“Where is he!?”
Two technicians rush to Hank as he bursts through the lab doors, trying to restrain him as his demanding yells echo through the white room.
“Lieutenant Anderson, we must insist you calm down and return to-”
Hank jerks out of their grip, heart beating too fast and too frantic to be told what the fuck he needs to do.
“Where the fuck is that prick!?”
The door opens in front of him and Elijah Kamski is walking through, glasses barely hiding the disdainful furrow of his brows as he gives Hank the once-over.
Hank sees red.
He grabs Kamski by his expensive grey cardigan and drags him to the side, throwing him against the wall and relishing in the thud Kamski’s body makes against the shiny plastic walls.
Connor’s last message plays on repeat in his mind. The recorded audio clips that he sends through Hank’s phone now that he’s not able to speak- barely even conscious most days. The small things he leaves Hank in the brief moments of clarity he’s been clawing for with desperation ever since this shit started.
“Thank you, Hank.”
“I love you.”
It was two in the fucking morning, but cold fear had sobered him up from drowziness and dragged him here. To the fucking cold lab that has been keeping Connor alive for the past eight months. The place that he only agreed to let Connor be placed in because there was nothing else left to try and this fucker-
“You told me you could fix this!”
Hank is angry. He holds onto it like the desperate man he is because if he lets go then-
The only thing that’s left is the despair of reality.
The one in which his husband is dead and it’s because of nothing Connor did wrong or deserved. Just human fucking greed and Elijah goddamn Kamski.
“You told me you could fix Connor!”
Kamski is still a bit glassy eyed from being thrown around, but the hands clinging to his wrists show the fucker is lucid enough.
“Is this all some kind of sick joke to you? Did you string me along just to fuckin’- just to-”
And oh god. His voice is cracking. He can’t. He’s crumbling. Connor is dead and he can’t even face his killer without showing just how helpless he is. How helpless he’s been since the beginning.
“If you would just calm down , I’d be able to tell you that Connor is fine. We’ve experienced a setback is all. He’s been moved.”
Hank is shaking a little too much to hear what Kamski is saying, but it all rushes in at once.
Connor is okay?
“Setback? What fucking setback?”
Kamski looks down at the wrists still pinning him to the wall on his toes with a pointed look.
Hank warily lets the bastard down, stepping back to let the weasel slink away from him.
“Follow me and I’ll show you.”
Hank does as he’s asked to. Now that he knows there might be a chance that Connor is somehow still alive after… after-
“His body and mind palace have been compromised for nearly a year, as you are aware. We had to make some unconventional decisions to preserve his consciousness.”
Hank is stepping into a room, Kamski’s three Chloes looking up from their terminals to greet him- three identical smiles on their lips.
Kamski has tried to explain it once before. These Choles are modified. They operate as a network- always have. They share one mind and multiple bodies. A lost body can be replaced without harm to the network- the real being that exists through them.
But the one. The one from the test has always regarded him differently than the other two.
He thinks Kamski is full of utter shit and that these Chloes are more unique from each other than his ego will allow for.
But what does he fucking know.
He’s just a fucking cop, not a programmer. If he was then maybe he would’ve been able to actually help Connor instead of…
Instead of leaving him with the one man who thinks of himself as some benevolent god and android kind as his golems made of clay.
Hank sucks in a breath as he spies Connor laying on a table in the middle of the room.
He’s not in the maintenance lift like he has been since they brought him here. There are no wires attached to him reading his data and keeping him alive.
His LED is…
Hank rushes to Connor’s side, reaching for his head and running his thumb over the dark LED. Connor’s head moves like a limp doll- brown eyes unseeing and lifeless.
“Oh god, Connor.”
He wasn’t here. He let Connor die alone trapped in a room full of all the shit he hated- all the shit that reminded him he was no more than a trial run that was never meant to leave the fucking lab much less-
“He’s not dead, Anderson. What you see is merely the shell that housed his consciousness. It failed suddenly and we had to make a decision on what to do with him.”
Kamski’s voice is rough, tired, but Hank finds the news soothing anyway.
A hand falls on his shoulder and Hank jolts, glancing up at one of the Chloes who are regarding him with a look that he’s not sure he wants to think too deeply on. He thinks he sees empathy- maybe pity. She tilts her head to speak.
“Would you like to see his new home, Lieutenant?”
She doesn’t wait for an answer, merely straightens and walks away towards the corner of the room where a set of black servers lay in their rack.
Hank follows in a daze, a second Chloe approaching his side and helping guide him.
There’s a set of monitors on the desk and thick cables running from the maintenance rig to the servers- the blinking lights and chatter of thousands of tiny chipsets making their computations almost hypnotizing. He only looks away when the monitors comes on and he can see-
He can see streams of code running through at a speed he can’t follow. He knows he’s seeing something important, but he can’t put it together. Not with Connor’s body lying cold and lifeless eight feet away from him and Connor’s earlier words echoing in his mind.
He fidgets with his ring, using the familiar feel of silver on skin to soothe himself and listen to what the Chloes are trying to tell him.
“You can talk to him if you like- though he is still getting used to his new limitations.”
Talk. He can talk to Connor.
That sounds like the greatest thing he could ever do right now.
He nods dumbly and he’s pulled to a chair at one of the monitors, the third Chloe silently typing commands into a keyboard before pushing the panel over to him.
It’s like being in his fucking high school computer class all over again when he sees the blinking cursor on the screen in whatever passes for a command terminal on a goddamn supercomputer.
#313 248 317-51
Hank feels a sob leave his chest.
It’s Connor’s serial number.
He realizes what’s happened. That Connor has been moved to a server wall in Kamski’s lab like data on a computer. That this is the only way they can communicate.
But he’s alive. Connor is alive.
Hank presses enter and the reply is instantaneous.
#313 248 317-51
|I’m glad to talk to you
|I’m sorry that it has to be like this
>I thought I lost you
#313 248 317-51
|I am safe, Hank
|Though this state is not something I ever considered
>Tell me about it
>Are you okay?
#313 248 317-51
|It is strange in here, but not unpleasant
|It is just very
Hank laughs wetly, ignoring the tears running down his cheeks and smiling.
>Bet it bugs the shit out of you
#313 248 317-51
|I can only run at 1/8th of my intended capacity
|This is abject torture
|0 out of 10 would recommend staying here again
Hank laughs again, soothed deeply at the presence of Connor’s dry humor. It means that despite all this shit- Connor is okay. Frustrated. Maybe uncomfortable. But okay.
#313 248 317-51
|It is 3:46 in the morning, Hank
|You should go home
|Your rest is important
>Seeing you is important
>I thought you were dead
#313 248 317-51
|I know, Hank
>I’m just happy you’re here
>Will I see you later?
#313 248 317-51
|I will be here when you return
|Please go to bed
>I love you
#313 248 317-51
|I love you too, Hank
Hank breathes deep as the terminal logs off and leaves him with the stream of data from before. He doesn’t know how long he sits there staring until Kamski is leaning up against the desk next to him.
“We’re working on a more… permanent solution, but for now this is all we could do on such sudden terms.”
Anger and stress and worry collide in Hank’s chest and it comes out as a tired sigh.
“Yeah. I- Jesus. I guess I owe you an apology.”
Kamski takes off his glasses, rubbing at his eyes and Hank realizes just how tired the man looks. He feels like a fucking asshole.
“Add it to the list. You’ll owe me quite a lot when I manage to pull this off.”
The smug haughtiness is back and Hank isn’t sure he should have expected anything else.
“You should take his advice and head home. Chloe will be watching over him while us mere mortals tend to our fleshy prisons.”
The third Chole lets out a sudden laugh and Hank turns to look at her- there’s a gleam in her eyes as she covers her mouth with her hand. It’s new.
“See what I mean? Not an ounce of sympathy.”
There’s amusement in Kamski’s voice and Hank wonders, not for the first time, which of his masks is the real Elijah underneath it all. If this man has been rotating in and out of so many that he himself doesn’t know which one is really him.
He rubs his eyes, groaning. Tired. Too tired to wonder if Elijah Kamski might be more than the cocky billionaire with a god-complex that he’s always been.
It doesn’t matter to him either way as long as Connor is okay.
“Yeah. I’ll uh- I’ll let myself out.”
The second Chloe stands up, helping him to his feet.
“Nonsense Lieutenant. I will ensure you make it safely to your cab home.”
He grumbles about it- he’d driven his own damn car here meaning he’ll have to come get it in the morning but he figures that’s why she’s so stubborn about it. Doesn’t want him driving tired.
He’ll be back tomorrow. He’ll see Connor tomorrow.
They’ll find out what’s happening next.
Maybe they’ll find a way to fix this.
He does his best to ignore the body on the table as he walks out on the room.
That’s not Connor.
Connor is still fighting.
When Kamski told him they were working on a more permanent solution, Hank had thought he’d meant a new body.
The Chloes are typing at individual terminals connected to a shiny white cube in the middle of the floor while Kamski rambles on about it.
“It’s similar to the one holding Chloe’s network, but far more powerful and capable of handling Connor’s needs.”
Kamski goes on and on about the fucking box.
They got it from CyberLife tower. The one that Kamski now owns after the crumble of the business and his return to a position of power within the company. It’s already coded with the RK800 data type and has more than enough storage for Connor’s memories and personality.
Kamski calls it a containment unit- a failsafe should Connor have failed his mission before becoming deviant. It’s been repurposed, but Hank knows what that fucking means.
This was intended to be Connor’s prison. A place where technicians and whoever else could poke and prod at him until they figured out what failed and how to produce a better model next time.
They hadn’t even needed to use it in the end- the RK900 line had been in production well before Connor was let out of his tiny little fucking box and thrown to the wolves as a test. Connor was supposed to go out- collect data. Bring it back to be examined and allow a bigger, better machine take it from there.
It was only by chance and sheer determination that Connor had become more.
He and the rest of the lineup had been scheduled for teardown and repurpose even before Connor had found him in a bar two years ago.
Connor was a prototype. One that had already met its purpose and was supposed to never see the light of day.
But then deviancy happened and so CyberLife threw what they had against it all- Connor.
Hank knows this. Knows all of this and more.
Connor was built to be tested and destroyed. Stronger than most androids yes, but also made with as much care as anything meant to be put in the shredder would be. Hank would know- he’s been helping Connor deal with it ever since the short months after the revolution. The ways Connor’s body and systems would fail him and leave him stumbling.
Connor had tried to hide it, but here they are.
If it had just been the poor quality that Connor was made with holding them back this would have been fixed by now.
There’s a fucking bomb in his code. The thing that’s sapped him of everything from the inside out. Planned obsolescence to ensure the awkward prototype never survived past it’s intended test run.
That’s what they’re fighting.
And this little prison that CyberLife built for him is now apparently the only thing left to try and save him from something that’s clawed so deeply into him there’s no way to separate them without destroying what makes Connor Connor.
It feels like putting someone without lungs on a life support machine. They’ve gotten nowhere in trying to scrub Connor’s code- there’s only desperately keeping him alive until something gives.
And for Hank- it’s starting to feel like the thing that’s going to give is Connor.
“We’ll start the transfer tonight- you should be able to see him again in a few days.”
Hank breathes deep.
It scares him how much he’s willing to put Connor through just so he can feel the relief at knowing Connor is still here with him.
He wonders if he’ll know the point at which it becomes inhumane.
But he also knows that Connor is clinging as desperately as he is and there’s comfort in that. Neither of them want to pull the plug on this yet and Hank isn’t sure they’ll ever hit that point.
Another problem for another day.
He goes home and tries not to think about it too much.
He’s not going to give up until Connor asks him to.
And even then… he’s scared at what he still might do to save him.
Hank thinks one of the most irritating things about Kamski has to be his choice of communication.
He doesn’t call or text like a normal goddamn person.
He uses fucking email.
Perfectly structured and grammatically correct as if Hank is his business partner and not someone he’s doing a favor for just because it gives him an excuse to poke around Connor’s head and be the mediator of life and death.
Regardless of how Kamski’s email makes his teeth grind, he’s relieved.
It’s been four days and Connor is fully settled into his new… home.
Hank can go speak to him. They have a way for them to just talk instead of using that goddamn terminal. He can hear Connor’s voice again instead of just pulling up old files and playing them on repeat until he can finally fall asleep at night.
It’s a relief. And he’ll take it.
Hank smiles. It’s nice to hear Connor’s voice again after everything that’s happened.
Kamski and the Chloes have given them privacy, but Hank knows better than to think this isn’t all being recorded. He’s not sure he gives a fuck either way.
“How’s everything going in there?”
It’s odd talking to the goddamn cube, but there’s nowhere else for him to focus. Connor’s malfunctioning body has long been removed and it’s just him and the quarantine holding Connor together that’s left.
“It’s not as bad as you think, but it is too quiet for my liking.”
“Quiet? Sounds amazing.”
“I would far rather be home with you and Sumo, Hank.”
Hank takes a deep, choking breath.
“Yeah. Me too.”
It’s been a few weeks since the quarantine was set up and Hank feels hope for the first time in a long while.
Inside the cube, Connor is easier to monitor and his code is easier to track. He’s not getting better, but he’s deteriorating far slower than before.
They’d thought initially that the malfunctions were an issue with the body- but two transfers later and things had only gotten worse. Kamski thinks loading Connor into an RK900 shell would perhaps stabilize him, but there’s no way to jump the model lines without rewriting Connor’s mind. Connor can’t be upgraded and he can’t be moved from his little box.
But at least they can slow the damage done.
And maybe that will give them long enough to find a way to fix this.
Hank gets a call in the middle of the day and he knows it’s nothing good because Kamski uses email not a fucking phone. His heart is in his chest the minute he sees the number and he’s already dragging Sumo back to the house before he even answers the call.
“Chloe is doing her best, but I think you need to get here as quickly as possible.”
Hank feels like throwing his cell as soon as he hangs up, but he pulls back just barely.
Connor always hated it when he lashed out.
He puts his cell in his pocket and slams the car door with satisfying force instead, breaking a few speed limits as he races to Kamski’s lab.
The lab is quiet outside of the Chloes rapid typing. Even the third Chloe looks completely focused on her task and Hank isn’t sure how to take it. He can usually draw some kind of smile or reaction from her but she’s gone to whatever she’s seeing on the monitor.
Connor isn’t speaking.
“Something happened a few hours ago and we’ve been doing everything we can, but his processor activity suddenly dropped and we haven’t been able to get it back.”
“Do you at least know what the fuck it is?”
Kamski shakes his head, and for the first time Hank sees just how tired the man looks. Not just from lack of sleep, but the weariness he knows he’s felt himself when he’s been on cases that have no more leads. It’s the sight of someone hitting a brick wall and realizing there’s no more cracks to try and break through with.
“If Connor were human I’d say it’s a coma. As it is… we don’t know.”
Hank folds into a seat in the corner, leaning on his knees with arms and hanging his head low in the sudden silence.
He’s hit with just how unfair all this is. Connor didn’t ask for this- he didn’t deserve this. He’d just wanted to fucking go home.
And now he’s asleep for god knows how long.
The weariness hits him, and so does the grief. The anger. The fear.
He didn’t even get to say goodbye.
It’s three weeks later and Hank is drunk off his ass.
He knows he shouldn’t be. Connor would hate that he’s turned back to this, but he can’t find it in him to care. The house is too fucking quiet and the recordings of Connor’s voice arent enough anymore.
There hasn’t been any improvements. They don’t know what happened. Connor just crashed like an old PC and there’s no way to reach him.
There’s barely enough activity to suggest that Connor is still alive somehow, but there’s nothing left to try until something changes. Until Connor reaches back through on his own.
If he ever does.
Hank has already cried himself hoarse. He’s been in this state of fear and grief since this all started. All that’s left is the anger.
The next morning isn’t any better, but he’s too sick and achy to continue drinking and that’s something at least. Sumo is whimpering at his door and he knows he should be getting up to feed him, but he needs a minute.
He can’t keep doing this. He can’t keep waiting and waiting just for things to get worse.
His heart breaks as the thought crosses his mind once more that he will have to be the one to decide when enough is enough. He hoped that if Connor had to die like this that it would just happen. He hoped he wouldn’t have to be the one to finish it.
He thinks of Cole.
At least with Cole, he hadn’t needed to be the one to kill him.
The sobs wrack his chest again and the desperation is back.
No. He can’t.
He’s taken a cab here- knows he shouldn’t drive considering how long he’s been at the bottle. He’s desperate, afraid, angry. He’s feeling guilty that he can’t take this tragedy like a normal fucking person. He should be making plans and reaching out to family and friends.
But Connor was his family. Connor was the only person he had left that still believed in him whole-heartedly despite how shit things have been for the past few years.
So he’s hurt. And upset. And with the memories of Connor being woven into every other coping mechanism he’s built, he doesn’t want to touch anything but the bottle.
If Connor has to go then he’s done caring about what happens to himself.
The anger and grief is what brought him here.
To a bright and shining fucking house shouting arrogance and wealth and loneliness out of every corner and Chloe just lets him in because she’s already figured out why he’s here and is more than happy to help any way she can. Or maybe she just wants to see Kamski throttled.
Because that’s what he fucking does. Kamski is at the end of an obscenely long white acrylic table that belongs in a villains lair eating a small pile of takeout like he doesn’t have a whole staff to cook for him and Hank sees red.
Kamski is light. Or maybe that’s just the adrenaline. He doesn’t fucking know, but it’s satisfying to just haul him up by his stupid fucking yukata and watch those soulless grey eyes widen in fear as he’s confronted with an angry Hank Anderson that has nothing left to lose.
“You fucking prick!”
He wants to shout. Scream. Beat this rich bastard black and blue just so he can feel like he’s doing something. Something instead of waiting for the day he’s finally ready to come to terms with the fact his husband is dead.
But he doesn’t. Because alcohol makes him weak and emotional and he’s always been a crying drunk. The tears come unbidden and unwanted in the face of what he figures is pure fucking evil.
It’s Kamski’s code inside Connor’s head. Regardless of whatever changes the CyberLife team made to Connor to make sure that he wouldn’t ever outlive the production of the new model- it’s Kamski that started this all. With all of them. Connor. Chloe. Markus. The thousands of other android lives that had to live through so much shit just to get a consolation prize of a dying planet and a population of people prone to violence.
It started with one man who wanted to be better than god.
He’s shaking. Losing his grip. Kamski is lowered enough to get his toes on the ground and finally Hank falls apart.
There’s a matching despair there, somewhere. Hank doesn’t want to think about what might drive someone to build people out of plastic, but he’s sure it’s nothing he wants to hear. Not when Kamski is equal parts coward and arrogant about everything just to avoid whatever demons haunt him.
Hank drops him, turning away to hold onto one of the dining chairs and try and pull himself together. What is he even doing here? Nothing has changed. Nothing will change.
“If you’re done, I have something I’d like to show you.”
Hank looks up in scowling disbelief. What else can this bastard take from him?
He follows Kamski down the hall anyway.
It’s wires and cables and mesh and Hank has no idea what the fuck it is other than it looks like some kind of tourture device. There’s just enough medical shit strapped to it that suggests it’s made for humans not androids, but that makes it all the more horrifying.
“It’s never been tested. I would have myself ages ago but Chloe has refused to humor me. I am unsure of it’s useability or it’s effectiveness.”
Hank is too fucking drunk for this shit.
“What is it?”
Kamski is still retying his yukata, straightening the creases Hank left with a distinct look of distaste.
“It’s a neural link. A way to bond the organic and the mechanic.”
Hank blinks because -although he lives in an age where he’s married to a fucking android - that sounded like some fucking sci-fi shit right there.
“It should allow a human to connect with an android and vice-versa. Like interfacing, but with more bells and whistles.”
Kamski is still fiddling, but stares him down with the same unflinching gaze he’s used to.
“Yes. It’s never been tested outside of the lab.”
“And what- I’m supposed to be your fucking guinea pig?”
The coldness is back and Kamski is once again the shark that Hank knows and hates with every fiber of his being.
“You are not supposed to be anything , Anderson. I am merely offering you the opportunity to use one of my most revolutionary designs for your own personal endeavours after you so rudely assaulted me because I feel… culpable.”
There’s a beat of stunned silence.
“It may kill you- but I hardly think that’s going to stop you is it? You have nothing left to lose in this scenario, only things to gain.”
Hank frowns at the tone. It’s like Kamksi is trying to sell him the fucking thing and he hates it- but it’s effective either way.
Because Kamski is right. He has nothing left to lose. Nothing he cares about anyway.
“So I am your fucking guinea pig.”
There’s a flash of cold anger and it’s gone as soon as it appears in Kamski’s weasel fucking face, but Hank sees it anyway.
“I am giving you the chance to see Connor again.”
It hits him like a fucking blow to the head. A punch to the gut. A vice around his fucking heart.
Connor. He could use this to see Connor.
“And if I don’t want to?”
He does. God he does, but he needs to ask anyway.
“Then we will continue the way we have been- that is watching Connor die slowly while trying more and more outlandish things until it kills him outright.”
Hank takes a deep breath.
Kamski is right. Always fucking right. Connor is dying- they can’t stop it. They can’t fix it.
Maybe Hank can see him again.
Kamski narrows his eyes, waiting for Hank to sign his fucking soul away like some kind of devil.
“I’ll do it.”
Hank wonders what kind of things he should have done to prepare for this- but there are no doctors here. No manuals. No guidelines. Just Kamski and the Chloes moving around him attaching neural pads and connecting a wire harness to a terminal that feeds into Connor’s cube.
Sumo is with Jeffrey getting love from Jeff’s grandkids and neither of them know what Hank is doing tonight. He told Jeff he was going on a fishing trip. Something they used to do together back in college and easy for Jeff to buy.
Jeffrey had breathed a small sigh of relief at the words, a heavy pat on his shoulder paired with a reassuring squeeze.
“About time you took a fuckin’ break.”
“I’ve been on leave for nearly a year, Jeff.”
“It’s not the fuckin’ same and you know it, asshole. Go, enjoy something. Come back and keep at it. I’ll hold the fort down here.”
Jeff was one of the only real friends he had left and he felt terrible lying to him, but it was necessary. He needed someone to be there to see out his will if shit went sour.
“We’ll start with an hour of connection. If anything gives us a warning, we will pull you out.”
The second Chloe is speaking, holding a tablet in her hand as she enters settings.
“We are unsure if we will be able to hear you in there, but we will do our best to avoid any permanent damage to your body.”
Hank nods, trying to settle further into the chair. The first Chloe reaches behind the back and lowers it, putting Hank in a more reclined position.
He takes a deep breath and makes peace with whatever the fuck is going to happen next.
Kamski has left the room to monitor a larger terminal in the next room- the one built to track Connor’s baselines and route power. He can hear the static hum and smell the warming plastic of the tower by his head.
He closes his eyes.
The voices are pinging in various directions of the darkness surrounding him. Stereo and echoing- it’s Connor’s voice. Calling for him in different tones. Different emotions behind them. Some shouted, sharp and angry- some spoken in a reverent whisper. They increase in repetition, making the empty space louder and more terrifying than it should be.
Hank’s heart is beating fast, something akin to horror riding up his spine.
This is Connor’s mind. But Connor isn’t here.
There’s just the echoes.
Is he being recognized or is it just what he wants to hear?
It feels like it’s being whispered into his ear and it startles him badly enough to run.
This feels like a nightmare.
He doesn’t notice as the black around him starts changing, the darkness giving to dreary skies and green winter grass.
Sumo is barking and suddenly he has no control anymore- he’s watching through someone else’s eyes as he runs down a field.
Sumo is next to him and there’s a feeling of joy. Contentedness. Happiness.
“Good boy, Sumo!”, a voice that’s not his own chirps happily as Sumo drops a toy at his feet.
There’s things in his vision. Numbers and lists and rotating sentences.
A marker pings in the corner of his vision and he sees himself slowing to a halt beside him, breathing hard and fast.
“Christ, Con. Warn a guy next time before you go bolting off.”
There’s a small undercurrent of satisfaction and playfulness. He feels himself grin.
“Perhaps Sumo isn’t the only one that could benefit from a little exercise, Hank.”
And oh god.
It’s Connor’s voice.
He’s in Connor’s head.
He knows exactly what day this was- just a few months after Connor had moved in with him after the revolution. When they had finally started to be more open with each other. The start of Connor trying to get him back on the track to health and wellness with the lure of a warm smile and soft eyes.
This is a memory.
“Yeah, yeah. Fuck off.”
The scene around him fades as Connor’s laughs echo through the encroaching dark.
Hank opens his eyes and adjusts to the room spinning around him. It’s blurry and he feels nauseous. He’s not sure he wants to move.
One of the Chloes is speaking to him and he realizes he’s back in the lab.
“Your heart rate spiked- we pulled you out.”
There’s the bang of the lab doors and Kamski is speaking in rushed tones.
“Did it work? What did you see?”
Hank closes his eyes against the noise and vertigo, groaning.
There’s a glass of water put in his hand and he drinks greedily once he sits up.
“I have no fucking clue. I think I… “
Kamski is shuffling around, irritated.
“I think I saw one of Connor’s memories. Didn’t see him directly though.”
He hears Kamski curse, the sound of him falling heavily into a desk chair.
“So it works?”
“I think so.”
There’s a sharp laugh and it makes Hank flinch.
Two slight and gentle hands grip his shoulders and it’s suddenly quiet.
“Why don’t you go home Lieutenant? We can try this again tomorrow.”
Hank nods, taking a deep breath as everything settles around him.
He’s coming back tomorrow. Connor is in there somewhere and he’ll find him.
He has to.
It always starts the same way.
The darkness and the echoes greeting him in their own way.
He closes his eyes against the voice in his ear and waits. It’s eerily quiet after and Hank knows when he opens his eyes again he’ll be somewhere else. He’ll be wherever Connor wants to show him next.
Or at least he thinks that’s what’s happening. It could be random- but it could also be purposeful. He has yet to see anything but the memories. Maybe Connor isn’t in here anymore- just the recordings of his life as he experienced them. A movie playing on repeat until someone cuts the power.
He’s scared to open his eyes.
The soft echo is enough to push him and he’s running again.
Hank hates heights and he feels dizzy as he watches Connor jump from one fire escape to the other through his own eyes.
His own panicked voice calling from below, but Connor ignores it. There’s a marker on his HUD following another android just ahead of himself. There’s an objective and a measurement for success and even how long it will take him to intercept the suspect trying so hard to escape.
Connor clings to a grate and hauls himself onto the roof, landing neatly before bolting to the edge.
Something red flashes in his HUD and he stutters just before reaching the preconstructed launch point to get him to the next building.
Warnings indicating mechanical failure and the sudden horrifying preconstruction of him plummeting 15 stories down into the alleyway if he doesn’t stop. It’s too late for him to stop. His foot is already on the edge and his knee is stuttering under some unknown strain.
The warnings leave just as fast as they came and the objectives have reset- resuming his pursuit over the gap.
He’s afraid, but he’s already in the air. He falls into a heap on the other roof, tearing the knee of his jeans and dirtying up his clothes. The shock jars him, but he drags himself up and continues his pursuit.
He doesn’t pay attention to what happens next. The suspect doesn’t really stand that much of a chance against him in a one-on-one fight but it’s a struggle to detain them. Drag them down to be taken back to the precinct.
“Jesus, Connor he really did a number on you, huh?”
Connor blinks, looking down.
He should tell Hank about the error. That he was scared and almost didn’t make it.
A diagnostic runs clean, no evidence of any permanent malfunctions. It was a one off event, unlikely to happen again.
Hank shakes his head, dropping a heavy hand on his shoulder and laughing.
“C’mon, lets go the fuck home.”
He doesn’t tell Hank about the error.
It won’t happen again.
Hank wakes up, the date of that case seared in his mind.
Connor had been suffering for months before he ever told Hank.
He sobs into the quiet room at the realization of it.
He doesn’t sleep that night.
The next memory is sweeter.
Connor is standing in front of a mirror, preening the edges of his shirt and sweater. Hank had helped him choose a new wardrobe and Connor found that he likes soft cottons and knit things. He liked being wrapped in pleasant textures that were absent in his CyberLife uniform. It made him feel more alive. It sm eparated who he is now with his previous self all that much more.
Hank was taking him out tonight. He’s nervous, but excited.
He plucks at a loose thread and calculates the possible damage removing it could cause. He tucks it back into the seam instead.
There’s a shake in his hand as he does so and Connor contemplates it. His stress levels are high enough to cause minor errors, but he shouldn’t be reacting like this. There’s no result on his diagnostic and the shake seems to work itself out on its own by the time he hears a knock on the bedroom door.
“Ready to go, Connor?”
Connor looks up and is flooded with warmth at the sight of Hank dressed up in his own way.
He always thought Hank looked nice, but seeing him in a pressed shirt and slacks, recently trimmed with a long woolen coat that compliments his height has him smiling.
They walk to the venue and Connor runs a diagnostic on his hand once more, happy with the results before sliding his fingers against Hank’s.
They don’t shake as Hank grips him tightly, keeping him close. It’s warm and Connor can feel the faint electric current running from Hank’s nervous system into the sensitive pads of his palm.
That current is stronger as they dance on the floor of the jazz club, Hank smiling and rocking them back and forth in a rhythm Connor is still learning. He feels happy, content. It’s nothing he would’ve imagined for himself that first night he found Hank, but it’s perfect.
They kiss, not for the first time, but Connor can feel it in his chassis and it makes him warm.
His hand starts shaking again later as he lies in Hank’s bed.
He almost misses it for the overwhelming amount of sensation he’s feeling, but it makes itself noticeable as he reaches to grip at Hank’s hair to drag him in for another kiss.
Hank doesn’t notice.
The diagnostic comes back clear.
He keeps it tangled in the sheets, ignoring it.
Ignoring the rising confusion and fear in favor of spending this moment with Hank. It’s even easy to forget under the rush of new pleasure and experience that he knows he will never forget.
They lay together later, Connor watching Hank sleep as he rests his head on Hank’s shoulder. He’s happy, warm, in love. He feels Hank breathe deeply next to him and relishes in the simple pattern of his heartbeat.
He lets everything else go, reminding himself that nothing is wrong.
Nothing can stop him from having this.
Connor’s echoing greeting sounds sad this time. Like he’s expressing an apology with a single word. Hank feels it shudder in his spine before his sense of self once again dissolves into the background.
Connor is standing in a white room. Bright colorless lights and sanitized plastic and a still cold that reminds him of being trapped.
But he has to do this. He has to know what’s happening to him.
Something is wrong, he knows it. Why is his diagnostic suite lying to him when he knows something is happening? He’s losing time- there’s seconds missing from his daily recordings. Such minor errors, but terrifying. He’s never had gaps like this. He shouldn’t ever need to squander his daily data on account of the sheer amount of storage he has in his mind for it.
But it’s happening.
He’s had to stop using his coin because he dropped it a few days ago in front of Hank.
“Guess even Mr. Perfect can get butterfingers, huh?”
It’s a tease. Hank is just trying to soothe him and the perplexed expression on his face as he leans down to pick up his silver dollar, examining his movement code for the cause of his fumble. Nothing. There’s nothing that should have caused it.
Hank thinks he’s just having issues with deviancy. Becoming more human. He can’t bring it in himself to correct Hank’s assumption- that no matter how human he feels he will never be one. He is a machine and his code is telling him that he successfully calibrated with his coin when the reality is that the gleaming silver went tumbling to the floor after only a few seconds of handling.
It’s something that has been a part of him ever since he woke up the first time. The process of calibration is child’s play. It should come as easy to him as thinking.
He pockets the coin and offers an embarrassed smile. Hank smiles back, giving him a squeeze on the shoulder and they continue their conversation about the case.
Connor hasn’t used his coin since. It sits in his pocket as a kind of comfort item, but it disturbs him now.
The technicians call him in and he quiets the fear in his chest as he walks through the doorway.
He wants to be told he’s wrong. That what he’s experiencing isn’t real. Or that maybe it is and he needs a little bit of maintenance to correct it.
He sits at a desk and is told that everything came back clean but they reran a few updates just to be sure they settled correctly on his system.
“Minor motor issues are common a few days after an update, but it should clear up on its own.”
Connor nods, gets up and leaves. He’s relieved. Maybe it really was so simple.
He goes back home, welcomes Sumo and crawls into bed with Hank who’s indulging in a rare afternoon nap. Hank’s body is warm against his side and it comforts him.
He’s okay. Everything is okay.
He falls into stasis, waking when Hank does an hour later.
Hank is in the bathroom as he realizes there’s a series of numbers in his HUD drawing his attention..
Steadily ticking down to zero.
Connor can feel terror grip him. There is no objective at the end of the timer. There is no title. No indication to what will be happening to him in 116 days. The time just drips away ominously in his HUD. It can’t be dismissed. He tries desperately.
The bathroom door opens in the hall and Connor makes a decision.
He schools his expression and looks up at Hank as he wobbles sleepily back into the bedroom, flopping back into bed and pulling Connor close with a happy sounding grumble.
Connor listens to Hank’s heartbeat as they lay together and he knows he won’t do anything to scare Hank needlessly.
He’s okay. The technicians said so. He’s fine.
Hank is crying before they even pull him from the machine. He wakes up to wetness pooling down his cheeks to the back of his neck.
The timer is still hanging heavy in the corner of his vision, but the weeks since it’s reveal hasn’t changed in any way.
The errors are still occurring. Still ominously missing from his diagnostic logs.
It’s terrifying in its unknown, but Connor ignores it. He visits the technicians, bears their scrutiny and dismissive huffs when they show him his own coding. They spread everything out to him to show him that what he is experiencing is impossible- to stop coming needlessly to appointments that take their time.
Connor hesitates as the calendar in his mind asks for an input.
He’s hesitating. Should he really create another appointment only to confirm what he already knows?
Whatever is happening, it’s not because of an outside source. He has no viruses. He has no malware. He’s not being hacked or controlled or any number of other things that he’s thought about in long, empty nights.
He dismisses the scheduling book and takes a moment before bending down to collect the files he’s dropped on the floor of the archive room.
Hank has started to notice. He hates the furrowed brow and look of worry as Hank watches him struggle with simple tasks. Things that should be easy for him- things that should never malfunction.
He missed his mark a few days back. Aimed to shoot a suspect threatening a hostage and missed. Hit the wall behind him.
Connor never misses. Hank knows Connor never misses.
But in that moment, his coordination and aiming algorithms failed to line up and his shot had missed.
Hank is starting to put things together.
Hank is starting to worry.
Connor doesn’t know how to say that he’s terrified too.
Connor is happy.
His fingers tremble as he holds the silver band in his hand- the jeweler having handed it off to him moments before.
He’s had his coin reshaped. Remade. The silver a perfect medium for a ring made to Hank’s measurements.
He carries a new Kennedy silver dollar in his pocket to replace it.
The minting year reads 1985 and he doesn’t use it to calibrate anymore, but the weight and meaning of it soothes him.
He doesn’t know what will happen when the timer reaches zero.
But tonight? Tonight he will propose to Hank Anderson.
And he won’t think about what might come next.
Hank doesn’t feel anything as he toys with the ring on his finger.
Perhaps that isn’t true. Numbness is a feeling, even if it doesn’t tell him how he’s reacting.
Connor had told him shortly after.
He’d woken up warm, a little sore, a tad exhausted from the late night, but excited. Happy.
Connor had been laying next to him, smiling. Already awake and waiting for Hank as had been their routine on days they didn’t have to work. Hank had called it creepy the first time- a joke to cover his slight discomfort at the knowledge that Connor had decided he had nothing better to do than just watch him sleep.
That all Connor wanted to do was lay there and monitor him, watch the ways he jerks and twitches in his sleep and found it more important than any number of tasks he could have completed.
Connor preferred for Hank to wake up next to him. He’d said that moment of recognition and sleepy affection is nothing he’d willingly give up.
Hank had waved him off and grumbled, but Connor took it for what it really was and continued to do what he liked.
And this morning is only different in that Hank knows now that Connor intends to stay .
He hadn’t been married. Not… not before.
Cole had been an accident- he’d never intended to be a father at 42. Married to the job and all that shit, having time to meet someone and start a family was out of the cards.
But it had happened anyway and his girlfriend had kept it and they split long before Cole died.
It had never been something on the table for them- marriage.
He’s had sweethearts before. People he thought he might , but didn’t.
But Connor decided to take things in his own hands and shape their futures just like he always has. He doesn’t have the same hangups that other people have, it was just something he wanted so he made it happen.
Connor wanted him so he made a plan and set an objective and now Hank is wearing a ring and they’re planning which courthouse to get hitched at.
Connor had sheepishly revealed he’s already paid for the paperwork- they just need to finalize. To set a date and go.
He grumbles and complains about morning funk and Connor laughs as he gets up.
He knows Connor doesn’t give a shit, but he needs a moment to himself. He needs to look at himself in the mirror and remind himself that this is something that’s okay to want. It’s something he might even fucking deserve after all the shit life has done to him.
Connor has tended to the post-its on his mirror almost obsessively. There’s a rotation to them- a new one every few days and a critical mass that was reached recently leaving Connor to cycle his favorites in and out at a scheduled time.
It might be one of the only things Connor does during his time waiting for Hank to wake up.
Hank runs his fingers through his hair and lets himself feel happy. Truly happy. He doesn’t hide from it or run it over with the guilt and anger and bitterness that he knows is still there, but it doesn’t matter today. He doesn’t want it today.
He wants to feel this.
He goes back to bed, knowing that Connor is waiting for him.
Connor climbs into his lap once he lays down, still nude from the night before.
Hank found out last night that Connor can glow from the seams between his chassis if he chases the synthetic skin away with too much sensation and pleasure.
It’s his heart, Connor said.
The regulator is only part of it- the much larger component sitting under his chest and humming with the power of a small fusion reactor. It glows - brighter when it’s working harder.
And Hank could see it.
He runs his hand across the odd dip in Connor’s chest. The modeled shape of his breastbone interrupted only by the flat space of the regulator.
He can feel the whirr under his hand and it’s not something he’d have ever considered beautiful in the past. He wasn’t a car guy, he’d never felt anything over the vibration and sound of an engine- something completely artificial coming to life under your hands. He’s never had a warmth for heartbeats- only his son’s when he’d first heard it on the ultrasound and felt the first pangs of a love so strong he couldn’t understand it.
Connor’s is much quieter, but it’s much more profound than anything else he’s ever felt and heard. Constant, strong in its cycles and never-ending.
Connor is something inhuman and otherworldly taking the shape of something familiar.
He’ll never fucking understand it, but he loves the feel of it under his palm. The proof that Connor is living in his own way even if it’s something completely alien to everything that Hank has ever known.
Connor’s fingers wrap around his own and drag them up to his lips, pulling the pad of one in to roll his tongue over.
Connor grins around his finger, taking a second in and sucking pointedly.
Soft brown eyes watch him, always watch him as he takes his time. Hank relaxes into the mattress, letting Connor have what he wants because there’s no point in struggling or denying that what Connor wants- Connor gets.
His sense of shame and embarrassment has taken a sabbatical ever since Connor told it off months ago. He hasn’t felt less under Connor’s gaze in just as long.
Connor makes him feel wanted. Loved. Helps soothe over the cracks in his self esteem and internal opinions of himself and the state grief and anger put him in. Connor doesn’t expect anything of him other than a willingness to care about himself and strive for health. He doesn’t want to change Hank, he wants to see him happy.
And all it takes is one warm glance and everything just fucks off for awhile.
It’s goddamn magic and Hank hasn’t felt so comfortable in his own skin in years.
He feels Connor shudder under his other palm as he slides it from one sharp hip to cup Connor’s cock. It’s colder than a human’s would be, but it doesn’t bother him. It never takes much to get Connor hard, the reaction being far more mechanical than an indicator of his arousal.
But Hank likes the weight of it, like dragging his palm over it and watching Connor react openly.
He’s never been taught to hide or stay quiet when it comes to sex. There’s a whimper against Hank’s fingers as he slowly moves his hand against soft skin, tugging lightly and with just enough pressure to tease.
Connor has started rolling with the movements when Hank slides further down, curling his fingers behind Connor’s balls and sliding a finger inside knowing exactly what to expect.
Connor is always wet for him here. He gasps at the sudden sting of teeth on the fingers inside Connor’s mouth, grinning as he suddenly relaxes. His fingers fall from Connor’s lips as he tilts his head back and groans. Connor’s hand moves his own to the android’s pale chest and Hank takes over from there, rubbing at a dusty nipple and echoing the movement against the soft plate inside Connor’s body.
Connor’s hands curl tight around his wrists as he shudders, gasping and crying out before pushing down against the pressure.
Hank knows what that tone means. He’d be happy to continue teasing and toying, but Connor is already high strung and needy. Maybe has been most of the morning waiting for him to wake up.
“Yeah, come on.”
He pulls his hands away, resting them on Connor’s hips again as Connor reaches under himself to grip his half-hard cock and stroke with precise pressure and perfect pace.
It’s always goddamn perfect. Like Connor can see exactly what he needs and enjoys as clearly as if it was written on his skin. He’s bucking up into Connor’s fist lazily, still feeling warm from the morning and happy to let Connor take the lead.
Connor is impatient, pressing down onto Hank’s cock before he’s fully hard and moaning.
Connor’s hands come down to brace on his chest as he moves his hips, spreading the slick over his cock before moving in earnest. He’s moving fast and desperate and Hank tightens his grip on Connor’s waist and tries to coax him back into something less vigorous.
He whines, but obliges, letting Hank move with him.
Hank prefers it this way. Maybe if he can get used to the concept of Connor needing no prep time and his ability to go hard as soon as he wants to he’ll enjoy it more, but he’s always liked sex he can feel build slowly.
Connor is tight, warm. There’s a subtle hum from the components in his body, but he can only feel it if they go slow.
Connor starts grinding, pressing his dick into Hank’s stomach and yelling at the dual sensations.
Hank curls a hand around his dick, providing better pleasure and grinning as Connor gasps.
“Always so fucking sensitive, Con.”
Brown eyes seek out his and Hank will never get tired of being at his sole focus of attention like this. Like Connor is trying to map everything he sees to keep later. For all he knows, that’s what actually is happening.
“Please, more. Please!”
There’s a tremble under Connor’s skin and Hank squeezes his hand, tugging more roughly against Connor’s cock.
“Yeah, yeah. C’mon.”
He snaps his hips up and watches as Connor screams.
His neighbors beat it after the revolution and he’s happy for it otherwise he’d probably have gotten harassment for how loud Connor is ages ago. He doesn’t give a fuck, wouldn’t have given a fuck. He loves it. Loves how Connor puts his emotions and pleasure out in the open like this.
Connor never tries to fight it- just lets his orgasm wash through him when it comes and rides it right into the next one. Keeps going until Hank is done, grasping at him and shouting the entire time.
Sex with Connor is something else entirely. He can feel the way Connor’s body warms at the sensation and overlap of too much.
That’s what tips Hank over the edge. The heat and the garble in Connor’s voice as he takes and takes and takes. The soft whimper after they still, Connor still trembling around him. Connor finally collapsing in a heap on his chest and taking a moment to cool.
They stay close in the shower, Connor leaning up to steal a kiss whenever he can.
Hank can still feel the foriegn weight of the ring on his finger and they decide that day to get it finalized. Fuck waiting and planning. They can do something public later, but Hank can’t comprehend another day where they’re just waiting.
They put on some nice suits and drive to the courthouse.
The night is a blur from there. Hank decides to pack the car and coax Sumo into the back, taking his fucking husband up north even though it’s cold and unpleasant this time of year.
Connor’s never seen the forests of Michigan and Hank wants to just do something to celebrate.
They’re in a lodge they rented at short notice and it’s not fancy or anything special, but it’s theirs for the next few days and Hank wants to show Connor what it’s like to experience early winter in the woods and mountains.
Connor is helping him cook breakfast when there’s a smash of ceramic and a thud, startling him from where he’s taking the pans off the heat.
Connor is on the floor, surrounded by shattered plates and Hank has never seen such open confusion and terror on Connor’s face before.
“Con? You alright?”
Something is wrong. He knows something is wrong, has been wrong for awhile.
Connor’s eyes are wide, wet as he shudders.
“I don’t- I don’t know.”
Hank bends down to grip Connor’s arms, helping him up.
Connor is struggling, hands digging into his shoulders as he slips trying to get his feet under him.
“C’mon, you’ve got it, just calm down.”
It’s like a switch, Connor is trembling and whirring as he tries to get up one moment and upright and running from him the next.
He hears the slam of the bedroom door and stands there in the middle of the kitchen, taking it all in. He smooths his hair back with his fingers and takes a deep breath.
Connor doesn’t answer when he knocks on the door, but it’s not locked when he pushes at the handle.
There’s a lump under the covers and Hank curls up next to it, rubbing what he assumes are shoulders soothingly and waiting.
“T-they just stopped working, Hank. My legs just stopped working and I don’t- I don’t know why.”
He begins peeling back the layers Connor has buried himself under until he finds the panicked android underneath. Connor’s LED is burning red and he’s sobbing, drawing Hank in to hold him.
“It’s not the first time, is it?”
He says it with surety. He’s seen things happen to Connor at work- at home. Small things that could be dismissed. That they both dismissed. But this isn’t something that can be dismissed.
Hank sighs, letting the dread that admission makes him feel wash away for the moment.
“I’ve been looking into it, trying to find out what it is but there’s… there’s nothing, Hank. The technicians say there’s nothing there. I can’t… my diagnostics aren’t working right. They tell me there’s nothing that should be doing this to me.”
Hank strokes his fingers through silken hair and waits.
“They reset some things and-”
Connor stops. Just falls silent until Hank moves to look at him, pulling his chin until they’re looking at each other.
Fresh tears spill and he wipes them away with his thumb, waiting.
“I woke up after stasis that day and there’s… there’s a timer, Hank. I don’t know what it means. I don’t know what it’s counting down to- I just-”
He cuts himself off again and Hank feels a familiar chill fear settle into his chest and he can’t feel himself breathe.
“How much time is there left?”
“Seventy five days.”
Just over two months.
Hank finally crawls under the blankets with Connor and ignores his own tears just to hold Connor close.
He can barely hear Connor speak in quiet, devastated tones.
“I’m sorry, Hank.”
It’s their anniversary and Hank drinks.
He recalls Connor’s memories as he cries for the unfairness of it all.
Connor had just wanted for Hank to be fucking happy.
Why was it too much for them both to have?
There was a bucket list.
They don’t know what’s happening and they can only treat the timer like a terminal judgement. Hank can only see it that way even if Connor doesn’t want to.
They take time off work and travel with Sumo in an RV that Hank bought for them to have comfort anywhere they go
They never know when Connor will need a day to himself, away from prying eyes as his body fails him over and over again.
Hank looks up from where he’s sitting at the dinette, planning their next trip.
“Where are we?”
Hank feels a new drench of grief and stands up, ushering Connor back to bed.
“We’re traveling, sweetheart. Let’s go to bed, you’ll feel better in the morning, promise.”
Connor nods, spaced out as he follows where Hank tugs him.
He stays with Connor in bed, holding him close and staying there even after Connor goes into stasis.
Connor doesn’t remember the incident the next morning, but by some miracle he remembers what they’re doing.
Hank decides that he’ll keep it to himself.
They’re laying in bed as Connor projects the timer onto his palm.
Today is the day. They’ve been laying in bed for the past few hours just talking and staying close.
They’ve already tried to see what the fuck this all is. No one has answers. Hank has already railed against CyberLife and everything else and found that the anger just made this entire situation worse. He just… he just wants to be here.
The timer reaches zero and Hank stops breathing.
Brown eyes gaze into blue and Hank feels sudden terror grip him.
But nothing happens.
The timer keeps going, reaching negative numbers and continuing to run.
Connor is still awake. Still alive.
Hank breathes a gasp of relief and grabs Connor, pulling him close.
They’re both sobbing, gripping each other desperately.
The timer meant nothing, Connor is still alive.
They’ll figure out the rest later.
Connor wanted to see the beach again.
It must be because he’s thinking of it that Connor’s mind palace dregs up the memory of it to match him.
They hit the road again immediately after the timer started counting in negatives.
Connor feels good in the sun.
He feels lighter than he has in ages, like maybe this is it. This is the new start. The new beginning. He’s allowed to have the life he wanted with Hank.
Hank is smiling earnestly with him in the water and on the beach.
It feels good and he hardly pays attention to the timer that still takes up his HUD.
But it starts blinking, drawing his focus for a moment before he freezes.
The objective has finally added itself to the timer, counting the overdue time for Connor to shut down. A map blinks in his mind for a moment, illustrating a path back to CyberLife tower.
That was what was supposed to happen two days ago. He was supposed to shut down and reset. He was supposed to go back to CyberLife R&D and decommission himself.
Hank already knows something is wrong, he’s tense and waiting.
He can feel the tears pool in his eyes again.
“I know what’s happening.”
Hank doesn’t need to see the rest of it. He already fucking knows it all.
The desperate search for something in Connor’s own code. Not foriegn or planted- just his own programming stripping him down piece by piece until he can be collected by CyberLife for a purpose that no longer exists.
Hank screams as flashes of Connor’s time undergoing intensive poking and testing hits him.
Fear. Grief. Anger. Despair.
He knows it all already, why does he need to fucking see it again? He just wants to see Connor- god he needs it. If there’s any mercy left in this fucking world then he’ll find him, he’ll find-
Everything falls silent around him, returning to the weightless black of the cube waiting for instructions on what to do next.
It’s softer this time, but Hank refuses to look up and see another goddamn memory.
He startles as a hand snakes into his grip and he wants to sob with relief as he finally sees the warm gaze he’s been missing since Connor went away to the lab ages ago.
Connor is dressed in what Hank’s come to know as the basic modesty garb he’s seen the Chloes in after they change bodies. A simple blue knit top and shorts. No jacket- nothing that suggests this is just a memory of the first time Hank saw Connor. This is Connor before he was draped in expectations and sent out to the world.
Connor pulls him forward, barefooted in the grass and guiding him across white bridges and over a small lake full of golden koi.
It’s a garden. Draped in full, healthy plants under a warm blue sky.
There’s a bench ahead under a trellis of roses, where Connor motions for him to sit.
Connor crawls into his lap, tangling fingers into his hair to pull him into a kiss.
It’s soft, happy.
Connor feels whole for the first time in ages. No trembling or malfunctioning limbs. Just… just this. Just them.
“You found me.”
Hank nods, and he can’t remember the panic he felt only moments ago under how much peace he feels here in a garden he doesn’t recognize.
He smiles back at Connor when they finally pull apart.
“Stay here with me?”
Hank can’t imagine being anywhere else. Why would he ever leave?
He knows what this is. What this choice will do to him. The real him out there.
But he doesn’t give a single fuck because the only thing that matters is that he found Connor and he can stay if he merely chooses to. Time passes differently here- seconds in the real world mean minutes and minutes mean hours, days, weeks .
A small eternity will pass in the blink of an eye.
Joyful brown eyes meet his and he grins, feeling light and happy here with Connor in any measure he can have him.