I've been having vampire feelings lately so like, 🦇🤙

Hank moves into an old house - bordering on a fucking mansion, honestly, that we won in an auction right after he retired.

He shows up at the place and realizes some of the old furniture is still there,
beautifully done paintings of who he guesses were the last inhabitants of the home, or the old family the place was built for. Even the fucking original beds are there, grand canopies and all. It's creepy in a fun way, he thinks. He and Sumo do some cleaning and move on in.
Over the next few days, he goes throughout the house checking things on a list that need work, knowing parts of the huge house will have to be closed off during the winter to save heat. He's picking favorite rooms to work around.
It seems like no one has lived in this house, let alone *been inside* in years. He knows this especially when he reaches the basement and there's still wine in the wine cellar. Some of it from the 1800s.
No fucking way they would've let him buy it for the price he paid if they knew the cellar was full of vintage drink worth probably a pretty penny a pop... He starts to wonder what the hell is wrong with this place.

He doesn't have to wait long to know.
While inspecting things to fix, he stumbles over an old crate. He finds the wall to catch himself, and finds even more, a latch given as a false candelabra serves to click open a distant door down the cellar's hall. The noise echoes like every horror movie Hank's ever seen.
So he leaves the goddamn cellar like any person with self preservation, and then, like all horror movie idiots, returns. Now, with Sumo in tow. Because that'll fix it.

He finds one of the wine racks doubling as a door, the wine sloshing in their bottles when he opens it up.
To an almost pleasant looking Victorian parlor. Bookcases, cozy velvet chairs, embroidered rugs. There's even a teaset out, cluttered with cobwebs. It's surreal. And with his retired cop senses tingling, he sees signs of a struggle...
The carpet isn't quite right, a teacup is toppled over, and old book scattered on the floor. And when Sumo bounds in to have a look around, he sniffs at the rug and adjoining floor, then whines. That's when Hank sees the blood.

It doesn't even look like blood anymore. But it is.
His years on the force tell him it is. He can feel the hairs on his arms standing on end, the lurch in his chest. He tells himself that, alright, there can't possibly be any danger. Centuries old house, hidden room that was locked. Nothing tangible can harm him.
That's what gets him to keep looking around with a morbid sense of curiosity. Thinking there couldn't possibly be any danger from an 1800s sitting room where maybe some people fought once, once upon a time. Or some old aristocrat had a damn nose bleed. Who knows.
He searches the room with interest, sneezing almost as much as Sumo at the dead air and dust. Maybe he should put in for this place to be a historical landmark, because he keeps reading about one family. Big in some kind trade or something, he's only gotten scraps of a story.
Sumo is the one who ends up finding the room. The hidden room inside a hidden room inside a fucking surprise wine cellar. Hank should leave. He's smart enough to know to leave. All the padlocks on the door tell him it should probably stay locked.

The locks are so old.
The locks are so old that Hank can break them to pieces with the tree cutting axe he brought with him when he moved. To the big, vacant house. In the woods. With hidden rooms and old blood on the floor.

Opening the door is hard. It's heavy like a bank vault,
and doesn't have a door handle. He feels vaguely sick to his stomach. Like this is something he's not ready to do, but he couldn't live with himself - especially here in this house - without doing this. Without knowing what's behind the door.
When he leverages the door open with help from the axe, he flushes white as a sheet. A cold sweat wracks his entire body, he can feel ice at the tips of his fingers.

There are scratches on the inside of the door. That's what he notices first from pushing it open.
Desperate scratches, like someone just about broke their fingers trying to get out. What hits him next is the realization that he doesn't smell death. He was a cop, he knows that. But there's none.

But what he notices next, is the coffin in the middle of the cell-like room.
Besides the fact that it's beautifully adorned and well over a hundred years old, it's a coffin in the middle of a room that has scratches on the door and Hank wants to run.

"A fucking coffin? Really? What the fuck kind of people...?" It's so surreal he's almost mad about it.
Like it's some kind of joke, ridiculous, that the original owners were some kind of freaks to just have shit like this.

He thinks, is this the kind of bizarre that rich folks in the 1800s would find funny? It has to be like that.
Like, burying a Halloween store skull in the backyard for kicks, knowing someone else will find it years later and freak out. But in the end it'll just be zany old jokesters that get blogged about online. It's like that.

But Hank goes cold again, thinking, is someone in there?
Is it not a joke? Is it fucked up? They should leave. People don't just find coffins in secret rooms inside secret rooms in their old mansions and just be okay with that. He should call Jeff. He should get a team in here. Get forensics in here. Get someone. They should go, now.
Evidently, Sumo doesn't share in that. He ambles into the room to sniff around and Hank's heart almost stops because that feels so not right. That's not right. They should go.

But then Sumo barks. At the coffin.

And he looks to Hank for help.
He looks to Hank for help like a service dog does when something's wrong.

When someone's in need.

Hank is too shocked by it to think. That's not a response Sumo should be giving him. But he moves like he's not really in his body, into the room, and over to the coffin.
Sumo wants him to open it, he paws at it insistently with such a pitiful whine. And suddenly Hank wants it open, too. He needs to know. He doesn't even need peace of mind if it's revealed nothing's in here, he just needs the truth. Because his brain will fill it in otherwise.
It's so heavy and encased by time, that when he finally jerks it open, it's with a lot of effort and an almost desperate grunt. The cringing sound of the hinges opening after so long rings in his ears as he looks down.

Hank needs to call someone.
Curled protectively in the coffin is a man in his mid thirties, skin gray and fragile as paper. His hair still holds some of that vintage coiffed appearance, and he looks... afraid, in his stillness.

What baffles Hank are three things.

One, there's actually someone in here.
There was actually a body in the fucking coffin and he feels like a fool for thinking this could be a joke from the past inside his double secret room in his fucking creepy ass house.

Second, he knows this guy. There's a painting of him upstairs. There's actually more than one.
There's even ones with differences, like blue or brown eyes and changes in height. Hank knows what this guy looks like alive, captured in oil paints on old canvas upstairs.

Third, and it fucking twists Hank's stomach something fierce, is that the guy doesn't look dead.
Besides the skin color and the malnourished look and the absolute, one hundred percent stillness... the guy looks like he could tilt his head up and look Hank in the fucking eye.

And, you know, Hank should've expected to get fucked like this.
He should have expected he'd fall right on his ass when the man in the coffin spits dust, tilts his head, and looks Hank in the fucking eye with blackness surrounding brown iris.

Hank's fight or flight entirely fails him and he sits there frozen on the ground,
listening to the rattling breaths of a not so dead man he found in a coffin. Sumo, the crazy fucking bastard, wiggles and whines and wants to help. He actually barks at Hank to get him to move.

Hank thinks he could stop existing by how badly he's stuck right now.
But when an ashen hand with long, bony fingers creep over the side of the coffin, and a choked raspy voice stutters "Please... help me...? Help me..."

Hank moves.

He moves back towards it, crawling, and peers over the edge while pushing Sumo's slobbery face away.
The man looks so afraid. Of him. He can barely move and looks so different from the strong figure in the painting that Hank's heart violently jerks in his chest with sympathy pain.

"Please..." he whispers, barely there, jolting when Hank touches his fingers.
The flinch shows Hank his teeth, and how sharp they are at the canines. He looks like he'd be crying, if he could, "Where's my brother? Help me... where's my brother?"

Hank all at once realizes he can't fucking call anybody. Who would believe him?
He doesn't even believe himself, and he's currently living it.

He wonders if he's just lost it, as he tries his absolute best to be gentle getting this guy out of his - fuck - his *coffin*. His coffin.
Poor thing almost weighs nothing and is simultaneously the heaviest Hank's ever lifted. And he's so cold. He feels like raw, shocked ice that gets stuck to your fingers and has Hank breaking out in goosebumps. He even makes a pitiful noise, like it hurts to move.
Hank just tucks him in closer.

And that's his mistake.

As soon as he tucks the man closer to his body, head towards his shoulder, there's a sudden clench in every muscle of the man's body.

And Hank feels something sharp sink right through the meat of his shoulder.
There's nothing but a shocking pressure-pain that dissolves into inky blackness, for a long time.

And when Hank comes to? He's on the floor of his hidden room inside a hidden room inside his old mansion home - and there's a musty coat folded under his head.
Sumo at his side, the only warmth in the entire place, nuzzles his wet nose at his cheek. Hank has never been this cold in his life. The only other time he ever felt this cold was when he had to have... blood transfusions. For low levels. He still has to have them...
"I'm sorry." a voice says, raspy and not as weak as before. "I truly am, I did not mean to be so... uncivilized. I promise you're alright, just.."

"Cold." Is the only word Hank can muster at first, fingers weakly grabbing at Sumo's fur. "Hey..."
"I'm... I'm afraid neither of us can move yet. Forgive me, again."

Hank can just blearily open his eyes, seeing Sumo's lovely face, but then looks beyond him. Where that man is sitting slumped against his own coffin, traces of red on his mouth and fingers.
The blackness of his eyes around deep chocolate brown makes him look entirely otherworldly in such an unsettling way. It doesn't help that the shadows throw the contours of his face into further unreal sharpness, and the dots in Hank's vision make things distort.

"You don't have to right away." he promises, then shudders in a breath that sounds like the rattling heater in Hank's old car.

"What the fuck kind of assurance is that?" Hank whispers, words slurred. He pulls at Sumo's collar to get the dog's attention, "Sumo. Water."
Sumo jumps up and runs from the room. Hank hears him bounding up the stairs out of the cellar. The man looks almost frightened of Hank now that they're alone, as if he's not wearing Hank's blood on his now less ashen face, "I.. I don't know. Did you... you opened the door?"
"No, the dog did." Hank spits, trying his hardest to get himself up. It's like his body is void of any strength, veins holding a chill like they've been filled with new shit. It's like what the transfusions do to him, makes him feel weirdly hollow.
He realizes all at once that not only are his hands numb, but so are his legs. Fuck's sake, is he really confined to the horror movie crawl? Trying to roll and push himself up is torture, his vision spins like a carousel. "God, I *can't* move. What did you do to me?"
"It was instinct, I... I've only had the reaction once before." he croaks, and Hank swears the man's bones crack like a lobster shell when he warily maneuvers Hank into a sitting position. "It won't happen again. Let me..."
Somehow the man helps Hank to his feet, the two of them stumbling into the wall, shakily hobbling their way into the parlor. When Hank twists his ankle he doubts he would've known if he hadn't started to fall.

All in all, they make it a measly six feet.
Hank tumbles onto the ancient chaise lounger and puffs up all kinds of disgusting dust, and the man falls to the floor beside him. He thinks he hears a rib crack, sickening as all fucking hell.

"I'm sorry, I can't." The man tells him around grit teeth.
Hank looks down at him, and if Hank had use of his body right now, he could probably snap this guy like peanut brittle. For all the *moments* of strength this man seemingly has, he's still on death's door but obviously not fucking quite.
Hank grunts, wishing his heart would stop thumping so heavy inside his head and in his damn throat. He feels like he's gonna be sick.

The man looks at him too, a suffering pinch to his brow.

The pause they take, where Hank's stomach is churning,
and the man's sticky, cold as fuck fingers pull aside the wet shoulder of his shirt. More mistakes, because Hank obviously can't make enough today, he peers down too.

With the forming stain of diluted blood on his ripped shirt, the skin of his shoulder is already
blooming with harsh bruises. And there's *holes*, two jagged holes accompanied with the indents of teeth. But they're scabbing over with waxy new skin, which Hank finds fucking wild. Is the wetness on his shirt… spit? It's cold, which puts him in a worse mood.
The man's long fingertips linger on him, covered in his blood. It's like he's following along in a book, reading the invisible words of Hank's body. He sounds so gentle and sure when he whispers, "You'll be okay."

"How do you know that?" Hank squints at him,
looking like he came out of a fucking murder mystery LARP. White shirt that's since weathered with time, fancy puffed tie with one of those brooches. Hank's eyes struggle to see the rose design with his swimming vision.

The man's eyes meet his and then swiftly he shrinks away.
The clacking of Sumo's nails come down into the cellar again, and held gentle in his mouth is Hank's water bottle. He struggles like hell to hold it in numb hands and pops the spout open with his teeth.

He takes maybe two swallows before his ears feel fuzzy and the room starts
slanting. He's out before he realizes, the boof of Sumo's bark like it's underwater.

The fact of the matter is, Hank is fucked. No matter how he looks at it, he's fucked ten ways from Sunday. With the man from the coffin and the stupid secret rooms, whose got paintings upstairs
in the creepy mansion Hank thought was fun, who made himself comfortable clamping his jaw on Hank like he was prime beef steak. He tried to help him after. Apologized. Like you can apologize for springing up from your own coffin and almost sucking the goddamn life from someone.
He tried to assure Hank he'd be okay, and *apologized* so profusely Hank wanted to tell him to stuff it, because there's so much better information he could've been landed with. Hank's fucked, because somewhere in his brain he knows he can't get rid of him.
He knows he can't just say no and be done, go on with his life in ignorance, just like he couldn't with the hidden doors.

Which leaves the only other option, helping him. So, while his head floats to weird places and his body goes through shock, he already knows. He's fucked.
Waking up is like feeling every hangover he's ever had, after being beaten outside the bar.

So, he's doing fine.

He almost snuggles right back into more sleep, if the smell of must and grime didn't beat him over the brain like a cartoon hammer, wheezing squeak and all.
He's still in the parlor. Which he hates. Because that means it's real.

He's sitting up before he really should for the express purpose of inflicting himself more pain. He pushes his fingers, now blessedly with feeling again, into his wounded shoulder.

But... there's no pain.
Sure, it's a little tender, he's bruised. But there's no, y'know, wild open wound from ancient sharp teeth kind of pain. Because that's.. normal.

Looking around, he seems all put back together besides the hangover feeling. Which is good and bad, for obvious reasons.
He doesn't have to feel like shit, but he knows he *should*. Sumo is off to the side by a bookshelf, sitting and looking all kinds of happy. He gives Hank one of those tongue out squinty smiles, which means 'I've done a good job!'

What job he's done, Hank won't ask.
"Hey." he peers sideways into the divide between the rooms, at the fancy shoes and skinny legs on the floor. They immediately pull out of sight. "Hey, don't go hiding on me. Why are you still in there?"

That soft raspy voice hangs in the air, "I've been in here for so long..."
Hank shuffles a few hesitant steps over. The guy's sitting against a wall with his legs to his chest, and surprisingly, there's a scattering of wrappers. Snacks. He's still fiddling with a sandwich bag that has a leftover pancake in it.

"The dog." he provides,
looking over at the sweet big lug watching from the doorway. "Sumo."

Sumo's ears perk happily. Of course he fed him.

"Of course he fed you." Hank sighs, and leans to give Sumo a pat.

"Do you work for my family?" the man asks suddenly, looking so goddamn small on the floor.
"I'm retired. Who *is* your family?" Hank asks, then shakes his head, "No. Better - what the fuck were you doing in there? Who are you?"

The man stands up. He looks a lot healthier than he was. "My name is Connor... the eldest of the Stern children? Or.. I was."
"What do you mean 'was'?" Hank snaps, wishing there would be a straight answer.

"They put me in here." Connor says, quiet. And all the bitching Hank was going to launch into evaporates as fast as all the moisture in his mouth. The mourning in Connor's tone is haunting.
"What do you mean?"

"They... My parents. My uncle and aunt. When they found out what I was... they tricked me in here." Connor whispers, "That's why I didn't go upstairs. I didn't know if they were here..."

Hank's stomach drops, "I live here, bud. There's no one else."
He can't tell if the look on Connor's face is horror or relief. "My brother?"

"It's just me," Hank says, "and now you."

Connor's eyes flick towards the door to the outside, some kind of shiver running through him. He looks back to the coffin, eyes far away. "They left...?"
"Connor, I'd like an answer from you."

"With what?" Connor whispers, like it's not entirely obvious *what*.

He shakes his head, wishing he could decompress before dealing with this.

"Well, you've got a bit to go in the looks department... You sound human enough..." he prompts,
"But what are you, really?"

Connor's eyes soften, dirty hands rubbing together with nerves. Hank wants to put him in the luxury soaking tub upstairs, because *christ* he's filthy. "I thought it was obvious."

Point fucking taken. But Hank needs the confirmation that he's
actually in this, because that's the polite thing Connor could do. He gives his best expectant face, hoping it brings across the existential crisis.

"It was in the winter. I had been to town, gathering gifts for the upcoming holiday... I noticed a man had been following me."
Connor's hand inches up to the side of his neck as he speaks, not looking Hank's way, "He asked about me, in ways men shouldn't in public to a young man, you know. I told him to speak to me with more respect if he wanted to keep his tongue. But I should have known...
something was off."

He squints like he's remembering every moment in vivid detail. Which makes Hank shift uncomfortably, almost wishing he hadn't asked and just. Accepted this.

"I didn't think about it. I went on with my day. My brother often got cold,
so I took my axe out into the night, to chop wood for the fire. Mother wanted the help to do it, but Marlan was old and prone to chill as well. So I went."

He looks up at Hank now, with an unreadable expression on such a pale face that it almost makes Hank scared.
"The man was there, in the woods. Black eyes," he gestures to his own like it's almost funny, "sharp teeth. He tore a chunk out of my throat, and left me bleeding, paralyzed in the snow. I didn't make it home that night... After it all, I still regret not bringing the firewood."
Hank scoffs, "You were attacked in the fucking woods by a lunatic."

"Not quite a *lunatic*, sir. But something. I turned to ice in the fresh snowfall," he says, and the tone burns with bitterness, "little did I know that protected me from the shining eyes of God come morning."
"I crawled my way home, steeped in my own blood like some sort of baptism, and my brother found me. He carried me inside, he saved me. And continued to save me."

The way Connor asked for his brother in some of his first words to Hank, seems significant more than ever now.
The story is chilling, how Connor retells it with feeling not for his attack, but his own reactions. The inflection is just flat enough to make the hairs on Hank's arms prickle.

"And...?" Hank doesn't want to ask anymore. He doesn't want to hear it.

"And we'd heard rumors,
stories, of the people that shuttered their homes from sunlight, drank in decadence from wine always too red." he gives Hank a joyless smile, "The vampiric, Mr. Anderson. Trapped forever by a new vice and the same, never-aging face."
Hank feels himself pale. Too beautiful a description for the violence it took. "I...? I never told you my name."

Connor's smile turns more genuine, his nose scrunching, "No. The dog did."

What a little shit. Sumo trots over, his tags clinking on his collar. All smiles, too.
Hank feels shitty to be the only one not smiling. "Fucking christ."

"So," Connor smooths the wrinkles in his soiled shirt, trying to gather pride maybe. "Are you going to put me back in there?"

They both eye the coffin, adorned and beautiful and disgusting for what it is.
Hank heaves a big sigh, and slams it shut. The noise booms in the small space, making them both jump like the two terrified, tethered people they are now.

"I've transitioned to acceptance already." he sighs, "And you need a fucking bath. Come on."

Connor fidgets, "Up?"

Watching Connor hesitate on every step out of that basement is hard to watch. Like there's something coming for him in every swish of clothing or creak of the stairs. Sumo stays by his side the whole time, trying to push his nose into Connor's palm for a reassuring pet,
but getting surprised every time his hand is cold. Hank gives an encouraging nod when he can, wondering how just how much fear the home he used to be part of holds.

Connor builds some confidence, steps more sure. Enough to slip into the shadow between two beams of light in the
hall with a fluid move. The ghost of a smile touches his face. "It's 12:45 in the afternoon."

Hank's eyes flick to his watch, "How'd you know that?"

"The sun is always here between the curtains at 12:45."

Connor learned the time by the sun he had to avoid in his own home.
Hank doesn't have the heart to say anything to that.

Connor passes a few more rays of light like that, but his steps falter when the hall opens up to the rest of the downstairs, where it's clear it's all wrong. And it's right back to those hesitant movements,
not sure of what comes next. He picks at the upholstery of Hank's couch with confusion, and shies away from the television. One of the old couches is still sat off to the side, and Connor touches his fingers to it, traces the edge of a stain in the fabric.
Hank thinks Connor looks more like a ghost than anything else here.

Seeing his home in disarray, lined with dust and things so marred by time, it must be surreal. There's still cobwebs in the chandelier that Hank hasn't tended to yet. Connor lists slightly from side to side
while he walks, like in a trance, and Hank realizes he doesn't know if Connor knows how much time has passed.

He tries to lead him along, tries to be soothing, "Hey. Connor, come on, the bathtub--"

"I know where it is." Connor snaps, but it just sounds broken. "I lived here."
Hank drops his outstretched hand with a silent sigh. Right. He's at a loss, nothing he could say has really any chance of improving this. He can't offer anything but his presence as Connor carries himself from room to room like he's silently carrying the weight of the world.
Connor lingers. He lingers on small things. A crack in the wallpaper, a knickknack on a shelf. A place where something is supposed to be but isn't. In those moments Connor looks those hundreds of years old.

It's not until Hank coaxes him into the foyer that he hears him at all.
Hank's probably made it up two stairs when Connor's breath catches heavy in his throat. And when Hank turns, he thinks Connor's looking at the portrait of himself on the wall.

But Hank doesn't think he'd walk right into the line of the sun to reach for a picture of himself.
The portrait has blue eyes. The line of his brow stern. A sob wrenches from Connor's throat as he grasps at the frame, like he's desperately trying to reach for them.

Hank swears under his breath and rushes over, briskly trying to pry Connor away, almost feeling the singe of
his skin in the daylight while he pulls at a bony wrist. Connor fights him, weak when he shoves an elbow at his ribs, "No! No!"

"Connor, hell! Come on! Come on..." Connor's fingernails leave scratches in the wood when Hank wrenches him away, dragging him back into the shadow.
A wail of pure agony pours from the depths of Connor's body. Hank feels it quake in his ribs where he's holding him up from weak knees. The sound knocks at Hank's spine like the resounding ring of a funeral bell, it fills him with dread and pain.
The urge to cry springs to his face, prickles sharp under his skin.

Connor is limp in Hank's arms as he shudders in a breath, and screams like he's expecting an answer, "Richard!"

His voice echoes in the big house and all that meets them is silence.
They stumble back into the wall, and with Connor's dead weight and the overwhelming feeling of *loss* that chokes the air, Hank just lets them go. They land heavy on the first stairs and Hank simply holds him, not conscious of it enough to let go.

"I'm sorry." He means it.
Connor curls in on himself, hands hiding his face as he cries. "Please. Let me stay... let me stay."

Hank doesn't think those words are for him. No, they're far far away. He pushes against Hank's arms but Hank does not let him go. He cages him in like iron.
He's freezing to the touch and it bites at Hank's fingers, but he holds firm. Connor's heart bleeds into the room, abandoned by time along with him.

"Mother, please let me stay... please, don't... Richard..." he whispers, shaking like the feeling can't be held in his small body.
"Help me, please..." Connor's voice breaks into nothingness, aching wheezes of things that might be words are all that follow after.

"I'm sorry." Hank says again, eyes glued to the cobwebbed chandelier, voice tight in his throat while tears find their way into his beard.
Neither of them could say how long they sit there at the base of the stairs. Time doesn't really mean anything when it's clear so much of it has already been lost. If Hank was a better thinker, he would've anticipated this. But all he'd been thinking of was getting Connor out of
the same room as his own coffin. Coaxing him back into a regular space when he'd been forced into a nightmarish one for so long. You don't just leave victims at the crime scene.

Connor's cries go quiet after some time, the fight and sobs drain from his body. His head rests on
Hank's forearm and the two of them probably make a kind of renaissance style painting, twisted in relaxed struggle like they are.

Hank's back starts to spasm from sitting on the goddamn stairs with his legs akimbo, so he drags his arm across his face to clear away the tears,
and gently shifts Connor in his arms. His eyes are open but seemingly unseeing, face worryingly vacant.

"Come on, now." Hank murmurs, voice crackling with cries he didn't give. He manages to get them upright, with Sumo helping to serve as leverage the way he was trained.
Connor goes but it's not like there's any thought in it - simply moving because he's being moved. Knowing from experience, Connor's far from the harsh reality and deaf to most things in the world.

Hank slowly takes him up the stairs, because Connor needs better than he's gotten
all these years. If all Hank can do is offer him a hand up right now, he'll grab on with both and try his best.

In one of the many bathrooms, Hank's taken to this one, he settles Connor down and squeaks the faucet on. The old pipes clang and shake, the water comes out too hot.
Always does, Hank's realized. But he'd rather have it steaming than not. Plus, he's definitely sure Connor could use the warmth.

He doesn't think much before crumbling some luxury shit to soften the water, chamomile blooming in the air. Connor hasn't moved an inch. Hank wonders
how easy that is for someone like him. He makes sure the bathroom curtains are drawn fully and signs a command to Sumo, before he kneels in front of Connor perched on the closed lid of the toilet.

God. Can his clothes even go through the wash? He gently touches a cufflink,
"Hey. It's all ready for you... There anything specific you might need?"

Connor watches his hand, chest moving so slowly it makes Hank squint to be sure he's breathing. He notices. It makes him ache. Someone else used to do that, too.
Richard would watch him like a hawk and a fluttering baby hummingbird at the same time. Connor mourns that he'll never be looked at like that again. Hank's is more wary than anything and he longs for the softness of a gaze, of his only family.

But he relaxes the line of his
mouth and gives Hank the ghost of a smile for the effort, "You don't have to ask after the needs my condition affords me."

Connor expects Hank to turn embarrassed, to shy away and duck out of his presence.

He doesn't expect Hank to double down,
and seem offended on top of it.

"Now, hold on. Your *condition* isn't what I was asking about. I was asking about *you*." he huffs, left knee cracking when he shifts. It rings in Connor's sensitive ears. "It's not about your condition, it's about the world around you."
Connor's... taken aback. By the tone, yes, but also the persistence. The care. It wells uneasy in his gut that he's been shown such uncare that he's become uncomfortable in the lack of it. "I'm not sure how to reply."

"You don't have to. I just--" Hank sighs, runs his temple.
Big fuckin' headache on the horizon, his body is crying and his mind needs to stop spinning the centrifuge faster or he's gonna lose it.

"I just want to make it--" Better. He can't fucking say better. Because he can't make it better. He looks up at Connor. "Easier."
Connor slowly, ever so slowly, like he's giving Hank time to pull away, touches the back of his hand. He only gives a whisper, "If you know how to... warm some blankets...?"

The line of Hank's shoulders relax. "Yeah. No, yeah, that's easy."

Connor thinks it kind to assure.
Sumo gently nudges his way between them, depositing the fluffy towel held in his mouth onto Connor's knee. Then he waits to be pet, which Hank grants immediately. He still looks to Connor afterword, and Connor gently strokes along his head, "Too kind."

Hank lets him alone after,
to bathe in privacy and be with his thoughts. Sumo hesitates at the closed door but Hank calls him to come back down the stairs with him, promising a treat for lunch.

It's weird. Definitely. Hank's gotten used to living alone. So just knowing there's another person about
sort of pulls his senses to the room he knows Connor's in. Like he's waiting for something. He picks out and tosses some blankets in the dryer for Connor, makes lunch and starts up tea and can't really shake it, even as he's rationing out a little snack for Sumo.
When he brings the tray into the living room, he pauses to look at the portrait of Connor's brother on the wall. They look so similar, at least as well as he can tell. He shuts the curtains giving light to Richard's likeness, then settles down into his usual seat on the couch.
Connor doesn't have as much strength as he could, so when he lowers himself into the steaming bathtub that used to be so new, he simply sits. The water is slippery soft and the heat bites against his cold skin, crackling nerves to life.

When he starts to scrub, he ignores the
rawness his skin and savors when he goes even the littlest bit red. It's been so long since he really flushed red. The water turns a muddy color from all the dirt and grime he'd be subjected to that final night. He washes the years from himself and wonders if he'll be the same.
He knows from experience that his temperature has risen from being in the water, and Hank's soaps are a little odd, but he's seemingly more human when he steps out of the bath.

He pads barefoot out into the hall, with the towel held loosely around himself. It's incredibly cozy,
but he longs for his lavender shirt with the fish pin, it's always been his favorite.

His bedroom is not the same as it was. The bed is covered in a dank sheet and the rug is missing. When he opens his wardrobe, little remains. The shirt isn't there, nor is a good amount of
his jewelry. He manages to find a pair of pants he remembers being fond of, and one of his formal shirts. It's a bit silly, the black silk, but it beats being naked. He's upset he'll be so underdressed in Hank's company, his father would've chastised him for the indecency around
high class men his senior...

He doesn't feel so bad after thinking about that.

He won't mourn his private space now, his mind still so numb with Richard's faded portrait. Still with bare feet and missing the embellishments of norm, he... almost nervously, returns to Hank.
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