“What?” detective Reed asked in clear confusion, lowering his fists when Connor made no move to defend himself or dodge a blow.
Connor probed at his jaw and found it in good enough condition, not dislocated or damaged in any way even though it was a very solid blow. The skin was already back in place from where it retreated on the impact. He turned back to the detective and spread his hands out.
“Alright,” Connor said in a low and calm voice. “Something in me angers you so much you need to physically fight me to bear it. I don’t know what it is but I promise that I’m not doing it on purpose. If this is the only way to ease your frustration you can hit me. I suppose I can withstand any damage you need to inflict to feel better.”
Detective Reed stared at him completely frozen for 26 seconds so Connor made a step closer keeping his arms pointedly open. The man recoiled with such a force that he almost fell over.
“What— what the fuck is this?” he sounded alarmed and made another hasty step back, nearly avoiding collision with a table behind him. “Your plastic brain fried or something?”
Detective Reed was obviously distressed. Connor frowned. He wanted to make the situation better but somehow made it worse?
“It’s okay,” he said again, moving his arms just slightly, invitingly. It suddenly occurred to him that from the outside it must have looked almost as if he was offering a hug. “You can hit me.” Connor pointed out, just in case. Another thought made him add, “I won’t retaliate.”
“Then what’s the point?” Reed snarled at him.
Connor had no comeback to that.
“You know what?” Said Reed his expression almost offended. “Fuck you! Prick.”
And then he stormed off out of the room. What an ultimate paradox of a human being.
Connor felt an urge to hurry after him, grab his shoulders and shake him until he tells exactly what was Connor doing wrong in this whole situation and this time in particular. It was frustration, Connor identified. Reed made him feel frustrated.
Detective Reed avoided him for a few days and after that just bounced back to their normal interaction style pointedly not mentioning the occurrence.
Connor balanced between annoyance and relief and it was such a worrisome combination that he had to request Hank’s opinion. Lieutenant assured him that to feel a tangle of contradicting emotions was something of a norm for humans and Connor was reassured for a few moments it took him to remember that Hank wasn’t a prime example of a mentally well-adjusted person himself.
And yet he refused to give up. The initial attempt of establishing a long lasting peace wasn’t successful but it only meant that he had more data to work on a better approach next.
Connor wanted a closer relationship and detective Reed wanted to fight with him, every once in a while, for minor reasons or no reasons at all, fully aware that he would lose. It seemed logical to assume that detective would appreciate a victory in a fight he so stubbornly instigated.
Connor only started to understand that logic would get him nowhere with detective Reed.
For one thing, he would have never guessed they even could become civil to each other. But months after the successful android revolution were passing by and as Connor was yet to become a reason of any other detective losing a job, the hostility slowly dissipated.
There was also FBI; the agents swarmed DPD insisting on overseeing all android-related incidents. And there were many of those incidents after revolution. The end result was a severely understaffed, after the halted city evacuation, police force, struggling under the pile of cases, followed by the supervisors who contributed nothing but insisted on sharing unrequested criticism, driving the officers mad.
A few agents were mobbing Connor with ever increasing intensity. It wasn’t something truly damaging so he refrained from notifying Hank or Captain to not sour the atmosphere in the precinct even further.
It never occurred to Connor that detective Reed might care. The language and methods agents used would suggest they were of mind. However, it turned out that in just a few months his status elevated way above the “fucking feds”. So when detective witnessed an instance of their bullying he immediately came to Connor’s side with his fists and crude insults.
There was a brawl, disciplinary actions on both sides and a start of a tepid mutual recognition that continued even after the experiment was deemed a failure and FBI agents vacated the premises.
At DPD Christmas party that people attended with spouses, Connor found out that detective Reed apparently coached a baseball little league and a few of those kids were children of their colleagues.
That party made him rethink some assumptions he had about the detective. It was the first time Connor discovered he is susceptible to bias. It rattled him and led to a hurried revaluation of everything he knew. Especially anything regarding detective Reed.
That way he found out that he knew next to nothing about the man but already had some rigid opinions about him based on a number of exceptionally bad first impressions, detective’s scorn of Hank (rather reasonable in hindsight) and the only time Connor witnessed Reed at a crime scene.
Back then at Eden club Connor needed less than a minute to determine that detective Reed misidentified a cause of death. Connor didn’t account for human’s lack of ability to simply tell there was no cardiac arrest, or the fact that Hank was cautious about the strangling theory at first too, or even that detective Reed was not briefed on the severity of deviancy cases and still operated on assumption that deviants where malfunctioning machines inherently limited by their programming.
Connor saw incompetency and inappropriate joke fitting well with the pattern he observed at precinct where detective was often fiddling with his phone and relished in petty harassment.
It took conscious effort to look closer and discover that despite perpetually bored look and having a habit of handing his reports late at night, detective Reed was in fact one of the top-performers among his peers.
There was no doubt that he was, what is colloquially known as an asshole. But Gavin Reed wasn’t a bully to anyone but Connor. In fact, he wasn’t even that anymore.
Somewhere along the way, Connor stopped being a butt of a joke and become an audience to share the joke with.
It was somewhere between the FBI thing and 17th of March when Connor, along with all the other deviants, was recognized as a naturalized citizen and the department held a surprise party for him. The party wasn’t really a surprise, Connor figured their intentions way before he was meant to know, but detective Reed’s presence was unexpected.
A new phase of their relationship started then, when detective insisted he came only for the free booze and instantly started scolding Connor for not faking surprise on behalf of his colleagues.
Not much later detective Reed started giving him valuable pointers about understanding emotions, even though they were accompanied by eye-rolls and loud snorts.
One time Connor caught a bullet meant for officer Cheng and detective Reed thanked him, shook his hand and said he owed him one.
One time detective Reed covered Hank when his unfortunate gambler acquaintance got arrested and was close to tugging him down with him just to alleviate his own sentence. Detective Reed also refused to count it as that favor he owed, seeing as it was Hank he was helping, not Connor, and that Hank wasn’t worth half of Tina in his eyes, so it was not a sufficient exchange.
All in all the nature of their relationship was bordering on friendship and Connor wanted to cross that border with intensity that surprised him.
But there were the fights.
Connor could suspect that for detective Reed the regular scuffle was a norm, part of a stress-relieving mechanism in the intensive work conditions, if not for the fact that he fought exclusively with Connor. At least of what Connor was aware.
There was also a possibility that despite the warming up, something about Connor truly rubbed him the wrong way. That was the operational hypothesis. But their previous aborted fight just did not fit with it nicely. Nor did the fact, that after their typical fight, the bruised knuckles, ribs or jaw (he tried to minimize the damage but it was an ordeal) notwithstanding, detective Reed showed no animosity at all. When it became clear that he had once again lost, he would rather smile, grumble something agreeable and walk away practically whistling under his nose.
This human could not be comprehended by common sense.
Connor could maintain the status quo. They were drifting closer despite the fights. But it still bothered him. Not the fights per se, but not understanding. It bothered him so much it was putting strain on the budding friendship, made him doubt if it was even a thing.
Connor didn’t like the prospect of going through the fight routine forever and giving up backfired. He had another idea and it seemed counterintuitive. So might as well work.
Detective Reed abstained from starting a fight for so long that Connor almost believed it wouldn’t happen again.
And that was a nice possibility to think about.
They joked, worked on their respective, sometimes overlapping cases, discussed pop-culture references not described in Urban dictionary or described in a way Connor struggled to understand. Hank rarely explained those, either because he didn’t know or because he knew too well and was embarrassed to admit.
It was normal for 37 days. And then detective Reed came to work jittery and was purposefully slouching in his sit, ignoring work, intensively not looking at Connor but almost daring to be reprimanded.
So that was the day.
Connor contemplated ways it could go and decided that not on public would be a safer option. He carefully avoided confrontation the whole day, until his work was done and the detective looked ready to blow up at slightest glance.
Connor was given a permission to look at cold cases whenever he had time. Not many but some of them could benefit from his computing abilities so that was a “hobby” he picked up. It also gave him an excuse to go to the old archive, rather dusty and low-tech equivalent of the evidence room, filled with rows of crates with the occasional table to look at them. It was a bit crammed for a brawl but Connor meant for the encounter to go alternative way so it could work. More importantly, in weeks that he was using it, he was yet to encounter anyone else there.
It wasn’t a trick entirely, he did pick up his next case and went through half of the witness’ statements when 17 minutes later (a bit earlier than he expected) the entrance door banged, informing him better than anything else that it was detective Reed. The door was a metal one, rather heavy with a buffer spring; you couldn’t bang it if you were not straining to bang it.
Connor let himself smile a little, that was such an unnecessary yet authentic detail about the detective. He felt something. Fondness.
“So what are you doing, sneaking around here all the time?” detective Reed drawled behind him.
Connor suppressed a sigh. He didn’t need the air to breath but he needed to sigh to express exasperation. Whatever he could say would lead to the same result. It felt repetitive, so he said nothing. Just started collecting the items back to the labeled box.
“Hey, I’m talking to you, dickhead!” detective Reed snarled, getting from zero to fury in a second. “What are you hiding here, huh? Messing with the evidence again?”
Connor frowned, he didn’t like the reminder. Pointless accusation then and now, they both knew it; still it somehow stung.
“Anybody home? Hello, toolbox?” detective Reed came close at his side and waved a hand in front of Connor’s face.
Connor seized that hand from the air and in one fluid motion twisted it behind detective’s back, slamming him into the table a bit harder than he initially meant.
While detective Reed gapped at him speechless, Connor pressed him firmer into the table with his weight, making sure he was secure. He expected the struggle and of course detective tried to strike him in the shin. Connor wedged his boot between detective’s feet and kicked them further apart, divesting him from any leverage.
Detective Reed bucked under him, tried to reach back with his free hand and growled through his teeth but Connor was holding him tight.
It was much better, than hurting him. Connor could keep him like this for hours if he needed those to clear his head. If avoiding or loosing the fight didn’t work, he would win it before it even began.
“You can struggle as much as you want, Gavin. I won’t fight you today.”
Connor said it calmly, hoping that using the name would get through better but he didn’t expect detective Reed to shudder and go limp under him. It almost looked like he passed out.
Connor softened his grasp a little, but didn’t let go, anticipating a trick move.
Nothing of the kind followed. Detective was just lying there in his grip lax and panting. It wasn’t like he exerted himself all that much from a quick tussle, yet his breathing was fast and laborious.
Connor looked closer, analyzed, and he saw the rapid heartbeat and rising blood pressure levels, the feverish blush spreading on detective’s neck. Something was very wrong, almost like a panic attack.
Then detective Reed said very quietly, “Let me go.”
Connor surged back leaving two whole feet apart between them. Stepped back even more, just in case, raising his arms just a little in a universal calming gesture.
He was searching for a problem, hurriedly thinking what has he done to gain such a reaction. What even was the reaction?
It became quite obvious the moment detective Reed awkwardly stepped aside from the table. He had an erection.
Oh. Connor thought.
His head was absolutely empty, for the first time as he remembered himself.
Detective Reed flushed such a bright red it was noticeable even on his tanned complexion.
“I…” Connor said, having no idea how to follow it through.
“Just don’t,” detective Reed interrupted him. He flinched seemingly at his own rasping voice, turned and rushed to the entrance, clearly intending to leave.
The questions finally appeared in Connor’s head all at once. Was that a one-time occurrence or did he always react like that? What exactly provoked that reaction? Was it because of Connor or because of the force he applied? Was it a good or bad reaction to begin with? Did he just molested his colleague?
This was so beyond Connor’s understanding. What he did know, however, was that if detective Reed leaves the archive right now, any progress their relationship made in the last half a year was as good as gone.
He dashed with all his speed and got just on time to press the door back closed right in front of the detective with a slam above his right shoulder. The heavy door rattled like plywood in its frame. The position inadvertently made him cage detective Reed against the door. Connor winced but refused to let go.
“I hate to confine you like this," Connor said in apologetic tone, "but I think we need to talk.”
Detective Reed tensed for a moment but then let his forehead collide with the door with a thump.
“Fuck,” he said weakly.