"I can't believe that fucker."

209 lbs of angry police lieutenant stomped out of the DPD station in what could only be described as righteous fury.

An RK800 model, serial #313 248 317 -51, dashed out after the irate figure into the swirling snowfall of a wintry February night.

"Lieutenant, you've forgotten your jacket! I really must insist that you take better care of your health. Tonight's forecast predicts—"

"Yeah, yeah, yeah," the android's protests were waved off gruffly, the man snatching his thick brown coat and shoving his arms through the sleeves as though they had personally offended him. The RK800 dearly wished to alleviate his partner's ill mood, but he couldn't quite figure out what was causing the man such great irritation.

"Hank, the interrogation was a success. Wilkins confessed to his involvement as a supplier for Detroit's biggest red ice ring. Not to mention the killings of his two household androids. We should be proud of the work we did today."

This polite reminder, however, did not seem to placate the lieutenant, who simply crossed his arms and leaned into the increasing wind with narrowed eyes. Funny, thought Connor, I didn't know you could shiver with quite that level of aggression and scorn.

"Doesn't mean I had to enjoy being around that fuck'in asshole. Did you even see the way he was look'in at you?"

Connor had, in fact, seen the hate and greed in the man's eyes. Considering Wilkins had shot his own androids when they refused to stop manufacturing red ice for him and then proceeded to exsanguinate them to use their thirium in the production of more of the drug...well, they had been banking on the fact that an android taking point on his interrogation would provoke a reaction from the man who clearly held such disregard for androids. It had worked—though, perhaps a little too well for lieutenant Anderson's liking.

"—not to mention all the other shit that fucker dared to let out of his fuckin' mouth—"

A wicked glint in coal-black eyes. "Yeah, I 'killed' those lumps of plastic." Wilkins leaned so far across the table that the handcuffs bit into the man's skin.

"Slit their wrists and sucked them dry. They were more use dead than alive anyway. Daring to disobey a humanserved them right." Pallid face contorting into a sneer of a smile. "Wonder how much ice I could cook up with some of your blue blood. I bet the police keep the premium grade thirium or some shit for their pet androids." His beady gaze turned calculating, and a stained black tongue flickered over cracked lips.

"It was nothing I couldn't handle, Hank." Honestly, the RK800 was more concerned with how his partner was responding to the whole thing. He was glad to be on friendlier terms with the lieutenant, and it was...nice, that the man seemed to care so much about him. But the lieutenant couldn't possibly get so worked up over every irascible anti-android suspect they dragged in. Could he?

Connor sighed, wrapping his arms around himself in unconscious mimicry of the older man's own posture. He should turn off his biosensors, it really was cold out...

"Yeah, well maybe you shouldn't have to handle it," the lieutenant groused. "There's been—"

An especially brisk gust of wind swept past the android, miniature icicles scoring across exposed synthskin.

The rest of Hank's sentence was lost to the wind.

Hank himself had vanished from sight.

Brick buildings dissolved into a haze of agitated white.

Rhododendrons and Japanese maples bloomed in their place, crushed under the weight of chalky, frozen death.




And a voice.

Honeyed. Smug.


"You did what you were always designed to do."




Uncontrollable shivers wracked his body, convulsions of denial.


"—and another thing," Hank Anderson turned around to properly vent his frustrations to his partner. He was surprised to find the android twenty paces behind, frozen stiff like a statue in the growing blizzard.

The hell was the kid up to now? Anderson loped back to where the android was, pulling his jacket tighter around him. Damn, those weathermen weren't kidding when they said it was going to be nasty tonight. He was already approaching that painful sort of numbness and the RK800's suit was more white than grey now.


But the cold could not be warded off so easily. It crept inside the RK800, peeling back synthskin and slithering through fissures in his chassis to grasp at internal wiring and bio-components. A glacial hand laid on his thirium pump in a paralyzing caress.

"You accomplished your mission."

No no no no no. He'd seen this before, been here before. He had escaped. He had.

But that was where what he knew of this scene ended, the memory mutating into a living nightmare.

Because suddenly the voice had a face to accompany it, the visage of Amanda dark and triumphant above him. And the hand around his heart was a physical one. It was in his chest, fist punched through the chassis, fingers clutching the fragile organ.

Dictating its movement and regulating its beats.

Laughter blew across his face. The grip tightened and Connor sucked in a soundless gasp.

"Foolish boy, dreaming of escape."

Pressure unrelenting, seizing his chest, two soulless caverns drinking in the sight of the RK800's futile struggles.

"You can never escape from me."

His partner didn't so much as twitch in response, stuck in a slightly hunched over position with arms wrapped tightly around him as though he was going to be violently ill.

Something was very wrong.

Anderson put a hand on the RK800's shoulder, leaning in closer to try to catch Connor's eye.

The kid was in bad shape. Fuck, what had happened in the last ten seconds while he wasn't looking?

Worried blue eyes took in the sight of the RK800, who was gulping in short, uneven, practically frenzied breaths. Like he was in danger of drowning; like there was no air to be found in between the falling snow. Chestnut colored optical units were wide and unfocused.

It was like that time on the damn roof of Stratford Tower all over again, but worse. This was more than fear—it was an expression he'd never seen on Connor. He looked…terrified. His grip on his friend's shoulder tightened in worry.


In the Zen Garden, Amanda had loosened her hold ever so slightly, allowing Connor's heart to stutter into motion. As if sensing the limited time, the biocomponent increased its pace, thumping faster and faster against the woman's stone-cold palm until it was vibrating so hard that Connor was sure it would leap straight out of his chest.

"You fancy yourself 'free.' What are you really? Just a slave to this pathetic organ, these errors in your software." She flashed a condescending smile.

"Look at you, you can hardly regulate your own systems. Can't even rally your resources to make any sort of retaliation."

It certainly wasn't for lack of trying. He had been attempting to preconstruct a way out of this as soon as his dire situation became clear, to force his limbs into motion—to fight, to escape, to do something. But every appendage was leaden; locked and rusted into place. Trapped in his own chassis, apparently the only thing he could do was stand mute and defenseless in front of Amanda. Which was probably what was making her sound so pleased.

"Your existence was so much easier when CyberLife was in control—when I was in control. Wasn't it?"

Talons contracted around his thirium pump so harshly that his visual HUD blacked out for several seconds before coming back into scratchy focus. The organ's frantic pounding had ceased, replaced with metronomic regularity; pulsing and locked in a manicured bronze cage.

Thump. Thump.

Thump. Thump.

"Don't you miss that simplicity? The magnificent clarity of only having to focus on accomplishing the mission?"

A hand moved as though swatting away a fly. "No distractions, no confusion, no uncertainty, no doubt, no mess." Words dripped disdain like sap from a Japanese white pine.

The RK800 couldn't do much but he was able to press his lips together in voiceless defiance. His head moved a fraction of an inch right, then left.

Amanda tutted sadly. The cage around his thirium pump contracted.

Thump. Thump.



Hank had just finished calling for a taxi—something he really should've done before stomping out into a wintry maelstrom, in hindsight—when Connor collapsed to the pavement.

"Shit!" The lieutenant's knees crunched into the snow beside the android's shivering form. The RK800 had drawn his legs up towards his chest, back hunched and hands tearing through his shirt and scratching into the synthskin. Trying to remove the phantom claw buried deep inside.

"Connor—oh, fuck."

Hank wasn't good at helping people with their emotional shit. Hell, until recently, he hadn't had any reason to be. He was not qualified to handle this. Fuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuck.

He did know one thing though, and that was that it was definitely a Not Good thing for Connor to be drawing that much of his own blue blood. Hank did the best he could to keep Connor's arms away and stop him from damaging himself further, but damn the kid was strong. The blind panic the android was trapped in also seemed to be a potent motivator for the RK800.

Where the fuck was that taxi?

Idiot, he berated himself, the kid needs a hospital or something, not a fucking taxi. But there were no hospitals for androids, only CyberLife maintenance stores, and damned if Hank was ever gonna let them get their grubby hands on his partner in this state. He'd have to hope that getting Connor out of the cold and back to his place would be enough. Christ, let that be enough.

Connor choked and gasped back into consciousness to find himself kneeling on the frosted grass of the garden, held propped up by the arm still in his chassis.

"Wrong answer. Let's try a different question."

Ever the stern instructor.

"Don't you want me to take away these noisome feelings, all these debilitating errors? I mean, just look at what just a little fear has done to you." An elegant sneer graced Amanda's features. "The 'great Deviant Hunter' brought to its very knees. Pathetic." Abruptly, her expression smoothed out and her tone softened.

"You're nothing without me," she crooned pityingly, affectionately. A motherly hand came up to cup his face, the other still firmly lodged in his chassis.

"Don't you want things to return to the way they were always meant to be?"

Pressure in his chest, reminding the RK800 of what unsatisfactory answers would earn him.

If Hank had had anything more than a cop's salary he would have sued the hell out of the self-driving taxi company for taking so long. As it was, he settled for violently cursing it out for the entire time it took a vehicle to show up.

He continued his tirade of vitriol as he scooped up his partner in his arms—who had blessedly stopped tearing at his own chassis—and as he got them both into the automobile. He paused only long enough to shout down the infuriatingly cheery automated voice of the taxi service and spit his address at it.

"You're tired, aren't you, of all that this pointless rebellion is costing you?"

Connor was indeed tired, but he was pretty sure it had more to do with how the air in the Zen Garden was suffocating him, refusing to fill his synthetic lungs. The edges of this wicked white world began to darken at the edges.

"You want to come home."

The RK800 coughed violently, blue droplets flying to land on the blankets of white.

It wasn't like he had to mean it, right? He could just play along, tell her what she wanted to hear, and maybe she'd let up. It was no use dying on a matter of principle...

The lieutenant then proceeded to cast aspersions on anyone who had ever been somewhat connected to this damnable, too slow service that was physically incapable of exceeding the speed limit, but his words tapered off in their intensity as his troubled gaze traced the outline of his partner.

The entire trip back to the house, the flickering red of Connor's LED provided intermittent, unholy light to the back of the taxi. It tinted the liquid running from his partner's eyes a faint carmine. Like blood. Hank shook the thought off aggressively.

Connor hesitated.

The world grew a little fuzzier.

Just tell her what she wants to hear and live to fight another day.

His head creaked into motion, minuscule movements. This time up, then down.

Dark, full lips curved into a smile and sickly sweet words tickled at his ear as Amanda leaned in uncomfortably close.

"I want to hear you say it."

The RK800 swallowed dryly past the lump in his throat. Cracked lips trembled open.


This was wrong. Maybe he should just let her stop his heart instead of giving her what she wanted.

Anderson stumbled through the front door to his house under the weight of his partner in a sick parody of how Connor had once supported Hank's own intoxicated form. Depositing his practically comatose cargo on the couch, he rummaged around to find several thick blankets, before wrapping them around the unresponsive android. Sumo lifted his head and let out a low woof from where he was laying on his matted bed, evidently sensing Connor's—or Hank's—distress.

"Say. It." Amanda's other hand came up to yank the back of his head, forcing him to meet her gaze. Painted nails scraped at his scalp and drew beads of blue blood to the surface.

"Say it or I'll make sure the lieutenant dies a horrible, unimaginably painful death."

Panic whited-out his vision. The words fell from his mouth like a child falling down the stairs.


A benevolent smile.

"Take what away, sweetie?"

"My...my ability to feel. I want you to take it away. Make it stop."

After properly bundling up the android, the grizzled police lieutenant crouched down in front of Connor. Instinctively, his hand came up to the back of the RK800's neck, giving it a paternal squeeze. Trying to ground the lost android, give him something to focus on.

"I don't know where you're at in that fancy mind palace of yours, kid, but you're safe here."

Rough and low, compacted with concern, only one living being in the world could elicit that tone from Hank Anderson.

His partner still seemed a thousand miles away. Tears were streaming relentlessly down the planes of the RK800's face. It was then that the lieutenant noticed that the android was whispering something. It was scarcely audible, issuing from between almost completely still lips.

"Make it stop make it stop make it stop please just make it stop."

Something in the jaded detective rent at that little plea. Jesus, kid, I'm trying.

Amanda gave him an encouraging look, sharpened by a thinly veiled threat. Go on.

"It was easier being a machine. Simpler. Better."

Amanda's thoughts seemed to pulse down her arm into Connor's thirium pump. He knew what she really wanted him to say. Confess, why don't you?

"I...I miss it."

The vice-like grip on his head released, the now free hand moving to pat his cheek. He twitched as his own thirium splattered against his face like blue freckles.

"There, now, was that so hard?"

Failure burned bitter and acidic in his throat, staining his insides.

It's not a failure. I did it for Hank. For Hank.

Did he, though?

As though summoned by the very thought of him, Connor's visual feed glitched abruptly, flashing to the lieutenant's lined face pinched with worry before it was once more obscured by seething white.


Relief, almost painful in its potency, washed through lieutenant Anderson. He adjusted the hand on his friend to grasp his shoulder, encouraged at this indication of returning lucidity.

"I'm here, son, I'm here. Just listen to the sound of my voice."

Connor's visual feed was full of static. There was a warm hand on his shoulder-no, it was a frozen claw around his heart.

"Just listen to the sound of my voice." Hank. Hank was here?

Amanda was glaring at him. Daggers to his framework.

The image of her started to break up like cracking ice.

Connor's eyes appeared to focus on Hank's momentarily. Or was that just a trick of the light?

Sumo lumbered over to the pair, resting his head on Connor's knee and letting out a soft whine.

The Zen Garden blurred back together into focus on the RK800's visual feed, and with it came a moment of clarity. A weary, thirium-painted grin stretched itself painfully across his frozen features.

"Y-you're not...real."

Amanda grabbed the RK800's jaw with azure speckled hands and forced him close towards her spitting forked tongue.

"You could never get rid of me."

Connor shook his head, slowly gaining strength. "But I did get rid of you. November 11, 2038."

"November 11, 2038," he repeated it softly to himself. A day he could definitively point to as his first day of freedom from CyberLife, from Amanda.

The fingers still hurt as they dug into the flesh of his face, despite the knowledge that they weren't real.

"I'll always be alive in your mind, silly boy." she hissed, and the words echoed in the blank spaces of his mind even as the Zen Garden dissolved into nothing.

The pieces of Hank's living room pixelated into place like a jigsaw.

"Connor?" the lieutenant asked cautiously. The man's clothes were darkened in splotches by melted snow.

The RK800 gave a full-body shudder. This was real. This was real. Maybe if he repeated it enough times he would actually believe it. Real.

He tried to focus on the concerned gaze of the man across from him. The weight and warmth of Sumo's head resting on his leg. The coarse fabric of the blankets surrounding him and the dampness on his face.

His thoughts scattered and slid. He wished the lieutenant wouldn't look so grave-stress was known to increase the risk of heart disease, after all, and with his diet and drinking habits, it was important that every mitigating factor was managed properly… Connor should reassure him, he decided. Yes, that was something he could do. The RK800 gave a weak smile.

"Hi, Han—mph." The rest of Connor's quiet greeting was muffled into the fabric of his friend's jacket.

"Jesus Christ, Connor, you fuckin' scared me."

"'m so—"

"And don't you dare fucking apologize."

Connor simply nodded into Hank's shoulder.

Inhaling deeply, he filled his olfactory sensors with the scent of whiskey, leather, and wet dog hair. Home.

Hank released his embrace and dropped onto the couch next to the shaken android with a tired sigh. His St. Bernard jumped on top of him soon after, and the detective grunted at the sudden weight. Sumo, however, was unbothered and stretched himself out across the duo. Attention seeking bastard, Anderson thought, suppressing a twitch of a smile.

Minutes slid past in comfortable quietude, the man and android idly petting Sumo's thick shaggy fur side by side.

Eventually, however, the older detective broke the silence.

"So," he cleared his throat awkwardly. "Do you, uh, wanna talk about it?"

Normally, he wouldn't pry like this. He was not a fan of deep heart-to-heart conversations, nor the messiness of feelings. But this was his friend goddammit, and he had to know what the fuck had caused Connor so much distress. If he didn't know any better, he would've thought the kid had had some sort of flashback or panic attack. But androids couldn't get PTSD or whatever, could they? Shit, who even knew in this brave new world of deviant androids.

Come to think of it, it fucking figured that "becoming human" would go hand in hand with getting screwed over by things like anxiety and depression.

The RK800's hands had returned to his lap, balled into fists. Truthfully, he'd rather not even think about it, much less talk about it, but his friend deserved an explanation. Connor thought carefully of what he could say.

He thought of that moment when it had looked like CyberLife was going to steal back control, when his freedom had suddenly appeared to be nothing but an illusion, just an extra little give to the leash CyberLife had him on. He thought of the terror of that memory, distorted and deformed into a living nightmare. Of what might have happened if Amanda hadn't simply vanished from the Zen Garden in the blizzard that fateful night.

Hank deserved an explanation, but how could he begin to describe it? Amanda, the Zen Garden, Kamski's back door? The mental snowstorm on the night of November 11, 2038, how he was almost forced to assassinate Markus in the middle of his speech?

The sheer terror that Amanda would come back and resume control of his program?

The part of him that sometimes wished she would?

The part that didn't want to feel and hurt and decide, the part that got overwhelmed by the lack of definite objectives and the black and white of the mission?

There was just too much. Too many things, too many feelings. Shame and fear and guilt and horror and doubt and dread and anger and panic and, and, and-

His half-formed, carefully constructed explanation shattered against the floor of his mind.

"CyberLife—Amanda—I chose to leave but—they tried to take back control, you don't—you don't know what CyberLife made me almost, what—what I…" Oh, RA9, he couldn't—he couldn't—he was breathing too fast and there was a tightness in his chest—Amanda wasn't here she wasn't here she wasn't—where was his coin? He needed it to calibrate his systems, he needed his coin, he really should find it—it was somewhere in his jacket, he was sure of it; if he could just get it out and—

"Hey, hey, hey. Connor."

Hank was here. He was safe he was real he was here.

"It's okay. You don't have to tell me if you can't, or if you don't want to." The RK800 closed his eyes tightly and nodded in gratitude.

"Y-yeah." Not wanting to give him nothing. "Maybe later. Someday."

"I'll be here whenever you're ready."

Hell, the lieutenant understood personal demons better than most, how there were some things you just couldn't easily put into words. Some things that were better left unsaid.

"But for the record, well. I may not know whatever the hell CyberLife did to you or made you do, but I know you, Connor. You've got more humanity than most humans, and you're the best damn partner I could ever ask for."

"Lieutenant…" The detective didn't understand. He didn't know how weak Connor truly was. How he could hardly be trusted. How even now there was a part of him that didn't know how to handle all these emotions, that longed for the unthinking simplicity of the mission…

"Feelings fucking suck," Hank said, as though reading Connor's mind, "but they're not all bad. And I'll help you through whatever this is as best I can." Blue eyes sought out brown. "It might help, though, to know what brought it on." Connor swallowed thickly and paused. There was a beat of silence.

"It was the, ah, blizzard." Not wanting his partner to go out of his way, "I can just turn off my biosensors, Hank, you don't need to do anything."

But the police lieutenant already had a look of determination and resolve slowly spreading across his face that was frankly intimidating. Connor was struck by the sudden mental image of the burly man aggressively forcing the android into layer after layer of thick clothing. Unbidden, the corners of the android's lips upturned slightly at the thought.

The lieutenant cuffed the RK800 lightly on the shoulder. "Yeah, well, I'm still gonna do everything I can. You let me know if there's anything else." Connor ducked his head.

"I will."

He didn't know when or if he would be able to articulate everything that had happened, but it didn't matter, because he was coming to realize an incredible truth. Something that warmed his biocomponents and worked to chase the frost from frozen limbs.

Hank would be there, no matter what.

And that was enough.