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Guuuuyyyyys I'm sure I'm not the first one to think of this, but what if like... When Connor has nightmares, he doesn't just *experience* them, he projects them into household electronics by accident?
So like, he has bad dreams over all the shitty times he was hurt or killed, and Hank wakes up to static, voices, gunshots on his TV, blurry and poorly defined first person images. He legit thinks he's being haunted until he figures it out.
He catches on when he realizes all the memories are bad, that he's in some of them, that Connor's voice crackling over the speakers is closer than all the others. He wakes Connor up, freaked the hell out, and just holds him tightly enough to make him creak from the pressure.
He probably manages to soothe Connor back down into shallow, but blessedly dreamless sleep, and spends the next half hour curled around him, face pressed to Connor's back, trying to cry quietly enough to not wake him. There are sounds he can't get out of his head now.
He's not sure what to do, and whatever the 'right' response is, he's sure crushing Connor to his chest with completely selfish desperation isn't it. It doesn't seem to matter. His body's taken over anyway and doesn't plan on letting Connor go, ever.
When Connor wakes properly, he's almost forgotten the nightmares. He's a little surprised to find that Hank is clinging to him so hard he can't detangle himself, and that his face is puffy and pink and his cheek tastes of salt when Connor wiggles around to kiss it.
I'm not sure Connor realizes those tears were for him. He just thinks Hank had one of his worse nights, feels some combination of sadness and pride because he likes being the first thing Hank had turned to when he was sad, for once. So he lets Hank hold him a little longer.
Hank wakes up to an empty bed and almost has a panic attack until he realizes he can smell pancakes. It takes him a good few minutes to compose himself. Now that he's awake again, all he can think about is - those things he saw. Heard. There's a sharp, defined ache in his chest.
They don't talk about it that day. He wants to, but Connor's soft, sweet smile when he greets him as he comes into the kitchen tells him all he needs to know. He doesn't want to ruin his good mood, or make him relive something unpleasant that's lying buried somewhere deep.
For a few days he almost thinks he won't ever have to bring it up. Connor doesn't question why Hank is suddenly this clingy, why he insists on sleeping in a much tighter embrace, even when the weather outside gets hot, why he kisses Connor with such desperate reverence.
He sleeps soundly and deeply, even though Hank does not. Hank's not sure he'll ever catch another wink, actually. He drops off eventually, exhausted by the newfound vigilance. For two nights, things almost seem to drift back to normal.

And then Connor's nightmares come back
Hank is sorely tempted to throw the TV, phone and radio out the goddamn window, but he doesn't want to get up, and even worse, doesn't want to shut this off in some twisted way. Connor's never, ever talked about the worse things he's been through. He shuts down at any questions.
This, horribly, is the first real glimpse Hank had gotten into his past, into his mind, and he has to wonder how Connor had stayed sane.what little flickers across his screens has his gut churning with dread and sympathy and pain.
He wakes Connor again, this time waiting for him to come out of a nightmare that had a shocked, aborted gasp of pain playing on a loop over his sound system. Connor's. It's almost always Connor's.

Connor jerks as he comes out of stasis, and looks frightened, then just confused.
Hank wants to squeeze him, and kiss him, and tell him that nothing will ever hurt him again. But he also can't lie to Connor, so he just moves a little closer, tries to remind Connor where he is, touching his slender wrist.

Connor sits up, rubbing his eyes owlishly.
He doesn't seem to come back into himself properly until Hank sits by him, arm low around his waist, and rest his chin tiredly on his shoulder. It's support for Hank as much as Connor, but it returns him to some familiar state. He looks at Hank, expression worn.
Hank asks him what he'd been dreaming about, even though he's more afraid of the answer than he can say. Connor just stiffens, apologizes for waking him up, and lies back down on his side.

When Hank reaches to tuck the blanket around him, he flinches slightly.
"You're safe with me," Hank manages. "I'm not gonna hurt you, okay?"

"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.
This feels like it matters, and he's afraid of saying the wrong thing. He's pretty sure he's hurt Connor enough for one lifetime. So he just Les down next to him and squeezes his shoulder in a way he hopes is reassuring.

The silence he gets in response doesn't feel very good.
Hesitantly, he forces out the words clamoring around inside of him.

"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."
It hurts to recognize the lie, one he'd told just as often, to himself and to people who cared about him. Connor says it with the same tight-lipped stubbornness, and Hank thinks he can hear the thread of a familiar hurt underneath.

"Okay," he whispers.
He's not sure what else there is for him to say.

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.
He falls asleep, into his own restless dreams. He doesn't remember them when he wakes.

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.
But when the morning comes and goes in silence, and the day passes with the same cool, uneventful quiet, he starts to consider the possibility that the trust, the deep comfort he feels around Connor, is not entirely reciprocated.

And that... That gives him a lot to think about.
It's hard not to take it personally, even though he knows, he understands why.

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.
With the distant way Connor's been acting, he half expects to be left alone in bed for the night. But to his surprise, and a pleasure he tries to squash, Connor crawls under the sheets next to him as always. His lashes are low, but he's facing Hank at least.
Hank reaches out to stroke his hair, watches his eyes flutter entirely shut. He wants Connor to feel safe, at least, so he keeps touching him as he drifts off. Offering what little comfort Connor is willing to accept.

Static crackles softly though the bedroom.
Hank's not sure what he expects that night, and he stiffens instinctively in fear of it, but for a long time, there's nothing overt, nothing terrifying. The dreams don't intrude, or at least, they're not strong enough to break whatever was in place around Connor's mind before.
He's not sure if that's a relief or not.

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.
A gunshot rings out, bright and loud in the soft silence of their bedroom, and Connor flinches, then comes awake with shocking abruptness, clawing at the sheets and struggling for purchase, like he's afraid of falling. Hank grabs him, trying to calm his flailing, shushing.
It takes Connor a second, but at least he comes back. Hank curls around him like a pretzel, stroking his side and trying to keep his own breathing steady and soothing for Connor to match, but it's not exactly easy when it keeps catching in his chest.
"I'm okay, Hank," Connor whispers hoarsely into his hair, and Hank can't really hold back the rough sound of denial that escapes him.

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.
Hank needs to be his rock right now, not the other way around. Problem is, lately it's been Connor that made him feel any kind of strong. Connor who shoved and kicked his way into Hank's life and somehow brought sunlight with him. And Hank can't lose him. He just can't.
"You don't have to talk about it if you don't want to," he says, the words rough, spilling from him with no grace or pretense. "But I'm here for you, Connor. I'm just - fuck, I'm shit at this, but I'm here. I'm not going anywhere, and if you need me -"
Connor, thank God, nuzzles closer to him. He doesn't speak, but his arms tighten around Hank, and although his artificial breathing calms once again into something resembling 'normal,' he still shivers occasionally, like he's either cold or remembering things he doesn't want to.
"I'm okay, Hank," he says. Hank briefly wants to be frustrated, but then the tone of his voice really hits him, the almost-question in it.

"Yeah, baby," Hank says, kissing his forehead. "You're alright. You're right here. You're safe. I'm never letting you go."
Connor squeezes him harder. Hank rubs his back up and down, then turns slightly to whistle for Sumo. Thankfully, the giant goof is still awake and pads into the bedroom. He needs little invitation to jump into the bed and curl up behind Connor.
Connor giggles softly when Sumo licks his ear, reaches up with easy affection to scratch his neck behind his collar. Hank relaxes slightly. Even more so when Connor's fingers curl into his shirt and stay there, close but no longer clutching desperately.
"Hey, Hank?" Connor whispers when Hank's almost asleep somehow.


"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.
"Say that again?"

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.

"Never mind."

Hank smiles. Connor's actually just too fucking cute. "If you say so."
But just as Connor sighs - a little wistfully - and relaxes again, Hank strokes his cheekbone and says, "Goodnight, love."

The rest of the night, Connor seems to sleep just fine.
It doesn't last, of course.
Over the next few nights, the nightmares come and go.

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.
Connor's nightmares haunt Hank one way or another, in his own dreams, or when he's awake but Connor's napping. The static hiss sets him on edge, but he can't always wake him then, because sometimes it fades to nothing and Connor catches precious, peaceful sleep.
They still don't talk about it. Connor evidently tries sometimes, but can't quite force the words out, and Hank doesn't want to press before he's ready.

He starts sleeping less. Does a lot of reading well into the late night hours, or watches movies, or plays with Sumo.
Hank sometimes naps when he's awake. But sometimes Connor's exhaustion claims him then anyway, and Hank wakes to a slideshow of horror on his TV. He usually trips his way to the bedroom as quickly as he can, heart aching and chest tight.
But one afternoon, he glances at the screen, and sees himself.

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.
Hank barely remembers that night. He does remember drinking though. And the snow settling in Connor's hair. And his own hands shaking, and the cold metal of the trigger under his finger. It's a memory he tried to bury deep. It had almost worked.
It's different like this though. Seeing the sneer on his own features, and staring down the barrel of his gun.

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.
The images on the TV blur and jump oddly, too fast to catch every frame, although Hank has no doubt Connor is processing every single one. First the gun lowers. Then Hank turns. Then he's there again, closer, but angry.

Then a flash, and there's nothing but sky and snow.
Hank drops his face into his hands, misses the scene shifting again, the snow thickening, the gun reappearing and disappearing, the flickers of things that were and weren't. He swipes furiously at his eyes, catches a glimpse of his own face close, to close, and Connor backing up.
He wrenches his eyes away and speedwalks for the bedroom. Connor's face is oddly still, brow only a little furrowed. He gasps when Hank shakes him awake, sits up abruptly, cupping his face between his warm, very gentle hands.

Hank bows his head and rests it on Connor's shoulder.
"I'm sorry," he chokes out. "I'm so sorry."

"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.
"I'm sorry," he says again, tiredly, because he feels like he has so little energy left. He's sleep deprived and exhausted and whatever he's feeling, Connor must have it a thousand times worse.

"Don't be sorry," Connor mutters, kissing his sweaty temple. "Jus' come to bed."
Hank should really protest. But Connor's grip on him is impossible to escape, and he gets dragged down like a sailor into the depths of the ocean before he even knows what's happening. Connor's hands in his hair are gentle. His voice is low, and whispers reassuring things.
By the time Hank pulls himself together, Connor is tucked against his chest, deeply asleep once again. If he's dreaming, it's of nothing more than the occasional bursts of indecipherable static. Hank burrows under the blankets and lets himself nod off. Just for a little while.
In the morning, he's surprised to find that Connor is awake but not up, still curled up in Hank's arms. It's not a very common occurrence. Connor tends to either sleep in until late or rise with the sun, but either way he never indulges in just lying in bed and rising slowly.
The second his eyes open is the second usually immediately before his feet hit the floor, but this time he's on his side, sheets rumpled around him, his face soft as he stares at Hank.

When Hank touches his cheek, he sighs and closes his eyes, his mouth curving into a smile.
It's a small one, but Hank will take it. He loves every single smile of Connor's, he's not picky.

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...
Well, all been tainted somehow, tinged with his fear of Connor's dreams and his pain, colored with a tension that had no place between them.

He curls his arm tighter around Connor's middle and gives him a brief kiss.

Connor seizes the opportunity with shocking enthusiasm.
And with the spark that comes with Connor's single-minded search for more, he's reminded that another thing they'd lost lately was - well, this. Hank was usually too tired and stressed. Connor was, too, and somewhere amidst the worry they'd lost an intimacy that had felt vital.
"Morning," Hank mumbles, quiet against Connor's soft, parted lips.

"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.
Contact is where he finds reassurance, so Hank learned quickly not to deny him the comfort of it, even if he'd been a little shy to offer his body up for scrutiny at first.

It didn't take long to figure out that Connor didn't see Hank's flaws the way Hank saw them at all.
And even though it still filled Hank with a thread of apprehension sometimes, Connor's very obvious care and reverence had a tendency to wash away his doubts and replace them with a warm glow, the strength of which never failed to surprise him. It didn't feel... allowed.
This didn't either. Not with how nice, and how peaceful it felt in the stolen moment before daytime fully intruded.

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 helps out. He rolls on top of Connor and yanks his own shirt over his head, then gently peels Connor out of the flannel he'd borrowed. And then kisses him again, just for good measure, sighing when Connor makes a muffled sound and wraps his arms around him.
His hands are everywhere, but there's nothing urgent about it, nothing but soft appreciation in his touch. Hank closes his eyes and ends up nuzzling closer, wrapping a slender leg around his hip while Connor nips at his throat. And it still just feels - good, and warm.
And then the alarm makes them both jump, blaring like a goddamn siren.
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.
The siren continues to blare, slightly more muffled than before.

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.
The silence is first a relief, but then immediately far too loud. Last night fully I trusted again, and Hank forgets whatever warm feeling was in his chest a second ago.

He looks over at Connor. He's ruffled from sleep, and his face is slack, still a bit tired.
"We should take the day off," Hank says quietly. "Call in sick."

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,
or it would, if his lips didn't immediately quirk into an infuriating little grin. "Your heart rate is only slightly elevated. Your temperature is normal." He leans in, presses a kiss to Hank's lips and lingers there, tasting, and Hank almost forgets why. "No sign of illness."
But he kisses him again anyway, just to be sure, he says.

"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.
He shouldn't do this, should know better than to think this works, but the thought of getting out of bed and facing work and Fowler and Reed and paperwork is suddenly overwhelming. He's just so tired, and his back hurts, and -

/Excuses,/ some unfriendly part of his brain hisses.
"Hey," Connor says gently, sitting back on the edge of the bed. Hank wants to sink into the warm understanding in his voice, even as it makes him bristle. "I've been keeping you up. Maybe... Maybe a day off would do us both good."

Hank looks over at him and raises an eyebrow.
He grunts. "You're gonna enable my lazy ass for once? Holy shit, hell must be frozen over."

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."
Hank nods carefully. Connor's never wanted to skip work before. He's not sure if it means he's doing better, growing into those tiny, selfish, human wants, learning to accept them and to do things for himself, or if it's because he's so exhausted he's at the end of his rope.
It doesn't really matter, he thinks. Hank was going to throw a party the first time Connor asked him for something, and after the night they've both had, now is as good a time as any.

He calls in sick for them both. Fowler doesn't even sound infuriated, just sighs deeply.
They end up going for a walk. They take Sumo with them and go down to the river, take a stroll in the pale, gentle sunlight before the world fully wakes. They make their way to the park and sit in the shade of a weeping willow overlooking the water, arms linked.
Connor is unusually clingy. He's not generally one for a lot of PDA, but he doesn't let go of Hank for a second, not even when he plays fetch with Sumo. When they rest, he sits with his cheek pressed to Hank's arm.

When they come home, he slinks away like he's ashamed.
Hank has his own theories regarding the reason, and a few potential solutions. He aches to follow him and reassure him, chest tight with sympathy, but first he has to shower and take five minutes to gather up his scattered thoughts. He figures Connor might like that, too.
By the time he comes out from under the hot spray, he feels a little more human, and his heartbeat is steady. He goes to find Connor, because it's past time to fix this.

He finds him sitting on the edge of the bed, staring thoughtfully at his hands. He hardly looks up at Hank.
Hank shuts the door. Makes a show of locking it loudly, even though they're alone and Sumo has not yet figured out how to twist a doorknob. This does seem to pique Connor's interest, and his eyebrows quirk upwards.

"You deserve today," Hank says without preamble.
"You've been working non-stop. You have a demanding, stressful job - no, no, Con, I would know. Maybe your body can take it, but your mind just needs a fuckin' break."

"I'm -"

"If you say 'fine'," Hank warns, "I might actually scream. You're not fine. And that's okay. -
You don't even have to tell me what's eating at you if you're not ready, but you have to at least let me take care of you."

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.
Hank breathes a quiet sigh of relief. "Good boy," he says, forcing levity into his tone. "Why don't you lie down. I want to help you relax."

"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.
Connor lies back against the pillows and stares up at his outstretched hands, patiently waiting for Hank to finish raiding his closet. He grabs a few towels, draws the curtains, and sits down on the edge of the bed, rubbing the center of Connor's chest. He can feel his heartbeat.
It's fast and strong under his hand. Slows slightly when Hank leans in, brushes his hair back and starts unbuttoning his shirt.

The room is dim and quiet, and in retrospect, maybe Hank should've gotten some scented candles or something. Made this a little romantic.
But mostly he just wants some of their morning back, and he suspects Connor doesn't really want anything else either. He just smiles sleepily and lets Hank undress him.

Hank loves how unabashed he is about his body. There's no shame in him, not about this, and Hank loves it.
Not that he could ever have anything to be ashamed of in that department, but his ease with his own nakedness - and Hank's - is somehow soothing, so Hank doesn't feel too bad about letting his bathrobe and towel drop to the floor. Even if the back of his neck does prickle a bit.
"Come on. Roll onto your stomach for me," he mutters, lips twitching when Connor obeys wordlessly and pillows his head on his arms, tilting his head a little to look at Hank.

He drags his hand up and down his back. Connor's skin is warm, smooth as silk, surprisingly soft.
He's a little firmer than his build would indicate, his synthetic muscle harder than human flesh, but not - not entirely hard, either. Before he got a chance to touch, Hank had thought it would be like touching a ken doll, but it wasn't. Not with how Connor responded to this.
Because - he groans softly as Hank rubs his back and traces the curve of his spine, and relaxes so beautifully under the gentler touch that Hank can't quite - he can't /not/ lie down next to him, just to be closer, just to wrap an arm around him and kiss his temple.
Connor shifts to his side, places a hand against the center of Hank's chest. His fingertips almost burn. He's always run so much warmer than Hank expected. It's like holing a flame in his arms. Even when he's exhausted, it fills him with something very similar to energy.
"Hey, Hank?"

"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."
His first instinct is to shrug off the statement - of course he's here. Where else would he be? No matter how rough it's been the last few weeks, this is where he belongs now.

But then, it occurs to him how it must be for Connor, who's never had anyone before.
He rests his hand on Connor's lower back, traces circles and figure-eights into his skin. "This is where I want to be," he says. "Every moment I spend with you, it's -" he cuts off, because he doesn't want to put his foot in his mouth. Put too much on Connor all at once.
He rests his chin on top of Connor's head and hums. "Of course I'm here, baby."

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."
Connor shivers against him. "Only because of me."

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."
It's almost a whisper, and it makes Hank's heart clench again.

"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.
"Jen and I - we never talked. That was mostly my fault. I never wanted to burden her with the shit I brought home." Hank shrugs, a little awkwardly. "Thought it was for the best. Turns out it made me act like an asshole, and it just made her feel - shit, I don't know. Lonely."
Connor's arms tighten around him. "I don't want to hurt you."

"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.
They've both been too exhausted for this recently - and maybe it's still not an answer, it won't fix everything, but it's still a familiar, lovely comfort. Connor's hum is a low, pleased sound, his hands roam, and when Hank touches him, he arches closer and kisses him hard.
If it's a distraction, it's a damn good one. Maybe what they need - is something to make them not think for a little while. And fuck - Hank's missed this, he's missed how responsive Connor is, how enthusiastic once he gets going, not a shred of shyness in him. Not about this.
Only this time - Hank's brow furrows a little - his kisses are softer somehow, hesitant in a way they've never been before; not even their first time. He pulls back a fraction, just to look at Connor, just to make sure everything's alright.

Connor glances away, biting his lip.
"Could we - Hank, could we maybe switch it up tonight?"

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."
"But you /want/ to, right?" he asks, looking almost distressed.

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."
"Yes, but -"

"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.
"No," he mutters softly against Hank's lips. "No thinking. Just touch me."

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.
The little tug of it sends heat down his spine, prickling at his skin. He can pinpoint the exact moment Connor gets out of his own head and relaxes. Hank sighs contentedly against Connor's parted lips, then his neck when he kisses his way down behind his ear.
It's warm and good like this between them, and whatever doubts have been swimming around in Hank's head dissolve with the soft sounds Connor makes. They're easy to get lost in. Connor, with only the slightest encouragement, quickly learns not to hold back, even like this.
He's breathing hard, the occasional exhale turning into a low moan as Hank teases him. Any traces of shyness vanish, and a pleasant sort of confidence surges through Hank. Connor, on occasion, very much likes to lie back and let him do the work.
Hank can't say that he minds. Connor's collected demeanor falls apart into the most beautiful fragments, and he's never had trouble telling him as much. So when he touches him, and Connor bites his lip and arches up off the bed, praise flows naturally.
"I like it when you let me take care of you," Hank says quietly, nose skimming against Connor's ear. He loves being this close, not that it's ever enough. He loves how Connor's trust feels and tastes, and how his fingers press into Hank's back to drag him closer.
Connor's breath hitches. "Hank. Please? I want you inside me. Please."

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
And it's not entirely selfless, because watching Connor's face and kissing away his gasps as he rocks onto Hank's fingers might just be his favorite thing in the world.

It's not until he's three fingers deep and leaking against Connor's thigh that it hits him.
"Hey," he breathes, damp against Connor's cheek, something sparking behind his eyelids. "You with me, Connor?"

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."
Connor huffs, close to frustrated, groans when Hank does something inside of him that makes his eyes roll back in his head. "Then why are you still talking?"

"I'm chatty in bed?"

Connor's eyes narrow. "Hank, maybe - ah - we should talk later. I - w-wait, do that again."
Hank does, laughing quietly against the curve of his shoulder when Connor gasps and thrusts his hips up.

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," he hisses. "Con-"

"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."

Connor hesitates.
"I think I'd rather see you," he admits after a drawn-out pause. Shifts uneasily. "Feels- safer."

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.
"Connor," he chokes out. "You know I'd never-"

"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-"
"Hank," Connor says, pointed but gentle. "Do you think I'd sleep next to you if I didn't feel safe around you?"

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 guess not."

"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.
Connor seems to notice though, because he shifts so he can better look at him for a moment, and brushes hair behind Hank's ear. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing." Hank lowers his gaze. "Nothing's wrong."

Connor kisses his cheek. "Good, because I'm not finished with you."
Hank hums, but has to smile when Connor goes for another kiss, then another, dragging Hank down into his arms.

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.
Hank forgets what he was thinking so hard about, because Connor's mouth and hands and teeth are all on him again, and a smooth calf is draped over his thigh, and Connor's body is warm and welcoming, the look on his face open and needy. Hank wants to be everything Connor needs.
Sinking into him feels Iike an answer to some unspoken question though, and it's got to be an answer they both like, because Connor wraps his arms around Hank and sighs in relief, and Hank just... sees stars.

"Perfect," he says, kissing Connor's exposed throat again.
Connor whines softly. "Hank."

"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.
It's not graceful, maybe, but it feels like everything. It's comforting to have Connor under him, his hands on his skin, his taste on his lips. More than just feeling good, it feels /right/, and Hank would have to think hard about the last time that had happened.
For a long time, nothing had felt right in his life at all. Connor is exceptional in that way too, and in never fails to inspire awe I'm him.

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.
It doesn't feel like enough, but Hank figures the answer must be somewhere in the trying.
Connor comes suddenly and hard, clenching around Hank in every possible way, burying his face in his shoulder and making a sweet, muffled sound not unlike a sob. Hank holds him through it. Eases him down, slows his movements, presses a series of tender kisses to his jaw.
"Don't stop," he pants, so Hank doesn't. He follows Connor over the edge a couple of lazy thrusts later, spilling deep inside him with a harsh sound he can't quite hold back. Connor doesn't seem to want him to, either. He keeps Hank close, rubbing his hair like he's petting Sumo.
Hank can't even think about parting, so he stays right where he is, tucking his face into the crook of Connor's neck. He used to think Connor didn't smell like much but it's not strictly true. He smells clean, synthetic, like brand new electronics when Hank nuzzles close enough.
It used to be the sort of smell he associated with waking into a Cyberlife store, or opening a factory-sealed box with a laptop inside it. Now it just makes him hard. It means being awfully close to Connor's bare skin.

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.
"Let's just stay like this for the rest of the day," he mumbles against Connor's shoulder. "And night. Actually all week would be nice, too."

Connor smiles. "You're just trying to rope me into another movie marathon, aren't you?"

Hank's chest rumbles with a laugh. "Naturally."
He sighs, soft and wistful. "It sounds nice, to be honest."

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.
Too late, of course. Connor turns, eyebrows shooting up. "I never really what?"

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.
Connor pouts. "You just /what/, Hank?"

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/."
Connor huffs. "It's allowed."

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."
Hank sighs deeply, wraps an arm around him, and drags him flush against his chest. "Trust me," he says, kissing his cheek. "It's the same."
Connor flashes him a smile, but it's a pale ghost of any good feeling.

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.
But he knows that some days just suck, and those can't always be fixed. Staying home, sex - they're good distractions, but that's all they are, and between the moments of feeling there's some hollows that can leave one feeling remarkably low. He just wishes Connor didn't know.
He only leaves for a moment. He puts on hot water, because Connor likes the smell of Hank's tea, and digs around the fridge for a slice of leftover red velvet cake. He grabs a book off the counter, his favorite vinyl for relaxing before bed, and a few candles from the cabinet.
He's back maybe five minutes later. Connor's lying on his belly, arm outstretched and touching the cooling sheets on Hank's side of the bed. Hank quiets his steps, convinced he's fallen asleep, until Connor turns a little to look over at him.
He sniffs. "Chamomile."

"Sage, actually."

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.
Hank sets down his tea, turns the music on, and flops heavily down onto the bed. Connor rolls towards him and presses his face to his thigh as he sets the candles down on a plate and lights them.

"Let no one ever tell you that I'm not a romantic," he mutters. "See?"
Connor snorts. "While I appreciate you setting the mood, I think we may have done our date backwards."

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."

Hank points to the slice of cake. Fights down a smile when Connor laughs again, a little warmer than before.

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.
"Listen," Hank says later, as they sit in the guttering, orange glow. "I know I can't fix this for you, or make you feel better, but if you need me, for anything, ever, I -"

"You do make me feel better," Connor mumbles. His eyes are closed, and he's drifting at Hank's side.
"Yeah, well. I try." Hank looks up at the ceiling, squeezes Connor's bare shoulder. "I figure, bringing you tea and cake is the least I can do, right?"


He strokes the shell of Connor's ear. "I love you, you know? I'd do anything to make you happy."
Connor's eyes snap open to meet Hank's. His LED completes a slow, colorful cycle. "You do?"

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 frantically searches his memory, because that can't be right. He thinks about all the times he'd called Connor 'love', and all the desperate, affectionate confessions, but now that he thinks about it, the simplest form of the declaration is indeed not there.
Hank's never been a very declarative person. He'd agonized over the first time he felt it was okay to call Connor a pet name. Over their first hug, their first kiss, first time. Over the time he'd asked him, choked up, if he would like to move in. Each moment was etched on him.
He remembers the feeling, the certainty, the little - and large - things he's done to make Connor welcome in his life. He's never been perfect at it, he never would be, but it had never occurred to him that Connor might not /know/.

Hank's failed in the absolute worst way.
Because he had one job, and one simple facet of Connor's personality to work with.

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.
Hank groans and drops his face into his hands. "I'm an idiot."

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 rubs his face furiously. It's not okay, but he doesn't want to make this about himself right now. He fights down a heavy sigh and cups the back of Connor's skull gently. "Connor, I -"

"Hank, it's not like I didn't know. I just didn't think you'd ever actually say it."
Hank stiffens, because that's somehow definitely /worse/. And he has no idea how to respond to it, so he just drops his gaze and says 'oh.'

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."
"I did," Connor says, face tired but softened with a half-smile. "Your eyes are remarkably expressive."

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."
Connor shrugs, so casual it manages to crack Hank's heart open all over again. "They're just words."

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.
Never mind the fact that they're words Hank also likes to hear once in a while. Some things are just important to say.

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 sniffs. Damn allergies, acting up in the middle of a perfectly good conversation.

"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.
"We're going to be okay," Connor says after a while, quiet and sweet. "We're both a little messed up, but we're good for each other." He rubs his face against Hank's leg again and groans when Hank scratches behind his ear.

"Yeah," Hank manages, his voice thick. "We are."
That night they sleep tangled together, Connor’s head pillowed on Hank’s chest. Hank wakes in the middle of the night to a blessedly quiet bedroom and a Connor deeply asleep, which is a strange comfort because it’s good, and still manages to send a chill of worry down his spine.
But Connor sleeps through the night, and the night after that. Hank’s not naive enough to think that’s the end of it, but he’s grateful for the rest anyway. He keeps a close eye on Connor during the day, does his best to make sure he’s not overworking himself.
He’s pretty sure Connor both notices and is annoyed by it, but he doesn’t say anything, and smiles weakly when Hank drags him to bed early. They make good use of the extra time though, and the next morning Hank wakes up sore and sticky in the best possible way.
It takes him a second to realize that Connor’s not in bed, and a minute to realize he’s not in the house.

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.
He all but barrels into Connor in the doorway, just as he opens it to let Sumo in.

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.”

“You’re barefoot.”
Hank looks down at his naked feet. "Right."

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.'
Connor just sighs. "I only left for a minute. Sumo had to pee."

"I know."

"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."
Connor takes a step closer. Then another when Hank doesn't turn to him. He places a careful hand against the center of Hank's chest, where he undoubtedly finds his heart hammering away.

"I'll wake you next time. You just looked so tired, I thought -"
Hank grabs his fingers to squeeze them. "It's fine. Not your fault my mind always goes to the worst possible place first."

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?"
Connor nods, but doesn't pull back. He presses a kiss to Hank's cheek first, an apology for making Hank worry as much as it is acknowledgement and forgiveness. Hank finally exhales.

He also comes to the uncomfortable conclusion that he has to do something about this.
This level of stress is not sustainable for either of them, and if he has a panic attack every time Connor leaves his line of sight, he's just going to end up pushing him away. They both need - something. Maybe a longer break, if Hank could afford it. Maybe just a change of pace.
He runs a hand down his face. "Hmph. I should retire. Take up a relaxing hobby. I dunno, gardening or something."

Connor's mouth quirks uncertainly. "You'd be bored out of your mind before the week was over."

Hank forces a tight smile. "Probably."
But it suddenly hits him that the half-joke had a larger kernel of truth hidden in it than he'd realized.

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.
Immediately, he feels guilty for even thinking it. The last three years haven't exactly been productive on his part, he has no real cause for burnout of any kind, and despite his grousing, he's young for retirement.

And besides, it's not like he hates work.
It's gotten much better with Connor around, which also brings him to his last point. He's Connor's partner. They work well together. They protect each other on and off the field. There's a thrill to solving a case together, and deep satisfaction in a job well done.
It's just... draining, and leaves him with an ever-expanding database of things he can't unsee.

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.
You have to promise me, if it ever gets that bad - you'd tell me, right?"

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."
He leans away to give Connor his space a second later, but to his surprise, Connor doesn't let him go. He relaxes into an embrace, gently rubbing Hank's side under his shirt, cheek pressed to Hank's clavicle. Hank winds an arm around him and takes a deep breath.
"Maybe - you should talk to someone. If not me, then someone who could actually help you."

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."
Hank shrugs helplessly. Connor's nightmares vary in intensity, and they don't always wake him. And they don't exactly /scare/ Hank, either, they just make him sad. He's seen Connor get hurt - tortured, even - killed. And he meets it all with an unflinching kind of stoicism.
"All I'm saying is, maybe there's a way. You don't have to, but if you wanted me to help you find someone -"

"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.
"Maybe," he chances. "Think about it?"

"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.
"Alright. Well, until then, I'm here if you need me."

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.
The subject of Connor getting professional help is dropped, and that seems to be it. The nightmares come and go. Hank gets oddly, horribly accustomed to the sound of static-laced gunshots and the occasional broken cry for help. It's not less painful, but Hank learns to deal.
The night their uneasy routine goes more or less to shit is the same night Hank thinks, 'he's getting better' as he reflects on the last few dreamless, peaceful nights.

They've had a good day, closed a case, then celebrated by leaving work early and going to see a movie.
Hank barely remembers what it was about, because they sat in the back, and halfway through some action scene Connor had climbed into his lap. They were entirely alone, and while Hank balked at the thought of cameras, Connor had no such concerns.
They ended up making out, fumbling like teenagers, and Hank had to pin Connor's hips into stillness well before the credits rolled because he didn't feel like sitting around for another hour with a mess in his jeans. The waiting made coming home that much better though.
They didn't even make it to the bedroom; Hank was impatient, and used his teeth to communicate as much as they stumbled through the front door, tugging at each other for support and in explicit demand. In fact, their clothes didn't really get a chance to come all the way off.
And that was good too, because there was something so delicious about messing up Connor's neatly combed hair and pristinely pressed dress shirt, and only pushing his pants halfway down his thighs before sinking into his warm, greedy mouth, right against the living room wall.
Connor was a hard, proud man and having him like this made Hank go a little weak in the knees. Because he didn't just accept this, he asked for it. He asked to kneel, to swallow Hank down, to have his hair pulled. He liked this combination of rough and loving as much as Hank did.
It was perfect to make them both feel enough to block out everything else, to make everything except this fade into an unimportant hum. And after they were done, it left them both in a comfortable space, taking care of each other. Hank sometimes carried a limp Connor to bed.
Tonight was no exception. It was just good, so good that Hank fell asleep with Connor still panting softly in his arms, and with a dopey grin on his face.

He wakes up to a different sound, although it takes him too much time to process what it actually is.
He blinks owlishly into the darkness, trying to figure it out, until the unmistakable, broken /whimper/ snaps him out of his daze. He rolls, fumbling for Connor, shaking him gently. Connor's lying on his side, but the second Hank touches him, he curls in on himself.
Hank tries to listen, get the slightest clue of what on earth had upset him this badly, but there's no static, no noises coming out of his tv or his phone or anything else, just a rough, wet sob that comes out of Connor.

He sits up, heart in his throat. "Baby?"
But he's still asleep, LED flaring a bright red that casts an eerie glow over the pillows, so Hank shakes him a little harder, rubs his back, drags him out of whatever nightmare has him in its clutches this time.

It's worse than before. It's never been this hard to wake him.
He's also never been like /this/. Not this panicked and lost and - wild. He makes a keening noise into the pillow when Hank wraps an arm around him, one he's desperately trying to choke back. Hank has no idea what to do besides making a low shushing noise and petting his hair.
Connor just shivers under his hand like a bird. Hank drags him against his chest. He starts, like he's just realizing where he is, a huff of soft breath on his skin. And then fingers digging into Hank's ribs, bruising as he hides his face in Hank's chest hair.
He's trying to strangle the noises he's making, because of course he is. Hank holds him so tightly he'd be afraid of breaking him in any other context. Right now it doesn't matter. He wants to seep under Connor's skin and fucking stay there.
"You're safe," he tries to remind him, but it's hard to breathe, hard to think anything besides /hold him/, hard to feel anything other than a cold certainty that this is somehow his fault.

"Hank?" Connor breathes, small and confused. "I - Hank?"

"What do you need, love?"
Connor just hiccups out a hysterical laugh. "I'm sorry. I -" he cuts off, sniffs loudly.

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."
Circulating a little air helps cool him, but it doesn't stop his crying, or his clinging to Hank like he can't quite control his limbs. The apologies that spill from him feel frantic, as does the hard beat of his thirium pump against Hank's hear.

Hank fucking breaks.
He doesn't know how to fix this. He doesn't know how to help at all, he doesn't know enough to offer android-specific advice, and right now he's not sure he can give Connor-specific advice either. He wants to be strong for him so, so badly, but he just can't anymore.
He buries his face in Connor's hair and pretends the tears leaking from him are somehow cleansing, even though really they're just exhausting ad unproductive and make his eyes and his chest hurt, and he should've saved them for later, for where they can't compound all of this.

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'm so tired, Hank."

"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-"
"Don't say that," Connor almost snaps. "Just don't- you can't. I love you. I love you more than anything. How can you say that's not much?"

"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."
Connor sighs shakily and burrows closer. "I don't know. I don't know what I need. I just want you to stay."

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.
Except he can't, and maybe he doesn't have enough to give to make this better. Maybe after all this time there's just not enough of Hank left. But God, he'd still give Connor all of it if he could.

"I'm here. I just... want you to feel safe. To trust me."
Connor freezes. "I trust you."

"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?"
Connor just about crushes the breath out of him. He sounds close to tears again, his voice small and broken. "No. No, I'm just - scared."

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.
Connor finally looks at him. His lashes are wet and spiky with thirium tears, cheeks damp. Hank's never seen his eyes look quite this sad. "You can't protect me from the things I'm afraid of." His gaze skirts away again, and he bites his lip. "My fears are not rational. I -
- I dream of things that are no longer a threat. Of things that never happened. I - stasis is supposed to reset me, let me rest, update me protocols and commit data to long term storage. I'm - broken. Something's gone wrong in my head, and I can't fix it. No one can."
Hank curls his fingers around Connor's wrist. "You're not broken," he says, because he can't stand the thought of him thinking such a thing. "You're hurting. And processing everything that happened. It's - healing isn't an overnight thing."

"Humans heal. What if I can't?"
Hank brings Connor's hand to his lips, brushes them over his knuckles, absorbs his soft sigh. "You can. But if you went to see a technician - or Markus -"

"No," Connor says, eyes squeezing shut. His voice sounds pained. "No, I can't - I can't go back there. I can't, Hank."
"You don't have to. I just think maybe you could get some insight into - why you're experiencing some of the things -"

"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."
Hank can't know how it feels, but he's been right here at Connor's side as he jolted violently awake and clawed at his chest like he was checking if everything was still there.

He kisses Connor's temple. "I'm not going to push you, but you know I'd never let that happen, right?"
Connor exhales. "No," he admits, "I know you wouldn't."

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.
But then Connor sighs, breath hitched, and says, "Tonight was different."

"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.
He doesn't want to say the wrong thing now that Connor is opening up. It feels fragile, like he might clam up at any moment, so he just keeps his mouth shut and touches him, reminds him of his presence.

It also makes sense. It's been almost a year, and the snow is returning.
Connor never really talked about what happened the night of the revolution. But Hank does remember his apprehensive - almost visceral - response to heavy snowfall. He hadn't asked then, but things had been different between them still. Tentative. It didn't feel right.
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