Authors Notes: Devin, I love ya, SouthernCrossNorthernStar, so glad you're back for more. Enjoy!


Chapter 1

Two weeks previously

"Get back!" John shouted raising his tac rifle and brandishing it at the woman in front of him. "Drop the weapon, hands in the air!" But the woman raised her uzi instead, a defiant look on her face. John fired before she had chance to pull the trigger, catching her centre mass and knocking her back to the floor. He rushed over to her, nudging the weapon out of her hand with his boot before kicking it further away. She had a ballistic vest on, and was still alive, gasping air into her bruised chest. John made sure to cuff her, hands behind her back before unzipping her jacket and ripping apart the Velcro of her vest in order to check the wound he'd made. The bullet had been absorbed into the vest just below her breast, her ribs were starting to turn purple with bruising.

All around him his team of MXs were clearing the rest of the house. He could hear them shouting orders at the other people who they'd found there. There was a short burst of gunfire, which John recognised as a 9mm, followed by one precise shot by an MX.

"Are they here?" He asked the woman, running his hands across her ribs just beneath her sports bra, checking for any distortion, they appeared to be cracked but not snapped.

"Get your hands off me bastard!" She snarled in response.

"Hey John!" Dorian called from downstairs.

John looked around and waved an MX over, "Keep an eye on her." He ordered, standing and following the sound of Dorian's voice into the basement.

He met Dorian on the stairs and looked down into a large room. It was full of filthy mattresses spread out on the floor, littered with thin blankets and discoloured pillows, dirty food-encrusted plates and more than a few needles and 'bends' vials. It smelt of sweat and sex.

"Dammit, they've moved them." John said, smacking his hand against the wooden bannister in frustration.

Detective Paul came down to join them and wrinkled his nose at the room. "There are three rooms upstairs that have clearly been used to service clients." He pulled a face, "Skankiest looking rooms I've ever seen, and I did five years in VICE."

John smacked the bannister again and growled, "This is shit! How are we always one step behind them?"

"Without getting the names of the main players, we're always going to be playing catch up." Paul shrugged. "It was always the same when I worked VICE. I can't tell you how many times we interrupted distribution rackets, closed brothels, shut up drugs labs, if you couldn't get the higher ups, they'd always just set up shop somewhere else. The scum that runs these things never get their hands dirty, most of the grunts don't even know who they're working for."

John barged passed them then, on his way back upstairs, striding over to the woman he'd shot who was now stood up and being walked by an MX out to the awaiting prisoner transport. "What about you? Huh?" He snarled, clenching his fist into her jacket and stopping her in her stride. He was a good six inches taller than her and used his height to loom over her in an intimidating manner. "Tell me, are you a worthless grunt? Or are you actually smart enough to know who you work for?"

Paul and Dorian had followed him to the top of the stairs and were watching the interaction pensively.

Rather than be intimidated, she smiled at him, "You think you can bully me? Men have been trying to bully me my whole life."

"Men have been bullying those women too. Done a lot worse than that to them as well. If you're really so tough you should be standing up for them, helping us get them out of the hell they've been forced into, not joining forces with the men that abuse them."

She shook her head. "I'm not afraid of you, and I'm not a snitch."

"Missing the point but okay." John barked a sarcastic laugh, shaking his head in exasperation. "You may want to rethinkk that answer when you're looking at twenty years for human trafficking." He let go of her jacket and stalked outside.

The MX took the woman out to the awaiting transport vehicle. Dorian and Paul followed them out and watched from the front step of the house as John disappeared into the woods that surrounded the dilapidated property.

"Is he okay?" Paul asked.

"I don't know man, this case is really getting to him." Dorian replied. They'd been on the tail of this human trafficking ring for weeks now, since finding a trailer full of malnourished and strung out young women and girls, some as young as twelve, three of them dead. They were all from different countries, some from over the wall, they'd all been lured with promise of a better life but had been sold, beaten and made to work in factories and brothels. Most had been injected with highly addictive drugs that made them compliant and dependant on their masters. Long days of investigation later and John had been given a tip off for a house they were keeping another group of girls in, but when they got there they were too late. This had been happening for the last few weeks, they felt like they were getting nowhere.

"It sucks. It's getting to all of us." Paul admitted. "This is why I got out of VICE in the first place." He paused a moment. "Are you okay?"

Dorian was taken aback by the question. He didn't think that Detective Paul would ever learn to treat him as anything but an android, but in the last few months he'd softened to the idea, had started to treat him less like a robot and more like a colleague he found irritating, which was still usually better than he treated John. Dorian thought about his response and shrugged. "I'm okay. But I suppose I've spent a long time being angry at humans treating androids as though they're objects to be used, I suppose I forgot that some humans treat other humans that way too. Or at least, I knew it in principal, but I've never really seen it before, not on this scale. It's different to reading a report, you know?"

Paul nodded in sympathy. "Look and if you've ever felt that I was treating you as an object..." he said hesitantly.

"Don't worry about it." Dorian replied. "I've come to realise you're an asshole to everybody." He grinned, luckily Paul laughed in response.

"Yeah, well your partner is hardly sunshine and good vibes all the time either." He countered.

At the mention of John, Dorian turned his attention back to the woods that he'd wandered off into. How many times had he ribbed him about exactly that. When he'd first met John, he'd been a coiled spring of angry energy, they'd clashed personalities in a big way and there had been many things about John that annoyed him; his lack of punctuality, the frequent disappearing acts, the way he could be provoked to violent anger at the slightest thing. All those traits had calmed in the months that followed and Dorian had seen a different side to him. One day he'd asked Captain Maldonado why she'd picked him to be with the surly detective and she'd said that she wanted to remind John what he'd been like before the coma. At the time, the thought that Maldonado believed the two of them were similar made him shake his head in disbelief, but these days he could start to see it, sometimes. As far as Dorian could tell though, it was a constant battle that John waged with himself, and if he was tired or stressed or hurting, then he would slip back into being the angry man he was when Dorian had met him.

John came out of the trees then, sliding his phone back into his pocket. He marched towards the car sullenly and got in, waiting.

"Think that's your cue to go." Paul said. "I'll finish up here and see you back at the precinct."

Dorian nodded. "Thank you." He offered.

"For what?"

"For asking me how I was." Dorian trudged down the steps and headed over to the car, not really looking forward to finding out what manner of temper he'd be riding home with. When he got into the passenger seat John didn't react to his presence. He was sat with his head back and eyes closed, if Dorian didn't know any better her would have said he was meditating.

"You okay?"

"Yeah." He said in the most unconvincing way possible, eyes still closed. They'd been working double shifts on this case for a long time now and it looked like the long hours were beginning to take their toll. He took a deep breath and then pressed the ignition, turning his concentration to the road as he pulled away.

They sat in silence on the way back to the precinct. Dorian knew better than to push his human to talk and so he spent the ride back reviewing all the case notes again, for the thirteenth time, and by the time they got back, the fourteenth time. It was useless, all the evidence they had of their existence, and still they didn't have enough information to find these women. He hoped that the crime scene techs would find something new at this one, but as the reports were filtering in from Paul's MX still on scene, it appeared there was nothing so far. Dorian hated to think of what they were going through, and as John had pointed out in a frustrated rage the previous evening, more would die unless they found them soon.

As soon as they got back into the bullpen John slumped into his desk chair opposite Detective Stahl. He was barely sat in it for a second when Captain Maldonado stuck her head out of her door and shouted, "John, my office! Now!"

John got up and slinked over to the petite woman like a puppy with a tail between his legs leaving Dorian and Stahl to exchange confused looks.

"She got a phone call earlier and she's been in a mood ever since." Stahl leaned over and whispered conspiratorially. "Has John shot another MX?"

Dorian shook his head. "No, but he's in a bad mood too. Paul thinks it's just the case getting to him, but it feels like more than that."

"Have you asked him?" Stahl said but when she received a long-suffering look from Dorian she corrected herself, "Right, I forgot who I was talking about. You asked and he was unnecessarily sarcastic?"

"Actually no, just said he was fine and then went quiet."

Stahl frowned. "Then he really isn't okay." She reached out and patted him on the arm, "Don't worry too much. You do a good job of looking after him, whatever it is I'm sure he'll get through it."

Dorian decided to get John a cup of coffee hoping that it would calm the man's frayed nerves when he got out of what was bound to be some sort of shouting match with his boss and close friend. Dorian knew how much John respected the woman but his bullheadedness made it unlikely that he'd just sit quietly and listen to the most recent reason he'd exasperated her beyond her considerable limits.

He set the black sugary coffee down and perched in his chair to wait. Then the door banged open and John stormed out, face like thunder, just as a pair of suited detectives appeared in the bullpen.

"John Kennex?" One of the detectives flashed his badge at the man, stopping him in his tracks. "I am arresting you for the theft of three hundred thousand dollars taken from the secured cash lock up in this precinct."

"What!" Dorian leapt up, "There's got to be some sort of mistake!"

But what horrified him was John's reaction, rather than protest and snarl and threaten them as Dorian would have expected, he just looked at the android sadly and then offered up his wrists to be handcuffed. The detective made a show of clicking them onto his wrists and then taking him by the elbow and leading him out of the bullpen.

"John," Dorian rushed to intercept them and stood blocking their exit to the holding cells. "John, this can't be right. Tell them." He turned to the detective. "He'd never ever take anything. He's a great officer, who believes in what we do." There was no reaction from the detective, and more upsetting, nothing from John either. Dorian turned frantically to Captain Maldonado for support but she was just leaning against the door frame of her office, arms folded across her body. Dorian had never known her not to fight for the people who worked for her, and for John especially, who she'd put her job and life on the line for more than once, but now all that anger was gone and she was left looking small and helpless.

"DRN, step out of the way." The detective said calmly.

When he looked like he was standing his ground, John placed a hand on his shoulder. "Dorian, it's okay. Please just let them do their job." He pleaded.

"But I know you didn't take that money."

"Dorian, please."

It was the sound of desperation in John's voice that made the android step back and allow them through. John put his head down, shoulders slumped, unwilling to look anyone else in the eye as he was taken to the holding cells. Dorian had never seen him look so defeated.

When they were gone, Dorian was left staring at the empty space where his friend had just been, unable to process what had happened. He jumped when Captain Maldonado came up beside him. "Take the rest of the day off Dorian."

"Why didn't you stop them?" He turned on her angrily.

But she just shook her head sadly. "Go home." She turned around to the face the whole of the bullpen, "In fact that goes for all of you, everyone go home, get some sleep. I'll expect you all back tomorrow, rested and ready to find these missing women. That goes for you too Dorian. I don't want to hear any reports of you doing any work until you get back to work here at 8 am."

Dorian did go home, but as he walked the two blocks to Rudy's he started to look for the security footage for the police cash lock up. It had all been restricted, as had anything connecting John to an investigation. Unable to produce anything of worth there, he started to go over their current case again until he received a text message flash across his retinal screen from Maldonado, 'I'm watching you. I meant it, no more work.' At least the Captain was still at work even if everyone else had gone home, he hoped that meant she was working on defending John.

He got back to Rudy's with his circuits feeling frayed and wondering what he would tell the twitchy engineer, but he found he didn't have to. The old church was quiet, no music playing, no bustling about or the sound of the awkward Englishman muttering to himself as he conducted his work. Instead he found him hunched over his array of computer screens watching the news with the sound off. As Dorian entered, Rudy startled and turned around to greet him, a look of horror on his face. "Some MX footage has been leaked online. Why on earth has John been arrested?"

Dorian turned up the sound, the reporter was talking over a muted video of the bullpen. "This footage, sent to us just moments ago shows what appears to be the arrest of one our cities detectives by his own people. At this stage we don't know what the arrest was for however we have identified the officer involved. Detective Sergeant John Kennex had been one of the cities most decorated police officers, but was the only survivor of a raid that killed eleven of his colleagues almost three years ago. He lost his leg in an explosion and remained in a coma for fifteen months. Colleagues say that since returning to the force, he appeared to have been suffering psychological issues..." Dorian switched the sound off again angrily.

"I've just been checking the logs and it appears one of the MXs has been hacked." Rudy said, "But it's all happened so fast, it's like they knew what was going to happen. Dorian what is going on?"

Dorian shook his head. "I have no idea."