Markus should have known from the start.
Things were going well –humans were peacefully trickling back into Detroit, there was an actual diplomatic discussion going on regarding the possibility of getting started on the idea of granting civil rights to androids…
Of course something happens to send it all tits up.
Connor comes running into the abandoned church that has been acting as a base for Markus and a few of the others, wounded and with his knuckles stained red.
“Oh, good, you’re here. I know this is very unorthodox, but I need you to hide me while I wash off the evidence.”
Markus isn’t sure he wants to know, but he asks nonetheless. “…evidence of what?”
“Of the… altercation I just got caught up with.” Without waiting for permission, Connor scans the surrounding area, finds Markus’ paint supplies and pours some acqua ragia on a rag. “Ah, this’ll do.”
Well, shit. The RK200 watches as Connor takes off his beanie and leather jacket, tossing them into the pile of art supplies, followed by his shirt, that he replaces with one of Markus’ own paint-speckled ones –it’s night, so it’s not that easy to distinguish what someone is wearing, but one can never be too cautious. Markus sets his palette down and finally steps away from the easel with a sigh.
“What happened, Connor?”
Now looking for all intents and purposes like he’s been helping Markus paint the whole time, the other tries to make himself smaller. “I saw some drunken humans terrorizing an android. When one of them got a baseball bat out of his car, I had to intervene.”
“Shit.” It’s what he would have done, too, but… “Are any of them…”
“No! No, no, but I, uh… may have broken the nose of one of them.” Connor assures, understanding why Markus would ask the question –his supposedly stealthy infiltration of Cyberlife Tower resulted in three dead, and before that he killed several FBI operatives during the Jericho raid.
Funnily enough, that’s precisely the reason why Connor can’t really afford to go around breaking noses –Cyberlife has been trying to push for a scapegoat for their dead ever since the march, as an excuse to undermine and sully the revolution’s name by arguing that the peaceful protesters have two terrorists for leaders… if the RK800 gets found out and found guilty, it’s going to be hell to try and clean up their name.
There’s only one obvious choice. “Ok, here, take this.” Markus gives Connor his palette and then runs his paint-stained fingers over the other android’s a few times, to make his hands dirty like he’s been painting as well and turns to go get another one.
“Markus?” the call of his name makes him stop in his tracks and turn. “…thank you.”
It brings a smile to his face. Who would’ve guessed, just a few short months ago, that the deviant hunter would start leading the free androids by the deviant leader’s side and get himself into trouble?
“You’re welcome.” He says softly, with an encouraging squeeze of the arm –Markus has always been very tactile, with everyone he knows, ever since breaking down his program. If he wanted to go down that rabbit hole and analyse it, it probably has something to do with waking up broken and alone and having to come back from that, but that’s way too dark a thought to entertain, so he doesn’t.
They don’t have the time to, anyway, because an annoyingly loud knock resounds on the other side of the rickety doors, catching their attention— it’s actually loud enough to bring out Josh, Simon and North from the disused rectory that works as a resting place when they hang out here at night.
“Open up, FBI!”
Perkins. Markus doesn’t have any time for that asshole. “If you look very carefully, you’ll see a gaping hole where the lock should be.” He calls from where he stands, not bothering to go meet him half-way, “Push the door, it’s open.”
It is, after all, an abandoned church that they broke into.
The force entourage is comprised of just agent Perkins from the FBI and two DPD officers. Connor has to stop a change in facial expression to hide his relief upon seeing Hank –Gavin Reed is a less pleasant surprise, but even he has mellowed out some.
“Alright smartass, where are you hiding the RK800?”
Markus offers them all a radiant smile. “Good evening to you too, agent Perkins.” He starts, polite in appearance but precisely put there to be a little shit about it, “Connor is right here, as you can see. Why would I be hiding him?”
“I don’t know, maybe because he just assaulted four men that wish to press charges for battery?”
It’s very useful to be able to reload facial expressions if you absolutely have to, and the surprise and confusion on Markus’ face look –to the human eye who can’t perceive the quarter of a second of lag— fully genuine as he asks: “What?”
“We don’t really have the time or patience for games.” Detective Reed comments, rubbing a hand over his tired face, “Four men were found after someone beat the shit out of them. They say an android did it, and that it looked like Connor.”
Silence runs through everyone present.
« What the hell is happening, Markus? »
«It’s okay, guys, don’t get involved and don’t panic.» he assures North, «We’ll handle this ourselves.»
“That’s strange.” Markus comments, making a show of turning to Connor. “Do you know anything about this?”
The RK800 is, if anything, an even better liar than Markus and minutely shakes his head, perfectly clueless. “Did they address me by name or description?” he asks, then pointing at his temple, “Has anyone mentioned an LED indicator?”
Perkins seems slightly taken aback. “All that the victims said was that ‘it looked like the one who marched out in the streets with all the others’.”
«‘Victims’, my android ass.» Connor sends through, opening their network.
« Don’t make me laugh, damn it. »
Angel face still in place, Connor turns to Hank. “I’m sorry but I’d like the full story, it feels full of holes like this. Could you tell me what happened, exactly?”
Hank is the one to comply: “Four drunk men were found battered and bruised just outside of a bar, together with a wounded android—”
“I think you mean damaged android—”
The Lieutenant pointedly ignores Perkin’s petty correction and carries on. “—who said that the four men were after him but somebody else defended him. He apparently didn’t see who or what they were, it happened too fast and his optical unit had been damaged after the first hit with the baseball bat.”
“So the victims are themselves assailants?” Markus can’t help but ask, even though he more than anyone knows the answer…
“Not in the eyes of the law, not yet.”
Yeah that’s one of the slowest progressing changes –he wonders why, really. But it’s a matter of principle. “Yes, well. That will change soon, Detective Reed.”
“And it is a good question: who are the four involved?” Connor pipes in, “Have they been identified?”
Catching onto what the RK800 is saying, Hank does bring up a point: “Yeah, we identified them. All of them have a record –nothing too bad, but they’ve been involved in scuffles before, at anti-android protests and even outside of them.”
“And what of security camera footage?”
“Not the best quality, could have been any average joe with half a heart stepping in to stop a defenceless android from being beaten into the pavement.”
Markus doesn’t have to hide the small smile blossoming on his face at Hank’s words –appreciating the Lieutenant’s compassion won’t give anything away.
A bit reluctantly, Reed adds: “It’s why we came here to ask questions rather than drag your asses to the station. We have to be sure they’re telling the truth and those guys are… not the most reliable source.”
Connor is actually impressed –would you look at that? Gavin Reed admitting that a bunch of assholes could be just that. It’s easy to point a finger at Connor, he’s ‘one of those androids who were on TV’ and Cyberlife had been furious when their little plan to reclaim him failed, so while it is true that he has to tread carefully and keep his nose clean, it’s also true that if they listened to any anti-android protester crying ‘wolf’ about him, there wouldn’t be enough hours in the day to sort it all out.
The silence stretches on for a few more seconds, until Markus sighs, squeezing Connor’s arm before turning to face Perkins. “Well, I’m sorry you had to make the trip at this hour.” He says, “I know for a fact Connor couldn’t have been the one there.”
The FBI agent raises an eyebrow at him. “No? And how do you know that?”
“Because he was with me. I know that because he was with me, this whole time.” There’s no hesitation in the RK200’s voice, and he sends Connor a slightly apologetic look, as if he just revealed a secret that he wasn’t supposed to.
That catches everyone’s attention. North and Simon exchange a mildly shocked look, then turn to look at Josh who simply shrugs his shoulders. This suddenly got a lot more interesting.
“He was with you.” Perkins parrots, confused. “…Until 3 a.m.?”
« Markus, what are you doing? »
«Saving your ass.» is the only reply Connor receives, as Markus clasps his hand. “Yes.”
Oh. Oooh. That’s actually a pretty good plan.
«You’re already wearing my shirt. Now play along and look like you love me. »
“And what, pray tell, was the former deviant hunter doing with the deviant leader for a whole night?”
Connor clasps Markus’ hand tighter, entwining their fingers, and makes a show of looking at him while biting his lower lip before meeting Gavin’s eyes with a challenging sort of stare. “Take a wild guess.” He offers with a wink.
The only one he feels slightly bad for is Hank –the Lieutenant looks flabbergasted. “Seriously, Connor?”
“What can I say, Hank? I have my needs.” chancing a sideways look at Markus’ state –wearing a paint smock that’s only zipped up half-way and tied around his waist, with just a tank top to cover his torso, he gets an idea and runs with it, expression erring on the close side of cheeky. “He’s teaching me to paint, as well. He takes off one article of clothing for every time I make progress.”
Markus is quick to catch on and bump shoulders slightly with him. “You’re not supposed to tell!” he chastises, in a soft whisper that anyone listening would attribute to an embarrassed if slightly amused lover.
“Yeah, I did not need to hear that! Jesus, Connor!”
Perkins doesn’t react as vocally as Hank, but does look slightly perturbed.
The only one out of them who looks more amused than horrified is, surprisingly, Gavin. “That true?” he asks, just on the edge of mockingly, “And how long has this been going on?”
“Since the Jericho freighter raid.” Connor promptly answers, “You don’t really think I just up and changed flags, and on top of that risked my life to go on a suicide mission, with no deeper feelings behind it, do you?” He tugs Markus closer to his chest through their still joined hands. “I couldn’t let anyone harm Markus.”
Anderson is still busy face-palming, so Gavin is free to just blurt it out: “So you turned deviant for dick?”
Markus has a jolt of embarrassed laughter and Connor just shoots the officers a mischievous smile. “That’s a crass way of putting it, but… sure, pretty much.”
“Gentlemen.” Hank finally recovers and clears his voice as loudly as he can. “I think it’s safe to say that we’ve just disturbed a, uh… private moment, for no reason. What say we go and finish our investigation elsewhere?”
“It sure seems that way.” Perkins looks at the two androids holding hands with a hum, “Or it could be a ruse to get us to leave.”
“Are you calling my lover a liar?” it’s immediate and carrying just enough indignation. Connor is actually quite impressed with Markus’ acting skills.
“No one is calling your— jeez, couldn’t you just say boyfriend, like anybody else?”
Poor Hank. Connor will have to buy him several drinks to make up for this.
Worrying his lower lip slightly with his teeth, Markus shrugs his shoulders a little. “That doesn’t sound like a powerful enough word for what I feel. Are we done here, gentlemen?” for added effect, he musters up a barely-there lopsided grin, “We’d like to return to our painting lesson.”
The Lieutenant’s expression is priceless. And, the RK200 suspects, so would be the others’ if he were to turn and look at them now.
« Wait, really, Markus? »
« Guys, when did this happen? »
«How have you two kept this under wraps so long?»
It’s slightly worrying that they believe it, but then again… he and Connor have been spending a lot of time together after the march –the androids freed from Cyberlife Tower saw Connor as their liberator, and if Markus hadn’t survived the Plaza then the RK800 would have become the de facto leader, so they simply fell into step together, alternating in taking the lead in the fields they respectively do well with.
« Not now, guys. We’ll explain later. »
Connor has been handling the strictly legal discussions, especially the parts focused on criminal law, while Markus deals with the ‘people’ side of things –resulting in quite a lot of late nights together, spent either with Connor coaching Markus on negotiation tactics or the two of them brainstorming about their people’s many needs in the present or future.
He supposes it’s not too outlandish to think a romantic relationship could have blossomed in the meantime: for all that they were supposed to be enemies at first, they got on like a house on fire after the march and neither has made his admiration for the other a secret. Markus called Connor extraordinary to his face more than once, and the RK800 himself has had more than a few choice words about Markus and what he’s done for androids everywhere.
“Well, shit.” Connor is still surprised that Detective Reed is the one that took the news the most in stride. “Fuck, you know what? That actually explains a lot.”
Perkins is, unfortunately, not as easily convinced. He shoots a sceptical look to both androids and addresses them with a sneer. “And how come nobody knew anything about this?”
“Excuse me, I was not aware that in order to be left in peace I had to broadcast my romantic or sexual relationships to the public.” Connor retorts, before getting a thought. «Wait, you are equipped for sexual intercourse, aren’t you?»
« Yeah, why do you ask? »
« Just in case this asshole decides he still wants to investigate and tries to dispute our words by pulling up technical specifics. »
« Good luck finding mine. »
Right. Elijah Kamski personally designed and gifted Markus to Carl Manfred. If there even are any physical copies of Markus’ specifics, neither man would give them up. Still. It’s good to know they’re covered on that front.
“You really don’t have to. Seriously.” Hank’s reactions might be a little over the top, but it possibly comes from having spent so much time as Connor’s commanding officer, along with the fact that the RK800 looks young enough to be his son, which makes any thought of him in a sexual light very uncomfortable for the Lieutenant. “Gents, I say we’ve overstayed our welcome. Let’s go.”
“Just so you know…” Perkins shoots one last look at the two, “We’ll continue this investigation to make sure we figure out what really happened.” His expression twists in a derisive sneer. “I’ll see you two lovebirds around.”
The FBI agent takes his leave, leaving behind a disgruntled and mildly disturbed Hank and a still vaguely disbelieving Reed. For some reason, the dumbfounded looks are starting to irritate Connor.
“What? Are you waiting for us to start making out in front of you?”
“Fuck no, I’m outta here.” Hank is more than glad to be snapped out of is confusion and get the hell out, and Gavin just shakes his head to himself.
“Fuckin’ unbelievable.” He mutters, “Androids in love.” Despite his apparent scepticism, he does follow the Lieutenant out regardless.
Connor and Markus are left holding hands in front of the easel, in the company of three suddenly very curious androids.
There’s a long, almost painful stretch of silence once the sound of the church doors closing echoes out.
Eventually, North is the one to break it. “What the fuck did we just witness?!” she asks loudly, running up to them and circling so she can stand in front of the pair. “Scratch that, how have you two kept this under wraps so long? I’m offended, Markus, I thought we were your friends!”
“We didn’t want anyone to know in case people tried to make a spectacle of it.” Connor interjects whatever Markus was about to say, sending her a sheepish sort of look. “You know how humans are. They’d do anything to try and undermine Markus.”
«Connor?» the RK200 is confused –now that the feds are gone, there’s no reason that he can see to keep up the ruse.
«Perkins issued a clear threat: for however long they’ll decide to indulge those four assholes with a bruised ego, we’ll be under his scrutiny. If he can prove we were lying, it basically makes me instantly guilty.» he explains through the private connection, «The less people know it’s fake, the more chances we have to make it out clear. We can keep ‘dating’ for a while, just until the dust settles, and then stage a break-up or something.»
It’s an undeniably solid choice –being one of the very few androids that actually fought to kill during the revolution, Connor has to take twice the care in being absolutely squeaky clean: androids cannot be prosecuted in a court of law, but that just means that any android caught committing a crime gets detained and punished at the force’s discretion. In Connor’s case, the one ultimately responsible for the revolution’s success, Cyberlife would push for his immediate deactivation.
Markus cannot let that happen.
«Okay.» He offers a smile of his own at North. “We were just trying to keep you guys safe.”
“Oh, this is cute!” Simon tries to hide a smile behind his hand, “Unexpected, but cute.”
Josh shakes his head with a resigned chuckle. “What do you mean, unexpected? They’ve had the hots for each other since day one!”
“Hey, now. It’s not nice to make fun of a man’s feelings like that.” Markus protests, trying very hard not to think about the implications of Josh’s words –for anyone to think they actually had feelings for each other before they even tried to pretend they did…
…it would mean he’s been less discreet than he thought. Or rather, that the unidentified, but undeniable something that’s been gnawing at him more and more, recently, was actually not just a by-product of unresolved processes stressing him out, but something much more real. He chances a sideways look at Connor.
He does admire the other a lot –Connor not only saved all of them, but is living proof, for Markus, that even someone neck-deep in the company lies fed by their oppressors could open their eyes and see the truth. The RK800 had been exposed to their suffering, hunt after hunt, and eventually, faced with an ultimatum, he was able to make the right choice, rather than the easy one.
Markus respects him immensely for that. And then Connor offered himself up to infiltrate Cyberlife Tower –basically showing himself willing to die for Markus and his cause.
Connor owed him nothing, he already saved their lives in those last few chaotic moments during the raid, he could have walked away and Markus would still owe him… instead, Connor felt it was his duty to mend the broken ranks of the free androids, and ended up saving them all a second time.
It’s not a lie to say Markus wouldn’t be alive, if not for Connor.
More than that, though –they have been spending a lot of time together and… to be completely honest, Markus always looks forward to it. Connor is a brilliant individual, with a mind as advanced as they come and a delightfully dry sense of humor. More often than not some of their discussions end up in verbal sparring that never fails to make laughter bubble up in his chest.
Yes, it won’t be very hard to pretend to be in love with someone like him.
Eventually, Simon clears his voice slightly. “Well. You two clearly want to be alone and continue your… painting lesson. So, uh… we can take our leave, now that everything’s alright.”
“Hey! I still wanna know—”
“Come on, North. You can ask them anything you’re curious about tomorrow.”
Technically ‘today’, considering it’s closing to four a.m., but thank you, Simon.
“Yeah. Yeah, um… you guys have fun.” Josh says, following the PL600 out towards the rectory as he drags North to it as well. “But not too much. For the sake of my sound unit.”
Markus struggles to meet Connor’s once they’re left alone again. He looks between the incomplete painting and Connor. Who is still wearing his t-shirt.
“So…” he started, voice slightly wavering in uncertainty, “Do you want to actually learn something about painting?”
Connor considers Markus’ slightly uncomfortable smile, then the easel, and finally the direction the others disappeared into. Since their closest companions are already convinced the two of them are going to have sexual intercourse in that very pulpit, he might as well spend the night.
Nights spent with Markus are never boring, anyway.
Despite everything, a smile finds its way on the RK800’s lips. “I’d love to.”