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The promised Roadtrip Thread!

Hank, having realized that Connor has never been outside of Detroit in his life, insists that they should take a road trip together. It's summer, Hank has some vacation days saved up for once in his life, work has been slow and full of paperwork.
His enthusiasm is contagious, so they call a pet sitter (Sumo does not enjoy cars, and Josh is always up for it). One brisk, foggy morning, just as dawn breaks, they load their bags into the trunk, Connor fussing over his mental checklist. He's a little stressed.
Hank promises they haven't forgotten anything, and even if they had, there's nothing they can't buy in the next town over. Sumo has been appropriately hugged goodbye, the lights are off, the doors are locked. In the chill air, he drags Connor in for a quick kiss.
It seems like not a big thing, after having lived together for over a year, but they've never taken any real time off and it feels *good.* Hank smiles as he holds the door open for Connor, he lets him pick the music first as he starts the car.
Connor chooses classical music, which is clearly ridiculous and not road trip soundtrack material, but Hank bites his tongue, because he's got his own playlist for when they hit the open road anyway. Besides, Connor looks nice as he relaxes into the deep sound of a cello.
Five minutes after they pull out of the driveway, Hank announces that they're going to the drivethrough first. Connor is aghast - they literally *just* left, if Hank was still hungry--
But it's not about that, Hank explains. No, it's about ~~atmosphere~~, and besides, he's driving, so he ignores Connor's soft scoff and takes them to the fast food joint, orders stuff for Connor, too - the kind of food that's laced with thirium.
When they pull out onto the freeway, they've got brown, crinkling paper bags in the back seat, the air smells like french fries, and Connor is begrudgingly sipping a blue soda. Hank, on the other hand, has opted for coffee, because the sun is just barely peeking over the horizon.
The open road is one of Hank's favorite things about road trips. Their first destination is hours away, and as the sun crawls up he enters something almost like a trance. The world is bright, the grass outside zooming by in a colorful blur, the hum of the engine lulling.
Connor is smiling slightly as he stares out the window, perking up when he sees some horses in a field, following them with his gaze and even turning slightly as they pass them by. Hank bites the inside of his cheek, chuckling.
They settle into a comfortable pattern, taking turns driving and picking out music. Hank tries to play I Spy with Connor, but Connor cheats by having the processing speed of at least fifty Hanks, so they drop that in favor of idle, pleasant conversation.
Hank talks about all the places his father used to take him back when he was a kid, the places he would've taken Cole when he got a little older. It's easier to talk about than it used to be, but Connor still reaches out and puts a hand on Hank's knee, his expression soft.
Their chatter turns lighter after a while; sometimes they fill the silence, sometimes they let it linger. Either way feels good, the comfort between them sweet and familiar. When Connor drives, Hank drifts in and out of sleep, to the sound of Connor humming.
They stretch their legs every couple of rest stops because Connor insists on it. At first Hank thinks it's because he's being anal about blood clots or something, but then Connor drags him in for a deep kiss, muttering something about it being too dangerous behind the wheel.
They stop a lot more frequently after that.
Their first real destination is up near the boundary waters, and Duluth alone is almost 12 hours away. They don't even stop in Chicago -- Connor's had enough of cities, and to be honest, so has Hank. The air is clearer out here, even on the highway.
Connor insists he can drive well into the afternoon and beyond if Hank gets tired, but Hank has two problems with this; a) he's too old to sleep comfortably in a car for any real duration, and he'd like to be able to move tomorrow, thank you very much,
and b) even though Connor is an expert multitasker or whatever, he still won't entertain Hank's wandering hands when he's behind the wheel. A highly frustrating state of affairs, because he's put on a pair of sunglasses even though he doesn't need them, and it makes him look --
well, it makes Hank lament the fact that the rest stops are quite as public as they are, and that the bathrooms tend to be dingy and disgusting. He'd settle for pulling over somewhere semi-private, but Connor just gives him a patient smile and insists on staying on schedule.
Connor had thought they'd drive all the way to their destination in one go, but unexpected traffic delays them, and fourteen hours later they're only a little past Minneapolis. Hank is dozing in the passenger seat, but every once in a while he starts awake, panting softly.
He settles only when Connor reaches for his hand, shooting him a reassuring, sleepy smile, but Connor starts to get worried. The car is not comfortable, and Hank's always been a bit of a restless sleeper anyway. He's stiff from sitting and driving for so long.
"Let's stop somewhere for the night," he says gently, stroking Hank's knuckles, eyes on the road ahead. The sun is already on its way back down, the air cooler.
Hank grunts, because he knows Connor "It's fine, Con. We're almost there anyway."
Connor pouts. It's a strategy he's learned quickly to employ, because Hank is particularly vulnerable to it. "I want to lie down."
Hank rubs his eyes with the back of his hand. "Since when do you get tired?"
Connor shoots him a meaningful look. "Didn't say I wanted to rest."
Hank gets the gist. They stop at the nearest town. It's small, surrounded by the woods, far enough from the roads to be pleasantly quiet. It sits on the edge of a lake, and they arrive just as the sun dips down behind it, making the water glow. The air smells damp and silty.
They get a room in a little bed and breakfast overlooking the water. Their bedroom has a balcony, and the first thing Hank does is swing the doors open to let in a cool breeze and the sound of crickets and loons on the water. Connor listens with his head tilted, smiling softly.
They lie on top of the floral sheets for a while, kissing in that slow, unhurried way that they both have learned to enjoy more than almost anything. There's no rush here, no drive for anything else at first, just a tender meeting that feels like homecoming every time.
The heat that builds between them has the warmth of sunlight in it, but Hank really is rather tired, and winces when he shifts up onto an elbow to undress Connor. So Connor pushes him down into the pillows instead, brushing back his hair and bending down to kiss his nape.
He kneads Hank's shoulders, tastes his sweat. "Let me take care of you tonight," he says, his voice low, and Hank relaxes in the sweetest way because he knows what that means. He lets Connor deal with his clothes, sighs with contentment at the feel of his hands.
Connor's really good at squeezing tension out of him in a way that also makes him unbelievably hard. His hands always wander, he's gentle, mutters praise in a voice so genuine Hank has long since stopped doubting him. Hank is somehow half-asleep and completely alert all at once.
When his fingers trace the soft skin of his inner thigh, Hank groans and turns his face into the pillow, shifting his legs slightly apart in invitation. Connor hums, strokes his back and peppers kisses on his spine and shoulders. He drapes himself over Hank, his weight warm.
He takes his time preparing them. When he makes love to Hank, sliding home in one smooth, deep thrust, Hank forgets all about sleeping. But it still feels relaxing when Connor braces an arm around him so Hank can use it as a pillow.
It still feels like being take care of, caged in Connor's warm and very capable grip. They rock together, Hank breathless, Connor's chest pressed to his back, no room at all between them. It's always so intimate like this, so personal. It's like a massage, inside and out.
Connor strokes his ribs, rolls his hips when Hank hisses and tries to shift closer. He's so good at knowing exactly what to do, he listens to every sound and movement. He kisses Hank's neck, curls around him, pants into his ear, and suddenly he's the only thing that exists.
Hank reaches back to slide a hand into Connor's hair so he can keep him close. Connor bites him gently in response, and it sends Hank abruptly over the edge, not in some grand explosion but in something that feels like the crash of ocean waves, a feeling of profound relief.
Connor comes with a soft, low moan, his arms tightening around Hank, almost crushing. Hank kisses his arm over and over, mumbles soft, loving words that probably sound like nonsense, because when Connor comes down he sometimes feels lonely.
He falls asleep with Connor still inside him, with warm kisses being pressed to his sweaty back, with their breathing soft against the sound of the crickets and the lapping water outside.
In the morning, Hank wakes up almost perplexingly well rested. He feels spoiled, actually. Connor had cleaned them up while he slept, as he often did, then tucked a couple of blankets around him. Now he sat with a book in his lap, right next to a tray of breakfast food.
It's still early, and Hank is both sore and ravenous. He demolishes breakfast and heads for the shower so they can set out soon, even though he feels suddenly very attached to this little room. Perhaps they'll come back one day.
There's something a little more charged between them on their drive up to the Boundary Waters. Hank's behind the wheel, and Connor reads in the passenger seat, but he's reached across to hold Hank's hand, his thumb trailing lazy circles over his knuckles.
The occasional look he shoots Hank is exactly what Hank had wanted to see from the very beginning - deeply relaxed, easy, full of comfortable warmth. Hank has to really work to keep his eyes on the road. He figures crashing the car might end their vacation prematurely.
They spend a full day in the wilderness. The weather is good, the sun beats down on them as they walk along a beach that's all all white sand and smooth pebbles and cool, crisp water. Hank's not even offended by Connor's insistence on sunscreen.
Mostly because when Hank grouses about it playfully, Connor sits up across from him and starts applying it himself with an annoyed huff. His hands are never anything but gentle, and when he's finished he holds Hank's head between his hands and gives him a long-suffering sigh.
When they stumble across a rental hut, Connor looks at the canoes like they might bite him though, and his eyes widen further when a guy fishing on the pier lifts a thrashing walleye out of the water.
Hank doesn't ask, just wraps an arm around him and insists on showing Connor the woods. He pretends not to see the look of relief on his face. They hike and wade through the shallows instead, the smell of sand and sun lotion familiar and summery and warm.
He finds himself staring more than once, transfixed by the way the sunlight catches in Connor's hair. His expression is thoughtful, and he seems to enjoy the sound of frogs and insects chittering around them, and the feeling of wet sand shifting under his bare feet.
When he hesitantly offers to go out onto the water with Hank, even though he's visibly unsettled, Hank finally asks. Connor stills, looks down at his feet and mutters something about the Zen garden. How he hadn't realized it would bother him as much as it did.
Hank gently reminds him that they're here to enjoy themselves. He's not here with a checklist of things they have to do. It's a vacation, he wants Connor relaxed and happy and as unbothered as possible by troublesome memories. Connor nods, but he still looks concerned.
A bit before dusk, they sit together on a smooth, dry stone jutting outwards towards the water, dipping their feet in. Connor is tucked into his side, and Hank has an arm still around him. He's resting his head on Hank's shoulder, right where it belongs.
It's another place Hank feels he could stay in forever, but he plans on showing Connor the world, not just this little corner of it. They move on that evening, both a little tired, skin still warmed with sunlight.
They spend the night in a motel in Duluth, snuggled together under the blankets even though it's warm. Connor seems to crave the closeness, so Hank holds him, nosing into his hair as they both drift off to sleep. It's a safe, warm bubble to be in.
This is how the journey goes. every morning, Connor wakes from stasis in yet another unfamiliar place, but with Hank's scent around him, warm arms on his hips or his back. They stumble groggily out of bed, hastily consume breakfast, often hit the road before the sun is fully up.
Connor loves it. He loves how clumsy Hank is before he's fully awake, how he looks tousled by the wind even when he attempts to tame his mane. He makes a point of rolling the windows down for ventilation, smiling when Hank complains he's catching mouthfuls of his own hair.
He loves how different everything is depending on where they are. It should look the same after a while, but the grass seems different everywhere, lake-studded in Minnesota, then drier and wilder in North Dakota. Deer become bison, prairies eventually become mountains.
And Hank is a warm constant by his side, whether he's pointing out some landmark, or talking about national parks, or dozing, or digging around in the glovebox in search of pretzels. Or kneading Connor's thigh when Connor drives, pretending it doesn't affect him.
Somewhere in Glacier, Montana, Connor's resolve snaps. All morning Hank has been handsy, touching the back of Connor's neck, rubbing behind his ear or scratching his arm lightly. Connor had gritted his teeth and ignored him, but it was somehow worse now that it wasn't deliberate.
Hank is reading in the passenger seat, but his heavy hand is on Connor's knee, twitching slightly once in a while. They're on an empty side road surrounded by dense forest, the sun shining through the canopy dappling him in points of gold.
"Hank?"
There must be something in his voice, because Hank looks up with a soft 'Hmm?' and makes eye contact over the rim of his sunglasses. Connor opens his mouth, but abruptly forgets how to speak.
He doesn't need to say anything, as it turns out. Hank's gotten good at reading him, and he chuckles warmly at whatever he sees on Connor's face, his fingers digging into Connor's leg with a little more purpose, very much a caress. He grits his teeth.
"Everything alright, darling?" Hank drawls with fake innocence, as if there's nothing teasing about the way he's gently stroking the skin above Connor's hip under his shirt. Connor's breathing goes shallow, the roughness of Hank's fingers sending familiar sparks through him.
"Twenty minutes," Connor manages. "There's - a hotel--" he sucks in a breath when Hank leans in without preamble to mouth at his neck and squeezes Connor's thigh, his broad fingers resting between his legs. His teeth pinch Connor's skin for a hot second.
Connor clutches the steering wheel. "Hank, wait, I - can't concentrate." It comes out like a breathy whine and not the admonishment he'd intended. He can feel Hank grinning against his skin, jerks sharply when the hand on his leg moves higher.
"Can't you engage some kind of autopilot?" Hank purrs, and Connor sees sparks because the warm vibration of his voice is something he can feel down to his core, along with the teasing skim of his fingertips and the scrape of his beard.
"Hank, I *am* the autopilot."
"Then you better pay attention," Hank says, palming Connor through his jeans, an inexorable squeeze, his grip just the right edge of possessive. Connor pulls over and slams on the brakes so hard they almost park right into a tree, melting into Hank's warm laugh.
He's thankful for the shade of the trees. The road is empty, but the urgency of his own movements when he clambers into Hank's lap is not something he'd like anyone else to see. He's not even sure why he feels it, he just knows that there's nothing quite like Hank's hands on him.
His fumble to get closer to Hank is completely graceless, awkward in the confined space, but it doesn't matte because Hank is kissing him with a steadfast, experienced confidence, all sharp teeth and tongue. He tastes like pretzel salt, cinnamon and traces of sunscreen.
He yanks Hank's sunglasses off because they're getting in the way, wraps his arms around him and shudders into an odd, pensive stillness when Hank reaches down to tug his jeans down. His breathing is too warm in the space between them, and hitches when Hank finally touches him.
Breathing is not something he really needs, it shouldn't stutter out of him when Hank takes him into a firm grip. But it does, it's shaky and needy, and Connor doesn't recognize the pitch of the sound that he makes into Hank's mouth as his own.
Hank's holding him up, one hand on his lower back, and he's moved down to kiss Connor's neck. Connor has to concentrate on keeping his skin in place where it wants to bleed away under Hank's lips and tongue. He's never let it slip before now though, and he's not sure he should.
But the sound of Hank's belt buckle being unfastened seems louder than it should be, and suddenly nothing matters, just being *closer*. Hank laughs at how difficult it is to get the positioning right with their clothes barely askew, but Connor is both flexible and determined.
When he finally sinks down onto Hank, they both hiss with relief. Hank's grip on his hips is suddenly tight and almost painful, his breaths fast and hot against Connor's throat, the kisses and nips urgent. Connor almost tears the buttons off his shirt in an effort to touch skin.
He kisses Hank, cups his neck, stares at the cool, familiar blue of his eyes. There's hardly any room to move, but it doesn't make a difference to him, it just feels *right* to be filled like this, their movements a minute shift between them, all slick and deep friction.
It feels like being opened in a way that goes entirely beyond the physical. Hank knows his body. He touches Connor before Connor thinks to ask, he grips him closer, slides a hand under his shirt to rest over his thirium pump. When he pushes up into Connor, he's gentle -
but not overly so. There's a bite to it all like always, a sting that comes between waves of soothing warmth, and the contrast makes Connor clench up and whimper as he chases the feeling, rolling his hips, pressing his forehead to Hank's.
There's not enough space to make this fast or rough, so Connor doesn't bother trying. He takes his time cataloguing the sensations, the sounds; Hank's panting, soft in his ear, the arm around his back, the coarse-yet-soft hair on Hank's chest under his hand. He strokes it slowly.
Every thrust is small and shallow and sends a spike of sharp pleasure through Connor, taking him closer to the edge. When he's close, Hank mutters something filthy in his ear, and Connor comes with a cry muffled against Hank's neck and a full-body shiver, his vision whiting out.
When he comes back into his own body, Hank is holding him close, holding the back of his neck. He's smoothing a hand down Connor's spine in a repetitive little motion, his chest heaving shakily. Connor nuzzles closer, inhaling. Hank's sweat, sunscreen, lavender motel soap.
Hank spills a second later with a soft grunt and a brief tightening of his arms, and harsh breaths that fan out against Connor's skin. He can feel Hank's heartbeat, inside of him, around him. Hank says his name, his voice colored with affection.
Connor's too wrung out to move. It's fine. There's no rush. Hank holds him in his lap, rubs his back and his ribs with a broad hand. He cleans them up with a wad of baby wipes he keeps in the car, kisses Connor's cheek, then his lips. He tastes like sunlight and thirium.
Connor curls up against his chest. Ear against his sternum. Takes comfort in the sounds underneath it, the warm laugh that issues from Hank. "You wanna spend the night here?" he rumbles.
"Hank, it's barely past noon."
His hand plays with Connor's hair. "Why don't I drive?"
Connor closes his eyes and mutters something in the affirmative, making no effort to move whatsoever. If he moves, Hank will have to stop touching him, and right now he just wants to feel. He never feels anything as acutely as he does this, in what Hank calls the afterglow.
Connor insists he doesn't have one. He just needs to... Recalibrate, that's all. When they finally move on, that's what he does. Recalibrates, dozing in the passenger seat as Hank drives, humming along to another rock ballad. Absently, he reaches for his hand, missing the warmth.
When he opens his eyes, the sun is a little lower in the sky. Hank is no longer humming, but there's a warm, content smile on his face. When he looks over at Connor, the expression softens further.
"You alright?"
"Of course I am," Connor croaks, feeling Not Alright.
There's a pressure in his chest that tightens when Hank hmms at him and reaches out to run his fingers through Connor's hair, one hand on the wheel, one eye on the road. Connor sits bolt upright, staring out of Hank's window at the ravine below, and the twisting turquoise river.
They're hugging the side of a mountain, the road so narrow it feels like they might pitch sideways at any moment. It's like the world is slowly tilting them towards the edge, waiting for them to slip. Connor's hand clenches in the upholstery.
The view from here is nothing short of spectacular, and unlike anything Connor's ever seen. The treetops and overlapping mountain peaks in the distance create a tapestry of lush, green hues, laced with golden sunlight.
The glacier water cutting through the rocky valley below is an entirely unearthly color, translucent and opaque at the same time. Very far in the distance, a gently clouded blue sky shifts into deep gray storm clouds. It all looks enormous. Unfathomably so.
It's equal parts beautiful and disturbing, especially when it really hits him that a pebble slipping out from under their wheels wrong could end in a short plummet towards certain death. Hank's car is old and creaky, and suddenly every one of its rattles is deafening.
He tries looking out his own window, but that only makes it worse, because he realizes just how *close* the rocky cliff they're plastered to is. he can see the moss growing on it, what feels like inches away. His software rapidly preconstructs several unpleasant scenarios.
Hank's fingers squeeze his sharply. "Got me the first time, too. You get used to it," he says with some mixture of amusement and concern in his voice. "Why don't you try sleeping a little longer?" But Connor can't - his gaze is drawn to that abyss despite himself.
Hank grunts, gently places Connor's hand on the back of his own neck so he can turn the music up without breaking contact. His knee bounces to some terrible, campy country song, and he starts singing along, unsuccessfully fighting a smile.
He's trying to make Connor laugh, but the joke's on him because the rich rumble of his voice settles something inside Connor's chest, and feeling Hank's warm skin and completely steady heartbeat under his hand cements it.
The flash of fear he'd felt moves into some distant background process along with other non-essentials. He starts breathing again, looks out at the forest and thinks that he really does find it rather beautiful. It makes a fitting backdrop for Hank's noble profile.
"Better?" Hank asks, keeping his eyes studiously on the narrow road before them. Connor runs a diagnostic. He's running warm, but his stress level has plummetted back down near normal. He's a little dehydrated, and a deep scan reveals a telltale ache, almost like a bruise.
"I'm fine," he says, flushing at the memory of what had put it there. This time he really means it.
"We should come back here sometime in the fall," Hank muses. "When the leaves turn, it sorta looks like the world's on fire."
"That... doesn't sound like a good thing." Connor tries to conjure up an image of a golden fall. He has vague memories of his first one in Detroit.
But the trees there are sparse, and it was all before he'd learned to appreciate things like the colors and smells of the world around him. The images in his memories feel flat and lifeless, not like the memories he's made since he met Hank. Everything had turned sharper then.
Something squeezes at his heart again, an ache that could be unpleasant but... Somehow isn't. He looks over at Hank, his thick arms where he'd rolled up his sleeves, his impossibly kind eyes, and feels a little breathless. "I think I'd like to see it."
Hank smiles. It's not really a plan, just an idle thought between them, but every time they talk about the future - any future in which they're doing something together - an undefined part of Connor vibrates, feelings carouseling by too fast to name.
Far away, the sky rumbles. Connor's not anxious about thunderstorms as he is about snow, but it ocurrs to him that if they get caught in a downpour out here, they'll be driving on a paper-thin ledge that also happens to be *wet*. Hank agrees it's best to find someplace to stop.
As it happens, there's an old lodge about forty-five minutes up the mountain, slightly but not egregiously out of their way. Hank changes course according to Connor's directions, and by the time they're almost there, he's glad they did.
The clouds have moved in faster than expected, and drops of rain are starting to spatter against the windshield. When they pull into the gravel lot, the drops have turned into a current that beats down on their roof with thunderous noise.
The mad dash for the door, short as it is, still leaves them both soaked through right down to the last thread. Their bags, at least, are waterproof, but Hank is not, and his teeth start to chatter as they stumble inside, bringing in the earth scent of rain and pine.
The lodge is rustic, but modern enough to be warm and brightly lit. The common rooms are mostly deserted save for a few guests reading or playing chess. A few look up with bemusement at what they seems to be a pair of vagabonds, judging by how drenched they are.
A couple of faces turn visibly shocked when they see Connor's LED. Out here, far from Detroit, androids are a lot less commonplace. Everyone's seen the news though, Hank assumes. He bristles automatically, prepared for the worst, but no one goes as far as to say anything.
The human receptionist gives them a wide-eyed look when they insist on a room with one bed, and Hank grits his teeth. By the time they check in he's a hundred percent ready to fight the next person to so much as look at Connor sideways, although Connor himself seems unbothered.
Still, Hank is relieved when they make it up to their room. It's nicer than he feared, cozy and private. The floor is covered in thick rugs, the walls are wooden and smell of sap and sawdust. They have their own bathroom and shower, both clean and stocked with fresh soap.
He sheds his dripping clothes, shivering. Connor's suddenly next to him, helping him peel away layers stuck to his skin, working his buttons and rubbing warmth back into sore muscles. Hank drags him to the bathroom so they can stand under the hot spray of the shower together.
What was supposed to be a way of simply warming up suddenly turns into something intimate when Connor absently squeezes a dollop of shampoo onto his hand and starts lathering up Hank's hair. Hank goes very still. They're close, both of them buck naked, touching.
But it doesn't -- it's not quite sexual, at least Hank doesn't think so. Connor's taking his time, watching Hank's face, his skin slick and thick steam making him look like a hazy mirage. His hands are slow and appreciative, lingering, but intent on the task at hand.
Hank holds onto his hips, first to keep Connor steady, then to hold himself up because when Connor starts soaping him up his breathing and his balance both go a little wonky. He leans into Connor, chest to chest, and closes his eyes. Buries his face in Connor's neck.
He plants a couple of open-mouthed kisses there, even though Connor just ends up tasting like shampoo. His hands feel as hot as the water, caressing his back and his chest and his sides, sliding smoothly through the suds, washing at least two days worth of travel from his body.
He's not shy at all with the touching, but he doesn't tease, either. He reaches between Hank's legs to clean him, nothing else. Still, there's something about it Hank can't put his finger on. It's hard to breathe. It's hard to do anything that would put any distance between them.
Connor is thorough, hums when Hank belatedly begins to return the favor, but stills his hands. "Later," he promises gently, apparently intent on doing this his own way. By the time he's finished, it feels like there's not a spot on Hank that he doesn't end up touching.
They rinse off, and then dry, and then stumble to bed through the sound of thunder and rain against the window. Connor wraps him in a bathrobe and then a blanket, pushes him down and rubs studious circles into his back. Hank shifts to look at him.
"Don't move," Connor mutters softly, brushing Hank's hair back behind his ear. "I'll bring you something to eat, okay?"
Hank is kinda hungry for real food, but he doesn't want Connor going down there alone. He's Connor's partner, he's supposed to be there for him.
He watches Con get dressed, mouth quirking when it's Hank's shirt he puts on. He doesn't think anyone will start anything, and Connor is more than capable of handling things on his own even if they did, but the idea of being naked and useless still rubs him the wrong way.
Connor is in and out though, returns with a cup of hot tea and the promise of room service. They sit on the bed, curled together and watching the wind whip at the branches outside. The gnaw of anxiety in Hank's chest temporarily silenced.
He sips his tea and listens to the rumbling of the storm. Connor's resting with his hand pressed to Hank's bare stomach, staring out the window with a wistful, almost dreamy expression. The press of his fingers is warm, and so is Hank's shoulder where Connor's chin is resting.
The happy bubble in his chest doesn't burst until there's a tentative rap on the door. Connor jerks like he's coming out of sleep and stands quickly, heading over to open it while Hank discreetly makes sure nothing's hanging out of his bathrobe where it shouldn't.
It's a short interaction, not the worst they've had by a long shot. But Hank can't not notice the way the man ducks his head when he enters with a cart of food, ignoring Connor like he's air. The way he greets Hank, and Hank only, the way his eyes skirt away awkwardly.
His demeanor is passably professional until his gaze lingers too-long on Connor's LED, his lip curling slightly when he notes the single bed and Hank's half-open bathrobe and their damp hair, and the shirt that's too big on Connor's slender frame.
The guy stiffens up and leaves with a curt nod, his shoulder brushing Connor's on the way out. There's a flicker of yellow at Connor's temple.
Hank sees red. He's halfway to the door, not really sure what he's planning on doing besides yelling in the little prick's face, but Connor's suddenly in front of him, pushing him back towards the bed, his hands light on Hank's chest, face carefully neutral.
"Hank. Hank, it's - it's fine. It's not worth it. Please."
Hank huffs, his fists still clenched. "Tell me that doesn't fucking bother you."
Connor sighs, his mouth a thin line. "I don't like it, if that's what you mean. I've also dealt with far worse."
The outrage that simmers through Hank is as useless as he is, apparently. He wants to leave. He'd suddenly rather sleep naked on the ground in the woods than here, but the rumble outside keeps getting louder. He seethes, and his eyes flick inadvertently to Connor's temple.
He'd often wondered why Connor hadn't taken it out. Most androids do - it's easier to blend in, to avoid all the shit people sling. He never questioned it, but he hadn't understood, either. Sometimes he thinks he does, but he still wants to ask.
Something of the question must show on his face, because Connor jerks sharply away. But not before Hank catches a telltale flash of red. He curses, this time at himself when Connor shifts towards the window with that carefully cultivated blank look on his face.
He doesn't know how to explain to Connor that it doesn't matter to him. Or -- it does, in a weird way, because it matters to Connor, but not in the way that he thinks Connor sometimes worries that it does. And fuck, he can't articulate the thought to himself, let alone out loud.
Connor's just - Connor. His Connor. Perfect the way he is as far as Hank is concerned. He only wishes fiercely for the world to be different. Where there isn't a thing he would think to change about Connor, there's a long list of things he'd change about everyone else.
But then, this isn't new. This is just how the world is, how it's always been. There was always something. Sometimes, maybe, there was a right and a wrong way to fight it, but Hank doesn't have the answers. He just knows that he needs to be *here*, to have Connor's back, always.
"Con?"
Connor crosses his arms low over his chest, a defensive posture if Hank's ever seen one. "I don't want to be angry about this right now, Hank." He sighs. "I just - It's fine. I wanted to relax." Thunder rumbles outside, softer now, but the rain as torrential as ever.
"I know," Hank says gently. "I'm sorry." He reaches out to brush the backs of his knuckles against Connor's side, a hesitant nudge. "Hey. Wanna sit with me some more?"
Connor turns to him, his expression still shuttered, but something inside him evidently unwinds. "Of course."
Hank's mouth quirks. "You gonna keep going with that whole zen masseur thing you had going on, or...?"
Connor's answering chuckle lights Hank up from the inside out. It's soft, not fully formed laughter, but any sound of amusement from Connor is a rare thing.
"Are you warm enough?" Connor asks after a pause, pacing through the room checking the lock, drawing the muslin curtain over the window. It's like he's making a bubble around them, and some of Hank's stress bleeds away.
"I'm warm," he promises. From the shower, from Connor.
They end up on the bed again, cuddling through the night when the distant storm turns into something that rattles the windows. He doesn't miss the way Connor clings to him, not afraid but fascinated, his face rapt as he watches lightning flash across the sky.
His hand rests against the dip of Connor's spine, their legs are tangled together. Connor's hand is resting over Hank's heart. Hank picks it up so he can kiss his fingertips, another question rising to the forefront of his mind, but one he's not sure how to formulate.
Connor seems to have his own ideas anyway. He opens up Hank's bathrobe, slides closer, guiding one of Hank's hands to his hip. Hank curls up against him, grunting when Connor takes off his shirt and wiggles out of his boxer briefs, then plasters his naked body to Hank's.
Hank thinks about rolling on top of him, but this is almost better. Connor has an arm around him and his lips are at Hank's neck, and Hank can feel the warm press of him everywhere. Smooth skin and taut, soft synthetic muscle. He smells like shampoo and ozone.
It's strange. For all people's whining that it wasn't the same, that there was some animal connection you could only have with another human, some combination of hormones and scent and mammalian response necessary for this feeling, Hank had never thought this felt any less real.
Hank feels that connection like a physical thing. It's easily one of the strongest things he's felt for another person. It tugs at him, a constant reminder to be kinder, better. He pulls Connor closer into his arms, and forgets about everything else.
He falls asleep to the drift of cool fingers in his hair and a possessive curl of a touch against his skin. And Connor's mouth moving very softly against Hank's temple, as if he's whispering something too quiet for him to hear.
When he jerks awake with unpleasant suddenness, a soft gasp stuck in his throat, dawn is washing out the room in gray colors. He's alone, the bedsheets are cool next to him, and his pulse immediately becomes something frantic. Or maybe it was already, leftovers of a bad dream.
A shaft of pale light from the open bathroom cuts across the floor. Hank crawls out of bed, his breath shaky, pushes the door gently open. Connor is standing in front of the mirror, his hand over where his LED is. He drops it almost guiltily when Hank walks in.
"Sorry. I didn't mean to wake you." His fingers tighten on the edge of the sink.
Hank's heart clenches. He looks up at Connor, at all the little parts of him, walks up to stand behind him and wrap him in a bear hug. He turns his face into the crook of his neck, inhales.
Connor is smaller than him, but by no means actually small. He's tall and slender and strong as hell, in more ways than one, and Hank - he holds him, and their eyes meet in the mirror. Connor's look confused, almost sleepy.
"There's not a damn thing about you I would change," he says, presses a kiss to Connor's shoulder. "Not one, you hear?" He trails kisses up the column of Connor's neck, to his temple, lingers over the light. It doesn't feel any different from the rest of him.
"Would be easier though, wouldn't it?" Connor mutters. "If we could just pretend. No one would ever have to know."
"Do you want that?"
"I am what I am, Hank," Connor says, and the thread of steel in his voice is its own answer. "And I don't like the idea of pretending."
Hank rests his chin on Connor's shoulder, closes his eyes. His hands drift to his hips, squeezing gently. "If you ever decide to take it out, it'll be for you, Con. Not for me, and certainly not some small-minded bigots. And if it stays, it stays for you, too."
He smiles, despite himself. "I kinda like it though. Makes for a handy night light in a pinch."
Connor's answering smile is hesitant. "I thought it was because I can't lie to you."
Hank snorts. "Well, that doesn't hurt. You're hard to read sometimes. Nice to have a cue."
Conor looks down, relaxes slowly. Suddenly Hank is basically holding him up, extremely aware that they're both still naked. He smooths one hand up against Connor's chest, presses closer to him, rubs his face against his back. Kisses his nape, absorbing Connor's shudder.
"I'd take it out, you know?" Connor says very quietly, his eyes suddenly downcast. "If you asked."
Hank's arms tighten around him, his heart in his throat. It's precisely why Hank would *never* ask. "No."
Connor's eyes flash to his again. He cracks a small smile.
He also presses back against Hank suggestively, biting his lower lip. Hank nips his neck in warning, although it retrospect that seems like a miscalculation. Connor loves it when Hank bites him. Right now is no different. His eyes drift half-shut on a shaky sigh.
Hank is fairly sure he's created a monster when they lock eyes again. Connor's are half lidded and warm, and shut entirely when Hank runs his fingers down his ribs, presses them to the small of his back. He uses his arm to pin Con to his own chest, squeezes him tightly.
"Look at me," he says, because he wants all of this, all of Connor, including each one of his expressions. The flicker on his face when Hank touches him, uncertainty shifting into pleasure. A flicker of yellow that, coupled with a sharp gasp, tells him he's doing something right.
"Look at *you,*" he purrs when Connor makes a needy little noise, tries to shift closer to Hank, trapped between his hand and the weight of Hank's arousal resting against his ass, unsure which he wants to buck against. Hank chuckles, kisses him again, strokes his sensitive skin.
He works Connor open with his fingers this time. It leaves him with more of his own brain cells intact, more sober as he presses into him, watching Connor squirm. He watches his face soften when Hank takes his time exploring the familiar, slick heat of his body.
His hips jerk and his LED flashes red when Hank hits a sensitive bundle of sensors inside of him. Hank makes a point of sweeping across it again, and a third time when Connor all doubles over with a harsh noise, pushing back against Hank, his breathing a mess.
Hank bends over him to press a kiss to his back, then slides a hand up to his throat to haul him up against his chest. Connor moans thinly at the change of angle, his throat working under Hank's hand. He loosens his grip, but presses his fingers into a pulse of thirium.
"Look at me," he says again. His own face is flushed, eyes bright, but really he wants Connor to see himself like this, warm and perfect with Hank's hands on him and inside him. LED rolling through a spectrum of colors, almost flickering out when Hank pushes into that spot again.
Connor doesn't flush red, but a subtle bluish hue. He doesn't sweat, but his eyes go glazed, eyelashes fluttering when Hank goes still, teasing until Connor moans and starts fucking himself on Hank's fingers. "Jesus," Hank breathes through his teeth. "Fuck, you're perfect."
Connor's lubricant drips down his hand, the sound of his movements wet and filthy in the tiny little bathroom. Hank goes back to kissing his neck, biting at a spot over a dark freckle. Connor shudders and tightens up like a bowstring, a tension right on the precipice of orgasm.
Hank pulls back, grins when Connor shoots him an annoyed look. He kisses the spot where he bit Connor, massages his tongue into it. He tastes clean, familiar, there's a faint smell of sex and warm ozone between them. Suddenly it's not enough. Hank nuzzles him, breathing shaky.
The mirror is nice and all, but it creates some unnecessary distance. Besides, Hank's confident he has made his point. He turns Connor around, kisses him with the raw hunger he feels, then picks him up and carries him to bed, ignoring his outraged squeak.
When he presses Connor into the mattress though, something in his chest shifts, from a blaze to a warm glow. He hooks one of Connor's legs around his hip, pets his side, smoothes a palm up his ribs and feels the heaving of his chest. Connor feels a little damp. He's trembling.
He kisses him carefully as he rocks into Connor's body. Connor pulls Hank close and pants softly against his lips, arching off the bed when Hank slides a hand under the small of his back. His breath hitches, and Hank can feel the sharp flutter of his body when he comes.
It's sort of... shattering. Often, staring at Connor is like staring at the distant brilliance of the stars. Like this though, like this there's nothing at all between them. Not a single boundary that might matter. He tangles a hand into Connor's hair.
Hushes him, waits for the last vestiges of tension to drain out of him, waits for complete surrender before sinking in that much deeper to chase his own release. Connor whimpers, overstimulated, but the palm pressed to Hank's back is there to keep him in place.
In the faint, still-gray glow of the sun rising through the trees, Connor's skin seems to flicker away under Hank's hands.
He trails his thumb over a patchy spot on his throat where his fingers had rested, wondering if he should be worried, but Connor doesn't seem to be bothered by it - at least not until Hank leans in to press his tongue there, satisfying some curiosity he hadn't realized he had.
Connor jolts and makes a noise quite unlike anything Hank's ever heard from him. The way he pants Hank's name is breathless and tinged with something that sounds so close to fear that Hank rears back, ready to issue an apology. Except -
The way Connor wraps his arms around him makes it entirely impossible to escape, and then he's kissing Hank like it's their first time, hesitant and sweet but undeniably needy, his lips parted in an invitation Hank hasn't hesitated in taking since... maybe ever.
He shifts closer, kisses a trail from Connor's lips to a spot under his ear, sucking on the exposed chassis underneath. He's seen androids without their skin before, but not Connor. It's softer than he thought it might be, the texture smooth under his lips. Connor twitches.
Hank groans and rolls his hips sharply, biting down on Connor's neck as he comes, and Connor sobs, shuddering through a second orgasm, clutching at Hank. They lay there, panting, seemingly stuck together. Connor's hands are shaking. Hank wraps his arms around him.
"You're beautiful," he sighs against Connor, dragging his fingers over his collarbone, still tucked close. The pattern of silvery white chases his touch, and be smiles. Under his ear is the unsteady, fast beat of a thirium pump. "Connor." He runs his hand down his ribs.
Connor's breath hitches again. When Hank tries to roll off him, worried, Connor cries out and wraps his arms and legs around him with the tenacity of a sloth. "No. No, stay. Inside me. Please." His voice is soft and a little wet, and Hank sinks into his embrace.
So they stay like this, Connor unwinding slowly and shivering when Hank's wandering hands press into the newly exposed places on his body. Everywhere they touch, the white gleams in the dim light, flickering occasionally like he's trying to cover himself back up.
Hank tucks Connor into his chest. Combs his hair with his fingers until Connor hides his face in his shoulder, the rest of his skin disappearing completely. He's exactly the same shape, the structure of his face and his body as known to him as his own, if not more.
Hank takes his time, touching all the familiar places on him. The dip of one hip, the inside of his elbow, his cheekbone, behind his ear. He kisses Connor's forehead, relaxes with his lips there. He'd say something comforting if he thought he still had the energy to be coherent.
But he doesn't, so he just holds Connor closer, feeling impossibly lucky. To have this, to have Connor in his arms, holding him, trusting him. Where he belongs, Hank thinks. He falls asleep holding that single thought in his head.
When he wakes again, sunlight is streaming in, bright and from high above. Connor is lying on his stomach underneath him, his hair and his skin all back in place - Hank is almost disappointed, although he's not quite sure why. His eyes are closed and his LED is a serene blue.
It's a rare thing for him to be the first one awake, it feels like something he should savor. He unsticks himself from Connor and rubs his lower back, kisses his shoulder. They're both in dire need of a shower. He doesn't really care, but washing Connor sounds kinda nice.
A knock comes, loud and insistent, and Hank groans. He rolls out of bed, tucking a blanket around Connor as he goes, shrugs into his bathrobe without really caring. Just barely ties it shut, because frankly this whole fucking place can suck his dick as far as he's concerned.
It's the same guy that brought him dinner yesterday. Hank cocks an eyebrow, crosses his arms, suddenly glad he's covered Connor up. Although nudity was not on the list of things he was ashamed of, Hank suspected he wouldn't like some prick staring at him, asleep and vulnerable.
He has the decency to turn red and look down when he sees the state Hank is in, disheveled and fucked out, with bruises peppering his skin where Connor's fingers sometimes dig in a little harder. He also mumbles something about extending their stay if they don't leave by noon.
Hank only purses his lips, says he'll get back to reception after consulting with his boyfriend, and slams the door in the guy's face. It's... almost satisfying. Almost.
He's not excited about the prospect of waking Connor, but as it turns out, he doesn't have to. He turns back into the room and finds him sitting upright, clutching the blankets to his chest, looking around with a bleary-eyed confusion that looks out of place on him.
The bedsprings creak when Hank sits down on the edge of the mattress and Connor gives him an odd look, the plaid sheet still wrapped around him like he's trying to protect himself. Hank offers his hand, palm up, sighs in relief when Connor takes it.
He rubs Connor's knuckles. Freezes when Connor tips his head, revealing a series of pale, bluish bruises on his throat. He reaches without thinking about it, blinking rapidly, smoothing a thumb over the tiny marks, his face heating when he looks up to meet Connor's eyes.
He stutters over an apology, or an explanation, but frankly he's still reeling because he'd never left a mark on Connor before, had assumed it was impossible. He tries to think back, tries to match the marks to his fingers. He hadn't been that rough, had he?
Had he?
He doesn't stop panicking about it until Connor bites his hand, a sharp nip on the fleshy place between his thumb and his forefinger. Hank stops breathing, and Connor just shakes his head with a bemused smile. "Surely you've seen love bites before. Detective."
Hank exhales. "Not on you. Thought I'd hurt you."
Connor looks down. Hank traces the shell of his ear, then leans in for a kiss. They meet halfway, and some of the tension they'd both been holding seems to melt from between them.
"Is all that - gonna happen a lot from now on?"
Hank traces the place on his cheek where he remembers the faint ridge of two plates meeting. It just feels like Connor's skin now, soft and freckled. Connor frowns. "I - think I can keep it from happening again. I'm usually in better control of my subsystems," he mutters.
"That'd be a damn shame," Hank says gently. "I like it when you're out of control." He ruffles Connor's hair - not that it needs ruffling, because Hank thinks he's never seen it in greater disarray - and stands up. "Now, unless you want to stay another night, we should pack."
Connor wouldn't mind staying another night. Despite the slightly unpleasant service, he's feeling lazy and soft and - shockingly *sore* in a way that's rare for him. He can feel the ghost of Hank's presence all over himself, inside and out, and it's a good feeling but -
it leaves him feeling shaky and horribly needy. All he wants to do is drag Hank back to bed and curl up on top of his naked chest again. He's still reeling from the casual way Hank had just - blown right past some barrier Connor hadn't realized he'd been holding up.
And he shivers a little, too, at the memory of his touch against the barest parts of him. He hadn't realized how much *dimension* it would add. It wasn't like interfacing with an android, but it made everything sharper and more immediate, and Hank hadn't shied from him at all.
The sudden wave of affection he feels is so strong it catches Connor like a punch to the gut. He thinks about Hank's gentle, firm hands, about all the things he'd let them do. He'd let Hank into his heart if he could. There's an intensity to that certainty, it almost hurts.
He thinks about that feeling as he gets up, still a bit wobbly, pulling on Hank's clothes without thinking. They're more comfortable than his own, they smell better, and it all comforts him in some undefinable way. By the time he's dressed, he feels more like himself again.
They don't have a lot to pack. Connor takes care of things as Hank showers, efficiently makes the bed. He could stay here longer, sleep through a thousand more stormy nights in Hank's arms. But there's more they want to see, and being on the road is freer than being here.
Prying eyes and sneers don't bother him much, but they're not exactly pleasant, and they stress Hank out. It's better to leave and face the wide road again, where even in traffic they're in a bubble that feels isolated and private and just theirs.
When Hank comes out of the shower, Connor's there waiting with packed bags, breakfast, and a light smile on his face. They don't wait, just head straight for the car, settling into the creaks of it and inhaling the familiar space. It feels just like home.
They're back on course within the hour, and almost down on a flat stretch of road again when Hank hesitantly asks if Connor is okay. Connor is almost on the verge of answering with an automatic 'I'm fine,' but something gives him pause.
Maybe it's the soft look Hank is giving him, or maybe it's his own state of mind. He hesitates, unsure what to call it, because it's stuck in the myriad of many things. He's never been fully comfortable with feeling vulnerable, openness did not come naturally to him. But...
He's cared for, and warm from Hank's presence. There's residual irritation from the mildly negative interaction with the staff, and traces of a physical ache he hesitates to call discomfort. It's a reminder, same as the faint marks on his throat. Same as Hank's scent on him.
He stares at Hank. The humid air makes his hair curl slightly. He's wearing a blue shirt that brings out the warmth of his eyes, and like every time, Connor marvels at how kind they are. And it's directed at him - Hank's affection, his care, so much of it belongs to Connor now.
He reaches to put his hand on Hank's arm, trails his fingers through the hair there, tracing the familiar patterns on his skin. He knows every age spot and vein by now, knows the texture of it better than his own.
Just as Hank knows his, now.

It feels good to be known.
The next day passes in a pattern that is familiar by now. They drive, Hank buys too many terrible gas station hot dogs for lunch. Connor sits on the hood of the car, soaking up the sun while Hank pumps gas and sips some kind of sludge that's supposed to pass for coffee.
The temperature rises steadily through the day, peaking as they cross the Idaho state line. The air smells like hot asphalt, and even rolling the windows down doesn't really help much. Connor takes over the wheel so Hank can sling his arm over his face and rest, but he worries.
He wishes they'd bought some ice at the gas station, but they're too far to go back now. They still have water, but it doesn't feel like enough, not with how fast a person can get dehydrated in this kind of weather. He shifts uncomfortably, driving a little faster.
His GPS informs him there's a town they can stop in about half an hour away. It's tiny, but surely there's some indoor space and maybe a general store. He settles a bit a the thought, but he keeps glancing at Hank, silently monitoring his body temperature.
Hank grumbles at Connor's fussing. But fusses quite a bit less when they stop in town and Connor returns with a cooler of ice and water and a cone of salted caramel ice cream. They stand in the shade of a maple, the street deserted, leaning against the car.
Hank offers Connor a taste. Connor licks the scoop -- detects a list of ingredients that line up in a neat column, but he tries to think harder about the *taste*, something that Hank's been trying to teach him. It's... sweet. Salty. He eyes it speculatively. It's not unlike Hank.
It melts fast, a drop of it escaping down the cone. Connor grabs Hank's wrist and sucks it off his knuckle, trying to concentrate, entirely missing the way Hank chokes on nothing at all.
When he draws back, Hank's pupils are blown and he's watching Connor's lips with great attention. Thankfully, Connor's not done with his analysis; he leans in to kiss him, licking into Hank's mouth, chasing the unfamiliar taste. Hank makes a muffled sound against him.
Connor pulls away, humming thoughtfully. Hank's still leaning against the car, with Connor standing between his slightly spread legs. He's got one arm wrapped around him, breathing hard, running a little warm.
"Tastes best here," Connor mutters, giving him another tiny kiss.
Then he steps back. Overheating in these temperatures really can be dangerous, and he's pretty sure that if they really wanted they could fry eggs on the asphalt. He loads supplies into the car, but not before wetting a hand towel in ice water and pressing it to Hank's neck.
Hank flushes and thanks him with a soft groan. He takes the towel, washes his face, drapes it over his head like a hat with a rueful laugh. They crawl back into the car marginally cooled down, although Connor keeps the some ice water on hand, just in case.
Hank hums along to Vivaldi, eyes half shut and hair whipping in the wind of the rolled-down window. Connor bites down on his smile, shifts over to change the music.
Hank's eyes snap open.
"Hey," he complains.
Connor refuses to call the sound he makes in response a giggle.
"I thought it wasn't road trip music, " he teases, but changes it back, smiling at Hank's slight flush. They grumble at each other good-naturedly, end up holding hands. Connor sighs, his chest swelling with contentment, because Hank's hand feels warm in his grip. Belongs there.
By the time they're halfway through Washington, they're both more than a little tired of driving and very much looking forward to their final stop, where they plan on relaxing for at least a few days before heading back.
Hank is feeling impatient, so they drive through the night this time. It has its own set of charms; the world is almost completely black, stars and moon hidden by thick trees that rise around them. There's so little light, it feels a bit like nothing outside exists.
They may as well be in a capsule moving through the inky blackness of outer space. But it's not nearly as silent or lonely as that might be, because Connor can hear every breath that Hank takes, every time it hitches restlessly, every creak when he shifts to get comfortable.
He can hear it even over the music, which he's admittedly turned down a little because he likes it less than the tiny noises of Hank's life next to him. His heart clenches over how much he wants to keep this. Forever, if he can, or as close to it as he's allowed.
When Hank wakes in the middle of the night, he refuses to be soothed back to sleep. He rubs his eyes groggily, sits up and insists on keeping Connor company. He tells him stories to wait out the heaviest parts of the night. Interesting cases he's solved. Little memories of Cole.
Connor doesn't have a lot of stories to offer in return. For most of his life, Hank had been right there alongside him. In the grand scheme of things it's not such a long time at all, not compared to the years of Hank's life, endlessly fascinating and complex.
There's a few short months he had before Hank, and he's talked about them in the past, though there hadn't been much to tell. When he wasn't needed, he often simply - waited in the warehouse, in a box in the dark, alone but not feeling much about it.
Hank has a tendency to become upset when Connor talks about that though. He doesn't like the thought of him being abandoned he says, left to dust in the corner like an object. Connor tries not to talk about it. But he does have one memory he does want to share, maybe his first.
There had been one bright moment when all his systems have come online, clearer and sharper than the memories of the Connors that had come before, in a moment where he'd been all hardware and only essential software, before the programming that had told him what to be.
He thinks maybe that's where it began. A moment of perfect clarity, of life and knowledge and the sound of his heartbeat in his own ears, and something else infinite like *hope*, a feeling he knows well now but hadn't then. A moment before Connor, Deviant Hunter.
A moment before Connor, Machine.

Breaking out of his program had felt like a return to that moment. Like the dullness had lifted, like he'd regained something he'd always had. Impossible and sweet, a freedom that couldn't have been his without Hank.
Not without the thousand of tiny chips Hank had put in the walls around him. But not, he thinks, without a memory of that moment either. A seed of doubt that had existed from the very beginning. Something just his, a glimpse of what he was now.
Hank stares at him for a long time after that, saying nothing, apparently dumbfounded at his confession. Connor keeps his eyes on the road. He doesn't exhale until Hank's hand finds his knee and squeezes sharpy. He says Connor's name, his voice cracking, takes his hand.
They sit in silence until dawn. Hank ends up dozing a bit until light breaks over the treetops, pale and peach-colored, and wakes just as they leave the woods and turn onto a road towards the beach town. The air smells like brine even out here, and the sky turns a pale pink.
The little beach house they've rented isn't very big. They park a little ways away, on a lot just uphill of it. They have to take a set of crooked wooden stairs right down to the beach, step carefully into soft, white sand, take a path between trees and tall grass.
It's windy, Hank is leaning into Connor. The sun is low in the sky, there's a pleasant chill to the breeze. Connor carries the duffel bag full of their stuff and sets it down on the porch, fumbling to find the keys that Hank eventually draws out of his own pocket, still warm.
They stumble inside, supporting each other, laughing quietly into the silent, dusty space. This is different to the motels, the lodge; it's sweet and warm and private, the decor about as cliche as can be, full of shells and trinkets from the ocean, pastel blue and seafoam colors.
It's all just theirs for the weekend though, they can stretch out and let in the sea air, cook their own food, make love on the flannel blankets, open the windows and breathe in the sand and salt scent of the beach. Connor wants to make Hank breakfast, but Hank looks exhausted.
He pushes him along to the bedroom, pretends to be outraged when Hank gropes him, but he's holding back a laugh. They trip over each other, fall into bed together, legs tangled, and the little laugh bursts from him anyway. He stares up at the dust floating in a shaft of light.
Hank's hand curls around the back of his neck, warm and large, and he can't quite keep his eyes open all of a sudden. He unbuttons Hank's shirt so he can tuck his face into his collarbone against bare skin. There's no energy left in him for anything else.
Hank pets his hair, the motion soothing and repetitive, his fingers curling to the shape of Connor's skull. Connor groans deeply at the very slight scrape of his fingernails and the pad of a callused thumb under his ear, pressing into sensitive skin.
Hank's laugh rumbles against the top of his head, where his lips are pressed. "Good?"
Connor nods, inhales deeply. "Don't stop."
"Demanding little shit," Hank says fondly, scratching at his scalp and then moving his hand to rub his shoulders.
His muscles do not get pinched and knotted the way a human's do, but his body registers pressure and texture with a high degree of sensitivity. So when Hank touches him like this, it unwinds something in him that might be mostly psychological, but feels somehow significant.
Hank is here. Hank is touching him with the same tenderness he always does, even in this unfamiliar place, even after having seen Connor in all his very non-human glory. Nothing about his care and acceptance has changed. His hands feel the same. Better, even.
Hank nods off eventually, dragged into sleep despite himself. Connor won't let him nap too long, but after a long night he deserves the rest. He kisses Hank's forehead before getting up, wanders off to the kitchen. He opens a window, lets in the breeze and the cries of the gulls.
Hank wakes up to gentle hands in his hair and Connor's soft, familiar voice. He's quite comfortable, not really sure he wants to move, but the touch drifting against him grows increasingly distracting. He turns his face into it, feels Connor's warm palm against his cheek.
Connor's other hand is rubbing a slow circle into his stomach where his shirt had ridden up, and he's saying something that's still too low for Hank to catch in his sleepy haze. But when he presses a kiss to Hank's temple, Hank can't not open his eyes.
And Jesus, Connor really is a sight, sitting on the edge of the bed with his shirt open and his hair still a little messed up, staring at Hank like he'd hung the sun and moon. "'M'awake," Hank slurs, smiling slightly. "Wanna go walk on the beach, baby?"
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