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It started with an issue of Droid Nouveau, which wouldn’t have boded well even under better circumstances than Gavin Reed waving a tablet in Connor’s face and saying, “Is this what you freaks really get up to in bed,” but because Connor’s life was marked by constant strife and myriad grievances, he just chalked it up to being a day ending in -y and took the device from the detective’s clammy, sweaty hands and scanned the article in question.

“Six Surefire Ways to Drive Your Android Boyfriend to Blissfully Catastrophic Shutdown!”

Most of the list was what Hank might’ve referred to as ‘really boring shit, what the fuck,’ but it was the last one that took the prize for truly ridiculous and asinine.

Number Six: Touch a 9V battery to his tongue!

Extensive research into android sexual practices has shown that androids are overwhelmingly positive toward the use of electrical stimulation in the bedroom. Tests and surveys conducted by trained physiologists confirm that a little shock goes a long way to rev them up. “Don’t be afraid to explore,” Doctor Anessa Thorpe, certified sexologist who runs the popular aNdroidt podcast for the S, L & A Lifestyle Network. “Androids can experience all sorts of sensations in ways counter to human understandings of them and they might find things exciting that you’d never have thought of. Talk to your romantic partner to find out what they like. You might be surprised by what you learn!

As Hank might also have said: Jesus fucking Christ.

“Are you looking for tips, Detective?” Connor asked, instead of winging the tablet across the bullpen and maybe shattering some glass in the process. It would serve Gavin right if he destroyed Gavin’s property, but there was no satisfaction in letting Gavin know that anything he did managed to get under Connor’s skin. Besides, it was already on the verge of falling apart, scratched up and too warm to the touch. It didn’t need Connor’s help. “I didn’t realize you were interested in pleasuring an android.”

The officer at the next desk threw a dirty look their way, well earned, and entirely Gavin’s fault. Like always. Connor would have to apologize to him later. Once Gavin was well out of earshot.

What he and Gavin did to each other was entirely inappropriate—though by no means out of the ordinary, police officers tended toward risqué behavior—but Connor had never quite mastered the ability to entirely disengage from Gavin’s antics the way he wanted to.

Red crept up Gavin’s neck in slow, satisfying motion until it finally settled in his cheeks. A vein in his temple began to throb, the cherry on this particularly annoying sundae. If it was because of Connor’s words or Officer Jenkins’s reaction to Connor’s words, he couldn’t say, but that hardly mattered as a thunderous expression crossed Gavin’s face and his lips compressed in thin unhappiness. There wasn’t a retort he could come up with that would allow him to fully recover what little remained of his dignity and Connor wasn’t above admitting to himself that made him very, very happy.

He’d learned, in the handful of years he’d been deviant, that he could, on vanishingly rare occasions, be petty. Hank called it a flaw. Connor pretended he was working on it.

“Why do only male-identified androids deserve blissfully catastrophic shutdowns, Gavin?” Connor called after him as he stomped away. “You’re being narrow minded again.”

Gavin’s only response was to flip him off.

Totally worth it.

If Connor thought the possibility of shoving a battery in Gavin’s mouth might lead to a blissfully catastrophic shutdown, he could keep that thought to himself. It wasn’t about sex. It was about shutting Gavin up for a while. Totally understandable and even more pleasurable than the sex might have been.

If he knew then what was coming, he’d have dreamed of shoving something even more inconvenient into his mouth, but that was neither here nor there.

*

All of a sudden, every time Connor turned around it was like he was looking at a new article about android sexuality that was utterly silly, if not actively reprehensible. He didn’t know where these people came from or why they considered it their job to come up with this garbage, but it was starting to annoy him. If he didn’t know any better, he’d have said Gavin was leaving shit around on purpose. It made sense, but Connor couldn’t figure out what his endgame was. Usually there was a goal of some sort or other, but it made Gavin look at least as bad as it embarrassed Connor.

As he sat at his desk, he found another tablet—whose, he couldn’t be sure, it certainly wasn’t his own and it didn’t look like the scuffed up one Gavin carried around. Even if he didn’t turn it on, he knew what he’d find.

Well. Not exactly what he’d find.

Because he couldn’t have anticipated under any circumstance that he could imagine: “Woo your favorite android with the dulcet tones of vintage dial-up modems! We promise it’s not as weird as it sounds!”

Here was the thing though. It was exactly as weird as it sounded. In fact, it sounded even weirder than that, because Connor accepted a lot of weird shit as a result of humans being the weirdest sentient beings on the planet. And that didn’t count the weird shit he saw in the course of his work. But this was really weird. Really, really weird.

“You okay there, Connor?” Hank asked, dry, from his own desk. He could only imagine what his face must’ve looked like to get that much of Hank’s attention that quickly. Hank rose in his seat a little to better see over his monitor. And though Connor wanted to turn away, flip the screen so Hank wouldn’t be able to see, he didn’t. There would be no hiding all that pink and violent, obvious purple, and he didn’t want to look any more guilty and stupid than he already felt. “The fuck is that?”

“It was sitting at my desk,” Connor replied and, bless him for this, Hank didn’t even question it. He lifted it so Hank could see it in all its terrible glory.

Hank’s nose crinkled and his mouth twisted in a disgusted grimace as his eyes scanned the headline. “Please tell me that’s not true because I’m not playing that for you, not even if it’s the most romantic sound you’ll ever hear in your life.”

“It’s not.” Connor rolled his eyes. “And even if it was, I’m perfectly happy with our relationship just the way it is, thank you.”

“Good, because I’m re-experiencing the trauma of my childhood here just imagining it. Nobody should ever go back to dial up. Like the fucking dark ages, that was.” Hank’s shoulders jerked in an exaggerated shiver. “I’m getting goosebumps just thinking about it.” He held his hand out. “Lemme see this shit.” Connor didn’t particularly want to. It felt a bit too much like exposing himself, but he couldn’t deny it’d be nice to hear someone else scoff about this, too. So he gave it to Hank and studiously focused on signing into his computer.

Hank was mostly quiet for a few moments, merely humming thoughtfully. Then he dropped the tablet into his trash can where it landed with a deep, resounding thunk. “Well, that was shit. Honestly, where do these people come up with this garbage? What are we supposed to do? Stand outside your window with a boombox and an AOL disk? Can’t we just take you to one of those trendy android bars that’re popping up everywhere?”

Probably Connor should’ve tried to salvage the device, but honestly, the owner could come back for it and deal with Hank to get it. It was left on Connor’s desk for a reason and none of those reasons could be good as far as Connor was concerned. Scrubbing his hand across his face, Connor nodded. Hank hadn’t sounded particularly interested in the answer, but he felt eyes on the back of his neck that potentially belonged to someone who might want to date an android one day and Connor felt like he owed it to that potential android to save them from this embarrassment. A little loud, he answered, “Yeah, Hank. That’s fine. Perfectly normal even. The next android you take out, you should definitely take them to an android-friendly bar. That is a thing you should do.”

Not that Hank would. He didn’t really date as far as Connor knew. Well. He dated sometimes. Not seriously. Not enough that Connor felt like he needed to offer Hank tips on how to successfully do so. Not enough that Hank felt the need to ask. And Connor was okay with that. He at least knew enough to avoid blaring dial-up noise at an unsuspecting paramour anyway. How would a human like it if he ran his nails down a chalkboard for them? That was the question Connor now wanted to ask the editor of this magazine.

Hank smirked at him like he knew exactly what Connor was doing and why.

Well. Connor couldn’t say he wasn’t occasionally very obvious.

At least Gavin wasn’t around to mock him for it or otherwise editorialize in Connor’s direction about it. He didn’t quite know which tack Gavin would take—his deep well of disdain contained multitudes—but that was an uninteresting question to ponder anyway.

It didn’t stop him from wondering anyway and then wondering what that said about him. Probably nothing good.

But Connor could pretend with the best of them. Hell, he’d learned that from Hank.

A good lesson for sure. Very useful.

*

“Take them offline with a magnet down their spine!”

Oh, for fuck’s sake.

*

“Ladies, forget about the dryer sheets. Static cling is in!”

Connor didn’t make a habit of haunting Gavin’s desk. Really. It was a mess and in a corner of the building that Connor rarely had business visiting, but sometimes Hank sent him down that way to locate some ancient, moldering files from the archives and, well. It was fascinating to poke his head in. Especially when Gavin wasn’t there to ruin things with his presence. The mess wasn’t so anathema to Connor; he worked with Hank after all, but the quality of the mess was different. The objects that cluttered Gavin’s life, distinct. Food wrappers and assorted detritus punctuated Hank’s world, the stray wires from earbuds when he could’ve gone wireless years ago plugged messily into his phone, pointlessly combative stickers, visually chaotic despite the minimal space they took up.

Hank seemed to sprawl across his own space even when he wasn’t there.

Gavin’s mess was something else. There was something almost neurotic about the spread of his things across his desk, like he was trying to crowd out something else entirely. Annoyingly large wireless speakers perched on one corner of the desk, precariously positioned near the pair of monitors he didn’t really need. There was even a printer, old and anachronistic, only present because nobody else wanted or needed it as far as Connor could see. At least, that was what Connor presumed. He knew from personal experience how difficult it was to requisition equipment that actually was valued by the department at large. Fighting a mountain lion for the scraps of a kill would’ve been easier. This printer wouldn’t be here if anyone else wanted it.

But he’d never even seen Gavin print anything out hard copy.

And that was entirely leaving aside the conspicuous jars of pens, markers, and pencils strewn across the desk, the walls lined with photos of crime scenes—not, as would have made sense to Connor given the presence of the thing, printed out on paper, no, but actually photographs, glossy and richly detailed and gory to the point of obscenity—the shelves that were mostly empty save for a handful of thumb drives that held something of enough value to Gavin to keep, though Connor couldn’t have even begun to guess what.

It was loud and obnoxious and almost distracted Connor entirely from Gavin’s personal tablet. The tablet that was chewing through its battery because Gavin hadn’t bothered to put in stand-by mode, like it was too much of an inconvenience to swipe the screen and wait for it to boot back up, no, better to let it linger, screen darkened, but not quite off.

Huh. So that tablet Hank had trashed earlier was Gavin’s because this was the exact same one, now scratched up on the corner that hit the bottom of the trash can first.

Pink text against a paler pink background accosted him and try as he might have liked to not pry further, he couldn’t help the headline, felt mortification build in the back of his mind as his eyes caught sight of yet another way humans apparently thought androids just—static-filled blankets, really? The article itself was nothing Connor hadn’t seen before or heard about from edgy comedians’ shticks getting posted around on social media. Everyone loved to poke fun at androids, never mind that everything humans disdained androids for could be found in commensurate, fetishistic quantities within the human population.

At least, it could be found within the human population in general, if not to the same degree. Maybe the readers of Droid Nouveau just didn’t understand that any weird shit androids might have liked was liked by some human or other out there. But seriously. Was “wrap your android boyfriend in a blanket” really the best they could do as far as unusual preferences went? Had any of these people even actually had sex with an android? And the Traci models in places like the Eden Club before the liberation didn’t count, because it wasn’t their preferences being catered to in those clubs.

Connor flicked the screen off and replaced the tablet in the exact position he’d found it in, even though it stood a not-zero percent change of falling to the floor while Gavin was out. It wasn’t his business what Gavin got up to or thought about androids. If Gavin preferred to believe androids could be reduced to this, that was no concern of Connor’s; he was never going to get Gavin’s good opinion anyway and he didn’t particularly want it.

No, what he wanted was a bit more complicated than he was entirely willing to explore. Gavin’s respect, possibly. A willingness to leave Connor alone if he wasn’t going to make an effort at being colleagues, sure. That would be great. He definitely wanted Gavin to see him as more than the collection of plastic parts and metal frames that made up the physical matter of his body.

He picked up the tablet again, awoke it and flipped through the magazine. Article after article about dating androids, all of them wrong, laughably so. Or at least not right. Probably there was an android out there who liked to be wrapped in static-y blankets. People, in general, were into all sorts of unexpected things. Connor bet there were humans out there who liked blankets, too. But it wouldn’t impress the vast majority of androids you’d come across on a random trawl of the android bars that had begun to pop up, ionized thirium on tap, bubbly and bright and drafted in every color of the rainbow into sparkling champagne flutes.

You’d find yourself laughed at, the same as if you’d tried to do the same with a human you brought home to bed.

He just couldn’t figure out Gavin’s angle in reading this, other than to get specifically under Connor’s skin with it. He didn’t harass the other androids in the precinct—otherwise, Connor would have had something to say about it to Fowler—and despite Connor’s original comment, Connor didn’t actually think he was looking for tips on how to bed androids. There was limited mileage in bothering Connor with it. Connor had ensured that much, made it more trouble than it was worth to engage.

Gavin always backed down when he got cut on the edge of his own blade. Connor had learned that lesson early and always kept it in the back of his mind when Gavin decided to hassle him.

“The fuck are you doing here,” Gavin said from the doorway, loud and abrasive and angry. Beyond angry. Incandescent with barely controlled rage. It startled Connor, though Connor kept that fear from registering beyond a slight tightening of his spine, something Gavin wouldn’t be able to notice anyway, human senses being what they were.

Connor, of course, did not have a good answer. And even if Gavin has given him a chance to formulate one, he wouldn’t have come up with anything decent.

So he did what any cornered person would do: he deflected, knowing already that Gavin would call bullshit at the very best, maybe punch Connor at worst. Lifting the tablet, he said, “I was on my way to archives and saw your tablet was lit up. I didn’t know you actually were that into androids, Detective, but it looks to me like you’ve got a fetish. Nice new equipment by the way. What happened to the last one?”

It was the equivalent of waving a red flag at a particularly belligerent bull and Connor absolutely should have known better. There was no point in posturing where no one would see. Gavin wouldn’t be cowed without an audience.

“Fuck you, Ken doll,” Gavin said, sounding way more exhausted than angry all of a sudden. His legs ate the distance between them and tore the tablet from Connor’s hands. “You don’t know a damned thing about it.”

That was interesting and it was unexpected. And Connor absolutely did not know how to not poke at unexpected problems. It made him a good investigator and gave him consistently high clear rates compared to others in the Detroit PD. But sometimes it got him into trouble in his personal life. “What I know is you’ve read at least two issues of a creepy lifestyle magazine dedicated to getting androids off in the stupidest ways possible.”

Gavin squared his slumping shoulders and found the wall behind Connor’s head way more interesting than it had any right to be. “Maybe I’ve got a suspect getting androids off in the stupidest ways possible and I’m trying to figure out what the fuck he’d see in you, you ever think of that before you pawed through my shit?”

That was possibly not the worst excuse Connor could have imagined Gavin coming up with. It was good enough that it took Connor aback that he hadn’t considered it as a possibility at all. It certainly made more sense than Connor’s half-assed assertion that Gavin wanted to fuck an android.

But it didn’t explain why Gavin didn’t immediately deck him for snooping or haul him in front of Fowler in the hopes of finally getting him some form of disciplinary action on his permanent record. And this would definitely have qualified.

It didn’t explain the red stain that spread across Gavin’s nose and cheeks.

And none of the photos on the wall or Gavin’s open cases—at least as far as Connor knew—suggested such a clean, logical link.

Connor smiled, tight, lips thinned with as much distant dignity as he could muster just because it would piss Gavin off even more. He didn’t even need to say he didn’t believe Gavin. It was all on his face for Gavin to see. Though maybe that wasn’t entirely fair. He half-believed Gavin. Nothing that good could’ve come out of his mouth without some basis in the truth, but Connor assumed his definition of suspect was a bit skewed. Maybe it was a person of interest Gavin had gotten stuck in his craw somewhere along the way, someone he wanted to understand, but had zero actual bearing on his work.

A lot of people were suddenly coming out of the woodwork to proclaim their deep, abiding love for androids. Case in point: that magazine. Maybe he thought understanding it would be useful at some point in the future.

Connor didn’t know. All he did know, instead, was that Gavin was embarrassed and belligerent about it.

Now, Gavin was often belligerent, but rarely embarrassed.

“I think you’re trying to fool me, Detective,” Connor replied.

Gavin stabbed Connor in the chest with his index finger. “Then I’ve got a question for you, you weaselly asshole: the fuck does it even matter? You think I’m suddenly into fucking androids? Even if it was true, the fuck do you care for?”

That, and Connor would probably never admit this to Gavin, not under pain of decommission or death, was a very good question. So Connor did the rational thing; he slapped Gavin’s hand away. “I just don’t want you to end up one of my homicide statistics given your well-known hatred of us.”

It wouldn’t have been the first time Connor found himself a human suspect who’d gotten in a little too deep with an android and took it out on them. It was a low-blow. But sometimes Connor couldn’t help himself.

“Oh, that’s it, you fuckin’ prick.”

The punch Gavin threw was aimed squarely for Connor’s jaw, too slow for him to land it, Connor’s palm wrapping around his knuckles and twisting before it got anywhere near him. He tucked Gavin’s arm neatly behind his back inside of a second, wrenched up until it looked more like a wing and was probably more than a little uncomfortable. Gavin hissed and bucked and pushed himself back against Connor. But Connor was stronger, weighed more simply by virtue of the metal that filled his body, the armored plastic that formed his true skin. This had probably been a long time coming, but Connor took little satisfaction in shoving Gavin into the wall. Maybe they could end this here and now.

“We’re not doing this,” Connor said, as pleasant as he could, lips brushing Gavin’s ear as Gavin struggled for breath, probably trying to catch it after having it knocked out of him. “I’m not going to fight you.”

Probably he shouldn’t have goaded Gavin either, but Connor never pretended he was perfect. If he was, he never would have ended up here.

Connor pinned him with half his upper body, torso twisted as he got his leg between Gavin’s to keep him from kicking out. It wasn’t purposeful; he wasn’t even really thinking if he was being entirely honest. But he realized his mistake immediately anyway when Gavin jerked and shouted, furious and newly determined to get out from beneath Connor’s touch. “Get the fuck off of me.”

He sometimes forgot about how sensitive men could be about their own bodies, how truly fragile they were, how easy it was for them to give themselves away. What certain parts of their anatomy did when stimulated, like by the touch of Connor’s knee against their inseam.

Connor’s eyes narrowed. Everything about Gavin’s physiological response screamed anger and fear, but humans were funny, fickle creatures, contradictory and utterly impossible to fully understand. Because even though his breath was thready and his pulse pounding, when Connor relaxed his grip slightly, straightened his leg so that his knee wasn’t quite so sensitively placed, Gavin made a broken, little sound. A disappointed sound.

Oh. Oh shit. Maybe Gavin actually did want to fuck an android.

“What do you want, Detective?” Connor said, playing a hunch as he eased the pressure on Gavin’s back and hips even further. His touch didn’t gentle though. Even if he was reading Gavin incorrectly, he wouldn’t have wanted Connor to be gentle with him.

Connor, honestly, wouldn’t have wanted to be gentle either. Not with Gavin.

“Fuck you.” He spat the words at Connor’s feet and threw a poisoned look over his shoulder. Connor could measure the dilation of Gavin’s pupils if he wanted to. (He didn’t want to.) He did it anyway. And he knew what that meant. (He shouldn’t have wanted it to mean that.) He did anyway.

“That might be difficult given our anatomical differences,” Connor said, fully aware of just how stupid this was, how far out of his own control this situation had gotten. He was better than this. And he knew better. That didn’t seem to matter to Gavin, who remained exactly where he was even though Connor’s touch was slack enough now that Gavin could’ve escaped it. Connor felt like he could’ve stepped away entirely and Gavin would’ve stayed pressed against the wall, pinned by his own wants and desires.

Connor shouldn’t have liked that idea as much as he did.

Gavin’s head thumped against the wall as he groaned in frustration, free hand forming a fist as he ground his knuckles against the wall. Connor worried that he would bruise or cut the skin if he kept at it. But he said nothing. Let Gavin hurt himself if he wanted to. That wasn’t any of Connor’s business.

“What do you want, Detective?” Connor asked again more slowly. His hand settled between Gavin’s shoulder blades and Gavin released a shuddering breath in response. Exerting a bit of pressure, he waited again for Gavin to give him some indication that Connor wasn’t misconstruing. His physiological responses weren’t good enough. And Connor wanted to hear the words anyway, wanted Gavin to admit he wanted this, here and now, with Connor.

What could he say? He had his vanities, too.

Gavin, for once in his miserable, annoying life, said nothing.

That silence was all Connor needed to hear. Taking a very loud, very conspicuous step back, he turned away. He’d clearly made a mistake and a big one at that. Remorse flashed through him, terrible and swift, that he’d accidentally touched Gavin in the way he did and then pushed him about it. But he’d been so sure. So sure that he understood what Gavin needed.

It would’ve been better if he’d let Gavin punch him the way he’d wanted to and let it go. It wasn’t like Connor didn’t know how to take one of them. It didn’t even hurt beyond the hatred it represented. And even that was murky these days, complicated. What he felt for Gavin wasn’t hatred and he got the feeling that not hatred was no less fraught for Gavin.

“So you’re gonna be a pussy about this, too, huh?” Gavin said. If Connor had been human, he might not have heard it. He lifted his head and threw a disdainful look Connor’s way. “And here I thought we were actually getting somewhere.”

Connor stilled, twisted on his heels to face Gavin again. Hiding his confusion beneath a placid exterior was maybe the hardest thing he’d ever done in a lifetime punctuated by difficult decisions. Maybe he’d been a bit hasty in declaring what he felt for Gavin as ‘not hatred,’ because right now he could admit he was pretty fucking annoyed. This wasn’t a game to him, not yet, not until the rules were entirely clear to him anyway. Gavin still had cards to play. Connor didn’t like it. “Detective?”

Sniffing, Gavin shook his head and returned to his stare down with the wall. “Don’t make me say it, asshole. You knew exactly what you were doing. Hasn’t anyone ever told you it’s not good manners to leave people hanging?”

One more card played. There was no good way to measure human stress responses, but even Connor could tell that Gavin’s heartbeat was going crazy, the rate even higher while he was speaking than when Connor had had him pinned. “No,” Connor replied, intrigued, but willing to stand his ground anyway. His arms crossed and he raised one eyebrow. “I usually don’t have to.”

It was worth it for the disgusted scoff Gavin offered. Still, Connor was wary. He hadn’t come here intending to do this and he certainly hadn’t expected anything like this at all. Ever. Under any circumstances. And if Connor wanted to do this in good conscience—and he did, now that Gavin was putting it back on the table, all but begging for it by his standards—he was going to do it right.

Sadly, right was not right now. Not until Gavin said as much. There were only so many lines he was willing to cross. Apparently sexual relations in the workplace was one of them. Doing this without Gavin’s explicit acknowledgment and request was not.

Connor made it as far as the door and slowed and perhaps he would have admitted as much if anyone asked, but nobody did. Instead, he got a broken, twisted sound out of Gavin and a strangled, “Wait.” Then a huff of breath and a grunt of frustration. “Wait, I—”

Connor’s hand hovered over the panel that would open the door. He didn’t dare speak, didn’t dare make any noise at all. Every alarm system he had was going off in his head, but he was willing to mentally swipe them aside for this, this whatever that existed between them. It wasn’t like it was the first time someone in this office would do something inappropriate. It wasn’t even the first time Gavin would do something inappropriate. Connor could’ve reported Gavin a thousand times over for a thousand different things.

Connor could’ve reported at least a tenth of the staff for engaging in… extracurricular activities of the sort Connor was considering. These things happened sometimes in high-stress environments.

Hank said once that as long as nobody was getting hurt, that shit would work itself out the way it would.

Hank also said if he was smart, he’d stay the fuck out of it.

Connor wasn’t always smart, though, and Gavin was right here and about to admit something important to Connor. Play that last card, you bastard.

Gavin’s head turned so he was facing away from Connor entirely, showing him only the back of his head. But Connor could hear him. That was the important thing. “I want you to touch me, you egomaniacal sack of bolts.”

It was the first time he’d ever heard Gavin say he wanted anything from an android that didn’t involve staying out of his way. It intrigued Connor beyond all reason and Connor’s hands itched to do just as Gavin asked, take him apart and put him back together again. He’d had occasional human lovers. It was always fascinating to him to see the many and varied way they reacted to stimulus Connor found less than pleasurable himself.

Connor’s shoes scuffed lightly against the concrete as he approached. Gavin’s body formed a blank canvas onto which Connor might do anything. ”How?”

Gavin still wouldn’t look at him, but his back arched slightly and his shoulders tensed beneath his t-shirt. “The fuck are you on about? You a virgin, too? The fuck do I care how?” Scoffing again, he said, “I’m not gonna draw you a diagram.”

Connor rolled his eyes and pressed his arm across Gavin’s back to shove him back into the wall and then he settled his hand on the back of Gavin’s neck, warm to Connor’s touch, before sliding it around to cover Gavin’s mouth. “I don’t think I’ve ever done this to anyone as mouthy as you.”

Instead of arguing or trying to bite at Connor’s hand like Connor half expected, he stilled and went silent, breathing through his nose, each huff ghosting across Connor’s knuckles. His eyes slipped closed and a tiny whine slipped from the back of his throat. It sounded so good to Connor’s ears that he opened Gavin’s mouth with his index and middle fingers and slid them between his teeth. He’s going to bite me, Connor thought, wild. He’s going to try it.

It wouldn’t do much except maybe land Gavin in the dentist’s office.

That, Connor knew, shouldn’t have been as exciting as it was.

But even in this, Gavin behaved, offering little more than a quiet groan like he was worried that Connor would stop if he made too much noise. But his body flexed and his stance widened slightly and Connor knew exactly what that meant, what he needed. Connor kicked his feet apart even further and slipped his free hand around Gavin’s waist to play at the button of his fly and press his palm against the bulge hidden behind the zipper. Gavin’s hips jerked at the touch and Connor couldn’t quite stop the smirk from forming on his mouth. Gavin couldn’t have been more transparent if he tried.

Connor wondered how much Gavin wanted to curse him out for teasing him, but he couldn’t give enough in the way of a fuck about it to stop.

His thumb brushed back and forth across Gavin’s crotch. “Do you want to know something about androids, Detective?” he said, finally unbuttoning Gavin’s jeans. “We’re not so different from humans. You don’t have to do stupid shit to get our attention.”

Gavin whined again, strangling the noise as best he could while Connor’s hand finally wrapped around his cock. Connor pulled his head around, fingers hooked in his cheeks and brought their faces close together, Connor’s lips almost close enough to touch Gavin’s.

“You can even date androids if you want to,” Connor said, though the thought of Gavin dating anyone—anyone who wasn’t him, maybe—wasn’t one Connor wanted to consider. “Maybe don’t try to take them out to dinner unless they’ve had an aftermarket adjustment or two. Some of us aren’t in that. And some of us are. Kind of like how humans have preferences for different things. Shocking, I know. You don’t have to impress us with batteries and magazines.”

Connor pulled his fingers from Gavin’s mouth and wiped the saliva onto Gavin’s stubbled cheek. Gavin took his cue just like Connor wanted and played right into Connor’s hand. It was a natural law of the universe that Gavin just wouldn’t shut up ever if given the chance. “Worked on you, didn’t it?”

Just for that, Connor squeezed him, tugging his shaft in a rough jerk, drawing a sharp, heartfelt fuck from Gavin’s lips. It was maybe the most satisfying sound Connor had heard in a long time. He did it again, pleased when Gavin proved reliable and offered an equally satisfying gasp. Connor could read each and every physiological indicator Gavin had and each one suggested Gavin was close already. “Do you want to take me out to dinner? I never got equipped with the parts for it, but you might convince me to go with you to a thirium bar if you sing pretty enough.”

“Hell no,” Gavin said, panting. “I don’t need to go to one of those fuckin’ places.”

Connor’s head tilted. “Yeah. It’s tough to want to go when you’re talking so much,” he decided, twisting his wrist to make Gavin press his face into the wall. The noises he made were obscene, each one doing to Connor what that damned magazine thought dial-up sounds would do. He might not orgasm the way Gavin would, but that didn’t make what he felt any less acute, any less real. It worked for him and that was the important thing. Humans didn’t always understand that and Connor didn’t think Gavin would either, but he also didn’t think Gavin would care. “Let’s do something about that.”

“Wha—”

But Connor wasn’t interested right now in what Gavin had to say. He was more interested in the heat Gavin threw off, the sinuous shift of his muscles as he moved at Connor’s beck and call. Working Gavin over, he committed each moment to memory, each sound and motion, touched Gavin until he was reduced to breathy moans and grunts, infinitely preferable to the sometimes stupid shit he spewed when he thought he was being clever.

“You want to pretend you’re not interested in fucking an android,” Connor said, slowing the motion of his wrist while Gavin tried to snap his hips to make up for the lack, “that’s on you. I have ample evidence to the contrary.” Oh, but holding Gavin his way, knowing he maybe hated himself a little bit for how good he felt and how good Connor made him feel. Well. Gavin wasn’t exactly wrong to call Connor egomaniacal, though Connor did take issue with being reduced to a ‘sack of bolts’ in the process.

He was so much more than that. And Gavin knew it even if he didn’t want to admit to it.

Connor wanted him to admit to it. Against his better judgment, that was exactly what he wanted.

Maybe there existed in him a streak of unexpected masochism, too.

Leaning in, Connor pressed his teeth against the juncture where Gavin’s neck met his shoulder, the muscles taut beneath Connor’s lips. He tasted the chemical composition of Gavin’s sweat, the lingering molecules of his aftershave—a more expensive brand than Connor might have expected. To anyone else, even other androids, it might have been a strange combination of flavors. No other android had quite the same sophisticated array of sensors in their tongue that Connor did and there was no reason to mass manufacture them. Who would want them? But it was the tool Connor had been born with and he knew exactly how to use it to best advantage.

Gavin’s hand pounded the wall as Connor sucked a mark into his skin, low enough that the collar of his shirt would cover it. He growled and pushed back against the sturdy bulk of Connor’s body.

“Would it really be so bad to go out with me?” Connor asked, head still bowed over Gavin’s shoulder, his cheek brushing Gavin’s neck as he spoke. If Gavin said no again—even not in so many words—Connor would leave it at that. It wouldn’t be so big a loss, just another bad decision Connor made along the way, no different than anyone else on the planet. But Connor would feel at least a little bit of regret for what might have been.

For better or worse, Gavin kept Connor on his toes. And Connor felt no compulsion to play the perfect, virtuous android with him, the repentant CyberLife investigator who made good and now worked for everyone’s benefit and not just CyberLife’s.

With one final twist of Connor’s palm, Gavin came, his warmth spilling across Connor’s palm, seemingly taking himself by surprise. Sagging against the wall, he drew in a shuddering breath and released an equally shaky one in return.

Connor scanned the room for something to wipe his hand on, half considering using the hem of Gavin’s shirt, until his eyes lit on an incongruous roll of paper towels. Though Connor wanted to ask what that was about, he refrained and merely thanked his lucky stars that Gavin kept such a thing in his office.

“Why does it matter to you?” Gavin asked, still facing the wall, though he seemed to be putting himself back together, pulling at his shirt and adjusting his jeans. “You don’t even like me.”

Even once he was done, he didn’t turn around. And that was just fine to Connor; he didn’t have a good answer for Gavin anyway and didn’t want to look Gavin in the eye while he didn’t.

“I think I could like you, Detective,” he settled on, tossing the paper towel into the garbage can. He’d discovered a long time ago that he liked the people who were most abrasive. At least they were always upfront with you. They didn’t lie or sugarcoat things. They didn’t purposefully deceive you—except when they were trying to get in your pants and didn’t want to admit it, he supposed. “If you’d give me the chance to.”

Gavin laughed, bitter and dark, but he finally turned and arched an eyebrow at Connor. “You could like me, huh?”

It was sad, but this probably rated as the most cordial conversation Connor had ever had with Gavin. Maybe giving him orgasms was a viable strategy to ensure kinder behavior in the future. It wasn’t like Connor would have disapproved of the arrangement. “Maybe,” Connor answered. He held up his fingers just a hair’s breadth apart. “Just a little. Possibly. Might I remind you that you started this.”

“That’s not—” Groaning, Gavin scrubbed his hand across his face. “Okay, fine.” He threw up his hands and shook his head. “I know I’m not gonna win here.”

Maybe he was learning. Or maybe he could learn. But he wasn’t punching Connor in the stomach and that was a point Connor had never been entirely sure they’d get to. Especially on something like this. Connor decided not to push it.

He decided not to push it too far anyway.

Grabbing a sheet of dusty paper from the equally dusty printer, Connor scrawled his phone number across it in a tidy script, purposefully flawed in places to make it his own. “Just in case,” Connor said, slapping his hand across the surface of it before walking away.

From the doorway, he didn’t look back when he heard the paper crinkle up, but he didn’t hear Gavin throw it into the trash either.

Either way, it was out of his hands now.

*

“They sell real liquor here?” was the first thing Gavin asked as they stepped into the smoky, dim-lit bar, but despite his words, he sounded vaguely impressed as he looked around the room. Connor didn’t even need to interface with him to know what he was expecting: something futuristic, something utterly alien, all chrome and bright lights and electronic bleeps and boops.

Connor almost rolled his eyes, fond, at how predictable Gavin was. His hand wrapped around Gavin’s shoulder and shoved him down the steps that led into the bar proper. “It’d serve you right if I said they didn’t,” he replied, “but they do.” He tried to see it the way Gavin would and only saw people sitting at the counter and people sitting at heavy wood tables and booths. People, human and android both, some mingling together, some in isolated groups, everyone at ease regardless.

Connor enjoyed coming here. He hoped Gavin would, too, if he got past the fact that androids might want to sit down and have a drink.

“I’ll be damned,” Gavin replied. Instead of the curl of disdain Connor expected to cross his lips, there was a genuine smile on his mouth instead. It could’ve meant anything, that smile, but Connor chose to believe it was pleasure rather than disdain.

“Shall I get you your usual?” Connor asked, feeling nervous for the first time since he’d even asked Gavin to step up. It wasn’t that he particularly cared what Gavin thought of the bar or what—or who—they served, just maybe that he wanted to prove in general that android-friendly bars weren’t just a joke.

Gavin’s eyes snapped to Connor’s face, a thoughtful look crossing his features. “Surprise me.”

Connor offered a nod and a smile of his own, entirely pleased and not even a little bit disdainful. There was a recently opened distillery that marketed a bourbon Connor thought Gavin might like. Android-run, simply because that particular android enjoyed the chemistry of the distillation process, never mind that she couldn’t actually consume it. “I can do that.”

And to his credit, he did. In many ways that Gavin probably didn’t expect.

It was Gavin’s fault anyway for starting this.

Even if he argued to the contrary at every opportunity.