Most of the time his lays think the black of space is the best thing they've ever seen. All that depth, all those stars, man, all those places they've never been.
"It's pretty, right?" Connor says slyly while he presses them against the glass. "Like you. Like me."
They laugh or they groan, it doesn't matter. He just grits his teeth and presses himself closer to their skin. It's not pretty. It's a searing expanse of shit with some shiny bits thrown in.
When he first got on ship he used to spend time in the observation room watching it pass. When it came to easy places to scout for a lay it was top of the list. Everybody loitered there; all he had to do was prop himself up and pick his mark. But now even stepping in there puts him on edge. Looking out into the black brings pressure crushing him from all sides. Sometimes it feels like he's already in a prison cell, not just on his way there.
"Isn't it gorgeous," he tells Oliver, the IT guy with the retro chic glasses. "I think it's amazing that less than a hundred years ago nobody thought we could get out this far."
Oliver smiles at him and does a nervous sideways glance. He did the same thing when Connor asked if he could sit opposite him. "Kind of? Actually NASA had a whole bunch of theories related to interstellar travel really early on and - "
"You're so cute," Connor interrupts, reaching across the table to tweak Oliver's glasses. "Did I already say we should fuck?"
"Oh, right." Oliver grips his glass of water like he needs some kind of support. He laughs awkwardly. "Is this - are we there already? I mean you didn't even ask me if I come here a lot."
Connor shrugs easily. "Science gets me totally hot."
"That wasn't science, that was just basic history," Oliver says, laughing again. "Wait, does this work for you? Oh, god, it does, doesn't it? I want to blow off my shift for sex with you and we only talked for five minutes. What is this?"
He leans back in his seat and looks around both sides of Connor.
"You know there's a hook-up system on the ship's interface, right? It's not official but you just put in -"
"But I want you," Connor says. It's a good moment for contact, so he teases the tips of Oliver's fingers with his own. "Does all this talking mean you don't want me?"
"No," Oliver says after a pause. "No, I was just surprised. Usually my lunch breaks are less - this."
Connor grins and leans forward, unclenching his fingers from his palm. "So, you wanna finish that yoghurt or can we leave yet?"
"Just when I thought he couldn't get cockier," Oliver says to no-one, pushing his chair back. "Okay, let's go. You sold me on whatever it is you're selling."
He's cute, Connor thinks. He fumbles with his buttons, sets his glasses by the bed, makes a funny comment about the sheets while Connor's undressing. He's got a body he clearly works on and when he touches, his hands are smooth, skating down Connor's sides and cupping at his elbows.
His underwear says he wasn't expecting to get laid, his gasps say it's been a little while since he has, and his fractious hands in Connor's hair while he blows him say nobody usually gives him the full service treatment Connor excels at.
"How am I doing?" Connor asks halfway through, sweat sliding down his temple and his hair damp and loose in front of his face. "Any regrets?"
"Shut up," Oliver says, reaching for his face and dragging him closer. "Oh my god, shut up and finish the job."
It's fun. Oliver is fun. He's pliable and sweet and he grabs a pillow when he comes, swearing. It's been awhile since Connor had sweet and he likes it. He finishes with a groan and kisses the back of Oliver's neck, feels the skin underneath his mouth shiver. His lips linger so he bites softly and Oliver swats at him.
Yeah, it's fun.
"So there's this other thing that gets me really hot," Connor says after, lying on his side. Usually he gets what he wants before, but Oliver seems more likely to go for pillow-talk.
Oliver props his head up on his hand and looks at him suspiciously.
"Don't say streaking through the main concourse."
Connor can't help himself, he reaches out to tug the sheet away from Oliver's chest.
"Why, has someone asked you to do that?" He traces the line of Oliver's side, each of bump of his ribs and then the smooth skin of his waist.
"Would you believe me if I said yes?"
"No," Connor says, and tickles, just because he can.
Oliver doesn't even twitch. "You're so - strange," he says, shaking his head.
"Says the guy who knows all this stuff about NASA from a hundred years ago."
"More than a hundred, actually."
"Please, no science talk," Connor says. "It messes with the afterglow."
Oliver looks at him with a new expression, first puzzled, then considering. Then he ducks his head and shifts over. He kisses soft but assured. Connor surprises himself by kissing back.
"So what's this other thing that gets you so hot?"
"Information," Connor says.
Oliver's body freezes under his fingertips.
"What," he says, after a pause. His hand comes up and he rubs at his forehead. Then he nods his head. "Yeah, I mean, of course. Of course you were after something."
"Hey," Connor says, taking the hand and guiding it away from Oliver's face. "Not just after something. I mean if all I wanted was information, I would have just blown you in the toilets."
"Oh, well then," Oliver says, rolling away. "So this was nice up to about two minutes ago."
"Nothing illegal," Connor says, lying back. "You don't have to run off."
It's too late. Oliver is already pulling his pants on. "You could've just said from the start that was all you were after."
"But it wasn't."
Oliver shoots him an angry glance and grabs his shirt, pulling it back over his head and rigidly fastening the buttons. "Right."
Connor lies in the rumpled sheets, annoyed at himself, for longer than he needs to. It's meant to mean something to him that their best chance at going free just walked out his door, but he's not sure he even has it in him to care any more. Every move he makes feels like he's just being dragged closer to the endgame, like the more he struggles and tries to assert some kind of order over his future, the more the black hole sucks him in.
He has a meeting with Michaela and their defense team in five but he lies there thinking about the feel of skin on his skin instead. If he'd played it differently he probably could've won himself a second round, but he didn't. He fucked it up by not treading carefully enough and now he was going to pay for it with years and years of jail time.
The only reason he rolls out of the bed in the end is because he can see Annalise in his mind's eye, talking at him from a vid screen, her little acidic speeches stinging his pride.
If you want to be just another statistic, Mr Walsh, by all means keep self-destructing.
He avoids the mirror in his bathroom and goes straight for the shower, flipping the dial as hot as it will go. He can't burn the echoes of her words from his head, but he can fry his skin until he can barely feel the water hitting it.
You might be able to charm your pick of horny associates but a judge? A grand jury? You keep that sass in your mouth and work on looking contrite.
Michaela had it down pat - the fiancée, the lifestyle, the earnest hard-worker profile. Even if he went down she'd only get a few years as an accessory, paroled early for good behaviour and no prior record. But him?
Maybe you should take a leaf out Miss Pratt's book and find yourself a nice rich husband to make you look good.
He didn't have a chance in hell.
"Walsh, where the fuck have you been?"
"Cool it," Connor says, letting his elbow hit Frank as he walks past. "I've been doing big boy things. Or doesn't Annalise let you off the leash for that any more?"
"Very funny, get inside."
Frank's suite looks the same as ever - obsessively neat, lacking in alcohol, and with so much technology he's surprised Annalise doesn't watch him sleep.
Michaela looks up when he gets inside and rolls her eyes.
"You're late. Again."
"I know," Connor says lazily, holding up his hands. "I was working on something."
He makes his way past the coffee table laden with papers to sit down on the couch next to her.
"Your ego or your abs?"
"Oh, much more pleasurable than either of those."
Michaela's shuffles closer, dropping her voice to a whisper. "Oh my god, did you-"
"And? Did you get anything useful?"
Frank's listening a little too closely so Connor turns away. "I'll fill you in later." For Frank's benefit he adds a wink. "In all the glorious detail."
Frank stares at him stonily as he takes his own seat, across the table. "Whatever you're trying to do, you need to stop it. Messing around in the case isn't going to help you in the long run."
"Yeah, yeah," Connor says. "Sit tight and let our defense see us get sent down for twenty years. We know the drill."
"Well maybe if you didn't go around landing yourself in murder investigations -"
"Sorry, investigations? Plural? Who else do you think we've being trying to kill?"
"Guys," Michaela snaps, yanking on his arm. "Seriously, this helps nothing."
"I'm going to go see where Bonnie's got to," Frank says, getting back up and striding across the room.
The door slides closed and Connor tips his head back to stare at the ceiling. He hates the ship, hates the room, hates Frank and the whole last three months of his life, but particularly he hates that he has nowhere to go to escape any of it.
"Why do you let him wind you up?" Michaela says, squeezing a little closer.
Connor drops his chin. "Forget it."
"Fine, we won't talk about how you clearly fucked the IT guy but messed it up somehow."
"Systems administrator, actually." He smooths a piece of lint from his pants. "Soon to be our systems administrator."
"Soon?" She turns to stare at him incredulously. "What is this, amateur hour?"
"Relax, since when have I ever failed at getting what we need?"
"Like, a million times."
"Shut up, Pratt. Stage one is complete, don't worry."
He's still trying to work out what stage two comprises the next morning. As far as he sees it there's grovelling, pretending he was joking, or going back for a second charm offensive. The first two offend him and he's not sure the last will work until Oliver's had time to cool off. He's halfway through messaging Wes for other possible targets when someone knocks at his door.
Frank's not scheduled himself in for any counsel time for another twenty-four hours and Bonnie doesn't find him interesting enough to acknowledge, so the only other option is Michaela or room service. He takes a breath, pastes on a smile, and goes to answer the door.
On the other side of it is Oliver, his work badge still on.
"Oh, hi," Connor says, schooling his surprise into interest and flicking his hair out of his face with a smile.
Oliver doesn't even make eye contact as he reaches out and pushes his way past the door, looking harried.
Connor stares at the now empty spot in the hallway, then slowly turns.
"In a hurry?"
Oliver shoots him an angry look, striding one way across the room and then turning back again.
"You could've told me beforehand that you're in custody, heading for a murder trial."
Ah. Connor closes the door, then leans back on it. "What and spoil all the fun that comes after?"
"This isn't funny - half my department think I'm a groupie for some - some -"
It's funny enough that Connor feels himself smile. He never would've guessed that all he needed to do to slide into stage two was open his door.
"Relax, I didn't murder anyone."
Oliver throws up his hands, his eyes jumping about the room. "Well great, if you say so."
Connor pushes off from the door and moves calmly back to the lounge area. His glass is where he left it and he picks it up casually, taking a sip.
"You shouldn't listen to the rumour mill so much."
Oliver stops striding long enough to meet his eyes. "So you didn't shoot some guy?"
"No, please," Connor says, idling closer. "Obviously, I paid someone else to do it."
"Oh, very funny. You had better be joking."
"Of course," Connor says. "Come on, I'm not a murderer. I don't even know how to fire a weapon let alone some automatic pistol thing."
"Then why the hell are you a suspect?"
"Because newsflash, some people aren't very good at their jobs."
Oliver takes another step back and then sits down in a chair with his hand over his eyes.
"Just stop talking for two seconds. I'm trying to work out how I can spin this so everyone stops thinking I'm some -"
"Please don't help," Oliver says miserably, his voice muffled through his hands.
Connor manages to take the seat next to Oliver without him flying up and disappearing so he pours a second glass of water and puts it on the table nearby.
"Look it's not so bad," he says. "We'll stage some public fallout. I'll denounce you in the canteen. You can say I'm the bad guy, I cheated on you, I sold your grandma to space pirates. Whatever."
"My grandma's dead."
"Okay, so I stole your treasured virginity." He tips his head to the side and looks at Oliver sincerely. "Or called you the wrong name. You pick, I'll make it a yelling match to remember."
Oliver's face finally emerges from his hands and his mouth is almost twitching, like he was fighting a smile. "That's dumb."
"Um, well, so's insulting me when I'm trying to help."
"You're not trying to help," Oliver says, waving at the space between them. "You're just trying to get into my pants again."
"Busted," Connor murmurs, shifting a little closer.
Oliver rolls his eyes but he's definitely smiling now. "No, this needs to be a conversation. I need to know what I've got myself into here."
He looks at Connor so honestly that Connor blinks. He leans back and waves a hand towards his wardrobe.
"You can get into whatever you want to. Wait, actually I have these hot-pants my -"
Oliver shifts in his seat, turning his whole body away. He breathes in steadily and then out again. "Okay, so you're wanted for some murder case -"
"I'm a suspect, yes."
"But you didn't do it."
Oliver turns back, puzzled. "But you want some kind of favour. From me. Or you did."
"Also correct," Connor says.
"What sort of - no, wait I don't want to know. I'm not getting involved."
"Uh huh," Connor says, edging his hand closer to Oliver's knee. "Good, because it's totally uninteresting and boring. Just like me."
Oliver gives him another look. Connor's never been great at reading complex emotions but he thinks he's getting the incredulity right and maybe some kind of ridicule or affection.
"You think you're so hot," Oliver says, without a hint of meanness. "You think you can just use your charming thing and everybody will just -" he waves his hands again "- fall in line. Give you anything you want."
"Works most of the time."
"Yeah, well it's not working again." Oliver stands up firmly, dusting his hands off on his pants. "The only reason I came by was to tell you that I don't want to be associated with you."
"Which is why you came to my personal quarters."
"And if you say anything to anyone - that I got you information, that I helped you - then I'm going straight to the security section. Well, after I turn all your sprinklers on remotely because that's something I can do."
"Uh huh," Connor says. He can feel himself smiling, but he doesn't know why. "I get it, I promise. It's not like I haven't been threatened before."
Just usually it was more angry and less - cute.
"Great," Oliver says. "Then we're done. I can go."
"Yeah," Connor says lazily, leaning back. He knows how he good he can look sprawled against things when he wants to.
"Yeah," Oliver echoes.
"Or you could take off your clothes and we go for a repeat of the other night."
Oliver pauses comically, his eyes stuck somewhere on Connor's chest.
"No," he says, like he's trying to remind himself. "Not involved, remember?"
"Of course not," Connor says, but something tell him he's won.
Oliver leaves around midday, an appealing mix of guilty and satisfied.
"I honestly didn't come here for this," he says, one hand on the doorknob. "I was here to chew you out and make you cry."
"Well you kinda did one of those things."
Connor hadn't bothered with dressing fully, just pulled his underwear back on and he's half-tempted to try and make Oliver stay for another round. He's cute with his shirt buttoned up all wrong and his tie in his hand.
"No seriously, my mind was so made up. I wasn't going to stay. You were going to apologise or I was going to tell everyone you were terrible in bed."
"Good thing you didn't try," Connor says. "Because nobody would've believed you."
"You know, I don't know why anyone would want to pin a murder on you. You're so humble and modest."
Connor steps in close, close enough that all that's between them is a tiny slice of air.
"That's confident and very, very competent."
Oliver laughs, sweet and genuine, and Connor pulls away with a smile of his own and a smug feeling in his chest.
"Well maybe I'll see you around sometime, Mr Confident."
Connor gets the handle on the door and holds it open for him. Oliver steps through with one more backwards glance.
"I had a nice time," he says. "Maybe I'll message you or something."
When the door closes Connor leans against the back of it and tips his head up.
"And cut," he says to the room.
It's quarter past by the time he's out the shower and long past when he was meant to talk to Wes on conference. He flips the lid of his laptop up as he towels off his hair and it's only a few moments until a waiting call pops on his notifications.
He accepts and watches the screen shudder to life with Wes' front room and Rebecca's face.
"Hey dipshit," Rebecca says sunnily. "How's it hanging?"
Connor smiles with a few too many teeth to be polite. He can already a feel a fraction of his good mood start to dissipate. It's not like he hates Rebecca nearly half as much as he hates Frank, but she still features on his list.
Rebecca pulls a fake pout and props up an elbow. "He can't come to the phone right now, Honey Boo, so you got me. Lucky you, right?"
"Yeah," Connor says flatly, grabbing his glass and going for a refill. "What, did he get lost on the way home or something?"
"Nah." Her voice just about reaches his kitchenette. "I put this tracker chip in him and now I know where he is at all times, it's great."
Connor opens his fridge door and pours himself some juice. Much as he'd prefer to have a beer to take the edge off, it's not covered under his 'accommodation needs' so isn't provided by the ship's hospitality service. He's tempted to ignore Annalise's laws and order himself something anyway, but a smarter part of him knows she was speaking the truth when she said every little action could change how he was perceived.
If the media were going to epitomize him as anything it needed to be as a health-concious gym bunny not as an alcoholic philanderer.
"Michaela said you had some plan," Rebecca says, "someone you could pump for info."
"Maybe," Connor says. With his juice in hand he goes back to the other room to sink back down on the couch.
"Maybe? I thought you were the king of seducing shit out of people."
Connor smiles tightly and tips himself sideways on the cushions until he's lying flat and can't see her.
"Put Gibbins on already."
"Aw, changing the subject? Don't tell me the one person in the universe we could actually use to help you is the one person you can't get in your bed?"
"Oh, he's been in my bed," Connor says, laughing rustily.
"But he hasn't coughed up the details? Shit, Walsh, guess your talents are waning."
Connor grits his teeth, then delicately raises a foot and uses it to push the laptop closed. The whole thing feels pointless afterwards, lying there with a glass of juice and Rebecca patting herself on the back, but it's better than him getting riled up and giving her more to work with.
dammit gibbins, he messages Wes, still horizontal, kill you to keep your apptments?
you missed the time!! he gets back five minutes later. turn it back on. we'll talk.
Connor sighs, but he sits up and flips the screen back up again. When the video comes back to life, it's Wes sitting in front of the camera, not Rebecca.
"Why do you let her wind you up?" Wes says as an opener
"Why does everyone keep saying that to me?" Connor says drolly. "Have you thought about getting a less irritating secretary slash girlfriend slash sponge?"
"Sure, but none of the other candidates were as good at dealing with douchebags."
Connor laughs tinnily and then squeezes the bridge of his nose. "Okay, can we just do this? Do you have anything for us? For me?"
It doesn't sound desperate to his ears but it feels it, like he's some sad sack waiting on the rest of the world to come in and save him.
"Maybe," Wes said, shuffling to the left of the camera. "I was down the mall again today speaking to that guy I told you about. It's way too early to tell but he might be able to give us something."
Connor nods. He barely remembers the guy, but the cops had found the name tag under his bed. He doesn't know how Annalise got hold of it, but Wes is the only one left on the ground to investigate it.
"Tell him I'll out him to the entire galaxy unless he testifies."
"Yeah," Wes says. "Because that's not extreme or likely to make him freak out and disappear. Thanks."
He sighs deeply. "Sorry, it's just frustrating to have to do this through a proxy. I need to be there, I need to be sorting this myself,"
"It's okay," Wes says, after a pause. "We get it. I'd be the same, any of us would."
He stares earnestly out from the screen in a way that kind of reminds Connor of Oliver and his easy honesty. He doesn't even know what the hell he's meant to do with that other than assume he's a magnet for innocents.
"We've got his testimony almost sorted," Wes carries on. "I mean it's coming together, kind of. Laurel's working on the crime scene, Asher's reaching out through his dad's contacts, and you and Michaela have this IT guy you're working on, right?"
"So it's going to be fine."
"Yeah absolutely," Connor parrots. He smiles tightly at the camera and Wes smiles tentatively back.
"We'll know more in a few days. I'll keep in touch."
"Yeah. Look after yourself, okay?"
Connor laughs. "Because there's so much else to do."
Wes pauses like he might say something else, then he shrugs and reaches towards the camera. The screen goes dark and Connor flips the lid again.
Outside his window, tiny stars are shifting minutely and somewhere the people who want to lock him up are preparing their watertight case. He feels numb, like it's all happening to someone else and he's just out there with the scenery watching. He can't even find the part of himself that used to be happy to throw himself against the walls and laugh maniacally afterwards. It's like he's become some sort of sad shell of old life.
vrgin cocktails & a game, he messages Michaela before he can really too miserable.
fine. but mine not urs, she texts back shortly, that bedroom is the scene of a million crimes.
Six hours later, Connor's eating in one of the upper deck lounges when Frank pulls up a seat opposite him.
Connor rolls his eyes and makes to stand up, but Frank grabs his wrist and pulls him back down. It's kind of funny how he's taken to stalking Connor round the ship and clutching at him in public. Better still, he knows for a fact it embarrasses Frank more than him that he's been made to play babysitter.
"Sit the fuck down. Why do you need to make things so difficult?"
"Because I don't like you, dumbass. Did you not get the memo?"
Frank snorts. "What? The memo where it's me covering your ass twenty-four seven and you behaving like a six year old?"
Connor dips his head to concentrate on his meal. Once upon a time he used to help the guy out, but then he got bored and bitter and found out what easy entertainment he could be.
"What are you doing with Hampton," Frank demands.
"The IT kid, what are you doing with him?"
"You want me to draw a diagram?" Connor leans in conspiratorially. "Spoilers, it includes tab a and slot b."
"Very funny," Frank says, grabbing Connor's plate and pulling it away from him. "Why him?"
"Why, are you jealous?"
"Answer the damn question."
Connor tilts his head, curiosity taking over. Either someone on the team had tipped Frank off to Oliver's skills or he was doing some digging of his own.
"Since when do I need to justify my lays to you?"
"Since you start seeing them more than once."
Connor folds his napkin in half and tosses it on his plate, signalling the nearest waiter for the bill.
"Who says I've seen him more than once?"
"Look, Walsh," Frank says. He waves the waiter away as he approaches the table. "It's my job to keep tabs on you. That way I can handle situations before they blow up. But to do that, I need your co-operation. So, are you going to co-operate or did need to get Annalise in on this?"
Connor smiles acidly. The last thing he needs is Annalise threatening to drop his case if he doesn't play nice.
"Oliver appreciates my skills and came back for seconds. There, happy?"
"It'll do for the moment."
"Message me if you decide you want tickets."
Frank flips him off casually as he stands up.
"You'll call me if the situation changes."
"Sure," Connor says, though he won't. The waiter is still in the vicinity so he tips his head and smiles in apology, making sure to hold eye contact. If Frank's happier when he's flirting with the whole damn ship, he can work on that.
He finds the cufflinks on his bedside table when he gets back. They're pretty plain but heavy enough that he reckons they might mean something to their owner.
"I must've missed them earlier," he tells Oliver, tucking the phone between his ear and his shoulder. "Wanna come round and get them?"
"I can't," Oliver says. Connor can hear the soft hum of computers in the background. "We're pushing this new system live tonight, I'm going to be on standby til early."
"So come be on standby in my bed," Connor says. "We can leave the comms on."
"You make that sound really dirty."
"Good," Connor says, dropping some plates in the sink for later. "So you're coming?"
"No," Oliver says laughingly. "But you get points for trying, I think."
Connor swaps the phone to the other shoulder as he checks over his schedule again.
"What about the cufflinks?"
"You could drop them round, I guess," Oliver says.
Connor grins, and turns back towards his bedroom and his wardrobe.
"I guess I could do that," he says nonchalantly.
"Okay, I'll be back in my suite in a few hours. I'm still on call but they let us go home unless something sets itself on fire."
"Perfect," Connor says, grinning harder. The night was already shaping up in his mind. "See you then."
Oliver's rooms aren't quite what he's expecting. They're smaller than his, for a start, but maybe that's what he gets for not being free media exposure or under the wing of a high profile lawyer. There are no hulking stacks of servers or high-tech gaming consoles that he can see. It's just tidy and lived in. An exercise machine in one corner, a blue and white spread on the bed, a little tank next to his main console.
"You have a tortoise."
"It's a terrapin," Oliver says. He looks slightly nervous now that Connor's in suite rooms and looking round. Connor half expected him to be clutching his phone the way he was talking about being on call, but he's not, just acting a little cagey, like he can't decide where to settle.
"What's its name?"
"I thought you were just here to drop off my cufflinks?"
They're in his jacket pocket but Connor ignores them in favour of bending at the knee and peering through the glass of the tank. "Hey mini Oliver."
Oliver laughs, stepping closer and adjusting the roof of the tank. "That's not his name."
Connor stands back up and turns around. Oliver's standing just there so he takes hold of the bottom of his tie, turning it back and forth in his hands like he's admiring the pattern.
"Tell me more about him," he says, reeling Oliver in slowly. "Sounds incredibly interesting."
It's fun to surprise Oliver with what he remembers about his body. How he likes being covered, how he likes to pin Connor down sometimes and make jokes about Duracell bunnies. Maybe Connor comes across like he thinks all pleasure is interchangeable, but he doesn't. He likes the individual way people shake underneath him, how they can lose their minds a million different ways but he can keep his head longer. He loves rocketing them up to a precipice that no-one else can and then shoving them over to the orgasm of all time.
It doesn't hurt either, the way they look at him like a demi-god after, wanting his number for their phones.
"This is a thing, isn't it?"
"I don't know," Connor says lazily. "Is it?"
"Do you want it to be?" Oliver says, his face curious, slightly unbelieving.
"Do you?" Connor shoots back.
"I don't know, are you still just after information?"
"Never just," Connor says, moving closer. He presses his mouth to the inside of Oliver's arm, kisses his way up. "Why, are you feeling generous?"
"Do I feel like doing something probably illegal for you? No." Oliver pulls his arm away but it only goes as far as his bedside table to check his phone. Connor eases it back and goes back to drawing shapes on Oliver's skin with his mouth.
"What if it's just immoral?"
Oliver laughs. Then he stills and reaches out. He touches the edge of Connor's face, slips a finger around the annoying curl of hair that always falls in his face. He pushes it to the side and looks at Connor like he's a book that wants reading.
"What was it you needed anyway?" His eyes stay curious, fixed on Connor's face. "You never even said when you asked."
Oliver nods, his gaze dropping. "Right," he says. "Some person who has something on you."
"Not quite." All of a sudden the conversation feels less casual but he tries not to tense and let his tongue get acidic. "Some person with a security tape that proves my alibi."
"You have an alibi?"
"Surprised? I told you I didn't do it."
"Yeah, but - I didn't realise it was -"
"What, the truth?" He doesn't know why he sounds annoyed. He guesses in some way he thought Oliver, open honest Oliver, would probably just believe him off the bat.
"Why would they hold onto the tape, though? And can't you just get your lawyer to subpeona it or something?"
Connor smiles bitterly, pushing up onto his elbows. "Not if no-one can find it and he says he never made it."
"But there's got to be some kind of proof!"
"There is. But it's on some other system, I don't know. I just know his name and a range of possible file types."
Oliver goes quiet, reaching out robotically to check his phone again before pushing it back down on the table hard.
"Why would he want to hold it back? What did you do to him? Or not do?"
Connor laughs at the look on Oliver's face. Nobody has bothered to look outraged by his case since he told his parents, and even they seemed to think he'd brought it on himself in some way.
"Let's just say he was filming something private he shouldn't have been."
Oliver's eyebrows raise comically high, then he winces. "Okay, now I see why he doesn't want there to be a tape."
"Turns out 'private room' actually means creep with hidden cameras, who knew?"
"I can't believe someone wants to put you away and not this guy," Oliver says. "That is so gross and illegal."
"Yeah well, if anyone asks, I didn't tell you. We're meant to be keeping it under wraps until we find enough to nail him."
"Wait," Oliver says. "You weren't meant to tell me any of that?"
"If it gets out and he knows we're looking it'll just make it harder to find."
"No, I get that. But I was meant to hand over a copy of this video without even knowing why or what's on it?"
Connor shrugs. "I guess."
He can't read Oliver's face for a second, but then Oliver is moving, sitting up and reaching out to put a hand on his chest. "That was a pretty dumb plan, for the record."
Connor means to pull Oliver's hand away and use it to tug him in but his fingers curl round it instead. "Hey, it got me this far."
"No, your abs got you this far."
Oliver gets a call around two so Connor leaves with him, taking the elevator back to his deck while Oliver takes the stairs down to control.
In the cool metal of the elevator the world seems small and manageable. Each reflection of him looks calm and one, when he peers close enough, even looks like it's smiling. He leans in close and watches the way his breath clouds the surface, how his face gets lost in a smudge of white, and feels okay.
Connor opens his door at 7:15 with a splitting headache to find Asher outside. He'd been expecting room service or if not them, then Oliver. But no, it's Asher, in all his jovial, irreverent glory.
"Yo Walsh," Asher says, lifting his hand up for a high five that Connor doesn't return. "How's it hanging, bro?"
"What do you want?" Connor says.
"Can I come in? It's kind of cold to leave the father of your children out here on the doorstep."
"Haha, your face, priceless! It's alright I'm not pregnant." He leans in close. "Not with your spawn anyway. Though Bonnie tells me science is almost there."
"What she see in you I have no idea," Connor says. He sighs and pushes the door open. Nothing he says is going to make Asher go away so he may as well get it over with.
"Nice," Asher says, eyeing the take-out left over from the night before. "Love a bit of the old thai myself." He winks heavily and Connor grimaces.
"Awesome man, but hey I'm not here to talk about me."
"What are you here to talk about?"
"You." Asher takes off his jacket and throws it over the back of a chair. "What's this I'm hearing about you having something special going on?"
"Please stop trying to do whatever you're trying to do."
"You and that IT guy."
"Yeah, I definitely have no idea what you're talking about."
"Oh come on, bro to bro, we both know you're tapping some sweet nerdy ass."
Asher illustrates the statement with thrusting hip motions into the back of one of Connor's chairs.
"Please stop talking."
"I just wanted to say that if you get an opportunity to just - slide something in there. Other than what you usually slide in there, I mean - what I'm trying to say is - if he can do things, maybe you could ask him to do something for me."
"Oh my god," Connor says, in sudden horror. "I'm going to need you to be more specific."
"So - okay, I may have this profile that I may have made when I was like, fifteen."
"So, last week."
"Nothing, just filling in the gaps."
"Cool, dude. So if he could you know, work any magic, if that could disappear from the world that would be so awesome. And I would be very grateful."
Connor feels his eyebrow raise. "How grateful?"
"Oh, well, I mean I could get you both tickets to some really old boring people's holo-golf game. Or that weird neo-pastoral musical thing that's sold out. Oh, oh, or maybe a reservation in that top deck restaurant. I hear bookings are pretty hard to come by."
"Now that I might be interested in."
"Awesome," Asher says, giving him a few extra hip thrusts. "There we go. You can take him along, work some of your Walsh magic and ta-da, profile gone for forever."
"What's so bad about this profile? No wait, actually I don't want to know."
Asher is still in the middle of a celebratory dance but he pauses long enough to give Connor a thumbs-up.
"Who told you about my IT guy, anyway?"
"Grapevine, bro," Asher says, seguing into something more complicated including some kind of bastardised form of body-popping. "I think it's so great that you're finally settling down though, you know. Getting that booty on tap."
"Okay," Connor says, averting his eyes from whatever it is Asher is doing with hands. "It would be great if you left now. I've have to - wash my hair."
"No problem, homie," Asher says, dancing his way backwards to the door. He pauses before leaving to shoot finger guns at Connor. "I'll get back to you with that booking."
"Awesome," Connor says.
With Asher gone he heads into the kitchen to find the nearest bottle of something he can pretend is alcohol and then retreats back to his bed. His tablet is blinking with new messages so he tweaks the lights down to something less blinding and flips to the first.
One is an update from Annalise, with a report from Laurel attached. It finishes on a friendly note reminding him to play nice with Frank and a confirmation of their face to face at the next stop.
The second is from Frank and is only one line long -- stay away from Hampton. don't need to deal with the fallout from broken hearts.
The third and final one is an image from a guy he hooked up with during his first week on-board. He's naked, lying in some sheets, and his most impressive asset is on display. It comes with an invitation to drop round that evening. His thumb hovers over the image, dragging it one way across the screen and then the other.
He switches back to Frank's email to clear his head, then comes back to the picture again. Another message pops up before he can make the decision to delete or reply to it. It's from Frank, again.
I mean it, it reads, I have enough shit to deal with without you adding this guy to your list of casual fucks.
Connor's hands clench round his phone. He tosses it into his bathroom, leaving it to clatter on the tiles and yanks his running kit from his closet.
He stays out of the way of anyone human for the rest of the day. Runs 8k, destroys an AI at squash, then spends two hours buying half the galaxy for his sister. His bank calls halfway through the spending spree, worrying that his details have been compromised, and he bites the head off their assistant explaining how little time he has left to spend it all.
When he's got it all out of his system, he tells the kitchen to send up the easiest thing for them, switches on some lo-fi, and goes to pick something to wear. Standing in front of his closet he starts to think about how soon he's going to have to pick his clothes to appease a jury and how after that there's only ever going to be one option. The manic edge to his thoughts starts to creep in again so he grabs the plainest shirt and the nearest pair of pants and closes the doors before he can think any more.
By the time he reaches Oliver's, he's levelled out again, or enough that his hasn't had to run his hands through his hair more than once on the way down.
When Oliver opens the door, he's leant against, smile already in place.
"Important parcel for an O Hampton, Room 457. Is that you?"
Oliver crosses his arms and leans against the door-frame. "Did I invite you round?"
"Let me just double-check the label. See, right here, 'one night of mind blowing pleasure', to be signed for."
"Where do you want to sign?" Connor tugs his collar away from his neck. "Here? Or -" he trailed his hand across his stomach, "- here?"
"You have a great future ahead of you as a strip-o-gram," Oliver says, uncrossing his arms as he starts laughing.
He opens the door wide enough to let Connor slip past.
"Or a federation leader," Connor says. "Or Time's most influential person of the galaxy. I haven't decided how high to set my sights yet."
"What's in the package?"
Connor hides it behind his back before Oliver can reach it. "Take off your clothes and find out."
"Give me the package and I'll think about taking off my clothes."
"Nice negotiation. Not going to work."
"Why am I seeing you, again?"
Connor leans in close, close enough that their noses touch.
"Because I'm just that I'm good," he says.
He moves away before Oliver can say anything else, tossing his jacket over a chair.
"So, I thought of some names for the tortoise if you won't tell me what it's really called."
"It's a terrapin."
"You're not going to like any of them but I figure that's half the fun, right?"
"Oh, just take off your clothes."
"And put my mouth to better use?"
"Exactly," Oliver says, planting a hand on his chest and pushing him backwards.
He doesn't quite remember when Oliver got permission to stroke hands through his hair, but it seems to be happening. It's flattering, if a little sickening. In any other scenario he would've put a stop to it already but he can't ever remember how he ended up with his head in Oliver's lap.
"So what is in the package?"
Connor flicks his fingers casually in the direction of the box. "Our reservations for friday night."
"Our reservations? To where?"
"Cantucci's. That restaurant on the top deck."
Connor smiles smugly as Oliver's jaw drops.
"Please don't tell me you blew the maitre d'."
"I totally blew the maitre d'."
"Like, fifty times in a row."
Oliver pushes at his shoulder. "No seriously. I want to know - their wait list is huge."
"Maybe I'm just that good."
Oliver pushes his head off his lap and then rolls them over until he's sitting on Connor's thighs.
"You mean your ego is just that big."
"That too," Connor says, raising his body to nudge his hips into Oliver.
It's not all that's in the box but he leaves Oliver to find the passkey to his suite on his own. He'd meant to hand it over himself but the more he delayed mentioning it, the more it felt like it was supposed to mean something. In fact the more he thought about it, the less he wanted to. The last thing he needed was to add significance to a gift of convenience, both in Oliver's mind and his own.
It was going to be bad enough when Frank found out anyway. He could just imagine the emails he was going to get about security issues.
In the end, though, it was Michaela who found out first.
Connor swipes open his door and loops his bag over the stand. He's still working on his tie when Michaela elbows him.
"What?" he says without turning. "If it's something else about the paintings, I don't want to know."
"Who's this?" she says, in that brightly cheerful voice of hers that means she's incredibly unimpressed. "Oh Connor, you didn't tell me you had help."
Connor turns to look even though he already has an idea of what he'll find.
"Hey," Oliver says, looking tentative.
"Oliver," Connor says, bemused. "Um, hey."
"Oh," Michaela says, with the same tight cheeriness. "Oliver!"
"Um, hi," Oliver says, rubbing his hands against his pants and then standing up. He comes over and takes Michaela's gingerly outstretched hand.
"What's going on?" Connor says. "I thought you had work?"
"I did. I do," Oliver says. "I just - sometimes the office is really noisy and with everyone - well, you know - talking -"
"Talking," Michaela echoes, turning to Connor. "At the office. Wow."
"Can we have a second?" Connor says, turning to her and waving her towards his bedroom. "This will only take two."
"Sure," she says, with a pointed look and pulls her phone out of her purse.
When the door is closed after her, the awkward rigidity to Oliver dissipates and he comes over.
"I'm sorry," he says, sounding it. "Everyone at work was getting on my nerves talking about you - us - whatever. And I figured you wouldn't care. I mean we've seen each other so much recently -"
He trailed off with a shrug.
"It's fine, though if you were lonely all you had to do was message me."
Oliver laughs. "No, I mean - not that I don't enjoy - I wouldn't mind, but I didn't want to interrupt you. You said you had plans. And I do actually have to get work done. You know, sometimes."
"It's okay? I know it's kind of unexpected."
"No big deal," Connor says, though the surprise is yet to wear off. "So what are you working on?"
"Oh this algorithm we're working on for engineering, timers releasing coolant. It's really fascinating but it needs so much concentration. I'd tell you about it but -"
"What?" Connor says, feeling amused. "I'm not smart enough to get it?"
"Not IT-enough to get it?" Oliver says, shrugging with a smile. "Unless you know more about coding than I think you do."
The silence stretches as Connor realises that by this point in most of their conversations he's already trying to get Oliver into bed. It's not the worst idea he's ever had, but there are some things Michaela really wouldn't forgive.
"Well, how about you go back to your place, get showered, get all that nitty gritty IT stuff out of your head, and then come back here for something I am good at?"
He feels more comfortable once the sentence is out and they're back on familiar ground.
"I could do that," Oliver says. "Probably, I mean I've got an hour or so more on this before I can sign off for the night, then I haven't checked my inbox in an hour, but maybe after that?"
"Sure," Connor says.
When Oliver has packed up his stuff and left, Connor swings open the door to the bedroom. Michaela is sat on the edge of his bed, swiping away at her phone.
"Didn't realise hacker boy was staying over," she opens politely.
Connor tilts his head and gives her his best fuck you smile.
"He just can't get enough of me."
"Or maybe he's snooping around the place to find something to sell us out."
"Unclench, not everyone has a motive."
"Oh please," Michaela says, "like you can see past the end of your dick where guys are concerned."
"And even if he were, there wouldn't be anything for him to find. This place is clean. It's the most un-incriminating abode in the galaxy."
"That's what you said about the last one," Michaela says tightly. "And look where that got us. Plus hello, I know those are all the case files on your table."
"Oliver's not going to sell us out. Trust me. I have him eating out my palm."
It feels weird to use those terms to describe it but Michaela doesn't seem to notice if he falters.
"So I see."
"Good. So take a deep breath and imagine you're in your happy place. Or pegging Aiden. Whatever it is you do to let off steam."
"Careful, Connor," she says sweetly. "Hacker boy may not have the balls to sell you out, but I do."
Once she's gone too, Connor looks over the folders on the table for anything missing. There's nothing obviously out of place but he takes a photo just in case something jogs his mind later.
"Can we talk?" Oliver says, when he comes back later. "Nothing bad, just I wanted to go over something before - you know."
"Before what," Connor teases, handing him a plate and some cutlery. "Before I get carted away in an orange jumpsuit? Or before the world ends? Or just before we have mind-altering sex? Oh my god, wait, please don't say you're pregnant through a miracle of science."
"I am pregnant through a miracle of science," Oliver announces. "It's not yours though, I just thought you should know."
"Why is everybody pregnant and cheating on me?" Connor asks the whole room, though it's only the two of them. "Do you know how many times I've heard that this week?"
"No," Oliver says, taking a plate off him before can drop it. "Should I be jealous?"
The conversation goes downhill from there pretty quick, especially after Oliver reveals the two bottles of wine he'd apparently hidden in a bag. Connor remembers yelling something about going down in style and then the next moment that's clear is being guided towards the bed and kicking off his shoes.
Connor opens his eyes blearily and raises his head as far he can manage, which feels no more than an inch. Beside him, Oliver shifts and buries his face further into the pillows.
"Get up, we're having a meeting."
The imposing figure at the foot of his bed morphs into the shape of Annalise, her hands on her hips and Frank hovering over her shoulder.
"What, now?" Dates and days are still blurry in his head but he supposes it makes sense that she's here, even if it seems too early for a meeting.
"No, next year. Now get out of the bed. Unless you'd like to spend the rest of your life in prison?"
Connor rolls his eyes and reluctantly slides his feet out of the covers.
"Alright, I'm coming, everyone calm down."
Frank is glaring pointedly at the Oliver-sized lump in his bed and it's all suddenly hilarious to Connor. The fact that he's incredibly hungover for one of the most important meetings of his life, that Annalise just had to fetch him from his bed, that Michaela is going to be out there sitting at a table covering in take-out and wine bottles in one of her pristine outfits. He's not even sure he knows what his life comprises of any more.
Blowing a kiss to Frank, he grabs the nearest v-neck, thanks God that Oliver left him in his pants, and saunters out into the lounge.
In the sterile light outside, they all sit down to a table covered in papers. Some of it looks new, but Connor's brain isn't awake enough to take in more than that.
"Okay, explain to me why we're here?"
Everyone remains quiet, staring at him, except Annalise. She takes a folder out of her bag and passes it over to him.
"We've had a breakthrough, Mr Walsh."
"What?" He flips open the file and starts reading. It's a print of an email with all the names and the address line blacked out. It talks about sit down meetings and a bunch of timings.
"What is this?" he says, flicking through to the next page - another email with an attachment labelled like a date.
"Turns out we have a few more friends that we thought we did."
"What friends?" Connor says, tossing the folder onto the table. "What breakthrough?"
None of them seem to want to look him in the eye though Michaela is all but vibrating next to him.
"Apparently the galaxy's press aren't quite the useless idiots we thought they were."
Michaela reaches out to squeeze his knee, her eyes are bright. "Somebody tipped off The Post. They have a video that implicates Mullen! They want to interview us about uncovering some kind of underground ring. Connor, people actually believe we didn't do it."
Connor feels himself freeze, his head stuck facing her at an awkward angle.
"So, what - we're starting a media campaign?".
"Already have," Annalise says smoothly. "You won't be interviewed by anyone, and that video is going straight into an evidence locker, but Mullen's little side hobby? Is going to be splattered all over the front pages. Every news outlet in the sector will be calling by lunchtime and we'll be on our way to clearing the both of you."
Connor reaches back for the file when Annalise offers it and opens it again with new eyes. Now he knows what he's looking for, the email starts to makes sense. It's a copy of whatever someone sent The Post when they tipped then off.
Michaela moves from his knee to his elbow and squeezes excitedly. "We're not going to jail."
"No, Miss Pratt, you're not," Annalise puts in. "I hope you two don't mind, but we ordered champagne."
"Can you imagine," Michaela says. "I'm not going to spend a lifetime in orange!"
"This is amazing," Connor says numbly, his throat suddenly deciding to work.
It's still only 3:47am when they finish going through the specifics, but once the files go away they all say fuck it and open the champagne.
Annalise takes a glass but doesn't drink it, shifting away to the corner of the room to make more calls. Frank down a glass in a few short seconds and then falls back on his chair with a look of such relief that Connor almost doesn't hate him.
"I can't believe I'm finally going to be rid of you two," Frank says.
"Guess you're going to have to find someone else to stalk."
"Shut up, Walsh, like I'd enjoy watching you fuck your way through the ship."
"What, jealous I didn't start with you?"
"Oh my god," Michaela says. "You guys, stop it. We're not going to jail. Can't you stop arguing for two seconds?"
Someone knocks on the the door-frame so Connor flips his hair and looks up.
It's Oliver, in a pair of Connor's sweatpants and a vest.
"Hi," he says, waving gingerly. "Can I join in with the celebrations? Only it's kind of hard to sleep while you're all cheering and clinking glasses."
Frank coughs into his hand unsubtly so Connor shows him his teeth and waves Oliver over.
When he gets close enough, he hooks a hand in Oliver's vest and drags him down for a kiss. Somebody behind them wolf whistles.
Oliver pulls back looking surprised, but there's a smile making its way onto his face.
"Good morning," Connor says huskily, without taking his eyes off him.
"Um, hi?" Oliver says.
"Have I ever mentioned that you're a genius?"
Oliver blushes but his gaze steadies like he knows exactly what Connor's referring to.
Then he shrugs.
"So, I hear you're working your way through the whole ship?" He doesn't look away while he says it, in fact it sounds like a challenge.
Connor feels his pulse kick up a level. "I don't know. See, usually I only like to bother with the best."
Michaela slaps his arm. "You guys are gross, just get married already."
"Yeah, what she said," Frank puts in. "Go have your loud celebratory sex already and leave us alone."
"That -" Connor says, setting his glass down on the table, "- sounds like an excellent plan. See all you losers later."
Oliver's already walking backwards with a grin on his face so all Connor has to do is follow.
He's pulling the vest up and over Oliver's head before the door even closes behind them.
"So I did okay?" Oliver says. "It worked?"
"Fuck yes," Connor says, getting started on the sweatpants. "Whatever you did - I -"
He doesn't tell his hands to pause, but they do, one on Oliver's hip, the other over the drawstring on his pants.
Oliver tentatively moves a hand to cover his. "Are you okay?"
Connor turns the string around in his fingers and then slowly looks up at Oliver. "Are we dating?"
"Um, yes," Oliver says, pushing him backwards. "I hacked some pretty secure systems for you, so definitely."
"What does that mean?"
"The hacking thing? That I'm great at my job. The dating thing? That you're going to shut up and blow me now."
Connor laughs. He surges forwards and knocks them onto the bed, climbing on-top of Oliver and pinning his wrists down. "Who says you're not going to blow me?"
"You owe me, Connor Walsh."
Connor releases Oliver's wrists to sit back on his heels and tiptoe his fingers down Oliver's chest. Bending over, he puts his mouth to Oliver's bare navel and starts working his way down.
When he gets to the band on Oliver's boxers he pauses, looking up.
"Wait, I want to know the name of your terrapin."
"Edward," Oliver says, one of his dorky smiles making an appearance. "His name is Edward."