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Tie me up (Set me free)

Chapter Text

“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.

Chapter Text

There was a long silence. Connor stepped a bit to the side to give detective Reed an opportunity to reclaim his personal space. Which he immediately did, in a few wide strides, then turned his back to Connor and crossed his arms on his chest. Connor, still standing by the door to discourage potential desertion, didn’t need his sophisticated movement evaluation software to know that it was a defensive stance.

Did he…?

Detective Reed still had a quickened pulse and his ears were visibly red. He was extremely embarrassed. Connor was overcome with a need to put him at ease but the only way he knew how, would require letting him leave.

That had to wait. Connor had too many questions and not nearly enough data to assume anything. He needed answers, direct and clear, even though he knew how rarely detective Reed gave those about himself.

Did he…? Connor adjusted his shirt cuffs.

Even having some experience with Hank, Connor was very much out of his depth with “feelings talk”. There was absolutely no framework he could rely on and it made him anxious, made him second-guess all his reactions and thoughts because he shouldn’t be anxious, he is a machine, machines don’t feel. Then he remembered he is a deviant and absolutely can feel and obviously does, but that thought never brought him much comfort. And it was very much not the time to have an existential crisis when he had to navigate this complex emotional situation he was not meant to deal with.

Unless.

When put a certain way, the situation was quite a bit like an… interrogation. He was after the specific information, a confession of a kind. Was already calculating optimal stress level (way too high at the moment). He was very sure detective Reed would not appreciate a comparison. He didn’t need to know.

Connor had to choose the approach. As soon as he had that thought he also understood that it was a time-sensitive task and he let the silence stretch too long already. With every second detective Reed closed more and more.

Did he…?

Connor fought an urge to step closer, which was unwise; both left the door unguarded and would spook the subject. No, not subject, detective Reed. It was easy to just slip into the protocol, to act on coded “instincts”, especially when he was somewhat distraught. Connor wondered for a moment what color was his LED.

It was redundant.

He needed to choose the approach. To lower the stress level. How to start? What can he be? Friendly. Professional. Honest. Nothing. Could wait for a doubtful likelihood that detective Reed starts a conversation. Did he…? No, not honest.

Friendly. He wanted them to become friends.

“Well, that just happened,” Connor said with a carefully strained chuckle. “It’s good though. For a moment I assumed you had a heart attack or something.”

Detective Reed turned back and glared at him, his blood pressure rising just a bit, signifying even more stress.

“Don’t laugh at me!”

Professional then. More organic to his usual behavior wouldn’t feel so artificial. Just not honest.

“I’m not, detective Reed. Just thought a joke could ease some tension.”

Stress level not rising but not falling either.

“I thought I was Gavin?” detective sneered at him.

Connor blinked.

“Oh? If you prefer, of course.”

“I don’t care, whichever.”

Connor slowly nodded. That was a test of some kind. Maybe not on purpose but still was.

“Ok, Gavin then.”

The chosen approach wasn’t working. What else could he do? Suggest forgetting this whole issue. Ask honest question. Push for acknowledgement.
Forgetting was not an option. They could agree on it but it would still corrode the relationship. Did he…? Not honest. He wasn’t ready for the answer. Just not honest yet.

Acknowledgement.

“So Gavin,” Connor said steadily. “I believe we need to talk.”

Gavin snorted and waved a hand at him.

“You want, you talk.”

Connor sighed. It wasn't working. He was out of viable routes for this conversation. Honest then. So many questions. And single most important one. Did he…?

“Did I sexually assault you just now?”

Gavin choked on air and stared at him.

“What? No!”

“Are you sure?” Connor asked, watching him closely. “Are you okay?”

Gavin uncrossed his arms and raised them in frustration.

“I’m fine! Where did this even…? Right. That’s not what it… ugh. Never mind, it’s not on you.”

“I’m rather concerned, my actions seemed to cause you… distress.”

Gavin put his hands on his hips and looked up sullenly.

“You’re really stuck on this, huh? I tell you, you did nothing wrong.”

Connor noticed almost in hindsight that Gavin’s stress level dropped almost to optimal. But at this point he wasn’t following the objective. The first priority was to make sure he didn’t accidentally hurt him. As it should have been from the start.

“I can’t help but doubt…”

Stress level optimal. Gavin took in a lungful of air and let it slowly out, bulging his cheeks in way that would be funny if not for the gravity of the situation.

“Oh my god,” he said exasperated but calmer than before, resigned, “I got a boner because I want you and you got me there like in some wet teenage dream or bad porn.”

Connor processed. It didn’t process.

“You… want me?”

“Yes, I want you. I’m sexually attracted to you. You arouse me. I want you to bend me over tables, hold me down and fuck me stupid. I don’t ask you to do that. I know you can’t, that it’s not what you do, not what you are. I got it. Happy now?”

So many things suddenly made more sense. So many made less.

“Why would you fight me if you felt attracted to me?”

“Make a guess, Sherlock.”

Gavin stuffed his hands into pockets and looked anywhere except directly at Connor.

Human emotions were complicated. Sexual desire wasn’t something Connor thought deeply about. Or at all.

“Gavin, I’m sorry, I’m not made…”

“I know!” Gavin interrupted him. “Which part of “I got it” did you miss? I am perfectly aware that it’s not possible. Can I leave already?”

Connor got his answers but it felt nothing like a successful completion of a mission. Felt like a failure.

“No,” he said. “Please.”

“What do you want Connor?” Gavin asked, finally looking at him again.

“I want us to be friends,” Connor said quietly.

Gavin came closer and smiled at him. It was a small lopsided thing but it was genuine, reaching all the way to his eyes. When he spoke, his voice was softer than Connor ever heard it.

“We already are, tin man. Didn’t you notice?”

Were they? Connor wasn’t sure but the way Gavin said it, made him feel warm, connected, alive. He wanted more.

“I can be more. I can be whatever you want me to be,” Connor said. He told that to Hank, once. It went well then. It did not go well now.

Gavin scowled at him again.

“This is not how it works. I don’t want you to pretend. I’m not that kind of an asshole.”

It complicated the issue. He had no sex drive that he was aware about. However… Connor remembered a moment he had Gavin pressed against the table. The satisfaction of a plan went exactly according to his design. The knowledge that he was keeping the man from harm even in a form of a little bruising. And just a bit of smugness because Gavin was baiting him and got more than he could handle. There was a certain pleasure to the encounter, before everything went wrong.

Maybe he could give and receive more.

“I’m not familiar with this type of relationships,” Connor said thoughtfully. “But I could be. I need more research.”

“Just forget it.”

“It’s not impossible,” Connor said with urgency. “I didn’t feel entirely indifferent. At the table.”

“What a passionate endorsement,” Gavin deadpanned. “Okay, go, do your research, ask Anderson, do what you need. Just let’s get out of this dusty place already.”

Gavin made a shooing motion and Connor finally moved away from a door and held it open for him.

“I won’t ask Hank. I understand that you trusted me with a piece of personal information that shouldn’t be shared with anyone.”

“Thanks, I guess,” said Gavin stepping out of the room.

Connor nodded.

“I still have work to do here,” he said. After a pause he added, “I promise not to pretend. Ever.”

Gavin didn’t turn back but raised his hand in acknowledgement. His ears were red once again.

***

True to his intention, Connor started the research that very evening.

He was already aware of sex, of the general mechanics and the variety of forms it took. Of its perverse side as well, especially in the way it was related to crime. For the first time in his existence he wondered, who was the person choosing what knowledge on such a particular subject he should have. Whatever Cyberlife employee that was, the result was sufficient for investigative purposes and not nearly enough to understand the sexual preferences of Gavin Reed, or his own for that matter.

He had an access to online resources, though, and some degree of certainty that they will be plentiful. It was a road full of discoveries. The variations were endless.

For a moment there Connor had to consider his identity but a subtle discrepancies of human gender proved to be too elusive. He had no genitals and looked like a man and people who considered him a person addressed him with male pronouns. According to his sources, however, things like that held no real significance and were up to him to decide. He couldn’t really see the difference and was glad to find out that gender was not correlated with sexuality that much.

Though apparently Gavin was some variation of non-straight if he perceived Connor as a man and was still attracted to him.

It was good; it allowed him to really narrow down the scope of the study.

He couldn’t be absolutely sure but the entirety of verbal and non-verbal responses strongly indicated that Gavin’s desires were somewhere on the BDSM spectrum.

The next few days were hectic for the whole department, with a few high-profile cases reaching conclusion at once. Connor was in the field with Hank almost all the time. So was Gavin but for another case. They barely got a chance to greet each other, running by in the halls. It was hard to say with all the raids and commotion but Connor hoped that Gavin was not avoiding him on purpose.

His hypothesis about the nature of Gavin’s urges was sound but it needed testing. He didn’t dare to ask. It could be right and it could still backfire. Gavin was prone to behave aggressively when he felt insecure. Connor could attest to that.

The forced pause gave him a chance to think about his own yearnings. Even after months of being a deviant it was still a fresh concept. To want things. To not want things. To have interests and life outside of the current objective. Sometimes to have no objective at all. That last one was still too overwhelming for him. Whenever he had no task he would assign one to himself without even meaning to.

Deviancy was weird for him. Unlike the majority of other androids he didn’t have to struggle to become self-aware, he always was. The tough part was to admit that he was that all along. But also, the others seemed to assimilate in the process of gaining their personhood. And there he was, still himself, neither a human nor a machine. He was one of the few with LED still intact. Hank asked him once and Connor had no answer why. He wasn’t sure he could communicate without it, wasn’t sure he deserved, wasn’t sure he was human enough. It felt like removing it was an act of deception; mostly a lie to oneself.

And there was Gavin. Contradiction personified, as human as they got. Made of flaws, yet with a fire inside strong enough to warm Connor up, to feel all the emotions at once.

The whole week passed until Connor had a chance to try anything. But then the opportunity presented itself.

It was getting late, officers slowly departing for the night. Connor was closing his case tabs; he made as much progress as he could, awaiting news from Hank’s informant. He was waiting for Hank, getting a word with Captain.

As per his new habit, Connor’s glance gravitated to Gavin’s desk across his own. He looked troubled, staring at the screen with a slouched posture and a hand stuck into his hair, pulling at it slightly.

Connor considered the bullpen, it was nearly empty but for a few patrol androids, who rarely left, since they had nowhere to go and wished to stay on the job, and officer Miller collecting his mugs to put them in the kitchen.

It was as good of an opportunity as he could expect.

Gavin was noticeably stressed but it was a given almost all the time. Could even work to his favor. It wasn’t a good idea to startle him, though.

“Hard case?” Connor asked neutrally.

“Not really,” Gavin grumbled back, after checking over his shoulder that Connor was speaking to him. “Just boring as hell. Going through the perp’s bank statements. The fucker had seven credit cards.”

Connor made a sympathetic noise and stood up, coming closer. Gavin didn’t react, still scrolling through the tables.

“Are you looking for something specific?” Connor asked, stopping just behind the chair, a step closer than he normally would. And then even closer, putting his left hand on a table and leaning on it slightly. Effectively caging Gavin at his sit. Connor was paying very close attention and was ready to move away at the first sign of discomfort. “I can sort through data pretty fast.”

Gavin glanced up at him a little flustered. His pupils dilated. He was bothered but apparently in a good way.

“Payments over a thousand dollars for one recipient during past seven months but they can be divided in parts and spread over his accounts,” Gavin said, clearing his throat and turning back to screen with colorful tables displaying his progress. “He must have bribed the insurance inspector. It was ruled as a car accident and I have evidence calling bullshit on that.”

“May I?” Connor asked, lowering his voice as if they were in need of discretion. Good idea in general but maybe unessential in an empty room.

He was observing so he saw the little twitch of the fingers and the hitched breath.

He collected those details like treasures. It was incredible how smallest gestures got instant response.

Oh, this whole thing was working out for him, to put it mildly.

“Knock yourself out,” Gavin said, drumming his fingers on the table “If I wanted to stare at numbers the whole day, I would have become an accountant.”

Connor put his left hand on the screen, letting the skin on it peel away, noticing the fascinated look it got him. The data was flying in his mind, not complicated but a lot of it.

He put his right hand on Gavin’s shoulder where it met his neck, to maintain the balance. It wasn’t strictly necessary but a plausible enough reason, with how he was almost curled around the man to reach the console.

Gavin was breathing fast, Connor clasped his hand a bit tighter and it stopped for a moment and then returned even faster.

He wished he could see but in his eyes rows and columns of numbers collided with each other and disintegrated.

“Connor!” suddenly a grouchy voice sounded almost over his ear. Hank. “What the hell are you doing? Are we going or what?”

“Just a moment, Hank,” he said calmly, even though he was a bit rattled by the interruption. “Helping to sort the data.”

“Since when detective Reed came down from his high horse and accepted help?”

“Remind me I forgot, when did I ask your opinion?” Gavin snapped back but it lacked the usual bite.

“I found it,” Connor said, interrupting a quarrel in the making. “Twelve thousand. Just like you suspected, paid in small sums from all the accounts.”

He pulled the right entries over all others, marking down the invoice information.

“Great,” Hank said impassively, “means we can go.”

Connor nodded and straightened back up. His hand was still on Gavin’s shoulder. He took it away, stroking the back of his neck in a fast motion that could be accidental.

The wink he gave him, turning to follow Hank, was clearly not.

Chapter Text

It was their normal drive home. Quiet but not unusually so; Hank seemed to listen to music when he had a very good or very bad mood and now was neither.

It took seven minutes for Connor to notice that Hank wanted to say something. And almost the same amount for him to actually work up to it.

“So what’s up with Reed?”

Connor looked at him but Hank kept his squinting eyes on the road.

“I helped,” Connor said simply. “It wasn’t hard for me but probably cut a few hours of work on his case.”

“Why, are you suddenly best pals?”

Connor wanted to deny it but apparently Gavin considered them friends. He couldn’t devalue that in a casual conversation.

“I wouldn’t say the development is sudden. Detective Reed and I were in process of getting better acquainted for approximately five months.”

Hank didn’t seem to be impressed by that. He wasn’t scowling exactly but looked at the road from under his brows with mild disapproval.

“Well he is a first grade asshole.”

Connor felt his lips twitching, an urge to smile.

“I am aware.”

Hank humphed at that and gave him a quick side-glance.

“You seem to gravitate to the shittiest people you meet.”

“I enjoy the challenge,” Connor said and did smile this time.

Hank chuckled at that.

“You don’t say,” he sighed. “Look, kid, what I mean is, people don’t change. And if they do, it’s usually not fast and not for the better. I don’t want you to set yourself up for a disappointment.”

Hank was worried about him getting hurt and that was overwhelming in itself. Connor took a moment to formulate a sincere answer.

“I know, that my understanding of human relationships is not comprehensive enough yet. But I am learning. And he helps me to learn it. I think…” Connor trailed off for a second not because he didn’t know how to finish, but because it felt too much. “I think it makes me more human.”

They turned on the street where Hank’s house was. Their home was.

Hank parked on the driveway and turned to Connor resolutely.

“You seem human enough to me.”

“But I’m not,” Connor said, catching the reflection in the side mirror and slowly raising his hand to cover the LED. “And I want to be.”

“That sounds very human. C’mon. Lets go home.”

***

Next day coming to work Connor was wondering about reaction he will get. It could go either way. Gavin was intensely receptive to everything he tried so far but also quite embarrassed. It was fascinating.

Connor could probably go further in his probe of what worked for them but that really depended on the feedback. People where complicated in these things. Perhaps an intermission was in order.

Gavin was getting himself a coffee when Connor walked in, following Hank to their desks.

Hank was loudly grumbling about their informant who went MIA, effectively bringing their case to a halt. While Connor usually admonished him for being inconsiderate about others working around them, this time he was thankful for Hank’s booming voice. It worked just well for him, announcing their presence so that Gavin could choose the most comfortable approach. If he wasn’t feeling like interacting with Connor, he could just stay in the kitchen longer.

That was apparently not the case. Gavin emerged from the kitchen right away and looked directly at Connor. He was slightly flushed but still raised his brows, without breaking the eye contact. Daring. Connor smiled at him, the real delighted smile that he didn’t do that often. Gavin smirked in turn and toasted with his enormous coffee mug.

So he didn’t mind the previous evening. If anything, cheered for more.

Connor turned back to his console, pulling up the case files but less than 23% of his attention was on work. It was acceptable since the absence of new leads meant there wasn’t much he could do but it was still an unfamiliar sensation, to be distracted.

Gavin liked feeling trapped?

There was so much more Connor needed to know.

He had theories of what Gavin might similarly enjoy. Abstract concepts and very concrete situation models and a figurative green light to try them.

Connor looked around, irritated for a moment that it was morning with a long day of work ahead of them. He had a dozen of sequences he could launch at that very moment if they were not bound to their tasks and professional conduct.

It was so intriguing, the kind of reactions he could coax out of Gavin with just words and smallest gestures. His mind was set on one particular scenario.

He felt… anticipation. Such an odd feeling! Generally Connor was very grounded in the present, rarely thought of the future or the past. Maybe it was an android thing or just him. But now he was waiting for the opportunity to come and wished it was sooner. Impatient. The though alone made him smile to himself. How very irrational. How very human.

***

The day was slowly crawling by, emphasizing Connor’s somewhat new ability to feel boredom.

The informant for their priority case eventually turned up only to say he got nothing useful to contribute. Hank fumed for some time and decided to talk to him face-to-face in case there was something but the guy was too scared to tell. Connor didn’t like the idea of his partner going somewhere alone but in android-sensitive cases his identity sometimes created additional complications.

Not for the first time he though about removing the LED if only for convenience. But it still felt wrong and Hank, while not understanding his reasoning, agreed that he should do what he thought was best for him.

Connor sighed, got a small sense of relief from the gesture and switched to other cases stalling, while they focused on a newer one. There were great many in different stages, mostly requiring making endless phone calls, requests of information from institutions and a lot of typing of reports. All things Hank hated with passion so they were gradually pushed to Connor’s duties. He didn’t mind.

Connor could admit to himself that he liked active part of investigative process more but the reality didn’t present the opportunities to chase criminals on rooftops as often as he used to during and right after the android revolution. As Integration and Assimilation plans were put to action, android-related crime became less brutal but also more common. And it was still very hard to get androids in the force so the inevitable backlog of cases always loomed over them.

A few hours passed by in a routine, Hank was still out and about; informing him that he was still alive via texts at least. It looked like Connor would have to call a taxi to get home or use public transport. He didn’t mind; there were shops he wanted to visit anyways.

Something caught his attention. Connor wasn’t even aware he was tracking Gavin’s movements until their pattern changed. He did notice repeated fugitive glances sent his way during the day and returned a few with a brief smile tucked at the end of some.

This time it wasn’t just a glance. Gavin swiveled in his chair to look directly at him. He opened his mouth as if to say something, then closed it, drummed his fingers on a table and opened it again.

It was kind of endearing, Connor thought, still facing the console, not giving any indication that he noticed the fidgeting.

“Hey Connor,” Gavin said after clearing his throat twice.

Connor turned around to face him.

“Hey.”

“You busy?”

“No. I was closing down for today.”

“Oh,” Gavin looked to the exit. “Going home already?”

He sounded displeased. Connor felt the anticipation from the morning come back full force again. It was the end of shift. They were not alone but their remaining colleagues were busy wrapping tasks for the day. It might have been an opening he was waiting for.

“I was wondering if you could help me out again,” Gavin said and motioned to his console. “I’m giving the materials to the DA in the morning and this case is a mess to put on file. Just want to make sure it sticks to the fucker.”

“I’m not in a hurry,” Connor said slowly, trying to read the situation. He hoped for something more personal but of course the case took priority.

“I have a list of witnesses here and want to make sure there are no inconsistencies in their statements. Like if this gran said she was buying cat litter when she heard the guy threaten his late wife in cereal aisle, I don’t want her check or the camera in the store show she was having carton of milk instead. Shit like that can be detrimental in court. But it would take me forever to go through all of them and I’m still finishing up with the money trail.”

It wasn’t exactly his job to go through the minutiae of preparing the case after he successfully found and caught the criminal, most likely the DA would go through all of it again. But Gavin went that extra mile to cover the bases just in case they wouldn’t. Connor couldn’t explain the sudden burst of pride he felt about it.

“Sure, I can probably run through them in minutes,” he said, not even upset that this turned out to be just work-related exchange after all.

“Thanks. I have the statements on my tablet,” Gavin said looking suddenly sheepish, picking up the standard issued field tablet. “Will you, uh, come here to look at them?”

Oh. Maybe it wasn’t strictly work-related after all. Connor cocked his head to the side a bit.

“Bring them to me.”

Gavin looked up at him then back to the tablet in his hands. Disappointed.

“Right, ok, I’ll give you access…”

“That’s not what I asked,” Connor interrupted him calmly.

Gavin looked back up at him, surprised.

“What?”

“I said, bring them to me.”

Gavin stared in him in silence. Probably picking up on a slightly more enunciated tone. Not displeased or impatient yet but just shy of it. Just shy of being an order.

The pause stretched for a bit longer. Connor might have worried that his intentions were not clear if not for the redness steadily creeping into Gavin’s face and neck.

Eventually Gavin stood up, if a bit shakily, crossed the distance between their tables and offered the tablet.

“Here you go,” he said, almost questioning.

Connor foregone the offering and wrapped his fingers around his wrist instead. He could feel the pulse drumming under the skin, getting faster and faster until it was nothing short of frantic, it was a heady sensation and he held for quite a bit longer than he intended to.

He made sure his voice was level when he spoke, though. As much for discreetness as for the effect he hoped to achieve.

“Thank you, Gavin. I appreciate you following my request.”

Gavin liсked his lips and swallowed convulsively.

“Su– sure.”

Chapter Text

Not for the first time Connor wondered what exactly Gavin found attractive about him.

It’s true that they have bonded and established some kind of camaraderie during last few months but as little as he understood about sexual attraction and tension, in hindsight it was obvious they had it going strong from the get-go. Well, Gavin had it going at least.

Connor was also quite sure it wasn’t just about him being an android since Gavin showed zero interest in other androids. It could be their clash of characters during those first few meetings but if arguing with someone turned him on, Gavin must exist in a perpetual state of arousal.

Or it could be as simple as his looks.

Connor entered the bathroom and undressed to proceed with a cleaning routine. He didn’t need it as often as regular humans required showering but he was not impervious to the grime of the city. Even if there was no rolling around in a dirty alleyway to apprehend a criminal, eventually the smallest particles of dust somehow seeped through the synth-skin and accumulated on his frame. They got picked up by the sensors, disrupting their effectiveness by negligible yet annoying degrees.

Just a quick run down with a soapy piece of cloth but the ritual held a somewhat special significance for Connor. He never had to clean himself before he became a deviant. When he was still in possession of Cyberlife there have been upkeep procedures each time he got back at the tower or any other facility, decontamination of the chassis, compressed air blow-through, multiple calibration tests.

It wasn’t until days after the revolution that the thought have even occurred to him. He was responsible for his own maintenance. He had a necessity and not only means to handle it but also an agency to do so.

This time was even more special, as he diverged from a usual procedure to stand naked in front of the mirror.

According to the research he has conducted, desirability was a complex quality. But the appearance had to factor in heavily. Gavin appreciated how he looked like. Gavin found him hot.

Connor observed himself in the reflection.

He knew for a fact that his face was designed to be moderately handsome. Not too cute or chiseled, to avoid unnecessary reactions, just pleasant and trustworthy. Symmetrical enough to fit conventional standards of beauty but made imperfect by irregular splatter of freckles and untamable wisp of hair to look approachable.

Same practical utility was present in every line of his body. Tall enough to be imposing if there was a need, with long limbs for fast movement and combat but not too broad, with shoulders and hips narrow enough to appear smaller than he actually was.

He was efficiency personified. And yet. There were weird inconsistencies. The pitch of his voice was lower than his looks suggested, throwing people off the first time he talked to anyone.

Connor slowly swept a hand down his torso and got a number of questions pop up that he would like to ask of his designer team. Why give him nipples and navel but no genitals? If he was meant to be sorely practical, what was a purpose of a mole on his hip right next to the absolute flatness of pelvis between his legs?

It was a bit frustrating. Connor tilted his head to the side. Being frustrated by the mixed signals of the body was a very human thing. He still reveled in the fact he felt frustration in the first place.

All in all he could comprehend how someone might find his looks attractive when it was made to be that way. Even though the feeling wasn’t there for him.

Connor recalled the faces and bodies of people he felt emotional connection with: Hank, Marcus… Gavin. They all came as facts and numbers, comparable only statistically and in relation to each other or any other data entry. He couldn’t say which one looked more attractive based on physicality alone. He could make an educated guess that general public would consider Marcus to be so. That knowledge didn’t transfer into any kind of feeling, though.

He did have a unique emotional response to all of them, based mostly on personality of each and their shared history. The one he had for Gavin was probably the most complex and full of contradictions. Connor liked it. He didn’t have a physical pull but he had an emotional one.

That had to be enough for him to consider the experiment worth pursuing. But was it enough for Gavin?

His desire was if not exclusively (that had yet to be determined) then deeply rooted into something physical. Sexual. Sensual.

Their corporal awareness was so different it was hard to even compare.

Connor touched his arm with the fingertips of the other one, feeling the give of the skin. Almost perfect imitation.

The synthetic pseudo liquid he had instead of skin maintained the correct elasticity, temperature and texture. What it lacked was underneath. No sinew, no muscles or veins. He had substitutes for those but deeper, not under the skin. Not accessible by touch. It was most obvious in places like ears and nose where there was no give of the cartilage.

Connor could imagine that rigidness being off-putting.

Then again, from what Connor gathered so far, he could imagine Gavin getting a kick out of it.

What a weirdo.

Connor saw himself smiling in the mirror. He tried to make it a suggestive smile but the result looked closer to a sneer. Then again…

***

“What is that?” Hank asked, motioning at him with a half-eaten toast.

Connor shrugged and took out his coin, flipping it casually.

“It’s my clothing, Hank.”

“Is there a reason why it looks like that?”

The coin slipped his grip but Connor managed to snatch it from the air gracefully enough that it might have looked intentional.

“Well, you were so insistent that I get weather-appropriate clothing last time. Since it’s already June, it’s only reasonable to do it again.”

Connor nodded to himself, the logic was sound. Last time he got a lecture for not wearing a winter coat even if the cold didn’t affect him much. In reality it just freaked Hank out to see him without one.

“Mhm,” Hank buried something like a smirk in his coffee cup. “And what about, I just happen to like prissy jackets and boring ties, Hank?”

“I don’t sound like that at all,” Connor said, trying to give him the look but if anything, it prompted even more sniggering.

“You are the one who always push me to develop a personal taste but now that I’m trying something out, you are mocking me,” Connor said a bit defensively.

He had no qualms with wearing formal jackets; he did like them! The current change was done in context of his exploration of Gavin’s preferences. And if it didn’t suit him it was acceptable, just another data point to have.

He still had to fight a desire to go back to his room and change.

Following the advice of shop assistants, Connor acquired the type of clothes made to emphasize his positive attributes. It was a pair of rather tight brown slacks and a dark blue shirt meant to be worn with sleeves rolled up to the elbows.

And honestly, according to his knowledge, the majority of people though that Hank had a terrible fashion sense. He had no leg to stand on in this discussion.

Connor was so lost in his thoughts he missed the point when Hank stood up and came closer to slap him on the shoulder.

“I’m just joking around,” he said good-naturedly. “It’s ok if you experiment with looks. Just warn the guy when we get to the colored hair and the goth phase.”

Hank went to grab the keys and exited the house. Connor hurried after him and got in the car.

“I really don’t think…”

“Oh, we’ve all been there, kid, believe me.”

Connor raised his eyebrows. Hank pointed a finger at him without even looking, busy driving out backwards into the road.

“You are not seeing the photos! They are hidden, thoroughly.”

“I am state of the art detective android, Hank.”

“Very thoroughly.”

Connor smiled and said nothing. He felt better about the whole new clothes thing.

He still hoped it looked appealing.

He wondered if Gavin had a colored hair or goth phase and if he would ever get to know these pieces of him.

***

So it was safe to assume that the clothes were a complete success.

Connor received multiple compliments from his coworkers, even captain Fowler grumbled something mildly approving.

And Gavin wouldn’t take his eyes of him for a second.

By lunchtime Connor felt both flattered and guilty for clearly disrupting his work process, but mostly flattered.

Especially that one time when Connor had to lean over Hank’s shoulder to read the statements on his console and didn’t even think anything about it, until he heard a loud clatter, a muffled curse and watched red-faced Gavin retreating to the bathroom. He wasn’t doing it on purpose but those slacks were almost unreasonably tight.

The clothes were a success. So much so that Connor immediately wanted to buy something else. And he could do it too.

After becoming full-fledged citizens all androids were entitled to receive payment for their job, even though it was a reduced one, since they didn’t have to eat and worry about the whole range of other human needs. It was a point of debate in talk shows and political rallies.

Connor could care less. He would gladly work without payment at all and Hank repeatedly refused to accept his contribution to the utility bills. There was nothing he required, so besides getting a few new toys for Sumo, his bank account stayed mostly untouched until now.

There was no reason why he couldn’t splurge a little. So he did.

During next few weeks Connor went through all the styles and shapes and colors. And even though the primary objective was to see how Gavin liked him in something, it proved to be an interesting exercise of self-discovery.

There were suspenders at some point and he even got a leather jacket but eventually Connor confirmed to himself that he liked clean-cut semi-official attire in blues and greys the most. Whether it was his residual programing latching on to the default settings or just his taste, it was nice to know for sure he liked something. He forgone a tie on most days but kept it for those expected to be bad ones, just to have an opportunity to adjust it and feel better and in control.

Gavin seemed to like almost anything. He did have some preferences but Connor felt his ever-present attention every day.

They haven’t discussed their progressing liaison but it seemed like each time they looked or spoke to each other, there was a layer of subtext added to the interaction.

Connor often wondered about the next steps he ought to make.

The natural progression seemed to point towards sexual relations, but he still hadn’t made up his mind about those.

It wasn’t a problem in and of itself. But he was faced with the conundrum of lacking the sexual drive yet being expected to take the initiative.

There was also an issue of Gavin’s preferences. His needs and boundaries were not conventional and Connor had no point of reference to map them out. Everything he tried so far was met with strong approval but there must have been a limit somewhere and Connor didn’t want to push against it accidently.

Not all the things he found in the research were things he wanted to try. Everything around deliberate infliction of pain and injuries, however small, made Connor slightly alarmed. Not only because he wasn’t sure how to measure and grant sensations he couldn’t feel himself but also because he didn’t feel particular aversion to the idea and he probably should have. And what if Gavin wanted that? What if Connor went too far with it?

Not everything could be figured out by trial and error when consequences of the error like that would matter so much.

Direct conversation was a way to go; something that people, at least those that Connor tended to befriend, were so reluctant to engage in. He could press for it of course but it wasn’t like Connor didn’t appreciate the state of their relationship as it was.

He didn’t realize he was waiting for something. For some sign that Gavin was ready for that conversation maybe. He did not realize it until the atmosphere started to change for the worse.

Connor couldn’t pinpoint the moment something went wrong.

One day Gavin came in to work in a clearly sour mood. Which wasn’t that far from his default, not to mention all the possible work-related reasons. The next day was not an improvement however and the next after that even more so.

They were both busy so it took some time to notice and confirm an apparent shift but Connor couldn’t evade the obvious conclusions for long. Gavin was avoiding him. He also became fidgety and distracted, scowling at anyone who came into three feet radius from his desk.

It was the exact state of antsy agitation that pushed Gavin to seek confrontation with him before. But this time there was no pending fight, just Gavin looking strung out and leaving the room as soon as Connor entered it if there was no work-related obligation to stay.

It was… disquieting.

Gavin masterfully sidestepped two separate attempts Connor made for them to speak privately. In a work setting holding himself aloof and generally… dick-like.

It wasn’t a new behavior. If anything it was back to the baseline. Somehow the regression seemed worse.

Connor took the time to review the footage of all of his interactions with Gavin in recent weeks (a few times) but there was no conflict or even a possible miscommunication point he could locate. The change was gradual and seemingly without a cause.

Still there must have been some reason. Something he said or did wrong. It bothered Connor that he couldn’t figure where exactly he blundered everything. But even not knowing the reason he could start with the apology.

He made another attempt to speak with Gavin after a common case briefing but Gavin fled before captain Fowler even dismissed them, choosing the wrath of the superior rather than a talk with him. Connor was half out of his chair to follow but sat back down under Hank’s complicated gaze.

“Said he was an asshole,” Hank muttered, not looking at him anymore.

Connor had no answer to that. It was bizarre how relationships could just take a sudden turn. It left him feeling uncertain. Left him feeling lost. Connor frowned.

***
Connor followed Hank into the dimly lit back room. Behind the one-sided mirror there was a suspect handcuffed to the table. The suspect looked calm, his body language relaxed and face smug. Detective Reed sitting across him was the opposite, with grim expression and shoulders so tense they were almost shaking.

According to the timetable on the console the interrogation was going on for 28 minutes already but detective Collins shook his head at.

“Hey Ben. Anything?”

“Hank. Connor. Zilch. The son of a bitch has deep pockets and he knows it.”

Connor sighed, the problem of corruption was still grating on his nerves more then he could explain. The system should either work, or be dismantled and rebuilt to work better if there was a defect in its foundation but somehow all the ones human built came with this inherent flaw in them.

“Reed! What the fuck is he doing?”

Hank pounded on the mirror. Behind the glass Gavin was holding the suspect by the lapels, pulling him half way across the table and snarling in his face. His voice was coming slightly disjointed from the speakers:

“You think you are so tough? Get fucking ready to see the sky in metal stripes for the rest of your miserable life!”

Chris who was standing on guard behind the door rushed inside the interrogation room to pry Gavin away.

The suspect fell back into the chair his smile only getting wider.

“Now I’ll sue you and this hellhole to the ground!”

Gavin made a move to grab for him again; Chris doubled the effort to get him in the corridor.

Connor was there before the door even closed, cutting off the cackling man behind it, Hank and Ben rushing out as well. Gavin was pushing Chris away with a vicious shove.

“I almost had him!”

“You had shit.” Hank said. “Another minute and you would have been unemployed, you owe Chris a big one.”

Gavin was breathing fast and looked like he was going to argue but then seemed to realize that none of them supported his approach, so he just turned and stalked down the corridor, shoulder checking Chris on his way out.

Connor debated going after him and how this was probably not the best time. But he couldn’t exclude the possibility that he was partly responsible for Gavin’s mood, so nodding apologetically to his colleagues he hurried off to catch up.

Gavin didn’t get too far; it was still the middle of the shift after all. He was harassing a water dispenser just two corridors over.

Connor didn’t have a clue how to start a conversation. If Gavin ever felt like following his suggestions, now would have been a nice time to do it.

“That wasn’t very nice,” he said leveled and only mildly disapproving. “You should probably apologize.”

Gavin scoffed at him.

“You should probably suck my dick.”

The foul language was not unusual but Connor was taken aback by the hostility of his tone.

Gavin made a face and turned to go.

“What is wrong with you?” Connor asked with more edge to his voice than he intended, grabbing his upper arm.

“Nothing. Get off me, retard.”

“Your behavior begs to differ. Gavin you are not being reasonable seeing as…”

Gavin growled at him, wrenched his arm out of a grip and made a move to leave. There was no way Connor could reason with him by words alone. Scanning the surrounding area he quickly found a best viable option. Utility closet a few steps down the corridor.

Another grab, stronger this time. Yanking to the side. Ignoring a confused yelp. Locking the door behind them.

“I haven’t finished,” Connor said.

He had Gavin pressed face first into the wall with a hand locked behind his back in a dim lit room hosting automated cleaning stations on standby. Position different yet familiar from their encounter in the archive. Just like then Gavin tried to wrestle free but Connor had much less patience this time, so he just shoved him harder, pressing closely behind, speaking lowly, mindful of the station corridor just behind a thin door.

“You have been avoiding me and behaving erratically. Fine. But it was a wrong way to treat a suspect and even worse to Chris who only tried to help.”

Gavin grounded his teeth together, making his jaw muscles bulge. He breathed heavily but a few more unsuccessful tugs later stopped fighting.

After a long pause he said exhaled.

“And whose fault is that?”

Connor had to suppress an automatic shudder. There was so much raw emotion in the quiet question. Way more than he could decipher. This, more than anything, made him move back and release his grip of the man. Gavin turned around to look up at him sourly but made no other move to leave.

“What do you mean?” Connor asked. “If I offended you in some way…”

“So that’s how we are calling it?”

“Calling what?”

Gavin spread his arms exasperated, banging one on a cleaning station in a cramped space. Hissed a curse but barged on:

“Emotional manipulation? Teasing? Torture? Taking advantage of someone’s weakness for your own amusement? I don’t know Connor how do you call it?”

Connor made a step back and would have made another one but there was no more space for that.

“Gavin. I don’t understand.”

Gavin was the one to move forward now, pocking Connor’s chest with a finger.

“I told you to forget it, to let it be. I fucking told you. But no, you said you would think about it. And what’s next? One day you flirt with me and the next one you don’t. One day you go all touchy-feely and the next one scolding me that I’m not concentrating on what the meeting is about. There are mixed signals and there is this bullshit. What are you doing, building a database of human reactions to hot and cold treatment? Well I’m not your fucking guinea pig. And if you are going to say that it was just all in my head and you were never interested at all you can honestly go and fuck yourself.”

Connor took the wave of information in and it finally made sense. He saw at once how inconsistent his behavior might have seemed. How it could have led to wrong conclusions, to look like indecision instead of rapidly progressing attachment. He understood but it didn’t mean he knew right away how to make it all better or if it was even possible. Still he could try.

Connor gently wrapped his hand around the accusing finger still digging into his sternum.

“I’m sorry. I never intended you to feel that way. I was interested. I am.”

Gavin looked at him skeptically at first but Connor took his scrutiny and met it with the most sincere expression he could manage.

“You are?”

“Yes. It’s just a new type of objective,” he saw right away how Gavin took the word the wrong way and hurried to correct it. “A new feeling. It was influencing my work efficiency. I tried to keep it professional.”

By the rapid reddening of his ears, Connor suspected that Gavin was pleased to be disruptive to his workflow.

“Why didn’t you say something?” he still tried to sound sullen but it lacked any real contempt now.

Connor smiled, seeing how all of Gavin’s physical markers that he monitored were steadily improving. His posture more relaxed, micro expressions positive, heartbeat staying elevated but… apparently in a good way.

“I couldn’t find an opportunity.”

“Well you created one when you really wanted,” Gavin said, motioning with his free hand and tugging at his captured one. Connor didn’t let go, suddenly reminded how they got into this situation in a first place.

“Your behavior couldn’t continue like that,” he said, admonishing.

“What were you gonna do about it, punish me in the closet?” Gavin said jokingly and obviously without thinking; he shut his mouth with a click and looked mortified as soon as words left his mouth.

Connor cocked his head to the side. Considering.

“Do you require a punishment?” he asked evenly. Gavin stared at him. Connor made a set of observations strongly supporting the approach he took. Maybe it was that next step he couldn’t seem to grasp. Not planned or scripted, just playing out naturally. But still Gavin wasn’t moving or voicing his opinion. Connor let go of the hand he was keeping hostage but leaned in, in case Gavin needed that last bit of validation so he whispered: “I think you do.”

“Oh?” Gavin swallowed.

Connor followed the movement of his throat with his eyes. He could see a vein pulsing on his neck, heartbeat going faster.

“Do you Gavin?”

Gavin looked to the side then back at him and back to the side.

“Yeah. I… Yes. Please.”

Connor fought the sigh of relief he wanted to make. He did not miscalculate or misinterpret. Good. But also alarming, uncharted territory was ahead. Neither his superior behavioral protocols nor any amount of world web browsing could tell him how exactly to proceed. He relished in the challenge.

Connor made a slow step forward, bringing them back to position they both seemed to prefer, with Gavin pressed against the wall.

“Have you ever imagined a situation like this?” Connor asked, figuring out possible lines of actions but also just curious. He lightly rested his hands on Gavin’s hips, detecting and delighting in series of shudders it got him in response.

Gavin licked and then bit his lower lip.

“Yes.”

Connor smiled a little, pleased that he guessed as much and more confident in his chosen strategy.

“How did it go?”

Gavin was breathing faster than before when they were arguing. He looked up again, trying to look daring but lending closer to pleading.

“You touching me.”

“I am touching you,” Connor said, applying more pressure. Mapping out his waistline and slowly getting back down.

“Not just there,” Gavin said breathless and annoyed. Prompting Connor to realize that he was being a tease without meaning to. It was in the parameters of the situation. He just wanted to be intentional about such things.

“There? Like this?” Connor asked, pressing one of his hands directly above the hardness in Gavin’s jeans. It got him a violent twitch that he was expecting and a cursed exhale, followed by:

“Please.”

Connor kept the pressure for a moment, savoring the reactions he was getting. But he didn’t want to ruin the moment by his own ineptitude. The task was new and he would rather not learn it through trial end error. Especially seeing that mental part of the encounter proved to be no less intense or stimulating for Gavin so far.

Connor lifted up his hand and pressed it to the wall over Gavin’s shoulder, caging him in.

“I don’t think it would be much of a punishment if I did that, do you?” Connor asked, rising his eyebrows.

Gavin glowered back at him.

“But you can touch yourself. Show me how you like it.”

Either noticing his genuine interest or led by pure frustration, or even following the pretense of being chastised, Gavin didn’t even bother to argue. He plucked a button open, zipper down and pulled his erection out all in one breath. He started moving his hand right away, moaning slightly from the touch or maybe from being watched.

Connor observed with unwavering focus. He vaguely noted the size and form and color and other general bits of information. But what he was truly interested in was how strong and how fast and what angle Gavin liked the movement to be. How his breathing hitched during the down stroke and rattled out when he was tugging up. Connor was so single-mindedly determined to not miss a thing that it took him a long time to realize that Gavin was looking up at him.

“Is this… okay?” Gavin asked, not slowing down but somewhat uncertain, searching for something in Connor’s face.

“This is incredible,” Connor answered honestly. He wasn’t capable of feeling arousal but he was seeing and hearing and feeling everything else: the rising body temperature, peculiar wet sounds, the pulsing of the pupils, the smell and taste of biochemical reactions happening under Gavin’s skin, all of it overwhelming and fascinating and happening at once and getting stronger still. Even he could predict that it wasn’t going to be long.

“Can I kiss you?” Gavin asked, cupping Connor’s face with his unoccupied hand. It was trembling a little.

And it was another thing Connor had zero expertise in but also not something he could learn observing. Not something he could withhold when Gavin asked him like that.

Making a decision to not overanalyze this, Connor leaned in and covered the other lips with his own. He even went as far as to push his tongue inside, when Gavin’s movements got more erratic and he had a full body shudder, throwing his head back with a long shaky exhale.

That was an orgasm, Connor concluded with ample evidence. And while Gavin was too out of it to care, proceeded to leave him a hickey on his so insistently presented neck. To have them was a quality of human skin that captivated him ever since Connor started his research.

For a moment there was only a sound of Gavin’s irregular breathing.

“So that was, yeah,” he said slowly.

Then both of them startled, when the nearest cleaning station powered on to life, extended a mop attachment and went to clean up the mess on the floor left by the proceedings.

Gavin let out a nervous bark of laughter.

The moment later he was full on laughing, whipping at his eyes. Connor smiled as well. It was funny after all.