(cw for bad medical stuff featuring said baby. you might wanna mute this thread if extremely sick babies aren’t your hat)
When Connor was an android, he always had his goals outlined for him. Success and failure were concrete things and he always knew what he was doing.
Now even when his objectives seem to have clear endpoints, things are more complicated than they appear. He thought his and Hank’s wedding was such an event. Marriage achieved, relationship successful.
He loves Hank. He loves Hank with an all-encompassing power that makes his processes stutter.
But he realizes as the months go on that things feel stagnant. As though life is standing still for him and Hank in a way that’s puzzling and disconcerting.
Then one day, he and Hank take a walk on their lunch break. In the crosswalk, they pass a young man pushing a stroller, walking with a little girl in tow.
“And I’m an android. I realize we wouldn’t make a conventional family.”
“It’s not about what’s conventional. Jesus, between my age and our jobs and—“
“I know,” Connor says gently. “I know it’s a lot to think about. That’s all I’m asking. Would you just think about it?”
“Cole was... not something we intended to happen,” Hank says slowly, his face tight.
Connor listens patiently. He can’t imagine what these past weeks have dredged up for Hank.
Hank furrows his brow. “But when he was born, he was... holding him for the first time...”
Hank blinks rapidly, turning his face away.
Hank cringes, relaxing. “Just... the thought of opening myself up to that much happiness and fear again.”
“I’ve never done this on purpose. I still feel like I have no fucking idea what I’m doing.”
“You really wanna do this, huh?”
Connor tries to imagine Hank the first time he held his son. How his face must have looked. “I do.”
“We could adopt an android,” Hank suggests.
“And,” Connor says slightly sadly, “androids don’t have an infancy.”
“If having a kid always took this much effort, there’d be no such thing as a bad parent,” Hank grouses.
Hank smiles and presses his forehead to Connor’s. “Yeah. Here we go.”
Hank doesn’t want to hang it up on the fridge until the risk for miscarriage has passed.
Sometimes during quiet moments, Connor will catch Hank staring off into nothing and he knows Hank is thinking about that image.
A lovely woman. Connor shares every email with Hank.
One night in particular, it seems to hit Hank. He clutches Connor tightly and buries his face in his neck.
“I know,” Connor says, feeling like he’s about to burst for the warmth of Hank next to him and the promise of everything that lies ahead of them. “Me too.”
“It’s real,” Connor says, pulling Hank’s face up to kiss him. “It’s all real. We have a baby out there somewhere in the world.”
“Connor.” Hank’s voice is slightly choked and for a single moment, he opens his eyes. They shine with adoration.
Hank grunts mildly, pressing softer kisses along the curve of Connor’s jaw.
“I love your strength, your intensity," Connor continues. "How hard you fight for what matters to you.”
After that night (which coincides with the 14th week, when the danger seems past), Hank begins to try to make their impending parenthood a bigger presence in their lives.
“Am I allowed?" Connor's hand hovers anxiously in the air. "It feels almost like an invasion of your personal space."
“Your kid is inside me,” Jenna says, rolling her eyes.
“You know, might be fun.”
“You don’t think the birth will already be exciting enough without it?”
In truth, Connor yearns for as much information about their baby as he can collect. Purposely denying himself any shred of data seems almost like sacrilege.
When they get a copy of the (absolutely perfect and anomaly-free) ultrasound, Connor does his very best to keep his pattern recognition protocols from spoiling the surprise for him.
He and Hank have a discussion about gender-neutral baby names that’s only half-serious. Hank likes the name Morgan.
But they’re happy. They’re so much happier than Connor thought they could be.
She’s twenty-one weeks and two days pregnant.
His initial, instinctive denial washes away and the reality of the situation comes crashing down on Connor. His baby. Their baby. Their baby is in danger.
He has to do something. He has to get up and do what needs to be done, whatever that is. What can he do?
He opens his preconstruction software just to see what it suggests he do. He watches a wire-frame outline tear around the room, knocking a lamp over and punching holes in the drywall
Hank is still sleeping peacefully next to him. Connor stares at him, envious and despairing. He wishes he could still exist in that oblivious state. He wishes he didn’t have to be the one who tears that precious gift away from Hank.
“Hank,” Conor croaks, jostling his shoulder with as much gentleness as the urgency of the situation will allow. “You need to wake up. We have to go to the hospital.”
Hank startles with a grunt, eyelids fluttering. “Mmph… Connor? What?”
Hank’s eyebrows furrow and he cracks his eyes open. Connor can track how his sleep-addled brain processes those words over a span of seconds. He frowns, confused, and the sleepy warmth drains from his eyes.
“Hank,” Connor says, taking Hank’s hand and squeezing it. It feels stiff and waxy. “We have to go.”
“I know,” Connor says. “I know.” He tries to pull Hank out of bed by the hand, but Hank still won’t move.
“What are the chances?” Hank says.
“There are things they can do to stall labor. It might be weeks still. Drugs for fetal development, antibiotics—“
Connor can’t say it out loud. And he knows he can’t hide the truth of it from Hank. Hank will see it in his face no matter what.
The doctor lays out all the things that could go wrong if Jenna delivers so early.
And worst of all. Most devastating of all.
If their baby lives at all.
The doctor shakes their head. “I’m sorry. We wouldn’t resuscitate. It would only cause your child to suffer.”
Hank’s chest hitches as he lowers his eyes again.
Hank and Connor don’t talk at all that first day. They sit with Jenna, Hank staring at a wall and Connor staring at Hank, until the sun rises and nothing has happened.
When they can manage it, they talk about the decision the doctor left them with.
But the days pass and Jenna doesn’t go into labor.
As the shock wears off, Connor begins searching for statistics and information.
“Best thing I’ve eaten in a week,” Hank says.
Connor frowns. “It's only been 5 days.”
“Pureed cauliflower will never taste like potatoes, babe.”
Connor looks at Hank. The emotion in his husband’s eyes is indescribable. He looks /wrecked,/ as though the news of the past half hour has broken him entirely.
“Go,” he says, taking Hank’s hand.
It’s not a doctor come to deliver the worst possible news. It’s Hank, his eyes red-rimmed and his face wet.
Another hour passes. Hank paces the waiting room like an agitated tiger.
Another half hour after that and they’re told the team needs more x-rays.
Hank squeezes the backrest of a chair, a departure from the 70% chance that he would throw it into the wall.
Connor had been in awe of the ultrasound, how their baby already had a recognizably human shape. A head and limbs and a body. But the creature in the plastic box barely looks human at all.
He’s so small. 560 grams, less than a pound and a half.
The baby lays in a nest of rolled-up blankets and is wearing an aqua knit hat that is only slightly too big.
“He’s doing very well. He tolerated the line placement and he’s on a good amount of oxygen, not too high.”
“Of course. For the moment, you don’t have to hold your breath.”
The doctor leaves them alone. The nurses attend to the three or four other babies in the room.
Connor moves to Hank’s side. Hank puts an arm around his shoulder.
“So this is what it’s like,” Connor murmurs.
“I’d hope not. When do the enjoyable parts start?”
A tiny smile from Hank. “When he takes his first nap.”
“Oh, shit,” Hank says, a look of surprise crossing his face.
“No, it’s just… fuck, we need a name.”
“Oh.” Connor blinks. “…Oh. Oh, shit”
Hank groans, running a hand through his hair. “Jesus. I can’t think straight. We never even got around to talking about names.”
Connor nods with a quiet chuckle.
Hank smiles softly. “Okay. Fuck it. Hi, Morgan. Welcome to the world.”
Apart from the rapid rise and fall of his chest, Morgan doesn’t move.
The treacherous uncertainty of the future stretches out ahead of them.
Hank can’t stay sitting by the isolette for long stretches of time. He ambles around the nursery. He disappears to get coffee twice in an hour.
They had received well-wishes from their friends and colleagues when Jenna was hospitalized, but people seem less sure how to react now that Morgan is here.
A casserole appears on their doorstep and Connor knows without scanning for clues that only Nines could have left it there.
The first time Connor gets a phone call that Morgan’s oxygen has had to be increased, his processes stutter.
“Connor,” Hank says, “You’re only stressing yourself out. If something happened we needed to know about, they’d call us”
At the hospital, he and Hank watch as a nurse slowly feeds Morgan minuscule amounts of donated milk through a tube. They tell him cop stories and pretend they’re sure he can hear them talking to him.
“Shove it. He’s gonna be the coolest kid in the nursery.”
Even so, it’s an awful shock when they’re woken up by a phone call in the middle of the night telling them that Morgan’s abdomen is distended and there’s blood in his stool.
“Does he think I’ve forgotten how to cook?” Connor mutters.
Hank gives an exhausted shrug and shoves the casserole in the freezer. “It’s just what people do.”
/When your kid is dying,/ Hank doesn’t say, but Connor flinches anyway.
One day, while Hank is off getting his sixth cup of shitty waiting room coffee of the day, a nurse lets Connor know that the hospital has rooms for parents of hospitalized children.
Connor tells Hank that they’ll be able to stay overnight in case something happens to Morgan, Hank frowns. “Wait, so you just agreed and told them we’d be here without even asking me?”
“No, I don’t,” Hank says, his shoulders tensing. “Jesus, Connor. You know how much I hate this place.”
Connor can only stare into Hank’s eyes.
“You don’t know.”
Hank gives him an empty look and puts his hand to his mouth, blinking down at the floor.
Connor had been going to continue by saying that he doesn’t need a room to sleep in; that if Hank went home, he would be able to stay all night by Morgan’s isolette.
Hank wants Connor to come home with him instead of staying with their son.
—and Hank pulls him into his arms in a crushing embrace, one hand cradling the back of Connor’s head.
Connor closes his eyes against the side of Hank’s head. He tries to let go of his indignation.
Connor brings his arms up around Hank. Hank needs him to be here for him.
Morgan’s eyes open into dark, wet slivers so thin that Connor is half-convinced he imagined them until he reviews his footage.
“No,” Connor says. “Not now that Morgan’s real and not just… a concept. Or not yet, at any rate.”
“Nines didn’t bake these. Gavin did.” Connor plucks the cookie from Hank’s hand and takes a bite, examining the ingredients carefully.
“They’re delicious,” Connor says with a frown.
They bring the cookies the NICU for the staff. The nurses aren’t permitted to eat on the unit, but Connor spots the secretary at the front desk eating one.
“Moving day?” Hank asks.
“Don’t you worry, dad. We’re just moving Morgan into a different room.”
“Why?” Connor asks. “Is there a medical reason?”
The nurse’s smile widens by a few teeth. “Oh, don’t worry!”
It isn’t a medical emergency. It’s a death.
“I’m fine,” Connor says, knowing he can never tell Hank what he saw.
Connor doesn’t know how he manages to walk out of hospital that night.
/Please,/ he thinks, /please let that be the only one I see./
They have to touch Morgan very gently and carefully. His skin is still so raw that touching him the wrong way is painful to him.
“What?” Connor asks, blinking. “Are you sure? Is he stable enough for—”
“I think so. Move that armchair right next to the isolette and sit down.”
Hank gives him a surprised look. “What? Me?”
“Yes, you.” Connor knows that Hank needs this. Hank can feel death pressing down on them just as oppressively as Connor can, but he knows that for Hank, it cuts so much deeper.
Hank settles into the armchair while an android nurse slowly pulls Morgan out of his isolette, careful not to jostle any of his tubes or lines.
“Hi,” Hank whispers, his voice soft with wonder. “Hi, Morgan. I’m your daddy.” His voice cracks and he bites his lip and says nothing more.
Afterwards, as they lay in each other’s arms, Connor tentatively start to talk about what he plans to do when they bring Morgan home.
A week after that, Jenna emails to let them know that she’s moving out of state.
There’s a long, awkward silence before Jenna says, “I don’t want to bring that kid any more bad luck.”
The next day, he’s diagnosed with sepsis.
Hank stops sleeping. He lays in bed for hours, tossing fitfully or curled up in a tight ball.
“There’s still hope; you know there is. He’s still alive—”
Later, Hank leaves the room. Connor can hear him rooting around through the kitchen cabinets. He knows what Hank is looking for, knows that Hank won’t find it.
“I can’t,” he says. “I just can’t. I can’t watch him die in there.”
Connor doesn’t know what to say. The only thing he can think is /our son./ Just those two words. But he can’t say that. He doesn’t want to cause Hank any more pain.
He begins to cry.
Hank shifts slightly. Their arms touch for a brief moment before Hank reaches out to pull Connor’s hand to his chest.
Connor touches Hank’s face.
Hank opens his weary eyes.
“We have to go,” Connor says.
But with Connor's help, Hank staggers out of bed. Their son needs them. That's simply what being a parent means.
“Do we have to decide now?” Connor asks, barely hearing the words leave him.
No, the doctors tell them. They can wait and see whether Morgan declines any further.
Alone on the thin hospital bed, they talk things through as best they can.
“Do you suppose he’s suffering? What would that pain even feel like?” Connor wonders if it can possibly be worse than what he and Hank are going through.
“Would it be monstrous of us to want to keep him in that kind of pain?”
Hank goes silent, blinking slowly.
On the third day, Morgan’s temperature and his heart rate stabilize.
The day after that, he’s able to be taken off the oscillator and put back onto a regular ventilator.
“He looks so angry,” Connor remarks, looking at Hank. “You’re teaching him bad habits.”
“He’s not being constructive with his anger. Look, he looks like he’s about to—"
Morgan’s O2 starts to drop. A monitor alarms.
Hank and Connor are shoved away as people swarm Morgan’s isolette. In the chaos, Connor can hear someone say “self-extubation” before he and Hank are swept out of the room.
“You managed to reintubate him, right?” Connor asks.
“Are we over the hump?” Hank asks as they drive home. “That can’t be. He was dying just a week ago.”
Eventually, he graduates to nasal prongs that have to be taped to his face to keep him from fussing with the tubes.
Morgan has a setback when he stops voiding his bowels and his abdomen begins to swell again.
Hank cringes at the sight of the bag on Morgan’s stomach, but Connor makes the nurse teach him how to change it.
When Morgan is healed enough from his surgery, he’s moved from the isolette to a bed called a radiant warmer, an open bed that allows easy access to him when needed.
Sometimes he stop breathing for no reason at all, just goes limp while the monitors scream and a nurse tries to rub him back to life.
“Christ, it’s always two steps forward, one step back,” Hank moans.
“At least we’re moving forward,” Connor replies.
“Kid’s got PTSD from that ventilator,” Hank says.
“Is there such a thing as therapy for babies?”
A doctor sits them down to talk about the scarring in Morgan’s lungs from the ventilator. She says that Morgan may have to go home on oxygen, then pauses to look at Connor.
Connor laughs as tears drip down his face. She doesn’t realizing he’s crying from the joy of hearing her talk about Morgan coming home as if it’s an eventuality.
Connor can’t bring himself to find a problem in any of that. As far as he can see, if Morgan is coming home, then he’s just fine. He’s perfect.
Morgan has another surgery to reverse his ostomy, and within the week, he has his first blowout diaper.
“Cool your circuits, Mr. Machine, he’s still attached to like twelve different monitors.”
Hank stands in the doorway, watching him.
Hank shifts on his feet.
Hank runs his hand through Connor’s hair. “…I’ve been anticipating the thing that was gonna kill him since you told me you wanted to have a baby.”
“Don’t be. We’re going to bring him home and we’re going to love him for as long as we have him, whether that’s a hundred years or just one. There’s no one in the world who’d look out for him and protect him better than you and me.”
The first night, when Morgan fusses and cries in his bassinet, Connor climbs out of bed to feed him. But when Connor tries to rock him back to sleep, he refuses to be soothed.
Connor takes Morgan back into his arms… and has an idea.
Morgan begins to calm down.
“He misses the smell of the hospital,” Connor murmurs. “The antiseptic and the plastic.”