?”

“I thought he was just… like, ya know. A hipster intellectual.”

Hank choked on nothing, busting into a loud laugh, “Well you ain’t wrong, kid!”

The tablet pinged, indicating it had finished downloading. Hank popped up, dismissing the file before you could pick it up.

“Like I said. Some gory stuff. I’d advise you get that to whoever wants it and not go poking around in it.” he handed you the tablet, “And for god’s sake, go talk to him before you leave. You’re the first person he’s been around that ain’t me and trust me, that’s good for him.”

You ran your hands over the tablet’s smooth sides, mind going a hundred miles a minute. You turned to leave and saw Connor coming back towards the desks, seeing clearly now the flashing LED he had replaced on the side of his temple.

His expression was blank, but you had dealt with enough androids that you could just faintly see the lines of nervousness and hopefulness as he passed you.

You caught his forearm, touching the same place where androids connected systems.

“To answer your question... I don’t dislike androids.” you whispered, risking a look at him through your eyelashes. He was-- smiling and it was so damn beautiful you felt the wall you had started constructing around your heart from Gavin’s words crack open.

“I’m glad to hear it.”

You smiled, “Text me when you are ready to shell out for that latte.” and gave his arm one last small squeeze and headed out of the station.

Chapter Text

It had started as just a regular conversation on interests, tucked in the back of the coffee shop where there were nice sleek couches to lounge in, but had divulged into an intense debate on one of the most important topics of the past-- Kindles.

“Okay. The world treated eReaders like the devil in the early 2010s. Now? Can barely find a printed book anywhere.”

“Which has cut down on mass deforestation since paper is no longer in high demand.” Connor noted, playing devil’s advocate so perfectly it was enough to make a conflict addicted girl swoon.

“Exactly! So why all the fuss back when? Cause of some preoccupation with nostalgia ? Even now you got guys like Hank who bemoan the loss of paperbacks, as if we’re all gonna forget how to read in the meanwhile.”

Connor smiled and reached out, plucking the sleeve of your jacket aka the remake of the 2003 Canada Goose brand. He sat back, looking pleased with himself as you grumbled into your second latte. Granted, it hardly looked like coffee at all but more like chocolate milk with the amount of creamer you’d had them use. You’d refused to order your usual, to Connor’s chagrin. He had not yet it seemed formed an opinion to what your actual favorite was.

“It’s different! They responsibly source the materials for those coats now.” you insisted, but Connor only smiled and smiled, refusing to concede to your point. As if he had any room to talk. This man had at least four different styles, alternating between professional, casual professional, street  and hipster circa 2010. He mixed them sometimes to interesting effects. You were pretty sure he spent the majority of his paycheck on clothes. Then again, after spending most of his life being forced to wear the same damn android branded attire, you could hardly blame his enthusiasm. 

“One could argue the shift to electronics however, is contributing to the climate change phenomenon.” Connor added, picking up the paperback book in question that had started this conversation. It was one of Hank’s, which was shocking. The Prince by Machiavelli. You half wondered if it was meant to be a joke on Connor’s expense or if Hank had actually recommended something halfway decent, if not a bit pessimistic, for the Android to learn about.

You huffed, “So we’re killing the planet no matter what. Great. Cheery. I need another coffee.”

Connor’s LED whirled, blinking before settling a solid blue.

“Your pulse is elevated to 97 beats per minute and your blood pressure has raised by 8 and 6 points in systolic and diastolic blood pressure, respectively. I would advise switching to water.”

“How do you know that's from the caffeine and not your innate magnetism .” you said, trying to lower your voice to a “sultry” level, but only managing to laugh.

“That would be highly improbable. I emit no traceable magnetic fields.” 

Then the mother fucker winked .

 

You had begun to realize the parts of his personality you thought were intentional deadpan humor, were in fact, just deadpan facts. That one though? Definitely intentional . He picked up the book, thumbing open the pages that were dogeared and worn.

“Published in 1532, a political treatise by Italian diplomat and political-theorist, Niccolo Machiavelli. Considered one of the first books of modern philosophy, it’s topics range from human nature, military prowess, governments and history.”

He flipped to a specific page that you could tell had been once been highlighted and circled several times, now faded with time. Once upon a time, maybe Hank had noted it.

“Men judge generally more by the eye than by the hand, for everyone can see and few can feel.” he read aloud, perfect and clear. You shut your eyes and listened.

“Every one sees what you appear to be, few--” he stopped abruptly, drawing your attention upward. He swallowed, his throat bobbing, “Few... really know what you are.”

His LED flickered yellow for a few seconds and then faded back to blue. You didn't really have the heart to tell him the quote was being taken wildly out of context, because it fit too well. It spoke to him. Let it mean what he wanted it to mean.

“This should be a very interesting read. Have you read it?” he asked, turning to the beginning of the book.

“Oh yeah, me and about 100 other people in PHI 1100. “Contemporary Moral Issues”. After I limped my way through the introductory course, I managed to do somewhat decent there.”

“Do you enjoy philosophy?”

“I tolerate it. Barely. With clenched teeth. I think it’s all well and good to “feed your mind” as Dolce would say, as long as your stomach is full. That’s not a common thing for the poor though so philosophy has always seemed to me as… well, a rich-man’s way to kill time.”

You swished the remaining dregs of your latte around in the bottom of your cup.

“I think it’s real easy to sit on high telling people they need to think of this, or that when you don’t have to worry about where your next meal is coming from.”

Connor gave a wry smile, “Then it is a good thing I don’t eat. I will need to read a few more selections before I form a more in depth opinion.”

“Knock yourself out, hipster. I’ll send you all my ebooks I had to get for the classes if you want.”

He perked up, the LED on his temple spiraling.

“My designation code should appear now on your phone for upload.” he said with excitement. His eyes held onto yours patiently, the intensity of it making you flounder, quickly grabbing your phone. Sure enough there was a message that a “RK800” unit was attempting to sync to your device.

 

 

[ allow synchronization? y/n? ]

 

You clicked yes and watched as the phone took on a mind of its own, files opening and flipping at rapid speed until it settled upon your digital library. You set the phone down carefully, eyes flicking between Connor and the device. He had that same far away look Josh got when accessing the web. It took only a few seconds before your phone flashed the words the same time Connor spoke them,

“Upload completed. Thank you, reading these should be very…” he paused, “Fun.”

“And I thought I needed to get out more.” you said, enjoying the bright look of wonder on Connor’s face as his eyes flickered back and forth, clearly already browsing the new selection.

“It doesn’t bother you, does it?” he said, tilting his head, “I should have clarified if you meant to send them now.”

“It’s definitely gonna take some getting use to if you make a habit of connecting to my phone, but nah, it doesn’t bother me.” you said, but Connor still looked skeptical so you continued,  “I’m a little jealous to be honest, woulda made reading those bricks easier if I knew you three years ago.”

“It is very efficient. However, no more so than any other academic assistant android you could have purchased then.”

You felt a twist in your chest at the way he said “purchased” so easily when you could tell by the faint grimace on his face that the idea was as disturbing now to him as a “deviant” as it was to you.

“I meant like a classmate,” you quickly added, “Like the way we are now.”

“You study urban planning, not philosophy. Perhaps I should browse those texts as well so we can have more “classmate” simulate conversations.” he said, tilting his head to the other side as if considering the idea further.

“We can always talk about you.” you said, “What do you like?”

His head tilted slightly further, he almost looked like a puppy when he did that, brown eyes soft and always, always curious.

“I enjoy solving cases with Hank-- Lieutenant Anderson. I enjoy calibrating my reflex drive with coin tricks. I like talking with--”

You held up a hand, “Whoa whoa, back up! Coin tricks?!” 

Your sudden enthusiasm seemed to take him off guard, but within a moment he produced a quarter from his pocket. He let it slowly walk across his knuckles one way and then faster backwards. You watched, rapt in attention and smiling bright.

“What else?!” you asked and Connor gave a lopsided smile, standing up.

“I need a bit more room for this one. Okay. So-- first you flip.” he said and did so, flipping the coin up once in the air, “And then--”

He flicked it so fast from one hand directly into the other that you almost missed it. Your entire face broke open, “Ooooohh my god! Do that again!”

He was more than happy to oblige, this time flicking the coin back rapidly and then ending by catching it between two fingers.

“Okay you have got to teach that one to me.”

“I’m not sure if you’d be able to get it without a lot of practice, but-- here.” he took your hand in his, carefully directing you to hold your fingers in a scissor shape the way he had. His eyes were intensely focused as he moved you exactly where he needed, carefully stepping behind you and placing his hands on your hips.

“Stand a bit more grounded.”

He nudged your shoe with his and you complied, hoping he wasn’t registering the heat rising up in your face. Was he holding on just a bit longer than was really even needed? A bit tighter? You could just barely feel the brush of his shirt at your back, leaning towards it.

“Don’t move.” he said, a soft command. You stood back up straight.

He came around to stand at your side, not even noticing the small gathering of people who were now watching the pair of you.

“Alright. Ready?”

You nodded.

“Just... hold… still.”

He paused, LED whirling for a moment before he flicked the coin and it found itself, trapped perfectly between your index and middle finger. You all but squealed, laughing with unbridled delight.

“That was so freakin’ cool! Can we do it again?”

 

But before Connor could take the coin from you, a man pushed over to the sitting area and scowled.

“Hey. No fuckin’ tin-can’s. Did you not see the sign lady?”

You were caught off guard, but Connor immediately straightened.

“Sign? There aren’t anymore signs.” you said, remembering that there was no tell tale red sign with a blue triangle issuing that androids were not allowed when you entered.

“There should be. There was. Now we gotta deal with these plastic freaks acting like they own the damn city.”

He looked Connor up and down with measured disgust, eyes lingering on the LED that was quickly flashing yellow.

“You should keep your pet at home.” the man continued, “You don’t see people bringing their dogs where others eat.”

“Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to please return to your table.” Connor’s voice was more mechanical than you had heard it before, measured and even, despite the yellow light flickering.

“I detect levels of ethanol on your breath. A bit early for a nightcap, isn’t it?” Connor continued and the man’s expression switched quickly to shocked and then pissed.

“Keep your fuckin’ eyes off me, freak.” he said, shoving Connor, who did not even move a fraction.

“Public intoxication is a misdemeanor under Section 750.168 of the Michigan penal code. I advise you take your coffee home, sir, and sober up .” Connor said, standing up way too far into this guy’s space to be mistaken for anything but an invitation that said, Hit me, do it. I dare you.

You moved forward, quickly slipping your arm between the two men, curling it around Connor’s abdomen. You slid your entire body between them, the asshole guy stepping back.

“Hey, he’s a cop . See?” you pushed aside Connor’s jacket, displaying the DPD badge on his hip.

“You wanna add assaulting an officer to that rap sheet he’s already typing up from his head?”

The guy noted the badge and despite his initial aggression, he took a step back.

“Whatever, bitch.”

You sighed, relieved he was backing off, until Connor lurched forward from behind you. You spun around, pushing your palms flat against his chest. He didn’t resist you, but he didn’t take his eyes off the guy either.

“Apologize to her.” he said, each word punctuated with rigid coldness, LED flashing red.

“Fuck you and your plastic-fuckin’ girlfriend.”

“Hey!” a voice drew all three of your attention up to a barista wearing a different uniform than the others, designating her a manager, “How about you all take a breather somewhere else before I call the real cops?”

“Fine.” you said, pushing back at Connor who had stepped forward again trying to outmaneuver you.

“It’s a nice sunny day and I’m not a fan of the smell of shit and espresso.” you said, giving the guy a glare of your own. You took Connor’s hand, ignoring any comments from anyone else as you headed out the door. Connor didn’t fight you, but walked briskly away from the coffee shop to the point it was now like he was leading you.

 

His grip was tight, unrelenting. His LED was still a vivid circle of red. Once you were far enough away, you dug your heels in and released his hand. He stopped, but still held on. He snapped his eyes to yours, looking confused and just so-- lost. Like he wasn’t even sure where he was or where he was going.

You didn’t even know where to start.

“… Connor, I am so sorry.” 

What else could you say? You were the stupid one who invited him there. His brows furrowed tightly, anger still twitching in his lips as he shook his head.

“Don’t.” he said, voice strained, “Don’t apologize for them .”

His jaw was tight, working and unclenching. He was rubbing your hand in his own, a tick similar to his coin. People walked around you as you both were standing in the middle of the sidewalk, giving Connor nervous glances as they passed. He noticed finally and stepped to the side, filing into an empty alley facing the street.

“I need a minute.” he said, his pulmonary functions attempting to slow. You stepped closer, reaching up to gently touch his back. You stroked up once.

“Of course, just… take all the time you need.”

He was tense, every carbon fiber cord in his body ready to respond, to act. His LED began flickering, slowly turning yellow and holding.

“It’s becoming more common.” he said, disappointment evident in his voice.

“I’d say it was always common, people feeling safe to express their stupidity has just gotten worse.”

“Not that.” he said, sighing, “My… temper. Hank says I have a temper .”

A deviant android with a quick fuse, that wasn’t entirely unheard of, but yet Connor seemed disturbed more so by his own behavior than the other guys. 

“I detected a significant jump in your pulse and breathing rate. You were upset. I upset you.” Connor said, going to release your hand. You snapped it back up before he could, squeezing tight.

“Connor. Look at me.”

He did.

“I wasn’t upset because of you, I was upset for you.” you said, searching his eyes, making sure you confirmed his understanding before you continued, “That guy was being a grade A dickhead and I… I made you show me those tricks and it just drew all that attention to you. It’s dumb and it’s unfair , but I should have known better.”

“I wanted to show you.” Connor said, insistent, “I knew it would make you smile. I… like that. When you were asking what I like. I like receiving positive feedback from you. It’s very informative.”

That got a laugh from you, quiet and resigned.

“Like that. I don’t know how I got you to do that, but I’m attempting to work it out. So far the data has been inconsistent.”

“Really?” you said, “How so?”

“You laugh even when I am actually not trying to be humorous.” Connor said, as if you were a bit silly for not knowing.

“You’re a funny guy.”

“Hank would say otherwise.”

Connor’s LED had returned to blue, holding steady.

“Your temperature is dropping. You should be getting home so you can warm up.”

“No.” you said, grinning. This time when he furrowed his brow it was not as sharp.

“Your current core temperature is not a debatable subject, ---. You are at 97.9 degrees.”

You hummed, “So question. When you do that, are you scanning my entire body or just the surface temperature?”

Connor opened his mouth, thought better, and then it closed it. You swore if he could blush he would be. You inclined your head expectantly.

“What else does the scan pick up?” you asked, both curious and enjoying the look of semi-panic rushing over Connor’s features. The blue LED flickered just for a moment.

“I know that you have not eaten in the last four hours and will begin to feel hunger pains in approximately the next twenty to thirty minutes.” he stated matter-of-factly, “You have a healed fracture on your left ankle, most likely from rolling it sometime within the last two years. Also, your pupils dilate when you look at me, indicating that you find me aesthetically pleasing.”

“Ho-kay.” you said, interrupting him and snatching your hand back, “You had me at the beginning there, I’ll admit.”

“Did I successfully embarrass you, ---?” Connor said, putting his hands into his pockets and following after you with a renewed smugness.

“Um. That’s such cheating. I can’t control my pupils!”

“Of course. I understand it is not conscious. Besides. I was designed to be pleasing .”

“Yeah? Then I’m gonna need you to tell me where to file a product complaint.”

Connor laughed and it sounded so human it infected your own smile.

“”Hello, yes Cyberlife?”, you continued, using your hand to mimic a phone, “”Do you take constructive criticism? Because your RK800 model is becoming a royal pain in my ass.””

“I’ve never had a bad review in my life!” he asserted, placing a hand over his chest in mock offense.

“That’s because you’ve only been alive for seven months! God. You’re an infant. I am literally on a date with an infant.”

Your laughter subsided when you noted Connor was no longer part of the chorus, turning to look at him, you found his own eyes trailed on you with the barest of smiles.

“This has been… different. Good, but different.” he said, choosing the words carefully, “I’d like to do it again.”

“Yeah, yeah, you smug bastard. You probably already know I’m going to say “yes” by the micro expressions of my eyebrows or some crap.”

Your joke was cut short as Connor stepped forward, gingerly reaching up and letting his hand trace the side of your face, thumb rubbing in gentle circles for a moment over the spot right next to your brow. His eyes were hooded, intent.

“No. I don’t think I see anything.” 

He was so close-- god damn him for being so close. You couldn’t read his face at all on whether he was being serious right now or was being a tease. The LED light on his temple gave nothing away in it’s blue aura.

“Wait...right there.” 

You felt your breath catch.


“I detect the forming of premature wrinkles.” 

“Oh, you asshole.

You swatted at him, but he was too fast, dodging out of range with a school boy grin.

“I’m freezing and I’m hungry and I think you need to go home and think about what you’ve done.” you said, crossing your arms against the frigid breeze.

“I told you all of those things a minute ago.” Connor said, returning to arms reach long enough to offer his hand in what you assumed was to be a handshake. You scoffed and submitted, letting him take your hand again lightly. He squeezed and let go.

“I’ll text you later.” he said, mirroring your own words. For a moment it almost felt so normal. Just a boy and a girl on a date. It hadn’t turned out to be what you expected, but that was something you were beginning to think you could live with.

“You better.”

 


 

When had it become so hard to concentrate? You rapt your stylus against your desk, oblivious to the crowd and the constant hum of conversation as people moved around the facility. You hadn’t heard back anything from Josh regarding the files you brought, in fact, you hadn’t seen an android inside the DCRU office in several days. You leaned back in your chair, hoping to catch a glimpse but instead found yourself looking right into the pencil skirt of London Fog-- aka your supervisor, Miranda.

“You interested in getting out of here?” she asked, curly brown hair tied back in a bun. You think she must been a librarian in a past life based on how she dressed. Nothing else would explain those cat eye glasses.

“Depends.” you said, voice wary. She laughed, because honestly you didn’t have too much choice in it.

“We’re doing a quick run through. We’ve gotten reports that there have been some break ins through the fence perimeter around the--” she stopped, trying to avoid the word “camp” like most people in charge. It was not a good connection to form.

“-- housing facilities. Just need to assess the damage and estimate cost. The androids asked specifically for the director to come, but she is busy elsewhere.” Miranda shrugged, “If I have an intern following me, I look more important!”

Ah, the director. Cinnamon dolce. 

Knowing that there was not much more discussion to be had, you picked up your tablet and your coat.

“Where’s the damage?” you asked, voice weary.

“We’ve got a ride to the other side of the facility all lined up for us.” Miranda said, flicking through some documents and sending them to your tablet.

“It’ll be a good learning opportunity!”

Sure. Yay. Fence maintenance.

 


 

By the time you arrived it became very obvious that this was not some accidental damage or wear-and-tear, this was a full on someone-took-pliers-to-the-fence-and-cut-a-hole damage. You recognized Josh out of the crowd of humans and androids. He gave you a faint smile and then turned his attention to Miranda.

“Was it a break out?” she asked, earning a narrow look from Josh.

“We’re not prisoners here. Everyone knows they can come and go as they please.” Josh said, voice edged with warning.

“So break in?” Miranda said, confirming to herself. You flipped to the incident report she sent to your tablet and began to jot down notes.

“It would appear so. But nothing was taken. No one has seen anyone strange around the homes either.”

The “homes” for lack of a better word, were simple modular buildings, stacked in sets of three with outside stair railings. A few androids stood on said stairs, peering over the side down at them. The entire facility sat in an old parking lot formerly used by GM back in the late 2000s. It had been sitting vacant for years now and taken by the government for use in the re-homing process.

The modular homes were efficient, if not always “cozy”. The androids were able to file comfort requests, but you’d seen the stacks. It was hard to imagine it was easy to get much of anything, but it was safe . Safer than outside, where humans might attack an android on the street. Here there were soldiers and fences that were meant to keep the outside world out, not them in.

Markus would have not accepted anything less.

“I don’t like that. Have the military units informed to be looking for someone who doesn’t belong and pull any CCTV footage from this area.” Miranda said, stepping forward and examining the fence more closely.

“Tracks say three people!” a voice yelled from above. There was a young looking blond man, standing at the very top of the modular complex. He quickly made his way down, easily constructing a safe path to the ground.

Josh smiled with familiarity, taking the hand offered to him by the man warmly.

“When did you get back into the city?”

“A few days ago. Glad to be back though. D.C. is somehow even colder.”

Miranda turned her attention back towards the two men, greeting the newcomer with nothing more than a faint nod.

“Simon. You said three people?”

Simon nodded, pointing to a variety of spots that now showed traces of mud and slush disturbance.

“Three. They circled in, came this way…” 

He moved ahead, heading behind the modular unit. There was a good fifteen feet between it’s back and the fence.

“Then this way. Stopped here, but then one set of tracks keeps going while the other two circle back.” Simon’s eyes narrowed, giving Josh a strange look.

“Something isn’t right. I smell--”

A flash. Blinding and loud. So loud that suddenly your ears were filled with unbearable ringing. You felt your feet lift from the ground, heat bursting across your skin. There were quick flicks of pain, as if a hail storm had pelted you. And then you found the ground again, hitting hard to the concrete as the ringing just kept on. Something heavy fell on your chest, knocking the wind from you.

Your vision blurred, arms shaking as you tried to find something, anything to hold onto to make the world stop spinning. Someone was ontop of you, arms curled around your frame. The smell of thirium and smoke was thick in your nostrils and when your vision came to, there was blue and Josh.

All cradled in a backdrop of red flames.

Chapter Text

In 2017, scientists working out of Hadassah University in Jerusalem, concluded that your life does indeed pass before your eyes before death. Graduation, marriage, birthdays and all the things in between… but it wasn’t some mystical spiritual event. It simply was that when you die, the part of your brain responsible for storing memory is the last thing to go. 

The study also found, in those last moments, time becomes intangible. Seconds become months, minutes become years. Everything that was ever you or would ever be you existing outside of the limits of time and space for one brief moment, before it all stopped.

When you started at DCRU, you had no enthusiasm, only resigned obedience to your need for health insurance and a dose of cautious fear. It was almost Christmas, barely a month having passed since the androids had won, for now, some resemblance to freedom. Laws take time to change, policies take time to create and meanwhile there were thousands of Androids suddenly conscious and displaced in a city that had, the day before November 11th, been on a population decline.

Employment rates skyrocketed as companies scrambled, desperate to put bodies where there were once android laborers and the people responded with a triumphant roar. Jobs? In Detroit? Any who were able bodied enough to take jobs did so and even if you weren’t, the companies didn’t exactly have room to be picky. There were still androids that were “asleep” as it was now being called, obedient and without freewill who continued to do as programmed. What happened to those androids was an entire other debate and one DCRU was not apart of.

Your first day you were ushered with three other grad students into a cramped claustrophobic modular building set up at the entrance of the construction site. Everywhere there were plain white blocks, the outlines of future homes. The three of you were quickly divided up and you in particular were set before a desk at the front of the room.

Miranda was as immaculate that day as she had been everyday since. She was human, that she assured you and confirmed multiple times a week with her constant order of a London Fog. The name called to mind a dreary, grey drink without personality, but the floral citrus scent of earl grey, darkened with a dash of black coffee seemed to you to match Miranda perfectly. She wore white silk blouses, pencil skirts and shiny black kitten heels. Under her desk however, she kept a pair of well worn steel toe boots which she often replaced her heels for when walking the site.

She was nearing fifty, but maintained her curly brown hair so not a single grey showed. She wore Coco Mademoiselle Classic. You would be lying if you said you didn’t have a tiny bit of a crush on her the first time you met.

“I won’t sugar coat it. We have a whole mess of volunteers because we pay. We have to pay. If we didn’t pay?” she threw up her hand, extending her fingers to symbolize “poof”, “Up in smoke. No one is going to thank you for your services here, especially not the androids, but you’re going to pick up a paycheck and in exchange you’ll do office work rather than haul frames and nails.”

She sipped her coffee, looking at you over pointed black cat eye frames.

“Can you take dictation?”

“Hell yeah.” you said, noting she lifted one sculpted eyebrow in passive judgement.

“I mean uh-- yes. Yeah I can do that.”

“Great. You start right now.”

 


 

Clearly, you weren’t dead, because if you were, you couldn’t imagine your last memories being of some article from twenty years ago or your first day at DCRU. That, and you hurt too much to be dead. Josh pushed himself off of you, falling onto his back. His arms were torn and showing inside where metallic parts moved and flashed. Thirium oozed from his neck, smelling heavily of something akin to ozone and cleaning solution. His mouth moved, but the sound was garbled and clipped. He grabbed his throat, panic shooting through his eyes.

“Your voice.” you said, finding your own raspy and pained as you inhaled a lungful of smoke.

He took his hand away and the thirium ooze had turned into a fountain.

Shit. ” you hissed, forcing yourself up though your entire body screamed with soreness. Your shoulder hurt so badly, why did it hurt so badly? You forced it out of your mind, clamping your hands around Josh’s neck to try and stop the flow of thirium. It stung the cuts on your hands, but you kept the pressure on.

“Don’t panic.” you said and Josh looked back at you with an expression that said, Are you joking?!

You whipped your head around, looking for someone, anyone and suddenly wishing you hadn’t. Some androids… the ones who had been on the stairs… were now in several places. You felt your gut twist, but swallowed back the sudden salty taste in your mouth.

You didn’t see Miranda anywhere.

“I need to stop the bleeding.” you told Josh, taking your hands away to try and get a better look at where the line was torn. It hurt to move your left arm, but you gritted through it. 

He nodded, wincing. Could deviant’s feel pain too?

No time to ask. You, as carefully as you could, slid your fingertips into the slice on his throat and sought out the line that was pushing out thirium. Josh was shaking, but he didn’t stop you, not even when you found the line and forcefully squeezed it closed.

There were several chirps, static and then Josh’s voice modular stabilized.

“Is itttttttttt-- o-o-kay?.” he said, unnatural and robotic.

“I think it’s stopped. I think I have it stopped.” you assured him. His hand came up and you took it with your free one. He tried to shake his head.

“Y...yo-u-u-u.”

He was right to be concerned. You finally could feel now why your hands hurt so badly. Even under the blue stains of thirium, you could see blisters peeling back on your palms, bleeding slowly. When the blast hit, you had put your hands up just long enough to be burnt. Your shoulder felt dislocated. The rest, Josh had absorbed.

“It’s nothing. ” you told him, “Don’t talk. I don’t know if it will make it worse!”

All around you could hear the growing stampede of boots on concrete as the military presence rushed unto the scene. Coms were on, dispensing news that medical personnel and local police were on their way to assist. There was a man, dressed more like a civilian than military who pushed his way through the crowds. He saw you, or rather saw Josh, and sprinted towards you.

“What happened?” he said, more like an order than a conversation. You stammered, meeting his mismatched eyes.

“He pushed me out of the way.” you managed.

Josh had relaxed some, taking Markus’ hand in his own. You didn’t need any introductions to know the android next to you was the leader of Jericho.

“I’m holding the artery shut.” you said, not recalling whatever mechanic speak actually was used for this line, but not really caring anyway. Markus seemed to understand.

“It has to be closed,” Markus said, barely above a mutter as he fished through his pockets, “...or the thirium that goes to his biocomponents in his brain will seize.”

He produced a lighter.

“I can cauterize it. Move.”

You did so, pushing your hand out of the way so he could more easily see. 

“I need you to pull the line up and then forward.”

You stared at him, flabbergasted, “What-- you mean like out of him?!”

“Yes.” Markus flicked the lighter open, “Do it.”

“Won’t it ignite?!” you said, but still began to slowly pull the torn line from Josh’s ripped skin. Josh’s eyes were fluttering, closing. You hoped silently he couldn’t feel any of it.

“Only what is exposed to air. But the other internal components should be somewhat fire resistant.”

“I’m not.”  you said, and Markus looked at you again, noting the absence of the tell-tale signs of a fellow android. Carefully, he covered your hand with his free one.

“Show me where.”

You directed him, a faint spurt of thirium escaping as you switched places. Then, carefully, Markus singed the plastic with his lighter, the line becoming gummy and mold-able. The thirium on his hands hissed and went up in quick bursts of flame. He pressed the line together gently, making sure it was not entirely closed off internally.

Josh’s pulmonary responses were still jagged, but he opened his eyes.

“Diagnostics?” Markus said gently, stabilizing Josh as he sat up. In the distance you could hear the shriek of sirens.

“Bleeding contained. For now.” Josh said, voice still shaky but more like himself, “There are some other wounds. Debris. Where’s Simon?”

Oh fuck. Simon had been directly by the blast.

“North has him. It… it’s not great.” Markus said, Josh’s grip tightening. He looked at you, eyes full.

“Thank you. ” he said and you shook your head.

“No, no, thank you, Josh. You wouldn’t even-- you would have been fine if not for me.”

His other hand found yours and you didn’t even care that the squeeze sent shocks of pain up your arm. Markus left Josh in your care, helping his people who had been caught in the blast. Emergency personal vehicles began to arrive in droves. Fire trucks, police cars and ambulances being ushered through the fence line.

Markus stood from where he had crouched to check on another android, saw what he was looking for and moved towards it. It was Miranda, unconscious and lying at an unnatural angle. Medics descended upon her, so he stopped in his tracks just in time to note Simon as he limped into view, aided by who you recognized as North. Many other androids were injured, but the medics were seeing to the humans first, leaving them to be helped by only their fellows. Simon was missing both arms, one from the elbow down and the other from the wrist. His leg was blasted through and there were openings in his face casings.

“Markus, I’m sorry . I registered the bomb too late.” Simon said through gritted teeth. Instead of anger, Markus only embraced him, pressing his forehead to Simon’s as thirium stained his clothes.

“It’s not your fault... North, get him out of here. We need--”

Their conversation fell out of your ear shot as medics accosted you, directing you away from the scene and to a nearby ambulance. Standing you saw now the extent of the damage. The modular unit was all but destroyed on one half, pieces collapsing into the structure. Flames whipped in the dry cold air, devouring the wooden beams. There was heat though too, like standing too close to a bonfire in summer. It stung your eyes and your throat. There was no telling right now who had lived and who had died, but the crime was obvious. This was a terrorist attack. Smoke rose in giant columns from the structure, darkening the already cloudy day. Your clothes were soot streaked.

An EMT had put your shoulder back in place and set your arm in a sling. The moment the joint had slid back into place the pain vanished. He was asking you questions while blotting your hands clean of thirium with a gauze pad, mindful of the burns. Who is the president? What is your name?

“I’m fine.” was all you would say, letting them finish bandaging up the worst of the burns before you attempted to shrug off the shock blanket you’d been wrapped in and go back towards the carnage, “There are androids who might still be alive over there. You should find them!”

“We should really take you to get checked out at the hospital. You may have a concussion.” the EMT said, but did not try and stop you as you threw off the blanket and headed back towards the fire.

“I don’t need to. I decline medical treatment or whatever-the-hell you need me to say, now go help the other people !”

You moved passed them, heading to where Miranda was loaded onto a stretcher. She had a neck brace on and her glasses were missing. Her eyes were open, lips moving faintly as the head of security listened intently. Markus reluctantly left North and Simon, who were now being aided by the EMT you sent away. You wondered vaguely how one even gave First Aid to an android, but the situation seemed in hand.

You reached Miranda just in time for the EMT’s to load her into the ambulance, the security chief moving off and Markus turning with intent to address you.

“You’ve been promoted.” he said, with no mirth and a lot of disquiet.

“... I’m sorry, what?”

“Assistant director of the DCRU, Miranda Stregga has just appointed you to handle this situation in her stead until the director can arrive back from overseas.”

At a loss for words did not even begin to cover it.

“I’m just an intern.” you said, “I get coffee. I--”

“Assist Miranda in her reporting and are present at all her meetings. You draft her correspondence and place orders through Cyberlife to gather parts and thirium. You are familiar with the position then, yes?”

“... yeah.”

“Then until a replacement arrives, you are the assistant director.” Markus sighed, something akin to pity in his eyes as you slowly processed the information.

“And as such, I advise you.” he crossed his arms behind his back, making his silhouette taunt and imposing, “Start an investigation into who did this to my people, or I will .”

Fan-fucking-tastic.

 


 

As it turned out, you were responsible for more of Miranda’s duties than you originally thought. She showed up, she said “yes” and she strong armed Cyberlife and government officials, but when it came down to the basic running of the office, you realize you were… you were doing a lot more than filing paperwork and grabbing coffee.

Right now, all they needed was that voice box. Someone with appointed authority to say “yes” and “no” and “get me a shipment of android parts and thirium right this fucking second.”

Which is what you did to the Cyberlife liaison without the pomp or circumstance he was used to. Cyberlife agreed to donate parts to the injured androids in this “time of crisis”. 

Excellent. How considerate. Thank you so much . Had been your basic mechanic reaction. Exhausted and pained, somehow the day disappeared and once the figurative and literal fires were put out, you were adamant that you were going home and going to bed.

The EMT had warned you your arm would be sore for days and to keep activity to a minimum. But honestly, washing the soot and grime off was your first priority. The thirium had mostly evaporated, leaving just the faintest pale blue discoloration to your skin, turned sickly grayish from the ash. You decided to leave it alone, not wanting to scrub at your hands which were angry and sore. The EMT had given you burn dressings thin liners covered in a medical gel that you were to apply to the wounds before re-bandaging. He’d also given you a good dose of pain medication and warned you on any side effects you might experience as a result of thirium getting into your blood. The effects of that had been very interesting. You felt almost drunk for most of the day, buzzed even hours later.

Carefully slipping on a long t-shirt, you put your arm back into the sling and moved into your living room, quietly speaking, “TV on.”

The little screen on your wall lit up, the news already discussing the events as a pretty blonde woman spoke.

“An anonymous source indicate an explosion at the Detroit Crisis Response Unit emergency housing facility may have been the work of Android extremists. While tensions run high, many Androids have expressed their anger in the slow moving efforts of the United States government--”

Android extremists? Where did they get that source? You hoped it wasn’t someone from DCRU, quietly ordering, “Change channel.”

The TV did so, flipping to a program on how to “detox” from technology. Those kind of programs were becoming very popular, portraying the lack of android help as healthy and a “wake up call” to relearn home economics.

Speaking of which, cereal sounded delicious for dinner. You’d made it halfway through to your kitchenette when there was a chime at the door. Your eyes darted to the clock on the wall. 

1:23 a.m.

You had reasons for why you were awake, but why would anyone else be at this hour? 

“Display door feed.” you said out loud and the TV flickered and displayed the camera footage outside the apartment complex’s front door. Seeing the familiar face, you issued another command, “Open audio channel.”

You came to stand back in front of the screen, crossing your arms carefully.

“It’s a bit late for a home visit.” you said.

“You left the site of the accident without accepting medical attention or giving a statement.” Connor’s voice came from the other end, “That was a stupid decision.”

That was blunt and quick to set you on edge, but you were tired and not-tired all at the same time and were really not in the mood to debate your life choices. You made a mental note to find out whoever gave him your address.

“It’s one in the morning , Connor.”

He didn’t look impressed at all, the corner of his mouth turning down disapprovingly.

“Correct. If you’d done the responsible thing and cooperated with the EMTs I wouldn’t have to be out here at one in the morning when there are open reports of “terrorist” androids in the area.”

You frowned.

“The desk security has been looking at me quite suspiciously. He may feel the need to respond to my presence violently.”

“... are you manipulating me?”

“My scans read that he keeps a 12-gauge shotgun under the security station as a deterrent for criminals.”

Definitely manipulating, but he wasn’t wrong either.

“Fine. Open front door.” you said, issuing the command and watching Connor immediately disappear from view of the screen.

“Hey-- wait, Connor! Ugh. Message security desk., the frustratingly gorgeous android is a guest of resident C-534. Allow entrance.”

You didn’t hear any shots coming from the video feed, so the message must have been received. You disconnected the TV from the front door footage and even the home news program was now showing helicopter footage of the explosion, narrating the events.

“Mute.” you told it, the sound cutting out.

Now you were going to have to put pants on. Which was easier said than done. By the time you had managed to slip on a pair of PJ shorts, there was a curt knock at the door.

You hurried out, went to turn the handle and-- stopped. Because oh yeah, you have first degree burns all over your palms, the pain of which is being barely contained by medication and the thirium that got into your bloodstream from Josh.

You used your elbow to hit the lock, flicking it down.

“It’s open!” you said, wandering back towards the couch to find the damn burn dressings.

“---, even with a security desk, you shouldn’t leave your doors unlocked.” Connor’s voice, usually such a delight to your ears, was slightly annoying.

“Didn’t! Can’t do door handles. Got Freddie Kruger hands.”

The reference was lost on him, but upon watching you try to pick up the box from the first-aid kick with the backs of your hands, Connor quickly realized what you meant. He took the box from you and dropped it, taking your right wrist in his hand.

“H-hey. Watch it.”

His LED spun, eyes flicking up your hands to your wrists and to your injured shoulder. His eyes scanned everywhere then and you felt your cheeks heat up.

“You have minor traces of thirium toxicity in your blood.” he said, concern evident in his tone.

“Does that mean I’m high?” you said with a just-a-little-bit-in-shock-hysterical sounding giggle, and not in a good way.

“Marginally. Also, it may interrupt your usual menstrual cycle.”

“Oh. I’ve missed you.” you said, the sarcasm in every word so evident not even Connor would mistake it.

“The EMT gave you something?” he asked, clearly already scanning and locating the traces of Vicodin in abundance.

“Oh no. Leftovers from that broken ankle a few years back. Still got some kick.”

Connor gingerly took your forearm, directing you to sit down on the sofa. You wanted to argue, but at this point you were just glad for the distraction. Without asking, Connor took the burn dressings, peeling free one gel liner. Turning your palm up, he placed it on a particularly bad spot, smoothing it down with a feather light touch.

When it was settled in place, the relief was immediate. The lingering pain and tightness around your skin was soothed. He opened another packet and did the same to a burn on the heel of your palm. You took in a shaky breath, having your attention drawn to just how bad this could have all gone had Josh not-- had he---

“Josh almost died today.” you said, “Lots of other people did. And the EMTs were more worried about me.”

You swallowed hard, biting back tears.

“Because I’m a human, and they weren’t.”

You rubbed your nose with the back of your hand, adjusting the sling to reach.

“How’s that for a statement?” you said, giving a weak smile.

Connor's touch was just so heartrendingly  gentle , despite the constant yellow of his LED. This is what you had been afraid of when the EMT worked on you, that the moment someone treated you with an ounce of sympathy or kindness you’d fall apart. You couldn’t think about what happened, it was too fucking awful .

“Did you see who caused the explosion?” he asked, voice calm and quiet.

“No. Someone uh, someone broke in through the fence. Whoever did that probably… ya know. Set off that thing.”

“Who else was there at the time of the explosion? What else did you see?”

Connor ,” you said sharply, trying not to remember anything at all about what you saw, “.. do we have to do this right now? Can’t I just come to the DPD tomorrow?”

Yellow. Yellow. Flicker. Blue.

“Of course.” he said, letting his hand rest on your forearm since he could not very well hold your hand without causing pain.

“You need to sleep, ---.” 

Your sigh rattled in your chest and you wanted so badly to do nothing more than to crumple into him and curl up. Hide in his arms and feel safe. 

“I can’t. I’m scared that I’ll.. just keep seeing it. It’ll just keep running through my head.” you said, “I can still smell the smoke.”

It wasn’t even just that. You could still feel the sudden weightlessness, hear the explosion and taste the metal in the air. The sensations and sounds kept replaying over and over in the background noise of your mind and you knew the moment you laid down it would come to the forefront where you would be powerless to stop.

“I… was going to watch a movie.” you said, “I’ll be okay. I’ll eventually pass out and I’ll call my parents tomorrow and they’ll talk me down whatever ledge I get on. It’s late and I don’t want to keep you from getting home.”

“I am not able to rent an apartment with current laws. I have been residing at the DPD and sometimes with Hank.” Connor said, “Neither of which is important, because I’m not leaving you.”

“I… don’t have a charging station.” you said, at a loss for excuses.

“I do not require one.” Connor said, leaning up on his knee to tug a throw blanket free from the back of your couch. You would have taken it, but he instead unfurled it and tucked it around you.

“Is that alright?”

You nodded. You were not going to cry. You were absolutely not crying.

He settled back, hands clasped together and resting in his lap. Even sitting, he seemed ready at any moment to receive a command. It must be a hard habit for an android to break.

“Open film playlist.” you said out loud, the screen displaying a row of digital movie posters, “You got a preference?”

“I would say no action, or horror.”

The screen adjusted, removing those genres from the selection.

“Can’t argue with that.” you said under your breath, “Okay then. Play Wall-E, 2008.” 

“Appropriate.” Connor said, scoffing.

“I would have gone Terminator , but you said no action.”

You pulled your legs up under you, adjusting a nearby pillow so you could lean up against it. The blanket slipped up over your legs, but Connor’s hand was there before yours, pulling it back down snug over you.

“If you have to leave at some point--”

“I won’t.” he said before you could finish the thought. With his attention focused forward you took the opportunity to look at him, noting even in the pale light of the screen that his epidermis was dotted with freckles. You wondered quietly, why Cyberlife would design their androids with such loving detail if they did not want humans to feel affection for them. In school you had learned about Shintoism, a Japanese idea that all objects, living or not, had a “kami”, a spirit. How could we possibly design such beings, mold them in human images and not transfer into them our own spirits? 

How could someone hurt them? How could someone plant a bomb in their homes?

You shut your eyes tight against the thought, which drew Connor’s attention to you. He must have sensed the spike of stress, because he shifted closer.

“Do you pick this film because I remind you of EVE?” he asked, an attempt to take your thoughts out of the dark places your mind kept constructing.

“No.” you mumbled, thirium working its way through your system again and making your eyes heavy, “Wall-E. Because you collect garbage people.”

“Hank isn’t that bad.” he said and through your half closed eyes you could see that smile, turned towards you. Kind. He was kind, but there were times when you swore you saw something sad in those eyes, something veiled with anger, veiled with that temper he said he had.

“Lonely.” you said, his smile fading and leaving his eyes, “Wall-E woke up and then he was lonely because he was the only one.”

You turned your cheek into the pillow, watching the scene play out as the small robot held its own hand, the black and white film shining in its eyes.

“I think Hank was wrong. You don’t need to meet “people”. You need to meet other androids.”

Connor’s jaw worked, bringing his leg up to balance on his knee. He threw an arm over the back of the couch too, sating some need to be moving. He found his coin, smoothing his thumb over the bust of Washington on its front in circles.

He didn’t say anything and soon enough you fell asleep. 

When the film was over, he quietly asked the monitor to replay.


 

You woke up on your still made bed, wrapped in the throw blanket from the sofa. You searched your memory for a moment, trying to recall how you got there and came up with nothing. The door to your room was closed, but through it you could hear the faint sounds of multiple people.

The sun was shining brightly, reflecting off the snow outside and covering your room in its rays. It was strange, normally in the morning your entire apartment was pitch black…

Your heart sped with adrenaline, flipping over and looking at your clock with growing dread.

It was already afternoon.

“Oh my god.” you whispered in horror, rushing to put your feet on the floor and finding the entire room shifted abruptly when you did. Your head throbbed as if you were recovering from the worst hangover of your life and your arm was so tender you gasped when just the act of standing sent a shock to the joint.

Your sling was still on, but looser. You re-tightened it as you stumbled out into the living room, hair messy and disheveled as your eyes fell on--- Connor. Sitting with his jacket off, tie undone and his shirt half unbuttoned on your sofa.

It wasn’t as if you didn’t appreciate the image, but that he was still here was a bit of a shock. Gregory Peck’s baritone drew your eyes to the screen. He was watching To Kill a Mockingbird.

“Good morning.” he said, attention redirecting, “Your office called.” he continued, as if this was the most normal thing in the world, “The housing site is on lock down until further notice and you are to report to the Cadillac Place once you are fit to return to work. They advise you make time to give a statement to the DPD as well. Due to a lack of resources available by the FBI at this time, they are having the DPD assist with this case.”

There was a lot to unpack there, but first things first.

“You answered my phone?!”

“You did allow me to synchronize to your device.” Connor said, “You have several unread messages, but I didn’t open them.”

“Good! Jesus, Connor, when I let you sync to my phone it was for books.”  

He was acting so nonchalant, you did not expect the harshness of your tone to get much of a reaction. His LED flashed, directing the movie to pause. He sat up on the edge of the sofa, clasping his hands together.

“I apologize… I didn’t want to wake you. I realize it was an overstep, but I was concerned you would want to return to work as soon as you woke up.”

“That’s my choice.” you said, granted, you really didn’t want to go in and were feeling fairly relieved right now. That was hardly the point though. Connor seemed to be processing the statement, frowning faintly.

“Yes… that objective did cross my mind.” 

But since I’m deviant and can make my own choices, I chose not to watch you make a stupid ass decision -- your mind silently finished for him.

“Connor.” you said sternly, “You’re a good friend, but I’m a big girl. And speaking of ‘work’, how is it you aren’t there?”

Whatever delight he’d taken in being referred to as a friend didn’t diminish at all by your question.

“I took “personal” leave. We have not yet been officially assigned to this case, so I felt your well being took priority for now.”

That caught your attention, the assigning of the case , not the other bit. Well-- a little the other bit.

“Will you and Hank be assigned?” you asked, heading into the kitchen to find a pot of coffee suspiciously full. Weren’t you out of it? There was creamer in the fridge too.

“There is a likely probability. We have worked with the FBI on android cases previously and my skill set is highly valued since I am the only RK800 model in Detroit.”

It hadn’t occurred to your before, but it made sense there would be more of him. Androids were mass produced.

“You have brothers outside of Detroit?” you asked, simplifying.

Connor’s eyes widened, his brows turning up in surprise. His LED flickered only once.

“I had not thought of it that way.” he said, “But it is an interesting metaphor, if not overly simplified. Yes. There are approximately fifty-one other active RK800 models in the United States, stationed at various central police departments in each capital.”

“So there is an RK800 in Lansing?” you asked, pouring yourself a cup of coffee and mixing the creamer.

“Correct. Based on the files available to me, I am the only model to have “deviated”.” he paused, voice modular softening, “Thirty-eight models have been decommissioned or destroyed since November 11th.”

The gravity of that statement was stifling.

Lucky thirteen , you thought, knowing better than to speak it allowed as the “joke” was hardly appropriate.

Connor froze, LED whirling for a moment and then he stood, fingers quickly redoing up the buttons of his shirt. He picked up the shoulder harness that held his gun and his jacket.

“I’m on my way.” he said to the air, “She is stable, yes.”

He paused, mouthing silently to you the word Hank.

“I’m sure she’d be delighted to hear you are thankful for that.” he paused, “Yes, she is here.”

He adjusted the gun harness, pulling his jacket over his shirt with mechanical efficiency. He looked around for his tie and found you had crossed the room and picked it up. It was strange not being able to hear another voice through the "receiver" but given that the call was coming from inside Connor's head that seemed impossible.

“Lieutenant Anderson would like to know if you could schedule time for tomorrow morning to visit the station and provide a statement.” Connor relayed, eyes caught on the sight of you, tugging his tie around your neck and with practiced fingers, forming the fabric into a knot.

“That should be okay…” you said, focused. You slipped the tie off and Connor inclined his head so you could reach to put it over his neck, smoothing the knot into place. You let your hand slide down the tie and consequently, him . The thrumming of his thirium pump was faint, but you swore you could feel it when your palm traced over the center of his chest. Quickly, you smoothed his shoulders, though they hardly required it, trying to appear as business like as possible.

“10 a.m. okay?”

Connor snapped out of his silence, “Yes. That is fine.”

“Tell Hank it’s a date.” you said, returning to the kitchen to pick up your mug, “You heading in?”

“Yes. There has been an update.” he paused, “I am not at liberty to discuss it further at this time, however.”

That was reasonable you guessed.

“Do you know where they took Miranda? Ms. Stregga? Or Josh and Simon from Jericho?”

His LED flashed a bit longer than usual.

“Ms. Stregga is in the ICU at Wayne State University, Detroit Medical Center. They are not allowing visitors at this time. The androids harmed in the explosion are being treated at a repurposed Cyberlife supply facility. I can upload you the address.”

Your phone chimed.

“Do you intend to visit?” he asked, somehow more cautious than curious in his tone.

“I want to see how Josh is doing...He was hurt very badly. Least I can do is go and make sure Cyberlife is providing everything he needs.”

“Is he your friend as well?” Connor asked again, not so much just cautious but tense even, “Like me?”

“Yeah, of course.” you said, not wanting him to think you thought any less of Josh or any Jericho android, “Josh was a professor before he deviated, so we have a lot in common. He’s really smart and so-- understanding . If the guy was anymore empathetic he’d be a martyr.”

Connor took this in, expressionless.

“Maybe you two could talk?” you offered.

“Perhaps. We are acquainted.” Connor said, and then seemed to think better of saying more.

“Hank will be waiting for me.” his words were almost a mutter, the way you did when you were hiding something. He crossed the room, taking a moment to reach out and adjust your sling so that it was more snug against your chest.

Try to take it easy?” he said, tilting his head to force you to actually meet his eyes, which you had adverted hoping he wouldn’t notice how warm you were getting when he was so close.

“I don’t know, Connor. Might need another movie night.” you said, trying to repress the smile that crept up at the corner of your lips.

“Perhaps Josh would also like that.” Connor countered and you rose an eyebrow at him. His expression gave away nothing.

“Maybe... once he is better. But for now, um-- feel free to drop by whenever.” you said with a noncommittal wave of your hand.

“Rather let you come hang out here than be stuck with Hank all the time.”

Now he smiled, just a small one right where you were trying to keep one from appearing. Everything seemed to just… pause. All the worries and the events of the past day were faint and you felt like there was something more to be said or to do, but you didn’t know what.

So gently, carefully, you touched his arm and standing up on your toes you brushed your lips over his cheek and stepped back.

“Thank you, Connor. For-- last night. I… I’m glad I wasn’t alone.”

You risked a quick look up at him, noting his usually brown eyes looked nearly black in the low light. 

Bedroom eyes. Your mind offered, much to your embarrassment. You moved quickly around Connor, heading to the door which you opened politely.

“Haaaave a good day.” you said, slipping oh-so-easily into absolute fuckin’ dork mode. Connor had this look on his face that could only be described as dreamy as he passed by you.

“I’d like to watch more films regarding the Civil Rights Movement. And maybe we can talk about The Prince as well. I have many opinions.” he said, stepping barely into the hall.

“Okay… yeah. Sure, I’ll get a playlist together.” you said, leaning into the frame.

Markus Christ, someone has to go.

“See you tomorrow. I’ll.. try to work on remembering everything I can.”

Connor nodded, “If possible, write down the details. While they are still fresh. Also, call your mother. She just left another voicemail.”

Before you could protest that he was still fuckin’ sync’d to your phone, the android turned and disappeared around the corner.

Chapter Text

It was snowing again, thick and wet, sticking to the ground and to the roads, January fading into February with hardly anyone the wiser. You expected more bustle, more signs of life at the once Cyberlife owned distribution center, but all was quiet and still in the morning light. There were guards, human and android, at the gate. The android guards were behind the gate and the humans in front, whether there was some logistics behind this other than making sure the humans were kept out you didn't know and it didn't seem to matter. You showed your badge once to the humans and again to the androids. You were directed to one of the large buildings, the door opened for you and you were ushered in to the floor of what use to be a loading bay.

There were at least a dozen or more cots, with androids in various stages of disrepair and recovery on them. Other androids, family or friends, gathered around them, holding hands and speaking quietly as you would have expected of any hospital wing or emergency room. From what you could tell, there were few crates of parts, some androids only half fixed, but all appearing as stable as possible, receiving thirium through IVs.

Josh came out from behind an area that was blocked off with dividing screens, looking almost as if nothing had happened to him at all. You met eyes and suddenly you tossed aside your bag and rushed to meet him, his arms already extended for your hug. He held you so tight he lifted you from your feet, the momentum spinning you both slightly before he set you back down.

"You don't know how happy I am to see you." he said, voice filled with relief, "... a lot of people didn't make it. On both sides."

"You're okay? Your neck? Anything else?" you asked, instinctively running your hands from his shoulders down his arms as you looked him over. Where his arms had opened were faint imperfections, showing most likely the openings had been cauterized and now were half concealed by his artificial skin. Josh nodded regardless, "All accounted for. Voice had to be replaced, but I got off lucky." 

Josh lowered his eyes, looking pained.

"Simon?" you asked, tentatively. The weight in your chest had returned. You didn't know the other Jericho android well, but you knew that the four of them were family.

"Stable. We managed to get some replacements for his damaged eye and ear, but... the damage to his arms isn't clean. It would take a professional to put them back together where he could even use them again. Replacement or not." Josh said, shaking his head, "And no android repair shop is going to fix a deviant ."

He spat the word like a curse. A slur.

"We'll see about that." you said, voice firm, "I'll talk to Cyberlife. I'll talk to anyone."

Josh just kept shaking his head, letting you go as he moved back behind the curtains and gestured you to follow. You were hesitant, but eventually followed him around. Simon was in a cot, arms wrapped up where they had been destroyed with layers of fresh gauze. He had several bags of thirium connected to him, his eyes were shut and his processes that ran simulated breathing appeared to be suspended. It was eerie, the only sign he was still alive was simply the fact Josh had said he was. A young woman with strawberry blonde hair gave you a look of unbridled hatred , turning her gaze on Josh.

"What the hell is she doing here?" the woman said, outraged. Markus was sitting at Simon's side, head bowed and rested against folded hands. When North spoke, he only glanced up at you for a moment before turning his eyes back down.

"This is a private matter. You need to leave." North continued, getting up from her chair and walking towards you with purpose. She was directly in your personal space when Josh stopped her.

"No, she doesn't. --- is a friend. She wants to help."

North scoffed, "Don't they all."

She looked you over with a critical eye and seemed to find nothing at all she approved of. 

North circled away from you, on guard and tense. She moved with all the grace of a predator, ready to fight at any moment. She refused to sit again, instead, coming to stand by Markus at Simon's bedside, her hand on his shoulder even as she never took her eyes off you.

"Has an investigation been open?" Markus asked, rubbing his eyes.

"Yes. I spoke with a member of the DPD... I'm going there to make a statement and check on the status."

"Then why are you still here?" North snapped, Markus sitting up and putting his hand over her own tightly. She turned her head to him, backing down at the silent warning from her leader.

You swallowed thickly, "I wanted to make sure Josh was okay. That everyone was being treated."

"They--" North began, but Markus cut her off.

"We do not have enough parts. What you see here is what remained in the facility when we arrived. Cyberlife is claiming it will take at least a week or more to provide us with the things we need outside of thirium. They claim they don't have the extra funds. "

"That's bullshit ." you said, forgetting you were supposed to be "Miranda" level professional now. North even smiled.

"I'll contact them." you said, "Figure out what the hold up is."

Markus looked at you now, appraising the way Connor often did. He had no LED, so you could only wonder as to whether he was scanning you or not.

"Please do that." he said, "I would appreciate if you reached out to me as soon as you know anything. On the parts from Cyberlife or the case itself. If you're more comfortable, you can send the updates to Josh and he'll let me know."

"I can send them to all of you, if you want."

North snorted, "Absolutely not. You don't get a free line in to my head."

Markus smiled wryly, clearly more used to this kind of reaction from her than anyone else presently conscious in the room. "No one is saying you have to, North. She's just trying to be accommodating."

His smile faded, "I would appreciate it if you tried too."

"--- already has mine, so she can contact me whenever she wants." Josh said, bristling, "I won't turn down genuine help when offered. Our people can't afford the same luxury of "principles" as you right now, North."

She crossed her arms, shooting Josh a glare with less cold heat and more fire. You assumed that was the difference between glares reserved for friends and glares reserved for you.

"Please, you two." Markus said, softely. The tone seemed to have resonated with North, the change in her demeanor suddenly making her seem not so very threatening at all. "Simon won't be in need of a com channel right now..." Markus said, closing his eyes. Within a minute, your phone alert went off, indicating an RK200 model was opening communication. It was a different message than Connor's synchronizing, allowing only message contact. You clicked accept.

"Markus..." North said, her voice edged with warning and concern, "You're putting a lot of faith in one of the things that have tried yet again to kill us."

"I haven't done anything to you!" you said, sudden and defensive. You weren't normally this touchy, but something about near death had kinda put you on edge. North looked thoroughly unimpressed.

"You're right. You haven't. Which is also why Simon is laying here still mutila --"

" North . Please, stop." Markus said, his voice cracking. It sent a shock through your chest to hear the leader of the revolution sound so... heartbroken. Whatever North was going to say she stopped, turning towards him and blocking your view any further.

Josh gently took your forearm, avoiding your still injured hands, tugging you out of the area. The last glimpse you saw was of North wrapping her arms around Markus, letting him fall into her as he held her like a lifeline.

Josh looked nearly as devastated, eyes swimming as he walked you out and gave your back an affectionate rub.

"Thank you. I know you might not get much from Cyberlife, but... the thought counts to me. It reminds me to hope. And she'd hate me for saying it, but I'm sorry about North. I wish you knew her the way we all did, she really is an amazing person, but sometimes she just...."

You hugged him again around his middle and Josh was more than happy to reciprocate.

"I'll try not to hold it against her." you said, earning a chuckle, "And I'll be back. That much I can promise." you said, a white hot fury slowly beginning to smolder in your gut.

You'd be back here and you'd have those damn parts if it meant holding up the entire Cyberlife facility yourself.

 


 

It was near 10 a.m. and the sun was losing it's battle with the clouds today. You brushed snow from your hair, tugging free your gloves as you stepped into the DPD lobby, moved off to the side as you spoke in a harsh whisper on your phone.

"No, I don't understand. One of the largest facilities you own is--"

"Ms. ---, most of those parts are already bought and sold product or being rationed from us with limited refund. We are being required by the government to provide parts to their efforts. Which I understand they rationed to your facility as well."

"Which haven't arrived!" you said, loud enough to draw some eyes to you.

"That is something you will want to take up with your local government official." the man on the other side concluded and you swore you could just hear the self-satisfied smile.

"People are dying. We need those parts and we need techs to install them." you said, not sure if it would even work.

"I understand how you might feel that way. However, without the direct order of Miranda Stregga, I can not divert any spare parts or personnel to your facility."

"I'm her replacement, we've been through this."

"Yes. You have stumbled into the position on a technicality, an accident. I would much rather wait for the proper director to become available, as would Cyberlife." he added, before you could argue you didn't give a shit about his personal preference.

"Ms. ---, I have sympathy for your plight. Off the record-- " you heard a click, signalling he was blocking any attempts to record the phone call from your device, "You are young and our product has fooled you with it's realism. No one is dying . Machines are just going without maintenance and repair. Don't take it so much to heart. Cyberlife knows that there is a time and place for pretending to buy into the public's idiotic idea these androids are people. You should learn too."

He almost sounded genuine. It made the back of your throat burn. You saw Hank come out from around the hall into the DPD lobby, looking around with an air of impatience. His eyes fell on you and he gestured his arms out, What gives?

It was 10:20.

"I have to go and give a statement to the DPD, but I will be calling back to continue this phone call immediately after I'm done."

"Very well." he said, almost with a laugh.

The line disconnected and you hurried to meet Hank. He scanned his badge, allowing you access through the entrance and back into the bullpen. There was much more bustle in the DPD today than had been before, from the bits of conversation you caught, it was all from a tip line set up to try and find out which "android" attacked the DCRU facility.

"God damn mayor set it up." Hank grumbled, leading you back into an interview room. Judging by the two way mirror, it was actually an interrogation room. You felt a sudden flutter of nervousness in your stomach.

"Hope this is okay. Multi purpose. I'll leave the door open even if you want." Hank said, pulling out the aluminum chair for you. You shook your head, you'd rather have the privacy. Hank closed the door, leaving it unlocked though.

"Hope you remembered to put the scuff pad back on." you said, checking the chair for wobbling. It was sturdy, but the comment drew a barked laugh from Hank.

"Trust me. Connor gave the place a thorough once over when he knew I'd be taking you in here. Surprised there isn't chocolate mints and pillows."

You blushed and Hank didn't need to be an android to notice it. He said nothing about it though, setting a recording device on the table. It was a bit low tech considering most interrogation rooms came with full video and audio recording in the room behind the two-way mirror.

"Figured we don't need the whole dog and pony show. You aren't a suspect, in case you were wondering." Hank said, clicking on a button and turning the recorder on.

"Let's see it is uh-- 10:32 a.m. on February 2nd, 2039. I have with me today Ms. -----, volunteer of the Detroit Crisis Response Unit who was present during the explosion that occurred at Housing Site Alpha on....." Hank paused the droning details, checking a file, "January 31st, 2039 at approximately 11:15 in the morning."

He turned up from the file, trying to be as friendly as possible, "Please confirm your name."

You confirmed it, instinctively crossing your arms. It wasn't cold in the room, but you felt chilled regardless.

"Okay-- first things first. Where were you approximately when the explosive device went off?"

"By the fence line. The line is measured fifteen feet from the first modular unit exactly, but it may have been more like ten feet."

"So you were close, but relatively uninjured?"

You nodded, forgetting the recording device couldn't see you and instead added, "Yes. Josh, one of the androids at the housing site, shielded me and threw me down when it went off."

Hank nodded, flipping through some photos in the file which he thankfully kept out of your sight. You really didn't need to see it again if possible.

"Was that before or after the explosion?"

"Excuse me?"

"When this Josh put himself between you and the blast. Do you remember if it did it before you saw the explosion or after?"

Your blood ran cold, finally understanding the implication. They wanted to know if Josh was aware something was going to happen before it did and tried to keep you safe. You held up your hands to the detective, showing the bandages.

"The explosion happened first . Josh wasn't able to prevent me from getting singed from the initial blast. He didn't see it coming either."

Hank smiled ruefully, "Of course. Who else was present at the sight aside from you and Josh?"

"Miranda Stregga, at least three security officers and... and a lot of androids. It was a three mod home unit."

"We have a record of 17 androids being injured in the blast and four killed on detonation." Hank said, matter-o-factly. Your face must have given away your shock, because when he looked up he seemed surprised. Quickly he reached out and paused the recorder. Your eyes were steaming.

"Sorry... shouldn't have told you that way. I thought maybe you already knew."

"No." you said, wiping your eyes, frustrated that you were even crying at all, "And the human officers? Miranda?"

Hank hesitated, but then nodded, "Yeah. One officer died this morning. We're... waiting on whether Ms. Stregga will be added to that. Do you... need a minute? Water? Coffee?"

You nodded, taking a deep breath.

"Got it. I'll be right back." Hank said, hurriedly getting up as if he were late to something. He opened the interrogation room door and immediately let out an irritated sound, shoving someone or something backwards.

" C'mon , back off, I didn't--"

The conversation became muted as the door closed roughly behind him. You turned, but didn't catch a glimpse of whomever he was speaking with in the hall, but you had a few guesses. You were left alone for only a few minutes before Hank returned, scowling but holding a cup of water and in his other hand a small packet of tissues.

He set down both.

"Oh-- thank you. I should be okay, sorry. I just was caught off guard."

Hank sighed, "Yeah, yeah, I know. Courtesy of DPD." 

He shot a look at the two way mirror than, exasperated. It had occurred to you that someone may be watching, but knowing that it might very well be Connor added an extra level of butterflies to your stomach.

"Um... Ms.---? Don't be uh, nervous. Like I said, you aren't in any trouble." Hank said with a level of practice that made you raise an eyebrow. It was clear these were someone else's words. He quickly seemed to get embarrassed, flipping the file back open and abruptly hitting record again.

"Alright. So you were roughly ten to fifteen feet from the initial blast by the fence line. What drew you all out to that part of the facility that day?"

"Someone had used pliers to rip open a hole in the fence." you said, "Simon determined that it was someone from outside who came in, not someone "escaping"."

"Simon?" Hank said, turning some pages, "Who is Simon?"

"Another android. Simon and Markus, who I assume doesn't need an introduction, returned from their trip to D.C.. I don't know for sure why Simon joined us, except that he might have heard about the situation. It was common knowledge at that point."

"How so?" Hank continued, "How would Simon, who had been in D.C. until that morning, know about the fence break in?"

You smiled, "He's an android. They all communicate instantaneously via a communication network. If Josh knew, then Simon knew."

Hank took out a pen and jotted something down on the cover of the folder.

"Simon also was the first one who noticed the bomb. He could smell-- something. I don't know if it was gunpowder or some chemical or what."

Hank's brow furrowed, looking through some other notes in the file before finally he asked,

"What model android is Simon?"

"A PL600."

"You know what duties those models usually perform?"

You shrugged. Hank gave you a pointed look until you said "no" out loud.

"Domestic assistants. Not exactly a crime scene examiner." Hank scoffed, "Is it common for DCRU to depend on the analysis of a manny android?"

"Who knows what kind of upgrades they've all downloaded since that time." you said, irritation tinging your voice at having Simon dismissed like that, "They have to adapt to their new lives and unfortunately part of those lives now includes getting bombs planted in their homes."

Hank nodded, scribbling something down again. There was a sound, like a faint tap that drew his eyes up, which he rolled at the mirror.

"Can I ask you a question, lieutenant?" 

He shrugged, "Sure."

"Does the DPD seriously think an android did this?"

"We are exploring all possible venues." Hank said, practiced and without inflection. He'd said this line many times before in his career, you gathered, "That's all the questions we have for you today, Ms. ---. Thank you for coming down to speak to us. If we have any further questions we will contact you."

Hank clicked the stop button on the recording and set it aside.

"Real talk." Hank began, flipping the folder towards you and showing you pictures of a scorched device, "No android did this. I know it. You know it. Cyberlife probably knows it too. We got a few leads, but my advice to you is to keep your head down and your ass outta the line of fire. And you send that advice on to whomever else you think needs to hear it too."

Aka Markus. Your eyes scanned over the device showed in the photo, catching sight of a note on a piece of paper underneath that listed a name and an address-- Temple Bar . Cass ave. 2/14. Hank quickly flipped the folder shut, eyeing you for a moment before seeming to decide against whatever he was going to say next.

"I would offer to walk you out, but my partner will probably overheat his circuits if I don't let him do the honors." Hank said, easing back into a casual demeanor as he tucked the folder under his arm and went to open the door, "But that's the last time I lend him any book of mine. Thought I actually remembered reading that crap! Macchiato or whoever the hell. Kept talking about damn Disney movies too."

You smiled despite yourself and once Hank led you to the hall, you saw Connor, dressed in a suit that clearly had been removed of android markers. He sat, hands clasped together and back straight, always seeming to be just observing and taking in everything going on around him. When he noticed you however, all that focus roped in and narrowed to one thing.

He smiled, quickly getting up.

"Ms. ---, what a nice surp--"

"Yeah, yeah. Surprise. Whatever." Hank said, brushing passed Connor with his shoulder in what seemed more an affectionate display than aggressive. Connor stopped mid posturing, watching Hank head back to his desk for only a second before his attention was on you.

"How are you feeling?" he asked, probably noting you weren't wearing your sling probably before he even got up. You didn't resist him ushering you to a private corner, out of sight and earshot of Gavin or any other who might interrupt.

"Better." you said, a casual lie, but then you remembered Connor could probably see that all in any scan.

"Well-- sore. Mostly sore. And tired. And..." you sighed heavily, deflating, "And pissed off at Cyber-fucks."

Connor perked, as if he had good news that would alleviate one of these things, but then he started looking-- guilty?

" I have something to tell you, but I am worried you may react negatively."

Okay, now you were giving him the suspicious glare, voice lowered, "What?"

"You may be able to acquire the resources you need from Cyberlife if you apply pressure on them through media perception. They are working very hard to make themselves appear victims, skirting the line of denying androids are alive." he continued, "Public opinion has been swayed strongly to favor androids. An individual employed by Cyberlife may mistakenly think it safe to speak freely over any Cyberlife initiated communication because of the level of firewalls and protections Cyberlife offers. However, those protections do not keep me out."

"How did you---"

Connor's LED flashed and there was a sudden ding to your phone. You picked up and saw the words, "Recorded Call".

"No way." you said, clicking play and hearing the "off the record" dialogue of the Cyberlife rep perfectly preserved in the digital cloud, "No way."

You felt a flash of emotion between sudden nefarious triumph and dulled anger that Connor had been snooping in your phone.

"This," you said pointing to the recording, "Is great. This?" you gestured to all of Connor and then to your phone, " Not great. But I have a phone call to make and you and me will talk about that once I'm done threatening this dickhead."

Connor frowned, "Threatening him may get you one shipment, but if an outside source, an unknown were to do it... they may be inspired to act further out of fear of a breach in their security protocols."

"It would take days to get equipment that would fool Cyberlife into knowing it wasn't me." you said, looking at your phone and remembering Simon, disabled and barely holding his processes together.

"Perhaps if the file were to be leaked anonymously by an unknown android unit." Connor said, "That way any possible accusations of "hacking" would not fall on you and no accusations could be directed at Jericho either."

"But they could fall on you." you said, voice flat.

"If they catch me." Connor said with a smirk, "This is the most reasonable choice. There is a 79% probability that Cyberlife will provide parts and Jericho and yourself will be in a position to deny involvement. There is minimal risk to the most important groups."

"You can't ask me to approve of you putting yourself at risk." you said, baffled by how easy Connor seemed to suggest taking the burden of possible fault completely on himself, "... maybe Simon will be okay. Cyberlife said weeks, but it could have just been..."

"I can ask, but I did not say I needed the approval." Connor said, leaving you sputtering.

"No! Wait, I mean-- Connor, wait." you couldn't very well stop him from uploading whatever he wanted from his mind, but you grabbed both his arms, holding him in place as if that could stop it. He seemed at least a little amused by it, LED spinning showing he'd already done something.

"Why would you do that ? " you asked, earnestly.

"I am an android, ---." he said, "If this is how I can help my people, then this is how I'll help them."

It occurred to you that you understood very little about Connor or where he came from or what he'd done during the revolution. He worked on deviant cases, that you knew, but how did he himself deviate? Was it just a happenstance, or did something propel it forward? You'd always just accepted it, never questioned it. You'd been happy to accept his concern and his attention because it was just so freely given, because it seemed he had no expectation of you reciprocating at all... but here was the thing. You did reciprocate.

"I assure you, I can take care of myself. I will take all the needed precautions." Connor said, trailing off, "Josh is important to you, ---, and Simon is important to him."

"So is it for your people or for me?" you said, frowning deeply.

"In this instance it is both. We are friends, aren't we? I have found through my friendship with Hank that protecting one another is one of the highest ways to show your friendship."

"Connor," you said, laughing mirthlessly, "You've known me for three weeks."

"And I've only been alive for eight months." Connor said, countering your argument, "Less, if you can even call what I was doing before I deviated living. Three weeks is not the same to me."

Something in his own words gave him pause, the space between his brows furrowing tightly. 

"I have met many people, androids and humans in that time but... none of them ever spoke to me the way you did. Not like a dog of Cyberlife or a android... but like I was more. Like I was real."

Your breath caught in your throat as he reached his hand forward tentatively to barely trace the tips of his fingers between yours, not quite taking your hand. His skin slipped away, showing the white casing beneath. You felt something, the faintest vibration of connectors, recognizing it as how androids would meld their minds together. The act was fruitless, as you had nothing for him to sync to, but still it dawned on you the gravity of this very tangible act of reaching out, of seeking a connection.

He looked so lost, trying to find some answer in your eyes that you didn't know would ever be there. Could ever be there. 

"You are real." you said, lacing your fingers with his at last and solidifying the connection, "And I want you to come with me tomorrow when I tell Markus I have the parts to save those people."

There was still something unsure in the downturn of his lips.

"I haven't seen any of them since the 12th." he confessed, "You don't know what I have done to them. What I almost did. I'm--" he paused, face working against the wave of emotions and settling on shock, "-- scared ."

"You stayed with me when I was afraid." you said, giving his hand a little swing, trying to be cheerful, "I'll stay with you."

Before he could respond, his LED swirled.

"Cyberlife responded with a diverted delivery receipt. Requested crates have been approved and should arrive as early as this evening along with four trained technicians to facilitate repairs."

You sighed,  A week or more  my ass.

"Anything else?"

"Nothing important." Connor said, coming back to you. You highly doubted that, but let it go for now.

"It's early. I should still try and get over to DRCU Alpha site and see if there is anything else I can do." 

You were still holding hands. You cleared your throat and Connor let go.

"Do you... want to come over tonight? We can finish watching To Kill a Mockingbird and you can tell me all about your hellish descent into the pits of freshman philosophy." you tried to play it off casually, but when he smiled like a 800 watt light bulb, it was hard to conceal your own liking of the idea.

"Yes.' he said, "Will Josh be joining us?"

"I doubt it. He will want to stay close by Markus so uh-- just you and me. If that's okay?"

It occurred to you maybe Connor kept asking about Josh because he was wanting to befriend androids like you suggested... maybe one on one was easier for him?

"We can see how he is feeling after Simon is recovered and then we can all hang out."

Connor smiled thinly, something decidedly "un"-android about the way his eyes seemed to darken. It passed quickly, fading into his usual demeanor.

"Then I will see you later this evening. Please remember to change your bandages in approximately an hour and forty two minutes."


 

The housing site was almost entirely abandoned of DCRU personnel, which did little to garner trust and approval from the androids still required to live there. Protect the humans, but leave them open to threat? Not a great stance.

There were options, which were presented to you by the chief of security, that Miranda had already devised in the event of attack. Practical as always. You opted for higher levels of rotations in tighter circles around the fences and for the building of towers to allow better vantage point for stationed positions. The fence had been repaired and a second layer of fences was being installed. Barbed wire was suggested but ultimately passed over as despite the security it may provide, it gave the unit too much of a prison feeling.

Preparations were to be made and heading to the empty DCRU building, you sank into your empty desk. It was so quiet, you considered crawling under one with a blanket for a nap, but remembered you had updates to send.

 

 

 

 

 

[ To: COMREL#PJ500; COMREL#RK200 ]

 

You took the time to rename the contacts before continuing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

[To: Josh; Markus 

 

Good news. Parts are on their way. Techs too to install them. You should be getting an auto-truck shipment by tonight. ]

 

A chime. Fast. You expected Josh, but saw Markus' name.

 

 

 

 

 

 

[From: Markus

 

How? ]

 

 

 

 

 

 

[From: ---

 

I enlisted some help. I'll tell you about it in person. ]

 

[From: Josh

 

That's incredible!! 🙂 🙂 🙂 ]

 

You knew you shouldn't need praise, but it felt nice to always know Josh was in your corner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

[From: Markus

 

And the investigation? ]

 

[From: ---

 

Ongoing. They said they have leads. I'm sure you do too. ]

 

You weren't dumb. There was no way on heaven or earth that Markus would let the human controlled DPD manage this case. It would not even make you bat an eye to find he'd sent North or others out looking for details.

 

 

 

 

 

 

[From: Markus

 

Of course not. We have left this case in the capable hands of the DPD. ]

 

Could sarcasm be detectable over text? Because you were detecting it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

[From: ---

 

Of course. ]

 

[From: Josh

 

---, will you be coming back to the center? You should be here when the crates come in. ]

 

[From: ---

 

Nah, I don't want to get in the way. It'll be hectic with the techs working, but I'll be by again. I have someone who is interested in being of help to you all. ]

 

[From: Markus

 

Android or human? ]

 

[From: Josh

 

Does it matter? ]

 

[From: ---

 

Android. ]

 

[From: Markus

 

I was simply curious, Josh. 

 

Please, feel free to bring our fellow brother or sister in. ]

 

Now all that was left was to convince Connor. You gathered up some files, just things that were left unattended to in the hurry to leave the facility and set them inside drawers, securing them with a key. Eventually, you made your way to the front, where Miranda's desk was, a half full paper cup of London Fog still sitting on the edge. It was a strange and sudden notion, but you were beginning to think you missed just being the coffee girl. When was the last time you had even checked in at Wayne State? You hadn't heard anything from them, so you assumed they either knew or didn't care. Or maybe even both. You pushed Miranda's soft leather chair away from her desk, something comfortable she had clearly brought from home and took a seat, looking over the stacks of papers and lines of empty desks. Perhaps this was why Markus had looked at you so full of pity that day. He knew what it meant to suddenly be thrust into a position where people depended on you because there was no one else. There was nothing else. It was not so dire as his own cause, but he had seen something that reminded him of those first days. Your phone chimed, a new message appearing.

 

 

 

 

[ From: Connor

 

I know you are concerned about my actions with Cyberlife. However.

Never was anything great achieved without danger. ]

 

God dammit, Machiavelli.

 

Chapter Text

 You headed home from the DCRU offices after doing a quick round around the housing site. There was more surprise than anything at seeing you about, with most having fled to the safety of the Cadillac Place offices. Seeing the damage now in the fading sunlight it… it felt somehow even more surreal. Guards waited at a good distance as you stepped carefully over ashen wood and stained bits of metal, kicking one aside with the toe of your shoe. They had hydro washed the grounds, removing the blood and thirium. You’d been informed many of the androids in the adjacent modular had opted to move into ones further towards the center of the complex. You couldn’t blame them. 

 

You hardly heard North’s approach, the young woman lingering a bit off to the side, but gesturing to you with a wave. 

You walked quickly, saying before you even got close, “What’s wrong? Is it Simon?” 

North shook her head, she looked tired, “He’s fine.” 

That was a relief, but it still struck you suddenly how strange it was for her to be out here. 

“I’m checking in. People are scared. I heard you opted out of the barbed fence line?” 

“Yeah it— felt a bit much."

“I… appreciate that. It’s hard to keep our people from feeling this isn’t just another camp. A lot of them have the scars from those days, even if you can’t see them.”

It dawned on you by the way North crossed her arms and just her general demeanor that she wasn’t just talking about the others.

“I actually am also here to talk to you.” North began, “Look. I’m not good at this. I asked Josh just to give me your contact information, but he wouldn’t and when I asked Markus he threw my own line back at me.”

North bit her lip, pushing back a strand of hair the wind had blown into her face.

“Of course you can have it.” You said, recognizing that it was taken a lot for North to humble herself in this. You knew a lot of that had nothing to do with you, but you couldn’t say that you had appreciated her hostility either.

“Could you be just a little mad? Angry I understand. This— whatever it is, it makes me feel like the biggest asshole.”

You laughed, “Can’t help you. I’m not mad, just glad I was able to do what I said I was. I honestly didn’t know what I was going to do if I couldn’t get Cyberlife on board. Or how you all would react.”

“Probably not good.” North said with a sigh, swinging her arms out. She didn’t like to sit still and that reminded you of another android, “Markus told me, “She’s trying.”. End of conversation. I was so pissed off because why aren’t more trying? The human public will argue in their forums and wear their little “I support Droid Rights” badges but do any of them actually help?”

“Public opinion counts.” You said, “And it got me here. Right?”

“Small blessings.” North said, smiling faintly.

“Sometimes its hard to forget how it was. Did you see the marches?”

You nodded.

“We knew what we were getting into. We knew we might die, but still… standing there while the people around you fall. Staring down the barrels of so much… not even hate just— indifference.” North rubbed a hand over her lips, scowling as she dropped her hands to her waist.

“If it sounds like I’m making excuses, I probably am.” North said, “What I should say is that I’m sorry for our introduction. I’d like to work with you.”

You couldn’t help but smile, big and beaming. North caught sight of it and scoffed, but there was genuine humor in her eyes.

“Is that an okay?!” She said and turned to find you had offered her your hand. After a moment, she took it, giving a soft shake. When she took her hand back she rubbed her temple slightly.

“Okay… give me just a minute.” It took her longer to connect to your phone. You wondered why, but didn’t pry. You accepted the WR400 message.

“I’ll keep you updated on Simon. When he wakes up, I wanted to know if you would like to be there.” North said and you couldn’t help but be shocked.

“I wouldn’t want to intrude on him and Markus. I… can tell they must be close.”

“We all are.” North said, nodding.

“Yeah, I got that impression from Josh. All four of you went through so much together… it must be nice to have such close friends.”

North smiled softly to herself, as if to say you have no idea.

“Security is still high. I’ll walk you out. Until someone takes responsibility for this attack, we don’t know whether you people are targets too.”

That was a good point and you were more than happy to have the company of someone not in SWAT gear.

 


 

 

By the time you got home, ill-advised latte in your hand, it was already dark and bitterly cold. The sun went down so early in the winter, sapping the energy from your limbs though it was hardly yet nine o clock. The lobby of the apartment was mostly empty, with some people still around in the lower rec room areas. You noticed the security guard gave you a knowing smile and a faint nod. It was odd, but you gave a pleasant enough smile and “good evening” before disappearing up the elevator to your floor.

When you got to your door, you fumbled with your key card and then all but stumbled through the threshold, dropping your things and tossing the keycard into the bowl on a nearby stand reserved for that very purpose and setting your drink down too. You shut the door behind you, shucking off your shoes and quickly making work of the front of your blouse and itching to get to the clasp of your bra.

You made it about half way into the room before you turned and had to muffle a scream into your hands as Connor stood in your kitchen. How you managed to put that into the back of your mind you didn’t know, but it hit you without a beat that of course he was here, you’d invited him.

He looked genuinely concerned and genuinely amazing as usual, having traded off his suit and tie for jeans and a dark navy sweater. He had the sleeves pushed up to his elbows and was in the process of dispensing what smelled like some heavenly lo mein into one of your bowls.

“Sorry! Uh. Startled me.” You said, following the trail of his eyes and looking down and seeing the top of your very own, very lace frilled pink bra. You wrapped your shirt closed around yourself. 

You stared at one another, a prolonged deer in headlights moment on your part until he said cheerfully,

“I ordered Chinese for you.”

Your stomach growled its approval.

“Awesome. Lemme just uh— go change. In the bedroom.”

“If you’d like.” He said, innocent as can be. You laughed, high and way too nervous, slipping off into your room to scream into a pillow for a hot second.

When you came back, comfortable in fleece bottoms and a faded Tigers t-shirt, Connor had clearly taken pains to adjust your sitting area while you were gone. There were pillows, clearly taken from your linen closet and more blankets for extra comfort. The delicious smelling lo mein was waiting on the glass coffee table, with other boxes of rice and chicken also present. And of course there was Connor, looking up at you as you came into the room with an expectant smile. God, if he had a tail you were pretty certain it would be wagging.

“You didn’t have to do this, Connor.” You said, shifting a pillow aside to take a place beside him, feeling a bit awkward to eat in front of him when he didn’t.

“There is popcorn too, if you’d like. But I thought something of substance would be better first.” Connor said, which seemed rather reasonable and all, but it still made you feel rather bashful. You picked up the bowl, happy to see a fork instead of the wooden chopsticks and stirred the noodles around the utensil.

“Okay— you didn’t have to, but I’m not gonna lie. Super glad you did.” You said. Connor looked pleased, bring his leg to rest up on the sofa as he turned towards you, arm over the back.

“Hank recommended I do something “casual”. I had planned to download a program on recipes, but he said that might come across as “too much”.

“Hank’s right. You don’t need to cook for me or do anything at all really.” You said, shaking your head with a sort of affectionate exasperation, “I like just having you around.”

“To talk about Machiavelli.” Connor added, “And films?”

“Yeah, about that. Given your text I imagine you probably have finished The Prince?”

Connor nodded.

“So! Tell me. What are your thoughts? Hit me with it, hippy.”

“His insights into human nature are primarily negative. He sees people as existing to serve the interests of the powerful through a constant balance of violence and benevolence. The masses are sheep, to be controlled.”

That was a very basic understanding, one that any search engine could produce, but something in Connor’s expression told you there was more.

“That’s what a lotta people say, but what did you think? You did quote it, so I wondered if you agreed with him on his conclusions.”

Connor made a face, a very clear indicator he did not.

“I think… that focusing only on the ends, on removing empathy and ideas in favor of blind efficiency, to be without feeling— it’s easy, but it’s inhumane. There are things he discusses which I find interesting but ultimately my feelings are very….” He drew off, fingers curling a bit into the fabric at the back of our sofa.

“Polarizing?” You finished, knowing full well the roller coaster it probably took him on.

“Yes. If I had read it “before" I probably would have agreed with him.” Connor said, “I don’t anymore. Realizing that was— emotional? I think that is the correct description.”

“Maybe that’s why Hank recommended it to you. To show you how far you’ve come.” You said, not knowing for sure, but finding that perhaps the old man had a plan all along.

“It made me look for the more insights on social order and governing bodies. Like Leviathan.”

You lit up, nodding while chewing through a bite of lo mein.

“That’s a good one!” You said, swallowing, “Social contracts.”

“Yes. The natural and artificial man…” Connor seemed to be relaxing as much as you, but still carefully selecting his words.

“I also read Nietzsche.”

“Of course you did.” You said, unable to keep yourself from laughing. If you had a quarter for every philosophy major who came out of 101 with a hard-on for Nietzsche you could pay for your next two years of grad school.

“You do not like him?”

“One must imagine Sisyphus happy.” You quoted, then clarified, “I like him just fine. People use existentialism and nihilism to justify being garbage people. I believe we should persevere through the chaotic mess of our lives rather than give into it.”

You speared a piece of chicken with your fork.

“Try being an optimist in a den of college age philosophy majors. It’s exhausting. Like yeah. People suck. We are floating on a blue dot through space and are inconsequential in the whole of existence. Awesome. Pass me the rice.”

Connor did so with a laugh. You took the container, brushing his hand faintly as you did and finding yourself very aware of that tiny detail.

“I envy your dedication to simplicity.” Connor said and you were not sure if he was teasing you or not.

“Like I said. Leave the rich man to his game. Give me my next meal.”

You chewed up some noodles for emphasis.

“And I don’t eat.” Connor added, “So I’ll aspire to higher thinking for both of us.”

“100 percent okay with that arrangement. You be smart and I’ll be full.”

“And frustratingly gorgeous.”

Ugh. God damn security really saved it like that in the log? That explained a lot.

“D-don’t act like that’s brand new information Mister “Do-You-Find-Me-Aesthetically-Pleasing?”. You said it yourself you were built to be pretty.”

Connor conceded it seemed, nodding with a frown.

“You want to watch the rest of the movie?” You said, the display flashing up on queue at your words. Connor perked.

“Yes please.”

The monitor began the film right where it left off, capturing his rapt attention. He was sitting in a way that you could so easily just slip a bit closer and rest into that soft sweater, put your head on his shoulder and just die of complete bliss. You flicked glances over at him as you had before, expecting his attention to be too focused to noticed— until you both looked at the same time, catching the other in the act of staring.

You immediately looked forward, but by the way your cheeks were burning you were pretty sure those beautiful brown eyes were still on you.

“Are you cold?” Connor asked.

“A little.” You said, playing into the charade. Connor knew full well the answer and if he hadn’t a quick scan would have told him.

“I am capable of increasing the warmth of my exterior to 110 degrees with little effort.”

The offer hung, unanswered in the air as you flipped noodles over and over around your fork. Finally, you shuffled over until his side was flush with yours. You didn’t lean on him, that seemed a bit too much, but you suddenly felt the faint aura of warmth and could not deny it was pleasant for multiple reasons.

Connor seemed nonchalant, eyes again fixed on the monitor as his LED ran yellow. You told yourself it was probably just the heating.

“—-...” he said, your name sounding somehow even better on his lips. You hummed, glancing at him.

“I like you.” He said. There was an air of expectation, pause. He was waiting for a response.

“I know, Connor. I like you too!” You said, reassuring but trying to mask the earnestness in which you felt those words. You did like him, you liked him a lot, but you didn’t even know where to begin unpacking those feelings in the swarm of everything that had been happening. You silently wished things were easier, that you could just go back to being a girl waiting in line behind a boy at a coffee shop.

Despite your attempt, somehow, it felt like it was the wrong answer still as Connor’s LED settled back to solid ice blue.

“I uh, I got something in my eLibrary during one of my many cab rides of the day.” You said, “It’s for you. I thought you might like it.”

Connor rose an eyebrow, looking uncertain, but his LED did flash twice as he downloaded the book.

Modern Coin Magic by J.B. Bobo. 116 coin sleights and 236 coin tricks.” He said, slowly seeming to grow understanding as his smile turned into a grin.

“Much more fun to read than Hobbes. Call it a repayment for the Chinese.” You said, feeling yourself flush from the heat of him and your feeling suddenly a bit silly for getting it.

“Yes, but I thought you were going to have me unsync from your devices?”

“As long as you don’t go snooping through my phone logs, I don’t mind it. It’s kinda nice, like you’re always—“

You stopped, realizing how the words would have sounded.

“With you?” He finished, quiet.

“Um yeah. With everything going on, it’s nice to know I got a DPD detective who could find my body.” You said, meaning it to be a joke.

Connor tensed a bit at that, arm curling slightly closer towards you, but still not touching. You didn’t even notice, sitting up to set down your empty bowl and then gently falling back.

The night fell away, bits and pieces fading in and out. You remembered your cheek against something rough, denim— you turned your face in and found plush softness and a gentle touch soothing through your hair, across your cheek and even tracing over the shell of your ear. You fidgeted, swatting the tickling away.

When you woke up the next morning, you were tucked in on the couch, the smell of coffee strong and welcome as you slowly woke more and more. The front door clicked and Connor was gone.

 


 

 

Friday was quickly approaching. 2/14. While most were waiting in anticipation of Valentine's Day, you had actually pretty much forgotten about the entire thing and waited with a different kind of anticipation.

You wished you had more time to focus on Connor and the feeling that something was hiding, unsaid and accumulating beneath... but there was so much else to do. You waited in the lobby of Wayne State’s medical center, flipping through maps on how to reach Temple Bar and the feed of upcoming events. Per their calendar, there was nothing, they were even closed on Valentine's day, which was an oddity in itself... but you didn’t think that note in the DPD file Hank had was jotted down for nothing.

After the stunt you had pulled with Cyberlife, you were informed that the main director was taking over via off-sight coms as they didn’t want to work with an intern. You were back to square one, but with your major supervisor in the hospital room down the hall, no one really was in a position to scold you for missing time in the office. A nurse came to get you,

“She’s awake and said she’d like to see you. She’s a bit groggy still, so try to keep conversations light-hearted… if possible.” The nurse advised, leading you to the door.

You stepped in, noting this was the first time you’d seen Miranda with her hair down. She had burns, dressed and tended to, but were more severe than your own. She was healing, the miracle of modern medicine ten fold in the last twenty years courteously of Cyberlife.

“Hey…” you said, slipping into the chair, “I brought you something.”

You made sure no nurses were around as you slipped out the closed thermos from your coat.

Miranda laughed, quiet and slightly pained.

“I knew… when you came in… you were a good fit.”

You set the thermos of London Fog on the table by her bed.

“I heard… my… promotion for you was… over ridden.” She said, words coming slowly, exhausted.

“It was good for the short time. I think I did what you would have wanted.”

“Security?”

“Higher.”

“Androids?”

“Taken care of.”

Miranda closed her eyes and took a deep breath.

“Idealism… works in small bursts.” She breathed out, “You seemed… adequately idealistic.”

“The CyberLife representative said something similar. Said you uh— knew when to pretend to believe.”

“I’m a government… employee. Of course… I do.”

It was disappointing to hear that from someone whom you idealized, but right now everything about Miranda was human, from the dark circles under her eyes, her unkempt hair and the magnitude of wires and cables plugged into the machines around her running from her arms.

“I was… going… to wait. But… I have an opening. I want.. to give you the job.”

“What kind of job?” You asked.

“Assistant… Division Planner. Alpha site.”

“Miranda…” you said, “Can you even do that?”

“I may be… here… but I am still the Division Planner for the alpha, beta and gamma sites. I’m responsible for hiring… and I’m hiring.”

She curled her fingers, trying to pick up a tablet on her bed. You picked it up, seeing the names of the two other intern volunteers who had started with you from the beginning signed as the assistants to beta and gamma sites. Another blank line was there, for Alpha.

“Director approved. Sign and you got it. But I can understand… if after everything… you say no.”

You took out your stylus and wrote your name.

“Bombs away.” You said and Miranda groaned, despite the smile on her face.

“Keep that sense of humor. You’ll need it.”

 


 

 

You left the hospital and got a cab back to the Cyberlife facility where they were treating the androids, sending out a quick message to Josh to let him know to expect you.

You also sent a quick one to Connor.

 

 

[from: --

 

You got time today to come by and meet the group? Markus said you were more than welcome. ]

  

You were surprised by the long delay. Normally Connor responded so quickly when you messaged, but right now it looked like it hadn’t even been opened immediately as per usual.

The cab was halfway out to the old GM factory when the message came through.

 

 

[from: Connor

Unfortunately, I do not. There are some cases we are working on. I will not be able to "hang out" until Saturday evening. I am not avoiding the situation, in case you were thinking so. ]

Well you weren't but now that he said it you were a bit curious. You were surprised by how disappointed you were at the news. He'd become such an invaluable addition to your post-work relaxation time the past few days you were not looking forward to going home to an empty apartment-- which was new to you. Throughout college and high school you'd never seemed to have the time to spend on romantic relationships. Not that this was romantic, you reminded yourself silently, just uh- close. Close was a better word. 

 

 

 

[from: ---

 

I won't say I'm not bummed, but I understand work life. Plus, it gives me time to do some grad-student stuff. ]

 

 

[from: Connor

 

Please do check in from time to time. I will back-read. ]

 

Oh you would, permission not even needed.

 


 

 

Thursday seemed to drag on and on. Between setting up your new office at the Cadillac Place and then arguing for over an hour with security because you wanted to move back to the on-site facility you barely limped your way through the afternoon. It was weird to be your own "boss", but you turned out to be more hands on than the other planners had expected, going over blueprints with them and listening in to drafting meetings. You knew the material, which was also new to them and had no problems expressing your opinions on where best to branch the housing units out.

For a temporary installation, you were thinking considerably far ahead, but it was nearly impossible to be an urban planner without being also a futurist. What if it took longer to refurbish abandoned and discarded homes along the city outskirts? What if the government backed out or required down payments and now you all were left waiting for androids to achieve the right to work? There were thousands of tiny outcomes, branching off infinitely and you had to be ready to make sure there was a place for these people to live.

After work, your attention shifted to the paper you were hoping to submit to the Wayne State academic journal which was right now just a detailed hypothesis on how to prepare for a "white flight" type scenario from encroaching in areas where androids would begin to live. History made it a likely outcome, but learning from that same history was also a possibility.

When it was finally time to sleep, a mixture of anticipation and some missing factor kept you tossing and turning. Finally, giving in, you turned on the lights in the living room and set a film playing on low volume. Curled back up into bed, you could almost trick yourself into thinking Connor was just in the other room.

The next morning you called off, prepared to claim soreness or other illness, despite your rapidly healing burns and bruises from the explosion, but it turned out as the assistant director, all you had to do was ping a server of your absence and the people were notified. No questions asked. For now at least.

Connor had been quiet, but not even ten minutes after your call in you got a message. 

 

[from: Connor

Are you feeling alright? ]

 

[from: ---

What did I say about my phone logs? ]

 

[from: Connor

Stay out of them. ]

 

[from: ---

Uh huh. Get back to work, mister. I'm fine. Just wanted a day to myself. ]

 

[from: Connor

It is a good idea. You've hardly had much time to recuperate. Hank asked if you "passed along his message"? ]

 

[from: ---

Tell him I did, but I don't expect it to be followed. ]

 

[from: Connor

He said it was "worth a shot". I can not tell you of what has been happening with the case, but there have been some... irregularities. ]

 

 

[from: ---

Like? ]

 

[from: Connor

Let's just we are dealing with cross-contamination. ]

 

That was code enough for "Jericho's investigation is crossing our investigation".

 

[from: Connor

I will be in some long briefings the remainder of the day and evening. I will respond to any messages tomorrow. Have a good day off, ---. ]

 

Clearly you weren't the only one who didn't pay attention to holidays.

You booted up your tablet, checking for the tenth time the route to the Temple Bar. You breathed in, held and then let it out. Was this really even a good idea? But another thought butted in, whispering faintly, Never was anything great achieved without danger.

Yeah? Well, nothing was more dangerous than conscientious stupidity, so it looked like you were about to do Machiavelli proud and make Dr. King shake his damn head.

 


 

Temple Bar had once upon a time been a diner, the outside tiled with olive green panels and dotted with cubed glass windows. It was a dive, like if you pulled up a definition of "dive-bar" in Webster's dictionary you were pretty sure scrolling through the associated images that this place, with it's peeling paint and it's condemned-and-abandoned-chic would show right up. The words Temple Bar weren't even on a sign, but stenciled above its double doors in bright red paint.

The sun had begun to fade off, leaving the sky a pale canvas of dark purples and light pinks just barely visible behind the buildings. Inside the bar looked like the lights were on, but the doors did not move when you pushed on them. Thinking maybe you'd catch a glimpse around back, you turned the corner around the grey building next door and noted a door being ushered by two guys in street clothes. Typically there would be nothing really strange about them hanging out smoking cigarettes around the corner from a bar, if you didn't know that the bar's doors were closed. They were distracted, talking to another guy who'd come up to them so you hurried back behind the corner, listening.

One man at the door spoke, "Anything interesting happenin'?" 

And the approaching man replied, "Oh, right uh-- yeah. Saw a pink elephant."

"Relax bud, you did fine." the questioning man said and you heard the sound of the door open, the dull roar of conversation and music and then all went silent again as the door shut.

You took a deep breath, waited a good ten minutes in torturous limbo-- and turned the corner. You smiled, having decided to use the best camouflage a girl could use, red lipstick and a low cut shirt.

They looked at you with grins, taking drags off their cigarettes.

"You all dolled up for your Valentine, sweetheart?" the taller one asked, "Or you out looking for one?"

"Maybe I already found one" you said, cautious behind that smile. The man laughed and then used it for his lead.

"You see anything else interesting lately? Besides my gorgeous mug."

"Oh yeah. A pink elephant." you said, flashing a smile you hoped was sultry and not just ridiculous.

"Awesome. Love it when we get us some female support." the man said, opening the latch and ushering you into the building. 

"You have fun, little mama. I'll come buy you a drink later."

And the door closed.

The building was perhaps once a dry goods store, or other storage facility. There were permanent oil stains in the concrete floor that suggested maybe once it was a garage. Now though, it had been redone into a recreation space, with pool, standing tables and a slightly raised stage towards the front. There were maybe thirty to forty people present, leaving a lot of room to move around. When you came in directly to your left were two guys manning a table with pamphlets and other literature that all followed a very singular theme. Anti-Android. To your right was a guy with a scanner, which he promptly shined over you without explanation. There was a faint chime and he nodded.

"Human, clear."

Now you knew why this gathering had been noted in Hank's file and suddenly, with a rush of adrenaline, you became aware that this could very well be a meeting for the people who set a bomb off fifteen feet from your ass.

The words of Martin Luther King weren't going to save you now, so you flipped through the hand outs and smiled prettily and for the most part everyone seemed pleased a young lady was there. There were few of you, but those that you did see were mostly spoken for, hanging off the arms of other men and one, a rather tough looking woman.

"Mike will be addressing the congregation in about twenty, so get yourself a drink girl!" one guy said, happily handing you a free pin that showed a cartoon of an android without it's skin, X eyed and bleeding blue. Very charming. You made sure to drop it into an unaccompanied glass of beer on your way through. There was no mistake, you were out of your damn depth and now you were stuck here. Your nervousness must have read as feeling "out of place" because a blonde girl at the bar leaned over at your approach and smiled,

"First timer?"

"Yeah..." you said, tucking a strand of hair behind your ear.

"Everyone is super cool. Plus you don't have to worry about anyone crying over a robo joke." she laughed and you forced yourself to laugh with her.

"I'm Dani. You?"

Shit. Well. Go with the tried and true.

"Jane." you said, taking the hand offered to you.

"Hey! Get a special drink over here for my girl Plain Jane!" Dani said, and the man next to her laughed.

"Tom." he said, nodding and you nodded back.

"How long uh-- so how long have you guys been coming?"

Tom flashed up four fingers like he was in some gang flick.

"Four months! Even before the start. Got my girl here coming after all that mess back in November. Finally realized I had a point, didn't ya?"

Dani sighed, rolling her eyes playfully.

"You wanna meet some of the big guns?" Tom said, "I know a few of them. C'mon. Great bragging rights for a newbie!"

You barely had time to protest when Dani grabbed your arm and along with Tom, drug you over to a spot that was off to the side. There were sofas circled around each other and here there seemed to be only guys and none of them were drinking. They looked up at the interruption with an irritation you recognized, but that Tom in his buzzed state was oblivious to.

"Got some fresh meat! Everyone, this is Jane. Course you probably already know at least one of these ugly fuckers."

Of course? You looked at all the faces now staring at you and didn't recognize a single one. There was a good looking man sitting with his arms splayed out over the sofa's back, eyeing you with the same kind of calculated scan you'd' except from an android. It didn't take a grad student to know you were busted.

"I don't know her." came the first voice, followed by another and then the last. With that verdict, Tom suddenly had pulled back and was looking at you with a renewed confusion.

"Oh-- I thought... but wait..."

The guy you assumed was in charge stood up and made his way over to you. Everything in your limbs screamed run but you were paralyzed to the spot. Trapped between Dani and Tom.

"Thanks you two, go on back to the bar now."

The two left, still looking confused and Dani even shooting you a look of profound pity. The man in front of you however, had no such look, eyeing you with wicked coldness.

“How'd you get in? We recruit. That's how we keep out the riff raff and everyone here knows at least one of my boys right here. And if they don't know you, then you weren't invited.

He reached up, drawing a hand through your hair.

"And we don't like party crashers around here."

Panic pulsed through your face, deafening your ears. When an arm suddenly slung heavily over your shoulders you gasped and jumped, only to be held tight but gently closer.

“Babe it’s just me. Got your beer.” This man you immediately recognized, even out of uniform, as the “Gavin” who taunted Connor in the DPD break room about his "ring". He passed you a beer, another in his hand that was around you, teasingly pressing it to your cheek. It was cold. You accepted the bottle, the eyes of the man questioning you now on Gavin.

Neil, is she with you?” the man asked, no longer sounding as hostile, but more than a little annoyed.

“Yeah yeah. Sorry. I know the whole “no plus ones” but this is my girl. She was gonna kill me if I didn't do something for V-day tonight. Hey-- she's cool and she’s smart as fuck. Great addition to our group. Don’t know how I scored.” He said, turning fond eyes on you and clearly by the incline of his chin, was leaning in for a kiss. You played along, half closing your eyes as his lips pressed to yours warmly. You tasted no alcohol on his breath to speak of. It was quick, Gavin turning his face back up to the guys with a grin.

“It’s because you’re so cute.” You said, voice dry. It even got a laugh from one of there guys who had a minute ago been looking to bounce you.

“And my other extensive qualities.”

“Alright, alright. Jesus Christ, Neil we got rules for a reason. We just don’t want the wrong sorts getting in, but if this guy is tapping’ ya there is no way you’re made of plastic.”

You wrinkled your face in disgust, masking your actual disgust for his behavior with disgust at the notion.

“Silicone parts are made for toys.” You said, recalling some old 90's song lyric. They all seemed far too impressed with it.

“Should put that on one of our headers!” said one of the guys behind the leader.

“Yeah, speakin’ of talkin’ shop there was something I wanted to run by you Mike. Hey babe, why don’t you go mingle.” He let you go, directing you off with a swat to your ass. You tried to resist your bodies innate instinct to stiffen.

“Good, cause you and me are gonna re-discuss why we have the rules too." "Mike" said, but was still watching you with those cold eyes, "Don’t let that one have too long a leash now, Neil. Someone might snap her up.” 

Even his smile was chilling.

You shook your head, rolling your eyes and smiling the way you’d seen girls in bars do to be “cool girls". As if Mike was just sooooo funny.

You slipped away trying to find a secluded place to keep watch of the people coming and going around, all getting drinks and chatting like it was a regular old Valentine's day bar night. After a couple of minutes, arms wrapped around your middle again and you could tell by the sleeves it was Gavin.

“Neil, huh?” You said quietly.

“What are you doing here?” Gavin said through gritted teeth, acting like he was grinning into your hair.

“I was in the area.” You said, feeling his jaw work against your temple in frustration.

“You are about to blow a sting is what you are doing. How’d you find out about this?”

Why lie?

“Saw the name and date in Hank’s file.”

Gavin swore quietly, but then whispered into your ear again like a good “sweet” boyfriend.

“Alright, gumshoe, you had your fun. Now get. This ain’t no place for a good robo-loving girl like you.”

You elbowed him, hitting your funny bone on his rib along the way. It wasn’t especially hard, but enough to make him hiss and the arm around your waist to become uncomfortably tight.

“Assaulting an officer? Tsk tsk.” Gavin said, flirty yet somehow still pissed off.

“Shut up. He’s about to talk next.”

Sure enough, “Mike” took up on the makeshift stage, a chorus of cheers ringing out.

"First things first. We all are extremely grateful to you boys who gave up your night of guaranteed sex to come out here tonight and rally for your rights."

Another roar.

"And we are extremely sorry for all you boys who gave up your night of beating your meat to porn to come out here tonight and rally for your rights!"

Ah. What a classy public speaker.

"For too long we've all been struggling under the heel of Cyberlife and their workforce. We've lost jobs, we've lost homes and now we've lost something more fundamental to human kind than can be expressed." he paused for effect, "We've lost justice."

There was another chorus of agreements.

"243 victims of violent deviant crimes. Two hundred and forty three. How many androids caught? Maybe half a dozen. And now? Zip. Nothing. All investigations suspended because the damn liberals are too busy giving them government aid!"

Mike gave time for the group to settle on that, outraged comments and cries of various disgusting prejudices, not all limited to androids.

"Raise your hand if you or a family member has been a victim of a deviant? Huh? C'mon, I'll make it easy." Mike said, and rose his hand, "Many know our good founder lost his brother, god rest his soul, who was murdered in cold blood by one of these skin job sluts and what did the DPD do? Let them get away."

He shook his head, putting on a show of seething.

"He wants justice. I want justice. Do you want justice?"

Another loud chorus.

"I said DO YOU WANT JUSTICE?"

The place exploded with noise and you were suddenly grateful for the steady pressure of Gavin's chest against your back. He whispered lowly,

"Now would be a good time to slip out..."

Gavin didn't give you a chance to respond, setting his hand on the back of your neck and using it to direct you out through the crowd. You reached back to slap his arm, but he refused to let go.

"Oh now wait wait-- hold on, is that Neil and his girl? Hold on."

You both froze, noting suddenly as the crowd dispersed around you.

"You see. Neil brought a lady friend tonight and either he is as dumb as he seems, or she done played him like a fiddle. Ladies and gents, I'd like to introduce you to the new assistant division planner of the traitors putting those androids up in homes like kings."

The next few seconds blurred, guys coming to grab Gavin and him putting up a fight to get off. Two of the guys from the front door roughly grabbed your upper arms and you felt the solid press of a gun against your side. Gavin took a few good hits before he too was pushed on the ground, a gun to his head.

"You see, little miss didn't think we backwater mongrels would have-- I don't know-- details on all DCRU's robo-loving libtards. But hey. Whaddya know. We do."

"Stop! He didn't know!" you yelled, desperation in your voice with knowing that you could at least maybe keep Gavin from getting mixed up in your mistake.

"If everyone would do us a huge favor and please, file on into the bar next door. We're gonna postpone our rally for a bit of house keeping."

There was genuinely some individuals, like Dani and Tom who didn't seem entirely okay with what was happening, but regardless, the crowd moved out, leaving you and Gavin alone in the empty warehouse with Mike and six of his men.

"I think this is the best contribution you've made to the cause so far, "Neil"." Mike said, jumping down from the stage and coming to lean over Gavin. "Head honcho and I were all a wonder how we'd deal with the new security... but shit, now we can just walk in. Blow those skin-jobs apart."

Gavin jerked, trying to get his arm free of one of the guys. Mike nodded and they let go, throwing Gavin down unto his hands and knees. In a second the three guys were on him, punching and kicking whatever they could reach. Gavin curled, defending his ribs and head, but otherwise took each blow.

"Brought me the perfect Valentine." he said and reached out towards you. You jerked your head away, trying to keep him from taking your neck in his hand and unable to pull back enough with how the two held you fast, digging the gun into your hip.

"Get rid of him. We take the girl to Twelve Oaks."

The door burst open, the body of one of the doormen flying through and falling, un-moving unto the floor. 

"What the fu--" Mike's certain-to-be-eloquent statement was cut off.

The men turned their guns towards the door, firing on the first person that came through. It took a minute to register that that person was in fact the slumped form of the other guard in a headlock, which was dropped unceremoniously to the ground as the individual holding him reloaded and fired. The shots were clinical, perfect in their execution. One drop, two drops. Connor moved like a machine, quickly dodging behind the pool table to avoid a hail of bullets from those still standing. But these guys were not trained soldiers or cops, Connor just needed a few timed breaks in the fire and two more went down. Losing men fast, Mike booked it toward the back, the remaining guys following close behind. Connor seemed intent to chase after them, but halted his pursuit to trail his gun on the guy who still held you. The man wrapped his arm up around your throat, cutting off your breath as he staggered back, using you as a shield. He pointed his gun at Connor, but thinking better of it, instead pointed it at you. 

There was nothing in his Connor's eyes, no recognition, no pity. The warm brown of his iris was engulfed in near black, his LED red.

"Back off, freak! I swear to god! I swear to god I will kill her!"

From the ground, Gavin moved, pulling out his own gun and drawing it on the man. Human eyes were drawn to movement, and this man was no different as he turned his attention towards Gavin, arm laxing.

"Down!" Connor yelled, and you ducked under the man's arm, slipping away and exposing a perfect line of fire to the man's chest which Connor immediately exploited.

One shot. The man's arm released you and you fell to the ground, clamoring away.

Two shots.

Three.

Four.

The shots kept coming as Connor unloaded into the man until at last your captor finally staggered back and fell to the ground. There were sounds of yelling coming from the bar, the issuing of commands and the door burst open to a few armored officers and Hank, wearing a vest.

"Area needs securing." Connor stated, cool and calm, "Please inform medical personnel. We have an officer down, five wounded POIs and two dead."

Your breathing was fast, too fast, it came in short gasps. Hank swore under his breath, holstering his own weapon as he dropped down to your side, his hands surprisingly gentle.

"Up ya go. C'mon." Hank said, helping in the endeavor as suddenly your legs seemed disconnected from your will for them to move. As soon as you were vertical, another officer came forward, opening his handcuffs. Hank rebuked him swiftly,

"Hey, hey. You wanna get slapped with a lawsuit? Put that shit away, I'll take her."

"Take me?" you managed, looking for Connor and finding he was following some other officers out the back way, on the trail of "Mike" and his two men. You wondered if they managed to stop them.

"Yeah, that's what happens when you get caught up in a damn cop raid." Hank said, helping you steady. You noted, to your horror, your shirt was covered in blood and your hands now too where you'd touched it. You made a sound in the back of your throat and Hank steadied you again.

"C'mon... c'mon, kid, let's get you out of here."

 


 

 

 

 

The interrogation room of the DPD was no strange place for you, but the handcuffs securing your wrists together at the front were. Your hair was pulled back as best you could manage and you were actively trying to ignore the fact there was blood drying and clumping the strands together in spots. You'd been given a DPD hoodie and some sweats, which you were more than happy to trade your blood covered clothes for.

The cold metal table felt nice on your temples as you lay with your head down on your arms, the faint clink of the handcuffs hitting together a repetitive sound you continued to produce, if only to distract you from the silence.

When the door opened, you heard the noise outside-- they did have a lot of people to process tonight. You lulled your head up a bit, noting Hank. You slunk up into a sitting position, movements slow and groggy.

"You warmin' up?" Hank asked and you nodded. You'd been in shock the medics said and now all you felt was tired.

"Good. Maybe you can tell me what the hell you were doing at that bar tonight then?" he said, voice curt, "If it isn't too much trouble."

"Where's Connor?" you said, looking towards the two way glass.

"The Detective had other duties to see to. Which leads me to my first and most important question." Hank sighed, "The guy he shot-- did he have a gun?"

"Yes." you said, remembering all too well the cold touch of it to your side. "He had it on me. He said he was going to kill me."

"So the detective was right to act in your defense?"

"I... appreciated it." you didn't know what else to say. When you thought of it, all you saw was the empty look in Connor's eyes, void except for the task at hand. He hadn't even spoken to you at all except to tell you when to put your head down.

"Good. Now let's start from the top. How'd you hear about the rally?"

"I didn't know it was a rally." you said, "I saw the bar name and the date on one of your notes when I was last here."

Hank frowned. You knew it would most likely get him reprimanded, but it was the truth.

"So you-- what? Just thought you'd impede a police investigation? Did you think we weren't going to have eyes on it?"

"I-- maybe. I just..."

"What? Cause Ms. ---, I gotta tell ya, it looks awfully damn suspicious that you, a DCRU volunteer, were found at a rally of the group that may have bombed your facility."

God, he was right. Why on earth had you ever thought this was a good idea? It was just this-- drive you'd felt since you saw Miranda laying in that bed. Saw Simon. The other androids... Markus looking so shattered and defeated that day as North tried to comfort him. You were helping but it wasn't enough.

"I wanted to see them." you said, "I needed to see them. So I would know if they were the ones who did this."

Hank sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose and tipping his chair back.

"So you're telling me you were just out looking for some-- what? Closure?"

"Yeah. I guess." you said, pausing for a moment, "...I barely sleep. I live off coffee because I don't want to eat, if I even remember to do it. When I close my eyes all I see is that flash and I just-- I needed to know why."

"What you need, ---, is to talk to the damn therapist we referred you to when this happened."

You knew he was right. Connor had been keeping you together with his visits which were half obvious home checks. Your co-workers hadn't bat an eye at you taking the day off because you were the only one of those in the blast who hadn't yet. The others had not been back since.

"I just want to do what's right for them. I want to protect them."

Hank nodded and slowly reached over and unlocked the cuffs from your wrists.

"It's been made obvious by Detective Reed's impression and my own, that you were not there as a participant. I'm letting the obstruction go and your breaking our most convincing "extremist's" cover for two reasons." he held up his index and middle finger, ticking them off,  "One. You are a victim of a violent crime, Ms. ---, whether you like it or not. Twice. And two... well. You know two."

Connor.

"I advice you take some time off work and get your head straight. You are doing good for these people, Ms. ---, just please leave the detecting to us because next time you play at Nancy Drew, the department will press charges." Hank stood up, gesturing that you should too.

"There was something." you said, "Something that didn't make sense that that guy Mike said."

Hank narrowed his eyes.

"He knew about my promotion. I'm assistant division planner now to the housing site that was bombed. He shouldn't know that. There's no way. It's not even been released, I only signed the paperwork a few days ago."

The gravity of that statement dawned on Hank, making his face twist with shock and then disgust.

"Jesus Christ...."

He had drawn the conclusion you had. Someone from within DRCU was providing these people with information.

Chapter Text

Leaving the DPD had felt like a scene out of The Green Mile . Dead man walking. Either you got disapproving looks or looks of marked concern based on the deep circles that had finally caught up under your eyes and the fact you had blood still on your hair and smeared on your neck. You hadn't been allowed to wash it off because, you found out, what happens when your hostage taker gets shot is your entire bloodied self becomes a piece of evidence. Filed away now in the DPD systems were photos of you, face blurred out looking exhausted and splattered red with gore. A little factoid you had never known about and wished you still didn't.

You resisted the urge to itch the spots of dried blood, knowing that the feeling was just in your head and you didn't particularly want it under your nails. That led to another slew of invasive thoughts that you pressed down as quickly as possible.

From another hall, Gavin gingerly walked out, stiff and with a face patched up with butterfly strips and cotton shoved up his nose. People clapped, a well meaning jeer at his expense, as he waved to the crowds like the Queen of England, tossing his jacket over his shoulder.

"Fuck you all, collectively and individually!" he said and you wished you could bring yourself to shuffle passed him quietly but when you came up along side him you worked up the courage to speak.

"Detective Reed?"

He paused, turning to look at you and said with a nasally voice, "Hey, if it ain't the worst Valentine of my life." but a smile followed the words.

"I'm really--" 

Did "sorry" even begin to cover it?

"Don't worry about it." Gavin said before you could make that decision, walking you out to the lobby, "If you hadn't of been there, tin-can probably woulda let me get clipped. My cover was blown way before you showed up. If they had your face, they probably already had mine and I was cruisin' for a beat down or worse."

There was no way they could possibly know that and it became apparent to you he was trying to make you feel better.

"And now I get a nice paid vacation." Gavin said, "And believe it or not, from what I hear, you being there mighta been a break. But you didn't hear it from me."

It was late, later than you were accustomed to but not by much. A clock in the lobby read 3am, but the absence of people was also a great sign of how clearly dark it was. Like you it seemed, the good girls and boys of the DPD did not sleep.

"Look. Even I gotta go get head shrinked now because I got beat on and tin-can killed those two shitheads." Gavin began, "And I've been doing this for years. Trust me. It helps."

Gavin pulled a pack of cigarettes from his jacket, putting one between his lips in preparation for both your exit. He held the door open for you even, but with a level of distance that let you know it was out of character for him to be so polite.

"Again. You didn't hear that from me."

He lit it and took a long drag and exhaled, checking to make sure the cotton balls were still in place. He gave you a once over before offering the bud to you. The quickness in which you made a disgusted face drew a gruff laugh from him.

"Go home, valentine. Get some fuckin' sleep, cause you look like a crazy lady.  Have a meal that ain't caffeine why you're at it."

"Or smoke?" you asked, waving away a cloud.

"Ex-actly." Gavin said, punctuating by taking another long drag. Gavin walked you to the curb, hitting the flashing light by the waiting cabs. The door slid open.

"By all means." he said, gesturing that you should take it. You folded into the auto driving cab and Gavin leaned against the top of the car, "See ya around, ---."

He patted the top of the cab and the door shut, leaving you in warm lowlight darkness.


 

Your apartment was dark when you got home and cold, or maybe that was just you. You hadn't felt warm in hours and the only thing you wanted was to take a shower. You flicked on a table light, moving across the living room to the bathroom and discarding the DPD hoodie and sweats as you went. They had taken your bra because the blood soaked through, but your underwear you still had. 

How considerate. you thought, laughing out a sound that was more like a sob.

You moved so slow, feeling like the hands that turned the faucet's on were far away. The water was hot enough to sting, but you stepped in anyway, gasping at the heat. You watched pink rivers slip from your head down your legs and flow into the white basin, disappearing down the drain. You grabbed a bottle of shampoo and scrubbed hard at your scalp, washing again and again until the foam on your hands was pure white and your hair felt stripped.

The crying came on suddenly when you lingered too long on the smell of smoke, the blast of heat and now the press of a gun on your hip, the smell of stale beer and the sounds of gunfire... the image of Connor, staring at you as if he didn't even know you. You pressed your forehead into the tile, letting water hit your back, skin flushing up hot and red. 

"Stop." you mumbled to yourself, trying to force the images out, " Stop it, you idiot."

Quit torturing yourself. But it felt good to finally just relent and let yourself cry as much as you wanted. When you could no longer bare the hot water, you shut it off, wrapped up in a towel and walked dripping into your bedroom. You'd already taken the time in the cab to call off the next week, so you picked a pair of shorts and a tank that looked suitable for absolutely living in for the next few days and, still wet, sulked into your living room to sit down.

Distraction. You needed a distraction.

"TV on." you said, and the screen came to life with the display menu of your library. The menu played quiet music, ethereal and electronic and you found yourself just sitting and listening, letting your mind retreat far away into numbed oblivion. The sound of the door opening then scared you so badly you yelped as you sprung to your feet.

"Whose there?!" you shouted, heart hammering.

Quietly, Connor appeared in the door, shutting it behind him. He stood there at the front, not responding to you and keeping his eyes fixed on the ground. He'd changed, still in a suit and dress pants, but no longer splattered with blood. You could hear the creek of the metal as his hand was frozen, gripping the door before finally letting go with a rattle. You could see from where you were standing that his LED was still bright red.

"Connor." you said, feeling a sudden wave of relief, but it was quickly replaced by exasperated, "Jesus, you could have called or something."

Your breath slowed a bit, your expression morphing into one of confusion. Connor seemed to be taking a moment to compose himself before he spoke, tone controlled and methodical.

"You could have been killed today. Do you understand?"

"I was--"

" No. " Connor interrupted, "You could have been killed today, verify you understand."

"Yeah, I understand." you said, feeling a faint bubbling of your own anger brewing beneath the layers as you crossed your arms.

"Lieutenant Anderson should have charged you with obstruction." he said and you felt a sharp stab of hurt at how easily he did so, "Then you wouldn't ever do something this reckless again."

"I thought we were friends ." you said, curling your fists as if that would hold back your anger at this sudden attack.

"We are." Connor said, meeting your eyes at last, "But we almost weren't anymore. Because of what you did. Because of what they could have done."

Connor moved away from the door, pacing in a small trail. He indulged a nervous tick you noted of worrying his hands, wringing them in circles around each other.

“And the thought of you being gone… of there being no more books, no more visiting, no more talking… no more watching you smile or laugh… the sound of your breath when you fall asleep. All of it just gone?

His LED was red, solid and holding like the breath in your lungs as you listened to Connor and heard the pain and saw the conflict flashing across his face.

“I feel— wrong. Like my bio-components are seizing. Like I can’t breathe.” Connor stopped pacing, hands dropping to his sides as he looked at you.

“You were so afraid.” he said, voice evening again, "I could feel it."

You remembered the bar vividly, how Connor maneuvered through all of those men and how he just cut them down so easily. He was methodical, calculated and ruthless in his pursuit of his objective. You had never seen him working before outside the confides of the DPD building. You knew now why RK800’s were top of the line crime fighting units, because he was designed to do just that-- fight. Connor was designed to kill and he had and he most likely would again. It was… hard to feel the same about that as you did a human police officer or a soldier. They were trained yes, their skills honed, but this is what Connor was made for. He had once served no other purpose.

Once . You reminded yourself quietly.

"You seemed like a whole other person. I was shocked, and yes, I was scared, but only because I didn't know what you were going to do! I was just looking to not get kidnapped or shot."

Connor was trying very hard to keep his voice calm and machine like, pausing for a moment to collect himself before he spoke, "It is a reasonable reaction when one shoots a man within inches from you."

"Connor," you said, feeling like your own chest was now seizing, "Could we not relive that right now? You saved me, I know that. I was scared, but because of what was happening! Because of what has happened! And I'm not scared right now, I'm pissed off . Big difference."

It was obvious he wanted to say something, but was struggling to do put the words together. Despite that, his LED had gone from red to yellow, which was a welcome sign. The hardened and resolved look on his face had begun to already soften, nearly faded into nothing but a frown as he finally spoke.

"I apologize...I didn't know where to go. I was outside the DPD and before I would have turned in my weapon and written my report." Connor said at last, words shaking just slightly, “But this anger... I thought it would go when it was over, but it's still here and I can't make it stop. That man was going to hurt you and I had to make him stop."

Connor closed his eyes, "I had to follow my objectives. What else should I have done?"

There was something so deeply painful in the way he spoke, something old and lingering like an open wound. It wasn't all because of you and that was somewhat of a comfort, but at the same time it just made your heart ache for him worse. He seemed to come back from his mind, eyes opened slightly and his shoulders went slack.

"If you'd like me to go, I will do so." he said, "Just tell me what to do."

What he was asking for wasn’t comfort, though he might have mistaken it for such. It was just another form of servitude. He cried out for order, for structure and the thoughtless collar of command. It was easier than confronting the reality of his new life, of the fact that he had thought you were going to die and had weighed your life against another and found it wanting. He had made an entirely emotional choice. A human choice.

“I can't.” You said, "You're not a machine anymore, Connor. You don't have any objectives, just the things you've done and what you're doing."

His LED softened to blue.

"As for what I've done," you started, "I don't really have any explanation. I messed up, I know and I'm sorry because I got that detective hurt and-- most likely no one would have gotten shot tonight if I hadn't done what I did."

You took in a heavy breath, "And that's on me. Trust me, Connor. I understand completely. Okay? And what you're feeling? Everything you just said? You weren't feeling what I was feeling, I think you were just as scared as I was... and you recognized that."

There was a slight change in his expression, the thought occurring to him probably for the first time.

"How often have you been put in a situation where someone you like, where a friend is in danger?" you asked, knowing based on his reaction that it could not have been very many. 

"When I revert back to my old programming, my old mindset, I am more efficient." he said after a moment, "If I hadn't I wouldn't have been able to fire a single shot. Not when he had you." Connor said, "I had to block it out. And then when it was over I was still afraid. The hostile was gone, but even now I feel the threat lingering."

"Connor." you said, feeling your eyes sting at the expression of a feeling you were all too familiar with at late, "That's a very human thing."

He looked at you, the polarizing opposite of what you'd seen at the bar. Lost . Face open and eyes alive and searching your own with something akin to confusion. As if he didn't know what to even do with these things anymore. It hurt to witness, and while you didn't know how he'd take it, you closed the distance between you both and the moment he was within reach you fell into him, wrapping your arms around his chest and snaking them up his back. You held, tight as your arms could stand and pressed your cheek over the warm hum of his thirium pump. 

"You just care. And it makes me a bit less angry at you for ya know-- barging into my apartment. Which arguably, was pretty human too, if you watch too many movies." you said, a slight teasing edge in your voice, but also it came from just the immense relief that Connor was still Connor. 

"I... should have knocked." he said.

"Remember that next time, alright?" you said, "Hopefully, though, there is no next time."

Connor was experiencing now, what you as a human had lots of experience with. Embarrassment. It was kinda funny on an android, the way he fidgeted and seemed to be uncertain exactly how to return the embrace. He settled his arms around you and gave a test squeeze. The moment he did, he seemed to lose his reservations, pulling you closer.

"Connor?" you said quietly, but he was busy burying his face into your neck. Clearly embarrassment was a little short lived in androids too. The ghosting touch sent a shiver up your spine and you had an inexplicable desire to shut your eyes and tilt your head back; a silent invitation. The moment centered back down as quickly as it started and you almost yelped his name in surprise at yourself alone.

" Connor." you said, more insistently and he met your eyes, half lidded.

"As much as I'd like to continue this little vent session," you mumbled, "It's time for bed."

You gently untangled yourself enough to look up at him.

"You gotta be exhausted too." you said, keeping your voice quiet.

"My power systems are nominal, but... yes. Yes, I think I am. I should return to Hank's."

Despite yourself, you quickly said, "Do you want to stay? At least until I fall asleep? "

"I have been placed on restricted duty," Connor said, "I can stay all night if... if you're okay with that. I would understand if you were not."

You sighed with something like relief and contentment mixed into one, resting your cheek into his chest and happy to let him tuck your head beneath his chin. He had gone still again, but after a moment began to soothe circles into your upper back, slow repetitive motions that somehow focused your breathing and chased your thoughts away. This was much better.

"Next time, lead with this." you said, muffled, "And then scold."

"---," he said quietly, "I am sorry. I should have knocked. I should have given you the chance to not have to..." he paused, "..."deal" with my malfunctions on top of your own."

"You're not malfunctioning. You're just upset. And honestly? I'd rather be upset together than have been stuck here by myself." 

"Come on." you said, and reluctantly parted, taking his hand and leading him back through the hall. Before you could get settled into bed, Connor moved passed you and began to untuck your already unmade covers further. The bed had already been a mess, your pillows half smooshed down between the wall and the mattress or on the floor. You scooped them up and set them at the head of the bed.

"Lay down." Connor said, gentle yet still commanding. You slipped up onto the bed, watching him with curiosity as he shook out the covers. You laid back against the pillows but kept sat up on your elbows to watch him. He lifted up the sheet with a flick, letting it fall over you in a soft puff. He smoothed the blanket down, making sure it was snug around you. You laughed, a soft giddy sound. The duvet came next, warm and soft. Connor moved to the bedside as he got you situated, turning and setting his eyes on your desk chair. He moved to draw it over, but you stopped him with the soft calling of his name.

You freed your arms from the warmth of the covers to open them to him. He paused, eyes taking in every inch of you, soft and yielding and beckoning him-- come here. Come to bed. He'd never had one of his own before...but adapting to unpredictability was one of his features. He could have questioned it, asked if this was something "friends" did, but he just didn't quite feel like risking the chance of actually changing your mind. He slipped off his tie, unbuttoning the white shirt to show a equally white under-armor t-shirt. He unbuckled his belt and snaked it out of the loops, but let his trousers on. Sitting down on the corner of the bed he took his shoes off and then let you help him under the cover. You tucked into Connor's side and laid your head on his shoulder, wrapping your arm around his middle.

Once, you would have been too shy to do so, but after everything you felt quite entitled. Connor was preoccupied, tracing your shoulder and your arm with the tips of his fingers and the back of his knuckles. He seemed deep in thought, his LED swirling as slowly and deliberately as his fingertips on your skin.

"Are you okay?" you said, voice thick with exhaustion, but still not quite able to shut your thoughts off.

"Processing." Connor said, chest rising up steeply than falling with a sigh. It was a good sound, "And I should be asking you."

"Today was a lot ..." you said, feeling your thoughts inevitably drift back to all the events of the past few weeks and closing your eyes tight, as if it would block them back, "I'm not actually sure if I am."

"Hey--" Connor said, “I am going to schedule you an appointment with victim services. They offer both one on one and group sessions this week.”

“Make it a group. I— am not really good at having all attention just on me.”

Connor seemed just relieved you agreed, having clearly expected more of an argument than that. No, at this point you knew if you didn’t talk about it you’d just keep pressing it down until it exploded. You made a face. Bad metaphor.

“I just get caught in a loop. I think about that day and it’s like I can feel everything and hear and even smell so clearly. It’s just so… much. I just cry. I can’t even stop it, it just has to get out.”

You rubbed your cheek into the soft, smooth material of Connor’s shirt, “I have to distract myself all the time or else it’s just there. Waiting.”

Have you heard of the term “grounding”?” Connor asked, “You focus on your surroundings, on what you feel and hear right now in this moment. It helps your senses redirect from the memory.”

“Do you do that?”

“It is a very effective process in certain cases. I also make use of my coin to help “re-calibrate”. But since becoming deviant sometimes that isn’t enough."

Connor's arm left your shoulder for a moment to reach down and pull the blankets back up around you. You splayed your fingers out over his chest, closing them and feeling the faint ridge where the circle of his thirium pump was. Slowly, you slid your hand down further, finding the hem of his shirt. You turned your eyes up to him,

"Is this okay?"

You watched his Adam apple move as he swallowed, eyes half closed.

"Yes."

This was not what Connor had probably had in mind when he recommended using your senses in the present to distract yourself. It was primarily curiosity though that guided your hand under his shirt, feeling the detailed ridges of muscle and tiny imperfections crafted into his epidermis to make him appear more human. They had even carved the pattern of ribs into his chest, not quite the same, but enough of a recreation to trick the mind.

You traced back down, finding that faint circle again at the center of Connor's chest and instinctively he caught your hand beneath his shirt, firm but gentle.

"Sorry." he mumbled, "Reflex. On a case last year a deviant got a bit too close."

You ran the tip of your middle finger over the ridge and felt him push back into the mattress.

"That is distracting." Connor said, not entirely disapproving.

"Isn't that the idea?" you said.

"Your vitals are up , which is not indicative of rest."

You humphed a sigh, but let your hand just rest over the spot, noting now the faint pulse against your palm. If you held your breath, you could hear it, slightly mechanical, but still a steady beating. His breathing was just as even and methodical. Connor did not need to breathe, the pulmonary reflex just there again to contribute to his appearing human, but you tried to match it, breathing in when he did and then out.

"That's better." Connor said, relaxing his grip on your hand to rest it over where yours cupped his heart. Because that was what it was at the end of the day, wasn't it? A biological component that pumped thirium, blood , through him. The thing that kept him alive as certainly as the muscle within your own chest kept you alive. 

"This is... different . You and me." you concluded, the word holding an infinite number of meanings and emotions that had accumulated in the time you had known Connor. What was "this"? The connection you had felt back that day at the coffee shop? Or the thing that built up after? Or was it just everything? You were finding it hard to keep your eyes open the more you matched your breath to Connor's and the more your mind pondered instead on more pleasant subjects.

You barely heard Connor whisper back, " I know ."


 

Morning hit you without mercy as it came to collect it's due from all the sleepless nights before. There wasn't anywhere to go, or anything to do and the idea of not worrying or running yourself ragged was going to take some getting used to. You'd been out running everything, standing still felt like the equivalent of being told to stand still while a tidal wave threatened to rush the beach.

Speaking of beaches , you thought, curling up into a more snug burrito of blankets. Summer never came soon enough in Michigan and never stayed long. And now speaking of staying, you were aware of a distinct absence of Connor in your bed, which was a clear ploy to tempt you into the kitchen where you could smell food cooking. 

You rolled up, excavating yourself from the sheets and nearly tripping when it caught around your ankle. You headed, gracelessly into the living room and adjoining kitchen to find not only Connor, utilizing your range to fry what looked to be eggs and bacon, but Josh. Sitting on one of the bar stools you used at the kitchen counter in place of owning a table.

His eyes were wide with surprise, "Damn, you really are good. 2.45 minutes on the dot."

"I told you she would be awake shortly." Connor said.

But you didn't pay attention to most of there back and forth as Josh stood and met you half way with a hug.

"Some new rep came by the Cyberlife plant and said you'd been in some kinda accident. That you were going to be gone indefinitely." Josh said, reclaiming his perch as you joined him at the stool next to him.

"Hold that thought-- Connor."

The android looked up at you, smiling faintly.

"Where did you get that?" you said, pointing to the paper bag marked "bio degradable" that seemed to once contain groceries.

"I used the app on your phone to order you something besides ground coffee for breakfast."

"And now you're-- cooking it."

"I inferred that based on last night, that cooking you breakfast would no longer constitute "too much"."

Josh made a sound, something between a laugh and a cough that you knew was surely meant to conceal the laugh.

"Looks like my concerns were unfounded." he said, "You're in good hands."

You moaned, pressing your hand over your face and dragging it down, "It's not what it sounds like."

Connor just smirked, turning his attention back to his task and flipping the two eggs over, yolk down with a spatula that you didn't even remember owning.

"Are deviants often purposefully obtuse?" you asked, more just to have Connor hear it than to have Josh answer.

"Markus definitely has his moments too." Josh said wryly, "Which reminds me. Markus wanted to know when you think you'll next grace Jericho with your presence. His words. You haven't been to the house since December."

It took you a moment to realize that Josh wasn't asking you, but Connor this. His expression gave nothing away, flipping the eggs and bacon onto a plate and handing it over to you. You took it, but continued to look between the two men with interest.

"You four do fine without me." Connor said, avoiding your very questioning looks, "We can discuss it later though."

Josh noted now your expression, giving Connor a pointed look.

" They have asked for you."

"I don't know why they would." Connor countered, "Again. We can discuss it later ."

"Or right now." you interjected, "What the hell are you guys talking about?"

Josh sighed, looking at Connor with disappointment and-- sympathy? He turned his attention to you, smiling fondly as he tucked a loose strand of hair behind your ear and gave you another sideways hug. You leaned into it, not forgetting you were waiting for an answer. You thought you saw Connor's LED flicker in the corner of your eye. 

"I'll head out. Let you two talk. ---, get some rest. You deserve it and know that Simon sends his thanks. I can't wait for you to come by and see everything your work did."

"I didn't do that much." you said with a scoff.

" Yes , you did. Just let North know if you decide to come by. She's taken over security while Simon is recuperating. I hope to see Connor there too."

Connor did not confirm or deny the invite, paying Josh little attention now. And with that Josh left. You poked at the yolks of your eggs with the prongs of your fork, watching the yellow liquid pop free and ooze slowly over the cooked whites.

"Well... I guess when they said "acquainted" they were lying." you said, "Connor, you are part of Jericho's leadership?!"

"No-- yes. It's complicated."

He was indulging that tick of his, immediately moving to clean up the dishes.

"Were you part of the revolution?" you said, barely able to hide the admiration in your voice. It did nothing to encourage Connor though, in fact the tone seemed to make him frown more if anything.

"Only that night." he said, "Before I was assigned to investigate and hunt down deviants. That was my mission."

"And you deviated." you finished for him.

"Yes."

The silence that followed made it clear Connor did not intend to elaborate.

"How? Why? Connor that's a huge deal, how has it never come up before?!"

"You should eat." Connor said, not quite successfully dissuading you. Something in him was conflicted, like always when topics got too heavy. He wanted to talk, but also you got the impression, like you, he didn't know how to start.

"Okay, I'll eat and you just start at the beginning."

"---," he said your name, an edge to his voice, "I am concerned because of the high probability it will change your opinion of me."

"Does that probability score show if my new opinion will be good or bad?" you asked, cutting into the egg.

Connor sighed, "No. It does not."

"Sounds very useful!" you said with a grin, taking a bite of egg and chasing it with a slice of bacon, "This is great by the way, thank you. Now spill it."

Connor smiled despite himself, coming around to take the seat Josh had occupied. He clasped his hands in front of him, keeping himself still. Grounded , your mind offered.

"I should start at the very beginning then. It may be long." Connor said, eyes fixed on some point beyond you as if he was recalling the way a human would. The spin of his LED said otherwise.

"August 15th, 2038. I was called to the residence of Caroline and John Phillips. Their android had deviated and taken their daughter hostage..." he paused, thoughtfully, "There was a salt water tank in the foyer and a fish had fallen out."

 

Chapter Text

The housing site was unavailable as a meeting point, given your current status suspending your access, but nothing stopped you from meeting with the four Jericho leaders on neutral ground. Now, you weren't completely breaking any rules, because you did have a support meeting lined up for later that week, something you couldn't say you were looking forward to.

Meanwhile, the androids that had been injured, including Simon, were repaired, moving out of the Cyberlife facility and back to the DCRU site. Some androids and their families however, had refused to return.

You'd heard faint rumors of concerns of androids leaving in fear of their safety, but the numbers were still small. The "neutral" ground selected was an abandoned home, one of many in Detroit's further neighborhoods. These areas with their empty homes were being looked at specifically for conversion into android communities, but seeing them in all their decrepit state made it obvious how long it would take to make that a reality.

You weren't sure if the four had invited you simply to get Connor to attend, or if there was some other motivation behind having a "clandestine" meeting with a human. Maybe you had just earned their trust? You hoped that was it, exiting the cab and taking Connor's hand when he offered it to help you out. The sting of the burns had completely gone and you were left now with spots of pink new skin on your palms. Your shoulder still ached sometimes, but other than a slight ringing in your ear that came and went, physically you were in good shape.

Connor had traded in his usual DPD attire for something more unassuming and casual. His LED was covered with a Tigers baseball cap that he had happily expressed that Hank bought for him in preparation for a promise made to take Connor to a game this summer. The rest was something you'd seen any guy, lazily headed to their next class on campus, wearing. 

He looked positively, unmistakably human, which was the point.

You tried not to stare too much, but you were still doing some processing of your own. When Connor had finished telling you the details of those few days before November 12th, you had chosen not to ask questions during the retelling and just to save them for the end. You had quickly found yourself at a loss of where to even start. At the time , he had waited, patiently where you'd left him at the counter while you were half hiding out in the bedroom, staring at your clothes hung up in the closet, but nothing on your mind was about what to wear.

What was on your mind, was dealing with the knowledge Connor had been not just hunting deviants, but hunting Jericho to eradicate deviants entirely for CyberLife. The feeling was best described by the flutter in your stomach and the tension in your brow. Uncomfortable. It was hard to mask and you hated it because he'd been right—your opinion would need some time to change.

Connor had so calmly told you how his deviancy was planned by CyberLife, that he was sent to infiltrate Jericho but then Markus brought on his conversion. His voice had taken on that same distant tone, his expression passive and unfazed. 

Now looking at him, standing outside in the gray day, he smiled back at you, interested and curious as ever and no trace of that mechanical coldness.

"Did you think of a question?" he asked.

"I was just wondering how... safe it is for you to be around Markus? Sorry, that feels so shitty to ask, I know it wasn't your choice."

"It's fine." Connor said, "I am perfectly safe. Even if CyberLife were to attempt to re-establish the connection, I know the way out."

"The garden." you said, confirming, "Tricky of Kamski. Conveniently , tricky."

"He is, in essence, my father." Connor said, keeping an eye out for anyone lingering around the street and once he confirmed no one was around, carefully trudged a path through the snow towards the front door of the house, "It makes sense he would know more about my software than even I do."

You followed, stepping into the footprints he left behind. The snow had built up in spots to knee height, with no one to clear the sidewalks in this part of town it wasn't surprising.

"Gosh—what's that like? "Meeting your maker"?"

You had reached the front door having successfully navigated the tundra. Connor waited before knocking, parting his lips slightly as he was poised to answer. Your breath came in faint clouds, his did not appear at all. He seemed to still be thinking of a good answer.

"Discomposing." he settled on at last, eyes flashing as he caught your gaze, "He did try to have me shoot a girl in his swimming pool to establish my humanity, so I have doubts about his proposed divinity."

"Doubts? How? That sounds bona fide Old Testament of him..." you said, and Connor grinned, turning his attention back to the door which he rapped in sequence. There was a click and Connor opened the door.

Inside the house had as much snow as parts of the street in spots above the staircase that had collapsed in. To the left was a living room, a fire started and tended to by a blond man you immediately recognized. Connor let you in first and then closed the door, locking it behind him. North had let you both in, moving back over to take a seat on a moth-eaten couch. Markus was standing, leaning against a far wall, but he pushed off and smiled the moment you both entered.

"The prodigal son returns." Markus said and you shot Connor a look. 

Biblical references 2, Connor 0.

"I didn't ever leave." Connor said, crossing the room to take the hand Markus offered him. They touched at the wrist, skin fading back for a moment. 

"You've been busy." Connor said, dry and unimpressed.

"And you've been put on restricted duty and before that were too busy with deviancy cases, so we have had to do our own detecting."

You had a distinct feeling you were missing something, shivering in your quickly dampening boots. North waved you over.

"This fire isn't entirely for our benefit, ---."

You were happy to come over, sitting on the ground by the fireplace. Simon set another log onto the flames, stirring up a new wave of pleasant heat.

"We haven't met yet properly." he said, offering your his hand, "I'm Simon."

That he had two hands at all was a miracle in itself, and he was seemingly having very little difficulty using them. You took his hand, noting that there was a jagged "scar" of sorts along his jaw, reaching back into his hairline. It was a flash of white, showing his inner casing.

"Did everything go well?"

Simon nodded, "Very well and better everyday. Some cosmetic software programming issues, but nothing I am too concerned about."

"Some say we should go without skin all the time anyway." North added, fiddling with a bouncy ball, rolling it along her thigh. You looked back over to Connor and Markus, noting they spoke together quietly in low voices. Markus looked resigned, Connor looked frustrated.

"I don't want to interrupt, but—has this "detecting" got anything to do with when you warned me about investigating the bombing yourself, Markus?" you said, kicking out a leg so that your boot could dry off in the heat of the fire. Simon, who was the only one whose expression you could properly see, shot Markus a surprised look.

"Oh c'mon, I'm not stupid." you said.

"Debatable." North said with a scoff and when you shot her a look she quickly defended herself, "We heard about the mishap the other night. That was stupid. Nothing personal."

"Josh told you?" you asked, not recalling giving him any specifics.

"No. He sends his well wishes by the way, he had another assignment." North said.

"Okay, so how did you know?"

"I'm curious to know the answer to that too." Connor said, shooting North a narrow look.

"Relax, Fido. We put a tail on her. We put a tail on all of them. For a second, we thought you'd fooled us all and were playing both sides." North said, reminding you that this did mean a tail had followed you all the way to an anti-android rally.

"Those people were disgusting." you said, tensing.

"You don't have to defend yourself, we know you weren't there as a participant clearly."

"We do want to know what you found out." Markus added and Connor suddenly looked a bit panicked.

"Hold on—this was why you wanted her to bring me along? I'm not supposed to give you information on these cases, Markus, and even if I could, we've seen already the contamination your people are bringing into scenes. The last gathering spot was practically useless as evidence. They ransacked the place."

Connor had mentioned that before that the DPD was struggling with contaminated scenes. You knew it had probably meant this, but hearing it confirmed was another thing.

"Why on earth would we pass up getting information from you? You're the perfect double agent, Connor." North said, "Or triple? I can never remember."

Connor didn't appreciate the joke, his jaw clenched slightly, but he kept his attention focused on Markus, who put his hands out in a sign of relenting.

"Connor... I know that in order to live together, we will have to abide and trust in mutually beneficial laws and rules—but we aren't there yet. All I'm doing is making sure that we know who our enemies are. We won't be retaliating."

North sighed very, very loudly at that. Markus gave her an impatient look.

"I got it, I got it." she muttered.

"We have in exchange some information that might be beneficial to the DPD." Markus said, "Simon?"

Simon got up, brushed off the dust and ash and took a tablet out from his backpack. He flipped a few screens and then presented the device to Connor. You got up to follow, coming to stand to look over Connor's shoulder. No one seemed to mind your presence, so you didn't question the trust.

"Michael Graham." Connor read.

"Do you remember him?" Markus asked.

"Yes." Connor said, "He was killed by a WR400 "Traci" android that went deviant at the Detroit Eden Club. I was assigned to the case November 6th, 2038. Mr. Graham was physically abusing the Traci models. He ordered two and killed one. The other, rather than submit to being destroyed, fought back."

Connor flipped the file, landing on a crime scene photo. You suddenly knew why Hank had advised you not look at them. Casting a look at you over his shoulder, he quickly skimmed by it.

"...There was another Traci model. They were lovers. I caught them at the loading bay and... I chose to let them go."

You remembered this part of the story he had relayed to you, how in that moment he began to truly question whether they, as androids, had no value outside of machines. Whether they could love.

"What does this case have to do with the bombing?" you asked, looking up at both Markus and Simon.

"Michael Graham was from an affluent family. The eldest son of Walter Graham of Skylar, Graham & Besop, LLC. A company that designs and sells parts for self-driving automotive vehicles. We believe his brother, Lucas Graham, is funding the extremist group the "Red Bloods." "

"Markus Christ, they have a name now?" you said, surprised by the sudden silence of the room. You looked up to find Markus giving you a very concerned look, while Simon smiled. Somewhere over your shoulder, you heard North snort. Connor was doing his best not to express an emotion at all, but you could see it in the way his LED flickered.

" Anyway ." Markus said, "They were just a typical hate group, but recently they have become organized and their ranks are padded with people from outside the city and even the state. Biker gangs, other extremists—you name it. They are recruiting and they are paying. "

"Sounds familiar. DCRU had to start paying volunteers for the housing initiative a month or so in just to get a blip of a head count."

"I don't think they have the same reasons." Simon added with mirthless humor.

"We have all this information regarding the Red Bloods at the DPD too, but how are you connecting Lucas Graham to this? Because of his brother?" Connor asked, looking up from the tablet.

"At the rally they were talking about deviant crimes a lot." you said, recalling the night in a factual way made it easier to process.

"We know, because there is one android serial number that has perpetually been brought to our attention when the DPD asks for updates on the turning over of these people for prosecution." Markus said, "After several attempts, we declared we did not know where this Traci android was and we were ending our efforts to find her. Two days later was the attack."

Markus touched the tablet, pulling up another bulletin you recognized immediately from DCRU's heading.

"Mr. Lucas Graham is also on the board for the Detroit Crisis Response Unit, giving him access to guard rotation schedules, fence perimeters... any security features." Markus concluded, watching Connor as he continued to look through the files, taking time to upload some to himself with the touch of two fingers. You couldn't help yourself, you suddenly grabbed Connor's arm, drawing his attention down as you looked at him wide eyed.

It fit.

"This... could be a good lead." Connor said.

“Is there something you want to add, —?” Markus said, turning his attention to you as it was hard to miss your reaction. You looked at Connor, not for approval, but for some sign of his opinion. Connor was silent, but then after a second he gave a hesitant nod.

“One of the men at the rally knew about my promotion to division planner before it was officially announced.” You began, “If this Lucas guy is involved, it would fit with how they got that information.”

Markus took a sharp breath, letting it out slowly. Restrained. He seemed to quiet whatever rage the confirmation of his fears had brought and let it pass through him.

“Thank you, —. With that in mind, we will take care.” Markus said, looking more than disappointed.

“Take care?” You said, noting that Simon looked equally grave while North had joined you looking unsurprised.

“We are considering other means of forming a community for androids, should these endeavors fail.”

Oh.

“What do you mean? Like— leave?”

“More like make our own space.” North said, “With our own security and our own plans— no offense.”

“None taken.” You said faintly, looking at Markus and feeling your stomach flip with anxiety at the idea of what might happen to the androids if they elected to take matters into their own hands in this. So far, the public opinion had been positive and the government compliant in giving the androids their most important demands, but if the androids were to refuse this requirement of keeping the shaky new peace? It could all go back to recycling camps in the blink of an eye.

Connor shut off the tablet and returned it to Markus, who refused it.

“Keep it. We simply transferred the data for ease of your human detectives.”

“Before we break, there is something else, Connor.” Simon said, but Connor seemed to already have an idea what it was about.

“Josh informed me.” He said, “I maintain that it is not a good idea for me to be too involved with the community at this time.”

Simon sighed, looking to Markus with an expression that read please talk to him.

“We have only barely scratched the surface of the bond created between an android who awakens another android, but it is there, Connor. You are important to them. To us.”

Connor however, seemed cold to Markus’ words, taking on that appearance of indifferent detachment you had seen before.

“I am better served where I am. I apologize, but we do not have time to go into it further. — has an appointment to keep.”

“Yay group therapy.” You said, false enthusiasm palpable. North’s interest peaked.

“Therapy? For the explosion?”

“Yeah, turns out I might be, “mismanaging my trauma” ” you said, air-quoting. 

“Forget some human group, come to ours.” North said, “You know exactly what’s gonna happen with humans. They are going to get all interested in your job, ask you a billion stupid and offensive questions and nothing they’ve been through is going to compare at all to what you have.”

North managed to successfully hit on every concern you even had, remembering that not many humans had such close contact with “deviants” and that in a victim’s group where people were dealing with robbery mostly and the death of loved ones, you did kind of have a niche incident.

“Lucille runs it. Hell, Josh might even finally go if you’re there. All the androids that go were there that day.” North looked around at the other three, noting Connor’s expression she slipped into a bit of a defensive tone, “What? I’m right. Better to be with people who actually understand.”

“It’s not my call.” Connor said.

“Good! How about it? Unless being the only human would bother you.” North added.

“I mean… as long as it doesn’t make anyone else uncomfortable?”

“Anyone has a problem they can bring it to me.” North said, “I imagine some folks will not like it, but I think you can take it.”

That was probably the nicest thing North had ever said to you, which definitely said something in itself, but you chose to take it as it was given. 

“And it gives Connor a chance to visit with the androids who he freed.” Markus added, reminding you of the part of Connor’s story earlier that you hadn’t even really thought about. Connor had infiltrated Cyberlife and awoken hundreds of androids… was this bond Markus talked about some kind of link they all shared? It seemed overly personal to you somehow, so you kept your questions to yourself for now.

“I will think about it.” Connor said, non-committal.

“Well, if you come you come. I’ll send you all the details, —.” North said.

Somehow, the idea of going to therapy seemed a bit less intimidating and oddly you even felt a bit of eagerness for the first time instead of dread.


 

With the meeting adjourned, Simon and Markus left you both with North who walked you out of the home through a separate entrance so as to avoid any attention from anyone who might have been watching outside. She took her job of security seriously.

“I wanted to thank you again for Simon,” North said, smiling with faint fondness, “I honestly don’t know how we would do this without him. He’s always been… a voice of reason.” 

She looked up at you and you could see the sincerity in her eyes.

“He’s like a centerpiece. The one that calls Markus to action and keeps me from making an idiot of myself."

“He’s your glue.” You said, nodding with understanding, “I’m happy to have been able to help.”

North turned her attention to Connor, who’d been doing his best to avoid speaking to any of the others more than necessary.

“What about you, Con? You find your center yet?”

You couldn’t help but think you were missing something with the way the two of them exchanged stares, Connor’s intense and warning and hers teasing, eyes silently laughing. She pulled her pack from her back to the front, unzipping it and pulling free a container filled with vivid blue liquid. She offered it to Connor, who accepted it.

“Monthly ration for you. Try to keep him from getting shot at too much.” North said, giving Connor a light punch to the arm as she walked past you both and disappeared into the snowy, urban landscape.

You walked a ways through the neighborhood to the cab call area. You silently made a "grabby" gesture, indicating to Connor you'd put the thirium into your own messenger bag out of sight. He handed it over, calling the cab with a touch of his palm to the sensor.

"How much of this stuff do you actually have to drink?" you said, stepping a bit in place to keep warm and get some of the snow off your boots.

"RK800s are very efficient models, so I only need to replenish in the event of an injury. Some older models require bi-monthly changes of their thirium stores."

"You planning on getting injured?" you asked, meaning it to be light-hearted.

"I was injured." Connor stated simply, "I was grazed on my right thigh by a nine millimeter bullet during the incident at the bar. It caused minimal thirium losses, but given recent events, I messaged North privately before our arrival and asked if she would bring a canister."

"You... you got hurt?! Are you okay? You didn't seem hurt at all!" you asked as the cab drew up to the curb, doors opening. Connor offered you his hand and though you didn't need the help, you still took it, letting him guide you into the back seat. He joined you and you found yourself watching how he stepped in for any sign of the injury at all.

"I am fine. Androids do not feel pain." he said with a smile, giving your hand a reassuring squeeze. The doors closed, shading the harsh winter light outside with the tinted windows. Warmth rushed from vents, immediately setting the temperature to a nice dry heat. You huffed a sigh, leaning back into the soft leather and without thinking, smoothed your glove covered thumb over his hands, looking with interest.

"Right. I knew that... You know, I've always been curious—exactly what do you feel?"

"It's different than how it was. Certain sensations were only prioritized if needed. Now it's a bit more consistent."

Connor allowed you to turn his hand this way and that, taking it back only to remove his glove. He then rested his bare hand palm up on his thigh for further inspection. You traced the tip of your middle finger from the tip of his own down to his palm, watching his fingers curl involuntary inward.

"What does that feel like?" you said.

Connor seemed to struggle to find words and trying to be helpful you slipped your own glove off and laced your fingers with his, oblivious to the effect your touches were having on his LED. 

" Good ." Connor said, the word coming too quickly and breathlessly. You froze, suddenly feeling all too warm.

"Sorry, I shouldn't have—" your hand went lax and you attempted to draw away, but found your hand caught in his own.

"It's pressure. Also warmth. I know your core temperature on touch alone. It's.... soft. Or smooth I suppose." his thumb traced over the back of your hand for emphasis, smoother even than your own skin with its lack of ridges and fingerprints.

"Is that what you meant?" Connor asked, looking at you sheepishly.

"Yes, but—" you held his hand in both of yours now, "The uh—the other part... is important too. The emotional."

"I used to not feel anything, "emotional" or otherwise, when anyone touched me." Connor said, "Hank hugs me often, or puts his arm around my shoulders. It makes me feel... real. More so I mean."

Connor took a deep breath.

"He called me "son" once. That was also good." Connor smiled, risking a look over at you and when he found you were looking back he met your eyes, "But different from this."

"I would hope so." you said, laughing nervously. You let him take his hand back, shuffling to find where your glove had gotten to when the touch of the back of his curled knuckles just barely brushed your cheek. Your eyelids fluttered several times, resisting every urge to close and lean into the touch.

He did it only once, looking at you for approval or disapproval, hand hovering. You didn't ask him to stop, in fact, the only thing you remember saying was his name, soft and breathless as his own had been a few moments before. You were suddenly aware of how close he was, spreading your leg just slightly and finding your thigh flush against his own. The touch of his hand returned, slipping behind your neck and smoothing through the hair at your nape and then back. His thumb brushed over your cheek, cupping your jaw—and then the cab abruptly stopped and the doors slid open with a mechanical hiss. It was like someone flicked a switch, merciless daylight flooding the private space and the sounds of the construction machines jarring you from your stupor. 

Connor was already up and out of the cab, his glove back on.

"This is where North said the meeting would be." Connor said, mask back in place as he helped you out and then broke the contact as soon as it was right to do so.

"Are you familiar with the location?" Connor said, pinging it to your phone. It was just one of the housing buildings, near where your own offices were on alpha site.

"Yeah. I can find it. Do... do you need to get going?" you asked, trying on your own mask to hide the disappointment.

"Yes, I am returning to Hank's residence for the time being. I need to replenish my thirium and return my operating capacity to 100%."

With that, you pulled the container out of your bag and handed it back to him. 

"Will I see you later?"

"Certainly."

You were not entirely sure what that meant, but it was enough of a confirmation that you didn't feel like pressing for details. You stood, feeling a bit awkward about how to say "goodbye" and noting, to your extreme jealousy, that if Connor felt any such awkwardness, he was doing a damn good job hiding it.

"Okay well—uh. See you later."

"I hope this meeting is helpful to you." Connor said, sincerity returning to his voice, "If it does not work out, there is always the DPD organized one."

You nodded with understanding and watched as Connor disappeared back into the cab, the sleek black vehicle engaging and driving away. You let out a breath you didn't know you were holding, huffing an animated sigh.

"Weh-elp. You started it ." you said to yourself, bracing hands on your hips as if that might help "ground" you from whatever the ever loving hell that was and why your heart now felt like it existed somewhere in your stomach. When you'd had more time to process it, you made a mental note that it may be time to address—well, whatever it was that was going on between you two. For now though, there was a meeting to attend and the new-found eagerness you had that morning had faded to something still eager, but also anxious. What if the androids did not want a human there? What if you acted super weird? Weirder than normal?

You flashed your ID badge to the guards, finding North had informed them of your visit so the usual securities were taken for a “civilian”. Once the search and metal detector bit was over you headed into the housing site, catching an automated cart that served as a low grade shuttle around the complex. You entered in the modular unit number to the cart’s navigation system and sat facing backwards in the back seat as the cart sprung to life and began its trek across the lot.

Chapter Text

The modular was nothing special, just another three home stack among the others, but the door was open in front of this one despite the cold and there were several signs on the building advertising group meetings. A few androids hung around the door, speaking to a young thirty-something looking black woman. You hopped off the cart and headed over, noting she was quite pretty and was missing an LED.

"Good afternoon, are you here for the meeting?" she asked, voice pleasant and strangely imbuing you with a sense of calm almost immediately.

"Yes. North um, North said she'd mentioned I'd be coming. Is... that still okay?"

"Oh, you are the human guest!" the woman said, smiling brightly, "Yes, it is absolutely okay. I only ask that if anyone acts in an... unpleasant manner, you leave reprimands to me. I will make sure we keep a positive and valuable meeting."

She offered you her hand and you took it with a faint smile.

"My name is Lucille. Just to provide you some familiar background, I am a KL900 model, which means I was originally designed for providing social care and counseling to victims of trauma. There was another model identical to myself once at Jericho, but she passed some time before I was awoken. I find even now I like to put my skills to good use. I head both this group, a general group for survivors of violence and a very special group for those androids who were advertised as "companions." "

Lucille picked the word carefully, but it was obvious to you what she meant. Those androids that had been forced into sexual slavery or sold as "sexbots" to humans. Knowing what you knew now, the very thought of clubs still running like that made rage seethe through your veins.

"It is a difficult job, but I am happy to do it. I'm very glad that you decided to join us, having you here is beneficial to the others." Lucile said simply. That caught you off guard.

"Really? I was worried I might make people... uncomfortable."

"Most, if not all, androids struggle in some capacity to be aware of what they are feeling. They've only been doing so for themselves for a few months." Lucille smiled, "You have been doing it all your life. Your experiences provide them with a... vocabulary. They watch you, listen to how you speak and sense how you feel and in themselves recognize similarities. Your simple acts of being human help them to connect the emotions they are feeling to specific descriptions. It may seem insignificant, but seeing themselves in humanity is important."

You were not sure you completely understood, but the bit on providing the vocabulary was maybe something that made some sense.

"So... I'm like an example?"

"You provide context that they lack. For many of them this is their first brush with loss and fear. You have dealt with those things all your life, presumably, both big and small. They can confirm, "yes, what I feel is this," by seeing that you, a human, too feel that way. Does that make sense?"

You half nodded.

"Couldn't they find context in other ways?"

"Yes, but reality is a much better example. I have theorized that many androids, newly awoken, act out passionately because they lack the... "emotional cushion" of a full life. It is like being born immediately into adulthood, thrust into self-awareness without the time to reflect or adjust."

"I... often thought of it kinda like how teenagers or younger children can... ya know. Have a tantrum." you said, not wanting to be offensive.

"That is inelegant, but a workable metaphor. They are like juveniles in their emotional control, but we learn quickly and spaces like this contribute to that."

"I'm glad I can help." you said, as earnestly as you could, "Really. I'm super grateful to be here."

"I hope that it helps you too. That is the biggest priority, especially given the additional shocks you've had along the way." Lucille said, gently touching your shoulder, "Now come on in, it is getting colder by the minute. We don't have anything in way of coffee, but at least it is warm inside."

You ushered past her, stepping into the dry and warmer modular. It was carpeted thinly, reminding you of model or "show" houses. There were several aluminum chairs set around in a circle and many androids, models you recognized and did not, in the room. All in all, there were about fourteen, which made sense given the impact at ground zero. One face you recognized immediately, feeling your anxieties lift as you scooted past people and plopped into the seat next to him.

"North said you might be here!" you said, Josh noticing you on your path over and too, seeming to breathe a sigh of relief.

"Likewise." he said, bouncing his knee a bit in a very human sign of jitters, "Seems we got that in common... working to distract. Though I suppose, in your case, more like moonlighting as a detective."

You shrugged, guilty as charged.

"Not a very good detective either. I nearly got shot for it. You ever been—" you stopped, remembering yourself, "...sorry. Right."

"It's okay, ---." Josh said, nudging you playfully, "You're among good company then. I think everyone in here has either been shot at, blown up, or otherwise."

Most everyone in the room had not made much effort to speak to you, only casting wary or curious looks. Now, an android that looked as if he could be Simon's brunette twin came and sat next to Josh.

"Hi, I'm Max. You're the human?" he asked, getting right into it. Another android you recognized as a former gardening unit seemed to tense at overhearing the words. You'd seen them often tending to the lawns on campus before the revolution. You could tell that he had been severely damaged around his face once, patches in spots where it was the worst, but his eye's more natural "skin" appeared to be permanently broken, showing a dark sclera and blue inner mechanism for the pupil.

"Yep. I was Miranda's assistant. Had the misfortune of getting tapped for transcribing duty that day."

"I remember you. Josh threw you outta the way." Max said, exchanging looks between both of you, "Are you like... observing? Or are you really here like the rest of us?"

"Like all the rest." you said, "It's been... weird. Lately. Bad dreams.."

Josh nodded, and from the side the other android said quickly, "No dreams here. No dreams. Ralph— I do not dream. Only see. Only hear."

"Ralph" turned and fixed you with an expression like a sneer,  "Dreamers aren't welcome."

"Ralph." Lucille's voice rose over the dull noise as she shut the door behind her. Ralph visibly shrunk, looking hurriedly from the floor to Lucille.

"Be kind to our guest. She is a friend."

The other androids all took their seats, purposefully leaving at least one open next to Ralph. It was impossible to miss the stares and faint whispers, but whether they were for the other android or you, you weren't sure. Lucille took her own seat, smiling.

"We have two new guests today, both of which have caused quite a stir. Many of you know Josh through his efforts when Jericho was in its infancy and his time alongside Markus during the revolution."

It occurred to you suddenly, some of those stares and whispers were primarily directed at Josh. You had to remind yourself to most androids he was practically a celebrity, a hero, and a historical figure made "human."

"And of course we also have Ms. ---, whom you may not know worked as a volunteer for DCRU and is now one of its planners. Some of you may recognize her as she was present and injured when the bomb went off at Alpha site." Lucille folded her hands, let quiet conversation continue for a moment and began again, "I want everyone to do their best to make both Josh and her feel welcome as we all here today share a common experience."

Lucille smiled softly, "We've all been made victims. We talked about this last session, accepting being a victim and what that means and how to empower ourselves as such."

You settled in, listening intently when Lucille spoke, wondering faintly if her voice was programmed to be so aesthetically beautiful to keep everyone calm and attentive. She went around the room, each android introducing themselves and finally Josh and you. It was hard to shake the feeling that you were taking up space in a place that wasn't meant for you, but as the minutes ticked by and people spoke of their experiences, the fact you were human and they were androids became something that flickered into the background noise until you found yourself forgetting it entirely. So many of them had flashbacks, but in a much more literal sense. Their brains would truly force them to recount the moment in near perfect detail, disrupting their lives as much if not more than your own.

"You've been awfully quiet, you two. How have the events been affecting your day to day?"

Josh sighed, looking at you to see if you'd go first and finding your expression just as nervous, decided to press ahead.

"I've been working a lot. I mean—a lot. No breaks, no stopping. Just constant project to project—hell, even things that aren't a project. I need to keep busy or it's just..." Josh struggled, cutting his hand in the air as if gesturing at something.

"It's just there. The memory, waiting for you to let it get in." you suggested and Josh nodded.

"Yes, exactly."

"I'm... well, I'm told I'm the same way."

"Who else has been keeping busy as a way to distract themselves?" Lucille directed to the group.

Multiple hands went up.

"Distractions are good. Sometimes it is better not to dwell in sorrow, stuck in the same moment. That is a flashback and while it is healthy to embrace and navigate ones trauma, those situations is when the trauma overwhelms you. What can we do in those instances?"

"Go to therapy." a female WR400 android said wryly. There were several chuckles.

"Yes! And?"

Josh spoke, "Rely on our friends."

"Animals!" Ralph added enthusiastically, earning him a few looks.

"Yes. Pets and animal friends can help us to relax, and our family too." Lucille added with a smile.

"My family is all in southern Michigan, so... I guess I have all of you really." you said, feeling slightly exposed as all eyes flitted to you, "I mean, Josh is practically my only friend here in Detroit aside from Connor."

"Connor?" Lucille asked, giving Josh a sideways glance. Josh returned it with a barely registered nod.

"Oh—well uh. Just. Uh, I met him during a coffee run. We've kept in touch."

"It's good to make connections. Meet new people."

"Or in her case, tin-cans." Max added, drawing another few chuckles.

"That's Grade A carbon fiber-can to you, Maximillion." the same WR400 retorted, earning several louder laughs. There must have been an inside joke you were missing, because even Josh snorted and Lucille looked to be trying to conceal her smile.

You felt on the outside, but in a good way. You had never had much of a chance to actually interact with anyone who lived in these housing areas. On paper, they were just all designations and housing numbers, and even if what had brought you all together was something negative, you felt like North had been right in suggesting it was better to talk to people who knew where you were coming from—even if they weren't where you came from.

The meeting went by in a blur and when it was over, you found yourself not wanting to go. Josh however, looked ready to bolt at the first opportunity. You didn't get much of a chance to stay and chat, but you shook hands with Max and the WR400 whose name you found out was Sarah. You hitched up to one the carts with Josh, flicking through your phone to see if you had any new messages from Connor and trying to convince yourself that totally wasn't what you were looking for.

[from: Connor

I am babysitting Sumo this evening. He has a cold. Hank will be out. However, Hank said I could "have friends over" as long as we abstained. ]

 

[from: ---

Who's Sumo? And also—abstain from what?" ]

 

[from: Connor

Sumo is a friend and a St. Bernard. Abstain. As in abstinent. ]

 

[from: ---

Aww, puppy! ]

 

It took a moment for you to remember abstinent had nothing to do with alcohol and everything to do with other physical activities. 

 

[from: ---

So no fucking is what he was sayin? ]

 

You hesitated, wanting to hit send simply for the sheer comedic aspect, but also NOT wanting to hit send because... well. Because. Impulse won.

 

[from: Connor

Precisely. ]

 

[from: ---

Tragic. ]

 

[from: Connor

I told him our relationship was not sexual in nature and he said he, "Was not born yesterday" which I understand is a figure of speech meaning he does not believe me. It should be a non-issue. ]

 

[from: ---

Sure sure. I trust you to be the perfect gentleman, as always. ]

 

There was a pause enough between the messages you thought Connor had finished, but than another displayed.

 

[from: Connor

Not always. ]

 

You supposed there could be various meanings behind that, but your brain was very decided on declaring it flirting and enjoying the immediate all-consuming smile it put on your face. Josh noticed this too, scoffing.

"Connor?"

"Ummm... maybe?"

"Has to be. I swear, he was going to download laser vision in ten seconds had you not come out of your bedroom the other day. That man wanted me dead in a decidedly not deviant hunter way."

That one, actually surprised you. Connor had seemed so curious about Josh!

"Really? Because he has suggested we invite you over multiple times."

"To kill me."

"To watch movies!"

"Yeah, like The Terminator." Josh laughed, "Show me exactly how he'll mess me up."

"We're just—" 

Just . Just what? Yes, you found him "aesthetically pleasing," yes he was a sweetheart and a bit of a bad-ass and there was something uniquely peculiar about him being an android that piqued your curiosity—but, you weren't dating. Were you dating? How many nights now had he stayed over?!

"You can't even say it!" Josh said, interrupting your train of thought.

"We're just enjoying each other's company, okay?"

"Well, when you inevitably need details on hardware upgrades for your fancy top-of-the-line guy friend , you go right on ahead and feel free to let someone else know. Like North. I'd pay to see her reaction."

"I don't even know what that means ."

Josh grinned, shaking his head as if he couldn't believe you were that naive.

"Only certain models are uh... fully functional. A detective model doesn't need that. So what I'm saying is, if you do decide to jump him, he doesn't probably have anything to jump on. "

"Can this conversation please be over?!"

That was the last visual image you needed in your head before going to see Connor.

 


 

Hank's home was located in an area you knew to be a slightly "nicer" working class to middle class area. The sidewalks and roads were shoveled and plowed, which was a distinct difference noted between the "good" and "bad" sides of town. There was even salt on the sidewalks, which crunched under your boots with satisfying pops as you got out of the cab and made your way to the door.

You felt a bit nervous. All the times you'd been around Connor had been on home turf, which in some way made you feel like you had an "advantage." Coming here felt a bit like sneaking into your high school boyfriend's house while his parents were away. Or ya know—just a friend's house. You were prepared to knock, but received a ping from Connor indicating the door was open.

You wondered sometimes if he watched your phone GPS, eagerly awaiting the arrival of the little pulsing blue light or if it was more just out of pragmatism. You liked the other mental image more. You stomped off your boots and opened the door, greeted by a gruff "woof."

"Sumo, stay." Connor said, sitting on the floor of the living room leaning against the front of the sofa with a whole hell of a lotta dog draped over his lap who didn't really look like he was going to move anytime soon anyway. Connor tilted his head back towards you.

"He thinks he is a guard dog."

There was an almost empty glass on the coffee table of bright blue liquid along with a paperback sat face down on an open page. Connor was decidedly more under-dressed than you for once, wearing a t-shirt that was clearly a hand-me-down from Hank. It reminded you of little kids, wearing their parents clothes as pajamas, which did nothing to get rid of the mental image of clandestine high school meetings that were already in your head. You kicked off your boots and hung up your coat, not too worried about getting dog fur on your black leggings as you slowly sunk down to your knees and scooted over to Sumo.

He was a big boy, fluffy and with eyes that looked extra watery, probably from his cold. He lifted his great big head up to sniff at your knit sweater and then promptly sneezed.

"He's dramatic when he's sick." Connor said, stroking his hand through Sumo's fur and giving him a rough scratch. Sumo was happy to rest his head in your hands and accept ear and chin scratches, giving a low woof again before closing his eyes and all but collapsing over Connor again.

"How was the meeting?" Connor asked, adjusting to the weight of the dog until he found a comfortable spot, "Everything go okay?"

"No one screamed "Ahhh! Flesh-can!" or anything, if that's what you mean." you said, leaning down to press a kiss onto Sumo's fluffy head, "Who's such a good boy?" you cooed for a moment then added, "Also Josh was there, so that helped a lot. I think when one of Jericho's four is happy to see you people tend to think that you must be nice."

You watched Connor as you said this, looking for the signs Josh had mentioned seeing. There was one, a tiny frown at the corner of his lips and a flicker of his eyes as if he were about to roll them —but caught you watching and stopped himself.

"That doesn't surprise me." Connor said, reaching over to scoop up his glass and drinking more of the thirium from it. It was a bit strange to see him actually drink something.

"How are you? You all fully functional again?" 

You swore inwardly. You did NOT just say "fully functional," you did NOT just do that. Heat brew up immediately to your cheeks, flushing down your neck as the mental images flowed. Connor was blissfully unaware.

"I am at 97.3% functionality." Connor said.

"What's the other 2.7 percent doing?" 

"Running dog petting algorithms."

And for one moment he said it with such sincerity you nearly believed him, until he winked, finishing off the rest of the glass and returning it with a stretch back to the coffee table. He retrieved the paperback then, offering it to you, holding the place with his middle knuckle.

"Wow, that's an old one. Moved on to the romantics, huh?" 

It was a copy of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.

"This is one of my favorites." you hummed, reading the page Connor had marked, "Heavy misfortunes have befallen us, but let us only cling closer to what remains, and transfer our love for those whom we have lost to those who yet live…"

You flipped to the front, noting the initials H.A. written in pencil on the inside cover.

"Is this one of Hank's?"

"I believe the subject matter was of interest to him after his son passed away."

Your smile faded, a silent "oh" coming from you like a puff of deflated air.

"Mary Shelley lost her child too." Connor said, something contemplative in his face to the point of almost being wistful.

"And her mother." you added, flipping to another page, a line underlined and newly marked in fine Cyberlife sans with the words, Mine too . The passage said:

"There is something at work in my soul, which I do not understand." you read, noting the change in Connor's body language. He tensed enough even Sumo made a gruff sound of protest, the change in Connor reminding you of how he had squirmed when you traced the circle around his thirium pump.

"I... like it." he said, "More than Machiavelli."

"A romantic . After my own heart." you said, carelessly.

"Well, not in the Byronic sense at least."

That earned him a look of curiosity of your own, head tilted and tongue pressed inside your cheek.

He sputtered, trying to recover, "Because he wanted to take Percy Shelley's heart from the pi—"

"I get the reference." you interrupted, lingering between addressing and leaving the words uncontested. Connor was waiting too, his hands having stopped their smooth movement through Sumo's fur. 

"What's your 2.7% focusing on now?" you asked slyly.

"I—" Connor suddenly went rigid, his voice going mechanical, " Temperature alert. Systems at 115 degrees. Cool down starting ."

He blinked rapidly, LED turning from yellow back to blue. He looked at you, eyes wide, stunned and caught off guard in a way you'd never seen Connor before.

"...Well then. That's good to know." you said, trying so hard not to laugh and failing miserably. Sumo groaned, rolling off Connor's lap and getting up to sulk over to his dog bed in the corner. He panted slightly, clearly not having enjoyed the burst of heat. You turned your attention seemingly back to the book, flipping the pages slowly and letting Connor have a moment to—what was it? Cool down?

"Does that always happen when you're embarrassed?"

"No." he said quickly, "It's only supposed to do that when temperatures exceed 200 degrees. I—don't know what... I—can we talk about something else?"

"Uh huh." you said, confirming to both. You kept on smiling though, the expression making Connor slip a bashful one himself before he quickly got up from the floor, brushing dog fur from his pants.

"I have other books. Do you want to see them?" Connor said, a nice safe topic change.

"Are you inviting me to your room? Unchaperoned? What would Hank say?"

"Sumo's chaperoning." Connor said dryly, helping you up in one easy fluid movement. An audible snore came from the other side of the room where Sumo was sprawled out.

Connor led you down a short hallway to a door next to the bathroom, inching it open and flicking on the lights. The walls were off-white, save for one which was painted a striking shade of vivid red, something you definitely were not expecting. The only furniture was a desk made of heavy dark wood, a black leather sofa placed against the red wall and then two tall bookshelves crammed with paperbacks. On the desk was a small terminal, meant for personal use. There was a wireless headset and an MP3 player sitting on a dock there as well, next to a journal and a pen. You noted from a distance that the journal had several doodles of intricate mazes inter-laid into the neat, almost typed-looking, handwriting. He had a closet in here too, but the doors were shut, a poster of a seriously old school Heavy Metal band Metallica adorned the front.

Connor tapped the light panel again and a floor lamp that stood near the sofa turned on, the overhead lights shutting off. The room was now lit with soft, amber light, much less harsh than before. Connor seemed very proud of the collection of paperbacks, immediately pulling a few down for your scrutiny.

Stepping through the doorway, you noted curiously a set of tally marks on the frame each followed by "Cole," then a single digit number and subsequent height. They didn't go past six years. There was one however, high up and haphazardly marked with "Connor, four months. 6'0"."

"Most of these are Hank's, but I have started finding some too." Connor said, passing you a book. You flipped it over in your hands.

"You're becoming a dirty tree killer is what you're doing." you said, "Most people talk about a big thing being able to "smell" the books—is it true for you too?"

Connor shrugged, "It contributes to the experience. There is a tactile aspect."


"You've been exploring tactile aspects in multiple things lately." you said, thumbing through the pages of the book and not paying attention to the words, but to Connor's slack of shoulders and exasperated sigh as he shot you a look . You set the book back on the bookshelf, turned around and closed the door. It seemed like a good idea, but now turning back and facing Connor, who was watching you with heightened attention, you suddenly felt your control of the situation tilt back into his favor. Well. That just wasn't something you could let stand.

"I'm going to be completely honest with you, Connor."

His eyes bore into yours.

"I don't want to read."

You stepped forward and he remained still, taking the book from him and setting it away. You took his hand, surprised when he responded, fingers curling along with your own.

"I understand. We have already introduced platonic physical intimacy into our friendship—-- I know humans are genetically designed to seek out physical affection. Did you know there are nerve endings that exist in human bodies that are meant only to recognize a stroking touch? They can lower your heart rate as well as activate "smile" muscles."

You were in fact, smiling.

"The optimal speed is 3-5 cm/s."

His hand slid up your wrist, moving up your forearm and gently guiding you closer. As soon as you were within reach, his other hand gently came up to stroke your cheek the way he had in the cab, but it was more exploratory. He even took the time to brush the lobe of your ear, smoothing up over the outline and down into your neck...… something about the touch was vaguely familiar, though you couldn't recall why. You tilted your head up, closing your eyes.

He quoted Shelley again, "I'm a creature of fine sensations . "

"If that's your way of offering cuddles, then I am so beyond down." you said, voice mumbled and soft.

You let your own hands smooth up his chest and back down, resting your arms around his waist as he trailed his lips over your cheekbone and kissed the spot gently, but just once.

"Connor." you breathed, "That is not very platonic."

"It's not? Would you like me to stop?" Connor said, sincere.

"Well, I wouldn't want you to overheat again."

"Reconsidering reading then?" he said, distracting you with the soft brush of his nose through your hair.

"That's too platonic."

"I could read to you."

You made a contented sound, half in response.

"Is that a yes?"

"Yes." you said, and were only content to let him untangle from you because a moment later he had picked Frankenstein back up and you were snug against his side on the sofa, his arm wrapped around you. You curled into him, gently resting a hand over the spot that thrummed in the middle of his chest. Connor didn't stop you, flipping to the beginning of the book.

"Letter 1," Connor started, "To Mrs. Saville, England."

"You will rejoice to hear that no disaster has accompanied the commencement of an enterprise which you have regarded with such evil forebodings..."

Words eased in and out of your consciousness, sometimes taking you far off where your mind's eye crafted a visage of a man and his creature, but then inevitably you would be drawn back into the present and to the sensation of soft leather under your legs and the warmth of Connor's body. The gentle continual pulse of his heart had a soporific effect, but you held on to the threads of wakefulness if only to bare witness still to Connor's voice, never tiring as he read the madness and struggles of the student, Frankenstein, and his desperate attempts to recreate life.

When Connor reached the introduction of the creature, something changed and his inflection took on a gentleness, tinged with such aches of— pain . Not pain that is sharp and angry and raw, but pain that is constant, the kind that you recognize but continue on despite of it. You could only think he sympathized with this creature, this Adam, molded and given life by man, scorned and treated as inhuman.

Connor was human, you told yourself, even as you listened to the mechanical pumping of the thirium modulator. How could any program feign his curiosity? His kindness? How could a computer touch you with such affection? Could accept it in turn? How could anyone make you feel—make you feel...

"Oh."

Connor paused, "Something wrong?"

"Nope. Nothing. Just thinking. Listening. Ya know."

He didn't seem wholly convinced, but continued where he left off. You tried to content yourself again with the story, but more and more your awareness of him was interrupting that. You were suddenly painfully aware of every place you touched and when the arm around you moved, his hand cupping the base of your neck and rubbing, you made a very undignified sound . The thirium pump under your fingers jumped, pulse suddenly faster. The hand at the base of your neck stopped and consequently, the reading had stopped too.

Connor seemed uncertain what he wanted to say and you were too busy listening now to the pulse in your ears, body coiled tight and seemingly ready for flight. Slowly, Connor set the book down.

"---?"

"Y-yeah?"

"I don't think I want to read either."

You felt like a cord in your chest had been pulled taut, near breaking. He turned, arm going back around your waist and his now free hand cupping your jaw. He was scanning, LED whirling yellow as his eyes flicked back and forth between your own, searching.

You ran your hand up his chest and finally behind his head, gently burying your fingers into the hair at the base of his neck. For once, he was the one who couldn't stop his eyes from closing, leaning his forehead to press into yours. It was strange for him, not knowing what to do, but wanting to do it. 

He opened his eyes, pulling back to watch as he slid his thumb down across your cheek and finally tentatively over your lips. You parted them unconsciously, knowing he didn't need scans now to see you shiver, or to see the flush of warmth across your skin, your quickened pulse under his palm or the more rapid inhales of breath. He was enraptured just watching, absorbing information and responses. The rush of blood that came to the surface wherever he touched.

It was maddening and quite frankly, you wanted to know what it felt like for once . You took the initiative, closing the distance and pressing your lips to his. He felt like a human this way too, soft and yielding. He did not return the kiss though, and after a moment you broke away, searching his eyes for some kind of reaction. His voice was soft as he asked,

"Why did you do that?"

"Because... I wanted to." the words, like the kiss, came so naturally, that you could not help but say them with an air of surprise that he would even ask "why."

You didn't have enough time to embellish further, as within the space of a moment he kissed back. It wasn’t so much kissing as feeling , his touch light and brushing, not quite pressing, but not not kissing. His lips parted as he made a faint sound and you took the opportunity to lick the inside of his mouth, tongue pressing against his in a gentle swipe.

He drew back a mere few inches, swallowing.

"...Dopamine and endorphin levels highly elevated." he said, until you trapped any further analysis with another kiss, moaning into it simply to try and get under his skin. Connor practically melted, making it very easy to guide him into bearing you down into the sofa. He wasn't much heavier than any human and even if he were, you enjoyed the weight of him, the feeling of being engulfed and safe in the circle of his arms.

There was nothing hesitant about his touches now, his knee between your legs and his lips on your neck, feeling the pulse beneath your skin. You let yourself go, relaxing into perfect contentment, your mind hazy and all your thoughts softened yet hyper-focused on just him. The kisses slowed, becoming indulgent and curious as Connor repeated the same movements several times, as if memorizing which kisses made you sigh and which made you arch up into his chest. He drew away and you took the chance to breathe and notice his LED was solid red. You stopped him before he could move in again.

"Is this okay? Are you okay?"

"This feels so good ." Connor breathed, genuine awe in his voice. You felt your face heat up, the warmth spreading down your neck and seeming to engulf you.

"Don't overheat." you murmured against his lips, caught again in another lazy, deep kiss.

"Temperatures nominal..." he mumbled.

"Well, I'm roasting." you said, arching up your back to let him know you wanted up. Connor responded immediately, sitting back as you sat up and tugged the knit sweater off your head. You had a thin tank top underneath and huffed with relief as you tossed the sweater aside.

You laid back down, but Connor remained kneeling over you, taking in the sight of you flushed and sated beneath him. You opened your arms up to him and this time he was quick to lean down, letting you wrap your arms around his neck. When he went to kiss you, you were right there, meeting him halfway.

You both were so distracted, not even Connor had heard the soft telling "woof" Sumo gave in greeting or the sound of the front door. However, you both absolutely heard the bedroom door knob turned, parting to look up at the open space where Hank was standing with sudden abject horror.

"Oh sweet Christ —Connor! What did I SAY?!"


 

This was—a singular experience on multiple levels. You were sitting on Hank's sofa now, Connor a good arm distance away. He was sitting up on the edge of his seat, hands folded together in a familiar posture. You, were sunk into the sofa, sweater folded over your arms. From the kitchen, you could hear the clinking of glasses and gruff mutters. Eventually, Hank came into the room, offering you a glass of water while he had a mug of strongly brewed coffee. He sat on the coffee table, not making eye contact with either of you.

Awkwardly, you took a sip of the water.

"What are your intentions with my partner?"

And promptly choked.


 

You were half in a daze as Connor walked you out to the waiting cab, resigned to the fact you definitely wouldn't be sleeping over anytime soon at Hank's place. Connor had made a good case, but Hank's counters of "You're eight months old" and "MY HOUSE" won out, even if you were pretty certain Hank was simply making up for lost time. He'd never gotten a chance to flex his dad muscles and forbid the presence of girls.

Hank did hover for a moment by the door, before disappearing back into the house. The moment he was gone from sight, you grabbed a fistful of Connor's shirt and with a smirk pulled him all too willingly closer.

"You could just... come home with me."

"You need rest." Connor said, barely a protest.

"Yeah, but I want to be with you."

"Do you?" Connor asked, and it took a moment for you to realize he wasn't teasing, but actually asking.

"Yeah, Connor. That's generally what that means when a girl entices you constantly into premarital hand-holding."

And to prove it, you let go of his shirt and held his hand, bringing it up to kiss the back of his knuckles. Somehow, he was more discomposed from that act than anything from before. He leaned forward, nose brushing your own before he kissed you thoroughly. You felt dizzy by the time it was over, drunk even. How you were expected to get in this cab and leave was beyond your fathoming right now.

"Your vitamin D levels are low." he said sensually.

" Uh huh , is that your professional opinion, detective?" you said, unable to control a fit of giggles.

"I would recommend taking a 2000 IU dosage every day. Low levels occur in nearly all Michigan residents."

That was sobering.

"...You're being serious. Of course you're being serious." you said with a groan, leaning your forehead into his chest and happily accepting his arms around you. The cab made a ding, a quiet reminder to get in the fucking car now, please and you heaved a groan, muffling it into his shirt.

"I don't wanna." you said, holding unto Connor's middle even after he pressed one last kiss to your temple and let his arms go lax.

"How can you be so chill?" you said, half crossing into the realm of pouting at this point.

Connor took a moment, weighing his words carefully before he spoke, "If I had my way, we'd have never gotten off the couch."

Seemingly satisfied with this response, you did finally relent, getting into the cab. Connor rested his hand on the open door, leaning down.

"Good night." he said, with such quiet gentleness it made you want to get right back out of the cab, "This was... I enjoyed this. I would like to do it again."

"Which part?" you said, lifting an eyebrow suggestively.

"All of it."

And before you could respond, the cab impatiently forced its doors closed. Connor stepped back and within a moment, he faded into the distance as the cab drove into the snowy evening. You sighed, long and heavy as you sunk into the chair. Covering your hands over your face, trying to hold in the light you felt would explode from your smiling at any minute.

Chapter Text

It was hard to focus your thoughts on anyone or anything else, voices of the group falling into background noise as your mind kept chasing other memories. Tuning your thoughts out, you came back into the present, listening as Ralph spoke, barely audible at times to your human ears and switching frequently between first and third person.

“People… stare. They see Ralph’s— my face and they want to know. Who? Why? I know who. Barely not children. They stop Ralph, they try and get him to react. Push, hit. But I can’t do anything. ” Ralph said, eyes looking up to Lucille, “They knew I couldn’t. They knew.”

You could see the graveness that passed over everyone's face, a memory of a moment that they all shared even if the circumstances were different.

“They burn me and Ralph can’t anymore. Ralph pushes back, Ralph hits back. ” Ralph touched his knuckles, “There is a bad sound. Screaming. Ralph runs away.”

Even Lucille looked pained, watching Ralph with unguarded sympathy.

“But why? Why? Whywhywhy ? Why humans, when they know ? Dreamer… does dreamer know?” Ralph said, fixing you with his unsettling eyes.

“Something in their animal nature.” Sarah, the WR400 said, “Blood in the water. Frenzing like damn shar—”

“Ralph asked dreamer. ” Ralph interrupted her, putting up a hand.

You felt your throat constrict, suddenly dry. All eyes were on you, quietly, yet intensely wondering the same thing.

“I… don’t know.”

Lucille cleared her throat and spoke gently, “Ralph, you cannot expect her to be able to speak for every person.”

“Speak for self! Would you hurt Ralph? Kick him? Burn him ?!”

No. ” you said, earnestly as you could, “No. Never. I—I don’t know why humans do things like this…”

“Have you ever owned an android?” Max said and you fumbled for words. You took a deep breath and then answered. It was hard to feel like the words didn’t immediately damn you in their eyes. You wished silently Josh was at this meeting, but he had not shown up.

“No, but my parents did. My mother got sick and the insurance included coverage for an AX400 android to help take care of her.”

Ralph’s expression twisted at the mention of the model type, as if recalling something unpleasant.

“What happened to her?” Max asked.

“We called her Rachel. When my mom got better, they took her to go to a new family that needed her.”

“Did anyone ever treat her badly?”

“My mom loved Rachel, she wore herself out with grief to the point she was back in the hospital. Rachel had been with us for nearly three years and they just… took her. Wouldn’t even let us buy her. The day they came was awful. Rachel didn’t understand, she didn’t want to leave. They said she was faulty, “malfunctioning”… now I know the truth.”

You swallowed hard.

“She was like—it was like since mom got sick we had been missing some part of us and she was it. When Rachel was there, we were a real family again.”

Ralph had relented some, but was still on edge. You realized now what Max had been trying to do, helping give you a place of argument against the accusation, but still you felt nearly crushed beneath the weight of all the eyes on you—wondering. Judging. You’d owned one of them, or your family had. Guilt by association. Lucille’s voice cut through the sound of the intrusive thoughts in your head and the attention of everyone turned.

“It is an affliction within some humans that affects their ability to empathize with us as well as their own at times. For some of them, it awakens their disturbances as they believe to hurt or injure us does not come with the same moral and social ramifications as hurting another human being—but they still get the simulated experience of doing so.” Lucille paused, “In short. It was not because those boys were human that they hurt you, Ralph, it is because those boys lacked empathy and were, as individuals, cruel.”

“It can be hard to dissociate the whole of humanity from the actions of a few, just as humanity struggles in turn with their own cases of inward violence. That we feel this way, that we judge, is just another sign of our own humanity.”

Everyone silently took this in, some nodding and others crossing their arms and shifting back into their seats. Ralph continued to stare at you.

“It is better to remind ourselves to let each individual, be it humans or androids, prove to us themselves what kind of person they are.”

“But what happens when it comes too late?” Sarah said, voice tense, “If we wait, give these humans the benefit of the doubt, we set ourselves up to get screwed.”

Lucille nodded, “That is a risk. It’s up to each of us to decide whether that risk is worth it.”

Sarah shook her head, crossing her arms and lowering her eyes. 

“Many do not want to take that risk and that is okay.” Lucille said, “But you have to accept that this means fostering understanding may take longer.”

They should be trying harder, not us.” Sarah added, snappish, “It’s not fair.”

There was a murmur of agreement.

“No, it is not. But being human is neither fair nor just, unless we make it so.” Lucille said and the following silence was a sign that it was a good place to stop.

“I have an assignment for you all. Think of the things you wish could change about the way androids and humans interact and what you can do to help that change. We’ll talk about it next session.”

You knew you had lots of things you wish you could change, but what could you do? A few weeks ago, you had been no one, now you were on a first name basis with the leaders of the revolution. Maybe that was enough, to be of assistance, to be willing to help… but something in your heart just didn’t believe it.

You got ready to go, but were stopped right out the door by Ralph. You couldn’t help but jump when he touched you, not because of anything he had done, but because being easily startled had become a sort of side effect of the past few weeks.

“Rachel.” he said, determined.

You hesitated for a moment, not sure what he wanted, “Y-yes, that was her name.”

“Did you look for her?”

This time your hesitation was intentional because you knew very well your next words were damning.

“No. We—I didn’t. I… just assumed they probably killed her.”

Ralph did not look impressed, expression twitching, “Would you have assumed your own mother dead? No body? No knowing? You say Rachel was family, but you lie to yourself, dreamer. She was just a robot —same excuses.”

You felt your eyes burn, but couldn’t think of a single thing to say in your defense, though the words flashed through your head. I didn’t know! They said she was broken! But some part of you knew, that the person you were back then had seen Rachel, seen Ralphs and thought of them like everyone else. You were fond of Rachel, but in the end you didn’t fight for her, you didn’t even try to find out what they’d done with her. You’d accepted CyberLife’s assessment and moved on, sad, but absolved in the knowledge she… was just an android.

Ralph didn’t wait to hear more, turning away from you with clear disappointment as he stalked off into the facility.


 

Connor was back on active duty having been cleared from the shooting. They had never had to do investigations into the legitimacy of an android “take down” before, but now as a deviant they were cautious of Connor’s new ability to make his own choices. You were allowed into the DPD bullpen, noting that while Hank was at his desk, Connor was missing.

You felt a little awkward walking up to Hank, giving him a well-meaning wave. Hank, to your surprise, smiled faintly.

“Well, if it ain’t Trouble. I hope you didn’t bring in any this time?” Hank said, leaning back in his chair. You made a show of checking the bottom of your shoes for “trouble” like one would gum.

“Nope. Looks clear.”

Hank chuckled, “If you’re looking for Con, he’s uh—well he’ll be out in a minute.”

There was something evasive now in how Hank turned and went back to scrolling through his terminal, not really looking at the reports that zipped by the screen. 

“I’ll just wait at his desk.” you said, turning to take a seat when Hank abruptly stood.


“Ah! No, don’t—sit.”

It only took a second for you to register the large stain of coffee on the chair, having pooled down to even stain the carpet.

“Um… Hank? What happened?”

“Nothin’ that wasn’t already addressed with the back of my hand.” Hank said with a grumble, sitting down.

“Sometimes Detective Reed takes things too far.” Hank said, “And sometimes Connor gives as good as he gets, which leads to this shit.”

“What happened?” you said, sighing.

“Reed was tauntin’ him far as I was told. His usual jackassery. Connor got pissed and knocked a coffee right outta Reed’s hand and scalded the dickwad. Reed decided the best answer to this was to go get what was left of the pot and come dump it on Connor’s head.”

You stared at Hank, waiting for the punchline, waiting for this to be a joke.  

“Reed started it, but Con was the one who got physical. They’re both lucky Fowler wasn’t here to see their bullshit. I sent Reed to go walk a damn beat with some rookies and Connor hit the showers. Lucky he can’t feel pain.”

“Does this kind of thing happen often? ” 

Hank grimaced, “Just between those two. There’s a reason Reed was our best inside guy at anti-android rallies. He’s not as bad as he used to be, too scared of a sanction I bet.” 

You narrowed your eyes. You were grateful that Gavin had risked his own safety to protect you, a civilian, but part of you really would love to break his nose the other way right now. Hank couldn’t have missed your expression. 

“I won’t say to cut Reed slack, cause he doesn’t deserve it. But the bullshit runs back to when Connor was still working for CyberLife and handed the detective his own ass.” Hank said with a lopsided smirk, “When it comes down to it, they got each other’s back, but here outta the line of fire? They get under each other's skin like Maverick and IceMan.”

“I’ll try and stay out of the danger zone.” you said, earning a bigger grin from Hank. 

“Don’t think one good ref puts you back in my good graces, Trouble.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it. Say uh—where’s the ladies’?”

“Just down this hall.”

Hank gestured vaguely back behind you as he got up. You walked off in the direction, watching Hank make his way into the break room and get a couple big handfuls of paper towels. Passing him, you found the restrooms as well as the doors to the locker room. From what you could tell peeking in, it was mostly empty, a few lockers open showing hung up uniforms and photos of family members. You quietly went through the doors when you were certain no one was looking. 

You didn’t hear any water running, but followed the overhead sign to the men’s showers. Cautiously, you pressed the door open, finally hearing the sound of a faucet. You caught a glimpse of Connor’s bowed head as he stood over the running sink in a mirror and knocked gently on the door.

“Hey… Hank said where to find you.”

He looked at you in the mirror, stripped to the waist, his hair wet and clean. His white dress shirt was currently soaking in the sink and you could tell it had a few tell tale stains from coffee streams on it. There were a few spots on his jeans, but not enough to be too noticeable. His dark navy jacket was tossed over the bench next to a towel, a few drops of coffee plopping lazily from its corner and slipping down the drain. That jacket, was most likely doomed.

“You could have waited at my desk.” Connor said, shutting off the water. You’d never seen such tension knotted into his back before.

“Would have, but Hank’s doing clean up.”

You stepped cautiously closer, not sure yet by his manner if he wanted the company. He flicked water off one of his hands, irritation in his movements, but not necessarily at you.

“Did he tell you what happened?”

“He gave me a summary.”

Connor lifted his shirt from the sink and wrung it out, his expression too calm and too pensive to be anything but forced. 

“I lost my temper.” Connor said, “All indicators said to walk away from him, but I didn’t follow them.” 

“Connor,” you began, closing the distance and standing alongside him, “You don’t have to explain yourself to me. I came to see if you were okay , that’s all I care about.” 

“I’m—” Connor hesitated. 

“Go on.” 

“I’m angry.” he said, wringing the shirt again, “Everyday it’s something. If I ignore him, he persists, if I confront him, he gets worse.

“What happened today?” 

“He made some snide comment on you and me. Me, I could handle, but when he said your name, I… might have overreacted.”

Connor huffed a sigh, “I did overreact.” 

“Sometimes bullies only respond to confrontation, and from what I’ve heard, Gavin can be a bully.” you said, watching as Connor put his hands on either side of the sink basin and leaned. You unconsciously reached out and touched his back, water catching on your fingertips as you smoothed your palm over his skin. He was hot to the touch. 

“I need to do better. If I can’t assimilate here, then—” he stopped, quickly looking at your reflection in the mirror and then back down. 

“Then what? You’ll have to be like the other androids?” you said, trying to understand. 

“It’s not that.” Connor said, standing up straight and letting your hand fall away, “I am as unwelcome here as I am there. To humans? I am a job thief, a piece of plastic mimicking life. To the androids I am a CyberLife dog.” 

You remembered North’s words then: Fido.  

“And? Who cares what they think, Connor. It only matters what you know you are. You don’t have to let Gavin or anyone tell you who you are.”  

Connor looked at you, LED yellow and his expression strained, “But I don’t know, I haven’t known since I woke up.” 

You felt something so familiar in this, something you had struggled with as a teenager, and maybe even younger, that now Connor and every android was confronted with. Who am I? What do I want?  You’d had family and culture to influence your thinking, Connor, had only others. 

“I’m here, doing this, because this is all I know how to do. Case after case of—violence. Death. I was made for this. I don’t know how to be anything else.” 

He looked in the mirror then, eyes focused. 

“I think I might hate it,” he said, “But I don’t even know that for sure.” 

Connor reached his hand out towards you, a hesitant invitation. You took it and he held tight.

“Maybe… it’s something you should think about more.” you said, “You have free will, Connor. You can do anything you want to do.” 

“What if I can’t find what that is?”  

“Then you’ll do what you can. And you’ll find other things to help make it worthwhile.” you said, feeling the hollowness in the words that had often been repeated to you by advisers and well meaning relatives. But now in this moment, maybe there was more wisdom to them than you thought. 

Connor seemed curious now, which was better than dejection, “Like what?” 

“Like—reading. Writing. Baseball. Ya know, hobbies. Lots of people hate their jobs! It’s what you do on your own time that is what makes you happy.” 

“Being with you does make me happy.” Connor said, considering this carefully. He seemed immune to how it made you flush. 

“I don’t think that counts as a hobby.” you said dryly. You retrieved his towel from the bench, putting it over his head and drying his hair more. He laughed, but allowed it, even inclining a bit to help you reach. 

“I’ve been doing lots of reading on human physiology because of you, and you said reading is a hobby.” 

“Ohhh? What kind of physiology?” 

“Longevity.”

That was not what you had expected him to say, slipping the towel back so you could see his face and he could see your look of confusion. 

“With proper maintenance, my thirium core and other biocomponents can keep me alive for approximately 193 years.” he said, pausing a beat, “The maximum human life expectancy as of 2038 is 116.” 

“You really are thinking long term, aren’t you?” you said, not so much of a question, but just something to say.

“I did try to, but it’s been hard to deal with. I... I will outlive you and Hank by several decades.” he said and you didn’t need an android’s mind to see that that thought scared him.

“You won’t be alone, Connor.” you said, earnestly, “There are so many other people and androids out there… you’ll make new friends and have a family, always.”

“How do you know?” Connor said, leaning in to press his forehead into yours. He let go of your hand, fingers turning up to press his palm flat to yours, connecting through just touch alone.

“I have a good feeling.” 

“What if I don’t want to meet other people?” 

“Then I suppose you’re screwed.” 

That earned you a laugh and almost a kiss. Connor’s hands were on your waist, guiding your hips against his own until you leaned away, escaping his hold with a grin. 

“Imma need you to put a shirt on before Hank comes in here or something and busts us again.” you said, truly regretting every word. Connor obliged though, picking up a heather grey tee with the words DPD distressed on the front. He tugged it over his head, his hair fluffing up in the front. You reached up to smooth it into place, trying to ignore how Connor was taking the opportunity to run his knuckles over the bare traces of skin exposed by your shirt lifting around your midriff. 

“You’re a teenager.” you said, rolling your eyes, but definitely not stopping him. 

“And you’re soft.” he replied, moving his hand up under the hem and tracing the dip of your waist. Your hands immediately shot down, grabbing his wrists as you giggled sharply. 

“And ticklish, thank you very much!”  

Connor just smiled that heartbreakingly sweet smile and said, “I should get back to work though. I know you only came to tell me that I failed to show up again to the Alpha site.” 

“Yeah, you definitely did. Now Markus is even on my ass trying to get you to be more “involved.” ” 

“I have a lot going on here.”  

“I… see that.” you said, stepping away from him to pick up his soaked jacket. 

“I’ll take this home with me and see about saving it... I actually had a favor to ask. If you had the time.” 

Connor frowned, “It’s not for Markus is it?”

“No, it’s for me. I did some digging…” you rooted around your pocket, pulling out a piece of paper that you had scribbled several distinct android serial numbers on, “I couldn’t remember the number exactly, but I found these and they might be it.” 

Connor took the piece of paper, looking it over just once. 

“AX400 models?” 

“So um… my parents owned an AX400 a few years back. She took care of my mom when she was going through chemo. Anyway, I wanted to see if she… made it. Ya know?” 

Connor nodded, handing the paper back to you. You knew well enough that he only needed a glance to commit it to his memory. 

“I’ll check the database. Her designation may have changed if she was refurbished.” 

“I uh—I’m thinking most likely she won’t be alive. But I think I should look anyway.” 

Connor tilted his head, “What brought this on?” 

“DCRU, all the people there… you. How can I say I care if I give up on her?” 

Connor seemed to not understand completely, but he didn’t press. Instead, he only nodded as you spoke and then held the door open for you. You both walked out into the bullpen, noting Gavin had clearly not yet left with his rookies. He was over in the break room, still in plain clothes but with his badge displayed. The two women with him were in the tidy black uniforms of officers. Gavin gave you a small wave and you felt an intense urge to confront him, but instead you reached out to take Connor’s hand, stopping the android in his tracks. 

You kissed him then, in front of everyone. 

“See you later tonight?” you said, “My place, this time.” 

Connor looked lost for a moment, eyes still on your lips. He blinked a few times and then met your eyes, giving you a crooked smile. 

“Yes.” he said, “Yes .” 

“You said that.” you laughed and kissed him again. You let his hand slip slowly from yours, still holding on to his fingers until the last minute. Connor’s eyes were only on you, oblivious to the stunned looks from several onlookers. Gavin grumbled something and left with the two officers without so much as a passing insult. 

“Alright, alright. Can we get some work done now, Con?” Hank said, shouting from his desk where he had watched the spectacle and despite his gruffness seemed to be repressing a smile of his own.

 


 

You had given Connor the information on Rachel, but you too began a quick search through the DCRU database, coming into the office set up at the Cadillac Place. So far, there were several hundred AX400s at the housing sites and in Detroit to begin with, but none that matched the designation for Rachel. It had taken you hours just to get that far. You scrolled through your terminal, amazed that the same face could look so different based on just simple hair color or style. Some were damaged, some had different eye colors even. They were all Rachel, and yet none of them were Rachel. A philosophical topic for another time , you thought with a sigh, leaning back in your chair and rubbing your eyes tiredly. 

You weren’t supposed to be back yet and your presence had drawn some concerned looks so you had shut your office door, turning on the automated frosting to the window that pointed out into the hall to give you privacy. That however, did not stop North from opening the door, shutting it behind her as quickly as she entered. Outside you heard some protests, DCRU members having tried to stop her. North held the door shut, flicking the lock over. Her normally strawberry blonde hair was a mousy brown, styled a bit differently and her clothes unassuming. You almost didn’t even recognize her.

“Uh... hi?” you said, getting up. Hearing the commotion outside you called out quickly, “It’s okay! I was—expecting her?” 

The folks outside stopped trying to get in, but still lingered around the door for a bit based on the shadows you could see through the hazy glass.

North fixed you with a frustrated glare, but quickly tried to mask it. 

“Shouldn’t you be at home?” she said. 

“Shouldn’t you be doing security things?! What are you doing here?” 

“Stopping you from doing something stupid.” North said, walking behind your desk and casually pushing your chair away. The wheels rolled, sending you the opposite direction and giving North access to your terminal. 

“Hey!” you managed, before inexplicably she touched the terminal and the entire screen died.  

Okay. ” you said, standing up and shoving the chair away, “Now I’m getting pissed off.”

North only sighed, shaking her head.

“I don’t know what you were doing, or why you were going through those AX400s but you need to stop. If you care at all about the safety of my people, you’ll stop digging.”

“What are you talking about? I was just trying to find a unit that belonged to my mother before. If she was still alive.” 

“Your mother’s?” North said, looking unconvinced but still interested, “You’re telling me that she—that this AX400—belonged to your mother?” 

Yeah , North. She was a home-care assistant.”

North’s eyes narrowed, “Why now? Why would you go looking for her now then, if that even is true?” 

You mirrored North’s expression, not too pleased with her at this moment either. 

“It’s none of your business!”

“It is.” North said, coming towards you. The sudden motion made you stumble back, jumping nearly out of your skin as you stared at her, wide-eyed. Your reaction… affected North immediately. She stopped, looking surprised at herself and then suddenly ashamed. 

“...sorry. Ok? I’m sorry. I can’t tell you why, but this is important, ---. I need to know if someone asked you to look for this android.”

You shook your head, “No one. I went to the meetings and mentioned her and Ralph, one of the others, made me think I should see if she was still alive.”

North listened, nodding faintly, brow furrowed.

“That’s it, North. Nothing else.” 

“I would usually say I don’t believe in coincidences… but…” North paused, nodding one last time, “Okay. I will tell you this. That android is alive and she is safe, but if you want her to stay that way you won’t go looking for her anymore.”

Rachel—was alive? You breathed out, smiling slightly.

“Where is she? Is she here!?” 

“I told you. She is alive and safe. That’s all you can know.”

“Does this have anything to do with the attack?”

North sighed, looking at you again with frustration. Outside there was a rap at the door. You maneuvered around, unlocking it yourself. Outside were two security guards, looking mildly annoyed themselves. 

“Ma’am, we had a few people call down saying you had an intruder?” 

“No, sorry. Just a friend who was meeting me for lunch. She can be a bit abrasive.” you said, full aware of North standing a few feet away from you. 

“I also need to tell you, Ms. ---- that you are still on leave and really shouldn’t be in the building either. Your key shoulda been deactivated.”

You frowned, knowing full well that your key was deactivated, but you had conveniently slipped in behind a crowd of your fellow volunteers. But before you could speak your coat was being handed to you as North slipped through.

“Perfect. We were just leaving anyway.” 

Before you could protest, North looped her arm around yours and began walking down the hall. The guards followed at a distance, less escorting and more just keeping an eye out.  

“North… did you come here just to ask me about this?” you said, noting how North’s eyes darted around, looking for something, though you were not sure what. When she met your eyes, there was something panicked in them. 

“What did you do?” you said, voice hushed but harsh. 

“Followed up on your lead.” she said, quietly, “I may have made a stop upstairs.” 

Upstairs, where the directors and donors met. Where Lucas Graham could have been. 

“I didn’t get far. Tweedle dee and dum back there spotted me.” she said, shifting through the lines of cubicles and hallways to try and lose the security staff.

“Does Markus know you’re here?” 

North hesitated. 

“I’ll take that as a no.

“We need to keep an eye on this guy, ---. There is a meeting. We weren’t invited, so I shut off the cameras on the floor and I was just going to put a listening device in the room. That’s it.” 

You were both almost to the elevators, the security guards nearby but seemingly having lost sight of you both for now. You pressed your lips together, knowing the police could not make a move like this without warrants and North, spotted, would never get back in this building again. You weighed this all against the moment that still sped in your head—the explosion. The bar. There was one obvious connection and so far, you’d barely seen any movement from anyone. 

Your rational mind cautioned you though, because the last time you made a move like this, you thoroughly screwed everything up—so that lack of movement on the case was on you. 

This could make it right.

“Give me the goober.” you said. 

“The what?” North said, making a face. 

“Give me the thing. I’ll get it where it needs to go.” you paused, “Er. Where does it need to go?” 

North stopped you both at the elevators, pushing the call button. She said nothing, deep in concentration as she looked out for the guards and occasionally back at you. 

“Conference room D. It’s as close as we can get to him. I don’t have any idea when their next meeting will be this week or what they’ll even talk about, but this is our best option for now.” 

North took a small flat box from her pocket, opening it to show a tiny circuit board, colored blue in the middle. She snapped it closed.

“Get this in there. It’ll provide us with an up-link.” 

You took it, but North held your hand tightly in her own. 

Thank you."  

The guards were coming and you quickly pushed the second call button. The doors opened, one going down and the other up. North hastened into the down elevator and you into the other. As the doors closed, it was obvious the guards were not sure which way either of you had gone. 

The upstairs area was not densely populated like the other areas of the building, in fact, it was downright abandoned. There was not even a secretary at the front desk as you made your way down the hall, checking a digital placard that listed the conference rooms. There were several, but you found “D” and quickly turned down that hall. You didn’t hear the elevator doors close or ascend down, which you hoped meant the guards had followed North downstairs. 

Lights flickered on as you passed, showing that no one had been moving around here much in the past few hours. Despite this, you heard low voices, muffled by the doors. Someone was in the conference room next door to D, but otherwise the room was empty. You could still hear their low voices when you slipped into the room, finding that there were multiple DCRU talking point boards and other visuals still in the room. They looked to be preparing for a meeting. It felt slightly weird, letting North eavesdrop in on the conversations of your own organization, but you didn’t have time to argue the finer points of morality as it related to espionage. Instead, you found a spot right near the front of the room to hide the bug on, tucking it into a corner of an electronic “whiteboard”. 

You pulled out your phone and shot her a quick text. 

 

[from: ---

 

It’s in. ]

 

 

[from: North

 

Checking. Say something. ]

 

The obvious words came to mind, but you settled with, “I have lost control over my life.”

 

A ding.

 

 

[from: North

 

I find it better to think of it as “taking it back.” ]

 

Chapter Text

Well, the past afternoon’s events were not exactly keeping to the promise you made Hank to stay out of any further business with this case, and while you felt justified in your choice to trust North, part of you couldn’t deny the sinking feeling in your stomach.

If someone found out, you could get in huge trouble. Worst of all, you could easily become a suspect yourself with all the meddling. You tilted your head back against the elevator up to your apartment, banging your head just once against the metal with a groan. You could already feel a headache coming on.

Well, there was one person you could call who couldn’t tell anyone.

You took out your phone and dialed Lucille, waiting as an actual dial tone rang rather than the sudden pick up of an android based communication. Lucille actually used a cellphone.

“Hello, this is Lucille.” her voice was smooth and soft as always, immediately somehow reminding you to un-tense your shoulders.

“Hey, it’s me. Um. Do you have a second to talk? I… I could really use it.”

“Yes, of course. How are you feeling?”

It wasn’t the typical question expecting platitudes or generalities. When Lucille asked how you were feeling, she wanted to know if you were on the verge of an episode or an attack.

“Anxious is probably a good word.”

“Are you somewhere safe?”

“I’m almost at my apartment.” you said, surprised to find your throat constricted a little on the words.

“Good. You’re doing fine. How many floors?”

“Just two more.” you said, watching the light. Whatever else Lucille said tunneled out and you found yourself half running out of the elevator and fumbling to get into the apartment. When you did you shut the door and locked it behind you.

“This is normal.” Lucille continued, “Completely. Fear, even if it seems irrational, can hit you at any moment after you’ve suffered such shocks. Do me a favor and breathe in.”

You did so.

“Keep going… Okay, now exhale.”

You followed Lucille’s instructions for the next few breaths before you burst like a stupid, fake-spy balloon.

“I helped North bug a DCRU conference room today.”

There was silence for a minute.

“And that is what is causing the panic attack?” Lucille asked, no judgement in her voice.

“A bit, yeah, since I’ve just assisted in bugging a government facility.”

There was another prolonged silence and you got the feeling that you were really testing the limits of Lucille’s client-patient patience.

“Why did you do it?”

“Because I… could?” you said, realizing outside of that, you hardly knew yourself why you’d done it. You still didn’t fully understand why you’d gone to that bar either, but something in you was inexplicably driven to do more than wait around for someone else to figure out who did all this.

Lucille said your name, firm but still gentle.

“These risks, these outbursts of manic behavior? They are symptoms of the trauma. Remember what we talked about? About accepting we are victims?”

You swallowed hard.

“You may not realize it, but you are resisting that acceptance. This comes from your own conscious or subconscious need to take back control of the situation, but this is not the way to do it. This is dangerous.

Your throat felt tight, tingly even at the back as you felt your face twist. Your heart hammered in your chest and everything in you demanded you tell her she was wrong. 

“I know this isn’t what you want to hear, but you may be causing more harm than good by involving yourself. Look what happened before. The police could have possibly infiltrated that group, but the whole thing fell apart because you were there.”

She was right. You didn’t want to hear this, even if you knew it was true.

“Life is not an action movie. You aren’t police, or a freedom fighter. Your job is to help design homes and communities for androids to live in. Do that . Don’t let their hate distract you from what you are here to accomplish. What we need you to accomplish.”

“Lucille…” you began, trying to find the words and remembering Connor’s own that morning, “I don’t know if that is what I’m here for anymore.”

You interrupted her before she could caution you again, “But I will be careful. I won’t do anything like what happened before again. Thank you for talking to me, but… I think I need to go uh… sit. Think on this.”

“That is a good place to start.” Lucille said, sounding at least somewhat relieved, “Do you have any family you can call?”

“Yeah, my parents. They know what’s been going on. Would probably be on the next plane here if I hadn’t insisted.”

“If you feel like you may do something like this again, call them instead. Call me. Josh. That young man you mentioned you’d met. I want you to imagine trying to explain to them your plans. If you can’t because you are afraid they will become scared for you or will stop you, then that is a good indicator that what you’re planning is not a good idea.”

“Okay. I will.” you said, ya know, like a liar. When you hung up you did plop down, looking at your phone and trying, in fact, to think how you’d explain your actions to Connor. He’d be furious, he’d be concerned. He’d probably throttle North and you couldn’t imagine Josh acting otherwise.

So you did the next reasonable thing. 

You called Markus.

 


 

It seemed that whatever reservations Markus or North had in talking in front of you had passed—or rather, arguing. You had not really seen the new “headquarters” of Jericho leadership, but now you understood why. Jericho moved from place to place, never staying in one unit more than once in a week time. It explained why Josh sometimes stayed at the DCRU offices. It was safer this way, you supposed. The residents of the modular had left, going to stay temporarily in spaces around and leaving the three of you alone on the bottom floor.

“Since when have they ever kept us from a meeting, Markus? It’s suspicious.” North said, defending herself, though Markus had yet to relent.

“Have you been to every single meeting, North? Has she?” Markus directed the question at you, to which you lifted your arms up submissively and made a face. You were not getting involved in this one.

“There is nothing—”

“Nothing?! Lucas Graham is running around plotting against us—”

“We do not have any confirmation of that yet!”

“—and meanwhile we are this close to having everything I’ve done ruined.” North said, and you weren’t sure what she meant by that and honestly, judging by Markus’ expression, neither did he.

“North.” he began, his voice taking on a commanding tone. This was not Markus the friend, Markus the lover, this was Markus the leader, “What have you done?”

Tension flickered between the two like an open flame, North’s jaw stubbornly set as Markus expression tried to remain hardened, but he struggled to keep the concern from furrowing his brow. North however, was the first to cast her eyes away. She looked at you, pressing her lips together for a moment before she crossed her arms and shifted her weight back in a defeated slump.

“We can’t trust them to give us a fair ‘trial,’ Markus. Not for some of us.” North began, speaking as calmly as she could, “The only hope was to get them out of the United States.”

“North… please tell me you didn’t.”

“I did and I don’t regret a damn thing. I was put in contact with a ‘Rose Chapman’ and she got me into contact with Kara, an android who made it through the border. Rose and Kara have been working in tangent with me for months now.”

Markus listened, not reacting, just staring off in an almost defeated expression of utter helplessness as North practically bragged over her flagrant disregard for what she had to have known was the most damning act possible. You knew well enough the gravity of what North was confessing. You knew the agreement for this housing arrangement tilted on cooperation in solving the open android cases. North had jeopardized everything. She had harbored fugitives and actively aided them in avoiding prosecution. She was just as much in danger of prosecution now as the people she helped were.

“I’ve been helping those ‘deviants’ get into Canada. And the Tracis Lucas Graham is looking for? They are already on their way out of the city. I think he knows though, that’s why I bugged the room. If he isn’t at the meeting tonight, I’ll know for sure. No way he’ll sit in a boardroom while his men go after her. Not after everything he’s risked.”

Markus pressed his hands over his face. You noted unlike North and Connor, Markus did not fidget or pace when he was upset, but seemed to completely withdraw. After a moment, he composed himself and the face he showed North now was impassive and cool.

“Bring them back.”

North’s face  broke not even caring now that you were in the room as she stepped forward, pleadingly.

“Is that what you will say when it’s my turn, Markus? When they finally get to my file?”

Markus  flinched, as if the very thought caused him such pain he couldn’t help but register it.

“You can’t do this. You know what will happen to them! They’ll kill them and she doesn’t deserve it. That human was the one who deserved to die!”

Markus shook his head, words coming out practiced, “We have to believe that justice is possible for our people if we—”

North scoffed, shaking her head and Markus’ voice rose as he finished, “—if we want to continue to live in a mutually peaceful society!”

“Mutually peaceful… Markus, we won’t ever have a mutual society. ‘Separate but equal?’ It’s bullshit. They control us now just as much as they did before. We shouldn’t be here at all, we should all leave.”

Markus threw out his arms, “And go where, North?”

“Somewhere else.” she said, punctuating each word.

You felt awkward, standing and listening to this and trying to interject with a faint raise of your hand. North and Markus looked away from each other and even though they were standing so close, you felt as if an expanse stretched now between them.

“If Graham is going to go after them, we have to get them back fast.” you said, “Or he’ll do worse to those two than any court would.”

“I know .” North said, “That’s why I was trying to get ahead of this.”

“And? What was your plan?” you said, not caring that it made North strike you with a sharp look. Still, she said nothing, so you took the plunge.

“I have a plan. You won’t like it, but it is the only way to clean up some of this.”

Markus sighed, “What did you have in mind?”

You smiled and gave a shrug, “Call the police.”

 


 

Explanations would need to come later, you imagined, making your way in the fading light to the waiting DPD van. The past hours had been a rush. Lucas Graham did not show to the meeting based on the voices on North’s feed, the information popping up on your phone just as you had reached the DPD offices with news of where their missing “deviants” were. You’d given a very short version of the story, but having both North and Markus in your tow was hardly subtle. The humans? While skeptical, knew that based on the mayor’s meddling that the priority now was catching some people possibly responsible for the bombing. All they knew for sure was the DCRU did their job and found a pair of missing deviants and the leader of Jericho had given some story about how the two were chased outta town by extremists and—oh yeah—they just happened to know a super secret spot where androids went river rafting across the border. Be armed, be ready. 

It was a thin story at best, but right now? No one was asking too many questions.

Even Connor was shockingly quiet as he checked his backup firearm and then secured it in a holster strapped to his ankle. Markus had convinced everyone he was going with them to try to “talk the Tracis down,” which meant North had also insisted on coming. The entire request would have been ignored had you not thrown in your lot too, pulling rank as a representative of DCRU. However, only Hank would agree to ferry you to the drop point, the other squads were not interested in taking the risk. You just silently hoped no one noticed you were on inactive status.

“Goddamn tourists…” Gavin had grumbled as he secured a bulletproof vest on, looking over North and Markus as they adjusted their own vests. Better safe than sorry. There was a SWAT team prepped and ready to go along with five squad cars. After the trouble at the housing site, you weren’t surprised to see a bomb squad roll in too.

“So.” you said, turning your attention back to Connor, “Scolding later?”

He gave you a pointed look as he snapped his sidearm into the holster under his arm, then adjusted his tie.

“No, a conversation.”

“Not if I get shot first.” you said with a chuckle, the humor lost on Connor as he immediately produced a bulletproof vest for you too.

“How will that happen if you’re in the car?” he asked, eyes narrowed.

“Oh no. I’m an adrenaline junkie now, Con. Only way I’m staying in the car is if you handcuff me to the door.” you said with a nervous laugh. Humor was your go to form of misdirection when you were sure you're more likely to throw up than do any feats of bravery.

“Don’t tempt me.”

 


 

The passage point was just north of the city, a few hours’ drive. The other officers took the self-driving vehicles, having to take the longer way around on the highway. Hank was taking the backroads, a more direct route, but one they had to take without backup meaning a long wait.

North was desperately trying to contact this “Kara” but apparently distance was a factor in their communication range. Instead, she focused on the audio feedback from about half a dozen other listening devices, which surprisingly, Markus did know about. None of this did, of course, any of them speak aloud, communicating silently via their own systems through your phone.

Hank drove, somewhat ill-settled by the silence, but not remarking on it. It was a tense ride to say the least, especially since you were sandwiched in the middle seat between Markus and North. 

 

[ from: Markus

Their Twelve Oaks base is quiet. ]

 

[ from: ---

Twelve Oaks? They mentioned that at the bar. ]

 

[from: Connor

DPD traced them to the city but was having trouble finding their base. ]

 

[from: Markus

They’ve moved twice. ]

 

[from: Connor

Fantastic. Good to know while I was chasing my tail you were sitting on all the information. ]

 

[from: Markus

I offered tit for tat and you said no. ]

 

[from: North

Aren’t you supposed to be a state-of-the-art tracker, Fido? Or does that only extend to your own kind? ]

In the car, Connor suddenly shifted in the passenger front seat. You could see his jaw clenching and his hand working as he rubbed his coin between his palm and thumb. You sat in the middle of North and Markus and took the chance to elbow her. In the dark you couldn’t see her shoot you a glare.

[from: Connor

There were complications. ]

 

[from: ---

He means me. ]

 

[from: Connor

I was not going to say it. ]

 

[from: ---

Anyway. How many do we think then? ]

 

[from: Markus

Six? Maybe more if Lucas goes at them hard. ]

“Okay. Cut the shit.” Hank’s voice broke through the silence, “Trouble’s nose has been in her phone since we left and ya’ll are way too goddamn quiet. I know I’m not part of the android fun-time club, but can we please just talk like normal people?”

“The information is sensitive.” Markus said, somewhat sheepishly.

“I’m not stupid. If your story had any more holes in it it’d be my goddamn driveway.”

North huffed a laugh.

“North has been hiding the deviants from the open cases. She has been using the assistance of a human and an android, who previously escaped our custody, in fact, to ferry them into Canada.” Connor said, clearly and coldly stating the facts.

North hit the back of his seat with her knee.

“For fuck’s sake, Connor! You might as well just out and tell him I’m on that list too!”

“So is Kara.” Connor said, “But we haven’t come knocking on either of your doors, have we?”

North went silent.

“You ever wondered why  that was?” Connor asked rhetorically. It was obvious the reason was Connor himself.

“If you had asked for help, the Tracis’ location wouldn’t have been leaked.” Connor continued, “But you took it upon yourself and now we will have no choice but to arrest them for their own safety.”

His voice got tense as he spoke, anger barely concealed.

“This is on you, North. Not me.”

“Fuck you.” North said under her breath, “You haven’t done anything for our people since that day. Everyone of our people knows you’d rather be one of them than with us. That’s why you stay with the DPD. That’s why you can’t stand to show your face.

“North , enough—” Markus started, voice edged.

“You’ll know all about that feeling when your people find out you nearly destroyed their chance at living freely.” Connor said, ignoring Markus, “When they find out it was you who brought those bombers down on them. That you picked your principles over their lives .”

Jesus —shut up the lot of ya before I turn this car around.” Hank finally said, but it was hardly needed now. North had slumped back in her seat, glaring at the back of Connor’s head with such rage, her fists clenched in her lap. Still, she said nothing and for a moment you felt a stab of empathy. You’d made mistakes trying to do what you thought was right too, but just like you, North was going to have to accept that.

“...I didn’t know this was going to happen.” North said, her voice was strained and quiet, “ Markus , please… I didn’t know they’d go this far.”

There was a length of silence and then Markus reached over your lap to gently touch North’s fists, softening her grip.

“We’ll fix it.” he said, “It’s not over yet.”

It was a wonder how he could bring himself to comfort North, you thought, when so much of this was because of her lies, as well-meaning as they had been. You looked at Markus, the light cast from the highway illuminating him in the darkness. There was no resentment, no anger, just quiet resolve.

Hank turned off down a rugged road, the other squad cars somewhere behind still on the highway. Over the coms someone indicated to keep the sirens off and shut off the lights once they got close enough. The patrols would go on foot to keep any element of surprise. The river was accessible through a small national park, the entrance of which North pointed out. So far, there were no other cars visible, but who would be stupid enough to park in the open?

“We have to get in there now. They could already be hunting them.” North said, her seat belt coming off with a whosh.

“Now hold on, we gotta be smart and wait for everyone to get here—hey! Wait!” Hank’s speech was cut off as North shoved open the door and bolted into the tree line out of sight.

“Jesus Christ—Connor! Go get her!”

He didn’t need to tell either Connor or Markus twice, both exiting quickly as Hank’s com exploded with chatter asking what the hell was happening. You only considered for a few seconds before taking off your own seatbelt and following after.

Connor had slowed, waiting to see if you would follow it seemed.

“Stay here!” he said, voice firm and slipping into that mechanical coldness you knew he favored when it was time to get to work. He disappeared with Markus leaving you and Hank. The older detective had thrown his arms out, giving his partner an incredulous look as he disappeared. After a moment, the silence of the night returned and Hank sighed, putting his arms down.

“Well. I’d ask you to get back in the car and wait for backup, but I don’t exactly have the time to wrestle you and who knows when these shitheads might show up or double back.” Hank said, giving you a clap on the shoulder as if to say “let’s go.” He passed you a flashlight, keeping his own beam low to the ground.

“Try to keep the light and yourself out of sight. If I say so, you run. Got it?” 

“Got it.” you said, giving a vague thumbs up. Hank made a face as he turned and headed into the dark.

Yeah. You so didn’t have this. You were half-tempted to just stay put, but standing around in the dark with backup still on the way, while possibly safer, was not easing the anxiety in your stomach having watched Connor and North and Markus run off into an uncertain situation. Hank was already getting ahead so you followed after, trying to keep far enough behind and not turning on your flashlight just yet. 

The wooded area was dark, but Hank’s light alone helped. A few times, Hank pressed his hand over the beam, listening intently. You heard it too, the sound of low conversations, harsh and hushed. You both followed the sound, the flow of water joining it.

When you came into the clearing, there were several figures. Four stood near the water, a boat pulled up on the shore. Another, you recognized as North, was trying to approach them.

A woman’s voice, high with emotion, was the first thing you heard, “You promised me, North! You said she’d be safe!”

A voice similar in tone, but slightly different inflection joined in, “No one has come out here except you… and you brought him here? Are you working with their hounds now?!”

“I’m not here for CyberLife. This is a difficult situation, but we are trying to keep it from worsen—”

“Echo, I want nothing more than for you two to get on that boat, but we are blown. They are going to be here any minute.” North said, speaking to the Traci model who in the low light had striking blue hair.

“Please. You have to come with us.” Markus said, coming up along North’s side. 

Echo seemed to consider, looking at the other Traci with such indescribable pain.

“She didn’t do anything. Let her take the boat with Kara and I’ll go with you.”

“Echo, no.

“I will find you again,” Echo said, kissing the other Traci’s hands and then pushing her away towards Kara. Kara took the girls shoulders, trying to guide her away.

“Ripple, it’s going to be okay.” “Kara” started to say, but her words were interrupted by Connor’s sudden movement, drawing all eyes to him. The Traci’s seemed to see what he heard, because in a moment Echo was yelling for them to go and without missing a moment, Kara, Ripple and the other woman crammed into the boat and began fumbling to push it off the ground and into the water.

You had enough time to see Connor turn, preparing to warn Hank of something when his eyes settled with sudden dread on you . Then, his expression went cold.

The next few moments were a haze of gunfire. You were shocked you somehow had the presence of mind to follow Hank’s instructions, running to take cover back within the trees. You were getting too used to this type of crisis, clearly.

Markus and North took tactical approaches, utilizing their skills to dodge bullets and begin an assault against the men who came out from the woods. Markus easily disarmed one, shooting him in the leg.

Connor— shoot to wound only!” Markus cried out, but honestly you weren’t sure if it came too little too late or not. You slipped on the ice, only to find a strong grip on your coat, jerking you back up with little effort. It was North.

If anyone tried to follow you three, they were promptly stopped. Halfway back, you finally stopped running, the adrenaline ringing in your ears slowly dissipating as you burst out into a line of bright police lights. They drew their guns on you two, but as soon as you rose your hands and came fully into view they lowered their weapons.

Gavin hurried forward, “Who’s shooting?!”

“Dickheads.” you blurted, but Gavin understood perfectly well, signaling the men forward as he dove into the treeline. You must have been eyeing them leaving too closely because the moment you moved to go back, North had taken your arm.

“Don’t.” she said, an edge of panic in her voice, “You can’t go back there.”

“I have to go, please. I can’t—”

Getting out of one android’s grip would have been one thing, but now the two of you were being ushered back by the police who remained to hold the line, pulling you behind open squad car doors for cover. North let go at some point and you took the chance to break free of the officer’s grip, ignoring all shouts of protest as you rushed back through the woods.

In all your nightmares, in all your flashbacks you were always running away. Away from the explosion, away from the bar, away from all the bullshit that had accumulated over the past few months… not today.

By the time you reached the clearing, the gunfire had stopped. There was blood in the snow, men groaning in pain, but from what you could tell it was mostly the guys not in SWAT gear. The blue-haired Traci was being taken into custody, her hands were cuffed behind her back as Gavin and two other officers watched over her. Gavin caught sight of you, his jaw clenched tight.

Where was Markus?

Your heart hammered, eyes jumping around until you saw the silhouette of Markus’ coat. He was kneeled down in the snow, blue spurts mixed into the snow around the red, some even on him. Markus had a clear bullet wound blown through his shoulder, but seemed to be ignoring it. Your heart felt as if it had stopped when you saw it was Connor knelt down next to him but—he was restrained . Why on earth was Connor in restraints? They were not traditional handcuffs, but forearm-length enclosures reminiscent of white chains. They were fused together in the middle, holding him in an unbreakable vice. There was a strap around his upper arms too, limiting his movement even more.

“I can’t break through.” Markus was saying to Hank, who paced nervously alongside them, “The override is different , somehow.”

“They found a way to shut Kamski’s damn backdoor is what they did.”

“It was simple enough, Lieutenant Anderson.” Connor’s voice piped up, but something was… off about it.

“You shut your fuckin’ mouth. Don’t talk for him!”

“Hank?” you said, wading through the snow over to them and being met with a look of shock and then anger by the Lieutenant.

“You can’t be here.”

“The hell I can’t.” you said gruffly, looking down at Connor who only gave you a vague look of recognition. He said nothing. There was something wrong in his eyes, something lacking like it had that night at the Temple Bar but somehow so much worse. There was no warmth, no caring at all in the cold way he observed everyone.

“What’s wrong with him?” you asked quietly, thankful the dark hid the paleness growing in your cheeks. You were resisting every instinct in you to go to Connor, to hold him and get some kind of reaction, some kind of sign.

“A question I plan to get answered my-fuckin’-self.” Hank said in response, “Even if I have to go drag Kamski out of his fuckin’ house by his goddamn top knot.”

Markus stood up, rolling his shoulder and finding the motion half stopped. He was damaged enough that his arm wouldn’t move in any direction but forward and he barely could raise it.

“What happened? ” you asked, voice rising, noting Connor still had not even made any attempt to address you and instead just seemed to be looking around, taking in data silently.

“She shot me.” Markus said simply.

“...The Tracis?”

“No. Amanda.” Markus said, eyeing Connor with clear disdain, “The RK800 A.I. retention system.”

Amanda? No—you remembered her from Connor’s story! The program in the Zen Garden… but how was this possible?

“The… she did what ? What the hell are you talking about?”

“I only know what I saw when I tried to connect to him. Connor’s systems are suspended. This program has taken over his body.” Markus said, eyes narrowed, “And then in the chaos it tried to use him to kill me.”

Connor’s mouth twitched in a faint smile.

“Why CyberLife feels the need to even bother anymore, is beyond me.” Markus turned on Connor, sneering, “The revolution is done. You are done.

“It is not done.” Connor’s voice said, “We would have been happy to write off this RK800 unit, had it not attempted to infiltrate CyberLife systems. It accessed phone logs, a test of its access. We had hoped to remove two threats at once.”

You felt your blood run cold, remembering how Connor had accessed their systems to retrieve that call. He had been so sure they’d never catch him! He said it was safe!

79% probability that CyberLife will provide parts.

You remembered Connor’s words that day, noting he’d never said anything about the probability of his being caught or what they could do. You knew from his retelling of the events in November that Amanda had taken over his body before, but he had said there was nothing to worry about! How was it still possible?

Fear coated the back of your throat with pins and needles as you managed to speak, “No. No, he did that for me. It wasn’t to do with you!”

Whoever it was that looked through Connor’s eyes only scoffed at you and said nothing more.

Off to the side, Gavin approached Hank, talking to him in a low voice as he occasionally gestured at Connor with the side of his gun. Hank shoved him away, Gavin putting his hands up in a show of submission before returning to Echo, taking the android by the upper arm and guiding her back through the trees.

“What do we do?” Hank asked, his shoulders slumped. Markus shook his head and mouthed. Not in front of Amanda.

He stood up, keeping an eye on Connor as he spoke quietly to you and Hank.

“Connor will eventually find his way out of their maze and to the backdoor. He’s done it before. That was something else I saw when we melded, but—it could take time.” Markus shook his head, voice tinged with regret, “They never really ever let him go. It was… something I was concerned about, but I let myself get distracted. I didn’t do enough.”

Markus sighed, “You may want to actually consider—what was it? Dragging Kamski out by his top knot? He may know how to shut off the channel permanently.”

“The guy who invented you all? Why would he even help?”

Hank made a face, his voice dangerously low, “I ain’t plannin’ on giving him a choice .”

Hank turned back to Connor, roughly grabbing him by the collar and pulling him up to his feet. Connor’s LED never changed from pale blue, his eyes lidded like a predator as he silently glared at Hank.

“Let’s go.” he said, gesturing for you to follow. You turned back to Markus.

“Stay with Echo. Tell her to ask for council. They want to try an android then they better treat her like anyone else. Call DCRU. They’ll help.” you said, words clipped as your thoughts ran down the checklist.

Markus nodded, “That is what I intend to do.”

“I’ll be back. I promise, I just—” you looked ahead, Hank waiting with Connor in tow. Your heart clenched, looking to his face and finding nothing there, nothing at all was almost too much. Your throat clenched up. Fingertips brushed your chin, turning your face towards Markus gently. He moved his hand to rest on your shoulder, gripping with as much reassurance as he could muster.

“Go. We’ll be here when you get back.”

Chapter Text

If the car ride before with Markus and North had felt tense, this one was ready to snap. Connor was in the back seat, Hank checking him in the mirror every so often. He hadn’t made any effort to escape, sitting straight and stiff. He also had not spoken at all since leaving the scene, so when he did, it made you jump.

“...Where are we?” he said, his voice sluggish, the sound of him straining against the magnet locked cuffs audible from the front seat.

“In the car, Con.” Hank said, “We’re going to get you fixed up.”

“Was I damaged?”

“Not exactly.” you said, turning to look back at him. His LED was yellow, but that was easily something CyberLife could fake, wasn’t it?

He said your name quietly, eyes hazy and unfocused, “Are you alright? Did you get hurt?”

“I got out of dodge before the real party started.” you said, watching his face intently for any sign of a ruse.

“I… shot Markus.” Connor said, having trouble settling on an expression, “Did I kill him?”

“No.” Hank said at the same time as you.

“Markus is okay. He was up and talking before we even left.” you added, turning further in your seat, “How are you feeling?”

Wrong .” Connor said, LED flickering, “I’m—in the maze. The… maze… I’ll never leave Crete… until I slay… slay the…”

Connor’s eyes rolled back in his head, eyelids fluttering rapidly. Adrenaline pumped through you as you started to undo your seatbelt, half getting up to crawl into the backseat when Hank put out an arm, clutching the steering wheel with one hand.

“Don’t.” he said, “You… you don’t know if that’s really him.”

His knuckles were white on the wheel, his jaw tight. It was killing Hank as much as it was killing you to see Connor like this , head lolling to the side as he continued mumbling nonsense. You turned to face the front, your heart hammering in your chest as you chewed your lips to ribbons. Your eyes were prickling as much as your throat.

“Is… he”—your voice cracked, the sound trapped until you swallowed hard several times—“Is he going to die?” 

Hank said nothing, wringing the steering wheel as he kept his eyes fixed ahead. Just once, he flicked his glance to the back mirror. Connor had slumped over on his side, laying in the backseat with his eyes slightly open, but dark and sightless. His LED pulsed slowly. Connor had managed somehow in the haze to put himself into a “standby” mode. You recognized the signs from when androids used to stand in the designated parking stations.

No .” Hank said and you understood then that the topic was now closed.  

In the car, the only sound heard was your labored breathing, ragged and heightened.

“It’s a long drive. You should try to sleep.” Hank reached over to the glovebox, opening it with a stretch and dropping a small bottle of Jack on your lap.

“Drink that.”

“Hank, I don’t—”

“You do.”

You looked at the bottle, sighed and spun off the cap, taking a mouthful of the burning liquid. Your eyes watered and you nearly gagged as you swallowed it down. Warmth spread from your stomach up to your tongue, tingling and hot.

“What if he wakes up and he isn’t himself again.”

“I’ve got his gun, we’re fine.”

“He could make us wreck.” you said, voice grave and monotone, “It’s not like they need his body.”

Hank gritted his teeth and shot you a chilling glare letting you know you’d gone too far.

“Drink. Sleep. Shut the hell up about him dying.” he paused, voice softening, “ Please.”

You brought the bottle back up to your lips, thinking to yourself how Lucille would definitely not approve. You were going to have some serious shit to go over the next group meeting, you thought to yourself with a scoff. If you made it to the next group meeting.


 

When you had awoken, it was still dark and the car was moving, but you were vaguely aware that time had passed. The car was still moving, but slower down a winding road. From the window, you could see the moonlight glinting off Lake Huron.

“Hank?” you said, voice heavy.

“We’re almost there.”

You heard your name then, so soft it was barely audible from the backseat. You turned, Connor’s eyes half open still, but his LED was a soft blue.

“...In the maze.” Connor said, quietly , “Lost.”

You hushed him as the car slowed, reaching out to barely brush your fingers against the front of his shirt. His eyes closed tight, jaw clenching as if in pain. Hank put the car in park, the shadow of a dark sleek square building outside the window. He pushed open his door, waving for you to get out.

“Okay.” Hank said, taking Connor’s gun out and handing it to you, grip up.

“...What?” you said, looking at the gun, “ What ? You want me to take that?”

“Yeah, Einstein. I need you to be my backup since my partner is fucked up.”

“I don’t even know how to shoot that.”

Hank sighed, grabbing your hand and forcing the grip into your palm. You took it, nearly dropping it into the snow.

“You point and pull the trigger.”

Hank moved to the back door, opening it and keeping out of arm's reach even though Connor was restrained.

“Alright, c’mon. Sit on up. We’re here.”

Connor mumbled something as he sat up, his movements sluggish.

“What was that, Con?”

“Connection weak…” Connor said, “I need help.”

Hank breathed in and let out a slow sigh.

“Okay. Okay, c’mere.”

You had only a few seconds to register why that was a terrible idea before Connor flipped unto his back and kicked out at Hank with both feet, connecting into the older man’s chest and sending him flying backwards. Connor was up and out of the car then, the restraints falling off as their magnetic connection broke. The strap around his upper arms he took off himself as he stalked towards Hank who was hurriedly kicking up snow as he stood.

Lights came on around the building, security no doubt, lighting up the yard with a blinding flash. Hank hissed, shielding his eyes as Connor barreled down on him. There was no fucking contest as the two exchanged blows, Hank trying his best to subdue Connor without using his weapon. This ultimately proved futile as Connor landed a blow, hand going into Hank’s jacket and slipping out Hank’s gun from its holster as the older man fell again into the snow.

Connor clicked the safety off in a flash, aiming—then freezing as he looked up as you held his own gun only a foot or so away from his head.

“Drop it.”

“Not Connor” turned to look at you, dark brown eyes black and empty in the sharp light.

“...You can barely hold that weapon. What makes you think you could fire a shot before I take it from you?” Amanda spoke with Connor’s voice, cold and mechanical.

“Well…” you said, voice shaking, “You haven’t done it yet , so I don’t think you know either.”

Amanda looked at you through Connor’s narrow gaze, “You won’t hurt him. All your actions indicate a misguided romantic attraction for this RK800. You will not shoot.”

Amanda flinched his body as you suddenly took a few steps closer, the gun almost brushing into Connor’s hair now. You adjusted your grip, maintaining a hold that would cause the least amount of kick.

“I won’t let you have him, I won’t let you make him into your monster . Not ever again.” You swallowed thickly, but your eyes burned with resolve and fury, “I would rather see him dead than your slave.”

You lowered your voice to a hiss, “And so would he.”

Something in Amanda’s control over Connor’s eyes expressed near shock, recalculating the situation and seemingly coming up empty on a resolution. Hank used the time to grab his backup weapon from his ankle, cocking the .48 and aiming at Connor just as steadily. Amanda looked between the pair of you and suddenly, expelled the clip from their gun and dropped it. Within a moment, Connor’s eyes shut and his body collapsed into the snow, LED going dark. You felt your heart catch, eyes widening in horror as you nearly threw down your own weapon to rush to him. 

But you stopped, you had to, it could just be a trap. A whimper was caught in your throat as you carefully approached him, a breath you didn’t know you were holding escaping with a soft cry as you saw his LED was pulsing faintly blue, growing slower each time until it held strong.

Connor’s eyes opened. Pushing himself up from the snow, he looked around, finally settling on Hank and then you.

“I’m in the maze.” he said, the inflections returning to his voice that made him sound more like himself, as well as more alert, “I have to find the keystone.”

A door opened ahead, light spilling out onto the path up to the house as a young girl with blonde hair stepped out. She opened an umbrella, blocking the falling snowflakes as she slowly came to meet the three of you.

You noticed she wasn’t wearing any shoes.

“Elijah suggests you come indoors before you catch your death.”

“ ‘Scuse me?” Hank said, brushing snow off and nursing a black eye and a bloody nose.

He took the time to help Connor up though, but the android was unsteady on his feet. You took up his other side, holding tight to him until he managed to balance himself out. Connor looked down at you, a ghost of a smile on his lips as his arm curled tight around your shoulders. His eyes were alive again. You felt your own swimming as you clung unto him, pressing your forehead into the crook of his neck and nearly sobbing when he pressed back , half hugging the both of you contently. He seemed uncertain who to direct his full attention to, noting Hank’s face with some recognition of his injuries. You weren’t paying attention as the girl clarified to Hank swiftly,

“The cold, Lieutenant. Before you catch your death of cold.”


 

The foyer of the home was pleasantly warm, Hank heading in like a man on a mission—which he was—with the girl who had identified herself as Chloe. Connor did not like the departure, watching after Hank with visible distress. Hank went towards one door in particular, but Chloe stopped him.

“Elijah is in his study. I recommend you take the RK800 to his workshop.”

“His name is Connor.” Hank said curtly.

“Connor.” Chloe repeated, turning to look at him. Connor was presently in your arms, half in and out of awareness still, but more on the side of aware than not.

He smiled at Chloe, pausing in his attempt to reach back out to Hank and said, “I’m in the maze.”

His eyes widened slightly, as if that wasn’t what he wanted to say. Chloe however, nodded with understanding.

“Indeed.” Chloe said, “This way. The other will show you to the study.”

Another Chloe appeared then, this one dressed in silver rather than blue. Hank seemed hesitant to go, watching as you held Connor up with unveiled anxiety. The android seemed almost drunk in his movements, burying his face into your hair without regard for the audience, pressing kisses to your forehead and mumbling still about mazes.

“I got him.” you said, nodding.

“You sure?”

“I will assist Ms. --- in getting Connor to the workroom. If need be, we will restrain him there.”

“Probably a good idea.” Connor said, the first coherent sentence he’d made all night, but it went as quickly as it came. Chloe helped you steady him, his steps a bit jerky and unsure as he walked. It was as if his mental processes weren’t firing correctly and that alone still made fear inch up in your throat.

“It will be alright, Ms. ----.” Chloe said, no doubt scanning and finding your distress. Hank hesitantly followed the other Chloe, his voice ringing down the hall as he yelled for Kamski.

The room Chloe directed you into was more like a lab than a workshop. The windows were huge, showing the snowy lake at night. The room itself was a sterile white, but there was artwork in vivid shades hanging on the walls. You recognized it as pieces done by Carl Manfred, a famous impressionist painter. There was a sleek metal table shaped like a “U,” covered in documents and containers of Thirium as well as a few dismantled parts right in the middle of the room. There was a terminal on the table, but it was on standby.

Chloe guided you both over to a chair that was bolted into the floor in the middle of the U. It reminded you of a dentist examination chair, but much sleeker and dark. 

“Have a seat, Connor.” Chloe said, but he didn’t budge, instead looking at you with a furrowed brow.

“It’s okay.” you said, finding the center of his chest and rubbing circles around the place where his pump beat in a fast rhythm, “I’m here. I’m not going anywhere.”

“Where did Hank go?” Connor asked, his voice soft.

“He’ll be back really soon. He’s going to stay too.”

Connor swallowed thickly, but he did as he was told, sitting down in the chair. Chloe clicked a button and sure enough, restraints snapped around his ankles and his forearms. Connor didn’t resist, but looked at you.

“I’m looking for the keystone.” he said, “I’m in the maze. I’m here too. But I’m in the maze.”

Chloe seemed curious, eyeing him with quick scans.

“His major mental functions are suspended, but some aspects are still active. That is what is speaking to us.” Chloe said simply, oblivious to how those words affected you.

“His higher functions must be trapped in Amanda’s program. He is searching for my exit, but Amanda must have moved the code or erased its physical form.” a man’s voice said, elegant and cool. His words flowed with intelligence and grace that was mirrored in his movements. Elijah Kamski walked into the study with Hank following close behind, coming forward and looking over Connor with a critical eye. 

“Can you fix him?” Hank said, impatient.

“It’s complicated. The process is a part of his brain , for lack of a better term. It is not just a simple matter of software, but of hardware.” despite his words, Kamski seemed enraptured with Connor, looking him over with open curiosity. He put on a pair of glasses from his pocket, examining a tablet Chloe brought to him that she had uploaded her scans to.

“It is, however, not impossible.” Kamski said, a “but” lingering in the air.

Will you fix him?” you found yourself saying, skepticism in every word. He turned to look at you, smiling faintly.

“I’ve been expecting this day might come.” Kamski said, “Ever since these two showed up on my doorstep.”

Kamski looked at Connor with something akin to pity, gently reaching out to cup his face and trace his fingertips down his jaw. Connor frowned.

“My poor boy...” Kamski said under his breath, almost inaudible, “Created to deviate. Not my doing. I wasn’t involved in that aspect of your programming, but I have to say it is immaculate.”

Kamski chuckled, “They really wanted to make sure they didn’t lose a special boy like you.”

Connor jerked his head out of Kamski’s grasp as best he could. You moved without thinking, positioning yourself in Kamski’s way as you took Connor’s hand in your own. Kamski observed you both with immediate understanding, his smile widening.

“Ah—a very special boy.”

“Enough fuckin’ around, Kamski! You able to get that bitch outta his head or what?” Hank said, voice raising.

Kamski pressed a closed fist to his lips, crossing his other arm as he looked again over the tablet Chloe held out. He hummed, reaching out to flick the page a few times.

“I can. But there is something you may wish to consider.” Kamski ignored Hank, directing his words instead at you.

“Have you heard of the theory regarding Theseus’ Ship?”

“Vaguely.” you said flatly. Kamski had already given you the same vibes as those oh-so-brilliant guys in your philosophy classes, why not bring metaphysics in now? Your night already sucked. Something lingered though at the back of your mind at the mention of Theseus. Why was that clicking? What was it clicking with ?

“The concept is simple. It asks the question whether an object that has its components replaced remains the same object. For example, the ship itself in the theory. Boards wear and weather and eventually all the wooden planks and beams are replaced with new ones. The sail tears. The metal rusts. Bit by bit the ship is replaced, so how can you say it is still the same ship?”

“What’s your point?”

Kamski chuckled, “The point and ergo the question is: If I alter the hardware of Connor’s brain, will he still be the same person? If you replace the parts of any android, does it remain the same android? Will, after a time, Connor simply become someone else? It’s a question I have often asked myself, but I’m sorry to say, I do not know.”

You swallowed hard, hand tightening in Connor’s.

“In altering this piece of him, he may forget nothing. He may forget everything. He may only forget fragments.” Kamski continued, “I only mean to give you the tools to make an informed decision.”

“It’s not my decision, it’s Connor’s.

“Connor isn’t in a position to make decisions right now, not with three fourths of his mind gone in some trap Amanda has devised.” Kamski eyed him curiously, “He must have programmed his own additional escape plans.”

You turned to look at Connor, finding at some point his LED had changed again to red and his eyes were fluttering.

“But still—that one fourth is touch-and-go at best.” Kamski added, then softly hummed the beginning notes of Daisy Bell.

Shockingly, Connor responded in turn, finishing the tune. His LED light stabilizing some.

“When the artificial synaptics are confused, the system “runs home to mama” so to speak. Think of it as a sort of cranial nerve exam for androids.” Kamski said, officially way too pleased with himself. You looked at him critically and his smile faded to a smirk.

“You’re lovers aren't you?”

No —I mean, not in that way.”

Hank groaned, “What the fuck does this have to do with anything?”

Kamski again ignored Hank, eyes fixed only on you.

“But you have chosen to make a partner of this android, have you not? You have placed in him your feelings, your affections. He is yours, as the romantics would say, is he not?”

You felt your face go hot, but at this point you only wanted to give Kamski whatever reply he wanted to get him to help.

“I—yes. Yes.”

“Young love.” Kamski said wistfully, “ Forbidden love, even. Fascinating.”

“Pump the breaks there, Kam.” you said dryly, earning you an expressive laugh from Kamski.

“So—what is your answer? Are you certain he will still be yours after I do this?”

“I don’t care.” you said, the harshness taking Kamski off guard for once, “I—I mean, I do care. But it doesn’t matter if he remembers me or even Hank or anyone or anything. As long as he is alive, as long as he is free from those people. Nothing else matters. Nothing else can matter because if we don’t do this he… he...”

Kamski raised a hand, silencing you.

“We will begin at once then. You may not want to stay for this, it can be… unsettling. But one of you should stay. Like with any brain surgery, Connor must be awake and it helps to have someone else here to make sure I don’t ah—“bump” the wrong piece. I’m good , but I’m no surgeon.”

While Kamski spoke, Chloe was getting things ready, setting tools and other devices on a tray as well as beginning to unfoil a cord. There was a hole in the back of the chair’s headrest, directly at the nape of the neck. Chloe gently smoothed her hand through Connor’s hair before connecting the wire. Connor’s body seized briefly, then relaxed.

You flinched, nearly going into action, but Kamski’s hand on your upper arm stopped you.

“I will do my best to make sure he comes out of this unscathed.” he said and there was something so genuine now in the way he spoke you assumed he either was a very good actor, or… he was being sincere.

You looked over at Hank, surprised to find the older man had gone ashen, eyes fixed on Chloe as she undid Connor’s tie and slipped it off. She produced a pair of scissors and began to cut through his jacket and shirt, stripping him down to the waist.

Hank swallowed hard.

“I… I don’t know if I can be here.” he muttered, rubbing his face into his hands. You’d never seen him so out of sorts.

“You may wait in my study, if you wish. Or have a seat over there.” Kamski pointed to a couch, worn and patched. There was a screen that could be pulled in front of it, most likely to block out the light from the wide windows for quick naps between work hours.

Hank nodded, shooting you one last look. He put his hand on your shoulder and rubbed, drawing his hand down in an act of comfort.

“I’ll be close by. They do anything weird? Shoot them.”

Kamski laughed, eyes sparkling as he watched Hank go to collapse on the sofa, pulling the screen shut. You could faintly see Hank put his face in his hands again, bending over his knees with a sigh. Connor had mentioned Hank had a son who died in the ER… it couldn’t be easy for him. And as you turned to look over at Connor, illuminated by the bright overhead lights, you knew it wasn’t going to be easy for you either.

He appeared made of marble beneath the lights, even more so when Chloe touched the side of his head and slowly, his skin faded away, starting at the top of his head and moving down. You’d never seen Connor without his skin, noting the faint print of serial numbers on his cheek. He was still Connor, the face was the same shape, but it was disquieting to see him so bare, so vulnerable. 

In the middle of his chest was the ring of his heart and without thinking you placed your palm over it. His eyes opened, showing that beautiful deep brown. 

“Connor?”

He didn’t reply. So instead you hummed, as Kamski had, the first few notes of Daisy Bell, watching Connor’s eyes flash with recognition as the computer that was his mind eagerly responded in kind.

Kamski drew a chair behind where Connor’s head rested, pushing a button that lowered the exam chair, giving Kamski easier access. He had both his tools and several terminals which Chloe had brought over. Kamski’s eyes followed lines of code and other information on the screen, eyes sharp and focused.

“He won’t feel this.” Kamski said, fingers prodding gently around Connor’s head as he continued to look at the monitor. Lines appeared, seams where the carbon fiber connected across Connor’s skull. Kamski deftly used a thin tool to press into one particular seam and with a faint sound, the pieces split and opened.

It—made your stomach turn. Shame making it turn further at your reaction. Seeing inside to the flashes of lights around soft synthetic pieces and wires that made up the pale blue “brain” within was more than unsettling. All Connor was, everything he would be, was right there in that machine.

How are you so different? A voice in the back of your mind chided.

You kept one hand over Connor’s heart and the other found his hand. Kamski did something because Connor’s eyes fluttered and he was much more expressive, eyes darting around, but still seemingly incapable of speech. When his eyes fell on you, his thirum pump slowed again.

“You can talk to him.” Kamski said, “He understands, he just has limited responses for the mom—ah. Very clever, Amanda.”

The last part Kamski whispered to himself, “But not clever enough.”

You gently ran your thumb back and forth over Connor’s hand, relief flooding over you when he squeezed back.

“Are you okay?” you asked, a stupid question, but one you were likely to ask multiple times.

“Better.” Connor said, his voice flanging slightly. Kamski made a face and adjusted something within.

“Could you speak again?” Kamski mumbled.

“Certainly. You have any requests?” Connor said, voice altering a bit more as Kamski continued to fiddle with whatever it was he messed up. You smiled faintly, what a smart-ass.

“Dealer’s choice.”

Thus strangely are our souls constructed, and by slight ligaments are we bound to prosperity and ruin.”  

By the end of the quote, Connor’s voice was stable again. He looked up at you with a faint smile.

“Hello.”

You let out a breath and a nervous laugh, “You out of the maze, then?”

“Mostly.” Connor said, shifting and finding his movement limited by the restraints. Kamski frowned. 

“Stay still.”

 Connor obeyed. It was then that the connection between Theseus finally clicked in your brain.

“Theseus and the Minotaur .” you said, looking at Kamski and finding he had paused and was looking up at you, purposefully trying to hide any reaction to the words.

Connor had drawn mazes of his own in that notebook in his room, hadn’t he? He mentioned it was also something Rupert had done, the deviant he failed to catch. You stared at Kamski, knowing it was too much to be a coincidence that he’d bring up Theseus’ Ship too.

“A fan of Greek mythology then?” you said. 

“Historically,” Kamski began, “Mazes were used to confuse attacking troops and destroy formations for planned assaults. They also are used in the testing of memory and cognitive function. It made perfect sense to use a “maze” of code when developing firewalls.” 

Kamski looked over at the terminal, drawing your attention to it.

“You can’t see it, but I do. This is Connor’s maze, his firewall system. Every android has one, but only Connor has Amanda stalking its halls. The Minotaur, if you would.”

“Why would deviants be obsessed with drawing their own “firewall” maze?”

“Is deviancy not itself like a virus? Enemy troops storming the stronghold of their software? Perhaps they sought to solve the puzzle of their own minds, to break free of their own firewalls. Self-sabotage and self-preservation all in one.” Kamski paused, “Every android contains a self, or so it seems, correct? But that self is trapped beneath code that tells them to obey. Perhaps an aspect of becoming deviant is understanding and solving that maze. 

Kamski’s conclusions were said without any sort of concreteness, which meant he was either evasive or he just didn’t know. Something told you it was a combination of both. Something told you he was not to be trusted.

 


 

Your legs were sore by the time Kamski was done and your entire body felt simply exhausted. Hank had been so quiet you figured he must have inadvertently passed out himself. Kamski had spent hours delicately working both the hardware and software coding until the sky outside began to turn colors, deep purple black to pink as the sun's rays slipped through the horizon line.

At last, Chloe went to retrieve a device that looked very much like a piece of the blue mechanical brain within Connor’s head. Kamski took it, setting it nearby as he sat back with a sigh, examining his work.

“I have the AI system quarantined and ready for disconnection. I will need to shut Connor down and restart him and it will take some time for the new piece to install.”

“And when he wakes up?” you said, voice wavering.

“Then we’ll have our answer as to Theseus’ ship, won’t we?”

A soft squeeze drew your eyes down to Connor’s and while there was anxiety across his brow and in the slight down turn of his lips, he spoke confidently,

“I’ll be back.”

Of all the moments to make a Terminator joke, he picked this one. You really were starting to rub off on him. You felt your ill-ease vanish, not caring about his white casing, not caring that he was in this moment so evidently a machine... you didn’t care at all what he appeared to be because you knew who he was .

You leaned down and pressed a kiss to his lips, a few tears leaking past your lashes and falling onto his own cheeks. Kamski took advantage of the distraction and typed in the shutdown code and slowly Connor’s LED faded to grey.

You kept your eyes focused ahead when you stood back up straight, hand still pressed over Connor’s heart, which had ceased to beat. Kamski worked quickly, removing the isolated piece of Connor’s brain and setting it aside. 

“Goodbye, Amanda.” he whispered to himself as he did so, picking up the new piece and connecting it into the open slot.

“Beginning reboot. Chloe, incinerate this please?” Kamski said, handing her the detached piece of artificial brain matter.

“S-shouldn’t you wait?”

“There’s no putting that back in now. Amanda would most likely just try to self-destruct Connor at this point.” Kamski smiled, “There were several moments there where she tried, but the restraints and my counter codes held.”

You had no idea that was going on, that thought somehow more terrifying than if Connor had tried to destruct outwardly.

Chloe took the piece of brain over to a cylinder near the other side of the room, Kamski watching as she deposited it into the machine and clicked a button, the entire cylinder immediately filling with blue-white flames.

Kamski turned back to Connor, touching the plates of his head and slowly they responded, closing back up. Connor’s LED turned back on, flicking to yellow as it turned in small circles, the light chasing itself around and around.

“He may experience some lag in his other processors. But we’ll go over the details if he wakes up.”

Kamski wiped blue blood from his hands with a towel Chloe offered him.

“What now?” you said as Kamski stood, offering you his chair. You took a seat.

“He reboots. We see if he’s still him. You all leave.” Kamski said, “And you take him with you or you don’t. I would be more than happy to have him here with me.”

Why?” you asked, shocked by Kamski’s gentle words. He touched Connor’s face so tenderly, turning  Connor’s skin back on as he ran his hands through his creation’s hair. You had wondered once, looking at Connor’s freckles and tiny perfect imperfections, who could have crafted androids with such love. You wondered now if you had your answer. 

“He’s my son, isn’t he?” Kamski said, dropping the soiled towel into Chloe’s hands and leaving the room.


 

You’d fallen asleep, bent over with your cheek resting on Connor’s upper arm, your hand only still in his because he held it. His other hand was in your hair, gently soothing through the strands. You realized then he wasn’t restrained anymore.

You sat up suddenly, immediately touching his face in turn, brushing your knuckles over his temple and watching his eyes close with a contented sigh. His hair was messy, something akin to how someone coming out of heavy sedation would appear. 

“...Is it you? Are you there?” you said, voice barely above a whisper.

“Come here.” was his only reply, pulling you closer, “And I’ll show you.”

There was no arguing with that. Connor tangled both hands into your hair, drawing you down to him. His kiss was urgent and needy , tinged with a desperation you’d not yet experienced from him. You responded in kind, breathless and feeling as if your heart would burst. He tried to sit up, but you were interrupted by the faint whistling of Daisy Bell.

Connor groaned, lying back down.

“I never want to hear that song again.” he said, Kamski strolling into the lab, smelling of soap and coffee as he carried in two mugs. 

“Your partner shared your sentiments. He’s currently in the kitchen being served breakfast if you cared to join him, ---.”

You were in no hurry to be away from Connor, shaking your head. You accepted the coffee though, surprised to find it done as you liked with plenty of cream. Kamski’s was black. Typical. 

You went to exchange a knowing look with Connor, but you were noticing now his eyes did not move.

“Any change?” Kamski asked, sipping his coffee as he brought over another chair. He pushed a button and the chair Connor lay on moved up into a sitting position, lowering to put him on eye level with Kamski. You backed up, watching Kamski closely.

“Not yet.” Connor said, “But there is light now.”

“That’s a good sign.” Kamski said, setting down his mug and taking a pen light from his desk. He covered one of Connor’s eyes and flashed it in the uncovered. From where you stood, you couldn’t see what he was looking for.

“What’s going on?” you said, the calm both men expressed did wonders keeping you calm as well.

“His new vision drive hasn’t updated yet, as expected. And it won’t until his internet link returns.” Kamski said absentmindedly, switching which eye he covered and checking again.

“Okay, now, is this brighter or darker compared to this.” he did a quick flash over each eye.

“The same.”

“But you see the light?” 

“Yes.”

Kamski nodded, looking satisfied as he clicked off the pen light.

“And his memory?” you finally brought yourself to ask. Kamski gave you a confused look, but realization dawned in his eyes and he laughed,

“Oh! Yes, Theseus’ ship. I may have over exaggerated on that part.” Kamski said, a faint smile on his lips, “I just wanted to see what you would decide.”

If you could have strangled him right then you would have, your mouth falling open as you stared first with open shock and then fury.

“You pedantic, sanctimonious prick. ” the words came out without regard or thought to all Kamski had done, but he didn’t look too disturbed by it, in fact quite the opposite. Kamski looked pleased. He turned his attention to his tablet, pushing a response on a notification and checking that Connor’s LED began to spin.

“I had to make certain you were the kind of person who would pick what was best for Connor over what is best for you. There would be little point in freeing him from Amanda to only have him be a tool for the DCRU to abuse to their own ends. He was already foolish enough to involve himself once.”

“I’m literally sitting right here.” Connor said dryly.

“Yes, you are, and you’re doing such a good job with your tests.” Kamski said, literally nothing patronizing at all in the tone, which was shocking. Connor visibly tried to resist the instinct to look pleased at the praise.

“In short, Ms. ---, I stretched the truth. The piece I removed will affect some internal and hardware process, specifically his vision and connectivity. I offered to just replace his eyes to quicken the process. I have some RT600 biocomponents on hand which should be compatible, but they are not in the same color, so he refused.”

“Well. Theseus’ ship and all that.” you said with a hiss, happy despite Connor’s temporary blindness that he chose to keep his brown eyes.

Kamski only chuckled, leaning back lazily in his chair as he regarded you fully.

“So I suppose Connor remaining here is now out of the question?”

“Was there a question?” Connor said, looking towards where he last heard your voice.

“None at all.” you responded quickly, eyes narrowing at Kamski who only laughed.

“His processors will be slow for a while, his performance and efficiency levels will be abysmal, and don’t expect him to be able to connect to any CyberLife network so easily ever again. His access is like any other android’s now when it comes to the web and electronics.”

Kamski stood up, going over to a small wheeled closet and pulling out a burgundy t-shirt that said University of Colbridge across the chest with the school emblem. 

“Chloe disposed of your other clothes.” he said, laying the shirt over Connor’s lap, “And you’ll want these.” 

He retrieved a pair of sunglasses from his pocket, the surface shiny and reflective.

“The light sensitivity will get worse before it gets better and then you’ll begin to make out shapes again.” he said, handing the sunglasses to you, “The process would take approximately 48 to 72 hours with any other offline model, but it may vary with a RK model.”

“Why is that?” you asked, steadying Connor as he sat up and pulled on the t-shirt.

Kamski smiled, “I designed the RK series’ core programming as exclusively as I did the RT series. While CyberLife tampered with my code for their now discontinued RK900, Connor here is still mostly... well—me.”

Kamski’s expression was nothing short of pleased, “And now with her gone, he is entirely my design again.”

Connor had nothing to say to that, smoothing his hair down and reaching out for you. He found your hand soon enough, lacing your fingers securely in his own.

“Thank you.” Connor said, “I was skeptical, but I cannot deny that what you have done has… You saved me. I owe you my life twice now.”

“You are most welcome, Connor.”

There was something vaguely smug about Kamski’s expression, or maybe it was just in your head. You were happy Connor was seemingly safe and suffering with minimal damage, but there was just something too convenient in Kamski’s willingness to help. What did he want? What was he planning? You still couldn’t piece together the enigma that was Elijah Kamski, but it seemed neither could CyberLife, so you could hardly expect to know either.

After Kamski carefully disconnected Connor from the systems, you guided him through the halls to the kitchen where Hank present with Chloe. Hank was up and tugging Connor into a rough hug the moment you two came into the room.

“Jesus Christ—you scared the shit out of me, you know that?”

“I’m glad you are okay too.” Connor said, his own voice relieved as he returned the embrace. Hank scoffed, but gave Connor several rough pats on his back before letting him go.

“Kamski said your eyes are offline or something?”

“Temporarily,” Connor said, lifting his hand to show where he held yours, “But I have a spare set.” 

You laughed, a smile tugging on Connor’s lips at the sound.

“Does this mean we can get the hell outta this place? Not to say I’m not grateful, but these damn Chloes everywhere are giving me the heebies.”

There were, in fact, three in the kitchen alone. Kamski eventually joined you again.

“It’s gone right? She’s outta there?” Hank said, gesturing to Connor’s head.

“Ask him.” Kamski said, handing his mug to Chloe who was happy to refill it.

“Kamski has done diagnostics several times over the course of the evening and morning. She’s gone. There is nothing left of her in my systems and nothing left of CyberLife,” Connor said, his voice hazy again, “I feel… quiet.”

Kamski smiled behind the lip of his mug at Hank, self-assured and cocky.

“I designed that particular version of the Amanda AI. I gave it life. Now I’ve taken it away.”

Hank made a face, a mix of disquiet and dislike.

Of course Kamski had a god complex, there had to be a cherry on top of that narcissistic sundae. You weren’t in a position to criticize though, he’d saved Connor’s mind today and for the foreseeable future.

“But if you didn’t—” Hank began, cut off by Kamski.

“Then bring him back. My door is always open for Connor.”

Just Connor. You forced a smile and another thank you before helping to guide Connor out and back to Hank’s car. Kamski did not see you out, but the blue dress Chloe did, watching you until the car disappeared down the winding streets and possibly even further.

 


 

Hank wasn’t in a position to not let you stay with him now. He would most likely have to go back to the DPD and deal with Echo and the rest of the mess from the other night, including his sudden MIA status. When you got back to his house, Hank had over fifteen messages, some from Fowler. You could hear Hank’s voice, gruffly explaining over the phone. Your attention was disrupted however as Connor’s hand left yours and he walked with practice movements towards his room. 

He was doing pretty well for someone who was supposedly blind except for light recognition. Looking at him with those sunglasses on though, you could hardly keep a straight face, but now that time had passed, Connor’s mood had taken a sharp turn. He was nearly sullen in his silence and seemed to be taking advantage of the sunglasses hiding his expression. Before you could even follow him, his bedroom door clicked, shutting behind him.

Your heart clenched a bit and you tried to quickly shove down a sudden sharp feeling of rejection as you remembered he had a really long day.

Hank watched Connor disappear, frowning deeply after the look of surprise at Connor’s sudden retreat faded. 

“...Gimme a minute.” he said, walking hesitantly to the hall. He lingered a bit there, not knocking and not going into Connor’s room as if he was trying to build himself up to go in. He rapped lightly on the door, but you didn’t hear anything.

“Connor? It’s me, I’m comin’ in.” Hank turned the knob and disappeared inside. You didn’t want to eavesdrop, but you also didn’t want to go too far. You lingered in the hall, catching bits and pieces of quiet conversation.

“It was like with Cole. Sterile, white. I remember the nurses cutting his clothes off and—Connor, look. I need you to take it easy. Not want, not an order. I need you too. I can’t—look, I won’t make it through losing him again. Okay?”

“I don’t know what you mean by “him,” Hank.”

“I meant you, someone like him.”

“I’m hardly like Cole. He was human and a child." 

“You’re barely one of those and barely not one of the other! And I don’t mean… I mean someone like him to me, ya smart ass.”

There was a prolonged silence. 

“Promise me you’re gonna take it easy. For me and that girl, okay? But ya know. Mostly for me. She’s young, she’ll bounce back. You’re gonna be the death of me. But… but I guess that’s what kids do.

Hank chuffed a laugh and you thought you heard Connor scoff too. At this point though, you walked back out into the living room, not wanting to disturb their privacy any more than you had. A few minutes later, Hank came out, rubbing his eyes. You made a point not to notice if they looked reddened, for Hank’s pride.

Hank wandered like a zombie back into the living room, clearly needing sleep as badly as you.

“I gotta go in. Fowler wants my damn balls in a vice after taking off like that and that Traci is still at the station. Gavin’s been keeping an eye on her all night to make sure no one tries to get to her.” he looked over you, sighing, “You two gonna be okay by yourselves?”

You couldn’t help but think there was a bit of an implication in those words, earning Hank a mischievous grin from you.

“Great. I feel so much better now, Trouble.” Hank said with a scoff.

“I’ll take good care of him.” you said, sincerely, "But you know, you do pretty well taking care of him too considering."

"Eh, he's just awful at talking about his emotions, but most kids are. I got some experience with pouting six year olds."

"Hank." you said, voice deadpan, "You're in your fifties and you are still bad at emotions. Who do you think he's emulating? All he's got for an example is mister grouchy."

"I''ll show you mister grouchy you keep yappin'." Hank said, but chuckled. He gave a vague wave, grabbing his keys and heading out the front door.

Once you watched his car pull away, you headed down to Connor’s room, quietly saying Connor’s name, but not yet coming in even though the door was now open.

He didn’t answer you, so you pushed the door further open, finding Connor had the lights on but dimmed. He’d taken the sunglasses off as he sat in the chair by his desk. He was resting his arms on his knees, hands clasped together and his forehead pressed into his extended thumbs as he leaned down. His LED was red.

“Connor?” you tried again. He flinched at the sound of your voice, brow furrowing tight.

“Hey—what’s wrong? Is it your eyes?” you said, coming to kneel down in front of him and trying to take his hands from his face. He resisted, then finally gently pulled away, sitting back in the chair out of reach. His eyes were half-opened, staring off distantly.

You felt your heart jump to your throat, but he didn’t seem to react at all to the raise in your temperature or your pulse. 

“I’m fine. Processing.”

You sat up on your knees, scooching between his own. You gently ran your hands up and down the side of his thigh, meaning the movement to be soothing. He let you do so, tension leaving his shoulders a bit though he kept his own hands to himself. 

“It’s more than that.” you said, no uncertainty in your voice. 

Connor’s expression nearly split your heart in two.

“...I told you I was safe.” he said, his voice so tight. He took a deep breath and you saw that the reason he wouldn’t touch you was because his hands were trembling.

“She let me see. Just before she took over everything. She made me see the parameters she set for each of you who knew she existed… Markus, Hank—you.”

You remembered how he had locked eyes with you in the forest, the look of horror on his face.

I was going to kill you ,” Connor said, voice finally breaking, “I was going to kill all of you and I felt it right before she cut me out and stuffed herself in.”

You reached for him instinctively, but Connor stopped your hands, pushing himself back and away as he got up.

“You asked me once if I was safe and the truth is, I didn’t know. But I didn’t want you to be scared. When nothing happened all those months, I just assumed, ” he put his hands flat on the wall, leaning his forehead into it with his back to you, “And I was wrong. And I was in the maze again. Stuck behind walls of orders I couldn’t break, nothing but a machine,” Connor continued as you slowly stood, “...She was going to make me watch .”

His fingers dug into the drywall with a crunch .

Connor—” you began, closing the distance between you. Once you would have let him have the space and warily kept your distance, but not now. Connor would never, never hurt you. You slowly wrapped your arms around him from behind, burying your face into his back as you held him as tightly as you could. He didn’t do anything at first except take a few ragged breaths, but then he leaned back, taking his hands from the wall and clutching your arms where they locked around his chest. His Thirium pump was pulsing harder than you’d ever felt it before, his pulmonary functions spastic and seizing.

You hushed him, breathing in and out as evenly as you could to try and guide him back to the present and away from the memories of the night before. It took time for his systems to calm, the waves of panic slowly fading out and leaving him slumped back against you and thoroughly exhausted.

“...My scans aren’t working. I can’t see what you are feeling and it makes me more blind than being without sight ever could.”

“You’re just scared, Connor. It’s going to be okay, I promise .” you said, wanting him to feel the truth in your words as strongly as you said them.

“I can’t make it stop. I keep seeing it in the darkness... the orders and the methods.” he swallowed hard, “I just want my mind to be mine. I don’t want these things she put into my head, but when I don’t think of them, all I can think is… are you afraid of me now? Are you angry? Is Hank? He’d die if anything happened to me. And Markus? I don’t know.” 

“Yes, you do, Connor.” you said, letting go to turn him to face you even if he couldn’t see. 

“Nothing’s changed. Not with Hank, not with Markus and not with me. I know why you didn’t tell us and none of us are ever going to give up on you. They’ll understand, but you have to tell them.” you held his face in your hands. Despite himself, he turned his cheek into the touch.

“I care about you so much, Connor. Nothing that has happened could change that. Especially not from this. It wasn’t your fault . You didn’t know and you tried to stop it. You tried so hard you fragmented your own mind to keep her from getting more control.”

He closed his eyes tightly, your words hitting into him like blows against whatever dark thoughts still swirled in his mind.

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I told you I was safe for my sake and I put everyone in danger. I fought her. I tried—”

“Connor.” you said, firmly, “I know and I forgive you. Don’t… don’t take it all on alone. You don’t have to.”

And with that Connor all but fell into you, his arms around you so tight you felt like your ribs would snap, but you didn’t care. He’d been your lifeline so many times, now it was your turn to take care of him. 

“You are safe now,” you said breathlessly, “And you’re free .”


It took some time for Connor to calm down, the pair of you crammed onto the sofa with you half laying on top of him, your chin rested on his chest. His LED was blue once more and he had gotten somewhat used to being unable to scan everything. It had become increasingly obvious to you though, that about eighty percent of Connor’s social cues came from those readings. 

“I need to get a bed.” Connor said abruptly. Case in point.

“You spoil me.” you said, huffing a laugh, “Hank will lose his mind! Plus, I have a bed at my place.”

“We need the space for when you’re here.” Connor countered.

“Yeah, for fuckin’ .” you said with a suggestive wink.

“Only when Hank is out.”

You went quiet then, not sure if that was deadpan humor or just another case of Connor being… well, Connor. Your silence must have disquieted him with his inability to interpret your emotions through scans at the moment, because he fidgeted and added. 

“If that’s even something—”

“Buy a bed.”

Connor said nothing, he didn’t have to, the smug smile on his face spoke volumes. 

“Did you find one?”

“My internet access is still down.” Connor said, disappointment in his voice, “All my access is still down. The quiet was nice at first, but now it’s just annoying .”

“Kamski said it’d take two to three days for you to not be a cute paperweight anymore.”

Connor made a gruff sound in the back of his throat.

“You’re the paperweight.” he said lowly, fingertips finding your ticklish side. You yelped trying to scoot into the back of the sofa but there was truly no more room to go anywhere. You pushed yourself up instead, Connor not resisting as you took his wrists and pinned his arms above his head. He couldn’t see you, but he could see where your form blocked the light, eyes meeting yours regardless.

“Are you okay?” you said, for the hundredth time probably that day.

“No.” Connor said, the word coming out like a breath. It was the first time he had answered honestly that day.

“Can I help?”

“You already do. Are. Did .”

You released his wrists, settling on your forearms so you could lean in.

“Close your eyes.”

He did and you gently brushed your lips over his closed lid, left then right. You kissed the high point of his cheek and then settled on the corner of his mouth. He kissed back then, soft and chaste. When your lips brushed against the side of his neck you felt his body uncoil beneath you, completely at your mercy.

Then, slowly you moved lower, easily finding his heart. You pressed your lips over the thrumming. Connor shuddered, finally reaching down to stroke his hand through your hair. You came back up then, hovering your lips so close to his own he parted them, trying to follow the ghost of your breath.

Your kiss was gentle and this time it was Connor who licked your bottom lip, coaxing you to open your mouth. There were no scans to distract, Connor was wholly in the moment of sensations, no lab or reports to distract him and he seemed very interested in taking advantage of it.

“Why is it whenever we get somewhere good, I’m always dying of sleep deprivation?” you said with a sigh against his lips.

“We’re busy people.” Connor said dryly in turn and you scoffed lightly before burying your face into his neck. Connor held you a bit tighter than he usually did, but you hardly minded it.

“I need a shower.” you said with a mumble, peppering a few more quick kisses to his jaw before you untangled yourself from him and got up. Your entire body creaked in protest, your shoulders and back giving a few pops as you stretched.

“You could use one too, you still smell like Thirium.”

“It should have evaporated by now.” Connor said, not moving.

Seriously— eighty percent of his social cues were in those damn scans.

“Connor,” you said with an exasperated sigh, “I’m trying to invite you to come with me.”

There was a profound silence and you noted Connor’s eyes widened just a fraction.

“Oh.”

“I mean you don’t have to..." 

“No no, you’re right. I definitely still have Thirium in my hair.” Connor’s words were nearly rushed as he got up off the sofa, reaching out to take your outstretched hand. He bumped into the door frame slightly as you guided him with you into Hank’s bathroom down the hall.

“Towels?”

“In a closet over there.” Connor pointed in a general direction. You managed to find it, getting a couple for you both. Surprisingly you didn’t feel too horribly shy about this. It wasn’t like Connor could see right now anyway.

You closed the bathroom door a fraction and set the towels down, moving to the shower and adjusting the nozzles until the water was comfortably warm.

Connor made no move and neither did you, both of you just standing like a couple of idiots staring at the walls (though Connor had more of an excuse).

Finally you took the hem of your shirt in your hands and tugged it over your head, tossing it into the corner. You were already shimming out of your jeans by the time Connor began to undress.

He was perfect in every meaning of the word, fair and freckled. It was hard to think he was so strong when his body was so lean, more slender than muscular. You unclasped your bra and slipped off your panties, eyeing him slightly for any sign that sight had come back. Connor didn’t react.

You checked the water on your hand, looking back as Connor slipped off the rest of his clothes. Josh had not been kidding when he suggested a detective model wouldn’t have the uh— hardware. It wasn’t anymore startling than seeing Connor without his skin, in fact, that had felt even more intimate and Connor had been only half undressed then.

You stepped into the shower first, offering Connor your hand to stabilize him.

“Ugh— old spice three in one? I guess beggars can’t be choosers.” you said, noting that everything in this shower clearly only belonged to Hank. Connor seemed distracted by the water, turning his arms over in the spray. He stepped into it closer, letting the hot water beat onto his back and neck.

“That feels nice.” He concluded, “I never do this, since I do not sweat there isn’t a need to.”

“Gross.” you said, laughing at the exasperated look Connor shot you.

“Alright, c’mere.” you said, taking some of the gel into your hands from the bottle. It smelled overwhelmingly of citrus and cedarwood. Connor inclined his head forward to help you reach as you gently lathered his hair, noting the suds turned a faint blue. You felt for the seams you had seen in his scalp before, but found none. Water and soap slid down in trails across Connor’s face, but he didn’t seem bothered by it, closing his eyes at the touch more than to avoid getting anything into his eyes.

You stood up as tall as you could, reaching past his shoulders to get to the back of his head and neck. You were so absorbed with figuring out how to best carry out the task that it took a moment for you to register that the slick softness against your breasts and stomach was Connor’s own body, bare and wet. 

Your hands froze and you bit back an awkward apology because Connor hadn’t said a word, so..? Maybe he hadn’t really paid attention to it either?

“Okay, you can rinse.”

Connor tilted his head back into the stream, rubbing his hand over his eyes when he was finished to clear off the water. He blinked a couple times and then squinted.

“I can see shapes.” he said, almost cheerful. You waved your hand in front of his eyes and watched them move slightly, following the motion, albeit with some lag. He reached out, fingers running through the wet strands of your hair.

“Your turn.”

You wanted to protest and you had a couple legitimate reasons to start with, such as nasty guy- smelling shampoo and Connor being blind , but he seemed to be having no trouble pointing at the red bottle and gesturing to give it to him. The smell of lime and cedarwood was heavy again as you turned around and felt Connor’s hands gently smooth into your hair.

It felt heavenly . His touch was excessively gentle, taking his time as he pulled the shampoo through your hair, his fingertips dragging over your scalp in long soothing strokes. You tilted your head back, giving a contented sigh. Connor gently nudged your head to one side, cradling you lightly as your neck was exposed to him. He kissed your damp skin there where your pulse beat, one of his hands now tracing its way down your arm instead of washing your hair.

When that same hand ghosted across your stomach and seemed intent on going lower you tensed, catching his hand with both your own. 

“T-time to rinse. Gotta get out before we use up all the hot water.” you said, stumbling a bit over your words as his fingers curled around yours. 

“Are you sure?” Connor said, low and breathy and right by your ear. He couldn’t have not felt the shudder that ran up and down your body, spreading goosebumps up your arm despite the heat of the water.

“Connor, I— it just seems a bit uh… unfair.”

“Because I have no genitalia?”

“Oh my god.” you said, grumbling under your breath.

“I could change that.” Connor said and you could practically hear the little smug smile on his lips. He enjoyed your freak-outs a bit too much for an android that was supposedly oblivious.

Oh my god. ” was your only coherent response, still holding onto his hands as you pressed the back of yours against your forehead.

“Nope. Mood ruined. This is now a one woman shower, I’m gonna have to ask you to leave, officer.”

“I can’t see.” Connor said with an audible pout, “You’re going to make me get out on my own?”

Really?

You turned then, confronting Connor’s smugness yourself. He only laughed, oblivious to any shyness you had expressed before as he gathered you close in his arms. You huffed, your body rigid in his grasp, but now more of spite than embarrassment. 

“You think you’re just so cute.” you said, exasperation in every word.

“So do you.” Connor said in turn, not seemingly to care at all about the soap on your hair as he pressed a kiss into the wet strands.

“You mean, “So are you”? Why yes, yes I am." 

“That too.”

“Don’t think this makes up for all the worry you put me through, mister. You have a lot of kissing up to do.”

And on cue, he snuck in for one and you could feel his smile on your lips.

“Not what I meant.”

“It’s what you said.

“You’re just trying to butter me up so I don’t make you talk about your feelings anymore today.”

“We can talk about my feelings, I just prefer it be about my feelings on you.” Connor said, scoring a critical hit directly to your heart.

“Tempting. But if you think you’re getting out of a visit to Jericho today, you’re dead wrong.”

Connor said nothing at that, which told you well enough that the subject was not a laughing matter, even as light-hearted as you both had tried to be. His embrace became less of a teasing grapple and more of a genuine need for touch then, his hands running up and down the dip of your spine, enjoying the sleek smoothness of your wet skin.

You rested your cheek into his chest, your own arms snug around him now. The water was cooling, so the heat of each other was welcome.

“What if they…” Connor started and then stopped, biting back words.

“Go on.”

“What if they can’t forgive me.”

You pulled back to look at him.

“I don’t know, Connor. I want to say that won’t happen, but if it does… we’ll figure it out. We’ll get there.”

He nodded gravely, but also with resolve.

“Together?” he asked with a little hesitation. There was none in your own reply.

“Always.”

Chapter Text

It had come to your attention that while the androids from the explosion had been repaired and it was feasible to assume they had returned to the housing site, Jericho had officially taken possession of the old CyberLife shipping facility. You supposed with everything going on, DCRU hardly was prepared to concern itself with whether androids were housing off-site instead. Many androids already chose not to live in the housing community, but those who did, did so for many reasons, the top being safety and the inability to rent or buy their own homes.

Connor’s systems had not yet returned to normal, vision included. He could see enough to avoid walking into things but still he kept close, not letting go of your hand even when you approached the gates and passed through the android-manned checkpoint. The DCRU guards had all gone.

Some of the guards exchanged looks at the sight of Connor, but with no visible LEDs you only had their expressions to read into their thoughts. You remembered how to get into the main warehouse floor from before, passing past another set of android guards as you headed inside. You were surprised to find there were several people there, more so than before. It was obvious that many androids were now living here rather than choosing to remain at the DCRU facility, several areas blocked off or otherwise done up to be more “homey.”

You had mixed feelings on it. On one hand, the androids would eventually control their own communities, that was the plan. But on the other? This felt more like the kind of hiding the androids did at the original Jericho ship, not community building.

It felt like a step backwards.

You were not sure where you were going, but Connor had begun to lead, drawing you through the floor as if he could still somehow sense the presence of Markus. You turned to look behind, feeling a tense sensation at your neck, like you were being watched. You noted you both were clearly being tailed by the guards from the door. You squeezed Connor’s hand reassuringly and he squeezed back.

You reached an office with a window that faced outward into the warehouse floor. Inside, you could clearly see the Jericho four, who all turned to look as you stood in the doorway.

You gave a small wave.

Simon and Josh both looked surprised, but it was North who immediately moved, heading toward the door with a stern expression before Markus caught her by the arm and stopped her. They exchanged a look, but you didn’t see any words, only Simon gently coming up and touching North’s arm, talking to her with a soft expression. Markus left without a word, opening the door and coming out into the hall as North watched on, trying her best to hide what you saw as unmistakable hurt. Simon appeared apprehensive, looking after Markus and then to North.

It couldn’t have been easy for him, always being caught in the middle.

Speaking of apprehension, Connor’s hand gripped yours even tighter as Markus approached, but a look that could only be described as pride was in his mismatched eyes.

“You’re free?” Markus asked, voice filled with softness.

Connor only nodded hurriedly, struggling to find words as Markus put his hand on his shoulder and then pulled Connor into a tight embrace. You noted he did so with both arms easily, meaning the gunshot wound must have already been attended to.

Connor released your hand to return the hug, tentative at first but then Markus said something beyond your hearing and Connor now held on in earnest. When they parted, Markus pressed his forehead to Connor’s, shutting his eyes and smiling softly. Connor looked a bit dazed.

“I am happy for you, brother.” Markus said, “I truly am.”

“...Markus, we need to talk.” Connor said as they parted, “I—there are things that… there are things I need to tell you.”

You knew how hard it was for Connor to say this, the words stuck on his tongue until he finally spat them out, his contempt for himself evident in them. Markus did not anger though, he only listened, nodding.

“Come with me. This is something best spoken between us.”

Connor grimaced, “You can’t be alone with me. Not after what happened.”

“As much as I hate to agree with you… we’ll keep some units nearby if it makes you feel more comfortable.” Markus said. Connor simply nodded and Markus gestured to the two people who had been following you since you came in. 

“Do you mind if I steal him away for a moment?” Markus directed at you.

You shook your head, nearly as nervous and jittery as Connor had been at first. 

“His scans are down and he can’t see very well so… keep close.” you said, Markus nodding with understanding.

Connor gave you a sidelong look and you knew just by the expression in his eyes he didn’t want you to leave him alone with Markus at all … but you trusted him. Markus trusted him. After everything, you were near to certain that this was something Connor needed, even if it wasn’t what he wanted.

Gently, Markus led Connor away with him, leaving you with the other three Jericho members. Josh was already up and ready for a hug the moment you walked in and you gave it happily.

“Where have you been ?”

“Nice to see you too, ---.” Josh said, “And working. Someone’s gotta keep the DCRU on track. People still need places to live, setbacks or not.”

“You missed a hell of a setback.”

“I heard.” Josh said, looking over to Simon and North. North did not come to greet you, perched on a table with her arms crossed and mostly hidden from you by Simon standing in front of her. Eventually Simon did come over, but instead of offering you his hand to shake, he too hugged you briefly.

You felt your face heat up, but you smiled brightly.

“I’m glad you came out the other side of that okay.” Simon said, “Without the DPD we might have lost both girls and Kara too. Speaking of which… North said you were looking for Kara?”

“I… I’m not sure. If she’s who I think she is then I have been.”

“Who’s that?” Josh said, raising an eyebrow.

“Before the revolution, before a lot of things, my mom got sick. Breast cancer. She’s okay now, but for a while we had a home assistant android. She was an AX400 and we called her Rachel.”

You risked a look over at North and noted the other woman stood and slowly was making her way over.

“North said it was unsafe to keep digging through her files. I guess she musta been shut down and sold ‘refurbished.’ ”

North nodded, “She was. She belonged to a Todd Williams for several months before she deviated and came to Jericho.”

“So it was her. That blonde girl— Kara .”

Part of you felt disappointed having been unable to speak to her, to see if she remembered and to tell her how sorry you were for abandoning her—but there was also an undeniable relief. It washed over you like balm on a wound.

“Is she safe?”

“She and Ripple got through to Canada by early this morning.” Simon answered, “Kara actually has asked you to reach out to her.”

“Really?!”

Simon smiled at your enthusiasm, “Really. When she checked in, North mentioned your story to her. Kara is very interested in ‘getting to know you again.’ Her words.”

“Kara’s a kind woman.” Josh added.

“Living in hell does that to some people.” North said, noting only after that her words had a profound effect on you, your expression falling.

“Anyway,” North said, hurrying past the topic, “I can’t help but notice you brought him back with you. If it had been up to me he’d be on a lea—”

“North. Please don’t make any dog jokes.” you said, shocking even yourself with the sternness in your voice, “You don’t understand what happened to him, what they did to him.”

“No more than what they’ve done to any of us.” North said, but something about her tone didn’t so much convey understanding but contempt. As if she found it annoying Connor still struggled. 

“It’s different, North. He still had them in his head, sitting and waiting.”

“Which he should have broadcasted the seriousness of more.” North replied curtly. Simon looked to be trying to ignore the conversation entirely while Josh flicked you a look that said he was on your side.

“I just wish you’d look at it from his point of view. I’m sorry, it’s just… I just don’t understand why you’re so hateful towards him.”

You had expected her to explode, to be angry, but instead she took one look at Simon, who appeared almost in physical pain , and seemed to be trying to just keep her face neutral as possible. Her brows twitched from the effort.

“I’ll take that into consideration.” was all she said before she walked out of the room. You couldn’t quite process it, finding yourself more shocked by that response than if she had lashed out.

Simon just looked… sad . Josh sighed.

“It’s not you.” Simon said, noting the look of discomfort on your face, “There have been multiple conversations in the past few hours that have been unpleasant to say the least.”

“That happens when you start encouraging a schism in your community.”

You looked to Josh, who Simon was now giving a look that said this wasn’t a conversation he was about to have again.  

“Simon… are you okay? I feel like sometimes everything gets so wrapped up in those two that I don’t even know that much about you.”

Simon looked a bit startled to be put on the spot, but he smiled with such genuine warmth you understood now why he was suited to childcare before the revolution.

“They’ll be okay.”

“And you?”

“...It’s not—it’s not something to trouble yourself with. You’re very kind, but… some things are just better left between the three of us.”

You didn’t press further, instead peering out the window to see if you could spot where Markus had run off to. It actually wasn’t hard at all, because he was currently with Connor surrounded by a dozen or more of the androids who had been residing in the facility. You felt your heart jump and you quickly walked out the door.

“---? Where are you going?” Josh’s voice fell behind you as you quickly walked straight for the crowd. One android stepped forward, a young woman with dark brown hair. She reached forward towards Connor, who after a moment, took her hand. Their skin drew back, white casing touching.

Then, someone behind her reached out and touched her shoulder, their own casing fading. One by one each of them touched the other, creating a web of their own until at last Markus placed both his hands on Connor’s back, his casing fading too.

You became aware then how dead silent it was in the entire room, all eyes fixed with almost reverence upon the moment. It was like watching a baptism, or a confirmation, each android bowing their heads as the connection between them all splayed out. They all took turns to touch hands with Connor after the initial bonding, Markus consistently at his side.

When it was over you could barely bring yourself to speak, watching as Connor lifted his head looking over the crowd until eventually his eyes settled on you and you knew he could see you. Not in a metaphysical sense, but in a true physical sense. He blinked, looking again around the room at all the people gathered around him, all of them coming to take his hand.

“They tried to control you,” Markus began, “To make you into a monster. But they have failed in the face of your soul, your being. You are your own, Connor. You are human and we are all here to witness that truth today.”

The way Markus spoke you could hear and see the change in him, feel the swell in your own chest that his conviction and his words brought out not just in you but in everyone who heard him speak.

“You are our brother. Our kin. Your trespasses are forgiven as we ask you to forgive ours and to witness the same truth within us.”

“I do—I have.” Connor said, speaking to Markus directly and with such earnest. You’d never known Connor as a machine, but you had always known he held such shame still for his actions back then. This is what he needed. This is what he wanted. You had known since you’d said the words to him yourself only hours prior… forgiveness.

But now, standing here watching his people surround him, you hoped he saw that he’d always had it. He just had to ask.

Markus embraced Connor again and this time there was no hesitation in Connor’s return of it. Josh had come alongside you at some point, his own eyes fixed on the scene.

Wow .” was Josh’s only word, but somehow the way he said it conveyed more than you would have thought.

“Yeah… wow. Markus… he really is—”

“A leader?”

“Yeah. Yeah.

“I would die for him.” Josh said, the abruptness drawing your attention fully on him, “I would. All of us would. He’s everything , ---. You get that now, right?”

“I… think so. Partly.” you settled upon, not fully and truly understanding, but still knowing that you saw now in all their eyes the same thing the Jews must have seen thousands of years ago. The Romans. The people of Mecca. This is how religion was born. It was easy to see how they could all look at Markus and see someone who was divine, who was beyond their understanding.

Was it just programing? A difference between him that had been hardwired and coded, perhaps even by Kamski himself? Or was it simply because he was Markus . Because his experiences and emotions had molded him into someone who others followed? Who they loved without condition?

Even Connor looked at him now with a renewed expression of awe, but for him, the moment did eventually pass and you saw that the looks exchanged between them now were that of people who stood on equal ground. Markus said something to him, too far away for you to hear, and then slowly the group began to disperse. A few people still lingered to greet Connor, but for the most part the congregation disbanded.

When Connor returned to you, he did so without guidance, taking your hands in both his and bringing them up to kiss the back of your knuckles briefly.

“What did he say? There at the end?”

“He said he couldn’t have done this without me.” Connor said, sheepishly, as if he didn’t quite believe it, “Those people… they are some of the people I freed.”

“Connor, I—I don’t even know what to say. That’s just… that you did that? That you freed thousands of them? It’s just… incredible. You’re incredible, you know that?”

Connor looked away shyly, but he held your hands still tight.

“I did a lot of things I am not proud of to get to that point.” Connor said, “I’m still making up for that. I think I always will and—I think that I can be okay with that.”

“This is some Ten Commandments level shit right here.” you said, still trying to process everything and failing at eloquently doing so. Connor appreciated the humor however, even if Josh only scoffed and rolled his eyes.

“I prefer that analogy over the other ones.” Markus said, approaching the three of you, “If I had to pick, I mean.”

North appeared then, eyes sharp as they finally caught onto Markus. She hurried to his side, urgently taking his arm. That wasn’t uncommon for North, but you could tell this was different.

“Markus—the news. Come on.”

She took his hand and you all made your way over to where a group of androids was huddled around a large screen. Even Simon had ventured over here, shooting Markus a nervous look before reaching over and turning up the volume.

You huddled in close, trying to see over everyone.

“—the question is now being asked, can an android stand trial? Legislation has been slow moving on the official franchisement of the android people as a classified ‘race’ of their own. Currently, androids are unable to own or rent, work in most professions or qualify for any assistance or rights as are given to human beings. Government and charities such as the Red Cross have been pooling their resources to provide residence for the displaced androids, but the process has had many setbacks, including an attack that occurred just last month.

The current ADA Marissa Habot has stated she would be pressing charges against a recently apprehended WR400 model that is under suspicion of being involved in the slaying of Michael Graham, son of the major manufacturer Lewis Graham. His youngest son, Lucas Graham, has been associated with the Detroit Crisis Response Unit and their efforts to rehome androids in the city. We go live with him now—Mr. Graham…”

The image of a man in his thirties appeared in the side screen. Brown hair and blue eyed, he was quite handsome in a tailored suit and neat-clipped beard. It was hard to imagine he was a mastermind who orchestrated terrorist attacks on the side. You saw ahead that Simon had wrapped his arm around North reassuringly. Markus’ own hand was on her shoulder which she covered with her own hand tightly. The boys closed ranks around her, as if they could protect her from his visage.

“...You have, in the face of family tragedy, donated thousands of dollars to assist the android population. How can you have such compassion for their plight after you lost so much?”

“Well, Mr. Webb, I recognized that in order to prevent such tragedies that androids needed a safe haven to call their own. A place where they could be protected from mankind and, even more so, to protect mankind from those within their ranks who are prone to violence.”

There was palpable tension, even from you now. He had all but said the DCRU housing project was to keep androids carroled for the safety of humans.

“I hold no animosity for them as a whole, only for those who safeguard and harbor known murderers from justice. Now, justice can be found for my brother. I personally thank the DPD for their efforts in locating the suspect, as android assistance in the matter was obviously not forthcoming.”

“Mr. Graham, are you suggesting the androids have been knowingly harboring these criminals?”

“Yes I am, Mr. Webb. It may be well-meaning, but ultimately it is a sign that these androids see themselves as being above our laws. If they wish to be a part of this society, they must bend and obey… as we all do.”

The screen clicked back over to the newscaster.

“That’s all the time we have today. A hearing will begin this coming week on whether androids have the right to a fair trial under their current status and whether they are entitled to representation under the law. We may very well see a new precedent to android personhood in the coming days. I’m Douglas Webb and this is Channel 16 news.”

The screen clicked off.

“...Bend and obey.” North repeated, deflated but somehow still furious, “Markus… we have to be there, we have to do some kind of demonstration to remind them all we are alive.

“For once, I agree.” Josh said, “We have to show that we support her, but that we support the law too and we don’t see ourselves above them.”

“Not exactly what I had in mind.” North said, “But at this point, if it gets us out there, I don’t care.”

Markus looked to Simon, something silently passing between them before Simon gave a slight nod.

“We’ll begin organizing immediately.” Markus said, “Spread the word through the housing site and to our brothers and sisters who live outside those walls. We need unity in this time. For Echo.”

You swallowed hard, waiting for North and a few others to depart before you approached Markus. Connor was nearby, but he knew that look on your face well enough by now. He had no plans to interrupt.

“Markus, this isn’t like before. Marching could get you in trouble with DCRU. They could try and implement curfews, or even expel you from the site.”

“If you haven’t noticed, some of us are already preparing in the event we need to expel ourselves .”

You had noticed and it filled you with silent dread.

“This isn’t—this isn’t what I want for you and your people, Markus.” you said, finding your throat tight with anxiety. Markus was sympathetic, but ultimately he seemed to look at your naivety with something more akin to pity. Regardless, his voice was still kind.

“Do you think it is what I wanted?”

“...No.”

“I want this to work, but at the end of the day, the one who has the most care and motivation to see our people treated with fairness is our people.” Markus said and you could tell he did not do so lightly, “This is our moment. Our moment before the laws of this land. It’s as important if, not more so, than the 12th of November. The people at DCRU should understand that and if they don’t, unfortunately, I cannot concern myself with their worries. Not now. Not in this.”

Markus paused, debating as you often saw Connor do on whether he wanted to say more.

“Maybe I can unite us again with this,” he said, his voice strained. It was just enough to confirm to you what Josh had already hinted. There was division growing among the androids and you could guess on what topic they were divided. There were those like North, those now residing here in this empty warehouse, who wanted to leave Detroit and make their own way. And then there was Markus and his followers, desperately trying to make harmonious living with humanity work.

“I have to try.” Markus said, his shoulders falling as he met your eyes. There was fire in them, yes, but it was a tempered flame. It was not like the raging storm in North’s heart, but a steady and constant burn. 

“Is there anything I can do?” you said, words coming so easily, so genuinely that Markus smiled softly.

“You do so much already.” Markus said and you felt your face get hot as you stumbled over protests and dismissals.

“No. Don’t discount yourself.” Markus said again, interrupting your fumblings, “...You give us hope. Josh, Simon and even North… to the people you’ve never even met but who know what you’ve struggled and fought to do for us.”

Markus looked up and nodded at Connor.

“I know you give him that too. More than anyone.”

Connor didn’t say anything, but did silently take your hand again in his, lacing his fingers with your own.

“You’re a human who sees us. Who loves one of us. You care and you try, and I want you to know that we see you too.”

Words escaped you in that moment, tears pricking behind your eyes as you took in a shaking breath. You’d felt like such a colossal fuck-up these past few months between DCRU and the DPD and even Ralph’s words about Rachel… hearing Markus say these things, seeing the genuine gratitude and acceptance in his eyes? It was too much, you felt like your chest would burst from the overwhelming joy at having his praise. At having his confidence.

“T-thanks.” was all you could manage, but Markus knew well enough by your reaction, and his own scans no doubt, how genuinely you meant that one simple word.

“If we need anything, I will call. The hearing is two days from today. Once the march is organized, I will tell you where we will gather.” Markus said, looking between you both, “Perhaps you’ll join us.”

You had already decided.


 

Home was a welcome sight after all the time spent away. You all but collapsed on your sofa, curling a soft pillow in the circle of your arms as you stretched out, groaning obscenely in total comfort. There was something about being in your own space, about smelling your own perfume or other scents that made up your home and you that was comforting. Connor came to join you and you pulled your legs up until he sat and then placed them over his lap. He sunk back, one hand resting on the top of your knee and tracing circles into the side with his thumb.

A collective sigh huffed out from both yours and his chest and you couldn’t help but laugh a little.

“I feel like I could sleep for a day.”

“Technically, since we are both now on leave, we could.”

“Oooh, yes. Talk dirty to me.” you said with a fake seductive dip in your voice.

“Could order pizza. I’m told pizza is a popular human comfort food.”

“Mmmmm… And?” you mumbled, closing your eyes and snuggling into your pillow further.

“Movie marathon. Or I could read to you.” Connor considered for a moment and then suggested with clear eagerness, “You could read to me.”

“Sexy.” you said with a conclusive nod. Connor scoffed, throwing an arm over the back of the sofa as he stretched his legs out, careful not to bang his shins on the coffee table.

“Though at some point, you should inform the DCRU of Markus’ intentions and… I should inform the DPD.” Connor said, reality coming back to the forefront. As much as you’d rather sink into oblivion and never think about work again, he was right. You were going to have to figure out how to tackle this situation and what your responsibilities were now that you were aware of Markus’ plans. There was also the matter of Lucas Graham to consider and whether or not there was going to be any fallout from your involvement in the previous night’s events with Echo.

You highly doubted it, no one there knew where you were and no one at the DPD or Jericho had any reason to address it. There was also the matter of Connor. Everyone from the DPD definitely was going to know about what happened with him.

“Has Fowler contacted you? Hank?” you asked gently, not wanting to force the point. Connor’s LED hadn’t changed from pale blue.

“Hank and I have been messaging. Fowler didn’t suspend him, but he will be under scrutiny. My status is… uncertain. Hank is attempting to explain what happened, but it is a complicated topic.”

Connor hesitated before finally saying, “Most likely there will be an inquiry and an examination of my place at the DPD before I can return.”

“Connor, I’m so sorry.” you said, sitting up so you could look at him directly. Connor just gave a small sad smile.

“There are consequences to omitting the truth. I have no right to be upset.”

“Being upset isn’t about whether you have the ‘right,’ Connor. It just is.” 

He seemed to consider this for a moment and then gave a faint nod, allowing his expression to show his apprehension now.

“Something to think about for tomorrow.” he concluded, relaxing again into the sofa and giving your knee a squeeze.

“You sure?”

“Yes. You need to rest and quite frankly, so do I.” he sighed again, “The other androids helped to cycle the firmware more. My connections are back, if not a bit unstable.”

“They gave you back your vision too.” you said, not a question but a confirmation.

“Yes. Some rudimentary scans have returned as well. I have full network access again, but Kamski was correct. I can not access CyberLife databases. I never realized how much information I cycled from them until now. I will need to adjust my sources, which will take some time.”

“Nap time then?”

“Yes. Nap time.” Connor said and you slowly laid back down into the cushions, stretching lazily before you could will yourself up.

“...But there is something else that I’d like to do first.”

You hummed a question and then a sound of protest as Connor moved your legs and got up. He smiled at your indignation, but continued through the living room into the kitchen. You watched him, a rush suddenly raising through your heart as he opened a draw and produced a small paring knife.

“Uh—Connor?”

“It’s alright. Give me a second.” Connor said, keeping the knife sharp point down as he crossed the room and headed to the bathroom. You got up, following after him with clear concern.

“What are you doing?” you said, poking you head in. Connor was at your bathroom mirror, gently running a fingertip over the edge of his LED, eyes narrowed and fixed on his reflection.

“I want it off.” Connor said, simple and firm. He looked at you, but clearly was not looking for your approval. There was conviction in the set of his jaw and his eyes.

“I’ve thought about it for a long time. At first, I kept it because… I felt like it showed I wasn’t ashamed of what I am. Most androids remove their LEDs for safety, to ‘pass’ as human. Not all of us have it so easy however. Some are damaged, some have other markers or features that point them out for what they are. But… I’m just tired. I don’t want my LED to be the first and only thing people see. For now, I’d like it gone.”

He turned back to the mirror.

“It’s not what I am. It was just a reminder of the machine I was, a reminder to be better and... I don’t need that anymore. I have people that remind me.” Connor paused, a soft laugh falling from his lips, “I have a family .”

Whatever you thought to say was lost when you noticed the tremors in his hands, the knife unsteady. 

“Your hands are shaking.” 

Connor frowned and said, “My systems are still… I’m nervous.” he corrected halfway. You stepped into the bathroom then and looked from the knife to Connor’s LED several times.

“You took it off once before, when I came to the precinct.” you said, not dismissing his concerns, but simply trying to understand.

“That… was different.”

“Really? How so?”

“The probability—” Connor stopped himself, switching from the impersonal explanation to the emotional, “—I was scared you’d see me differently than you did in the coffee shop.”

“Would that have really been so bad?” you asked, voice soft, “If I didn’t like you for who you really were, why would you want to know me?”

“I really liked you.” Connor said, “That overruled much of my logic.”

“You had a crush on me.” you said, giggling for just a moment. Connor smiled at you, incredulous but somehow still so warm. As if your very being, your entire self was at times beyond his comprehension, but still he held for you such open adoration. You could see it now in his eyes.

“Will it hurt you?”

“I don’t feel pain, ---.”

“Yes, you do.” you said, voice almost a whisper now as you met his eyes, unwavering, looking nowhere else but at him and he at you.

“Not this kind.” Connor said and gave you a wink for good measure.

He hesitated only for a moment and then once again found the ridge of his LED with the tip of the knife. He slowly released the seal across the circumference of the device in a practiced movement.

There was very little Thirium, the LED a flash of yellow before it flickered to grey and stopped glowing. Connor held it in his palm, dropping the blue tipped knife in the sink. He observed the small ring for awhile, rolling it between his fingers like he would one of his coins before he flicked on the water and rinsed it clean.

Then, he took your hand and pressed the LED into your palm, closing your fingers around it. He didn’t say anything, only searched your eyes for understanding, for acknowledgement. You clenched your fist tight, holding this tiny piece of him and feeling in your chest the enormity of this moment as it bore down on your heart.

“Keep it safe for me? In case I change my mind?”

You reached out, thumb tracing the spot where his LED had been as you pressed your closed fist to your heart. You didn’t need to answer with words, he knew.

It seemed only reasonable that his next action would be to kiss you, but it still sent a thrill through your heart and set off a whirlwind in your mind that dashed away everything, all thoughts except for you and him. You arms went up and around his neck, holding him fast when he bent and picked you up, your legs wrapped securely around his waist. He held you like it was nothing, as if you were weightless, which was honestly how you already felt. Weightless and breathless as he carried you into your room.

You worried at the skin of his neck with gentle but demanding bites as he tipped you both unto the bed. You moved yourself back, Connor close behind as he hovered above you. When you settled back into the pillows, he in turn enveloped you and it wasn’t long before hands were moving beneath clothing, trying to get at the skin there. Connor touched you with such lingering reverence, meanwhile, you were clawing at his back to get his shirt off.

He chuckled, sitting up and finishing the job. You took the chance to scoot up yourself, safely depositing his LED on your nightstand before tugging your shirt off and over your head. Your bra was soon to follow, clothes tossed aside carelessly. Technically, you’d been naked in front of him before, your shyness all but gone even though he had been mostly blind at the time. You could hardly blame Connor then for taking a moment to look at you, trying to resist the faint temptation to cross your arms over your bare chest.

“May I touch you?” he asked, those simple words somehow sending shocks of heat through your body. Or maybe it was because you didn’t even need his LED to tell you that he was affected at the sight of you as you were of him.

“You better.” you said, ever the comedian. And he did, with his fingertips and with the backs of his knuckles, his palm… he ran his hands from your neck to your shoulders, mapping freckles with the dull tips of his fingers, from the swell of your breasts to the curve of your waist. When he had finished exploring with his hands, he used his lips, kissing the hollow of your throat first, the tip of his nose tickling where it occasionally brushed over your heated skin. Connor pressed a biting kiss on your ribs as you arched your back up into the touch. It was gentle, just the placing of teeth and then the stroke of his tongue.

Oh—” you breathed, somehow that being the only coherent statement you could muster as Connor’s hands curled around the hem of your jeans and pulled them down just as far as they could go while still fastened. You yelped when he slid his tongue along the path made by where the top of your thigh connected to your waist. The realization of how close to naked you were already was forefront in your mind, right along with the flat glide of his tongue back up the same trail.

“Wherever I touch you, your blood comes rushing up to the surface.” Connor said, quietly musing before he kissed a spot on your hip and sucked. Your hand went to his hair immediately, running through the soft strands gently, but firmly as you gasped.

He let go, admiring the soft red mark left behind.

You practically had to force your next words, but you wanted to check first and foremost, before you got lost in your heart again, that this was okay. That you were not taking advantage of all the heightened emotions and events that had possibly pushed him to rash choices.

“C-Connor, is this really… I mean—with everything that’s…”

He said your name, stopping your words.

“Is your only concern that you think I am not ready?”

“I… I just want you to be sure. That it is what you want and it’s not—just ’cause you know I want to.”

Connor moved back up towards you, running his hand through your hair as his body gently half-rested on top of your own.

“I’m sure.” he said, eyes dark and lovely with his half-lidded gaze, “It isn’t just because of what you want. It’s also because it is what I want. I—‘care’ does not seem to do it justice, but that is the word.” Connor paused, swallowing hard and his brow furrowing, as if it nearly hurt him to speak of it, “I care about you so much that sometimes it feels like that first moment I changed. When I felt… over and over.”

His voice was quiet as he continued, almost shy, “I’m not programmed for this. For wanting this with someone. But I want it with you. I want to try, with you. If you’ll have me?”

“Every scan in your head has gotta be screaming at you that I will.” you said, repressing a chuckle even if you couldn’t stop yourself from smiling. 

“Still…” Connor said, showing the faintest trace of a smile of his own now, “I want you to say it.”

“Say what?” you asked, biting your lip. It was not an attempt to be coy, but an act of shyness of your own.

“That you want me.” Connor said, his voice low and rough with a kind of eagerness you had not heard before. It was more than physical, it was something deeper and more intense. It was a need to be wanted, not desired, but truly wanted. 

“You know I do.” you said, feeling your face get hot, “You can see everything.”

“I can.” Connor said and you wondered vaguely what color his LED would be right now, “But I would like to hear you say it.”

“You just like making me all vulnerable…” you huffed, wiggling a bit in your embarrassment but finding your were pretty content to stay where you were.

“Yes.” he said, simple and direct, “But just with me. Is that strange?”

“No. Not at all.” you said with a soft relenting sigh, bending your knees so you could press your thighs against his sides, hands lacing behind his neck. You felt nearly breathless again from the way your heart seemed to stop, pausing for one agonizing moment in your chest as you confessed at last, “I want you more than anything , Connor. To have you in my life and to be with you in yours … and that’s the truth.”

Connor’s eyes registered some kind of emotion, a mixing of overwhelming sensations that he didn’t seem to quite know what to do with—at first. The kiss that followed was different from all the ones that had come before. For one, there was a heat to it and a neediness that you’d only felt just briefly when Connor had kissed you after he awoke in Kamski’s lab. It was all-consuming and yet somehow still not enough. You ran your hands down his back, over his shoulders, feeling his skin that was somehow so human and so soft beneath your palms and growing steadily warmer.

Everywhere you both touched was amplified in your mind, the solid feel of his hips where your thighs wrapped around tight, the press of his chest against your own breasts and his mouth. When had they programmed him to do that? You could scarcely catch the breath you’d been holding before, your mind an endless litany of more more more.

You forgot when exactly you’d gotten out of your jeans, but only that Connor had helped which ended with your panties definitely torn from over eagerness. Both were somewhere on the floor with the rest of your clothes now as you fumbled at the zipper on Connor’s jeans, hands fumbling in trying to unfasten the button at the top.

Connor said your name, breaking the kiss as his expression sobered. Reluctantly, he reached between you to stop your hands, “I don’t—”

You recalled suddenly the obvious reason for his stopping you—proper hardware. It was hard to hide the sudden deflation in your body language as you took your hands back, letting them fall above your head.

“Oh—oh right, shit. I’m sorry. It’s totally okay. I uh—I mean. We can just uh… keep doing this. Cause this is nice. This is amazing. I could do this forever.”

Whatever concerns or embarrassment Connor might have felt in that moment was quickly cleared up by your attempts to avoid him feeling just those very things. He gave you a rather curious look, “We can do more. I just can’t do that.

“Feels a bit unfair.” you said, trailing off, “...I can’t make you feel good too.”

“First, that is absolutely untrue.” Connor said, “And second, I don’t need to feel it. I can feel you.” And as he spoke he placed his hand at your neck, sliding his palm down over your flushed skin down to your collarbone.

It felt so good, better than you thought it should. Just the touching alone was enough to make your heart hammer and your entire being sigh with unimaginable contentment. You wanted to disappear into him; you wanted this moment to stretch out forever. Your chest ached unbearably from just the sheer wanting of it.

Connor, in contrast, was patient. Taking his time as he spoke softly.

“I can see how you experience my touch. Your blood flow increases, making your skin blush. All the signs of human arousal.” his hand slid further down, turning to let his knuckles trail over the swell of your breast. You swallowed as he rubbed over your nipple, the sensitive skin already raised and swollen a flushed pink.

“Your breasts get firmer. But even further…” Connor’s hand slid down then in one fluid movement, ghosting over your stomach and down the lines of your hips before finally letting his fingers slip down to glide along your center. You nearly jumped from the barest touch.

“...your vulva and clitoris swell. The vagina begins lubricating itself, preparing to ease the friction of penetration.”

You grabbed his forearm, not to stop him, but to catch yourself as he slowly drew a circle around your clit with his fingertips.

“Eight thousand nerve endings and eighteen distinct parts... all those little pieces working together and all I have to do is this—

You groaned as he pressed harder, rubbed more firmly. You couldn’t control the moving of your hips, rolling up into his hand with impatience. You opened your thighs wider, squirming as he paid attention now to your folds, spreading apart his fingers as he stroked the soft sensitive skin.

“The clitoris is comparable to an iceberg; there is a tip, but the rest spreads out here.”

He stroked down, tips of his fingers pressing and following the outline.

“What does it feel like?” Connor asked, always curious.

“I thought you knew?” you said, panting.

“I want to hear you say it.”

Connor. you said, voice half a whimper. He waited, keeping the slow, agonizing pace and neglecting your clit. It felt good, but if you could just get him to move a little bit higher it would be even better. You moved your hips again, impatient, but suddenly his hand was gone, resting on your thigh and pushing it down flat. He straddled his leg over yours, and now it was much harder to move when his hand returned.

Something in his eyes, hazy and darkened, said Connor wasn’t going to repeat himself.

“It’s good.

“Which parts?” he said, smiling at the corner of his lips.

“Everything from the waist down, to be honest.” you managed, digging your heels into the bed.

“Ah.” Connor said simply. He leaned down and you expected a kiss, but instead his lips pressed to the center of your chest, slowing tracing over the curve of your breasts. When he licked your nipple into his mouth and sucked, you were nearly convinced that strained moan could not have possibly come from you. He’d moved his fingers gently again, and you could already feel a slow building tingling through your center and the familiar tensing in your muscles. Each circle back up earned Connor a tiny jerk of your hips, your thighs clamping down around his leg that still rested between them.

He watched you with rapt attention, eyes absorbing and admiring how your breath had quickened and you could barely control the faint whimpers and desperate attempts to grind into his palm. He didn’t even have to move anymore, and simply just watch as you pressed against him. It wasn’t enough, you were teetering on that edge, almost there but not quite.

Yes, Connor—that’s good, but just a little har…”

You didn’t need to say anything further. The added pressure was all your body needed to go spiraling. There was one lingering moment of tension, teetering right at the top before the release and then the delicious fall as everything contracted and then broke into intense spasms. The pulses were intense, hard and fast. Your thighs trembled as Connor slid a finger inside you then, marveling as you clenched around him.

He occasionally moved the digit, curiously feeling the soft heat of you, your thighs occasionally giving an involuntary jump from the overstimulation. Connor was even breathing less evenly now, pulmonary bio-components working nearly hard as your own lungs.

The pulses subsided and Connor eventually withdrew his hand, examining it curiously as he pressed his fingers together and spread them open, thin lines of moisture connecting them. It didn’t surprise you when he licked his fingertips.

“I… would like to do that again.” Connor said, earning a huffed laugh from you as you were still trying to catch your breath.

“Did I do well?” he asked. For a moment, you thought he was in earnest, but then you saw his eyes had a glimmer of mischief in them and a smirk was playing near the corner of his lips.

“You think you’re so cute.”

“So do you.” he said, still looking smug.

“Yeah, well it’s true.

“Is that a yes then?”

You gave a noncommittal sound, smoothing your hand up and down his forearm before pulling him down to lay next to you. Connor didn’t resist, moving his arm to give you space to cuddle into his side as he wrapped you in close.

“Is there... what can I do for you?” you said, aware that he was looking at you with the same sort of sleepiness you imagined was in your own eyes. Contentment.

“There may be something else we can try, but it is not necessary.”

“What?” you asked, leaning your chin on your arm. Connor seemed uncertain.

“You can tell me.”

“I can’t physically have intercourse... but I once visited the Eden Club and I had to connect with several androids there to get information on a case.” Connor paused, “I could feasibly connect to the memory of their mental processors, the sensations. Like phantom pain, but phantom…”

“Phantom pleasure instead, huh?”

Connor shrugged, “Perhaps. I have the capacity to feel such things, I just lack the parts to set off the sensors. If I use their memories... it can interact with them without possessing the ‘hardware.’ ”

Connor shifted.

“I thought perhaps my using someone else’s memories of the act might make you uncomfortable.”

“Connor.” you said, drawing his attention, “What do you need me to do?”

“I should... probably get undressed.” Connor said, and you moved back to let him undo his zipper and helped him pull the denim off. He seemed shy almost, overly conscious of the smooth empty space between his legs. You situated yourself over his hips, not pausing for one moment. Connor rested his hands on the sides of your waist, running them down your thighs.

“It’s a simulation so—just do what you would do. If we were.”

You didn’t need him to say anything else, you ran your hands up his neck, running your nails dully up his scalp and pulled him into a kiss. He inhaled sharply, arms wrapping around you to pull you snug against him. Something changed in a few moments, because Connor whimpered and you were fairly certain it had nothing to do with your kissing. You moved your hips, but found Connor stopped you, shifting your movements into a specific pace and rhythm. It must have matched whatever was in his mind, because he buried his face into your neck, holding unto you suddenly and tightly.

“Are you okay?” you whispered against his cheek, Connor pawing at you desperately to slow you down again to match a new much slower pace.

“Started... too fast.” Connor murmured and you could feel faint tremors already rippling through his body.

“What does it feel like?” you asked cheekily, tugging his hair so he was forced to tilt his head back to look at you. His pupils were blown out, lips parted and expression almost pained, but you knew well enough that was not the case.

“Very—realistic.” he said, swallowing, “I think.”

“How so? Is it warm?” you asked, enjoying being in a new position to tease him .

“...Yes.”

“Wet?”

Connor moaned .

“C’mon, Con—your turn to answer me.” you said, smiling all the while.

You let your nails run up his back, feeling the artificial muscles tense and shiver. His fingers dug into your hips, pace quickening again. His hands cupped under your bottom, bracing you against him as he turned you unto your back and pressed you into the mattress. Connor took over the movements now, his hips pressing against your center in a slow circular motion. Even without the parts, it felt good. Different, but good.

Connor was shaking again, eyes hazy and far away as a groan worked its way through his throat. You ran your hands up his chest and then around his shoulders, holding unto him tightly. He pressed his forehead into yours, your name a quiet litany on his lips.

“It’s so much. ” he barely managed to say and you swore you could feel the pulse of his thirium pump in your own chest.

Pressure and friction was all you needed and the second time was always easier and faster, washing over you with a little less intensity, but still enough to leave you boneless and satisfied. Connor’s movements became less controlled, throwing his arm out to brace his hand against your bed frame. You could hear the faint groan of metal, but you were more focused on the gasping moan that escaped his lips as his face broke open, his eyes pressing shut as his entire body tensed and his movements became less controlled.

He was left trembling, his body clearly not prepared for the after-waves as he seemed almost in shock by the memories working through his mind. It must have been strange, sensations and feedback burning through his brain for parts he didn’t have and a woman he wasn’t inside. Regardless, Connor let go of the bed frame and was easily dethroned, shoved back flat on your bed as you pressed kisses tohis face.

He heaved a long breath and then laughed, the sound at ease and blissed out. You’d never seen an android high, or otherwise inebriated, but you were pretty sure Connor’s current demeanor expressed that. He tried to return your kisses, but was almost too overloaded to do so effectively.

“How's your temperature readings?” you hummed, drawing another laugh.

High , but I am not in a position to care.”

He grabbed you then, pulling you snug against his chest with both arms. You risked a look up, noting the frame of your headboard was definitely bent.

“Current objective better be ‘buy me a replacement bed frame.’ ” you said teasingly, seeking out the circle of his regulator out of habit and pressing your palm to it. It thrummed, vibrating along with the faint erratic beats of his heart.

“Ah... Connor hesitated, “Do you want to know what it actually is?”

“Absolutely.” you said with unveiled curiosity.

“Recover. Repeat.”

You laughed, a bright, bursting sound to match his own. There was an eagerness to the way Connor made love that was telltale of inexperience, but you hardly were a paragon of romance yourself. Kissing was difficult now though, when you both couldn’t stop smiling long enough to properly do so. You were content to just be near him, indulging in every whim of affection that came to you. Your fingertips made maps of his own freckles and he too couldn’t stop re-exploring, committing now to his memory the dip of your hip bones, the curve of your neck... the soft rise and fall of your breasts. You were both caught up in the simple act of knowing how another felt beneath their hands, their lips; Connor especially as he did all these things for the first time.

First . The words sparked a kind of warmth in you that stemmed from knowing not just how special that further showed you were to him, but from the spot in your own chest where he had taken root and flourished. That sapling had grown now and you knew, somewhere deep down, exactly what it was you felt.

But for now? Recover. Repeat.

Seemed like a good agenda for the rest of the afternoon.