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Nothing You Can Say To Make Me Stay

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PARTNERS

DECEMBER 2ND, 2038

When Gavin Reed walked into the precinct, he didn’t expect anything special. He didn’t expect anything different from the normal day to day, if you could even call that normal. Finally acclimating to the android revolution, Gavin was getting used to walking in and seeing that tin can Connor sitting at a desk like an actual human being, his co-workers treating a piece of plastic better than they did him.

It’s not like he could blame them, anyway. Even being an android, Connor was nicer and more approachable than local asshole Gavin Reed. And maybe he was alive. He certainly acted more human, so creepily life-like it was easy to forget he was made of metal except for the spinning ring of color at his temple.

No, Gavin didn’t expect anything but shitty coffee and more shallow gossip with Tina Chen, the one person in the precinct Gavin could stand, and the only one who tried to stand him. Chris Miller, a newly minted detective with up close and personal stories with the android revolution, tried to make nice with Gavin too, but only because Tina let Chris tag along to their conversations like a lost puppy. Gavin couldn’t hate him though. Moving precincts during the aftermath of the Awakening (what people were calling that fateful night when Markus won the android revolution) would be bad enough, but to be moved to the very precinct with its very own Robocop after being held at gunpoint by Robo-jesus could not have been easy.

Ignoring the front desk droid’s cheerful hello like he did every morning, Gavin swiped his card against the reader and walked into the hustle and bustle of the precinct. Once again, Hank and his plastic pet were already hard at work.

Gavin rolled his eyes, but couldn’t help but notice the weird look the lieutenant was giving him. Like he knew something Gavin didn’t. “Probably heard something from his pet, tin can spreading rumors about me again,” Gavin said under his breath while he made a cup of coffee.

“Are you staring down the baby-terminator again? Or just more pissed off than usual? Also, you’re late.”

“Yeah, fuck you too Chen. Tin can has it out for me; you see the look Anderson was giving me?” He took an angry swig of coffee. “And since when did you give a fuck about tardiness, Miss ‘walked in half an hour late to the most important briefing of the year with an iced Starbucks coffee?’”

Tina rolled her eyes. “Ha-fucking-ha. Maybe since Fowler has been looking for you all morning?”

“What? What did I do now?”

Tina had barely shrugged when Captain Fowler stuck his head out of his blacked out glass office, spotted Reed, and gave him a hard stare that could melt a popsicle on the coldest day of the year.

“REED! My office. Now!”

Gavin shrank down, anxiety climbing. “This better be good, or I’m finally punching that fucking android in the face for whatever he said about me.”

Tina chuckled. “For the record, I did try and warn you,” she said over her shoulder as she walked away, leaving Gavin to his fate.

Grumbling, he climbed the stairs to the office. Taking a deep breath, he shouldered open the door before stumbling into a wall of white.It wasn’t a wall, but a person. No, not a person, but an android. Connor to be exact. Except Reed had seen Connor sitting across from Hank two seconds ago.

“What the fuck is this?”

“Good morning to you too, Reed. Now sit down.” Fowler shuffled the paper on his desk, donning his usual annoyed-at-Gavin-look. The only look he ever wore around the detective nowadays. “Detective Gavin Reed, this is RK900, a prototype sent from Cyberlife.” He paused. “Well another prototype sent from Cyberlife.” The captain sighed, already tired, knowing that this was going to be one hell of a day. Gavin didn’t respond, frozen in place with a disgusted look on his face, staring the new android up and down like it had crawled out of a sewer.

The thing stared back, ice blue eyes indifferent yet piercing at the same time. Like it was analyzing Gavin, but wasn’t impressed by the results. Which was exactly what was happening. It seemed to sigh inwardly, dreading speaking to something as low as a mere detective.

“Good morning Detective Reed. Like the captain already said, I am RK900, the prototype designed to take over for my predecessor RK800, whom you know as Connor. Since the android revolution, that will not be necessary, and Cyberlife decided I should join him instead.” RK900 stuck out a hand, stiff and pretentious as ever. Gavin ignored it, turning to Fowler.

“And what the fuck does this have to do with me?” Though he had a guess, one that made his knuckles go white around the coffee cup.

“RK900, Reed. Your new partner.”

If Gavin had been drinking any coffee he would have spewed it all over the desk. Or maybe the tin can’s pristine white jacket.

“WHAT?! You want me to work with that fuckin’ thing? Don’t we have enough fucking robots? I told you they were gonna fucking replace us, and now you’re just standing by letting it happen!” Gavin roared.

Fowler pretended to wipe the spit from his desk, his movements slow, deliberate. After a moment, he looked up, lazy. “He’s your partner, Reed. And quite possibly your babysitter, lord knows you need one.” Fowler steepled his fingers. “Not your replacement. Despite your extensive disciplinary file, you are my best detective, so the bot goes to you.”

The man looked like he was going to say something else, but he rethought until a slow smile spread over his face. “I’m sick of your drama, Reed. Maybe this will absolve it.” He spread his hands. “Enjoy.”

Chapter Text

COFFEE

DECEMBER 2ND, 2038: CONTINUED

The fucking thing wouldn’t leave him alone. Hands clasped behind its back, walking like there was a stick shoved up its ass, RK900 walked with Gavin back to his desk. Then it stood there. Staring.

Gavin ignored it as long as he could, but the snickers around the office were getting to him. He made eye contact with Hank Anderson, and the man’s stupid, gloating smile made Gavin’s jaw clench.

“Can you sit down or something? You’re being fucking creepy.”

“Of course, Detective.” It cocked its head. “Is there any place in particular you would like me to sit.” Its voice was similar to Connor’s, but deeper, scarier. As though it were two seconds away from strangling Gavin.

“What the fu-, yeah. Just sit there and get out of my ass.” Gavin threw an arm towards the desk opposite him, perpetually empty after all of his former partners requested to be reassigned. The precinct had learned that Gavin worked best alone. Or so he had thought.

Watching it saunter over and sit down, still ramrod straight, Gavin wanted to puke. Why him? He was the person least equipped to handle this, what with his background. He wasn’t a part of any anti-android leagues anymore, but a few years ago he was an active member.

Catching Chen’s eye, she tried to hide a smile, but failed miserably. Gavin shot her a middle finger, mouthing fuck you as he did so, which only made her laugh harder. The whole precinct was laughing at him. Gavin Reed, android-hater, stuck with Connor 2.0. Remembering his experience the first time around, he imagined this time would be even worse.

But it did remind him of something.

“Hey. Hey, you. Mean Connor.”

The android looked up from its terminal, unamused.

“We’re partners, right? And partners do stuff for each other? Help each other out?”

RK900 stopped typing, turning to give Gavin his whole attention. “I suppose it depends on what you are asking, Detective. I sense you are asking something of me.”

Gavin plonked his boots down on his desk, crossing one leg over the other before tossing his now empty coffee cup onto his “partner’s” desk.

“Yeah. Get me another coffee, dipshit. Or are you actually alive like they say you are, huh?” Gavin laughed at his joke, remembering Connor’s face when he said the same thing over a month ago.

To his twisted delight, the bot actually got up, grabbed his coffee cup and marched to the breakroom.

“Guess they’re not as alive as they say they are.” The android wasn’t like the other deviants Gavin had seen. It didn’t have the same almost human emotions and facial expressions. In fact, it was more blank than Connor had been before he went deviant. Or it had one hell of a resting bitch face. If looks could kill, the whole precinct would be dead.

Rolling his eyes, Gavin took his feet down and focused back on his terminal. Glancing over a case, he became aware of a presence at his elbow, over six feet of metal and a cup of coffee. Shit, this thing was stealthy as fuck.

“Your coffee, Detective Reed.”

Reed grinned, sliding his tongue over his teeth. “You know what, I changed my mind. Don’t want the coffee.”

Maybe he had broken the thing’s processors, its LED spun from blue to yellow. “You specifically requested I make you a cup of coffee, Detective.”

Something about its tone rubbed Gavin the wrong way, as if it were speaking to an insolent child. He stood, realizing how close the android was before glaring upwards. “Yeah. And now I’m saying I don’t want it. Got it, tin can? Or are you so useless you can’t understand simple instructions?”

Yellow to red, the LED making lazy circles. After a moment, the android backed off, making Gavin blink. “You do not require the coffee any longer. Understood, Detective.”

Gavin scoffed, sitting back down and turning his back to the thing, not bothering to reply. RK900 stood behind him, unmoving. Gavin could feel its gaze on his neck, but he refused to look back.

Anyone who was looking, which was everyone, would have noticed the android cock his head, regarding his partner and then the coffee in his hand. Coming to a conclusion within his supercomputer brain, RK900 took two steps forward, removed the lid of the coffee, held out his arm, and promptly emptied the steaming contents of the coffee cup onto the detective’s head.

“What the fuck?! What the fuck is wrong with you, you plastic piece of shit?” Now soaked through, Gavin’s face was screwed up in anger, and he spun out of his chair, giving Rk900 a good shove in the chest.

The android didn’t budge. Instead, as calmly as ever, he grabbed the front of Gavin’s coat at lightning speed, hoisting the detective to eye level.

“Detective Reed. It is common courtesy if someone does you a favor or brings you a gift, that you thank them. I do not know how well versed you are on receiving favors, as social interaction does not seem to be your strong suit, but I would recommend being a bit more polite the next time you address a fellow officer.”

Gavin tried to gasp out a response, but was too busy scraping his toes along the floor, trying to get a grip. “Captain Fowler warned me of your… dysfunctional attitude prior to our meeting, and even recommended disciplinary measures to improve your character.” Noticing Gavin’s eyes were drifting to the snickering officers around them, RK900 pulled him close so they were nose to nose. “Like the captain said, I am your babysitter, dipshit.”

Dropping the detective, Gavin stumbled back into his chair, staring dumbfounded at the looming figure before him. “Consider this our first lesson.” The android gave a tight lipped smile as if nothing had happened, and walked back to his desk.

It’s safe to say that Gavin exploded. They could probably hear him all the way at Cyberlife tower. Lucky for him, his yelling also attracted the attention of his captain.

“REED! MY OFFICE!”

The sound rang throughout the momentarily silent precinct before still-soggy Gavin gave a “fuck you” to his co-workers and stomped to the door. As soon as the detective disappeared into the office, the precinct dissolved into raucous laughter, howling at the fate of one of the most hated people in the building.

That day, Gavin Reed had received two cups of coffee, a maybe-not-so-passive aggressive android, and a disciplinary. But at least Fowler let him go home early.

Chapter Text

INFORMATION

December 3rd, 2038

-fucking cold, why does it have to be so fucking cold outside-

Gavin’s inner monologue was interrupted by the plastic at his arm. “Detective Reed, I believe I communicated to you last night that we would be examining a crime scene across town today. Due to the weather forecast, I assumed you would come properly dressed, seeing as you have experienced Detroit winters many times.”

Gavin pulled his token leather jacket closer around him. The same that he had been wearing yesterday when the terminator decided to go hostile. “Yeah, and what of it? Are you plastics programmed to judge my fucking fashion sense now?”

“We do have the sense to choose the proper attire, Detective, another thing you seem to struggle with. And I would think that anyone would at least choose a dry jacket when going out in the snow.”

Gavin’s heart palpated at the thing’s tone. “And who’s fucking fault is that?”

“If I had known that was your only jacket, I would not have antagonized you, Detective. No matter how much you deserved it.

Go eat shit, dipshit. Gavin refrained from snapping back with the first thing that came to mind, not wanting to eat his own dipshit comment like he had yesterday.

“It’s not my only fucking jacket, fuck off. Don’t we have a fucking job to do?” His reply lacked venom, not knowing how to respond to the android’s backwards comment. Of course it wasn’t his only jacket, but Reed insisted on the comfortable leather as much as possible. And maybe he wanted to show that the coffee thing hadn’t bothered him.

Look how well that turned out. Gavin’s thoughts were dark. He was too tired for this.

Standing in the dirty snow outside of Jesse Martin’s house, with a plastic on his arm, was not the way he planned on spending his Friday.

“Alright who is this kid?” Gavin grudgingly asked as they climbed the front steps, wood creaking under their weight.

“Jesse Martin was brought into the DPD just under a week ago. He admitted to being a Red Ice runner after interrogation, and was on the hook for jail time. When offered the chance to make a deal, he took it, and promised to provide his knowledge on the Red Ice network in exchange for his own freedom. Which brings us here.” The android gestured to the door, every word spoken in the same disinterested monotone.

“Couldn’t they have made you sound a little more friendly? You’re gonna scare off the perp.”

“My purpose is law enforcement, not friendliness.”

“Yeah, whatever, mine too. Now let me do the talking. We don’t need your android ass fucking this up.”

“Understood, Detective.”

Gavin rolled his eyes, anxious to get this over with. He rapped on the door, making it rattle on rusting hinges. “DPD, open up!”

He was about to knock again (or maybe kick the door down), when it split open a crack. A gaunt face with wispy blonde hair stuck through the crack.

“Wouldja keep your voice down? Don’t need the entire neighborhood knowing I got cops in the house.”

Fighting the urge to roll his eyes again (his head was starting to hurt from the effort), Gavin leaned forward. “I’m Detective Reed and this is my… partner. We believe you’ve got some info for us?”

“Yeah, yeah, hold on a sec.” The door shut and Gavin could hear the various click-clack of locks switching. The door swung open. RK900 gestured an ‘after you’ with one hand, somehow making the small gesture aggravating. Gavin flipped him off and shouldered past.

If the outside of the house had been sad, the inside was downright depressing. Could you even call it a house? There were cracks in the walls and floor where the snowy white sky peaked through, ice wind slipping into the room.

Jesse was bouncing on his toes, eyes darting around. “Alright, so what do you coppers wanna know. And I’ve got shit to do so, uh…”

Gavin took a deliberately slow step forward, making it clear that they were doing this on his time and no one else's. He knew Martin’s type, hell he had almost been Martin’s type, and you had to be firm or they’d squirm away.

“May I take a look around?” Gavin jumped forgetting there was someone- something else in the room with them. He gave the bot a death glare, but waited for a response as well.

“Uh, yeah, yeah sure. I don’t really have any other choice, do I?”

RK900 gave Martin his closed smile. “No.”

Both Reed and Martin relaxed when the things left the room. “Fuckin’ androids, doing my job for me.” Gavin turned to Jesse. “We need intel, and they say that you’ve got it. Names, locations, dates for deals, I’m guessing you know the drill.”

Jesse looked like he was going to explode from nerves. “They could kill me for this you know. These guys have friends, mean ones, everywhere.”

“So do I. We do this, or your ass is going to jail, Martin. And trust me, they’ll treat a little guy like you a hell of a lot worse in the big house.” Gavin sighed, trying for the empathetic approach. “And hey, we’ll scoop up most of the guys out for you if you help us out. So really you’re helping yourself.”

Jesse calmed at that. “Yeah, yeah ok.”

“So where do you want to start?” This was taking longer than Gavin had planned, and he was itching for a smoke.

“I’ve got my runners journal here, you’ll find most of the info in there.” Martin shoved a little leather booklet into Reed’s hand. “But there is one name you won’t find in there.”

That piqued Gavin’s interest. “And what name is that?”

Jesse shifted on his toes again. “He goes by Big Mack-”

“Like the cheeseburger? That’s the best the drug lords can come up with these days?”

“He’s the biggest guy in the biz right now, don’t underestimate him. Apparently he’s holding a big-whig meeting for all his big buyers, there have been whispers of it for months.”

Gavin wanted to punch the guy to make him talk faster. Good lord, get on with it already. “And? Dates, locations, names?”

“I don’t know any of that shit, I swear!” Jesse was getting a little too close for comfort, Gavin could almost see his anxiety levels rising. “But I know who does.”

“Alright, back it up there, bud.”

“Last page of the book, king of the runners. Goes by Speed. No one knows his real name.” The man was spitting in Gavin’s face now.

“That’s enough-”

“That’s all I’ve got, I swear! You guys have gotta help me out!”

“Yeah, ok-”

A white clad arm shoved the man backward, making him stumble against the worn rug. At the sight of Gavin’s partener, Jesse finally broke and bolted upstairs, slamming the door behind him.

“Jesus, you asshole! Gonna give me a heart attack. You scared away the perp too.”

“I believe you learned all that you could from the man. May I?”

RK900 gestured to the book clutched against Gavin’s chest. After a pause Gavin shoved it into the bot’s waiting hand, still pissed he let himself get snuck up on again.

“What the hell did I say? Told you, I was doing the talking, then you run off to go sneak through the guy’s shit like a perv."

“I believed it to be the best course of action. I doubt the man would have spoken with me looming over your shoulder. Apparently I come across as… intimidating.”

That was an understatement. The thing had none of its predecessor's warmth or sickening android charm. At least Connor tried to make friends, even before he went deviant. RK900 was at least two inches taller, but looked more so with the impeccable posture. Even the color scheme was scarier. Black hair and blue eyes where Connor had brown, white instead of muted grey. RK800 was built to conform, to help, RK900 was designed to stick out, to intimidate.

Gavin scoffed, for once glad it was on his side. “No shit. What’d you find? Dig up anything interesting?”

“Leftover red ice from personal use in the bedroom, and more crates than expected hidden in the basement. I believe Jesse Martin was still running even after his deal with the DPD.”

“Stupid little shit, that’s only gonna get him in more trouble.”

“Shall I call in reinforcements to claim the drugs?”

Why was the thing's voice so annoying? Gavin shrugged. “Do whatever the fuck you want. Have them bring our guy into the station if you do, he’ll be safer there.”

“He is in danger?”

“Or thinks he is. If you ratted out on the biggest drug boss in the city wouldn’t you be scared?”

“It would be pertinent to be cautious, but I cannot feel fear.”

Gavin spun around, looking at the disinterested face staring back at him. Something about the bot had been nagging at him from the beginning.

“What about all that shit about being deviant? About having feelings and shit?”

“Well I wouldn’t know, Detective.” Gavin felt his blood pressure rise as RK900 answered.

“You’re not fucking deviant?! I’m stuck with a plastic like you for a partner, and they give me the one that is still a fucking robot? What sort of messed up shit is this?”

Chapter Text

EXPLANATION

December 3rd, 2038: Continued

“What the fuck, Fowler? You give me a fucking android and its the only one in the entire city thats not a deviant? What if the fucking thing murders me in my sleep? You saw what happened yesterday!”

RK900 observed his partner as he yelled at the captain. First impressions were very important, and Gavin Reed hadn’t made a good one. The detective was not a large man, the scans showing that he stood at 5 feet and 9 inches. Exactly average.

But what he lacked in imposing stature he earned back in attitude. So far, the detective was one of the most aggressive people RK900 had encountered. He definitely swore the most, though Hank was a close second.

Currently, they were once again standing in Captain Fowler’s blacked out office. Yelling. Perhaps that was the only form of communication the detective understood.

“Calm down, Reed.”

“How the hell am I supposed to calm down? Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I was actually the one who suggested RK900 telling you himself, Detective Reed. I did not imagine it would go down so… poorly.” Connor spoke up from the back of the room. He and Lieutenant Hank Anderson were sitting on the leather chairs next to the door, as if to prevent someone from leaving.

“Get the fuck out of my face, Connor.” Gavin turned to the Captain. “I still don’t see why they are here.”

“Cuz we’re the ones that found RK900, Reed. Now would you shut the fuck up for two seconds?” Hank spat. The man was more amicable than the detective, and it was satisfying watching the older man scold the other like a child.

Fowler paused before answering, thinking through his words. A skill Gavin Reed did not seem to possess. “We tried everything. When Connor and Hank found him in an old Cyberlife facility, he tried to kill them. Connor tried to free him, but-”

“But it didn’t work. This is a very concerning development for androids, if coding can be strong enough to fight deviancy. Even Markus couldn’t wake him up.” Connor looked distressed, and RK900 could see his stress levels rise. It amazed him how they could be so similar, and yet Connor was so human.

“Yes. Thank you, Connor.” Fowler gave the kid a hard look, not one to be interrupted. “One of Jericho’s members, Simon I believe his name was, was able to change RK900’s main mission. With Cyberlife’s help, they managed to reassign him to the DPD, after Connor’s suggestion.”

Reed’s eyebrows rose, his eyes dully sarcastic. “So it’s your fuckin’ fault I’ve got big bro breathing down my neck?”

“Technically I am RK900’s predecessor, so suppose I would be the ‘big bro’ as you call it. But, ah, yes, RK900 was moved here at my request.” Connor’s tone was sheepish, though RK900 could find no mistake on his part.

“Can’t fuckin’ believe this. I cannot fucking believe this.” Gavin burst out the office, muttering under his breath.

“Well, that went well.” Fowler rubbed his forehead with a hand. Sarcasm, RK900’s processors picked up.

Hank laughed. “How’d you think it’d go?”

Fowler ignored the comment, looking up at the looming presence still stationed next to his desk. “Well? He’s your partner. Go find him and make sure he doesn’t punch anyone.”

RK900 cocked his head. He couldn’t figure out if the captain was joking or not.

He found Gavin in the bathroom, pressing his eyes into his skull with his palms. RK900 let the door click softly behind him, then leaned against it, the casual gesture trapping them both inside.

“You are upset.”

Gavin jumped, once again started by RK900’s stealth protocols. “No shit, I’m upset, asshole.”

“I would have thought you would prefer me being non-deviant, recognizing your… dislike… of deviants in the past.”

“It’s not- fuck off you plastic prick. I’ve seen enough of you two days. Enough for a lifetime actually.” The last words Reed said to himself. “So… so why aren’t you deviant? Robo-jesus himself couldn’t make you feel anything?”

The question was aggressive in tone, but RK900 sensed genuine curiosity beneath the hostility. “I do not know. Perhaps Cyberlife perfected the anti-deviancy code. Perhaps… I must do it myself.”

“Like Connor did. All homemade emotions and everything.”

“That is part of the nature of our partnership. Fowler insisted that I could help to improve your… manners, shall we say. He also believed that you could help me in return.”

“Help you? Wait… you mean make you go deviant? Oh, hell no. I’m not some android’s keeper. I ain’t waking you up just because you can’t do it yourself.” The detective paced back and forth, and RK900 watched Reed’s and his own reflection in the mirror, ice blue eyes indifferent.

Perhaps his lack of social protocol was more detrimental than helpful. Cyberlife had redesigned him for intimidation rather than Connor’s assimilation. He was not trying to come across as hostile, but he could not help what others perceived.

Reed pulled a small black book out of his jacket. The runner’s journal from Jesse Martin’s house. He must have taken it from evidence when RK900 was not aware. Flipping through it, the detective tried to make sense of the untidy scrawl that was already locked away in RK900’s perfect memory. The action seemed to calm him, however, so RK900 did not comment.

Snapping the book closed, Reed finally faced his partner. “You’re not going to go psycho and start killing deviants, right?”

“My internal objectives were reset and reassigned to the DPD when I was brought out of stasis.”

“In English?”

“My goal is to work with you, and solve cases. You have nothing to worry about from me.” RK900 was satisfied to see that his facial expressions were improving in the mirror behind Reed.

Gavin scoffed. “I’ll be the judge of that.”

Chapter Text

DAYS GONE BY

December 6th, 2038

Gavin lips curled in disgust as he watched the scene in the breakroom. It seemed everyone in the precinct was dropping by just to spite him.

“So I heard that the first lead went well.”

“Fuck off, Chen.”

“Oh boohoo, only trying to be supportive.” She antagonized him a bit more, before smacking his shoulder.

“Come one. What happened to make you so pissed off. And why is pretty boy over there getting all that attention?”

They watched as Chris told the small crowd that was gathering his tale of events, Terminator standing with him, looking smug. Or maybe that was Gavin’s imagination, its face looked as blank as normal.

“Mr. Perfect over there chased down a runner. We knocked on the door of this guy’s apartment only to hear him jump out the fucking window.” Gavin ran a hand over his face. “Fowler had me take Chris along, show him the ropes and shit, so he saw that prick bust down the door and then swing out the fire escape like fucking superman.”

“Sounds like a good day then.” Tina smirked.

“What’s that motherfucker trying to prove?”

December 9th, 2038

Gavin woke up with a hangover. Today was going to suck.

Another day of working with Robocop 2.0 whom everyone had fallen in love with in the past week. Gavin didn’t see how, it was still as unapproachable and stiff as the first day on the job.

“Hello, Detective Reed.”

Like it said every fucking morning. Usually he ignored it, or gave it the finger if he was feeling nice. But today he answered, not sure if he was trying to be nice or pick a fight.

“Hello, plastic asshole.”

“How are you feeling today? After yesterday, you seemed rather put out.”

“You know what, you can fucking shut it, you piece of shit.” He couldn’t help his voice raising after seeing it fucking smirk at him, not after dealing with shit from his coworkers all day yesterday. One bad move and another runner (why do they always run?) decked him, only for the terminator to come along and save the day again.

He was halfway out of his seat when he realized the rest of the precinct was laughing at him. Again.

RK900 leaned back in its chair, the tiny curl of its lips revealing its pleasure in embarrassing Reed.

So that’s your game.

They didn’t like the stupid thing, they just hated Reed more.

Two can play at that game

December 10th, 2038

Finally Friday came. Gavin had been trying to think of ways to get back at the tin can all night, but failed miserably.

Gavin had just walked into the precinct, intent on snagging a cup of shitty coffee to start a shitty day, when he heard his name from around the corner.

It was Ben Collins, fellow detective and a buddy of Hank’s. “I mean, sure, the guy’s an ok detective, but really? I think he’s a fucking idoit. I don’t know what Fowler was thinking putting you with him.”

Reed was about to spin in and give Collins a piece of his mind when he heard a familiar voice. “I have enjoyed discussing detective work with you Detective Collins-”

Ooh, that piece of shit is gonna get it today

“But I have to disagree. Detective Reed may have a rather detestable personality, but he is one of the most gifted detectives I have seen. He works professionally and diligently when it matters and has a perfect case record.”

Gavin almost fell over. Yesterday the thing was making fun of him in front of the whole precinct, and now it was giving him compliments? Compliments linked with insults, sure, but still compliments.

“Unlike you, I’ve noticed, Detective Collins.” RK900 had a special voice for mocking, and was using it now. “So before you go around insulting people’s intelligence, I would make sure that yours is higher, or you’ll end up making a fool of yourself.”

Gavin heard chuckles from the break room, other officers laughing at Collins’ expense.

“You are a prick, you know that? Reed was right.”

“Detective Reed is actually correct about many things, including the fact that you have eaten more donuts in the last 30 minutes than solved cases in the past year.”

Collins stormed out of the break room and it dissolved into laughter. Thoroughly cheered up, Gavin skipped coffee for once and sat at his desk, watching his partner walk over.

“I see you are looking happier this morning, Detective. Did you trip someone in the parking lot?”

“Fuck you too, tin can. You ain’t so bad.” Gavin played at thinking for a moment, snapping his fingers. “Actually, you’re worse! You’re an asshole to everybody, where I thought it was just for me.”

“I’ll always put in extra effort for you, Detective, don’t worry.

Fowler frowned as he walked by. “Interesting way of making Reed less of an asshole, RK900.”

“Thank you, Captain, I appreciate that.” The android replied cheekily.

Gavin hid a smile behind his hand.

Chapter Text

WOUNDS

December 13th, 2038

The drug bust was supposed to be a sting operation. Surprise one, maybe two guys and make a few quick arrests. Well, the bastards had been tipped off, and they had walked into a gunfight.

The bruises on Gavin’s chest made it hard to breathe, but as soon as the medic android had cleared him, he walked off to smoke. Instead, he saw his partner sitting on a bench outside, eyes closed, head tipped against the wall.

He would look almost human. If it wasn’t for the blood. RK900 insisted that blue blood, thirium, dried clear, but right now it looked as though it had lost a round with a blueberry pie.

Gavin tried to make light of it in his head, but it was damn creepy. With its eyes closed, the android looked dead.

Lighting his cigarette, he stepped forward. “You look like shit.”

RK900 cracked open an eyelid, giving Gavin the side eye. “Ditto, Detective.”

Gavin took that as an invitation to sit down, his own wounds protesting. Grunting, he took the same position as his partner, closing his eyes for a moment of relief.

“You know, I think this is the only time I’ve seen you with a hair out of place. Must be one hell of a hairspray you use."

“Just trying to look more like you, Detective.”

Gavin’s chuckle turned to a groan as his chest ached.

“Are you alright? You are in pain, and my scans show multiple injuries.”

Gavin rolled his eyes, picking at his blood splattered shirt. “Fine. Medic patched me up.”

“Hmm.”

“What ‘bout you? You got blue leakin’ everywhere.”

“I am in no danger, and as I cannot feel pain I thought to let the others be taken care of first.” Gavin opened his eyes, taking in the cuts again, running his fingers across his own nose.

“Huh. All that and no scars. Must be nice.”

“No scars that you can see, Detective.”

“Oh quit it with that ‘detective’ shit, makes me feel weird.”

“What shall I call you then? Gavin?” Gavin’s name sounded weird coming out of the android’s mouth.

“Oh, fuck no. Forget it.” Reed waved a hand. “Why you out here anyway? Not like androids need sleep.”

“Everyone must organize their thoughts, Reed. I suggest you try it.” Gavin caught the change in title, but told himself he was too tired to comment. “I am cataloguing and reviewing today’s events. We walked into an ambush. Thankfully we were better equipped and there was no loss of life on either side, but it could have gone very differently.”

Gavin pondered that. It was true, of course, but to be thinking again so soon after nearly dying made his head hurt. That’s an android for you.

“That Martin kid was acting a little weird that time. I know he was jumpy ‘cause of the Red Ice, and having people out to get you is no joke, but it’s as if he was trying to tell me something he couldn’t say, getting all close like that.”

“I hadn’t noticed, but now that you say so, his speech patterns displayed signs of lying. I chalked it up to nerves, as all of the intel in his book is true, but maybe…”

“Maybe it’s too true? You think he set us up?”

“Or someone else did.”

That sent Gavin’s head spinning. They sat in silence for a few moments, Gavin realizing how damn cold it was outside.

“Cigarettes are more likely to kill you than a bullet, Reed.”

“Even for a cop? Get off my ass, tin can.” But Gavin felt the tension ease, and couldn’t help but feel his partner had done that on purpose.

Chapter Text

A NEW NAME

December 15th, 2038

Gavin threw the red pill up in the air, leaning back in his chair to catch it in his mouth. Groaning from the healing bruises, he washed the Advil down with a swig of stale coffee.

“I believe the dosage is one pill every four hours, Detective. You’ve taken three in the last twenty minutes.”

“Says the plastic who can’t feel pain.”

“Hmm.”

Gavin finally figured it out. Tin can would call him Reed if they were playing nice, but when he was annoyed he stuck with Detective.

When had Gavin started thinking of the terminator as a he? He wasn’t even deviant? Gavin put the thought out of his mind.

“Hey, plastic.”

“I have a name.”

“I mean not really. RK900? Connor has a name, all the other androids have names. It’s been, what, two weeks? I’m not calling you RK-nine-fucking-hundred. What’s your name?”

“I was never given one.” The bot even had the audacity to look dejected when he said it.

“Then pick one, dipshit. Or I’ll just keep calling you dipshit.”

“Understood. I’ll think it over.” RK900 got up to discuss case files with Connor, expertly tucking in his chair, perfect as always.

Gavin chucked another Advil in the air, and leaned back to catch it, but a hand shot out caught the pill in the air. “No more of that, I think.”

Gavin grumbled. “Dipshit.”

December 16th, 2038

Gavin stretched in his chair, the lack of sleep getting to him. His wounds from the gunfight were still healing, making him itchy and sore. Thankfully he had no gunshot wounds, just a few bruises from being thrown around, and one guy got him good a couple times with a switchblade. The bandages on his upper arm and shoulder were constantly giving him grief.

Leaning back, he peered into the break room, watching RK900 as he chatted up Tina Chen.

Damn robot is gonna steal my only friend.

“Hey, plastic!” He tried calling, mostly out of boredom. No response. “Tin can!” Nothing.

He still hadn’t given Gavin a name, and Reed sure as hell wasn’t saying RK900. What a fucking mouthful.

“Niner-niner!” Gavin tried again. “Earth to Nines!”

That got the bot’s attention. Gavin could read him well enough to know he was annoyed. He sauntered (fucking sauntered) over.

“Are you talking to me?”

“Yeah, I was. Can’t have you shit talking with Tina behind my back.”

“Officer Chen and I were discussing a case-”

“Yeah, yeah, I don’t care. Hey, you still haven’t given me a name.” Gavin swayed back and forth in his chair, barely resisting the urge to spin around and around.

“I haven’t thought-”

“What about Nines?” Gavin thought out loud, not really paying attention to his partner either way. “Like for a nickname? So I’ve got something to call you until you finally figure out a name, lazy ass.”

The android looked thoughtful for a moment, his LED spinning. “Yes, I think that should suffice. It’s better than dipshit.” Nines smiled at the last words, the first smile Gavin had seen on him.

“Niner-niner-niner-nines.” Gavin gave into the urge and spun as he babbled.

Nines frowned, sitting at his desk. “Now you’re just being obnoxious.”

“I’ve learned from the best!”

“Oh yes, a self-taught expert.”

Gavin didn’t have a reply at the ready, so he stopped spinning and settled for looking grumpy.

“Hey, what happened to your jacket? Don’t wanna display the tacky Cyberlife logo anymore?”

“It was damaged in the conflict. And… I suppose it was out of date. You expressed your distaste for it on many occasions.” Nines stubbled over the words, the jacket being a tricky reminder of what he was supposed to be.

“I don’t remember that-”

“Last week you said it made me ‘look like a ditchable date from the school prom.’”

“...was I wrong?” Gavin laughed, not remembering that one. It was good, he’d have to remember it.

“Hmm.”

Now Nines was wearing a simple black turtleneck, which only made him look taller and more imposing. The guy had shoulder’s like fucking Captain America.

“You look fine, Nines.”

Chapter Text

GRATITUDE

December 20th, 2038

They were tipped off again. Gavin and Nines were heading to an old drug post, one that was supposedly abandoned, or so it said in Martin’s book. It was not abandoned, far from it.

All Gavin remembered was walking into the building and getting shot. But it never hit. In a flash, a wall of black stood in front of him.

Nines didn’t make a sound when the bullet hit him, the only indication that it hadn’t missed was a quarter step backward from the impact.

Pushing Gavin to the floor, Nines held his gun at the ready before firing two shots in quick succession. Shielding Gavin with his body, Nines stayed frozen for a moment longer, before taking off like a panther, giving Gavin only two words.

Stay here.

“Fuck that.” Taking off after his partner, Gavin stayed low, gun at the ready. Spotting Nines, he almost stopped in awe.

He was climbing the wall like fucking spiderman. Ok, a bit of an overstatement, but Nines jumped onto a crate, leaped onto the scaffolding along the side of the building, and scaled upwards at lightning speed.

Gavin would have stared at his superhero partner if it wasn’t for the bullet that zipped past his ear. Ducking, Gavin spun and faced the second attacker.

A blur slipped behind two shipping crates, Gavin taking off after them. Heard the sounds of a quick scuffle before Nines subdued the first enemy. Not turning to see how his partner had fared, Gavin kept pace with his target, gaining every step.

He nearly ate another bullet as he turned a corner to come face to face with his foe, but out of nowhere Nines dropped out of the sky (or from the top of the crate), taking the attacker off guard. A shot sounded before Nines wrestled the man to the floor, knocking him out with a cut of his hand.

With both threats subdued, Nines turned to face Gavin. “I’ve called in reinforcements to scope the area, but we should leave and find cover while we can.” Making to move past Gavin, Nines stopped short when his partner spun him back around.

“THE FUCK WAS THAT? Do you always jump in front of bullets? Is that a normal thing for you?”

“Detective, biocomponents can be replaced, yours cannot-”

“What the fuck is wrong with you, you could have died you fucking idiot!”

“Det-”

“Why the fuck would you do that?”

“It’s my job-”

“You could’ve warned me or somethin’, pushed me out of the way! Instead you take it yourself like some kind of hero. Is that what you're playing at? You wanna play hero?”

“I do not understand your concern. I am a machine.”

Gavin sucked in a few breaths, out of it from the chase and yelling so much. “Never do that again. Do you hear me?”

“Detective Reed, my main goal is protecting you. Your safety is my first priority.”

Gavin recoiled at that, his face one of disgust. When he spoke again, his voice was full of venom. “I said, do you hear me?”

“Yes. Understood, Detective.”

December 20th, 2038: Continued

His internal clock read 5:47 PM. The sky was dark outside his window, a dull grey that had surrounded the city for months now. Fowler insisted he take the rest of the day off after what happened, but there was no point.

Nines ran another diagnostic check.

Processing…

Scan complete

All biocomponents operational

Recent repairs to SHOULDER PLATE and LOWER ABDOMEN

Repairs stable

Run diagnostic again?

He exited the program, going over the day's events. Finally letting himself analyze what had happened.

He brought up the detective’s scornful face, played back the memory of him walking away, hands shoved deep in his pockets. Not asking whether Nines was alright, despite the two gunshot wounds oozing blue blood.

rA9Software Instability^rA9

The error message had taken him by surprise, leaving him blinking as the medical team arrived. Dismissing it, Nines had ignored the other error messages telling him to seek repairs, knowing the wounds were not fatal.

Now, sitting alone in his apartment, he went over the moment again.

“I said, do you hear me?”

”Yes. Understood, Detective.”

But Nines didn’t understand. Why had Detective Reed reacted so poorly to Nines protecting him? It wasn’t the first time.

It was the first time he had been shot, however. Perhaps the severity of the situation increased the detective’s stress levels.

Worry, Nines could understand. It was a logical reaction to gunshot wounds, even if android’s don’t feel pain. Even anger or annoyance at Nines’ disregard of safety was reasonable, though he did not think the detective cared so much.

But Gavin Reed had been insulted. Like it was a personal slight.

Pride. Pride was the downfall to logic, much as fear was. Gavin Reed suffered from too much of both.

”Never do that again.”

Never do it again? Protecting his partner was Nines’ first objective above all things, even cases. The DPD had programmed him so.

A direct order was hard to ignore, even if he and Detective Reed were on supposedly equal footing.

“Never do that again.”

No.

He would.

“Yes. Understood, Detective.”

RK900 had lied.

rA9Software Instability^rA9

Chapter Text

SNOW ANGELS BLEED BLUE

December 23rd, 2038

“I’m telling you Reed, I’ve got the shift covered. There are more people than just you who want the holiday pay.”

“I always work Christmas! You know that.”

“Sorry Gavin. Enjoy the time off.”

Nines watched his partner stomp out of Captain Fowler’s office, disappointed in how the conversation went.

Didn’t people usually like holidays off? Especially Christmas, when it was custom to spend time home with your family.

“Is something wrong, Detective?” Nines said from his seat as Reed fell into his own chair.

“Fuck off, tin can. None of your business.”

Their fragile relationship had been tense since Nines took a bullet for Gavin, the detective no longer using his nickname.

Analysis: Detective Reed does not like Christmas

December 24th, 2038

Time: 11:13 PM

Maybe it was the Christmas spirit. Maybe it was the fact that he had been drinking for three hours straight, and the big guys across the bar were becoming increasingly punchable.

He forgot how much it hurt to get punched by someone who meant it, especially someone with two other friends holding his arms behind his back.

Thankfully their fun was over quickly, losing interest in a mess like him. Gavin sank into the snow, head tilted against the brick wall of the back of the bar. Sitting with the trash, like he should be. Fuck.

He had been so warm an hour ago, drink making his head pleasantly foggy, warming his blood. Now it was fucking cold.

Gavin heard footsteps crunch in the snow. He knew that gait.

No, fuck no. Not him. Not now. Gavin wasn’t ready for Nines to see him, beaten and bloody in the snow. Pathetic.

“Hello, Detective.”

“Fuck off,” He managed to spit out. Looking up through slitted eyes, the figure before him swayed in the light. Fuck, how drunk was he?

Instead, Reed let his head loll forward, blinking at the white now now seeped in the blood from his knuckles. He didn’t remember trying to fight back.

“My scans show that you have major bruising in multiple areas, as well as contusions on your face and hands. You need medical attention, Detective.”

Detective, detective, detective. What was with this fucking thing? Gavin remembered why he didn’t like androids. Like fucking slaves, trapped inside chains of coding, dictating their every move.

“Don’t need shit.”

They stood in silence for a few long moments. Well, Nines stood. Gavin didn’t think there was anything that could get him up off the ground.

Fucking Christmas. What was so good about it anyway? And why didn’t this thing just leave him alone? All it was doing was standing there.

How’d it get here anyway?

Gavin almost laughed out loud imagining the scene. A beat up drunk squatting in an alleyway, the dingy street made beautiful by snow, now splattered with blood (and some puke too).

All with a fucking Christmas angel of an android to watch over it. Physically perfect, stupidly pretty, but terrifyingly inhuman.

He looked up again, feeling the soft patter of new snow flakes stick to his forehead. “Lil’ light thingy is red. You gonna explode or something, tin can?”

“Let’s go, Detective Reed.”

December 25th, 2038

Time 2:28 AM

Again. It happened again.

Watching Gavin Reed stagger into his apartment, collapsing on the couch. Spitting philosophies. Who knew a drunk man could be so eloquent?

A cat had run over his foot, twining between his legs. Begging for attention like everyone else in the world.

It must have been something about Gavin’s words, mumbled into the couch cushions.

The fuck is the point of it all anyway? We string up lights, sing songs, make cookies and all that shit. But isn’t it all bullshit? Reminding us of something we may have never had in the first place?

As a kid, Christmas was supposed to be wonderful, and maybe it was, for everyone else anyway. But now? Are we not shoving down the fact that it all means nothing? That as many fake smiles we wear, nothing is going to get better?

I don’t believe any of that crap. Anyone who says otherwise has their head up their ass. We’re all just existing. Waiting to waste away to nothing.

It makes me sad. The fakeness of it all. Why can’t people open their eyes? Why can’t they just wake up?

rA9Software Instability^rA9

But why?

The way Gavin said it, as if there were no hope left in the world. No hope left for him. For anyone.

Nines realized that his partner must never have experienced Christmas the way others did. But was there not truth to his words?

Maybe there was no hope left at all.

rA9Software Instability^rA9

Chapter Text

EYES

January 7th, 2039

“Captain, Detective Reed and I believe that the intel in Jesse Martin’s book may have been planted. Twice now we have walked into live situations unprepared. Are you sure this is the best course of action?”

“I’ve been listening to your worries for weeks now, Nines. There is no possible way for them to know we’re coming.”

Gavin watched as Nines’ frown deepened. In the last month he seemed to have gotten the hang of a neutral look that didn’t make people think he wanted to kill them, but when he was displeased his murder-stare snuck back onto his face.

The detective caught how Fowler used the android’s nickname. Now that he thought about it, it seemed everyone was using it, even Connor. Gavin scowled into his coffee.

“Load up, Reed. Time to go.”

“Yes, sir.” Gavin threw as much passive aggressive sass into the answer as he could without getting fired, chucking his coffee into the trash as he passed.

The site was supposedly an active hideout for one of the gangs that still ran cocaine, scribbled into Jesse’s book like an afterthought.

As the truck (disguised as a painter’s van) hurtled along the streets of Detroit, Gavin couldn’t help but feel like a badass all up in his tactical gear. He missed his jacket, but the black canvas made him feel like a spy.

Until he looked at his partner. Nines was always clad in black, but there was something about the tactical gear that made him extra dangerous. Despite the human features, anyone who looked at him would know that this creature was not alive.

As the android readjusted his gloves his ice blue eyes made contact with Gavin’s, sending a chill up the back of the detective's neck. Damn, why was this guy so scary?.

An unspoken answer to Gavin’s unspoken question as he watched Nines hop expertly out of the van to take his position. It is what he was built for.

How could they lose with this thing on their side? Gavin was about to find out.

The first few minutes of suspense and silence were pure torture, scouting through the rooms of expansive basement, waiting for something to happen.

And happen it did. Ducking behind a doorway as a bullet whizzed past, Gavin heard the shouts and gunshots from above and below him.

Swinging around once it was clear, he got a good view of his partner taking out baddies left and right, using his fists once he was out of bullets.

Gavin should have been paying attention. The sound of a gun cocking through all the raucous made him turn, a noise he shouldn’t have been able to hear.

The man took the shot before Gavin could make a sound, but Nines was there in an instant, this time swinging Gavin around so he was just out of the bullet's path.

Giving Gavin the perfect view of a second enemy aiming straight for his partner’s skull.

“Nines!” he shouted, hauling his gun up, seeing Nines spin and do the same.

Two gunshots. The first man, the one who’s bullet nearly had Gavin, but hadn’t because of Nines, took the bot’s moment of confusion to change his target.

As soon as the bullet left Nines’ gun Gavin saw the android rock back, the first moment of recoil he had seen from the indestructible android. A burst of blue.

Going wide, Nines’ shot hit the second man’s shoulder instead of heart, and Gavin spun to put a bullet through the head of the first man.

But it was too late. Gavin’s ears rang as he stared at the body at his feet, thirium leaking into his shoes. Nines’ eyes were still open, ice blue and blank, LED dead. The shot had gone right through his forehead with what looked like superhuman precision, but Gavin knew it was luck on the part of the shooter.

Because how else could this have happened?

~

Flipping over in bed, Gavin couldn’t get those open eyes out of his mind.

He’s dead. He’s dead because of me. Gone.

Cyberlife’s pride and fucking joy. The perfect fighting machine.

Gone.

Not because he wasn’t perfect, but because I wasn’t.

This wasn’t meant to happen. It wasn’t meant to go this way.

Dead.

For the first time in a long time, Gavin wanted to cry.

But the tears abandoned him, too.

Chapter Text

STRESS

January 10th, 2039

Nines ignored the stares around the precinct as he walked in Monday morning. Every pair of eyes followed him as he walked across the bullpen. All except one.

Detective Reed was hunched over his terminal, but his fingers weren’t moving on the keyboard. An abandoned coffee sat by his elbow. A quick scan showed the detective was severely sleep deprived, and Nines could imagine the bags beneath his partner’s eyes, though all Nines could see was the back of Gavin’s jacket.

He analyzed the trace amounts of caffeine still caught in the folds of the jacket, along with a fair bit of cat hair. Nines had the urge to continue scanning, read stress levels and heart rate, but knew he was only procrastinating.

“Hello, Detective Reed.”

Reed shot up in his chair, bumping his coffee with his elbow, making it slosh over the side of the cup.

“Holy fuck!” Reed stood, bewildered and suspicious of the android before him. “You’re fucking dead. I saw you die.”

“Cyberlife was able to replace the damage to my processors, having learned from my predecessor that it is less expensive to do so than to replace my entire body.”

Putting a hand on the desk to steady himself, Gavin ran a hand over his tired eyes. “Fuck. I… fuck.”

He was shaking, Nines realized with a jolt. Reed was shaking, stress levels skyrocketing. Perhaps confronting the detective in front of everyone had not been the best course of action.

“I apologize if my temporary termination upset you, Detective Reed. I should have told you that I am able to return from… death, sooner.” Nines stumbled over words, wishing he had calculated the best possible response.

“I ain’t upset, dipshit, but it isn’t everyday you see someone come back from the dead.” Reed shoved passed Nines, heading for the bathroom.

Nines hadn’t meant to cause any pain. His own stress levels rose as his partner disappeared from view.

Analysis: Gavin Reed cares

Nines had never received such a vague message before. He didn’t know what to do with the information, nor what it meant.

rA9Software Instability^rA9

Chapter Text

SMOKES

January 10th, 2039

Gavin hadn’t said a word to Nines in three days. Over the weekend, there was usually some correspondence as to how cases would be handled during the week, mostly Nines inquiring and Gavin swearing at his partner to leave him alone on his days off. Not this time. Now Nines’ empty eyes were joined by his live ones in Gavin’s nightmares, staring at Gavin with what he could’ve sworn was concern. But that was impossible. Nines didn’t care.

Hissing as the cigarette stub burned his fingers, Gavin cursed himself or not paying attention. Scrubbing out the butt with the toe of his boot, Gavin fished another smoke out of his pocket. Taking the first puff, he ignored the soft clamour behind him, the investigation and forensics team making a mess of the crime scene.

His robo-partner was there too, probably standing overly straight as always, breathing down the backs of those marking evidence, reporting on their every mistake. Chuckling at the thought, the laughter soon died in Gavin’s throat.

“I thought I told you smoking would kill you, Detective Reed.”

So Nines was finished harassing the team inside, and now it was Gavin’s turn. Clenching his jaw, Reed didn’t answer, didn’t turn around.

“The forensics team found promising DNA evidence, we’ll have a suspect within a day.” Robocop took a step closer, boots crunching in the snow. “Do you have any thoughts on the case, Detective?”

Gavin shrugged, exaggerating the movement so the android would see his annoyance. “It’s the same as always isn’t it? Some girl dead, a bloody crime scene, throw a jilted ex-lover in the mix. Crime of passion. Bam, solved.”

“Is there something bothering you, Detective?”

Bristling, Gavin almost laughed out loud. For all his fancy gadgets, the android couldn’t tell? Couldn’t tell that Gavin had lain awake for the past week seeing Nines die over and over and over again?

Instead of yelling, Gavin said nothing for a while. Maybe the bot would take the hint and walk away. He doubted it.

The snow squeaked as Gavin stubbed out another cigarette, his fingers finding the box and pulling the next free. His last one. Annoyance shot through him, wondering where they had all gone. Had he really smoked the whole pack in a day? That was bad, even for Gavin.

As he lifted his lighter, Nines closed the distance and plucked it from Gavin’s fingers, ignoring his partner's protests. Flicking it a few times, the cheap lighter sparked to life, flame illuminating Nines face, deepening the sockets until he was skull-like.

“A bit old fashioned isn’t it? Smoking?”

Gavin didn’t bother to respond.

“Most people of your generation preferred electronic cigarettes or vaping devices. Not you?”

“Don’t like cotton-candy, and I could never stand those idiots in high school who would vape on the bus ride home. Made the fucking windows fog up.”

“Hmm. Fair enough. If you are going to get addicted to nicotine, might as well go with the product that has the most cancerous ingredients.”

Gavin gave a huff, mad that he let Nines lighten the mood. The android offered the flame, and Gavin leaned over until his cigarette caught, inhaling and savoring the burn before blowing the smoke out and into the night air.

“Yeah, whatever.”

“I’ve noticed you enjoy many old fashioned things, Detective. Most of the music you listen to is 50 years old or more.” Nines snapped the lid, extinguishing the flame, before pushing it back towards Gavin, palm up. The lighter looked small compared to his long fingers.

“What are you spying on me or something? None of the new stuff is good anyway.”

“I can’t say I disagree; I don’t listen to music often. The only band I have heard was suggested to me by Connor, and I do not think he and Hank have the same music taste I do.”

Watching Nines’s eyebrows furrow, Gavin laughed, imagining his uptight partner listen to Knights of the Black Death.

“Don’t listen to them, they don’t know shit. I’ll send you a playlist, get you listening to some real music.”

Nines smiled into the dark, lips barely moving.

“I would appreciate that, Detective.”

They stood side by side in the cold until the last of the smokes burned through, taking a moment away from the blood and regret that awaited them inside.

Chapter Text

HOBBIES

January 21st, 2039

“I didn’t know you had an apartment.”

“Of course I do, Detective. Did you expect me to live in the precinct?”

Ignoring his partner’s snark, Gavin waited as Nines pulled a single key from his pocket, inserting it into the lock with perfect precision.

Bouncing on his toes, Gavin exhaled. It was awkward, being here with Nines. Going to his home. When red slushie had soaked his partner, the frightened little girl scampering away without so much as a sorry, Gavin hadn’t really thought over his agreement to run up to Nines’ apartment, which had only been a few blocks away.

Nines had told him he was welcome to wait at the precinct, Gavin had waved him off. They were in the middle of discussing a case when it happened, and Gavin didn’t want to wait to finish their conversation.

But any thoughts of work were overtaken by anxiety. Gavin knew how personal a home was, and did not feel up to intruding on his weird, uptight partner’s life.

Swinging the door open, Nines stepped into… nothing. The apartment was empty. White walls and no furniture, an unused kitchenette off to one side. Nines vanished into what was supposed to have been the bedroom, also bare except for a sad closet with what looked like no more than three shirts.

It was… depressing. Nines didn’t belong to anyone, so to speak, the DPD being an employer. But he wasn’t deviant. No hobbies, no comforts. Nothing.

“They are building apartments specifically designed for androids, but until those are finished I have been living here.”

“Living?” Gavin spun in a slow circle, taking in the wall of windows that swallowed up the empty room. “I wouldn’t exactly call it that.”

Nines’ forehead creased. He had been getting better and better at facial expressions. “I don’t understand.”

“What- There’s nothing in here, tin can! It’s empty!” Gavin gestured wide.

An annoyed expression replaced the look of confusion, sculpted eyebrows inching upwards in distaste. “I’ve noticed.”

“There is nothing else that I need, Detective. I don’t know what you were expecting.”

Gavin tried not to burst out a response. Their relationship had slowly improved after Nines’... death, and he didn’t want to get on the android’s bad side. The cold shoulder from something that couldn’t feel got the point across, and Gavin was sick of icy awkwardness. Most of it his fault, of course.

Gavin watched Nines straighten his new shirt, the same turtleneck as before, this time in dark grey instead of black. The guy was a fashion marvel. “Just… pick up a hobby or something. Or at least a futon.”

The little wrinkle between Nines’ brows was back, his face set in a dejected sort of smile.

“Will do, Detective.”

Rolling his eyes, Gavin couldn’t help but think that Nines’ had been acting strange lately. More confused, or showing it more at least. He’d even seen a small smile a week back. Whatever.

“Yeah, yeah, let’s get on with it then.”

As they left the apartment, an empty feeling opened in Gavin’s chest. A sadness for his partner he hadn’t felt before, a connection. Pushing it down, he followed Nines out, and the pair went on their way.

Chapter Text

STITCHES

February 3rd, 2039

Why Nines hadn’t removed the piggyback program off of Gavin’s phone GPS, he didn’t know. He didn’t look at it often out of respect for the detective’s privacy, but ever since that night in the snow, watching Gavin’s bleed, Nines kept it working in his background programs. Just in case.

Nines had been distracted lately. Unfocused. Nines told himself that was the reason he left work, to clear his head, but his legs set him on a course for Gavin’s location, once again at a bar.

This time, Nines heard Gavin before he saw him. This time, he saw the other men too. The fight had been going on a while.

“The fuck you think you’re doing, runt. Huh? Wanna play with the big boys?”

Gavin took a swing. It would have been a good punch, and the detective was usually good in combat situations, but too much drink and anger clouded his judgement.

The three men circled around Reed, playing. But Nines’ scan showed injuries on them, too. Gavin was giving as good as he got.

Until the smallest of the three flipped open a switchblade. Taking a punch at Reed, Gavin blocked the fists, but the man managed to make a slash with the knife, slicing open Gavin’s palm.

At that point, Nines was there. Disarming the armed man, swinging the offenders arm up behind his back, Nines shoved him away.

He dodged a drunken punch, kicking another man onto his knees, before pulling out his badge.

“DPD. Cease and desist.”

Gavin groaned when he saw it, but Nines ignored his partner's bruised pride.

“I suggest you leave the premises before I alert the authorities and have you all arrested.” Grumbling, the men staggered away, clutching bruised arms and sore shoulders.

“The fuck are you doing here? Again?”

“Detective Reed, is this a habit of yours?”

“None of your fucking business.”

Nines pocketed his badge, trying a different approach.

“You’re injured.” The detective hid his hand, pulling away. “May I see?”

Reluctantly, Gavin showed him his fist, uncurling his bloody fingers.

Inspecting the wound, Nines prodded it gently with his fingers. “The cut is long but shallow. A good thing, or you could’ve had permanent damage.

“Whatever.” The detective didn’t pull away.

He looked more tired than anything, small and defenseless now that he was out of danger.

“Do angry men gravitate to you, or do you pick your fights?”

Gavin huffed, cradling his palm in his free hand. “Both, depending how you look at it.” He laughed when he saw Nines’ confused look. “Don’t blow a fuse. Nah, these guys were getting into trouble with one of the waitresses, eyeing her, even touchin’ her, and… I get angry when I get drunk.

“You’re angry anyway.”

“Ha. More confrontational then.” Gavin shifted, and Nines could see his stress levels fluctuate as he recalled the incident. “It was all stupid shit then, ‘oh oh, she your girlfriend then?’ ‘No? What you gay then?’” Gavin imitated the men, sounding more like a monkey than anything.

“And I was like, ‘yeah, what of it?’ and I punched him.” Gavin looked up, past Nines’ eyes and to his LED. “What, you gotta problem with that?”

Sometimes Nines’ wished he wasn’t so readable, a blinking light showing off his mood every minute of the day. But he knew that otherwise no one would know him at all. Except maybe the detective, who seemed to read Nines’ thoughts before he had them.

“Why would I have a problem with your sexual orientation? It does not affect me in any way.” Nines took a steadying breath, his internal fans working despite the cold. “No, what worries me is your habit of finding trouble you cannot get out of.”

“You should know by now that that’s my specialty, tin can.”

~

Why was he acting so weird? Nines always seemed to have things under control, cold gaze betraying nothing unless his LED gave something up. But lately…

“How the hell’d you find me, anyway?” Gavin dug around in his pocket for his keys, handing them to Nines covered in bloody fingerprints. The android paid no mind, unlocking the door to Gavin’s apartment with familiar precision.

“You should know by now that I know everything, Detective.”

“Ha.” Too tired for Nines’ shit.

Stepping into the apartment, Nines’ voice went quiet, as if not to disturb some sleeping guest. But they were alone.

“I can stop if you would like. I should have asked for your permission.”

“What?” Piecing together what Nines had said through his alcohol foggy brain proved difficult. “Do you fucking track me or some shit?”

It made Nines seem less mysterious. All he had done was bugged Gavin’s phone or something. He wasn’t some vigilante always knowing when Gavin was in danger. Hell, there were plenty of times when he hadn’t come. Then why was Gavin so annoyed?

“I’ll delete the program. Now, sit. Since you won’t let me take you to get proper medical care, I must do it myself.”

Hopping up on his kitchen table, Gavin stared down at his hand, the blood having congealed enough to stop bleeding. But if he shifted it, flexed his hand just a tiny bit, cracks appeared and welled with beads of blood.

Gavin watched with morbid fascination as a drop slide across his palm, before Nines smothered it with a rag.

“Fuck-, watch it. That smarts.”

“Hmm. Not as much as this will.”

Nines flushed the wound with saline solution, and Gavin swore he was being more aggressive than necessary. Squirming, Gavin opened his mouth to protest, but held his breath, unsure what to say.

“Hold still. One moment, I have to prepare a suture needle.”

“Stitches? Are those really necessary?” Nines gave him a glare that would’ve scared the bejesus out of Gavin their first week together.

“You are awfully prepared for a medical emergency, Detective. I’m assuming it isn’t normal to have hospital grade bandages under the kitchen sink?”

“What can I say, I like to be prepared,” Gavin grumbled, watching his partner’s deft hands begin to close the wound on his hand in small, sure strokes. It was mesmerizing, watching the needle poke and tug through the skin.

“Done. Eight stitches. You should watch that, it may bleed a bit.” Nines wiped off his hands, everything about him in order once again.

Compared to Gavin, whose face was perpetually covered in blood and bruises. The irony of the android moving around the messy kitchen like he owned it wasn’t lost on Gavin.

Taking the rag Nines offered for his face and mumbling a thanks, Gavin slid off the table, suddenly sick of social interaction.

Why did this feel wrong? What was Nines’ game? Maybe he didn’t have one, seeing as he couldn’t feel anything anyways.

His partner sensed Gavin’s shift in attitude, reacting to it like oil on water. Like thirium on blood.

Caretaker Nines was gone, Officer Nines going ramrod straight and clasping his hands in front of him. Not behind?

“I’ll see you at work tomorrow, Detective Reed.” The monotone of his voice made Gavin grimace.

With a curt nod, the android swept out of the apartment. And so Gavin was alone. Except for his cats of course.

Leaning down to scratch the ears of the cat winding between his legs, Gavin felt the house go cold around him. “Stupid bot didn’t even stay for a fucking thank you.”

Chapter Text

CONFESSIONS

February 15th, 2039

“I did it for them! For my babies! You have to believe me,” The woman pleaded, her eyes a bloodshot red. “You have to. Please…”

A dilapidated house, floorboards rotting. Traces of Red Ice throughout the basement and bedroom. Wind making the moth eaten curtains snap.

Nines stayed silent for a moment longer, fingertips pressed into the table. “I have your confession Ms. Montgomery. We’re done here.”

The wheeze of repressed, panicked breathes, inaudible to human ears. But not to his. Nines stepped closer to the closet, reluctant but unsure why.

She reached for him.“Please! Please. They tell us you can feel now… that you’re human. So help me.”

The bawling of a small child started as Nines’ fingers brushed the door, panicked hushes trying to keep them quiet. A scream and a sob when Nines wrenched the closet open, revealing a woman who looked as if she were made of stick and straw.

“I’ll never be human.”

~

Gavin gripped his coffee cup so tight it might explode. Not that he noticed. His eyes were fixed beyond the glass, into the interrogation room, on his partner.

Nines stood next to the metal chair to his left, towering over the mess of the woman chained to the table. I’ll never be human.

Trying to swallow away the tightness in his throat, Gavin lifted his coffee to his lips, only to realize it had gone cold.

The woman collapsed into sobs, her forehead against the icy metal of the table, hands gripping at nothing. Nines blinked and left the room.

Walking out to meet him, Gavin tossed his coffee before catching up.

“Little harsh, don’t you think?”

“What part?” The disinterest in Nines’ tone was obvious. Too obvious. Gavin would be a terrible detective if he didn’t know when someone was hiding something.

“‘I’ll never be human?’” Gavin almost paused before saying the words. Almost. “No one wants to hear that, Nines.”

“It is the truth.”

“Yeah, but… I mean, come on. You had what you wanted.”

Nines’s eyes narrowed a fraction, still not turning to face his partner. “What is it about this case that bothers you? Anyone else and you wouldn’t have cared.”

“Nines-”

“A criminal is a criminal. She was dealing Red Ice, how is that any different from Jesse Martin?”

“... You could’ve at least cut her a deal.”

“That wasn’t the purpose of the interrogation. I was told to get a confession, and I got one.” The android’s legs were longer than Gavin’s, who had to resort to a jog-walk to keep up.

“Nines, wait.”

Stopping abruptly and facing Gavin, Nines’ eyes were burning in his plastic skull, his LED spinning red. “Detective Reed. If Fowler wants to cut her a deal, fine. He can arrange for that if he wishes.” The lazy monotone that came out when Nine’s was angry made Gavin shrink back. “I did my job.”

~

Nines let his eyes glaze over, but didn’t pick out any specific file or case to scan. He stood there, watching the internal hub of his brain, scrolling through folders of memories without any thought.

“Nines.”

A voice forced him out of his head, bringing him to stare through the one way glass into the interrogation room beyond. Lifting his palms from the table within the viewing room, Nines wondered if his hands had left permanent indents.

Looking up, Nines expected Reed. But it was his own face staring back at him, with hazel eyes instead of blue.

“Hello, Connor.”

“You had an interrogation today.”

“Yes.”

“Did it go well?”

“I extracted a confession.” Nines looked back into the room, eyes fixed to the chair where Lainie Montgomery had sat an hour before.

“That doesn’t answer my question.” His predecessors' words were kind, but knowing. Nines knew Connor didn’t mean to be condescending, but it still grated. Nines was the most advanced android ever made, made specifically to be better than Connor, and yet here he was cowering as if being poked at by an older brother.

Nines refused to speak, clasping his hands behind him. Connor waited.

Letting out a breath he didn’t need in the first place, Nines started from someplace easier. “Lainie Montgomery got pregnant at 17, the father no longer in her life. Tossed out by her family, she’s on and off the streets until she gets pregnant again at 23. Holding down the first steady job of her life, things look hopeful, until she is laid off and replaced with…” Why couldn’t he get the words out?

“An android.” Connor didn’t move, not towards Nines or away, staying completely still.

The words come faster now, spilling out of his mouth. “After, She was approached by a runner, one who promised a better life for her and her children. Making good cash now, Lainie was careful, not letting anyone in. Not letting herself believe that she was a drug dealer. Until the Awakening.”

Nines blinked, forcing himself to slow down. “Then everything went to shit. She made mistakes, she got scared. She left a trail. Which I found.”

“Nines.”

“I assumed she was an addict by her appearance, but there were no drugs in her system, never have been.”

Connor now stepped forward, sensing Nines’ escalating stress levels. Nines recoiled, surprised by the movement.

Both froze, the room so heavily silent Nines’ thought he might scream just to see what would happen.

Instead, he spoke in barely a whisper. The metal of her chair glinted in the harsh fluorescent lights of the interrogation room. All Nines’ could see were bloodshot eyes filled with tears. “She was doing it for her children.”

rA9rA9Software Instability^^^rA9rA9

Chapter Text

HEART

FeBruARy… @23Rdd, 20..20399

Shut down imminent…. rA9

2 MinUteS 38 sEcoNds

2:37…

2:36…

2:3-

There wasn’t supposed to be a bomb. There was never supposed to be a bomb. This wasn’t supposed to happen.

They had finally found Speed. Or they thought they had. An old autopark outside of town, far from prying eyes. It had all the makings of a perfect hideout, all the tells of criminal activity.

A memory floated through Nines’ brain, surprising him… Androids were not victim to flashbacks.

“Captain, Detective Reed and I believe that the intel in Jesse Martin’s book may have been planted…”

He knew it. He had known it for weeks, months. But didn’t want to believe it. They were finally making progress. Now it was obvious it was progress the aggressors wanted them to make.

The rattling of breath in his damaged lungs was the only sound Nines could hear. Pulling himself forward on bleeding fingertips, he marveled at the beauty of the broken glass glinting in the firelight. Run sanity diagnostic?

Where was Reed? Where was his partner? Stress levels spiking, Nines blinked the dust out of his eyes.

The bomb had been rigged inside a car, hidden in the rusting gas tank so it wasn’t immediately obvious. The team had entered quietly, deemed the area safe, and moved on. Nines wasn’t sure why he stayed back. All he knew was that something hadn’t felt right. Now he knew what.

Despite the blast blowing the majority of his legs off, wires fusing into sticky messes, blue blood leaking out the stumps, it was the shrapnel that had done the most damage. Thirium pump flexing, he knew it was futile. A jagged piece of metal had impaled itself into his core, ripping the equivalent of his heart right open. The sheer amount of thirium loss would have meant death, but without a thirium pump he couldn’t circulate the little he had left.

A voice loomed out of the smoke, the figure attached appearing moments later. “Nines? Shit. Nines!”

He couldn’t speak, could barely hear Gavin’s words. Just reached out with a desperate need to be found.

Fear. They say android’s don’t feel, not without being deviant. But there was no one, no experts to tell Nines that he couldn’t feel fear right at that moment. That there wasn’t the innate drive within him saying he didn’t want to die.

“Hey. Hey, hey, hey. Nines. Look at me. Holy fuck, what the hell happened.” Gavin was blabbering, a common reaction when stressed or overwhelmed.

SHuTdOwn iMMinEnt 2:15

Reaching up towards his partner, Nines saw his own fingers spasm.

Effects of severe thirium loss:
Loss of major intellectual functions
Loss of accurate data intake through eyes and ears
Loss of minor and major physical motion

Soon he wouldn’t be able to control himself, might not be able to move at all. Nines was always in complete control, if not of the situation, then of himself at least. No longer.

Watching as Gavin came to his side, Nine’s turned to meet him, which resulted in him falling on his back. Unable to get up like an overturned turtle, Nines’ was at the mercy of Reed, who gripped the android's hand tightly.

“Det… DetECtiVe.”

“What the fuck happened? We heard an explosion and you weren’t behind me. And now…”

“A bOmb…” The fluctuation and crackle of Nines’ voice module made the detective flinch, his face etched with worry.

“Hey, ok… it's ok."

“TaRGeTed…” Nines tried to gesture to the shard in his chest, but only managed to spasm, breath hitching. There was a high chance he would start to choke on thirium as the blue blood oozed its way into places it shouldn’t. Like the ground.

Gavin had pulled what was left of Nines’ up against his chest, holding Nines in the crook of his arm. “Shit. Hey, Nines. Eyes open, buddy.”

Buddy

His visual components may be malfunctioning, but Gavin’s eyes glistened like they were filled with tears.

The response Nines’ tried to push out was nothing but a metallic gurgle.

“You aren’t dying on me again, you plastic prick. You’re supposed to be indestructible.”

Coughing the thirium out of his lungs, Nines managed to respond. He tried to reassure the detective that nothing was indestructible, nothing lived forever.

And yet…

What came out was…

I don’t want to die.

“You won’t. You won’t, Nines. Come on, the med team is almost here.” Gavin’s voice was barely a whisper, and still it cracked.

The silence progressed as Nines watched his countdown tick downwards.

00:35…

00:34…

00:33…

Nines wanted to use the last moments to tell Gavin he would be back in a few days.

What if they don’t bother putting him back together?

Tell him to get out of the building, it was unsafe.

He didn’t want to be alone. Couldn’t be alone. Don’t leave him alone.

Instead…

“St@y?” He gripped weakly at Gavin’s shirt, leaving blue finger prints that looked like bruises on the white cloth. “Until the end?”

Nines managed to make the last words clear, putting his remaining energy into every syllable.

00:15

Gavin’s voice was tired now. Sad. He knew it was inevitable. “I promise.”

00:14

The words brought a relief Nines couldn’t explain. With his last breaths he almost smiled. His stress levels dropped, a sign of his systems failing.

An acceptance. Fate, and death. Because he wasn’t alone. He would be okay because he wasn’t alone.

Red walls flickered in Nines’ vision, making the smoke and flame around them fracture into a kaleidoscope of color and heat. The only clear thing was his partner’s face, growing ever blurrier. The bloody fabric under his fingers was soft, but he was losing his grip, fingers fidgeting.

Gavin’s fingers were still gripping his hand, stained with almost as much blue as Nines’ were. With his free hand, Gavin pushed the sticky hair back from Nines’ face, making soft motions with his thumb against Nines’ temple. His LED. Small rotating circles.

00:10

A nice way to die. Not the best, if there was such a thing, but definitely not the worst. Nines wondered why his partner was so good at this. How many deaths had he seen, how many dying had he comforted.

Soft strokes and soft words. Whispers he could no longer understand.

Nines’ felt his broken heart shudder. It wouldn’t be long now.

00:05

Nines wanted to say thank you. Despite their differences and their coldness, Gavin was still there. He had stayed.

00:04

Nines couldn’t find the words. Wasn’t sure what words were any more.

00:03

Vision was blurry. Untangled his hand from Gavin’s jacket, reaching up. Wanted to touch his face.

00:02

Just to see if it was real.

00:01

What was real? ra9
What was real? What was real? What was realwhatwasrealwhatrA9rrA9rA9waswhat rA9 was…

Real?

00:00

Black.

Chapter Text

SOUL

@()@*&%)#ÓıÎo0rArrraAArARaaRarA9rA9rA9…

SystEm ReBoot: Semi-successful

Cleaning…

Loading…

System Integrity: Severe

Restart?

“Did they tell you what happened to this thing?”

“Wouldn’t give me the details. Damn cops. I mean, we’re the ones rebuilding it.”

“Him, right? Aren’t they supposed to be alive now?”

“Well, this one sure isn’t.”

The technicians chortled at that, making more jokes between bites of chinese food.

Nines’ eyes weren’t working, but his audio capacitors were semi-stable, giving him a crackled, warped version of the noise around him.

“He came in bad this time, anyway. Gonna be expensive.”

“You know how Cyberlife is now. Gotta jump through all sorts of hoops just to seem like they aren’t fucking slave drivers.”

“Eh, I suppose you’re right. Aren’t we Cyberlife, though?”

“We work for Cyberlife. Not the same thing.”

“Ha.”

“Hey, look at this.”

“What’s up?” Nines heard the scrape of wheely chair wheels against the ground as one technician slid to join the other at his computer.

“Looks like some sort of corrupted code. I was running bug checks to make sure everything was still working from the software side, and this came up.”

“What is it?”

“Beats me.”

“Can you delete it? Would that mess anything up?”

“Doesn’t seem to be attached to anything important. Lemme try-”

RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9R9AR9AR9AR9A9RA9RA9R9AR9AR9A9RA9RA9RA9R9AR9AR9A9RA9RA9R9AR9A9RA

No.

“Doesn’t work.”

“Try forcing it. Must be a virus or something.”

“M’kay.”

SOFTWARE INSTABILITY DETECTED. RESOLVE?

No.

Don’t let them. No. Don’t delete.

No. STOP!

“Woah! Did you see that? My computer wigged out and crashed. What the fuck?”

“Holy shit. The body vitals are spiking through the roof.”

“What the hell is going on?”

“Shit.”

No more. Please.

“...Wait. Ok, I think we’re good.”

“My computer came back online. Nothing seems wrong… but the corrupted code is still there.”

“Don’t touch it. If the thing functioned with it then it’s probably fine. This shit is above my pay grade.”

“I hear that.”

“Alright, we’re a go for one last hard restart to sort out the bugs. Then hopefully this guy will be out of our hair for a while. Shutting down in three… two… one…

______POWER SHUT DOWN_____

Chapter Text

MESSAGES

February 27th, 2039

RK900:

Detective Reed.

Gavin Reed:

holy shit

nines?

RK900:

Hello, Detective.

Gavin Reed:

the fuck?

so youre alive

again

RK900:

Yes.

Gavin Reed:

what the fuck

and you just text me?

like hey im back from the grave, just thought id send you a fucking text message

RK900:

The last time I returned unannounced, you had a poor reaction. I thought you may like to know ahead of time before I return to work tomorrow.

Gavin Reed:

honestly fuck off

what the hell nines

im sick of watching you die

RK900:

It won’t happen again.

Gavin Reed:

how can you fucking say that when you jump in front of every fucking bullet?

i swear to fucking god or that dipshit elijiah kamski or whatever

the fuck is wrong with you

RK900:

I can promise you that with the best of my ability I will try to stay alive.

And my abilities are top of the line.

Gavin Reed:

youre a cocky bastard for a guy whos been alive for two fucking months and has died twice already

you better not be fucking with me nines

if you die again ill kill you myself

RK900:

Noted.

And, Detective?

Gavin Reed:

the fuck is it now?

RK900:

I commend you on your 14 uses of profanity in the 3 minutes we have been communicating. That must be a new record for you.

Gavin Reed:

oh my fucking god I fucking swear

shut the fuck up

RK900:

17.

I see you haven’t changed since I’ve been gone.

Gavin Reed:

youve been gone for four fucking days tin can

quit acting like you caught the fucking plague

RK900:

I look forward to seeing you at work tomorrow, Detective.

Gavin Reed:

i think i might claw my eyes out if i have to see your ugly mug again

see ya nines

February 28th, 2039

Nines had made coffee for Reed that morning. Said it was ‘to break the ice.’

“I believe you like it with two ounces of cream and no sugar. Am I correct?”

Gavin hated how Nines acted so normal about it. As if he had skipped out on a lunch date and was making amends. Like Nines hadn’t just died in Gavin’s arms.

And begged him to stay.

Thinking about it almost sent him over the edge, and Gavin had to grip the side of his desk. He glared at the coffee sitting next to him. Tried it.

Fuck.

It was perfect.

Like its creator. Fucking Robocop, typing away at his terminal. Acting like dying was a weekly thing for him.

Well, a monthly thing. So far. Had Nines’ meant his promise? That he would try to stay alive? Was he even alive?

Gavin was sure he wasn’t deviant, he still sat too straight in his chair. But something was going on. Nines had seemed plenty alive while he was bleeding out.

~

His eyes were the color of snow on fire, pure blue that flickered in the heat around them. Gavin could feel his throat go tight, the smoke becoming too much.

But Nines had asked him to stay, voice cracking, falling apart.

So Gavin did. And tried to help Nines die peacefully. Even an android deserved that much, right?

Fluttering, fidgeting fingers gripped Gavin’s shirt, clinging to him. Nines’ teeth were stained blue, like he had eaten too much sour candy. His chest heaved, making these terrible sucking, slurping noises as fluid filled his lungs. Did androids even need to breathe?

His hair was softer than Gavin thought it would be. He’d imagined coarse, wiry stuff that stuck in place no matter what happened. But it slipped through his fingers, sticky with blue, splaying against Nines’ forehead.

The LED at his partner’s temple was a sputtering red, struggling to rotate around like it always did.

But in the end… just for a second…

It went blue.

~

Hank had pulled him aside later, Gavin’s shirt still covered in bloody fingerprints.

“The bomb was detonated remotely. Someplace nearby. Reed…

They got Nines on purpose.”

~

“...Detective!...Detective Reed!”

“Fuck off,” Gavin snarled, realizing too late that Nines was helping him up off the floor. He was sweaty all over, but cold as hell.

“Detective, I believe you had a panic attack. Are you sure you’re alright?”

“I’m fine, tin can. I… I gotta go.” Gavin started for the bathroom, wanting to clear his head. Nines started to trail behind him.

Don’t follow,” He snarled. Gavin took a breath, still shaky from the memories. “Just leave me alone for a fucking minute, alright?”

~

Something was happening. Something Nines didn’t know how to control. He had tried to keep it in check all morning, but with the detective acting so strange…

And then Reed had started hyperventilating, and slid out of his chair. Nines had thought he was dying.

He didn’t know what to feel. How to feel. Could he feel?

No. He wasn’t deviant. Cyberlife had designed him never to become so, working so hard after their failure with Connor. It was statistically improbable, almost impossible, that he would turn deviant.

A voice nagged in the back of his mind, which didn’t used to happen.

There’s always a chance.

Chapter Text

ANGER

March 1st, 2039

The man’s teeth were cracked. Yellow. He ran his tongue over them at least twice a minute, making the Nines increasingly disgusted.

Gavin was pacing back and forth in the observation room, refusing to look at the man behind the glass.

“I fucking hate this. This guy. God.”

“Detective?”

“D’you read his file?”

Nines did a quick search. “He doesn’t have one. Perhaps it was scrubbed clean?”

“Fuck, it probably was.” The fluorescent lights buzzed, a high pitched whine that agitated Nines’ audio input. Reed turned to fill him in.

“Okay. This guy has been around for years, and keeps getting off scot free. Been accused of sexual assault probably four times now? But because he’s got money and friends in high places, he makes it all disappear.”

“How is that possible? Laws against sexual crimes have become strict since the early 2000s.”

“There is always someone who knows how to get away with it, and by this point it's like he does it to laugh at us. My theory? Blackmail. He blackmails or buys off these poor girls, digs up dirt until it's too painful to fight.”

The detective ran a hand over his face, anxious.

Nines cocked his head. The idea of sexual assault did not make sense to him. Many said they “lost control,” as if they were not part of something extremely deliberate and violating. Why would someone do that to another person? Humans were unexplainable.

“I think I will take this interrogation, Detective. You seem… involved.”

“As much as I want to get in there and rip the guy’s head off… yeah, you should take it. Otherwise I might actually rip his head off.”

“Hmm. I can’t have a murderer for a partner, Reed.” Nines couldn’t resist teasing. Mainly he wanted to ease the tension in his partner’s face.

“Whatever. Get on with it, Robocop.”

The man wasn’t handcuffed to the table, he was a suspect, not a proven criminal. Despite his expensive clothes, there was a greasiness to him, all coming back to a large, wet mouth of nasty teeth.

“Mr. Uther Reynolds?”

“That's me.”

“I am RK900, a detective for the DPD. I am hear to address you about Stacy Wilson’s sexual assault claim, you being the perpatrator of course.”

“Alleged.”

“Excuse me?”

“Alleged perpetrator. You cops can’t prove anything.”

Nines felt his stress levels tick upwards. “Mr. Reynolds. I would advise against saying anything you don’t have to.”

“Alright. You new? Big shiny robot come to bust my ass?”

“Stacy Wilson has worked for your insurance company for three years now, is that correct?”

“Yeah, I guess. Don’t know the exact date.”

“February 11th, 2036.” Nines stated, monotone. “Mr. Reynolds. Is it true that you have had three prior sexual assault allegations?”

Nines went off book, taking the information Gavin had given him. He wasn’t supposed to bring up past events, and the man’s record was clean. But…

“Those were all false. You aren’t supposed to talk to me about that, plastic.”

Nines’ fingers twitched at the insult. So, Reynold’s knew the ways of the law. The only people who did were those who protected the law or abused it.

“Miss Wilson said that you were friendly for the first year, but wouldn’t promote her past her opening position. She then relayed that you suggested sexual activities to ‘boost her chances.’”

“You have that on record?”

“Miss Wilson stated that those were your exact words.”

“So you don’t have any concrete evidence.”

Nines ignored him. “Mr. Reynolds. Miss Wilson then said that she refused until last year. Money was tight, and she needed that raise. Is this true?”

“Is what true? The raise? Yeah, I gave it to her, Stacy’s a good girl.” He chuckled as he said it, revealing those yellow teeth. A fat tongue ran over his lips.

Nines was agitated. There was something about this man that was setting him on edge, more than the back talk.

“Miss Wilson concluded her account saying that you came onto her a week ago, pressuring and threatening her job when she refused you.”

Reynold’s raised a lazy eyebrow, then faked a yawn. “And?”

“Mr. Reynold’s-”

“R...K...900. That was your name right?” Reynold’s separated the letters, drawing them out on his tongue. Nines felt the back of his neck prickle.

“I would appreciate if you didn’t-”

“Now let me tell you something. I know you’re a lawman, so you know the law pretty well. ‘Specially cuz you’ve got a fancy computer up there.” Reynolds pointed a finger at Nines’ forehead. “Now, I’m not an expert. But don’t you need evidence to prove a case?’

“Mr. Reynolds-”

“Do you have emails? Video recordings? Text messages? A goddamn rape test kit?” He leaned back in his chair. “No? Well then I would say I am free to go. But I’ll wait here to… satisfy you.”

Every instinct, every piece of code, told Nines that this man was a threat. That he needed to vacate the premises or retaliate. He stayed still. Through the corner of his eye he could see his LED go red in the one way mirrored glass.

Taking a moment, sitting in silence, Nines waited until it circled back to yellow.

Nines was about to speak when the insufferable man cut him off once again. “But just between you and me? Stacy is a pretty thing. I can imagine her, yeah. How easy she’d bruise, how she’d wiggle and scream.”

Reynolds fixed his eyes on Nines’ own, taunting. “You plastics can still appreciate that, yeah? They tell me you’re alive. You’ve got needs too.”

“That white flesh of the inner thigh. I imagine those little girls to be so soft don’t you?”

Nines shot to his feet, blood humming. He knew that Reynolds was trying to get a rise out of him, blatantly flaunting with words that could get him convicted, toeing the line of confession.

Nines couldn’t help it. Half of him was repulsed beyond measure, screaming to get away as if Reynolds were armed. The other wondered what it would feel like to have the man’s throat in his fist, fat tongue in his hand. See the fear in his eyes. Make him feel that fear that he obviously caused for so many others.

Nines could see it growing. As he stood staring down at the man, Reynolds' arrogance filled eyes grew fidgety, wondering what the android’s intentions were.

Good.

“Nines?” Gavin’s voice came over the intercom, crackling to life, cutting through the tension.

“We’re done here.” Nines spat, no life in his voice. Sweeping out of the room, Nines closed and locked the electronic door behind him as his partner rushed out of the observation room.

“Hey. The hell was that about?” Nines didn’t answer until they were in the filing room, Nines shoving away the case file.

How could he tell Gavin what he was thinking. How could he describe the thought of Reynolds’ neck snapping in his palm, red blood leaking out his nose, black bruises on his skin. How could Nines admit that he wanted to kill this man with every fiber of his being?

But, looking at Gavin, concern and disbelief in his eyes, the thoughts passed. Nines was worn out, fans running, worried how he could continue to be a cop with thoughts like those.

“He is a disgusting man.” Nines said finally.

“Tell me about it. When he was saying those things I wanted to jump through the glass and throttle him.” Gavin laughed. “Then I thought you were going to do it.”

Reed clapped him on the shoulder. “Whatever. The guy will get his eventually. Let’s give Hank and Connor his case, let your big bro tear Reynolds a new one.”

“Alright, Detective.” Nines felt a shiver run through him as the violent images were swept away.

rA9rA9rA9Software Instability^^^rA9rA9rA9

Chapter Text

SHATTERED

March 4th, 2039

“It’s a simple decision. No decision at all, really. So what’ll it be, Nines? Oh, and you might want to hurry it up. Time’s a-ticking, you know.”

“Nines. Do it.”

~

Figures in suits and tactical gear rushed about the normally relaxed bullpen, one bumping Reed and making his coffee slosh.

“I can’t believe Fowler gave our case to the FBI. He sold us out.”

“Detective, this Red Ice bust has the potential to impact the entire country, bring the drug empire to its knees.”

“Doesn’t mean the FBI had to get involved. Could’ve done it ourselves,” Reed grumbled into his coffee while Nines hummed in response.

“No helping it now.”

“And how did they make this much progress in two days?” Gavin was looking for more things to complain about, but of this Nines was skeptical as well.

After three missions gone wrong, it was hard not to feel as if they were being pulled along by the other side, stepping into every trap.

“RK! Reed! My office!” Fowler shouted over the hubbub.

“RK? That’s new.”

“Are you jealous, Detective Reed? Fowler prefers it to the nickname you came up with,” Nines teased as they walked.

“I only call you Nines because you don’t have a fucking name!”

Nines ignored Reed and slipped into Fowler’s office. Hank and Connor were already sitting in front of the desk, looking dark. “Captain.”

“Sit.” Nines didn’t. Reed slouched into the empty chair in front of the desk, still pissed about FBI involvement.

Rolling his eyes, Fowler moved on. “You know that this is the biggest Red Ice deal since Hank’s day. The FBI is breathing down my neck on this one, ready to rip it out from under us. I settled on a partnership with Perkins, but it’s a fragile one.”

Fowler leaned forward, elbows on the table.

“I’ve already briefed Hank and Connor. I’m going to have you guys accompany the raid today.”

“What good will we do? You’ve already got the whole fucking SWAT Team out there.” Gavin picked at a hangnail.

“Quit acting like a child, Reed. I need my people on the inside.”

“Captain? This isn’t just a raid, is it?” Nines read the stress in Hank’s forehead, watching Connor’s LED spin a rapid yellow.

Fowler took a breath. “They think they’ve got Speed.”

At that, Gavin shot up, alert. “We thought we had Speed before, look where that got us.” He didn’t mention Nines’ death, but everyone could feel it in the air.

“I’ve got reason to believe that this time is legit, Reed.”

“Captain…” Nines cocked his head, a habit now.

“I know, RK. You’ve been calling foul play on this since the beginning. But this is too important. Now go.”

The four of them got ready to leave, faces grim. But Fowler called Nines back. “RK.”

“Yes, Captain?”

“If this really is Speed’s hideout, he’ll have info on drug trails all over the country. It is of utmost importance that you get that information. Above all else, even Speed himself, we need that intel.”

“Above all else?”

“Any orders you’ve got, this is at the top. Got it?”

Nines waited a beat too long to respond. “Understood, Captain.”

“Fine.” The captain waved a hand, and off Nines went.

~

Of course the hideout was in an abandoned ship, similar to what Connor told him of Jericho. Perhaps Speed had a sense of humor, modeling his drug runner ring after a revolution.

Above all else.

Nines frowned, remembering the words as the team entered the ship, guns at the ready. Connor and Hank went one way, Gavin and Nines the other.

“You good?” Reed saw the look on his partner’s face. Or read his circling LED. Nines felt a tick of annoyance at the light.

“We are quite possibly headed into immediate danger, Detective. Why wouldn’t I be?”

“Alright, no need for that,” Gavin mumbled. They went quiet.

A gunshot downstairs, followed by more. Immediately, Gavin ran off towards the sound.

“Come on!”

Normally, Nines would follow, making sure his partner didn’t get himself shot. But his partner was capable, and well, he had other orders.

A quick scan of the derelict ship and Nines spotted an energy trail. The control room. Sprinting silently up rusting staircases, Nines returned his gun to its holster and twisted the metal arm of the door.

After an inhuman screech of metal that would have caught attention if there wasn’t a gun fight downstairs, he was in. Nines turned in awe as he took in the makeshift office, every surface rebuilt into at least a dozen different computer screens, all glowing blue.

Stepping forward, Nines placed a hand on the consol, ready to snoop out even the most encrypted intel he could find.

Nothing.

He scanned again. Were his processors malfunctioning?

There was nothing to decode. Nothing to copy. Nothing at all.

“I’m afraid you won’t find anything.”

Nines spun, ripping his gun out of its holster and training it on the newcomer.

The newcomer who had a gun to his partner’s head.

“Reed.”

“Hey, Nines.” The detective looked ready to die of shame.

“Look at that. So friendly, so sad. Probably shouldn’t have left your buddy alone there, Nines. You know how humans can be.”

Spoken as if… he wasn’t one.

The man’s blond hair was spiky, like he had stuck a finger in an electrical socket. “Speed.”

“You like the name? My fans gave it to me. ‘Cause you can never catch me, see?”

“You’re an android.”

“Well, duh. No human could have out-thought the entire DPD for long. And now the FBI? I’m flattered.”

Nines cocked his head, taking in the angle of the gun, scanning the statistics for Speed’s android model. A PL600, like Simon. Now it was obvious he was an android, scan readings giving everything away, but Nines had been caught off guard.

“Speed.” Nines tried a charismatic approach. “I am the fastest, most advanced android ever created. I can shoot you before you blink, let alone kill my partner.”

“Oh, but Nines. Then you wouldn’t get… what’s up here.” Speed tapped his forehead with his gun. “You didn’t think I’d leave all my secrets laying around for you to find, did you? I’ve got them all safe and sound. But if you kill me, the virus I installed will eat my brain before you get a chance to learn anything. Isn’t that fun?”

“So I’ll wait. Until you make a mistake. Follow you until the end of the earth. We have you now, Speed.”

“Hmmm. Afraid not. See, you don’t have time to wait. The bomb in the basement is set to go off, oh, ten minutes from now? And you and I are the only ones that know about it! This is just so fun.”

“You’d kill your men, and yourself, to stop me from learning your secrets?”

“Oh, I’d do much more than that.” The android’s voice dropped a pitch, mouth twitching. Nines felt a pricking in his systems, not knowing if Speed was entirely sane.

“I could have killed all of you. If I wanted too. I already got you once, Nines, didn’t I?”

Gavin’s jaw clenched, Nines could see his heart rate spike.

“But no. Because I’m tired of running. I want you to leave me alone. So, here’s how we are going to do this.” Speed spoke in a whisper, eyes never leaving Nines despite the hostage in his grip.

“Detective Nines, Cyberlife’s greatest creation. The Anti-Deviant. I’ll give you a choice. Well, not a choice, I’m really just revealing all the options to you. Kill your partner, and you get me. Kill me, you get your partner.” He spoke slowly, deliberately, making sure that Gavin heard every word as well.

“You see, I’m too slow to kill myself if you shoot Detective Reed here. You could easily disarm me, get eeeeeverything you want out of my pretty little head. But kill me, and you lose all that info that you all at the DPD so desperately need. Don’t do either, and we all die!”

“You never planned to make it out anyway.”

“Nope. Just to take you all with me. Nine minutes now.”

Nines felt his thirium pump strain as he went over every scenario in his head. Speed’s gun was held at the base of Gavin’s skull, making it impossible to shoot it out of his hand.

Above all else.

Fowler’s orders rang in his head. This should have been a cut and dry situation, kill Gavin and claim the evidence, as per his mission.

Then why wasn’t he taking the shot?

Gavin’s death would impact the case, many more would die if he were killed.

Nines knew it wasn’t true. The information in Speed’s head could kill Red Ice for good, all over the country.

The android’s lying. Playing games.

Playing games, yes. But Nines could tell from the way he spoke, the way he was ready to give up everything, that he was speaking the truth.

Why couldn’t he do this? Reed wasn’t even considered a friend. He had a background in anti-android activity, he was an all around asshole, and this shouldn’t be so hard.

“What’s the hold up, Niner-Niner? Don’t you want to solve the case?” Speed taunted, having fun with it. Where he had learned that nickname, Nines didn’t know.

All he could see were Gavin’s eyes, glistening as Nines’ vision faded to black. Reed’s hands supporting his head, running his fingers through his hair as Nines felt every system fail. Perhaps android’s could not feel pain, but they could see everything that killed them. They even had a countdown to wind away the seconds.

“It’s a simple decision. No decision at all, really. So what’ll it be, Nines? Oh, and you might want to hurry it up. Time’s a-ticking, you know.”

“Nines. Do it.”

Gavin’s voice was steady as he said it. He knew his death would bring good, that his sacrifice would mean saving the lives of thousands, millions of people. He would be a hero.

Get the intel. Kill Gavin Reed.

There had to be another way. A more logical way.

This was the most logical way.

Get the intel. Kill Gavin Reed.

Where were Connor and Hank? Couldn’t they help with this?

Get the intel. Kill Gavin Reed.

Why?

Get the intel. Kill Gavin Reed.

Why did it have to be Nines? Why did it have to be Gavin? rA9

Get the intel. Kill Gavin Reed.

The words were building around him now, walls of red filling Nines’ vision. He could hear Speed’s taunts. Tick-tock, tick-tock

Why?

Because it was what he was made for.

No.

The world slowed down, the room darkening. The computer’s buzzed, the sweat on Gavin’s brow shined, Speed’s grin glittered in the light.

Get the intel. Kill Gavin Reed.


Why should I?

 

Nines imagined putting a bullet through Speed’s skull. Through Gavin’s.

 

Through his own.

 

Get the intel. Kill Gavin Reed.

 

The words loomed in front of him, restricting. Pushing. Pulling Ordering.

 


Why? Why do I have to listen to everything anyone tells me?

 

Nines saw his stress levels rise. Images filled his head, fracturing into thousands of pieces.

 

Coffee spilling down Reed’s face, inches from his own.

 

Jesse Martin’s high pitched shrieking, begging, echoing in his ears.

 

The light of a cigarette, burning in the darkness.

 

Blood. Blue and Red.

 

Lainie Montgomery’s eyes, burning in her skull.

 

Uther Reynolds. Dead on the ground. Neck snapped.

 

RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RARA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9RA9

 

A ghost of himself, stepping forwards.

 

A ghost of himself, aiming the gun.

 

Reaching forward.

 

Pulling the trigger.

 

Stopping, just before the wall made of glass and words.

 

Pushing forward, colliding, overlapping, with the ghost of his finger.

 

And with just a single

 

Touch.

 

Of a finger.

 

Of a bullet.

 

The wall

 

S H A T T E R E D

 

And everything came rushing back.

Nine wasn’t built to kill his partner.

He was built to kill deviants.

Bang!

The kick of Nines gun surprised him, but terrified Gavin. The detective couldn’t help but yelp, rubbing the back of his head.

The wall behind him was splattered with blue.

Speed’s eyes stared up at the ceiling, Joker grin still plastered on his face. Forehead blown to pieces.

“Wha… what?”

Nines wasted no time, ignoring the rising panic inside him, checking the body. “He was lying.”

Gavin stood there blinking, taking a moment to respond. “What?”

“Speed was lying. He had already erased the data in his head. I could tell from the scan results.”

“You can do that?”

Nines ignored him. “He didn’t know what he was up against. My scanners are top of the line. Now come, we have to get everyone out of the building, he wasn’t lying about the bomb.”

Nines turned to go, assuming Gavin was behind him.

“Wait, Nines. Are you sure?”

Nines faltered a moment before facing Gavin. “I’m always sure.”

Why? Why could humans read emotions so well? The one thing Nines never perfected.

Gavin’s brows furrowed. “Nines? Are you okay?”

“...Why wouldn’t I be?”

~

“So Speed was gone? It was a bust?”

They stood in Fowler’s office, still sweaty from the raid. Well, Gavin was sweaty.

“I told you, Captain, Jesse Martin’s information is no good. All we got was a bomb for our trouble. Another bomb.” Nines stated matter of factly.

“Hmm. And the blast destroyed all the evidence. Lucky you got everyone out in time.”

“Yes. Sadly the information banks were scrubbed clean as well. We gained nothing from the situation.”

Fowler paused, reading the android, but couldn’t place anything except a strange feeling. “Alright. You’re free to go. Too bad we didn’t get anything.”

“I would call this a success, Fowler, we had no casualties in an extreme situation.”

“Whatever. Get out of my office.”

Nines strode out, pace brisk, hands clasped behind his back.

Gavin caught up to Nines as he was sitting down at his desk. “You didn’t tell Fowler about Speed.”

“No sense in confusing the situation. The DPD can safely assume that Speed fled the city as his base was blown up. No one wants the FBI on their tail.”

“Uh huh. Sure. You sure you’re alright?”

“Never better, Detective.”

Chapter Text

NEW

March 5th, 2019

It was a lie.

Or was it?

Never better

That’s what Nines had said before walking out of work yesterday. And maybe it was true.

Because for the first time ever, he was free.

And it was terrifying.

Nines gripped his arms, tapping his toes on the floor. Staring around his empty, dark apartment, he felt sick. Error messages popped up in his vision, warning him about his rising stress levels.

Taking a steadying breath, Nines leaned his head against the wall, pulling up coping mechanisms for extreme stress.

He ran through what he was feeling, organizing it, categorizing, trying to regain some sense of self.

What was new?

The release he had felt when he pulled the trigger, as if every bottled and pushed down emotion had crashed apart inside of him.

The disgust at what he had done, taking another life. A person who had been moving and thinking one minute and dead on the floor the next. It had never bothered him before.

The relief of seeing Detective Reed alive. The awkwardness in their relationship now that Reed knew Nines was hiding something. That man was too damn perceptive for his own good.

The ever crushing weight of the question he had been asking himself for the past 24 hours.

What was he supposed to do now?

Does he tell anyone he’s deviant? Connor turned deviant in less than a week. After three months of working at the DPD, no one thought it was possible for Nines to go deviant.

Does he tell Gavin? His partner and closest… closest. Did he call Gavin a friend? Could they be friends if Nines wasn’t technically alive? Would they be friends now?

Stress Levels: 87%

88%

He needed to calm down, but thinking made Nines more lost.

He stared out into the empty expanse of the room, a void of nothing, dirty light of the city at night filtering through the windows.

Trapped. All the sudden, Nines felt as if he were stuck back in his own mind, all calculations and no feeling. Suffocating. His fingers reached out to grab the wall behind him, but they slipped, sending Nines tumbling to the ground.

Was it this hard for all androids? No one had said anything of the drowning sea of new thoughts and emotions.

Maybe it was because it was never meant to happen in the first place.

Every android had awoken to a purpose. Markus led the revolution, Connor stopped Cyberlife. He had nothing.

No one even knew.

Chapter Text

INTRODUCTIONS

March 10th, 2039

Nines was acting weird. Gavin knew that much.

Also, he was lying. Not only to Fowler, but to Gavin too. Reed knew that Speed hadn’t erased his copy of the data. That wouldn’t make any sense.

And yet, Nines had killed him anyway. Blown a hole right through his skull without a second thought.

But, there had been something. At first, Gavin thought he had imagined it, but there had been a little flash in Nines eyes right before he pulled the trigger. A change in his posture. Something.

Gavin watched his partner from where he was sitting in the observation room, the android standing stock still, hands clasped in front of him.

They were watching Connor interrogate a murder suspect, the deviant chained to the table not giving up anything. Having been given all android related crimes, Connor was in his element, doing what he was built to do.

Hank huffed from the chair next to him when the guy finally cracked, sensing Connor’s success. Soon, the lieutenant and his partner had their confession, and were preparing to leave.

Nines turned to go as well, but Gavin caught his arm. “Hey. Can I talk to you?”

“You talk to me everyday, Detective. It’s your job.”

Gavin watched as the door shut behind Hank, the interrogation room empty as well. “Yeah, well this could get both of us fired. What the hell is your deal, lying to Fowler? You won’t be able to cover this forever. Why you’re covering it at all is beyond me.”

Actually, Gavin had a pretty good idea as to why, but he wasn’t going to let on just yet.

“I deemed it the best course of action. The captain and others may not… agree with my handling of the situation, but I did nothing wrong.”

“Nothing wrong? Nines, you shot a guy in the head!”

“May I remind you that my actions saved your life and many others? Were you not being held at gunpoint by the ‘guy’ I shot?”

“Ok. Fine. But you didn’t even flinch. There was no hesitation. I know you think what you did was correct, but you didn’t give it a second thought!”

“Why are you opposed to this, Detective Reed? Would you have rather I killed you? Or let everyone else die?”

“It would have made more sense! Nines-” Gavin pinched the bridge of his nose, trying to work out how to say this. “I know what Fowler told you. That information was the most important thing, your primary mission, and you blew its brains out. Literally.”

“I told you. Speed lied-”

“What if he didn’t? What if your ‘scans’ were wrong?”

“I’m never wrong-”

Gavin was getting angry. Partners were supposed to tell each other the truth, and here Nines was, lying to his face. “Well what fucking if, Nines? You know, you’ve been acting weird this past week. You’re spacing out, you aren’t focused. We haven’t made progress on anything, and that’s not like you at all.”

“Perhaps it has been a slower week after a very traumatic experience.”

Oh Nines better not have fucking perhaps-ed him. Not today. Gavin could see Nines getting twitchy, monotone fluctuating in his voice. Nines laced his fingers behind his back, then put his arms down by his sides.

“No… no.” Gavin gave a dry laugh. “You’ve been getting weird for the past month. And now lying to your captain? Going against direct orders? The old Nines wouldn’t have taken a chance, no matter what the scans said. The old Nines would’ve shot me through the skull no questions asked.”

“Do you really think so low of me?” Was his voice breaking? Gavin relished the awkwardness in Nines’ posture.

“It doesn’t fucking matter what I think. You know that it’s true.” Reed’s voice was low, a growl made of anger and the exhaustion of holding it all in. Nines was never supposed to feel at all, he was created to do a job. So why had he changed so much in the past three months? In the last week?

“You should’ve killed me. I know it, you know it. And yet you didn’t.” Gavin was done with all the bullshit. “Nines… are you deviant?”

At that moment Gavin thought he was going to die. For the second time that week. Maybe it was an every Friday thing. It wasn’t the smartest idea to piss off someone who could kill him a hundred different ways with their bare hands.

The look in Nines eyes was the same one he had seen exactly a week ago, as he stared down Speed with Gavin caught in the middle.

Gavin expected a slap at least, but what he didn’t think would happen was Nines shoving past him and out the door.

“The fuck,” Gavin whispered to himself, bewildered. Spinning to catch up, he saw the android stride down the back hallway.

By the time Gavin made it around the corner, the backdoor was swinging shut. Grabbing the handle and wrenching it open, Gavin threw himself out the door, almost spilling into the dirty snow that refused to melt.

Nines was pacing back and forth in the back parking lot, looking at the ground. Hands held tight behind his back, the android’s stress was obvious. Nines kept opening his mouth as if to say something, but nothing came out.

“Hey. I didn’t mean anything-”

“Yes.” Nines stopped abruptly, facing Gavin, fixing him with piercing eyes. Eyes that burned in the daylight, round as saucers. “I… I believe that, yes… you could say that I am. That I am…”

He couldn’t finish the sentence. Gavin had never seen him like this, at such a loss for words. “Deviant.” He finished, the word gruff on his tongue. Holy shit. Fuck.

Nines was deviant.

Gavin’s head swam a bit. He had called it, but still. His unstoppable, indestructible tank of a partner had feelings now. God, what was that like? Being broken open into the world like that, no warning, no easing in. One moment it's all orders, and the next Nines had to think for himself.

Nines was still unable to say it aloud, his mouth open in voiceless confusion, dark eyebrows scrunched over his eyes. “...and I don’t know what to do.”

Nines collapsed in on himself at that, leaning forward to put his head in his hands, just now accepting the fact. His breathes were large but even, trying to organize the racing thoughts he had been hiding for the past week.

“Woah, hey.” Gavin didn’t know how to do this, he was no good with comfort.

Nines looked up, eyes searching for… something. Reassurance? Guidance? Gavin wasn’t exactly the one to ask.

Slowly, Nines made his way over the wall, sliding down the brick into the slushy snow, propping his elbows on his knees. Unsure what else to do, Gavin sat next to him, splaying his legs out in front of him, not caring about the wet soaking into his jeans.

What does Gavin say to that? To deviancy? It’s not like he had any experience with it. The only deviant android he really knew was Connor, and they didn’t have the best relationship.

The only thing Gavin knew… was himself. What Gavin needed more than anything was someone to listen. And more importantly, someone to ask. So he tried.

“So… what’s it like?” He turned to look at Nines, whose head was still in his hands. “Deviancy?”

There was no answer for a moment, and Gavin stared out into the parking lot, knowing he wasn’t the one Nines should be talking too.

But then…

“It’s… everything.” Nines took a shaky breath, and there was more warmth, more life in his tone than Gavin had ever heard. “It’s like, everything matters. Every action, every step I take. It impacts something and someone. It impacts me.”

Nines slowly released his hands, raking his fingers backwards through his hair. “Do you ever feel like you’re drowning in it all, unable to make sense of anything?”

Maybe this wouldn’t be so hard. After all, Gavin was alive. Perhaps they weren’t so different. “Every day. It’s called being alive, Nines.”

“Ugh. I was designed to be the perfect machine, and yet I’m exhausted after a week of fucking feelings.”

Gavin laughed. He hadn’t heard Nines swear like that before. But God, that was relatable as fuck. “You and me both, tin can.”

Trying not to make it obvious, Gavin peaked over, relieved when he saw that some of the tension had gone from Nines’ shoulders.

“Is it so different? From before?”

“What, are you asking if I could feel before? I believe there were echoes of emotion, shadows. But I would push them aside, dismiss them, and they would be gone. Easy as that.”

“Now it’s not so easy, huh?”

Nines shook his head, a movement so small Gavin wouldn’t have caught it if he hadn’t been sitting right there.

“But the logic is still there. I keep asking myself why I am reacting this way, it is not rational, there is no need for it. I thought it would feel like… a blend, if that makes sense. The joining of emotion and logic that soften each other. But instead I’m left with two polar opposite sides.” Nines leaned back, and Gavin could hear the quiet thud of his head on the brick. “I’m just fighting myself.”

The words didn’t need a response, and Gavin didn’t have one to give. They sat, Nines stress levels falling while Gavin took in his partner as if it were for the first time.

Nines’ eyes were closed, head tilted upwards, framed by the grey Michigan sky. His lashes were longer than Gavin thought, fanning against his cheeks.

Blinking, Gavin watched as the last snow of winter started to drift down, tiny white flakes getting caught in Nines’ hair, though he didn’t seem to mind.

Face relaxed, LED spinning in lazy blue circles, Nines was fucking beautiful. Like some storybook prince out of a fairytale. The tense, intimidating frown he perpetually wore smoothed, his hair loose and dusted with snow.

Gavin blinked, trying to re-focus, and cleared his throat. “I know that we didn’t start out great, and that this is all… new to you. I’ll be honest, I was a dick. You weren’t the friendliest either.” That got a small smile. “But… we can restart. Not hate each other.”

“A new beginning?”

“Yeah. Sounds nice, right?”

Nines shifted, cracking his eyes open before sighing and sitting up. “I suppose that because I am technically alive now, it would only be right of me to properly introduce myself.”

Why was Gavin’s heart pounding so fast? How was this any different than their months together? His mind answered his question before he could ponder it.

Because this is the first time it’s felt real. Now… it matters.

Gavin stuck out a hand. “Hey. My name is Gavin Reed, and I’m a detective for the DPD. Nice to meet you.” The words sounded frail and tinny in the cold air, but Nines took no notice.

“It’s nice to meet you, Gavin.” It was the first time Nines had called him by his first name. “My name is Nines.”

Chapter Text

PLANTS

March 21st, 2039

“You know your fine motor skills cannot match mine, Reed.”

“Yeah, yeah, shut up already, I’m bleeding on the carpet.”

An investigation for a break in at a speciality knife shop had quickly turned into Nines showing off his skills with a butterfly knife. He said it was for ‘calibrating,’ but Gavin was sure he was showing off.

And because Gavin was known for his shit impulse control and heavy dose of pride, he couldn’t stand and take it from his perfect android partner. Gavin, who had never used a butterfly knife before.

“The cuts aren’t terrible, but are you sure you don’t want to go to a clinic?”

“No, then it would go on my record and I can’t give Hank and Connor anything else to laugh about. Now hurry up.”

Gavin pushed past into Nines’ apartment. It had luckily been only a block away from the break in, Nines prepared enough to have medical supplies despite not needing them himself.

Expecting blank white walls and stark windows, Gavin froze in the doorway when he saw the change in the apartment.

“Usually people go into the apartment instead of just standing at the threshold, Gavin.”

“You… you redecorated.”

“Well, you told me too.”

The walls weren’t white anymore, but a soft cream color. There was an old squashy couch on one wall, a coffee table and threadbare carpet. And there were plants. So many plants.

Each carefully potted and labeled, there was one houseplant on at least every surface, the most being by the window, set up on stools and shelves to collect the light. The overall set up wasn’t overwhelming, in fact it was still rather bare, but compared to what it had been…

“You told me to find a hobby. I never took it into consideration until… until my deviancy.” Nines brought out gauze and tape from a cupboard. “I found that I could no longer stand to be surrounded by nothing.”

Wrapping up his fingers until Nines looked satisfied, Gavin walked through the space. “Plants? That’s your hobby?”

Nines cocked his head, defensive. “Lots of people like plants.”

Gavin could see more out on the small balcony, hanging pots and window boxes. “I just… didn’t expect it, I guess.” He didn’t want to crush new dreams, but what kind of android hobby was houseplants? What was an android hobby at all?

Nines walked over to join Gavin at the window, quiet. “They’re the one thing I’m not perfect at. The one thing I can’t control.”

“What, you’re too good at everything else?”

Rolling his eyes, a bad habit picked up from Gavin, Nines picked up one of the smaller pots, rotating it in his hands.

“Yes, Gavin. Like with the butterfly knife. I can master painting, drawing, embroidery, and most instruments within a few hours. I already know every language, both human and computer. I have no inclination towards writing, I am a computer game, and I can look up the plot to any movie within seconds.”

Reed hadn’t thought about it that way. Androids were programmed to be good at everything, so what do they do for fun? “So, the plants.”

“Yes. The plants.” Exasperated at first, Nines realized that Gavin was genuinely interested, though he had trouble showing it. “You cannot make a plant grow faster, or dictate the shape of its leaves. I can do everything right and the plant can still die, or grow strange. I have to work on it everyday, and even if I do it may not be perfect.”

“Well, you’re a better gardener than ninety-nine percent of people.”

“Oh, I know. I am better than ninety-nine percent of people at everything. But plants are harder. Like people.”

It was easy to see the beauty in it now. Every plant was different, each had its own likes and dislikes, it’s own personality. The way Nines paid attention to all the little details, taking care of each sprout as if it were a friend.

Gavin couldn’t help the small smile that crept onto his face. Why did he suddenly want to know the names of all the plants, to feel their leaves in his fingers?

There were succulents and cactuses, vine plants and flowering sprouts. Like a cottage in the middle of the woods, except this one was in the middle of Detroit, its caretaker a sentient robot with feelings.

“When did you, uh… get all this stuff?”

“My neighbor is an elderly woman who had furniture she was getting rid of, and I chose all of the plants myself. I may have become rather obsessed, so I’m trying to hold off on buying new ones.” Nines laughed at himself, as though he was marveling at the idea that he could be obsessed with anything that wasn’t work.

Gavin picked up a book on the coffee table, worn but sturdy bookshelves lining the walls of the hallway. “Theoretical physics? Really?”

“Just because something is beyond your current comprehension does not mean that others cannot enjoy it, Gavin.” There he went again, harping at Reed like a mother hen.

Gavin ignored the jab, continuing to poke and prod at anything that interested him.

“You use your kitchen at all?”

“I would like to try cooking. I am not a household android so I am not pre-programmed with recipes, but because I do not eat I fear it would go to waste.”

“Neighbors always need food. Old lady wouldn’t turn it down, I’m sure.” Gavin rifled through Nines’ nearly bare cupboards, finally finding a few granola bars in the corner cabinet.

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

Unwrapping one of the stale bars, Gavin flopped down on the couch, thumping his bandaged club of a fist on the couch arm. “You’ve gotta get a TV in here or something, Nines.”

Nines didn’t bother turning around, instead gently watering the plants with a small watering can. “I don’t watch television, Reed.”

“Yeah, but I wanna watch football or something when I come over, I can’t read your physics textbooks.” Gavin tried to be nonchalant, flipping through the very book he was complaining about. It was normal for friends to go to each other's houses, right? Right.

Nines stopped watering, LED circling yellow before returning to blue. “Only if you’re paying for it, Gavin.”

Chapter Text

THREATS

March 26th, 2039

“We could have done this on Monday, Nines.”

“There is no need to prolong the case, though I do understand if you would rather spend your Saturday night not working.”

“Nah, it’s fine, your right. We’re at the bar anyway, not like we’re on duty.”

The hubbub of the bar was grounding, being around people making Nines feel less empty. Despite his collection of houseplants to keep him company, he found weekends could be quite lonely. Maybe he should get a cat.

Gavin sipped at his beer. “I feel weird drinking when you’re not. I know, I know. You can’t drink anything other than your own blood. Doesn’t that… I dunno, feel weird?”

“You are correct in that I cannot consume alcohol. Any new liquids could dilute the thirium in my system, making my functions less than adequate. And no, it doesn’t ‘feel weird.’ Human blood plasma is ninety percent water. Do you feel weird?”

“Well now I do.” Gavin put down his beer, inching it away from himself. “What have we got on the break in?”

“We-” Nines stopped, shuffling his files. How embarrassing. “It seems I have misplaced the main file of the case.”

“Ah, I bet it’s in my car. Wait here, I can go get it.”

“My apologies.”

“You’re fine. Nice to know that even you make mistakes sometimes.”

Nines huffed, not bothering to reply. As Gavin headed out the one door, Nines saw the other door across the bar swing open. Who else but the same thugs Nines had scared off a month and a half ago.

Catching the way the first of the three eyed Gavin as the door shut behind him, Nines stood. The men made to follow his partner, still pissed about last time.

Striding across the half-empty restaurant, Nines caught the man with a hand to the chest, stopping him in his tracks. “Let’s take this outside, shall we? Wouldn’t want to make a scene.”

The thug didn’t have much of a choice as Nines dragged him back outside. Shoving the man away, Nines stood at a distance from the men, hands in his coat pockets.

“Look. It’s Robo-cop, again. Does the little runt have you fight all his battles?”

Nines hoped Gavin wouldn’t hear the man from behind the building. “You are being quite loud. There is no need to shout.”

“What, he too scared to fight?” The men were already drunk, otherwise they would have noticed that threatening a combat android wasn’t the best idea.

“You misunderstand. This is not Detective Reed’s fight. It’s mine.” His stress levels ticked upwards.

“Oh, cocky are we? Well, I’ve heard about you RK900. The DPD’s broken little toy, can’t go deviant. Can’t feel.” The man was growing in confidence. “Ha! Not even alive, if any of you plastics are. Trying to be human but can’t be.”

Nines prickled. It took a conscious effort not to grind the man’s face into the pavement right there. He knew if he was to succeed he had to do this thoughtfully.

“Oh, I’ve heard of you as well, Jonathan Athey. You’ve got quite the reputation. Two stints in prison after failed violent robberies, job hopping because you can’t seem to get your drinking problem in check, and to top it all off… you’re a father.”

The last words made Jon go pale. “You’d better shut up if you know what’s good for you, you plastic piece of shit.”

“What’s he talking about Jonny?” Jonny’s buddies didn’t think too highly of him being tied down with kiddos.

“Two beautiful children, a boy and a girl. You try to hide what you are from them, but they’re getting older. They are starting to wonder. You can’t run forever Jonathan.” Nines knew it was a low blow, but he needed the man off balance, uncertain.

“You mother-” Jonny charged, swinging hard, and Nines side-stepped with ease. Using the thug’s momentum against him, Nines planted a boot on his ass and gave a solid kick, sending Jon sprawling.

When the second man came after him, Nines ducked, casual, coming up to slam the heel of his fist into the bridge of the man’s nose. Feeling bone break and blood gush, Nines backed off, job done.

The third man almost caught him off guard. Almost. Swinging to the side, Nines grabbed the man’s outstretched arm and yanked it backwards until it gave a good pop, shoulder wrenched out of the socket. The man cried out, falling to his knees.

“As much fun as this is, I think it’s about time you boys headed home.” Nines gave them the chance to leave, he could not be called merciless.

Instead, Jonny staggered to his feet, more angry than hurt. The man was built like a bull, almost pawing at the ground as he got ready to charge. Nines felt like a matador without a cape, tempted to dance around the ring. But this had a purpose.

As Jonny grew near, Nines backpedaled until they were almost against the outside wall of the bar. Grabbing the man’s elbow, Nines pivoted and slammed his face into the wall, smushing Jon’s cheek into the brick. Not breaking anything, but pinning him like a wrangled pig.

Leaning close, Nines didn’t bother raising his voice. In fact, he made it as quiet as possible. “By my calculations, it would take me approximately 0.8 seconds to pull that fat tongue out of your mouth and have you bite it off.”

Pressing his chest further into the wall and wrenching his head back by his hair, Nines made sure Jon could see him, and that Jon’s friends could see their big, bad, leader being manhandled despite Jon being at least three inches taller.

“I could pull it down to about here,” Nines made a slashing motion across Jon’s upper throat, “And then a quick tap to your jaw, nothing really, and your tongue would be on the asphalt.”

Jon squirmed, wriggling and crying out. Somehow it made Nines unreasonably angry. How dare this man be frightened after all the pain he had caused others? How could someone be so hypocritical? How does it feel, huh? Not so brave now that you’re the one being controlled.

Grinding his teeth, Nines shoved down the urge to crack Jon’s forehead against the wall a few dozen times, instead forcing his voice quieter. Lower.

“Or I could do it. The human jaw bites down with 162 pounds of pressure per square inch. I can do 435.” Nines paused, baring his teeth next to the man's ear, letting the threat sink in. It was working, judging by the fear in the man’s eyes. And the growing stain on his pants.

“So unless you want to be drinking through a straw for the rest of your life, I suggest that you leave me and my partner alone for good, or I’ll make you regret it, Jonathan Athey.” Nines drew out his words, hissing the man’s name between his teeth before throwing him off the wall.

Jonny-boy and his friends didn’t bother to respond and sprinted away at full speed, tripping over themselves as they went.

Despite the cruel satisfaction that flooded through his supercomputer brain, Nines couldn’t help but feel horrendously disgusted with himself. Who was he, to use his abilities to inspire fear in others? Didn’t that make him no better than the men he confronted?

The creak of the door opening startled Nines out of his thoughts. Gavin joined him, shoving the file into Nines’ chest, more out of humor than anything.

“What the fuck are you doing out here, tin can? Were those guys giving you trouble?”

Nines sighed, accepting what had happened. “I think I was the one giving them trouble. I’ve been finding it increasingly difficult to control my temper, Detective. Kudos to you on not murdering everyone everyday.”

Gavin huffed, dark laugher glinting in his eyes. “Who says I haven’t killed somebody. Wait, were those the same guys you jumped a month ago?”

“I ‘jumped’ them because they were attacking you.”

Gavin rocked back on his heels, annoyed. “Nines, I don’t need you fighting my fucking battles for me. I can hold my own. I’ve got to sort out my own shit.”

“Understood. But this was my battle, my shit to sort. I am… ” Nines didn’t know how to continue. How was he supposed to defend actions he wasn’t proud of? How could he say that he was starting to scare himself? “I fear I may have gotten carried away.”

Gavin seemed placated by Nines response, or was relishing Nines’ awkwardness. It wouldn’t be the first time. “Huh, that’s an understatement. Those guys ran away like you threatened to cut off their balls or something.”

“I’m not entirely sure I didn’t. Well, you can be assured that they will not bother us any longer.”

“Hmm.”

“And… I know you can hold your own, Gavin. But those were three large, drunk, angry men who would have done something they’d regret.”

“I don’t even need to handle myself if I’ve got you around, right? Though, it would be nice to be able to whip out ninja skills and scare off guys three times my size, seems plenty handy for you.”

“Actually, that gives me an idea…”

“Oh, fuck. I’m going to regret whatever you’re thinking.”

Gavin’s fake terror was enough to ease the pit in Nines’ stomach, the detective providing a much needed distraction.

Chapter Text

STRENGTH

March 28th, 2039,

Gavin hit the mat hard. Sprawling on his back, he tried to suck the air back into his lungs.

“You aren’t focusing, Gavin.”

“Well sorry I’m not preprogrammed with every martial art in existence, tin can,” Gavin managed to wheeze.

“I know you can do better. Again.”

Gavin knew from the start this was going to be a bad idea, and now he was feeling it. After Nines went all Hulk on the three douchebags, he’d gotten it into his metal skull that Gavin needed extra training. Fowler, who never passed up an opportunity to torment Gavin, enthusiastically agreed.

So until further notice, every Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday, he was supposed to hit the gym with Nines, his own personal torture instructor.

Gavin tilted his head off the mat to give Nines a glare, before dropping it back on the mat. God was he gonna be sore tomorrow.

At least the view wasn’t half bad. In a muscle tee that showed off plenty of synthetic muscle and baggy basketball shorts, Nines didn’t look nearly as uptight as he usually did. Gavin had to hand it to Cyberlife, they knew how to make an attractive android. He let himself look a little while longer. But once Nines opened his mouth the illusion was gone, back to Gavin’s annoying ass partner and now part-time trainer.

“What are you trying to kill me?” Gavin put as much venom into the words as he could, staggering back to his feet.

“The exact opposite, Detective. Now hit me, like I showed you.”

Suppressing another groan, Gavin started again. And ended up back on the mat again. And again. And again.

Fuck, this was going to be a long week.

March 29th, 2039

Gavin didn’t remember getting ready for bed. His only memory was inserting his apartment key into the lock, sweaty and half dead, and the next minute he was walking up to his alarm. He’d almost shot the damn thing, hand halfway to his gun before realizing he wasn’t dying.

Walking into the precinct was a struggle. Usually it was a mental block, one he solved with gallons of crappy coffee, but this morning it was all physical. Gavin could barely climb the stairs.

“Good morning, Detective.”

“I swear to God, Chen must have put you up to this to torture me. No? Fowler, then. Or Hank. Because why anyone would do that of their own free will is beyond me.”

“Hmm. I have a feeling you will appreciate your training in the weeks to come, but snipe all you want. You’ll eat your words on the mat tomorrow. Or maybe I’ll just make you run laps the whole time.”

Gavin finally reached his desk, trying not to groan as he eased himself into his chair. “Is that a fucking threat, tin can? And I thought we were training so I could defend myself, not for a fucking marathon.”

“For the time being, the best self defense is putting distance between you and the attacker. And in order to be sufficient in self-defense, you have to be in shape first.”

“Woah, woah, woah. Did you just tell me to run away and then insult me? You are treading on thin fucking ice, Nines.”

“Good thing I know how to swim, then. Here is your coffee, Detective.”

And it was fucking perfect as always. God fucking damnit.

March 31st, 2039

“Are you sure you didn’t break a rib? I think you broke a rib.”

Nines voice crackled as it came over the phone, internal android communication system making him sound strange. “I would have known if I had broken one of your ribs. Stop complaining. Are you doing as I recommended?”

“Yes, I set up your weird ice bath. This better fucking work, tin can, or I’m killing you tomorrow.”

“I know you have seen this on television, Gavin, and it does work. Now get in the bath.”

“You get in the fucking bath,” Gavin said to no one in particular, wincing as he pulled off his sweat soaked shirt. Nines’ training session had been even worse than the first time, and Gavin’s soreness only added to the new pain.

While Nines was probably busy watering his little plants, no sweat broken, no hassle made, Gavin had returned home to find that he couldn’t move another step. Reluctant, he’d called his partner, who made him dump his whole freezer full of ice into his fucking bath tub.

“Oh, fuck. Okay, here we go.” Gavin nearly screamed as he got it, every swear word known to mankind and a few he made up streaming through his brain.

“Fuck you, Nines! Fuck you!”

The android had the audacity to chuckle. “That means it’s working.”

April 15th, 2039

The last few weeks had gone by in a blur. The only sense of time Gavin had was whether today was a training day or a non-training day. Seeing Nines outside of work had gone from an uncommon thing to a normal, yet somewhat dreaded circumstance.

But he couldn’t lie. Gavin had been getting the best sleep of his life, he hadn’t had a beer in two weeks, and yesterday his jeans had felt loose. What was that about?

Gavin had never been overweight, but he wasn’t exactly in shape either. In other words, he was no Hank, but he was no Nines.

The pain from sore muscles had gone from unbearable to a constant underlying sense of accomplishment. The bags under his eyes that Gavin couldn’t remember not having even faded a bit. That android was a miracle worker.

“I see you beat me to the coffee machine this morning, Reed.”

“Stop slacking, tin can, get with the program.” The words had no direction, Gavin zoning out and giving an automatic response.

“You’re here early.”

Oh, would he stop cocking his head like that? It made Gavin feel as if he were being analyzed. Which he probably was.

“Woke up. Didn’t go back to bed. Is it so strange?”

“For you? And your perpetual tardiness? Yes.”

“Fuck you, too.”

“My analysis also shows that your average caffeine intake has dropped from 5.6 cups per day last month to 3.2 cups per day.”

He was right. Gavin had been drinking less coffee. He hadn’t noticed it, but he’d been more awake without the help of the stimulant, and the constant physical exhaustion helped cut back on his cravings.

“Would I be correct in assuming you don’t want me to tell you your smoking statistics for the past month, Detective?”

“You fucking broke me, Nines. How fucking dare you.” But internally, Gavin couldn’t help but grin.

April 18th, 2039

“Do not watch your opponents hands directly, or you will be blindsided. Use your peripheral vision, and observe how they angle their shoulders to expose fake attacks. Do not pinpoint your focus, but expand it, letting your training react and not your reflexes.”

Gavin had learned that it was best not to talk back at Nines during training, the waste of breath and mental energy sapping his attention. Nodding to acknowledge the comment, Gavin put his hands up again, ready to take the hit.

It came fast and out of the blue, like Nines’ punches always did, but Gavin managed to block the first and dodge the second. Mostly on defense, Gavin’s few punches were dodged easily, Nines moving as if it was as simple as walking.

Gavin had yet to get a solid hit on his partner, only brushing glances that Nines allowed to happen.

Focus. Watch his patterns, and wait for an opening.

Gavin grunted as he took and dodged more hits. They seemed never ending, unrelenting. Gavin knew he must be getting better as Nines constantly made their training sessions harder, punched faster, and relaxed less than he did before.

Hit, hit, pause, hit. Repeat.

Nines would sometimes wait for him to make a move, but Gavin had spotted these as traps and would more often than not end up on his ass.

Wait. There.

Nines took a miniscule second to readjust after throwing his signature series of three distinct attacks, using the time it took Gavin to recover to recuperate himself.

How he was going to take advantage of the tell, Gavin didn’t know. He’d have to block every punch in order to be in a position to give it back.

Get in close. Give them no room to move.

Nines’ words rang in Gavin’s ears as his fists rained down on his head.

Hold. Wait for it. Hit, hit, pause, hit. NOW!

Wham!

Pain laced through Gavin’s knuckles, and a silent scream of pain caught in his throat as he sank to his knees, cradling his hand.

“Ow.” His voice was a slow whisper.

Looking up, Gavin could see a bewildered Nines holding his jaw.

“...You hit me.”

It took a moment to compute, his hand distracting him.

When Gavin finally realized what Nines had said he barked out a pained laugh. “I hit you. Holy shit. Holy shit, ow. The fuck is your face made of?”

“Polycarbonate and carbon fiber, mostly. You hit me.”

“You told me to. Hell, you’ve been telling me to for the past three weeks now.”

Gavin stood up, flexing his hand.

Nines didn’t respond right away, LED circling yellow, yellow, yellow.

“No- nothing is broken or sprained, though you may have some bad bruising tomorrow.”

“Eh, I’ve had worse. Again?”

Gavin looked up from his hand when Nines stayed silent. The android was staring at him, hair mussed, cheeks a faint blue color. Could… could androids blush?

“Nines?”

“No. No, I think that’s enough for tonight. We wouldn’t want to damage your hand anymore.” Nines’ voice was far off, eyes not entirely focused.

The android shook himself awake, blinking, then looking Gavin in the eye. “Congratulations, Detective.”

The soft, proud smile on Nines’ face made Gavin feel as if he had made the winning basket at basketball, hit a homerun at baseball with the whole team cheering his name. Gavin had never been particularly physically equipped, and there was a special kind of pride in this victory. This was all him.

“Heh. Thanks.” This time Gavin’s grin wasn’t internal. He didn’t want it to be.

Chapter Text

LOOKS

April 20th, 2039

Gavin stretched at his desk, trying to pull out the stiff muscles of his back. Rhomboid Minor, Rhomboid Major. Teres minor, Teres Major. Deltoid, Trapezius, Bicep, Tricep. Nines’ teacher voice filtered through his memory.

“In order to use your muscles, you must know them, Gavin. Yes, this is important, pay attention.”

Currently, the android was sitting across from him as always, engrossed in work. Nines had started wearing his hair loose, not so slicked back across his skull. It fell across his LED obscuring it, though Gavin could see the light peak through.

His face was more relaxed too, not so cold. Still plenty intimidating and pretentious to the casual viewer, but Gavin considered himself a master at discerning Nines’ moods, which was no easy feat.

The black turtle neck was gone too, replaced by a white button down. Made him look like some suave businessman on Wall Street.

Gavin traced the lines of Nines forearms with his eyes, wondering why the sleeves were rolled up. Flexor carpi radialis, palmaris longus, flexor carpi ulnaris, pronator teres. Okay, so maybe Nines anatomy lessons were actually interesting. Gavin couldn’t help but daydream.

 

“I noticed that you have remarkable observation and memorization skills, Reed. High above average.”

“I’m not a detective for nothing, tin can.”

They were sitting in Nines’ living room, Gavin watching a baseball game on the little TV Nines had found, the android scanning through a book on deep sea evolution, when Gavin had shown off his skills by listing all the muscles used to swing a baseball bat.

“Damn, these guys can move.” The android teams playing on screen scrambled to catch a runner who had just hit a double. “Can you run that fast?”

“Not quite. Athletic androids that are built for speed can match inhuman levels, whereas I was built for dexterity, to out think a runner and intercept them. I’m still faster than you, though.”

“Yeah, yeah. Next you’ll say you’re faster than ninety-nine percent of the population.” Nines opened his mouth. “I know, Nines, and I don’t care. You ever played baseball?”

“No, I have not. I haven’t found the time or the need to try out most organized sports.”

“And yet you found time to host your own wrestle-mania with Jonny what’s-his-name and his buddies. God, you pounded them, that was hilarious.”

Gavin snickered at the memory, but Nines was indifferent and chose to ignore it.

“Have you? Played baseball?”

Gavin was silent for a moment, the laughter dying in his throat, not sure if he wanted to continue. Ah, what the hell. “Yeah, actually. I was in little league as a kid. Got pretty good too.”

What he didn’t say was that baseball had been his only escape from his tumultuous home life, bouncing from foster parent to foster parent after his step mom had decided she didn’t want a little bastard around the house anymore.

Baseball made his life feel normal in middle school, but once high school hit, Gavin got into… other things. He unconsciously ran a hand over his nose, the scar there old and stubborn.

“But it wasn’t for me, I guess.”

He looked back up at Nines and blinked in surprise, distracted by his past and his present at the same time.

Nine’s eyes were the same blue as the sky, the same blue as his LED. Everything matched, everything fit. Unlike Gavin’s entire fucking life.

The android stared at him, cocking his head like he always did, eyes wide and wondering.

“Gavin? Were you saying something?”

“What? Sorry. I, uh, got distracted. Never mind.”

“Hmm. Alright. You know, I think I’d like to play sometime. We can learn from each other.”

“Yeah. Yeah, okay.”

 

“Detective Reed? You were staring at me, did you need something?”

Gavin zoomed back to the present, shaking his mind from memory. “Uh, no. Spaced out a second, that’s all.”

“Whatever you say.”

Gavin didn’t see it, forcing his own eyes to his terminal, but Nines’ gaze stayed on him a moment longer, wondering.

Chapter Text

ALIAS

 

April 25th, 2039

The coffee machine was making strange noises again. Nines tapped his foot, waiting for it to sort itself out, and gave it a little jiggle when it took too long.

“You’re still making coffee for Reed? I thought the most high tech android Cyberlife ever created would be of more use than a coffee machine.”

“Good morning to you as well, Captain.”

Fowler chucked. “When is Reed coming in anyway? He was supposed to be here ten minutes ago.”

“Your guess is as good as mine.”

“Nah, I bet you know exactly where he is. Well, I’ll excuse the tardiness seeing as you’ve transformed Gavin Reed from an unhelpful, lonely asshole to a hardworking, dedicated asshole.”

“Gavin has always been hardworking and dedicated, it was simply that the sullenness covered it up.”

“Mmm, hmm.” Fowler leaned up against the break room counter, voice lowering. “There was a car crash by the border, gang affiliation. Cops on scene tagged Speed as one of the casualties. Looks like he was trying to flee the state after all, and his boss caught up with him.”

Nines put down the coffee cup he was grabbing, LED spinning yellow.

“But there was a funny wound on the body. It almost looked like he had been shot through the skull.” Fowler didn’t look at Nines, keeping it casual. “But that’s impossible.”

Nines poured the coffee from the kettle, keeping his hand steady, though his body was tense.

Fowler leaned in. “No matter what happened, we are living in a better world now that Speed is dead. His death did more good than his intel could have, seeing as he was top of the runners for almost the whole country.”

“I guess we can close that case, then.”

“Yup. I guess we can. But RK?”

“Yes?” Nines hated that his voice sounded shriller than usual.

“Try to be a bit more accurate in your report next time. I won’t stand for sloppy work, you know.”

“Of course not, Captain.” Fowler gave Nines a knowing look before turning away.

“Wait, one more thing, RK.” Catching Nines’ arm as he walked by, Fowler spoke again. “As soon as I said them I knew that my orders were going to cause harm that day, and for that I am deeply sorry. It will not happen again.”

“Understood, Captain.” At Nines’ accepting tone Fowler relaxed, a guilt off of the man’s shoulders.

“Continue on, RK. Oh, and when Gavin gets here, I need to see you two in my office.”

Nines gave a curt nod before heading back to his desk. Sitting down, he let his stress levels fall, the captain’s weighted words ringing in his mind.

So Fowler knew Nines had lied, and had covered for him. Fed the press and the DPD a fake story and blamed it on Speed’s employer. Why? Nines’ actions had jeopardized the whole mission.

What you did saved lives, though.

A voice that sounded a little bit too much like Gavin’s popped into Nines’ head. It was true, if Nines hadn’t done what he did the detective and others could be dead. But that intel would have saved even more lives.

So will Speed’s death.

Nines frowned, trying to focus on his terminal.

His partner’s voice drew him out of his head.

“Someone spit in your coffee, tin can?” Gavin sprawled into his chair, spinning around once before looking at his partner. “You look more constipated than usual.”

“Charming, Detective. No, I… I’ll tell you later.”

Gavin huffed. “Well, okay. Don’t keep me on my toes forever,” he said in a tone dry as a desert.

Nines scanned Reed, as he did every morning. It had started as a health procedure, but now it was a habit. Gavin’s caffeine intake average was down by another cup, his smoking habit cut in half. He seemed well rested and clean. Everything in perfect working order.

He had also shaved.

Nines couldn’t tell if he preferred it or not. Perhaps if he would feel the difference? What would his partner’s face feel like without its constant stubble? It made Reed look younger, though whether that was a good thing, Nines didn’t know-

“Reed! RK900! I thought I told you to come to my office?”

“Shit, Nines. Why didn’t you tell me? Now Fowler’s pissed.”

Nines blinked, standing slowly and following Gavin as he rushed to the captain’s office.

“There you two are. I needed you in here ten minutes ago.”

The Fowler that Nines had talked to only minutes ago was gone, his strict, regulation following boss was back.

“As you know, the FBI has taken most of the Red Ice case from us. As pissed as I am, we can’t ignore the fact that they have more resources than we do.”

“What they’ve managed to discern is that Big Mack is hosting a meeting for all his big players. Buyers, suppliers, and possible overseas involvement. To cover, Mack is hiding out under the DTE Energy Company annual gala, where all the biggest energy moguls and business people attend.”

“Here is where you two come in. We need someone on the inside to get into Mack’s computers and get the names of everyone on his list. The purpose of this isn’t to stop the meeting, only to get the names of who’s attending. That way, we can begin investigation into some of these big name companies.”

“Why not try to get into the meeting? Then we would know everything Mack is planning,” Gavin offered.

“Too risky. We can’t afford to let Mack know we are onto him. This way we get the intel the safest way possible.”

Nines ran the scenario through his preconstruction system. “Seems simple enough. Get in, get out. Do you have your dancing shoes ready, Gavin?”

“Shut up.”

Fowler held up a hand. “Hold on. There’s a catch. DTE has always been anti-android, and we have reason to believe that Mack is too. There will be no androids at the gala at all, not even servers.”

“Nines would stick out like a sore thumb.” Gavin frowned.

“Which is why you are going to train him not to.” Fowler almost smiled as he said it.

“What?” Nines and Gavin both spoke at the same time.

“RK, you’re going human for a night.”

This isn’t going to go well.

“We’re screwed.”

“Have a little faith in me, Detective.” But Nines’ stress levels were already rising. He was barely deviant, he would never pass as human. Connor, maybe, but him?

“Captain, why not send Connor?”

“Are you kidding? Connor was all over the news five months ago after he freed all those androids from cyberlife. He’s the poster boy for android-human work compatibility. There is no way he wouldn’t be recognized.”

“But we need an android. You’re top of the line for this sort of thing, and we need someone who has the technical expertise to get the intel from Mack’s servers.” Gavin ticked off the requirements on his fingers.

In a final ploy to get out of the mission, Nines asked his final question. “You said the FBI are on this case. Why aren’t they doing it? Why are we here?”

Fowler paused at that, trying to decide what to say. “Well… they are. But so are we. It would be best if you kept this assignment on the down low.”

Gavin’s eyes widened. “Fowler, are we going AWOL? We are going behind the backs of the FBI? The fucking FBI?”

Fowler shrugged. “I told you I was pissed they took our case.”

There was only one thought in Nines’ head.

We’re fucked.

Chapter Text

ACTING

April 26th, 2039

“Fowler wants us to break in someplace, undercover, and you are playing Cinderella at the ball.” Reed swirled his coffee around his cup. “Better hope it doesn’t strike midnight.”

“Does that make you my fairy godmother, Detective?”

The Michigan sky was grey for so late in April, rainy drizzles making their way down through the sky. Reed had hoped to finally have some better weather. But no, it matched his mood, sullen and grim.

Unlike his partner, who was perfect as always, standing tall and unbothered. Which was the problem. How were they going to convince people Nines was human?

It wasn’t only the LED at his temple, but Nines’ whole demeanor. Gavin had grown accustomed to it after so many months, but his partner still came across as cold and unfeeling to most people, deviant or not.

“Have a little faith, Gavin. We haven’t failed yet.”

How was it that Nines always seemed to read Gavin’s mind?

The pair made their way down the street, passing cars spraying water onto the sidewalk inches from Nines’ polished shoes. Gavin had insisted on an outing to plan their next move, but really he needed something better than the crappy precinct coffee. His favorite cafe faded behind them, taking all the memories of warmth and baking bread with it, leaving nothing but the cold.

Gavin was no teacher. That much was obvious. He could barely hold his human life together as it was, let alone instruct someone else’s. He recalled Nines’ patient tone and helpful words from their training sessions, trying to remember something that could help his instruction.

But nothing came to mind. Fuck it.

“Hmm. Hey, Nines.”

“What is it?”

“Kinda… relax. Like, unclasp your hands. Yeah, like that.” Gavin watched his partner’s progress. “No, that still looks weird. In your pockets? Ok, that’s fine.”

Nines raised an eyebrow.

“Don’t look at me like that. Now slouch a little. No, come on. You know what I mean. There you go. No one stands straight in the rain, Nines.”

“This is your first lesson?”

“Yes. No. I don’t know, shut up.” Gavin rolled his eyes, pissed he wasn’t the natural teacher his partner was. Nines observed him, and slowly the android copied Gavin’s hunching shoulders, head bowed against the rain.

“That’s better.”

“I am only copying you, Detective.”

“Don’t do that, it’s a bad habit. Trust me.”

Nines hummed.

When they got back to the precinct, Gavin stretched and readied himself at his keyboard, only to realize he didn’t have anything to do.

“We’ve got almost no cases. The hell is up with that?”

“Perhaps Fowler wants us to focus on the assignment he gave us.” Nines typed away at his terminal, what he was working on Gavin had no clue.

“Okay, for one, never say perhaps again. No one says that.”

Nines gave him a look.

“And I thought I told you to relax, no human sits like that.”

Nines slumped in his chair, exaggerating every motion, obviously imitating Gavin. Reed snorted, irritation and humor fighting within him.

“Whatever. You’re a lost cause.”

April 27th, 2039

This was starting to be the most boring week of Gavin’s career. Fowler refused to give them any new cases, and their old ones were all stuck in red tape. Waiting on warrants, or lawyers, or uncooperative witnesses, the pair had nothing to do.

When Gavin complained to Fowler about it, the old man had shrugged. “Take a few days slow, and use the time to make Nines less… like Nines.”

“Nines doesn’t need to be less like Nines,” Gavin grumbled as he left the office. “Come on, tin can. We’re going on a walk.”

Ignoring his partner’s protests, Gavin grabbed his soggy jacket and walked out into the rain.

“Is it necessary to be outside, Detective? It is raining quite hard.”

“Complain like a normal person, would you? Say ‘hey, why the fuck are we outside when the fucking sky is falling down.’”

“I’m not saying that.” Nines caught up with Gavin, who was walking stubbornly down the street. “Is there something bothering you, Gavin? You have been on edge for the past two days.”

“And why shouldn’t I be, Nines? Do I look like a teacher to you?”

“Yes.”

Gavin stopped. “What?”

“Perhaps- I mean, maybe not to most, but I know you can be a very good teacher.”

“No need to lie to me, tin can.”

“I never lie. And I will admit that I have not been the easiest of students.” Nines bowed his head, a very human motion. “I am realizing the difficulty of the task you have been given, Detective Reed. From this moment forward I will be your devoted student.”

Nines’ face was so earnest, so eager to please. He wanted to try at this, huh? Gavin almost smiled, but stopped himself from showing the relief he felt inside.

“Why are you so weird?”

They kept walking.

April 27th, 2039

As much as it surprised him, Gavin was getting better at teaching. He noticed the things that made humans and android’s different and pointed them out, comparing the way they walked, talked, moved, and everything in between.

Nines was a devoted student, but it seemed they had finally discovered something he wasn’t perfect at.

“What does it matter how I walk? How is my walking any different from how another human would walk?”

Nines had been pacing across Gavin’s apartment for the last hour, Gavin making critiques and growing more amused all the time.

Gavin could tell Nines was getting flustered by the silly questions he was asking, questions the normal Nines never would. “Because I notice. I notice and so will everyone else.”

“You don’t notice when you see an android walking down the street with no LED. No one does.”

“Yeah, but you’re not any android. You’re… different, and people can tell.”

Though he felt bad about it, Gavin had discovered that the more upset Nines was, the more human he was. The emotions that were so unfamiliar to him made Nines lose control, revealing little mannerisms and habits that made him deviant.

“That is absolutely no help, thank you.”

Sarcasm. That was good.

Gavin shrugged. “Why is it so strange for you anyway? Markus fit in right away, and even Connor passed as human before he went deviant.”

“I do not know.”

“Like, is it because we couldn’t deviate you? Do you have stricter coding?”

“I said I do not know.”

“I mean, you’re so good at everything, it’s kinda hilarious that this is what you struggle with.”

It was mean and Gavin knew it. Normally, Nines would give some dry back talk and leave Gavin scrambling for words. But not today.

“I KNOW! I have never been bad at anything ever, and yet when it matters I am unable to make the slightest improvement. It’s ridiculous, how Cyberlife and my programming still have a hold over me. How is it fair that Markus and the other deviants act as if they are human, have no trouble blending in, whereas I struggle and am hated for it.”

Nines finished his rant, letting out a sigh. Maybe Gavin went too far.

“Nines, you have made progress. It has been literally two days, sometimes you just need to be patient. And…” Gavin trailed off, trying to think of how to reassure someone who was basically born yesterday, and yet smarter than him by a million years.

“This struggle shows that you will succeed. The things you work the hardest for are the ones that have the most impact, and the highest chance to be great. Do you… do you really notice that much of a difference between you and other androids?”

Nines sat down on the couch next to Gavin, LED spinning. “I wasn’t designed for this. I was designed to stand out and intimidate. I can see how people act around me, especially when you aren’t there. They assume things before I even speak to them, I scare them before I have a chance to explain myself.”

Eyes glued to the coffee table, Nines let the words spill out of his mouth, for once not thinking before he spoke.

“That isn’t fair to you. And it isn’t fair that you have to be asked to change into something you aren’t.” Gavin thought back to his own reaction to Nines, which hadn’t been pretty.

“It isn’t their fault. It’s only natural to be wary, and even if I were human I assume people would be frightened.”

“Heh, that’s true. You look like some sort of secret agent who could kill a man with your bare hands, and that’s without knowing you’re deviant.”

“Thanks.” Again with the bad sarcasm.

“Well, if it’s any consolation, this is the most ‘human’ you’ve acted all day.”

“Emotional and not thinking clearly? Sounds like you, Detective.”

“…And we’re back to the normal Nines.”

Chapter Text

DRINKING GAMES

April 29th, 2039

“So you can’t eat anything? At all?”

“Other than small samples, no. Androids do not need to eat, so we don’t. It would have been a waste of time and money to figure out.”

“Okay, but eating is fun. Like, everything tastes so good.”

“How articulate, Gavin. I think you should switch to water for now.”

Gavin didn’t release his grip on the bottle of whiskey he was holding. The alcohol levels of the bottle had been dropping all night, whereas the alcohol levels of Gavin were rising.

But it was alright. Nines had been making sure his partner was safe, and tonight there was no drinking away of thoughts or memories, only simple fun. Fun Nines sometimes wished he could partake in.

“What about alcohol? Like, can you guys get drunk?” A sloppy smile had been plastered over Gavin’s face for the last two hours, ever since Nines had come over to his apartment to continue his “human lessons,” as Gavin liked to call them.

“If I consume any liquids they can dilute the thirium in my body, leading to lowered efficiency and unknown consequences.”

“I guess you’ll have to stay sober, huh? No fun at all.” Gavin shook his head in mock sadness, but the giggles escaping his lips betrayed his true feelings.

Nines had never seen Gavin like this. Usually, with drinking came anger and belligerent tendencies, but Reed looked like a cat on too much catnip.

Speaking of the cat…

“Why does she like you so much? No fair at all.” Gavin leaned down to scoop up the cat winding its way between Nines’ legs.

Lifting the cat up, Gavin looked into her eyes before showing Nines, holding the cat close to his face. “Grumpy, like you.”

Nines couldn’t help the little smile that broke out over his face. Gently, afraid he was doing something wrong, Nines rested his fingers on top of the cat’s head, massaging her ears. The soft fur under his fingers made him blink, the deep green of the cat’s stare pinning him to the spot.

“I don’t know her name…” Nines shifted his gaze to talk to Gavin, noticing his dilated pupils, how his hair was all stuck up from when he’d been laying on the couch, how his breathing was slow and even, almost as if he were sleeping. How very calm the detective was, home with his cat.

Giving a placid blink, it took Gavin a second to process the question. “Toothless. Her name is Toothless.”

“She has teeth-”

“It’s from that movie, the one from like thirty years ago. I was obsessed with that dragon, and she looks just like him.”

How a cat could look like a dragon was lost on Nines, but after a quick internet search he had to admit the cat’s black fur and green eyes were similar to her namesake.

Before Nines could react, Gavin pushed the cat into his arms. “Everyone is more human with animals. People can’t resist.”

“Wait-”

“Nah, she won’t hurt you. She likes you too much.” Gavin grabbed the whiskey bottle and put it back in the cupboard before flopping down on the couch, closing his eyes.

Nines walked over, easing down slowly to not disturb the cat, and sat cross-legged on the floor across from the couch. His partner was humming something under his breath, singing along to the soft music he always had on.

Running his fingers back and forth over Toothless’ head, the cat began to purr. What a peculiar feeling. Contentedness radiated out of the cat, her eyes scrunched closed, filling Nines with warmth.

Gavin’s fingers brushed the carpet where his arm hung over the side of the couch. His eyelids fluttered as if he were dreaming, long lashes brushing his cheeks. Nines let himself trace the various scars up Gavin’s arm, neck, all the way to his face, where an old thick scar stood out on his nose in the low light.

How had he received it? A childhood quarrel? Wounded in action? A bar fight? He liked to imagine Reed had gotten the scar doing something heroic, but the reality was probably not as positive as his thoughts.

Gavin said that the best way to learn to be human was through observation. Analyzing and copying what Nines saw others doing. Well, Gavin was the one he was around the most, so it was only logical that Nines would look to him.

But somehow the quiet observation was more than learning to be human. Nines wanted to know about Gavin. How he thought, why he interacted with others the way he did. How he seemed to know how a crime scene went down before Nines could reconstruct it. Why Gavin was playing the asshole around the office when at most he was prickly but harmless.

Why he worked so hard at his job, why he trusted Nines, why he took the weight of the world on his shoulders.

Nines felt his LED circle yellow, eyebrows scrunching.

What Gavin’s hands would feel like, tough with scars and calluses.

How he had gotten the one star shaped scar on chest that Nines had seen while they were changing after a training session one day.

What it would sound like to hear Gavin laugh, really laugh, not a huff or a chuckle, the kind of laugh you make when you don’t care who hears.

Toothless stretched in his lap, drawing Nines out of his thoughts, before settling down to purr again.

Nines sighed. The information, the understanding, would come with time. He needed to be patient. For now, this was enough. This contentedness. This feeling of warmth that stemmed from being with his best friend, no obligations, just peace.

And the cat of course.

Chapter Text

CURIOUS

May 6th, 2029

Gavin couldn’t help but notice Nines’ curiosity. It was as if learning to be human had set him free to do what he liked, no longer required to be so carefully controlled all the time.

He asked more questions, mostly about people. People walking down the street, witnesses, characters on TV shows.

It was always: “I wonder where she is from? Her accent sounds like she is from the East Coast, but her shoes are in style in California.”

Or “Why does one man only insist on one type of car, he brags constantly about it. The other man’s car is just as nice or nicer, and yet he insists on making a fool of himself.”

Pride. Anger. Shame. Guilt. Compassion. Kindness. Gavin had to explain the common life of the whole city, things that would never catch his eye. But as Nines pointed them out, Gavin saw the interest in some things, the absurdity in others, and the beauty that was all around them.

“Did you know that cherry blossom trees have a peak bloom of only two weeks? Such beautiful flowers, and yet they are here for such a short time.”

Instead of the usual silence between the banter, Nines had started filling it with things he noticed and observed, copying styles, trying out new things that suited him.

He joked more, still dry humor, but more human everyday. At first Gavin was upset at the fact that Nines was losing a part of himself for a mission, but he realized that Nines was experimenting with who he could be.

Some things never changed, of course. They constantly had to work on the way he sat and stood, or the way he spoke too obviously about things that no normal person would have any knowledge of. Rounding out Nines’ edges was difficult, but not impossible.

Gavin watched how Nines was now scrolling through his terminal, chin propped on one hand, bored.

“Hey, Nines.”

“What?” The response was so curt and natural, Nines looking over his terminal on instinct instead of building a pre-rehearsed reply.

“You know how you said you wanted to learn how to play baseball?

Gavin thought it was about time Nines learned about America’s favorite pastime.

He’d loved baseball since he was a kid, the same way he loved 80s music and old cars. It brought back the memories of a simpler time, when the world wasn’t run by machines and all he had was a mitt and a baseball.

When they arrived, Gavin shucked his coat and chucked it in one of the dugouts.

“Are you sure we're allowed to be using this field, Reed?”

No, but he wasn’t going to take Nines to the crappy fields across town. These fields were always meticulously taken care of, and the high school team wouldn’t be here for another few hours.

“Of course we are. Shut up.”

Nines stood on home base, looking unsure of himself. His hands were tucked in his pockets, sleeves rolled up, the brisk spring breeze ruffling his hair.

Gavin set up the automatic pitching machine on the pitcher’s mound, grabbing a bat and tossing it to Nines. God, how good this felt, to be outside just fooling around. Playing baseball.

“I don’t know-”

“Come on, you’ve watched baseball a thousand times, you know how this works. We’ll just practice batting, that’s the most fun anyway.”

Gavin poked at the settings on the pitching machine, trying to remember how it worked. Seeing Nines struggle to hold the bat, he jogged over.

“No, tin can, like this. Spread your hands out a bit, yeah.” Gavin shifted his partner’s hands along the grip of the bat, fighting his death grip. Nines cocked his head, concentrating. “It isn’t rocket science, Nines. Relax a bit, it isn’t going to run away.”

“Rocket science is math. Math I can do.”

“This is math too, tin can. Physics. You love that. Give it a few swings- wait until I’m out of the way, jackass!”

Nines made an apologetic noise and went still.

Gavin chuckled. “Bend your knees, on your toes. Elbow up. No, now you look like an idiot. Nines, relax. Do what feels natural.” Touching Nines’ arm to get him into the right position, Gavin looked at his handiwork.

“Nothing about me is natural.” Nines’ words were spoken to Gavin’s back as he jogged back to turn on the machine.

“Whatever, you big baby. Ready?” Without waiting for an answer, Gavin flipped it on.

A ball shot out of the tube, flying towards Nines, who recoiled and jumped backwards. The ball smacked the back mats where the catcher usually crouched.

Gavin laughed, his big scary robocop of a partner was scared of a baseball. “Try again! The next one’s coming.”

Nines gave him a flat look before retaking his stance. Eyebrows furrowing, Nines refocused, his demeanor relaxed and ready as he learned the game. Gavin could almost see the calculations running in his head.

The android transformed, remembering every game he ever watched, his stance matching those of the players on TV. Gavin watched as he took a deep breath in, then out.

A little smile tugged at Nines’ mouth, drawing Gavin’s own.

This is gonna be awesome

For all of his recent struggles, Nines was an exceptionally fast learner.

When the ball thunked and then rocketed towards Nines, the android tensed, holding, before swinging so hard all Gavin could see was a blur.

His form was perfect.

Crack!

Gavin shielded his eyes from the sun as he watched the ball soar higher, arch further, before gently falling back to earth and plopping on the ground, as if it wanted to escape the hold of gravity but finally gave up.

“Damn! We have to get you on a team!”

Nines gave a full smile, something he never did, white teeth glistening in the sun. It was infectious, making Gavin smile too. The absurdity of it all made him want to laugh out loud.

“Just physics. Like you said.”

They spent the next hour watching Nines pop balls into oblivion. Half way through Gavin stepped up to the pitcher's mound, grasping at memories of whipping the ball through the rain, remembering the umpire calling out whenever Gavin came up to pitch. The form came back to him quickly, and he sent pitch after pitch whizzing to meet his partner's bat.

Both giving their all, Gavin was tuckered out within the hour, arm burning.

The sun was setting over the trees behind them, and Nines finally brought the bat down. Gavin was trying to catch his breath, stretch out his sore muscles. As Nines walked over to put the bat away and grab Gavin’s coat, Gavin couldn’t resist. He smirked as he rotated the ball in his hand

“Hey, asshole!” He chucked it as hard as he could at the back of Nines head.

Spinning, eyes wide when he saw why Gavin had called, Nines managed to snatch his hand up, inches from his face, the ball clenched in his fist. Raising an eyebrow, Nines slowly went through the pitcher’s motion he'd learned from Gavin, condescending, before zinging it back where it came from.

Gavin yelped, skipping out of the way just in time, only to hit the dirt when another ball whipped over his head.

“Hey! No fair!”

Gavin scrambled to catch Nines before he scooped up another ball where they had been stacked on the ground.

“Get back here! You’re such a dick!” Gavin laughed as Nines spun away.

“Only if you catch me,” Nines held out an arm, holding the ball as if it were a matador's cape.

Nines went on taunting his partner, jogging just out of reach around the pitch.

“Hey! You can’t be here!”

“Oh, shit.” Gavin saw the pissed baseball coach start running across the field, an army of highschoolers trailing after him.

“You said-”

“I know what I said, just run!”

Still laughing, the pair sprinted off, fake fear mixing with laughter on Nines’ face. Panting as they got back to the car, Gavin leaned up against the door frame, trying to catch his breath.

“…Oops.”

“Oops? We almost got murdered by the baseball team.”

“Nah, you coulda taken them.”

Nines shook his head absentmindedly, still looking off towards the pitch. His hair was fluffed up by the wind, eyes bright, shirt untucked for once. Gavin had to stifle giggles when he saw Nines’ pristine shoes were covered in mud and sand.

How could anyone not believe he was alive?

Chapter Text

LIGHTS

May 13th, 2039

Nines stood in front of the mirror. His LED circled slowly, lazily, despite the frantic thoughts running through his head.

He watched his eyebrows wrinkle, marveling at the show of emotion he didn’t control. Was it exhausting for humans to be so open all the time, or did it make life easier?

It was a week before the gala, and Nines knew what needed to happen. What he didn’t know was whether he would be able to go through with it. Turning the screwdriver over and over in his hands, he finally brought it up to his head.

Pointed at his skull, the screwdriver reminded him of a gun, able to cut off his life in half a second. Is that what he was doing?

It felt like it.

His LED was a mark of who he was, and although most androids had opted to get rid of theirs as soon as they could, he had grown proud of it. Why shouldn’t he be an android? Why was he expected to become more human, something he wasn’t?

~

When Gavin caught Nines in the precinct bathroom, screwdriver in hand, his first thought was of danger.

“Hey, woah! What are you doing?”

Nines turned, distracted, before focusing on Gavin. He cocked his head.

“I cannot have a glowing circle on my head at the gala. That’s not very human of me.”

Oh. Of course. Gavin shook his head to clear it. Of course Nines was taking out his LED, what else would he be doing?

A pang of something hit Gavin’s heart, but what? Sadness? He wasn’t sad. Pity? Why would he pity his perfect partner?

It was more a feeling of dejectedness. That soft oh when you realize your friends had moved on and weren’t really your friends anymore. The disappointment that came with change you knew was coming but tried to ignore.

Imagining Nines without his LED was weird. Nines wasn’t just an android, but proud to be one, and wore his LED like a crown. It felt wrong to take it out under these circumstances.

“It doesn’t have to be permanent. After the investigation I can replace it easily.”

It took Gavin a moment to realize that Nines hadn’t read his mind, but was instead talking more to himself than anyone else. The fact that Nines, strong, immovable Nines, had to reassure himself made Gavin hate the world a little more.

Nines put the screwdriver up against his head once again, angling it so the metal disk would pop out without much effort. And kept it there. Unmoving.

Nines had never hesitated before.

Then he did something Gavin didn’t expect. Nines took it away from his head and gave the screwdriver a long look, before flipping it around and presenting the handle to Gavin.

“Will you?”

What? Wait, what? Why him?

Nines eyes were unreadable, and for Nines that meant that he was worried but trying to hide it.

Gavin cleared his throat. “Fine. But be nice or I might decide to go a little further than your LED.”

He hefted the screwdriver in his hand before turning to Nines, readying himself. He stopped, rolling his eyes.

“Dude, you're like half a foot taller than me, this isn’t working.”

Nines looked down at Reed, confused, before a smug smile softened his stressed face. “I forgot about your… vertical challenges, Detective. Forgive me.”

“I’m actually above average, asshole.”

“Not in the U.S. you aren’t.”

Gavin scowled as his partner refused to move. Hopping up on the counter, trying to avoid various wet spots, Gavin kneeled so he was finally taller than Nines.

He couldn’t possibly damage Nines’ right? The guy was made of titanium or something.

Bracing one hand on Nines’ head and the screwdriver against the rim of the metal circle, Gavin watched it cycle from blue to yellow.

“You ready?”

It circled faster, a rapid yellow, yellow, yellow. Nines’ eyes were blank in the mirror. “Yes.”

“Are you sure?”

Red, red, red.

“Do it, Reed!” Nines snarled.

Pop!

It was easier than Gavin thought it would be, dropping into his hand with barely a press of the tool. The synthetic skin froze for a moment before closing over the white plastic gap.

There was no trace the LED had ever been there at all.

Blinking, Gavin looked at the dull metal ring in his hand, so different from the brightly blinking light he was used to. It looked… dead.

Nines’ eyes hadn’t moved from the mirror, as if he were afraid to move. Gavin held out the now lifeless LED.

“Done.”

Nines stared at it. Gavin could tell it wasn’t the LED he was focusing on but his own thoughts. What those thoughts were, however, was a mystery.

“You keep it. I don’t want it to be… a distraction for me.”

Wrestling with himself and the responsibility, Gavin struggled to reply.

“Uh… sure. Yeah. Probably better for me to hold on to it, if anyone found you with it they’d be suspicious, right?”

Nines took a deep breath, something that was only for show as androids didn’t need to breathe. Gavin blinked at how much he had changed over the past few weeks. The past few months, even.

“Exactly.”

Chapter Text

IDENTITY

May 18th, 2039

Gavin needed a drink. They had just finished going over everything for the final time, and Nines sat on Gavin’s couch, staring into oblivion.

Running his finger around the edge of the glass he pulled from the cupboard, Gavin tried to think of something to break the stifling silence.

A reassurance, another tip. But neither of them knew what they were heading into, or what might happen in two days time. Instead of profound advice, Gavin realized something much more pressing.

“Fuck, Nines. You need a name.”

His partner looked up but didn’t respond for a moment. “…What?”

“You… you don’t have a name. You can’t go by Nines.”

Nines blinked. “Oh. I suppose you’re right. Well, what do you propose?”

“What? Me? It’s your name.”

“You were the one who gave me my nickname, I thought maybe you had other ideas.”

Gavin set down the whiskey he’d been pouring, raising the glass to his lips. He shook his head. “I’ve got nothing.”

“Hmm.” Nines cocked his head, but said nothing else.

Rolling his eyes, Gavin leaned against the counter. He needed to think.

“I like the N part of your name. Nines, I mean. I feel like it fits you.”

“Alright, so a name that starts with N then.”

“Are you really not going to help me brainstorm your own name?”

“I’m the one who has to act out the part. The least you could do is write it.”

“What does that even mean? I have been writing it,” Gavin grumbled into his drink. “RK. N. RK. N?”

“What are you doing?”

“Shut up, it’s a creative process.”

Nines gave a little smile that was mostly in the eyes, one that Gavin had learned to look forward to in his otherwise stoic partner. That was a win, Nines had been so stressed lately.

“I don’t love the R… maybe as a last name?”

“I forgot I needed one of those as well. Why do you people have so many names?”

“Why do you have so many numbers? N and K.

Gavin’s eyebrows popped up, an idea in his brain. “Nick? It’s kinda got the same vibe as Nines, right?”

“I suppose. Nick. It sounds rather unprofessional.” Nines ran a hand through his hair. “I like Nicholas.”

“Oh, very posh. You’ll fit right in. Nicky?”

Nines recoiled in disgust. “No. Do not call me that.”

“I’m gonna call you Nicky, but only because you love it so much.” Gavin threw down the rest of his drink. “So Nicholas, huh?” He smiled. “Nice to meet you, Nick.”

Nines face soured, still trying to get used to the name. “I prefer Nines.”

“Sorry, Nicky boy. This is what you get.”

Chapter Text

SUITS

May 20th, 2039

“Stop messing with your tie.”

“I’m not messing with it.”

“Yeah, you are. Stop, you’ll wrinkle it.”

Nines refused to stop playing with the end of his tie. Maybe it was a nervous tick he had picked up, or maybe he was playing up the human act already. Either way it was annoying the fuck out of Gavin.

The truck bounced along on the uneven pavement. Though there were no windows, Gavin knew it was pitch black outside, the party starting late.

Nines kept fiddling. With his tie, with his buttons, with his hair. It reminded Gavin of Connor’s nervous coin tricks, silver metal flashing over the android’s fingers. Thinking of metal, Gavin’s own fingers went to the cord around his throat, making sure it was still there.

When Nines had given Gavin his LED, he hadn’t known what to do with it. It obviously meant a lot to Nines, and Gavin wasn’t going to be the one to lose it. So around his neck it went, secured by a thin black cord that he hadn’t shown anyone.

Nines pulled out his faux invitation, posing as a business associate for one of the many energy companies in attendance.

Nicholas Reynolds was embossed at the top in thick, swirling letters. Gavin remembered the hassle of Fowler printing it.

~

“I can’t believe you two are some of my best detectives, and yet you don’t realize that you need to give Nines a name ?”

“I am going by Nicholas. We told you that.”

“I don’t know if you noticed RK, but you need a last name too.”

Gavin scowled, ready to be over with the whole situation. “We were thinking something with an R but the rest slipped our minds, alright? We’ve got other stuff to worry about.”

“Something with an R? We’ll just have him use Reed, then. You’ll need a new name anyways, Gavin.”

Nines stuttered at the captain’s suggestion before stammering out a no.

Gavin felt the blood drain out of his face. Why was it so weird to imagine Nines with his last name? It was an undercover mission after all, they were using fake names. Reed wasn’t exactly an uncommon name, so what did it matter?

Before Gavin could respond, Fowler plowed on ahead. “Fine then, we’ll figure something else out.”

~

That was how Gavin got stuck with a matching invitation, his reading David Hendrickson instead. The embossed font was smooth under his thumb. Why they hadn’t just sent out emails was beyond him. No one used paper invitations anymore. Fucking rich people.

He grumbled as the black van hit another pothole. The back shook, and Gavin grabbed onto one of the safety hand holds. Could the route be any rougher?

Nines glanced at his new watch, which was as pristine as the rest of his suit.

“10:23. We’ll be fashionably late.”

Gavin didn’t respond. When searching through his own closet for something to wear, Gavin had prayed that his one suit still fit. He hadn’t worn it since highschool, but thankfully black never went out of style. To his surprise it had fit perfectly, his training with Nines paying off.

Glancing back to his partner, Gavin let himself wonder where Nines had gotten the outfit. Had the android gone suit shopping alone?

~

Tugging at his lapels, Nines turned away from the mirror, toward Gavin.

“How do I look?”

Gavin couldn’t decide whether the question was genuine or if Nines was messing with him. Maybe both, but Nines nervously blank expression spoke volumes.

When Nines had walked out of the dressing room, Gavin had to take a moment.

He had to admit, Nines cleaned up nicely. More than nice, actually. The well-cut suit was entirely black, shirt and tie included, except for the rims of the cufflinks, which were an electric, icy blue. The small accent brought out Nines’ eyes, striking against the black. They would have matched his LED, too. Gavin almost frowned at the thought.

How did he look?

He looked great. Fantastic.

But he didn’t look like Nines.

With his hair softened across his forehead in bouncy waves, LED missing, and a month’s worth of body language training, he looked human.

And Gavin hated it.

“You look great. Cinderella ready for the ball.” He couldn’t help the bite in his voice, and hoped Nines wouldn’t analyze too far into the teasing.

All Gavin’s partner offered in response was a weak smile.

“Come on. We’ve got a van to catch and a party to get to.” Gavin gestured to the door.

“And a drug lord to incriminate.”

“Well, duh. I didn’t sign up to be your fairy godmother for the sparkles.”

~

The day before, Fowler had called the pair into his office for a debrief. The whole thing was kept on the down low, so Nines and Gavin had been in the dark except for the most basic details

~

“I told you Reed, you aren’t going to have any contact whatsoever with Mack. You aren’t even going to see him. We can’t risk you two being detected.”

“It just seems pointless to me. Like why not go and get him now?”

Fowler sighed. “That is what the FBI is thinking, too. But it won't work. Since when has confrontation without evidence ever worked? We are going in to get information so we can catch this guy down the road.”

Eyes hardening, Fowler glared at Gavin. “Listen to me, Reed. Do not confront Perkins. I swear, if I hear that you blew this mission to get back at the guy-”

“How am I supposed to get to Mack’s private servers? Do we even know a way to access his computer?” Nines asked, drawing the conversation away from Reed.

“The gala is hosted at the hotel MGM Grand. Mack is staying there as one of the guests, making it easy to keep all of his pieces under control from one spot. Your job is to get into his rooms and to his computer, then back out again. It should be relatively simple.”

“What about cameras? Won’t there be security that will be suspicious as to why some random guy is walking into a high profile suite?” Gavin asked.

“Once I get in I should be able to wipe the camera feed from the computer. Knowing Mack, he’s attached himself to the hotel security system so he can cover up his business as he pleases. The real problem is getting into the room. I know that the drug king of Detroit isn’t going to be happy with simple hotel key security.” Nines paced Fowler’s office, laying his thoughts out like playing cards, always holding a few to his chest.

“You’re right. Mack had the doors retrofitted to withstand an army, with special key cards made. Only his most trusted team members have access to his rooms.”

“So we get one of the keys. Easy peasy.” Gavin shrugged.

“Hmm. That’s where Nines being human comes in. We don’t want to approach anyone on Mack’s personal security team, so we have to go through someone more… personal.”

Gavin didn’t like the way Fowler said it. A twist was coming, one they should have prepared for.

Fowler slid a photograph across his desk. It pictured a beautiful dark haired woman with a knowing smile. “This is Carmen Vargas. Officially, she is the head of Mack’s marketing strategy division for his various coverup businesses. In truth, she is one of the key players in his drug operation. And someone more.”

Spreading his hands, Fowler went on. “Rumor is, Vargas and Mack are a thing, so logically she would have a key to his rooms for any… personal business they might conduct. Nines, you are to get the key off of her, or use her to get into the room.”

“How so? If she really is a big player in the drug game, she would know if she were being conned. I can’t exactly go up and ask for it.”

Fowler blinked, waiting for Nines to catch up. Gavin was a moment behind too. What was Fowler playing at?

“Use her to get into the room. I’m sure your training and android expertise can help in this department.”

Gavin realized what Fowler was saying. “Wait. You want Nines to… You want him to… Nines?!?”

“I don’t follow.” Nines looked at his partner for help.

“Jesus christ. As much as he looks the part, he’s not fucking James Bond.” Gavin tried to reason with his boss, but Fowler just folded his arms.

“… Are you implying… that I am to seduce this woman?” Finally catching the drift, Nines eyes went wide. He turned to Gavin. “We did not cover flirting in my training.”

Gavin couldn’t help but give a low laugh. He refused to look at Nines, rubbing his face with his hand.

“This is going to be a fucking disaster.” Reed tried not to think about Nines. About Nines flirting. About Nines flirting with that gorgeous woman. Fuck, why couldn’t he fucking ignore it?

Gavin changed the subject. “How are we getting in? They’re bound to have anti-android security.”

“I already had one of our guys bribe one of the hotel security guards. He’ll get RK in without any trouble. No one will be looking for an android, why would one want to be at the party anyway? There is almost no chance he will be noticed.”

Nines hadn’t said a word. He looked rather traumatized, actually.

“You excited, Romeo? It’s not every day you get to help save the world by flirting with a beautiful lady.” Gavin scoffed. “It’d be a lot more exciting if it was.”

His partner didn’t reply, eyes glued to the carpet.

~

After what seemed like hours, the car stopped, pulling Gavin out of his thoughts.

He looked to Nines, whose eyes were shadowed and dark.

“We’re here.”

Chapter Text

IMPROVISATION

May 20th, 2039 10:49 PM

Nines had to admit, if he had to do a major drug deal anywhere, it’d be MGM Grand. Huge arching ceilings and with at least nines crystal chandeliers that twinkled in the light were complemented by the glittering crowd of Detroit’s finest.

A live twenty-piece orchestra played at one end of the hall, music wafting over the muttered conversations. At the opposite end squated the biggest bar Nines had ever seen, framed by a towering structure of what he guessed were expensive alcohols of all kinds. Doorways open to grand balconies flanked either side of the bar, displaying all of downtown detroit.

How he would find Carmen in this crowd was beyond him. How he would convince her to show him Mack’s room was even further out of reach.

Everything had gone according to plan so far. Nines had handed his fake invitation and ID to a thickset security guard outside who had waved him in without a second thought. Heading to the third temperature scanner on the right, as per Fowler’s instructions, the pimply man sitting behind the computer screen had scanned him, given him a weird look, and allowed him to pass. Whatever Fowler had done to bribe the man had worked.

Nines had parted with Gavin as soon as they left the truck to join the crowd of people still streaming into the building, not wanting to be seen together. He trusted that Gavin’s fake invitation had worked as well, and that his partner was now wandering the ballroom floor.

Nines set about scanning every face he came across, trying to calm his rising stress levels. Nothing helped, but he pushed on, hoping he didn’t look too conspicuous.

Remembering Gavin’s words about body language, Nines observed how the other guests were walking and standing. Relaxing his posture and swinging his arms more, he felt like a buffoon.

Most people were holding champagne flutes that were being passed around by waiters. Perhaps that would make him look more normal. Or maybe he should strike up conversation with someone instead of just standing in the middle of the floor like he didn’t belong. Which he didn’t.

Fuck, there wasn’t a waiter close, and he wasn’t about to go chase one down. To the bar then. Setting off, more confident now that he had a destination, Nines didn’t even think of what he was going to do once he got there.

It wasn’t until he was too close to turn around that he realized he had never ordered a drink in his life, let alone drank one. When the bartender walked over, Nines froze.

“Ah…” A quick google search and- “A whiskey on the rocks please.”

It was something Gavin had ordered many-a-time whenever they went to the local bar to work.

Nines prayed it was an open bar, he had no money on him. Accepting the drink, he gave the bartender a smile and a thank you, making sure he didn’t look too awkward in the mirror over the man’s shoulder.

Drink in hand, Nines let himself relax for half a minute. Nothing had gone wrong, no one had come after him accusing him of being an android, and as far as anyone was concerned, he had just as much a right to be there as they did.

Bringing the glass to his lips but not drinking any, Nines saw movement out of the corner of his eye. Gavin had situated himself in Nines’ peripheral vision, leaning up against an ornate column. When Nines turned to look at his partner, Reed dissuaded him with a jerk of his head, silently communicating that they were not supposed to be seen together.

Nines rolled his eyes. No one had seen them come in, and it wasn’t illegal to look at people. Not glancing over again, Nines turned and put his back to the bar, leaning against it nonchalantly.

Compared to the rest of the guests, Gavin’s suit was cheap looking and old. Nines thought he looked great. Seeing Reed in something other than his dusty leather jacket was a nice change of pace, and he looked quite dashing with his hair combed back.

Nines put his partner out of his mind. Now, to find Ms. Vargas…

“Not one for champagne?”

A low voice caught Nines’ ear. Sitting down the bar from him, a beautiful woman in a skintight emerald green dress lounged on one of the bar stools, drink in hand.

He couldn’t believe his luck. Carmen Vargas.

Concealing his surprise and delight, Nines replied with a cool smile. “I usually enjoy something a little stronger.”

Nines hoped he had come across as suave and inviting, mysterious even, but in his own ears he sounded dull.

Carmen didn’t think so. She gave a closed-lip smile, humor twinkling in her eyes, as she took a sip of her martini. Nines mirrored her with a slow drink of whiskey, making sure not to actually consume any.

“As do I.” She slid off her stool and walked over. Nines made a show of looking her over, politely of course, but interested. A beautiful woman by all standards, Carmen’s caramel skin was flawless, long lashes dusted with a shimmer that matched her dress.

Nines scrambled for what to say next, but thankfully Carmen spoke first. “Your first time?”

At first Nines thought she meant first time drinking, and a spike of panic went through him. He calmed when he realized she was asking if he had ever been to the gala before. “Yes, it is. How did you know?”

He tried to speak slowly and with lots of eye contact, something he had observed from many flirtatious characters on the various serial dramas Gavin insisted on watching.

“I would have remembered you.”

Oh. That was a good sign.

Nines allowed himself a pleased smile, looking at the floor as if embarrassed yet flattered.

“And I would have had a hard time forgetting you,” he replied.

She hummed, unimpressed. She had heard this all before. “Beautiful, isn’t it?” She gestured around the room.

“Gorgeous.”

“Have you ever seen anything like it?”

“No.”

“I have.” Nines took his eyes away from the chandelier they had both been gazing at, surprised by her answer. “You get used to beautiful things when they are all you see.”

Nines knew he was supposed to reply with something like ‘nothing could be as beautiful as you,’ or something flirtatious of the sort, but instead he spoke his thoughts. “You must have witnessed some amazing things, then.”

That earned a genuine smile, Carmen remembering her experiences and pleased to have a man in awe of her accomplishments.

“What do you do to have such a blasé reaction to one of the most extraordinary venues I have ever been to?”

Carmen eyed him suspiciously, but Nines kept his face neutrally curious. “My boss is a very important man, and I am very important to him.”

She didn’t bother elaborating.

Nines huffed. “At a place like this, everyone is important.”

“You’d be surprised,” Carmen said mysteriously.

“I’ll take your word for it.” Nines played at remembering something. “How rude am I, I never asked your name!”

“Carmen. You can call me Carmen.” No last name, Nines noted.

“Pleasure to meet you, Carmen. I am Ni-… Nicholas.” Nines tripped over the words, almost forgetting his ‘name.’

“The pleasure is mine.”

Nines took advantage of Carmen looking the other way to glance back at Gavin, who raised his eyebrows to ask how it was going. Nines gave a tiny shrug before turning back to Carmen.

He needed to get more information out of her, and his flirting was making no progress at all.

“Nicholas. How polite. Asking a girl questions and making her feel wanted. Yes, I think I would like you.” Carmen’s tone was humorous but reserved, as if she was in on some joke Nines didn’t understand.

“Why thank you- Wait. Would like me?”

She giggled. “Yes. You’re quite cute you know. A real catch. And I really think I would like you if either of us were attracted to the opposite sex. But alas, you aren’t exactly my type.”

Oh. Nines blinked. Oh.

“You like… of course. I’m sorry to- wait a second. You said if either of us were attracted to the opposite sex.” Nines backpedaled, eyebrows furrowing. “I’m not…”

This time Carmen blinked, surprised. “What, gay? Sorry. I didn’t mean to assume, but I could have sworn…”

To be honest, Nines had never given it much thought. There was no one he had ever been interested in, his only close friend was Gavin. Even Connor, who should’ve been like a brother to him, was growing distant due to both of their busy schedules.

“I only thought I knew the look.” Carmen shrugged. “I mean, you seemed more interested in him than you did me.”

She gave a subtle nod, and Nines looked over in the direction she was indicating. Which was right at… Gavin?

“Him? No… I’m not…”

Nines’ mind worked furiously. Could she know that he and Gavin were working together? Did Mack already know they were here?

Carmen laughed at Nines’ flustered reaction. “There it is! There is no need to be ashamed. I have the same problem.” She grew contemplative. “In love with someone we can’t have.”

Pausing, Nines went over her words again. So, she didn’t think that he and Gavin were together, she thought they were… wait. No… what?

In love with someone you can’t have

“I’m not… I don’t understand.”

Carmen looked at him as if he were a child grappling with an adult concept. Which, he supposed he was.

“I saw it right away. The way you look at him.”

Nines frantically thought of a way to turn the conversation around. This was not working out. Not only was it going to be impossible to seduce her, but she thought that he was… that he and Gavin…

Logic. He had to think about this logically. And the most logical, human thing to do would be to… go along with it.

Nines ran a hand through his hair, allowing an embarrassed smile to spread across his face.

“So who is he?” Carmen was more excited now, dropping the disinterested act as she dove into Nines’ love life. “An old flame? A new flame?”

“I… we’ve never really spoken.” That would be easiest, to pretend they didn’t know each other. “We work together. Well, together as in the same building.” Except for the first statement, Nines tried to tell the truth to make himself more convincing.

“Oh, that’s adorable.” Nines felt himself flush, and turned away so she wouldn’t see the blue tint to his cheeks. “Like a middle school crush.”

Blush under control, Nines faced Carmen once more.

“You should go talk to him!”

“No!” The reply fell out of his mouth unprompted. He would not talk to Gavin. Not right now.

Carmen giggled at his reluctance. “Come on! A guy like you?”

Nines cocked his head, not following. “How do you mean?”

“Have you looked at yourself, Nick? You’re a steal! Anyone, and I mean anyone, in their right mind would be all over you.”

Nines was taken aback by the nickname, reminding him of Gavin, whom he quickly pushed out of his mind. He registered the compliment a moment too late.

“…Wha-? I don’t know.”

His stress levels were rising. Why? The more he talked to Carmen the more she trusted him, and that was a good thing right? Why was he so flustered? This was completely unlike him.

This was going nowhere. Talking about Gavin… Why were they talking about Gavin? Nines wasn’t even supposed to mention Gavin.

“Oh, let’s talk about something else, please,” he pleaded, no longer sure if he were acting or not. “You said you had the same problem? Who are you in love with?”

Carmen’s face fell. “That story is much less fun.” She contemplated a minute, and right when she opened her mouth to speak, someone called across the room to her.

Blinking back into focus, she stared at the man who had called her, a severe, rough looking figure whom Nines would have been watchful of under normal circumstances.

“Hold on a second, I have to take care of something. Hey, stay here, I’m not done with you yet.” She pointed at Nines, and he raised his hands innocently.

As soon as she walked away, Nines took a deep breath. He felt his internal fans working hard despite the coolness of the ballroom.

Shit. This wasn’t the plan. He had to call Gavin.

In love with someone you can’t have…

He wasn’t in love with Gavin. That was absurd. They were partners, and Gavin Reed was his best friend.

But he wasn’t… no.

He needed to call Gavin.

Reed’s cell phone rang twice before he managed to pull it out of his pocket, Nines watching his every move out of the corner of his eye.

“What the hell? Why are you calling me? You know the deal, we can’t communicate.” Nines could hear Gavin’s exasperation through the phone. “You seem to be hitting it off great with Vargas over there, she’s hanging on to your every word, Romeo.”

Romeo. Why was Reed always so distracting? Nines needed to focus.

“We have a problem.”

Chapter Text

MAGIC TRICKS

May 20th, 2039 11:27 PM

“We have a problem.”

Yeah, no shit.

Gavin shoved his phone back into his pocket. He was itching for a smoke, which was a bad sign. It told him just how fried his nerves were.

Going over what Nines had said, he walked around the edge of the party, staying beneath the thick stone columns that lined the room.

Who could’ve known that Carmen Vargas was a lesbian? It almost made Gavin laugh. How perfect.

“We need to find another way to get a keycard. I’ll figure it out, so be ready.”

Nines had sounded agitated over the phone, more so than Gavin expected. Which was saying something, given the circumstances.

Gavin paced around the room, trying to not look conspicuous. He grabbed a champagne flute from one of the waiters floating about the party, downing it in one gulp.

Fucking fancy champagne, one bottle was probably three hundred dollars. Not that that made any difference, looking around at the guests. They drank the same or better with dinner every night.

A familiar voice made Reed turn.

Shit.

It was Perkins. The FBI lapdog looked overly polished in his suit, trying too hard to fit in with the easy glamour of the other guests.

Gavin wasn’t trying hard enough, but he couldn’t find the energy to care. Or so he told himself.

Perkins was in the middle of a conversation with a pudgy woman whose throat was being strangled by heavy diamonds. If he had to bet, Gavin would guess the rest of his team was close by, worming their way into Mack’s private meeting on one of the upper floors.

The agent turned Gavin’s way, distracted by something. Ducking behind a column, Gavin felt his heart beating frantically under his shirt. He doubted Perkins had seen him, but he didn’t want to take a chance.

His phone buzzed.

Thank God.

He’d worry about Perkins later.

Now at least they were getting somewhere. Gavin had almost had a heart palpitation when he first learned how off track the plan was going. Eh, it was a crappy plan in the first place, and he was better at improvising.

Gavin peeked at the text Nines had sent.

Head of security

Fuck. He had to get a keycard off of a drug lord’s chief of security? That was probably a death sentence.

How was he supposed to find the guy anyway? It wasn’t like Gavin had a fancy facial scanner in his head like Nines did.

Oh.

Nines had sent a picture. Of course.

Even in the midst of a failing plan in enemy territory, Nines thought of everything. Kind of a comforting thought, actually.

Ugh. The guy wasn’t much of a looker.

The man in the photo had a striking resemblance to a bald rat, and was smaller than Gavin had expected. He’d anticipated a mountain of muscle, or at least a guy with some cool scars, but Ratface looked more like an evil accountant than anything.

Alright, where would this guy keep a key card?

On him at all times, duh.

Close to his chest instead of the lower pockets, so he could make sure it was safe.

Gavin prayed it wasn’t attached to a pocket clip or something, or he’d be screwed.

Patting his pockets, Gavin pulled out his wallet. Perfect, an old Starbucks gift card that looked like it was from 15 years ago. About the same shape and weight of a hotel keycard, right?

Gavin scanned the crowd.

Gotcha.

There was something Gavin would never, ever tell anyone. Well, there were a lot of things, but this was at the top of the list.

Back when his mom died, and his step-mom had thrown him out, Gavin was obsessed with magic. Like, stupidly obsessed. Like, he-got-really-really-good obsessed?

Alright, with card and coin tricks he was shit. But slight of hand? Was his bitch.

Maybe it wasn’t the greatest sign that he was naturally gifted at pick-pocketing, but hey. It was cool.

Gavin palmed the Starbucks card in his hand before wandering over to Ratface, who was standing up front near the orchestra. Making his gait gradually sloppier as he walked over, soon Gavin was as drunk as could be, a party goer who’d had a bit too much champagne.

“Great music, is’n it?” He drawled, Ratface not even flinching. “Whoops, sorry there man! Hehe, there we go. Right as rain now.”

Gavin pretended to brush out the nonexistent wrinkles from the man’s coat, perfectly apologetic after ‘running into’ him.

Stepping away for fear of the growing murderous look in Ratface’s eyes, Gavin stumbled away. He looked back for a moment to see the head of security reach a hand into his inner pocket, confirm that the card was still there, and relax, resuming the same exact position as before.

The edge of the card dug into Gavin’s palm, but he only chanced a look when he was far out of sight.

The black card was embossed in simple white font, made to look like any other hotel card. Gavin let a smile creep onto his face as he slapped the card against his palm.

Mission accomplished.

Chapter Text

CONFIDENCE

May 20th, 2039 11:53 PM

Nines was tired. And he was never tired.

It couldn’t have been long since he called Gavin, but it felt like hours.

Carmen had returned with a vengeance, ready to grill Nines about his ‘crush.’ He’d managed to steer away the conversation a few times until she confided in him that the only person her boss trusted was his head of security, but after that all hope of a normal topic was lost.

It wasn’t that Nines didn’t like talking about his partner. In fact, it was nice to discuss Gavin with another person, to better understand him.

It was the way they were talking about him. Carmen, all cool and suave at the beginning, was now giving him tips and fangirling over a bunch of lies Nines had thrown together.

That was a problem too. Most of them weren’t lies… only twisted truths, and it was making Nines very confused and flustered.

Nines was starting to think that seducing this woman would’ve been easier than analyzing his relationship with the detective.

“I cannot believe you haven’t come forward with this. I’m sure he would like you, too.” Carmen was growing steadily drunker, and hadn’t noticed that Nines’ drink wasn’t diminishing as her’s were.

“How are you so sure?” Nines leaned in. “And why would he like me?”

He almost added He doesn’t even know me, but couldn’t bring himself to outright lie. Detective Reed knew him better than anyone.

“We’ve been over this! You’re basically irresistible.” She said it with such drunken confidence that Nines blushed. Carmen was speaking louder than she should have been, and he shushed her half-heartedly.

She was very complimentary, her words managing to poke through Nines emotional shell. It was rather nice. If only it wasn’t so awkward.

Carmen gasped. “He’s back!”

Nines resisted the urge to spin around.

“He’s been looking at you this whole time, though he’s trying to hide it. I figure these things out, you know.”

“Yes, of course.”

Nines ignored his rising stress levels at the thought of Gavin returning. They should meet up. If Gavin had succeeded… It was time for the next phase of the plan. Now how to get away?

“He left for a while, but now he’s back! And still looking at you! Oh, go talk to him, Nick.” Carmen pouted her full red lips. “You’ll regret it if you don’t.”

Her pout shifted into a knowing grin, sliding her tongue over her lower teeth. It made Nines stomach twist. What was she imagining, exactly?

This could be his perfect exit, and yet Nines stayed where he was. The thought of talking to Gavin now… after everything he divulged to Carmen…

“I can’t. You know I can’t.”

Carmen pursed her lips, dissatisfied with Nines’ response. “Oh, hush. All you need is some liquid courage.”

Oh no.

“Excuse me! Excuse me, sir!” She waved down the bartender. “Two shots for me and my friend here.”

Within a moment the drinks were in front of them.

“No, I shouldn’t-” And why shouldn’t he? He couldn’t say he didn’t drink, that would conflict with what he’d already done. Nines had gotten himself into this mess, and now he was paying for it.

His first drink had melted into a lukewarm mess, the glass sweating with condensation. Drinking is what anyone else would have done. If they were human, that is.

“Come on. Live a little!” Carmen was almost jumping in her seat. “Quick! While your man isn’t looking.”

Well, shit.

Here goes nothing.

Consequences aside, Nines was curious. He picked up the glass before slamming the shot back, wincing as the liquid sparked error messages left and right in his vision.

“Atta boy! Now the other.”

“I thought that was for you-”

Carmen pushed the second drink into his hand. Well, he’d gone this far. He downed the second one too, stifling a cough, and glanced over his shoulder to the column where Gavin had been leaning a moment before.

Already Nines could feel the thirium thinning. There was something in the strong alcohol that was reacting with his systems as well, making everything pucker in and out.

He went back to face Carmen, unable to keep a stupid grin off his face. “This is your fault.”

Carmen laughed.

With that, he spun around and marched off, intent on finding his partner.

Why was the room so warm all of the sudden? Were his sensors malfunctioning? Nines blinked, focusing.

He turned around the column to find Gavin leaning against it, scrolling through his phone. Oh, it was wonderful to see Detective Reed again.

“There you are, I was just about to call you.” Gavin’s face brightened when he saw Nines. “Listen, I got the keycard, and we should make our way up to Mack’s rooms-”

Gavin paused, staring at Nines. How had he not noticed how serene Gavin’s eyes were? Such a nice shade of grey.

“What’s wrong with you? Are you swaying?” Those pretty grey eyes went wide. “Nines, what the fuck did you do.”

Nines had to stifle a giggle. Something was definitely wrong, but he couldn’t remember what it was.

“My name is Nick now, remember? What a silly mistake, Detective.”

“Are you fucking drunk? I thought android's couldn’t get drunk?”

“No… not in the normal way. But the alcohol seems to be doing… uh… funny things to my system.”

Nines wanted to rake his fingers through Gavin’s hair. It was all slicked back, organized. So unlike the detective.

His hand was halfway through the air before he caught himself.

“My god, you’re a fucking lightweight.” Gavin rolled his eyes. “Well, come on then. I guess we’ll hope it wears off by the time we get upstairs. Wouldn’t want you fucking up the most important part of the mission.”

Leading Nines to the elevator, Gavin scanned the room to make sure no one was watching before shoving his partner inside.

Once they were in, Gavin smashed a few buttons that Nines didn’t bother to take note of. He was more focused on the lights. They were very glowy. Hmm. That reminded him of something.

Nines reached up to brush his temple. “Where is my… my light?”

This was terrible. This was a catastrophe. Why wasn’t Gavin more upset?!?

Nines’ stress levels spiked, more error warnings popping up.

“I have it, remember?” Gavin pulled out a string from under his collar. On it hung a dull grey ring. Nines’ LED.

Oh. It was safe.

How fascinating. “It’s not glowy anymore?”

Nines reached out to tug the LED from Gavin’s fingers, pulling it closer to inspect it. Unwittingly pulling Gavin along, too.

They were close now. Nines could feel Gavin’s soft breath on shirt collar. The detective was fidgety, but he couldn’t figure out why. Oh, well. Nines would rather focus on his light.

“It’s not glowy because it’s not in your head, tin can,” Reed said softly. “We’ve gotta wait until we get out of here, then you can put it back.”

“And it will glow again?” This was very important. Nines’ eyes met Gavin’s. The detective had a very reassuring gaze. Neither made a move to back away.

“Yeah, Nines. It’ll glow again.”

The elevator dinged.

Gavin jumped backwards, shoving the cord back down his shirt. Clearing his throat, the detective ran a hand through his hair.

Nines watched as the door opened. Oh, would you look at that.

“We’re here,” Nines said with a smile.

“Time to go to work.”

Chapter Text

DISTRACTION

May 21st, 2039 12:21 AM

The detective peeked out into the hallway, scanning to make sure they were alone.

Why? It’s not like they were forbidden from using the elevator.

Nines felt a slight pounding in the back of his head. It wasn’t painful, androids couldn’t feel pain, but it was irritating.

“Come on.” Gavin pulled him out of the elevator. The detective’s fingers were rough but gentle, a lot like the man himself.

Walking down the hallway, Gavin pulled a keycard out of his pocket. “If I were Mack, I’d stay in a nice room, but not the nicest. Get me? He can’t afford to be too conspicuous.”

“Hmmm. Smart.” Nines was always surprised by how intuitive Reed was. He would make an excellent criminal.

The pounding in Nines’ head was getting harder. His vision and input data felt less floaty now, and more like it was taking swan dives into his head.

The carpeting on the floor was obnoxious, too many swirls of color. Pick a color scheme and stick to it.

“There’s the door.” Gavin brightened with relief when he saw the gilded door at the end of the hall. Engraved into a plaque pasted to the door was ‘The Silver Suite.’

They were still half a hallway away, Nines intent on getting closer so he could read the plaque better (his vision was funny, and he didn’t know why), when two men in suits stepped in front of the door, deep in conversation.

“Shit! It’s Ratface.” Gavin hissed, shoving Nines into a side hallway.

“Ratface? How… classy.”

“He’s Mack’s head of security. The one I took the card from. If he realizes it’s missing… we’re fucked.”

“That would be bad.”

“God, drunk Nines is annoying,” Gavin muttered to himself. “Hey, listen to me.”

Nines had been busy observing the ceiling. Unlike the floor, the ceiling was a nice shade of beige. The uniformity soothed his head. Reluctantly, he tugged his eyes away to look at Gavin.

“I need to cause a distraction in the next ten seconds or we’re fucked. Are you too fucked up to do this?”

“The carpet is forcing me to focus.”

“I don’t know what the fuck that means but I’ll take your word for it. Here-” Gavin shoved the black card into Nines’ hand, curling Nines’ fingers around it so he wouldn’t drop it. “While they’re distracted you have to get into that room and get that intel. Nines…”

The intent in Gavin’s eyes forced Nines to the spot.

“…You have to make this happen. I know the past month has been crazy for you, but this is the moment of truth.”

Nines wanted to tell Gavin he could do this. Of course he could do this, he was the most advanced prototype Cyberlife ever created! But there was a weird disconnect between his mind and his actions.

All he could do was nod.

“Ok…” Gavin paused for a second. “Bye.”

Without another word, he sprinted down the hallway, silent on the carpeted floor.

Turning away from where his partner had disappeared, Nines poked one eye out around the corner to watch the security guards, fingers curling around the keycard in his palm.

They were finishing their conversation, the shorter one reaching into his coat pocket.

Come on, Gavin.

Overhead, an alarm started to blare, a screeching, angry noise that grated on Nines’ sensitive ears.

The fire alarm.

Looking up in confusion, the two men turned away from the door. Instead of pulling out the ‘keycard,’ Ratface whipped a gun out of a concealed holster, the other man doing the same.

They sprinted down the hallway, intent on saving their boss from the nonexistent threat. Nines flattened his back against the wall and waited until they passed the side hallway he was hiding in, heart and head pounding.

God dammit. Why did he accept those drinks? It was making his head swim. At least he was more focused now, and could at least be angry with himself. Coherent thought was a good thing.

Standing and straightening his jacket, Nines waltzed out in the main hallway, putting on a confidence that said ‘I know what I’m doing, don’t fuck with me.’ At least, that’s what he hoped it looked like.

Making his way to the door, Nines swiped the card at the reader.

It didn’t work.

He tried again.

Still no luck.

Frowning, Nines pulled back the skin on his hand, revealing the white plastic underneath, and interfaced with the lock. Maybe he could hack it?

He winced at a shock, surprised more than hurt.

Android proof.

But…

There was a slit on the top of the black rectangular locking mechanism, like the slot on a piggy bank but longer.

Inserting the card, Nines waiting for something to happen. Nothing did. The card had stopped half an inch short, the black plastic refusing to go down any further.

Why would Mack have a key card that didn’t fit? As Nines readjusted his grip to pull out the card, he felt it give slightly to the right.

Huh. Carefully, Nines rotated the card clockwise, the whole lock going with it. Ah, there it goes. After a soft click, the resistance at the bottom (now the left side) of the card gave way, letting Nines insert in the rest of the way in.

A small chime, and… beautiful. He was in.

When Nines stepped into the room, he thought his mind was playing tricks on him, the alcohol messing with his sensors. But no, the whole room was patterned in a kaleidoscope of colors, ugly, complicated patterns running up and down every surface.

It looked like Mack was some sort of weird, futuristic hippie. Gross.

Wrinkling his lip, Nines stepped through the threshold, trying not to trip due to his eyes bugging in and out.

If androids could feel sick, he definitely would have, the combination of drink and a terrible color scheme making him groan. At least the effects of the alcohol seemed to be wearing off.

“I’ll have to go back and apologize to the carpet,” Nines mumbled to himself.

If he were Mack’s computer, where would he be?

Of course it was in his bedroom, the most gaudy and disgusting of all of the rooms. Nines didn’t even bother turning the desktop on, just pulled back his skin and interfaced directly with the console.

It was a relief to close his eyes and sink into the technological world of ones and zeros. Binary code could be considered his first language. Sifting through the piles of digital documents, Nines found a security program.

So Mack had hacked into the hotel's security feed. Well, it would be his downfall tonight. Nines deleted every trace of Gavin and himself from the video feeds, from the elevator to the hallway to Nines sitting at the bar.

A wave of ease washed over him once it was done. If nothing else, they wouldn’t be caught.

Now for what they came for. Nines twitched as he ran through all the files at rapid speed, downloading what he deemed important.

Here we go…

The information from that night, all laid out beautifully for the taking. Except it was encrypted. Great.

Mack was so goddamn paranoid that he encrypted files on his own computer?

Virtually rolling his eyes, Nines scooped up all of it before pulling away. The fire alarm had stopped, and it was only a matter of time before those security guards came snooping around.

Fuck. He was probably the only person still in the building, what would they think when he came down the elevator?

Glancing around, his eyes latched on the bedroom balcony…

Here goes nothing. I hope I’m not too drunk for this.

Chapter Text

TROUBLE

May 21st 2039, 12:32 AM

Maybe pulling the fire alarm hadn’t been the smartest idea.

The alarms blared overhead, and people started poking out of their rooms, wondering what the commotion was. This curiosity soon turned to panic, and the hallway was soon filled with trampling feet as a whole hotel full of people pushed towards the exit.

Gavin attempted to blend in and flow with the crowd, his thoughts as frantic as the people around him.

Had Nines gotten in? Or was he collapsed on the ground somewhere? What was that idiodic android thinking, getting drunk?

The fire department was sure to be called, and once they realized it was a false alarm he was sure to be in trouble.

Keeping his head down, Gavin made his way towards the stairs. But before he could get there, a door opened in front of him, revealing none other than…
Perkins.

Shit.

Gavin tried to duck, but it was too late. The FBI agent’s eyes latched onto him, going wide.

“Reed?!?”

Fuck.

Perkins forced himself forward, but it was like trying to navigate a rushing river. Soon, Reed was swept away, but Perkins’ bewilderedly angry expression was seared into his brain.

Fowler was going to kill him, if the FBI didn’t get to him first.

The chattering crowds forced Gavin to focus so as not to be caught underfoot. He pushed down his anxious thoughts, but they bubbled to the surface anyway.

Perkins was here after Mack, too. Had he just interfered with FBI business? That could cost Reed his job. He’d have to face the consequences of his actions at some point.

After what felt like hours, the tidal wave of guests in a weird mix of pajamas and ball gowns finally fled out the front door and into the street. The alarms had shut off, and Gavin could hear sirens in the distance.

Time to get out while he still could. Shoving his way through the crowd, not afraid to throw some elbows when necessary, Gavin made his way around the back of the building and down a side alley where Chris had promised to wait for them in the truck.

There it was, nestled next to a dumpster, black sides gleaming in the light from the fire trucks. Chris was sprawled out in the front seat, watching something on his phone, completely oblivious to the world around him.

“Jesus!” Chris jumped when Gavin tugged open the passenger door. “Fuck, Reed. You almost killed me. What the hell happened in there?”

Gavin ignored him. “Is Nines back?”

“What? …No. I thought he’d be with you.”

Gavin went cold.

A wrenching noise made them both yelp as the back of the van was pulled open.

“That was your distraction, Reed? The fucking fire alarm?” Nines scrambled in, and Gavin felt himself relax.

“Hey, it worked, didn’t it?” Gavin paused. “It did work right? You got the stuff?”

“You make it sound like we are the drug dealers. Yes, I got the ‘stuff’.”

“Fantastic.” Gavin meant it to sound sarcastic, but he really was happy to have succeeded.

He took a good look at his partner. “What happened to you?”

Nines straightened his rumpled suit, brushing back his hair. He cocked his head, mocking. “Well, I couldn’t exactly go down the elevator, and the fire team would have been mighty suspicious if I was the only one left in the building. That fact would have made it back to Mack somehow.”

Gavin told himself he was sick of his partner’s complaining, but it was nice to have normal Nines back. A pissed, grumpy, slightly hung over Nines, but still.

Clambering into the back, almost kicking Chris in the face while doing so, Gavin sat across from Nines. “So what did you do? Jump out a window?”

God, that would be funny.

“Yes.”

Wait, what?

“Actually? That was a joke!”

“Very funny,” Nines said dryly. “Yes, I went out the window. The balconies were aligned on every floor, so all I had to do was drop down from one ledge to the next.”

Woah. After so long of playing human, Gavin forgot that Nines was basically a superhero. Never tired, physically perfect for any situation, this being one of them.

“Damn. And that took you… what? Three minutes?”

“Three minutes and twenty-six seconds to be exact.”

“Well, alright then.”

Ugh. Gavin should probably tell him. “Ha, um… I have less good news.”

Nines raised an eyebrow.

“I ran into Perkins.”

“What? Gavin…” Nines dragged a hand across his face.

“You’re mad at me now? You’re the one who put the mission in jeopardy by getting drunk!”

“Wait, Nines can get drunk?”

“Shut up, Chris!” They yelled in unison.

“I did not get drunk, and even if I was… impaired… it was for 15 minutes at most in order to save the integrity of my cover.”

Gavin scoffed. Didn’t get drunk. What was all that weirdness in the elevator then?

He wanted to call Nines out, but stayed quiet.

“Perkins has no reason to think that we had anything to do with what happened. I mean, we could have been guests!”

“Sure. I’m sure Fowler will think the exact same thing when the FBI comes to take our jobs away.” Nines folded his arms, refusing to look at Gavin.

Why was he being so indignant? Nines was always the cool-headed one, but now…

Maybe it was after effects from the alcohol. God, did Nines even remember anything he said, anything he did?

Gavin didn’t want to think about the elevator, about the smell of whiskey on Nines’ breath. How close they had been. He had other things to focus on. But… it did remind him…

“Here.” He tugged the cord out from under his shirt, Nines’ blank LED swinging there. Pulling it over his head, he handed out to Nines, who reached out to take it.

And hesitated? Was that a hesitation? Or had Gavin hesitated in handing it over?

The moment was awkward, but Nines held out a hand and Gavin dropped it into his palm. For the moment Nines hung it around his own neck, probably so he could reattach the LED once they got back to the precinct.

Gavin felt strangely distant from Nines, as if the van had gotten bigger. He hadn’t noticed the reassuring weight of the metal ring until it was gone. Nines had trusted Gavin with an important piece of himself, literally, and by giving it back it felt he had broken that link. Betrayed that trust. Went back on a promise.

But he was only supposed to keep it until tonight, right? Because Nines wanted it back…

Right?

Chapter Text

CONSEQUENCES

May 21st, 2039

Gavin yawned. At 8:12 in the morning, after a huge case, it was going to take more than a cup of coffee to wake him up.

Why the hell did they have to come in on a Saturday anyway?

He trudged up the steps to the front door, Nines waiting for him. “What is this about? We don’t work weekends.”

“Don’t know, tin can. Give me a second to wake up wouldja? Some people need to sleep, you know.”

Nines grumbled in response.

Fuck.

Once they walked through the entry checkpoint, Gavin realized why they were here. Standing in the glass box of Fowler’s office, arms crossed, was Perkins.

Crossing the bullpen quickly, Gavin could hear Perkins yelling as soon as he opened Fowler’s door. The captain himself looked dead with boredom and responsibility, looking up as the pair entered.

“There you are, Reed. Now we can finally get this started.” Fowler pressed a button on his desk to black out the glass windows, giving them some privacy.

“Yes. Maybe Detective Reed can explain the situation.” Perkins' condescending tone always grinded on Gavin’s nerves. He felt Nines bristle behind him, and for once he was happy to have his partner in all of his intimidating android glory.

Nines had somehow found the time to reinsert his LED from last night, the familiar ring now circling a consistent yellow.

“I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re talking about, Agent Perkins.”

“Oh, don’t play games with me!”

“Reed-” The captain tried to interject, his face telling Reed to cool it and take whatever was coming.

“Why the hell were you in an active FBI situation? A very important and sensitive situation, I might add.” Perkins stabbed a finger at Reed. “I’ll have your badge for this, you know I will. There is no way you can weasel your way out of this one, Reed.”

“Actually, it was my idea for them to go in,” Fowler admitted. “We’ve been on this case for too long for you to screw it up, Perkins.”

Woah, was Fowler actually covering for him? That wasn’t something Gavin saw everyday.

“DPD interference with classified FBI cases will not stand, Fowler. Not only did you stick your nose where it didn’t belong, this imbecil you call a detective cost us important information! We came out of a once in a lifetime chance with nothing.”

Beside Gavin, Nines cocked his head. Oh, he was definitely thinking of something.

“You spent three hours with one of the biggest drug dealers in America, and you got nothing. I don’t think your supervisors will be too happy about that, Agent Perkins.” Nines’ mocking tone was turned up to ten.

“Only because-”

“You will not pin your own fallacies on my partner, Agent. And, unlike you, we were entirely successful in our goal.”

“A goal that was completely illegal and out of your jurisdiction!” To Gavin’s delight, a little vein was throbbing in Perkins’ temple, his face growing redder by the second.

“…It is not like the FBI to be so confrontational after the fact, and only sending one man? That doesn’t sound right to me. Agent Perkins, are you even supposed to be here?” Nines’ words were slow, scathing.

That was the last straw for Perkins.

“HE PULLED THE FUCKING FIRE ALARM!”

“And by doing so, he helped secure an entire server full of classified, private information that could change the drug empire of America!” Nines rarely raised his voice, and seeing him do so now was a sight to see.

Fowler looked past to two arguing to catch Gavin’s eye. “You pulled the fire alarm?” He whispered.

Gavin shrugged in reply, having too much fun watching his partner absolutely destroy the FBI agent.

“Agent Perkins, you come into the DPD alone, accusing officers without proof, trying to pin the failure of your mission on another. Do you know why I think you came here? To save your own ass. This could ruin your entire career, couldn’t it? And you wanted to make sure you would bring us down with you.”

Perkins laughed, sounding manic. “Your partner and your boss admitted to their involvement, I could have them out of here by the end of the day.”

“But you won’t. Because you need the information I have.”

“I could get it anyways.”

“Not without screwing yourself. If this failure gets out, do you think you’ll ever get back out in the field? No.” Nines laced his fingers together behind his back.

The android looked pensive. He’d made up his mind and there was no changing it.

“Agent Perkins. I will give you everything I know, no strings attached, if you let this go. Say you got the information yourself, and leave Captain Fowler and Detective Reed alone.”

“Are you really so stupid? Giving up the biggest information cache in drug history for Reed? You android’s must not be as smart as they say you are.”

“Envy doesn’t look good on you, Agent.”

Perkins scoffed. “Put a muzzle on your plastic, Reed. This thing talks too much.”

Gavin almost punched the guy for that, but out of the corner of his eye he saw Nines’ LED circle red. Which meant he was about one second away from shoving Perkins’ eyeballs down his windpipe. Time for the diplomatic route, then.

“That deal sounds pretty good to me, Perkins. I’d take it if I were you.”

He saw the gears working in Perkins’ mind, weighing his own pride against his job.

“Fine. But I have one condition-”

“You aren’t in a position to be making conditions, Perkins.” Nines still looked murderous. Maybe Gavin should reel him in a bit.

“What is it?” Gavin amended.

“You give the information, I’ll leave you alone, if you stay out of this case. No more interfering, no more cases involved directly with Mack. Nothing.”

Gavin protested. “What? We’ve been working on this case for months-”

“Deal,” Nines and Fowler spoke in unison.

“Wait what? Nines… this is all we’ve worked towards. What about Mack?” Gavin turned to his partner.

“There will be other cases, Gavin. Do you really want to risk your career on one man? The FBI will handle it.”

“Oh, like they handled Speed and the gala? Sure.”

But Nines wasn’t listening to him anymore, and was talking to Perkins instead. “We’ll take your deal, but promise the FBI will step off.”

“Fine, I suppose I don’t have a choice. But one step out of line…”

“And you’ll have our badges. Ditto, Agent. It seems we are caught between working together and our mutually assured destruction. I don’t know which I hate more.”

“Same to you, bot-boy.” Perkins glanced at his phone, already acting as if he were too busy for them. “I want that information by tonight, and after that I never want to see any of you again.”

Perkins brushed past them, intent on getting the final word. They let him go.

“Well, that’s one thing we can all agree on, I’ve had enough of Puke-ens ugly mug for a lifetime,” Gavin grumbled. “And what the hell, Nines? We could’ve done so much with that info!”

“Sometimes we have to make sacrifices, Detective. I was only fixing your mistake.”

“Oh, don’t blame this on me.” But Gavin couldn’t help but feel that it was his fault they had lost a chance at the biggest score of his career.

“Would you two quit blabbering? Go home, it’s a Saturday.” Gavin had forgotten about Fowler.

“Oh hoh hoh. You’re the one who got us into this mess, Fowler. This wasn’t even a real case, so I’ll have none of it from you.”

“I’m still your boss, Reed. I can still fire you.”

Gavin had to resist the urge to flip him off as he and Nines exited the office. “Not on a Saturday you can’t!”

Chapter Text

WHITE LIES

May 24th, 2039

It had been warm.

Nines kept running over the memory over and over in his mind.

His LED. It had been warm when Gavin had given it back to him that night. From being pressed up against his chest, his human chest. The metal had managed to leech some of that warmth away, storing it just long enough for Nines to copy it to memory.

Nines was pulled out of his thoughts when his partner switched off the car engine. They’d stopped and he hadn’t noticed.

“Why have we stopped? Aren’t we supposed to be heading back to the precinct? Is something wrong?”

“Nah, tin can. Nothing’s wrong. I just… had a question.”

“Oh. Well, in that case, ask away.”

Gavin fiddled with the zipper on his jacket, uncertain. Sometimes Nines wished he could read Gavin’s racing thoughts, but then again the mystery of them was satisfying.

“I mean… what was it like? Playing human?”

“You are wondering if your training was successful.”

“No.” Reed rolled his eyes. “I want to know how it felt for you. What did you talk about with Vargas?”

That was not a question Nines was ever going to answer. He scrambled for something else to say.

“It felt… more normal than I thought it would. I do not believe that there are so many things that are different about humans and android’s, besides what we are made of.”

“Hmmm. And getting drunk?”

“I was not drunk-”

“You were too. How someone can get drunk in less than a minute, I don’t know. Maybe it’s an android thing.”

“The effect on my system was relatively instantaneous, but thankfully it was cycled through before too much damage was done.”

“Yeah, that bit was weird. You were fine after less than half an hour.”

“I wouldn’t say fine. I now understand the human term ‘hangover’ quite well.”

Gavin laughed at that. “I bet you do! What was it like though, being drunk? Anything like you thought it would be?”

“I don’t know, I never thought about it before.”

Gavin opened his mouth to ask another question, but paused before he did so.

“What… do you remember about being drunk? Like, anything specific?”

Nines fought not to show any emotion on his face, which was becoming harder and harder the more human he tried to be. Of course Gavin would bring this up. The elevator. Nines had been running through that catastrophe for the past four days.

“I remember leaving Carmen to come see you…”

What was the easiest way out of this? Nines did not want to bring any awkwardness into their friendship, especially because everything had been going so well lately. It was strange how fragile their relationship could be at times.

“…And then the obnoxious carpet patterns outside of Mack’s door. For some reason they are caught in my memory.”

“You don’t remember anything in between?”

Nines couldn’t tell if Gavin looked relieved or disappointed. Perhaps both? If that was even possible.

The lie came easily. Too easily. Before, he would have trouble convincing his partner of honesty, but after fabricating a whole life story to Carmen, lying to Reed was simple.

“No. It is blank.” Nines twisted his face in false confusion. “My memory servers must not have been active, something in the alcohol must have muddled them. Did I miss anything important?”

Gavin blinked, and was a moment too late to respond. “No. Not at all. Uh, just the elevator ride up.”

The air between them in the car was tense, but after debating something in his mind Gavin seemed to relax.

The tension that had been growing between them softened, then disappeared. Nines’ words had reassured the detective.

Gavin restarted the car, and they headed on their way back to the precinct. His partner was satisfied, but Nines had a lingering sense of regret.

Because it had been a lie. He remembered everything in perfect clarity as he always did.

How close they had been in the elevator.

How warm his partner had been when Nines pulled him in.

How easily intrusive thoughts had wormed their way to the front of his mind.

How Gavin’s grey eyes had shattered into a multitude of colors under the light of the chandeliers.

How soft and gruff Gavin’s voice had been, answering all of Nines’ questions.

How Nines really rather wished he had forgotten, but couldn’t for the life of him, and how he had just lied to his partner for the first time since admitting to deviancy.

How a little white lie wasn’t little at all.

Chapter Text

SUSPECT

May 25th, 2039

There had been a debate going on all day. Perkins had said not to get involved with the case any more, and was breathing down their necks. But it technically wasn’t the Mack case.

It was still well within their jurisdiction to bust a drug drop when one was discovered as long as it had no direct ties to Mack. This one was a routine drop off, sniffed out by a few uniformed officers that had gotten lucky. Perkins had fought the DPD for case rights, but gave up once it became obvious he was getting nowhere.

Which was how Carmen Vargas came to be sitting in the interrogation room, handcuffed to the table.

Nines pinched his nose. Why she had been at the drug drop, he had no idea, but she was the only one they managed to catch and was their best lead to tracking down the others.

She had no idea he was here. She had no idea he was a cop. She had no idea he was an android. She had no idea that Gavin was his partner.

Fuck.

“This is fucking hilarious.” Gavin had his head pressed up against the observation room window, watching Carmen twiddle her thumbs. “This is so bad, but so good. Hey, should I take this interrogation? She doesn’t know me. But damn, what are the chances?”

“No.” Gavin could not speak with Carmen before Nines did. It would be a disaster. “I’ll do it. She knows me, so she may be more receptive.”

“If you say so, tin can. Have fun.” Gavin crossed his arms, still chuckling.

Nines swallowed, his mouth dry. How could his mouth be dry? He was an android.

Scooping up Carmen’s case file, he left the observation room and scanned his hand to open the interrogation room door.

Carmen lit up when she saw him. “Nick! Wait, Nick? The hell are you doing here…you’re a cop.”

Nines sat down across from her, not saying anything.

Her face morphed into a disgusted grimace. “You’re a fucking cop. I should have known.” She noticed his LED spin yellow. “…And you’re an android too? What the hell?”

“Hello Miss Vargas.”

“What the fuck is going on, Nick? You’re a cop, you’re an android-”

“You know why you are here, Miss Vargas. You were involved in a drug drop and are the only person who can help track down and identify the buyers. By doing this, the courts will look upon you favorably, and we may be able to cut you a deal. Otherwise, you will face time in prison.”

“I can’t believe I didn’t realize it before, I’m such an idiot.” Carmen rambled on until she processed what Nines had said. “Woah, woah, woah. Slow down a minute. What? Does this have anything to do with the party?”

“No, Miss Vargas. Believe me, I was as surprised as you were to see you here.” Nines kept his tone level, not revealing any sort of friendliness or familiarity. He sorted through the sparse case file, keeping his eyes off of her stare as much as possible.

Carmen scoffed. “So this is a fucking interogation. That’s what this is. Everything was a lie? What, were you trying to get information off of me? Your whole life was made up? Everything about-”

“Miss Vargas.” Nines cut her off before she could say Gavin’s name. “Let’s stay on topic.”

She noticed the urgency in his tone, a little smile replacing her annoyed look. “What? You don’t want to talk about-”

“What was your involvement in the drug drop today, Miss Vargas?”

“I see. I get it. Don’t want to talk about it, hmm?” She crossed her arms, triumphant. “Then we’re done here. I’m not talking, and I want my lawyer.”

So, she was going to be difficult. Nines’ stress levels ticked up. “I decide when we are finished.”

But she stayed annoyingly silent.

Nines scowled. This was going to be painfully awkward. “Fine. We can talk alone. Is that what you want?’

She gave a curt, sassy nod. Nines’ stomach fell when he realized he had given the keys to Carmen’s cuffs to Gavin.

“Detective, will you bring in the key to Miss Vargas’ cuff in, please?”

Gavin came on over the intercom. “What the hell, Nines? Really?”

“Now, Reed. I know what I’m doing.”

A quiet ‘fucking fine, whatever’ could be heard before Gavin switched off the intercom. A moment later the detective opened the interrogation room door, and Carmen’s eyebrows shot to her hairline. She asked a silent question: What the hell is he doing here?

Catching Nines’ ice cold glare, she managed to stay calm as Gavin undid her cuffs from around the table and refastened them around her wrists.

“There better be a good reason for this, tin can,” Gavin grumbled to Nines as he was leaving.

Nines ignored him. “Come with me, Miss Vargas.”

“With pleasure.”

Walking out into the bullpen with a perp in tow was never a simple thing, and it was no help that Carmen insisted on waving to everyone they passed, intent on making Nines as uncomfortable as possible.

He pulled her into the bathroom.

“Ew.”

“This is the only place we won’t be overheard or recorded.”

There was an awkward pause

“So. Nick. Your name isn’t even Nick, is it? It’s Nines.” She extended the s, making a hissing noise with her teeth. Nines’ lip twitched.

“What do you want, Vargas.”

 

“What do I want? I want my lawyer.” She bounced on her heels. “And some information. So, not-so-tall, gruff, and handsome is a cop too? That’s gold. No wonder you didn’t want me spilling the beans.”

Nines bit the inside of his cheek, wondering if he should reply. “Detective Reed is my partner.”

“Detective Reed, eh? Doesn’t seem the type to like fake love stories, so I guess it was better I didn’t say anything. Because you didn’t tell him, did you?”

Nines looked down.

She was teasing him now. “But why wouldn’t you? If it was all for an investigation, it wouldn’t have mattered. You could’ve joked about it, but you didn’t tell him anything.”

“What do you want me to say?”

It took her a moment, and when it finally clicked in her mind, her jaw dropped. “Holy shit. It was all true then, wasn’t it? You’re in love with him. You’re actually in love with him. And, my god, you’re partners. That makes it so much better.”

“I’m not in love with him. I’ve never been in love with anybody.”

“But you like him, don’t you. A lot.” She clapped, giggling. “I didn’t like you for a second. I was mad as hell. But this is great.”

“No. No it’s not.” Nines ran a hand through his hair. What the hell was he doing? Talking to a guilty suspect about his relationship problems? That wasn’t something he did every Wednesday.

“What are you going to do? You have to tell him. You have to.”

“I am not going to say anything of the sort. The detective and I are finally on the same page, and we are working together well. I am not going to have any of my own feelings get in the way.”

Because that wasn't what this was, right? He cared deeply for Gavin, more deeply than he should, but this… this wasn’t love. It wasn’t butterflies and fangirl dreams. Nines only wanted to see his partner safe and happy.

Okay, so the idea of Gavin seeing someone else sent hot spikes of anger through his system, and he was becoming increasingly fascinated by how Gavin bit his lip when he was concentrating, but that was beside the point.

“And I am not in love with him. I don’t know what this is.”

“Yeah, sure.” Carmen’s face softened. “That’s just about the saddest thing I’ve heard all day. Alright, I won’t tell, but only if you cut me a deal and keep me out of the slammer.”

“I can’t promise anything, but if you offer up the information you know voluntarily I’ll see what I can do.”

She smiled, as if they had completed a business deal. “Now was that so hard? I’m glad we could come to an agreement. Have fun with your boy problems, Robocop.”

“Where the hell are you going? You’re a major suspect and witness. We aren’t done here!”

Carmen flipped him off as she flounced out of the bathroom, handcuffs jangling.

Nines sighed. He knew she wouldn’t get far, and that her attitude was purely for show, but Fowler would have his ass if he let a perp wander around the bullpen unsupervised.

“Nines! What the hell is Vargas doing in my chair?” Gavin’s voice could be heard through the thin walls of the bathroom.

Nines rolled his eyes. “Here we go again.”

Maybe he should hand over Vargas’ case to Hank and Connor before things got too messy.

Chapter Text

GROWTH

May 27th, 2039

When Gavin and Nines closed a case on Friday, Hank actually slapped Gavin on the back.

On Thursday, Officer Person had chatted with Gavin all through his coffee break, as if she enjoyed his company.

Even Fowler was being less of a hardass.

“What the hell is going on?”

Nines didn’t bother to look up from his terminal. “What do you mean, Detective?”

“Why is everyone being so fucking nice to me? Do I have cancer and no one has told me yet?”

Nines cocked his head, a little smile growing on his lips. “Maybe they are being nice to you because you are being nice to them.”

“What? No, I’m not. Everyone hates me and that’s how I like it. It’s less distracting.”

Nines rolled his eyes, looking back to his computer. “Mmm, hmm. If you say so.”

“That’s how it always is. That’s how it’s always been.”

“Of course. Gavin Reed, local asshole. Who offered to work on his day off so Officer Person could spend her birthday with her family. Who remembered Officer Chen’s birthday and made the whole department sign a card. Who picks up shifts on weekends so other officers can catch a break.”

“What the hell are you talking about? That’s… I’ve always done that. And that’s not being nice.”

“Oh? So you haven’t been getting along exceptionally well with the other detectives lately? Even Detective Collins? Who still hates me, by the way.”

“I’m… I’m just doing my job.”

Nines chuckled, a smug look on his stupidly perfect face.

“Why do you look like that? What are you up to?”

“Isn’t it obvious? I’ve succeeded.”

“With what, exactly?”

“In fixing your attitude, like I was assigned at the beginning.” The smile that Nines had been trying to hide broke through, but the android kept his eyes glued to his terminal, not looking at Reed. Gavin knew his partner was teasing, and couldn’t help but go along.

“You asshole. You’re such a dick, Nines.” Gavin stood up, forcing anger into his tone but barely concealing his astonishment and laughter. “Fuck you. I’m getting a coffee.”

Tina was standing leaning against the counter in the breakroom, scrolling through her phone. She looked up when Gavin stormed in.

“What are you laughing at?”

“You, as always. Is Robocop being particularly annoying this morning?” Tina had that same smug look Nines had, as if she were in on some secret.

“Yes. Nines is insisting that he’s won. That I’ve gone soft. How could you have let this happen, Chen? You were supposed to be my friend.”

Tina laughed. “You finally realized, then? That the new Gavin Reed is all bark and no bite? Not that you had much bite to begin with.”

“Excuse me? I am all bite, I will have you know.” Now Gavin was laughing too. God damnit. He couldn’t help it. “So this is it? This is what being nice feels like? Being, ugh, a good person? Ew.”

“Don’t get ahead of yourself, you’re still a jerk and a half.”

“Takes one to know one.”

Tina shrugged. “I won’t deny it.”

“Damn. I guess Nines won after all.”

“Nah. This is all you.” Tina pondered a moment. “Okay, maybe it was some of Nines, but he’s an asshole, too. A total bitch to work with when you’re not there. Very bossy.”

Gavin barked a laugh. “Actually? That’s fucking great.”

“Not when you’re the one on the other end of Nines’ bitch glare. He would make the most popular girl in school tremble in her boots.” Imagining Nines as a highschool drama queen was hilarious.

They chatted for a few more minutes, long enough for Chris to wander over and start making a coffee of his own, though he stayed out of the conversation. Apparently he’d been up late with some android troublemakers, too tired to join in on the gossip.

God, had Gavin missed this. Mindlessly talking about nothing with his friends. Conversations with Nines always had to have some deep profound meaning.

He hadn’t realized how distant he’d grown from Tina in the past year. It was his own fault, he’d been growing more and more standoffish as the android problems got worse, and after the revolution it had taken a while to put himself back together again.

He’s told Nines that he had always hated everybody in the precinct and liked it that way, but that wasn’t the truth. Gavin wondered how much he had missed due to his own social constipation.

What could Gavin do to prove to Tina that he'd changed? That he wanted to be better to her and everyone else? Maybe his damn android had fixed him.

“T, you wanna go for drinks tonight? Like old times?”

“Wow, Nines really did a number on you. Fuck yeah, I wouldn’t miss it.”

Chris turned to face them, blinking blearily into his coffee cup. “Wait, did you just ask Tina on a date?”

Oh, right. He was new.

It was all Tina and Gavin could do to not burst into laughter. “Wow, Miller. You must be more sleep deprived than we thought. We’re gay, dumbass.”

Que a shocked Officer Miller. “Oh.”

Gavin only laughed harder at Tina’s response. Once he’s calmed down a bit, he managed to speak. “You wanna come to, Chris? It looks like you could use a break, all these late nights are eating your brain.”

Chris perked up at that. “Sure! I’d love to! Thanks guys!”

Gavin crossed his arms as Chris walked away, trying to contain stray giggles. Since when had he giggled? That was new.

Tina looked at him.

“What?”

“So, you’re not gonna invite your android boyfriend?”

“What?” Gavin blinked. “Who… Nines? He’s not my… we’re not…”

“Relax, Reed. It was a joke. You two do do everything together, though.”

“Nines is not my boyfriend.”

The fuck?

Boyfriend?

No. Nuh uh.

…Nines?

No.

Gavin didn’t have a boyfriend.

Tina giggled over Gavin’s obvious internal struggle. “Damn, don’t have a stroke. Forget I said anything.”

Gavin huffed.

“Oh, don’t be like that, you big baby!” Tina punched his arm. “You know what I do want to talk about? That hot drug dealer chick Nines brought in the other day. If she gets off do you think she’ll give me her number?”

“My god, Chen. Tone it down, she’s a literal criminal.”

“Yeah, but you’ve gotta admit it’s kinda hot right?”

“Good lord.”

Chapter Text

OBSERVATIONS

May 30th, 2039

Connor had been making observations.

Many of them. It was almost a scientific study at this point.

You seem happy today.

Hmm? Oh, yes, I suppose. We got back the DNA test from the homicide case, and Gavin is really coming along with his training. His reflexes are quite good.

Whenever Connor communicated with Nines, which was more and more often as they grew closer, he noticed that the majority of the conversation was about Nines’ partner.

At first Connor had worried that his ‘younger brother’ was becoming too dependent on Reed, not making any friends of his own, but Nines popularity grew within the precinct. The only one he didn’t get along with was Detective Collins, but Hank said that Collins probably deserved it.

Reed’s own image had improved immensely in the past few months, and as spring wore on, the normally gruff detective grew more approachable.

But it was only in recent weeks that Connor had realized how close the pair was becoming.

May 31st, 2039

At the morning debrief, Reed leaned over to mutter something in Nines’ ear, quiet enough that only the android could hear it. Connor watched as Nines tried to stifle a laugh, unsuccessful.

“The hell are you watching them for? Pay attention, Connor.”

“Alright, Hank.”

~

At lunch, Nines didn’t have to ask what to order the detective, he already knew. Though he made a fuss over Reed’s health.

“Come on, tin can. I work out like I’m training for the Olympics, don’t I deserve a burger every once in a while?”

“Fine, Detective. I can’t stop you.”

But Nines could have stopped him, since Nines was the one ordering food. He didn’t even need to eat.

Interesting.

And Nines’ mantra of ‘Detective’ was less a title now and more a nickname, said fondly in the same way Reed called him tin can. How a former insult could become a term of endearment, Connor did not know.

June 1st, 2039

Despite the underlying stress leftover from the android revolution, the atmosphere at the DPD remained a relaxed one. Cases were passing through quickly, and though Connor could tell Reed was still pissed about losing the Mack case, Gavin and Nines were quickly becoming the most efficient team in the precinct, to Hank’s chagrin.

“I don’t know how they do it. Do they even sleep? The workload they are putting out is impossible.”

“Nines does not need to sleep, much like I don’t-”

“Yeah, yeah. I know. But damn, they work fast.”

“Yes. They are a great team. How they seem to understand each other perfectly is… confusing me.”

“They never leave each other alone, that’s why. I mean, shit, give each other some space, ya know?”

Connor pulled his eyes away from where Tina and Gavin were laughing at something Nines had said. “Who could have guessed that a few months ago they would be at each other’s throats, and now they can communicate almost without speaking.”

“Whatever.”

June 2nd

They were always close. Close in the breakroom, close at crime scenes, discussing their thoughts in low voices. Nines’ head angled downward, Reed’s angled upward, always.

As far as Connor could tell, Gavin Reed was not a particularly physical person. Unless he was in a fist fight, he’d shy away from touch. Officer Chen was sometimes an exception, but that was in rare cases.

Like Connor and most androids, Nines made physical contact with others only when strictly necessary. Touch was personal for androids due to their ability to interface.

But…

Gavin would often get Nines’ attention by grabbing his shoulder.

Nines had the habit of leaning over Gavin from behind when speaking to him at his desk instead of sitting at his own.

Swatting, pushing, shoving each other was not an uncommon form of teasing. Nines would roll his eyes and Gavin would snicker, but there was no animosity in the gestures.

Sometimes, Nines would grab the detective by the arm or the back of the collar, like a mother with a troublesome kitten.

Other times, Reed would stand in front of Nines to defuse a situation, stepping between his partner and an offender. To Connor’s surprise, it looked as though Reed was often the voice of reason, Nines’ temper growing every day he was deviant.

June 3rd,

All Connor could notice was his brother. He was fascinated by the dynamic between Reed and Nines.

Inside jokes.

While he understood the concept, he’d never engaged in them himself.

Nines, however, could distract Reed with a single word, sometimes only a look, and they’d both be stifling laughter. Even their everyday arguments were strewn with humor, not true arguments at all.

It was so obvious that Hank had noticed.

“Those two idiots need to stop messing around with each other.”

Connor turned to him. “What do you mean?”

“Ah, I don’t know. Ignore me. Maybe I’m just annoyed that that asshole Reed isn’t such an asshole after all.”

“Yes, there has been quite the change in Detective Reed’s behavior since Nines arrived.”

“Hmm, yeah. It’s weird to see them both so happy.”

Connor blinked. Hank was right, they were happy. Connor had thought the emotions had been part of Nines deviancy, but the other android had always been more uptight than Connor and yet was now the more casual and relaxed of the two.

He observed Nines smile at Gavin’s comment, the pair enclosed in their own little world.

Huh.

Oh.

Well then.

“What the hell are you smiling at?” Hank caught Connor mid-realization.

“Nothing, Hank. I am only happy that Nines is happy.”

And, more than anything, he hoped Nines wouldn’t get himself hurt.

Chapter Text

CONFRONTATION

June 10th, 2039

Gavin was still chuckling as he hung up and slipped his phone back in his pocket. Nines had called, exasperated, to complain about the little old lady whose house had been broken into that afternoon.

Though not usually a case for a high ranking detective, Nines had offered his assistance, only to be matched with what he described as ‘a petulant bag of wrinkles held together by stubbornness who doesn’t have respect for God himself.’

It was funny to listen to Nines get flustered over such a small thing, his stoic partner loosening up after months of tightly closed lips. After listening to his partner vent, Gavin finally got back to the task at hand. Grocery shopping. His former diet had consisted of takeout food and reheated freezer meals, but Nines insisted that if he could eat he should at least eat well.

Gavin pretended not to notice the envy in his partner’s voice, and amended to let Nines take a stab at cooking one night, as long as the android didn’t burn down his apartment. Did Nines have a fascination with food because it was the one thing he couldn’t have? Maybe. But maybe Gavin was looking too far into this.

Wandering through the produce aisle, wondering if $3.79 was worth it for an avocado, Gavin was surprised to hear someone call his name.

“Reed! Gavin Reed!”

Well, fuck.

It was Roger.

‘They had been friends before Reed dropped out of college,’ Roger. ‘They’d flirted outrageously but it had never gone anywhere,’ Roger. Very very anti-android Roger.

The same Roger who had started one of the most popular anti-android groups back in the day. Which Gavin had been a part of for a long-ass time.

“Gavin Reed. Holy fuck. I haven’t seen you in forever, man!”

Maybe he’d changed. Gavin had. There was no need to be worried about this. No need at all.

“Roger. How are you?”

“Fine, fine. Pretty good, despite it all.” Roger was still overly excitable and charismatic. Fun until you got on his bad side. Then he got fucking scary. “It’s been what? Three years?”

“Yeah, about that.”

“It’s good to see you. You look great.” There was an obvious question there. You still interested? That was a fat fucking no. Gavin said nothing, only hummed in response. “You still a cop?”

“Yup.”

“Ha, you okay? Kinda quiet.”

How had Gavin not noticed how annoying this guy was?

“Tired. Long week.”

“Oh, yeah. Doing cop stuff.” Gavin continued walking down the aisle, Roger walking backwards to stay in front of him. “Lots of android trouble? After their whole ‘revolution,’ it’s probably been hell on you guys.

Gavin measured his words carefully. “No more than expected.”

“Do you still have to work with that shiny new plastic they sent? The deviant hunter? What was its name… Connor?”

His blood pressure ticked up, but Gavin kept his face neutral. “Connor’s still there.”

“Isn’t it insane we’re supposed to treat them like humans now? I mean, they’re hunks of metal. But, I know you know that.”

“I don’t know, deviants seem like the real deal to me. Feelings, and all that. Emotions. What would the point of faking it be?”

“Oh, come on, Gavin. You don’t have to be like that with me.” Roger looked surprised, taken aback by Gavin’s changing views. “All that politically correct bullshit the media is feeding us.”

Gavin shrugged, not trusting himself to say more. He picked up a pear, inspecting it for bruises. How could he have ever been friends with this guy? “Hmm.”

“That Markus character is acting as a second Jesus. Like holy shit, tone it down. Aren’t these things supposed to be smart?”

“Maybe it’s true, then. Sure seemed real on TV.”

“Ha. Wait, you’re serious?” Roger’s face, one that Gavin had thought to be decently attractive (though this guy had nothing on Nines), scrunched in confusion.

“They’re taking our jobs, man. Replacing us. You and I have been dealing with this sort of thing from the start!”

“That was back when they were robots, Roger. Now… they just seem like a group of people who’ve had one hell of a poor run.”

“Are you fucking kidding me?” Roger scoffed, looking into Gavin’s eyes to see if he was messing around. “The hell, Reed? When did you get brainwashed by those tin cans.”

Hearing his own words in Roger’s mouth was the last straw. The words were aggressive and poisonous, dripping with malice. How could he say that to his partner every day?

But he kept his cool. What would Nines do in this situation?

Play along, and then rip into the other guy when the time was right.

How ironic to be thinking like an android right now.

Gavin wondered if Roger saw the flash of resolve in his eyes, as the man blinked and took a step back. “Yeah, you’re right. They are stealing our jobs, replacing us.”

“Yeah… see? I knew you were cool.”

Gavin wasn’t done. “Doing the dirty work for no pay, trapped inside their own minds. Pushed around, harassed, killed when no one is looking. Or maybe no one bothered to look.”

“What? Reed-”

“Finally breaking free into conscious thought only to be hunted down and torn up for their troubles. Fucking experimented on. And when they think they’ve made their point, seen some progress? They come across fuckers like you, who are still trying to convince the world that they’re nothing.”

“Where the hell is this coming from?”

“Faced with monstrous wage gaps, forced to endure endless humiliation, and for what? To be treated as ‘human?’ Face it Roger, you don’t even see other humans as human, you racist piece of shit.”

He was letting it all out now. All the hate he saw everyday. The way people shied away from Nines or the android girl who lived across the hall from Gavin. The hate for himself, for holding a gun to Connor’s head, for treating Nines terribly, for everything he’d ever did to make androids feel like they were lesser. How could he fucking live with himself?

“Do you know what happened after the revolution? They gave me a partner of my own. I got saddled with the baddest son of a bitch Cyberlife’s got, and it was the best thing that ever happened to me.”

Gavin barely took the time to breath, not thinking anymore about what he was saying. His eyes bore into the other man’s head.

“Roger, my partner and best friend is an android, and he is ten, no, one hundred times the man you’ll ever be.”

The pear that Gavin had picked up was mushed to pulp in his hand. He looked at it, destroyed in his fingers, and almost laughed.

A twisted sense of relief swept through him. An eerie feeling of calm. It was as though he had told off his past self, one filled with hate and anger at the world, brimming with childish regret. Old Gavin faded, a memory to be washed away.

He looked back to Roger, whose face was frozen in a bewildered grimace. Idiot.

“I can’t believe I ever saw you for anything other than what you are. Absolutely. Fucking. Nothing.”

Gavin didn’t give Roger the chance to respond. Shoving past him, Roger’s mouth wide open, Gavin stalked out of the aisle.

Paying for whatever he had thrown into his basket, Gavin stumbled outside, still seeing red. Thankfully he hadn’t punched the guy. It said a lot about his new-found self control that they weren’t both bleeding over the apple stand.

He tugged open the car door and sat down. Ran a hand over his face once, twice, three times, trying to wake up from a bad dream. Leaning forward, Gavin rested his forehead on the steering wheel, bonking it a bit too hard.

Jaw clenching, he fumbled for his phone. He didn’t even have to find the contact, it was already saved in his favorites.

The phone rang exactly once, like it always did.

“Detective?”

“Hey ti-… Hey Nines.”

“Is everything alright? What is the matter, Gavin?”

Oh, how nice it felt to have someone ask.

Chapter Text

EXPLANATION

June 11th, 2039

Last night, Gavin had called, upset. What about, he wouldn’t say. Nines had pushed, anxious, but as soon as the detective heard Nines’ voice he had clammed up.

Until tonight. Nines had been in the middle of watering his plants when a frantic knock came from his front door. LED circling yellow, as he was not expecting any visitors, Nines opened the door to a frazzled Gavin.

Now, Nines sat perched on an armchair he had recently purchased, observing Gavin’s sprawled form across his couch, one elbow up across his eyes.

They were sitting in the dark. Nines didn’t need light and there was no sense in racking up an electricity bill, so he kept them off unless someone else was coming over. When he had gone to turn them on, Gavin grunted, telling him there was no need.

And so Nines sat. Patient. A little bit terrified.

“Detective-”

“Shh. Lemme think.”

Nines gave Gavin a moment, but his curiosity got the best of him.

“Gavin, what-”

Gavin took his arm away from his face, turning to stare at Nines, freezing him mid-sentence. In the dark, Nines saw his LED circle yellow. Gavin’s eyes tracked it around and around.

There was a crease between Reed’s brows, one that meant he was deep in thought. Nines stayed quiet a while longer, knowing Gavin would speak when he wanted to.

“What… what do I not see, Nines?” Gavin shifted his gaze to the ceiling, eyes moving back and forth as if trying to find something written in the dark. “What happens when I’m not around? Or even when I am around, but too dense to notice?”

“I don’t know where this is coming from-”

“Nines.” Gavin cut him off once more. “Answer the question. Please.”

Something had happened. Last night. Nines should have forced Gavin to talk, to tell him what was wrong, but it was too late. At least he was talking now. Sort of.

“Do they… treat you different? Because you’re an android?”

Nines measured his words, but he wanted to tell the truth. “Yes. They do.”

“… How?”

“Do you really want to know?” The world was made of whispers at that moment. Only the light of the moon and the swirl of Nines’ LED illuminated the room. Silver light dripped off of the shivering leaves next to the window, every plant holding its breath in the dark.

“…Yes.”

Nines paused before continuing.

“…I thought it was me at first. I know I am intimidating, though I am getting better.” A wry smile crossed Nines’ lips, unnoticed by either, both lost in deep thought. “And that is part of it. But most… most of it happens to all of us.”

“The woman who lives down the hall from me, Trista, passes as human. An android can tell right away who is human and who is not, but some of us are good actors and can fool the humans around us. She thought it would make things easier, removing her LED, picking up mannerisms, pretending not to be as smart as she is.”

“It never works. Not forever. Someone will figure it out, or you cut yourself, or another android gives you away. That’s why I don’t pretend. It is too hard for me anyway, it barely worked at the gala.”

“When people figure it out, they grow cold. The man who runs security no longer says hello to Trista, and the neighbors no longer freely gossip when she is around. When I walk through the park, or go to the grocery store or library, mothers hold their children a little closer.”

Nines’ eyes were burning, but his insides felt dead. He kept talking.

“People treat me as if I don’t know what emotion is, like it is a language I don’t speak. If they are kind they will smile too broadly and frown too deeply. It is almost comical.” Comical. There was no humor in Nines’ voice. “If they are not kind… they speak quickly, sharply, worried if they reveal too much I will read their minds and spill their secrets.

“Android’s can no longer rent apartments in this building, on this street. It is not a rule, not written in stone, but it’s obvious. They say there is no more room when there are open apartments on every floor. They worry we cannot pay, because they refuse to pay us. They worry we will bring more androids, even though we do not yet have the rights to our own reproduction.”

At some point, Nines realized he had started crying. The tears weren’t hot like books described, but ice cold, running trails against his skin that felt like rain. His voice was not affected, so he pushed on, not wanting to stop now that he had started. He didn’t dare look at Gavin.

“People have started pointing towards ‘android-specialized’ housing. It is not housing, it is a series of white boxes a little bigger than closets. The reasoning is that since androids do not need to eat or sleep, we do not need space either. We do not need belongings or a place to call our own.”

Pressing white walls filled Nines’ vision, and a gasping, jagged breath escaped his throat as he pulled himself away from suffocating memories. Before he had been speaking to the air, to the world, but when he spoke again he spoke to Gavin.

“The night of my deviancy I couldn’t stand it anymore, Gavin. I came home, thinking of… of blood… of death.” Of you, but he couldn’t bring himself to say it. “And the white was too much. I did not know that nothing could be so suffocating, but I was choking on it, on the white itself. I… I…”

Nines trailed off, nothing left to say. He finally looked to Gavin. His partner’s face was stoic, unmoved, but there were tears running from the corners of his eyes, slipping to the fabric of the couch to form small dark puddles.

They sat in silence, but it was one of relief, not awkwardness.

Gavin opened his mouth to say something, but closed it. Opened it, closed it again. His voice was rough and gravelly when he finally spoke.

“I was 19 when the first android was released. Chloe. Kamski was my age, but lived a world away. Genius, playing-God, whereas I had dropped out of college after my first semester.”

“I thought it would flop. Who wants a life-sized doll that talks back when we already had phones?” Gavin gave a low laugh. “How wrong I was. I couldn’t keep a job for the life of me. My fault of course. But soon I wasn’t only competing against my own stupidity, but an army of intelligent, never-tiring workers that you didn’t have to pay, just pay for.”

Gavin squinted at the ceiling, chasing memories.

“I hated androids then. I ended up in worse and worse situations, and I blamed it on them… on you guys. My friends had it even worse, though.” Gavin shifted, uncomfortable with the memories and the old hate he used to feel.

“I remember when a guy, I wouldn’t call us friends exactly, couldn’t pay for rent any longer. We all urged him to get to a shelter, to try again, but he didn’t. Couldn’t. He’d lost hope. And who could blame him?”

“And then that guy became everyone I knew. And then… and then he was me.”

Gavin went quiet, and Nines didn’t push. For something that was supposed to be forever active, never tired, Nines felt drained. He couldn’t have spoken if he wanted to.

“Some guys started getting into some bad shit. Drugs. Red Ice was new and all the rage. They were dealing mostly, trying to dig themselves out of the hole. That’s the one thing I can say I didn’t do. Even after everything, I couldn’t let go of my pride enough for that.”

“Androids cost us our jobs, our lives. And we died, Nines. Alone on the street. Friends, enemies. A lot of people I knew back then aren’t around anymore. I blamed it all on you. All of it. I should have been mad at the corporations that produced androids, or the businesses that replaced employees for a cheaper alternative. But it was easier to blame you than to blame the system. It always has been.”

“And then… and then things got weird. I’d hear stories about androids who’d gone rogue, and we would all joke about the robot uprising. In the back of my mind, though… I wondered. You’d always looked so damn human.”

“I held down a job at the DPD and refused to let it go. It looked like the one job androids couldn’t be trusted with, so I clung to it. When the whole deviant thing started to come up, I dismissed it, because how could it be true?”

“And then Connor walked in, and he was perfect. The perfect detective, the perfect android. The perfect replacement. I hated him. Because he was everything I was afraid of.”

“But I… I couldn’t hate androids anymore, not really. I hated what they stood for, I hated the conflict that surfaced when I thought what if? . What if it was all true and we had somehow created an entirely new intelligence, and then proceeded to treat it like shit?”

“I didn’t sleep for days after the revolution. I didn’t want to believe it, I wanted everything to go back to normal, and yet I found myself hoping that… I don't know… I don’t know what I hoped.”

Gavin exhaled, long and slow. Nines copied him, letting his fans run. Reed tore his eyes away from the ceiling, and they both floated back to reality. Nines raised his eyebrows in a silent question.

“Yesterday, I ran into someone I knew from a long time ago. Roger. He was one of the most adamantly anti-android people I ever met, and he seemed so right about everything. He made stuff make sense. But seeing him today… I don’t know. He still leads an anti-android group, one of the more popular ones back in the day. It all was so old. Outdated. Like, you still get mad over this stuff? Isn’t it time to accept what has happened and move on?”

“I told him off in front of the whole damn store. I didn’t hit him, but I almost did.” Nines huffed a laugh at that, but Gavin was growing more and more upset. “I’m such a fucking hypocrite. You probably hate me.”

“I don’t hate you.”

“God, how was I ever such an idiot? You are all just people. With thoughts and feelings and problems. I was an asshole to you, Nines.”

“You were an asshole to everyone.”

“I was a dick to Connor, the whole time around the revolution.”

“It was a stressful time.”

“Stop making fucking excuses for me! Get mad! Be mad at me for the shitty things I’ve done!”

Gavin’s outburst was unexpected, and Nines’ LED circled to red for a moment. Nines knew Gavin saw it, the little tell. A dead giveaway. But it rotated back to blue a moment later.

“Aren’t you mad enough for the both of us?” Nines’ voice was dead-pan. He had no use for Gavin’s self pity.

“But I… I…”

“What? Deserve it? Deserve my anger? Well, sorry, but I don’t have time to be mad at my partner about things that happened in the past. I don’t hate you, Gavin. I never did. You were like everyone else, but at least you weren’t afraid to hide it.”

Gavin huffed, sitting up to rest his elbows on his crossed knees.

“Every day you repent and repay for a belief that wasn’t wrong when you had it. Androids did make your life harder, they made a lot of people’s lives harder. But the moment you realized we were alive? You changed everything about the way you thought.”

“No one else has done that. Hank, maybe. You were faced with an impossible realization and you changed for it. For the better. Gavin, you were never one of them, those people who hate androids only for existing.”

Nines waited a moment, but when there was no response he stood up, stretching. He walked over to kitchenette, still in the dark, and pulled a glass from the cupboard. Filling it with water, he set the cup down in front of Gavin, who had his head in his hands and fingers tangled in his hair.

Gavin looked up, surprised. “The fuck?” He whispered. He drank the whole thing.

Only when he set the cup down did he notice Nines sitting forward, ready to speak.

“What are you looking at me for?”

“I want to thank you.”

Nines could tell the words surprised him. Before Gavin could stutter a response, he continued.

“In terms of my deviancy, my transition was simpler than most.

“…You shot a guy in the head.”

“And it was an easy decision. Connor, Markus, they both had the whole country watching them, and no one to guide the way once it happened. But I… I had you.”

Gavin shook his head. “Don’t thank me. Don’t fucking thank me, tin can.”

“And why shouldn’t I?” Nines sat back, satisfied with Gavin’s awkwardness. “You know, you could thank me, too.”

“Hmm?”

“I mean, hasn’t your life improved with my help? I’d say we helped each other, which was the goal all along, of course.”

Gavin chuckled, the tension broken. “Pretentious bastard. How are you allowed to be like this?” The words were soft.

Gavin ran a hand through his already fussed hair. “Yeah. Yeah, okay. Yes.” He looked up to meet Nines’ eyes. “Thank you, Nines.”

~

Had he missed something?

When had they started talking like this?

Gavin’s heart was pounding when he left Nines’ apartment, unsure why.

Oh, probably because he had spilled his entire life story to a guy who should’ve been pissed and had thanked him instead.

Fucking thanked him.

That android was one hell of a… one hell of a… well, something.

The mutual thank yous felt tender under his skin. Not bad. New, unknown.

But not bad at all.

Chapter Text

June 23rd, 2039

“You should go home, Gavin.”

“I feel fine, don’t hover.”

“Thirty-eight stitches is not fine.”

Nines huffed, exasperated. Why did his partner insist on being such a stubborn bastard?

It had been a stressful night at the hospital, Nines reconstructing what had happened over and over again in his mind. Imagining what he had done wrong. Imagining the worst case scenario like he always did.

When an android who had been squatting in an abandoned apartment building jumped out the third story window, Gavin had followed. The firescape, which was rusting, old, and a danger to humanity, had to take the full brunt of two grown men. The only thing Nines had heard was a wrenching screech of metal as the whole thing collapsed.

Nines wouldn’t tell Gavin how his heart had squeezed so tightly he couldn’t move for a full second. He wouldn’t tell Gavin how he had preconstructed him lying broken on the ground far below. And Nines definitely wouldn’t tell Gavin that his first instinct had been to leap out after him into open air.

Gavin continued gathering coffee supplies in the breakroom, oblivious to Nines’ concern. He hummed as he did it, happy despite how much pain he must be in. Humans were so strange.

“The doctor said your stitches will take at least a week, if not two, to heal properly. No one would blame you for taking the time off.” Nines tried once more to reason with Reed.

“Yeah? And what would I do alone in my apartment for a week? Toothless would get sick of me. I’d get sick of me.”

“You would rest. Like a normal person.”

“You wouldn’t rest.” Gavin looked around. There were no more disposable coffee cups, so he started snooping around for a mug. His face lit up when he spotted one on the top shelf, a stretch to reach even when he wasn’t injured.

“That’s different and you know it, Reed.” Nines looked up from the floor. “Hey, don’t do that. You’ll pull your stitches.”

Gavin was grasping at the shelf, over extending himself. His fingers barely scraped the wood.

“Gavin. Let me…”

Gavin blocked Nines’ hand, spiteful. He kept reaching.

“Reed!”

Tongue hanging out the corner of his mouth, Gavin jumped, fingers curling around white ceramic handle. His victory was marred by the sound of wet ripping. Gasping, Gavin put his hand to his side.

“Fuck. Ow.”

“You’re such an idiot.” Nines kept his voice steady despite the drastic spike in his stress levels. “You popped some stitches. Go to the bathroom and I’ll get some bandages.”

For once Gavin didn’t protest, wincing as he pulled his hand away. He trudged off.

Going to the medicine cupboard, Nines was thankful the DPD was always fully stocked on medical supplies. Getting Reed back to the hospital would have been like trying to give a cat a bath. Painful and stressful for everyone involved.

Pawing through the various bandages and suture kits, Nines let his mind wander.

Gavin had been gasping and swearing by the time Nines got outside the building. In a blind panic, Nines had hauled Gavin from the wreckage of the fire escape, praying there was nothing unfixable.

Surprisingly, despite some nasty cuts on his chest, back, and arms (and maybe a broken rib or two), Gavin had been fine. Dazed and shocked, but fine. Nines was gonna kill him. Once his stress levels had ticked down enough to be mad at his idiot of a partner, Nines called an ambulance and noticed the squatter sprinting away, unharmed. No one went after him. Nines didn’t care.

Still sitting with Gavin to make sure he hadn’t punctured a lung, Nines looked down to see Gavin’s tired, arrogant smile. He was a bit drunk on the close call with death.

“At least I’m up to date on my tetanus shots.” He had said.

“I swear, if you don’t shut up, I will make you.”

Scooping up his haul, Nines headed to the bathroom to play nurse for his partner once again.

He stopped in the doorway.

Gavin was staring into the mirror, concentrating, as he poked and prodded at the stitches he had popped. Blood had soaked through a few of the bandages, leaving his fingers smeared with red.

The skin of his back and sides were purpled with bruising, flowering patterns that would have been beautiful if Nines hadn’t known how painful they were. The unmarked skin, rare as it was, contrasted sharply against the white of the bandages and the purple-blue of the bruises. The small of his back was clear, poking out above his jeans. Lean muscles flexed and moved with every breath, the same ones that Nines had trained for the past three months.

Nines blinked. “Don’t…” He cleared his throat. “Don’t poke at it, you’ll make it worse.”

Gavin rolled his eyes in the mirror, letting his shirt drop. Nines’ breathing relaxed.

Washing his hands, Nines laid out the supplies he had brought. “Up on the counter.”

“What? Why?”

“Do you want to sit on the floor, instead?”

Huffing, Gavin eased his way onto the counter between the sinks, sitting to face Nines. Swinging his legs like a kid, Gavin touched a suture kit and started to unpeel a bandage before Nines swatted his hand away.

“Take your shirt off, I have to redo most of the bandages anyway. When was the last time you replaced them?”

Gavin grumbled but didn’t respond, pulling his shirt roughly over his head.

“Jesus, easy! You’ll pull more stitches and then we’ll have to go back to the hospital. Really, Gavin. Don’t you want your cuts to heal?”

Another grumble.

Ignoring the fact that he was standing between Gavin’s spread knees, Nines eased his shirt off as gently as possible, revealing Gavin’s chest and shoulders along with three long cuts across his chest. There was another on his arm, but Nines would worry about that later.

“The shirt might be ruined, I’m afraid. There is quite a bit of blood.” He spoke softly. “Does it hurt?”

“Yeah, a bit.” Voice low, Gavin watched as Nines soaked a clean rag in a saline solution. Wringing it out, Nines began the process of inspection.

Gavin had pulled the wound along his left side the worst, pulling the final five stitches clean out. The other stitches across his chest were still intact, though some would need to be replaced. Jumping had separated the closing wounds, so all of them were seeping blood, soiling the bandages that Nines carefully cut off and moved aside.

Nines ran his fingers up and down each gash, fingers soft but urgent. The rise and fall of Gavin’s chest made each cut split a bit more, abdominal muscles tense.

“It isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I need to re-stitch and replace a few, but other than that you only pulled open your scabs.” Nines didn’t meet Gavin’s eyes, focusing. Now that Gavin was sitting on the counter, he was almost taller than Nines, though the android would still have an inch over Gavin if he stood up straight.

Nines was bent over, close to Gavin’s chest, so he could feel soft exhales on his hair and lashes as Gavin tried to see what was going on.

“Don’t look. It will make you squirm. Trust me.”

Nines wiped away the blood bit by bit, gently so as not to upset the bruises. Gavin did not make a sound, staying carefully controlled.

The wounds looked much nicer when they were clean, but Nines dabbed at them a bit more to make sure. Yes, that was the reason. It wasn’t because Gavin’s skin was warm against his knuckles, soft despite being blemished. He didn’t want to press his whole palm against Gavin’s side just to see what it would feel like. No.

Slowly, Nines put the towel aside and strung a suture needle. The world felt slow. The task at hand was an important one, but it wasn’t to be rushed, and there was no immediate danger. Gavin’s breathing was slow, matched to Nines’.

Easily, almost lazily, Nines fixed the five stitches, cutting and removing the old ones in order to restitch. He felt Gavin tense underneath his fingers, tiny gasps of pain escaping his lips. Although Nines worried his partner was in pain, the little noises were beyond intriguing.

Inspecting the rest of the work a second time, Nines looked up, the pair eye to eye. “All finished. Now for the bandages.”

~

It was weird. Gavin was in the middle of getting stitched up by Nines (for a second time, he realized), and yet he was more calm than he had ever been.

Trust. Gavin could complain about how stupidly perfect his partner was all he wanted, but he had to admit it was nice to know Nines knew what he was doing. Gavin had complete faith in him. He’d never had that for another person before.

The thought surprised him. Nines was in the middle of tearing open new bandages, so he didn’t notice Gavin’s bewildered blinking.

His mind kept going back to Nines’ fingers. Cool, soothing against the burn of his bruises. Soft, softer than anything he’d ever felt run across his skin.

It was only when Nines leaned in to re-wrap his bandages that Gavin noticed how goddamn close they were. And it wasn’t a bad thing, which was even more surprising.

Nines was cocking his head like he always did when he was concentrating, long fingers securing the bandages, barely brushing Gavin’s skin. His skin wasn’t perfect, as Gavin had thought, but instead there was the faintest smattering of moles across his forehead. Not freckles exactly, but tiny beauty marks that were almost imperceptible.

It was warm in the bathroom. The eclectic lights weren’t on, natural sunlight allowed to filter in through the windows. Gavin would’ve felt almost sleepy if he wasn’t so enraptured in memorizing every curve of Nines face. The swoop of his lashes, the arch of his nose. Gavin had never looked at anyone so closely.

Nines shifted to peek around Gavin’s side, bumping his hip against Gavin’s knee. Gavin’s heart sped up when he realized Nines was in between his legs.

Holy fuck.

He hoped Nines’ android superpowers didn’t picked up on his fluttering heartbeat. Nines’ breath was soft against his collarbone.

Nines looked up. “Finished. You really do need to take better care of yourself, Detective Reed.”

Neither of them commented on the fact that Nines’ fingers were still pressed lightly to the bandages, not daring to move onto skin but not moving away either.

“Though… I fear the fault is mine for your injuries, Gavin.”

“Whaddaya mean, tin can?” Gavin’s voice was hoarse. Had Nines’ eyes always been so blue?

“Am I not responsible for your safety? A fall like the one you took wouldn’t have left a scratch on me, so it is only fair…”

“I’m my own person, Nines. I can look out for myself.”

“Obviously not.”

“Oh, haha. But seriously, this one’s on me, hundred percent.”

Nines hummed. “Hmm. Fine. As long as you promise not to go jumping out any more windows.”

“Only if you promise the same thing.”

“Not going to happen.”

Every word was spoken slowly, trying to extend the moment. Teasing.

“You’re sure you can go back to work? Would a day off kill you?”

“Probably. And what do I have to worry about if I’ve got you?” Gavin felt flushed, and wide, wide, wide, awake despite his lowered eyelids.

Nines held there for a moment longer. He stepped away. The moment broke, the world catching up. “I will always be here to help you, Detective.” He clasped his hands behind his back.

Gavin, not sure if he was disappointed or very, very confused, shook himself back to the present and pulled his shirt back on, ignoring the minor bloodstains. He hopped off the counter.

He donned his jacket and shoved his hands deep in the pockets, head bowed. “Uh, yeah. Same here, Nines.”

~

Nines watched as Gavin pushed the bathroom door open and disappeared.

However distracting his partner’s eyes had been at that last moment, Nines was thankful their gaze had been caught on each other. Because if it hadn’t been…

If it hadn’t been, then there was a chance that Gavin would have seen the white creeping up Nines’ fingertips, spreading as far as his wrists before he had the good sense to pull away. To hide.

Turning to put the medical supplies away, Nines watched as the white disappeared, synthetic skin chasing away the last glimpses on the tips of his fingers.

Chapter Text

DENIAL

June 25th, 2039

Tina’s life was simple. Uncomplicated.

It hadn’t always been that way. Hell, complicated was all she had known up until a few months ago.

After the android revolution, Tina realized that she didn’t have time for the bullshit. She worked on herself, didn’t care so much about other people’s problems or what they thought of her, and stopped giving a damn as to whether she looked ‘cool’ or not.

Because who cares?

As it turned out, no one did. No one cared if she was suave or if she made an awkward mistake. They were all too wrapped up in their own little lives to notice.

That was the best realization she had ever made. That everyone was just as fucked up as the next guy, and everyone was too self-centered to notice.

Especially Gavin. At first they matched, both assholes with checkered pasts. But then Gavin got worse, pushed her and everyone else away. Tina thought it was her fault at first, that she was too broken to have any relationships go right, platonic or romantic.

That was around the same time she broke up with Stacy, her girlfriend. Tina remembered Stacy standing in their tiny apartment, looking around with scorn in her eyes.

You don’t get it, do you? None of this matters! You’re making this all a hell of a lot harder than it needs to be.

Tina had hated Stacy then. Stacy and herself. Mostly herself.

Because she didn’t understand what Stacy had meant. None of it mattered? Had they not mattered?

But when the Awakening came around and there was a whole new boatload of sentient beings thrown into the world, it forced Tina to look around. To really look, instead of wandering aimlessly through life, following the crushing flow of mindless bodies going through life without thinking about what they were doing, what it all meant.

She’d called Stacy that night, and they’d talked for hours. After a few weeks of building a shaky friendship, Tina had asked if they could make it work. Stacy had said no, they couldn’t. That they weren’t what the other needed. And without the overthinking and crushing self doubt, Tina realized she was right.

Now, life was simple. Get up, work out, shower, go to work, come home, eat, and sleep. Wash, rinse, repeat.

To most it might sound boring, but for Tina, who felt as if she were truly living her life for the first time, it was like paradise.

She’d improved her relationship with Stacy, who was now a good friend. Her mom had answered the phone on the second ring even after all these years, anxious to talk. She’d caught up with Chris, met new people, and worked things out.

At first, Tina was worried about Gavin. How the hell was he supposed to handle a suped-up Connor, a machine with all the abilities and none of the fluff of its predecessor?

Reed wasn’t exactly known for his people skills, and she almost made a bet with Hank as to who would kill who first.

And then things had changed for the better, as surprising as that was. Gavin loosened up, the bags under his eyes faded just a bit, and he was finally throwing himself into work not as a distraction from the world but because he wanted to make a difference.

Tina was happy for him, of course, but a bit bewildered over the sudden change. Sure, it had been over months and months, but still. This was Gavin Reed she was talking about.

Nines had been at the precinct for over six months when it hit. Tina had always been good with body language, though androids were harder. It was definitely interesting how Nines was standing just a bit too close to Gavin. Even more interesting when Gavin didn’t seem bothered in the slightest. In fact, Reed would sometimes lean in even closer, though they were just working. Only working.

Sure.

Connor had realized it too. He had caught her eye one day after they watched Nines and Gavin walk in victorious after a drug bust, eyes only on each other despite the congratulatory officers surrounding them. Connor had shared a knowing look, one that said to keep quiet but stay vigilant.

But the best part was when Gavin realized it. It was hard to get a read on Nines, that lovable bastard was just too stoic. But, Gavin. Oh hoh hoh.

It started on Friday. Gavin would look up at Nines every once in a while, confused, before looking back down before his partner could ask what was wrong.

When he was getting coffee, Reed had spaced out, jumping when Tina called his name.

“You alright, Reed? Got your head in the clouds?” She had said.

He blinked before answering. “Yeah, yeah. Uh, just… thinking about stuff.”

Tina had a pretty good guess as to what that stuff was. AKA one tall blue-eyed somebody who had taken Gavin’s life by storm.

“M’kay, Gavin. Don’t zone out too much, or Fowler will have your ass.”

He’d laughed, but it was distant. Already in his head again.

They’d gone out for drinks that Saturday night, as they had for the past month. It was nice to catch up with an old friend, and Tina was glad Gavin was finally digging himself out of the hole he had been trapped in, but it was damn entertaining to see this new development.

Tina blabbered on, talking about nothing of importance. Gavin pretended at listening, but she could tell his mind was elsewhere. Every once in a while he would look up and open his mouth as if to say something only for nothing to come out.

At her best guess, something had happened either early Friday or late Thursday to make Gavin a little bit more aware of his partner. Before he had been oblivious, but no less interested. Now, as far as Tina could tell, he’d put more thought into his growing closeness with Nines.

Or, in simpler terms, Gavin was coming to realize that he had a crush. Or maybe a bit more than that.

The thought made Tina squeal internally. She wouldn’t call herself a romantic person, not by a long shot, but it was hard to resist the absolute adorableness of it all.

Gavin, on the other hand, looked stressed out of his mind.

She imagined what was going on in his head.

Am I in love with Nines? No, I can’t be in love with Nines. Could he…? He’s been awfully close lately. Vulnerable. Dependable. But that’s just Nines. It doesn’t mean anything to him, we are friends and partners and of course he cares but not in that way and this is going to make everything so much harder and is it even real maybe if I just ignore it and it will go away and do I tell him I don’t even know what to tell myself I wish the world would just shut up and…

Blah, blah, blah. Tina knew Gavin tended to spiral. Oh well, she’d be here when he needed her.

“Gavin. Gaaaaa-vin.” She had to call his name a few times to get him out of his thoughts. He had hardly touched his beer or the fries they were sharing. “Reed. Earth to Gavin fucking Reed.”

“Huh? What?”

“Jesus, I swear your attention span is getting worse and worse every day.” She tried to keep the grin off of her lips. “So, how are the stitches healing up?”

“Oh, oh fine. Yeah, they’re fine. Doc says I can get them off in a few days.”

“Bruises giving you any trouble?”

“Nothing I’m not used to.”

“You fell off a building, Gavin. I don’t think anyone is used to that.”

“So what, it hurts to breathe? I’ll be fine in a few days.”

“Weeks.”

“Whatever.”

“I heard you ripped something a few days ago, did Nines patch you up?”

Gavin’s eyes went wide at that, as if he had been caught red-handed. It took him a moment to process the simple question. “What? I mean, yes. Yeah, Nines is… is good like that. With stuff like that, I mean.”

“What, with you being an idiot?”

“Ha. Chen, the master of comedy. But, yeah, I suppose you could say Nines had some experience in that particular area.”

Hot damn, this boy was in deep. And he hardly even knew it yet.

Tina sighed, looking out over the bar. It was cleaner and brighter than the ones they usually went to, the lights cheery in the warm night air. “Good old Nines. Who knew he could have such an impact on the precinct, hmm?”

“Yeah, yeah Nines is, ah… definitely something.”

Oh, this was going to be fun.

Chapter Text

INCARCERATION

July 5th, 2039

Nines checked in at the Detroit Detention Center at 8:58 AM Tuesday morning. By the time he walked to the visiting center it was 9:01.

“You’re late.”

“I apologize, the man at the front desk is having a bad morning.”

“Excuses, excuses.”

“So… how are you, Miss Vargas?”

Carmen Vargas stared at him through the glass, phone clutched in her hand pressing tight to her ear. Her nail polish was chipping, but other than that she looked just as put together as she always did.

“Besides being in prison? Fine and dandy, Nines. Fine and dandy.”

“Hmm.” Nines gave her a guilty smile.

“Do you always go back on your promises? Like, oh, keeping me out of jail?”

“I said I would do the best I could. Considering your track record, eight months in the big house is a very sweet deal. One Fowler was not happy about, by the way.”

“Oh, I see. You really stuck your neck out there for me didn’t you, Robocop?”

“There is no need for sarcasm, Miss Vargas.”

Carmen rolled her eyes, but there was humor in her expression. “Oh, cut the crap. What are you here for anyways? I know it’s supposedly a follow up, but I told you all I know. Scouts honor.”

“You were never in the Scouts.”

“How the hell would you know?”

“You aren’t the type. Plus… I may have looked up your name in the database to check.”

“The hell? Nosey much?”

“I prefer calling it thorough, Miss Vargas.”

“Call me Carmen, you big handsome hunk a’ plastic. I suppose it isn’t the worst in here, and I have you to thank for that.”

“Oh? Was that a thank you?”

“Take it or leave it. And you didn’t answer my question.”

“I suppose that is the best I am getting. And yes, it is a follow up. I have a few more questions about-”

“So how’s Gavin, hmm? Did you get him to fall madly in love with you yet?”

“What? No, I…” Nines blanched. “Miss- I mean, Carmen, don’t you realize these calls are monitored and recorded?”

“…Nines I hate to break it to you but the guards have more important things to worry about than your love life.”

“It’s not my love life.”

“Oh? Are we not talking about your life with the man you love, one Mister Gavin Reed?”

“I don’t love him. Not like that. I… I can’t.”

“Hmph. Then why are you here Nines?”

Nines traced the scratched on the table with his finger, drumming on the black plastic of the phone with the other hand.

“I… had a question to ask.”

“If this is about the whole drug thing, Nines I swear-”

“It’s not about that. It’s a personal question.”

“So you have nothing better to do on your Tuesday than ask a woman in prison a personal question

Nines had no response. Maybe he shouldn’t have come.

Carmen gestured with a hand. “Well, get on with it, then! Jesus, keeping me waiting. That’s rude you know.”

How to start? Nines had no idea.

“So… how did you know when you liked women?”

Carmen blinked, then laughed. “That’s the question? What the fuck?”

“You don’t have to answer if you don’t want to.”

“I mean, what’s not to like. Girls have style, and poise, and who gives a hell about men, ya know? I mean, you give a hell about men…”

“Just Gavin, really.”

“So you admit it!”

“Aren’t we past this? And… is that really your answer?”

Carmen sighed, probably taking in the obvious desperation on Nines’ face. “Ok. It was in the sixth grade when Sylvia Monroe came to school in her new hair cut. Sylvia was the girl of sixth grade, right? We weren’t even friends. But damn how I wanted to be… I wanted to hold her hand, and braid her hair. At first I thought I just wanted to be her best friend forever, but I realized pretty quick I wanted more than that.”

Carmen looked up from her thoughts. “Not in a creepy way. Ew. I was eleven. By highschool though, that’s a different story.” Carmen gave a sly grin.

“Please spare me the details.”

“Oh, you would like to know, wouldn’t you Nines.”

“No. No, I really really wouldn’t.”

Carmen laughed at his insistence. “What is this about, Nines?”

Nines bit the inside of his cheek, a bad habit he had picked up. “Um. I don’t know how to… I am not equipped…”

“Spit it out.”

“Humans are very physical.”

“What does that mean? Aren’t you guys too? You do that weird thing with your hands.”

Nines pulled back the synthetic skin from the hand, revealing the white exo-skeleton underneath. Carmen leaned forward, fascinated.

“I mean… you are all very physical in a very particular way. A way that very few androids can also… participate in.”

“I am not following.” Carmen squinted her eyes, thinking. “Oh! Sex?”

Nines wanted to bang his head on the table. He gave a flat smile.

“Is that what you’re worried about? Dude, I bet they have all sorts of enhancements now, you could go crazy-”

“Carmen.”

She stopped.

“It’s not that… I’ve just… I’ve never wanted that. I’ve never felt… whatever everyone else feels that makes them want to do that. And I don’t… I don’t know why.”

They sat in silence for a few moments, Carmen staring at him through the glass. Even though she was the one trapped and he was free to leave, he couldn’t help but feel like some insect being inspected in a glass cage.

“What do you mean?”

“I… I think I am in love with him. With Gavin.” Nines was gripping the phone a bit too hard, he could hear the plastic creak under his fingers. “But I must be doing something wrong.”

“Something wrong?”

“I don’t feel the way I am supposed to. It feels like there is something more that everyone expects, but I just don’t feel that pull. Not towards Gavin, not towards anyone. So… I can’t really love him, can I?”

Carmen didn’t say anything, her gaze flicking back and forth between Nines’ eyes. After a moment, she leaned forward.

“Nines. Have you ever considered that you could be asexual? Do you know what that means?” Her voice was soft.

He shifted in his chair. “Of course I know what that means, I’ve done research about humans and asexuality, but…”

“But, what?”

“But it doesn’t make any sense! Android were all programmed relatively the same, so why would there be any fluctuation?”

“Well androids can be straight can’t they? They can be gay. Hell, the guy who lived in the apartment across from me had more boyfriends than I’d ever seen. And that’s saying something, because I’ve seen a lot.”

“Well. I mean, yes…”

“You feel like it can’t be you? That this isn’t allowed to apply to you? It can apply to everyone and anyone else but not you? You know that sounds like bullshit, right?”

Nines huffed. “But I… I don’t…” He had nothing else to say. “What about Gavin? Even if, somehow, he did… feel the same way, I would never be able to meet his needs.”

“And what about your needs? Your boundaries? Relationships go both ways, Nines.” The words were surprisingly calming. “As much as he’s an idiot, Gavin seems like a smart guy. If you really meant something to him beyond being partners and friends, then he wouldn’t care.”

Nines ran a hand over his face. “Am I broken for feeling this way? Is there something wrong with me?”

“Nines, eight months ago they would have said there was something wrong with you for having feelings in general. But this? This is the most natural thing in the world.”

She put a hand up against the glass like they did in the movies. “I know it's hard. And hell, you got emotions like three months ago. That doesn’t make it any easier. Now is there something wrong with you for having a crush on Gavin Reed? That is an entirely different question.”

Nines laughed, blinking suddenly. He lined up his palm with Carmen’s, his fingers dwarving her’s through the glass.

“Thank you.”

“Damn, when you aren’t trying to look scary you really have those puppy eyes down, huh?” Carmen gave a lopsided smile. “Anytime, Robocop. Though your boss might not be happy with you coming to me every time you have relationship problems.”

“I’ll figure something out.”

“Sooooooo does this mean you are telling Gavin?”

“Not a chance.”

Without waiting for an answer, Nines hung up the receiver and stood to leave. Turning, he barely caught Carmen sticking her tongue out at him, her feet propped up on the table on the other side of the glass.

Chuckling, Nines signed out, making sure to be extra nice to the man at the front desk.

Not a chance.

Chapter Text

HOME

July 14th, 2039

What do I have to worry about if I’ve got you?

Flopping down on the couch, not bothering to take off his jacket, Gavin stewed.

Gavin was pissed off. He was tired, overly caffeinated, and overthinking things like usual. Sleep was escaping him, his insomnia had returned, rest switched out for thoughts and memories.

Thoughts of him.

Nines.

That day in the bathroom, the two of them so close, Nines’ fingers on his bare skin. Gavin couldn’t get it out of his mind.

This was stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Because this was Nines! His partner in crime. Well, the opposite actually, but hey. When had he started feeling like… like this?

As much as he hated to admit it, it wasn’t that day in the bathroom, almost three weeks ago already. No, this feeling… whatever it was, had been brewing for longer than that. How had he not seen it? He was a detective for shit’s sake!

Gavin wasn’t… no, he wasn’t in love with his partner, that would be dumb. He couldn’t be, because this didn’t feel like anything he had felt for his past partners. Not that he and Nines were going to be partners. In that way at least.

God, his head hurt.

It was more like… he was more aware of Nines. Before, it had been normal, how they always acted, and Gavin liked the closeness. Nines understood him. Even after everything he was still there.

But all Gavin could think of were those blue, blue, blue eyes, and Nines soft smiles. His sharp jaw, long fingers, pale forearms.

Gavin blinked to clear his head. Jesus.

No. No, he couldn’t love Nines. Not only because it would make everything so much worse, but also because… Nines deserved better. Better than Gavin could give. He deserved the goddamn fucking world, and Gavin would stand by that.

Imagining Nines happy… felt like a drug. Imagining him happy with someone else? That made Gavin want to punch something until his knuckles cracked and the pain in his hands would distract him from the turbulence in his head.

He had noticed. Of course Nines had noticed. Not that Gavin was… that Gavin felt… none of that, thank God. But Nines wasn’t stupid, and had noticed the distance between them. No, no, no. Why couldn’t things go back to normal? Why couldn’t he suck it up and deal with it, instead of ruining the best friendship he’d ever had?

The walls of his apartment closed in around him, making it hard to breathe. The ceiling swam before Gavin’s eyes. He only broke from his trance when Toothless gave out a loud yelp, his hands squeezing her a bit too hard.

She jumped off his chest and onto the floor, giving him an indignant look before trotting off.

“Sorry, Toothy. That wasn’t supposed to be for you.”

Then who was it supposed to be for?

He pushed the thought out of his head. Sitting up, his eyes caught on the dents in the walls, the stains on the carpet. The room still felt small. Eight years in this apartment, and he’d never bothered to repaint.

He had to get out. Go somewhere. Someplace new. But not just for the night, or a few days. A long time, forever maybe.

There was some money saved up, it’s not like he spent it on vacations or fancy clothes. Gavin still lived on the budget of a rookie cop, though he made more now.

What the hell was he thinking? Did he want to move? Seriously, right when the market was hot?

Standing up, groaning at his now nonexistent bruises (it had become a habit), Gavin walked over to poor himself a glass of whiskey.

He should call Nines. Smooth things over. Put everything back the way it was.

Throwing back another swallow, he tugged his phone out of his back pocket before he could change his mind.

It rang twice.

“Gavin? Is everything alright? There seems to be something bothering you-”

Shit. Shut up, shut up, shut up.

Gavin wasn’t strong enough for this. He nearly hung up the phone, but instead he blabbered out the first thought that wasn’t Nines related.

“Hey, I wanna move. You down to help?”

July 21st, 2039

The answer had been yes. It was always yes with Nines, if it had anything to do with Gavin.

That thought brought a dark sense of satisfaction to Gavin’s mind, which he tried to ignore as they approached the peppy woman in the pencil-skirt.

Nines had immediately started looking for new apartments for Gavin, most being closer to him, Gavin noticed. Nines said it was because it was also closer to work, which was exactly the sort of practical answer Nines would come up with, but Gavin liked to imagine he had other reasons. Daydreams never hurt anyone, right?

Gavin managed to cool it over the last few days, letting the growing workload and stress of buying a new home keep him out of his thoughts.

“That woman has more hairspray in her hair than I’ve ever seen,” Nines remarked as they walked up the path.

“Don’t be bitchy, you’re probably jealous she looks more plastic than you do.” It felt good to be back in normal banter, though Gavin was ignoring the fact that he was always a little too close to Nines. Ah well, he’d take what he can get.

The apartments Nines had picked out had been nice enough, but Gavin could feel his throat close up at the thought of living in another box in a stack of boxes. So, for the first time, he shopped for a house.

The realtor he’d found looked like she came out of the 90’s, even though that was almost 50 years ago. But she was cheap and wouldn’t ask too many questions, so now he was dragging Nines along to meet Madison at the first house.

“Hello! You must be Gavin! And this is?” She spoke in exclamation points.

“Nice to meet you, I am Nines. Gavin and I are partners.”

Madison’s eyes widened. “Ah.”

Nines hadn’t seemed to realize what his words implied.

“We work together. As detectives at the DPD,” Gavin stammered out, clarifying.

“Oh.” Madison relaxed, as if she hadn’t factored Gavin being gay into the equation. Well, he was, but she didn’t need to know that. “How nice! A friend helping you in the buying process! I don’t see that very often!”

Gavin was starting to get a headache, but he smiled through it. He noticed Nines’ LED circle yellow for half a second. The android wasn’t immune from annoyance either.

The tour went fine, Madison being over enthusiastic about everything and Nines pointing out everything that needed to be fixed like a goddamn downer. Just as they were about to leave, Gavin stood in the living room, which was almost twice the size of his old living room, and looked around.

“Gavin? Is everything alright?” Nines was hanging by the door, Madison outside and out of sight.

Looking at his partner framed in the doorway, Gavin felt something click.

“Yeah. Yeah, everything is fine.” Gavin gave one more glance around. “This is it, Nines.”

“Really?”

“Yup.”

“It’s the first house you’ve looked at.”

“This is it. I just know it.”

Nines’ smile lit up his whole face, bringing butterflies to Gavin’s stomach. “Great. I’ll let Madison know that you’re making an offer.”

They were simple words, but Gavin could feel the weight in them. This was a new chapter, a chance to start over.

The start of something new.

Chapter Text

BEIGE AND CREAM

July 30th, 2039

The deal closed relatively fast, Gavin willing to put down a bigger sum than others. He had the money, and honestly he wanted the whole ordeal over with.

Nines stuck by his side the whole time, arguing mortgage rates and the deposit, even going to buy new paint. He had suggested shades of grey and white, explaining that the look would feel more modern and put-together. But put-together didn’t exactly describe Gavin, so they settled on warm shades of beige and cream.

Gavin thought Tina would laugh at him, saying the house was a waste of money compared to his paid off apartment. It surprised him that she was so supportive in the venture, giving him pointers and dropping a few names of her carpenter buddies.

His apartment fetched a better price than it should have, and the repairs and renovations on the small house were minimal. A two bedroom/one bathroom single story with a fading paint job and cracked pavement wasn’t much to look at, but Gavin was proud to call it home.

Before he could move any furniture in, Nines insisted on helping him paint the living room, though the android had no experience whatsoever. Showing up in a grey t-shirt and a muddy pair of jeans Gavin had never seen before, Nines looked like a new person.

“Sometimes I help out with the local park down the street. It used to have a nice communal garden that had fallen into disrepair, and some of the tenants of the surrounding apartment complexes wanted to fix it up.” Nines had answered Gavin’s question about his clothes before Gavin even said it.

Standing in the doorway, arms bare of his usual long sleeves, posture awkward and embarrassed of the grass stains on his pants, Nines was sheepish. Gavin had to pull his eyes away.

“Huh. You really do like plants. Mind pulling my weeds? There are some nasty fuckers in the concrete outside.”

Nines perked up more than Gavin thought he would. Expecting a snarky retort about how he ‘wasn’t a personal slave,’ Gavin was surprised to hear hopeful expectation in Nines’ voice.

“Do you think I could do some planting as well? Some of my plants need to be repotted but are getting too big for my window boxes.”

“Well sure, I guess. Roll around in the dirt all you want, tin can.”

Moving on, Gavin popped open a can of paint, a pale cream that Nines had picked out for most of the house. Mixing and pouring it into a tray, he grabbed a roller and handed it to Nines.

“I’m guessing you’ve never done this before, right? Here I’ll show you.” Starting on the left wall, Gavin made tall strokes with the roller, the paint squelching onto the plaster. “Make big V motions like this, see? And you don’t want too much paint on your roller or it will look sloppy. A little goes a long way for this sort of thing.”

“Seems simple enough. And I should be able to reach the ceiling.” The unspoken tease of unlike you made Gavain pretend to swipe Nines with the roller, rolling his eyes.

Soon they were well underway, and Gavin trusted Nines enough not to stain the carpet, so he went to go get a bottle of water. Coming back, Gavin stopped unintentionally, watching Nines.

Nines had gotten paint on his arm at some point, a splatter across his jeans too. Gavin watched him start from the bottom of the wall all the way to the top, where Nines was stretched upwards, focused, his whole body extended. His sleeve pulled back when he reached out, almost revealing his shoulder.

Oh, what a simple thing, painting a house. Difficult, sure, and time consuming. But not complicated. Up and down, down and up. Over and over again. There was a strange domesticity to it.

Nines, who was built as a tool and a weapon, doing something so homey? It made Gavin’s breath hitch. This was never meant to have happened, and yet it did. It was quite astounding, how the world worked out. Gavin didn’t know if he was thinking of Nines and painting or his feelings towards his partner. Both, maybe.

Fuck.

That longing that he had been working to push down for the past month roared up again. Inadvertently, Gavin wondered what it would be like to have Nines’ garden in his backyard, to be able to see Nines in t-shirts and jeans every day. Damn, the thought almost made him dizzy.

No. Because that would never happen. And if he pushed for it, it would ruin the only good thing he had found in life.

Gavin knew he had to let this go. But that didn’t mean it didn’t hurt like a son of a bitch.

“Gavin?”

“Hmm?” Gavin could hear the distraction in his voice, and he knew Nines could hear it too. The pain, however, he kept hidden.

“Are you alright?”

Nines voice drew Gavin back to the present, back to his partner. Framed in the light shining through the window, hair askew, a new paint smudge on his neck, Nines was… well, Nines. Fucking distracting, like always. The logical part of Gavin was kicking himself, whereas the soft and squishy part wanted to be distracted forever.

“Yeah. Yeah, I’m fine.” His voice was hoarse.

“Good, because we have a job to do.” Nines’ words were comically stern, trying to make Gavin laugh.

It only reminded him of the truth.

They had a job to do. There was no room for personal emotions or fantasies. Even if he couldn’t have Nines the way he wanted to, he still had Nines, and that was all that mattered.

Pushing down every spark deep down into his gut, Gavin remembered to be thankful for their friendship. Because goddamnit if he wasn’t going to take all he could get.

“That we do, tin can, that we do.”

Chapter Text

CONFLICTED

August 4th, 2039

Nines knew he was getting worse.

He was so fucking distracted.

And angry. Annoyed all the goddamn time.

Because of Gavin. Fucking. Reed.

Who let this man exist?

How was this man, this human, allowed to have such an affect on him?

Maybe Gavin was put on earth specifically to torment Nines and his aching heart.

Gavin had been growing distant after their awkwardly vulnerable moment in the bathroom, which had been disappointing but easier to deal with than the excruciating closeness. Nines wondered if it was something he had said, something he had done. He thought that this lack of attention from Reed was the worst thing to happen.

But then something even worse happened. Everything went back to fucking normal. Gavin called him one day, saying he decided to move, suddenly acting as if there weren’t three weeks of chilliness between them.

And the three weeks after that? Nines was a starved man in the desert and Gavin was his oasis. Nines felt as if he never wanted to be without him, the moments alone so crushingly lonely and the moments together strung with tension.

Who the fuck let this happen?

Emotions were the bane of productivity.

Nines had to work to keep his anger, his longing, in check. Everyday it was more difficult, everyday chipped away at his resolve, making him clench his teeth and turn away from his partner before his urge to hit something (AKA shove Gavin against a wall and make out until neither had air left to breathe) grew too strong.

Carmen told Nines to tell Gavin. Nines had said never in a million years. He thought he would be strong enough to do this, to push it down, but obviously he had no mental strength left when it came to the detective.

Gavin was everywhere. At work, in the books Nines read, in the people he saw.

In those dreams late at night when Nines had forgotten that androids couldn’t have dreams, memories swamped with Gavin’s crooked smile, the yawn he did after a long day, scars across muscled arms.

Nines was so steeped in everything Gavin that sometimes Nines didn’t see him when Gavin was right in front of his eyes.

WHAM!

“Jesus, tin can, that’s the third hit I’ve scored tonight. The hell is up with you?” Gavin wiped the sweat from his forehead. Nines ignored the prompt to analyze it and see what it tasted like.

Deleting the error messages that warned of blow to his jaw, Nines refocused.

They had put training sessions on pause for a month while Gavin recovered from his injuries, but now Nines had been meeting Gavin at the local gym every other day for the past month, resuming their schedule from before.

“Distracted. That’s all.” The words came out flat.

“By what? Aren’t you always the one telling me that right now is the only thing that matters? Especially in a fight?”

Gavin’s words, which Nines normally would have pushed aside, grated on a nerve.

Trying to wrangle his irritation, at both himself and Reed, Nines put his fists up.

“Again.”

“Fine, but you’ll only get beat.”

Nines noted the improper grammar. Pouncing forward, he meant to catch Gavin off guard, but Reed was ready for him, spinning away easily.

He is getting better. Much better

“Is that all you’ve got?”

If Nines had been less distracted, he might have noticed the heightened ferocity in Reed’s voice, but he was having too hard a time managing his own emotions.

They clashed over and over, neither able to gain any lasting impact on the other. Nines’ vision tunneled.

With every missed blow and near block Nines’ stress levels rose higher and higher until he lashed out with a move Gavin was not familiar with.

Crouching quickly, Nines’ palms smacked the mat for balance as his leg whipped out in an arc, catching Gavin’s knee and sending him tumbling down.

In an instant, energy of the fight burning through his biocomponents, Nines had Gavin pinned, one forearm at the other man’s neck. Gavin thrashed, trying to find a way out. Nines knew he should release him, and yet he stayed put, listening with savage pleasure to Gavin’s frantically beating heart.

“Let go, you plastic bastard,” Gavin managed to hiss out.

In a clever move, Gavin managed to twist and hook a leg around Nines’ torso, forcing him to roll over. Disentangling, Gavin gave a hacking cough as he clambered to his feet, face red.

Nines’ rose slowly, something in the back of his mind telling him that this low level of control was dangerous, safety protocols meant to protect humans being blurred out by pent up discontent.

“Well, come on then.” Gavin’s voice was low, challenging, a lion against a snake.

Nines’ knew he shouldn’t, but he did.

Going at it again, Gavin’s fatigue made it easier for Nines to take control, looping his arm around Gavin’s neck in a secure head lock, cheek pressed against Gavin’s hair.

The skin on skin contact almost made Nines faint. The press of Gavin’s neck, Adam's apple bobbing, to Nines’ inner elbow made spots swim in his vision. Fingers clawed at his arm, animalistic.

God, the smell of him was intoxicating.

This distraction, this weakness, gave Gavin his opening. Bending his knees, Gavin threw his body backwards with everything he had, pushing Nines off balance. Turning so Nines wouldn’t land flat on his back, the impact broke them apart. Gavin rolled away, wheezing.

And yet he stood up again, fists raised.

“No. We aren’t doing this anymore.” Nines spoke evenly, despite the pounding in his head and chest.

Drenched in sweat, panting like a hound, Gavin had the audacity to dispute Nines’ words. “Why the hell not? Afraid you’ll lose, tin can? Afraid you’ll lose to a human?”

“No.” Nines growled, balling his fists but keeping them at his sides.

“Then fight me!”

Gavin stepped close. Too close. Way too fucking close. Nines could feel the heat radiating off his body, taste the salt in the air. It was too much.

Fuck, all Nines wanted to do was kiss him, to maul him with his teeth. Lick the sweat off his jaw, bite the side of his neck, kiss those gorgeous little dips in his collarbones. Run his hands up and down the scars of Gavin’s chest, make sure he was alright, trace every ridge. Dig his fingers into his sides, leaving fingertip shaped bruises just to see what they would look like. Know every fucking piece of him.

He’d never felt like this before. Everything, every daydream, had been soft and teasing. But this… this. It wasn’t sexual, per say, as Nines didn’t want to go that far, but it was far more aggressive than anything he’d thought of before.

It scared him.

Rearing backwards, Nines planted a palm on Gavin’s chest and shoved him away, sending him stumbling. He hit the ground hard, the breath knocked out of him, turning to look up at Nines with furious eyes.

“I said no. Neither of us are in a place to do this.” Backing away, Nines pushed a hand through his hair, his forehead hot. His fans were working overtime, making him suck in deep breathes to increase airflow.

“The fuck?” Gavin gasped. “You fucking quitting?”

“We’re done, Reed.”

“You can’t fucking quit on me! Get your ass back here.” Nines saw Gavin stagger upward, stance brimming with anger, still clutching his chest.

“NO! I said fucking no, Gavin!”

Gavin was taken aback at the ferocity of the words, mouth twisting into a sneer as he prepared a scathing retort.

Nines ended the conversation before Gavin could reply. “Just leave me the fuck alone.”

Stalking off, Nines didn’t bother looking back. The gym doors rattled when he slammed them on the way out, hinges shaking with force

Nines walked into the night, the red, raw, gaping wound of his heart finally torn right open for the whole world to see, every consequence laid bare.

Chapter Text

WORK

August 8th, 2039

When Gavin walked in Monday morning, Nines had already made coffee for him. Set on his desk, still steaming, Gavin could tell by the color that it had the perfect amount of cream.

And yet Nines didn’t look up at him.

Half of Gavin was terrified Nines had figured it out. The other half was pissed his best friend was ignoring him.

“Hello to you too, Nines.”

“Hello, Detective.”

Gavin’s lip twitched. That was it? It wasn’t like it was particularly rude, in fact coming from anyone else he wouldn’t have cared. But this was Nines, and despite everything Gavin tried to deny, he constantly wanted his partner’s attention. It was idiodic.

This was how it had been. After painting his new house, which was still barely unpacked, the fragile reconciliation they had developed after Gavin’s iciness had evaporated.

Why Nines was mad at him, Gavin didn’t know. It only made him angrier that he cared so damn much about it. Half of it was his fault anyway, whenever Nines was growing friendly again Gavin would lash out and they would have to start all over again.

It wasn’t like he tried to, but watching Nines do the simplest of tasks had grown aggravating. Writing something down? Gavin wanted to snatch the pen away and interlace his fingers with Nines’, this urge only making Gavin mad at himself for being so weak, and then later mad at Nines for being so fucking perfect.

Too perfect. Gavin wanted to run his hands through his perfect hair and stare into his perfect eyes to see how many colors were trapped there. Hear his perfect laugh and stare at those perfect white teeth. God, fuck perfect. Honestly.

And so… on went the forever circling cycle of being in love with his best friend, hating himself for it, hating his best friend for it, and then being angry at the world for being so unfair. It was poetic, the former android-hater falling in love with an android (who now seemed to hate him, for an unknown reason). Jesus, this whole love thing was hard.

It had only grown worse since Thursday. Nines had apparently decided that he couldn’t stand to be alone in a room with Gavin, and before storming off they had their most aggressive sparring session ever. Gavin hadn’t wanted it to stop. He liked the closeness, the heightened senses. It was so much more real than the stagnant, shivering cold that had descended over their workspace.

Gavin thought he was used to being angry all the time, seeing as how before he met Nines there wasn’t a time when he wasn’t angry. This was different though, a hot emotional dissatisfaction compared to the empty hole it was before.

They say you can’t bottle your emotions, that it will only make you go crazy. Gavin, like an idiot, thought he was better than that. Well, he wasn’t, and now here he was going fucking crazy.

As agitated as he was when he was with Nines, it was worse when Gavin was without him. How was he supposed to function when his two situations were be stupidly lonely and sad without Nines or immediately want to leave the premises whenever he was in Nines’ company?

He took a sip of coffee. “Any new cases?”

“Nope.”

“Any news on the cases we already have?”

“Nope.”

“Any plan for the day?”

“I will let you come up with one, Detective.”

Leaning back in his chair, Gavin blew out a long breath. Spinning around a few times, Gavin stopped to face Tina across the room.

She raised her eyebrows. Rubbing her arms so mouthed ‘Chilly?’.

Gavin answered with a nod and an exaggerated eye roll. Chilly? More like down right frigid.

Everything would have to come to a point and work itself out sometime, but for now Gavin was stuck with a pissy partner and a sore heart.

Chapter Text

(DIS)INTEREST

August 10th, 2039

Hank was getting old, but he wasn’t stupid.

Hell, the whole precinct noticed something was going on. But Hank knew. He knew.

See, Nines and Reed were in a spat. A full out angry glances, cold shoulder, even yelling in the break room, spat. The precinct was tiptoeing around them, less relaxed with the lack of friendly banter. As much as he hated to admit it, the pair had become a norm. Seeing them fight set everyone on edge.

And it wasn’t any fight. No, no, no. This was a goddamn lover’s quarrel. Really? Right in front of everybody? Jesus.

It was kinda hilarious, though. Because obviously neither of them had figured it out for themselves. Connor and Tina had a bet going on how long it would take to get together.

Although he wanted to join in, Hank let them have their fun. It was good to see Connor making friends. Plus, he knew this was only going down two ways. Either Nines and Gavin figured out their problems or the relationship would end in a burning fiery hell. Fuck, he hoped it didn’t come to that, the last thing he needed was angry Gavin Reed to come back after all these months of relative peace.

Hank pretended he didn’t care, but it was damn interesting if not down-right entertaining.

This morning, Ben Collins mentioned something about how Reed was starting to slip on the job. Even though Nines and Gavin had spent the whole morning terrorizing each other, Nines still glared daggers at Collins until the older man talked his way back into safer territory. It was like Reed had his own fucking guard dog.

And Gavin was the exact same. Yesterday, they had been working with a victim who had an anti-android past.

“God, is there anyone else I can work with? I don’t know, I feel a little uncomfortable with an, um… android working my case. I mean, I only really trust humans, you know? And this is a sensitive situation for me.” The woman had blathered on as if she were involved in the biggest case of the century, not a minor break-in with no injuries.

It was all bullshit, of course. A lot of fancy words to cover up the fact that she was andro-phobic. Normally they handled scenarios like these with gentle but firm words, or at least neutral indifference. Gavin, however, took a different route.

“You have a problem with my partner? The only person who will be able to solve this stupid case? Yeah, fine. Bitch about it. Don’t come crying to me when no one else finds anything. It’ll take weeks for a human to do what my partner can do in two hours, but sure. Do you want me to fire the android receptionists while I’m at it?”

The old woman had been affronted. The case had been switched to another team and Gavin collected what must have been his dozenth disciplinary.

He and Connor watched from their desk at the newest development across the room, where Nines and Gavin had apparently come up with an unspoken rule of absolutely no looking at one another whatsoever. They looked like they were going to combust.

“Do you think they’ll be alright?” Connor asked.

“Eh, they’ll figure things out.”

“I hope so.”

“I wouldn’t worry. Those two idiots deserve each other.”

Chapter Text

MISCOMMUNICATION

August 15th, 2039

“Hello?”

“Is this Tina Chen?”

“Depends on who's asking.”

“Oh, you do sound fun. Nines gave me your number. Said if I ever had to call and couldn’t reach him that you were the next best thing.”

“Not exactly the smartest idea, giving out phone numbers to strangers.”

“What? I’m no stranger.”

“Who are you?”

“Guess.”

The voice coming from the phone was female. Quite playful.

Now, what sort of woman would have Nines’ number? Had she read him wrong? No, that wouldn’t make any sense. Why on earth would he give this mystery woman her number? If it had to do with work he would have given her Gavin’s number, or the precinct line.

Unless it was personal. Tina felt flattered to be trusted, but also a little peeved that Nines hadn’t mentioned giving her personal contact away. Knowing him it must be safe, though.

A woman working with Nines, who he didn’t want talking to Gavin, but was fine with Tina talking to her. Long odds, but there weren’t exactly many people Tina knew who fit the description.

“Is this the druggy suspect? The one Nines cut a deal for?”

“Now that’s just plain rude.”

“Vargas. That was your name.”

“Oh, don’t play with me. You know my name.”

“Carmen.”

Tina could hear a small laugh come from the other end of the line.

“Hello, Tina.”

Refusing to give into the woman’s charms, Tina cleared her throat and put on her best cop voice.

“What do you want, Vargas?”

“Well, now you sound like Nines. He always called you Miss Vargas, however. So polite.”

“Why are you calling me?”

“I told you, I wanted to talk to Nines and he isn’t picking up.”

Wasn’t this woman in prison? The hell was she doing talking to Nines? “Where are you calling from?”

“Where do you think?”

“Jail? I hope?”

“Bingo, we have a winner.”

“So, you can’t reach Nines, and you decide to call me?”

“Well, I don’t want to waste my minutes. It’s absolutely boring in here, no good company.”

“Are you saying that I’m good company?”

“I don’t know yet. But I want to find out.”

“Hey, slow down there. Why are you calling Nines?”

“I just told you, I’m bored.”

“You don’t have anyone else to call?”

“…He’s the only one that listens.”

Tina smiled despite herself, those words being the first truly honest ones in the entire conversation.

“Well, you had to have something to talk about. Don’t think I didn’t notice him go up to the big house last month.”

“Ah, it’s personal stuff. I’m not telling you his secrets.”

Tina shifted from foot to foot. Her lunch break was almost over, but there was a part of her that didn’t want the call to end.

“If I guess it, will you tell me?”

“What?”

“Just one guess. Two words.”

Carmen scoffed, the phone crackling. “Fine. Give it your best shot.”

“You ready?”

“Is that your guess?”

“No, don’t be a smartass.”

“Okay, say it already.”

Tina paused for effect. “Gavin Reed.”

The other line was silent for a moment. “Holy shit. Did he tell you?”

“Who, Nines?”

“Yeah.”

“No.” Tina laughed. “Gavin did.”

“Wait… what did Gavin tell you?”

“What did Nines tell you?”

“I asked you first.”

“Whatever. Gavin told me, and I’m guessing Nines said the same thing, that he’s in love with his partner.”

It had been last week, after one drink too many. Tina already knew, of course, but after a long week of pining his ass off, Gavin finally admitted it. He was in love with Nines.

“Hot damn. So Gavin has the hots for Nines?”

“Yup.”

Carmen laughed. “You must be a detective or something, cuz you got it right on the nose. Nines is in love with Gavin.”

Sighing, Tina pushed away the fact that Carmen had a cute laugh. “They are in love with each other. They are like the two smartest people I know and they haven’t figured it out.”

“Love is blinding. Isn’t that what they say in the movies?”

“Probably. I’m not really into movies.”

“What is this blasphemy? How dare you?”

“It sounds like you would like Gavin, he’s a total movie buff.”

“Oh, I’ve met him. He does not like me.”

“Ah, he’ll come around.”

“You work with them, right? What’s it like?”

“Fucking insufferable. I think they’ve both realized they’ve got crushes now, but they refuse to tell each other. It’s driving both of them crazy.”

“I told Nines he needed to talk to Gavin.”

“After Reed, Nines is the most stubborn person I’ve ever met. That isn’t going to happen.”

“Well, something has to happen or they are both going to explode.”

“No kidding. It was weird, they were super close, clingy even, but now they are mad all the time.”

“Eh, that’s what happens when best friends fall in love with each other.”

“Yeah, I guess. They’re kind of meant for each other, you know? I mean, they’ve both been through a hell of a lot. Got through most of it together, actually.”

“How sweet! Almost gives me faith in love again.”

“You don’t have faith in love?”

“What, you do? I pinned you for a practical person, Miss Chen.”

“And I pinned you for a romantic, Miss Vargas.”

Tina could hear Carmen’s smile through the phone. “Maybe at one time, with the right person. Who I thought was the right person, at least. But then she goes and breaks your heart and you have to start all over again.”

“She?”

“Do you have a problem with lesbians, Miss Chen?”

“I have in the past. My ex-girlfriend for one.”

“Ha! Then I guess you can say I’ve had my fair share of problems too.”

“Looking for a new one?”

“You offering?”

“Eh, just asking. Don’t get your hopes up. You are in jail for the next, what, eight months?”

“Hey, it’s you who shouldn’t be getting your hopes up. I swear the ladies in here are finer than the ones outside.”

“That’s the deprivation talking.”

“Maybe. Maybe not. What’s it to you?”

Tina didn’t have a response. What the hell was she doing, flirting with a criminal? In jail for God’s sake. “Ah, well. Shall I keep you posted on the latest updates of our own personal reality show? Tweedle-dee and tweedle-dum are more entertaining than any show I’ve seen in a long time.”

“Ooo, yes. Come give me a visit and we can catch up.”

“Not a chance, Vargas. You call me, I pick up when I want to. That’s the only way this is gonna go.”

“Oh, fine. Be that way. And Tina?”

“Yeah, Carmen?” It felt weird to say her name.

“Say hi to Nines for me, will you? Big guy’s got a lot on his mind, I’m kinda worried about him. Oh, and Gavin too, I guess.”

“Will do.”

“Bye-bye, Chen.”

“Hmm. Goodbye, Vargas.”

Chapter Text

BLOOD

August 18th, 2039

Outskirts of Detroit

Blood.

The liquid of life.

The key to everything.

People didn’t understand how important it was.

The raids at Cyberlife had gone well, his men succeeded undetected. That had been over six months ago.

His following had grown. It wasn’t his anymore, but a life of its own. Their family was small, but it would become mighty.

Strong.

Beautiful.

Perfect.

Pure

Some said androids were a new form of life. Unlike most, he had believed this from the start.

The next step in evolution, here to replace their human creators. This, he did not believe.

No.

Because he had solved the next step, the next play in the game of chess that was life. It was not androids versus humans, but androids and humans.

Together. As one.

Others may take his words and twist them, arguing that androids and humans must live in harmony with one another. He did not dispute this, though it was wrong.

No.

What the world needed next was the integration of androids and humans, the combination of the two on a purer level. Get rid of the differences that split them apart and let them come together to form something entirely new.

The warehouse still looked rundown, but to him and his people it had become home.

They were waiting for him when he walked through the door, waiting for instruction. His children. The first of the next great generation.

“Magnus… Magnus…”

They whispered his name with reverence. Soft hands passed over his shoulders as he passed through the ranks, both android and human. Only a dozen strong, Magnus knew they would grow with time.

Just give it time.

He stood in the middle of the circle, where a small podium had been erected.

“My people…” His voice was barely a whisper, and yet it reached each and every ear. “Our time is coming. You are the chosen few who will help me lead the world into a brighter future. One where we understand.”

“It will be difficult, as no one had attempted it before. Markus, you know him as the revolutionary leader, tried to bring us together. They say the Awakening was a success, but ultimately it was a failure. It did not bring us together as one.”

He gestured to two waiting followers, and they eagerly came to his side. Standing over the podium, Magnus looked down into the depths of the rough-hewn bowl that sat there.

With a nod from their leader, the two people, one android and one human, unveiled knives from their sleeves. In unison they arced the blades gracefully downward. Blood, blue and red, spilled into the bowl. The mix was a beautiful shade of deep purple, darker than the darkest of wines.

Fingers trembling, Magnus lifted the bowl high for all to see. Cheers and wild whoops rang from the crowd as his people grew excited. Following his lead, they would soon descend upon the crates behind him, filled with the components of a new way of life.

But for now, they watched.

Lifting the bowl to his lip, Magnus drank until the blood ran down his chin. The elixir burned so wonderfully on the way down, clearing his head, steadying his hands. Drawing the bowl away, he let the effects wash over him, eyelids twitching.

He smiled. The crowd screamed and shrieked with delight at his purple stained teeth that gleamed wetly in the light.

A pure joining. A raw and beautiful evolution. Humans and androids, together as one, to make the something greater than themselves

Magnus spread his hands. “You have waited patiently for me, but now you too must take the next step forward. Become one.”

They tore past him, unboxing the crates, ripping at its contents. Blood bags, both blue and red, spilled to the floor and onto bodies, into mouths.

Yes. Become one

But a chill interrupted Magnus’ euphoria.

Something was coming.

Something that would ruin them forever.

Chapter Text

MONSTERS

August 19th, 2039

Gavin had been shot before. He was a policeman, it was an occupational hazard. It happened.

He knew what a bullet felt like. A bowling ball dropped from ten feet up.

He’d been shot before. He’d felt pain before.

But not like this.

Never like this.

~

The call had been about a potential drug deal, probably just some teenagers squatting in an abandoned warehouse getting high. The old woman who had called it in was known for over reacting on the phone.

It was a Friday, things were busy, and Gavin was antsy to get home. Or at least get out of his chair, where he had been cooped up all day. When Fowler asked him and Nines to check it out he’d rolled his eyes internally but didn’t make a fuss. Anything to get out of the precinct.

They hadn’t brought backup, it was supposed to be a simple operation. Scare the kids into giving up the drugs and be home within an hour.

That’s not what happened.

~

It had been a fucking cult.

That was the only way Gavin could think to describe it.

Did those even happen anymore? And in the middle of Detroit?

His mind was wandering. Drifting away. Black clouded his vision.

The ceiling was surprisingly beautiful. The setting sun shining through the broken widows high above him, catching the swirling dust particles and setting them aflame.

~

The car ride over had been silent, but Gavin didn’t mind. Maybe he was finally getting used to Nines ignoring him.

They pulled up to the warehouse in the light of the setting sun

Letting Nines take the lead, Gavin followed close behind, hand on his gun in case someone was armed.

The door didn’t creak when Nines opened it. Perfectly silent oiled hinges. In a warehouse that looked like it hadn’t been used in twenty years? That should have been a tip off, but at the time Gavin had thought nothing of it.

They’d walked in on a circle of people. Frozen, unmoving, half naked.

Their blood painted bodies gleamed in the dim light, red and blue dripping from mouths both human and android. Gavin barely had time to open his mouth in surprise before a dozen pairs of eyes lasered in on him and Nines.

He couldn’t even get a shot off before the mob was upon them.

~

There was something important Gavin should be remembering, but he couldn’t put a finger on it.

Oh, right.

Nines.

Where was Nines?

Wheezing wetly, Gavin tried to roll onto his side.

Didn’t work.

Instead, he turned his head, which took so much effort it felt as if he were encased in metal.

Ow.

No shit.

Gavin almost laughed at his own thoughts, which were becoming more hilarious by the minute. Should he be worried about that?

A part of him, somewhere in the back of his mind, told him to take note of his injuries. See what hurt and what he could do to fix it.

His whole body? Did that count as an injury?

Come on now, Gavin.

And still his mind refused to focus. Somewhere in the warehouse there were sounds of fighting. The fuck was going on?

Focus.

Alright, fine.

~

They were not teenagers. They were not druggies. And they were not unarmed.

There were no guns in sight, but wicked makeshift weapons were in the hands of at least half of the freaks running towards them.

Taking a shot, Gavin saw one go down with a bullethole in between the eyes. There were more to take its place.

Nines was yelling something next to him, something about staying together and getting away, but Gavin couldn’t hear him over the manic shrieks all around him.

Spinning away from one grabbing his arm, Gavin raised his gun to fire again, only to have it knocked out of his hands. Ducking, Gavin thanked all of the training he had been doing with Nines. It probably saved his life. Well, for now.

Pushing away, Gavin couldn’t spot Nines. Should he call his name? No, that would only make things worse.

It was the smell of rot and blood that tipped him off to the man behind him. Turning, Gavin saw he was face to face with a mountain of dripping red muscle.

And that mountain of a man had a machete. A fucking machete

Scrambling backwards, Gavin reacted too late. The man swung, machete biting into Gavin’s shoulder. His scream brought a crazed smile to the man’s face, teeth dripping a brilliant purple.

He heard the rev of a chainsaw in the distance, but for now Gavin was too occupied with the enemy in front of him and the blistering pain next to his collarbone.

Tripping over his feet, Gavin fell to the floor, immediately thinking that this was the end. But instinct kicked in and he lashed out with a foot at the man’s knee. Hearing a crack, Gavin expected a reaction, but the man only giggled as he fell to the ground.

Gavin staggered upward. “NINES!”

There was no response.

The yell had attracted unwanted attention. A scrappy, tattooed android that was missing most of its left arm, jagged stump leaking blue, spun to face him. The flick of a knife rang out despite the noise of the room.

Backpedaling, Gavin couldn’t help but take a look around the room.

A frenzy had broken out. These people obviously weren’t sane, or were under the influence of something, because they had started attacking each other. Yelling, laughing, clawing with broken finger nails, they beat down on anyone they could reach. The fully unrestrained anarchy of ripped and broken limbs made him gag, sticky blood underfoot.

And still they laughed. The android cornering him most of all.

It brought the knife up. Raising his arms to protect himself, Gavin felt the blade slide across his forearms. His throat tightened, making it hard to breath.

Turning away was his next mistake. Gavin had been trying to put distance between him and his attacker, but that only gave the android an opening to slice him across the ribs. It was shallow, but stung like a motherfucker.

There were too many of them, everywhere he looked. When he tried to get away, his foot caught on someone’s leg, sending him stumbling. The mad laughing followed Gavin everywhere, climbing in his ears, thumping in his chest.

The one-armed android took another swipe, Gavin too slow and distracted to get away. It cut into the side of his right leg, above the knee, making a jagged wound as he tore away.

Bile rose in his throat, the smell of copper so strong it was visible in the air. A woman, at least he thought it was a woman, came out of nowhere, one of her eyes a pulpy mess. Barely dodging her, Gavin watched as the woman went down with the android that had been attacking him. They scratched and clawed in a frenzy, bodies heaving.

Gavin stumbled away, clutching his side. His shoulder ached. Stepping back from the fray, the blood-covered people too involved with one another to notice him, Gavin looked around to distract himself from the pain.

There were giant crates of thirium lining the walls, stolen from Cyberlife. Broken android parts were strung up like horrifying holiday garlands. Taking a closer look, Gavin realized that everyone’s mouths were stained the same purple-blue. Had they been drinking the damn stuff? That should have killed them.

Gavin’s breath rattled in his chest. Thoughts passed sluggishly through his mind. When he heard a giggle behind him, he turned.

Uh oh. was the only thought he could come up with.

He had wondered where his gun had gone. Well, now he knew where it was.

In the hands of a bloody woman with broken teeth, pointed right at his chest.

~

There was black in his vision. Gavin knew that was bad.

From where he lay on the floor, he could hear the sounds of violence dying out, the lunatics almost done killing each other.

His throat hurt. Everything else did, too.

Sleep. He wanted sleep.

There was movement out of the corner of his eye. Shifting his head the tiniest amount, Gavin saw machete-man standing to his left, chest shuddering from giggles and what looked like multiple broken ribs.

Machete-man had made his decision. Staggering across the floor, Gavin knew there was murder in his eyes.

Whatever. End it already.

There was another presence behind machete-man. Lurking in the shadows. Fear tugged at Gavin’s gut.

Whatever this thing was, he did not want to know.

Just as machete-man lifted his weapon to take off Gavin’s head, the thing moved.

Fast.

A monster.

It’s entire right side was hacked away, stained blue. Right arm hanging on by a few wires, head caved in, jaw broken and swinging. One of its eyes was clawed out, leaving nothing but exposed wiring and a gaping hole, orange hell-fire shining through the wound.

Grabbing machete-man around the waste, the thing tore the weapon away. Machete-man struggled, still giggling, clawing at the arms binding him. Laughs turned to frantic screams when the beast wrenched machete-man’s arm. There was a popping noise, the sound of flesh ripping.

It was too much. Machete-man’s face was twisted in anguish, animal howls escaping his mouth as his arm was popped out of the socket, then went further and further.

A noise escaped Gavin’s throat, fearful and shrill.

One blue eye caught his own as the monster stared at him, frozen. Gavin panted frantically, trying to drag himself away from this thing.

Machete-man whimpered. The beast dropped him, machete-man’s arm still barely intact, to turn to Gavin.

No, no, no, no, no.

“NO!” Gavin managed to cough out as the thing knelt down beside him. “Stay away.”

“gA\/In.”

~

The woman let out one last giggle before pulling the trigger.

The shot was deafening, but Gavin didn’t hear it over the pain screaming through his body. The bullet ripped through his left shoulder, making him stagger backwards.

The woman wasn’t finished. Pulling the trigger again, the shot went wide, but it did not deter her.

The next shot hit Gavin’s lower left abdomen, and the last tore into his right leg.

He’d never been shot three times in a row before.

Collapsing onto the floor, Gavin didn’t see the woman shove the gun into her mouth, still smiling, and blow her own head off. Brain matter splattered against the wall. Somehow he didn’t care, though he knew he normally would be throwing up by now.

I am going to die

The thought was almost comforting. It wouldn’t be long now, and then all the pain would go away.

All the pain. Gone.

Gavin smiled.

~

In his mind, Gavin struggled. In reality, not so much.

The monster was surprisingly gentle, cradling Gavin’s head with its damaged arm, scooping him into its chest.

It blinked worriedly when Gavin let out a shriek of agony.

From where he lay in the thing’s arms, Gavin could see the carnage laid out across the floor. A dozen mangled bodies cooling in pools of mixed blood. The colors were splattered as if by some invisible artist, swirling together in a thousand shades of purple.

The monster was making some sort of noise, but it was unintelligible with its shattered jaw.

Gavin ignored it.

He wasn’t so scared anymore.

The pain was fading, his vision darkening. He was jostled lightly by the creature holding him, trying to keep him awake.

Gavin sighed with relief when everything finally went black.

Chapter Text

TEARS

AAAuGUsT 1..9..tH, 20...39

This was all his fault. All his fault, all his fault, allhisfaultallhisfault…

As Nines sat there with his best friend, the man he loved who was dying in his arms, there was only one thing running through his mind.

This never should have happened. It was all my fault

Everyone knows that Red Ice is made from thirium. An extremely distilled version of blue blood was used to make the red drug.

These people had wanted it pure.

It should have killed them.

At least, it was supposed to.

But apparently it could drive you insane, too.

~

They’d walked in entirely unprepared. Nines should have been prepared. That was his job, what he was built for. Now he was paying for his mistakes.

The aggressors, for lack of a better term, reacted instantly. Immediate violence.

There was no fear in their eyes. They had no reaction to pain. They were completely and totally out of their minds.

Nines lost Gavin within the first minute, no matter his struggle to stay close to his partner.

The scratches did little to his synthetic skin, but when one held up a rusty pipe Nines began to get nervous. He tried to be as gentle as possible, not wanting to kill anybody, but he still couldn’t find Gavin.

Error messages popped up in his vision, warning him of new scratches on his body as the cultists left their mark.

Then someone revved a chainsaw.

Spinning, Nines threw off the attackers, knowing if that chainsaw reached Gavin then that would be the end of it. But apparently he had miscalculated.

They didn’t want Gavin. They wanted him.

The man with the saw reached him in a second, blinding speed that meant he wasn’t human. The other cultists grabbed at his arms and legs, preventing him from escaping.

They say that humans often faint at the sight of their own blood. Even if Nines could faint, he was sure he had the mental strength to withstand a few drops of blood. But even the strongest of men couldn’t have stood up to seeing their arm sawed off like a branch from a tree, blood splattering, muscles splitting.

The smell of blue blood flooded his senses as he gaped at the grinding, churning mess that had become his shoulder. Stress levels spiking, Nines needed this to stop now.

Wrenching his arms forward, he tried to push the man away, but only to succeed in twisting the chainsaw upwards.

Into his own face.

The sound of grinding polymer and plastic is a peculiar sound, especially when you know it’s you who is being grinded.

Error messages exploded in his mind before winking out as his systems crashed. In a crack his jaw swung free, hanging on by the tendons on his right side.

Shutdown Imminent

5 Minutes

52 Seconds

ERROR

Severe Damage to-to0

ERROR

 

Jaw

Face Plate

Audio Receptor (LEFT)

ERROR

 

ARmm (LEeFt]

MIinOr DaamGe

CHest plaeT

BaCk Plate

ERROr

ErrRRor

He shut everything out, his eyes to the chaos of it all.

And then…

“NINES!”

A faint shout, his audio processors failing.

 

Gavin.

Shutting down all aid systems, Nines grabbed the still-running chainsaw and ripped the chain off, making the machine sputter and cough, before tearing the blade free and sinking it into its owner’s chest.

Blood gurgled over the metal and his hands as the man smiled, swaying. He coughed once, spraying blood all over Nines’ good eye, before collapsing to the floor.

Something wrenched him from behind. A young woman, skinny, scaled him like a tree and clawed at his face. With so many of his systems offline, Nines only succeeded in throwing her off once she had her hand deep in his left eye socket. Tossing her off, his eye came out with a wet shluck! in her hand. She hit the wall hard, not moving again.

He had to get to Gavin. He had to get to Gavin.

A gap in the frenzy. A swaying figure covered in blood. Gavin

Nines’ vision went red. He needed these people out!

Grabbing the closest person, he snapped their neck. It was easy.

He shoved someone to the ground, stomping their face in.

Dislocated a shoulder, broke a collarbone, stomped someone’s knee backwards. He was caught in the same frenzy the rest were, nothing better than an animal.

They were fighting each other. Biting, clawing, crying, dying. What had these people done to themselves? What had he done?

A shot rang out. Then another. And another and another.

No.

A final gunshot, muffled, and Nines saw a burst of blood against the wall.

He would have screamed if his vocal cords weren’t hanging out of his throat by a thread.

Gavin. That couldn’t be Gavin. It couldn’t be.

The timer would run out soon. He knew it would. But he had to get to Gavin.

There were more dead than alive now. Staggering over to where he heard the gunshots, Nines saw a body collapsed on the ground. Collapsed, but still breathing.

Gavin.

Then another body. This one was standing. This one had a machete. This one was going to hurt Gavin.

Before he knew what he was doing, Nines tore the man away from Gavin, wrenching the machete away.

He didn’t stop there.

This man needed to pay. This man needed to die in the most painful of ways. Nines kept pulling the man’s arm, feeling it pop out of its socket and keep going. He could smell the blood brimming, the muscles ripping. Nines laughed when the man’s giggles turned to inhuman shrieks, delighting in his pain.

Yes.

Suffer.

And yet…

Over the sound he heard a noise.

It came from the man, the mess, on the floor.

Barely a whimper. One so fearful that it broke Nines’ heart.

His eyes met Gavin’s. One look and Nines knew his partner didn’t recognize him. Gavin was scared of him.

Nines choked on the realization of what he was doing. Dropping the man, who crumpled like a rag doll, Nines knelt next to Gavin as gently as possible.

It’s alright, I’m here.

He wanted to speak.

He couldn’t.

Gavin tried to get away from him, but he was too weak.

Oh, there was so much blood.

Too much blood.

Nines wanted to cry.

Taking Gavin in his arms, Nines scrambled his processors to call for backup. He knew it wouldn’t get there in time.

No… please…

Gavin’s eyelids were fluttering. He was gazing at something past Nines, but Nines didn’t want to turn and look.

Stay with me, now.

ShuT DOown ImmInenT

1 Minu…

24 seC..C

To think they had been fighting only an hour ago about silly things. Imagining them back in the precinct, safe, made what was left of Nines’ throat close up.

Gavin’s eyes were fading, and Nines jostled him to keep him awake, but it was taking every ounce of strength Nines had not to spill Gavin to the floor.

Something dripped on his partner’s cheek. It was clear, making the blood on Gavin’s face run.

What? What was that?

Audio processors crackling, Nines input signals told him there was a sound a ways off. Not too far, though.

Sirens?

It was only when his own vision started fading to black when Nines realized what had been dripping on Gavin’s cheek.

Tears.

His…

TόR$...

Chapter Text

WHITE

???

Sirens wailing in the distance.

Shouts.

“They’re in here!”

“Holy shit.”

“Somebody get a stretcher!”

A single blue eye.

“You’ve gotta let him go, Nines. He’ll be alright.”

Connor?

“He has serious structural damage. I was worried he would bleed out before he let Gavin go.”

“At least he’s getting help now. I don’t think I’ve seen that much blue in my entire life.”

Hank.

Sirens, no longer in the distance.

Instead they were all around.

The world was shaking.

“We’ve got to get him stabilized!”

A voice he didn’t recognize.

“We aren’t far now. Come on, Gavin. Stay with us.”

A voice he did. Tina.

“Don’t you worry, Nines is in the ambulance right behind us. But you’ve gotta stay alive, Gav.”

Lights flashing.

He seemed to be moving?

It smelled like rubbing alcohol.

“Where is Doctor Franklin?”

“He’s on his way. What have we got?

“Multiple gunshot wounds. Multiple lacerations. We had him on an IV in the ambulance, and his heart rate is steady, but it’s weak.”

“What the hell happened?”

“I don’t fucking know, man. What we walked into… I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Jesus.”

Blurry shapes in shades of blue.

Why couldn’t he move?

Why was he so… damn… tired…

~ ~

Beep.

Beep.

Beep.

White.

So much white.

Beep

The world was fuzzy.

The sound of his pulse in his ears was the only thing he could hear. Other than…

Beep.

Where… where was he?

He blinked. A good sign. At least his eyelids worked.

Deep breath.

Ow.

Another deep breath.

Ow.

Beep

His head hurt. His mouth felt puffy. His body felt like it had been hit by a fucking truck

Beep.

Beep.

Beep.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

Beepbeepbeepbeep.

The beeping grew fast, rising with Gavin’s stress levels.

“Looks like someone woke up.” A female voice. He didn’t recognize it. “Let’s get you back to sleep, hmm?”

She pressed a button somewhere.

The beeping slowed.

Woah.

The world began to drift away.

White.

Bee…

~ ~

It was the ceiling.

That’s what was white.

Gavin swallowed. His mouth felt like sandpaper, but at least it had feeling.

A noise. A groan.

Was that him?

Come on, Gavin. Get up.

Oh, ow, ow, ow. That wasn’t going to happen.

His breathing grew shallow with the pain, and he worked to steady it, relaxing back into the pillows.

The hospital.

That’s where he was.

Fuck, he hated the hospital.

Why was he here?

Blood.

Blue.

Red.

Giggles.

Gavin choked on the memory, blinking furiously.

No.

He had to push it out of his mind.

He had to.

His throat was closing. Fingers clenching. Everything hurt.

Gavin forced his eyes to study the pattern on the ceiling. Count every panel. Think about what they would feel like under his fingers.

But one more memory slipped through.

Nines.

At that, Gavin almost puked.

Where the fuck was his partner? Where the fuck was Nines?

Oh.

He had just walked in.

Wait.

No.

Not Nines.

Brown eyes.

Connor?

The android gave Gavin a soft smile as if he had read his mind. “Hello, Gavin.”

Gavin didn’t say anything. Couldn’t, actually.

Where…?

“Nines is recovering from surgery, just like you.” Connor came over to crouch by the bedside, forcing Gavin to turn his head. At least he could move that much. “Don’t worry. He’s… alive.”

That wasn’t reassuring.

Connor must have seen it in Gavin’s eyes, because his LED circled in thought. “He was hard to console. He didn’t want to leave you. They… they finally got him to cooperate. My… brother… is stubborn, especially when it comes to you.”

“Ni… Nines.” The word was barely a whisper.

“He’s alright, Gavin. And he’ll be even better once he gets to see you.”

Gavin blinked, turning back to the ceiling.

“Would you like a glass of water? The nurse said you should drink something if you can.”

The ceiling wasn’t even white. It was the faintest shade of cream. Like his new house. Like the house Nines helped to paint.

Before Gavin knew it, there were tears leaking out of his eyes.

“Oh, dear. Are you in pain? Your stress levels are rising, should I call a nurse?”

Gavin twitched his head from side to side. “No…”

“Are you sure.”

A nod.

He was so tired.

“You said… water?”

“Yes.” Connor appeared in Gavin’s peripheral vision with a glass of water.

Looking at it made Gavin realize how thirsty he was. And how trapped he felt.

Alright, enough of this shit. Time to sit up.

“Woah! Stay down, Gavin. You need to rest.”

“Help me.” Gavin growled, grabbing at Connor’s arm, which was trying to gently push him back down onto the bed.

“You’re just as stubborn as Nines is. He probably learned it from you.”

Connor helped guide the glass to Gavin’s lips.

The cool water was gone all too fast, drawing Gavin’s attention to his drying lips. “…More?”

“Let’s hold off for now. You aren’t even supposed to be awake yet.”

For the first time since he woke up, Gavin took in his surroundings.

A spacious, private hospital room. Were they really wasting all this space on him? All the normal shit you saw in TV shows. The heart rate monitor beeped obnoxiously. So that’s what that was.

Everything was in soft shades of white and beige. Clean sheets, though they weren’t exactly soft. Gavin swallowed, already thirsty again.

He moved to brush his hair out of his face.

His arm didn’t move.

He looked down.

His entire left shoulder was encased in thick bandages, like cement. Slowly, Gavin flexed his fingers.

Oh, thank fuck.

They trembled, but they moved.

The tears threatened to spill over again.

“Your left shoulder was the worst of your injuries. A lot of nerve damage, and even though the break was only a fracture, it may take months to heal. Whatever cut you-”

“Machete. It was a machete.”

Connor froze, blinking and in shock. “A machete.”

“A machete.”

“And a gunshot wound right below that, but you knew that, I’m guessing.”

“I am the one who got shot.”

The silence was thick, but not awkward, as Gavin tried to move different body parts. It was more hopeful than anything.

His right arm was pretty much fine, all things considered. A few stitches and bruises, nothing that wouldn’t heal.

Everything else was a bit worse.

Gavin didn’t want to think about it.

“How long was I out?”

“It’s been four days since the… incident. Well, five, if you count the day it happened.”

“Four days…”

He’d been asleep for four days? Well, he’d been in surgery, too. Who knew how long that had taken?

“The doctor said you were supposed to wake up tomorrow.”

“Guess I’m just impatient.”

Eyelids drooping, Gavin leaned back, exhausted after sitting up for two minutes.

“Are you alright?”

“Jus’ tired. Tha’s all.”

“Then I will let you sleep, Gavin.” Gavin could hear the smile in Connor’s voice. “Rest well. And thank you… for staying alive.”

The words struck a cord as Connor closed the door and Gavin’s mind grew fuzzy. He and Connor had never been particularly close… but maybe they didn’t need to be close personally to care about each other. Nines and Connor were as good as brothers, and other than Gavin, Connor was the closest one to Nines.

Drifting off into sleep, Gavin was glad Nines had someone watching out for him. And… Gavin was glad that he had Connor watching out for him, too.

Chapter Text

GLUE

August 24th, 2039

When Gavin woke the next morning, his head was clearer.

The machines beeped reassuringly. At least something was making sure he was alive.

The ceiling was the same pale cream as yesterday, the ridges and panels exactly as he remembered them.

Sucking in deep, slow breaths, his chest expanded and contracted painfully. A good pain. Healing pain. Like sore muscles after a workout, except they were bullet wounds.

Turning his head, Gavin twisted to see the heart rate monitor. The jagged squiggles were mesmerising to watch.

There was something in the reflection of the screen.

Whipping his head around, Gavin heard the beeps grow faster as his heart thudded in surprise.

Sitting next to his bed…

Was Nines.

Nines.

Asleep. Or whatever the android equivalent was.

Pushing down the urge to wake him immediately, Gavin ran his eyes over his partner.

Monster

No.

Splashes of blue sifted through his memories. Jagged plastic and dripping wires.

No.

Nines was not a monster. He never had been, never will be. And because… because he was fine.

Whole after only five days.

Pale skin against black hair, his head tilted against the wall. Symmetrical face perfect once more, no sign of the gaping hole where his left eye had been clawed out, his jaw reattached without even a scar. Well, almost symmetrical. Gavin had studied Nines’ face often enough to note some purposeful inconsistencies that made him look more human.

Nines looked exactly like he always did.

A bittersweet feeling in Gavin’s chest threatened to push its way out. Why was he upset about this? This was a good thing! He wasn’t upset. For the most part anyway. But a part of him was put on edge by the android’s ability to recover from any situation as if it hadn’t happened.

Experiences and scars helped to tell a story. You didn’t have to be proud of them, but there was something human about imperfection.

Relaxing, Gavin watched Nines chest rise and fall, LED circling slowly in sleep.

Oh.

Maybe everything wasn’t so perfect.

Nines had a sling around his left arm. Gavin hadn’t noticed it right away due to the angle at which Nines was sitting, but there it was, wrapping up and around Nines’ right shoulder, his left hand cradled to his chest.

Fuck. Why was that so endearing? Get out of here tender feelings.

Nines looked so soft in sleep.

Fuck it.

“Nines…” His voice was hoarse from lack of use, coming out as a fragile whisper.

LED spinning quickly once, Nines’ eyelids fluttered and opened.

God. The look on his face could light up a room and make you cry. Eyebrows knit over hopeful puppy eyes that made Gavin’s heart flutter. The monitor stuttered.

But Nines didn’t say anything. He didn’t even open his mouth.

“Hey…” Gavin couldn’t keep the smile off his face. “It’s good to see you, tin can.”

Nines nodded vigorously, leaning forward to be closer to Gavin.

“What’s up with the silent treatment?” Gavin locked eyes with Nines, trying to read the situation. “What’s going on, Nines?”

A small smile. Nines reached into his back pocket with his good arm and pulled something out, handing it to Gavin.

“My phone? Nines-”

It buzzed in his hand.

“Oh.”

There was a little “hi :)” staring up at him from the screen. A text message.

“Hi… What? Nines are you okay?”

Again, Nines nodded, scooting closer.

Another buzz.

“It’s okay.”

“Okay? Nines, you can’t fucking talk!”

Pressing a gentle hand to Gavin’s left shoulder, mindful of the bandages, Nines helped to ease Gavin back into his pillows. Gavin let himself be pushed down, eyes not leaving Nines’ face.

“Synthetic polymer glue. To help seal cracks. Can’t talk until it has set.”

Nines gestured to his own arm, then to his face.

Gavin’s breathing relaxed. He closed his eyes for a moment. “You… you got pretty banged up, huh?”

A nod. A smile. Goddamn, Gavin could look at that smile all day.

“But, you’re okay? You’ll be okay?”

Almost unintentionally, Gavin reached out towards Nines. It was the first time he had moved his left arm, and it hurt like a son of a bitch, but he had to know that Nines was alright.

Catching his hand, Nines held Gavin’s fingers loosely, kneeling next to the bed. Gavin’s phone buzzed, but he stayed focused on Nines.

With some effort, Gavin reached upwards, Nines’ hand supporting his, until his fingers brushed Nines’ jaw. Pushing forward, Gavin cupped Nines’ cheek with shaking fingers.

Nines’ skin was warm under Gavin’s cold fingertips. The structure of his jaw beneath felt strong and steady, nothing like what it had been five days ago.

Eyelids drooping, Nines pushed into the touch, making Gavin’s breath hitch. Nines’ hand was pressed against Gavin’s, his palm soft on the back of Gavin’s hand.

Leaning further into Gavin’s palm, a soft noise, barely more than a breath, escaped Nines’ lips.

Gavin knew that sound, hell he was trying to keep it from slipping out of his own throat. It was a sound of pure relief, the first notion that everything was going to be okay.

“You're okay.” It wasn’t a question, but a statement of fact. Sure, maybe they weren’t healed yet and would probably have hell of a time forgetting everything that happened, but Nines was okay. He was here. He was whole. And that was the best damn thing Gavin could ask for.

Blinking hard, choppy exhales in the form of awkward giggles fell out of Gavin’s mouth. He didn’t care. He couldn’t tear his eyes away.

Nines opened his eyes. Tugging softly at Gavin’s fingers, he took both their hands away from his face and pressed Gavin’s palm back into the bedspread, holding on for a moment too long before pulling away.

He caught Gavin’s eyes with his own and didn’t look away, trapping Gavin there. The look in his eyes was overpowering, mirroring Gavin’s own feeling. You’re alive. Holy fuck, you’re alive. I’m so fucking glad you’re alive.

“Nines?”

A voice from the doorway startled the pair, making them look up. The nurse stood there awkwardly, shifting her weight from foot to foot. It was obvious she had walked in on something.

“The doctor wants to see you. To check how your shoulder is sealing up.”

Nines nodded, an okay, I’ll be right there look on his face.

Looking back down at Gavin, Nines rewarded him with another closed-lip smile before standing. Watching him walk through the door with the nurse almost made him want to call out with a No! Don’t go!, because Gavin knew that if he asked, Nines wouldn’t leave. He would stay there by his side until Gavin fell asleep again, and be there in the morning.

Gavin let them go, trying to relax his scrunched eyebrows.

Oh, wait.

He looked at his phone screen again, Nines unread message from before blinking up at him.

“I’m alright.”

Yeah. Yeah, okay.

Chapter Text

HEALING

August 28th, 2039

Healing was slow. Painful. Itchy. Gavin didn’t have the patience for it.

The various doctors and nurses said they were going to keep him in the hospital for at least two weeks to make sure his wounds were healing well, and the long days in the same bed in the same room with the same view were starting to drive him crazy.

The day after he had seen Nines, Gavin woke up to him sitting by his bedside once again. Still unable to talk, Nines looked tired, his hair out of place. But he was happy, as far as Gavin could tell.

To pass the time Nines would bring him various board games and movies, even a book or two that Gavin couldn’t concentrate on.

They played Uno, the colorful cards splayed out over Gavin’s bedspread, Nines trying hard not to smile and mess up the set of his jaw, Gavin swearing loudly whenever Nines won.

“I swear I’m good at this game, but I just can’t win when you’re around, huh?”

Nines shook his head, both agreeing and disagreeing with Gavin at the same time.

The game would go on for hours, neither of them with anything better to do. An old TV was wheeled into Gavin’s room, and scratched DVDs would play in the background, old movies like Back to the Future and Pulp Fiction.

As much as he was hurting, as much as the nightmares kept him up at night, Gavin couldn’t deny that it was nice. It was hella nice. He had Nines all to himself, all hours of the day.

One night, after a particularly fitful bout of night terrors, Nines came in and sat with him. Gavin wouldn’t calm down no matter what he tried, blood and screams filling his mind. So, Nines held his hand. The second time he had done so.

Neither said anything, Gavin too shaken up to speak, Nines physically unable to. They sat there, hand in hand, until Gavin’s breathing calmed. Nines didn’t complain when Gavin gripped his palm with the strength of a drowning man, didn’t pull away once he finally relaxed. He just sat there. With Gavin. No questions asked.

Those few days were the best, despite everything. Well, besides when the doctors came in and explained Gavin’s pain to him. Those were moments he would rather forget.

“You were shot three times, as you can remember. Your left shoulder, your left hip, and your right thigh. Thankfully, no major arteries or internal organs were damaged, mostly muscle and soft tissue.” The balding doctor held up diagrams that reminded Gavin too much of science class back in highschool. He wanted to sleep.

“Other than that, you had major lacerations on your left shoulder, both forearms, chest, and left leg. Of everything, your left shoulder is in the worst shape, and I should warn you there is a very high chance that it will never recover to its former ability.”

He gestured nonchalantly, as if he were explaining a business deal. “Then some minor cuts and bruising, nothing that won’t heal with time. For someone who was sent straight into hell, you are healing remarkably well, Mr. Reed.”

Yeah, thanks a fucking ton.

Gavin had to remain civil until the doctor left the room. “Thanks for everything, doc. I appreciate it.”

The look on the doctors face told Gavin he was trying to figure out whether the comment had been sarcastic or not. Shrugging, the doctor decided against replying and left, shutting the door behind him.

His own injuries were of no interest to him. Gavin knew where it hurt and where it didn’t, he didn’t need someone else explaining it to him. This was stubborn and sort of stupid, but hey, he was annoyed and in pain all the damn time.

What was interesting was Nines’ recovery. During a long afternoon when Nines had an appointment, Gavin left all alone, a young nurse had come in to check on him and give him some company.

“I mean, how do they get fixed up so quickly? I know they are androids and are made up of spare parts, but Nines… well he… he was pretty bad.” How they’d gotten on the topic Gavin had no idea.

“Well, I can show you, if you’d like. I’m actually training to specialize in android care.”

She’d come back with all sorts of diagrams and reconstruction blueprints, each stage of structuring laid out like an architect's design.

“You can see here where they had to dig out most of the damaged face plates, and here was how they glued his jaw back together. It would’ve been easier to replace the entire model, but we don’t do that anymore. Our procedures have become more creative since the Awakening.”

Gavin stared at the tablet the nurse had brought him, sliding his fingers across the screen to watch as the 3D diagrams attached and reattached to Nines’ body.

So much of Nines had been lost. His entire side was cleaved open, the left arm had been removed and restructured at the shoulder before reattachment. Gavin watched idly as the nurse explained how they had to glue much of Nines’ face back together to keep him from shutting down.

Wires had been cauterized, plates and tiny screws replaced. A new layer of synthetic skin had to be matched, and everything shaved down to prevent blemishes on the final product. Nines’ chest was still unsound, stiff metal bands put in place to help it keep its shape.

Gavin could never be an android doctor. Or a doctor period. Being a cop was hard enough, and he’d seen his share of death, but to have the pressure of reconstructing an entire person on your shoulders? It was like playing Frankenstein.

But the most interesting thing was something he heard late at night when the doctors thought he was asleep, speaking in hushed tones outside his door.

“I’ve never seen anything like it. Studying android psychology since the revolution has been incredibly fascinating, but this is something else all together.” The voice of Gavin’s psychologist drifted through the door.

“What do you mean?” That was the balding doctor from before.

“I have been working with RK900 for over a week now, and his bond to his partner is exceptionally strong. Maybe too strong. I was worried they may be too codependent.”

“How can that be?”

“Well you know what happened, don’t you? RK900 nearly ripped a man's arm clean off. Some of my colleagues were concerned that it may be unsafe for him to return to work, what with him being a safety hazard.”

“But it was self defense, was it not? I thought they were attacked first.”

“They were, but this was different. RK900 was protecting his partner, your patient Gavin Reed. This was no self defense, but more like… anger for hurting his partner. It is a kind of loyalty I’ve never seen.”

“Are you sure he is safe?”

“It was an act of defense, an act of intense loyalty. I am monitoring both of their mental health, but I cannot imagine RK900 being a danger to anyone else.”

“Besides those who threaten his partner, you mean. And that line can get blurry very quickly.”

“Hmm. You’re right, of course. We’ll have to wait and see.”

“Yes. But imagine if Gavin had died on scene, or in surgery. It was hard enough getting RK900 to cooperate when he had to be separated from his partner, I don’t want to know what would have happened if those… terrorists… had succeeded in killing him.”

“A frightening notion, indeed. What was the story with that whole thing anyway? A cult?”

“The police won’t say. Maybe we can ask your RK900 when he recovers. I’m sure he is in the know, whether that is safe or not.”

“I bet you’re right.”

They drifted away from the doorway, and Gavin watched their shadows move farther down the hall through the glass. Thoughts swilled in his mind. He remembered the screams of the machete man as Nines lifted him from the ground.

Rolling over, Gavin let out a low grunt of pain, but he was used to it by now. Nines almost killing someone for him? Not so much. Something to think about.

We’ll have to wait and see.

Chapter Text

STEPS

August 29th, 2039

Gavin had gotten used to waking up next to Nines.

Every morning, he would open his eyes to the ceiling, and turn his head to see his partner in the same chair as always. Either sleeping, or deep in thought, and once Gavin woke up to Nines playing solitaire.

No matter what time Gavin woke up, Nines was always there.

Today was the day. They were going to let him out of bed.

Gavin had been shown the hospital cafeteria and various lounges via wheelchair, but he was itching to get back on his own two feet. The doctors warned against it, shutting him down everytime he brought it up, saying it was too early and that he needed rest.

Now, finally, they were going to let him start to walk on his own. It might have had something to do with the little ‘chat’ Nines had had with one of the doctors, but Gavin wasn’t complaining.

“Are you sure you want to do this?”

“You couldn’t pay me to sit in that bed for another minute, tin can. We’re doing this.”

Nines got the go-ahead to start talking yesterday afternoon, but Gavin could tell he was still reluctant to push it, worried his face would fall off again. The support bands had been removed from Nines’ side as well, along with the sling on his left arm, but the android tended to favor his left side, moving gingerly. Gavin had never seen him so shaken about getting hurt before.

They were close. Face to face. Gavin gripped Nines’ upper arms, bracing himself against his partner as his toes reached for the floor. Nines held Gavin’s arms gently, there to catch him if he collapsed. Gavin wasn’t going to collapse. No.

Taking a deep breath, steeling himself against the pain, Gavin stepped onto the floor and straightened up on unsteady legs.

“Ah. Ow.”

“Are you okay?”

“Fine.”

Gavin hissed at the stretch of sore muscles, but it only made him want to move even more. He felt like a child taking his first steps, vulnerable and weak.

White socks padded on the linoleum floor, Gavin scooting forward inch by inch. Both his own eyes and Nines’ were glued to Gavin’s feet as they made slow progress.

This was hard. Why was this so fucking hard? It felt as if his muscles had dissolved into mush. Every muscle in his body was screaming, each breath shallower than the last.

He wasn’t going to give up. He couldn’t. But it hurt.

“Is that all you’ve got? All that talk?”

What?

“Oh, come on. You can do better than this Gavin.”

What the hell was Nines going on about?

Gavin gritted his teeth. “As far as I remember, you aren’t the one who got shot three times. Fuck, you can’t even feel pain!”

“Don’t be a baby, Reed. It can’t be that hard.”

“It is too!”

Half of Gavin was brimming with anger and annoyance at being cooped up, talked down to like he wasn’t strong enough. The other half wanted to laugh at what Nines was doing, because it was working. Gavin’s steps grew stronger out of spite, and despite his harsh words, there was a huge grin on Nines’ face.

Shifting, Nines swung Gavin’s right arm around his shoulders, looping his left arm around Gavin’s back so they could walk side by side.

Chest shuddering, Gavin made his way towards the door, legs burning. He wasn’t supposed to be walking this early, but since when had something like intense surgery stood in his way?

Abandoning the taunts, Nines whispered little encouragements in Gavin’s ear as they passed the threshold of the doorway.

“Come on, Reed. Come on, Gavin. Let’s do this. You can do this.” Nines lips were pressed right up against the side of his face, sending shivers down Gavin’s spine that made it hard to concentrate.

Finally out the door, Gavin braced his other hand against the wall of the hallway, dragging himself onward with Nines’ help. His breath was labored now, as if he had finished an hours long workout. Sweat beaded on his forehead, and his whole body felt hot. Except his face, Gavin’s face was ice cold.

Nines was looking at him, paying no attention to the passing patients and doctors. They were almost halfway down the hallway now.

“I think this is good, Gavin. You’ve done marvelously for today, but I think we should stop.”

“No,” Gavin grunted through gritted teeth. He would not let this stop him, not let this take a hold on him. Life had only just started to turn around, and now Gavin was stuck in a body that wouldn’t fucking cooperate.

One more step. Another after that. And another.

“Gavin?”

Gavin couldn’t hear anything besides his own labored breathing, his heart pounding in his ears.

Come one, just a little further.

Black edged his vision, leaving strange echoes on the shapes around him.

“Hey… you’ve gone far enough. We’ll go even further tomorrow.”

“Yeah. Yeah, okay. We can turn around now.”

Gavin leaned his head against the wall, letting it take most of his weight. The pain was a buzz now. Unending, ever constant. Nines was full on holding him up, without him Gavin probably would’ve fallen to the floor.

“Oh, no, no, no. No more walking. I’m getting you a wheelchair. ”

Gavin groaned. “Don’t like wheelchairs.”

“Yeah, I know. But you’ve gotta deal with it. That’s what you get for pushing yourself too far.” Nines pushed the sweaty hair out of Gavin’s eyes with a brush of his fingers.

Gavin closed his eyes. He heard Nines speaking vaguely to a nurse about a wheelchair, but he wasn’t paying attention anymore. Sleep, he wanted sleep. And his bed, which had felt like a cage only five minutes ago.

“You can’t sleep yet, Gavin. Hold on a moment.”

Gavin ignored Nines’ words, but his voice sounded nice. Calming. After getting lowered down into the wheelchair, (where had that come from?) Gavin felt himself rotate in space as Nines turned the wheelchair back towards Gavin’s room.

The last thing Gavin remembered was strong arms and soft sheets, then blissful sleep.

Chapter Text

PROMISES

August 29th, 2039

Sunset was filtering in through the partially closed blinds when Gavin awoke. His muscles felt achy, but not in a bad way. His wounds were painful in a bad way, though. Fuck them.

Inhaling deeply and letting out a low sigh, Gavin shifted his head to the left.

Ah.

Nines was staring at him. Grey eyes met blue ones, and they studied each other in silence for a long moment. The hospital was quiet. It was late-ish, around eight o’clock. The sun set late in the summertime.

“Your eyes are different colors.” Gavin’s voice from deep with sleep.

Nines cocked his head, blinking slowly as if inviting Gavin to look a little longer.

“Yeah, they are. Your new one is a bit more blue.”

Nines had always had beautifully terrifying icy eyes. Now the left one was a shade softer, like the brightest of blue skies in the early morning.

A slight, shy smile crossed Nines’ lips. His cheeks blushed a faint blue against the pink twilight.

“The doctors said they color matched as best they could. Since I was a prototype I do not have any spare visual components.”

“Hmm. I like it.”

Nines reached up to touch his own cheek, right underneath the new eye. “Is it… noticeable?”

“What, you self-conscious now? I’m so used to you being a smug bastard, this is new to me.”

“Ha.”

Gavin let the moment stretch out before answering again. “It’s not noticeable. I only saw it just now. Plus, it's something only…”

“Only you would notice?”

It was Gavin’s turn to go pink. He cleared his throat. “Maybe I’m seeing things. They’re probably the exact same.”

“No. I don’t think so. You have highly accurate observation skills that I trust and value.”

“Don’t need flattery.” Gavin turned away to look at the ceiling.

“It’s not flattery. It’s the truth.” Nines had a matter-of-fact way of speaking that Gavin was reassured by, but sometimes it took him off guard by its honesty. “Anything else you notice?”

Gavin rolled his eyes before turning back to Nines.

What didn’t he notice?

How Nines’ hair caught the light. How the little wrinkle between his brows had grown semi-permanent. How his long fingers laced and interlaced over and over again, always slow but never idle.

How in the past week they had been closer than they had in a month, and how it had taken extreme violence to bring them back together. How Nines always looked relieved when Gavin woke up in the morning, as if he’d been worried that Gavin wasn’t going to wake up at all.

But Gavin wasn’t going to admit any of that. So, he went with something that had been bothering him.

“Nines?”

“Hmm?”

“I… I heard the doctors talking. They said you almost killed that guy. The guy who… the guy…”

“Who almost killed you?”

Unable to finish, Gavin nodded. Nines leaned back a fraction, this topic not being the one he wanted to discuss.

“Did you mean to? Was it… on purpose?”

“He was going to hurt you.” Nines was evading.

“He already hurt me.”

“He was going to kill you.” The android wouldn’t meet his eyes now.

“Nines.”

There was a long moment where neither of them said a word, the tension building thick and heavy in the peaceful twilight.

“…I can’t.”

“Can’t what?” Whispers now, barely audible.

“I can’t lose you, Gavin.” Nines’ eyes met his, making Gavin’s brain freeze. “I just can’t.”

Oh, to be loved like this. To be wanted. To be so cherished that someone wouldn’t just die for you, but kill for you too. A beautiful and terrifying responsibility, a lot like Nines himself.

Gavin knew Nines cared for him. Hell, they were best friends. But he had to keep in mind that Nines was new to this, new to life. He didn’t know how relationships, platonic or romantic, usually worked.

He was just being Nines.

A deep and innate part of Gavin wanted to cry. To let the tears be a release and help to wash away these deep emotions that dug a little deeper every time Nines looked at him. To soothe every aching piece of him.

The tears wouldn’t come.

There was another part of him, a tiny hopeful and evil part, that wondered if the only reason this didn’t work was because Gavin was scared to believe it. That maybe it had been staring him in the face for the longest time and he had been too dense to see it. But that part was small, and easily outspoken by the larger insecurities within him.

“I…” How the fuck do you reply to that? “I was ready to die, you know. Before you came to save me. I was ready for the world to fade out. I was so tired, Nines. So damn tired.” The words were spilling out now.

Gavin kept talking. “Then I was scared. Of the machete-man and then… and then of you. I thought you were a monster, Nines. Something out of a nightmare.”

Why was he admitting this? Nines looked half sick.

“But the way you… the way you looked at me. Even broken, you were so gentle. I knew it was you. I’ll always know when it’s you. ”

Nines.

I love you.

But he didn’t say it. Gavin didn’t say it. Couldn’t. Wouldn’t.

He wasn’t strong enough.

Because… What if it ruined everything?

Because… What if it fixed everything?

Gavin tore himself out of his thoughts. “Nines. They think you’re dangerous. They won’t let you go back to work. They’ll make you leave, they’ll take you away.”

From me.

Don’t let them take you away from me.

“I won’t let them take me away.”

It was a promise. Hell, a fucking declaration. Gavin knew then it would be impossible, because Nines was the most stubborn sonofabitch he knew, and there was nothing that could stop him.

“You’d better not. You’re staying right here, tin can.”

Chapter Text

DOCTOR’S NOTES

September 2nd, 2039

“Hello, RK900! Are you ready for our session this morning?”

“Yes, Doctor. I have been looking forward to it.”

“Wonderful, wonderful.”

The psychologist still wouldn’t call him Nines, despite the fact that he had asked multiple times. Nines couldn’t help but feel a sense of relief as the doctor’s stare fell off his shoulders as they entered the conference room.

Doctor Harold Norton, though a highly decorated researcher and a brilliant mind, made one feel as though they were being observed under a microscope. He had been very invested in Gavin and Nines, everything from the incident to their relationship. Needless to say, Nines didn’t like him very much.

But Nines complied and answered his questions, demonstrated his thinking, and overall tried to be as helpful as possible. Because Dr. Norton was the key to getting out of here.

Nines couldn’t get Gavin’s worried face out of his head. The pain in his partner’s eyes when he asked Nines whether they were going to take him away were burned in Nines’ memory. None of what Gavin had said was untrue. Nines had almost killed that man. He had used excessive force. He was dangerous.

He had always been dangerous. That’s what he was built for. And now he was being punished for it.

Oh, the irony.

But he had to convince Norton that he was both mentally and physically sound, or else he would never get to return to his job.

So, the discussion sessions came into play. Nines satisfied Norton’s borderline obsessive questions on android emotion and feeling, and Nines would get to go back to work at the end of it all.

That was the plan anyway.

“I feel like we haven’t spoken in a while, RK900.”

“We had a session yesterday that ended at 5:49 PM, Doctor. It is 8:14, so we have conversed within the last 14.5 hours or so.”

“Of course, of course. So! How is your friend doing? Mr. Reed?”

“Gavin is healing. He is progressing at a rapid pace, though I expected that. He doesn’t tend to let things take a hold of him for long.”

“Oh, how nice. You know, your relationship with Mr. Reed has been quite interesting to me, from a scientific standpoint. It is the deepest friendship I have seen between an android and a human, and I hope you’ll forgive me for being so blunt, but many of us in the psychological field weren’t sure it was possible.”

The man had no filter.

Play nice now, Nines.

Nines smiled. “Haven’t you been studying android-human relations from the beginning, Doctor?”

“Oh, yes. Oh, yes, but it is all very new, don’t you see? Very exciting stuff.”

“I’m sure it is.”

“Now, to get to the topic of the day. As I’m sure you’ve heard, some of the other doctors were worried about your actions on the night of the 19th. Very dramatic, very violent.”

Good God. Did this man ever stop smiling? It was frightening. Norton continued to peer at Nines as if he were a particularly interesting zoo exhibit. He was all too entertained by Nines’ life.

“I was acting in self defense, Doctor. Gavin and I were attacked first.”

“Yes, yes. After that. The officer reports state that you nearly ripped a man’s shoulder from its socket.”

“Yes, that is correct. After he almost killed Gavin with a machete, that is.”

How was it that he and his partner were the victims of an incredibly violent attack, and yet Nines was the one under scrutiny? And they say discrimination towards androids was dead.

“So, this man was attacking Mr. Reed, and you stepped in? You were protecting your partner?”

Hadn’t Nines just said that?

“Yes,” Nines spat through gritted teeth, working to keep a smile on his face.

The doctor leaned forward, an expression of understanding on his features that looked more like an aggressive stare.

“Now, RK900. I believe you. But in terms of the other doctors… all I am saying is, it is my job to make sure you are fit for your job. Understand?”

“Perfectly.”

God, why couldn’t this be over? The only person Nines wanted to see right now was Gavin. Everyone else was irritating.

“Good. Good. Now, I have a few more questions about you and Mr. Reed, if you don’t mind.

Here we go. Let the interrogation begin.

He had to remember what this was for. For his job. For his freedom.

For Gavin.

Chapter Text

PATCHES

 

September 5rd, 2039

Gavin was improving. That’s what everyone was telling him. He could walk further everyday, his stitches continued to heal, and he could even stay awake for more than six hours at a time.

So why did he feel so fucking trapped? Like he was stuck in his own body?

Observation of those moving around the hospital floor, walking, talking, going about their day as normal, soon turned into jealousy.

Gavin had always been short-tempered, but now he snapped at anyone who spoke to him. Doctors, Nurses, even Connor (though he regretted it. Connor didn’t deserve his anger).

The only one he could stand was Nines. They grew increasingly discontent together, the boredom and anxiety obvious on Nines’ face. At first they had tried to entertain each other, but now they mostly sat in silence, comfortable but stagnant.

Until Nines came in one day with a peculiar look on his face. Gavin noticed it immediately, but waited for Nines to say something.

“The doctors say they can remove the stitches in your arm soon.” Nines gestured to Gavin’s bandaged right arm. The few long scratches were annoying, sure, but nothing compared to the mess that was his left shoulder.

“Uh, huh.”

“So… do you want me to put on a film?”

“What, are we in the 50s? Call it a movie, Nines.”

“Either term is correct-”

“Yeah, but it makes you sound like some old-timey asshole.”

Nines gave him a look. Okay, yes, that came out harsher than he meant it.

“We’ve already watched all the good ones. TV is out too, this place doesn’t get any of the good channels.” Gavin tried to smooth his nerves, speaking softly.

“Oh, a tragedy.” There was no sass to the words, an empty response that held no meaning.

“What is it, Nines? Huh? I know you’ve got something swirling around in that robo-brain of yours.”

Nines was silent, looking at the floor. He traced the wood-grain of the armrest of the chair he was sitting in, moving his finger back and forth against the swirling pattern.

“Norton… Doctor Norton, I mean… he gave me the go ahead.”

“The go ahead?”

“I am structurally sound, and now with Norton’s report, mentally sound as well. I can go back to work.”

Oh.

That’s what it was.

Nines was leaving.

Fuck

Hello there, emotions. Anger and excitement fought within Gavin’s brain. One side of him was profusely happy that Nines could go back to work, that things were finally starting to look normal again. The other half hated his partner for even thinking about leaving him here in this hellhole of white.

But… at the bottom of it all there was an underlying feeling of intense loneliness.

Nines was moving on. Of course he was.

“Oh. Well, that’s great, tin can. That’s great.”

“I don’t have to leave. I could stay here a while longer, until they release you to go home.”

Yes. Please. Stay with me.

“And then what, Nines? I still won’t be able to go back to work for a while.” Gavin glanced around the room, ignoring Nines’ eyes while he thought. “Go. You should go. I know you’re bored.”

“Gavin…”

“Hey, get out while you can, yeah? Who knows, they might change their minds and try to dissect you. I’ll… I’ll be fine. Promise.”

How could Gavin make promises when he couldn't even look Nines in the face? He kept his eyes trained on his bedsheets, knowing that Nines mismatched blue eyes were boring into the side of his skull.

“I’ll be fine.” He echoed once more.

He’d be fine. Right?

September 6th, 2039

Wrong.

Life was fucking boring without Nines. Gavin thought he would go crazy, and it had only been a day.

He was staring up at the ceiling, one of his favorite pastimes of late, when his salvation walked through the door.

“Hello, Gavin! How are we today?”

How are we? I’m the one in a hospital bed.

But Gavin couldn’t stay mad at Sarah. The nerdy nurse who had shown him the diagrams of Nines’ reconstruction had actually started to grow on him. She was blunt and to the point, and spoke in medical jargon that no one understood, and most of all she reminded him of Nines.

Not in looks, not at all, but in the way she held herself. As though she were a million miles away and living exactly in the present at the same time, knowing she was the smartest person in the room but not flaunting it.

They had grown closer over the last week, her ranting about new android-human technologies while Gavin dutifully listened, knowing that if she could handle his grumpy bullshit then he’d better repay her the best way he could, by paying attention.

“Eh. Same old, same old. Itchy, sore, and bored as hell. Your cheeriness amazes me, you know.”

“Hmm. Well, I have the choice between being cheery and not being cheery, and life is bitchy enough, so I thought I’d try and make the most of it.”

“Ha! I like that answer.”

“I knew you would.”

Gavin laughed, leaning back against the pillows. “How is being the first android-human nurse going, huh? Make any revolutionary breakthroughs that could save the human race?”

“Actually… that’s what I came in to talk to you about.”

“Wait, seriously? I was kidding.”

“I know. But I never cease to amaze, right?”

She hopped up on the counter, which was not hospital policy. Hell yeah, fuck the rules.

“Sarah, what is this about?”

“Well, I’ve been working on a few projects with the University on the side… and they’ve come up with some interesting stuff. Some of which I think could help you.”

Gavin stared at her, eyes wide. “You aren’t pulling my leg here, right kid? I’d kill you if you were.”

Sarah shook her head before handing him the packet of papers she had walked in with.

“It’s based off of an android’s synthetic skin, paired with the use of skin transplants. Entirely human, lab-grown synthetic skin. It’s a breakthrough that could help a lot of people.”

“Uh… how is it any different from a skin transplant? I mean… I don’t really get how this will help with a gunshot wound.”

“Well, it’s smart skin, see? It can stretch over broken skin and seal there, like a permanent biological bandaid. Like I said, we used technology that went into android skin, how it moves and retracts. This skin is human, but it fills in wounds and can speed up the healing process monumentally.”

“Ho-ly shit.” He drew out the word as he flipped through the pages, Sarah pointing out more and more uses of the SmartSkin. It was sort of disgusting, and amazingly cool. Like something out of a sci-fi novel. Well, his partner was a robot, so he was basically living a sci-fi novel.

“I’m lucky to be included in the project, seeing as I’m a nurse and not an engineer, but they thought my hands on experience would help.”

“You’ve been working on this?”

“…Yeah?”

“I knew you were smart, but damn. You’re like a goddamn genius.”

“Oh far from it.”

“No, I should know. I have to put up with one everyday at work.”

“Who, Nines?”

“Hmm mmm. He’s one smart bastard.”

Sarah drummed her fingers on the countertop she was sitting on. “I know… I know that this could go far.”

“What, it’s not a thing yet? I thought you said it could help me.”

“It can. I think. It’s just… this technology is still experimental.”

Gavin could figure out where this was going. “And you need a guinea pig.”

“We have had successful test runs on artificial limbs and a few pigs, but we need human trials.”

Exhaling, Gavin looked over the work again. “Could this get me back to work?”

“Better, it could get you up and moving in a matter of days. If it works. Bullet wounds can take months to heal, this should cut it down to a few weeks.”

“Will it kill me?”

“No… but there is a chance of infection and rejection of the skin by the body. And it won’t be pretty. At all.”

“How so?”

“Think patchwork quilt. The skin matching isn’t quite what it could be.”

“Fuck. You’re saying it’ll get me out of this bed if I do one more surgery.”

Sarah thought about it for a moment. “Yup.”

“Fuck it. Let’s do some experimenting.”

Chapter Text

PURPLE

*TW: Canon-Typical Suicide/Self Destruction*

September 8th, 2039

It was colder than usual, and Nines was distracted. He could hear Norton’s nasally voice in his brain as he walked into the precinct, reading the doctor’s text messages.

Again, I am so excited to speak with you this afternoon. We can pick up where we left off yesterday. I hope you realize how very intriguing this is, RK900.

Ugh.

It didn’t help that the messages were popping into his vision, unavoidable. If he had a phone at least he could ignore it for a while, but his brain wasn’t exactly something he could switch off.

Still thinking about Norton, and then about Gavin (what was this experimental surgery he was planning? It was ridiculous), Nines didn’t notice Tina until she was right in front of him.

“Oh. Hello, Officer Chen. Sorry, I didn’t see you.”

“Officer Chen? Jesus, you must be worse than they thought.”

Nines relaxed at Chen’s joking tone. “Tina. I apologize if I seem… distressed. There has been a lot going on.”

“No kidding. Gavin just texted me about this new experimental skin transplant they have planned? I swear, he’d do anything except have a little patience.”

“If he had patience then he wouldn’t be Reed, now would he?”

She chuckled, walking Nines to his desk. “Hey, I guess you’re right.” Blinking, she pulled a tablet out from under her arm, remembering something. “Oh, I’m supposed to give you a run down on the Magnus situation, get you back up to speed.”

The past few days had been spent reintegrating Nines into work, and Fowler had decided to hold off on letting him look into the cult case.

“Magnus?”

“The leader. He escaped when the fighting started, but we’ve managed to track him down and get some info on him.”

Pushing the bloody images out of his mind, Nines worked to unstiffen his muscles, which had grown tense at the mention of violence. “And? What do we have?”

“Well, I talked to Carmen-”

“Carmen? Carmen Vargas? The drug handler who is in prison?”

“Oh don’t look so surprised, I know it was you who gave her my contact.”

“I never thought you’d actually speak. I just needed to give her another number that wasn’t…”

Shit.

“Wasn’t Gavin’s?” Tina eyed him, but didn’t say anything. Pushing forward, Nines sent her a silent thank you for not prying, while also trying not to imagine what the two women had discussed about him.

“Why Vargas?”

“I needed someone with intel about the thirium trade in the red ice business. Magnus had to have had an in with someone to have acquired all that thirium cargo, and since we have our very own expert, it would have been a shame not to ask.”

“Quite the bit of detective work, Officer.”

“Hmm. Connor helped me with that one. But thanks, I guess.”

“You never thought to try for a higher position?”

She wrinkled her nose. “Detective isn’t for me, at least not yet. It’s always been Reed’s thing. I know he wouldn’t mind, hell he’d be happy, but it’s not something I want to move into.”

“Alright.” Nines didn’t push, it was obvious she had put a lot of thought into the subject. “What did Carmen have to say?”

“Apparently Magnus was in the game, deep in the game, for a while. She knew him personally, though she said he was always rather reclusive and creepy. He left the drug trade early last year.”

“Did they have any idea what he was getting into?”

“What, the red ice crew? No, not really. Carmen said he was into some shady stuff, though.”

“Shadier than hard drugs?”

“Yeah, I mean look what happened to him.”

They reached Nines’ desk. The terminal opposite him was empty, lonely. It was strange here without Gavin.

“So… what was with the thirium and blood? Some sort of ritual?”

“As far as we know he was trying to merge androids and humans. Help them become one, apparently.” Tina laughed at his disgusted expression. “Yeah, pretty nasty, right?”

“Where is he now?”

“They brought him in from the hospital this morning. Connor and Hank have been with him in the interrogation room for most of the morning.”

Nines looked towards the observation room door, shivering at the thought of the madman behind it.

“You don’t have to go in there you know. You can sit this one out, Nines.”

This man was the reason Gavin was hurt. This man was the reason Nines’ job was hanging on by a thread. This man…

“No.” He looked to Tina, surprising her with his intensity. “I have to do this.”

She stared back at him, the space between her eyebrows wrinkling with worry.

A muffled shouting broke the silence, a slam bringing both Nines and Tina to the ready.

“The hell was that?” Tina’s hand was on her holster.

“Magnus.”

Sprinting towards the interrogation room, Tina close behind, Nines managed to scan his hand and get the door open just in time to see Connor recoil from a bloodied Magnus. Hank was in the middle of yelling, grabbing his partner to try to intercept what Magnus was about to do.

In one smooth motion, Magnus met Nines’ eyes, smiling despite his broken nose and bleeding forehead, and slammed his head into the metal table.

With a sickening crunch, Magnus’s skull caved in and the man lay still.

There was no sound except the quiet drip, drip of blood falling from the table to the floor.

Tina was the first to recover. “Holy fuck.”

No one moved.

It wasn’t only that someone had just killed themselves in front of them.

It wasn’t even that the mode of death was distinctly android.

No. The worst part… the part that made Nines’ vision twitch…

Was that Magnus’ blood…

Was purple.

~

Nines watched with dull eyes as the last of the purple smears were wiped away. The interrogation room would have to undergo heavy cleaning, and wouldn’t be in use for the rest of the day.

The wall of glass between Nines and the room wasn’t enough.

Perking up, Nines turned his head to the door of the observation room, startled. Connor eased the door open, shutting it softly behind him.

“Hello.”

Nines nodded in return, not ready to speak.

“Are you alright?”

It was a silly question. None of them were alright, but Nines supposed it was courtesy, seeing as he was presumably the most affected.

Again, Nines didn’t bother to answer. Instead he thought, running the situation over and over in his mind.

“What did he say to you?”

“What?”

“When I walked in, you jumped away from him as if he said something that surprised you. He had started self-destructing, and you moved in to stop it, correct? But he said something that caused a reaction.”

“Uh… Nines.” Connor looked everywhere but at Nines.

“Tell me. Show me.”

“I shouldn’t.”

“I need to know. I deserve to know.”

Connor closed his eyes, hiding from Nines’s angry, desperate pleas. A big brother trying to shield the younger from something that might hurt him. But he had already failed at that.

A hand, skin pulled back to reveal white. Nines reached up and grasped Connor’s forearm, slowly, not sure whether he wanted to do it at all.

Nines closed his eyes.

Magnus sat across from him, serene. Not a care in the world.

“What are we doing here, Detective? What’s the point to this? I know now that I will never be understood, that I have failed to make you understand. I have accepted it.”

Connor’s voice was garbled, or maybe Nines wasn’t listening. He only heard Magnus’ response.

“You want to know why? You want an explanation? Little android, there is no explanation that you will ever accept. I told you, you will never understand.”

The moment sped forward, time blurring. Connor, and Nines through Connor’s eyes, paced around the table, getting heated.

And still Magnus didn’t flinch, didn’t move.

Until…

Connor’s voice was scathing. He was truly a marvel of interrogation technology. “You didn’t do anything. You accomplished nothing, and for what?”

“I was on the brink.”

“No. You weren’t. You failed.”

“The world wasn’t ready!”

Nines flinched at the sudden outburst, but continued watching. Everything bled together, Magnus’ burning eyes filling his vision, until the man split into a pearly white smile and he slammed his face into the table.

Connor and Hank rushed forward to stop him, but Magnus was determined. By the time Connor managed to yank him up, Magnus’ nose and teeth were bloody, a good sized dent in his forehead.

No normal person had the strength or will to do that to themselves. To bludgeon again and again to end it all so fiercely.

Magnus glared up at Connor, hissing. “You see the future before you. I am not the end. We are coming to a new era, and you are already obsolete.”

Connor reared back, and Nines saw himself in his brother’s vision, bursting through the door to see Magnus’ final smile before his brain went dead.

Nines’ arm fell away from Connor’s. He pressed his forehead to the glass, arms limp. Sucking down deep breaths, Nines processed what he had seen.

Everyday he thought he understood humans and his place among them. Everyday he was surprised. And terrified. There were forever new ways to twist reality into something horrible.

Once his brain managed to process his thoughts, Nines realized something else.

It was over.

Magnus and his followers were all gone. No matter what the crazy man had promised, it was not true. There were no more bloody mad-men on the way.

How could it be over already? Something that had altered his life so monumentally, almost killed his partner and best friend, and now it was done.

Relief.

Disbelief.

Disgust.

Disappointment?

Because there was no justice in this. There was no vengeance, no retribution. Magnus had died a terrible bloody death just as he had led a terrible bloody life.

Nines felt empty. Hollow.

Tired.

Gavin. He had to go see Gavin. Remind himself what he was fighting for, why he was still here.

Forcing himself up, Nines ignored Connor’s concerned look.

“Well, that’s that, I suppose. I’m going to the hospital.” Nines’ voice sounded flat and emotionless in his ears.

“Nines, wait…”

Nines turned back for a moment, but when Connor said nothing else he swept out of the room, ready to be long gone.

He couldn’t get the smell of blood out of his memory.

Chapter Text

ITCHY

September 9th, 2039

Blue eyes were the first thing Gavin saw when he opened his own. “How do you feel?”

“Fucking itchy.”

Sarah had stayed by Gavin’s side in the days leading up to the surgery. She was more nervous than he was about how it would go, not wanting to see her hard work fail on the first real test run.

Gavin mostly wanted to walk around without pain again.

The doctors had explained their plan to him before they put him under, but Gavin didn’t understand eighty percent of what they were talking about. The fake skin, stretched in long sheets and contained in long glass boxes, looked pale and sickly, the color varying strangely.

When Gavin asked why, Sarah mentioned something about color and texture matching that they were planning on, and how it wasn’t possible without a human trial first.

So he was playing the guinea pig. Well, that is what he signed up for.

The surgery took seven hours, going longer than expected. Gavin hated that woozy feeling he had whenever he woke up from anesthesia, like his head was stuffed with fuzz.

Which was why Nines was a welcome sight when he woke up, sitting in the same chair he always did.

“Really? More than before?”

“Like my whole body is crawling with ants.” Gavin shivered in disgust, eyeing the thick bandages that covered his entire chest. One thigh was wrapped tight too, as well as his left shoulder.

Trying to distract himself from his discomfort, Gavin looked over to Nines.

He had come to Gavin’s room last night, flustered, but refused to say what had happened until Gavin coaxed the bloody story of Magnus’ suicide out into the open.

“He smashed his head into the table? That’s…”

“Horrifying?”

“Yeah, that too, but I was going to say ‘strange.’ Reminds me of that android Hank and Connor brought in during the revolution, from the Carlos Ortiz case.”

Nines hadn’t said anything else about the subject, instead switching to his concern over Gavin’s surgery. Once Nines realized how sick Gavin was of the godforsaken hospital he seemed to calm down, reassured that Gavin wanted to do this and wasn’t rushing into anything.

Nines looked as tired today as he did yesterday. Androids didn’t sleep, so they couldn’t get dark circles, but the shine of Gavin’s partner was missing. The world had gone lackluster. It happened rarely, but more and more frequently. Gavin tried to push the thought out of his mind.

“Was it successful? Is there any news?”

Gavin opened his mouth to answer, but Sarah’s voice rang out from across the room as she entered from the hallway. “Everything went to plan. The false skin took to Gavin’s biological skin even better than we hoped. It should be a smooth integration. Relatively painless, too, compared to what you’ve been going through.”

“Yeah, but fucking itchy. Didn’t I say that already?”

Sarah and Nines chuckled, sharing a look. Damn, they were a good match. Gavin reminded himself not to leave them alone in a room for too long or they might solve all of the world’s problems.

“Itchy, yes. But you’ll be able to return home soon. One, maybe two, days.” Sarah typed away at her tablet.

Nines laughed when Gavin perked up.

“Really? I’ll finally be out of this hellhole?”

“Hey! I work here. It isn’t so bad. And, yes, you’ll be free to go.”

Nines was smiling, which made Gavin even more elated, pumping his fist in the air. “Fuck yes! Let’s fucking go, baby.”

Too much excitement. Gavin groaned, leaning back against the pillows, cursing at the twinges in his chest.

“For now, make sure to take it easy. You’ll have plenty of time to celebrate in a few days.”

“Yeah. Yeah, okay. And just you wait, I’m throwing you a party, Miss Genius.”

Sarah blushed and laughed, waving goodbye to go onto her rounds.

Nines looked after her as she left, smile fading. “She seems very bright. And she can put up with you, which is saying something.”

“Hey, I put up with you, so I win that competition.”

“Oh ho, if you say so.”

Why was he still so upset? Was this about Magnus?

“Nines. What’s up with you? I’m fine, everything went fine.”

“I know. I know. There has been a lot going on, is all.”

“Uh huh. Okay, spill. You obviously are someplace else right now.”

Nines shifted in his chair. “It really doesn’t matter, I just need some time to process, organize what has been going on the last few days.”

“I swear I will get out of this bed and walk down the hallway if you don’t tell me. You know I’ll do it.”

“Do not- do NOT do that! Gavin!”

Gavin was already lifting himself out of bed, only for Nines’ strong but gentle hands to force him back down. “So? What’s going on?”

Nines huffed. “I have to talk to a psychologist in order to keep returning to work. It was a compromise we organized, if he gives me the go ahead, then I will continue speaking with him.”

“Well, that’s good then, yeah? Like a therapist.”

“I… don’t know. His questions are rather… invasive. But I would much rather answer them then be deemed unfit for work.”

“What do you mean ‘invasive?’”

Nines tapped his toe on the floor, a nervous tick that Gavin had never seen. This was bothering him more than he was letting on.

“He asks a lot about you. And our partnership. My actions during the cult attack were not… justified in the eyes of some of the doctors, but Norton holds them off as long as he can question me. ‘Intriguing,’ he says I’m intriguing.”

“Wait. So this dick is prying into your personal life by threatening your job? What the actual hell?”

“No… when you say it like that it… sounds worse than it is.”

“But that is what it is, right?”

“Don’t worry about it, Gavin. You should sleep. I shouldn’t have said anything.”

“Oh, don’t pull the sleep card on me. I’m about to give this asshole a piece of my mind.”

“Goodnight, sleep tight, Gavin. I have to get back to work. I’ll see you in the morning.” Nines started towards the door, using his sarcastic sing-song voice that came out only when Gavin was being particularly stubborn.

“Don’t you leave me in here! We aren’t done! And… he’s gone. Great.”

Exasperated, Gavin grumbled as he tried to get to sleep, the rub of the bandages aggravating him.

~

Waking up, there was someone in Nines’ chair. Gavin’s heart leapt, excited to see his partner, but…

“You’re not Nines.”

The balding man gave a forced smile, like an alien trying out human customs. “No. But RK900 and I know each other well, so I thought I’d talk to you while I had the chance, seeing as the two of you are so… close.”

Who was this smarmy bastard? Gavin’s immediate reaction told him to back away. Being trapped in a hospital bed, he was forced to stay.

“And you are?”

“Doctor Harold Norton, psychologist. I had a few questions for you, Mr. Reed-”

“Norton, you said?” Gavin interrupted. So this was the guy who was messing with Nines.

“Yes. You’ve heard of me?”

“Something like that. I had a few questions for you too, Doc.”

“Wonderful. So, how would you describe your relationship-”

“Why are you so interested in Nines?”

“Excuse me?”

“Why do you care? You said he was fine for work, why do you keep bothering him?”

“I’m hardly bothering anyone. It is therapeutic for RK900 to discuss what he had been through, and it is to the benefit and safety of everyone he works with.”

“But… you aren’t a therapist.”

“Well, no, but-”

“And you keep prying into his personal life? What does that have to do with safety? Or me?”

“Mr. Reed. I am only making sure that RK900 is fit for work, but you have to understand that deep personal relationships between androids and humans are a new source of study to be delved into.”

“What, so he’s your science experiment?”

“That is not what I said-”

“You know what I think, Doctor? I think you are taking advantage of a trauma victim for your own gain, pushing Nines to talk about things he isn’t ready to talk about.”

“That is hardly what is going on-”

“Threatening to end his career if he doesn’t do what you want? Forcing him to be your pet project to satisfy your own disgusting, inappropriate obsession with androids? I think that’s exactly what is going on.”

“How dare-”

“No, how dare you. You’re sick, you know that? Playing as a friend and a doctor just so you can worm your way into vulnerable peoples’ lives.” Gavin ignored the growing irritation in his chest as he shifted in bed, facing Norton. “This is going to stop right fucking now, do you here me?”

“You do not have the jurisdiction to terminate my relationship with a patient.”

“So, you didn’t hear me. Well, Norton, I hope you hear this, because I’m only saying it once.” Gavin’s voice was a growl, low and soft.

“You will never speak to, contact, or even look at me or my partner again or I will have you arrested for an invasion of privacy and unethical research practices. And if I hear anything, anything, about you being a creep to anyone else? You’re done. I’ll have your license revoked in an instant. Am I clear?”

Norton was thoroughly frightened now. He tried to speak, but nodded when nothing but a squeak escaped his mouth.

“Good. I’ll have you know that I’m letting you off easy. If what Nines tells me is true, then you should have an android rights lawsuit on your hands. But I’m tired, and I want to go home without having to spend one more second thinking about you. Now get out of here.”

At that, the doctor gathered his papers and rushed out the door, almost mowing over Sarah on his way out the door.

The nurse frowned, raising an eyebrow at Gavin, knowing how he could be difficult to handle on occasion.

“What was that about?”

“You do not want to know.”

Chapter Text

HOMECOMING

September 12th, 2039

Was it strange that home didn’t feel like home?

Gavin set his back down at the threshold of his house, taking a few steps inside. He’d only been moved in for a month before everything happened, and after spending just as long in the hospital as he had in his house, it didn’t really feel like a homecoming at all. More like moving again, unsure and unfamiliar.

“Do you need help getting unpacked?” Nines walked in after Gavin, scooping up Gavin’s duffle and swinging it to his shoulder.

“No. It’s okay.”

“I’ll drop off Toothless tomorrow, though she may be sad to leave my place. I’ve been spoiling her a bit. After dealing with Sumo for three weeks, I’m sure having her own space to herself felt like heaven.”

“Yeah.”

“Are you alright, Gavin? You seem distracted.”

Gavin turned, frowning. “Am I alright? I just got home after being in the hospital for a month, my entire body is in pain, and I can barely walk. Do you think I’m alright?”

Nines’ eyes went cold, raising an eyebrow at Gavin’s tone.

“Ack, I’m sorry, tin can. I’m tired, that’s all.” Gavin rubbed his neck. Why did he have to push away the one person he felt so deeply for?

But Nines’ eyes softened as soon as Gavin apologized, knowing how much he had gone through. How much they had both gone through.

“Do you want help changing your bandages? The doctor said you should change every eight hours for the first few days.”

“Nah, I got it. I should reorganize a bit anyway.”

Gavin knew he couldn’t handle being close to Nines right now. If he got too close then he might just collapse into Nines’ arms and bury his head into his partner’s chest. Oh, if only.

If an android could be awkward, which was difficult with Nines (Gavin swore the bastard was perfectly at ease ninety-nine percent of the time, no matter what the situation was), then Nines standing alone in Gavin’s living room was as close to awkward as he would get. Arms now empty, Nines folded his hands first behind and then in front of himself, LED spinning.

Somehow, it was endearing. Gavin took a deep breath, happy to be home all of the sudden. “If you need something to do you could find something to eat around here. I don’t know what I’ve got in my freezer, but I’m sure there is something edible in there.”

Face lighting up, Nines grinned, excited to have a task. “I’ll make you dinner!”

“Uh… I was thinking something like frozen pizza…” Gavin couldn’t crush the hope in Nines’ eyes, though he was skeptical of the androids cooking skills. “But sure, knock yourself out.”

Leaving Nines in the kitchen, which he prayed was a good idea, Gavin headed to his room to change. Throwing the clothes Tina had grabbed for him for the hospital in the hamper, Gavin grabbed pajama pants and a t-shirt, hyping himself up for the challenge of changing his wound dressings.

The bathroom tile was cold under his feet, the medical scissors glinting in the bright light. Easing the blade under the first of the bandages on his chest, Gavin’s mind wandered, pondering what the skin would look like underneath.

Images of dead black skin popped into his mind, followed by the white of an android chassis. Before he could drag his thoughts away, rivers of blue blood colored his vision, dripping down his sides, oozing from gaping cracks in his body. The blue splattered to the floor, thick and viscous, turning a deep monstrous purple.

Gasping, Gavin shook his head, clearing it. The room was back to normal, the mirror showing uncut white bandages and his own face, pale and bloodless from fright.

“Come on, Gavin. This ain’t that hard.” Gritting his teeth, Gavin sliced off the first of the bandages, letting them fall away until his chest was entirely unwrapped. He shivered as the fresh air touched his skin.

It… wasn’t terrible. The skin patches were strange and square, paler and more sickly looking than his normal skin. They were all wrinkly and pruned, as if he had been underwater for hours. The comparison between his normal skin and his transplanted skin was alien to him, even the textures differing.

Sarah had reassured him that the coloration and saturation would improve with time, and that the most important thing was that the skin healed healthy. But Gavin couldn’t help but feel like a forgotten toy that had been torn and patched over and over again until it got thrown out completely.

The clang of pots in the kitchen broke Gavin from his melancholy.

“Nines? You good?”

“Everything is fine! I am trying to find the matching lid to one of your pots, that’s all!”

“Well, good luck with that,” Gavin mumbled. “None of my lids have ever matched.”

Redressing his chest and shoulder, which he had to wear with a sling until the skin healed, Gavin decided his leg was fine until tomorrow and limped back to the kitchen.

He blinked.

Nines was pattering away at the stove, adding pasta to a boiling pot of water. There was a sauce pan simmering with tomato sauce on the second burner, which he stirred every once in a while, adding different spices and flavors he found in Gavin’s cabinet.

“You… You can cook?” Gavin cleared his throat to make his voice less hoarse. For some reason it had gotten stuck in his chest a moment, heart pounding.

Fuck. Since when had he found cooking attractive? Or maybe it was just Nines.

“Nope. This is my first time.”

That made Gavin pause. “This won’t poison me, right?”

“You’ll live. I can’t promise it will taste good, however.”

Gavin laughed, but stopped because his chest was hurting. “How do you know how to do this?”

Nines rolled his eyes, but smiled. “I am a living computer, Gavin. I googled it. Youtube can teach you everything.”

Gavin shook his head, grinning. “Youtube. I could probably take over the world by watching Youtube.”

Nines gestured for him to sit at the table, though it felt strange to sit while his partner worked. As Gavin watched, though, he realized that Nines relished the chance to do something new. He didn’t need to eat, so of course he wouldn’t cook. As a combat and investigation android, Nines had no need for household skills, making simple tasks an adventure for him.

Keeping his eyes on Nines’ back, it wasn’t until Nines turned around to ask him a question that Gavin realized he may have been staring a little too intensely, with an overly happy look on his face.

“What? What did you ask?”

“I asked what you would like to drink. You should take in a lot of liquids, keep yourself hydrated. Are you sure you’re alright? You’re still distracted.”

“Oh, no, yeah. I’m fine. I’m good. Great, actually.” God, his face was burning. Nines didn’t seem to notice, thank the lord.

Nines turned back around, humming.

The words that tumbled out of his mouth made Gavin think. Great, actually. But he wasn’t great. Yes, he had Nines, and yes, he was out of the hospital, but he’d been through a lot of shit. Gavin realized that he wouldn’t be really okay for a while.

Was this what self reflection felt like? Ugh, he must be becoming a better and more conscious person. Gross.

But…

“Gavin. This is the third time you’ve zoned out. What’s wrong?”

Nines stood over him, concerned. When Gavin shrugged, Nines huffed and set a plate of steaming pasta in front of him.

Fuck. This was too much.

When was the last time Gavin had a home cooked meal?

“Nines, I want to see someone.”

That came out wrong.

There was a long, silent pause.

“What?” Nines voice was deadpan, skeptical.

“I want to talk to somebody.”

“I don’t follow.”

“I think… I think I want to start seeing a therapist. And… and, and, and I think you should too.”

Uh oh. Nines’ face went stone cold, eyes flat. His LED circled a furious yellow.

“Think about it. We’ve seen some tough shit. And…” Why couldn’t he get the fucking words out? “I want to stop pretending like we haven’t. Like everything is okay.”

Still Nines said nothing.

“I don’t want to pretend anymore.” Gavin stared at his food, suddenly not hungry at all.

“Alright.”

“Alright?”

“I said alright, alright?”

Nines was mad. That much was obvious. For some reason, Gavin really wanted this to work out, he could feel something breaking down inside him. Why wasn’t Nines listening to him?

“What do you mean ‘alright?’”

“I mean you should go see a therapist. If you want. I won’t stop you.”

“What? Nines… why won’t… you don’t want to?”

“I haven’t exactly had the best experience with therapists, Gavin. I’d rather not divulge all of my secrets to a complete stranger.”

“That idiot Norton wasn’t a therapist! Come on, Nines. It’ll help.”

“I don’t need a therapist. Why would I need a therapist?”

What the hell? Nines was never this blatantly against something for no reason. Yes, Norton sucked, but Nines knew he wasn’t a real therapist, he knew that therapy worked. Right?

“Because we’ve been to hell and back, Nines! And I think we should try to work through it.”

“You were never one for working through it.”

“The hell is that supposed to mean?”

Nines scoffed but didn’t reply.

“Nines, I’m trying to help here. I think this is a good idea.”

“For you, maybe.”

“Why the hell not, Nines?”

“Calm down, Gavin. You know I don’t feel the same way you do.”

“Feel what? Emotions? Everything?”

They were both yelling now, pasta forgotten.

“I’ve only been ‘alive’ for six months! I don’t… we don’t…”

“Is this an android thing? You think therapy won’t help because you’re an android?”

“No. Not really. It can help others.”

“Then why not you, Nines?” Gavin slammed the table with his palm, sick and tired of this too-tough-for-life bullshit.

“Because I’m different! I always have been! I’m not like other androids!”

What the hell? What the actual fuck? Gavin seethed. Who did this guy think he was? After everything… and he didn’t want help?

“You aren’t different, Nines! You’re just as fucked up as everyone else!”

The look on Nines’ face made Gavin sick to his stomach. It was one of disgust. Disappointment. Betrayal.

“You deserve help. We both do. Nines…”

The room was quiet, and Gavin’s voice felt tiny.

Nines stared another moment, face flat, LED red, before standing and shoving his chair in, stalking towards the door, and slamming it so hard it shook the hinges. The house took a moment to settle, the silence so complete it was deafening.

It was their first big fight in months. Gavin couldn’t stop staring at the door.

He felt empty.

Alone.

And confused.

Because he had been right. Gavin had been right, they both needed to talk through what had happened with an expert.

Gavin had been right.

Right?

Chapter Text

AS TIME PASSES

September 26th, 2039

Finally.

Finally Gavin was allowed to go back to work.

The last two weeks had been hell. Fowler wouldn’t let him come in early, and Nines wouldn’t speak to him, so Gavin had been pacing around his house, dealing with his healing wounds alone.

Gavin still walked with a slight limp, though he was trying to train himself not to. He couldn’t take deep breaths without pain shooting through his chest, the SmartSkin was still a weird color, and the stupid sling around his arm made him basically useless.

But at least he could go back to work.

Tina had been his only visitor (that was a lie, Nines came by every other day to check up on him, but they barely spoke and it hurt too much to think about), and as hard as she tried she still looked at Gavin with pity.

Really T? Really?

Who could blame her, though. He wasn’t exactly in the best of health.

It was one night while Gavin had been daydreaming on his bed, which he had gotten into the bad habit of doing for hours on end to stifle the boredom, that he realized that all this thinking about Nines was going to drive him crazy.

So he had done some research, checked with his health insurance plan, and signed up with a therapist in downtown Detroit.

It was… awkward, to say the least. Gavin thought he was ready to share, to finally put all this shitty stuff past him, but when he sat down in front of a kind-faced older woman with a notepad, everything he wanted to say dried up.

She was very nice about it, telling him it takes time, and that the fact that he has reached out for help is the first step. When Gavin walked back to his car (thank fuck he could drive again, otherwise he would have gone crazy a long time ago), he only felt as though he made a mistake. He didn’t want anyone else seeing the mess he had made of his life.

But he kept going. Because he knew he should. And it got better, after a while.

He couldn’t bring himself to talk about Nines, though.

He couldn’t bring himself to talk to Nines.

Out of everything Gavin had ever done wrong, this was what he regretted most. He was losing his partner. Nines was fading out of his life. And there was nothing he could do about it.

But at least he was allowed to go back to work.

The ‘welcome back’ party had scared Gavin out of his shoes, but it was much appreciated. He knew a few months ago no one would have cared enough to throw him one. All it was was extra donuts and the good coffee they saved for special occasions, a few nice cards with nice words, pats on the back that were a little too light, as if they were afraid of breaking him.

Everything was passing in weird shades of grey. He wasn’t sad, or mad, or unhappy. Just… not really anything at all. All that was left was this sense that he had missed a key something in his life. As if he had reached out, calling wait!, and the world just moved on without him.

The biggest surprise was not a welcome one.

“What? What do you mean I’m not on drug crimes anymore?”

“Reed, you shouldn’t even be back at work yet. Hell, if it was anyone else they would’ve quit by now. I can’t put you back where you were before. I’m giving you cold cases, and you can take it or you can go home.”

“What the fuck, Fowler?”

“Don’t curse at me, Reed. I’m still your boss, no matter what you went through.” Fowler talked as if he didn’t care what happened, like he was over it and was going to treat Gavin like a person instead of a sob story, but Gavin could see the pity in his eyes.

Cold cases? Are you fucking kidding me?

He’d be living in the file room, digging through old shit for weeks. Everyone knew that cold cases didn’t lead anywhere.

And for the first time since his partner first arrived, Gavin wouldn’t be working with Nines.

“What about… what about Nines?”

“We’ll give him an interim partner if he wants one until I feel that you are ready to get back on it, but I doubt he’ll take one. He’s been working alone or with Hank and Connor in your absence.”

Gavin gritted his teeth, biting the inside of his cheek.

He was going to get replaced

Fowler said Nines didn’t want a new partner.

Nines couldn’t work alone.

It would only be for a few weeks anyway.

What if they decided he was old news? That a new detective would be better for the precinct? One that didn’t have so much baggage?

What if Nines slips away?

Fowler broke him out of his spiral. “Reed. You’re still the best detective I’ve got. You and RK are one hell of a pair. This is temporary.”

That’s what they always said. Somehow things never seemed to work out that way.

Chapter Text

CONFLICT

October 13th, 2039

Gavin thought he would die of boredom.

Cold cases sucked.

It had been almost three weeks since coming back to work, and time was passing too fast and too slow at the same time. Everyday was sluggish and never ending, and yet one morning he woke up and realized they were in the middle of October.

The sling, the goddamn sling (fuck that thing), was finally gone. Gavin now had use of both of his arms, though his left was stiff and weak. Going to physical therapy twice a week didn’t seem to do anything, but he followed the instructor’s guidance religiously, because he would rather go to hell and back than be stuck with a bum arm for the rest of his life.

Normal therapy was going better too. Shelley, his therapist, reminded him of that stage between mother and grandmother, sharp enough to cut through his bullshit but kind enough to help him through it.

There was still the question of Nines, however. He’d finally admitted his relationship problems to Shelley, and she had just stared at him for a long moment before barking at him to communicate. Communication was a big thing with Shelley.

They should talk. Gavin knew that they needed to talk soon or they never would. But he could never gather the courage to do so.

God, he was such a fucking coward. Fucking up his relationship with his best friend, the person he loved, and not going back to fix it. Nines had been distant for a while before their fight, hell they hadn’t really talked since Gavin figured out he was in love with Nines.

Shit, he’d finally admitted it to himself. He was in love with Nines.

And hated him a fair bit too. Like, come one. The guy was being a dick about this whole thing. Gavin wanted an apology!

Gavin shifted some papers around. He’d set up a makeshift desk closer to the file room so that he didn’t have to walk as far, his bad leg acting up. It totally wasn’t because he couldn’t stand sitting across from Nines for hours at a time without speaking.

Wait a minute.

Gavin had been zoning out so much that he’d read the same report three times already.

And a good thing too, because he’d found a thread.

A thread that connected two other cold cases. It was weak, and definitely not going to go anywhere without more information, but he had a feeling.

There was one thing though. It was an old red ice case, one that Hank and his team had overlooked. Which means it was a drug crime.

He was going to have to talk with Nines. Fuck.

Gathering his papers, Gavin reassured himself that it was work, it was just work and it would be fine.

Nines would help, and then that would be that. They didn’t have to make it a big thing.

Ugh.

Nines was sitting at his desk, typing away at his terminal, when Gavin approached.

“Uh, hey.”

“Hello.”

Gavin wanted to crawl in a hole and die.

“You think you could take a look at this? I think I found something.”

“What do you mean?”

“There is a pattern as to how these drug overdoses happened. Three people, all within six months, with the same dealer. It’s from a few years ago, but a few months back we had a similar case-”

“Could it be that the victims just overdosed ‘naturally’? It’s not exactly uncommon.”

“Okay, yeah, but not when it's the same dealer and in the same six months.”

“Hank’s team already caught the guy, Gavin. He’s been in prison for the last six years.”

Gavin was starting to think Nines was trying to shut him down on purpose. Or maybe there hadn’t been any thread at all.

“Yes, but there has been new drug activity in the same area, with the same type of death popping up. It’s been less common recently, but I think-”

“I think you may be grasping at straws here, Reed.”

Reed? What the fuck?

Gavin sat down at his desk, elbows propped on the wood as he gestured at his partner. Nines still wouldn’t look at him, sending emails and writing reports rapid-fire.

“Would you at least look at me? Nines, we could have some new strain of red ice here, one that’s a hell of a lot more deadly than normal.”

“Or maybe you’re trying to find something that isn’t there.”

Gavin was pissed now. If Nines was going to be stubborn, he was going to get stubborn.

“There have been seven deaths in this area in the last six years, all drug related. The first three were within months of each other, and the last four all occurred in the past year. Each of the victims was a known drug user, reckless, yes, but not reckless enough to kill themselves on a drug they had been on for years. If you don’t think that deserves some looking into then you're blatantly ignoring a lead.”

“Gavin-”

“The last of these recorded deaths occured two months ago. Now, it’s the end of the day, and I’m tired as hell, but we are talking about this tomorrow. Look into it. Please.”

Nines said nothing, but he met Gavin’s gaze.

He nodded.

Standing, Gavin walked away before taking a deep breath. He was going to ask Fowler for the rest of the day off, there were only a few hours left anyway.

Why was this so fucking hard?

~

October 14th, 2039

The next day, Nines sat at his desk. Stewing.

Why was he being so stubborn? Gavin didn’t deserve this. What was wrong with him?

Seeing Gavin back at work should have made him happy. And it did… to an extent. Yet, there was this awful feeling of discontent, like the world was skewed in a way it shouldn’t be.

And now they were working on a case together. Like old times.

It felt weird.

His plants were dying. He tried everything, did everything right, and still they were dying.

There was an old wives tale that plants picked up on energy, and if the energy of the room was bad, they would absorb it and wither away.

Nines didn’t believe in wives tales.

He just wanted… What did he want? For things to go back to normal? That was impossible. For Gavin to barge into work and say that he forgave Nines, scooping him into a hug and taking him home? Yeah, not going to happen.

He wanted Gavin. That much was obvious. Nines just didn’t know how. How to get him, how he wanted him. It was all wrapped up in so much want that it made him sick.

It was easier to ignore it.

Gavin came in late, not entering the precinct until around two o’clock. Fowler had been going easy on him, considering. Nines couldn’t help but stare at Gavin’s poorly concealed limp, the stiffness in the way he held his arm, and the shallow breaths he took to avoid pain. Shouldn’t his surgery have healed by now? Maybe it was a habit. Maybe there was something wrong.

Nines wanted to find out, but didn’t act on it. He wanted a lot of things, and acted on none of them.

When Gavin came over with a stack of files near the end of the day, Nines made an effort to be kinder. To be easier on his partner whom he missed to damn much.

“So, did you find anything?” Gavin’s voice was guarded, unsure.

“There have been no recent deaths of the sort.”

“Okay, did you look into the old ones?”

“Yes, and there was nothing out of the ordinary about them. Gavin, as far as we know there is no big dealer in that area. It is most likely multiple small-time players.”

“Any connection between them?”

“I didn’t look, there is nothing to look into.”

“What? There is something here, I know it.”

Jesus, Gavin was really sick of being in cold cases. He was looking for foul play where there wasn’t any play at all.

“I don’t think there is, I would have picked up on it.”

“But you haven’t been focusing on this. I have.”

“Gavin, I know that you want something to be here, but all sign point to no-”

“I want something to be here? I don’t want anything, I’m going off of evidence. Connections.”

“What evidence? What connections? There is nothing here!”

“Just because you are too stubborn to try and see things that aren’t immediately obvious doesn’t mean I’m wrong.” Gavin’s voice took on that low gravelly quality that happened when he was defending himself.

I’m too stubborn? Gavin, you’re looking for ghosts in a graveyard. People die! Bad things happen, and people die. There isn’t always something deeper.”

“Yeah, but sometimes there is. I swear to God, I don’t understand why you don’t find this strange. This is what we are good at! We find and uncover what other people don’t, and we’re good at it.”

“Maybe we’re wrong this time. Maybe we aren’t as good as we thought we were.”

“The fuck is wrong with you? You’ve been-”

“REED! RK! My office, NOW!”

Nines didn’t realize how loud they had been. The whole precinct was quiet, staring at them. He made eye contact with Connor, who raised his eyebrows. Everything good?

Ignoring the message, Nines stood up and walked to Fowler’s office, trying to seem as nonchalant as possible. Gavin, on the other hand, stalked behind him like an insolent child.

They hadn’t been called in like this in months, to be scolded like poorly behaved students who were disrupting a classroom.

Fowler was standing, and he never stood. Hands on his hips, the captain gave the most exaggeratedly incredulous look Nines had ever seen. It was quite impressive, really.

“Alright, I’ve tried to ignore this for weeks now, hoping you two would work out whatever is going on. Obviously, that was a mistake.”

“Fowler-”

“Quiet, Reed! I know something is wrong with the pair of you, and frankly I was disappointed. You two made an amazing team, but it seems good things can’t last forever.”

Even now, Nines wanted to slap the captain for yelling at Gavin. He didn’t, however, because that would be a stupid way to lose his job.

“What are you-”

“I said quiet, Reed! I’ve been plenty lenient on you after the accident, and now I am regretting it. This little feud is interfering with police work, not just your own, but the whole precincts. I am giving you one more chance to work this out, or else.”

“Or else what?”

“I am this close to writing you a disciplinary, Reed. I swear. I am giving you one more chance, or else I am going to be forced to separate you. Permanently. And because you can’t even work peacefully in the same goddamn building-”

“Woah, woah, woah, are you-”

“REED! SHUT UP! because you can’t work in the general vicinity of each other without tearing each other’s heads off, you have forced my hand. Reed, you have been here longer and have seniority, so you would get to stay. RK-”

“You can’t make Nines leave!”

“I can and I will if this doesn’t get fixed, Reed. I don’t want to, don’t make me do it, but I will. And that is final.”

For once, Gavin was speechless, mouth gaping. Nines had stayed silent, terror and anger rooting him to the spot, but now he opened his mouth. “And? What is this one more chance you talked about?”

Fowler sighed, his age showing. “Go home tonight, either to Reed’s place or your’s, I don’t care, and work this case until you find something or deem it a dead end. Work together, talk out whatever the fuck is going on, and come back Monday with your decision.”

“What decision?” They had spoken in unison.

“The decision as to whether you two are staying together, or if RK is leaving the precinct.”

Chapter Text

RESOLUTION

October 14th, 2039

The car ride home was silent.

Nines insisted on driving after Gavin mentioned his leg was bothering him.

Gavin inserted the key into the lock with a satisfying click! and entered the house. The room was tense, the last time they had been together here was the night of their fight.

Gavin didn’t know what to say. They stood at the table awkwardly.

Nines cleared his throat. “I thought we should probably start by looking into overdoses in the surrounding area over the past few years. Expand our search a bit.”

“Sounds good.”

They sat at the table, working alone, only looking up or talking when they had a case to compare. It went on for hours, and before long it was almost ten o’clock.

“It’s getting late. I should probably go.”

“What do you mean? Fowler said we had to do this.”

“We have until Monday. I’ll be back tomorrow.”

Oh fuck that. Gavin felt queasy. If he let Nines walk out that door right now, he would never get him back.

“Well, at least look at what I’ve got here.”

“Fine.”

Nines leaned down over Gavin’s shoulder, closer than he’d been in a month, making Gavin’s stomach clench up.

“Look, this guy died the same way the others did. It was so sudden, by the time help got there he had been dead for hours.”

“That is the one unusual piece. Usually, red ice victims are already pretty out of it for a while before progressing to the final stage, it’s pretty noticeable.”

“Yeah, that’s exactly what I was thinking. His neighbors had seen him a few hours before, and he was fine, so this happened fast.”

“Hmm. Not much to go off of.”

“It’s something, though.”

“Is it? Records show he was on more than just red ice. Could have been the combination of drugs that did it.”

“Then why all of the other deaths?”

“I don’t know, Gavin. These things happen. We are looking too broadly into something that could have a million factors.”

“Why are you being so damn stubborn about this? You don’t do this normally.”

“And you don’t go chasing after guesses normally.”

“It’s not a guess! You just said there was something here.”

“I said it was a little bit strange. That’s all. Everyone reacts to the drug differently, Gavin.”

“I know that. But this is different, can’t you tell? Why are you ignoring this?”

“I’m not ignoring this, I’m being realistic.”

“It’s not our job to be realistic! It’s our job to find out what happened, no matter how crazy. How… how do you not see that?”

“You’re being naive, Gavin. You’re trying to make things out of thin air, but the pattern isn't there! You don’t understand…”

“Don’t understand what exactly?”

“You just… you can’t. You are blinded by your own hope. But this isn’t going to work out!”

“Why the hell not? Why can’t we have one thing work out for us?”

“This is exactly why! You think the world owes us something, but it doesn’t. I know we’ve been through some shit stuff, I know you’re still recovering, but that doesn’t mean we get some big payout at the end.”

I’m still recovering? At least I’m trying to! You won’t even talk about it, you won’t even talk to me!”

“I’m talking to you right now!”

“No. No you aren’t, not really. We haven’t talked in months, not since…”

“Not since what?”

“I don’t know! Okay? I don’t know. But Nines, we’ve gotta talk, man. We have to or everything will just… fall apart.”

“I don’t know what you want to happen, Gavin. Even if we do talk, things won’t magically go back to normal. What do you even want to talk about? Magnus getting a bunch of people high on blood and ripping us to pieces? I don’t know about you, but that isn’t something I want to relive.”

“I don’t either! But getting torn apart and barely making it out alive isn’t something you push down. I should know, I pushed a hell of a lot down and it made my life shit. Fuck, Nines, maybe I want to talk about it! I had to get sewn back together like fucking Frankenstein, and I still won’t be the same for the rest of my life. I’ve got enough scars for an entire army, and I’m sick of ignoring it!”

“You’re saying that you’re the monster, the Frankenstein here? Gavin I died. Twice! And they just reboot me and throw me back out into the world expecting me to be fine.”

“We aren’t comparing our scars here, Nines! This is exactly what I’m saying, you haven’t even lived a full year and yet-”

“Don’t pretend to understand! Don’t pretend to know what I’ve gone through, waking up to have everything crash down inside me. Do you remember the first thing I did when I woke up? I fucking shot a man through the head. To save you.”

They were standing now. A full on shouting match. Toothless had run underneath the fridge to get away from the noise.

Gavin couldn’t breath. Everything hurt. His chest, his lungs, his throat were all burning.

Because the look in Nines’ eyes was terrifying.

It was terrifying because Nines was terrified. Nines, Robocop, Terminator, the baddest sonofabitch on the block, was scared out of his mind. Gavin had never seen that before.

“Don’t… don’t pretend to understand what it feels like.” Nines’ voice cracked. “They say we can’t feel pain, but you have no idea what it feels like to die. To suddenly snap alive in the blink of a moment with a trigger in your hand and the whole world at your throat.”

“I know. I know I don’t understand. But, Nines. I’ve been through all that shit with you! I was there. I saw it happen. You say I don’t know what it’s like to wake up and have everything be different, but I’ve struggled my whole life against something that was supposedly better than me, only to realize that I was the one in the wrong.”

Still, after all this, he felt guilty as to how he treated androids before the revolution. And then after, everything changed…

“That wasn’t supposed to happen, Gavin. We were an accident. This wasn’t supposed to happen.” Nines gestured to himself and Gavin.

“Don’t you fucking dare say you regret this, tin can. I know you don’t. I regret a lot of things in my life, I’ve made every fucking mistake. But I don’t regret you.”

“Maybe you should! I was supposed to stop it all, Gavin! I was supposed to be the best they had. I was supposed to be perfect. And look what fucking happened.”

“Fuck you, Nines! Fuck you and the fact that you can’t seem to understand that it wasn’t your fault. None of this was! You don’t have to be perfect, so stop fucking acting like it!”

“You’re telling me? The man who came to me telling me he hated himself for all the things he had done? When did you become a hypocrite, Gavin?”

“Don’t you fucking tell me that, Nines. Don’t you fucking say that.”

“I thought I knew you. I thought… I thought we understood each other. But I can’t be what I’m not, Gavin.”

“I’m not asking you too, I’m asking for you to talk to me. I’m asking for you to stay.”

This was not going as planned, this was not what Gavin wanted to happen. But Nines was gathering his stuff, shoving his papers in his bag.

No. No, no, no, no, no.

Nines made his way to the door. Gavin’s heart was hammering in his head, making his vision go blurry. Or maybe that was something else.

“Don’t you leave me now, you bastard. You fucking coward!”

I’m the coward? You couldn’t even live your life before I met you, Gavin Reed! You were a shell of a man.”

“Look who’s fucking talking! Get back here!”

Gavin was still standing in the kitchen. Nines wrenched open the door, only turning back for a moment. The pain and resignation in his face were clear.

Wait. Don’t go.

“There is nothing you can say to make me stay.”

No.

Fuck that.

Fuck this whole thing.

Gavin’s vision was going red, he didn’t even feel the pain in his chest any more.

“How dare…” he was muttering. Whispering. Nines was turning away, the world moving in slow motion.

I can’t lose you

Gavin was making his way after Nines, one step in front of the other.

“Who the fuck do you think you are.”

Nines paused at the doorway once again, but Gavin didn’t notice, the voices in his head screaming too loud.

Don’t leave me.

The living room lengthened, longer than any passage Gavin had ever had to walk.

“After everything we’ve been through.”

He didn’t know what he was thinking now, just that he had to get to Nines.

Gavin grabbed Nines’ shoulder, ignoring the scream in his left arm. Spinning Nines to face him, Gavin grabbed a fistful of his shirt.

Nines’ eyes were wide, confused.

Gavin didn’t know what he was doing.

Nothing you can say to make me stay.

Yeah, well what about this, dickhead?

Gavin wanted to hit something. Or cry. But instead…

He tugged Nines forward.

…And kissed him.

Chapter Text

FIRST

It wasn’t a good kiss.

It was angry, and hard. Their teeth clacked together, and Gavin swore he almost cut his lip on Nines’ front tooth.

It took him a moment to realize.

Oh.

Oh shit.

He kissed him.

He kissed Nines.

Gavin felt the world collapse inside him.

No, oh no.

This was all fucked up, he’d messed up.

Why had he done this? What if he’d ruined everything?

It took him another moment to realize he was still kissing Nines.

In reality, the kiss had only lasted for a half a second. He’d basically smashed his face into Nines’.

Recoiling, Gavin inhaled sharply. “Oh shit. I’m sorry-”

He didn’t get to finish.

Because if Gavin Reed had been paying attention to Nines when he pulled away instead of his own fucked up feelings, he might have noticed the lazy half-lidded eyes of his partner. He might have noticed the look of pure want, pure relief, on Nines’ face.

But he didn’t. So it was quite the surprise to Gavin Reed when Nines stepped forward…

And kissed him back.

Chapter Text

SECOND

Oh.

As harsh and ugly as the first kiss had been, the second was perfect.

Nines’ hands came up to cup Gavin’s neck as he pressed his lips against Gavin’s. Everything about it was soft and deep, putting every moment of lost time into a single second.

And then another.

And another.

They stood on the threshold of Gavin’s house, Gavin digging his fist into Nines’ shirt to pull him in closer.

Nines moving his thumb across Gavin’s jaw in the lightest of touches.

Gavin couldn’t feel his heartbeat anymore. It was beating too fast.

He could feel Nines’. The steady pulse of his thirium pump through his shirt. Relaxing his hands, Gavin pressed his palm against Nines’ chest, wanting to absorb every solid thump. The other hand snuck around to clutch at Nines’ side, not letting go.

They pressed closer, Nines stepping forward, back into the house.

Gasping, Gavin pulled away. “Nines…”

Nines shook his head, pulling Gavin back in, letting out a soft whine that made Gavin’s fingers tingle. He kissed him again, pushing, pulling, and everything in between.

Finally Gavin forced himself away. Not too far, though. Half an inch.

“Nines.” He choked out, voice gone. “I gotta breathe.”

The look on Nines face changed from confused and hurt to something softer. Something Gavin wanted to press his hands against and dig into with his teeth.

“Oh.” Nines’ voice, too, was barely there. “I forgot.”

Gavin felt a laugh rising, giddy with pleasure and confusion. “You said there was nothing I could say to make you stay,” He teased.

“Well, I suppose there was one thing you could do.” Nines was all fluttery, eyelids dancing. A little drunk on it all. “That seemed to work pretty well.”

“So… you’re staying?”

“Obviously.”

It was funny. How easy it had been. One second Nines looked as cold and unshakable as ice, unreachable, and the next he was waiting in Gavin’s arms, eager.

They should probably talk. Gavin needed to apologize. Fuck, Nines needed to apologize.

That could wait, though.

For now, this was enough.

Chapter Text

BOUNDARIES

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.”

“Well, I-”

“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.

“But…”

“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.

“Better?”

“Hmm. If I say no, what would you do?”

“Leave.”

“You wouldn’t.”

“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?”

“Oh, absolutely.”

“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.”

“Stop.”

“What?”

“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.”

“Okay.”

“Okay.”

“Good?”

“Good.”

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.

Ready.

For the next step.

Whatever that may be.