November 14th, 2061:
Time is fleeting...
The quiet of the hospital waiting room was disrupted only by the sound of soft footsteps as a young doctor, Dr. Renee Kovan, approached the lone occupant of the entire waiting area. The occupant sat upright in the chair with perfect posture, a coin dancing gracefully over the knuckles on his right hand silently, and his usual work suit was immaculately pressed to perfection. It had been an uneventful night in the hospital save for the emergency call that had arrived just after two that morning. The call that Dr. Kovan had taken herself, and had fought so valiantly to save.
It was a close call but the patient pulled through.
"Mr. Anderson?" The doctor called out softly as she stood beside the chair with a patient's electronic clipboard pressed to her chest. "I'm Dr. Kovan."
"Connor. Please, call me Connor." Standing up quickly the coin disappeared into his pocket as he extended his hand for the doctor to shake. "How he is? Please, tell me everything. I can take it."
"Very well." Shaking Connor's hand Dr. Kovan spoke to him respectfully and truthfully. "Your father has suffered a massive heart attack."
Connor's posture visibly slumped at the somber news. Though it was expected it still had a heavy weight over his mind and inside of his heart.
"He survived the ordeal, but he's still a very sick man." Dr. Kovan explained calmly. "The drugs being used to treat his liver cancer may have been the cause of the heart attack, but we'll run some tests to make sure before providing any additional treatment."
"I understand." Connor swallowed nervously as he studied the doctor's demeanor carefully. He was worried; almost on the verge of tears. "Can... Can I see him?"
"Yes. he's asked to see you already, and in this case we'll make an exception of the late hours." She smiled at Connor warily as she motioned with her arm for him to follow her down the corridor. "He's very weak, but he should still be lucid."
Connor followed Dr. Kovan to the intensive care unit where Hank had been admitted after his arrival. The room was dimly lit and the single patient inside the room was dozing lightly, propped upward in the bed as a cardiac monitor silently recorded his weak, slow heartbeat while monitoring his blood pressure, oxygen saturation and body temperature. An I.V. administrating pain relieving and cardiac stabilizing medication ran into the back of his hand as well. A nasal canula was under the man's nose to give him additional oxygen to ease his breathing while he rested as much as possible from his heart attack.
A few stray shortly trimmed, gray locks hair clung to Hank's sweaty forehead as he dozed. Without the longer hair that once covered his face to hide his features the aging skin around his eyes and mouth was much more prominent. The paleness of his face and the dark bags under his eyes made him look sicker than Connor thought was possible considering Hank was always so very strong.
"You can stay as long as you like." Dr. Kovan offered kindly in a whisper as she showed Connor into the room. "Talk to him."
Approaching the bed quietly, keeping every step deliberate and light, Connor stood at the bedside and gently lifted the sick man's cool, limp hand up from atop the white bed and held it tightly in his own.
"...Connor." Hank's eyes opened partially and even in the dim lighting he recognized Connor immediately. Giving the deviant a reassuring smile he tried to return the tight grip around his hand but he didn't have the strength. "You look good, son. Lieutenant Connor Anderson: Youngest police Lieutenant in Detroit history... I didn't say it back then, but I'm proud you're the one who broke my record."
"Hi, Hank. I haven't been a Lieutenant in almost nine years. Captain on the other hand, that's still going strong."
"And you haven't called me 'Hank' for quite some time, either."
"Sorry... I guess I still see you as that detective with a gruff exterior hiding a massive heart of gold."
"You always were a sweet-talker, kid."
"I learned it from you." Connor sat down on the edge of the bed and held onto Hank's hand as he spoke. It took everything in him to not cry as he ran a scan over Hank's body and noted the human's incredibly weak vital signs and the severity of the cancerous tumor spreading over his liver, lungs and pancreas with every passing second. "I'm glad to see you're awake."
Hank reached up his other hand just enough to point to the blank spot in Connor's right temple. "You know, even after all this time I still look for that damn light. It used to give away what you were really thinking without me having to guess or pressure you to talk to me."
Reflexively Connor brushed his free hand over his temple briefly before placing it his hand atop Hank's hand still in his grasp. "I don't need it anymore. I know who and what I am. And it's all because of you."
"You know, if you were to tell me all those years ago that I would've outlived Jeffrey I would've told you were crazy." Taking a slow deep breath he cleared his mind and his throat as he spoke. "And if you were to tell me that I'd have an android for a son I would've told you that you were out of your damn mind! But... here we are."
"A family." Connor managed to weakly smile for only a second as he spoke with Hank, the two detectives speaking from the heart during those bleak morning hours. "Together."
"Together." An appreciative grin appeared on Hank's aged face as he looked at his adopted son with utter admiration. "I take it you're the one who found me and called for help."
"You didn't answer your phone." Connor replied casually as he forced a grin of his own to his nervous face. "I was worried and I needed to check on you despite the late hour. When I came over I found you unresponsive on the kitchen floor, barely breathing. I can honestly say that was the most frightened I've been in all my life..."
"It's okay, son. I'm just old, and it happens."
"I shouldn't have left you alone, dad. This wouldn't have-"
"Shut up, Connor. Whether you were there or not, I still would've had that damn heart attack." Hank managed to give Connor a sincere broader smile as his aged blue eyes continued to shine with alertness. "I'm old, I'm sick... shit happens."
"The doctor thinks... your heart attack was the result of the medication currently being used to treat your cancer. She will run tests and find an alternative for you to take instead."
"Connor, I don't want to go through all that bullshit again."
"I'm sorry dad, but it's necessary. There are no other options."
"Actually, I do have one other option, son. And the doctors already know what I want."
"What is it?"
Hank paused for moment, just long enough to squeeze Connor's hand. "To stop the treatment altogether."
"...But your have stage four liver cancer." Connor shook his head a little with naive confusion. "Without the treatment you'll just get sicker."
"I know, son. I know."
"...Dad, I don't understand." The deviant's soulful brown eyes went wide and glazed over with sorrow. "Why are you giving up?"
"Connor." Hank wrapped his other hand around Connor's and held on as tightly as he could. "I'm ready, son. I'm ready to die."
Completely stunned by the admission Connor stared at Hank with a mixture of deep emotions swirling in his soulful brown eyes. "Dad..."
"I'm old, son." The certainty in Hank's voice was a deep contrast to his otherwise weak, fragile appearance. "I'm old, I'm sick, I'm tired and I'm ready."
"But with the treatment-"
"Two years, kid. And that's the best case scenario." Letting out a shuddering breath of pain Hank steadied himself as he spoke. "Connor, I'm already dead. My heart just doesn't know that it's time to stop beating. I guess it's as stubborn as your own heart."
Connor was silent as he stayed beside Hank, holding his hand tightly and never tearing his eyes away.
"I'm seventy-six years old and that's twenty-three years more than I ever would've imagined for myself; that is until you showed up." Patting Connor's knuckles affectionately Hank held onto his son's hand with as much strength as he could muster. "You already saved my life, Connor. You gave me a second chance at life, a family, and one hell of a grandson that I couldn't possibly be prouder of. It's okay to let me go now."
"I don't want to let you go, dad!" Connor practically burst as massive tears welled up in his eyes. "I need you!"
"No you don't, not anymore. You're your own person; a good man with a big heart who chose to dedicate himself to protecting the people around him. You're a great brother to Luke, a great father with a great son of your own in Henry, and in time it'll be your turn to be a 'Papa'." The pride in Hank's words was as sincere as it was palpable. "Promise me you'll live your life and not merely go about existing in sorrow. You don't need me to guide you anymore, you even said yourself that you know who and what you are. There's no doubt that you know where you're going, too."
"I don't want to go alone."
"You won't be alone, son. I promise."
"Dad," Connor's pleading for Hank to somehow find the strength to keep living only proved that the android turned deviant in fact had a real heart; that he really was alive. "you and Henry and Luke are all I have. You're my father."
"Connor, it was my honor to be yours, Cole's and Luke's father. And it was a bigger honor to be Henry's grandfather. Even after I'm gone you'll always be my sons, just as Henry will always be my grandson. Nothing will ever change that. I'm proud of all three of you, and I love you will all that my old heart has left to give."
It was difficult for Connor to respect Hank's wishes, but he knew it was the right thing to do. His respect and love for Hank outweighed any notion he had of trying to postpone the inevitable because he alone wasn't ready to accept it. "...Shouldn't Henry and Luke be here to say goodbye?"
"No, no... I spoke with Luke yesterday afternoon. He knew I was going downhill and he promised to not say anything to upset either of you. And I talked to Henry last night, and I told him how much I loved him. In a way, I already said 'goodbye'. A sense of 'impending doom' is a pretty common symptom of heart attacks, and as it turns out, kinda' handy."
Connor was losing the battle against his grief and it was evident on his face.
"Son, please don't do that. Please promise me you'll live your life and finally see the world."
"I... I promise."
"Connor, look at me. Look me in the eyes."
Forcing himself to lock onto Hank's blue eyes Connor obeyed the request, but his tic with the coin returned. As he prepared to juggle it over his knuckles Hank's hand weakly put his hand over the back of Connor's to hold it still.
"Connor, believe me. You don't need that coin anymore. You can handle anything that comes your way. Son, you're going to be okay. And I will be, too." Hank continued to comfort his son out of a paternal instinct and smile proudly. "I'm just going to see Cole again. I've been waiting a long time for that..."
"No. I don't want you to go!" The tears were now running down Connor's face as he spoke with an emotionally quaking voice. "I don't want you to go, dad."
Hank let out a touched laugh as he lifted up his free hand again toward Connor, the I.V. in the back of his hand was forgotten in the motion of the compassionate gesture. "Come here, son."
Restraining the urge to sob Connor leaned forward and let Hank wrap his arm around him as the two hugged each other and let their mutual tears of pain flow freely from their hearts and into one another. Connor rested his head over Hank's chest and listened to the struggling beat of his old, stubborn heart while Hank ran his hand through Connor's hair lightly.
"I love you, son." Smiling as much as he could, Hank's eyes drifted close as his strength ebbed away from hims steadily. "I really do."
"I love you, too, dad."
"I'm gonna' miss you. You... Henry... Luke. I honestly do love you, son. I love all of you."
"We love you, too, dad."
Remaining at his father's side all through the dwindling night and early morning Connor listened to every slowing heartbeat as Hank became weaker and weaker with each passing hour. Once the former detective's arm fell limply from around his shoulders Connor laid down on the bed next to Hank and held him in his arms in a comforting embrace. His eyes were full of mournful tears as he watched Hank's chest rising and falling at a slower, almost undetectable rate.
Wrapping his fingers around Hank's limp wrist Connor counted his father's dwindling pulse and held his own breath as the cardiac monitor displayed a flat, lifeless line as Hank's heart had finally given out and finally stopped beating.
The silence from Hank's chest was deafening and eternal.
Connor closed his eyes as tears poured down his face and he clenched his teeth. He began to openly sob with indescribable pain as he listened to the nothingness that had been left in the wake of Hank's passing.
"...Goodbye, dad." Laying Hank back down on the bed Connor gently crossed the detective's strong, calloused hands over his stilled chest and held his own hands atop of Hank's for a moment longer. "...I'll miss you forever.""
The sun itself even seemed unable to rise on that broken morning as Connor wept over his dearly departed father.
November 15th, 2061:
Connor sat on the back deck of the house all through the previous night and well into the next morning after finally being coxed into leaving the hospital. Unable to sleep, unable to return to his own house next door, and unwilling to do anything that would take his mind from the loss of Hank, Connor himself was feeling incredibly lost and alone. Staring off into nothingness of the rising sun as he sat in quiet contemplation he was only vaguely aware of a presence joining him on the deck.
"Hey, Connor." Markus spoke softly as he put his hand to his friend's shoulder lightly and sat down beside him. "I... I wish I knew what I could say. What I could do to help."
Shaking his head Connor just let more tears flow down his face. "It's okay, Markus. I don't know what to do, either."
"I know you're feeling lost, alone, maybe even a little betrayed... but, I know from experience that death isn't something humans plan. It isn't anything they can control. Neither can we."
"When... Hank was diagnosed five years ago neither of us knew what to say or what to do. And when he started to really get sick in the summer all we could think to do was hide out at the cabin for as long as possible. When Henry was asleep upstairs all we could do, all we could say was... goodbye."
"Goodbye?" Markus just stared at Connor with empathetic bewilderment.
"We didn't know what else to say, so, we said 'goodbye'." Connor took in a deep breath to choke back a sob as he spoke. "Even though we already said what we needed to say to one another, we made sure we knew how much we respected each other and loved each other as family, even though we already bid one another farewell properly and said our final goodbyes... it turned out we still weren't ready for it to happen. Guess we never really can be ready for death."
Bowing his head Connor let out another sob and wiped his hand over his soulful brown eyes as he mourned for the loss of his family.
"...Does Luke know?"
"Yes. He's flying in this afternoon."
"I... I called him this morning. He's devastated. Gavin is bringing him home for me."
"What can I do?"
"Just... Just stay with me. I don't want to be alone."
Markus moved his hand from Connor's shoulder over to the other and pulled him in close for a hug. As the deviant leaned against Markus and wept as heavily as his heart could bear Connor finally found himself able to accept the truth.
Hank wasn't there anymore.
For what felt like years Connor sat on the back deck in mourning with Markus at his side, only moving when he heard a car door slam shut in the drive beside the house. Henry came sprinting from Gavin's car and threw himself into Connor's arms as he too began to cry over the loss of Hank. While Connor held his son and let him cry against his shoulder Markus discreetly took his leave of the back deck and went over to talk to Gavin in private in regards to the situation.
With utmost care Connor stood up from the deck with Henry still in his arms as he walked to the backdoor and guided Henry inside to the livingroom. Sitting down on the couch together the duo mourned for their loss and just held onto one another for emotional support. Henry was clutching the pocketwatch that Hank had given him in a death grip, almost afraid to let it go.
Rubbing his hand along Henry's back in a comforting manner Connor remembered all the times he held his young son in his arms when he was sick, sad or just fussy as a baby going through growing pains. He also remembered all the times when he was sad, hurt or sick and he had Hank watching over him or giving him words of comfort.
Henry found the means to speak, his voice shaking and full of raw sorrow. "...I can't believe Papa is really gone."
"I know, Henry. I can't believe it either."
"I miss him!" Henry began to sob even harder and all Connor could do was hold him and try to soothe him with words of comfort. "I miss him so much!"
"I... I spoke to him last night." Henry finally let go of Connor and pulled the sleeve of his t-shirt up to wipe off his tears. "And I could hear it in his voice. He was saying goodbye to me. I knew it was going to happen, but... It still seems so surreal."
"He went peacefully, son. He kept saying how proud he was of you, and how much he loves you. The pain is over and he's with your Uncle Cole and Grandma Barbara now.
"Yeah." Connor began to cry again as he wiped off his own tears. "And he's with your mom."
Keeping his hand on Henry's back Connor and his son just sat on the couch as they accepted the new reality that they were now forced to live through. One without Hank. Connor no longer had his father and Henry no longer had his grandfather.
Captain Hank Anderson was gone.
Connor stood idle in the kitchen as he cybernetically filed everything required for the funeral and had the misfortune of contacting their closest friends to inform them of Hank's passing. When he heard Rose break down and cry over the phone Connor almost lost it again himself, but regained his composure for her sake. Gavin had spread the word through the precinct on Connor's behalf, and Abby spread the world through Skye Tower. Markus took it upon himself to inform the members of New Jericho Tower of Hank's passing as well.
As was customary for first responders there was a brief report on the news regarding Hank's life as a detective and of his death. There was even a small mention of Hank's surviving family mentioning his sons and grandson. It resulted in hundreds of flowers being delivered to the house and many more being donated to the funeral home where the wake was set begin.
Henry was passed out asleep on the couch. Emotional exhaustion took it's toll and it knocked him out cold, but his hand was still clutched about the pocketwatch with all his strength. Standing behind the couch Connor looked down at his sleeping son's face and heard the backdoor quietly open. Glancing into the kitchen Connor caught sight of Luke entering the house. It was evident he too had been crying.
"Hey, little brother." Luke greeted in a sad whisper as he entered the house and gave Connor a hug.
"You look terrible."
"I feel terrible."
Luke released the hug with a breathy sigh. "Did he..."
"No. It was peaceful. No pain."
"That's good. The last time I spoke with him over the phone I knew he was saying his farewells. I wasn't happy about it, but I kept my silence as he requested. Are you mad at me for doing so?"
"No. I understand why he did it. It's okay, Luke."
"What do I need to do?"
"Could you just help me keep Henry company? I don't think he can be left alone for now, he's too upset."
"Of course, Connor. He's my nephew."
"The funeral is in three days." Connor stated in a low whisper as he and Luke stayed behind the couch where Henry was sleeping. "Turns out Hank had everything already taken care of for all of us."
"How'd he do that?"
"He took care of the arrangements, had all the paperwork signed and everything paid for. We just go to the wake in two days, and the cemetery on the third day."
"Well... I guess tomorrow we should, uh, get blacks suits."
"I have suits you and Henry can wear. I don't think it'd be very comfortable for us to go out shopping while upset, and I don't want to ask Henry to go anywhere at the moment."
"I suppose you're right. Thank you, Connor."
"Please, watch over Henry for me. I need a moment for myself, and there is something I need to take care of."
"Yeah, I got it. Go do what you need to do, Connor."
Walking toward the hallway Connor turned to look over his shoulder where he saw Luke sitting down in the recliner beside the couch as he ran his hand through Henry's hair lightly. Connor had to force himself to walk down the hallway and enter the bedroom at the end, Hank's bedroom. Tentatively the deviant pushed open the door and stepped inside very slowly. The bed was perfectly made, and the blinds were drawn. Beside the bed on the nightstand were various prescription pain medication bottles, empty drinking glasses, and dozens of photographs on the table beside the bottles.
The box of photographs that Hank kept in his closet was sitting on the floor beside the bed, a sign that Hank knew his time was coming to an end and he wanted to see his family one last time. Picking up the box Connor sat on the edge of Hank's bed and began sifting through the photos himself. A majority of the photographs were of Henry and Connor, with a generous amount of Luke, Cole, Barbara, Sumo, the now late Captain Jeffrey Fowler and other officers from the precinct also strewn about.
It was there Connor found the golden watch, the watch that had been a gift to Hank from his own father, that Hank had let him borrow the day he was taken captive to Chicago. The watch that kept Connor determined to fight back and find his way home. The watch was important to Hank, and Connor understood the honor it was to have Hank trust him with it.
Slipping the watch over his left wrist he sighed and tightened it to fit properly. "Dad, I don't know what you were going to do with this watch, but I'll keep it safe for you. I promise."
With each photo Connor glanced through tears would well up in his eyes and threaten to fall at any second. So many smiling faces, so many people that had come in and out of Hank's life. Images of Hank throughout the years as he himself grew up, went to school, joined the police academy were filled with pride. Newspaper clippings of his successful career as a police officer and a detective had also been collected, but Hank seemed more interested in the photographs than the clippings.
"...Captain Fowler." Connor found a photo of the late Jeffrey Fowler standing shoulder to shoulder with Hank the day Hank had been promoted to Lieutenant. They truly were good friends until the accident. Hank pushed Jeffrey away and resided in self-imposed isolation until Connor came along. "It's difficult to believe you're both gone."
Continuing his search through the photos Connor noted the familiar faces of those who worked in the precinct, as well as the various people that Hank had given a break throughout the years, made the deviant's heart swell. Hank had helped so many people and never once sought any recognition for his kind deeds.
Hundreds of photos of Hank with his late wife Barbara and late son Cole were difficult to view, but it only became more difficult as he uncovered photos of Hank bonding with Henry as the little boy grew up over the years. Eighteen Christmases, birthdays, Halloweens, Thanksgivings, hundreds of basketball games, dozens of trips to the park, a dozen more trips to the cabin, even almost as many photos of Henry playing with Sumo and then Opal were practically overflowing from the box. So much of Henry's life had taken part with Hank actively involved.
But it was the photos of Hank working with Henry on the Camaro and playing with Henry when he was still a kid and a baby made Connor start to cry again as he realized how much Hank truly loved Henry like his own flesh and blood. Much to Connor's delight the photo of Hank standing with Connor and Henry during Henry's graduation had been framed, alongside the photograph of Barbara and Cole that had been on Hank's desk at the precinct, and tucked inside the box. Holding the framed images in his hands Connor smiled and wiped away his tears.
"Dad, you had more of a family than you knew." It was getting harder for him to keep his emotions in check, but right now he needed to be strong while Henry was the one feeling weak. "...And we're all going to miss you so much. I already do."
November 17th, 2061:
The wake at the local funeral home was crowded with people who wished to give their final respects to the fallen former Captain. Connor was sitting in the corner of the funeral home with Henry, his hand ever present on his emotionally distraught son's shoulder while Luke took the lead and thanked the guests for their time and respects.
Too emotional to really do anything other than comfort Henry and cry himself, Connor was grateful for Luke stepping up.
The minister in attendance stood at the podium and began to deliver a nice sermon regarding Hank's life. Guiding Henry from the back of the room toward the front Connor took a seat beside Luke and kept his hand on Henry's shoulder.
A photograph of Hank working with Henry on the Camaro was clutched between Henry's hands tightly as the mourning grandson stared at the image with an utter ache in his heart. During the sermon all Connor and Henry could do was look at the opened coffin where Hank was laying. His face was calm and peaceful, but it was evident that the Hank that Connor, Henry and Luke all loved had long since departed. They could see his face, but they couldn't feel his presence.
"...He's really gone." Henry whispered despondently. "He's never coming back."
Connor tried to gently 'shush' Henry as he ran his hand along his son's shoulders and back.
As the sermon came to a close the family and friends were asked to approach the coffin to say their final goodbyes. Forcing his legs to move Connor guided Henry forward, but the heartbroken young man could only bear to look for a few seconds before sobbing and pressing his face into Connor's shoulder. As Connor wrapped his arm around Henry he too began to break down and quickly walked away with his son to escape the sympathetic stares from the other mourners.
Locating a quiet, isolated area of the funeral home Connor embraced Henry and let him grieve for as long as he needed.
"Cry, Henry." Connor encouraged as he fought to keep his own voice steady for his son's sake. "Just cry..."
"This really hurts!"
"I know. I'm hurting, too..."
"When will it stop?"
Connor closed his eyes and remembered when he had asked Hank the exact same question so long before. "...It doesn't stop, Henry. It just gets a little easier to live with one day at a time."
Luke found his brother and nephew comforting one another and embraced them in a hug of his own. "Hey, it's going to be okay."
As the three surviving members of the Anderson clan mourned together, the other tending guests paid their respects and left quietly.
Connor fought to compose himself and asked for Luke to stay with Henry for just a moment. There was something that Connor needed to do before he left the funeral home, and it was something he wanted to do in private.
Returning to where Hank was laying peacefully in the coffin Connor approached and gazed down at his father's face one more time. Reaching behind the large memorial wreath composed of flowers Connor retrieved the two framed photographs containing images of himself, Henry, Cole, Barbara and a third framed picture of Luke.
Placing the photographs inside the coffin under Hank's arms Connor stifled another sob and spoke to Hank. "...I know you'll be watching over us, but I thought you'd like to have these. Now your family will always be with you, no matter where you go."
Slowly Connor closed the lid to the coffin and bowed his head against the smooth, cool dark surface as he let himself cry again.
"I love you, dad."
It was going to be a cold, slow night for the trio of Anderson's as they begrudgingly left the funeral home to return to the house.
The house that was now empty and void of the man that they all admired.
Henry sat on the couch with Luke at his side as they too began checking through the box of photographs. It made them both feel better seeing images of Hank smiling and playing with Henry and Sumo, and seeing Hank spending time with both Connor and Luke. They were truly his children, his family, and it gave them a sense of familial grounding and emotional support.
"Hey, I remember this." Henry held up a photo showing himself sitting on Hank's shoulders as they went to the park by the river. Henry himself was only six years old at the time. "We went to the park after my very first basketball game. He showed me the secret to the perfect free-throw, and I haven't missed yet."
Luke smiled as he saw that tucked down in the bottom of the box was a newspaper clipping regarding the score of the baseball game that he, Hank and Connor had all seen together in Boston. "This is from that first game we saw together. I wish we could've seen every game that season together, but... You know. It's not easy living so far apart. But that made seeing him all the more special."
"Yeah. I can't believe he made it to all of my basketball games." Henry was ever appreciative of Hank's support. "I knew it hurt his back to sit on the hard bleachers for hours on end, but he never once complained."
"No... Not even when he was at his sickest."
"He called you too, didn't he Uncle Luke?"
"Yeah. I knew why he was calling, and I'm so glad I was able to talk to him one last time." The deviant's blue eyes were welling up with tears. "But ending the call... That hurt more than I expected. It was the last time I got to speak to him."
"I know." Henry wiped away a rogue tear from his own eye as he sighed and took a deep breath to try to ease his shaking thoughts. It was hard but he was able to remain composed as his grief continued to settle in. "He called me the night before, seven o'clock on Friday night, as usual, but... I knew it was different. After I said goodbye and that I loved him I put aside my phone and went to bed. And I knew that when I woke up the next morning that... Somehow I just knew he was gone."
Luke nodded a little and began checking back through the box of photographs. "I understand what you mean."
"I'm just glad that dad was there with him when he passed." Glancing about the livingroom Henry realized that Connor wasn't anywhere to be seen. "Hey, where is dad?"
"He went outside to talk on the phone and finish the final details regarding the funeral arrangements."
"Oh. He's been out there-"
Knocking on the front door stopped Henry mid sentence as he and Luke turned to look at the door. Getting up from the couch Henry went to answer the door and was greeted by Markus. "Hi, Markus."
"Hey, Henry. How're you holding up?"
"I had the same reaction when I lost my own father, I get it. I wanted to see if you needed anything."
"I'm okay, but I can't answer for dad or Uncle Luke."
Luke himself had gotten up from the couch and walked over to the door to greet Markus with a strong handshake. "Hello, Markus."
"Hey, Luke. Do you need anything?"
"Actually... There might be something you can do for us." Motioning back to the couch Luke showed Markus the massive box of photographs and gave him a small smile. "Think you could us turn these photographs into a type of slideshow or tribute for him?"
"Of course." Markus was more than happy to volunteer the artistic skills he had learned from Carl. "It'd be an honor to help with such a display."
Henry closed the door behind Markus and decided to check in on his dad while Luke and Markus sat on the couch and began discussing their plan. Walking through the backdoor of the kitchen Henry found Connor sitting on the step of the back deck with both hands over his face as he silently sobbed in heartbroken mourning.
Henry sat down beside Connor in a matter of seconds and pulled his dad up against him in the same tight hug that Connor had given him so many times before when he was upset.
This time it was Henry's turn to take care of Connor.
"Dad, don't hide."
"...I'm sorry." The mourning deviant apologized morosely.
"And don't be sorry. We all miss him."
"I'm supposed to comfort you," Connor forced his voice to steady enough to speak. "not the other way around."
"Why? We're family! We're supposed to take care of each other, dad. Let me take care of you."
As Connor wept in his son's arms the deviant felt the same inexplicable and inescapable heartache that he had suffered through after Lucas had been murdered, and after Skye succumbed to her injuries the night of the riot. There was no doubt that Hank's passing was irreversibly changing Connor's life, but this time he had his son and his brother to see him through the tragedy. Hank wouldn't be there to keep the darkness from entering his heart.
"It's okay, dad... Just cry. I'm here, and I'll always be here."
Connor tightened his hug and continued to weep. "And I'll always be here for you, son. No matter what happens I will always be here."
November 18th, 2061:
The day of the funeral.
The cemetery was peacefully quiet and the sun was shining brightly in a strong contrast to the dark, dreary mood of the day itself.
Donned in his black suit out of respect for the dead Connor stood before the black coffin with his hands folded neatly before himself as he prepared to eulogize his late father. He stood before a generous gathering of family, friends and fellow police officers; humans and deviants alike. Those who had had worked with Hank in the precinct, and those who had come to know Hank as a friend from his work with the deviancy uprising throughout the city, had attended the funeral en mass to give the deceased, retired detective the respect he had so rightfully earned.
Of course Henry, Luke, Markus, North, Josh, Simon, Kara, Rose, Adam (along with his wife and kids), Chris (with his wife and kids), Gavin, Abby, Aria, Tina, Joel and even Jack were all in attendance to pay their own respects to their fallen father, patriarch, friend, and ally.
The memorial was composed of a flowery wreath with a portrait of Hank, the image was from his youth and taken the day he graduated from the police academy. Dozens of lilies had been collected and placed all around the coffin out of respect for the fallen man. A screen was set up to the side of the coffin showing a slideshow of the hundreds of photographs that had been collected throughout the years.
After watching the display for almost an hour it was time to begin the eulogy and lay Hank to rest at long last.
It wasn't easy, but Connor found his voice and gave Henry a subtle nod as he sat next between Luke and Rose in the front row. The sight of Henry being so emotionally vulnerable gave Connor an instinctive response to be strong on his son's behalf until Henry was able to come to terms with what had happened.
"Captain Henry 'Hank' Lucas Anderson was a man of quiet resolve and loud virtue." Connor paused as he let out a deep breath to emotionally steel himself once more before continuing. "Those who had the honor of working with Hank as an officer of the law knew he could be crude, sarcastic and even short-tempered; but those who had the honor of getting to know Hank as a friend knew that Hank held a big heart full of compassion, patience, empathy and understanding."
Henry's was starting to cry again and Luke put his hand on his shoulder while Rose grabbed onto his hand for emotional support.
Closing his eyes tightly Connor bowed his head slightly as he repressed a heartwrenching sob that had risen in his throat.
"When I first met Hank we had been assigned to work together to handle cases with deviant androids. And he was... not happy about the arrangement. Even less so when he learned that I was in fact an android. It didn't help that at the time I would follow him around more than Sumo ever did."
A small cluster of good-humored laughter helped ease and lessen the crushing emotional tension in the air.
"Our meeting was under grim, unorthodox circumstances that seemed doomed to end in disaster, but as we spent time together and worked with each other to solve our case and to better understand what was happening in the city we were able to better understand each other. And our resulting friendship changed our lives forever; mine far more than his, and it was for the better."
Lifting his head back up Connor looked past the group of gathered mourners at the cemetery and to the blue horizon behind them.
"I had learned of Hank's past and of the utter despair he had endured alone. While I knew what happened I was unable to understand it until I had become deviant. And it was Hank who helped me to realize that I am in fact alive and helped me to achieve my deviancy; to find my humanity. Hank helped me to find a heart, and in time all I could do was hope that my own heart would become as strong as his. A strength I was determined to give to my own son, and thanks to Hank, I succeeded."
Giving his final words to the mourners Connor felt the warm tears flowing down his face once more.
"Hank had said 'Time is fleeting, but memories last forever.', and he was right. He's still right." As Connor spoke Henry began to cry again. "Hank was a dedicated detective, a vigil protector, a guardian, a friend..." Connor's hand gently came to a rest on the corner of the closed coffin lid softly. "and above all else he was a father, and a grandfather. He was the father that I never knew I needed, and the father I never knew I wanted until we met. I wouldn't be half the person, or father, I am today if he hadn't taken me in; if he hadn't given me the chance to prove myself. And I knew from the moment he passed away that my life had changed forever once again, but now it's for the worse because he isn't going to be apart of it anymore."
Connor's palm dropped from the coffin as his hands clenched into pained fists at his sides.
"Despite his own pain and his desire to stop feeling, he still found the room to take in a stray android and raise him as a son, and then do it all over again with Luke. And when Henry was born I knew that I'd never have the chance to fail as a parent because Hank would be there to guide me every step of the way."
A chorus of sniffles and crying accompanied Connor's words.
"I miss him. And I'm going to miss him for the rest of my life. And clearly I won't be alone in this horrible grief."
Steeling his voice for the last time Connor clutched his hand over his heart as he gave his final words.
"I can honestly say from the depths of my heart that Hank was my dad; and of all the humans I have met in my life I know for a fact that Hank's golden heart; though broken, troubled and scarred was without a doubt the biggest, and the strongest. His heart was like his morals, indestructible."
November 19th, 2061:
...but memories last forever.
Connor stood before the newly placed headstone with Hank's name engraved upon it. Hank had been laid to rest next to his firstborn son Cole, his departed wife Barbara and was neighboring the headstone place in memory of Lucas. The fresh earth over the grave was dark and smoothed over perfectly as a sign of respect. As he rested his left hand atop the headstone the watch on his wrist glistened in the sunlight. Connor bowed his head and placed a lily down out of additional respect before repeating the action for Lucas, Cole and Barbara, leaving behind flowers for each of the dearly departed.
Returning his attention to Hank's grave Connor bowed his head and let out a tired sigh.
"Hi, dad. I miss you. I just wanted you to know that I decided to move out of my house and return home next door. It's not the same without you, but I can't imagine anyone else residing in that house and I wanted to make sure that both Sumos graves in the backyard are tended to properly. Besides, I think Henry spent more time at your house than my own as he grew up, and I want him to always come home to it."
Reaching into his pocket Connor pulled out his quarter and held it in the palm of his hand in a tight fist, rather than dance it over his knuckles as had been his usual nervous tic in the past.
"I'm not quite sure how long it'll take before I can move on and continue to live my life, but I know I will be okay." Tightening his fingers around the coin for a few seconds Connor's hand gradually relaxed into a calmer fist at his side. "I'll keep my promise to you dad, and I will live my life to the fullest."
Rubbing the cuff of his sleeve over the top of the headstone to brush aside a few stray bits of brown earth from the gray stone Connor managed to flash a faint smile of pride as he remembered every moment that he and Hank had shared together through the years together as an unorthodox, but loving family. Each moment played out in his mind in every vivid detail his incredible memory retained.
"Henry wasn't ready to come back to the cemetery just yet, and he isn't ready to go back to school, and I don't blame him. He's sleeping in my old bedroom in your house and I'm sleeping on the couch to remain close by him until he's ready to return. Luke is staying with him right now, but he will have to return to Boston tonight. Luke's going to make an effort to visit the city more often for the sake of family, and I'm also going to make a habit of visiting him in Boston, too. I know Henry would love to see a game with us, and I'll be sure to catch another foul ball in your memory. It won't be the same without you, but we know you'll be there in spirit..."
Unclenching his fist Connor crouched down to read the plaque engraved on the front of the headstone:
"Henry 'Hank' Lucas Anderson. Born September 6th, 1985. Died November 14th, 2061. Dedicated Detective. Beloved Father, Grandfather, Husband and Friend."
"Thank you for everything you've done, dad. You saved my life and you gave me a reason to live. It may take some time, but I know I can find a new reason to keeping living even without you to guide me on my way. And I know for certain that one day we will see each other again."
Reaching up his hand he pressed his palm down against the top of the headstone one last time before he rose to his feet and turned to walk away with his head held high with a returning confidence.
"You were right, by the way." Lifting his hand from the gravestone he gave a weak smile of respect to his departed father. "I don't need this anymore, I didn't even touch it during the funeral, but I still think I need you. I'll try to live on as normally as possible, and I know it won't be easy, but I will try. I promise you I will see the world at last. With Henry still in my life I know I at least stand a chance at being okay. I guess it's safe to say Henry inherited his grandfather's heart of gold."
Letting one final rogue tear fall from his soulful brown eyes he wiped it away with his thumb and took in a shaking breath to level his voice.
"I know you're in a better place, and you're finally back with Cole, Barbara, Skye and both Sumos, so I don't doubt that you really are okay. And now it's my turn to take charge and protect the family as you protected us. Until we meet again." Connor paid his final respects to Hank as he placed down his final offering before he begrudgingly left his beloved father behind. "I love you, dad."
Connor walked away from the gravestone with a heavy heart but a clear mind as he ventured away from his deceased family and returned to the beautiful car that he and Hank and restored together. The Corvette was parked along the trail that lapped through the peaceful cemetery and its cobalt blue paint still glistened like a sapphire in the light of the brilliantly shining sun.
Whispering one last passing goodbye to Hank, Connor turned over the car's engine and wiped away another tear. "I'll see you on the other side, dad."
Sitting idle atop Hank's grave, left behind to glisten in the bright afternoon sun and to serve as a reminder of everything that the two detectives had experienced together, was Connor's most prized material possession.
It was Connor's old, worn out coin.
-End of Story-