And then Connor's nightmares come back
Connor jerks as he comes out of stasis, and looks frightened, then just confused.
Connor sits up, rubbing his eyes owlishly.
When Hank reaches to tuck the blanket around him, he flinches slightly.
"I know," Connor bites out, eyes closed, expression too casual to be genuine. "I'm fine. Let's sleep."
"Do you wanna talk about it?"
Hank's grateful. He's not good with words, especially like this.
The silence he gets in response doesn't feel very good.
"You can always talk to me," he says, thinking about how the not talking had poisoned his marriage. He doesn't want this to happen to them. "If you need anything -"
"Just - I'm fine, Hank. Really."
"Okay," he whispers.
So he just squeezes Connor's shoulder again and closes his eyes. Maybe in the morning things will be clearer. They can talk in the light of day, in the safety of sunlight, without an echo of Connor's pain quite this close.
Connor is home, and he's quiet.
They don't talk about it. Hank tries, but the words stick again. He just wants Connor to feel safe, to open up to him the same way Hank had, the way he could.
And that... That gives him a lot to think about.
Connor was not built for trust, and Hank - they didn't start this from the best of places.
He wonders whether Connor thinks about that as much as Hank does, sometimes. He remembers all too vividly.
Static crackles softly though the bedroom.
He thinks not.
It's hours before he lets his own eyes close. He keeps jerking awake to either sharper crackles coming out of various speakers, or a silence that's somehow worse. His hand finds Connor's fingers under the sheets.
And suddenly Connor is the one trying to soothe him, because Hank is maybe clinging a little harder than he meant to. It's not right.
"Yeah, baby," Hank says, kissing his forehead. "You're alright. You're right here. You're safe. I'm never letting you go."
"I'm not trying to shut you out. I want - I want to talk, I just - I can't - think about it yet."
"I know," Hank says, because he does. "I know, my love. There's time."
Hank cracks his eyes open.
Hank blinks. "Which bit?"
He swears that if Connor could flush, he would. He ducks his head just so, gaze flicking away, a gesture he can only call bashful.
Hank smiles. Connor's actually just too fucking cute. "If you say so."
The rest of the night, Connor seems to sleep just fine.
Hank would keep watch all night long if he could, but his very human body can't handle that for extended periods of time. He passes out despite himself, sometimes at inopportune moments when he stays up to meet the sunrise.
He starts sleeping less. Does a lot of reading well into the late night hours, or watches movies, or plays with Sumo.
He sits up, rubbing his face groggily, and Connor's voice is there, soft but clear.
"/I'm whatever you want me to be, Lieutenant./"
Hank pales as the picture fuzzes. He can't get his limbs to move.
He'd done that. Mere weeks after his activation, and before he got to experience anything even resembling kindness. And now it's a memory they both have to live with.
Then a flash, and there's nothing but sky and snow.
Hank bows his head and rests it on Connor's shoulder.
"Hank -- shh, it's okay. Wh'happened?"
Hank squeezes his eyes shut. He doesn't have the strength to explain, not really. He rubs his face against the curve of Connor's neck and selfishly tries to absorb his warmth.
"Don't be sorry," Connor mutters, kissing his sweaty temple. "Jus' come to bed."
When Hank touches his cheek, he sighs and closes his eyes, his mouth curving into a smile.
The dawn is just graying out the outside. Still too early to really be up. He thinks maybe that's good though. He's missed just cuddling Connor, because lately it's all been...
He curls his arm tighter around Connor's middle and gives him a brief kiss.
Connor seizes the opportunity with shocking enthusiasm.
"So it is," Connor says, kissing him, then his jaw, his neck, his fingers skimming up under Hank's shirt to touch his sides and his belly, to run through the hair on his body. Connor's always been handsy.
It didn't take long to figure out that Connor didn't see Hank's flaws the way Hank saw them at all.
Connor's already so close, and he's not shy about trying to get closer, tugging at Hank's clothes like they annoy him. It's graceless and awkward, but lovely.
Hank groans and flails to turn it off, and almost falls off the bed. Connor catches him with a light laugh and pulls him back from the edge, but Hank's phone leaps to the floor off the edge of the nightstand.
Hank stares up at the ceiling. He rubs his face. He's not sure why, but he sort of feels like crying.
"I've got it," Connor mutters, and reaches down to flip it off with pinpoint accuracy. He doesn't even look.
He looks over at Connor. He's ruffled from sleep, and his face is slack, still a bit tired.
Connor gives him a look. /That/ look. "Do you even have any sick days left?"
"Fine. I retire. Let's just go back to sleep."
Connor bends over him, presses a hand to the center of his chest. It feels sweet,
"It's weird when you do that," Hank grunts. But he's not really annoyed, and Connor can tell. He just rolls out of bed with another small smile.
Hank is suddenly cold, and the weight in his chest doubles.
"I might - I might actually stay home today," Hank says quietly. "I feel -" He's not actually sure what he feels. Like a drink, maybe, only he doesn't do that anymore. Or tries not to, anyway.
Connor's brow furrows in concern. Hank sighs, and turns away.
/Excuses,/ some unfriendly part of his brain hisses.
Hank looks over at him and raises an eyebrow.
Connor rubs the back of his neck, uncertainty in his eyes. "Maybe I'm tired, too."
Hank sits up. "Look, I didn't mean-"
"Let's just - go somewhere. It's going to be a nice day."
He calls in sick for them both. Fowler doesn't even sound infuriated, just sighs deeply.
When they come home, he slinks away like he's ashamed.
He finds him sitting on the edge of the bed, staring thoughtfully at his hands. He hardly looks up at Hank.
"You deserve today," Hank says without preamble.
"If you say 'fine'," Hank warns, "I might actually scream. You're not fine. And that's okay. -
And oh, the irony of Hank giving him this speech is almost too much, but thankfully Connor is smarter than Hank ever was. His shoulders slump, and he nods.
"You do," Connor says quietly. "You always do."
Hank would soften into a puddle if he could, but it's not the time for that. Later.
The room is dim and quiet, and in retrospect, maybe Hank should've gotten some scented candles or something. Made this a little romantic.
Hank loves how unabashed he is about his body. There's no shame in him, not about this, and Hank loves it.
He drags his hand up and down his back. Connor's skin is warm, smooth as silk, surprisingly soft.
"What is it?"
There's a long silence, during which Connor's fingers wind into Hank's long hair. "Thank you."
Hank grunts. "You've nothing to thank me for."
Connor sighs softly. Presses his lips to Hank's throat. "I just - I'm happy you're here. You stayed."
But then, it occurs to him how it must be for Connor, who's never had anyone before.
Connor rubs his face against his collarbone. "I'm sorry I've been keeping you up. And that I made you stay home from work. I -"
"It was /my/ idea, Connor," Hank says, voice low. "I needed it, too."
Hank huffs. "Do you have any idea how much work I missed before you came along? I was /this/ close to getting fired. I was spiraling. I don't need to tell you, you were there."
"I don't - want to drag you down with me."
"Sometimes," he says, "I worry we're too similar to each other, for our own good, you know?"
Connor shifts, looks up at him, brown eyes wide and warm. Hank strokes the bridge of his nose with his thumb.
"I know, love. Trust me, I understand." Hank kisses a freckle on his jaw. "You're doing just fine. I just want you to know I'm here."
Connor shifts a little, exposing his neck for better access, and Hank smiles.
Connor glances away, biting his lip.
Hank blinks rapidly. "You want to -"
"Yes, I just - I -" Connor rubs his face, expression a little pinched. "If that's okay with you, I mean. I just feel -"
Hank kisses his forehead. "You don't have to explain."
It hits Hank that he's /nervous./ Connor usually likes to be the one to take charge. Hank's not sure what it took took for him to ask this.
"Stupid question," he says. "I always want you, any way you'll have me."
"Connor." Hank tips his chin up and kisses him again, soft and slow, and long enough he almost forgets what he wanted to say. He draws back, smiles when Connor tries to follow him. "You're doing an awful lot of thinking right now."
Connor's breathing turns shallow.
Hank doesn't need to be asked twice. He pins Connor to the bed, grabs his calf to hook it over his hip, strokes his thigh. They kiss, gentle and unhurried, Connor's fingers twisting into Hank's hair.
And Hank, not liking the uncertainty on his face, is more than happy to oblige. In due time.
He takes his time preparing him, because even though he insists he doesn't need it, he's tenser than a bowstring
It's not until he's three fingers deep and leaking against Connor's thigh that it hits him.
Connor opens his eyes, looks at him, something warm and small and vulnerable in his gaze.
Hank presses a little deeper, nips his jaw. "You're perfect."
"I'm chatty in bed?"
Connor's eyes narrow. "Hank, maybe - ah - we should talk later. I - w-wait, do that again."
Then he sinks his teeth into Hank's shoulder. Not hard enough to break skin, not even close, but it's the kind of hard bite that stings and shoots straight through him.
"Fuck me, Hank." It comes out pleading more than bossy. Almost where Hank wants him.
He swallows dryly, withdraws his fingers, rubs Connor's hip when he moves restlessly. "Be good then. Roll onto your stomach for me."
Hank blinks. "I'm not going to hurt you."
Connor's expression twists. "I know, but I still-"
Hank just nods. Another feeling hits him, stronger than before. This time it's shame.
"Please, I don't want to talk. Please, just -"
Hank shakes his head. This, he can't quite let go. "No, I - I need you to know that I'd never, ever hurt you. Or do anything you're not up to. I'm not trying to push you, I just-"
You don't sleep anymore, is the problem, Hank almost says. But that's thinking, and perilously close to talking, and they can't have that. He quirks a small smile.
"I just like looking at you, Hank. That's all."
It doesn't feel like that's all, but he isn't going to press the issue.
He sighs and kisses him again. Tries to exude confidence and reassuring energy somehow, even though his heart feels strange in his chest.
"Nothing." Hank lowers his gaze. "Nothing's wrong."
Connor kisses his cheek. "Good, because I'm not finished with you."
Suddenly it's very easy again, even though a part of Hank still prickles with uncertainty. He rolls on top of Connor, feels his restless movements. They rock together.
"Perfect," he says, kissing Connor's exposed throat again.
"I've got you," Hank says, rocking closer, petting Connor's ribs, feeling their rapid rise and fall. "Look at me."
Connor cups Hank's face above him, and Hank drops his forehead to rest against his. His breath is warm. He smells like laundry soap.
So he tries to show him, not with words he doesn't have yet, but the reverence he touches Connor with, and with everything else he has.
He closes his eyes, contentment stealing over him.
Connor shivers and blinks slowly. His LED is a reassuring blue, but Hank grabs the edge of the blanket to tuck it around them both anyway.
He looks grateful for it, or at least satisfied. He sighs. "This is nice."
Hank thinks 'nice' is an understatement.
Connor smiles. "You're just trying to rope me into another movie marathon, aren't you?"
Hank's chest rumbles with a laugh. "Naturally."
Hank goes a little quiet. "Wow. You really must be exhausted."
"I have to be exhausted to want to spend time with you?"
Hank flushes. "No, but you never really -" he cuts off before he can put his foot in his mouth.
Hank sighs and rubs his face. "Nothing. It's not - it's fine. It's just, you never really... settle? There's nothing wrong with that, I just -" He cuts off, because he's just making it worse.
Hank winces. "I - I know I'm not good at keeping up sometimes, Connor. I'm just - you know. Just me. Old and tired -no, don't make that face. I just don't have the same energy you do, and that's fine. I'm just worried when you /don't/."
Hank noses into his hair. "Of course it is. But you worry about me, right? Goes both ways, love."
Connor seems to process this, then relaxes minutely, even though his LED completes a few turns on yellow. "Yes, but that's - not the same."
He thinks he understands. He sighs, ruffles Connor's hair, and sits up.
Connor's LED flashes red. "Hank?"
Hank rubs his back. "I won't be long. Just stay put."
The soft doubt in Connor's eyes kills him.
He shakes his head. "No, definitely chamomile."
Hank gives it a sniff and curses under his breath.
"This wouldn't happen if the cabinet as organized. The tea gets mixed up."
"Yeah, well, I like a surprise."
Connor laughs lightly.
"Let no one ever tell you that I'm not a romantic," he mutters. "See?"
Hank smiles. "I don't think so. This is nice, right? Look, the candles even smell like cinnamon. If it goes well, after dinner I'll take you home."
But for all his sophisticated, 'I'm a state-of-the-art prototype' ways, Connor has a massive sweet tooth, and ends up stealing half of Hank's frosting.
"You do make me feel better," Connor mumbles. His eyes are closed, and he's drifting at Hank's side.
He strokes the shell of Connor's ear. "I love you, you know? I'd do anything to make you happy."
Hank frowns, heart tripping over itself. "Was that not obvious?"
"It's just that - you've never said it before."
Hank scoffs. "Of course I have."
"I think I'd remember, Hank."
Hank's failed in the absolute worst way.
He needed to make Connor feel loved. And he had to use his fucking /words/, because sometimes Connor needed that. Sophisticated as his detective skills were, certainty was always safer.
Connor makes a soft huff of a noise and winds an arm around Hank's leg, pressing his face into it, like he's hugging a teddy bear. His hand rests lightly on Hank's inner thigh, right above his knee. "It's okay."
"Hank, it's not like I didn't know. I just didn't think you'd ever actually say it."
Connor traces a soft circle into his skin. "Hank. It doesn't matter."
Hank laughs bitterly. "It does. You should've heard it before now."
Hank flushes. "That's not the point. I can't believe - you deserve better than that. You deserve to hear it from me, especially - after everything we've been through."
Hank weaves his fingers through the soft tufts of his hair, dismayed, wondering if this is one of those things that he just - can't explain, no matter how hard he tries.
He takes a deep breath. "Yeah, well. Guess I'm an old sap."
Connor's embrace tightens slightly. "Maybe, but I wouldn't trade you for anything."
"Hank? Don't cry."
He sniffs again. "'M'not. Got something in my eye."
Connor pets his leg, slow and soothing. Hank squeezes his eyes shut and exhales through his nose.
"Yeah," Hank manages, his voice thick. "We are."
Hank shoves down the frantic part of his brain. Looks around for a note, and when he finds nothing, he shucks his coat on, heart in his throat, and makes for the door.
Connor is immediately on high alert. “What happened?”
Hank slumps awkwardly against the door. He’d laugh, if he didn’t feel so stupid. “Nothing.”
Connor gives him a measured stare. He can see the frustration simmering behind the placid facade again, and it twists something in Hank's chest. Hard. His voice shakes when he manages to squeeze out the quiet 'sorry.'
"I appreciate your concern, but I can take care of myself, and -"
Hank turns sharply away, something jagged making itself known with every hard thump of his heart. "I just woke up. Wasn't thinking."
"I'll wake you next time. You just looked so tired, I thought -"
Connor frowns. "Where did you /think/ I went?"
"I didn't. I just - I saw you weren't there, and flipped out. Let's just forget about this, okay?"
He also comes to the uncomfortable conclusion that he has to do something about this.
Connor's mouth quirks uncertainly. "You'd be bored out of your mind before the week was over."
Hank forces a tight smile. "Probably."
Maybe it was just... time. He's been tired for a while, long before he met Connor. Maybe even before Cole's death, although he hadn't seen the signs back then.
And besides, it's not like he hates work.
He sighs. "When I had nightmares like yours, I used to leave the house in the middle of the night to drink overlooking the water and daydream about not having to suffer anymore.
Connor blinks at the confession, the clear implication in it. He leans in to wrap his arms around Hank's middle. "Yeah, Hank. Of course."
He presses his nose into Connor's hair. "Okay."
Connor's shoulders slump. "No one can help me."
"What if you're wrong?"
Connor steps away, looking defeated. "They're just dreams. They scare you more than they scare me."
"What, like a therapist?" Connor looks almost offended. Hank wants to bang his head against the door. It's like taking a very uncomfortable look in the mirror.
"I'm an android. It doesn't work that way. This is just - an unfortunate bug. It'll resolve on its own eventually. My software just needs a chance to - process everything." He doesn't sound too sure of himself.
Hank squeezes his shoulder.
Connor's eyes soften, and he presses a brief kiss to Hank's lips. "I always need you."
/I need you, too,/ Hank almost says, but he's trying to be Connor's rock right now. He needs to be there for him, stronger than he feels.
They've had a good day, closed a case, then celebrated by leaving work early and going to see a movie.
He wakes up to a different sound, although it takes him too much time to process what it actually is.
He sits up, heart in his throat. "Baby?"
It's worse than before. It's never been this hard to wake him.
"Hank?" Connor breathes, small and confused. "I - Hank?"
"What do you need, love?"
He's too warm. Hank runs a hand up and down his back and feels a static crackle, and Connor just whimpers again, trying to curl himself closer to Hank's chest.
"Try to breathe for me."
Hank fucking breaks.
Hank tries to find his voice. "Just talk to me, love. Please. I'm here."
Connor sniffs again. The air smells a little like plastic and ozone. "D-don't go anywhere, okay?"
"I've got you. Staying right where I am." He rubs a circle between Connor's shoulders.
"I know," Hank chokes out. "I know, baby. Let me carry some of this for you for a while, hm? I can handle it."
Connor sobs into his chest. "I can't."
"Sure you can," Hank says. "You don't have to do this alone. I know I'm not much, but I-"
"I didn't mean it that way," Hank says, at a loss. "I just want you to lean on me. I don't know what to do to help. You won't tell me."
A yawning pit opens up somewhere in Hank's chest again. It makes his eyes sting and his insides feel knotted up. He wants to soak Connor's pain up like a sponge.
"I'm here. I just... want you to feel safe. To trust me."
"Not with this," Hank says quietly, hurt sneaking into his voice despite himself. "I know it's hard, but - it's hard for me, too. I don't know why you won't talk to me. I - is there something I - should be doing, or something I'm doing wrong?"
Hank pets his hair. "I'll protect you," he says, trying to smile. As if he can protect an android that could fold him into an origami crane.
"Humans heal. What if I can't?"
"No," Connor says, eyes squeezing shut. His voice sounds pained. "No, I can't - I can't go back there. I can't, Hank."
"They're going to take me apart," he rasps quietly. "I'm faulty. You don't know what they'd do to find the error. You don't know how it feels."
He kisses Connor's temple. "I'm not going to push you, but you know I'd never let that happen, right?"
That's enough for Hank, at least for now, so he breathes a quiet, "Good" against Connor's skin. He can feel him sinking a little deeper into their embrace.
He thinks maybe their conversation's run its course for now.
"Worse," Hank says groggily. "I've never seen you this upset."
Connor shudders like he's shaking off the memory. "There was a blizzard. Couldn't see a thing. Couldn't find you."
Hank rubs his lower back.
It also makes sense. It's been almost a year, and the snow is returning.