AT AN END
November 7th, 2039
THREE WEEKS LATER
“Why do you still do this? You don’t have too.”
“She’s a friend, Gavin. And has been very helpful in the past. It’s only polite to visit her.”
“Yeah, sure. The polite thing to do. Well, the polite thing is making me freeze my ass off.”
“I told you to come in. Say hi.”
“What, and see a bunch of jackasses that we helped put away? No thanks.”
“Alright, suit yourself. Be stubborn if you must.” Nines leaned over and pressed a quick kiss to Gavin’s temple. “I’ll only be an hour or so.”
“Yeah, yeah, get out of here.” Gavin was already blushing. He waved his hand in dismissal, Nines slamming the car door on his way out.
Watching his partner walk across the parking lot, the stark black of his coat contrasting against the harsh white of the November morning, Gavin smiled to himself. He was still amazed at how it had all turned out.
Honestly, it wasn’t so different. Sure, he got to hold Nines’ hand and kiss him whenever he pleased, but the banter was the same. The work was the same. Easier, now that he and Nines were on the same page, but more like what they had always been than anything.
There was no big change in the world. The angels didn’t come down and start singing. And Gavin was okay with that. ‘Cause it was him and Nines, like it should be.
They decided to take it slow, at least at first. Nines spent the night a few times a week, helping to make dinner and bitch about whatever case they were working on. Bringing over a few of his plants, Nines had mumbled something about how his apartment was getting too crowded, but Gavin appreciated the warm green that made his kitchen windowsill feel alive. Plus, it didn’t hurt that everytime he looked at them he was reminded of Nines.
Nines his partner. Nines his boyfriend. It still felt weird to think about.
Tina seemed happier too, as if she could tell what had happened. They hadn’t told anyone at work yet, worrying that Fowler would try and separate them if they made it official. That, and neither of them were quite ready for the attention yet.
Connor had been pissed off about something the Monday after, taking one look at the pair of them and slamming his desk, Tina laughing maniacally behind him. Whatever. Those two were weird as hell. Hank looked tired of their shit, but he could never be mad at Connor.
It wasn’t what Gavin expected. Hell, what was he supposed to expect? That they’d suddenly be Romeo and Juliet, all over each other? Or that everything would change, everything they’d gone through now awkward and distant?
But it wasn’t awkward. There were awkward moments, of course, but not nearly as many as Gavin had imagined, and it was endearing anyway. It was… right. As if something had clicked into place, the last piece of the puzzle completing the picture. It wasn’t perfect, nothing was, but compared to Gavin’s past excuses for relationships it was a hell of a lot steadier and safer than anything he’d ever experienced.
It was nice, how nothing had changed. Even after everything, they were still partners.
“There’s my favorite android! I haven’t seen you in a while, Robocop.”
“I’ve been pretty busy, Miss Vargas. There was no slight intended.”
“Aw, I’ve missed you and your proper manners. What a gentleman. An asshole, or so I’ve heard from Tina, but a gentleman.”
Nines smiled, Carmen still the same after all these months. He didn’t really have a specific reason to be here, but there was nothing against him coming, and he missed his new friend.
“I take pride in being both.”
“Of course you do.” Carmen gave a sarcastic squinted smile, making Nines laugh. “Oh, and speaking of what I’ve heard from Tina…”
She waggled her eyebrows suggestively.
“Goddamnit Chen. Of all people, I knew she’d be the one to figure it out.”
Carmen leaned forward, almost pressing her nose against the glass. “So it’s true then? You and mister detective short and scruffy?”
Nines ran a hand over his face, trying to hide his shy grin. “Tina’s gossip is usually right. That woman has an unnatural knack for finding things out. She’ll make detective in no time.”
“Oh. My. God. You bastard, you actually did it. Holy shit!” She hit the table in celebration, making Nines roll his eyes. “Dude! I’m so proud.”
“I was the start of it you know, I was the one that got you to talk about him. I’m a proud momma right now, look at my boy go.”
“My goodness, are you done?”
“Yes. Maybe. No promises.”
Nines huffed. It was all in good fun, and seeing that Carmen’s spark hadn’t dimmed after her time in prison was reassuring.
“Are you excited to be out soon? You have, what, two months left?”
“Just about. No thanks to you.”
“What? All thanks to me. If it weren’t for me you would have gotten years.”
“Yeah, yeah. You’re just trying to make yourself feel better.” Carmen waved his response away. “And yes, I am excited. I am making it my first and only priority to meet Tina Chen in person, no glass barriers.”
“Good God. I don’t think the world can handle the two of you together. I know she’s been meeting with you, conducting ‘follow-up exams.’ So you two have hit it off, huh?”
“Well, I hope so. Otherwise it would have meant I’ve lost my touch, and that is not allowed to happen.”
“I don’t know what I am going to tell Gavin. Should I even tell him, or wait until the news breaks naturally? Whatever happens, the one thing I’ll say is if you hurt her in any way, you are going to have a very angry Gavin Reed on your ass. And that is not something you want, he gets intense when he sets his mind on something.”
“I’m frightened already. Don’t worry, Tina is more than capable of handling me. I’m the one who should be worried, and that’s not something I say everyday.”
“Of course not.”
They continued chatting, somehow old friends despite their differences and short time knowing one another. Carmen was easy to banter with, different from Gavin but equally as entertaining.
The time zoomed by, as time tends to do when you are having a good time. Soon enough, Nines glanced at his internal clock and realized it had almost been a full hour.
“Oh, come on lawman, stay a while longer.”
“Nah, I should go. Gavin’s expecting me.”
“Ooo, Gavin’s waiting, how could I ever compete.”
She said it as a joke, but a surge of affection for his partner made Nines smile. It was true, nothing could compete against Gavin in his mind, nothing at all. They had finally chosen each other, despite the world throwing everything it had at them. They deserved this. Deserved each other.
Hell yeah, we do.
Knowing he was being unnecessarily serious, Nines leaned forward.
“The man waiting out in that parking lot is everything to me. I have waited, fought, and died for him, and he has done and will do the same for me, though without the dying part if I have anything to say about it. Carmen Vargas, it has been a pleasure as always, but you are correct in that there is no competition. Gavin is out there, and I am going to return to him always. No matter what.”
Leaning back, Nines smiled a smile that was all in the eyes, no teeth peaking through his lips.
“As much as I enjoy our time together, there is nothing you can say to make me stay.”
The sun was shining when a tall man dressed in all black strode purposefully out of the prison. The ice on the ground glittered, glinting off of cars and his perfectly shined shoes.
Waiting for him was another man, leaning up against a lamp post despite the cold, having decided to wait for his partner at the front of the building instead of in the car. At one time, this man would have been smoking a cigarette while he waited, but that was a thing of the past.
When they greeted one another, they both stood a moment squinting in the bright winter light, taking the other in, before walking side by side back to their car, a little too close for just friends.