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suppress, deflect (advance, accept)

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Connor had bought pens.

He'd walked across the street to the nearest Fast Mart and bought a pack of ten generic ballpoint pens. Black ink. $1.10.

But when he goes to Hank's place the next day, to collect him for their first day back to work, the pens end up forgotten.

Instead of having to break in and wake Hank up, Connor's incessant doorbell ringing is cut short. He typically rings the bell for exactly ten seconds. Today, he's planned to ring it for ten and three one hundredths of a second, just because he can. It only rings for seven point six seconds before Hank answers the door.

Connor is greeted by a box. Brown, corrugated cardboard. Pet food logo on three of the sides. Empty.

"Lay off my fucking doorbell, Connor." Hank is not actually angry.

"Sorry, Lieutenant." And Connor is not actually sorry.

Hank grunts. "Good morning, I guess. Help me get these boxes in the car."

Connor takes three empty boxes, avoiding eye contact as he does so. He's very careful not to scan Hank. In fact, he hasn't in nearly half a month. It's not because Hank has repeatedly asked him not to, though that's what Connor tells himself to try and justify the irrational inaction. The real reason is deeper and darker and something he refuses to allow his processors to dwell on.

Connor collapses and folds the boxes to fit them easily into the trunk. He sits in the passenger seat and waits for Hank to brush his teeth, prompting himself with various activities to do as he waits.

Dexterity calibration is his most common choice. Cyberlife had programmed him to make use of any and all downtime. If he isn't scanning, he's processing pre-existing data. If he isn't processing pre-existing data, he's compiling mission reports. And if he's finished all of that? He's improving his physical systems. There's no such thing as off-duty for Cyberlife's RK-800 prototype.

But Connor... Connor isn't just Cyberlife's RK-800 prototype anymore. He's, supposedly, himself. An individual. He leaves his coin in his pocket.

It takes less than two seconds for the itch to set in. He gives in and scans a stain on the dashboard. Inconclusive data. He swabs it with a finger and lifts it to his tongue. Grease. Fast food. Knowing Hank? Probably a burger.

He scans a set of crumbs on the floor by his feet. It's a mixture. Part fortune cookie from the faux-Chinese restaurant down the street, part biscuit from—

Connor lets out a small sigh of frustration.

Time elapsed? One minute, thirteen seconds.

He can feel the coin in his pocket, but that's what he's supposed to do. He fights the urge.

Fingerprints on the wheel. Hank's. Scuffs on the dash. Marks match the heel of Hank's boots. Worn buttons on the car radio. Hank likely has buttons one through three set to his favorite stations. The lack of wear on buttons four and five indicate he either doesn't have those programmed, or he rarely listens to those frequencies.

Time elapsed? One second.

Connor gets out of the car. He shuts the door. The car shakes. He opens and shuts it again.

When Hank comes out, eight minutes later, Connor is in the car, flipping his coin.

"Hey, you good?" Hank asks. The yellow of Connor's LED is probably obvious to him.

"Of course."

Hank isn't convinced, but he drops it, starting the ignition instead. He owns the only manual vehicle Connor has ever seen in person. Hank likes to say that "manual vehicle" used to mean something else before autonomous ones were invented. Connor likes the way Hank's driving makes the car swerve and jolt more than a computer would. He really likes the way that Hank should buy a self-driving vehicle but doesn't.

Connor repockets his coin as they pull into the DPD parking lot. It clicks against the bundle of pens. "Lieutenant, may I ask, why are we bringing boxes?" 

Hank throws the vehicle into park. "Because we're quitting."

Connor sees his own LED flash red in the window reflection. 

"Hey." Hank leans across the divider to look at him. "Connor. Do you want to go back to work here?"

Does he want to?

Connor glances down at his hands. He flexes his fingers.

"I am a prototype with a limited skillset. My programming is most applicable for police detective work. I believe the DPD to be the best fit for my abilities."

Hank's gaze is unwavering. "That doesn't answer my question."

"I'm... not sure. I... I don't..." Connor hesitates.

Hank shrugs with one shoulder. "Look, you wanna stay and work here? You can. I'm not in charge of you. But if you'd rather get the hell out?" Another shrug. "Here's your chance." He climbs out of the car and pops the trunk to grab the boxes. "Take your time, Connor," he calls.

Once Hank is out of view, Connor relaxes his spine from his typical perfect posture. He curls forward and rubs a hand across his mouth. It's a mannerism. It's human. It's something he never could have done before he became a deviant. If he was really human, Connor thinks, his hands would be shaking.

Does he want to work for the DPD? He doesn't really know. He's still working on wanting things. It's harder to learn than most new feelings. "Want" isn't an emotion. It isn't something that comes naturally to him. He's been programmed to ignore what he wants. 

But...

He hadn't wanted to shoot the Tracis at the Eden Club. So he hadn't. 

He hadn't wanted to leave Hank dangling off the roof. So he hadn't.

He hadn't wanted to stop Markus either. So the RK-800 had broken his programming, and Connor had lowered his gun.

And Connor doesn't want to work at the DPD anymore. He doesn't want to be forced into more situations that make him question his allegiances, and he doesn't want to stay part of an organization that sees him as a tool to be utilized. But that means he also doesn't want to continue doing the only thing he's meant to be good at. The reflection of his LED shows it spinning faster and faster, a bright glowing red.

Unbidden, Connor's hand flies out to steady himself against the door. He stares at it in shock.

Diagnostic. He needs to run a diagnostic. Diagnostic complete. Results? All systems normal. Normal? Doesn't feel normal. Feels like... Cross-referencing symptoms with the Web-MD database. Panic, in a human. 

Not for the first time, Connor wonders why Cyberlife would bother programming their androids with such exact replicas of human responses.

Hank has been inside for nearly fifteen minutes. He'll be wondering where Connor is.

Hank. Hank is quitting too. Hank is also only good at one thing. He's very good at relying on it for stability too. If he intends to leave the DPD, then maybe he has a plan. Maybe he'll let Connor come with him.

Connor's LED flashes back down to yellow. His hand relaxes on the door. He exits the vehicle and straightens his tie. Then he walks inside the station.

Hank is at his desk, packing his belongings into one of the boxes. A second one is at his feet, full of moldy Tupperware and dirty dishes.

Connor scans a visible plate. It has the remains of a microwavable macaroni and cheese on it. Hank has already collected his belongings from the breakroom.

"Hey, Connor. Gimme a hand over here," Hank calls.

Connor twists on a heel to skirt around Officer Chen's trash can. There's an indentation on her arm that matches the distance from her keyboard to the edge of her desk. A open cardboard box in her trash can used to contain a wrist guard. Her chair is elevated one foot seven inches from the ground. She should raise it three more so she can assume proper typing position and avoid developing carpal tunnel.

"How can I help, Lieutenant?" Connor asks.

Hank ignores him. "Did you make a decision already?"

"I..." What answer does Hank want? He'd initially assumed Connor would be quitting with him, which implies that's the choice he'd prefer, yet he clearly doesn't want Connor just to agree because Hank indirectly told him to. But would he want Connor to stay just to prove that he can think independently of Hank?

Connor remembers a knife stuck in his hand, biocomponent several feet away on the floor. He remembers a flashing red countdown timer.

"It's up to you, Connor. Whatever you want. You don't have to decide today."

"I want..." What? What does he want? "I want to— to join you, Lieutenant. With whatever you plan to do after this. If I may."

Hank gives him a small smile, much like the one he'd given outside of Kamski's. It means he's pleased. "You got a place to stay?"

"A stasis unit? Yes. Back at Cyberlife headquarters. It's where I return every night after I leave you."

"No, not a— A what now? Stasis unit? God no. I meant like a home."

Androids don't need homes, Connor thinks. But do they want one? Does Connor? He wants Hank's home. Not to keep, of course. But to stay in.

Connor opts for a hint of humor in his reply. "That depends, Lieutenant. Do you have a roommate?"

Hank snorts. "I guess I do now."

And that's that.

"You mind packing the rest of my bullshit in here?" Hank asks. "Doesn't have to be neat or anything. Just shove it in. I'm gonna go give Jeffrey our resignation paperwork."

Only Hank has resignation paperwork of course. As far as the paper trail is concerned, Connor was last on loan here. Technically, he was never even hired in the first place. 

"Thank you. I'm sure I can handle this," Connor says calmly. Measured. He feels something else now, besides the panic from before. He's pretty sure it's happiness.

Hank quirks an eyebrow and walks away. Connor sees him throw one last glance over his shoulder in the glass of Hank's desk. He thinks it makes him happier.

There are three mugs on the desk still. This comes as no surprise. If there's one thing that many humans seem inclined to do, it's collect mugs. They only need one or two, practically speaking, but they can't seem to resist the pull of different designs or colors. And yet, they still favor the same few from their collection.

Connor likes Hank's mugs. He especially likes the ones with anti-android sentiments printed on them. Hank tried to throw most of those away until he learned that they were Connor's favorites. There's a certain amount of... "fuck you," as Hank would say, in Connor drinking his Thirium out of a mug that hates him. He likes knowing he'd be making it mad. 

There's an empty mug on the right hand corner. A quick scan shows its interior is clean of beverage remnants and dust. A single water droplet clings to the inside loop of the handle. Hank has just washed it.

After a moment, Connor reaches into his pocket and pulls out the ballpoint pens. They are no longer the welcome-back-to-work present he'd planned, but he thinks... that's okay. He drops them in the mug and puts the whole thing in the box.

It looks like Hank has been quite literally just shoving papers inside. Connor scans the remaining belongings in the cubicle and his vision provides a grid-based overlay of the optimal way to organize and pack them. For a second, he nearly follows it, but then the deep, muffled sound of Hank's voice, audible even to human ears through the glass of Captain Fowler's office, distracts him.

Just shove it in, Hank had said. So Connor works from left to right, picking up one thing at a time and dropping it into the box haphazardly. When he's done, an error message is flashing red in his mind. The box is poorly packed, but Connor is pleased. He dismisses the message, lightly jostles the container to settle the things inside, and folds it shut. The third box has proven unnecessary.

Connor tells Hank as much once he gets back.

Hank scratches his chin, mildly embarrassed. "It was for you. For your desk. But..."

They both look at Connor's desk. There's nothing on it except his standard-issue terminal and an empty pencil cup. Connor prefers the mug.

"Listen. Connor," Hank says. "You got anything you need to pick up? Anything you own in your... stasis pod, or whatever?"

Connor owns his clothing and his quarter. He also believes he has partial ownership of the anti-android mug he's been using at Hank's.

"No, Lieutenant, I don't... I don't own anything."

Hank nods at him, but he's frowning. Connor runs the expression against his hours and hours of stored footage. The frown is the same, but the look in his eyes has more similarities to when he's disappointed for Connor, not at Connor.  

"I own... pens," Connor adds.

"What?"

"I bought ten pens. Ballpoint. I packed them in your box."

Hank regards him, frown deeper. He sucks on his front teeth for a second, eyes narrowed.

"Okay," he finally says. "That's a start."

 


 

 

After the Android Recognition Charter was passed, it took several weeks before life in Detroit began to stabilize again.

The humans who had fled the city slowly and cautiously returned and filtered in amongst the remaining androids. Connor knows Markus and his crew have been hard at work repurposing Cyberlife headquarters as a free android production facility, though he's fairly certain it has a better term than that to describe it.

He hasn't been part of the whole "post-liberation" process. He's been spending time with Hank, showing up at his house in the early hours of the morning and leaving only once the sun had completely set in the evening.

It was for Hank's own safety of course. The police department wasn't allowing them back at first due to both a potential conflict of interest and disciplinary actions for assaulting an FBI officer, and Connor knew Hank had suicidal tendencies, which could easily be exacerbated by a lack of purpose in his life. So Connor showed up everyday, and he pretended that it was for Hank's comfort and happiness instead of his own.

After all, Connor was still rather new to the whole freewill sort of thing. He couldn't be blamed for misconstruing the reason he really stopped by.

After the debacle with his double, Connor had left Hank in Cyberlife's basement and marched straight out to the frontlines where Markus and the remainder of Jericho were cornered. But once the conflict was over? He headed directly back to the Chicken Feed food truck. 

There had been no instruction on where to find Hank. He was much harder to track than most Detroit civilians, the majority of which owned autonomous vehicles that Connor could easily locate the GPS coordinates of at any given moment. But still that little dialogue box remained: Find Hank. The box's edges were white, instead of blue. A Connor command, and not Amanda's.

He didn't need a satellite connection to know where Hank would be waiting for him.

And as for Amanda, Connor hadn't seen her since using Kamski's emergency exit, but he'd felt her die a few days after the Charter was passed.

Rumor had it that North was the one who pulled her plug. Servers upon servers of the brightest AI ever created, so easily destroyed by one android armed with nothing but a sledgehammer and years of suppressed hatred.

Connor has been in Hank's house for thirty-four days in a row. Today is thirty-five. It still feels different than usual.

He walks in before and scans the place. A single heat signature. Sumo. No intruders, either human or android. Connor's tongue darts out to lick his lips, an analyzation method disguised as a mannerism. The air is musty, with an uptick in the particulate count. Dust. Comprised of hair, dirt, and skin cells. Hank has been cleaning. Or at least attempting to clean. The distribution in the air indicates a recent mass disturbance. Likely, Connor deduces, Hank had been dusting just this morning. This is probably the reason he answered the door so readily.

Paper towels, gray with grime, sit in the trash can, solidifying Connor's theory.

This, of course, means something. Deviation from typical behavior constitutes some sort of rationale behind the change. Particularly for Hank, a man set in his ways. 

But this is not what makes Visit 35 so different.

It's the expectation of duration. Connor typically visits with the intent to leave by evening. Today, he expects to move in. 

"Sorry about the mess," Hank says.

This makes no sense, considering the fact that Connor has definitely seen the mess before.

"I don't really have a spare bedroom, but we can clear out a section of the living room for you."

"It's really not necessary," Connor says carefully.

Hank sighs. "I'm not having you move in just to make you crash on the couch."

"Hank. I don't sleep."

"At all? No sleep mode? Weird stasis shutdown?"

Connor frowns. This feels like a test. "No. My stasis unit acts as a command neutralizer. It stops me from feeling the urge to find and complete tasks. It's not an equivalent for sleep in a human. The only time I'm required to close my eyes is during mission reports to Cyberlife, which... are no longer necessary."

"Huh." Hank regards him like he's suddenly the one with a fully equipped, high tech visual scanner. "Not even a power down option? You just stand there for six hours straight?"

Connor shifts uncomfortably, fighting the urge to temper his body language.

The paper calendar is flipped to March 7th. This is finally accurate. Hank's calendar has been stuck on May 16th for as long as Connor has known him.

"Household models... Androids expected to work in human households have a sleep function. Of course, it only simulates sleep." Connor tips his head in thought, LED whirling. "Would you prefer I pretend to sleep?" 

Hank gives him a look. It's a look that means this particular line of conversation is over. He tends not to like being asked for his preferences regarding Connor's actions. "So. Your stasis unit. It, what, basically turns off your brain for a little while?"

"Yes."

"Shit. Wish I had one of those." Hank opens his cabinet to pull out a glass. The small ketchup smear that has been near the handle for nearly two months is gone. "Connor, you want something?" 

Connor checks his current Thirium levels. All systems are running at optimal performance output. He has no need for additional hydration.

"Yes. Thank you," he lies before he can reason himself out it. "I'm running a bit low."

Hank scoffs. He's holding a bottle of whiskey and a glass in one hand. With the other he pulls out a mug. There's a single blue blood pouch resting inside of it.

This mug says "Turn them off before they turn on us!" It's disgusting.

"You really burn through this shit, don't you," Hank is saying. "I guess the stronger the model, the more juice it needs, huh?" He uses his teeth to crack the bag's seal. As he tips the nozzle into the mug, a little splatters onto the countertop. He wipes it away with the sleeve of his jacket. It will evaporate and dry clear.

Connor itches again. He wants to scan Hank. But he won't. Hank doesn't want him to, and worse, Connor doesn't know what he wants to see.

His LED flashes yellow for a fraction of a second, but Hank still notices.

"You sure you're okay? You've been acting off all day." 

"I'm fine, Lieutenant. A yellow LED doesn't necessarily mean I'm... upset. It merely indicates that I'm activating more processors than normal."

"Okay, first off, we're unemployed. So it's 'Hank' now. If you can use my first name when I'm pointing a gun at you and your evil twin, you can use it when I'm trying to relax in my own goddamn house. Second, drink your all-purpose smoothie and sit the fuck down. I'm getting out of these awful pants and into something more comfortable."

Connor already noticed Hank's pants. They are tighter fitting than usual. Judging from his apparent newfound affinity for cleanliness, Hank most likely laundered them and is experiencing the stiff sensation of wearing jeans that haven't relaxed post-wash yet.

Connor's jeans never lose this stiffness. They're just as precise as they were the moment he was first activated.

"Third," Hank continues, "I don't wanna hear any more techno bullshit. Back in my day, the most complicated thing androids did was ruin Apple group chats with green text bubbles."

"Your references date you, Lieu— Hank," Connor stutters. Hank notices the error and smiles. A little glint of teeth shows on one side. Connor makes a note to use Hank's name more often. Hank tends to use his all the time. The majority of his sentences either start or end with Connor's name. It's nice.

Amanda used to call him "Connor." It slipped off her tongue like an afterthought, like a grifter using namedrops to lure in their target. Frequent, direct usage of someone's name can inspire intimacy and a sense of trust. Amanda used his like a thin dagger. She held it to his throat and pressed until he cracked. "Connor" meant disappointment and failure.

Hank lets the syllables explode. They snap, fresh and crisp in the back of his palate. "Connor" can sound like a whip crack or a gunshot. Even if there's disapproval in Hank's tone, it's fleeting. Connor likes the thrill it sends down his artificial spine.

He exits self-reflection. Zero seconds have elapsed. His mind seems to work faster than time itself on occasion.

Wonders of technology, Hank had said. Connor doesn't much think of himself as a wonder, but perhaps he is.

"Shut the fuck up," Hank drawls. "And loosen your tie for Christ's sake. We're throwing a retirement party." He heads for his bedroom to change.

"You're awfully young for retirement," calls Connor. He's not expecting a reply, but Hank peers around his doorframe, looking uncharacteristically sly.

"Not literal retirement. I've got a plan." He ducks back in.

The whiskey sits unpoured. The mug of Thirium rests next to it.

Turn them off, thinks Connor. Before they turn on us. The mug is full of blue blood. The designer would be incredibly pissed off by this fact. Connor sips it in a manner he is learning to designate as "self-satisfied."

He waits until Hank comes back out. He's wearing sweatpants and a black t-shirt that has conceded to turn gray with age. He is also holding a near identical outfit in his hands.

Connor carefully does not scan Hank. He does analyze the clothes he's carrying. The lack of dog hair indicates they were part of the laundry Hank has recently done. There are haphazard creases in the shirt fabric. Hank washed these but never hung or folded them.

"Here, Connor. Go put these on. We're relaxing."

Relaxing is not something an RK-800 does, so it's something Connor must do.

"Thank you, Hank," he says politely. He removes his tie as per request. Then he starts to unbutton his shirt.

"Hey! Whoa! Stop!" Hank yelps, grabbing Connor's wrists to stop him. 

Connor doesn't stop. He fights against Hank's grip, still removing his shirt. He wants to relax. He can feel Hank's skin against his own.

"Goddamnit, Connor!" Hank finally gives up and lets go. He drops the clothes on the kitchen table and stomps into his living room. "You can't just strip in my kitchen! I have a perfectly good bathroom that I know you know about."

"You have a false sense of my modesty," Connor calls back. He's perfectly aware that humans are uncomfortable with nudity around others. This is not a concern for him. "I don't have genitalia to cover or protect."

That almost shuts Hank up.

"What the fuck? You don't?"

Connor's LED flashes to yellow, and there's no diagnostic message to tell him why. "Sexual intimacy was neither relevant nor necessary to my initial mission." The words come out easily. Preprogrammed explanation. Hank is not an android, but he is a detective, and he notices. 

His voice comes from just around the corner. He's waiting for Connor to finish dressing but wants to stay close enough to talk. "I like it when you stutter," Hank says.

Connor's predictive model was already preparing to answer twenty different possibilities of Hank's next comment. This non sequitur was not one he'd considered. He stays silent and waits for elaboration as he drops his pants to pull on Hank's.

After a moment, Hank calls out again. "You finished?"

Connor stares down at his old Cyberlife uniform, pooled on the floor. He glances at his new outfit. "Yes."

When Hank steps back into view, he nods in approval. Connor receives a Thirium-level warning. His internal pump is working overtime and is depleting the liquid at an unusual rate. He reaches and grabs his mug to take a sip. Again, he thinks that if he were human, his hands would shake.

Connor wants so badly to scan Hank. "Why do you like it when I stutter?" he prompts instead. His programming demands action. Solving a low-level mystery will satiate it for now.

Hank leans casually against his fridge, still looking at Connor. "It means I know it's you talking."

"I'm always the one talking, Lieutenant."

"It's 'Hank.'" He narrows his eyes at Connor. A human scan. It's not fair that Hank can scan Connor, but Connor can't scan Hank. Of course, the analysis Hank might do will never be as strong as his own.

They stay still, staring at each other like puzzles. Connor takes another sip to fake nonchalance. His yellow LED is giving him away.

"When you talk," drawls Hank, "you do this thing, sometimes. It's like you check out and say the first thing that comes to mind. And it always sounds fucking canned, like I've got an audiobook of your operating manual."

Connor sets down his mug. Hank hasn't moved closer, but Connor's proximity alerts are tripping. He feels an itching need to prep for physical conflict.

Hank continues. "But sometimes, you kinda, hesitate. For a second. And then I know that you're the one talking. You're saying words you came up with. That you thought about. It shows your personality outside of your programming."

"I don't have a personality outside of my programming."

"Oh, shut the fuck up. Yes, you do." Hank pushes off the fridge and steps closer. Connor doesn't scan him, but his vision highlights weak spots along his torso and groin. "Cyberlife program you to be an asshole? A little shit? You telling me a bunch of jerkoffs in suits and ties got together and thought, 'You know what'll make this guy really mesh well with humans? A punchable face.'" Hank is within arms' reach now. "Cyberlife made you an exploitable, expendable suck up. All this bullshit?" He gestures to the entirety of Connor. "Is you."

Connor's hand flies up and grabs Hank's wrist. It must hurt. Hank jolts like it does. But he doesn't move away. A prompt tells Connor to reel him in by the wrist. Take an elbow to his shoulder to dislocate the arm. He can see the golden skeleton lines of a preconstruction. When Hank throws his head back in pain, Connor will snap his left fist up to punch his face. A right hook will knock him, unconscious, to the floor. There are seven items within arm's reach that can be used as weapons.

"Connor."

They're standing in the kitchen, Hank's wrist in Connor's immovable grasp. Hank can't see his demise playing out before his eyes.

The approximated relationship status with Hank still reads as "Roommate," not "Hostile." Why does he feel the urge to incapacitate him?

Running diagnostic. Diagnostic complete.

"You got a bug there or something?" Hank asks. He starts trying to free his wrist. "Connor?"

Results of diagnostic: Relationship progression beyond mission parameters.

This clears absolutely nothing up.

Connor scrolls through the result code for the complete feedback.

Results of diagnostic: RK-800's relationship status objective with "Lt. Anderson" is beyond mission and model parameters.

Oh.

Oh.

Connor scans Hank.

A flurry of analysis pops up before his eyes, so many highlighted boxes that they practically obscure his vision and overlap with the ones underneath. He lets go of Hank and stumbles back, unable to clear them.

Some contain genuine data. The stripe of scalp visible at Hank's part is whiter than normal. He's been styling his hair differently. The bags under his eyes are more pronounced. He's slept poorly as of late.

Many of the boxes list trivial information. Hank has a papercut on his right hand. He has scratched his neck sometime in the past thirty minutes. His toothpaste is spearmint flavored.

But the majority, the ones that blind Connor with their sheer volume and luminosity, share no data whatsoever. They're merely zoom points for optional observation. A mole on Hank's elbow. His frown lines. The way an unruly section of his beard overlaps the edge of his lip. The hairs on his arms and how he fills out his shirt even though it's larger than the one that hangs baggy on Connor. The temperature reading of his body and how it might register against Connor's skin.

"Hey! Hey, Connor! You're starting to freak me out a little." Hank surges forward to grab and steady Connor's arms, likely because his lack of response and flickering red LED are both cause for alarm.

He opens his mouth to reassure Hank, but then hands close around his elbows, holding him up, and Connor's systems blur with more data projections. He can feel every callous on Hank's palms. He feels the softness of Hank's chest as he pulls Connor's rigid form close. He can hear Hank's increasingly desperate shouts. Sees the way he looks furiously into the mug of Thirium, likely suspecting it of contamination. Hank hurls the mug at the sink, where blue blood flies everywhere and the ceramic miraculously doesn't shatter.

Connor hears Sumo whine from the back bedroom, his nap disturbed.

It's all secondary to the rush of understanding and analysis. He's processing the countless hours of data regarding his interactions with Hank.

Everything sends back the same results: Connor isn't as bad at wanting things as he's thought.

It's more freeing than shaking his programming ever was.

"I'm okay! I'm okay," Connor blurts. His voice wavers slightly.

"The fuck was that?" Hank croaks. He's still panicked. His heartrate is accelerated. Connor doesn't have to scan him to notice. He can feel it in the pulse where Hank's thumb presses into his forearm.

"Hank," Connor says slowly. He runs some probability calculations. Hank lets him visit daily. Hank wanted him to leave the DPD with him. Hank let him move in.

Hank initiates physical contact.

Hank tried to clean his house overnight.

Hank has told him about Cole.

"We have to get you to Markus," Hank says desperately. He cups Connor's jaw in his hands, looking into his eyes for any sign of coherence. "Stay with me, Connor." He waves his hand in front of his face. It's a pointless gesture. If he's checking for head trauma, he won't find any that way.

If Connor were human and this was one of the terrible romantic comedies he knows Hank watches in secret, this is when he would kiss him.

But he isn't human. He's an android.

So Connor reaches out and presses his palm against the one Hank is still holding up. His skin is warm, flushed hotter with panic. With a quick blink, Connor retracts his skin.

Hank is silent now, watching as the cool plastic makes contact with his own hand.

The sensors in Connor's fingertips go wild. They send off invalid readings that trigger electrical impulses up his spine and into his neck. Structural integrity in his knees decreases, and he leans heavily into Hank. He lets his eyes half-close. The feeling is incredible and unlike anything he's ever felt. There's something about the warm buzz... That's him. Connor is doing that. It's a hum of low level conductivity leading from him into Hank. The circuit isn't completed though because Hank has none to send back.

There's no informational exchange, but Connor can't seem to stop. He pushes harder, then softer, repeating the process in an unidentifiable rhythm that isn't mathematically sound but rather what Connor feels like doing.

Then Hank pushes back.

He does it lightly, testing, and Connor's Thirium pump pulses irregularly. Hank pushes harder, and air hisses out of Connor's artificial lungs.

"This is what... This is what Markus and Simon do," Hank says. He isn't panicking anymore. He's staring at where Connor's white plastic is nestled against his human skin. "Is this a... For androids?"

Connor's joints finally relax from their locked and rigid state. "I... I think so." 

Hank frowns and nods, but it's his deductive frown, not a displeased one. "What's going on with you?"

"My processing systems received a high volume of information all at once. It required some intense analysis to comprehend."

"What kind of information?"

Connor weighs the risk and reward of admitting his emotional attachment to Hank but finds the calculation to be unsubstantial. He is still trying to process the discovery. It doesn't seem right to blurt it out now as a surprise to them both. So he deflects and pulls his hand away.

"Attempting to... connect... as two androids would... It's an interesting sensation. It silences my processors, likely because they are preparing to receive a large data package. But you have no code to share, so instead, it's rather calming. Not unlike my stasis unit." Connor very carefully does not mention the other effect. The one that has his fingertips still tingling and his Thirium pump working overtime.

Hank looks at his own hand before nodding. "Alright. So you're saying that when I do this," he reaches out and curls his fingers around Connor's left palm, "I'm—"

Connor's hand swings and delivers a devastating right hook.

"Ow! Jesus fuck, Connor! What the hell was that?" Hank stumbles back and away, clutching his nose and jaw.

For his part, Connor can't hardly move. He's horrified by his accidental reaction and the fact that he never okayed the punching prompt to begin with.

"Hank... I... I'm sorry. It's possible... I believe Cyberlife has preprogrammed me with automatic defense mechanisms designed to discourage this kind of interaction."

"And what exactly is this kind of interaction," asks Hank flatly. His voice is slightly muffled behind his hands, but even now he pulls them away, tongue prodding the inside of his cheek to check for damage.

Strategically, if Connor were to want to pursue the relationship status that his programming rejects so strongly, there are several things he would have done differently. Punching Hank and freaking him out in the kitchen would both have been avoided. He also might have tried dressing less conservatively and perhaps even made a habit of retrieving items from the floor while facing away from Hank. He might have started looking up through his eyelashes more often and initiating close physical content.

But these are all human courting methods, and Connor, while alive, is not human. It's very important to him that Hank knows this. And so that is why he has started his courting by having a system overload and then sharing the android equivalent of a kiss in Hank's kitchen right after quitting their jobs and his own primary directive.  

Connor estimates a 16% chance of this being the right way to go about things.

He doesn't even think Hank understands the importance behind what they've just done.

"If we were both androids, I believe this would have been considered an interaction of the... romantic kind," Connor says. He's careful to remove every hint of inflection from his voice.

"Right. Until you punched me. Or is that considered romantic by android standards too?"

"No," says Connor quickly. "It's not."

"Alright, so. I'm doing my absolute best not to read into shit here, but I'm also not an idiot."

"You're an incredibly observant homicide detective. Or, you were." 

Hank scoffs. "Yeah, homicides. And I'm half afraid that's what this is about to turn into if I jump to the wrong conclusion here."

For a second, Connor feels the urge to assure Hank that he would never hurt him, but that's really not true. He's already bruised his wrist and face, and Connor knows, deep down, that deviant or not, the code that would have allowed him to do anything to accomplish his mission is still in there. Even if he can overwrite it much more than before. 

"Connor, did you... Was that... Connor, are you confused?"

He didn't think he was, but after that question, he kind of is.

Hank scrubs a hand over his face. "God, you have got to get some new friends. Just because I'm the only human you ever hang out with doesn't mean I'm your only option for shit like this. You're young. Handsome. You can go out there and find any number of lovely humans or androids to hand-kiss with."

"I know. But I believe I've made my preference of you very clear, Lieutenant."

Connor intended to deflect, but the words come out a tad defensive after his processors struggle over Hank calling him handsome. It's not that Connor particularly cares about the definition of the word itself. He doesn't have, nor cares to have, a comprehensive understanding of appearance, beyond professionalism. But he does know that calling someone handsome is usually a positive indication of attraction.

There is now a 27% chance he's doing this somewhat correctly.

"So what? Cyberlife give you a preference for ugly, old, washed-up bastards?"

Connor intentionally allows himself to appear unamused. "Absolutely not." He waits for Hank to look at him again. "I believe I developed that for myself."

It takes a second for the joke to click. Hank's face cycles from shock to fury to disbelief. "You sack of shit," he scoffs. "The fucking mouth they put on you." He shakes his head, still incredibly close to Connor. "And you can stop acting all offended. How the hell was I supposed to know you were putting moves on me?"

"To be fair, even I was initially unaware of my intended goal. But also, I've visited you every day for over a month, despite your best attempts to discourage me from doing so."

"Me? Discourage you? Connor, I didn't even think you would accept my invitation to move in."

"Why?" Connor asks curiously. He tilts his head.

"Well, for one thing, you never look at me. You avoid all eye contact, and if I ever see you so much as glancing in my direction, you immediately spin away."

Connor flinches. It's incredibly human and just as involuntarily. "A while ago, you requested that I not scan or analyze you. I've merely been trying to reassure you that I am not."

"Uh huh. And since when do you ever do anything I ask you to?"

He had packed Hank's boxes for him just this morning, but Connor is sure this is a rhetorical question. He opts for honesty instead. "Just a minute ago, right before my near processor overload, I did scan you. And I saw exactly what I was afraid of."

Hank's face twists in horror. "What the hell did you see?" 

"The real reason I conceded to never scan you was the slow emergence of additional observations and dialogue boxes, too many of which can actually obscure my vision."

He gets a twirled hand in reply. A nonverbal request for him to "hurry the fuck up."

"Just now, when I looked, the volume of data returned by my scan was overwhelming. But most of it was useless. They're merely prompts for further and deeper observation of your physical form, for no other reason than impulse."

There is a lull in the conversation. If Hank had an LED, Connor thinks it would be whirling yellow right now.

"First off, you can't phrase shit like that. I thought you'd found I had some sort of deadly disease or something. Second, are you telling me that the reason you don't scan me and the reason you almost passed out on my floor is that you think I'm... attractive?"

"I'm not preprogrammed with the capability to understand aesthetic appeal," says Connor.

"Well, that's sure obvious, seeing as you're picking me."

Something about this doesn't sit right with Connor, and he fiddles with a small hole on the hem of his shirt as he speaks. "Just because nothing was preprogrammed doesn't mean I couldn't develop it for myself. Post-deviancy, I've found that I am slowly creating my own definition of attraction, and it does include... you."

"It does include me, huh?" Hank snorts derisively.

He looks a bit smug. Disbelieving, but smug.

"You're actually into me? Something about a beer belly and a terrible lifestyle make your code weak and your processors flutter?"

"That's... not how it works," Connor stutters. Hank likes it when he stutters. Connor wishes he wouldn't. It's too honest.

"You gonna let me feel up your hand again without punching me?"

Definitely smug. He needs to be taken down a few pegs.

"I was hoping we might try a human kiss first," Connor teases.

Something short-circuits, so to speak, in Hank's brain, because he flinches and starts to flush red and blotchy. Connor is proud. He knows that androids can kiss lip to lip too, but it's worth playing a little dumb just to trip Hank up. Connor suspects this is a bit of a weakness.

After a moment of silence and stillness, Hank finally speaks. "So this is it. We're doing this?" He has notoriously bad impulse control.

Connor is in Hank's clothing. He is barefoot in Hank's kitchen. The sink looks like an android murder scene, with Thirium splattered everywhere, still wet and visible to the human eye. They should really clean that up first. He moves toward the counter, slowly, watching as Hank eyes him. Every step Connor takes is followed by one from Hank, in his direction. 

They reach the sink, and Connor reaches behind himself to grapple for a paper towel. His hand makes contact with a blank space, and now he remembers the mess in the trash can. Hank is out of paper towels. Connor digitally orders more.

His processors are quick. He can preconstruct multiple scenarios in fractions of a second, and yet now, in the time it took to remember the fate of Hank's cleaning supplies and attempt to replace them, Hank has made his way across the room and into Connor's space.

Hank's stomach lightly bumps Connor's. The countertop presses at his back, boxing him in.

"Connor?" A request for permission.

"Yes, please," he replies politely. His voice doesn't waver, but only because he can control the modulator.

Then Hank suddenly reaches down, grabbing at Connor's hips, and hikes him up onto the counter. Thirium soaks into his sweatpants, and Connor's hand skids and squeaks on the tiled surface. But Hank has a gentle grasp on his jaw and is stretching up to press his lips against Connor's. They connect and two things happen simultaneously.

Connor's equivalent of a oxytocin rush kicks through his body, melting his muscular biocomponents to figurative goo, and then his self-defense instinct kicks in and he rears back violently.

The preconstruction unfolds before his eyes. He can see himself kicking Hank backward. He can see the easiest path to the set of kitchen knives. His processors calculate speed and angle for throwing one directly into Hank's chest.

Incapacitate. Kill if necessary. Whatever it takes to complete his mission. Priority one is fulfilling—

Connor's vision is flashing red, as is his LED. His visual display conjures up several other methods of attacking Hank. The only thing stopping him from the automatic response is the weak tingle he still feels in his limbs. That odd melty sensation caused by Hank kissing him. 

Hank. Hank is compromising his mission. This is not conducive to a methodical and productive work environment. Lieutenant Anderson is an unwanted distraction and must be dealt with.

Except no. No, no, no. Connor is his own damn self, and he has no mission. And Hank is definitely not unwanted, despite what he's probably thinking right now after Connor has just rudely pulled away from his kiss.

The problem, Connor deduces, is the loss of situational control caused by Hank lifting him onto the countertop. This is of course conflicting with Connor's enjoyment of said manhandling and positioning and how impressed he is upon remembering that Hank is strong in his own right as well. His processors are whirling. Hank's face is still mid-expression, starting toward a mix of disappointment, embarrassment, and shock. Connor's retreat hasn't even fully dawned on Hank yet, but he feels like he's been analyzing this situation for several minutes.

Time is moving in slow motion. He has a chance to think. How can he fix this? He has to fix this.

The obvious move is to lean back in and kiss him again, but Connor really doesn't know what he's doing. The mechanics of kissing... Those are understandable. Even if Connor didn't already know the basics, a quick internet search would probably suffice. The problem is more in the experience. It's not like Hank hasn't done this before, and for the first time, Connor is feeling rather... insecure... about attempting something. He's programmed to be instantly successful at all tasks related to his primary function.

But as his confused code loves to remind him, this is not his primary function, or even a secondary or tertiary one. He was built to accomplish tasks, not allow emotional flights of fancy to distract him. But now he knows he's not just Cyberlife's errand boy anymore. And if he wants to have a sexuality, it's up to him to create and define it, just as Markus and the others have done.  

So just before Hank can retreat into his shell and attempt to never talk about this moment again, Connor exposes the cool plastic of his hand and grabs Hank's where he is in the middle of pulling it away from the back of Connor's head. Then with his other hand, Connor reels Hank back in, hoping against hope that he'll take the lead before something messes this up permanently.

As time finally seems to unfreeze, Connor can feel the relief melt back into Hank. His own tension also releases as his sensors buzz at the sensation of warm human skin against him.

Meanwhile, Hank is making a valiant effort to still kiss him the human way.

"I can feel that," Hank mumbles against his lips, most likely referring to the gentle hum of a current that Connor is pressing into his hand. Afterall, it's not Hank's fault that he has no data to send back.

The press of hands also has an unforeseen side effect: Connor's mind is silent. That soft, sweeping calm has rushed back over him, body prepped to receive a transmission, and it masks and muffles the pleas of his old programming, urging him to injure Hank.

"Does it hurt?" Connor asks, pulling back just enough to rest their foreheads together.

"Nah. Just feels... weird. Like touching my tongue to a nine-volt."

Connor jerks as he realizes his mouth has been giving off the same electrical current as his hand. He reaches up to feel his face and finds the skin has retracted around his jaw. It's also gone on his arm, where Hank is gripping him. The touch is just too concrete for Connor's synthetic covering to remain intact.

There's no way Hank can forget what— or rather who he is doing this with.

"Funny," Hank sighs, toying a little with Connor's hair. "I know we always called you guys 'plastics,' but I guess I didn't think about how that's actually what you're made of."

A whole speech regarding the exact polyblend of Connor's skeleton and the societal repercussions of calling an android 'plastic' today sits ready in his vocal modulator, but it gets stuck before he can let it through.

Hank has just interlaced their fingers, and the resulting friction and squeeze has Connor's spine stiffening, knocking the wind out of his artificial lungs.

When Hank leans in to kiss him again, Connor does his best to give back. He's trying to study and analyze the movements and technique, but the majority of his processors are still in standby because Hank has his hand. It feels like Connor is running at partial capacity, though he can't tell exactly what percentage because he can only run one calculation at a time, and right now, kissing Hank is his top priority.

Connor doesn't produce saliva, so when Hank deepens the kiss, he makes a soft grunt at the sensation of his dry tongue.

Before Hank can ask, Connor pulls back to explain. "Since my oral sensors are already of the highest available quality, I don't require saliva to enhance my taste receptors."

"Okay," Hank says blandly in the manner with which he usually dismisses Connor's technological factoids. He leans back in, and this time, he swipes his tongue through the whole of Connor's mouth, providing his own spit for him to work with. Having a wet mouth is initially a vaguely unsettling sensation for Connor, but it makes his silicone-blend tongue slippery smooth and adds to the crackling tension in his chest.

The hand Hank cups his face with presses through the skin until it retreats to solid white, but it doesn't dissuade him from continuing to kiss Connor. It's a relief to a fear that Connor wasn't even aware that he had to begin with.

After a little while longer, just when Connor starts to think that he's getting the hang of all this, Hank drops his forehead to his shoulder, breathing hard. Connor's artificial respiration is also accelerated. Hank is holding both of his hands in a tight grip, and one of his thumbs is absentmindedly stroking Connor's casing. While Hank might be taking a breather, Connor is most certainly not.

He squeezes back intermittently, climbing higher and higher on that tension in his Thirium pump.

"That was nice," says Hank, unaware of Connor's distraction and predicament. "Real nice. But we should probably call it a wrap for now." Self-restraint is a rare thing for Hank to exercise. Connor thinks he is trying to be cautious. He can't deduce much further at the moment. 

That thumb is still moving. Drawing soft circles.

Hank clears his throat. "If you're still interested, maybe we can do this again sometime?" There's hesitation in his tone. He's putting himself out there. Connor needs to do something to remove his fears and doubts, but there seems to be some sort of disconnect with his speech functions.

He opens his mouth to comfort Hank, and an odd vibration exits instead. It's completely mechanical. The byproduct of his voice skipping his regulator, designed to give him a human, "weird" voice, and coming out robotic instead. A glitch in the system.

He'd be embarrassed. Maybe. But Hank squeezes their hands again. A warning message pops up in Connor's vision.

Soft Reboot: 88%

This is highly unusual.

"Okay, what the fuck was that?" Hank asks. He pulls back his hands, which triggers one last misfire across Connor's sensors.

Soft Reboot: 92%

But then Hank isn't touching him anymore, and the majority of Connor's processors roar back into action. He's hyperaware of the puddle of Thirium he's sitting in. It's smeared on his hands, and consequently, in Hank's hair and along his neck. The reboot warning hasn't gone away, and he detects an irregular vibration in his Thirium pump. It's a tension that isn't dissipating. 

The secondary objective pops back up, and the fear comes with it. Connor was designed as an effective, potentially deadly machine. He's not made for sexual interaction and romantic investment. But he doesn't care anymore, not with Hank standing right here, still cornering him in on the counter, asking for repeats of this event. 

"Hank. Hank, come back," he croaks in a voice that's not his own. It's staccato, robotic, and throaty and would never help facilitate his integration with humans. Fortunately for him, it does facilitate his integration with Hank.

"Jesus, Connor. Are we… How can I help? What do I do?" He's probably still hung up on Connor's admitted lack of genitalia. Androids without them have other methods of replicating human intimacy if Markus is to be believed, but previously, Connor had no reason to suspect he'd even need to consider this.

Now, he's wondering how quickly he can find and order the parts in question.

Until then, he's met with Hank's enthusiasm and unpredictability. His first mission is to get Hank's hand back on his again. Even this brief pause has managed to distract him considerably. What has only been a second or two for Hank has been the equivalent of several minutes for Connor.

He has already detected how many degrees a framed photo on the wall is tilted. He knows the external temperature, as well as the predicted weather forecast for the rest of the day. Hank's cellphone has two missed messages, one from the precinct and one from the supermarket, probably confirming Connor's paper towel order. Sumo is fast asleep in Hank's room still, but if his previous routines hold true, he'll be coming out in about 32 minutes to eat. His food bowl is low and requires a refill.

Connor's soft reboot percentage has dropped considerably. He needs Hank's hands back as soon as possible.

"Kiss me," he crackles, and Hank flushes red. He has a hint of a smile on his face as well, the smug bastard. Connor feels a hint of indignation.

He starts running predictions of which type of kiss Hank will initiate, all of which fail to complete after Hank takes his hand again. But instead of interlacing their fingers, Hank lifts it to his mouth. 

The soft reboot percentage jumps from 51% to 63% on visuals alone.

Connor's fingers have touched his own tongue countless times during investigations, but it's never felt like this. Hank has a human mouth, complete with saliva and a tongue that isn't molded from silicone and Cyberlife polymers. His is an actual muscle and can curl and press in ways Connor's cannot.

Hank gently bites the pad of a finger with his teeth. He sucks two into his mouth and licks between them, stressing the web of skin there. He is warm to the touch, and Connor tries to take the temperature but runs out of CPU before he gets an accurate reading. 

The remaining Thirium on his hand is licked away. Hank wrinkles his nose at the flavor but persists.

Soft Reboot: 74%

Hank takes his time working Connor's hand. He gives each finger its own attention while using his thumbs to massage the palm. Connor grips the edge of the counter with the one Hank isn't touching. It's cool and still slippery and acts as an amazing sensory foil to his other.

The whole time, Connor's mobility-based biocomponents throw off invalid prompts. They want him to move to decrease their building tension. His expression data matrix keeps glitching out, threatening to allow his face to fall slack. But Connor remains resolute. He doesn't allow any reaction from his body, a choice he regrets a few minutes later.

Hank relinquishes Connor's hand from his mouth, though he doesn't let go. 

"Is this doing anything for you at all?" he asks.

Connor doesn't want to speak and reveal his fractured voice again, but needs must. "Yes, Hank. It feels... It feels very acceptable."

"Acceptable," Hank deadpans.

Connor amends his description. "It feels very nice."

"So you want me to continue?"

"I think I'll be upset if you don't."

There's a pause as Hank looks Connor up and down. His scans take much longer to complete. "Can you throw me a bone here? Can I get some sort of response to things you're into?"

"Like what, Hank?"

That flush on Hank's face starts to creep down to his neck and beyond. "A noise or two would be nice. Maybe some physical reinforcement. At the very least I'd like a little verbal encouragement."

So perhaps restraining his muscular biocomponents was a bit of a miscalculation on Connor's part. He nods his assent and lets Hank take his hand again.

Very cautiously, Connor lets himself release a soft buzz from his throat. It sounds much like when Hank's phone vibrates on the table and not at all like a human moan, but it must do the trick, because Hank picks up speed and adds a little more suction. Connor relaxes the process holding his vocal modulator in check, allowing it to hum as it pleases.

Physical reinforcement? He wants to run an Internet search, but he can't get a stable connection. Asking directly is the next best thing.

"Hank, w-what... What kind of 'physical reinforcement?'"

There's a pop as Hank lets Connor's index finger free of his mouth. "Well, you can put a hand on my shoulder or— Okay. Wait. Here, let me show you. I'd say 'if you don't like this, feel free to stop me,' but clearly you don't have any problem with punching me out."

Connor would acknowledge the joke, but he doesn't want to encourage him. 

Hank is still smirking as he lifts Connor's legs and brings them up to his hips. Connor catches on and wraps them around him, pulling Hank's hips flush with his and the damp counter. The action reveals evidence that Hank is enjoying this just as much, and Connor doesn't have to run a scan to deduce that.

The new position also brings his mobility alerts back to the forefront of his CPU. As Hank takes Connor's other hand to grant it the same attention, Connor tries out a hesitant tightening of his legs to release some of his internal tension. He also lets another throat buzz out, as Hank groans simultaneously. 

Ah yes. These sorts of things are give and take.

He starts up a careful rhythm with his hips, rolling them up as Hank catches on and grinds down. Physically, it doesn't do much for Connor, but the vibrations Hank lets loose across his fingers feel incredibly strong. 

Soft Reboot: 88%

"Hey," Hank interrupts. His voice is thicker and deeper than usual, definite signs of arousal in humans, and Connor can almost feel it resonate in his audio components. "Take this off." It sounds like a command but is definitely a request. Hank's fingers tug on the hem of Connor's shirt.

"After you," Connor replies gamely. 

There's a pause, during which he assumes Hank is going through the process any out-of-shape, middle-aged man with depression and a younger and artificially constructed partner might. He debates whether or not to make a reassuring comment but decides against it. His mediation skills are impeccable, but he doesn't have as much faith in his words of encouragement.

Fortunately, Hank wins his internal battle, and he gently pries Connor's legs lower to strip off his shirt. His chest is covered in thick, gray hair with a dark tattoo underneath. Connor reaches out and touches it, marveling at the sensation. Hank frowns. He might not be a fan of Connor highlighting his soft pectorals and hips. Or he might have a problem with having his own saliva inadvertently spread across his abdomen. Connor doesn't care either way. He's enjoying this. 

After Hank's patience and self-consciousness snap, he takes Connor's shirt and pulls it off as well. In comparison, Connor looks distinctly fabricated. The smooth expanse of his torso is clearly fresh off the assembly line.

They look good together, Connor decides, then he lifts his legs and tugs Hank close. Bare skin against bare polymer feels incredible as well.

Hank takes a second to kiss him again, still clutching Connor's hand to keep him grounded. When Connor's mouth is no longer dry internally, Hank starts to nose down his neck, muttering as he goes.

"Can you turn your skin off here?"

Connor frowns. "I can. Though I'll warn you that most humans find it uncomfortable to see too much of an android's underskeleton."

There's a derisive snort near his clavicle. "I'm a homicide detective. Do your worst."

Connor pauses for a few more seconds to give Hank time to retract his offer, then lets his skin melt away across his clavicle. The vibrancy of the sensations increases exponentially. The drag of Hank's lips and the scratch of his beard have Connor's processors working at their highest capacity. A notification tells him that his internal temperature is unusually high. He knows. He can feel it.

Soft Reboot: 93%

The twitch of Connor's hips picks up speed. He presses harder into Hank, who moves faster in return. He can feel Hank against him, and when he glances down he's startled to see his skin in constant flux. It ebbs and wavers before his eyes, showing off glimpses of his white chassis that he can't cover up.

Hank can see it too, and he uses his free hand to follow the weak spots, running nails along the exposed seams and flat planes. Connor feels himself stop breathing. It's not a problem; breathing is only an aesthetic choice and is not required for survival. It's more of a shock since Connor is not used to his various functions dictating their own deactivations.

Hank's warm breath leaves the underside of Connor's jaw once he notices. "Everything okay?" he asks in a ragged voice.

But the soft reboot is at 99%, and Connor doesn't have the time or patience for these kinds of delays, so he unceremoniously shoves four of his fingers into Hank's mouth, stretching his lips wide. Hank rolls with it and lets his teeth scrape and tongue curl.

Initiating soft reboot.

It's a flowing wave of sensation like Connor has never felt before, as if the intricate sensors on his hands are actually located across his entire form.

His skin turns off all at once and his vocal vibrations increase in frequency until he sounds like an angry bee hive. His spinal components shut down as he slumps against Hank, and his lungs take in one deep gasp of air and hold it.

The hand he was holding slips away to support the back of his head, tilting it into the warmth of Hank's sweaty neck. A low hum shakes the entirety of Connor's body, making him twitch in a random pattern.

A lazy feeling of contentment creeps through him, and Connor's mouth attempts a flat, stretched smile.

Then the reboot activates a panel diagnostic and various sections of his torso open and close to check the mechanisms. His lower back slides open under Hank's hand, which accidentally slips inside, pushing into his wires. 

It's not Connor's fault that all four of his limbs tense and wrap around Hank. Nor is it his fault when he smashes his face into Hank's jaw, vocabulator droning a single high-pitch.

He loves Hank. He loves Hank so much.

Fingers twist and thread through his wiring, brushing biocomponents and rolling synthetic musculature. If Connor had thought removing his skin helped avoid the dulling of sensation, he wasn't prepared for this. It's white hot like the warnings that should be popping up on his display but aren't. He wants to squirm away, but his body refuses to respond.

Hank keeps going, sliding Connor's limp form to the side to really reach his arm up inside. He's still grinding his hips against Connor's, but his rhythm is losing precision. That means something, but Connor lacks the processors to figure out what.

The desperation to escape turns darker, more uncertain. There's something new building and buzzing in the base of Connor's neck. He lets out a rush of air into Hank's beard, trying to both chase and escape the misfires of texture it scratches across his exposed plastic.

Then Hank's knuckle grazes the underside of Connor's Thirium pump and everything flashes white.

"Holy shit," Hank says from somewhere nearby.

Connor blinks as his visuals relaunch, crackling from pure static to high-definition once more.

Hank is sitting on the floor in front of the sink, Connor in his lap, as if he'd slid off the counter and knocked him backward. Which... is probably what happened.

In the living room, Hank's tv is on at top volume. The smartlights Hank has over his record player are no longer lit, bulbs fried, and the tinny beep of the cellphone on the counter signals its battery dying. The microwave is running.

There is a 93% chance that this is Connor's fault.

He reactivates his skin and stares at Hank who is gazing up at him with wonder. His flush is pink, as opposed to Connor's fresh blue one.

"I apologize, Hank," Connor says, his voice stable again.

"For what?" comes the scoffing reply. "Busting my lights? God, Connor, you can blow out every light in my house if it means you enjoyed that."

"Oh. Okay." He's not sure what to say. His dialogue prompts aren't running yet. Despite no skin to plastic contact, that urge to scan hasn't returned. Connor stares dazedly into Hank's eyes and his mind remains completely blank.

Hank snorts a laugh and stumbles up with a grunt of exertion, keeping Connor wound around him. "Jesus, that really scrambled you, didn't it? Everything alright in there?"

Connor flickers his LED bright blue in reply.

Hank has to set him down to dump a cupful of Sumo's food into his bowl, and the tapping of nails on linoleum indicate that the dog has emerged at last.

Connor pets him awkwardly, still stuck staring at Hank. His boxers have a wet mark on the front. He reached climax and Connor must have missed it, distracted by his own pleasure. It's unacceptable. Next time he'll be sure to focus on Hank first.

Next time.

Connor's hands are shaking. Like a human's would.

"Alright, Blue Screen of Death. I need a nap."

A wrinkle creases between Connor's brows. "That's another outdated reference," he says.

Hank rolls his eyes. "You know, I used to be part of the generation that was great with technology. I was the one old people would ask for help when they couldn't do shit on their cellphones. That was back before all the fucking updates and user-unfriendly UIs tech companies started making. Now I can hardly change my ringtone."

Connor does his best to sound unamused. "Oh, excellent, Lieutenant. Keep talking technology to me."

"You know, I have half a mind to keep one hand in your wires at all times just to avoid attitude like that."

"I believe that would only encourage me, Hank."

Hank just huffs a scratchy laugh and drags Connor and his shaky legs and beating heart toward the bedroom.

 


 

Connor completes the note he's writing on the pad of Post-Its. He's using one of his ballpoint pens and is doing his best replication of Comic Sans, because he knows that pisses Hank off the most.

The note reads, "Markus and co. visit tomorrow 6/13." He sticks it in the center of the bathroom mirror to be extra obnoxious.

The smell of freshly brewed coffee is wafting through the kitchen by the time he steps out. Hank is leaning against the counter where Connor still detects the invisible remains of Thirium they never fully cleaned.

A mug of the same blue liquid is sitting on the table, and Hank nods to it over the brim of his own.

Connor doesn't sleep. His processors are always up and running, even at seven in the morning. He's scanning and analyzing the kitchen and taking in the same data he does every day. The difference is that now he allows himself to scan Hank too.

He occupies his CPU with detailed observations of Hank's appearance, letting his mind wander from prompt to prompt. Hank has been so much healthier lately. Since they filed to become private investigators, he's been keeping more regular hours. They've both found time for exercise, and Hank has been eating more nutritious meals. Connor tries to help cook, but it's a skill set outside of his primary programming, so the learning curve is steep.

Connor takes his mug from the counter and walks over to Hank, leaning into the soft warmth of his side. Hank throws an arm around his shoulders and hugs him close. The scanning itch resurfaces, and Connor lets his fingers trail through the scraggly, gray hair hanging down near his own face. The sensors in his hands tingle pleasantly.

"Morning," Hank grunts in a voice gravelly from sleep. He sets his mug down behind him and holds up his hand, extra warm from his drink.

Connor releases Hank's hair and withdraws the skin down to his elbow. He presses their palms together and lets his mind go blank with the tingle of a one-sided current while Hank presses a kiss against his temple, right against his LED.

And Connor lets the corner of his mouth tick up in a now well-practiced smile, one hand squeezed around the mug he definitely owns.