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Trust and Faith

Chapter Text

While being engaged to an android, Gavin found himself waiting on pins and needles as he studied the requirements for the two of them to get married. Frustrated, he pushed away his laptop. “There’s seriously no way we can get married? The hell?” Gavin stood, marched angrily into the kitchen and pulled out a glass of juice as he considered the Detroit Times article he’d been listening to on his fast ride home to pick up a case file he’d accidentally forgotten at home. “I can’t believe it. I’ll ask Nines when we both get back home later.” Dashing back out to his car, Gavin hopped back in and headed back to work.

“Wait, you’re serious?!” Gavin sat in Fowlers offices, glass frosted over for a reason, three hours before his cold January Monday shift was over for the night.

“Yes, Gavin. You still have to go to the sensitivity class.” Fowler’s tone brokered no argument.

Not that that was going to stop Gavin. “The person who accused me was convicted of assault—against me! I would think that would make the claim invalid.”

“The pattern of behavior you portrayed was present before then.” Fowler’s glare of authority he sent Gavin as he looked up shut Gavin up before he could say anything else. “You’re going. End of discussion. Your classes happen every night this week at town hall community room, so you’re off for the rest of today. We might switch you to the night shift for the rest of this week. We’ll let you know. Get out and send Nines in.”

Gavin felt words building in his throat, his stomach hot with anger. I’ll lose my job if I open my mouth, and I’m not doing that.  Settling for storming out, Gavin walks to his desk and snags his coat viciously he motioned to Nines. “Fowler wants you.”

Nines glanced up, noting Gavin’s jacket. “You OK?”
“Just go talk to Fowler.” Gavin snatched everything he needed off his desk: Phone, wallet and keys.

Storming off, Gavin walked out to the car and dropped down on to the drivers’ seat before giving in and slamming his palms against the steering wheel. “Fuck this!” he growled, before seeing that his right hand had actually dented the wheel. “Fuck me.” I forget how powerful this arm can be.
Sighing, he pulled his keys out of his front left pocket, placing them in the ignition and starting the car. As he reached to pull the seatbelt over his shoulder, Nines opened the passengers door and dropped down into seat.  Saying nothing, he buckled in and leaned back against his seat as Gavin put the car in reverse and pulled out of the parking lot. The ride home was tense, and Gavin didn’t say anything, just focusing on the ride home, gripping the steering wheel with enough force to turn his left hand white at the knuckles and the other hand black at its seams.

Nines simply side-eyed him, keeping his mouth shut until they’d pulled into the parking lot of their apartment. “Want to talk about it?”
Gavin glared, and then shook his head. Reaching down to unbuckle, Gavin felt Nines grasp his wrist. “Hey, look at me.”

Gavin looked up and sighed. “’M fine, Nines.”

Nines simply raised an eyebrow. “We can talk inside, if it’ll make you feel better.” Releasing Gavin, Nines unbuckled and stepped out of the car.

Sighing, Gavin followed suit, stepping out of the car. Walking around the fender, Gavin felt Nine’s arm encircle his shoulders.

Gavin felt better with Nine’s embrace. “Thanks.”

Nines said nothing, guiding the two up the stairs and to their apartment.

Opening the door, Gavin sighed. “I hate this.”

“I couldn’t tell.” Nine’s voice was soft.

“Tin can.” Gavin elbowed him, then laughed. “Thanks.” 

“You’re welcome. Now, do you want to talk about the classes?” Nines asked, walking into the apartment, scooping up Luna and cuddling her to his chest as he sat down on the couch.

“I…. I just hate that I have to go. The person who accused me…. well,” Looking down at his right hand, Gavin sighed as he walked inside. “She took enough from me.”

“Gavin, I know.” Patting the seat next to him, Nines reached out to him.

Taking Nine’s hand, Gavin was pulled to the couch. Sitting down next to Nines, Gavin leaned his head against Nine’s shoulder. “It just… It makes me feel like her criticism were valid, that she wasn’t insane.”
“Oh, she was insane. Still is.” Nines said, without a trace of bitterness or anger in his voice.

You’ve come a long way. Gods, I love you. “Thanks. I still don’t want to go.” Gavin sighed. “But I have to.”

“Yeah, you do.” Nines said, smiling. “It’ll be OK, Gav.”

Pulling his hand away, Gavin knotted them in his lap. “Do… do you think I need to go to the classes?” Gavin leaned over and stared at his hands, keeping his gaze downward.

“Are you asking if I think you’re ‘anti-android’?”  Nines asked, reaching down to pull one of Gavin’s tangled hands away from the other. “No.”

“Thanks.” Sitting back up, Gavin stood and stretched. “I guess I should be checking to see if I need any materials for the class. God, I haven’t been to school since I got out of the Academy.”

Nines shot Gavin a shit-eating grin. “Can’t relate.”

Gavin flipped him off, smiling. “Don’t you need to get back to work?”
Nines smiled. “Yeah. Just wanted to make sure you got home safe.” Standing, Nines walked to the door. “I don’t know that I’ll see you, as the class starts when I normally head home. And you’ll be there for a while. Anything you want me to do?”

“Nah. Go away, solve the cases so I don’t have to.” Gavin walked over, pulled Nines down, pressing his lips to his. “Be wonderful so I can be lazy.”

Nines laughed. “Like you’re ever anything else.”

“Why do I love you?” Gavin asked, pulling away.

Nines pulled him back, kissing him long enough to make Gavin melt against him. “Because I love you and find you to be one of the most dedicated, hardworking people I know. And you’re fun to tease.”
Gavin let go, motioning Nines out the door. “Go away.”

Nines left, and Gavin contented himself with scrolling through his social media and munching on chips and Cheetos that he’d hidden from Nines.

Chapter Text

The hours passed quickly—amazingly, the internet had the ability to do that—and Gavin was throwing on his jacket with about twenty minutes to dash out and grab food so he could eat while listening in to the lecture.

Of course, he was not the only person there. Should’ve figured. Damn. Slipping into the back row, Gavin tried to keep his head down as he heard multiple slurs against androids thrown at the teacher, a young woman with white blond hair down to her back. She was dressed in a pair of black slacks and a light purple dress shirt, LED spinning wildly between yellow and orange.  

“Hello, everyone. I can see that I’m in the right place.” The young woman smiled gently, but it was obviously forced. “I guess I shouldn’t have worried. You’re all exactly what I’m expecting.”

Gavin sunk down in his chair and glanced at his neighbor who’d slid in late.

Sitting down, the man said nothing.

Gavin shrugged. The lecture went at the pace of a diabetic snail running low on sugar. The break couldn’t come fast enough.

As soon as it was announced, Gavin slid into the hallway and then out into the night to take a full breath not constrained by the tension in the room. “Jesus, is that what I sound like?”

Gavin’s neighbor sat down next to him. “Same.”

Jumping, Gavin tried to scoot away. “Uhhh…?”

“Don’t worry, I’m not a part of the AA group like some of them.”  The man sat down, taking out a cigarette. “I just wanted out of the room.”
Sighing, Gavin nodded. “How’d you get here?”

“Followed you.” The man offered a cheeky grin.

Gavin groaned. Fuckin’ smartass. “The class. How’d you get into the class?”

“I said something about android being vastly more powerful than us and that we needed some way to defend ourselves that wasn’t deadly force, but that until I got that solution, I was going to use force when necessary.” The man sighed. “I don’t want to become like the poor bastard who lost his arm.”

“Yeah, that poor bastard hates being here, too.”  Gavin grinned as the man blanched, and paled.

“I take it you’re Gavin Reed, then?” the man asked, taking another drag of his cigarette.

“Yep. Pleasure to meet you. Never caught your name, though?” Gavin asked, holding out his right hand.

The man took it, shook it firmly and then released. “Jack Kinkade. What the hell are you doing here?”

“I was accused of being anti-android and have a history of shooting androids when ‘less aggressive solutions’ are what are called for. Basically, same as you.” Gavin said.

“I know. I don’t want to shoot or harm them, but as a human, I can’t punch steel. I can’t break their grip on me but, I’m going to get them off me somehow.” Jack stood up, sighed. “But I know that’s only half the picture.”

“You studying to be a DA? You seem like you’d be good for the job.” Gavin asked, snuffing out his cigarette.

“And deal with the social pressure? Hell, no.” Jack smiled, and glanced at his phone. “We need to head back in, huh?”

“Well, at least you sat next to me and not one of the nuts.” Gavin joked, opening the door and walking back to the classroom.

The other members of the class were congregated. “They’re not alive.” One particularly noxious member of the group—a cowlicked brunette with a sneer etched into his face—snapped. Glancing over, he saw Gavin and Jack. “Hey, you two. How much of a joke is this class?”

Gavin and Jack glanced at one another.  Shrugging, they simply sat down in the back.

“Lets me keep my job.” Jack said.

“Mood.” Gavin quipped, sitting back down. “Let’s get it over with and go home.”

The man laughed. “Maybe we should just anarchy and rebel. Wonder how loud that thing would scream.”

Gavin rolled his eyes. “Yeah, nah. I wanna go home tonight, not to a holding cell. They say bad things happen to cops caught in the jail.”

The man laughed. “Good point, but if they can’t prove it….”

Gavin and Jack glanced at each other again. Fuck.

“Look, I’m tired and want to go home.” Gavin snarled. “I still have to work a shift tomorrow. My boss is an ass. Please don’t make me go home later than we’re already going to.”

The man’s smirk dropped a little. “Wow, you still have to work? My boss said I would be off early. Are they not letting you out?”

“Nope. Now, please let me go home on time.” Gavin grumbled.

“Jeeze. Yeah. No problem. We humans have to stick together considering the plastics are taking our jobs.” The man walked back to his desk. “But I’m not promising anything for tomorrow.”

Gavin sighed. “Whatever.” I need to report this to Nines…. Or to Fowler.

Gavin took out his phone, passed it to Jack. “Do me a favor, give me your new number. I might need a ride the next couple of days if possible.” Act as if we’re old friends. They’ll be less likely to gang up on us.

Jack caught on. “Mooch,” he grumbled, grabbing Gavin’s phone and plugging in his number.

Gavin grinned. “You know me.”

Thanks. We need to report this shit. She’s in serious danger. : G

Jack replied just as quickly.

Jack: I know. You go to your captain, I’ll go to mine. Hopefully, one of us will have some luck.

The class resumed its Chinese water torture pace for another hour and a half, leaving both Jack and Gavin dashing for the door.

“See ya.” Jack’s voice was calm. “You owe me dinner for rides, BTW.”

Gavin smiled. “Sure.”

Walking to his car, Gavin swung down and waited. He saw most of them depart, include Noxious.

Walking back in, Gavin waited for the teacher to walk out into the hallway next to the community room. “Ms. Anders.”

She jumped, glanced around for anyone else. “Yes?” She squeaked, obviously nervous when she saw that she was alone with one of her ‘anti-android’ students.

“My name is Gavin Reed. I’m not going to harm you. I just wanted to let you know that you need backup in this class.” Gavin let the skin recede from his right arm. “I’m worried about the danger you’re in.”

Anders angrily sighed. “I am, too. I asked a friend of mine to help me teach, but they got nervous. I don’t entirely blame them. Walking in there today was difficult.” Looking over at Gavin, she tilted her head. “Why are you warning me?”

“I don’t want you hurt. I don’t want anyone hurt. The others—the ones in the front—were talking about…. Well, all manner of unpleasantness.” Gavin said, turning to leave. “I just wanted you to know. You’re in danger. Go to your Captain, or boss or whomever is sending you in there without backup. Ask for help.”

Walking out to his car, Gavin dropped in and started it before sighing. Picking up his phone, he called Nines. “That was torture.”

Nines tenor was soft. “You only have to go for a week for a few hours. You’ll be OK.”

“I don’t know about that. Nines, those men…. Do I really sound like them? Actually, not important. Some of these guys were talking about harming the teacher. Do you know who’s running the class?”
“Gavin, are you sure? They could just be talking a big game. After all, for some, being told to go to class to better themselves is akin to telling them that they’re obvious wastes of space. They might just be looking to puff up their egos.” Nines asked.

“I don’t know. I guess? I didn’t get an immediate vibe of bad intentions off of them—beyond obnoxious, I guess. All talk and no action? Maybe I’m just being paranoid. I guess I’ve been a cop for too long.” Gavin laughed, then slipped out of park. “I’m headed home now. See you soon.”

Chapter Text

The drive home was quiet, Gavin letting the radio and routine of the drive home taking over.

Pulling into his parking lot, Gavin went into autopilot and found that his next aware moment was him pulling on PJS while Nines called out to him.

“Gavin….” Nines waved his hand in front of him. “How is it you people do this?”
“Autopilot, I guess.” Gavin smiled as Nines laughed.

“It amazes me that you’re able to turn your actual thoughts and spatial awareness off.” Nines reached out, gently sitting him down on the bed. “So, how was class? Make any new friends?”

Gavin noted the sarcasm but was still half out of it. “Sort of?”
Nines voice became a frozen lake. “Oh, really?”

That snapped Gavin out of it. “Another moderate. Sort of like me?”

Nines looked surprised. “What’s he in for?”

“Same thing about defending himself as I have. The ‘I know I can’t compete with androids and will protect those I need to until a more viable option comes out’ type.” Gavin said, and glanced up at Nines who was silent. “Nines?”

Nines sighed. “I don’t like this, but if you think he’s trustworthy, whatever.”

Nines walked around the bed, lying down faced away from Gavin. “I’m going to sleep.”

Gavin reached toward him. “If I don’t get to hide behind sleep, neither do you. Talk.”

“I… I just don’t understand how you could make a friend with someone who would actively try to hurt me if….” Nines sat up. “If it came down to it.”

“Nines…. I know that it hurts. And I’m sorry. I hate that there’s no other way to defend ourselves, but we need to. What happens if you’re hacked or get a virus? If we can’t fight you, it’s going to be an issue at some point.”

“I have the best quarantine system of any android. I wouldn’t get a virus.” Nines said, scowling.

“That’s now, Nines. Technology evolves. And so do viruses. And no matter what, someone will always try to prove something by using others lives. And we humans don’t have a defense against steel. Steel, titanium, wires and processors win over human flesh, bone, muscle, sinew and brain almost every time.” Gavin looked down, feeling Nine’s disappointment fill the room.

“But androids are the ones targeted by hate….” Nines sighed and leaned back. “I guess they’re not the only ones, are they?”

Gavin smirked and waggled his right arm and fingers in front of Nines’s face. “Kinda forgot about that one thing, huh?”

“Shut up.” Nine’s voice was hard and scared, and he wouldn’t meet Gavin eyes.

“Nines, we need to develop a way for humans to protect themselves from androids. And not because androids are inherently bad actors, but the one bad apple in the bunch can cause so much harm.” Gavin leaned back, letting his shoulder brush Nines, trying to comfort as well as confront him.

“But anything you develop will be used by criminals against peaceful androids. And those attacks have happened. Imagine what could be done to an android rendered defenseless by something designed to keep humans safe. Androids are more likely to be attacked by humans, not the other way around.” Nines insisted, moving away from Gavin to the edge of his side of the bed.

“Again, that’s for right now. We don’t know if or how androids will develop. Or what viruses some idiotic person will release that could completely change you guys. I’m just saying we need a system in place to deal with that.” Gavin said, turning to face Nines. “Please, don’t be angry.”
“How can I not be? Gavin, we’re not a threat.” Nines insisted, hands moving a mile a minute as he started to speak with his hands.

“Yes, you are.” At Nines’s glare, Gavin backpedaled. “Or you could be.  You need to acknowledge that.”

“I’m tired. Goodnight.” Nines flipped over and went into low power mode before Gavin could argue.

Gavin snarled, shoving at Nines’s side to try and rouse him. “Seriously? You yelled at me for this crap.”

Nines didn’t answer, nor did he respond in any way.

Standing, Gavin walked to the closet and pulled out some extra blankets. Exiting the room, he maliciously whispered under his breath “Fuck it. Sleeping on the couch.”

As he laid out the blankets and his pillow, Gavin glanced over at the TV. If I’m being moved to night shift, I might want to inure myself to being up late. Maybe a movie marathon?  If I keep it down, Nines should be able to get enough sleep.

Flipping it on, Gavin turned to a late-night binge session.

At about five-thirty in the morning, Gavin found himself slowly drifting off to sleep as he heard Nines starting to wake up. The TV was still on silent, images flickering as Gavin curled up under blankets and fell asleep as he heard Nines calling for him.

The next thing he knew, he woke up in bed and it was about three in the afternoon. Luna stood on his chest, smacking him with her soft paw.

“OK, pretty girl. I get it. Get up.” Gavin sighed, gently moving her off his chest. “Let me feed you.”

Gavin walked into the kitchen as Luna danced beneath his feet and Donkey cried as if he hadn’t been fed in a week and poured the food out before seeing the note on the fridge.

Picking it up, Gavin read:

Gavin:

You didn’t have to sleep on the couch. I came home to check on you during lunch, but you were still out of it. Text me when you wake up.  I fed Luna and Donkey.

See you later tonight?

Nines.

Gavin sighed, then looked down at the successful con artists. “Really?”

“Mrow. Meeep.” Luna seemed to smile.

Laughing, Gavin reached down to stroke her. “I guess I earned the sucker label for the day.”

He went back to the bedroom, grabbed the necessary items to shower before sending Nines a ‘I’m alive and all good and did you take the car’ text. Putting his phone down on the counter, Gavin hopped in the shower and ran through the morning routine.

The next few hours, Gavin simply worked out at home as he waited to leave for classes. Nines had texted back that he hadn’t taken the car.  Fowler had texted that Gavin was on the late night-shift after class that night, about midnight to eight a.m.

When his phone buzzed, Gavin picked it up.

9’s: When are you leaving for class?

Not sure yet. Will probably leave early to try and beat rush-hour traffic, considering it’s downtown. : G

9’s: Beat traffic or avoid having to talk about last night?

Por que no los dos? : G

Gavin stopped picking up after that text, noted the time. “Crap.”

Actually, I should head out now. I probably won’t see you until I come home tomorrow. And even then, I’m probably going to pass out on the couch before I see you.: G

Picking up everything he needed to leave, Gavin tossed all of it into a bag before giving Luna and Donkey pets to say goodbye.

Dashing out to the car, Gavin quickly navigated back to the class.

Chapter Text

Once again, Jack dashed in a moment or so late. “Sorry I’m late, I didn’t want to come.”

Gavin snorted, and Ms. Anders seemed to relax around the two. “Neither did I, but I’m here on time.”

Jack nodded, contrite. “My apologies. They’re keeping me on day shift. I promise I’m not trying to be late.”

Ms. Anders nodded. “Understood. Anyway, back to what I was saying.”

The class and its pace resumed, with Gavin and Jack flinching as the vitriol flung around the class continued.

Jack: Should we call someone in? This is getting bad.

I don’t know. Last time he listened to us. I don’t know. I can text my partner and tell him to be ready? :G

Jack: Did he listen to you last night about how bad these two were?

No, we got into a fight about other things last night. I didn’t say much about the fact that the teacher was threatened. Shit. I knew I forgot something. Damnit. :G

Jack: Then I’d text your captain, and tell him to be on the ready. Or whomever would believe you, because we’re probably going to need help. That kid seems off the rails.

Gavin nodded toward Jack, and watched the class continue for another few agonizing minutes before things began to spiral.
“Plastic piece of ass. How can you feel? You’re not real.” Noxious had suddenly developed a thing for rhyming.

“You know, I thought rap was the worst thing to happen to poetry, but he just had to dig the hole deeper.” Jack grumbled. “Poe would be turning in his grave.”

Gavin glanced over. “Poe?”

“As in Edgar Allen?” Jack asked, looking over.

Gavin scrunched his face, raising an eyebrow. You couldn’t have chosen a more mainstream poet known for their poems and not their horror?

“Gentlemen.” Anders voice echoed, pulling both Gavin and Jack back to the reality of their class. “I know it’s late. We’re almost done. Pay attention.”

“Bitch.” A subordinate of the Noxious said, not even bothering to hide it.

Anders sighed, rubbing a hand over her face. “Why do they bother to keep you guys on the force? You obviously don’t want to protect everyone.”

Gavin winced, looking to Jack who was looking back at Gavin, just as concerned. You’re only going to escalate the situation. Fuck, fuck. Where are the exits? I need to figure out how to get out.

“I want to protect people, not a piece of plastic masquerading as a person.” Noxious groupie spoke up.

“Well, then, you shouldn’t be a cop. We’ve been declared as people. Like it or not, your job entails protecting us ‘plastics’ as well.” Anders temper apparently snapped as she turned back and walked to the front of the classroom.

Noxious stood, knocking his chair back enough to create a screech. “Bitch. You’re not a person and I shouldn’t have to protect you.”

Gavin felt the tension in his gut rise. Bracing his feet so he could stand quickly, Gavin noted Jack doing the same thing.

“In fact, I’m proud to be a member of the Anti-android  league and I’m thinking my friends would praise me if I brought you in.” Noxious started toward her. “But I don’t think they’d mind if I had some fun first. Anyone else with me?” Noxious’s friends stood up.

“Yeah.” The loudest underling stood and moved forward to grab Anders by her forearm as she began to panic and tried to run and then froze. Her fear response is to freeze. Shit!

Jack whipped out his phone, whispering under his breath. “Fuck…shit…. damn it.”

Gavin stood, rushing the group forming around Anders. Grabbing the hand around her forearm, Gavin pulled it off. “Hey. Enough. Very funny asshole, you’ll get us all fired.”  Anders, wake up. Run. Now!

Anders didn’t respond, simply starting to cling to Gavin.

“I don’t care! And besides, my boss agrees with me. He’ll help.” Noxious turned, appraised Gavin. “He’ll help everyone here.” When Gavin continued to glare, Noxious’s eyes went wide with shock. “What, don’t tell me you actually consider plastics to be real?”
Gavin kept his mouth shut while he reached out to take Anders by the shoulders and steer her through the crowd trying to get both him and Anders to the door.

That was, until he was thrown back and away from Anders. Pinned on a table, Gavin groaned. “Seriously?” Looking to Gavin, Jack nodded to him before dashing out. None of the other

“Well, if you’re not one of us and all that jazz.” Noxious’s grin became even more unbearable. “I can’t believe there is someone here who actually supports androids. After all, we’re all here because we’re called Anti-android.”

Gavin sighed, eying the group in front of him, trying to find a way out. Shit. They’ve got the door covered, and I don’t think I can push through them. Maybe bluffing would work? “I told my captain I wasn’t that bad, and to have a patrol check on us. Thanks for proving me right.”

Noxious laughed, moving forward to stand directly in front of Gavin. “Well, then. Sucks to be you, because I have other coming tonight. They’ll deal with the patrol.  They’d agreed to help round up the androids in the building. And considering we waited this long…”

The doors to the room opened and others were herded into the room. As Gavin moved forward, a crony of Noxious’s snagged him, grabbing his arms and pinning them behind his back. Gavin wasted no time, slamming the sole of his shoe down onto the top of the man’s foot. Pulling away, Gavin stepped away from him as he spoke.  “Well, they look like people to me. Maybe you’re wrong about that…. What’s your name again?”

The man smirked. “Caleb. And don’t bother trying to defend them.”

Gavin growled, and watched as a few of the men circled him. “I’ll always try.”

“Well, I mean, considering that arm of yours, I wouldn’t.” Caleb nodded to the man who’d regained control of Gavin’s right arm. “Would hurt to pull it off you again. After all, you do have ‘nerves’ in it.”

Shit shit fuckity fuck. Gavin froze for a second, and that gave them men the advantage to grab on and hold him where they wanted him. Gavin felt himself start to sweat as he spoke. “I doubt you’d be able to pull it off. Even then, I can turn the nerves off. In fact, I think they’re off right now.” Poker face don’t fucking  fail me now.

“Well, then, this won’t hurt.” Caleb nodded to the now four guys holding Gavin down. “Pull it off.”

Gavin’s nerves screamed as the arm was pulled away again. It was tossed against the wall, and a crack shot out as Gavin writhed. Nerves rioted, and nausea filled him. In the end, he closed his eyes and was out.

When he woke next, he and Anders were side by side on the floor, along with the other androids. He was lying on his left side, arm zinging in pain.

“Detective. Are you awake?” Anders whispered, sound coming from her hand next to Gavin.

Doing his best not to alert the guards, Gavin nodded.

Anders gave him an info-dump in a rushed, scared whisper as she tried to not lean to close to him. “OK.  Jack escaped, called in the reinforcements. They’re got a hostage negotiator out there, and they’re doing their best to get all of us out of here. They’ve got the other android scared to do anything because they have EMPS, and have attached limiters to us. We don’t know what these limiters do, beyond weakening us. They’ve said they could be explosive. Don’t let them know you’re awake. They’ve been beating anyone who they think is an android, but they got some humans in the crossfire. They stopped when they saw red blood, but that didn’t mean much. The men…the ones they took are not looking good. They’re being used to get the AAers want. Right now, it’s food.”

Gavin didn’t nod, didn’t want to risk it.

Keeping his eyes closed, he listened.

Caleb and his boys were obviously enjoying it. “Who knew, they were right. Plastic is better than organic.”

Gavin winced in sympathy at the low staticky moans of pain and fear. He had a bad feeling he knew what they were doing.

Flipping one eye open, Gavin saw the group encircled around two androids who were sans clothing.

Fuck, what do I do? I can’t let this happen. They’ll get hurt. Fuck, what to do?

Then, a phone rang again.

Caleb picked it up. “Is the food here? OK, well, send it in. I’ll have a few of my men escort out the injured men and some of the used plastics. We’ll make the trade and then we can discuss the rest of this. Oh, and you’ll want the bomb squad ready to take off the limiters.”

Caleb laughed turning to his men and the androids in the circle. “Well, you two. Your saviors are here. Mike, Christian, you two take them. Take them to the doors and let them go. The three worst injured humans and the two androids go. We’ll pick out two new playthings while you’re gone. Who knows, maybe the pussy detective and teacher should go next.”

Fuck you, you piece of trash. If I’m going to be hurt anyway, I want to fight. Before Gavin could open his eyes, liquid splashed down over him. Taking a deep breath, he sat up and opened his eyes.

Caleb had upended a water bottle on him. Well…. That could’ve been worse?

“Welcome back, wuss. We wanted some fun. You’re next in the ring. You too, plastic. On your feet.” Caleb grabbed Anders under the arm, bodily tossing her into the center of the ring.

Struggling, Gavin got to his feet as dizziness and nausea once again assailed him. Not showing weakness, not going to throw up on him. Standing tall, Gavin moved in front of Anders, who’d frozen. “Leave her be. Hell, let us out. They’ll be way more forgiving if you give us up now.”
Caleb crazily laughed. “I’m done for, anyway.”

I mean, he’s not wrong. “That’s a change from ‘My boss will cover for me. What happened?” Gavin asked, sneer fixed in place. That was dumb. Fuck. Shouldn’t’ve provoked him.

“Doesn’t matter. I’m going out fighting. They’re here to serve us, make our lives better. I’m just reminding them what they are. They aren’t people. They’re tools.”  Caleb’s grin was a little sad, a little angry.

Is this really what I sound like to some androids? Jesus. Gavin kept his mouth shut, and simply stood in front of Anders.

“Look at it. It’s a Traci model. They’re made for this.” Caleb motioned behind Gavin. “Come on, you’ve got to be tired of machines come in and taking jobs that humans need.”

Gavin kept silent, merely refusing to blink or look away from the repugnance in front of him.

Caleb looked confused. “Say something.”

Gavin merely kept quiet. Not blinking or looking away.

Caleb took him by the collar, tossed him hard onto the ground in the center of the group. “Fine If you’re determined to be a supporter, you can understand how they feel.”

Then, the beating began. Kicks and punches rained down from three or four people, with others merely watching or keeping quiet to stay out of harm’s way. Gavin curled up to protect his torso, while he wrapped his arm around his head and neck. It didn’t provide much protection, and Gavin quickly rolled onto his right side to try and protect himself. It did little, as some of the kicks still landed on his stomach and ribs, and Gavin could feel his body scream in agony with each blow after something in his lower abdomen seemed to give out. Anders was thrown next to him and mirrored his position, with her arms crossed across her thirium pump. The assault didn’t stop.

This continued, Gavin feeling each blow as it landed. Shock and pain were starting to make it difficult to keep his eyes open. Fuck, how long is this going to last?

He couldn’t keep of track of anything. Eventually, he was picked up, and dragged away from the center of the ring. Anders screamed as she became the sole focus of the group of six to seven men.

Her cries brought Gavin back from the pain-induced haze, and he fought off those dragging him out to try and help Anders. Moving to the circle, he dug his way back in and reached out for Anders. Her eyes were wild, but something flicker as she reached out for him. Unfortunately, a man kicked Gavin’s feet out from under him, causing him to fall.  Landing squarely on Anders, Gavin did his best to protect her. She screamed, pushed him away.

Caleb grabbed Gavin, pulled him out of the group again. “Well, more fight in you than I thought.” Picking up Gavin’s prosthetic arm from where it’s been tossed, he noted a sharp edge cracked into the metal of the arm. Bending the arm so that that spike protruded, Caleb grinned at him. “Let’s see how you hold up with this.” Thrusting the arm toward Gavin’s middle, Caleb laughed at the pained inhale.

Gavin dropped to the floor, scooting back as he pressed a hand into the wound. Blood stained part of his hand as Gavin felt the pain kicked him, knocking him back even as Caleb stood over him wielding the arm.

At this point, a few of the men broke away to grab and drag Caleb away from Gavin. “Shit, dude. That’s a deadly weapon. Stop!”

Like a bomb isn’t a fucking deadly weapon??

Chapter Text

One man quickly punched Caleb out, knocking him to the ground with the second fast punch. Others jumped the three goons in the middle of the ring, but Gavin wasn’t  as aware anymore. Wha….?
Struggling, Gavin stood and leaned against the wall, trying to remain steady when he heard running and the doors being pushed open. Shit, get out while you can.

“Everybody on the ground, hands in the air.” A familiar voice said, and Gavin looked up to see Hank and Connor leading the charge. Well, hell, never mind then.

Hank walked over to Gavin, quickly helping him back down to the floor so he doesn’t collapse. “Gavin. What’s….actually, not important right now. I take it you saw it all?”
Gavin felt himself nod and inhaled deeply only to regret doing so as his coughing reflex kicked in and he found himself near passing out, only responding with a pain-ridden grunt. “Yeah.”

“Wha…” Hank looked over Gavin and noted the darker spot on his shirt. “You can’t catch a break, huh? Hang on, I’ll help you out.”

Gavin nodded, and felt a pang of guilt. “I can wai….”
Hank rolled his eyes. “As if my youngest would forgive me if I let you bleed. Media’s already smelled the blood in the water, so to speak. Maybe keep your head down as we walk out.” Reaching down, Hank took Gavin’s hand, hauling him up. Gavin felt the pain kick at his stomach and hissed. Bending over, Gavin tried to navigate through the pain.

“Easy!” Hank reached out, looping one arm around Gavin as he teetered forward dangerously. “I’ll help you.” 
Gavin nodded, looping one arm around Hank and the other across his waist as they walked out.

As they did so, Gavin noted the media, cordoned off behind police tape but still scrambling to grab photos of everyone being led out of the building. “Phck.”

“Yeah. Might be easier to pass out in order to not deal with them.”  Hank nodded to the cordoned off area. “Nines and an ambulance are waiting for you. Speaking of…” Hank looked up, glanced around until he found whatever or whomever he was looking for. “Nines! Over here.”

Nines ran over, reaching out to take the arm Gavin had wrapped around Hank and wrapping it around his shoulders. “I can’t leave you alone, can I?”

Gavin scowled at Nines, not responding as movement became more difficult as his adrenaline wore off.

“Sorry.” Nine’s gaze softened as the glanced at Gavin’s face, then hardened again as he scanned down his torso. “They did a number on you. I’m surprised you’re still awake.”
“Spite.” Gavin said, and Nines snorted as he helped Gavin the rest of the way to the ambulance.  Blinking, Gavin felt his vision gray. “It’s fading.”

Nines nodded, helping Gavin onto the gurney. “I’ll go with you to the hospital, and we can figure stuff out there.” Cupping Gavin’s cheek, Nines shot a fast glance around to see if anyone other than the paramedics was looking. Pressing a fast kiss to Gavin’s forehead, Nines whispered to him. “I was so scared.”

Gavin gave a weak smile. “Hah. Gonna take more than that.”

A paramedic guided Gavin to lie down fully and stripped him of his shirt. As they began to palpitate around the area where Gavin had been kicked and the stab wound rested, Gavin felt his body clench. Pain rose up the back of his spine, and Gavin gave into the pressing need to not feel it anymore, closing his eyes as his mind and body shut down as a defense against the pain. Light and sound began to blur and mesh together as the ride began and he didn’t remember anything until except a fast flash of consciousness from about two-thirds of the ride there.

Sirens and lights flashing beyond his eyelids slowly brought him back. “Huh?” Where….? Are we close?
“Gavin.” Nine’s voice was soft, and a firm hand was holding onto his. “Hang on, OK?”

Nothing else registered until he opened his eyes again.

Circular tracts on the ceiling. “Hospital.”  He groaned, then winced as he took a semi-deep breath. If I get my hands on those Anti-fuckers, there’s going to be hell to pay.

Grumbling, he gingerly sat up. No one else was around. Weird. Would’ve thought Nines would be here.

Noting his phone on the bedside table, Gavin snagged it and dialed Nines after a struggle because of his lack of a hand.

Nines picked up half-way through the second ring. “Gavin?”

“Hey. What’s going on?” he asked, and he could hear Nines hesitate.

“It’s a long story. The group got everyone locked down from the scene—or so they thought they did—and I went with you to the hospital. However, apparently Caleb Chappaero got out. I’ve been called in to help find him.”

“Huh. That’s his last name? He was the ringleader.” Gavin grumbled. “When you see him, give him an extra couple of blows to the…”

Nines laughed, but the sound wasn’t happy. “Don’t say anything else. Connor and Hank just got here.”

“You know what I was going to say. How long do you think it’ll take you to track him down?” Grumbling, Gavin flipped to his side and regretted it. Damn it, I’m not going to be able to sleep like I normally do.

“Half-an-hour at most. I’ll be back in no time, Gav.” Nines’s voice was soft. “I’ll talk to you later, Hank and Connor just got here to pick me up.”  

“Be safe.” Gavin said before hanging up and watching cute cat videos as he laid back down.

Gavin kept an eye on the clock, knowing it was just to torture himself. Nines said he’d be here in a half-an-hour.

Once the allotted time had passed, Gavin started to question everything. After streaming for fifteen minutes past the half-hour—somewhere around five videos—Gavin glanced up and out of the room to see if Nines was coming up the hallway. No figure appeared. That’s weird. What’s going on?

Another ten minutes went by. Checking his phone, Gavin didn’t see any text from Nines. What the hell?

Nines, you OK? : G

Waiting had never been Gavin’s strong suit.

Nines. What the heck’s going on? Are you OK? : G

No response. Gavin watched the minutes tick by on his phone, waiting.

Quiet footsteps had him looking up. A young man in scrubs entered. “Hello, has anyone been by to update you on your condition?”

Gavin shook his head, confused. “Not yet, is there something I need to know?”

“First of all, how are you feeling?” The nurse asked.
“Um, sore? I definitely feel it in my abdomen. How long was I asleep? What’s going on?” Gavin asked, concerned about his ‘condition.’

“Well, during the attack on you, you sustained a ruptured kidney. It’s Ok, we’ve repaired it.” The man said, calmingly when he noted Gavin’s slightly concerned eyebrows. “You’ve been here about an hour. When we did x-rays to check for further injuries, we noted something.  We needed your permission to run a few more tests, so we’ve been waiting for you to wake so we could ask permission.”

“Wasn’t my fiancée here? Couldn’t he have given you permission?” Gavin asked, concerned. “Or do I need to fill out paperwork first?”

“Paperwork first, then he could’ve. As it stands, he couldn’t right now. So, we need to run a urine analysis, and then an MRI and a few other things. Do you want to go through with it?”

“Am I covered?” Gavin asked, leaning back against the pillows and pressing his hands to his eyes. Fuck, does this count as a ‘workplace’ thing? Because it really, really fucking should.

“You are. We checked.” The young man nodded.

Thank Christ. “Then, yes.” Waving a hand as a permission, Gavin closed his eyes. “Do what’s necessary.”

The next two hours passed with Gavin going for tests and waiting for the appropriate equipment necessary for the tests to be available. He’d left his phone back at the room, and he hadn’t been able to check his phone or see if Nines were there.

As he was wheeled back into his room, Gavin noted a distinct lack of Nines. Where is he? It couldn’t have taken that long to go to the station and drop off an asshole.

Picking his phone up, Gavin noted a distinct lack of texts or calls. OK, the fuck is going on?

Dialing, Gavin tapped his fingers on the railing as waited for Nines to pick up.

No response? What’s going on? Leveraging the bed so he was seated partially upright, Gavin dialed Tina.

“Hello?” She answered on the second ring. “Gav, what’s up?”
“Hey, T. I was trying to call Nines and he isn’t responding. What’s going on? Are you at the precinct?”

“Nah, I left before the entire debacle went down. I think Nines is still there. I can have Crush text you. I know he’s still there.” Tina’s voice was tired. “Gav, from what I hear, it’s a mess down there. Nines might just be caught up with the entire thing. Several precincts are in chaos because of what happened. I think everyone in the class is going to be place on administrative leave until they can figure it out. Hell, I think a few precincts are going to have to do some real fast hiring because of it. Apparently the ringleader and his cronies were all a part of a singular precinct.” Tina’s voice softened as she heaved a sight. “Are you OK, though?”

“I mean, I think I’m OK? They’re running tests on me right now. I don’t know what for. The original diagnosis was a ruptured kidney. Not surprising. Some of those fuckers never missed leg day.” Gavin rubbed at a small spike of pain in his abdomen. “I just wish Nines would…”

Gavin’s phone began to buzz. “Hey, Tina. I think Nines is calling me back. I’ll get back to you in a minute?”

“Sure. Bye, Gav.” Tina hung up, and Gavin flicked on the answer button as he held his phone to his shoulder using his head.  “Nines?”

“Gavin.” Nine’s voice was somber. “Did you…. Did you attack an android?”

Gavin felt his stomach pitch. Placing one hand on the bed, Gavin leaned forward. Is…is this a fucking joke? Fuck, this is going to hurt.

“No.” Gavin struggled to keep his words from being biting, angry. “I did not attack anyone.”

“They’re saying you did. They said you were initially a part of the group of AAers.” Nines’s voice was frozen, his work voice shining through with its take-no-shit tone. “I think we need to talk. Reevaluate this relationship. Later. Figure things out. I need to go. Don’t call, I’m going to be busy.” Nines’s voice was hard, cold and Gavin could sense that Nines thought he’d done it. Tears welled up as he began to cuss. “Wait a god….” Nines hung up on him. “Nines!”

He…. He can’t…. he cannot think I was one of them. He knows me, knows me better than anyone.

Hearing footsteps, Gavin wiped away the few stray tears that had fallen. Looking up, Gavin placed on his work mask. Don’t feel. Push it down for now. When you get home, you can care again.

“Hello?” Gavin asked, watching as the same young nurse had entered the room.

“Good evening, Mr. Reed. My name is Sarah, and I’m a nurse who has been working with your case. We got your test results back, and we noticed something with your white-blood cell count. So, when we did your MRI, we were also looking to check to see if anything popped up. Dr. Michaels should be here in a second.” As the young man spoke, another person entered. Their lab coat was pristine, and their stethoscope was painted with pink, blue and gold stripes. “Hi, I’m Dr. Morgan Michaels.  How are you?”
“Hi, I’m Gavin Reed. I’m mostly confused right now. What’s going on?” Leaning back to the bed, Gavin watched as the doctor composed themselves.
“Well, as Kalvin was explaining, we were doing some tests and we noticed a few oddities with your body. When we did an MRI, we noticed that there seemed to be a growth on your left lung.”

Gavin felt his body jolt as the man continued to speak. “I was wondering if you had a history of smoking? We have records on you, but they’re scattershot. We do have you saying you smoke about five years ago, but you skipped a few appointments and we were wondering if you still smoke?” 

Processing, Gavin took a few moments to realize they’d asked a question. “Sorry, what?”
“Do you still smoke?” Michael’s eyes were soft.

“Oh, no. I quit about the same time as the android revolution.” Gavin rubbed at his stump, feeling the room shrink and the air in in vanish. “Is… what can you tell me about the growth?”
“We need to run a few more tests, but I wanted you to know why we were doing them. We’re not sure if it’s cancerous or not. Is there someone you can call to be here with you? A spouse or a family member?”

Gavin blue-screened and stopped working for a second. “Um….”

Chapter Text

The young nurse—Kalvin—spoke up. “You mentioned a fiancée earlier? Is he available?”
Gavin felt his abdomen roar in pain. “No.” Gavin’s voice was weak. “He’s not. I’ll… my brother might still be up. Give me a moment to call him.”

Fumbling for his phone, Gavin heard and felt his heartrate kicking up, and his breathing began to feel rougher.

Shaking, Gavin unlocked his phone and scrolled through his phone, and pressing on Eli’s contact.

The phone rang and rang. After five minutes, it switched over to Eli’s voicemail. “Hey, it’s Eli. I’m probably absorbed right now, so if you need me, leave a message and I’ll get back to you.”
Hanging up, Gavin put his phone down a little harder than he should’ve. Fuck, he’s on that retreat. He won’t be back until the end of this August because of that new project. And he doesn’t have his phone.

“OK. Looks like I’m on my own for this. So, no, no family or spouse. What’s going on?” Gavin said, keeping his gaze down.

“It looks like you have a growth on your left lung. We’re hoping to do a few more test, determine what the cause is. IS that OK?”

Gavin nodded. “That’s fine. Let’s do it.”
More tests, and another hour or so passed. When Gavin got back to his room, he was not entirely surprised to see a lack of Nines there. However, his arm had been dropped off, and he quickly attached that before grabbing his clothes and pressing the call button on his buzzer. Gavin waited until Kalvin entered the room before taking a deep breath to reassure himself.

“Mr. Reed?” He asked, eyeing Gavin’s pile of clothes next to him. “What’s up?”
“Get the AMA discharge papers ready. I want to go home.” Gavin said, maintaining his calm work face. His voice was even. “I am fully aware of the consequences and am prepared to accept responsibility.”

Kalvin glanced over Gavin, and Gavin could feel the appraisal going on behind the young man’s eyes. “I’ll get Dr. Michaels. If they say yes, I’m not going to argue.”

Kalvin left, quietly.

Sighing, Gavin grabbed his clothes, and walked to the bathroom. Pulling on his jeans on under the hospital gown, Gavin glared at the IV line. Fuck. Can’t take this thing off until I get the IV detached.

Walking out to the bed, Gavin sat down with his feet planted on the floor.

Dr. Michaels walked back in. “I hear you want to leave?”

“Yes.” Gavin didn’t elaborate past that, merely waiting.

“You’re sure?” Michaels asked, eyeing him. “I want to examine you first.”

“I’m sure, and that’s fine with me. How long will that take?” Gavin kept his mask on, but it was starting to slip again as his eyes flashed. I just want to lick my wounds in private, and I can’t stay here if…if….

Michaels eyes caught the flash in his eyes. “You’re scared, and you want to be alone to process, am I wrong?”
Fuck. “I don’t have a response.” Gavin said, keeping his gaze staid as he watched Michaels mind work through the request.

“That’s fine. Let me check you out, and we’ll get the paperwork. I know what it’s like to need quiet and not being able to find it.” Michaels gently prodded Gavin, checking his abdomen and checking that Gavin wasn’t going to die immediately if he left.

“If you’re sure, I will give you the discharge papers. However, if you feel dizzy, like you can’t breathe, you need to have someone on hand to bring you back here. And given that you couldn’t call anyone else earlier, I need to know someone is coming to pick you up.”
“They’re called ‘Against Medical Advice’ discharge papers for a reason.” Gavin stated, and stared Michaels down. “I’m going home. I will be fine.”

Michaels glared,  “You aren’t planning on doing anything stupid, right? I know patients who get down low from a diagnosis. There’s still hope. I don’t want to discharge you and then find out on the morning news that you couldn’t handle it.” Michaels eyes were hard, eyes of a veteran who’d had that happen before.

“I will be back to discuss treatment sometime this week.” Gavin pulled on that inner core of not-panicking and met Michaels gaze. “If you wouldn’t mind giving me the number for a doc who specializes in this shit.”

“Good. I will. My colleague Sara Marrero, a medical oncologist, will be happy to meet with you.” Walking away, Michaels grinned. “Feel better soon, detective.”

Gavin nodded to the retreating man’s back. “I will.” Turning to Kalvin, Gavin gestured to the IV. “Can I get this out now?”

Kalvin snorted, moving gently to turn off the machine and start the extraction process, despite the annoyed look on his face. “Sure.”

Twenty minutes later, Gavin was hailing a taxi after getting his painkillers and medication from the hospital pharmacy and heading home.

Climbing out of the taxi, Gavin felt exhaustion hit him. Climbing into the elevator, Gavin stared up at the ceiling. I’d thought we’d figured this shit out.

Walking down the hallway, Gavin felt his phone buzz on his hip. Ignoring it, Gavin opened the door and closed it quietly behind him. The yowls for food had him navigating through furry hazards to feed said furballs. Walking to the bedroom,  Gavin dropped down on the mattress as his phone buzzed again. Fuck, can’t miss it again.

Digging out his phone, Gavin pressed a little hard on the answer button, bringing the phone to his ear with a sharp snapped “Yes?”
“Gavin?” Tina asked, concern dripping from her tone. “Where are you?”
“Uh…. Hi, Tina. Sorry, didn’t know it was you. What’s up?” Gavin asked, rolling over to his back.

“Hi, I’m looking for you. Nines called the hospital and found out you’d checked yourself out. He’s stuck at work and wanted me to check on you. You home?”  Tina asked, and Gavin could hear her picking up car keys.

“Yeah. Sorry, did I screw up your evening?” Gavin asked, closing his eyes as he started to fall asleep.

“Nah, I was already home. And I wanted to make sure you were OK when I heard the news. I’ll see you soon.” Tina’s voice faded as Gavin let out a contented sigh as he fell fully asleep.

He woke up a half-an-hour later when a body sat down next to him, one lighter than Nines’s metal frame.

Jolting awake, Gavin scanned up the frame until he saw Tina’s trademark ponytail that she wore outside of work. Releasing the breath he’d been holding, Gavin reached toward her. “Braiiinnnnsss.”

“Aww, flatterer. You always did go for people smarter than you.” Tina’s lilting laugh filled the room but cut off when she noticed Gavin’s wince as he sat up. “Are you OK?”
“Ummm….no. In all senses of the word. Had the shit kicked out of me physically in class, and had my emotional stamina and strength kicked out of me at the hospital. I would like to exit the world now, please. Do you know where the highway to hell is?” Gavin didn’t bother moving, knowing it would only cause more pain. “And if you wouldn’t mind, I need a glass of water to take my painkillers, Ti.”

Tina nodded, guiding him back to the flat of his back before standing. “Wanna talk about what happened?”

“Nope. Not unless you know the backdoor to heaven. That, I’d appreciate.” Gavin smiled, but it was weak.

Tina’s eyes softened. “Well, I do know they’re looking for a temporary transfer at the precinct my brother works at in Hawaii. I can’t give you the real heaven, but I can offer you that if you want.” Tina smiled. “Might do you some good. Pasty-ass boy. When was the last time you got some sunshine?”
Gavin laughed, the groaned. Damn shit. Ow.

Tina walked off quickly, returning with a glass of water. Unscrewing the child-proof cap, she dumped out the correct dosage and handed it over to Gavin.

Cursing under his breath, Gavin sat up, and downed the pills before falling back onto the bed. “Thank you, Ti.”

Tina glanced over him. “Did they hit your head? What’s going on? You’re not normally this….appreciative.”
Gavin didn’t respond, and sighed. “Just… I don’t want to talk about it.”

Tina nodded. “I’m gonna be on the couch if you need me.” Yawning, she stood and exited the room.

As he drifted off, Gavin felt his heart catch in pain in his throat. He didn’t even check on me? Does he really… want this to end?

Questions Gavin didn’t want the answer to chased him as he fell asleep.

The next thing Gavin knew, the bed dipped down beside him as a gentle hand shook his shoulder.

“Hey. Gav. I need to go soon, I just wanted to check that you’re OK.” Tina’s voice was calm, and her hand was gentle.

Blinking his eyes open, Gavin noted the soft pink light coming through the windows. “Jeeze, it’s morning?”

Tina smirked, eyes sparkling. “Gee, can see how you made detective. Yes, it’s morning, about six-thirty. I need to go soon. Are you alright?”

Sitting up, Gavin still felt drained. “Yeah, I’m OK.” Attempting to smile, Gavin swung his legs off the bed. “What’s going on?”

“Not sure, I’m sure I’ll be filled in when I get to work.” Tina gently rubbed at his shoulder. “You’re looking pale, Gav. Are you sure you’ll be alright? I know Nines has texted that he won’t be home for awhile. Said something about the case kicking tail at the precinct.”

Or he doesn’t want to see me. Gavin felt his stomach drop. Wouldn’t it be easier to rip the band-aid off?

“OK, thanks. Good to know.” Gavin stood, ignoring the shot of pain. Grabbing his pain medication, Gavin did his best not to stumble too much.

Going to the kitchen, he found the coffee carafe full. “Coffee…” Pouring himself a mug, Gavin grunted as the caffeine and pain killers kicked in.

“Feel better?” Tina poked his shoulder.

“Coffee is always better.” Gavin smiled, pouring himself a new cup and sitting down at his table. “I’m assuming that I’m on admin leave until shit gets figured out?”

“Wait, why would you be on admin leave?” Tina asked, confused.

“Oh, I was accused of attacking an android last night.” Gavin tried for sing-song, but the tone fell flat with anger and hurt. “Nines told me about it when he called.”
Tina winced, and then simply responded with “I hope you’re on leave, because you’re not getting to work on time if you’re not.” Tina returned the bird that Gavin flipped her as she walked to the door. “Feel better soon, Gav. And I know Nines knows you didn’t do it.”

Gavin scoffed, exhaustion kicking back in despite the caffeine making him jittery. “I hope you’re right.”

Tina walked out, closing the door behind her.

Grabbing his phone, Gavin texted Fowler.

I’m assuming since I’ve been accused that I’m on leave? : G

Yes, and stay out of the spotlight, Reed. The media is turning on you, hard. They’re using the ‘hero who was hiding shit’ type of angle. : Boss.

Groaning, Gavin walked back to bed and sat down before pulling his tablet out and starting a search for a doctor’s appointment with the physician that Dr. Michaels had mentioned.

I don’t know what to do… What do they mean ‘a growth’? Pulling up a new tab, Gavin searched the term. The first option was a benign tumor. God, I hope it’s that.

Scrolling through the available appointments, Gavin found one the next day at ten-twenty a.m., and quickly booked it. Wow, that’s a minor miracle.

Hearing his phone, Gavin picked it up. Looking down at the unknown number, Gavin groaned. Fuck, the media has my number. Ignoring his phone unless it was a specialized ringtone, Gavin continued to schedule his appointment.

Having completed the scheduling, Gavin flopped back on the bed with nothing to distract him from his thoughts.

Does Nines want to break up? Does that what ‘talk’ means? It seems like he’s avoiding me right now, not coming home, not coming to check on me himself. It’s bullshit. If he wants to break up, he can have the balls to tell me to his face.

Standing, Gavin started to pace. And where does he get off on asking me if I did it? He should know I wouldn’t do that! I know “I was an asshole, but seriously. I’ve grown and changed. I don’t blame Connor for questioning me. He had to deal with me. But, Nines never saw that side of me….or not much of that side! I’d already started to change when he came around.”

Ranting, Gavin continued to loop around the room. “I have changed. And I deserve better than to be questioned. I know I messed up. I know it.” Ragged pain cut through Gavin. “I know.”

This isn’t healthy and isn’t getting you anywhere. Walking out of the bedroom, Gavin pulled out his console. I need people around me, something to distract me.

Putting on headphones, Gavin plopped into a MMORPG and lost himself.

The hours slipped away, and when Gavin stopped to check the time, he found it was nearly nighttime.

Walking back to the room, Gavin picked up his phone. I should have a phone call or two from Nines. Crap, I should’ve had this out there with me.

Opening the phone, Gavin found exactly one phone call. OK, he really is avoiding me.

A voice mail was also waiting for him. Clicking on it, Gavin listened.

“Gavin. This is really a mess. I don’t know when I’m going to come home. I’m going to try and wrap all of my part of it up tonight. Hopefully, we’ll be able to talk afterward. Anyway, I probably won’t be home until after this is all done.” Nines’s tone was still cutting and frozen. “I’ll see you then. We have a lot to talk about.”

Hearing that, Gavin felt his heart sink into his stomach. He thinks I did it. Rage snapped through him, flooding his system as he dialed Nines.

One ring…. two rings…. Gavin counted the moments as he waited for Nines to pick up. Nine’s busy message greeted Gavin after a few minutes.

“Look, Nines, if you want to break up, have the fucking balls to say so instead of avoiding me and giving me the silent treatment. Fuck you and fuck this passive aggressive method.” Gavin hissed after the beep. “I might be home tomorrow. We’ll see.”

Hanging up, Gavin turned off his phone. “Fuck this.”

Grabbing his jacket, Gavin tossed it on. Walking to the kitchen, he scooped up the pain medication and turned to get his tablet and wallet from his room. I might as well get chores and errands done. Picking up the large foldable bag, Gavin threw it over his shoulder. To finish the look, Gavin slapped on a baseball cap and pulled the zipper of his jacket all of the way up to mask his face.

Locking the apartment door behind him, Gavin made his way to the grocery a few blocks down. I need to get over-the-counter pain killers, cat food—both wet and hard, thirium, pasta, milk, eggs, bread and maybe a few frozen pizzas.

The walk to the grocery was mostly quiet. Keeping his head up, Gavin kept an eye out for anyone around him. The conversation between passersbys and traffic sufficiently distracted Gavin as he navigated. Need to avoid being jostled as much as possible.

Reaching the grocery, Gavin ran through the list quickly when his abdomen twinged. Fuck. I didn’t think I was straining myself so much. Slinging the foldable bag over his shoulder, Gavin started the walk back.

The walk back wasn’t nearly as crowded as the walk to the store, and Gavin felt his thoughts start to spiral once again.

What all do I need to do if he does…. Want to leave? I’ll need to find a new place to live. I can’t afford the apartment alone. And I’ll need to arrange the move, but I can’t lift anything right now. A moving truck and company would probably be best. I need to give him…. Looking at his left hand, Gavin ran his thumb over his ring, so it did a full rotation on his finger. Slowly, his heart began to crack, as his eyes began to water. I’ll give the ring back, let him decide what to do with it. And I’ll figure out what my new financials are going to be, especially if I have to pay for part of my treatments.

Looking up at the night sky, Gavin felt his heart drop. What if it is cancer? Is it already too late to fight it? Do I keep fighting even if it is?

The light at the crosswalk blinked walk as Gavin stumbled under the heavy thoughts. Or do I… choose to end it?

The thought circled, as he made his way up the apartment stairs. Is it worth it to go into debt to try and fight this? Medical shit still means an arm and a leg, and I only have one arm left.

Feeling moisture on his cheek, Gavin rubbed his face roughly against his jacket as he unlocked the front door.

Opening it, Gavin felt his heart dip then rise slightly. Maybe he came home?

Walking inside, Gavin felt his heart crash into his ribs and shatter. Nope.

Carrying the groceries to the kitchen, Gavin quickly put them away and fed the cats.

Going methodically through the process of stripping his bed and throwing both sheets and clothes into the washer, Gavin indulged his depressed and dark thoughts. Guess I don’t need to worry too hard. If I die, I die. No point in trying to fight it. Hell, maybe I should just let things go. Life is already falling apart as it is, why continue to fight for this? Everyone thinks the worst of me, even those who are supposed to know me best. Why do I continue to fight for them? Dumping the latest load on the freshly made bed, Gavin began to fold the items.  

I want to know Nines has my back and will talk to me about this shit before assuming I did it. That’s all. I know he’s going to have to question it… wait, no. No, he doesn’t. I’ve proven to be better than I was. I’ve worked and struggled to overcome my biases. I know I slip, but I wouldn’t attack an android anymore.  Opening his eyes, Gavin found his autopilot was effective as the pile of laundry was neatly folded and ready to be put into drawers.

Picking it up, Gavin placed it where it belonged, and shut the drawer, hard. “Fuck this.”

Walking over to his bedside table, Gavin pulled out the box Nines had proposed with. Placing the ring back into it, Gavin walked out to the living room, placing the box back where it’d been on the coffee table when Nines had proposed to him.

“This is your choice, Nines.” Gavin whispered, looking at the box as it sat innocuously on the table. “If you truly think I did that, it’s better to let go now before we hurt each other further.”

Walking back to the room, Gavin did his best not to sob because pain zinged up his abdomen if he did.

Finishing the laundry, Gavin laid down and petted Luna and Donkey until he fell asleep.

Flashes appeared before his eyes, an EMP. Nines went down in front of him, LED light flickering on and off.

“Nines!” Gavin screamed, running to him, wrapping his arms around him “Babe, please, please answer me!”

Nines didn’t respond, LED flickering off.

Rian walked in, laughing. “Well, too bad. Should’ve been you who died. He knew you were anti-android. He’d been planning to leave.” She pointed to two large suitcases, packed and ready to go.

Gavin felt his heart drop. “I’m not.”

“But you are. Even your partner knows you are.” Rian walked over, dragging an oversized axe along the ground toward him. “Now, I’ll fix your existence.”

Hefting the axe, Gavin rolled off the edge of the cliff, and woke on the floor, body singing with panic and pain. Fuck, fuck!

Sitting up, Gavin scrambled back up and under the covers. Reaching for his phone, Gavin flicked through cat videos for an hour before he could fully go back to sleep.

His alarm sounded at eight-thirty a.m., and Gavin groaned. Nope. Messing with the alarm, Gavin set it for another twenty minutes. I’ll skip on breakfast.

Closing his eyes, Gavin crashed again.

When his alarm sounded again, Gavin sighed and took a semi-deep breath and sat up. Looking over to Nines’s side of the bed, Gavin felt exhaustion swamp him when he saw Nines wasn’t there. Why did I expect anything else?

Grabbing his clothes, Gavin threw them on as he rushed through the rest of his morning routine. Dashing out of the apartment with his face hidden behind a ball cap and mask, Gavin tucked his phone and wallet into his pockets and ran to catch the bus to the hospital.

Dashing through the lobby, Gavin caught a flash of something out of the corner of his eye. Was that… Tina?

Dashing out, Gavin found himself awash in a small crowd, one with recorders at the ready. However, with his face hidden, he made it to the bus stop.

Ignoring what he’d thought he’d seen in the lobby, Gavin caught the bus by a hairbreadth, and sat down as it started to move. Catching his breath, Gavin took a seat near the back of bus and watched as the scenery rolled by.

After six stops, Gavin was climbing off the bus and dashing into the elevator bank at the back of the hospital and taking it to the third floor. Checking in at reception, Gavin flashed a fast grin. “Good morning. I need to check in for my appointment. I’m Gavin Reed, I’m supposed to meet with Dr. Marrero today at ten-thirty.”

Glancing at the clock, the receptionist sent him a small glare. “Cutting it close, aren’t you?”

Gavin felt his smile freeze, and his tone was a little less friendly as he spoke. “A little, yes. I’d like to make sure I’m checked in, soon.”

Thrusting a clipboard and pen to him, the receptionist simply replied “Fill these out and we’ll get you checked in.”

Taking them, Gavin spoke stiffly. “Thank you.”

Filling them out, Gavin turned them in and stared at the non-offensive beige that the entire office was covered in and did his best to wait patiently.

Grabbing his phone to distract himself seconds later, Gavin realized he hadn’t turned it on since he’d left that message to Nines the previous night. Yeah, I don’t want to deal with the messages right now.

Hearing a door open, Gavin looked up to see a young woman with a bun poked her head out with a clipboard. “Reed?”

Gavin stood, flashing a fast grin. “That’s me.”

“Please, follow me.”  The young woman led him back to just off the entry way. “We need to get a few stats, so if you wouldn’t mind standing on the scale?”

Gavin nodded, then asked “Do you want me to take my prosthetic off?”

The nurse scanned over him. “You have a prosthetic?” Her flabbergasted tone had Gavin smiling.

Good to know I still seem human. Clicking off the nerves, Gavin removed the arm. “Yep!”

The nurse nodded. “Please.”

Placing his arm off to the side, Gavin stepped on the scale.

Taking note of his weight, the young woman nodded. “Cool. Thank you.”

Leading Gavin back to a room, the nurse smiled. “The doctor will be in to see you as soon as she’s able. Please change into the robe and be ready.”

Gavin nodded, waiting for the door to close before he changed. “God, I hate these things.”

Stripping to put on the robe, Gavin grumbled throughout to himself. “You’d think they’d have changed these things by now.”  Grabbing his phone, Gavin turned it on to distract himself.

Flicking it on, Gavin watched impatiently as it went to his home screen. Unlocking it, Gavin felt a few messages roll in.

Nines’s text was the most prominent.

9’s : I said we’d talk tomorrow.

Feeling hurt flood his system, Gavin brought up an apartment listing website and started to look for a new place to live. Fuck that.

He’d found one or two promising listings by the time the door opened. “Good morning, Mr. Reed. I’m Dr. Marrero. ”
The woman’s curly hair was tamed back in a bun, and her black skin shone healthily. “What are we seeing you for today?”
Gavin looked up and nodded. “I was informed that there was a ‘growth’ found in my left lung when I was brought in for surgery yesterday. I was told I needed to get it checked out and directed your way. I want to know what this ‘growth’ means, and if…. If it’s cancer, I want to know if it’s terminal.”
Marrero’s eyebrows shot to her forehead. “What makes you think it’s terminal? And what are you planning on doing if it is?”

“I…best to expect the worst-case scenario and be wrong than to be optimistic and be wrong. And  I don’t know, I’ll figure it out.” Gavin stated, leaning back on his hands. “What all needs to be done?”

“Well, we need to biopsy the growth, figure out what size and shape it is. You said you were in for surgery recently. How recently? That’ll make it more difficult to get a core biopsy.”
“It was due to trauma, and it was yesterday. Doctor…. Michaels… said I needed to get checked out fast. So I came in.” Gavin said watching for a tic in the doctor’s face to tell him anything.

“OK, well, if he recommended that you come in fast, I’m going to treat it as urgent. So, we’ll do a core needle biopsy and start testing it.” Marrero nodded toward the door. “I’ll get the test set up. It might take a half-an-hour, but we’ll get it done and to the lab tonight. That should make it so that we get results fairly quickly, and I’ll put a rush on them to get them as quickly as possible.”
Gavin felt dread form in his gut. “I take it that you think it might be bad.”
“Yes. Michaels is not someone who tells someone to come in unless they think it’s urgent. So, the fact that they told you to come in has me very worried.” Marrero’s eyes were clinically cool.

Gavin felt dread settle in his stomach. “Understood. Let’s get this shit done.”
Marrero nodded. “Agreed.”

After two hours, the tests were done, and Gavin was getting further instructions from one of the nurses. His chest ached from where they’d inserted the  small needle, but apparently, they’d gotten enough of a sample to test.

“We’ll get in contact with you as soon as we know results. The needle wound should heal in a day or so. As it is, you’re on painkillers for the other recent surgery, so you should be OK for that period. If you start to have issues breathing or can’t seem to catch your breath, come back and we’ll help you.” The nurse smiled at Gavin. “Is there anything else?”
“No, thank you.” Gavin rubbed at his chest. “I think I’m good. Do I need to pay upfront?”

“They’ll help you at the lobby with that.” The young man turned and opened the door. “I hope your day goes well.”

It’s kinda already been shot to shit, kiddo. Pulling on his clothes, Gavin felt tired and sighed. I can doze on the bus ride home.

After paying, Gavin climbed on the bus to ride the rest of the loop back home, leaning against the window. I should have an hour of a ride before I hit my stop. I’ll set my alarm for forty-five minutes so I can doze.

Doing so, Gavin closed his eyes as the wheels of the bus lulled his mind into a calm state.

When his phone began to buzz, Gavin did his best to ignore it and maintain his hard-fought calm. However, seconds later his alarm quietly charmed and Gavin sat up to see that they were pulling up to two stops away from his.

Pulling out the phone, Gavin found a few missed calls from Nines and a text or two.

Ignoring them, Gavin focused on the rest of the bus ride, tiredly climbing off at his stop and making his way to the apartment.

Opening the door, Gavin glanced over the room, confused while simultaneously not being surprised that Nines wasn’t there.

Stepping inside and opening the texts from Nines, Gavin found an explanation.

9’s : Tina said you weren’t in the apartment when she came by to check on you this morning. Where are you?

9’s : Gavin, answer me. Are you OK?

Gavin snorted, glaring at his phone. “Fuck off.” It was Tina I saw this morning.

The exhaustion from the exertion of getting to the bus and the mental strain caught up to Gavin. Walking to the bedroom, Gavin close and locked the door behind him. Typing out a fast text message, Gavin scheduled it to leave his phone about five p.m., when Nines would be leaving work.

You can sleep on the couch tonight. : G.

Lying down on his side of the bed, Gavin closed his eyes.

Sleep was a long way off, but Gavin let his mind drift through the wreckage as the hours passed, unmarked.

After several hours passed, Gavin realized that his pain medication was starting to wear off. Standing, Gavin walked out to the kitchen and poured himself a glass of water. Looking to the fridge, Gavin felt his stomach rumble even if he didn’t feel hungry. Looking at the clock on the stove, Gavin goggled at the time. It’s already eight p.m.? So much for him coming back later tonight. Wonder if he’s crashing at Hanks….?

Grabbing a few string cheeses, Gavin downed those, then took his medication. Fuck it, I’m going back to bed.

Walking back into the room, Gavin shut and locked the door. Looking toward Nines’s bedside table, Gavin caught sight of Nines’s charging cord. Grabbing it, Gavin hung it on the doorknob outside the room. Shutting the door and locking it again, Gavin walked back to the bed and sprawled out on it, closing his eyes and falling asleep quickly.

Gavin woke when he heard a knock on the bedroom door.

“Gavin.” Nines’s voice. “Let me in.”
Feeling the sleep inertia pull him back down to the mattress, Gavin laid back down and fell back asleep despite the constant knocking.

Opening his eyes, Gavin sat up and glanced around. Something’s….off?

His sleep-confused state cleared once he saw the bedroom door, open. Wait. How?

Looking down, Gavin saw Nines curled up on his side of the bed. He wasn’t under the covers.

Sitting up, Gavin swung his legs over the edge of the bed. He’s going to wake up and grab me. Standing up, Gavin was surprised when Nines didn’t move, obviously still exhausted from working two all-nighters. His LED spun gold, and he moved restlessly as he charged.

Gavin felt his heart hit his ribs, both disquieted and concerned. I fucking told you to give me some space. How exhausted are you, anyway?

Grabbing a loose blanket, Gavin tossed it over Nines. Nines didn’t move. Jesus, Nines. You lecture me about taking care of yourself, but you didn’t take care of yourself this time.

Hearing his phone ring, Gavin grabbed it, checked the number to see the hospitals area code,  and exited the room to drop down on the couch. “Hello?”

As he spoke, his eyes fell to the spot where he’d placed his engagement ring and its box. It’s not there. His stomach dipped as he waited for the person at the end of the line to speak. He’s done.

“Mr. Reed? This is Doctor Sarah Morerro. How are you today?” The woman’s voice was professionally cheery.

“Since you’re calling, I’m assuming I’m not as good as I feel. How are you?” Gavin answered, feeling his anxiety ramp up.

“I’m fine, thank you, and let’s not get too morbid yet. We did get your test results back, and it is cancer. Specifically, small-cell cancer which is common for smokers and ex-smokers. We got your x-rays back, and from what we see on those, you are limited—meaning that it hasn’t spread to other parts of your body—and that you are in stage IIB—meaning that it is either 5 cm in size or has spread to your lymph nodes. As it stands, you are in that first group. It is a 5.25 cm tumor in size in your left lung.” Marrero’s voice maintained an even keel as Gavin felt his stomach roll.

“OK.” Taking a deep breath, Gavin tried to control the panic. Fuck! “What do I do now?”

“Well, if you could schedule an appointment, we need to discuss treatment. As it happens, I had a….,” Marrero’s voice held a tinge of sadness as she continued, “cancellation…for later today, at about ten a.m. today. You’d need to check your insurance, but it should cover chemotherapy and radiation. If we get your treatment plan hammered out, we should be able to have you start treatment tonight.” Marrero’s voice washed over Gavin.

“So, it isn’t terminal?” Gavin felt relief drop him back against the couch.

“No, it isn’t.” Marrero seemed to smile. “You can fight.”

“Alright. Thank you, I’ll see you at ten a.m. Is there anything else I should have?” Gavin nodded, leaning forward and taking another deep breath.

“Well, have your insurance policies on hand, and maybe bring a spare change of clothes in case you are able to start treatment tonight. Oh, and Mr. Reed? You might want to get here a little earlier than you did yesterday.” Marrero’s chuckle came through the line.

Rolling his eyes, Gavin kept his tone even. “Thank you, Doc. Have a good day.”
“You, too.” Marrero hung up, and Gavin felt silence surround him.

“Mrrow?” Luna jumped up, pushing her way onto his lap.

“Hi, pretty girl.” Stroking along her back, Gavin tried to figure out what to do financially as he stared at the wall above the TV. As a detective, I make about 80,000 a year. If I’m looking for an apartment, I’ll go cheap and look for about 1,000 for rent per month, 1,500  for utilities per month, and assume about 1,000 for food/eating out per month and that should hit the basics. That should equal out to about 38,000 left. I’ll probably end up using most of the rest for treatment. God, I hope that’s enough with insurance.

“Mrrow? Mreep!” Luna’s voice chimed into his thoughts as his finger fell idle.

Shaking himself, Gavin looked down at the gray fluffball on his lap. “Oh, sorry, princess.”

Scooping Luna to his chest, Gavin held and carried her as he made his way back to the bedroom.

Nines was still out of it,  LED circling yellow.

Placing Luna on the bed, where she promptly curled up, and grabbing his items, Gavin hopped into the shower and rushed through his morning routine. It’s about six now, so I have two hours before I need to get on the bus.

Glancing back at the bedroom, Gavin mentally groaned. I don’t know that I want to be here much longer. Nines usually takes about eight hours to reach full battery after a day or so of work. Or he goes into stasis, I don’t know. But I’m willing to bet he’ll charge quickly, and I don’t want to deal with this right now. I’ll focus on the treatment and then worry about moving out and shit later.

Turning off the hot water, Gavin heard the covers rustling in the bedroom. Grabbing a towel, Gavin dried off as he slipped into the bedroom to grab clothes. Snagging underwear, a simple pair of jeans and a long-sleeved v-neck, Gavin threw them on before walking over to grab his wallet, tablet and phone.

Tucking  two items into his pockets, Gavin grabbed a pair of socks and sat down on the bed to put them on, keenly aware of the lack of movement Nines made.

Pulling on the socks, Gavin sighed as he planned what to pack. She said a change of clothes, and given how cold it is, maybe a blanket would be a good idea. Charger, tablet, headphones, phone, phone charger….Maybe I’ll just turn off my phone. No point in leaving it on for the media to harass me with. I’ll just leave a note on the fridge for Nines. I’ll let him know I’ll start looking for a new place to be soon.

Sneaking around the bedroom, Gavin filled the duffle bag with the things he’d thought of and slung it over his shoulder. Only question now is, where can I hang out without being bugged? I haven’t been to the library in a while. I’d bet Nines wouldn’t look for me there, and it’s close enough to the hospital to be a fifteen-minute ride from there.

Walking out into the living room, Gavin nearly stumbled over the two mewing bodies. “OK, yes, I’m coming to feed you.” As the cats wove their way around his feet, Gavin had to smile at them. Fluffy lil’ shits.

Grabbing the bag of food, Gavin poured it out when his phone began to ring again. It was his default ringtone, which let him know who was calling. Media. Crap. I really do not feel like being harassed by them.

Digging his phone out of his pocket, Gavin turned it off before putting it back away. Grabbing a dry-erase marker from the counter, he wrote out a note on the fridge for Nines to find.

I’ll be out of your hair as soon as I find a new apartment.  Also, I fed the cats so don’t give them anymore. I’ve got somewhere to be, so I probably won’t be back until late.

Satisfied with that, Gavin slapped on his baseball cap and mask before walking out and down to the bus stop.

The ride to the library had Gavin lulling against the window frame, only really recognizing the area after a few seconds. Pulling on the cord, Gavin stood, and made his way into the library. There, he climbed up to the third level—which was mostly study rooms and absolute silence. Tossing on his headphones, Gavin set an alarm for a half-an-hour before his appointment and queued up an old favorite ‘try not to smile’ challenge  as he scrolled through the news.

The headlines looked to be about what he’d expected.

Hero cop not what he seems, Gavin mused as he scrolled through the local news feed. Seriously, why is it they can’t come up with a good clickbait title? Like, I know what the article says, and I saw it for point-zero-two seconds before rolling my eyes and scrolling past.

Time passed, and Gavin’s alarm had him jumping out of his own skin after being so focused on a round of a mobile game. Shit!

Looking up, Gavin felt relief when no one else noticed his jump. Packing up, Gavin made his way to the bus stop, noticing the gray skies above and the quiet patter of rain.

After reaching his bus stop, Gavin tilted his head back to let the rain fall unimpeded on his face. It’s….right, for it to be raining. Drops fell, cold, on his face mimicking tears. I guess I’m really alone, now.  Pulling his bag under his jacket so that there wasn’t a chance of a leak, Gavin waited. As the bus pulled up, Gavin felt a large wave of water fall over him, soaking his baseball cap and jacket. Perfect, just perfect. Clenching his fists, Gavin fought back the rage centered in his belly when he heard the doors open on the bus with a slight woosh. Sighing, he climbed on the bus looking like a drowned cat.

The driver looked at him and winced. “Didn’t realize it was coming down that hard out there.”
Glaring, Gavin said nothing as he paid the fees and found his way to a seat with a heater next to it. Curling up near the warm air, Gavin mentally ticked off each of the miles with thoughts about treatment.

I wonder if I’ll be able to afford all of it. I hope I’ll be able to continue working… maybe I should switch departments? Maybe records or something. That way, it’s not as ‘actiony’…. I wonder if they’re going to recommend that I leave Detroit. It might be partly environmental. Given the smog and crap, it will make it harder to breathe… Maybe I should look into moving, anyway. This are going to be awful at the precinct after…whatever happens happens. So maybe I should check out while the checking out is good…. Maybe I’ll check into that transfer to Hawaii…. Air quality probably isn’t good, but hey, if I’m going to go…. Might as well see where I can go….

As the bus ride drew to Gavin’s stop, Gavin did his best not to panic at the sight of the building. They said there’s still a chance. I can still beat this.

Climbing off the bus, Gavin made his way through the now familiar hallways to the check-in desk. I’m fifteen minutes early. I hope that’s enough.

Walking up to the desk, Gavin filled out his paperwork. Sitting down afterwards, Gavin found himself wondering. Wonder if Nines is awake…. He seemed exhausted…

After a few minutes, Gavin was pulled from his thought and called back to Dr. Marrero’s office. “Hi, Doc.”
“Mr. Reed. Good to see you again.” Dr. Marrero stood, reaching for Gavin’s hand to shake.

Obliging, Gavin did his best to smile. “So, what am I in for?”

“Well, small cell cancer in the lungs is an aggressive cancer. We want to attack it quickly. Even if you’re still sort of in the early stages, we want to hit it fast. I think a mix of radiation and chemotherapy would be best. This cancer can become chemotherapy resistant in its later stages, so we want to avoid that. Hit it hard, hit it fast and we hope it’ll pass.” Marrero grinned up at him. “Does this work?”

“Is it covered by my insurance?” Gavin asked, leaning forward as he tried to figure it all out.

“Yes, it is covered. We just need to run a few more tests—checking out your base status before going forward. And you need to decide what type of chemotherapy you want to do. There are four categories. Oral, Intravenous, IA—which means that we would put the chemotherapy into an artery that leads to the cancer—and injected chemo. Oral chemotherapy is much more common now but can be expensive. IV therapy is more common, but you’ll need to have a minor surgery done to insert a port into your arm.” Marrero smiled, gently. “Do you have any idea what you think you’d want to do?”

“Which one would be least impactful on my life? With my job, I don’t know that I can hang around the hospital a lot. And I’m always on call.” Gavin said, leaning back in his chair.

“Well, IVS might be the most invasive. However, treatments can be short—a half-an-hour, if we do a high dose. The higher the dosage, the shorter the treatment. Shots would be the next shortest treatment, and we could schedule around your days off. Oral medication can be taken daily and that can be done at home.”

“Well, I guess I feel like oral would probably the best, but I don’t know how much I can afford right now. How bad would the shots affect my ability to move?” Gavin asked.

“Well, shots would mean that we inject the chemotherapy either into a  muscle or under the skin. That could make you sore and might limit what you feel like doing.” Marrero watched Gavin.

“Well….. I think that IV is probably the best, but I want to do higher dosage so  I can get this done. What drugs would you be using?” Gavin muttered, reaching down as a reflex to his phone before pulling away from it.

“Well, given that you want to do IV infusion, I would suggest Etoposide. It is an anti-cancer drug, meaning it will stop cell reproduction.”  Marrero smiled.

Gavin sighed,  rubbing his hands along his thighs as his hands sweated. “Well, if that works, I’m happy with it.”

“OK, so we need to get your base tests done and we’ll confirm with a blood test and some other test that this should work well. We already have some idea of what your normal stats are because of your yearly physicals from work, but we’ll do a full work-up anyway. After that, I think Markie might have an opening at ten p.m. tonight. We could start your treatment tonight, after we figure out the dosage. Does that work for you?”

Gavin nodded, mentally trying to figure out what he’d do until then. “I can definitely do that, if I can get the tests done by then? How long should those take?”

“We’ll get you scheduled for those in an hour or so. And yes, they’re also covered.” Marrero smiled. “Is there anything else you need to know?”

“Given that it’s my lungs, am I going to have a more difficult time breathing? Do I need to avoid strenuous exercise?” Gavin felt his stomach tighten. “As a detective, I need to be able to move.”
“I’m not sure how you’ll react to treatment. If you start to cough, yes, it would be best for you to stop strenuous exercise. Mild is fine, but you’ll need to be careful.” Marrero smiled. “You probably will have difficulty breathing. Other possible side effects from the drugs we hope to use include things like vomiting and nausea, fatigue, heart issues and another myriad of things. However, if you leave this unchecked, your life span will be significantly shorter.” Marrero looked at Gavin, who felt the blood draining from his face. “It’s your choice, but I recommend the treatment.”
“No shit, Doc. I just planned on dying. Thanks for the heads up.” Gavin let the sarcasm pour through. If it had been terminal, I would’ve probably ended it more quickly, but I’m not leaving if there’s a chance.

Marrero laughed. “Good to know there’s still a spark of fight in you. Get the scared look off your face, and you’ll be fine. I can see it.”

Gavin felt anger fill his stomach, before it turned to hateful laughter. “Good to know, Doc.”

Standing, Gavin nodded. “What do I need to do to get the tests ready?”

“We’ll get you set up.” Marrero smiled. “Not an issue.”

After seven and a half hours, Gavin was ready for his appointment with all the tests done. He’d gotten the port put in—it only took a few minutes—and he was ready to leave. Wrapping up the port so it would be protected, Gavin looked to the receptionist and smiled. “Could you direct me to where I need to go for my chemo tonight?”

The young woman smiled up him. “Of course. It’s on the next floor down, over to the right of the elevator bank.”

Gavin nodded. “Thank you.” Walking out, Gavin navigated back to the bus stop. Well, I’ve got some time to burn. I need to go get dinner anyway.  Maybe I’ll grab food and swing back by the library. I could use a book or two to read…or something. Maybe they still have…actually, I should be able to rent movies through my tablet. Wonder what they have in their catalogue?

Hopping off the bus, Gavin found his way to a small café near the library, ordered and carried the food into the small open area where food and drink were allowed. Given that it was six or so at night, very few people beyond students and a few homeless people were in the lobby.

Sitting down, Gavin pulled out his tablet and flicked it on. Logging onto social media as well as the libraries catalogue.

Hearing a ping from one of his open tabs, Gavin switched to it to find Tina rapidly messaging him.

GAVIN??

Tina?

Where in the ever-loving fuck are you?

Um… ? Are you OK? I’m at the library.

Tina’s cursor paused, typed, paused again and then a confused message came through.

OK, since I’m not sure if this is you or not, I ‘ll ask you a question.

Tina, it’s me. What the fuck is going on?

What is my actual favorite color? And how did the rumor that I like, and I quote, ‘blacker than the pitch in the abyss of the sea’?

Hahahahahah. Green is the favorite. I’d forgotten about that. Jager and charcoal were not made to go together.  WTF were you thinking??

Tina’s cursor paused, before a simple message came through.

Fuck you, asshole. Are you OK?

That’s not very nice. But yes? Why?

Because Nines is flipping out and has been checking in with everyone to see if anyone has seen you. He says that you have been completely out of contact and he’s been scared that you’ve been kidnapped again! That’s why I’ve been checking on social media all fucking day. Gavin, what the hellllllllllllll is going on?

Gavin felt his gut clench and tried to figure out what to say.

Look, it’s a lot. I can call you later and explain, but for right now, I’m going to say that it’s nothing you need to worry about .If you’re going to contact Nines, just tell him that I’m fine and that I’ll do my best to get out of the apartment quickly.

Tina’s cursor typed, backspace, thought for a bit, and then simply came to this.

  1. I’m going to let Nines know you’re OK. I won’t say much more, but If you need me, Gavin, I will have my phone on me tonight. Call if you need help, or just an ear to talk to.

Gavin felt warmth shoot through his veins.

Thanks, T. It means a lot.

Glancing down, Gavin saw that it was time to head back to the hospital. Grabbing his stuff, Gavin quickly made his way back to the hospital. Following the receptionist’s instructions, Gavin found his way to the chemotherapy ward.

As he entered the front desk, a young nurse with long black hair with green highlights tucked into a braid looked up. “Mr. Reed, right?”

Gavin flashed a grin. “Yes, that’s me. You’re…. Markie, right? That’s what Dr. Marrero said. What all do I need to do?”
“Yep, that’s me! Follow me and we’ll get you set up. We’re going to ease you in, so this first session is going to be a little longer than your others. An hour, tops, but still more than a half-an-hour.” The perky tone grated, but Gavin kept a straight face plastered on.

“Thank you.” Following the nurse, Gavin was seated and hooked up to the drug. Lying back, Gavin closed his eyes and tried to sleep.

About two minutes later with nausea bending him in half, Gavin regretted everything. Uuuuuuuuuuhhhhnnnnnnnnnn.

Grabbing onto the trashcan that had been placed next to him, Gavin felt his stomach reject his dinner and hold him over the trashcan with waves every few seconds.

Fuck me. Grabbing his phone, Gavin turned it on and went to his browser, swiping angrily at any message or phone buzz that stood in his way. Typing in “how to manage nausea” into a search engine, Gavin groaned and put his phone aside as another wave knocked him back to the trash can. As his body fought, he started to get colder, but reaching out to get his bag—any movement, actually—had another fierce wave knocking him back to the trashcan.

Ten minutes later, Gavin was groaning as he laid back down. This sucks.

Hearing rapid footsteps a few minutes later, Gavin tried to focus on them instead of the nausea freezing and paralyzing his system. I wonder where…. They’re coming toward me?

Cool hands cupped Gavin’s cheeks.

Opening his eyes, Gavin found Nines standing in front of him, eyes wide as he took in the scene.

Nines’s LED was spinning orange. “Gavin.” Wrapping his arms around Gavin and pulling him into an angled position, Nines held tight and buried his nose into Gavin’s hair. “I’ve been so worried.”

Chapter Text

Huh? Tilting his head up, Gavin felt another wave of nausea wash over him. Bad idea!

Grabbing his trashcan, Gavin felt his stomach push up bile.

Nines winced, before his face went back to its neutral expression. Reaching out, he gently helped Gavin lay back down. “OK, lying down should help.”

Shivering, Gavin reached toward his bag. “I…”

Nines looked to where he was pointing. “Something in the bag?”

Gavin nodded, shiver hard. “Please.”
Nines’s LED went red, and he sped toward the bag. Grabbing it, he pulled out the blanket. Walking back over, he carried the chair with him. Settling the blanket over Gavin, Nines pulled the chair next to his bedside, and sat down. Taking Gavin’s hand, Nines didn’t say anything as Gavin fell asleep in the bed.

Consciousness came back to Gavin by degrees. First, the movement of his blanket—the hospital was freezing—the touch of another’s cool hands when he moved to grab the edge of the blanket, pull it back to him. The sound of a chuckle at the disgruntled growl he made when his hands were gently pulled back from the blanket and held as his torso was exposed and something was done.  Then the sound of a disconnected beeping, and then silence as the beeping stop. The smell of antiseptic, and something cold swiping over the lower part of his stomach, where something slightly heavy rested. The cover being gently pulled back over him. A kiss pressed to his cheek, the heat and rush of a blush as a another chuckled sounded.

Gently, a hand cupped his cheek. “Gavin?” Nines’s voice.

“MMmnhmphm.” Gavin grumbled, shrugging away. “Not time to get up yet.”

Nines voice was soft. “We need to go home, Gavin. I know you’re tired, but can you make it to the car before you go back to sleep?”

“Do I havfta?” Gavin mumbled, reaching to grab the pillow.

Nines’s hand grabbed his right one. “Yeah, we need to go home.” Gently, Nines gently pulled Gavin into a sitting position.

“Mmmmnnn…………fiiiiinnnneeeeeee.” Gavin grumbled, opening his eyes. With light waking him up, Gavin felt his brain re-boot. Wait….

Gavin felt pain punch at him, and a wave of nausea, despite there being nothing left in his stomach. “Hnnh.”

Nines was there immediately, holding Gavin steady. “Easy.”

Leaning into Nines side, Gavin pressed his forehead in Nines’s shoulder. I’m so tired.

Nines’s voice was soft. “I’m here, It’s OK. I’ll help you. Do you think you’ll be able to stand?”

“I….I can’t.” Gavin felt his stomach roll. Closing his eyes, Gavin tried to center himself. Why are you here?

Nines nodded. “OK.” His tone was uncertain, voice wavering off on the last syllable. Reaching out, Nines pressed the call button for the nurse.

Did he want to say something else? Feeling another wave hit him, Gavin slumped further against Nines as he spoke to the nurse. Fuck it, I do not care right now.

“I want to go home.” Gavin groaned, and he felt Nines steady him.

“I’ll get you there. It’s Ok. We’re headed home.” Nines steadied him, gently helping him to the wheelchair a nurse had brought in. Gavin could still feel the pent-up tension in Nines’s hands.

Slipping him into the chair, Nines walked around Gavin while maintaining gentle contact as Gavin clenched to fight off the nausea. “Easy, I’ll get you home and you can lie down.”

The faster the goddamned better. Letting his head fall back, Gavin watched as the lights passed by and Nines lean over to check on him. His LED spun orange, but he tried to smile for Gavin. Aren’t…. why?

Reaching down, Nines gently cupped Gavin’s cheek. He said nothing, but ran his thumb over Gavin’s cheek, awkwardly given the angle.

Gavin couldn’t help but lean into the grounding touch. I just want to be home.

The transfer from wheelchair to car was a blur, as was the ride home. Gavin spent most of it with his head pressed against the window, eyes closed against each bump in the rod, each pothole. What the hell do I pay taxes for?

When the car stopped moving, Gavin felt like he could at least take a shallow breath. Almost…almost home.

Cold wind slapped at him as Nines opened his door. “Gavin.”

Tilting his head, Gavin lifted his eyes to Nines. “Hh?”

“Do you feel like you can stand now?” Nines’s voice was soft, and he held Gavin up a little as he unbuckled him.

“I… can try?” Gavin whispered, reaching out. “Let me try. I will.”

“Stubborn.” Nines smiled fondly at Gavin, even as his LED flickered between yellow and green. “You can do it.”

Reaching out, Gavin snagged onto Nines’s waist, leveraging against him to balance. Finding his feet, Gavin felt a wave of pride, followed by a full-body clench against the pain. “Fuck.”

Nines sighed, wrapping his arm more securely around Gavin. “I’ve  got you. Come on, let’s get inside.”

The walk to the elevator felt like an eternity, and the walk to the apartment door another eternity.

Opening the door, Nines ushered Gavin in, gently nudging both Luna and Donkey out of the way. Meowing, the cats tried to crowd the two of them, compromising Gavin’s shaky balance more.  Getting Gavin to the bedroom, Nines laid him down on his back on the bed before turning back to address the cat’s cries. “I’ll be right back. I’m going to feed the cats, and then I’ll be right next to you.”

Gavin felt everything in him go lax as turned over to lay on his side. I’m so glad I’m home.

The smell and feel of his own bed had Gavin falling asleep, nausea retreating under the comfort of his own blanket. Grabbing his pillow, Gavin pressed into it as he fell asleep.

Half-asleep, Gavin heard Nines come into the bedroom, and gently sit down at his feet. Running his hand over Gavin’s calf, Nines murmured something that was lost to Gavin’s ears, but held the warm, familiar,  and exasperated tone of I love you.

Waking up, Gavin found two small, purring bodies resting on his side and near his stomach. Reaching out gently, Gavin scrubbed his fingers over Donkey’s ears, who was resting near his midline between chest and stomach.

“Mrrwrrr.” Donkey arched his head into Gavin’s touch. “Mmmr.Prm.”

Soft fluffy baby boy. Feeling more awake, Gavin looked toward the window. The sun was starting to come up. Wow, I guess I was out all night.

Reaching out to the cat splayed across his side, Gavin shifted Luna so she would jump off of him. Sitting up, Gavin felt his heat float. “Shit.”

“Gavin.” The bed shifted as Nine’s arm wrapped around his shoulders. “Are you OK?”

“Lightheaded. Must be because everything I ate came up last night.” Groaning, Gavin leveraged his feet out of bed, subtly pulling out of Nines’s arms as he leaned forward, bracing his elbows on his knees. Why…why did you find me last night?

Nines shifted, sitting up. “Are you feeling OK other than that?”

“Yeah, tin can, I’m fine. Look, I’m going to grab a cup of coffee and a slice of toast.” Gavin started to stand, but Nines’s iron grip pulled him back down to the bed.

“Stay here, I’ll get it.” Nines stood up as Gavin felt the bed shift.

“I can…” Gavin said, opening his eyes and surprised to fine Nines in front of him. Looking up, Gavin flinched at the livid expression on Nines’s face. Huh…. Self-preservation is telling me to shut up and listen.

“Stay. Here.” Nines bit out as he turned to walk out of the room.

Jeeze. Reclining back on his elbows, Gavin smiled at Luna as she gently sniffed at his stomach. “Pretty girl.”
“MMmrmm.” She chirped, and then jumped down off the bed as a tray was set down next to Gavin.

Sitting up, Gavin reached for the food. “Thanks.” He wouldn’t meet Nines’s gaze as he downed the two slices of toast with peanut butter and the cup of coffee. Placing the mug back down on the tray, Gavin felt his body snap back down to earth instead of floating above the clouds. Thank god.
Reaching to pick up the tray, Gavin felt it pulled from his hands and heard it being placed on his nightstand before Nines’s bodyweight was used to push him back into the mattress, deep. Nines bent his legs along Gavin’s sides, balancing on his knees as he sat above Gavin’s abdomen, careful not to put any weight on him. Don’t get aroused, don’t get aroused. Fuck, he’s hot when he’s mad.

“What the hell, Nines?” Gavin gasped, as Nines took Gavin’s wrists in his hands and held them above his head. Lost that battle.

“What. The. Hell. Is. Going. On?” Nines hissed, eyes scared and angry.

“Nothing you need to worry about if you’re done with me,” Gavin hissed, struggling uselessly against the strength of Nines’s frame.  Anger took over his arousal and he struggled harder.

Nines’s LED spun red as he pinned Gavin down more firmly. “Gavin, what are you talking about?”

“Gee, I don’t know. What was it you said when you fucking called me earlier? ‘We need to re-evaluate the relationship’ ? Yeah, sounds like a fancy way of saying ‘break-up’ to me.” Hissing harder, Gavin desperately tried to pull away as his breath came faster.

Suddenly, Gavin couldn’t pull in enough air. Coughing desperately, Gavin felt his body fight to pull in enough air. Panic shot through him. Can’tbreathe,can’tbreathecan’tbreathe,CAN’T BREATHE.

Nines climbed off of him, pulling him upright and lowering his arms. “Shhh….” Nines wrapped his arms around Gavin, tilting Gavin’s head against his shoulder, tone calm as he rocked him back and forth. But Gavin could feel the panicked tears against his cheek. “Gavin, breathe with me. Easy. In: one, two, three. Out: one, two, three.”

As Nines repeated the countdown, Gavin felt his body relax and his ability to breathe kick back in. Taking a few deep breaths, Gavin sat up fully. “I don’t think I can get too heated. I’m tired, Nines. I don’t want to fight.”

“Gavin, I don’t want to cause you to have another attack. Can we talk? Please.” Nines kept his tone soft, and moved near the footboard to give Gavin some space.

“I don’t know what else there is to say, Nines. You want out. I just don’t understand how you think I did what I’ve been accused of.” Gavin curled up into a ball, pressing his face into his knees, even if his knees pressed his port uncomfortably into him.  

Gavin could hear the audible whirr of Nines’s processor as he moved to kneel down in front of him. “What do you think I think you did, Gavin?”

Gavin’s answer was muffled as he pressed his face further against his knees, ignoring the pressure on his stomach and port as he did so. “You think I attacked her. That I am an anti-android piece of shit. And you want out because next time, you wonder if it’s you I’ll snap on.” Gavin felt his throat catch and the last part of the sentence go almost inaudible. “I….you said you didn’t think I was, back when I asked you.”

Nines stood, startling Gavin backwards which resulted in coughing. Moving to stand directly in front of Gavin, Nines’s hands went wild as he rushed to reassure Gavin, who’d leaned back on his hands to see Nines as tears rolled down his face. Fuck, stop crying! 

“Gavin, I don’t think you attacked anyone. The accusations came from Chappero. He’s trying to shift blame to you. The only reason it even worked temporarily is that Anders went into a deep stasis to heal.” Nines reached out and smoothed away tears. “I’m so sorry. I wasn’t angry that you attacked an android, Gavin. I was so wrong to phrase what I said that way.” Kneeling down again, Nines reached up to cup Gavin’s cheek.
Gavin reeled. “Wait, what were you angry about, then? Why did I get scolded and then abandoned for three goddamned days?” Destructive rage crept through him, hijacking the pain. “Why is it I’ve had to figure all of this out on my own? You talked to me as if I were a piece of shit stuck to your shoe and that you had to shake me off, and then let me stew in the pain that fucking caused, Nines.” Coughing slightly, Gavin turned away, pulling in a few breaths to calm himself down.

“I did not mean to make you feel abandoned, Gavin. I was upset that you put yourself in danger after you’d been so badly injured. I saw the security footage of what all went down.  Chappero had dragged you out. I couldn’t help you, and I watched you dive back in to help Anders.” Nines moved to sit next to Gavin, staring at his hands in his lap.

“I’m a cop. I was going to help if I could.” Gavin said, clenching his hands in the sheets.

“I know, Gavin. I’m not angry or upset about that. I just…. Please, make sure to take care of yourself first. I could have lost you.” Nines voice was soft, calm, but his LED spun orange.

“I…Sorry.” Gavin said, gruffly, surreptitiously rubbing away the tears that had fallen of their own volition.

“Gavin, I know you did not attack Anders.” Nines was quiet as he spoke. “I know you are better than you used to be and would not attack an android like that. I’ve seen what you were, what you’ve become since then. I didn’t mean to make you feel abandoned.” Hugging Gavin to him, Nines sighed. “I was trying to talk to Anders, but  she’s gone into a deep stasis. To heal mentally, I think. But without her input, we can’t clear you. And we don’t know how long she’s going to stay that way.”

Gavin scooted closer to Nines, leaning gently so that his arm brushed Nines’s side. “It’s Ok. If you believe me, that’s what matters to me right now.”

Nines reached out, resting his arm across Gavin’s shoulders tentatively. Leaning into Nines grip, Gavin pressed into his embrace. He feels….warmer than he usually does.

As the thought crossed his mind, Nines let out a deep breath, his chest palpably cooling against Gavin’s back. Then, Nines pulled Gavin into his lap, crossing one arm across Gavin’s chest and over his shoulder and the other around his hips, carefully avoiding Gavin’s port, and rolled the two of them to the center of their bed.
“Nines!” Gavin squeaked, then laughed. “What the hell, man?”

Nines pressed his lips to the nape of Gavin’s neck before he whispered to Gavin. “I love you so, so much. I’m so sorry I hurt you that way, and how I reacted this morning…. I was… I was so scared when I couldn’t find you the other day. I thought that those pyschos had attached you again.” Nines’s LED spun red. “It wasn’t until you turned on your fucking phone that I was able to track you.” Nines arms became steel bands holding him against a rigid chest. “Never do that again.”

Gavin winced, remembering how traumatic those night had been. I should’ve thought about that. “I won’t, but you’re digging into my hip.”

Nines relaxed his grip, but he still held tight. “If you ever vanish like that again, I will make it so all of your gourmet coffee vanishes, and that you will not be able to buy any for a month and a half or until I cool off. Whichever comes first.” Nines laughed at Gavin squirming against his chest.

“OK, OK, I’m sorry. Jesus.” Gavin grumbled, struggling to get leverage on the bed so he could sit up. “No need to get nasty.”

Nines’s laughter went dark as he clutched Gavin to him. “There’s every need. And I still have a few questions for you.” Relaxing his grip, Nines pressed a few kisses to Gavin’s neck. “What’s going on? Why were you in the chemotherapy ward?”

Hmmm… chemotherapy ward. Wonder what I could be in for! “Surely you’ve scanned me and figured it out, Nines.” Gavin said, scooting back to meet Nines’s gaze.

“Gavin, I turn off my scanners around you in order to give you the privacy you deserve. I think I have an idea of what’s going on—after all, you were in the chemotherapy ward, which implies cancer—but I need to hear the specifics from you.” Nines arms tensed as he spoke, apparently worried.

What if he can’t handle this? I don’t have any right to put him through this. Gavin sighed, tucking his chin and pressing his face into Nines’s chest to avoid looking out at the bedroom. “When... when they were checking me for other injuries because of that piece of shit, they did a few x-rays. The saw a lump in my lung and had me come in for more tests the next day. Turns out to be small-cell cancer, common in smokers.” Gavin let out a cracking, angry laugh. “Fucking figures my karma would come back like that. Guess I deserve it for being so fucking dumb.”

Nines’s hands, which had gone lax during the explanation grasped him with a new vigor as Gavin said the last sentence. “No. No, you do not deserve this.” Flipping Gavin so their eyes met, Nines released Gavin’s right hip to stroke at his cheek. “Making a dumb decision like smoking doesn’t mean you deserve to die.”

Gavin felt self-hatred build up in his chest and erupt. “Why wouldn’t I? I knew that smoking could cause cancer.”

“The operative word there is ‘could’, Gavin. It can cause cancer, not that it does every time.” Nines soothingly said as he let Gavin’s angry inhales calm. “Why didn’t you tell me? I would’ve been there to help you. You don’t have to go through this alone.”
“You’d told me not to call or talk to you. I was doing what you said.” Gavin grumbled, successfully wiggling away from Nines grip and sitting up. “I was listening to you.”

Nines snorted, sitting up. “Since when have you ever actually listened to me? At Gavin’s glare, Nines flushed blue. “I know, I’m not one to talk about communication and not listening. Gavin, this was more important than anything else. I would’ve come home.”

“How would you have known? You didn’t answer call or texts and I couldn’t get ahold of you.” Gavin said, turning away from Nines.

“I…You’re right. I should’ve answered.” At Nines’s admission, Gavin let out a deep breath and turned back to Nines.

“OK. We’ve agreed that we’re both kind of awful at communication and that we need to do better.” Gavin stretched out, glancing at the clock. “Is there anything else we need to talk about…. Wait, is that the time? Don’t you need to be at work?”

Nines laughed. “Gavin, it’s Saturday.”

Gavin felt an embarrassed blush cover him. “Shut it, tin can.”

Nines laughed for a few moments. “I also took some of next week off to talk to you, considering how upset you were about the silent treatment, and we never did finish the argument from the night before the attack.” Remembering the fight killed the mirth as Nines voice went staticky. “But I don’t know that we can agree there.”

“I don’t know, I think there’s something we agree on. We don’t want anyone else hurt, be them android or human.” Gavin said, and stood to stretch out sore muscle before turning back to Nines, who was sitting “And I think that we need to figure something out to protect everyone.”

Nines nodded, clenching and unclenching his fists. “I can agree to that. But Gavin, I’m so scared of what happens if we create something to defend humans. Because  while I never want a human hurt, I’m scared of what could happen to my friends and family who are androids.”

Gavin nodded, moving to sit back down next to Nines. “Nines, I’m scared, too. But I know that if we continue denying that there’s an issue that people are going to get hurt.”

Nines nodded. “If we create something to defend humans with, the anti-android league or group or whatever they’re called will get their hands on them. And then innocent androids will be hurt.”
“But if we don’t create something for humans to defend themselves with, when an android goes on a rampage, a bunch of humans probably will be hurt, even possibly killed. And that includes the cops who try to stop them.” Gavin said, looking down at hands.

“I know, Gavin. I’m just scared of what could happen, either way. I never want to feel like I did the night you were taken, and I don’t want to have to fear for my life because drug dealers want my blood. Or the blood of my other friends or brother. I feel like any move we make will result in bloodshed.”

Gavin nodded, relaxing his fists. “I know. I’m with you.”  

“Gavin, I love you, but I have to ask you something.” Nines whispered, reaching to take Gavin’s hand in his. “But I love you more than anything else. Please, don’t ever doubt that.”

Gavin felt his heart drop slightly. “What is it?”

“Are you scared of me?” Nines voice broke, staticy and sad. “I don’t want you to fear me.”

Gavin felt his heart shatter, and reform stronger than ever. Standing, Gavin bent over to cup Nine’s cheeks in his hands and hold him stead so their eyes met. “I’m not scared of you, Nines. I’m scared of what someone who could hack you could do. I know that you—unfettered you—would never do anything to hurt me. I know you love me, and I love you. What I fear, is someone hacking you and giving you a virus that reactivates the murderbot protocols that are buried inside you. And I’m not scared that I’d be the victim—even though I’d probably be one of the people around you. I’m afraid of someone forcing you to do something you don’t want to, your autonomy taken from you by virus or coding. That’s what scares me. And I don’t’ think you’re one of the potential ‘bad androids.’ In fact, I think the exact opposite. You are amazing, good, strong.” Leaning down, Gavin kissed Nines, and looked deep into his eyes. “I love you.”

Nines whispered it back, brokenly. “I love you, too.”

Gavin grinned, squeezing Nines’s hand. “Good. Now, I’m going to shower. And brush my teeth. Gah, I can still taste everything that came up yesterday.” Gavin stood, walking to the bathroom.

Hearing the bed creak, Gavin glanced back. Nines had followed him. “Something up?”

“Would you mind some company?” Nines asked, eyes scanning over Gavin as he stood in the doorway. “I want to make sure your wounds are healing OK.”

Gavin grinned, reaching out to gently snag Nines’s collar and pull him into the bathroom. “Company is almost always welcome.”

Nines’s playful grin flashed, and Gavin felt warmth course through him. “Fuckin dork.”

“I’ve been called worse, usually by you.” Nines said, reaching to snag the hem of Gavin’s shirt and pull it off. Nines’s smile vanished as he winced in sympathetic pain. Reaching out, he gently traced the stitches from Gavin’s wound, and the bruise surrounding it. “I could have lost you.”

Taking Nine’s hands in his, Gavin smiled up at Nines. “Didn’t, did you? Stop. It’s only going to hurt if you keep thinking that way. I promise I’ll be more careful.”

“You’d better.” Nines flipped on the water, waiting for a moment for it to warm up. As it did so, Nines pulled off everything as Gavin watched, eyes eventually oogling Nines’s ass.

Damn, I’m lucky.

Noticing Gavin’s eyeline, Nines smirked. “You know, you might want to take off your clothes, too.”  Nines stepped into the shower and held a hand out for Gavin.

Taking it after he’d chucked off the rest of his clothes and grabbed a toothbrush with toothpaste on it and shoved it into his mouth,  Gavin stepped into the shower next to Nines, nearly purring as the warm water poured over him. “God, that feels better. Swear I’m getting off a few layers of shit on me.”

Nines rolled his eyes. Reaching out, he grabbed the shampoo from the shelf, he upended the bottle over Gavin, pouring out a hefty amount.

“Nines!” Reaching up to push the shampoo that had dripped down his forehead away from his eyes, Gavin laughed around the toothbrush. “The hell?”

Reaching up, Nines began to massage the shampoo into his scalp. “Shh.”

Relaxing into Nines hands, Gavin felt some of the stress roll off his shoulder. “Mm.” For a few minutes, Gavin and Nines simply held onto each other under the warm water as they washed .

Nines sighed, hesitating as he spoke the next words. “I hate to ask, but when’s your next chemo appointment? And what do you want to do about work?” Shifting so his arms wrapped around Gavin in a way that would not put pressure on his wounds or port, he held tight and pressed a kiss to his neck. “I will be there; I promise you that.”

Gavin pressed back into Nines. “We decided on every third day. That way, I can recover between appointments. And my appointments should happen after the usual nine-to-five, so we should be off work at that point. I need to ask Fowler if it’s OK if I make up time when I can, or if I can do something less strenuous on the days when I have an appointment.”

Nines nodded, grabbing the showerhead to pull it down and finish rinsing off the last of the shampoo. “You’ll need to fill out the paperwork.”

“I know, Nines.” Gavin sighed, reaching out to turn off the warm sanctuary they’d built for themselves. “I just… I don’t want anyone else but Fowler to know. It’s none of their business. Until and unless it starts to affect my performance, but I don’t know that it will? I’m hoping it won’t.”

“Gavin, you were so sick you couldn’t walk yesterday. They’re going to notice.” Nines said, letting him step out onto the bathmat and grab a towel.

Grabbing the two of them, Gavin tossed the other to Nines. “I…I just don’t think they’ll notice. I was OK by this morning, and that how it should happen from here on out. I go in in the evening, I get treatment, I regret life and then I come home and sleep it off. I go to work the next day fine.”

Nines dried off and threw the towel over his shoulder as he stepped out.

He’s playing dirty. Wrapping his towel around his waist, Gavin walked out into the bedroom.

“Gavin, what happens if we get called in because of a murder or some other serious case? If you can’t go, Connor and Hank will be the ones called in. And they’re going to figure it out.”

“I just don’t want anyone to have to pick up my slack, including you.” Gavin nudged Nines, then looked away. “I want to stand on my own two feet.”

“You always have, Gavin, but I’m going to help you through this because I love you. You don’t have to fight alone.” Nines turned Gavin to face him, ice meeting mint. “I will be there.”

“Nines, you… are you sure?” At Nine’s ‘I-know-where-you’re-going-with-this-but-I’ll-let-you-finish’ glance,’ Gavin shakily continued. “Are you sure you want to stay with me through this? Chemo is going to be hard.” Gavin felt anxiety fall in his stomach. “You didn’t sign up for this.”
Nines snorted, using his bigger frame to herd Gavin back to the bed.  When Gavin toppled over onto the mattress, Nines straddled his waist and leaned over to use his elbows to cage Gavin so their eyes met. “Gavin, I’m not leaving you. This isn’t something we wanted, no, but it’s not going to break us. And it’s ‘us’, not ‘you’ or ‘me.’  I’ve told you I’m going to be there. I love you, and I’m not fucking leaving you, so get it through that thick skull of yours and let’s figure this shit out.”

Gavin felt both his heart and eyes fill. “Thank you,” he whispered, unsure of how to say anything else that could convey the fear that Nines would leave him if he found out.

“Gavin.” Leaning down, Nines tilted Gavin’s chin, then pressed their lips together in a brief, chaste kiss. “I love you.”

“I love you too, Nines.” Wrapping his arms around Nine’s neck, Gavin pulled him down. “Let me show you how much.”

They didn’t leave the bed until later and had to shower again.

Stepping out into the living room, both were besieged by the cats they’d locked out of the room. “I think they missed you,” Gavin said, scooping up the small ball of flame-colored fur.

Nines nodded, picking up the agile gray fluff ball. “I concur. We can hold them as we work on your paperwork from your tablet. Most of the other chores are already done, so we could go out after we’re done with that.”

“Sure, where do you want to go?” Gavin asked, picking up the tablet and sitting down on the couch.

Nines walked around the couch, dropping down nearly on Gavin’s side and snuggling. “Maybe dinner out? I know you said you weren’t feeling great yesterday, but we could go to that café down the street that you’ve been wanting to try? And they do have a new thirium dish I thought look interesting.”

“Sounds good.” Gavin flicked through his log-in and started to fill out the paperwork necessary with a groan. “Jesus, there are thirty-eight pages of this?”

Nines snorted, reaching for the tablet, taking it, and finishing the paperwork in seconds. “You complain too much.”

Laughing, Gavin flipped Nines off before tackling him flat on the couch. “Shut it. Since we’re done, wanna head out now?”

“Sure.” Nines smiled, and the rest of the evening passed in calm companionship. After getting dinner, the two returned home and relaxed with a movie, the cats and each other.

Three days passed quietly, with the two of them taking it as a way to escape reality. Gavin kept his phone off because of the scattered phone calls he was still getting asking for interviews, and Nines had decided to spend as much time with Gavin before life and treatments interrupted the two of them again.

Walking into the hospital on Monday night with Nines, Gavin didn’t say much. Lying down, Gavin watched with unattachment as he was hooked up. Closing his eyes, he leaned back and braced for the first wave of nausea.

Don’t feel, it’s OK.

Nines’s soft voice came in. “Gavin, it’s OK.” Gentle hands rubbed at his arms, trying to pull him back into the world. “I’m here. You’ll be alright.”

The first wave hit, and Gavin fought against it. “Uhhhnhh.”

Gently, Nines tilted Gavin up, helping him hold onto the trashcan. “It’s OK.”

Slipping behind Gavin, Nines rubbed up and down his back, trying to calm him. “Shhhh….”

“Nines, I think I’m going to die. I don’t know that I can handle this.” Gavin whispered as he leaned against Nines’s chest, pain and nausea wracking him.

“I’m here, and we’ll get through this.” Nines held Gavin as another wave hit. “I love you. It might help to focus on something else. Talk to me.”

“About what?” Gavin whispered, pressing closer as waves hit again.

“You rarely talk about your childhood.” Nines whispered, running his hands through Gavin’s hair.

Gavin smirked, not realizing the nausea had subsided to a duller roar. “You want to hear about mini-me? Really?”

“Yes.” Nines’s tone was gentle. “I want to know everything.”

“OK….I guess the first thing I remember is my mom’s laugh. I think she was laughing at me deliberately disobeying her. ‘Gavin, baby, don’t….too late, huh’?” A small grin crossed over Gavin’s face, and the next wave didn’t hit as hard when the new anti-nausea medication kicked in.

“I mean, maybe a smell or something else is first, but I remember mom’s laugh clearly. She….she didn’t laugh much, so I’m glad that’s my first memory. She didn’t have much to laugh at when we struggled to survive, but she…. She was happy when I was around. She used… she used to show me TV shows she’d loved. And I was probably too young to see a few of them.”

Nines laughed as Gavin grinned. “What show were you too young to see that she showed you?”

“First one that leaps to mind is The Promised Neverland. I think it might have been part of a punishment for something. Scare me straight or something.” Gavin smiled as Nines held him through the next wave. “I take it you’re googling the show?”

Gavin felt Nines’s shock as he sat up a little more. “How old were you?”

“Uh….” Gavin mentally tried to remember. “I think….six or seven?”

Nines laughed. “Yeah, she was trying to punish you. Was the show any good?”
“I loved it….after I got over the nightmares.” Gavin leaned back against Nines’s chest.  “Mom and I stopped watching shows together not long after that because of work obligations. Mom hadn’t planned on losing her well-paying job when I was little.”

“What happened?” Nines asked, listening intently.

“I’m not actually sure. I think mom’s boss was super religious and didn’t approve of sperm donation. Given that mom chose to have a kid without having to struggle with a husband apparently pissed that jackass off.” Gavin sighed, looking at his hands. “So, he waited until he found a fireable offense, and then fired her. After she started to work longer hours, I…. let’s say my temper developed. We were living in a bad area, and I couldn’t go run around like I used to. Mom was so desperate to calm me down that she started to look for half-siblings. Luckily, one of them lived in Detroit—and was open to meeting. That’s when  I met Eli. We ended up being inseparable. I would kick the ass of the bullies who came onto us, and Eli was there to help me with homework and play with me. It really worked out, even if Eli and I kind of started to isolate ourselves from others.”

Nines rubbed a hand through Gavin’s hair, gently urging him to continue without words.

“So…” Continuing, Gavin talked, and Nines listened throughout the duration of Gavin’s treatment that night.

Chapter Text

The next Wednesday, Gavin was called back into the precinct. Walking in, he was directed to Fowler’s office.

Walking past Nines’s desk, Gavin flashed a fast grin before pulling on a stoic expression at Fowlers door.

Fowler called him in. “Gavin. Close the door.”

Well, shit. Doing so, Gavin made his way to the chair in front of Folwer’s desk. “I’m in trouble, right?”
Folwer shrugged. “On the record, you’re going to be restricted to desk duty until we can figure this out. Off the record, I doubt you did it.”

Gavin tilted his head. “What’s with the vote of confidence?”

“It’s more confidence in Connor and Nines than in you. They’ve changed you.” Fowler grinned at the glare Gavin tossed at him. “Glare all you like, it’s not going to change my opinion that Nines is at the root of your betterment.”

I mean, he’s not entirely wrong, but excuse you. Taking in a deep breath and then letting it out, Gavin nodded. “You’re not entirely off. Anyway, I assume I can head back to work now? Just desk duty, right?”

“Yeah. Sucks to be you for awhile. Anything else we need to address?” Fowler asked, turning back to his computer.

“Actually, yes. I was diagnosed with stage two lung cancer when I was in the hospital. I’ve started chemotherapy.” Gavin watched Fowler turn in a snap.

“Jesus, you just now let me know? What’s this going to do your schedule?” Folwer asked, pragmatically waiting for Gavin’s response.

“Well, I go in every three days. It should be after work, so it won’t affect me if I stick to the normal nine-to-five. I would ask that those days are ones where I’m listed as unavailable after the usual workday. Nines will probably ask for the same thing, but you’re going to have to ask him. I also ask that this does not go beyond here. I don’t want anyone else to know.”

Folwer scrubbed a hand over his eyes. “OK, that I get. Will this affect your performance?”

“Probably. I’ve been keeping up with my physical regiment, but I may have more trouble the longer I’m in treatment.” Gavin felt his spine snap rigid. “Sir.”

“Calm down, Reed. Don’t worry, we’ll work with you. What you’re asking for is reasonable.” Fowler nodded. “We’ll figure out your schedule as time goes on. And no one else will know about this unless it becomes necessary.”

Pointing to the door, Fowler motioned Gavin out. “Get out, get to work and don’t let this affect you, Reed.”
Jackass. “Got it.” Gavin let a small smile cross his face as he walked over to his desk. Nodding to Nines, Gavin dropped down into his desk chair and started on all of the paperwork he was behind on because of his unexpected ‘vacation.’

The next few weeks passed quickly for Gavin and Nines, as they memorized and worked out the kinks in their new schedule. For the most part, Gavin was handling chemo pretty well. The biggest problem was the nausea that had affected him the first few times, now managed with medicine. Gavin and Nines had continued their conversation from the second appointment, and they talked more as they worked through the struggle.

However, as Gavin continued his treatment, he found his appetite diminishing and that he was eating less and less. And that his hair was coming out in chunks.

After an appointment where two-thirds of his hair had fallen out, Gavin looked to Nines on their drive home. “Would’ja help me shave off the rest of my hair when we get home?”

“I will, if you promise to eat a whole sandwich instead of the six or so bites you normally take.” Nines kept his eyes on the road, but Gavin could see his LED spinning orange. “You’re eating a lot less and you shouldn’t be cutting back on calories right now.”

Gavin ran his tongue around his mouth, sighing as he hit the bumps he’d been ignoring as they’d formed. “I… I’m just not as hungry anymore, Nines. And there have been sores forming, so it makes it harder to chew.”

Nine’s LED went red for a second. “When did the sores develop?”

“Over the last three appointments? I didn’t really notice them until I tried to bite down on something, and given that I haven’t been super hungry, I hadn’t noticed them for a while.” Turning away so he wouldn’t see Nines’s LED, Gavin stared out the window.

Nines let out an exasperated sigh. “Gavin, you should have told me. Anyway, what do you think of a peanut-butter sandwich? Given that you still get nauseous sometimes, its should be filling and nutritious.”

Gavin nodded, reluctantly. “OK, if it’ll stop you worrying, I will.”

Nines’s hand crossed over the driveshaft, grabbing and gently squeezing Gavin’s knee.

Looking over, Gavin softly smiled at Nines’s fast glance.

The next day at work was antagonizing, to say the least. Everyone had a comment on Gavin’s new haircut and were enjoying telling him how much like a skin-head he looked like. Considering he was still accused of attacking an android, quite a few jokes about Nines’s relationship with him were also on the chopping block.

“Geeze, decided to fully commit finally?” A random beat officer grinned maliciously. “Did you decide to finish gaslighting your partner into loving you?  I don’t understand how he could love you.”

If you punch him, you’ll get another disciplinary. You do not need to piss Fowler off right now.

Pointedly ignoring almost anyone who came up to him, Gavin continued the workday amid jeers and jokes.

When time came to head home, Gavin practically collapsed in the car. “Stick a goddamned fork in me, I’m done. Fuck everyone, I want to sleep.”

Nines nodded as he started the engine. “I’m surprised you didn’t lash out.”

“Meh, too tired to do so.” Feeling the car move under him, Gavin closed his eyes.

Nines sighed, and Gavin heard the click of the turn signal. “When we get home, what do you want to do for dinner?”

“Ramen?” Gavin said, opening an eye to see Nines eye roll. “From that…”

“From the place on third? Sure, fine.” Nines glanced over, with a mischievous grin. “You’re getting a large with extra veggies.”

“Whatever.” Gavin said, with a wave of his hand, and then dozed the rest of the ride home.

Gavin had been in treatment for two months when Anders woke up. Whenever Nines couldn’t be at Gavin’s treatment, Eli was. While chemo never got easier, Gavin learned to cope with it. However, having his name cleared lent itself to a much calmer Gavin.

“What do you fucking mean Gavin Reed has been accused?” Ander’s voice echoed in the precinct on the day she’d woken up. “He dove in to save me! I flinched because I wasn’t sure at first but it was him trying to help me.”

Fowler’s weak “Ma’am, we’ve got your statement and we will make sure that it’s known that he did not attack you” had Gavin putting his head down to avoid laughing aloud.

Anders stormed out a few moments later, walked over, and hugged Gavin. “Thank you. I’m sorry this happened.”
“It’s not your fault. I’m glad you’re OK. You were asleep for a long time.” Gavin said, awkwardly returning the hug.

“Anyway, I’ve cleared it up, and I will see you when Chappero is convicted of being a disgusting pig.” Anders stormed away, and Gavin winced.

“She looks like she’s going to murder someone.” Gavin said, dropping back down at his desk.

Nines looked up, eyes alight with mirth. “She certainly did. She has good taste, though she really seemed to like you.”

Gavin blushed, turning back to his case. “Shut up.”

Nines just laughed.

Chapter Text

Five and a half months into treatment, Gavin had gone in for extra tests on a Friday before returning for treatment later that night.

Nines bumped into him as he rushed up a few flights of stairs. “Hey.”

Gavin grinned. “Hi. What’s up with you? Do anything exciting since I left?”

“Mmm… paperwork, paperwork and more paperwork. Connor and Dad headed out on a lead as I was coming here. I had Connor promise that he’d contact me when they got home safely.”

As Gavin was hooked up, the two chatted as they settled into the position, they’d both become comfortable with. The bed tilted to a sitting position, and Nines laying against that, with Gavin laying against Nines’s chest as he idly ran his hands up and down Nines’s arm.

“Anyway, you were telling me what it was like living through the uprising?” Nines asked, reminding Gavin of where they’d left the conversation last.

“God, yeah. It was awful. Some of the worse of humanity was on display—myself included. I was in the raid party that was ordered to shoot at the main group of protestors.”  Gavin felt Nines tense as he stared at his hands and tears welled up.

 Voice breaking as he leaned forward, Gavin continued. “I… I saw what the marches, the camps resembled. Hell, it was impossible not to. And I remembered something that my history teacher had said, looking at me. ‘They put in gay men and women, too.’ And then I saw myself in their place.”

Nines sat forward, gently tugging Gavin’s shoulders so they met his chest. “Gavin….I…. Did you end up having to shoot anyone that night?”

“No, thank god. The media made it impossible for us to do almost anything. Public opinion was already swinging toward Android liberation.” Gavin reached up, scrubbing at his neck. “Anyway, that night was awful. And I didn’t know if I was going to have a job the next day. And given how much I needed the job I wasn’t in the best frame of mind that night. After the press called it and declared androids human, I don’t remember much. I got home, but I was still in the riot gear and I…. I don’t remember anything else.”

Nines pressed his nose into Gavin’s hair. “I mean, it was a traumatic night?”

“Yeah, to say the least. I at least got a pretty cool new partner out of it, though.” Gavin laughed at the feeling of Nines’s grin on his neck.

“I love you, too.” Nines said, looking up at the clock. Sighing, Nines leaned back, pulling Gavin with him. “I thought Connor would’ve called by now.”

Gavin squirmed until he was looking up at Nines’s worried face. “Do you want to call and check in?”

“I might, in a half-an-hour. If they don’t call in by then, I’ll really start to panic.” Nines’s fingers gently began to tap out a rhythm on Gavin’s stomach as he waited. “Anyway, you were saying?”

Gavin blinked as he remembered the search he’d been doing before being sent to class. “After the revolution, I ended up being paired with an android. I didn’t know how to act. Given my history of conduct surrounding androids, I knew he was going to be on edge around, especially given that he was the ‘little brother’ of the android who had to deal with me the most during the revolution when I wasn’t, let’s say, the best example of humanity.”
At Nines’s snort, Gavin grimaced. “I know, I know. That’s putting it lightly.”

Nines’s laughter was gentle. “Yep.”

Gavin continued pointedly. “Anyway, I didn’t know how to ask. And I realized I was wrong. However, I stuck to my habits because I was scared. Completely. This person could out-do me at my job a thousand times over and I didn’t know what I would do if I lost my job. I’ve seen what happens to those without a job in those times. And I knew that I had an addictive personality. I’d been smoking since early high school, and I couldn’t stop.”

Nines said nothing, hugging him quickly before tapping on his side to urge him to continue.

“Eventually, for some reason, that android made me realize I wasn’t going to be fired. That, and if Fowler wanted me fired, he would’ve done it the night he got a new recruit.” Gavin listened for a moment as a siren came closer. “And I was lucky enough to fall in love. Most people thought I couldn’t.”

Nines pressed a kiss to the back of his neck. “I questioned it at times.”

 At Gavin’s crack of laughter, Nines titled his head back and pressed a kiss to his lips. “But I’m glad I stuck with it.”

Gavin grinned up at Nines’s smile. “Same. Anyway, I was actually looking up marriage laws before I was ordered to the class.” Sitting up and looking back at Nines, Gavin sighed. “Apparently, there are no precedents for marriage between androids and humans. So, I don’t know if we’ll be able to get married.”
“We’ll figure it out.” Nines pulled Gavin to his chest and pressed a few kissed to Gavin’s lips. “I know we can sue for our marriage license. We’ll do what it takes.”

“You’re the best, you know?” Gavin sighed, looking down at the I.V. line. “I cannot wait until this is done.”

“Anything you want to do after you’re done with chemo, Gav?” Nines asked, rubbing affectionally along Gavin’s ribs.

“Hm…. Maybe to the beach? Hawaii? I don’t know, I guess that might be too expensive.” Laughing slightly, Gavin leaned back with a gentle nudge to Nines’s side. “Besides, I’d come out so gorgeously tan that you wouldn’t get much done after we got home.”

“I doubt that would happen, but that sounds like fun. I’ve never been to a beach….” Nines pressed his chin to Gavin’s scalp. “I’d love to go.”

“I love you.” Leaning back, Gavin glanced up at the clock. “You should probably go call Con…” As Nines stiffened, Gavin felt apprehension shoot down his spine. “Nines?”

“Connor and Hank are here. The suspect attacked them. Hank is being prepped for surgery.” Nines’s voice was staticky. “Connor is not handling it well.”

“Go.” Gavin sat forward, tugging on Nines’s arm to pull him upright. “Go down to him.”

“But…how do I explain what I was doing here? You didn’t want this to get out.” Nines asked, standing and looking back at Gavin.

“Doesn’t matter, your dad is here and you need to be there for your brother. Go.” Gavin said, waving him to the door. “If you need to tell him, you do. Now get!”

Nines paused at the doorway. “I’ll be back at the end of your treatment.”

“No, I’ll find you. Get out.” Gavin said, feeling warmth and love pour into his stomach.

Nodding,  Nines jogged out and away from the room. 

Sighing, Gavin snagged his phone and checked the time. Huh. Started at five-forty-five, and it’s six now, so I’ve got another fifteen minutes. I’ll probably be a bit woozy, so I’ll hit the cafeteria before going to whatever waiting room they’ve been stuck in.

Staring at the clock, Gavin felt time slow down as he maintained eye contact with it. Com’on, Com’on. I need to go.

In the last few minutes, Gavin was so focused on the clock that he didn’t notice Markie or Dr. Marrero walk in.

“Mr. Reed?” Markie’s voice was loud enough to break his concentration. “Mr. Reed.”

Jumping, Gavin wrenched his attention from the clock. “Yes?”

“We were hoping to discuss some of your results from the tests earlier.” Dr. Marrero flashed a grin. “If that’s OK.”

Guess I’m going to be a little later. “That’s fine. What’s up?” Gavin asked, leaning back against the bed.

“You have been responding to treatment well, and we think that within the next few sessions your tumor will be small enough to operate on.” Marrero’s happy grin was infectious.

Gavin smiled, feeling the small seed of anxiety and worry shrink. “So, treatment’s working. Would I need to continue treatment after I got it taken out?”

Marrero shook her head. “No, after we get it out of you, we’ll run a few tests to double check that we got it all, but after that you’re done.”

Gavin felt himself dance on the inside. “OK. What all does surgery entail?”

“Well,” Marrero continued, laying out the requirements. “After we get it out, we’ll have you in the hospital for observation for a night. Then, we’d have you come back the next week to do a few more tests. If those come back clean, you’d be good to go.”

Gavin nodded. “OK. How soon can we schedule the surgery?”

“I’ll check, but we should have an opening sometime next month.” Marrero’s face was beaming. “Congrats, Reed. You did it.”

It’s… almost done. I’ll survive. A dumb, sappy grin crossed his face. I need to tell Nines.

The minute to unhook Gavin had him tapping at the side rails impatiently.

Markie flashed him a grin. “Go tell that man of yours. You’re obviously impatient.”

Gavin flashed another smile. “I am.”

Laughing, Markie snagged his arm and pulled him up. “Go away. Go celebrate.”

Dashing to the cafeteria, Gavin snagged something, paid for it without waiting for his changed, and ran to the ER waiting room.

As he jogged into the ER, Gavin spotted Tina among other coworkers hanging out in the hall. “Hey.”

Tina turned. “Gavin! We were wondering where the hell you were. Nines and Connor are not handling it well.”

Gavin felt the happy grin fall. “What’s going on?”

“The bastard who attacked Hank had a perfect fuckin’ shot. Caught him on his neck, caused a lot of bleeding.” Tina led Gavin back to the waiting room as she explained in a fast whisper. “The surgery has been rough so far. Connor has had a few breakdowns, and it’s started to affect Nines. We wanted to give them some privacy, so Fowler and the rest of us are staying out here.”

Pausing outside of the waiting room, Tina looked to Gavin. “Be very careful of what you say.”
Gavin nodded, and then walked into to  the waiting room.

Nines was holding Connor as the two wept in the corner of one room.

“I should’ve know, I should’ve stopped this.” Connor’s voice was staticky, breaking on ever other syllable.

Nines’s voice was soft, but scared. “It’s OK, it’ll be alright. He’ll pull through.”

Walking over, Gavin said nothing and sat down next to Nines. Taking his hand in his own, Gavin squoze it. Nines squoze back tighter as Connor’s electronic keen went through the air again.

The three of them waited on pin and needles as they waited for a half-an hour.

A doctor in scrubs walked in. “Connor Anderson?”

Connor shot to his feet, with Nines a half-step behind him. Gavin hung back, trying to give them some space. I may be a  part of Nines’s family, but this is his family and I should respect that.

The doctor’s voice was soft, and what Gavin could hear of his tone was hopeful. OK, it should be OK.

After the doctor nodded, he spoke a bit louder. “It’s OK if you want to go in and visit now, he’s been stabilized,  but we’d ask that you limit your time.”

Gavin walked forward. “You guys go in, I’ll go let the others know.”

Nines nodded, and Connor didn’t respond at all, following the doctor out.

Flashing Nines a hopeful grimace, Gavin walked out to the others waiting. “He’s been stabilized, and Connor and Nines went in to see him.”

Fowler nodded, walking over to pull Gavin aside. “OK. You were already here, right?”

Gavin nodded. “Yeah, I was halfway through when we got the news.”

Fowler sighed. “OK, look, you should probably be off your feet. I’ll talk to Nines and Connor, try to convince them to go home, but my best bets that is a losing proposition.”

Gavin nodded. “I wouldn’t push them. I’ll talk to Nines, and head home on my own if they decide to stay past visiting hours. Until then, I’ll stay with them.”

Fowler side-eyed Gavin. “Are you going to be OK to stay with them?”

“I should be. I might go grab them some thirium from the cafeteria, though. Connor and Nines have both been crying, so it can’t hurt to keep them hydrated.” Turning, Gavin nodded to Fowler. “If you wouldn’t mind talking to them while I’m out, I don’t know that Connor is in enough of a stable mind set to deal with me being there right now.”
Fowler raised an eyebrow but didn’t comment on that particular tidbit. “I’ll see you in a few then.”

Gavin nodded, retracing his steps to the cafeteria. Grabbing several bottles of thirium, Gavin paid for them and went to the room where Hank was staying.

Connor was sitting at his bedside, eyes swollen and cheeks flushed as he begged Hank to wake up. “Please, I’m sorry. Please wake up.”

Gavin quietly stepped over to Nines to hand him a bottle of thirium. “Here. I have more for both of you.”

Connor’s head spun and he growled. “Get out. Hank wouldn’t want you here and I don’t, either. You are an awful human being who hates androids, just like the asshole we had to deal with tonight. You’ve hurt my brother before and our dad wouldn’t want you here because of it.”  Connor’s tirade flowed from him, anger about how he was treated when he first arrived at the DPD to his problems with Nines dating him.

Gavin felt his heart clench, but simply nodded. “OK, Con. I’m leaving.”

Gavin looked to Nines, but there was no outward reaction. A small spark of hurt kicked at his ribs, but he did his best to smother it.  Connor’s just lashing out because he’s scared. It’s understandable.  Connor’s LED spun an angry orange as he stood, throwing the chair he was in to the ground. “You’re a piece of shit and I don’t know why my brother puts up with you. You’ve hurt my brother before and our dad wouldn’t want you here because of it.”

Gavin moved faster out of the room, chased by Connor’s angry words. Grabbing his phone, Gavin sent Nines a fast text.

I’ll take the bus home tonight. You just focus on keeping you and your brother safe and stable, OK? : G.

9’s: I’m sorry for what he’s saying. I’m sure he’s just lashing out. I don’t want to set him off, he’s seeming… more physical.

I’m not sure he’s just lashing out, I think he’s saying what he needs to say to get it off his chest. It’s OK, I really don’t blame him for holding those thoughts. Anyway, I’ll probably be asleep when you get home, so, as an FYI, I love you, but don’t fucking wake me up. : G.

9’s: I love you, Gavin.

Making his way through the ER, Gavin navigated to the parking lot with a film over his eyes as he stared down at the ground. Dashing onto the bus, Gavin felt his phone buzz again.

Tina : Hey, how come you’re taking the bus home? I would’ve given you a ride.

Oh, I…. I just wanted some space. Connor started to lash out about my anti-android past and it’s… yeah, tonight sucks. Send me pictures of your pets? : G.

Tina : Have you had dinner tonight?

Does hospital cafeteria food count? : G.

Tina : No.

Tina: I’ll bring food by after I leave here. I wanted to talk to Nines about something

Something up that I can help with? :G.

Tina: Nah, I appreciate it, though. I’ll see you soon. And I’m going to warn you, I want answers for the sudden hair-style change.

Gavin didn’t respond, instead opting to look out at the night-time scenery. I’m… tired.

The bus ride home was mostly a blur, only really coming back into focus as Gavin picked up Luna and smushed his face into her belly.

Luna let out an annoyed hiss and batted at his head. “Hsmsm!”

Putting her down, Gavin smiled at her. “OK, I’m sorry.”

Walking over to the refrigerator, Gavin pulled the food down and fed them. The two cats promptly turned their backs on him as the munched their kibble.

“I seem to be getting the same reaction from everyone.” Walking to the bedroom, Gavin placed his bag down on the bed before rummaging through the hamper to pull out his PJs. Pulling them on, Gavin wandered out to the living room to sit on the couch and wait for Tina. Connor said it was an anti-android person who attacked them? Nines said they’d gotten a lead on a case. I wonder what was going on? Why attack Hank and not Connor? Is this one of the guys who were suspended earlier this year?

Tina’s knock came about fifteen minutes later.  “Gav?”

Opening the door, Gavin flashed a tired smile. “Hi, T. How are you?”

Tina’s rush to hug him nearly knocked him off balance. “Tina?”
“Gavin, you’ve lost so much weight!” Tina’s eyes looked up at him, frantic. “What’s going on?”

“I… Tina, are you OK?” Gavin asked as Tina shook her head.

“No, I’m not OK. Why are you so skinny? I’d noticed that you’d stopped drinking as much coffee and that you were skipping lunch, but I asked Nines and he said not to worry! But what the hell?” Tina’s eyes welled up and hardened. “You better damn well tell me what’s going on.”

Sighing, Gavin guided her in while closing the door in time to make sure the cats didn’t’ get out. “First, it’s OK. There’s a reason.”

“That’s not OK, and I want to know the reason.” Sitting down, Tina pulled out the food she’d gotten. Handing Gavin a huge container, she smiled. “Please, eat before you explain.”

Opening it, Gavin found a sub sandwich and a huge order of pasta. Sighing, he set them aside and held up a finger to Tina’s protests. “Let me explain first. I’ve been fighting lung cancer.”
Tina’s eyes widened. “What? Why didn’t you tell me?” Hurt saturated her eyes, and Gavin felt his stomach bottom out.

I’m an idiot. I should’ve told her.

“Tina, it’s nothing against you, I didn’t want anyone to know. I’ve been having a harder time eating because I’m not as hungry and I’ve had an issue with mouth sores.” Gavin leaned back. “It’s been rough.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Tina asked, picking at her food with a suspiciously blank tone that implied deep hurt.

“I didn’t want anyone but Nines to know. I didn’t want people to treat me differently at work, and I know that you sometimes struggle with secrets. And that you’re the best friend I could have who would’ve been there to take care of me. I just… I didn’t want to ask that of you.” Gavin rubbed at the back of his neck. “I have good news, though….although it’s kinda at the worst time.”

Tina looked up before looking back down at her food and taking a bite. “OK?”

“I’ve gotten to the point where they want to take out the rest of the tumor. After that, I’ll be done with treatment.”  Gavin saw Tina’s head jerk up, with a huge grin on her face.

“That’s amazing!” Tina placed her food down hard on the table—so the sauce dripped out on one side—as she threw herself at Gavin.

Hugging her back, Gavin nodded. “Yeah. I didn’t get a chance to tell Nines because of what happened with Hank. Anyway, it was nice to have someone react that way. Now, I’ll try to eat some of this, but I did have treatment earlier today, and I tend not to have much of an appetite. What was the thing you were talking to Nines about?”
“Oh, the weight loss.” Tina picked up her food, wincing at the mess. “I’ll clean that up later. You’d cut yourself off from almost everyone, so I went to the person who I knew would know what was going on.”
“Makes sense.” Reaching down and taking a bite as an apology, Gavin turned back to the conversation. “Anyway, what’s been up with you?”

Tina smiled, launching into a long-winded explanation of what she’d been doing for the past few months, as Gavin ate some of his meal.

“Anyway, do you have any plans for when you need to go into surgery?” Tina asked, leaning back into the couch to better cuddle the Maine Coon cat on her lap.

Gavin smiled, bending to pick up Donkey. “Fluffy boy, and not really. I feel kinda like if I say anything to Nines that it would be the wrong time. Especially considering that Connor is so angry with me right now. I don’t want to put myself between them.”

Glancing at the TV they’d turned on for background noise, Gavin let his eyes unfocus. “It… it wasn’t easy.”

Tina nodded, looking sheepish. “We could…kind of….hear you guys out in the hall. You maintained your cool, I was impressed. I wouldn’t have.”

Gavin nodded, taking another bite to avoid talking.

Tina glanced over Gavin, then to the TV. “Wanna just watch an old kids movie and rip it to shreds?”

“Yes.”  Gavin grinned. “Let’s do it.”

Slowly, the two of them started to fall asleep on the couch.

Waking up to his phone alarm, Gavin found both he and Tina had passed out completely on the couch. “Tina, we have work in like an hour.”
“Mmmnnooooo.”  Tina groaned, sitting up and blinking. “Shit, I feel asleep.”

“Yeah, I know. Look, go home and get ready. I’ll let Fowler know you’ll be late.” Standing, Gavin dashed back to his bedroom. “I’ll make it on time.”

Tina called out to Gavin. “Thank you.” He could hear the front door close as he rushed through a fast shower and change of clothes before sprinting to catch the bus.

Jogging into the precinct, Gavin paused for a second before making a beeline to Fowler’s office. “Hey, Tina’s going to be a bit late.’

Fowler didn’t even look up. “OK. Get to work. With that lunatic who attacked Hank out there, I don’t want to take any chances. I’m putting you on the case and I’ve requested extra help with both androids either out or unable to work.”

Gavin nodded. “Got it, when are they supposed to be here?”

Fowler looked up at the clock. “They’ll be in at nine-thirty.”

Gavin nodded, walking back to his desk to find the folders from the case already placed on his desk. Flipping through them, Gavin familiarized himself with the case.

As he heard footsteps, Gavin looked up with his brain lagging a few seconds behind his visuals. “Hi, I’m Gav…”

“Well, I’m not surprised you don’t remember me,” Jack said, dropping down at Nines’s desk. “But I thought maybe I’d made enough of an impression to have you at least squint and be like ‘Do I know you?’”

Gavin flashed a grin. “Sorry, Jack, I do recognize you. Brain’s running a delay at the moment. How’ve you been?”

“I hate that little noxious shit and what he tried to do to my career, but other than that, I’ve been suffering the usual slings and arrows.” Jack smiled. “Now, let’s crack these cases and take some names.”

“I want the head of the guy who nearly killed Hank. Nines and Connor have been majorly hurt by that asshole.” Gavin said, handing the case file over to Jack.

“That the lieutenant here? Hank?” Jack asked, accepting the file. “And who are Nines and Connor?”
“Yeah, Hank’s the lieutenant, and Connor and Nines are basically his adopted kids since like two years ago. Connor’s his work partner—because of their time spent together during the revolution—and Nines is my normal partner.” Gavin nodded toward the picture on Nines’s desk.

Jack narrowed his eyes. “Am I wrong in assuming that this is also your fiancée?”

How in the hell? “Um?” Gavin tilted his head. “How did you know?”

Jack picked up a picture. “Gee, I don’t know, the matching rings?”

Gavin laughed at himself. “Yeah, he’s my fiancée.”

“So, it’s doubly bullshit that you were in that damn class, and I’m pretty sure that breaks the rules regarding family members working together, but hey, not my place to say anything about that.” Turning back to the file, Jack read over it. “So, where to start?”

The rest of the afternoon was spent tracking down leads.

Chapter Text

Checking his phone, Gavin found no messages from Nines. Has Hank not woken up yet so that Connor and Hank can go home today? Looking up at Jack as he cleared his throat, Gavin nudged him as they arrived at the house Connor and Hank had been checking out the night before. “Think we’ll find anything here?”

“Depends on how stupid the perp is. Given that he attacked the police, I’m putting him in the ‘pretty damn dumb’ category. Brothers in arms and all that.” Jack said, flipping off the engine. “Let’s go.”

Swinging out of the passenger’s side, Gavin gazed up at the house. A fissure of something ran down his spine. “Hey, I’m gonna have someone nearby.” Snagging his phone, Gavin sent Tina a text.

Bad feeling. We’re at the suspect’s house. Can you be waiting by? : G.

I’ll be there in ten minutes. Be safe, Gav. : Tina.

“They’re on their way. Tina and Chris’ll be here soon.” Gavin walked around the car. “Let’s go.”

Walking in, Gavin swept his eyes over every nook and cranny. The front door opened to a staircase, one with a landing above the door that then went to the second floor. Sweeping the first floor, Gavin began to feel silly. After  nodding to Jack, Gavin holstered his weapon. “Guess I overreacted.”

Jack smiled but didn’t quite push his weapon all the way into his holster. “I don’t know, something felt off to me, too. Let’s check the upstairs.”

Following Jack, Gavin felt something tug at his consciousness. “Wait. The second-floor light was on.”

Jack’s eyes widened, and the two of them heard a door slam open. “Go.”

The two of them rushed upstairs, weapons drawn.

The suspect—a six-foot-five tall male with some serious ‘roid muscles—stood there, holding his hands up. “I came back because I thought you’d shoot me if you found me elsewhere.”

“Hands against the wall!” Jack snapped, moving forward with his weapon drawn. “Hands on the wall and don’t move until we say it’s OK.”

The man complied, tears rolling down his face. “I just don’t understand. They’re not human!”

Jack rolled his eyes, looking to Gavin who was securing the man’s hands. “I’m really tired of that argument, how ‘bout you?”

“Yeah.” Hauling the man back so he was slightly off-balance as they walked, Gavin guided the man down and out of the house. “I am, too. But I’m not surprised.”

“What that androids weren’t accepted immediately? Me either. Humans suck.”  Jack’s grin flashed at Gavin. “Let’s get him back to the station.”

The drive back to the station was fairly somber, with Gavin staring at his phone, Jack driving and the man in the back invoking his right to silence.

As they lugged him in, Gavin dialed Nines. “Hey.”

“Gavin.” Nines’s voice was frozen. “What’s up?”

“We caught him. He’s behind bars, now.” Gavin felt hope spring up. “If you want to tell Hank, I can finish up the paperwork and then swing by if you need anything.”

Nines’s denial came quickly. “No, thanks.” Hearing Connor in the background, Nines’s voice became rushed. “Look, I’ll see you later.”

“Oh, OK.” Gavin squeezed out before the phone line cut. They’re fighting. Damn it, I didn’t mean to start the fight.

Putting his phone down on his desk, Gavin started to work on the paperwork. Looking through the case files that had been dropped off on his desk, Gavin sighed.

Nines didn’t call by that evening, so Gavin picked up a small case of thirium-bottles and a charging cable and port before lugging them onto the bus. I’ll drop these off and see if everything is OK.

Hauling them off the bus, Gavin balanced the small case on his shoulder as he made his way to the floor he knew Hank was on.

Quietly, Gavin poked his head in.

Hank was asleep on the bed, and so was Connor, who was in a chair next to the bed.

Thank god. Tiptoeing into the room, Gavin gently nudged Nines who was sitting on the couch near the window.

Nines opened his eyes, eyes exhausted. As soon as he saw Gavin, he shot up straight and motioned to the door.

Confused, Gavin set the thirium down and walked to the door. Turning around, he saw Nines check on Connor before standing and walking out. “Gavin.”  His voice had an edge.

What’s with the tone? “Hi. I just thought I’d check to see if you needed anything. I brought more thirium and a charger. I was hoping it would help.” Gavin tried to smile, but it died under Nines’s dead eyes. “Are you OK?”

Nines’s LED spun yellow. “I’m fine. Thanks for the stuff, it’ll be helpful.”
OK, message received. “Would you mind if I took the car? It looks like you’ll be here awhile.” Gavin rubbed at his arm.

Nines’s LED flickered orange before going back to yellow. “Of course. Here.” Digging the keys out, he handed them over. “Gavin, don’t come back here. Not until Hank wakes up fully. Connor….Connor is not dealing with things well.”
“Oh…uh, OK. Is there anyway I’ll see you over the next couple of days?” Gavin asked, trying to plan out how he’d work things.

The screeching of a chair coming from Hank’s room had Nines’s LED blinking bright red.

“Look, I am currently unaware of when I will be able to be around you again.” Nines snapped, sending Gavin back a half-step as Nines moved him to the elevators.

“OK.” Holding up his hands, Gavin took another step back. It’s OK, It’s OK. He doesn’t mean it the way it sounds. He doesn’t want to hurt you. “I’ll leave you be.”

Nines nodded, LED spinning yellow. “Good.” His voice softened a bit on the next sentence. “Don’t worry about me.”

Backing away, Gavin waited until Nines had gone back into the room to dash toward the elevators.

Hitting the button impatiently, Gavin glared at the floor indicator. Get here already!

The doors opened, and Gavin slid in. Able to take the first deep breath since gotten out of work, Gavin pulled into himself. I need to go home and feed my cats. After that, I’ll go to the store and grab some comfort food.

Walking out to his car, Gavin felt numbness settle over him. I’m fine.

Driving home, Gavin didn’t feel. Opening his front door, Gavin walked into the apartment, sat down and stared at the wall, fingers falling into cat fur. It doesn’t matter. It does not matter. He can’t hurt you unless you let him. Don’t let him. You’re being supportive. That’s what’s going on here.

Shutting down, Gavin walked like an automaton through the apartment finishing chores. He fed the cats, made himself a small can of soup, scheduled his surgery for the upcoming Wednesday, and then went to bed.

Waking up early the next morning, Gavin got ready and got to work early. Saying nothing, he started to work on his cases.

“Hey.” Jack smiled, sitting down across from him. “What’s up?”

“Not much.” Gavin nodded. “Any leads on the case you’re looking at from Hank or Connor?”

“Yep.” Jack started to brief him.

For the next four days, Gavin and Jack filled and closed more cases, maintaining both Connor and Hanks as well as Gavin and Nines usual success rate. Of course, this came at the expense of both Jack and Gavin working several all-nighters.

On the Wednesday of his surgery, Gavin walked into Fowler’s office three hours before the end of work. “Hey, just as an FYI, I’m going in for surgery tonight. I’ll do my best to be back in the morning.”

Fowler looked up, squinting. “Seriously? Take tomorrow off. You’ve done enough, and we should have Connor and Nines back tomorrow after they get Hank home.”

“Understood.” Gavin nodded, before turning.

“Gavin.” Fowler’s voice called him back.

“Yes?” Gavin turned in the door frame.

“Do you have someone going with you?” Fowler asked, rising from his desk to stretch.

“If I can catch Tina, yes.” Gavin nodded. “I need to go grab her.”

Fowler groaned, bracing his elbows on the desk and putting his head into his hands. “You couldn’t have asked me for this time off before now?”

“Is that a ‘no’?” Gavin asked, tone belligerent.

“Fuck you, Reed, and go get Tina. I’ll find replacement for both of you.” Fowler waved him off.

Booking it away from Fowler before he had a chance to change his mind, Gavin snagged Tina by the sleeve. “I have a favor to ask.”

“What’s up?” Tina asked, smiling.

“I’m going in for surgery tonight, and I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind hanging around? I’ll pay for food.” Gavin rubbed at the back of his neck. “I just don’t’ want to have to take the bus home after it.”

Tina’s eyes flashed with concern. “You still haven’t told Nines? And I’m still on shift.”

“I just talked to Fowler, he said he’d find replacements. And Nines made it patently clear that he didn’t want me to come back when Hank was in the hospital. I thought texting him would be the wrong way to break the news, and given that we haven’t spoken since then, no, I haven’t told him.” Shifting under Tina’s gaze, Gavin squirmed. “I know, but I don’t want to add stress.”

Tina shook her head. “I’ll go with you, but you and Nines need to communicate better. Seriously, this is something you should talk about.”

“I… I feel like I try and something goes wrong. We’re not great at talking to each other.” Gavin looked away as Tina glared. “Look, if you don’t want to go with me, you can just say that.”
Turning to walk away, Gavin felt Tina grab onto his sleeve. “I didn’t say that.” Pulling Gavin to her, she gently hugged him. “I’m sorry, I know you’re probably more stressed out about it then I am. I’m just worried what this will do to the two of you.”

Gavin sighed. “It’ll be fine.”

Arriving a little early, Gavin and Tina were led back to a room.

“OK, so if you’ll change, you can leave your stuff here.” Markie nodded to Tina. “And you can stay here. The surgery might take a couple of hours, so I’ll have someone update you every once in a while.”

“Not an issue, I’ll sit here and binge something until you come out.” Tina smiled. “But you should probably call the boyfriend to let him know.”

Sighing, Gavin pulled out his phone. Dialing, Gavin waited on pins and needles to see if Nines would pick up.

“Hello?” Nines’s voice was calm.

“Hey, Nines.” Gavin said, and apprehension built in waves.

“Gavin. I was wondering if you were gonna call. What’s up?” Nines’s gentle, happy tone confused Gavin.

“Um…. I’m headed in for surgery to remove the last of the cancer. I won’t be home until late tomorrow. Bye.” Speaking in a rush and hanging up, Gavin handed the phone to Tina. “There. I told him.”

Tina and Markie both scowled at him. “Sure, you told him, but….” Tina struggled to come up with words.

“You told him in a way that made it so he wouldn’t understand you.” Markie said, side-eyeing Gavin. “He’s going to be majorly upset when he gets here.”
“If he gets here, IF.” Gavin said, grabbing his robe. “I’m going to change.”

Trudging to the bathroom, Gavin switched to the robe and walked back out to drop down on the bed. Leaning back, Gavin closed his eyes and that was the last thing he remembered before waking up to Tina’s gentle nudge. “Gavin.”
Opening his eyes, Gavin looked at her. “Am I headed back?”

Tina’s grin went huge as she struggled not to snicker out right. “Nope, they took you back about three hours ago, you’ve been asleep since you laid down. I’ve been given the ‘hey, we need to talk to him, but we’re all kind of afraid to wake him up because he sounds like a deranged bear snoring, so will you shake him a bit?’ duty.”

Gavin felt a slow, lopsided-ly drugged out smile take over his face. “Oh. That’s nice.”

Tina started to chortle. “God, you’re fun when you’re on drugs. Gavin, wake up, you’re in the matrix.”

“Does that mean I can dodge bullets?” Gavin asked, eyes going to half-mast.

“I mean, if it’ll keep you awake.” Walking over Tina held something that smelled suspiciously like coffee near Gavin’s hand. “I smuggled this in, take small sips.”

Zombified by both lack of sleep and drugs, Gavin took it, took a sip and then placed it on the bedside table.

The coffee hit his system quickly—given that he’d basically used it as a substitute for sleep the past three days—and Gavin felt his mind do a fast restart.

“Ok, I’m awake now. What’s up?” Gavin asked, tilting the bed so he was more upright.

Tina smiled. “OK, so, number one, Nines called me and said he would’ve been here, but Fowler needed him at the precinct. He also said to tell you that he wants to know why you didn’t mention this until you were literally going in for surgery.” At Gavin’s grimace, Tina nodded. “Happy, he was not. But I think he got why you hadn’t mentioned it. Anyway, two, the doctor said she was going to get coffee, so she should be here in a sec.”

“OK. Thanks, Tina. I know it was a pain to stay with me. And I should’ve asked you earlier. It was just so busy at work.” Gavin grumbled.

Tina nodded. “I know, it’s fine. You still owe me dinner, and considering you can’t eat, I’m going to eat in front of you and enjoy it.”

“You’re an asshole, but that’s fair.” Gavin smiled at her as he leaned forward and flipped on the TV.

“Hello, all good in there?” Dr. Marrero walked in, flashing her usual grin at Gavin.

“Hi, Doc. And I think so?” Gavin tried to straighten his back out, so he looked more presentable, but the strength only lasted a moment before he sank back to a more comfortable slouched position.

“Well, if you’re feeling good, I think that we’ll be able to release you later tomorrow afternoon.” Marrero eyed Gavin as he tried to protest. “Yep. Tomorrow afternoon.”

Gavin groaned, and flipped to Tina. “You can head out. If I’m going to be stuck here, there’s no point in you hanging around, too.”

Tina snorted. “I don’t have work tomorrow, Fowler texted me that he wanted Nines to be there, so I got to be here with you. What type of friend leaves their friend in the hospital in recovery, no less   when they have nothing more pressing than laundry to do? And I’ll swing us by my house tomorrow to use your washer and dryer while we watch children movies and tear them to shreds. Starting with live-action Disney.”

Gavin grinned. “Those are fun.”

Marrero cleared her throat. “Anyway, Gavin, you should be good to go after surgery and we let you out tomorrow. We’ll give it a few days, and have you do a few basic tests. If they come back clean, you’re all good.”

Gavin felt his heart hit his ribs. “Thanks, doc.”

Marrero nodded. “Anyway, you pull the A.M.A. thing again, I’m going to scream. We need you to stay here.”

Gavin sighed. “Fiiiiinnnee.”

Marrero smirked. “Now you sound like my twelve-year-old.”

Tina busted a gut and ended up bent over at Gavin’s glare. “I like your doctor.”
“Hmmm.” Gavin hummed, noncommittally.

The day passed as Gavin was mostly doing his best to stay awake, so he’d sleep that night and simply hanging out with Tina.

“If a cat was combined with a giraffe, what would it look like?” Gavin asked, jokingly pulling up a blank sheet on his tablet and handing Tina the stylus. “Bet you can’t draw that.”

Tina laughed. “Ha.” Taking the pen, she scribbled out something, and handed it back to Gavin. “Do better than that.”

Gavin grinned, taking the tablet, and laughing. Nice. Tina’s sketch had a cat with dimensions written on it.

Laughing, Gavin began to sketch his response when Markie walked in. “Hey, how are you feeling?”

Gavin nodded to her. “I’m good. And ready to go home.”

Markie laughed, examining him gently. “Well, it looks like the stitches are all in place, and the skin around it seems fine. It looks like you can go home.”

Gavin grinned, and sat up to reach for his clothes. “Awesome.”

Markie unhooked the IV, allowing Gavin to get up and change. Walking out of the bathroom, Gavin stretched out. “God, I feel better in my normal clothes.”

Tina nodded, slinging a gentle arm around Gavin’s shoulders as she made him stoop to her height. “I know. Let’s get you out of here.”

After paperwork and wound care instructions—one that he could practically repeat ad nauseum at this point—Gavin walked out into the cooling-off night. Taking a deep breath, Gavin partially coughed. “Yep, there’s the smog. I missed it.”

Tina laughed, hip checking him gently. “Come on, Mr. I survived-lung-cancer. We need to get you home.”

Gavin felt his normal scowl soften. “I… I did survive, huh?”

Tina’s grin went wicked. “I mean, you could be a ghost. And I’m lying to you.”

“Hmm… I’ll just go walk into traffic to test that.” Gavin turned slightly, took a few steps before Tina dragged him back.

“I can’t let you do that, Gavin. It goes against the Matrix.” Tina pulled him to her car, jokingly pushing him to the passenger door. “Get in.”

“Fine, but only because I like the matrix and want it to win.” Gavin laughed as Tina flipped him off.

Somewhere from the parking lot, Gavin heard a passerby laugh. “Geze, Agent Smith.”

Tina and Gavin both lost it, climbing into the car. “Uhhh. My sides hurt.” Gavin chortled, unable to turn off the mirth fully.

Tina nodded, wiping away tears and putting the car in gear. “Good way to end this.”

Driving, Tina swung by her house and loaded her laundry in the back. After they got to Gavin’s she shouldered the basket upstairs and walked in after Gavin. “Well, you’re home. We’re watching a movie. Go grab it and pop it in while I pop this in.” Walking to the laundry room, Tina tossed in a load of laundry before walking back out into the living room and picking up the cats. “Hello babies.”

Gavin snorted as he was digging through his library. “What are you in the mood for?”

“A kids movie. Something dumb, with lots of mistakes.” Tina smiled. “Hey, what about one of the live-action Disney movies we said we'd do? Alice in Wonderland!”

Gavin lit up. “Yes.”

After popping the DVD in , Gavin dropped down next to Tina. “Are you OK if I order pizza?”

“Hell yes. Hawaiian?” Tina asked, flopping back.

“Yes.”  Gavin said, ordering and slouching back.

Gavin and Tina became couch potatoes, only really doing anything when Tina needed to do her laundry. At those points, Gavin would pause and move around a bit—much to the displeasure of the cats—and the two got through a few movies.

After a few hours, Tina smiled as she looked down at her phone. “So, Nines is on his way back, so I’m going to leave you in ten minutes.”

Gavin nodded, and then moved to pin her by splaying across her lap. “I’m gonna miss you.”

“Gavin, move.” Tina laughed, pushing him back to his end of the couch.

“Fine.” Gavin stood, stretched. “Is there anything you need before you go?”

Tina shook her head. “Nah, I’m good. Although, we do need to finish the movie sometime.”

Gavin smiled. “Tell me when and I’ll be happy to host again.”

Tina stood, reaching out and squeezing Gavin’s shoulder. “That sounds good. I’ll see you later.”

Gavin smiled as he watched Tina walk out. That was fun.

Walking into the bedroom, Gavin fished out a pair of comfortable PJS and slipped into them. Letting out a weary sigh, Gavin laid down and pulled the covers over him. I’m tired.

Hearing the front door open, Gavin closed his eyes. Later.

Chapter Text

Then he heard Nines speaking to someone: “Hang on, I’ll see if he’s awake.”

Footsteps came quietly down the hall, and Gavin heard Nines enter the room. “Gav?”

Fall asleep, fall asleep. Go! Gavin tried to knock out before Nines could touch him but didn’t quite make it as Nines’s hand gently brushed over his cheek. “Hey, Gavin.”

Grumbling, Gavin opened one eye.

Nines’s  joyous grin had him blushing, and he turned his face into his pillow. “What’ya want, Tin-can?”

Nines sat down next to him, which had Gavin rolling to the middle to give him some space.

Nines’s hands crept out, gently running them over Gavin’s neck and upper chest. “Come here for a moment, OK?”

“Whhhyyyy….?” Gavin said, sitting up and felt himself being pulled into Nines’s arms. Stiffening for a second, he tried to work it out. Wait, wasn’t he mad at me for coming to the hospital?

Nines low tones resonated with Gavin. “What’s up? Why are you so stiff? Are you OK?”

“Aren’t you upset with me?” Gavin asked, pushing away from Nines.

“No.” Nines’s hand cupped his cheek, but Gavin pulled away, moving to sit a bit further away. . “I was a little miffed about you not telling me about the surgery, but I know that I told you not to bug me when I was with Con and Dad.”

“Not to bug you? You basically told me to fuck off because I was being too clingy.” Gavin hissed. “Look, go talk to whomever is out there and do what you want. I’m tired.”

Turning away, Gavin scooted to Nines’s side of the bed. “I’m going to sleep.”

Nines’s voice was quiet. “Gavin, I’m sorry. I just… Connor wasn’t handling things well and nagging me about you. I guess I took it out on you. I’m sorry.”

Standing, Nines walked around and knelt in front of Gavin, reaching out to touch him. “I’ll be in the living room when you want to talk.” Pressing a fast kiss on Gavin’s cheek, Nines stood and left the room.

Damn it! Gavin laid down, staring at the wall. I’m not in the mood to deal with this. Closing his eyes, Gavin let himself drift off for a fast nap.

Opening his eyes, Gavin saw that night had fallen. OK, I can deal with this now. Rolling out of bed, Gavin walked into the living room to find Nines stroking along Luna’s spine as he stared down.

Dropping down next to Nines, Gavin waited.

Nine’s hands stuttered, stopped, and then resumed stroking the cat. “I’m sorry.”

Gavin snorted. “Good. Can you tell me exactly what you did wrong?”

“I spoke—incorrectly? I guess that’s the way to say it. I pushed you away, and came off as a complete asshole.” Nines’s hands stilled, and then resumed petting the cat a little more brusquely to work off what Gaivn assumed was nervous energy.

“And?” Gavin asked, leaning against the couch arm.

“And I sounded like I expected you to call when I told you not to?” Nines asked, looking to Gavin for confirmation.

Gavin nodded. “It sucked being told to fuck off.” Turning to Nines, Gavin reached out and took his hand. “Now, are you OK?”

Nines’s LED spun, switching from orange to yellow to red every few seconds as he pulled away from Gavin and continued to pet the cat. “I… No, I’m not. Con was a complete ass. He kept at me the entire two days and would not leave me alone about you. You showed up the second day and were doing your best to be supportive, but he couldn’t see that. And I snapped at you because I was so stressed… And I was dumb to tell you to leave, I was just scared he’d hit you if he found you there. And given that he’s made of steel and you’re a bit more squishy, I didn’t want to see what would happen if he did.”

Clenching his fist around his knees, Nines spooked Luna enough for her to jump off his lap and vanish to parts unknown. “I saw that I hurt you, but I was so afraid that Connor was going to pick a physical fight that I rushed you out as fast as possible. You tried to help me and all he could say was that I was brainwashed and should dump you.”

Standing, Nines began to pace angrily across the living room. HI voice steadily rose as he continued to speak. “I don’t understand it! He refused to look past your previous actions. And then we got to the precinct, and you’d nearly run yourself ragged helping all of us. And Connor wouldn’t admit that you had changed, that he was wrong about you!” Nines’s voice escalated to the point where Gavin feared the neighbors might complain. Standing, he waited to grab Nines on the next pass by as Nines continued to rant. “And I snapped. I told him off, and then left. I ended up at the gym for a few rounds at an android speed bag because otherwise I was going to go back and fucking kill him!” His voice hit a pitch that Gaivn winced at.

Nines passed by Gavin, and Gavin grabbed him to pull him into a hug. “Shhhhhh….. It’s OK, Nines. Everything is alright. C’mhere.” Gavin led him back to the bedroom, pulling him down to the bed and holding him close. Rocking, Gavin did his best to soothe. “Shhh.”

Nines broke, voice dropping to a hint of a whisper between sobs. “I’m sorry.”

Gavin continued to whisper to Nines. “It’s OK..”

Nines clung to him and started to talk in a broken tone. “No, it’s not. I was a complete ass. I should’ve told you what was going on and not act like an asshole. Connor, he ended up punching a few…gaping, huge holes into the walls. I was… with how…. With how he was acting, I was so scared he’d actually act out on the threats he was making. I was so scared that we were going to lose Dad, but Connor would not let me lean on him. He just kept pushing and pushing and I… I started to feel less and less bad about Dad because I was so annoyed and hurt by Con. IN the end, I was ready to throw him off the damned roof.”

Gavin pulled Nines down so his head so that Nines rested on his shoulder. Stroking his fingers through Nines’s hair, Gavin said “Nines, it’ fine to feel that way.” Something feels off….  “ I’m sorry you had to deal with that.”

Pressing his hand to Nines’s scalp, Gavin realized what was off. He’s way too warm. “Babe, you’re running hot. Can I get you some thirium? This can’t be good for you.”

Nines whimpered, clinging. “Please, don’t leave.”

Gavin felt his heart kick into his ribs. “How about we go together? Does that work?”

“Don’t want to leave the room, really.” Nines said, pressing his head into Gavin’s neck.

Waiting for a moment, Gavin let Nines’s warm breath cross across his neck. “What about a shower? I haven’t cleaned up since surgery.”

Nines’s LED went orange, then yellow. Slowly, he sat up. “OK.”

Standing, Gavin offered Nines a hand up. “Co’mon.”

Nines took the hand, nearly leaning against Gavin’s back as they walked to the bathroom. Pulling Nines in, Gavin gently began to undo the buttons and pull of his shirt when he noticed Nines’s lack of movement. “Nines?”

“I… I think I’m running at a low battery. I didn’t end up using the charger because Connor could’ve interfaced with me if I’d gone to sleep.” Nines sighed. “I don’t have much energy right now.”
“So shower and then bed. That works.” Moving a little more quickly, Gavin undid the rest of Nines’s clothes and gently nudged him to the shower. “I’ll be there in a minute.”

Nines didn’t fight, turning and stepping under the spray. Letting out a moan, Nines seemed to reawake for a second. “That does feel better.”

Smiling at Nines, Gavin shucked his clothes and wrapped his wound. Stepping in behind Nines, Gavin wrapped his arms around him. “You were so strong. I’m sorry I couldn’t have been more of a help.”

Nines snorted. “I chased you off. It’s fine. I’m sorry about everything. I just struggled so much with Connor.”

Gavin laughed. “Well, I’m glad you’re here now. The entire situation sucked. How’s your Dad?”

Nines looked back, smiling. “He’s going to be fine, if Connor doesn’t smother him with too much attention.”

Gavin pressed a kiss to the back of Nines’s neck. “I’m glad he’ll be OK for your sake,” he said, avoiding the bit about Connor.

Nines shifted. “I really am sorry about how I sounded.” Stretching, Nines turned around and tilted Gavin’s chin up to press a kiss to Gavin’s lips.

Gavin smiled into the kiss, pulled Nines back and took it deeper. Pulling back after a few minutes, Gavin pressed his forehead to Nines’s, letting his voice go hard for a moment. “Just don’t do it again.” Nines startled back, and Gavin pinned him with a glare. “Can we agree that we tell each other what’s going on, no matter the situation?”

Nines nodded, holding his hands up and nodding enthusiastically. “I agree.”

Holding tight, Gavin hugged Nines.  

The moments slid into one another as the two digested everything.

After a half-hour, Gavin let out a shiver. “OK, I’m cold and you’re exhausted. Let’s go.”

Nodding and yawning, Nines followed Gavin.

The two fell into bed, pulling themselves into the middle and then pulling the covers over them.

“Gavin?” Nines asked, pulling his pillow closer.

“Hmm?” Gavin answered, ignoring his pillow in favor of Nines’s chest.

“I’m so proud of you for beating this. And I’m so glad you’re OK.” Nines whispered, cupping the back of Gavin’s head. “Congrats.”

“Mmm.” Gavin nuzzled closer. “Night.”

The night passed, and Gavin found himself waking up to a knock at the door. “Nines.”

“No.” Nines flipped over, pulling the pillow over his head.

“I’m not getting up.” Gavin grumbled, tugging on the covers.

The knocking continued, and Gavin groaned. “Fine.”

Swinging out of bed, Gavin grabbed a pair of pj bottoms and a t-shirt. Pulling them on, Gavin stumbled to the front door to look through the peephole.

It was Connor.

“Lol, nope.” Gavin turned and walked back into the bedroom.

Nines was sitting up, grumbling. “It’s my brother.”
“Fuck him, block him and let’s go back to bed.” Gavin laid down on the mattress, reaching out for Nines.

“I can’t block him, what if it’s for work?” Nines teased, lying down and accepting Gavin’s embrace.

“Don’t care, Fowler knows I’m recovering. Tell him you saw me do something stupid and have to stop me.” Gavin held Nines as he heard Connor knock again. “Does he ever give up?”
“Not in the short time I’ve known him, no. In fact we might need to worry about…” Nines winced and Gavin groaned as they heard the front door unlock. “That.”

“How in the hell did he find a key?” Gavin asked, then groaned as he remembered something. “The desk lady downstairs has a crush on him.”

“Her taste is awful. Would you mind helping me make him regret breaking and entering?” Nines’s smile was wicked.

“What did…” Gavin grinned as Nines shifted above him, sliding his hands under Gavin’s shirt.  “Hell yes, let’s.”

Nines began to press desperate kissed to Gavin’s mouth, neck, and jawline, nibbling as he found a spot he knew was particularly sensitive. Gavin felt a moan build and leak slowly as he writhed against Nines. Hips ground and Gavin felt heat build into a conflagration, energy which eh poured into the kiss enough to have Nines’s staticky, broken keen waltz around the room.

The front door closed again.

Kissing for a few more moments, Gavin and Nines paused. “Do you think he’s gone?” Gavin asked, winded.

Nines smirked, and nodded. The two of them then both looked at each other and burst out laughing.

Nines rolled off Gavin to lay beside him. “I can’t imagine his face. That was fun.”

Gavin grinned. “Wanna scandalize your relatives, just let me know.”

Nines turned so he lay on his side, and ran a hand through Gavin’s hair. “You’re the best.”

“Damn straight. I’m a delight.” Gavin laughed, sitting up. “And I’m going to take a cold shower.”

Nines grinned. “Why take a shower alone?”
Gavin smiled back, reaching to pull Nines up, pulling his hips close. “I don’t know. How about you join me? Just in case your brother comes back.”

Nines laughed, his hands going under Gavin’s t-shirt to palm at his pecs. Using the grip, Nines guided him to the bathroom. “Come on.”

The morning went by, and Gavin only remembered the extra person who’d been there the night before. Standing from the couch, Gavin went to the kitchen, where Nines was pouring himself a glass of thirium with cherry flavor. “Hey, who was the person you were talking to last night?”

“Oh, yeah. Forgotten about that. I was talking to Marcus. I’d contacted him with questions regarding human android marriage. He said he was happy to help us, and that it was a little tricky. He did say we’d basically have to sue for our license, but after that it could be used to help create the statue surrounding marriage.” Nines walked over, putting an arm around Gavin’s shoulders. “We’d be trailblazers.”

“Let’s build the trail, then.” Clasping Nines’s left hand with his, Gavin held tight. We’ll do it.

 

A year-and-a-half-later

“Gavin. Time to get up.” A knock sounded on Tina’s guest room door. “Come on, we’re actually on a tighter schedule than usual today!” Tina’s voice came through the wood of the door.

Groaning, Gavin sat up, rubbing at his back. “Comiiiiiiiiiiiiiinnnnnnnnng.” Pulling himself out of bed, Gavin felt his head spin. “Do we have any aspirin?”

“It’s beside your bed. I take my duties as ‘other-best-man’ seriously.” Tina’s chipper face appeared as she opened the door, walking over in her PJS. “And I’ve got my duties cut out with you. Come on, you’re getting married today.”

Gavin snarled, then moaned. “Damn it, sleep deprivation sucks.”
Tina blinked, coming toward him with a cup of coffee. “Not the hangover? Were you not able to sleep during the night?”

“No, nerves and an overactive brain had me tossing and turning. I’d fallen asleep about ten minutes before you knocked.” Gavin grumbled, reaching out and taking the coffee from her. Tossing three aspirin in his mouth, Gavin swallowed them and sighed. “I don’t suppose I could lay down until they kick in?”

“Hmmmmm…” Pulling out her phone, Tina checked the schedule she had on her phone. “You’ll need to shorten your shower, but if you want...”

Gavin laid back down, closing his eyes. “Dump cold water on me in, like, twenty to thirty minutes.”

“Sure!” Tina’s chipper tone at the order had Gavin shuddering. That was a mistake.

But, for those twenty minutes, he didn’t really care. Blinking his eyes open at the nineteen-minute mark, Gavin rolled out of bed to the floor to get out of the oncoming deluge. “Ha.”

Tina laughed, smoothing her hand down her sky-blue dress and then picked up the other glass she had and tossed it at him. “Get ready.”
Flipping her off, Gavin walked into the bathroom and showered in five minutes. Ducking out in a towel, Gavin snagged his clothes before ducking back into the bathroom. Pulling on his pressed black slacks, white button down and suit jacket, Gavin double checked himself in the mirror. Are we ready?

Looking down at his ring, Gavin thumbed it in a full rotation. He said yes. We’re ready.

Walking out as he tied his tie, Gavin looked to Tina. “I look… OK, right?”

Tina nodded. “Gav, you look fan-fucking-tastic.” Walking over, she smoothed the lapels on the jacket. “Nervous?”

Gavin nodded, rubbing at the back of his neck. “I know he said yes, and we’ve fought for this, it’s just… I guess I never saw it actually happening? I figured I’d screw it up and he’d be gone. And I’m more terrified of that now than ever.”

Tina chuckled, pulling Gavin to the bedroom door. “He loves you. You know that.”

“I know ,but I have the ability to piss people off to no ends…. What if I…” Gavin was stopped by Tina handing him her phone. “Uuuhh??”
“Just talk.” Tina said, smiling gently as she led Gavin to the front door and handed him his dress black shoes.

Pressing the phone into his shoulder and holding it there with his head, Gavin struggled into his first dress shoes. “Hello?”
“Hey, babe. Stop over-thinking it. I love you.” Nines’s voice came over the line, warm. “I can’t wait to see you fully dressed up. And then get you out of it tonight.”

Gavin felt warmth flush over his face, causing Tina to snort at him as she led him to the car. “Awww.”

The anxiety in his chest slowly began to vanish. “Is there anything I need to do to be ready for today?”

“If it wasn’t done by today, we’re not going to worry about it.” Nines’s laugh came across. “Remember, I love you, and if you run I will break your legs to make you regret it and then marry you anyway.”
“Ha. Ha. Ha. Babe.” Gavin let the sarcasm bleed. “I love you, too.”

“See you at the ceremony.” Nines hung up, and Gavin’s gut fully unclenched.

Tina looked over to Gavin as before she started to back out, letting her excited grin shine. “You two are finally getting married. I thought you’d never. You kept putting it off after getting your license. It took you guys literally a year to get that license. Why’d you wait for six more months?”

“I’ve told you why. We wanted the media to stop bugging us. And we needed to rebuild our vacation time-ration, given how much we had to take off to deal with the cancer.” Gavin laid back in his chair, closing his eyes. “Wake me when we get there?”

“Sure.” Tina said,  navigating through the mid-morning Friday traffic.

Gavin wasn’t sure how long it took them, but the next thing he knew he was being picked up.

Blanching forward, Gavin bumped his head the door frame. “Ow.”

Nines’s laughed, shifting Gavin so he wouldn’t fall. “Wow, you were out of it.”

Blinking, Gavin scowled at the bright light. “Hi. I thought we weren’t going to see each other until we were walking down the aisle?”

“We weren’t, but Tina couldn’t carry you inside. Hard time sleeping last night, or so I here.” Nines said, helping Gavin down and stand on his own feet.

Gavin nodded, walking into their venue—a quiet garden with  a reception area. “Booze and anxiety don’t always go well.”

“Yeah, I can see that. Are you going to be able to stay awake during the ceremony?” Nines teased, rubbing at Gavin’s shoulder.

Leaning into the touch, Gavin sighed and ignored the question. “How… was it OK on your own last night?”

Nines rolled his eyes, nudging Gavin gently along his ribs. “I can stand to be apart from you for one night.”  

“Fine. Excuse me if I was worried you’d be lonely.” Gavin mock-frowned,  before feeling the frown solidify. “Are you sure about this?”

“Yes.” Nines’s answer was simple and comforting as Nines held Gavin tight to his side. “I love you, and we’re ready. Even if we still fight, we’ll figure it out.”

Gavin nodded. “OK. How soon until we walk down the aisle?”

Nines’s huge grin clued Gavin in, who pulled out his phone to check the time. We were supposed to be started down the aisle a minute ago.  “Oh, fuck you.”

“Later. Com’on.” Nines tugged Gavin toward the entrance to the garden.

Laughing, Gavin followed as Nines led him to the altar.

Gavin didn’t remember most of the vows, or the moments after. All he could remember was Nines’s smile, his tight grip on his hands.

The reception was at their personal favorite bar/restraint combo, with all of their guests hanging out. Dinner had been served and almost everyone was enjoying themselves as they danced, ate and talked among themselves.

Eli and Chloe were dancing, Fowler and the other co-workers they’d invited were talking amongst themselves and Hank and Connor were drinking.

Gavin dozed against Nines’s shoulder, mostly unaware of the well-wishes until Connor and Hank were in front of him. Pretending to be out of it, Gavin let Nines deal with it. If he hurts you, I will flip this table on him.

“Hey, buddy.” Hank’s happy tone was genuine. “It looks like you’re happy.”

Nines’s hand ran through Gavin’s hair, and a soft sigh escaped Gavin.

“I am.” Gavin could feel Nines’s eyes on him.

However, Nines’s gaze snapped off of him when Connor began to speak. “Nines…”
Nines’s shoulder tensed, under Gavin’s head. “Yes?”
“I may not understand, but I just want you to be happy. If he makes you happy, I’m glad you’re together.” Connor sounded unsure of his delivery, but Gavin knew by the way Nines relaxed that it was what Nines needed to hear.
“Thank you, Con. If you want to talk to me later, I’m thinking that I should get Gavin to the car before he falls fully asleep.” Nines said, standing and gently shaking Gavin.

Blinking his eyes open, Gavin yawned. “Sorry, I swear I don’t mean to be a buzz-kill.”

Hank smiled, gently. “Not a problem. Have fun, you two. I’m slightly jealous that you’re going to Hawaii.”

Gavin smiled, reaching to take Nines’s hand in his. “We’d agreed to go before, but it took us awhile.”

“No kidding! A year-and-a-god-damned-half.” Tina’s voice echoed from the dance floor.

“Shut up, Tina.” Gavin and Nines moved to flip her off in synchronization.

Everyone laughed as the two left, making their way to the car.

Gavin groaned in relief as he got to sit down in the passengers’ side. “It’s finally quiet.”

Nines laughed, reaching for the radio knob.

Gavin opened his eyes wide. “No.”

Nines flicked it on, chortling as Gavin startled forward at the music. “I need for you to stay awake through the airport. You can sleep on the flight.”

“Why did we get a red-eye? Remind me.” Gavin asked, settling into his seat as Nines drove.

“Because, and I’m quoting you here, ‘I want to be with you in paradise as fast as possible.’” Nines responded, turning onto the main road.

“You do realize I was talking about sex, right?” Gavin grinned as Nines swatted at him.

“Go back to sleep.” Nines said, turning the radio off.

“Fine. Love you.” Gavin pressed his head back into the headrest.

“And I love you.” Nines’s voice echoed warmly in his ears, and Gavin felt himself smile.

The drive and the fighting through security had Gavin and Nines sigh in relief when they got on the flight.

Reclining a little, Gavin felt Nine’s hand caress his cheek. “We’ll be in paradise soon, my love. But then again, whenever I’m with you, I’m in paradise.” Nines’s scoff at his own words had Gavin grinning.

“That’s the dumbest, sappiest line I’ve ever heard.” Gavin smiled, reaching up to grasp Nines’s hand. “Don’t do it again.”

“OK, but I do love you.” Nines said, leaning back and letting himself relax.

“Love you, too.” Gavin held tight to Nines hand.

As the flight left the ground, Gavin watched Nines’s LED spin, slowing down until it circled in stasis mode. I don’t know where all of this is going, and I still don’t know what to do about the anti-android bias and I don’t know what to do about humans getting hurt. Or what to do if you get taken over by a hacker. But I know this, I love you. And I trust you.

Leaning over, Gavin pressed a fast kiss to Nines’s cheek, smiling when he didn’t wake up. And I’m totally taking advantage of that heavy-sleeper thing, later.