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Hankcon baby thread, y’all 👶🍼

(cw for bad medical stuff featuring said baby. you might wanna mute this thread if extremely sick babies aren’t your hat)
The thing about being alive is that no one tells you where the finish lines are anymore.

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.
Deviancy complicated all of that. Personhood complicated all of that.

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.
But no. Despite how wonderfully fulfilling the wedding is (Hank has his hair cut short and styled back, radiant in his suit as he laughs and smushes cake that Connor can’t eat into his face) it isn’t a finish line.
Just a milestone in something that changes and evolves in a way that still feels almost unnatural to Connor. He still doesn’t feel used to how he has grown and changed.

He loves Hank. He loves Hank with an all-encompassing power that makes his processes stutter.
He loves working with him and going home with him and laying in bed counting his breaths and listening to his heartbeat.

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.
He doesn’t know how to tell Hank what’s wrong when he doesn’t know how to quantify it himself.

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.
When Hank’s eyes pass over the family—father, daughter, and baby—his expression changes. His mouth parts slightly, his eyes going soft with some gentle emotion that’s slightly tinged with pain. Like an absence that’s keenly felt.
When Connor brings up the possibility of having a baby with Hank, Hank looks away. “Christ, Connor. I’m 55 years old.”

“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—“
Hank clamps his mouth shut, his expression darkening like a cloud passing over his face. Connor knows what he’s thinking without needing to ask.

“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?”
Hank huffs softly and looks away, tapping his fingers impatiently. But he has a resigned air about him which Connor knows to take as a vague assent. Pleased with this much, Connor wraps Hank in his arms and smiles when Hank’s hand brushes the back of his neck.
An outside observer wouldn’t see the subtle differences in Hank’s behavior after that conversation. But Connor does. Connor is attuned to every little thing about his husband from his moods to his energy level to what he chooses to pay attention to.
He sees when Hank begins taking more notice of the children they encounter in the course of their daily lives. Sitting in shopping carts at the store or playing at the park when they’re walking Sumo. He sees how that soft, faraway look comes to Hank’s eyes more and more often.
When Hank takes Connor to Riverside Park at a time of day when the playground is full of happily shrieking children, that’s when Connor knows that the chances of Hank eventually agreeing to look into having a child have are at 100%
Then Hank sits down with Connor and haltingly begins to talk about his son.

“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.
“I’d just turned 44 before he was born. And I was... terrified. I had no idea what I was doing. Felt like I was going to fuck everything up.

Hank furrows his brow. “But when he was born, he was... holding him for the first time...”

Hank blinks rapidly, turning his face away.
Connor takes Hank’s hand and squeezes it.

Hank cringes, relaxing. “Just... the thought of opening myself up to that much happiness and fear again.”

“I know.”

“I’ve never done this on purpose. I still feel like I have no fucking idea what I’m doing.”
“I haven’t felt like I know what I’m doing since before I deviated,” Connor says, which pulls a huff of laughter out of Hank.

“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.”
They begin looking into their options. Which Connor had already done on his own to an extent, but now he’s involving Hank in the discussion, which means looking into everything all over again. Surrogacy or adoption.

“We could adopt an android,” Hank suggests.
Connor frowns. “Androids come into the world fully-formed and cognizant. I want to go through the process of watching our child develop into whoever they become. I want to watch them grow the same way you did.

“And,” Connor says slightly sadly, “androids don’t have an infancy.”
It’s Connor who makes the decision to try surrogacy first. He knows genetic information doesn’t make a family, but he loves Hank down to his DNA. He wants to be able to read Hank in the coding of their child.
The costs are staggering. Meetings with the surrogacy agency and its lawyers, securing a doner egg, and all the procedures Hank undergoes to assess his health.

“If having a kid always took this much effort, there’d be no such thing as a bad parent,” Hank grouses.
They get matched to a surrogate. The day Hank and Connor arrive at the agency to sign the contract, Connor stops outside just under the awning to hold both Hank’s hands on his. “This is it.”

Hank smiles and presses his forehead to Connor’s. “Yeah. Here we go.”
The contract can’t grant Connor parental rights over a child that doesn’t even exist yet, but as he signs his name next to Hank’s, Connor can feel a swell of pride in his chest, and he wonders if this is what parenthood feels like.
Connor and Hank can’t be there when the donor egg is joined with Hank’s sperm or when the embryo is implanted in the surrogate’s uterus. Hank paces around in agitation. “It’s just fucking unnatural, feeling this far removed the whole process of making your own damn kid.”
Connor stands there and doesn’t comment on the fact that this sterile, mechanical process feels perfectly natural to him. He can remember his first moments of consciousness, being examined and tested by Cyberlife technicians. This feels how creating a new being ought to feel.
Then weeks in limbo until the email arrives simultaneously in Connor and Hank’s inboxes with a .pdf image of an ultrasound showing the gestational sac circled in yellow.

Hank doesn’t want to hang it up on the fridge until the risk for miscarriage has passed.
That’s just fine with Connor, who saves the image to his own drive so he can see it whenever he wants.

Sometimes during quiet moments, Connor will catch Hank staring off into nothing and he knows Hank is thinking about that image.
Connor begins an email correspondence with the surrogate, who is a lovely woman named Jenna. Once she understands that Connor wants to know every detail, she seems happy to send along as many updates as she can.
Dear Connor, threw up three times today. Dear Connor, my wife loves how my boobs are inflating. Dear Connor, your kid’s already squishing my bladder and if it turns out as big as your husband, he’s paying to fix my downstairs.

A lovely woman. Connor shares every email with Hank.
Afterwards, Hank holds Connor in his arms and talks, hesitantly hopeful, about what they should be doing to prepare for the baby.

One night in particular, it seems to hit Hank. He clutches Connor tightly and buries his face in his neck.
“Jesus Christ.” Hank’s voice is quiet with awe. “Fucking Christ.”

“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 so fucking different. I catch myself wondering if I just dreamed it all up.”

“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.”
Hank’s lips move for just a moment before his mouth crashes into Connor’s, carrying him away with a ferocity and desperation that Connor has to clamor to match.

“Connor.” Hank’s voice is slightly choked and for a single moment, he opens his eyes. They shine with adoration.
“I love how human you are,” Connor says.

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.”
He has more to say, but Hank swallows those words and Connor is happy to put his mouth to other use.

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.
He finally tacks the ultrasound picture up on the fridge and digs what’s left of Cole’s baby things out of the attic to see what can be cleaned and what should be thrown away.
A book of baby names appears on the coffee table, and even though Connor never actually sees Hank read the thing, it couldn’t very well have migrated there on its own, could it?
Once Jenna’s morning sickness abates, Hank and Connor start meeting her for breakfast every couple of weeks. The first time she cups her shirt against her body to show the slight swell of her belly, Hank grabs Connor’s hand and squeezes so tightly, he can feel his joints creak.
“You wanna feel?” Jenna asks, smirking at the looks on their faces.

“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.
Hank touches her belly first, his big hand cupping the bulge with a gentleness that’s so familiar to Connor. The sight of Hank’s hand flush against Jenna’s skin gives Connor the courage to reach out too, and feel—
It’s firm. Connor taps a finger against it just to feel the way the percussive vibrations travel across the flesh. When Connor lays his palm flat, a fingertip brushes Hank’s, and he can see out of the corner of his eye how Hank’s face crinkles with a smile.
When it’s time for the anatomy scan (and Connor is very careful to call it an anatomy scan and not an anomaly scan), Hank suggests they keep the baby’s gender a surprise.

“You know, might be fun.”

“You don’t think the birth will already be exciting enough without it?”
Hank shrugs. “Eh. I wanna keep us from getting all wrapped up in pink or blue, you know.”

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.
But it isn’t as though the gender will be a secret forever, so Connor is willing to compromise.

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.
Instead he focuses on how the baby’s shape is so recognizably human now. A head and limbs and a body. Growing so large so quickly.

He and Hank have a discussion about gender-neutral baby names that’s only half-serious. Hank likes the name Morgan.
Every night when Connor goes to bed with Hank lately, they both seem buoyed by happiness. Connor kisses Hank’s laugh lines and runs his thumbs over the wrinkles at the corners of Hank’s eyes while Hank sleeps.
There are moments of sadness too, such as one quiet night when Hank whispers into Connor’s hair how much Cole would have loved to be a big brother.

But they’re happy. They’re so much happier than Connor thought they could be.

At 3:08 in the morning, Connor receives a message that Jenna’s water has broken.

She’s twenty-one weeks and two days pregnant.
/Impossible,/ Connor wants to say. It simply can’t be true. Jenna’s water can’t have broken this early. That would be catastrophic, so it’s impossible. Cataclysms like this happen to other unfortunate people, not him and…

This has happened to Hank before. This has happened to Hank before and it’s happening to Hank again now.

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.
Data and statistics begin to crawl up his HUD and Connor shuts the process down the moment he’s aware of it. The first time he has ever not wanted more information.

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 can’t remember ever feeling this helpless before in his life, not even when he was forced to make a choice between Hank’s life and his people’s freedom. The sight of another RK800 holding a gun to Hank’s head terrified him less than this.
At least then, he knew success or failure depended on him alone. Now, he feels utterly useless.

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
No. No, that isn’t what he should do.
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.
He hopes Hank can forgive him.

“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?”
“We have to go to the hospital. Jenna’s water broke.”

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.
By the time he sits up in bed, the look on his face cuts Connor to the core. Stark and terrible; frozen as though the tiniest twitch might make him collapse entirely.

“Hank,” Connor says, taking Hank’s hand and squeezing it. It feels stiff and waxy. “We have to go.”
Hank doesn’t move.

“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.

“I don’t—“
“Bullshit you don’t. You can’t tell me you haven’t been hoarding as much information as you can about—“ Hank’s chest hitches and he shudders. “Tell me.”

“There are things they can do to stall labor. It might be weeks still. Drugs for fetal development, antibiotics—“
“Connor.” Hank looks at him, and he looks so old. “If she delivered tonight, at 21 weeks. Could it live?”

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.
Hank stares at him, and when Connor pulls at him more firmly to force him up and out of bed, he makes such a strangled, anguished sound that all Connor wants to do is hold Hank and break down.
At the hospital, Hank and Jenna wear near-identical expressions of shell-shock. A band strapped around Jenna’s middle tracks the baby’s heart rate, and Connor finds himself unable to look away from the monitor, wondering how such a frantic heartbeat can soothe him so much.
A doctor sits down to explain the battle plan to Hank and Connor. Corticosteroids to hurry along the development of the baby’s lungs, magnesium sulfate to keep Jenna from going into labor for as long as possible.
They hope to keep her pregnant for as long as possible. Every additional day makes a difference. The limit of viability—the age at which 50% of all babies will survive—is 23 weeks. They need to last almost another 2 weeks to even have a 50% chance that their baby will live.
/How is this possible,/ Connor wonders. How is it possible that their baby could be dying when it’s perfectly healthy and right where it ought to be?

The doctor lays out all the things that could go wrong if Jenna delivers so early.
The baby won’t be able to breathe on its own; it will need to be on a ventilator for weeks and could accidentally rupture a lung. Its retinas could detach, causing blindness. A hole in its heart might not fuse they way it would in a developing fetus and require surgery.
The antibiotics needed to stave off sepsis could injure its kidneys. Its intestines could shrivel and die inside of it.

And worst of all. Most devastating of all.
The intensive, invasive treatment required to keep the baby alive could overload its fragile, underdeveloped neural system, leading to bleeds in the cavities of the brain. A severe enough brain bleed could leave their baby with any number of permanent disabilities.
Anything could happen, from something as manageable as a mild learning disability to something as catastrophic as an inability to walk, talk, smile, eat, or even recognize Hank and Connor.

If their baby lives at all.
Then the doctor gives them a gentle look and says, “Given the possibility of a poor outcome, if we have to deliver at 22 weeks, you can choose not to resuscitate at birth. We won’t intubate or take them away from you. You’ll be able to hold your baby until they die peacefully.”
Hank looks up with unfocused eyes. “...What about before 22 weeks?”

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.
“You don’t have to make a decision now,” the doctor says. “You may not have to make a decision at all if we can keep Jenna from delivering until the odds are better. The longer we can keep that from happening, the lower the probability of a bad outcome.”
The doctor promises to come talk to them again when they reach 23 weeks. If they reach 23 weeks.

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.
Hank is so—exhausted or catatonic, Connor isn’t sure which—that he has to support Hank as they walk back to their car. Hank falls into bed and passes out clutching Connor around his middle. Connor curls around him and watches his HUD for any message or incoming call.
The days pass in an awful haze of grief that’s somehow compounded by the fact that their baby is still alive. The dread and the suspense of not knowing what’s going to happen are excruciating. Being at the hospital offers to watch Jenna not go into labor offers no relief.
He worries Hank is going to start drinking again. He doesn’t, but the thousand-yard stare he exhibits sometimes frightens Connor.

When they can manage it, they talk about the decision the doctor left them with.
“If our baby grew up disabled, that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world,” Hank says, and Connor agrees. He’s an android; he has stamina as a caretaker that a human could never hope to match. If their child couldn't live on their own, Connor could care for them.
But still. The thought of the worst outcome frightens Connor. A child who lacks the cognition to experience any happiness at all. He imagines them wracked by seizures that only wreck a damaged brain even further. A short lifetime of pain and another funeral for another child.
To think that Connor and Hank are capable of inflicting that level of suffering on their own child through the act of saving their life horrified Connor.

But the days pass and Jenna doesn’t go into labor.
Connor feels a little bad that he and Hank are so focused on their baby that Jenna’s health is barely a blip on their radar, but she doesn’t complain. Not even when she’s wracked with nausea from the steroids and when the magnesium saps her energy and leaves her shaking in bed.
Jenna has the right to refuse all this treatment, and Connor is so grateful that she doesn't that he cries at her bedside on the fourth day of her hospitalization.

As the shock wears off, Connor begins searching for statistics and information.
The fact that their baby was conceived through IVF seems to help the odds, as their gestational age is counted from the date the embryo was created, not the date of Jenna’s last period, giving them a leg up.
But the race and gender of the baby influences the numbers in a way that Connor wouldn't have expected. Despite the racism inherent in the healthcare system, white babies tend to have worse outcomes than babies of other races, with white boys having the worst outcomes of all.
When Jenna enters her 22nd week, she and Hank split a shortcake to celebrate the that they’ve crossed the threshold of survival.

“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.”
Living with such overwhelming fear and dread is impossible in every sense of the word. Connor and Hank can’t spend every moment at the hospital, and when they’re home and the phone only rings with messages of sympathy and well-wishes from their friends, they begin to relax.
They can only relax in increments, but still. Hank begins to smile at rare moments. They hold each other in bed and it doesn’t feel like the world is crashing down around them.
Then on the 4th day of the 22nd week of Jenna’s pregnancy, Connor gets a call summoning him and Hank to the hospital immediately. The baby’s heart rate is falling and Jenna is being rushed to the OR for an emergency c-section.
The doctor explains as they speed-walk Hank and Connor down the hall. They suspect the lack of fluid cushioning the baby is causing something, either the uterus or the baby itself, to compress the umbilical cord. They have to operate now to save the baby’s life.
Then the doctor asks if they’d like to attempt to resuscitate the baby.

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.
“Connor,” Hank chokes out, “I want… I want our baby to have a fighting chance.” His face twists in an agonized grimace. “…Cole never had that much.”
Something in Connor’s chest clenches and feels close to bursting. He looks at the doctor. “Please,” he says, the vocal synthesizer in his throat shutting off before he can say it all. /Please save our baby./
When they reach the OR, they learn that only one of them will be permitted inside to stay with Jenna. Her wife is already there, and they need as much space as they can get for the OB team and the neonatal team.
It isn’t even a decision for Connor. If the worst happens, he wants Hank to at least have the memory of their child’s birth to hold onto. He deserves that much.

“Go,” he says, taking Hank’s hand.
They give Connor a private room to wait in. They probably don’t want him scaring all the happy families out in the lobby of L&D. He stands right at the door, waiting for anyone to come tell him anything at all.
He goes over all the data and statistics he’s collected, trying to pull any comfort he can from the numbers. But there isn’t much comfort to be had. Everything seems terrible and meaningless and so fragile that part of him wants the world to implode and make /everything/ end.
Is it all for nothing? All the hope, all the pain, all the fear and torment and dread? Will it be for nothing in the end? How it is possible to endure the unimaginable?
He doesn’t know if the baby is a boy or a girl. He had never hoped for one above the other, but as he reviews the data that girls tend to fare better than boys, he hopes. He prays. Not consciously to any god or power, just as a litany in his mind. /Please be a girl./
He wants any advantage possible. A few more alveoli in the lungs, a slightly stronger heart. He hopes their baby can somehow comprehend how loved they already are. Maybe if they know what they have to live for, they will fight to survive against all odds.
Connor waits. He watches the clock as half an hour passes. After what feels like an eternity, the door to the waiting room opens.

It’s not a doctor come to deliver the worst possible news. It’s Hank, his eyes red-rimmed and his face wet.
“It’s a boy,” Hank manages before he collapses into Connor’s arms.
Hank and Connor aren’t permitted into the NICU. They’re told that the neonatal team needs to get the baby settled before he’ll be ready for visitors. Maybe an hour.
The hour passes. Half an hour after that, they’re told that the doctors are performing a sterile procedure on the baby to secure a central line. It’ll be another 45 minutes.

Another hour passes. Hank paces the waiting room like an agitated tiger.
They’re told the team is waiting on x-rays to see if the if the line placement is correct.

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.
The nurse practitioner doesn’t flinch in the face of Hank’s fury. Connor imagines she sees this a lot. “I’m genuinely sorry, Mr. Anderson. With a baby as small as your son, we have to be very careful. With intubation and line placement, we can’t be off by even a few millimeters.”
When they’re finally allowed in the nursery, Connor understands why it took so long.

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.
The proportions are all wrong, the arms and legs too skinny and small with sharp, jutting knees. The torso is as frail and thin as an old man’s, the visible ribcage fluttering like that of a trapped mouse.
Closed eyes bulge from the head, and the rest of the baby’s facial features are hidden behind tape and tubes. The skin has a wet, raw quality to it, red and nearly translucent.

He’s so small. 560 grams, less than a pound and a half.
Connor understands why the hospital wouldn’t have tried to resuscitate him if he’d been born a week earlier. There’s just not enough baby there to work with.

The baby lays in a nest of rolled-up blankets and is wearing an aqua knit hat that is only slightly too big.
The attending physician approaches. Connor tracks his son’s vitals even as he looks at her. He doesn’t have to; there are monitors stacked around the isolette. But Hank only glances at the doctor, and it’s the only way Connor can bear to look away. One of them should be polite.
The attending tells them that they can anticipate the first few days to be relatively stable. The doctors will manage the certainties, the respiratory distress and the metabolic acidosis. It may take days, weeks, or even months for other complications to appear.
“How’s he doing?” Connor asks. “Is this average for a newborn of his gestational age?”

“He’s doing very well. He tolerated the line placement and he’s on a good amount of oxygen, not too high.”
“But you’d tell us,” Hank says, looking over suddenly, “if something wasn’t going the way it should.”

“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.
This is probably as much privacy as they’re ever going to get with their baby until they take him home.

Connor moves to Hank’s side. Hank puts an arm around his shoulder.

“So this is what it’s like,” Connor murmurs.
Hank nods absently. “Yeah. It isn’t… it isn’t all like this.”

“I’d hope not. When do the enjoyable parts start?”

A tiny smile from Hank. “When he takes his first nap.”
Connor wraps an arm around Hank’s waist. They stand in silence. Despite the beeping monitors and the whirring ventilator, things seem… almost quiet. Connor had envisioned that this was going to be a constant, exhausting struggle. But at the moment, things are peaceful.
Connor is terrified. But he’s also humbled and filled with awe to finally be in the presence of this person he’s been waiting to meet since before he existed.

“Oh, shit,” Hank says, a look of surprise crossing his face.
Connor startles, “What is it? Is something wrong?”

“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.”
“We did on one occasion. You liked the name Morgan.”


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 magic of that peaceful moment fades when they leave the hospital and realize they’ll have to do this every night. Leave the hospital without their baby.

The treacherous uncertainty of the future stretches out ahead of them.
“We have to communicate with each other,” Connor says to Hank early on in Morgan’s hospitalization. “If you’re struggling or if you’re unhappy with me, I want to know about it. We’re a team in this.”
Connor can’t say it out loud, but he’s sure Hank is aware of what he means. He doesn’t want Morgan’s illness to break their relationship the way Cole’s death ruined Hank’s first marriage.
Hank isn’t comfortable at the NICU. Very few people are comfortable in a NICU, Connor thinks, but for Hank it is so much worse. The noises of the monitors and the chemical antiseptic smell of the hallways must take him back to a terrible place.
Connor has no idea if being by Morgan’s bedside is any easier for him. In the nursery, the trash cans smell like dirty diapers instead of alcohol wipes and a soft yellow quilt covers Morgan’s isolette. They sit in rocking chairs like a pair of old ladies.
But on the other hand, they can’t look at their son without being reminded of how fragile and unprepared for the world he is.
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.
Connor wonders if Hank blames him at all. Their son was created in a laboratory and can only survive attached to machines. He knows rationally that no one is to blame, and yet he wonders if Hank notices the correlation between their son’s dismal beginning and Connor’s.
He wonders if this is just cosmic punishment for a human and a machine who thought they could raise a child.

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.
Some people offer congratulations, some people offer condolences, and Connor is frustrated with both, because neither seem wholly appropriate.

A casserole appears on their doorstep and Connor knows without scanning for clues that only Nines could have left it there.
He must not have wanted to stay and chat. And Connor frowns at the thought, because that’s somehow just as bad as saying the wrong things.

The first time Connor gets a phone call that Morgan’s oxygen has had to be increased, his processes stutter.
Morgan is doing worse, and Connor has no way to improve things. The nurse has to tell him in two different ways that this is a thing that happens to every micropreemie before Connor begins to relax slightly.
Connor wants to be aware of every single change in Morgan’s condition. Even after he and Hank leave the hospital each night, he calls every hour for updates.

“Connor,” Hank says, “You’re only stressing yourself out. If something happened we needed to know about, they’d call us”
Still, Connor hates feeling as though there’s nothing he can do.

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.
“That one isn’t appropriate,” Connor says, shooting Hank a look when he begins in on a story that involves a mother-daughter pair of prostitutes, the man they were both dating, and what they did to him they found out.

“Shove it. He’s gonna be the coolest kid in the nursery.”
Connor is told that Morgan can tell that they’re there. That Morgan knows who they are. He’s so sedated that Connor has trouble believing that until he analyzes Morgan’s vitals more closely and finds that his blood oxygenation is consistently higher when they’re by his bedside.
One week passes, then two. Morgan’s health improves and declines in small ways, easily trackable by his ventilator settings and his blood gas results. He’s infused with packed red blood cells to keep his body going day by day.
Connor braces himself every day for a disastrous complication.

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.
It’s Necrotizing Enterocolitis, one of the complications the doctor warned them about before Morgan was born. Poorly oxygenated blood flow to the intestines causes them to die as bacteria sets in.
The medical team stops Morgan’s feedings and begins a new round of antibiotics, but Morgan doesn’t improve. Two days later, his intestines rupture and he has emergency surgery right there in the nursery while Connor and Hank hold each other out in the hallway.
Another casserole appears on the doorstep.

“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.
After Morgan’s surgery, they wait to see if infection will set in. Connor eyes each drip and syringe that is brought to his son’s bedside. He wants to taste every antibiotic to calculate the percentage they’ll be successful in avoiding another crisis.
He can’t think about what would happen if Morgan eventually bececomes septic. He just can’t.

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.
“We’ll take it,” he says without thinking when she offers him a key to one of the rooms.

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?”
“You don’t want to stay overnight?” Connor can’t keep the surprise and dismay out of his voice.

“No, I don’t,” Hank says, his shoulders tensing. “Jesus, Connor. You know how much I hate this place.”

“But Morgan—”
/“I can’t--!”/ Hank clamps his mouth shut with a shudder. “I can’t,” he begins again, quieter, “I can’t be here all fucking day and night, Connor. This place, it’s like—it’s like grinding broken glass into an open wound for me.”

Connor can only stare into Hank’s eyes.
“You can’t know what it’s like,” Hank says. “Wanting to be here and wanting to be anywhere else in the world at the same time. The way it presses down on me—”

“I know.”

“You don’t know.”
“Don’t tell me I don’t know,” Connor snaps. “Maybe I couldn’t have known a month ago, but after all this—” He cuts himself off, unwilling to yell further.

Hank gives him an empty look and puts his hand to his mouth, blinking down at the floor.
“I’ll give the key back,” Connor says absently, and the look of absolute relief on Hank’s face stops him cold.

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.
But from the new, grateful warmth on Hank’s face, Connor can tell that Hank thinks that Connor has agreed to come home with him.

Hank wants Connor to come home with him instead of staying with their son.
Questions and exclamations flicker up on Connor’s HUD, suggestions written out by his social protocol. /Morgan has to spend every night alone! Morgan could go septic while we’re sleeping peacefully at home! How could you force me to choose between you and our son!?/
Connor’s face goes blank so as not to give Hank any indication of what he’s thinking and—

—and Hank pulls him into his arms in a crushing embrace, one hand cradling the back of Connor’s head.
“I know,” Hank whispers, and that’s when Connor realizes that Hank has misinterpreted the reason behind his empty expression. “I know. I never wanted you to know what it’s like.”

Connor closes his eyes against the side of Hank’s head. He tries to let go of his indignation.
Hank isn’t making Connor choose between him and their son. Hank wouldn’t be doing this if he had a choice. Hank just wants…

Connor brings his arms up around Hank. Hank needs him to be here for him.
“It’s okay,” Connor says slowly. “We’ll go home and they’ll call us if there’s any change in his condition. The doctors and nurses are here for him like they always are. We’ll be fine. We’re in this together, Hank.”
Leaving the hospital that night hurts a little less than it usually does. Connor holds Hank’s hand as they walk back to the car and when Connor puts on a smile and looks at him, Hank gives him a weary smile in return.
Morgan finally appears to improve. He escapes infection in the aftermath of his surgery and when the drains are removed, his abdomen doesn’t swell again. His doctors are concerned about a recurrence of NEC, so he remains on parenteral nutrition to let his intestines heal further.
“Hear that, kid?” Hank asks as he leans down to look squarely into the isolette. “If you wanna start eating again, you better behave.”

Morgan’s eyes open into dark, wet slivers so thin that Connor is half-convinced he imagined them until he reviews his footage.
“Do you ever wish we’d gone with an android instead?” Hank asks one night when they’re alone in the nursery. “I know you said you wanted to see our kid develop, but…”

“No,” Connor says. “Not now that Morgan’s real and not just… a concept. Or not yet, at any rate.”
It’s hard to know whether he regrets anything when he still doesn’t know what might happen. They appear to have passed the window of danger for a brain bleed, but the NEC poses a related problem.
Morgan’s brain is still developing and needs plenty of nutrients in order to grow. With a length of intestine gone, he’s now as risk of disability or developmental delay simply because his body may have trouble absorbing enough nutrition.
A tray of cookies appears on their doorstep. Hank is about to eat one when Connor grabs his wrist. “Wait.”


“Nines didn’t bake these. Gavin did.” Connor plucks the cookie from Hank’s hand and takes a bite, examining the ingredients carefully.
Hank smirks. “Well, don’t be so fucking charitable. How deadly are they?”

“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.
On another day, a nurse brightly announces, “It’s moving day!”

“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!”
Connor continues to frown, mulling over this information. He would be concerned about the implications in regards to Morgan’s health, except that Morgan seems to be doing just fine today. A littler better than fine; his vent settings are slightly lower than average for him.
A nurse collects Morgan’s chart and the various papers strewn around the counter by his isolette. It takes two nurses and the respiratory therapist to wheel Morgan down the hall to another nursery.
As Hank and Connor follow, Connor looks over his shoulder and he sees that most the other babies are also being prepared to be moved. Out of the four left, only one baby’s chart is left by its bedside, the only other baby in the room whose parents are present at the moment…
Later that afternoon, when Hank gets up to use the bathroom, Connor slips out of the nursery. He walks to Morgan’s old nursery, stopping outside the sliding glass door to peek inside.
Only one baby is left in Morgan’s old nursery. Despite this, the room is crowded with hospital staff and family. All the lights in the room are off.

It isn’t a medical emergency. It’s a death.
Connor wants to look away, but he can’t. He doesn’t move until a nurse notices him standing there and shoos him away with a disapproving look.
Connor can’t stop thinking about the dying baby for the rest of the day. If he were to turn up his hearing, would he be able to hear the family crying just down the hall? Would he be able to hear the baby’s heartbeat grow slower and more faint until it disappears altogether?
Hank gives him a concerned look. “Connor, are you—”

“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.
He feels as though the earth is spinning under his feet and at any moment, he might trip and fall right through the ground and into the darkness below the world.

/Please,/ he thinks, /please let that be the only one I see./
The NICU is never quite the same afterwards. Even as Morgan’s health slowly improves, even though there’s nothing different about the air or the rooms or the people, Connor feels haunted. He looks over his shoulder, certain someone is watching him only to find no one there at all
He escapes that feeling by throwing himself into Morgan’s care. Now that he’s doing better, the nurses let him and Hank help in tiny ways.

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.
Connor utilized all his android precision as he carefully slides an open diaper under Morgan’s butt while the nurse holds him up. Even the smallest size comes up to his ribs as the nurse fastens it.
“He’s having a good day today,” A nurse says on a different day. “Would you like to try holding 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.”
Connor gestures for Hank to 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.
He wants Hank to seize every opportunity he has to be with his son. He wants Hank to feel comfortable here, even if only for a moment.

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.
When he’s placed in the crook of Hank’s arm, Hank cups his body with his opposite hand even though Morgan is in no danger of falling. Hank dwarfs him completely.
The lines of Hank’s face deepen as he struggles not to cry, but his smile lights up the room.

“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.
Hank and Connor make love that night in a way they haven’t since before this tragedy began. Rough and desperate and life-affirming. Hank presses his full weight into Connor and gasps his name while Connor drags him down time and time again to swallow the noises Hank makes.
He laps up the tears that roll down Hank’s face and collect in the corners of his lips.

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.
He gets as far as mentioning that he’d like to keep a spare bassinet in their bedroom in case he gets anxious about Morgan’s health when Hank presses his face into Connor’s shoulder and says, “Don’t jinx it.”
But Morgan continues to not die. Hank and Connor notice the end of their combined parental leave is coming up down the road and they put in for FMLA so they won’t have to go back to work quite yet.

A week after that, Jenna emails to let them know that she’s moving out of state.
Connor calls her, alarmed by the abruptness of her message. She hasn’t even been in to see Morgan yet. Wouldn’t she like to before she leaves?

There’s a long, awkward silence before Jenna says, “I don’t want to bring that kid any more bad luck.”
Bad luck. Jinxes. Connor wonders if the humans know something is coming that he can’t sense. He scans Morgan every day, watching him slowly grow and gain weight. Morgan begins waving his arms and legs inside his isolette and Connor wonders /What is happening? What is coming?/
The answer comes one morning when Hank and Connor arrive at the NICU. Instead of buzzing them in, the secretary asks them to have a seat in the waiting room. She can’t tell them anything about what’s happening, only that a nurse will be out to talk to them shortly.
It isn’t a nurse who eventually comes. It’s the attending physician. He tells them that the soft spots on Morgan’s head have begun to bulge, a sign of bacterial meningitis. A lumbar puncture later confirms this diagnosis.

The next day, he’s diagnosed with sepsis.
The change in Morgan is perceptible and terrible. Connor hadn’t been aware of how full of life Morgan seemed until he’s suddenly listless and still. Not moving, eyes closed. It’s as if he were newly born again, heavily sedated just to spare him from the pain of being alive.
Morgan’s O2 levels plummet. Even when doctors put him on pure oxygen, it isn’t enough. He’s put on a ventilator called an oscillator, a machine that breaths so rapidly for Morgan that the air may as well be oscillating in and out of his lungs.
He can’t maintain his body temperature, and the isolette is warmed to such a degree that water condenses on the inside of the plastic box. His heartrate and blood pressure fluctuate to such a degree that it seems the monitor never stops alarming.
He grows jaundiced and is put under a bright blue light to break up the bilirubin that his liver is suddenly unable to process.

Hank stops sleeping. He lays in bed for hours, tossing fitfully or curled up in a tight ball.
“It just never fucking ends,” Hank moans when Connor brings him a cup of chamomile tea. “What’s the point when every time he gets better, something else fucks up and we wind up worse off than ever before?”

“There’s still hope; you know there is. He’s still alive—”
/“For all the fucking good that’s doing him!”/ Hank’s yell is hoarse and ragged, and he lowers his head with a dry sob.

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.
Connor buries his face in the pillow. Slowly, Hank slumps back down the hall and curls up behind Connor, clutching him as tightly as though he’s holding on for dear life.
What Hank goes through is almost like a form of intoxication. He stumbles around the house. He stares at nothing, his expression deadened. Connor has to coax him into basic acts of self-care, which Hank either resists belligerently or complies with, overcome with exhaustion.
One morning, Hank refuses to get out of bed.

“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.
So he gets back into bed with Hank. He pulls the covers over himself, careful not to tug Hank’s cocoon away from him.

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 disables his internal clock. He doesn’t want to know how long he and Hank lay there away from the world. If time doesn’t pass, they can stay here in limbo forever. They can stay in a world where their son is still alive.
When Connor receives a call from the hospital, his internal clock automatically reactivates. They have been laying there for hours.

Connor touches Hank’s face.

Hank opens his weary eyes.

“We have to go,” Connor says.
Hank closes his eyes. His face is so deeply lined with anguish that he seems impossibly old to Connor.

But with Connor's help, Hank staggers out of bed. Their son needs them. That's simply what being a parent means.
Morgan’s kidneys have been injured by the antibiotics they’re pumping him with to fight the sepsis. His body is having trouble processing fluid, and his body begins to swell with edema. Looking at him reminds Connor of a drowned man he’d once seen pulled from Lake St. Clair.
The doctors want to discuss the possibility of signing a DNR. An order to Do Not Resuscitate.

“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.
They sit by Morgan’s isolette. Hank leaves to use the bathroom and when he comes back, he’s holding the key to one of the NICU’s boarding rooms.

Alone on the thin hospital bed, they talk things through as best they can.
But the both of them are too shell-shocked to make much headway. Letting their baby go seems too terrible to bear.

“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.
Hank shrugs. “Physical pain is… I dunno. I dunno how much of it he feels. I can’t tell.”

“Would it be monstrous of us to want to keep him in that kind of pain?”

Hank goes silent, blinking slowly.
They ask the doctors the next day about the amount of pain Morgan might be in. To Connor’s surprise, the doctor says that Morgan’s pain seems to be relatively well-managed. Undoubtedly there must be some amount, but he doesn’t display signs of break-through pain.
Connor is still too terrified to hope. They watch, waiting for Morgan to decline. So many things could happen. He could go into heart failure or begin having seizures. That he hasn’t already had a seizure is a miracle considering meningitis ought to interfere with his brain.
Connor and Hank keep vigil at Morgan’s bedside for two days.

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.
The antibiotics are working. Morgan’s getting better. But it’s another two days before Connor and Hank can begin to believe that, not until the swelling has subsided somewhat and Morgan sleepily opens his eyes again.
By the time Connor and Hank return the key and go home, Morgan is strong enough to close his hand around Connor’s index finger when he gently pokes his palm with his gloved hand.
When Morgan is 2 months old (with an adjusted age of 31 weeks and 1 day, it is still over 2 months to his due date) Connor and Hank are sitting by Morgan’s isolette, watching him fuss.

“He looks so angry,” Connor remarks, looking at Hank. “You’re teaching him bad habits.”
“Kid has to learn to stand up for himself. Besides, he has plenty to be mad about, cooped up in a tiny box with people poking him all day.”

“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.
A nurse gets on the PA to call the doctors and respiratory therapist into Morgan’s nursery, STAT.

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.
They spend a fitful hour pacing the waiting room until a doctor comes to tell them what happened. Morgan managed to dislodge his breathing tube while he was fussing.

“You managed to reintubate him, right?” Connor asks.
The doctor goes /Well, actually,/ (and Connor can feel how Hank’s heart stutters with fear) before going on to explain that they put Morgan on a CPAP first to see whether he even still needs to be intubated, and he seems to be doing fine.
When they’re led back into the nursery, Hank leans heavily on Connor when they catch sight of Morgan’s face mostly unobstructed by tape or tubes. His mouth is open and he might only be breathing as well as he is because of the mask, but he’s breathing. He’s breathing on his own.
When a nurse pricks him to check his glucose, he cries in a squeaky, wispy way that makes Connor long to pick him up and cradle him. It’s his first time hearing his son’s voice.

“Are we over the hump?” Hank asks as they drive home. “That can’t be. He was dying just a week ago.”
“I don’t know. But if he can go from just fine to dying practically overnight, why can’t the reverse be true?”

Eventually, he graduates to nasal prongs that have to be taped to his face to keep him from fussing with the tubes.
Connor gets to hold him for the first time then, and the weight of his son in his arms sends his LED spinning yellow. He can see it reflected in Morgan’s barely-open eyes.

Morgan has a setback when he stops voiding his bowels and his abdomen begins to swell again.
The intestinal blockage earns him another surgery and a stoma that’ll last 3 months to give his guts time to heal. But no one treats this setback as a mortal crisis.

Hank cringes at the sight of the bag on Morgan’s stomach, but Connor makes the nurse teach him how to change it.
“Anything human is unnatural to me,” Connor says. “An ostomy pouch might as well be a dirty diaper.”

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.
They still have to be very gentle with him, between his central line and the cannula supplying him with oxygen and how fragile his body remains.
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.
At one point it happens three times in two hours and they put him back on a CPAP for a handful of days in an attempt to control his apnea.

“Christ, it’s always two steps forward, one step back,” Hank moans.

“At least we’re moving forward,” Connor replies.
Morgan keeps growing and gaining weight. Not as much as he should be, but that isn’t unusual in a preemie. He has trouble learning to eat on his own and frequently chokes on his formula.
There’s nothing wrong with his swallow reflex; he just seems to hate having anything in his mouth at all. He won’t even tolerate a pacifier.

“Kid’s got PTSD from that ventilator,” Hank says.

“Is there such a thing as therapy for babies?”
“We’ll just take him along to our appointments. We’re all gonna have some PTSD by the time this is over.”

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.
“I realize this is a difficult thing to hear. That your child is going to have chronic health issues from infancy.”

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.
One by one, the systems of Morgan’s body seem to finally sync with one another. His lungs are bad. He’s underweight and at risk of malnourishment. His hearing is fine but the ophthalmologist says that he’ll probably require glasses at a young age.
His immune system is weak and no one can say whether he will have developmental delays or an intellectual disability.

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’s due date comes and goes, and he doesn’t look like a newborn. The proportions of his body are finally right, but he’s small and skinny, his face oddly wizened as though he’s been aged by what he’s gone through.
“Connor, we’ve all been fucking aged by what we’ve gone through,” Hank says when Connor points this out. “Watch me, I’m gonna keel over any day now.”

Morgan has another surgery to reverse his ostomy, and within the week, he has his first blowout diaper.
“I miss the ostomy already,” Connor says as he watches Hank clean Morgan up. “His pouching system was called an appliance, Hank. An /appliance./ It was like a connection we shared.”

“Cool your circuits, Mr. Machine, he’s still attached to like twelve different monitors.”
But eventually he’s able to be taken off the monitors for short periods of time. Wires hang out of his onesie as Connor carries him up and down the halls. They peer through into the other nurseries and Connor marvels at how Morgan isn’t the sickest or the smallest baby anymore.
One day, Morgan takes his whole bottle without gagging or holding his breath. The attending physician tells Hank and Connor to check in with the secretary to sign up for a discharge class.
That night, Connor goes home and stands in the nursery that still hasn’t been painted. He stares at the crib that hasn’t been assembled and his LED blinks red in the dark room.

Hank stands in the doorway, watching him.
“Something’s going to happen,” Connor whispers. “I just know it is. We’re going to get his nursery ready for him, and then something else is going to go terribly wrong and we’re going to be right back where we started.”

Hank shifts on his feet.
“Even when we bring him home. He’s still so fragile. All it takes is a cold and he could wind up back in the hospital on a ventilator.” Connor shudders. “It’s never going to end. We’re always going to be looking over our shoulders, waiting for whatever’s going to kill our baby.”
Hank slowly walks into the nursery. He wraps his arms around Connor, and Connor turns to bury his face in the side of Hank’s neck.

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.”
“I’m sorry.”

“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.”
In the end, they don’t assemble the nursery until the day before they bring Morgan home. Hank still has paint under his nails as he carries the carseat out of the hospital. Morgan sleeps the whole way home, unconcerned with such things as sunlight or the open sky above him.
Morgan spends that first night in the bassinet in their bedroom. He’ll probably spend many more nights there, too, but Connor is trying not to think too far ahead. He has to take things one day at a time.
This isn’t a finish line. No one is ever going to tell him where the finish line is, and he never wants to encounter it anyway. This isn’t even the beginning of something new.
It’s just another step along the way, and although Connor has to look ahead and prepare for what’s coming and look behind him and remember where he’s been, the most important thing is to exist in the now and be grateful for the things he has now.
He has a husband and a child. He has the gift of being able to care for them.

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.
“Let an old pro try,” Hank grunts as he rolls out of bed. But even as Hank brings him up against his shoulder, Morgan only grows fussier. Soon he begins to cry, and Hank winces against the noise.

Connor takes Morgan back into his arms… and has an idea.
He tucks Morgan close under his neck and deactivates his skin there, the white of his chassis peeking out through the collar of his t-shirt up to his chin.

Morgan begins to calm down.

“He misses the smell of the hospital,” Connor murmurs. “The antiseptic and the plastic.”
Hank huffs out a breath, a soft look in his eyes. As Connor sways their baby back to sleep, Hank leans over and kisses his forehead before getting back in bed.
Connor moves to stand by the window, looking out at the night sky. Morgan hasn’t closed his eyes yet, and although they can’t see the stars, he hopes Morgan can see the moon and knows on some level that it will always be there to watch the world while it sleeps.

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