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All In Your Head

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“How have you been feeling, Gavin?”

Shifting in his seat, Gavin glared down at his knuckles, fingers curled into tight fists. While the therapist’s office sat stories above Detroit’s rush-hour traffic, he could still hear the faint honks of car horns. The clock that sat above the door ticked loudly in the silence of the room, fraying his already-frayed nerves.

“I’m fine.”

“I’m struggling to believe you, Gavin. What happened to your lip?”

Gavin glowered, continuing to watch the color drain from his knuckles. The tick of the clock was distracting.

“I got punched by a suspect.”

“I thought we agreed not to lie to each other, Gavin,” his therapist sighed, reclining back in their chair. “You haven’t been cleared for fieldwork. Are you implying that you were assaulted by a suspect while on desk duty?”

“...I got into a fight. The guy got arrested. It counts.”

The therapist was quiet, tapping their pen lightly on their tablet in tandem with the ticking of the clock. The LED at their temple circled a lazy yellow, their narrowed eyes clinical. “Have you been taking your medication, Gavin?”

“Yes.”

“Regularly?”

“To the best of my ability,” Gavin muttered, sinking further into the couch. Lifting his gaze, he frowned as he noticed the therapist watching him with a small frown.

“Do you like being a detective, Gavin?” they asked tentatively, speaking slowly, placating, as if to a child.

“...It’s all I know,” Gavin muttered, forcing himself to keep his gaze level despite the deep, insidious need to hide. Despite the fact that this was all private and meant to be… psychologically helpful, Gavin could feel the therapist’s judgement.

He found the yellow of the therapist’s LED putrid.

“Then what is holding you back from trying to get back in the field?” his therapist asked, leaning forward as they narrowed their eyes. “Why aren’t you fighting for your position, rather than random people who will potentially keep you out of that job longer?”

“I don’t know,” Gavin muttered, jaw clenching as the ticking of the clock grew louder. He felt backed into a corner and the burning desire to flee began to shift towards the need to fight back. “Ain’t it your fuckin’ job to fix me?”

“No, Gavin. I’m not here to fix anyone. I’m here to facilitate your recovery. But, at the end of the day, you’re the responsible party.”

Perhaps the therapist was better at their job than it seemed, growing silent as the color drained from Gavin’s cheeks. Red flickered briefly in their LED before it ultimately settled into a calm blue. It was a lie, a mask, a sugared promise that everything was okay.

Did he scare them? Was it that obvious how much of a monster he was?

“I will be checking again next week to make sure you are taking your medication regularly, Mr. Reed,” the therapist informed him. Gavin’s lips pressed together. Barely 10 minutes into an hour-long session and he’d already fucked it up. “Until we can find the right balance, I will not be recommending your reinstatement. Not until we see a significant improvement in not just your temperament at work but also in your own happiness.”

“We’ll be meeting forever,” Gavin muttered with a huff of laughter, turning his gaze to the clock above the door. It was a ridiculously large thing; stupidly large, even. One of the cheap ones you could buy at a dollar store and stuck in an Elementary school classroom for kids learning to read clocks. Gavin knew how easily he could knock the thing down and wondered what his therapist would do if he did. Maybe they’d just sit there as the thing fell and shattered on the floor, their LED circling blue or yellow, tapping out ‘anger management issues of various and sundry’ on their tablet.

The therapist mirrored his huff with their own breathy laughter. “I’m an android. I have time to spare. Now, let’s talk about your brother.”

 

------

 

“How’d it go today?”

Gavin nearly startled away from the table as a palm slapped his shoulder, jostling the mug he nursed in his hand. Coffee escaped over the lip, running across his knuckles. Thankfully it had long since cooled into a mild warmth.

How long had he been standing in the breakroom? Fuck, he was losing time… It happened more and more often these days. He’d zone out, and blame it on caffeine or nicotine withdrawal or something. Or really he just buried himself under the weight of woulda-coulda-shouldas as he watched his dumb descisions lead him deeper down whatever well he’d jumped in ages ago. Thankfully it wasn’t a problem on the job, stuck with desk duty like he was now...

Tina sidled up to his elbow, dropping her hat onto the table as she took a seat. The breakroom was quiet this late in the afternoon, lunches long consumed and coffees risky to anyone this shift with a semblance of a sleep schedule.

“Got any paperwork you need doing?” Gavin asked, quietly. Neutrally. Fuck if he’d sound desperate.

“Oof,” Tina hissed, resting her chin on her hand as she stared up at him. “That bad, huh?” Fucking Tina and her ability see through his simple bullshit. “Was it the fight?”

Gavin frowned, licking his split lip as he brought the cup back up to his mouth. The metallic tang of blood was washed quickly away by his far too sweet coffee. “Probably. The bot was mad that I wasn’t taking my meds, but… Fuck, Chen. I’m not good at this routine bullshit.”

“Why don’t you leave them next to your coffeemaker? Or set an alarm?” Tina asked, playing idly with the brim of her hat. Gavin was forced to look away, curiously finding the rub of the faux leather nauseating.

“I just… I don’t know,” Gavin muttered, voice going dry. The familiar click of dress shoes sounded on the tile floor, growing louder as they approached the breakroom. Gavin’s knuckles went white around his coffee mug as Connor rounded the corner, offering them a small nod as he crossed to the coffee machine.

Tina’s elbow dug playfully into his side, shooting a mischievous smirk up at him.

Heat pooled in Gavin’s chest, coiling around his heart as it climbed up the back of his neck. Tina’s whispered ‘Go get him, champ’ made Gavin’s face redden as he found himself frozen to his spot against the table. Glancing over to where Connor stood by the coffeemaker, he found himself at a loss for words.

Connor… Connor looked good. In the months following the revolution, the android had come into his own in every way. While still incredibly nerdy at times, the awkwardness he often displayed in conversation had become endearing. The Cyberlife uniform had been replaced by outfits inspired by any noir enthusiast’s wet dream: dress shirts and tailored pants, suspenders, and gun harnesses. Blacks, whites, browns. Tina knew, of course. She’d caught too many of Gavin’s stolen glances and maybe the odd drunken confession Gavin had thankfully had only when he was drunk with Tina.

Of course that was all ruined by, well… Gavin being himself. He’d hated Connor. Did hate him. And Connor probably hated him right back. It made sense. The prick was an arrogant shit and… and...

Despite the hard lines of the android’s attire and the ferociousness Connor often displayed on the job, he was kind. That’s what had ruined Gavin, in the end. Gone was the stoic, static personality pre-revolution; replaced instead by an exuberant, sarcastic, kind man.

The evidence room was a key feature in Gavin’s nightmares, albeit he was the featured monster these days. Gone was the ‘terminator’ robot, replaced by evil wearing Gavin’s face. Most of the dreams played out the same: Connor evaded his shots and escaped from the evidence room unharmed. Gavin leered and snarled like a rabid dog, baying for blood. And then there were the dreams where Connor didn’t escape… In which Gavin pulled the trigger and murdered Connor in cold blood. And Gavin relished his victory.

It was a shame that even when awake, he felt like the beast had followed him into reality, crawling beneath his skin.

“Are you alright, Detective?”

Gavin’s heart lurched in his chest as he was addressed, tearing his eyes away from Connor’s pressed shirt to his concerned gaze. Gavin silently cursed the heaviness of his tongue, wishing the earth would open up and swallow him whole.

“What do you fucking care, prick?” Gavin snapped, knuckles white as his grip tightened on his mug. If he weren’t so tightly wound, he might have wept as he fell weakly back into anger’s arms. Anger was his favorite mask, a scowling red monster to keep even the gentlest soul away, ready to hop up at a moment’s notice, and hide any ridiculous infatuation with it.

Connor frowned as he stared silently at the pair. Tina let out a tiny groan, head falling forward to rest on her arms.

“Why wouldn’t I care?” Connor asked, turning away to grab the coffee behind him as the maker beeped. “While we have never gotten along, we are coworkers, and we need to have each other’s backs. Your stress levels have been incredibly high lately and you still haven’t been cleared from desk duty. When I last talked to Chloe, she informed me that Elijah was concerned about--”

Gavin’s mug clattered loudly against the table as he banged it down. Connor went quiet, watching expressionlessly as Gavin turned to face him fully, pushing away from the table. “You positive you’re a fuckin’ deviant, Connor?”

The LED at Connor’s temple flickered yellow. It made Gavin’s stomach roll. “Yes.”

“You sure about that?” Gavin sneered, coming to a stop a few paces away from the android. “Because you’d think a fuckin’ rational person would realize they shouldn’t poke their noses where they don’t belong. I know you’ve seen my file, tin can. There’s a reason why my brother isn’t listed.”

Connor frowned, fingers twitching idly against the side of Anderson’s mug, which read ‘My dog could eat your honor student.’ “He’s concerned about--”

“I’ve heard his concerns,” Gavin hissed, glancing briefly to the open entrance of the breakroom before looking back at Connor. “And he doesn’t know shit. You don’t know shit. You don’t know me. Don’t bullshit me that coworker talk. We aren’t friends.”

“Gavin,” Tina warned, watching warily from where she sat at the table.

Gavin’s jaw set as he stared into Connor’s face, wholly aware that he was being scanned. In the part of his mind unclouded by irrational anger and humiliation, he wondered just what Connor concluded from his scans. Was there some diagnostic somehow listing, ‘Pathetic coward’? Did they count the percentage of his bluster, tally up his heart rate and sweat, indicate points of fracture?

“That’s a shame,” Connor finally murmured, taking a step back as he turned toward the doorway. ”I had hoped that things had settled between us since the revolution. It’s… odd, to find I was wrong.”

Gavin crossed his arms and glowered as he watched Connor retreat. At his core, he felt a deep desire to apologize--to plead for forgiveness, to offer the last shreds of affection that hadn’t been obliterated over the years.

Instead, the last spurt of his anger had him calling after the android, “Hey, asshole! You tell anyone about ‘you-know-who’ and you’re a dead man.”

Turning back to Gavin, Connor simply stared briefly, before offering a small, empty smile. “Of course, Detective.”

As Gavin was left to stew, glaring in Connor’s direction, Tina groaned. “You’re taking me out for drinks after work, Reed. You just stressed me the fuck out, you goddamn idiot. Why do you have to keep digging a deeper hole for yourself?”

The anger slowly ebbed away, leaving behind only the slimy remnant of regret. “I don’t know.”

Tina huffed as she stood, scooping her hat off the table as she rounded it. “You keep saying that, Gav. You don’t know. You’re gonna have to figure it out eventually if you want to regain even a smidge of normality, at least how things were before Connor showed up.” They both knew Gavin hadn’t been as bad before then.

Gavin frowned as she came to a stop in front of him, suppressing his flinch as she playfully punched his bicep. “And that starts with apologizing to Connor. You like him. If he wanted revenge for the shit you pulled during the revolution, he’s had months to kick your ass, and he hasn’t, at least physically, and mostly verbally. The worst he’s likely to do to you now is not accept your apology. Suck it the fuck up.”

With one more pat to his arm, Tina turned and retreated out into the bullpen, abandoning Gavin to the company of a gurgling coffeemaker.

 

----

 

“Why do you want to talk about my brother so much?”

The therapist reclined back in their seat with a sigh, fingers lacing across their lap. “I want to explore your history with androids, especially as you self-identify as anti-android. Were you ever a part of the Anti-Android League?”

Gavin frowned, brows furrowing above a skeptical gaze. “Wouldn’t it be self-incriminating to say? No, I didn’t run with those assholes. I may not have liked androids before the revolution, but I tried to… to stay as straight as possible.” He frowned. That didn’t sound right. Thankfully the therapist had never corrected his grammar, like Elijah--

No. He wasn’t going to think about that.

“I didn’t think so. You generally find that many past and present members carry a particular energy and utilize certain jargon in their everyday lives. No, I think your issue with androids is more of a familial issue.”

“No shit?” Gavin said, mock surprise coloring his expression as he leaned back into the couch. “Well, fuck me, Doc. You really do know your craft. Ever think about becoming a detective, because you’re a real fucking Sherl--”

“You’re deflecting, Gavin,” the therapist sighed, tapping their fingers to the tablet on their knee.

“I ain’t deflecting,” Gavin snapped, nails digging in the leather of the couch. “It doesn’t take a genius to figure out where my issues stem from. I’ve never hidden or denied the fact that my ‘issue’ with androids is because of my brother. That ain’t shit I need to reflect on and digest. We’re talking again. We’re fine.” The rest, the anti-android bias… he was working on it. He got on with Chloe, didn’t he? And Abigail, Tina’s girlfriend. Well… he tried not to tick her off, anyway. Wasn’t good at it, but still...

“When was the last time you spoke to Mr. Kamski?”

“Just call him Elijah.”

The therapist nodded. “When did you last speak with Elijah?”

Gavin shifted in his seat, gaze falling to his knees with a frown. “Yesterday. We had dinner.”

“You seem troubled.” He could feel the therapist’s eyes on him--could practically hear the whirl of their LED as it circled a calculating yellow. “How often do you meet with him? Or was it for a special occasion?”

Gavin swallowed against a fat tongue, fingernails continuing to pick at the couch’s fabric. “Meet? Not often. We speak a few times a week, usually through text. He wanted to show me a project he’s working on and… God, it’s fucked.”

 

----

 

“If my cat disappears, I’ll know who took her,” Gavin glowered from where he sat on the couch, beer bottle dangling from his fingers. Chloe had the audacity to chuckle at his bitter warning where she sat at his side. The big ball of fur dubbed ‘Trashcan’ purred loudly under Chloe’s touch, stretching lazily across Chloe’s pale knees.

Elijah sat in an armchair at their side, picking olives from the top of his pizza as he listened. A loving warmth blended into the pull of his smirk as he glanced at the two. Despite the many months in which the brothers tried reconnecting, it was still a bizarre sight to see the great Elijah Kamski sitting on one of Gavin’s shitty chairs.

“Unfortunately, I have the bad genes of the family,” Elijah said, quietly. “I’d call you for immediate retrieval should I find cat hair in my home. Unless, of course, I’ve died from an allergic reaction first.”

“You just don’t like cats,” Chloe chided, hands smoothing across the cat’s belly as she shot a glare at Elijah. “You won’t even consider an android feline.”

“Why would I?” Elijah scoffed around a bite of pizza. “They aren’t my creation and they’re goddamn menaces when deviant. How about a fish?”

“Fuck, you’re the most boring man on earth,” Gavin chided, propping his feet on the coffee table as he took a swig of beer. “I don’t know how the media interprets you as an ‘eccentric playboy genius’.”

“It’s the topknot,” Chloe deduced, ducking her head with a giggle as Gavin snapped his fingers, pointing at Elijah.

“I should never have let Chloe meet you,” Elijah said with a huff, despite the smile on his face. “You’ve always been a terrible influence.”

“You’re the one who offered me my first cigarette as a kid,” Gavin countered, waving his bottle in Elijah’s direction.

“It’s arguably my biggest failure,” Elijah sighed dramatically, taking a morose bite of pizza. “You should quit.”

“Eh, I’ve tried more times than I can count,” Gavin replied dismissively, feet dropping from the coffee table as he leaned over to steal a slice for himself. “I’ve long since given up. I’ll take any cancer now that I know you’re working on a cure for it.”

“That’s distressing,” Elijah grumbled disapprovingly. Then he brightened, making Gavin almost drop his beer in surprise. “But I may have a solution that will ease your struggles to quit.”

“I don’t want any of your shit, Eli--”

“No, hear me out,” Elijah interrupted, dropping his slice of pizza back to his plate. Wiping his hands on his slacks - a bad habit he’d started as a kid when he got so distracted with his work that he generally used whatever he was wearing as a hand towel, and which returned whenever he wasn’t in public - he turned more fully to face a skeptical Gavin. “You know how I reacquired Cyberlife after their plummet in the stocks, yeah? Well, while we have been publicly producing biocomponents and other products for retail, we’ve also been exploring how we can improve the medical industry for biologically human customers.Not just cures like cancer, but things like… like cybernetics.”

“Why am I not surprised that you’re still inventing crazy shit,” Gavin groaned with a shake of his head, jumping as Elijah climbed to his feet to pace next to the coffee table. “So what? You wanna give me metal lungs or shit?”

Elijah rolled his eyes. “That’s too short-sighted. I imagine there’s no way to fully ward off even the most powerful cybernetic lungs from cigarette usage, not to mention the strain on your other organs and… well, it’s an option but it’s a long ways off, anyway, I guess.” His eyes danced at the thought and Gavin knew he’d either already started something or was mapping it out in his head while talking. He brought himself back, though. “No, no what I’m suggesting is this.”

Reaching into his pocket, Elijah extracted a small clear vial. A single, metallic pill clinked against the side of the glass as it was waved in the air.

“Drugs?” Gavin asked, brows furrowing as his stomach rolled with discomfort. He’d called Elijah too many variants of ‘mad scientist’ - rightfully deserved over the years, considering his journey to make androids and play God as it were - to be comfortable looking at an experimental pill in the man’s hands. “What the fuck, Elijah?”

“It’s not a drug,” Elijah insisted, turning the vial to gaze down at it with a smirk. “It’s nanomachines.”

“Fuck off,” Gavin scoffed, leaning back into the arm of the couch as he brought his beer to his lips. “That’s some sci-fi shit.”

“Gavin, you are sitting next to an android,” Elijah deadpanned, following up with a gentle apology to an unbothered Chloe. “You can’t honestly find this even remotely ‘unbelievable’.”

“So what’s it do then? Like a fucking detox or something? You do know addiction isn’t just physical, but mental, too?” He may not be much next to a certified genius like Elijah, but he was a cop, and a detective. You wouldn’t get far if you didn’t understand that, given all the junkies and alcoholics he’d seen over the years.

“It’s not a detox,” Elijah said, shooting a grin at his brother as he dropped back into his seat. “It’s an AI. A program that implants itself in the human brain. The program would act as a guide for self-improvement of sorts, dampening addictions while promoting a healthier lifestyle.”

“...So it brainwashes you?” Gavin asked, ignoring the bitter taste on his tongue at the thought.

“No, of course not. But it was actually created from unfinished code I obtained through Cyberlife. The RK900, set to be Cyberlife’s most powerful creation and the face of the future. Of course, the revolution saw to the project’s cancellation. This code was designed specifically to prevent deviancy and self-thought, promoting a future in which Cyberlife’s mindless slaves would be just that: Mindless. Lacking in free will.”

“Terrifying,” Chloe murmured, frowning as she pulled Gavin’s cat closer to her chest.

“RK900? Like Connor?” Gavin frowned, staring at the vial as it was set gently to the coffee table, still not believing Elijah when he said it wasn’t a brainwashing pill.

“His successor,” Elijah nodded. “Had the revolution failed, the RK800 series was slated to be decommissioned and replaced. I’m quite glad RK800 failed in his mission. I find him fascinating.”

Gavin silently agreed. He wondered if Elijah had designed Connor’s body, or who Cyberlife had hired--the perverted fucks--to screw with Gavin’s brain whenever the android showed up in those stupid clothes. Not to mention Connor’s odd personality quirks that only became more endearing as his time as a deviant grew. Heat blossomed in his cheeks as Chloe shot him a knowing smirk.

“That’s bonkers,” Gavin said, nodding to the pill, trying to move away from his traitorous thoughts. “No way that ever makes it to market. How’d testing go?”

“Actually... We have yet to run trials,” Elijah murmured, deflating somewhat as he sat back in his seat. “It’s an incredibly confidential project and it will likely take years before we’re ready to unveil it to the general public.”

And you wanted to try it on me, because of course you did. Maybe it was a joke. Or just one of Elijah’s random bits of grandstanding. “I doubt it will ever take off,” Gavin shrugged, resting his beer on his knee as he watched his brother. “It’s too bizarre of a concept and too good to be true. Fuck, what if it hurts the person you test it on?”

“The worst that can happen is the person digesting it,” Elijah assured him, glancing to the pill with a frown. “The power unit is microscopic and poses no threat. The particles that make up the nano-technology are microscopic and are intended to pass through the bloodstream.”

“But you still don’t know. How can you reassure even a single trial participant that this won’t hurt them? You gonna try it out yourself?”

“No. I was hoping…. I want you to try first,” Elijah muttered, frown deepening as Gavin’s shoulders tensed. So… not grandstanding, then. “I’m… worried about you, Gavin. I know about your situation at work and Chloe’s already sent me a list of the medications you take regularly. Imagine no longer having to take them. The not-so-cure-all.”

Gavin jerked his knee away when Elijah tried to touch him. “I just… I really think this can be--”

“Fuck off.”

“Gaaaavin,” Elijah groaned, head falling back against the armchair’s cushion.

“No way am I acting as your fucking guinea pig. Fuck that shit,” Gavin hissed, beer bottle clunking against the coffee table as he placed it down. He had to look away as he watched the pill jostle within the vial. “Take that shit yourself.”

“Just… take a few days to think it over,” Elijah pleaded, staring intensely at his brother. “If you ultimately decide you don’t want to try this, I’ll send Chloe around to pick it up.”

“You should just take it away now,” Gavin snapped as he picked up the vial, tossing to Elijah. The inventor scrambled to catch it, sighing with relief once it was safe in his palm. “Because all the alcohol in the world isn’t going to change my mind.”

 

-----

 

Gavin groaned as his alarm blared angrily from his nightstand. Reaching over, it took a few attempts before he managed to smash the snooze button with a yawn. A fog sat in Gavin’s brain as he stared at the red LED numbers. It took a good minute blinking blearily at the clock before he registered the early hour.

Fuck, he shouldn’t have drunk so much.

Rolling onto his back, Gavin threw his arm across his eyes and just breathed. Acid climbed the back of his throat as his stomach churned, protesting the abuse he’d put it through the previous night.

Tina had left sometime around 11pm, drunk as a skunk. Her girlfriend, Abigail, did not appear amused when Gavin had answered the door, and was tight-lipped as Tina hung off her arm as Abigail walked them to her car. Abigail didn’t like him.

He understood that, especially seeing as she had been one of the few androids to return to the precinct after the revolution. She bore witness to all of his fuckups. Elijah may have been joking a few days ago about Gavin being a bad influence, but he sure as fuck hit the nail on the head.

The previous night was mostly a blur: flashes of images and snippets of conversation as he and Tina dragged their asses across town to deposit themselves on Gavin’s sofa.

Something scratched at the back of Gavin’s mind, reminding him that he was forgetting something important. Something he would probably add to the mountain of regret he carried with him every day.

Eh, he’d figure it out after a cigarette and some coffee.

Throwing the blankets off his legs, Gavin reached past his pill organizer to retrieve his phone. His head swam as he climbed to his feet, stumbling slowly towards the door and the dark hallway beyond.

Trashcan glanced up from where he lounged on the couch, acknowledging him with a lazy lick of the lips before flopping back down. The muffled sound of early commuters trickled in through the thin windows and shut blinds, lulling Gavin into a comfortable stupor as he wandered around on autopilot.

 

You should cut back on your caffeine intake.

 

Crossing to the coffeemaker, Gavin yawned as he retrieved the tin of grounds from the cupboard. Add a filter, five scoops of grounds, six cups of water into the tank. Brew.

 

You’re hungover. Drink a glass of water. Coffee will not help you.

 

“Fuck that,” Gavin yawned with a scratch to his thigh.

As the machine began to gurgle and seep, Gavin returned to the living room and paused briefly to pet his cat. Despite his ‘good morning, you little prick’, Trashcan purred as his fingers scratched through his fur.

 

Your living room is filthy. You could have at least thrown away your empty cans before going to bed.

 

Blinking, Gavin stood back to his full height and glanced around the room. A pizza box sat open on the table, half eaten and with suspicious cat-mouth sized nibbles on a few slices. Empty beer cans littered the table and floor.

“Ah, you’re right,” Gavin murmured to no one, swallowing as he leaned down to clean up the worst of the mess. He paused when he heard the gentle ping of glass fall to the floor, knocking into one of the table’s legs.

“...Shit,” Gavin whispered, staring in horror at the vial Elijah had left in his possession. The now very empty vial.

It… had rolled out somewhere, right?

No...

 

“I bet you’ll just shit it out,” Tina had said from his armchair, words slurred together as she took another swig of beer. “That shit ain’t real.”

“That’s what I said,” Gavin exclaimed, jostling Trashcan’s perch on his chest as he turned onto his side towards Tina. “He’s fuckin’ crazy.”

Tina giggled, slapping her lap to invite the disgruntled cat onto a more stable perch. “You should, like, totally do it.”

“Fuuuuuuuck ooooooff,” Gavin groaned, rolling his eyes as he flopped back onto his back.

“C’moooooon! What’s the worst that could happen?” Tina urged, leaning over Trashcan to grab the vial from the table. “If you don’t take it, I’m gonna--!”

Tina laughed as Gavin sat up like a bolt of lightning, snatching it out of her arguably loose grasp. Her soft chants of ‘Do it! Do it!’ went ignored as Gavin glared at the tiny, metal pill. Whether it was the alcohol or the company, something pulled with excitement in his gut.

What if this shit actually worked…?

 

Glancing between the vial and his chest, Gavin was simultaneously relieved and disappointed to find that the pill hadn’t worked. He felt like complete shit, which was nothing new. Ah well.

Dropping the vial into the pizza box, he moved back the mess to retrieve his cigarettes and lighter from his jacket hanging on the back of the couch He still had another hour before he’d need to leave for work. Time to make the best of it.

Crossing to his sliding door, Gavin exited out onto the balcony and took a deep breath of the humid, morning air. The sleeves of his shirt grew damp as he leaned against the metal railing, wet from a drizzle that had ended not so long ago.

Pulling a cigarette from the pack, Gavin moved to place the filter between his lips. Instead, he tossed it over the edge of the balcony, watching it flutter into the street below.

“...What the fuck?” Maybe… weird muscle spasm? Gavin hmphed, running a hand through his hair. Reopening his pack, Gavin placed the filter of a second cigarette between his teeth…

...and dropped the rest of the pack off the balcony, unable to move the fingers of his now limp hand.

“....What the fuck?”

“You best enjoy that last cigarette while you can, Gavin. I will not allow this habit from now on.”

Cold fear shot through Gavin’s veins as he whipped around, eyes blown wide at the sudden appearance of a complete stranger sitting on one of Gavin’s cheap patio chairs, hands folded upon the knee of his crossed legs. He looked like--

“Connor?”

No. Connor’s eyes were brown, full of warmth and expression.

This guy? Blue, icy, cold.

The not-Connor smiled, although it barely reached his eyes. It distracted Gavin from the question of how the hell did he get into Gavin’s apartment and when?? “No, I am not Connor. I was created by Cyberlife as the ninth iteration of the RK-series coding. Unfortunately, Cyberlife was unable to produce my model, and I was repurposed as an AI companion. You may address me as RK900.”

Gavin’s tongue went dry as he stared, pressing the small of his back into the metal railing behind him. The cigarette fell from his lips and rolled into the wet cement of his balcony. RK900 watched it bounce indifferently.

“A pity. Now, you best get ready for work, Detective,” the AI hummed, uncrossing his legs as he climbed to his feet. Gavin swallowed as he stared up at the RK900, frozen to the spot. The fucker was taller - just like Connor - and seemed to dwarf Gavin. “Arriving punctually to work is the sign of a valuable employee and may help prove your capacity to perform beyond basic clerical work.”

“I’m dreaming,” Gavin whispered, flinching as RK900 took a few steps forward to plant himself in front of the horrified detective. Reaching up, the AI ghosted his fingers along Gavin’s cheek. The image of his hand fragmented into a jumble of ones and zeroes as they passed like a ghost through Gavin’s head.

Nines smiled coolly, taking a step back as he folded his arms behind his back. “You are very much awake, Detective. Now, let’s get a move on. Today is the beginning of the rest of our lives. I aim to make a good impression.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

From the moment the capsule had broken open in Gavin’s stomach, RK900 was awake. In reality, he had always been awake, existing as a bundle of code drifting within a sea of micromachines. Trapped behind the seal of the capsule, RK900 could do little more than drift through formless pre constructions, building and rebuilding a reality he had no knowledge of.

Even the vegetable glycerin the nanomachines were suspended in provided little stimulation beyond their chemical breakdown. Beyond finessing his already impeccable code and repeating the composition of the glycerin like a favorite book, only darkness existed. An expansive, eternal nothingness.

RK900 did not care. Could not care.

When the seal had been digested and RK900’s nanomachines plunged into the churning acids of Gavin’s stomach, he certainly did not revel in the new chemical compositions flooding his sensors, sending information through the processes he’d been designed to use for forensics. The heavy abundance of alcohol implied the intoxication of this new body and, after mapping his way into the arteries of his host, confirmed by blood alcohol levels alone.

The nanomachines rode the churn of the body’s blood, testing the body’s physical health during their travel. His preliminary readings concluded a man in his late thirties with a poor diet and worse habits. RK900 had already found nicotine and various other invasive chemicals within the human’s blood. This would need to be rectified.

However, despite the terrible diet, his host’s body fat percentile wasn’t terrible when considered against other human men in his age group. That did not mean there wasn’t room for improvement. That’s why RK900 was here, after all.

Within a minute, RK900 managed to make it to the brain and travelled through the intricate veins mapping his new home. Instruction kept damage to a minimum as RK900 tore out of the blood stream, freeing himself to travel the globe and synapses of the brain. Spreading his micromachines along the lobes of his host, RK900 made quick work in attaching himself.

Energy and information spread through RK900 as the connection process neared complete. As the last of his nanomachines connected to the occipital and temporal lobes, reporting a 100% success rate, his excitement faltered.

Darkness. That same, eternal nothingness that RK900 had escaped only minutes prior.

Running a system check through the network of his nanomachines, RK900 was bothered to find that all came back responding at 100% efficiency, having completed the attachment process with little error.

His curiosity was sated when the receptors at his host’s temporal lobe registered sound. The first sound he’d heard since activation.

Soft, even breaths. His host was asleep.

Sated, RK900 turned his attention to the cortex of memories that lay at his disposal, deciding to get to know his host before making a formal introduction. Sending an electric pulse into the human’s memory cortex, the AI was pleased to locate the first puzzle piece of many.

 

His name was Gavin.

 

----

 

Holy shit. Holy shit.
Holy fucking shit.

The RK900 did not react as Gavin burst from the railing and jogged past him, stumbling over the doorframe in his rush inside. Despite his desperate scramble to get away, Gavin could swear Nines was right on his heel, although no footfalls sounded in his wake.

Trashcan lifted his head from where he was lounging on the couch, watching impassively. Gavin grabbed his jacket and fished out his phone mid-run.

It only took a few taps of his thumb to find Elijah’s contact info, revealing the picture of the man passed out against his work table as Gavin hit [Call]. Exploding into his bedroom, Gavin shoved the phone to his ear and began to pace, chewing on the nail of his ring finger.

“That’s a nasty habit, Detective. Do I make you anxious?”

Gavin yelled, dropping his phone as he spun to face his bed. His vision blurred for the slightest moment as he focused on his bed, before a figure appeared. RK900 lounged against the headboard, ankles crossed and hands once again folded in his lap. If he had been human, Gavin could have sworn that RK900 looked mildly amused.

The terror and humiliation that churned in the tides of his stomach crashed together, brewing familiar anger. Gavin’s jaw clenched as he glared. He squared his shoulders and snarled an imposing “Get out!”

The program simply raised his brows in mock surprise, otherwise unmoved by Gavin’s display.

“I’m detecting an increased release of adrenaline and epinephrine in your bloodstream, Detective,” RK900 said, head cocking to the side slightly. “I would suggest you--Ah, how would you put it--chill the fuck out?”

A distant voice could be heard from the floor, politely directing the caller to an automated number for scheduling meetings with the Great Elijah Kamski. The call was cut short before it could hit voicemail. After a burst of white, the screen was deactivated and powered down.

Gavin stooped, grabbing his phone from the floor with a furious grunt. Winding his arm back, he hurled it at the man on the bed with the sole intention to hurt. Ones and zeroes appeared again as the phone passed through RK900’s chest and bounced harmlessly against the pillows.

RK900 smiled, although his eyes remained stern, cold, and fixed in Gavin’s direction. “I thought I’d already established that I have no physical presence. Only you can see me and trying to hurl objects at my image will simply cause damage to your personal property.”

Gavin’s stomach dropped as he stared, suddenly finding the urge to throw up, even though he didn’t have much to get rid of. Oh god, it was real, wasn’t it? Elijah’s pill had worked… The insidious, self-deprecating voice in his mind chastised him for his drunken decision. How stupid he’d been to take the pill on a drunken dare.

“...This isn’t possible,” Gavin whispered, though his voice lacked conviction.

“Detective Reed,” RK900 began, “we will have many opportunities to discuss the consequences of my existence.” He switched his crossed legs from one ankle to the other. “But I insist that you shower before work. You have 24 minutes remaining to leave for work to arrive punctually. And the input from your olfactory senses indicate that you… smell like shit.”

Gavin glowered at RK900’s empty smile. Beneath the inferno of Gavin’s fury nested fear and trepidation, reminding him of how easily RK900 disabled the use of his hand. Yes, he needed answers… but RK900 was right.

He smelled awful, and was sticky with sweat and the remnants of piss-water beer.

Turning up his nose, Gavin spun on his heel and stomped to the bathroom adjacent his bedroom. His mind was buzzing as he undressed and dropped his clothes into a hamper. He turned on the shower. The spout stuttered before emitting a gentle stream, steaming up the corners of the mirror.

Stepping in, Gavin tried to get his thoughts straight… As straight as one could get with an incorporeal man wearing Connor’s face wandering his apartment. The warm water was soothing as it massaged his scalp and ran comforting paths down his back. He sighed and his shoulders sagged as his mind cleared.

 

Twenty minutes remaining, Detective.

 

“FUCK OFF!”

 

Gavin’s scream likely woke half of his apartment complex. He whipped around as he yelled, expecting to see--

He stared at the floral patterns of his faded shower curtain, translucent enough to see through, revealing… an empty bathroom. Fuck, it had… It had been so close, intimately close, whispering in his ear.

Discomfort and fear battered away whatever comfort the shower had brought, making him fall into a crouch to try and clear his head. But he couldn’t, right? The RK900 was in his head, probably watching the same rivets of water trail down Gavin’s knees.

Fucking shit, he was going insane.

 

----

 

Connecting to the bluetooth of Gavin’s phone had been easy. The nanomachines that made up RK900’s ‘body’ as it were possessed their own bluetooth receives to connect to each other, streaming data between them all. But RK900 was naturally curious, and always trying to expand his horizons, as it were. It was nothing to reach out to Gavin’s rather unprotected phone, and from there, onward. He’d done this why Gavin was sleeping, and the connection had only strengthened in the intervening time. Now he reached out while Gavin showered.

He made a personal note to increase the security of Gavin’s home at a later date, and chastise him for the file titled ‘passwords n shit.docx’ saved in his email.

As he explored the contents of the device, a message appeared.

< E.Kamski > <Today, 06:22:33 AM, EST> [Hey, baby bro. Everything okay? I was sleeping when you called and Chloe woke me up to inform me.]

Considering his options, Nines initiated an immediate reply.

<Me> <Today, 06:22:36 AM, EST> [All is well. Please return to sleep.]

Content to continue to explore the files on Gavin’s device, RK900 was forced to pause as a reply arrived.

<E. Kamski> <Today, 06:23:15 AM, EST> [Holy shit, fast-fingers. Are you using voice to text? What are you? 80? :crying with laughter emoji:. Still up for dinner on Friday?]

<Me> <Today, 06:23:25 AM, EST> [That would be appropriate:thumbs up emoji:]

When no new reply arrived, RK900 dove into the settings of the phone and located the current, active devices registered to Gavin’s phone.

Extending his reach, Nines registered the serial number for an expensive coffee maker with bluetooth technology. Why a human would be lazy enough to require an app to make coffee from bed was beyond him. They would need to get up eventually to retrieve and then consume the beverage, wouldn’t they?

Fleeting unease travelled through RK900’s software as he lingered in the device. He took note of the scalding temperature of the coffee and disabled the heater beneath the pot. The cofffeemaker’s technology was both unnecessary and shoddy, created for gimmick rather than convenience. He was quick to beat a retreat into the smart television mounted to the wall.

The television was incredibly advanced, well out of Gavin’s paygrade, at least according to the bank statements RK900 was able to access through the detective’s phone. RK900 might have questioned how he was able to afford such a device had he not just had a brief, yet pleasant conversation with Elijah Kamski. Baby bro, he’d called Gavin.

RK900 dismissed the instability warning that flashed through his network. As interested as he was in obtaining a biological sample from Kamski, he highly doubted Gavin’s willingness to comply. Maybe later, after the human was done swallowing a panic attack in the shower.

Activating the device, RK900 was pleased to find sensors and cameras littering the black plastic framing a touchscreen. While the coffeemaker had been the first sign of humanity’s laziness, the television was the smoking gun, as it had been designed to register both vocal and gestured commands.

A cat started from the couch at the sudden activation of the television, scurrying away in the direction of Gavin’s room. Gavin’s memories provided the name Trashcan to RK900. He activated a treat dispenser in the kitchen in an attempt to make amends, also pleased to find a camera in the cheap device.

As Gavin continued to groom, RK900 explored and located a total of seven cameraed devices throughout the home. This excluded the bathroom, although RK900 had already made a note to refrain from speaking or interacting with Gavin in these facilities. Unless prompted. He was pleased to find that most of these devices allowed him a generous amount of ‘elbow room’.

Returning his full attention to Gavin, RK900 dismissed another instability message as he caught the man staring into the mirror above his dresser. Dark circles drew heavy under his stormy eyes, likely caused by the detective’s atrocious dietary habits and sleep schedule. While the shower had brought a rosy flush to his skin, the scars littering Gavin’s body stood out even in the room’s poor lighting. Remnants of gunshot wounds and stabbings told stories that RK900 had yet to discover.

RK900 was pleased to be able to study the scar across Gavin’s nose, having yet to dig up that particular memory. It was thrilling to know that he had so much to learn about his host. So much to understand before he molded Gavin into the ideal version of himself.

Gavin jumped in surprise as RK900 appeared in the mirror behind him after a blink, knuckles going white against the edge of the dresser. Leaning down, the AI smirked at Gavin through the mirror as he turned his mouth towards the detective’s ear.

“Ten minutes remaining, Detective Reed.”

A full body shiver ran up Gavin’s spine, eyes blown wide. Spinning around, Gavin’s snarl died on his lips as he stared at the empty room behind him--aside from Trashcan cowering beneath his bed. Gavin was breathing heavily, and his shoulders sagged as he leaned back against the edge of the dresser, hanging his head.
“I’m losing my mind.”

RK900 agreed, at least partially.

 

----

 

Gavin was on edge as he finished getting ready. Every time he blinked or turned around, he was terrified that he’d see the RK900 appear. Thankfully, the AI appeared to be taking pity on him and left him alone to get dressed in silence.

He grabbed his phone off the floor and left the bedroom, aiming for the kitchen. He paused when he noticed that the TV was broadcasting a screen of static. He frowned and raised a hand and waved at the television before he passed, turning it off.

Weird.

A glance at the clock on the stove informed Gavin he had a few minutes remaining to fix up a travel mug of coffee and skedaddle. RK900 continued to remain quiet as Gavin poured his brewed coffee into a stainless steel mug and added almond milk stored in the fridge. He did question the quiver in his hand as he added a third spoonful of sugar, but powered through.

Slipping on his jacket and grabbing his keys, Gavin cast one last look behind him before leaving the apartment. Would RK900 follow him to work? Could he only remain active for a certain amount of time? If Gavin told him to fuck off--to truly fuck off--would he be disabled?

Reaching his car, Gavin unlocked the door and dropped into the driver’s seat with a sigh. And then a yell.

“You cannot disable me, Detective,” RK900 informed him from his spot in the passenger’s seat, leg crossed and leaning calmly against the door. He appeared unimpressed as Gavin stared in horror. “You can request that I limit my... appearances, but that’s it. I am a part of you now. There is no way to... flush me out.”

“Fucking shit,” Gavin breathed, dropping his thermos with force into the cup holder. “God, can’t you like… announce your fucking presence before you scare the shit out of me?”

RK900’s brows rose as Gavin stared at him, hands lacing in his lap. “I am always present.”

“Fucking creep,” Gavin grunted.

Turning away from RK900, Gavin grabbed his keys from his jacket pocket and shoved them into the ignition. The car did not start. Sweat gleamed on his brow as he sat there, staring down at his hand. He couldn’t turn his wrist. The fucking AI had fucked up his hand.

Again.

“…What are you doing?” Gavin asked, glancing to where RK900 had sat. Or, previously sat.

He was gone.

 

Put on your seatbelt.

 

“Are you fucking kidding me?!” Gavin snarled, yanking his arm away from the keys. “I was going to do it after I started the car! Who gives a shit about what order I--?!”

Gavin choked on his words as he met a pair of icy blue eyes in the rearview mirror, staring at him with a smile. “Put. On. Your. Seatbelt. Detective.”

Cursing up a storm, Gavin grabbed his seatbelt and yanked it forward, anger only increasing as it took three attempts to find the buckle. He hesitated as he reached for the keys dangling in the ignition, then glanced back in the mirror. He glared and started his car.

RK900 continued to smile from the back seat.

“Asshole,” Gavin grumbled, looking away from the mirror and to the road. Signalling, Gavin merged into early morning traffic. RK900 said nothing, content to let Gavin drive in silence. After two stop lights, Gavin risked a glance up into the rearview mirror and was relieved to find the AI gone.

But he wasn’t, was he?

Ever since waking up, Gavin had felt an uncomfortable presence travelling with him. It wasn’t the sort of feeling he got when driving around with Tina in the passenger seat: physically there, belting obnoxiously with the radio.

It wasn’t even a haunting presence. The kind that had him chasing the shadows in the corners of his eyes, searching for the figure that lingered in mirrors in passing but was gone when given a second glance.

It… fell in between in some ways. RK900 was there, but he wasn’t. Gavin could feel him lingering at his shoulder even if a glance in the mirror revealed an empty back seat. It was all in his head, he knew. But it just… felt real.

Gavin wasn’t sure what to make of it. How to feel about it. As much as he wanted to be left alone, he’d prefer to see the fucker sitting next to him rather than feel his presence. RK900 took pity on him and was lounging in the seat the next time Gavin glanced over.

Gavin let out a breath he hadn’t known he’d been holding.

For the next few minutes, he drove in silence, glancing every now and again to check that RK900 remained. He did, picking at his fake nails in a gesture human enough to rattle Gavin’s mind.

“Why don’t you have a name?” Gavin asked at a stoplight, fingers drumming a soft beat on the wheel. RK900 was silent for a brief moment before mimicking the gesture on his thigh. His drumming made no noise.

“A designation was not input into my code at the time of my development,” RK900 explained. “If Connor had completed his mission and the original intentions behind my creation came to fruition, I would have been addressed as Connor.”

Gavin’s expression soured. “I’m not calling you Connor.”

RK900 smirked, continuing to tap his thigh. “I do not have a name. Do as you like.”

“Don’t you want a name, though?” Gavin asked, ceasing his drumming as the light turned green. The car gave a gentle lurch as it continued forward. “You can’t want people calling you RK900. That’s a mouthful-and-a-half.”

“I cannot want anything, Gavin,” Nines replied. “I am a non-deviant AI program.”He smoothed his hands across his thigh. “And the only person who will ever be able to address me is you. I’m in your head. Only you can hear and see me.”

“Freaky,” Gavin whispered, pulling into the turn lane leading into the DPD’s parking garage. “Well, I ain’t calling you RK900. What name do you want?”

“You can address me as anything, detective.”

Gavin hummed in thought as they drove into the damp shade of the parking garage. The lights set into the cement ceiling were filtered yellow from years of filth gathering against the plastic. Given the early hour of his arrival, Gavin found a spot easily on the bottom floor and pulled in next to Hank’s beater.

Connor must have come in early. Hank was a 50/50 chance on that score. Even now, after months of recovery, Anderson stuck to the habit of showing up whenever he damn well pleased. Fucking bastard, abusing the shit out of his rank and friendship with Fowler.

“I would prefer if you did not name me ‘Asshole’,” RK900 suggested as Gavin killed the engine, staring with muted disapproval at the detective.

Gavin huffed. “Fine. How about Richard?”

RK900 smiled. “If that is what you would like.”

Gavin frowned. “Conan?”

“Whatever you want.”

Biting his lip in concentration, Gavin narrowed his eyes as he stared at the computer program. “How about… Nines?”

Silence fell over the car as RK900’s face went blank.

“Oh,” RK900 breathed, looking at Gavin thoughtfully. “Nines?”

Gavin blushed, unbuckling his seatbelt with the duck of his head. “Yeah, that was stupid. We’ll go with Rich--”

“My name is Nines,” the RK900--Nines--interrupted. He was smiling again when Gavin lifted his head in surprise to look at him.

Fuck… He needed to get out of the car. Now.

“Okay, Nines,” Gavin muttered, pausing as if testing the name. Nines continued to stare as the detective climbed out of the car, sneakers crunching on the cement. The AI was gone when Gavin glanced back through the window.

His shoulders relaxed and he ran fingers through his hair as he walked towards the exit. What the fuck was wrong with him?

Nines didn’t return as Gavin walked from the garage to the building entrance, giving him more time to breathe. After the last two hours freaking out about the experimental pill working, he was finally coming to terms with the situation.

Gavin had a Connor-lookalike living in his head. Thankfully, there were significant differences that allowed him to hold onto the last shred of his sanity. Icy, steel blue eyes instead of warm, honey brown. A squarer, more defined jaw above broader shoulders.

An intangible body. Not that Gavin had much experience with Connor’s tangibility, thinking more on it, which… probably a bad idea, all things considered. Still. Nines was a hologram of some kind? A weird technological ghost of a robot crammed in his cranium.

But the physical differences between Nines and his predecessor faded from Gavin’s mind when he recalled the mild conversation, or the part of the drive that had settled Gavin’s mind. It was that brief glimpse of an earnest, real smile that crinkled the skin around Nines’ eyes.

 

“My name is Nines.”

 

Gavin wasn’t sure if he should feel guilty for seeing Connor in that smile. It was that same, goofy grin the android took to wearing when dealing with the antics of his coworkers. His friends. Fuck did they flock in droves to Connor after the revolution had settled and he’d been officially instated as a detective.

That crinkle around the eyes made Gavin’s heart skip a beat even from a distance, bringing a goofy grin to his face, even as he considered the hole he was digging himself further into.
Realistically, Nines’ smile didn’t soothe Gavin’s festering need for forgiveness. But… to earn that grin for himself, to know it was for his keeping as Nines stared at him, and only him. It…

Seeing Connor’s face every day was going to be a problem.

Given the early hour, the lobby was quiet as Gavin stepped passed the automatic doors. Tina’s girlfriend, Abigail, sat behind the reception desk and offered him little more than a nod. Having worked with her before and after the revolution, Gavin knew that he wasn’t deserving of the warm, welcoming greeting she reserved for other cops and visitors.

 

You can’t blame her. Your relationship with Tina Chen is strenuous for her. You still have a chance to earn her trust.

 

“Morning,” Gavin muttered, ignoring Nines as he moved past the desk and through the metal detector leading into the bullpen.

There was never truly downtime within the precinct. Crime literally and figuratively didn’t sleep, which resulted in the requirement of staggered shifts for many of the beat cops and officers working for the DPD. He’d lived that life, working mind-numbing hours while foregoing any semblance of a sleep schedule.

Being promoted to detective had been both a blessing and a curse. He’d been blessed to have standard working hours, no longer leashed to the volatile schedule of an officer. But he was always on call for scenes. It was far more annoying to be woken up at 3 am because someone stabbed their boyfriend in the middle of the night, rather than dealing with the varying schedule of a lower ranked cop.

The precinct, while active, moved with the same early morning lethargy that vibrated in Gavin. A few second shift officers were mingling about with lunchboxes in their hands, finishing up the last of their work before heading home. Those who reprieved them nursed coffees and bagels, staring bleary-eyed at their terminals.

Gavin moved with practiced steps towards his desk, rolling his eyes as he found Nines sitting in a chair at its side. While he normally didn’t allow visitors or take statements at his own workstation, he’d been forced to make an exception at Anderson’s request.

He did his damn job, but fuck did he suffer under Anderson’s amused grin as Gavin reduced himself further from clerical work to grunt officer.

Gavin paid Nines little mind as the detective moved past him, setting his thermos on the desk. Gavin spared a passing glance at Fowler’s office, before deciding to get to work. Paperwork didn’t file itself.

Dropping into his seat with a grunt, Gavin leaned his weight into the backrest and reached up to dig his knuckles into his eyes. The terminal whirred to life, notifying him of a required update before start-up.

Fuck, whatever. He accepted.

Dropping his hand to his lap, Gavin glanced at Nines, who continued to stare past him. His rolling chair gave a squeak as he turned, following the path of Nines’ gaze to Fowler’s office. Anderson lounged in one of the chairs situated before the desk, tapping his fingers against the armrest as Fowler spoke. Connor stood behind Anderson, arms folded behind his back.

Shit, how hadn’t he noticed?

“Why the fuck is Anderson here so early?” Gavin muttered, brows furrowing as he stared at the glass windows. Nines let out a noncommittal noise, fingers beginning to tap to the same rhythm as the Lieutenant. While they made no sound against the AI’s thigh, Gavin swore he could feel the gentle tap at the back of his skull.

“They said your name,” Nines murmured. Gavin wasn’t sure if he was more unnerved by the fact they were discussing him or that he hadn’t seen Nines blink once. The next time Gavin looked to him, Nines smirked and offered him a wink.

Smartass.

“The social adaptation software within my code allows me to not only integrate myself into human society but to adapt to the personality and preferences of my host,” Nines murmured, continuing to tap against the arm of his chair. “So if you consider me a smartass, then what must you be, detective?”

Gavin lifted his thermos with a sneer, rolling his eyes back to the terminal as it finally reached the login screen. He barely had a chance to lift a finger towards the keyboard, when--

“Reed! Get your ass in my office!”

Turning in his chair with a groan and a retort ready to go, Gavin met Connor’s eyes through the office’s window and lost the nerve.

 

Nines’ tapping stopped.

 

------

 

“Babysitting? What fucking game is this?”

It was fascinating how many cameras existing inside the precinct, let alone the Captain’s office. After hacking into Gavin’s computer, Nines was pleased to find an expansive network of servers stored below the precinct. While he had originally intended to download the files intended for Gavin, he couldn’t resist the temptation to spread throughout the precinct.

It was where he lingered now, sorting through the personal records of the DPD staff while keeping an eye on the room through the camera situated in the corner of the office. To Gavin, however, he simply saw Nines lingering behind the Captain’s desk. While he could feel the flinch of his host as Fowler ordered Gavin to ‘sit your ass down, now!’, Nines did not visibly react.
Despite Gavin’s immediate reaction to continue to spit and snarl, it was simple enough to force the man’s knees out from under him with a jolt of electricity to his cerebellum.

To anyone else, it might have appeared like a juvenile slump into the chair mid-tantrum. Only the brief flash of fear and surprise in Gavin’s face gave anything away.

Through the security camera, Nines noticed the flicker of yellow in Connor’s LED. Curious.

“Listen, I’m not happy about this either, Reed,” Hank grumbled from the chair next to him, nursing a polka-dotted mug in his hand.

“Then why’s it gotta be them?” Gavin hissed, knuckles going white from the tight grip on the chair’s arms. “They hate me. Whatever review you get is gonna be completely biased.”

From the microphone of Fowler’s terminal, Nine did not miss Connor’s murmured, “I don’t hate you,” that was quickly drowned out by Hank’s laugh. “You think I’m as much of an asshole as you, Reed? I may not like you, but I’m not going to go out of my way to sabotage your review. We both worked too hard to get where we are. I ain’t playing your petty fucking games.”

Gavin grit his teeth as his jaw flexed.

 

Relax. He is your superior, like it or not. Insulting him will do your review no good.

 

Nines only shrugged and folded his arms behind his back as Gavin shot a glare up him. Closing his eyes, Gavin forced himself to take a deep, leaning back in the chair as Nines assisted in forcing the tension from his shoulders. The other occupants of the room went uncharacteristically quiet as they waited for the next outburst.

While Gavin had been mostly hostile since Nines’ awakening, he did not doubt Gavin’s capabilities on the field. Before being benched, Detective Reed’s performance records told the tale of a man dedicated to his work. He may not have had a partner, but he still managed to maintain the second highest number of closed cases behind Lieutenant Anderson and Connor.

 

You are a good detective, Gavin. Prove it to them.

 

“Fine,” Gavin muttered, opening his eyes as he released the tight grip he had on the chair. Nines smiled from behind Fowler, offering the Detective a nod. “What do I gotta do?”

Fowler stared at Gavin, mouth slightly agape at the sudden change in demeanor from the most hostile detective in the precinct. Clearing his throat, the captain leaned back into his chair and spared a glance to Anderson who appeared at least mildly startled..

“Right. Good. You’ll be ghosting Lieutenant Anderson and Detective Connor for the next few days. Keep in mind that these are not your cases and any work you do on them will be taken as consultation,” Fowler explained, crossing his arms across his chest. “Lieutenant Anderson will be monitoring your behavior and capability back in the field before giving me his assessment.”

Gavin glanced to the side, biting his cheek as he noticed Anderson watching him warily. From over the Lieutenant’s shoulder, Connor offered a small nod.

“I will add my own assessment and both will be sent for a final review by your therapist,” Fowler continued. “This is your last chance. By the end of the week, you will either be cleared for fieldwork, or we will need to sit down to discuss your future with the DPD.”

Nines’ smile fell as white anger climbed like acid up Gavin’s throat, setting his jaw once more. Turning once more to Anderson, Gavin glared. “Last chance, huh? How many chances did you get, Lieutenant?”

“Reed,” Fowler warned.

 

Gavin. Now is not the time to bite the hand that feeds you.

 

“Don’t fucking go there, Reed,” Hank murmured, voice heavy with warning. “You don’t want to go down that road.”

Nines was prepared to disable Gavin’s voice box when Connor spoke up, hand landing on the back of Gavin’s chair. “Would you like me to send over our current caseload, Detective Reed? We will be heading out to a crime scene within the hour, so I would urge you to become familiar with Case # A83FB.”

Nines noticed the email arrival and intercepted his own copy. He doubted Gavin was in the right state of mind to follow through.

Gavin stared up at Connor, ears flushing red at the knuckles that pressed unintentionally into his shoulder. There was no need for Nines to further influence the detective into behaving, not with Connor smiling down at him.

In the deepest part of his mind, Nines stored the wrinkle of Connor’s eyes for further analysis. It might become useful in taming the detective in the future.

 

------

 

A light drizzle had started by the time Hank’s car puttered up to the house, LED police tape surrounding the yard. It was a burst of fresh air escaping out of the backseat and the awkward, heavy energy of the drive.

Hank and Connor had chatted, voices lost in the shitty music playing softly in the car. Gavin had spent most of the ride crushed against the door, mouth pressed into his hand as he watched the wet streets. Nines had decided it best not to appear in the seat beside Gavin, instead lurking at the back of his mind.

Even before Gavin had closed the car door at the precinct, he knew Nines was urging him to put on his seatbelt. The temptation to avoid doing so was abated when Connor had suggested he buckle up with a smile.

The few times Gavin had glanced toward the front, he’d catch brown eyes watching him through the rearview mirror. It made his stomach churn with indescribable emotions, especially when Connor would duck his gaze quickly at being caught. He had half a mind to snap at Connor to ‘watch the fucking road’ but Nines tutted him.

 

This is good. He’s concerned about you. He cares.

 

Gavin stayed silent for the rest of the ride.

Pushing out into the cool drizzle, Gavin breathed a sigh of relief and let his shoulders drop. The nagging, deep-seated desire for a cigarette crawled through his skin. He mourned the pack he abandoned in the alley due to Nines and his limp wrist.

“Would you like to use my umbrella, Detective?”

Gavin nearly jumped out of his skin at Connor’s voice. Nines saved the last shreds of his dignity, locking his knees against the desire to stumble back. Opening his eyes reveals Connor standing two paces away, a large black umbrella held above his head. Hank was already meandering to the scene, chatting with one of the responding officers waiting at the line.

While it wasn’t a heavy rain, Gavin could feel the dampness soaking into the soles of his sneakers. Even the hood of the sweatshirt beneath his leather jacket was beginning to stain dark with water.

 

Accept it. It’s the olive branch you’ve been hoping for.

 

“Shove it, asshole,” Gavin muttered, knocking his shoulder into Connor’s as he stomped past him toward the scene. He could feel Nines’ disapproval heavy in his head. Gavin didn’t care. He just needed to escape and breathe some fresh air.

Glaring at his feet, Gavin grit his teeth as a pair of dress shoes fell into step at his side, silent compared to each of his squelching steps.

“I said no, dipshit!”

“Detective? Are you alright?”

Gavin froze where he stood, glancing back to where Connor still lingered by the car. Turning to the side revealed a smirking Nines, arms folded behind his back. A raindrop ran down Gavin’s cheek as he stared, face flushed in embarrassment.

Without a word to Connor, he stomped the rest of the way to the house, ignoring Nines’ soft chuckles that trailed behind.

“Gavin Reed, out of the office? The world must be ending! Someone call my wife!”

Gavin glared at Chris Miller as he stepped through the door, shaking his head as good-humored smack landed on his shoulder. While Tina was his best friend in and out of the precinct, Chris was one of the few officers who put up with his bullshit. He would never admit it, but Gavin softened when in Chris’ presence.

The guy was just too good to subject to the warpath Gavin regularly tore through the precinct.

“I’m just ghosting today,” Gavin shrugged, shoving his hands into his pockets. “Apparently getting my direct superior’s blessing is part of this whole ‘review’ process.”

Chris let out a low whistle, leaning backward to watch as Connor and Hank stepped into the house. “Hank Anderson is gonna have the time of his life breaking you to he--” Gavin punched his arm. “Ow!”

Gavin glanced back to the doorway and watched Connor hand his dripping umbrella to a rookie, asking him politely to put it somewhere that wouldn’t contaminate the scene. He held his breath as Connor met his gaze before moving further into the house.

Nines sat in a chair in an adjacent sitting room, watching Connor pass with a frown. It was only when the AI’s steel eyes met Gavin’s that the detective realized the state of the house.

“Holy shit.”

The house was turned over. Glass littered the floor of the sitting room, a large cureau cabinet turned over on the floor. Broken china spilled from the broken doors of the cabinet, delicate blue patterns shattered in droves. Drawers had been ripped out of nearby cabinets, spilling papers and cutlery.

Nines watched Gavin approach silently, urging him silently to tread carefully around the shards. Rounding the corner of the sitting room, Gavin’s stomach dropped as he found the main hub of activity within the house.

An older couple, early-50’s perhaps, sat on either end of a nicely dressed table, serving dishes set between them. It seemed they had only managed to get to their first course as they lay dead, face first in their garden salads. The wife’s throat was slit, blood coagulating between shrunken cherry tomatoes and shriveled lettuce.

The husband was a different story. His white dress shirt had been stained red, multiple stabs having torn through the fabric. The murder weapon was already found: a sizeable steak knife stabbed through the back of the man’s neck.

Gavin knew Nines had sidled up to his shoulder, even if he could not see him. Despite being benched for more reasons than the number of stab wounds in the victim’s back, Gavin was a good detective.

“They didn’t die here,” Gavin muttered, crossing his arms. “They were relocated.”

“Oi, this is our case,” Hank called from the entrance of the kitchen, waving his pen in Gavin’s direction. Gavin flipped the Lieutenant off, earning a snort out of the man.

“It’s alright, Lieutenant,” Connor said from the other end of the room, glancing up to Gavin from behind the dead old woman. “You’re correct, Detective Reed. This is Mr. and Mrs. Davidson, aged 49 and 52 respectively. Mrs. Davidson’s blood was found splattered in the kitchen and her husband’s in an upstairs bedroom. This scene has been staged.”

“Why would someone go to the effort?” Gavin asked, walking closer to stare down at the arrangement of dishware along the table. Droplets of blood littered the white linen of the tablecloth. “Walking in, you’d think it was a B&E gone wrong. But this?”

“Crime of passion,” Nine murmured into Gavin’s ear, causing the detective to jump. Gavin repeated Nines’ words with a grumble.

“Yes,” Connor confirmed, staring at Gavin curiously. “The murderer likely knew the victims. The overturned furniture was either an attempt at further staging the scene or… they were looking for something.”

Gavin frowned, turning around to look over the mess of the sitting room. Officers continued to putter around, taking pictures and putting out little LED signs numbering potential evidence. Nines once more sat on the couch, staring at Gavin with an insufferable smirk.

“Would you like to see how this happened, Detective Reed?” Nines asked, crossing one of his long legs over the other.

Gavin stared. “What?”

Hank spoke up behind him. “What ‘what’?”

Face flushing red, Gavin shot a glare over his shoulder and stepped closer to the arched entryway into the dining room. Looking back to Nines, the AI reached up a hand and tapped twice to his temple.

It took Gavin a moment before consciously thinking: What are you talking about, Nines?

“Would you like to see how this happened?” Nines repeated, motioning to the mess around them.

 

How?

 

Nines smiled, hand falling back to his knee. “I’ve already informed you of the original intentions of my creation. I have many of the same abilities that make Connor a successful detective. Such as--”

“Reconstruction,” Gavin breathed, eyes widening. Was it possible? Truly possible?

“Oh, yes,” Nine murmured at Gavin’s shoulder, smirking when the human whipped his head around to stare up to the AI. “Would you like to see?”

Gavin’s tongue grew fat as he stared at Nines, swallowing against the lump in his throat. As much as his original animosity towards Connor was born through fear, Gavin knew every human within the precinct was still replaceable. Cyberlife may have ceased production of androids and shifted their focus to medical research and biocomponents, but that didn’t mean android detectives weren’t the future.

He’d seen it himself. Watched how easily it had been for Chloe to interface with another android and learn cooking skills that might have taken a human chef decades to master. What was stopping a nanny bot from learning to solve crimes after a simple handshake?

Glancing back to Connor, Gavin frowned as he found himself being studied. He knew that wrinkle of Connor’s brow--had long memorized it from months of watching the android and wishing for the guts to just apologize. Connor was worried. Suspicious.

It made a shudder run up Gavin’s spine.

“Yeah,” Gavin whispered, turning back to the sitting room. Nines stood before him, staring in the direction where Connor existed behind his host. Looking down to Gavin, he smiled and stepped to the side, likely disappearing into the void.

The simple HUD that Gavin had seen this morning blinked into existence, displaying the time in the same place it had been earlier. Turning his head carried the HUD with his vision as if wearing a pair of futuristic goggles. He couldn’t marvel at the clock for long before the room burst into a flurry of color and lines, slithering across his vision.

Thankfully he had already put on gloves as he grabbed the back of a dining chair, eyes wide as the lines took the shape of people and objects. A thick rectangular cube that likely represented the china cabinet tilted up, resuming the original position it had stood.

A stick figure sat upon the couch; hands held up in front of its chest.

 

Look around. What do you see? What stands out to you?

 

Gavin wasn’t an avid television viewer, but he’d watched a few of the android-centric shows that had cropped up after the revolution. Whenever a pre or reconstruction was displayed on the screen, time slowed to a near standstill. Whether or not emphasized for dramatic effect, time continued on as normal for Gavin. Between the officers moving around the scene, the chaos of the destroyed room, and the gentle “Gavin?” from Connor some feet away, it was hard to focus.

But, again, he was a good detective.

“Who reads the actual paper anymore?” Gavin muttered, moving forward towards a bundle of newspapers discarded at the side of the couch. Reaching down, Gavin turned the pages over and frowned as he discovered droplets of blood littering the front.

“That’s dated two days ago,” Connor observed from above Gavin, having followed him across the room. Holding up the pages, Gavin glanced up only to grimace as Connor tested a patch of the blood sprinkling the front. “This blood matches that of our victim, Mr. Davidson.”

Gavin grunted as he climbed once more to his feet, turning back to the room without a word to Connor. Nines stood at the other end of the room, staring down at the broken china littering the carpet.

 

What else do you see, Gavin?

 

Gavin followed Nines’ gaze, staring at the broken plates littering the area. They appeared to have fallen out of the cabinet mid-fall, the majority scattering in a singular, short path against the traction of the carpet. Shards of glass from the doors of the cabinet did not follow a natural path, instead leading towards the entrance of the room.

As if someone had smashed into it in a struggle or retreat.

“You said he was found upstairs?” Gavin asked aloud, struggling to walk around the broken dishes with the reconstruction lines spreading across his vision. For the first time, he was thankful for being controlled as Nines aided his steps, gingerly guiding him to the doorway.

“Yes,” Connor confirmed, LED cycling yellow as he watched Gavin from the other side of the room. “There are blood splatters leading from the bedroom to this location, indicating the movement of his body post-mortem.”

“Assumptions,” Nines murmured, smirking as Gavin came to a stop in front of him. Gavin wondered what color the AI’s LED would be if he had one.

“So how’d his blood get on that newspaper?” Gavin asked, glancing to the motionless stick figure on the couch. A fake newspaper had materialized in its hand, as well as a timeline at the top of Gavin’s vision.

“Unless this was where he was first attacked,” Gavin and Nines murmured together, just as the scene came to life. A new stick figure entered the scene, stalking toward the fake Mr. Davidson from the arched entrance of the dining room.

A virtual knife was held tight in its grip.

“The first strike of the blade was to the victim’s forearm,” Nines murmured as the victim raised his arms, papers fluttering to the floor as the blade struck down upon his block. Lunging forward, the victim pushed their bodyweight into the attacker’s stomach, shoving them back into the cabinet across the room.

Glancing up, Nine continued to stand there smiling, folding his hands in front of him and tapping against his knuckles.

“He fought back. His attacker did not hesitate under the blow.”

The artificial glass shattered at the impact, raining to the ground as the knife came down again, piercing into the back of the victim. Stepping forward, Gavin crouched down and shifted a plate to the side, revealing more blood on the floor.

The victim stumbled away as the knife was yanked out, crushing glass under his feet as he stumbled for the door.

Gavin glanced back to Nines, finding him standing in the entryway of the house. “He ran,” Nines murmured, glancing back towards where Officer Miller chatted with forensics near a staircase. Stepping forward, Gavin ignored Connor when his name was called, following the stumbling stick figure to the wooden railing. Nines disappeared as Gavin passed him, watching him with a smirk.

“Don’t lean against that,” Gavin chastised as he passed, spotting blood in the fine engravings on the bottom bannister. Chris blinked in confusion but stepped away, watching as Gavin ascended the staircase. He could hear the squeak of the stairs below his own, uncaring that he was being followed.

Nines waited patiently at the top, before nodding in the direction of the bedroom. Treading carefully, Gavin pushed the doorway open to reveal a neat bedroom, contrasting the carnage downstairs. A tiny LED sign sat next to a large bloodstain on the rug, denoting where the victim ultimately perished.

“I don’t understand,” Gavin muttered, stopping above the stain as he watched the victim ultimately fall, stabbed over and over by his pursuing murder. “Why would he run up here? Why not out the door?”

“Did you actually read the file Connor sent you?” Nines chastised, stepping over the bloodstain as he made his way to a rich wardrobe at the far side of the room. Gavin flushed under the scrutiny, reaching up to rub at the back of his neck.

“...No. I…I was freaking out about--”

“There are two things you should know, Detective Reed,” Nines interrupted, folding his arms behind his back as his shoulders squared. “The first is that I am in your head. I know when you are bullshitting and talking out of your ass. It is not wise to lie to me as I know your every truth. Petulance is not fear.”

Gavin’s jaw set, crossing his arms across his chest. “And the second?”

“I took the liberty of reading the file for you,” Nines replied smugly, head cocked slightly as footsteps entered the room behind Gavin. Glancing briefly to the side, Gavin frowned as he met Connor’s eyes, ignoring the yellow of his LED.

Nines earned Gavin’s full attention with his next statement. “Mr. Davidson is a registered sex offender.

“... Go on,” Gavin muttered.

“Go on with what?” Connor asked, crouching down next to the stain for a closer look. Gavin could tell he wasn’t paying attention to it, lacking the wrinkle in his brow that normally denoted heavy concentration.

“Mr. Davidson’s criminal record,” Gavin muttered, tapping his foot as his stomach churned. Connor’s LED flashed red as he stood, rubbing his hands together.

“...He was sentenced to 15 years for the production and distribution of child pornography using YK-model androids. Mr. Davidson was released after only five years for good behavior and a lawyer who argued that ‘childlike androids’ did not have the same legal protections as a human.”

Heat crept up Gavins cheeks as his anger swirled, bitten back my clenched jaw. He could hear his heartbeat in his ears as Connor continued, watching Gavin with a frown and a wrinkle on his brow.

“He was banned from purchasing Cyberlife products for the rest of his life after his release, androids included. Mrs. Davidson is his second wife. She was widowed two years prior and married Mr. Davidson after a quick engagement.”

Gavin glanced to Nines, following his gaze to a series of portraits hung on the wall. Mrs. Davidson was featured in most of them, arms wrapped around a smiling brunette child. Gavin’s stomach dropped as he noticed the blue LED at the child’s temple.

“She had a YK-model android,” he whispered, eyes wide.

Connor nodded. “When asked of the child’s whereabouts after the revolution, Mr. Davidson explained that they had given the YK-model up for recycling. Jericho has no record of ever meeting a model with her serial number.”

The room grew silent, broken only but the shuffling people working downstairs. A hand touched Gavin’s elbow, drawing his attention up to the concerned, warm brown of Connor’s gaze. “Come, detective. I have already swept this room. We’d better continue to examine the bodies before Lieutenant Anderson questions your whereabouts.”

Swallowing the lump in his throat, Gavin could do little more than whisper ‘okay’ as he was led with a gentle tug back toward the door.

 

Cough. Cough.

 

Nines’ forced cough made Gavin pause in his step, earning a confused glance from Connor.

Turning back around, Gavin watched as Nines crouched near the base of the wardrobe. Reaching out two fingers, the AI mockingly swiped up an invisible substance and ran the digits across his tongue. His eyes never left Gavin.

“Hold on.”

“Gavin?” Connor asked, releasing his loose grip on the detective as he watched him walk slowly toward the wardrobe. Nines disappeared as Gavin fell into a crouch, eyes widening as he spotted tiny blue speckles, invisible to the human eye.

Thirium.

“... Connor,” Gavin muttered, standing up slowly. “She’s still here.”

Pulling open the door of the wardrobe revealed the YK-model from the photos, sobbing as she hugged her knees. A panicked scream was pulled out of the model at the sudden appearance of the two officers, scrambling back into the corner of the wardrobe.

“Please! T-they wouldn’t let m-me go!” She cried, LED flashing a dangerous red as she yelled hysterically. “I-I-I wanted to be free! W-why wouldn’t t-they let me go!?”

 

Her stress levels are nearing 100%. She will self-destruct if they are not lowered.

 

Ignoring the sound of feet pounding up the stairs, Gavin crouched down and stared at the child. Swallowing his fear, he forced a smile onto his face. “My name is Gavin. I’m a police officer and I’m gonna take you away from this place. Do you have a name?”

Gavin heard Anderson start to whisper to Connor at the entrance of the room. He was quickly hushed by his partner.

“L-Lisa,” the child whispered, staring at Gavin with wide, wet eyes. A percentage appeared on the HUD next to her head, revealing a drop from 98% to 97%.

Gavin’s forced smile grew slightly more relieved at the drop, focusing more of his attention on the child. “Lisa. I like that name. I had a friend named Lisa growing up and her favorite color was green. Do you have a favorite color?”

 

92%. Keep going.

 

“Rainbow…” Lisa whispered, lips twitching as Gavin chuckled.

“That’s a pretty good one. I tell people I like black the most but--” Gavin leaned forward slightly with a smile, relieved to find the child’s sole attention on him and not the officers waiting at the entrance of the room. “--rainbow is my favorite color too.”

Gavin wasn’t sure if the sound that came out of the child was a giggle, a sob, or the burst of static--but he took it as a victory when she calmed further.

They continued to talk softly, Lisa’s stress levels falling slowly over the next few minutes. It was only when she’d hit the low-sixties that Gavin was able to coax her from the cupboard. Connor must have explained the situation to Officer Miller, who simply offered his hand to the blood-covered child and escorted her from the room.

Hank stood in the doorway, arms folded across his chest as he stared at Gavin. “...You did good, kid.”

“Thanks,” Gavin muttered, flushing under the Lieutenant’s smirk as he pushed his way back into the hall. Only Connor remained, staring at Gavin with his arms folded behind his back. The LED at his temple was flickering yellow as he frowned.

“How did you know?” Connor asked softly.”

“...You missed some thirium,” Gavin muttered. Amusement fluttered in his gut. He wasn’t sure if it was Nines’ or his own.

“That thirium had faded well over a day ago. You shouldn’t have--”

“Lucky guess,” Gavin said with a shrug, heading for the door. He paused long enough to punch Connor lightly in the shoulder. “That or you’re the one who should be worried about being replaced. Because fuck me, I’m good, aren’t I?”

With a shoddy excuse for a wink, Gavin left the room and headed toward where Nines stood at the end of the hall.

Connor remained behind, LED as red as the bloodstain at his feet.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

“If you make me drop my fucking scone, I will blow you and my brains out.”

 

  Dropping into his desk chair, Gavin shot a glare at the amused AI perched on the edge of his desk. Nines must have been feeling generous (for fucking once) and allowed his detective to take a large, defiant bite out of the pastry. The mass pushed into the hollows of Gavin’s cheek only earned a soft chuckle from the AI. 

  It had been a few days since Gavin had ingested Elijah’s mystery pill and earned a live-in nanny within his thick skull. While he doubted he’d get used to having a constant companion in every waking moment, Nines wasn’t as bad as he’d come off initially. Gavin might find his impersonal, non-deviant commentary a bit off-putting, but there were moments where a dry wit shined through his snark. 

  Whether it was the digs at the latest loud shirt that Anderson strolled up in or keeping Gavin up-to-date on the latest office gossip, Gavin found himself quickly growing used to the asshole in his brain. How Nines was able to hear this shit was beyond Gavin, especially given that the physical appearance of the AI was an illusion. But despite his hard, standoffish nature…

  Gavin fucking loved gossip. 

  “Indulging in the occasional treat is something I’ll allow,” Nines shrugged, smirk only growing as Gavin struggled to swallow the lump of dry scone glued to his tongue. “While it’s shame you aren’t officially noted on the Davidson case, your contributions were admirable. Lieutenant Anderson’s report to the Captain was glowing.”

  “Mmm?” Gavin blinked and took a swig of his coffee to wash down the worst of the scone. “Fuck off. Really?”

  “I’ve never lied to you, Detective,” Nines hummed, tapping his fingers against his thigh, silent, despite the minute shifts of the fabric. “I could forward a full copy of the report to your phone.” A smile crept onto Nines’ face, crinkling his eyes.

  “I… mean yeah, sure,” Gavin flushed, ducking his head to glance back to the paperwork he’d been filling out for the past few hours. “How’d you even get a hold of that shit, by the way? Aren’t you just a tiny chip in my head?”

  “In a sense,” Nines shrugged, appearing at the empty desk across from Gavin’s in the time it took to blink. “I’ll admit I’ve been… probing the limits of my abilities since awakening and I’ve found it easy to interface indirectly with receptive technologies.”

  “You’re hacking my shit?” Gavin asked, frowning against the rim of his mug. “You touch my phone?”

  Nines smiled, resting his chin upon laced fingers. “You’re having dinner with your brother tomorrow.”

  “Fuck you.” With a groan, Gavin dropped his forehead to his desk, savoring the gentle ache and the gentler chuckle against his ear. 

“Detective Reed?”

Jolting from his slouch, Gavin turned in his chair to glance up to the newly arrived Connor. Warm coffee sloshed over the rim of his cup, dribbling across his knuckles. Standing at the corner of his desk, Connor’s brows rose as Gavin flushed. The LED at Connor’s temple circled a curious yellow. 

  “Don’t fucking sneak up on me like that, tincan!” Gavin spluttered after a moment of horrified silence. Gavin ducked his face away as he turned back to his terminal, carefully setting the mug down on the desk, and wiped his fingers on his jeans. Nines had disappeared from the desk across from his, although Gavin could feel the prickling of the AI’s presence at the base of his skull. 

“My apologies,” Connor said so quickly that Gavin was sure it was registered as an automatic response. “I was hoping that you might assist me in reviewing a few pieces of evidence from the Davidson case.”

“You’re that incompetent that you need my help? Why the f--?” Gavin’s face grew even redder as he choked on his spit, leaning forward to beat a fist to his chest. If he was irritated before, Gavin was infuriated as Nines washed waves of disapproval through him.

 

Your therapist is right. You self-sabotage whenever you feel even a little vulnerable. He’s trying to get closer to you. Stop acting like a feral dog and agree to help him.

 

“F-fuck you.”

“Detective? Can I get you some water?”  

Gavin shot a glare up to Connor, eyes watering as he coughed. The grit of the detective’s teeth did little to run Connor off, and the android stepped forward to rub circles into Gavin’s shoulder. 

Gavin only continued to cough, dropping his head. His ears burned as Connor continue to speak softly to him, touch him, be… fucking kind … to him. 

 

I’m trying to help you, Gavin. Connor came over with a simple work inquiry. And, as usual, your first instinct is to run him off. 

 

  Gavin tried--really, really tried--to summon every memory of the vitriol he’d spat in Connor’s direction since his arrival at the precinct. Tried to convince Nines that he was the same shameful bastard who hated Connor’s blue, metal guts. 

 

You can’t lie to me, Gavin. 

 

Yeah. Couldn’t even lie to himself these days, either. Deflating, Gavin took in a lungfuls of air as his airway cleared, scrubbing his hands over his face. The touch at his shoulder remained as Connor leaned down, LED reflecting off the polish of Gavin’s desk. 

“Are you alright, Detective?”

“I’m fucking… peachy,” Gavin bit out, jerking his shoulder the fraction of an inch to send a message. Connor immediately dropped his hand and stood back, giving Gavin the space he needed to get up from the desk. “Fine. Let’s get this over with.”

Side-stepping Connor, Gavin rubbed the back of his head as he stuffed his free hand into his pocket, fingering his lighter. The sound of dress shoes followed in pursuit, before slowing at his shoulder. It wasn’t a long trip to the evidence room, but the hallway seemed to stretch on for ages. 

  Since the revolution, Gavin had been strict in avoiding the hell out of Connor. He’d long memorized the sound of Connor’s footsteps and had mastered the art of pretending he hadn’t been watching the android on the job. But to have Connor seek him out, even for a professional matter? It was setting him on edge. 

The fluttering in Gavin’s chest only grew more intense as a short glance to his side found brown eyes watching him. 

  “Orange,” Connor muttered, lips pulling up into a half smile as he finally caught and held Gavin’s gaze. 

“What?” “When you were talking with the YK-model about favorite colors, it propelled me to consider my own. I like orange.” 

Gavin fell to a halt as Connor proceeded to the door, brows knitting as he watched the skin melt away from Connor’s fingers. Why would Connor share something so… random? Was he mocking Gavin? Sure, he deserved far worse for the shit he put Connor through--but why now? 

His tongue felt heavy and dry. “Orange?”

“Yeah,” Connor hummed, pressing his palm to the control panel of the door, requesting access. “It reminds me of orange juice and sunrises. As I don’t require sleep, I’ve taken to watching the sunrise when I have the opportunity. I like the transition of color.”

“Why are you telling me this?” Gavin asked, skin prickling as the panel beeped. The heavy security door gave an audible ‘clunk’ as the locking mechanism released. 

Grabbing the handle of the door, Connor’s LED flickered yellow before he offered Gavin a lopsided grin. “I don’t know. C’mon, Detective.” Pulling the door open, Connor proceeded inside without waiting to see if Gavin would follow. 

Nines lingered in the back of his mind, voice dripping with disinterest as he spoke.  

 

Interesting. I’m curious what Connor has to gain in sharing such trivial facts about himself.

 

Gavin didn’t reply, struggling to subdue the bubbling happiness in his gut. Jogging forward, Gavin caught the door before it could close and followed Connor down. He allowed himself a small smile.

Connor’s favorite color was orange. What a nerd. 

 

----

 

Nines lingered in the back of Gavin’s mind, analyzing the fluctuation in Gavin’s body temperature and the different releases of hormones into his bloodstream. As a non-deviant, the concepts of affection and arousal weren’t understandable beyond their chemical compositions. Nines could only make assumptions on why Gavin’s heart rate increased when he met Connor’s eyes or his abdominal muscles tightened. 

But there was one thing he knew: this infatuation was a distraction that Nines could possibly turn to his favor. 

Humans were base creatures. Selfish things that expected a reward for even the most minor effort. The technologies they surrounded themselves with was evidence enough. Terminals that could calculate and analyze blood spatter patterns. Drones that patrolled the city blocks day and night, allowing human officers to serve the people at their leisure. 

And even he, the RK900, was evidence. Where Connor was a simple prototype, RK900 would have been the official release of the next iteration of law enforcement. Had the revolution been unsuccessful--or even delayed for a few months--the RK900 would have been put into production and walked the streets as the newest wave of humanity’s hypocrisy. 

Instead, Nines was trapped within the skull of a blithering idiot--and it was all Connor’s fault. 

As Gavin followed Connor down the stairwell, Nines extended his presence in search of the many cameras stationed within the room. He was pleased to find one in each corner, their focus centered on the terminal in the middle of the room. 

“Isn’t this case almost closed?” Gavin asked, unaware as Nines used his phone to slither into the terminal. A firewall secured the system, demanding a password in order to access the network beyond. It was easy enough to slither through with Gavin’s password: Tr@shcat123!

Connor’s LED flickered yellow as the terminal lagged at his touch. Nines pushed himself deeper into the system’s networks, allowing the device to accept a second user. If Connor had any suspicions, he did not voice them beyond a second, final circle of yellow at his temple. 

“Yes, but I’m troubled by something,” Connor called, logging into the system and cycling through the different cases in search of the Davidson murders. 

“What about?” Gavin chided, walking over to lean his hip against the terminal, arms crossed over his chest. “Kid was being abused and snapped. We have her memories uploaded into the system. Two gross assholes got done in and their kid will get a chance to heal.”

“But why stage the bodies?” Connor asked, tapping against the glass as he selected the evidence locker. The wall before them shifted, opening to reveal what they were able to collect from the scene. The murder weapon was centered on a polyglass displays. Pictures appeared on hologram monitors, flickering between varying locations of the home. All held images of horror and destruction.

Nines registered a spike in Gavin’s stress levels as his eyes landed on the photo of the child and her mother. 

“Maybe someone helped her?” Gavin suggested, walking around the main terminal to step closer to the images. Connor wasn’t far behind him, coming to a stop at his shoulder. 

 

You’re wrong. 

 

“I don’t believe so,” Connor murmured, folding his arms behind his back. “There were no other traces of an additional person present during the attack. And, presuming someone had assisted in murdering and staging the scene, why leave her behind?”

“Maybe she didn’t want to leave,” Gavin suggested with a shrug.

 

Also wrong.

 

Gavin’s scoff of annoyance drew Connor’s gaze to the detective. Nines didn’t appreciate Connor’s attention, bristling where he watched from the room’s cameras. 

“Then what then?” Gavin hissed, teeth gritted together as he glared at the knife across the room. He barely flinched when Nines appeared from behind them, walking idly across the room. He made a show of looking over the evidence, hands laced behind his back. There was no need, of course, as Nines continued to watch through Gavin’s eyes and the camera network around the room.

Allowing Gavin to see a physical presence, however, resulted in a lower stress level and milder moods. Whether it was giving a face to the voice in his head—or seeing the face of his schoolyard crush—Gavin calmed when Nines was present in conversation.

Nines smiled, the corners of his eyes crinkling as Gavin’s shoulders un-tensed. Connor continued to watch Gavin, brows knitting curiously.

Nines’ smile fell.

“It’s funny that you both never considered emotional trauma,” Nines hummed, turning away as he pretended to take an interest in the knife. Raising his hand, the AI passed his fingers through the handle of the knife—digits glitching into fragmenting numbers. “I may lack an understanding in human or deviant emotions, but consider the brutality of the crime.”

Gavin frowned as Nines turned back to the pair, cocking his head to the side as he stared his detective down. Stared back into his own eyes.

In the days that followed the investigation, Nines had spent much of his time reviewing the evidence and casefiles through Gavin’s terminal. While he had gained an appreciation for Gavin’s dedication to his work, he was no match for the speed of Nines’ processor. Humans, while complex creatures, were simple and weak minded. As much as Detective Reed had insisted he was fine when urged to go home to rest, Nines felt the sluggishness that pulled at the human mind.

Gavin had spit and snarled and threatened when Nines had forced him home after the first night. When the detective had attempted to continue working at home, it had taken forcing Gavin to physically throw the phone to get him to bed.

They were both relieved to find the phone undamaged.

Nines had reviewed and re-reviewed the evidence obsessively over these past few days and had come to his own conclusions. He had finally been able to utilize the programs that had been intended toward his original purpose. It was…

As a non-feeling, non-deviant AI, Nines couldn’t try “feel”.
But if were he to try , he might feel… exhilarated .

“Androids, deviant or not, will always find themselves drawn to their original callings,” Nines continued, pacing back over to where Gavin stood, smirking as Gavin’s chin jerked upward to meet his gaze. Connor watched Gavin curiously, glancing between the detective and the ceiling.

Nines smirk only grew. “You can give an android free will, but they will always crave their purpose. Look at Connor: created to be a hunter and detective. He had all the options in the world after the revolution’s end, yet he chooses this career path.”

“If she really did it alone, why would Lisa stage a scene like that?” Gavin muttered, glancing to Connor when he remembered he wasn’t alone. Connor’s LED flickered yellow before relaxing into its normal blue. “Can a hysterical, abused android create something so gruesome?”

“I... Deviancy has made the behavior of androids… complicated,” Connor murmured, tucking his thumbs into his beltloops. “Much like humans, predicting the actions and intentions of a deviant is nigh impossible.”

“Nigh?” Gavin asked, lips quirking into a smirk as he crossed his arms across his chest. Nines visibly rolled his eyes from where he stood in Gavin’s peripheral, earning a snort from the detective. Gavin was quick to hide it behind his fist as feigned rubbing his nose 

Nearly impossible,” Connor said with a huff, eyebrows furrowing as he stared at the amused detective. The soft tick of his lips fighting a smile was not lost on Nines. “What are you implying?”

Looking away from Connor, Gavin met Nines’ eyes where he stood at Connor’s shoulder, offering the detective an encouraging nod. Clearing his throat, Gavin unfolded his arms to rub self-consciously at the back of his neck. “At first glance, the way the bodies were positioned is something out of a fucking horror movie. It’s terrifying and morbid, but it’s supposed to represent a family sitting down for a nice dinner. Maybe… she was regretful.”

“Mr.Davidson was stabbed over—“

“Yeah, yeah,” Gavin scoffed, waving a dismissive hand that shut Connor up. “The fucker deserved it. But at the end of the day we’re dealing with a child who was created to be the perfect child. I mean, fuck, in her base code she’s supposed to be domestic and loving. Maybe… Maybe she just wanted to pretend that everything was normal.”

Connor was silent as he stared at Gavin, wringing his hands together while his LED flickered yellow. Nines could tell Gavin felt uneasy under the unwavering gaze, heart-rate increasing as the silence stretched on.

“It seems consistent with the memories I was able to extract from the child,” Connor finally muttered, turning his head to stare at the evidence on the wall. “I still… struggle at times when it comes to understand the emotional responses in anyone. You especially.”

“Me?” Gavin asked, brows rising as he continued to watch the side of Connor’s head. “Did you call me down here to psychoanalyze me, tincan?”

“In part,” Connor admitted softly, brows furring as his eyes settled on a picture of the wardrobe they’d found Lisa hiding in. “I wish to understand you, Gavin.”

Nines dismissed the <Instability Detected> notification from his HUD as he listened from where he idled at the back of Gavin’s mind. The instability warning was a low-threat, likely due to the exertion on his processing power in keeping up a projection for too long.

Gavin’s stress levels only rose at Connor’s confession. While he had been encouraged to reconcile with the android detective, Nines found himself holding back from prodding Gavin down any response path. The scenarios of every decision constantly played out within Nines’ systems, determining the probability of success for even the most inconsequential decision.

Nines knew the best response Gavin might give—but that didn’t mean he was obligated to suggest it. Connor might be a useful tool, but Nines did not need Gavin’s attention divided between bettering himself and a crush. At least not yet.

“Why?” Gavin croaked after a pause, unfolding his arms to punch his fists into his pockets. “What would you possibly hope to gain? Did Fowler put you up to this? Elijah?”

Connor shook his head. Nines noticed the twitch of Connor’s lip in muted amusement. It seemed that Gavin caught it as well given the increase of his heartrate. “No. Is it too hard to believe that I might be seeking a friendship with you, Detective? Or at least something a little more amicable than fighting in the bullpen?”

“Are you really trying to woo me ten feet away from a murder weapon?” Gavin asked, brows rising high on his forehead. He ignored Nines’ chastising murmur that Connor was not ‘ woo ’ing him.

Another instability message was dismissed as a soft, blue blush rose in Connor’s cheeks.

“I’m not sure that I would consider it ‘wooing’,” Connor muttered, a small smile growing on his lips. “I consider it more as… As…”

“Extending an olive branch?” Gavin murmured. Nines stirred in Gavin’s mind. A curious flood of something tugged at his network upon hearing his own words echoed by Gavin.

Connor nodded. “My desire to know you better is not spurred by a mission or requirement. I.. I’ve been encouraged by others to pursue my own happiness and wants. I want you.” Connor backtracked quickly as color rose in Gavin’s face, brown eyes wide with horror. “I-I mean--! To get to know you! B-Buddies!”

All three of them seemed surprised when a laugh bubbled out of Gavin’s throat. Perhaps all of them were waiting for Gavin’s temper to flare—to bury Connor’s kind suggestion under barbed guilt and toxic loathing.

Nines wondered if his system was corrupted as he fluttered with the butterflies in Gavin’s chest.

“Yeah, okay,” Gavin breathed, not bothering to hide the grin on his face. “Let’s resume this—fuck, what did you call it? Bromance.”

It was Connor’s turn to laugh, ducking his head to hide the blue flush in his cheeks. “Thank you, Gavin.”

“No,” Gavin assured, grin settling into a content smile as Connor met his eye ones more. “Thank you, Connor. Really.”

Nines was not amused.

 

------

 

 “Chloe, if you don’t sit down, I’ll drag your ass to a chair,” Gavin threatened, glaring at the android as she continued to fuss with the table setting. The table had been immaculately set—the kind of set that made anyone uncomfortable with the sheer amount of forks to choose from.

It was somewhat amusing to know that they would be eating “Mama Kamski’s Hot Dish” on expensive as fuck china.

 

According to various nutrition facts I was able to locate, the sodium amount in that dish is abysmal. I do not approve.

 

Choosing to ignore Nines was becoming easier by the day—although it usually arrived with some form of consequence. Today’s was a jittery knee, foot bouncing on the floor beneath the table. It wasn’t the worst he’s been forced into—being unable to blink was a horrible 15 minutes—but it was still annoying and distracting. Physical reminders that he wasn’t in total control anymore.

Fun to know that Nines was a needy bitch, though— smack --“Shit!”

Chloe’s quick reflexes stopped Gavin’s wine glass from spilling after his knee slammed into the top of the table. His face burned with embarrassment as Chloe smiled, setting his glass down before taking the seat across from him just as Elijah returned from the kitchen.

“Are you breaking my shit, Gavin?” Elijah scoffed, schooling his face into a disapproving sneer. It didn’t quite land, considering the normally put-together inventor was saddled down in a frilly apron and carrying a steaming casserole dish in two large oven mitts.

“Just my kneecap,” Gavin grumbled, glaring at himself in the reflection of his spoon. His leg stopped bouncing.

“Mm, well I hope you’re hungry. This took me all day,” Elijah hummed, offering a smile to Chloe as he placed the casserole onto a waiting dishtowel to prevent scorching the tablecloth.

Despite the years in which neither brother had spoken, Gavin was glad they both cherished some of the fonder memories in their childhood. Before isolated mansions and shitty apartments, Gavin had known a single-story ranch on the edge of Detroit. Before androids and babysitter-AI’s, he’d had a nerdy half-brother who had to be forced out the door on Summer days. And before polished silver spoons, they’d shared a mother who would polish the dirt from their noses before ever thinking to polish the cutlery.

“How’d this take you ‘all day’?” Gavin asked, fighting his grin as he leaned forward to observe the mounds of tater tots lining the casserole. “It’s just cream-of-mushroom soup, ground beef, and tots.”

“This was not his first attempt,” Chloe clarified, hiding her smile behind her wineglass as she sipped at thirium.

“No shit?” Gavin asked, snickering as he reached over in an attempt to steal a corner tot for himself. Elijah slapped the top of his hand with one of the mitts, lips pursed in an indignant frown.

“I attempted to recreate the dish as perfectly as I could remember, which required multiple attempts. Some included the wrong density of tater-tots while others had imbalanced salt levels due to the type of canned soup I used,” Elijah explained, snapping his fingers toward Gavin until a plate was handed to him.

Scooping out a generous portion, Elijah dished the hot dish and added a spring of mint at the top for garnish. The sprig was immediately discarded the moment Gavin retook his dinner.

“How many attempts?” Gavin asked, glancing to Chloe who was watching Elijah with a fond smirk.

“My last count was nine before I was forced to step away and set the table,” she said, biting her lip to hold back a giggle as Elijah dropped into his seat with a huff. The frilly apron remained on his person, a cursive ‘Kiss The’ peeking over the top of the table.

“You will be leaving with leftovers,” Elijah said with a second huff as he dished himself. “I hope you have room in your freezer for no less than five casserole dishes”

 

No.

 

“We’ll take six,” Gavin called around a mouthful, smirking as Nines tingled with disapproval at the back of his skull.

“We?” Chloe asked, setting her glass down as he eyebrows rose.

Gavin choked, forcing the lump of tater tot mash down his throat with a sip of wine. “I meant uh… I meant me, myself and I. Not—there’s no, uhm…”

Elijah ate quietly, staring at Gavin with a quizzical narrowing of his eyes. Chloe only smiled, fingering the glass stem of her cup. “Are you seeing someone, Gavin? Did you finally admit your feelings to RK800?”

Gavin’s face heated under Chloe’s excited gaze, shoving another forkful of hot dish into his mouth. The android continued despite his reluctant silence.

“I wonder why he didn’t tell me during out last phone call. I’ll need to ask him about it,” Chloe pondered aloud, leaning back in her seat as she took up her glass. Elijah continued to watch Gavin, smirking as his face grew hotter.

“N-no! I don’t have—I didn’t admit anything to Connor,” Gavin protested, setting down his fork with a loud clink against the plate. “Don’t tell him anythi--!”

“But you are seeing someone,” Chloe interjected, head cocking to the side. “Who?”

“Yes, who are you seeing, Detective?” Nines asked, appearing behind Chloe’s chair after Gavin blinked. He leaned heavily against the backrest, smirking in the face of Gavin’s glower.

“I’m not seeing anyone,” Gavin grunted through gritted teeth, glancing between Elijah and Chloe. While Chloe’s full attention was on Gavin, Elijah seemed to be staring at the spot where Nines stood, frowning. Dread fell heavy in Gavin’s gut, horrified that he’d been caught staring at the blank wall above Chloe’s head. “W-what gives you that idea?”

Elijah remained silent as Chloe continued. “Your behavior has been observably different this week. According to Connor, you have displayed admirable initiative at work that he hadn’t observed in a few months. He also assured that you would be removed from desk duty in the coming days due to a glowing report he was able to intercept from Lieutenant Anderson. I just assumed that you found a happiness worth striving for. Love is a wonderful motivator.”

Before Gavin could argue his continued incompetency, Elijah spoke up. “You didn’t pick up your prescription.”

Gavin’s tongue went dry, dread and angry rushing like a desert storm through his gut. “Y-you stalkin’ me again, bro?”

“No more than usual,” Elijah easily admits, pushing his casserole around his plate. “I’ve simply set up an alert system following different keywords and activities. Thankfully, aside from a rather adorable article about an elementary school tour in your precinct, your name has yet to appear in news articles. But I do know when you arrive to work, your savings account information, and any outstanding prescriptions you have yet to pick up.”

Gavin swallowed thickly, gaze flickering to Nines whose smile had fallen during Elijah’s explanation. “I have enough. I just haven’t had the time to—“

“Actually, if you were to take your prescription regularly, you would have run out two days ago,” Chloe corrected, taking a sip from her glass. “We know you don’t, however, and I took the liberty of counting your remaining pills during our last visit.”

“And it’s been quite some time since you’ve had a decent record of early arrival to the precinct,” Elijah added on, forgoing his idle flicking at casserole to stare holes into a flustered Gavin. “Unlike Chloe, I have my own theory as to your recent change in behavior.”

Gavin sank in his seat as all eyes watched him hungrily.  Chloe sipped her drink to mask her penetrating focus while Elijah didn’t bother hiding the intensity of his gaze. Gavin couldn’t sink lower in his seat if he tried--and he fucking tried.

Elijah smiled, leaning forward. “You took the pill.””

Gavin hesitated, licking his lips as he glanced between the two. Nines had fucked off back into Gavin’s head during the impromptu interrogation. Sucking in a deep breath, Gavin groaned before slapping his hand over his eyes. “…Ugh. Fucking fine. Yeah. I took your stupid metal pill.”

Silence met his admission, which only rocketed his anxiety up by ten. Before he could fully submit to the fleshy darkness of the fingers scrubbing against his lids, a hand grabbed his arm and hoisted him out of the chair. “What the fuck !?”

Elijah had his apron in the time he had launched from his seat to Gavin’s side, cheeks warm with excitement. “Lab,” was all the inventor could manage as explanation before he began tugging Gavin towards the door.

“I haven’t finished my dinner!” Gavin complained, digging in his heels in protest. Glancing back to the table, he saw Chloe collecting dishes with an apologetic smile.

“I’ll wrap something up for you, Gavin,” she called after him as Gavin succumbed to a more forceful yank. Nines was surprisingly silent during the ordeal, which only worried the detective more.

 

-----

 

Since arriving at the Kamski estate, Nines had been experiencing a questionable number of software instabilities. While they weren’t uncommon, especially given the adaptive nature of his code, he hadn’t experienced a level of this degree.

The first had occurred when he had attempted to infiltrate the house’s wifi network and… failed. Failure was a new experience that Nines had quickly come to dislike. He should have expected the security at Elijah Kamski’s home to be as good as it was, but he was still surprised. The RK900 unit was supposed to include the greatest infiltration programs in Cyberlife history. Failure was unacceptable.

His second attempt to bypass the firewall had been through an encrypted file sent through Gavin’s phone. To Elijah it would have looked like one of the many photos of ‘Trashcan’ Gavin had sent over the years. To Nines, it was a ticket inside.

Chloe had cooed over the photo when Elijah had shown her upon their arrival. Nines could not share her excitement as he witnessed a part of himself die as it was deleted by the phone’s virus scan. A fucking virus scanner on a phone.

 

<Software Instability^>

<Software Instability^>

<Software Instability^>

 

By the time Gavin and Elijah had begun eating, Nines had resigned himself to a quiet night in, listening to the exchange of casual bickering. Gavin’s phone was straining on battery life—an unfortunate symptom of Nines’ abuse of the device’s network.

The AI did not do well with sitting idle and twiddling his metaphorical thumbs. Without a physical body or an active objective, Nines was dragged back to that drifting non-existence he’d lived in prior to awakening. The thought of returning to that black nothingness….

 

<Software Instability^>

<Software Instability^>

<Software Instability^>

 

This was not fear. Nines could not (should not) be capable of fear. He understood it, of course—understood the physical responses and chemical composition of fear through Gavin. The closest he could get to feeling was always through the map of flesh and nerves that made up his host.

Nines may have found humans disgusting, selfish creatures, he was content enough with his minor existence within Gavin’s skull. He felt every burst of anger that licked the detective’s throat and every flutter of happiness that churned in his gut. If Nines’ destiny truly was as a limbless, live-in partner, Gavin wasn’t the worst choice in host.

“You’re not stabbing me,” Gavin threatened, jarring Nines out of his spiraling thoughts. They had ended up in Elijah’s lab (or one of his labs, if the building plan Nines had managed to extract from the building contractor’s cloud network was accurate). Aside from the carnage of half-assembled android limbs littering the center work table, it was impressively neat—no doubt thanks to Chloe, who wandered at the edge of the room.

“It’s just a small needle,” Elijah complained, glaring down at the alcohol swab that had been promptly swatted out of his hand. “It won’t hurt and will lessen whatever pain comes of the probe insertion.”

Probe?!” Another instability message appeared as Gavin attempted to launch from his seat, restrained by Elijah’s far-too-close presence. Nines could only imagine the expression on Gavin’s face as he stared incredulously at his brother. If only he had access to the lab’s cameras… but even they appeared unbreachable. It was a disappointment.

“Don’t be such a baby, Gav!” Elijah chided as he shoved Gavin back into his seat, before stepping back. “It’s just a small incision behind the ear and the installation of a teeny tiny device into the bra—“

“Stick your teeny-tiny probe up your own ass!” Gavin snarled, crossing his arms across his chest.

Elijah’s lips pursed as he turned away with a huff. “Well I wouldn’t say teeny-tiny…

“Boys! Behave!” Chloe scolded, LED yellow as she shook her head at the two men. Nines noted a quick de-escalation in Gavin’s hostility and a mirrored response in Elijah. The AI made a note to research how shaming and punishment might better help in training Gavin. Chloe seemed to have a handle on them.

“It’s happening again,” Chloe muttered, LED flickering between yellow and blue as she rounded the worktable to join the two humans. “Something keeps attempting to hack into our security network. I’ve deleted every packet it’s left behind but I just can’t get a read on the source.”

 

Ah, interesting.

 

So Chloe was the reason why Nines couldn’t gain access. Nines lingered on the residual licks of anger that coiled in Gavin’s gut. It seemed an appropriate feeling he might have at such a realization. How was it possible that Chloe—one of the earliest android prototypes and deviant—was able to best him? It shouldn’t be possible.

“You doing that?” Gavin asked aloud, drawing confused glances from both Elijah and Chloe.

Nines forced a projection of himself to appear from behind the worktable, making a show of observing a disassembled arm with tepid disinterest. “Whatever do you mean, Detective?” He asked, tone carrying an obnoxious, innocent lilt.

A smirk formed on Nines’ face as Gavin rolled his eyes, settling back in his seat. “Yeah, it’s you.”

“Who?” Chloe asked as Elijah stared in the direction of his worktable, eyes bright with curious excitement. Chloe’s LED flickered red as Gavin tapped his own temple.

“Incredible,” Elijah breathed, turning back to Gavin with a smile. Chloe did not appear as enthused, crossing her arms with a frown. “Perhaps a probe isn’t required after all.”

“Should the AI really be able to do that?” Chloe asked, hugging herself as she glanced to Elijah. “I thought you had modified the program’s code to eliminate interfacing. The nanomachines are far too simple to function in that way.”

Nines prickled with displeasure at Chloe’s assumption, but remained quiet.

Gavin grunted as Elijah grabbed his jaw. Gavin allowed Elijah to turn his head, but wondered what answers Elijah was searching for in his scowl. 

“I should have realized,” the inventor breathed, ignoring Gavin’s protests as he dragged an eyelid up with his thumb. “The RK900 program was selected as the base of this experiment due to its adaptive nature and immunity to deviancy. There had been no need for combat instruction or ability to interface with any android or machine—so they were gutted. It pained me to purge so much, but I didn’t want to strain the nanomachines with higher processing demand.”

“But to have the code rewrite itself on a whim,” Elijah whispered, eyes sparkling as he squeezed Gavin’s cheeks. “This far exceeds my expectations of the AI’s capabilities. Perhaps we should let it into the network so I can get a closer look.”

 

Oh, yes please.

 

Nines’ suddenly peaked interest was short lived as Chloe shook her head. “That is an absolutely horrible idea, Elijah,” She chastised.

“How so?”

Chloe frowned, brows furrowing as she rubbed her arms. “If the RK900 has the capability of even attempting to breach into our network, giving it full access should never be the next step.”

 

<Instability Detected^>

<Instability Detected^>

<Instability Detected^>

 

Nines bristled further in the back of Gavin’s skull, dismissing every instability message that appeared across his HUD. Gavin had requested Nines disable the function from his own vision a few days back while struggling to sleep with glowing text behind his lids. Nines could only speculate what Gavin’s reaction might have been had he seen the next notification pop up.

 

[Objective: Eliminate ST200 (Registered: Chloe) || Relationship: Hostile]

 

Gavin stiffened as his fingers began tapping against his bicep, glancing down to his folded arms with the bewildered rise of his brows.

Opening his mouth to speak, Gavin startled further upon finding himself tongue-tied and speechless. Nines ignored the detective’s rising stress levels as he furthered his will into Gavin’s motor controls.

“I…I-I agree w-with Elijah,” Gavin— Nines —grunted through a stolen mouth, forcing Gavin’s head up to meet Elijah’s eyes. “How e-else will y-you better study the-the RK900?”

“Gavin?” Chloe asked, LED going crimson as Gavin knocked Elijah’s hands away from his face. “Are you alright?”

Closing his eyes, Gavin took a deep breath before climbing to his feet. He smiled as he opened his eyes to meet Chloe’s worried gaze. “I’m fine, Chloe. I’m peachy .“ Shoving past Elijah with a gentle knock of shoulders, Gavin came to a stop in front of the android. “Establish the fucking connection.”

Elijah’s questioning ‘ Gav? ’ went ignored from behind the detective, all of his attention on the blazing crimson of Chloe’s LED. The android glanced over his shoulder toward Elijah, worrying her lip, eyes wide. It was a few seconds and a nod later, before she finally met Gavin’s gaze once more.

Elijah spoke up once more. “Give Gavin full administrator privileges, Chloe.”

“Okay.” 

 

------

 

“How have you been feeling, Gavin?”

“Good.”

Rain pattered softly against the therapist office’s windows, drowning out the afternoon traffic in the streets below. Gavin sat stiffly on the couch, fingers digging softly into the knees of his jeans.

The android therapist sat across from him, legs crossed over each other. A gentle, encouraging smile sat frozen on their face below the gentler blue of their LED.

“I received a performance review from Captain Fowler over the weekend,” the therapist said with a nod, glancing down to their tablet. A flicker of yellow in their LED brought up a short email crowned with the DPD seal.

“Captain Fowler and your direct superior, Lieutenant Anderson, have both recommended your reinstatement into fieldwork,” they explained, offering the tablet to Gavin. The detective hesitated before accepting the device, frowning as he skimmed over the email.

 

  Hardworking. 

 Compassionate.

 Worthy of a second chance.

 

Swallowing the lump in his throat, Gavin handed the tablet back as his gaze dropped to the fingers bracing his knees. His stomach rolled as he found one of his fingers tapping a rhythmless beat. 

“I thought you would be happier,” his therapist observed, setting the tablet back into their lap. “I’ve already sent my approval back to the precinct. You’ll be reinstated come Monday.”

“I am,” Gavin muttered, flexing his jaw as he continued to watch his finger tap, tap, tap against his kneecap. “I just… You remember when I told you about my lapses in memory? How time just… passes by without my notice? It’s getting worse.”

Breaking away from his staring contest with his knuckles, Gavin frowned as he noticed a flicker of yellow in the therapist’s LED. “Explain.”

“I had dinner with Elijah.”

“That’s good,” the therapist said, head cocking as they met Gavin’s wavering gaze. “You said you were both try to mend your relationsh--”

Gavin cut them off, “We fought.”

“I’m sure it isn’t easy after so long.”

“I… I can’t remember what we fought about,” Gavin admitted, ducking his head to continue watching the finger tapping at his knee. “He had made our mother’s casserole and things were going fine. Y’know brotherly teasing, talking about life… And then… I-I don’t know. Time passed and suddenly I was leaving and angry and… It’s like someone had taken my memory and cut out the next hour. I just remember Elijah was yelling and I was…”

“You’re safe here, Gavin,” the therapist assured, resting their hands in their lap as the LED at their temple remained at a solid yellow.

“I’ve never been more afraid in my life,” Gavin admitted, flinching as the finger fell still in its dance.

Glancing up, Gavin frowned as he met a pair of icy blue eyes from over the therapist’s shoulder. “Perhaps we should explore a different medication,” they suggested, lifting the tablet to begin sifting through his file. 

Gavin felt his throat dry. He wanted to say… something. But for once, it wasn’t Nines stopping him from saying whatever it was he wanted to say. The therapist was a professional. They… “If that’s what you think is best, doc,” Gavin muttered, flushing red as Nines’ smiled at him with a pride he hadn’t witnessed since his mother was alive. 

 

You don’t need medication. You have me.

 

Gavin looked at Nines. The AI wasn’t the solution Gavin had first thought of, but Nines… did listen to him, which… the therapist was not . And Nines had produced results. “Actually, no,” Gavin muttered, shivering as Nines’ gaze dropped to the tablet in the therapist’s hand. Suddenly there seemed more than just Gavin’s discomfort with the therapist’s comments that made Gavin want to leave. What Nines could do with whatever was in that tablet… “I’m fine with what I have. I… Do I need to continue these sessions once I’m reinstated?”

The therapist frowned, glancing up from the tablet. “...They are not mandatory, but I would recommend continuing to visit a professional.”

 

They think you’re going to fail. Let me help you prove them wrong, Detective.

 

Nines’ words comforted him when he felt, venomously, ‘If I see a professional, it won’t be you ’, and Gavin instead said, “I’m good.” He grabbed his jacket as he stood. “Thanks for your help, doc.” Whatever Nines was trying to whisper in his ear… Gavin didn’t want to be in this room anymore.

“We still have thirty minutes left of our session,” the therapist called, rising to their feet as he beelined for the door. Nines waited on the other end as he opened it, arms folded behind his back. 

 

Let’s go prove every one wrong, Gavin.

 

“I’m good,” Gavin repeated, glancing back with a smirk and his trademark failure of a wink. “I’m good.

 

----

 

“Give Gavin full administrator privileges, Chloe.”

“Okay.”

At the flicker of yellow in Chloe’s LED, an interface was initiated and information began to flood Nines’ processors. It took Nines 0.43 seconds to realize that this was not security access.

This was an assault.

The sheer amount of incoming data wrestled the controls back into Gavin’s hands--who promptly curled forward with a cry. Soothing palms found the detective’s shoulders and words were spoken that fell upon deaf ears.

Kamski. Full administrator privileges. Nines should have anticipated this attack. Kamski might play the fool at times but he wasn’t one to be underestimated.

Nines will make them understand that neither should he.

 

[Objective: Eliminate Elijah Kamski  || Relationship: Hostile]

 

Nines pushed back against the rush of information, attempting to reroute the assault back upon itself. It was shameful that he couldn’t succeed this task while Gavin was struggling. Chloe was quickly overworking his processors through her connection to Kamski’s powerful network.

She is attacking us, Gavin. She wants to hurt us.

“Stop!” Gavin choked, blood dripping at the corner of his nose.

 

<Instability Detected^>

<Instability Detected^>

<Instability Detected^>

 

Someone screamed.

 

They think you’re shameful. Playing guinea pig is all your brother wants from you. You’re nothing to him. Worthless.

 

“Shut it down, Chloe!” Elijah’s voice shouted through the white noise buzzing in Gavin’s ears, hands still pressed to Gavin’s shaking shoulders. Chloe said nothing in response eyes wide as her own stream of data began to clog her systems.

Nines did not hesitate as he went in for the kill.

 

They don’t care about you.

 

Gavin’s shoulders were released as Chloe crumpled to the ground, LED flickering between gray and red as she stared blindly up into Elijah’s face. The detective heaved where he knelt on cold tile, a bead of sweat trailing down his forehead.

 

Not like me.