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REED FAMILY RESIDENCE
23 YEARS AGO - PM 05:14:23
➤ GAVIN REED

“Mom, look!” A thirteen year old Gavin Reed, all knobby knees and excitement, waved a trophy around as he skidded into the kitchen. “Our team won today. I’m the MVP, so they let me keep the trophy!”

“That’s nice, dear.” Mrs. Reed smiled distractedly, barely reacting. It dimmed Gavin’s mood significantly, but he wasn’t going to let it ruin his day. His mom hadn’t praised him since...well. Speak of the devil. He glanced to the kitchen counter, where his cousin was currently sitting--nose buried in a book as usual. “Don’t make too much of a fuss though, your cousin is studying. Did you know he’s going to attend Colbridge?”

Gavin’s hand lowered. “Colbridge?” he parroted.

Elijah Kamski, his cousin--they took him in after Gavin’s aunt and uncle (Elijah’s parents) were done with him. He didn’t know the details--was too young to properly understand--but it had something to do with the very fact that Elijah was so gifted. He had felt bad for him then. Nobody deserved to be left out like that, especially by their own parents. But in the past two years that he had tried to befriend his cousin, Elijah had barely acknowledged him--choosing instead of stay in all day and immerse himself in whatever thick textbook he was in the middle of that particular day.

Needless to say, after a while, Gavin stopped trying.

Then--pity morphed to envy as his parents slowly gravitated more and more towards the genius child of their new family.

Envy was morphing into something uglier--something nasty. Gavin didn’t like to think about it.

“Colbridge University,” Elijah finally spoke, his voice quiet and measured as usual. He was much too contained for a young teenager, and Gavin could tell that with his standoffish attitude, he didn’t have many (if any at all) friends his own age. Their own age. “I’ll be attending in the fall.” He flipped another page quietly, seemingly oblivious to the proud beam that Mrs. Reed was currently shooting his way.

Gavin set the trophy down on the counter.

“Dear, I’m preparing dinner, please don’t put that there.”

An ache--a familiar one now. “Okay, mom.” There was a click in the door, and Gavin whirled around.

His father must be home. Short fingers wrapped around the trophy’s stem, and he sprinted for the door, spirits lifted once again. “Dad!”

“Hey, champ,” Mr. Reed greeted with a grin as his son knocked into his body, sending them both backwards. He steadied Gavin by the shoulders. “Whoa, what’s with the hurry?”

“I won MVP today in our final soccer match.” Gavin waved the trophy at him, grinning back.

“That’s great!” Mr. Reed mussed his dark brown hair, a match for his own. Gavin had gotten most of his features from his dad--but the grey eyes were all his mom. That was one thing Elijah didn’t have--the family resemblance. He pushed the jealous thought away from his mind guiltily. It wasn’t Elijah’s fault that he was so smart. It just meant Gavin had to try harder in other areas to make up for it. “I’m proud of you.”

Shaking himself out of it, Gavin tightened his grip around his new trophy. “Thanks, dad!” It didn’t matter. He could still make his parents proud. He still had his friends at school--and he was no slouch when it came to academics or sports.

But Elijah was always better, a traitorous voice whispered at the back of his mind.

Gavin shoved it away unceremoniously, following his dad into the kitchen as Mr. Reed loosened his tie and set down his briefcase. He worked as a businessman, and Mrs. Reed was an accountant. Both were relatively successful in their fields--the only thing that allowed them to take in Elijah when his own parents had run off.

“What about you, Elijah?”

Gavin tuned back into the conversation just as Mr. Reed asked Elijah about his day. He wandered around the side of the room, looking for a place to put his trophy down.

“I didn’t do much today.” Elijah didn’t even look up, still absorbed in--Gavin took a peek at the nonsensical title--The Master of Algorithm by Pedro Domingos. “Just read.” As usual, his answers were short and to the point.

“Did you hear?” Mrs. Reed, who was still neatly dicing carrots for tonight’s meal, smiled fondly in Elijah’s direction. “Elijah got into Colbridge. He’s going to be studying under Amanda Stern--that new up and coming AI professor.” There was pride practically leaking from her tone, and Gavin squeezed his eyes shut as if it could block out the sound.

Just keep trying, he told himself. You’ll get there. And when you do, that smile will be aimed at you again.

“Wow, that’s amazing, Elijah.” Mr. Reed beamed, moving forward to ruffle Elijah’s brown hair--before thinking better of it and lowering his hand. Gavin stood at the sidelines. It was like they had forgotten his existence; not for the first time since Elijah had been brought into their family. “We should go somewhere special to celebrate this. That’s huge.”

Just keep trying, just keep--

But as he watched the warm scene in front of him unfold, his own trophy hanging limply from his hand, for what seemed like the millionth time…

Gavin Reed, at age thirteen, saw for himself just how unfair the world could be.

 


 

DETROIT POLICE DEPARTMENT
PRESENT DAY - AM 09:42:13
➤ GAVIN REED

Gavin nursed what felt like his tenth cup of coffee for that morning--except it was only his second. Thanks to Markus’s revolution, although cases in previous areas had certainly decreased, the new android workforce (paid, this time) meant an entirely new set of headaches as the department underwent massive restructuring.

At least it wasn’t that puppy-dog plastic prick Connor heading the new android police force. It was a no-nonsense female android--one he distinctly recognized as a WR400 Traci model--named North. He somewhat recognized her from news broadcasts back when everything was still going on, but nonetheless, she had demonstrated her abilities. Gavin begrudgingly respected her. Just a little.

He took another sip of his coffee.

While his job was no longer under threat, there was the issue of what had been his upcoming promotion. Despite his assistance at CyberLife Tower, and Markus speaking on his behalf, Captain Fowler--that insufferable jackass--had only said “I’ll think about it” in regards to Gavin moving up the ranks.

God, if that prick Connor with all those abilities programmed into him got to a higher up position before he did--

“Reed!”

Gavin glanced up, nearly knocking over his cardboard cup. “Fuck,” he hissed, wincing at the hot liquid that sloshed over the side and splattered against his hand. He quickly shook it off, trying to cool it down.

Fowler was looking at him through a crack in the glass door of his office. “Get in here. I’ve got something to tell you.”

The detective fumbled around his desk, finally finding his tissue box and ripping out a few sheets, hastily wiping down the coffee spill. The hell was this about? Fowler didn’t exactly sound happy--but then again, he never did.

For a moment, the nagging fear of losing his job took over him again.

No, he reminded himself. That was done. Androids were being paid now--which meant there was little benefit to laying off human employees. And as long as he didn’t have to work with one, it was all fine and dandy.

Two minutes and some more cursing later, Gavin rapped his knuckles on the door of the office. Fowler gestured for him to come in. “Reed, I have a new case for you to investigate.” He shoved the file over. “It looks a little complicated, and Hank’s working on something else right now. You’re my next best.”

A backhanded compliment at the most. Gavin wanted to roll his eyes at the mention of Hank. Of course--Fowler’s best friend and practically his alcoholic pet project of a work in progress. Despite the lieutenant coming in late almost every day for years (up until recently), he had always gotten nothing more than a slap on the wrist for it, while Gavin had to work his ass off to get to where he was.

Call him bitter. He didn’t care.

“It’s a string of cases that we think might be connected, so you won’t be working this one alone. We’ve gotten a few leads, but they’ve all gone cold. If you can actually manage to solve this one, you’ll be on the fast track for that promotion of yours.”

Gavin gaped, opening his mouth in shock before trying to speak--but Fowler raised his hand, indicating that he wasn’t done. His jaw shut with a click immediately, his heart pounding. Finally, what he had been working for was just beyond the horizon. It was just a few cases, what was there to be worried about? He was good at his job, he had the arrest record to prove it, and the ambition to drive it. He had this.

“Jericho has been working with the DPD to try and get androids more integrated and this is a perfect opportunity--ah.” Fowler glanced over Gavin’s shoulder. There was the quiet sound of the door opening behind him. “Good timing.”

Gavin frowned, turning.

Fowler gestured between them. “Detective Reed...”

Cold, slate grey eyes met his own. A face that uncannily resembled Connor’s, but with a stronger jawline and attached to a much taller and more imposing figure.

“Detective,” the RK900 greeted in a smooth monotone.

Gavin was speechless again--and this time, not in a good way. He barely registered Fowler’s next words, even if he already knew what they were going to be.

God fucking damn it.

“...meet your new partner.”

Chapter Text

DETROIT POLICE DEPARTMENT
AM 10:01:56
➤ GAVIN REED

“Sir,” Gavin bit out as patiently as he could. “You have got to be joking.”

Fowler stared back at him dispassionately, and the detective knew with a sinking feeling this was not an argument he could win. “I assure you that I'm one hundred percent serious, Reed. This is two birds with one stone for the department. I thought you would be more enthusiastic about the assignment.”

“But working with--” He was cut off by the police captain's glare.

“You know…” Fowler sat back, the expression on his face mockingly contemplative. “Hank gave me the exact same reaction when that RK800 first came in. Maybe working with an android will do you and that temper of yours some good, Reed.”

It really wouldn’t, but Gavin choked back his instinctive retort. After all, this might get him the promotion he had been waiting for. Working for. The whole precinct called him ruthlessly ambitious--whether it was to his face in disgust or in whispers behind his back. He knew it, he was no idiot. You couldn’t make it in this profession by being a moron--but he always told himself he didn’t care. If that was what it took, then he was willing to tread on anybody’s toes. He didn’t get handouts, so he would just have to claw his way up, talent be damned.

But this--

“Is there no other way I could investigate the case?” he asked between gritted teeth. “With a different partner?” Gavin stubbornly refused to acknowledge the android still standing ramrod straight behind him in stony silence.

“Reed, listen,” Fowler barked, clearly losing his patience with the debate. “I already told you, this is a necessary integration process so that the DPD can start working with Jericho and implement androids in the police force. I’m being nice by letting you know ahead of time and giving you such an advanced model as your new partner. The RK900 has a full database and investigative and combat abilities at his disposal. Use them.” Before Gavin could open his mouth to argue his point again, Fowler pinned him with a glare. “That’s enough. Take the case and get out of my office.”

He didn’t even bother to address the RK900 still standing there.

Honestly, for all his talk of “implementing an android police force”, Fowler sure didn’t seem like he actually gave a shit about the actual android present. Gavin let out a heavy sigh, and dragged the files off the captain’s desk. “Sir,” he grumbled, then made for the door, roughly brushing shoulders with the RK900.

He followed the detective back to his desk, eerily silent, grey eyes scrutinizing in a way that Connor’s brown eyes had never been.

Of course he had gotten stuck with the creepy silent robot while Hank made off with the obedient puppy dog. Not that Gavin wanted either. But at least Connor listened. He already got the nagging feeling that the RK900 would not be nearly as easy to deal with.

“Let’s go over the file, Detective,” the android finally spoke, taking a seat at the opposite terminal without even asking. Gavin just waved dismissively, flipping open the folder and pulling up the relevant evidence on his own terminal.

“Oh!” A familiar voice sounded behind them. Gavin groaned internally. What now? He turned, met with a yawning Hank and a smiling Connor--bright and bushy as always. Honestly, if he could, the RK800 would probably wag his tail. It was goddamn irritating. “I see you’re already settling in, Nines.”

Right. The RK900 had a name. Gavin mentally noted it down--but only because it would be much easier than saying “hey” or “you” all the time.

“I am,” Nines agreed, nodding at his predecessor, completely oblivious to the silent fuming his new partner was doing. “We’ve already been assigned a case. I’ll be working as Detective Reed’s new partner.”

Connor shot Gavin a little bit of a dubious look, and Hank outright snorted. “Lemme guess,” the lieutenant drawled. “Jeffrey assigned you as his partner, and that’s why he’s sulking like a kid who has to eat his vegetables.”

“I am not,” Gavin snapped indignantly at the same time as Nines said, “Yes, that’s the gist of it.”

“Well,” Connor said, trying to lighten the tense atmosphere, “we’ll leave you two to it, then.” And with that, he made a hasty retreat, clearly not trying to get in the middle of what very well could be a brewing conflict. Hank looked like he wanted to quip something more, but shrugged and followed Connor to their joined desks.

Nines looked completely unaffected by Gavin’s bad mood.

His bad mood soured further.

“Let’s go over the file,” Nines repeated, going back to work. He placed a hand on his screen, LED on his temple blinking yellow for a moment. Huh. Like Connor, he still had the ringlet that most deviants had ripped out already. For a moment, Gavin wanted to ask him why--but quickly reminded himself that he didn’t care. “Detective?”

He shook himself out of his thoughts. “What?”

“There are....” The grey eyes narrowed. They were almost silver--different than Gavin’s own, which shifted from grey to almost blue depending on the light. It was unsettling--and decidedly not human. “...almost fifty cases, connected by a string leading to one person. Anton Vasilek, who’s rumoured to have worked with a man named Zlatko Andronikov before his disappearance. It’s related to an android trafficking situation--used to be just illegal dealing in parts on the black market, but now that androids have the same rights as humans, is a much more serious crime.”

“Is that right?” Gavin replied absently--flippantly--still scanning through the case files. He was used to working alone. And a part of him...didn’t want to rely on Nines’s abilities. It stood against everything he had believed in for the majority of his life. Androids, who could achieve what humans worked so damn hard for with little to no effort, frankly pissed him off. And no matter how much easier it might make his investigation, he wanted to prove that he didn’t need some dumb robot to catch their criminal.

Nines blinked at him, tilting his head nonchalantly. He wasn’t wearing the DPD uniform that Connor now sported on the regular--instead opting for his original CyberLife-issued jacket over a high-collared black button up. It made him look way stiffer than he probably would without. “Have I done something to upset you, Detective?” He didn’t sound particularly concerned, or even curious, despite the nature of the question.

And why should he? It was just a response programmed into him, much like his oh-so-impressive set of abilities.

“Detective?” Nines prompted, then repeated his question in the same flat voice. “Have I done something to upset you?”

Yeah, you exist. Gavin bit back his insult, sighing and raking a hand through his hair. “No.” He just wanted to get this over with, but the case looked much more complicated than he had originally hoped for. “Just...bad morning.”

“I see,” Nines noted, then paused for so long that Gavin thought he had somehow glitched. “I was hoping we would get along.”

The detective looked up at him incredulously. The fuck? How the hell was he supposed to believe that with the monotonous voice and the complete nonchalance? The RK900 didn’t seem to process his disbelief, just staring back at him in that weirdly unsettling way that seemed to be his default gaze.

“Uh,” Gavin finally said intelligently.

“Elijah Kamski said you would.” Nines folded his hands neatly on the desk in front of him, grey eyes almost unblinking. “He informed me that anybody who dislikes him, you like.”

Gavin blanched at the mention of his cousin, then his eyes narrowed. Well. If there was anything more Nines could’ve done to get on his bad side, this was definitely it. “Normally that’s true,” he spat out, “but I’ll make a special exception for you.” And with that, he collected the folder on his desk, shoving the files back in.

“Detective?” Nines frowned, making to stand.

“Don’t,” Gavin warned venomously. “Let’s just...work separately for now until one of us comes up with a lead. I don’t want to be near you more than I need to be.”

“Detec--”

Gavin turned sharply on his heel, tuning the rest of the sentence out, fingers clenched so tightly around the files that his knuckles whitened.

This day was turning out to be the actual fucking worst.

 


 

ELIJAH KAMSKI’S HOUSE
PM 07:22:46
➤ CONNOR

Elijah was snickering. Connor frowned reproachfully, but that did nothing to stop the inventor. Nines didn’t seem too bothered by it, though.

Still…

“Sorry,” Elijah finally managed, not quite sounding sincere. “I don’t mean to make fun of your predicament.” The sly sparkle in his pale blue eyes seemed to state otherwise.

They were currently all seated in the spacious living room, the modern minimalistic decor surrounding them in a space that the RK800 now associated at least somewhat with comfort. Elijah was typing away on his tablet, glasses set on the bridge of his nose as he worked on whatever project the newly reformed CyberLife was consulting him on. It was nice--Connor remembered not long before, when he was still jittery in every area of this villa. Almost strange to think about it now.

“I expected him to have a bad impression of me,” Nines stated, unruffled by the former CEO’s blasé attitude about the situation. It was almost impressive, if Connor didn’t know that it was because Nines probably didn’t register the complete insincerity of his apology. “I’m not surprised. But after I mentioned you, he seemed to get angrier." The RK900 paused briefly. "He seems like a very emotional man, which will make him hard to work with.”

Elijah shrugged, unbothered by the fact that Nines had just insulted his cousin to his face. “Yes, well. Gavin and I never got along too well. We’re very different people. Even hearing my name tends to set him off--he gets angry at very inconsequential things, as you can tell.”

“Elijah,” Connor chided quietly, and the inventor sighed, relenting and waving a hand.

“I wonder why he hates androids so much--even at the expense of advancing his career. When Captain Fowler mentioned his promotion in exchange for working with me on this case, he still seemed reluctant.” Nines had sunk deep into thought, now muttering to himself. Connor understood. While they could both work through complicated investigative information in their minds without a single hitch or delay, processing human emotion as deviants was much harder. It almost helped to organize your thoughts out loud.

At least CyberLife had the decency to install in Connor a social module that allowed him to mimic empathy before he had turned, in order to integrate him into the DPD investigation properly.

Nines didn’t receive the same treatment. He had been made to be Connor’s better, yes, but also to be a weapon--and not a secret one. There had been no need to install him with any of Connor’s social features. It made navigating his new deviancy all the more difficult. He was still learning.

Wanting to reassure him, Connor gently set a hand on Nines’s shoulder. It was a little awkward, with the RK900 being a couple of inches taller. “If it helps at all,” he said, “I don’t think it’s anything personal against you. He just dislikes androids in general--we don’t have the best relationship either.”

“I wonder why that is,” Nines mused.

They both turned to Elijah, who looked up from his tablet disinterestedly when the silence stretched for a moment too long. “What?” He flipped the leather cover shut, setting it down on the table in front of him. One long leg was crossed over the other as he turned towards them in his chair. “Listen, you put too much faith in me. I already informed you--we aren’t close. We never have been, even as children.”

Connor furrowed his brow. “But you lived with him.”

“His parents took me in, yes.” Elijah sighed, as if he was educating a small child. The smugness would always remain, no matter how much of a soft spot he had apparently developed for the RK800 (Hank kept mentioning it, but Connor personally didn’t see exactly where in Elijah’s personality had grown soft). “But we didn’t spend much time together. I was carted off to university almost immediately, and before then...well, we had very different interests, Connor.”

Connor had almost forgotten--Elijah had gone to university around the time he was twelve or thirteen, graduating at sixteen. And given what he had been told before, it was the truth. The two cousins would’ve barely gotten to know each other--maybe a little over a year, at maximum. “But you lived with him,” he finally said. That had to mean something, right? Now that he was fully settled down in Hank’s house (in Cole’s old room), he knew the lieutenant better than ever. Living with someone meant you learned things about them--whether you liked it or not.

Elijah’s sharp gaze turned to him, scrutinizing. Connor shifted slightly under the weight. “I did.” He didn’t elaborate further.

Nines remained silent through their conversation, before finally chiming in. “Regardless, I will do my best to improve our relationship for the sake of the investigation. Even if I do currently find his attitude…” His eyes narrowed, reminding the RK800 of a wolf. “...somewhat problematic.”

“You mean annoying?” Elijah asked bluntly, raising an eyebrow. It was more of a statement than a question, really.

“...Yes,” Nines reluctantly admitted--though his reluctance was likely due to the fact that he still wasn’t used to formulating his new emotions into words, and not due to any sense of loyalty he felt towards Gavin. His eyes shifted to the side slightly before his expression resumed its usual stoicism. It was almost admirable, how fast he was able to adjust. “But my focus is on the investigation, and it will likely require cooperation from both parties. Professionalism is what matters right now.”

He sounded like how Connor used to when he reported his investigation progress to Amanda. It was a little troubling hearing the same speech pattern from what was essentially his own face and voice (with a few changes), but the RK800 quickly reminded himself that the context was very different. This was Nines’s own choice, not one that had been made for him already.

This was just who the android was.

“Let me know if you need any help at all, then,” Elijah said lightly, in an uncharacteristically generous offer. Then he paused, smirking to himself, as if sharing a private joke. “I can't do much about his character, though.”

“Actually,” Nines said, causing both Connor and the inventor to look up at him. “There is something.”

“Oh?” Elijah quirked a brow and leaned forward, clearly interested now. Connor sighed. He always got like this when something unexpected happened. “What's that?”

“It’s for the investigation. I came up with some leads regarding Vasilek's current location, and I would like to follow up on them.”

Connor listened as Nines informed them of his plan, his own eyebrows arching higher and higher with each passing statement. Even Elijah looked a little doubtful, which was saying a lot--because he knew him long enough to know that as long as things were interesting, Elijah could not give less of a shit about if the investigation worked out or not.

For two people who were supposedly family, neither Elijah nor Gavin seemed to care for each other much.

It was a little difficult to understand for Connor--who had come to see Hank and Sumo as his new family. Despite their disagreements and Hank’s gruff tendencies, at the end of the day, he knew that they genuinely cared about each other. This, on the other hand, based on what Nines had said and what he observed from Elijah…

Still, it was better than apathy, right? At least hate meant that there was still something there. He wondered if Nines would try and address their relationship--but he doubted it. The RK900, in the short time that he had turned deviant, didn’t seem much like the curious type.

Connor tuned back into the conversation when Elijah finally spoke up again, in reply to the plan that Nines had just proposed.

“...That’s easily done, but…” Elijah crossed his arms and leaned back thoughtfully. “Are you sure this is the best method of proceeding? You already know he wants to spend as little time around you as possible.”

Nines nodded. “Yes. This is the best way to follow and investigate Vasilek’s activities without being detected--and on the off chance that he’s not actually connected to Zlatko, it’s the best way to not dig too deep into an innocent man’s life.” He paused, frowning. “The best way, putting aside my current relationship with Detective Reed, of course. I need to consider the mission first, not how to make nice with someone who refuses to do the same." He shook his head. "Doing that would be illogical.”

Elijah considered it for a moment longer, eyes turning towards the ceiling.

“Elijah,” Connor started, wondering how he should argue the other side when Nines was right there. This was an awful idea. Hank, who had the same bias against androids as Gavin (albeit for a different reason), had taken ages to warm up to him, and that was with Connor’s social module in place. Putting Nines and Gavin, two individuals with such different personalities and an existing grudge, in what would essentially be an enclosed space for so long--

“Okay,” the inventor agreed easily, a unreadable smirk playing on his lips. He had started to look entertained again by the situation, and Connor wanted to groan. Of course. “Consider it done. I’ll have the details sent to you after I arrange the accommodations and paperwork.”

“Thank you, Mr. Kamski.” Nines nodded, then paused, checking his internal clock. He started gathering the files that he had spread out over the table in front of him before standing up. “I should be going, it’s getting late. I apologize for taking up so much of your time.”

Elijah just waved a hand dismissively in acknowledgement. “No need. Have a good night, Nines.”

“You as well, Mr. Kamski.” Nines finished shrugging on his jacket--still the white one issued by CyberLife, something that made many on the street a little uncomfortable to see, but he didn’t seem to care. “I’ll see you at work, Connor.”

Connor traded small smiles with the RK900. “Good night, Nines.”

And with that, the other android was gone. The quiet click of the living room door echoed as Chloe followed him to show him out to the lobby of the villa.

“Why did you agree to his plan?” Connor finally blurted, moving to lean against the edge of the table near where Elijah was sitting.

The former CEO looked up at him from over the black rim of his glasses. A flutter rose in the RK800’s stomach at the expression, which he ignored. “It’s entertaining,” he said simply, the corner of his lips lifting in a sly smile.

Connor sighed with fond exasperation, running a hand through his hair. “You realize that this might end in a disaster?”

“Yes, it could go either way.” Elijah stood, removing and tossing his glasses onto the smooth wooden surface of the table carelessly. “I’m very interested to see which path they’ll take.”

“So, that’s it? Just another experiment of yours?” The android’s breath hitched as Elijah crowded him against the edge. It was suddenly very hard to maintain his train of thought as he met the intense icy blue gaze, despite his plethora of abilities. Connor cleared his throat, trying to focus his mind as he noted with painstaking detail the way Elijah’s eyes swept down to his lips. “He’s your cousin.”

“You still ask too many questions.” Elijah ran a finger lazily down the edge of Connor’s jaw, watching as the RK800 shuddered involuntarily under the touch. “Gavin’s a brat--” Connor couldn’t help but smile a little at the way he was describing someone his own age “--but he can handle himself. So can Nines. If their personalities really do make things go south--”

“Elijah, this investigation isn’t just important for them, it’s the first step in Jericho working with human law enforcement--”

The slightly shorter male leaned forward, cutting the android off. “Let me finish. If things really do go south because of their squabbling, I’ll do something about it.”

“Promise?” Connor asked innocently--pulling back when Elijah tried to kiss him. He saw Elijah’s jaw twitch--no matter how much the man liked to lie and manipulate, he knew that for some reason when it came to him, if the inventor promised then he really did keep his word.

One of the few vulnerabilities that Elijah showed--one of the very, very few, despite the fact that they were now together.

Connor didn’t take advantage of it.

Much.

“Fine.” Elijah finally sighed, conceding. The RK800 tried to hide his chuckle at the forlorn expression on his face. “I promise.”

Connor responded by finally meeting the inventor’s lips with his own, tasting a slow smile and the faint aroma of bittersweet coffee.

“You’re getting more and more unscrupulous by the day, Connor,” Elijah admonished lightly when they parted, no actual malice or resentment in his tone. His fingers curled lightly on the android’s nape, threading through the short-cropped brown hair. There was a spark of something teasing in his gaze, a sort of amusement that was akin to his usual but somehow...softer.

Connor couldn’t help the laugh that escaped from between his lips, leaning forward to press his forehead into Elijah’s shoulder. The warmth seeped from the inventor’s skin through his thin dress shirt, and Connor took a moment to enjoy the feeling. “I know.”

 


 

DETROIT POLICE DEPARTMENT
AM 08:56:03
➤ GAVIN REED

“No.”

“Yes.”

“No.”

“It has already been arranged, Detective.”

Gavin had the inexplicable urge to violently shove his foot up the RK900’s ass, except there was probably already a goddamn stick up there the size of Jupiter. “You did this without asking me?” he demanded instead, voice coming out in a harsh hiss as he rose from his chair, which clattered as it got shoved back by the swift motion.

Nines, that bastard, had the nerve to narrow his eyes questioningly--as if Gavin was the one being completely unreasonable.

Okay, yes, when he first heard the news, he had thrown his coffee down on the ground.

But that was it, and it was a perfectly fucking reasonable reaction, thank you very much.

“It is the best way to proceed with the investigation, Detective. It’ll not only provide us cover to be near him, but should he actually be innocent, it’ll mean that we won’t have intruded on an innocent man’s life. It should not interfere much with your daily routine.” The android’s cool explanation cut through his thoughts.

Gavin really wanted another coffee--except this time, he would be sure to toss it in Nines’s face. “Not interfere much, my ass!” he snapped, waving a hand for emphasis--only getting more irritated at the way Nines’s face subtly twisted in distaste at the violent motion. “You’re telling me that while we investigate this prick Vasiliev--”

“Vasilek,” Nines corrected.

“--Vasilek, what the fuck ever! We have to move in next to him?”

“It’s the best and most efficient way to monitor his activities and to plant the bugs we need in his house without arousing too much suspicion,” the android informed him, as if it was obvious, which it was not.

Gavin’s voice rose about ten decibels--and maybe also an octave, but he would never admit that. “You’re saying we have to move in together next to a man who’s possibly involved in what’s the biggest android trafficking operation in the goddamn city, and acting like it’s nothing!” He ran a hand through his hair, the combed back strands falling through his fingers, now mussed loose from their slicked position. “God, why don’t you just drop another bomb on me?” Sarcasm dripped like venom from his tone, but he didn’t care.

Nines blinked, then nodded after a beat--apparently not having noticed at all. “We’ll be moving in as a couple.”

Gavin was sure he had entered the Twilight Zone--or some other alternate universe, surely, where nothing made any goddamn sense anymore. Either way, he felt faint. “A couple,” he said flatly, disbelievingly.

“Yes.” Nines looked kind of irritated now, eyes narrowing.

“No.”

“Yes.”

“No--” Gavin rubbed his temples. He was very quickly getting a headache from this entire situation. “God, I don’t know what to say,” he muttered, sinking into his seat, shaking his head in utter disbelief.

Nines looked for a moment like he didn’t quite know how to respond, but shrugged it off almost immediately. Apparently, this situation didn’t bother him at all. And why should it? Gavin thought sourly. He’s a machine, made for this kind of stuff. “Arrangements have already been made for us. We move in after the weekend. I’ve checked in with both Markus and Captain Fowler, and they agree that this is the best plan of action for now so that we can start acquiring more information.” And with that, the android collected his work and tucked it under an arm, making to leave.

“Hold on.” Gavin wearily waved at the ground where his coffee spill was no doubt cold by now, worn out by the sudden change in their situation that he couldn’t get out of. He needed a goddamn drink. “Get a mop or something, make yourself useful and clean this up.”

Something shifted in the android’s attitude--it went from nonchalantly asshole-ish to very, very cold, and the detective could’ve sworn that the room dropped ten degrees as Nines slowly turned around. His silver-grey eyes were narrowed, something dark and bitter in them.

It was surprising--shocking even, the first real show of outward anything he had seen from the android since their first meeting. It was as though Gavin’s order, as off-handed and in character as it had been, had hit a little too close to home somehow.

“I’m not your babysitter,” the RK900 said icily, voice like the Arctic, before he promptly turned on his heel and left.

Gavin stared after him, too struck by the expression to process the words at first. He felt almost...guilty, for a moment. But then he blinked once, twice, Nines’s parting statement finally filtering through his brain.

His jaw dropped open indignantly just as the android’s tall figure retreated around a corner, disappearing from his view.

“Fuck you!”

 


 

JIMMY’S BAR
PM 11:55:01
➤ GAVIN REED

“You made Nines dislike you after just a day. That's quite the feat.”

Gavin glanced up from the drink he was focused on, the pleasant buzz in his system fading significantly when he was greeted by the familiar arched brow and quiet smirk of his cousin. He looked out of place in the small, dingy bar, dressed in a perfectly tailored black wool pea coat and long white scarf. The detective groaned and turned back towards the bar, intent on ignoring him.

Elijah apparently didn't care. He was in the middle of pulling off his black leather gloves, sliding onto the bar stool next to Gavin. “Ignoring me?”

The quiet clinking of shot glasses and murmured conversations swam in and out of focus, a blurred white noise as Gavin kept staring down at his drink. The arcade machine in the corner played the intro song to some shitty 8-bit game, nearly drowned out by the music of the bar. The amber liquid of his beer swayed slightly, reflecting the dim lighting inside the bar, neon signs from the window tinting the rim of the glass.

“What the fuck are you even doing here?” he finally asked, rolling his eyes, when it was clear Elijah wasn't going anywhere anytime soon. “Haven't seen you since your recovery. Thought this kind of place was beneath you snobby rich types.”

“Cranky,” Elijah commented, clearly taking no offense as he waved to the bartender. “You insult me. I can't leave my family here to sulk alone.”

Gavin snorted. He wasn't even going to dignify that with a proper reply. After all, they were related only by blood--through the years they had known each other, Elijah had made that perfectly clear. “How did you even find me?”

“I searched three bars before finding you.”

The detective looked up, surprised enough to forget that he was actively trying to forget the inventor’s presence.

Elijah smirked. “Who do you think I am--Connor? I know where everyone is, dear cousin.” When Jimmy came over, still cleaning a glass with his rag, the former CEO looked up. “Whiskey, please. Single malt Scotch.”

Jimmy gave a short nod, turning to reach for the proper bottle.

Gavin took another gulp of his drink, setting the glass down with slightly more force than he had intended. He didn't even feel bad about it as he finally turned on the stool to face his cousin. “The hell do you want, Elijah? Get to the point.”

“I can't come for a chat?” A raised eyebrow. “Also, who’s taking care of your cat?”

“No,” Gavin said bluntly. “I know the kind of person you are by now.” He paused, then scowled, glaring. “And you leave my cat out of this.”

An entertained smirk curled on Elijah's features as Jimmy slid his whiskey to him. He picked it up, examining the drink but not taking a sip. “More perceptive than I thought. To business, then. I take a special interest in this case of yours, you see.”

Gavin was suddenly reminded of the sudden shift in Nines’s demeanor. He shook the memory off, along with the nagging guilt. Why the hell should he feel guilty about what he said? This was the android’s fault for getting them into the situation without even asking him.

To be fair, you did tell him to investigate separately and only inform you if he came up with anything, a traitorous voice at the back of his mind whispered.

Fuck off, he told the voice.

“Why would it matter to you?” he finally demanded. “Years of not caring about my life seemed to be suiting you just fine.” Honestly, he thought he had stopped giving a shit about that chapter in his life long ago, but…

Looked like it had left its mark.

The favouritism, the way that Elijah could achieve things without even trying--the way his parents used to look at his cousin with such pride in their eyes, only to be in constant disappointment when Elijah left for Colbridge and Gavin was what they had left.

He felt angry all over again--he had been a good son. A great one, in fact, but apparently never good enough.

Not when compared to Elijah, with his god-given talent and intellect, who didn’t even fucking care.

“Bitterness doesn’t suit you.” The ice in Elijah's whiskey clinked against the glass as he set it down on the counter. Gavin expected him to elaborate, but the inventor moved right past it. Right. He forgot that talking about feelings wasn’t a forte of either of theirs.

Still--he found himself to be kind of disappointed.

Angry at himself, he shook it off.

“Nines is…a special case,” Elijah explained vaguely. “I'd like to see how this will develop him as a deviant.”

Something hit Gavin, and he narrowed his eyes in suspicion, forgetting about how incompetent and then abandoned his cousin had made him feel in his younger years for a brief moment. “...You're the one who managed to arrange a place right next to Vasilek on such short notice, aren't you? I was wondering. Big presences like the DPD and Jericho put together can't work that fast and quiet without raising some eyebrows.”

“You're full of surprises, Gavin.” Elijah smiled approvingly, and Gavin immediately had the urge to fling his drink in his face. He restrained himself from doing so. “But yes. Nines came to me with the request, and I fulfilled it--so imagine my surprise when Connor informs me that our dear RK900 now doesn't like you.”

Gavin felt that weird stab of guilt again, and he shoved it aside unceremoniously. “I didn't do shit,” he muttered, polishing off the rest of his beer. “Nothing out of the ordinary, anyway. I just told him to clean up a spill.”

Elijah was eerily silent for a moment, as if working something out. Then, another slow smile. God, why was his cousin so weird? Was it a crazy genius thing? A billionaire thing? “I see. A bit of context for you, then, since I'm feeling generous.” Gavin opened his mouth to retort, but Elijah held up a hand, ignoring the detective’s resulting scowl. “Nines’s time at CyberLife--or all androids’ time with most humans, for that matter--was spent being barked at with orders and without a name. That has been his life up until now.” He stood, pulling his coat on again and fishing a stack of bills out of his pocket, tossing it on the counter like it was nothing. “Then again, it could be nothing,” he said with a small smirk. “Take it as you will.”

There was nothing in his voice that indicated blame; nothing that meant he was taking a side. Gavin knew Elijah was just here to stir the pot--to make things more “interesting”.  Still, as he stewed for a while longer in the words, the detective felt the same stab of guilt from earlier, except stronger.

Maybe what he said really did strike a nerve--but Gavin was awful at apologies, and he was already dreading the way he would no doubt uncomfortably skirt around the android now.

And it didn’t make him lessen his pre-existing grudge any. He still didn’t like Nines, and that would never change. But...maybe he could admit that he had gone a little overboard.

Just a little.

“My cat’s at home with the food and water dishes filled,” Gavin muttered in quiet admittance--an extremely delayed answer to his cousin’s offhand question from earlier. "I'll be heading home soon."

He could practically hear Elijah’s smug smile in his reply. “I know. You can be unexpectedly soft at times--and you have a penchant for broken things.” There was the sound of shifting fabric as the inventor started gathering his belongings. Gavin couldn't shake the feeling that his cousin wasn't just talking about the stray cat he had taken in (how Elijah found out about that, he wasn't even going to question).

He looked up, reading to retort with a sharp what do you mean, but there was nobody next to him anymore. Elijah was already leaving--the door swinging closed behind him with a quiet jingle that could barely be heard over the music. Gavin scoffed, wondering if he had hit his limit of being in a shitty downtown bar filled with “poor people” (all middle class, he was sure, registered as poor in the former CEO’s eyes) for the day.

“Hey, man, is everything okay?” Jimmy had come over again, eyes filling with some concern for his customer. “Was that guy bothering you?”

“No.” Gavin picked up the glass that Elijah had left behind, staring into the drink before downing it. If he’s gonna leave it… “No, I’m fine.”

“Alright.” The bar owner still sounded a little dubious about the situation, but he backed off. This was partially why Gavin liked coming here (barring the days that Hank haunted it, of course). “Let me know if you want anything else, man.”

The detective eyed the stack of money that Elijah had left on the counter, then thought about the long, long day he had in store for him on Monday. He doubted that the man had even counted the money. He doubted that he really even cared.

Grey eyes, a muted pale silver filled with unexpected bitterness, entered his mind’s eye.

Fuck it.

Come what may, he would deal with it on Monday. Not like he had much of a choice.

On Monday, he would be moving in with an android he hated (and who possibly hated him back now) as a newly-minted couple next to a possibly insane android-trafficking criminal in order to hold an undercover investigation.

How did his life even become this?

“Hey, Jimmy?” Gavin wearily lifted a few bills as he set down the now empty whiskey glass. “I think I’ll grab another drink.”

Chapter Text

GAVIN REED’S APARTMENT
AM 07:34:11
➤ GAVIN REED

Gavin groaned as his alarm clock bleeped obnoxiously beside his bed.

The Siamese ball of fur at his feet shifted, and he slowly sat up, dragging a hand through his extremely messy bedhead. “Mornin’, Oreo.” Gavin grimaced at his voice scratched in his throat from sleep.

Oreo meowed back at him, snuggling deeper into the covers. Lucky bastard--she got to sleep in. He absently leaned to run his fingers through the soft fur at her scruff, then swung his legs over the side of the bed. It was time to get up.

He usually hated Monday mornings--who didn’t? But this one in particular was extra vexing.

Nevertheless, this was his job, and he needed to think about his promotion.

With that thought in mind, he trudged to the bathroom, in high need of a shower to clear his thoughts. His apartment was nothing fancy--especially with how the economy still was despite the recent changes--but it was enough. Single bedroom, with a living room, small kitchen, and a bathroom and washroom. It wasn't exactly the most organized, but it was homey and lived in, and he was just fine with that. Oreo normally slept with him, despite the cat bed he had bought for her.

He had found her a few years ago, sopping wet from the summer rain. It wasn't anything dramatic like an instant bond--he kept feeding her whenever she came around, and eventually just brought her in when she followed him. Thankfully, his landlord didn't care much when it came to shit like this. Even if he had started something, Gavin probably would've kept her anyway--just under the radar. She used to be angry, and a little scared of human contact, but over the years had slowly warmed up to him.

Still cautious of strangers though. But he was secretly proud of how far she had come. Not that many people knew he had a cat, and he intended to keep it that way.

Or...he had intended to. It wasn't really an option now, since he didn't trust anyone to take care of her in his place, and she probably wouldn't take too well to the separation. She was going to have to come with him.

A vindictive part of him hoped that Nines wasn't a cat person, before he shook himself out of it. He's just a machine, Gavin reminded himself. Probably won't have a preference either way.

The detective stripped off the baggy grey tee and black shorts he had on, tossing them onto the counter, squinting as he fumbled with the faucet and hot water spilled in hot streams onto his back. He closed his eyes, letting the steam cloud around him and clear his mind.

He still couldn't believe it. He had read the file that Nines had prepared for them after working through the details with the DPD and Jericho, and god--not only did he have to live with the android as a couple, they had to make nice with their neighbours in order to not arouse any suspicion.

Undercover as happy life partners.

Ugh.

It wasn't just the idea of Nines being his partner that was the issue (okay, maybe it was a little bit because of that)--it was the idea of relationships in general. He had always been uncomfortable with them. It had little to do with his parents’ marriage (which was absolutely fine), and more to do with the fact that he had learned that independence and not wanting or needing support was the way to go.

Nobody was going to give him handouts, so he would do whatever it took to reach out and grab what he wanted in life. The thing was, it always, always felt like he was going to be living in someone’s shadow--someone who didn’t try as hard, but was infinitely more talented. First, it had been Elijah, and he had to watch as his parents became more and more enamoured with their new “genius child” while becoming more and more disillusioned with their actual child. Then, while working his way up the ranks in the DPD, it had been Hank. Always the captain’s favourite--and for a reason, Gavin wasn’t a moron, he knew Hank had been amazing at his job. Then, Hank had lost his son and become an alcoholic who never showed up to work on time anymore. As bad as Gavin had felt for him, a sickening part of him told him this is your chance.

Then, androids.

Connor, that plastic prick. And now, Nines--with their knowledge and skills programmed into them, bodies meant to withstand combat and carrying investigative abilities that humans--that he himself--had to work years and years for. Whatever Gavin did, it would never be fucking enough.

But it didn’t mean he was going to give up. Gavin Reed was no quitter, no matter how much he hated the fact that the world was never going to be fair to those with a predisposition for what they wanted to do. It made him angry, not upset.

And with that mindset, came his refusal to rely on anyone or anything.

The water was starting to cool down, signalling Gavin that he had been in the shower way too long drowning in his own thoughts. He hastily twisted the faucet, stepping out of the cubicle and wrapping a towel around his waist, scrubbing another one through his wet hair.

He threw on a black shirt and jeans, then his usual leather jacket. For a moment, he reached for his police badge, ready to clip it onto his belt like usual--then remembered what he was supposed to be doing.

Fuck.

Tossing it into his bag instead, with a deep scowl on his face, Gavin set about finishing up the packing he had started the night prior. Oreo circled his feet, mewling every now and then as her owner grumbled scattered, nonsensical complaints under his breath.

He didn't need much--basic necessities, clothing, some surveillance equipment and his gun (a precaution--hopefully they wouldn't actually need it). It was probably best to not pack too heavy. Most of their gear had already been set up by Nines, who had supposedly already moved in.

That was the other thing.

He hadn't spoken to the android, not properly, since their last…could you even call it a fight? More like a tense conversation, really. It was still difficult to read Nines--unlike Connor, who wore his heart on his sleeve when he wasn't doing his job, Nines was just…nonchalant almost 24/7.

He wasn't sure if the android was still pissed at him.

He wasn't sure why he gave a damn at all.

Zipping up his bag, Gavin glanced at Oreo, who tilted her head up at him. His glare smoothed out a little, and he crouched down to scratch gently under her chin. “Sorry, but you might have to go in a cage until we get to our new place.” She nuzzled into his hand--something she would've never done even just half a year ago. “I'll pack two of your toys, but I'll have to buy you new food when we get there.” He felt bad about putting her into a cage--something he hadn't really done too often, but it was necessary for the move. Besides, he wasn't too sure how she might react to the new neighbours if he passed by any of them.

Better safe than sorry, especially if they ran into Vasilek.

His eyes hardened at the thought of their assignment. Putting Nines and their new living conditions aside, he had to focus on the job and the target. Gavin had always been goal-oriented, and that wasn't about to change.

Oreo meowed again, as if to reassure him, before stretching out and sauntering away in the direction of the kitchen.

Gavin smiled wearily after her.

“Well, at least I can always tell what you're thinking.”

 


 

1024 HARTWELL AVE.
AM 10:53:34
➤ NINES

Nines looked down at his prep file with some disgust.

He had already introduced himself to the neighbours two days ago after moving in, using his fake name for the assignment.

“Humans aren't usually named numbers, Nines,” Kamski had said wryly when Nines had asked why the DPD was insisting that he needed a fake “human” name.

He liked his name, thank you very much. It was both a simplification of his model number, and easy to say and remember. It was the first aspect of his identity, the representation of when he first became something more than just CyberLife’s tool. It was important.

Nonetheless, Nines needed to be able to adapt and pretend to be human for the purpose of their current investigation.

And so, the blue circlet on his temple, something he felt inexplicably a little attached to, had been carefully concealed with a quick fix by Kamski. “The synthetic skin patch isn't perfect,” the inventor had warned, “but as long as no one gets extremely close, they shouldn't be able to tell.”

He ran a finger over the names printed on the file again. Niles Arkay and Gavin Reed.

A glint of silver caught his eye, the metal catching the sunlight pouring in from the living room window from where it now encircled his left ring finger. The detective was not going to be happy with this prop, that was for certain, which meant he was no doubt going to throw a fit.

For a human with such intense drive for success, the man sure was emotional. Nines found himself equally envious and disdainful of it. He wondered, for the millionth time, how much of that feeling was him and how much was the leftover fragments from his programming. The RK900 never showed it, was used to not showing it, but those moments of…lack of clarity bothered him.

His lips thinned as he refocused his attention forcefully back onto the task at hand.

In a moment, he was going to have to put on a happy face and greet his new partner as husband. It would be easy enough for Nines--he had been programmed for espionage once upon a time, just like Connor had been--but Gavin was the issue. How would he react to the cheerful, and certainly unexpected, greeting once he arrived?

Hopefully not in a way that would compromise them. After all, Niles and Gavin were supposed to be deeply in love, and all their (rather nosy) neighbours knew it to be so, since the RK900 made it a point to bring up how much he missed his “husband” often in front of them. Nines made a mental note to go over all future plans with the detective, no matter how annoyed the man got. After all, he seemed the volatile type.

He spent about an hour longer looking over the files, making sure he had already set everything up correctly.

The area itself was suburban--nothing too fancy, just slightly worn down two-storey houses separated by waist-high picket fences. It was really the perfect area for a newly-married couple to move into, which made it perfect cover to investigate Vasilek. Nines hadn’t seen him yet--the man was, as expected, elusive. However, a quick visual scan of the house and the registry was enough to tell him that, yes, Anton Vasilek lived next door in 1026--right on the corner of the street. The man supposedly had short-cropped blonde hair, a relatively built figure, and hit around six feet and two inches in height. The glimpses he had caught of their mysterious neighbour matched the description perfectly, only confirming what he already knew.

Nines carefully categorized the immediate neighbours that he had introduced himself to already in his database. There were a few others in the community that he had met as well, but they would likely not see them as often.

Abigail Ingot, a poised middle-aged woman with dark brown waves, lived across from them in 1025. She was brusque and to the point, but not rude. She reminded Nines of Danielle Carnegie from his time at CyberLife, and it made his polite smile during the conversation much more forced. From just a short time with her, however, Nines quickly deduced she must be what people referred to as the “local gossip”--and that she held a rather obvious distaste for androids.

In fact, the whole street seemed to either hold a negative or neutral opinion about androids--but never positive. Nobody here owned one, and the families that did had let them go or threw them out when word of Markus’s revolution originally had begun spreading. It didn’t really mean much to him, other than a minor inconvenience. He would have to be much more careful in maintaining his identity as a human.

Then, there was an older couple, both in their sixties--Sofia and William Martell--who lived next door in 1022. They were both extremely friendly retirees, all their children having already “flown the nest” according to Sofia. Promptly shaking his hand and welcoming him to the community, William had then insisted that Nines and “his mysterious handsome husband” come to a neighbourhood barbeque they were hosting next week.

The quiet rumbling of an engine slowly increased in volume outside, before ceasing. Nines looked up, barely catching a hint of the nondescript black car pulling into the driveway.

It was time.

He took a breath, taking a moment as he sorted through his database for an appropriate greeting. It was uncomfortable, to say the least, to recall his programmed use as an investigation and combat prototype, but he might as well get used to it again. A soft smile curled on his lips, pale grey eyes narrowing slightly as he opened the door and his optical sensors adjusted to the full brightness of the morning sun again.

A familiar, leather jacket-clad figure was stepping out of the car.

Nines bit back the instinctive Detective Reed that almost spilled from his lips, instead maintaining his smile and approaching with quick, long steps. “Gavin!” The name tasted strange in his mouth--a little too personal, perhaps.

Emotions were still difficult to process. He always had to properly take a moment and sort through his new feelings and experiences--assign descriptors to emotions.

Said man flinched, then looked up from his car, a surprisingly convincing smile on his face. “Ni--”

Nines processed two things at once.

One, their extra nosy across the street neighbour, Abigail Ingot, had stopped in the middle of unloading groceries and was surreptitiously watching.

Two--it just then occurred to Nines that Gavin probably, in all likelihood, had not been informed of his new fake spouse's fake name, and was about to call him by his actual name. It would no doubt raise some eyebrows, or best case scenario, make its run through the gossip mill as a joke and find itself in Vasilek’s ears. No matter how harmless it might seem, something off was something off. If their target really had managed to deflect suspicion for so long, he must be paranoid enough to pay attention to miniscule details.

And the discrepancy between Nines and Niles, no matter how small and irrelevant it might seem, might be enough to send him running.

No.

Without thinking anything further, Nines twisted long fingers into the collar of Gavin's shirt, and pulled him in--pressing their lips together and effectively shutting the other male up. It was a bid to both stop him from talking and show Tam that they were a convincing couple, but now it seemed to have not been the best decision. He actually felt Gavin's transition from surprised to tense to angry, the tense lines of his body giving it all away as he remained frozen.

A moment passed, one that felt ridiculously long, before the detective shifted and reluctantly--very much so it seemed--kissed the android back.

Nines knew it was for the sake of the performance, but he was still surprised at the strange sensation that ran down his back--almost like…a shudder, something he had never felt before in his short life. He chalked it up to the shiver being a system calibration as he adjusted to the new sensation. After all, it wasn't as though he had ever been kissed before.

It was easy to look dazed when he finally pulled away.

“Help me unpack?” Gavin, on the other hand, just smiled tightly and readjusted his grip on his suitcase and--was that a cat cage?--quickly entered what was to be their shared house until the investigation ended. He seemed relatively unaffected. Maybe he was used to this kind of thing. Nines stood there, contemplating, before shaking himself out of it and following the detective in. If nothing else, he was glad that the shorter male had taken it so well. It meant a step forward in creating a convincing cover.

Apparently, that had been too much to hope for.

Once the door shut and the cat cage was surprisingly gently set down (seriously, what was in it?), Gavin exploded. “What the flying fuck was that!?” he demanded, looking like he wanted to wring Nines’s neck. “I don’t know what the hell you were thinking, but normally people give a warning before doing shit like that!”

“Married couples don’t,” Nines replied automatically, an instinctive correction. It made the scowl etch itself deeper into the detective’s features. The prominent scar across the bridge of his nose seemed to grow darker as the furrow in his brow became harder. He expected more screaming--possibly some arm flailing--but instead…

A strange silence, as if the normally brash detective as actually checking himself before he spoke.

Odd.

“...Whatever.” Gavin finally waved a hand, an unidentifiable expression flashing across his face for a split second before returning to his usual frown. It almost…resembled guilt, but that couldn't be it. What would the detective have to feel guilty about? “Just…fuckin’ give a guy a warning next time.”

Nines wasn't about to dig deeper than he had to. “Of course, Detective.” He paused. There was the urge to explain himself, despite the fact that Gavin looked ready to let it go and never speak of it again. “It wasn't an expression of affection, if you were concerned about that.” The RK900 folded his hands neatly behind his back. Just as Connor's coin calmed him, the familiar posture was a source of comfort. He had read that humans hated misunderstandings and misinterpreted signals. Maybe this was one of those times. “It was merely because you were about to call me by my real name, and Ms. Ingot across the street was observing.”

Gavin stared at him as though he had sprouted a second head. “I--what?” He shook his head after a long pause. “I know it wasn't an expression of actual affection.”

“Okay,” Nines replied simply. “Good. I just wanted to make sure you don’t take what we have to do over the course of this investigation too seriously.”

Another silence.

Slate grey met silver, and finally, Gavin let out a huff that was somewhere between a snort of laughter and a sigh. His scowl had softened by a miniscule fraction, something Nines only detected because of his advanced facial recognition software. “You're really fucking weird, you know that?”

An unbidden, small smile curled the corner of Nines’s lips in mild bemusement. “Should I take that as a compliment or an insult?”

The scowl was back, along with an unexplained red flush that suddenly rose in the man’s ears. Before the android could ask about it, Gavin turned away gruffly towards his luggage and cage. “Take it as you want.” And with that, he picked up his things and made his way further into the house, treading upstairs, likely in search of the bedroom.

“Oh,” Nines said as he remembered--just as a muffled incredulous “what the fuck are you shitting me?” reached his auditory processors.

There was only one.

 


 

1024 HARTWELL AVE.
AM 11:29:57
➤ GAVIN REED

Gavin stared down at the one bed--emphasis on one bed--in complete disbelief. He barely heard the footsteps steadily climbing the stairs and entering the room. His eyes remained glued to the queen-sized mattress, with the sheets made to pristine perfection and the duvet corners straightened, until his vision almost blurred.

There was a long stretch of silence as he desperately wished he was anywhere but here.

“Okay…” Gavin took a breath. “Okay. We can fix this. One of us will sleep on the floor.”

“Why?” Nines asked with a raised eyebrow. The detective turned around, seeing silver eyes staring blankly back at him in what looked like genuine confusion. And was it just him, or did he catch a spark of annoyance in the android’s gaze? “I don’t see why this is an issue, Detective.” He paused, then looked resigned, as if he was the one being inconvenienced. “Are you perhaps a light sleeper? I can shut down for night time, if you’d prefer, so that I don’t move and wake you up.”

“That’s not the problem here.” Gavin groaned, raking a hand through his hair in frustration. He didn’t want to have to explain this to the RK900. Shouldn’t the android already know why it would be uncomfortable? For fuck’s sake, this was a whole new level of emotional constipation beyond even his own. Were all androids like this? He had dealt with his fair share of android cases in the past, and he didn’t recall any of those androids being quite this bad. “I don’t...never mind. As long as you stay on your side of the bed.”

Nines just shrugged, unruffled as always. “I was not planning on moving to your side, Detective.”

Gavin almost felt offended by that statement, which was insane--he wasn’t supposed to care. And he didn’t care.

The cage at his feet then shifted slightly, attracting both males’ attentions, and he remembered what he had come up here to do. The detective crouched, reaching for the cage door and unlatching it. “Hope you don’t mind cats,” he snarked, insincerity coating his voice as he stepped back.

Oreo peeked her head out, examining the new environment cautiously.

Nines stared down at her in complete silence. For a moment, Gavin wondered if the android had glitched out. He hoped not--he didn’t want to be responsible for breaking him. He’d probably be forced to pay for the repairs or something, and the RK900 wasn’t even his. Eventually, the android blinked, and Gavin shoved the ridiculous notion from his mind.

The Siamese kitten sniffed the ground before taking her first cautious step onto the hardwood flooring. That, at least, must be familiar territory. Gavin had always hated carpets--too damn hard to clean, especially with a cat that shed. The apartment at home, thankfully, didn’t come with a carpet. Slowly, she padded towards the new presence in the room.

The two stared each other down. Gavin almost wanted to laugh--a tiny cat having what looked like a contest of dominance with a tall android hulking at six foot one. Oreo didn’t take to strangers well, and he wouldn’t be surprised if she shunned Nines entirely.

But instead, because the universe hated when he was right, the traitorous ball of fur (okay, fine, that was possibly an overreaction on his part) approached Nines and nuzzled at his leg, apparently deciding that she did like him.

“What the shit,” Gavin hissed flatly.

Nines continued to stare down at the kitten as if she was some kind of alien creature.

Gavin huffed a resigned sigh as Oreo continued to look up at Nines with her big blue eyes. “...Do you wanna try holdin’ her?” She was basically climbing up the android’s leg already anyway. He bent down, picking up the cat.

And for a moment, Nines did reach out.

Then, something almost akin to fear crossed his face for a moment before the expression disappeared into hiding. The hell? Before the detective could think about it any further, though, the RK900 was pulling back stiffly and heading downstairs without another word. Oreo mewled, clearly just as confused as her owner.

Okay, that was fucking weird.

He absently knelt down again on one knee, setting Oreo down and hand reaching to scratch behind the cat’s ears as he stared at the space where the android had been standing a moment ago.

Really, really fucking weird.

“Stay here, Oreo.” Gavin abruptly stood, heading downstairs as Oreo wandered off to do her thing. He could unpack later. Not only did they need to brief each other on their plans while they were here, he still had to...sort of, maybe, possibly apologize for that time he had ordered Nines around. The android didn’t seem bothered by it anymore, but he wanted to ease the nagging guilt. Curse his stupid cousin for introducing the idea into his head.

And he was also a little--just a little, mind you--curious about what the hell that reaction to the tiny Siamese cat had been.

“Hey.” Gavin found Nines in the kitchen, sitting down and going over their current information again. He felt a little awkward. Apologies were shit, and he was terrible at them. Completely awful, actually, since he never usually apologized for his actions or words.

Before he could actually try and get one out though, the RK900 spoke up. “We should go over our intel and plans.”

It snapped the detective out of whatever weird mood he had been in. They were here for a job, not here to make friends. He wasn’t here to make nice with this android. They were to put up appearances for an investigation, and fuck, how did that almost escape his mind?

Maybe that one moment from earlier--the small but genuine smile he had caught--made him forget for a moment just who he was talking to.

A machine, designed for this very job, who would outshine him in this assignment if Gavin wasn’t more careful.

His gaze hardened.

“You're right,” Gavin replied stiffly, and pulled up a chair. “So, fill me in. What do we have so far?”

Nines took a moment to organize his thoughts. Gavin wondered if his LED would normally be spinning yellow right now, if it wasn't covered in the thin synthetic skin attachment that Elijah had whipped up. As it was, all he got was a concentrated expression. “Okay. Let's go over what we know about Anton Vasilek first.”

Nines explained in succinct detail what they had on the guy. Mostly, it was a lot of circumstantial stuff, and back when androids were only seen as possessions, law enforcement never really took the time to crack down on everything. The only actual tie-in was Vasilek’s possible connection to Zlatko Andronikov. And even then, it was shaky at best. Vasilek was a secretive guy, and seemed to live an entirely normal life upfront as a typical salaryman.

He didn't even remotely look like a shady trafficker, but Gavin supposed that was the point.

Either way, Zlatko’s strange disappearance off the face of the earth was also something that couldn't be ignored. He had been a prominent figure on the android black market, specifically for his weird creations and rare parts, but had apparently ceased all activity about a year back.

Gavin pursed his lips as he thought that over. “Shouldn't we try and gather information about him, too?”

“The DPD has already assigned Lieutenant Anderson and Connor to investigate Zlatko’s disappearance,” Nines replied distractedly. “Our job here while maintaining a friendly, polite front, is to run some surveillance equipment and keep track of Vasilek’s activites. Anything suspicious will be reported to the DPD for further analysis. Oh, and…” He reached inside his jacket, pulling something small out of his inner pocket. It caught the light, glinting, as Nines flicked it in his direction. “You’ll need this, Detective.”

Gavin reached out on instinct, catching the tiny object with both hands. He opened his palms, examining it.

His breath stuck in his throat, and he felt a little sick.

A ring. Right.

For the promotion, he reminded himself, mood souring further as he turned the ring over in his hand before reluctantly sliding it on.

“Please refer to me as Niles in the future in front of our neighbours,” Nines informed him solemnly, then stood. “I will be setting up our work room. If you need anything, please call for me.” And with that, the impassive android made his way further back into the house, disappearing around the corner of the hall.

Niles. It sounded weird, just a little. Gavin mouthed the name a few times--it shouldn’t be too difficult, though, given the fact that they were pretty similar. Oh. That was probably what the kiss had been for, he noted, to prevent the detective from saying his actual name in front of their neighbours.

His ears reddened without his permission as he thought back to it, and he quickly shook the memory away, annoyed at his own mind. It was just embarrassment, that was all.

“Wait.” There was still something he had to ask--even if he shouldn't really care. Damn his own nagging curiosity.

The RK900 peered back around the corner. “Yes?”

“Do you, uh, have a problem with me keeping Oreo with us here?” Okay, so the question was a little roundabout. But he couldn't think of a better way to put it, other than straight up saying you seemed fine with her but then you looked like you wanted to run, what's up with that? Gavin didn't want to say that. It would make it seem like he cared, and he didn't, okay? He was just trying to be a considerate (temporary) roommate.

Nines paused, frowning in what looked like mildly annoyed confusion, as if Gavin was the crazy one for even asking such a question. “Like I said, this assignment will not affect your personal life. Why should I care if you bring your cat with you?” He sighed. “Please keep your questions related to the investigation, Detective. It will save us a lot of time.”

And with that, the android was off again.

Gavin's jaw dropped in shock and also maybe a little bit of outrage.

What the actual fuck?

Okay, he was done trying to make up for what he had said before. It clearly didn't bother the android at all, no matter what the guilt in the back of his mind said. At least he could say for once that Elijah had been wrong.

It's just for a little while, Gavin reminded himself, taking a deep breath. This definitely gave him more motivation to finish the case as soon as possible, for sure. He was still going to do it with as little reliance on Nines as possible. He didn't need that toolset bundled into an ice cube of a robot, anyway.

He had gotten this far without anybody else. Even if this was an investigation involving them pretending to be a couple, that would be the extent of their time together.

Gavin could run the rest of this investigation on his own, thank you very much.

There was a soft mewl at his feet.

He looked down to see Oreo looking at him with what seemed to be a reproachful gaze, as if reprimanding him for his stubborn attitude.

“You shut up,” he grumped, not really meaning it. “I can't believe you like that toaster. You don't like anyone.” As the detective spoke, he made his way around the table and started shuffling the files they had back together. He would have to sit down and review everything again--he didn't have a perfect memory built into him, unlike a certain plastic prick.

The doorbell interrupted his frustrated thoughts. He glanced up, looking towards the hallway that the RK900 had disappeared down. The android must be in the workroom, Gavin concluded, then realized with some irritation that this meant he was going to have to answer the door and probably be amicable to whoever was there.

Scraping a hand through his hair, the detective sighed and set the folder with the collected paper aside before dragging himself to open the door.

A smiling, middle-aged woman stood there, dark brown hair carefully curled into soft waves. He didn't see it before, but there were some silver streaks running through--a little too neatly for it just to be the result of aging. Gavin recognized her as the neighbour who had been standing across the street when he first arrived. Contrary to popular belief, he wasn't an idiot. He was actually pretty observant to wayward details. It was what made him a good detective. “Hi,” he greeted politely, plastering on his best friendly smile.

“Hello, it's very nice to finally meet you.” She stuck out a hand and he shook it. Her grip was surprisingly firm for such a slim frame. “Niles has been talking about you nonstop ever since he moved in! He said you had some business to take care of while he handled the move?”

Gavin gratefully latched onto the hints, giving what he hoped looked like a helpless shrug. “Yeah. Just some leftover work at the company, you know how it is. I would've loved to help my…” He ground the word out. “...husband move everything in, but that's just how things worked out.”

She nodded emphatically, rolling her eyes, not noticing the brief hesitation. “Do I ever. Especially now that androids are actually paid? Restructuring and hiring has been a nightmare for my entire department. I write for a magazine, by the way. One of the only professions that hasn't become totally soulless.” She sighed. “But now, I'm pretty sure they're thinking of hiring some deviants, so there goes that.”

Gavin arched a brow. So she wasn't fond of androids. Kind of strange, in this day and age if you had a job that was unaffected by the android market, but maybe someone she knew had been. Gavin understood that fear and that annoyance of having the job you worked so damn hard for taken at a moment’s notice by someone who could do it so easily and didn't even appreciate it. He stuck his hands in his jeans pockets. “Well, hopefully things get easier,” he offered. “For what it's worth, I completely get it.”

The lady beamed at him, then remembered something with a quick “oh!” She reached into her bag. “I forgot to introduce myself. Abigail Ingot, but you can just call me Abi. Everyone on the street does.” After rifling around a little, Abi came up with a sheet of paper and offered it to Gavin. “Our community is pretty tight-knit, you'll see. Since Niles moved in and informed us he had a husband coming, we've been planning a little welcome dinner of sorts. Sofia and William are hosting it--I believe even Anton, that's your other neighbour by the way right on the corner, is dropping by tonight.”

That caught Gavin's attention. “Even Anton?” he echoed, his brow furrowing.

“He's a rare sight to see,” Abi explained without batting an eye. “He's a very busy man, so maybe this is your only chance to meet the guy you share that fence with.” She chuckled, and the detective politely joined in, his mind racing. Normally, he would decline this kind of social function, just because he didn't want to spend any unnecessary extra time around Nines. But this--this could be their first big break.

And the faster they got this case over with--and the more Gavin had to do with it, of course--the less time they would have to be together and the more likely it was for Gavin to get that promotion.

It was settled, then. He smiled back at Abi. “We'd love to. Me and my husband Niles.” God, it still sounded so strange coming from his mouth, but she smiled and handed him the sheet of paper with the details, so it wasn't like she had noticed. He glanced over the invite quickly as she zipped up her purse again. “We'll see you tonight, then?”

“Yes, please tell Niles I dropped by.” Abi adjusted her grip on the leather shoulder strap, then flashed him a smile before nodding goodbye and leaving.

Gavin closed the door.

He glanced at his watch.

One in the afternoon. They had about four hours to get a consistent cover story down--more than enough.

Take that, you plastic asshole, he thought smugly, ignoring how childish he sounded. Fowler was wrong. He didn't need Nines or his stupid “database” or “ advanced investigative abilities” or whatever. Human to human interaction would get them their first vital piece of information.

That being said…he did need Nines for them to be able to pull off this happy couple thing without arousing suspicion while interacting with Vasilek.

Shit.

“Hey, you still working?” Gavin made his way down the hall, calling out for the android. “We gotta talk.”

Nines was kneeled under the computer he had been setting up, wiring in his hands. For a moment, Gavin couldn't help but admire how elegant his fingers looked--then promptly felt irritated by his own errant thoughts and angrily told himself to focus. “What?” Nines prompted bluntly, raising a brow.

God, this was a far cry from Connor's smile and head tilt. The fact that it came from two similar models of androids made it jarring.

“I just got us our first in with Vasilek,” Gavin announced proudly, slapping down the piece of paper on the desk with triumph. He ignored Nines’s disgruntled look as the sudden movement sent the keyboard clattering off to the side and nearly off the edge. “Dinner. Tonight, at the Martells’. Abigail Ingot just gave me this invite.”

Nines picked up the piece of paper, eyes skimming over the details. “Okay?” he said, clearly unimpressed. “What does this have to do with Vasilek?”

“He’s a recluse!” Gavin threw his hands up, now annoyed again. He wondered if the RK900 was doing this on purpose to piss him off. He wouldn't put it past him. “And he’s coming tonight. You can’t tell me that that’s not a good excuse to finally meet him and get some more intel.”

There was a short silence, then the small furrow in the android’s brow softened. “...I take it you accepted the invite?”

The detective scoffed. “’Course I did.”

“We need to come up with a cover story for our relationship, then,” Nines decided, all business once more. “What do you think will be believable?”

They spent the next two hours confirming and fleshing out the details of their “relationship”. “Niles Arkay” was an English Lit major who spent his time with his nose buried in books, until in college, he met Gavin, a business major who was taking a writing class as part of his graduation credit requirements. Their relationship had been rocky at first, and the two didn’t get along, but slowly Niles became charmed by him, and it all started from there.

“Who would have proposed?” Nines questioned, looking down pointedly at the matching rings on their fingers.

Gavin glanced down too. Right. Ugh. How the hell did they even get the right ring sizes? “You, probably. Niles is the one enamoured with me, remember?”

For some reason, that made Nines lift his chin stubbornly. “Still, you’re the one who liked Niles first and courted him. Niles just went along with it. It is probably more believable if you were the one to propose.”

Gavin scowled. “Okay, first off, who the hell even says courting anymore? And two, you’re wrong. I was probably just testing the waters, and Niles is the one who ended up falling for me. He’s the one who’s more invested in the relationship just based on his personality, so it makes more sense the other way around!”

“You’re assuming a lot,” Nines shot back icily without missing a beat, his voice irritatingly measured and calm despite the nature of their conversation. “Your character falls first, that is a fact. Why would my character be more invested than yours?”

“Fine!” Gavin growled, feeling the urge to rip his own hair out. This argument was ridiculous. It was about a completely false situation, made up for the sake of their cover. “I’ll be the one to propose, happy?”

There was a short silence, then--

“Not particularly, as this is just a hypothetical situation.” Nines folded his hands neatly behind his back. “And that being said, Detective, you seem awfully invested. I must remind you, these are just characters.”

Someone needed to give Gavin a fucking gold medal for not attempting to strangle Nines right then and there. Was it even possible to strangle an android? Still, he was sure he was going to pop a blood vessel--if not now, then sometime in the next week.

“I know,” he bit out, and god, was it a struggle to end the argument, because he really wanted to retort. “Let’s move on.”

Nines opened his mouth, probably to make another remark that would no doubt send Gavin over the edge, then froze.

Gavin looked at the floor.

Oreo, that furry bastard, was slinking around the RK900’s ankles again, clearly wanting some kind of attention from the android. Gavin glanced at Nines, again extremely weirded out by the normally neutral features twisting into something worried.

“Okay, the hell is up with you?” he demanded, finally taking pity and reaching down to pull a protesting Oreo into his arms and away from Nines. “It’s just one damn cat.”

“I’m not afraid,” Nines replied, and there was no indication that it was a lie. So fear of the actual animal wasn’t it? Then what the hell else could it be? He didn’t get a chance to ask. “I need to finish setting up our workspace. Please find something appropriate to wear to a dinner party. I will meet you by the door when it is time to leave.” And with that, he ducked under the desk again, clearly dismissing Gavin from the room.

Not knowing what to do or what the fuck just happened, the detective slowly walked out, closing the door behind him so that Oreo couldn’t make her way in again.

She mewled in protest.

“What do you think that was?” Gavin muttered absently, looking over his shoulder at the door. Oreo jumped out of his arms, apparently having lost interest, and padded her way upstairs--probably to take a nap. She had definitely been through quite a bit today. He was tired too, honestly, but tonight was the official start of their assignment--he couldn’t afford to slack.

All he knew, though, was that it was really difficult to nail down his impression of Nines.

Was he passive? Nonchalant? Weirdly stubborn? Cold? Strange?

Jesus--he was getting a headache from all this unnecessary worry. Gavin shook it off. Whatever. It didn’t have anything to do with the job. He knelt by the abandoned suitcase where it had been sitting near the dining table, laying it down and unzipping it.

Clothes for dinner...he rarely wore dress shirts, but he did bring a few, just in case. Taking a few seconds to debate the decision in his mind, the detective eventually shrugged and took off his jacket and shirt--tossing both onto the back of the nearby chair. He pulled the shirt on, buttoning the cuffs, followed by the front. It was a simple charcoal button up--he wasn’t the sort to have extra embroidery or some kind of geometric shit on the fabric like his over-the-top cousin.

By the time it was evening, Gavin had finished studying the neighbours’ files and catching up on the information they had about the case at hand.

Nines finally appeared from the room he had been shut up in, about fifteen minutes before they had to leave. He was still dressed in the slim-fitting black turtleneck he had been wearing, and Gavin had to admit it suited his lean-muscled frame perfectly.

Another thing he hated about androids--the fact that they always had these perfectly sculpted bodies just...naturally. Or technically, he supposed, not naturally.

“We’re leaving in fifteen,” he informed the RK900 gruffly.

“I know.” Nines barely glanced at him, heading into the downstairs washroom. A short five minutes later, Gavin heard the faucet run then stop, and the android stepped out from behind the door.

Gavin's eyes widened, and his brain stopped working momentarily.

It wasn't that he had never seen the android in formal wear. After all, the clothing he got from CyberLife basically counted. But gone was the suffocatingly tall black collar, and the RK900 was now dressed in a dark navy--almost inky black--button up. It was neatly tucked into a pair of black slacks, and the sleeves were rolled up about halfway up his forearms, the outline of synthetic muscles very realistic through the skin with each movement. His brown hair, a few shades lighter than Connor's, was carefully pushed back, and the navy fabric of the shirt made his already piercing grey gaze even more pronounced. The shirt was open at the collar, revealing a strip of pale skin and a defined collarbone.

Speaking of, that silvery gaze was now aimed at a gawking Gavin. “What?” Nines finally asked, narrowing his eyes.

Not so charming after all. Gavin shook himself out of the brief illusion, and went back to scowling down at the paper in front of him, picking his jaw up off of the floor. At least the android hadn’t commented on his lapse in judgement and the very obvious staring--if he had even noticed. The detective sighed and stood. “Nothing. If you’re ready, let’s go. And try not to put on that terrifying glare for the rest of the night--you’ll scare the neighbours.”

“I should say the same to you.” Nines didn’t even blink, throwing the insult right back into Gavin’s face with irritating calmness. He was starting to get the idea that the android might actually be the worst kind of petty--the same kind of petty as Elijah, where they would use the most cutting insults as retorts without a single change of expression. “At least I can act polite when the time calls for it. Try not to show too much of your temper tonight.”

“I can handle myself,” Gavin snapped, now well and truly miffed again.

Nines gave him a slightly dubious look.

Gavin flipped him off, angrily swiping their keys off the table.

This was going to be a long night, that was for sure.

 


 

SOFIA AND WILLIAM MARTELL’S HOUSE
PM 05:33:57
➤ GAVIN REED

“Come in!” Sofia beamed as she opened the door, ushering them in. Gavin looked around discretely as he and Nines made their way inside. The house was relatively similar to what they had--a two-storey place. Of course, the difference being that the older couple had completely moved in. The place was homey, with a warm ambiance. “William, Gavin and Niles are here!”

Gavin smiled politely. His hand was laced with Nines’s, and he was desperately trying not to focus on that. He could feel the cool metal circling the android’s ring finger pressing into his palm. “Thank you again for planning this.”

“Of course, of course.” The crow’s feet at the corner of her eyes crinkled. “I always look for an excuse to have a neighbourhood gathering--I should be thanking you two for coming on such short notice, especially since you just moved in!” She ushered them further down the hall into their dining area. Abigail, who was already there, nodded and smiled at them. She was nursing a glass of what looked like red wine. “You’ve already met Abi, and I think James is somewhere else in the house--probably raiding our fridge--so let me introduce you to--ah!” Sofia lifted an arm, waving.

Nines’s hand tightened around Gavin’s.

Gavin looked away from Sofia to the man she was gesturing at to come over.

Vasilek.

Anton Vasilek was a man who stood at about Nines’s height--maybe give or take an inch. His short-cropped blond hair was almost white, and he had pale green eyes--almost grey, but flecked with something akin to gold. It was hard to pin down the exact colour. As he stopped in front of them, Gavin noted that yes--he did in fact have an inch on Nines. “Nice to meet you,” Vasilek said with a small smile.

Gavin shook his hand. He didn’t know what he expected--some kind of evil villainous accent, maybe, a deep Russian inflection or something. Instead, the man sounded all-American, maybe with a small hint of something European, and had handsome, unassuming features. “I’m Gavin, and this is my husband, Niles.”

“Anton.” Vasilek shook Nines’s hand next, his grip firm. “It’s rare to see new people moving into the neighbourhood at this time.”

Gavin shrugged nonchalantly, although his heart leapt to his throat. “The property here is out of the way, and we’ve been looking to move for a while away from the urban areas of Detroit.” He and Nines had already discussed this, so the words flowed easily out of his mouth. He glanced at the RK900. “And we figured moving to a suburban community would be perfect--an acquaintance of ours recommended this neighbourhood to us.”

“That sounds lovely.” The tall male in front of them smiled once more, the corners of his eyes crinkling slightly. He really did just look like a regular guy and not an android black market dealer--which Gavin supposed was the point. He had seen the grainy photos of Zlatko in their files, and man, did that guy ever fit the typical description of what an evil villain would look like. “I hope you didn’t find the place too difficult to adjust to, then. Everyone is very friendly.”

“We love it so far,” Nines said, his voice friendly and polite in a way that Gavin had never heard before. It was almost jarring, and he barely stopped himself from looking over to the android in shock. But his eyes were just as calculating as they normally were, and the detective wondered if Vasilek noticed. If he did, he didn’t show any indication of it. “It’s much closer to where Gavin works, and there’s a library nearby for me to conduct research for my next paper.”

“Oh, right!” Sofia had appeared by their side again, handing them plates with what looked like homemade dip and chips. “I completely forgot--Anton, Niles is an English Literature professor who’s taking some time off of teaching to conduct some research right now. Isn’t that impressive, especially with how saturated that job market is with androids right now?”

“Yes, very.” Vasilek accepted his plate from the elderly lady, and dipped one of the chips into the sauce before taking a bite. He chewed and swallowed before answering. “Quite unfortunate, isn’t it? I hope you can continue down that career path successfully.”

Gavin’s eyes narrowed slightly.

Nines, however, didn’t react at all. He didn’t even seem offended. “Yes. Regular androids cannot formulate any new analysis on literature, particularly things that rely on emotional interpretation, so--”

“You seem pretty confident about that,” Vasilek cut in, arching a brow. Clearly, the man was more observant than they had thought. “I thought you studied literature, not A.I.?” The question was asked in a light tone, but there was an edge to his voice that was laced with carefully concealed suspicion.

“Niles has always looked up to Elijah Kamski,” Gavin quickly added. Nines glanced at him discreetly, then nodded. “He was studying programming on the side when he did his degree.” It hurt to say that his annoying cousin was a role model, but it was the most believable thing he could think of when it came to why the two unrelated fields of academia would overlap at all.

“I see.” Vasilek’s gaze was unreadable for a long moment of silence, but eventually, he smiled again--the previous tension in the room loosening. “Well, Kamski certainly is an interesting character. For one man, he’s managed to do quite a bit of damage with his invention to the accomplishments that humans can achieve--not to mention put a lot of people out of their previous jobs.”

Gavin almost expected Nines to snap, or to say something cuttingly sarcastic like he always did, but again, the android didn’t look ruffled at all. It was as if he was used to hearing these things said. The RK900 just gave a polite chuckle, not even flinching--which was great for their investigation, but confused the detective to no end. “I completely understand--after all, I may be one of them soon. It was just a phase I went through in college.”

The group shared a few scattered laughs, then Vasilek excused himself to attend to “other business”. “I don’t get to come to these events much, due to my work,” he said with an apologetic shrug. “But welcome to the neighbourhood--I’m sure I’ll see you two around, given the fact that we share one fence.” And with that, their target was gone.

“He never sticks around for long.” Sofia sighed, shaking her head. “Sorry, he’s a bit of a recluse, which is such a shame! He’s friendly and polite, I’m sure William and I will be able to set him up with someone if he’d just let us. It’s not right, being so handsome yet single at 43.”

“What does he do?” Gavin questioned, doing his best to keep the question friendly and light instead of interrogative. It was a little difficult, given his usual attitude when questioning. There was a reason he never played good cop. “I’m not sure if I caught it.”

Sofia just laughed, waving dismissively. “None of us really know that many details about it, dear. He seems to deal with some kind of shipment management for his company. Abi--she’s pretty much our resident gossip--told me once that she saw him coming out of his garage, and caught a peek of a bunch of cardboard boxes marked fragile.” She shook her head, clearly amused. “But you needn’t take that too seriously. Abi talks about all these things she sees, but sometimes she’ll exaggerate. You can ask anyone.”

Cardboard boxes?

It could be nothing, but it could also be something. Gavin gave a quick glance over to Nines, who squeezed their joined hands once in affirmation. A lead.

The rest of the night was spent wandering around the house (and making excuses for why “Niles” wasn’t eating the food that the Martells had prepared). Eventually, they were introduced to a young man named James Teller. He was a musician--played guitar, and used to be part of a band before they split.

“It’s because of those damned new android bands,” he huffed, pushing his swept hair back. A small furrow was between his brows as he spoke. “I dunno, man. I get that they can play anything and sing anything, but it’s all too perfect. They don’t have any soul.”

Again, Gavin wondered how Nines was going to react--but again, the android didn’t.

They were also introduced by William to some of the others in the community--mostly people who worked in the area and also seemed to generally project a bad vibe about androids. Gavin didn’t mind, not exactly, it had nothing to do with him after all. But still...

The DPD detective spent the rest of the night wondering how he could ask the RK900 about it--wondering if he even should. But he couldn’t deny how curious he was, and so, when everyone pulled on their jackets and bid each other good night, he worked up the nerve.

“So,” he said casually, as they began walking back. The Martells were right next to them, so it was a short trek down the sidewalk. The night air was cool, and his breath came out in warm puffs. It was honestly a little chilly, and he felt envious of Nines, who didn’t look bothered at all despite being in a dress shirt just like Gavin. “You weren’t bothered?”

“By what?” Nines asked, the polite facade he had put on for their neighbours apparently all but gone--he was officially back to being an emotionless slab of stone. “You need to be more specific, Detective.”

“The fact that they were all shitting on androids.” Gavin frowned when Nines stopped and gave him a scrutinizing glance. There was genuine confusion on the android’s features. “...What?” he eventually asked, starting to feel self-conscious at the way that Nines was staring at him.

Nines crossed his arms, a considering expression on his face. “It’s difficult for me to understand your concern about that subject, Detective.” He paused, taking a moment to formulate the correct words. “After all, you’ve been saying the exact same things to me since we began as partners. Why would it bother me more if some strangers say it?”

He sounded actually curious.

It made it worse, because it meant that Nines genuinely, honestly, thought that it was fine.

Biting sarcasm would’ve been better. That, at least, Gavin could deal with.

He bit his lip and looked away from the RK900. Elijah’s words echoed in his mind. Nines’s time at CyberLife--or all androids’ time with most humans, for that matter--was spent being barked at with orders and without a name. That has been his life up until now. He hasn’t known anything else, that was why he wasn’t bothered by it, and that realization hit the detective like a speeding truck. It felt, all of a sudden, like the wind had been knocked out of him.

And as much as he hated androids and what they represented, the fact that their existence was the proof that natural talent could so easily surpass hard work, he suddenly felt...was it pity? No. More like sympathy.

For an android. One that had snarked back at him, and one that for all intents and purposes he did not get along well with at all.

But it wasn’t like he hated working with Nines like he had expected he would.

Tonight had been...surprisingly okay.

What was the world coming to? Gavin turned his eyes skyward, the inky black of the night sky greeting him, clouds covering and uncovering the hazy dots from starlight. “Sorry,” he finally muttered, stuffing his hands into his pockets as he resumed walking.

Nines caught up with him with a quick few strides. “For what?” He sounded mildly confused and a little irritated again, probably by the fact that Gavin yet again didn’t clarify what the hell he was apologizing for.

But Gavin wasn’t planning to explain, not anytime soon anyway.

“Just...sorry.”

There was a short silence, the night air filled only with their quiet breathing and the sounds of their footsteps.

They were almost at their porch when Nines finally spoke up again, his normally cool tone somehow a little more gentle. It was such a subtle change, barely there, but also something entirely new. “...Okay.”

Gavin unlocked the door, his back to the android. “...Mm.”

The scowl on his lips didn’t soften, but he could feel the tips of his ears reddening slightly.

Surely, that was just because of the cold.

Chapter Text

Important note!

Hi guys! Please take the time to read this, thank you ^o^

Despite my radio silence, I just want to thank everyone who's still leaving kudos and comments on both this fic and Hydrangeas. It means the world to me! I stopped writing for a long time before starting on this series thanks to DBH, and it really is so great to see such a positive response and to even have a fic featured by Shipper's Guide to the Galaxy. This series is very near and dear to my heart.

That being said, I've definitely fallen somewhat out of the DBH fandom, and unfortunately, just haven't had time to write the rest of the chapters for this fic (although I have the basic storyline drafted still in a doc LOL).

It doesn't mean I'll never come back to the fandom, nor does it mean I'll never write for it again! However, this series I think will be suspended indefinitely until I get my motivation back for Detroit: Become Human.

 

Blanket permission?

I've had a few questions about whether or not somebody else can continue this fic, and my answer is yes! I'm giving blanket permission for anybody who wants to continue to write this Gavin900 fic. If you do, please link it to me, I'd love to read ^o^

 

Where else you can find me:

Find me on twitter (@_hiyodayo). I'm most active there!