Somewhere between October 14th and 15th, middle of the night… Who's keeping track of time any more?
They sat on the couch for a while, learning.
Learning what it felt like to hold each other, learning what the other liked best.
Gavin, clever as he was, figured out pretty quickly that Nines had a weakness for hands in his hair, pulling him down closer.
Nines’ partner would laugh at him then, because he couldn’t help the soft gasps escaping his lips, and it seemed that Gavin thought there was nothing funnier.
Nines was determined to get back at him, because it was goddamn criminal how good it felt. Fingers running up the back of his neck sent shivers everywhere, making his LED sputter and his HUD display flicker.
As it turns out, Gavin was a sucker for neck kisses, and Nines wouldn’t let him hear the end of it, pressing butterfly pecks everywhere he could reach, exploring places he’d wanted to touch for weeks.
Finally, after moving too suddenly and ending up sprawled on the floor, choking with laughter, the pair lay splayed across Gavin’s carpet.
Nines stared up into the darkness, the lights in the kitchen having been turned down low. Gavin’s breathing was low and steady, not yet asleep, but relaxed and unburdened. They were still touching, even now, Gavin running small circled across Nines’ thumb with his own.
When Gavin spoke, his voice was the first thing to break the heavy, sleepy silence that had descended.
“Fuck, I’m sore.”
Of course that’s what he said.
Nines cracked up. It wasn’t funny. Not remotely. Gavin may have overstrained his injury. And yet Nines still laughed, tired and happy and still rather confused.
“Hey, don’t laugh at my pain.”
Which only made Nines laugh more. Taking a few deep breaths to get his fans moving, Nines turned to look at Gavin. “Sorry. Are you alright?”
“Ah, I’m fine. Hell, I feel more better than I have in weeks. I was getting too stiff.”
“Oh? That’s why you feel better? You got a good stretch in?”
Gavin grinned, meeting Nines’ eyes in the dark. “Eh, kissing you helped a bit too, I’d say.”
That smile. It made Nines’ heart pang. It was a familiar feeling, but one that came with a bit of happy surprise now, because he didn’t have to keep it down. Instead of turning away and shoving his feelings down like he had for the past five months, Nines scooped up Gavin’s hand and pressed a kiss to each knuckle, long and slow. He could sense Gavin’s heart rate pick up, his breath catching.
Nines wanted to sit in this moment forever and never let it go. Laying in the dark side by side, it was like the world had tilted back onto its axis. The missing piece to the puzzle, whatever felt so wrong for the past month, this fixed it. Gavin fixed it.
That was when a wave of cold slammed over him. Wait.
Fear and anxiety pricked his mind, doubt plaguing his thoughts. What if he wasn’t enough? What if after all this…
“We should talk. I’ve gotta tell you something.”
Gavin’s eyebrows knit in confusion, sensing something was wrong. “Nines?”
“Before this goes too far… I should…”
“Nines? Hey, talk to me.” There was apprehension in Gavin’s voice. Nines could feel his eyes scanning his face. Sitting up, Nines held tight to Gavin’s hand, but he wasn’t sure he was allowed to anymore.
“Gavin, you should know that… I’m not… I can’t…”
“What’s going on? What do you mean ‘before this goes too far’?” Gavin’s eyes were flicking between Nines’, but Nines didn’t look up.
What if Gavin doesn’t want this anymore? What if he changed his mind after Nines told him?
“I… I cannot… satisfy you in all of the ways that you need, Gavin.”
“What? Satisfy? What is this, some sort of ritual? Come on, look at me. You’re scaring me, Nines.”
“I am not equipped with the necessary parts, or even the desire, to do things… physical things… that other people are. Gavin, I cannot…”
“Hey, why are you so nervous? It’s just me. You can talk to me, Nines. Wait a second…” Gavin’s face screwed up in thought, then realization.
Then he burst out laughing.
“Holy fuck, Nines. You really had me scared for a second there. Is this about sexual stuff, is that what this is about?”
Gavin exhaled and ran a hand down his face. “Shit, man, this only happened, what, two hours ago? What time is it?”
“Just about midnight.”
“Yeah, two hours then. Fuck, Nines, you’re moving faster than I am.”
“Nines, I don’t need that… I don’t need any of that. Hell, I’ve been in relationships before, and trust me, it isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.”
There was a look so plain and earnest on Gavin’s face that Nines couldn’t help but calm down a bit. It was obvious that Gavin had been worried, and now he was full of relief so pure that Nines felt bad for confusing him.
“We can do whatever we want, Nines. Whatever you want. Nothing more. Nothing less, either, I guess. We’ll figure it out together, like we always do.”
“Like we always do.”
Oh, what a blessed world to be living in, to have Gavin Reed, hair mussed and cheeks pink, sitting in front of him. Nines had a hard time processing emotions, always had, but this felt as if he were about to spontaneously combust. Relief, joy, curiosity, and elation flooded his systems.
But most of all he was thankful. Thankful for his partner, which may be accurate in more than one definition now, and feeling a little stupid that he ever thought this would be a problem. This was Gavin, his best friend, the person who helped him through everything. He wouldn’t leave him now.
“Yeah? We good? Good.” Gavin laid back down with a grunt, letting out a huge sigh and closing his eyes. “You sure know how to scare a guy, Nines. But that’s what you were built for, huh?”
Nines scoffed before laying back down next to Gavin again, this time a little bit closer. “I’m not the easiest of individuals to work with, I will admit. But, then again, look who’s talking.”
“What are you talking about? I’m the nicest guy I know.”
“You don’t know very many people. Most of them are criminals.”
“Hey! Criminals can be very nice, don’t be rude.”
“Oh, I apologize.”
“As you should.”
Gavin shifted onto his side. “But hey, there was one more- ow. Fuck. One second.”
Rubbing his chest, Gavin shifted again, trying to find a comfortable way to face Nines without abusing his healing injuries any more than he already had.
Scooting in, Nines gathered Gavin against his side, smiling at Gavin’s noises of bewilderment. Supporting Gavin’s side with his own, Gavin was able to prop up and look at Nines, hair falling against his face.
“Hmm. If I say no, what would you do?”
“I would. And you’d beg me to return.”
“Nah. I’d lock the door behind you and then you’d have to bang on the window for a ride home.”
Nines chuckled. “I could call a cab.”
“It’s midnight. It would take forever to get here. What would you do, sit on the front porch, moping?”
“That… would be sad. Would you let me back in?”
“Would you ask nicely?”
“You’ve never asked for anything nicely in your life.”
“Untrue. And irrelevant. So, would you?”
“Depends. Would you let me stay?”
“Depends.” Gavin smirked. Nines rolled his eyes at that. “How would you ask?”
“Does your letting me stay depend on how I ask?”
“Then I would ask you in the best way possible, Gavin Reed. I’d recite poetry on your front lawn for the whole neighborhood to hear, and you would have to let me in.”
Gavin laughed, and Nines swore he could drink the sound from the air. If it was possible, he would.
“That’s pretty good, tin can.”
“Yeah? Should we try it out?”
“No no no. Oh no.”
“Ah, you’re no fun. Think you could beat it?”
“I’d think of something. It’d be something loud. Probably obnoxious. It would get you kicked out of your apartment.”
“Loud. Obnoxious. Sounds a lot like you.”
“Oh, it would be.”
“Then I would love it, no matter what it was.”
Gavin’s next quip died on his lips, but Nines pretended not to notice. The answer had slipped out, but he didn’t regret it. It was worth it just to see Gavin speechless for a moment.
“You said you had something else you wanted to talk about?”
Gavin cleared his throat, blinking. “Oh yeah. Uh… I wanted to apologize. For what I said tonight and for what I said a month ago. I shouldn’t have pushed you, I know what it feels like to be pressured into something you’re not ready for.”
“I said stop.” Nines sat up again, Gavin following rather reluctantly. Putting his hands on Gavin’s shoulders, Nines made sure Gavin’s eyes were on his. He didn’t want the weight of this to be missed. “You should not be the one apologizing. You were only trying to help me, and I acted like a child. I was being selfish and immature, insulting you and thinking only of myself when you have gone through so much more.”
“That’s not true. This isn’t some sort of trauma competition.”
“You’re right. You’re right, and I know that, and I am so so sorry, Gavin. I always say that I have the best processors of any android, and yet here I am wandering blind while you try to guide me to the light. You shouldn’t apologize. You don’t need to.”
Gavin frowned, eyeing shimmering. “Nah. I do. This goes both ways, Nines. I said things I regret, you did too, and we both should apologize for it. That’s what we should always do. We handle things as a team, remember? No one man for himself sort of shit. No one is completely free of blame ever.”
Nines took a breath, trying to clear his head. So much was going on, so much they needed to talk about, and it was hard to think about it all. But they would do it. Just like Gavin said they would. “You amaze me, you know.”
“I amaze you?”
“You always have.”
“You can’t… you can’t go around saying that sort of shit or I might start believing it.” Gavin ducked his head, voice wavering.
“It’s the truth.”
“Yeah, I know it is. That’s what makes it so… I don’t know. Real, I guess.”
Nines thought for a moment, trying to swim through an ocean of thoughts. Everything had been so topsy turvy, it was disorienting when things finally started going right.
“I’m going to start seeing someone.”
Gavin perked up. “Really?”
“Yes, really. I can’t do this on my own anymore. And there are even things that you can’t fix.”
“Don’t I know it. I promise you won’t regret it, Nines. And that’s coming from a guy who never trusted shrinks as far as he could throw them. Shelley’s got some awesome recommendations, there is this younger woman a few blocks from Central that she really likes.”
“Alright. Okay, don’t get ahead of anything.”
And it was good. They were talking again, really talking, something they hadn’t done in a long time.
Sitting there in the dark, back pressed against the carpet, Nines felt steady.
For the next step.
Whatever that may be.