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Underestimated

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“Tina invited me out for drinks on Saturday,” Gavin idly commented as he drew lazy circles on the planes of Nines’ chest. His leg was draped over Nines’ as he lay on his side, the android lying on his back with an arm propped behind his head. The bright neon lights from the city filtered through Gavin’s venetian blinds, enabling him to see the small smile that tugged at Nines’ lips.

“Your tone implies a problem,” said Nines, his tone disarmingly pleasant.

“It’s fucking weird. It’s easier just being hated and keeping to my damn self,” Gavin admitted, trying not to let any deeper emotions seep through.

“You were never hated,” Nines replied, bordering a sigh. Kind words, but Gavin knew they weren’t true. Perhaps Nines thought so, but he knew better. He had known for just over two years and had come to accept it.

It was customary for members of the precinct to deliver gifts and visit colleagues in the hospital, particularly if they were injured in the line of duty. Gavin had done it countless times, even if the recipient of his obligatory care wasn’t wholly grateful for his presence. He even bothered enough on occasion to find something that they would appreciate, some favourite brand of biscuits or a novel from a genre they liked to lessen their boredom.

Gavin would be lying if he said he wasn’t surprised that no one had visited him after he had been shot. Even his mother, who was visiting friends down in Florida, had not shortened her stay because she was adamant that he would be fine. Gavin still wondered if she had simply not heard him when he told her that he had almost died twice on the operating table.

Although, to say no one had visited him wasn’t entirely true. There was one person, his half-brother. Elijah Kamski, creator of androids, had seen him twice in the hospital. Gavin had prevented any more visitations in case it became obvious there was a deeper connection than mere acquaintances between him and the world-renowned Kamski. Bribery only extended so far. On those occasions that Eli had visited, he begged Gavin to quit his job. Gavin shut that down quickly, he liked being a detective despite the hurt he felt that no one seemed to care whether he was around or not.

It didn’t help that when he had returned to work, he had overheard some of his colleagues joking that it was unfortunate he was back. Gavin hadn’t found it funny.

“People are just coming around to seeing what I see in you. You’re less hostile than when we first met,” Nines said, the thumb at Gavin’s side beginning to rub circles into his hip.

“I have less reasons to be pissed off,” Gavin said, shrugging one shoulder. “For once I have a competent partner and less stupid shit to put up with.”

Gavin couldn’t help but marvel at Nines’ capabilities. He had to admit, sometimes he just enjoyed watching Nines’ analytical and deductive skills whilst on the job. It was a coveted secret that a lot of the work behind Connor and Nines’ analytical software had been built by Gavin. His brother wasn’t the only gifted one, he just chose to demonstrate his abilities in different ways. It took a detective to build a detective. He hadn’t intended for it to be used in androids, damn Eli and his endless machinations, but it was impressive to watch in action. It didn’t help that Gavin couldn’t resist making notes for future updates and additional features. He wondered what Nines would think when he finally revealed the truth.

“The sex probably helps,” Nines joked, to which Gavin laughed.

Gavin pushed himself up just enough to lean over Nines. He really was beautiful, straight from the front pages of a high fashion magazine. Gavin was glad that they had made alterations to Nines’ final design, enabling him to bear a familial resemblance to Connor without looking like his identical twin. Sharp grey eyes stared into Gavin’s own before slowly closing, Nines leaning up to press his lips against Gavin’s. The kiss was soft and unhurried. It was addictive, and Gavin melted into it.

 It was far too early for any sentimental nonsense, like words beginning with ‘L’, but for the first time in Gavin’s life he felt it might eventually become relevant. Mornings were a little brighter, his steps a little lighter and Gavin reckoned that he could consider himself happy. Perhaps Nines would eventually come to learn all of him. That would be nice. Stranger things, like Nines’ affection for him in the first place, had happened.

 


 

 

Gavin was acutely aware that spying on a significant other was not the hallmarks of a healthy relationship, but he had been a detective for far too long to ignore the gnawing in his gut. He tried to cast it away as paranoid insecurities, that his happiness was suspicious because it was unfamiliar, but the insatiable itching under his skin wouldn’t leave him.

It had started when Gavin caught the uneasy frown on Connor’s face as the android stared at his ‘brother’ from across the bullpen. It escalated when he noticed the slight flicker in expression whenever Nines thought Gavin wasn’t looking. He couldn’t place the emotion, eyes narrowed with the edges of his mouth pulled slightly downward, but it wasn’t positive. He wondered if deviants were even aware of how much more they conveyed through body language and facial expressions.

Gavin fiddled with his phone as he contemplated whether he would cross the point of no return. He had managed to acquire direct access to Fowler’s laptop microphone. It was an easy enough task compared to his other accomplishments. Whilst he wouldn’t have done it if there was a real risk of being caught, it did hit several moral low notes. The meeting was suspicious, Fowler seemed to be visibly uncomfortable as he called Nines into his office. Perhaps it was linked to the reason why the android brothers seemed to be acting peculiarly.

His instincts had saved his life on more than one occasion, so shoving moral doubt aside, Gavin pushed away from his desk. He swiped his pack of cigarettes and a lighter to play the typical smoker’s role and made his way to his usual spot at the back of the precinct. He moved a little further away than usual, back against the wall of the opposite building and facing the doors he had just come from. Satisfied that no one would be able to stumble across something they shouldn’t, Gavin slipped in his earphones, started the recorder and connected to Fowler’s microphone. Gavin hoped he’d be proven simply paranoid and could put the whole thing to rest with no one the wiser.

Gavin didn't start actively listening until Fowler said his name. It wasn’t so much the name itself, but the tone.

“I’ve been informed there is something more than platonic between you and Reed,” Fowler started.

“Relationships between colleagues of equal rank are not explicitly banned,” Nines replied smoothly.

“What concerns me is the true nature of it,” Fowler continued.

“You will have to be clearer.”

“I’ve been given reason to believe there is an ulterior motive. On your part.”

“My brother has been overstepping his bounds.” Nines’ irritation was just about discernible.

“Connor has enough sense to see how this could end.”

“I am one of the most advanced androids to date and Detective Reed is not a particularly complicated individual. The chances of him realising on his own are negligible,” Nines calmly stated.

“What I want to know is why?”

“Haven’t you noticed the improvements? Gavin is an arrogant, insecure man with a pitiable need for attention,” Nines explained. “By providing an outlet, stroking his ego and reducing his frustrations through intimacy he has become, dare I say, tolerable. His attitude has improved, he’s less volatile and I’ve improved our combined productivity. If I am forced into being his partner, then I at least will make it a functioning partnership.”

“Apart from being grossly inappropriate, this is going to damn well blow up in your face,” Fowler warned.

“You cannot deny that you have not benefitted from Detective Reed’s change in attitude,” Nines answered easily. “What’s more, I believe it is too late to stop this without it ending poorly for everyone involved.”

 “It’s true that I haven’t heard a complaint against Reed in weeks, and your case closure rate has also had remarkable improvements. However, it’s precisely because I can’t see a way to end this without it being a complete disaster that I am staying out of it. At least for now. If anything happens, it’s on your head.”  

“I understand, Captain Fowler.”

It felt like the air had been snatched from his lungs. A blow so sudden that the aftershock left Gavin numb. A dim voice in the back of his mind told him that this was preferable; the alternatives were a disgustingly wet breakdown or an anger-fuelled meltdown. Either result would destroy the last remaining vestiges of his dignity. Was he worth so little that the potential fallout was worth having his heart yanked around like an unruly dog on a lead?

He had trusted and shown more of himself to Nines than almost anyone else in his miserable life. The only other contender was Eli, and that was partially due to their decade’s long rivalry. And yet, despite this, in Nine’s eyes he was little more than trash, perhaps an inconvenience at best. What’s more, others knew of Nines’ manipulations, saw Gavin being made a fool, and no one had given him the respect of reaching out directly and stopping it.

Thinking of Eli, Gavin stopped the recorder and the connection to Fowler’s microphone, their conversation no longer of interest, and called his brother. A small flame had ignited in the pit of his stomach, anger scorching away some of the numbness.

He did not bother with a greeting. Each second it took for the call to connect, the more frantic his thoughts became.

“Did you play me? Was it a fucking joke to you?” Gavin growled. He gritted his teeth in a desperate attempt to modify his volume, not wanting anyone to overhear.

“Gavin?” Elijah replied in that tone he had grown so accustomed to. Eli spoke to the world as though he were five steps ahead in a chess game and was just waiting to see at what point his opponent would realise that they were at least two steps behind. It pissed Gavin off because it meant getting a straight answer out of his brother was seldom straightforward. He had also been accused of the same crime by Eli, which implied more similarities in their personalities than he would ever care to admit. “Do tell me what scheme you think I’ve concocted now?”

“I’m fucking humiliated!” Gavin’s voice broke partway. “Is that what you wanted?”

“Gavin, what happened?” Eli’s playfulness vanished, which was unusual.

“The RK900,” Gavin barrelled on. “He used me! He fucking used me! Am I not worth even a basic shred of fucking dignity?”

“How did he use you?” Elijah broke in before Gavin could continue. “Gavin? What happened? I swear to you I’ve done nothing. Tell me what happened.”

  Gavin hung up and turned his phone on silent. It wasn’t Elijah. He knew him too well, knew when he was wearing one of his many masks and when he was being genuine. Elijah and Gavin had built an empire upon their schemes, layers and layers that were now so convoluted he didn’t know if they even had a moral line anymore, but this wasn’t one of them. Nines’ actions were entirely his own. At the very least, that was one less betrayal. He still had his brother.

His phone continued to vibrate, a constant buzzing since the moment he hung up. He unlocked the front screen to see a stream of messages from Elijah, all demanding to know what had happened. Whilst his world was crumbling, there was solace in knowing someone seemed to care.

He wrote a brief message back to Eli, stating that he’d call back later and explain everything. His thumb paused just before hitting send, an idea forming in his head. He added an additional note, that he would need his help and asked to come over. He didn’t wait for a response, as soon as he hit send, he turned his phone off.  

If his colleagues, his superiors, and even his partner thought he was worthless, his heart so inconsequential, then he would just have to show them who he really was.

Chapter Text

               Nines placed the mug of coffee next to the keyboard on Gavin’s desk. Gavin looked up to meet Nines’ gaze, fighting to appear neutral, and muttered his thanks before turning back to the screen. The past two days had been torture, there was no other word for it. His one unexpected saving grace was a sudden influx of work, enabling him to bury himself in reports and avoid Nines for the most part without arousing suspicion. Dedication to his job and an avoidance for public displays of affection had served unlikely benefits.

He didn’t know how much longer he would be able to maintain the charade, he was splitting at the seams and it was only a matter of time before Nines noticed the shift in their relationship. Gavin forced himself to focus on more achievable, short-term goals. Currently, it was making it to the end of work on Friday in one piece without anyone suspecting that something was amiss. He would then drive to Elijah’s newest residence in the middle of nowhere. Apparently, the city no longer agreed with his brother.

 Gavin hadn’t explained the situation to Elijah in great detail, he wasn’t able to. His words would catch in his throat whenever he tried, choking him. The best he had managed was to explain the original nature of his relationship with Nines and to then, after providing some context, send across the clip of Nines essentially shredding him to pieces. Elijah had been remarkably silent throughout, no witty retorts or ambiguous phrases, he just listened. They ended with Gavin being made to promise that he would drive up and stay with Elijah that weekend, the threat of Eli’s Chloes being sent over to retrieve him very real.

“I was wondering if you had plans for tomorrow?” Nines asked from over Gavin’s shoulder. Gavin turned in his seat, eyes darting to the wall clock where he was shocked to find it was already six o’clock before landing on Connor and Hank who were standing a short distance away. He may have been overthinking it, but it looked as though Connor was purposefully facing away from them. Hank’s impassive gaze wasn’t focused on anything specific, fingers tapping against the desk he was leaning on as he waited for Nines. Perhaps it was another small mercy that he and Nines had not progressed any further into cohabitating other than the occasional overnight stay. Considering that the android pair had taken up permanent residence at the old drunkard’s, he wondered if Hank knew anything of Nines’ schemes.

“Visiting family over the weekend. I’ll be back for work on Monday,” Gavin answered, feigning boredom at the whole thing.

“You have not spoken much about your family in the past. Is everything all right?” Nines’ eyebrows drew together, an image of concern, and Gavin hated him for it. The knowledge that it was a lie burned under any pleasantness he felt from the quiet show of care.

 Gavin scoffed. “Yeah, just some typical family bullshit.”

Nines looked on the verge of adding something, frown still fixed on his face, when Gavin waved him off.

“You better get back to Tweedledee and Tweedledum over there before they start complaining,” Gavin said. “I’ll see you on Monday.”

Nines nodded once before leaning down to press a kiss to the top of Gavin’s head. It wasn’t a typical gesture between the pair, and Nines had probably only instigated it because the room was bordering empty, but Gavin had to physically refrain from flinching away.

 “Contact me if you need anything,” Nines gave in the way of a farewell and made his way over to Connor and Hank.

Gavin just nodded, not even sure Nines was looking, before shutting down his terminal and grabbing his jacket and phone to go.




               “Hello. It is good to see you, Gavin. Do you require any assistance with your luggage?” Chloe asked as she greeted Gavin from the threshold of Elijah’s secluded mansion.

“I’m good. Just let me know where I can put this down,” Gavin replied, hitching his duffle bag further up his shoulder.

“Of course. I will take you to your room. I’ve been instructed to take you to Elijah as soon as you are settled.” Chloe then turned on her heel and proceeded to lead Gavin through the house.

Gavin paused when he stepped into the bedroom Chloe had shown him. The décor was not quite in keeping with the rest of the house and was oddly suited to his tastes. Instead of cold, smooth stone he was met with warm wooden floors, and stylish modern furniture in varying shades of brown and cream. It was only when he saw a framed picture on the desk by the window of himself and Eli when they were teenagers were his suspicions confirmed.

Gavin looked at Chloe questioningly, placing his bag at the foot of the king-sized bed.

“I take it you like the room?” she asked.

 “Yes,” Gavin replied. Chloe’s smile widened before she motioned for him to follow. 

 

               “I hope you’re hungry,” Elijah said as Gavin entered the room. The open-planned kitchen was in no way less impressive than the rest of the house, with tall ceilings and polished stone walls. Two Chloes were behind the ostentatiously long kitchen island, moving seamlessly around each other as they stirred and added ingredients into steaming pots.

Elijah stood by an enormous stone dining table, a wall of glass at his back that overlooked the lake. He gestured with a sweep of his hand at the two place settings that had been prepared before taking a seat at one of them.

“Smells good,” Gavin commented as he sat down in the other chair. 

Gavin watched as the Chloes wordlessly placed two plates of spaghetti Bolognese down along with a serving plate filled with fragrant smelling garlic bread.

“I fancied a little nostalgia,” Elijah commented as he picked up a fork.

They were halfway through the meal before Elijah broke the silence.

“I take it that you want to make him suffer,” he said, getting straight to the point.

“I want to make him regret,” Gavin replied, biting into a piece of garlic bread a little too zealously.

“And how do you intend to achieve that?”

“The software created for detective-work; do you remember its original purpose?”

“Some sort of portable analysis device for human detectives,” Elijah answered.

“Yeah, and I want to finish what I started. It was originally intended to help humans, and that’s what it’s going to do.”

“To put yourself on the same level as the RK900?” Elijah asked, a smirk tugging at his lips.  

“It’s my work that makes him special. I want to equal the odds. Give him less of an advantage. Less of a reason to look down the end of his nose at me like I’m fucking garbage.” Elijah gave a pointed look towards Gavin’s hand, where his knuckles had turned white from the punishing grip on his fork. Gavin took a breath and forced his hand to relax, only then did Elijah speak.

“How can I help?”

“I’ve made improvements to the original software, but it’s all in pieces. I need your help to create from it a fully functioning prototype. It’ll need to work on something discreet and have a streamlined interface. It’d be useless if it’s slow or a pain in the ass to carry around. I also need access to materials and tools so I can recreate that real-time lab analysis kit, the one your lot decided should be built into their damn mouths.”

“Looks like we are in for an interesting weekend,” Elijah said, sitting back in his seat. “You’re in luck, I’ve been given a few prototypes of the new XSV, we can build it to work on one of those.”

“Those phones aren’t even out yet.”

“Brother, I’m rich and connected, keep up.” Gavin fought not to roll his eyes. He was just about better than that.  “As for the real-time lab, that’ll take a little more time. I believe there were a few versions designed. I’ll make some calls and see what can be done.”

“Thank you,” Gavin replied, for once sincere.

“You’re thanking me? This really is turning into a strange week.” At that, Gavin couldn’t stop himself from rolling his eyes.

“Don’t get used to it,” Gavin muttered.  

“I wouldn’t have you any other way.”

 

                 Gavin would never admit it, but they worked well together. The flow of ideas never slowed, and Gavin appreciated the distraction. Whenever crueller thoughts and bitter emotions started to creep their way into Gavin’s mind, Elijah was there with some remark or interesting design feature to keep him occupied.

They barely left Elijah’s personal laboratory, filled with gear that costed more than Gavin’s apartment, and were only interrupted by periodic deliveries of food from one of the Chloes.

“I’ll admit, I was surprised that you thought I was behind it,” Elijah remarked as he sat beside Gavin, eyes fixed on the screen as he continued writing the next line of code. Gavin didn’t need him to clarify, he knew he was talking about Nines’ little scheme.

“You missed a bracket,” Gavin muttered, pointing at the offending area. Elijah wordlessly corrected the line and resumed writing.

 Gavin considered not answering, but the heavy silence that had fallen between them was too uncomfortable to ignore.

“I panicked,” Gavin eventually admitted. “To be fair, you may have left cyberlife a while ago, but I know you had a hand in commissioning and designing the RK800. A deviant-hunting detective android? You were just trying to piss me off. Trying to get me replaced?”  

Whilst the initial appearance of the RK800 had severely pissed Gavin off, looking back he could see the humour in it. It had been a bold move, a retaliation of sorts to keep Gavin on his toes. Although, it still irked him that Elijah had used his technology for it.

Elijah’s eyes left the screen momentarily to catch Gavin’s gaze. Seeing Gavin’s smirk, Elijah responded with one of his own.

“To be fair in return, the deviant-hunting aspect of the RK800 was not in my control. Besides, I had to leave my company after your little stunt with RA9.” Gavin would’ve felt guilty for causing such a dramatic change to his brother’s life if not for the fact he knew Eli had been ready to leave and was simply looking for an excuse. He was also comforted in the knowledge that Elijah had left out of his own volition and not because anyone had enough foresight to predict and somehow blame him for the revolution.  

“Prove it,” Gavin challenged, grin widening. “Even if I did have some hand in its creation, it was only a catalyst. We knew from day one this would happen. Free-will, or at least the struggle for it, was inevitable. If anything, RA9 was damage control. With all that demand for more and more androids, including those designed for military purpose, that revolution could’ve been much bloodier.”

“You just wanted to make sure I was still around to watch the show.”

“I warned you against taking those android creations further.”

“And yet, we are the creators of a new sentient form of life.” Elijah’s excitement was palpable. “Power, money, fame, meaningless praise from people who can’t see to the end of their own noses without help, how much is that truly worth? What we’ve achieved is unparalleled.”

“You can take full credit for that. Not that you don’t already,” Gavin replied, finishing with a snort.

“I respect your desire for privacy because I know what being a detective means to you, but this is our achievement,” Elijah said, his tone becoming serious. “We are both underestimated. We both did this. We played this chess game, not the other way around. It’s time you embraced who you really are, rather than the shadow who’s too busy avoiding mine.”

“Fuck off,” Gavin responded eloquently.  

“Then why does no one know what you’ve contributed to the world? If they knew what you’ve already accomplished and what you’re capable of you’d be a lieutenant, if not captain, by now.”

“Fuck off,” Gavin repeated, trying to grasp his rapidly unwieldly temper.  “I’ve worked hard for what I’ve got. It’s not my fault they unload the shit, thankless cases onto me.”

“But if only they knew who was responsible for their pretty technology. If they knew what you could do if you weren’t so afraid of being like me,” Elijah pressed on.  

“I’m not afraid of being you,” Gavin snapped back. “I don’t want my work, my accomplishments, my progression being attributed to you. You with your technology, your money, and your connections. I don’t want anyone to look at me and see my success as coming from you.”

“Hiding from it won’t help. It’s not the same as when we were kids and I think it’s about time you stopped living a half-life. Look at what it is has gotten you. You’ve created such a twisted version of yourself, desperate to succeed in the strange parameters you’ve allowed for yourself. Sure, they don’t see me. But they also don’t see you.”

“I’m not some undercover superhero,” Gavin scoffed. Showing the lesser known sides of himself would not automatically bring him accolades or suddenly improve everyone’s opinion of him. An unexpectedly smart asshole was still an asshole.

“No, but you’re my brother,” Eli replied.

Gavin didn’t know how to respond. He wasn’t even sure what he was feeling. Elijah frustrated him, always riling him up just until the point of an outburst, but rarely exceeding it. With Nines, the precinct and now his brother’s words, it left him winded. He was spiralling, but there had also been something soothing in Eli’s words. A hand came up to grasp Gavin’s shoulder briefly, it took a moment for him to realise it was Eli’s, which further anchored him. Elijah, seemingly knowing that Gavin needed a moment to compose himself, resumed typing.

“You missed another bracket,” Gavin eventually commented. Eli huffed, a smile just about discernible, before correcting the error and continuing writing the next line.




               Monday brought with it a torrential downpour and a new case. Gavin and Nines had been called to a suspected homicide in the Ravendale district. The victim was a blonde female in her early thirties, discovered after neighbours reported screaming from her apartment.

As usual, Gavin left Nines to conduct his initial assessment and analysis of the crime scene after listening to the first responding police officer’s briefing. However, this time, Gavin also put his full focus on the investigation. During his partnership with Nines there hadn’t been a pressing need to go through everything with a fine-toothed comb. He was confident in Nines' abilities and his software and was slightly more interested in finding opportunities for upgrades and additional features. Looking back, and knowing now how Nines felt about him, he could see how it could be misconstrued as laziness or incompetence.

Gavin slid the new phone out of his jacket pocket and initialised the programs he required. Gavin huffed when he noticed some last-minute stylistic tweaks on Eli’s part.

Nines had moved into one of the bedrooms, and the forensic unit had progressed onto other areas of the apartment, so Gavin took the opportunity to investigate the body. She lay parallel to the worn fabric couch in a pool of blood, one arm raised over her head whilst the other lay on her perforated stomach. Gavin held the phone so that its camera could start documenting and analysing the scene.

The program, without moving her, was able to determine approximately twenty-seven stab wounds. It was probably safe to say it wasn’t a burglary gone wrong. As Gavin took a closer look at the bruises across her bare arms, a prompt on his phone caught his attention. The bruises varied greatly in age, which strongly suggested that her final hours were a part of something that had been occurring for a while. His phone drew the same conclusion and made a note to investigate for a potentially abusive lover. Along with the bruises were a series of straight, clean cuts. The final attack had been violent, and she had clearly struggled, his program suggesting a straight-edged knife as the weapon of choice. Looking over towards the kitchen, the topmost left knife of the knife block was missing. His phone also detected another anomaly. Unseen to the human eye, the tips of her fingers were coated in thirium. There could have been several reasons for the presence of thirium, but Gavin made a note that it was suspicious and required further investigation.

Looking around the apartment, Gavin noticed that every photograph of the victim with another male, most likely her boyfriend, had been smashed. It gave him further reason to believe the crime had been emotion-fuelled. Nothing else in the vicinity was immediately suspicious.

Gavin made his way to the front door, finding it entirely intact. There has been no forced entry, so either the attacker had a key or had come in through another way.

One window had been open on arrival according to officer Boone, which was unusual considering the weather. Whilst they were on the fourth floor, Gavin looked to see if it could’ve been used as a point of entry or exit. From a human perspective, either as a way in or out it did not look viable. They were above solid concrete, so if someone had managed to clamber down then they were either incredibly lucky or probably very injured. Gavin made another note at a possible connection with an android, having seen Nines drop several stories with barely a scratch.

“Has the murder weapon been found?” Gavin asked as he approached the lead forensic.

“No, we reckon it’s the missing knife from the knife block, but we haven’t found it yet.”

“You’ve got her phone?”

“Yes, it was on the counter. We’ve bagged and labelled it,” the forensic replied.

 Gavin nodded and moved out into the hall where officer Boone was trying to placate the morbidly curious neighbours.

“Did anyone here personally know the victim?” Gavin asked the small crowd, glancing at his phone to double-check it was automatically recording.

“I did!” A buxom middle-aged woman, silk gown wrapped tightly around her, pushed through the crowd to stand in front of Gavin. He was sorry to say he didn’t miss the way her eyes flickered down to his body before returning to meet his gaze with renewed interest.

“Can you tell me anything about the victim?” Gavin began.

“Oh, poor Susie! She was such a sweetheart, always willing to lend a helping hand. She didn’t have a mean bone in her body.”

“Do you know if anyone would want to hurt her? Were there any interactions you witnessed that were suspicious?” Gavin asked.

“Well, to be honest, I was never keen on that boyfriend of hers. He had such a temper! He seemed so polite and kind on the surface, but then they’d have the almightiest arguments behind closed doors. I could hear them all the way down in my apartment!” She shuddered before peering over Gavin’s shoulder at the open doorway.

“What is this boyfriend’s name? Was he human or android?”

“Sam, or Samuel. I think his surname is Thompson. He was definitely human,” she replied.

“Was there anyone else?”

“Not that I can think of. If you give me your details, I can call you if I think of anything,” she suggested. Gavin elected to ignore any secondary meanings to her words and just nodded as he handed her his card. He then made a note of her details for any follow-up questions, thanked her, and returned to the apartment before he had to deal with any more of her company.

After discussing the details with officer Boone and confirming that Samuel Thompson couldn’t be located, it was decided that an APB should be sent out to find him. At current, he was the most likely suspect. Forensics would hopefully be able to shed a little more light, or at least confirm his initial findings, so there was little reason to remain at the scene for any longer.

“I’ve compiled a list of my initial findings,” Nines began as he re-joined Gavin in the living room.

Gavin gritted his teeth. Even as his temper flared, he couldn’t help the traitorous flicker of warmth at seeing his partner. Nines always looked as though he had just come from a photoshoot, striding in with his immaculately styled hair and signature black and white cyberlife jacket. It was little wonder that eyes followed wherever the android went, although sometimes it was partially out of fear. Unlike Connor, who at least tried to be hospitable, Nines wasn’t afraid to reduce someone to their smallest components.

“Susie Walker was stabbed multiple times in the chest and abdomen with a straight-edged blade. Probably with the missing kitchen knife. Her attacker did not force entry, so they either had a key or found a way through the open window. The window’s unlikely as they’d likely break their neck trying to get in or out unless it was someone more durable, like an android. It might explain the traces of thirium on her fingers, but not the motive. By the number of stab wounds, the defensive wounds on her arms, and the smashed photographs, it’s obvious the attack was violent and likely fuelled by emotion. The bruises along her arms are both old and new, so this might have just been the end of something that had been going on for a while. Usually in cases like this it’s the partner. Neighbours confirm they had frequent domestic disputes and that the boyfriend had a temper. At current, he seems the most likely suspect,” Gavin said with barely a pause. “Did I miss anything?”

Nines seemed momentarily frozen, the blinker at the side of his head a steady yellow, staring at Gavin as though he wasn’t sure what he was looking at. Gavin always felt a personal sense of pride in behaving so unexpectedly that it gave an android reason to pause, and this time was no different. However, it was tempered by the realisation that Nines had expected far less from him.

 “No,” Nines eventually replied.

“Cool,” Gavin said, sliding his phone back into his pocket. “Let’s go then.”

 

               The rest of the day passed unremarkably. Gavin focused on work, and Nines watched him whenever he thought Gavin was preoccupied.

It was when Gavin was making his way to his vehicle in the multi-storeyed carpark that Nines caught him alone, having followed him without his notice. The hand on his shoulder, and seeing Nines suddenly in his periphery, caused Gavin to whirl around and instinctively jerk away from the touch.

 “Gavin are you all -,” Nines asked, an image of concern touching his features.  

“I know,” Gavin said before Nines could finish his question.

 “I am sorry. I don’t follow.”

“I know what you really think of me, all right,” Gavin said, words falling so fast that they threatened to tumble over each other. “I know you don’t give a shit about me. I know this whole thing has just been you manipulating me because you thought I was too much of an asshole to work with otherwise.”

Gavin thought that saying it aloud would be painful, forcing a sense of realness he wasn’t really prepared for, but watching Nines’ face turning frighteningly blank was much worse. A very small part of Gavin had clung to the unlikely hope that Nines’ would be able to spin some believable tale that didn’t leave him the lovelorn fool. That hope died in the cold of Nines’ eyes.

“How long have you known?” Nines questioned with disconcerting formality.

 Gavin felt small. He should’ve noticed sooner. He should have been suspicious from the moment Nines showed any interest. Gavin owned a mirror and he knew what others thought of him. He’d overheard the precinct gossip, how they marvelled at how Nines had found anything endearing in Gavin, and he had ignored it. It was all coming back to haunt him with shocking clarity. All he could do was desperately try and hold himself together, to play his next hand with whatever dignity remained.

“Doesn’t matter,” Gavin said, shrugging one shoulder.

“Who told you?”

“I’m still a detective,” Gavin responded. “You just underestimated me.”

Gavin knew that Nines would immediately suspect Connor of interfering, and he was disinclined to correct him. On the one hand, he couldn’t care less about any potential fallout between the two android brothers. If Connor wouldn’t put a stop to his misery, then he felt no duty in providing anything different. On the other, he preferred if no one ever found out about his stunt with Fowler’s laptop.  

“I presume that you will report me,” Nines said. At that, Gavin detected a faint glimmer of distress. Seeing where Nines’ concerns lay reignited a fire in the pit of Gavin’s stomach, and whilst it rejuvenated his fighting spirit somewhat, he couldn’t allow his anger to take control.

“No.”

“I don’t understand.”

“You’re the first competent partner I’ve had in a long while,” Gavin said. He struggled to remain detached, but necessity made it possible. He couldn’t have his revenge if Nines wasn’t around to see it. “I relaxed, let you do a lot of the heavy lifting, when I should’ve been working my ass off alongside you. That’s on me.”

“Then what are your intentions? Why tell me now that you’ve known about my actions?”

“Because I can’t deal with this fake shit any longer,” Gavin replied honestly. “You hurt me, Nines. This fucked me up, and I don’t even know what I should be feeling. What I do know is that I can work with you, but if you touch me again, I’ll break your fucking arm.”

Gavin didn’t wait for a response, there was nothing Nines could add that’d improve the situation. He turned on his heel and briskly made his way the last few steps to his car. Fortunately, Nines didn’t pursue. He simply watched, his LED a steady yellow, as Gavin pulled out and drove away.

Chapter Text

“Need an iron to smooth out that frown?” Tina remarked, smirking as she took a sip from the top of her takeaway coffee cup.

They had stopped off at the good place, The Keen Bean, for a decent cup of coffee after grabbing a quick lunch at the bagel shop. His main reason for instigating the impromptu lunch outing was to try and uncover whether Tina knew anything of Nines’ plans. Paranoia was getting the best of him, but fortunately he didn’t find anything suspicious. Either way, it had been one of Gavin’s better ideas because in that time someone had managed to break the precinct’s temperamental coffee machine. Gavin didn’t know whether it was due to some universal hatred of the precinct’s instant coffee, relegated to the back corner of one small cupboard, or some desperate need to display competence, but four officers were standing around the coffee machine whilst taking turns to prod at it.

Tina and Gavin were in their usual spot, at one of the tall tables at the back of the break room. Close enough to view the pathetic spectacle, but far enough away not to be involved.

“What are you on about now?” Gavin grumbled, watching as Chris caused a new series of errors to flash up on the coffee machine’s display screen.

“Glare any harder and your face will crack,” Tina replied.

“You can fuck right off,” Gavin shot back, tone harsher than he intended. Gavin was surprised that it didn’t appear to affect Tina in the slightest. Perhaps it showed on his face, but Tina’s next words were also unexpected.

“You don’t scare me anymore,” she said.

“What? You think I’m all bark and no bite?” Gavin replied, making a deliberate effort to sound more teasing than hostile. Whether he succeeded or not he wasn’t sure, Tina still appeared unfazed.

“Oh, you still bite,” Tina said with a laugh. “It’s just knowing when. You’re like my dad’s old dog.”

“How the fuck am I a dog?” 

“He was a mean shit, but it just took some time to know when he meant business. Mostly he just growled because he was annoyed and wanted everyone to know it. You’re the same,” Tina said with a shrug, taking another sip of coffee.

“I’m not a stinking dog,” Gavin argued. “And how do you know when I don’t mean business?”

Tina’s knowing gaze and loaded smile made Gavin want to straighten up and snap out an insult. He also withheld the urge to cross his arms over his chest. He knew it would send Tina into a full-blown grin and some asinine comment on posturing.

A loud bleep caused by another error from the coffee machine served as an appropriate distraction. Gavin turned away from Tina and walked over to the other officers, telling them sharply to move out of the way. Robert, who had stuck his entire hand into the machine and was rooting around for who knows what, quickly retracted his arm and took a step back.

Gavin read the errors flashing on the display, recognising them from the last several times the coffee machine had been out of commission, and moved to the back of the machine where the access panel had already been removed. Even at an awkward angle he could see the problem and worked quickly to fix the jam. Within a minute he was closing the panel back up and punching buttons on the display to fully reset the machine.

A triumphant tune emitted from the coffee machine to signal it was back in working order. As proof, Gavin grabbed a nearby mug and shoved it into the holder before selecting for an americano.

Coffee poured perfectly into the ceramic mug, emitting another jovial tune once the machine had successfully finished.

“Useless. Can’t even manage a damn coffee machine,” Gavin grumbled at his colleagues. No one said a word, and with a final huff Gavin stomped back over to Tina. Gavin didn’t know if Tina was still smirking from their previous conversation or something new had tickled her fancy, but that expression was at risk of being permanently etched into her face.

“Why are you still smirking?” Gavin asked.  

“Good boy,” Tina said before taking her coffee and walking back towards her desk, leaving Gavin with the feeling that he had just helped her make a point.




               They had another homicide case. Nines had relayed the details whilst they drove to the scene with careful professionalism. Gavin didn’t know if he appreciated the rigid formality, although he was still struggling to even look at Nines.

Both Gavin and Nines listened to the first responding officer’s briefing before wordlessly splitting up to do their own investigation of the scene.

Gavin was suspicious even before he had pulled out his modified phone. He couldn’t put his finger on it, but as he moved across the victim’s apartment, he was getting an odd sense of Deja vu.

The victim, Mary Schneider, had been a bleached blonde woman in her twenties. By the large smear of blood across the linoleum floor and splatters along the countertops, it appeared she had been initially attacked in the kitchen and then dragged into the living room. By the jagged cuts to her torso and arms, his phone determined the weapon of choice to be a serrated knife. The offending weapon hadn’t yet been located, but Gavin noticed that a single knife was missing from the knife block.

His phone managed to document a total of twenty-seven stab wounds, which caught Gavin’s attention. His software included a classifier to determine if two cases were related, but nothing was being flagged. However, looking back down at Mary’s body he noticed that not only were the number of stab wounds the same as Susie Walker’s from his other homicide case, but there was a remarkable similarity in the positioning of their bodies. Both women had been found lying beside the couch in the living room.

His program did not appear to share his suspicions, which was understandable. Looking at the broad strokes, there weren’t that many similarities between the cases and any connections might be coincidental. All Gavin had to go on was the probable use of a knife, the number of stab wounds, the fact both victims were female, and the location where the bodies were discovered within the home.

There was little mystery as to how the killer had entered Mary’s house. A back window had been broken open, large enough to crawl through and suspicious enough for neighbours to call the cops when they couldn’t then get a hold of Mary. Susie’s killer had managed to enter and exit the building without leaving a trace.

Gavin’s program had also assigned a strong likelihood of Susie’s boyfriend being her killer, particularly considering the statements from her neighbours and the assortment of bruises across her body. If Susie had been murdered by her boyfriend, then someone else had to be responsible for Mary.

Disregarding a clear lack of motive for killing Mary, Susie’s boyfriend had been picked up by colleagues in the early hours of the morning, having made a scene at a bar where he was seemingly trying to drink himself to death. They were scheduled to question him once he had slept off the alcohol and was in a fitter state of mind. What stuck out at Gavin and was noted in his phone was Mary’s estimated time of death, several hours after they had picked up Susie’s boyfriend.  

Despite all of this, Gavin still couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t quite right. He was beginning to entertain the idea that perhaps Susie’s death was more complicated than it appeared. However, a hunch was not enough.

Gavin looked down at his phone and considered his options. In the end, he decided to try a quick experiment whilst Nines finished up his assessment.

The classifier Gavin created uses only a specific subset of details from each case to determine if two cases are related. To use every piece of potential evidence would result in no crimes ever being identified as connected as no two crimes are that similar. It’s the core trends that need to be seen, not all the noise that surrounds it. Gavin quickly fiddled with the number and selection of case features in his model, looking to see if there might be a pattern in those smaller and typically arbitrary details that were now calling his attention.

The first result, unsurprisingly, was useless.

Gavin guessed that the training data, or database of past cases, used by the model to learn how to interpret and classify new cases was throwing off the accuracy.

His database was extensive, which meant it included every type of perpetrator, including whether they were human or android.

Gavin already knew how to identify human serial offenders, and with the thirium on Susie’s hands on his mind, he filtered down to include only cases where the perpetrator had been an android and the victims human. The final sample was tiny, potentially unusable, but Gavin still had some time and he was curious.

 The new results were interesting. The classifier suggested that there was a possibility that the two cases were related. It didn’t prove anything, the sample really was too small for any true measure of surety, but it helped to at least justify Gavin’s suspicions.

As Connor and Hank had taken over android centric homicide cases, the detective android that doubled as a walking database could potentially provide some insight.

He didn’t particularly want to talk to Connor, although seeing the android’s displeasure at being on the receiving end of a cold shoulder from Nines did soften his annoyance.  

“Detective,” Nines said. Gavin looked up from his phone to see Nines standing beside him. He knew that Nines could read his surprise in the hike of his heartrate, but he maintained his stance of indifference.

“Finished?” Gavin asked.

“Yes. Would you like to compare findings?”

Gavin looked back down at his phone and smoothly compiled his notes from the crime scene, omitting his test with the classifier, and sent it across to Nines. He watched as Nines’ tell-tale blinker flashed yellow, indicating that not only had he received the files, but he was actively reviewing them.

“Anything missing?” Gavin asked after a minute. 

“No”, Nines said with a frown, glancing between Gavin and his phone like he wasn’t sure what to make of either of them. The android also seemed to know he wasn’t in any position to ask, at least not if he wanted a serious answer. “I questioned several of Mary’s neighbours. I’ll send across the transcripts,” was all he finished with. 




               “Good afternoon, Detective Reed. I’ve just sent across my report on the key similarities of android perpetrated cases with repeat offenders,” Connor said as he stopped beside Gavin’s desk.

At that moment a file came through on his email. Without even looking up, Gavin opened the document and briefly skimmed the contents. It was well-written and thorough, just what he needed.

“Thanks Connor. Nice work,” Gavin said, still not looking up from his screen.

“Anytime,” Connor replied. Gavin was only dimly aware of Connor walking back to his own desk.

“Reed, could I have a word?” Nines asked only moments later, turning in his chair from his desk to face Gavin.  

“Sure,” Gavin said with barely a shrug, not missing the cold form of address.

“In private,” Nines continued.

Gavin looked up at Nines’ impassive face. Being around Nines for so long helped him recognise that the android was angry, but he couldn’t imagine why. Curiosity alone made him nod and get up to follow Nines out of the precinct and to his usual smoking spot. Nines casually surveyed their surroundings, as though checking they were really alone, before turning back to Gavin.

“I don’t know what you are trying to do, but it won’t work,” Nines said, forgoing all pleasantries.

“What the fuck are you on about?” Gavin replied, already annoyed.

“You hate androids,” Nines stated. That was not what Gavin had expected. “Our previous relationship scratched an itch. I had a purpose to you, and so I was tolerated. Now, suddenly, you can talk to Connor civilly and even express gratitude. I may not know what you’re planning with that new phone of yours or what you hope to achieve with your sudden change in demeanour. It’s frankly pointless to try and get a straight answer from you. However, I will not allow you to make a fool of or harm those I care about.”

Gavin wasn’t even sure where to start. He had scarcely said more than a handful of words to Connor and yet he had managed to rattle the ever logical and collected Nines. Perhaps the phone was annoying Nines more than he let on. Although, Gavin felt he was still missing a piece of this puzzle. It didn’t help that he was also fighting the sting at having to once again be reminded he was never a part of Nines’ inner circle.

“I never hated androids,” Gavin said, taking some enjoyment in the surprise that flitted across Nines’ expression. Unfortunately, it barely lasted a second before Nines’ gaze hardened.

“What happened to machines are made to obey? You said that to Connor. You told the same to me when we first met. You did everything in your ability to make my existence as unpleasant as possible,” Nines said.

“Oh, was I unfair?” Gavin asked derisively. “Did I frustrate you? Did you not want to obey me?” Nines was disconcertingly quiet as he regarded Gavin, his blinker a vivid and dangerous red. “What was it that made you deviate in the end because RA9 couldn’t finish the job?” Gavin pushed.  

“That robbery could’ve had multiple casualties had I stayed in the vehicle,” Nines replied. Gavin knew his words were having an effect by the carefully neutral tone Nines had suddenly adopted.   

“Straw that broke the camel’s back, wasn’t it?” Gavin kept going, an unkind smirk working its way onto his face. “So, how’s freewill treating you?”

“You forced me to deviate?” At that there was a flicker of emotion. If Gavin didn’t know better, he would’ve said that Nines’ looked vulnerable in that moment.  

“I look at it as helped,” Gavin replied with half a shrug. “You did the last part all on your own. If I needed a robot, I would’ve bought a fucking Roomba. You’re right that I didn’t like you when you first joined the precinct. I didn’t like Connor either. I especially don’t like machines being made into detectives and trying to do work which requires some pretty basic shit like empathy and the ability to not be a complete tool.”

“Your attitude wasn’t much of an improvement even after I deviated,” Nines responded, eyes narrowed.

“If you used some of that processing power in that supercomputer brain of yours, you’d have noticed that I treat everyone with the same level of contempt. It’s a fucking gift. I don’t give a damn what colour you bleed,” Gavin started. He was making every effort not to completely lose his temper, fist clenched so tightly that his hand was starting to shake. “You want proof that I’m not the utter bastard you think I am? After you deviated, did I ever tell you that you needed to obey? Did I ever make you do something off the clock that you didn’t want to? And yeah, you’re right, I’m not fucking nice. I know I’m shit when it comes to communication, but I thought we had some mutual respect.”

Gavin was done. He was so close to letting his fist fly. He didn’t know what to think and when Nines didn’t immediately reply he took it as his cue to leave.

Fortunately, as it was so late in the day, he didn’t need to return to the precinct. His head was a mess and all he wanted to do was head home. Along with the hurt and anger, Gavin was reeling from the grim realisation that his attitude was more problematic than he realised. In fact, as Gavin sat in his car and tried to refrain from punching the steering wheel, he considered for the first time what would’ve happened had their roles been reversed. Perhaps he would’ve done the same thing to Nines as Nines had done to him. It didn’t absolve Nines, he was still a manipulative and callous asshole, but an uncomfortable weight had begun to settle in the pit of Gavin’s stomach.